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White House Grapples with Health Care Bill's Defeat; Dead This Week: Health Care Bill, Wiretapping Claims; Police in Armed Standoff on Vegas Strip; U.S.-Led Coalition to Investigate Reports of Civilian Deaths from Air Strikes; Ukraine Accuses Russia of Former Russian Lawmaker's Murder. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 25, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:17] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. Five o'clock in the East, thank you for joining me on a Saturday. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
We begin with the fallout from President Trump's first major political defeat from taking office. He failed to get his health care plan across the finish line and instead ran straight into a road block by members of his own party in the House. Trump's reaction? Don't worry. Here's what he wrote on twitter just this morning. "ObamaCare will explode and we will get together and piece together a great health care plan for the people. Do not worry."
How much political damage did the Trump White House sustain and what's next for the President's ambitious legislative agenda?
Let's talk it over with White House correspondent Athena Jones and political correspondent Tal Kopan. Athena, what are some Republicans now saying about the President and how he went about this health care legislation?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Well, some Republicans are saying that the President's sales pitch was lacking. First, I want to tell you that the White House here has said, look, the President and his team left everything on the field. They did everything they could to get this bill through. But the bottom-line is, this is not a dictatorship and you can't make people vote a certain way. And the truth is, the President did have face-to-face meetings with more than 120 members of Congress, according to Press Secretary Sean Spicer. He would wake up sometimes, call people at 6:00 a.m., call members at 6:00 a.m. to try to cajole them and work as late as 11:00 p.m.
They say he was all in this was personal. But if you talk to members of Congress, they say a couple of things. One, that the President didn't offer much of a rationale for why they should vote yes on this bill beyond the political one. The idea of giving him a victory in his first 100 days. They also said that the President didn't seem to know much in terms of the nitty-gritty details of the bill and of the policies that were in this bill. There were members who asked him about specific policies and he wasn't able to answer those questions.
They said that they got this sense that he had left the details to other White House staff but some members wanted to hear him sell this policy, nugget by nugget. Detail by detail. And then there's the issue of doing a road trip. You know, going out, into the country, and selling this repeal bill. He did make a couple of stops, he went to Tennessee, he went to Kentucky. But even in those stops he didn't spend a great deal of time talking about why, why this particular repeal bill is the one that should be passed. To replace ObamaCare. He really talked about it in passing, you heard a lot of the slogans that we heard on the campaign trail. And so, the big question going forward is will he change up his sales pitch. Will he get involved in the nitty-gritty when it comes to future legislation?
CABRERA: That's what a lot of people are asking today, and Tal, after this defeat, how does Trump then rebound to get some of the other legislative priorities passed? Like tax reform is the next one on his agenda, he says.
TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, there's no doubt that this, episode has made anything going forward more difficult. You know there was a lot of talk of a game of chicken being played last week. Between, you know, Trump and Paul Ryan and some folks who didn't want to vote for the bill and there's no doubt that in this instance, the White House and Paul Ryan lost that game of chicken. And that emboldens anyone who opposes them to feel like they can extract things in the future. You know so anything is going to be more difficult as well as writing legislation from scratch is going to be more difficult than trying to unwind something that was on the books.
You know at the same time there's no doubt that the White House has learned some lessons from this go-round. You know, Trump hasn't done this before and many of his staff haven't actually shepherded legislation through Congress before. So, there may be some lessons they take away going forward. But there's no doubt that they've lost some political capital already at a time when they need it most.
CABRERA: Let's discuss the blame game because earlier we heard Vice President Mike Pence pointing the fingers at the minority party, the Democrats. But the Democrats never were going to vote for a GOP health care bill. Tal, do you think this blame game may get more extreme in the coming days, or was this a real wakeup call to both parties to work together?
KOPAN: Well, you know, the funny thing about blaming the Democrats is the Democrats kind of love it. You know, they're saying, yes, we did kill this bill. Because that plays great with their base, and so it's sort of a win-win blame. Because, you know, the White House doesn't have to make any Republicans any more upset than they already are and the Democrats are happy to take credit. But you know, keep an eye out going forward for some of those anonymous sources or sort of back room conversations.
