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CNN NEWSROOM

Mexico Earthquake; Trump White House; Trump and the NFL. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired September 23, 2017 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[02:00:00]

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PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Scenes of devastation in Puerto Rico and right now some 70,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes immediately with dam in the northwestern part of the country expected to give way at any moment.

Also a cruel twist of fate in Mexico. The earthquake turns a celebration of life into a deadly tragedy.

And U.S. president Donald Trump held another rally Friday night and as usual there were fireworks. We'll have a report and analysis later in the show.

Hello, everyone, and thanks for joining us. I'm Paula Newton in Atlanta. CNN NEWSROOM starts right.

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NEWTON: Puerto Rico's governor has a message for tens of thousands of people who live near a failing dam in the northwestern part of the storm-ravaged island: get out of harm's way now before it is too late.

Officials fear the dam, which holds back a large inland lake, is in imminent danger of collapsing and sending torrents of water into low- lying coastal communities. Puerto Rico's governor says the dam suffered a crack in the wake of Hurricane Maria's torrential rains and flooding and he warned that if it does fail, the consequences could be catastrophic.

Hurricane Maria is still a category 3 storm, is gradually moving away from the Bahamas after battering parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica and the Turks and Caicos. CNN reporters are right across the affected region. Our Nick Valencia is in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has more on that dam which is feared could collapse.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is an extremely dangerous situation for the island residents as if Puerto Rico has not been through enough already. They now have to deal with the potential of a failed dam in the northwest part of this territory. It is being reported that local engineers found a crack in the Guajataca Dam and they're now using buses to evacuate nearly 70,000 residents in two townships, using those buses to evacuate people that cannot evacuate themselves.

As severe weather also continues to be an issue here days after Hurricane Maria made landfall, it was earlier that this community in San Juan was pounded with heavy rain, lightning and thunder, making problems even more difficult for roads and passageways that are already inundated with water.

If that wasn't enough, it's been catastrophic damage here to the infrastructure; gas stations underwater, people without water, people being unable to communicate with loved ones back home.

And the ominous warning from local officials here is that modern life may cease to exist for months. The San Juan mayor tells CNN that she is telling her residents to expect to be without electricity, perhaps up to six months -- Nick Valencia, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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NEWTON: Now we want to show you more of the devastation Puerto Rico. I mean, Nick was just talking about the fact that what more can they take. And this is the reason why. Look at this drone footage from CNN's aerial imagery and reporting team that is in Puerto Rico right.

It shows a solar farm that has been almost obliterated by Hurricane Maria, with power completely out across all of Puerto Rico and with ice, clean water, gas and supplies of any description dwindling fast, officials are acknowledging recovery will, of course, take many months. I mean, just look at it.

Mow in the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Croix was one of the hardest hit by Hurricane Maria and aid is starting to finally arrive but the island is still, of course, without power. Our Nick Paton Walsh has more in this report.

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NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: A remote world of daydreams and Caribbean sand, St. Croix suffering silence so far. U.S. aid efforts is only just reaching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remain on this frequency.

WALSH: That is FEMA flying over St. Croix today (INAUDIBLE) making their assessment. We just flown in from the east, where damage looks less heavy than out west, which appears to have borne the brunt of Hurricane Maria.

WALSH (voice-over): From beach resort to ghost town in a matter of hours, a curfew emptying the streets, the exact time. This world changed caught by the clock's broken hands. But at noon, they and their anger at nature and the government they think is underplaying their suffering emerges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're like everything is OK. Everything is not OK over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There ain't no aid, it ain't nothing on right about. Everybody got strength to survive.

WALSH: Just two days ago, this was paradise but now everyone here is just trying to take stock of exactly what this new world means for their daily lives. When will power come back?

When can they reopen their business?

And when will they realize again they haven't got to worry about what they have to eat?

WALSH (voice-over): Already, the search for food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the worst that was when the rain started coming in and the winds were still howling and just (INAUDIBLE) outside and not knowing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been curfewed in.

WALSH: Jamey (ph) and Brandon went to the nearby island of St. Thomas to help after Hurricane Irma, yet had their house torn apart by Maria. They drive us around their devastated world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They told everybody to let the horses go before the storms.

WALSH (voice-over): This is not a world prepared for disaster. The Lost Dog Bar is lost for. No electricity means no ice, means no business. And there are bees in the refrigerator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first day after the hurricane, dodging telephone poles and trees trying to get here and took the generator and what we could and they wouldn't let us come out here yesterday.

