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Dangerous Hurricane Maria Tears Through Caribbean; U.S. Government Wiretapped Former Trump Campaign Chairman; Trump to Make First U.N. Address; GOP Senators Push New Plan to Replace ACA. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 19, 2017 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:070] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: In just hours, President Trump will address the U.N. General Assembly for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump expected to issue harsh warnings to Iran and North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope he reads from his speech and does not go off script. We can't do this alone. We have to work with the international community.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off. John Berman joins me. Another big news day.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and we're fighting this morning. We'll have more of that in a moment.

CAMEROTA: I look forward to bringing that to the viewers momentarily. We begin with breaking news for you, though.

Hurricane Maria has strengthened to a Category 5 storm. It's taking aim at Puerto Rico after battering the Caribbean island of Dominica, the storm packing 160-mile-per-hour winds at this moment. Puerto Rico's governor fears the impact could be, quote, "catastrophic."

BERMAN: We are also following several others, several other big stories, including a CNN exclusive. We have learned that the U.S. government wiretapped former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, amid concerns that he was communicating with Russian operatives, trying to influence the election.

All this going on as President Trump gets set to give his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, a speech expected to be deeply philosophical. That's what the White House tells us. And it will include warnings to North Korea and Iran.

We have this all covered for you.

Let's start, though, with meteorologist Chad Myers, tracking Hurricane Maria -- Chad. CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the storm moved right over

Dominica overnight as a Category 5 hurricane. And even the southern tip of Guadalupe had the northern eyewall, the most dangerous part, near Viewfort (ph).

Other than that, I think the storm is now in open water and added I know you talked to that man in St. Croix. I don't know how you can be as prepared as you can get for a Category 5 landfall. I know you think you're ready but, boy, hours and hours of wind speeds about 160 miles per hour for that island, St. Croix and then into Puerto Rico. It stays either a 4 or a 5, right on the edge. One fifty-seven is the edge. It goes from 155 to 160 and then back and forth. Close enough for me.

But a direct landfall either near Puerto Rico, or possibly up to St. Croix or even a little bit farther north. Here's the U.S. Virgin Islands. Here's the BVI. Less likely, I think, this morning down near Ponce. But we will continue to watch it, still in the cone.

And then the cone turns right. The cone does turn away from the U.S. at the very last minute, from the Turks & Caicos into the Bahamas. There's where Irma went. And this is where Maria is going. So crossing right over the Turks and Caicos. And it will be a very significant storm for the Turks & Caicos, as well.

Now let me get you to the floor and you can expect what here the windfall is going to be across this area for the next couple of days. Just notice the white. It's the most damaging part. It's well over 100 miles per hour. And that moves right into Puerto Rico, Vieques, all the way up to De Libre (ph) and even into the U.S. Virgin Islands that were hit so hard with Maria [SIC].

Then across from Puerto Rico and northward, very heavy winds. Much harder hit in San Juan than the last storm, than Irma. And then finally into the Turks & Caicos and then kind of sliding up towards the north and towards the northeast -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chad, thank you very much. We'll check back, obviously, with you as soon as possible.

Maria's wrath is being felt by the islands that have already been devastated by Hurricane Irma, and that includes Antigua. That's where CNN's Michael Holmes joins us live with more.

What's the situation there, Michael?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, you get a sense behind me of what it's like here in Antigua. And we are well north of outside of the cone that Chad was just talking about. So if it's like this here. You can imagine what it's like within that cone. And just imagine Dominica taking that massive hit.

We heard from the prime minister. He had to be evacuated from his residence. The roof caved in. There are reports from local ham radio operators on the island that there is significant structural damage. I just want to mention, we talked to a pilot who flies around here all

the time. He said that a couple of years ago, a tropical storm severely damaged Dominica. Now, this is a Cat 5. One can only imagine what the scene is like on that tiny island.

The other thing to remember about a place like Dominica, it's quite mountainous. The risk of mudslides, if a foot, or 15 inches or 20 inches of rain gets dumped on it, there are people who live on those mountainsides, on those hillsides. They are at risk of mudslides, as well.

Getting information out is going to be crucial in the hours ahead. It is now past Dominica, as Chad said. Guadalupe, the prefect of Guadalupe said everybody stay indoors until we can get out and have a look at what's going on. Obviously, preservation of life is the important thing at the moment.

