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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  October 12, 2017 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT

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fighting against. no one is the same by the end of the film. >> it's a great film. the movie's marshall, thank you so much. >> thank you. >> thank you, man. be sure to follow me on facebook and twitter, @jake tapper. that is it. turning you over to wolf blitzer in the situation room. thanks for watching. happening now, breaking news, chief frustration. a big surprise this afternoon at the white house. president trump's chief of staff retired general john kelly unexpectedly stepped into the spotlight. he talked with reporters about his job as well as president trump's biggest frustrations, why is general kelly going public now? can't stay forever. president trump touches off a fire storm of criticism with a series of tweets that first responders, including fema and the u.s. military can't stay in puerto rico forever. in a disaster zone where 83% of the island's residents still don't have electrical power and more than one-third lack water
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and sewage service. why is the president making threats? california burning. tonight there are new evacuations and new fears as nearly two dozen wild fires burn out of control. the death toll keeps rising. hundreds are missing, and conditions are getting worse. and hostages free. pakistan's military ends a harrowing ordeal for a u.s. woman, canadian husband and their three children. tonight, after five years in captivity, they're safe and free to return home. but why is the husband refusing to get on a plane to the united states kpn. i'm wolf blitzer, you're in the situation room. this is cnn breaking news. >> we're following breaking news over at the white house during a rare interview session, the white house chief of staff john kelly saying he isn't quitting,
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isn't being fired, and isn't frustrated. he wasn't hired to control president trump or the president's tweets, but to make sure the president is presented with, quote, well thought out options. kelly also revealed north korea developed what he calls a pretty good icbm capability and his words developing a good nuclear reentry vehicle. americans should be concerned, but he added that quoting him once again, let's hope that diplomacy works. we're also following the growing catastrophe out in california. where nearly two dozen wild fires are burning out of control in the death toll continues to rise. the fires have killed at least 27 people, hundreds more are missing. strong winds could increase the danger and the devastation. there's lots to discuss with the top white house official, president trump's director of legislative affairs mark short, he's here with me in the situation room. and our correspondents, analysts, and specialists will have full coverage of the day's
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top stories. let's start with sarah murray. the chief of staff john kelly surprised everyone today, tell us more about what he said. >> reporter: that's right, wolf, john kelly had a little bit to get off his chest today making it clear to reporters that he's not going anywhere and by the way, it's not his job to baby sit the president's twitter habits. >> i'm not quitting today. zblr retired four star marine general john kelly making his debut in the white house briefing room as chief of staff. >> i don't think i'm being fired today. and i'm not so frustrated in this job that i'm thinking of leaving. >> reporter: and insisting that a white house that often looks chaotic from the outside is in fact running smoothly. >> i was not sent in to -- or brought in to control him, and you should not measure my effectiveness as a chief of staff by what you think i should be doing, but simply the fact is
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i can guarantee to you that he is now presented with options, well thought-out options. those options are discussed in detail with his team. and then he comes up with the right decision. >> reporter: as kelly insisted, his primary role is not to block trump's twitter tirades, he also pulled back the curtain on the commander in chief's key frustrations. >> the congress has been frustrating to him. >> reporter: kelly channelling trump's exasperation with congress as trump aims to use the power of the presidency to overhaul obamacare. that's after efforts to repeal and replace the legislation hit a dead end on capitol hill. >> i will sign an executive order, taking the first steps to providing millions of americans with obama carrey leave. >> reporter: trump unveiling an executive order to expand short term insurance plans. studying ways to allow small businesses to join together to buy insurance and brought in employer's acts to give workers
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money to buy their own health care. >> the competition will be staggeri staggering. insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person signed up. and you will be hopefully negotiating, negotiating, negotiating, and you'll get such low prices for such great care. >> reporter: while trump touted the upsides, some experts warn the plan could increase costs for sick americans and chip away for those with preexisting conditions. in another shot to president obama's legacy, trump is also expected to move forward tomorrow with decertifying the iran nuclear deal. >> i think it was one of the most incompetently drawn deals i've ever seen. $150 billion given, we got nothing. >> reporter: while not pulling out of the deal completely, the white house says the president will lay out a strategy to counter iran's aggression in the middle east. and more closely rally behind allies like israel and saudi arabia who opposed the deal. amid all of this, the white house is still confronting a
