Return to Transcripts main page


ObamaCare under Attack; North Korea Tensions; Mexico Earthquake; Germany Decides. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired September 23, 2017 - 05:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Utter devastation in Puerto Rico. Some 70,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes. The dam in the northwestern part of the country expected to give way. These stories are ahead here this hour.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm George Howell. 5:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast. From CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: U.S. president Donald Trump had harsh words for a respected fellow Republican on Friday. This after John McCain said he would not support the party's latest effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

HOWELL: McCain's opposition puts the bill now in jeopardy. Keeping in mind this is not the first time that he's bucked the White House. McCain cast the deciding no vote back in July on the so-called skinny repeal of Barack Obama's health care law. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has this report.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we saw the president actually take several swipes at Senator John McCain during that rally in Huntsville, Alabama. We were expecting that after McCain came out and announced that he would not support the Graham-Cassidy that one more effort by Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

John McCain has been hesitant about that all week, saying that he wanted to go through regular order and not go through this rushed process. But the president said that he was not expecting John McCain to be a no on this.

He said he had a list of potential nos and John McCain was not on it. Listen to what he said. TRUMP: 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.

COLLINS: Despite John McCain saying he's a no on Graham-Cassidy, the president still sounded hopeful during that rally that they can get something done with health care. But as one administration official put it, after John McCain came out as a no, this undeniably hurts their effort.

Now another target of the president's ire during this rally was North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un-un. They have been trading barbs all week, starting with the president's combative speech at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday.

But listen to what he had to say about him in Huntsville.

TRUMP: And we can have madmen out there shooting rockets all over the place.


TRUMP: And by the way, Rocket Man should have been handled a long time ago.


TRUMP: He shouldn't be handled. But I am going to handle it because we have to handle it.

COLLINS: Now those fiery comments come just shortly after the president authorized new economic sanctions on North Korea and after he spent the week at the United Nations, rallying the international community to confront North Korea -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN.


ALLEN: Joining me now is CNN political commentator John Thomas.

John, thanks for being with us.


ALLEN: Let's talk about president Trump at his Alabama rally. He talked about a multitude of things and he certainly talked about health care, calling out John McCain for once again standing against this new health care bill that the Republicans tried to push through.

But John McCain has said in good conscience he can't do that. So what is your response?

THOMAS: Well, look, I understand president Trump's frustration. I also understand Republicans' frustration. This is obviously the second time that John McCain has put the final nail in the coffin on the repeal and replace and it is frustrating because the Republicans in Congress and the Senate know that this is a promise that they campaigned on, Trump campaigned on, repealing and replacing.

They have to deliver this to the American people and what enrages president Trump and many of us, myself included, as a member of the Republican Party, is that John McCain is try to have it -- have it both ways. Now we will not support the bill but John McCain, that was reelected just a year or so ago, fundamentally, in his campaign ads, saying that he is leading the charge to repeal and replace ObamaCare when, in fact, he is the one stopping it from happening at all.

I just think it is disingenuous of John McCain to block it and it's also unfair because in his Twitter comment today, John -- Senator McCain said, I think that there needs to be proper procedure for this, needs to be a bipartisan solution.

Who are we kidding?

There will not be a bipartisan solution to repealing --


ALLEN: Why not? Why not?


ALLEN: -- the Chuck and Nancy show.

THOMAS: -- which was --

ALLEN: -- the president worked with Democrats.

THOMAS: You're right. Which --

ALLEN: -- can't he work with John McCain as well?

THOMAS: Because there's such a staggering difference in ideologies between the Republicans and Democrats on this issue.

Democrats do not want to come to a consensus to modify ObamaCare. They want to use this as leverage to work to single payor, as we're seeing Bernie Sanders argue on Monday night on this network.

They will not work with the Republicans. And so for John McCain, he -- look, he's been in the Senate for a long time. He knows the dynamics. I think he just is using that as a scapegoat right now.