That's where we might see how much the knives come out is whether people say you know on the record, oh, yes, we all played on the same team and then, you know, they go behind the back and tell reporters no, it's this person's fault. So, there's a potential here for this to continue to spiral. And you know, Trump has not shown a ton of restraint on twitter when he really feels like he's been wronged. So we're still not out of the woods for the blame game yet. But, you know, right now blaming the Democrats is a safe move for the White House to go with.
CABRERA: All right. Tal Kopan and Athena Jones. Thanks to both of you. The big question now besides what went wrong is what happens next.
[17:05:08] With me to discuss is Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor of "The Atlantic." And Ben Stein, a long time professor of law and economics at Pepperdine University and former speechwriter and lawyer for President Richard Nixon. Thank you both for being here and spending part of your weekend. I know that time is always so precious. We appreciate it.
Ben, I want to ask you first, you know, it can't be overstated just how much of a priority President Trump and the GOP had made repealing and replacing ObamaCare. Can the President really afford now to just throw his hands up? These three weeks of debate. Pull the bill, time to move on to something else and just let ObamaCare explode?
BEN STEIN, LAW AND ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY: Well, he screwed this up so badly, it makes me want to cry. I mean I am a Republican, I voted for Mr. Trump. It takes a very long time to work out a comprehensive health care bill. I helped work out the one for the first one ever submitted by a president to Congress, Mr. Nixon, in late '73, and early '74. It takes months just to go through one little detail after another.
He didn't do it he didn't take the time. He obviously didn't take the time to do it and he handled this extremely badly. I don't know what the next step for is, but he's got to do more staff work. A president has to do serious staff work on issues this big and maybe it is just not in him to do that. But I hope it is. I'm very disappointed at the way this was handled. I hope and pray that Mr. Trump gets the idea in his head that he can't just brainstorm or say, go to somebody else, fix it. It's really, really serious business. And I don't think he's handling it seriously enough.
CABRERA: And Ron this is not the first time that one of President Trump's promises have hit a snag. I mean, let's take a look here at some of the other issues and things he's tried to accomplish, his travel ban has been blocked. Mexico says it's not paying for the wall that hasn't gone anywhere yet. Tax reform an uphill battle. His budget plan, polling incredibly poorly right now. And when you look at something like tax reform which is supposed to take on next, we're hearing already different sides kind of digging in their heels and yet, one of the things that he has promised to do is bring taxes down. I mean, you look at the idea of lowering taxes on the wealthy. Public opinion says don't do it. So how does he move forward to accomplish some of these big agenda items?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. All of these, all those examples, many of them are a reminder that Donald Trump in many ways was an independent candidate who ran under the Republican banner. And there are areas where his agenda overlaps with conventional Republican thinking and there are others where it does not. And bringing that all together in practice is moving all difficult that it was on the campaign trail.
You know, I think you would have to say it's hard to think of another example of a president's suffering a legislative defeat this big, this early, in the presidency. They're just are not a lot of precedents for something like this. Particularly when your own party is in control of Congress. I mean, there are some less here though. And one of them is what Ben Stein was talking about is that, you know, a president can't just float above the details.
You know, Athena said, he did everything he could -- he did everything he could except really articulate a plausible vision of an end point for what might pass not only the House, but the Senate and get back to the House. Again, even if this bill would have passed the House yesterday, there was no chance of that legislation passing the Senate. And I think part of the lesson here for the administration is, was once they decided, once they allowed House Republicans to essentially exclude Democrats from the beginning, make no effort either in substance or process to include Democrats, what that does is it gives a veto to every faction of the Republican caucus in the House, because it's so thin a margin of error, and he will be in the exact same position on tax reform. Beholden to each faction in the Republican caucus, unless they can find a way to spring some Democratic votes.
CABRERA: Ben, do you agree?
STEIN: I agree entirely. But I would like to go back to something that I our own beloved Dave Gergen, one of your top guys and a life- long friend of mine said --
CABRERA: Let me guess, let me guess. The statement that he made yesterday saying this is the worst first 100 days. I think we have the sound bite, let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I actually think this may be the worst 100 days we've ever seen on a president. All right. It may be it will get better. But earlier this week he has his credibility, you know, took a direct hit over the wiretapping. And now his capacity is taking a direct hit. He came to us, as the dealmaker, his ultimate promise was that he was the deal-maker and would make the system work and that's clearly failed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So, Ben, why do you disagree with that?
