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THE SITUATION ROOM
Republicans Continue Efforts to Target Health Care; Russia and Facebook; Hurricane Maria Aftermath; Interview With California Congressman John Garamendi; Facebook Turning Over Russian Ads to Investigators in Congress; Trump: GOP Health Bill Covers Pre-Existing Conditions. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired September 21, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: And a grim forecast of how long Puerto Rico will be powerless. Tonight, Maria's picking up steam and aiming at new targets.
Bark or bite? President Trump orders new punishment for Kim Jong-un's nuclear taunts after threatening to totally destroy North Korea. As Kim's regime likens Mr. Trump to a barking dog, will the U.S. sanctions have teeth?
Talk show takedown. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel keeps railing a Republican senator, accusing him of lying about the last-ditch GOP health care bill. It's all part of a deadly serious debate that could make or break the legislation.
And Russian ads. Facebook's CEO says he's giving Congress information related to Russia's election meddling. What will it mean for the broader investigation as the special counsel makes new demands of the White House?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ACOSTA: We are following multiple breaking stories this hour.
Hurricane Maria regains strength and unleashes more destruction in the Caribbean after pulverizing Puerto Rico, leaving millions of Americans desperate and in the dark. We're tracking ongoing rescue operations on the island, amid dangerous flooding from 30 inches of torrential rain in just 24 hours.
Officials are warning Puerto Ricans might not get electricity back for four to six months with the power grid totally destroyed. President Trump is describing the U.S. territory as being absolutely obliterated.
Also breaking, President Trump orders an expansion of sanctions against North Korea, turning to diplomacy just days after threatening to totally destroy the country. He says China also is taking a new step, telling its financial institutions to stop dealing with Kim Jong-un's regime.
Mr. Trump discussing the North Korean nuclear threat with the leaders of Japan and South Korea in New York. North Korea, undaunted, is likening the president's tough talk to the sound of a dog barking.
And in the Russia investigation, Facebook says it is giving the House and Senate Intelligence Committees information on thousands of ads sold to Russian-linked accounts, spots aimed at influencing the 2016 election.
The social media giant already has handed over copies of the ads to special counsel Robert Mueller.
We're coming all of that and more with our guests, For more on that, John Garamendi, a Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. Our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
First to CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. He is in Puerto Rico.
Nick, what's the latest?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, , it this is the first real close of day sunset in which people have had a chance to absorb the new reality they have after the devastating blow dealt them by Hurricane Maria.
Puerto Rico was in a bad state economically, frankly, before Hurricane Irma hit two weeks ago. And now it's had the worst storm in about a century. And it is really struggling, I think, to understand the new normal it has with the potential of months ahead without basic services.
WALSH (voice-over): Tonight, more than 3 million in Puerto Rico are in the dark, potentially without power for four to six months.
GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: To get the island full power, we're looking at order of magnitude of months, as opposed to weeks or days.
WALSH: Hurricane Maria nearly destroying Puerto Rico's energy grid. The island already deeply in debt after a long recession.
Dozens of families have been rescued from floodwaters and a flash flood warning remains in effect for the whole island, as the rain continues to fall, with some spots getting 40 inches in just 24 hours.
The main priority now, clearing roads and opening the airport, so aid can start to flow.
ADM. PAUL ZUKUNFT, U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDANT: The first priority is going to be saving of lives, not just Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands. I'm especially concerned with St. Croix. That was also in the path of Hurricane Maria.
WALSH: On the island of Dominica, more devastation and death. The government says that those spared are now in survival mode. Food and water are scarce or nonexistent and looting is widespread.
The island of more than 70,000 Known for its waterfalls and rain forests now bare. Aerial views show thousands of trees snapped, the rain forests virtually gone. And the threat isn't over.
The storm now lashing the Dominican Republic with strong winds and torrential downpours. Maria is expected to dump over a foot of rain on the island, which was already saturated from Hurricane Irma.
WALSH: Now, clearly, there is a new kind of life here that was totally alien to Puerto Rico 48 hours or so ago. Cell phones are not really working that often.
