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Towns Evacuating as Dam Falls in Puerto Rico; North Korea, Iran Thumb Noses at Trump After Insults; Trump Calls Russian-Backed Facebook Ads a Hoax. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 22, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And there is where find Nick Paton Walsh, CNN Senior International Correspondent, so I set the stage for us. What's it like there today, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela it was an hour's flight from Puerto Rico in helicopter here. When you come towards it is clear even though the east doesn't look so bad, the west has been hit fairly hard. I am standing in Frederiksted in the west and this is normally bustling tourist paradise. It looks like it must have been gorgeous literally a matter of days of ago but obviously you can see behind me it is without power and without electricity.

People here already angry frankly, one woman telling us how she felt the governor's statement was too positive they hadn't conveyed how awful things were for them here. And on the ground, it is absolutely devastated.

The Lost Dog Bar a tourist favorite around the corner, April the owner there mourning how the back of it had been torn off. The don't know when they can reopen again. A little kid, Robbie, saying I'm still standing but they know fully well they may have to change their lives entirely if the power is not back on quite soon.

And also, as well people angry at how FEMA haven't bought enough food for them yet. There is not a sense of hunger here of hunger at this point but a lot of anger at how food was distributed about 500 or 600 people at a school near here. Many learned about that. Ran to try and get more. And found they had run out.

It may be alleviated by what we have seen as an enormous C-17 cargo plane just landing earlier on. They are at the airfield there doing the best they can it seems to get as much aid in as they possibly can. But this place was also hit by hurricane Irma in fact, two Americans here that we spoke to, Brandon and Jamie, a lovely couple who went to St. Thomas to offer help they could.

He formerly served in Afghanistan, she is a mental health professional, the came back here, but had to survive through hurricane Maria tearing the front of their house off entirely. Poor Jamie broke down and described how they lived through that. Moments of surreal too, as well, there are occasional stray horses roaming around here, because the officials said let them out before the storm. Massive devastation here, desperate hopes that people will pay attention to the crisis that they are experiencing. There is not an inch of this road that is not covered with some sort of debris. But they fear they are a little far away from Puerto Rico, a little out of sight, a little out of mind, and they are worried that life may have changed here entirely. they depend exclusively almost on tourism to live, and they are deeply concerned that may not come back unless they can clean this place up. -- Pamela

BROWN: All right, Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much for bringing the latest there from St. Croix.

Just ahead, name calling and nukes, President Trump fires back at the North Korean dictator after Kim Jong-un calls him mentally deranged and now new threats of an H-bomb test.

Plus, a speech that did not go quite as planned. What happened when former FBI director James Comey took the stage today at Howard University?


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I love the enthusiasm of the young folks, I just wish they would understand what a conversation is.



BROWN: The war of words between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un continues to go where no international leader has gone before. The rogue dictator's use of the arcane word dotard in reference to Trump had everyone scrambling for a dictionary for the meaning and pronunciation. That insult was just the latest verbal missile that the two have lobbed at each other.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mentally deranged, gangster, barking dog. Madman.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All perfectly explosive insults but North Korea raising the bar with a term that left many searching for wisdom.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dotard, I guess it is tomato, tomato.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dotard according to Merriam Webster, a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise or as it translates from Korean, old lunatic. The term is centuries old. Shakespeare also apparently very fond of it. Often using it alongside fool and just. If nothing else Kim Jong-un once again proves there's never a shortage of put downs whether on the playground or in a nuclear standoff.


BROWN: All right. Now I will go to Joe who is an expert on all things nuclear weapons and North Korea. I want to ask you on the latest here, this latest sort of toe for toe if you will between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. He called him a dotard in a personal attack. That is unusual, how concerning is it for you, Joe, that the rhetoric continues to ratchet up?

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, NUCLEAR ARMS EXPERT: I'm in consultation with a wide circle of North Korean experts. I have never seen concern about war with North Korea at such a high level. People are very worried about this. It's not just that President Trump gave a bellicose, reckless ill-considered speech, it's the way Kim Jong-un answered it. He interpreted this as a personal insult to him, a personal loss of face.

[15:40:00] His statement yesterday was unlike any he had delivered, it was a personal statement. It was directed directly to the president of the United States. It was sobering and coldly threatening. Then foreign minister of North Korea follows it up by saying maybe we'll launch a missile with an H-bomb on the tip of it, and explode it in the middle of the Pacific. This is a serious threat. This is something they could do. If they did do that it could lead to an escalation that could tumble us into a war that I don't think either side really wants.

BROWN: What would that look like? Why is that -- I know why it's significant but how significant is it? What would it look like? This test of an H-bomb in the Pacific Ocean?

CIRINCIONE: Well, you have to understand, nobody has done this in over 50 years. We have done such a live test. It is very risky back in the 50s. The Chinese did one in the 60s. That was 50 years ago. No one has detonated a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere for decades and decades. Just apart from the radiation danger, threat to shipping and commerce in the region, it is a visible demonstration of the strength of this bomb. And it is something that people have contained.

