Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Cuomo Discusses Devastation in Puerto Rico; President Trump's Chastising Tweet Alarms Many. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired September 23, 2017 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:00]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: President Trump unleashing a tweet storm today, and a stoking his fight with professional athletes. Among Trump's tweets this morning, going after NBA super star Steph Curry. Trump tweeted going to the White House is considered a great honor thorough for a Championship Team. Steph Curry is hesitating therefore invitation withdrawn.

That tweet follows the Presidents strong criticism of NFL players who take a knee during the National Anthem and here was the President talking about that last night in Alabama.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, US PREDIDENT: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to ay get that son of a [bleep] out of the field right now. Out, he's fired.

WHITFIELD: All right for more on all of this let's bring in CNN White House Correspondent Athena Jones. So Athena you're in New Jersey. Why is the President choosing to go after professional sports stars in this manner and not letting go but instead kind of, you know, going full heartedly?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi Fred, well it's hard to know what's in the President's head. But we do know that he does or he seems to enjoy picking fights with all manner of people whether it's fellow republicans or in this case professional athletes.

Here is what the NFL commissioner is saying in response to those harsh remarks from the President last night. This is Roger Goodells statement. I will read to you part of it. He said the NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we have experienced over the last month.

Now Goodell goes on in that statement to say that divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, for the game and for the players. Its interesting though He doesn't specifically name the President in his response but it's clear that's what he's talking about.

The President's remarks sparked an immediate backlash on twitter last night and off twitter as well, Frederika. Not just from black athletes or black people but from people across the racial spectrum who took issue with the phrasing the President used. Not just the fact that he was criticizing these players for peacefully protesting what they see as ractial injustice and equality in America.

But also using a phrase like sons of b's which of course insults the players themselves; these are largely African American players, as well as their mothers.

A lot of folks asking where was this passion, the passion we saw from the President last night where was that passion last month, in response to those Neo-Nazi and KKK supporters who were marching in Charlottesville, just a few weeks ago.

This is interesting thought it's not just about the NFL now. You read that tweet of the President directed at Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry. That is because Steph curry at the media, at the teams media day yesterday talked about how he doesn't want to come and be honored at the White House. The Golden State Warriors of course won the NBA Championship. It is customary for those winning team to go and be honored at the White House.

Steph Curry saying, he said he doesn't want to take part in that honor. He doesn't want to go. The President responding by rescinding the invitation, and That brings in another NFL - I'm sorry another NBA Star Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers who took to twitter to bash the President saying this, you bum Steph Curry already said he aint going so there for aint no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up.

So Here we have a President who is at odds with athlete, many of them black athletes and not just with athletes. We saw a similar situation with the Kennedy Center honors where honorees said they didn't want to take part in a White House reception because they don't like what the President stands for, the President and First Lady pulling out of that entire event and those festivities honoring artists and performers, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right Athena Jones, we'll talk more about this right now. Let me bring my panel in, CNN Contributor and National Reporter for the Washington Post, Wesley Lowery, and Sports Business Analyst and former ESPN Senior Editor Keith Reid. Good to see both of you. All right so Lowery let me begin with you because the President now taking on the NBA and the NFL particularly when singling out particular stars or particular actions. So you know what's the President have to gain by doing this?

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND REPORTER FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: Of course I mean I do think it is notable and it is easy to lose sight of this in part because this President behaves the way this President behaves. Here you have the leader of the United States of America engaging in public wars of words with people who are some of our nation's greatest ambassadors or athletes, our celebrities, our stars.

I think that is notable. You no in this case you have Donald Trump doubling and tripling down on his base. Folks who are hostile to many of these black athletes, and black commentators, folks that are offended by these protests lead by Colin Kaepernick and others and so what he is doing here as opposed to be some kind of uniting force or figure or even as opposed to staying out of these types of issues

[13:05:00]

He knows that this is red meat to his base, whether that in part because of some of the racial dog whistles involved in what he's been saying as well as some of the opposition to these protests. But in addition because he's just knows that his base doesn't like Colin Kaepernick doesn't like these National anthem protests. Thinks black lives matter or police protests have been overblown and he knows that by attacking them in public he gains with the folks who support him.

WHITFIELD: So you're saying strategically this President doesn't want to be a uniter?

LOWERY: I don't think he ever has based on what he said as candidate as well as his behavior as President. He knows that he's got a small chunk of support in the United States of America, the pooling getting smaller and smaller. He knows he has very little opportunity to expand that. And so his, basically his ticket to the dance is to continue to hold onto that small amount of fervent support. And I think weighing in on issues like this where many other Presidents probably would just avoid the topic all together.

WHITFIELD: But it's so interesting, sorry to interrupt because it was the President of the United States on his inauguration during his speech where he said he wanted to unite and that was a unique use of word for him based on his jargon during the campaign and then now nine months in, a moment to be a uniter but not.

