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War of Words; Private Records Going Public; New Leader for The Netherlands; Warning Actions; A Defining Moment. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 15, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Voting is underway in The Netherlands, and the results could have consequences beyond its borders.

A report on the U.S. president's taxes forces a rare financial disclosure from Donald Trump.

Plus, the view from Moscow, what Russians make of all the recent attention from American politicians and media.

Hello, and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. And this is CNN Newsroom.

Voters are casting their ballots right now in The Netherlands in an election that could change the landscape of the European Union and bring an end to the country's immigration policies.

Dutch voters are picking a new parliament and far right candidate Geert Wilders is hoping his party will win enough seats to make him the next prime minister. But two term incumbent Mark Rutte wants to hold onto his job.

CNN senior international correspondent Atika Shubert, joins me now from a polling place in Volendam. Good to see you, Atika. So, it is just after 8 in the morning. Still too early to gauge voter turnout, of course, but what are the expectations and what are the polls indicating in terms of the likely winner here?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me take you through this polling station where actually at polling station number six in Volendam. And I just want to give you a quick indication of what's happening here. Most of these votes are happening either in schools or in community centers.

This one here is exactly the type of community center you can see. We have pool tables out here. It's actually a bar during most of the day, but they are expecting voter turnout here to be quite high. Somewhere about 2000 at this polling station. Percentage-wise, about 70 or 75 percent overall turnout.

Now this is where the vote is actually taking place. We've already seen a few voters coming in earlier today, and this is an interesting town. It's got about 23,000 people here. Nearly half in the last election voted for Geert Wilders' party. But this year it's a lot more fragmented and voters, many of them saying they didn't haven't even made up their minds as of last night.

So, it will be very interesting to see what happens. The overall trend that we've been seeing is that people have not -- have been moving away from mainstream parties and voting more in fringe parties. One man we spoke to said he voted for the 50-plus party, a party that caters to older voters. So it could be a very fragmented election, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And Atika, what have been the main issues driving voters to the polls? Is immigration perhaps dominating all other issues here?

SHUBERT: I think it is actually a lot of different issues. Immigration is certainly one of the top issues and certainly with the Turkish diplomatic spat that happened over the weekend, it became an even more important issue for a lot of voters. But it's not the only one. The economy is still an issue.

A number of fishermen I spoke to said their biggest concern was E.U. fishing regulations. So, it's really a whole bunch of different concerns. But what has dominated the debate here are issues of immigration and identity. But if that's -- it's not clear yet if that's what's actually determining how people vote at the polls.

CHURCH: All right. Our Atika Shubert, joining us there as she watches and monitors the election there in The Netherlands. Many thanks to you.

Well, immigration as we heard, especially from Muslim countries, is a central issue in this election. Mr. Rutte and his rival both talked about it in the final debate of the campaign on Tuesday.


MARK RUTTE, DUTCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): In 2015 The Netherlands faced a very big problem, a migrant flow into The Netherlands of Syrian refugees. At the end of the last year I succeeded to reached agreements. We've reached now with the Balkans and the Balkans are now closed.

We reached an agreement with Greece and now Greece is closed. We also reached an agreement with Turkey, resulting in the number of Syrian refugees decreasing by more than 95 percent.

GEERT WILDERS, DUTCH PARTY FOR FREEDOM (through translator): The Netherlands is not for everyone. Netherlands is for the Dutch. Do you hear me well? People who have chosen 10 percent for our country, your party, they make sure that people feel like foreigners in their own country, second class citizens. That's why they don't vote for your party any more. The people do not want this.


CHURCH: Now, the Dutch election system makes it virtually impossible for a single party to form a government. [03:05:01] Listen to this. A 150 seats are up for grabs, but with 28

parties running, it's difficult for any one party to win at least a 76-seat majority. So, a coalition is needed and nobody seems willing to join forces with Geert Wilders' Freedom Party. Since World War II, it's taken The Netherlands an average of 72 days to establish a new cabinet.

Well, Dominic Thomas is the chair of the Department of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA. He joins me now live from Amsterdam. Thanks so much for being with us.

So, from what you've been able to witness so far, what do you think will be the likely outcome here, given the Dutch electoral system has the 28 parties vying for 76-seat majority out of 150 seats?

