'This Week' Transcript 9-24-17: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Sen. Bill Cassidy, and Sen. Lindsey Graham

A rush transcript for "This Week" on September 24, 2017.

ByABC News
September 24, 2017, 9:47 AM



ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

MARTHA RADDATZ, HOST: Insulter in chief: President Trump escalating tensions with North Korea.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rocketman is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

RADDATZ: And here at home, attacking freedom of speech and star athletes.

TRUMP: Wouldn't you love the 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?

RADDATZ: All this, as a key campaign promise is on life support.

TRUMP: Immediately repeal and replace.

RADDATZ: With another GOP health care bill struggling to survive.

TRUMP: We might have to go back again and again. We may make it this time.

RADDATZ: Where is the president's focus as he faces off with another world leader? Will either blink? And can we avoid war?

And as the GOP's latest repeal and replace attempt breaks down. Is it time for a bipartisan solution? Those questions and more, for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

And the backers of the health care bill, Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy.

Plus, our Powerhouse Roundtable.

From the White House to your house, we take on the moments that mattered this week.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.


RADDATZ: Good morning.

Donald Trump promised to be a unifier when he was running for office. If that's what he'd hoped to achieve, he's not having much success. According to our new ABC News/Washington Post poll out just this morning, 66 percent of all Americans, including nearly 4 in 10 conservatives think Trump has done more to divide the country than unite it. Instead of bringing the country together, he has proved to be a provocateur.

And as we are reminded yet again this week, when a president tries to be provocative, it can have real consequences.

Let's start with North Korea. President Trump at the UN this week, threatening to, quote, "totally destroy" the reclusive nation. That finger in the eye of Kim Jong-un escalating tensions so dramatically, we were left with this split screen yesterday.

On the left, B-1 bombers flying farther north of the DMZ than any American planes have in decades. On the right, that was North Korea's foreign minister threatening that launching his country's missiles and hitting the U.S. is now, quote, inevitable.

This just day after he also said his country could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean, and that would be major escalation. It's been decades since the last atmospheric H-bomb tests were conducted. Aside from the devastating environmental toll and radiation contamination, a bomb could fry electrical grids. It is an understandably frightening thought.

And this morning, a very different cause for concern here at home, a concern once again provoked by the president. There he was, Friday night, in Alabama, wading once more into the thicket of race relations in the country, attacking the predominantly African-American NFL players who say they are protesting racial injustice by sitting, kneeling, or raising a fist during the national anthem.


TRUMP: Wouldn't you love the 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!


RADDATZ: While some, including in the military, find it deeply offensive not the stand for a flag for which many have given their lives, condemnation of Trump's comments was widespread from players across the league, nearly half of all NFL teams, the NFL commissioner, NBA star Lebron James, even spreading to baseball last night.

The president's response? Taking to Twitter, doubling down on his attacks, even suggesting fans boycott the NFL.

Of course, we have seen that before. The president provokes on race, takes criticism, refuses to back down.

This hour, we'll break down the president's provocations at home and abroad, along with the status of the GOP's latest Obamacare repeal and replace effort. But since it is Sunday, just minutesuntil the day's first NFL game kicks off in London, let's start with ABC's Ryan Smith outside Metlife Stadium in New Jersey, for today's Jets-Dolphins game.

Ryan, what is expected at the games today in reaction to what the president said?

RYAN SMITH, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Martha, I think you could see one of the biggest days of protests that we have seen in professional sports. Right now, there is nothing formally planned by the players, but there were a great deal of meetings between players discussing what to do about this. There was a great deal of anger conveyed over the president's comments. And so I think you could see a number of protests at a number of different games.

I think initially, all eyes will be on the Jaguars-Ravens game that's taking place overseas in London, because that's the first game we're going to see here in America. What happens there? A lot of dynamics there, especially when you talk about both teams' owners have not yet responded to Donald Trump's comments.

One of those owners donating to his inauguration committee. So it will be interesting to see if they have anything to say after the game.

Also Major League Baseball had its first player take a knee, Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland A's took a knee at the national anthem, expressing his views as well. So I think what you have got right now, Martha, is the perfect storm of not only President Trump's comments, but just a groundswell of support really for players being able to speak their minds, which may lead to a lot of different statements in a variety of different ways on NFL fields this Sunday.

RADDATZ: And the president just this morning, Ryan, is asking fans to boycott the NFL. What do you think the reaction will be to that will be from the fans?

SMITH: You know, Martha, I would say this. The average NFL ticket price is around 172 bucks. That's not a lot of money for some. But for many folks out there who come to watch NFL games, that is a lot of money, especially when you talk about bringing family members, friends to the game.

I think that you will always see people who might walk out, who might not come because they support the president's comments. But I think to a large extent, people will stay in those seats, because they are there to see football games.

