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CNN NEWSROOM

ObamaCare Rollback Bill Dies without Vote; Ukraine Blames Russia for Killing of Kremlin Critic; London Terror Attack; New Hong Kong Leader to Be Chosen; U.S. Military Investigating Civilian Deaths; Electronics Ban on Some International Flights; 60th Anniversary of the E.U.'s Beginnings. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired March 25, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


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REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: We're going to be living with ObamaCare for the foreseeable future. I don't know how long it's going to take us to replace this law.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The Republican rallying cry, "repeal and replace ObamaCare" abruptly stops with that admission from the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. We'll have that story for you.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Also ahead here, the investigation into Wednesday's terror attack in London continues as police dig into the attacker's background.

HOWELL (voice-over): And the United States military, looking into accusations that recent airstrikes in Iraq and Syria killed hundreds of civilians.

ALLEN (voice-over): These stories all ahead here. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. We're live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell, from CNN World Headquarters, NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: It is 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast. And this was one of President Trump's top priorities, to overturn ObamaCare. But weeks after negotiations, weeks of revisions, the Republican leaders pulled the replacement bill without a vote as they failed to secure enough votes within their own party to pass the bill.

ALLEN: No Democrat supported the measure. And, unsurprisingly, the president predicted Democrats would ultimately be blamed for not getting rid of the Affordable Care Act when they had a chance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, because now they own ObamaCare. They own it, 100 percent own it. And this is not a Republican health care. This is not anything but a Democrat health care. And they have ObamaCare for a little while longer until it ceases to exist, which it will at some point in the near future. And just remember, this is not our bill. This is their bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The president pointing the finger at Democrats but a great deal of the blame falling on the president and falling on the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. To understand why the president's own party let him down on his first major legislative test, here's our Phil Mattingly with more.

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That I can tell you.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The pressure, the arm twisting, the ultimatum, they have all fallen short.

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REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I will not sugarcoat this. This is a disappointing day for us. Doing big things is hard. All of us, all of us, myself included, we will need time to reflect on how we got to this moment, what we could have done to do it better.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): House Speaker Paul Ryan deciding to pull the Republican ObamaCare repeal and replacement plan hours after traveling to the White House to tell President Trump directly he didn't have the votes to pass it and warning, one source said, that the loss on the House floor could be big.

RYAN: ObamaCare is the law of the land. It's going to remain the law of the land until it's replaced. We did not have quite the votes to replace this law. And so, yes, we're going to be living with ObamaCare for the foreseeable future.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): A jarring realization less than 24 hours after the president himself made his final offer, vote now or he is prepared to move on.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think we have to let ObamaCare go its way for a little while. And we'll see how things go. I'd love to see it do well but it can't.

And but again, 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.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Democrats taking a victory lap. NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Frankly, I thought they might have accomplished something in the first couple of months. I think their mistake really was they were so focused on embarrassing the Affordable Care Act rather than trying to improve it.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The health care setback, a stunning turn of events from the cautious optimism of the morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How you feeling this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feel great, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you guys think you're going to get the votes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We'll get it done today.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And even a few hours after that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) how are things going?

What are you hearing from our (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Going great. Just continue talking to the members, getting them ready as we move forward. Always confident.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But sources tell CNN the votes simply never materialized and it became clear that the leaders were actually losing votes based on the compromise designed to bring conservatives aboard.

The deal on the table would strip the 10 essential health benefits required in insurance plans by ObamaCare, something moderate Republicans already wary of the bill were telling leaders was simply a bridge too far, sources said.

This is all happening as the debate on the bill was ongoing, leaving members to question what, if any, path forward existed and leaving the president to answer questions about a looming failure of his first and biggest legislative push.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: We'll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you rush it, do you think?

TRUMP: We'll see what happens.

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MATTINGLY: Stunned silence: that's what House Republican leaders were met with when they told their members the simple message this evening: Trump is done.