DOMINIC THOMAS, PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH AND FRANCOPHONE STUDIES UCLA: It's a very different electoral landscape than it was at the last election. As you have already mentioned, 28 political parties, which means that the larger political parties are going to get a smaller share of representation and the small parties will get a larger share.

There are also a lot of undecided voters and voter turnout in the last 10 years or so has been on the decline. All of this compounded by the fact on the international focus on this election here because of the importance of Wilders' party and his position on Islam, the diplomatic crisis with Turkey means that the outcome is highly unpredictable.

What we are going to know for sure, though, is that the formation of a coalition is going to be at a historically complex level, whereas in the past two to three parties with some minority help have managed to secure power. In this particular case it is most likely going to take five, six, possibly even a greater number of parties to form a workable coalition.

The big question, of course, is the political parties have said that they do not want to work with Wilders is -- will be how well Wilders will perform and whether he can shape this discussion and whether other political parties are actually willing to work with Rutte's VVD, all move in the direction of a left leaning coalition which would bring back into the fray the socialist party and give an important role to the greens, the democrats and the more centrist parties.

This will depend, of course, on how each individual party performs during this election.

CHURCH: Well, I wonder if they look at that. So how likely is it that to get Wilders could form a coalition under the Dutch electoral system, given a number of the parties have said they don't really want to have anything to do with him? But when you look at the numbers and look at the parties, is it possible?

THOMAS: Well, in theory mathematically, it's completely impossible because if they don't want to work with him, he would need a 76 majority. At the most he looks like he will score somewhere in the 20s unless there really is a shocking turnout. In the past, though, the PVDA, the Labor Party, twice during the

1970s, once during the 1980s came out with the most votes and was unable to form a coalition. So, this has happened in the past.

Now, if Wilders does perform extraordinarily well this may put some pressure on parties, but so far no one has been willing to come out and express any kind of support for his party, which doesn't mean, though, that the particular issues that have been important to him have not played a role in this particular election and the other parties are also focused on questions of integration and immigration.

CHURCH: All right, Dominic Thomas, thank you so much for joining us and shedding some light. We enjoyed your analysis on that. Many thanks.

All right, want to go back to the United States now and throughout the presidential campaign Donald Trump kept his tax returns a closely guarded secret, defying decades of political tradition.

But now the returns from 2005 are public. The White House says Mr. Trump made $150 million and paid $38 million in taxes. The return shows he wrote off $100 million in losses, reducing his (AUDIO GAP) tax burden. Most of (AUDIO GAP) did pay came under the alternative minimum tax, which is designed to make sure the super wealthy pay their fair share.

Journalist David Cay Johnston received the tax forms and talked with our Don Lemon.


DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, JOURNALIST: I don't know why whoever sent them to me did so, all right. My suspicion is because I have written a great deal about negative incomes and our failure to pay attention. It's one of the ways very wealthy people get out of paying taxes or paying much less and about the alternative minimum tax.

And in those two-page show that if it wasn't for something called the alternative minimum tax, there are two tax systems, regular and alternative, Trump would have been taxed on that $152 million plus at a lower rate than 50 percent of the poorer Americans.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: He wants to get rid of the alternative.

[03:10:00] JOHNSTON: He wants to get rid of it, that's what he would have gotten that year. But Trump's tax returns are around in various places. He's been involved in litigation, regulatory matters where he's had to turn these over. So, there are people out there who got them and somebody decided that I would make good use of this so it was sent to me.


CHURCH: Well, the White House issued its statement just ahead of MSNBC's report on the filing and it read, in part, "You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two-pages of tax returns from over a decade ago. Before being elected president, Mr. Trump was one of the most successful businessmen in the world with the responsibility to his company, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required."

So, let's get some more analysis on these revelations. I am joined by CNN's senior political analyst, Mark Preston, and CNN legal analyst, Joey Jackson. Thank you both for joining us. I appreciate it.

So, Mark, let's start with you. What are the political (AUDIO GAP) of the leaking of some of the details of President Trump's 2005 tax return, and what all does it really tell us?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, a couple of things. You would think that after all this time this would be a bomb shell revelation. We have not seen Donald Trump's taxes, certainly not in its totality. We don't know how much money he has actually made, what his write-offs are, what his business relationships are.

