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Storm Ices Over Southeast; Interview With Georgia Governor Nathan Deal; NSA Surveillance Of U.S. Citizens; Hillary Clinton's Teacher Dream; 10s Of Thousands Without Power; Debt Limit Vote Ends Budget Showdowns; Debt Limit Fight; New Clinton Revelation
Aired February 12, 2014 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, a winter storm is hitting the Southeast hard. Roads are iced over, flights are canceled, hundreds of thousands of people have no power.
Also, right now, Senator Rand Paul is suing President Obama and three other top U.S. officials. He says NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens, quote, "crosses the line" and that it's time to let the courts step in.
And right now, newly discovered documents are revealing a lot more about Hillary Clinton, including her thoughts on the news media, on revenge, and on her desire to become a kindergarten teacher.
Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Snow, sleet, crippling ice, it's a triple-weather threat that's hitting the southeast right now. At least five deaths are blamed on this massive storm. So far, power has been knocked out to 10s of thousands of people and many flights are grounded. Georgia has been particularly hard hit. The Georgia governor, Nathan Diehl, will join us live in just a few minutes for an update on what's going on there.
But first, let's get to Chad Myers. He's outside on the streets of Atlanta, keeping a close eye on the powder -- power outages and the flight cancellations. Chad, what's the latest?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, up to a quarter of a million people now without power and that number is growing rapidly. When I first looked at that number, about 6:00 a.m. this morning, it was at 54,000. I thought, wow, maybe we get lucky. But now, up to a quarter million and trees are falling and power lines are coming down. My coat is wet now. A long time ago -- couple hours ago, at least, Wolf, all of this stuff coming down was bouncing off. It was sleet. Now it isn't sleet. Now it's this freezing rain. It's completely covering everything in ice. There is the ice just right on that little branch of that little plant right there. And the trees are getting heavy and the winds are blowing 30 miles per hour. Three thousand flights already cancelled across the country, almost a thousand in Hartsfield, Jackson alone.
I looked at Flight Tracker a little bit ago. I saw maybe three or four flights that were trying to get to Atlanta. I'm not sure they're going to get here or get diverted but they're at least trying. This now is a more dangerous storm than it was a couple of hours ago with all of this being wet and not already frozen on the way down. It freezes when it gets here, because what I'm standing on, the ground, is 30 degrees, Wolf.
BLITZER: And within the next 24 hours, this storm is going to move towards the Northeast, Washington, Philadelphia, New York. What can people expect there?
MYERS: You know, I'm going to go with 10 inches plus or minus two for all of the big cities, less to the east of D.C., like Annapolis, more to the west front royal. And right through the city of D.C., probably somewhere around eight. Same story, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York because the storm is driving itself right up the line of I-95.
Now, there is an issue that, at some point in time for New York City, it may change over to a rain-snow mix that may reduce the amount of snow that you see. The liquid will be the same but it will reduce how fluffy the snow is so that your snow totals in New York may be less. They will certainly be less than that in Boston, because you do mix over with rain-snow mixing in Boston, for sure.
BLITZER: All right, Chad, we'll check back with you shortly. Thank you.
MYERS: You're welcome.
BLITZER: George Howell is also out on the icy roads of Atlanta right now, a city that was paralyzed by a storm earlier this winter. George, what's it like where you are?
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, yes, you know, we've been driving around pretty much all morning through the sleet, through the freezing rain, and really the best example of the effect that can have is right here on the antenna of our SUV. I mean, you look at all the ice that has built up on this antenna over just a few hours and, you know, there is more to come. Again, this is a multiday event and as it builds up on power lines, as it builds up on trees, the concern is that trees will fall, power lines will go down. And, as Chad mentioned, more than 200,000 people without power at this hour here in the metro area.
I want to go ahead and switch over to our camera on the road just to see you -- show you, rather, what the roads look like right now. And, again, you know, people really heeded the warning. People are staying off the roads. They're staying at home. The roads right now -- many of these highways -- this is interstate 20. I-20 was sanded so that's good news. People who are out on the road, basically you have to be sure to drive slowly, be careful. But the roads have been sanded and salted, for the most part. Also, we know that over the next several hours, we'll get more of this as we get more rain, as we get more sleet and snow in the north. It will be a problem for people, especially if they have to get out.
BLITZER: All right, George, thanks very much. George Howell is out on the streets of Atlanta for us. Two weeks ago, two inches of snow packed those same roads with parked and abandoned cars. Today, it looks a whole lot different as you just saw.
