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Trump: Let Obamacare Fail, 'I'm Not Going to Own It'; Eighth Member of Russian Meeting Revealed. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 18, 2017 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Flatlined. A Senate GOP plan to replace Obamacare dies for lack of Republican support. And a repeal-only plan is flatlining for the same reason. So why is the White House blaming Democrats?

[17:00:22] Let it fail. President Trump refuses to accept any blame or responsibility for the fate of millions of patients, saying Republicans should just let Obamacare fail and vowing that he won't own it.

Public testimony. The special counsel gives a Senate panel permission to publicly question Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. CNN has now learned the identity of the eighth person at their meeting with a Russian lawyer.

And most wanted. Is he dead or alive? And if he's alive, where is he? There are contradictory reports on the fate of the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. With allied forces now on the offensive, is he running out of places to hide?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news, another stunning failure for the Republicans. First a Senate GOP health care bill collapses, and then three Republicans oppose a follow-up repeal only plan with Obamacare, effectively killing that, as well.

President Trump says Republicans will let Obamacare fail with now acknowledgment of how many millions of Americans may be hurt, insisting -- and I'm quoting him now -- "I'm not going to own it."

But as the president blames Democrats and criticizes Republican lawmakers, he's taking the heat in return. One top Republican saying the president was playing with a fire truck as the health care bill died. An administration official admits there was no real effort to sell the GOP bill; and Democrats say they were locked out by the Republicans.

The defeat comes as the White House is now mired in the Russia scandal. Senator Dianne Feinstein saying Special Counsel Robert Mueller has given the Judiciary Committee the all clear to have Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort testify publicly. They were over at the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer as was presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, whose security clearance right now may -- repeat may -- be in jeopardy.

CNN has identified the eighth person at that meeting, a representative of the Russian oligarch who initiated it. He was previously tied to U.S. bank accounts that came under congressional investigation for possible money laundering, but he was never charged.

I'll talk with Senator Joe Manchin of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and our correspondents, specialists and guests, they're standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

Phil, Republicans own both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, so what went, from their standpoint, so horribly wrong?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as it's been described to me by both aides and members of Congress, they were faced with a sharply diversion and toxic mix of policy differences and political differences, issues that essentially have set themself up right now for the brink of a failed vote and, potentially, a failed effort altogether.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Repealing and replacing Obamacare!

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, after seven years of campaign promises, six months of negotiations and despite wielding control of the House, Senate and White House, Republicans have failed to repeal Obamacare.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: This has been a very challenging experience for all of us. It's pretty obvious that we don't have 50 members who can agree on a replacement.

MATTINGLY: A moment marked by a chaotic 15 hours as the collapse of one effort...

MCCONNELL: I regret that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the of Obamacare will not be successful.

MATTINGLY: ... was met by collapse of another, even as Republican leaders still plan to press ahead with a vote now certain to fail.

MCCONNELL: Sometime in the near future, we'll have a vote on repealing Obamacare. There's a two-year delay. A two-year delay which would give us the opportunity to work out a complete replacement on a bipartisan basis with our Democratic friends.

MATTINGLY: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forced to shift from the plan to repeal and replace the law after the Monday night emergence of two new Republican "no" votes, and instead pushed for a repeal-only vote, a repeat, McConnell noted, of a 2015 bill that discarded large portions of Obamacare and was supported by nearly every current GOP senator. SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I'm encouraged by the fact that it

looks like we're turning towards clean repeal.

MATTINGLY: But GOP senators who had already discarded the option in January scuttled the backup plan before lunchtime.

][17:05:02] SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: I'm concerned about something that would simply repeal and its impact on cost and choices and health care.

MATTINGLY: Within hours, the new strategy had already imploded. Senator Susan Collins a firm "no" vote, even taking up the bill. Senator Shelley Moore Caputo opposing the repeal-only effort, releasing a blistering statement which included the sentence, quote, "I did not come to Washington to hurt people."

All followed by Senator Lisa Murkowski, who told reporters Republicans should go back to the drawing board in a bipartisan fashion and, with those three votes, out of a 52-member Republican majority, the latest legislative strategy, a long line of fits and starts, failures and rebirths, collapsed. Something Democrats, unanimous in their opposition, quickly seized on.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D -NY), MINORITY LEADER: They closed us off. They thought they could do it on their own. Now it's clear they can't, and the door is open again.