So, when we heard news that, in fact, that we would see some of this information, it was really deflating in many ways because we weren't actually learning anything we probably already didn't know.

As we know right now, back in 2005 he made $150 million and he paid about $38 million in taxes and the White House says that doesn't include what he also paid in other taxes such as excise taxes and employment taxes.

But here in the United States, the big question is, where are Donald Trump's taxes? He has promised them over the presidential campaign but he said he was under audit by the Internal Revenue Service that looks into these issues. And he still has not produced them, saying he is still under audit.

To flip it on the political side, this might be a big win for Donald Trump in the sense that we are talking now about a pretty decent tax return when it comes to information. Instead of talking about two big issues right now that are causing Donald Trump a lot of problems here in the U.S., the first one is the fact that he has made these claims, these allegations that former President Barack Obama had his Trump tower wiretapped.

In addition to that, health care, the overhaul of the entire United States health care system is falling flat right now. There is infighting with his own Republican Party.

So, as we've seen from Donald Trump in the past, Rosemary, it looks like he is diverting our attention away from some more serious issues with this issue.

CHURCH: Yes, I want to come back to that point, too. But first, Joey, let's look at the legality of the leaking of President Trump's tax return. Were any laws broken with this going public? The White House insists they were broken.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they certainly were not broken by MSNBC. And just let's step back for one minute. Certainly there are laws and those laws protect the confidentiality of tax releases. And, so, in the event -- or tax returns, rather.

So in the event that you have government officials who are leaking information, that's a problem because if you're an officer or employee of the United States, that stuff is to be kept private and confidential.

And in the event you are found to be leaking it, you know what, you can be punished by the tune of five years in jail, forgetting about the $5,000 fine, and also losing your job. And it's not only government officials, but in the event that that information is released to another person, and they have reason to know it was obtained in a way that was unlawful, then they, too, can be prosecuted.

But just to be clear, by the time the MSNBC report -- by the time Rachel Maddow got to even talking about, you know, the actual return issue, the White House had already done so. In addition to that, the Daily Beast, you know, a publication here had already done so as well.

And so, you know, those issues, in addition to -- the press is there are so many privileges that attached to what the press does. That you know, there is so much right to know, there is so much public interest attached to press and the press sources. But I certainly would not see a viable prosecution as it related to Rachel Maddow.

And let's just be clear that on her show she was speaking with another journalist who was presenting the information to her who himself had received that information. And, so, I don't see any legal implications in terms of any viable prosecution here, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Right. And of course we do not know the circumstances that led to the leaking of (AUDIO GAP). Mark, most of the $38 (AUDIO GAP) that Mr. Trump paid in 2005, was for alternative minimum tax, one specifically therefore, the wealthy and a tax Mr. Trump made clear he is not happy with.

[03:15:07] So, what does this tell you about his tax obligations? And I do want to ask you this, too. How possible is it that we were meant to see this particular tax return?

PRESTON: Well, let me take the second question first because I think that's a very strong possibility, in fact, that journalist David Cay Johnston who spoke with him earlier, he said that he may -- how he received this information was literally in the mail and it was from an anonymous source.

Now that anonymous source could very well be an ally of Donald Trump's because this is not damaging information by any stretch of the imagination. And when we talk about taxes here, we hear from Donald Trump time and time again, when he says the American people don't care about what (AUDIO GAP) journalist care. And (AUDIO GAP) see these numbers pop in tomorrow's newspapers and when he's discussed all (AUDIO GAP) I think that the average person is going to say, look, the guys has paid his taxes, when in fact it really doesn't give the full picture. This tax, these numbers that we've seen were only two pages, it

doesn't go into great detail of the year 2005. And quite frankly, we don't know anything really from 2005 to where we sit now in 2015.

So, with all these questions about Russia and is he has any financial ties with Russia or what is his connection with China, for instance, as well, we have no information on that. When it comes to the alternative minimum tax, though, you know, this is something that could be problematic for Donald Trump because he has talked about it here in the U.S.

And he, of course, he does have this populous message of trying to help the little guy. But let's make no mistake about it. Donald Trump has said and will continue to say he will always try to pay the least amount of tax legally and he makes no bones about that.

