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Mueller Asks White House for Flynn Documents; FBI Tracked Suspected Russia Disinformation on Election Day Looking for Fake News; Grand Jury Issues Subpoenas in Russia Probe as Mueller Looks at Trump Finances; Stephen Miller Could Take on White House Communications Role; Voters Voice Support, Concern over Trump's Track Record; NH Governor Sununu Responds to Trump's "Drug Invested Den" Remarks; Collins, Murkowski Speak Out on Health Care Vote. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 5, 2017 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: For more on this hero or to nominate someone you think should be a 2017 "CNN Hero," visit our Web site, CNNheroes.com.
The next hour of the NEWSROOM starts right now.
Hello, again, everyone. Thanks for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We're following new developments in the Russia investigation. "The New York Times" reporting that special counselor, Bob Mueller, is asking the White House to turn over documents. Mueller is looking into fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and the secret payments that he may have received from the government of Turkey during the Trump campaign.
I want to bring in CNN's Boris Sanchez, in Washington.
Boris, what can you tell us?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there. Good afternoon, Fred. Yes, "The New York Times" is reporting that the Rob Mueller special counsel probe into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia is now zeroing in on these alleged secret payments between the Turkish government and the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. From what we understand, Flynn allegedly received payments from the Turkish government in exchange for lobbying against a political opponent of the Turkish president, Tayyip Recep Erdogan. "The Times" goes on to report that the special counsel has requested specific documents from the White House pertaining to Flynn, even going as far as to interview witnesses and question them about ties between the former national security adviser and the Turkish government.
This actually coincides with some of CNN's own reporting about the focus of the investigation into Michael Flynn, zeroing in on his ties to that country. We've reached out the Flynn's attorney. They have declined to comment. We've also reached out to the White House's outside counsel. They have told us that they do not want to comment on their discussions with the special counsel, except to say that they are fully complying with the investigation. Very important to point out, Fred, in the spring, we heard from
leaders on the House Oversight Committee, who told us that Michael Flynn may have violated the law by not disclosing payments from foreign governments on his security clearance forms, one of them Turkey, another RTTV, the Russian state news agency.
So, Fred, this gives you an idea of the direction this investigation is heading. When it pertains to Michael Flynn, keep in mind, this is still a very broad effort -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: And CNN has exclusive reporting that on election day this team of FBI analysts gathered in a war room to track specific social media accounts. What exactly were they looking for?
SANCHEZ: This is a really fascinating image, Fred, in this exclusive reporting to CNN. There was a room of analysts and agents gathered around looking at real-time social media posts containing fake news. Many of them linked to Russian sources. And the stories were all about Hillary Clinton, her health. Again, much of it fake news. They were watching this throughout the day and in communication every three hours or so with the White House. We learned, at the end of the night, there was a celebratory tone by the agents because they felt there was no direct intrusion by Russia into voting systems. But from what sources are telling CNN, in the Obama administration, there was disappointment because they felt like Russia had ultimately succeeded in their quest to get Donald Trump elected, in part, by propagating these fake news stories on social media -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, from Washington, thank so much for that.
Let's talk more about all of this with Karoun Demirjian, a congressional reporter for "The Washington Post." Michael Allen is a former member of the House National Security Council in the Bush administration. And CNN senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is live with us from Moscow.
Good to see all of you.
Matthew, I'll begin with you.
The FBI, you know, is connecting some of these social media accounts to Russia. What more can you tell us about these social media accounts?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNTIONAL CORERSPONDENT: Well, I don't know what the FBI was looking at but it's certainly a well-documented sort of process here in Russia, campaign, or whatever you want to call it, system, I suppose, of sort of multilayered kind of cyber warfare kind of system that's in place. It involves Internet social media accounts. It involves bots. It involves the Russian state-funded propaganda, media channels on both television and in print and on the Internet as well. And these have been directed for some time towards, you know, kind of discrediting the Democratic campaign of Hillary Clinton, on the one hand, and trying to promote the Trump campaign and the Trump candidacy back obviously before the election on the other. And there were a couple of reasons that it was speculated that that
would have been the case. First of all, there was, you know, a sort of real hatred here in Russia, particularly the highest echelons of the Kremlin, of Hillary Clinton. She was seen as being anti-Russian. At the same time, you know, Donald Trump is somebody speaking positively about Russia. And so there was an inevitable draw towards him.
