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THE SITUATION ROOM
Storm Slams Northeast; Interview with Rand Paul
Aired February 13, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: All right, Jake, thank you.
Happening now, breaking news, battered again. Parts of the East Coast are getting another wallop, as heavy snow -- this deadly storm as a third of the country in its grip and it just won't let up.
Plus, road rage -- we're seeing dangerous new gridlock on major roads inside the storm zone. I'll ask the governor of Pennsylvania about the state's traffic problems and the snow emergency.
And Rand Paul versus President Obama -- I'll ask the Republican senator what he hopes to accomplish with a controversial new lawsuit. That and much more when he joins us live this hour.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Here in Washington, DC, we're bracing for the next round of a brutal and relentless winter storm that's affecting more than 100 million people in 14 states. We have live cameras tracking the hardest hit areas.
Roanoke, Virginia just got clobbered with another three inches of snow, causing a serious backup on Interstate 81. That's a major north-south highway.
We're also seeing a foot of snow or more in parts of the Northeast. It fell at a rate of four inches an hour in some places. Many roads are treacherous, with countless accidents, including this tractor-trailer wreck in Maryland. At least 11 people have been killed since the storm first hit the South on Tuesday. About 700,000 customers don't have power right now. Major airports are closed or in gridlock. More than 6,000 flights have been canceled today alone.
Our correspondents are fanned out across this region to bring you the breaking story.
Our own Brian Todd has had a unique close-up look at snowy mess up and down the I-95 Corridor along the East Coast. He's been on the road all day and he's joining us now live from Maryland.
What's the latest?
What are you seeing over there -- Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm seeing some very tough going along I-95 Corridor, Wolf. We just got word from Virginia State Police. They've responded to 1,100 accidents throughout the state. Two fatalities there.
We're going to show you what we're seeing. We're just north of Baltimore, Maryland on the I-95 Corridor. We're getting hit with freezing rain now on 695 as we circle the city. We'll toggle between my camera and the dash camera here. We have multi-camera capability in our car.
Again, this storm just moving in, it's basically the second round of this. As you just mentioned, getting hit with freezing rain. More snow expected later for the DC area. This is round two, after a very treacherous round one.
TODD (voice-over): An overturned tractor-trailer on the Washington, DC Beltway. The wheels are in the air. The guardrail is demolished and police closed the highway while they move a tow truck into position.
(on camera): They're putting a winch on it right now to try to pull it out. The driver is OK. He suffered minor injuries to his hands. He didn't want to go on camera with us, but told me that the snow and ice here, the slush underneath the truck, he just lost his steering. The steering just got away from him and he slid down a ditch.
(voice-over): Most lanes are closed on a highway usually packed with commuters in the nation's capital. And just a few minutes down the highway, we see another one. The truck is sprawled across the highway on its side, the front of it split open. The driver, we're told, had minor injuries.
(on camera): We have someone who just slid off the road here on I-95 heading South, just south of DC, probably 15 miles of DC.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes?
TODD: What just happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I (INAUDIBLE) over here and the car is -- I can't control the car. It's coming all the way over here. I'm just scared, man. When you can't control the car, you know, you can't do nothing. And there is snow, too much snow. It's dangerous.
TODD: We hooked up a tow line from his car to our SUV and pulled him around and out of the snow. Three drivers, three examples of how treacherous the conditions are, with thick snow falling all morning and hard pack on the roads. And these aren't the only ones if the passing emergency vehicles are any guide. We see plows and spreaders at work. But it's a lot to keep up with. One thing we didn't see, monster traffic jams like the ones in Atlanta two weeks ago and in North Carolina on Wednesday.
One reason -- not a lot of people are reporting for work in the nation's capital and not a lot of people out on the highways.
Another reason, warmer temperatures and spreaders and snow plows, like this convoy near Baltimore.
Side streets near Baltimore snowy, but not impassable. Downtown Philadelphia a slushy mess by afternoon, for drivers and first responders alike.
Jerry Maclain is exhausted. He spent all day shoveling for downtown property owners.