That means health care, this issue that they have campaigned on cycle after cycle, year after year, their main political --

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MATTINGLY: -- messaging point, ObamaCare repeal is not happening, not just now, not just in a couple weeks. It's not happening, period.

And that is a jarring realization for many of these members. But it's the reality as they move forward, whether it's tax reform or infrastructure.

The biggest question is now, with health care off the table, now with the biggest failure by far of this administration, sitting plainly in front of them, will they ever figure out a way to get together and work together?

We'll see. Phil Mattingly, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Phil Mattingly has been all over this story.

Phil, thanks for the reporting.

The winds of blame surely are blowing after the death of this bill. But Senator Bernie Sanders is in Washington, missed the big picture, in fact, the need for guaranteed health care for all Americans regardless of income. Here's what he had to say earlier to our colleague, Anderson Cooper.

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VT.: That's just a media game. Nobody really cares that it's a failure of Trump or a failure of Ryan. What the American people are asking is how does it happen that we are the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all people as a right?

Anderson, I am talking to you tonight 50 miles away from the Canadian border. We can get there in an hour. They manage to provide health care for every man, woman and child in their country at half the cost per person than we do.

The cost of prescription drugs in Canada significantly lower than it is in the United States.

So the question is why are we not moving forward with a Medicare for all single-payer program guaranteeing health care to all people which will be much more cost effective than what we presently have?

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: Senator Bernie Sanders there.

Had this Republican bill come to a vote on Friday, it likely would have suffered an embarrassing and lopsided defeat. Many moderate Republicans stood strong in opposition to it in defiance of the White House. Take a listen here to Congressman Mike Turner, speaking with our colleague, Kate Bolduan.

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REP. MIKE TURNER (R): It certainly is a process that's worthy of continuing. It's not this bill. And I think if they do a postmortem, they will find there are some serious flaws in the bill.

Perhaps we need to move forward with a bill that can protect the American public, ensure that I'm not voting to cut health care benefits on my constituents and a bill that people see real savings and real reductions in health care premiums and quality of care for the future.

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ALLEN: Let's break down this failure to repeal ObamaCare. Scott Lucas is a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham in England and a frequent guest on our program.

Thank you, Scott, for joining us. Candidate Trump says over and over again on the campaign trail, as you just heard in the past few minutes in our newscast, this has been a promise of Republicans for so long to repeal ObamaCare and it failed.

Who do you point to for that?

SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: You point to the people who tried to put the legislation through. Let's strip away any smokescreens. it's the Democrats. It's little green men from Mars.

The GOP leadership pushed this bill through very quickly because they expected they would get an easy ride in the House of Representatives. Remember they've got a 43-seat majority.

But when they crafted it, they did not anticipate the reaction, not from moderates. I think they thought they could ram this through, despite the stripping of insurance from millions of Americans.

They didn't anticipate the conservatives would want an even tougher bill. So when that started to mobilize and it was clear it that the conservatives could defeat this, then they made concessions to that hardline wing, including stripping things like maternity care.

But then that, of course, alienated more moderate Republicans. And then you are where you are.

So it's the GOP leadership in the House. It's President Trump and his advisers for thinking they could bully their way to get this through the House of Representatives, if not the Senate.

But, ultimately, Bernie Sanders is right, that the big failure here is that the issue is trying to get a sensible system of health care for all Americans rather than playing politics, which is boo, ObamaCare; yay for something, anything, which will repeal it.

ALLEN: We heard Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader for the Democrats, saying they seemed more focused on embarrassing the health care act rather than improving it. LUCAS: Yes, I think the big thing here and this will be the question that they will want to ask is, could they have worked with Democrats, with moderate Republicans, not to give the big headline, "ObamaCare is buried, long live the king of the American Health Care Act," but to try to get reforms, to try to get changes, which would ensure that Americans could still retain the insurance that many of them have obtained in the last eight years, while dealing with issues, like we want to make sure that premiums stay low, that deductibles to stay low and that insurance companies don't game the system.

