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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Mexican President: Survivors May Be Trapped In At Least 10 Buildings; Quake Death Toll Rises To 273; Rescue Operations Underway; Death Toll Rises; Hurricane's Wrath Far From Over; Kim Responds to Trump, Calls Him "Mentally Deranged. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired September 21, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:01] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, breaking news, desperate search for survivors. The president of Mexico says there are at least 10 buildings with people possibly trapped inside.
And monster storm Maria, Puerto Rico devastated, 100 percent without power for months. And the U.S. mainland not out of the woods, yet.
Plus more breaking news, Kim Jong-un in an extraordinarily personal message calling President Trump mentally deranged, promising he'll pay dearly.
Let's go OutFront.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront this evening, the breaking news, trapped alive. Mexico's president tonight says there may still be people trapped and alive at this moment in the rubble of at least 10 buildings in Mexico City. It is a desperate search for survivors from Tuesday's earthquake taking place right now.
A new urgency tonight, it has been more than two days since the actual earthquake. And it is now Mexico's deadliest earthquake in more than three decades. The death toll at this hour, 273 people, and tragically, almost certain to rise.
The United States has sent 67 members of the Los Angeles Urban Search and Rescue team along with dogs to assist in the rescue efforts. The team also took more than 62,000 pounds of special tools, heavy equipment and medical supplies to try to save those lives as the clock is ticking.
Also tonight, a bizarre twist in a story that has captivated all of Mexico and many around the world. Mexican officials now report, they don't think there are any children dead or alive in the rubble of that collapsed elementary school in Mexico City. All children from the school have now been accounted for, at home or in the hospital, dead.
Those officials say, there is a chance that one person, an adult may still be alive in the rubble. This is of course as after days we were told it was a schoolgirl named Freda (ph) who is trapped alive, an 8- year-old little girl. They were incredibly specific, a strange end to a story that has captured the attention around the world.
Miguel Marquez has been covering the story for days. OutFront now in Mexico City with this race against time, Miguel, what are officials saying right now about whether there is anyone trapped beneath the rubble at that school?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We've seen them in the last 24 hours, Erin, they have had signals from underneath the rubble and they are still trying to go from two directions, through the roof and to the side, to the point where they think they have somebody there alive. I'm going to show you some of the sense of things here right now.
Since the announcement that all the children in this school were accounted for, either dead or alive, safe in their homes or in the hospital, the sense of urgency here has certainly come down. That we do not have the periodic silences, we had maybe one in the past hour. We've seen a lot of heavy steal beams and planks being moved into try to shore up that building. But clearly, there is a different pace to activity right now.
Officials say that they can hear something down there. It's not clear what it is, if it's somebody responding to their calls or if whoever was down there has since passed away or if they are just hearing the building itself starting to collapse. They are trying to shore up the building as much as possible with a crane on top to lift the building to keep it from coming down any further. But right now, they are still drilling two different directions toward the point where they think somebody might be alive. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, Miguel Marquez, thank you very much.
I want to go now to Dennis Cross who's a search and rescue task force leader working with USA, just arrived in Mexico City this morning. And Dennis, you know, when we hear this, obviously desperately searching in that rubble for what they believe could be a person alive, the president of Mexico says there could be people alive in 10 collapsed buildings. Obviously, the earthquake itself was more than two days ago. How much time is left? What is the clock here that rescuers are racing against?
DENNIS CROSS, SEARCH AND RESCUE TASK FORCE LEADER (via telephone): Well, hi Erin and thank you for having me on. I am a member -- the task force leader of a (INAUDIBLE) task force that's working or and with U.S. agencies for international development. We were fortunate to be called in this morning. We are actively searching a site right now where we got a live hit.
But it is not unusual for there to be some confusion and chaos after a devastation like this at certain sites where some people think they hear something, others don't. What we do as a highly specialized team, we bring in a K9. And if a K9 hits (INAUDIBLE), we'll double check with another K9. If that takes a hit, then we will start utilizing some of the 62,000 pounds we brought which life search cameras, listening devices.
Then if a structural specialist determines that structure is stable for us, we will use (INAUDIBLE) saws, we brought cutting equipment, (INAUDIBLE) and breaking powered equipment and we will send our search and rescuers in there. Unfortunately, sometimes people find people that are alive after seven and even 10 days, in the right conditions.
BURNETT: Which of course, yes, we can only hope that you have extra time now to try do this because I know that the work, structural laying when you talked about 62,000 pounds of equipment. But on this issue of confusion, obviously, you know, there have been such fear about a possible 8-year-old little girl, we knew she was eight, we knew her name was Freda. It turns out that's not true. But there may still be someone alive in that school that they are desperately trying to save.
