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Trump Blasts Cruz for Not Being American Citizen; Hillary Clinton Defends Pres. Obama; Russia Denies Bombs to ISIS, Other Terror Groups are Not Falling on Civilians; Republicans Court Evangelical Voters in South Carolina; Pope Francis on Six-Day to Mexico; Michigan Whistleblower Breaks Silence; NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 13, 2016 - 06:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And being the best regular season team in the history of NBA, I think you got to go for it.


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: And you can see much more from my interview with Steph tomorrow afternoon in All Access to All- Star Weekend at CNN. And Police Reports Special hosted by Brooke Baldwin and Steve Smith that would be tomorrow at 4:30 right here on CNN. Guys?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Andy Scholes, thank you so much. Stay warm out there.

The gloves are off and the stage is set. The six remaining Republican presidential candidates gear up for a prime time high stakes debate in South Carolina.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Another crisis hitting Flint, Michigan now. A whistleblower breaking his silence and saying the state could have prevented the death of at least nine people from Legionnaires' disease. That's a CNN exclusive for you.

BLACKWELL: And Pope Francis arrives in Mexico to a two celebration. Later today, thousands expected to attend the pope's mass at the Basilica of Guadalupe to hear his message of hope and solidarity.

PAUL: And we wish you a good morning on this Saturday, 8:00. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell, a good Saturday to you.

And we're just hours away now from the GOP debate in Greenville. Six candidates and expect even more aggressive attacks. Get out your white board because you need to write some of these down, a lot of subplots here.

First, you've got Marco Rubio trying to rebound after that poor showing at New Hampshire going after former mentor, Jeb Bush. Bush, ramping up attacks on the frontrunner, Donald Trump, and despite a place to stay above the fray, trump is launching a new offensive threatening to sue rival Ted Cruz over his citizenship.

PAUL: I hope we've got all of that cleared out for you. Now Trump blasted Cruz on Twitter writing, "If Ted Cruz doesn't clean up his acts, stop cheating and doing negative ads, I have standing to sue him for not being a natural born citizen."

CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us live from Greenville, South Carolina with what we can expect tonight and I would assume, Ryan that we'll going to see some of that argument play out.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Christi, you're absolutely right. And you and Victor are right to point out that there are so many story lines leading into this debate which comes at a crucial time in the Republican presidential primary race just a week away from the South Carolina primary.

And you're right, Donald Trump is once again talking about Ted Cruz's birthplace and he's using it as a way to plant a seed of doubt with these idealogically conservative voters that actually might be more aligned with Ted Cruz. Now Cruz for the most part stayed away from these personal attacks on Donald Trump, instead he's trying to build the case that Donald Trump is not the conservative that he says he is. Listen to Cruz talk about that.


TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will give him this, he's not boring. My approach consistently has been I'm not going to respond again. So he can launch whatever insults he wants. My focus is going to be on the substance and issues and there is a reason that Donald engages in attacks because it's all a smokescreen to hide from his record.


NOBLES: So that is definitely one of the story lines we'll look to play out here tonight in Greenville.

But another candidate that we need to keep an eye on is Marco Rubio. He may have more on the line than any of the Republicans, especially after his disappointing debate performance the last time he was on a debate stage. He came into the New Hampshire primary with all kinds of momentum after the Iowa caucus and after that debate stumbled, he ended up finished a disappointing fifth in New Hampshire. He needs to rebound and promised supporters that he will have a strong performance here tonight. He may need it if his campaign is going to have any type of momentum moving forward. Christi.

PAUL: All right. Ryan Nobles, we appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So why is Donald Trump threatening to sue Ted Cruz now? That's not what he said in January. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just the fact is there is a big overhang. There's a big question mark on your head. And you can't do that to the party. I'm not bringing a suit. I promise. But the Democrats are going to bring a lawsuit.


BLACKWELL: All right. Let's bring in Jeff DeWit, Arizona State Treasurer and Trump supporter and Larry Sabato, Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Good to have both of you.

And Jeff, I want to start with you, why the reversal now? He said he's not going to bring the suit, now he's threatening to sue?