JERRY MACLAIN: I've been going at it since 2:00 a.m., so it's kind of been a long day.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: And as we get into round two of this storm, the conditions are starting to get worse and it's start -- the temperatures are starting to drop. Right now, the temperature on the road is 34 degrees. It gets down two more degrees, this road and everything else around here is going to start freezing, Wolf. So you'll have freezing rain and some of the streets may be icing over as we get hit with more snow, as well.
BLITZER: And we're going to check back with you, Brian, later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Thanks for helping that gentleman on the road over there. You guys did a good deed.
A heartbreaking story right now as this weather crisis unfolds. A pregnant woman died after being struck by a privately-owned snow plow in a New York City parking lot. Her baby was nearly full term. The baby was delivered by Cesarean section at a local hospital. He's now in critical condition.
Now to the forecast, as that deadly storm is bringing more misery to a huge chunk of the country.
Let's check in with our severe weather, Chad Myers.
What's the forecast -- Chad?
CHAD MYERS, ATS METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, it's simply time to get off the road now. Now the sun sets. Now the temperatures drop rapidly. I'm giving you a three minute warning. Go home and stay there. Literally, if you're on the road, even Brian. It's going to start to get really slick out there. Richmond, Virginia, about an hour ago, you had thunder sleet. Then over La Plata, and now very close to DC. We'll keep our eyes open on our DC tower cams. It's hard to see thunder sleet, but you might see a flash. You certainly will hear it as it moves toward the DC area.
That is going to fill in with rain, snow and sleet. And the freezing rain is going to make travel very difficult in the next couple of hours. Now, we're not going to see a lot more snow. This is just about done. The big part of the storm is up here into New England, up into Upstate New York. That's where you still could get maybe six more inches. Everybody else, two to three, as the tail of the thing finally pulls away tonight. So not much along the coast. Another two to three along, probably, I-95 here and then nothing for Boston and the Cape.
This is where the big snows are tonight, from the Adirondacks, Catskills, back on up to the Greenway Mountains and on up toward Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada.
That's the story now.
But we refreeze almost everything on the roadway right now. It gets down to 24 or so, very close, all the way from New York City, all the way down to DC. It gets down to 28 in Atlanta. It gets down to about 26 in Columbia and Augusta, where there's a mess on the roadways there.
A mess above the roadways, too. We haven't shown you a lot of pictures, but Augusta and Columbia and parts of South Carolina have been literally devastated, with ice all over the place. Trees are down everywhere. It's even hard to get there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Chad, explain to our viewers what thunder sleet is.
MYERS: Well, there's convection. You know, we can get air to go up in this. There's a lot of lift here. And the sleet wants to up and make a little bit of lightning. And the lightning is in the sky. It's not really cloud to ground. It's cloud to cloud up there. And you might see the flash. You'll hear the thunder and you'll think, how can that happen, it's 30 degrees?
But it does happen and it's kind of startling. There's thunder snow, as well. But this thunder sleet that we've seen today from Richmond all the way up I-95, it's been. But it's been quite something for people that are getting startled as they hear thunder.
BLITZER: Yes, it is pretty scary. I just heard some -- I saw some lightning and heard some thunder here in the DC area, where it's already pretty cold. So it's not surprising that you're talking about that.
We'll check back with you, Chad, as well.
This monster snowstorm is a -- a monster snowstorm like this one is a huge drain on local governments and their budgets. CNN's Lisa Desjardins has been traveling with snow plowers on the roads of Baltimore.
LISA DESJARDINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, on day one of the storm, Baltimore feels pretty good about the state of many of their main roads. They've been working overnight, of course, on snow removal.
But they may have a budget problem. Baltimore's city spokesman tells me their budget for snow removal is $2.7 million. So far this year, they've spent more than $5 million on snow removal. It's a problem that they'll have to deal with, of course, after this storm is over.
Back to you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Lisa Desjardins, thank you.
A state of emergency still is in effect in North Carolina. A day after a massive traffic backup in the Raleigh area, some drivers who abandoned their cars went back to try to dig out their vehicles buried in the snow. The area got another three inches of snow today.
