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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  February 22, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PST

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. happening now. breaking news. menning fences. president trump dispatches top officials to mexico. the secretary of state has just arrived hoping to ease relations strained by the president's politics and rhetoric. is mr. trump's aggressive new immigration enforcement making the job even harder? boiling over. gop lawmakers are facing angry voters in raucous town hall meetings. are the flairing tempers scaring off some republican members of congress? under fire. the pentagon reveals that u.s.
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troops had been wounded by isis leaders in iraq as they weigh whether to send more soldiers to syria. and debate night, candidates for democratic chairman lay out their cases and in a cnn special tonight. who will lead the party out of the political wilderness? we want to welcome the viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in the "the situation room." >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. we're following breaking news. president trump's secretary of state rex tillerson has just arrived in mexico on a mission to strengthen ties badly strained by the president call for a border wall and homeland secretary john kelly is taking part of the talks in mexico. ahead of the talks with american
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counterpart mexico's foreign minister says mexico doesn't have to accept unilateral decisions. the new executive order on travel restrictions will now be issued next week. had had been expected this week. sources also say it's being carefully tailored to avoid legal challenges that sidelined the president's previous travel ban. some angry constituents loudly voicing their issues in sometimes emotional and sharp exchanges on which the white house is calling in part at least professional protests. we're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests including the top democratic of the armed services committee, adam smith. and experts and analysts are also standing by. let's begin with the president's
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travel ban. sara murray is joining us with the latest. sara, we were expecting that new revived order this week, but now it's been delayed again. >> that's right, wolf, we were expecting it any day now, but now we're told by an administration official that that timeline is moving into next week either early or mid-week. sean spicer the white house press secretary said today that essentially the new version of this order is completed, they're just putting on the finishing touches and making sure all the various agencies had guidance about how to implement that. apparently it's taking longer than anticipated. the other thing that he said today that was interesting is they're going to continue to fight for the original travel ban in court. listen to what he said in the briefing. >> the president was very clear in his executive order these were countries we didn't have the proper vetting for when it came to ensuring the safety of americans. that's what the executive order said. the authorities very clear to have them. you're going to see the
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president take the necessary steps to protect this country. that's why he's talked about, you know, fighting this on both fronts, making sure that we keep evolving through the court system on the existing eo and looking at the next draft of the executive order that will continue to chief the goal and protecting the american people. >> wolf, the white house moving on two tracks on this. one, they say they're going to continue to fight for the original travel ban in court but two, move forward with the new action, which we're now expecting next week. >> sara, the vice-president paid an important visit to the vandalized jewish cemetery amidst the spike in anti-semitism acts across america. >> this is a cemetery where tombstones were knocked over and desecrated over the weekend. earlier in the week we saw president trump denounce those incidence but mike pence was in missouri to visit a factory and
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he stopped by this cemetery. listen to a portion of what he had to say. >> there is no place in america for hatred or acts ever prejudice or violence or anti-semitism. i must tell you, the people of missouri are inspiring the nation by your love and care for this place, for the jewish community in missouri and i want to thank you for that inspiration, for showing the world what america is really all about. >> now, after he made those comments denouncing anti-semitism he stuck around for a little while and helped some folks there clear brush, clear debris from the cemetery as they try to clean it up and beautify it in the wake of the instances over the weekend. the anne frank center which was critical of donald trump who said he was putting a band-aid on this issue applauded mike pence's action his visit to the cemetery and sticking around. >> that was significant. not only his words and his
