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Trump Versus NFL Players; Banned Countries Replaced with New List; Angela Merkel Won the Fourth Time; New Referendum Being Voted in Iraq; Chancellor Merkel Won for the Fourth Time in Office; NFL Players Protest Against Trump. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 25, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, HOST, CNN: From San Diego to London and point in between, a show of unity as U.S. football players respond to President Donald Trump's view that players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired.

ROSEMARY CHURCH HOST CNN: Plus, new U.S. travel restrictions unveiled after the Trump administration's revised travel ban expired on Sunday. We'll tell you which countries the administration is now targeting.

HOWELL: And for the first time in more than 50 years a far-right political party will be represented in Germany's parliament. What this historic election means for that nation and the European Union.

CHURCH: Hello and welcome t our viewers here in the United States and of course, all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Newsroom starts right now.

Fair to say it has been a busy weekend for the U.S. president. On Sunday, the White House announced new restrictions for people in eight countries trying to reach the United States. The president is trying that move to national security. He said this in a statement from the White House.

Quote, "Following an extensive review by the Department of Homeland Security were are taking action today to protect the safety and security of the American people by establishing a minimum security base line for entry into the United States.

CHURCH: The president is also keeping up his feud with U.S. football players. He's called for NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem to be fired. On Sunday many more kneeled in a mass rebuke to the president.

HOWELL: Kneeling is a right in the United States protesting against.

We'll have more on those NFL protests in a moment. But first let's focus on these new travel restrictions. They were announced right after the president's controversial travel ban expired and cover many of the same countries. CNN's Laura Jarrett has this report for us.

LAURA JARRETT, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, the Trump administration has unveiled new travel restrictions on certain foreign nationals from eight countries. This time, Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria Venezuela, and Yemen as a replacement to a central portion of the controversial travel ban which expired on Sunday morning.

Now these new restrictions vary widely by country and they also include a phased-in approach. So, most of the limitations won't go into effect until mid-October. For the last three months though, the Trump administration has used an executive order to ban foreign nationals from six Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S unless they have a, quote, "bonafide relationship" with a person or entity here in the country in the U.S.

Now individuals with that bonafide exception like if you have a grandparent here they can still apply for visas until October 18th. But after that date the new restrictions on travel will begin. And in some instances travel for immigrants will be broadly suspended across the board like in North Korea. Nobody can come in.

Whereas, for others, like Iran and those on student visa will be able to apply and to come into the country. Now I should mention anyone with a current visa or a green card can always come in. Their documents will not be revoked.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on the legality of the current travel ban next month. So that's moving full steam ahead. And President Trump already tweeting about the ban on Sunday saying, "Make America safe is my number one priority, we will not let those into our country, we cannot safely vet."

CHURCH: And that was our U.S. justice reporter Laura Jarrett.

Let's get more now on the new restrictions from our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman following the story from Tokyo. Good to see you, Ben. So, North Korea is a rather interesting addition to this list, isn't it? Not many North Koreans travel to the U.S. except for the rare officials. So what is the practical purpose of adding North Korea?

BEN WEDEMAN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, before we get to North Korea just to let you know I've been in contact with friends in the Middle East who are saying this is really just another permutation of the same travel ban that went out back in January.

Many people still remember quite vividly in the Middle East in the Muslim world what President Trump, then-candidate Trump said when he said a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States is what he was looking for.

[03:04:59] Essentially what I'm hearing from people in the Muslim words is, these are my and not theirs and it's just more lipstick on the same old pig. Now as far as North Korea goes, yes. Fact of the matter is that the

only North Koreans who travel to the United States are like the foreign minister of North Korea who was in New York in over the past week to attend the United Nations General Assembly. And that's his right as a diplomat.

However, ordinary North Koreans cannot go to the United States given this situation they have to endure in their country. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. Ben Wedeman following the story there for us from Tokyo. Many thanks to you.

HOWELL: We are also following a historic election in German. And that is where we take you live now. A news conference underway from the leaders of Germany's far right party, the Alternative for Germany, AfD as it is commonly called there made major political gains on Sunday's election.

CHURCH: German Chancellor Angela Merkel secured her fourth term in office but the AfD is expected to become the third-largest party in the federal parliament.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Did not even operate on legal grounds. We will discuss this. We stand for a constructive working party in the German Bundestag and we would like to thank the voters for giving us this mandate. Thank you.