Joining us now is the Georgia governor, Nathan Deal. Governor, thanks very much for joining us. I know you're incredibly busy. When we spoke a couple weeks ago, you said the biggest lesson you've learned from the previous mistakes of the last storm was that you need to be -- everyone in Georgia needs to be more proactive. So, has that worked this time around?
GOV. NATHAN DEAL (R), GEORGIA: Absolutely. The public has been very, very cooperative. People are staying at home which is the best thing that they can do. It gives our crews that are treating the roads the opportunity to be out there. It gives all of the other emergency management people the opportunity to restore power when they go -- when power goes down. And to remove trees and debris from the roadways as well as from the other passages in our state along the streets themselves.
BLITZER: Schools were a big problem the last time. And you and I spoke a couple weeks ago. You said you had no control over the schools' decision whether to stay open or shut down. I think it's -- as a proactive matter, everyone has basically shut the schools today and tomorrow, right?
DEAL: That's correct, they have. And that keeps the school buses and the children from being out on the roadways. That was the appropriate decision on their part. And we've just had great cooperation from every level of government in this emergency. We have a huge part of our state that is under a declaration, some 91 counties now, that extends well down into south Georgia. So, everybody at the local level is working to make sure they're using their resources appropriately. The public is cooperating by staying off the roads. And we are just going to make the best of it, and we're going to come through it.
BLITZER: We just heard Chad tell us, what, more than 100,000 people in Georgia already are without power and more could be without power and that could last for several days. What do you do in a situation like this, especially elderly people who don't have electricity?
DEAL: Well, first of all, we have our crews ready to evacuate individuals, if necessary. We have some 280,000 beds that are available all across - our state parks are available, some 11 state parks have opened up. We have our National Guard armories. They have cots available. The federal government has made available to us supplies, if necessary, to be distributed. We are all working cooperatively with state agencies, working with our federal partners who are on standby and are ready to help if we call them.
BLITZER: Have you decided to call on FEMA, federal authorities, the National Guard? Are they already involved or are they simply on standby right now?
DEAL: No, the National Guard has been involved. They are already out there with their four wheel drive vehicles, their Humvees. They've been engaged have the very beginning. FEMA has also engaged, since the president has also acknowledged and declared a federal emergency for almost all of the counties that we have put under the state emergency warning. There are federal resources on standby for food and supplies if and when we need to call on those. But we don't have anybody in any of our shelters right now. And that's a good thing. But the shelters are available, and we will have transport available in the event people can't get there on their own.
BLITZER: As we wrap it up, governor, because I know you've got to get back to work, give some advice to Georgia residents right now. What's the most important thing they need to be aware of that they need to do?
DEAL: Well, it's to continue to do what they've done over the last day or so and that is to stay off the roads unless it's absolutely necessary. They have stocked up on supplies from what we can determine. And also, for them to stay out of the way in the event there are falling power lines. Allow the electricity companies to do their job. They will restore power as quickly as possible. But it's important that if you see a power line on the ground, you must assume that it is live and that it's dangerous and just stay away from it.
BLITZER: I take it flights, by and large, they really have been disrupted out of Atlanta Hartsfield, right?
DEAL: Well, we have a ban that's really coming from the metro area, extending easterly toward Augusta, Georgia and that is where the most ice and snow appears to be headed. And we have alerted our facilities all across that part of our state, and we are shifting resources to the areas where the ice seems to be getting the worst.
BLITZER: Do they have enough icing equipment out there, as far as you know? De-icing equipment?
DEAL: We think -- we think we are in pretty good shape. We have brought many tons of additional sand and salt into the state over the last couple of days and some of our neighboring states have been very cooperative in assisting us in that undertaking. We think we will have enough, and we are making that available as we have it available to local jurisdictions that call on us for assistance there.
BLITZER: Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia, good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks in Georgia, indeed throughout the south right now. These are potentially very perilous times. Thanks very much for joining us.
DEAL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the weather situation in the south, and that bad weather moving towards the Northeast, including Washington, D.C. where I am. And much more coming up on this story.
Also, other stories we're following. Did Hillary Clinton actually want to save White House documents, quote, "for revenge"? We're going to have the latest insights on the trove of documents left behind by a Clinton confidant, including whether the first lady also considered teaching kindergarten. And up next, Boehner versus the GOP. The House speaker threw in the towel on the debt ceiling when he couldn't get Republicans in line. We're going to speak with Gloria Borger. She's standing by live to talk about Boehner's party problems. What's going on inside the GOP right now?
