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Interview With Florida Congressman Ted Yoho; Interview With Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes; 24 Million Projected to Lose Coverage Under Republican Health Care Plan; White House Under Fire Over Wiretapping Claims; States of Emergency Ahead of Northeast Blizzard; The Most Powerful Man in the World CNN 9PM ET/PT. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 13, 2017 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. breaking news: 24 million. New numbers just out of the Republican health care plan. A nonpartisan government analysis says it will result in 24 million more people uninsured by 2026. Can the bill make it through Congress?

Burden of proof. The deadline arrives for the Trump administration to produce evidence supporting the president's claim he was wiretapped by President Obama. Does any proof exist?

Reality distortion. The White House tries to change the meaning of wiretap, as top Trump officials appear to walk back Mr. Trump's explosive charge. What does the president really believe?

And bracing for impact. A major winter storm is closing in on the Northeast, and one-third of the U.S. population is being warned to prepared for blizzard-like conditions. States of emergency are already in effect. Who will bear the brunt of the storm?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Critical new details of the impact of the Republican plan to replace Obamacare have just been replaced.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says it will result in 24 million more people becoming uninsured over the next decade. The analysis also says the plan would reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion over the same period.

Today is the deadline, meanwhile, for the Justice Department to turn over any evidence of President Trump's wiretapping claim to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. But both White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, they appear to be walking back the president's charge against the former President Barack Obama.

Tonight, the White House isn't saying whether any evidence to support the claim will be produced.

And more breaking news tonight. More than 100 million people in the Northeast are bracing for severe winter weather. Warnings are up tonight from Washington to Boston and beyond with some areas expected to see up to two feet of snow or more.

We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including Democratic Congressman Jim Himes. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee. And Republican Congressman Ted Yoho, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by.

Let's begin with the breaking news on the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, has the very latest for us.

Phil, the numbers are now out.


And the four-word summation I just got from Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican from Louisiana, a doctor, somebody who is deeply involved in health care negotiations, obviously, it's a concern. There is no question about it. These are numbers higher than Republicans were expecting, even as they expected bad numbers to begin with.

They set down a new pathway, a difficult pathway as they try to get all of the votes they can to actually move this plan forward.


TOM PRICE, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: So we disagree strenuously with the report that was put out.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, GOP leaders are facing a new reality, the Congressional Budget Office projection that shows a drop in coverage for 24 million people by 2026.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The Republican bill pushes 24 million people out of the health care, off of health coverage. This is a remarkable number. It speaks to highly to the cruelty of a bill that the president called an act of mercy.

MATTINGLY: As the Republican and his supports try and maintain a sense of urgency.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact is Obamacare is a disaster. And I say this to the Republicans all the time. By repealing it, by getting rid of it, by ending it, everyone is going to say, oh, it used to be so great. But it wasn't great.

MATTINGLY: President Trump today meeting with people who say Obamacare hurt them, acknowledging that the process to repeal and replace won't be clean or easy. TRUMP: More competition and less regulation will finally bring down

the cost of care. And I think it bring it down very significantly. Unfortunately, it takes a while to get there, because you have to let that marketplace kick in.

MATTINGLY: Just 24 hours after his point man made it sound much easier.

PRICE: I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we are going through, understanding that they will have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not that the government forces them to buy.

MATTINGLY: But Republican sources tell CNN the new CBO numbers are certain to create a problem with the more moderate members of the party. The reason? The provision to repeal Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, which the bill sets at 2020. Conservatives say that's not soon enough.


And a powerful outside group, Heritage Action, continues to push outright opposition to the bill.

MIKE NEEDHAM, HERITAGE ACTION FOR AMERICA: Any conservative member of Congress who stands strong and insists that we use this moment to repeal the architecture of Obamacare, to fully repeal it and then replace it, will never regret the courageous stand they take in the coming weeks.

MATTINGLY: But it's the moderates, both members of Congress and some governors, who may become the bigger problem, sources say. The CBO's coverage drop is expected to be driven in large part by the removal of the Medicaid expansion program, the continued splits driving some to call for House Republicans to slow a train that is on its way to a full floor vote as soon as next week.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives with whom I serve, do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote.

MATTINGLY: The president himself aware of the tenuous political situation Republicans are now in.

TRUMP: The press is making it so wonderful, so that, if we end it, everyone is going to say, oh, remember how Obamacare used to be. You remember how wonderful it used to be? It was so great. It's a little bit like President Obama when he left. People liked him. When he was here, people didn't like him so much. That's the way life goes.


MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, in talking to Republican officials and some of the statements that we have seen from Republican leaders, their perspective is, look, we were going to remove the individual mandate, we were going to put an end to the Medicaid expansion program.