ALEXANDER GAULAND, CO-LEADER, ALTERNATIVE FOR GERMANY (through translator): There's no need to add a logic and read it in newspapers. Of course, firstly it's our success. But it's also about the failure of the others. I read today that Mr. Busbach said yesterday, the Union's Party had let for the right-wing party a lot of space. But I grew up in a different environment, certainly it is not possible to govern the country properly including SPD.

Mr. Gabriel when he was in government had a welcome button there and then a couple of days after he said the refugee policy was wrong. What do people think about this? I know that a lot of people trust us very much and we will try our best to keep our promise. But it also depends very much on the others in the Bundestag. We want to be a clear opposition. Bundestag the German parliament must again be reflective body for the community.

Yesterday, I made clear and also during the election campaign that I remember the debates of Ardenour (Ph) and others about armament, NATO and the policy. Mr. Busbach said something similar. Tell me one proper date about Russia espionage saving the euro. No, there's none. They just say OK. We want to have a debate culture in the German Bundestag so that knew why certain decisions are taken and who is for that. This is our task and we will fulfill it.

CHURCH: Historic vote there for Germany, listening to the leaders of the Alternative for Germany Party.

CNN's senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen has been closed following the election. HOWELL: Fred is live in Berlin this hour. Fred, let's talk about

this. A moment ago we just heard the co-leader of the Alternative for Germany Party pointing out the refugee policy saying that it was wrong.


HOWELL: The question for people who voted for this particular part, was this a protest vote? Or is there indeed a surge that is fuelling this right-wing party?

PLEITGEN Yes, George. I think one of the interesting things that some of those party leaders said is that on the one hand they believe that it was their own program that propelled them to the, you know, very big electoral result that they got. But at the same time they also felt that it was the weakness of others.

So certainly it seems to be quite a realistic view. But I want to give the question you ask me on to Andrea Rommele who is here with us from the Hertie School of Governance. It's such a very important school here in Berlin. And what do you think? I mean, they are, the AfD, the third strongest force in German parliament. Can we still call this a protest vote or is this a real realignment of the German electorate?

[03:10:02] ANDREA ROMMELE, PROFESSOR FOR COMMUNICATION IN POLITICS, HERTIE SCHOOL OF GOVERNANCE: I actually would say it's both. It's a protest also vote but it's also a vote for the program, "program," quote, unquote, "the AfD stands for." What the larger parties, what the coalition parties, the CDU and the SPD did not do during the campaign. They did not address the needs and the desires of the citizens. The refugee crisis the consequences of the refugee crisis were not center stage in the debates.

If you have a look again at the TV debate we had it really wasn't an issue. And I think that is really something people care for. People want solutions for. And that's one of the reasons the AfD got so much support. That's on the content side and second point you're absolutely right. It definitely also is a protest vote against the grand coalition.

PLEITGEN: One of the interesting statistics that we've been talking about is that among men in the former East Germany this is the strongest party. And generally in the eastern German it's the second strongest party, and yet, it seems as though it's more than just a phenomenon of the east, isn't it?

ROMMELE: Yes, you're absolutely right. It is the -- it's the second strongest party in the east in one state of the former -- of the eastern part of Germany...


PLEITGEN: In Saxony.

ROMMELE: In Saxony. It's actually the strongest party which is from my perspective really scary. What are the reasons why people there vote for the AfD? Well, if we look into the statistics it is not so much the economic vote that people, you know, don't do well economically. It has something to do with the changing culture.

People are afraid of the future. People are afraid of foreigners coming in. And that's I think what really makes them vote for the AfD and it's not so much the economic vote.

PLEITGEN: Obviously in all of this we can't lose sight of the fact Angela Merkel has most probably been elected to another term. But she does appear weaker today than she has in the past four years.

ROMMELE: Well absolutely. It's the worst result in the history of the CDU. So, absolutely. And she's lost tremendously. Especially, I mean, the incumbent party has lost although we have economic stable times which is, you know, if you look into electoral history.

PLEITGEN: Why do you think that is?

ROMMELE: Well, I think it has to do with her going for a fourth term. It's her -- you know, it's an incumbent campaign. So that's not unusual if you compare that to other campaigns also from an international perspective. But I think it really also has to do with her not envisioning future projects. I mean, it's all about the status quo. It's all about stabilizing the status quo.

