Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Grover Norquist; Will Israeli-Hamas Cease-Fire Hold?

Aired November 23, 2012 - 18:00   ET


JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: And I will ask the leader of the anti-tax movement, Grover Norquist, why some Republicans are breaking with him and his no-new-taxes pledge.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Joe Johns, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A new front has opened in the unrest with Egypt, with police firing tier gas at protesters just outside Cairo's main square. It all happened near the U.S. Embassy, though we're told the embassy was not a target. Demonstrators are demanding that President Mohammed Morsi give up the sweeping new powers he's assumed five months after replacing ousted strong man Hosni Mubarak.

The man U.S. official praised for promoting Israeli-Hamas cease- fire is now being called a dictator by his own people.

CNN's Reza Sayah is in Cairo.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, if anyone thought Egyptians were tired or weary of protesting after two years of demonstrators, all you have to do is look at Cairo's Tahrir Square, and it's clear that that's not the case. Indeed, Egyptian protesters seem as determined and energized as ever, and this time they're going after their current president.


SAYAH (voice-over): Outrage, clashes, and anguish in Tahrir. Thousands of angry Egyptians back in a public square that has become the Arab world's emblem for the democratic right to protest. This is where Egyptians demanded the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak last year. This time, the fury aimed at current President Mohammed Morsi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here because we don't want Morsi to rule us anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a one-man show and he wants to do everything, and nothing at all of what we want.

SAYAH: On Thursday, the new Islamist president made himself the most powerful man in Egypt by announcing sweeping decrees he says are designed to push forward the drafting of Egypt's new constitution, and speed up the formation of a government that is still missing a parliament.

(on camera): One of President Morsi's decrees bans anyone from overturning any of his declarations.


SAYAH: That order is to stay in place since until parliament is formed. Technically, it means for now he can do whatever he wants without any oversight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just felt he was telling us you guys don't exist. It's just me and my people, and there's no place for anybody else in Egypt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not allowing for a dictatorship again. And 30 years of dictatorship is enough. Egypt is not going into dictatorship once again.

SAYAH (voice-over): In a separate decree, Morsi banned the breakup of the constitutional assembly, the 100-member panel assigned to draft Egypt's new constitution.

Protesters here say the panel favors Islamist factions and ignores demands by liberals, Christians, youth groups and women's rights group. Some have sued to dissolve the panel. Morsi's decree forbids that. As nightfall approached, anger turned to violence. In scenes similar to the Egyptian revolution, protesters clashed with police.

(on camera): We're right along one of the major arteries leading into Tahrir Square, clashes between security forces and protesters. Tear gas, and we're moving away.

(voice-over): As the protests intensified, Mr. Morsi appealed for calm. In a speech to hundreds of his supporters who gathered outside the presidential palace in Cairo, he defended his decrees and rejected accusations of a power grab.

MOHAMMED MORSI, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I didn't take a decision against anyone or pick a side against another. I have to put myself in a clear path, a path that achieves a clear goal.


SAYAH: It's now after midnight, Cairo time, and pockets of clashes continue around Tahrir Square, and the injuries are piling up. And many of the demonstrators are pitching tents in Tahrir Square, an indication the demonstrations could continue through the weekend -- Joe.

JOHNS: Reza Sayah in Cairo.

Only two days ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was praising the Egyptian government for its leadership in trying to bring stability and peace to the east.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is a lot of concern about too much power in the hands of one man, this of course being someone who played a key role in getting that cease-fire, someone who has developed what one senior administration official says is a relationship of trust with President Obama, but as we know with every relationship, things can get complicated.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): At the White House, a sense of calm, kicking off the holiday season with the arrival of a 19-foot Christmas tree.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: It is perfect. It's exactly what we needed.

LOTHIAN: While the president headed to the golf course at Joint Base Andrews. But the White House is closely watching developments in Egypt, protests, violent at times, and anger over what some see as President Morsi's power grab, as declarations preventing any court from overturning his decisions.

STUART HOLLIDAY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: It appears the timing is curious. He's gotten this support and this bump particularly for his role in mediating the cease-fire from the United States and from others. He's really seen as emerging stronger from this.