John, back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Michael Holmes, can't believe we're looking at these pictures again of another storm battering the same basic area.

[07:05:07] A state of emergency is in effect in Puerto Rico. The island gearing up for a direct hit by the Category 5 hurricane.

CNN's Nick Valencia live in San Juan with the latest -- Nick.


This is expected to be a monster storm, and people here on the island territory of Puerto Rico are taking the warnings very seriously. Some ominous warnings from local officials. We want to give you a sense of what the current conditions are here.

We're on one of the beaches of this beautiful country, this beautiful territory. Those waters, those waves have started to swell up. Earlier this morning, those skies were relatively clear. Blue skies. But now you see some cloud formations. About 30 minutes ago we saw rainfall form out there.

And I mentioned anxiety among those folks here in the island. I was talking to residents yesterday. And they were telling me there's some people here who still don't have power, still don't have electricity from Hurricane Irma. There's still debris, noticeably, in the streets and parts of this island. And people here are anxious that not much time has elapsed between Hurricane Irma and now Hurricane Maria. And Irma didn't even make a direct landfall here in Puerto Rico, but Maria is expected to do exactly that.

Yesterday at his press conference, Governor Rossello saying there's no time to expect miracles and expect this to change at all. You should expect the worst and people here on the island are preparing for the worst -- John, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. Thanks so much, Nick. Obviously, we'll be tracking Maria's progress throughout the morning. But now we want to get to a CNN exclusive. Sources say that U.S.

investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under a secret court order before and after the election.

CNN's Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown broke this story for us. And we have all the breaking details about why the government was listening to someone so close to the president. Evan Perez joins us now.

Evan, tell us about your reporting.


Well, sources tell us that the FBI got permission from the secret surveillance court to monitor Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, before and after the election. This is an extraordinary step for the FBI to do a surveillance of a high-ranking campaign official. And of course, Manafort is now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.

Now we're told there are intercepted communications that raised concerns about whether Manafort was encouraging Russians to help the campaign. Other sources tell us that this intelligence was actually not very conclusive. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has now been provided all of these communications.

CAMEROTA: Evan, what do they mean by encouraging the Russians?

PEREZ: Right. Well, there's a lot we don't know about exactly what was said. Now, we're told that the FBI has communications between suspected Russian operatives relaying what they claimed were discussions with Manafort, as well as communications involving Manafort himself.

Now none of this has amounted to what people would consider a smoking gun in this investigation. There's still much more work being done to determine whether there's a criminal violation here. We didn't get a comment from Paul Manafort's spokesperson, but Manafort has previously denied that he ever knowingly communicated with Russian intelligence operatives during the election, and he's also denied helping Russia undermine U.S. interests.

BERMAN: So they monitor him not just once, Evan.

PEREZ: Right.

BERMAN: Two separate times here.

PEREZ: Right. Exactly. So the secret order began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation in 2014 and centered on work that was being done by a group of consulting firms here in Washington for Ukraine's former ruling party, according to the sources we've talked to. The surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence, according to one of those sources.

Now, the FBI did restart the surveillance after obtaining a new FISA court warrant that extended it at least into early this year. Now, the sources tell us that the second warrant was part of the FBI's efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and Russian -- suspected Russian operatives. It's unclear when that new warrant started.

And as part of the FISA warrant we've learned that earlier this year, the FBI conducted a search of a storage facility belonging to Manafort. And then, of course, we know that this part -- past July the FBI raided his home in Virginia.

CAMEROTA: So Evan, I mean, obviously, one of the big questions is whether or not President Trump or President-elect Trump was somehow swept up in these wiretap conversations while Manafort was under surveillance. What do we know?

PEREZ: Right. That is -- that is the big question. What we've been told by sources is that the president and Manafort were still talking into earlier this year, well after the campaign was over. During that time, the FBI was listening to Manafort's phone. So it's possible that those -- those conversations were collected, Alisyn.

BERMAN: So if you were following Twitter overnight, Evan, which I know you are doing assiduously, you know that a lot of the president's supporters claim this justifies the president's assertion last year that he was wiretapped. Does it?

PEREZ: Right. Well, they are certainly making that point loud and clear. That was earlier this year, by the way. The Justice Department has denied that the president's own lines were wiretapped.