And, by design, based on the CBO's models, the coverage numbers were going to drop. They believe providing choice and providing care options is better than providing insurance for as many people as possible.

That is a tough argument to make going forward. We have already seen the Democrats attacking on this issue and the big question now is how do they overcome or get by this bad headline number as they move forward with this process, Wolf?

BLITZER: Great questions. Thanks very much, Phil Mattingly, up on Capitol Hill.

Republicans, they are touting the savings of their plan, estimated at more than $330 billion over the next decade.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us.

Jeff, what's the reaction there to the nonpartisan analysis?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, so far, that is the number that they would like to highlight, the budget deficit savings of $337 billion over 10 years.

That's why you're not hearing at least for now the White House attacking the CBO, as they did a week or so ago, because they do like some things in this. The top-line headline, though, of the number of the millions of Americans who would not be insured is certainly not helpful for this.

But a senior administration official says they are sticking with this and they still believe in the overall goal of this and they hope they can get some of the outside conservative groups online with this because of the cost savings.

So they're not necessarily as concerned about their right flank as they are about the Senate still. The Senate is still a big concern for them. But, Wolf, this is something that is going to be a huge issue going forward because health care is something that affects every single person.

You can look at the CBO report and see how much an exact premium would go up and these are hard headlines to combat. But the White House is sticking with this and they believe the overall savings is helpful in the long run and they believe competition would come to this.

But the reality here is, Wolf, this is a worse CBO report than they were expecting even than a few hours ago here at the White House.

BLITZER: That is why you have Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, in the Senate, he is saying Trumpcare. He's calling it Trumpcare, he says, is a nightmare.

ZELENY: He is.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, our Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us.

Let's get some reaction from Republican Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. But this issue is obviously very, very important to you and a lot of Floridians.


BLITZER: Let me put some numbers up on the screen and get your analysis, get your reaction.

Before Obamacare took fully effect in 2014, 41 million without coverage, without coverage. After Obamacare, 28.5 million without coverage. The CBO, this nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, now says over the next 10 years, if the Republican repeal and replace plan goes into effect, 52 million people will be without coverage.

So, you support that?

YOHO: I don't support those numbers.

I think the way we're going, if you look at what's going on right now, the Affordable Care Act is going to collapse on itself. And if you look at the CBO numbers, historically, when they first came out and scored the Affordable Care Act, I think they had it scored at 800-some billion dollars, according to Jonathan Gruber, who helped craft that.

But the real numbers are about $2.6 trillion. There are a couple trillion dollars off. And if you look at the numbers that CBO estimated would be there by there by 2016, there would be over 20 million people signed up on the Affordable Care Act.

But if you look at reality, it was less than half of that.


BLITZER: But their numbers right now is, if this goes into effect, a year from now, 14 million more people would be without health insurance.

YOHO: I will get to that.

BLITZER: I suspect, Congressman, a lot of them would be in Florida.

YOHO: I will get to that, but, if you look at the numbers, CBO said there will be 20 million people -- or 20 to 24 million people.

BLITZER: But this is a new CBO leadership named by Tom Price when he was chairman of the Budget Committee. He's now the secretary of health and human services, led by a Republican, highly respected, and you're saying what, you don't respect his word?


YOHO: No, Tom Price, I really... BLITZER: No, no, no, I am talking about the head of the Congressional Budget Office named by Tom Price, a Republican, to lead the Congressional Budget Office.

YOHO: Right.

But if you look at the numbers, they were wrong on the numbers.

BLITZER: But that was a different team. This is a new leadership there led by the Republicans.

YOHO: I realize that, but if you look at the numbers that they said were going to pay for it, it was going to be almost nine million people and it's only 6.8.

These numbers that are being projected now, that's going to come out in the pudding. If you just were to do what we were doing with the Affordable Care Act, there would have been a lot of people lost their insurance just because of the collapse. Aetna was falling out. Other companies were falling out.


BLITZER: Let me ask you, because the White House says they welcome the numbers in the CBO report. And I have gone through the whole thing.

When they say, and this is music to your ears, that if the Republicans' plan goes into effect, it will reduce the federal deficits by $337 billion over the next 10 years. You like that part of it?

YOHO: I love that part.

BLITZER: Yes. So, why do you like that part, but you're willing to reject the other part? Why is that number accurate and the other number is not accurate?

YOHO: I think the biggest thing is, if you look where we're going to be five to 10 years from now, if you look at our discretionary spending, $600 billion of that is military.

Five to six years, now, just the interest on our debt is going to equal what we're spending on military. There is no money to run government. We have Puerto Rico at hand in five to six years. I just got a report a month ago that said Social Security was going to have a 25 percent cut across the board.

