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Interview With Michigan Representative Dan Kildee; CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate; Flint Water Crisis; The 2016 Race In "SNL" Aired 6:30-7a

Aired March 6, 2016 - 06:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Although Ted Cruz and Donald Trump each won two states, Cruz ended up with a better delegate count with 64 to Trump's 49 on Saturday.

And this morning the primary calendar is entering a critical 10 day stretch. Let's talk Democrats first voting in Maine. There will be caucuses there for the Democrats. It's on to Michigan and then Mississippi on March 8th. And then the race moves to Arizona, Idaho, Utah on the 22nd, before big prizes in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio on the 15th.

A similar debate -- dates rather on the Republican side, Michigan, Mississippi join Idaho and Hawaii on the 8th, and of course March 15th. The winner go home potentially states for two of the candidates, for Florida, that's Marco Rubio's state. And John Kasich has promised he will win Ohio.

But let's talk about today in GOP voters in Puerto Rico. They'll cast their votes in the primary. Polls open in the top of the hour there and despite having no Electoral College votes for president, no senators, no representatives who can vote, Puerto Rico has 23 delegates up for grabs in today's primary.

And CNN's Boris Sanchez has the best assignment of the day now in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Who is the favorite there, Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, so far everyone we've spoken to seems to believe that Marco Rubio is the favorite here in Puerto Rico. I spoke to a GOP official yesterday who said that the party isn't officially endorsing any candidate but it is an understanding that it's likely Rubio will take the island particularly because he understands the needs and concerns of Puerto Ricans.

Many of the people we spoke to yesterday their concerns are mostly the debt here in Puerto Rico, the economic situation that is dire. The island has been in a recession for the past 10 years and it -- they're looking also to an answer to the question of the statehood potentially. Marco Rubio supports statehood. We were at a rally yesterday where several hundred people and a crowd were rallying around him, shouting support for statehood and he drummed up support beating that drum about economic independence as well as a conservative look for the island when it comes to economic terms. In real terms Puerto Rico is only 23 delegates as you mentioned, Victor. So it is not huge when it comes to, you know, the electoral map but there is a symbolic victory for Rubio here in that there are more than a million Puerto Ricans that vote in Florida. So he's hoping that his presence here kind of bleeds over into the voting in Florida.

As you mentioned, March 15th, 99 delegates, winner takes all, up for grabs. There is also a particular symbolic victory here in that if he wins the island he can kind of have ammunition going to Donald Trump who has obviously claimed that Hispanics love him. We spoke to Senator Rubio yesterday after a less than stellar super Saturday asking how he felt after some disappointing performances in states like Maine, Kentucky, and Kansas and here is what he said.


RUBIO: Many of the states that voted tonight are states that quite frankly some of my opponents just do better in. And recognize that going in but we wanted to make sure that we got our fair share of delegates in this proportional process. We're soon going to be in the winner take all process in larger states like Florida and other places like that and that is where we feel very confident as we move forward.


SANCHEZ: So despite the senator's trying to stay positive and saying that he didn't win any delegates in Maine. So despite him trying to maintain the proportion -- the proportional delegates and try to move closer to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, it does not look good for the Rubio campaign right now so he's hoping to turn things around and could start here in Puerto Rico, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Boris Sanchez there for us in San Juan watching that primary. Boris, thank you so much.

Back here in Michigan, the Flint water crisis of course will be front and center in tonight's CNN Democratic debate. Up next we'll talk with Representative Dan Kildee about who he thinks is the best candidate to help fix the Flint mess and prevent it from happening anywhere else.

Plus, details on why some families say the environmental protection agency knew how dangerous the Flint water was long before the information was made public.



BLACKWELL: The stage is set for tonight's big debate here in Flint, Michigan.

You see the two podiums there. Senator Sanders, Secretary Clinton will face-off about issues of the economy. Domestic issues of course and national security but there are also talk about the Flint water crisis. This community has been suffering with polluted water for some time. Now federally, you know, the federal government typically does not get involved in municipal water issue but the water problem here in Flint is anything but typical.