JEFF DEWITT, ARIZONA STATE TREASURER: Thanks Victor and thanks Christi for having me here.

You know, he has standing. That is, there is no question that Donald Trump has standing if he would like to sue and somebody needs to answer the question because it's not a question of was he born somewhere else. He was born in Canada and I believe he lived there until he was 4 years old.

So, it's a question of where his family had chosen to live in another country, they seemed happy there and then at a certain point he moved back but he was not born in America, and that is a question. If you keep in mind that he was a Canadian citizen. Ted Cruz was a Canadian citizen until, well roughly a year ago and...

[08:05:01] BLACKWELL: But Jeff let me bring you back to the question here, why now the reversal threatening to sue?

DEWITT: Well, we have to answer the question, it would be one of the most devastating things for the Republican Party if Ted Cruz were to win the nomination, which it doesn't look likely anyways at this point. But if he were to win the nomination and then the Democrats sue and get him off the ballot then without a Democrat Party has gone complete socialist slash communist that would be devastating to our country, and it would allow them to skate right into the White House.

BLACKWELL: All right.

DEWITT: And so, I think the Democrats are very excited about this that if Ted Cruz could become the nominee and they knock him off the ballot. So, why don't we answer the question now.

BLACKWELL: All right.

DEWITT: And just make sure that the Republican Party is going to be safe...

BLACKWELL: Let me go to Larry. Let me go to Larry. This line of attack did not work in Iowa, it didn't win him the caucuses. Why is Donald Trump bringing this up now in South Carolina?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR POLITICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, first you're right, Victor. There's no question that he has done what he said he wouldn't do. But remember, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds and losing candidates.

So, what Donald Trump does very well is to anticipate that attacks are coming from another side. He goes after the candidate he thinks is going to attack him first, thereby putting that candidate off balance and he's done it again. He'll do it a lot more times. He is doing it now because his number one opponent in South Carolina is none other than Ted Cruz. That's what the polls show. That's what people on the ground say.

BLACKWELL: So let me ask you about this from the Cruz perspective, Larry I want to stick with you for this one. Does the Cruz campaign see this as settled? I mean, are they at all concerned about this continued talk about their candidate's birth?

SABATO: Well, they ought to be because there is a sizable segment of the Republican Party that's concerned about this birthright natural born citizen issues. Now I want to state for the record, Victor, I studied this particular issue of natural born citizenship long before I'd ever heard of Ted Cruz. And my personal opinion, which is shared by I'd say 80 percent plus of the experts in this field is that Ted Cruz is completely qualified for the presidency. Nonetheless, what may be true in law is different from what may be effective as a tactic in politics.

BLACKWELL: So Jeff we've heard the candidate Donald Trump, I'm getting a little bit of feedback in my ears guys, go after Jeb Bush. I want you to listen to what he said about Bush.


TRUMP: Jeb, oh. Jeb. He's asleep. He's asleep at the wheel, folks. No, seriously. Can you imagine Jeb negotiating with China?


BLACKWELL: All right. So, the latest polls, although they are pre- New Hampshire, they're pre-Iowa had Donald Trump with a sizable lead, double digits in South Carolina, but this is a state in which the Bush name is golden. Jeb Bush has 20 staffers and four offices and has George W. Bush coming out on the campaign trail. How big of a threat does the Trump campaign believe that Jeb Bush is in the state? Jeff, that's to you.

DEWITT: Yes, sir. I don't believe that Jeb Bush is a threat whatsoever in this state, and that's what the polls are showing. And Jeb is really going to have a decision to make because as you pointed out, he has -- he's throwing really a bulk of his resources in South Carolina right now really trying to pull out a good finish. And if he doesn't get that, if South Carolina doesn't come through for him which it's looking like it's not going to, then he's really going to have to reevaluate whether his campaign should even continue with how big his ground operation is and how he's going forward.

But I don't think any of us doubt that Jeb Bush is low energy. I mean, when Donald trump said that, he absolutely branded him instantly and it just looks like Jeb Bush doesn't have the passion or the commitment to be the president of United States. He really doesn't. And it shows it looks like it's more of a -- he is the only one in the family at the Thanksgiving table that hasn't done it and it's his turn. But I don't think he wants to be there. He never looks like he wants to be a part of this and it's just -- it's coming through and everyone sees it.

