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Plan for Dreamers; Trump Surveys Irma Damage; Nursing Home Deaths. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 14, 2017 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:50] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. 10:00 a.m. Eastern. So glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. John Berman is in the Florida Keys.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Poppy, this is Big Pine Key, one of the hardest hit areas in Florida from Hurricane Irma.

President Trump on his way to the state right now. He touches down in just a few minutes.

But first, we do have some breaking news, so back to Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, John.

So the president leaves behind a political storm that began with a dinner last night with Democrats and an apparent breakthrough on DACA, the program allowing young undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents to stay in the United States. Some conservatives felt they had been frankly stabbed in the back by the president for a second time, making what could be a deal, a big deal, with Democrats, and reacted accordingly. You see the headline in Breitbart News there, amnesty Don. They don't like this.

Now, the president says he is, quote, working on a plan for the dreamers. Nothing is agreed to yet, he said, but he did importantly note that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are on board. Of course, Republican leadership. Listen.


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.

QUESTION: Is there anything (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: Oh, I think he's on board. Yes, Mitch is on board. Paul Ryan is 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.


HARLOW: The president citing a new poll out this morning on dreamers. We expect to hear in just moments from Nancy Pelosi. Of course, she was in that dinner last night with top House Democrats and she shared Chinese food and we hear, Phil Mattingly, some chocolate pie, and that made for some potential deal-making.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Apparently. Look, it's a theme. We've seen it the last two weeks. Let me kind of explain or at least give some nuance to what the president was actually saying there based on my reporting here on Capitol Hill.

The broad parameters that were agreed to last night, essentially the tradeoff of protecting DACA participants those that have enrolled in the DACA program, in exchange for a large border security package. That is very real. That is something Republican leaders were in the preliminary kind of discussions on crafting here on Capitol Hill.

Here's what hasn't been agreed to. A final deal or any of the details related to the scope of those protections or the scope of the border security package. That is very important. That is crucial.

And it's worth noting, Republican leaders were completely caught off guard by what happened last night. I was texting with one top leadership aide when the statement from the Democrats came out essentially kind of saying there's a deal or at least the start of a deal. And he said, you know more than I do right now. We have no idea what's actually happening.

You have the concern there, Poppy. But as you noted, you also have the concern with the base. This was the issue the president ran on. This is the issue where some of his most ardent supporters have always stuck with him on.

Take a listen to one of the sharpest conservative hawks in the House, Steve King, just a short while ago.


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 real question is, will the base stick with him? Probably more importantly, as you actually work through the legislative process, will the lawmakers who support him stick with him on this deal, even though it's contrary to why they supported him or some of their key principles. It's going to be really interesting, as you noted, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, will be speaking shortly. Speaker Paul Ryan will have a press conference in a short bit.

I want to add one other note, Poppy, that I found really interesting. As President Trump was leaving the White House, somebody asked him, have you spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and to Speaker Ryan. He said, yes, I have. I'm told, at least in the speaker's case, that's not true. They have not had a one-on-one conversation since that dinner. There have been a lot of staff-level conversations, a lot of White House staff reaching out to Hill staff and trying to calm them down a little bit. But in terms of a one-on- one conversation between the speaker and the president, as of this morning, that still hasn't happened.


HARLOW: That is really important because this morning we heard him say as he departed for Florida, Mitch is on board, you know, Paul Ryan's on board. So Paul Ryan's going to have to answer that this morning in his press conference in just a little bit.

[10:05:06] Phil Mattingly, great reporting, thank you so much.

And let's go back to John over in the Florida Keys.


BERMAN: Thanks so much, Poppy.

President Trump due to arrive in Florida any minute from now. This is his third trip in the last few weeks to a hurricane ravaged stone (ph). It gets to what so much of America has been deal with the last few weeks with these natural disasters. He will touch down on the west coast of Florida in Ft. Myers. He can't come down here to where I am in Big Pine Key. This is the scene of the greatest destruction. It would be too disruptive of the relief efforts right now.

But let's go to Ft. Myers. Alex Marquardt is there.

And, Alex, the president, he does have a busy schedule set for today and could be arriving any minute.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is, John. He's due in just over half an hour from now, as you mentioned, making his third trip to a hurricane ravaged area in just three weeks. These back-to-back historic hurricanes.

He is due to step -- to arrive and he will be accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump. He will be greeted by the vice president, as well as the governor and senators from Florida. He's got a packed itinerary, starting off with a short half hour briefing on the relief efforts here at Ft. Myers Airport. He will then hop on Marine One with his entourage and head down to Naples, which was absolutely ravaged by the storm. There he is expected to meet with first responders.

