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Raucous Town Halls Pressure Republican Lawmakers; Democrats Debate Leadership; Mixed Messages to the European Union; Top Trump Administration Officials in Mexico; Not Going Home Yet in California; Fight to Retake Mosul Continues; NASA's New Discovery: Earth-Sized Exoplanets. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired February 23, 2017 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[03:00:00] (CROWD CHANTING)

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: More rowdy town halls. Republican lawmakers pressured to do more in Washington.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: And the debate within Democrats grapples with the way forward after bruising 2016 campaign.

CHURCH: Plus, a major space discovery. Scientists say they have found new Earth-sized exoplanets that could support life.

Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and, of course, all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

VANIER: And I'm Cyril Vanier. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The U.S. presidential election has been in the rearview mirror for nearly four months but the country remains sharply divided. And in town hall meetings across America, people are letting their elected representatives know that they are furious.

Republican lawmakers are facing tough questions on immigration, the Trump administration's ties to Russia, and the planned repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five members of my family, including me, that would be dead, dead and homeless if it was not for ACA.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm an angry constituent. You work for us. My husband with dementia, Alzheimer's, plus multiple, multiple other things, and you want to stand there with him at home, expect us to be calm, cool, and collected. Well, what kind of insurance do you have?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has no sympathy for the Republicans. She tweeted this. "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the Congress." But her party is coping with its own challenges. The Democratic National Committee is looking for a new leader, and the battle is on to define the party's identity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Donald Trump, as deceptive as he was, did say he was for jobs, trade, infrastructure, and protecting social security. That's our message. That's what we do. That's why he beat all those other Republicans because he stole a Democratic message. We do have to lead with our values.

I encourage Democrats in all office just to say stand for social security, stand for fair trade, stand for good jobs. Stand for infrastructure investment and don't back off of it.

TOM PEREZ, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR: And the Democratic Party needs to take the fight to Donald Trump. When we lead with our values, when we lead with our conviction, that's how we succeed.

And I have lost my voice going all over the country, and what I'm saying to people is my voice may be crackly now, but when we take over by implementing this 50-state strategy and making sure that Democrats have a voice, that is how we return the power to the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: All right. Well, joining us now from L.A., our Republican consultant, John Thomas, and Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson. Thank you, gentlemen for being with us.

DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thanks for having us.

CHURCH: Now we are seeing a lot of anger, even rage at times as these Republican town hall meetings around the country with constituents demanding GOP lawmakers investigate President Trump's ties to Russia. They're also concerned about the president's conflict of interest with his business ties and about what might happen to Obamacare and immigration.

John Thomas, to you, have you ever witnessed constituents hold legislators' feet to the fire like this, and is it enough for the Trump administration to suggest these are paid professionals instead of concerned voters?

JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Two good questions. Answer to number one is, yes, we saw it in the tea party. But let's not forget that while a room can be filled with 200 or 300 people, it's not too hard to do given the fact that the left hates Donald Trump with a level of vitriol we really haven't seen.

Let's not forget about all the people in the states of Wisconsin and Michigan and Florida that voted for Donald Trump and his agenda, much of which these protesters are protesting about. Now, as it relates to are these fake protesters, are they purchased, look, I'm sure most of them are not purchased. But the organizers mobilizing them are paid apparatus.

CHURCH: Dave Jacobson, do you buy that?

JACOBSON: Not necessarily. Look, I think some institutional players may be trying to capitalize on this. You may see Planned Parenthood or move on.org that are channeling their members and their constituents and their supporters into these pre-existing grassroots movements.

[03:05:11] But I think largely there's just so much electricity on the ground, there's a real ground swell of support, and this is largely organic. It's independent of the party apparatus.

And I think it's a testament to the anger and anxiety on the ground, and I think it's emblematic of the increasing polarization that we're seeing across the country fueled by the Donald Trump chaotic presidency.

VANIER: Gentlemen, I want to address the debate for the leadership of the Democratic Party that we saw on CNN a few hours ago. What we saw was the Democratic Party trying to find its groove as an opposition, an effective opposition voice, to Donald Trump.

I want to play sound from Keith Ellison, who is believed to be one of the main contenders in this race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLISON: Donald Trump has already done a number of things which legitimately raise the question of impeachment. I mean on day one, he was...

(APPLAUSE)

On day one, he violate -- he was in violation of the Emoluments Clause. This is part of the Constitution that says as the president, you can't get payments from a foreign power.

The day people checked into his hotel and started paying him who were from -- who were foreign dignities -- dignitaries, he was in violation of that law.