They're there to see the activity on the field. They don't want their politics being a part of their sports. So while I think I understand the president's call, it's a call to support the position that he's taking, I think that in many ways, I don't think you will see a mass exodus at these stadiums of fans walking out of games they paid so handsomely for tickets to go to see.

RADDATZ: Thanks very much, Ryan.

And for more analysis, let's bring in USA Today columnist and ABC News contributor Christine Brennan and former NFL player Anquan Boldin.

Anquan, I want to start with you. You just retired from the NFL, and you remain very active on player issues. How are the president's comments being received among players you may have talked to? Do you expect to see even more protests at the games this afternoon?

ANQUAN BOLDIN, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Well, I can tell you that the president's remarks isn't taken well by players. As far as protests, I can't say because I'm not in the locker room. But what I would like to see is guys coming together in the form of solidarity with coaches, owners, and general managers.

I think the president's words are real divisive. I don't like the hate speech that is coming out of his mouth. Neither do the players in the locker room. So I think as a league, we need to stand together and show that we're all about uniting one another, and not the divisive rhetoric that is coming out of the mouth of the president.

RADDATZ: There are report this morning that the Raiders offensive line, the only all African-American unit in the NFL, plans to sit or kneel during the anthem. And I have to talk about that. This goes beyond sports. The NFL is almost 70 percent black. The NBA is 74percent black.

BOLDIN: Yes. I mean, there's issues that players are dealing with. And the guys are using the platform that they have to bring light to these issues. Kneeling, or, you know, taking a knee, or sittingduring the national anthem has never been about disrespecting this country, it has never been about disrespecting the flag, but it has been about bringing unity to America as a whole.

I know we live in a great country. I think we're all proud of where we live. But there is some work to be done on both ends.

RADDATZ: And, Christine, I want to bring you in. After the president spoke in Alabama, you had very strong comments in an op-ed saying "let it be noted that Trump mustered more anger Friday over Kaepernick's personal decision to not stand for the anthem than he did for the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville's deadly protests last month."

Expand on that, Christine.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, ABC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I think, first of all, when the president decides to take on the entire sports establishment, which right now, it looks like he's doing, it brings it into light, Martha, in ways that other issues might not.

Sports is a national conversation always. And that intersection of sports and culture, my goodness, we're there now. And this is not going to go away any time soon. This story will build.

And, clearly, I mean, he was with the rhetoric that people saw, with the venom, the anger that he could muster more of that for Colin Kaepernick, a man taking a knee, exercising, of course, his First Amendment right to do so than for the deadly protests in Charlottesville. That's just stunning.

And I know others have pointed that out as well. But, this is a -- this is is a whole new territory for Donald Trump if he really wants to get into that sports realm, because all these players have Twitter. And they all are talking. And they have a voice. And they have a following, fans who love them and care for them in a way other people that have -- that Trump has gone, those people don't have that kind of following, sports does.

RADDATZ: And Christine, just quickly, is there an argument to be made that the football field is not the place to protest?

BRENNAN: Oh certainly, there's that argument, but I think more and more, and we have seen it from sports for generations, you and I have talked about it where athletes make a stand be it Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King, and sports is that national conversation where those issues can be played out, and I think we're going to see it again. I don't think it's going to go away.

So, whether people like it or not, that part of sports and our culture is here to stay.

RADDATZ: Thanks very much.

BRENNAN: Thank you.

RADDATZ: And let's bring in Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

With all the urgent issues -- Korea, health care, why is the president even talking about NFL players and disinviting NBA players to the White House?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Good morning, it's great to be here with you.

You know, the NFL has all different types of rules -- you can't have stickers on your helmet. You have to have your jerseys tucked in. I think what the president is saying is that the owners shouldhave a rule that players should have to stand in respect for the national anthem. This isn't about Democrats, it's not about Republicans, it's not about race, it's not about free speech. They can do free speech on their own time, that this is about respect for the military and the first responders and the country.

RADDATZ: The president is calling them SOBs. Is that the kind of language, no matter how you feel about the issue, that he should be using?

MNUCHIN: I think the president can use whatever language he wants to use. I think the issue is the topic, OK. And the topic -- I agree with the president why are the -- why does the NFL have all these other rules that they enforce, that they fine players? This is about respect for the military, the first responders.

I was down at the 9/11 memorial.

RADDATZ: Is it not about the first amendment, is it not about their first amendment rights?

MNUCHIN: No, it's not. They have the right to have the first amendment off the field.

This is a job. And the employers have the right, when the players are working, to have rules. So, you know, why didn't they wear stickers? Why didn't the Dallas Cowboys, why were they allowed to wear stickers in response to people they wanted to pay respect to?

So, the NFL is picking and choosing what they want to enforce. And the president says -- for a long time the national anthem, this isn't about politics, this is about respect for the country and the people who have made great, great sacrifices for this country.

