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Nursing Home Deaths in Florida; Key Residents Face Devastation; White House Press Briefing. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 13, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Our coverage continues right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there and thank you so much for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

Just a heads up on a couple of event we're watching in the next couple of hours. Any moment now, the White House press briefing is set to begin amid new developments involving former FBI Director James Comey and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. This happening just as President Trump makes dinner plans with Democratic leadership. That's on tap tonight.

Meantime, over on Capitol Hill, Bernie Sanders is about to announce his Medicare for all plan.

We're watching all of the above for you over the next hour.

But first, we've got breaking news today in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Just a heartbreaking situation in Hollywood, Florida. At least six people have died at a nursing home after the facility lost its air conditioning three days ago. Firefighters are evacuating more than 100 other elderly residents from this particular home. Right now many are being treated for respiratory diseases and dehydration and any kind of heat-related issues.

The mayor of Hollywood, Florida, lamenting how easily this could have been prevented.


MAYOR JOSH LEVY, HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA: You know, I'm very disappointed that something like this could have taken place. I think there were certainly many ways emergency services could have been alerted to this circumstance and, unfortunately, emergency services were called, obviously, too late.


BALDWIN: Officials are also saying that they're conducting a criminal investigation to what exactly happened.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is live outside that rehabilitation center at Hollywood Hills.

I mean awful, awful, awful. We don't know how this happened. What more do you know?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, there's a lot of conflicting information out of here. What with he do know for sure is that six people are dead. There are another 12 that are in critical condition. And the doctor at the emergency room for Memorial Hospital says the death toll could go up.

I want to show you sort of how this works out here. There are two facilities here, the Rehabilitation of Hollywood hills and Larkin Community Hospital. Both of those are the ones that are in question here. Both are now locked down. Both are now subject to a criminal investigation.

Fifty feet that way is Memorial Hospital. It's a, you know, class a hospital. They have an emergency care facility. They can handle any level of trauma out there. But the company that runs this facility, Larkin, has nothing to do with Memorial, say that they lost power after Irma.

An employee says that there were generators, not only one that the company owned, but also rentals that they had. It is not clear if they failed. But how it is that nobody raised their hand and raised an alarm when you have a perfectly good hospital 50 feet away is a huge question. The police chief of Hollywood says it's now a criminal investigation.


CHIEF TOMAS SANCHEZ, HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA, POLICE: Right now the building has been sealed off and is -- we're conducting a criminal investigation inside. We may -- we believe at this time they may be related to the loss of power and the storm, but we're conducting a criminal investigation, not ruling anything out at this time.


MARQUEZ: Now, the city of Hollywood is also checking its facilities, 42 facilities that are similar to this, urgent care facilities for the elderly or elderly care facilities, to make sure there's no problems. They haven't reported anything so far. Everything seems fine.

They've also sent out word to the entire state. The governor is weighing in. There's great fear and frustration about how this could happen. But, clearly, a storm like this, it is the days on that are the -- that where the -- where the bad things can happen and just a tiny thing goes wrong and the most vulnerable can pay for it with their lives. Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes. A hospital across the street. Miguel Marquez, keep us apprised of any developments there.

Meantime, another nursing home has graciously stepped up to help with this.

With me now Ralph Marinson, owner of the Marinson Senior Care Residences. He is the first licensed senior care administrator in all of Florida.

Mr. Marinson, thank you so much for joining me today.


BALDWIN: First, just, it's my understanding you or your facilities are taking in some of the elderly evacuees. Have you already done that or how many people are you anticipating housing?

MARINSON: We're -- we expect about 30 residents to be coming in sometime in the next couple hours. We just got our power back up on this -- our 26th street campus. Our commercial boulevard facility came up yesterday. One of our assisted livings came up Monday. And we're back up, except for one facility, which we still are on generator power.

And we're monitoring every resident in there. We're doing fine. But we're able now, with our other facilities, to take in some of the folks that had to be moved from the other facility.

