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Poll: Sanders Soars Past Clinton in Iowa; Hillary Clinton Addresses Campaign Issue; Trump & Cruz in Two-Man Race in Iowa; 75 Million People in the Path of Monster Winter Storm; Interview with Mayor Muriel Bowser. Aired 5:00-6p ET

Aired January 21, 2016 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN: That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper turning you over now to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in a place right next door to me called THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Two-man race. stunning results as our new poll shows Donald Trump opening up a big lead over Ted Cruz in Iowa. The other Republicans are way behind. Can Cruz find a way to keep Trump from cruising to a victory?

Slamming Sanders. Bernie Sanders jumps ahead on the Democratic side in our brand-new poll as Hillary Clinton steps up her attacks on the Iowa corner. Does she have time to turn things around? My interview with Hillary Clinton just ahead.

Monster storm. It's breathtaking in size and power and bearing down on 75 million people. Washington and other major cities could be slammed with two feet of snow and winds up to 60 miles an hour. Hundreds of flights have already been canceled. We have new information on how bad this storm will be and where it's headed.

And Putin's poison plan. Investigators conclude that Russia's president likely gave the go-ahead to the radiation murder of a Russian defector poisoned in the middle of London. The shock waves are now spreading.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The breaking news, our new poll shows Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders with big leads just a week and a half before the first contest of the 2016 race in Iowa. Among Republicans, Trump leads Ted Cruz by 11 points in Iowa. Sanders leads Hillary Clinton by eight points on the Democratic side.

With all the candidates in attack mode, could those leads hold up?

Moments away, my interview with Hillary Clinton, who says she's feeling good about Iowa.

It may be a storm for the record books and the history books. Seventy-five million people are in the path of a monster winter storm. The nation's capital can expect a blizzard with up to two feet of snow and gale-force winds. Hundreds of flights have been canceled across the United States.

The Washington mayor already apologizing after less than an inch of snow led to a six-hour rush hour. She's going to tell us about preparations for the real thing.

And I'll speak with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of all the day's top stories.

Let's get right to the breaking news right now. Our stunning new poll showing Iowa turning into a two-man race between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Trump has 37 percent among likely Republican caucus goers. Cruz has 26 percent. Marco Rubio's a distant third, and the rest of the candidates are in single digits.

Let's bring in our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and our CNN political director, David Chalian, because we're watching all of this very, very closely.

Dana, what is -- what is the latest numbers as far as Iowa is concerned?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you just mentioned, really, the numbers that matter the most, and that is Donald Trump at 37 percent, Ted Cruz at 26 percent. An 11-point lead. And that is among likely caucus goers.

So people who say that they expect to get out there on what we know will be a very cold night and go to a caucus, sit there maybe for a couple of hours, even those who might not have done that in the last four years or four years before that. So that's why this is really critical.

The other thing I will mention is you see Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and then there's everybody else. It is a very large field, but right now it is just two -- between two people in Iowa.

BLITZER: What else can we learn from these brand-new numbers, David?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is all about the universe of people that show up on caucus night. The next 11 days for these campaigns is completely focused on finding the pockets of voters and getting them to the caucus sites on that cold Monday night on February 1.

If you look, Wolf, we asked, "Were you a 2012 Republican caucus goer?" If you say you were a caucus goer in 2012, the race looks different. That's a two-point race between Cruz and Trump. Cruz at 30 percent, Trump at 28 percent, Rubio at 16 percent, and Ben Carson at 9 percent.

Now, when we identify people as the likely caucus goers, are you committed to going, that's when you get this larger universe and this much bigger Trump lead. And so you have to look at when we see on caucus night that these caucus sites are swelling, and we're seeing more people turning out than a traditional caucus, like the 2012 Republican caucus. That's going to be a good sign for Donald Trump. BLITZER: Weather could be a factor on that caucus night, as well.

Dana, look at the Democratic side right now. A brand-new poll shows Bernie Sanders on top in Iowa with 51 percent, Hillary Clinton 43 percent. How much trouble is Hillary Clinton in right now?