So, yes, I think that we need to begin investigations to not go after Donald Trump, but to protect our Constitution and the presidency of the United States to make sure...

(APPLAUSE)

... that nobody can monetize the presidency and make profit off of it for their own gain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: So, Dave, you've got a person who is running for the leadership of the Democratic Party. One of the first things he says, going for the jugular there, talking about impeachment. Is this, in your opinion, the winning strategy for the Democrats? Go for the jugular against Trump?

JACOBSON: Look, I think at a certain level, you've got to go against Donald Trump, right? I think there's credence to what he said. But I think largely, look, Republicans' years ago, back in the '90s, impeached President Bill Clinton because he was unfaithful to his wife.

Now we have a president who potentially was unfaithful to his country, right. During the campaign back in July, I believe, he asked the Russians to go and hack into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. He endorsed Julian Assange's WikiLeaks which obviously unveiled the hacking by the Russians at the DNC.

Now you've got these independent investigations that are going on in Congress looking into this, but there's a potential game-changer and bombshell there that could underscore the continued sort of relationship that Donald Trump has had throughout the course of the presidential campaign and now into his presidency.

But I think independent of attacking the president; I think one thing we saw tonight was a celebration of ideas. I think it was a healthy conversation, and I think a lot of the Democrats alluded to some of the key issues that we need to be talking about, particularly jobs and the economy.

VANIER: John, your take? Did you feel the Democratic Party was finding its feet or starting to do so as a voice of the opposition?

THOMAS: No. I think -- I think the Democratic Party we saw tonight, here are a couple of my takeaways. They're in crisis. I mean, they basically between the top two choices, you've got an allegedly anti- Semitic Congressman, Ellison. Then you've got a pro-TPP that's trying to backtrack as fast as he can in Perez.

The Democratic Party tonight appeared to me to be struggling with the Warren, the Warren of far left wing of the party, which is Congressman Ellis, versus Perez, which is more establishment. It's falling in love or falling in like. It appears to be the base wants to go even further to the left, which I think will spell disaster for them in the mid- terms and in four years.

CHURCH: All right. I want to turn to the issue of Scott Pruitt now, President Trump's head of the Environmental Protection Agency. He hasn't had a good relationship with his own agency. We of course already know that.

But now we're learning his agenda was quite literally written by lobbyists for big energy oil and gas companies when he was Oklahoma's attorney general.

More than 7,500 pages of e-mails from the Oklahoma attorney general's office show examples of this. John Thomas, this is a real concern, isn't it? I mean when you have a situation like this, what do you say because people are asking if you've got someone like that heading up that agency that's supposed to be regulating the energy industry, what's going to happen next? THOMAS: Well, it's not unusual at all for Democrats or Republicans to

be educated by special interests. So the fact when he was in Oklahoma, that's not unusual. It happens all the time, especially when you take a new office and you need an education. You hear from both sides, OK? So that's not unusual.

But he was brought in to essentially neuter the EPA. That's why you're seeing so much clash, and his principles that he articulated to President Trump, that's why he was selected for that cabinet post, not because he received some memos from some lobbyists years ago.

[03:10:08] CHURCH: All right. Dave Jacobson, your response to that.

JACOBSON: Well, look, this is a guy whose political campaigns have been bankrolled by big oil, Wall Street, and other energy entities. And I think it's emblematic of the fact that you've got a guy who is a climate change denier whose objective is to go in and sort of, roll back all the advances that the Obama administration made over the last eight years.

And I think the world looks to the United States when it comes to renewable energy and tackling climate change, and I think this poses a real significant danger for the U.S. and for the world as a whole when you've got somebody who totally doesn't believe in climate change.

You've got a president who called it a, quote, "hoax." I think this really is going to pose a threat for us, particularly at a time when you see these increasingly powerful hurricanes. We've had this atmospheric river unprecedented in California with enormous rainstorms, more tornadoes.

I mean, this is at a time. And by the way, let's go back to Oklahoma, where the new EPA director is from. Because of all the fracking that they've got, they've got unprecedented earthquakes that are happening all across that state. And so, I think it poses a real threat to our country and to the globe.

THOMAS: And Dave's right. Look, a storm may be coming, a storm of new jobs because finally businesses can invest capital and create jobs.

CHURCH: Good spin.

VANIER: Nice one. Gentlemen, let's just take a quick look at the polls now. Latest Quinnipiac poll shows only 38 percent of voters approve of Donald Trump's job performance. That's down from 42 percent earlier this month.

