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Hurricane Relief Efforts Continue; President Trump Talks Tax Reform; Six Dead at Florida Nursing Home in Irma Aftermath. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired September 13, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we asked a sheriff's deputy just when the timetable is for them to let people through. And he said: "I have no idea. They're not telling us anything."

Some people are heading back up north, Brooke, but a lot of them are staying right here, and they're miserable.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I can't even begin to appreciate their frustration. Brian Todd, keep an eye on that, please. And we can check back in, Brian Todd in Lower Matecumbe Key, Florida.

Let's continue on.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: Hour two for me. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Thank you for being here.

Cleanup and recovery from Hurricane Irma now under way in the Southeast, but the conditions in the storm's aftermath are turning deadly. This tragic, gut-wrenching situation has been unfolding in Hollywood, Florida. At least six people have died at a nursing home after the facility lost its air conditioning during the storm.

Firefighters are now evacuating some 100 other elderly residents from this particular home. Right now, a lot of them are being treated for respiratory diseases -- distress, rather, or dehydration, heat-related issues. As Brian mentioned, it's hot down there.

The police chief in that community says this is now a criminal investigation.


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

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: CNN's Miguel Marquez is there outside the rehabilitation center at Hollywood Hills.

And the question is, as you were pointing out, the hospital is across the street. Why didn't they just go there?


I mean, these -- they're the most vulnerable people in the worst conditions for days. The company says that they lost their power when Irma blew through on Sunday night. An employee tells us that they did have generators, one that the company owned and several that they rented, but that the building was comfortable, he said.

Somebody whose mother was in there told us that it was about 110 last night. On top of all this, six dead, 115 have been evacuated. There's a dozen of these patients are in critical care now and the doctor who found them this morning said -- they some of them may die.

So the death toll here may go up. I want to show you how simply frustrating this. This is the facility here, the rehabilitation center at Hollywood Hills, and the Larkin Community Hospital. It's two different facilities. And both of those have been evacuated. Both are now sealed.

Both are now under investigation by police. Fifty feet away is Memorial Hospital. It's a level one trauma center. Did anyone call 911 before this morning? The first call, say police, went out at 4:00 a.m. for a heart attack. Police then later said their first patrol agents showed up at 6:00 a.m. and the evacuation didn't start until 7:00 a.m.

Once the hospital and the police understood the gravity of what was happening there, they say they turned it into basically a mass trauma event, like you would during a storm or during a mass shooting or an earthquake. And they evacuated hundreds of people from the hospital.

Employees there came here and moved them over. The hospital is very quick to point out they had nothing to do with Larkin or the rehabilitation center. It's there, but they were completely unaware of the conditions inside. Seemingly, if it were like that for days, no one, not the hospital, not a nurse, not a family member, raised their hand and called 911.

Unless there's some record of that, and if there is, the police chief says they're going to look into it, see if there were other calls that went out. And if they were never answered, that's going to be another big question as to why -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Like you said, it's a criminal investigation now. Miguel Marquez, thank you.

Let's talk a little bit more about this.

James Lee Witt is with me, former FEMA director under President Clinton. And, James, my question, number one, it is so tragic and infuriating

to think that they knew there was a storm coming. There was a hospital 50 feet away, and yet you have six deaths of these elderly people. How can this happen?

JAMES LEE WITT, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: That's totally unacceptable. You know, cities and counties and states have special needs lists for special populations and the response that they're supposed to be checking on those people.

And even the people within that nursing home should have been notifying the hospital or 911. And, you know, most of those backup generators kick on about twice a month, sometimes three times a month automatically to make sure they're operational.

I'm not on the ground there, but this is tragic and it's totally unacceptable. And I'm sure that the police chief will get to the bottom of it.


BALDWIN: I was talking to a gentleman last hour who kindly is taking in 30 or so people, elder evacuees from this home. He said one of his facilities just got A.C. back yesterday.

I mean, just talk me through the challenges weathering a storm like this, especially if you have someone in their 70s, 80s, 90s.