Freshwater is being rationed at times. And electricity will be out for months. You are seeing generators perhaps around me keeping some of the lights on, but it's a real exception here.
And the drive you saw partially my reporting earlier across the east where it made landfall to the north here in San Juan just shows how many electricity pylons have been torn out of their place. That's a massive infrastructure rebuild, an enormous burden on a territory that already had a $70 billion debt before Irma even brought a billion dollars of damage towards it.
And it's a massive reconstruction job and probably, I'm afraid to say, a change of life for people here for the years ahead. This has been a devastating blow, Jim.
ACOSTA: A very grim situation on a beautiful island. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much for that report.
WALSH: Breaking news right now.
We're getting a new statement from North Korea's Kim Jong-un's about President Trump's tough talk during his speech to the United Nations, this as Mr. Trump orders expanded sanctions against the Kim regime.
Let'[s bring in my colleague CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones.
This is a statement from Kim Jong-un. What are we hearing?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim. That's right.
We heard the president's tough talk. Now we're hearing reciprocal tough talk from North Korea's leader. This is via North Korea's news agency, KCNA.
I will read to you just some of the things he said. He said: "I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying the DPRK."
That's a reference of course to North Korea.
He also went on to say of President Trump: "He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country and he is surely a rogue and a gangster, fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician."
Again, this is the reaction we're getting from Kim Jong-un to what we heard from President Trump earlier this week. He ends these remarks saying: "A frightened dog barks louder."
So some tough talk from North Korea's leader in response to what we heard from President Trump, threatening to totally destroy North Korea and saying that calling him Rocket Man, calling Kim Jong-un Rocket Man earlier this week, saying he's on a suicide mission.
And this is interesting, Jim, because it comes on a day when the president has been really using diplomacy. Even as he was rolling out these new sanctions on North Korea, the president signaled that he remains open to diplomacy, despite saying just last month that talking is not the answer when it comes to North Korea.
Today, when asked if dialogue with the regime was still an option, he said, why not?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile development is a grave threat to peace and security in our world.
JONES (voice-over): President Trump announcing a new round of U.S. economic sanctions on North Korea aimed at deterring the regime's rapidly advancing nuclear program. The moves target individuals, companies and financial institutions.
TRUMP: A new executive order will cut off sources of revenue that fund North Korea's efforts to develop the deadliest weapons known to humankind.
JONES: The announcement with Mr. Trump flanked by leaders of South Korea and Japan comes less than a week after the rogue regime launched an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan for the second time in less than a month.
TRUMP: Foreign banks will face a clear choice, do business with the United States or facilitate trade with the lawless regime in North Korea.
JONES: But years of sanctions, including some of the toughest ever to be approved by the United Nations Security Council in response to ballistic missile tests, has so far failed to rein in Pyongyang's provocative actions.
Neither, it seems, has the president's tough talk towards the regime.
TRUMP: The United States has great strength and patience. But if it's forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.
Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.
JONES: The latest sanctions come as a CNN poll out today shows the president's approval rating of his handling of North Korea edging up slightly to 41 percent, compared to 37 percent last month, this as the percentage of Americans who see North Korea as an immediate threat jumped to 50 percent from just 37 percent in April.
And 58 percent now say they support military action against the North Korea if economic sanctions and diplomacy don't work. That's up from 38 percent in 2012.
Trump's overall approval is also ticking up slightly to 40 percent from 38 percent last month, with 64 percent of those polled approving of his handling of the hurricanes that battered the Southern U.S. and its Caribbean territories in recent weeks.
Trump tweeting support for Puerto Rico hit hard by Hurricane Maria and telling reporters:
TRUMP: Puerto Rico was absolutely obliterated.
JONES: Meanwhile, the White House is hinting the president will likely push for changes to the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has slammed as an embarrassment.
H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think what's different about the president's approach is that he didn't just look at the Iran deal. He placed his decision on the Iran deal in broad context of how we protect American citizens, American interests, how we protect our allies and partners from Iran's broad range of destabilizing behavior.
