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White House Grapples with Health Care Bill Defeat; Pence: Democrats, Handful of Republicans Stopped Trump on Obamacare Repeal & Replace; Graham Addresses Health Care at Town Hall; Ukraine Accuses Russia of Former Russian Lawmaker's Murder; U.S.-Led Coalition to Investigate Reports of Civilian Deaths from Air Strikes. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired March 25, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Great to have you with me. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Let's begin with the fallout from President Trump's staggering defeat on health care. His first legislative push since moving into the White House ended in failure. Candidate Trump promised over and over again to replace Obamacare with something better. The man who once wrote about "The Art of the Deal" came up short on Capitol Hill, the first time.
So now what? What will members of Congress tell their constituents?
Here's what Lindsey Graham had to say at a South Carolina town hall just today. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUITH CAROLINA: I don't think one party is going to be able to fix this by themselves.
GRAHAM: So here's what I think should happen next. I think the president should reach out to Democrats, I should reach out the Democrats and we should say --
GRAHAM: -- let's take a shot at doing this together because it ain't working doing it by ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: President Trump's message: "Do not worry." Let me read you what the president wrote on Twitter, quote, "Obamacare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great health plan for the people. Do not worry." Yet, worried could describe the White House mood today. President
Trump will almost certainly wrap up his first 100 days in office without a significant legislative achievement next month.
Let's talk it over with White House correspondent, Athena Jones; and political reporter, Tal Kopan.
Athena, to you first.
Going forward, how is the White House planning to change its game?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. I think we'll see the White House get more involved on the front end with legislative priorities and writing and putting together legislation. This Obamacare repeal effort was launched by the House Republican leadership and the White House came on to try to help sell the bill and it was a hard sell, this idea of doing this whole repeal and replace in three phases. The first phase being undo what you can un- do, given the rules and the Senate. The second phase, having the Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price make administrative changes. And then the third phase, doing everything else they wanted to do to change the bill. That was a hard sell because a lot of members didn't understand or think what they would get what they wanted out of phases two and three. According to a senior administration official I spoke with earlier, going forward, you're going to see the White House play a more active role on the front end in terms of language and in terms of strategy right out of the gate when it comes to legislation. And it certainly looks as though the next bit of legislation that the White House and Republicans are going to tackle is going to be tax reform -- Ana?
CABRERA: Tal, you tweeted this, "The statements from House Republicans, so far, all see this as an opportunity to do it again, but right this time."
So, Tal, will House Republicans able to be bridge this gap within their own party or do they have a better chance at trying to work with Democrats assuming Obamacare will start to have some serious problems in the coming months or years?
TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: What's interesting about that tweet, the statements were hitting my inbox and hitting them from different sides, not of the aisle, but the party. There were folks in the conservative wing who didn't want to vote for the plan because it didn't fully repeal Obamacare. And then there were folks in the moderate wing who were squeamish about the concessions made to appease the conservatives. So this is definitely the spin that's coming out as lawmakers are saying, oh, this didn't collapse, this is an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and do this right. But the divisions still remain.
And the message that we heard Paul Ryan really deliver to his caucus and that the White House has delivered from all sources is that they're moving on. They don't want to deal with this again. So it certainly looks like if the Obamacare repeal is going to come back up, it might have to be organic and it's likely to have to come up with concessions from somewhere and possibly with Democrats on board.
CABRERA: Athena, why did they try to tackle Obamacare first? Why didn't they start with tax reform? Is it true tax reform would be less complicated than Obamacare?
KOPAN: I'm not sure it is. And keep in mind, repealing Obamacare is taking something away. When you're talking about a legislative achievement like tax reform. you're starting from scratch. That's building a bill from the ground up. Alone, that's not going to be as easy as perhaps taking something away. And this whole episode revealed that there's very different ideas, even within the parties, about what lawmakers want to do. And they answer to their constituents in their districts, and that's part of this here. It's not the same thing as campaigning to a national electorate. Each of these members know their district and knows what their district is going to want out of legislation, and they're not necessarily going to vote with their party all the time. So smoothing over those differences is never going to be easy, no matter what legislation and no matter what appetite there is to deal with issues, because the details are -- they always say, the devil is in the details.