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actions helping in the cleanup of that cemetery. sara thank you very much. we're monitoring the town hall meetings and the anger boiling over. phil mattingly is working the story for us. phil, we're seeing some rather tense exchanges. >> no question about it. you can see it live on air. senator bill cassidy, in louisiana, republican, facing some constituents who were shouting and had to be escorted out of the event. the issue is really. the big question what impact will this have on the republican party and ambitious agenda in the months ahead? >> reporter: tonight tempers are flairing, congressman and constituents tangling at town halls across the country. republican lawmakers back home from washington. >> everybody needs to yell out
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something. >> reporter: facing emotion, and often shouting questions on their plans to repeal and replace healthcare. >> answer any of that, and i'll sit down and shut up like elizabeth warren. >> reporter: as well as pushback on president trump and his immigration policies. >> being a person from a muslim country, and i'm a muslim, who is going to save me and stand up for me? >> we will. we will. we will. >> i have been stopped two times. i have been roadside bombed once but nobody cared about me but i was with the united states aermd forces back in afghanistan and i didn't shout because of my mom and dad. >> thank you. thank you. >> reporter: the outcry now raising questions as to whether the gop agenda driven in part by the president and in part the republican majority could be in
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danger. republicans say their hold on congress is safe. on twitter president trump dismissed confrontations as being concocted by liberal activists, calling them, quote, so-called angry crowds. at the white house his spokesperson tried to stake a middle ground. >> i think some people are upset but there is a little bit of professional protest manufactured base there. >> reporter: gop says the anger of the town hall is not the same as the frustration vented against obamacare during the early days of the tea party back in 2009. >> when you look at some of these districts and some of these things, it is not a representation of a member's district or an incident. it is a loud group, small group of people disurupting things. >> reporter: still from red states to the swingiest of swing states the demonstrations are real and getting attention. the gop lawmakers are grappling
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with the same reality faced by democratic counterparts eight years ago. >> what do we want? that's not true. >> reporter: or to openly embrace the raucous opposition. >> i'm not boisterous, i'm having fun. so that's -- i like having debates. >> reporter: wolf, that is the big question the gop leaders are grappling with right now. do they want their rank and file to face down these town hall crowds or avoid them altogether. i'm told gop sources say they want their members to address the issues to attend the town halls but they recognize the optics is not good and it's the type of thing that could motivate democrats and democratic lawmakers say they believe these are the seeds to the type of energy they could use in electoral votes going forward. >> our congressional correspondent reporting for us.
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thank you very much. we're getting word in u.s. injuries in the fight against isis. the pentagon saying u.s. forces have been taking fire while taking hold of mosul. barbara starr has the latest for us. barbara, what are you learning about american troops wounded on the front lines of mosul. >> good evening,ful would. over the last six to eight weeks u.s. troops have moved forward to the line in mosul. and helping iraqi forces target isis forces in the fight to take iraq's largest second city. as they have moved closely in that assist, you can predict what has happened. they have come under attack multiple times from isis forces we know. u.s. official telling me today over the last six to eight weeks there have been incidents where u.s. troops have had to be
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medevaced off the battlefield. on december 23rd, five u.s. troops were wounded in battle. we have no details about exactly where that happened, because the pentagon officially doesn't talk about the troops who are wounded. wolf. >> barbara you're hearing about troops in syria. could u.s. troops be sent there. >> the deadline is essentially next week so the finishing touch is being put on it. could you send u.s. troops into syria to help accelerate the fight to retake raqqah, the major isis strong hold inside syria. the thinking is that troops wouldn't engage in direct contact but perhaps provide things like artillery support to the local kurdish forces. dangerous business, we've seen it in mosul now. this can take u.s. troops very much into a combat role and
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we've learned that senator john mccain chairman of the armed services committee just wrapped up a secret trip to northern syria to talk to officials there, have a look for himself at how the fight is going and what some of those options might be. wolf. >> very quickly, 5,000 ground troops still in iraq, but there are some u.s. troops already in syria, right? >> yeah. the top line limit is about 500. it may not often be that many. but they are mainly special operations forces and some conventional forces mainly doing train, advise, assist, but what we're talking about is if additional forces go in, they will be providing much more direct support to the kurdish and the arab forces who are supposed to be on the front line to the fight in syria. wolf. >> key words, supposed to be. thank you very much for that report. let's get some more on all of this with a top democratic on the house armed services committee, congressman adam
