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Collins and Murkowski Defend Their Health Care No Votes; Kremlin Agrees with Trump U.S.-Russia Relations at Dangerous Low; Fatal Attraction or Fatal Mistake?. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired August 4, 2017 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:30:00] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Obamacare replacement plans all the way through the process. The two women were close before this. But this high profile and high intensity experience took their bond to a new level.
BASH: I was watching you with your desks next to each other and you could sort of sense a bit of relief that each of you had that you had one another. Did I read that right?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I will say that I was very happy that Lisa was literally sitting next to me as we were voting from our seats, which, as you know, is unusual and issues for only very important votes.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: To have that weight, that responsibility knowing that your vote really is that pivotal, it does help to know that there is another kindred soul close by.
BASH: You are both heroes to a lot of people and heretics to a lot of people. How do you see yourselves?
COLLINS: Well, I see myself as someone who has an obligation to represent the people of Maine. And sometimes that means casting uncomfortable votes, votes that will make my party uncomfortable and even angry at me.
MURKOWSKI: You want to vote to do the right thing. And so worrying about the consequences, are you fearful of repercussion from your party? A tweet from the president? A backlash from your leadership? I don't believe that we should be motivated or discouraged from taking the positions that are important to the people that we represent and our respective states.
BASH: Can you give me a sense of the kind of pressure that you had and how you handled it? How did that bear itself out? Phone calls?
COLLINS: Well, phone calls, meetings. I had a private meeting with the vice president at one point.
BASH: But is it hard at that point? You ran on repealing Obamacare. This is the time, the bell is ringing, go. MURKOWSKI: I had an opportunity when we were at the White House.
It's the second time that we were over there. And it was -- it was a very directed appeal that we need to come together as Republicans. I made a statement to the president, with my colleagues, and with his team there, that I'm not voting for the Republican Party, I'm voting for the people of Alaska.
COLLINS: I remember being so proud of you for saying directly to the president what your obligations were. And that's the way I feel, too. The people of Maine don't expect me to be a rubber stamp.
BASH: You both are opposed to any cuts to Planned Parenthood because of what it means in your states. If you were male senators, do you think that it would be such a priority for you to make sure that Planned Parenthood is not cut?
COLLINS: That's a really good question. The issue of family planning services, cancer screening, well women care, probably does resonate with us more than with our male colleagues, and to me, it was so unfair to single out one Medicaid provider and say to women in particular, you can't choose which health care provider you want to go to.
BASH: I want to borrow a phrase from the first female secretary of state that talked about cojones and a lot of people are saying that you two have more cojones than a lot of the guys around here. Do you buy that?
COLLINS: You know, every senator has to make his or her own decision. So I wouldn't judge my colleagues.
MURKOWSKI: I absolutely agree.
BASH: You guys have some pretty stiff spines.
COLLINS: That I'd go with.
BASH: Did Senator McCain come to you before he cast the last vote against the health care bill? Did you know?
COLLINS: Well, I still remember when both Lisa and I were talking with John McCain on the Senate floor and he pointed to both of us and he said, you two are right on this issue.
MURKOWSKI: Yes. And to have a conversation that we had after the vote, we had one of those conversations that you'll think of years down the road where he said people might not appreciate what has happened right now as being a positive.
[10:35:04] Maybe our colleagues are not going to be viewing this as a positive right now. But the time will prove that having a pause, having a timeout for us to do better is going to be good for the country. And it was a good, good, strong John McCain message.
BASH: I have seen Congress and Congress people when they have some political fear of their president. And he tried to intimidate you on Twitter, you know, very directly, specifically, maybe having his Interior secretary call you.
MURKOWSKI: You can't live in fear that the direction that you're going to take, that you believe is truly in your state's best interest.
BASH: Did you feel that he was trying to intimidate you?
MURKOWSKI: I will just say that the president and I had a very direct calls.
BASH: Do you think that there's been a shift among your Republican colleagues as it relates to the president?
COLLINS: Many of us are still very interested in the president's agenda.
MURKOWSKI: Finding those areas where we are working together, partnering, this is what we should be doing. If there's rhetoric that is out there that is not constructive to governing, I think it is important to speak up and I think you are starting to see a little bit of that.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's fascinating. And you can read so much just in their faces, Dana, right?
HARLOW: They're very sort of diplomatic answers on some of those things. And you can see a lot in their faces. You also asked them about the Mueller special counsel investigation and how the president has been reacting to it. What did they say?
BASH: Well, talk about being able to read into their faces, I did ask them about CNN's reporting, which had just broken yesterday when I sat down with them. Evan Perez, Pam Brown and Shimon Prokupecz about Bob Mueller expanding the investigation to include the president's potential financial ties to Russia.