LOWERY: Sure you look even case like Charlottesville where most people across the political spectrum saw this as a moment of moral clarity where you could very easily condemn groups that were obviously bigoted and espousing hate, an the President chose to equivocate it.

I think time and time again where the President has had moments where he could potentially unite on diverse issues he has not done that. And so I guess I'm not partially surprised by the behavior here. We also can't lose the reality in his comments last night at this rally, he was calling for professional athletes and their teams to fire them for their political speech.

This is something that no matter how you feel about the issue of protesting during the National Anthem, the idea that the President of the United States would use his bully pulpit to advocate private businesses firing people for speech he doesn't like is something that should worry all of us that cares about the first amendment.

WHITFIELD: so Keith, you've got Lebron James whose now stepped in and you heard his tweet that Athena shared. Does this, and you have Roger Goodell with the NFL Commissioner now making a statement as well. Does this look beyond a black and white issue? The President of the United States targeting mostly black athletes.

Do you see that other athletes across the spectrum will be compelled to make a statement as it pertains to this issue? It's not just one issue. It's a big blossoming thing right here. But it's now being exemplified by this kind of war of words and sentiments, all colliding now this weekend like this.

KEITH REID, SPORTS BUSINESS ANALYST AND FORMER ESPN SENIOR EDITOR: Yes and I think it's always been beyond a black and white issue. You have to remember to piggy back off of something Wesley said. This actually began a couple of weeks ago when the President in the White House and attacked Jamele Hill for a statement, host of sports center at six o'clock on ESPN.

Attacked her for statements she made on twitter. And so a piece of the President's strategy here is to be divisive on the basis of race. We have to remember that the backdrop for this is the President is in Alabama and stomping on behalf of the candidates to fill a senate seat down there. Again, it's red meat to the base. That if there any place where that type of dog whistle racial politics will work, it's in this race right here. That's part of the backdrop.

But one of the other back drops is where this transcends race and sports is that the President made it part of his mission to sort of undermine the institutions that have typically united Americans. Americans have always sought to whether you liked the news media or didn't like the news media, you always looked to the news media.

You looked to television and to reporters to be able to give you factual information upon which you base political and other decisions. By undermining the news media, calling starting the trend of calling legitimate reporters fake news. Now you're undermining sports reporters. Now you're undermining and calling for the firing of professional athletes.

When you look not that long this American history, go back to 9/11 and since 9/11, one of the things that's been important to the United States has typically been used as a uniter has been the NFL, right after the games that were played, I can remember the games that were played immediately in the aftermath of 9/11 being a patriotic moment where Americans across the political spectrum could come together, forget about their divisions and talk about professional sports.

[13:10:00]

But if you demonize those institutions, if you demonize professional athletes, if you demonize the reporters that bring you the news then it becomes easier to distract the public from the fact that you're not addressing a lot of real issues going on in the country. Here we are on a couple of days after Puerto Rico and American territory was devastated where millions of American citizens are still with out power.

And the President of the United States has us sitting here discussing Colin Kaepernick and Steph curry and whether or not he will go to the White House, and has us talking about Lebron James tweet. When I saw a video of Carmelo Anthony talking about his Puerto Rico heritage and about the fact that many of his family members are on the island and don't have power. But we're not discussing that. We're not discussing that because the

President of the United States has made it a point since he began campaigning and even back before that -- to be a divider to be divisive to make sure that he undermines the things that have brought Americans together. And I think it's very tragic that he's taken the institutions of -- the institution of journalism and of American sports to do so.

WHITFIELD: Yes and customarily sports and the arts great unifiers. And so you know Wesley, you have some of the biggest stars who are speaking out about this from Lebron James, Steph Curry and being pitted against the President of the United States or vice versa.

Do you see, and you have Roger Goodell weighing in? Do you see the NBA and Adam Silver you know soon weighing in, putting out a statement. Do you this see this momentum whether it be more athletes, black and white, kneeling during the anthem as a result of what's happened here. How do you see potentially the next chapter or the next page being turned on this now very fiery emotional issue?

REID: I would be shocked if we don't see many more players in the NFL both speaking out as well as either taking a kneel or raising a fist tomorrow. I mean you have to remember also what it is the President said yesterday. The President called these players who protest SOB's, right.

Where I'm from that doesn't start a conversation. That starts something very different, right. And so I don't think that -- that's something that's serious. We kind of are used to this flippant Donald Trump and fervent President, but if you're one of these athletes who had the audacity to speak out about something you view to be an injustice and you believe that there needs there needs to be reform in the legal and police systems - criminal justice systems, because I think sometimes we discuss--

WHITFIELD: -- under the umbrella of the freedom of speech.