Now I think they would have found some traction on that. But that from day one, the GOP leadership didn't want this. And to be honest with you, Donald Trump, for all his talk about the art of the deal, isn't the one who wants to deal with the opposition.

ALLEN: And the devil is in the details as well.

So the question is, how does he carry on and get his campaign promises approved --

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ALLEN: -- without the opposition?

And many Americans voted for Trump because they were/are fed up with Washington and today we just saw more finger-pointing and blame being passed around in Washington. It hardly seems like a new day.

LUCAS: Well, Trump's immediate play and he gave it away yesterday is, OK. ObamaCare, we got to put up with it. Let's let the health care system crash and burn. Now I'm going to talk to you about tax cuts.

So they're going to scramble to get through some type of headline legislation about how we will all get an economic benefit from a wonders bill. But tax cut legislation, tax reform is not easy.

So they've got quite a road ahead of them and quite some time to fill. And remember, this is in a week when the FBI has confirmed the big story that there is an investigation of Russia between -- of ties between Russia and Trump's associates.

So that story will retake the headlines. And I'm going to be honest with you, President Trump never ran against Washington. President Trump is part of the establishment. The idea that he was draining the swamp was always an illusion. Now he's in the swamp. And he's got to figure out if he makes it deeper, if there is some way out.

ALLEN: Right. It's almost time to take a hard look at his tactics and what will succeed.

What has he learned from this possibly or what do you hope he's learned from this?

LUCAS: I'll leave it to your viewers to decide if President Trump ever actually learns or if he just doubles down on his bet. I think the question may be what his advisers learn from this. We know the White House has been long split between a pragmatist wing. The vice president, Mike Pence; chief of staff, Reince Priebus and hardline fire-breathers like Steve Bannon, who are just like full speed ahead.

I think that they are going to have to rein in the hardline ideologues and think about working with Congress and working with a lot more groups besides this. But I'm just not sure if this White House, with people like Bannon and Stephen Miller, is set up for that.

ALLEN: Scott Lucas for us in Birmingham, England, Scott, thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: A top aide to the former (sic) U.S. president is set to testify over alleged Kremlin ties to the Trump campaign. The chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee says this man, Paul Manafort, has offered to speak to the committee. Two other former Trump advisers, Carter Page and Roger Stone, may also testify.

ALLEN: And as Scott was just talking about, this looms over the Trump presidency. And Manafort served as Mr. Trump's campaign chairman for several critical months in the 2016 presidential race. He has also faced accusations over ties to Ukraine's former pro-Russian president.

Now the news comes as Ukraine blames Moscow for killing a Kremlin critic. Our Fred Pleitgen has more on that -- and a warning: his report contains graphic video.

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FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A day after the murder of Kremlin critic Denis Voronenkov, this chilling surveillance video has surfaced.

Obtained by a Ukrainian broadcaster, it purports to show the moment Denis Voronenkov was killed, his bodyguard wounded. And now the diplomatic mudslinging between 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 Gerashchenko.

Ukraine's president, Pedro Poroshenko, branded the assassination "Russian state terrorism. " And on a visit to Ukrainian security forces on Friday, linked it to another mysterious murder of Ukrainian journalist Pavel Sheremet and to a massive fire in a Ukrainian ammunition depot near the town of Kharkiv.

"It's a matter of honor for our law enforcement," he said, "to disclose the murderers of Pavel Sheremet and Denis Voronenkov and the sabotage in the Kharkiv region."

Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated in a 10 kilometer radius around the ammo dump. Ukraine accuses of Russia of setting it on fire.

Russian officials call all of these allegations "absurd," the Speaker of Russia's parliament saying that Ukraine is turning into what he called 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 this tell us?

"This is a ready made scenario," this right wing politician said.

