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Interview With Minnesota Congressman Jason Lewis; Trump Blasts NFL Players; President Trump and North Korea Leader Engage in War of Words; Interview With Maine Senator Susan Collins; Interview With Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; NFL Players Take A Knee In Protest; When To Take The Government Jet In This Week's "State of the Cartoonion". Aired 9-10a ET

Aired September 24, 2017 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): On the brink. The latest Republican plan to repeal Obamacare is one no-vote away from failing.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That was a totally unexpected thing. Terrible. Honestly, terrible.

TAPPER: We will talk with the senator who could derail it.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: There are many concerns that I have.

TAPPER: How will she vote? Senator Susan Collins joins us live.

And nuclear threat. President Trump unleashes new rhetorical attacks on North Korea's leader.

TRUMP: We can't have madmen out there shooting rockets all over the place.

TAPPER: And North Korea responds. Are new sanctions going to stop the rogue regime?

Plus: on offense. President Trump blasting NFL players who protest the national anthem.

TRUMP: Get that son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off the field right now. Out. He's fired.


TAPPER: And withdraws a White House invitation to NBA champions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The things that he said, we won't stand for it.

TAPPER: Now players are finding it hard to hold back.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is waiting for kickoff.

It's game day in America, and President Trump is facing off against those professional athletes protesting racial inequities by taking a knee during the national anthem.

The president tweeted this morning -- quote -- "If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our flag and country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend," he added.

Quote: "NFL attendance and ratings are way down. Boring games, yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S."

This debate has been raging since last year, but it was given new life when the president said this at a rally in Alabama:


TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, get that son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off the field right now? Out. He's fired. He's fired!



TAPPER: The president then disinvited the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from the White House after its star Steph Curry had expressed his reservations about going.

The president's comments sparked a passionate reaction from athletes, including this from basketball star LeBron James.


LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Obviously, we all know what happened with Charlottesville and the divide that that caused.

And now it's even hitting more home for me now even more, because he's now using sports as the platform to try to divide us.


TAPPER: Today, all eyes are on the football field, waiting to see how players respond, if they respond.

The first kickoff is this morning at Wembley Stadium in London, Ravens v. Jaguars. That contest and the larger culture war battle come as the president's party is trying to salvage what could be its last chance to overhaul Obamacare, at least only with Republican senators.

The latest effort to overhaul Obamacare, Graham-Cassidy, offered by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, could come to the Senate floor for a vote this week.

Now, already, two Republican senators have said they are no-votes, Rand Paul and John McCain. One more no-vote will kill the bill.

So, all eyes gaze northward, to Maine, to Senator Susan Collins, who, over the summer, along with McCain and Senator Lisa Murkowski, voted nay, thus killing the previous repeal and replace effort.

How will Collins vote on Graham-Cassidy?

Well, Senator Collins joins us now.

Senator, good to see you, as always.

Your vote is pivotal on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill. Where are you? Yes or no?

COLLINS: Jake, it's very difficult for me to envision a scenario -- scenario where I would end up voting for this bill.

I have a number of serious reservations about it. I'm concerned about the impact on the Medicaid program, which has been on the books for more than 50 years and provides health care to our most vulnerable citizens, including disabled children and low-income seniors.

I'm concerned about the impact on costs and coverage. We already have a problem under the Affordable Care Act with the cost of premiums and deductibles.

And, finally, I'm very concerned about the erosion of protections for people with preexisting conditions, like asthma, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and what it would mean to them.

TAPPER: I imagine you have been on the phone with other uncommitted senators, like Lisa Murkowski, and also probably with the White House. How have those conversations been going?


COLLINS: I have had a lot of conversations over the weekend with numerous of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

And I had a very lengthy conversation with the vice president yesterday. As always, with the vice president, he was very cordial. He made the case. He asked me to think more thoroughly about some issues.

I told him about the various analyses of the impact that concern me. He told me he would get me more numbers on the impact on the state of Maine and on the nation.

TAPPER: So, you say you find it difficult to have envision any scenario you would vote for Graham/Cassidy.

Is that a no, then?

