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EARLY START

Maria Bears Down On Puerto Rico; Deadly 7.1 Magnitude Quake Rocks Central Mexico; Pyongyang Quiet After Trump Threat; Kimmel: The Senator Lied To My Face. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 20, 2017 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:31:45] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Dire warnings this morning for citizens of Puerto Rico as the island gears up for category four Hurricane Maria. Landfall expected in just hours. The storm is already lashing San Juan. We go there live.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The death toll climbing overnight from another natural disaster, a devastating earthquake in Mexico. Rescuers working into the morning hours to find survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And the president with blunt warnings to North Korea, threatening to destroy the country if it doesn't stop its nuclear program. The reaction from Pyongyang so far, nonexistent.

We have coverage on all our top stories this morning.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

A live report from Puerto Rico just ahead.

Hurricane Maria starting to lash Puerto Rico at this hour with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles an hour. The storm is expected to make landfall in a matter of hours with dangerous category four, now force. Authorities in Puerto Rico warning everyone to flee the most powerful hurricane to threaten this island nation in 90 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: Flooding areas are very vulnerable, very dangerous. The surges will be felt across the island and vulnerable housing should be evacuated immediately.

And right now, the main focus is getting you out of harm's way, making sure you're in a shelter. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The effects of Hurricane Maria already been felt in Puerto Rico where residents are still recovering from the damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma earlier this month.

We're going to go live right now to San Juan, Puerto Rico and bring in CNN's Nick Valencia where the storm is already being felt. Hi there, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine.

These are catastrophic conditions we're starting to feel right now in downtown San Juan. Wind speeds that have just continued to pick up, it seems, every 30 minutes or so.

What we're hearing behind us are loud bangs and crashes. Metal pieces of roofs of these buildings around us have been ripping off consistently over the last hour. We've seen palm trees start to rip in half. Debris is surrounding me all around me right now.

The hotel is starting to take precautions. We're on the weaker side of the storm. They're starting to put up shutters towards the windows -- towards the glass. That glass inside the hotel lobby starting to flex back and forth as if it's breathing from the outside in.

And we're, as I mentioned, on the weaker side of the storm. Behind us, that's the beach. And it was a few hours ago the street leading up the beach lost power.

Light poles are precariously moving back and forth. Those palm trees -- you think the trees are moving behind me aggressively right now, you should see what we see behind us here.

This -- there's no way that we can underscore enough what this island territory has been through with Hurricane Irma, which didn't even make a direct hit on this island but still caused major damage and devastation here in the island territory.

We're still seeing people here without running water, without clean water, without electricity. And now, from what we see here we're still hours away from the worst of it and it seems pretty bad to us right now, guys.

[05:35:06] ROMANS: Yes, it looks that way and we can see all the debris kind of flying around behind you there. Be careful, stay safe.

Let me ask you just a quick question.

What does it sound like? We had a guy on from Fajardo who said it sounds like a screaming woman -- the winds. What do the winds sound like to you?

VALENCIA: It just sounds like it's a -- it's a consistent whistle, like you're in a horror movie here. It's so eerie, especially the local residents who look out on these streets -- these vibrant streets. And even during a weekday you see a lot of people out here, you know, going to the bars, going to the restaurants, enjoying themselves.

But the wind is not we're really noticing the most.

ROMANS: Yes.

VALENCIA: It's those loud crashes, those bangs, Christine.

And as those windows continue to shatter around us we're really worried about this roof that we've been keeping an eye on behind the camera here that's sort of clinging to its own life here. And as this storm gets a little bit more aggressive we're hearing more noise, guys.

I'm going to get off here.

ROMANS: All right, go inside.

VALENCIA: We've got debris coming towards us.

ROMANS: I can see that stuff flying around. Thank you.

Yes, that's --

BRIGGS: Now again, that storm is a few hours away from Puerto Rico and he's on the weaker side of the island. Just imagine what is ahead for the three and a half million Americans there. Scary stuff.

All right. Overnight, the storm slammed into St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Let's get the latest from meteorologist Pedram Javaheri in the CNN Weather Center.

All right, how far away is this thing and what have we learned from the latest update, Pedram?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, it's beginning to expand out -- the eye of the storm expanding a little bit as we're going through an eyewall replacement cycle. Essentially, a new eye forming around the storm system.

And we're seeing that new eye move ashore right now across mainland Puerto Rico. So, winds up to 155 miles per hour, sustained, on that immediate area where it's making landfall.