REID: Sure we talk about this kind of often in political redirect and as disrespectful to the flag. We have to remember this is -- these are protests that are about police killings of black men and black women, about a criminal justice system that many Americans, most black Americans and many black athletes view to not serve them and give them justice. Here you have people, who are exercising their first amendment rights silently, respectfully in protest and they've been called pretty far out of their name for that.

I would be very shocked if even folks who is might have sat on the fence previously, who didn't personally want to be involved in protest previously stand up in solidarity with their fellow athletes because again, what we -- we saw with Keith and I are both friends and colleges of Jamele Hill. We saw this with her in media and journalism just a week or two ago.

That when you come at someone this way calling them out of their name, being disrespectful to them, and trying to silence them and intimidate them because they have the audacity to speak out, you almost always raise people to stand next to them. I would be very surprised if we don't see that tomorrow on the sideline of these games.

WHITFIELD: All right we will leave it right there gentlemen. Thank you so much. Wess Lowery, Keith Reid, appreciate your time.

REID: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right meantime and Keith was underscoring this huge, sizable problem in Puerto Rico. Nearly 70,000 are on high alert right now in large part because of a dam on the brink of collapsing, again so many people on the island without power. Now you have New York Governor Como there as well visiting, seeing first hand and now making his return from that devastated island. We'll hear his thoughts, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: The Governor of Puerto Rico assuring residents that it is holding for now even though portions of it has been breached. The evacuation of 70,000 in the area still being urged along the Wahataka River. Evacuations of this magnitude are especially difficult because of the devastation from Hurricane Maria. I want to bring in someone who just witnessed the devastation on that island first-hand.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo visited Puerto Rico Friday to survey the immense damage and also help to deliver emergency supplies. Governor, welcome back. On the phone with us right now so many New Yorkers with family ties in Puerto Rico. Some even living in New Yorksome part of the year and in Puerto Rico. Give me an idea of what you saw and why it was so important for you to visit.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK: Good afternoon, Fred. As bad as it looks on television, it's actually worse in person. The damage is widespread. It's all across the island. You have structural damage to homes, commercial buildings. You have flooding that is still hasn't receded on the island and flooding brings long-term problems. People think it's just water and the water leaves. This isn't water anymore. It's water combined with sewage and chemicals, et cetera, so there's tremendous damage. No power on the island. The only power are facilities that have a generator and the generators were running low on fuel.

[13:20:00]

So, it's a terrible, immediate situation that requires assistance from the federal government and not just financial assistance. We're also going to have to provide capacity there.

This is more complicated than just providing financial assistance to a state. They don't have the infrastructure. They don't have the contractor capacity, the technical expertise. It's going to be a dangerous situation today and it's going to be a long term reconstruction issue for months. WHITFIELD: We heard the President of the United States say just before Maria hit, we are with you. We'll be taking care of you. You mentioned more Federal assistance will be needed already on an island that had significant financial deficit. And when you say it's far more complicated than say the images we saw out of Houston. People were also in waist-high water but, you know, buses and other means of transport could get people to other nearby Texas cities or even outside of state. People don't have that option here in Puerto Rico. What way of Federal assistance being needed that do you see as of yet to help either airlift people out or bring in much-needed supplies especially for a place that may be going months without power?

CUOMO: You are exactly right. The first, as you mentioned, Puerto Rico has a terrible financial issues to begin with. They were on the verge of bankruptcy. Number two, you have the geographic isolation of being on an island. It's not like you can drive to a neighboring state or move with your family. It's not like you can bring contracting crews or utility crews from the surrounding states. They need everything brought to them. The airport was barely functional.

Without power you have no refrigeration so you get into very real practical problems right away. Food, health, evacuating people from hospitals-and that's where they are now. Yes, it's nice to be with them in spirit, but it's better to be with them in practice. New York has the largest population of Puerto Ricans outside of Puerto Rico. We have about a million Puerto Ricans so it's very personal in New York. They can't get in touch with their family members. Nobody knows whose alive and God forbid, who is dead. It's very real to us here. The Federal government really should be moving and focusing on this. I don't want to get political but I think this comes before a lot of issues the Federal government is discussing right now.

WHITFIELD: And Governor, I know we're talking about Puerto Rico and life and death and survival in your observations there. I do have to ask you about another issue that has many people talking. I have a couple of guests on talking about how the President of the United States is tweeting this morning about the NBA player Steph Curry being disinvited to the White House after his sentiments that the was hesitant about going to the White House with his team, the Golden State Warriors. And at the same time the President in Alabama last night using some choice words to challenge NFL owners to fire players who kneel in protest of the National Anthem and calling them Sons of Bs. It was my guest who said why isn't the President instead tweeting about the devastation and the people suffering in Puerto Rico. Instead making it personal with high profile athletes. What's your point of view on this?

