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ObamaCare Rollback Bill Dies without Vote; U.S. Military Investigating Civilian Deaths; London Terror Attack; Putin Greets Le Pen at Kremlin; Czech Zoo Protects Animals. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired March 25, 2017 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Donald Trump defeated by his own party. The U.S. president's push to reform health care is over at least for now.

And British investigators piecing together the life of the assailant who carried out the London attack as they try to figure how and when he became radicalized.

Plus "He represents a new vision, a new world," the words of France's far right leader Marine Le Pen as she met one-on-one with Vladimir Putin.

Hi, everyone, thank you very much for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta. And your CNN NEWSROOM starts now.


VANIER: A stunning loss Friday for U.S. President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. The Republicans' high profile bill to roll back ObamaCare suddenly died before it could even come to a vote. CNN's Phil Mattingly has the details.



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The pressure, the arm twisting, the ultimatum, they have all fallen short.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I will not sugarcoat this. This is a disappointing day for us. Doing big things is hard. All of us, all of us, myself included, we will need time to reflect on how we got to this moment, what we could have done to do it better.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): House Speaker Paul Ryan deciding to pull the Republican ObamaCare repeal and replacement plan hours after traveling to the White House to tell President Trump directly he didn't have the votes to pass it and warning, one source said, that the loss on the House floor could be big.

RYAN: ObamaCare is the law of the land. It's going to remain the law of the land until it's replaced. We did not have quite the votes to replace this law. And so, yes, we're going to be living with ObamaCare for the foreseeable future.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): A jarring realization less than 24 hours after the president himself made his final offer, vote now or he is prepared to move on.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think we have to let ObamaCare go its way for a little while. And we'll see how things go. I'd love to see it do well but it can't.

And but again, it's not a question of, gee, I hope it does well. I would love it to do well. I want great health care for the people of this nation but it can't do well. It's imploding. And soon will explode.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Democrats taking a victory lap.

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Frankly, I thought they might have accomplished something in the first couple of months. I think their mistake really was they were so focused on embarrassing the Affordable Care Act rather than trying to improve it.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The health care setback, a stunning turn of events from the cautious optimism of the morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How you feeling this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feel great, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you guys think you're going to get the votes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We'll get it done today.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And even a few hours after that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) how are things going?

What are you hearing from our (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Going great. Just continue talking to the members, getting them ready as we move forward. Always confident.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But sources tell CNN the votes simply never materialized and it became clear that the leaders were actually losing votes based on the compromise designed to bring conservatives aboard.

The deal on the table would strip the 10 essential health benefits required in insurance plans by ObamaCare, something moderate Republicans already wary of the bill were telling leaders was simply a bridge too far, sources said. This is all happening as the debate on the bill was ongoing, leaving

members to question what, if any, path forward existed and leaving the president to answer questions about a looming failure of his first and biggest legislative push.


TRUMP: We'll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you rush it, do you think?

TRUMP: We'll see what happens.


MATTINGLY: And Cyril, just to take you behind the scenes a little bit, in the course of the evening, as Republicans met behind closed doors, the message from their leadership was this, "Trump is done. It's time to move on."

And that is a jarring message -- stunned silence is what I'm told that message was met with. Think about it this way. These Republicans, these members, many of them came to office on the promise of repealing and replacing ObamaCare. That is now not just delayed, that is completely off the table.

VANIER: And it's definitely not a good position for Trump and even Paul Ryan to be in, 60-odd days into this presidency.

What happens next now that the health care bill is dead?

MATTINGLY: Well, it's a great question. Speaker Ryan made very clear and the president has said this multiple times over the last couple of weeks the next item on the agenda is tax reform. That's what they're looking forward to moving on to.

But that is not easy either. That is complicated and very complex and splits a lot of members in their own conference as well. I think the biggest question right now is whether it's on the agenda of tax reform or infrastructure or trade deals is will this Congress and this White House figure out a way to work together and --


MATTINGLY: -- actually get things done?

There was a lot of optimism when they started on January 20th. I can tell you right now, the optimism is certainly at a presidential career low at the moment.

Will it recover?

I think that's an open question right now -- Cyril.

VANIER: It will be interesting to see what they focus on moving forward. Phil Mattingly, thank you very much. (END VIDEOTAPE)


VANIER: And President Trump immediately pointed an accusing finger at Democrats and they happily took the blame.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted a statement that reads, in part, "This victory happened because people in every corner of our country committed their time and energy to calling their representatives, showing up at town hall meetings and making their voices heard."

And former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said Democrats should be proud of their unified opposition. He spoke earlier to CNN's Anderson Cooper.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VT.: That's exactly what the American people wanted. The American people understood that this is not a health care bill, Anderson. This was a $300 billion tax break for the top 2 percent, massive tax breaks for the drug companies and for the insurance companies.