CHURCH: Right. And Joey, the last word to you. What's your response to the possibility that we're all meant to see this particular 2005 tax return from Mr. Trump.

JACKSON: You know, I certainly would not put a test, you know, the administration. The reality is as Mark have suggested the journalist guys and the man anonymously who said, who knows, was it a plan, was it something else, we certainly know that, you know, Mr. Trump and his administration is very in-depth at deflecting and really creating moves whether it be to a tweet or otherwise.

And so, you know, I care not to speculate, but I will say that someone who may have paid $38 million hat certainly doesn't harm and this information that's out there in public, you know, in a way that would be suggestive of, hey, look, I pay my taxes and I pay a steep amount of taxes, by the way. So it doesn't hurt him politically and it certainly doesn't hurt him in any legal type of way.

So, we'll see moving forward whether he release this more information about his taxes or whether or not he chooses as he has today to say, you know what, only journalists care, the public doesn't.

CHURCH: Yes, although polls show that's not the case, right? Mark Preston, many thanks. And, Joey Jackson, to you, as well. Thank you.

JACKSON: My pleasure.

CHURCH: Well, the White House is also defending two burning issues for the administration. Ahead, the latest on the health care fight and President Trump's wiretapping claims.

Plus, Russian-led peace talks get a road block in Syria. While U.S. official say they're concern the Kremlin may be getting involve in another fragile country. We'll explain when we come back.


DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Don Riddell with your CNN World Sport headlines. Leicester are into the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League writing another chapter in their incredible Cinderella story with the 3-2 aggregate win over Sevilla of Spain. Leicester shocked the world, remember of winning the Premier League just nine months ago but they've struggle mightily defending that title.

However, after sacking manager Claudio Ranieri after a 2-1 first leg defeat the Fox's held o against Sevilla for a 2-nil second leg win. Thanks in no small part to goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel saving a late penalty that would have sent the time to extra time.

Elsewhere, Juventus have also advanced to the quarterfinals. The Italian Giants for their 2-1 lead into their home game against Porto. Paulo Dybala's first half penalty for the tie out of sight. Three-nil is the aggregate score.

Meanwhile, it has been a momentous in the world of golf where for the first time in some 273 years the Muirfield club in Scotland has voted to allow female membership. The club had voted not to allow members just last May, which prompted golf's governing the R&A to take Muirfield off the list of Open Championship venues.

But today's historic voters open the doors to Muirfield to host the golfing major once again, although the first opportunity won't come until at least 2021.

That is a quick at your sports headlines. I'm Don Riddell.

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, it is a first for a presidential candidate in France. Francois Fillon is now under formal investigation accused of embezzling state funds.

The conservative candidate now faces even more pressure to get out of the race, but he says he's not quitting. Fillon has consistently rejected claims that he paid his wife and children for work they did not do.

Well, efforts to push forward with peace talks on Syria hit turbulence when the Syrian opposition boycotted the meetings in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana, Rebel said they wouldn't attend talks with the delegates from Russia, Turkey, and Iran because of several factors including Russia's failure to get Syria to adhere to a ceasefire.

Here is what the head of the Russian delegation had to say.


ALEXANDER LAVRENTIEV, SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIAN AFFAIRS (through translator): Even the absence of the Syrian armed opposition's delegation does not diminish the importance of the Astana process. The Astana process is working and is moving forward securely.

I want to assure you all that the three guarantor countries which are, Russia, Iran, and turkey have enough issues to discuss and which demand balance and substantial decisions to be made.


CHURCH: And while Russia talks to keep talks going over Syria, U.S. officials are now warning of growing signs that Moscow may also be looking to make moves inside Libya.

Our Barbara Starr has the details.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The Trump administration firmly keeping the door open to cooperating with Vladimir Putin to fight ISIS in Syria.


SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has been clear in the past that if the country shares our commitment to defeating ISIS and we can work to them in an area of shared mutual concern then we will do so.


STARR: But Russia is already moving beyond Syria launching a new effort in Libya to exert its influence and change the security landscape in a country where there is still no central government more than five years after Muammar Gaddafi was ousted.

Top U.S. commanders now increasingly concerned.


LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: What's Russia trying to do in Libya, General Waldhauser?