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humanitarian crisis in puerto rico. most of the island remains without power and many don't have access to water. still, trump took to twitter today to warn that aid to puerto rico will have an expiration date. we cannot keep fema, the military, and the first responders who have been amazing under the most difficult circumstances in pr forever. leaving his chief of staff to explain what he meant. >> our country will stand with those american citizens in puerto rico until the job is done, but the tweet about fema and d.o.d. is exactly accurate. they're not going to be there forever. and the whole point is to start the work yourself out of a job and the transition to the rebuilding process. >> reporter: so you see the white house saying the federal government will not be on the ground in puerto rico forever, but so far this administration has not laid out a timeline for when they might hope to leave this storm-ravaged island nor have they explained why the president felt like this was the appropriate tone to take at a time when so many people there
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are still suffering, wolf. >> sarah murray, thanks very much. let's dig deeper on the president's series of tweets warning puerto rico there are limits for the amount of federal help residents of devastated island can expect. one of the president's tweets says this, electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes congress to decide how much to spend, we cannot keep fema, the military, and the first responders who have been amazing under the most difficult circumstances in puerto rico forever. let's go to our senior white house correspondent jim acosta, jim, what led the president early this morning to post those tweets? >> right, wolf, i talked to a source whose familiar with the discussions that go on inside the white house who says earlier today when the president posted those tweets saying that the assistance in puerto rico can't go on forever, that that was really a tweet aimed at going after the mayor of san juan, carmen cruz who has been a thorn of the side of the president ever since that storm hit the island. but i will tell you, wolf, i
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talked to another republican source who advises this white house, if you look at the tweet, look for example at the president when he made that trip down to puerto rico and he was video taped and photographed throwing those paper towels to people in puerto rico, according to this republican source, the optics were just terrible. i talked to one other source today wolf who said, listen, i think the administration is doing a good job in puerto rico. they are doing everything they can to help the people down there, but when i asked this source, and this is a source who is in contact with the administration about relief efforts in puerto rico, this source said when i asked the question well does the president have something against the people of puerto rico, this source said no, it's worse than that, it is apparent to this source and it is a feeling among other people that the source talked to, wolf, that is president is not in touch with what is what his own administration is doing. that's a pretty damning criticism. >> it is.
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what about john kelly, what was he trying to accomplish by making his debut over there? >> i talked to a source earlier today about why john kelly felt compelled, it's rare to see the white house chief of staff coming into the briefing room and talk to reporters. this source who is in touch with people here in the west wing, essentially said, john kelly felt it was necessary, the white house felt it was necessary for the general to come in here and take these rumors head on that he is thinking about leaving this administration. and that's why you heard him say, right off the bat. he was joking about it, and you heard that thick boston accent in sort of a dead pan mode there, saying that not only does he think he's not quitting any time soon, but he doesn't think he's going to be fired either. now i will say, wolf, that i thought it was interesting that john kelly was pressed time and again on this issue of the president's tweets, mainly because of what we saw in reference to puerto rico earlier today. john kelly telling reporters
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during the briefing today he's not here to control what the president does. he's here to control the information that comes into the oval office. i have heard that as well from other sources that there is a concern about the kind and the quality of information that the president receives, but hooe not here to control tweets. i talked to a former campaign operative, trump campaign operative earlier today who said the expectation has always been at some point the president will stop tweeting that donald trump will stop tweeting, wolf, this source said donald trump is never going to stop tweeting. >> no, certainly he's been tweeting for a long time and you're absolutely right, i don't expect him to ever stop tweeting. thanks very much for that. jim acosta, we're joined by the white house director of legislative affairs, mark short, mark, thanks for coming in to our situation room as opposed to your situation room. let's get to some of the substantive issues that you as the lays on effect to congress you have to deal with on a daily basis. the president has often said that if the republicans fail to repeal and replace obamacare and