Now, my problem with polls, and I think a lot of people have the same problem with polls at the moment is you never know which one signals a lasting trend, which one will be forgotten the next day. So, Thomas, should Mr. Trump be worried about this number or not?

THOMAS: I don't think so at this point. First of all, we're far away from the midterm elections, so it's too far. Secondly, if you dig into the numbers, Trump's base is still with him, and that's much of what we saw in the primary presidential election and the general is that Trump's base is what got him across the finish line. I think right now he needs to just focus on his agenda, focus on fixing the economy, and the numbers will heal themselves.

VANIER: Dave, quick thought on that.

JACOBSON: Look, I don't think that it's just this poll necessarily. This is reflector -- reflective, pardon me, of a larger trend that we're seeing with a number of polls that have been released over the course of the last 30 days since Trump was elected president.

And I think one thing that this really underscores is that you've got an extraordinarily polarizing and divisive president, which is unprecedented at such an early stage of a presidency. It took Barack Obama 900 days to have the majority of the country disapproving of his job performance. It took George W. Bush 1,200 days.

Here you've got a president just eight days into office according to Gallup who had the majority of the country disapproving of the job that he was doing as commander in chief.

VANIER: All right. Dave Jacobson and John Thomas, thank you so much.

JACOBSON: Thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, top Trump administration officials are in Mexico right now trying to get relations with the U.S. back on track. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will sit down soon with President Enrique Pena Nieto and other officials.

VANIER: Trade, immigration, border security, and of course the wall are causing friction between Washington and Mexico City. On Wednesday, Mexico's foreign minister signaled his country will not go along with the Trump administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUIS VIDEGARAY, MEXICAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): I want to make it clear in the most emphatic way that the Mexican government and the Mexican people do not have to accept measures that in a unilateral way one government wants to impose on another. We will not accept that because we don't have to, and it's not in our best interest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Meanwhile, just north of the border, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and other lawmakers met with border agents in Texas and toured the area along the Rio Grande.

Well, the White House is reportedly sending mixed messages to the E.U. Sources say chief strategist Steve Bannon told the German ambassador to the U.S. the E.U. was a, quote, "flawed institution," and he would prefer to negotiate with European nations individually. That's in direct contradiction to the assurances Vice President Mike Pence gave E.U. leaders in Brussels a week later.

VANIER: And for more on that, our Atika Shubert joins us live from Berlin. Atika, how do you think this is going to go down in Europe?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they've been dealing with these sort of mixed messages, split personality administration for a while now. So really it's sort of become of the new normal for a lot of policymakers here. But it's still concerning.

I mean, I think the important thing here is that this meeting between the German ambassador and Steve Bannon happened in the week before Vice President Pence and others in the administration came here on the European tour.

[03:15:00] Now, that meeting was described by German diplomatic sources as being combative. However, the Trump administration officials has said it was really more of a very quick meeting, just a brief hello.

And so, the actual substance of the meeting, we don't know. The foreign ministry here won't comment on that, saying it's confidential. But clearly it shows the concern that German officials have about what the Trump administration's policy will be towards the E.U.

Now, Vice President Pence, when he came here, did quite a bit of work to try and reassure European allies that the U.S. is still committed to the European Union. But clearly when they get messages like they have heard from Steve Bannon and not just Steve Bannon.

I should point out that, for example, the top trade official in the United States has said he would prefer to deal with European nations bilaterally. The top pick for ambassador to the E.U., for example, has said that he doesn't himself really support the E.U. in principle.

So it's all very mixed messages and confusing for policymakers and it's precisely why the ambassador and other emissaries have gone to administration officials to try and better understand what the administration is thinking.

VANIER: All right. Atika Shubert, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

CHURCH: And just ahead, floodwaters in northern California are receding, but residents are being warned to stay out of their neighborhoods for now. We will explain when we come back.

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KATE RILEY, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN World Sport headlines.

Well, surprising the champions Leicester City are in danger of being relegated this season. The Foxes have something to celebrate after their first leg of their Champions League game against Sevilla. Despite squandering a penalty in the first half, Sevilla found

themselves tune up, thanks to Pablo Sarabia Garcia, it was followed by Joaquin Correa who finished nicely for the Spanish side.

But Leicester never gave up, Jamie Vardy finally grabbing what could be a crucial away goal and setting up an exciting second leg. Two-one as it ends.

Now two of the greatest goalkeepers of all time went head to head as Iker Casillas Porto hosted Gianluigi Buffon Juventus. Ten-man Porto finally gave in allowing Marko Pjaca to put the Italians champions ahead. And then just two minutes later, Juventus double their lead because of Dani Alves, 2-nil is the final score.