It's not about how or, you know, what should Germany look like in 2040, in 2050, in 2060? How are we going to deal with digitalization, a huge issue in Germany? How are we going to deal with the refugee crisis with the refugee issue? What are the solutions here? I think she doesn't give answers to the really pressing questions and I think how we can look at the results.

PLEITGEN: So she's going to probably have to alter her course somewhat in the next four years. Thank you very much for joining us...


ROMMELE: Thank you. Sure.

PLEITGEN: ... as we try to analyze what happened here in the German elections. Yesterday which some analysts say is on the one hand a status quo a return to the status quo, but on the other hand also a political earthquake that certainly is being felt by a lot of the established parties here in berlin.

Back to you, guys.

CHURCH: All right, we'll be watching going forward. Fred Pleitgen joining us live there from Berlin, where it's nearly 9.15 in the morning.

HOWELL: Thanks, Fred. Still ahead on Newsroom, more from the U.S. president sparring with the NFL here and where the controversy goes from here.

[03:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KATE RILEY, SPORT ANCHOR, CNN: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN world

sports headlines.

Justin Thomas has won the biggest prize in golf claiming the FedEx Cup and with it the $10 million bonus for the second place finish at the tour championship. The tournament went to a little known Xander Schauffele who took the title with a tap for birdie on 18.

However, which show Justin Thomas will be more than happy to take second place giving his just enough to edge out to his close friend Jordan Spieth with the $10 million FedEx Cup.

In the NFL, players from several teams have been taking a knee or staying in the locker room during the national anthem in a show of unity. Among the teams coaches and owners after President Donald Trump's call for players who won't stand for the national anthem to be fired.

Elsewhere, and we've been enjoying a new tennis event this weekend and the early reaction indicates that it's been a success. The Laver Cup is a team event pitting the best of Europe against the best players from around the world.

In the end Roger Federer brought home the victory for team Europe edging out the Aussie Nick Kyrgios in a tough battle. Look what it means to him. Tears from Kyrgios, the guy who openly said that he doesn't care about tennis. Europe with the inaugural Laver Cup title. Many congratulations to them.

And that's a look at all your world sports headlines. I'm Kate Riley.

HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. Here in the United States we saw NFL owners joined players in an open protest against the U.S. president on Sunday.

CHURCH: Their mass display of solidarity played out before every single kickoff in Sunday's games in cities across the country.

HOWELL: Some teams decided to stay in their locker rooms. At the Chicago Bears-Pittsburgh Steelers game only one Steeler player took a stood on the field for the national anthem. They were all responding to this comment from the president of the United States.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a (muted) off the field right now out. He's fired. He's fired!


CHURCH: CNN's Boris Sanchez has more now on President Trump's response from Washington.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The president certainly making this issue a focus of his Sunday arguing that NFL owners should get together and do something about NFL players that kneel down during the national them. He tweeted about this several times digging in his stance that he first vocalized during his rally in Alabama on Friday, saying that NFL owners should fire players that kneel during the anthem.

One of his tweets he writes, quote, "Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their national anthem or their country. NFL should change policy."

Earlier in the day, he actually re-tweeted someone who wrote that if players boycott our anthem fans should boycott the NFL. The president again making the case that Americans should not stand for this sort of thing. In fact, he says that the majority of people agree with him.

Listen to more of what he had to say.


TRUMP: I think that the flag has to be respected. Our country has to be respected. There's plenty of room to do other things but our country has to be respected. And I've always felt very strongly about that. And by the way, most people agree with me.


SANCHEZ: One more interesting note from one of the gaggles that the president held with the press on Sunday. He says that race has nothing to do with this issue with players kneeling during the national anthem, that this is purely about people respecting the flag, people respecting their country.

[03:19:57] If you go back to August of last year when Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling during the national anthem and many players follow suit. He made it very clear that the reason that he was protesting the national anthem was because he felt that police officers in this country did not respect communities of color.

So at least to many of the players this is about race. To the president, it is apparently not.

Let's put this in context. This re-igniting of a controversy by the president on Friday night and into this weekend comes at a very interesting time where the White House is dealing with a lot of issues not only on the legislative front with another attempted repeal and replacement of Obamacare and a tax reform rollout set for later this week, but also escalating tensions with North Korea.

