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tv   Andrea Mitchell Reports  MSNBC  June 27, 2017 9:00am-10:01am PDT

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out there who said that when i challenged him, i was a liar and fudging the truth. well, i beg of you, please check out this graphic. now, while contraception and cancer screening prevention services are slightly down. >> slightly. >> std testing and other women's health services are up. what does that include? other services? pregnancy tests, prenatal services, miscarriage care as well as well woman exams and other services for planned parenthood, family practice services for women and men. adoption referrals and urinary tract infection treatments. so for those of you out there who said i was fudging it, this f is a fact. >> right now, let's send it over to andrea mitchell reports live in los angeles. >> right now on "andrea mitchell reports," a new red line of late night warning from the white house to the syrian regime, saying if there is a new chemical attack, assad will pay
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a heavy price. setting up a showdown with the syrian dictator and his chief ally, russia. >> i believe that the goal is at this point not just to send assad a message, but to send russia and iran a message that if this happens again, we are putting you on notice. and my hope is that the president's warning will certainly get russia and iran to take a second look. i hope it will caution assad from the fact we don't want to see innocent men, women and children hurt again. >> critical care, has the republican plan to push through health care hit a wall after that scathing score from the nonpartisan congressional budget office. the big number today, though, 22 million americans who would lose their insurance under the bill. >> what we are trying to do is to have a system that encourages people to work, to improve their lives and to help their families.
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and i think the bill is inadequate. >> we all have our preferences and opinions on these things. but it is important that we have a score keeper. it is important we have a referee. >> obviously it is not good news. >> and all the president's tweets, meanwhile, two tweets and six retweets from the president, none on the most pressing issues of syria or health care. and good day, everyone. i'm andrea mitchell in los angeles, where we are on top of two major stories today. one foreign, one domestic. overnight, the white house in a rare press statement warning syria it would pay a heavy price if it carries out another chemical weapons attack. citing new intelligence indicating that the regime was indeed preparing for a chemical strike. warnings were also issued to syria's biggest allies, russia and iran. while on the domestic front, growing republican opposition to the senate health care plan after a devastating analysis from the nonpartisan congressional budget office.
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projecting that it would push 22 million americans off the insurance rolls, cut almost $800 billion, hurting the poor and granting big tax breaks to the rich. joining me now, nbc's kristen welker at the white house and garrett haak on capitol hill. let's talk syria, scrambling all night to catch up with this very unusual white house press statement. warning syria that there would be heavy price -- a heavy price to pay. what do they mean? what is the intelligence showing. >> based on our understanding, andrea, you're absolutely right, a remarkable statement that came from press secretary sean spicer, not the president himself, not from the defense secretary, but issuing that very stern warning to syria. and the latest intelligence that we have, according to u.s. officials is that the government saw a similar ramp up in the past 24 hours to what they witnessed before that devastating april 4th chemical
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weapons attack in terms of munitions. and other enforcements that were being brought in. so that is essentially what we know about why you had that very stern warning, you heard ambassador nikki haley reiterate that, that all the signs seem to be pointing in this same direction. so a stern warning to syria, stern warning to russia, also a stern warning to iran as you mentioned. the question becomes how coordinated was this effort? early reporting showed that officials at dod and the state department weren't given a heads up about this statement before it came. the white house pushing back vigorously on that characterization, saying that the top officials, the most senior officials, everyone who needed to know was briefed on this. we're going to have a chance to ask press secretary sean spicer about all of this. he's going to hold a briefing later on this afternoon and it will be on camera. >> and on the health care front, garrett haak, let's talk about
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the republicans, this cbo score was much more negative in terms of the hard numbers than even they expected overnight. susan collins saying she would not vote to let this bill get to the floor on a procedural measure. where is the head count now. >> republicans were hoping for a much better top line number than this 22 million fewer people who would be insured under this plan than under obamacare. we were ho-- they were hoping se last minute technical changes would make it so they could point to premiums coming down across the board for people and they didn't get enough assistance on the premium side either. we have got at least four republican senators who say they don't want to move ahead to even debate this bill on the floor, much less vote for it to pass up or down as we have been saying. republicans can only afford to lose two votes if they want this to get to the floor, if they want this to pass. they're bringing in the artillery, bringing in the
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cavalry today, vice president mike pence now, here on the hill, he's going to speak to republican senators in their lunch this afternoon, and then meet one on one with some of these recalcitrant senators to get them to turn around. some of them have staked out tough positions. susan collins last night saying she does not want to vote on this bill, does not want to see it on the bill, against it. dean heller late last week essentially burning the ships behind him, standing side by side with the very popular republican governor of nevada and saying they cannot support this bill. it is hard to see how either one of those people can be turned around with a few tweekz aks on edges. this bill in trouble now. caveat to all of this, there is no one better than mitch mcconnell at wrangling votes and getting his caucus to fall in line. and until we hit those hard deadlines, a lot of republicans are still holding out hope that mcconnell can make this work. >> and to both of you there is