And Budapest has pulled out to bid Olympic Games in 2024. The decision was made after a group known as momentum movement started a petition to force referendum on the bid. They collected a quarter of a million signatures therefore forcing the bid's organizers to accept they had no chance of success.

[03:20:05] That makes them the third bidding city to drop out after Rome and Hamburg. L.A., and Paris are the only ones in the running.

And that's a look at your sports headlines. I'm Kate Riley.

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, Germany's foreign minister is urging both sides to honor the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, but he and a monitoring group both say the truce is not holding.

VANIER: Ukrainian forces and the Russian-backed rebels have been fighting since 2014. Both sides agreed to stop fighting and withdraw heavy weapons as of Monday, but the monitoring group says hundreds of violations have been recorded since that time.

And this ceasefire is a renewed attempt to enforce the Minsk peace protocol. That framework, however, has repeatedly failed since it was partially implemented two years ago.

CHURCH: Iraq says its security forces have stormed Mosul's airport and a nearby camp held by ISIS. The military says a massive offensive is underway to secure the airport. Iraq is battling to take control of the western half of the city. They've already driven ISIS out of the eastern half on the other side of the Tigris River.

VANIER: Meanwhile, we're getting new details about a suicide bomber who carried out an attack south of Mosul that was on Monday.

CHURCH: Evidence shows he was actually born in the United Kingdom.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen has a look at the bomber's path to Jihad.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: ISIS media affiliates identify the man who blew himself up south of Mosul as Abu Zakariya al-Britani. Of course, in reference to the fact that they say that he was British. The statement from the ISIS media affiliate says Abu Zakariya al-

Britani may God accept his deed was one of the executioners of the suicide bombing operations in Tal Kaisum village, which is of course south of Mosul.

Now, CNN affiliates here in the United Kingdom identified him as a certain Ronald Fiddler from Manchester who later changed his name to Jamal Udeen Al-Harith after converting to Islam. Now it is believed that he was at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility for at least two years there.

He later complained to the European commission where he says that he was mistreated while he was there. And it wasn't until 2004 that the British government, then under Prime Minister Tony Blair, managed to secure his release.

Now, apparently compensation was paid to him. It's not clear to us how much. There's figures floating around British media saying it could have been around 1 million pounds that was paid. We have not been able to independently confirm that number, but it does appear as though it was in 2014.

He then apparently went to Syria. His family saying that they tried to go to Syria as well, to try and convince him to come back. That, of course, didn't work. And now ISIS is saying that it was this man who conducted the suicide bombing operation south of Mosul.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, London.

VANIER: In northern California, thousands of people are being told not to return to their homes because of contaminated floodwaters in their neighborhoods. The situation is so unusual that evacuation orders include areas that might only flood once every 100 years.

CHURCH: Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now from the International Weather Center with all the details on this. So, Derek, what can you tell us?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Cyril, Rosie, put yourself in this position, the position of these homeowners. You have floodwaters rising to your car windows. You can imagine the sewers and the contaminated water just because of the backup, the simple backup of the rain water that has accumulated across this particular region.

It has been extensive, and the flash flood watches and warnings are still in effect, particularly just outside of the San Francisco region near the Sacramento Valley. We've been closely monitoring many of the cities along the West Coast. Storm after storm continues to impact the region.

Check this out. Sacramento, for instance, has already had over 18 inches of rain to date, and that is 298 percent of average to date. Unbelievable. Seattle, Los Angeles similar amounts in terms of how much rain they've seen and how that compares to average for this time of year. But just to put this into a different perspective, let's look at San

Francisco, for instance. They've already received over 16 and a half inches of rainfall. And on a normal year, we're talking about 365 days, they receive just over 20 and a half inches.

So, we're talking 80 percent of normal of rainfall just in 55 days. The first month and a half of 2017. So, unprecedented amounts of precipitation going on with these storm systems coming through.

[03:25:02] The good news is we have a brief break in the atmosphere. We're starting to turn off the faucet, at least temporarily. But guess what's waiting in its wings?

Yet, another storm system setting up for this weekend. That's going to be bring rainfall to the Pacific northwest, once again into California, and will likely be breaking some records. And anyone checking out the Academy Awards this weekend in Los Angeles, looks like the red carpet will be on the wet side as well. Cyril, Rosie, back to you.

VANIER: We'll be there.

CHURCH: Yes.

VANIER: All right. Derek Van Dam, thank you very much from the CNN weather center.