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smith of washington state. thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. >> what's your response, congressman, to the news that u.s. troops have now come under fire from isis terror forces in and around mosul and some american troops had been injured. >> it's not surprising. this was the plan that president obama had put into place. they're going to have the local iraqi forces be in the lead and then we have several thousand support troops there that are there to help train and advise. but, i mean, the fight is fluid, and they're not going to be able to stay completely out of it. and i do think that the plan basically to roll back isis in both syria and iraq is working. they've lot an enormous amount of territory and i think that's important. i think the role that the u.s. troops is playing there has thus far been successful. >> would you want more u.s. troops on the ground not only in iraq but also in syria. >> it doesn't sound like it's necessary at the moment. again, the main point is it has
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to be iraqi forces or in syria we're working with the kurds in both iraq and syria. it has to be led by the locals. we are there to train, advise and assist. i don't think we need to send more troops. we have about the right amount and the fight has to be led by the iraqis. >> i think they can get the job done? because it's been two years-plus when the terrorists isis have controlled mosul, we keep hearing the irk iraqis are moving closer and closer. >> mosul is a very large city, they've taken significant portions of it. and they have made significant progress. the leading problem in iraq is the baghdad government and whether it will be inclusive of
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the sunnis in iraq have to feel like they are part of iraq, like the baghdad government is supportive of them. that's what caused isis to rise when almal aky took hold, they shut out the sunnis and they threw them in prison. that's what drove the sunnis into the arms of isis and if baghdad doesn't change they'll continue to have those struggles and frankly there is nothing we can do or should do about it. >> that's a fair point. congressman, i want you to listen to what the white house press secretary sean spicer said today about safe havens for syrian civilians in -- syrian civilians. that's one of the president's top foreign policy priorities. we don't have the clip. but i want your reaction. this is what the trump administration wants the so-called safe havens in syria
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for refugees so they don't have to be sent out of syria. >> this is something we've talked about for a number of years since this conflict began. and it's simply not as easy as it sounds. because if you're going to create a safe haven, that means you're going to have to have the military support in there necessary to keep not just isis but keep assad and his russian allies from attacking these areas and that means air power, that means a significant commitment of u.s. forces. so i -- it would be great. obviously the preference here is to make syria safe enough so that the syrians can return to their homes. that's what we want. but i think the incoming president underestimates what it's going to take and the commitment of u.s. forces to create those safe havens and are we prepared to do what we haven't done at this point, go toe to toe with assad's regime and potentially with the russians who are supporting him?
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it's going to take more than just saying we're going to draw a line and say, please stay out. it's going to take an enormous commitment of money and military might to make that happen. >> the president said he wanted a 30-day plan to destroy isis. we'll see. a former wan tan mow prison inmate has been reportedly carried out a suicide attack. we're showing pictures of this former gitmo prisoner. he was captured in 2001, released in 2004, eventually given a million british pounds for what he endured at gitmo and a couple of years ago went through turkey joined isis and was engaged in suicide attack on
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irkies. what can you tell us. >> the most important thing is the dates. 2001 when he was picked up, when he was released. that points to two problems. we were not at all careful who we rounded out and put in there nor were we careful about who we let go. this is a conflict we had with the british government i forget how many. there were a number of british citizens and they wanted them released. back in 2004 that was done. a lot of people take that statistics and they say look at all the guantanamo inmates that president obama were released. but they were all vetted and determined to be releasable. back in the bush administration it was more chaotic. after 9/11, when the afghan war started iraq war started there was a lot of chaos and uncertainty and i think this particular inmate reflects that
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chaos and uncertainty and certainly having let him go when he was clearly a threat. >> yes, he was. our thanks very much. congressman adam smith of washington state. >> thank. a top and difficult mission. officials now arriving in mexico city. can they smooth over bad relations. i'll ask the former ambassador to the u.s. there you see him in mexico city. he's standing by live. this is the food system.