LOTHIAN: But now concern from the Obama administration. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland saying -- quote -- "The decisions and declarations announced on November 22 raise concerns for many Egyptians and for the international community," adding in the statement, "One of the revelations was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution."

While President Obama was on his Southeast Asia trip this week, he spoke frequently by phone with President Morsi in a successful attempt to seal an Israeli-Hamas cease-fire. They developed what one administration official characterized as a relationship of trust. It's too early to tell if this latest move will change that.

ROBIN WRIGHT, SENIOR FELLOW, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Let's wait and see how Morsi uses these powers. Up until now he's done pretty well in terms of from the Western perspective in working with Israel. He has a lot to prove to the outside world and his own people.


LOTHIAN: The Obama administration is calling for calm in Egypt and encouraging the leadership there to work together to resolve their differences peacefully and -- quote -- "through democratic dialogue" -- Joe.

JOHNS: And this is not one of those situations where this administration can be accused of being blindsided by Morsi's move. They had some inkling that he might do something like this, yes?

LOTHIAN: That's right.

It's always risky. There were a lot of concerns from inside and outside the administration about doing business with him at all, as we know. As we pointed out earlier today, just a few months ago, there were questions about whether or not Egypt was an ally. So they didn't go into this blindly, a lot of concerns, still don't have the full read on what is going on out there the administration trying to find that out right now.

JOHNS: Dan Lothian at the White House, thanks for that, Dan.

A standoff at Israel's border with Gaza, and bullets fly. Will the fragile cease-fire with Hamas hold?

And health officials in New York are seeing up to 80 patients a day who believe the devastation from superstorm Sandy made them sick.


JOHNS: A two-day old cease-fire between Israel and Hamas appears to be holding, despite reports that Israeli troops opened fired on Palestinians near Israel's border with Gaza.

Joining me now is Sara Sidner in Jerusalem.

And, Sara, Hamas is saying right now that some Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinian citizens. What can you tell us?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they have very differing stories from what the Israeli military's saying.

Here's what the Hamas Health Ministry has said. They said that one person was killed and that 24 people were injured. They say that they were farmers, they were in east Khan Younis on the Gaza side of the border and that the Israeli military opened fire on them. However, in talking to the Israeli military, they say that there were several groups of men who were protesting, they had come up to the fence, some of them trying to enter Israel, and that the soldiers fired in the air warning shots. When those warnings were not heeded, they began firing toward their legs.

The Israeli military has not confirmed yet that there's been a death or any injuries. They are investigating. But what makes it significant is that this is happening 48 hours after a very fragile cease-fire was agreed upon between Israel and Gaza.

And there's a lot of concern that this might be something that would be considered breaking this cease-fire, whether it was from one side or another. A lot of people here concerned about that very thing, especially the civilians who have gone through so much over the past several days -- Joe.

JOHNS: Now, going into the cease-fire, I have to say a lot of people expected there would be a certain number of skirmishes. Do you think this is something outside the ordinary?

SIDNER: It really isn't outside the ordinary.

You know, if you look back just a couple of months ago, there were lots of things going on, on that border, whether it was tunnels that were exploding on Israeli soldiers, whether it was -- there was a child that was shot that witnesses said shot by Israeli soldiers, there was return fire.

So there have been a lot of things that have gone on, on this border, as you might imagine, with a lot of different people saying that one side is to blame or another side is to blame. But it's just the timing of all this that has people concerned, although I think as a whole even though we're hearing from the Palestinian Authority, which is saying that they believe this is breaking the cease-fire, that Israel has broken the cease-fire, when you look at it as a whole, I think most people think, look, I think the cease-fire will stick for some time.

The real concern here though especially on the part of civilians and the governments frankly is whether or not they can come to a permanent solution. And that seems less likely in the near future.

JOHNS: And it certainly appears that it will take quite a while to get to that permanent solution. This is not something that's going to happen overnight.

SIDNER: No. There's a lot of things that are sticking parts, Joe, a lot of things that both sides say that they want, but they're absolutely not going to be able to agree on them. And they haven't been able to agree on them for many, many years since Hamas took over in 2007.

