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Maria Lashes Dominican Republic, Destroys Puerto Rico; Trump Has "Decided" On Iran Deal But Won't Reveal It. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 21, 2017 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:05] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Collusion does not exist in the law. It is not a crime.


CUOMO: They keep throwing that word around. Oh, it's a collusion. Were they colluding? How about if they colluded?

It means nothing to the law. You'd have to show there is a crime that is in furtherance of these types of efforts. It's a high bar. That's all I'm saying.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: OK, but, let me -- look, George Washington's farewell address --

CUOMO: Every time you slam the table, I get nervous, by the way.

AVLON: As well you should.

Look, the founding fathers were very concerned, the people who wrote the Constitution, decided a foreign influence in domestic politics and in our election --


AVLON: -- that seems to be explicitly what is here. If you're an originalist, this is an original sin.


CUOMO: No question. Sin isn't a crime all the time.

CAMEROTA: This is your reporting, what do you have to add to this debate?

ADAM ENTOUS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I think, you know --

CUOMO: Fascinating?

ENTOUS: A close read of these e-mails, I think you can put yourself in the shoes of the counterintelligence investigators at the FBI when they were seeing this. Now, we don't know when they were seeing it. Obviously, the NSA, the FBI, you know, I'm sure they're targeting Deripaska. So, they were seeing some of this communication. Even if they weren't, at that point, you know, when -- if and when

they might have been up on Manafort, they were seeing this on the other end. And so, you can really understand, you can totally get --

CUOMO: Absolutely.

ENTOUS: -- why they were interested.

CUOMO: And they would be negligent if they didn't go down these roads, no question about it.

AVLON: Yes. And just one other thing -- you know, a lot of reporting, including "The Daily Beast", and here and other places, are showing the Russian-backed Facebook and Twitter accounts were actively pushing pro-Trump memes, right? And in some faces convening rallies, in loose coordination with campaign volunteers.

So, I mean, you're having a preponderance of evidence here of what we know to be the case, which is in addition to all these outreach by influential individuals to the Trump leadership, there is an active, online campaign to stir up anti-Hillary Clinton hate and pro-Trump sentiment online, backed by Russia and Russian entities on Facebook and social media. Those things can't be entirely coincidental. Otherwise, it's just --

CUOMO: That's why we have the investigation. That's why they're looking.

I'm just trying to provide -- and we're going to move on to health care. But I just want to provide the legal context that Jeffrey and I have to wrestle with, as well as just the suggestions, because one has to lead to the other. Otherwise, you're going to have a lot of disappointment for people who think there is something there.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, health care, clock is ticking, September 30th deadline. Where are we with Murkowski, McCain, Collins singing on possibly?

AVLON: Yesterday, Mitch McConnell's office met with Lindsey Graham, obviously one of the co-sponsors and he said, you know, they feel like they will get a vote. It's not clear the requisite number of votes are there.

I do think Jimmy Kimmel's, you know, pushback draws a lot of attention to this issue it wouldn't otherwise get. But they are scrambling to go get the votes. They got a very tight margin. They can't afford to lose Murkowski. The independent governor of Alaska, her home state, has pushed back. John Kasich has pushed back, which makes things tough for Portman.

So, they feel like this is their last-ditch effort, but they don't have the votes yet. This is a real-time fight.

CUOMO: And it is because of the timing of this reconciliation bill. At the end of the month, they're going to lose -- look, the point of purpose here is you can't even get 50 plus? You know what I mean? And this is your signature promise. That's what is weighing on why this could pass.

The bill could be a stinker by anybody. And in fact, you have nobody on the other side. No major medical group. No organization that understands the advocacy of this issue has come forward in favor of this bill.

But it's still a signature promise.

TOOBIN: It is a signature promise but sometimes the merits matters. And, you know, sometimes the fact that millions of people, we don't know how many millions because they are rushing so much that the CBO is not going to do a full estimate. How many people are going to lose insurance? How many people with pre-existing conditions will no longer be able to get insurance? How much insurance rates will go up because the federal government is putting fewer dollars in?

I mean, I think -- we focus so much on the politics and how many votes. But the merits of the bill, and that is what Jimmy Kimmel was talking about. Unlike a lot of other people, Kimmel is actually talking about what's in the bill.

CUOMO: And he really stepped it up last night. We will talk about it later in the show.

Gentlemen, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Good stuff.

CAMEROTA: Hurricane Maria knocked out power to all of Puerto Rico. So, we're going to look at where the monster storm is headed, next.