[14:05:11] BALDWIN: So if you're taking in about 30 or so people, do you have any idea how they're faring, their conditions? Are they OK?

MARINSON: We have no idea at this point what condition they're in. I would presume that all of us that have been down here through this with the warm temperature, there's probably a certain degree of dehydration. We have been hydrating our residents since the beginning. It's a standard operating procedure.

And we're prepared. We practice this. We rehearse it. But, of course, until it actually happens, you really never know. But I've got to tell you, I'm so proud of my staff. They've done a magnificent job. As tired as they all are, as tired as we all are, they keep going and now we're prepared to help others.

BALDWIN: Good for you. Ralph Marinson, thank you so much.

Gosh, at least that's wonderful for that 30 people who will get that kind of help. It's just horrendous to think that this happened to somebody's grandmother or grandfather. Thank you very much.

And as we continue to cover, of course, we're watching the -- waiting for the White House daily briefing. We'll take it live.

In the meantime, my colleague, John Berman, has traveled farther south than the last time we spoke this time yesterday. He is down in Big Pine Key.

I'll let you take it over from here, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, Brooke, Big Pine Key is about mile 30 in the Florida Keys. And it's interesting, we flew in yesterday, we went to Sugarloaf Key, about mile 21, most buildings there had their roofs. It didn't look like there was utter devastation there. But here on Big Pine, it is a much different story. You can see this house behind me right here, just the surge went right through the wall there and wiped the entire house out on to the street, which is there behind the camera there. This house is gone. I mean the roof is still there, but nothing else.

I think we have a shot from the sky right now to give you a sense of the entire coastline right here, what it looks like from the air right now. And this is where there was this giant surge. Residents tell us they saw an eight-foot surge here, which overwhelmed house after house after house.

Now, we have seen some residents here coming back home. As I said, I talked to the owners of this house. They own a few properties on here. All of them, they believe, will need to be completely rebuilt.

They are getting food and water now. Food and water have arrived here in a different part of town. People have been driving to the center of town, picking up pallets of water provided by the military and other aide givers and also food.

Fuel is in very short supply. People need fuel to move around in their vehicles that are here, not to mention run their generators.

And I think what people want more than anything else is communications. People want to be able to reach the outside world. And we put together -- CNN put together a little package of what it's like for these folks to come home, to see their houses for the first time, houses like this, to see what they lost. And we also have some footage of what it's like for people to reach out to their loved ones across the country because there's no way -- there's no way to get a phone call out here on cell phone or e-mail or anything else. So sat phones, which CNN has and others have, are very precious commodities right now. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go home. I want to see my home. I want to see that we have a home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't believe that the water is still in the house. We can't even get in there yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My house, where I pay taxes, and I'm not allowed to get in here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've spent five days on the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Except it's hot here and there's no electricity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing here. There's no gas. There's no water. There's no stores.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It looks like you had a crew with sledge hammers in here who were angry at somebody. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are the kids? Are they all right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watching the news and not knowing what's going on with your house and everything, your life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God, the roof.

CUOMO: You haven't been able to talk to anybody?


CUOMO: It's ringing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, it's dad. Calling to let you know we're OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, yes, I'm alive.


CUOMO: Keep talking.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm fine. Everyone is good. Please get in contact with mom and the rest of the cousins and friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've still got a lot of whisky and beer left. It's just getting warm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now I'm OK. Right now my family's OK. I'm OK.


BERMAN: I'm alive, that's the message from the people who rode out the storm here on the Florida Keys, getting messages back out to their loved ones. They're here. They are hearty folk. They do need help.

I've seen military convoys coming from both the south and the north, so help is beginning to arrive. I saw a line of a couple dozen utility trucks on to -- into the main road here, U.S. 1. So, again, they're going to get to work, but there is so much work here, Brooke, that needs to be done.

[14:10:14] BALDWIN: Watching that piece, seeing everyone on those sat phones telling loved ones they're alive, goose bumps. Goose bumps over here.