All of this comes after the criticism that he faced following that first trip down to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey where he was accused of not meeting with victims, of not meeting with the first responders, of giving a rally-style speech in which he talked about crowd sizes. So the White House has been very conscientious to make sure that the public knows that he has been monitoring this storm carefully, speaking with local officials. Local officials that we have spoken with have said that he has stayed in close contact with them and they have been happy with his reaction.

John, I don't have to tell you, you're down in The Keys, you've seen this incredible damage that has -- that they're suffering down there. We, up here, have seen widespread flooding across the state. The big question now is, when are Floridians going to get their power back.

As the president left the White House earlier today, he said that the Florida power companies are doing a good job at getting the power back online. Indeed they are. We have seen that the number of Floridians without power tick downwards very steadily. This morning it's around 2.7 million customers. That translates to many millions more people. But they are quickly getting their power back.

The biggest utility company here in Florida, Florida, Power and Light, has said at the very latest people here on the west coast will get their power back by next Friday, September 22nd. But that is far too long for many people. There is an oppressive, sweltering heat. It is expected to go up to around 90 degrees today. I'm getting text messages and calls from residents who we've met over the course of the past few weeks saying that they are suffering very badly without any air conditioning. So the big hope here is that these power companies can work quickly to get the power restored.

The president is due to spend around three hours all told on the ground here, but the White House is also saying that in the coming days and weeks he will be visiting Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were also severely impacted by Hurricane Irma.


BERMAN: Alex, talking about the heat, I think you can see the heat all over me. It is sweltering in The Keys. And, you know, the only air conditioning you might have access to is if you have a car that still has enough fuel to turn on.

I do want to give people a sense of what's happening on the west coast. Mike Pence, the vice president of the United States, is arriving in Air Force Two, the vice presidential plane. He will arrive in advance of the president. And then shortly thereafter, the president will land on Air Force One.

I think this goes to show, Alex, and you can talk about this, just how much of a show of force, let's call it, that the administration wants to give here. It's not just the president. It's the vice president. It's everyone they can muster to show that there is a strong and hefty response here.

All right, we lost Alex.

Well, let's go back to Poppy and we can talk about this. We will see the arrivals over next few minutes, Poppy.

HARLOW: You're absolutely right, John. I mean it's not just the president. It is the vice president. And as the president has announced, he is going to make these other trips down to Puerto Rico and places that have been devastated by Irma as well. John, thank you so much.

You're looking at, I believe, Air Force Two there, the vice president arriving. We'll have the president's arrival in just a moment.

There is a lot to talk about this morning, including the president's trip to Florida. A lot of other political headlines.

Let's bring back our panel. Betsy Woodruff is here, politics reporter for "The Daily Beast," Tara Palmeri, CNN political analyst, and Matt Lewis, CNN political commentator.

So nice to have you all here.

And, Betsy, let's begin with you.

Just on the president -- and as John said, this is a robust response from the White House to Irma to say the least.

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, "THE DAILY BEAST": Right. And this is something that we know has been a top priority for the White House in the past few weeks is getting this response right. Our understanding is that the president's been very vocal to folks in his inner circle about how much he cares about making sure that the response from the White House and from the Department of Homeland Security, particularly FEMA, is the correct response and that people know it.

[10:10:20] Remember, the president's incredibly sensitive to TV coverage. He's incredibly sensitive to news. And, of course, as the president -- this has a potential to be one of the defining catastrophes of his first year in office. He understands it's a big key moment for him and I think that's why we're seeing such a hands on approach, not just the president and the vice president, but also close aides. I believe Melania, his wife, is also traveling down with him today. Just a key part of having an on the ground, hands on presence from the White House.

HARLOW: Yes. He did not want the optics of former President George W. Bush surveying the damage in the plane, right? He wanted to be on the ground after Harvey. He's on the ground now. Sounds like more trips are ahead.

Matt, to you, changing topics here to DACA, the big headline this morning, and the deal-making potential with Democrats that this president is displaying. It's pretty extraordinary. We have reporting from our Jeff Zeleny, Phil Mattingly, Jim Acosta, that right now the president is so dedicated to getting DACA legislation through, he believes that it takes priority over -- it trumps his border wall, which was sort of promise number one on the campaign trail. How is it that the Republican Party controls Congress, but it seems to only be the Democrats and Democratic leadership that can get things done with this president?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, it obviously would be ironic if after all the talk about, you know, Mexicans, you know, being rapists and all this -- you know, stuff that he -- that got him elected and the -- you know, the immigration ban and all that, and, if this, you know, big piece of like -- his big accomplishment is DACA, you know --


LEWIS: And raising the debt ceiling. Like if those are the big things he does the first year, it would be ironic.

But, look, it's popular. Even among Donald Trump supporters, doing something to protect these dreamers is popular.

And I would also say, I think there's a hunger out there for somebody to get something done. We've had a decade where there was no big bipartisan deals being cut. I mean, President Obama basically pushed through the Democrat agenda. Republicans tried to obstruct that. I think there's a hunger amongst Republicans and the general public for someone just to do something.