MATTINGLY: GOP leaders, the president on down, now left with a clear, jarring reality.

MCCONNELL: We'll have to see what happens. We will have demonstrated that Republicans by themselves are not prepared, at this particular point, to do a replacement.


MATTINGLY: Wolf, I'm told by senior GOP aides that senators are still trying to push behind the scenes to somehow swing those senators who have already come out as "no" votes on the motion to proceed tomorrow, back into the "yes" category. But again, that seems very unlikely, those senators very concrete in their statements of opposition.

The real question now becomes is there any type of path forward? Right now, at least, if the vote fails, as soon as tomorrow, perhaps some other point this week, the answer is likely no -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Phil, thank you. Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill.

As another Republican health care effort bites the dust, President Trump is blaming fellow Republicans and the Democrats who had nothing to do with it.

Let's go live to our White House correspondent, Sara Murray.

Sara, the president's not looking into the mirror, apparently, at all. SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And

look, this president did very little to sell this bill publicly. He also did very little arm twisting behind the scenes, but if they felt like they should have done more, could have done more, could have changed this outcome, the White House certainly isn't letting on. Instead, they're laying all the blame at the feet of the Democrats.


TRUMP: Disappointed. Very disappointed.

MURRAY: Donald Trump said the buck doesn't stop with him as he places the blame for the failed health care bill squarely on the Senate.

TRUMP: When we finally get a chance to repeal and replace, they don't take advantage of it.

MURRAY: Trump suggesting the next step for health care reform is simply letting Obamacare fail.

TRUMP: We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We'll let Obamacare fail, and then Democrats are going to come to us, and they're going to say, "How do we fix it? How do we fix it? Or how do we come up with a new plan?"

MURRAY: Despite the GOP's control of the White House and Congress, the president says the problem is there simply aren't enough Republicans in Washington to get things done.

TRUMP: In '18, we're going to have to get some more people elected. We have to go out, and we have to get more people elected that are Republican.

MURRAY: And after years of campaigning on a pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare...

TRUMP: We're going to get this passed through the Senate. I feel so confident.

It will be repeal and replace. It will be essentially simultaneously.

It will be repealed and replaced.

MURRAY: ... the president now says he supports a scaled-down approach by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Trump and I fully support the majority leader's decision to move forward with a bill that just repeals Obamacare. And gives Congress time, as the president said, to work on a new health care plan.

TRUMP: Thank you.

MURRAY: But even that effort now appears unable to get enough GOP votes to pass the Senate. With a new ABC/"Washington Post" poll showing just 36 percent of Americans approving of the job Trump's doing, and ongoing investigations into possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians, the president has little political good will to spare.

One administration official says, for the first time, there's concern among West Wing staffers that president Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may not be able to obtain final approval for his security clearance. That's after Kushner amended his security clearance questionnaire multiple times to add contacts with foreign officials, including a meeting with a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. last summer. That had become part of the investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump administration and Russia.

On Tuesday, Kushner's lawyer told CNN, "Mr. Kushner has tried to be fully transparent and responsive in the background investigations process. We have heard no express of concern from the FBI, and I think we would know if there were such concerns at this time.

One thing is clear: the president's early predictions of an easy ride...

TRUMP: And we have both houses, and we have the presidency. So we can do things...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can do things with...

[17:10:04] TRUMP: It's been a long time since that's happened.

MURRAY: ... are quickly colliding with reality.

TRUMP: I think something's going to happen. We'll find out. Stay tuned.


MURRAY: And speaking at the podium today, Sarah Huckabee Sanders says it's not game over when it comes to heath care. She suggested the White House and the president are open to a bipartisan solution. So far, little indication, though, that a bipartisan fix is in the works. We will see what happens next -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara Murray at the White House for us. Thank you.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: We've got lots to discuss. Let's talk about...

MANCHIN: Yes, we do.

BLITZER: ... health care first. What's your recollection to hearing the president of the United States say we wants to, quote, "let Obamacare fail." He said that today.

MANCHIN: Let me just say that, you know, in West Virginia, he won by a tremendous margin, almost 43 points. And those were a lot of Democrats who voted for President Trump. Those were a lot of independents who used to be Democrats that voted -- excuse me -- that voted for President Trump.

They can't afford for this to fail. They can afford for all of us to work together to fix it.