ALLEN: Let's move on to North Korea and the president calling Kim Jong-un names. It's kind of name-calling back and forth now. It's childish, it's sophomoric and it's dangerous. We're talking about nuclear war and the nuclear threat.

Isn't it dangerous to make this just about two guys going after each other in name-calling, when this president could be engaging the world on a very important issue?

THOMAS: This is no doubt -- there is -- this is serious stuff that we're talking with and when -- and Donald Trump was dealt and it -- just on his watch. Unfortunately, this issue has come home to roost that he has to deal with.

On the -- look, I think that the Trump administration is dealing with this on two fronts. One is diplomatically. We're seeing the -- we saw Trump in his speech at the U.N. talk about increasing sanctions on -- as well as choking off nations that are helping North Korea. Rex Tillerson is doing everything he can do on that front.

But on the other hand, president Trump is doing only what president Trump can and that is branding his enemies to make them look comical in a way. We saw that work quite effectively in the 2016 presidential cycle.

And you can see that it is getting under Kim Jong-un's --


ALLEN: It will not be comical if he does what he threatens, about putting a nuclear weapon over the Pacific Ocean.

THOMAS: You make a good point that -- I think president Trump's rebuttal to that argument is, of the last eight years, the United States has been, by North Korea's perspective, a laughingstock, you know, in other countries, we draw red lines. They cross it. They would draw another red line.

I think president Trump is saying I need to project power and -- and if they do decide to cross this red line or hurl something at the United States, well, we're going to respond.

This is a real situation. I hope it does not come to that.

ALLEN: Let us go to sound from the president talking about the Russia investigation and repeating what he said before, calling it a hoax.


TRUMP: just in case you, like curious, no, Russia did not help me, OK. Russia. I call it the Russian hoax. One of the great hoaxes. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: And he has called that again and again and again, even though the investigation continues, even Trump's own Director of Intelligence has testified before the Senate that Russians were responsible for hacking and leaking information to influence the U.S. election.

So how does he continue to just kind of cop out, calling it a hoax? THOMAS: This is classic Trump to me. He uses an overstatement in a

way to brand and frame the narrative in the wind the way that he wants it. I think if president Trump's is being -- would be candid, he is not going to deny the fact that the Russians might have tried to do something.

But I think president Trump is accurate in saying they did not actually influence the election, particularly with Facebook. Natalie, we're -- from what we know so far, we're talking about $120,000 in total in Facebook ads with no geo-targeting, meaning that no swing state in particular was targeted; that $100,000 in total is less than Trump or Hillary spent when one day online in the Internet.

ALLEN: All right. John Thomas, as always, we appreciate your comments, thank you for joining us.

THOMAS: Thanks, Natalie.

HOWELL: Iran says that it has successfully tested a new ballistic missile that can carry multiple warheads. The missile can reportedly fly a long distance, some 2,000 kilometers, making it capable of reaching Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Officials say that it will be operational in the near future.

ALLEN: The new missile was displayed Friday at a military parade in Tehran. President Hassan Rouhani says Iran will keep strengthening its missile capabilities and military defense.

The U.S. recently imposed sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program.

Officials are warning of an extremely dangerous situation right now in northwestern Puerto Rico following the two storms they've seen. They say a dam holding back a large inland lake is in imminent danger of collapsing. It is under pressure because of Hurricane Maria's torrential rains and floods.

HOWELL: Because of that, buses are trying to get some 70,000 people in that region up to higher ground. Puerto Rico's governor says the dam suffered a crack from the hurricane. If it does collapse, torrents of water could surge into low-lying areas.

Hurricane Maria's still a category 3 storm. It is gradually moving away from the Bahamas after battering parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica and the Turks and Caicos.

ALLEN: CNN has reporters across the region. Our Nick Valencia is in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He's got more on what is happening with that dam.


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.


HOWELL: One storm after another. Maria was a tough storm, so bad for the Caribbean. Let's get the very latest on the strength and position of that storm.


HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, incredible stories from two earthquake survivors in Mexico, people rescued from a collapsed building.

