Return to Transcripts main page


Puerto Rico in Crisis; Trump vs. NFL. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 25, 2017 - 16:30   ET



JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, they decided it no longer needed to be on the list.

And, instead, they added Chad, because it did -- it didn't properly screen for terrorists or share its information with other countries, the government pointing also to the fact that Chad is a haven for terrorist organizations like Boko Haram and al Qaeda, so adding that along with North Korea and Venezuela -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

He's one of the players who stayed inside the locker room during the national anthem yesterday. What is his message for President Trump? We will talk to Seattle Seahawk Doug Baldwin next.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Continuing with our politics lead now, the White House not backing off. The firestorm ignited by President Trump, who called out pro athletes for kneeling national anthem before games.

This afternoon White House, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the message of the protests has long shifted away from police brutality and racial justice . She suggested if that's the case then athletes should take up their cause with the officers on the sidelines, not with the flag.


CNN's Sara Murray joins me live at the White House.

And, Sara, one assumes that Sarah Sanders was not seriously suggesting that these players protest the police officers on the field.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, talk about a perplexing cleanup effort there.

If there is one thing this president seems to be even more irked by than people protesting the flag, that would be of course people protesting our nation's police officers. Today, Sarah Sanders, though, seemed to suggest that the players might be better off doing just that.

And then when asked to clarify if she was seriously suggesting that these players should be protesting the officers on the field, she quickly walked it back. Listen to what she said.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think if the debate is really for them about police brutality, they should probably protest the officers on the field that are protecting them, instead of the American flag.

No, no, that's not what I'm saying. I was kind of pointing out the hypocrisy of the fact if that is the goal is and the message is that of police brutality, which they have stated, then that doesn't seem very appropriate to protest the American flag. I'm not sure how those two things would be combined.


MURRAY: So you see her there sort of trying to explain it away, suggesting that protesting police brutality, that protesting the notion that maybe because of the color of your skin you might be treated differently in this country isn't the same as protesting the values of the country.

And then you saw her try to clean it up there. Of course, all of this is in the broader context of what President Trump had to say about these NFL players who did not want to participate in the national anthem.

Today, Sarah Sanders insisted that the president was not trying to single anyone out, he was not trying to divide anyone, he just wants everyone to be patriotic together, doesn't understand why that is not possible.

TAPPER: And we should point out the protesters say they are not protesting the flag or the anthem. They're protesting during the anthem, but it's aimed at other things, not at the flag.

We should also point out President Trump in our daily game of there is a tweet for it, he once tweeted negatively about President Obama getting involved in a debate having to do with the NFL and the name of the Washington Redskins.

The White House, however, seems to think this culture war is worth the fight? They are all in?

MURRAY: Jake, there is always a tweet for it, as we've come to learn.

Here is one that comes into play today, this from 2013. A Trump tweet. "President should not be telling the Washington Redskins to change their name. Our country has far bigger problems. Focus on them, not nonsense." Again, this is a Trump tweet from 2013. Today, Sarah Sanders insisted this is not the president trying to wade into a culture war. But it's another of these conversations that is a little head-scratching when you think about how big the legislative agenda is right now, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray at the White House for us, thank you.

Joining me now is Seattle Seahawk wide receiver and 2014 Super Bowl champion Doug Baldwin.

Doug, thanks so much for joining us.

All of the Seahawks were absent from the field during the national anthem yesterday, deciding not to participate. Earlier in September, your team linked arms during the anthem. But you didn't protest until yesterday, unless I'm mistaken.

What changed?

DOUG BALDWIN, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Just a conversation that we had as a team.

You know, I thought that it was vitally important that the message was very clear and concise. And I didn't know what that looked like. And so, for me, it was a matter of making sure that our team is unified and that our message was, again, was easily -- or clear and concise.

And I thought that us doing something together as a team would signify that, in part because we are unified.

TAPPER: What is the message beyond unity? I mean, is it that President Trump can't intimidate you? Is it you all stand together to protest racial injustice? What is that message?

BALDWIN: Clearly -- or bluntly, I should say, is that we don't want this behavior to become a norm in our society.

You know, I understand that there's a lot of different opinions and viewpoints, but what I feel deep down in my heart and what a lot of people across this great nation feel deep down in their heart is there has been a perpetual cycle of hate being spewed from the greatest position that our country has to offer, from the White House.

And so I think that's a direct reflection of what we are trying to accomplish with our protest and in terms of our message.