So, I don't think he's a threat whatsoever and I think we're going to see that wrap up here after South Carolina.

BLACKWELL: Let me jump in here and I hate to cut you off, but I have limited time, is South Carolina Donald Trump's to lose?

DEWITT: It sure looks that way, yeah. It looks like the entire race is Donald Trump's to lose, quite frankly. He's leading across the board. If you look at the results in New Hampshire, he won every demographic group, young, old, minority, non-minority, everything.

[08:10:02] He won all the groups and what it shows is he's winning Americans. He's winning all of America.

BLACKWELL: Was that the case so ...

DEWIT: And this is not a normal candidate. This is a movement. Donald Trump is the leader of a movement to take back our country from the political establishment and if you go to one of his rallies and you see most people that go to a rally leave buying Donald Trump hats and shirts and everything else because they realize this is not a normal campaign.

BLACKWELL: No question. He had a huge crowd in Tampa, huge crowd in Baton Rouge and I want you to wrap it up, Larry. That's a pretty high standard, a pretty high expectation there from a Trump supporter that it's his to lose, wasn't his to lose in Iowa and he lost it. What do we expect as we count down the days in South Carolina?

SABATO: Donald Trump deserves full credit for getting far more votes in New Hampshire than anyone else did. But I have to throw in a fact that kind of spoils the party, Donald Trump got a little more than a third of the vote. Two-thirds of the people who voted in the Republican primary voted for other candidates. So, again, he won but let's not exaggerate the extent of the victory.

BLACKWELL: All right. Larry Sabato, Jeff DeWitt, thank you so much. We'll continue the conversation throughout the morning as we count down to the debate and a programming note. CNN hosts a post debate special tonight with Erin Burnett it's immediately following the next debate.

Also, just moments ago from Greenville, South Carolina CNN has exclusive access to a meet and greet Jeb bush is holding this morning with voters here at a diner. One of the several events he holds everyday. His four grand kids with him there and the former governor will also hold another small event next hour ahead of the next Republican debate in South Carolina. PAUL: US Secretary of State John Kerry taking aim at Russia for their actions in Syria why he says, "If they don't change thousands of additional lives are going to be lost.

Also, Hillary Clinton aligning herself closer to President Barrack Obama. How she's using that to boost her campaign. Listen.


HILLARY CLNTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want you to understand, I will not promise you something that I cannot deliver. I will not do that.




[08:15:23] CLINTON: I was very honored after running a hard campaign against then senator Obama to be asked to serve as his secretary of state, and I had a front row seat in watching him do what needed to be done in responding to the financial crisis. I don't think he gets the credit he deserves for saving our economy from the horrible ditch that the Republicans drove us into in 2008.


PAUL: Hillary Clinton delivering a fiery message, this was last night in Saint Paul, Minnesota defending President Obama as she attended a dinner along with her rival, senator Bernie Sanders.

Today is working out to be a bit of a mixed bag for her, just as she gets the backing of three different newspapers, a Super PAC supporting Clinton says it's spending $5 million on her campaign.

Here is the kicker. That's money that wasn't supposed to be spent until the general election. Let's talk to Jerry Crawford now, he's a Clinton supporter and adviser. Jerry, thank you for being with us.

What do you make of the fact that this PAC money is going to be spent early, are there concerns about her viability?

JERRY CRAWFORD, ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: I don't think there are any concerns about her viability at all. In fact, Christi I think just the opposite. The -- I love the stage of the race, the campaign is coming clearly into focus and the people are honing in on the two questions that matter the most, which are, who can win and who can lead? And I think in the debate night before last, Hillary Clinton proved once again that she's the one who, as The New York Times said is cool, calm and ready to be president.