CUOMO: It's exactly what we were saying. First of all, you can have your own political opinion. That's the beauty of this country. You can have your opinion about people's protest and about what they say. We also have something called the First Amendment and that is the law. And that is what we respect and that's what makes us special. But that is a conversation that I think is frankly irreverent or at least secondary to a conversation like what is going on with Puerto Rico right now where people are suffering, people maybe dying. You want to use the power of the White House, use the power of the White House to help Americans in need now. Puerto Ricans are Americans.

The people in the Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands were suffering. I was there the week before. That's another terrible situation- they're Americans. Help American citizens. We have a crisis now. And that's what the Federal Government and the political system should be talking about and should be focusing on because it's a real problem. Its life and death. It's not easily solved. And I was there and I'll tell you, Fred, I've been through, I used to work there in the Federal Government, as you know in the Clinton Administration. I've been to a lot of emergency sites in hurricanes and floods, et cetera.

I know the Federal Government could be doing a lot more than they're doing now and they can be doing it better and faster. And Puerto Rico is a place that needs it. We have footage on NY.gov of some of the devastation on the island that we took when we were down there. And I encourage people to look at it and then wonder why our Federal Government isn't doing more. We're going to organize in New York and do everything we can and I think the private sector can help. A lot of people want to donate and we're going to coordinate that state- wide. But there's no substitute for effective government response. And that's what we're lacking and these are Americans. That's what we have to remember.

WHITFIELD: Yes, the images and the realities on newyork.gov and the images we're showing right here, very powerful. We're all praying for the best for our brothers and sisters there in Puerto Rico. New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, thanks for your time.

CUOMO: Thank you Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right up next as Trump wages war on the NFL and the NBA, a new threats are developing overseas. Details on the mysterious seismic activity in North Korea today plus a defiant Iran flexing its nuclear muscles testing a new ballistic missile. We'll discuss all of that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We're following developments out of both Iran and North Korea. Mysterious seismic activity detected near the area of North Korea's nuclear site and the cause is still unclear. South Korean officials say so far their analysis shows it was a natural earthquake. Meanwhile in defiance of the U.N. and President Donald Trump, Iran is flexing its nuclear capabilities. Iran tested a new ballistic missile that is reportedly capable of carrying multiple warheads and reaching U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

I want to bring in CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott right now. So, Elise, you have both Iran and North Korea flexing their muscles this week, as President Trump ramps up his rhetoric. Are the President's (ph) -- of the United States' options increasingly limited, in terms of how he should respond, or either further provoke?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he's backing himself into a diplomatic corner, if you will, leaving himself a lot of very little space, Fred, to find some kind of diplomatic solution.

I mean, look, these -- you know, this rhetoric and this name-calling between Trump and Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, is really getting personal. These leaders are obviously getting in each other's head. Kim Jong Un has never issued a statement in his own name, and to put one against the U.S. president is really extraordinary. So, he's so erratic, he's so unpredictable, no one really knows what's going to set him off. And so, you know, look, he could be do -- doing things next to flex his muscle.

Then you have on the Iranian side, all this talk by President Trump about Iran not living up to the nuclear deal, even though all of the parties to the deal, and the IAEA who monitors the deal, say that Iran is in technical compliance of its nuclear -- his nuclear commitments.

And so then, Iran is trying to say, "Listen, our missile program has nothing to do with the nuclear program. President Trump is trying to fold this all into his decisions on the nuclear deal. And so -- and so, you have this muscle-flexing from the United -- from Iran only -- actually almost daring the president to do something, because the rest of the international community is in agreement that ballistic missiles, while clearly not favorable, and clearly no one's happy about that --

WHITFIELD: Hmm.

LABOTT: -- are not in violation of that nuclear deal, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Elise Labott, we'll leave it right there, thanks so much. All right, we're also waiting to hear the North Korean Foreign Minister speak at the United Nations General Assembly today.

With you right now, Senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth. So, Richard, North Korea has, you know, threatened to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific, and that came from the foreign minister, right? So what might his message be today, or what are people bracing for, I should say?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, the North Koreans usually speak toward the end of the annual General Assembly week, and, once again, no difference (ph). The North Korean foreign minister is going to be the last speaker this morning; he's still about an hour away. He's been around the U.N. for the last two or three days, captured by camera crews, and as you mentioned, he once stopped and talked about a hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean.

It's unclear, of course, what exactly he will say, but if he matches the rhetoric shown by President Trump on Tuesday, no doubt, there will be a (ph) high amount of invective towards the United States. It'll be interesting if Donald Trump's name is, indeed, mentioned. But, no doubt, sharp talk in this incredible, unprecedented exchange of views from the stage, through Twitter, and through television appearances in Pyongyang between two countries right in the middle of a week that's supposed to be dedicated to diplomacy. WHITFIELD: All right, a lot to be expected, anything can happen, we know. All right, Richard Roth, thanks so much at the U.N. We'll check back with you, and we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:37:46] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Facebook is cooperating with the Senate and House investigations into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. The tech giant is agreeing to hand over information about ads it sold to Russia-linked accounts. It's already given the details on ads to the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.

