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AT THIS HOUR

Trump to Meet S. Korean President as Tensions Rise with N. Korea; Live Remarks at U.N. from Trump, S. Korean President; Mueller Asks White House for Documents Linked to Trump Presidency; Health Care Feud Between Kimmel & Cassidy Escalates. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 21, 2017 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[11:30:18] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, President Trump is just about to meet with South Korea's president at the Palace Hotel in New York, one of the meetings happening on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. It comes after President Trump turned up the rhetoric full blast in that speech he gave to the U.N. on tuesday threatening to destroy North Korea if the U.S. is forced to defend South Korea and other allies. A short time ago, President Trump said new sanctions are in the works.

I want to talk more about this with CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, and senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, at Trump Tower.

Jeff, I want to start with you.

What is the White House saying about this meeting that could happen at any moment?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, we are going to expect to hear from President Trump, some more details about new sanctions that he wants to impose on North Korea. Of course, this is coming just a couple days after that fiery speech where he left, you know -- made clear his point to the U.N. that the U.S. would "totally destroy," in his words, North Korea. But still diplomacy is a preferred route here. He is going to in this hour talk about sanctions. We are told the sanctions are not going to be specifically related to the oil program, but will be business related. We'll get more details on that.

But this is just the latest in a situation here of the president grappling with how to deal with the rising nuclear threat here. It's key, of course, he is having a meeting right now with the president of South Korea, and then a working lunch with the president of South Korea as well as the Japanese prime minister. Clearly two partners in this. Important to point out China not here at the U.N., not in New York. China will have to be part of any successful North Korean sanctions effort -- Ana?

CABRERA: And, Elise, we know that South Korea and its new president and President Trump haven't always seen eye to eye in how to deal with North Korea, but South Korea is a key ally and, of course, North Korea is such a pressing issue right now, not just for the U.S. and the region but for the global community. What's at stake in this meeting?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I think it's a very important meeting. The relationship is very strained between these two leaders and the South Korean president just came in with a much more kind of conciliatory stance towards North Korea, as opposed to President Trump who wants to take much more of a hard line. The relationship also strained because of issues of trade. And so you --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Hold on just a moment, Elise.

Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we've had a few discussions over the last number of months and I think we're making a lot of headway in a lot of different ways. We are on a very friendly basis working on trade and working on trade agreements, and we'll see how that all comes out.

But much more importantly, frankly, than trade, is the other aspect of our relationship that we're working with and that has to do with North Korea. So we are meeting on a constant basis. We'll be meeting in a little while also with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and that will be a tri meeting. We're making a lot of progress in a lot of different ways. Stay tuned. Stay tuned.

Would you like to say something?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

MOON JAE-IN, SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT (through translation): Mr. President, many telephone conversations with you and because of this I am becoming more and more familiar and seem with you. Over the years -- over North Korea have continued to make provocations and this is deplorable and this has angered me and our people. The United States has responded firmly and in a very good way and the president and I have close coordination between the United States and because of this I am very satisfied. Mr. President, in the U.N. General Assembly you made a very strong speech and I believe that the strength of your speech will also help contain North Korea.

Thank you very much.

TRUMP: Well, thank you very much. I'm happy you used the word "deplorable." I was very interested in that word.

(LAUGHTER)

I didn't tell them. I promise, I did not tell them to use that word.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(LAUGHTER) TRUMP: A very lucky word for me and many millions of people.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

TRUMP: So because of the fact that our trade deal is so bad for the United States and so good for South Korea, so we're focused on the military. But actually, we're going to try to straighten out the trade deal and make it fair for everybody. But our real focus will be on the military and relationship with South Korea, which is excellent, really excellent. So we're going to start that process right now.