ALLEN: They were trapped for 17 hours. They'll tell you about the time they spent inside that building when we come back.




ALLEN: Officials in Mexico say the search for survivors from Tuesday's earthquake could last two more weeks. They are still holding out hope.

HOWELL: For sure. Rescue crews have been working around-the-clock, nonstop, to pull people from these damaged buildings in so much rubble and debris there. At least 298 people died after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that shook that nation.

The United States has been sending rescue workers to Mexico as part of its relief effort. President Trump says the U.S. wants to help its southern neighbor.


TRUMP: We also send our prayers to the people of Mexico. They got hit hard by a devastating earthquake.


TRUMP: They got a lot of lives, a lot more than they even thought and I have spoken with the president of Mexico and we pledged our total support. We have crews in there right now, lifting up that heavy concrete. And it is a rough -- it is a rough sight, it's a rough sight.


TRUMP: We got a lot of people we sent down with a lot of big equipment but it is a tough -- that's a tough go. It's a really tough thing to look at and to see and to see the sadness. But that was bad.


HOWELL: Among those helping out is a team from the United States International Aid Agency. A leader from that group spoke earlier to CNN about working under such grueling and difficult conditions. Listen.


DENNIS CROSS, USAID: You've got some of the most highly skilled and talented search and rescuers from around the world, including USA Team, 2 team, with some amazing technology and equipment, tirelessly working to try and access the egress and six potentially trapped victims.

We're just hoping that that will (INAUDIBLE) in the past and (INAUDIBLE) fall that they are in a void space, uninjured and they just are unable to extricate. So we're going to continue to work tirelessly to access them until we get there and ultimately provide your families with a sense of hope.


ALLEN: Seeing them raise their arms like that, being quiet --


ALLEN: is just heartwarming, to see people pulling together like that.

HOWELL: It is.


Among those miraculously pulled from the wreckage of a building in Mexico City are Martin Mendez and Diana Pacheco.

HOWELL: They were trapped there for 17 hours and they share their incredible stories with CNN's Ed Lavandera.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 1:14 Tuesday afternoon, Martin Mendez, a locksmith, was replacing broken locks in an accounting office on the fourth floor of this building. At Othero Obregon 286 (ph), when the world around him started to rumble.

LAVANDERA: When the earthquake struck, what did you year?

(Speaking Spanish).

MARTIN MENDEZ, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR (through translator): The building moved back and forth two or three times. Then it started jumping up and down like a horse.

LAVANDERA: When the shaking stopped, Martin found himself trapped with three women he'd never met before who worked in the office he was visiting.

Could you move?

(Speaking Spanish).

LAVANDERA: He said he could only move like a worm. He said they started getting very nervous because they were running out of air. He thought they were going to suffocate.

What came next would test every shred of perseverance they could muster.

Diana Pacheco says they had no time to react and could hear the floors above crashing down.

What was it like when the earthquake struck?

DIANA PACHECO, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR (through translator): It all happened so fast, we didn't have time to get out. In five or six seconds, the building collapsed.

LAVANDERA: Diana says she reached for her phone and started sending these text messages to her husband.

Love, the roof has fallen. We're trapped. I love you. I love you so much. We're on the fourth floor near the emergency exit. There are four of us.

And then you can see a series of phone calls that wouldn't connect.

That was enough to alert rescue workers that there were indeed people still alive inside this building, but the rescuers couldn't hear them.

Diana says the sounds were horrible. She recorded this incredible video of the space where she was trapped. Massive sheets of concrete around them, they used cell phone lights to see the dust billowing around them. There was no escape, no way out.

Martin and Diana and the two others talked to each other, soothing each other's fears, waiting for rescue workers to reach them. Martin's leg was broken. He sat there in excruciating pain.

What was going through your mind?

MENDEZ (through translator): I was talking to God and hoping that the rescuers would hear us.

LAVANDERA: As we talked, Martin opens his phone and shares with us a picture he took of himself while he was trapped. He hadn't seen it. The emotions overwhelm him.