TAPPER: Many in the military community, as you know, interpret these protests as an affront to their loved ones' sacrifice, even if they are not intended that way.

Listen to one Gold Star mother, Teri Johnson, who lost her son in Afghanistan in 2010, told me.


TERI MAXWELL JOHNSON, GOLD STAR MOM: Sitting down is something that is easy to do. But standing up and stepping forward is something that's hard to do.


And what I would like to see is if you really see oppression when you look at the flag, then make it your mission to be proud of it. Do something. Make a difference, so that when you look at that flag, you show pride and you feel hope and possibilities.


TAPPER: Now, I know you don't take a knee during the anthem.

But do you understand why some military members, especially people who have lost family members fighting for freedom, take an issue with those who take a knee?

BALDWIN: Absolutely.

And I think that's a huge part of the conversation is the empathy piece of it. I'm a firm believer that you have to stand or sit for what you believe in. And that's what makes our country great.

And so, yes, I definitely can understand the passion and the fervor that comes about when you have that symbol, when you have that image.

But, again, you know, I think it's bigger than that. And, to her point, if you see the flag, and you don't -- and you see oppression when you look at the flag, you know, then stand up, do something about it. She's absolutely right.

And I think that what we are misinterpreting is the people that are taking a knee that feel the need to protest, that's exactly what they are doing. They are standing up. They are being courageous. They are putting themselves out there and being vulnerable.

And that's really the point of it. But it all comes back down to empathy and really to our First Amendment right. I watched a video last night of a speech in a movie -- I can't remember the name of the movie, but it was very powerful to me.

And one of the quotes in that particular part, it said that if you truly and honestly believe in the freedom of speech, then you have to be willing to be in the arena with somebody who is shouting at the top of their lungs something that you would spend your lifetime denouncing at the top of yours and not throw a punch.

And I think that's where our country is right now. We are in the arena. And there's a lot of punches being thrown. But it's going to come down to somebody stepping up, being the leader, and not throwing that punch, looking to that person, and even though they disagree with them, even though they might dislike very strongly what that person is doing, to look them in the eye and say, I understand and I still love you as a human being, because I know that your desires and your wants are just the same as mine.

I want to grow up in a community, in a country where my kids are safe, where they are looked at for the character, the content of their character, not the color of their skin, their actions, and not where they come from.

And everybody wants that. And I think that's a very simple thing to understand. And so, when we talk about this, when you let me listen to that excerpt, that's what I hear. We all want the same thing. It's just the method in how we understand each other, that's where we are getting misconstrued.

TAPPER: One final question for you, Doug.

The president tweeted this morning and has said also that this is not a racial issue. He wrote on Twitter: "The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It's about respect for our country, flag, and national anthem. NFL must respect this."

Do you think there is anything racial with the president's attack?

BALDWIN: I think, if somebody believes that there is, there absolutely is, just like if you believe that kneeling for the -- during the national anthem is disrespectful, then it's disrespectful to you.

And so I can't tell somebody how to feel. I can only tell you what is being said, what others are saying they feel. And I can tell you how I feel.

And so do I think that some of these comments are racially motivated? They might be. There might be some implicit bias that our president just doesn't understand, which is OK, because he's human.

We look to him to be a little less in his flaws. We look to him to have less flaws than us, because is the leader of our country. But, at the same time, I think we all have to realize he is human and he is flawed.

TAPPER: All right, Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks, thank you so much for your time, sir. I appreciate it.

BALDWIN: Sure. Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: Coming up: a dire situation getting more desperate by the hour, as millions of Americans in Puerto Rico wait for much-needed help and aid.

We will take you there live next. Stay with us.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Unthinkable human catastrophe happening right now affecting millions of U.S. citizens on American soil. People in Puerto Rico still have no power, no running water after that direct hit by Hurricane Maria. They're running out of food, they're running out of medical supplies. What's worst, they don't know when they're going to get the help they so desperately need. CNN's Rafael Romo has been on the ground in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Officials there describe the conditions as "apocalyptic." The background of where you are is not indicative of what you're seeing out there, right, Rafael?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: No, absolutely not, Jake. We had the opportunity to visit the town of (INAUDIBLE) earlier. This is on the southeastern tip of the island. It was hit by the eye of the hurricane, one of the hardest hit areas. And first thing that strikes you, Jake, is this is a very green country. Now everything you see is brown. The hurricane took everything on its path. And then you start talking to people, and you realize that they have been without water for days, without power as well, unable to communicate with people on other parts of the island or in the United States. They have a lot of relatives in the United States. And then you hear the stories, I talked to a young man who says he's lucky to be alive because there was a metal roof on the other side of the street from his house that was torn off by the hurricane and it fell right on top of his house. As a matter of fact, he was in his bedroom when that happened and he barely escaped alive. Many stories of people helping each other. We saw an elder -- a neighbor helping an elderly person with food, also neighbors coming together because a lot of government employees haven't been able to start with the cleaning process, Jake. So very inspiring stories that we saw as well.