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. more breaking news this hour. rex tillerson has just arrived in mexico city and the homeland secretary john kelly will arrive later tonight. on a mission to try to ease
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relations trained significantly by president trump's rhetoric and policies. our michelle kosinski is joining us. accomplis michelle, clearly they have their job cut out for them. >> the mission will be positive and forward looking even before he touched down we're hearing a hard line from mexico. they're not going to pay for any wall, they're under no obligation to accept any deportees except mexican nationals. it's hard to say how this will make the visit that has a hallmark of damage control. >> reporter: mexico city, where thousands of people have taken to the streets over the last month, protesting trump white house policies. secretary of state rex tillerson and john kelly arriving tonight with a tall order for their
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first neighbor orly visit, get the u.s./mexico relaks bations on track. with the tensions and trump tweets, today from the white house. >> the relationship with mexico is phenomenal right now, and i think there is an unbelievable and robust dialogue between our new nations. >> reporter: a mexican official tells cnn their side goes into the talks with president trump's promises -- >> we will build a wall, mexico is going to pay for a wall. >> reporter: a no-go. the official stating clearly, mexico will not pay for a wall. also with a new immigration order that could mean hundreds of thousands or even millions of people deported, mexico says it does have an obligation to accept its own nationals but not all the immigrants from central america, the government official adding mexico needs to see the following in these meetings. respect for the relationship
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that has been built over decades, acknowledgement that mexico is an important trading partner, and acknowledgement that the u.s. is lucky to have such a good neighbor in mexico. such is the price now of moving forward. after all the words from president trump going back to the campaign trail. >> they're bringing drugs, they're bringing climb. they're rapists. we have some bad hombres here and we're going to get them out. >> reporter: he even used tough hombres on a phone call with the mexican president, offering to send u.s. troops to help. the strain between these neighbors across borders or fences could take far more than this visit to heal. >> it's helpful but it's not enough. it's turbulent because of all this talk about the wall and the various immigration executive orders. that's a conversation mexico needs to be in on on the takeoff
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not the landing. >> reporter: the president of mexico canceled his visit to the white house. but there was a phone call between president trump and pena nieto after he which they put out a statement. and they will not publicly talk about who will pay for the wall. the white house version didn't include it. it will be interesting to see what kind of alignment comes from these meetings. >> michelle kosinski is our senior correspondent at the state department. michelle, thank you very much. let's dig in with the former mexican ambassador, arturo sarukhan. mr. ambassador, the former senator said, the people of the mexican government and the people of mexico do not have to accept unilateral measures imposed by one government on another government. what policies is the foreign minister referring to?
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>> obviously, the wall and who pays for the wall has been at the top of that list. but again on the eve of this important trip by secretary tillerson and kelly to mexico city, you have to -- you have the direct tiffs and the memos on emigration practices and policies that will be implemented by the current administration which talk about deporting non-mexican nationals across the border into mexico. this is a no-go. this is a nonstarter because if you want to work with your neighbor to help you in processing, aiding you in ensuring that people who are coming through mexico and that you are going to deport back across the border being received by your neighboring country, you consult before crafting these policies. and again, a decision which poisons the environment of what should be a very important visit
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because i think we have to recognize the fact that secretary tillerson decided to do his first bilateral trip to mexico is an important gesture, but it's going to take more than that to try and mend the direction of the relationship which seems to be in a tailspin for the past three, four weeks. >> does mexico trust that secretary tillerson and kelly speak for president trump? >> well, i can't speak for the mexican government. i know that both secretaries are individuals who are very competent, who know the issues that they're dealing with. secretary tillerson before he assumed the leadership of the state department, had a long and deep interaction with mexico, was the former ceo of exxon for mexico's opening of its energy sector. general killy at south comh had
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relations about security flows and migration. the challenges that they both have now obviously wolf is they still don't have their teams in place. you need under secretaries and assistant secretaries in both dhs and state that will help the secretaries build and flesh out an agenda with mexico. but i think mexico understands the role that they play and understands they both have the trust of president trump and i think that their counterparts in mexico city tomorrow will try to build a forward-looking relationship. remember, wolf, this relationship between mexico and the united states is like a tandem bike. it has two riders, but if one of those riders starts to peddle backwards or stop peddling or decides to go from another direction, the bicycle will fog
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on the ground. this is the challenge we have in the coming months. >> realistically, how much can the u.s. and mexico accomplish without president trump clearly saying that the u.s. will pay for the border wall, that mexico won't pay for it? >> well, i think what the u.s. does or does not do on its side of the border and how it enhances and decides to strengthen its border security is its sovereign decision of the united states of the u.s. congress and of the administration. what i think will be extremely helpful, wolf, is that this not be an issue that is tweeted about, and that is where statements continue to create a poisonous environment for both government and government officials to work quietly and to work constructively in finding those soft spots on a roster of issues that are not only nafta,
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the wall, and undocumented immigrants which make up this we complicated and very rich and dynamic bilateral relationship. >> arturo sarukhan, thank you very much for joining us. >> my pleasure, wolf. >> just ahead, republican lawmakers facing town hall pressure from voters opposed to the trump agenda. this is a live picture. senator tom cotton of arkansas talks to his constituents there. it's getting very lively. we'll monitor that. plus, details of what is described as a combative conversation between steve bannon and the german ambassador to the united states. you mean after that? no, i'm talking before that. do you have things you want to do before you retire? i'd really like to run with the bulls. wow. hope you're fast. i am. get a portfolio that works for you now and as your needs change with investment management services.