[15:05:13] CABRERA: That's the truth.
Tal and Athena, thank you.
The vice president is getting out of Washington this weekend. He's spending the day in West Virginia talking to voters. And he's not shying away from the spectacular setback. A few moments ago, Pence told the crowd the president did everything he could to get this health care bill through and that Democrats and a handful of Republicans stopped him. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Like I said, I was inspired by President Trump's determination and commitment to keep his promise to the American people.
PENCE: And the president and I are grateful for Speaker Paul Ryan and the House Republicans who stood with us in this effort to begin the end of Obamacare. But as we all learned yesterday, Congress just wasn't ready. You saw it. With 100 percent of House Democrats, every single one, and a handful of Republicans actually standing in the way of President Trump's plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. We're back to the drawing board.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's talk to my panel, A. Scott Bolden, the former chairman of the Washington, D.C., Democratic Party; Sarah Westwood, a White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner; and Jeffrey Lord is a CNN political commentator and form Reagan White House political director.
Sarah, I'll start with you.
What do you make of what Pence said, blaming Democrats and specifically a handful of Republicans.
SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: It's true there were no Democrats on board with this piece of legislation. It was the first of the three-pronged strategy. But keep in mind that the Republicans were never counting on Democrats voting for this bill. In fact, the entire strategy was built around the assumption that no Democrats were going to get on board with this piece of legislation. And that's precisely why it was structured in a way that angered conservatives and left out some of the substantive policy changes because they intended to push it through budget reconciliation. And it had to comply with strict rules in the Senate that meant they could only be certain things in the bill. And a lot of conservatives balked at that because they were not convinced phase two or three would go to fruition. So they assume this legislation was their one-and-only chance and it fell short of the benchmarks they had put out all these years. So conservatives are the ones who killed this bill.
CABRERA: Jeffrey, the president's message right now is health care is going to explode, just watch and wait, but don't worry, because we'll fix it. If you're a voter struggling to pay high premiums -- many say there's things that needed to be fixed with Obamacare. You voted for Trump because he promised to fix it. Is this what you want to hear, don't worry, let's watch it explode?
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think, in a practical sense, it's what you have to do. The issues in general get passed by the Congress when there's political heat, and the political heat here has to be behind repealing Obamacare. And you've got all of these folks on the Democratic side saying it's wonderful and terrific, don't take it away. OK. So the decision is to leave it there, leave it there. And as it crashes, then the political heat will build, finally, to get it changed.
CABRERA: So, Scott, should Democrats really be celebrating right now?
A SCOTT BOLDEN, FORMER CHAIRMAN, WASHINGTON, D.C., DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I don't think the Democrats are celebrating at all. It's really interesting that the Republicans can't get their own act together and that the real enemy is the Freedom Caucus, not the Democrats. There was no significant outreach to the Democrats. The Democrats, I think, would work to make Obamacare better if that was the outreach, but they're not going to work with the Republicans for repeal and replacement. That's just a fact.
But how do you blame the Democrats when the Republicans control the White House and Senate? It makes no sense? You could spin it any way you want, but the enemy is within the Republican Party, and until they fix the Democratic -- the federation caucus, that very conservative wing of the party --
CABRERA: The Freedom Caucus. BOLDEN: -- the Freedom Caucus -- forgive me -- it's just not going to work. Because Obamacare is one thing, but they have infrastructure, they have tax reform. They still -- the problem with the Freedom Caucus isn't going away. What you heard from Donald Trump was really, in a clumsy way, an outreach to the Democrats saying that maybe I get more votes for the Democrats and that caucus. That's a pretty embarrassing aspect of leadership for the Republicans who control the House and the White House.