You're saying it doesn't surprise you that there could have been such incredibly wrong information given the situation?
CROSS (via telephone): Well, what we have seen in the past is there is confusion in some kinds of work sites. And it's -- you know, it's just what happens in these large-scale disasters and not fault of anyone. Sometimes people hear things or think they hear some things that might be just construction equipment or concrete that's continuing to crumble.
The next group of people might come in and have a much quieter environment and they might hear something different. We've seen this in past disasters, it's -- the good side of this would be if there is no one in there that's been trapped. And I guess the one great thing that is coming out of this story is that, there weren't dozens of school children trapped.
So, we're here to support the Mexican government and the Mexican search and rescue teams that are out there searching numerous sites. Were probably be partners with USCID and we're here to support the Mexican people in any way we can.
BURNETT: And Dennis, what is the situation. I know you're saying you have a live hit that you are all desperately trying to find out who that is, to get that person out alive. When you look at the rubble and collapses that you are seeing in Mexico City right now, how bad is it? How hard is it going to be to try and save people in as many as 10 buildings?
CROSS (via telephone): It's painstakingly hard because you have to go to each one of these buildings that has collapsed, if any appear to have a survivable space, we will go and do a primary search. And if we don't do a secondary, another team will come behind us and there are numerous teams from the international community. They'll do a secondary search.
And if a live hit is found which we have on right, we have an active team working on a building, (INAUDIBLE) with K9. And we might be on this building for an hour to 36 hours hoping we find somebody alive. Our equipment is highly advanced and our firefighters and technicians are highly advanced. And they'll stay on this pile like we've done in the last six disasters throughout the world until we find a live victim. And it's very rewarding.
And again, there's numerous sites throughout this -- the country in Mexico within this general area that have a lot of devastation. Fortunately, a lot of them are in the condition where people can survive this earthquake. The human spirit is enduring and again, you can go up to 14 days or more without food.
But the critical time becomes about water. So, there is -- we are rushing against the clock, and our firefighters and our task force is out there right now trying to find anyone we can and assist the Mexican government any way we can.
BURNETT: Well, Dennis, thanks so much for people like you that you go to these situations and do what you can to save lives. Thank you very much for sharing that with us. Of course, as he said, a race against time, mostly because of water. That they are there and fighting for each soul.
I want to get to our other breaking story this hour, and that is Hurricane Maria which is regaining strength, it's now a powerful category 3 hurricane again. One of the worst Atlantic hurricanes in history and it could soon affect the East Coast of the United States. And Puerto Rico complete chaos tonight. It's not just the storm, the wind.
The destruction, 30 inches of rain fall in the past 24 hours. That's the part like Harvey. There is no power thanks to all the wind ripping everything down. It's sort of Harvey and Irma combined. And it could be months before service is restored. Water, in short supply
There is no cell phone service. And leaving families unable to locate loved ones including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor who says she hasn't been able to connect with several family members who are living on the island. And if you're on that island right now, you are trapped. There is no way off.
Allison Chinchar is OutFront live at the Weather Center, and Allison, obviously, this is devastation and a crisis in Puerto Rico. And as the storm continues to track the United States mainland is also still not out of the woods.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's true. And the one thing we can say is the good news is that at least it's not expected to be as strong of a storm as those folks in Puerto Rico or Dominica ended up getting with Maria.
Here's a look at the storm. Again, Puerto Rico still dealing with some of those outer bands as we speak for the heaviest rain is still lingering over the Dominican Republic and now making its way toward the Turks and Caicos.
This is where we expected to push off, winds right now, 120 miles per hour but they are still gusting upwards of 150 miles per hour. Here is a look at the short-term track. This is over the next five days. Again, it pushes off to the north. And this is what we are talking about.
[19:10:02] The good news at least for the U.S. is if it ends up getting close enough to us, we expect the storm to weaken very rapidly because it's going to be encountering much cooler water. Hurricanes need warm water to survive. So that's going to be one big deterrent for Maria.
Here's a look at the long term, it start weakening into Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You are looking at here, Thursday afternoon, one week from today. This is where the models take it.
At this point, we don't expect a direct landfall over the U.S. However, because of how close it does get, you are still likely to have impacts from North Carolina up to Massachusetts. Those impacts would be dangerous with currents. Tropical storm force winds specially right directly along the coast. You are also looking at the potential for beach erosion as well, Erin as some coastal flooding, very similar to what we have seen with Hurricane Jose.