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southcom. we're going to show live -- breaking news. we're watching another republican try to handle an angry crowd at a town hall. this is the screen in springdale northwest arkansas. a large crowd is there to ask questions of senator tom cotton. some of the questions have been tough. let's bring in our experts as we watch all of this go on. >> gloria borger, give us the reaction to these angry town halls. >> look, i think this is democracy in action it's a déjà vu to me, wolf, because you
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remember what happened with the tea party when former president obama was doing healthcare reform and there were big rallies at town halls against democrats who were going to vote for this and who had voted for this. and this was the birth of the tea party, and i think what you're seeing here now is the reverse of that. i think that there are an awful lot of people who want to make sure that the things they like about obamacare, including coverage for preexisting conditions and for their adult children, will not get taken away. >> phil mudd, the president did respond to these boisterous town halls what have been popping up all along the country, when congress is in recess. these are actually in numerous cases planned out by liberal actists. sad. what's your reaction when you hear the president making that statement? >> to me, i look at this and ask
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a simple question. is this what we're going to face for four years and can we govern this way at least in the short-term. like it or not, wolf, i think the answer is yes, but we've got to see the graduation in the white house from the minor leagues to the major league. we can't have governance like we saw with the executive order. you've got to have discipline in the white house so you don't have the advisers saying as you mentioned to the foreign ambassador and trump saying something different. number two, you have to have a focus by the president on what he wants to think about. we've talked about everything from iran to korea and russia and now who sits next to me in a bathroom. you've got to transition from executive orders toing conversations with congress to legislate without executive orders. i'm sure we can do this in the short-term but not the long-term.
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>> the white house press secretary sean spicer said in part these are professional manufactured base. people say these people are residence of their districts, not all of them but there are some advice how to agitate. >> sure. i remember democrats saying the same thing in 2010 as they -- and switching to teletown halls so people don't have to come and not get yelled at. what tom cotton is doing and other republicans are doing, just confronting them is the best thing to do. they're supposed to communicate to both sides of their constituents. >> we've seen some republican democrats decide to pass on these town halls and some of
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their constituents are having fun with that, they're put these missing signs. i think we have some on milk cartons. how do members of congress make the calculation, the optics of holding a town hall as opposed to passing. >> certainly the optics aren't great of your constituents yelling at you or holding your feet to the fire. there are alternatives. you can engage with your constituents in a lot of different ways, phone calls, smaller events, talking one-on-one or two-on-one in a group setting. but the fact of the matter is the optics aren't going to matter in the election next year. it's the underlying factors that are making these constituents angry, making them yell, making them protest. that's what these members of congress are going to need to address whether it's a town hall or another ven e. >> we're watching tom cotton. he's got a rowdy town hall going
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on. in the meantime, top adviser steve bannon slamming the european union to the german ambassador. we're learning some new information, new details. stay with us. your insurance company won't replace the full value of your totaled new car. the guy says you picked the wrong insurance plan. no, i picked the wrong insurance company. with liberty mutual new car replacement™, you won't have to worry about replacing your car because you'll get the full value back including depreciation. and if you have more than one liberty mutual policy, you qualify for a multi-policy discount, saving you money on your car and home coverage. call for a free quote today. liberty stands with you™. liberty mutual insurance.