We can't continue going down the way we're going.

BLITZER: President Trump says, and he made a strong commitment many times, he will not touch, he will not reduce spending for Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. Do you believe him?


YOHO: I believe he said that, but I don't agree with him. No, not at all.

We don't have a choice. Mandatory spending has to be dealt with.

BLITZER: He's going to break that commitment?

YOHO: He is going to have to address mandatory spending, or mandatory spending will address what happens in the United States, just like you see in Puerto Rico, Greece, Spain.

Puerto Rico cutting from 156 government agencies down to 45. They said if you have a retirement check coming from the government of over $2,000, they're going to cut it to $2,000. That's going to happen here.

BLITZER: What is more important, cut spending, reduce the deficit, or increase the number of people who have no health insurance?

YOHO: You have got to look at all of it, Wolf. You can't just do one or the other.

CBO doesn't have figured in there the bump to the economy with tax reform, with the growth in the job sector, with manufacturers coming back here, more people going to work. If you look at that...

BLITZER: None of that has even been introduced yet, none of those proposals.

YOHO: Yes, but you can already see it in the economy. Look at the stock market. Look at...

BLITZER: I haven't seen any tax reform initiative announced. Nothing is being discussed.

YOHO: No, I disagree with that.


BLITZER: The president has said and the Republican leadership in the House, your leadership, has said first do health care and then we will do tax reform down the road.

YOHO: That's right.

BLITZER: That is going to be a while before you can do tax reform.

YOHO: Well, it's going to be a while, but it will be done.

And I truly believe it will be done within the next two years, the majority of this. You're going to have the repeal and replacement that every Republican ran on.


BLITZER: And you're a good Republican in the House of Representatives. You're working hard...

YOHO: I appreciate that.

BLITZER: ... for your constituents.

Tom Cotton, Republican, former member of the House, now a senator from Arkansas, he says, you know what, if you guys manage to get something through in the House, it's going to die in the Senate. You only have a 52-48 majority.

There are a least half-a-dozen or a dozen Republican senators who don't like various aspects of this and that's going to undermine your ability to be the majority after 2018 if you pass this in the House, but it collapses in the Senate. That's what Tom Cotton said.

YOHO: That's what Tom -- I heard him that.

If I was a soothsayer, I could go one way or other on that. I can't predict the future. All I know is that if we continue down the path we're on, the Affordable Care Act will implode on itself. People will be without insurance.


BLITZER: Why not take your time and come up with something, work with Democrats, come up with a compromise that not only could pass the House, but will pass the Senate as well?

Because you probably will be able to squeak something through the House of Representatives. You have got a much bigger majority there. But it will probably die if it stays the same.


YOHO: That will be the choice of the senators.

BLITZER: Thank have no Democrats' support.

YOHO: But there's been meetings in the conferences, Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means. They have had bipartisan meetings in those committees.


It gets voted out of the committees. What the Senate does is up to the Senate. I have no control over that.

BLITZER: But it was strictly along party lines it got voted out of those two committees.

YOHO: Look at how it got created. And I think this is a warning to how legislation gets created. If you go back to 2009, there was no Republican input. Not one Republican sponsored that.

BLITZER: But the Democrats had a bigger majority in the Senate than the Republicans.

YOHO: Does that make it right? BLITZER: I'm not saying it's necessarily right. But they got it passed. They squeezed and they got that 60.


YOHO: And look at where we're at today.

BLITZER: For big chunks of this, you don't only need 51. You will need 60 for phase two and phase three of this proposal. You think you're going to get that in the Senate?

YOHO: I think it's going to have to happen. We have no choice.

It's going to implode on its own. People will be without insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. And I have faith in our leadership, because we have had hearings and meetings over the last year.

They are putting this together. Look at what they did. They laid it out there for the American people to see this. They have advertised this. People have weighed in on it. Now you're going to have the reforms that are going to be done to it to make the needed changes.

This is a work in progress. And I guarantee you it will be read before it's voted on.

BLITZER: It will be what?

YOHO: It will be read before it's voted on, unlike the last one.

BLITZER: It's much shorter, this version as well.

Ted Yoho from Florida, thanks very much for coming in. We will stay in close touch with you.

YOHO: Yes, sir. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: Let's bring in another guest right now, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee, but he's also following this issue very closely.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: The new Congressional Budget Office estimates that enacting the Republican legislation would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the next decade. React to that estimate because a lot of Republicans are saying that's great, positive news in cutting the federal deficit.