PAUL: It is certainly. She did certainly have a good night. There's no doubt about that. But this Super PAC money, while it's a financial boost for her, it does amplify Bernie Sanders' argument that she is too closely tied to Wall Street and lobbyists. CRAWFORD: Well, right. That's -- I mean, he's run pretty much single issue campaign and that's his issue about Wall Street. I thought it was interesting the clip you just played where Hillary was talking about how President Obama helped to get us out of a near financial crisis. Obviously, no one was worried about who had donated to President Obama at the time he was making very important decisions for our country to save it economically.

Hillary Clinton would be exactly the same. She's not a single issue candidate. She is a person who is clearly ready on any host of fronts and topics. And I think look, the Democrats are going to have to decide who can win. That's the first question. And the Republicans are spending a fortune trying to help him in the primary. Now do we think they are doing that because they think he would be a terrific president or do we think they do that because they believe him to be easy to beat? I'd suggest it's the latter and so -- go ahead.

PAUL: If you don't mind, I'd like to read part of one of the endorsements that she received this morning from the Dallas Morning News when we're talking about her viability here. They wrote, "Clinton has made mistakes and that her judgment in foreign affairs has not been flawless." This is from a paper that likes her. What do you make of that kind of endorsement?

CRAWFORD: Well, I've been in politics, as you can tell from my hair color for a long, long time and I don't know anybody that hasn't made mistakes. I also know that CNN's Eric Bradner reported that in the last debate senator Sanders engaged in generalities, Hillary Clinton engaged in specifics. She is the one who is ready to be president. I don't think there's any doubt about that.

PAUL: We've heard her recently say, I will not promise you something that I cannot deliver. A direct, you know, a direct blow to Bernie Sanders there because she believes that what he is selling is not actually material, is not able to be materialized obviously.

But, you know, there are a lot of people out there that look at this and say, "I don't believe anything any politician has to say." Does that not come back to her, as well?

CRAWFORD: No, I don't think so. And by the way, that is a great quotation from Hillary Clinton. It's the Hillary I know. She's not going to promise a thing she can't deliver. She's tough, she's disciplined and that's the approach she's going to take to, for example, budgetary issues.

Conversely, senator Sanders for example has promised free college education for all.

[08:20:05] I honestly believe that it's just the very next thing to immoral to promise free tuition to the children of wealthy parents. My children should not have received free tuition because their parents were able to afford to send them. And we have so many priorities in this country that are underfunded whether it's daycare for single mothers or the Savage Inequality in our public K12 schools, those are the places where that money should go and this notion that you should pay to send the children of wealthy parents, the government should pay for that, that it should be for free, I think it's absurd.

PAUL: All right. Well, Jerry Crawford, we appreciate you taking the time to be with us this morning. Thank you.

CRAWFORD: Thank you, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Hawaii is trying to get ahead of the start of the Zika virus there. We'll share their plan for how to prevent the outbreak in the state.

PAUL: Plus, here in the northeast, get ready for one huge blast of rigid weather.


PAUL: Twenty-four minutes past the hour and diplomats meeting at a security conference in Munich, Germany say they worked out a plan to halt fighting in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry saying the goal was to have a "cessation of hostilities in a week's time and begin sending humanitarian aid to civilians."


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We will work through where this targeting should take place, where it shouldn't.

[08:25:00] How we work together in order to be effective so we don't drive people away from the table because obviously, if people who are ready to be part of the political process are being bombed, we're not going to have much of a conversation.


PAUL: Now Russia said it would continue air strikes against ISIS and other terror groups, but denied its bombs are falling on civilians.

BLACKWELL: Hawaii has begun to put insecticide sprayers in population centers, damp standing water trying to avoid any of the mosquitos carrying the Zika virus that could eventually reach the state. The governor signed an emergency proclamation as an effort to, "Get in front of the situation."

Now the World Health Organization recently announced two possible Zika vaccines that are under development but we know that they will not be available for at least 18 months.

PAUL: Oh, and bundle up, record low temperatures expected to hit many of you today, particularly it's going to be brutal in the northeast. Windchills expected to drop down to 40 to 50 below zero. Officials in New York City warning you to stay indoors and bundle up if you do have to head out because this is dangerous and possibly life-threatening cold weather they're talking about here.

BLACKWELL: All right. This is the ninth, ninth Republican debate coming up tonight.