For nearly two years, the men, women and the children of Flint have been subjected to as I said the foul smelly drinking water contaminated with high levels of toxic lead, other pollutants and although the problem has been said for some time very little has been done about it. And when Clinton and Sanders take that stage tonight here in Flint one issue they'll try to address tonight is the role that the federal government should take in helping Flint clean up the water supply.

I've got with me this morning, Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee, represents Flint in Congress.

Good to have you this morning.


BLACKWELL: So, let's start with the money. And we've heard from Mayor Karen Weaver that that's what she wants. Now everybody knows what the problem is, where is the help?

We know that Senator Mike Lee has put a hold on the bill that will bring $200 million to help fix this problem and others. Your view on that hold and what's preventing money getting to this community?

KILDEE: Well I do understand Senator Lee's -- at least one of his points and that is the state of Michigan bears the primary responsibility and actually has unbudgeted money sitting in its confers (ph) waiting to be deployed. More -- much more help should come from the state. I get that. Except that people who live in Flint are of the United States.

We've always pitched in when people were in crisis. Whether it was a storm or an explosion, some kind of a disaster. We have a disaster in Flint. And we should have a federal contribution to the recovery. You know, , keeping in mind that I think the state does bear the principal responsibility.

BLACKWELL: His point though and the point of many like him is that those are natural disasters. This is a manmade disaster. Which emails and information and whistle blowers have shown...

KILDEE: Right.

BLACKWELL: ... and this should be something that the state carries the burden for.


What's your communication with the governor's office and trying to free up some of that raining day fund?

KILDEE: Well, we keep pushing. In fact, you know, we've been pushing the governor for a long time. Back in September I asked him to begin to deploy resources. I asked him to ask the federal government for help. It wasn't until January that he did that.

So I understand this point about whether the federal government or the state government bears primary responsibility and the point about whether it is manmade or a natural disaster. If you go, as you may have, talk to the people of Flint, they are not too concerned about how this happened. They are in need of help.

We are a nation that bands together when people are in trouble. And I think we have every right to expect the state to step up in a much bigger way than they have. But when the federal government can help, it should help. And that is why we're pushing this legislation.

It is not intended to be the entire solution. That most of that responsibility still rests with the state and they haven't stepped up.

BLACKWELL: Speaking of going out and speaking with people. I have as I've been here in Flint in the last couple of days you represent this community -- so obviously you have but you brought members of Congress, leaders from Washington here.

Tell me about that experience. What happened?

KILDEE: Well it was a really good opportunity for members not to speak to communities, to our community but to actually listen to them.

We had a speak out at a local church and the members left really moved. It is one thing to understand a crisis and know how it happened and read about it and see the data. But to actually listen to citizens who are really in pain, who are anxious, who are afraid.

Every one of those 25 members of Congress, they came in committed to help Flint. They left with absolute certainty that they are going to do everything they can to make sure that the federal government steps in and that the state government especially is held accountable. I think they left with a much better understanding and more of an emotional commitment to make sure something is done to help the people of Flint.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I certainly came here thinking theoretically understand that people can't drink the water. You can't cook with it. But having conversations with people about not being able to simply just rinse your hands or do laundry or the small things that we use water for on a daily basis and don't think about.

We know that when those two candidates, Clinton and Sanders, hit the stage tonight people are going to be hoping -- waiting for solutions.

KILDEE: Right.

BLACKWELL: The problem has been identified. We know that you support Hillary Clinton in this nomination fight. What solutions will she bring? And are you expecting that more than empathy for the people that she will come with an answer?

KILDEE: Well, I've talked to Secretary Clinton about this issue on a few occasions. She came to Flint. We do have specific solutions and I know she supports them.