I imagine that you believed there's no way you were getting out alive?

MENDEZ (through translator): Yes, I did. I always believed I was going to get out alive.

LAVANDERA: Finally, after 17 hours, rescue workers pulled all four of them out alive.

All these scratches came when he was pulled out.

Diana Pacheco and Martin Mendez are now recovering in the same hospital on the same floor but haven't been able to see each other since they were rescued. They were brought together in an unexpected moment of horror and survived.

And I teach him a phrase in English that he and his friends can share.

We made it. We made it. In English, we say, we made it.

MENDEZ: We made it.

LAVANDERA: We made it -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, Mexico City.


ALLEN: That's a good one.


We're also hearing about so many tragic stories from this earthquake. At least 12 people were killed when this church collapsed in Puebla State.

ALLEN: They were attending a baptism of a baby girl right when the quake hit. Some survivors spoke with CNN's Ivan Watson.


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. (MUSIC PLAYING)

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.


WATSON: He lists the victims...


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. (END VIDEOTAPE)



HOWELL: A warm welcome back to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It's always great to have you with us. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: And I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories right now.


HOWELL: China says that it is immediately separating some trade ties with North Korea. Beijing says select fuel exports to the country will end and won't import North Korean textiles. All of this in part of the new U.N. sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea's nuclear program.

ALLEN: Meantime, the U.S. and North Korea are swapping threats and insults over that same program, the leaders are, that is. U.S. president Trump calling North leader Kim Jong-un a "rocket man" this week at the U.N.

Mr. Kim responded by saying the president was a dotard. Not to be outdone, Mr. Trump called North Korea's leader a "little rocket man."

Here's more of what he said Friday at a rally in Alabama.


TRUMP: This should have been handled eight years ago and four years ago and honestly -- and 15 years ago and 20 years ago and 25 years ago. This should not be handled now but I am going to handle it, because we have to handle it.

Little rocket man, we're going to do it because we really have no choice.


HOWELL: For more the tensions with North Korea, our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is live in Tokyo this hour.

Ben, a pleasure to have you with us. Let us talk about the president's insults to his rally in Alabama. The name-calling plays as red meat to his base. For the North Korean leader, they are projected as personal attacks. And in places like South Korea, in places like Japan, does this tactic of name-calling set to ease nerves there about U.S. resolve?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it has not eased nerves. Now both the Japanese and the South Korean leaders have expressed support for the United States' position in general on North Korea's nuclear program. However, when it comes to the specifics of Mr. Trump's President

Trump's rhetoric, it is causing some concern. There is concern because these are such -- this isn't diplomacy. This is, as such, a personal level, insults traded by the two leaders. It makes it very difficult, for instance, for North Korea to perhaps ponder the possibility of some sort of deal with the United States, with the U.N. Security Council, along the lines, for instance, of the Iran nuclear deal.

And, of course, when we hear President Trump saying he wants to scrap the 2015 Iran nuclear deal between the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany and Iran, on the other hand, that also brings in to doubt the reliability of the United States, even if it were to try to work out a deal with North Korea.

So this whole environment certainly is causing tensions to ratchet up. And certainly we heard yesterday the North Korean foreign minister attending the U.N. General Assembly in New York, saying that North Korea is pondering the possibility of exploding a nuclear weapon, a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.

That certainly sets nerves a-jitter here in Japan, in particular, because, as we heard the Japanese defense minister say yesterday they worry that such a missile carrying a hydrogen bomb would fly over Japanese territory -- George.

HOWELL: Some serious issues at play here, Ben, the backdrop, though, third-grade name-calling. Obviously have to see how that plays out on the geopolitical stage.

The other question, though, China severing ties with North Korea, is there a sense, Ben, that this will, in fact, have an impact on North Korea's capabilities?