At one point over the weekend, the president tweeting out that North Korean leadership may not be around much longer. So it's certainly curious that the president would pick this time to focus on this issue in this way.

Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.

CHURCH: Joining me now to talk more about U.S. politics is CNN political commentator and democratic strategist, Dave Jacobson, and on the other side of the political spectrum, CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson. Welcome, gentlemen. Good to talk with you both.


CHURCH: So let's get started. A lot to cover. Over the weekend President Trump took aim at protesting NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem saying they should be fired. But then players hit back with a show of defiance and unity by kneeling, locking arms, and raising fists.

Dave, to you first, is this an effort on the part of Mr. Trump to perhaps distract from the many issues plaguing him right now including North Korea, the Russia probe, healthcare, the Kushner e-mails, and in just the last few hours the new travel restrictions?

DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that's precisely what it is. This is another deflection. The president knows that he's a bull in a China shop and he is using this opportunity to show racial tensions even further than they are.

Obviously, it came on the heels of his Friday night speech for a candidate whose points to lose on the Alabama special election this coming Tuesday (Inaudible) the incumbent senator who is appointed recently.

And I think it's reflective of the fact that the president understands fundamentally then with John McCain coming out saying no to the ACA repeal. Ted Cruz today, and Susan Collins leaning heavily no among other republican senators. He simply doesn't have the vote for this healthcare bill.

Moreover, he's dealing with challenges in Iran and North Korea. And he hasn't -- he's failed to deliver anything meaningful in terms of legislative victories through the Congress. And so, this is a pivot opportunity for him to change the conversation. We're clearly talking about it right now. I think it's strategic. But I think it's a mistake.

CHURCH: All right.

JACOBBSON: Because the president who is hovering around 37 percent approval rating at this point really needs to start finding ways to unify the country not further dividing it.

CHURCH: All right. Ben, to you, a giant distraction on the part of Mr. Trump.


CHURCH: Or a real issue for the embattled president?

FERGUSON: No, no, if you know the president or you've been around this White House this is definitely not -- as a distraction. What he saw was something that was very clear. You have a lot of Americans that are in the NFL that are disrespecting this country. You had American football players that went overseas and knelt during the national anthem overseas but then stood for God Save the Queen.

That is, when you're going around the world you're representing the National Football League of the United States of America. That's not the time to be an American. So I think the president should talk about this. I also think he can talk about the other issues.

Look, he's very focused on tax reform, for example, he doesn't want to take away from that. Talking about North Korea, he doesn't want to take away from that issue. He's been very clear on how he's dealing with North Korea and been very bold and blunt.

To say somehow that this is a distraction from those issues -- and let's also be clear about the Affordable Care Act repeal and replace this week. It was always going to be a tight vote or two votes is where it was before they even started talking about it because that's how close the majority is for the republicans barely over the democrats there.

The republican senators the same ones that have not helped him in the past, the same ones that aren't helping him in this time. So to somehow say that the comments that he made in Alabama were to distract from this his legislative agenda is just incompetence. The president's agenda he's focused on now more than ever because he does actually need these wins that you just heard him talk about a moment ago.

But to somehow say he doesn't want to focus on winning and therefore he's focusing on this is absurd and not understanding the politics of this White House or this president.

CHURCH: All right. Let's get to one of those other issues then starting with a new travel restrictions...


CHURCH: ... that the White House just announced a few hours ago. Dave, to you, how significant are those changes to what was a ban now these restrictions affecting eight countries?

JACOBSON: Clearly the president understand fundamentally that his initial ban has struggled through the courts where we've seen many times, we've sort of gone through this process and the president has continued to fail in the courts.

[03:25:07] And so, I think part of that was because it was emblematic of a Muslim ban. And so he's trying to pivot away from that narrative and trying to draw attention in making this more about certain countries that are essentially enemies of the United States or perhaps have individuals there who are affiliated with terrorist organizations.

And so I think that was sort of the pivot to include nations like North Korea into sort of this process. I think because he knows it's going to be a steep hill to climb when this effort goes before the Supreme Court.

CHURCH: Ben, your response? FERGUSON: I think it's an issue of national security and that's where

you see the president changing and adapting here, bringing in things like North Korea. Let's be clear, the majority of these countries are either direct, you know, threats to this country or they are countries that have aided and abetted ISIS and Al Qaeda, or the biggest one.