STEIN: Well, I love Dave. Let me tell you that, he was my boss when I work for Mr. Nixon. He's a great super guy and super smart guy. But Abraham Lincoln had a far beginning worse of his presidency. The 11 southern states seceded. He had to arrest most of the members of the Maryland legislature to keep Maryland from seceding when the red chief justice of the Supreme Court threatened and said, we're going to release them on Habeas Corpus. He has threatened to imprison the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. That is far worse -- [17:10:10] CABRERA: Seriously and he had a much worse start, you're
STEIN: He had a million times worse start. But Mr. Trump though has got to pull himself together. He's not running a gambling table at one of his gambling resorts. He's got to get a big staff, an experienced staff. He's got to take the darn thing seriously.
CABRERA: I know you wanted to mention something, Ron.
BROWNSTEIN: William Henry Harrison died so you know --
CABRERA: In his first 100 days.
BROWNSTEIN: So, it's not clear which one was worse. But the fact is, I mean, you just kind of look at it in the modern era, President Trump has an approval rating about 15 points, 16 points lower than any president has been at this point.
CABRERA: Thirty seven percent right now.
BROWNSTEIN: His disapproval rating is significantly higher than any president ever. And, you know, right now Republicans are still sticking with him in the sense of you know, not directly criticizing him because he has very high approval ratings among Republicans. But unless they can begin to turn that around, it's not that long before some of those members begin to kind of wonder whether, you know, sticking close to him is the best policy. His approval rating in particular. I just want to point out one thing, among college- educated white voters. We're talking about those white collars suburban districts.
His approval rating among those voters is now down about as low as President Obama's was, in 2010 among blue collar white voters before Democrats got annihilated in that election, in those kinds of lower middle income non-urban districts. So, if you're a Republican in a white color suburb and you are looking at the trajectory of this presidency, at the moment the first dim warning signs are out there about what this might mean for you in 2018.
STEIN: Well, I'm not concerned about that.
CABRERA: Ben, before I'll let you go, since you are economic expert here on the panel, the economy is always been President Trump's strong point. That's what voters thought when they elected him, and put him into office. He's going to take on tax reform next, is that going to be easier than ObamaCare?
STEIN: Well, you know, you're talking to the wrong cowboy because again, for the -- I'm Republican, and I did vote for Trump and I think his tax reform plan is all wrong. We don't need lower taxes on rich people, we need higher taxes on rich people and we certainly do not need to do anything whatsoever to make the tax burden on millionaires and billionaires lower if they're rich, by definition, they can afford more taxes. We need the money badly.
The idea of just to even contemplate the idea of cutting back on meals on wheels -- while lowering taxes on people that have earnings of $10 million a year is astounding. He's got to get some people in there with some sense. He's just -- I'm sure he has wonderful people and I'd love to have every one of them over for Passover Seder. But he just got off the map on this subject.
BROWNSTEIN: Ana, Ana --
CABRERA: We got to let it go there, guys.
BROWNSTEIN: All right.
CABRERA: Got to end it. Thanks so much Ron Brownstein and Ben Stein for joining us.
Now, from the health care fail to another dark shadow hanging over the White House, the FBI investigation into potential collusion between President Trump's associates and Russia. One presidential historian says, quote, "The smell of treason is in the air." You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[17:17:20] CABRERA: In just of the past week, President Trump watched his baseless Obama wiretapping accusation fall to pieces. He also watched one of his main election promises to fail to materialize. And now questions, even a formal FBI investigation into the relationship between Trump insiders and Russian operatives who worked to get Trump into office. An opinion piece in the "New York Times" two days ago compared the events of the Trump presidency to the most notorious and scandalous political milestones in American history.
Nicholas Kristof, wrote that piece, it's called "There's a Smell of Treason in the Air." Nicholas, good to see you, you say your sources are pretty confident that some kind of collusion or cooperation between the Trump team and Russia will come to light. But treason?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, and treason is a strong word. And we'll have to say what happened. You know, we don't have proof. It's worth noting that Jim Clapper, who is of course head of National Intelligence under Obama says that as of January, he had not seen signs of collusion. But having said that, my sources tell me that there seems to be evidence of what could soft collusion means. Democrats I think maybe are too focused on something transactional and rich, the Russians essentially honest, Trump the White House in exchange for looking sanctions.
