Return to Transcripts main page


Police Launch Criminal Probe After Nursing Home Deaths; Eight Dead At Florida Nursing Home After Storm Knocks Out AC; Trump: The Rich Won't Gain Under Tax Plan; Mnuchin Asked To Use Government Jet For Honeymoon; Hundreds Desperate To Flee Storm-Ravaged St. Martin. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 14, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. 9:00 a.m. Eastern. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. John Berman is in the Florida Keys.

Good morning, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Poppy.

Yes, I'm down here in Big Pine Key. This is the hardest hit area from Hurricane Irma. President Trump on his way to Florida right now. He will visit the west coast, Ft. Myers and Naples. We'll get to that in just a minute.

But first, back to Poppy for some breaking news.

HARLOW: That's right, John, the president is working on showing his deal-making stripes in spades, if you will. But exactly how far is he willing to go to get something big through Congress. Before he left the White House -- as you see him departing with the first lady there to head to Florida -- he said he's working on a plan to let young, undocumented immigrants, the so-called dreams, stay in this country and not be deported. The wall, he said, quote, will come later.

Now, overnight, many conservatives not happy at all about what looked like another Trump deal with Democrats, undercutting his own party. But this morning the president says GOP leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are on board.

Let's go straight to Phil Mattingly. He joins us on Capitol Hill.

And, Phil, the word from you this morning is not a deal yet but?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Something. Movement. Definitely movement forward, Poppy. It seems the best way for Democrats to move forward on any of their policy priorities, just sit down with the president in person. We saw it with the fiscal deal last week. Now we're seeing it again with DACA.

Now, what the actual specific are of the parameters of the negotiation, we know they've agreed on top lines. There will be DACA protections that will be maintained for the 700,000 individuals that have registered with the program. In exchange, there will be a significant border security package. What the details are on both of those issues are extremely important. But on the top line, take a listen to what the president had to say about that meeting.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We met last night with, as you know, Schumer, Pelosi and a whole group. And I think we're fairly close, but we have to get massive border security.


TRUMP: Well, I think he's on board. Yes, Mitch is on board. Paul Ryan's on board. We all feel -- look, 92 percent of the people agree on DACA. But what we want is we want very, very powerful border security.


MATTINGLY: And, Poppy, one of the big questions now is, even if some Republicans are on board, what about his base? This was the issue that, as you know very well, he spoke about throughout the campaign saying today, as you noted, the wall will come later. These were crucial components of why he was elected, why his supporters have been so loyal to him. Take a listen to Iowa Republican Steve King, one of the most conservative members of the House. He had this to say.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Because the base will leave him. They won't be able to defend him anymore. I support Donald Trump's campaign agenda. I support the agenda that he had when he was sworn into office. And I support almost every piece of the rest of his agenda, except this amnesty piece that's being dangled out in front of America right now.


MATTINGLY: So, Poppy, the big question now is, will conservative blowback, will base blowback -- we've seen the headlines on places like Breitbart, big supporters of the president on things up to this point, but apparently not on immigration -- will that do anything to sink what's happening right now?

I think -- a couple key points I want to make here. Again, they've agreed on top lines. They haven't agreed on details right now. Democrats have made very clear, they don't want just protections for DACA participants. They want what they call the Dream Act. That is significantly more individuals that would be covered, pathways to citizenship, things of that nature, pathways to permanent status. Those are things that Republican leadership, Mitch McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan, hadn't necessarily agreed to up to this point.

So, where that ends up is important. And also extremely important, the scope and size of the border security package. You heard the president make very clear it's going to be very large. Republicans I've been speaking to over the last couple of days have noted that, wall aside, that's the key to getting their participation in this deal. And, of course, on top of it all, can they actually get the votes to move this through. The Democrats will be there. A big question for leaders, both the Speaker and Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate --


MATTINGLY: Who have been on board with finding some solution to this problem is, can they make sure that their members are inline, or at least enough of them not for this to cause a major problem inside the party?


HARLOW: You know, and, Phil, as you rightly note this morning in all your reporting, there were no Republicans in that room last night. When they made the short term, you know, debt ceiling deals, there were Republicans, shocked as they may have been in the room. They were not there last night for this. So, stay with us, Phil, to discuss all of this, all the political headlines this morning because there are a lot of them, with CNN political analysts April Ryan and Amie Parnes.

April, let me go to you first.


HARLOW: Just to be clear, it is not Democrats that control Congress right now, it's Republicans.

RYAN: Right.

HARLOW: So why is it that it only seems like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats can get things done with this president?

RYAN: Well, this president has to try to find common ground beyond his own party. He's angered members of his own party. And some of this is also to say, see, I can do things without you.