JONES: Administration officials say, while the president may not scrap the deal entirely, he would like to renegotiate some aspects of it, like the sunset provision that allows some limits on Iran's nuclear program to expire.
He also wants to address the country's ballistic missile program, which was not included in the original deal.
JONES: Now, White House aides have been encouraged by comments by leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron, who expressed support this week for adding new provisions to the Iran deal. Meanwhile, past opponents of the deal, like Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul and New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, are now arguing against blowing it up, Paul telling Politico his main concern is compliance and if Iran is complying, the U.S. should stay in it, Schumer echoing that view -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Athena Jones, thank you very much.
Let's get more on all of this with Democratic John Garamendi, a Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
I want to get right to this breaking news that we're receiving right now, this new statement coming in from Kim Jong-un, who I guess did not take kindly to the president's words at the United Nations earlier this week.
Let me put the statement up on screen, parts of the statement up on screen, and then get your reaction.
We can put this up on screen. It says -- this is from Kim Jong-un about President Trump: "He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country and he is surely a rogue and a gangster, fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician. I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying the DPRK. Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation."
I guess, Congressman, what is your initial reaction to that statement? It's obviously very strong stuff.
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, yes, very strong. And what the president said was equally strong.
Total destruction seems to be mutually assured here unless we can get to the negotiating table. Therefore, the sanctions that were discussed by the president today extremely important. This is a direct result of the law that the Congress passed actually over the objections of the president last July.
So now we get those sanctions in place, get China in place, and that seems to be coming along. Russia. You get all of these countries working together on the sanctions, and then you can, I think, force the negotiations to take place.
Denuclearization absolutely a piece of that. And keep in mind that we do have on the ground two countries that are still at war.
ACOSTA: Congressman, just to get back to that statement, I know you're a Democrat, but Kim Jong-un referring to the president of the United States as a rogue and gangster, do you have a problem with that? GARAMENDI: Of course I have a problem with that. And I suspect every
American should have a problem with that.
But what we have here is a lot of very heated rhetoric that doesn't help solve the problem on either side. And so I have said for a long, long time, tone it down. Teddy Roosevelt had it right. Carry a big stick -- and nobody has a bigger stick than the United States -- and speak softly. And, by the way, you ought to tweet softly and put the rhetoric down, move with these sanctions, move towards the negotiations.
The six-power negotiations have not taken place for six years now. Get that under way. There are many things that we can accomplish in the negotiation process. And I believe it is possible to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula in serious negotiations that would come after these sanctions begin to take hold.
And they will. They're going to put an extraordinary amount of pressure on North Korea. And that's what we have to get to.
ACOSTA: Congressman, you took a trip to South Korea this summer. How will this escalating war of words between President Trump and the Kim regime be received by the South Koreans?
Obviously, when the president refers to Kim Jong-un as Rocket Man, this is sort of a predictable response. Since you have been to that region, what is your sense of how the South Koreans are going to respond to this?
GARAMENDI: Well, the South Koreans, I'm sure, are mightily concerned that this rhetoric could cause someone, any of the three parties involved here, to do something that could ignite a war.
If a war were to take place on the South, on the peninsula, Seoul, South Korea, would be seriously devastated. We're talking about thousands, if not tens and thousands of lives lost in the first week of that barrage of artillery and rockets.
Similarly, American soldiers and families are at risk. At the same time, you're quite -- the president's quite correct about North Korea being devastated. A war on the peninsula would be a serious, serious war in which tens of thousands, if not hundreds, would die within just a few weeks.
We don't want to go there. And we need to be strong. We need to be clear. But at the same time, we have got to be very, very careful with the rhetoric that it could cause a mistake to be made.
ACOSTA: And let me ask you more about that. Let me show you another piece of Kim Jong-un's statement.
It says, "His remarks" -- talking about the president here -- "have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that is the one I have to follow to the last." GARAMENDI: Exactly.
ACOSTA: And so what Kim Jong-un seems to be saying is, is that if you escalate, I'm going to escalate. And this is just going to continue to go back and forth.