COLLINS: What I am doing is, as is my general practice, is, I would like to see the Congressional Budget Office analysis, which is expected to come out tomorrow morning. And I am worried about whether CBO has been given enough time to

thoroughly analyze this bill, which has been a moving target. Even over the weekend, I was receiving e-mails suggesting that the sponsors of the bill are still changing the formula.

So, it may be difficult for CBO to do the kind of in-depth analysis that it usually does. But that's what I would like to see before making a final decision.

But it may be that CBO is going to say that this is impossible because the parameters of the bill keep changing.

TAPPER: You say you want to see a CBO score. As you note, there have been other studies of the impact of Graham-Cassidy.

Let me put some of the numbers on the screen from some of these studies, 21 million fewer Americans covered. That's from Brookings. States losing $215 billion. That's from Avalere. Thirty-one states losing money. That's from Kaiser.

As you know, the CBO score, even if you get it in time for the vote, it's probably only going to look at the impact on the deficit, and not look at the impact on the issues you talk about, Medicaid, the total number of uninsured.

What information could the CBO possibly provide you that might make you support the Graham-Cassidy bill?

COLLINS: Well, I actually expect that CBO is either going to reinforce those studies that you have just mentioned, all of which I have digested over the past couple of weeks, or that CBO is going to say that they simply don't have the time to do a thorough analysis.

But you remember, when the CBO did the analysis of the first Senate bill and the House bill, it was very thorough in analyzing the impact on the number of people who would lose insurance, on the impact of changing the Medicaid program.

And, by the way, we would be making these huge changes in Medicaid without the benefit of extensive hearings. And that's what we would -- would need.

And so I don't know whether the CBO analysis will have new information that would change where I'm inclined to head, but it is -- normally, the way we proceed is to look at the CBO analysis.

I'm going to know tomorrow morning whether or not CBO reinforces the concerns and reservations that I already have based on the studies that you have cited, or whether CBO is going to say that they can't come up with the kind of in-depth analysis that the agency usually does, or maybe there will be a surprise in there.

I don't anticipate that. But I want to wait. It's just a few more hours to wait to see that important study.

TAPPER: So, it sounds like a no, with an asterisk unless CBO has some sort of dramatic change.

President Trump had some tough words on Friday for any Republican senator who votes the way it looks like you're likely to vote.

He tweeted -- quote -- "Rand Paul or whoever votes against health care bill will forever, future political campaigns, be known as 'the Republican who saved Obamacare.'"

Assuming that you ultimately vote the way it sounds like you're going to vote, are you OK with President Trump calling you the Republican who saved Obamacare?

COLLINS: You know, my focus is on improving our health care system.

And what I would like to see happen is for us to return to the very good work that the Senate Health Committee was doing, under the leadership of Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray.

We had four substantiative, in-depth hearings, widespread participation by the Senate, during the past two weeks. And they were very close to producing an initial bill that would help to moderate increases in premiums, or actually lower premiums, and stabilize the insurance markets to ensure that people had more choices.


That's the avenue that we should take.

The ACA is a flawed law. And the cost of premiums and deductibles are a real problem for individuals, particularly those who don't get subsidies. And it's a real problem for our small businesses.

So, I want to fix those problems. And I see the work we're doing in the Health Committee as the path forward. I think we should do a series of bills, with the first bill being directed at stabilizing the markets and lowering premiums.

TAPPER: Senator Susan Collins from the great state of Maine, thank you so much. We appreciate your time today.

COLLINS: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: With Senator Collins' all-but-certain opposition to the health care bill, does that mean this is over?

We will talk to one of the architects of the bill next.

Plus: The president continues his tirade against the NFL and players who protest during the national anthem. Could there be a backlash on the field today?

Stay with us.


[09:15:32] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They gave me a list of 10 people. John McCain was not on the list. So, that was a totally unexpected thing. Terrible. Honestly, terrible.

And I say, we still have a chance to -- oh, we're going to do it eventually.


TAPPER: We're back.

And we're going to do a quick check-in on health care with our panel.

We have more newsmakers coming later in the show.