So these are sticking points that I think they will try -- they will talk through them, they will try to get through them, but we may be waiting a very long time for a permanent solution in this particular situation, Joe.

JOHNS: Sara Sidner reporting from Jerusalem, thank you for that.

The people of Gaza and Southern Israel who for now can stop worrying about rockets and bombs falling in their neighborhoods are not the only winners in this week's truce.

CNN's Paula Newton takes a look at the countries and leaders who won and lost in the conflict.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): However crude the calculation, especially amid the civilian casualties, there are winners and losers in this truce, and they are already reshaping political alliances in the region.

We begin in Egypt, and its President Mohammed Morsi. Clearly underestimated, his deft handling of what is a mine field of competing interests has given him much-needed political capital in both the Arab world and the United States.

AARON DAVID MILLER, PUBLIC POLICY SCHOLAR, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR SCHOLARS: First civilian president in Egypt perceived as a weak leader has, much to everyone's surprise, delivered.

NEWTON: Then there is Israel and its tenacious Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After Israel targeted and killed Hamas' military leader, he launched airstrikes, hitting more than 1,500 targets in Gaza, dismantling some of Hamas' arsenal of weapons.

And Israel had a successful combat debut of Iron Dome, the U.S.- funded defense shield that kept dozens of rockets from hitting Israeli civilians. But the counterpoint to that is ironic. Hamas emerges as a big winner from this conflict and its truce.

MILLER: But Hamas has emerged stronger. It has consolidated its control over Hamas. And it has gained now more legitimacy.

NEWTON: In the eyes of the Palestinian people, the militant leaders of Gaza took on Israel more boldly than ever before, firing rockets further than ever before. And they may yet manage to get an easing of the Gaza blockade if a more comprehensive deal can be done.

MILLER: Look what they have accomplished. They, rather than Abbas, has put the Palestinian issue back on the international stage.

NEWTON: And that brings us back to those who have lost much in this conflict, Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction. The Palestinian leaders were supposed to be the moderate peace brokers. Now they can't even claim to speak for all Palestinians and proved that have no leverage with Hamas, their archrival.

MILLER: This is not a good outcome for Abbas and it is not a good outcome for the pursuit of a two-state solution.

NEWTON: And always a player, Iran's hand is already weakened after this episode.

Iron Dome shot dozens of its missiles out of the sky. What if Israel attacks Iran. Can it still call on Hamas to retaliate? In one week with one truce, allies and enemies in the region have shifted again. And this will have an impact on any peace negotiations going forward.

Paula Newton, CNN, Atlanta.


JOHNS: We're watching several other big stories, including previously classified e-mails just released that shine a light on Osama bin Laden's death.

Plus, Mexico's outgoing president proposes a name change for his country.



JOHNS: The man who pressed Republicans to take an anti-tax pledge is losing some high-profile supporters. I will ask Grover Norquist about the backlash after the GOP's election losses.


JOHNS: Some Republicans appear to be rethinking their strategy after their election losses, and some are breaking ranks with the influential anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist.

For years, Norquist has asked Republicans to agree to oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia recently announced that he will not honor that pledge anymore. Chambliss explained his decision, saying, "I care more about the country than I do about a 20- year-old pledge. Grover Norquist has no plan to pay the debt down. His plan says you continue to add to the debt. And I just have a fundamental disagreement with him about that."

Grover Norquist joins us now in THE SITUATION ROOM from Chicago.

We always appreciate you coming in, Mr. Norquist.

So, what's your reaction to this? These are some pretty strong words.


One, of course, the commitment he made to the people of Georgia was not to me. It was a written commitment to the people of Georgia that he would go to Washington to reduce government spending and reform government, not raise taxes.

If he wants to change his mind and become a tax increaser so we don't have to reform government, he needs to have that conversation with the people of Georgia. He then talks about my plan to increase debt or something.

The only plan that I think I have supported is the Paul Ryan bill, which reduces the deficit, pays down the debt, doesn't raise taxes. And it's a written budget, a plan that Mr. -- Senator Chambliss actually voted for.

