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Statewide Travel ban in Effect in Connecticut; Interview with Representative Mo Brooks; Breitbart Posts Audio of Ryan Last Fall Trashing Trump; Marine Commandant Testifies on Nude Photos Scandal; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 14, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Through those goggles?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has really started to pick up. And we may have as high as 60-mile-per-hour gusts here today. We're not seeing that yet but it's really starting to pick up. We're seeing the worst snow conditions so far. Started about 1:00 a.m. here. Now it's getting really bad.

This is the 84-91 split right in Hartford. It should be extraordinarily busy this time of the day. It is a ghost town. The only thing we're seeing are emergency vehicles and snow plows for the most part up and down those roads.

There are two things that officials are concerned with. One is the possible flooding because this snowstorm happens to coincide with the full moon. What they say that the wind is blowing the tide out so they hopefully won't have terrible flooding.

The other problem is this snow, it's really sticky. It's really, really wet. And that makes for a very, very heavy snow. So all those roofs across this area are going to come under great, great stress. They're going to have engineers out checking. That is one of the biggest concerns right now of roof collapses. But 2:00 p.m., in about four hours, they expect that will be through the worst of it.

But right now that wind is really picking up. The snow coming down harder than it has. And they are expecting up to 24 inches in parts of Connecticut here -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Miguel Marquez in the middle of this storm in Hartford, Connecticut. The rest of the X-Men will join us in the next hour. Thanks, Miguel.

All right. The report from the Congressional Budget Office on the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. How will it affect the ability of leadership to get votes in the House? It had been conservatives, members of their own party that have been the fiercest critics of this bill. What will they say now the report says it will save some $300 billion.

We're going to be joined by a congressman who was a critic of this plan. Is he still? That's an important question. That's next.


[10:36:03] BERMAN: 24 million more Americans would be without insurance under this new Republican plan. But we are getting new reaction pouring in, including from conservative members of Congress who were never sold on the plan in the first place.

The president, he was set to woo members of the House Freedom Caucus tonight. They're coming over for bowling and pizza. Will that be enough? How will the Congressional Budget Office report affect them?

We're joined by Republican member of Congress, Mo Brooks from Alabama.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: My pleasure. Good morning.

BERMAN: All right. I want to remind people of what you told us last time you were on because it was just a week ago and you were very critical of the House plan. Listen to what you said then.


BROOKS: I respectfully disagree with the speaker of the House, and there's not a close second for the largest welfare program sponsored by Republicans in the history of the Republican Party.


BERMAN: So you called this the largest welfare plan ever proposed by the Republican Party. Well, now the CBO says it will cut the deficit by more than $300 billion. That premiums will actually go down on average by 10 percent after 10 years. Do you still have the same problems then with this bill?

BROOKS: Absolutely. It's still the largest welfare program ever proposed by the Republican Party. Let's be clear about something. The fact that the Republican welfare plan is not as bad as Obamacare does not mean that it's good. It is not good. It is still over the long haul going to increase our deficits compared to there being no Republican welfare plan, compared to there being no Obamacare.

The political dynamics are also important. The moment that you make the federal government give people money, which is what welfare plans do in this instance for health insurance, is the moment that becomes an issue from here to eternity and every campaign, where there'll be some lobbying group supported by some number of voting citizens that will go to these elected officials and say give me more or else you don't have my vote.

So what you've got with the CBO report is a static scenario. If you take into account the political dynamics and how Congress slowly but surely will cave and increase the amount of welfare subsidies for health insurance, then over time I think the CBO report is going to be proven wrong. But that's not something that the CBO can take into account with this particular scoring. The political dynamics of future elections.

BERMAN: So help me out here. You are a shrewd political observer. It seems to me that this bill is in a whole lot of trouble. Because people today, mostly, are saying that the big news from the CBO report is that 24 million people would be without insurance if this bill passes. You're not even saying that's your concern. Your concern is you still think this bill is too much. And if this bill -- if Paul Ryan doesn't have you and conservative members of the House of Representatives and now he risks losing people who might be afraid that others are going to lose insurance, you think this bill is in serious trouble, sir?

BROOKS: This legislation is definitely in serious trouble. The primary impetus for the trouble, in my opinion, aside from it being the largest welfare plan proposed by the Republicans in the Republican Party's history is that we just had two reports come out in January from the Congressional Budget Office on the one hand and the Government Accountability Office on the other led by the comptroller general of the United States, Gene Dodaro, warning us of our future insolvency because of these deficits and debt that we have accumulated over a series of decades.

So you've got the United States of America in a very serious, serious financial trouble, perhaps the most serious in the United States of America's history. That's staring us down the road where we're going to suffer debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy. One of the primary impetus is score these deficits or debt or the 87 welfare programs that cost us over $800 billion a year. Now you're going to add another one on top of it that worsens our financial condition.

BERMAN: So, Congressman, let me just get you on the record on some of the things the CBO report says. And I know you may not agree with everything the CBO report says and there are problems with what the CBO has said in the past.