The majority of these countries -- the majority of the countries that have been named don't even have a centralized government that we can cross-check people coming into the U.S. as a refugee status.

You cannot take that risk when we know that from findings that we found of ISIS and Al Qaeda online and also through raids that they have talked about basically using this to hold their advantage to say look, you say you're a refugee.

They cannot check with a government in this country because there is no central government that knows who these people are or knows that they've been in trouble or in prison or if they're murderers or rapists or anything else, use this to the advantage for refugee status.

So, I think the president is smart to change and adapt here and I think he'll be much more successful this time around.

CHURCH: And Dave, we're learning from the lawyer of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner that the son-in-law of President Trump used a private e-mail account to corresponds with fellow administration officials. How significant do you think this is?

JACOBSON: The hypocrisy is simply boundless. This coming from somebody so closely aligned with the president who railed against Hillary Clinton. I'm not condoning Hillary Clinton for having private server but I think it's totally disingenuous for Jared Kushner to be working in the White House and communicating on a non-secure private e-mail account independent of the White House server which is set up to protect and enhance security for those within the building

CHURCH: Ben, your response?

FERGUSON: Look, I think that there needs to be one e-mail account used if that's what the rules say. But let's also be clear about something. We don't know if this was a secure or non-secure e-mail that was set up by Jared Kushner. So to imply that it was unsecure is not just true yet because we don't know the facts on that.

The second thing is the majority of the correspondence was in response to people that e-mailed him to his private e-mail. And we're talking about seven e-mails or 7.2 e-mails on average per month since he got sworn in at the White House. So this is nothing compared to what Hillary Clinton is doing.

Now let me make it also clear. I think that if you need to have one e- mail address it needs to a government e-mail address make it clear. I think these e-mails should be open to anyone in the government who wants to look at them to make sure there was nothing here that broke any rules. And we also have no indication that any of these private e- mails were classified in nature which is exactly what tens of thousands of Hillary Clinton's were.

CHURCH: All right.

FERGUSON: So these are two different circumstances.

CHURCH: Ben Ferguson, Dave Jacobson, thank you, gentlemen for joining us. We appreciate it.

FERGUSON: Thanks for having us.

JACOBSON: Thank you.

HOWELL: Now to Senate republicans, as we mentioned, they're making their last-ditch effort to retool their healthcare bill in order to win over more members of their own party.

The new version of the Graham-Cassidy bill was circulated on Sunday. Senators John McCain and Rand Paul have opposed this latest effort to scrap the Affordable Act, Obamacare as it's more commonly known. Their colleagues Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski also have deep reservations.

CHURCH: We'll take a short break. Coming up, more on Donald Trump's sparring with the NFL and hear from a sports journalist. We're back with that.


[03:30:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: A very warm welcome back to CNN Newsroom. I'm Rosemary Church.

GEORGE HOWELL, HOST, CNN: I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

The White House has announced new travel restrictions targeting people from eight different countries. They're meant to replace part of a controversial travel ban that was signed earlier this year. North Korea, Chad, and Venezuela now join a list of five Muslim majority nations that were already under restriction. Sudan though, is no longer included in the list.

CHURCH: In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has secured her fourth term in office, at the same time the anti-immigrant party, Alternative for Germany is set to become the third-largest group in the federal parliament. Protesters are furious. It will be the first time a far- right party enters the Bundestag in over half a century.

HOWELL: Britain and the European Union will resume Brexit negotiations Monday. Both sides with important details to sort out. This includes the rights of millions of migrants and the divorce bill Britain will pay to the E.U. The British parliament approved a bill this month that ensures European laws will not apply to the United Kingdom once Brexit is completed.

CHURCH: Iraqi Kurds are casting their votes right now on the referendum on independence. The U.S., the U.K., Iran, and Turkey oppose the referendum fearing it could spark new violence while the battle against ISIS continues.

HOWELL: Here in the United States the National Football League is getting political. Players and owners protesting recent comments by the U.S. president. Mr. Trump says the players who kneel in protest against protesting a right for people here in the United States but those people should be fired if they do so during the national anthem.