The president came on board as a nontraditional Republican, and basically, Democrats supported that. They wanted a new look; they wanted a new start, if you would. And I would say to the president, West Virginians are looking for you to fix this, work with us. And we're willing to work together. Democrats and Republicans, I think, with the president's blessings on this and pushing us in that direction, let's work a bipartisan deal and repair it. We don't need to repeal it; it's not going to repeal. But they know how hard it is to replace anything with a toxic atmosphere.

But we can fix the parts we've identified, and you can't just let it fail on its own. The private market should not fall apart. And that can be exasperated [SIC] if they don't do the CSRs and pay for the -- the money that the insurance companies would stabilize these markets. But there's an awful lot we can do to fix the private market. We can have responsibilities and accountabilities on the expansion. A lot of things that we're willing to talk about and I think, hopefully, come to an agreement.

BLITZER: You said you've been willing to work with the president, I think, from day one. But listen to what he said today.


TRUMP: It would be nice to have Democrat support, but really, they're obstructionists. They have no ideas; they have no thought process. All they want to do is obstruct government and obstruct, period. And in this case, think of it. So many good things, we didn't get one vote, and their plan has failed.

And by the way, Obamacare's been failing; it's failed. It's gone.


BLITZER: All right. So he's calling the Democrats obstructionists. What's your recollection when you hear the president talk like that?

MANCHIN: Well, I think he knows me well enough to know that I'm not an obstructionist. I am willing to work, and I'm still putting that offer out there to work with him.

I wasn't there when Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act passed. There was things I don't like about it; should have been changed. They weren't.

But what we have now, a system that's integrated in our total health- care delivery system, Wolf. And I think they see how hard it is to unravel this, and if you do, it comes tumbling down, and it hurts states tremendously like West Virginia.

I don't think that President Trump wants to hurt West Virginia. I really don't.

And with that being said, let us work together. We can work together. And we're willing to do that. And I've given a good format here. We've got 11 former governors that serve as senators today. This is -- we have four Republican, six Democrats and one independent. And these are people that had to make decisions. We've had to work through a contentious situation with our legislatures. We know the difficulties and challenges that states are having. I think that we could be a great sounding board working with the White House, the president and move forward. We can do this.

BLITZER: You were -- you were the former governor of your home state of West Virginia.


BLITZER: But -- and I've been hearing these lines from you for months and months.

MANCHIN: I know.

BLITZER: You've been saying, "Let's work together. Let's compromise. Let's come up with a bipartisan solution."

When was the last time you heard from the president? When does he contact you and say, "You know, Joe, let's talk about this"?

MANCHIN: Well, about -- I'm not sure. Maybe a month ago or so we talked on the phone, and we called and talked about a couple different issues. And I told him at that time, I said, "I want to help you and work with you on certain issues, especially health care." I says, "But repealing something, knowing the toxic atmosphere that I'm in and people that I work with every day, that's -- repealing it does not have any guarantee that we can repair and fix things."

They said a repeal and replace at the same time. Well, they can't even get 50 Republicans, so please, don't blame the Democrats. We haven't had a chance to get to the table. And there's moderates, centrists and me being a moderate conservative Democrat, is willing to sit there, and I haven't even been pulled to the table yet to sit down with ideas we've been having -- we would accept.

I think there's a wider range of things, Wolf, that we're going to be able to talk about. Medical savings accounts, cross-border buying. There are so many things.

[17:15:05] And then also looking at how do you give 20 million people health care and never give them one iota of instructions of how to use it in a more effective and efficient manner? We haven't tried anything except saying we're going to throw a bunch of people off, and there will be $800 billions in cuts. I think there can be maybe three or four or $500 billion in savings by keeping those same people on health care, using it more effectively and efficiently, getting them back in the work force; getting off of welfare to workfare.

BLITZER: You know, Senator, the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, just moments ago said there's really no bipartisanship on Capitol Hill. He mentioned you. Listen to this.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: There's no will in Congress for them to work with each other. The Republicans and Democrats to work with each other. They all mouth it, Harold, and you've been there. They're all saying the nice things. And they always throw Joe Manchin up there to say it, because you know, Joe's got to say it, because he's from West Virginia.


BLITZER: I want you to respond. He's throwing your name out there, saying it's basically all mouth on the part of the Democrats, no action. Respond.

MANCHIN: Well, I consider Chris Christie my friend. I've known Chris. We worked together as governors, and he knows that I am sincere. He knows that he can always talk to me, and we'll always work together and try to find that middle. We've always done that.

