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Mexico in Deep Sorrow of Earthquake's Aftermath; Puerto Rico in Total Darkness After Hurricane Maria; Mueller's Team Joining Puzzle Pieces of Russia Probe. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 21, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause, live in Mexico City with our breaking news coverage of two devastating natural disasters.

Dozens of buildings across the city are in ruins after deadly earthquake. Rescuers are working around the clock looking for survivors.

And in Puerto Rico the entire island in under a flash flood warning as hurricane Maria leaves its mark. The storm is lashing the Dominican Republic right now.

But first to the earthquake and the painstaking search for survivors. Mexico's president says more than 50 people have been pulled alive from the debris of collapsed buildings and rescue workers are not giving up.

And one elementary school here in Mexico City they said they're moving closer to a young girl trapped under the rubble of her school. They believe they know the general area where she's at. And then there maybe others trapped with her. The rescuers have been worried that what's left of that structure might collapse.

The magnitude 7.1 quake killed at 25 people at the school, all but four of them were children. And throughout this earthquake zone 230 people have been killed.

My CNN colleagues and I reporting across this quake zone. We will continue to bring original reporting as well as all the breaking developments and we begin this hour with CNN's Ed Lavandera with details on the rescue efforts.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not until you stand this close to the collapsed school building that the horrific reality of the scene sinks in. We've weave our way in and around hundreds of rescue workers who have descended on this elementary school to save anyone who might still be trapped inside the rubble.

This is the area where crews have been frantically working for the last 24 hours trying to pull put survivors. Look at the impact here on the building, crushing that car there. You can see all the workers that have been here for more than 24 hours now trying to find survivors.

This is the school where several dozen children were killed as the building collapsed down onto the ground here. Speaking quietly because a lot of crews have been working and they're trying to hear for sounds of people inside the building. We're told there might be a young girl they believe is still alive inside and that's what these efforts are for right now.

In the courtyard area of the school, hundreds of workers are moving debris away from the school under a banner that reads, "unity creates strength." Then a whistle cuts through the air and everyone stops. Total silence. This gives rescue teams crawling through the collapsed structure the chance to listen for survivor survivors.

You can hear the sounds of the rescue workers working inside the building.

The work inside the building is treacherous. Wooden pillars have been brought in to fortify the, what's left of the school.

Hector Mendez is part of a volunteer brigade of rescue workers known as the moles. He says his team arrived on the scene an hour after the school collapsed. And the 70-year-old volunteer believes more people will be pulled alive.

Do you believe you'll be able to find children alive in there.

HECTOR MENDEZ, RESCUE MEMBER: Yes. The children the most times they got the -- they got more chance to live than we -- the old people.

LAVANDERA: You think so? Even a day after?

MENDEZ: Yes, the boys they want to -- they want to be alive. And I know that. And that's why we're here working hard.

LAVANDERA: Dramatic scenes are unfolding on the streets surrounding the school grounds. That's where we found a collection of names strung together on paper and clear tape. This is where Daniel Casal (Ph) and a small team of volunteers helped keep track of the names of the teachers and students who were inside the school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These papers, the blue one and the white one, was the people death and this (Inaudible) opportunity.

LAVANDERA: Most of the buildings surrounding the school withstood the force of the earthquake. Only this portion cratered in on itself. And rescue workers vowed to continue the search as long as it takes.

VAUSE: Our thanks to Ed Lavandera for that report. It is what, three minutes past 2, four minutes past 2 here in the morning. The focus still very much on this elementary school and the work these rescue crews are doing to get closer and closer to that young girl.

Hugo Vela is a senior investigator for the ADN40 television, he was in the area where the first signs of life were detected. So, Hugo, there is concern about what is being reported right now with regards to the progress these rescuers are making.

Are they getting closer to the girl? How close are they to finding her and getting her out from what you've understand -- from what you understand, and is there a worry or a concern that maybe this is being hyped? Maybe false hope is being put out there at the moment?