BURNETT: And Allison, thank you very much. And let's go to Leyla Santiago now OutFront tonight in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Leyla, obviously incredibly difficult for us to get communications even with you. You have spent your day going around, talking to people and hearing them react -- respond to the fact that it may be months before they have power and communication with the rest of the world.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Right, Erin. We're actually having a hard time establishing our live report with you because of those issues. Communication is such a problem here not just power. But communication seems to be what everyone is talking about.
You know, I was with the National Guard and firefighters from (INAUDIBLE) today where taking out rescue efforts, getting to people in flooded homes. And (INAUDIBLE) you know, you could see the frustration on people's faces as they walked out of these areas. Walking through these flooded waters with only just a few bags in their hands. For some people just carrying their pets, anything they could to get out of areas.
And, you know, these are areas that are hard to get into, hard to get out of. We are showing you aerial views of how powerful Hurricane Maria really is. She ripped the roof right off of so many homes. The you can look down from above and see people's lives on display because the roofs were ripped off their homes.
And then, you know, you talk to them and one of the first question they have is, do you have signal because they can't communicate with their families. They can't reach loved ones because communication is such an issue.
Now, as far as relief goes and aide goes, Erin, Puerto Rico government now saying that FEMA, right now, has (INAUDIBLE) a critical product en route via ship. That's how they're going to get it here to try to get to some people that they can't reach right now, especially on the southeastern part of the island. So, it's hard. It's hard to talk to people who seem to have hope about the future, but that same future holds so much uncertainty right now.
BURNETT: All right, Leyla, thank you very much. And these pictures that Leyla is showing are stunning. And as you can see, we can't even fully establish communications with our own reporter. (INAUDIBLE) people in this situation without power for months. FEMA having to get things in via ship. I mean, this is a crucial situation right now in Puerto Rico.
Next, more breaking news, this from Kim Jong-un with his most threatening words yet. Coming out with a personal statement calling the president of the United States, Donald Trump, mentally deranged, a gangster, saying he will pay dearly in talking of war.
Plus, a new report showing the secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price took dozens of flights on private charter planes at your expense. So many more than what we already knew.
And Facebook finally handing over thousands of Russian linked ads to Congress. Is this though just the tip of the Facebook iceberg?
[19:17:51] BURNETT: Breaking news, Kim Jong-un personally and directly slamming President Trump ramping up his anti-Trump un- American rhetoric. North Korea's news agency is actually attributing this statement to the North Korean leader himself. They're not saying generals or just saying it. They have a statement from Kim Jong-un, OK.
In which Kim Jong-un says in part, "The mentally deranged behavior of the U.S. president openly expressing on the U.N. arena, the unethical will totally destroy a sovereign state beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturning of the social system."
It continues to say things like, "I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command the U.S. paid dearly for his speech calling for destroying the DPRK." Continues to say, "Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation. Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world."
Says Trump will pay dearly. Jeff Zeleny is OutFront. And Jeff, we're waiting to hear from the White House that this statement directly from Kim Jong-un is really upping the ante.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Erin, no question about it. And I just heard back from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders a few moments ago, and she said the White House would not have any comment or reaction to this at this time.
But Erin, I can tell you, watch the president's social media over the next 12 hours or so. He likes to comment on this. But there's no doubt that the president has laid down a marker here.
And he was meeting earlier today at a -- you know, really putting a unified face forward, meeting with the South Korean president, the prime minister of Japan. Putting -- and that was by design here to send a message to the regime of North Korea, that this economic sanctions are indeed going to happen. Also had, at least the tacit cooperation of China.
So, we will see as the days to come if these sanctions make any difference. We have seen time and time again from this president and, indeed, other presidents, economic sanctions on North Korea have made little difference. The regime is used to living under sanctions.
[19:19:59] But the White House believes this may be a different moment. But, Erin as we end this week with the president in -- after meeting world leaders from across the globe, obviously laying out a military solution earlier this week. But, there is a sense that a diplomatic solution and trying to pressure North Korea economically is the preferred route of this administration here. We'll see if those sanctions actually work. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much. And now, let's go to Retired Colonel Cedric Leighton, former member of the Joint of Chiefs of Staff and CNN Military Analyst, and Chris Cillizza, our political editor-at-large.
Colonel Leighton, this is an escalation and it's not just an escalation of words, it's -- Kim jong-un himself, he's not hiding behind generals. There is no derivative here, right? This is directly from him to President Trump calling Trump mentally derange deranged, a gangster, and a dotard which by the way is defined as an old person exhibiting a decline in mental faculties.