CABRERA: It seems like Paul Ryan would almost agree with what you said. Let's play the sound of him reacting or explaining what happened with the bill's failure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[15:10:00] REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We were a 10-year opposition party where being against things was easy to do. You just had to be against it. And now in three-months' time, we try to go to a governing party where we have to get 216 people to agree with each other on how we do things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Is that what's going on here, Jeffrey?
LORD: I listen to Paul Ryan -- and I like the speaker a lot. He worked for Jack Kemp, as did I. I'm astonished here. They had all this time, years, to get their act together.
BOLDEN: Seven years.
LORD: Heck, yeah. As far as I'm concerned, the day after President Trump was inaugurated, they should have been standing there on the steps of the capitol, the House and Senate, Republicans, and said, here's the plan. They didn't do that. And so they allowed themselves to get into the crunch time formulation where there's a frantic nature about the whole thing. It just was not good.
CABRERA: Who should be blamed for this, because this is what the Republicans ran on election after election, and it seemed to help them win seats? Didn't win the presidency for a couple of cycles but it did here with President Trump. He was the change maker. Who's to blame for the failure? And should it be looked at as a blame or somebody succeeded in defeating this?
WESTWOOD: I think there's blame to go around. I mean, you look at President Trump, he had a lot of personal involvement in this, and so the failure of the bill reflected on the White House, because he and his senior administration officials were whipping members so hard. But I think the reality is that Republicans didn't have a big enough majority in the Senate to do any real substantive legislation, so they were boxed into a corner where they had to put forward a bill through budget reconciliation. And because the rules of Congress are so strict about what can go through this filibuster-proof process, they were not able to get the substantive changes they wanted. So part of this is just luck of the draw. Republicans only had a two-member majorities in the Senate. They just didn't have the numbers to do this the way they wanted to. And President Trump sort of hinted at that -- excuse me -- Sean Spicer said this, just pointed out that if we had a 60-vote majority in the Senate, obviously, we would have a very different bill, but this is the bill that we were able to put forward. It was the best that they could do. And it just wasn't enough to win over the Freedom Caucus.
CABRERA: Does anybody really win, though, when one party continues to be a blocker, shall we say, or an obstructionist party, and do Democrats risk becoming the party of "no?"
BOLDEN: They're not the party of "no." Republicans will continue to be the party of "no." Just look at what happened on health care.
Let me just say this, you start with a bad bill, it's very unusual when you have a bill, whereby the conservative wing of the party, the moderate moderates wing, Democrats, every health are stakeholder is opposed to this bill for different reasons. My goodness gracious, that's unusual. But this is a Republican Party at civil war with itself, and until it resolves that civil war -- even the outreach to the Democrats, the Democrats aren't going to play nice in the sandbox without extracting something. And if they're going to play nice with Donald Trump and the Republicans, it's going to take a lot of outreach on their part, not for the bad of the country, but for the good of the country. Let's make Obamacare better, and then you'll have a deal for all Americans, Democrats and Republicans. That's when Donald Trump needs to be saying, that's what Paul Ryan needs to be saying, and that's what needs to get done.
CABRERA: I see you shaking your head, Jeffrey. You don't think so.
BOLDEN: You don't agree with me? I can't believe it.
LORD: In terms of Obamacare, I think it's a disaster. I mean, people have lost their insurance because of it. Some people -- I talked to one woman on Long Island whose father died as a result of Obamacare.
LORD: I mean, people were really angry about this, really angry.
CABRERA: Why doesn't everybody work together?
CABRERA: Why not reach -- BOLDEN: Jeffrey, that's just not true. Jeffrey, that's just not true. Look at the CBO report, the Standards & Poor's report. Obamacare is up by 3 percent. 80 percent of those who have it, want it, versus a bad bill, and 53 percent of those who do have it are satisfied. The only narrative the Republicans -- are driving --
BOLDEN: Hold on. They're driving this narrative because they want that pronouncement to be true. Administratively, Tom Price can't do better.