[03:05:09] HUGO VELA, SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, ADN40: Hello, John. They are very close to getting this little girl out, this little 12-year-old girl free from the rubble. Actually the efforts have been going on for over 15 hours, but it's been complicated because they needed special tools which is they had to get before they could start work on freeing this girl and removing the rubble.

However, right now the efforts are ongoing. They are working tirelessly to try to move the rubble around and to be able to see the girl and to talk to her and check she's OK. What we know so far is that the girl is fine. She's been able to communicate with the people trying to rescue her.

So we spent a few hours of very desperate times for this girl because she's trapped in an 18-inch space. She was able to survive the earthquake because she hid under a table when the earthquake struck and the building collapsed over the table. So she was able to hid under the table and survive.

But during this times where they are working tirelessly to free her, they've been encountering several issues, such as weather, such as lack of tools but right now we're see ago very close situation where we are going to be having a happy ending, and Frida, which is the name of the little girl, will be at last out and able to be free from the rubble.

VAUSE: I guess the concern here is right now there is so much focus on this one rescue. So much attention that there is this danger of raising expectations should this not play out as everyone obviously is hoping that it does. That would be devastating to this country, which has already gone through so much with so many people sort of almost pinning their hopes on this one rescue.

VELA: Let's not forget that they have already rescued 11 children from this rubble. So this little girl is just another piece of the puzzle inside that school. And Mexicans are full of hope. They're working tirelessly to continue saving lives and I'm sure there's not going to be any problems from that.

They have been very careful in being able to discover the more important issues to try to free the girl without harming her. And I'm sure this will be a happy ending as well.

VAUSE: And, of course, this is one rescue which is underway. There are many rescues which continue across the capital and across the region that was hit so hard by this earthquake. And there is this worry about the structural integrity of so many buildings which have been damage by the earthquake.

VELA: That's correct. Many buildings are shaken and they could collapse at any moment. However, engineers in Mexico are already analyzing the structures, as well as many of the rescue efforts are underway to make sure that this doesn't happen. But hopefully we can see better situation around this.

There hasn't been any collapse after the earthquake. So as long as the rescue efforts are organized and they keep going, maybe we won't be able to have to face any more collapses.

VAUSE: OK. Hugo, than you for that. Hugo Vela there, a senior investigative reporter joining us for the very latest on not just this rescue but what's happening across the quake zone.

And meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now from the international weather center. And just to pick up on that last point from Hugo, there have been no more building collapses since the earthquake which is the result essentially of no aftershocks, which is not what most people had expected.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Absolutely. It's extremely rare, very unusual to see that. And typically you get an aftershock of 5.0 or greater after such a quake. You're going to have some of these building give. And of course, you take a look with a 7.1 you'd expect one 6.1, we haven't seen that, you'd expect at least ten 5.1. and then hundreds into thousands with that as well.

And with Mexico we're talking about a country that sits at the inner section of essentially plates coming together across this region of the earth's crust. And you put it together they come together like jigsaw puzzle.

And here's the perspective, the Coco's plate lies right underneath the North American plate at a rate of say, 75 or so millimeters per year, and that is the rate here that your fingernail grows in a year. So that is essentially in motion every day of the year.

[03:10:02] And that is how we see these quakes occur. But the progression of aftershocks as you at it historically speaking, you have a high volume within the first 24 to say, 48 hours and then you begin to see that deplete overtime, say, if you had a 100 in the first day, you'd expect 50 in the second day, down to say, 25 to 30 in the third day.

That has not happened but that is mainly because the center of the quake is about 400 miles away from the main plate boundary. So, that is one of the elements here that could really keep the aftershocks that they maybe reduced the likelihood of seeing that over time.

But you know, we're talking about human survival across some of these regions and typically three to five days without water is what most people can survive. Up to eight weeks without food, some of the key factors of course here the metabolism, the fat stores in your body, the air temperature outside that can dictate how your body responds to the elements.

