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Hurricane Maria Makes Landfall In Puerto Rico; Mueller Team's Focus On Manafort Spans 11 Years; GOP Pushing Last-Ditch Obamacare Replacement Bill. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 20, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA, FORMER DIRECTOR, NSA: -- which then suggests we've got a much warmer trail in terms of collaboration with the Russians.

My instincts? My instincts are it's over here. It's a criminal warrant for activity not directly related to the campaign, but I think that's a big question.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. General Hayden, thank you very much. Always great to talk to you.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. So, Hurricane Maria is battering Puerto Rico as we speak. Ferocious winds, heavy rain pummeling the island.

The latest from our CNN crews that are in the field experiencing this, next.


CAMEROTA: OK, we do have a lot of breaking news and we want to welcome our viewers in the United States who've been watching us, as well as those around the world who are now joining us. This is NEW DAY.

And, Hurricane Maria has made landfall in Puerto Rico as a very strong category four storm. If you've been watching our reporters you see what they're contending with.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in San Juan. The winds are very ferocious there. We've lost Nick Paton Walsh -- his shot, at the moment -- but we do believe that we have Leyla's up.

Well, it's -- OK, just a second because --


CAMEROTA: -- they come and go, as you've been watching.

[07:35:00] CUOMO: Yes, OK. Obviously, you're going to have transmission problems. It's not a safety issue.

Nick Paton Walsh is in the southeastern corner of the island. He's OK.

Leyla Santiago is negotiating with police to allow her to do her shot. They have safety concerns, as well. So we'll get them up when we can.

But let's get to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. He has the latest on the forecast track. What have we seen in this storm, so far, in terms of what was predicted?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Pretty much right on the money.

This thing landed right on the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico, right as both -- I mean, the American model and the European model both had this landfall like within five miles. I don't think you can get any better than that.

Let me zoom into this latest satellite picture here because if you weren't with us earlier, the radar went out in Puerto Rico when a heavy band of weather moved right over it.

That -- right now, that radar site is about there. They are in the eye. They don't really have time to fix it but certainly, they are seeing some significant weather.

Our Nick Paton Walsh right there. And what concerns me about Nick -- not that we don't have a shot -- is that we send this man every bad place a hurricane is going to hit.

And he said today this is the worst he's ever seen, which is impossible for me because we send him to sand spits in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos and he gets blasted. And then, all of sudden today, he says this is the worst? That's a big deal.

From San Juan back here our -- our Nick Paton Walsh right there. San Juan getting those winds to 115 miles per hour and they will last for hours. That's the thing.

Here is Puerto Rico right here. Everywhere that you see white, that is a wind of a 100 miles per hour or more. That's over the entire island.

Everyone on this island will likely see winds gusts well in excess of hurricane strength and many, in excess of 100 miles per hour.

We move it ahead for you here to watch and show you the D.R. where it goes from here -- the Dominican Republic. The northern side of that country getting pounded by winds of 60 to 70 miles per hour and storm surge of about six feet.

We did see one tidal guage on the east side of Puerto Rico. Storm surge now is five feet and still going up.

One more threat will be the rainfall. Significant rainfall with this and that could seriously cause flooding in places that have already been really hurt so badly by the wind. And all of a sudden, you have to deal with water coming through your town, as well. Farther out five days, we still have Maria in the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the computer models from overnight are hinting at a slight left shift, and left is that way -- the way we don't want it to go.

We'll keep watching that. That's still days and days away. We don't go past five because rarely, can the computers get 48 hours right, so we'll keep it from here.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Chad, can you put back up the radar so that we can see where our Leyla Santiago is? She's in San Juan and she is --


CAMEROTA: -- being battered by what you said are the 115 mile per hour winds.

MYERS: Right.

CAMEROTA: So just show us what that looks like on the radar and then we're going to show you the tape that she just experienced.

MYERS: I would love to show you radar but the radar broke --

CUOMO: Right.

MYERS: -- about an hour and 45 minutes ago, so we have not had a radar signal since the eyewall made landfall.

But I can show you the GOES-16, the latest, greatest satellite that doesn't go out in a storm. And just like, you know, T.V., that goes out when it starts to rain.