RADDATZ: Let's talk about the NFL. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell calls the president's comments divisive, even before these SOB comments. Our latest ABC/Washington Post poll shows 66 percent of those polls say he has done more to divide the country than united it. Do you see these kinds of statements uniting the country?

We even have Bob Kraft this morning, the president's good friend, saying I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the president on Friday. I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons and teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner they feel is most impactful."

So, this goes beyond just this issue. We're talking about a dividing the country. Is this a unifier?

MNUCHIN: I think the president was trying to unify the country, because the national anthem is about unification. And I think the owners have the right, they should have a meeting. They should decide. They make the rules, and they should decide.

RADDATZ: It sounds like many of those owners have already decided that this is a right the players have.

MNUCHIN: Some of them have. They should all meet. They should decide. And I'm happy to talk about this all morning, but I'm also happy to talk about North Korea, and taxes, and all the other things we're trying to do for the American people.

RADDATZ: Yeah, and I want to turn to North Korea right now. What do you think we accomplish by sending those B-1 bombers further north than they have been in the 21st Century? What do we accomplish with that?

MNUCHIN: Well, let me first ay it was great experience being at the United Nations general assembly this week with the president. I sat next to Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley while I listened to that speech. And sitting in that room, you realize how important all these issues are.

And I think the president did two important things that were very important. One, he explained what America first means. And America first means that as president, he is responsible for Americans first, but that he also wants to work with the world community.

The second thing is he used the opportunity to talk about two very difficult situations. One is North Korea, and the other is Iran. And, you know, we're very happy that the Security Council came through 15-0, to put sanctions on North Korea.

RADDATZ: But let's go -- can we go back to the question? What do you think we'll accomplish by sending those bombers?

MNUCHIN: I think the president has said everything is on the table. So this week, the president signed an executive order that allowed me to issue the most strong sanctions that have ever been done. I can cut off financial institutions anywhere in the world that support North Korea. And the military is one form, economics is another form. And the president will pursue all the options.

I think it's unbelievable that the government of North Korea said this week they may test a hydrogen bomb above the Pacific Ocean. That is something that everyone in the world should be completely put off on and unify against.

RADDATZ: How do you think the U.S. should respond if he does something like that?

MNUCHIN: I am obviously subject -- I'm a member of the National Security Council. I'm privy to plans. I'm not going to make any comments about that on this show. The president has said all the options are on the table. The president has lots of alternatives that have been presented to him, and he'll make decisions at the time.

RADDATZ: You know, we know so little about Kim Jong-un, but we do know this is about his personal reputation, it's the core of his leadership. So this back and forth provocation, making it very personal. The president made it very personal. He also said that he would totally destroy North Korea.

So, might this be provoking him too far? Might this make the situation worse?

MNUCHIN: Not at all. This is not about personalities. This is not personal. This is about someone who is testing nuclear weapons, a hydrogen bomb that was dramatically bigger than any bomb that's been used. This is about sending ballistic missiles across Japan's air space. These things are not going to be continued to be allowed and the president has made that very clear, and the the rest of the world has made that very clear at the Security Council.

This behavior is unacceptable.

RADDATZ: Is nuclear war possible? This is a very frightening concept to Americans. In our poll 62 percent say they do not trust President Trump to handle it responsibly.

MNUCHIN: Well, I don't know where that poll came from. And I question the results...

RADDATZ: It is our ABC/Washington Post poll.

MNUCHIN: I see that. And I wonder how a different poll would be.

But what I would say is I can assure you the president's number one priority is the safety of the American people and our allies. The president doesn't want to be in a nuclear war. And we will do everything we can to make sure that doesn't occur.

On the other hand, the president will protect the American people and our allies. And having a country like this have nuclear weapons, testing them, using them, sending rockets over our allies, that is unacceptable behavior.

RADDATZ: And can we talk about your travel just quickly here to wrap up. ABC is reporting that you used a military jet to make that short return trip from New York City to D.C. following that press conference at Trump Tower last month. The plane cost $25,000 an hour. Why couldn't you just take a shuttle? They leave every hour?

MNUCHIN: Well, let me say that the inspector-general is reviewing my travel. I look forward to that review. I'm comfortable. And we've had all of our legal counsel review everything. But if there are suggestions, we'll follow it. That's number one.

Number two, it doesn't cost $25,000 an hour, but it costs a lot of money.

And number three, as I've said, there are times when I need secure communications to be in touch with the president and the national security council. And that's the reason why.

RADDATZ: Can you remember anything specific from that day why you would have needed to be in touch with them on that airplane?

MNUCHIN: Absolutely. I have a specific.

RADDATZ: And the Pentagon gave us those figures, by the way, of $25,000.

MNUCHIN: Again, you can check with the Pentagon, because that's not what they charge, OK. But what I would say it's not the point, they charge a lot of money. I had a secure call that day that was critical and set up and needed to be done at that time. And that's why I used the plane.