Even North Korea in the 6 tests they have conducted have been underground tests. This would be a powerful statement. They would be saying to the United States, look, we can do this. Back off. Would President Trump back off? Would he feel he would have a loss of face? That's assuming everything goes well. Remember, this would fly over Japan. There's no guarantee it performs as advertised. It would be a serious risk, not just debris falling on Japan, not just of an impact on Japan but for a possible nuclear explosion off the Japanese coast.

This is reason for very serious concern. It's time to shift gears, to move from the pressure we have been putting on North Korea to try to deescalate, and walk back from the brink and open up some kind of dialogue possibly with the help of the Chinese.

BROWN: And North Korea isn't the only one in defiance here. Iran also defied the president by announcing a new ballistic missile. What do you make of them thumbing their noses at the president after the UN speech?

CIRINCIONE: What is different is that Iran is basically got the support of the international community at this point. The sum total of what happened this week in the UN was that Iran looks more sympathetic, looks like a more reasonable power. Remember they negotiated a deal not just with United States but with the European Union, with Germany, with France, with China, Russia. It got passed by the U.N. Security Council. Everybody agrees that the deal is working.

Iran ripped up its nuclear capacity, ripped up at centrifuges, shipped out its gas under a stringent inspection regime. And here is the president of United States saying even though Iran is fulfilling its terms, he might rip up the deal anyway. That is isolating the United States among our allies. So again, Iran looks like the more reasonable partner here. If the president goes through with his threat, one, we will walk away from this deal alone, nobody will follow us,

Two, it undermines your possibility of negotiations with North Korea. Why should the North Koreans trust that the United States would live up to an agreement?

BROWN: all right, Joseph Cirincione, thank you.

CIRINCIONE: Thank you, Pam.

BROWN: Just ahead, Facebook plans to hand over thousands of Russian backed ads to congress. The president calling the entire story a hoax. Even more than half of Americans think Russia influenced the 2016 election. We'll be back.


BROWN: President Trump today renewing his attack on the Russia investigation into the 2016 presidential campaign. He tweeted, the Russia hoax continues. Now it's ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest media coverage in favor of crooked Hillary?

The president's insistence that Facebook advertising back by Russian buyers is a hoax, comes amid a new CNN poll. That shows most Americans think otherwise. Pollsters asked, how likely Russian backed content on social media affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential race, 54 percent said it did, 43 percent said it did not.

The president's tweet just one of many today. These are just this morning. The president says Twitter is a tool to bypass the media and get his message straight to the people. But as CNN's Bill Weir finds in his new special report "Twitter and Trump" it could also be his Achilles heel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to American adversaries in Pyongyang or Moscow, following Donald Trump on Twitter, what worries you the most?

GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF CIA AND NSA: If I'm the head of a hostile or even friendly intelligence service I have a new office over here. Follow that account. Tell me what this man is saying. It is tremendously revealing. We know the president's hot buttons, his vulnerabilities. We know what upsets him. We know what he demands from his subordinates -- and we even know his sleep patterns. Based upon his Twitter usage. That is a tremendous gift to a foreign


WEIR: All of those things somebody like Vladimir Putin say takes great pains to hide.

HAYDEN: Of course, you don't want to advantage the other guy.


BROWN: All right. CNN's Bill Weir joins me now. Great to have you on. You looked through a lot of tweets. What do they reveal about Donald Trump? What did you learn?

WEIR: There is so much. It is sort of the unfiltered id of this man. He is not a poker plan player when it comes to twitter, which is so interesting. Because as a businessman he was really cagey about computer, he was careful never to use email and didn't want to leave a digital trail.

Now that we can see his enemies list grow in real time. In the first tweet you started with, the one from this morning about the fake news screaming for crooked Hillary, it is textbook Donald Trump. It uses his favorite word, fake, nine percent of his tweets since becoming inaugurated as 45th president.

Crooked Hillary is in there. He almost has -- there is almost -- he is appealing to logos and pathos both to logic, he will say everybody is talking about X, and then putting sad at the end as sort of an emotional button pushing. So, the rhythms, his vocabulary, the way he is combative, who he is tweeting towards is also telling who he follows. He only follows about 45 people and most of them are supporters and sycophants. His view of the world is shaped by twitter as well as the one he broadcast to the world.

BROWN: I'm curious -- and I don't know if you can answer this, but in looking through all of his tweets and talking about world events and world leaders, in your view how much of them are off the cuff? In other words, he wakes up one morning and decided to tweet it out and how much of this is sort of well thought out and sort of calculated?

WEIR: Sure. That's an interesting question during the campaign, the tweets were coming from two phones. There was an Apple and an Android. You could tell which one was run by Dan Scavino who runs his social media, in which one was run by Mr. Trump himself. Based purely on the aggression, the choice of words in there.

His patterns as laid out by Michael Hayden, when he tweets he loves mornings when he is watching cable TV from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. are the best parts. He averages about six and a half, seven tweets a day. You can see there. They come more on Fridays than Mondays, so today is big tweet for him. But when you try to say, you know what, take each one with a grain of salt, this is twitter, it is a different kind of communication style. You can take it seriously but not literally.