Senator Rick Santorum, you were one of the people helping to craft the Graham-Cassidy legislation. Senator Rand Paul this morning saying that, if the block grant part of the bill were removed, then, theoretically, he could potentially vote for it.

This comes, of course, after Susan Collins said that she was almost certainly a no.


TAPPER: Leaning...


TAPPER: That's a -- you're such an optimist.


TAPPER: But what do you make of that, removing the block grant? That seems like a pretty pivotal part of the bill, from what I understand.

SANTORUM: I -- well, I consider that progress.

I mean, he went from absolutely this is the worst -- it's a horrible thing, it's Obamacare-lite, to saying, well, if you do this.

Look, I think that Rand Paul understands that there -- we -- every other vote that's been taken over the past several years to repeal Obamacare have been fake votes. Not one of those votes, when they -- when that vote was cast, did they think that had any chance of ever becoming law.

This is the first vote that actually, if you -- if you vote for this or against this bill, will determine whether Obamacare is repealed or not, because this bill, if it passes the Senate, will pass the House, and the president will sign it.

And -- and that makes this real bullets. And Rand Paul can say, I'm against -- I'm for repealing Obamacare, all these people can say they're for repealing Obamacare, and they can point to votes in the past, but, at the time they voted, they knew that would never become law.

This one will become law. And I think that will hopefully shape his -- his -- his view on this as time goes on.

TAPPER: What do you think, Jen Psaki? You were at the Obama White House at the time that Obamacare became law.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I admire your optimism.


PSAKI: But I would say, having been through many legislative fights before as well, even in my own experience, the path to this is so narrow, that I think it's unlikely to success, I would say, for Graham-Cassidy, that you will be talking about this issue with your panel next weekend.

Now, this is a lesson to Democrats, because this came almost as a shock and a surprise to many Democrats that there was another effort to repeal Obamacare. Everybody thought it was done in the summer. And I think the lesson is, we're going to have to keep the fight going. We're going to have to keep the message going around the country, because Republicans are not going to give up on this.

Rick Santorum is not going to give up on this over the course of the next several months, as long as Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House.

TAPPER: So, Congressman Lewis, Republican from Minnesota, is Senator Santorum right? If this passes the Senate, will it pass the House?

REP. JASON LEWIS (R), MINNESOTA: Oh, yes, I think it would pass the House. Let's see what it looks like.

But the criticism in the Senate is coming from the left, from Republicans, Rand Paul notwithstanding. They're worried about their Medicaid funding.

But Obamacare expanded Medicaid to the tune of 90 percent match for childless able-bodied adults, while 50 percent match goes to the disabled and blind and poor women.

Now, if, as a Republican Party, we can't go to the American people and say that's a moral hazard, writ large, and we need to scale that back, then, my goodness gracious.

I'm afraid they're just -- I will be blunt with you, Jake. There's three or four senators over there that just like to vote against Republicans.

TAPPER: And, Nina Turner, big supporter of Bernie Sanders, who put forward a single-payer legislation earlier this year, some Democrats think that that actually put wind in the back of Graham-Cassidy by saying, oh, you know, if you don't get rid of it, this is what's next, single-payer.

NINA TURNER (D), FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: Well, that's a false equivalency.

I mean, people like President FDR have been fighting for this moment for a very long time.

Congressman John Conyers -- I was just with the CDC on a panel with him -- he's been pushing single-payer since 2003. So, that is very much a false equivalency.

Republicans have been trying to repeal and replace the ACA for the last seven, going on eight years now. And all they're doing is hurting the American people. I mean, some of the projections in the Graham-Cassidy, that 32 million people will be uninsured by 2027.

It's just the wrong path. Making sure that everybody has access to health care in this country is the way to go. So, this is not...

LEWIS: Well, you ought to like Graham-Cassidy, then.

TURNER: This is an idea whose time has come.


LEWIS: The real criticism of Graham-Cassidy is it could subsidize single-payer in the states.

TAPPER: We're going to have more panel later in the show.

Thank you so much.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow night. Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy will be debating Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and independent Senator Bernie Sanders on the issue of health care. We will be taking questions from the audience as well.


I will be moderating the town hall, along with Dana Bash. It all starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, only on CNN.