BASH: I think she's in a lot of trouble, based on these numbers. But it's not just that. I think what is most stunning about these numbers is how different they are from just last month.

[17:05:08] Check this out. As you said now, Sanders is at 51 percent. In December, just a month ago, 36 percent. It was kind of the inverse of what it is now. Now Hillary Clinton's at 43. Just last month she was at 54 percent. That is the definition of a surge when it comes to Bernie Sanders.

BLITZER: But on the Democrat -- Democratic side, like the Republican side, turnout means a lot.

CHALIAN: Yes. Just -- we asked the same thing. The last time there was a competitive caucus on the Democratic side was 2008. And we said, "Did you go to that caucus?" The people that said they caucused in 2008, Hillary Clinton has a 17-point lead above Bernie Sanders among those people.

Again, the Sanders surge is being fueled by people that haven't caucused before but that are telling us they are definitely going to this time. They are extremely enthusiastic about the race, and that is what gives them that lead. It is that momentum that Hillary Clinton has been trying to stop on the stump.

BLITZER: All right. David and Dana, standby. Out on the campaign trail today, Hillary Clinton is escalating their attacks on Bernie Sanders.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is covering the Democrats for us in Iowa. What's the latest over there, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for weeks and months Hillary Clinton has talked a lot about her rival candidates, but all Republicans. She goes after Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and others.

But today she had a different rival on her mind. His name was Bernie Sanders.


ZELENY (voice-over): In Iowa today Hillary Clinton was focused above all on one person.


Senator Sanders.

Senator Sanders.

ZELENY: After months of looking beyond Bernie Sanders, Clinton urged voters to give his policies a close look and real scrutiny.

CLINTON: But "in theory" isn't enough. A president has to deliver in reality.

ZELENY: A reversal of fortunes for Clinton, now running behind Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire. It explains why she's suddenly squarely taking him on, telling Democrats his ideas are simply too good to be true.

CLINTON: I'll tell you, I'm not interested in ideas that sound good on paper but will never make it in the real world.

ZELENY: But the real politics 11 days before the voting begins increasingly favors Sanders. And he is turning optimistic, launching a new television ad featuring the old Simon and Garfunkel anthem, "America."

In New Hampshire today, Sanders all but ignored Clinton.

SANDERS: Iowa, I think it's going to be a close election there on their caucus night. I think we have an excellent chance to win that.

ZELENY: The Democratic establishment and the Clintons are pulling out all the stops to keep that from happening. She reminded voters they aren't just electing a president.

CLINTON: We're also choosing a commander in chief.

ZELENY: She questioned whether Sanders had a firm grasp of global affairs.

CLINTON: Senator Sanders doesn't talk very much about foreign policy, but when he does, it raises concerns, because sometimes it can sound like he hasn't really thought it through.

ZELENY: She pointed to Iran.

CLINTON: For example, he suggested we invite Iranian troops into Syria. That is like asking the arsonist to be the firefighter.

ZELENY: And took aim at Sanders' healthcare plan, saying it would erode Obamacare.

CLINTON: We can get this done without another divisive debate about our entire healthcare system and without giving Republicans an opening to come in and tear down everything we've achieved.

ZELENY: Her words were carefully scripted, delivered by teleprompter.

As Clinton tries to regain the upper hand, she told voters she's a fighter who's been down before.

CLINTON: And I can tell you, I've gotten back up time and time again, because as long as there is work to do and people to help, I'm not going to quit.


ZELENY: And she's also fighting one other assertion, that she is part of the establishment here. And that is a big complaint from the Sanders supporters, that she is the engrained establishment.

But, Wolf, she pointed out that he has actually been in elective office far longer than her, that he is part of the establishment. So an interesting counterargument there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny in Iowa. Jeff, thanks very, very much.


BLITZER: And joining us now, Democratic presidential candidate, the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

Madame Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.