John Berman, we'll check back in with you down in The Keys momentarily.

Also, we're going to take everyone live to the Caribbean, where a week after Irma struck, people there are describing an incredibly dire situation. They're talking about lack of food and water and some say they're being forced to fend for themselves.

And in politics today, look who's coming to dinner. The top two Democrats in Congress, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, both joining President Trump at the White House this evening. What CNN has learned about their dinner plans and how Republicans feel about that.

Also happening right now, the president is meeting with one of the Republican senators who publicly criticized his response to Charlottesville and questioned his moral authority. What South Carolina's Senator Tim Scott is telling President Trump today.

All of this as we are waiting for that White House press briefing to begin.

Stay with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin, and this is CNN.


[14:12:48] BALDWIN: All right, here we go. Let's go to the White House.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I want to start off by reiterating the messages that FEMA Administrator Brock Long and the president's Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Officer Tom Bossert made this morning regarding the ongoing relief efforts in the wakes of Hurricane Irma and Harvey.

Life-sustaining operations are still under way and we encourage everyone in the designated areas in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to register online at That's the quickest way to register for federal assistance.

As I said yesterday, the president was pleased that members on all sides of the aisle came together last week under his leadership to deliver critical relief to those affected by the storm, and he has continued that spirit of bipartisanship and unity this week.

Last night, he hosted Republican and Democrat senators to discuss advancing the administration's legislative priorities, particularly the importance of delivering tax cuts and reform for the middle class.

Today, in addition to important meetings with Republican and Democrat House members and Senator Tim Scott, the president will also host Senator Schumer and Congresswoman Pelosi this evening for a bipartisan discussion on the upcoming legislative agenda, with a focus on tax reform.

Historic tax reform is one of the most significant ways that we will jump-start our economy, creating jobs and raising wages for all Americans. The president and his team will continue to engage with all members of Congress who are willing to work with us to deliver this critical relief for the American people.

Finally, on a slightly lighter note, I'd like to announce that Frank from Falls Church, Virginia, whose letter I read last month offering his services to mow the White House lawn, will be here on Friday. He'll work with the groundskeeping crew here at the White House and will help cut the grass in the Rose Garden. The president is committed to keeping the American Dream alive for kids like Frank and we're all looking forward to having him here.

And with that, I'll take your questions.


QUESTION: A couple of questions, if I could, Sarah.

First of all, can you give us a readout of the meeting that the president had with Senator Scott this morning?

SANDERS: Sure. This was a very productive meeting that the president and the senator both wanted to have something to discuss potential solutions moving forward, to bring the country together. A focus on unity. Also talking and touching on some of the priorities for the legislative agenda moving into the fall.

QUESTION: Did Senator Scott express his displeasure at all with the president's initial reaction to Charlottesville?

SANDERS: Not at all.

They talked about it pretty in-depth. But the focus was primarily on solutions moving forward. And that was what both people came to the meeting wanting to discuss is what we can do to bring people together, not talk about divisions within the country.

QUESTION: Second question.

Following the meeting that he had with the president last night, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said in his perfect world, you get 30 Democratic senators and 30 Republican senators agreeing on a plan for tax reform.

Does the president believe he could get 30 Democratic senators and still stick to his principles for tax reform?

SANDERS: I think America hopes he can. I think for the -- for the sake of most Americans, the goal is -- I would actually set the sights much higher, in that you have every member of the Senate come together to help pass massive tax cuts and bring tax reform to this country.

QUESTION: Sarah, thank you. Two questions, if I can.

So, the president's dinner tonight with Schumer and Pelosi; they seem to be getting closer. But in the past, the president has called Chuck Schumer a clown; Pelosi a loser. But now he seems to recognize that he needs them.

QUESTION: How does that work? What changed?

SANDERS: I think it's less about him needing them, but as -- more about the president wanting to work with them and wanting to help move this country forward.