And threw 24 million people off of health insurance, defunded Planned Parenthood, significantly raised premiums for older workers and cut Medicaid by $880 billion.

Poll after poll showed that is exactly what the American people did not want. And Democrats should take credit for killing a really, really bad piece of legislation.


VANIER: And Lisa Zamosky is deputy health care editor with "Politico," all-around health care expert. She's here with us now.

Tell me about the philosophy underpinning Mr. Trump's health care plan.

And why doesn't it satisfy Democrats, ultra-conservatives and even enough moderate conservatives to actually pass on the House floor?

LISA ZAMOSKY, "POLITICO": The Affordable Care Act had been a beleaguered law, I would say, since it was implemented almost exactly seven years ago Thursday.

Generally speaking, Republicans and Democrats have a slightly different philosophy of health care policy. I think that Republicans by and large think that insurance should be there in case of an acute catastrophic event, that that otherwise people should really pay for their own care out-of-pocket.

And many of them saw the Affordable Care Act as an extension of entitlement. The law, in addition to offering a lot of tax subsidies to help lower income people afford insurance also expanded our Medicaid program, which is our health insurance program for people of low income.

I think when you, in terms of the bill sort of imploding and not being able to pass the House, there were a number of problems. I think the right wing of the Republican Party felt the bill did not go far enough. They wanted a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which this did not do.

And there are a number of reasons for that. But they were unhappy with that. It just didn't go far enough.

Recently we had an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, which came out and said that it anticipated that over the next decade, 24 million Americans who currently have insurance would become uninsured. And as many as 14 million as soon as next year.

And I think among the moderates in the party, they felt that that was a very big price to pay and didn't want to leave, you know, their constituents out in the cold in terms of losing health insurance.

And the two sides really just couldn't come together. And, of course, the Democrats who, by and large, supported the law, acknowledged that there are changes that need to be made to improve upon it. But were not in support of this bill at all, so it really was up to Republican Party to pull themselves together to get this to pass.

VANIER: Donald Trump keeps saying the current health care system, known here as ObamaCare is imploding, exploding and it's going to collapse anytime soon.

Is that true?

ZAMOSKY: No, it's really not. It is true there are a number of issues. It is true that this year for 2017, many markets around the country saw a pretty steep increase in insurance premiums. Overall on average, it was somewhere between 22 percent and 25 percent of an increase, which is pretty significant but enrollment while lower this year -- and there are a number of reasons for that -- keep in mind that Trump became president toward the tail end of open enrollment and sort of stopped a lot of the very important last-minute outreach, which brings lot of people into the marketplace.

But by and large enrollment has been steady; a lot of the analysis has found that premiums were stabilizing after the big market correction took place this year and anticipated that things would start to even out in 2018.

And while there are -- health care in the state is a very local business essentially. And so there are some markets that are thriving, others that are struggling a little bit more. But, on average, it really would be inaccurate to say that ObamaCare is exploding --


ZAMOSKY: -- at this point. That doesn't seem to be the case.

VANIER: You mentioned earlier the Democrats agree the system needs to be improved. So the Republicans don't like it; Democrats want to improve it.

Do you think there's common ground that can be found sometime, someplace down the line that could bring bipartisan support for a reform of the health care system?

ZAMOSKY: Yes, it's a great question. I mean will say that at this point in time, this has been so contentious. It has been so politically divided. It's difficult to imagine a time when we will see parties coming together to work on something moving in the same direction.

However, I think that Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, acknowledged today that for the foreseeable future we are stuck with ObamaCare. It is the law of the land.

And there's an acknowledgement that Republicans have an opportunity here to do something and they failed to do it. Trump himself said today after the bill was pulled, look, this may not be the end. I have a long time to work on this and he indicated that he would be willing to work with Democrats to reform the system and improve it for Americans.

So it is a very difficult political environment at the moment but who knows.

We have certainly seen things that we couldn't have predicted. And as I said, the president did indicate that he could be willing to work with Democrats down the road. And so perhaps that opportunity will arise.

VANIER: All right, Lisa Zamosky, thank you very much for your insights.

ZAMOSKY: Thank you.

Moving on, the Pentagon is investigating reports that up to 300 civilians were killed in U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria and Iraq this month. The military coalition has been conducting strikes in an effort to drive terror groups like ISIS. CNN's Barbara Starr has more details.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: One of the most widespread allegations that U.S. airstrikes this month in Mosul, Iraq, may have caused up to 200 or more civilian deaths.

What the U.S. military is saying is they are aware of these allegations from social media, from activist groups, from Iraqis and they are looking into it.