But also there was this whole sort of line of speculation that the Kremlin wanted to disrupt the political system in the United States. And they saw Donald Trump as the most disruptive candidate to back, and that's why they backed him.
There were all sorts of good reasons why the FBI should have been monitoring the social media outputs of Russia at that time.
[13:05:30] WHITFIELD: Michael, with this reporting and even the reporting of the growing investigation looking at the White House, does it appear as though, you know, Trump or even the White House is displaying that it's getting a little more nervous about the direction in which these investigations are going? The president was in West Virginia on Thursday, and instead of using, you know, the terminology witch-hunt, which he had customarily been using, he instead was talking about, you know, they and us.
Are those indicators that there is a new strategy in which to try to rebuff the investigations or the reports of the investigations even?
MICHAEL ALLEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, most certainly, Fred. I think there's definitely an effort on the part of the White House to try and delegitimatize the investigation into Trump, especially as they start to roll back or claw back into a lot of these threads. You all referenced the reports in "The New York Times" on General Flynn. You know, he's a patriot. He wore the uniform of our country. But what the article basically says is that he is in big trouble. There are new accusations that he may have engaged in a kickback scheme with an intermediary of the Turkish government. So we knew before today that he perhaps had not signed the right paperwork to disclose this. But now as they get deeper and deeper into what General Flynn was up to, I think it spells increasing trouble for him.
WHITFIELD: Do you see the White House as trying to distance itself further from a Michael Flynn, even though, according to reporting, you know, Rob Mueller is asking for documents, paperwork, as well as testimonies?
ALLEN: I haven't really seen the White House distance itself from General Flynn. Quite the opposite. I've seen the president tweet out about him telling him to remain firm, I think, or, you know, hold strong, or at least try and send words of encouragement to him. I don't know if that's out of affection or out of a worry that he may turn state's evidence, so to speak, but that's just an assessment. We've only got less than half the picture.
WHITFIELD: Right. And speaking of worry, you know, Karoun, you have been reporting in "The Washington Post" that some lawmakers have proposed legislation to try to protect Robert Mueller, protect him against the White House, protect him perhaps potentially by the A.G. who would have the power to remove him or fire, if it came to that. But at the same time, there are efforts by the White House to try to discredit Mueller. How is that balancing out?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, efforts to discredit Mueller, as we've referred to, Trump has been calling the whole probe into this a witch-hunt. There's been some more specific attempts to discredit Mueller himself. Then there was that week in which the president was speaking about Jeff Sessions' recusal in incredibly disparaging term, saying that wasn't fair to the presidency. And there was a lot of talk that maybe some heads would roll that would clear the way for Trump to order another A.G. to get rid of Mueller and thus really hamper that investigation. But the blowback from Congress has been very, very resolute and very, very much in favor of keeping Jeff Sessions in place. He's a former member of the Hill. He has a lot of friends there. And going against a friend is a line even Trump supporters will not cross.
The unique thing is as much as we thought we put that issue a little to bed because John Kelly coming in and telling Sessions his job was safe seemed to end that chapter, that hasn't satisfied Republicans or Democrats on Capitol Hill, who are now filing these bills to say we have to put any sort of process to get rid of a special counsel, like Mueller, to a three-judge panel, a three-judge, federal judge panel, which basically slows it down or says if you're going to have a reason to fire the special counsel, it better be a good enough reason to stand up in court.
WHITFIELD: Michael, how would you characterize some of the changes some of the Republicans on the Hill are starting to exhibit, meaning there's less of the knee jerk, you know, response of supporting the president no matter what, but now there are lots of divisions being exhibited?
ALLEN: Look, my view having served as staff director on the Intelligence Committee and knowing a lot of these members of Congress, there wasn't a huge amount of affection for Trump. I think there was respect that he was able to win the nomination and certainly to be to beat Hillary Clinton. I think they started off after the election saying, great, we'll write the policy, you sign it. You be the signer-in-chief. Instead, we've seen a lot of dysfunction, a lot- chaos. I think members of Congress have been frustrated with the way the White House has been run and with the president tweeting on this and that. And so I see some members of Congress being more assertive in the way that Karoun just mentioned, but also with the passage of the Russian sanctions bill last week that was against the advice of the president. He, of course, had to sign it because it was so overwhelming. So I'm starting to see signs of a reasserted Congress, but it's a space we need to watch.