CHURCH: Now earlier, players had said they were calling attention to racial and social injustice but on Sunday many more players and even some owners joined together kneeling or locking arms in solidarity at every single game Sunday. Even so, Donald Trump still thinks these players should lose their jobs.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The NFL has to work out their own problems. Their numbers are way down. And I think this is a big reason why their numbers are way down. I'm just telling you from my standpoint, I think it's very disrespectful to our country.


HOWELL: Let's bring in Christine Brennan, CNN's sports analyst and a sports columnist with USA Today. Christine, it's good to have you on the show with us this hour.

This Sunday before every game in the National Football League the national anthem took front and center.

[03:35:01] National networks gave full coverage to it paying very close attention to how these players would react to this latest controversy protesting social and racial injustice. And we saw many more players kneel, others locking arms as a sign of unity.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, SPORTS ANALYST, CNN: Absolutely. In fact, we saw some teams not even show up for the anthem. Pittsburgh Steelers and also Tennessee and Seattle were playing each other and they all just decided to stay off the field completely in a sign of solidarity. And I think also a sign that a lot of players just didn't want to be there for the team.

So, Donald Trump if he was hoping to get their attention he got it. I'm not sure he wanted to get the reaction that he did. Because when you think about it everyone was concerned about Colin Kaepernick a year or so ago.

And now we're talking about probably over 100 players who actually took a knee or some other way protested the national them. Not to mention almost every other player, George, who was at least linking arms with his teammates or his coaches.

So, it was a very big show of force. The NFL basically telling Donald Trump I think exactly what they thought of his comments in Alabama on Friday.

HOWELL: This move that started by Colin Kaepernick to protest social and racial injustice. But with President Trump making himself personally part of this debate, he himself has become a lightning rod for protests among these players as well.

BRENNAN: Absolutely, George. In fact I think -- I've not interviewed these players yet, we'll find out a lot more. But I think that the protesting now is more anti-Donald Trump than it is about the issues that Kaepernick -- the very serious issues that Kaepernick and some of the other players were protesting for over a year, which was their concerns about police brutality and violence against African-Americans and other issues involving African-Americans, race relations, et cetera.

So, those are very significant issues. Whatever you think on the topic you know that's important societal conversations that we should be having. But that I don't think was what this particular Sunday was about. To me, this was the NFL protesting against Donald Trump.

Now, again, by having solidarity or by taking a knee they may in their own minds have something. But the fact that we saw the magnitude that we did it is because of Trump's comments on Friday and the strong reaction from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, from the union and from player after player on Twitter social media. And now, when it gets to the field when the games start on the field itself they really did take it right there.

And I do think we should interpret it as a strong message against Donald Trump and everything that he said, the terrible comments, the incendiary comments the son of a blank comment, all those things and more were wrapped up in the NFL protests on Sunday.

HOWELL: What do you say though, to those who are critical of the president's motives who say that the solidarity that was shown on the football field it gives way to imagery that the president can then later turn around and use as red meat to rally and rile up his base?

BRENNAN:: I am of course a sports journalist. I'm not a political reporter. However, I also am an American citizen who's had her eyes opened over the last -- since November 8th the election or even before that.

So, my interpretation as an outsider looking at this not as a sports journalist is that when he was doing that on Friday it sure sounded like he was playing to some group of people by using that term sons of blank by being critical of African-American players.

Again, I have no idea what Donald Trump's motivation is. I don't think any of us can guess. But just from an outside view as a journalist looking at it sure seem look that he was playing to his base. And I guess that's worked so far for him. And I'm not a political scholar so I have no idea.

However, I do know this, that the NFL may well have a bigger megaphone and as much of a presence as on the national stage as Donald Trump. If there's anyone that can kind of go tit for tat with Donald Trump in terms of publicity, in terms of social media exposure, in terms of television coverage the NFL is probably it. So, after Donald Trump has been so critical of other over the last few

months and take in and gone after this or that group or what have you, you know, he may have picked on a group that, you know, might just be able to handle him. And looks so far it looks like they are.

So, again, if there's political capital for Donald Trump maybe. But in terms of the sports end of it and the cultural end I this is this is a big loss for Donald Trump after the first weekend.

HOWELL: Christine Brennan, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

BRENNAN: George, thank you very much.

[03:39:58] HOWELL: Still ahead, Germany's far-right party is celebrating its success in the country's election. But already there appears to be dissension among the party's leaders.