LORD: They voted on this. They voted on this. They voted Donald Trump president because he opposed it.
BOLDEN: Why didn't Republicans replace it then?
BOLDEN: Why didn't Republicans replace it? It failed.
LORD: Let me just say one thing about the Republican civil war. To some extent, Scott is right about this. I worked for Ronald Reagan, who used to talk about this battle within the Republican Party between what he called the battle of pale pastels or bold colors, meaning there were too many Republicans that agreed with Democrats on the government and the size of government. That's basically the same fight that you've got going here. This has been going on in the Republican Party for almost 60 years. Barry Goldwater, Thomas Dewey, I mean, on and on and on. This time around, it took the shape of health care, but that is part of the problem.
[15:15:21] CABRERA: It's the political dysfunction that so many people despise, which in part is what got Donald Trump elected. So here we are. More of the same, which is kind of ironic, about all of this.
CABRERA: Jeffrey, Sarah, Scott, thanks to all of you. We know you'll be back with us --
LORD: Thanks. Thank you.
CABRERA: -- as we continue talking over all of this.
Ahead this hour, in the hot seat, Senator Lindsey Graham facing constituents in a fiery town hall today less than 24 hours after Trump's signature health care bill gets shelved. We'll take you there live. Plus, Kremlin critic. Chilling surveillance video showing a man
gunned down in broad daylight. Our Frederik Pleitgen takes us to Moscow.
And then later, a high-stakes heist in Las Vegas. Masked men robbing a jewelry store at the Bellagio and putting the hotel on lockdown.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[15:20:25] CABRERA: I want to take you live now to Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at a pro Trump rally in West Virginia. Lots of cheers happening. We just heard him say the president will not rest until he repeals and replaces Obamacare. That got lots of cheers. Let's see what else he's saying.
PENCE: I love his enthusiasm.
PENCE: Thank you for coming out.
I know the presence here, the presence of Americans at Trump rallies all across the country today is going to be a blessing. Going to be a blessing to the president's heart, I promise you that.
But I want to tell all of you, because of you here in West Virginia and because of millions of Americans, we now have a president in Donald Trump who's going to make America safe again.
PENCE: We have a president who's going to make America prosperous again.
PENCE: I just know with all my heart. So I encourage you to stay engaged. Let your voice be heard. Get out those banners. Wave those posters. Make sure people know that you support President Donald Trump and his agenda here.
CABRERA: All right. Let's pull out of this for a little bit.
He talked about engagement. That's exactly what we saw today in real- time in South Carolina. Republican lawmaker dealing with the fallout from the failed Republican health care bill. Senator Lindsey Graham went home, and he wasn't actually one of the members who would have had to vote on the bill because he's in the Senate, but he still got an earful from his constituents at a town hall in Columbia, South Carolina, today.
Graham acknowledged his party's failure and he suggested it was time for a bipartisan solution to address health care.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't think one party is going to be able to fix it by themselves.
GRAHAM: So here's what I think should happen next. I think the president should reach out to Democrats. I should reach out to Democrats. And we should say --
GRAHAM: -- let's take a shot at doing this together because it ain't working at doing it by ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: That's interesting.
CNN correspondent, Polo Sandoval, joins me now from Columbia.
Polo, Senator Graham got some claps and cheers for the call of bipartisanship, but I understand it wasn't all positive today.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, not at all, Ana. Senator Graham came, he listened, but he also fired back to a certain extent, even during a portion of the event that lasted about an hour and a half earlier this morning, when a woman close to the front row, got up, used her question as an opportunity to criticize the Senator from South Carolina. And also some moves from Republican colleagues saying they were, quote, "obstructing this ongoing investigation" into this Russian meddling with the election.