[13:10:38] WHITFIELD: And, Matthew, so patiently waiting, we are learning more today about some conversations between Michael Flynn, former NSA, and the former Russian ambassador to the U.S. Take listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEY KISLYAK, FORMER RUSSIAN. AMBASSADOR TO U.S. (through translation): There are a few topics that are important to U.S./Russia cooperation. First of all, it's terrorism. This was one of the topics we discussed. This conversation was proper, calm, and absolutely transparent. There were no secrets, at least on our side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So, Matthew, should Kislyak's words be believed?
CHANCE: Well, I think I question the perspective. We can reliably depend on Sergey Kislyak to be is a strong advocate for the position of the Kremlin. He's a professional diplomat. He was the Russian ambassador to Washington since 2008. And so he's had quite a long tenure there for any diplomat in the United States.
And what he was saying -- he was asked the question on state television. This is the first time that he's spoken since leaving his post a couple weeks ago. Obviously, front and center of the allegations of collusion between the Trump team and the Kremlin. What he was saying is what the Kremlin has been saying all along, there's nothing to see here, any conversations that were had were a part of the normal duties of any ambassador, any diplomat, and certainly nothing nefarious came out of these conversations, specifically with Flynn, but also with any of the other figures, Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, who he also met with. So this is Sergey Kislyak saying, you know, again, this is much ado about nothing.
WHITFIELD: All right. Matthew Chance, Michael Allen, Karoun Demirjian, thank you so much to all of you. Appreciate it.
Coming up, Robert Mueller issues that grand jury subpoena targeting last summer's meeting between Donald Trump Jr and the Russian lawyer. This, as the special counsel follows the money trail looking for the president's possible financial ties to the Kremlin. We'll tie it all together, possibly, next.
[13:16:49] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas focusing on last summer's meeting between the president's son and top campaign advisors and a Russian lawyer. The subpoenas are seeking documents and testimony from people inside that meeting. The probe is now also crossing the president's so-called red line by potentially examining his finances. Investigators want to know if the president, his family or associates have any financial ties to Russia. This comes as lawmakers unveil a bipartisan bill to protect Mueller from being fired by the president.
Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law profession is in Cleveland, and Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense attorney in Las Vegas, is joining us from Las Vegas.
Good to see you both.
Richard, you first.
What do lawyers need to be revealed from these first subpoenas?
RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Well, Fred, the grand jury is the mechanism to issue these subpoenas. And the subpoenas are calling for document production first, and that could be any form of financial documents, e-mails, any communications, bank records, tax returns, everything under the sun. And there's nothing you can do about that. You can make a motion to try to quash these subpoenas but they are going to get this information. And then it will be followed up by witness testimony before the grand jury, which, once you get a grand jury subpoena -- and, you know, Manafort and Flynn are going to get these subpoenas to testify, including President Trump's probably going the get a grand jury subpoena and be forced to testify.
WHITFIELD: Avery, you underscore or you know that there are at least two grand juries, right, one in D.C. and one in Virginia. And they're dealing with different things. You have the White House matter and you've got the Flynn matter in Virginia. What's the distinction?
AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: That's exactly right. What that's all about is the grand jury process, the special prosecutor's office is bigger than Bob Mueller. He has staff people. There are a number of grand juries going on right now. So they're trying to develop evidence. Obviously, what's coming out on Michael Flynn is going to impact on this.
And I'm in agreement that we're going to see financial records produced. It was interesting that one of the president's lawyers said he was happy to see that the matter was being accelerated and they're going to cooperate. Well, neither is correct. Number one, it's not going to be accelerated. Looking at records is the hardest part of this. People see what goes on in a courtroom, this is a grind. So what you're going the see right now is Internet provider records. You're going to see phone records. And then ultimately, you're going to see financial records in both Alexandria, where the Flynn matter is going on, and Donald Trump Jr and the Washington matter. So there's a long way to go. And believe me, the White House is going to be fighting it. It is a red line.