Up next, the latest on a train derailment that leaked crude oil.
Are people in the area at risk?
And I'll ask the Pennsylvania governor about that accident and a lot more, as his state prepares to get hit with another round of very nasty weather.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news -- the deadly and dangerous storm socking the Northeast right now. This is one of the snowiest winters on record in Pennsylvania, with more than 50 inches falling so far this season. Power outages have been a huge, huge problem.
CNN's Margaret Conley is just north of Philadelphia, in Abington, Pennsylvania.
What are you seeing there?
What's going on?
MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, PICO, the big power company here, they say that there are scattered power outages already in this region. This is not good news for Abington, which was about 90 percent out of power last week. In this home right over here, this woman, she had to live with her son for electricity and power across the street. A tree branch fell down from that tree onto the family car, causing damage. And further down the street, there is a couple that had to live by candlelight. And they were struggling to get their generator up and running. We also talked to a business owner who in town, he was out of power for seven days and he's been struggling to get his business back up and running. Now, people are just trying to work hard to get their lives back on track. We were lucky today to survive this snow, but we are expecting a lot more snow later tonight -- Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Get ready, Margaret. Thanks very much. Good luck to all the folks in that area.
Another big concern in Pennsylvania, a train hauling crude oil derailed in the snow in the western part of the state. There are reports of oil leaking. Hazmat crews responding to the scene. We're joined by the governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett. Governor, thanks very much for spending a few moments with us.
GOV. TOM CORBETT, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you, Wolf. Happy to be here.
BLITZER: Thank you. Tell us about this freight train hauling oil, the potential problem there. What are you hearing about this?
CORBETT: Well, we heard a number of cars, tanker cars on the freight train with their folks (ph) southern derailed in Westmoreland County. There was a leak from one or maybe two. The leak has been contained. It was a couple thousand gallons. As you know, these tankers hold about 30,000 gallons, but they were able to unload the rest of those tankers that were in danger of spilling and they believed it's contained.
The most recent report I have is a couple hours old, but no leak has been going into the Kiskee River and I think that's very important. Our teams are there. Our Department of Environmental Protection, I believe, is there by now. So, we understand that pretty much this is in containment. And Norfolk southern is working it, writing the trains and getting them back on the track.
BLITZER: As you know, governor, about a 65-mile stretch of the Pennsylvania turnpike was shut down today. And it's now getting dark. It's getting colder. This thunder sleet, as Chad Myers called it, is beginning to develop. You're going to get a bunch more snow. How concerned are you as it gets colder and nightfall begins?
CORBETT: Well, as you know, a good portion of the turnpike was closed and cars were rerouted. We have made contingencies. We lean forward on this and if traffic on the turnpike or on any major highway is stopped for more than an hour, we do health and safety checks. We have penn-D.O.T., the Department of Transportation where the state police go up and down any backed up highway we control to make sure that everybody is taken care of.
But what we really try to do is when we hear that there's an accident that closed down a section of the turnpike, we detour the traffic much sooner than we have in years past.
BLITZER: I'm really worried about power outages, especially as they impact the elderly. If they can't make a phone call, they can't get out, it's dark, it's cold in their homes. First of all, how serious are the power outages?
CORBETT: Well, compared to what we went through last week when it was almost a little bit over 800,000 customers that were out of business, right now, we're at about more than 1,500 customers out of 5,800 at noontime today and different counties across the state. So, it's not nearly as bad, unless, you're one of those customers that don't have electricity.
We always ask everybody to check on those who are elderly to make sure that they're able to get out if there's a problem. But we have monitoring stations set up. We have shelters available. We have warming stations available.
BLITZER: So, in your experience, how bad is this current storm affecting Pennsylvania and you've been governor for a while. You know the state well.
CORBETT: Actually, the people of Pennsylvania reacted very well from the warnings we gave them. They stayed home. I closed down state government here in Harrisburg and across the eastern part of the state. The number of accidents are not nearly what you would have anticipated in a storm like this. We restrict that the speed limits on the turnpike and on the interstates, restricted the types of heavy duty trucks that could go on there.
