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Interview With Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal; Health Care Reform Struggles; Trump-Russia Probe Deepens; Navy Tests First- Ever Active Laser Weapon; Secret Pics Reveal Kim's Nuclear Weapons Slush Fund. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 17, 2017 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is his pivotal White House job in any jeopardy?

Defending Don Jr. In a new tweet, President Trump keeps trying to downplay his son's meeting with the Russian lawyer aimed at getting Kremlin dirt on Hillary Clinton. The president's campaign also is helping to defend Trump Jr. by spending tens of thousands of dollars.

Health care. As Senator John McCain recovers from unexpected surgery, a Senate vote on the GOP health care bill is now on hold. We are tracking Senator McCain's condition and uncertain prognosis for an Obamacare appeal.

And laser warfare. The world's first active laser weapon now ready to attack hostile targets at the speed of light. Stand by for a CNN exclusive, as the U.S. Navy test-fires a powerful and unprecedented weapon.

We want to welcome our views in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Following escalating outrage that Jared Kushner still has a security clearance, as the president's senior adviser and son-in-law faces intensifying scrutiny in the Russia investigation. Some top Democrats are demanding Kushner's clearance be revoked immediately, suggesting that America's security is at risk every day that Kushner has access to the nation's secrets.

This as lawmakers press for more information about that 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer arranged by Donald Trump Jr. and attended by Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The president is ramping up his defense of his son, tweeting today that most politicians would agree to meet with someone promising damaging information about an opponent, even if it was supposedly coming from the Kremlin.

But even members of his own party dispute that. Tonight, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman tells CNN he is pushing for Trump Jr. and Manafort to testify under oath within the next two weeks.

Also tonight, a Senate vote on the endangered GOP health care bill is on hold while Senator John McCain recovers from unexpected surgery. The 80-year-old Republican had a blood clot removed from above his left eye. The health bill can't move forward without McCain's yes vote.

Democrats now are urging GOP leaders to use the extra time to hold hearings on the legislation that's in jeopardy because of Republican opposition.

This hour, I will talk about those stories and more with Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a Democrat on the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

First, let's go to our White House correspondent, Sara Murray, with more of the growing concerns about Jared Kushner and security clearance.

Sara, there is apparently a lot of pressure on Kushner right now and the Trump White House.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Democrats are calling on Kushner's security clearance to be revoked, and while Republicans have not gone quite that far, there is certainly concern on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue about the future of Kushner's security clearance.


MURRAY (voice-over): Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, is regularly at President Trump's side, whether the president is mulling national security decisions, meeting with foreign leaders, or attempting to strike a Mideast peace deal, a key component of Kushner's White House portfolio.

Without a security clearance, some experts say it would be practically impossible for Kushner to serve in the West Wing. For now Kushner has been operating with an interim clearance. The final decision could come down to Trump. He can override any reservations from others in the White House to ensure Kushner receives full clearance.

But such a move would likely come with a political price at a time when Trump has little political capital to spare. For lawmakers, Kushner's repeated revisions to his security questionnaire are raising red flags.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: It is very bothersome to me that Jared Kushner has not forgotten once, not twice, but three times to put down this information.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: That's an issue that we need to look at, but right now we don't have enough evidence.

MURRAY: The first version of Kushner's security document left the question about foreign contacts blank. Kushner has since updated it multiple times to include more than 100 foreign contacts and his meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer pedaling dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin, according to e-mails about the meeting.

Kushner's team says his original paperwork was submitted in error before it was completed and that Kushner hasn't intentionally omitted any information. "As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows," his personal lawyer said in a recent statement on the matter.


MURRAY: Now, we went back to Kushner's team today asking if they wanted to elaborate at all on the various revisions and the concerns that we're hearing from lawmakers from both parties.

They declined to do so, instead referring us back to the previous statement from Kushner's lawyer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara Murray reporting, thanks very much.

Today, President Trump climbed into a fire truck as he tried to change the topic from the political firestorm surrounding his administration.


It was all part of a new campaign to showcase American-made products. But that is fueling some controversy as well.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, this theme only renews questions about various Trump brand products that are made overseas.


It does indeed. The White House was trying to change the subject to get back to the president's agenda here and the Republican agenda here in Washington by focusing on what they're calling Made in America Week, the first of three themed weeks here going forward in these summer weeks ahead.