Ukrainian authorities say they're looking for driver who possibly dropped the killer off at the scene of the murder. But even as the investigation into the killing of Denis Voronenkov progresses, the case has already become highly publicized and another lightning rod between the adversaries, Russia and Ukraine -- Fred Pleitgen, --

[04:15:00]

PLEITGEN (voice-over): -- CNN, Moscow.

HOWELL: Fred, thank you for the reporting.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, British police are looking for answers in the aftermath of the terror attack that rocked London. The very latest on the investigation -- ahead.

ALLEN: Also ahead here, candidates make their case to Hong Kong voters. We'll tell you why only a handful of votes actually matter.

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ALLEN: And welcome back, British investigators are working to piece together the lead-up to Wednesday's deadly terror attack in London. Two of the 11 people arrested this week are still in custody.

HOWELL: Authorities, though, haven't said if that means 52-year-old Khalid Masood may have had help in carrying out the attack. He was shot to death by police. Scotland Yard's top counterterror officer is urging people who knew Masood to provide information.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARK ROWLEY (PH), SCOTLAND YARD: We remain keen to hear from anyone who Khalid Masood, anyone who knew Khalid Masood well, anybody who understands who his associates were, anyone who can provide information about the places he's recently visited.

There might well be people out there --

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ROWLEY (PH): -- who did have concerns about Masood but weren't sure or didn't feel comfortable for whatever reasons to pass that information to us.

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ALLEN: Let's cross over live to London, CNN's Nina Dos Santos is following the information.

Nina, good to have you with us this hour. Finding Masood will be very important for investigators to determine whether he had any interaction with other extremists, things like that.

Do we know anything more about the two people who are in custody at this point?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: Morning to you, George.

We don't know their names or identities, but we do know that one of them is a 58-year-old man from Birmingham. The other is a 27-year-old man, also from the city of Birmingham. This is the second biggest city in the U.K., about 100 miles from where I am. And it is the focal point to the investigation because it seems as though Khalid Masood actually lived there for some time.

And he embarked upon his journey from there via another city in the southeast, where he spent the night in a hotel. He had rented a car from Birmingham, driven to another city called Brighton and then moved up to London to commit this atrocity.

Now, in total, apart from those two people who still remain under custody this hour -- they were arrested on Thursday -- we have had about 11 arrests over the last three days that this investigation has been proceeding.

Most of those people have now been released without charge. So six of them have been released without charge, but two of them have actually been released under bail, pending any further lines of investigations that come forward.

And authorities at this point are desperately trying to appeal to witnesses, appeal to anybody who was within Khalid Masood's present or previous social circles to come forward and say if they knew anything about him, anything about his past, anything about the time when he converted to Islam, we really want to speak to you, we want you to speak up now, rather than eventually us having to come and find you. And so that will be a part of the line of the investigation. We know that, over the last few days, about 20 properties have been raided across various parts of the United Kingdom. Some of them were the properties of these people who were arrested. Some of them still in custody. Some of them now released. And they have managed to gather together thousands of pieces of evidence.

A lot of that will be computer data. They will be trying to go through who he was in contact with before this attack took place and, crucially, who he was in contact immediately before the attack took place -- George.

HOWELL: Nina, if history is a guide when it comes to extremist attackers, typically younger, right?

So at 52 years old, Masood didn't quite fit the usual profile.

What more do we know about?

DOS SANTOS: Yes, that's one thing that investigators are also raising, they are saying when it comes to some sides of his profile, we have had incidents where Muslim converts have gone on to commit extremist acts from the United Kingdom, not necessarily inside the United Kingdom, but in other countries around the world.

One of them was recently killed in the Middle East in a strike upon ISIS members earlier on this year. So from that point of view, there are elements that might fit a more traditional, dare I say, pattern of what we have seen in the past.

But when it comes to his age, that really is interesting because if you look at the Brussels, Nice, Berlin attackers, Paris attackers, they were all a much younger age, using a lot of sophisticated technology and encrypted apps to share information with other extremists as well.

The big question is, was he using that same modus operandi?