WEDEMAN: Well, we will have to see if that is actually going to be the case, to what extent China is going to cut economic ties with North Korea. Keep in mind that 90 percent of North Korea's foreign trade is with China and China is very concerned about the stability of the North Korean regime because, if there were to be a war, if the regime for some reason would collapse, China would be dealing with millions of possible refugees flowing over the border into its territory.

And are they also concerned that, if the regime were to collapse, the United States would somehow bring its forces even closer. I know China also has huge amounts of trade with United States in the latest unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States, the Trump administration on North Korea, would penalize companies that are doing business, banks and individuals with North Korea. And, of course, we're talking about China in this case -- George.

HOWELL: Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, live in Tokyo this hour, Ben, thank you. We'll stay in touch with you.

The U.S. president Donald Trump was again on the offensive Friday, ridiculing the notion of Russian interference in last year's presidential election, a story that he calls, quote, "a great hoax."

ALLEN: Mr. Trump and the Russian foreign minister appeared to be in agreement on this issue at least. Sergey Lavrov says he has yet to see any evidence of his government's involvement in U.S. politics. Here is what he told reporters Friday at the United Nations.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Once again in about a year of this chaos about the so-called interference of Russia into the elections, we have never heard a single fact.

When I asked Rex Tillerson how can we confirm his words that the interference of Russia into American process is well documented, he said, I cannot show you anything because this is confidential information.


HOWELL: CNN's Clare Sebastian joins us now live from Moscow.

Hello to you, Clare, and, you know, not entirely true there from Sergey Lavrov because we just had that development from Mr. Mueller, who is heading the investigation involving Facebook and ads placed during the election.

But still the same response from Moscow over and over, kind of the same as we said from President Trump. There is no there there.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, absolutely. And as you say, this is something that, despite the fact that relations between Russia and the U.S., according to both sides, are at a particularly low ebb, this is something that Russia and the Trump administration vehemently agree on, Trump calling the whole allegations of Russians collusion a hoax and Sergey Lavrov saying that he has seen no facts over the course of the last year.

But it was interesting he went on to say that had there been any facts, the likelihood is they would have leaked out by now. Whereas Russia and the U.S., particularly the Trump administration, have not hidden their disdain for the leaks that have happened in this investigation and for the reporting of them by the U.S. media.

In particular this is another thing that vehemently agree on. But Sergey Lavrov using this in this instance to bolster his argument that had there been any facts in this case, we would have heard them by now.

This is something that we've heard all along from the Russians. They've simply called this anti-Russian sentiment, hysteria, Russophobia in Washington.

But you know, Natalie, they have plenty to disagree on, the two sides at the moment. They are at serious odds over North Korea. Russia feels that the rhetoric we're hearing from Washington is unhelpful over Syria, over Iran. But still Russia saying that the biggest obstacle to relations is that anti-Russian feeling, that Russophobic hysteria, as Sergey Lavrov put it.

ALLEN: All right, Clare Sebastian for us, live there in Moscow, thanks. Thanks, Clare.

HOWELL: President Trump was highly critical of a fellow Republican on Friday, who he said would oppose the latest attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

ALLEN: The hard no from Senator John McCain puts the bill in jeopardy. Just one more no would sink it. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen spoke with parents who say their children's survival depends on keeping the Affordable Care Act.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE), Lillian (ph), John Paul (ph), Gabriel, all children with special health care needs.

In July, these children and their parents took a bus from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Washington, D.C., to confront Republican lawmakers trying to repeal ObamaCare.

COHEN (voice-over): Only to be kept on the steps of the Republican National Committee headquarters. Today these parents fear the new Graham-Cassidy health care bill will strip their children of the most basic care.

Among other things, the bill proposes drastic cuts in Medicaid.

JESSICA MICHOT, GABRIEL'S MOTHER: The Graham-Cassidy bill would take away Gabriel's ability to live and the ability to thrive, that medical bills alone would be too costly with the Medicaid cuts.

COHEN (voice-over): For months, Gabriel's mother, Jessica Michot, and other parents have asked for a meeting with Louisiana senator Bill Cassidy. Thursday in Baton Rouge, Michot met with a staffer for the senator and she says it did not go well.