Coming up: He was fired by President Trump, but he says he probably would have quit anyway. Now Preet Bharara is calling the Trump administration un-American. He joins me here next.

Plus, speaking of firing, President Trump wants professional athletes who take a knee during the national anthem fired or suspended. He is now calling for, seems to be calling for an NFL boycott.

Stay with us.

And we will have more panel later in the show.


TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

The investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election continue unabated.


And special counsel Robert Mueller is making it clear that President Trump's actions this year are part of the scope of his inquiry, including the president's alleged request of then FBI Director James Comey to lay off General Michael Flynn regarding the Russia investigation and the president's subsequent firing of Comey.

Former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara now says he believes President Trump would have asked him to do something inappropriate if he had not been fired. Bharara was let go in March, along with 45 others U.S. attorneys appointed by President Obama.

While not unusual for presidents to ask holdover attorneys to go, the move was shocking to Bharara and observers. Bharara had said that the president had personally told him that he wanted him to stay.

Bharara has since become a vocal critical of the president.

He joins us now for his appearance as a senior CNN legal analyst.

Preet Bharara, thanks so much for joining us. Good to have you here and to have you as part of the team.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Thanks for having me. Happy to be with you.

TAPPER: So, the first question I have for you is, you expressed concern that President Trump would have asked you to do something inappropriate. That's a strong charge to make.

What exactly do you think he might have asked you to do?

BHARARA: It's not a charge.

It's just my belief, from my perspective, based on what happened over time and based on what I have observed he's said to other people, among other things, as we all know, in the public record -- and I credit this -- he had a private meeting with Jim Comey after he told two other people, including his attorney general, to leave the room, and told him essentially to lay off the investigation of Michael Flynn.

We now know, some weeks later, that, at one point, he talked to his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and suggested, is there something we can do to back off on the case against the sheriff in Arizona Joe Arpaio? Those are two bits of evidence.

And then we have, from my own experience, the president of the United States, both as president-elect and then as president, calling me on the phone a number of times, which is unprecedented, unusual -- the number of times Barack Obama called me in seven-and-a-half years was zero -- to have a chitchat conversation.

I'm not saying it's a certainty, but I'm saying, based on what I know, and based on the oddity of being called on a repeated basis, and based on what happened with these other two gentlemen, Jim Comey and Jeff Sessions, that, at some point, I believe he would have asked me to do something inappropriate.

TAPPER: Any ideas of what he might have asked you to do under this type of...


BHARARA: I'm -- I'm not going to speculate, but there's a lot of things that are swirling around in the world.

TAPPER: So, special counsel Robert Mueller has requested extensive records and e-mail correspondence from the White House, including records relating to the president's discussions about firing Comey, his response to news that his former national security adviser was under investigation.

I am not a lawyer, but I can't think of anything this would mean, other than Robert Mueller is at least trying to figure out if there is enough evidence for a charge against the president of obstruction of justice.

Am I wrong?

BHARARA: So, I am a lawyer. And now I get to play one on TV.


BHARARA: So, that's great.

Look, I think everything you see from our armchair seats suggests that Robert Mueller is going to chase down everything that might suggest a crime has been committed by any associate, colleague, relative of the president, and also the president himself.

That does not mean that there will be a referral to the House of Representatives for impeachment. That does not mean there's going to be a charge against anyone.

But I think Bob Mueller, based on my knowledge of him, and based on, I think, what his lifetime of service as a prosecutor, as an FBI director indicates, is that he's going to look at everything.


TAPPER: Including obstruction?

BHARARA: I think, clearly, one of the things he's going to be looking at is obstruction.

I think any prosecutor or investigator who sees the evidence that has come forward, including the firing of Jim Comey, including the conversations about how much the president did not like the Russia investigation, including what he said about Michael Flynn, all of that together paints a picture of potential obstruction.

And Bob Mueller is a thorough and serious person and fearless. And I think he's got to go there.

TAPPER: So, help me out with this part of it.

CNN's Pamela Brown reported that, as part of the investigation, Mueller interviewed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about his role in Trump's firing of Comey.

Rosenstein also oversees Mueller. That's obviously because the attorney general had to recuse himself for other reasons.