But there were some questions about the Trump brand and where some of their products are coming from, from Ivanka Trump's blouses, some are made in Bangladesh, to the president's shirts and ties, some are made in China, other places. So, the White House was defending that.

Wolf, I can tell you, it was quite the sight as we are seeing these pictures here of the president climbing into that fire truck on the South Lawn of the White House. He said at one point, where's the fire? I will put it out.

But it is the smoke from the Russia investigation the White House is trying to get beyond. And the White House is also focusing on health care. So, the president this afternoon was explaining why the health care vote is not happening this week. Of course, John McCain, Republican of Arizona, recovering from surgery he had over the weekend.

Now, John McCain has been one of the biggest skeptics and critics of this White House. But today the president said this about McCain.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We hope John McCain gets better very soon because we miss him. He's a crusty voice in Washington. Plus, we need his vote.


TRUMP: And he will be back, and he will be back sooner than somebody else would be back. He will be back soon.

But we need that vote and we need a number of votes because we do have to repeal Obamacare. And we will end up replacing it with something that is going to be outstanding, far, far better than failing Obamacare.

The Republican senators are great people, but they have a lot of different states. Some states need this, some states need that, but we're getting it together. And it's going to happen, right, Mike?


TRUMP: I think.



ZELENY: So, the president there talking in some detail about the difficulty of really trying to make good on this Republican promise for the last seven years to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

But, Wolf, the president is inviting at least six Republican senators over here to the White House tonight for dinner. But all six of them, by our measure, are already supportive of this. It's other Republicans, moderates who are not supportive of this bill yet.

Wolf, it definitely shines a light on how difficult this legislation has been to get through here. But they are hoping at some point, if not July, obviously with Senator McCain being out, in August, to get health care bill full. But, Wolf, that is very much an open question here. The longer this waits, the more issues it could gather.

BLITZER: Yes, I looked at the list of the six Republican senators invited to have dinner with the president tonight. All of them, as you point out, look like they are on board with the Republican Senate bill.

ZELENY: They are.

BLITZER: Why isn't the president inviting, let's say, six Republican senators who may be on the fence right now to try to convince them to support it? ZELENY: That is a good question, Wolf. It seems to be the one thing

we have not seen this president do is use the power of the bully pulpit to persuade people.

Again this week, he is not scheduled to leave the White House at all, travel in the country and sort of get support for this. And that is one of the ways they could turn this around, by urging those Republicans on the fence to support it, by getting their constituents behind them here, Wolf.

But all the Republicans coming over here tonight are supportive of the bill. The White House says the president is deeply engaged in this, Wolf, but he's not nearly as engaged as other presidents on previous matters here. But he has a couple more weeks yet to get this bill through the Senate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Jeff Zeleny, over at the White House.

Let's get some more on all of these issues.

Senator Richard Blumenthal is joining us. He's a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Let's talk about Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, senior adviser.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, the minority leader, she says his security clearance should be 'revoked immediately."

Do you agree?

BLUMENTHAL: I agree completely.

I asked that his security clearance be revoked last week when we first learned of many of the aggravating details, the identity of the people who came to this meeting on the Russian side, who clearly specialize in lifting sanctions.

There are also the e-mails that show the bait that was dangled, the promises that were made of information damaging to Hillary Clinton from Russian sources, likely obtained illicitly.

What we have here is a signal at the highest levels of the Trump campaign, including Jared Kushner, that they were open to a compromising relationship potentially in violation of federal criminal law. If it were anyone but Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of the president, he would be fired, but also clearly his security clearance revoked, and I think it should be.


BLITZER: I know a lot of Democrats agree with you. Any Republicans, as far as you know, agree with you?

BLUMENTHAL: There is a lot of disquiet among my Republican colleagues because of this meeting, which is so explosive, in the evidence that we have seen of criminal intent, which is the most difficult part of any federal crime to prove.

And those words, "I love it," from Donald Trump Jr. when he was told about this illicit information coming from Russian government sources, probably obtained illicitly, will haunt him. And there is a lot of disquiet about Jared Kushner's security clearance and about where this investigation goes.

BLITZER: Did he know when he accepted that invitation for the meeting with the Russian lawyer, that the dirt, the information that was supposedly going to be provided was obtained through illicit measures?