CLINTON: Oh, it's a pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Bernie Sanders says his campaign is taking on the political establishment, saying your endorsements, for example, from the Human Rights Campaign, from Planned Parenthood are because you're part of the establishment. Are you?

CLINTON: Well, I have to say I didn't understand that at all. Planned Parenthood does so much on the front lines to provide women and men health care, often low-income people, people who don't have any alternative.

[17:10:12] And of course, we know that Planned Parenthood has been under attack constantly from the Republicans, both in Congress and in many states. And the Human Rights Campaign has been in the forefront of making sure that LGBT Americans are not discriminated against. They help to lead the battle for marriage equality. I really don't understand what he means by that.

These are two of the really great human rights progressive organizations in our country. I've worked with both of them a long time. I've worked to get results for the people that they represent and serve. And I'm proud to have endorsements from both of them.

BLITZER: But are you the establishment?

CLINTON: I just don't understand what that means. He's been in Congress. He's been elected to office a lot longer than I have. I was in the Senate for eight wonderful years representing New York. He's been in the Congress for 25. And so I'll let your viewers make their own judgment.

BLITZER: Some have compared Bernie Sanders' coalition he's putting together in Iowa right now to then-senator Barack Obama's coalition in 2008. You lost to then-Senator Barack Obama. He was the so-called candidate of change. Is Sanders the candidate of change in 2016?

CLINTON: No. I think I'm the candidate of real change in people's real lives that will make a difference, whether it's on healthcare or college affordability or the economy, where I've laid out specific proposals and how I would pay for them.

I feel really good about our campaign in Iowa. We've built a grassroots organization. We have tens of thousands of committed people who are not only committed to caucusing for me but are out knocking on doors in subzero weather and making phone calls and doing everything that an enthusiastic, energized campaign needs to do. So we're going to do all we can between now and February 1 to earn as much support as possible.

BLITZER: In the past 36 hours or so you said Bernie Sanders' ideas wouldn't make it in the, quote, "real world," and that Sanders sounds like he hasn't really thought it through.

At the same time he's releasing ads filled with very hopeful images, Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack, for example. Do you now think to win in Iowa, you have to go more negative?

CLINTON: That's just not what is happening, Wolf. We're in the final phase of this campaign. And certainly, Senator Sanders has drawn contrasts with me, as he should, and I am drawing contrasts with him.

I have the greatest respect for him and for his conviction about the kind of country that we can be. We just have a disagreement, for example, on health care. I think we should not plunge our nation into another contentious debate over healthcare. We Democrats have been trying to get universal health coverage since Harry Truman. We now have more than 90 percent of Americans who are covered. I'm going to get us the rest of the way. And I'm also going to decrease the costs so that people can afford prescription drugs and out-of-pocket expenses.

He wants to start all over again. I think that's a very clear contrast. And I'm appealing to people who know that it's not always easy to make the kind of progress we've made under the Affordable Care Act. I want to build on what President Obama has accomplished and take it all the way, which is what I will do.

BLITZER: As you know, the U.S. and the Iranians, they've reached implementation day on the Iran nuclear deal, which you have supported. Bernie Sanders says he wants to normalize relations with Iran. Is that the right approach right now?

CLINTON: Well, Wolf, look, I have a lot of commitment to ensuring that the Iran nuclear agreement is implemented and the Iranians are held accountable if they do not. After all, I engaged in long, patient diplomacy to put together the sanctions on Iran that finally brought them to the negotiating table and actually began the preliminary negotiations that the president and Secretary Kerry continued to completion.

But I think it would be a mistake to offer normalized relations. I think that we have to very carefully continue our diplomacy. We have to hold Iran accountable. We have to work to make sure that the other area of concern coming from Iran, their destabilizing nations, their strong support for Assad as he continues murdering his people, the support of proxies, terrorism, all of which are, unfortunately, conducted by the Iranian government. We can't rush into normalizing relations.

[17:15:09] The president doesn't believe that. I don't believe that. And I -- I think that Senator Sanders is wrong about that.