So I think they caught him on a TV station and he said things perhaps he -- that didn't make sense. What I have been urging all candidates to do, all incumbents to do is, as you look at the fiscal cliff, we need to have any negotiations about raising taxes or deferring spending restraint -- Obama wants perhaps to spend some more money on stimulus spending and to raise taxes.

JOHNS: So...

NORQUIST: If -- whatever we discuss needs to be in front of C- SPAN cameras, so that every American knows exactly what both sides are saying.

JOHNS: Has he talked to you about this, Saxby Chambliss? Have you had any type of a conversation about it? Because if you look at this, the question is whether he's sort of reading the cards and asking himself what position he needs to be in in the next reelection campaign.

NORQUIST: Well, Saxby Chambliss was part of what was called the Gang of Six, which was three Republicans and three Democrats who tried to take the Simpson-Bowles outline of a proposal and put it into legislative language. For about eight months, they worked on it, and they couldn't come to any agreement, because the Democrats wanted all tax increases and no spending restraint, so that effort didn't work out.

During those conversations, I did have a long conversation with Senator Saxby Chambliss and with each of the three Republicans, explaining why I thought it was a mistake to walk into a closed room with Democrats, instead of having an open conversation that the American people could watch. Because people can come out of a closed room and misrepresent what you've said and what you agreed to.

And Saxby Chambliss and the other Republicans in that committee wrote an open letter, which I believe we've posted on our Web site. It was to me, but it was to the country, an open letter where said that they would oppose any tax increases, that they would support revenue that came from economic growth.

And that's where I think we can all agree: we need more economic growth. The economy has been very slow for the last four years, too slow. We need to do better. That brings a lot of revenue.

If we grow at 4 percent a year as a country instead of 2 percent a year for one decade, the federal government would get $5 trillion more in tax revenue from putting more Americans to work. That would pay down the entire debt that Obama racked up in the first term. That's the way to go, not tax increases that would slow the economy.

JOHNS: You know, the reason why this is so interesting is because it sort of raises a question as to whether there are members of your party turning against you.

Senator Chambliss isn't the only one who's said something like this. Bill Kristol said it wouldn't kill the country to raise taxes. Are you concerned that elements of the Republican Party are now moving in a different direction?

NORQUIST: No, the good news, and certainly Speaker Boehner, who was just reelected, and the leader of the Republicans, Mitch McConnell, have been very clear that they're going into this to reduce government spending and reform government, that they oppose tax hikes. Ninety percent of Americans have made -- Republicans in Congress and the Senate have made a written commitment to the American people not to raise taxes.

There will always be some who can get asked a hypothetical question. This is why I don't want to be too critical of Saxby Chambliss as to in what context he was talking about things, because sometimes people ask you some hypothetical, and you can answer it a little bit oddly. This happens from time to time. There's nothing new here. There isn't anybody today who wasn't just saying the same thing a year or two years ago.

And look, there will always be kibitzers on this side who say why not try this, why not try that? That's why I think the negotiation should be on C-SPAN.

And second, when they come to an agreement, let's write it down and put it online for seven days so that every American, not just the special interests who want to spend money in Washington, so that every American can see what's agreed to before the House or the Senate vote on it.

JOHNS: Speaking...

NORQUIST: If we have that, I think we'll get a good budget deal.

JOHNS: Speaking of hypotheticals, have you given any consideration to, say, letting certain Republicans out of the pledge, or even massaging the language of the pledge after all these years? Any consideration at all to make some changes of your own?

NORQUIST: Well, the important thing to point out is that this is a written commitment by elected officials to their constituents and their states.

Chambliss wrote a commitment to the voters of Georgia. He got elected and reelected making that commitment. He reiterated that position within the last year. He's never promised me anything.

So the pledge is from elected officials, in writing, to their constituents. A lot of politicians make secret deals with special interests. This is a public statement to the American people: "If I -- when I go to Washington, I'm not going to raise your taxes. When I see a problem, I'm going to reform government."

I think it's a good idea to have public commitments to the American people. I think it's a very bad idea for people to tell the labor unions that "I'll do this when I get in, but don't tell anyone else."

