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Trump Hopes for Health Care Win Before 100-Day Mark; Sessions Doubles Down on Hawaii & Judge Comments; Interview with Rep. Ted Deutch. Civilians Trapped, Desperate in Mosul's Old City. Aired 1:30- 2p ET

Aired April 21, 2017 - 13:30   ET



[13:31:30] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is hoping for a much-needed legislative win on health care as he nears his 100-day mark. The president is boasting about progress on health care reform legislation, but he's also hedging on whether it will get done a week from tomorrow. That would be his 100th day in office.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The plan gets better and better and better, and it's got reason really, really good. A lot of people are liking it a lot. We have a good chance of getting it soon. I'd like to say next week, but I believe we will get it. Whether it's next week or shortly thereafter.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our national politics reporter, M.J. Lee; and White House correspondent, Athena Jones.

M.J., where do things stand based on all the reporting you're doing with this revised health care repeal and replace legislation? Do they have the 216 votes need to pass it?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Wolf, it's almost too premature to ask the question of do they have the votes because they don't even have at legislative text yet. The members we have been speaking to say that if there is a deal or anything close to a deal, they have not actually been filled in on these details. What we do know is that leaders of the Tuesday Group and leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, they have been in talks over the Easter recess.

There are two things they're talking about right now. One is the issue of whether states can opt out of certain requirements that are under Obamacare and the second issue is preserving certain protections that near Obamacare that more moderate members want. Obviously, appeasing both sides. The other thing we'll pay close attention to is a conference wide call, a conference call among all of the House Republicans to talk about the legislative agenda heading into next week. Health care is surely going to come up and they're going to be discussing what the path forward on this is. I can tell you the White House wants a vote on this next week, they are going to have to win over many members who are skeptical about whether this is the right moment to tackle this again.

BLITZER: It's by no means a done deal.

Athena, as you well remember, back in October, just before the election, then-Candidate Donald Trump put out what he called a contract with voters, promoting his agenda for his first 100 days. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I am asking the American people to dream big once again. What follows is my 100-day action plan to make America great again. It's a contract between Donald J. Trump and the American voter and it begins with bringing honesty, accountability, and change to Washington, D.C.



BLITZER: He then listed a whole bunch of achievements he hoped to achieve during those first 100 days. But he tweeted this today, quote, "No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, and it has been a lot, including Supreme Court, media will kill."

So, Athena, he embraced the 100-day milestone as a candidate just weeks before the election, but now he calls that 100-day milestone ridiculous. What does that say?

[13:35:44] ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. What I think it says is there's some concern about the kind of mark the president is going to receive from the media from commentators and people in both parties regarding his record in achieving those things that he put on that contract with the American voter, which by the way I have right here. Wolf, it's a pretty mixed record. We know that he was able to do things like withdraw very quickly from the Trans- Pacific Partnership, the trade deal he had railed against on the campaign. We also know one of the things he mentioned doing in the 100-day action plan was to lift restrictions on what he called vital energy infrastructure project like the Keystone Pipeline. Another major accomplishment would be getting Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court. And if you talk to folks in the White House, they'll certainly mention Gorsuch among the list of accomplishments. But I asked that very question of Press Secretary Sean Spicer in an off- camera gaggle, he said it was ridiculous this morning and a few months ago, he embraced the idea of this action plan. Spicer dodged that part of the question but did go through some of their accomplishments, 24 laws, 24 executive orders signed, 22 presidential memoranda, and of course, the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Athena Jones, thank you.

M.J. Lee, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, doubling down on his comments about Hawaii and the judge who blocked the president's travel ban. His comments to CNN. That's coming up.

Plus, China now denying U.S. claims its military is on high alert over tensions with Korea. Congressman, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, is standing by to join us live right after this quick break.


[13:40:45] BLITZER: The attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, is clearly not apologizing for controversial remarks he made about the state of Hawaii in which he said he was, quote, "Amazed that a federal judge sitting on an island in the Pacific could block President Trump's travel ban." His remark wasn't disrespectful.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: No, I wasn't criticizing the judge or the island. Had a granddaughter born there. It is a point worth making that a single sitting district judge out of 600, 700 district judges can issue an order stopping a presidential executive order that I believe is fully constitutional, designed to protect the United States of America from terrorist attack. And I was just raising the point of that issue of a single judge taking such a dramatic action and the impact it can have.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Do you wish you had phrased that differently now?

SESSONS: Well, I don't know that I said anything other than I would want to phrase differently. No. We're going to defend the president's order. We believe it's constitutional. We believe there is specific statutory authority for everything in that order that he did, and he has a right to do and to protect this country.


BLITZER: The judge the attorney general was referring to is Federal Judge Derrick Watson. He was nominated back in 2013. Sessions was one of the 94 Senators who voted "yes" to confirm her. There were no dissenting votes.

Joining us to weigh in on this and more Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch, of Florida.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. TED DEUTCH, (D), FLORIDA: Great to be with you, Wolf. Thanks.

BLITZER: What's your reaction to what we just heard from the attorney general saying he wasn't criticizing the judge, wasn't criticizing state of Hawaii, and wouldn't rephrase his original remarks?

DEUTCH: Well, the attorney general is certainly welcome to have a position with respect to this law. I think he's wrong. I think that this ban actually makes our country less safe, but what's really shocking is to hear the attorney general of the United States show such an utter lack of respect for the federal judiciary. It's really hard -- it's hard to fathom that he would take that position and when you then take a step back and realize that he's talking about -- he's talking about a different version of an effort that was ruled unconstitutional once already, you realize there's a defensiveness there and, apparently, he's chosen to lash out at a federal judge in order to somehow make himself feel better. It was surprising and discouraging.