Here is the big part of the storm. This -- everywhere that you see pink they have winds over 100 miles per hour, and our Leyla is right there in San Juan seeing all of those winds pouring right down in there.

I don't think I can get any closer than that. There you see the island and there you see the pink running right though San Juan, the worst possible scenario now.

The eye getting smaller, the figure skater pulling her arms in because making a little contact with land. That's the friction from the land and the friction around the eyewall who is still very much there. I just can't show you eyewall rainfall because there is no radar left -- it's gone.


MYERS: It's not like I can call up Melbourne if Miami goes out.


MYERS: I can't call up Miami if Key West goes out. There's only one here on the island.

CUOMO: Another really big storm, too, Chad.


CUOMO: Very wide, and even if you're not in the pink you're still getting a beatdown.


CUOMO: Here's some tape of what Leyla Santiago is dealing with in San Juan.





CAMEROTA: Yes, that's where we lost her signal, as you can imagine. That's how bad it is. But you can see that she's safe and that when she starts to be blown over she's grabbed and pulled into a little bit more shelter.

But, obviously, the winds -- I mean, 115, that is really intense. That's where things are flying around --

CUOMO: Yes. Half that is really intense.

CAMEROTA: -- and it's super dangerous.

CUOMO: I mean, you know, we get caught up in the numbers on this and Chad says it beautifully, which is that the wind gets the headlines -- it gets the numbers -- the hundred -- whatever it is.

But it's not what kills you. It's the duration, it's the storm flow, it's the water. It's that combination effect that makes hurricanes so deadly and that's why we watch all of the different factors over time.

[07:40:08] CAMEROTA: OK. So joining us now on the phone is the incident command post for Hurricane Maria. This is Coast Guard Captain Eric King.

Captain, can you hear us?

CAPT. ERIC KING, SECTOR SAN JUAN COMMANDER, U.S. COAST GUARD (via telephone): Yes, I can. Good morning.

CAMEROTA: Where do we find you hunkered down at this hour?

KING: So, our Coast Guard forces are -- we're about 10 miles southwest of San Juan in Bayamon. We have a community here and we stayed our self here to quickly respond to the storm following Maria's passage.

CAMEROTA: It's amazing how well we can hear you. What kind of safe room are you in?

KING (Laughing): If my wife's listening, she would be happy to know that I'm in our downstairs bathroom, you know, padded with cushions around and I'm wearing a hard hat.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh. And so, I mean -- obviously, Captain, you guys are tasked with helping people and rescuing them. But, you know, right now as the eye is crossing what could the Coast Guard do if somebody were in trouble?

KING: So, unfortunately, you know, we're limited in our response capabilities. I mean, we try and warn mariners long in advance, 72 hours out, of the storm. And certainly, with our larger ships in ports we have them leave -- you know, not only our Coast Guard cutters leave but also other ships in port.

And obviously, warning mariners that, you know, to be wary just because not only the Coast Guard but other agencies that we work with down here in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, they pull their assets out as well.

CAMEROTA: So what's your biggest concern at this hour?

KING: My concern is primarily for my -- obviously, my people, ensuring that all of my 600 people -- Coast Guard men and women here on Puerto Rico weather the storm. And then -- and then, obviously, next is trying to help the public out as much as we can with any type of search and rescue efforts.

In this type of environment in the islands -- I heard you mention -- talked about storm surge. We're certainly going to expect storm surge here. But, you know, these islands are little more mountainous.

However, given our role as the Coast Guard down here, we may be responding to inland search and rescue as well, and so prepare for that. And then, you know, obviously, to open the ports and waterways to bring commodities and goods here to the -- to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

CAMEROTA: Well, in terms of the waterways, you know, we're just getting an alert that has just crossed in the past few minutes from the National Weather Service. They say extremely dangerous floods are imminent along the Rio de la Plata. In other words, you know, rivers are going to be overflowing as well as the storm surge that you talked about.

So what will the challenges be there?

KING: Well, you know, we're fortunate that we link and partner with emergency operations managers here in Puerto Rico. You know, FEMA is down here. Other agencies are pre-staged, given what happened with Irma, so I think we're in a good position to respond post-storm collectively to any threats they have.

