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Interview With Boston Mayor Marty Walsh; Storm Slams Northeast; White House Defends Republican Health Care Bill. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 14, 2017 - 16:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, now you have Sean Spicer of the White House attacking the CBO: They're never right. They're never right.

But let me just remind you and our viewers what President Trump said in 2014 about the CBO.

Here's one of his tweets: "As I predicted, Obama already caught lying on Obamacare enrollment numbers by CBO. Sticking with six million enrollments," of course, at that time, seeming to take CBO estimates at face value.

Another one: "The CBO has predicted that unemployment will rise to 8.8 percent this year. This is Barack Obama's economic recovery."

I suppose, you know, White Houses in the past have always attacked numbers that they don't find convenient. We know that there is there is a pat -- but there is a pattern with this president of attacking really any information that's not convenient for him.

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think the problem here is that the CBO number and the devastating report yesterday for this plan confirmed what a lot of people already thought about the health care plan that was proposed, including many Republicans, the devastating impact of Medicaid cuts.

You have already had four Republican senators come out almost immediately when the bill was put out, saying, we can't do this. You have Republican governors across the country saying, we can't do this. So, it confirmed a lot of what many people already thought about the bill, but with specific numbers.

They have to try to discredit it. They don't have a choice.


Ana, you said Trump has his finger on the base. He does. This is part of a strategy, too, because if you undermine confidence in these hard measures, sort of anybody -- folks at home might say, well, I don't believe any numbers. Right? Does this work as a way to get this through if necessary?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think this is different. And the reason it's different is, number one, it impacts -- it's going to affect his base overwhelmingly, disproportionately. And, number two, you're talking about real lives and real people affected. These aren't rigged polls. These aren't fake news. This isn't theoretical.


NAVARRO: This is, am I one of those 24 million, potentially 24 million that are going to be affected? And I can assure you there's a lot of Trump voters looking at those numbers today, and wondering, asking themselves that same question.


ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One thing to take away from this is clearly the CBO gets their information incorrect quite a bit of the time.

That being said, it's great news that costs go down, but at the same time, we can't deny the fact that the insurance coverage component of this bill is not good. And it needs to be tweaked and needs to be worked on. And the good thing is, we're seeing a lot of people, the House Freedom members, some conservatives in the Senate, we know that my former senator, Tom Cotton, and Ted Cruz are working behind the scenes to make some changes and have significant changes before it gets out of the House.

And that is part of -- they met with Donald Trump as well. And he has to listen to his base. He has to make these changes or we're going to see what we saw with Clinton in the early '90s, the BTU where it lost the House and the Senate because they shoved a piece of legislation down their throats without getting bipartisan cooperation.

SCIUTTO: Those midterms are not far away at all.

Alice Stewart, Ana Navarro, Jen Psaki, thanks very much, as always, for joining.

Be sure to tune into CNN tomorrow night for a special town hall about what's next for health care with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. CNN's Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer will moderate. It all starts right here on CNN at 9:00 Eastern time.

And millions of people dealing with an onslaught of snow. Now tropical-storm-force winds are knocking out power for many people. When will this storm finally let up? That's right after this.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

Let's turn now to the national lead.

With less than a week to go before the calendar says it is spring, a nasty nor'easter is slamming the Northeast, fittingly, bringing blizzard conditions to some parts. Listen to that wind. The system pelted the D.C., Philly, and New York areas with heavy snow, sleet and strong winds like that, enough to leave some drivers stranded and reporters coming to their rescue, lending a hand.

Now, the brunt of this storm is moving north and crippling New England. Cities are shut down as snow mixed with tropical-storm-force winds make it sometimes painful just to walk outside.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wind pounding in your face, and these snow pellets are not soft. They're hard. They smack at you like little pebbles.



CNN has a team in position to show you the worst of all this.

We start with Miguel Marquez. He is in Hartford, Connecticut.

Miguel, snow there changing to that kind of nasty mix of ice and sleet. What are authorities most worried about as we head into the nighttime hours?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's exactly this, the snow and all that ice and sleet, very, very heavy snow. And that will cause power lines to come down, tree branches to possibly break.

And it will weigh down on houses as well on their roof. So, they have engineers across the area trying to figure out if there are any problems with roofs and other places. You can hear and feel that wind right now. It is very, very intense.

