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CNN NEWSROOM

President Trump Criticizes Senator John McCain for His Opposition to Latest Senate Health Care Reform Bill; North Korea To Speak at United Nations General Assembly; President Trump Rescinds Invitation to Golden State Warriors to Visit White House; Trump Administration to Unveil New Restrictions in Travel Ban. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 23, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] JONATHAN GRUBER, KEY ARCHITECT OF OBAMACARE: -- what's in this program. The entire -- let me finish. These block grants actually end, literally, Steven, under this law in 2027, all the money goes away.

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: I actually kind of argue with you on that. I think the --

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: That has been the argument that what may happen in the first couple years is very different from long-term. But we're going to have this conversation again, gentlemen. Unfortunately we're out of time. We're up against a hard break. But we're going to have you back because this is not done. Thank you so much.

The Newsroom starts right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

WHITFIELD: And this breaking news we're following at the top of the hour right now out of North Korea. In a show of force, the Pentagon says it flew B-1B bombers in international airspace in waters east over North Korea. This is the farthest north over the demilitarized zone the U.S. has flown in decades. The Pentagon releasing a statement that says in part "This is the farthest north of the demilitarized zone, DMZ, any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea's coast in the 21st century underscoring the seriousness with which we take DPRK's reckless behavior. This mission is a demonstration of U.S. resolved and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies."

And at any moment now the United Nations, while many country leaders are speaking there at the General Assembly at the U.N., we expect the North Korean foreign minister to also take to the podium. His speech follows comments that he made yesterday that North Korea could test a powerful weapon over the Pacific Ocean. President Trump flaming his war or words with North Korea during a campaign rally for an Alabama senate candidate just last night. The president of the United States once again taking game at the North Korean dictator's nuclear ambitions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we can't have madmen out there shooting rockets all over the place.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And, by the way, Rocket man should have been handled a long time ago.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott with me now. So Elise, a very strong statement and explanation from the Pentagon on those B-1 bombers.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, a very strong show of resolve, Fred, this war of words between President Trump and Kim Jong-un getting very personal. Both leaders kind of mentioning each other in the statements, but you heard the North Korean foreign minister the other day threatening that North Korea would launch a nuclear weapon over the -- hydrogen bomb over the Pacific. And of course we don't know if North Korea really has the capability to do that. But certainly these are very specific threats aimed at the United States, and this was a real show of resolve not only the farthest north of the DMZ. These B-1 bombers were also escorted with Air Force One fighter escorts.

So really a message, a warning, if you will, to North Korea to not even think about launching any nuclear or long-range missiles over the Pacific because the response from the United States will be swift, and it will be overwhelming, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Elise Labott, thank you so much.

Let's check with our White House correspondent Athena Jones who is there in New Jersey traveling with the president. So this is a very strong signal being sent from this White House by way of the Pentagon with these bombers flying over North Korean airspace -- international airspace north of North Korea. What more are you learning about this, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. Well, no more news on that front at this point. But of course we did hear the president last night doubling down or I guess tripling down or quadrupling down at this point on his name calling of North Korea's supreme leader, adding little in front of the term Rocket man which we've heard him use not only at his speech before the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday but also on Twitter prior to that. Now you have these two unpredictable leaders calling each other names, calling each other crazy. Kim has called the president a rogue, a gangster, a frightened dog, and a dotard, which essentially means an old senile lunatic fool. So certainly the rhetorical war of words is going on, and now you see this display of force by the U.S. military.

But the problem remains here, Fred, that so far in all these decades of -- last several decades, or last several years at least, several administrations, diplomatic talk, economic pressure, diplomatic pressure, none of it has changed North Korea's route as it continues to try to develop nuclear weapons, including ones that can reach as far as the U.S.

[14:05:09] And so the big question here is, are we going to see a further escalation of this war of words, this back and forth between these two leaders? Could it lead to a miscalculation that ends up being a dangerous miscalculation? We've heard from North Korea's foreign minister suggesting that the country could detonate an H-bomb in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean first the first time in some 37 years. That, of course, would have huge ramifications.

And that's the problem here, just a big question mark, what's going to happen next, what Kim is going to do next and how the U.S. might respond.

WHITFIELD: And on a different level of seriousness when we talk about war of words, Athena, the president also expressed while in Alabama last night campaigning for a contender in the Senate race, bringing up the NFL and how he believes and using choice words, how he believes NFL team owners need to punish or fire players who kneel with the national anthem. And then in a tweet storm this morning the president responding to Steph Curry, NBA star who said he was thinking about not attending the White House upon the invitation of the Golden State warriors coming to the White House. Then the president tweeting this, "Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Steph Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn."