Details on an awkward press conference that just happened moments ago. Stay with us.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Now earlier we brought you a press conference from the leaders of Germany's far-right party which made major political progress at Sunday's general election. The Alternative for Germany or the AfD is set to become the third largest party in the federal parliament. But during the conference the leadership problem of the AfD became pretty evident.

HOWELL: And awkward moment here. The chairwoman said the AfD said the AfD should address the dissent within its own ranks and that she won't be the party's chairwomn in parliament. She then had walked out.

Let's get straight to senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen following this situation as well. Fred, what do you know?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Hi, George. Well, I mean, certainly anybody who says German politics is boring has probably learned their lesson today. This was really -- even the party itself the AfD said a bombshell when Frauke Petry who is one of the leaders of the party walked out of that press conference.

And you could see the other party chair people who were also at the podium there three of them are trying to get her back, saying they don't approve of what they call this behavior.

Now she was saying that she believes that the party needs to address what she calls the dissent within the party. And we do know that this party, the Alternative for Germany does have several sort of different kinds of strains. It was originally founded as a party of euro skeptics. So really antagonism towards the euro was really one of its main key points.

And really it was found by economics professors who felt that was one of the main things. Now what's happened since then is it's obviously very much latched on to the immigration issue. And if you looked at the podium today you had Frauke Petry who is much sort of a member of the moderate wing.

And then you had Alexander Gauland who is someone who is much more that fundamental wing who had some of these things that he said about migrants who said that Germans should be proud of their soldiers who fought in World War II just things that many people who are more moderate in that party did not approve of it.

[03:45:12] Frauke Petry is clearly one of them. And so, certainly this does show some of the fissures within that party and something that they certainly do need to address. And Frauke Petry quite frankly is a very, very powerful member of that party as well. She's the head of the wing in Saxony which got the best results for that party in this election.

So this is going to be certainly something folks are going to be speaking about here and really as they themselves said a bombshell right after this big election news that this party has had.

HOWELL: Right out of the gates, Fred, fair to say not a good start. Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen, live in Berlin. Thank you, Fred.

In Iraq, Iraqi Kurds are voting on an independence referendum at this hour. The United States, the United Kingdom, Iran, and Turkey all opposed the referendum. They're worried that it could spark fresh violence.

CHURCH: The U.S. backs Kurdish fighters in the battle against ISIS militants. Turkey said it doesn't recognize the referendum fearing unrest among its own Kurdish minorities.

Nima Elbagir is in Erbil in northern Iraq, she joins us now live. So, Nima, not a lot of support for this independence referendum from the international community. What are the expectations there and what could an independent Kurdish region mean for that part of the world? And of course, the fight against ISIS.

NIMA ELBAGIR, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, you can also add Iraq's central government to that very long list of people who are not particularly big fans of Kurdistan's experimenting self- determination. But they are going ahead the Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani has already cast his vote.

The expectation is that this will give them a mandate as they continue to spar with Iraq's central government. As you know, Rosemary and George, there have been a lot of concerns over the years about the sectarian nature of the Shia dominated government, the sectarian nature of the Iranian-backed popular mobilized forces that have been a big part of the fight against ISIS.

But Kurdistan itself is also a key, key strategic player. That's what can't be underestimated here that they know that they're playing with a very good hand. The U.S. as you said backs the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. And even as we are here observing the first votes being cast in the referendum there is a push to take back one of the key remaining ISIS stronghold Hawija.

And the Kurds permission to allow access to Kurdish territory is a big fight of the -- is a big part of the facilitation of that fight. Whatever happens next the Kurdish leadership know that their people here are behind them. There is a lot of support and a lot of emotions running very high as these votes are being cast.

Many of those we're speaking to, Rosemary and George, say that we know this isn't the best time but if not now, then when?

CHURCH: Indeed. Our Nima Elbagir monitoring and watching very closely that vote, many thanks to you for your live report.

We'll take a short break here, but still to come with no power and little cell service we will show you how people in Puerto Rico are trying to communicate with loved ones after hurricane Maria.


DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: I'm CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

Time for a quick update on hurricane Maria which has just now weaken slightly to a category one hurricane down from a category two. A 150 kilometers per hour still churning across the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

We do have tropical storm watches in effect for the outer banks of North Carolina. That is on the mainland of the United States. We have to follow the exact path to see exactly why we have tropical storm watches for that particular region. Tropical storm-force winds extend far away from the center of hurricane Maria. So it is possible that it interferes or interacts with the coastline of the Carolinas. It's just how far inland that will actually make.

