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Hurricane Maria Barrels Toward Puerto Rico; President Trump's Defiant Debut at United Nations. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 20, 2017 - 06:30   ET

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


[06:32:25] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Here are live pictures of Hurricane Maria. It is pummeling Puerto Rico at this very moment.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the latest forecast.

What are you seeing at this hour, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm seeing the eye make landfall. And we don't really know it because the radar is now broken.

Here's the satellite picture from southeastern Puerto Rico, and it looks bad.

This is brought to you by Xyzal, the allergy medicine for contentious 24-hour allergy relief.

The last image we had from the Hurricane Center and from the radar here in Puerto Rico was at 5:50 a.m., very, very close to our Nick Paton Walsh. I'm concerned for his safety because we're also not only having wind, we are going to have surge with this, six to nine feet.

And I know where he is, in Palmas del Mar. I've actually been there. It is a very low-lying area. People need to get away from the ocean. This is no lookie loo time right now -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Chad, thank you very much.

What does it mean the radar is broken, by the way? Send me a note so we know how to communicate going forward. Chad Myers will give us the latest information throughout the morning.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in Palmas Del Mar. That part of the island is getting pounded by heavy rain. It is the southeastern coast.

Nick, what's the latest?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, hi.

An interesting time here, because we've seen moments (INAUDIBLE) the last 10, the wind has picked up, tearing some of the roof. I'll get out of the way so our cameraman can show you some of the clearer images here. What feels like it might be the most intense part of the storm as you hear from our meteorologist comes into land. Now, it has been pretty intense since 3:00 this morning. We were

expecting landfall, 8:00 a.m., it may have come a little earlier than anticipated. But this particular hotel we're in, an intense concrete structure that provides us some security, has really taken aback, tearing off part of the roof here.

We've yet to see now as the daylight breaks the full extent of the damage. (INAUDIBLE) a tree down there (INAUDIBLE)

But we are in a comparatively safe structure. There are many people in areas around here that are potentially not quite so secure, 175 miles per hour with a peak speed of this particular storm would make it possibly the worst ever to hit Puerto Rico. The last hurricane like this 1928.

The issue, of course, is the storm, as you heard.

[06:35:01] We have seen some water on the floor. The siren in the background we think that is generated by a change in air pressure here. We certainly have some of that.

But it may also be heralding flash flooding. We got a text message alert when our phones were still working and aren't now telling us that the flood warning would be in place until 8:30 this morning. So still another couple of hours' worth of potential for flash flooding here. It hasn't happened as of yet.

But the ferocity of these winds, the damage it's done to a quite well prepared building shows you what must be happening surely in the areas around here. The door is finally broken. We're getting a better idea of what's happened to the immediate vicinity, but we simply need a little more time to get out and about and see what's happened around. People have mostly evacuated. What we saw from here, but it's a very hard situation given quite how fierce this storm has become -- Chris.

CAMEROTA: All right. Nick, I'll take it. Be careful, please, because as you heard Chad say, the storm surge is expected to be six to nine feet, exactly where you are. We'll check back.

President Trump pushing his message at the U.N. General Assembly yesterday. How is his speech playing with world leaders today?

CNN's Christiane Amanpour is going to join us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:40:23] CAMEROTA: President Trump going where no American president has gone before at the United Nations, in a combative first speech to the General Assembly. What is the reaction from U.S. allies and adversaries?

CNN's Michelle Kosinski is live at the U.N. with more.

There's been all sorts of different reactions from this speech. So, tell us what you're hearing

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right.

And one U.S. ally said the mood in the corridors afterwards, reacting to this speech was mixed at best. And some are still trying to wrap their heads around this highly nationalistic speech delivered before the global body that Trump harshly criticized in the past, but whose help he needs, he robustly calls for, and he says he appreciates.

One diplomatic source says that a senior White House official has been touting that what the White House is most proud of about this speech is that they feel it goes to the true mission of the U.N., that they framed as this individual sovereign nations that are freely cooperating in their own best interests and not some kind of overarching world government -- not that allies would necessarily see it that way. But this was clearly something that the White House was concerned about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI (voice-over): President Trump delivering a speech like none other from an American president here.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.

KOSINSKI: With shades of the world in peril message he presented during his campaign, the president stressing the sovereignty of nations and America first.

TRUMP: I will always put America first. Just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.

KOSINSKI: Those words garnered applause but caused some allies to bristle, just terrible, one senior diplomat and close U.S. ally told CNN.

And the president issuing his sternest warning yet to North Korea.

TRUMP: If it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

KOSINSKI: And not shying away from name-calling Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself.

KOSINSKI: A senior administration official tells CNN the president added the rocket man reference hours before delivering his speech.

President Trump also assailing the Iran nuclear deal.

TRUMP: It is an embarrassment to the United States. And I don't think you have heard the last of it, believe me.