And look offshore, there's a tropical storm disturbance. The National Hurricane Center says a 50 percent chance this will form in the next couple of days. It is pumping tremendous amount of moisture right over Mexico City. The chance of wet weather frankly, each of the next seven days it's there. The temperatures into the middle 70s Fahrenheit or lower 20's Celsius. The overnight temperatures about 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

So it's certainly chilly enough here for, you know, people trying to survive under the rubble. So it's going to be-to-make it a difficult go for a lot of people across this region. John.

VAUSE: Yes. I ca tell you the rain we had here a few hours ago was heavy and made a difficult situation just downright miserable. Pedram, thank you.

The U.S. President Donald Trump is offering help and condolences to Mexico. He spoke by phone with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Wednesday. Mr. Trump offered assistance as well as search and rescue teams, which is being deployed now, and Donald Trump also pledge coordination with Mexico as both countries deal with this earthquake and also recent hurricanes.

Facebook says it will donate a million dollars to the Red Cross to help Mexico rebuild after the earthquake. The company is also working with UNICEF to raise money. A spokeswoman says people have been using the social media platform to come together.

Thousands have been posting messages asking how they can volunteer, offer food or shelter for those who needed most. And there are many people here who are in need. And if you would like to help and you want to make a difference, visit our web site, You can donate to one of the charities we've vetted or you can even volunteer your time.

OK. A short break here. When we come back, Dominica's lush, green landscape is now brown and covered in debris after hurricane Maria. A closer look at the damage just ahead.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause, live in Mexico City where we're covering the aftermath of that deadly earthquake, that 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

But we're also keeping a close eye on hurricane Maria in the Caribbean. The storm has intensified again from category two to a category three. It's slamming the northern coast of the Dominican Republic with winds at 115 miles or 185 kilometers per hour.

The U.S. Hurricane Center says Maria could strengthen further in the coming days.

Meantime, Puerto Rico is under a flash flood warning and the energy grid there has taken a direct hit and could take months before electricity is back on.

Fourteen people have actually been confirmed dead on the Island of Dominica where Maria made first landfall. CNN has teams across the Caribbean covering the aftermath of hurricane

Maria and also where the storm is heading. And that would be the Dominican Republic, and that is where Polo Sandoval is and in Puerto Rico, Nick Valencia also standing by with the effects there, with the flooding and all of the damage which Maria has left.

But first to Polo Sandoval. And this storm continues to intensify, Polo. Right now what are the concerns that most people have?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, for now it's the winds, John. It's incredible. Obviously, we heard from officials earlier who said the worst of the storm would likely be felt overnight and that certainly is true now. It's amazing how the winds have suddenly picked up.

The only reason why I'm not being tossed around the wind is because we're seeking shelter here close to this hotel which is serving as home for now. But if you look over my shoulder you can certainly see those wind whipped palm trees as proof that those winds have certainly began to pick up.

And it is proof there that that the storm has re-intensified again. And though the storm is not expected to make landfall here we are certainly feeling the effects with those winds, there's been debris that's been flying around just not far from where we're standing here, and of course, there is power outages are certainly something that's expected here.

We do have the power of generators here to rely on, but nonetheless other parts of the Dominican Republic likely will end up in the dark before dawn.

I can tell you that there are also thousands of tourists that are waking up here that did not initially plan to do so. There are many people who essentially cut their vacation short to try to make it back to Europe or back to the United States.

There was a couple where I spoke with who were headed back to Philadelphia today, they made it to the airport, but didn't make it much further than that. Many of them having to turn around and make it back to some of these hotels. So that is a reality for so many people here.

As for the locals they are bracing for the potential of devastating flooding. After the storm, essentially skirts passed the Hispaniola, the reality is that we will continue to see rain according to local officials here. And the reality of that flooding will linger for hours and likely for days to come, John.

VAUSE: OK. Polo, thank you. Polo Sandoval there in the Dominican Republic.

Now, Nick Valencia in Puerto Rico. Which they essentially dodged a bullet when Irma passed through about two weeks ago, it took a direct hit with Maria. And many of the people who are getting out of the way of Irma end up being in Puerto Rico and now they are dealing with this catastrophic flash flooding and storm surge issues.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They were evacuees from the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands that were taking shelter here from hurricane Irma, which only sideswiped Puerto Rico. This time they got a direct hit. And the weather is still an issue.