And police have arrested at least 10 people at the main protest site for the Dakota access pipeline. About 100 people marched out of the camp after protesters were told to leave, but at least 50 people were refusing to go. Authorities closed the camp to head off the danger from seasonal flooding.

CHURCH: Some tents were burned because they were frozen to the ground and can't be moved. Completion of the oil pipeline stalled under former President Obama, but President Trump revived the project.

VANIER: We're going to take a short break. When we come back on CNN NEWSROOM, CNN hosts a fiery debate over who is best to head the Democratic Party after its bruising defeat in the 2016 election. Hear what some of the candidates have to say.

CHURCH: Plus, we will hear from the transgender teen at the center of the bathroom debate after U.S. President Trump rolls back guidelines protecting him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: And a warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier. Let's take a look at your headlines this hour.

[03:29:58] Republican lawmakers are facing angry constituents at town hall meetings across the country. People are asking about health care, education, the environment, and Washington's relationship with Russia.

At some meetings, the crowds have shouted down their representatives.

CHURCH: Two senior U.S. officials are in Mexico to try to patch up strained relations. In a few hours, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will sit down with Mexico's president and other officials. They'll try to reduce growing friction over trade, immigration, and border security.

VANIER: And astronomers have discovered seven planets outside our Solar System that are similar to Earth. NASA says they're the most promising exoplanets so far in the search for other life. At least three of them could have water on their surface, and these planets are not too far, at least in cosmic terms. Just 235 trillion miles. That's about 395 trillion kilometers.

CHURCH: Nothing really.

Well, Democrats will meet here in Atlanta this weekend to choose the next leader of the U.S. Democratic National Committee.

VANIER: And just eight hours ago, just hours ago, eight candidates took part in a debate on CNN and they spoke candidly about the uphill battle that Democrats face.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMUEL RONAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR CANDIDATE: The DNC has never allowed outsiders or brand-new people to rise through the ranks. It has always been an insider game, and it has been that way for a very, very long time.

That is where that lack of trust has come into play because not only was Bernie Sanders snubbed, not only did it look like Hillary Clinton had bought or muscled her way into it, then those supporters were denied a chance to speak at the convention.

And that was the final straw. If people don't have a voice, an equitable voice like I alluded to earlier, then people are not going to trust the system.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR CANDIDATE: You can't allow this to devolve into factional struggle. Of course there were problems with 2016. Nobody could say that there weren't.

But I didn't love living through the 2016 primary the first time. I don't know why we was a party would want to live through it as a second time. We've got to look forward, not back.

(APPLAUSE)

The wolf isn't just at the gates. The wolf is through the gates...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. BUTTIGIEG: ... and eating our sheep right now. And this idea that this is going to be a factional struggle between the Bernie wing and the establishment wing is missing the point. We've got to take it to the opposition, which is the Republicans who are in power from the top of the ticket all the way down to school branch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Brown.

SALLY BOYNTON BROWN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR CANDIDATE: The reality is that the world has moved to a place where the Democratic Party is no longer keeping up with it. There are more independents than there are registered party people, and those independents want a place to play in the primary system.

And so you have a system that's been in place as Sam said that's no longer serving the people in our country.

ELLISON: I think we absolutely have to make sure that in the future, every person who wants to vote for a Democrat must feel that it was fair, open, and accessible and transparent. That is a mission, but I'm telling you, the real problem is ahead of us.

People are organizing in the street right now. I believe I'm the unity candidate in this race because I supported both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. And I believe I could pull the people together...

(APPLAUSE)

... so that we can come together as a party and we can win elections so that we don't ever have to go through this thing anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Congressman Keith Ellison there with other Democrats looking for a way forward after defeats up and down the 2016 ballot.

VANIER: Now Silvia Borrelli is a reporter for Politico, and she joins us live from London. Sylvia, when you watched the debate, did you feel the Democratic Party was ready to turn a corner and become an effective opposition to Donald Trump or not?

SILVIA BORRELLI, POLITICO REPORTER: Well, what I could tell from the debate is that the candidates are still quite divided although they're all trying to convey this message that the Democratic Party has to focus on making the procedure more transparent, bringing back the working class, attracting and engaging millennials.

The point is that it wasn't very clear how the candidates are, you know, planning to go about this and if they have a clear strategy. So, a lot of divisions still lingering within the Democratic Party.

CHURCH: Yes. I want to turn now to the town hall meetings taking place across America where constituents are angry, even enraged at times about President Trump's links to Russia, his business ties and potential conflict of interest, his plans for immigration and for the Affordable Care Act. Here's an exchange on that very topic. Let's just listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CASSIDY, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Here's another question related to the ACA. How do you protect our citizens -- how do you -- let me ask a question. Let me ask a question. Would you rather hear that man yell or me answer the question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll yell!