[06:38:33] CAMEROTA: We're keeping an eye on Hurricane Maria which is lashing the Dominican Republic at this hour. And, of course, it continues to dump torrential rain over Puerto Rico.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the latest forecast.

Where is it tracking now?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is tracking into the Atlantic. Unlike yesterday, which it was kind of bending toward the U.S., that has changed overnight in some of the computer models, the European and the American model.

Look at the eye of the storm right there, really though just hitting hard the north coast of the Dominican Republic and also still pushing rain into the Puerto Rico west coast where more flash flooding is expected today.

It's 115-mile-per-hour storm. It has gained strength overnight. You can see the eye is large, but it is also looking healthy. Which means it is breathing up and down, which means the storm could still get stronger.

As it turns to the north, at least right now, the westerly winds may pick it up and push it away from the U.S. That is the best news, as long as it doesn't push into the Bermuda.

But so far, the American and the European model taking the storm and keeping it offshore, Chris. Best news today.

CUOMO: That's the good news. But as you have been telling people who live along this east coast -- pay attention to your local advisories, because even the storms are not coming this way, the rip tides, the erosion at the beach, the waves. You got to be careful. We had someone die where I live because they misunderstood the strength of the water.

Chad, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

MYERS: You're welcome.

CUOMO: So, President Trump, the Iran deal, this is a very big moment. And the president says he has made a decision. What is it?

[06:40:00] When will he reveal it? What might it lead to with North Korea?

A lot of big questions. Let's take them on, next.



REPORTER: Have you decided to stay or leave?


RPEORTER: Can you tell us what your decision is, sir?

TRUMP: I'll let you know. I'll let you know.


CUOMO: A dicey proposition to play reality TV with something as important as the Iran deal that has so many global implications. But that's what the president appears to be doing.

Has he made a decision? He says yes. What is it? You'll have to wait and see.

CAMEROTA: The reveal.

CUOMO: One of the people who are waiting? Iran's president. He warns that the U.S. is going to pay, quote, a high cost if Trump pulls out.

Let's discuss what's going on with this deal and what the implications are in both directions.

We got CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger.

David, take us through the math on this.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So the math is pretty basic here. Within the four corners of the agreement, under which Iran has very sharply limited its nuclear production, it has taken most of its stockpile and shipped it out of the country, 98 percent of it.

[06:45:10] It's complying with that. So, the administration can't argue -- and Rex Tillerson, when he met a group of us last night, didn't argue that they are violating the agreement. He said they are violating the spirit of the agreement, what the agreement was supposed to lead to, which was better relationship, not messing around in the Middle East, which Iran is certainly doing, not supporting terrorism, which Iran is certainly doing.

And the difficulty they're running into here is the agreement was never intended to cover that. It was intended to make sure that if you're confronting Iran, you are not confronting a nuclear-armed Iran.

CAMEROTA: And so, Britain, France, China, Russia, Germany, they all want to stay with this agreement. They like this agreement. It is President Trump that has a beef with it.

If his big reveal is that the U.S. is going to get out of this or not recertify it, then what?

AVLON: Well, the current reporting by "The New York Times" and others on this is that they are going to try to amend the deal, right? Because there is not technically in compliance, they want to see if they can add to it.

This is Trump saying, look, I'm a deal maker, I can make a better deal. It should -- the time line should be extended. There should be provisions for better relations or particularly not sponsoring terrorism.

Can those things be added? Macron indicated an openness to do that. The problem is that if this basically just a Trojan horse to pull out of the deal, and it pulls that's Jenga stick apart, not only does it impact Iran, and the Middle East, and our credibility with our allies, but also any hope of convening a multilateral coalition against North Korea.

CUOMO: Let's dig down on that as to why. So, you pull out. Iran's upset, your allies are arguably upset and frustrated by the waste of time and effort. But what does it mean to the North Korean situation if the president makes a negative move on the Iran deal?

SANGER: So, I wrote a little bit about this in "The Times" today. And the core concept here is if you're Kim Jong-un and you're sitting in Pyongyang and you're thinking to yourself, I don't really want to do a deal with these guys anyway. I want to build my nuclear weapons until I'm parity, or at least can make sure that I preserve the regime -- if he were to go in and try to strike a deal and he saw the president just upended one that the U.S. had made two years ago, he's going to say, I'm not going in this one. This president, the next president could decide two years from now they don't like this and come back for more.

Now, the fact of the matter the administration, the current administration wouldn't have been wildly lucky to get anything out of North Korea or previous administrations, similar to what got out of Iran. Because had North Korea had been forced to ship all of its nuclear or most of its nuclear material out of the country, we wouldn't be looking at the situation we're in today.