As we've said many times before, we've got a very ambitious legislative agenda for this fall and the president wants to work with anybody that wants to move America forward. And if they're willing to do that, sit down, be part of that conversation on both tax cuts and tax reform, responsible immigration reform, then the president certainly welcomes those conversations.

QUESTION: Does he view Schumer and Pelosi as equal allies on the Hill for getting things done on par with McConnell and Ryan?

SANDERS: Well, the president is a Republican and certainly, I think, ideologically that's a much cleaner match-up.

But again, if these people and these individuals, whether they're Democrats or Republicans, want to come together to push the president's agenda and the agenda that clearly the American people want to see or they wouldn't have elected Donald Trump, then we're certainly happy to have that conversation and move that ball forward.



I know the president came out for Graham-Cassidy today, but a lot of people believe that may not come to pass. Senator Alexander has introduced a more incremental bill that would stabilize the insurance markets.

Could the president support a bill like that, or does it have to be a more of a full-scale repeal?

And secondly, what does the president make of Democrats' efforts on single-payer?

SANDERS: I think that the president, as well as the majority of the country, knows that the single-payer system that the Democrats are proposing is a horrible idea. I can't think of anything worse than having government being more involved in your health care, instead of less involved. The president's focused on looking at way where government gets out of the way, people have more control over their own health care. And looking at ways to, again, fully repeal and replace would certainly be a priority. But we want to move this system forward and make sure that we're in a place that's actually sustainable and that we have a health care system that works, that people who are under that health care system actually have a say in.

QUESTION: But could he sign something that's not a full-scale repeal? Obviously I'm not just saying single-payer, but something along the lines...

SANDERS: We have to see the specific pieces of that legislation before we are going to weigh in on a hypothetical bill.



Two questions.

First, is Vice President Pence going to be attending that dinner tonight?

SANDERS: I believe the vice president is actually hosting another dinner at his residence with other members of Congress. We'll make sure we get those -- more details to you on that later today.

QUESTION: And on a different topic, I wanted to follow up on some statements you made yesterday about James Comey.

You said some of his conduct "likely could have been illegal." I was wondering what specifically you were referring to there. Because the one thing you pointed out was the memos that were given to the Times, but those were -- didn't contain any classified information and were handed over once he was a private citizen.


The memos that Comey leaked were created on a FBI computer while he was the director. He claims they were private property, but they clearly followed the protocol of an official FBI document. Leaking FBI memos on a sensitive case regardless of classification violates federal laws, including the Privacy Act, standard FBI employment agreement and non-disclosure agreement all personnel must sign.

I think that's pretty clean and clear that that would be a violation.

QUESTION: So what do you want to see happen?

SANDERS: That's not up to me to decide.

I'm certainly not an attorney, but I -- I think that the facts of the case are very clear.

QUESTION: And -- and just following up on that a bit, so you -- you're not saying that the Justice Department should look into this. But you do believe that Comey did -- that his act of leaking those memos was illegal?

SANDERS: The -- the Department of Justice has to look into any allegations of illegal -- whether or not something's illegal or not. That's not up to me to decide.

What I've said and what I'm talking about are facts. James Comey leaking of information, questionable statements under oath, politicizing an investigation, those are real reasons for why he was fired.

SANDERS: And the president's decision was 100 percent right, which we've said multiple times, over and over. And in fact, I think the more and more we learn, the more and more that's been vindicated.

QUESTION: OK. Just a -- just a -- on another topic, can -- do you have any details on where the president will be going tomorrow in Florida? Any -- anything you can tell us on that trip?

SANDERS: He will be in the Naples and Fort Myers area. And as soon as those final details about specific stops are locked in, we'll certainly keep you guys posted.

Tara (ph)?

QUESTION: Two questions.

The first one: After meeting with Senator Scott, is the president's mind changed at all about (inaudible)? Should he have been more forceful?

And will he sign this bipartisan resolution condemning the violence in Charlottesville, as well as hate groups like the KKK and anyone else?

