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Trump On W.H. Visit: "Curry Hesitating, Invitation Withdrawn"; Trump: Kaepernick, Anthem Protesters Should be "Fired'; NFL: Trump's Divisive Comments Disrespectful To Players; Puerto Rico Dam Failing, Officials Urge 70,000 To Evacuate. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired September 23, 2017 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now in the NEWSROON, President Trump slamming Senator John McCain this time trying to pit McCain against his friend, Senator Lindsey Graham over the GOP's latest plan to repeal Obamacare. We'll explain.
Then, another missile test abroad. North Korea isn't behind it instead it's Iran. This after Iran's president called President Trump's rhetoric ignorant and absurd at the U.N.
Plus, Trump tells football players who kneel during the national anthem, the NFL hits back saying Trump shows a lack of respect for the league. The controversy exploding. That's all ahead in the NEWSROOM.
Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We're following breaking news out of North Korea and Iran. Two mysterious seismic events, separate events that have been detected near the area of North Korea's nuclear site.
That's one seismic event happening there. The cause unclear. A nuclear watchdog group says neither -- or the quake does not appear to be manmade. Two South Korean officials say so far, their analysis shows that it was a natural earthquake.
One official says there is a, quote, "slim possibility" the seismic activity was caused by the collapse of a nuclear test site.
President Trump flaming his war of words with North Korea during a campaign rally for an Alabama Senate candidate. The president once again taking aim at the North Korean dictator's nuclear ambitions. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We can't have madmen out there shooting rockets all over the place. By the way, rocket man should have been handled a long time ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Meanwhile, in defiance of the U.N. and President Trump, Iran is flexing its nuclear capabilities. Iran testing a new ballistic missile that is capable of carrying multiple warheads and reaching U.S. allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia potentially.
We have all of this covered with correspondents around the globe. Let's begin in Iran with Ramin Mostaghim. He is the Tehran correspondent for the "Los Angeles Times." So Ramin, good to see you. Is this Iran missile test a likely message to the president of the United States after his words at the U.N.?
RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, TEHRAN CORRESPONDENT, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Yes, it is. It's showing United States of America and especially Trump administration in post-speech at U.N. Iran wants to show it doesn't try to be obedient to any outside pressure. So, from the Iranian angle, it is flexing muscles and give a lesson to Trump.
WHITFIELD: So, is this likely the end of the missile test? Was that just kind of one to send a strong message from Iran or more plans or to say something more bigger about the Iran deal?
MOSTAGHIM: It gives some hint to the Iran deal because we see Iranian side, Iran wants to prove that nuclear deal is not re-negotiable, but at the same time is ready for grand bargain for more negotiation about anything but nuclear deal.
So, even missile test can be negotiated but on different agenda and in different ways. Not the way America wants to impose pressure on Iran.
WHITFIELD: All right. Ramin Mostaghim, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.
Meantime, eyes again on North Korea today where seismic activity was detected in the area where the country has conducted nuclear test in the past. The magnitude 3.5 was felt in the region early this morning and seismic activity is usually the first time North Korea has conducted a nuclear test.
[12:05:02] At the same time, it could also be a natural occurrence of an earthquake. CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea. So, Paula, what more do we know about the gut instincts of experts there in South Korea?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, at this point, as far as South Korean officials are concerned, they believe that it was a natural occurrence. They believe that the seismic waves of this particular event show that it has to be natural. They say it's a very different pattern if it's man made.
But the interesting fact is that it happened just more than three and a half miles from where nuclear test number six happened. This is where North Korea carried out a number. In fact, all of those nuclear tests. It's called (inaudible), this area in North Korea.
And it is very close to where this seismic event happened today. This is why there have been so much analysis, so much discussion going on, because 3.5 magnitude earthquake is not unusual in North Korea.
Over the past few months we have seen a couple of events like this. The fact it's so close to where North Korea, just a matter of weeks ago carried out that nuclear test number six has concerned people.
At this point, South Korean officials, the Korea Meteorological Administration believes that it was a natural occurrence. Of course, there's been increased tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.