BLITZER: So given what you've said, do you think he's qualified to be commander in chief?

CLINTON: Well, I'm going to leave it up to voters. I think, obviously, I would be the better choice. I think I'm prepared to be both president and commander in chief. And I think we are living in a very complicated world where you have to have both the experience and the judgment.

I've spent a lot of hours in the situation room, not yours but the one in the White House, troubling ourselves over difficult choices, like whether or not to go after bin Laden, how to bring Iran to the negotiating table and so many more.

So I feel very well-prepared to walk into the White House on January 20, 2017, and be ready to deal with whatever waits, because we know some of what we have to do, especially here at home, to raise incomes and deal with the challenges our families are facing. But you can't predict everything that your president will face as commander in chief.

BLITZER: I know your time is short. Let me ask you about the intelligence community's inspector general, who states that the e- mails on your private server contained what he describes as classified intelligence. One of your campaign spokesman says the inspector general is not, quote, "acting in good faith."

Do you think they are not acting in good faith, the I.G. of the intelligence community?

CLINTON: Well, all I can say is this, Wolf. I think it's a continuation of an interagency dispute that has been going on. And that's not uncommon in our government when it comes to releasing information, as I requested that mine be released. And it doesn't change the fact that I never sent or received any material marked "classified."

I do believe that these leaks, which are coming out and being in some way misrepresenting and mischaracterizing what is going on, are troubling. But the basic fact, that no material marked as classified was sent or received by me, has not been changed.

BLITZER: Are they falsifying information?

CLINTON: I hope not. You know, I really hope not. I don't have any information to that effect. I want this to be resolved, and as the State Department has said repeatedly, I will repeat, I did not send or receive classified material. And this latest example, the best I can determine, may turn on whether

or not someone forwarded a "New York Times" article in the public domain. So there are a lot of unanswered questions that I would like to see resolved.

BLITZER: One final question: Do you believe the American people are ready to elect a socialist as president of the United States?

CLINTON: Well, let me say this. Again, it's up to the voters. I know a number of Democrats, people who I highly respect, are concerned and are expressing that concern to me, to journalists and others.

I'm going to just repeat what I believe, which is I am the best choice to be the next president and commander in chief. That's why I'm working as hard as I can to make my case on behalf of my experience, my judgment, my plans, my vision to the people in Iowa, New Hampshire and the states beyond. Because I think this is a very consequential election which has

enormous implications for our country, and certainly, whatever differences there are between Senator Sanders and myself. They pale in comparison to the differences between us and the Republicans running for president.

BLITZER: Madame Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

CLINTON: My pleasure. Good to talk to you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: And up next, Donald Trump tries out a new argument. He's calling himself a unifier, even though he's keeping up his attacks on Senator Ted Cruz.

And we also have breaking news on the very dangerous winter storm affecting one-third of the country. Stay with us. We have new information on the storm's path and its severity.


[17:23:52] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news just released, CNN/ORC poll showing Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump opening up big leads in Iowa, where the caucuses are only just 11 days away. Trump is campaigning in another early contest state, Nevada.

Let's go to our CNN political reporter, Sara Murray. She's in Las Vegas for us right now. What's the latest there, Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Donald Trump just wrapped up a big rally here, where he unloaded on Ted Cruz, all part of an intensifying battle between the top two Republicans in this race.


MURRAY (voice-over): A flurry of punches flying between the two top Republicans in what's become a two-man race in Iowa.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald seems to be getting very angry. I mean, he's rattled, and he's tossing out a lot of insults.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's a nasty guy that everybody dislikes.

MURRAY: Ted Cruz and Donald Trump both looking to land a damaging blow.

TRUMP: If we can do well in Iowa, we're going to run the table.

MURRAY: Now Trump and Cruz are lobbing every attack they can think of. Trump knocking Cruz for failing to properly disclose loans to fund his Senate bid.