SANDERS: The -- the president was clear in his initial statement, that he condemned hatred, bigotry, racism of all forms. He continues to stick to that message. He's been very consistent in that fact.

He and the senator talked about that and discussed that, and agreed that that was the appropriate place to be.

In terms of whether or not he'll sign the joint resolution, absolutely. And he looks forward to doing so as soon as he receives it, which he hasn't done as I came out here earlier.

QUESTION: And one other topic: his meeting with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi today.

This is the kind of thing that conservatives who ran against him in the presidential race warned about; that he'd be cutting deals with Chuck and Nancy that would not uphold the ideals of conservatives.

So why is he meeting with just the two of them this evening? And is he hoping to strike an immigration deal with Schumer and Pelosi?

SANDERS: I -- I think it's pretty disingenuous for people to say, "He's only meeting with Democrats."

The president is the leader of the Republican Party, and was elected by Republicans. He beat out 16 other candidates to take that mantle on. And certainly I think one of the strongest voices. And so the idea that the Republican Party ideas are not represented in that room is just ridiculous.


QUESTION: Just to follow up (inaudible), is -- is immigration going to come up? And would the president consider reaching some kind of deal similar to the three-month extension, working with Democrats on -- on the DREAMers issue?

SANDERS: I wouldn't be surprised if it came up tonight, but I'm not going to get ahead of the conversations that they're going to take place later this evening. And as always, we'll certainly keep you guys posted on what those look like.

QUESTION: I just want to ask about the number two at FEMA withdrawing his nomination for consideration. Did the White House know about that I.G. audit when the president (inaudible) to nominate Daniel Craig?

SANDERS: We're not going to get into the back and forth.

Our focus, particularly at FEMA right now, is on the safety and security of those that have been affected by the hurricane. We're not going to go down rabbit holes on personnel, and our focus is on that, as of right now.


QUESTION: This morning on CBS, Senator Manchin said that last night at dinner, the president was adamant that the tax reform would not be a tax cut for the rich.

Do you know on what basis the president was able to make that promise? Is he pledging to hold the top tax rate at 39.6 percent? Are we not going to see a reduction in -- in -- in that rate? How can he assure Americans that the rich won't get a tax cut?

SANDERS: The -- the president's priority, when it comes to tax cuts and tax reform, is on the middle class, helping grow the middle class, helping create jobs, simplifying the system. He's laid out those principles, and that's where his focus is, and that's what he's going to push for as we move into this process.

QUESTION: To follow up on the question that was asked about Bernie Sanders' health plan, in January the president gave an interview to The Washington Post where he said he wanted to see a program that would allow for insurance for everybody, and that would leverage Medicare and Medicaid's ability to control drug prices.

Bernie Sanders seems to be offering a plan that would do that. Why is the president not supporting it? SANDERS: I'm pretty sure that it's -- not only does the president not support it, but America doesn't support it, or Bernie Sanders would be sitting in the Oval Office right now.

He pushed these ideas forward during the campaign. They were rejected, not just by America, but Democrats. He didn't make it through the primary. He didn't make it into the Oval. I think that's a pretty clear indication of what America wants to see, and it's not a single-payer system.


QUESTION: I'd like to ask...

SANDERS: I'll come back to you.

QUESTION: Thank you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Two quick questions.

On tax reform, there are some Democrats who are confused if the president was serious about creating a bipartisan tax plan. Their thinking is that the president would also be meeting with ranking members or the minority members of Ways of Means and on the Finance Committee in advance of the disclosure of the consensus outline that's going to come out at the end of September.

Can you describe the president's view about how to create a bipartisan tax plan? Does he want to get ideas from Democrats or does he just want Democrats to buy in to the plan that (inaudible) and Hatch will reveal?

SANDERS: Well, I think just by mere fact that he's been sitting down both yesterday and today with multiple members of the Democrat Party shows that he wants to have that conversation with them. I don't think you can make that any more clear than to have those ongoing conversations with multiple members of the Democrat Party.


QUESTION: I said I had two questions.