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more than $300 billion that could be in play because that is the deficit reduction number. there are goodies that can be passed out to some, that may not bring over the more hard-line fiscal conservatives, though, you got rand paul who is one of the leaders of that pact at the white house right now. kristen, there is going to be arm twisting and a lot of dealing, wheeling and dealing there too. >> absolutely. don't forget the president has been working the phones on this over the weekend. yesterday we anticipate he will today as well. and vice president mike pence, andrea, has been such a central figure in trying to get this health care bill over the finish line. he's going to be hosting a dinner with conservatives this evening. so the arm twisting is on both sides of pennsylvania avenue and i think garrett makes a very important point, you can never count mitch mcconnell out. he's better at this than almost anyone. so this remains a moving target, andrea. >> so thanks to kristen and to garrett and drilling down now on
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the syria breaking news overnight, nbc news national -- senior national security anal t analyst, ron zirati joining me, ambassador robert ford, the last u.s. ambassador to syria, currently a senior fellow at the middle east institute in washington, and ned price, senior director in president obama's national security council and long time cia analyst, welcome, all. ron, first to you, have you seen a press secretary statement overnight warning syria don't attack or there will be a heavy price? >> i don't think we have seen one of this nature. certainly one that has the implications that it does. a new red line being issued by the trump administration, one that doesn't have a lot of detail or briefing around it. and certainly one that seemed to take a lot of people by surprise. it is not unusual, though, for the white house and certainly the administration to want to put out a deterrent statement, to basically warn the assad regime if they are going to take
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steps forward, as we have seen in the past to use chemical weapons, that there are going to be consequences. i think the desire here is to try to deter as much as possible but what you have is the trump administration now issuing its own red line, the way the obama administration did back in 2012. >> and we all know how that worked out, robert ford, is assad likely to heed this and perhaps more importantly, is vladimir putin. the russians, the last time, were on that base, obviously witnessed what was going on, and did not take any responsibility. in fact, denied all responsibility for what happened on that air strip. >> i can imagine that both assad and the russians will take this warning seriously. assad and the russians have little capability to stop an american attack as we saw in april. and it would be embarrassing to the russians who are after all assad's protector and assad
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himself doesn't have that many military assets left, so i don't imagine he wants to lose more. >> ned price, a lot of people have spoken to the fact that there are very few appointments, no nominations, that the assistant secretary level or the undersecretary level at the pentagon. at the state department, home alone at the state department for sure, just deputy, deputy secretary who -- with no military or diplomatic experience to speak of in play. now, was there a process here that would duplicate what has been the case in all previous administrations of the deputy's committee meeting at the nsc level, principle committee meeting. what do we know took place internally leading up to this unusual statement by the press secretary? >> if there was a process, it seems there was a profound breakdown in it. what we do know despite what the administration is claiming this morning is key officials in the department of defense and department of state were taken
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by surprise last night by this statement. and it is not just a professional courtesy that individuals at these key departments should be apprised the statement is coming out, they need to be at the table, setting the strategy, a statement in and of itself is not a strategy. a stand alone statement gets us nowhere. it needs to be folded and nested within a broader strategy. we also learn this morning is that key members of congress, including members of the senate select committee on intelligence were also caught unaware by this statement. look, when something like this comes out, washington needs to speak with one voice. the potency of this message is diluted when we are hearing key officials in this town caught by surprise. the other point i would make is that we can talk about the message, but we also have to talk about the messenger. and president trump by repeatedly issuing mistruthz and even lies including in the national security realm has diluted his own credibility. and there is no more important realm and more important time than one like this, where the commander in chief needs as much
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credibility as he can muster. >> let me ask you about deterrence because on april 6th, the cruise missile strikes, if that did not deter assad from using chemical weapons again, what will? >> great yes, andrea. a lot of speculation. part of it is they're trying to make a push to the east, trying to take territory back as well in the north and near the idlib province. there is perhaps a desire to try to take more territory with limited resources and, frankly, assad, despite the reaction from the united states in april, has done a pretty good job in the past of confusing an obfuscating by claiming there isn't proof of these kinds of attacks. there may be an attempt to try to use tactically. they have done it before. but i think the trump administration is trying to demonstrate, look, we're going to use force if need be. the april incident was an important one.