Immediately having a plan to replace this lead service lines that's somewhat underway but we need more resources. But then thinking beyond that, how do we make sure that we get the help to young kids who have been exposed to high levels of lead? Early childhood education, something that Secretary Clinton knows a lot about.


KILDEE: Better support -- behavioral support in the school, nutritional support, after school programming. All of the things that we would do for our own children if they were facing a developmental hurdle is what our plan for the recovery of Flint consists of. And I know the secretary supports that.

Beyond that we also need to provide some help to maintain and grow the economy here. We've taken a lot of hits over the years in Flint. This is a big one. And we're going to need help so that when we get these kids through this struggle, which we will, there is an opportunity waiting for them at the other end.

The one thing I really feel compelled to say. Flint people are really strong.


KILDEE: I mean, we are a resilient bunch. We have been through a lot. We always bounce back. All we really need are the resources.

We know what the plan looks like. We know what we need to do to fix and heal this community. We just need the resources to get it done. And it has to come from the people who did this to our community. Largely people at the state government.

BLACKWELL: Strong people here and very hospitable. (INAUDIBLE) speaking with people we've been welcomed with open arms here, I think in large part because not only bringing awareness but we're bringing the conversation here and people who can decide to do something about it.

Congressman Kildee, thank you so much for coming in and speaking with us this morning.

KILDEE: Thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: Again, the debate is tonight here in Flint, Michigan, 8:00 p.m.

Now again, the water, as dangerous, toxic waste here. The EPA knew about the Flint's water problem for a long time, but they turned away from the information. CNN talks to one family about their frustrating fight to get the EPA to step up and do something. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLACKWELL: Flint, Michigan, the site of tonight's Democratic Presidential Primary Debate.

A look at this city here. We know they have a terrible crisis they're fighting but the people here as we spoke with the congressman just a few moments ago, strong, resilient, and quite hospitable as we've been here for some time.

The Environmental Protection Agency, speaking of that water crisis, knew about this city's contaminated tap water but did nothing about it for nine months. In the meantime, thousands of families continued to bathe and drink and cook with that toxic water.

Sara Ganim has been investigating this crisis and really been speaking with the people who live here. Not just the local officials but the families dealing with it. And -- I mean, we can only imagine. I'm sure a lot we're not even aware of.

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is really interesting, Victor, because it's not just what they are dealing with now but it's what they were dealing with for two years before anyone was listening, right?

They were shouting. They were bringing their brown water to city council meetings. They were asking for help and they weren't getting it. And now their pain is also related to the fact that they are found out that officials knew what was wrong for so many months.


LEANNE WALTERS, FLINT, MICHIGAN RESIDENT: The rashes, the hair loss, the brown water. We had to figure what was going on.

GANIM (voice-over): After months of no answers Leanne Walters had enough.

WALTERS: I went to the EPA and I (INAUDIBLE) the science of it because you can't argue with science.

GANIM: Test revealed the water coming out of the taps in the Walters' home was so polluted with lead it was twice the level of hazardous waste.

Most think of the EPA as this organization that will come in at a time of crisis and fix things. Do you think that happened here?

WALTERS: Absolutely not. Not when it should have.


GAMIN: An EPA scientist drafted a memo about the high levels of lead in the Walters' home, highlighting serious concerns for residents and violations of federal regulations.

The memo was leaked to the public but instead of taking tough action the head of the regional EPA office, Susan Hedman, tried to keep it under wraps. She tried to underplay the report saying the scientists acted inappropriately by sharing his findings, because it was only a draft report and that only when the report is revised and fully vetted will it be shared with the city.


Marc Edwards is the leading drinking water researcher who was called in to test the residents' water.

EDWARDS: Who on earth would read that memo with the data showing a child had been lead poisoned and the worst lead in water that we've seen in, you know, 25 years. Who would get that memo and not take it seriously?

Here she is, knowing this abuse is occurring and remaining completely silent and letting these kids' future be destroyed. I mean, I can't -- I can't even begin to think how she might justify that to herself.