BLITZER: The Senate will vote today on raising country's authority to borrow money and pay its bills. The House approved a debt limit increase yesterday with no strings attached. The vote came after the House speaker, John Boehner, threw in the towel on efforts to attach other items to the bill. Just 28 Republicans joined 193 Democrats in approving the so-called clean debt limit increase. Boehner was unable to get all of his colleagues on the same page, although many Republicans want to avoid the kind of political brinksmanship that led to the government shutdown last fall.
The debt ceiling vote is just the latest example of the House speaker getting stymied by conservatives in his own party. But Boehner tried to shift blame away from his Republican colleagues to President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: He won't negotiate. He won't deal with our long-term spending problems without us raising taxes. He won't even sit down and discuss these issues. He's the one driving up the debt. And, you know, the question they're asking is, why should I deal with his debt limit? And so the fact is, we'll let the Democrats put the votes up and we'll put a minimum number of votes up to get it passed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst, to discuss what's going on.
What, 28 Republicans voted to increase the debt --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Not an overwhelming number, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. One of them was John Boehner, though.
BORGER: Of course. Yes.
BLITZER: He was among those 28 who voted in favor of raising the nation's debt ceiling without any conditions attached. Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip in the House, he called that pathetic. So, how serious is this fight amongst the Republicans and the conservatives right now?
BORGER: Look, I think it's an ongoing problem that John Boehner has had with the hell-no caucus, as I call it, in the Republican Party. And I think he was looking for a way to attach some kind of spending cuts on this as a -- because that's what he had promised. He said, we shouldn't raise the debt unless we get some kind of spending concessions. He's right in saying the White House was not willing to compromise, but what he didn't say in that clip you showed is that Republicans couldn't agree on how many concessions they would ask for. He knew what was doable and what was not doable and he called their bluff because he knew the damage that the shutdown did to the Republican Party and he didn't want to go through it again on raising the debt limit.
So he finally threw up his hands and said, OK, done. We're just going to get it through. And some Republicans, I might add, agreed with him because they knew, in the end, they were going to have to vote to raise the debt limit, so why not get it over with quickly in the House rather than have a protracted fight.
BLITZER: Exactly (ph).
BORGER: But now you have this question about what's going to go on in the Senate.
BLITZER: And a lot of those Republicans didn't want this issue right now. They think health care is a better issue, the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare.
BORGER: Yes. They want to focus on Obamacare. Exactly. Exactly.
BLITZER: They think that's a more powerful issue to get Republicans elected come November.
BORGER: Sure. Yes.
BLITZER: Now, if passed, a narrow majority in the House of Representatives. Now it's in the Senate. Clearly it could get 51 votes in the Senate. But Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas, he wants the filibuster, so you need 60 -- 55 Democrats.
BLITZER: You need at least five Republicans to break that filibuster.
BORGER: Yes. And I think Republicans are struggling to get to yes on this, to be able to get those five votes. There are some moderates who are up for re-election, like Susan Collins, for example, who could provide a vote, but probably isn't happy about it. If you ask Republicans in theory whether they would have liked to get some spending concessions on this, of course the answer is yes. But they also want the government to be able to pay its bills, right? So this is -- you know, Ted Cruz has made this very difficult for members inside his own Republican caucus yet again. Remember, they had some spats in the Senate over the government shutdown. They did not want -- Republicans did not want to see a filibuster, but they have to deal with this again with Ted Cruz. And, you know, privately, a lot of them are not -- are not really happy about it.
BLITZER: And those senators, they want to get out of Washington, D.C. today before the snow starts --
BORGER: It's going to snow. Have you heard that? Yes, it's going to snow.
BLITZER: Yes, they want to get on those planes before all those flights start getting cancelled. So they've got a couple of hours now to make up their mind how they're going to --
BORGER: Yes, we'll see what they do.
BLITZER: We'll be watching it very closely.
BORGER: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Gloria, thank you.
A deadly snowstorm, that is bearing down on the south right now. And the northeast is getting ready to get hit next. We're going live to a city that's in the bulls-eye right now.
Plus, more insight into Hillary Clinton's time in the White House. We've gone through some newly discovered documents that shed light on her thoughts about the news media and a career after politics.