Or had he been radicalized in another way, in another country, through mosques, through more traditional patterns?

That will be what investigators will be looking at. And also it has prompted some conversations about whether or not MI-5 should be looking at an older profile as well when they investigate extremists and monitor them -- George.

HOWELL: Nina dos Santos, outside of New Scotland Yard there, Nina, thank you for the reporting. We will stay in touch with you as well.

It is campaign season in Hong Kong with the vote to choose its new leader set for Sunday.

ALLEN: Three candidates are vying for the job but, despite opinion polls and debates, most people in Hong Kong don't get to vote. Here's our Kristie Lu Stout.

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KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Adored by the public on the streets of Hong Kong, political watchers see John Tsang (ph) as the people's choice for the territory's next leader.

He's ahead in the latest opinion polls and netizens say he came up on top in televised debates. And he's raised more than $600,000 from members of the public who have long called him "Mr. Pringles" for his signature mustache.

But in Hong Kong, popularity with the people does not guarantee electoral success. Out of a city of 7 million, choosing the next leader lies in the hands of Beijing and a 1,200-member committee of voters drawn mostly from the city's wealthy pro-Beijing elites.

Campaigners have been trying to change this political system for decades, culminating in the pro-democracy Umbrella movement protests in 2014, which ultimately failed in its goal.

Now U.S.-educated Tsang says he wants to put the goal of one man, one vote, firmly --

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STOUT (voice-over): -- back on the agenda.

JOHN TSANG, HONG KONG CANDIDATE: I think that's very important. That is the true aspiration of Hong Kong people to have the vote.

STOUT (voice-over): But if selected, Tsang would be unlikely to ever rock the boat with China. In fact, he is firmly establishment with more than three decades of working in Hong Kong government.

He has pressed the flesh with both current and former Chinese presidents Xi Jinping and Hu Jintao, seen as a marker of approval from Beijing.

TSANG: It has always been the part of China, we have -- it's -- Chinese culture permeates everywhere.

STOUT (voice-over): Still, Tsang's main rival, Carrie Lam, is the favorite to win in the vote on March 26th. She was the second in command to the current leader, CY Leung, and says she wants to heal the city's social divide.

CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CANDIDATE (through translator): The mainstream treatment opinion is different from mine. I will definitely accept Hong Kong people's opinion if public opinion renders me unsuitable to serve as chief executive, I will resign.

STOUT (voice-over): CNN has requested an interview with clam. Tsang says the main difference between him and Lam is in his approach with the people.

TSANG: I'm someone who people can talk to. I listen to people. I understand the community of Hong Kong. STOUT (voice-over): The outside third in this race is retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, who says he would bring in laws to ban China from meddling in (INAUDIBLE) affairs. The winner in this race will lead Hong Kong until 2022.

In this election, which is hardly democratic, John Tsang continues to work the campaign trail and on social media, seen teaching young people how to fence. A keen athlete, Tsang also practices martial arts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you kung fu fighter, is that what you are saying?

TSANG: I can.

(LAUGHTER)

TSANG: I can, if I want to.

STOUT (voice-over): Meaning that he has not given up on the election battle just yet -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Well, the U.S. military is investigating whether it is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in airstrikes across Syria and Iraq. We will look into that next.

HOWELL: Also ahead, the White House hosts a big defeat in Congress over one of its top priorities and now the blame game begins.

CNN is live from Atlanta, Georgia. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

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HOWELL (voice-over): And a warm welcome back to our viewers here and the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. And it's good to have you with us. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our headlines this hour.

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HOWELL: U.S. Republicans long promised a plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act and it's hit a sizable road block. They were forced to pull their bill, their own Republican bill, the American Health Care Act. But it became clear they didn't have the votes to pass it.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who played a big part in crafting the legislation, spoke frankly about the loss.

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REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: We came really close today but we came up short. I spoke to the president just a little while ago and I told him that the best thing I think to do is to pull this bill. He agreed with that decision.