Again, this is an area we think the storm with it picking up a little bit of speed. Could see this move in inside the next couple of hours for an official landfall to be made.

Sitting there as a strong category four, just two miles per hour difference to bump this up to a category five. So again, you're splitting hairs if you're trying to break this down and call this a weakening storm system at this point as it comes ashore with tremendous speed. And you take a look. Widespread coverage of rainfall up to one and a half to maybe two feet in spots. And when you think about an island like Puerto Rico, this island covered by about 60 percent of mountain coverage across this region so you have this air that wants to be forced up and over these mountains.

And I often use the analogy of taking a wet sponge and putting it against the wall. If you press that against the wall water comes down the side of the wall.

Precisely what's happening across a lot of these mountain communities where what is essentially dry streams and creeks are now turning into raging rivers within a matter of a couple of hours so you're getting tremendous rainfall that is being squeezed out on the side of these mountains.

And when you look at the population density of Puerto Rico, that eastern third of the island is actually the most populated corner of the island. Of course, that is precisely where the storm system's going to track right across.

And, San Juan could be in the crosshairs of a category four sometime around lunchtime this afternoon between say 12 and one as this storm system center moves across that region. It quickly begins to move offshore and again, we think the rainfall on the back side of this could also be devastating.

But look at the coverage of this. Up to six to nine feet storm surge, seven to 11 feet for parts of the Leeward Islands. And guys, when you think about this, this is not just six or nine or 10 feet over say the waters, this is above what is typically dry ground.

So with one foot, that could knock you off of your feet. With two feet of water coming ashore that is essentially going to be able to pick up your car, move it offshore. Six to nine feet gets up into the first and even potentially the lower level of the second story of homes and could extend many miles inland as well.

So this is one of the biggest stories here for Puerto Rico is going to be the storm surge -- guys.

ROMANS: All right, Pedram. Thank you so much for that.

Keep us posted. We're going to keep a close eye on that as it makes landfall. Thank you.

BRIGGS: Sadly, two natural disasters to cover for you.

Mexico's president declaring a national emergency following a deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake. At least 217 people were killed and among the dead, 22 at an elementary school in Mexico City. Thirty others still missing there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Building collapsing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: This, just one of the damaging scenes that played out across Mexico. Most of the deaths reported in Morelos, Mexico City, and Puebla.

Rescue crews in the country now face a grim task. They have to dig through the rubble looking for any signs of life, hauling off buckets full of debris, calling out the names of people possibly trapped beneath these collapsed buildings.

BRIGGS: President Enrique Pena Nieto urging people to stay indoors while rescue efforts are underway.

The quake buckled buildings, windows, and sent concrete plunging to the ground.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Building collapsing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The president says 27 buildings collapsed in the capital alone, and that is 75 miles from the quake's epicenter.

ROMANS: He's instructing his cabinet to team up with medical centers across the country to make sure everyone is receiving proper medical attention. Mexico's Defense Ministry deploying 3,400 soldiers to the affected areas.

The earthquake cut power to nearly five million customers.

[05:40:03] Sadly, this deadly quake hit just hours after drills and memorials honoring the anniversary of another devastating earthquake that killed thousands of people in Mexico City back in 1985.

BRIGGS: A live report up ahead on "NEW DAY" -- not far away.

ROMANS: Yes. All right.

President Trump's past bluster on North Korea has been met with bluster from Pyongyang usually, so why is it all quiet in North Korea after the president threatened to destroy the country?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: All right.

Still no reaction from North Korea after President Trump went after Kim Jong Un in his big address to the United Nations in which he called Kim Jong Un "Rocket Man" and cautioned other nations not to become bystanders to history as North Korea emerges as a nuclear power.

The president offering this warning. [05:45:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles.

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right, let's bring in Zach Wolf, "CNN POLITICS" digital director.

And there was some praise for the president for that tough Trump doctrine -- that nationalist stance there -- from Mitt Romney, for example, who said that was a powerful speech. And, Benjamin Netanyahu, who said in this 30 years before the U.N. it was the best he had ever seen.

And there was criticism as well that it feeds right into the North Korean narrative and the United States is trying to destroy it.

ZACHARY WOLF, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICS: It was certainly not like any speech we've seen from an American leader there, you know. George Bush had his axis of evil but that's a far cry, I think, from threatening to destroy another nation -- you know, rip them off the globe, essentially, is what he did.

So, the rhetorical shift, I think with this new president, it might have been expected from some of the things he said on the campaign trail but it was still a stark thing to see him take it into this body that's, you know, a gathering of nations, essentially, from around the world.