KOSINSKI: Trump has until October 15th to certify whether Iran is complying with the terms of the agreement. Reaction in the room varied to the president's defiant remarks. North

Korea's representative walked out before he began speaking. Iran sat still. Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu clearly relished the speech. Melania Trump listened, expressionless.

As the president in this venue went on to clearly articulate those three controversial words, radical Islamic terrorism.

TRUMP: We will stop radical Islamic terrorism because we cannot allow it to tear up our nation and indeed to tear up the entire world.

KOSINSKI: Again, calling terrorists losers and calling on world leaders to promote peace.

TRUMP: Major portions of the world are in conflict. And some in fact, are going to hell.

We need to defeat the enemies of humanity and unlock the potential of life itself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI: And even though the word we kept hearing of and over again was sovereignty, sovereignty, sovereignty, there was no direct criticism of Russia, no mention of Russia's meddling in the U.S. election, even though Trump's own nominee to be ambassador to Russia has said there is no question that Russia interfered -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Michelle. Thank you very much.

So, the task of the president was to help the situation with North Korea and galvanized support among the members of the U.N. Did he do it?

Joining us now is CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

And thank you for helping us understand international reaction. You spoke to France's president about exactly this.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I did. First of all, the Swedish foreign minister said after the speech that it was the wrong speech at the wrong time to the wrong audience. Why is that? Because a lot of the people in that room, a lot of the diplomats and world leaders had spent decades, at least the last 10 years, helping the United States put the pressure on Iran with world sanctions and then painstakingly negotiate this Iran nuclear deal.

[06:45:09] And so, they were very upset about this, including the president of France who I was speaking to exclusively as President Trump was making that address. To hear the president say this is an embarrassment, that it has put the United States in a disadvantage is to defy the actual truth and the facts, but this deal has bracketed and enveloped Iran's nuclear program, so that it is not a problem on the world stage right now, which is what President Macron told me, particularly in light of the context of the very real problem coming out of North Korea.

Listen to what he told me about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: I think that the outcome of this is that now we have the money to reprocess with the international agency following the situation, and I think that it's better than nothing. OK? Why? Because if we stuck with this agreement, so we will enter into a situation very similar to the Korean -- North Korean situation before what happened this summer. So I think it would be a big mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: And the big mistake also, Chris, because contrary to what the administration is saying, the international atomic energy agency and all of those monitoring the Iran nuclear deal have declared it in full compliance since it was signed. So, Iran is actually living up to the spirit and letter of the Iran nuclear deal.

Now, the West, the U.S. may have problems with other aspects of the Iranian behavior around the world, but not in regards to the nuclear deal.

CUOMO: Right. The irony is that the Iranian deal has become a reflection of what may be possible in North Korea.

But you have Iranians messing around in North Korea also. They lend help there. The Chinese lend help. It's a complicated situation. The president went to the U.N. to make it better.

Some of the knitting is done after the speech, right? Explaining the message.

The president this morning is tweeting -- he seems pretty possessed with the politics of it here at home. He is still thinking about Hillary Clinton. She came out and said the speech was a dark speech.

He says: Allowing North Korea to research and build nukes while secretary of state, he's referring to Hillary Clinton, Bill C also, crooked Hillary now criticizes.

Do you believe this is the way for the president to go? The obvious answer is no but why?

AMANPOUR: Well, look, Chris, this is way too important and way too critical for the whole world, particularly America's allies in the region, Japan, South Korea, and American personnel in the region to conflate it with all sorts of things.

Some of what is being said is frankly not true. There had been diplomacy under the past with the Bill Clinton administration, which actually did, again, bracket and hold the North Korean problem. Yes, many of these things, you know, failed in terms of verification. But here's the problem. When the president of the United States, as

he has done in the past, basically declares to the world that it will not happen, North Korea will not have an ICBM, you remember, will not be able to deliver nuclear weapons, all its tests since then has shown it is on the path to that. When the president speaks, it must be backed up with a real option.

Now, what he said yesterday was, some analysts said, deterrence 101. What he said was not that we're going to start a war in North Korea, but if we are threatened or even God forbid attacked, we will respond overwhelmingly. That is deterrence 101. Mutually assured destruction 101, that we had during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

But threatening any kind of military response most people believe is a complete and utter nonstarter, horrendous consequences. Even the U.S. probably couldn't find all the missiles, the launchers, the nuclear equipment to do it immediately. It would give North Korea a chance to use whatever rudimentary devices it has to threaten and to create huge casualties in South Korea --

CUOMO: We have tens of thousands of U.S. troops in the DMZ.

AMANPOUR: Well, that as well. Sanctions enforcement has to happen, and there has to be now -- diplomacy hasn't really worked, but there has to be some kind of American, South Korean, Japanese, real effort to contain North Korea. That takes diplomacy, which suspect about going to the U.N. and sort of trashing everything that the allies have been doing in the past.