CASSIDY: You'd rather? If you'd rather hear this young man yell, I'll let him yell. But if you want to hear me try and answer your questions, I'll attempt to answer your questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Well, the Trump administration says these people are paid to protest and don't really represent real voters. How is that response likely to be received across the country at future town halls like this?

[03:35:04] BORRELLI: Well, I mean it really depends on how these activists are going to carry forward their protests and how the Republicans around the country are going to respond. We've seen a lot of embarrassment at these town halls.

And of course, President Trump has dismissed these town halls. He tweeted that they were sad and made up by activists. But really if these protests are growing and the sentiment of rebellion against these policies continue to spread, well, it's going to be really hard to just dismiss them as sad and made up by activists.

VANIER: Silvia, we've got these two things happening, those town halls where Republicans are being berated. We also had that debate that we discussed just a second ago for the leadership of the Democratic Party. If you look at those two things in conjunction, how do the Democrats harness that anger that we just saw and turn that into votes for them?

BORRELLI: Well, that's the whole point because if you look back at the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton wasn't able to harness that anger at all. And I mean, this is very similar to what was happening last year when the common people, Main Street, wasn't heard by the Democratic Party.

So now the point is how the Democratic Party and whoever the DNC chair will be is able to hear out these people and really, you know, take on the sentiment of unease with Trump's policies.

CHURCH: Yes, and just going back to all of the anger that we saw there at these town hall meetings, the Trump administration trying to say that a lot of this is driven by activists as we discussed. But we're not just talking about a roomful of 200 people in one city. We're talking about these town hall meetings right across America.

This sentiment is moving forward. At what point do you think, though, because most of these people are Democrats. At what point do you think we're going to see Trump voters say, this isn't going in the direction we want either?

BORRELLI: Well, it's still quite early. I mean, he's been in office for just a month now. But his popularity has dropped to 38 percent. So, of course this is indicating that something is changing. And of course this travel ban, you know, all the discussion with Mexico and building a wall and deporting people and possibly separating families is something that isn't helping Trump.

And of course his supporters as well, just like the Democrats, are going to have to really think about what this means and, you know, what this will mean going forward. But of course mid-term elections are still very far away, so it's really a process that is still evolving, and we're going to have to closely watch it.

VANIER: All right. Silvia Borrelli, Politico reporter joining us live frm London. Thank you very much. We appreciate your time.

BORRELLI: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, the Trump administration is rolling back federal protection for transgender students. The Obama era guidelines required public schools to allow children to use the bathroom which corresponds to their gender identities.

VANIER: Now the announcement spark protest in support of transgender right outside the White House. The transgender student at the center of the bathroom debate was there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAVIN GRIMM, TRANSGENDER STUDENT: We will not be silent, and we will stand with and protect trans youth. No matter what happens, no one, not even the government, can defeat a community so full of life, color, diversity, and most importantly, love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: The Trump administration has not offered new guidance but says the policy should be decided by states and not by the federal government.

CHURCH: All right. We'll take a very short break here. But still to come, President Trump is preparing to roll out his new travel restrictions. But one family got into the U.S. just in time for what could be a life-changing surgery. That's next here on CNN NEWSROOM.

[03:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VANIER: President Trump's revised travel ban is expected early to mid-next week. For now, the ban on visitors from seven Muslim majority countries including Iraq has been suspended.

CHURCH: Even so, the obstacles to getting a visa in Iraq can be monumental. Right now an update on one family's struggle to be together again.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN'S CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Nearly four months, three visa rejections, and now more than a full day of travel. Ajeel Mushin and Flosa Mushin arrive in Boston from northern Iraq to finally reunite with their 2-year-old son, Dilbireen.

I first met Dilbi a few weeks ago, stranded and being cared for by a compassionate stranger, Adlay Kejjan. Tonight, she and Dilbi are waiting for mom and dad at a nearby hotel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADLAY KEJJAN, YAZIDI AMERICAN WOMEN ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: I'm excited because he's going to see his parents. At the same time, I'm sad because I won't have him. You know, he's been the center of my life over the last three and a half months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: This is what their last precious moments together looked like. You see, when Adlay agreed to care for Dilbi, she really had no idea if this day would ever come.

The young parents are reduced to tears, overcome with the emotion at seeing their son again. This isn't a video chat. This is real. They can touch him, hug him, kiss him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AJEEL MUSHIN, DILBIREEN MUHSIN'S FATHER (through translator): Thank God we're all together again. It's really hard to stay away from your child when they're healthy, let alone he was burned.