And as we said, you know, it's possible that he was picked up on Manafort's surveillance. We should note that Manafort does have a residence in Trump Tower. It's not clear to us whether any of the FBI surveillance was done on him there.

CAMEROTA: OK. So what does all of this mean, Evan, for the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation?

PEREZ: Right. Put -- put together this picture along with reporting we saw in the "New York Times" yesterday that indicates that Mueller -- Mueller's team has already warned Manafort that he is going to be indicted. That jives with information we've learned, as well.

What this tells us is that this an investigation that's accelerating. We accept -- expect that we're going to see charges most likely against Paul Manafort, probably for tax issues, financial issues. Appears to be the strategy for Mueller's team, to be that, you know, they want to try to flip him, perhaps use this financial investigation to pressure him to provide additional information on the larger investigation, which is still about whether or not there was anything illegal, in any coordination or contacts between people associated with the Trump campaign and Russia.

That's the question that Mueller is charged with investigating. And that's the question we all want answered.

CAMEROTA: OK, Evan, thank you for all the reporting, for this exclusive. You've given us a lot of information.

So let's bring in our panel now. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory; CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin; and CNN legal and national security analyst and former FBI special agent, Asha Rangappa. Great to have all of you.

Jeffrey, help us understand: what does it mean that the FBI agents were able to go to a FISA court and get two warrants to wiretap Paul Manafort?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. The FBI has units, as does the Justice Department, that do nothing but national security matters, and they go to a judge and say, "We have probable cause to believe, if you approve this wiretap, you will get -- we will get information related to violations of national security.

CAMEROTA: But we don't know what that probable cause was?

TOOBIN: No. But we do know that these are generally very voluminous documents filled with evidence. Some people accuse these FISA courts, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts, of being rubber stamps. But you can be sure with someone as high-profile as this, a judge would have been very careful.

They approve, these judges, whoever -- we don't know the identity of the particular judge -- approved these warrants twice. And that suggests there is some evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with foreign intelligence. Doesn't mean he's guilty of a crime. Doesn't mean anyone is guilty of a crime. But it's not nothing, and it shows that this was a very aggressive investigation, even before Robert Mueller was appointed.

BERMAN: Particularly the second time you think a judge would have a high bar before approving such an investigation.

Asha, the one thing we know that that we didn't know yesterday is there are tapes. There are tapes of Paul Manafort having conversations. Of what, we don't know. But there is that concrete evidence out there right now. And we know, because of "The New York Times" reporting also, that Paul Manafort was told by investigators that he's likely to be indicted. What does that all say to you?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there -- there are obviously tapes. So the FBI was monitoring him.

And any kind of communications that are picked up with regard to this idea that any communications with Trump could be picked up, that is true. Those would be called incidental communications. But it doesn't mean that the president himself was being targeted.

And unless there was any connection between those conversations and the foreign intelligence being sought under the order, those would actually be screened out of any kind of communications that the FBI would monitor. Now, if they were relevant to the Russia investigation, they would be looked at. I -- the indictment piece, I agree that there's probably some pressure

being put on Manafort to give more information. I think in this kind of case, where it's underlying -- it's an underlying counter- intelligence investigation with these criminal prosecutions potentially coming out of it. But the primary threat here is the attack on our democracy by Russia.

And so what they want information on is are the Russians and how they did it, and who helped them? So they're going to use any leverage that they have against Manafort to get him to talk about that if they believe he has information.

CAMEROTA: So David Gregory, CNN has this exclusively, this reporting, this bombshell that he was actually wiretapped twice. But "The New York Times" has a little bit of color about what it's been like at Paul Manafort's house while this investigation has been going on and just the tactics that Robert Mueller's investigators have been using.

[07:15:08] Here it is: "Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning. His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him."

What do you see here?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what's so significant about that, as Jeffrey has pointed out earlier this morning, you don't normally see search warrants being executed in these kinds of cases, so it shows a level of aggressiveness on the part of the FBI prior to the special prosecutor and now with the special prosecutor.

It also makes clear that the original act here, the attack on democracy, the interference in the election, that is primarily what they were after. Whether there was contact between top Trump officials and any Russian officials trying to manipulate the election.