I want you to hear directly from Senator Graham, the response. Putting it lightly, he disagreed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: I think that's a bunch of garbage when it comes to me. I don't think I've obstructed anything. I think I've been more than on the case when it comes to Russia. I think I have stood up for the idea that I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and watch the Russians try to undermine our democracy, but I'm not going to --
GRAHAM: So I don't agree with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANDOVAL: Obviously, quite a bit of boos, but also quite a bit of cheers when he acknowledged that Russia did, in fact, meddle with the November election.
Some other topics discussed now, not only Russia, Ana, but the Affordable Health Care Act and the tabling of the vote yesterday. There was plenty of support for that. The consensus, when I spoke to constituents, is they felt that was the right thing. Many don't think Obamacare is perfect, but it's all they got. So they're hoping their lawmakers, including Senator Graham, will return to Washington, back to the drawing board, and try to figure out what comes next. But as we heard from the Republican Senator today, that may not be the case. Tax reform may be the next issue they'll attempt to tackle.
CABRERA: Polo, I'm really curious, very quickly here, what was the demographic inside that room? Where they mostly Republicans, mostly Democrats, or a little bit of both? Do you know?
SANDOVAL: Sure. I think just based on our experience and speaking to some of these individuals, the majority were, in fact, Republican. But what was interesting is many were more moderate than anything else. And they also seemed to relate with some of the Democrats that were in the building, because there were some of them as well. When it came to issues like gun control or climate control, it was interesting to see the amount of green cards held up. Many people in the audience did agree, for example, when it came to climate control and whether or not it existed. The Senator saying, yes, it did. And finally, it was interesting when it came to the Keystone Pipeline. The Senator making it clear he supported the construction of it. But greeted by a lot of boos in the building, a majority of them opposing that as well. Interesting dynamic in South Carolina today -- Ana?
[15:25:42] CABRERA: Polo Sandoval, thank you for that report.
Up next, a harsh critic of Vladimir Putin shot to death in broad daylight. The government said it's a case of Russian-state terrorism. That's the government in Kiev. Details from Moscow ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[15:30:23] CABRERA: Overseas, things are getting extremely tense between Russia and Ukraine after the killing of a former Russian lawmaker in broad daylight outside of a Kiev hotel. The victim was a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin. He was shot to death. Ukraine's president called it an act of Russian-state terrorism, but Moscow said Ukraine has only itself to blame.
CNN senior international correspondent, Frederik Pleitgen, has details from Moscow.
And a warning, his report is going to include some video you might find disturbing -- Fred?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRSEPONDENT: Ana, Denis Voronenkov's funeral was today, but the investigation into his killing is just getting started. Once again, the Ukrainians are saying they believe the Russians are behind this assassination, but the Russians are calling those allegations absurd. Here's what we know.
PLETIGEN (voice-over): A day after the murder of Kremlin critic, Denis Voronenkov, this chilling surveillance video has surfaced, obtained by Ukrainian broadcaster, it purports to show the moment that Denis Voronenkov was killed, his bodyguard wounded. And now the diplomatic mudslinging with Moscow and Kiev over this case has kicked into high gear.
One senior Ukrainian lawmaker claiming that the assassin, who was also killed in the shootout, may have been Ukrainian but acted on Russia's orders.
"I can say with certainty that Denis Voronenkov has been murdered by the agent of Russian Special Services, a citizen of Ukraine," said Anton Karashako (ph).
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko branded the assassination Russian-state terrorism. And on a visit to Ukrainian security forces on Friday, linked it to another mysterious murder of a Ukrainian journalist, and to a massive fire at a Ukrainian ammunition depot.
"It's a matter of honor for our law enforcement," he said, "to disclose the murders of the journalist and Denis Voronenkov, and the sabotage in the region."
Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated in a 10-kilometer radius around the ammo dump. Ukraine accuses Russia of setting it on fire.