So, we're in a much better shape than we would have expected. We are very cautious of this next wave of the storm that's coming through between eight and three o'clock because depending on where you are, it could be anywhere between three to five to up to eight inches of additional snow.
So, we are watching this, but I have to commend the people of Pennsylvania, they stayed out of the way and allowed the trucks to get out there and salt trucks to get out there and plow and salt the highways.
BLITZER: You called up some members of the National Guard in Pennsylvania. First of all, how many have you mobilized? What are they doing?
CORBETT: Well, we called up about 700 before the storm hit so that we could get them to their armory so that we could deploy them, because if we would have waited until after the storm hit, they'd have a hard time getting there. Right now, I'm not aware of any missions that they've actually had to go out on. We expected -- we had 14 four-wheel drive ambulances available to go out and help to get people if regular ambulances couldn't.
We have heavy record trucks available to move accidents that haven't been used yet. So, right now, with this storm that we've had so far, we haven't had to use them. And I'd rather have them in the armory and not have to use them than have them at home and be looking for them because we need their help.
BLITZER: Your main message to the people of Pennsylvania right now, I assume, if you don't have to go out, stay home, right? CORBETT: Absolutely. Stay home. Be patient, especially be patient with the utility companies. When power goes out at this time of year, it's so much harder to get the lines repaired with all the ice and snow and the cold. The power companies have been providing a large number of linemen out there and working on that, but we ask you to be patient. Stay home tonight.
BLITZER: Good idea. Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, governor, good luck to you and good luck to all the folks in Pennsylvania.
CORBETT: Wolf, thank you for having us on. That's right. Everybody stay home tonight.
BLITZER: I totally agree.
All right. Coming up, we'll have the latest forecast and the catastrophic conditions. We're tracking the deadly storm that slams the east coast.
They built roadside bombs, they killed American troops, and now, they're walking free. So, what is going on in Afghanistan right now?
And a tea party darling, a 2016 presidential contender suing President Obama and other top aides. I'll speak live this hour with Senator Rand Paul. We'll talk about his lawsuit against the NSA.
BLITZER: We continue to watch the breaking news. Thundersleet now approaching this area of Washington D.C., moving up the east coast. We're going to monitor what's going on. Chad Myers is standing by with the latest forecast. All that coming up, but there's some other important news we're following right now as well, including an Afghanistan.
The government there has just released 65 prisoners saying there isn't enough evidence against them, but the move has totally outraged American officials who argue these are dangerous men with American blood on their hands.
Other chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is watching this story for us. I know I've spoken to a lot of administration officials, especially military who served in Afghanistan and they are outraged.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: They're truly angry. This is the evidence against those detained as released by the U.S. government, 23 pages. And as you read this, you get a stance that these were not minor players. Twenty-five linked to the production of IEDs, roadside bombs. A third of them tested positives for explosives when they were captured. Together, they're responsible for 60 dead or injured coalition fighters, and now, they're free.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO (voice-over): They are behind dozens of deadly attacks on American soldiers. From roadside bombs like this one, armed ambushes, many have direct links to al Qaeda, but now the 65 enemy fighters, seen here as they left their prison cells today, have been set free. "We thank the Afghan army," one of them said, "They treated us like brothers."
U.S. Officials have vehemently protested against the release, providing extensive evidence on the detainees, showing 25 of the think to (ph) IED attacks and a third were directly involved in attacks that killed or wounded 60 U.S. and coalition troops. However, Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, increasingly a hostile partner for the U.S., dismissed the criticism outright, despite more than 12 years of American military and humanitarian support.
PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: It is of no concern to the U.S. and should be of no concern to the U.S. And I hope that the United States will stop harassing Afghanistan's procedures and judicial authority.
SCIUTTO: On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are now considering a proposal by Senator Lindsey Graham to re-evaluate aid to Afghanistan in protest.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't know what I would tell a member of coalition force that was killed by one of these 65. President Karzai, in my view, is single handedly destroying this relationship.