We've had the North Korean foreign minister suggesting there could be a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean. We've had that direct message from the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to the U.S. president just over the last day or so. So, of course, tensions are high.
That is why this is being focused on so much closer. But at this point, Fredricka, unless we hear otherwise from the U.S. Geological Survey, still waiting for their definite answer, the Koreans believe that it was natural.
WHITFIELD: All right. Paula Hancocks, as soon as you know we'll come right back to you. Thanks so much.
All right. Meantime, we are watching the floor of the United Nations where various country leaders are speaking right now. Later on, today, North Korea's foreign minister will be addressing the General Assembly.
Meanwhile, rhetoric between President Trump and North Korea continues to escalate via tweet and otherwise North Korea's state media today referring to Trump's United Nations speech as rubbish.
The war of words also getting increasingly personal between Trump and Kim Jong-un. Trump calling the North Korea leader sort of whacko, a mad man, rocket man. He's said it while on the floor there at the U.N. He's talked about it via tweet and even again in Alabama last night.
Kim Jong-un has responded by calling Trump, quote, "a barking dog, mentally deranged and a dotard" meaning a lunatic. He's called him other things as well.
I want to bring in CNN's senior United Nations correspondent, Richard Roth. So, Richard, just as Paula was reminding us, North Korea's foreign minister already said this week that potentially there could be bomb tested over the Pacific. Is there an expectation he might elaborate on the further later on today? Be a little bit more diplomatic or still fiery in his remarks?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: I can't say for sure. I think it's likely that the foreign minister of North Korea who has been around the U.N. for the last two to three days will return verbal fire. I can't believe that he will let pass the invective hurled by President Donald Trump last Tuesday.
Those words you put up on the screen, not the average tone here during U.N. General Assembly high levels speakers week, which has been the so-called Super Bowl for diplomacy. Obviously, the stakes have gone wide open here.
The North Korean foreign minister is scheduled to speak in about an hour and a half, two hours. Ri Yong Ho is likely to echo his boss who has hurled all those accusations of Donald Trump.
He also meets later today at the U.N. with the secretary general. One of the angles that people who think there's some hope in brokering an accord here think that the secretary general could be the honest, neutral broker. He's offered his services, but no one is taking him up on that so far -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. We will wait. About an hour, hour and a half from now more from the foreign minister. All right. Thank you so much, Richard Roth. Always good to see you. Appreciate it.
All right. Next, a fight is breaking out between the top man in politics and several top athletes in this country. Why Steph Curry and Lebron James are going on offense against the president of the United States, next. It's not just the NBA. The NFL is in the crosshairs as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[12:10:02] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a (inaudible) off the field right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: We continue to follow breaking news out of Mexico where a 6.1 earthquake has been reported in Oaxaca. This coming just four days after a catastrophic quake rattled the country and the death toll from that continues to rise.
CNN's Rosa Flores is in Mexico City right now. So, Rosa, were people able to feel that seismic activity hundreds of miles away from Mexico City?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, in Mexico City, it was felt in certain areas. We did feel it here where I'm standing, Fredricka, but we did hear the sirens. The sirens alerting people of seismic activity and as you might imagine this is already a very tense area because rescues are going on.
[12:15:07] You can see them behind me and behind my camera there is a tent city with families who have been waiting in this agonizing wait for days waiting to hear news about their loved ones.
Now let me show you what's going on because these rescues actually stopped when the seismic alert went off because, of course, these men and women are risking their lives by being on the top of this mountain of debris.
So, they all ran out to safer ground. Everybody on the ground went to the center of the streets. That's what people do here to make sure that they are away from buildings just in case buildings collapsed or perhaps debris starts flying.
But as I was saying, as everything normalized and I'm going to bring my voice down because we have seen this in other locations and we have seen it here. Whenever rescuers raise their fists up into the air, that means that they presumably have seen signs of life.
I believe they are continuing their operations and using machinery again. Just to let you know, whenever rescue workers raise their fists up in the air, they believe that they have found life or listening for signs of life. This is actually the first time this morning that we have seen that happen.
