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1 Dead, 8 Arrested in Oregon Standoff; Trump Boycotting FOX News Republican Debate; Rick Snyder Addresses Toxic Water to Flint Residents, Media; Sanders Meets with Obama as Clinton Poll Numbers Slide. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 27, 2016 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:06] PAMELA BROWN, CNN GUEST HOST: New this morning, from Oregon, one person is dead and eight others are in jail after dramatic shootout between members of an Oregon protest group and the FBI and state police. It all started after Ammon Bundy and several others were pulled over by law enforcement officials. They have been occupying a national wildlife refuge in the area for more than three weeks now, protesting what they call government overreach on federal lands.

Sara Sidner is live in Oregon -- Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The FBI has cordoned off the area here around the wildlife refuge and that's because of those who have taken over the refuge headquarters here. Many say they are not going to leave until the federal government gives back the land to ranchers and farmers who used to work this land. The federal government not complying with their requests. They have now made eight arrests in a dramatic scene outside of the refuge when some of the men and women decided to leave the refuge and go into town. They were arrested in their cars, but one ended up shot and killed and that was LaVoy Finicun. He has 11 children. He has been out here front and center with Ammon Bundy and his brother, Ryan Bundy, supporting the cause. They say it's a constitutional issue and the government should be giving back the land to these ranchers so that they can work these lands.

At this point in time, the federal government is making a large cordoned around this area and warning us that we are in between two heavily armed groups, them and those that are here at this refuge.

Sara Sidner, CNN, just outside Burns, Oregon.

BROWN: Sara, thank you so much for that.

Coming up on this Wednesday, the unprecedented snub that is sending shock waves through the media and political stratosphere. Donald Trump boycotting tomorrow's GOP debate on FOX. But will this help or hurt him ahead of the Iowa caucuses?

Plus, breaking right now, the embattled Michigan governor facing the press amid a toxic water crisis that has sickened children and sparked for new calls for his resignation. Hear what he just revealed right after this quick break.


[11:36:28] BROWN: It's the snub that is shaking up presidential politics. Donald Trump boycotting tomorrow night's FOX News Republican debate after saying that the network won't treat him fairly. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I came here to do the debate. When they sent out the wise-guy press releases a little while ago done by some P.R. person along with Roger Ailes, I said, bye-bye.


BROWN: The war of words escalating with FOX News saying it will not tolerate threats and terrorizations but that Trump will be treated fairly should he decide to participate.

CNN's M.J. Lee is live and Dana Bash joins us from Washington.

Dana, first to you, because you have moderated these debates before. Does Trump's rocky relationship with the media sort of play into his hands here?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think ultimately, yes, that's no question. That's true for any Republican generally but it is magnified big time for Donald Trump because he knows how to play the media.

What is different is that it is FOX and, generally speaking, Republicans, if they take on FOX News, which obviously tilts to the right and speaks generally to their constituents, then they can get in trouble. Mike McCaul, the chairman of the homeland security committee, he's a serious guy in Congress. He said this morning that if he dared to take on Megyn Kelly, he would get tarred and feathered. I mean, he would be toast in his district. That kind of tells you what is going on here. To your point about the fact that we, CNN, have done many debates, I have participated in three of them, our motto has been that those of us who are asking the questions are not the story at all. And the Trump campaign and Trump himself, I've talked to some people there this morning, they are kind of trying to take that concept and run with it. They say that Megyn Kelly made herself the story. But to be fair to her, it was a two-way street.

BROWN: Well, and after that, she has really kind of stayed under the radar.

BASH: She certainly has.

BROWN: As Erik Wemple pointed out, this feud has been driven by Donald Trump. But you hit on my next point, Dana. When a news organization, moderating what is supposed to be an unbiased debate, questioning a candidate's ability to be president, can you blame the candidate for battling back?

BASH: No. And, again, when I was talking to a Trump source just before coming on with you, that's exactly what they claim happened, that he was on his plane heading to Iowa, as he just mentioned generally in that sound bite there, and he saw this statement that they put out mocking him. And doing it officially from the news division, the news network of FOX. And so when he saw that, he said, wait a minute, I can't go there. So, no, you can't blame him. Having said that, guarantee that any other candidate, when it comes to never mind just the media but when it comes to FOX, they would have just figured out how to take it and maybe make an issue out of it but they would have shown up. Trump is in a class and in a category of his own when it comes to this.

BROWN: Absolutely. It's still debatable whether he will change his mind or not because he's known to do that from time to time.

M.J., to you.