It's basically ice coming down here across Hartford. The good news is, is that the travel ban will be lifted in about a half-hour. We're starting to see more traffic on the 84 and 91 here in downtown Hartford. So, things are starting to improve very slowly, but we're clearly not through it yet -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Miguel Marquez, he's in Connecticut. Thanks very much.

Let's take about a 90-minute drive northeast to Worcester, Massachusetts. That's where CNN's Brynn Gingras is today.

Brynn, forecasters, they expect most snow to fall where you are, but it's really the wind that is causing problems there.



Actually, Worcester is the first city in the state of Massachusetts that National Weather Service declared a blizzard happened here. That is that thick, heavy snow about a foot here in Worcester, and then those sustained winds.

Actually, this flag up here is not blowing too crazy right now, but that has been my focal point the last several hours. The flag is either blowing right, blowing left, sometimes wrapped around the pole. It is just blowing through this area and we're getting heavy, heavy wind gusts from time to time.

I just heard Miguel talk about it in Connecticut. That's what we're about to experience next. That is the next fear for emergency management here is that band of sleet of rain that could come through this area, come on top of this foot of snow, and then more snow later on tonight, which is going to make it very difficult for these plows to actually get their work done.

Same concern with electricity power lines and also roofs collapsing as well -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Brynn Gingras in Worcester. Got to get that right. Thanks very much.


SCIUTTO: I want to go now to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

He joins us now on the phone.

Mayor, we understand the winds are letting up there now, but temperatures also starting to drop. As we get into the nighttime again, really the second night of the storm, what is your biggest concern?

MARTY WALSH (D), MAYOR OF BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS: Really, the icing and the downed power lines.

We have had about 1,500 downed power lines all day. We have about half of them back up. But you get concerned about the rain and the weight of the ice pulling these power lines down. And we canceled school in the city tomorrow because of the ice and concerns for the kids and the school buses on the roads.

SCIUTTO: I always feel like it's a challenge for you that sometimes people listen and sometimes they don't listen to the warnings about staying off the roads. What's been happening the last 24, 48 hours? Are they listening to those concerns?

WALSH: Yes. For the most part, people listened all day today, which is great.

We had a parking ban in Boston starting at 7:00 this morning, and we're going to end at 7:00 tomorrow morning. We're going to be able to do a good cleanup here in the city. And, like I said, The biggest concern is the ice, making sure that as these roads are going to freeze tonight, we want people to know that you might see blacktop out there, but it doesn't mean that it's safe.

It's very -- it can be very dangerous. So, we're going to encourage people to stay off the roads tonight, and let us -- let the crews get the roads prepared for their morning rush hour.

SCIUTTO: I know it's always a difficult balance for you, getting the warnings right.

I know the initial forecast, they talked about nearly 18 inches of snow. At the end of the day, six to eight inches, so a lot less. In your view, did the level of alarm in advance of this storm, did that exceed the facts?

WALSH: Well, in this case, I would say, you know, the warning was important, because the snow, it seemed like a blizzard all day. The snow was coming down sideways.

And, you know, we didn't get as much snow as we expected, but, for a while there, it was whiteout conditions. So, the warning today worked.

But, sometimes, you do get a storm where the hype is a lot more than the storm. And that's where people get frustrated, you know, jumping the gun, canceling school, canceling work, putting in parking bans.

But, today, it was an important, important move to make today. It worked out OK.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN THE LEAD HOST: Well, just two weeks till baseball so Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, thanks very much. Hope it gets warm there soon.

WALSH: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: $20 billion in cuts, that's what the White House is demanding from the State Department. A look at what programs are on the chopping block next.

Then it's a case of life imitating art.. The mad men Don Draper Pitch is about to become a real television act.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back. And more now in our "POLITICS LEAD", President Donald Trump appears to be making good on his campaign promise to cut spending and dismantle some government programs. Now pursuing dramatic cuts in the funding for the United Nations and many of its most recognizable aid programs from peace keeping to vaccination campaigns to UNICEF, that's the U.N.'s relief program for children. The White House has instructed the State Department and the U.S. mission to the U.N. to cut budgets in half. Joining me now is CNN Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott. So Elise, President Trump as we know has been publicly critical of the U.N. as have many republicans. But when you look at 50 percent cuts, I mean, we'll have a dramatic effect on the ground for these programs.