I will not sugar coat this. This is a disappointing day for us. ObamaCare is the law of the land. It's going to remain the law of the land. My worry is ObamaCare will be getting even worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: President Trump was quick to shift the blame after his highly touted deal-making skills just didn't cut it. He accused Democrats of spoiling the plan, even though his party has the White House and both chambers of Congress.

House Minority Leader Democrat Nancy Pelosi was asked if Democrats are getting any satisfaction out of the Republicans' stumbles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: There was a way for them to advance their legislation in a way that was professional, worthy of the House of Representatives, respectful of the people who were watching because it affects them very personally. So this is, no, nothing gleeful about this for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The president said that he is content to let ObamaCare run its course and keep pointing the finger at Democrats. But a part of the reason his bill failed is a key ObamaCare provision that might have been taken away. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta breaks down one of the most important aspects of any health care plan.

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DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me take just a moment to explain something to you that you probably heard a lot about, essential health benefits.

Now while there are things we can all choose about our health care plans, under ObamaCare, all the insurance providers had to guarantee an essential minimum level of coverage.

That includes things like preventative services, mental health services, prescription drug coverage as well as maternity and newborn care. They also have to cover emergency room care, including the ambulance that might take you there.

They have to provide coverage for in-hospital stays, including the operation that could be necessary while are you in the hospital.

Now some people argue that, look, you shouldn't have to pay for all that, that you should be able to buy plans that don't cover in- hospital care, for example. And it does save money on your monthly premium payments.

These are so-called skinny plans or junk plans. They are plans that don't have the essential health benefits. Here's the rub. Most people just don't know if or when they're going to get sick. And that's why we have insurance in the first place.

And it's not just your health we are talking about but also your wealth. In 2009, before ObamaCare, medical costs were the reason for 62 percent of bankruptcies --

[04:35:00]

GUPTA (voice-over): -- in the United States. Most of those people had insurance, just not very good plans. Make sure whatever health care plan you purchase, the insurance is going to cover you for the things you can anticipate but also for the things you can't.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN Digital there.

The Pentagon is investigating reports that up to 300 civilians were killed in U.S.-led airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq this month.

ALLEN: A military coalition has been conducting strikes in an effort to drive out terror groups, mainly ISIS. CNN's Barbara Starr has details from the Pentagon.

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BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: One of the most widespread allegations that U.S. airstrikes this month in Mosul, Iraq, may have caused up to 200 or more civilian deaths.

What the U.S. military is saying is they are aware of these allegations from social media, from activist groups, from Iraqis and they are looking into it.

This was an area in West Mosul, heavily populated. There were a number of airstrikes over recent days. There have been social media reports and videos emerging of civilians killed in the area. The U.S. military says it was bombing in that area but it is trying to really get fidelity.

Did it bomb these buildings?

Were civilian casualties caused?

They are also looking into a recent strike near a mosque near Idlib, Syria. Civilians said to be killed there. They are looking into yet another case of a school building bombed north of Raqqah, Syria; more than 30 civilians were seeking shelter in that building. It is said they are looking into those allegations as well.

No final answer on any of these but a number of investigations now underway and the U.S. military insists if it is said to be found to be responsible, it will take that responsibility -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Joining now to talk more about this is Lt. Colonel Rick Francona, CNN military analyst.

Colonel, it's good to have you with us this hour. Let's talk about this.

The U.S. military investigating what has been 300 civilian deaths in just a month. Three different instances that they are looking at.

Is this just a matter of not getting the right information?

Is this to be expected in this type of offensive?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, as ISIS is pushed closer into these densely populated areas, both in Mosul and soon to be in Raqqah, we can expect an uptick in civilian casualties. But these numbers are pretty startling. As we expect an increase in casualties, we never expected it to go up this high.

So you have to ask yourself, what has changed?

Other than the situation on the ground, is there changing in the targeting?

Are we having intelligence problems?

Or are we just hitting the wrong targets?