Russian officials call these allegations absurd. The speaker of Russia's parliament saying that Ukraine is turning into what he calls a terrorist state unable to protect its citizens. Other Russian lawmakers chiming in.
"While the dead bodies are still being inspected and not even in the morgue yet, the head of the state makes such allegations of Russian- state terrorism. What does it tell us? This is a ready-made scenario," this right-wing politician said.
Ukrainian authorities say they're looking for the driver who possibly dropped the killer off at the scene of the murder. But even as the investigation to the killing of Denis Voronenkov progresses, the case has already become highly politicized, and another lightning rod between the adversaries, Russia and Ukraine.
PLEITGEN: And, Ana, you know the big question, of course, is what sort of motives could there have been for this crime? If you ask the Ukrainians, they say they that they believe that Denis Voronenkov knew something about Victor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine, who was close to Vladimir Putin and was possibly going to testify in a trial against him. They also believe that Denis Voronenkov may have known things about Russia's financial dealings as well. But the Russians are saying all of this is speculation. They say any sort of allegations that they were behind the killing are absurd. And of course, they say, they want to be part of any investigation into his killing -- Ana?
CABRERA: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you.
Coming up, two huge things the president has hung his hat on crash and burn. The health care reform bill dead. The claim he was wiretapped dead. Now new questions about his close advisors working hand in hand with the Russians. Could this truly be any president's worst 100 days ever? That's our discussion next.
[15:38:35] CABRERA: Death of the Republican health care plan is top news today, but not the only setback of the GOP and the White House this week. We also watched President Trump's bizarre wiretapping allegation get shot down by the head of the FBI. It all goes back to that pre-dawn Saturday morning tweet earlier this month, the allegation that came out of the blue and the comparison to even Watergate.
Well, On Monday, James Comey took the stand in the House Intelligence Committee hearing, saying there's no information to back up the charge and said even the idea is off that a president could order a wiretap, even if he had wanted to, just couldn't happen.
And then the "Time" magazine interview with President Trump went public. He clarified his accusations, saying wiretapping was in quotes, he didn't mean literally, but surveillance in general.
And then this. The broader investigation that's ongoing into how much Russia interfered into last year's election. The Republican Intelligence Committee chairman has now delayed a public hearing on this issue.
At the same time, new questions fly over whether people close to the president actively worked with Russians to help Trump win the White House.
Let me bring back my panel, A. Scott Bolden and Jeffrey Lord are still with us.
Scott, our senior political analyst, advisor to four presidents. David Gergen, yesterday called these, quote, "the worst 100 days of any presidency," given the health care failure, the Intel setbacks. How do you see it?
[15:40:00] A SCOTT BOLDEN, FORMER CHAIRMAN, WASHINGTON, D.C., DEMOCRATIC PARTY: A 37 percent approval rating, he's met the expectations of David Gergen's words, as well as what the Democrats the promised this country would go through if Trump were elected. It doesn't get worse than that, and it's going to get worse going forward because he doesn't have the legislative support of the Republican Party. He's got the tweets. And the Russian investigation is going to hang around. I think there's going to be an independent prosecutor, which is a nightmare for all of us, quite frankly, but necessary because it's such a politicized issue, whether the Russians not only affected our democracy but also was there any collusion between Donald Trump and his cohorts and Russian individuals. There's circumstantial evidence to support that. That's why the FBI is investigating that. I'm a former prosecutor. Where there's smoke, there's fire. We've got to get to the bottom of it.
CABRERA: The Intel Committee leaders don't seem to be in sync and that's where the investigation stands. Chairman Devin Nunes delaying the public hearing that was supposed to happen on Tuesday into the probe of the Russian election interference. And ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, and some strong words accusing Nunes of injecting politics into it, which you just suggested as well.
Scott, let me read you a tweet from Adam Schiff: "Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with Clapper, Brennan, and Yates in an attempt to choke off public info."