And I don't think we're going to find anything exactly that much of a quid pro quo. I think we're probably headed to something more, looks more like soft collusion. In which both sides were working for a common goal and which was Trump's election and sharing information. Perhaps sharing a strategy and discussions, I think it's an open question that the FBI is looking into, whether there were financial resources being used.
KRISTOF: And computer bots being used.
CABRERA: We do know that three of the people who are under suspicion, I use that word, we don't know for sure if they specifically are under investigation but Roger Stone, Carter Page, as well as Paul Manafort have all volunteered to go before these committee who are investigating the ties or possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians who were involved in the hacking. And so, given that they have volunteered to go and talk to these committees, perhaps even in a public setting. Does that signal that perhaps there is nothing for them to hide? And that this investigation will lead to lots of smoke, but no fire?
KRISTOF: You know, I don't know. But I'm delighted that they are willing to participate in the hearings, in some cases on both the House side and the Senate side. And I really do hope that those hearings are open. One of the problems with the Intelligence Committee investigations is that typically those hearings are closed. And Nunes on the House side seems to want to keep it that way. For this week's hearings.
There are some Democrats talking about a special prosecutor, I think that's not the way to go, because the special prosecutor also works differently behind closed doors in secrecy. And what we need is transparency. We have these allegations of foreign attack on the sanctity of our election system and for that reason I think we need very open, a very open process, which to me means a special commission.
CABRERA: When you talk about Nunes and he's come under fire this week because of some of his actions going to the White House. Talking to reporters before talking to his colleagues on the Intelligence Committee about some new information that he said he had, but he wouldn't name sources from where he was getting the information. Because he has asked for this hearing, the upcoming hearing with Mike Rogers and the FBI Director James Comey to be closed. As you mentioned that is not uncommon. I mean could it be that he wants to make sure that his, his inside circle within the investigation gets more information than could be provided in a public setting?
KRISTOF: You know, we, we just don't know why he wants them closed. In fact, the problem is this, especially and it attaches itself to anything Nunes does now. Because he has repeatedly come across as a surrogate for the White House. He was indeed used initially by the White House to call reporters to tamp down a "New York Times" article about the Russian connection. And then more recently as you alluded to, he sped off to the White House to give a press conference, and alert the White House to things that he said he had learned before he alerted his colleagues.
And so at this point I think there's a lot of concern that the White House simply found that the last hearing was too damaging to their credibility and so that they asked him to close the forthcoming hearing and that he have lied just for reasons that have nothing to do with the investigation over the intelligence. But simply for the benefit of the people being investigated and a committee chair cannot serve two masters in that way. Either he is pursuing the truth aggressively or he's a plaque for the White House and the fear is right now that he's more of the latter.
[17:22:44] CABRERA: Do you believe the investigation is compromised, then?
KRISTOF: Under Devin Nunes, yes, I think it is compromised. I -- you know, and at the end of the day, even the Senate Intelligence Committee as well, both of these are just not the ideal forum to investigate these. These have, they have limited staff. They have other things that they're investigating. Most of that process is closed. And I think the FBI is likewise trying to do a good job. But that is a very closed process. And so -- it seems to me that particularly with Nunes' own position compromise, that it becomes all the more important to have a commission modeled after either the 9/11 commission or the tower commission that Reagan had appointed to investigate the Iran contra process.
And you know, President Reagan did that partly because there was a cloud over the Reagan White House. He thought it was best in the country and for his own administration to clear that cloud and I hope that President Trump won't, and Republicans won't resist a similar kind of process today.
CABRERA: All right. Nicholas Kristof, thank you for your time, we appreciate it.
Back to the standoff now, the Las Vegas strip. A suspect in a deadly shooting is barricaded on a bus. Hotel guests nearby are on lockdown, a live update right ahead.
