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Powerful Nor'easter Dumps More Snow; Concern Over Tariffs Plan; Wade Visits Stoneman Douglas High School; Failures Plague Veteran Hospitals. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 8, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:33:09] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, hundreds of drivers in New Jersey were stranded on highways during yesterday's powerful nor'easter. Look at this scene. Some waited several hours to get rescued by authorities on snowmobiles. This man's wife tweeted that he waited more than ten hours for help. Perhaps you'll see him at some point.

Hundreds of thousands of homes are without power along the East Coast still. And another winter storm may be headed our way next week.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers joins us now with more.

What do you see, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, but the good news is, every time we get a new storm, it's warmer than the last one. So, in New York, we didn't see a lot of snow. But I was out in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, and 24 inches fell right where we were doing our live shots last night. And that's only 20 miles from here.

This weather's brought to you by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, packed with goodness.

Is there another storm? Yes, maybe. But let's focus on this one. Philadelphia, you had six inches. Newark, you only had four. That's where the warm air was, right near the coast. Move inland a little bit and you are in the 24-inch range trying to dig out from this concrete- like snow that's out there.

So the storm moving away today. It's gone. We're really done. It is still snowing in Boston and Maine. But this is the storm, Alisyn, you're talking about. The storm is in Texas right now. So this is still three days away. And now four or five days away, we can hardly get the weather forecast through 48 hours. Can we talk about a storm that's still five days out? No. Is it possible? Yes. Two different scenarios getting close to the coast are moving away. We just, right now, don't know, but you need to keep watching it because it still could be a snowy couple of days Monday and Tuesday.

CAMEROTA: All right, Chad, thank you. Great to have you here.

MYERS: Nice to be here.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Don't want to know, but better to know.

MYERS: Ah, you know.

CUOMO: So thanks to you, Chad.

CAMEROTA: You know.

CUOMO: Appreciate it. Appreciate it.

MYERS: Thanks, guys.

Florida lawmakers passed a bill that will allow teachers to carry guns. The measure also raises the legal age for buying firearms to 21 and imposes a three-day waiting period for gun purchases. Florida's Governor Rick Scott has 15 days to sign or veto the bill. The governor has indicated that he does not support arming teachers.

[06:35:20] Also Wednesday, a grand jury indicted a Parkland school killer on 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

CAMEROTA: Attorney General Jeff Sessions declaring somebody needs to stand up to California and its immigration policies.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: You've gone too far. You cannot do this. This is not reasonable. It's radical, really. It's an affirmation, if you want to know the truth, of the idea that we should not have immigration laws. That we should have open borders.


CAMEROTA: Sessions' comments coming after the Justice Department suing the state to block its so-called sanctuary laws that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. California's governor, Jerry Brown, calls this lawsuit a publicity stunt.


GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: This is a time to build bridges, not walls, to pull Americans together, not set us apart. And like so many in the Trump administration, this attorney general has no regard for the truth.


CAMEROTA: Immigration and Customs Enforcement wants to increase its presence in California. Sessions is threatening to cut off federal funding to jurisdictions that do not cooperate.

CUOMO: All right. So, if President Trump does announce tariffs on steel and aluminum today, what is that going to mean to you? People in one state fear it might cripple the local economy. I thought this was supposed to be good for workers. The truth, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [06:40:10] CUOMO: There's confusion in the White House. Well, that's not new. But this time it matters because of what they don't know about which is, what's going to happen today? Will the president announce this controversial plan to impose tariffs on imported aluminum and steel? You've got some Ohio residents, they are in fear that this new policy could result in major job cuts. Why? The president keeps saying this will help workers like those in Ohio.

CNN's Ryan Nobles has more.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There may not be a place in America paying closer attention to President Trump's proposal to slap a hefty tariff on steel imports than northeast Ohio.

TONY PANZA, STEEL WORKER, USW: I mean, and that's where (INAUDIBLE).

NOBLES: Whether it is the making of steel, the fabrication of steel, or the use of steel to make products, like cars and medical equipment and buildings, Cleveland's economy is heavily reliant on the resource. And the impact of these tariffs could be massive and immediate.

BILL GASKIN, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, PRECISION METALFORMING ASSOCIATION: There will be a net loss of jobs in the steel consuming industry for sure.

NOBLES: Heidtman Steel is smack dab in the middle of the steel supply chain. They buy millions of pounds of raw steel, process it and sell it to companies, like automakers.

TIM BERRA, CEO, HEIDTMAN STEEL: There's about a ton of steel in a vehicle on average.

NOBLES: Heidtman's president and CEO, Tim Berra, said that the tariff plan may offer a quick boost, but then a degree of uncertainty.

BERRA: You see all this steel here? Every day it goes up in value. Yes, it's good for us.

NOBLES (on camera): Yes.

BERRA: A sharp turn.

NOBLES: Right.

BERRA: It's still questionable how it's going to impact us long term?