So I think the investigation that CENTCOM is going to launch will try and answer those. But I think that this is a situation that will continue, as I said, as we get closer into this urban fighting.

Urban fighting is the most dangerous for civilians. And as we know, ISIS is using all of these civilians as shields as we get closer to the final battles.

HOWELL: But here's the thing, as this investigation continues, there will be no pause in the efforts there on the ground.

FRANCONA: Yes, that's what CENTCOM has said. They said that the fighting will continue. And I think that's probably wise, because we don't know exactly what happened. And we won't know until that investigation continues.

This may be a lot of human shield activity, a lot of it engineered by ISIS. ISIS would love to have us call a pause to the offensive activity so they can regroup because they are back on their heels, they are suffering. It's just a matter of time before the allied forces win, the SDF in

Syria and the Iraqi forces in Iraq. So they would love to have some sort of a respite from this onslaught. I think CENTCOM's smart not to do that. But I also think that they really need to look at their targeting validation process.

HOWELL: Help our viewers to understand, Col. Francona, the situation there for the many civilians who are caught up in the middle of this. We talk about Raqqah, we talk about Mosul.

But when it comes to these civilians who are trapped, who many times are used as human shields, how are military officials there on the ground, how are they supposed to work around that?

FRANCONA: Well, the first thing, they have to know that they're there. And that's a big problem. Sometimes ISIS will set up fortified positions and they'll bring civilians in amongst them. And a lot of times we don't know that.

When you don't have U.S. forces on the ground, you know, Air Force, combat controllers or U.S. Army Special Forces, somebody that can actually put eyes on the targets and designate the targets, it's very difficult.

So we are relying on drones, static photography, things like that. So it's much more difficult to find out what the actual --

[04:40:00]

FRANCONA: -- ground truth is.

So when you strike these targets, you are not always sure exactly what's in there. You do the best you can. And, listen, this is something the military takes very seriously. Nobody wants to kill civilians.

Unfortunately, it's just a fact of modern warfare, when you're putting high explosive ordnance into very confined areas, people are going to get killed. We try and minimize that but, unfortunately, I don't see a real quick solution to this -- George.

HOWELL: Colonel Rick Francona, thank you so much for taking time with us.

Airports across the Middle East and North Africa are bracing for a very busy weekend.

ALLEN: New restrictions are taking effect for certain electronic devices. We will have a report from Dubai coming up here.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) HOWELL: Welcome back. Flying to the United States and the United Kingdom from some airports in the Middle East and North Africa is about to get much more complicated. Several airlines now must stop passengers from bringing laptops and other large electronic devices into a plane's cabin. This is due to new restrictions that take effect this weekend.

ALLEN: Safety restrictions, the move is attributed to concerns about potential terrorist attacks. Our John Defterios shows us how it's impacting operations in Dubai.

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JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR (voice-over): It's one of the busiest weekends at the busiest international passenger airport in the world, with the added twist of an electronics ban going into effect for flights into the United States.

Paul Griffiths is the CEO for Dubai Airports.

PAUL GRIFFITHS, CEO, DUBAI AIRPORTS: We have got our teams mobilized. We have offered all the assistance we can give to both customers and the security forces who've got to enforce this.

Obviously it may not go completely smoothly but we are pretty adept at change and adopting new things and new thinking. And if it doesn't work, we'll do something different that it will work.

DEFTERIOS: To reduce some of the hassle, Emirates airline is allowing transit passengers to gate check their --

[04:45:00]

DEFTERIOS: -- laptops and tablets, and offering some flexibilities for passengers originating here in Dubai as well.

This hub has had its fair share of challenges as a major bridge to Europe, Asia, Africa and the United States, SARS, Ebola and even the U.S. travel ban at the start of the year. So I asked the CEO to rank the impact of this electronics ban.

GRIFFITHS: Well, fortunately, although this will have a significant impact to some of our passengers, it's about 250,000 over the month of February, for example, through to the USA from Dubai International.