This was an area in West Mosul, heavily populated. There were a number of airstrikes over recent days. There have been social media reports and videos emerging of civilians killed in the area. The U.S. military says it was bombing in that area but it is trying to really get fidelity.

Did it bomb these buildings?

Were civilian casualties caused?

They are also looking into a recent strike near a mosque near Idlib, Syria. Civilians said to be killed there. They are looking into yet another case of a school building bombed north of Raqqah, Syria; more than 30 civilians were seeking shelter in that building. It is said they are looking into those allegations as well.

No final answer on any of these but a number of investigations now underway and the U.S. military insists if it is said to be found to be responsible, it will take that responsibility -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


VANIER: British police are trying to figure out what caused this man to carry out Wednesday's deadly terror attack in London and if he really acted alone as originally thought.

And a top presidential candidate in a Western democracy is embracing the Kremlin. The big question is why?

A look at the meeting between Marine Le Pen and Vladimir Putin -- after the break.





VANIER: Two members of Britain's Parliament have been honored by the queen for their actions in the aftermath of Wednesday's terror attack in London. Tobias Elwood (ph) was an impromptu first responder for one of the victims, trying to save the life of a policeman, who later died.

And Ben Wallace helped coordinate the government's first response to the disaster.

Meanwhile, just two of the 11 people arrested so far are still in custody. Authorities are working to determine how the attack came to be and how the perpetrator was himself radicalized.

The investigation has homed in on the attacker's past two homes in Birmingham, England. Our Nic Robertson paid a visit to both.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Number 4, Khalid Masood's home last year, nondescript but large, plenty of rooms. A tranquil, respectable neighborhood and despite his violent past, the soon-to-be killer didn't break the calm here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never really seen him. The only way I would probably see him is if I was leaving my house and he just happened to be outside, whatever, he was cleaning his car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of the times I remember him wearing a Muslim, Islamic wear. Also his wife, she was covered. Just her face was uncovered.

ROBERTSON: And the children, daughter, was she covered?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember a boy and a girl and a girl was wearing a scarf also on her head.

ROBERTSON: What sort of age?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Primary school age, 6, 7, I would say.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Then for no apparent reason, everything changed. Around Christmas last year, neighbors say they saw Masood out here on his driveway, packing a moving van, taking his family away from this quiet suburban street.

And this is where he moved to, a shabbier, less prosperous neighborhood right next to a busy main road, at the same location armed police raided the night after the attack. Four people arrested on suspicion of preparation of a terrorist act.

Their landlord describes the low-rent rooms they were snatched from.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are seven-bedroom flats, which they have been turned into seven individual rooms with seven individual facilities between the rooms. So every room is separate to another.

ROBERTSON: So you might call them bed sets?


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Downstairs, the Mini Mart owner remembers Masood as a fitness fan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And police guy come, showed me his photo as well. And I say I know him. He's come plenty time in my shop and buys frankfurts (ph), sweets and cashew nuts (INAUDIBLE). And I know him now.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): This is the official police photograph of Khalid Masood, who they say used to be called Adrian Russell Ajao (sic) and Adrian Elms. What happened to bring the changes, unclear.

Police still searching for clues, more raids, more arrests, many, many questions unanswered -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Birmingham, England. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: The names of several Trump campaign associates have repeatedly surfaced in allegations about the campaign's links to Russia. Now a House committee investigating those ties could hear from former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, as well as two other former aides, Carter Page and Roger Stone.

All three of them say that they are willing to testify but for the moment we don't know when that might happen. A public committee hearing set for next week has been cancelled by Republican chairman of the committee, Devin Nunes.

He was already under fire for briefing President Trump on his sensitive information before he shared it with his own committee. Democrats on the panel are furious; one even accuses Nunes of trying to obstruct justice while another suggests that he caved to strong pushback from the White House.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIF.: One of the profound take-aways over the last couple days is we really do need an independent commission here because the public, at the end of the day, needs to have confidence that someone has done a thorough investigation --


SCHIFF: -- untainted by political considerations.


VANIER: Vladimir Putin appears to be embracing the far right surge in France. The Russian president warmly welcomed National Front leader and French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen to the Kremlin. Brian Todd looks at why Friday's meeting could turn America's alliance with France on its head.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vladimir Putin's latest attempt to manipulate another country's levers of power, he meets in Moscow with France's far right presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, a woman who, if she wins, could turn a key U.S. ally upside down. Le Pen says she'd like to lift sanctions on Russia, to recognize Putin's annexation of Crimea. And she makes another bold declaration.

MARINE LE PEN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FRONT (through translator): It's a world of Vladimir Putin. It's a world of Donald Trump and the United States.