WITT: Well, it's a huge challenge. But, you know, it's doable. And, you know, every facility should have a plan in place to make sure that they exercise that plan when conditions get to a certain level.

You know, I'm not sure if they had one. I suppose they did. But, you know, in a lot of cases in areas that may flood a foot or two foot, you know, you build up your generators on platforms high enough that the floodwaters don't get into them.

So there's just a lot of things that can be done and should be done, and hopefully that this tragic loss that somebody will learn a lesson from this.

BALDWIN: Just quickly, what are some of the questions, you know, their loved ones should be asking right now?

WITT: Well, first of all, you know, who is responsible? Second, who was in charge at the time? And, third, why didn't somebody notify 911 or at least the hospital next door? I mean, this is just normal things you should do.

BALDWIN: James Lee Witt, thank you so much, former FEMA director under President Clinton, just reporting on this infuriating and tragic story out of Hollywood, Florida.

Let's go to the White House here, a bipartisan meeting on members of the House and the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... this bipartisan group of Democrats and Republican lawmakers to the White House. More and more, we're trying to work things out together. And it's a positive thing.

And it's good for the Republicans and good for the Democrats. And this group knows that very well. Whether we can do incredible things that we're doing and working in a bipartisan fashion obviously would be a positive and I think something, Tom, that we all feel good about.

I want to thank Tom Reed. He's been a friend of mine for a long time. He was there right at the beginning, when it wasn't very fashionable, and I really appreciate it.

And Josh Gottheimer for helping to organize this very important gathering. I think it's really -- the whole concept of what we're trying to do is very, very important.

Inspired by the example of our own citizens, we should be able to come together to make government work for the people. That's why I was elected. That's why I ran. And to provide jobs and opportunities to millions of struggling families.

This includes tax reform that is pro-jobs, pro-growth, pro-family and pro-Americans. Very simple, pro-American. We have four principles for tax reform. Make the tax code simple and fair. Cut taxes substantially. It will be the largest tax decrease in the history of our country for the middle class.

Encourage companies to hire and grow in America, and by doing that we're going to have to reduce the taxes for companies. Right now, we're at 35 percent, and really much higher when you add state taxes in. And China is at 15 percent. Then we wonder why are we not competing well against China.

So, they're at 15 percent and we're at 35-plus, and that doesn't work. And bring back trillions of dollars. We have trillions of dollars overseas that we will bring back and we will bring them back quickly. So this is money that Josh and Tom and everybody in this room can tell you, everybody has agreed to bring it back for years, but it never gets done. So we're putting it down as part of our tax proposal.

Another bipartisan project that is urgently needed is infrastructure and infrastructure investment. For decades now, Washington has allowed our infrastructure to fall into a state of total decay and disrepair. And it's time now to build new roads, new bridges, airports, tunnels, highways and railways all across our great land.

When we set aside our differences, and it's amazing sometimes how little our differences are, we put our country and we put the citizens of our country first. And that's what this is all about. So we want to have a great new tax cut and tax reform, simplification and massive cuts.

And we want to get our country working again and competing again worldwide and there will be nothing that can stop us.

On top of that, we will be discussing probably a little bit of health care, because I know some information has come to light. So we will be discussing, because, ultimately, while we have Democrats, I won't speak -- I think I can speak for the Republicans generally, but we do want to do something very, very powerfully with respect to Obamacare.


It has not worked. The rates are going through the roof. The numbers, if you look at, no matter where you go, no matter where you look, health care is failing in our country. And we're going to get it changed and we're going to get it changed fast.

Infrastructure, we will be talking about, and we will probably also be talking about DACA, because we don't want to forget DACA. And it's already been a week-and-a-half and people don't talk about it as much. We want to see if we can do certain with regard to immigration, with regard to the 800,000 people that are now young people. They're not children anymore. They were children. Now they're young people.

But we want to see if we can do something in a bipartisan fashion, so that we can solve the DACA problem and other immigration problems. So we will be discussing that today.