GARAMENDI: Well, unfortunately, the back and forth, as was just said there by Kim Jong-un is, I have to have nuclear weapons to stop the American onslaught.
And that's one of the reasons that been clear for the last several years that he perceives these nuclear weapons to be his ultimate guarantee of survivability. And you couple that with intercontinental ballistic missile, and he believes that, with these, American cannot and will not attack me.
That's a very dangerous situation, because we are at risk in that scenario, if it plays out, where he has these weapons and he has the means of delivery. So, what we have to do is to put a stop to all of this, put a freeze in place, get to the negotiating table, not suggesting that a freeze would preclude negotiations, but is part of it, and tone down the rhetoric.
ACOSTA: And so when the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said earlier today about that Rocket Man line, he said, well, it got everybody's attention.
ACOSTA: Kim Jong-un, when he makes these kinds of remarks that we're seeing this evening, obviously, the president, when he said Rocket Man, if you listen to H.R. McMaster, that was sort of by design in terms of getting everybody's attention.
What's your understanding of the psychology of Kim Jong-un? Is he trying to get everybody's attention when he says these sorts of provocative things, or is he just so unstable that having provocations coming from Washington makes that situation that much more dangerous?
GARAMENDI: Well, I think in every contentious situation, whether it's a negotiation over a hotel contract or, in this case, a situation between the United States and North Korea, it's imperative that our planners put their selves in his shoes.
And what would we do if we were in that situation? And probably we would do exactly what Kim Jong-un is doing. Try to develop a failsafe protection. And that, in his situation, he perceives to be these nuclear weapons coupled with these intercontinental ballistic missiles.
And so the tough rhetoric, the very bellicose rhetoric, gives him further incentive and motivation to develop his nuclear enterprise and his rockets. The problem here is, we need to back away from that. And I really would hope that the president does not respond to this -- most latest words from North Korea.
ACOSTA: What are the chances that he's going to tweet on this, this evening?
GARAMENDI: About 98 percent.
And if he does tweet, tweet softly. Tweet in such a way that you're encouraging negotiations. Build upon the words that have been said with regard -- or actually the sanctions. Build upon those sanctions. You don't need to be bellicose. The facts are there.
The banks are going to be restricted in dealing with North Korea. That's a very important and a very powerful sanction. So, just tweet softly. Say, hey, listen, we want to get to negotiations, which is what the president did say.
Use that line of rhetoric or that line of tweets, rather than Rocket Man or any other kind of thing that you might use if you were a schoolyard bully.
ACOSTA: All right, Congressman, stay with us.
ACOSTA: We're going to continuing following Kim Jong-un's comments.
We're also getting new information about the breaking news on Russia and a new agreement by Facebook to hand over evidence to Congress. We will talk about that with the congressman after a quick break.
ACOSTA: We're back with Democratic Congressman John Garamendi.
Following breaking news, North Korea's Kim Jong-un firing back at President Trump's bellicose rhetoric at the United Nations. He is promising that Mr. Trump will pay dearly for his threats. And he's calling him mentally deranged.
Congressman, stand by.
We're also getting breaking news in the Russia investigation. Tonight, Facebook has struck a new agreement with Congress to turn over evidence.
Let's go to our CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.
Manu, this is a pretty startling development. Facebook is sharing information about thousands of Russian ads that were on the site. It's incredible.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And Senator Mark Warner, the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence
Committee, told me earlier this week that this information that Facebook has talked to Congress about is really just the -- quote -- "tip of the iceberg" in this investigation going forward.
Now, for the first time, Facebook has actually agreed to provide roughly 3,000 ads that it found that was linked to Russian actors during the campaign, an effort that the Intelligence Committee believed was designed to help President Trump.
Now, before Facebook over the summer said they had no evidence that there were any Russian actors who purchased campaign ads, but it found after an extensive review that indeed there was, and they actually provided some of that information earlier to special counsel Bob Mueller after Mueller's team obtained a warrant to get that information.