SALLY BECKER, ROAD TO PEACE FOUNDER: It's kind of a bit surreal really because I didn't know what to expect.

GUPTA: Sally Becker runs Road to Peace. That's the British charity that brought Dilbi to the United States for medical care after he was burned in a fire at a refugee camp.

BECKER: I was afraid he might reject his mom because I was told some children do when it's been a long time, but he completely accepted them, and it's as if they've never been away now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: But a lot has changed since they've been separated. Flosa gave birth to another baby boy the day after the U.S. election. They decided to name him Trump in gratitude for the compassionate care provided to Dilbi by an American hospital.

Brothers from other sides of the world meeting for the first time under extraordinary circumstances.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLOSA KHALAF, DILBIREEN MUHSIN'S MOTHER (through translator): As long as his surgeries are done and he gains his health back, we don't want anything else in life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: Shriners Hospitals for Children in Boston say the child will need multiple operations over the course of a year to further improve the function of his face. They're going to focus on the scarring around his eyes and begin to reconstruct his nose.

Also here's an important point. As soon as Dilbi's treatment is complete, dad insists the family plans to head straight back to Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[03:45:01] MUHSIN (through translator): We don't know anyone here, don't speak the language. We are like blind and deaf people here. We want to go back and live among our own people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: But not before little Dilbi has left an indelible mark on everyone he meets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEJJAN: You know, he really has made me a better person. It's been like the most meaningful thing of my life, the most meaningful thing I've done.

BECKER: Success, I can sum up, with one word, and that's Dilbireen because you only have to look at him, so happy to be back with his mom and dad and his baby brother. This little boy is going to be fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: You can see there a good ending for Dilbireen and his family. He's not out of the woods yet. He's probably got another year's worth of operations to correct all those deformities to his face.

But I should point out that according to Road to Peace alone, there's nearly 100 other kids in Dilbireen's-type shoes who are waiting for some type of care, and it's unclear what's going to happen to them as things stand now.

Back to you.

CHURCH: Wow. Amazing story there for that young little boy.

VANIER: Absolutely.

CHURCH: Well, NASA makes one giant leap in the search for life on other planets. The discovery that has scientists so excited. That's next on CNN NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's not every day where all four seasons are represented on one map, but that is precisely the case across parts of the United States today.

We're looking at the conditions around an area where record warmth is being experienced around the southern U.S. Some mild temperatures around parts of the South Central U.S. And then snow showers widespread across the plains and intermountain west and of course cool temperatures filtering in where parts of California have been wet in recent days.

But look at this. The extreme heat has led to some 24 record temperatures. At least that's what's expected to be set for 24 cities across parts of the country. And back around parts of western Texas into areas of New Mexico, a critical fire risk in place as well with very dry, blustery conditions over the next 24 hours.

And to the north where the wintry weather resides, right into parts of the state of Wyoming there, that's blizzard warnings that are currently in place in that region. And notice just a series of events here with heavy snowfall in store in parts of the country where it has been very warm the past few days, even on into parts of Minnesota where record temps have been experienced.

Some heavy snow falls returning quickly as we're going towards Friday. But the forecast for Thursday, let us see, Chicago from the 20's down to around 8 degrees. Denver, the snow showers come back. San Francisco, finally some blue skies above there at 12 degrees.

And notice we get a blast of cold air here. We have the warmest stretch of February weather in recorded history. Coming back to reality in Chicago with some colder temps.

[03:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VANIER: Welcome back, everyone. Now, this one's pretty amazing. Scientists say they have found the best place to look for life on other planets.

CHURCH: Yes, and it's not just one planet they've discovered. It's seven.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You'll see all seven planets.

CHURCH: It's a jump to light speed in the search for signs of life outside our Solar System. NASA says it's found at least seven earth- sized planets orbiting a dwarf star 40 light years away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL GILLON, ASTRONOMER, UNIVERSITY OF LIEGE: This is the first time that so many Earth-sized planets are found around the same star.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: Astronomers have named it the Trappist-1 system. They say what's especially significant about the discovery, all of these exoplanets could have liquid water on their surface, the key to potentially supporting life. But scientists say three are in the habitable zone, meaning conditions there are best for life like that on Earth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARA SEAGER, ASTRONOMER & PLANETARY SCIENTIST, MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: We've made a giant accelerated leap forward in the search for habitable worlds and life on other worlds.