[10:40:04] By and large, you know, it predicts things and it's one of the best places to predict things. They don't always get it right but they try their best. It says that 24 million Americans will not be with insurance who are now. If this passes. Should it be a concern for those crafting the repeal and replace bill that fewer Americans will be covered? Do you care whether fewer Americans are covered?

BROOKS: Well, sure. I would like to see people voluntarily purchase health insurance in order to minimize their risk of a significant loss because of illness. But this is America. We believe in liberty and we believe in freedom. And if you're going to believe in liberty and freedom then you cannot with a heavy boot of the federal government force people to purchase insurance.


BERMAN: Well, you have to be able to -- Congressman, you have to be able to afford it. You do have to be able to afford insurance. And I don't think that all the people who have been added to the rolls because of Obamacare, they certainly -- some of them couldn't afford it before and now they can. Do you agree with that? BROOKS: Well, if you want to get into the affording aspect of it, the

best thing that we can do in the federal government to ensure that people can afford health care is to do things that will help increase wages. And one of the best things we can do to help increase wages for working Americans is to deport the illegal aliens that have flooded the market place, suppressing wages for all Americans and in addition to that, those illegal aliens have taken job opportunities from American citizens. Roughly 10 million to 15 million job opportunities that have been lost to Americans. So you've got a double whammy there. If you enforce the border security --


BERMAN: Go ahead.

BROOKS: If you enforce our border security and deport illegal aliens, you create job opportunities for Americans. You also decrease the labor supply which means that employers have to pay more to Americans to do the work that needs doing. With that additional income they can better afford health care or perhaps if they want to put it into a house or they want to put it into clothing for their kids or college educations, they can do a lot of things with the additional money.

So the things we can do to increase incomes for American citizens. We just have to get the ability to push those people out of the way that insist that illegal aliens are good for America no matter how much damage they do to struggling American families.

BERMAN: Well, look, the immigration debate, you know, I understand you're linking it to.

BROOKS: It's all interrelated.

BERMAN: You are linking there. But we should also say the unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. We talk to a lot of business owners and tell us they can't hire enough legal citizens in the United States. They simply can't find the workers they need to --

BROOKS: That is factually inaccurate.

BERMAN: That's what they tell us. I mean, these are employers of big American companies that they say can't find the skilled workers in Silicon Valley.

BROOKS: That's factually inaccurate and I can explain that if you want me to.

BERMAN: No, no, this is -- I do appreciate the discussion. It is an important one to have. And I do think we should have it on immigration coming forward. Today is about health care and I --

BROOKS: Let me assure you just one last thing then. Those employers if they want to hire Americans, they'd have to pay more and that's a good thing. But with suppressed wages, a lot of Americans won't do that work. The illegal aliens will. You take the illegal aliens out of the picture, that work has to get done. That's why the income goes up because the employers have to pay whatever the market demands to get Americans to do that work and that's good for struggling American families.

BERMAN: Look, I think we all want to see wages go up. The way to do that, that is up for discussion.

Congressman Mo Brooks still apparently an opponent of this Republican plan from leadership to repeal and replace Obamacare. And I think your vote is a key one so it is interesting that you are still against this.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

BROOKS: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. CNN is going to talk a lot more about this health care debate. And there is a lot to discuss. We're having a town hall event tomorrow night. This is an important one. 9:00 Eastern Time. With Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Be sure to watch it.

We'll be right back.


[10:48:01] BERMAN: All right, file this one under intriguing timing. The conservative news media site Breitbart that was once run by chief White House strategist Steve Bannon -- ran by Steve Bannon until just a few months ago, just posted never-heard-before audio of House Speaker Paul Ryan refusing to defend then candidate Donald Trump. Speaker Ryan made these comments last year to lawmakers in a conference call. It was after that shocking "Access Hollywood" tape came out with Trump making lewd comments about women.

Here's what the speaker said.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: His comments are not anywhere in keeping with our party's principles and values. I am not going to defend Donald Trump. Not now, not in the future. You guys know I have real concerns of the nominee. I hope you appreciate that I'm doing what I think is best for you, the members, not what's best for me. And so I want to do what's best for our members. And I think that this is the right thing to do. I'm going to focus my time on campaigning for House Republicans.


BERMAN: Now we didn't have the audio but we did report the content of that conference call that Speaker Ryan said it back when he did. The question is, why is Breitbart releasing it now? Why after all of a sudden the CBO report came out?

Joining me, Mark Preston, CNN senior political analyst. Mr. Preston, thank you so much for being with us. We had Kurt

Bardella on a few minutes ago, who used to work for Breitbart. And he flat-out told us, he thinks this is Breitbart trying to blame Paul Ryan for what they predict will be the failure of the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. You know, follow the bouncing the ball here.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. You know, and if you go back to the election, if you go back to 2016, Breitbart was highly critical of Paul Ryan. In fact one writer at one point, which makes it even more intriguing, her name is Julia Hahn, wrote that Paul Ryan and Hillary Clinton share a progressive globalist world view which is at odds with Trump's "America First" approach.