THOMAS WALDHAUSER, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS COMMANDER, U.S. AFRICA COMMAND: Senator, Russia is trying to exert influence on the ultimate decision of who becomes and what entity becomes in charge of the government inside Libya.

GRAHAM: They're trying to do in Libya what they've been doing in Syria?

WALDHAUSER: Yes, that's a good way to characterize it.


STARR: U.S. officials tell CNN in recent weeks reconnaissance revealed at an air base in western Egypt just 60 miles from the Libyan border, Russian drones aircraft and personnel have arrived.

[03:25:00] Across the border, Libyan oil inflations are not far away. Fighting has erupted between rival groups for control. The Russian deny they are in Egypt. The U.S. is trying to figure out how deeply involved Moscow will get inside Libya.


HAIM MALKA, SENIOR FELLOW AND DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: This doesn't only give them greater power i Africa but it gives them a foothold in the Mediterranean on the southern edge of Europe where they can potentially threaten U.S. interest and those of U.S. allies. So, this is a big deal.


STARR: Russia's influence is moving fast. Earlier this month, the U.S.-backed leader based in western Libya was in Moscow meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.


FAYEZ MUSTAFA AL-SARRAJ, LIBYAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Our relations with Russia are strong and deep rooted. We plan to intensify relations at all levels and in all areas including the economy, politics, security, and military affairs.


STARR: More worrisome for the U.S., Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar who is fighting the extremist to get the eastern oil fields under his control. Haftar has already visited Moscow twice and those Russian planes and personnel are close by if he needs them.

The U.S. has shied away from dealing with Haftar because of his military tactics, but soon may have to.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

CHURCH: Well, The Netherlands may end up with a new prime minister at some point. And whoever gets the job will have to deal with the growing diplomatic fight with Turkey. The latest verbal bully, that's next.

Plus, how the Trump administration is defending a health care plan that's dividing republican leaders. We'll take a look at that and more, still to come.


CHURCH: A very warm welcome back to you all. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you on the main stories we're following this hour.

Turnout is expected to be high as Dutch voters pick a new parliament. We're looking at live pictures here. Polls open just about an hour ago. Far right leader Geert Wilders is hoping to write a wave of nationalism to become prime minister. But analyst say it's more likely Mark Rutte will be able to form a coalition government and keep the job.

U.S. President Donald Trump's tax returns from 205 are now public just before an MSNBC report. The White House said Mr. Trump paid $38 million in taxes on a $115 million income. The returns show $100 million write-off in business losses reducing the taxes he had to pay.

South Korean prosecutors have ordered ousted leader Park Geun-hye to answer questions next week about the corruption scandal which led to her impeachment. She denies any wrongdoing and says the truth will come out. The election for a new president will take place may 9th.

Well, the Dutch vote comes right in the middle of a worst diplomatic feud between Turkey and The Netherlands. On Tuesday, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the Dutch for failing to prevent the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica. Eight thousand Bosnian Muslims were killed when Bosnian serve forces overrun the town.

Dutch peacekeepers were on the ground at the time.

Over the weekend, Mr. Erdogan compared the Dutch government to Nazis.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is following developments for us from Istanbul. She joins us now live. So, Jomana, what's the situation on the streets of Istanbul right now, and what's Turkey's likely next step here?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, after the weekend we did see some limited protest in Istanbul in Ankara over the weekend. But since then, that's really come down and what you see is this war of words that seems to be far from over. We're hearing more accusations and more threats from Turkish officials.

Just yesterday, as you mentioned, President Erdogan was holding a speech on health care, he was speaking in the capital of Ankara. And he took that opportunity yet again to bring up this feud and this crisis with The Netherlands saying that he will not accept an apology.

And as you mentioned there, he did blame The Netherlands for failing to stop one of the worst massacre in the history of Europe since World War II, the Srebrenica massacre. And here is what he had to say.


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): Even in battle no one can open fire on medics. Actually if you are Dutch you can. We know The Netherlands and the Dutch from the Srebrenica massacre. We are familiar with how their morality and character is corrupted how they have massacred 8,000 Bosnians there. Nobody can give us civilization lessons.


KARADSHEH: He was blaming Dutch peacekeepers who are part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission there for failing to stop that massacre. We heard a short time after that from the Dutch prime minister who called that a disgusting falsification of history, Rosemary.