SCIUTTO (on-camera): The state department says the militants should be referred to the Afghan court system for prosecution under Afghan law and U.S. officials make the point that many previously released detainees have rejoined the fight to kill both Americans and Afghans, including Afghan civilians. And today, the state department spokesperson, Marie Harf, said that it is the Afghan government that bears responsibility for any consequences of these attacks.
Wolf, you really get a sense that they're speaking to a senior U.S. military official earlier this week that the U.S. has given up on Karzai, get elections in April, they know they can't do business with him between now and then. They're waiting, in effect, for the next one and, of course, a big issue they have coming up is the status of forces --
BLITZER: And not only that, but the billions of dollars still supposed to go to Afghanistan to build roads, bridges, hospitals, infrastructure, schools. There's a great demand to say, you know what, you don't want the U.S. to harass you as far as terrorists being released from prison, terrorists who killed American troops, maybe you don't need money that could be spent in the United States to build hospitals and bridges and schools as well.
SCIUTTO: No question. When you think of the sacrifice and blood and treasure from the American side, it's hard to accept a move like this.
BLITZER: All right. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much. Outrageous development.
Rand Paul, by the way, is hitting the Obama administration with a major class-action lawsuit. The Republican senator and potential 2016 contender is challenging the NSA's electronic surveillance program. Senator Paul, by the way, is standing by. We'll discuss this live in a few moments, but first, some background. Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is here. He's got the details of the lawsuit -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, is it law or is it politics? Senator Rand Paul's lawsuit is a bit of both. A legal challenge to the Obama administration that will only increase the speculation that Paul might run for president. At the very least, he is raising his profile and developing another piece of a national message.
JOHNS (voice-over): Senator Rand Paul's lawsuit joined by Tea Party umbrella group, Freedom Works, is the latest legal effort to put the heat on President Obama and the National Security Agency over collection of telephone metadata, the numbers, dates, and times of calls but not the content.
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: This, we believe, will be a historic lawsuit. We think it may well be the largest class-action lawsuit ever filed on behalf of the bill of rights.
JOHNS: An unusual lawsuit that Paul hopes Will gain public support. It goes after the president and the director of National Intelligence, of the NSA and FBI on behalf of millions who've been customers, users, and subscribers of phone service since 2006.
Paul wants the federal courts to declare the metadata collection program unconstitutional, shut it down and order the government to purge the information from its systems. But the administration insists the program is legal.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It has been found to be lawful by multiple courts and it receives oversight from all three branches of government, including the Congress.
JOHNS: Is the lawsuit a good idea?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our information, I think it should be private.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The idea that anybody could be listening to my private life, that kind of -- you know, it's a little bit creepy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's just kind of a stunt to get attention. I doubt anything will actually come of the lawsuit. JOHNS: There were already cases in the federal courts involving the same legal question. Whether the program violates your constitutional right.
STEVE VLADECK, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY WASHINGTON COLLEGE OF LAW: There's no question that the underlying legal question is going to have to be resolved by the federal courts sometime soon. It just doesn't seem like Senator Paul's suit is going to be the vehicle through which the courts do it.
JOHNS: Complicating the legal issues is a behind-the-scenes spat over the alleged hijacking of a prominent Washington attorney's work. Sources said conservative constitutional legal scholar Bruce Fein had worked on the lawsuit since December, but when it was released publicly, his name was not on the document and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli who left office in January was featured as the lead lawyer.
When CNN asked Cuccinelli who authored the document, Cuccinelli said it was a legal team including Fein and that Fein would participate in the litigation. Fein told CNN he looks forward to working with the others with transparency and no ulterior motives.
JOHNS: And the controversy involving the lawyers continued today. Ken Cuccinelli told CNN in an e-mail that Bruce Fein had not been named in the lawsuit because no written attorney retainer agreement had been completed at the time the lawsuit was filed. Other e-mails obtained by CNN indicated that Fein was paid $15,000 for some of his work but it's not clear at all after all this whether Fein will remain part of the legal team -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Joe Johns, thanks very, very much.