RET. COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, this was a classic, Erin of just really laying it all out and expressing Kim Jong-un's personal anger at Donald Trump. Now, President Trump, of course, was really looking to check Korea's -- North Korea's nuclear power, nuclear efforts as well as its missile efforts to develop an ICBM that could actually attack the United States.
So, both sides are basically getting into their corners at this point in time. And that the way in which this statement was phrased, to the fact that it came from Kim Jong-un himself, clearly indicates not only that he is angry but also that he feels he has lost face. And that is a huge, huge deal for the North Koreans.
BURNETT: Colonel though, the question is losing face. And when he comes back and says Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country. Is it proof "rocket man" worked?
LEIGHTON: In some ways, I think it is. Because "rocket man", the term -- the fact that he not only used it, the president used it not only in a tweet but also directly at the United Nation's show two things, in my opinion. It showed that he was willing -- the president of the United States was willing to dispense with diplomatic niceties and that he was going to go directly in front of a world body and basically say, that this regime needs to be called out for its actions. And it also, secondly, it was a challenge to the North Koreans that their actions do not meet with the approval of the United States. No big surprise there, of course. But the real issue here is that both sides are coming together in a way that could, potentially, do one of two things, either result in a profound miscalculation or it would result in getting to the brink, and then driving back from that brink. So it remains a course to be seen which way we end up going here.
BURNETT: I mean, Chris, you know, the response obviously that we're getting from Kim Jong-un, and again, it being personal shows that the "rocket man" really, really upset him. And the president put that in a tweet and he also of course said it at the U.N. We just played exactly what he did threaten in the U.N. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has great strength and patience. But if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, Chris, he clearly -- Kim Jong-un, that is, did not take "rocket man" as cool or celebrity. He took it as Trump denied his existence and insulted him. He took it the way it was intended.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It is and let's not forget too, Erin the personal slam on Kim Jong-un with "rocket man" clearly I think had its intended target. I would say saying totally destroy the country, there's a fair amount of that mentioned in Kim Jong-un's statement as well. I tend to, with Trump, think he sort of just says things and sees what the reaction is.
I actually think this is a case in which, particularly with those two, with the phrase totally destroy and with the descriptor "rocket man", I actually think that is intentional on Trump's part. You can agree or disagree with what ramping up the rhetoric, what kind of purposely disrespecting Kim Jong-un in front of the international community. You can disagree effective, ineffective but it is purposeful.
But the question I have, as not a military expert is, it feels like you can only turn the volume up so high, right. At some point, the volume is as high as it gets and then what. This certainly this week, between "rocket man" and "mentally deranged", which one of the many things that Kim Jong-un called Donald Trump, it sort of, where do we go from here?
You can't get much louder than 10. And I don't mean -- you know, is that diplomacy? Is that sanctions? Is that a military option, which everyone seems loathe to really talk about but certainly is out there.
[19:25:13] I don't know what that looks like, but it feels like we're moving rapidly toward that.
BURNETT: Colonel, what is your -- the bottom line here when you said this could lead to a profound miscalculation. I mean, I think, you know, Chris, you may not be a military person but you put it very eloquently. When you're out of 10, Colonel, where do you go?
This is a huge decision point for the White House because by the way that's far -- and the statement just came out within the past few minutes, has not responded.
LEIGHTON: Right, and -- yes, Erin I think, you know, as Chris mentioned, you know, getting up to a 10 is, you know, basically, that's the limit. So, I think what we're seeing here is we'll get to the brink of some very heated rhetoric and, of course, the fact that leaders are now personally insulting each other or at least the perception is that's what they're doing. That makes it very hard for people in the State Department or the North Korean Ministry to walk things back and have discussions or meaningful discussions at the diplomatic level.
But this is still in the diplomatic realm. It is not a military option at this particular point, but it could rapidly escalated to one. So right now, we're still -- before we were at the stage before the exercise of military options. But that option, you know, is certainly on the table and I think it's on the table for the North Koreans as well.
You know, from their standpoint, I think what we're looking at here is unconventional attacks of one type or the other that could mean special operations attacks, sabotage, perhaps even, God forbid, targeted assassinations but most certainly means cyber attacks. The North Koreans have clearly indicated that they want to pursue that form of warfare and that's going to be, I think, the way that they will choose moving forward. And so, people both in -- not only Korea but the United States need to be on guard.
CILLIZZA: And Erin, I just -- just really quickly. I just -- I believe wholeheartedly Donald Trump did what he did at the U.N. in that speech on purpose, language wise. The question is, what's the strategy beyond that?