BLUMENTHAL: There are indications that it might well have been obtained through illicit means, and that should have prompted all three of those individuals, Manafort, Kushner and Trump Jr., to report it to the FBI, if not before, after it occurred.

BLITZER: What is the status of these three individuals testifying before the Judiciary, your Judiciary Committee? We understand they were supposed to be a hearing on Wednesday, but that has now been put off?

BLUMENTHAL: The two individuals that have been called to testify, Trump Jr. and Manafort, I hope will be promptly.

But remember also, Wolf, very important to keep in mind that questioning of these witnesses intelligently, probingly, productively, means having some documents beforehand. So, we need those documents and perhaps interviews. This kind of very profoundly significant investigation by the Judiciary Committee to oversee the administration of justice in this country should be done with full preparation.

BLITZER: So, you weren't really prepared to do it as early as Wednesday. Is there any reason to believe that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has asked your committee to hold off while he does his work?

BLUMENTHAL: With all due respect, I'm going to decline to talk about our discussions with the special counsel, but we are making an effort to deconflict, to avoid any kind of overlap or contention that might be prejudicial to what he's doing.

What we can do right away, and we should do as a Congress right away, is approve the sanctions bill, because those Russian participants, Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya, were there for a very clear purpose, and that was to lift sanctions. That was what Vladimir Putin wanted done.

Unlikely that they would have been there without his knowing about it. And what needs to be done now is a message to the Russians that this will cause them to pay a price, meddling in our elections through the sanctions bill passed by the Senate, overwhelmingly, 98-2. BLITZER: You passed it 98-2, the revised version of it 97-2. But it

stalled in the House of Representatives. It hasn't even come up yet. Why?

BLUMENTHAL: The reason, quite simply and bluntly, is Donald Trump, the president, has declined to endorse it. In fact, they have implicitly opposed it.

I call on the president to demand that the House approve it so that we can send that message to the Russians that they will pay a price for what they did in 2016 and they will pay an even higher price if they do it again.

BLITZER: What you're suggesting is that the speaker, Paul Ryan Nobles, the top Republican in the House, he's delaying a vote on this legislation, this bill passed by the Senate, 97 or 98-2, at the request of the White House?

BLUMENTHAL: There is simply no good excuse for delaying this vote. They are talking about the possibility of North Korean sanctions. I support sanctions on North Korea, but these sanctions passed overwhelmingly, strong bipartisan measure, should be passed immediately by the House.

And I have to conclude, given no other reasonable explanation, that the White House's opposition is a major reason.

BLITZER: You saw the president's tweet this morning. "Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don Jr. attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics."

The president's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, yesterday, he repeatedly said, look, there was nothing illegal about that meeting, nothing wrong with that meeting. Actually, nothing actually emerged from that meeting. Don't make a big deal about it.

And he also pointed out that the Secret Service, you know, wouldn't have allowed that meeting to go on if they didn't clear people coming in.

BLUMENTHAL: The Secret Service, I'm told, wasn't even providing protection to Donald Trump Jr. at that point in the campaign.

BLITZER: But they did provide security at Trump Tower in New York. To get in, you had to go through various metal detectors and you needed an excuse to get through there.


BLUMENTHAL: And the Secret Service, with all due respect to the Secret Service, is not in charge of screening attendees at meetings in that way. They are in charge of security.

If red flags go off, if metal detector sounds a signal, they can stop someone. BLITZER: Was this a one-off meeting, as far as you know? Forget

about speculation. Were there other similar meetings during the campaign or during the transition?

BLUMENTHAL: We know of no other meetings right now, Wolf.

And I want to emphasize that this meeting, as incriminating as it is in terms of evidence of intent, state of mind, purpose, is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We can't jump to conclusions here. But what it indicates is that the Trump campaign was open to additional meetings.

It sends a signal that they would come to other meetings if information illicitly obtained or otherwise from the Russian government, and in furtherance of a potential criminal conspiracy.

BLITZER: How does the Judiciary Committee, your committee, find out if there were any other meetings along those lines?

BLUMENTHAL: There may be other e-mails. And there may be testimony.

These witnesses are going to be coming under oath. And there are enough of them that their stories will be corroborated by others who might have knowledge of them or e-mails.