So, this is a very important moment, and all the allies know that.

CUOMO: And you have to look at Iran and that deal as part of a potential North Korean solution. The more the president denigrates that deal, the less likely it is going to sell North Korea and enter to that kind of negotiation.

AMANPOUR: Correct. That's what the French president said, and the Iranian president said to me, that if the U.S. pulls out of that deal --

CUOMO: Right.

AMANPOUR: --well, what's our alternative? We're going to go back to status quo ante.

CUOMO: Right, and then you will have two situations instead of one.

AMANPOUR: Right.

CUOMO: North Korea and Iran.

AMANPOUR: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Christiane Amanpour -- that's right -- nobody helps us understand a perspective better than you. Thank you for being on NEW DAY as always.

AMANPOUR: Thank you, Chris.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris.

Up next, we have breaking news: Hurricane Maria making landfall in just the past few minutes there on Puerto Rico. Our reporters are there and they will show us what's happening, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: Hurricane Maria has just made land fall in Puerto Rico.

Joining us now by phone is storm chaser Mike Theiss. He is in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. He is riding out the storm at the famous El Conquistador Hotel.

Mike, tell us what the scene is where you are.

MIKE THEISS, STORM CHASER (via telephone): We are getting pounded here. That eye -- that northern eyewall has come through and we are facing constant wind. It is screaming, whistling, stuff hitting the building. We've heard glass breaking.

We are definitely, definitely in a dangerous situation here. We are in a safe hotel. But if you were outside in this right now, I don't think you could survive.

CAMEROTA: I mean, Mike, you say you're in a safe hotel. What's the situation? Are all of you together in a room somewhere?

THEISS: Yes, we are. We are all together in a room. It's all shuttered up with big shutters. So, we're safe in the room that we're in. But just to listen to what's going on all around us, very scary. It is heartbreaking to hear what's going on outside. In a few hours when we're able to go back outside and see what it looks like, I'm scared to see what it looks like.

CAMEROTA: Mike, you have a very vivid description of what the wind sounds like. Can you explain that to us?

THEISS: Well, it sounds like a woman screaming at the top of her lungs, very high-pitched squealing sound. It is coming through every crack in the building now. Every once in a while we hear a piece of debris hit the wall. It will tremble a little bit. But we are definitely taking it pretty hard right now.

CAMEROTA: God, that does sound -- send a shiver down your spine. You say -- look, you do this for a living. You chase storms. You have seen a lot of these. You say you have never before seen what's happening to the palm trees there on Puerto Rico. Describe that.

THEISS: I have never seen that, no. And that's what happened from Irma, and when I got into town, I thought most of the palm trees were already stripped of their fronds. And that wasn't even a direct hit. But now, if there was any tree that was left after Irma, now, it will be shredded from these winds.

[06:55:03] But I do believe we're in the northern eyewall. We had some sketchy data. So, I haven't had many updates. It feels like we're in the northern eyewall.

I noticed that the pressure is starting to slowly rise. So, I think the eye has passed. It is making landfall to our west. I'm sorry. I'm really tired. I'm just guessing all of this right now.

But I know we did not hit the eye. I assume we are in the northern eyewall right now. But looking outside and the winds, I say we are.

CAMEROTA: Well, we're looking at the radar as you speak. It seems as though you're right. Your estimate is right about exactly where you are.

If anybody has ever been to Puerto Rico, they know El Conquistador, that beautiful picturesque hotel. Obviously, very tourist friendly, right on the water. How many tourists are trapped with you?

THEISS: Maybe 30 or so. And there's a lot of hotel staff. They have done a great job keeping everybody safe. I'm actually talking to you through the Internet which is amazing. I can't believe we're talking in the middle of a category 4 hurricane.

CAMEROTA: It is amazing -- look, technology has changed, how we cover these things. But for people who don't do this all the time, how are people around you feeling?

THEISS: There's some nervous people around here. You know, this is new for everybody. Nobody has experienced something this story.

I did speak to one gentleman who just left one of the other Virgin Islands to get away from Irma. His home was destroyed. He came here as a shelter. Now, he has a second category 5 hurricane here.

So the Caribbean has taken a real pounding this year. It's just not fair, all of these beautiful islands are getting shredded by these category 5 hurricanes.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you're right. I mean, there's no place to hide for people who live there. We should mention that Irma was hitting Puerto Rico two weeks ago today, and scores of people there haven't had power since that time.

Mike Theiss, please take care of yourself. We're really happy to have your firsthand account of what's going on there in Puerto Rico. Thanks so much for being with us.

THEISS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Chris?

CUOMO: All right. We're going to keep covering hurricane Maria. You can't know how devastating it will be. So many parts of that country already beat up by Irma. Plus, the death toll soaring after a powerful 7.1 earthquake rocks

Mexico. We have complete coverage, next.