No secret deals. Public information which everybody can see about whether you want to raise taxes or not. Somebody else could come up with a pledge to raise taxes...

JOHNS: Have you thought -- but have you thought about changing the pledge in any way, ever? NORQUIST: Well, OK, I can't change the pledge, because it's not to me. It's not like somebody can say, "Oh, Grover, I promised you this, and I want to do it differently."

JOHNS: It's your group though, right? You're the guy. I mean, everybody associates the pledge with you.

NORQUIST: OK. That's very kind of them, and we share it with all candidates, and Republicans and Democrats, not just Republicans.

And of course, Mr. Chandler, Democratic congressman from Kentucky, was elected, Ben Chandler, taking the pledge. Unfortunately, he broke the pledge, and he was defeated in the last election. People were a little unhappy that he pretended to be a conservative Democrat and spent a lot of money and raised a lot of taxes, and he lost his election.

Ben Nelson, another Democrat, a senator from Nebraska, he also got elected taking the pledge, said he would not raise taxes, but did raise taxes when he voted for Obama care. There are 20 different taxes there, many of them directly on the middle class. And he couldn't get renominated -- he couldn't win, so he decided not to run, because he'd broken his commitment.

JOHNS: All right. Grover Norquist, always good to see you. Thanks so much. The pledge still has power.

NORQUIST: Good to be with you Joe.

JOHNS: You bet. Take care.

NORQUIST: The American people...

JOHNS: Navy officials use surprising code words in their secret e-mails about the burial of Osama bin Laden. Stand by for new investigation just made public.


JOHNS: Some of the secrets surrounding Osama bin Laden's burial at sea are being revealed in sensitive Navy e-mails that just became public. Brian Todd has been looking at those e-mails. Quite a story here.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Joe. Of course, you know, we've seen no pictures of Osama bin Laden after his death, but we have new details now on his burial, this from one of the very few public disclosures of government information on bin Laden's death.


TODD (voice-over): Tense and secretive transmissions as the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson waits for the body of Osama bin Laden. It's May 2, 2011. The al Qaeda leader has just been killed by Navy SEALs. Two U.S. Navy admirals use code words to describe bin Laden. The commander of the carrier strike group says, "FedEx delivered the package. Both trucks are safely en route home base."

The e-mails, heavily redacted, have just been released by the Defense Department, responding to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the group Judicial Watch.

A few days earlier, that strike group commander had asked another officer, "Do I need any special religious ceremonial preparations?"

After bin Laden is buried at sea, an admiral describes the scene: "Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was followed. The deceased's body was washed, then placed in a white sheet. The body was places in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased's body slid into the sea."

According to the e-mails, there aren't many witnesses. In response to the question, "Any sailors watch the burial?" the heading of one e-mail says, "Burial No Sailors Watched" and another says "Only a small group of the leadership was informed, less than a dozen total."

And another indication of the secrecy of that part of the mission, an e-mail from a top admiral to joint chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen: "The paucity of documentary evidence in our possession is a reflection of the emphasis placed upon operational security."


TODD: And later that day on May 2, a note of gratitude. The deputy commander of the fleet tells the commander of his carrier group, quote, "Thank you and your magnificent strike group for what you did for your country today."

That was quite a day that we will never forget.

JOHNS: That's for sure. Thanks so much for that, Brian Todd.

As if destroyed homes and businesses weren't bad enough, now Sandy victims are worried they're dealing with a sickness related to the super storm, and doctors say it could get worse.


JOHNS: As if the devastation wasn't enough, hundreds of people say they've become sick because of the superstorm. CNN's Mary Snow is taking an in-depth look at that.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So we're in Long Beach, New York, an area that was so devastated that a mandatory evacuation order was just lifted last week. And it was just within the last two days that the Long Beach Medical Center was able to get emergency medical tents up and running, because the hospital remains closed because of damage.

Doctors know from federal medical teams that have been on the ground that there's been a steady stream of medical complaints from people living here.

(voice-over) Lurking in the devastation from Sandy is yet another worry for homeowners. Exposure to toxins, mold and dust, and in some places, sewage. Long Beach homeowner Fred Morello will only enter his house wearing a protective suit and mask as he clears out areas that were submerged in several feet of water.