So we were just hoping that there was not any looters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We survived, man. We're trying to make the best of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me the song.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is it?

"I'm still standing."

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, yes.

WALSH (voice-over): Life was easy; about vacations here, that's gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We went to Plaza Extra, the big grocery store on the west end and the line is all the way out to the road. They're letting people in one at a time. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to look like this for months and months with no power.

How are we even going to be luring tourists down here so we can make a buck so we can buy food, buy gas? I mean, what the hell are we going to do?

WALSH (voice-over): The west, furrick (ph) start here, took the full force of Maria being remote has been their livelihood for tourism but it's now their curse. We fly over huge lines for emergency food. But when we land later, it is all gone; 500 fed but many still searching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hungry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys --

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a soldier and I deal with it.

WALSH (voice-over): Later, we see two huge C-17 cargo planes land at the airport, where the U.S. Marines are moving in, as yet limited access to the west. Help is coming but the future remains bleak and the past a much more comfortable place -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, St. Croix, the United States.

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NEWTON: And we are now tracking of course another natural disaster. Also more devastation. Nearly 300 people are now confirmed dead from Tuesday's 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico.

At least 12 people were killed when this church here collapsed in Puebla State and they were attending the baptism of a baby girl when the quake hit. Some of those survivors spoke to CNN's Ivan Watson.

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IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A community in mourning, crosses on the street to honor victims of the deadly earthquake that shook the village of Atzala on Tuesday. It was not supposed to be this way.

That morning locals gathered at this church in the center of the village to attend the baptism of a 3-month-old girl named Elideth Torres de Leon.

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WATSON: This is a video of the 277-year-old Santiago Apostol church filmed in happier times; it was the beating heart of this community.

But that all changed in instant when the earth began to shake on Tuesday.

Sergio Montiel Tello, a church employee, was assisting with the baptismal ceremony when the earthquake struck.

SERGIO MONTIEL TELLO, SANTIAGO APOSTOL CHURCH EMPLOYEE (through translator): It was almost instantaneous.

When it started shaking, pieces of the ceilings started to fall. Everything went dark. I shut my eyes.

When I opened them, everything was covered with dust. I saw a little girl about 4 years old whimpering; unfortunately, she was under the debris.

WATSON: Tello survived but 12 other people in the church were far less fortunate.

A day after the baptism the village of Atzala held a funeral.

This is what is so tragic and incomprehensible about a natural disaster.

What should have been the celebration of a new life instead resulted in the death of an innocent family.

Among those who perished in the church, most of Graciano Villanueva Perez family.

GRACIANO VILLANUEVA PEREZ (through translator): (INAUDIBLE).

WATSON: He lists the victims...

GRACIANO VILLANUEVA PEREZ (through translator): (INAUDIBLE).

WATSON: -- his wife, two daughters, his son-in-law and two grandchildren.

Also killed of the church, the 3-month-old baby, Elideth; her older sister and their mother.

Deep in mourning, Perez turns philosophical to explain the loss.

PEREZ (through translator): God, he can take everything away, for example when it rains hard, the road floods and the water sweeps everything down the river.

WATSON: Like the flood, most of Perez family has suddenly been swept away, leaving him one daughter to hold on to -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Atzala, Mexico.

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NEWTON: Unspeakable heartbreak there. Earlier I spoke to Mexican journalist Hugo Vela about rescue efforts

still underway for potential quake survivors. And I asked him if there were enough resources around to help all those that have survived to be rescued from those buildings. Take a listen.

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HUGO VELA, JOURNALIST: We truly believe so; Mexico is used to having earthquakes. We've been really prepared for this ever since 1985. Many Mexicans know that we're living in a seismic area and every year we have an earthquake drill.

So Mexicans know what we are facing. And even so, we are also receiving many help from international organizations such as Israel, the Red Cross, from also the United States.

And people are just organizing and being together right now to help Mexicans and those trapped to survive.

NEWTON: In fact, as so many of us heard, you guys had the drill just hours before the actual earthquake happened. I am sure that saved lives.

But what did you learn, what do you think Mexicans are learning about this earthquake because, clearly, lessons learned are going to save lives down the road?