That's about 4.6 percent of our total passengers, so so long as we can very carefully look after that fairly small percentage of the overall number that come through here and deliver a really good service to them, then I don't think we'll have too much of a difficulty.

DEFTERIOS: And to try to lighten the mood, Emirates even took to social media to advertise the benefits of its inflight entertainment system, asking, "Who needs laptops and tablets on the flight anyway?"

(MUSIC PLAYING) DEFTERIOS: The president of Emirates Airlines says that he worries that this spread like a contagion to Asia and Europe and does not become a practice for just over six months. But standard procedure in the industry as well -- John Defterios, CNNMoney, at Dubai International Airport.

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ALLEN: Everybody just need to go back to reading a good book on the airplane.

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ALLEN: That's hilarious.

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DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Let's take you to the outer space. This is great video coming from the latest NASA spacewalk; 30 astronauts take place in -- took part in this procedure, kind of revamping the International Space Station, allowing for -- get this, George, Natalie -- taxis for the public to head out to space. They had to retrofit the ISS to make sure you, me, people like us can get up to visit it here in the near future.

HOWELL: Wow.

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VAN DAM: Yes, I'm thinking we develop an app. And we just order our next spaceship, what do you think?

ALLEN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN DAM: Beam me up.

HOWELL: Derek, thank you.

ALLEN: Well, European leaders are marking a big anniversary but it is no party, apparently. The treaty of Rome was signed 60 years ago today. And I think you know what that might be.

HOWELL: That's right. It gave birth to the European Union. We'll look at why it's mainly united now, but for one thing, (INAUDIBLE). That's next on CNN.

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HOWELL: Pope Francis is warning European Union leaders that the E.U. risks dying without a new vision, based on its founding principles of solidarity. He spoke at the Vatican Friday on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

ALLEN: That document started the political project that became today the European Union. The pope said the rise of populism and the current economic and migration crises can be overcome.

HOWELL: Right now, Europe's leaders are gathering in Italy's capital, they are marking this anniversary.

ALLEN: But celebrations have been muted. Barbie Nadeau is in Rome. She joins us now live with more about it.

Barbie, hello.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, no, there is tension in the area in Rome today. There are six separate protests against and for the European Union here.

Authorities are concerned that some of some clashes may break about among these groups. But those inside the very protected blue and green zone, as they're calling inside the city, are set to sign a document towards unity going forward.

A couple countries, Poland and Greece, kicked up a little dust earlier in the week, saying they weren't going to sign the document going forward. But as far as we know everybody has come around to sign that.

Of course, with Brexit and with various other crises right now facing the European Union, it is ever more important to show a sign of --

[04:55:00]

NADEAU: -- unity among these leaders as they go forward with the European Union without the United Kingdom in it.

But today I think we will see in Rome a moment of celebration inside that protected area in the streets of Rome. I think we will see how people really feel about the European Union, whether they're for it and standing up for it or whether they're against it and fighting against it.

ALLEN: And, Barbie, you mentioned these protest groups.

Who makes up the groups?

NADEAU: Well, we've got everybody represented. You can pick any cause you are for or against. As I said, there are six protests; four of them are moving marches, two of them are sit-ins in piazzas.

We've got the very extreme far right sitting in in a piazza. They're against immigration. They're against the sort of migrant refugee crisis that's gripping Italy right now.

There has been a 60 percent increase in migrants and refugees so far this year alone. They will be protesting that. You've got a protest with a lot of people from the U.K. who've come to Rome to protest or to mark or demonstrate with their support for the European Union, saying they're sort of against the Brexit decision.

So you've got people like that. They're very, very concerned that some of these groups will unite at some point during the day, you've also got left, right and center involved in the mix.

ALLEN: We will certainly be watching it. Barbie Nadeau will be coverage it for us, Barbie, thank you very much, live there in Rome.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM this hour. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. The news continues right after the break. More news from around the world. You are watching CNN.

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