[13:19:52] WHITFIELD: Richard, you know, records are one thing, even testimonies, but is it also imperative and important the behavior currently of any of the parties involved? I mean, an anonymous White House official told "The Daily Beast" that the worry is what the president does now, whether he does something that's going to make everything else even more difficult, just keep him off the Twitter and on the teleprompter. So what kind of pressure is there on the White House for those who were trying to bring about such discipline that there isn't a misstep currently?
HERMAN: Enormous pressure on White House staff and on the president's personal counsel to keep him under control, which they've been unable to do. Fred, make no mistake about it, the first impeachment grounds against
President Clinton, and the ones being drawn up against President Nixon, dealt with obstruction of justice.
HERMAN: And, you know, forget about -- forget about the Russian collusion aspect. The obstruction of justice and the pattern of obstruction of justice is very serious here. And they have to keep the president quiet and under control because he seems to add to that with almost every Twitter he makes. So it's almost an impossible feat, Fred, because this president is out of control. And he -- I don't think he understands the seriousness of where we are right now. I think he's completely delusional about this.
WHITFIELD: Avery, there have been a lot of discussions and reports about, you know, whether Mueller's job is in trouble. But it wouldn't be the president who would do the firing if it were to come to that. It would be the A.G. And as it stands right now, Sessions still has that job. Do you think that it would -- it's improbable that even Jeff Sessions would try to remove Mueller? It just wouldn't look good.
FRIEDMAN: That's right. That's right. And not only that, Rod Rosenstein wouldn't either. This byzantine effort to get rid of special counsel actually has some reference point. You may remember that this president actually fired a deputy attorney general. Recall when she wouldn't defend what was an unconstitutional travel ban, she was fired, and under her --
WHITFIELD: Sally Yates.
FRIEDMAN: -- vacancy -- yes, Sally Yates -- the Vacancy Appointments Act, which was passed by Congress in 1998. He found, the president found a Senate-confirmed replacement as a, quote, "acting attorney general." So it's not all that impossible that we could see it. But, again, it's going to be -- here's where law and politics are on a collision course, smashing right into each other.
WHITFIELD: All right. Richard Herman, Avery Friedman, always good to see you guys. Thank you so much.
HERMAN: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: Have a great rest of the weekend.
We'll be right back.
[13:27:02] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Breaking news right now. A White House official tells CNN that policy adviser, Stephen Miller, could be taking on an elevated communications role at the White House.
Earlier this week, Miller scuffled with CNN White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, among others, during a briefing on the Trump administration's new immigration plan.
Just to revisit that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENKIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This whole notion of they have to learn English before they get to the United States, are we just going the bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?
STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE ADIVSOR: Actually, I'm going the say, I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English. It reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree that, in your mind --
MILLER: No, this is an amazing -- this is an amazing moment. I just want to say --
ACOSTA: -- engineer the racial --
ACOSTA: -- and ethnic flow of people into this country --
MILLER: That is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you've ever said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk more about this potential change in the White House communications office.
We're joined now by CNN senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, on the phone with us.
So, this official is telling CNN that while Miller is considered for an elevated communications role, it would be in addition to him potentially maintaining his position as a senior adviser on policy. So, Brian, what would this tell you about a reshaping of the communications office in the White House?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES (via telephone): That's right. The communications job is vacant. Scaramucci left on Monday. Feels like a long time ago. But Scaramucci lasted for 10 days as communications director, forced out by John Kelly. He may have other candidates in mind for this key job in the White House. Earlier this week, another name was mentioned, currently the Homeland Security P.R. person. And of course, he and Kelly worked together. So there is a shortness of names of the White House for this key job. But now our own Taylor Collins confirming that Stephen Miller is one of the names on that list. The possibility of Stephen Miller becoming the communications director or in some sort of related job. According to Axios, which broke the news earlier today, there's an interest in restructuring the communications off it and maybe creating a couple different jobs.
But the bigger point here, Fred, is that President Trump likes seeing people like Stephen Miller defending him on TV. Trump reportedly loved that back and forth between Miller and Jim Acosta. That is the kind of thing President Trump wants to see more of. He wants to see bitter positions being defended on television.
And by the way, that's what he wanted from Scaramucci as well. It's just Scaramucci didn't last very long.
So the idea of Miller being promoted is along the same lines that the president wants forceful advocates on television defending his administration.