So we've seen several layers of this. There's an investigation going on into financial ties between those close to now the president or the Trump enterprises and Russia going back some time.

There's also the investigation into actual contacts and the idea of some kind of obstruction of justice by the president, that the president's own counsel have been arguing so strenuously about.

So you have all of these things moving simultaneously that shows you the depth and the importance and the aggressiveness of the investigation. And the fact that we know some facts about all of this. That Russia did certain things. That as a candidate, President Trump was talking about and inviting Russia to hack into the DNC's e- mails, to get those e-mails that were destroyed by Hillary Clinton, inviting a crime, inviting interference in the election. He's been less than truthful, as are people close to the president,

about contacts they've had with Russians. So there's a lot there, and that's just in the public sphere that we are reporting on. We don't know what what extent they're actually close to indicting Paul Manafort, whether they're pressuring him or maybe Michael Flynn to provide information on others.

So not only is the legal piece, we get a window into how aggressively that's moving. But there's the political side of this, as well. And that's going to stiffen the spine of even Republicans now who are investigating this in both the Senate and the House, to get to the bottom of it.

BERMAN: And Asha, you've been part of investigations. I mean, Paul Manafort is the top of the pyramid. I guess the only one above him in theory would be then-candidate, now President Trump.

Paul Manafort was the campaign chairman. So the fact that they are focused on him has pretty severe implications.

RANGAPPA: Yes, definitely Well, it seems to me, given the pressure that is on him and the fact that they are looking at all these crimes and are willing to charge him in court, that they believe that he is essentially some kind of hub in any kind of agreement or activity that was going on between the Russians and anyone else here in the United States, whether or not they were connected to the campaign.

So I think that he holds the key, and that's what they wanted known. It's probably also why he's being very reluctant. And I think that, you know, the tactics that are being used are probably -- they're being used, because he's not being as forthcoming as they would like him to be. And they need to go in and do it more aggressively.

BERMAN: Yes, that's an interesting possibility. We'll get into that much more coming up.

All right. Jeffrey, Asha, David, thank you very, very much.

This is the backdrop for President Trump. In just a few hours, he will take center stage at the United Nations and address the General Assembly for the first time. He's expected to deliver harsh warnings to North Korea and Iran and express the importance of U.S. self- interest.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny live at the United Nations with a preview -- Jeff.


Leaders of 170 countries will be on hand as President Trump addresses the United Nations General Assembly. They are likely to be on the edge of their seats, as well, to listen as he interprets his America first agenda.

But a White House official tells me the president will focus squarely on what he's calling the menace of North Korea.


ZELENY (voice-over): With the eyes of the world watching, President Trump will bring his "America first" vision to the U.N. today, delivering what the White House calls a deeply philosophical speech that will encourage nations to take responsibility for their own security.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans, Poles and nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty.

ZELENY: Like his speeches in Poland and Saudi Arabia earlier this year, aides say the president will frame his foreign policy as a pragmatic approach that shows the benefits of countries acting in their shared self-interests.

President Trump also expected to issue harsh warnings to Iran and North Korea.

A senior White House official telling CNN the president will speak in extremely tough terms about the North Korea menace. After remaining silent about Kim Jong-un during the first day at the U.N.

[07:20:07] TRUMP: The main message is make the United Nations great. Not again. Make the United Nations great.

ZELENY: The president striking a familiar campaign-like tone during day one of the summit. But his words were far more measured than on the campaign trail, when he blasted the U.N. as a bloated bureaucracy.

TRUMP: The United Nations is not a friend of democracy. It's not a friend to freedom. It's not a friend even to the United States of America.

ZELENY: He's even ridiculed the iconic emerald backdrop, where he will stand today, once saying on Twitter, "The cheap 12-inch square marble tiles behind speaker at U.N. always bothered me. I will replace with beautiful large marble slabs if they ask me."

But far more pressing challenges are on the president's desk this week, including the Iran nuclear deal, an issue he discussed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday in addition to the prospect of brokering Middle East peace.

TRUMP: I think there's a good chance that it could happen.

ZELENY: During a meeting with French President Emanuel Macron, Mr. Trump held strong on his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, calling it simply unfair to the U.S.

But in a lighter moment, President Trump saying he was inspired to hold a Fourth of July military parade in Washington after witnessing Bastille Day in Paris earlier this year.