As you see it's a very active scene. A lot of rescue workers on top of that mountain of rubble trying to get to the people down below. There is a list of about 50 people who are missing, who are presumed trapped in this building.
A lot of their family members are in the tent city. They are hoping and praying they will get good news. This morning is the first-time rescuers started using big machinery. They are using cranes to remove some of the biggest chunk of debris that we have seen.
They are just starting doing this today from talking to some of the families here. That is giving them some hope to see this crane removing the big pieces of the top roof and the top floor, but Fred, I can't begin to explain how fragile this situation is because these family members have been waiting for days and they believe and in their heart of hearts pray that their family members are still alive and well inside -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Rosa, you did a great job touching on that moment when everyone is encouraged to be quiet so that they can zero in on any potential sounds. Explain a little bit further how that goes and the level of cooperation in the area to allow searchers to try to zero on in on any sound they may hear from the flattened mass.
FLORES: So, let me take you through it. I've talked to some of the volunteers on the rubble when this happens, and the way that they explained to me is that they will hear someone, one of the volunteers or one of the rescue workers scream out silence. I need silence. I believe I hear signs of life.
So, that triggers everyone else that's there to raise their fists up high. As soon as that happens, it's almost like a wave because it starts with the rescuers and then it grows to everyone around this community. You will see us whisper. You will see everybody around here whether it's police officers, volunteers, friends, family members.
There's people who are bringing food to make sure the workers and volunteers can continue working. Everybody is silent, Fredricka. It's an incredible sight to hear because you can almost hear a pin drop.
That's the moment that people know these rescuers are listening for signs of life and also trying to follow those signs of life through this rubble. It's very critical and the response that we have seen here is incredible.
You will not hear a thing and sometimes the only thing you hear are literally dogs barking. When you think of the size and magnitude of Mexico City and it's such a hustle and bustle of a city and for to you hear a pin drop in the middle of the day is an incredible sight to see -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: I mean, just that collective effort to try to find anyone, who still maybe trapped more than four days now. It's an extraordinary effort. Rosa Flores, thank you so much for bringing it to us from Mexico City.
All right. To help those affected by this, visit "Impact Your World" on cnn.com. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a (inaudible) off the field right now. He's fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: That's the president of the United States last night in Alabama now upping the ante using harsh language when it comes to sports and politics. Trump describing using choice words there how NFL team owners should punish players who kneel during the national anthem. Similar to how 49er Quarterback Colin Kaepernick spearheaded a year ago.
[12:25:01] The NFL commissioner putting out a statement in fact now saying in part, "Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game, and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities."
The executive director of the NFL Players Association also chiming in with a tweet this morning saying this, quote, "We will never back down. We can no longer afford to stick to sports," end quote.
All right. We're covering this from all angles. CNN White House correspondent, Athena Jones, is in Summerset, New Jersey near the president's golf club where he is this weekend.
So, Athena, we heard the president in Alabama last night but what more now. What new messages from the president on this issue today? ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. Well, nothing new today on the specific question of the NFL players protesting by taking a knee during the national anthem. Those remarks sparked a backlash, an on end off Twitter not just by black athletes or black people but from across the racial spectrum.
People who took issue not just with the president condemning these players for protesting peacefully, largely of African-American players protesting peacefully at NFL games but also the fact that he used such harsh language calling them sons of "Bs" which doesn't insult the players, it insults their mothers as well.
There's been a very harsh response. This is not just about the NFL. It's also about the NBA. Listen to Golden State Warrior's guard, Steph Curry, explaining why he doesn't want to go to the White House to be honored his team won the NBA championship.
They were set to go and be honored at the White House. Steph Curry does not want to go. Here is what he had to say at the team's media day yesterday. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPH CURRY, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: We don't stand for basically what our president has -- the things he said and the things that he hasn't said in the right times and we won't stand for it. By acting and not going hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: This morning on Twitter one of them the president sent out a message saying Steph Curry is hesitating so the invitation to the Golden State Warriors is withdrawn. The president saying it's an honor to be able to come and visit the White House.