Do you have any concerns about the person overseeing the investigation also being a witness, potentially, to possible crimes committed that Mueller is looking into? Doesn't that seem like a huge conflict of interests?

BHARARA: It seems odd.

You know, there's been a lot of controversy, in the mind of the president, about Jeff Sessions recusing himself. He said repeatedly that, had he know Jeff Sessions was going to recuse himself, he wouldn't have appointed him the attorney general.

But now we have -- I think you're right -- it's odd and unusual that a person who is putatively overseeing the investigation also is a witness.

We also know, for example -- and I know -- I know Rod, and I think he's a good person. We were colleagues together as U.S. attorneys. But we do know that he had some role in putting forth what I think most people think was a pretextual basis for the firing of Jim Comey.

And to the extent that an obstruction investigation relies a little bit on the facts relating to the firing of Jim Comey, it would seem that there's a conflict.

What I think people should want to know is whether or not, like Jeff Sessions, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, has consulted with the top ethics advisers in the department and gotten clearance to continue.

And, if not, then he shouldn't.

TAPPER: All right, Preet Bharara, thank you so much. We have a lot more to discuss about this. And I'm glad you're on board now. We will have you on a lot to talk about it.

BHARARA: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Thank you so much.

BHARARA: Thank you, Jake. TAPPER: A new response from North Korea to the insults President

Trump is hurling. And (INAUDIBLE) now vowing (ph) those comments make an attack on the U.S. more inevitable. Are new sanctions potentially going to stop Kim Jong-un?

The U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will join us next to discuss. Stay with us.



We have just gotten the first reaction to President Trump's criticisms of NFL players who protest the national anthem.


Let's bring up the video. You're looking at this video from just moments ago.

A number of players from the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars playing at Wembley Stadium in London, taking the knee, as this first NFL game begins this Sunday. More players than normally would be taking a knee are doing so in an apparent direct response and reaction to president Trump's criticism and call for a boycott of the NFL, at least a suggestion of that.

Let's get a reaction directly from the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin. Secretary Mnuchin, I know you're here to talk about a lot of issues having to do with tax reform and North Korea sanctions, et cetera, we'll get to those in a second. But I do want to get your reaction to this.

President Trump seems to be calling for a boycott to the NFL. He's also calling for players who take a knee to protest what they see as racial inequities to be fired or suspended. What's your reaction to what we're seeing at Wembley Stadium in London right now?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Good morning and great to be here with you.

The NFL has all different types of rules. You can't have stickers on your helmet, you have to have your uniforms tucked in. What the president is saying, and I think the owners should meet, and they should vote on a rule.

This is about respect for our military. This is about respect for our first responders. This is not about Republicans or Democrats.

Players have the right for free speech off the field. On the field, this is about respect for lots of people. And I don't understand why there's rules that when the Dallas Cowboys wanted to put stickers on their helmets out of respect for people there, they couldn't do it, but now the NFL is saying people should be able to decide what they want to do and disrespect the United States flag. TAPPER: Well, to play devil's advocate here, first of all, these players don't think they're disrespecting the United States flag, they think they are engaging in peaceful protest, of what they see as racial oppression and inequities.

And as you know, Roger Goodell, the head of the NFL and a whole host of team owners, including Robert Kraft, who is a friend of President Trump, have issued statements supporting their players' right to do this. And criticizing the president's comments, including Robert Kraft, specifically, criticizing the president's tone. Why is this a fight that the president wants to have?

MNUCHIN: I don't think it's a question of a fight that the president wants to have. He thinks this is about respect for the military and so many people who put their lives at risk and what the country stands for. And the owners should meet and they should decide on this rule the way they decide on any other rule.

Again, you know, for as long as I can remember, people have stood in honor of the country. This isn't about politics. If people want to talk politics off the field, when they're not working for the NFL, they have the absolute right to do that.

TAPPER: All right. I could do the whole interview on this topic, but there are some other big pressing issues.

Let's talk about health care. Three Republican senators, John McCain, Susan Collins, Rand Paul, have expressed strong disapproval of the Graham-Cassidy Bill. Rand Paul did open the door this morning to backing the bill if it undergoes a major change, getting rid of block grants.