[03:20:00] The core of the hurricane has passed us, that weather system is still seemingly affecting us. We just a little while ago, saw lightning strikes in the background, heard thunder. There are still a flash flood warning in effect for much of the -- all of the island territory, I should say.

We had a chance to get out in some of the elements yesterday and see for ourselves to try to understand just the scope of the devastation here in and around San Juan, and we try to drive as far as we could but it took us an hour and a half just to go three miles.

And the problem, one of the main problems, I should say, was the downed trees, the downed power lines, the telephone poles that were blocking our passage ways. We tried to get out on the highway to get out towards some of the more affected areas, that we understand places like Bayamon which is just south of San Juan but we couldn't get there because these highways were just essentially swamp-like conditions.

We saw heavy police presence in and around San Juan, a lot of wind damage to the structures, billboards that were just crumbled up like Lego pieces. It's just impressive to see the amount of damage left behind by the storm system that passed through here (AUDIO GAP).

VAUSE: OK, Nick, thank you. Nick Valencia and Polo Sandoval, thanks to you both for the update.

Let's go to Pedram Javaheri now at the international weather center with more on Maria. And this is I guess what many people had expected, you know, many of the forecast had indicated that there was this real possibility that Maria would gather -- would gain strength, especially when it hit the open water.

JAVAHERI: Absolutely. Unfortunately, you know, it spends five hours over land over mountainous terrain and reenergizes back into a major hurricane just within a few hours of coming back over open water. But the concern far from over, especially for portions of the Dominican Republic here. We're getting the onshore flow, a storm surge threat as the storm rotates counterclockwise right into this region

We don't expect direct landfall but even the southern flow of this storm system will pump tremendous moisture into parts of Puerto Rico where at least two feet of rainfall could come down before it's all said and done.

In fact, the National Weather Service out of San Juan which is now being operated out of Miami because there is now power across the island is now saying the flash flood warning in effect island wide. That means flooding is imminent or occurring for everyone. They're urging that anyone that has the potential of getting to higher ground they do so across Puerto Rico at this hour. And of course, if you take a look at the topography the terrain across this region, 60 percent of the island is elevated into the mountains, only the immediate coastal areas are close to sea levels. And beyond that you go back to over 4,300 feet.

Look at the river gauge, 13 river gauge is in Puerto Rico, 10 of them reporting major flooding at this hour. This is the biggest threat. We often talk about it's the water element. And the people will get fixated on the categories, the wind speeds, but the water (TECHNICAL PROBLEM).


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- the evidence of numerous landslides on this mountainous island. The usually blue-green sea rendered brown in places from the earth swept into it.

Dominica has an agriculture based economy, it's a sugarcane, banana plantation, citrus, and most of that is exported. From what we can see up here, that is gone. And the loss of those resources and that income is going to be devastating for this island and its people.

Of course, the immediate concern is the 73,000 residents here, making sure aid gets in and quickly. Medical treatment, power, fresh water, and shelter the immediate priorities. Regional officials planning for aid flights and voyage just to begin in force on Thursday from the nearby island of St. Lucia and hoping for clarity on just what has happened to the island of Dominica.

Michael Holmes, CNN, over Dominica in the Caribbean.

VAUSE: We'll take a short break and when we come back we'll have more on the coverage of this devastating earthquake here in Mexico and we'll find out why this quake was so powerful and caused so much destruction. We're back in a moment.


VAUSE: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause, live in Mexico City with our breaking news coverage of this devastating earthquake.

Rescuers have been digging for hours on end trying to reach a young girl trapped in a collapsed elementary school. We heard that rescue could happen soon but those efforts have been complicated over concern that the pile of debris could collapse.

We'll of course bring all the details as soon as we have them any updates on this rescue. But we should note at least 25 others were killed in that school, 21 of them were children. Overall the death toll now stands at over 230. Mexico has declared three days of mourning. The president calls this a national emergency.