RADDATZ: OK, thank you very much Secretary Mnuchin for joining us.

MNUCHIN: Thank you.

RADDATZ: Joining me to discuss the escalating tensions with North Korea, former vice chair of the joint chiefs of staff, retired General James Cartwright and Evan Osnos, staff writer for The New Yorker, who just returned from a reporting trip to North Korea and has this week's cover story headlined On the Brink.

General Cartwright, I want to start with you, you heard what he said. Americans are clearly nervous. Americans are clearly concerned about President Trump's judgment in this. How close do you think we are to a military confrontation? Is all this making it harder?

GEN. JAMES CARTWRIGHT, (RET.) FORMER VICE CHAIR, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: My sense is that the tensions are as high as they have been in anybody's recollection. We're really at a dangerous point.

But the likelihood of a direct confrontation between North Korea and the United States is probably not that high. That's not the way North Korea operates. They tend to pick off people who are out on their own. Think Pueblo. Think any number of incidents that we've had with North Korea.

A direct confrontation, they can't win.

RADDATZ: But is this...

CARTWRIGHT: More likely, it's going to be something that we stumble into. Somebody misinterprets one action versus another. You have two forces across from each other, standing on their tippy toes, ready to go. The likelihood of a mistake is high.

RADDATZ: But at the same time, we've got these provocations. We've got Kim Jong-un feeling personally insulted.

Everything he has said he would do -- I will test a hydrogen bomb, I will send an ICBM test -- he's done.

So why wouldn't he test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific?

CARTWRIGHT: I think the likelihood is there that he will test a bomb at some point.

I think it's time now to state very clearly that flying missiles over our allies, endangering other populations, is unacceptable and has to stop. And that there are consequences for that.

But those consequences are probably more along the lines of we're going to start to engage those activities. We're going to start to use our capabilities in missile defense, our allies' capabilities to address those issues.

A direct confrontation on the -- on their soil -- is not likely.

RADDATZ: And Evan, you've spent so much time in North Korea on this last trip and it wasn't just a tour around. You talked to a lot of officials.

How do you think they view what's going on?

And do you agree with General Cartwright that they will -- he will not start a war?

OSNOS: Well, even by the standards of dictatorship, Kim Jong-un is extraordinarily sensitive to personal criticism. This is partly because he's a young leader. He worries about looking weak and compromising in front of older, more seasoned political and military elites.

Until recently, the North Korean officials had told me they were aware of the fact that President Trump had not personalized this dispute. They thought that meant that there was an opportunity, a possibility for diplomatic negotiation.

The risk of personalizing is that it suggests to the North Koreans that that may no longer be possible.

RADDATZ: And would you also think he would test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific?

OSNOS: I think he has indicated that he is willing to do extraordinarily provocative things. And I think we need to be prepared for that.

RADDATZ: And let me ask you, if -- I asked Secretary Mnuchin that. He said he wouldn't talk about it.

But if they do that, I mean there are some very serious consequences to something like that. We haven't -- as we said earlier, we haven't done an atmospheric test in decades.

How would we respond to that?

It would have to be militarily, wouldn't it?

CARTWRIGHT: Well, guessing what we will do in the future is hard. But I think the time right now should be spent on declaring exactly what is unacceptable behavior. You are not going to fly over Japan. You're not going to fly over South Korea. You're not going to (INAUDIBLE)...

RADDATZ: So he's doing the right thing now?

CARTWRIGHT: I think you have to do that. You have to declare those things to make sure people understand. We -- when we first started with the North Koreans and they first started launching, recall, they were launching over the top of Japan.

We said one, you've got to tell us when you're going to launch. Two, you've got to tell us where that's going to go and what areas it's going to come down in.

They actually, over time, came to that. It was two or three launches before they got the idea.

We've got to start now to declare that space. If we don't, then it's very difficult, you know, as you get further down the road.

If we act, how will it be interpreted?

We just don't know. We don't have a mission in North Korea. We can't talk to them.

RADDATZ: And that's a real problem, right?


RADDATZ: How we view each other and that we don't really know...

OSNOS: Yes, there's a tremendous...

RADDATZ: J exactly what you said.

OSNOS: -- gap in perception between the two sides. If there's one lesson I took away from that trip, it's that as much as we have trouble on our side understanding why Kim Jong-un does the things he does, the North Koreans have a lot of trouble understanding President Trump.

If they don't have anybody talking to each other, and we really don't have anybody at the high level doing that. We have low level back channel communication at the moment.

But there's a strong view in the national security community, we're ready to have some kind of engagement, some kind of conversation.

RADDATZ: Thank you so much to both of you.

A fascinating, fantastic article, Evan.

When we come back, Republicans are making another attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

But will they fall short of the 50 votes they need in the Senate?