TRUMP: He didn't list that he borrowed a lot of money from Goldman Sachs and from Citibank, that's a big thing. But he's always talking about the banks. Well, the people didn't know that he was borrowing money from Goldman Sachs and from Citibank.

[17:25:11] MURRAY: A misstep Cruz has dismissed as a paperwork error. On the campaign trail in Las Vegas today, Trump took another swipe.

TRUMP: Jeb is down the toilet, and Ted is starting to go down. He's getting nervous.

MURRAY: And, Cruz, he's going after one of Trump's core strengths with Republicans, immigration, saying Trump was nowhere to be found when the issue was up for debate in Congress.

CRUZ: I stood shoulder to shoulder with Jeff Sessions and Steve King and millions of Americans defending -- defending our sovereignty, standing against amnesty, fighting to secure the borders. And missing from the entire battle was Donald Trump. If he cared about this issue so much, where was he when the fight was on the verge of being lost?

MURRAY: As Republican leaders line up to Bash Cruz, the Texas senator is painting Trump as an establishment darling.

CRUZ: There's a bunch of big money in this race. The Washington establishment right now, they're abandoning Marco Rubio. And they're rushing to Donald Trump.

MURRAY: Meanwhile, Cruz is preparing to hit the trail with Glenn Beck, a high-profile guest that Trump says is no match for his endorsement from Sarah Palin.

Today, Trump tweeting, "Whacko Glenn Beck is a sad answer to the Sarah Palin endorsement that Cruz so desperately wanted. Glenn is a failing, crying lost soul."


MURRAY: And, Wolf, we got some surprising comments from Donald Trump here today. He's saying it's OK to be a little bit establishment. That's how you get things done in Washington, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara Murray in Las Vegas for us. Thank you. Joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM, our CNN political commentator,

Dan Pfeiffer. He's a former senior adviser to President Obama. And our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is still with us as well.

Dana, these new CNN/ORC poll Iowa numbers -- take a look at this -- among Republicans, Trump has gone from 33 percent in December. He's now up to 37 percent. Cruz has gone from 20 to 26 percent. Everybody else is much lower. Rubio 11 to 14 percent. Is this, for all practical purposes, in Iowa a two-man race?

BASH: Absolutely. And it has been for a while. These numbers just sort of confirm that for us.

The fact, as you said, that they both have been going up while there's kind of them and everybody else. The fact that Donald Trump is now embracing this establishment moniker, the one that Ted Cruz hit him on as an attack line, that is going to be very interesting to see how it plays, especially in Iowa, because I talked to the Cruz campaign today. They insist that, even the Trump -- even Trump, who obviously gets the electorate right now or he wouldn't be where he is, he underestimates how much anger there is in Washington and the fact that Cruz's support is largely built on the fact he doesn't want to make deals, that he goes to Washington and tries to put the brakes on things.

BLITZER: So, Dan, could that support from so-called establishment Republicans wind up hurting Trump in a state like Iowa among conservative Republicans?

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's certainly counter-brand for Trump, Wolf. I think in some ways a little arms'- length support from the establishment is good for Trump. What he wants is for the party to decide that it's basically inevitable for Trump to -- hat he's going to win and sort of go quietly into the good night.

What he needs to do is continue with his message, continue hitting the establishment. If he starts appearing on stage with the likes of Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell or establishment figures, I think that would hurt him with his base, what I think I would call arms'-length establishment support.

BASH: I don't see that happening any time soon.

PFEIFFER: It was hypothetical.

BLITZER: Dana -- let's take a look, Dana, at these Democratic numbers in our new poll, our CNN/ORC poll Iowa poll. Among Democrats, Bernie Sanders in December, he was at 36 percent. He's now up at 51 percent. Hillary Clinton has gone from 54 percent in December down to 43 percent now. Can that explain why she's now getting tougher in her criticism of the senator?

BASH: A 100 percent. I mean, that's exactly what it is. Whether that's going to work, we don't know. But the fact that they have completely flipped in terms of where they

are in the polls, in just one month, it should be and clearly is very scary for the Clinton campaign.