HIMES: Yes, well, you get that $337 billion because they're reducing subsidies to people to buy health insurance to the tune of a trillion dollars. And, so, yes, when you throw, as you know, 24 million people off of

health insurance, as the CBO has said that this bill will do, it's not surprising to me that you save a little money.

How my friend Ted is going to explain to his constituents who get thrown off of their health insurance that, don't worry, because the deficit will be stronger, or -- my friend Ted comes from Florida.

Another highlight of the CBO report is that the premiums on the senior population, the older population, are about to go through the roof. Again, it's said twice in the first four pages of the CBO report.

I'm not quite sure how Ted explains that to his senior population in Florida. No, I'm not one bit surprised that the government is going to save money by throwing 24 million people off the health insurance. The question, is that really how we want to address the deficit? And I think most people would tell you the answer to that question is no.

BLITZER: Shouldn't Democrats be in a position right now to do more, to make this health care proposal better for all Americans?

In other words, are you willing to go out there and tell the Republicans let's work together and come up with a new plan?

HIMES: Well, you know, the Republicans need to live through what they're living through right now, which is discovering how politically poisonous some of the things that they have been saying and promising their voters for a very long time are going to be.

Look, after today's CBO report, it's not clear to me that this thing gets through the House of Representatives. And I actually think this is going to have a little bit of a healthy effect on Republicans, because they're going to realize what they have been saying for the last seven years and frankly what they've been saying right up until today, which is that Obamacare is a failure, is just baloney.

Look, Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act has some issues. Ted is not entirely wrong. In the individual market and some of the exchanges, we have got some real problems. So, my hope is -- and this would be a real win/win for the American public -- my hope is that after they get shouted out by their constituents over the possibility of throwing 24 million Americans off their health insurance, that they will come around to the point of view that the Affordable Care Act did a lot of good for a lot of people.

And it's got some problems that we ought to come together to fix. But as long as we're in the minority, which we are, these guys are going to need to sort of play out their fantasy that you can repeal this thing and make everybody better of.

The president is going to have to come to realize that his promise that everybody was going to be better off, that you weren't going to kick people off their insurance, premiums were not going to go up, that that is just simply a fantasy.

Until they absorb that, we've got to sort of sit in the sidelines and watch it happening.

BLITZER: Congressman Himes, there is more on the breaking news. We have got to take a quick break. We will resume this.

Our special coverage continues right after this.



BLITZER: We're back with Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, a member of the Intelligence Committee.

We're following the breaking news. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. It says it would result in 24 million more people here in the United States becoming uninsured over the next decade, while slashing $337 billion from the federal deficit.

Much more on that coming up.

But first today is also the deadline for evidence of President Trump's claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us.

Jeff, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, they have been investigating Russian meddling into the election. They want some evidence supporting President Trump's claim. They want it by today. I understand it has not yet been delivered.

ZELENY: As far as we know, it has not, Wolf, but we are told by members of the House and the Senate Intelligence Committees that they do expect to hear something from the Justice Department yet today, but, as you know, the hours are ticking away here.


But the question is, is there any evidence, do they have any evidence to back up the president's assertion here? But there was some different conversation inside the White House Briefing Room today.

And White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was walking back some of his earlier comments, explaining his position evolving over what he said initially nine days ago or so. Today, he said wiretapping is not necessarily wiretapping. Let's listen.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He doesn't really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally. The president used the word wiretap in quotes to mean broadly surveillance and other activities.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZELENY: Saying he used the word wiretapping broadly to include surveillance. Sean Spicer went on to say it was widely reported last year that there was surveillance under way during the presidential campaign.

That simply is not in line with the facts. It was not widely reported last year. There were some fringe reports and things. But the White House is still waiting to see what the White House and Senate Intelligence Committees will say on this, Wolf. The investigation, of course, continues.

BLITZER: Very quickly, the president's counselor Kellyanne Conway also appeared to walk back the wiretapping allegation made, what, some nine days ago by President Trump.

ZELENY: She did, Wolf.

She was doing an interview and she was talking about surveillance in the broadest forms and then she brought up a very unusual allegation about microwaves.

Let's listen.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other now. There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, through their -- certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways, and microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera.

So, we know that that is just a fact of modern life.


ZELENY: But then when she appeared on some morning programs this morning, including CNN's "NEW DAY," she was asked to explain that and she walked that back by saying she has no evidence of that at all.


CONWAY: It was about surveillance generally.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: He didn't ask you about it generally, though. That's just true in the transcript. You may have answered it generally, but you were asked specifically.

CONWAY: Chris, I'm not Inspector Gadget. I don't believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign. However, I'm not in the job of having evidence. That's what investigations are for.