Listen to how another NBA star, Cleveland Cavalier's star, Lebron James, is responding to the president rescinding the invitation. He said on Twitter, "You bum, Steph Curry already said he ain't going to therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up."
So, Fred, we are looking at an escalating war of words between the president and black athletes and one thing that a lot of folks have been pointing out on Twitter is that the president had such passion when it comes to these NFL protests.
He showed more passion in responding to that than he did responding to the neo-Nazi and KKK members and supporters who were marching in Charlottesville last month. So, a lot of people taking issue with that.
As people, sports analysts, predicting that we could see more protests, not fewer protests in response to the president's remarks. One more thing I want to mention, Fred. This is similar, in way, to what we saw last month with the Kennedy Center honors. That's the annual reception each December honoring artists and performers.
Several performers who are going to be honored said that they were not planning to attend the special White House reception in conjunction with that event and in the end the president and first lady decided they weren't going to participate in any of the Kennedy Center festivities in order to allow the honorees to take part without political distraction.
So, we are looking at a situation where you have artist, performers, and athletes, who are at odds with the president and don't see it as a great honor to be invited to his White House -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: That really does put a lot into perspective too because you're now underscoring the divorcing of having any kind of face-to- face encounters on very tenuous issues. They're not going away. It only seems to intensify.
All right. Athena Jones, thanks so much. We are going to talk some more about all of this now. Let me bring in my panel. Basil Smikle is the executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, Ben Ferguson, a CNN political commentator. Also with me CNN sports anchor, Coy Wire.
All right. Gentlemen, good to see you. I have to say, this is sad, isn't? Does this just seem very sad that you've got this kind of tenuous circumstance now taking place and instead of getting to the heart of the matter, now we have on display this fervor, which says bottom line is, not going to confront the issue. I'm just going to now uninvite, disinvite.
And then Coy, we're not clear, is it uninviting Steph Curry or is it the entire team?
COY WIRE, CNN SPORT ANCHOR: Well, it appears to be the entire team, Fred. And, you know, this was something that we weren't even sure whether they're invited in the first place because it was -- the question ask to Steph Curry was, would you go if you were inviting, so will if you were I wouldn't want any of my teammates to go.
They said that they had not sat down with the team or the coaches to discuss that if it were to come up. And it seems that that comment -- Steph Curry's response that the FEMA brought to us is what elicited President Trump's tweet earlier this morning saying that he's uninvited, withdrawn he says, is the invitation to go celebrate the NBA championship there at the White House.
I think the thing just notable here. Athena also mentioned LeBron James response to President Trump's tweet and he us the word bum in there. And so this is a player, one arguably the most recognizable athlete on the planet in LeBron James using strong words towards the President of our country, a player who President Trump in the past has tweeted positively about LeBron James saying that he is a great person.
So that's where I think, this is unique Fredricka and that the big names, the heavy hitters in the sports world going against the heaviest hitter in politics, in President Trump. I mean, our nation has a rich history of athlete activism from Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Jesse Owens and on and on the list goes. And this is a time right now with these big names and LeBron James, Steph Curry, Richard Sherman, the list could go and on where these are dynamic times where we're seeing this intersection of sports and politics and the attempt to create positive change in our society.
WHITFIELD: And, you know, Ben and I say this is sad because isn't it the President that helps set the tone. Isn't there an expectation that a President under any circumstances should be the one to help bring calm, propose, you know, calm or answer but instead in this form that we're seeing, just beginning with last night, but it goes, you know, back even further if we talk about other incidents as of late, that he's helping to incite a fervor?
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLTICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think he's inciting anything. I think if you're going to get into politics and you're an athlete and welcome to the big leagues and enjoy the blow back that you're going to get and the punches that are going to come at you.
I think it's sadden and embarrassing that athletes somehow think that they're going to make some big statement by saying they're not going to go to the White House and the questions over what. It's an honor to go to the White House no matter who the President of the United States of America is.