They always said, well, New Hampshire, it's practically home turf for Bernie Sanders, who's from neighboring Vermont. But Iowa is a place, because Hillary Clinton lost and lost big in 2008 -- she came in third; remember second was John Edwards, not her. They've been putting so much effort into Iowa to building an organization, to building momentum, the fact that she is going down, not up is, I don't know, panic but it's very upsetting to her, her team.

BLITZER: Dan, you were on that team that successfully beat Hillary Clinton in Iowa in 2008, branding then-senator Barack Obama as the candidate of change. Is Bernie Sanders now that candidate?

PFEIFFER: Well, I think these are two very different contests within different context. It's important to remember 2008 we had a -- two terms of Republican president.

[17:30:04] It was change from the Bush era, but also was change from the Democratic era that it lost two conservative presidential elections and the Democratic leadership that had gone along with the Iraq war and Barack Obama represented that change.

This is not a change election per se. What Bernie Sanders has done is he's very successfully and consolidated the left-wing of the Democratic Party. And this is a two-person race. And so I don't think this will come down to candidate of change for status quo because the status quo is something the Democratic primary voters are very happy with right now.

President Obama is incredibly popular among them. And so what this really will come to is whether Bernie Sanders can convince Democratic voters that he is an electable alternative to either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. And I'm skeptical that that can happen. But that's -- you can hear undertones in that Hillary Clinton's argument in your interview.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Dan and Dana, guys, don't go too far away.

We also want to let our viewers know about a big event that's coming up Monday night in Iowa. It will be seen only on CNN. Exactly one week before the Iowa caucuses, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley will go face-to-face in a CNN Democratic presidential town hall live from Des Moines. Chris Cuomo will moderate that town hall. That's Monday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern live only here on CNN.

We have more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Stand by for new information on the path and severity of an extremely dangerous winter storm. Millions of people could lose power.


[17:35:51] BLITZER: It may go down in history, a monster winter storm bringing ice, snow and fierce winds that could cause havoc across a third of the country, 75 million people are in its path. 30 million of them may face an epic blizzard with up to two feet of snow and winds of 50 miles an hour. The nation's capital could get the worst of it, and air travel could be snarled for days to come.

Let's go live here to our meteorologist Tom Sater. He's at the CNN Extreme Weather Center.

What's the latest forecast, Tom?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The latest forecast, Wolf, is much like it has been every day with every computer model run. It is staggering what we have seen as far as the agreement of these computer models.

If I may for this weather segment, I want to just focus on the Washington, D.C. area. We'll talk about the others in the next hour. Average snowfall D.C., 15.5, all of last year was 18.3. You're going to pick that up in just the first 24 hours. Models still want to drop 20 to 30 inches.

If you look at the historic storms, the Knickerbockers storm dropping 28 inches was in 1922. Most people in the area were not around then. And so this will be the most significant snowstorm maybe in their entire lives. There are multifaceted reasons here why there's not only a risk but a significant risk for loss of life and property.

If you look at the amount of snow, it's going to come down at such a rate that I don't think road crews are going to be able to keep up with it really. And so they're going to look at interstate closures as well as all the area airports.

Now if you look at the map, and this is a different model, keeps the heavier snow from Fauquier County out westward, but we really want to pull it in more toward the D.C. area.

Let's take a look at the region. This is not just Frostburg, it's not just Front Royal and Winchester, Cull Pepper or Fredericksburg, it's Mechanicsville, it's Aberdeen, it's Salisbury, it's Germantown, Frederick, the entire area is going to see -- just get cut off, let's say that.

Beltway's going to get shut down most likely. I-95 portions will be shut down. I-66 as well. With the amount of wind we're going to see with this for those that commute or live in areas from Annapolis to the Lower Neck out towards Salisbury or the Shore, full moon tomorrow, Wolf, which means astronomical high tide at 7:30 in the morning.