And these sound bites aren't helping anybody. I'm not chastising anybody; I'm not blaming anybody. It's gone the route it has gone. The Republicans have given a yeoman's effort to do it by themselves. They've not succeeded.

Now it's time to let's do and work in a regular order. Let's sit down and let the Senate do what it does. Go through the committee process, have input, have amendments. Let's move this thing forward in a way that it's supposed to be done; and it would be an honor to the people that we all represent. That's all we're asking for.

BLITZER: Senator, there's more we need to discuss, including the latest developments in the Russia investigation, the meddling in the U.S. presidential election. You've been in hearings all day in the Senate Intelligence Committee. We'll move on to that right after a quick break.


BLITZER: Fast-moving developments in the scandal involving members of the Trump team and a Russian lawyer, a meeting embraced by Donald Trump Jr. as a chance to gain negative information on Hillary Clinton. All the people in the meeting have now been identified.

We're talking to Senator Joe Manchin about this. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Senator, stand by. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is here. She's getting new investigation. Pamela, what are you learning? PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, CNN has learned

the identity of this mystery eighth person, in the room at Trump Tower as Ike Kaveladze, a close associate of the Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov and someone who has previously had interactions with Donald Trump.


BROWN (voice-over): This exclusive video obtained by CNN appears to show Ike Kaveladze in the background right next to Donald Trump in Las Vegas in June of 2013.

Kaveladze has now been thrust into the spotlight as the mystery eighth person at the Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr., former campaign manager Paul Manafort, and top adviser Jared Kushner. His attorney says he was there acting as a representative of Aras and Emin Agalarov, along with their publicist, Rob Goldstone, who had promised in an e-mail to Don Jr. before the meeting, quote, "some official documents an information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father."

In an interview for a Russian web portal in 2016, Kaveladze said he has a long history of working for the Agalarov family and their real- estate company, Crocus International.

IKE KAVELADZE, LAWYER (through translator): I've been working with this company since 1989. When I was just a little boy, doing my fifth year at Moscow Finance Institute, I arrived; and since then I've worked there.

BROWN: Kaveladze's personal website says he, quote, "holds responsibility for multiple elements of the company's Russian development project," including a Russian 24-hour super store.

In 2000 he was linked to bank accounts for possible money laundering tied to Russian brokers. At the time he denied any wrongdoing, calling it a witch hunt. His Facebook page says he was born in the Soviet Union, studied in Moscow before receiving an MBA from the University of New Haven. His attorney says he is now a U.S. citizen and works in the United States.

IKE KAVELADZE, REPRESENTATIVE OF CROCUS INTERNATIONAL: We actively represented Crocus's interests in the USA. A lot of goods, construction equipment was purchased in the U.S.

BROWN: Kaveladze attended the meeting with Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, translator Anatoli Samochornov, along with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. That meeting now under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Kaveladze's attorney says his client is fully cooperating with investigators who have already reached out, and he said his client has never had anything to do with the Russian government.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: Those investigators seek information with Kaveladze and others involved in that meeting. Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein says Special Counsel Robert Mueller has given the committee the all clear to interview Donald Trump Jr., as well as Paul Manafort in a public session. So of course, there will be a lot of anticipation if that happens.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll cover that, once it happens.

BROWN: Yes, I think we will.

BLITZER: Pamela, thank you very, very much.

We're back with Senator Joe Manchin. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Senator, react to the news of this eighth person at the meeting, this Russian immigrant working for this huge real-estate development company doing Russian development. Does it trouble you that yet another person with Russian ties has now been confirmed to have been at that meeting at Trump Tower a year ago?

[17:25:06] MANCHIN: The meeting is growing every day, and us finding out this way is not the best way for us to do it.

But I'll say this, Wolf. The Intelligence Committee, our staff, is doing yeoman's jobs they're doing day to day, looking into every lead they have, confirming and following through; and then that will be brought before us as a full committee. So I trust the work that they're doing. I know the people of interest and everything that you know in open source is things that we're going to investigate if it has validity to it.

BLITZER: The former Obama White House chief of staff, I know, Dennis McDonough, spoke to your Intelligence Committee today. I assume you were there. What can you tell us about this meeting? What did you want specifically to hear from him?

MANCHIN: Dennis did not speak to our Intelligence Committee today. And I can't confirm. I know that it's been reported, but that's not -- I can't confirm that.