You know, this president is not necessarily happy with some of the leadership. We've heard a lot about it.

[09:05:05] So now he's extended the olive branch to people he's really chastised publically and privately. And he needs the Democrats Party. He's talked about when he tried to deal with changing the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, reform and replace -- repeal and replace, excuse me. And he also knows he needs some infrastructure tax reform. He needs Democrats because his own party is not necessarily always in his camp. He cannot, I guess, bully them to a certain extent to come onboard.

HARLOW: It's really a change, Amy, from the, you know, tweets about wishing that it just took 51 votes to get, you know, everything through -- everything through Congress. I mean this is a real change.

Someone who's not happy about it at all this morning is conservative -- very conservative Congressman Steve King of Iowa. Take a look at some of the things he tweeted. He tweeted about this reporting last night and said that Trump's base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible.

He also tweeted, Reagan led amnesty, 1986, Bush 43 led in '06, Obama led with amnesty in '13, all failed. So Trump leads with DACA amnesty in 2017.

Does he have a point that the president here is risking -- at least rising blowing up his base?

AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think so. I talked to a couple of people last night who supported him in the 2016 election, and they have expressed a little bit of consternation. They're like, what's going on here? Now he's not even working with Republicans. He's talking to -- specifically to Democrats. And so I think this is a big deal.

But yet I think there are also some Republicans who want his agenda to actually go through and they want things to happen, so they're kind of pleased that there's at least some kind of movement.

HARLOW: Phil Mattingly, though, what about -- it's not just DACA. I mean in the last 24 hours, it's also taxes, right? The president came out and said, oh, wait, no, no, no, rich people, you're not going to pay less taxes. By the way, you might even pay more.

And then Kevin McCarthy, you know, leadership -- you know, among the leaders in the Freedom Caucus in the House is confronted with that and he's like, what? We want all -- you know, we want all Americans to pay lower taxes.

MATTINGLY: Yes, flash back a little bit, Poppy, to health care, where he was talking about things that were in the Republican health care bill that weren't actually in the Republican health care bill.

HARLOW: Right.

MATTINGLY: And all that was, was kind of a gifts to Democrats to attack them and say, hey, the president wants this. You're not doing this. Your bill doesn't measure up.

Look, I think there's a couple things here. First and foremost, when it comes to what the president says, I think the split here, the divide here that you have in Congress is, it doesn't necessarily track with legislatively what they're trying to push through. He likes the talking points. He definitely is urging people to do something. But that's not necessarily being followed through here on Capitol Hill.

And I think why this matters and why this is important is, as you noted, Republicans control both the House and the Senate. Republicans control what goes on the floor. And Republicans control what's in this legislation. So, they matter. They can't be left out of meetings.

They can't be -- Poppy, I was told last night, I was texting with people who are close to leadership who were saying, you know more than we do right now. We don't know what was exactly agreed to. One person, before the meeting with Minority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader Pelosi said, my worst nightmare is he agrees to something that's just simply not on the table. The fact that that is something they're worried about right now, before these meetings actually occur, just simply doesn't help the process because you're talking about whether it's health care or whether it's tax reform, whether it's immigration.

These are big, heavy lifts where you need the entire party united to be able to move forward if they want them to be conservative pieces of legislation. What you're seeing right now, and you saw it during health care, is splits on that front and that simply just doesn't help things moving forward.

HARLOW: Another big headline out of the interview that Anderson Cooper did last night with Hillary Clinton, a fascinating, wide-ranging interview. But just listen to this where she called the Russian election interference potentially bigger than Watergate and then, guys, she added this.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whoever runs again, probably starting in 2018, will face Russian interference, may face coordination between opposition campaigns and Russians, will face voter suppression, will face endemic sexism and misogyny. And part of why I wrote this book was not only to come to grips with what I think happened, but to send up some, you know, alarm signals so that others can say, hey, wait a minute, these factors could affect anybody. And eventually Republicans could be affected.


HARLOW: April, you know, the president took to Twitter this morning and he again said, look, she's blaming everybody else for her loss and not herself. He's not the only, you know, critic who points to that. How do you see it?

RYAN: Well, the president likes to talk about Hillary Clinton a lot. So it's interesting. I mean ever since he won -- and I watch Twitter, speaking of Twitter, someone made a very important point. He keeps talking about Hillary Clinton a lot because that's one of the only wins that he's had so far in the last eight months. And I said that was an interesting point.

[09:10:04] But, you know, Hillary Clinton makes a point about this Russia investigation. I mean, I don't know if it's going to be bigger than Watergate, but this -- if where the smoke is, and if what people on Capitol Hill, some of the senators who are involved in some of the investigations of this, and the hearings, if what they are saying is true, this really could be historic.