[16:50:20] ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it definitely will, Jim. And humanitarian aid workers say the results would be devastating, President Trump making good on his pledge to put America first. But his deep cuts to foreign aid and to target the world's most vulnerable and members of his own cabinet and party warn they will make America less safe.


LABOTT: In what would be an unprecedented retreat of U.S. commitments overseas, the White House wants to slash foreign aid to the United Nations and other world bodies. Organizations that keep the peace help prevent disease and famine and combat nuclear proliferation. The deep cuts amount to about $20 billion in funding, a whopping 37 percent cut to the budget for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development which provides humanitarian assistance worldwide. Funding for the U.N. peacekeeping and development assistance cut nearly in half, and payments to other international groups dramatically reduced.

MICK MULVANEY, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET DIRECTOR: The budget takes the policies that President Trump laid out on the campaign trail and turns them into numbers. That's it. That's all it does. What did the President say on the campaign trail? I am going to spend more money on defense. I am going to spend more money enforcing the border.

LABOTT: President Trump forewarned deep cuts to foreign aid at a conference of conservatives last month.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is the United States of America that I am representing. I'm not representing the globe. I'm representing your country.

LABOTT: And his new Ambassador, the U.N. Nikki Haley says the era of the U.S. shouldering the burden is over.

NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We contribute 22 percent of the U.N.'s budget, far more than any other country. We have to start encouraging other countries to have skin in the game.

LABOTT: After several testy exchanges with the White House, aids to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tells CNN the former ExxonMobil CEO now has the flexibility to make the cuts over three years. But Trump's biggest fight could come from his Secretary of Defense who for years has warned about gutting the State Department budget.

JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES DEFENSE SECRETARY: If you don't fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.

LABOTT: After lawmakers who warned the cuts would be devastating to the war on terror.

To President Trump, if you destroy soft power, those diplomatic tools that lead to holding and building, we'll never win this war. If you take off the table building a small schoolhouse for a poor young girl in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, to give her an education, we'll never win this war.


LABOTT: And other State Department offices also expected to be on the chopping block include the Bureaus of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and Education and Cultural Affairs which runs the Fullbright Program where people study in the U.S. and often return home with a more positive view of America. More than 300 heads of state and about 1,500 ministers received an education through the Fullbright and have been strong allies of the U.S. Many believe, Jim, it's one of the U.S.' cheapest diplomatic bargains.

SCIUTTO: Since a lot of U.S. students overseas as well, myself included. Elise Labott thanks very much.

It was a pitch on the popular the show "Mad men". Now, one company is taking the fictional idea and turning it into advertising reality.


[16:55:00] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. The money lead now. Catching up to Don Draper. 50 fictional years later, Heinz has finally decided to pick up the ad campaign Draper Pitched in an old fictional episode of Mad Men.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's clean, it's simple and it's tantalizingly incomplete. What's missing? One thing. Pass the Heinz.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mean the Heinz ketchup.



SCIUTTO: Now, in the show, Heinz actually passed on the idea writing it off, again in the show, as half an ad. But now in real leaf Heinz is giving it the green light and running the ads just have Don Draper imagine it. No bottle of ketchup. All you need is the word Heinz. BuzzFeed says they'll be featured on three billboards in New York City.

More on our "MONEY LEAD" just weeks after Ivanka Trump stepped down from her positions in her name sake company, the Ivanka Trump Brand will discontinue its fine jewelry line. This means the high end bracelets, earrings and necklaces with price tags as high as $19,000 apiece will no longer be available. Instead, the company told the New York Times, it is focusing on much more affordable jewelry, such as a $38 faux pearl earrings. The demise of the first daughter's fine jewelry line shouldn't necessarily be viewed as a failure. After all, research firm Slice Intelligence reported that U.S. sales of Ivanka Trump products skyrocketed in January and February. This compared to just a year ago. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and on Twitter. I'm at Jim Sciutto or tweet the show at THE LEAD CNN. Remember this, tomorrow on THE LEAD, House Speaker Paul Ryan will join Jake SCIUTTO live to talk about the next move for the House Health Care Bill after that damning CBO report. Be sure to tune in at 4:00 Eastern time. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jim Scuitto, and again today for Jake SCIUTTO, and I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer. He is as always in "THE SITUATION ROOM".