NOBLES (voice over): Heidtman, a family-owned Ohio company, counts automakers among its biggest customers. The auto industry, at this point, is nervous about the proposal. The American Automotive Policy Council put out a statement in the wake of the president's announcement warning that, quote, this would place the U.S. automotive industry, which supports more than 7 million American jobs, at a completive disadvantage. Bill Gaskin, the president emeritus of the Precision Metalforming

Association represents hundreds of companies that buy and use steel in their products. One hundred and fifty of those companies are based in Ohio. And he warns a decision could lead to job losses and companies closing.

GASKIN: It leaves very little to hire people and do the other things that a company has to do, especially invest in new equipment.

NOBLES: But the people actually making the steel itself are for the tariffs, including Tony Panza, who spent years inside the mills of ArcelorMittal in Cleveland, and now represents his fellow employees through local United Steel Workers. He argues that tariffs will balance the global playing field and create jobs immediately.

PANZA: And certainly, you know, more people working here, more tax money, more tax dollars going to the communities, goings going to the states. And I just think, in the long run, it benefits everybody.

NOBLES: Gaskin disagrees. He argued, in the U.S., there are 160,000 steel jobs, which is more than 6 million that are related to companies that consume steel.

GASKIN: But it's very hard to make the case that this generates more jobs.

NOBLES: Ryan Nobles, CNN, Cleveland, Ohio.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to Ryan for that.

OK, so a NBA star surprises the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School three weeks after they endured the school shooting. We have all the details for you in the "Bleacher Report."


[06:48:09] CAMEROTA: OK, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade making a surprise visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."

What a reaction he got, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: This was really, cool, Alisyn. Good morning to you.

This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by the new 2018 Ford F-150.

You know, Dwyane Wade, he's been emotionally invested in what happened at Stoneman Douglas High School since the shooting and Wade just trying to do what he can to lift the spirits of the students and the teachers yesterday. As you can see, he was just mobbed by students when making that surprise visit during their lunchtime yesterday afternoon. One student even posting a selfie, calling Wade's visit the greatest moment of his life. And Wade spoke to the students saying, they've all been an inspiration to him.



I just want to come here today and I want to stay for a moment, for a second, bring a little bit of this, bring a little excitement, bring a little joy. What you guys have been going through, and you guys -- how resilient you guys have been, I've been (ph) amazing from a far. And I just wanted to come and say I'm inspired by all of you.


SCHOLES: Now, one of the victims in the shooting, Joaquin Oliver, was a huge Heat and Wade fan and was laid to rest wearing Wade's jersey.

Well, Wade met Oliver's family this past Saturday, giving them a special pair of shoes with Joaquin's name on them. And Wade has dedicated the rest of his season to Joaquin.

And, Chris, you know, since doing that, Wade has had some pretty inspirational performances. And he even said after those games that he felt like he has an angel watching over him.

CUOMO: Look, that was a huge move for him to go. And it's not a given. You know, a lot of athletes, a lot of people avoid those kinds of situations. They're emotional. You know, you're not exactly sure how it's going to go. And it's proof by why the big stars mean a lot more to people than just what they do on the court.

Thank you very much, Andy. Appreciate it. Always good to see you, bud.

SCHOLES: All right, Chris. Yes.

CUOMO: So, an internal watchdog report finds systemic failures at a major veterans hospital that VA leadership failed to fix, OK? We're going to talk to a veteran who is calling for change, knows this situation, has important information for those of you who say you want to support the troops.


[06:54:26] CUOMO: All right, so here's the news. The Department of Veterans Affairs is under fire again. Why this time? Well, there's an IG report, an inspector general's report, that finds the VA medical center in Washington, D.C., suffers from, quote, systematic and programmatic failures. This is another blow to the embattled VA Secretary David Shulkin. He's been criticized for alleged misuse of taxpayer funds. It's not that alleged because he's agreed to pay the money back.

So, here to discuss the findings is Paul Rieckhoff. He's the author of "Chasing Ghosts" and founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

[06:55:02] Brother, always good to see you. PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER AND CEO, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: You too, sir.

CUOMO: We have a continuing promise to shine a light on what matters to veterans.

So you tell us, you've read into this, you live it as a reality in terms of getting your health care, is it a bad situation down there or not?

RIECKHOFF: Yes. It's maybe the bad -- the worst situation I've seen in about a decade and a half. And we -- you know, you've covered this on CNN for year, right? This happened under Bush. This happened under Obama. It's happening again under Trump.

The VA is always a challenged place. It's always a highly political place. But right now the leadership challenges, the multiple IG reports and the political infighting is the worst I've ever seen and our members have seen. They're really concerned.

They don't know what the future of the VA holds. They don't know if the secretary is going to be around in a couple weeks. And we've gone through this about every two or three years or so of the last decade. So it's the same sort of crisis and instability that we've seen at VA, and you've been covering for a while. If there wasn't so much other stuff happening in D.C., this would be front page news.