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so far they have failed to repeal and replace obamacare. he would let obamacare fail on it's own, but today he announced a series of steps that will undermine, according to a lot of experts, obamacare to begin with, is his purpose to see obamacare fail? >> no, wolf. the president is not looking to -- the president's looking to do is give the american people more choices and more options. that's hard to see how that's a bad thing. you create more freedom in the process you create nor kpet tigs, it'll help to lower prices. he understands that the average premiums increase over 100% over the last few years. americans are getting crushed. and he cares about them and he wants to give them more options, that's what he's trying to do. >> the critics and experts are suggesting, insurance commissioners, health insurance experts are saying that if the plan that the president announced today goes through, it will dramatically increase premium costs for those that have serious ailments for example and the elderly. >> right. wolf, let's look at it this way, right now if you're a major
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employer, let's say you're general motors and you have tens of thousands of employees, you have employees all across different states, why can't you if if you're a franchise owner be able to band together and associate health plans? it's common sense. it will help to provide lower costs and more competition for people. that's what the administration is looking to do. we are looking to provide relief to americans who are suffering from obamacare. >> and people with serious medical conditions won't have a dramatic increase as a result of what you announced today? >> people wl those conditions will be able to apply too, wolf, there's not going to be any discrimination against any individual. >> even with serious medical conditions. >> even with serious medical conditions. >> the president keeps saying yes he has the votes to repeal and replace obamacare. clearly he doesn't otherwise he would have done it. what is he referring to when he says we have the votes. >> i think this year in some ways we ran out of time. what happened is because you're looking to repeal obamacare, that budget window closed on september 30th. what we found with the
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graham-cassidy idea of brok granting, getting washington, d.c. out of the way of trying to control health care and letting states have more flexibility if the plans, there became more and more reseptemberivity to it. there are a couple members worried about the process and felt there weren't enough hearings and questions. i'll grant you, wolf, that over the last several years, we counted 149 congressional hearings on obamacare. we all share. >> reporter: when he says we have the votes, was that accurate? it's clearly not accurate. >> we didn't have the votes, but what he's saying is now believe when we get the next chance we now have the commitments for the votes. the reality is that probably won't be until a 2019 budget is passed some time next spring. so there's a timing gab there. >> so the next opportunity to repeal and replace would be next spring, spring of 2018. >> several months no flu. hoe signed an executive order today and we all saw the photo op. here's what he once said, we have a president that can't get anything done so he just keeps
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signing executive orders all over the place. that was donald trump january 2016, he was referring to the executive orders that were often signed by president obama. >> yes. and what i think you've seen this administration do so far, repeal many of those obama executive orders that helped to grow our economy. it is unleash the regulatory fwhaurd many were facing economically. what this executive order does is creates more freedom and gets government out of the way opposed to restricting the types of plans you can have. i think there's a huge difference for those looking to impose more regulations and those looking to free up. >> but if his criticism of president obama is he was signing executive orders because he can't get anything done, current president is signing executive orders. >> in this case what would require on associate health plans as you may well could not be part of the obama carrey peel effort because it was under senate rules, required 60 votes instead of 50. so this is an avenue that we have that can afford us the
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chance. it doesn't go as far as we'd like. legislatively we can go further. but at least provide some relief for americans across the country. >> let's get to another very, very sensitive issue, freedom of the press. something you believe in, i believe in, everyone believes in. the president is raising questions about in that tweet yesterday, he said network news is so partisan, distorted, and fake that licenses must be challenged and if appropriate, revoked. not fair to public. that led republican senator ben sass of nebraska to respond with this, mr. president, are you recanting on the oath you took on january 20th to preserve, protect, and defend the first amendment? pretty strong words from a republican senator who's outraged by this threat that the president is leveling to repeal freedom of the press licenses. >> right. i think the president remains committed to the entire constitution, including the first amendment, wolf, but i think there is a frustration that feels like in many cases there are alleged sources that come up with information that is