VELA: I really think one of the most important lessons is that you can never be too prepared. You need to be very, very serious about this kind of situation because you never know when it is going to hit.

Many people actually, like you said, a couple of hours earlier, went out into the streets and participated in this drill, not knowing obviously that afterward we're going to be seeing the real thing.

And even so Mexicans, what they need to learn from this, is that they have to always be prepared and to always be organized and listen to all the situations and all the instructions the authorities need to tell them.

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NEWTON: That was Mexican journalist Hugo Vela. He was speaking to me from Mexico City, as that city continues to try and recover.

Coming up next the President of the United States weighs in on a controversial practice by some sports stars who choose to kneel during the playing of the national anthem. We'll tell what he said should happen to them.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) NEWTON: China says it is going to sever some trade ties with North Korea and that will mean less traffic over and under this bridge at North Korea's border with China. Now it is going to limit exports of refined petroleum products and ban the import of textiles from North Korea.

China's commerce ministry says the bans will take effect immediately. They're part of the latest UN sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea's nuclear program.

It was U.S. president Donald Trump that continued to encourage China to do more, do what it could to pressure North Korea and, at the same time mow, Donald Trump is taking aim at North Korea by trading insults with its leader, Kim Jong-un. He called Mr. Kim "little rocket man" at a rally in Alabama Friday.

Now for his part, Mr. Kim was quoted earlier calling Mr. Trump a dotard.

Here is more of what the U.S. president had to say about North Korea's leader.

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to tell you something and I am sure he is listening because he watches every word. And I guarantee you one thing. He is watching us like he never watched anybody before, that I can tell you, that I can tell you.

And maybe something gets worked out and maybe it does not. Personally, I am not sure that it will. Other people like to say, oh, we want peace. They've been saying for now 25 years, oh, we want peace. We want peace and then he goes and just keeps going, going, going.

Well maybe something gets worked out and maybe it does not. But I can tell you one thing, you are protected, OK, you are protected. Nobody is going to mess with our people. Nobody is going to play games, nobody is going to put our people in that kind of danger. Nobody.

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NEWTON: Now for more on Mr. Trump's speeches, I spoke earlier to our political analyst, Ryan Lizza. He is also the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker."

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RYAN LIZZA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that -- most foreign policy officials will argue that de-escalating the personal nature of the confrontation with North Korea is the way to go.

It is to make this a collective problem, to get the rest of the world to see it as their problem, too. And Trump's is doing the opposite. He is making this personal tiff between two world leaders that, to me, at least, does not create the incentives that the North Korean leader would want, to enter into any kind of diplomatic negotiations.

So I can understand the threat of retaliation. That's standard, frankly, nuclear, you know, deterrence. You want your opponent to know that, if they were to do something crazy, like attack with a nuclear weapon, that their regime would be destroyed, right, that is -- that is the doctrine of nuclear deterrence.

But the personalizing, the using these funny phrases for him, really seems to me counterproductive.

NEWTON: Yes. And he almost seemed to be alluding to something more foreboding to happen in terms of U.S. response. So certainly something everyone is watching keenly right now.

This was quite a speech. It was quintessential Trump; we'll remind everyone, no, we are not in a campaign but you would have hardly known it in Alabama.

I want to go now to what is an incredibly contentious issue here in the United States, of course, repealing and replacing ObamaCare. He has a long history with John McCain. Let us listen to what he said.

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TRUMP: They like to say, well, Mr. Trump, President Trump sat in the Oval Office and did not -- I am on the phone screaming at people all day long for weeks. They gave me a list of 10 people that were absolute nos. These are 10 Republican senators.

Now John McCain's -- John McCain's list -- John McCain was not on the list. So that was a totally unexpected thing, terrible.

Honestly, terrible. Repeal and replace because John McCain, you look at his campaign, his last campaign, was all about repeal and replace, repeal and replace. So he decided to do something different. And that is fine. And I say we still have a chance to -- oh, we're going to do it eventually.

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NEWTON: Now we're going to do it eventually, almost there capitulating and saying that that bill that is before Senate right now likely may not even make it to the floor.

But will make of that, of him calling out McCain, perhaps not as stridently, some said, in as he would have perhaps before the cancer diagnosis.

LIZZA: Yes, I think that is true actually. I mean, for Donald Trump, that is not a very harsh condemnation but you can certainly tell that he is deeply frustrated that McCain, for the second time, seems to have scuttled one of Trump's major campaign promises.