BASH: Listen to how that went down.
BASH: CNN is reporting that the Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expanding his investigation to include the president's financial dealings that may not have anything to do with the campaign in 2016. Is that appropriate?
COLLINS: I believe that the special counsel has a very broad mandate and he should follow the leads wherever they may be. And that's -- I do not think his investigation should be constrained beyond the mandate that he was given when he was --
BASH: And the president called that a red line.
COLLINS: The president can't set red lines for Bob Mueller.
MURKOWSKI: Well said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So as you saw there, you know, these senators and they are not the only ones on this issue, you saw it before the Senate left for recess, Poppy. A number of seniors on both sides of the aisle making moves to try to protect the special counsel.
BASH: And to protect the investigation and allowing it to lead wherever it leads.
HARLOW: Yes. And to make sure Sessions can't be replaced, you know, in a recess.
Dana, do you think overall -- I mean I know how getting these interviews goes, right? If they don't want to talk, they are not going to talk. And I just wonder if you think part of the reason they did sit down together and did this very rare exclusive interview, are they trying to embolden some of their fellow Republicans to like come on, stand-up?
BASH: Maybe. Maybe. But I actually think that with these two senators, they understand that they, in some ways, have, you know, kind of unique positions in that they actually have similar issues in their states, Maine and Alaska, very -- you know, a big state, obviously Alaska is much bigger. Very small populations, a lot of rural people.
And so they felt that they had, you know, many legs to stand on when it came to pushing back. But I also think that, to your point, Poppy, these senators are trying to make the case that what they did was the right thing, not because they don't want to repeal Obamacare and make health care better, but because they do and the process just didn't allow for that. And that's I think the message that they wanted to send, in addition to just good old fashioned girl power.
HARLOW: There you go. There you go. Cojones, as you said. Thank you, Dana, great interview, we appreciate it.
HARLOW: So this could get kind of awkward. Rex Tillerson ready for a face-to-face meeting with his Russian counterpart this weekend. This is as the Kremlin slams the Mueller probe and tells the U.S. to stop demonizing Russia. We'll take you to Moscow for a live report next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:49:02] HARLOW: New this morning, North Korea condemning President Trump and the White House' ban on U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea. They call it a vile measure that blocks citizens from seeing what they are saying is the true picture of North Korea.
The Foreign Ministry said foreigners have no reason to feel threatened there. This ban, though, recommended by State Department, does go into effect September 1st.
Meantime, Bob Mueller's Russia probe is being described this morning as absurd and groundless but not by the White House. Those words are coming from the Kremlin where today a spokesman for Vladimir Putin told CNN that he agrees with the president, President Trump, that relations between the U.S. and Russia are at a dangerous low.
Let's go to Oren Liebermann who is in Moscow with more.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And the guy who's stuck in the middle of all this is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who seems to be the only one here not using some form of bombastic language over the last few days. It's his job or at least it's his mission to try to improve relations as you pointed out, Poppy. Both the U.S. and Russia are saying relations are at the worst level in years, if not decades.
[10:45:04] It will be Tillerson who's meeting with the Russian Foreign minister in the Philippines this weekend. They'll talk about North Korea and the danger to the Korean Peninsula there and to the wider area. That seems to be about the only point that the U.S. and Russia completely agree upon right now.
After that, they'll also talk about sanctions and talk about relations in general. That's where Tillerson will try to improve relations but it's difficult to see from either the U.S. perspective or the Russian perspective what impact he could have especially as you point out with some of the rhetoric that we're seeing going back and forth here.
President Trump was furious about the Russia investigation and was clearly not happy to sign the sanctions bill. The Russians agree with him there, they're also angry about the sanctions bill. And even if most of that anger is directed towards Congress and towards Washington politicians who they accuse of an anti-Russian hysteria, Trump doesn't escape their anger. He is viewed now as being fairly weak and not being willing to stand up to Congress.
That of course is a big change from how they viewed him up until now. Over the last six or seven months. They thought Trump might be the guy who can improve U.S.-Russian relations. Now with the signing of the sanctions bill, it seems those relations are improving any time soon -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Oren Liebermann, in Moscow, thank you for that reporting.
Also I want to update you on the situation in Venezuela after that controversial and violent election. One of Venezuela's main opposition leaders has been released from jail this morning. Placed back on house arrest.
We're talking Antonio Ledezma, a fellow opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, both of them were taken into custody following Sunday's controversial election of the national constituents assembly, which can rewrite the country's entire constitution.