BLITZER: Did he meet with members privately, with staff members of the committee, or maybe didn't have a formal meeting but we had been told he was up there?

MANCHIN: Yes. I truly cannot confirm that. I'm sure there's proper time that that will -- meeting will take place, but I can't confirm that.

BLITZER: What about former President Obama's national security advisor, Susan Rice. Is she going to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee this week?

MANCHIN: Can't confirm that either.

BLITZER: So all these things are, at least for now, classified or confidential?

MANCHIN: Let me just say that the staff is doing its job. We need to let the staff do their job that they are entrusted to do. And at the proper time, the proper people of interest that value, they will address the committee.

BLITZER: When do you think Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, will appear before your committee? Is it a matter of days, weeks, months?

MANCHIN: Well, I know you just reported about Dianne Feinstein reporting that they got the go-ahead from -- from Mr. Mueller. And the timing will be of essence to get this done as quickly as possible. I would hope. You know, there's no set time whatsoever.

And again, the Committee of Intelligence in the Senate works differently than most committee that I've ever been on or any other committee. It truly goes through by piece by piece; puts things together as a puzzle should come together to make sure they have the full picture. Then it's brought before the full committee, and then we move from there. But they're doing their job.

Wolf, I'd like to say one thing. You know, they've been asked about these meetings and should have happened or shouldn't have happened, how many people were in meetings with Russians. You know it's illegal, and everybody in the campaign, especially a Congress or Senate campaign but any campaign. We know it's illegal to take any type of contribution, financial contribution, from any foreigner, from a foreign country. That is illegal under our campaign laws. It just tells you common sense that, if that is not legal and it's an illegal transaction, then shouldn't it be illegal for us to have meetings with people for those same purposes? That's all that I would...

BLITZER: I think what you're referring to, Senator, is what's called opposition research? Politicians, as we all know, they look for opposition research. They spend a lot of money getting opposition research. It's all done very legally.

What you're suggesting is, if you get opposition research, a good -- it's not cash, but it's something of value from a foreign government, especially Russia, let's say, that would be illegal under U.S. campaign finance laws. Is that what you're suggesting?

MANCHIN: First of all, do you know how much it costs to have opposition research done? When you're a candidate and you're having opposition research? That is a very expensive proposition. So sure, there's value there.

But I'm just saying it's common sense. If we do not allow anybody in the public arena, running for an office, to take any contributions from somebody who is not a citizen of our country, and is a citizen of another country -- even a NATO allie, that's not allowed. It just makes sense to me that I shouldn't be having these conversations that are going to influence my campaign for or against. They shouldn't be involved.

BLITZER: So are you suggesting -- I want to be precise on this, Senator -- that they committed some sort of illegal act?

MANCHIN: I'm not suggesting that, because I think the facts will come out; and then someone will have to make that determination. I have all the confidence in Mr. Mueller, special investigator. He'll do his job very thoroughly. He'll come out with his findings and recommendations of what steps we take forward.

BLITZER: Senator Manchin, thank you so much for joining us.

MANCHIN: Sure. Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, what's the next step in stabilizing the health care mess right now? Is the president right to claim, if Obamacare fails, he and the Republicans won't own it?

And later is the leader of ISIS dead or alive? We're trying to get to the bottom of the latest very conflicting reports.

BLITZER: We're following the finger pointing, the uncertainty right now up on Capitol Hill and over at the White House after the collapse of the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

[17:34:35] The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, now wants to hold a vote on a straight repeal. President Trump says Obamacare should be left to fail, because people will blame the Democrats, not him and the Republicans.

Let's bring in our specialists. And David Chalian, I want you to listen precisely to what the president of the United States said about letting Obamacare fail. Let it fail. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let Obamacare fail. It will be a lot easier. And I think we're probably in that position where we'll just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We'll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us, and they're going to say, "How do we fix it? How do we fix it? Or how do we come up with a new plan?"


[17:35:19] BLITZER: David Chalian.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Wolf, I've been racking my brain throughout the entire day since I heard the president say this, to think of a time when I heard a president of the United States say something as cynical as that. I can't think of one. And not -- no president in my lifetime can I think of that has offered something quite that cynical.