BRIGGS: David Ignatius, surprisingly, wrote, "The most surprising thing about President Trump's address was how conventional it was," which is an interesting take on the bombastic nature of it all and the threats made to North Korea.

But what about this Iran deal? It sounds like the president wants to pull out. He has to do that by October 15th. Where are we headed?

WOLF: You know, he all but said that he would do it -- suggested it, I think. That doesn't mean, I guess, that he will.

He campaigned on getting out of the Iran deal. His administration has been certifying Iran, you know, leading up to now.

But it could change things a lot, I think, not only from the perspective on how the U.S. is dealing with Iran and whether they're pursuing nuclear weapons, but also as you said earlier, how the other -- the rest of the world interacts with the U.S. and how -- what kind of business they're willing to do with the U.S.

ROMANS: Let's talk about health care quickly here because you have this eleventh hour, last ditch, Holy Grail -- or use your -- insert your cliche or metaphor here for trying to repeal and replace done in the final days of their business calendar.

Where do we stand on this? It just looks a lot like it did the last time around. Does this have hope of passage?

TEXT: What's in the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill?

Repeals Obamacare mandates, eliminates Obamacare subsidies, ends Medicaid expansion, introduces block grants for Medicaid, weakens Obamacare protections on pre-existing conditions, repeals a handful of taxes, defunds Planned Parenthood.

WOLF: I -- you know, the thing is we don't exactly know what's going to happen with this bill because there's no CBO score for it.

It seems, in some ways, to go further than the bill that failed in the way that it totally dismantles, you know, the way Medicaid is structured and gives so much power back to the states to enact that program. You know, it dismantles the protections for essential services -- things like that.

So it's not exactly clear to me that it changes anything from a policy perspective from the bill that failed. It's just the last, last, last ditch effort. It's like Republican leaders saying are you sure you guys don't want to repeal Obamacare.

BRIGGS: Ten days to remake one-sixth of the economy and still, many senators don't know what this bill will do. Terrifying but basically, it sets up with the governors. They are all-important here.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: You have 15 Republican governors who are in favor of this bill. You have a group of bipartisan, very influential governors who are opposed to it and they include John Kasich, Republican; Brian Sandoval, Republican; Charlie Baker, the most popular governor in the country, in Massachusetts; Bill Walker, who could influence Lisa Murkowski.

And interestingly, Zach, it is Jimmy Kimmel, a late-night comedian who might, at this point, be the most influential voice against this bill.

Here's what he said about passing the famed "Jimmy Kimmel Test."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, ABC "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": And this guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face.

Do you believe that every American, regardless of income, should be able to get regular check-ups, maternity care, et cetera -- all of those things that people who have health care get and need?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: Yep.

KIMMEL: So yep is Washington for no, I guess.

This bill they came up with is actually worse than the one that, thank God, Republicans like Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain torpedoed over the summer. And I hope they have the courage and good sense to do that again with this one.

Stop using my name, OK, because I don't want my name on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: OK. Senator Cassidy, also a physician, did not answer Jimmy Kimmel, yet he did hit back at NPR when they talked about pre-existing conditions.

He said, "Under this bill, states must insure individuals with pre- existing conditions have access to adequate and affordable insurance."

But does this pass that "Jimmy Kimmel Test," Zach?

[05:50:00] WOLF: The "Jimmy Kimmel Test," I think, Bill Cassidy was the one who coined that term and it was whether a child with a congenitive heart defect would -- you know, the parents would have to make a choice about, you know, going forward with their lives or spending money for health care in the first year of life.

I think everybody who's looked at it would say no, this does not because it gives states more leeway. And there are individual states who could say about children, no, kids would not have this coverage or that coverage, so it probably does not.

ROMANS: Quickly to the Russia investigation -- Paul Manafort -- the reporting from CNN yesterday and others about where he is in the crosshairs of this Robert Mueller investigation. What are we hearing new on this?

WOLF: Simply that they're going back in time. That they're not just looking at this period right around the election, but that they're looking at Manafort going back as far as a decade, perhaps. Running into potential statute of limitations, even.

That's a new development. It suggests that, you know, this will -- this investigation is creeping out in a way that extends beyond what we've known before.

ROMANS: All right, Zach Wolf. Nice to see you this morning -- Wednesday morning, bright and early.

A big, busy news days ahead at the U.N. and also, of course, we're watching these --

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- this hurricane.

Thank you so much, Zach.

BRIGGS: Thanks, Zach.