Julia Hahn now works in the White House with Steve Bannon who used to run the Web site. So clearly somebody taped this call and they are releasing it right now to put incredible amount of pressure on Paul Ryan to cave into conservative demands.

BERMAN: It's fascinating. The timing is fascinating and Bardella thinks that Breitbart would do it without Bannon's support from inside the White House.

[10:50:007] We -- you know, we have no way to prove that one way or the other.


BERMAN: But Bannon still has connections within Breitbart. That's intriguing. OK. I just spoke to Mo Brooks, congressman from Alabama a few minutes ago. Who had been opposed to the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. He calls it the biggest Republican welfare plan in history.

I was wondering if his opposition would be less now considering that the CBO did say that the Republican plan will reduce the deficit and lower premiums in 10 years. I mean, not at all. Mo Brooks, you know, still was spitting fire over the Republican plan. Paul Ryan has got a real problem if he's not winning over any conservative votes like this and he stands to lose some votes among moderates, he's got issues.

PRESTON: Right. So think of Paul Ryan being in the middle of a vice right now where you have the conservatives on one side and you have the centrists on the other side and they are just closing in on him. And if he lets up on one side, meaning if he caves in and gives to some of the conservative demands, he is still going to lose the centrists. If he caves in and gives to the centrist demands, specifically on Medicaid and what have you, then the conservatives are not going to be happy.

So right now the bill as drafted is not going to be the bill that we see. The big question is when does Donald Trump then abandon Paul Ryan and how does he do so?

BERMAN: You know, we heard from the White House this morning. The Office of the Management of Budget, you know, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney was speaking. He's out there selling this. PRESTON: Right.

BERMAN: We haven't heard from the president directly yet since the CBO report came out. It will be fascinating to hear what he says.

PRESTON: Right. It will fascinating to hear what he says and then tomorrow night when we have Tom Price, the Health and Human Services secretary, somebody who was a -- considered a very staunch conservative in Congress is going to be here taking questions from real people who have real issues -- you know, with the change of Obamacare and quite frankly those who actually supporting are of it. But Donald Trump, will he do these big rallies that he's talked about and will he go into the deep south and will he try to twist arms of Republicans who are not supportive of him?

BERMAN: Yes, he may have the rallies. The question is, is he going to sell this specific plan and is he going to continue to say insurance for everybody?


BERMAN: And does everybody include 24 million fewer people. That's a problem.

PRESTON: Right. And instead of the terminology that Republicans are using in the House and Senate, access for everybody.

BERMAN: All right. Mark Preston, great to have you with us. Thank you so much, my friend.

The hearing is under way on Capitol Hill right now. Marine -- the Marines' top general is testifying on the scandal that pretty much rocked the military when Facebook showed naked pictures of female Marines. Live pictures of the hearing. We'll go there next.


[10:57:00] BERMAN: Happening now, the commandant of the Marine Corps is testifying before the Senate right now on a disturbing network of Web sites filled with explicit photos of female Marines apparently posted without their consent.

Want to get to the Pentagon right now and bring in Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what's going on here?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, General Neller is in a very unusual hearing because there is a widespread military criminal investigation going on right now into this posting of explicit nude photos of servicewomen. They are mainly looking at this Web site called Marines United, which may have upwards of 30,000 members even though the site has now to some extent been taken down. They've found 12 other sites. You know, I think everybody understands in today's world you take down an objectionable site from social media and it simply migrates to another location. General Neller pledging to get to the bottom of it, pledging to end

this kind of behavior in the U.S. Marine Corps. And very publicly passionate about how he feels about the service of female Marines. Have a listen.


GEN. ROBERT NELLER, COMMANDANT, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS: To the men in our Corps serving today and those who no longer wear the uniform, you are still Marines. I need you to ask yourselves, how much more do the females of our Corps have to do to be accepted? Was it enough when Major Megan McClung was killed by an IED in Ramadi or Captain Jennifer Harris killed when her helicopter was shot down while she was flying, blood from Baghdad to Fallujah surgical? Or Corporals Jennifer Parcel and Kelly Ann Sherrod and Ramona Valdez all killed by the hands of our enemies? What is it going to take for you to accept these Marines as Marines? I'm committed to making this right, and I need all Marines equally committed.


STARR: So what is it going to take? Very blunt, very plainspoken words from the head of the United States Marine Corps on Capitol Hill.

This investigation is continuing. They are looking to see if there is any way they can begin to bring prosecutions if they can find some of those responsible -- John.

BERMAN: Barbara, we got about 30 seconds left, what are the next steps here?

STARR: Well, the big question is, can they bring military prosecutions? They have to find the people. They have to determine under what part of the Uniform Code of Military justice they can actually prosecute them. And one of the things we're already hearing this morning is changes in military law may be need to deal with this whole new era of social media.

BERMAN: All right. A lot of questions being asked. Still need a lot of answers here.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks so much for being with us.

STARR: Sure.

BERMAN: All right. Thank you all for joining us today. I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

It's the plan that President Trump and Republican leaders say is the best way to repeal and replace Obamacare. That of course is according -- but according to Paul Ryan it is also the closest that -- according to Paul Ryan it's also the closest --