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Friend Of Nursing Home Victim Speaks Out; Police Launch Criminal Probe After Nursing Home Deaths; Hillary Clinton: Comey "Forever Changed History"; Susan Rice Tells House Investigators Why She Unmasked Trump Aides; Ave Maria University Takes In Seniors During Irma. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 14, 2017 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:30:00]

JEAN JOHNSON, FRIEND DIED IN FLORIDA NURSING HOME: She was always there if I needed something. Of course, Betty was a little on the heavy side. She kept reminding me that I was putting on weight.

And I should be, she said you should be going over and doing exercise and watching your weight. I said what about you? She said that's different. That's the answer I got, is that was different. But Betty was absolutely a caring person.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So we know now that we lost somebody special who you feel deserved better and how do you feel about how that place was being run?

JOHNSON: I hate to sit in judgment. I really don't know what to say because I go in and made sure that Betty got a haircut and get a permanent. If the other residents needed something, I would bring it to the nurse's attention, and I'd follow her up.

If they didn't do it in the next week, I would follow up again. Betty had a hearing problem. Anyway, we were able to get Betty a television with captions on it. She said you bought that for me? I said, no, you bought it yourself because the facility takes all our Social Security.

They give her $90 or $100 from her Social Security. I said, Betty, it was your own money. She said is that really my own television? Betty never wanted to be a liability to anyone.

I visit a lot of people in different nursing homes and I have to say Betty is one of the few that I leave laughing because she inevitably comes up with something -- to make you laugh.

She had a great sense of humor under the worst of circumstances because she said I know I have to be here. The first a couple of weeks she wasn't sure she needed to be there and she wanted to come just like anybody.

But after a couple of weeks, I think she has been here two, two and a half years. She was perfectly happy with a little popcorn, a few little goodies once or twice a week passing by, that made her happy. CUOMO: Thank God she had you in her life. Jean, thank you for sharing your perspective about your friend and what it was like in there or her. It's important right now because we're trying to figure out why this tragedy occurred, what could have been done to stop it, what should be done now.

So, thank you for being with us, Jean. And I have to say you look beautiful this morning even though it was so early for you to come and join us here on NEW DAY especially your hair. Your friend would be proud.

JOHNSON: Thank you. What a price to pay. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Jean Johnson talking about her friend, Betty Hibbert. She died in the aftermath of this hurricane. Did she have to? That's the question that's triggered an investigation.

Up next, we are going to talk to the mayor of Hollywood, Florida. What did he know about this place and others like it? What are they going to do now? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:36:41]

CUOMO: Well, here's what we know for sure. Eight senior citizens died at a Hollywood, Florida nursing home. We know that the conditions were sweltering. What we don't know is why they had to be there, why more wasn't done, and if this facility was doing their job the right way. There is a safety record that raises issues. Again, this is the subject of a major investigation here in Florida.

Joining us is the mayor of Hollywood, Josh Levy. Mr. Mayor, can you hear us?

MAYOR JOSH LEVY, HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA: Good morning, yes.

CUOMO: So let's start with the macro here, you know, the overview. Do you believe that this investigation is justified and what are your questions?

LEVY: Of course, I think we all demand this criminal investigation proceed everywhere from the U.S. senator that came here yesterday, the state senators, the state representative at all levels of government we demand to know what happened there, were there regulatory deficiencies. But certainly, we this need this police investigation to go forward to determine exactly what took place.

CUOMO: These issues are not new. I don't have to tell you that. You deal with so many seniors. They're also not under your direct supervision as mayor. But if there is a safety record here, that shows that this place was cited in the past for similar issues. The idea of oversight and accountability are going to loom large and the answers may not end with pointing fingers at this facility. Are you comfortable with that? LEVY: Certainly. I think we need to look -- the state needs to look at its entire regulatory scheme. How do you spell they inspect nursing homes? What are the requirements for backup services? What happens when there is a failure of airconditioning systems in the Florida heat of day?

Is it good enough to just call a repair man and wait a few days or even sustain a situation during a hurricane or after power loss, must there be mandatory notice to certain state authorities who will direct the facility to either evacuate right away or otherwise supervise the immediate resolution of the issue. It obviously can't be left to some administrators who apparently didn't make the right judgment calls.

CUOMO: Right. And I get the political cynicism that is bubbling up quickly whether or not these patients were dealt with as profit centers with a cost benefit analysis to what help they get or as people in need. But it is going to boil down to the facts. What do you know about why this facility did not transfer these patients to that hospital that was literally across the street?

LEVY: Look, what we do know now obviously is that the only phone calls they made to 911 were for single patient issues. The first one was cardiac arrest. A paramedic arrived and they immediately pumping a chest trying to save someone's life, taking them to the hospital.

A couple hours later, they get a call from the same facility for someone having respiratory issues, I understand, and, again, it's immediately treatment for that single patient call.

But while they were trying to just finish that second call, the hospital across the street, a third call came in and that's when alarm bells went off. And the paramedics called their superiors, informed the hospital, which informed that they immediately direct notice to the state supervising agency.