You did an incredible report. You and CNN spoke with 150 voters at Trump rallies in 31 states. Just from what you learned talking to Trump supporters, do you think this latest move will only galvanize those supporters?

[11:40:17] M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, look, I was at a Donald Trump campaign rally just last night in Iowa city and just hours after Trump announced that he was going to boycott this FOX News debate, I went around the room and asked his supporters, what do you think of the fact that he's just not going to show up to this debate? Several people that I spoke to sort of laughed and shrugged their shoulders and said, look, this is what Donald Trump does and this is a part of what we really love about him. He doesn't behave like a typical politician. And like Dana said, he's sort of in a class of his own on numerous different things, including, apparently, whether or not to participate in a debate with his other rivals. In this reporting that we did, where, as you mentioned, myself and other colleagues spoke to, many other Trump supporters and people who have shown up to his rallies over the next six months or so, a lot of people pointed out that they are very interested in the fact that he doesn't care about being politically correct and they also raise issues about just his tone when it comes to issues like terrorism, fighting is, that they are really taken by that and reassured by the sort of strength that he exudes on these issues.

I want to play a sampling of some of what these voters told us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm afraid to say what I really feel, you know, because it's not politically correct. But sometimes you've got to stand up and say, hey, this is wrong. I think this country better go back to some of those values, some of the values that my parents grew up with. My grandparents grew up with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe if we would fix the immigration problem, let people come in legally, the wage as a whole would go up. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put them on a list. If you're a law-abiding

Muslim, why do you care? As someone said, 999 of them could be good people. It only takes one terrorist to blow this whole place up.


LEE: So, look, this goes to show that this isn't just about the fact that Trump is, you know, not politically correct, that he's a little rough around the edges. It's also on important issues like terrorism, like fighting is, on these issues where people feel a lot of anxiety and concern and worry. They really do look to Trump as a person who can turn things around for this country in a meaningful way.

BROWN: Dana, you have some thoughts on this, right?

BASH: Well, I just wanted to say that we look at and report on polls a lot and trying to figure out exactly how Donald Trump is getting his support. But that's a little bit antiseptic.

I just have to put a plug in on what our colleagues have done over the past months on the way that they have really engaged in genuine shoe- leather reporting to talk to so many voters. It's so valuable and I encourage everybody to really read and watch what we have online and as we have throughout the day because it gives an insight into this phenomenon that is Donald Trump.

BROWN: It really is. It's like a movement that M.J. and others have hit on.

This piece is on I encourage everyone to read it.

Thank you so much, M.J. and Dana. I really appreciate that interesting discussion.


BROWN: And we have a quick programming note for you. Coming up at 1:00 eastern time, Dr. Ben Carson will join Wolf Blitzer to react to Trump's FOX snub and more of that is at 1:00 eastern time right here only on CNN.

Well, he has only had a private meeting with the commander-in-chief once before. Bernie Sanders has just arrived at the White House for another one-on-one with President Obama. Will the meeting help Sanders in the run up to Iowa?

And the governor of Michigan holding a news conference right now addressing the tainted water and lead poisoning from the Flint River. We have details on the new water testing being announced. We'll be back.


[11:48:20] BROWN: Breaking news, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is facing the people of his state and tough questions from the media as he addresses the latest on the toxic water crisis facing the city of Flint.

Joining me now, CNN's Jean Casarez; and CNN legal analyst Paul Callan.

Jean, you were watching. Did the governor say anything of note in terms of action about what to do about this because there are still big issues going on in Flint?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Several things. He's putting together a 17-member committee with state and local experts, field experts, medical experts to really look at and then make recommendations of everything from the infrastructure to what is happening in the people's homes. But a note, I just heard, they are adding phosphate to the water to try to have the protective barrier in place. Remember, the anti-corrosive chemicals were not put in the water as much as the pipes leaking the lead, leaching, as they call it, into the water. So phosphate they are trying to use. But I haven't heard anything in this press conference about replacing the pipes.

BROWN: That was my next question. That would be the solution, one would think, just replace the pipes.

In fact, just this morning, the National Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit asking the judge to require the state of Michigan, Paul, to replace all of those pipes. Do you think they have a case here?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think they may very well have a case because cities are subdivisions of the state and I think that's why the focus always comes back to the governor of Michigan. Remember, the state had appointed an interim city manager in Flint when all of this was going on. And, of course, local authorities are saying, well, we didn't have any authority. That was a state responsibility. I think it is appropriate for the state to replace replacement of the pipes and to do whatever is necessary to assure a safe water supply for Flint.

[11:50:09] BROWN: Jean, why haven't they? What's their reason for not having done it yet?