And because of these funny parliamentary rules of the Senate, if they do not do this by September 30th, it is pretty much dead until the next Congress 2019. So serious frustration with McCain. Remember, these two guys have a

long history; during the primary season, you know, I actually have a personal role in that, not to be all Trump-like and talk about myself. But I did an interview with John McCain, where he said Trump was "riling up the crazies."

That was his remark. And when I -- after I reported that, Trump was asked about that comment. And that is when Donald Trump attacked John McCain's service in Vietnam and said, I like people who don't get captured, because, of course, John McCain was held by the Vietnamese for many years.

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NEWTON: That was CNN political analyst and Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," Ryan Lizza.

Now more from the speech. First, though, fans of American professional football commonly known as the NFL, may have observed over the past year that some players have refused to stand during the U.S. national anthem.

It's meant to protest racial injustice. The practice has attracted a lot of attention both for and against. While in Alabama on Friday, President Trump went there and made clear where he stands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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, out?

He's fired.

(APPLAUSE).

TRUMP: He's fired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: Yes, he went there.

Kneeling for the national anthem became a hot button issue largely because of this quarterback, number 7, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers. Now some players on other teams have also adopted the practice.

But Kaepernick's silent protest came at a steep price for him. He was dropped by the 49ers after six seasons and no other NFL franchises offered him a spot. Many of his fans believe he is a solid quarterback who is being unfairly blacklisted by the NFL because of his actions.

Some of those fans have launched a campaign hoping to persuade a team to let Kaepernick play while he is still in his prime.

With us now from Los Angeles to discuss this is Erica Renee Davis. She is a sports reporter for Cachet Digital.

And thank goodness you are here, Erica. This has really set Twitter ablaze. People cannot believe that the president actually went there.

What do you think the reaction will be in the coming days?

ERICA RENEE DAVIS, CACHET DIGITAL: Thank you, Paula, for having me on. First of all, I have to say that, as Americans, we really have to question the integrity of a leader, of the President of the United States, of a leader of the free world who uses such a global stage to use such vitriolic speech.

Second of all, I have to remind people that this country, this great country of America, was built on immigrants protesting. Secondly I have to say that our settlers literally committed genocide to get this country, to secure this land.

And finally I have to say that America was built in large part on the backs of slaves, on the backs of people whose blood, sweat and tears, who looked like Colin Kaepernick. I really hope that the NFL takes this as a learning moment and makes sure that people feel free in their First Amendment rights.

Colin Kaepernick has been vilified for kneeling. He has said countless times, this is not about disrespecting our troops. This is not about disrespecting our veterans. This is about bringing light to a very sensitive, polarizing subject that the mainstream media often wants to sweep under the rug.

NEWTON: Erica, this was incredibly controversial even before the president spoke. Now that he has spoken, coming down very staunchly on one side of this what kind of effect do you think it will have?

DAVIS: Honestly, Paula, I think that for Trump supporters, he knows how to pander to them. So for those people, this will continue to rally their less-than-Kumbaya, I guess if you want to say in layman's terms, feelings for black American men.

But for people who are more progressive, who want to embrace change, who want to open their hearts, who want to make sure that everyone has equal civil rights in this country, who want to make sure that black men in the streets are not treated unfairly by law enforcement officials, I really hope that this brings light to this issue now that Donald Trump has spoken about it on such a global platform and that people will speak out against Donald Trump having said that tonight in Alabama.

NEWTON: It's an interesting perspective that has been very divisive. You are saying that perhaps it can be, in some way, shape or form, productive as well. Erica, thanks so much. I am so sorry we have to leave it there as we just have other things to move on to. But we do appreciate your perspective. We thought was an important story to highlight. Appreciate it.

DAVIS: Thank you, Paula, for having me. I appreciate it. NEWTON: Now some news just in to CNN. Iran says it has successfully tested a new ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads. Now it was launched from an unknown location. This is Iran's third type of missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers. It is smaller in size and more tactical than previous types. Officials say it will be operational in the very new near future.

And we will be right back with more in just a moment.

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NEWTON: Unfortunately Hurricane Maria not over yet.

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NEWTON: Still a ways to go yet for Hurricane Maria, unfortunately. Karen, thanks so much.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton. Stay tuned for "CNN TALK" right after the break.