What's the position from the White House as to why the president feels like this is an important matter in which to engage in, which stokes the fire between politics and sports, culturally in this country? It just seems like it will worsen before it actually gets better.

JONES: Right, politics, sports, and race. Let's not forget when the president spoke last night, calling the NFL players, many of them, most of them black who have been taking a knee during the National Anthem to protest what they see as racial injustice and inequality in this country. He called them sons of b's, which of course is a vulgar term that insults not just those players but also their mothers.

And it's interesting to see the backlash on Twitter and off Twitter. It's not just coming from black athletes or black people. It's coming from folks across the racial spectrum. You have sports analysts now saying we could see even more protests in response to the president's comments, and a lot of folks also asking where was this passion, the passion we saw from the president last night, where was it a few weeks ago when you saw you neo-Nazi and KKK supporters protesting in Charlottesville. So this is getting a lot of attention, and I don't think it's going to end anytime soon, Fred.

OK, and this on the heels of his verbal spat with the ESPN's anchor Jemele Hill. And now it has also provoked comments coming from NBA star LeBron James. So let's discuss all of this further. Thank you so much Athena Jones there.

Joining me right now, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. He's also the host of CNN's "Reliable Ssource." So, Brian, what is this all about? And why is this the method in which the president wants to engage?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, part of this has to do with his setting. He was at a rally in Alabama last night, an almost entirely white audience that he was speaking in front of. Yes, he was reaching people on television as well, but he was primarily speaking to a white audience in Alabama when he kind of out of nowhere brought up the NFL, brought up the issue of the anthem protests. Then he also went into the NFL ratings being down and he went into the issue of concussions. He seems to be the only one that wants to see a more violent form of football while there are these attempt to make the game safer in light of all these CTE studies.

But all of this has a racial component that we can't ignore. He's speaking to a mostly white crowd last night. Then on Twitter after watching "FOX AND FRIENDS" apparently, he reacts to the Steph Curry news. This is a president who has been called a white supremacist by people like ESPN's Jemele Hill. Reacting to almost entirely a black athlete controversy with these anthem protests, it's been almost entirely African-American football players who have been kneeling. And of course Steph Curry, with LeBron James, these NBA stars who are African-American leaders who are now speaking out against the president.

We've heard from Kobe Bryant in the past couple of hours. He's tweeting, saying "A president whose name alone creates division and anger, whose words inspire dissension and hatred, can't possibly make America great again." So here we are, sports as a battleground in the culture wars, Fred.

[14:10:00] I think the big picture here is that President Trump, the Trump presidency is a test for the news media, for the courts, for the business community, for almost every institution. And that now includes the NFL and includes the NBA, but specifically black athletes. Let's keep in mind he didn't criticize Tom Brady when Tom Brady didn't come to the White House after the Patriots won.

WHITFIELD: And Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, also saying in his statement, while he didn't name names, he didn't single out the president, but he did talk about this language being divisive.

STELTER: Divisive, that's right.

WHITFIELD: And I think most people concluded who and what he was talking about. All right, Brian Stelter, thank you so much. Of course you can watch Brian and his show "Reliable Sources" every Sunday morning 11:00 a.m. eastern right here on CNN.

All right, still ahead, President Trump slamming Senator John McCain as well. This time trying to pit McCain against his friend Senator Lindsey Graham over the GOP's latest plan to repeal Obamacare. We'll explain all of it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: President Trump is taking swipes at Senator John McCain, attempting to shame him after the senator dealt his own party another setback on health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So that was a totally unexpected thing. Terrible. Honestly, terrible. Repeal and replace because John McCain, if you look at his last campaign was all about repeal and replace, repeal and replace. So he decided to do something different, and that's fine. And I say we still have a chance. We're going to do it eventually.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[14:15:07] WHITFIELD: All right, that was at a rally for a senate candidate in Alabama. But despite being just one vote away from a failing bill, the president is reaching out to senators he seems to think might flip their vote. He singled out Senator Lisa Murkowski, tweeting, quote, "Alaska had a 200 percent plus increase in premiums under Obamacare, worst in the country, deductibles high, people angry. Lisa M., come through." And, quote, "I know Rand Paul and I think he may find a way to get there for the good of the party." Joining me right now, CNN Congressional reporter Lauren Fox. So Lauren, Rand Paul has made it clear that he's not voting for the bill as it stands right now. So what do you make of the president's optimism that Rand Paul will get on board?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: I think that the president knows he can only afford to lose one more vote. And that is partially why he is working so hard to convince Rand Paul to change his vote. Sources tell CNN over the last 24 hours both the president and the vice president have been in communication with Senator Rand Paul. They are trying very hard to change his mind.