So this is Donald Trump, you know, being Donald Trump, being popular. And, look, Ted Cruz, if you are a conservative, you know, immigration restrictionist, Ted Cruz warned you about this. He said, he's going to be cutting deals with chuck Schumer. This is who he is.

HARLOW: True. Someone who's really unhappy this morning, Tara, is conservative Congressman Steve King of Iowa. Really unhappy. And making it very clear across Twitter, he's saying this is going to blow up your base, Mr. President. He is saying -- he's naming all the times that amnesty was pushed by Republicans and Democrats and failed and he's calling this amnesty from the president right now. The headline on Breitbart is amnesty Don.

This is a president who won because of his base, because of their enthusiasm. He didn't win because he had a majority of the popular vote. Is this very risky politically for him, despite the fact that on DACA he does have many members of his base supporting Congress getting something done, but they also want a wall?

TARA PALMERI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Poppy, you have to remember that a lot of these conservatives are -- have still been stewing since last week when the debt ceiling deal was made with the Democrats and they have, since then, been organizing and deciding, what are they going to get for that deal? You know, they're very unhappy with it and I was told from a former White House official that they are on the march in organizing.

And this is something that I was told from a senior administration official, they're very concerned inside of the White House, the kind of retribution they're going to get from the conservatives with the deal they made on the debt ceiling. Now, they're piling on DACA on top of all of that and you've got a really steamy group of conservative lawmakers who are ready to fire back, or at least get something in exchange for these deals with the Democrats.

Now, President Trump is loving the popularity that he's getting for doing the deals with the Democrats in the media. He's talking to his aides saying, I stuck it to Mitch and Paul Ryan, who he feels have not been loyal enough to him, and who have not helped him enough to get his legislative agenda forward. He's had a lot of contempt for them lately according to many aides that I've spoken to. That's how he speaks privately about them.

So it's -- you know, he's really -- he's really learning the waters of Washington and he may be walking into a few land mines.

HARLOW: But, Matt, isn't it a risk for Republicans to get sort of too up in arms about the president showing some bipartisanship here and reaching across the aisle, because every single one of them comes on CNN and says, we need more bipartisanship in this country. This is what the American people want. There's a fine line to walk here, is there not?

[10:15:11] LEWIS: Yes. I would say, first of all, look, this, in fairness, this does go against everything Donald Trump said he was going to do. It's not coherent. It's not consistent.

But if you put that aside, this -- the devil's in the details. If he actually gets some good, you know, border -- not a border wall, but if he get something that will, you know, deter illegal immigration, most people I think want to help these dreamers, these good America -- these are folks that we ought to want as Americans, right? And even Donald Trump supporters see that.

And, look, I think that the Steve Kings and the Ann Coulters, they're a minority. You know, I don't know what base means, but I'll tell you, my uncle Paul in Maryland who voted for Donald Trump will say, hey, at least this guy is getting something done. My mom, who voted for Trump in Pennsylvania and drove people to the polls, is going to say, hey, they're in for Donald Trump.

The old expression, only Nixon can go to China, maybe only Donald Trump can do DACA. People know that he is going -- that he cares about the border. So I think they're going to give him much more leeway.

If Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio tried to do this, right, to cut a deal with Chuck Schumer to help the dreamers, they would be destroyed. Trump gets away with it.

HARLOW: It seems like the chocolate pie or chocolate cake or whatever seems to help every time.

LEWIS: IT doesn't hurt.

HARLOW: Thank you. Betsy, Tara, Matt, nice to have you all.

PALMERI: Thank you.

HARLOW: Ahead for us, a very sad story and a follow up to what broke on this show yesterday. Demanding answer, police investigating the death of eight people at that nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, in the wake of Irma. We are on it.

Also, Vice President Pence wheels down in Florida. You're looking at Air Force Two. We're waiting for him to come off of the plane.

And then President Trump and the first lady expected to land there momentarily. We'll take you there live. Stay with us.


[10:21:14] BERMAN: All right, John Berman in Big Pine Key. Again, this is the area hardest hit by Hurricane Irma in Florida.

President Trump due to arrive any minute. He will be arriving in Ft. Myers. We will bring you there the second it happens.

This is a Florida-wide event, really beyond Florida as well into the Caribbean. But one of the most outrageous things that has happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma is the death of eight residents at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida. Mystifying. No answers right now.

Our Elizabeth Cohen is there and we've been digging, trying to figure out how this could happen, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, here's the tick-tock. Here's what we know so far, is that on Sunday this nursing home lost its air conditioning, so they were without air conditioning Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, into the early morning hours of Wednesday. You know, for elderly people, their systems can't handle that. They can get very sick, very quickly.