In the (ph) meantime, President Trump tweeted, "The Russian hoax continues, now it's ads on Facebook."

But most Americans are not so skeptical -- not as skeptical as the president. A new CNN poll shows 54 percent believe Russian-backed content on social media likely affected the outcome of the presidential election. Now, the question is, if the ads did indeed impact the polls, did these ads break election laws.

Let's talk with our legal experts about all of this. Attorney Avery Friedman and Richard Herman both with us. Good to see you.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's good to see you.

WHITFIELD: OK, so, Richard, you first. You know, as a result of this, you know, Facebook says it will change how it handles political ads by demanding political advertisers' detail where the money is coming from, which is, you know, required by U.S. law by political ads on television and radio, but not necessarily the case with companies like --

RICHARD HERMAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right.

WHITFIELD: -- Facebook. Will -- is this likely the impetus for maybe, rules will be imposed, so that every company does have to reveal this kind of information, particularly as it pertains to U.S. elections?

HERMAN: Absolutely, Fred. And, you know, with the modern age of technology and advancements, and social media, and Facebook, and Twitter, they don't have the same obligations that television has in advertising. So now, Congress is looking into this. I'm sure laws are going to be enacted where they're going to have to.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

HERMAN: Facebook was not forthcoming at the outset. But now they are, and they've implemented their own internal protocols to determine the source of any advertising, and the amount being paid.

But, you know, for the president -- you know, again, "the Russian hoax" -- I mean, he's the President of the United States; not just a 30 percent group supporting him. So he has an obligation, Fred, if the Russians hacked our election, which they did, and if they used Facebook to influence the election,

[13:40:00]

He has --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

HERMAN: -- an obligation to support that -- not criticize it, not belittle it. And it's just -- you know, he's so insecure with his election victory, that he can't accept the reality of what's going on here. And it's so -- it's just dehumanizing and it's pathetic to watch --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

HERMAN: -- this play out by this president. This was --

WHITFIELD: And --

HERMAN: -- a real event, we were attacked, and we have to get to the bottom of it, and Mueller's going to, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And so, Avery, what is the obligation for a company like Facebook to be as clear as possible about whether, indeed, they did, you know, accept money from Russians by way of ads? Because as, you know, Richard pointed out, at first in July, Facebook said, you know, no, there were no, you know, fraudulent --

FRIEDMAN: Right.

WHITFIELD: -- you know, Russian accounts, but then, now, has changed its mind.

So were there any rules? We've said there are no real laws on policing this kind of transaction. But, as a free enterprise company, were there any laws broken by not revealing everything it knew?

FRIEDMAN: Absolutely none, Fredricka. I mean, the amazing thing about this development -- and I think it's a constitutionally elected kind of development -- and it is that, social media, such as Facebook, or Twitter, or Google, it's completely unregulated. And the reason we're seeing this --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

FRIEDMAN: -- exposure is that, social media is very concerned that Congress is going to enact legislation. Yes, it's true, and as I have said, we have nothing. A few (ph) hours ago, we lured $80,000 (ph) back to -- so it's like (ph) a liberal ad --

WHITFIELD: Yes, OK.

FRIEDMAN: -- a liberal hoax. But here, we're probably going (ph) -- we're getting the order from (ph) Congress is --

(CROSSTALK) WHITFIELD: So --

FRIEDMAN: -- that they are going to be signing laws that --

WHITFIELD: So, I hate to interrupt, but --

FRIEDMAN: -- requires everybody to have some of these covered --

WHITFIELD: -- Avery, the audio is so spotty, it's difficult to hear everything.

FRIEDMAN: -- so that's it's all in the right place.

WHITFIELD: So, Richard, perhaps you could pick up from where he left off.

HERMAN: Yes, it -- and what Avery's pretty much saying, Fred, is that there are no laws enacted at this time, which compelled Facebook and Twitter and other social media forms to provide this information, but Congress is looking at it right now. They're going to enact these rules and regulations for transparency. We want that. We don't want our elections hacked by foreign adversaries who, under the guise of bots and fake accounts, go ahead and do advertising for one candidate or another.

This is our problem. This is our country, this is our election, and we're entitled to a free, democratic process here without interference. And that's what it's about, Fred, and that's what Mueller's investigation is about.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it right there, Avery and Richard, thanks so much. There's so much to talk about, but we've got breaking news we have to go to now.