Is President Trump if -- well, let's talk about that first of all. Is president Trump willing to get rid of the block grant part of this bill in order to win the support of Senator Paul?

MNUCHIN: I think the president hasn't made any decisions on that. What the president has decided is, Obamacare is broken. The taxes are going to start hitting people, the penalties are going to start hitting people, the premiums are going up, Republicans have campaigned on repeal and replace, which the president is onboard.

And I think it's unfortunate that last time it came down to one vote, and this time, it's going to be very close. I hope it passes.

TAPPER: If it does not pass, is President Trump ready to work with Democrats to actually do something to fix the problems in Obamacare?

As you know, there is a bipartisan effort right now between Senators Alexander and Patty Murray of Washington State. Senator Collins was talking that up earlier today when she suggested that she would be, in all likelihood, a "no" on Graham-Cassidy. Is a bipartisan approach the next approach if Graham-Cassidy fails?

MNUCHIN: I think the president is always willing to work on a bipartisan basis. As you know, we had an important meeting in the Oval Office where the president cut a deal right after the hurricanes. I think we have -- I know we have a meeting on taxes at the White House on Tuesday, with Republicans and Democrats from the ways and means part.

I think, unfortunately, the Democrats on health care have put very high demands on -- they don't want to change many aspects of Obamacare. But to the extent they're willing to come to the table and fix it, I think that's the -- the president would always listen to.

We're about fixing Obamacare. It's broken and it requires people to do lots of things that they just shouldn't be forced to do.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the president's tax agenda. The president expected to roll out a tax plan on Wednesday.


"Axios" is reporting that the plan would cut the tax rate paid by wealth Americans from almost 40 percent to about 35 percent as well as making dramatic reductions on taxes to big businesses and small businesses.

When you were selected as treasury secretary, you made a very specific promise and it was quickly dubbed the "Mnuchin rule." Take a listen.


MNUCHIN: Any reductions we have in upper income taxes will be offset by less deductions, so that there will be no tax -- absolute tax cut for the upper class.


TAPPER: Can you reaffirm that pledge, that there will be -- quote -- "No absolute tax cut for the upper class"? Is the Mnuchin rule still in effect?

MNUCHIN: I did say that.

I just want to clarify. It was never a promise. It was never a pledge.

What it was and it is still, it is what the president's objective was. Now, we've been working with the bipartisan leadership. We look forward to releasing the plan this week.

I think what's important about this plan is it creates a middle-income tax cut, it makes businesses competitive. And it creates jobs. That's what this is all about.

And as it relates to the high end, you know, there's lots of changes. We're getting rid of lots of deductions. We're trying to get rid of state and locally deductions to get the federal government out of subsidizing it.

And yes, I can tell you the current plan for many, many people, it will not reduce taxes on the high end.

TAPPER: Let's turn to North Korea.

You said on Friday that new sanctions on North Korea are not directed specifically at China. But a broader question, given that China is by far North Korea's largest trading partner and President Trump has said that China need to do more. Shouldn't the sanctions be directed at China?

MNUCHIN: Well, the president signed an executive order. It was very, very significant. It gives the treasuries more authorities than we've ever had before.

It allows us to block many transactions with anybody that does trade or other significant business with North Korea. It gives us the ability to block financial institutions that facilitate. The president is very committed to blocking economic transactions and that's what this is all about.

TAPPER: All right. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, thank you so much. Really appreciate your being here, sir.

MNUCHIN: Great to be here. Thank you.

TAPPER: President Trump continuing his battle with professional sports stars, telling owners to fire or suspend any player who takes a knee during the national anthem, suggesting fans should maybe even boycott. We'll debate that and discuss it on our panel, next.




TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, get that son of a (EXPLETIVE) off the field right now?

Out. He's fired. He's fired.

They'll be the most popular person in this country, because that's a total disrespect of our heritage.


TAPPER: President Trump at a rally in Alabama. He got a response, first of all, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, criticizing the president's comments, team owner after team owner criticizing the president's comments.