For LeBron James to call the President a bum, I think is pretty disgraceful but he'll probably get a lot of street cred for that and a lot of players will high five him and chest bump him and say, yes, way stand up to Donald Trump. I think it's a bad example to set. I think its bad example for young people. I think it's a bad example for the country.
And I think the President here was making it very clear. If you don't want to come to the White House, then I'm not going to invite you to the White House. If you're going to sit out there and think that somehow you're bigger than this country or bigger than this nation or what the White House stands for, then you're not going to be invited. I'm not going to get into some game with you, so move on.
I also going to say this --
WHITFIELD: Just for a second, Basil. Isn't there a greater expectation that the President, however, could be a bit more graceful in saying, OK, well it might be, you know, an honor to come to the White House. Isn't it about his tone? The use of language last night, son of Bs (ph).
You know, you party showing that kind of passion or even his physical and vocal demeanor where at a completely different level last night than we've been able to see from him, from -- particularly the circumstances of Charlottesville when people wanted to see that kind of level of intensity but they didn't. FERGUSON: Well, I think for Charlottesville, let's be clear. They just declared state of emergency when he made his first comments there and he just gotten off the phone with a Democratic governor who said he was terrified of massive riots and people dying that night. So I'm glad the President try to kind of tone it down a little bit instead of ratchet it up the rhetoric. Now, that the way when he talk about both sides, we can have that debate another day, we've had it a million times already.
But last night you're talking about sports and athletes. And I'll say it again, if you're an athlete and I have lot of athletes that come after me on Twitter. If you want to get in the world of politics, don't expect us to give you a hug when you start trashing the White House and the President.
Donald trump is unorthodox. No one can say that he is going to be a traditional President just the way he uses Twitter and fights back.
[12:35:06] When you're invited to come to the White House, I'll say it again, I don't care who's in the White House. It is an honor to go to the White House. If you win a national championship, if you win a title -- and let's not forget, Donald Trump tweeted out when LeBron James was named player of the year, and say congratulation to LeBron James, what a great guy. There was no politics involved in that. He was genuinely talking about how great LeBron James was.
FERGUSON: So for the President to fight back now, I don't have a problem with it at all.
WHITFIELD: OK, except that, you know, one thing that Curry said though, he said, you know -- as he was considering not going, he said that perhaps that would be an avenue in which to, quoting, inspire change in terms of what we tolerate.
FERGUSON: What would he change though, that's --
WHITFIELD: All right, Basil.
BASIL SMIKLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: You know what? He's my issue with this. First of all, I don't appreciate talking what LeBron James is doing at somehow trying to get street cred war, something related to chest bumping, that ghettoizing this problem.
FERGUSON: No, no, no. Hold on, hold on.
SMIKLE: Now you spoke, you spoke, let me speak.
WHITFIELD: Well, hold Ben. Let me hear the whole context in which Basil was saying. SMIKLE: When you spoke let me speak, because when Muhammad Ali protested the Vietnam War and artist and athletes came to his side, it was Hillary at the time. But, you know what? Muhammad Ali became a national hero. So what these players are doing is doing exactly what Donald Trump says he does but I don't believe he actually knows how to do, which is make America great again. That's why they're doing by protesting what they feel is injustice in this country.
But the fact of the matter is that I have never seen and never thought in my lifetime that I would be able to witness such a dictatorial President as Donald Trump who makes comments by calling these athletes SOBs. It's unconscionable. But to say that these athletes should somehow not exercise their first amendment right.
FERGUSON: I'm not saying they don't have the right.
SMIKLE: They're employees of private institutions. And this President just went up to a rally and bullied them from his pulpit.
FERGUSON: He didn't bully them. They are grown men.
SMIKLE: He called them SOBs.
FERGUSON: LeBron James is a grown man. You don't bully on LeBron James. If you don't believe me, watch him how he plays basketball. He bullies everybody else through the lane. He's an amazing athlete.
WHITFIELD: Well, except Ben. I mean, not only called the SOBs but he was also offering a challenge to the NFL owners. He says, this kind of display means they ought to be fired. I mean, you know, he was speaking directly to the issue.