CNN ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

WHITFIELD: And so now, this breaking news. In a show of force, U.S. Air Force bombers flying in -- over international air space over waters east of North Korea. CNN's Elise Labott joining me now with more on this. Elise, elaborate.

LABOTT: Well, we're just seeing a statement from the Pentagon, Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White, who is telling us that, essentially, in this show of force, U.S. Air Force bombers over waters east of North Korea.

Now, Fred, this is from Guam -- along with Air Force Eagle fighter escorts from Japan -- the farthest north of the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea that any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea's coast in the 21st century.

And Dana White in this statement, saying, "This is a mission. It is a demonstration of U.S. resolve, and a clear message that the president does have military options" for this war of words between the U.S. and North Korea, particularly among the two leaders. President Trump and Kim Jong Un is getting very personal, but North

Korea -- North Korea's foreign minister just yesterday threatened that the -- North Korea could in fact launch a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific. Now, we don't in fact know if they have the capability to do that, but these threats are getting very specific --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

LABOTT: -- and very targeted against the U.S. And this demonstration, this show of force, clearly to show the North Koreans that, don't even think about it, because U.S. military might will certainly be victorious here, and that the North Korean would really be on a suicide mission, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And -- interesting. So this report -- you know, coming just minutes away, you know, just before we are expecting to hear from North Korea's foreign minister at the U.N. We don't know what that message is going to be.

[13:45:00] But then, one has to wonder, Elise, if this Air Force B-1, you know, bomber mission is to get a better view of, say, that seismic activity. Or if it -- if it would potentially be one in which to, you know, intercept this so-called hydrogen bomb, if it were to happen over the Pacific; or if it is strictly a show of force, to show North Korea that response time can be immediate, can be precise, can be more than regional.

LABOTT: I think it's more about a show of force, a demonstration of U.S. resolve, a demonstration of military might. I mean, the U.S. always has intelligence asset -- assets with -- along with South Korea and Japan to kind of monitor these seismic activities. You have a lot of other analysts that are working on that. And in fact, it doesn't necessarily seem -- analysts are telling us that they do think that this is not -- this seismic activity does not have to do with any nuclear capability. It has to do with a natural occurrence.

Of course, it could be an after --

WHITFIELD: Hmm.

LABOTT: -- effect of the nuclear test that North Korea made weeks ago. But it does seem to be a kind of real demonstration of U.S. resolve, and in fact, a warning to North Korea, to not think of any type of military action, because the U.S. response will be swift and overwhelming, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, so that's the breaking news, B1-B bombers flying over the waters near North Korea. Elise, thanks so much for that update. Of course, we'll try to get more information on what this all means. And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:49:27] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. First Lady Melania Trump and Britain's Prince Harry, a meeting? (ph) At the first time at Canada's Invictus Games in Toronto. It marks the first lady's first solo foreign trip, and also, their Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. CNN's White House reporter Kate Bennett's joining us on the phone right now, and there's the photograph (LAUGHTER) of the two meetings.

So, Kate, what was that moment like? How important is this? The Invictus Games are kind of like a Paralympics, you know, multi-sport event.

[13:50:00] KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, and Prince Harry started them in 2014.

You know, this is a big deal for the first lady. This is her first solo international trip. She's just up here in Canada; however, sort of, from a significant standpoint, it's important. She walked in, she was very gracious, she met the prince. The two shook hands, and then, exchanged pleasantries and sat down. That's part of what's going to be a long day for the first lady.

Later on, she'll meet with Team USA, who's participating in the Invictus Games. And later on tonight, she'll also meet with the prime minister, Justin Trudeau. So she actually has a pretty long day here, and her schedule's quite packed.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kate Bennett, thank you so much, keep us posted there. Pictures of the first lady, Melania, upon her arrival, and now we actually know she did meet with the prince, Prince Harry, for the Invictus Games. Be sure to check out Kate's podcast on CNN Politics.

And in the meantime, President Trump is going on the offensive to save the GOP's last ditch effort to repeal Obamacare. This morning, he blasted the latest Republican to come out against the plan -- we're talking about Senator John McCain. Threatened, the president tweeting this: "John McCain never had any intention of voting for this bill, which his Governor loves. He campaigned on Repeal & Replace. Let Arizona down!"

With McCain out, the GOP bill is just one vote away from failing. Maine senator Susan Collins is leaning, though, and Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski is still on the fence.

The plan, sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, would end Obamacare Medicaid expansion, replacing it with block grants to states. It also waives key Obamacare protections for pre-existing conditions, and it eliminates essential health benefits, including maternity care and substance abuse services.

Senators Graham and Cassidy will make their case to the American people in a debate Monday night right here on CNN. They'll take on two of the bill's most fierce opponents, Democratic senators Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar. That's 9 o'clock Eastern right here on CNN on Monday.