No, I'm not suggesting there isn't one. Donald Trump loves to say, I'm not going to tell you guys because he wants to keep his secret but it has to be -- this has to be a step in a purposeful process. You can't just sort of purposefully taunt, you know what the reaction is going to be from the North Koreans. Kim Jong-un is not going to say, I love that speech at the U.N.
Maybe we didn't expect this direct, this person but you kind of had a sense of, OK, so what now? Is it just sanctions and we continue to go verbal brick bat for verbal brick bat but it doesn't do anything and we wait on the sanctions. I don't know but that to me is the critical piece.
BURNETT: All right, stop moving pawns, you're now moving a queen, what's your strategy. You don't want to get killed.
All right, thanks to both of you. And next, the matter of life and death, that's one mother's message about the threat to ObamaCare and her baby.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She now has 10 pre-existing conditions that she was born with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And they had full insurance and a lot of savings.
And unprecedented, a cabinet member getting round the clock protection from security details. Why does he need it?
[19:31:45] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: A new CNN/SSRS poll shows President Trump has work to do on health care. Thirty-one percent of people approve of how the president is handling the issue, 59 percent disapprove. Among those most concerned with how the president and Congress are handling health care are the parents of sick children who have pre-existing conditions.
Brianna Keilar is OUTFRONT with one mom's story you need to see.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When little Xiomara was born, it was a dream come true for her mother, Elena Hung.
ELENA HUNG, CO-FOUNDER, LITTLE LOBBYISTS: I got to hold her right away and kiss her right away. And then they checked on her and they said, OK, let's just make sure everything was OK.
KEILAR: Quickly, it was clear something was wrong. Her oxygen levels were low. At 11 days old, Xiomara had heart surgery, but it didn't fix the problem.
(on camera): She just wouldn't breathe on her own.
HUNG: She couldn't breathe on her own. We couldn't get her off oxygen support.
KEILAR (voice-over): Xiomara also had an underdeveloped airway, lungs, and kidneys. She spent her infancy in the neonatal intensive care unit.
(on camera): How long was the stay?
HUNG: She was there for five months.
KEILAR: And how much did it cost?
HUNG: It was roughly $3 million when we got the total bill.
KEILAR (voice-over): That bill, covered by employer provided insurance, but also Medicaid, which kicks in to help kids like Xiomara who have complicated medical conditions.
As Republicans consider a new Obamacare repeal, which would cut Medicaid funding and trust states to make changes to cap the amount insurance companies must cover for certain medical conditions and also make insurance impossibly expensive for patients with pre-existing conditions. Elena is worried for Xiomara and kids like her.
HUNG: Xiomara has ten pre-existing conditions that she was born with.
KEILAR: So, Elena has taken her concerns straight up to Capitol Hill, with Xiomara in tow.
Today, she stopped by the office of John McCain. The senator hasn't publicly decidedly how he will vote on the new health care bill.
Elena is from Maryland but she has performed a group of Little Lobbyists to represent families like hers around the country, including the Kerricks (ph), from McCain's state of Arizona. Elena has told Xiomara's story at press conferences and implored Republicans to protect her daughter.
HUNG: My husband and I, we both have professional degrees. We have good paying jobs, excellent health insurance, savings in the bank. We're financially responsible. We did everything right. And no matter how responsible you are, you cannot prepare for an extra $3 million.
KEILAR: The Little Lobbyists have visited all 100 Senate offices. So far, 19 senators have granted the meetings. The only Republican, Jeff Flake, who still voted to repeal Obamacare in June, shortly after meeting the families.
At Republican offices, they are mostly met by staffers.
HUNG: We have been surprised at how often a staffer just does not understand what Medicaid means to families like ours.
KEILAR: And that's really the problem, Erin. They lead these meetings mostly with platitudes and very little in the way of specifics about how their kids will be protected under this new bill, the Graham/Cassidy bill.
[19:35:00] The difficult truth is, the bill has the potential to open gaping holes on a state by state basis that could take away some of this essential care for some of the most vulnerable Americans, little ones like Xiomara -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Brianna.
Now, Paul Begala, Democratic strategist, Ben Ferguson, conservative radio show host, both, of course, CNN commentators.
Ben, you know, this story I think brings it home to people in a really powerful way, right? I mean, she said it there. BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely.
BURNETT: We had excellent health insurance. We had good paying jobs. We had professional degrees. We had savings. We had everything, but nothing prepares you for $3 million.
FERGUSON: No, it doesn't.