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tele. tom cotton getting angry questions from arkansans right
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now this woman arguing if the affordable care is repealed her family could die. let's take a listen. >> i'm not going to do that, my husband with dementia and alzheimer's, plus multiple, multiple other things and you want to stand there with him -- hum and and what kind of insurance do you have? [ applause ] now, now, now, mr. senator cotton, listen to this. we just did a photo shoot here in springdale.
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we're going medicare my way, not your way. my way. i've got a husband dying and we can't afford -- let me tell you something. if you can get us better coverage than this, go for it. let me tell you what we have, plus a lot of benefits that we need. we have $29 per month for my husband. can you beat that? can you? with all the congestive heart failures, and open heart surgeries, we're trying. $29 per month. and he's a hard worker. now, $39 for me. here is my question. i have sent you one message after the other, sir, about our
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family, and do you know where we live? i don't live three hours from here, i don't live two hours from here. i live just down the road a few places from your office. and i have invited you into our home. and not a word except a classic, regular letter sent. now, here is my question, yes or no. will you come to my family's home? i promise you it will be safe. sit down with the three of us and hear our stories from 1991 until now? [ cheers and applause ]
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>> so, ma'am, i'll be happy to meet with you and hear more about your story. we've got staff here. ma'am, we have -- we' . >> okay. we've got questions up here in the balcony we haven't gone there yet. >> thank you. thank you. you can hear me? >> i hear you loud and clear. >> my name is valerie harris, i'm from prairie grove, arkansas. i want to say i'm a teacher first of all, okay [ applause ] >> i work in a residential facility in fayetteville, and i
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work with special needs kids. plaus. >> i want to say this. i work three jobs, actually. and the reason i have to work two more jobs is because my health insurance at my first place of employment doubled in the last three years. i'd like to say that there are other stories and there are a lot of people in arkansas that do support senator cotton [ cheers and applause ] >> and there are many people like myself, a single mom, okay, single mom who pays taxes. my family came here many, many years ago from italy legally,
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okay and -- thank you. my question is this. my son, i have four children, three that went to the university of arkansas, my son is graduating and he will be commissioned in the u.s. air force in may. my son has written a letter and given it to your staff over here because his detachment is requesting that senator cotton come and speak and be a distinguished guest at the commissioni commissioning ceremony. my question, number one, i'd like to thank you for your service to this country, and i would like to tell you there are many people, the majority of people in arkansas that support
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you. [ booing ] >> and i'm asking that you read his letter and his contact information is there. thank you, senator cotton. >> thank you. >> thank you. well, thank you. thank you very much for your son -- >> all right. so he got a friendly question as well as some tough, angry questions. senator tom cotton in springdale arkansas at a rather lively town hall. it's not going on just in arkansas but all over the country right now. we did see some anger as well. rebecca, this is becoming sort of regular in these days during this recess republican members facing some lively questions. >> it is, as gloria said, it's like deja-vu, it really harkens back to what we saw in the lead up to the 2010 mid-term elections and we all know how that story ended.
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it's worth noting the republicans only have a margin of error in the house of 24 seats. that is far less than democrats lost in 2010 to republicans. republicans won roughly 60 seats in that election to take control of the house. if this is another wave election like that, republicans could very, very easily lose the house and potentially the senate. this is a serious issue for them and i think when they get back to washington they're going to start talking very seriously about what their splan going to be to replace it because this is clearly a live grenade. >> at all of these town halls that we've seen, the tough questions, if you will, the focus has been by in large on the future of healthcare in america. >> absolutely. i just got an e-mail from someone who's watching and she asked, why are we just focusing on these republican town halls? i explained that this is high pressure system it's because they're in charge. it's because they're the ones that have the power. because they're the majorities in the house and senate and they have the white house, they have the power to change the healthcare law right now.