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the shootdown of the syrian fighter jet was another example. shooting down iranian drones that have been threatening to u.s. interests and our allies on the ground has also been a message. so i think this is part of a tableau of measures taken by the trump administration to demonstrate that we're willing to use force. and i think ned is right. you have to have a -- what is next strategy. i think one of the challenges in 2012 with the obama administration statement was what happens if they use the weapons, are we prepared to act, and what do you do in a more complicated environment. i think that is certainly something the trump administration has to contend with, something congress is going to have to be a part of and certainly part of the complicated texture of what is happening on the ground in syria. >> and certainly as of now, there doesn't seem to have been a lot of advance notice or consultation with the leaders of the key committees in congress. robert ford, on the ground, from what we know of what has been happening there, and especially against the backdrop of what
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happened in the supreme court yesterday where as these attacks accelerate, as the situation deteriorates, refugees are going to have a harder and harder time getting to jordan and they'll be stuck there because those who don't have contacts, relations or other jobs or, you know, visas for schools or any kind of connections to the u.s. for at least 90 days now, according to the supreme court, are going to certainly be stuck without any access to getting out of those refugee camps. >> there will be fewer syrian refugees for that -- that come to the united states. that said, andrea, the united states hasn't taken all that many syrian refugees over the last five years. the number certainly doesn't skeet 25,000 out of a total population of refugees of nearly 5 million. much more serious is the syrian refugee's ability to get into places like jordan and turkey
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and there have been growing restrictions on syrian refugee access to those two countries. there are now sprawling informal refugee camps alon tg the borde of turkey and jordan. those camps have on occasion been attacked by either the islamic state or the syrian government. their plight is really bad. >> i wanted to play a bit of nikki haley's testimony to the appropriations committee today on the subject of what they could do next. >> i think the white house put out a statement, and i think that's accurate. they have seen activities that are similar to preparations of a chemical weapons attack, much like what we saw on april 4th. i believe that the goal is at this point not just to send assad a message, but to send russia and iran a message that if this happens again, we are putting you on notice.
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>> ned price, what does that mean, putting russia and iran on notice? is the u.s. contemplating retaliating against russia and/oand and/or iran for something assad were to do? >> it is a good question, andrea. you get the impression that the administration itself doesn't know precisely what that means. when you see the mixed messages emanating from the white house, one week, you see president trump with ambassador kislyak and the russian foreign minister yucking it up in the nikki halee harder line voices in the context of russia from this administration saying we'll put them on notice. the obama administration made very clear to moscow we would hold the russian air force responsible for continuing bombing in the context of the limited cessation of hostilities put in place toward the end of the obama administration's term. you get the impression that's what they're alluding to,
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something along the lines where russia will be held accountable for the acts of the assad regime. it is clear they haven't spelled it out. i think that's going to raise even more questions both for allies and for adversaries in this context. >> we have to leave it there. but, ned, i have to say that having covered so much of what happened in 2012 and 2013, that the obama administration's process, their red line didn't cover them with glory and a lot of questions were raised as to whether that was a fundamental flaw in the obama nsc as well. >> if i can take one second, in the context of that process, syria now has 1300 chemical weapons, 1300 tons of chemical weapons removed through that process. had those chemical weapons still in the control of the assad regime, we would be in a much more dire circumstance and the trump administration would be tackling a much bigger problem
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today. >> no doubt. just very clear, i think, to all, that they did -- they secreted some. thank you, all. coming up, the closer, vice president mike pence taking the hill this hour. what is happening behind the scenes to try and sell wavering senator republicans on that health care bill. you're watching "andrea mitchell reports" on msnbc. thanks for the ride around norfolk! and i just wanted to say, geico is proud to have served the military for over 75 years! roger that. captain's waiting to give you a tour of the wisconsin now. could've parked a little bit closer... it's gonna be dark by the time i get there.