BURNETT: How do you start to, once again, close the door on pre- existing conditions?
FERGUSON: Well, I think you have to look at the bill and what it actually says in the bill. I pulled up one thing. It says, quote, each state shall maintain access to adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
That's what the bill says. That's exactly taken from the bill they are looking at next week.
FERGUSON: There's been a lot of fear-mongering on this issue.
And, look, this is personal for me. My mom is fighting cancer right now. She has as pre-existing condition.
I'm not going to put my mom's at risk because of somehow being denied coverage. Her medical bills had been extremely expensive. And I spent weeks on it at the hospital.
This is very real to me. I'm not going to be in favor of something that would somehow not take away pre-existing conditions.
But if you look at what the bill actually says, it says two parts. There's two protections. One, you have to cover it, you cannot exclude it and, it has to be affordable. It cannot be something people cannot afford to do.
So, I think people have to read the actual words in this bill, and not just jump on these political bandwagons.
BURNETT: OK. So, Ben -- Paul, what do you make of it? Yes, you have to allow coverage of preexisting conditions, but it says adequate and affordable. It doesn't define what that is. Right now, cancer drugs, as we all know, can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Nothing in the bill says you have to slash that, if that's not affordable.
So, we don't define adequate and affordable in the bill.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. And, Ben, the provision that says they have to be adequate and affordable for pre-existing conditions, states can get a waiver. It says the secretary shall, shall, the secretary must issue a waiver to a state that decides to.
And get this -- not only for pre-existing conditions, let me tell you something else that's in the bill, this is the actual language of the bill, and for continued enrollment on the basis of any health status- related factor. In other words, it's not even just pre-existing conditions. Even if you have insurance and then you develop a condition to renew that same policy, they can jack up your rates.
Now, there's been studies on this, the Center for American Progress did once said, if you have metastatic cancer, and my family has been touched by that disease, too, Ben, by the way. My heart goes out to you. I'm on the board of MDA, people who do cancer research are angels and saints.
FERGUSON: Doing incredible work.
BEGALA: They're wonderful. And honestly, I mean, it's almost a year to the day my father passed from that. Really, my heart goes out. It makes me passionate, too, because the study says if you have metastatic cancer, your premiums would go up $142,000. If you only have an uncomplicated pregnancy, which thank God my wife had four, your premiums can go up $17,000.
So, you can't allow these waivers that allow folks to get out of the pre-existing conditions. It has to be ironclad and it is written right into the law.
BURNETT: And, Paul --
BEGALA: That states that want a waiver get a waiver, and some states will get a waiver because they don't want to spend money to cover like little --
BURNETT: Doesn't this concern you, Ben? I mean, once you say adequate and affordable and you don't define it, aren't you allowing waivers? Aren't you, Ben, I mean, just definitionally opening the door to charge people way more than they can afford? So, sure, I have to cover it but the cost is so high, nobody can pay for it.
FERGUSON: I'm very concerned about that. I have to be concerned with the reality of Obamacare, which is that 45 percent of all counties in the U.S. in the next year, based on the Congressional Budget Office numbers are going to have only offer one single plan. That means almost half of Americans are going to have one plan and one plan only that they can choose from and many of those plans are not going to cover, for example, places like MD Anderson, where Paul, you are on the board.
I want to make sure that my mom has access to the best doctors.
FERGUSON: For example, at Vanderbilt, where she's been treated right now.
If she only has one option of one plan --
FERGUSON: -- yes, she might have health care coverage, but if she can't go to MD Anderson or Vanderbilt or go to St. Jude or some other place like that, if you're a child dealing with cancer, what good is that policy for you?
BEGALA: That's a great --
FERGUSON: So, I'm looking at both sides of this. We've got to have a compromise where we ask the tough questions, but also make sure that the plan you do have actually gets you adequate care.
BEGALA: Absolutely. So, what we need for the places insurance companies that don't want to participate, with the private market is failing us, we need a public option. That would give everybody a choice. That was in the original draft of Obamacare. It was then pulled out.
We can fix -- there are real problems with Obamacare and we can fix them.
[19:40:03] But the notion --
BEGALA: -- of ending Medicaid as we know it, of ending the preexisting rule protections of going back to lifetime limits and annual caps, that little Xiomara, she would have been -- she would have hit a cap, most policies capped, used to cap at about a million bucks. That little girl would have been cut off. It's just -- it's terrible policy. It's heartbreaking for families.
FERGUSON: But not Medicare.
BEGALA: We just can't allow this to happen. To put it through with no hearings? You know, they're not doing anything they should for due diligence to mess around with 1/7 of the American economy and our families' lives.