[07:40:05] And our paramedics demanded that we have an opportunity to walk through room to room in the entire facility to check up on everyone and that's when I understand three already deceased individuals were found in there, who knows how many hours they were already dead.

CUOMO: You're going to have to get after this, Mr. Mayor, because, you know, in a law they have a phrase "standard of care." You know, a 911 call and that kind of circumstance is one thing if you or I make it as untrained and someone without a duty of care. But these people were in the business of watching, evaluating, monitoring, and reacting to the conditions of these elderly patients. It is a different standard of care --

LEVY: Exactly.

CUOMO: -- and how they react to these early questions is going to matter a lot. So, hopefully you guys are asking the questions and getting the answers out. Mr. Mayor, we will stay on this story. See us a resource, as you find things out, feel free to come to us, you know how to contact us LEVY: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Mr. Mayor, thank you. Look, whether it was about the storm or not, this is going to matter. It can't go away. It may be a question that applies to lots of places, not just this one. Alisyn, to you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, understood, Chris. There is a lot of political stories making news today. One of them Hillary Clinton and her new book. She blames her election loss on then-FBI Director James Comey saying that he, quote, "changed history." Is she rewriting history? We ask former National Intelligence Director James Clapper for his take next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: Hillary Clinton sitting with our Anderson Cooper and pinning much of the blame for her 2016 loss on former FBI Director James Comey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's never been clear about his motivation and what bothered me the most as the time went on after the election is, and we learned more about the open FBI investigation into the Trump campaign and their connections with Russia.

That had been going on for quite some time. The American people didn't know about it. The more important lessons that will affect our democracy going forward are not about him and his investigation. He I think forever changed history, but that's in the past. What's important is the fact that the Russians are still going at us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[07:45:05] CAMEROTA: OK, joining us now to discuss this and more, we have former director of national intelligence and CNN national security analyst, James Clapper. Director Clapper, thanks so much for being here.

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: So Director Comey is just taking grief from all sides today. We just heard the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders say that she believes, and we assume the president believes, that the Department of Justice should look into prosecuting Director Comey for what they say was leaking information as well as they say giving some sort of false testimony to Congress.

And then now, last night, Hillary Clinton saying that she thinks that Director Comey changed the course of history by interfering in the 2016 election. Do you agree with any of those assessments?

CLAPPER: Well, first, let me take the statements from the press spokesman in the White House both from a process and a content standpoint. From a process stand point, it is very unusual, maybe unprecedented for a White House spokesman to sort of give direction or intimidation to the Department of Justice about who and what should be investigated.

And of course, it's rather obvious timing on the heels of Steve Bannon's "60 Minute" interview, and from a content standpoint, I think the things that she cited, the privacy act, disclosure oath or breach of contract are all really not very credible or in my view, shaky legal ground.

As far as Secretary Clinton, perfectly legitimate and appropriate for her to write her book and whatever she thinks caused her defeat, I will simply say with respect to that that I believe that whatever Jim Comey did, he did it for what he thought were good and valid and legitimate reasons.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, Director Clapper, let's talk about that for a second because Hillary Clinton makes the case that he decided to publicly speak about an investigation into her e-mail server, but he did not publicly speak about an investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. So -- I mean, why?

CLAPPER: At the time, of course, this was all unfolding and the big news and the big concern that I had was the Russian interference. The issue of potential collusion aside. We did go public with that. I thought fairly authoritatively on the 7th of October about what the Russians were doing.

CAMEROTA: But did James Comey go public saying they were looking into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia and whether or not they are somehow colluding or meddling?

CLAPPER: Well, that didn't unfold at least in a way it was visible to me until much later. In fact, predominantly after I left the government. So, I do think there was warnings of the Russian engagement which to me is the big news item here.

And just as she would assert that Jim Comey's actions changed history, I could assert -- I think it had a bigger effect, although, there was no way to measure it in either case that what the Russians did, the totality of their interference also had profound impact on the election. The problem is there's no way to measure or gauge either assertion.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, she is saying that there is a way to measure it because she is saying the polls dipped substantially after James Comey went public -- or sent a letter at least to Congress about the reopening of the e-mails that were on possibly Anthony Weiner's laptop. That ended up there being nothing there. She said that she saw data where the polls showed that that really hurt her.

CLAPPER: Well, again, I think it is perfectly legitimate and reasonable for her to assert that. Of course, I have to say that if it weren't for the existence of the private server, none of this would have happened in the first place. CAMEROTA: Let's talk about new information that CNN has gotten about former National Security Adviser Susan Rice. She has explained why she requested the unmasking of some of those top officials in the Trump campaign during the transition between the election win and the inauguration.

Basically, she wanted to know why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates had come to New York in December and not disclosed it to the Obama White House, which was a breach of protocol or at least longstanding practice.

[07:50:08] So, she found that concerning and curious enough that she asked to find out who the crown prince was meeting with and why he had come to the U.S. You were the director of National Intelligence for that time. Do you know that was happening?