And here's what the -- this has nothing to do with what side of the aisle you're on or where you are on this bill. The reality is that, if indeed, you just repeal and you have nothing to replace it with, I think the CBO score says that will take some 32 million people who had insurance will no longer have insurance, without any solution about what to do with them. You are the president of the United States of America. You actually have command and control over the health care policy in this country. You have a party; your own party is in charge of both houses of Congress. This is not -- this is not the time to say, "I'm not going to own it." You're going to own it. You ran for the job that puts you in charge. He is going to own it.

So he may want to try to deal with the politics of this, but from the policy point of view, this is real impact. And so when he said it several times in the last several months, it could be -- it could have been read as a threat. "I'm threatening this, but I really am just trying to motivate Republicans to get on board and vote it." Now, in this context, now that it failed, that is not a threat; that's just irresponsible leadership.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Remember during the campaign, you interviewed then-candidate Trump. I interviewed him. And on the health care issue he would say over and over again, "I'm not going to let people die in the streets."

What he's saying now beyond the politics, beyond the policy that we discussed here in Washington, we're talking about actual human beings, Americans, who, when he says, "Let Obamacare fail," it means let the health care insurance system fail, and basically let people suffer in a very big way in the most personal, important way, their health and their health care. So that is why it's not only cynical; it's sinister, frankly.

But beyond that, let me -- I just spent most of the day on Capitol Hill. As much as he says that as a political tactic, the reality is that the people who are going to be on the ballot, a third of the Senate and all of the House, I think many of them, most of them understand that they can't do that to their constituents.

Now whether or not they can get their act together and actually figure out a policy to replace Obamacare; or whether or not they can figure out how to, you know, break party ranks, reach across the aisle, work with Democrats, which more and more you're hearing about from key Republicans today, unclear.

But I think that they are going to try, and not, as the president said, let Obamacare fail. Because again, it's about real human beings.

BLITZER: Over the past year or two, Jackie, the president as a candidate and as president-elect spoke a lot about repealing and replacing Obamacare. Listen to this.


TRUMP: You're going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost, and it's going to be so easy.

Real change begins with immediately repealing and replacing the disaster known as Obamacare.

Obamacare is dead. It's going to be repealed; it's going to be replaced.

We're going to do it simultaneously. It will be just fine. We're not going to have, like, a two-day period, and we're not going to have a two-year period where there's nothing. It will be repealed and replaced.

BLITZER: Obamacare repeal and replace. I've been talking about repealing and replacing Obamacare now for almost two years. It's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.


BLITZER: He apparently didn't know it could be so complicated.

BASH: Everybody else did.

BLITZER: It's obviously very, very complicated. How badly did he underestimate the complexity of trying to repeal and replace Obamacare.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He also said, "I alone can fix it," and now he's not going to own it. So I mean, those statements -- his statement there, saying, "Who knew it was hard?" that is the ultimate underestimation of what he's dealing with.

And I would keep an eye on the governors, both Republican and Democratic governors. Because to Dana's point, these are real people, and those governors more so, even, than their members of Congress, deal with these people every single day. The cost falls on them, and a lot of the -- the responsibility will fall on the state if Congress fails.

You've already seen some of them speaking out, encouraging bipartisan communication and work on this. That is only going to get louder the closer we get to 2018.

BASH: It's kind of sad that the governors are such a key here, and not only are they close to their constituents and they're trying to figure this out; many of them have a lot of influence with their senators who are here in Washington.

[17:40:09] And it's not just about the president and his failure. It is about the Republican leadership in the United States Senate. And that is actually leaving a lot of people pretty surprised, especially when the leader is Mitch McConnell, who is sort of lauded historically for being a three-dimensional chess player. Not this time.

CHALIAN: The other thing that President Trump underestimated: his own voters. Because the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" just put out a poll in the last hour, just a few moments ago, looking at counties won by Donald Trump and looking at his voters in those counties.

Only 25 percent of Trump voters in the counties he won that fueled him to the presidency supported the health care plan that was being offered here as a replacement. So he never -- they were presenting something that even his core of support who's fervently supportive of him, they were never behind this policy. Completely underestimated that and did not galvanize it in any way.

BLITZER: So what options does Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, have right now?

BASH: He doesn't have a lot of good options. And as I said, I spent a good part of the day on Capitol Hill; and the -- the tension and the frustration and the concern is palpable about the fact that they are smacking that reality right in the face that he doesn't have a lot of good options.

And, you know, even his sort of "hail Mary" strategy to just say, "You know what? We're just going to repeal Obamacare, and we'll replace it later and it will be delayed for two years," even that doesn't have the votes, as Phil Mattingly reported earlier. Even that doesn't have the votes right now.