[13:30:12] WHITFIELD: And defending the administration and defending President Trump is something that Anthony Scaramucci did. And apparently, the White House did like that. The president particularly liked it. But then didn't like it 10 days later to the degree of him no longer having that job. But perhaps there's a stylistic difference here of Stephen Miller. The White House is saying, the president is saying they certainly like the way he handled himself before the White House press corps on that day.
What are the qualities you suppose that the White House is embracing about Stephen Miller if, indeed, he is offered a position, the elevated position in the communications office?
STELTER: Well, the tension here, that the president appreciated some of Scaramucci's tactics on television, maybe appreciated his approach in interviews, until, all of a sudden, he didn't. There is this ongoing debate inside the White House between administration officials about what is the right strategy. Stephen Miller is an ally of Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon is taking a hardline approach. He's viewed as someone who is very close and instrumental in keeping Trump's base with the president. John Kelly, on the other hand, seems to want to put in some more traditional structures into the White House, may not want to elevate Stephen Miller. This would be one of many debates kind of going on inside the White House, about what the right approach is going forward, about what the right communications strategy is going forward. But he is an immigration hard-liner, as we saw the other day at the White House briefing. He has close relationships with "Breitbart" and the Drudge Report." So he's a favorite of conservative media. Stephen
Miller is the kind of attack dog that the president loves to see on television.
WHITFIELD: Brian Stelter, thank you so much for being with us. See you in the next hour as well. We'll be right back.
[13:36:13] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Despite having no major legislative victories and infighting among the administration, President Trump still enjoys unwavering support among his base. But they do have a message for the man they helped put into the White House: Check the ego.
CNN national correspondent, Miguel Marquez, went to a major Trump stronghold in the election, Macomb County, Michigan, and this is what they had to say.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John and Brenda Scantze, skipper and first mate of the "MisBehaven," now retired, the self-described moderate Republicans voted for and still support the president. But --
JOHN SCANTZE, TRUMP VOTER: I think he put up a wall around him and he's only letting a select few enter that wall.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Is that a mistake?
JOHN SCANTZE: It's a mistake because a manager appoints people that he should be listening to.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Scantze was a manager in the automotive industry for 46 years, says the president must listen more, tweet less, and adapt his business skills to politics.
(on camera): Does he have a credibility issue and are some of those self-made?
JOHN SCANTZE: Some are self-made, yes. Maybe his ego is getting into the way of how he used to run a company in New York.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Brenda, a lifelong Republican, says the president should get out of campaign mode.
BRENDA SCANTZE, TRUMP VOTER: He needs to listen to his cabinet members who he hired. He can't run the show by himself. And I think he needs to lose a little of his ego and get a little tough skin. The election is over.
MARQUEZ: Trump won Michigan by less than 11,000 votes. Macomb County, just north of Detroit, helped hand him the victory. Trump won it big time by more than 48,000 votes.
Brian Panabecker (ph), an autoworker for 32 years, met candidate Trump.
MARQUEZ: Then helped bring him to Macomb County.
BRIAN PANABECKER (ph), TRUMP VOTER: Probably one of the biggest Trump supporters in Macomb County.
MARQUEZ: He says the president needs a big legislative win by year's end to prove he has the right stuff.
(on camera): If you had one thing to tell him to do right now to with turn it around, what would it be?
PANABECKER (ph): Focus like a laser beam on your legislative agenda, get with the leaders in Congress and the Senate to move your legislation forward.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Gun rights brought voters like Christine Walsh, a paralegal and avid shooter, out for candidate Trump.
(on camera): He made very big promises here in Macomb County. Is he keeping them?
CHRISTINE WALSH, TRUMP VOTER: I think it's a work in progress.
MARQUEZ: How long do you give him before he gets up and goes?
WALSH: At least half of his first term.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): As summer begins to fade, the president's supporters sticking by him, but looking, hoping for a win.
Miguel Marquez, CNN, Macomb County, Michigan.
WHITFIELD: The governor of New Hampshire is not happy about President Trump calling that state a "drug-infested den."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS SUNUNU, (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: We know the president has tendency to speak in hyperbole and tweet things out and all that stuff but you can't go out and just cast this kind of misconception, aspersion upon the entire state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[13:39:37] WHITFIELD: More reaction from New Hampshire, straight ahead.