And across the city there have been scenes like this one, rescuers raising their fist for silence so they can listen for any sign of life beneath the rubble. Hundreds of buildings across Mexico City have collapsed.

And Mexico is prone to earthquakes because the country falls inside an area known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. The horseshoe shaped band of volcanoes and fault lines is 40,000 kilometers long and circles the rim of the Pacific Ocean. This is where 90 percent of the world's earthquakes actually happen.

And earlier, I spoke with Bill Steele, he's a seismologist at Seattle, in Seattle, rather, about Mexico's vulnerability to these kinds of earthquakes.


VAUSE: It's good to get your explanation about just exactly what's happening here in Mexico City because it's not just the Ring of Fire which makes Mexico City so vulnerable to earthquakes, it's also has to do with the extra type of tectonic plates it's sitting on?

BILL STEELE, SEISMOLOGIST, PACIFIC NORTHWEST SEISMOGRAPH NETWORK: That's right, John. You know, we're here in the Pacific Northwest our hearts are reaching out to the Mexicans, it could be us in a situation, it could be our schools collapsed, it could be us trying to get to our children. And it's just by luck or poor fortune that these two large earthquakes hit this Mexican city in two weeks.

So we're really praying for them and resources are coming for Seattle and Washington to go and help try to help with the rescue and recovery efforts.

So, where we are here is also in the subduction zone environment where we have an ocean plate subducting beneath North America. In Mexico that's where this earthquake occurred on an descending subducting plate that ran horizontally under Mexico from the Pacific side and then was bending to dip down into the mantle and it's at that bend that it snapped. And the fault broke about 50 kilometers long and about kilometers wide to create this earthquake.

VAUSE: Yes. And normally -- I'm having trouble with my earpiece, Bill, so bear with me. So, normally the situation when you have an earthquake when two tectonic plates come together in sort of a collision, which is sort of the run of the mill normal earthquake which releases all the energy that causes all the destruction, that didn't happen here. It was just one tectonic plate which ruptured which is unusual.

STEELE: That's right. So, normally a great earthquake even larger it is the interface between the two plates sliding that creates this earthquake. This is actually the lower plate, that ocean slab breaking and pulling apart. And it's also why we're seeing a dirt of aftershocks there, I believe there -- here in the Pacific northwest in 1949, 1965 and 2001, we had large deep earthquakes similar depth to this one and none of them produced -- only one felt aftershock, none of them damaging and some of them had no aftershocks at all.

So even though it's unusual for a crustal earthquake, or as you mentioned a plate boundary earthquake the subductions on earthquake it's not so unusual for these very deep, this deep intraplate earthquakes.

[03:35:03] VAUSE: OK. Bill, we appreciate you being with us and giving us the explanation as to why this earthquake was so powerful. Bill Steele there in Seattle, thank you.

Well, many people captured the moment the earthquake struck. They recorded it on their cell phones including one tourist Esther Tellis (Ph). She shared her video on Facebook from Mexico, about 190 kilometers south of the people. You can see people there they're kneeling around the crystal monument enjoying the view. You can hear people laughing children in the background, one woman apparently taking drink of water and then all of a sudden there is sheer panic as they felt the quake.

Tellis (Ph) told Reuters the experience was terrifying along with her family she suffered only minor injuries.

We'll take a break and when we come back we'll have the latest on hurricane Maria, the strongest storm Puerto Rico has seen in 85 years.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: Welcome back, everyone.

[03:39:59] I'm Rosemary Church, live in Atlanta. We will have more fr0m Mexico City in just a moment.

For now, though, the latest on hurricane Maria. It has strengthened to a category three storm again as it moves over the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Winds are currently are 115 miles or 185 kilometers per hour.

Meanwhile, the entire island of Puerto Rico is without power, and it will likely take months to restore that. The country is also under a flash flood warning. Maria is the strongest storm to make a direct hit on Puerto Rico in nearly a century.

And our reporters were there right in the middle of it all.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Take a look around me. This wind is serious, and we have not even hit the eye yet. We are two to three hours away at last check for this. And already debris is moving, debris that by the way, much of it was still out from hurricane Irma just days ago.