Thank you very much. Thank you, everyone.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: So we were listening in. Those were live remarks from the president of South Korea meeting alongside the president of the United States, Donald Trump, of course, on the sidelines of a United Nations General Assembly. We heard him talk both about trade as well as the military situation and the ballistic missiles and nuclear development that's happening in North Korea, one of the key topics, of course, of conversation as they now move from this little spray they were doing, a pool spray, moving into a working lunch with not just with the president of the U.S. but also the president of South Korea but also the leader of Japan who is another important ally in that region.

I want to bring back our Jeff Zeleny and Elise Labott.

Elise, when you listened in, I know the word trade stood out to you.

LABOTT: That's right. Because we much, as we went into the press conference, we were talking about the fact that this relationship is strained, not just because of their differing approaches on North Korea, but because President Trump came into office saying he was going to right these bad trade deals that he thought were bad for the American people and he said it right next to the South Korean president. This trade deal is so bad for America, we're going to make it fair.

CABRERA: He said it's so good for South Korea.

LABOTT: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

LABOTT: Look, this is a very transactional president. He wants to get something for what he's doing on North Korea. So I think he's -- what he's trying to do is, you know, bring all of these issues together. His relationship on South Korea, and North Korea, he's saying it's going to be much better if South Korea plays ball on the trade deal and I think that's very interesting. You know, this relationship with this new South Korean leader who is coming in with a much more conciliatory approach towards North Korea, is far different than the relationship that President Trump has with President Abe of Japan. Very cozy together. He was one of the first leaders that he met with after his election and when he came into office. They played golf together.

CABRERA: Why do you think they're so cozy and not so much this other --

(CROSSTALK)

LABOTT: I think a lot is because President Abe is a very charming man. He knows how to play what President Trump likes. He's very praising of him. He also plays golf. So they've bonded on that. And I think that, you know, Japan also is looking to take a much more hard line on North Korea. So he's been playing to what President Trump is looking for and I think these two men have formed, you know, Japanese officials have told me, they feel very good about the relationship these two leaders have had and also is very much -- they're very much in line with this more hardline approach towards North Korea.

CABRERA: Jeff, let me ask you about the other thing that actually drew some laughs in the room, the president thanked South Korea's president for using the word "deplorable." I mean that goes back to the campaign.

ZELENY: It certainly does, Ana, that certainly drew our attention as well here. Of course, the word deplorable first came up in a fund- raiser that -- in the campaign last fall that Hillary Clinton had right here in New York City. She talked about the deplorables, talking about Donald Trump supporters there. You heard President Trump sort of laughing about that and he said look, I did not ask him to say that word, but he said that word has been a very lucky word for me. Indeed, that became a bit of an anthem for Trump supporters across the country at rally. They would say I am deplorable. That was one of the low moments of the Clinton campaign. Seems like a long time ago. Now we're into the governing phase, but about a year or so ago, right here in New York where Hillary Clinton said "deplorables." President Trump seized on it and seems happy to be hearing about it again this morning.

[11:40:29] CABRERA: When Clinton talked about the "basket of deplorables."

Jeff Zeleny and Elise Labott, thank you both.

More breaking news we're following at this hour. This time, in the Russia investigation. Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team asking the White House for a wide range of documents, including information related to the president's firing of former FBI Director James Comey. That's next.

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[11:45:01] CABRERA: Two big developments on the Russia investigation. First, "The Washington Post" is reporting that former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, offered private briefings on 2016 election to a Russian billionaire close to the Kremlin. Plus, sources tell CNN Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now requesting White House records on some of President Trump's controversial actions, including the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

Let me bring in CNN's crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz.

Shimon, what other records do we know have been requested by Mueller and his team?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Ana, the special counsel who has put in this request has requested documents and information from the White House covering some of the key moments and decisions made by the president, specifically the firing of former FBI director James Comey, and details surrounding the period Michael Flynn was national security adviser. Flynn was dismissed after he had lied to the vice president about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

We've learned also that Mueller has asked for information about an Oval Office meeting the president had with Russian officials where he bragged about the firing of the former FBI director, saying that it eased pressure on the White House.