Now, earlier today, Zuckerberg explained this decision to provide these 3,000 ads to members of Congress by saying this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FOUNDER, FACEBOOK: We have been investigating this for many months now, and for a while we had found no evidence of fake accounts linked to Russia running ads.
And when we recently uncovered this activity, we provided that information to the special counsel. We also briefed Congress. And this morning, I directed our team to provide the ads we have found to Congress as well.
We will continue our own investigation into what happened on Facebook in this election. We may find more. And if we do, we will continue to work with the government on it.
We're looking to foreign actors, including additional Russian groups and other former Soviet states, as well as organizations like the campaigns, to further our own understanding of how they used all of our tools.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Jim, one change that Facebook is going to employ going forward is that it's actually going to require some disclosure from these ads that are recurring on Facebook.
As we know, there aren't those restrictions that there are on television political ads in which it says who purchased and paid for those ads. But Facebook says it's going to implement some new measures as a result of this review.
Now, in addition to that, Facebook also is going to face a number of questions going forward, as well as who these ads were targeting, whether or not there were any Americans who were involved in directing some of those ads in some key states at key points in the election. And that's one reason why that the Senate Intelligence Committee tells me that they plan to move forward with a public hearing as soon as next month to bringing in Facebook and other social media platforms.
And , Jim, Twitter, too, also coming before the Senate Intelligence Committee staff next week, a lot of questions for them as well about whether any Russian actors were involved in purchasing ads and doing other activities on Twitter during the campaign season, Jim.
ACOSTA: And we're already hearing from Democrats in the House who want to see hearings as well.
Manu Raju, thank you very much.
Let's go back to Congressman John Garamendi from California. He's on with us talking about all of this.
And, Congressman, what was your response when you saw the CEO of Facebook come forward and say that there were ads coming in from the Russians that were all over everybody's Facebook accounts during the last election cycle? I mean, nobody saw this coming.
GARAMENDI: Well, I suspect that may not have been the case.
We have known for several months. And I think even during the campaigns we knew that Russia was somehow engaged in the election. It's not -- there's something far more important than the profitability of a company here.
It's really about the American democracy and the ability to have an election that is fair and open. Frankly, there ought to be two very strong laws passed immediately. One is that all of these new advertising platforms, Facebook, all the rest, must disclose who is buying political ads, and a broad definition of what a political ad is.
[18:30:05] Secondly, we ought to make it absolutely clear with a very strong law that foreign governments cannot engage in American elections, period. If they do, there will be severe repercussions to their country and to the companies that operate from those countries.
We have to protect our democracy. We have enough fights within the United States without adding to the clamor and conflict of an election, having outside countries playing in our election.
ACOSTA: Do you want to see Russia punished for this? Should they be punished for this?
GARAMENDI: Well, they already are. There are sanctions that are on Russia, not only for what they did in the Ukraine; and there are sanctions with direct sanctions as a result of the election. Those were imposed by President Obama. There's been some talk that Trump would relax those...
ACOSTA: Do you think they're enough? GARAMENDI: No, I don't think they're enough. As this unfolds and we
find out more and more, and we as understand the way it may have influenced the election, we need to ramp up the sanctions, for two reasons.
One, Russia needs to know that it cannot invade countries. It cannot have little green men in these countries, destabilizing Eastern Europe and other parts of the world.
And, secondly, you're not going to mess in our elections, Mr. Putin. And if you do, there are going to be severe repercussions, heavier sanctions coming your way.
ACOSTA: All right. Congressman John Garamendi, some strong words there at the end. Thank you very much.
Just ahead, the news just now breaking in North Korea, Kim Jong-un issuing a long statement blasting President Trump, calling him mentally deranged, a rogue and a gangster. More on that when we come back.
ACOSTA: Breaking tonight, a fiery new statement from North Korea's Kim Jong-un, accusing President Trump of mentally deranged behavior and arguing that he's unfit to lead the U.S.
Kim is responding to the president's United Nations speech, of course, in which he threatened to totally destroy North Korea if to -- if needed to defend the U.S. and its allies. The North Korean dictator says Mr. Trump will pay dearly for that.
Let's bring in our specialists and analysts.