A quick question on Florida.

How soon will the federal government be able to estimate any -- with any kind of precision what kind of additional aid might be necessary to address the destruction in Florida in terms of what Congress may be presented with by the end of the month?

SANDERS: We're still in the recovery efforts right now, and until we get a little bit further into the process it would be premature to put those estimates out there, particularly with precision.

I would imagine that that takes us a good bit more time. And once we have those numbers we'll let you know. QUESTION: Thank you, Sarah.

I'd like to ask, the United States is spearheading a meeting at the U.N. on Monday on U.N. reform. Could you give me some specifics on what the United States hopes to accomplish in that meeting?

We're not going to -- I'm not going to get ahead of the meetings that are going to take place, but I can tell you that on Friday General McMaster and Ambassador Haley will be here at the briefing to talk in more detail about the U.N. General Assembly events and meetings that'll take place next week.


SANDERS: Jon Decker?

QUESTION: Thanks a lot, Sarah.

Two questions on two different subjects.

Just to follow up to the president's meeting that he had with Senator Scott this morning, after the president's response to that white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Senator Scott said that President Trump's moral authority was compromised.

In terms of the conversation that they had, does the president understand what troubled Senator Scott in regards to his response?

SANDERS: They had a very open and honest conversation, and committed to continuing those conversations and making sure that today was just the first step of many of those meetings where I think that'll be an ongoing process and ongoing conversation that they have.

QUESTION: And then on tax reform, with the meeting that's taking place this evening with Democratic leaders from Congress, what has been the reaction that you've seen from the supporters that were on board the -- sort of the Trump bandwagon from the start? This new tack that the president is taking in reaching out to Democrats.

SANDERS: This was something that the president talked about on the campaign trail, of being a good dealmaker and being able to sit down with members of both sides and be able to bring a deal and bring good legislation for the American people. This isn't new.

And people listened and heard the president and certainly supported his, and that's why he's here today.

John Gizzi?

QUESTION: Thank you, Sarah.

Two different questions on two subjects.

First, your earlier remarks about the nature of repeal-and- replace legislation would seem to rule out the White House support for a flat- out repeal, which is favored by may Republican House members. Are you ruling our or discouraging a flat-our repeal measure first?

SANDERS: We haven't -- we haven't ruled out anything that helps move this process forward.

We're grateful for the efforts that are continuing in Congress. And we hope that they do what they campaigned on and what they promised the American people they would do, and that's not just repeal, but it's also replace. I think both of those parts are very important moving forward.

QUESTION: (inaudible) the president recently appointed 42 new United States attorneys, and it's been reported fairly widely that only one of them was a woman, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. Joyce Vance, former Democratic-appointed U.S. attorney in Alabama called this, and I quote, "a slap in the face," unquote.

What is the reaction of the White House to that comment on his wave of appointments of U.S. attorneys?

SANDERS: I think that the president has certainly surrounded himself with a lot of strong women in various positions, including myself in a pretty high position and senior position in the administration, as well as Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway, a number of others. He's continuing to add women to his staff at senior levels every single day. And I think that's a very positive step forward considering particularly on the communications side it's the first time in history that's happened.


QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

It was reported today that Mike Flynn Jr. is the subject of a federal investigation into election meddling. Is the president concerned that someone who served on his transition team is now the subject of a federal investigation?

SANDERS: I haven't had a conversation with him about that, but I'd refer you to outside counsel on these matters (ph).

QUESTION: If I could follow up on a comment that Hillary Clinton made this morning. She said that she wished President Trump was the president for all Americans.

Do you have any reaction to this characterization of the president's role in the White House?

[14:29:55] SANDERS: I haven't had a conversation to him about that, but I'd refer you to outside counsel on matters like that.

QUESTION: A follow-up on a comment that Hillary Clinton made this morning. She said that she wished President Trump was the president for all Americans Do you have any reaction to this characterization of the president's role in the White House?

SANDERS: I think that type of misunderstanding of who this president --