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and that's why you see these people speaking out to them as they are, and, you know, perhaps they are democrats but they're still constituents of these members of congress and that's their best condo witness to power right now. >> is this just the beginning? >> well, i think it is. i think the problem that you see, tom cotton and other republicans having right now is that they don't have a plan. if they had had a plan that they could take home to their constituents, they would be explaining exactly what they are going to do to save your preexisting condition coverage, for example, or how much less it will cost you if you are, you know, now if you're premiums have sky rocketed for example. but the problem they have is that they had six years to come up with a plan and they don't have a plan yet. now, i know that dr. price took a while to get confirmed and i understand that. but, if they had had something,
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an outline even to go home with, they would be in much better position standing in front of angry constituents because they would be able to answer their questions. >> that's a fair point. in the meantime, a party in the political wilderness and now at a crossroads. democrats are poised to pick a new leader. the cand datsds will make their cases tonight in a cnn special debate. the stakes for the democrat party right now extremely high. >> this is a very uncertain time for the democrats right nought now. they're in the minority having to deal with a new trump era and the outcome of saturday's voet will bring huge implae occasions for what direction they take the party going forward. this is a party badly in need of a reboot and the question the race will answer, who will hit are the reset button. >> we've got to organize, organize, organize. >> democrats are a party in search of direction and a new leader to help guide them.
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>> we've got a fight ahead of us. we've got to come together and we will -- >> enter these eight candidates battling it out to be the next chair of the democrat national committee. >> we need a dnc chairman who can inspire, who can make sure we talk to the entire big tent of our party, who can bring us together. >> that outcome could send a huge signal on where the democrat party goes from here. >> we win elections and that is how we get the majority back. >> the two front runners represent a proxy war between the sanders and clinton factions of the party. in one corner, tom perez who served in both the clinton and obama administrations with the backing of the establishment democrats like joe biden. and just today perez ruling out the endorsement of the heads of four dnc caucuses. in the other corner keith ellie son representing the more progressive wing of the party backed by bernie sanders. >> i think it's time to take a reassessment of where the
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purpose of the democrat party is and where it wants to go. and i think what we need to do right now is to become a grass-roots party, which is what keith ellie son believes. >> and as they prepare to debate tonight neither candidate has the race locked up presenting an opportunity for other democrats. to help their outsider status and potentially alter the case. >> i believe the dnc needs a fresh start too, and i believe that i can deliver that fresh start. >> duda judge picking up the endorsement of howard dean today. >> he's the outside of the beltway candidate. >> this pert is in trouble. >> the democrat party is in trouble they've been dell fwated to minority status in the trump era still reeling after a big loss in november and the majority in the house and senate before that. >> it's the contest of ideas as to which direction to take the
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party. after every single loss when the political party that lose they go and do a retrospective of what happened, where did they make a mistake, what did we do wrong. >> the new leader will help define the course correction. >> our party has some issues and let us not for one moment shrink from the knowledge that there is no majority for trumpism in america. >> as the group looks to make gains in 2008 to retake the white house in 2020. >> going into this saturday's vote a candidate will need the majority of 447 members to win but none of the candidates have secured enough votes just yet. they tell us that they think tom perez has a very narrow lead over keith ellison so this will go into several rounds of voting on saturday. >> the democrats have an enormous amount of work, they're the minority in the house, the senate, they lost the white house, governor's races, state
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legislatures, they need some action and need it quickly. you can see the democrat leadership debate right here on cnn, 10:00 p.m. eastern later tonight. that's it for me. thanks very much for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in the situation room. erin burnett out front starts right now. >> up next lawmakers booed, heckled, chased out by fed up voters. we're live at one town hall where protesters have been lining up for hours tonight plus the trump administration weeding out critics. par for the course or a president too thin skinned? and more parents choogz not to vac sa nate their children. why? let's go out front. >> good evening i'm erin burnett out front the breaking news town hall outrage

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