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if the house bill was going to mean, according to the president, at 23 million, what's the senate bill? >> here is what i would tell any senator, if you're counting on the president to have your back, you need to watch it. if you're looking for political cover from the white house, i'm not so sure they're going to give it to you. >> you got to love lindsey graham. republican senator lindsey graham not giving the white house or the senate leadership a pass on the new senate health care bill. joining me is lonnie chen, republican policy adviser, recently advised republican senators on that health care bill. and bob shrum at the university of southern california. welcome, both. lonnie, to you first. what is your advice to them, looking at this score from the cbo, this is a cbo led by someone appointed by tom price,
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when he was in congress. so they can hardly -- i guess they will, but can hardly criticize the cbo. this is a republican economist who worked under george w. bush. >> yeah, i don't think it would be particularly productive to go after the cbo. you can take issue with how close they are in some of the estimates, but at the end of the day, what this has to come back to is in the bill right now, as it stands, it looks like $300 billion in deficit reduction. that's both important for fiscal conservatives to bring the republican party together, that is one thing that draws conservatives together. but it is also important because it gives mitch mcconnell some breathing room. it allows him to say, look what are the things that we're going to need to get this bill across the finish line, what are things that individual senators are going to need to get them to vote yes on this piece of legislation. ultimately that is the most important number in the score from yesterday, rather than going after the director of the cbo, thinking about how off the insurance estimates might be, that's really what the focus of
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the republicans ought to be in the senate right now. >> and, bob shrum, republican henry olson, republican economist has written that this is not the way ronald reagan would approach health care. ronald reagan, the icon for a lot of the republicans now in elected office, don't really remember where reagan stood on some of the social issues. >> henry dug up this marvelous quote, where reagan says, everybody ought to have health care in this country and if government has to step in, government has to step in. when medicare was passed, and he was against it, he was in favor of an alternative. the alternative was to do it through the states. it is a lot like the children's health insurance program works, ted kennedy and orrin hatch negotiated. i think the republicans play a very perilous game if their sense is that they're going to reduce the deficit by $300 billion over ten years, by taking health insurance away from 22 million people and 15 million of them next year.
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this bill cuts medicaid by $700 billion. >> $772 billion. >> i know. but i wanted to do a neat round thing. $700 billion to give a $700 billion tax cut. 45% of which goes to the top 1% and most of the rest of which goes to people who are in the top 10 or 15%. i don't think that's politically something you can take out to the country. i happen to think it is wrong. i think it is political suicide. that's why someone like dean heller is backing away from this bill as fast as he can. >> he was already in so much troubl trouble, take a listen. >> i want you to see a picture of somebody, a face that goes along with this. that's my daughter. >> okay. >> okay. >> she's beautiful. >> she is beautiful. but now i want you to see her in treatment. >> oh, my gosh. >> okay. >> how old is she?
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>> she's 41. she's been fighting this cancer, as sick as she has been. she would not be alive today if it wasn't for the aca. these are real people. >> right. >> my daughter. >> right. >> so i just want you to have that in your brain when you look at this. i can only imagine, but west virginia needs you so desperately to stand up against this immoral bill. >> these medicaid stories, some of them are so powerful, we saw one last week on lawrence, this young man who is completely paralyzed and his mother caring for him. these are stories reaching americans. >> these stories are indeed sympathetic. i think it is also important for republicans to make the case, that, look, for those who are on -- who are disabled, for the aged, for kids, the medicaid eligibility does not change through this piece of legislation. and, in fact, we're going to be spending more on medicaid even
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under the republican legislation ten years from now than we are today. but it is important for them to also make the case, though, that in addition to that, they're going to be providing assistance to people making all the way down to the federal poverty level to hopefully buy some quality health insurance. these cases are sympathetic. i think republicans need to counteract this by saying, here is what our bill actually does. >> you can't cut medicaid by so many billions of dollars and not have an impact on these people. >> this is the gingrich trick from the 1990s when they were cutting medicare to finance a tax cut and said, we put more money into medicare, and it is like saying if we increased social security, it is total spending by $2 a year, we're increasing what we're spending on social security. but there are many more people who retire. there are many more people who need to be covered. if you take older people and lonnie just referred to older people, a couple -- 64 years old, making around $50,000 a year would suddenly have to pay a premium under this bill
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according to cbo of up to $20,000 a year. that's just impossible. that's why 22 million people will be kicked off their health care. sure has to be a better way to reduce the -- that's what the cbo said and you said you weren't going to -- >> the cbo says the reason why you have 15 million people compared to the base line on uninsured next year is because they're choosing for other coverage, opting for other coverage. >> lonnie, that's not what it says. >> that is what it says. >> 50 million people will be without health coverage. you know why? they won't be able to afford it, it is amazing to me, i assume if your friend mitt romney was elected, he would have presented a health care bill that was a lot more responsible to this. i can't believe republicans are out there, trying to defend, taking away health insurance from tens of millions of people to give a gigantic tax cut to very rich people like donald trump. it just doesn't make sense. >> i'm going to have to leave it there.