[17:28:46] CABRERA: We are following breaking news in Las Vegas, parts of the Vegas Strip are on lockdown right now. Police say they are on a standoff with a deadly shooting suspect who has now barricaded himself on a bus just outside the Cosmopolitan Hotel. It's affecting a lot more than that in the area. The MGM Resort's official twitter account just posted this. "The Strip is currently closed. Guest safety is of the upmost importance, please comply with all instructions from law enforcement."
Let's bring in CNN's Rachel Crane now with more information. What can you tell us?
RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, at this point, there's a lot more questions than answers. This is an evolving situation. We know that one person is dead. One injured and the suspect has barricaded himself inside of that bus. On this strip. Now also a short while ago, a detonation appeared to take place on the second level of the bus. Unclear of the source of the detonation. But we do know that the S.W.A.T. tactical teams are on site, as well as hostage negotiators, also that the strip itself is closed down at this point and there's a heavy police presence in the area from the aerials from our affiliates we could see the S.W.A.T. team on site, having dogs, also using a robot.
[17:30:00] We also have seen on social media that the Cosmopolitan Hotel has encouraged guests to stay inside of their rooms if they are, in fact, still inside the hotel. They recently put out a statement saying, "Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is investigating an incident that took place on Las Vegas Boulevard near the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement officials and have no further details pending investigation. Guests and co- stars should remain in a safe shelter until further notice."
Ana, as pointed out, this is an evolving situation, unclear right now like said, detonation was on the second level of the bus.
CABRERA: You talked about hostage negotiators being brought in. You have just reported that one person was injured, taken to the hospital, we're told. So obviously that person wasn't still on the bus. I know that the details are still scarce, but do we know if and how many people are still on the bus?
CRANE: All that information we do not know at this time. We know that the hostage negotiators are on site. As you can see from the video footage of the bus, it's encased in a wrapping. It's hard to see inside the bus at this point. We just do not know at this point.
CABRERA: I'll let you work to try to get more answers for us.
Thanks, Rachel Crane.
We, following another story out of Las Vegas today as well. A bizarre jewelry heist. No information to suggest that that's connected to the ongoing standoff situation.
Take a look at the video just in to CNN. This shows an armed burglar wearing a pig mask and a suit making a getaway from the jewelry store at the Bellagio Hotel this morning. Police say at least three well- dressed masked burglars were carrying sledgehammers and smashed into the store. Police put parts of the hotel on lockdown and people were seen rushing out the door. Three suspects in this case have been arrested. No one was hurt in this incident and no shots were fired.
President Trump said he would start winning so much that you would get tired of winning. But will the health care bill failure put a wrench in his plans for future victories? We'll discuss.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[17:36:11] CABRERA: President Trump says he is not going to back to the drawing board after yesterday's major health care loss. For now, there's not going to be a new bill. His plan instead? To let Obamacare fail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we have to let Obamacare go its way for a little while and we'll see how things go. I would love to see it do well, but I can't. It's not a question of, gee, I hope it does well. I would love it to do well. I want great health care for the people of this nation. But it can't do well. It's imploding, and soon will explode, and it's not going to be pretty. So the Democrats don't want to see that. So they're going to reach out when they're ready. And whenever they're ready, we're ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's discuss. With me now, Keith Boykin, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist; and Harlan Hill, a political consultant who supported President Trump in the election.
Harlan, to you first.
We just heard from President Trump if you're somebody who is suffering under Obamacare, how would you react to what you just heard? Let Obamacare fail, let it explode?
HARLAN HILL, POLITICAL CONSULTANT & TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think it's a recognition of the political reality, which is that he didn't have the support to pass a piece of legislation that was very flawed. I support Donald Trump, I still do. And I look at this as one failure among many successes that he's had just 65 days into his presidency.
CABRERA: What successes?
HILL: Well, for instance, 235,000 jobs were created in the month of February. He's been able to repatriate jobs from major fortune 500 companies, including Samsung, L.G., Ford, Carrier, Boeing, and many others. He's had successes that are real. And he deserves credit for it. And this is one high-profile shortcoming that we can correct for in the long-term. But the only way we can do that is if he repeals and replaces Paul Ryan. Because this guy is totally incompetent. He really is. He doesn't have the president's interests at heart.
CABRERA: There are multiple things you just said that I have, I imagine, that Keith you might want to react to.
Let's start with the part that you start, when you started laughing when he talked about some of the accomplishments, you don't see it that way?
KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He mentioned 235,000 jobs created in February. We created the same number of jobs last February. We created more jobs when President Obama was in office. And President Trump said those numbers were fake and phony then. Suddenly now that he's president, these numbers are real and legit. This is a question of the man's character and honesty. He had a travel ban he tried to impose from the beginning in January, it was shot down by the courts. He had another travel ban, it was shot down by the courts. He had appointments that were repeatedly shot down by his own Congress. He can't even get through a bill with a Republican Senate and a Republican House, to pass health care reform, something they've been talking about for seven years. And Harlan thinks that there are accomplishments? That's why he's at 37 percent approval rating. And the bill he tried to pass has a 17 percent approval rating.
HILL: In one poll.
HILL: But there are many, many polls, including the Rasmussen poll that shows that he has a 50 percent approval rating. We can debate over the polls and which ones are accurate or not. But I'll tell you I wouldn't put too much stock in the mainstream media polls that repeatedly got the election wrong. If you're going to pace your assessment on President Trump based on polls that didn't predict he would be the president of the United States, then your logic is flawed.
CABRERA: Let's go back to his own words.
BOYKIN: Thank you. Thank you.
CABRERA: Let's base it on his own words in terms of what he promised the American people he would do. Let's listen to him on the campaign trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: On my first day, I am going to ask Congress to send me a bill to immediately repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare.
TRUMP: Somebody said the other day, what's the first thing you're going to do? Well, we going to work immediately on repealing Obamacare.
From day one, I've been talking about we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare. From day one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:40:07] CABRERA: So did he make a promise he simply could not keep?
HILL: Look, no, he said he would go to Congress and he would ask them to send him a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. He did exactly that. Paul Ryan didn't -- didn't send him a bill that his caucus could support. This is a legislative failure that may be among the greatest in recent history.
(CROSSTAKL) BOYKIN: He said he would do it on day one. He lied his butt off.
HILL: No, he didn't lie. He didn't lie.
HILL: Paul Ryan has been the speaker --
HILL: Paul Ryan has been the speaker of the House for how long? And he should have had a repeal and replacement to Obamacare sitting on the shelf, and pulled it off and put it before the president to sign. He couldn't do it. Trump doesn't have any experience of legislation.
BOYKIN: Donald Trump has no experience. That's the first true thing you've said. The reality is, this is a guy who oversold from the beginning. He said that he was going to lock up Hillary Clinton. He didn't do that. He said he was going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it. He hasn't done that. He said he was going to repeal and replace Obamacare from day one and it was going to be so easy and he was going to be done immediately. He hasn't done that. This is a guy caught in the problem that he cannot legislate because he doesn't know how to lead. He has no experience.
People like Harlan continue to enable and defend him. And it's time that people start to stand up and realize that this is not acceptable behavior for a president of the United States.
CABRERA: We have breaking news we have to get to. I'll let you respond fast. Then we've got to go.
HILL: Down 21,000, small business confidence is at a 12-year high, he's a successful president on the economy. That's all voters want from him.
CABRERA: We're going to breaking news before.
Thank you, gentlemen for joining us. Really appreciate it.
Live in Las Vegas right now, police are updating the public about this situation we've been talking about involving a suspected gunman barricaded on a bus. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICIAL: That's the update I have. I will give you.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any connection to the Bellagio robbery that happened this morning?
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICIAL: I will address that. Let me address that.
The question was, is there any relation to the incident that occurred earlier last night, which would be the burglary at the Bellagio. There's no information that suggests that these are -- these incidences are the same or have any connection. So just to make sure we know, last night, there were no shots fired at the Bellagio. That was a misinterpretation or was bad reporting. OK?
Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICIAL: No.
CABRERA: Unfortunately, we didn't get a whole lot of what he said. But we do know that there was one person at least who was killed in this incident, another person who was injured. There was a suspect on the bus they believe was the shooter. He had barricaded himself. They have been working now for quite some time, at least the last hour or so, to try to negotiate with this individual. And we're hoping that there was some kind of a peaceful resolution. We are working to get more information and will bring you an update as soon as we have more to pass along.