But you have to remember since Graham-Cassidy came out nearly two week ago, Senator Rand Paul has been very clear from the start, the bill does not repeal enough of the Affordable Care Act for him and he's very concerned about how many of the Obamacare era taxes it keeps. So it's not likely that Senator Rand Paul is going to change his mind. In fact, after seeing some tweets from the president yesterday, he tweeted that he could not be bullied into voting for this bill. So it's not looking very likely that he's going to change his mind at this point. And sources from his office have said that it's not likely he's going to flip any time soon.

WHITFIELD: So with McCain's no vote, does this mean it's essentially over? There may be other Republicans who feel they too will follow McCain's lead?

FOX: Yesterday certainly was not a good sign for the effort. I think something that's become very clear is that Senator John McCain coming out against this bill could give senators like Lisa Murkowski, who is still on the fence, some cover to change her mind and vote against this bill. She's been undecided. Her staff has said over the weekend she was going to continue to look at this bill, study it, and see what the effects were going to be for Alaska. Senator Susan Collins, meanwhile, said yesterday in Portland, Maine, that she was leaning against the bill. Certainly that's a bad sign. And if three Republican senators come out against this bill, right now there are currently two, it would be a major, major defeat for the president.

WHITFIELD: All right, Lauren Fox in Washington. Thanks so much.

Don't miss our CNN special this Monday night. Republican senators Lindsey and Bill Cassidy debating their health care bill live against Democrat Senators Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar. Jake Tapper and Dana Bash moderate the fight over Obamacare at 9:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.

And we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:21:58] WHITFIELD: The Trump administration will unveil new country-special restrictions to his controversial travel ban this weekend as the current ban on these six countries is set to expire tomorrow. CNN's Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue joining me right now. So Ariane, what are we hearing about these new country specific restrictions?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Fred, as you said, the travel ban, it was signed in March. It called for this temporary pause for the six Muslim majority countries, and it was only supposed to last 90 days. And that expires on Sunday.

And so we've heard that the Department of Homeland Security has went to the White House last week and recommended some new restrictions. We don't know a lot about it yet but we think that they've broadened the number of countries that will be involved, but they've also tailored the restrictions depending on how the country is screened. For instance, for countries that allow electronic passports there might be some restrictions. Or there might be less restrictions for countries that share information about terrorism.

But Fred, one thing that's important about this is that legal experts say this is going to impact the Supreme Court case because, remember, the court is supposed to hear the legality of this on October 10th, and they were supposed to answer these big, meaty questions on the constitutionality of the travel ban, and that could go away now because the justices might say, look, we were reviewing the old travel ban, and now we've got to look at something brand new. So that could change a lot, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So then who gets the next move potentially? Is that the White House because of the expiration? Or is it Supreme Court that we want to make a statement on this before you devise a new plan?

DE VOGUE: Well, no. The next move we think, and we're not sure, but we think that the president sometime before Sunday might offer this proclamation, and he might say, OK, here are the new restrictions. And that if that occurs, what would happen next is his solicitor general would go to the Supreme Court and say look, things have changed a little bit. There are these new restrictions.

And then the ball would be in the court's court. It would say, look, maybe we should hear from both parties before we sit down for oral arguments to discuss not the legality of the ban but whether or not this whole thing is moot. So we should expect that sometime early next week, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ariana de Vogue, thank you so much.

DE VOGUE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. So much more Newsroom continues at the top of the hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I first saw her nine years ago in Vegas. In 2015 I saw a flier for an audition. I was like, you know what, I think this is my chance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We held up his picture and we said this is the guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then four days after that audition I was actually struck by a car on my motorcycle while riding home from work. I had three surgeries to try to save my foot.

My doctor basically told me that amputation seems to be the best option.

I think I made the decision to kind of get back up probably after a week of being at home. That's when I started fighting. I got my first prosthesis. I immediately hit the gym as soon as I could.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then he started sending me videos, and he ran and did a round-off back handspring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the day that I started walking to the day that I walked back into the audition room was eight months. Then one day I actually got the call to join the cast. I was completely beside myself.

I have four different prosthetic legs that I use for the show. I don't think I can take for granted every second that I get to spend out on that stage because there was a time where it never could have happened.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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