And just minutes ago at Wembley Stadium in London, here are the Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars, all taking a knee. That is, for those who have not been keeping a track of taking a knee, usually you have one maybe two or three players max per team taking a knee during the national anthem. This is something else entirely. We're back with our panel. Nina Turner, we would love your response to President Trump talking about this and the response from the NFL.

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, really, he should use his energy to fight for our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico who have no power or the states in Florida where the citizens still need help and other areas where the hurricanes hit.

It is utterly ridiculous for him to pick up this fight. Is he talking about our heritage, as in the heritage of this country that enslaved black folks or took lands from native Americans or the heritage that still has systemic racism in this country? Which heritage is he talking about?

And to pick a fight with NFL players? I mean, this flag and this country is just as much about Patrick Henry saying, give me liberty or give me death. As it is about Fannie Lou Hamer saying, I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.

These players have every right to express themselves and to challenge the system and in the same spirit of Muhammad Ali or even when James Baldwin said that, I love this country more than any other country, and that is why I reserve my -- you know, the right to critique this country. That is what those NFL players are doing. They're upholding their first amendment right and they are pushing this country to recognize its bigotry, its oppression, and its racism.

And that is very much American.

TAPPER: Vikings fan, Jason Lewis, congressman of Minnesota?

REP. JASON LEWIS (R), MINNESOTA: Well, when it comes to oppression, Colin Kaepernick's was in the second year of a $126 million contract when he started this. So he's doing pretty well and NFL players are doing pretty well.

But they have a constitutional right to do all of this -- absolutely. And owners have an constitutional right to discipline them. And that's all Trump was saying.

I think Trump talks around the water cooler, the way people will do on Monday morning, and say, did you see those players take the knee.? And other people will say, yes, I did. And other people will say, hell, no, that's bad news.

That's exactly what Trump taps into all the time. And a lot of people can't figure it out, but he's talking to a lot more people than some of us give him credit for.

TURNER: But, Congressman, owners have a right to chastise black men, predominantly, who decide to uphold -- you know, to utilize the first amendment right --


LEWIS: I'm not saying whether it's right or wrong. I'm saying the constitution --

TURNER: Do you understand -- but do you understand how that sounds?

LEWIS: -- applies -- no. The constitution applies to the power of government.

Congress shall make no law --


TURNER: Do you understand what that sounds?

LEWIS: Let me finish. Look, employers cannot rescind your speech -- or I shouldn't say, employers -- the government cannot rescind your speech.

You don't have a right of free speech at your employment to stand up and say, I think I'm going to recite the Gettysburg Address tomorrow. Your employer can say, no, you can't.

TURNER: I didn't -- I didn't see this outrage when Tom Brady decided that he was not going to visit the White House. Is it only outrage when black men decide to assert their belief in this country of racism --

LEWIS: No, of course not. Of course not. Nobody's saying that.

TAPPER: Let me bring -- let me bring in Jen Psaki.

The polling on this is rather wanting, but it does seem that a majority of the American people actually disapprove of Colin Kaepernick's protests. So it might be that President Trump is actually on the more popular side, on that issue, whether or not he's, you know, acting the way that we'll continue to get that kind of support. I don't know.

What do you think?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, technically, maybe for the moment or for the last year or so, but what this is really bringing to the surface are a lot of the debates about race and inequality that have been in the NFL have been living around our country for many, many years. And I think it's really unfortunate when we start to make this about what NFL leaders are allowed to or should or shouldn't do according to the law.

This is about who we are as a country. The president typically should be somebody who is a force for good, who is bringing about debates about encouraging them in a productive manner.


So sure, I think polling from six months ago or four months ago when there was only one or two from a team who were taking a knee is very different from what we're seeing now. And this is bringing about an activism and people speaking in the NFL and around the country I think to racial oppression that's happening in communities. That's not just in the NFL, but certainly they're one of the most public places were debates are happening.

TAPPER: Steelers fan, Rick Santorum?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I wish the president would spend more time talking about health care. He should be talking about what -- you know, the success that they've had in dealing with the hurricanes and the tremendous job that, you know, Governor Abbott and Governor Scott have done.