You know, we are here today on the 44th anniversary, literally, of Alexander Butterfield, a name lost to the myths of history, coming before the Watergate committee and disclosing for the first time the Nixon secret tapes. That testimony was a bombshell in that investigation.

Things happen in investigations. Thirteen months after it started, the Watergate break-in, that information was disclosed. So, ultimately, we will depend on the special prosecutor for a criminal case. Our committee will look at what can be done to prevent legislatively or otherwise this kind of interference in our elections and possible conspiracy on the part of Americans to further it.

BLITZER: All right, Senator, stand by. There is more we need to discuss.

We will take a quick break, resume our coverage right after this.



BLITZER: We're back with Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's the member of the Judiciary and the Armed Services Committees.

Russia is demanding the return of two compounds seized during the final weeks of the Obama administration in return for Russia's meddling in the presidential election. And just now, only moments ago, after a meeting with U.S. officials here at the State Department in Washington, Russia's deputy foreign minister was asked if the Russians are going to be getting their compounds back. And he said, and I'm quoting him now, "Almost, almost."

What do you think about that, Senator Blumenthal, if he believes that almost, almost, those two compounds, one in suburban Maryland outside of Washington, D.C., a huge estate, another one outside of New York City, another huge estate, if they are going to be returned to the Russians?

BLUMENTHAL: These two compounds reportedly have been involved in Russian spying and intelligence activity. To return them would be absolutely a disservice to our nation, and there's no way that these compounds should be returned.

It would be contrary to the spirit, if not the letter of the measure that we passed, because we said very explicitly that these sanctions, ongoing right now as a result of the Obama executive order, should not be lifted without Congress approving.

And, so, I would strongly urge the president to resist these Russian demands, which they have made before. You know, these talks between the State Department and the deputy foreign minister started a week or a couple weeks ago, and they should be literally abandoned.

BLITZER: But you know the Russians are threatening to retaliate if those two compounds aren't returned. In the final days of the Obama administration, the U.S. seized those two compounds, expelled more than 30, 35 Russian diplomats, people serving as diplomats here in the United States.

The Russians at the time did not retaliate. Normally, they do retaliate. They would expel American diplomats from Moscow, take over other. Maybe the U.S. has a similar compound in Moscow where diplomats can go spend a weekend with their family. They didn't do that then. Potentially, they could do that now. Is that a credible threat?

BLUMENTHAL: Whether it's a credible threat or not, we cannot cave to these Russian demands.

In fact, we ought to be heightening the price that they pay, not reducing it. If we fail to make them pay a price and there is bipartisan agreement, very strongly and passionately on this point, they will do it again, and they should be told they will pay an even higher price.

And what they understand is the force of sanctions. Their economy is at a weak point, flat on their back, because of the plummeting energy prices. And what Putin's agenda has been from the start of these secret meetings, and it's indicated by the agenda of those people, the Russian agents who came to the meeting, is lifting those sanctions and sending them a message that, in effect, we will reduce the force, our taking of those compounds, impounding them, would be exactly the wrong message.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks for joining.


BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Just ahead, we will talk more about the growing concerns about Jared Kushner and his security clearance. Who is creating more political problems for the president? Would it be his son-in-law or his son?

And is the White House focusing now on American-made products a smart political move, a blatant distraction, or both? Analysts, our analysts and our specialists are standing by.


BLITZER: There are growing calls tonight for White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner to be stripped of his security clearance.

Democrats are

BLITZER: There are growing calls tonight for White House senior advisor and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner be stripped of his security clearance. Democrats are outraged. Some Republicans are expressing concern about Kushner's attendance at a meeting with a lawyer linked to the Kremlin, as well as more than 100 other foreign contacts he failed to list in his security document.

[18:30:25] Let's get some more from our experts and our analysts. And Ryan Lizza, what do these developments mean for Jared Kushner's security clearance?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm not sure they mean a whole lot, unless the president decides they mean something. I mean, the president does have pretty wide discretion over his own staff in the White House and whether they should be allowed to see highly- classified information.

Now, as a lot of other experts who have gone through this process point out, if you are just a normal member of the federal government, and you fail to disclose contacts with, say, the Russian ambassador, or agents, people who are presenting themselves as agents of the Russian government to give you information, as happened in the recently revealed meeting, and you lied about that, you wouldn't get a security clearance.