In fact, Democratic Representative Jackie Speier went further, calling it "an obstruction of justice."
Jeffrey, what's your reaction?
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Congressman Schiff, who has a tendency to play politics himself, is doing a little bit of a deflection here.
But, look, it's very clear from what Chairman Nunes has said there's apparently some evidence that President Trump or his associates were in fact surveilled by somebody, and this was common knowledge, apparently, in the government. It's also a fact that this information has been -- this information about the classified information, unmasking, as they say in the Intelligence trade, I guess, various individuals who were caught on these tapes, Americans, and their identities are not to be released. That's a violation of law. Clearly, people in the Obama administration were violating the law, massively leaking this in places like "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post."
CABRERA: I need to stop you there. I need to stop you there, Jeffrey
CABRERA: -- because let me just make sure we have our facts straight on this issue, because there is no evidence that the Trump campaign or anybody attached to Donald Trump were actually surveilled themselves.
CABRERA: But that the communication may have been picked up incidentally.
LORD: But if they were quote, unquote, "unmasked" and their identities released, that's a violation of law. People can go to prison for that and pay a fine.
CABRERA: It could be. It could be. But we don't know that for sure because, as Devin Nunes, the chairman, a Republican and advocate of Trump, was part of the transition team, he also said when he came out saying that Trump and his associates may have been picked up on surveillance, he did say he found nothing illegal as far as unmasking goes. He was asked that directly. So that's what we know at this point.
But I think broader question here --
CABRERA: Scott, the broader question I have for you is, given that it does seem like this has become more political, and now we're hearing a back and forth between Chairman Nunes and Adam Schiff commenting, could it get in the way of answers?
BOLDEN: Absolutely, the politics. Chairman Nunes is actually is getting in the way. Not only cancelled these hearings, but he's also gotten information from unnamed sources, hasn't identified them, didn't share it with the Democratic members or his committee members, whatsoever. Apologized to them, but then took this information to the White House. Now, Donald Trump and his cohorts are subjects and targets of this administration. That in and of itself disqualifies him to lead this investigation. He ought to step down, or Ryan ought to replace him, because if you're the subject or target of any investigation, and you run and tell and share information with that subject and target, you have compromised the investigation, the integrity of it, or at least --
BOLDEN: Hold on. At least the appearance of independence and propriety. And that's as powerful as actual convincing evidence or information that he may or may not have shared with Donald Trump. This is a huge problem vis-a-vis having an independent investigation and keeping politics out of it. That's why you need an independent prosecutor, and why one will be appointed because Democrats and many Republicans support this and feel the same way.
CABRERA: Jeffrey, why not have an independent commission?
LORD: I'm not big on independent special prosecutors, if that's what we're talking here. But I do think we should investigate. I know that Roger Stone and Paul Manafort both volunteered, they want very much to come and testify in public. I think that President Obama, his members of the White House staff, who had access to this classified information that was leaked, should all be called before that commission. Let's get it out there and everybody out there and see what they have to say.
(CROSSTALK) [15:45:07]CABRERA: Sally Yates, James Clapper, who were members of the Obama administration, were supposed to come testify on Tuesday. That was just postponed, Jeffrey.
LORD: Yeah, I mean, I don't know what the reason is, but I do believe we should get to the bottom and get all of these people out there and let's hear what they have to say.
BOLDEN: I have an idea. I have an idea.
CABRERA: Real quick.
BOLDEN: Listen, here's the thing. This is a dangerous -- this is dangerous for Donald Trump because when you voluntarily testify under oath -- we know these individuals have communications with Guccifer, communications with Russians when the accusations of Russians helping Donald Trump. This is a real problem. It needs an independent prosecutor. And look for the change in leadership of that Intelligence Committee.
CABRERA: We'll see.
A Scott Bolden and Jeffrey Lord, thank you so much.
We'll be right back.
LORD: Thank you, Ana.
BOLDEN: Thank you.