Hillary Clinton is a former secretary of state. She understands full well what the democracy is. She also understands diplomacy. And she also understands it's not right for another nation to come into a political process to insinuate itself into the process one way or the other, directly or indirectly, and change dynamics. This is a big deal.

HARLOW: Let me get Amie in here quickly, 30 seconds before we wrap up. How did you see it?

PARNES: I think she had to push back against critics who have said, what are you doing, you're kind of pushing the party back to 2016. We're trying to move forward.

HARLOW: And Anderson asked her about that.

PARNES: Yes. And a lot of people, particularly in Obama's camp, they're saying, take a note from the president. He's kind of stepped aside. The party's rebuilding right now. We need fresh blood to come up. And so I think she had to kind of respond to why this is important going forward.

HARLOW: Thank you all. Amy, nice to have you.

April, Phil Mattingly, great reporting, as always. Thank you.

Let's go back to John in the Florida Keys.


BERMAN: Thanks, Poppy.

So one small sign of progress here after we woke up. We noticed there were these teeny pockets of cell service down here on the Florida Keys, particularly even the lower keys. It appears to be these temporarily towers put up by AT&T to help out with the emergency first responders and the recovery teams here. But, if you know where to go, you can pick up a few minutes of cell service, which will be welcome -- more than welcome for the people of the lower keys.

Coming to Florida as we speak, the president of the United States. He's on his way to Ft. Myers. He cannot come down here because it would disrupt the recovery efforts, of course. But he's going up to Ft. Myers, also Naples.

Let's go to the airport, where he'll be landing in just a little bit. Our Alex Marquardt is there.



That's right, the president has just taken off from Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, due to arrive here in just around an hour and a half. He will be accompanied by the first lady, Melania Trump, greeted here on the tarmac by the vice president, as well as Florida's senators and governor.

He will be, at first, getting a briefing here at the airport about the relief and recovery efforts. Then hopping on Marine One and taking a short ride down to Naples, which, as you know, was hit very hard by Hurricane Irma.

Now, this third trip in just three weeks to a devastated hurricane zone comes after the criticism of his trip to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in which he was criticized for not meeting with any victims, for not giving to devastation areas, for giving a rally-style speech in which he talked about crowd size.

So the White House has been very conscientious about showing that the president had been carefully monitoring this storm, show -- posting pictures of him getting briefings. Making sure that people knew that he was in touch with local officials.

Now, Florida, as you know better than anybody, down there in The Keys is still very much trying to get on its feet. There is that rampant devastation down there. We have seen widespread flooding across the state.

But the big question now is, when is the power going to come back? Power, power, power. The president, as he left the residence today, said that the Florida power companies are making good progress. They are. We have seen the number of houses coming back online go up significantly and very quickly. But there's still more than 2.7 million customers here in Florida without power. That translates to many more millions of people.

I've been getting text messages from people I've met up and down the coast saying that we are suffering in the sweltering heat. It is 80 degrees and it's barely 9:00 in the morning. It's going to go up to around 90 degrees today.

So the president's going to spend just under three hours on the ground here before heading back to Washington. We're told by the White House he will also soon be visiting Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were also severely impacted by Hurricane Irma.


BERMAN: All right, Alex Marquardt for us up in Ft. Myers. I will say that a lot of the residents of The Keys have been coming up to me saying, is the president coming down here? I say, no, he's not coming down to The Keys because it would disrupt the recovery efforts, but he is on his way to Florida today and they are glad he is coming.

One of the most mystifying events of Hurricane Irma in the aftermath are the deaths in the nursing home in Hollywood, Florida. Eight deaths now in that nursing home. New questions this morning. We'll have an update on the developments, next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman back in Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys down here. Behind me you can see some of the obvious signs of destruction here, infrastructure in some cases easily compromised. Easy to see why it will take some time to recover here.

Much harder questions up the east coast of Florida particularly in Hollywood, Florida. How is it that eight people died in a nursing home days after Hurricane Irma strikes with a hospital right across the street? These are questions that need answers.

Our Elizabeth Cohen up in Hollywood, Florida. Elizabeth, what are you learning?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, what we know or what we've been told is that on Sunday that is when the air- conditioning went out. So, these elderly people were without air- conditioning, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and into the early morning hours of Wednesday.

Not just uncomfortable, that is a serious, serious medical problem for older people will overheat very, very easily and can get very sick quickly.

Now what we are also told by a Broward County executive is she said, look, we did have contact, the utility had contact, and emergency workers had contact for three days with this facility.

And when they were asked, do you have any medical needs, any emergencies, or do the residents need anything and they were told -- they were not told that there was a problem.