CAMEROTA: Captain, before I let you go, do you want to say anything to your family. KING: No. You know, we sorted several, several -- about 150 Coast --

CUOMO: Captain?

CAMEROTA: Captain?

Man, we keep -- he's fine. I mean, he said earlier that he was safe and he hoped his wife knew that.

CUOMO: Right.

CAMEROTA: He's, you know, hunkered down in his bathroom. But we -- you know, all the technology --

CUOMO: It's a good thing.

The last person you want to talk to in that moment is your spouse. They're only going to yell at you. There's nothing good that he could say in that moment. Don't set him up like that.

Hopefully, he was just playing quiet there. We'll check back with the captain in a little bit. All right -- and we're going to keep you on this hurricane.

They've never seen anything like this in Puerto Rico. They're already banged up from Irma so how will they absorb this blow? We'll take you through it all morning long.

There's big news in politics, as well.

CNN has learned the special counsel investigation into President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is examining activities going back more than a decade. The new reporting comes as we learn more about the tactics that Bob Mueller's team is using in this investigation.

Let's bring in our panel. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory and reporter and editor-at-large of "CNN POLITICS," Chris Cillizza.

Gentlemen, just for the edification of the audience to make it clear, you had a two-step warrant process here.

One, they were both FISA warrants, which means the prosecutors had to go before a magistrate and make a probable cause show, so it's not willy-nilly, it's not random.

They were monitoring Manafort for connections to this Ukraine, and money, and money movements. That surveillance stopped for lack of evidence of a crime.

There was then a second FISA warrant that was specifically connected to potential pressure and/or tactics of collusion with Trump officials during the campaign. That was what led them to this new line of curiosity.

[07:45:00] David Gregory, what's your take? DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, it's hugely significant because the presumption by investigators is that you have the campaign manager for Donald Trump who is an agent of a foreign power, namely Russia. Who has financial ties, who has political ties, given his previous experience in campaigns with Ukraine with a regime that was friendly to Vladimir Putin and Russia.

So you have all of these connections to Russia at a time when Putin is demonstrating he clearly wants Donald Trump to win. You have Trump officials, including then-candidate and then as president-elect who is less than candid about all of those connections. And, you have what we know is clear evidence that the Russians tried to manipulate and interfere with the campaign.

So this shows you how aggressively the investigation is moving and how it's moving on several different fronts.

It's not just whether the president obstructed justice in terms of the investigation, it's the financial ties that he may have, as well as others around him may have. And then, actual collusion -- actual interference going on with the help of those who were very, very close to Trump.

So as the investigation continues there's more people who are pulled into this and I think it only adds more ballast to Congressional investigations looking at all of it.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Chris, speaking of aggressive, I mean, the new CNN reporting that we have about what happened when investigators went into Manafort's home. Apparently, guns were drawn.


CAMEROTA: He and his wife were in bed. His wife was searched for weapons.


CAMEROTA: I mean, this is sending a very strong message.

CILLIZZA: Right. So, it's standard procedure when entering a home but, you're right. I think all of this -- and we've learned over the last 24 hours a lock being picked to get into the house, an extensive search, lots of documents taken.

I think it speaks to David's point which is a lot of this, I think, is Mueller and his team making very clear here number one, that they're going to be aggressive.

And number two, at least as it relates to Manafort, they don't really trust him, right? You don't -- you don't do what they have done to Paul Manafort if you think that he is being entirely forthcoming and if you think that at the end of the day there's -- you know, yes, he might be involved but there's not -- no real there, there.

It seems that the focus of the investigation or at least a focus of the investigation, I should say, is clearly on Manafort. I think the question going forward now is can -- will Manafort become more of a cooperating witness? They clearly feel he has not potentially cooperated as much as they think he could.

And then, what does he know beyond what he has told them? They seem to think there's more there. He and Mike Flynn seem to be the two central players. And the question always with this is how high up do these accusations go and what can you prove and what do they know.

But, I mean, this is the stuff of sort of spy and detective novels --


CILLIZZA: -- what we've seen in the last 24 hours.