So, I don't know that a lot of the pressure from the Democrats is going to have a whole lot of impact, unless the president decides that this is an issue.

BLITZER: This is just one meeting that wasn't disclosed. But there were other exchanges, other meetings that weren't disclosed by various Trump officials who either had to recuse themselves or who got kicked out of the administration in the process. So, where does this one meeting, David Swerdlick, fit into the big picture?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right, Wolf, Sessions and Flynn met with Kislyak. Kushner met with Gorkov. You have Donald Trump Jr. meeting, having this big meeting that we've all been talking about. You have this series of things.

So even though, in none of these cases, do you have ironclad evidence of some sort of criminality, you're just starting to see this cloud build of meetings with Russians and nondisclosure, and it just makes the Trump administration's narrative that there's nothing to see here just sort of disintegrate into thin air. Clearly, there's a pattern, and -- and it's just going to drive investigators and Congress to look into this even further.

LIZZA: And can I just throw in one other meeting? Remember, the most, probably the most alarming meeting was the one that happened after the election when there were discussions between Kushner, allegedly, and the Russian ambassador about setting up a back channel to the Kremlin.

So, if that did not get the White House to say, "Wait a second. Maybe this person shouldn't have a security clearance," you know, I don't know that this campaign-related meeting -- campaign-related meeting is going to. I mean, they've just decided that they don't care.

BLITZER: Yes. They say they -- the Trump people, they weren't even sure who was going to be in this meeting, and now the president's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, is saying yesterday, "Well, the Secret Service didn't vet these people properly."

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, it's so much spin, Wolf, I feel dizzy. I mean, it's a little bit ridiculous, but the alternative explanations are just not very good for the Trump camp and the Trump counsel.

Because if you think about it, the possible explanations here for why they took this meeting are either total incompetence: they didn't think through the fact that this could possibly be a way for Russia to try to influence their campaign or insert themselves into the campaign. The alternative, that this was something more nefarious.

So, they're trying to spin their way out of this but not doing a very good job of it, clearly.

BLITZER: Well, let me get Jeffrey Toobin, our legal analyst, to weigh in. Jeffrey, what new questions are now being raised by the fact that the Trump reelection campaign -- and yes, there already is a reelection campaign. It was formed, actually, on inauguration day. That this reelection campaign is paying for Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is certainly legal for the Trump committee, the campaign committee, to pay Donald Trump Jr.'s legal fees, as long as the investigation is related to the campaign, which at least so far, it seems to be.

But you have to sort of really shake your head at the bravado of -- they have a lot of small contributors, you know, people giving 15, $20, or $15 a month to the Trump campaign so that this millionaire 39- year-old doesn't have to pay his own legal fees.

Most people who become enmeshed in investigations when they work in the White House, they have to pay for their own legal fees. But the Trump family, apparently, feels entitled to have campaign contributors pay for it, even though, obviously, they could well afford it. But just in terms of legality, I don't think there's any problem at all.

BLITZER: You know, what surprises me, Jeffrey, is that Jared Kushner has had world-class legal representation here in Washington. Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration, a woman you know, someone I know. And that team, they were involved. How is it possible that, on one security application he didn't fill in the right -- the right meetings, didn't fill it in on the second one, even a third one? How is that possible with legal representation like that?

[18:35:09] TOOBIN: Well, you know, just to state the obvious, I don't know what went on between Jamie Gorelick and Jared Kushner. But ultimately, lawyers are dependent on their clients to tell the truth and to be forthcoming.

And I have to believe that, confronted with the form, Jamie Gorelick told Jared Kushner, "Fill it out accurately," but apparently, he didn't do it. He didn't do it more than once.

I think it also speaks, perhaps, to this sense of entitlement of the people in the Trump family, is that, well, they don't have to worry about these government forms. They don't have to pay their own legal fees. They, you know, are operating by their own rules. But you know, ultimately, sometimes, that comes back to bite you, and that certainly seems to be happening, at least to a certain extent, now.

BLITZER: We got a new theme this week from the White House, Ryan, "Made in America." You heard the president earlier today speaking at length about the need to get products Made in America, sell them in America, and avoid the trade imbalances. Is that going to distract, take away from the Russia investigation, the uproar over that?