Up next, we'll speak with Senator Rand Paul. He's standing by live. He'll join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll ask him about this new lawsuit against the president. We'll also talk about his own White House ambitions.
And stay with us for more of our breaking news coverage. This is truly an historic snowstorm. It's getting worse right here in the D.C. area.
Thundersleet developing. We'll have a special report on that and a lot more coming up at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: We're watching the breaking news right now. Another round of that deadly winter storm is hitting the D.C. area right now. Moving up through Pennsylvania, New York, more snow on the way and also what our Chad Myers is calling thundersleet and thundersnow on the way as well.
We'll have a complete update at the top of the hour.
First, let's continue our conversation on what's going on with this NSA surveillance lawsuit. Senator Rand Paul is suing the Obama administration, including the president of the United States himself, over the NSA sweeping surveillance program. Some critics, though, are arguing the case has no real legal standing and is nothing more than a political stunt.
Let's discuss the lawsuit and much more.
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is joining us right now.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
PAUL: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: You've heard all the criticism that it really has no legal standing. It's simply designed as a political stunt to strengthen your potential presidential prospects, to strengthen the Tea Party. What say you?
PAUL: The interesting thing is I haven't heard much criticism. I've really heard a lot of thank yous from millions and millions of people with cell phones who want us to stand up for their privacy. So no, we think this lawsuit will get heard. There's already been a lawsuit like this heard simply by people who say their privacy has been breached.
We think there's evidence that anyone who has a cell phone or a landline has had their cell phone breached. So I think achieving standing and being heard in court is very likely since a couple of cases have already been heard. But, you know, the president pushed back yesterday and he said, well, 15 judges have ruled this thing constitution.
You have to get into the nitty-gritty here a little bit. Those 15 judges were in secret courts, primarily, with no one arguing on the side of the Bill of Rights. You only had the government arguing. So we wanted to get into an open court, the Supreme Court, where you can hear both sides and there will be an open debate about whether the Fourth Amendment applies here and I think it needs to happen.
BLITZER: Aren't those members of what's called that FISA court, aren't those judges appointed by the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts? Is he someone you don't trust in these matters?
PAUL: It's not really trust. It's a matter of that I think to get to truth, to find truth in a courtroom, you've got to have a lawyer on both sides. This is sort of something that came out of hundreds of years of common law and figuring out what we wanted to have for jurisprudence and having an attorney on each side is a basic thing that you need to, to try to find truth.
And in that court, the FISA court, number one, it's secret so the hearings aren't public and I think the truth may not always come out when it's in secret. And number two, only the government presents their case. So you only hear from the NSA which, of course, loves to spy and so they always will defend spying but you don't get to hear from any citizens who think, you know what, I haven't done anything wrong and there's no suspicion or no individualized warrant to me. Why should my phone records be dragged up?
So no, I don't think a FISA court -- fundamentally I don't think it can find truth. So I think we need to be in an open court in the Supreme Court and this is a big question about the Bill of Rights, with all the advances in technology, I think really we do need to get this into the Supreme Court.
BLITZER: Well, there are other cases -- the Harvard law professor, Allen Dershowitz, for example, I spoke with him yesterday. He said there are other cases trying to do what you're trying to do that have much greater standing legally speaking. He thinks yours is more of a political stunt, for example. Listen to what -- listen to what Dershowitz said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROF. ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: This issue was already before the court in some different context and those cases will probably reach the Supreme Court. This is more of a political action than an action that has a chance of actually succeeding on its own merits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. He's the Harvard law professor. What say you to him?
PAUL: Well, you know, I'm a physician. I hate to argue with Alan Dershowitz. But I would make the point that because ours is going to be a class action lawsuit on behalf of everyone with records, if one of the cases goes forward and only 10 people sue, maybe 10 records get expunged, this would be on behalf of all cell phone users and all cell phone records would be expunged or taken out of the system if we win.
And it also illustrates the point that we're suing on behalf of everyone who's had their records collected, not just 10 or 20 people. Ours also argues specifically that this is a Fourth Amendment issue. It doesn't argue over statute. So actually there are legal scholars who are saying we have a great chance and we've talked to several of these.