BURNETT: All right. I'm going to hit pause there. You guys, I hope you will both be back to talk about this over the next week, if this comes to a vote.
BEGALA: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: Thank you.
And on Monday, Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy will debate Senators Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar over the future of health care. It's a live town hall and it is Monday at 9:00.
And next, Facebook handing Congress thousands of political ads linked to Russia. What took them so long? And is that all there is?
And the health and human services secretary flying in private planes that you are paying for. Should it be investigated?
BURNETT: Breaking news, Facebook tonight, handing over Russian ads bought during the election to Congress. This comes after Facebook told congressional investigators it sold more than 3,000 ads to a Russian troll firm.
Drew Griffin is OUTFRONT.
And, Drew, this, obviously, Facebook had not -- they have been loathed to do this. How significant is the fact that Facebook is now caving and going to give these ads to Congress?
[19:45:05] DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: I think it's very significant, very huge. All 3,000 ads going to get handed over to Congress within days, I'm told, not weeks from now.
And, obviously, those ads are going to be leaked to the press. They're going to be released. Congress will release them, and then we're all going to be able to trace, Erin, where those ads went, how they interacted with the narrative of the election, who was following them, who was connected with them. We'll be able to see if any of the political campaigns, anybody else had connections with these ads.
So, it's very huge to see just how far this Russian penetration went into -- at least the Facebook portion of the 2016 election.
The other thing Facebook is going to do going forward, even more important, all its political ads now are going to be transparent, who's buying them? Where they are coming from? Who's writing them? And it's going to be allowing Facebook users to trace back, to see what else that particular ad group is putting out on the Internet.
Very transparent. Add to this, a couple other things. So, you've got handing over to Congress. You've got transparency in terms of political advertising. They are going share the information with other tech companies and security companies and they're going to use their anti-bullying systems. They're going to adopt that to include protection against political harassment.
Big moves? I think the big moves are, because Facebook was seeing Congress heading towards trying to regulate the industry.
BURNETT: Right, which, of course, is huge and, of course, how Russia got the information to target the ads the way it did, also going to get to the heart of this investigation. And that, of course, will be crucial as well.
Thank you so much, Drew.
And tonight, CNN tracking down the Russian billionaire central to the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. Our Matthew Chance got exclusive comments from Aras Agalarov, who originally met the Trump family for the Miss Universe pageant back in 2013, of course, was instrumental to this meeting.
Matthew joins me from Moscow tonight.
And, Matthew, what did Agalarov tell you today?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he was, first of all, very surprised that he was approached by us. I mean, we have been trying for, you know, a good six or seven months to get good face time with Aras Agalarov, who is a billionaire businessman. He's a property developer, much like Donald Trump himself in fact. And he co-staged the 2013 Miss Universe competition with Donald Trump when it was held in Moscow in 2013.
He's always the figure at the center of this very controversial meeting that took place last June between Trump Jr. and various Russian citizens and key members of the then Trump team, in which Trump Jr. was told he was going to receive compromising information about Hillary Clinton. Well, Aras Agalarov sort of refused to comment on that saying, simply, you will have to ask the people who are there or the people that directly organized it, particularly Rob Goldstone, the publicist Aras Agalarov's son, Emin.
But, he did pour scorn more generally on the idea that Russia could have influenced the presidential election. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHANCE: Were you working with the Kremlin or with Russian officials to try to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election?
ARAS AGALAROV, RUSSIAN BILLIONAIRE LINKED TO TRUMP JR. MEETING (through translator): Do you think it's funny to ask this question?
CHANCE: I'm not joking. The American people want the answer to that question.
AGALAROV: America is a great country with 300 million people. With a budget of $16 trillion, Russia has $300 billion. I don't know how many times smaller it is. How can Russia influence elections in America? Do you not find it amusing to ask this question?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHANCE: All right. Well, that Aras Agalarov attempting to sort of dismiss out of hand this suggestion that an influence could have been had by the Russians on the U.S. election. But, of course, you know, these are questions that will ultimately have to be answered, Erin.
BURNETT: They certainly will.
All right. Thank you very much for finally tracking him down and getting to ask those questions of Aras Agalarov.
Next, the top man at the EPA getting round the clock protection from his own agents. According to a new report, the health and human services secretary, we're also finding, was flying in private planes a lot more than you may have heard.
And Sean Spicer on his redemption tour. Jeanne Moos reveals how it's going.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I feel pretty good with my image. I'm very happy with myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:53:32] BURNETT: Tonight, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency under 24/7 security protection. EPA officials say Scott Pruitt is getting violent death threats. Tonight, we're learning that providing that unprecedented level of protection is pulling resources from the agency.
