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Obama Expresses Outrage Over Flint Water Crisis; Do Early Polls Predict the Presidential Nominees? Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 21, 2016 - 06:30   ET



[06:33:01] MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: A one-two punch unfolding in Michigan this morning. New e-mails reveal missteps in the months leading up to the water crisis in Flint.

Meanwhile, teachers in Detroit threatening another mass sickout to protest conditions there. All of this not escaping the attention of the president who stressed into the problems during his visit to Detroit.

Jean Casarez is live there in Detroit for us with more -- Jean.


You may remember, it was last week that the president of this country actually declared emergency in the state of Michigan because of the Flint water crisis. So, everyone was expecting his visit. He first went to the auto show. And then went to speak to autoworkers at the General Motors Center. He started out, though, by talking about Flint.

Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself that my kids' health could be at risk.


CASAREZ: He then went on to say that you just cannot short-change essentials in local government because you are harming the safety of the people.

Now, while the president was right here in Detroit, in Lansing, the legislature voted unanimously for emergency funding for the Flint water crisis, $28 million. The critics are saying that is not nearly enough money needed for this. Others saying well, is this a start. We had to do something and we had to start the process along.

Now, the governor yesterday, true to his word because in the state of the state saying he would release all of his e-mails. He did yesterday. We want to show you one from September 2015 released. It's an e-mail to Governor Rick Snyder and it says, "I can't figure out why the state is responsible except that then treasurer Andy Dillon did make the ultimate decision to switch water sources, so we're not able to avoid the subject."

[06:35:05] And then, one month later is when the governor made the decision to switch back over to Detroit water.

Now, here's another e-mail from January 2014. You notice, it is completely redacted. And it's actually the first e-mail that was released, but there was also a note from the governor's office that this also involved a case and there is attorney-client privileged information. And that is why they had to redact that part of the e- mail, Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Thank you so much for that, Jean.

We should also point out, meanwhile, Detroit schools are open. We'll have more on that coming up.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. A lot of polls. A lot of talk about polls leading to the first 2016 votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. But how much do the early polls really tell us about the eventual party nominee.

You all are asking us this question all the time. We're going to take you through what is predictive about polls in the bigger picture -- next.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Why don't you feel that the polls are a good reflection of what's going to happen in the caucus?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because they're so unpredictable. And it's got increasingly difficult to poll. I think you would have to add a degree of difficulty to polling for a caucus.


CAMEROTA: All right. Less than two weeks until the Iowa caucus on February 1st. Right now, polls in Iowa have Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton narrowly winning over their rivals. But how good are these polls at actually predicting the nominee?

Mark Preston is the CNN politics executive editor and he joins us to breaks everything down.

Mark, great to see you.

Before we get to the numbers, is Hillary Clinton right that it has gotten increasingly tough to do polling?

[06:40:02] MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, what I want to say is, let's take out the word "increasingly".

It's always difficult to do polling no doubt in a state like Iowa which is not a primary. It's basically trying to get your supporters out to an event for three hours at night, on a night that is very, very cold.

So, she's absolutely right about that. Increasingly, maybe because of cell phones and the fact that we're moving away from land line phones. Hillary Clinton and her campaign, Alisyn, have been very adamant about pushing back on the polls because they're not showing good news for her. If they were showing good news for her, I'm sure she'd be saying good things about it.

CAMEROTA: OK. Mark, let's look at where polls have led us astray. Let's call out a CNN poll right at the top, because in 2012, this was two weeks before the Iowa caucus, OK? They have Mitt Romney winning at 25 percent, and Ron Paul at 22 percent.

Who actually won this Iowa caucus, Mark?

PRESTON: Right. So, if you remember, we go back to that crazy caucus night back in 2012 where Mitt Romney was named as the winner. However, several days later, after all the voters were tabulated, Rick Santorum came on top. But what the poll didn't show is the momentum Santorum had.

Now, let's take a look at these numbers right here. This is from the CNN entrance poll of the voters heading into the polls that night. This will tell you why Rick Santorum won.

Amazing that, as far as voters, when they finally made their decision, it was 46 percent. Look at those numbers -- 18 percent of voters, two in 10 basically on of the caucus made their decision. But when you look at the last few days, it was almost half of caucus who made their decision on who to vote.

CAMEROTA: Yes. OK, so there you go, Mark. I mean, the point is two weeks out. We think, well, it's only two weeks away. People are not making their decision until really three days beforehand. And some people are making it as they walk into the caucus.