TODD (voice-over): Analysts say it's a stunning image for a top candidate in a western democracy to unabashedly embrace Moscow at a time when, in America, President Trump's campaign is being investigated over whether aides coordinated with Russian operatives. HEATHER CONLEY, DIRECTOR OF THE EUROPE PROGRAM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I think what's unusual is how much Russia is now playing into our news cycle, our daily consciousness. Russia is very much at the center of our attention and that's exactly where President Putin would like it to be.

TODD (voice-over): Why is Marine Le Pen a favorite French candidate of Putin?

BEN JUDAH, AUTHOR, "FRAGILE EMPIRE": Because Le Pen wants to break Euro-Atlantic institutions. Le Pen wants to bring France out of NATO. She wants to bring France out of the Euro. She wants to break a block which Putin sees, correctly, as preventing Russia achieving the dominant position in Europe as a great power.

TODD (voice-over): And tonight, there's serious concern that Putin will meddle in France's elections, like he allegedly did in America. CNN has learned French officials are worried that Putin's hackers will fish for damaging information, using similar tactics to how U.S. intelligence says they targeted Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Russian hackers are believed to have targeted France before with a devastating cyber attack in 2015 of a top French T.V. network. Putin denies trying to tilt the French elections.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (through translator): We do not want to influence events in any way.

TODD (voice-over): But Marine Le Pen has already gotten a boost from Russia, a loan, three years ago, of about $10 million to her party from a bank owned by a close friend of Putin's.

DAVID KRAMER, SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY, THE MCCAIN INSTITUTE: The very fact that Marine Le Pen is in Moscow this week and is there to drum up support from Putin, has received a $10 million loan from the Russians in 2014, that Putin is trying to boost the far right forces in France, all this does suggest that Le Pen is rather beholden to Putin and the Kremlin in Russia.


VANIER: All right, thanks to Brian Todd there for that reporting.

And North Korea is ready to carry out another nuclear test. That's according to two U.S. officials. They're telling CNN that Pyongyang could conduct its sixth underground nuclear test at any time. They say satellite imagery shows a potentially significant change at a test site; two tunnel entrances have been dug. And weeks of activity involving vehicles, personnel and equipment suddenly stopped. A similar pattern was seen just before previous tests.

And a warning to the European Union from Pope Francis. He says the E.U. risks dying if it doesn't come up with a new vision based on its founding principle of solidarity. Sixtieth anniversary celebrations this weekend are being overshadowed by uneasiness over Europe's migrant crisis and a Brexit decision. On Sunday the pontiff spoke to E.U. leaders at the Vatican and asked

them to remember that solidarity is the best antidote to extremism.



DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Take a look at this video. This is amazing, a chartered flight coming out of New Zealand on Thursday, an 8-hour flight costing $2,800 per person. But the view out your window is that, Cyril. I think I'd to it.

Would you?

VANIER: I know you want to do it. I know you want to get there.

VAN DAM: It's called the Flight to the Lights.

VANIER: You will.

Derek Van Dam from the CNN International Weather Center, thank you so much.

VAN DAM: Thanks, Cyril.

VANIER: And when many people think of animals being poached, they imagine it happening in the wild. But that's not always the case. Some zoos are actually taking extra precautions after a rhino was slaughtered at a Paris zoo earlier this month and its horn was removed by poachers. Robyn Curnow has the story and be warned: this does contain some graphic images.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A zoo in the Czech Republic is going to extreme lengths to protect their rhinos, cutting off their horns in hopes of sparing their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are strengthening our security measures. Besides installing cameras in each room where we breed the rhinos, we came up with one basic solution, which is removing the rhino horns.

CURNOW (voice-over): Zoo staff made the difficult decision after poachers killed a rare white rhino at a French zoo earlier this month, getting away after sawing off the animal's horn.

This week, Czech zookeepers prepared Pamia (ph), a white mail rhino, for surgery. Blindfolded and anesthetized, his horn was taken off with a chain saw in less than an hour.

Zoo staff say losing the horn does not affect the animal's health and it will eventually grow back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no live tissue in it. It's just a compacted matter that is similar to nails or to hair. So if you cut it, it's similar like if you cut your hair or cut your nails.

CURNOW (voice-over): Despite a global ban, rhino horn remains in high demand on the black market, especially among countries in Asia, where it's a prized ingredient in traditional medicines. Authorities in Thailand showed off the results of a recent bust, seizing more than 20 rhino horns, said to be worth more nearly $5 million.

Back at the zoo, Pamia (ph) now recovering well without his trademark horn. Twenty other rhinos will also undergo the procedure, although the zoo is not saying specifically when, for security reasons -- Robyn Curnow, CNN.


VANIER: Well, at least he's safe. That's the idea.

All right. Thank you very much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'm back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.