LIZZA: Judging by my reading of the news today and watching TV, no. They've launched a series of these branded weeks, I think, after the early months of the administration. When they just didn't have a sort of week-to-week plan, they landed on this. Part of it is because their agenda on Capitol Hill is stalled, so they're trying to do stuff from the White House that can actually break through the conversation.

I think one of the ironies, obviously, that a lot of people are pointing out today is that the one -- the series of companies that probably would not qualify to be at the White House today would be any Trump-related companies. Whether it's -- obviously, Trump himself has a history of manufacturing things overseas. His daughter Ivanka makes most of her clothing line overseas.

So, it's one of those events where they're taking a little bit of a political risk in putting this forward, because it is a reminder of his own lack of consistency on this issue. Trump and his family have been involved with making products for years and years, and many of them have been made overseas rather than in the United States.

BLITZER: You know, David, the poll, the ABC Washington Post poll came out, had the president's job approval number 36 percent. That's the lowest in 70 years at the six-month mark of a new president. Thirty- six percent job approval.

The president tweeted this this morning: "The ABC/'Washington Post' poll, even though almost 40 percent is not bad at this time, was just about the most inaccurate poll around election time."

That's not exactly very accurate.

SWERDLICK: No, it's not. I've got the numbers right here, Wolf. The last poll before the election from "Washington Post" was 47 to 43 for Clinton, and Clinton actually won 48.2 to 46.1. Very close. It didn't predict the Electoral College, obviously, but our polling has actually been pretty consistent and accurate on that point.

So the president's tweet, I understand he wants to defend his 40 percent approval rating. But it's not a matter of inaccuracy. It's just a matter of that's where he is.

BLITZER: Thirty-six percent job approval does not necessarily help him a lot in trying to negotiate deals.

BERG: No, it doesn't help him at all, Wolf. And especially when you consider that about a quarter of the people polled in this survey are strong supporters of Donald Trump; they'll support him no matter what.

But the rest are really the people needs -- Donald Trump needs to be able to convince Democrats, to be able to convince moderate Democrats and Republicans alike to come along with his agenda.

If you don't have public support as president, you don't have a whole lot of leverage over Democrats, over moderate Republicans to tell them, "You should be doing what I want you to do. You should support my agenda." And you see that problem reflected in the way health care is playing out right now on Capitol Hill.

LIZZA: Just to state the obvious, 40 is not 36. I know we should all be used to this by now, but I will never get used to the fact that the president of the United States gets up in the morning and tweets about a poll, and then inaccurately states it. So...

BLITZER: He said almost 40 percent.

LIZZA: Well, I mean...

BERG: Rounding.

LIZZA: If I were writing about a poll and I said "almost 40," I think my editor would come back to me and say, "Actually, it was 36. You probably need to use a little bit more accurate language there."

BLITZER: Almost 40 is, like, 39.5 percent.

LIZZA: There you go.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. We have a lot more coming up, including a vote on the Republican Senate health care postponed once again while senator John McCain recovers from surgery.


[18:44:18] BLITZER: The future of the Republican Senate health care bill very much up in the air tonight, with a vote now postponed at least until next month, and a number of Republican governors clearly skeptical of the bill.

Ryan Lizza, the vice-president, Mike Pence, met with a lot of the Republican and Democratic governors at the National Governors' Association meeting over the weekend in Rhode Island. How did that go?

LIZZA: Well, you know, judging by the fiercest statements about this bill, which came from Governor John Kasich of Ohio, he essentially said that what Mike Pence is saying about the bill as it relates to Medicaid is not true.

That is rare that you have -- and obviously, I know the history between Kasich and this White House; he's no fan of Trump or this White House. But John Kasich, governor of Ohio, is saying that what Pence is -- the way that he is describing this bill on Medicaid is simply not true.

[18:45:07] And so, you have this dynamic where you have Republicans from these four states, Republican governors who are pressuring their Republican senators to vote no on this. Rob Portman, obviously, one of the senators from Ohio, is very, very important. So, Pence is going to these governors trying to get them to sort of back off and let the Republican senators vote their conscience.