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pushed out and in many cases we consider fake news. so i think the president expressing frustration americans feel. there is an enormous bias against this administration. >> but would you go -- there could be a lot of bias, but that's part of freedom of the press, right? you don't go ahead and suspend a news organization's ability to operate by revoking a license if you don't like what they're reporting. you can rebutt it, you can fight it, you say what you say, president obama for example he didn't like what fox news was reporting, but he never threatened to suspend any license preventing them from reporting. >> the president support of the first amendment has not waned in any bit. >> he should fix that statement because it's sort of gives ammunition to totalitarians, authoritarians in other countries who can say well look, we're eliminating freedom of the press in turkey or other countries. look at what the president of the united states is -- >> i'll take your advice back to him. >> mention it to him. >> i will. >> this puerto rico tweet from
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this morning and it was pretty serious. why? why all of the sudden did he just -- less than three weeks into this horrible situation there, why is he raising this threat now? >> it is a horrible situation. category 5 hurricane, winds up to 200 miles an hour and decimated that island. the trump administration's response has been very quick and we have been very full in the number of people that are on the ground. today there's 13,000 first responders, federal first responders -- >> first responders, the fema, they are amazing and they're working -- >> let me -- >> here's the question though, why is the president all of the sudden -- >> today, today -- >> raising this possibility of pulling him out. >> i don't think that's what he was raising. >> he says you can't do it forever. >> today in the house we passed a $36 billion aid package to help hurricane relief in puerto rico. it's an enormous amount of dollars, i think there's a
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growing push to say, help fix the problems that existed before the hurricane, and that's not fair to the american tax payer. we should help to repair things that were done by natural disaster, but we have to be careful that there is not an extra effort to say, there was a lot of infrastructure problems on the island existed before the hurricane, and we want the american tax payer now to come out and bail out those problems. >> i guess the criticism is he never threatened the people in texas or florida that you know what, fema can't stay there forever, the u.s. military can't stay there forever, but he did threaten the people of puerto rico three and a half million american citizens, a u.s. territory in this fwetweet toda. >> we have 13,000 people on the ground, we just passed $36 billion in aid. i don't view that as a threat. the president is committed to helping make sure we do what is necessary to help rebuild the island, but there are some elements that preexisted the hurricane that is not fair for the american -- >> i understand. totally agree with you. the u.s. is doing a lot for the people of puerto rico right now.
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presumably i mean, all these years after katrina, fema still helping the people in louisiana and new orleans as well. you know, goes on and on and on, the only question is why did he have to say that today? >> if off question about the timing, i don't have a great answer for you in the timing today, wolf been but i think the relate was today in the house there was a $36 billion aid package. >> that goes to florida, texas, and puerto rico. >> it is predominantly puerto rico, wolf. i think there'll be another supplemental package that will address additional issues in florida, texas, and puerto rico next month. there are additional concerns, but today's package is prodominant puerto rico. >> and the people will be grateful for all that assistance. they're grateful for the assistance right now. my only question was the timing. mark, stand by, we have more to discuss. we'll take a quick break. resume our conversation with the white house director of legislative affairs right after this.
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we're back with mark short. mark, in the president's speech last night in harrisburg, pennsylvania, he said that the dramatic increase in the stock market since his election last november and has been very impressive, the stock market rally, but he said something that isn't true. that it has reduced the national debt. just because there's an increase in the stock market, that doesn't mean the $20 trillion national debt is going to be reduced, right? >> i think we're hopeful that the continued growth in the economy will create more revenues that will lower the debt. that's what the president's trying to communicate and we believe that also what's needed
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is tax reform. we believe we can get additional growth in the economy. what's happened so far with the stock market coming up i think largely is a result of regulations that we relieved on the economy. businesses tell that all the time to say it is allowed us to hire -- >> blooming stock market and has been very impressive, will a booming stock market reduce the national debt? >> well, arguably, wolf, booming stock market means that people are continuing to pay more taxes and dividends. so there are additional resources coming in to the treasury. so yes. >> because i take a look at the stock market and not just since the president was elected in november, but going back to when president obama was elected, the dow jones was what, 7,000, going to hit 14,000, now it's -- it's been booming now for the past eight, almost nine years, but unfortunately the national debt has increased throughout that entire period, even though there has been a booming stock market. >> so, our challenge there, wolf, is our country needs to address it's spending habit.