WOLF: OK, thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Twitter is taking on terrorism and it's getting better. Twitter is getting better at weeding out terrorist accounts. Details, next.

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BRIGGS: All right, we're back.

A fun sports stat for the day. All right, more home runs have been hit this season --

ROMANS: Really?

BRIGGS: -- than any other season in Major League history, even the steroid-fueled Barry Bonds-Mark McGwire.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, guys.

You know, you would have thought that those years in the steroid era would never be topped, but 2017 is now officially the year of the home run.

The Royals' Alex Gordon hit the 5,694th home run of the season last night, breaking the record that was set in the year 2000. And with more than two weeks left in the season the players are on pace to hit more than 6,100 home runs. That's 2,000 more than the total from 2014.

[05:55:12] So why are there all of a sudden so many more home runs? The only great explanation is that the ball has somehow been altered, but Major League Baseball denies that the ball has been changed in any way.

All right. Kevin Durant is apologizing for accidentally tweeting his true feelings about the Thunder. Apparently, Durant has a secret Twitter account to troll the people who troll him. Now, he meant to use that account when responding to a fan but accidentally used his real verified account.

And in the tweets he said he didn't like playing for the Thunder or Coach Billy Donovan. While sitting on a panel at TechCrunch yesterday, Durant said he feels terrible for the mistake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN DURANT, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: I don't regret clapping back at anybody or talking to my fans on Twitter. I do regret using my former coach's name and the former organization I played for. That was childish. That was idiotic -- all those type of words. I regret doing that and I apologize to them for doing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: All right. Indians and Angels playing last night in Anaheim. A paint company said it would donate $1 million to the Angels Baseball Foundation if an Angel's player hit a home run into the giant can in left centerfield.

BRIGGS: Oh.

SCHOLES: Well, Justin Upton homered. The ball bounced into that can making the crowd go nuts. However, the Angels said that it would not count for the million donation because the ball has to land in the can on the fly.

I think there should've been some sort of stipulation in there that you get 50 percent or, you know, a quarter of a mill if it bounces in there --

ROMANS: Yes.

SCHOLES: -- because, come on, the chances of it happening are still pretty slim.

ROMANS: You know what?

BRIGGS: I think we ought to check the fine print there.

ROMANS: I hate fine print.

SCHOLES: Yes.

ROMANS: I hate fine print.

All right. Andy Scholes --

BRIGGS: I need to get my own secret account to fire back at the haters.

ROMANS: Yes, I know.

BRIGGS: A great idea.

ROMANS: Fire back at my haters too, please.

BRIGGS: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, Andy, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global stock markets are mostly higher after another banner day in the U.S. A record high for the Dow as the Federal Reserve begins a two- day meeting. If you're keeping track, this Dow is up 22 percent now since the election. Fed Chief Janet Yellen speaks today. The Fed is not expected to raise interest rates but likely will detail how it will unwind its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.

Her tenure runs out in February. One of the biggest mysteries is whether she will be reappointed by the president or he'll pick somebody new.

American CEOs are more confident about tax reform. That's according to a survey of leaders of some of the -- America's biggest companies. The CEOs are raising their expectations for economic growth this year. They're optimistic about the economy but they are counting on tax reform from President Trump to get it done.

All right. Twitter is getting better at finding terrorist accounts. The company has shut down nearly a million of them since 2015. That's when Twitter began combating extremism on its site.

Twitter says it now detects more accounts in-house instead of through government requests. About 95 percent his year were discovered through internal spam-fighting tools. The government requests made up less than one percent.

All right, time for an update on your operating system, Apple lovers. Its latest operating system is now free to download on most iPhones and iPads and it will seem like a whole new phone.

IOS 11 has an improved control center and app store, a more human sounding Siri, and some augmented reality apps that are really cool. Those place 3D images on top of a live view from the camera.

The new IOS can be installed on phones as far back as the 5S. If you have an older device you might want to wait to update. New operating systems also have bugs and waiting for the first minor update should help to avoid glitches.

One part of this, too, is if you are driving -- you can activate this so that when you're driving notifications shut off so you don't have the distraction of the phone. You can disable it but you can also activate it, too, so it really makes sense when you're driving.

BRIGGS: I like my news updates while I'm driving. Just a little glance over. All right, you got to update.

ROMANS: Thanks for -- thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

Two natural disasters this morning. The death toll rising rapidly after a major earthquake in Mexico. Also, this category five, now, hurricane -- category four, now, I believe, hitting Puerto Rico.

"NEW DAY" has you covered live, right now.