And, you know, legal scholars can sometimes disagree and they also have political opinions, too. So we'll see how it goes. But we won't know until we try and I think it's an important enough question that we do try. And I can't say that we will win but we're going to try our hardest to defend the Fourth Amendment because we think what the president is doing is wrong and goes against what the Fourth Amendment stands for. BLITZER: The other argument saying -- suggesting that this is more political than legal is that folks who do want to sign up and become part of this lawsuit, they're directed to what's called Rand PAC, one of your political action committees, to try to generate support, raise money for your political operation and they say this is the real reason behind this lawsuit.
PAUL: Well, we did --
BLITZER: That's what the argument is.
PAUL: Right. Well, we did that initially because I'm not allowed to do it as a senator. So it's illegal for me to do this through my official position. I have to do it as a private citizen and we have to have an entity to collect money and that entity already existed, but now we are converting over. Now that we've teamed up with FreedomWorks, there will be an entity that is a nonpolitical entity that will do this and it's called the constitutiondefensefund.com.
So while we did start out through my PAC, I never really liked it and I think it gave across the wrong appearance that this was political. Every question really probably in the United States is political if you talk about the Constitution or current events. But we don't want it to be overly partisan. We do really want it to be something that both people from the right and the left, young and old can join if they think the government has gone too far.
And really this is an interesting issue because it does unite young and old, right and left, Republican and Democrat. So this is an issue I think that needs to have its day out in the open with lots of sunshine --
BLITZER: But Senator --
PAUL: -- and in front of the Supreme Court.
BLITZER: Yesterday when you made the announcement, you had FreedomWorks' leaders, the Tea Party activists, standing alongside with you. That would reinforce the political as opposed to, let's say, the legal basis for this lawsuit.
PAUL: Well, they are a citizens group and they may be defenders of the Bill of Rights but they are not associated with any one party and I think Matt Kibbe's remarks, the president of FreedomWorks, was specifically that. That this isn't a Republican or Democrat issue. And in fact, if you've seen my work in the Senate on this -- I'm trying to reform the NSA -- it has been bipartisan.
I've worked with Senator Wyden, Senator Udall, Senator Blumenthal on trying to reform the FISA. This is just another avenue of trying to do the same thing. And I think that the court will hear this. There are several justices who have indicated an uneasiness with where technology has gone and how government is using technology to obtain private information. So I think this is a huge case, whether it's my case that goes forward or another, it does need to get into the light of day and we need to not allow questions of constitutionality to be decided in secret without any argument for the plaintiff or without any argument for those who think their privacy has been invaded.
BLITZER: Rand Paul is the senator from Kentucky -- Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
PAUL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, the winter storm is hitting small businesses hard. But what if it's -- this is -- this is your biggest time of the year? How the snow could actually ruin Valentine's Day for a lot of florists out there.
And the administration has released new Obamacare numbers. Do they spell disaster for the president or -- or are they real sign of progress?
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Look at this. This is Washington, D.C. It's snowing once again. They've got here in -- in the D.C. area thundersleet, thundersnow as well.
This deadly winter storm is wreaking havoc across the East Coast leaving over 700,000 customers, that's probably around two million people, without power. Grounding over 6,000 more flights today alone.
Another major story, though, we're following right now, we'll have a lot more on the thundersleet and the snowstorm coming up. But the Obama administration has now released new Obamacare numbers saying 3.3 million people have now signed up for Obamacare.
The numbers may be a mark of progress that's unfolding now. A breakdown shows that enrollment actually slowed a little bit in January. The administration only has six weeks to hit its original goal of seven million. More than a million did sign up in January alone, though.
Let's dig deeper with our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
These new numbers, I think they're somewhat encouraging for the administration.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: They are. I spoke with a senior administration official today. They're not about to jump for joy because they've been through too much since October to do that. He described it to me as sort of falling flat on your face in the first lap of a long race. They picked themselves up now. They're very encouraged by these numbers. And they believe that the more people see some success, the more people will sign on.