Rene Marsh is OUTFRONT.
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: We've led with action, not words.
RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): EPA Chief Scott Pruitt has been a lightning rod of controversy for his sweeping roll back of environmental regulations and now, he's facing more death threats than any of his predecessors.
PATRICK SULLIVAN, ASSISTANT EPA INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR INVESTIGATIONS: EPA is a lightning rod. We get threats from both sides of the spectrum.
MARSH: Patrick Sullivan is the assistant EPA inspector general for investigations.
(on camera): What sort of threats?
SULLIVAN: They run the variety of direct death threats, I'm going to put a bullet in your brain; to implied threats, if you don't classify this particular chemical in this particular way, I'm going to hurt you.
MARSH (voice-over): But Pruitt is under scrutiny for pulling agents from EPA's office of enforcement to help provide the round-the-clock security. The office of enforcement goes after people and companies guilty of environmental crimes. The officers are fully authorized weapon-carrying law enforcement tasked with enforcing environmental laws.
ERIC SCHAEFFER, ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRITY PROJECT: You could bring in contract security for example. Don't need to take trained criminal investigators away from environmental crimes work. That really seems like waste of resources.
[19:55:03] MARSH: The EPA's inspector general's office has been asked to investigate the security moves. Sullivan won't say exactly how many threats Pruitt has received but says nearly five times more than the previous EPA administrator under Barack Obama.
MARSH: Well, Erin, we reached out to EPA for comment on this, but the agency did not respond.
BURNETT: I mean, you know, Rene, this story obviously is I think shocking to a lot of people. But you've also been following the story of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
MARSH: That's right.
BURNETT: And this is different, right, this is private jets and whole lot of jets, right? "Politico's" new reporting is 24 on taxpayers' dimes?
MARSH: Right. So, yesterday, if you remember, we reported that Secretary Price took private jets for five government trips and now it's reported that apparently private planes have been his preferred way of travel. Flying at least 25 times on private jets, costing about -- more than I should say more than $300,000. An option that obviously is a lot heftier in pricing than a commercial flight. I mean, it's worth noting that flights were to cities that have frequent commercial service that would cost hundreds of dollars versus thousands of dollars.
And HHS secretary -- or spokesman for the secretary told us yesterday that cost of these flights, they do come out of the agency's budget. I have been in touch with the inspector general's office and they're now reviewing requests from members in Congress to open an investigation. But the I.G.'s office has not yet decided how to move forward.
BURNETT: Certainly is seems to need to be looked into at very least to understand what is going on.
All right. Thank you very much, Rene Marsh.
And next, Sean Spicer looking for redemption and a job. Jeanne Moos takes stock.
BURNETT: Tonight, spice, lies and video tape.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's been adding a little Spicer to life from Emmys to late night. JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!: So, when the president would
tweet did you have alert on your phone?
MOOS: And now to "Good Morning America" where he was finally asked point blank.
PAULA FARIS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Have you ever lied to the American people?
SPICER: I don't think so. I had not knowingly done anything to do that, no.
MOOS: Not exactly a ringing yes or no answer, leading one critic to tweet: lying about never lying, awesome.
But his return to podium --
SPICER: This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period.
MOOS: -- did win him praise from the president.
SPICER: He was supportive. He thought I did a great job.
JAMES CORDEN, HOST, THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN: These Hollywood phonies kissing up to Sean Spicer are disgusting. I mean, who did this?
MOOS: Spicer probably isn't laughing over an "Axios" report that he as habit of writing down everything, filling notebook after notebook and potential fertile source for special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
But when "Axios" asked Spicer for comment, they got: Please refrain from sending me unsolicited texts and e-mails. Should you not to do so, I will contact the appropriate legal authorities to address your harassment.
(on camera): It didn't take long for parody versions of Sean Spicer's notebooks to surface.
(voice-over): This is page one with more to come. And "The Daily Show" professed to find Spicer's giveaway tell --
FARIS: Have you been subpoenaed?
SPICER: I'm not going to discuss that issue at all.
FARIS: Di you ever heard inside the White House that Mueller should be fired?
MOOS: Spicer says he won't write a tell all, but will sideways eyes and twitching lips tell some?
Jeanne Moos, CNN -- SPICER: I'm not going to discuss that issue at all.
MOOS: -- New York.
BURNETT: Body language can say a lot.
Well, thanks so much for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
"AC360" begins right now.