FERGUSON: I agree. Look, I'll say this. I think that the NFL needs to make it clear that they stand behind the American men and women of all races who've fought, protected and died in defended this country and our flag. And for them to allow their employees, OK, to sit there on the sideline during the National Anthem, I think is a disgrace. I do believe they should be fired
WHITFIELD: But it is protected under -- it is a freedom of speech. And that's the protection. And the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell actually had a statement on it and even addressing they're saying this is, you know, it is American to allow his, you know, players to express themselves in this passion.
Coy, his statement covered a lot of territory, didn't it?
WIRE: It did. And I think the word disrespectful is used in there. And I think this is unique in that Roger Goodell so soon coming out with the statement after President Trump's tweets and these remarks last night in Alabama. If you wonder what will happen on NFL Sunday, well, we see more players joining in on the protest, where there any athletes who are on the fence wondering is this OK. Should I --
WHITFIELD: So this might have inspired something else, a greater movement?
WIRE: Correct. This may have opened the gate a bit. So, it would be interesting to see tomorrow. And I'm sure, you know, Richard Sherman has tweeted this morning and we'll see more reaction almost definitely from many players across the league.
WHITFIELD: And Basil.
SMIKLE: You know, I think, you know, as an African-American man, the first response I had to Donald Trump's statement was, you know what, let every athlete of color take a day off from the NFL on Sunday and see what happens.
It's their first amendment right. And if there are others from other communities that are supportive of this to show a sign of support, I am all for that. Truth of the matter is that I do think, and I agree with Coy, I think this will inspire a number of the athletes to do the same thing and Steph Curry is absolutely right. This is a question of about what you're willing to tolerate and what is acceptable to you as an American.
WHITFIELD: All right. So, Ben.
FERGUSON: It will not be player. This is not show up to play.
WHITFIELD: You know what Ben, I think you're microphone has drooped. I mean, because it's hard to hear you. Where is you're mike? All right, try it again. So, sorry we are having some audio problems there. We'll try to fix that because this conversation really is just getting started.
[12:40:07] All right, thanks for now. The gentlemen Ben Ferguson, Basil Smikle, Coy Wire, apologize for the problem with the Ben's mike there.
All right, 70,000 people in Puerto Rico trying to escape a life- threatening ordeal, a failing dam has officials telling resident to get out now, just days after Hurricane Maria devastated the Island. We're going there live next in the NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: Evacuate now. That's the warning, 70,000 Puerto Ricans are hearing after a river dam break. The immediate evacuations are being ordered along the Guajataca River on the northwest side of the island. Evacuations of this magnitude are especially difficult because of the devastation from Hurricane Maria.
We're going to try and connect with our Nick Valencia who is there in San Juan. But the situation there is such that communication is very sporadic.
[12:45:06] We know still that across Puerto Rico, there is no power. Cell towers are very spotty. It is very difficult for people to traverse.
I think now we have CNN's Nick Valencia. So Nick, what can you tell us about this dam break?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via-telephone): The Guajataca dam was extremely dangerous situation last night. Local engineers found a crack in the dam causing them concern, leading to the evacuation of about 70,000 people affected in two townships.
Today, whoever the governor's office tells us that the breach, they're expecting it could fail but now they say that that dam is holding. However, evacuations are still underway. We understand those people are being moved to shelters in the area.
Speaking of which, we are at one of their shelters right now at the convention center which is probably one of the best shelters on the island currently. It has air-conditioning services from FEMA, the Red Cross, about 600 beds here. We weren't allowed to film inside, but one of the officials from the governor's office did give me a sneak peek. And what I saw with my own eyes, it was just extremely sad, Fredricka, to be blunt about it.
Everyone from infants to a woman I saw as old as 80 years old. I saw a little girl about eight years old shuffling through a pile of items, just looking for a toy to play with and she walked away with flat shoulders.