We'll talk to the two lead senators backing the bill, Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, when we come back.


RADDATZ: Republicans promised for seven years to repeal and replace Obamacare. But with Senator McCain's announcement Friday that he can't support the latest GOP proposal, does it still have a chance?

Let's go to the co-authors of the bill, Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.

Senator Graham, let's start with you. This bill is seen as the GOP's last attempt to get something done on health care before the September 30th deadline. Your good friend, Senator McCain,has said he won't vote for the bill. You have said the fight is not over. But how can you make this happen in the little time you have?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, number one, we're -- the only way you'll know how people vote is when you actually vote. We thought we had the votes last time and we didn't.

It's not about our friendship. I love John McCain. He's an American hero. He is my dear friend. I just disagree with him here.

My state had a 31 percent premium increase under ObamaCare. If we don't repeal and replace, it's a disaster for South Carolina and Arizona.

John talks about a bipartisan process. I'm a pretty bipartisan guy. But I've come to conclude that ObamaCare is a placeholder for BernieCare in the Democratic world. There -- the best you could hope for is to prop up ObamaCare, because they're moving toward BernieCare. So there is no process.

There's not a snowball's chance in Hill Bend, Arizona, as John would say, that Chuck Schumer can deliver anything that would substantially change ObamaCare. And if it doesn't substantially change, it's a disaster for the country...

RADDATZ: But really...

GRAHAM: So we're going to move on.

RADDATZ: -- Senator Graham, is there a snowball's chance your bill will pass?

GRAHAM: Yes, there is. I think Maine, Susan Collins is a great senator. They get a 42 percent increase. The governor of Arizona has come out for this bill.

Rand Paul objects to the taxes, but when you look at the bill, Rand, we save a lot of money over time from Medicaid. We have put a cap on ObamaCare growth to make it more sustainable, more affordable, more flexible.

So I think Senator Paul's health -- associated health plan, married up with our bill, changes health care.

So, yes, we're moving forward. And we'll see what happens next week.

I'm very excited about it. We finally found an alternative to ObamaCare that makes sense -- take the money and power out of Washington, the same amount of money we would have spent on ObamaCare, and let states design the systems, because if you keep replicating ObamaCare, even at the state level, you're going to get the same outcome.

Flexibility and innovation is what we're seeking.

RADDATZ: Senator Cassidy, let's get down to this in a little more detail.

Senator Graham mentioned Susan Collins. Susan Collins, whose vote you're trying to get, says she's reading the fine print and said it doesn't protect people with preexisting conditions. You had the same argument from Jimmy Kimmel, as you know, because their premiums could be so high that it wouldn't be affordable.

How is this someone who's going to come around?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: One, that's absolutely incorrect. President Trump has said he will not sign a bill which does not protect those with pre-existing conditions. I'm a physician who worked in a public hospital for 25 years caring for those with pre-existing conditions.

Our language says that if a state wishes to do something different, as they do something different, they must first establish that those with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable and adequate coverage.

Two things more. Affordable -- how do you define it, people ask?

It means able to afford. Now, contrast that with status quo. If you're not getting subsidies right now on the exchanges, your premiums, with deductibles, can be $30,000 to $45,000...

RADDATZ: And how is that decided, who can afford it?

How is that decided?

That's what is missing in the bill.

What is adequate and affordable care?

That's what people are complaining about.

And I want to...

CASSIDY: So, Martha, if I may...

RADDATZ: Go ahead.

CASSIDY: -- if I may, what we have under the status quo, a family with a child with a pre-existing condition is paying $32,000 a year. Now, that's not affordable. We're being compared to somebody with a premium plus deductible that is approaching $40,000.

Now if I were to say to you, Martha, I'm going to go but a car that I can afford, you would have a good sense of what it is.

So we give the states the latitude to establish -- it may be that someone who's a millionaire would pay a little bit more and someone who's lower income would pay a little less.

RADDATZ: But do you really know this...

CASSIDY: I don't think Washington needs to ramp (INAUDIBLE)...

RADDATZ: -- do you really know this?

You don't have a full CBO report. And that's a complaint, as well.

CASSIDY: Well...

RADDATZ: So how do you know?

CASSIDY: If you're speaking of the language that you have to have access to adequate and affordable health care, that's not related to the CBO. That's contrasting with the status quo of the ACA, in which people are paying $30,000 to $40,000 for their annual out of pocket costs.

RADDATZ: And yet you still have the vagueness of that.

All right, I want to go back to Senator Graham.

There was quite an extraordinary statement from major physician, hospital and insurance groups yesterday, including the American Medical Association and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

They say, "While we sometimes disagree on important issues in health care, we are in total agreement that Americans deserve a stable health care market that provides access to high quality care and affordable coverage for all. The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill does not move us closer to that goal."

Quite an extraordinary statement.