And Mark Preston, we have some of this. We can put it back up on the screen. It is pretty remarkable, although not surprising. Here's Kim Jong-un about President Trump: "He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster, fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician. I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech, calling for totally destroying the DPRK. Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation."
I mean, is this sort of just the natural tit-for-tat when you -- when the president of the United States calls Kim Jong-un Rocket Man? This was to be expected?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Basically. What we're seeing here right now is, like, basically an eighth-grade fight. Right? Where they're just throwing out these ridiculous attacks on one another. If you look at specifically what he said there, he says nothing. Right? In fact, he doesn't even have a strong command of the English language, trying to criticize President Trump.
This is all white noise. I think mainly, what we should be watching to find out what's going to happen is see how China reacts to making them de-escalate at this point, because clearly, he's going to say things like this to say that he's going to take down the United States of America and he can do that, which he can't. So let's see where China is on this. Let's set aside Rocket Man and these ridiculous insults coming back from the other side.
ACOSTA: But David, getting back to what the president was asked earlier today, he was asked, "Would you be willing to sit down with Kim Jong-un?" and he said, "Why not?"
This sort of gives you a sense as to what the back -- I guess this would be the back and forth if they were to sit down in front of the cameras briefly? And I mean, President Trump would call him Rocket Man, and Kim Jong-un would call him a rogue and a gangster? Is that the kind of dialogue we would see?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You've got two back-and- forths going on. You've got the one Mark is describing with this sort of eighth-grade trash talk. Then you've got the back and forth of President Trump doing what he does with a lot of issues, which is returning to positions he took once before.
Way back last year during the campaign, he said, "Why wouldn't I speak to Kim Jong-un..."
ACOSTA: That's right.
SWERDLICK: "... if there was a chance for peace?" Then, as he became tested as president, started to take a tougher rhetorical stance, now going back.
But again, as Mark said, what really matters is how well President Trump can work with China and with our allies to put pressure on North Korea, not whether they have a dialogue or sit down in a conference.
ACOSTA: And Rebecca, does it make any sense for the president at the United Nations to give this speech which he refers to Rocket Man. And then a couple of days later, they try to look very sober and serious and talk about these sanctions and how they want China to be on board. Isn't -- there's a disconnect there, isn't there?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's important with President Trump to focus more on the actions and less on the words, because he likes the marketing side of this. He's using the term "Rocket Man" to try to sell this just to the American people, help people understand what's going on here. It's very catchy. We're all using it.
But what matters here are the sanctions, are the pressure on China. Really, the overarching Trump administration strategy when it comes to North Korea.
ACOSTA: And the strategy, right. Bianna Golodryga, is there a strategy when it comes to North Korea, in your view?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, I would just note that this is eighth-grade trash talk, except most eighth-graders don't have access to nuclear weapons, so this just elevates the confrontation.
ACOSTA: Not any eighth-graders I know. That's right.
GOLODRYGA: Not any eighth-graders I know either.
[18:40:00] But to take a serious note, I do think that you're maybe seeing the consequence and the fallout of the president actually having a conversation with both the leaders of Japan and South Korea. Japan's Shinzo Abe wrote an op-ed last week, stressing that, yes, maybe talks are fine, but we need tougher sanctions. We saw that come out from the president today with his executive order.
Then you also saw the president talk with the leader of South Korea, who is a bit more dovish and who is pressing for more dialogue. So maybe we're seeing the president meeting the two allies in the middle somewhere, with tougher sanctions but still leaving the door open to possible negotiations.
But I would say that, as David Sanger points out in the "New York Times" today, we are seeing a president who's confronting potentially two nuclear issues, both in Iran and North Korea simultaneously right now. And so a lot of eyes are going to be focused from North Korea through the rest of the world on what action the president, when he does want to divulge the decision that he did make, what he's going to do about Iran, as well.
ACOSTA: How many confrontations can this president handle at one time? Very good point there, Bianna. Thank you very much. We'll talk more about this in a few moments.