ZELENY: At the very least, Wolf, at the end of this day here, certainly muddying the waters about all the claims and still, nine days in, no evidence at all to back up the president's initial claim, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny over at the White House, thanks very much.

We're getting some breaking news. The Justice Department has just now asked the House Intelligence Committee for more time to respond. We're getting this report in. The Department of Justice has asked the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, and the vice chairman, Adam Schiff, for additional time to review their request, in compliance with the governing legal authorities and to determine what, if any responsive documents may exist.

Let's bring back Jim Himes. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee.

You think they should give, the chairman and the vice chairman of your Intelligence Committee should give Justice more time to come up with some answers?

HIMES: Well, Wolf, at some level, we don't have a lot of choice. It's not like we can impose sanctions on the Justice Department if they don't produce anything.

We can theoretically subpoena members of the Justice Department or the FBI. But I think we have a sense for where this is going. There were always two possibilities here. And one of them was not that President Obama ordered a wiretap.

One possibility, of course, is that this is just made up out of whole cloth and the FBI and the Justice Department are figuring out how to tell us that in a way that doesn't create quite a rift with the White House.

And the other possibility which is even more complicated, Wolf, is that there is something there, and maybe it's a wiretap, maybe it's something else, who knows. But if there is something there -- and this is why it would be a problem -- you have two issues.

Number one, if there was some form of surveillance, it would have to be done pursuant to a federal judge's order based on probable cause. And it could be that the Justice Department is concerned about that.

And, secondly, of course, these kinds of things are very, very secret. They're secret. They're classified. And you need to go to the president perhaps to declassify something like this.

BLITZER: Congressman, we're getting more information.

Let me just thank you right now for your immediate reaction to the breaking news.

We will take a quick break. Much more on the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: More now on the breaking news.

[18:44:19] The new numbers are out on the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, just released by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

Let's dig deeper with our experts and analysts. And Gloria Borger, let me play a clip. This is Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, reacting to this report that was just released just a little while ago.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, actually, I think if you read at this entire report, I'm pretty encouraged by it, and it actually exceeded my expectations.

We're saying the government is not going to force people to buy something they don't want to buy. And if we end an Obamacare mandate that says you must buy this government one-size-fits-all plan, guess what? People aren't going to buy that.


BLITZER: All right. So he says he's encouraged by the report, "exceeded my expectations," even though the report says 14 million more Americans would be uninsured under the Republican legislation within the next year, and what, another 24 million would be -- more would be uninsured over the next ten years.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, this is going to be the Republican argument, which is, as Paul Ryan said, if you don't force people to buy insurance, then you're going to lose people who are insured from the rolls, but they have been opposed to the government mandating on buying insurance. So they think that's a good thing, that people will have choice.

Another argument you hear from Paul Ryan and you hear it from HHS Secretary Dr. Price, is that this is just the beginning of a three- step plan, that the first plan is what you see out there. Then there are going to be administrative steps, regulatory changes. And then the third part is that they're going to legislate some more fixes. So they don't want you to think that this is the whole package; that you're only seeing a part of the package.

The difficulty they have, Wolf, as you've been discussing throughout SIT ROOM, is that it's very difficult to tell people they're going to be better off when you see these numbers of people losing -- or not having coverage and also the fact that older people, older people and less well-off people will be paying more money for their insurance, say, ten years -- ten years out. And that's going to be a very difficult problem for them to explain.

BLITZER: Bianna, as you know, what the Republicans like in this Congressional Budge Office report is this estimate that the federal deficit would be reduced over the next ten years by $337 billion. BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO! NEWS & FINANCE ANCHOR: Yes. And that, of

course, comes out of Medicaid, as your prior guest had mentioned. I mean, looking back, one of the things that the Republicans could have done -- and a lot of people are scratching their heads as to why they didn't do -- was to come up with some numbers of their own with regards to how many people would be covered, how many people would lose, in theory, how much this would cost. Even if these numbers did not match the CBO numbers, at least they could compare the two. Given that Republicans have nothing to offer with regards to comparing to the CBO report, it puts them in much greater of a bind.

BLITZER: You know, Rebecca Berg, Bernie Sanders, he said the Republicans' doubts on this whole CBO estimate, he called them slimy, if you will. There's going to be a huge fight right now in the House and later in the Senate.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, absolutely. And we're already seeing sort of a difference of opinion even among Republicans as to how reliable this report is, how much stock they want to put in this report.

Speaker Ryan saying, you know, he doesn't take much issue with it; he's pretty happy with it. And then Tom Price, HHS secretary, saying something quite different. But really, this is going to be an interesting fight moving forward, because there's a fundamental difference of opinion here between Republicans and Democrats, and that has been for many years. The Republicans don't feel, by and large, that everyone does need to be insured for this to work.