THOMAS ZURBUCHEN, NASA SCIENCE MISSION DIRECTORATE: Finding a second earth is not just a matter of if but when.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: NASA says all of the planets in Trappist-1 are likely to be rocky and more observation is needed to learn if they have water either underground or on the surface. Now the problem is getting there. If we could travel at the speed of light, it would take 40 years to reach the TRAPPIST system.

While it will likely take years of study, researchers say this may be the best opportunity yet to answer the question, are we alone?

Are we, indeed. And for more on this, Tom Kerss is an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich joins us from London. Thanks so much for being with us to talk more about this very exciting find.

Seven newly discovered Earth-size planets orbiting the same star some 40 light-years away. What could this mean ultimately and just how significant is it as we do try to answer that elusive question of whether or not we're alone?

TOM KERSS, ASTRONOMER, ROYAL OBSERVATORY GREENWICH: I think when we look back in the future at how we strove to answer this question, this will be seen as one of the major stepping stones. It's an incredibly exciting discovery because what we see here are numerous planets orbiting a small star not far away. Many of the planets we believe are rocky, in fact, perhaps all of them are.

Further study is required just to pin that down. But for the time being, this is giving us a lot of new information about where we're likely to find these sorts of planets. This kind of star, this red dwarf star is the most common type of star in the galaxy. And that raises hopes that planets like this may be far more common in our galaxy than previously thought.

And we're much -- we're much closer now to actually being able to analyze these very small planets in the local part of our galaxy and really make a detailed -- some detailed guesswork or speculation as to what the conditions, the climates of these worlds might be like.

Now, this system presents seven opportunities to study small planets orbiting close to their parent star. And as your report says there, three of them are in what we call the habitable zone. So these three worlds represent a special opportunity perhaps to find evidence of liquid water on the surface or in the atmosphere.

And because these planets are relatively close to us and because they transit their star, because they pass in front of the star, they're ideal candidates for close study.

CHURCH: Yes. As you say, three of these seven planets are in what they call the goldilocks zone and could potentially support life. But would it be any life form that we're familiars with? How possible is that?

KERSS: We always have to be a little bit skeptical about the question of life. One thing to bear in mind with planets like this is that because they're very close to their star and they have orbits in particular these three that we're most interested in, their orbits all fall within one to two weeks. So imagine a year lasting no more than a fortnight. And that package you and I hear how closely are to their parent star.

This can produce all sorts of strange conditions that we don't really understand from experience in our own solar system. The planets can become tidally locked, which means one side always face the star and the other faces away. And that is a real issue for us because it means that heat is not distributed effectively around the planet's atmosphere.

But if we were speculating and suggesting that there might be life forms in some worlds like this, well, perhaps they would be marine life forms in the strong radiation environment around stars like this, when you're close to the star, it stands to reason that you have a better chance of surviving underwater than you do perhaps on the land.

So we might be thinking about the sorts of simple life forms that started here on Earth billions of years ago, all of which were we believe in the sea. And those are the sorts of extraterrestrial life forms that perhaps we should be looking for signatures of marine forms.

[03:55:01] CHURCH: So just very basic life at this point do you think. Now given these newly discovered planets some 40 light-years away, how do we find out more about whether there is indeed water on their surfaces and possibly life, whatever form of life that is I mean, we are just talking about using telescopes here?

KERSS: Yes, it's exciting to think we can get a probe to Pluto in nine and half years. But to get a probe to these planets would take the best part of 800,000 years at the same speed. So it's not a practical way to study them at all.

So right now we are looking at a fleet of telescopes which are having their attention turned to this system. So there will be multiple strands of follow-up observation to try and analyze what the atmosphere of these worlds are like. And because they orbit in such short periods, we can collect lots of

data very quickly about these planets. And then we can start to look at the different elements in the atmospheres, figure out what the composition and heat distribution of the atmosphere might be like, and that will really help us to pin down what these worlds are like, how they differ from worlds in our own Solar System, and how they differ from each other as well, which helps us in a big way to figure out how to find other candidate worlds in our galaxy.

Now that we've seen a Solar System orbiting a star of this nature, stars like this are going to become a much hotter topic in the search for yet more worlds. So while we might not expect perhaps to find life in this particular system, who knows. This will certainly represent...

(CROSSTALK)

CHURCH: All right.

KERSS: ... a great leap in our understanding for future searches.

CHURCH: Scientists and all of us in fact very excited about this. Tom Kerss, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

And thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. Early Start is next for our viewers here in the United States.

VANIER: And for everyone else, stay tuned. We'll leave you in the competent hands of Max Foster in London. Take care.

CHURCH: Have a great day.

[04:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)