All right, let's talk about what we know for now for a spirited debate on this critical issue. One of the key architects of Obamacare, Jonathan Gruber, an economics professor at MIT with us, and senior economics analyst Stephen Moore, who was a senior economic adviser for the Trump campaign. Good to see you both. STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Hi, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right --

JONATHAN GRUBER, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, MIT: It's good to see you.

WHITFIELD: -- let's start with something millions of Americans are really concerned about, and I'm talking about --

MOORE Yes (ph).

WHITFIELD: -- pre-existing conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Senators Cassidy and Graham insist the protections are still there in their bill, saying it would require states to show they can provide, "adequate and affordable coverage to those with pre- existing conditions."

But if those states waive the Obamacare price protections, then, Stephen, "adequate and affordable," it's not necessarily defined.

MOORE: Hmm.

WHITFIELD: So, how does this protect people with pre-existing conditions?

MOORE: Well, it's a good question, Fredricka, and I -- and I would just start with the overall philosophy of this bill, just so people understand.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MOORE: We've tried it this way under Obamacare for the last seven or eight years. It hasn't worked very well given the --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: OK, but right now --

MOORE: -- given the --

WHITFIELD: -- for this proposal --

MOORE: So here --

WHITFIELD: -- for people --

MOORE: Right, so --

WHITFIELD: -- with pre-existing conditions --

MOORE: OK, right --

WHITFIELD: -- they want to know -- MOORE: -- well, OK --

WHITFIELD: -- what can I count on?

MOORE: -- I was getting to that. But I just wanted to --

WHITFIELD: What's the sell?

MOORE: -- let -- you know, set the conditions here.

WHITFIELD: OK (ph).

MOORE: So the idea here is to -- is to send it back to the states, very much like we did under welfare reform, and that was a big success for states that ran the programs much, much better than the federal government did.

Now, your question is, what are states going to do about pre-existing conditions. Now, the law, I just read the law --

WHITFIELD: What's affordable and accessible? Yes.

MOORE: Yes, I just read the law yesterday. It says that if states -- the states have to come up with a plan --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MOORE: -- that meets, you know, requirements that they cover people with their pre-existing conditions.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MOORE: That gives them kind of flexibility to come up with better ways.

This is --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MOORE: -- basically -- what we're talking about is, let's get away from one size fits all, and let's let the states experiment on how they --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MOORE: -- cover people. You can -- you could have catastrophic coverage insurance plans, you can have small business association plans -- all these kinds of things that are not allowed under the Obamacare bill. I think that's going to lead to more affordable care for people, and a lot more options and competition. And that driving down costs will give states money to protect the people.

Look, I have a niece, Fredricka, who does have a pre-existing condition. She has epilepsy --

WHITFIELD: Yes. MOORE: -- and obviously, my sister needs the funding to provide the care. The state of Illinois will come up with a plan --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: So what are her worries?

MOORE: -- to do that. Yes.

WHITFIELD: What are her worries?

MOORE: Well, she wants an affordable plan for everyone.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MOORE: I mean, she believes --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: But everybody wants that --

MOORE: -- that she wants --

WHITFIELD: -- but --

MOORE: Right.

WHITFIELD: -- what are her worries about if there is a change, does she worry that premiums will go up while, at first, it may seem that affordable and accessible are at her fingertips, and then, later down the line -- I mean what is -- what --

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Well, I can't --

(LAUGHTER)

WHITFIELD: -- sells (ph) -- why should I care (ph) about this plan?

MOORE: -- Fredricka, I can't speak for her, because I can't. But I mean --

WHITFIELD: Yes (ph)?

MOORE: -- look, I think for the vast majority of Americans, the additional -- we all know that when you have more choice and competition, prices fall. I think -- and then, even Jonathan Gruber would agree with that.

WHITFIELD: OK.

MOORE: (LAUGHTER)

WHITFIELD: So, Jonathan --

GRUBER: Yes?

[13:55:00] WHITFIELD: -- you know, as a key adviser in crafting the Obamacare, what do you hear about this latest bill, and how does it compare when talking about pre-existing conditions? You know, like, affordable, you know, accessible, and -- and that's (ph) some of the language in this bill -- what do you hear, and what do you interpret?

GRUBER: Well, Fredricka, words are just words; we have to look --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

GRUBER: -- at actions and policies. The key contribution of the Affordable Care Act, the number one, was to stop America from being the only developed country in the world where insurers could deny you insurance --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

GRUBER: -- or charge you more for insurance because you were sick.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

GRUBER: My wife is a breast cancer survivor. She -- if she went in for insurance before Obamacare, they could deny her insurance, or they could say, "Fine, we'll offer you insurance, but we'll charge you $10,000 a month." That would become totally possible under this law.