We'll keep close eye on that as the model runs continue to progress over the coming days. Otherwise, record heat continues along the eastern half of the United States. We do have cooler weather in association with a trough that's going to dig in from the north.

Look at Denver only 12 degrees compare that to Chicago, 33 for the afternoon. If you're in the big apple on Monday to start off the work week 30 degrees. However, we do cool off dramatically as we head into the middle and second half of this week. Temperatures around 27 on Tuesday, 25 by Thursday.

We stay hot and humid of course for the Deep South including Atlanta and Charlotte.

HOWELL: Welcome back to Newsroom. The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico so much damage, devastation there. They still don't have running water or power. This of course after hurricane Maria ripped through that island.

CHURCH: And not only that, many residents are having a hard time reaching their loved ones because most of the cell phone towers are not working. And we get the latest now from CNN's Leyla Santiago.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: From above the images tell the story of Maria's destruction. But on the ground the faces tell the story of its desperation. As many on this island of 3.5 million people struggle to reach their loved ones.

JOSE FLORES, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: So this is only place where we could get signal.

SANTIAGO: On this highway overpass dozens pull over hoping that this spot is the one to reunite family if only by voice. Jose Flores drove for hours to get here to get t cell service to get to tell his daughter in Florida one thing.

FLORES: To let my family know that we're fine.

SANTIAGO: Or others borrowed satellite phones are their last hope. People are trying anything they can to reach out. This note handwritten passed along to our photographer in hopes that it would reach a loved one. It says among other things, "Tony OK. Tony at Frank's house, and love you all."

Later that day we were able to get a call out to his girlfriend in New York.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So it was just such a relief. Neither I nor his family has really slept all week just worrying about it.

SANTIAGO: An FCC report found 96 percent of cell towers in Puerto Rico are not working. The government here says it's trying to figure out which towers need generators and fuel to start working again. A small sign of hope on this island with so much to rebuild. For many here the first chance to talk is the first step to recovery.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

HOWELL: The tears in her eyes are so telling.

CHURCH: Exactly. And while Maria is a grim memory for the Caribbean that storm is still out there moving north. And our meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now with the latest just back from the region of course. But what's happening with that storm going forward?

VAN DAM: Can you believe that it's been nearly two weeks and we're still talking about hurricane Maria? Unbelievable.


VAN DAM: Coming from San Juan in Puerto Rico a major humanitarian effort underway there and it should continue. Because no electricity for the majority of the island, no communications, as you heard in that package just a minute ago. And also, many locations not having any running water.

[03:54:56] Now as we move into the Atlantic Ocean we're still talking about Maria. But the good news is there's been some slight weakening overnight from a category two to a category one. According to the National Hurricane Center 140 kilometer per hour sustained winds, that's 85 miles per hour. It's a large storm.

So we do believe that the outer fringes of hurricane Maria will actually reach the east coast of the U.S. That's why the National Hurricane Center has hoisted tropical storm watches across the Cape Hatteras region anywhere along the outer banks of North Carolina that's where you see that shading of yellow. The reason for this is because we have tropical force winds extending well over 150 kilometers from the center of the storm. Which by the way, will stay well offshore.

So that means no direct landfall in hurricane but that's not -- that doesn't mean that we won't have the effects. So you can see the large wind field will impact the Cape Hatteras region into Nags Head, for instance, all of the outer banks across the coastal areas of North Carolina by late Tuesday and into the day on Wednesday.

That's not the only concern. Large swells on the open ocean 6 to 9 meters. That equates to waves on the beach to about 7 to 10 feet. So well above head level. And that means there's dangerous rip currents across this area anywhere from Orlando, Florida. The coastal areas of Florida all the way to Cape Cod.

Rain will stay offshore, that's the good news. So no flooding expected across the east cot. But if that storm track just shifts a little further to the west we know how these things are a matter of -- it's game of miles. We've talked about that. So that could definitely alter our forest, so stay tuned.

CHURCH: Thanks for keeping an eye on that, Derek. We appreciate it.

HOWELL: Thanks, Derek.

CHURCH: And thank you for watching CNN newsroom. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. The news continues on CNN right after this break.