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this is the debate we'll have throughout the 2018 midterms, i suspect. lonnie chen, bob shrum, please both come back. coming up, hitting the defrost button. sam nunn on why he's appealing to president trump and vladimir putin to talk it out at the g-20 next week. this is "andrea mitchell reports" on msnbc.
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with tensions between the u.s. and russia escalating over syria, and the russian hacking investigation, president trump is going to be meeting with vladimir putin for the first time since becoming president next week of the g-20 summit in germany. ahead of that high stakes meeting, former senator sam nunn has teamed up with former russian and defense officials to issue an urgent appeal from both leaders to get on the same page. joining me now is former democratic senator sam nunn from georgia, long time chairman of the armed services committee, now co-chair of the nuclear threat initiative. senator, thank you so much. what prompted you to write your letter to vladimir putin and president trump? >> the four of us have been working together for five or six years on these issues. and we noted in a report called
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building mutual security several years ago, presented both to president putin as well as president obama that the tensions and distrust were alarming because we, the united states and russia, have 90% of the nuclear weapons in the world, 90% of the nuclear materials, responsibility for taking the lead on preventing dirty bomb attacks. all of those things mean we have to work together, but the distrust has been built -- has been really increasing and now has reached a new level of danger. so we felt that at this summit there were options that should be considered, starting with the proposition that reagan and gorbachev expressed several years ago that a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought. that's a signal to the military leaders confronting each other every day in the middle east, and ukraine, nato. so we felt that there were several options that could be considered and that this summit
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was an opportunity to start turning around because it is going to take a while. >> overnight, we had this unusual statement from the white house press secretary warning russia that it would be held responsible as well as iran if the syrian regime proceeds with what seems to be according to intelligence the possibility of an imminent second chemical weapons attack. what is your response to that the way it was handled, this very public warning. >> i hope it was -- i hope it is a deterrent, i hope there will be no chemical attack. i hope the message was received by the syrian leadership as well as the allies, russia and iran. but i hope also coordinated with the department of defense. it is another red line and we have to -- we declare red lines, we have to make sure we're militarily ready to ebb enforce them. we have other things we have to work with russia on. we're going have to learn to disagree with them, and even be very firm as we are on syria
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now. but at the same time, working on other matters like dirty bombs. and making sure we work together to secure radiological material that could cause tremendous economic havoc anywhere, including russia, the united states, middle east and other places. that kind of material is all over areas where isil is located. we have to work on cyber together. certainly the cyberattacks on the election here in 2016 was of grave concern, have to be thoroughly investigated. but think about cyberattacks on warning systems and nuclear command and control systems. this is existential threat and could affect russia as well as the united states. >> but, senator, how damaging is it when the president of the united states seems to be ignoring the warnings of the intelligence community and the warnings of his own secretary of state saying our relationship with russia is in a perilous state? the president seems to be taking
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an outlier position on russia and ignoring the threats that other people in the administration and previous administrations and in the intelligence world have said are absolutely true. >> well, don't understand trump position on russia. i have no understanding and that's what the investigation is all about both in the executive branch, justice department as well as the congress. and those should proceed following. in the meantime, we have to protect our existential common interests and that's what this message is all about. we can't stop thinking about nuclear because we have other disagreements. we have a keen responsibility not only to our own citizens, but the russians have a responsibility to their citizens and we both have a responsibility to the world because we possess as i mentioned 90% of the weapons and 90% of the materials. >> and just finally, how much of