We're also told by sources the White House has so far been cooperating with the requests and providing the information to Mueller's team -- Ana?

CABRERA: This new report on Paul Manafort, what more are you learning about this offer apparently from Manafort to a Russian billionaire?

PROKUPECZ: That's right. As you said it was "The Washington Post" they are reporting that during the campaign, Manafort, who is now at the center of the special counsel investigation, offered to privately brief a Russian billionaire with ties to Vladimir Putin on kind of the state of the campaign, where things stood. And the offer, interestingly, came at a time in July of 2016 when, as CNN has reported, U.S. intelligence officials became alarmed by some things that intercepted communications showed. For instance, Russians talking about targeting campaign officials that could potentially be influenced. And as we reported on Monday, U.S. officials have intelligence indicating Manafort was encouraging Russians to help the campaign. This latest information from the "Washington Post" comes from e-mails turned over to congressional investigators and the special counsel's office. A spokesman for Manafort said the e-mails were, quote, "innocuous and he was trying to collect money that was owed to him by previous clients." We should note that Paul Manafort denied he knowingly communicated with Russian operatives.

CABRERA: Quickly, Shimon, was there a briefing of any sort? There was the offer for the briefing. Do we know what happened?

PROKUPECZ: Yes. So we don't know if these briefings actually took place. We know that there were some e-mail exchanges between different people, as "The Washington Post" reported. But did briefings actually take place, we don't know.

CABRERA: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, important to note. Thank you so much for that reporting.

Joining us to discuss, Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor and partner at Thompson Coburn.

Renato, thank you for being with us.

Let's start with that latest reporting, specifically about Manafort and this message to a Russian billionaire. It was an e-mail, apparently, but could it still be investigated as collusion if he did not actually receive or respond to that message?

RENATO MARIOTTI, PARTNER, THOMPSON COBURN & FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it doesn't matter whether or not you received a response. What it does, is it shows his intent, and I certainly think it would cause Mueller to investigate further. I think really the obvious implication that an investigator or a prosecutor would draw from that is that he was offering some sort of special access to this Russian billionaire. And it makes one wonder, you know, what was he expecting to get in return for that. In other words, was he going to try to get aid for the Trump campaign or was this to get something for himself? It's, obviously, problematic. I don't think your viewers need me to explain that to them. It's something, on its own, no, obviously, you know, I've never prosecuted a case with one exhibit, so you know, that e-mail wouldn't be the only piece of evidence. But there's a reason why there have been reports that Robert Mueller is intending to indict Paul Manafort and I think this is starting to give us some of the reasons as to why.

CABRERA: Perhaps some of the evidence they're using to build their case. Again, we don't know exactly all the details. We do have some details.

However, about the information and the documents Mueller's team is asking for from the White House. And what we've learned, what Shimon just shared with us, what stands out most to you?

MARIOTTI: Well, there's a number of things. I mean, one piece of it is -- and I heard him discussing that on the air just a minute ago -- is the conversation with the Russian ambassador right after that Trump had right after he fired James Comey, talking about the --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: The Oval Office meeting? Yes.

[11:49:52] MARIOTTI: Exactly that tells me the tact that Mueller is interested in that, he is certainly investigating obstruction of justice and trying to build a case on the president's obstruction of justice and firing Comey. It's unclear if there will be enough evidence, but he is investigating that. Another document request is the document request regarding the statement that was issued by Donald Trump Jr right after the discovery of meaning of Trump Tower. That statement was later determined to be misleading and there were press reports the president was involved in dictating that statement through aides. The question there is who was responsible for the misleading language in the statement? Was it the president? What it his son? What did the president know about that meeting and why was the president so intensely interested in crafting that statement? I think there would be a lot of difficult questions for those gentlemen to answer if they were questioned by prosecutors.

CABRERA: Based on this new reporting, is the president still safe to say he is not under investigation?