So, obviously they -- she said they couldn't respond to something that they weren't told about. Let's take a listen to what Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy, had to say recently.


[09:20:10] MAYOR JOSH LEVY, HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA: The state needs to look at its entire regulatory scheme, how often they inspect nursing homes. What are the requirements for backup services? What happens when there's a failure of air-conditioning systems in the Florida heat of day? It obviously can't be left to some administrators who apparently did not make the right judgment calls.


COHEN: So, to the mayor's point, let's take a look at inspection reports that were down by the government in the years prior to this happening. They were cited as having a deficiency for a generator that was temporary and should have been replaced and it hasn't been.

That they had no plans to do so. Also, that there was an alarm on the generator that had not been maintained so if it failed, staff would have no way of knowing, and also problems with not maintaining firewalls, emergency exits being blocked.

Problems with sanitizing medical equipment. When they looked at a small sample of patients, there was a 25.9 percent medical error rate.

Now, of course, this don't all have to do what happened here and they were corrected, but it tells you something about the history of this facility -- John.

BERMAN: Even then, Elizabeth, I think it's crystal clear this should have never ever happened. All right. Elizabeth Cohen up in Hollywood, Florida, thanks so much for that. There are still so many questions to those families will be asking for some time. Thanks, Elizabeth. All right. Poppy, back to you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. John, thanks. We'll get back to you in just a moment.

Again, the president is headed down to Florida where John is and you will see that live here when he arrives to survey the damage of Irma.

Meantime, in Washington, Republicans expected to release details on their tax reform plan by the end of this month. President Trump, though, making some headlines and shocking some of his fellow conservatives saying there's one group this overhaul won't help, the rich. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan. We're looking for the middle class and we're looking for jobs. I think the wealthy will be pretty much where they are. Pretty much where they are. If we can do that, we would like it. If they have to go higher, they will go higher.


HARLOW: Christine Romans here with me to discuss. Romans, that is different than he and the administration has said in the past.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, he said tax cuts for everyone, tax reform overhaul. And one Washington insider saying the president was freelancing here because a lot of people who are working on tax reform want lower rates for everyone, lower corporate tax rates.

And a whole hosts of other things like repealing the estate tax, eliminate the alternative minimum tax, and cutting the corporate tax rate the president said to 15 percent yesterday.

Of course, all of those things would benefit the wealthy overall. Would he actually raise their top line tax rate is not --

HARLOW: Or not cut it at all.

ROMANS: That's what he is saying there yesterday. So, the president on the record on that front. Look, we are hoping that a tax reform outline will be available in a couple weeks. Who is taking the lead on this? Is it the White House? Is it Paul Ryan?

You know, who is taking the lead on this? What will it look like? We know that tax reform is so difficult. Tax cuts might be easier. We heard Senator Ted Cruz saying he would be fine with just tax cuts.

HARLOW: If this is really about jobs and a change from what we had in the mid-80s, it has to be reform, it can't be and how do you do it?

ROMANS: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said you pay for it through this magical growth that would come through lower taxes.

HARLOW: Speaking of Steven Mnuchin, newly married and we wish him his new wife all the best. They went on what sounds like a lovely honeymoon to Europe, but news that doesn't look so good that he had asked to take a government plane over to their honeymoon?

ROMANS: So we have learned, CNN has confirmed and ABC News first reported this that the Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, asked the White House about the possibility of using a government jet for his honeymoon.

The reason a Treasury spokesman tells us is because he wanted to make sure he had secure communications. So, the Treasury Department says looking at all the options and trying to make sure he had secure communications.

But it comes just at a time when he was already being criticized for his new wife walking down on the tarmac with a government plane in the background with proving on Instagram the picture of herself tagging all these luxury goods and then kind of wealth shaming someone on Instagram, and she called that person adorably out of touch.

So, you can see that that's making headlines, but not for all of the right reasons. Certainly not talking about tax reform there.

HARLOW: Indeed. Christine Romans, thank you. Nice to have you.

All right. Ahead for us, life after Irma. CNN joins one couple as they see their home for the first time since Irma hit Jacksonville. Look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My God, it's a mess.




BERMAN: It has been a full week since Hurricane Irma first made landfall in the Caribbean. Forty four people killed in the Caribbean alone there, and still only now we are really beginning to come to terms with what was lost and what it will take to rebuild.

Our Clarissa Ward on St. Martin this morning to give us a look of how things are going there -- Clarissa.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Well, the situation here is pretty dire. As we have seen everywhere that Hurricane Irma hit, this was a fierce storm. We took out our drone yesterday to try to scope out some of the damage and it's just incredible.