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a risk is it that we have so few appointments, this has nothing to do with senate confirmation there are no nominations at the pentagon. at the state department in critical positions. >> well, of course, i think the pentagon is in wbetter shape no than the state department in terms of high level leadership. both are concerned. congress has a responsibility. they have to get the nomination before they can act on it. when the president finally does begin to fill these positions out, i hope the senate will move sxe dir expeditiously to approve or reject them. the world doesn't stop because we have our own internal investigations about the election in 2016. we still have responsibilities of leadership in the world. while the investigations are ongoing. so we have to get accustomed to tackling these things on a parallel track. >> senator sam nunn, as always, thank you so much. thanks for being with us. >> thank you. >> coming up, the diagnosis, a
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get behind him and try it. maybe it won't work. but at least give it a try. >> as the health care debate wages on capitol hill, medical professionals and residents in east liverpool, ohio, are reacting to the republican proposal. joining me is ron mott in east liverpo liverpool, and dr. john torres. ron, what are you hearing from people in ohio, sort of ground zero of the health care debate? >> yeah, hey there, andrea. a lot of folks are concerned about losing health care benefits, especially those who were given health care with this medicaid expansion a few years back. we spoke to one 28-year-old who decided to stop working full time to pursue a college degree and told me yesterday that if somehow she loses her medicaid coverage, that she got through this sxapexpansion, she may hav quit her studies and go back to work full time. she wants to get a college education so she can get a better job, hopefully work for an employer that will offer her
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affordable health care. the real concern is this opioid crisis gripping the buckeye state. you might recall we want to show you this image that the police department here released last september, graphic video, and it shows a couple in an suv with a small child, little boy in the back seat, the couple passed out from a drug overdose, the police released this video -- this image on facebook saying they wanted to show the effects of the poison of heroin. we have seen pictures like that around ohio. and the concern here is that those two people, by the way, lived. we are seeing a lot of people dying. look at this alarming statistic from 2000 to 2015, here in ohio, there was a spike of 642% in the number of deaths that came from drug overdoses. and the funding that came from medicaid expansion is threatened now with this health care bill that is making its way through
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washington and this senate version. senator rob portman tried to argue to get $45 billion included in this package, andrea, to fight opioid abuse here in ohio and around the country. and as it stands right now, jus alone, the senator was trying to get money for treatment programs for the next ten years or so. we'll have to see how that changes if at all if this bill makes it through the senate and gets on to the president eventually. one other statistic we can show you here, and this involves the amount of funding that medicaid expansion provides for treatments in ohio and other states between 35 and 50%. so if that money and that budget is cut, the states will be scrambling trying to help people who sought treatment here and their treatment is very much dependent on that medicare funding. the states would have to somehow come up with this money on their own and in a lot of places around the country there is not money lying around that lawmakers don't know what to do with.
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it is a very real problem here in ohio, eastern ohio. >> that's one of the reasons why john kasich spoke out against it today, dr. torres, medical profession professionals, what are they saying? >> the medical professionals, talking vast majority of groups you know that either are representing physicians or representing patients, the american academy of pediatrics, american congress of obstetrics and gynecology, american heart association, american lung association, all coming out against this plan. some of them have grouped together and sent a letter saying please talk to your senators and congressman and slow this down. their main concerns are the people that are going to be affected by this the most and those are the vulnerable people, children, the elderly, those that are extremely sick, the essential health benefits are one big key that they're looking at saying we need to make sure those wavers are not in place because those are essential to keeping people very healthy and healthy throughout their whole lives. >> dr. torres, thank you so much. ron mott, in ohio. coming up next, what if
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assad does not listen to the president's warning on chemical attacks? we'll talk to former military intelligence veteran congressman mike gallagher from wisconsin joining us next. so that's the idea. what do you think? hate to play devil's advocate but... i kind of feel like it's a game changer. i wouldn't go that far. are you there? he's probably on mute. yeah... gary won't like it. why? because he's gary. (phone ringing) what? keep going! yeah... (laughs) (voice on phone) it's not millennial enough. there are a lot of ways to say no. thank you so much. thank you!