GANIM: It wasn't until nine months later that the final report was released. And the EPA issued an emergency order. All that time the people of Flint continued using toxic water. The regional director, Susan Hedman, resigned.


GANIM: Now e-mails, Victor, show that the EPA did offer to send the city of Flint some additional experts but people here want to know why they didn't do more. Why not tell the people who were living here what they knew about their water? EPA did decline an on camera interview to answer some of those questions but they did tell us this in a statement that, the ability of the EPA to oversee was impacted by failures and resistance at the state and local levels.

BLACKWELL: It is finger pointing back and forth?

GANIM: Finger pointing everywhere. Because the state has also tried to say that the feds didn't do their job. Now you see the federal government, the EPA, the CDC saying, the state hindered them and you've got the city sitting here in the middle wondering, you know, when they are going to get help.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And not just the city I mean, you of course have been asking questions of officials both the state and federal level but how much access do the people in Flint have to the officials to ask those questions directly?

GANIM: At points they do but not what they want. They don't have the answers that they want. They have the bottled water. They can go pick it up. At times that's hard. It is not really being delivered to their houses. They have to go get it. They don't have the answers. So the resources are starting to come in some ways. People are paying attention but when you talk to people they are angry and they're angry because they don't have those answers and they want them.

BLACKWELL: Understandably. And there are people who live outside the community who are also angry that this could happen not just to any city in the world but a city here in the United States. That this could happen to people in this country.

Sara Ganim, who's been working on this for months, thank you so much.

All right. The CNN debate, we know that that will be one of the major topics tonight. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders facing off on stage 8:00 Eastern in the CNN Democratic Debate live here from Flint, Michigan. Anderson Cooper moderates tonight's debate. Again, 8:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

Ahead on NEW DAY, our primary coverage continues. We'll look at the winners and losers of Super Saturday voting. The latest on the delegate counts and what we can expect from tonight's debate.

Also political comedy. Some pretty funny highlights from "SNL" last night. You want to see that.



BLACKWELL: Got a look at the debate hall here. Counting down the hours until the big debate. The Presidential Democratic primary here. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton will be on stage of course talking about the Flint water crisis but many other issues as well.

Anderson Cooper moderates at 8:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

You know, the presidential primary race continues to provide excellent material for "Saturday Night Live". Here is the take on Donald Trump with Chris Christie standing behind him on Super Tuesday.


DARRELL HAMMOND, COMEDIAN: What a great, great night. I really am running the best campaign, aren't I? The media is saying they haven't seen anything like this not since Germany in the 1930s.

I mean everyone loves me. Racist -- ugly racists. People who didn't even know they were racist. People whose eyes are like this. And this guy loves me, don't you? Wait? What's that? Get him out.



BLACKWELL: Oh that Christie expression behind him there.

And here is a take on how the rise of Donald Trump is affecting Hillary Clinton's general election chances.

Watch this sketch.


KATE MCKINNON, COMEDIAN: Aren't these people great? They are strong. They are beautiful and they have all been punched in the nose at a Trump rally. And speaking of Trump he's on track to become the Republican nominee so to all of you voters out there who have thought for years, I hate Hillary, I could never vote for her. To you I say, welcome. Because I've got clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right and here you can stuck in the middle with me.


BLACKWELL: Former cast member Jason Sudeikis also returned to "SNL" last night. He played Mitt Romney admitting that his big speech this past week have no chance of swaying Trump voters.

All right. Thanks for starting your morning with us. We've got much more ahead on the next hour of your NEW DAY live from Flint, Michigan and it starts right now.


TRUMP: I want to congratulate Ted on Maine and on Kansas. And he should do well in Maine because it's very close to Canada.

CRUZ: If we stand united that's how we win this primary. That's how we win the general. It's how we turn the country.

SANDERS: Democracy is not about billionaires buying elections.


CLINTON: This country belongs to all of us, not just those at the top.