FRED MORELLO, HOMEOWNER: I am concerned about mold, sure. But at this particular point, I don't have the time for it. I have things to get done, and I've got to get done, so I protect myself as best I can.

SNOW: While Morello says he has no time to get checked for the cough he now has, others have been showing up to MASH-like tents set up by federal disaster medical assistance teams.

(on camera) You've been to other disaster areas?


SNOW (voice-over): Commander Kevin McGillicuddy says, beside people seeking psychological treatment, they've mostly come in complaining of coughs, bronchitis and asthma since the base was set up November 13.

MCGILLICUDDY: We've been treating 70 a day -- patients a day.

SNOW (on camera): A day?

MCGILLICUDDY: A day. Since -- since we started this base, we've treated over 1,000 patients.

SNOW: The majority of them with, would you say, pulmonary problems?

MCGILLICUDDY: Pulmonary and -- that would probably be the best way, yes.

SNOW: The commander stresses it's unclear how many cases are linked to people with chronic conditions being worsened, combined with the fact that access to their regular medication has been tough. Some of those questions are in the hands of the Long Beach Medical Center, which is taking over now that it's been able to set up a makeshift emergency room in its parking lot. The hospital is still closed because of the storm.

Dr. Robert Canter, heads the E.R. unit and says it's the unknowns that concern him. DR. ROBERT CANTER, HEAD OF E.R. UNIT: It's sort of like 9/11. At this point, who knows? You know, down the road we're going to find out, I'm sure, a lot of problems.

SNOW (on camera): But doctors stress it is still too early to know whether these ailments are short-term or part of something more serious.

One concern right now is the weather and dropping temperatures. And officials say that cold and damp weather could be to blame for some of the respiratory problems that are being reported -- Joe.


JOHNS: Now an in-depth look at the financial toll of the storm. CNN's Poppy Harlow talked to the owner of one small business struggling to survive.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Right before Superstorm Sandy, the streets were quiet outside Liberty Industrial Gas and Welding.

ASHLEY MURRAY, BUSINESS OWNER: That's in less than 10 minutes.

HARLOW: This is night fall as the waters begin to rise.

MURRAY: So at this point, I think it's gone.

HARLOW: An industrial park in Red Hook, Brooklyn, sandwiched between two bodies of water.

MURRAY: This is the Gowanus Canal coming into the harbor, which is going to meet up with the river, and Liberty is right here. We really had quite a surge because of the Gowanus, you know, and the river, essentially, meeting in this area and flooding these streets.

HARLOW: Ashley Murray's family business devastated.

(on camera) This is very hard for you...


HARLOW: ... personally. I can see it in your eyes.

MURRAY: Yes, we're devastated. It's just been a devastating process, and there needs to be a little more help.

HARLOW: Do you feel forgotten?

MURRAY: A little bit, yes. Yes.

So this was once a really nice show room.

HARLOW (voice-over): Eighty percent of her inventory gone. MURRAY: Essentially, we have moved everything into our stock room so that we can work from the sidewalk.

So now this is where we are functioning our storefront. We have one functioning computer, one printer. And we have people coming in from the roll-down door.

HARLOW (on camera): Before Sandy, you didn't have any debt. Now?

MURRAY: Now, we're probably looking at 700 to 800,000 in debt.

HARLOW: Debt. What kind of help have you gotten from the government?

MURRAY: Nothing from the government.

HARLOW (voice-over): Ashley found government loans with 6 percent interest. Her bank did better with a line of credit at just over 3 percent.

MURRAY: We had chop saws and boxed items that...

HARLOW (on camera): There go the lights again.

(voice-over) The challenge of doing business these days: even the generators fail.

(on camera) Things are so bad here in Red Hook that this business right next door to Ashley's is literally drying invoices like this with a hair drier.

What does this business mean to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything. It's my life.

HARLOW (voice-over): Ashley's employees watched her grow up, working alongside her father.

(on camera) And if this went under?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is down the tubes, you know?

HARLOW (voice-over): Now, it's up to her to save their jobs.