CUOMO: Yes, but David, you know, there's a political backlash potential here also. They're going so hot and heavy against Manafort. If they don't get the goods on him --


CUOMO: -- and all the reporting keeps suggesting at the tail end they don't have anything conclusive yet -- at least that's what the reporting is -- boy, will it be a good thing for the democracy that Mueller is a Republican and that he was somebody who went to the president and wanted to be interviewed for a job because otherwise, you know that Trump and his supporters are going to say that this was a witch hunt.

GREGORY: Right. Well, they've already laid that groundwork and they'll go after Mueller hard in the way that a lot of people around Bill Clinton went after Ken Starr, so take that to the bank. That's already going to happen.

But I think you're right about the political backlash because the big question, as Chris says, which is what does this lead to? Do they indict Manafort and take him to trial, and does it become about him and whatever crimes he may or may not have committed if he's indicted? And, how far is that from the president or other people who were on the inside of the campaign?

Ultimately, these are going to be the important questions.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much.

CUOMO: Fine print, OK? The last-ditch GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

What is the fine print? What is it really going to do? Are they going to get this passed?

We have experts to break down the details, next.


[07:51:30] CUOMO: All right. So what's happening right now with these Republican senators and the White House -- this last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare?

Why last-ditch? Well, because at the end of the month they're going to lose their window for this reconciliation process.

That allows the Republicans, right now, to get through something without 60 votes. They can do it just with a simple majority of 50 votes. You need 60 if there winds up being a Democrat filibuster, which there would be because they don't like this bill.

So what is in it and why is there this controversy and this rush?

Let's break down the bill with two people who know what they're talking about. Chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News, Julie Rovner. And, senior policy correspondent for Vox, Sarah Kliff.

Sarah, Julie, it's good to have you both.

All right. So, let's take a look in this, Julie. What are the major pluses for the Republicans to sell to their constituency?

JULIE ROVNER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, KAISER HEALTH NEWS: Well, the biggest plus for Republicans is to say they did something on health care.

Over the summer when it looked like this was dead, Republican senators went home and they got kind of hammered by their base because they were unable to follow through on their seven-year promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. So this is, as you mentioned, literally their last possible moment to try to do something.

CUOMO: Sarah, am I being too much of a lawyer when I say how can they do this without the CBO scoring? I know that the politicians are saying well, we already have scores and it's similar enough to that that we don't need new scores. But isn't that in the law about how get through something in the reconciliation process that the CBO scores it?

SARAH KLIFF, SENIOR POLICE CORRESPONDENT, VOX MEDIA: It is certainly in the rules but the rules are kind of left to the senators who are sitting.

And one of the things, you know, they could do, which would be a little bit unprecedented but would be in their power, is to say we're up against a September 30th deadline. We only have a few days. We'll pass it now, we'll get the CBO score later.

We've seen a lot of unprecedented things happen in this health care debate, you know, with Julie and I watching it.

But you haven't seen the very rushed process, the very few hearings, so it certainly would be unprecedented, Chris, to move this without a CBO score. But you've had a lot of unprecedented moments in this health care debate this year. CUOMO: Right, and you have a real end run and a misleading narrative. It's clearly an end run around debate.

And the misleading narrative, Julie, is well, we've been talking about it for so long. No, you've been talking about the fact that you won't debate it for a long time. You haven't been having those open and --

You know, I don't envy you two having to sit through all those Obamacare debates with the ACA. That was terrible but at least it was a protracted process so the lawmakers could get through it.

Julie, the bottom line is this bill -- the "Jimmy Kimmel Test" -- does it pass it?

ROVNER: It does not and Jimmy Kimmel made that very clear last night.

Basically, it takes all of the money in the Affordable Care Act, bundles it up into a block grant, gives it to the states, and says to the states you can do whatever you want, which means that they can waive those requirements that were part of this "Jimmy Kimmel Test" which is that people with preexisting conditions would be able to get care, and that's not necessarily the case under this.

I should also point out the CBO said they will have a preliminary score. It can't, in fact, pass without something from the CBO.

But what the CBO won't have are analyses of the full impact of this. How many people might lose coverage, what might happen to premiums. And those are the things that members would like but they don't actually have to have before they vote.

[07:55:02] CUOMO: Now, I know many of you at home are saying Jimmy Kimmel? What? Is that the name of some politician? I thought that was the late-night guy.

No, it is the late-night guy. He had one of the senators on that are pushing this bill.