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the trump white house seems to have drawn a new red line on chemical weapons. what does this mean? does it mean also that the april cruise missile strike against syria did not have its intended deterrent effect? republican congressman mike gallagher is on the armed services committee, a marine veteran who served on general petraeus' central command assessment team in the middle east. thanks for being with us. what is your take from this unusual press secretary statement overnight warning syria, russia, and iran against another chemical attack? >> it's been remarkable to see how far our position has eroded in syria and iraq since the initial red line debate in 2013. the one thing we learned then is when you set a red line, you must be prepared to enforce it. that's why i welcomed the administration's prior decision to strike in syria. to the extent this means they are committed to upholding that and deterring the assad regime from continuing to carry out
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atrocities, i welcome it. but that's also going to have to involve a broader regional strategy for how we work with our allies to counter iran's influence, push back on russia's influence, and find some stability in a region that is enormously complex. >> and what kind of options do we have now? let's say heaven forbid they do use chemicals again. we now have to act against russia and iran as well as against the regime? >> well, i think there is no way we can get the buy-in from our allies that we need in the fight against isis until we have clarity with respect to our position against assad. it is my belief that assad acts as a recruiting call for isis and until you tackle the shiite extremist variant of islam in the form of assad backed by the radical terrorist regime in tehran and the hezbollahis on ground in syria, you have no hope of making sense of the country. so we have to counter iran more broadly in order to get the buy-in we need from our suny arab allies in the fight against isis, unless we're prepared to
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do it all ourselves and i don't think we are. our position on the ground is best when we have reliable partners that can control the territory, that we help them dislodged isis from. >> the deterioration of our position in syria over the last couple of years since the last red line was declared and not enforced is pretty profound. i mean, at this point, the russians are in the air. the russians buzzing us in the air, buzzing our planes, practically declaring a no-fly zone in terms of the line on the euphrates river. so what are our options really? >> well, i think the previous administration used to say the russians are playing a weak hand in syria. okay. if the russians are playing a weak hand in the sense their economy is growing increasingly weak, shame on us becausewy thai ear playing a weak hand very well and running roughshod over ul our interests and propertying us with bayonets, until they encounter steel they won't stop.
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we have to push back against the russians, have the courage to maintain red lines not only in syria but eastern ukraine and sanction them for what they did in terms of interfering in our own election. >> isn't the president countermanding that kind of hard line with his tweets, with his suggestions about vladimir putin? he has not taken as hard a line on russia as the secretary of state has. >> well, i think when you dig beyond the rhetoric, certainly there's been some things the administration has said that i disagree with. i think any suggestion that we could form some sort of grand bargain with russia when it comes to counterterrorism issues is an illusion and we should be wary of it and shouldn't go down that road. when it comes to what they've done, actually striking in syria, a message to the russians not just the assad regime, something the previous administration did not have the courage to do, that's a concrete action. if we can continue down that path and the best thing that we could do is begin the urgent process of rebuilding and modernizing our military to counter russian aggression not only in the middle east but
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arnold the world as well as the various other adversaries and competitors testing us right now, then we can send a signal to every two-bit tyrant and dictator and terrorist group and thug like putin that wants to challenge us that we're not going to stand by and let it happen. >> wanted to also ask you about reports that the pentagon is considering canceling a program by which we recruit volunteers into our military on the promise they will then have a path to becoming citizens. i was privileged to be in baghdad in 2010 when vice president biden was swearing in new recruits, many of them immigrants to the u.s. who had been fighting for us in iraq, putting their lives on the line. what do you think about canceling this program? >> well, listen, when i deployed to iraq in 2007, 2008, even as an arabic linguist i depended heavily on interpreter in order to get the job done and to keep my marines safe. these were people risking their lives so we could get the job done. we wouldn't have a program like this if we could field it
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organically in our own capability. the demands of keeping the country safe, which is the first and foremost responsibility, may require tough choices and here they point in a few different directions. on one hand, we have to have thorough vetting to make sure anyone dealing with particularly sensitive intelligence matters has the trust of the american government. on the other, we need this capability. so i welcome a conversation with secretary mattis about this program. it hasn't reached the secretary's desk is my understanding. i hope we can find a solution and perhaps give them more resources to do more thorough vetting. >> thank you so much as always, congressman. good to see you. ? thank you so much. >> more ahead. be right back. ♪ your body was made for better things than rheumatoid arthritis. before you and your rheumatologist move to another treatment, ask if xeljanz is right for you. xeljanz is a small pill for adults with moderate to severe ra for whom methotrexate did not work well. xeljanz can reduce joint pain and swelling in as little as two weeks, and help stop further joint damage.
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craig melvin is up next. >> msnbc world headquarters in new york. lottings we are following this hour. life support. the senate republican plan to overhaul obamacare losing more momentum after yet another senator comes out publicly against the bill. can the republican leadership and the president save it? do they really want to? also, warning shot. the white house issuing a stern warning to syria's president pledging his regime would pay a, quote, heavy price if it carried out another chemical attack. is president trump now drawing his own red line? and staying silent. barack o

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