I mean, there's a -- you know, the president of the United States, he can be a water cooler guy, he can go and talk about whatever he wants to talk about. But he's taking his eye off the ball, the things that he can actually impact and make positive change.

And, you know, we're this close. I think, you know, we're -- we're one or two votes away from passing a repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

And if I was the president of the United States, I would be spending all my time and energy publicly and privately trying to get this pledge that he made to the American public and not get diverted into conversations that actually make it harder for you to accomplish your goals.

TAPPER: The thing that's interesting about this is when he picks his fight is, and I have a feeling you're right, this is going to drive people to Kaepernick's side. We saw it this morning when they weren't even there.

I mean, I don't -- it's possible that a majority of the country will side with him but he's probably going to beef up the support. I think you're a Browns fan but I'm not sure.

TURNER: Oh, yes, Cleveland Browns --

TAPPER: But --

TURNER: -- Cleveland Cavaliers, speaking of LeBron James.

TAPPER: You -- you were -- you were talking about the racial component of this. You don't think it's an accident that he's talking about predominantly African-American players.

TURNER: Not at all. Look at his audience. It's no accident.

TAPPER: In Alabama.

TURNER: He doesn't do anything by accident, he's very strategic about this. And this kind of (INAUDIBLE) is right up his alley. He loves when all this chaos and confusion -- this feeds his agenda.

But make no mistake this still (ph) is not just about President Trump. And I say this everywhere that I go. That the whole notion of systemic racism and what we need to do to lift people to recognize the deficiencies in this country, that systems oppress and have been oppressing.

I mean, there was just a study that came out that said that African- Americans still are not keeping pace with the same wages as some white folks in this country. Even still 40 -- even still.

So we have some systemic pressures that we really have to deal with as a community, as a country. At the same time, we have sisters and brothers in rural parts of this country too who suffer as well. And the president is doing a disservice to continue along this track.

TAPPER: Great panel. Thank you so much. And I didn't mention you're a Patriots fan. I should.

PSAKI: Patriots (INAUDIBLE) Bengals. My husband is from Cincinnati.


All right. Anyway.

A little push for the -- a little push for those members of the Trump administration who might need a refresher on the rules of Washington. When is it OK to take a government jet? The answer coming up in this week's "State of the Cartoonion."


TAPPER: Welcome back.

Public servants or lifestyles of the rich and famous? Sometimes it's difficult to tell for members of President Trump's cabinet. Some of whom are under scrutiny this week for flying on government planes on the taxpayers' dime.

There are some questions that politicians might want to ask before booking that trip and that's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."


TAPPER (voice-over): So when is it appropriate for government officials to fly on these taxpayer financed pricey private planes? Well, what about if you're the president?

TRUMP: That plane -- what can look so beautiful at 30? An airplane.

TAPPER: Yes. Of course, commanders in chief get a plane. But we should point out Air Force One is nothing compared to the Trump private plane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seatbelts as well as everything else are 24 karat gold plated.

TAPPER: What about Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price? In 2009 as a congressman he railed against members of Congress taking these private planes.

REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: This is just another example of a fiscal irresponsibility run amok.

TAPPER: But now?

"Politico" reported Price has taken at least 24 flights on these private charter planes at taxpayers' expense since early May, including to places easily reached by commercial flights.

What about travel during your honeymoon? Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin inquired about using a military jet to take him and his bride around Europe.

MNUCHIN: My staff wanted to make sure that I was constantly had access to secure communication.

TAPPER: Yes, that wasn't necessary. Good thing Mnuchin had withdrawn his request.

Here's some extra credit, how about if you have a really wealthy friend and he offers to pay for private flights and he stocks the plane with Evian and fruit juice as happened with Democratic Senator Bob Menendez?

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, I was in a big travel schedule in 2010.

TAPPER: Those fancy flights along with prosecutors alleging they were part of a quid pro quo with that wealthy friend, well, that might land Menendez in jail.

Bottom line, unless you are the president or unless you're footing the bill personally, even that back row middle seat might end up causing the least discomfort.



TAPPER: That's it for me. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington. Thanks for watching.

Have a great Sunday.