WOLF BLITZR, CNN HOST: There are two Republican governors already who's -- Republican senators already who say they're not going to vote for it. If they lose one more, it's over.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And another key governor in this whole equation is Governor Sandoval of Nevada who met sort of one in a group with Mike Pence, and some others at this meeting over the weekend. And he has been basically the 101st senator in this whole process because he has been exerting pressure on Dean Heller, the Republican senator of Nevada who's up for reelection in a very difficult spot on this bill. And he is a key swing vote. So, it really is some very, very difficult math.

LIZZA: And, remember, the changes in the first bill to the second bill, the Medicaid part did not change. So, those senators who said, we can't support this based on Medicaid, they're going to have to come up with -- if they now support the bill, they're going to have to explain what changed. BLITZER: Some White House officials already playing hardball with

Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, you know, because they're already talking to potential Republican challengers to him if he were to oppose.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. And it is going to make it harder for Senator Flake in his reelect. But at the same time, in an earlier round of negotiations over the bill, outside groups favorable to Trump PACs put pressure on Nevada Senator Dean Heller, and when ads against him trying to encourage him to vote for the earlier version of the bill, that actually angered other Republicans in the Senate, saying look, let's not attack our own. So, it's a double edged sword I think for the administration.

BLITZER: What happens, Jeffrey, if the bill doesn't pass?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's a great question. I don't think anyone knows for sure. You know, Senator McConnell has said he suggested that, well, if the bill fails, they will have to take some steps to shore up Obamacare. That's sort of hard for me to believe that the Republican Senate, and especially the Republican House would ever agree to that.

So, I think it's -- the only thing you can say for sure is it's liable to be a political and medical bit of trouble if there is no bill because both Obamacare and the Trump plan need some legislation, and nothing would be happening.

BLITZER: Do they just move on, Rebecca, to infrastructure, developing infrastructure or tax cuts if this fails?

BERG: Well, there have been some Republicans who have argued and are still arguing that it was a mistake to start with health care. It was too difficult. You should have started with something like infrastructure. There has to be an expiration date or else they're going to spend the entire first half of this --

BLITZER: Because you can build bipartisan support to build new bridges and rails and airports. A lot of Republicans and Democrats would support that.

SWERDLICK: Infrastructure would put more pressure on Democrats to sort of work with Republicans. And as Rebecca is saying, time is not on Republican's side in this regard. September, you've got budgetary issues that have to be taken care of.

BERG: Right.

SWERDLICK: You turn the corner next year, all of a sudden, members of Congress are thinking about their reelections.

BLITZER: Elections are getting closer and closer.

All right, guys, stand by. Much more coming up, including the first- ever test-firing of the Pentagon's new silent invisible killer. This is a CNN exclusive. Plus, the luxury North Korean department store that's a slush fund for

Kim Jong-un and his nuclear ambitions.


[18:53:04] BLITZER: Now, a CNN exclusive, an up close look at a new military laser that's silent, precise and deadly.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has got the details for us.

This laser, Jim, has important -- very important defense capability.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It does. Multiple targets, really. And it's currently deployed on a U.S. warship operating in the Persian Gulf for threats on the surface, threats in the air, aircraft, boats, but also, in the future possibly for missiles, even for targets in space.

This is not science fiction. It is not experimental. It's currently at the disposal of a U.S. captain deployed today.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): In the sometimes hostile waters of the Persian Gulf looms the U.S. Navy's first -- in fact, the world's first active laser weapon. The LaWS, an acronym for Laser Weapons System, is not science fiction. It is not experiments. It is deployed onboard the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Captain Christopher Wells and his crew.

CNN was granted exclusive access to a live fire test of the laser.

CAPT. CHRISTOPHER WELLS, COMMANDING OFFICER, USS PONCE: It's more precise than a bullet. It's not a niche weapon systems like some other weapons that we have, you know, throughout the military, where it's only good against air contacts or it's only good against surface contacts or it's only good against, you know, ground-based targets. In this case, this is a very versatile weapon. It can be used against a variety of targets.

SCIUTTO: LaWS begins with an advantage no other weapon ever invented comes even close to matching. It moves by definition at the speed of light.

For comparison, that is 50,000 times the speed of an incoming ICBM.