CHURCH: So Jomana, what effort is being made, if anything, to try to deescalate the tension between The Netherlands and Turkey and either country have any leverage here?

KARADSHEH: What we heard so many calls, Rosemary, from the E.U. from different countries calling for calm to deescalate this crises but he really doesn't seem at this point in time that Turkey is ready to deescalate or put this crises behind them. It seems on the contrary as we've seen that, you know, there has been an increase in this war of word and tensions.

We've heard Turkish officials the deputy prime minister announcing a number of measures that they say they're taking against The Netherlands. That includes not allowing the ambassador to come back to Turkey, closing off their air space to diplomatic flights from The Netherlands, and saying that they're cutting off high level government relations with the Dutch.

[03:35:05] And there are also threats of taking this to international organizations and threats of sanctions. But so far perhaps the most worrying for the E.U. is going to be the threat that we've heard officials including the prime minister, the president and others hinting at, and that is that E.U./Turkey deal, the migrant deal, the controversial but very critical deal between the E.U. and Turkey too that aims to stem the flow of immigrants and refugees to the E.U.

But of course, Turkey has a lot to lose their, too, because it is getting a lot of incentives out of that deal including billions of dollars in an aid package, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Monitoring this diplomatic feud, our Jomana Karadsheh, joining us there, live from Istanbul where it is 10.35 in the morning.

A U.S. lawmaker says FBI Director James Comey will soon say whether his investigating ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse says he and fellow Senator Lindsey Graham met with Comey two weeks ago.

Whitehouse says during that meeting Comey promised to tell him by this Wednesday if an official investigation is underway. The FBI has not responded to CNN's request for comment.

Meanwhile, President Trump is trying to find republican support to fulfill a major campaign promise repealing and replacing Obamacare.

The White House is also defending the president's unfounded claim that he was wiretapped by former President Barack Obama.

Our Jim Acosta has the latest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President, if the CBO score, Mr. Trump...


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's a rare moment when President Trump passes upon a chance to speak his mind but that's what he did when asked about the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysis of the republican proposal to replace Obamacare.


SPICER: This is the American Health Care act, the president is proud of it.


ACOSTA: The White House is back on the CBO score of the House COP health care plan that found 14 million more Americans would be uninsured by next year. Twenty four million by the year 2026. As one top GOP source put it, the headlines are terrible.


SPICER: CBO coverage estimates are consistently wrong.


ACOSTA: But the White House did conceded scores of Americans perhaps millions will be without health care insurance if they're no longer mandated to buy it under Obamacare.


ACOSTA: Would you concede that there will be some coverage losses, perhaps in the millions, that there will be millions of people who will not have health insurance as a result of what you're doing.

SPICER: Well, again, sure. Except you have to look at the current situation.


ACOSTA: Press Secretary Sean Spicer try to explain how the republican plans satisfies the president's promise to cover every American.


ACOSTA: The president is OK with...


SPICER: No, he's not.

ACOSTA: ... there will be millions of people who are going to have to.

SPICER: No, no. Right now they're not getting that. And by giving them more choices at a lower cost more Americans can either buy health care for their family or themselves, or in a lot of cases for their business without paying the penalty. The system now is not working.


ACOSTA: And even though the White House is rejecting the CBO's predictions on coverage it seems they do like other parts like a reduced deficit and a reduction in premiums.


SPICER: The CBO is saying just with what we're doing on first term alone 10 percent decline in the individual market. That's the significant reduction. That's what we're talking about, bringing cost down and increases choices. That's a big deal right now.


ACOSTA: That cherry picking of data is low-hanging fruit for democrats.


ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: he always hocus pocus language that they talked about, well, you're not going to be able, we're worried about cost, but then they don't seem like that much worried about coverage. And so, what I'm saying to them is that American people need coverage.


ACOSTA: The White is predicting the president will vindicated after making the claim that President Obama wiretapped him but the White House is not committing whether the president will make some kind of statement when the administration presents what it considers to be evidence to the Congress.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: A defining moment. That's what the British prime minister calls the beginning of the Brexit process. But another hurdle may threaten her timeline. The details coming up, next.