CASAREZ: I think they're trying to take it in steps, and there's a lot of controversy because where is the money for that also? That's a lot of money for pipes. I think, first off, they are testing the children first of all for lead exposure. You can go to your local doctor. Can you go to the health department? Your child -- can you see what the lead level is. Five different stations for National Guard passing out water. You can get also water filters, testing kits, all resources to try to do your part. At the same time, the EPA is launching independent water testing at homes, sent to an independent laboratory to see exactly, at this point, what the lead level is for the water.

BROWN: That's a big question. We've seen heartbreaking images of kids being tested for lead exposure. Jean, do we know how many have been impacted by this, how many people, not just kids. CASAREZ: I don't think we have total numbers. But Flint is a fairly large city. I was there last week and people are concerned. People also really wanted to bring to my attention that they want their city portrayed in a positive light. They have University of Michigan, an outlet of the University of Michigan, along with many other professionals that live and work in that community every day.

BROWN: The irony here is the reason the water supply was switched in the first place was to save some money. Now, Paul, there are civil suits, class-action law suits for damages for a lot of money. Who, first of all, would be paying for this? And what do you think is going to happen?

CALLAN: Well, my suspicion is that the state of Michigan will be picking up the tab for it. I was watching an older interview with the governor of Michigan who was blaming state bureaucrats, civil service bureaucrats for not advising him and not advising local authorities. Now, if that's the case, responsibility goes back to the state and they're going to have to pick up the tab.


BROWN: However, you said the state set up a system where they have these emergency managers who were supposed to be able to oversee it?

CASAREZ: Remember last week when I was in Detroit, and I spoke with you about the huge debt Detroit public schools systems has. They say they can't pay it. They want the state to pay it. Now with this, you know, how exactly lot state accomplish that?

BROWN: Everybody is trying to pass the buck here, it seems.

CASAREZ: Everybody had a financial crisis. How did that happen?

BROWN: Here we are now with all of these poor families who are impacted by this. And they are still getting water bills, if you can believe it.

Jean Casarez, Paul Callan, thank you very much. Great discussion.

Right now, as we speak, a private meeting in the Oval Office. Bernie Sanders, one-on-one with President Obama, with just days to go before the Iowa caucus and a shrinking lead from Hillary Clinton. How important could this meeting be in Sanders' push for the White House?


[11:57:10] BROWN: Just moments ago, we saw Senator Bernie Sanders arrive at the White House where he is sitting down with President Obama in a closed-door meeting. This, as a brand new poll out today shows him closer than ever to Hillary Clinton nationally. The ABC News/"Washington Post" poll has Clinton still in a strong lead over Sanders, 55-36. But she is down four points since December while Sanders has gotten an eight-point boost.

Senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns joins us live from the White House.

So, Joe, tells about this meeting. What is the purpose of it between Bernie Sanders and President Obama?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we got here right around 11:30 eastern time. He was accompanied by his wife. And that meeting is supposed to occur in the Oval Office. There's no official agenda for this meeting, Pamela, so who knows what they're going to discuss. And they tried to lead us away from the idea that they talk about presidential politics, but that sounds almost impossible in a year like this. Apparently, the president and Sanders did talk about doing this at a holiday reception back in December.

President Obama is officially noncommittal, if you will, in this race. He hasn't said who he is endorsing, anything like that. However, he has expressed admiration for Hillary Clinton who was his secretary of state.

As you said, all of this occurred against the back drop that shows President Obama's job approval rating holding right under 50 percent, which puts him in a better place than George W. Bush at this time in his term, but not as good as president Bill Clinton in his last year in January.

There is an air of pessimism in this poll that I think we have to talk about that a little bit. 57 percent of respondents say things are going badly in this country. Those numbers are being driven by Republicans and Independents. Democrats saying -- right about 28 percent of them say things are going badly in the country. And that's unchanged from the last time we asked that question in a poll.

So a busy day for here for President Obama and Bernie Sanders. Sanders will fly off to Iowa after he meets with the president. He has an 8:00 p.m. appearance in Mason City. The president is going over to the Israel embassy for a remembrance today of the Holocaust.

Back to you, Pamela.

BROWN: Hard to ignore the fact this meeting is happening just a few days away from the Iowa caucuses.

Joe Johns, thank you very much for that.

You know that CNN will be the place for complete coverage of the Iowa caucuses. We will have coverage all day Monday as the first votes of the 2016 presidential race are cast.

Well, thank you so much for being here with me AT THIS HOUR.

"Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now. Have a great day.