Just ahead, more on the Russian ads Facebook says it will turn over to congressional investigators. What will they reveal about Moscow's meddling in the U.S. presidential election? When we come back.
[18:46:01] JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: We're back with our specialists and breaking news in the Russia investigation. Facebook agreeing to turn over Russian-linked ads to congressional investigators.
Let's get back to our panel of specialists here.
Bianna Golodryga, when you heard about this, did it surprise you?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: As far as Russian tactics? I mean --
ACOSTA: Well, Facebook receiving these Russian ads and just being so prevalent on Facebook.
GOLODRYGA: What surprised me, I will say, Jim, was early on and Facebook being very defensive, saying that they did not play any role whatsoever in the election, that Russia didn't interfere at all in taking out ads and they were very quick to say they played no role in the election. I think, obviously, as Mark Zuckerberg said, after some investigation and internal investigation, they were proven wrong. And I think, given that they have some 2 billion users now around the
world, they chose that the best way, optics-wise and with their users, was to show that they were compliant, not only with Mueller but also with congressional investigators, too.
ACOSTA: And, David Swerdlick, during one of the breaks we were talking about just how prevalent social media is in all of our lives these days. Grandparents are on Facebook. Parents are on Facebook. Their kids are on Facebook.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
ACOSTA: And it just goes to show you what the Russians were thinking when they decided to do this. I mean, they reached every generation that you could possibly reach in American society with these ads, presumably, anybody who had a Facebook page was exposed to this.
SWERDLICK: Yes, absolutely. I mean, Facebook has ads that people share, news articles, but it's also, as you say, Jim, a place where people post pictures to their kids, talk to people they went to high school with. And so, getting our minds around this idea that this has now become a vehicle for a foreign adversary or rival to try to infiltrate or -- the word I'm liking for is, you know, sort of influence -- that's it -- our election, you know, is really something that people are going to have to start thinking about.
ACOSTA: Rebecca, as you're scrolling through, your friends posted about getting married, and getting engaged, or people having kids. There's an ad, there's an ad that scrolls by. That ad potentially could have been purchased with rubles, not dollars.
What should we make of this? And you heard a couple of Democratic congressman coming on our air today saying there should be hearings about this.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, absolutely. And this is part of the hearings that we're already having on Capitol Hill to look at the Russian interference in the past election, but also, really the goal of these hearings has been to try to prescribe preventive measures for future elections.
And that's a question that lawmakers still haven't really answered, what can we do from a law-making standpoint, from a voting standpoint, what can we do to prevent this in the future. And really, it could be like playing whack-a-mole a little bit because if you find a way to take these ads off of Facebook, Russians are going to find somewhere else to put this propaganda of theirs, this information to try to affect the vote. And so, really, it could be just about educating voters to look for this, to know when something looks suspicious, to know when something looks like, to use a term that I hate, truly fake news that Russians are trying to plant to influence a vote.
ACOSTA: Yes. Imagine that. We're getting a real lesson in what fake news is via Facebook.
Mark Preston, let me ask you this. Vice President Pence, he was on CBS this morning. He was asked about the Russia investigation and the story about Paul Manafort, offering to brief a Russian billionaire about what he knew about the campaign and so on.
Let's play this sound because it's very interesting. Oh, there's no sound bite. Let me read it to you, then.
He says in this sound: I've made it very clear that during my time on the campaign, I was not aware of any contacts or collusion with Russian officials. I stand by that. He says, during my time on the campaign.
What did you make of that when you heard that?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: A carefully crafted, no question about that. Mike Pence has been around for a long time, a governor, a former congressman, a former leader in Congress. He knows how to use his words.
[18:50:00] He was a former radio show host as well.
Let me just say this -- I had two phone calls today, unsolicited. One from a big supporter of President Trump and Mike Pence and one not from. They both brought up this quote from Mike Pence to me unsolicited and said, what did you think of this today?
And the Trump supporter said, clearly, what we're seeing right now is Mike Pence is trying to watch his own back right now.
GOLODRYGA: And I would remind viewers --
ACOSTA: A little forty-sixing (ph)? Is that a term we could use here. Is he trying to preserve his own future here, Mike Pence, Bianna?