WHITFIELD: New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu is condemning President Trump's comments about his state. In leaked transcripts of a call between President Trump and Mexico's president, Mr. Trump called New Hampshire a, quote, "drug-infested den" when referring to the opioid epidemic.
CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Concord with reaction.
Kaylee, what is the governor and others saying?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, here outside of the New Hampshire's statehouse, where seemingly every elected official has spoken out one way or the other in reaction to the president's comment, including Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican and ardent supportive of President Trump, but not supportive of his comments now, saying he's disappointed in the president's mischaracterization of his state. It's safe to say President Trump's comments, big news to all in New Hampshire.
HARTUNG (voice-over): From Portsmouth to Manchester to Nassau (ph), it's the talk of the Granite State.
UNIDENTIFEID NEWS ANCHOR: President Trump is drawing rebuke from the Granite State after reportedly calling New Hampshire, quote, "a drug- infested den."
HARTUNG: In a January conversation with the president of Mexico that was leaked Thursday to "The Washington Post," President Trump claimed he won New Hampshire because the state is a drug-infested den.
[13:45:08] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm horrified. It's deplorable. He had no business saying that about New Hampshire without -- and the fact that he said that he won New Hampshire was bad enough, but then to call us a despicable den of whatever was just -- I'm speechless.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't see you living here. You don't see like the day to day. I don't know. I was born and raised in New Hampshire. I don't -- I would never call it a drug-infested den.
HARTUNG: Though many call the president's comments disrespectful and point out Trump did not actually win the state of New Hampshire in the 2016 general election, although he did win the primary, it's not all universal scorn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enough with the P.C. correctness. Donald Trump did the right thing. He called it out for what it is.
HARTUNG: The numbers don't lie. New Hampshire is in the throes of a public health crisis. In 2015, only one state had a higher rate of failed drug overdoses than this one, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
GRANT BOSSE, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, UNION LEADER: It is a serious problem.
HARTUNG: Grant Bosse is the editorial page editor of the "Union Leader," New Hampshire's only state-wide paper.
BOSSE: It's been the most serious problem in New Hampshire for the past four years and people are frustrated. HARTUNG: While the opioid crisis has rattled the Granite State to its
core, Bosse thinks Trump's jarring comments did little to jar the savvy people who live and vote in a state with the first-in-the-nation primary.
BOSSE: I think a lot of people are going to confirm what they thought of the president. If they're fans, they love he's talking about this in the strongest terms possible. If you're not a fan, you're going to be insulted again. But on the spectrum of ridiculous things Donald Trump has said, this is pretty low. I think this is the new normal when dealing with President Trump.
HARTUNG: We can't underscore enough the conversation that President Trump's comments have generated here in New Hampshire. When we went by the "Union Leader" newspaper offices yesterday, a debate broke out among two staffers at the paper as we waited in the lobby.
My Photographer Jonathan here with me, went to a barbershop in town yesterday. He said it was all the talk there.
Fred, while we can debate how the president spoke about New Hampshire, what we found agreement upon is that what he said is a real problem here. That opioid crisis is something this state is working very hard to confront.
WHITFIELD: All right. Kaylee Hartung, in Concord, New Hampshire. Thank you so much.
Coming up, an exclusive interview with the two Republican women who stood up to their party and to the president in the fight over health care.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI, (R), ALASKA: I made a statement to the president with my colleagues and with his team there that I'm not voting for the Republican Party, I'm voting for the people of Alaska.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[13:52:09] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Vice President Mike Pence is not giving up on the administration's commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare. He told a group of conservative students in Washington last night the battle is not over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow conservatives, let me be clear, this ain't over.
(APPLAUSE) PENCE: This ain't over by a long shot. And President Trump, we are absolutely committed to keep our promise to the American people. We were not elected to save Obamacare. We were elected to repeal and replace it.
Last week, the Senate wasn't ready to keep that promise to the American people, when they fell one vote short of moving forward on a bill to repeal and replace this disastrous policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are now speaking out about their decision to vote against their party's bill to repeal parts of Obamacare.
CNN sat down with the two Senators to discuss why they voted "no" and the consequences of their decision.
Here now is Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I was watching you with your desks next to each other. You could sort of sense a bit of relief that each of you had, that you had one another. Did I read that right?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I will say that I was very happy that Lisa was literally sitting next to me as we were voting from our seats which, as you know, is unusual. Issues for only very important votes.