And then tonight I'm having dinner with Senator Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, and we will continue some discussions.

So we have a lot of things in the fire, but I think right now first and foremost , so that we can compete again, and especially in light of the fact that we had two massive hurricanes, the likes of which I guess our country has never seen. I don't think we have ever seen.

One was the biggest ever in water and the other was the biggest ever in wind, and you put them together, and we have devastation in Texas and in Florida.

And we have done -- and other parts of our country, by the way. And I think we have gotten very high marks for the way we have handled them thus far, and we continue to handle them well, but they were very big and very powerful, and it was very unfortunate.

But because of that, more than ever, we now need great tax reform and great tax cuts. So we are here as a group, bipartisan, to try and see what we can come up with.

Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) What would you tell them? Why have Leader Pelosi and Senator Schumer over tonight?

TRUMP: Well, I'm a conservative, and I will tell you I'm not skeptical. And I think that if we can do things in a bipartisan manner, that will be great.

Now, it might not work out, in which case, we will try and do them without. But I think if we can do in a bipartisan manner -- if you look at some of the greatest legislation ever passed, it was done on a bipartisan manner.

And so that's what we're going to give it a shot. And we will see what we can do. And if it works out, great. And if it doesn't work out, great. Hopefully we will be able to do it as Republicans. OK? Thank you.


TRUMP: We're looking at a 15 percent rate, all right. We want a 15 percent rate, because that would bring us low, not by any means the lowest, but it would bring us to a level where China and other countries are.

And we will be able to compete with anybody. Nobody will be able to touch us. So we would like to see 15 percent. OK?

Thank you very much, everybody.

And, by the way, lower -- and lower for individuals, much lower than that for individuals. And the rich will not be gaining at all with this plan. We're not -- we're looking for the middle class and we're looking for jobs, jobs meaning companies. So we're looking at the middle class and we're looking at jobs.

QUESTION: Will the wealthy have higher taxes?

TRUMP: I think the wealthy will be pretty much where they are, pretty much where they are. If we can do that, we'd like it.

If they have to go higher, they will go higher, frankly. We're looking at the middle class and we're looking at jobs. OK?

Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody.

BALDWIN: Wanted to take that.

The president -- the president there sitting around that table with members of the House, both Democrats and Republicans, talking tax reform, you know, saying bipartisan tax reform is a positive thing, to quote the president, also emphasizing infrastructure goals.

But it was that key question at the end asked by my colleague Jeff Zeleny, our senior White House correspondent, that I really want to talk about, Jeff Zeleny, because, you know, and this was asked of Sarah Sanders a bit ago, the big dinner tonight.

He had dinner with some Democrats last night. He had this bipartisan meeting today, dinner tonight with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. And you were asking about some of the criticism or the skepticism of Republicans, why have dinner with these top two Dems. What did you think of his response?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, it was interesting, because that is the question that's really hanging over Washington, from Capitol Hill, and even just some Republicans quite frankly here at the White House, why and what is behind this outreach to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.


The president has not minced words for months. He's called them clowns, users. Well, tonight, he's having them over for dinner. So, at the end of that really pretty fulsome statement on tax reform and other matters, we did ask the president about conservative skepticism.

And, Brooke, he looked me directly in the eye and said, I'm a conservative. I am not skeptical.

And then he went on to say, look, if we do not get this done, sort of so be it. But he wants to try this route here.

And, Brooke, I was stuck by just standing in that Cabinet Room. There were an equal number of House Democrats, an equal number of House Republicans. These are the rank-and-file members from -- you know, from moderate groups on both sides who want to go back to their districts next year and tell their voters something they have achieved.

Now, of course, it's much more difficult in reality, and I think at the end on tax reform, when the president was also asked about specific rates and, you know, the wealthy, will their taxes go up, will they be reduced? Those, of course, are longstanding divisions in the Republican and Democratic viewpoints here.

He said, look, he would like to keep the wealthy highest tax rates the same, but he said, if they have to be increased, so be it here. So we will see what actually comes out of this. But, Brooke, what else is going on here, the White House is trying to extend its hand.