Plus, the White House looks to make major budget cuts to a number of international organizations, including the State Department and the United Nations.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, the stage is set for Britain to move forward with its exit from the European Union. After clearing hurdles in parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May is now free to begin the formal withdrawal which she says will happen by the end of the month.

CNN's Phil Black has the latest.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For about six months, the British Prime Minister Theresa May has repeated her mantra that she will declare article 50 and begin (AUDIO GAP) Brexit process by the end of March. She says she's still on track to do that, but she's going to be cutting it very fine.

It was thought that Theresa May could declare article 50 as early as Tuesday because it was late on Monday night that both houses of parliament finally agreed on the wording of a bill that authorizes the government to do just that, declare article 50, begin that formal two- year Brexit process.

But when Theresa May spoke to the parliament again on Tuesday, she indicated that historic moment was still days, possibly weeks away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This will be a defining moment for our whole country as we begin to forge a new relationship with Europe and a new role for ourselves in the world. We will be a strong self-governing global Britain.

With control, once again, over our borders and our laws. And we will use this moment of opportunity to build a stronger economy and the fairest society so that we secure both (AUDIO GAP) for Britain abroad and a better (AUDIO GAP) for ordinary working people at home.


BLACK: Theresa may also commented on that other big issue that must now be coloring all of her Brexit calculations. The Scottish government's declared intention to hold yet another referendum on the issues Scottish independence sometime between late next year and early 2019.

Theresa May said the Scottish government is playing politics, that it's creating uncertainty and division. She made it very clear she doesn't approve of the idea of yet another referendum on this issue, but crucially she didn't rule it out.

[03:45:01] The key issue is timing. It is difficult to see how the British government could agree to the Scottish government's preferred time table because that would put Theresa May in the extraordinary position of on one hand negotiating and managing the extraordinarily difficult and complex process of withdrawing from the European Union while also fighting and campaigning to hold the United Kingdom together.

Phil Black, CNN, London.

CHURCH: U.N. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be in Tokyo in about five hours from now. His first visit to Asia comes at a tense time for the region, one top factor is the threat posed by North Korea which is getting bolder all the time with its weapons tests.

But political upheaval in South Korea and a meeting between President Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping are also on the agenda. After Japan, Tilleson will stop off in South Korea and China to discuss all those issues.

And while America's top diplomat is on the road, major budget cuts could be coming to his department and some other key international agencies.

Our Elise Labott reports.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: In what would be an unprecedented retreat of U.S. commitments overseas, the White House wants to slash foreign aid to the United Nations and other world bodies. Organizations that keep the peace, help prevent disease and famine and combat nuclear proliferation. The deep cuts amount to about $20 billion in funding, a whopping 37

percent cut to the budget for the State Department and the U.S. agency for international development, which provides humanitarian assistance worldwide. Funding for the U.N. peace keeping and development assistance cut nearly in half. Payments to other international groups dramatically reduced.


MICK MULVANEY DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: The budget takes the policies President Trump laid out on the campaign trail and turns them into numbers. That's it. That's all it does. What did the president say on the campaign trail? I'm going to spend more money on defense. I'm going to spend more money enforcing the border.


LABOTT: President Trump forewarned deep cuts to foreign aid at a conference of conservatives last month.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the United States of America that I'm representing. I'm not representing the globe. I'm representing your country.


LABOOT: And his new ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley says (AUDIO GAP) is over.


NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We contribute 22 percent of the U.N.'s budget, far more than any other country. We have to start encouraging other countries to have skin in the game.


LABOTT: After several testy exchanges with the White House, aides to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tell CNN the former ExxonMobil CEO now has the flexibility to make the cuts over three years. But Trump's biggest fight could come from his secretary of defense who for years has warned about gutting the State Department budget.


JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If you don't fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.


LABOTT: And for lawmakers who warn the cuts would be devastating to the war on terror. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: To President Trump, if you destroy soft power, those diplomatic tools that lead to holding and building, we'll never win this war. If you take off the table building a small schoolhouse for poor young girl in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria to give her an education, we'll never win this war.


LABOTT: And officials say other State Department offices that could be on the chopping block include the bureaus of democracy, human rights and labor and educational and cultural affairs that runs the Fulbright program where foreign students come to the U.S. and often return home with a more positive view of America.