PRESTON: Right, yes. But, look, polls are a snapshot in time. And right now, the state of the current rate shows what it shows. Are the polls going to be off? Yes, it will be off a little bit. Are there a lot of polls out there? Yes, there are.

And you have to be careful at what polls you look at. That's why you will see campaigns, it's not just news media that are polling. Every campaign has a pollster and the reason why is they want to see where the trend line is going.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I'm not saying polls are useless. I think they're fascinating to look at as a snapshot. But they're not necessarily predictive.

Let me show you another example. Here's 2008, another CNN/WMUR poll, this is New Hampshire this one. And this one showed that Barack Obama would win New Hampshire. That's not what happened, Mark.

PRESTON: That's not what happened. And it wasn't even CNN at that point. Almost every pollster at that point had Barack Obama coming out of the Iowa caucus going into New Hampshire. We had him with a nine-point lead. Some people had a little bit more.

The reason being: let's look at the CNN exit poll from that primary. You'll find out when voters made their decision. Take a look, in the last three days, you had 38 percent decided who they were going to vote for. But if you said the last week after the Iowa caucus, again, you had half voters in New Hampshire, that's when they made their decision in the Democratic primary.

I will tell you, Alisyn, I was up in New Hampshire last week. And New Hampshire voters are very fickle as Iowa voters. Unlike other states, these are voters who get to see these candidates. Who get to talk to these candidates, touch these candidates not once, not twice, but sometimes as much as five to six times over an election cycle.

CAMEROTA: Mark, in our last 20 seconds, I just want to show the poll from today, OK, but this is New Hampshire. This is likely Republican voters, New Hampshire, Trump has 34 percent to his closest rival Ted Cruz, 14 percent.

Is there any a poll could get us that wrong? In other words, he has such a big lead, wouldn't it be a shock if anyone other than Trump would win this in New Hampshire?

PRESTON: Let me answer this two ways, those numbers based on conversations I had with folks in New Hampshire including all of his rivals saying that it's Donald Trump to lose New Hampshire. We'll have to see what happens in Iowa. See if Ted Cruz eclipses him in Iowa and is able to gain some steam heading into New Hampshire and will that help the other candidates?

However, with Donald Trump, the big question is he has the support in the sense people like his message. However, does he have the organization? We'll see that in a few weeks.

CAMEROTA: There you. Mark, it's fun to look back and get your take on this. Great to see you.

PRESTON: Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Let's go over to Chris.

CUOMO: Once again, almost 50 percent of people still undecided in New Hampshire. So it's anybody's race.

All right. What we know also, it is a scary possibility going on right now for the rest you is this epic winter storm watch going on in the D.C. area, already socked by snow and ice. It wasn't even that much.

We have the latest forecast on what could be an historic snowmaker ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:48:32] PEREIRA: There it is. A snowstorm of potentially historic proportions is heading to the East Coast. Some 76 million people under blizzard and winter storm watches and warnings. Up to three feet of snow could fall in the Washington area, New York, Philadelphia, and perhaps Boston could see heavy snow. The D.C. area already getting a taste of winter. Icy roads causing a nightmare. More than 160 car accidents were reported.

CUOMO: FBI investigators revealing they believe former agent Robert Levinson who was not involved in a prisoner swap with Iran is still there if he is still alive. However White House department officials believe Levinson is no longer in Iran but in southwest Asia, possibly Pakistan. U.S. agencies do agree that there's a possibility Levinson may have died years ago in captivity.



CAMEROTA: I didn't realize I had some music to my story.

CUOMO: Wait for the graphic.

CAMEROTA: I will for that thing.

Could a simple blood test determine whether you need antibiotics? In today's "NEW DAY, New You", researchers at Duke University developing a blood test that can distinguish between a respiratory infection that is bacterial and one that is viral. And that way, doctors can tell almost immediately whether to prescribe antibiotics for a patient.

Another benefit would be cutting down on the overuse of antibiotics, which has led to the rise of antibiotics resistant superbugs.

CUOMO: I like it. As politicians play the blame game over the Flint water crisis, thousands of kids have been exposed to lead.

[06:50:04] What needs to be done? We're going to speak to the first official to sound the alarm on the crisis.


CUOMO: The governor of Michigan making good on his promise to release e-mails linked to the water crisis that is plaguing Flint. This, a day after he apologized to the city's residents.

Now, it is believes that more than 8,000 children were exposed to lead from the toxic tap situation.

Let us talk to someone who actually was ahead of the curve in sounding the alarm. She is Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. She's the director of pediatrics at Hurley Medical Center, and the first to sound the alarm on the rising lead levels in Flint's children.