MURKOWSKI: To have that weight, that responsibility, knowing that your vote really is that pivotal, it does help to know that there is another kindred soul close by.
BASH: You are both heroes to a lot of people, and heretics to a lot of people. How do you see yourselves?
COLLINS: Well, I see myself as someone who has an obligation to represent the people of Maine. And sometimes that means casting uncomfortable votes. Votes that will make my party uncomfortable, even angry at me.
MURKOWSKI: You want to vote to do the right thing. And so worrying about the consequences, are you fearful of repercussion from your party, a tweet from the president, a backlash from your leadership. I don't believe that we should be motivated or discouraged from taking the positions that are important to the people that we represent in our representative states.
BASH: Can you give me a sense of the pressure you had and how you handled it? How did it bear itself out? Phone calls?
[13:55:05] COLLINS: Phone calls, meetings. I had a private meeting with the vice president at one point.
BASH: Is it hard at that point? You ran on repealing Obamacare. This is the time. The bell is ringing. Go.
MURKOWSKI: I had an opportunity when we were at the White House, the second time we were over there, and it was a very directed appeal, that we need to come together as Republicans. I made a statement to the president with my colleagues and with his team there that I'm not voting for the Republican Party, I'm voting for the people of Alaska.
COLLINS: I remember being so proud of you for saying, directly to the president, what your obligations were. And that's the way I feel, too. The people of Maine don't expect me to be a rubber stamp.
BASH: If you were male Senators, do you think that it would be such a priority for you to make sure that Planned Parenthood is not cut?
COLLINS: That's a really good question. The issue of family planning services, cancer screening, well women care, probably does resonate with us more than with our male colleagues. And to me, it was so unfair to single out one Medicaid provider and say to women, in particular, you can't choose which health care provider you want to go to.
BASH: I want to borrow a phrase from the first female secretary of state who talked about cojones. A lot of people are saying that you two have more cojones than a lot of the guys around here. You buy that?
COLLINS: You know, every Senator has to make his or her own decision, so I wouldn't judge my colleagues.
MURKOWSKI: I absolutely agree.
BASH: You guys have some stiff spines.
COLLINS: That I'd go with.
BASH: Did Senator McCain come to you by he cast the last vote against the health care bill? Did you know?
COLLINS: Well, I so remember when both Lisa and I were talking with John McCain on the Senate floor, and he pointed to both of us and he said, you two are right on this issue.
MURKOWSKI: And to have the conversation that we had after the vote, we had one of those conversations that you'll think of years down the road, where he said, people might not appreciate what has happened right now as being a positive. Maybe your colleagues are not going to be viewing this as a positive right now. But the time will prove that having a pause, having a time-out for us to do better is going to be good for the country. It was a good, good, strong John McCain message.
BASH: I've seen Congress and Congress people when they have some political fear of their president. He tried to intimidate you on Twitter, you know, very directly, specifically, maybe having his interior secretary call you.
MURKOWSKI: You can't live in fear that the direction you're going to take, that you believe is truly in your state's best interests.
BASH: Did you feel he was trying to intimidate you?
MURKOWSKI: I will just say that the president and I had a very direct call.
BASH: Do you think there's been a shift among your Republican colleagues as it relates to the president?
COLLINS: Many of us are still very interested in the president's agenda.
MURKOWSKI: Finding those areas where we are working together, partnering, this is what we should be doing. If there is rhetoric that is out there that is not constructive to governing, I think it is important to speak up. And I think you are starting to see a little bit of that.
WHITFIELD: Our thanks to Dana Bash for that exclusive interview.
We've got so much more ahead in the NEWSROOM. It all starts right now.
Hello again. We are following developments out of Washington. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks for being with me this Saturday.
A White House official tells CNN senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, could be taking on an elevated communications role in the administration. This comes on the heels of Anthony Scaramucci's resignation as communications director earlier this week.
CNN White House correspondent, Athena Jones, is in Bridgewater, New Jersey, near where the president is vacationing. She joins us with more on this.
Athena, what are you hearing about current senior adviser, Stephen Miller?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. That's right. My colleague, Kaitlan Collins, confirming just in the last hour or so a report from Axios that Stephen Miller is being considered for an elevated communications role --