MICHOT: Our senator from our state is putting out this bill and this huge bill that could affect our state so greatly, then I would expect that someone would be giving us answers to our questions. And that did not happen today.

COHEN (voice-over): In a statement to CNN, the senator's office said the bill "upholds our commitment to take care of our most vulnerable by putting Medicaid back on a sustainable, long-term path."

Michot said that, for Gabriel, Medicaid cuts could mean life or death. Medicaid pays for the ventilator that helps him breathe. She already lost one child, Gabriel's twin, Michael, when he was about a year old. She does not want to experience that pain again. MICHOT: We shouldn't have to fight for our kids like this. We

shouldn't have to fight politicians for survival. We should only have to fight for our kids to survive medically and be healthy.

I made a promise to my sons in the hospital that if they fought to live that I would make it worth it. And until my dying breath, I will keep that promise.

COHEN (voice-over): Michot says the bus trip and her long-term advocacy have all been worth it because it is her son's life.

Republicans are running out of time to dismantle ObamaCare with a simple majority vote in the Senate. And Michot was saddened that the only repeal effort left on the table is her senator's bill.

MICHOT: I am very, very disappointed. I am very upset with Senator Cassidy as a physician. I think, as a physician, he should know better.

COHEN (voice-over): Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, reporting.


ALLEN: In defending his bill, here is what Senator Cassidy told CNN earlier in the week.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Can you, with a clear conscience, say that this bill will have, at the end of the day, as many people covered in this country the way they are now, that they can afford it if they are under Medicaid the way they are right now?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R): There are more people who will be covered through this bill than under the status quo.

CUOMO: Access to coverage or actually covered?

CASSIDY: Actually covered.


ALLEN: Last word from Bill Cassidy there.

We'll continue to follow that, of course.

Coming up here, German Chancellor Angela Merkel making her final campaign stops. We'll tell you how she's expected to fare in Sunday's national elections.



(MUSIC PLAYING) HOWELL: In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrats appear to be heading to victory in Sunday's national elections.

ALLEN: She had a solid lead in the opinion polls of her rival, Martin Schulz's (ph) Social Democrats. Survey also suggest the alternative for Germany could be the first far right party to win seats in parliament since World War II.

HOWELL: A lot to talk about here. Atika Shubert following the story live in Berlin for us this hour.

Atika, thanks for being with us. So Angela Merkel, known for her pragmatic style, it's seen as a big positive for her but, at the same time, she faced a great deal of heat in her decision to allow thousands of migrants into Germany.

How did she weather that storm to be where she is now in this election?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a really good question because, in 2015, she was under incredible pressure when she made the decision to open the doors to nearly 1 million refugees coming in here.

And I spoke to somebody who was kind of following what was happening there, talked to a number of mayors and ministers. And they say she worked overtime, calling up mayors of individual towns, saying what do you need to accommodate all of these extra people and really pulled up extra resources and mobilized those resources to where they were needed.

Two years later, she used these words, "Wir schaffen das (ph)" -- "We can do it" -- at the time. And two years later, I think what she has -- what she is campaigning on is proof that the country has done it and has pulled together.

And what the polls seem to suggest is that, largely, people support her on that, even if they did not agree with her initial policy; they seem to feel that the country has, so far, managed OK.

There are still a lot of issues with integration, how quickly are refugees being integrated, and that is why we are also seeing something of a protest vote developing with the support for the Alternative for Germany, AFD. This is a party that was established only four years ago as an anti-Europe party but is now very much a nationalist, anti-immigration party -- George.

HOWELL: Talk more about that, the frustration felt by some there over the migrant migration. It has given rise to this right-wing party there that is expected to do well in this election.

Tell us more about that.

SHUBERT: It's expected to do quite well and consider that four -- it was only founded four years ago. It has never been in a national election like this. But it has so far competed in regional elections and managed to gain seats in 13 out of the 16 states here.