At this point, what they're trying to do is at least try to force a vote, get people on record as either being before it or against it. Probably it will fail. When I say "it," we're probably just talking about a process, a procedural measure to get on this bill. And then the hope is that, once that happens, assuming that happens, everybody can take a breath and figure out if there's a plan not just "B" or C." It's basically a plan "W" or "Y" at this point.

BLITZER: Phil Mudd, let's turn to the Russia investigation. We know the identity now of the eighth person who was in that meeting, a man by the name of Ike Kaveladze. What do you make of this? Because there was a translator there, several Russians who were there. The president's son, the president's son-in-law, and the campaign chairman at the time.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, I want to suggest to you that we're going to know the truth, because people will come out and speak, but we know from 13 months, the participants won't. Donald Jr., until "The New York Times" came out with the reports, didn't tell us the truth.

I can tell you, as someone who worked in the intel business, what I think of this. One more person means more data. That means more interviews, more cell phones, more e-mails. That means one more individual I can investigate and determine whether that person's story matches up with Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, matches up with everybody else.

I look at this and just simply say that individual might offer a story that's different than the others, and I will step back and say, "OK, that's helpful for an investigator," but I don't believe we're ever get the truth from the people who were in the meeting. I don't think so.

BLITZER: This is a U.S. citizen, too, this eighth person. So the FBI and others, if they want to question him...

MUDD: Yes. BLITZER: ... will certainly have that opportunity.

We're just getting word -- and David Chalian, I want you to react -- that the White House now says President Trump had a previously undisclosed second conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 7, the day of their two-hour and 15-minute bilateral meeting in Hamburg, Germany. The National Security Council spokesman, Michael Anton, said they talked at the end of the dinner event. Quote, "There was a -- there was a couple -- couples-only social dinner at the G-20 toward end. The president spoke to Putin at the dinner. No staff or cabinet were at the dinner at all for any of the countries." We're only learning about this now.

CHALIAN: Wow. That -- do we know how long he met for? Is that...

BLITZER: You can see the picture from the couples-only dinner. You can see the president and President Putin and the two wives.

CHALIAN: Yes, and we remember seeing those images of Melania Trump.

BLITZER: Melania's sitting next to Putin.

CHALIAN: Seated next to Putin. Well, now the question will be, well, what was discussed there? Because remember, we got a readout initially from Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, out of the two- hour-and-15-minute meeting. That readout didn't then quite match up with how President Trump described the meeting. He -- he later on described to reporters he made a couple of attempts at talking to Putin about the election meddling, and then realized he didn't want to get into a fist fight and wanted to move on to other topics.

Well, what Tillerson first told us out of that first meeting was that it was a robust and lengthy portion of the meeting was about election meddling. I wonder if, at this follow-up meeting, this was part of the added attempt by President Trump to discuss election meddling. I would imagine not, since he thought that was going nowhere. So it begs the question, what was the content of that conversation?

BLITZER: Jackie, why are we just learning about this exchange, this conversation now?

KUCINICH: I can't believe the White House would keep something like this from us. I mean, any contact with Putin, you'd think, would be disclosed at this point, because of all the speculation with Russia. But this White House is not transparent and this, apparently, is another example.

And you have to keep wondering, why are they putting themselves in this position, to have these things found out and to have us sitting here, wondering what they spoke about? This is not normal.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But, I think, David, your question is an important one, how long did they speak? When you say a conversation --

BLITZER: Well, by the way, the White House says -- would not say how long the conversation was.

BASH: Exactly. So when you say conversation --


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: We don't know if it was social or --

KUCINICH: That's the question.

BASH: -- we know it was a social dinner. I mean, did talk about Crimea? Did they talk about how the soup was? I mean, we just -- we don't know and that's important. The context is critical.

BLITZER: The fact that, Phil, there were no staff there, what does that say to you?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It tells me that potentially this was social, but I don't understand the White House perspective on this. Because you have Democrats who might say this is another indication that the President is in the pocket of Putin. You have Republicans who say this is a good thing.

As a national security guy, I look at this and say any conversation in a one-to-one basis between the President of the United States and the head of Russia is a good thing. If I were the White House, I'd say, put this out.


MUDD: They're going to talk about things like Syria, like Ukraine. Why is this a bad thing? Why wouldn't you talk about this? It's good news.