PAUL: Wow.

BLACKWELL: And this one is going to be a hot one. The Republican candidates face off in Greenville, South Carolina, a lot of plot lines here. Marco Rubio, did he learn a lesson at New Hampshire? Trump and Cruz, we're expecting them to go at it again and Ben Carson he says he can win South Carolina what can he do tonight to get closer to that goal?

PAUL: Meanwhile, the pope is in Mexico City this morning and in just few hours he's holding a huge mass. We'll tell you the message that he has for the people of Mexico.


[08:30:13] BLACKWELL: Bottom of the hour now. Good to be with you this morning.

We are looking ahead to the GOP debate in Greenville, South Carolina tonight. Jeb Bush and John Kasich are campaigning this morning. The candidates all trying to make their case to national security voters in South Carolina but also evangelical voters across the state.

Let's bring back CNN political commentator Errol Louis, Jeff Dewit Arizona state treasurer and a Trump supporter, and Larry Sabato director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

I want to start with evangelicals and you Jeff. Trump has on several occasions used profanity, used vulgarities. We know that Ted Cruz has told a group that "if Trump comes on television send your kids out of the room". Are you concerned that his rhetoric is going to turn off the two-thirds of the GOP electorate there that considers themselves to be conservative Christians?

DEWIT: Well, you know, keep in mind that the comment that made the rounds last week was he was repeating something from the crowd. He said wow can you believe that this was just said? But, you know, he's a very straightforward honest guy. He speaks his mind and I think that's what's actually playing well with America.

Here we have somebody that's not going to put on the political filter and just give these political talking points that makes everybody happy. He's out there speaking his mind and telling America the truth.

And he's a passionate guy. He's passionate about making America great again, getting our country back on top. And that passion comes through. So no, I don't think it's going to play bad at all. I think that's one of the reasons that people are really flocking to him is the passion that he has for the --

BLACKWELL: Got it. Got it.

Errol -- let me come to you. Anecdotally we're hearing from voters that they're a bit turned off by some of the word choice. Do you think that it will have an impact statewide and will, I guess cause some concern for his numbers? ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. Absolutely. I mean

look, this is something -- I've been covering politics now for 30 years. I've never seen the level of sort of petty childishness that goes on, the personal insults, mocking people's appearance and so forth. And that's been sort of the hallmark of the campaign.

Now the other candidates have made an argument that I think is worth considering which is that this is a way to distract people from substance. And when you do that, you don't have to answer questions about your economic program or about how you would implement some of the policies that Candidate Trump has talked about and so that seems to be working for him.

So, you know, look, I agree there is an element of voters out there who will say this is quote, "telling it like it is". But there is a much larger universe of people for whom public life is not supposed to be about the pettiness, the childishness, the petty insults and the vulgarity.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about policy and Larry -- I want to come to you with that. Last night in Tampa, Donald Trump introduced something that in this stump speech that he said before however it is something that is very unpopular with many GOP primary voters. Let's listen to Trump in Tampa.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those ads, they have them on eminent domain. They have them on all sorts of stuff, eminent domain. If you don't have eminent domain, you don't have roads, you don't have highways, you don't have any.

And by the way, you should be so lucky to get hit with eminent domain because you make a fortune. They pay you to take the property. You make a fortune.


BLACKWELL: All right. Let's first drop that banner because "eminent" is spelled wrong but Larry, let me come to you. I want to ask you are there any single issue eminent domain voters?

SABATO: There are some. That's become an issue with a certain segment of Republicans. I would say it's an unpopular subject with those Republicans. I don't think there are that many single issue voters on eminent domain.

Donald Trump is expressing a legitimate point of view on eminent domain. It also happens to be unpopular in large segments of the Republican Party. But of all the things that we've seen him say and do, I don't think this is going to be critical one way or the other comparatively.

BLACKWELL: So I just want to know. Jeff -- why does he keep introducing this? I mean other candidates don't introduce the things that voters don't like about what they stand for at their rallies. Why does he continue to introduce it?