That is quite astonishing for such a young party and it has really campaigned not behind one candidate but on the issue. Specifically, its vociferous resistance to immigration. It says, in particular, the party believes that Islam, the religion, is incompatible with Germany. It wants to ban minarets and burqas and stop any foreign funding to mosques here.

So it is very much an anti-immigration party and that is what Merkel may have to contend with if it becomes the third largest party in parliament.

HOWELL: Again, right now, Angela Merkel sailing into another term. It seems this is a decision in Germany that will have implications around the world. Atika Shubert, following the story live. Thank you for the report.

ALLEN: Hurricane Maria knocked a Caribbean island to its knees. No running water, no electricity and a desperate need for food. We'll have an exclusive report from our Michael Holmes. He is on Dominica. That's coming next.




ALLEN: Hurricane Maria brought misery and death to Dominica. The island still has no running water and is running low on food and supplies.

HOWELL: The village of Point Michel was one of the worst hit areas. Our Michael Holmes traveled there and has this exclusive report.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The drive between Dominica's capital, Roseau, and the coastal village of Point Michel usually takes no more than 10 minutes. After Hurricane Maria, getting between the two is to embark on an odyssey of hurricane carnage on foot.

We have been told Point Michel was among the most badly hit areas of Dominica and more people died in this community than any other. More than a dozen confirmed dead, many others missing.

The foot traffic is constant, mostly out of Point Michel. Food is running low and people head to the capital to find what they can. We meet Germaine Fontaine (ph) on the way, leaving home because she no longer has one.

GERMAINE FONTAINE (PH), DOMINICA RESIDENT: Home is where we are OK. Your home is where we are OK. We have life. But the entire home is gone. Everything, every single thing I had in my house is gone.

HOLMES (voice-over): The closer you get to Point Michel, the more apocalyptic the scenes become. It is an assault on the senses. Here, a massive tree shoved into a house and blocking the way.

During the storm, ravines and waterways became furious torrents, obliterating everything in their path.

There is no running water on Dominica. These waterways are now the only way to bathe or wash clothes.

The scale of this is just impossible to get your head around. This was the main road. To Point Michel from the capital and just look at it. Along a main section of the road to Point Michel, the trees begin. Thousands of them stripped even of their bark by Maria. piled high onto the road until they become the road.

You don't walk to Point Michel; you climb and clamber.

These are what is left of the once glorious (ph) rain forests, giants that stood perhaps for centuries thrown like matchsticks across the shoreline. The rain forests now just a memory.

Once at Point Michel, we hear the stories of those who survived, like Miranda John (ph).

MIRANDA JOHN (PH), DOMINICA RESIDENT: When I came back and I saw inside there, I just break down. Everything gone. This here was right inside there.

HOLMES (voice-over): As we venture further into the community, we find Selma Francis (ph), who insisted her mother leave her home next door to be with the family as Maria bore down. This is what remains of her mother's house.

These are stories repeated throughout the village. We met Joan Frampton (ph) further along the road; born and raised in Point Michel, still stunned at the ferocity of what she and her family lived through.

JOAN FRAMPTON (PH), DOMINICA RESIDENT: I was so scared, scared because first time I ever experienced a thing like that. I saw Hurricane David. I saw many other hurricanes, not like this one, like it was nonstop. It did not want to stop. It came with a vengeance and it just come out not to play but to destroy.

HOLMES (voice-over): And destroy Maria did. Three houses vanished from this part of the village; 13 people are still missing but two bodies were found, including a 10-year-old boy. They lie in Point Michel's tiny cemetery, the freshly turned earth and a hastily constructed cross marking just two of the victims of Hurricane Maria -- Michael Holmes, CNN, Point Michel, Dominica.



ALLEN: And always remember to find out how you can help these people.

HOWELL: Yes, it's a good place to get information.

ALLEN: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. For our viewers here in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For other viewers around the world. "AMANPOUR" is up after the break. Thanks for watching CNN, the world's news leader.