GRAHAM: Yes, I think it's quite extraordinary to believe that the insurance companies who receive hundreds of billions of dollars of direct payment from the federal government would willingly allow that money to be given to state governments to design new and innovative systems.

So the fact that insurance companies are objecting to the fact they no longer direct payments from the federal government, the same amount of money goes to states to set up new health care systems that won't fail, doesn't surprise me.

I would have been surprised if these people were for our bill, because we take money away from them, we give it to state governments to design systems that will deliver a better outcome.

Let me just say this, if we move the money and power out of Washington and we don't allow the flexibility and we require the states to do exactly what Obamacare is doing, how can you get a different result?

This system is collapsing all over the place. The big winners are hospitals and people who get direct payments from the government.

I want to take that block of money, give it to governors at the state level. And if you don't like what you get under Obamacare, who do you complain to?

Under our bill, if you don't like the health care you're receiving, you can complain to your statehouse member, to your governor, who cares about you, because they want your vote.

I raised -- I asked a question...

RADDATZ: Senator, if this fails, what will you tell people about your promise to repeal and replace Obamacare?

GRAHAM: That's a great question. That I did everything I could to get money and power out of Washington to give you better health care closer to where you live and I'm not going to stop fighting.

I'm on the Budget Committee. Brian Johnson is on the Budget Committee. We're not going to vote for a budget resolution that doesn't allow the health care debate to continue.

I think we're going to get the votes next week. We're using the exact same process the Democrats did to pass Obamacare. They complain about a process they used. They're never going to give in to changing Obamacare. They're going to single payer health care. There is no bipartisan solution to health care that fundamentally changes Obamacare, because there are stakeholders for single payer health care.

Here's what I'm telling Republicans and everybody in the middle.

RADDATZ: OK, we're going to have to speed this up, Senator Graham.

GRAHAM: I'm going to find it's hard to repeal it as they did to pass it. And the fight goes on is a fight worth having. rebuild it what they did to pass it. And the fight goes on. It is a fight worth having.

RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much to both of you.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

RADDATZ: And let's turn now to Bernard J. Tyson, chair and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, who came forward this week to oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill.

Good morning, Mr. Tyson.


RADDATZ: You just heard the senators. They are not going to say this bill is going down, but it is on life support, if anything.

You're CEO of a non-profit health system that serves almost 12 million Americans.

Where do we go from here?

TYSON: I think prior to this bill being proposed, there was a bipartisan committee at work looking at what it would take to stabilize the Affordable Care Act. I actually testified before this group. I met with many of the senators.

I believe that they're on the right track to come up with a few answer that will help stabilize the current law.

RADDATZ: What's the single most important thing Congress can to do stabilize Obamacare?

TYSON: Reach a consensus on a vital few things to stabilize and create a more competitive marketplace.

One is the cost sharing reduction, the CSR, that you probably have heard a lot about. That needs to be funded going forward.

And then number two is to provide the states with some additional flexibility while maintaining some guidelines at the federal level to protect the interests of the consumers.

RADDATZ: And you've spoken to the president, as you said, you've testified before Congress. You do seem to have faith they can work this out somehow eventually.

TYSON: Absolutely. I mean the Affordable Care Act is not perfect. It is moving in the right direction. This is about providing coverage for the -- all Americans through the front door of the American health care system.

When we have 20 plus million more covered today because of the ACA. It's the biggest piece of law passed on health care since the Medicare and Medicaid of 1965.

It took years for those programs to be stabilized. It's going to take years for this to be stabilized. But there are a few things that could happen to create the competitive markets to get the insurance -- other insurance companies back into the market. If they did a couple of things to the existing law that will happen.

RADDATZ: And just finally, and quickly, if you can, just your reaction to what the senators said about their bill and pre-existing conditions, and adequate and affordable?

TYSON: Prior to the ACA, insurance companies could exclude people, individuals with pre-existing conditions and/or if they provided them with coverage, it was so expensive. One important point that was made this morning that I want everybody to pay attention to, there's a difference between having access to coverage versus access to care.

So one might be able to afford access to coverage, but with the deductibles and all the additional costs to actually access care, that person could have coverage but still can't afford to get the care.

The Affordable Care Act was intended to bridge the gap between those two issues that happens inside of the industry.

RADDATZ: Thanks so much for your joining us this morning, Mr. Tyson. We really appreciate your point of view

TYSON: Thank you.

RADDATZ: Coming up, the Powerhouse Roundtable with the inside story on the battle over health care. And next week's key senate race in Alabama. We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: The powerhouse roundtable is all here, ready to take on another busy week in politics.

We'll be right back.



RADDATZ: That was the scene just moments ago at this morning's first NFL game in London. Members of the Jaguars and Ravens, players, coaches, even a team owner, linking arms and taking a knee during the national anthem in response to President Trump.