DEWIT: Well, I think there is an ad out there running that talks about eminent domain but he's right. You know, think about one of the ways that a lot of people have made a lot of money, not in a good way, but what they will do is find out where a particular freeway is going to go or road is going to go and there are people out there that buy the land in front of that or an airport or anything else and they sell it for a huge profit.

And so he's speaking the truth. He's just telling people look, this is a procedure that's in place, eminent domain. It goes on in every state around the country. When you're building anything, you're building a road, hospital, airport and so he's speaking it out.

[08:35:07] So for them to hit him on it seems like a bizarre attack to go after Mr. Trump on this, but he's telling the truth. Again, that's what plays so well and doing so well in America is he's the first candidate to come along and tell people the truth.

BLACKWELL: Larry, let me ask you. What are you looking for tonight?

SABATO: I'm looking for the intensity of the attacks but I'm also looking for the Newt Gingrich moment. Just four years ago, Newt Gingrich did an extraordinary thing. He was well behind right before the final debate in South Carolina, right before the South Carolina primary, and in response to what he considered to be an intrusive question about his private life he launched a broadside against the news media.

Let me tell you something I've learned over the years, you cannot lose in a Republican group by attacking the media. And he won the primary. By the way, he spoiled South Carolina's perfect record since the origin of the South Carolina primary in predicting the Republican nominee.

So we'll see if it happens again. It's going to be interesting. The last debate is always important though the primary this time is a week later. Sometimes people can forget.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we saw how close a debate to a primary can cause some problems -- in New Hampshire after Marco Rubio's self-admitted poor showing there.

SABATO: Exactly.

BLACKWELL: Larry Sabato, Jeff DeWit, Errol Louis -- good to have all of you this morning.

LOUIS: Thanks Victor.

DEWIT: Thanks.

SABATO: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: A whistle blower says Michigan state officials blocked efforts to find the source of one of the worst outbreaks of Legionnaires disease in U.S. history. How officials allegedly tried to prevent an investigation into finding the cause of that outbreak.

And Pope Francis is waking up in Mexico City this morning. The pontiff is getting ready to hold a big mass in just a few hours here. Details to what he's saying to the people of Mexico.


[084028] PAUL: Mexico's president was at the Mexico City Airport last night to meet Pope Francis as he arrived from a stopover in Cuba. Take a look at this.


PAUL: Quite a welcome there -- right. The Pope will be in Mexico for six days here. A formal welcoming ceremony planned later this morning at the National Palace. Tonight the Pope holding mass at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Rosa Flores is traveling with the Pope and I know that you spoke to him on the plane. You've gotten some really interesting information from him. What is his goal today?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Pope Francis will be the first to say that this is a pastoral visit. That he is here to be with the people of Mexico. He said that he knows that he can't fix all of Mexico's problems but he wants to be one with the people.

With that said, we all know that he can't escape certain topics as he's going through Mexico. He's visiting Mexico from south to north, from the southern point where immigrants arrive from Central America all the way to the border with the United States. So he will be speaking immigration, border wall. He'll be delivering a homily right around the border as he celebrates mass in Juarez. The people in El Paso, Texas will also be listening.

So Christi, while his message is very pastoral and very much of the church, he's not going to avoid some of the political undertones -- Christi.

PAUL: Well, you had a real personal moment with him on the plane, I understand. What did you learn from him that we have not heard before this morning?

FLORES: He told me a little secret -- Christi. He said "I am publishing a children's book" and he kind of, you know, said it kind of slowly and kind of low but people around me heard and the priest that he's working on this book with. He collected letters from around the world from children and he's answering the letters. And so this book is going to be published. From what I hear it's an amazing gesture. You can imagine the questions from kids are never easy so the Pope takes time to answer these questions and it's going to be published in a book.

PAUL: It will be really interesting to see how that materializes.

Rosa Flores, we appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Just ahead, a CNN exclusive: a health official says his team was prevented from getting additional help in finding the cause of Legionnaires' outbreak in that Flint water crisis that caused people to lose their lives.


PAUL: Well, controversy erupted, of course, when toxic levels of lead were found in Flint, Michigan's water supply. That might have just been the beginning though.