Earlier this week, we saw that Ledezma and Lopez both were pulled from their homes. You saw that on social media video. This sparked outrage internationally. Right now it is unclear, though, still, where Lopez is. He has not been returned to his home.
The assembly is set to meet today. We'll keep you posted on that.
Ahead, was it a real life case of fatal attraction? Maybe. Convicted murderer now says, though, her DNA will prove her innocence. A preview of CNN's jailhouse interview and special report, ahead.
[10:51:11] HARLOW: New questions in a murder case that captivated the attention of the nation and resembled the film "Fatal Attraction." The convicted killer still in jail, insisting she is innocent.
Our Kyra Phillips sat down with Carolyn Warmus in prison serving a 25- year to life sentence for the murder of her lover's wife.
Kyra, how you landed this interview I do not know. But I am captivated. Tell us more.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you what. It was pretty riveting. And there were times in that interview where I thought, hmm, OK, I can see the conviction, other times I was thinking, wow, she is innocent.
So you remember the movie "Fatal Attraction." This was actually billed the real-life version of that movie and it was a national media frenzy, Poppy. I mean, Carolyn Warmus was that young, beautiful, blond schoolteacher and she was having an affair with her mentor, an older married man. His wife ends up dead, shot nine times and pistol whipped. So she goes on trial for murder. And there's a hung jury.
Then just before the second trial, her lover, Paul Solomon, finds a bloody glove in his closet. Now sounds familiar, right, Poppy? It was a bloody glove that helped acquit O.J. Simpson as you remembered. But this bloody glove in this case actually helped convict Carolyn Warmus. But now she tells me she can prove her innocence.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): February 2nd, 1990, more than a year after the brutal killing of Betty Jeanne Solomon, Carolyn Warmus was charged with her murder.
CAROLYN WARMUS, CONVICTED OF KILLING HER LOVER'S WIFE: I didn't find out until the newspaper calls me.
PHILLIPS (on camera): That's how you found out you were a suspect?
WARMUS: Yes. I didn't know what they were talking about. I couldn't imagine on what have I done. What could I have possibly done? And they said for the murder of Betty Jean Solomon.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's been the subject of front page magazine stories, tabloid headlines, for months. Today the long-awaited fatal attraction trial of Carolyn Warmus opened up in Westchester County.
REESE BERMAN, WARMUS CO-WORKER: I would say the Westchester community's state of mind about Carolyn was that she was guilty almost immediately. There was an implicit judgment against a woman who's having an affair with a married man.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): A tabloid sensation chased by dozens of reporters, described as a murderous home wrecker.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Insinuate herself into the life of her lover.
PHILLIPS: Warmus tried to camouflage herself with sunglasses, scarves, even blankets.
(On camera): Why did you want to protect your identity?
WARMUS: I said, you know, I'm a schoolteacher and I want to go back and be a schoolteacher. And I said if I keep letting them take photos of me, I mean, I'm never going to be able to teach again. I mean it's going to be tough enough as it is with this case.
PHILLIPS: So here's the deal with the glove, Poppy. The blood on the glove is believed to be only months old but the murder had happened three years prior to that. And the blood was never tested. So whose blood is on that glove? DNA testing is so much more advanced now and Carolyn Warmus tells me, she insists that if the blood is tested now, it's going to prove that she is innocent.
HARLOW: Is there any reason, Kyra, that they -- you know, the authorities would not test the glove?
PHILLIPS: Well, it's a good question. I mean, we couldn't get a statement from everybody involved with testing that glove.
PHILLIPS: But she's appealing and she's hoping a judge is going to hear it. And she's got a chorus of defenders. There are a lot of great legal minds in this country believing that she is innocent and they're helping her try to prove it. And you know, there are a lot of shady characters involved in this case, including a crime lab in question as well. So it's been a pretty fascinating case to follow.
[10:55:04] HARLOW: I cannot wait to see it.
Kyra Phillips, great job getting the interview. Thank you for that preview, we appreciate it.
PHILLIPS: Thanks, Poppy.
HARLOW: All right. Be sure to check out the CNN special report "FATAL ATTRACTION OR FATAL MISTAKE: THE CAROLYN WARMUS STORY." It starts tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Major developments in the Russia probe. The president and the White House, we are tracking all of it ahead. Stay with us.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, on this Friday. Thanks so much for being with me, I'm Ana Cabrera in for Kate Bolduan.
Moments ago, the president speaking at a FEMA briefing on hurricane season. Let's listen in.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: OK. Thank you very much. I just want to congratulate acting secretary. This is really a good -- this is a big (INAUDIBLE) they do. Terrific presence. He's done an amazing job for the Trump administration and everywhere --