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the booming stock market does help generate more revenue that can help pay down the debt, but we also have to have a national conversation about thousand control spending. because in the last ten years, or the last eight years of the obama administration, the national debt doubled to $20 trillion. all the president's history before obama got to ten, it doubled in one administration. >> but the stock market was booming throughout that doubling of the national debt during the obama administration. let me ask you a question about tax reform which is your big legislative agenda item right now. if the vote were held today, do you have the votes in the house and the senate to pass it? >> that's a question i can't answer today because we are still working and the processer needs to be final legislation. we passed a budget, this will be a budget reconciliation vote again, we passed a budget in the house next week and we need to pass a budgets in the senate to pave the way to have the mark-up process of coming forward and putting that on there. >> both of those, you just need a simple majority, 50 votes in
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the senate, right? you don't need 60 to break a filibuster. >> that's right. >> and some of the conservatives, some of the fiscal conservatives, they worry about this tax reform plan, the tax cuts are going to increase the deficit. there's one study that estimates over the next ten years if your tax cuts go into effect it will increase the national debt by $2.5 trillion. >> we dismiss that study because it's made with assumptions they don't know. they filled in the blanks and it's ridiculous, but the reality is that our administration feels what's most important right now is to get the economy growing again. the last eight years we average 1.8% growth, that is horrific. we have had -- there's been no administration slower since the great depression in generating growth for our economy. so we're looking to have, to spur the economy, tax relief will do that, particularly the middle class and in corporate tax relief. >> mark, thank you for joining us, mark short. your big boss wants to join us,
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he always has an open invitation to come here as well. thanks for joining us. >> thank you. coming up, breaking news on the california wild fires, where the death toll keeps rising and weather conditions are forecast to get worse. also, a u.s. woman, her canadian husband and their three children are freed after five long years of captivity along the pakistan, afghanistan border. why is the husband though now refusing to get on a plane to the united states? "volatile markets." something we all think about as we head into retirement. it's why brighthouse financial is committed to help protect what you've earned and ensure it lasts. introducing shield annuities, a line of products that allow you to take advantage of growth opportunities. while maintaining a level of protection in down markets. so you can head into retirement with confidence. talk with your advisor about shield annuities from brighthouse financial established by metlife.
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breaking news from the white house. the chief of staff john kelly took to the briefing room today insisting he's not stepping down. denying reports that president trump wants to fire him. he chastised for stories about turmoil telling reporters to find better sources. let's discuss this and a lot more political news with all of our experts, specialists, correspondents and zeke emanuel, the president announced some new plans today to deal with the president's affordable care act. he signed a new executive order on making it available, making insurance available over state lines, letting groups get together. what's going to be the impact? >> well first of all, he actually didn't sign an executive order that made that happen. he signed an executive order asking the labor department to change regulations. the idea is a bad idea. because the so-called
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association health plans that work for trade groups or autodealerships and franchises is purely works if it steals off young, healthy people, gives them a better deal, reduces the amount of benefits that they cover and leaves everyone else middleaged people, people with preexisting conditions in the market, they face higher premiums. so a few people benefit, but a lot of people get hurt and it will certainly undermine the exchanges which as i understand it is part of the president's objective. he can no longer say that the exchanges are collapsing on their own. as a matter of fact, they're doing quite well this year and there's no counting next year that's going to not have an exchange. it'll be, if the exchanges become unstable, it'll be donald trump who actually actively encouraged that. >> you think he's trying to make the affordable care act collapse? >> well, he has said that he would like to see the exchanges collapse. i think that's a bad policy.
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it means that millions of people will no longer be able to get insurance. he has been advised by rand paul on this association health plan. ironically when kentucky tried this in the mid1990s it was a disaster. a few young healthy people did get insurance, a lot were left with higher premiums. and these association health plans tend to be less regulated and so, a lot of scam artists come and leave people with unpaid medical bills, there's a long history at sunkist at the indiana construction trust of these kind of scams happening. this is a very bad policy all the way around, and i do think it's driven by we got to do something to show our base that we're undermining obamacare. the real problem with the health care system is affordability, the president's been advised, i've given him many ideas about thousand make it more affordable, he himself wants to control drug prices. why don't we focus on what was really good for the american population instead of just pandering to a base with bad
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policies? >> as you know, repeal and replace fails, what is the president trying to do? >> well, i think zeke is right, there's no question he's trying to show the base that he's doing something, and in this particular case, even though there are statistics and there's evidence that in the past this kind of thing has done some damage, there are also a lot of conservatives out there who think that the way that they can do this now is much better for the marketplace. i mean, the notion of allowing people to buy insurance across state lines particularly small businesses has been something that conservatives have been pushing for years and years and years, and wolf, during the republican primary process, it was actually something maybe the one thing that the president talked about in terms of health care policy, what he wanted to do to replace obamacare. so, you know, whether or not it works, what the consequences are, we will see, but i will tell you that just in terms of the raw politics of this, this