We're joined now by our powerhouse "Roundtable" to talk about all of that. ABC News congressional correspondent Mary Bruce; ABC News senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega; and Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, co-authors of Politico's "Playbook" newsletter.

And, Cecilia, I saw you just watching that scene. What do you think they thinking in the White House about this?

CECILIA VEGA, ABC SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I can tell you, Martha, I just got off the phone with someone in the White House. And the response is they feel like most Americans will side with the president on -- in that most Americans, they say, want to see people stand during the national anthem.

So I think in some way they will try to say behind the scenes that this is helping him. But I have to say, here we are once again, in the wake of Charlottesville. And the president of the United States has yet again inserted himself into what will end up being a very horribly ugly discussion about race in this country.

This is not about players versus the president. This is about race in the United States of America. And I think a lot of people, particularly minorities in this country, are going to hear what the president has said and see this as a very, very divisive tone from this White House.

RADDATZ: And we had Secretary Mnuchin, Jake, say free speech -- they can have free speech on their own time.

JAKE SHERMAN, CO-AUTHOR, POLITICO'S "PLAYBOOK": I think that's fair. But I think what a lot of people on Capitol Hill think is the president is trying to pass a health care bill, he's trying to pass tax reform. He has a huge week ahead of him. He has a senate race in Alabama. And he's elevating something that would have kind have been confined to people's Sunday watching habits while drinking beer and eating bad food.

And anyway, he has made this into a big national issue. He didn't have to do that.

ANNA PALMER, CO-AUTHOR, POLITICO'S "PLAYBOOK": Distraction-gate (ph), right? I mean, really, this is just, once again, the president distracting from what is probably going to be a really bad week for him.

RADDATZ: And doubling down, it's the third day in a row he's tweeting about that, commenting on that.

And, Mary, the president's approval is lowest of any president at the eight-month mark. It's slightly up, 39 percent in our poll say they approve of the job President Trump is doing. And that's just up from July.

You cover Congress. What is he going to do with that?

MARY BRUCE, ABC CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question. Where does he go from here? And, look, everyone on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats, are well aware of that number.

And, look, as Jake and Anna are mentioning, they're hitting now nine months into this administration without a single major legislative achievement. And Republicans are trying their hardest now to finally get one on the books. That's not looking very likely this morning.

But it comes as the president again is trying to distract, is trying to veer the national conversation back into this conversation about race, intolerance, politics of sports.

RADDATZ: And do you think he did it on purpose in Alabama?

I'm going to take on race, I'm going to turn the conversation back to that?

BRUCE: He certainly knew which audience he was talking to, right?

He's riling up a certain portion of his electorate, a certain portion of the country...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The base, the base, the base.

BRUCE: -- the base, the base, the base. But they need to (INAUDIBLE) and now the conversation will continue and continue dominating on Capitol Hill right when they want to be talking about health care.

VEGA: I totally agree. But I'm also told that he went into this speech on Friday and there was language in it about the NFL. He went and said a lot more than what was in this speech originally.

So he knew that he was going to do this.

But I've got to say, one of the numbers that jumps out at me in this poll is this idea that he's maxing out on his base, that they are hitting a peak here, that they're hitting their cap.

The number of people who support this president dwindles in comparison to the strong critics that he's got out there, 48 percent to 26 percent.

So he can reach out to that base, but how much further can he go with that is the question (INAUDIBLE)...

RADDATZ: But there is a positive number. There's a positive for the president in the poll numbers. Sixty-five percent of the prove -- of the deal the president made with Democrats on hurricane funding and raising the national debt ceiling.

So does he seize that kind of...

PALMER: Yes, I think -- I mean...

RADDATZ: -- number and go with that and try to get beyond the base?

He clearly hasn't done that in the last few days.

PALMER: Right. I mean I think the question is can they find some kind of immigration deal to be cut?

But just because Democrats are willing to cut some deals with him when it's advantageous to them, I wouldn't expect all of a sudden Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi saying let's do infrastructure, let's do tax reform, let's hold arms together kumbaya moment.

It's really kind of overblown.

RADDATZ: And let's talk about health care.

You heard senators Graham and Cassidy talk about that very optimistically.

Do you think it's all but dead?

SHERMAN: Yes, I do.


SHERMAN: I mean I don't want to...

RADDATZ: Thank you for that short answer.



SHERMAN: Yes, I think...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we can take a poll right here.

SHERMAN: Anything could happen. There are Senate Republicans -- and we've put this in this morning's playbook -- that are more optimistic that they can get this to the floor and try to get a process that would pass this bill.

I think it's difficult. I think there are three or four people who have objections to core elements of the bill. And you hear that, you know, Senator McCain and Murkowski, who's been non-committal, Senator Collins, they oppose this bill -- the guts of this bill. So it's not like we'll change a thing here, change a thing there and we'll get it through.