BLITZER: All right. So there's more disturbing breaking news coming in about the weather. More than 250,000 customers -- 250,000 customers, a quarter million customers, are without power throughout the southeast right now. That's as of this hour. Especially hard hit in Georgia and South Carolina. We're going to have much more on this crippling storm in just a few minutes. Chad Myers is standing by. Don't go too far away. And it's heading toward us in the northeast, as well.
Other news that we're following. We're gaining even more insight into Hillary Clinton and her time in the White House from papers compiled by a long-time confidant. The latest documents portray a first lady concerned about preserving her husband's legacy, but also considering ways to exact revenge on their enemies. CNN has been going through the notes, the papers, the diary entries of Diane Blair. She's a former political science professor, a Clinton friend, who dies back in 2000. Documents have been made available now and our national political reporter, Peter Hamby, is here.
You and a team, you've been going through a lot of these document right now. The first issue, revenge. What is that all about?
PETER HAMBY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, we have -- we actually had two producers go down to Fayetteville, to the University of Arkansas, to go through these boxes and boxes and boxes of notes and files that Diane Blair left. And it's really intriguing. There's not a lot of hard news in here, but it's a really intimate glimpse into her thinking during the Clinton White House years.
One thing jumped out at us. In 1994, in June 1994, Hillary Clinton told Diane Blair at the height of the health care battles, I want to record what's going on here for posterity. And Diane Blair said why. And this is what Clinton said -- this is filtered through Diane Blair, of course, "when I first asked what for, she said, quote, revenge. Later telling our side, later after more talks, just brain dumps, just to get it down, while still fresh."
That notion of revenge will certainly strike a lot of Clinton's enemies as, you know, an ah-ha moment. This is her vindictive side in the White House.
But you covered the Clinton White House. You know that period, it was, you know, full of paranoia and leaks and a lot of media hatred coming from inside the Clinton White House. But that was just one of the most interesting things that's jumped out to us so far, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. And I know that she also, according to these papers that have recently been discovered and people have been going through, she wanted to preserve a record, detailed record, of her husband's administration, eight years as president of the United States. But she was also concerned about keeping too many documents because of potential subpoenas out there.
HAMBY: Yes, that's right. She, you know, if you read through these notes, you really see her concern and anxiety about perceived enemies, the media. She was afraid of subpoenas, as you mentioned, and just really wanted to get down her side of the story just to protect herself in the long run. Again, this was in 1994, 1995. You know, really a low point for the Clinton White House. So we're kind of getting a glimpse into what she was thinking at that specific moment. Of course, as you go later in the documents, into 1997, 1998, we get into the Lewinsky scandal, but you also start to see some of the brighter sides of the Clinton White House too.
BLITZER: Yes, I remember those days covering the White House. A lot of those officials, they didn't want to write anything down because of Whitewater investigations, Lewinsky --
HAMBY: Gates (ph). Lots of gates.
BLITZER: Yes, there was a lot of stuff going on.
Now, we know she was the first lady of Arkansas, but at the same time she was a high-powered lawyer in Little Rock at the Rose Law Firm. She went on to become first lady of the United States, a United States senator from New York, secretary of state. So what's all this information about that she really wanted to be a kindergarten teacher?
HAMBY: That's right. That was really intriguing. In the same period, in June 1994, again, really a low point, she told Diane Blair, when this is all over, I want to go be a kindergarten teacher. You know, she's, you know, had a long-time commitment to women and girls. That's pretty interesting. But as you mentioned, she went on to, you know, a really illustrious career. It would be hard to imagine her just going back to wherever she wanted to and just quietly teaching kindergarten.
BLITZER: Yes, it's been a very important issue for her throughout her career. In fact, I think tomorrow she and Chelsea --
HAMBY: She is.
BLITZER: They're doing a whole event on women and girls in New York as part of the Clinton Foundation. All right, Peter, thanks very much.
HAMBY: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Keep going through those documents.
HAMBY: You got it.
BLITZER: I'm fascinated and I think our viewers are, as well.
HAMBY: I think so, as well.
BLITZER: Coming up a little bit later, President Obama sued over NSA surveillance. We're going to tell you who is leading the case against the president of the United States.
But up next, the southeast now covered with a dangerous blanket of snow and ice. Tens of thousands have no power. A quarter of a million people, we just told you, in Georgia, South Carolina, elsewhere, no electricity. We're going to give you the latest when we come back.