And Democrats have been pushing for as many people to be insured as possible. And so even if the CBO report turns out to be close to accurate or close to accurate, that millions of people would either opt out of insurance or lose their insurance, Republicans will have to defend why they don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. They want people to be able to have the choice. They don't necessarily want universal coverage. That's a tough argument to make for people who currently are insured under Obamacare.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, David Swerdlick, because the Health and Human Services secretary, Dr. Tom Price, says in his words, nobody will be worse off financially under the Republican plan. But the CBO, in this report, suggested older Americans might have to pay 20 or 25 percent more for health insurance.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, that's right. The CBO report says that reports that came out before the CBO report, like the S&P global ratings report, said something similar. You have a situation now where you have potentially people, if this plan passes, losing coverage and also premiums going up. The debate has shifted for Republicans from 2009, when it was all about the mandate, to whether it covers people or not and how much it costs. And I think that's the challenge for them going...

BLITZER: Jeremy, you cover the White House. How are they dealing with this? JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we saw during that press

conference from Tom Price and Mick Mulvaney, they were really trying to do two things. First of all, Tom Price is saying the numbers are not believable. And second of all, "You would know that if you looked at the rest of our plan," which they haven't actually released publicly yet.

But they're also doing something which is a little bit of picking and choosing, I think, here, where they say, you know, "Don't believe what they're saying about the number of people who will be uninsured, but do believe the number of the federal deficit and how much we're going to cut there. Do believe the number of 10 percent premium decrease over the next ten years." So they're really playing a little bit of a double game here, where they're saying, "We like some numbers in the CBO, but the rest of it is trash."

BORGER: You know, Wolf, I can also say that, in looking at this and in talking to people who have studied it, there's a belief that politically, this could fire on someone like Donald Trump, because there's a belief that this could have a disproportionate impact on lower class and poorer voters in red states.

[18:40:11] And it turns out that the Medicaid expansion was more important to those people than the universal coverage, than the coverage part of it. And so if they lose their Medicaid, it could really boomerang against Republicans and against the president.

BERG: And Gloria, as you mentioned earlier, this could also disproportionately affect older voters, who we know are the most reliable voters. Many of them supported Donald Trump. And if you look at older voters' opposition to reform for Social Security and Medicare, that's why that hasn't gotten done and become sort of a political third rail, because they are such a powerful demographic.

BLITZER: Bianna, what do you think of Republican Senator Tom Cotton's warning to his fellow Republicans in the House, "Slow it down, because even if you get something -- even if you get something narrowly through the House of Representatives, probably not going to get through the Senate. This whole thing could fail. It could die. And that could really backfire on Republicans up for re-election on 2018."?

GOLODRYGA: It could very well die in the Senate, and of course, it could backfire on the president for multiple aspects and fronts, especially with what he wants to do with regards to things after healthcare, with tax reform. All of that could be in question now if this doesn't go through. And then of course, that puts the president on the spot.

Can he be the negotiator that he says he is, that he won the presidency by saying that he was a negotiator in chief, and not only negotiate with Republicans but see if he could negotiate with Democrats, as well? Right now Democrats really don't have an incentive to do that.

BLITZER: Because David Swerdlick, in the Senate, the Republicans have a very narrow majority, 52-48. You lose three Republicans, and maybe half a dozen, maybe even a dozen are right now expressing grave doubts about the House Republican language. You lose that, it doesn't make any difference what happens in the House.

SWERDLICK: And as Bianna is saying, they can't go ahead with the agenda.

I think there's less chance right now to say that Democrats are going to lose the House. Maybe they would have some difficulty in 2018 in the Senate. Democratic voters don't have a good track record in the last few midterms.

But what I think Senator Cotton is saying to his colleagues is that, if they pass this bill, Republicans will own this, and it will at least give Democrats a talking point.

BLITZER: Let's get into the other big story, the breaking news, Jeremy, that we've been following, the Department of Justice now asking the leaders, the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House Intelligence Committee for more time. They need more time, additional time to review the request in compliance with the governing legal authorities and to determine what, if any, responsive documents may exist. Because the deadline was today to provide any evidence at all to the assertions by the president in those tweets, nine days ago, that President Obama personally ordered that he be wiretapped at Trump Tower.

DIAMOND: Absolutely. And I think, you know, this was the beginning -- we saw the White House repairing for this earlier today and preparing for the fact that nobody in Washington believes that there's going to be any evidence that's going to come out to support this claim for which the White House has provided no evidence.