You can make that argument, right. But on the other hand, this is the president of the United States. How do you say listen to words that come from this podium and not this podium over here? Then he has another risk of doing this. Just a guy at the end of the bar talking to TV, just unfiltered fire-hosed id out into the world that at a certain point you stop listening to everything.

[16:50:00] And it all becomes devalued currency. Then the word of the president, what does it really mean when it really matters?

BROWN: It is Interesting, I was talking to an official recently about this issue. And he said in some cases, while it may seem that some of his tweets come out of nowhere, there had actually been a lot of internal discussions, policy discussions within the administration. So, it's not always just out of the blue as it may be perceived by the public sometimes. Really fascinating. Bill Weir. Can't wait to watch tonight "Twitter and Trump" airs tonight on CNN 9 PM Eastern. Thanks so much, Bill.

And coming up more in our breaking news, Senator McCain says he cannot vote for the new bill. Reaction coming from his colleagues coming in. Back in just a moment.


BROWN: Well, this week CNN Hero knows that all too well what it's like being homeless and living in poverty. Meet Aaron Valencia.


AARON VALENCIA, CNN HERO: The kids were kind of gravitating to the shop to see what is going on. So it was like let's have them come here and they can learn a trade and learn a lesson.


VALENCIA: The wiring, the fuel system, carburetor.

No crazy cut lines in it. Looks great.

The whole time they are working we are dropping little bits of knowledge on how to make the right decisions in life.

We are not looking for perfection but we are just looking for better than yesterday.


BROWN: You can see the full story on

Meantime, the new CNN film, "Legion of Brothers" tells story of U.S. special forces that went into Afghanistan immediately after 9/11. To drive al Qaeda out of power with minimal coalition casualties. But despite this early victory, the U.S. remains mired in a lengthy war. Here's a clip from the film.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we first walked into country, you had the weight of the nation on your shoulders. We were America's response to the most catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil ever. And for a lot of us, you know, we felt that we had a responsibility to the people that died to set the stage that you just don't do that to America and not pay the price. It was about not retribution, but it was about justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's that saying about who will go, send me? You know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isaiah 6-8. Who will go and whom shall I send?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who will go and whom shall I send?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send me. Because I'm the dude who wants to make someone pay for killing my brothers and sisters.


[16:55:00] BROWN: joining me now to discuss this, our two of the men featured in the CNN film, Mark Nutsch as a former U.S. Army Captain and Green Beret. Also with me is a Scott Neil who is a former Army Master Sergeant. And also, a Green Beret. Thank you, gentlemen, for coming on the show.



BROWN: Mark, I want to start with you, when you went into Afghanistan shortly after 9/11. What were your hopes and expectations?

NUTSCH: We had very little preparation time to be among the first teams to go in. A lot of uncertainty. A lot of risk. That we as special forces green berets were willing to take. We were trained for this type of unconventional warfare mission. And we kind of new A to B, we are going to fly in by helicopter at night, and land, and link up with various ethnic factions and we'll figure out what can be achieved by working alongside them, along with our partners from the CIA.

BROWN: And Scott when you were first deployed to Afghanistan, did you believe at that time this would be a conflict that would be over quickly? NEIL: Well, when we first went in, you know, a lot of us were told

this would be multiple year campaign. And we actually wouldn't leave until it was done. And it was surprising how well and how fast all of the different teams started organizing their indigenous and some of the direct-action missions to create the momentum that basically threw out the Taliban and Al Qaeda in under 90 days.

BROWN: And Mark, this is a war that continues to rage on, all of these years later. How does it look now? How does the war in Afghanistan look now compared to when you first went in?

NUTSCH: Well, it obviously continues with special forces and other special operations personnel in there with tough and challenging mission. They are committed to improve the conditions and continue to improve on the previous successes. I personally believe Afghanistan remains better off now than it did during the reign of the Taliban. And I think there are a lot of afghan people themselves that would agree with that, and they welcome and want the American and international presence to continue helping them rebuild their country that's been devastated for decades of war.

BROWN: When you see Scott, though, the Taliban regaining some of that ground, is it discouraging at all?

NEIL: Well, it is. Because every inch of that ground that they regain was kind of covered in American blood and treasure. A lot of our partner nations as well. I have my own son in the military, and certainly like other sons are ready to serve in a war that we thought we won in 90 days. So, it's hard to think how well and how quickly we overcame the territory controlled by the Taliban and watch them creep back 16 years later. And basically, like they never left in the first place.

BROWN: And what about, Mark, the psychological or emotional toll that this had on you and other members of your unit that, what you went through, and what would you like the American public to know about that side of the war?

NUTSCH: Just the resilience of our special operations soldiers, as well as the wives and families that have borne the brunt of deployments over the last 16 years.

BROWN: All right. We will leave it there. Thank you so much, Mark, and Scott. Appreciate it.

And don't forget to watch the CNN film "Legion of Brothers" premiers Sunday night 9:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.

Well, thank you so much for joining me on this Friday. I'm Pamela Brown filling in for my colleague Brooke Baldwin. "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.