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is what conservatives applaud. >> and another thing, putting aside the policy with dana, it's exactly right about, conservatives applaud rolling back things identified with barack obama. it's not super complicated. donald trump ran in many ways as i will undue what this president has done -- undo what this president has done. immigration on fighting terrorism, north korea, iran, i mean, across the board, what he offered and i think to the extent he's executed on anything, what he's executed against is this idea i was elected as the anti-obama, i'm going to fulfill that because that will help me get reelected and that's making good on the promises i made. >> repeal obamacare -- >> couldn't do it legislatively. >> right. >> how do you see this unfolding -- hold on, i want to let gloria weigh in. >> we have to see thousand unfolds. they couldn't repeal obamacare. they're still going to try and do it to in some way, shape, or form. >> that's not going to happen
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and other legislative effort until the spring of next year. >> so to chris's point, in the interim they feel politically they can't just leave it hanging and dangling, that they have to show their base, their voters that they're trying to do something to undo obamacare. and, you know, zeke says, dooms it. and you know maybe right. and so, but i think that may be part of the al tier your motive. >> you can't overestimate the extent to which the republican identity in the age of obama was built around this idea that obamacare was bad policy, that was a way in which this is how liberals think government should work. government should be involved in everything, government should do this and that. this is the central policy to making a promise like that for eight years and then do nothing. >> zeke, you helped craft obamacare, go ahead. >> so, first of all, remember that the core of obamacare, the
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exchanges and the individual mandate was a republican idea that came out of a heritage foundation. it was hardly democratic idea we had to actually persuade the democrats it was a good way of doing it. it's always ironic that the republicans ran away from it the moment the democrats said all right, let's try your ideas. the second thing i would say is one of the ways i think donald trump could actually do better than obama if he was serious about it is this cost control and drug regulation pricing? and the crazy thing is, he's playing in the space of the exchanges and access which now many people like and are actually doing okay, he's trying to undo that, instead of sovling the affordability problem which everyone in the country agrees is a big problem. he could claim big credit for, it seems like it's bad politics and bad policy. >> all right, everybody stand by. because there's more news coming into the situation room. including the latest on the catastrophic wild fires in
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california's wine country. 27 people are now dead. hundreds are missing. conditions are getting worse. plus, hostages freed. pakistani forces finally liberate a canadian man and his american family from their terrorist captors. why are they though refusing now to return to the united states? fothere's a seriousy boomers virus out there that's been almost forgotten. it's hepatitis c. one in 30 boomers has hep c, yet most don't even know it. because it can hide in your body for years without symptoms, and it's not tested for in routine blood work. the cdc recommends all baby boomers get tested. if you have hep c, it can be cured. for us it's time to get tested. ask your healthcare provider for the simple blood test. it's the only way to know for sure. on a perfect car, then smash it into a tree. your insurance company raises your rates. maybe you should've done more research on them. for drivers with accident forgiveness, liberty mutual won't raise your rates due to
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breaking news out of california where thousands of residents are under a mandatory evacuation orders as deadly a destructive wild fires spread
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across the northern part of the state. cnn's dan simon is joining us from napa valley. dan, give us the very latest where you are and what you're seeing. >> reporter: wolf, we saw quite a bit of active flame today. we are in the hills above the community of calistoga, it is well known for wineries and spas and of course, firefighters are doing whatever they can to keep that community and others safe. across california, more than 8,000 firefighters are working round the clock. to battle blazes raging out of control. more than 190,000 acres have burned. at least 3500 structures destroyed, as 22 wild fires burn across the state, some with little to no containment. >> this is one of the biggest, most serious, it's not over. >> sheriff's office, evacuation advisory. >> reporter: northern california is bearing the brunt of the damage. evacuations have been ordered for several parts of the wine country, including the counties
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of napa and sonoma. mandatory evacuations were ordered for the entire city of calistoga. >> your presence in calistoga is not welcome if you are not a first responder. your choice to stay and there've been very few of them is a distraction to our first responders. if you're trying to visit calistoga, you are not welcome. >> reporter: together the fires span roughly 265 square miles, nearly four times the size of washington, d.c. the city of santa rosa, entire neighborhoods have been reduced to ashes. >> there's no words. it's a nightmare. it's a real live nightmare. >> reporter: the fire swept through so quickly here, residents say they didn't have time to grab even the most basic belongings. >> i didn't grab anything really. you know, like a laptop sitting there. and stuff that's easy to grab, and i just took off. seconds could have made difference between life and death. so there was no waiting. >> reporter: many residents lost
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everything. >> yeah, that part of our life is gone. that's what hurts the most. >> reporter: it's been four days since the fires began, but if i believes warn that conditions could still worsen. low humidity and dry conditions in the area are further complicating the battle to contain the multiple blazes. but the biggest concern, winds. forecasters warn that winds could reach 30 miles per hour on thursday. and could climb even higher on friday. to 60 miles per hour. spreading the flames and making battling the fires even tougher for already fatigued firefighters. and you can see remnants of the fire burning there on the hillside, wolf, the list of those reported missing continues to fluctuate, but right now, that number is 285, hopefully, that number will be paired down as more people report that their loved ones have been found safe, but it is a scary number. officials do expect the death toll to go up. right now that number is 27. wolf.