PALMER: And so many Republicans just want to move on from tax -- from health care to tax reform, something else that helps. This is kind of a loser issue for them. They're not going to be able to figure it out.

RADDATZ: But then again, this was their major promise for seven years, repeal and replace ObamaCare.

So what happens to the Republicans with that if it goes down?

BRUCE: Well, look, if this goes down, which I think -- we think the chances of that are pretty high, they still have to get something done. And it seems most likely that at the end of this week, they could be where they were two weeks ago, heading toward some kind of bipartisan fix.

Both sides of the aisle know that something has to be done here. But then that's a conversation about repairing ObamaCare, not repealing and replacing, which is, of course, their signature promise.

But a bipartisan effort here is what McCain wants. It's what a lot of other Republicans who've voiced opposition to this current bill want. They want regular order. They want open hearings. They want to fix this problem and move on to tax reform and other issues.

RADDATZ: And I want to move on to another issue, the Alabama election, very quickly -- Cecilia, you were watching that speech. I wasn't sure, by the end, who he was...


RADDATZ: -- supporting exactly.

VEGA: I don't know that he was.

RADDATZ: Luther Strange, Roy Moore. He was there for Luther Strange, but then took that turn.

VEGA: Yes, he sounded very conflicted, right?

He said I might have made a mistake in endorsing this. In some way, he is in a weird position here. He's got his -- people in his own camp. Steve Bannon is going down to Alabama tomorrow to endorse the other candidate that the president is not endorsing.

The speech was an hour and 20 plus minutes. It was all over the map. Some of it was about this Alabama race. But I think the real test for this president is can he sway his base?

There were a lot people in that room in Alabama who were there to see the president who do not support Strange.

RADDATZ: And your take on this, Jake and Anna, the...

PALMER: I mean I think the big question for this is if Luther Strange loses, it is going to be a big problem for Mitch McConnell and primaries going into this the 2018 election, that all of a sudden, you're going to have conservatives really try to go after some of these incumbents and kind of have some real problems for the -- for Mitch McConnell.

SHERMAN: Two quick points.

Mitch McConnell could have a problem in the (INAUDIBLE)...

RADDATZ: You could even make longer points. You did so well on that...


SHERMAN: -- still happy with my (INAUDIBLE).


SHERMAN: Mitch McConnell is going to have problems in the Capitol. Roy Moore is not a Mitch McConnell person. If he wins, Mitch McConnell is going to have a lot of problems governing, keeping the lights on, because this guy doesn't like him.

Number two, I just don't -- if I'm Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, I don't want to see what Donald Trump does if he doesn't get health care through and loses this race in Alabama, because he could run to Democrats again and that's a problem for Republicans, who have campaigned for years on unified Republican governing in Washington.

We're going into 2018. The House is in play. The Senate could be in play.

BRUCE: And if Moore does win, does he then become a bit of a test, a marker for other Republican candidates?

He is a staunch Christian conservative with some fairly controversial positions, shall we say, especially on same-sex marriage and the like.

Does every Republican candidate then be asked do you agree with him? Where do you stand in relation to that? And I'm pretty sure that is not what the the Republican leadership wants to be facing heading into 2018.

RADDATZ: OK, something The Trump administration does not want to face heading into 2018 is this Russia investigation.

And, Cecilia, this week, Special Counsel Mueller asked the White House for some information about meetings that the president himself had. So how do you view this? And what is going on there as far as you can tell?

VEGA: Meetings about -- that the president had in the Oval Office with the Russians. There are 13 areas of interest they're seeking information on.

Look, all we really know at this point is that this tells us that Special Counsel Mueller is -- his line of inquiry is focused on the president and the people closest to him right now. We still don't know directly that the president is investigation.

But, look, I have talked to people in the White House about this, none of this unexpected. Everyone in that inner circle is expecting to be talked to, is expecting to be interviewed. The fact that they have to hand over documents comes as zero surprise to them. They're all sort of bracing for it, but, you know, I've got to say on a week where we're talking about North Korea, where we're talking about -- sorry, Alabama, all of these other things, this is the fist week this a long time that I can remember that Russia and the investigation was really overshadowed by so many other things, much to the I'm sure happiness of the White House.

RADDATZ: But Anna, and we're going to do that quickly rule, but there is that sort of drip, drip, drip of this. It keeps -- it maybe under the radar this week quite a bit, but it keeps coming back.

PALMER: Yeah, I think this is just going to be this constant problem for the White House, whether it's hurricanes and then all of a sudden kind of gets a little bit lower in the news.

But certainly Mueller is aggressively going after this. I think there's an expectation that indictments could coming soon. And as that moves into a real serious phase, it's going to be a problem for this White House.

RADDATZ: OK, thanks all of you for joining us. I'm sure we'll be talking about the exact same things very soon.

But we'll be right back.


RADDATZ: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

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