Now, emergency workers and officials tell us, we were in contact with the nursing home. They had told us that they had lost air conditioning. But when we asked them, hey, do you have any medical needs, do you have any emergencies for your -- your patients need anything, they didn't say that they did. And so we haven't been able to ask the facility about that, but that's what officials are saying.

So let's take a listen for a minute to what the mayor of Hollywood, Josh Levy, had to say earlier this morning.


MAYOR JOSH LEVY, HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA: This U.S. senator that came here yesterday, the state senator, the state representative, at all levels of government we demand to know what happened there, what -- were their regulatory deficiencies. But certainly we need this police investigation to go forward to determine exactly what took place.


COHEN: Also, I want to read to you a tweet from Senator Marco Rubio. He's asking whether the nursing home is in violation of federal regulations. Well, what we can say is that this nursing home, like all nursing homes, gets inspected by state authorities. And I'm going to tell you what some of the deficiencies, that's what they're called, deficiencies were that were cited in recent reports. One, that their generator was temporary and hadn't been replaced with a permanent one and that the nursing home had no plans to do so. That the alarm on the generator hadn't been maintained. And so if it -- there was a problem, the staff wouldn't necessarily know about it.

Also, that they didn't maintain firewalls. That exits, emergency exits, were blocked. Other problems. These didn't necessarily, of course, lead to what happened here today and they were corrected, but it tells you something about the history of this facility.


BERMAN: All right, Elizabeth Cohen for us right now.

Joining me now, Ellie Pina, whose mother was in that nursing home.

Ellie, thank you so much for being with us.

Your mother, I believe, 96 years old. Tell me how she's doing right now?


My mother is doing a little better. She was just told she has pneumonia, but she's doing OK. She's under antibiotics. And, you know, she's -- I think she's going to make it, hopefully. But this has been a disgrace.

BERMAN: Thank goodness. Thank goodness.

PENA: And this -- I'm sorry to tell you, has to do with Florida Power and Light and the officials that are now trying to wipe this off.

BERMAN: Ellie, if you can hear me, I know the connection's hard because I'm down --

PENA: (INAUDIBLE) we see -- yes.

BERMAN: Because I'm down in the Florida Keys, Ellie. Let me just ask you, you worried that this could happen. You placed phone calls before it happened. Explain that to me.

PENA: Yes. Yes, go ahead. Hello?

BERMAN: Ellie, if you can -- Ellie, can you still hear me?

PENA: Yes, yes, I can hear you.

BERMAN: Ellie, my question was --

PENA: Yes.

BERMAN: You were worried that this could happen. You say you called to warn folks you were worried this would happen. You called the power company. Give me the timeline.

[10:25:00] PENA: OK. I started calling the power company from the day before. And I called them on Tuesday. And I spend the whole day calling them. I have a ticket number for that -- those calls of 4:0 -- I'm sorry, 4301. I kept telling them it was a life-threatening situation and they kept telling me, we'll get to it and this and that. Now, they never did.

The facility called them several times and (INAUDIBLE) company -- air condition (ph) company called them several times also so that Florida Power and Light will go over there. The day I started calling in the morning, that was Tuesday. I saw a block away from the facility, several trucks of Florida Power and Light. I asked one of them to please go to the place and try to see what's going on, and they didn't. These people were working only on generators. And the nurses were trying very diligently to help the patients. They were putting them out in the hall with the portable air conditioners they had on hand to make them a little bit more comfortable.

Florida Power and Light never got there, was not interested to get there. Now they're saying -- their spokesman that the officials didn't have the nursing home under priority. I kept telling them they have to be under priority. And regardless, whether they were under priority or not, if you receive a lot of phone calls from different entities and different people saying that there's a problem there that they need help, that there's (INAUDIBLE) elderly people there and that their lives have been threatened, you would think Florida Power and Light, they don't have to be cyber (ph) graduates. They could go over there and see and assess what the problem is and help these people. They did not do it. They kept getting calls for the last three days and they did nothing. Absolutely.

Who is that to blame? They are. The officials for not enforcing it. 911, never got there for an assessment either (ph). So this is what we're facing.

BERMAN: Ellie -- Ellie --

PENA: Now everybody wants to investigate. But what happened when these people needed it and you were receiving calls? Am I correct?

BERMAN: Ellie Pena, I can understand your frustration. There are so many questions. We're asking those questions. You know that officials will be doing investigations as well. We are so happy your mother is doing better today and we are so sorry for everything you and your family has gone through the last few days.

PENA: Thank you.

BERMAN: Ellie Pena, thanks so much for being with us.


HARLOW: Glad her mother is OK. It is a tragedy for all those families, especially the eight that lost their loved ones.

John, thank you so much for that.

Back to politics very soon House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference after her dinner with the president last night. The White House says no deal was reached on DACA. So what will she say. And a Republican congressman weighs in on it all, next.