BLITZER: What's really irritating is so many people he referred to in the state of Hawaii as an island in the Pacific. A judge sitting on an island in the Pacific not mentioning that this is a state in the United States. It's a state just like Alabama is a state. That's what has irritated so many folks. But he's not walking away from his remark. He's pointing out that he's got a grandchild who was born in the beautiful island in the beautiful state of Hawaii.

Let's talk about health care.

DEUTCH: Then he walked away and just -- then he, again, only continued by talking about what a lovely place it is to visit. It shows disrespect for the judiciary and disrespect for the people of Hawaii. And it was sad to see.

BLITZER: Let's talk about health care for a moment. The president says he believes there's a good chance that repealing and replacing Obamacare could change next week or shortly thereafter. Do you oppose any such legislation?

DEUTCH: I don't really understand what the president is trying to accomplish here. He had an effort before. His last version was wildly unpopular and was wildly unpopular for really good reason. It would have driven up costs on everyone. It would have taken coverage away from more than 20 million people. Would have done away with essential benefits like maternity care and pediatric care and emergency room care and it would have gutted Medicaid. That's why only 17 percent of the people in this country thought it made sense. That's why the percentages were so low.

Now he's taken -- he's coming back and taking the -- by all accounts -- we haven't seen it, of course -- but he appears to be taking the same legislation and flipping it on its head to acknowledge that all of the things that we hated about the -- that the American people hated about his last effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act, that they are actually positive and that we're going to keep essential health benefits, we're going to keep the pre-existing condition language because people like it until you get to the fine print where he then points out that states will have the ability to walk away from all those requirements effectively gutting the Affordable Care Act and leaving us in, if it's possible, even a worse position than his last bill would have. I don't see why he's trying to rush this. I don't see why he believes that trying to appease the Freedom Caucus is going to bring along any -- certainly not the Democrats or any of my moderate Republican colleagues who look at this and understand that it would be devastating for their constituents and for the American people. [13:46:15] BLITZER: Let me quickly get your thoughts on North Korea.

Is China right now playing a more productive useful role in easing this nuclear threat?

DEUTCH: Well, it appears that China understands the role that it can play here and I think it appears to be doing that. But if you look at how we got to this point, what's concerning and your guest talked about this just a little while ago, what's concerning here, Wolf, is that you have an American policy, a foreign policy that seems to lack any coherence. You have the president of the United States announcing it's on its way to North Korea and it's going the opposite direction. When that was pointed out he blamed the Department of Defense. This looks a lot like the same thing he did after the Yemen strike when he blamed the generals for the lack of success there.

We need a coherent foreign policy and we need a full robust diplomatic effort to help us around the world and he's going the wrong direction there when he refuses to fill the important positions, the ambassadors, the consulates, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security and he wants to gut the State Department. Cut the budget by one-third. It's confusing. The diplomatic efforts are muddling. We shouldn't have to look to other countries for leadership. The United States should be the country leading these important efforts.

BLITZER: Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida, thank you for joining us.

DEUTCH: Good to be with you, Wolf. Thanks so much.

BLITZER: Still ahead, this is the Old City of Mosul. Take a look at this. This is what residents endure on a daily basis. We're taking you to the battleground in the fight against ISIS. We have a special report. That's coming up next.


[13:52:00] BLITZER: In northern Iraq, the battle to retake Mosul has entered its final stages. Iraqi forces and ISIS fighters, they are fighting in the narrow streets of this historic center called the Old City.

CNN's international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, made it into the center of the city where countless civilians are trapped by the fighting, and desperate for access to food and even water.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIR INTERNATIONAL CORERSPONDENT: Ground down to its bones, Mosul is so quiet where it once bustled. You ask yourself, where are its people? Where has ISIS taken them? The answer is here. Trapped in the Old City, a densely populated holdout of ISIS.


PATON WALSH: There's a stalemate of shooting now, weeks old, where a few alleyways down, ISIS' mass hostage standoff begins. 10,000 civilians held as human shields.

You can see from these drone pictures, filmed during a massive is counter attack, exactly how tight the streets are packed. In everyone, hell could wait.

The mosque where ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, gave his only real public speech, its central prize.

Each street, window, bloody. The truth clear that ISIS leaves nothing intact behind them.


PATON WALSH (on camera): There in the distance is the reason why ISIS is fighting so hard in these streets to hold the Iraqi police and military back. That is the al Nuri mosque, the ideology heart in Iraq of their self-declared caliphate.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): They want more American precision fire power.

"Up until now, the help is weak," he says. They have advanced precise weapons, and with intelligence, they can help us better."

So far, astonishingly, Zabra (ph) --


PATON WALSH: -- aged four, has stayed in her home and survived.


PATON WALSH: And does not flinch once.


PATON WALSH: "There is no life under ISIS," her father says. "No food, no water, no electricity. We had to dig a well to find water. The only thing she's really known is the police. She loves them like kids in her school."

And as the shells still rain down, there are those who will never leave. And those who do, as fast as they can. Far enough out, they are ferried to camps.

ISIS is using people as human shields. Herding civilians into kill zones to make them die with them.

[13:55:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): They would besiege us and use us as human shields. Take people and families as they withdraw.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (through translation): My brother and the rest of his family are besieged. ISIS hit them with sticks dragging them away. He can't go anywhere.

PATON WALSH: These voices a fraction in a cacophony of fighting inside, in a fight that may take months more to end.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, the Old City, Mosul.


BLITZER: Amazing reporting. Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. in "The Situation Room."

Up next, President Trump will soon head to the Treasury Department to sign several executive orders. The target? The Dodd/Frank executive reform law. We'll have details right after this.


14:00:11] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin on this Friday. Thanks for being -