Now, the words "adequate and affordable" in the law, that means nothing, OK? What matters is that Obamacare made a strict statement that we can no longer discriminate against the sick, we can no longer, for example, charge -- make mentally ill people may pay more for their health insurance because they need mental health coverage, make women pay more for their health insurance, because they need maternity coverage. It said basically, we are no longer discriminate in insurance markets.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

GRUBER: Now, if there were a solution that gave state flexibility, and to stop discrimination, you know what? States could do it.

What this -- what is being missed is, the Affordable Care Act has a provision, Section 1332, put in by Senator Ron Wyden, which says that states can experiment. States can do what they want, so long as they provide the same level of coverage under Obamacare. So if you want states to experiment, go ahead --

MOORE: So --

GRUBER: -- do it under Obamacare. But don't just -- let me finish, please.

MOORE: OK.

GRUBER: Don't do something which essentially cuts enormously what the states gets (ph). I'm in Florida right now. What Florida gets under this law falls by $3 billion. That does not mean flexibility; that just means less ability to help poor and sick people.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Yes, and it was Obamacare --

MOORE: So, can I --

WHITFIELD: -- that you used the word accessible. It's this plan that says "adequate and affordable." And so, Steve, you know, Senator Cassidy, you know, got -- who was, you know, helping to offer this bill -- got called out repeatedly this week by late night talk show host --

MOORE: Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- Jimmy Kimmel, who's --

MOORE: Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- infant son was born with a heart condition.

MOORE: Yes.

WHITFIELD: And he's been talking about the pre-existing conditions, and Cassidy had discussed the importance of pre-existing conditions' coverage when he appeared on his show --

MOORE: Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- and this is what Kimmel had to say just this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: When Senator Cassidy was on my show in May, he told me that he believed that every American family, regardless of income, should be able to get quality health care, and I believed he was sincere. Sadly, the bill he unveiled last week with Lindsey Graham indicates that he was not sincere -- it is, by many accounts, it's the worst health care bill yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So, Stephen, do you think that will influence voting members of the Senate?

MOORE: Well, it's pretty frightening if a late night (LAUGHTER) comedian is the leading liberal authority (LAUGHTER) on health care.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MOORE: I mean, that's like a "Saturday Night" skit.

WHITFIELD: Well --

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: But, look, I mean --

WHITFIELD: -- except that, I mean -- I mean, remove his title --

MOORE: -- Jimmy Kimmy -- Jimmy Kimmel --

WHITFIELD: -- and he was talking about his personal --

MOORE: -- doesn't know anything about health care. And --

WHITFIELD: -- his personal experience with his --

MOORE: -- I know, but he doesn't --

WHITFIELD: -- child, though.

MOORE: -- know anything about health care, so. But I'll say this --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MOORE: -- because I think Jonathan makes some interesting points, and I -- and here's where I differ with you on them, Jonathan, respectfully.

Number one, the problem with the current way that the plan works, you were asking why don't states do it, the states now have an incentive to waste as much money on Medicaid as possible. Medicaid is the dumbest program you could invent, with respect of -- to incentives, because it incentivized states to spend as much money out of Medicaid as possible, because they're getting 90 percent of the money from Washington.

What we want to do, Jonathan, is give them a set amount of money. We did this in Rhode Island; it worked very well, and said, look, you devise a plan that controls cost, that covers everybody, that gives people, you know, more affordable plans, and it worked very well. So the reason they're not doing it now is, they don't have an incentive to do it.

The other thing is, look, Jimmy Kimmel is simply wrong when it says that this bill doesn't provide people with the pre-existing conditions' protections. It is in the law that the -- if states opt out of the federal requirement, they have to come up with a plan that is adequate and affordable. I mean, we know what those terms mean.

WHITFIELD: Jonathan? Why are you shaking your head?

GRUBER: So the -- so I -- the (LAUGHTER) reason I'm shaking my head is, the words "adequate" and "affordable" are meaningless, OK?

MOORE: Right.

GRUBER: What matters is what the law actually says. They're meaningless because they're interpreted by --

WHITFIELD: Differently.

GRUBER: -- the administration, and they would interpret (ph) that administration that makes them mean whatever they want. Look, let's see what the law does, OK? Rhode Island, you're right.

They put an innovative program in Rhode Island, Oregon, a number of states --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

GRUBER: -- to help with their Medicaid. What did they do? They took the same amount of money, having it grow at the same rate, and so, to reorganize it to provide more managed care.

Look, you can criticize --

MOORE: Yes.

GRUBER: -- Medicaid all you want. But 80 percent of people on Medicaid are in private health insurance plans. Satisfaction with Medicaid is as high or higher than private insurance. It saves lives, and the bottom line is, we cannot hide a cut to what we're giving the states under some guise of state flexibility.

You want state flexibility? Great, it's in the law. Why does state flexibility mean you have to cut enormously by what's in this program?