[15:50:16] CABRERA: In the fight against ISIS there are reports the U.S.-led efforts may be to blame for deaths of hundreds of civilians. U.S. Central Command is investigating whether three different sets of air strikes this month may have killed nearly 300 civilians in Syria and Iraq. More than 200 deaths may have come over a few days in Mosul.
CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining me by phone from Washington with details.
Barbara, what do we know so far?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, Ana, this is really all unimaginable. The U.S. military-led coalition engaging in three reviews, investigations, if you will, of civilian casualty allegations in March in both Syria and Iraq.
But the one that is almost really heart-stopping is this one earlier this month in west Mosul, Iraq. Now nothing has been absolutely verified. But there were a number of allegations over a period of days that there had been civilian casualties after some bombings, that, that women and children and civilian men clearly were being pulled out of the rubble of a number of buildings in a very crowded neighborhood area of west Mosul. The military started looking into it, and earlier today, issued a formal statement saying that, yes, they were bombing in that area of west Mosul on March 17th. And now they will conduct a formal assessment, reviewing everything they can, to see if there those civilian casualties were the result of any coalition U.S.-led bombing runs.
The question that comes to mind for everybody is, I suppose, is that word "blame." U.S. officials obviously are adamant, they had no idea any civilians were there. They feel they were bombing what they feel is a legitimate ISIS target. If ISIS used people as human shields, if they in fact, perhaps, one theory, took a large number of civilians, essentially hostage, put them in these houses and the U.S. had no idea they were there, I think the U.S. military view will be the atrocity is ISIS's.
But, look, I mean, clearly, the Iraqi government also investigating, very upset about this. And the facts have to be determined. Right now, a lot of social media reports, a lot of reports from the region, a lot of reports from human rights groups. The military, the Iraqi government, now investigating. But the allegation, Ana, is out there that perhaps more than 200 civilians killed in this one. Another 30 or 40 each in two other incidents earlier this month in Syria also under investigation.
CABRERA: It makes me sick to my stomach to think of the poor, innocent, men, women and children being targeted, not perhaps intentionally, but ending up as casualties of the larger conflict there.
Thank you for the update, Barbara Starr. We appreciate it.
CABRERA: Now, I want to introduce you to this week's "CNN Hero." On this sometimes frigid Navajo reservation, the supplies and services can be hours away and Navajo elders often struggle alone. This "CNN Hero" has spent 30 years seeking them out, helping them to survive. Meet Linda Myers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA MYERS, CNN HERO: You find elders without food. Many don't have running water or plumbing.
One of our main goals is to keep the elders warm through the winter. It can get down to zero here at night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
MYERS: You're welcome.
They need fires going all the time. And if they don't, then there's a greater chance that they could freeze to death.
(END VIDEO CLIP) [15:54:21] CABRERA: To see how Linda Myers helps the Navajo nation, go to CNN.com, and while there, nominate someone you think should be a 2007 "CNN Hero." We love telling your stories.
We're back in a moment.
CABRERA: 4:00 eastern here in New York. I'm Ana Cabrera. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
We begin with fallout from President Trump's stunning defeat on health care. His first major policy proposal since taking office ended in failure Friday. Candidate Trump promised again and again to replace Obamacare with something better. But the man who sold the public on his savvy for big deals couldn't make this one work.
Now President Trump's number-two man, is pointing the finger at a familiar scapegoat, Congress. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: And the president and I are grateful for Speaker Paul Ryan and the House Republicans who stood with us in this effort to begin the end of Obamacare. But as we all learned yesterday, Congress just wasn't ready. You saw it. With 100 percent of House Democrats, every single one, and a handful of Republicans actually standing in the way of President Trump's plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: President Trump's message? Don't worry. Let me read you what he wrote on Twitter this morning, quote, "Obamacare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great health care plan for the people. Do not worry."
Yet, worried could describe the White House mood today.