BLACKWELL: The water supply has also been linked to a deadly, and one official says preventable, outbreak of Legionnaires' disease.

CNN's Sara Ganim has the exclusive story.


SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the summer of 2014 people in Flint started dying in what would become one of the worst outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease.

JIM HENRY, GENESEE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR: We were suspecting the city of Flint water supply.

GANIM: After the city began drawing from the highly corrosive Flint River, brown water started flowing from taps.

HENRY: That was the big red flag.

GANIM: Eventually toxic lead would be discovered but that summer the county health director hadn't found the source of the Legionnaires' disease which by that point was already killing people so he got in touch with the CDC.

When you reached out, what did you expect to happen?

HENRY: We expected that we would have a team of people that would help us identify the source of this bacteria -- the source of this illness to stop it.

GANIM: But that didn't happen. The Centers for Disease Control, the federal agency tasked with investigating outbreaks didn't show up and the county health director Jim Henry says Michigan State officials purposely kept them away.

HENRY: Our whole team was angry. It was -- you could see that it was an intentional, deliberate method to prevent us from doing our job. GANIM: According to CDC protocol, a state must invite the CDC to

investigate an outbreak and Michigan did not do that.

HENRY: The state stopped our investigation by prohibiting us to communicate. They prohibited communication between the Centers for Disease Control and Genessee County Health Department. They prevented that team to come here and help us find the source.

GANIM: Legionella thrives in warm weather and Henry says he was racing against the clock trying to prevent another outbreak from happening the following summer still hoping the CDC would come and pinpoint the cause.

HENRY: It was infuriating.

GANIM: Michigan state officials did provide assistance but never found the cause of the outbreak. The state would not agree to an interview, saying only this, "We were able to meet the epidemiological case investigation need in the county. CDC was a part of these conversations as they were involved in many aspects of the investigations."

But the CDC tells CNN that it felt a comprehensive investigation was warranted and offered to further assist Michigan. In this case, Michigan felt that they had the skills and resources needed to perform the investigation themselves.

As the weather warmed in 2015 just as Henry had feared, there was a second wave of cases, but to Henry's astonishment, the state had already declared the Legionnaires' outbreak over.

When you read that, what did you think?

HENRY: There must be a mistake. We had two new cases in June. We had multiple cases and to determine the outbreak over must have been some sort of mistake.

GANIM: That's what you thought at the time.

HENRY: That's what I thought at the time.

GANIM: What do you think now?

[08:50:01] HENRY: It was intentional to stop the investigation that would implicate the Flint water system in this outbreak.

GANIM: By summer's end four more people would die including 58-year- old Debra Kidd. Her son Troy says she got sick after visiting the ER for a migraine. She did not know there were high levels Legionella in the hospital water supply. His family is now suing the hospital and the state.

TROY KIDD, MOTHER DIED OF LEGIONNAIRES' DISEASE: I think it's a cover-up. I think it stinks. I think they knew there was something more going on than they wanted to really let on.


GANIM: The CDC did finally make it to Flint last week but experts tell us it's likely too late to make any kind of scientific link. So to this day, they still do not know the exact cause of that outbreak and they may never know -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: That is frightening. Sarah Ganim -- we appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: And we're also learning now that some officials reportedly complained Flint's water treatment plant was rushed into operation. The Detroit Free Press obtained e-mails from the city's laboratory and water quality supervisor who wrote this, eight days before the plant opened.

PAUL: "If water is distributed from this plant in the next couple of weeks, it will be against my direction. I need time to adequately train additional staff and to update our monitoring plans before I will feel we are ready." That is a quote.

BLACKWELL: It's not however clear if these issues had anything to do with the lead or Legionnaires' problem.

PAUL: Now water safety issues not only plaguing Michigan, we should point. Let's talk about New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new plans for an alternative water supply for Hoosick Falls.

BLACKWELL: A small upstate town where the water system has been contaminated with a cancer-causing chemical. Also the state has offered to purchase and install water filtration systems for about 1,500 homes there.

PAUL: All right. Sports -- big weekend for the NBA three-point contest tonight turning teammates into opponents. We have a live report for you just ahead.