They have to exhibit a certain amount of competence here, Wolf, because they look incompetent, nobody's going to go to the Web site. So they think they've kind of gotten over that hurdle now and the more people see success, the more they'll say, wait a minute, maybe I need to -- I need to log on and do it. So they are encouraged. They're not saying they're completely out of the woods yet.
BLITZER: Yes. And in terms of the demographics of those who have signed up --
BLITZER: -- they are somewhat encouraged because in January, 27 percent of the new enrollees --
BLITZER: -- were between the ages of 18 and 34. These are people obviously who are usually a lot more healthy than their parents or grandparents might be.
BLITZER: So this is a very important number.
BORGER: Right. And it's not high enough. It's not exactly where they want it to be. The big question is here, if you're going to make this large risk pool work, you have to have a large number of young, healthy people in it as well as sicker people. They say that, look, it's the sicker people who tend to sign up first because they're the ones who need the insurance immediately and if -- if Massachusetts is a model, that's what happened there.
That the younger, healthier people will follow. So they think these numbers will continue to increase. I think the big issue for them is do these estimates track with the expectations that the insurance companies set up when they set their premiums for next year? Because if they don't, people are going to get sticker shock. But if this is in line with what the insurance companies were expecting, then people won't get large increases in their premiums, and that's the big question right now that really remains unanswered.
BLITZER: All right, Gloria, we're going to see how this unfolds over the next several months.
BORGER: We will.
BLITZER: Getting ready for the midterm elections.
Thanks very much.
Coming up a killer storm is crippling one-third of the United States right now and the snow, sleet and ice keep coming. We have a SITUATION ROOM special report coming up right at the top of the hour. But first, Valentine's Day should be their most profitable time of the year but you're going to see some florists have been left scrambling by this devastating storm.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Live pictures from Reagan National Airport here in Washington. The airport, this airport, like so many airports up and down the East Coast, has been effectively closed. They're trying to deal as best as I can with -- they can with literally thousands of flights that have already been canceled today alone. Death toll from the fierce winter storm, by the way, is now up to 12.
We're following the breaking news. We'll have a special report right at the top of the hour.
This is certainly supposed to be the time of the year for hearts and flower, but with just hours to go before Valentine's Day, that fierce winter storm is causing huge problems for a lot of florists.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is joining us now with more on this part of the story.
What's going on, Sunlen?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that's right. This snowstorm has shut down so much along the East Coast, but its impact on florists this Valentine's Day may be the real heartbreaker.
SERFATY (voice-over): In jeopardy, the most profitable day of the year for florists, up and down the East Coast.
DAVID SHOVER, KARIN'S FLORIST: This is actually the Super Bowl for florists. So with the weather, it just adds another element that we have to deal with.
SERFATY: One hundred million people have been hit by the storm. Some florists forced to close, others pushing back orders until after the storm. Industry analysts say nearly 67 million flower orders are at risk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 80 percent of the business for Valentine's Day is accomplished on the 13th and 14th.
SERFATY: FTD, one of the largest online retailers of flowers, has stopped taking additional orders in areas affected by the weather. A representative called delivery iffy.
For local florists, now starts a new storm, the big scramble.
SHOVER: Not too many florists are going to be able to deliver, depending on the area. So that means that we'll have today's deliveries and tomorrow's to get out tomorrow.
SERFATY: This flower shop in Washington, D.C., waited days for this delivery truck driving from Miami.
CARLOS FALCON, FLOWER TRUCK DRIVER: You can't imagine. I mean, it's even worse than here in some other places. Last night in Virginia, we had a delivery where the snow had covered all the area and we couldn't identify the streets.
SERFATY: It finally arrived today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been sleeping in the trailer. And they just opened the bridges about five hours ago. So he was able to get through.
SERFATY (on camera): Just to get all the --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to get all this product.
SERFATY (voice-over): Husbands are sweating it out across the East Coast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea was, I was trying to buy some roses for my wife. And I had planned to surprise her with the hundred roses. I would assume they would have been opened by now, getting ready for the big day which is tomorrow.
SERFATY: It may be a shot to the heart but Mother Nature is to blame.