And back then, the senator was like I'm with you, Jimmy. We have to get the right kind of thing. We have to protect people.

Kimmel believes that this senator lied to his face. Here's what he said.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, ABC "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": I don't know what happened to Bill Cassidy but when he was on this publicity tour he listed his demands for a health care bill very clearly.

These were his words. He said he wants coverage for all, no discrimination based on preexisting conditions, lower premiums for middle-class families, and no lifetime caps.

And guess what? The new bill does none of those things.

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?


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

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

There's a new "Jimmy Kimmel Test" for you. It's called the lie detector test and you're welcome to stop by the studio and take it anytime.



CUOMO: Now, Sarah, giving the GOP the best defense here, Kimmel's passionate but he is not a policy wonk.

The yep could still apply. What Cassidy is going to argue when he's on the show in a little bit is no, you can still get all those things, you're just going to have to pay for them and the rates that you have to pay may be different. And that scaling of cost could make it, while it's available to you, impossible to pay for.

Isn't that the right criticism?

KLIFF: I guess so, but I think I really agree with Jimmy Kimmel here, particularly on preexisting conditions which are really important to a lot of Americans, that the Cassidy-Graham bill absolutely would let insurance companies discriminate against people with preexisting conditions. Charge people with cancer, asthma higher premiums.

So, I think --

CUOMO: So -- but that's the distinction, though, Sarah. That's why I point it out. I hear you and I get the strength of your argument, but I'm saying our job is both sides of this.

And there is going to be no, no, no, don't say you can't have it. You can still have it. We're not ruling out preexisting conditions like they used to, it just may cost differently. And they'll make a fairness argument about that.

Isn't that where they're coming from?

KLIFF: Yes, I guess that is an argument, you know, I've heard from Sen. Cassidy.

For me, it doesn't hold a lot of water because I think at some point if premiums are getting to $500, $600 -- you know, $1,000, $2,000 a month, it's a bit of a moot point, you know, whether you're being offered this premium if it's at a sky-high price. CUOMO: Right. I didn't say it was a good argument, I said it's going

to be their argument and we'll test it when he comes on the show.

Julie, do they have the votes?

ROVNER: Not yet but they're close, and that's what we've thought. And I think also their argument is going to be that this will be up to the states. That's their biggest argument is to let the states decide what to do.

So in some states you might actually have these protections and some states you might now. And that's been their argument pushing this.

But, you know, there are a couple of senators that everyone's watching -- Sen. McCain, Sen. Murkowski of Alaska. If they can get those two on board then they might well be able to pass this.

CUOMO: Collins' votes up in Maine suggest that she would be oppositional but she has not given any specific word on this bill.

Julie, Sarah, thank you so much. You made us better on this discussion. Good medicine on health care. Appreciate you both.

All right, there's a lot of news. The Hurricane Maria is battering Puerto Rico. It may be worse than they've seen it in a generation.

We've got it all covered. Let's get after it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: All right.

Welcome to you in the United States and around the world. This is your new day. It is Wednesday, September 20th, 8:00 now in New York.

We're following two deadly natural disasters.

You've got Hurricane Maria now making landfall in Puerto Rico. It beat up the U.S. Virgin Islands.

It is now a category four storm hammering the island with all of the rain, and the wind, and the storm surge yet to come. The eye of the storm about to go over San Juan.

We're getting our first images. Take a look at your screen. This is from the town of Fajardo at the El Conquistador hotel. This is from storm chaser Mike Theiss.

CAMEROTA: Just incredible to see the streets, obviously, turned to rivers.

Also, more breaking news at this hour.

The death toll soaring to 216 in Mexico after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake has rocked the Mexico City area. It's toppled buildings, including a school where dozens of children are reported missing at this hour. This is the deadliest earthquake to hit Mexico in decades.

So we have all of this covered for you with the global resources of CNN.

Let's begin with CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He is in Palmas Del Mar on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico. We do not have communication with him right now because of all the conditions. He is getting some of the worst of those, so let's see what is happening with him.

CNN's Rafael Romo is going to join us live now from the Fajardo on Puerto Rico's east coast. Rafael, what are you seeing?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR, CNN WORLDWIDE: Alisyn, let me show you what this hotel had to do to --