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>> all right, dan simon, on the scene for us, dan, be careful over there. we'll say in close touch. coming up, a canadian man, his american wife, and their three children, young kids, they're now free after years of captivity by terrorist forces in pakistan, but so far, the family is refusing to return home. we're going to bring you the very latest.
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five long years of captivity have come to a dramatic end for a family of hostages held in pakistan. but their ordeal is not over yet. the husband, a canadian, is refusing to return to the united states with his american wife and children. our pentagon correspondent barbara starr is tracking the story for us. give us the late-breaking developments. >> well, wolf, it is indeed very good news for this hostage family but, very quickly, this is a story that is getting complicated. american citizen caitlan coleman, her canadian husband joshua boyle and three small children born in captivity freed by pakistani forces after being held five years by the haqqani terror network. a proof of live video released last year showed the family in grim circumstances. the rescue happened in the tribal region along the border with afghanistan.
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>> we've been watching for the family. >> reporter: the first hint of the release coming from president trump wednesday night. >> something happened today where a country totally disrespected us called with very, very important news. >> reporter: the mission to get them back began with u.s. intelligence assets tracking the family. the u.s. then alerted pakistan that the hostages were being moved into the country's mountainous northwest tribal region. pakistani intelligence and military units moved on the information, stopping the vehicle and securing a perimeter around it. in a phone calltohis arents, josh said they were in a vehicle when gunfire broke out. caitlan heard the captors say, kill the prisoners. when they were finally retrieved, all five of their captors were dead. josh said he was slightly injured by shrapnel. but after the rescue, josh refused to board a usc-130
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aircraft that was sent to pick them up. an official expressed that josh was concerned he could face arrest. there is no information that that would happen. >> we had arrangements to take them back to the united states or canada, medical treatment along the way. a lot of that would be psychological treatment. >> reporter: boyle had previously been married to the sister of omar qatar, a citizen held at guantanamo bay until he was returned to canada in 2012. >> joshua boyle was married into this canadian family that was fairly notorious for its link to jihadism but there's no information that that has any bearing on the kidnapping itself or the rescue operation. >> and the taliban continue to hold three other western hostages, two americans and an australian. wolf? >> barbara, thanks very much. coming up, more on the breaking news over at the white house. president trump resorting to
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executive order to fight obamacare and taking to twitter to warn puerto ricans that there are limits to federal help. from scandalous romance, to ridiculous plot twists. (gasping) son? dad! we also know you can avoid drama by getting an annual check-up. so we're partnering with cigna to remind you to go see a real doctor. go, know, and take control of your health. it could save your life. doctor poses! dad! cigna. together, all the way.
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happening now, breaking news, not quitting. president trump's chief of staff john kelly says he isn't quitting and is not being fired, at least not now. he denies reports that he was brought in to control the president. hope diplomacy works. the white house says americans should be concerned about north korea's ability to reach the united states with an intercontinental ballistic missile and worries that kim
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jong un's regime for nuclear weapons is reaching critical developments. and the wildfire in california is now the deadly yi deadliest of its kind. more fire is forecasted and flights are being as canceled as far away as san francisco. and giving up? president trump threatens puerto rico with a tweet warning that federal aid can't stay forever and blames the island for its bleak financial situation. his attack prompted a fierce backlash, including from san juan's mayor, who is now being called hater in chief. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."

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