MURRAY: There's so much history here. The community, our customers. We really do have -- we have a great business here, and I think we can make it great again.

HARLOW: Poppy Harlow, CNN, New York.


JOHNS: Business is down 30 percent for Ashley, but she hopes to have the business back up and running normally by May. If you'd like to help victims of the storm, just head to, where you'll find several resources to help impact your world.

Up next, a young woman's death sparking anger around the world. Now, her husband is demanding answers, and he's talking to CNN.


JOHNS: New backlash against some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Ireland has opened a new investigation into the death of a 31-year-old woman after she was denied an abortion of her dying fetus.

CNN's Nic Robertson spoke with her husband.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He has lost his wife and now fears the truth behind her tragic death may be lost, too.

PRAVEEN HALAPPANAVAR, WIDOWER: We've seen some tampering of, you know, the medical files and basically, some key information on intimate parts (ph) is missing.

ROBERTSON: Praveen and Savita Halappanavar met in India, married, then set up home in Ireland four years ago. He is an engineer. She was a dentist. They were happy here.

HALAPPANAVAR: She loved dancing. She forced me to dance with her, you know, a couple of times on the stage. We gave a performance, and that will be the fondest memories I suppose, you know. I'd never gone on the stage. I never had that. I always had the stage fear, you know, to go and to speak out and all this, you know, and the belief she gave me was unbelievable.

ROBERTSON: Together, they had dreams of a beautiful future, of children. Their children. Of having a family.

HALAPPANAVAR: She was looking forward, basically, you know. In a way, she found that, you know, she's at the right place, you know, so that's the reason why she knew. And she was very well organized, as well. She knew what she wanted in life. So that's the reason why she had decided to settle here on the long term.

ROBERTSON: When Savita became pregnant, they were overjoyed. Then, their ordeal began. Savita got back pain. Here at Galway University Hospital, doctors told her she was miscarrying; her baby would likely die.

Savita's husband says they asked for a termination and were told, "This is a Catholic country. Not while fetus is alive."

HALAPPANAVAR: So we requested for a termination. We wanted to go back, you know, go home and, you know, think about the next pregnancy, because it was a planned pregnancy. We were so happy. We wanted to have babies.

ROBERTSON: Three days after the request, the fetus died, was removed. Four days later, Savita was dead from a blood infection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our bodies, our lives!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our bodies, our lives!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our bodies, our lives!

ROBERTSON: Ireland has been outraged. Protests in support of Savita, not just here but across the world, have urged the country's politicians to update abortion laws to prevent similar tragedies.

There has been political fallout, too. Abortion is a hot-button issue in Ireland. The prime minister is under pressure to get Halappanavar to help a health service inquiry.

(on camera) Government steps so far have done little to inspire Halappanavar, not just, he says, because they took weeks before announcing an inquiry, but when they did, three of the seven medical professionals on the investigation team were from the same hospital here, where his wife died. Although they've now been replaced, other issues remain.

(voice-over) Not the least of which, the missing medical records. Records the hospital declined our request to comment on.

HALAPPANAVAR: Basically, we made a request for termination and then there is no notes and the request wasn't found any of the medical notes and also, there is the -- the response from the doctor. That is not in the medical records either.

ROBERTSON (on camera): What do you think has happened to it?

HALAPPANAVAR: We don't know. And it's just strange that there is all other information in there for support, you know, when we requested for a cup of tea and toast and, you know, the things like an extra blanket was given. All that is in the medical notes.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): He says he will settle for nothing less than a full public inquiry where the health service, not just his wife's death, is investigated.

HALAPPANAVAR: Every single family person asked me how could this happen in a country like Ireland in the 21st century, because it was just so simple. When they knew that the baby's not going to survive, why wait? Think about the bigger life, which was the mother, my wife, Savita, and they didn't.

ROBERTSON: All he wants, he says, is the truth.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Galway, Ireland.

(END VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS: As a result of this story, Irish health officials today announced a second inquiry dealing specifically with the care of critically ill patients.

That does it for us. I'm Joe Johns in THE SITUATION ROOM. Wolf Blitzer will be back here on Monday. We'll see you back here at 6 Eastern tomorrow. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.