We could see a storm surge with gusts 65 to 70 on the coast that could rival that of superstorm Sandy. With those kind of wind there's going to be damage, but the risk here is more about the heavyweight of the snow. There's going to be downed trees, power lines, millions will lose power. There's going to be snow drifts that could be 6, 7 and 8 feet that could barricade people in their home for a number of days until power is out.

So there's going to be emergency crews that are going to be out. There will be emergencies and unfortunately we're just going to have to sit this one out. So we'll continue to update the forecast for you as the hours roll on.

BLITZER: Tom Sater, very, very worrisome especially for those of us here on the East Coast and most particularly for those of us right now here in Washington, D.C.


BLITZER: We're going to speak to the mayor of Washington, D.C. We'll get more on what's going on. Stay with us. We'll take a quick break.


[17:43:25] BLITZER: As much of the country gets ready for a monster winter storm, Washington, D.C. could get the brunt of it. This whole area very nervous right now.

Let's discuss what's going on with the D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Mayor, thanks very much for coming in.

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER, WASHINGTON: My pleasure. My pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: It was a horrendous nightmare last night, about an inch of snow, some ice, the traffic was horrible. People took six hours to drive home, should have taken half an hour.

Why wasn't the city ready for that?

BOWSER: Well, I think, Wolf, we got a clipper that came in right at rush hour that frankly over-performed. And I went out to talk to my residents this morning and to let them know that we should have done better, gotten out a little bit earlier and had more resources. So we saw the whole region, not just Washington, D.C., pretty disabled by an evening commute clipper come through the region.

BLITZER: Yes. I've lived in this region for a long time. And you're right, it's not just D.C. It's Maryland, Virginia, all the suburbs. It was horrendous out there. But I guess the question is, if we weren't ready for an inch of snow and ice, what about two feet that's projected in the next 24 to 48 hours?

BOWSER: Well, actually, we've been preparing all week for the two feet of snow. It's the clipper that came in, in a way that just quite frankly over-performed all of the forecasts. So today we set out and started our snow operations. We've actually moved our snow operation to make it a Homeland Security and emergency management event. So that's how we'll direct it. I've declared a state of emergency in Washington, D.C., which allows us to tap federal resources and also allows us to clear our routes.

[17:45:02] We want people to stay off the roads tomorrow so we can thoroughly pre-treat the roads. So I've closed our schools. And I'm going to release my employees, district government employees at about noon as well. So that will give our crews a time to thoroughly pre- treat and get ready for the snow that's coming.

BLITZER: Because usually we don't get a whole lot of snow here in Washington as you well know. I grew up in Buffalo, New York. We did get a lot of snow.


BLITZER: In Buffalo we were always ready for it.


BLITZER: Do you have the manpower? Do you have the trucks? Do you have all the equipment you need, or do you need help from the outside?

BOWSER: Well, we are gathering help from the outside. We have quite a lot of equipment as well, plows, backhoes, dump trucks, you name it. We have a lot -- light plows. So we have a lot of equipment. But we do think that we're going to need extra equipment so we have contracted and we continue to contract through the night so that we can have more personnel.

Our staff is ready. We've put them on 12-hour shifts. But it is true that this is not just a snowstorm, it's a blizzard. And in fact what is forecast is an amount of snow that we haven't had in Washington in 90 years.

BLITZER: And it's not just the snow, it's going to be the wind. A lot of people are going to lose power.

Let me get to the question of the federal government. D.C. government workers, they're going to have a limited schedule tomorrow.


BLITZER: But what about the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are out there?

BOWSER: Well, we think the federal government has a number of options that we've seen them take in inclement weather. We know for -- that they put folks on telework or liberal leave and it's a Friday.

BLITZER: Have they done that already?

BOWSER: I think -- we expect an announcement some time tomorrow. And they may also decide to have early dismissal.

BLITZER: Early dismissal. What time do you really expect the snow to start?