MARIOTTI: If the president was my client, I would tell him he's a subject of the investigation and he should be acting accordingly. We have seen a lot less Twitter activity involving the Russia investigation by the president as of late, and I think that is wise. And I suspect that he has been advised by his attorneys to be more careful what he says as a result.

CABRERA: Renato Mariotti, thank you so much for joining us.

We have new developments in the health care debate. President Trump is praising the Graham-Cassidy health care bill, tweeting this, "Senator, Doctor Bill Cassidy is a class act who really cares about people and their health care. He doesn't lie. Just wants to help people."

This, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office said he plans to bring the bill to the floor before the September 30th deadline if they want to pass it just with Republican support.

But right now, Republicans have at least one definitive no from Rand Paul. Other Republicans Senators may have serious concerns about it, Susan Collins, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski.

Joining us now, CNN national politics reporter, M.J. Lee.

M.J., bring us up to speed on the latest.

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: This is incredibly important. Rand Paul came out and said he's a no. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and John McCain, these are the three Senators who voted no last time around. You can expect winning them over will be very, very difficult.

We can say is we know Mitch McConnell knows he does not have the yes votes right now. If he did, he would be announcing that there would be a vote next week. He has not done that. He only said his intention is to bring this up on the floor next week. He is not going to do that probably unless the votes are there. He doesn't want a situation where the vote fails.

CABRERA: One thing this extra interesting and created additional drama with this feud that has sort of opened up between Bill Cassidy, one of the sponsors, and Jimmy Kimmel.

LEE: Who would have thought.

CABRERA: Let's listen to the latest exchange. Jimmy Kimmel went after him on his show a couple of nights ago, and Cassidy responded, and Kimmel went out again, responding to him. This is the latest back and forth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BILL CASSIDY, (R): I'm sorry he does not understand. Under Graham-Cassidy, more people would have coverage. We protect those with preexisting conditions.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: I get it. I don't understand because I'm a talk show host. Right? Help me out. Which part don't I understand. Is it the part where you cut $243 billion from federal health care assistance? Am I not understanding the part where states would be allowed to let insurance companies price you out of coverage for having preexisting conditions?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So, M.J., who are we to believe?

LEE: The repeated back and forth between Cassidy and Jimmy Kimmel has created more confusion. Who is right and what exactly will happen to people with preexisting conditions under Graham-Cassidy? This is the deal. Under Graham-Cassidy, it's true the state cannot outright reject someone for having preexisting conditions. This is an important protection currently in place under Obamacare. What they can do is ask for more flexibility so insurance companies could charge people higher premiums based on their medical conditions. How Republicans defend this bill is these states have to provide assurances that everyone will get affordable and adequate coverage. But the problem is adequate and affordable coverage leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Jimmy Kimmel's point is that his son will be fine in terms of getting the care he needs because he himself is very, very fortunate. His family is fortunate. He saw so many people at the hospital, families who could not pay for these skyrocketing medical bills. I think that's the point he has really drawn attention to.

I was doing reporting with my colleagues yesterday on what would happen to a child, like Billy Kimmel under the Graham-Cassidy bill. One doctor I spoke to who is an expert on this, at the Boston Children's Hospital, he said the open-heart surgeries and other procedure that a child would need would rack up the bills and easily hit the million-dollar mark, which is incredible, and very, very expensive.

[11:55:19] CABRERA: We are out of time, but that's another point of contention, if the insurance companies have a lifetime limit of coverage, if they are allowed to limit the amount they are paying out, leaving people hanging out to dry down the road.

Thank you so much, M.J., for the latest information.

A live look right now, I want to show you. In Mexico City, there is still this ongoing desperate search for survivors in the wreckage of the deadly earthquake that caused so much damage. Crews are still trying to reach that 12-year-old little girl. They believe she is still alive, still trapped inside the wreckage of a collapsed school. We will take you back there live here on CNN.

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