And if nothing happens, easier to place the blame on Congress, the most reviled and has the lowest ratings of anyone than place the blame on this president, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Right. He's saying, I'm trying to talk to all, even though I called them losers and clowns in the past. They're coming over for dinner tonight.

Hey, he also mentioned the two huge hurricanes that we have been covering. And on the FEMA note, you're getting some news about the nominee to be the deputy at FEMA. What's that?

ZELENY: We are, Brooke, indeed.

The number two position at FEMA, he is withdrawing his name from consideration. He's telling CNN this afternoon that, look, he does not want to be a distraction, a sideshow here. Dan Craig is -- is his -- who has called -- his name -- and he's not familiar to any of us.

But he has -- his confirmation has been on hold in the Senate. So, he's like, look, he does not want to be a distraction, but the president clearly going full square on these hurricanes, going after the funding here.

But it does remind us, Brooke, the government is not fully filled and functioning here. A lot of open positions, but the president going down to Florida tomorrow in the Fort Myers area. Likely to see Naples as well. All that devastation, he will get a firsthand look tomorrow, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Speaking of Florida, that's where we're going to go next.


BALDWIN: Jeff, thank you so much at the White House for me.

ZELENY: You bet.

BALDWIN: We are watching the situation which is just absolutely devastating specifically in the Florida Keys. Check this out. This is a checkpoint. We have got CNN cameras watching where people are just trying to go home, and they're frustrated because in a lot of these cases they're being turned away.

This is happening -- this is about 20 miles south of Key Largo. Officials say it's unsafe. We're going to stay updated on that.

Also, she has been slamming President Trump. Hillary Clinton sits down with Anderson Cooper as she reflects on what happened in the 2016 presidential race. Anderson takes us inside his interview next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John Berman in Big Pine Key right now.

This was one of the areas in the Keys really hardest hit by Hurricane Irma, which you could just see plainly behind me this house pretty much completely destroyed.

The storm surges came right in threw the wall and carried everything inside it down right where I'm standing right now and into this creek before me, house after house here badly damaged or destroyed. It will take so much to rebuild this area.

And joining me now, the owners of this house, Jen Demaria and Harry Appel.

Come here, guys.

And, Harry, you know, I was just watching you take a look at some of this damage here this house you have lived at for two years. You built your life here. It's got to be hard to see what's happened.


It's just -- the first thing that hits you is just like denial. The second thing that hits you is all the stuff you lost and your whole life that you built here and also down the street, we have four houses away. We have a bed and breakfast. We have been here for 14 years.

And that's basically done and finished. We have a lot of work to do there too to get that going. But, you know, today, I walked up and we smiled. The chimney is still standing and panini maker and the crock pot is in there. It's amazing, you know?

BERMAN: People have started a life than a lot less than a crock pot. A crock pot goes a long way.

And, Jen, we were speaking earlier today, and I think you were frustrated by the pace of the aid that was coming in, from the federal, from the state, from the local government. That was this morning at about 10:00.

But as we sit here today and it's, what, 3:25 right now. That's changed. Tell me.

JEN DEMARIA, HURRICANE VICTIM: Feeling a little bit better about things.

The distribution centers are getting open. Again, no issues with local enforcement, local services, local media, U.S. 104.1, and citizens.

Now we're starting to see the FEMA distribution centers open. Still not getting enough information from FEMA to the 104.1 radio station. We're in a blackout down here for media, so that's what we're hearing. You know, they can't hear out. We can't hear anything but them.

But we're feeling better, really feeling better about things. And we hear fuel is in the Upper Keys. So we're feeling better about that too. It's on the way. We still need fuel, diesel, propane. But it's coming. I do. I do feel a lot better.


You guys rode out the storm here. Do you feel lucky now that you're standing here, based on what damage you see in this house?

APPEL: Absolutely.

You know, we didn't stay in this house, but we stayed in a house down the street that was supposed to be Cat 5-rated, and it's got a lot of destruction too. But our main concern was, we had animals and rescues with us and stuff that we had to watch over, and we wanted to make sure we were safe.