You know, we saw Sean Spicer earlier today talking about, you know, how he started walking this back, essentially, saying he was -- he was walking this whole thing back. And we really saw that also from Kellyanne Conway with the wiretapping.

BLITZER: Let me play some clips. And Gloria, I want you and everyone to pay attention. This is what Sean Spicer had to say about President Trump's claims that President Obama ordered that he be wiretapped during the campaign. Listen to this.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you look at the president's tweet, he said very clearly, quote, "wiretapping," in quotes. He doesn't really think that President Obama went up and wiretapped his phone personally.

But I think there is a -- there's no question that the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election. The president was very clear in his tweet that it was, you know, wiretapping, that that spans a whole host of surveillance-type options.


BLITZER: That was Sean Spicer. Now listen to Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: There are many ways to surveil each other now, unfortunately.

MIKE KELLY, "THE BERGEN COUNTY RECORD": Do you believe that was.

CONWAY: There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways, and microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera.

I'm not Inspector Gadget, I don't believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign. However, I have -- I'm not in the job of having evidence. That's what investigations are for.


BLITZER: But Gloria, in one of the four presidential tweets a week ago Saturday, nine days ago, the president tweeted this: "Terrible. Just found out that Obama had my phones tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism."

So is the White House now trying to redefine what the president actually said in those four tweets?

[18:45:01] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure, they're trying to explain it away because they can't explain it, period. And so, what you see is Sean Spicer going out there and saying, OK, because it was wires tapped, was in quotation marks then we ought to parse that to mean that we shouldn't take the president literally, and we're at that again.

And then, Kellyanne is offering another explanation, of what it might mean, and they're both trying to kind of broaden it out so that perhaps it wasn't President Obama who directly ordered illegally it would be to have Donald Trumped tapped.

So, I think what you're saying is them trying to fuzz it up, to try, as I said, explain it away without actually explaining it because nobody can come up with a good explanation, and again, as I say every day, it could be all cleared up if the president picked up the phone and said to the FBI, why don't you release the information that I know.

BLITZER: And we're going to a week from today, Bianna, we're going to hear the FBI director, the intelligence community, on Russian meddling in the election. What's your take on this?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO NEWS & FINANCE ANCHOR: Well, if the administration can't accept the nonpartisan CBO report, I'm not very confident that the administration will be so willing to accept anything that comes out of hearing next week. You know, I have to say that the president and those around him seem to know more Russians than I do, and I know a lot of Russian people. There are a lot of questions, and, of course, we're all going to be looking to what comes out of the hearings next week.

But there are still a lot of questions that we have out there, a lot of concerns about what ties the president, if they're nefarious or they're innocent, regardless of what the answer is, we need to know and this has been going on for months now.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by.

I just want to alert our viewers. Coming up on Wednesday, this coming Wednesday, the CNN town hall special with the Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, "Obamacare: What Comes Next?"

Join Dana Bash and me, we'll moderate the Wednesday night town hall, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Just ahead, bracing for a blizzard. The latest on a storm closing in on the Northeast.


[18:52:17] BLITZER: So, we're starting, a look at Washington, D.C., the White House, we're beginning to get some snow here. We're following the breaking news. Dangerous winter storm closing in on the Northeast, where states of emergency have been declared tonight.

Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray is joining us with the latest on the forecast.

Jennifer, millions of Americans bracing for blizzard conditions right now.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You're exactly right, Wolf. What we have basically, two areas of low pressure that are going to merge along the coast. And this is what's going to give us this nor'easter and blizzard-like conditions all up and down the Northeast.

So, you can see D.C. already getting some snow. Here's that other low impacting places like Cleveland, Cincinnati. As we move forward in time, we are going to start to see very heavy snowfall, gusty winds across the Northeast.

Look at that, New York City, just outside of Boston, also included in these blizzard warnings, a lot of folks in the Northeast going to be impacted by this. Along Long Island, we're also going to see all of Connecticut included in that blizzard warning, as well. So, winds, 34 miles per hour on Tuesday, 1:00 p.m., these are gusts, 48-mile-per- hour gusts in Boston. Providence, 46, 62-mile-per-hour gusts possibly by Tuesday afternoon. You see Montauk right around 40, Tuesday evening. Until this finally starts to push away by Tuesday evening.

Now, if there is any good news in this, it is a relatively fast mover. It's going to be in and out in about 12 hours, but with snowfall amounts say two inches an hour for some places, the snowfall totals are really going to add up quickly.

So, this is Tuesday morning. You can see D.C. starting to switch over a little bit to rain, getting more out of the snow. It looks like some warmer air is maybe pushing into D.C. So, your snowfall totals may be, say, two to five. We're looking at maybe 3 1/2, 4 inches best case, are most likely scenario. And you can see Boston into snow by Tuesday at lunchtime and then finally starting to push out by late Tuesday.