More than 300 heads of state, from 1,500 ministers have received an education through the Fulbright and have become strong allies of the U.S. Many believe it's one of the U.S.'s cheapest diplomatic bargains.

Elise Labott, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: The question of Russian involvement in the U.S. election has been the biggest story in American politics for months now. What people in Moscow make of that, coming up next.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The tail of two stories (AUDIO GAP) United States lies the country in half there. The western side of the places like Phoenix, Arizona warming up with temperatures in the Fahrenheit scale up to 92 on Tuesday, that is about say, 31 or so Celsius while out toward the eastern United States, they have failed to reach zero for a high temperature Celsius.

So again, there is that broad circulation here with the big dip in the jet stream sending a storm system out of parts of the northern United States into parts of The Maritimes of Canada.

The storm system will bring in some heavy snow showers around New England and into southern Canada, some areas could see maybe 30 or 45 centimeters, especially as you work your way towards Quebec, certainly Nunavot (Ph) as well, some heavy snow fall expected as the storm departs. And the cold air with it, too very prevalent here.

Look at this quickly erase out of the picture. Maybe got a shot of cold air returning on Sunday across the eastern U.S., but we think we'll moderate things out for the foreseeable future beyond next week.

Here's what it looks like in Charlotte from 6 up to 19. In Washington, D.C., from minus 1 to 13. The Cherry (AUDIO GAP) will be loving life with that forecast right there. And in New York City, from 3 below to about 5 above later in the week.

So it is going to moderate quite rapidly. Denver, they take the cake. A 24-degree afternoon there across the Rockies. Seventeen out at San Francisco. Storm still coming in around California, but generally extreme, northern California on into Oregon.

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, American reaction to possible ties between President Trump and Russia has been largely mixed, often depending on political leanings. But the reaction in Russia has been fairly consistent as politicians and citizens alike cast doubt on any kind of impropriety.

Our Fred Pleitgen has the details.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As the row over Russia's alleged interference into the U.S. election deepens and questions about President Trump's contacts with the Kremlin continue.


JOHN MCCAIN, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: I think there is a lot more shoes to drop from this.


PLEITGEN: A lot of Russians are mocking the allegations, and the discussion about them. Like Vladimir Putin's spokesman in a CNN interview.


DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESMAN: All this hysteria in public opinion, hysteria in official Washington, hysteria in American media. This is doing lots of harm to the future of our relationship.


PLEITGEN: As spring temperatures rise in Moscow, the new ice age between U.S. and Russia is on people's minds.

"I think this is stupid and it's just a provocation," this man says. "How can you say all this," he adds, "USA admits that Russia changed their history? I'm just so shocked. How can you say those things?"

And this woman adds, "this is ridiculous and stupid, I think we have nothing do with it, I'm sure of it."

Whether it's questions about contacts between Trump hotel servers and a Russian bank or questions about which Trump associates met with Moscow's ambassador during the campaign, Russia's mostly state run media is lashing out at western coverage of the events especially at CNN's.

This is the top pro-Kremlin pundit, Dmitry Kiselyov and one of his many unfounded accusations.

[03:55:01] "The CIA feeds the Russian hacker stories to the media," he says, "and then let's say CNN blows them out of proportion."

Some here in Russia even say the current mood in America reminds them of their country's dark Soviet past. Like Carnegie historian Dmitri Trenin.


DMITRI TRENIN, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE MOSCOW CENTER: People in the Soviet Union was seen by the Soviet government as too easy to be contaminated, to be manipulated. Each and every time they came into contact with foreigners, particularly western foreigners. I see some of the same things now on display in the United States. That's astounding.


PLEITGEN: But Russians also realize the current conflict is hurting their chances of improving relations with the west. While some folks here may ridicule the questions being asked in America about President Trump's ties to Russia, most people here simply want to see the issue go away.

They feel their country is being demonized and that the issue also hampers any sort of efforts to try and repair allegations. Every new allegation, every new revelation, makes those ties more complicated and more toxic. And any effort at bringing them back on track, more challenging.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.

CHURCH: And that does it for this hour. Thanks for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter. The news continues with our Max Foster in London.

You're watching CNN. Have yourselves a great day.