NICK PATON WALSH, INTERNATIONAL CNN CORRESPONDENT: This particular hotel we're in an intense concrete structure that provides us some security has really taken a battering too, frankly, tearing a part of its roof here. We've yet to see now as daylight breaks the full extent of the damage. There's some trees falling down there, made a mess of a palm tree near us here. But you know, we are in a comparatively safe structure.

SANTIAGO: These are winds that are taking down debris, take a look around me, you can see limbs of trees that have come down. Parts of roofs that have come down. I want to take you up a little bit so you can see these palm trees that are being stripped of their leaves.

RAFAEL ROMO, SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR, CNN: Our team ourselves had to be evacuated because conditions were so dangerous and so precarious at one point. Take a look outside. All of that debris came down in the last three hours or so. That's when we experienced the strongest winds here in Fajardo.

WALSH: (Inaudible) the top of the roof are near up the (Inaudible) It e seems to be flung over the roof of the building where we are. Let me just let our camera man give you a shot of this. This is quite extraordinary.

DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Maria obviously moved through the region. It's now about 30 miles just to our west. So we are on the backside of the storm.


CHURCH: As you saw there we have reporters on islands across the Caribbean, giving us breaking news developments as it happens. And we go live now to San Juan in Puerto Rico where our meteorologist Derek Van Dam has been giving these live reports.

And Derek, hurricane Maria has left Puerto Rico with no power and now of course there is this threat of flash floods. How are people dealing with all of this? They must be terrified.

VAN DAM: Yes, Rosemary. Flash flooding under complete darkness with no electricity. It really doesn't get more dangerous than that. Torrential rain continues to lash the central and western sections of the islands, in fact, they had reports of 25 inches of rain.

The official prediction here is expected about 35 inches by the -- finally by the time hurricane Maria exits the U.S. territories. There are concerns of landslides and mudslides as well. Remember, there are mountains across the central part of this island that tower over 4,000 feet.

And once the water accumulates on those tall mountain passes it eventually streams down into the rivers below, those rivers burst their banks and that's where we get the flash flooding, especially in the communities that have built their homes in their populations and their homes across those areas.

So, the flash flooding concerns under darkness tonight, that is a major threat but we can't forget the winds that have clocked over 130 miles per hour. By the way, knocking out operations at the National Weather Service they have lost both their radars on the islands.

So tracking the exact track of the rainfall through this area is very, very difficult. So we're relying on a lot of observations and also on satellite data.

There are curfews in effect across the entire island that lasts right through Saturday morning. They have over 10,000 people within shelters right now and, of course, it's going to be a long night ahead for the residents here that are still dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Maria. Rosie?

CHURCH: Yes. And Derek, it doesn't help that hurricane Maria is now a category three storm threatening the Dominican Republic.


CHURCH: And beyond, of course, and that has affects in that area, doesn't it?

VAN DAM: Yes without a doubt. The fact that it moved into the warm ocean waters of the Atlantic means that it has an opportunity to re- strengthen and that it did. It turned into a major hurricane once again, that status being 115 miles per hour or greater.

[03:45:05] And that is the least -- that's the last news that we want to hear now especially from the Dominican Republic through the Turks and Caicos because they're preparing for at least the direct landfall of the system or at least the direct outer bands of the system to impact that region's storm surge, flash flooding will also be concerns there, and not to mention winds in excess of 100 miles per hour.

CHURCH: All right. Some terrifying moments and situations there for people in Puerto Rico. Our Derek Van Dam reporting there from San Juan where, of course, as he's pointed out there is no power across the whole of Puerto Rico as a result of hurricane Maria, and now, of course they've got these threats of flash flooding. We'll keep an eye on that. Many thanks to you, Derek for your live reports.

We're going to take a short break here, but coming up, special counsel Robert Mueller widens his investigation into Russian election meddling to include recent activities inside the Trump White House. We'll explain when we come back.