So, Wolf, this is going to cause travel to come to a screeching halt tomorrow, with thousands of flights being canceled.

BLITZER: All right. Jennifer Gray, our meteorologist, we'll be, of course, in close touch with you.

Other news we're following. Did the Russian President Vladimir Putin use his power to elect Donald Trump? Tonight, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, we explore that question in a new CNN documentary, "The Most Powerful Man in the World."


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST (voice-over): One man seemed utterly unsurprised by Trump's victory.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (translated): Nobody but us believed he was going to win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's happy to take credit, and that means that he won the U.S. election, the man who is simultaneously president of Russia and in charge of the United States.

[18:55:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Putin --

ZAKARIA: Trump impersonators are everywhere in Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): I love Russia, but you cannot prove anything!

DONALD TRUMP: You're fired. You're fired. You're fired.

ZAKARIA: But it could be an American TV program that best describes the Putin-Trump relationship.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Putin views Trump as an apprentice.


BLITZER: Fareed Zakaria is joining us right now. He put this documentary together.

Fareed, you and your team did a great job. Tell our viewers a little more about this documentary.

ZAKARIA: Well, what we really tried to get at, Wolf, was who is Vladimir Putin? In many ways, he has become the most powerful man in the world, you

know? It's not just CNN that says that. We say that, but Forbes list of the most powerful men in the world has Trump number two. Putin is number one.

How did he get there? And what are his aims? What is he trying to do? Why -- you know, you have 17 U.S. intelligence agencies that said he meddled in the American election because he wanted Hillary Clinton to lose and Trump to win. Why? That's what we tried to get at the heart of.

BLITZER: Why did he hate Hillary Clinton so much?

ZAKARIA: The story really goes back to -- well, two things. One, Hillary was always a Russia hawk. But in 2011, something very important happens. The Arab spring breaks out. Protests start occurring in Syria, in Egypt against these long-time dictatorships.

We look at it and cheer it on. But, of course, in the Kremlin, they look at it and think, are we going to face these kind of protests? And they did. And they faced a fairly significant set of protests.

And at that moment, Putin was somewhat vulnerable, because he was not actually president. As you remember, Wolf, he had handed over the presidency to his acolyte, Medvedev, at that moment. So, he didn't have all the powers he normally did. And at that moment, when he's down and vulnerable, Hillary Clinton steps in as secretary of state and sides with the protesters and talks about the importance of democracy and free elections in Russia.

And I think Putin never forgot that, because to him, that was an attempted regime change, just as surely as the invasion of Iraq was, just as surely as the attempts to unseat Mubarak were, and in a sense, what he seems to have decided was, you want to mess with my election, I'll mess with yours.

BLITZER: Did he really think -- I know he wanted to weaken Hillary Clinton and weaken the United States and democracy in the United States. But do you really believe he thought that Trump would win and become the president of the United States?

ZAKARIA: Well, he says he did. He says he believed -- always believed that Trump would win, because Hillary was a bad candidate. My suspicion is, as you say, he wanted to weaken Hillary Clinton and perhaps succeed more than he imagined he would succeed.

BLITZER: You've actually met Putin. Tell us a little about him.

ZAKARIA: When you meet him as a person, he's actually not that imposing. He's short. I say this as somebody who is not particularly tall. He's bald. You know, he's not that buff. But he has an intensity of focus and a really -- you know, he's very, very intelligent with the way he approaches you, handles his time.

I remember once we were in a small room with the president of Kazakhstan, the prime minister of Italy and myself and Putin. And Trump immediately took the opportunity -- it was a 15, 20 minutes of time before the conversation began -- to talk to the prime minister of Italy about the western sanctions, about how they hurt Italy in an unfair way. It was -- I was very impressed at how intelligently he used that limited time he had not to chitchat, but to achieve a strategic purpose.

BLITZER: Do we know for sure whether or not President Trump has ever met with President Putin?

ZAKARIA: We know for sure that they have not. As you remember, President Trump, several times on the campaign trail, said that he had met with Putin and the occasions he talked about were, you know, fantastical, they were both on "60 Minutes." Trump having been interviewed in New York and Putin and Moscow. So, as far as we know, he hasn't, which will mean that their first meeting will frankly be the most watched summit meeting I can think of since, I don't know, Churchill/Roosevelt.

BLITZER: I think we'll all be watching it closely. No one more so that you, Fareed. Thanks for your excellent work.

The special report, "The Most Powerful Man in the World" airs later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, only here on CNN.

That's it for me.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.