CUOMO: Now, let's talk about why, right? Because when you look at the IG report, people can take different things away from it.


CUOMO: There was money used that should have been going to veterans that went to pay for travel for Shulkin's wife. They went back and forth about it. He said, I'll pay it back.

Then there are these reports about dirty storage rooms and that. But when you hear from veterans they're like, I don't care how dirty the storage room is. The quality care is still not there.

Then they have other veterans come on and say, oh, but I think the service has been really good and wait time has been reduced to zero for prosthetic consultation.


CUOMO: What's the reality?

RIECKHOFF: Quality of care across the VA is generally good, right? Our veterans continue to talk about that.

VA leadership has always been turbulent, and especially right now it's turbulent. You've got multiple IG reports that are bad, that are a problem, that the secretary's got to address.

And then you've got the president, who, right now, doesn't seem to really be focused on it. He hasn't personally commented on it. He hasn't met with Secretary Shulkin in public that we've seen. And this is similar to what we had with Obama. Think back to when Shinseki started to get in trouble. It seemed like the White House wasn't focused on it. When you don't focus on what's happening at the VA, this is what can happen.

And this is a White House that's absorbed in every other issue. And we've got millions of veterans who rely on the VA for stability, for care, for their G.I. Bill. We have a suicide rate that's out of control. We need attention and focus. And, most of all, we need stability of leadership. And right now anybody who's reading the news reports see that that place is maybe under siege.

CUOMO: What are they getting wrong?

RIECKHOFF: Clarity. Just clarity and stability. I mean like a lot of other parts of Washington right now. I mean the other factor here is that Shulkin is the only moderate holdover in the entire cabinet. So it's hard to be a moderate in this environment in Washington right now. So he's got political forces on all sides hitting him and he's trying to hold what seems to be a moderate position. We're not sure. But that's an untenable position in this kind of a political environment.

CUOMO: So is he part of the problem or is he part of the solution?

RIECKHOFF: We'll see. I mean I think right now he's in charge. And until there's stability, it's his responsibility to make sure that it's stabilized and that people have clarity and that they don't have IG reports with dirty problems. And important to note, Chris, it's in the backyard of Congress. This is the Washington, D.C., VA. You can pretty much see it from the White House. And this is Congress' backyard as well.

CUOMO: Right.

RIECKHOFF: And there wasn't adequate oversight. They cite leadership failures. And that's the kind of stuff that really cuts through the politics when you start impacting veterans' lives. That's the stuff that makes CNN.

CUOMO: Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, obviously, says he's doing a great job.

RIECKHOFF: Well, veterans across the country are concerned. And all veterans groups are concerned. They've met with the White House multiple times. I met with Secretary Shinseki -- I'm sorry, with Secretary Shulkin yesterday, told him, our members are deeply concerned. So I think, you know, the secretary -- the press secretary should talk to some more veterans because they're concerned. All political stripes. They read the news. They see the problems. And it doesn't look like everything's fine.

CUOMO: This fight about privatizing more of the services, where is your head on that? RIECKHOFF: This is the fight for the soul of the VA, for the future of

the VA. I think for folks that don't really track on this, the important thing to know is that it concerns, you know, a $200 billion budget, second, I think, only to the Pentagon. So this is a lot of money. And folks have finally recognized the VA budget is big and it's growing and there are a lot of interest that want to fight over that. They want to figure out where that money goes. And that's extremely political. The DSOs (ph) have drawn a line and said they don't want privatization. But there are some business interests, there's some ideological interests that want to take it in a more privatized way and most veterans don't want that.

CUOMO: So for the people who are at home are watching who are not veterans, what do they need to know about what's different about the health care that they are getting versus what our veterans are getting?

RIECKHOFF: The high quality of care at VA is noteworthy. I mean that's real. That's not spin. I mean our members consistently say the quality of care is good. Access to care is a problem.

For example, today is Women's Day. We focused for the last year at IAVA on recognizing and supporting women veterans who make up about 20 percent of the folks coming home. The quality of care there is irregular, but the resourcing is irregular. We haven't stepped up to support our women vets. That's what people need to know, is that we need average Americans to keep our eye on this, despite all the other drama that's happening. And especially as midterms elections come up, you'll want to hear, what are your candidates going to do to fix VA? What are they specifically going to do to support women veterans? And what's their plan? We've got our plan at It's nonpartisan. It's national. We hope folks can support that. And make sure that vets issues, most of all, stay in focus. You know, we were going to talk a couple days before but news keeps breaking. This is the kind of really important stuff happening in Washington that gets shoved aside in the midst of all this controversy.

[07:00:02] CUOMO: You know what, and that's on me. I -- we fell down on that. You were supposed to come on a couple days --

RIECKHOFF: No, it's not on you. You know what, you guys are the first ones to really cover this.

CUOMO: No, but, I mean, that's important. Look, if you want to tell people you -- we've got to take this more seriously, you've got to do it yourself as well. So, look, you know you're always welcome here