[03:49:56] CHURCH: Pope Francis is sending condolences and prayers to the Mexican people following the deadly earthquake. During his weekly address St. Peter Square the pope encouraged quake victims not to give up hope.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): Yesterday, a terrible earthquake devastated Mexico. I saw there are many Mexicans today among you. It caused many victims and material damage. In this moment of pain I want to express my closeness and my prayer to all of the beloved Mexican population.


VAUSE: We will have more on Mexico in just a moment.

But turning now to some other news. North Korea's foreign minister is dismissing President Trump's threat to destroy his country as nonsensical. Ri Yong-ho told reporters and I'm quoting here, "If he was thinking he could scare us with a sound of a dog barking, that's really a dog dream. And in Korean a dog dream is one that's absurd and makes little sense." Ri added he felt sorry for President Trump's aids.

The secretary of state says it's unclear whether the U.S. and Iran can agree on the future of Tehran's nuclear deal. Rex Tillerson says he and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, quote, "didn't throw shoes at one another at their first meeting and that it was matter effect."


REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: The agreement has this very concerning shortcoming that the president has mentioned as well, and that is the sunset clause. Where one can almost set the countdown clock to when Iran can resume its nuclear weapons programs, its nuclear activities and that's something that the president simply finds unacceptable.


CHURCH: Mr. Trump indicated he is decided whether to pull out of the agreement. But Tillerson said the president has not shared his decision with anyone.

Well, the investigation into Russian interference in last year's U.S. election is beginning to focus more on Donald Trump's actions after he became president. Sources tell CNN that special counsel Robert Mueller has requested a wide array of White House documents including those related to the firings of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey.

One source also says Mueller's team wants information on the Oval Office meeting with Russian officials. U.S. reporters and photographers were barred from that meeting which happened the day after Comey was fired.

Well, there's also this. The Washington Post is reporting that during the 2016 race then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort offered private campaign briefings to a Russian billionaire with Kremlin ties. One of the reporters who broke the stories spoke with our Anderson Cooper about Mueller expanding his probe.


CAROL LEONNIG, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's no surprise that he's investigating the president. Back in the spring we talked about the fact that -- and I believe the Post broke this story as well. That Mueller, very shortly after being appointed, was looking into whether or not the president had tried to obstruct with original Russia probe that FBI Director James Comey was overseeing.

So it makes sense that these are the records, as we reported today, that Mueller is seeking from the White House. It's taking a little while for him to get them but they cover this huge a span of topics, 13 topics as we described and many of them really have to do with the president's internal private conversation, why did I fire Comey, what did he tell aids. What did he do and what did he say when he learned that his White House had been warned that his national security advisor was under investigation.

What did he do in terms of crafting a statement with Sean Spicer, another one of the subjects, about how to explain to the public why they were firing -- or why the president was firing James Comey.


CHURCH: On Capitol Hill in Washington, republicans have just nine days to pass their latest attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. The newest bill by Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy would roll back many of Obamacare's key provisions. For example, it would allow insurers to charge higher premiums to people with preexisting conditions.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, is Graham-Cassidy going to pass?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, folks. Thank you. I think it has a very good chance.


TRUMP: I believe that Graham-Cassidy will do it the right way and it is doing it the right way. There's tremendous support from the republicans, currently we're at 47 or 48 already senators and a lot of others are looking at it very positively.


CHURCH: And these are the handful of republican senators who could sink the bill. Three of them voted against the so-called skinny repeal in July with Senator John McCain famously giving a thumbs down.

[03:55:07] More than 20 professional health care associations have lined up against the bill. And here's what former President Obama had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The legislation that we passed was full of things that still need to be fixed. It wasn't perfect. But it was better. And so, when I see people trying to undo that hard-won progress for the 50th or 60th time, with bills that would raise costs or reduce coverage or roll back protections for older Americans or people with preexisting conditions, the cancer survivor, the expecting mom or the child with autism or asthma, for whom coverage once again would be almost unattainable, it is aggravating.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: And thank you all for joining us, I'm Rosemary Church. Do stay with us.