BOWSER: The forecast is for 4:00 p.m. Now what we know is that forecasts change. They're not an exact science, so that's one reason why we're releasing about noon in case the storm comes in a little earlier. We'll be ready.

We're also bringing the full deployment of our resources in at 6:00 a.m. so that we can be prepared if there's any shift in the snow and it will come in early.

BLITZER: National Guard troops being activated?

BOWSER: We've asked -- tapped our National Guard troops mostly for the vehicles. Any time you have snowy conditions, and we expect this storm to sit on D.C. for about 36 hours, of driving snow and sustained winds over 25 miles an hour. So we expect that our National Guard could provide vehicles in case we have trouble getting to people in need.

BLITZER: If it's in the D.C. area, not just D.C. but northern Virginia, Maryland, not ready for this kind of blizzard that is about to hit. Let's see hopefully they'll do a better job, but I remember back in the '70s, you remember that big one we had at that time. It lasted for a long time.

I have more questions, Mayor, can you stick around?

BOWSER: Sure. You bet.

BLITZER: All right. Much more coming up on this historic blizzard that's about to hit the D.C. area. We'll be right back.


[10:52:40] BLITZER: As much as the country gets ready for a monster winter storm, Washington, D.C. could get the brunt of it. And we're talking with the D.C. mayor, Muriel Bowser.

Mayor, even the president of the United States in his motorcade, he was driving in from Joint Base Andrews out in Maryland back to the White House. We've got video. We're going to show our viewers. They got stuck on D.C. area streets. It was pretty embarrassing. Look at this. This is the president's motorcade. Look what they have to do and it comes after your team tweeted, Team Muriel, tweeted, "Ready just in case earlier in the day."

Now I know you apologized. But what do you say to the people that are so disappointed in the way the city was unprepared?

BOWSER: Well, I spoke to them very directly this morning, Wolf, to let them know that I was disappointed in our response and that they should expect faster service and more effective services from us and I offered our sincere apologies.

But, Wolf, what's most important that was -- that I outlined, how we have been preparing all week and would be prepared for a, you know, really once in a lifetime blizzard.

BLITZER: Because yesterday morning when I was driving to work, they said we're going to get some snow tonight so the forecast was there, right?

BOWSER: The forecast was really for a light snow that came and went. Like many people described it as a dusting. So we went out. We changed our deployment a little bit to upgrade it to a light deployment and to go out 4:00 before the snow started. Many areas around us made similar decisions and it wasn't enough for what was coming at rush hour when our trucks were competing with people who are already trying to get home.

BLITZER: I know mayors from other cities including Mayor Boston, they've offered to help. Have you accepted all their help?

BOWSER: Well, we were always open for all the help that we can get and actually many mayors are in town now with -- for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, so I've had the opportunity to tap into a reservoir of knowledge.

BLITZER: And this notion that this is going to be a storm, a blizzard of historic proportions, do you accept that?

BOWSER: I do accept it. And we have explained to our residents what it means. We don't control the weather, but we can control our preparations. So we've asked our residents to be prepared to be inside for 36 hours, to be prepared if we should lose power.

[17:55:02] We're working with our utility company to make sure that they have also gone out across the country to get additional resources and so that as soon as it's safe, if we have downed trees or power lines that they'll get people up.

We've also we set up warming centers in the case there are people without power in their homes become cold.

BLITZER: Potentially millions of people along the entire East Coast are going to be without power. That's a really worrisome development where the temperatures down at 20 or 25 degrees.

BOWSER: Yes. You got it.

BLITZER: Mayor, we're counting on you. Thanks very much.

BOWSER: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone.

BOWSER: Thank you.

BLITZER: This is clearly going to be a huge, huge problem.

BOWSER: It's a big storm.

BLITZER: Coming up, we're going to have much more on the monster storm bearing down right now and 75 million Americans, Washington, D.C., other cities could be slammed with two feet of snow, gale-force winds. Hundreds of flights have already been cancelled. We have new information on how bad the storm will be and where it's headed. Stay with us.