BLITZER: That's a good question. All right, guys. Stand by. There's a lot more we're covering right now, including his caliphate collapsing in both Iraq and Syria. Now, there are new questions about whether the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is still alive.


[17:51:10] BLITZER: We are sorting through conflicting reports about the leader of ISIS. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been seen only rarely seen he proclaimed the ISIS caliphate back in 2014. But is he dead or alive?

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking at all the evidence out there. Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one analyst told us Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi is a ghost. Tonight, U.S. military and intelligence officials we have spoken to are being guarded in their assessments but a key U.S. ally is not.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): The shadowy leader of ISIS, tonight, remains elusive, whether he is dead or alive. Reports on the fate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi remain contradictory.

A top official with Kurdish intelligence tells Reuters, quote, Baghdadi is definitely alive. He is not dead. We have information that he is alive. We believe 99 percent, he is alive.

Lahore Talibani says Kurdish intelligence believes Baghdadi is in hiding somewhere south of the self-declared ISIS capital of Raqqa, Syria, which is increasingly being choked off by Syrian, Arab, and Kurdish forces. But last week, the top U.S. commander in the fight against ISIS left some doubt.

LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDER, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE - OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE: I don't have a reason to believe that he is alive. I don't have proof of life, you know.

TODD (voice-over): Last month, Russian officials said they were investigating reports that Baghdadi was killed in a Russian airstrike. But CNN has learned U.S. intelligence has concluded Baghdadi was not at the location cited by the Russians.

If he is alive, how could the world's most wanted terrorist be eluding this manhunt?

TARA MALLER, FORMER MILITARY ANALYST, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: He could be hiding in a safe house. He could be hiding almost in plain sight, in many cases, if he changed the physical appearance, for example, and has members of ISIS aiding or a betting him in some way.

TODD (voice-over): Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been called the invisible sheikh because of his obsession with his own security. Analyst say he has been said to cover his face, even when he meeting with his trusted lieutenants and makes them place cell phones in a lead-lined box. But they say he's also got an Achilles heel.

MICHAEL WEISS, CO-AUTHOR, "ISIS: INSIDE THE ARMY OF TERROR": His personal proclivities, I've heard -- I've heard it from various sources -- might give the game away. For instance, Baghdadi has kept a consortium of sex slaves, one of whom at least has escaped his clutches as his own personal chattel.

TODD (voice-over): If he's alive, the ISIS leader could be running out of places to hide. CNN has recently reported firsthand from Raqqa and Mosul of the devastation left behind as ISIS has abandoned key positions in those cities. Tonight, U.S. military and counter terrorism officials tell CNN there is more pressure on ISIS safe havens than ever before.


TODD: And another key question tonight, if he is alive, is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi actually commanding ISIS forces? Pentagon officials tell us Baghdadi is not involved in any day-to-day decision-making or command and control that they can see. And speaking with me today, one Pentagon official slipped in a bit of

a jab, saying, quote, we know he is not fighting on the front lines of Raqqa or Mosul. He left his followers to fight that might and he took off. Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, how reliable is the Kurdish intelligence service which just came out and said Baghdadi is alive?

TODD: Well, analyst Michael Weiss, Wolf, tells us the Kurds have very good intelligence. He says they have a lot of former ISIS fighters in their detention facilities, and they have interrogated many of those fighters for years. And he says they have a lot of spies and informants on the ground, especially in Mosul, who have been feeding them information about top ISIS leaders.

BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed. All right, Brian, thanks very much. Brian Todd, reporting.

Coming up, breaking news. A Senate Republican health care plan collapses for lack of Republican support. President Trump is blaming everyone but himself and says it's time to let ObamaCare fail. But what about the millions of Americans who depend on it?

[17:54:57] Also breaking. We've just learned President Trump had a previously undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit. What did they talk about? We'll be right back


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Defeated. President Trump's health care promises implode as the Senate bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare collapses under the weight of Republican opposition. Tonight, Mr. Trump is signaling his next move as GOP leaders propose a backup plan that also appears to be dead on arrival.

Political pawns. The top Senate Democrat is accusing the President of playing games with the health of millions of Americans. The White House pushing back, arguing Democrats are to blame instead of the President's own divided party.

[18:00:04] Coming before Congress? Donald Trump, Jr. may be a step closer to testifying under oath about his secret meeting with a Russian lawyer.