[16:50:57] TAPPER: And you return to San Juan after traveling as you note to the southeastern part of Puerto Rico a couple days ago. Are people getting the help they need? We keep hearing these reports of reporters such as yourself coming to an area and citizens just surrounding him or her asking for help, supplies not getting there, hospitals and clinics not having what they need to help people, no running water or power?

I spoke with (INAUDIBLE) he told me it's not a matter of not having enough, it's a problem of getting the supplies to the people. The roads are impassable, are blocked by debris, downed trees, and power lines, and that's the main challenge right now. If you add to that the fact that the island is uncommunicated. All of the telecommunications antennas are not working, that makes for a very complicated situation, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. We're going to stay on top of this story and I know you will too, Rafael Romo in San Juan, Puerto Rico, thank you so much.

A mother of two killed and seven other people injured when a man gun downed parishioners at their church, and now we're learning more about the churchgoer who is being hailed as a hero. Stay with us.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back. More on our "NATIONAL LEAD." A day of worship turned deadly in Tennessee. The Justice Department and the FBI have now opened a federal civil rights investigation after they say a gunman shot and killed Melanie Crow-Smith, a mother of two in a church parking lot. The suspected gunman also accused of opening fire inside the church injuring seven others. CNN's Dianne Gallagher joins me now from Antioch, Tennessee outside the church where this bloodbath happened. Is there any indication of what drove the suspect to target these worshipers?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, right now, Jake, that's one of the question that everyone was asking. I mean, there are law enforcement investigators on the state, local and federal level looking into the motive. But the people here at this church really want to know what caused the man who just two years ago sat in that sanctuary with them worshiping told the preacher that he is now accused of shooting, that he wanted to be like him one day. What drove him not just to do what he's charged with doing on Sunday, but to target his former church family?


GALLAGHER: Today the doors of the Burnett Chapel Church of Christ were bordered up. Flowers left outside just feet from this bloodstained SUV parked out front.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That man just walked up with a shotgun, and people were hiding and stuff, but he shot my best friend.

GALLAGHER: 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson has been arrested and charged with homicide. According to an affidavit, the U.S. resident, originally from Sudan, told police that he parked here at 10:55 a.m. yesterday and "fired upon the church." A local police record says Sampson had been known to authorities since at least January with officers responding to reports of verbal abuse and suicidal threats. Shots rang out just as prayer service was ending. Melanie Crow-Smith, a 39-year-old mother of two was killed in the parking lot as she walked his SUV.

JOE LOVE, WITNESS: By the time I got over there, he shot the first lady in the back.

GALLAGHER: Witnesses say the mask gunman didn't shot a married couple in their 80s before opening fire indiscriminately inside the sanctuary. The church pastor and the pastor's wife among those wounded. Chaos finally came to the end thanks to the actions of 22- year-old Church Usher Robert Caleb Engel. Church members here tell CNN that he doesn't want his picture to be shown and he doesn't want to be called a hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He physically engaged the shooter and during the struggle, the shooter was shot.

GALLAGHER: During the struggle, police say Samson suffered a self- inflicted gunshot wound. Engle who had been beaten during the confrontation then used his own pistol to hold the wounded gunman until help an arrived.


GALLAGHER: And there are vigils being held right now in Nashville with houses of worship all over the city. I talked to a pastor who flew here from New York to participate. There's going to be another one here tonight. And Jake, I will tell you that Caleb Engel said that he wants them to pray for the shooter, his family, and friends there.

TAPPER: Horrible story. Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Be sure to tune in tonight for a very special live town hall debate on the bill to replace ObamaCare. Senator Amy Klobuchar will join Senator Bernie Sanders to debate Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Bill Cassidy. I'll be joined with my colleague Dana Bash. We'll be doing it in front of a live studio audience. A lot up for debate with the Graham-Cassidy Bill, it's tonight at 9:00 p.m. only on CNN. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. I'll see you again in a few hours for that debate. I now turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer, he's in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.