So, right before the storm, we made a decision to go to a shelter, the Sugarloaf shelter. And, believe me, it must be -- it was a school and it must be built unbelievable, because the eye went right through there and it didn't even shake the building.

BERMAN: What do you need most right now? Is it communication, is it getting messages out?

DEMARIA: Yes. We still are in dire need of communication. We need authorities and FEMA, federal, state, those kind of things to get in touch with our local radio station, U.S. Radio 104.1.

They're broadcasting night and day. They're there. They're our only lifeline. So, information, fuel, diesel, propane, food, water, that kind of thing, yes, but there's a lot of relief coming and a ton of people coming to help us.

And a lot of people stayed behind, so we're going to rebuild.

BERMAN: Yes. One thing you don't need down here is spirit, that's for sure.

DEMARIA: That's true.

BERMAN: Look, Jen and Harry, thanks so much for being with us.

I think you're sending out an important message to people here and hopefully they're getting it and you all get the help you need.

You have held up remarkably well. I have been here for a day and I'm a puddle. You guys look sharp. You guys look you go to the bar and have a cocktail. Thanks so much.


BERMAN: Quick.

DEMARIA: Harris (ph) and Amanda (ph), your house is good. Debbie Stubbs (ph) in Red Bank, New Jersey, Linda Spencer (ph) is fine. She's fine.

BERMAN: Look, and that matters here, because people want to tell their loved ones that they're OK.

They have ridden this storm out and they're so happy to be here and they're dealing with so much.

Now, there are people who left the Keys who are coming back to the Keys, trying to get a glimpse of whether or not their homes are still here. Our team with Brian Todd up near Islamorada, they were there and they saw a woman trying to get home, but couldn't quite make it. Watch this.


TODD: What happened when you get to the checkpoint here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, when we get to the checkpoint, we had the reentry sticker to get back. In Homestead, they told us that we could come in. But once we got here, they said, no, no, no. You guys go through. They looked at the sticker on my car and once we get here, we're told no. TODD: Did they explain it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, they didn't. No residents -- I said even if you're medical personnel? He was like, nope, nobody can come in.

TODD: But he did tell us -- one of the deputies told us that it still may not be safe. If they let you through and something happens to you, you're not going to be call. There are no coms.

Is that satisfactory to you at all?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's fine with me. I don't have a problem with that.

TODD: You don't mind not being let in?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't mind being let in and being told that it's at my own risk. But we're homeless.

We're being told go on FEMA and fill out for FEMA. You can get through FEMA and fill out for FEMA, but then you don't have any more cell service. And not only do you not have any more cell services, we stayed in Homestead, where there's no lights, so your phone is dead. How are we supposed to get in contact with anyone? We're down to our last.

TODD: Do you know the condition of your home?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw it on the satellite and our home looks to be in fairly good condition.

I just don't know what it looks like beyond the roof, you know?

TODD: What's your level of frustration?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm extremely frustrated. I'm extremely frustrated. The sad part about it is, is that you feel like I wish I would have never left.


BERMAN: Your patience wearing thin. You can certainly understand how that woman feels.

And, Brooke, I have to tell you, I was here with Harry and Jen before. Harry was looking at his house. And he didn't want to say it. He wanted to keep a stiff upper lip, but he got really emotional when he was looking at the wreckage here.

The first time I saw him smile was when he saw that crock pot, though, in that shelf right there. That crock pot somehow survived the storm. It looks like you could make a nice stew and they're going to go in there and they're going to get it, because you know what? They need it.

Like we said, you can start something with just a crock pot, Brooke, and they're going to make it.

BALDWIN: You know, Berman, I always say it's the little things. It's the little things, and that includes a crock pot.

Thank you, John Berman.

BERMAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next here: President Trump meeting with one of the Republican senators who publicly criticized his response to Charlottesville. What happened when South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott and President Trump sat down today to talk about race at the White House?

Back in a moment.