CLAPPER: Well, Alyson, I can't and won't comment specifically on an individual unique unmasking event. So, I can't for security purposes -- I can't acknowledge one way or the other that event.

I will, though, reiterate what I said on my public testimony under oath on the 8th of May when I appeared with Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain what unmasking is, which is a legitimate process for determining when a U.S. person, at the time when you initially are aware of it is engaged with a valid and foreign security target.

And there were a series of such engagement involving the Trump camp, didn't necessarily understand the content, but the circumstances of them gave all of us concern. Susan's request to unmask was legitimate and responsible.

CAMEROTA: OK. Former Director James Clapper, thanks so much for being on NEW DAY with us.

CLAPPER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, there are so many stories of heroism that we've seen during Hurricane Irma and here's another, a private university rescuing a group of elderly residents abandoned at an assisted-living facility. Two of those people behind it join us with the story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:50:31]

CUOMO: All right. This morning we have been following a major development that eight seniors died at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida. It raises lots of issue. Was this about the storm? Was this about how this place handled the storm or was it about how this place and maybe others as well treat our elderly and vulnerable overall?

All right. That takes us to a different offshoot of this story about the need that was created for seniors in the midst of Irma. Ave Maria University wind up taking in a group of elderly and students cared for them during Irma.

Joining us now is university president, Jim Towey, and senior nursing student, Michelle Zettel. First, thank you for what you did. Living up to the mandate of a university, young lady, thank you very much.

Let's talk about the context here, the circumstance. This is not about a failed nursing home. This is not about a failed assisted- living facility. This was an apartment like many complexes here in Florida that's mainly populated by the elderly.

And they have caregivers who come in. You got contacted by a sheriff who said we have trouble. We have need. How did he explain it?

JIM TOWEY, PRESIDENT, AVE MARIA UNIVERSITY: Well, it was bedlam Friday night. People realized the storm was baring down and he came and he said we have these elderly Haitians that are living and their caregivers have gone to maybe protect their homes or whatever, but no one was there to care for them anymore.

And so, they asked if we take them? We said sure. We brought them in. We knew we had space in our residence hall. They ended up going in the model rooms and we took them in. One woman was blind. Michael Timmes (ph) and I, the chair of our board went out to greet them and we took them in and we knew we had students that would love them.

CUOMO: Just to be clear, because we have a march towards accountability for what happened in Hollywood, this was not about the sheriff saying we don't know where the caregivers went. They abandoned them. That's not what it was. They just weren't there for whatever reason.

TOWEY: Right. There was nobody there for them and one woman was blind and others were in need, and so when they brought them to us, you know, what the gospel says to us, love them and feed them and house them, and we were honored to.

CUOMO: So, you were just living up to the mandate of the school?

TOWEY: Right.

CUOMO: What was on the logo was then put into practice?

TOWEY: Yes. It was amazing to see how our students welcomed them. We opened a shelter too for 450 people from Amocley (ph). So, we filled up our gymnasium with 450 people that came in because all the shelters at that time were overflowing. Friday night and Saturday, everybody was bracing for the direct hit and it came, we had tornadoes on our campus but thank God, we survived.

CUOMO: I got two questions for Michelle. The first one is about how you do this job, the second about conscience. What did you see in terms of what it takes to care for the elderly in this kind of situation?

MICHELLE ZETTEL, STUDENT, AVE MARIA UNIVERSITY: First, myself and two other nursing students, we went and we greeted them, and there was a language barrier. They spoke Creole and myself and the two other nursing students that were helping, we are only English-speaking.

And one of them knew a little bit of English so used her as a translator for the rest of them and what we did at first, we just kind of assess the situation. We were trying to figure out their activities, the daily living.

If they could do stairs, if the power went out and the elevators were no longer in use. Like President Towey said one of them was blind so we had to figure out if she needed help with feeding and other daily living activities.

Also, we were given the medications. We were figuring what they were on, and creating their diagnoses, and we had to go back to our shelter so we were educating the faculty members that were staying there with them.

CUOMO: So, they were never alone.

ZETTEL: They were never alone.

CUOMO: What did you learn about the need to care and to be aware of them and to check in with them? What did you learn about how the elderly in particular that you have to check and ask and you have to be there?

ZETTEL: Well, we learned basically by looking at their medications what they had wrong with them, and many of them had hypertension and diabetes and other issues, too. So, we learned that they needed their blood pressure taken on a regular basis before taking their medications. So, we instructed people how to do that and the blood glucose as well.

TOWEY: I think also what the students brought was love. People need to love and to be loved. They are human. They are afraid. They were scared. They needed to be assured. They came down to the chapel and prayed with the students.

We had them in two different buildings, but they were always surrounded by love and care. They needed that as much as they needed the assurance of a shelter through a storm.

CUOMO: An important point that relates to this other story that we are covering and that's why I asked. You have to be there and you have to be aware when you are caring for these people. Was that done there? It certainly was done at Ave Maria University. Mr. President, thank you very much.

TOWEY: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Young lady, thank you for showing the best of what you are studying to do. You got to use your heart as much as your head. Thank you very much.

ZETTEL: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right.