LT. CALE HUGHES, LASER WEAPONS SYSTEM OFFICER: It's throwing massive amounts of photons at an incoming object. We don't worry about wind. We don't worry about rains. We don't worry about anything else.

SCIUTTO: CNN witnessed that speed and power firsthand. First, the Ponce crew launches the target, an incoming drone aircraft -- a weapon in increasing use by Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and other adversaries.

[18:55:09] Immediately, the weapons team zeros in on its target.

HUGHES: We don't have to lead a target. We're doing that engagement at a speed of light. So, it really is a point and shoot. We see it, we focus on it and we can negate that target.

SCIUTTO: Then, in an instant, the drone's wing lights up, heated to a temperature of thousands of degrees, lethally damaging the aircraft and sending it hurdling down to the sea -- all of this from a silent and invisible killer.

HUGHES: It operates in an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. You don't see the beam. It doesn't make any sound. It is completely silent and it's incredibly effective at what it does.

SCIUTTO: It is remarkably precise, minimizing collateral damage. In all, the $40 million system needs to operate is a supply electricity and a crew of three. No multimillion dollar missile, no ammunition at all. The cost per use --

HUGHES: It's about a dollar a shot.

SCIUTTO: Today, the laser is intended primarily to disable or destroy aircraft and small boats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's designed with the intent of being able to encounter airborne and surface-based threats and it's been able to prove itself over the last three years as being incredible at that.

SCIUTTO: However, the Navy is already developing more powerful, second generation systems which would bring more significant targets into its crosshairs, missiles. Those missiles remained classified. However, commander and crew are already very much aware of the potential capabilities.

CNN PRODUCER: Could it shoot down a missile?

WELLS: Well, I don't know. Maybe.


SCIUTTO: The U.S. is not the only nation working with lasers. Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, other nations, Wolf, they have tested them out and again not just a target down here on Earth, but even targets as far away in space. It moves at the speed of light and theoretically, its distance, really, there is no limit to its distance.

BLITZER: So, its range is unlimited.


BLITZER: At a dollar a shot. The Tomahawk cruise missile, what, it could cost a million dollars per missile. This is a dollar.

SCIUTTO: Exactly. And that's one reason the Navy is particularly excited about it. BLITZER: Thanks very much.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Good reporting from Jim Sciutto.

International sanctions, meanwhile, are doing little to slow North Korea's nuclear program. Now, we're getting a first look inside a luxury store that serves as Kim Jong-un's personal weapons slush fund.

Our international correspondent David McKenzie has the secret photos.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Premium liquor stores stacked five rows high, imported shoes, expensive perfumes, rare images of a luxury department store inside North Korea, part of a year-long investigation "NK Pro", a specialist North Korea watcher.

(on camera): Who is the target market of these luxury items in Pyongyang?

KIM KWANG-JIN, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR: Foreigners and rich guys of Pyongyang.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): How rich? Here, you can buy a $4,000 watch and it's cash only. Rich North Koreans paying in $100 notes, a diplomat says who used to shop there.

North Korean defector Kim Kwang-jin helped get illicit goods into the country. He says the stores were cast into Office 36, a secretive organization that the U.S. Treasury says works as a slush fund for Kim Jong-un.

North Koreans working abroad, hotels in Pyongyang, tourist dollars, all of it a sprawling mafia-style cash earner for the supreme leader.

KWANG-JIN: Most profitable businesses, the best companies are belong to Office number 39 and it's Kim family business. It's not belong to the cabinet. It's not belong to the state control.

MCKENZIE: He says the luxury stores keep rich party members loyal to Kim Jong-un and that the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue help fund Kim's nuclear ambitions.

KWANG-JIN: They earn a lot of dollars in foreign cash from this luxurious department stores by selling all these goods and, you know, they reallocate these stores into their priorities, like, you know, nuclear missile program.

MCKENZIE (on camera): So, a luxury purchase could help build a missile?

KWANG-JIN: Sure, yes. MCKENZIE: U.N. sanctions ban many luxury goods from getting into

North Korea. But Office 39 works in complex ways using multiple fronts. The Trump administration wants to cut off the money flow.

(voice-over): Just how worried are the North Koreans, well, they are building a brand-new golden mall in the heart of Pyongyang.

David McKenzie, CNN, Seoul.


BLITZER: Good report from David. Thank you very much.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.