GOLODRYGA: Well, he knows Washington. He knows politics very well. And I will just throw in and remind viewers that on June 16th of this year, he hired his own lawyer when it came to specifically anything related to Russia and the Russian investigation and the campaign. So, this could have very well been lawyer-approved statement that he made this morning on CBS as well.
ACOSTA: All right. Bianna, that's a very good point. Guys, thank you very much for that.
Just ahead, a late night war of words. Jimmy Kimmel ramps up his battle with a sponsor of the newest GOP health bill.
[18:55:47] ACOSTA: We are following the scramble by Senate Republicans to pass their latest bill repealing Obamacare before the end of the month, when Senate rules would increase the number of votes that they need.
CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly has the latest.
Phil, President Trump is pushing for this bill and claims it would cover pre-existing conditions, but that is not necessarily the case, right?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim. It's a type of claim that could assuage a lot of concerns from wary senators, wary outside groups. But it's one, Jim, that when you dig deeper into the bill, doesn't necessarily hold up.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): As the Senate plows toward a last second attempt to repeal Obamacare next week, President Trump is weighing in on Twitter, trying to soothe skeptics in his own party concerned the bill goes too far, tweeting: I would not sign Graham/Cassidy if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions. It does.
Trump's defensiveness over the issue of coverage for people who are already sick is understandable. The issue of whether the GOP would maintain those protections for everyone has been a central and toxic piece of the repeal debate for months and one that was magnified, again, overnight, by all people, late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, whose son was born with a heart defect.
JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: So, last night on our show, a senator from Louisiana, Bill Cassidy, I took him to task for promising to my face that he would oppose any health care plan that allowed insurance companies to turn people with pre-existing conditions away. He said anything he supported would have to pass what he named the Jimmy Kimmel test, which was fine. It was good. But, unfortunately, and puzzlingly, he proposed a bill that would allow states to do all the things he said he would not let them do.
MATTINGLY: Kimmel is joined by insurers, outside advocacy groups and even Republican Senator Susan Collins in raising those concerns, that's because at the core, Obamacare's design is a requirement that insurers cannot turn away or charge more to those with pre-existing conditions. It's one of the most popular parts of the law.
The sponsors of the new bill say that requirement would remain.
SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: More people will have coverage and we protect those with pre-existing conditions.
MATTINGLY: But opponents say that's not a fair explanation, because while a ban against not ensuring people with pre-existing conditions would remain in the law, states could opt out of the rule that keeps insurers from charging more to those who are already sick.
The bill's sponsors say that's because states need flexibility to innovate. The regulation has led to younger, healthier people paying more. In place of the scrapped regulation, the GOP plan says a state would simply have to make insurance companies provide, quote, adequate and affordable coverage. But those terms aren't defined. And that ambiguity has led analysts and insurers to conclude that at least in some states, price protections for pre-existing conditions would also certainly be cut back.
Meantime, tonight, as the fight over policy continues, it's the politics that are backed front and center. Several GOP senators, including Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, pointing to clear flaws in the bill, yet admitting the political considerations that in the end will win the day.
Grassley telling reporters he, quote, could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn't be considered. But Republicans campaigned on it so often that you have the responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That is seventh term Republican said is, quote, pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.
MATTINGLY: And, Jim, that's about as candid an assessment you are going to get. And it really kind of underscores here the push and pull on both the policy and the politics. Right now, Republicans don't have the votes to move forward and as you know very well, Jim, they don't have a lot of time. They have to finish this by the end of next week.
And when you look at the considerations, the big question when you talk to Republican aides is, what's going to win out? The fact that we campaigned on this for the last seven years and the fact that many senators and two in particular, John McCain and Lisa Murkowski, have a lot of concerns about how things are going, the winner of that fight will determine whether or not repeal and replace not only pass the Senate, but moves forward at all, Jim.
ACOSTA: It's going to be a very close call. We'll be watching.
CNN's Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.
I'm Jim Acosta. Thank you for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.