[08:55:53] BLACKWELL: On Presidents' Day, three teams of CNN anchors will go head-to-head testing their knowledge of all things presidential from debates to running mates. It's all in the "CNN QUIZ RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE" edition.

Here is a look at how the teams match up.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It's a big election year and this is the race everybody is watching.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Ask not what your quiz show will do for you --

COOPER: Jake Tapper and S.E. Cupp -- I think that's a power house team.

TAPPER: John Quincy Adams. COOPER: That is correct.


COOPER: Jake won the first one.

TAPPER: I'm undefeated.

COOPER: He basically dropped the mike, walked off and never came back.

TAPPER: I've never lost.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Seriously -- Tapper. Seriously

COOPER: You have John Berman and Kate Bolduan -- Kate's experienced on this. She knows what to expect.

BOLDUAN: Oh, dear, God. You're starting like that?

COOPER: John Berman is a three-time winner, a "Jeopardy" champion. He's going to be tough to beat.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Berman, Berman, Berman.

COOPER: New entries to the game -- John King and Van Jones.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: We are the outsiders.


COOPER: They're first-time players.

JONES: We've got them right where we want them.

COOPER: John King -- he's good on the magic wall but is he good at a game show?

It's still anybody's game.


BLACKWELL: All right. It looks like fun. Tune in Monday 9:00 p.m. for the "CNN QUIZ SHOW: RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE" edition and find out which team wins.

PAUL: So for basketball fans, tonight's slam dunk and three-point contest, they are almost as good as tomorrow's game.

BLACKWELL: Andy Scholes is in Toronto with a look ahead in this morning's "Bleacher Report". Hey -- Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS: Yes. Good morning -- guys. We're here in the NBA media headquarters for all-star weekend. We're inside because you know what is happening outside right now -- guys? It's negative 11 degrees so you can't stand out there, even if you wanted to. Now tonight is my favorite part of all-star weekend. You've got the dunk contest, the three-point contest. Now Zach Levine put on the absolute show last year in the dunk contest. He'll be back again this year defending his title. In the three-point contest, Steph Curry also will be defending his crown.

I spoke to Steph yesterday. He said the guy he's most worried about in this competition this year, his teammate Klay Thompson. The Warriors, of course, have been the story of the NBA so far this season. Curry is on his way to his second straight MVP awards. Many experts say he's changing the game of basketball right before our eyes.

I sat down with Steph and I asked him, you know, what he thinks when he hears people say that.


STEPHEN CURRY, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: You don't take that for granted. Obviously, this is how I know how to play the game and I work at it and try to take my game to the next level every single year and get better. When I go out there and play and hear certain kids say hey, I'm working on ball handling drills because I see you doing it or I want to shoot like you and asking about how they can get their jump shot right and the time that you have to put in and things like that.

Those are the stories I love to hear and see kids, you know, be inspired to get the most out of their game as well.


SCHOLES: You can see much more from my interview with Steph tomorrow afternoon in "All Access TO All Star Weekend" a "CNN BLEACHER REPORT SPECIAL". Brooke Baldwin, Steve Smith are going to be hosting that for you tomorrow at 4:30 Eastern right here on CNN, guys.

And like I said, tonight's events -- the dunk contest, three-point contest -- actually my favorite part of the weekend. And I'm going to go with a repeat in both. I think Levine defends his title and I think Steph Curry is going to go out there put on an absolute show.

PAUL: All right.

BLACKWELL: All right. Andy Scholes -- looking forward to it. Stay warm out there. What's the temperature again?

SCHOLES: It is negative 11 degrees outside -- guys.

PAUL: It's getting worse.

SCHOLES: I'm from Texas. I cannot handle it --

PAUL: It was negative nine last hour --

SCHOLES: -- I'm going to stay inside as much as possible. PAUL: My gosh. Andy -- thank you. Have fun with it. I think they always have fun, don't they.

BLACKWELL: Yes, they do.

All right. So that's it for us. We will see you back here at 10:00 Eastern for an hour of "NEWSROOM".

PAUL: Yes, don't go anywhere, "SMERCONISH" starts for you right now.