TRUMP: We're going to have to try and top it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZELENY: Now these speeches, for any new American president, is always a fascinating moment to watch as world leaders take their measure of this president. And most, of course, have not met President Trump.

But an interesting view inside the room here, Alisyn. The North Korea delegation, which does not include the president, of course, but a North Korea delegation, because of a lottery drawing, will be sitting at the very front of this room. They will just be a few feet away from the president as he addresses again what he's calling the menace of North Korea and again ticking through all those global challenges here.

So that speech, the biggest one of his presidency in a foreign policy setting, coming in about three hours' time.

CAMEROTA: OK. Jeff, that is some interesting color in terms of the optics of the room. So we'll all be watching for that. Thank you very much.

Meanwhile, Republican senators are making one last push to repeal Obamacare. What's in this new bill? And does it finally have the votes to pass? One of the bill's sponsors is here next.


[07:26:30] CAMEROTA: Senate Republicans are pushing one last attempt to overhaul Obamacare. Senators Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, Dean Heller and Ron Johnson have introduced new health care legislation. Can they get to 50 votes before a September 30th deadline?

Let's bring in one of the bill's sponsors, Republican Senator Ron Johnson. Good morning, Senator.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Good morning, Alisyn. How are you doing?

CAMEROTA: I'm doing well. Let me pull up for our viewers what is in your bill. It would repeal the Obamacare mandates. It would eliminate the Obamacare subsidies. It would end Medicaid expansion. It would loosen the protections for preexisting conditions. It would introduce these block grants for Medicaid, for the states. It would repeal a handful of taxes, and it would defund Planned Parenthood.

What makes this bill, do you think, different than all the other ones that have come before? And why would this one be able to pass?

JOHNSON: Well, it's primarily taking all the Obamacare funding and turning those into block grants and sending those out to the states in a more equitable fashion. Right now there are three states -- California, New York and Massachusetts -- they represent a little bit more than 20 percent of the population, yet they get about 36 percent of all Obamacare funding. It's simply unfair.

A state like Wisconsin, very innovatively using its own discretion, concern about its own citizens, Governor Walker, our state legislature filled the Obamacare coverage gap. But we got no credit for it and got no funding for that whatsoever in terms of Medicaid expansion. So this is a far fair process.

And I just have to believe, Alisyn -- I've been highly concerned about the market distortions caused by Obamacare, caused premiums to double nationally, many cases triple. And here the one-size-fits-all model out of Washington, D.C., people just aren't concerned about it. Governors, state legislatures are going to be far more concerned about those forgotten men and women if they have more control over those dollars rather than Washington, D.C.'s one-size-fits-all model.

CAMEROTA: Well, look, some -- I don't have to tell you, some of your Republican colleagues in the Senate don't like what you have put forth. Here is Senator Rand Paul. He tweeted, "Graham-Cassidy keeps Obamacare and tells the states to run it. No, thanks. No conservative should vote for a rebranded trillion-dollar spending program just because it adds some block grants. Keeping 90 percent of Obamacare is not OK, and it's not what we ran on. Conservatives should say no."

Do you believe that you will have the 50 votes needed for this?

JOHNSON: We're certainly getting close. And for anybody who makes those exact same points, I would just argue that you're facing a binary choice, leaving 100 percent of Obamacare in place or taking what we can get and then working with the governors, long term.

Again, I think this takes the power out of Washington, D.C., starts putting it in the states. There are just certain things we cannot do under Senate reconciliation procedures. And so, by turning these into block grants and start putting governors in charge and the governors in the states start putting pressure on Washington, D.C., to create greater waivers, give them greater flexibility. Things like Maine is a higher risk pool. Maine is a guaranteed issue. They didn't repeal it. But what they did is they supplanted it with an invisible high- risk pool, literally cut premiums for young people to a third of what they were, for older folks like myself, cut premiums in half. That's called state innovation. A state, you know, block grant system would grant those states the ability to innovate that way, and then we can start looking at best practices.

You know, one of the things we're talking about in the bipartisan meetings with Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray is once one state gets a waiver, have them be two waiver. Don't make another state go through the months, sometimes years of all the applications, the thousands of pages of applications.

If one state already has obtained a waiver, if that's the best practice if it's working, let another state adopt that immediately.