CAMEROTA: But I just want to stick with you for a second, David, because you met with Tillerson. Surely the people around the president understand the repercussions of all of this. So, what do they say?

SANGER: So, Tillerson has been arguing against pulling out of this. And that's why we hear, as John pointed out, this phrase the addendum, because what happens if you open -- what happen if you rip up the deal and open it up? The Iranians, as president Rouhani said yesterday, said, OK, so if you rip it up, we can go back to producing and enriching uranium now. We don't have to wait 15 years to go do this.

And you're right back where you are. But this time, you are back there with two nuclear confrontations underway simultaneously that are on the opposite sides of the --

CUOMO: And, look, and to David's point, and this has been offered up by better minds than mine. But if what you're concerned about with this are these externalities, these things that didn't really have to do with the four corners of this actual document, what are you doing in the Middle East, what are you doing with North Korea, you know, what are you doing with us? Do a different deal. Do a deal that deals specifically with that.

If that's what the Trump administration wants to put as a priority, it's not the sum and substance. So, create a new deal. That's only about that, but leave this one alone.

AVLON: Right, I think you just nailed the point, though. This is not about the sum and substance of the nuclear deal per se. This is largely domestic politics. This is about Trump campaigning against the deal. I'm the dealmaker. Obama was weak. This was a terrible deal.

So, the responsible thing to do is see if you can expand the scope, because things have changed, right? I mean, you know, Iran is more involved in places it hadn't been. It's always been a sponsor of terrorism. It's not a great regime for the world. But it's about containment, as David pointed out.

Can Trump actually deliver on a better deal, though? There has been a lot of rhetoric about the art of deal president. We haven't seen it on Capitol Hill, and we haven't seen it on the international stage.

CAMEROTA: John, David, thank you very much.

CUOMO: The president would tell you, John Avlon, wait and see.

AVLON: Wait and see.

CUOMO: He would also say other things.

AVLON: I'm sure he would.

CUOMO: All right. So, coming up on NEW DAY, Trump's national security adviser H.R. McMaster is going to join us to talk about the Iran deal and a whole host of national security issues on the president's desk. He'll be on in the 8:00 hour.

CAMEROTA: And, of course, we are still covering Hurricane Maria. It has obliterated the island of Dominica.

[06:50:03] These are aerial images and all of it is heart wrenching, especially what's happening in Puerto Rico at this hour. So, we're going to take a closer look, next.


CAMEROTA: So we're now getting our first look of what little is left of the island of Dominica. Fourteen people are dead there after Hurricane Maria slammed into the island.

CNN's Michael Holmes flew over the remote area and here's what he saw.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hurricane Maria hit Dominica full category 5 strength and showed no mercy, plowing through villages towns and the capital Roseau. Not a tree untouched across the island. Thousands snapped in two. No greenery left.

There were spectacular rain forests here. No more.

(on camera): Now, this is as close as we or anyone can get to Dominica, at least for now. The airport shut down. They are hoping to open in the hours ahead to see just how bad things are. But we can see from up here, this island has been hit and hit hard.

(voice-over): We pass low, buffeted by the remnants of Maria. Our pilot unable to land before on the ground safety checks had deemed the runway safe.

The damage is island-wide. Where there is a town or village, there is debris is covering the landscape like confetti.

[06:55:01] Houses ripped open, torn apart, roofs gone. We saw some cars moving but no people.

We did see evidence of numerous landslides on this mountainous island. The usually blue-green sea rendered brown in places from the earth swept into it.

(on camera): Dominica has an agriculture-based economy. It is sugar cane, banana plantation, citrus, and most of that is exported. From what he 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.

(voice-over): Of course, the immediate concern is the 73,000 residents here making sure aid gets in and quickly. Medical treatment, power, freshwater, and shelter, the immediate priorities.

Regional officials planning for eight flights and voyages to again 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.


CUOMO: Our thanks to Michael for giving us that look at Dominica. You also have St. Croix, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico. We're all of them. The need is so great.

There is also a breaking situation in Mexico after that earthquake. Right now crews are still searching, off by hand, to get through buildings and look for survivors.

Right now, they have made contact with a 12-year-old girl trapped in the debris from her collapsed school. There could be other kids in there as well. We have a live report, next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most devastating storm in modern history.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're looking at four to six months without electricity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This hurricane, it lived up to its epic expectations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Mexico, rescuers racing against the clock to find earthquake survivors trapped beneath the rubble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rescue workers have made contact with the young girl who they believe is still alive.