Dr. Mona, thank you for joining us. Thank you for coming forward.

Tell us what were you seeing and when were you seeing it?

DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA, HURLEY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, in late August, we were hearing there was lead in the water.

[06:55:01] And that's when we started the research to see if the lead in the water was getting into the bodies of children. And what we found was alarming but not surprising considering what was going on in the water without corrosion control.

So, we saw in comparison to every national and city trend our lead levels were rising. In the city of Flint, the lead poisoning doubled and in some neighborhoods it actually tripled. And it was directly correlated with where the water lead levels were the highest.

CUOMO: How sure are you of that, and this isn't a by-product of many risks especially that are inherent in life in a lot of lower socioeconomic conditions?

HANNA-ATTISHA: Yes. So, nothing else was going on in the city. We looked at that. There is no demolition project. No new lead plants, or -- nothing else was happening and out lead levels had been going down in the city four years.

And this was a huge jump. And it was directly correlated with where the water lead levels were the highest. That was the only thing that happened.

CUOMO: Is there any chance, in what you saw in your research, that it was just a pocket of the community? It wasn't that widespread? That this wasn't something that is being described as a pandemic?

HANNA-ATTISHA: No, the entire city was exposed. Every neighborhood had high water lead levels. And every neighborhood had children with high blood lead levels.

In our research and the state's data really underestimates the exposure, because the half life of lead is short. It only lasts in your body, about half of it goes away in about 20 to 30 days.

When we were screening children at the ages of 1 and 3, that's when they're at risk for household lead exposure like lead paint and soil. But lead in water attacks a vulnerable age group. It's fetuses and babies on formula. So they could have had a peak level at 4 months or 5 months and when we screened them at one or two, that level was no longer elevated.

So, this grossly underestimates this population-wide exposure.

CUOMO: And help us understand just because the lead level dissipates quickly, as you just said, that doesn't mean that the impact does the same. Explain.

HANNA-ATTISHA: Right. So, once it is in your blood, it causes that neurotoxicity. So, even if your level has come down, it doesn't mean you weren't impacted.

CUOMO: So, there is a lawmaker, and by the way, he's not alone, who is saying this is way overblown boy, this is a media making it into like this, some kind of like total epidemic going on, yes, the water is not great but it's not making all of these horrible things, it's not widespread, greatly exaggerated.

You can refute that not just with personal opinion but with data?

HANNA-ATTISHA: Yes, I reached out to him. I am more than happy to share the scientific numbers with him. Share what was go on in the water. General Motors stopped using this water in October because it was corroding their engine parts in October. Imagine what it did to our aging plumbing. So, this --

CUOMO: What happened when you told people, Dr. Mona? When you said, hey, look, what we're finding, what did you hear back and from whom?

HANNA-ATTISHA: Right. So, when we shared with our colleagues in the greater Flint community, it was embraced. And we kind of called to arms that things be changed, because you don't mess around with lead. Lead is a driven potent neurotoxin. You don't miss around with it.

But when we shared it with the state, we were told it was wrong and that it was not consistent with our data.

CUOMO: When was that? When did they say you're wrong?

HANNA-ATTISHA: Yes, September 24th, we released our data at a press conference. You don't usually release data in a press conference. It's supposed to be in published journals, which it is now. But we have an ethnical, moral professional obligation to alert our community about these risks. So, September --

CUOMO: Imagine if you hadn't.

HANNA-ATTISHA: Yes, go ahead.

CUOMO: Imagine if you hadn't. Dr. Mona, thank you for coming on the show. We're going to stay on the story, because the pressure is what will make the actions to make it better. And I want you to check on with you to see if you're seeing an improvement or diminishment in the numbers on your side, especially with the kids.

Dr. Mona, thank you.

HANNA-ATTISHA: Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: What's going on in Flint, big headline, big political news as well, there's a storm coming.

There's a lot for you. Let's get to it.


CUOMO: Record snowfall will be measured by feet. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gridlock nightmare in the D.C. metro area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighteen hundred tons of salt ready to roll out first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not our first time with this.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here we got a redhead from the big red apple. Running for president.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And it got really tough to Clinton about her e-mails to say how would you have been so stupid to have done such a thing.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know what it's like to be knocked down but not knocked out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: E-mails showing that they did have concerns about water infrastructure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are experiencing hair loss, weight loss, loss of appetite.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would be besides myself if my kid's health could be at risk.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Alisyn Camerota, and Michaela Pereira.