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News Wrap: Winter storm blasts the East Coast

A massive storm system pounded Eastern states with snow and strong winds on Thursday. Also: the Justice Department has rescinded an Obama-era policy on marijuana, which could mean more aggressive enforcement of a federal law banning all marijuana sales.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    No respite from the deep freeze today.

    Bitter cold, pounding snow and hurricane-force winds powered their way up the Eastern Seaboard, all part of a huge storm system. The effects were visible everywhere, wind-blown waves crashing over a seawall in Marshfield, Massachusetts, ice piling up along the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and cars stopped in their tracks overnight in Norfolk, Virginia, stuck deep in several inches of snow.

  • Marco Brennan:

    It's too cold. I go to school up in Ithaca, and this is cold.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In New York, city officials shuttered schools in the face of bone-chilling cold and up to eight inches of snowfall. Governor Andrew Cuomo was one of several governors declaring states of emergency.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

    This is not our first rodeo. The storms have been getting worse. Extreme weather is a reality. We're seeing storms of a severity that we have never seen before.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Forecasters classified it a bomb cyclone for its acute drop in atmospheric pressure. The system blew out of the Gulf of Mexico this week, and blasted the Deep South first.

  • Woman:

    I don't even really know how to drive on a road like this in this type of weather.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Flurries landed even on palm trees.

  • Man:

    Pretty wild. I had never seen palm trees with snow on them before.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    From there, it roared north, hugging the coast, with winds gusting to 70 miles an hour. Blizzard warnings were in effect from the Mid-Atlantic to New England, with parts of Massachusetts and most of Rhode Island bracing for up to 18 inches of snow.

    Connecticut put nearly 650 plow trucks on the road.

  • Gov. Dannel Malloy:

    It is strongly recommended that Connecticut motorists stay off the roads, unless absolutely necessary, in order to allow the Department of Transportation crews to clear highways as effectively and safely as possible.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Officials warned of power outages that could affect hundreds of thousands of people by the weekend.

    Already, the storm has ruined travel plans for many. More than 3,000 flights have been canceled. And police report hundreds of wrecks.

  • Man:

    It's just going to get worse as the snow keeps falling.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The snowfall is set to subside in many places tonight, but in its wake comes numbing cold. Temperatures are forecast to be 20 to 40 degrees below normal, possibly bringing the coldest weather yet in winter that has just begun.

    The freeze is taking a toll on people and animals alike. In Miami, it dipped below 40 this morning, and cold-blooded green iguanas got so numb, they actually fell out of trees. News reports suggest that most survive the experience.

    In the day's other news- Wall Street blew through another big barrier, driven in part by Congress' passage of tax cuts. The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 25,000 for the first time, after gaining more than 150 points. The Nasdaq rose 12 points, and the S&P 500 added nearly 11.

    Two major policy changes from the Trump administration today. The Interior Department announced plans to vastly expand offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all U.S. waters. That includes opening federal waters off California to drilling for the first time since 1984. We will have an in-depth look at the plan later in the program.

    On another front, the Justice Department rescinded an Obama era policy on marijuana. Now, federal prosecutors will decide how aggressively to enforce federal law that bars all marijuana sales. The old policy generally barred interference with pot sales in states where it's legal. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have laws where it's broadly legalized in some form.

    President Trump and top Democrats met today to talk about their conditions for an immigration deal. Mr. Trump has ended the so-called DACA program that protects young people brought to the U.S. illegally, and he's given Congress until March to find a replacement. Today, he met with Republican senators at the White House, and laid down his demands.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Any legislation on DACA must secure the border with the wall. It must give our immigration officers the resources they need to stop illegal immigration and also to stop visa overstays, and, crucially, the legislation must end chain migration.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That chain migration reference is what opponents call a program allowing immigrants to sponsor family members. The president said it provides a gateway for terrorism.

    Democrats in turn said they still oppose a border wall. But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer left open the door to a deal.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    We have always said that we need strong border and real security, not things that sound good but don't do the job. And we need to help the dreamers. That's what we believe. And we will sit down with our Republican colleagues and try to negotiate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For now, Democrats and Republicans are at odds over whether there has to be an immigration deal before they can agree on a spending plan to keep the government funded.

    In Iran, fewer reports of protests today, after a week of unrest. Instead, state TV again showed thousands marching in pro-government rallies. And security forces rolled into towns across Central Iran.

    Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence, writing in The Washington Post, charged that President Obama failed to support Iranian protesters in 2009. and he wrote, "This time, we will not be silent."

    Also today, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned five Iranian companies involved in ballistic missile development.

    The U.S. also formally suspended security aid to Pakistan's military, as President Trump had threatened. The State Department announced the freeze will last until Pakistan takes — quote — "decisive action against terrorists." But it said there may be some exceptions.

    Back in this country, a Republican in Virginia has won a drawing to break a tie in a House of delegates race. That, in turn, let Republicans keep their majority by a razor-thin margin. It all came down to election officials pulling a film canister out of a bowl with the name of incumbent David Yancey. Democrat Shelly Simonds didn't rule out seeking another recount.

  • Shelly Simonds:

    Do I think it's fair? You know, it was a long, hard election season, and it does seem like a sudden end to a story to have to end on a game of chance. But at the same time, I did feel during the election that it was going to be really close.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Most states break election ties with a coin toss. Some have their state legislatures decide the winner.

    President Trump dissolved his voter fraud commission last night, but he's not letting the issue go. He claimed on Twitter today that mostly Democratic-run states refused to hand over data because — quote — "They know that many people are voting illegally. System is rigged."

    In fact, many states with both Democratic and Republican leadership declined to turn over voter information.

    Mr. Trump has repeatedly alleged, without evidence, that more than three million people illegally voted in the 2016 election.

    And the White House has fired more broadsides at former chief strategist Steve Bannon. Yesterday, President Trump said Bannon had — quote — "lost his mind" after reports that he made scathing allegations in a new book. Today, the president's press secretary said the book is full of mistakes and falsehoods. His attorney has sent cease-and-desist letters to Bannon and to the publisher.

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