Meantime, the Pentagon now is investigating coalition air strikes in Iraq after an Iraqi official says hundreds of innocent people may have been killed indiscriminately. Details ahead.
[17:47:43] CABRERA: In the fight against ISIS, there are now reports U.S.-led efforts may be to blame for the deaths of hundreds of civilians. The Iraqi government and U.S. Central Command are investigating whether three different sets of air strikes this month may have killed nearly 300 noncombatants. 300 civilians in Iraq and Syria. More than 200 of those deaths reportedly came in western Mosul.
We spoke with CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, earlier on what she has learned.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is really almost 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 conflicting 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.
[17:50:34] CABRERA: Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, reporting. Our thanks to her.
A critic of the Kremlin killed in cold blood in broad daylight. And he's not the first Russian critic to die or get hurt under mysterious circumstances. We'll take to you Moscow with the details here in the CNN NEWSROOM, next.
[17:55:02] CABRERA: Welcome back. Things are growing increasingly tense between Russia and Ukraine after the murder of a former Russian lawmaker outside a Kiev hotel. The victim was a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin. He was shot to death in broad daylight. Ukraine's president is calling the killing, quote, "an act of Russian-state terrorism."
Senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, has details now.
So, Matthew, what is Russia's reaction to this claim?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTRNATIONAL CORESPONDENT: They're rejecting any involvement, Ana, with the killing of Denis Voronenkov, a former Russian lawmaker. He's been sharply critical of Russia and it's in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea in 2014. After that, he fled the country essentially with his wife and daughter, a lawmaker, and claimed asylum and settled in the Ukraine. And so this is, you know, a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin's policies, a prominent critic of the Russian state. And it's because of that the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, has laid the blame for this killing at the feet of the Russian government, saying that this is a Russian- state terrorist act.
Now the kremlin has, of course, reacted to that, calling that absurd. Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, saying that he hopes that the perpetrator of this killing is brought to justice.
CABRERA: Now, this killing comes as Kiev is blaming Russia for another incident, the sabotage of an ammunition depot. Any link there?
CHANCE: Well, they're linked in the sense that, you know, they're both in Ukraine and the ammunition dump -- and there's these extraordinary images, which we can see of the dump going up in flames on Thursday morning. It was still firing rockets and bursts of ammunition into the air on Saturday morning local time. And so it's been going on for a long time. It's in an area in the east of Ukraine where, of course, there's been a conflict between Russian-backed rebels and the Ukrainian authorities. This is an ammunition dump that was used to arm the government forces fighting those Russian-backed rebels. So what the Ukrainian government is saying this is sabotage the rebels have carried out in order to derail their military efforts. The Russians, for their part, have remained tightlipped as to whether or not they were involved.
CABRERA: Are we seeing an increase in these conflicts of sorts between Russia and Ukraine or is it just coincidence that these couple of issues have come up at the same time?
CHANCE: Well, I wouldn't call it. describe as a coincidence in the sense that, you know, there's a lot of tension that exists between Russia and Ukraine. And it's been existing since 2014, since the annexation of Crimea, since the very violent uprising and the conflict that has taken place in the eastern country as well, which has been backed by the Russians. 10,000 people have been killed in the fighting in that part of eastern Ukraine. So these instances all fit in that context of tension.
CABRERA: All right. Matthew Chance reporting. We appreciate it. Thanks.
Righteous king or ruthless killer? Tomorrow's brand new episode of "Finding Jesus" takes a look of a live of King Herod the Great. Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I am king of the Jews.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The birth of a new king, basically a royal pretender. A threat to the throne is a threat to Herod, and he is concerned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Herod hears that the Magi are looking for the child born king of the Jews, his thought is, I'm the king of the Jews, Herod is the king of the Jews, so who could this child be, this usurper.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Please, don't leave. I need to consult my priests.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Find it. Find it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to Matthew, Herod orders his priests to
find where prophesy say the messiah will be born.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Herod is definitely jealous and threatened by Jesus. There's irony here. The king who has huge power is jealous of a little tiny baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: That is "FINDING JESUS", a new episode tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. eastern. Set your DVR.
And that's going to do it for me, for now. Thanks for tuning in. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.
"SMERCONISH" starts next.
I'll be back here in an hour, at 7:00 p.m. eastern. See you then.