This is a press conference we're standing by for from the governor. He's currently meeting with mayors in this convention center. They're updating him about the conditions of their own townships and cities, municipalities and then we expect to hear from the Governor Ricardo Rossello directly.
The governor's office tells us we should expect an update on the death toll as well as the efforts to bring back communications on the island. And it's probably one of the worst situations that I've been in as a journalist in terms of communication. The cell towers about 1500 across the island have just been destroyed. There's three main provides here on the island, one of them is popular ones and the cheaper one is the most popular one. And people are having trouble communicating with their family members.
We just spoke to one spokesman for the governor's office who tells us it was just today that he was able to communicate with his own mother in a town called Humacao. I interviewed mayor from Manati who tells me at least one person near died from a heart attack. He described apocalyptic like conditions in Manati in the northern part of the island, one of the most hard portions of the island.
There was another interview that I did with the mayor of a town called Ciales who told me that those family members that are trying to get in touch with their loved ones here in Puerto Rico, they just need to remain patient. There's no reported death there in Ciales. But no doubt we will hear more deaths here as the devastation has just been catastrophic throughout. Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: Horrible situation. A bad situation made even worse now that you've got this river dam break. Nick Valencia, thank you so much for bringing those details to us. We'll check back with you. And we will be right back.
[12:52:35] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Tonight on "DECLASSIFIED," DEA agents hunt down the world's biggest heroin trafficker during the Taliban uprising in Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFREY JAMES HIGGINS, FORMER SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, DEA: Afghanistan had 70 percent of the lands dedicated to poppy production in the world. It also produced over 90 percent of the world's heroin. So, most of the heroin in the world was coming out of Afghanistan. It was also supporting the Taliban.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After war in 2001, the Taliban wanted to return to power and recreate the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
HIGGINS: They wanted to institute Sharia Law again which is a fundamental Islam and kick the Americans out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban would infiltrate the local communities and they would threaten everybody and say it's our way or we're going to kill your family.
HIGGINS: There's also a symbiotic relationship between the Taliban and the drug traffickers. The Taliban is making it more difficult for police to target the traffickers. In return, the drug traffickers are financially supporting the Taliban and logistically supporting the Taliban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. With us now is former supervisory special agent for the DEA Jeffrey James Higgins, good to see you. So, you participated in the largest drug seizure on record and led to the conviction of a well known heroin trafficker Haji Bagcho. So, what do you believe was really the lynch pin on helping to gain the advantage, because we just heard in that piece that, you know, even the police were kind of corrupt or had been bought by the drug traffickers.
HIGGINS: Yes. That's true. And drug trafficker besides of Haji Bagcho is very difficult to bring to justice anywhere in the world, especially in a place to ask like a tenuous grasp on the rule of law like in Afghanistan. At the time in 2006 and 2007, Haji Bagcho is responsible for at least 19.7 percent of the world's heroin. And it's just staggering amounts of money that were involved.
In Afghanistan at the time, a kilo of heroin was going for a little over $2100. That Haji Bagcho earns $261 million at wholesale prices in Afghanistan. And to put in this context in the United States, a kilo of heroin was going for about $70,000. So, the amount of money that was coming into this country if the heroin from Haji Bagcho's organization was about 10 percent to 12 percent which is standard for African heroin in the U.S., it was $860 plus million in one year.
[12:55:07] WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh.
HIGGINS: And it was just unbelievable amounts of money. So, somebody with that kind of money has a huge corrupting influence as Haji Bagcho dead, you know, where police and politicians and really anyone associated with the judicial system in Afghanistan was vulnerable to his money and his threats.
WHITFIELD: Wow. It's all extraordinary. Really eye opening and clearly in large part as we saw in that small, you know, little snippet there. It also helps fuel terrorism and vice versa. Jeffrey James Higgins, I wish we had so much more time. But we're going to be watching tonight "DECLASSIFIED" tonight at 9:00 Eastern Time right here on CNN. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All Right. Hello again and welcome, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. President Trump unleashing a tweet storm today and a stoking hit fight with professional athletes. Among Trumps tweet this morning "Going after NBA superstars Steph Curry" --