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AT THIS HOUR
Trump Fires New Shots At NFL's Growing Protests; Residents Stranded: Food, Water Dwindling In Puerto Rico; Two Dead In San Juan After Hospital Runs Out Of Fuel; Trump To Visit Puerto Rico Next Tuesday; Lone Steeler Goes Viral But Feels "Embarrassed"; CNN Source: Trump Satisfied Feud "Really Caught On" Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired September 26, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Two major stories unfolding at this hour, a flood and a feud. Right now, 3.5 million Americans are facing a desperate humanitarian crisis, 3.5 million people. Let that set in. This is hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: We need to prevent a humanitarian crisis occurring in America. Puerto Rico is part of the United States and we need to take swift action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: The most basic necessities like food and water, are scarce. Power still out to the entire U.S. territory leaving folks there wondering if they've been forgotten by the U.S. mainland and forgotten by their federal government. That is not entirely where the president appears to be focused today instead, more like here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As they take a knee collectively, boos can be heard from the sellout crowd in Arizona.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Boos underscoring the divisions in the feud between President Trump and the NFL over silent protests during the national anthem. During Monday night football, the Dallas Cowboys and their owner, Trump supporter, Jerry Jones, dropped to a knee before the national anthem then stood and locked arms during the anthem.
The president seizing on that in a series of predawn tweets like this one, "The booing at the NFL football game last night when the entire Dallas team dropped to its knees was loudest I have ever heard. Great anger."
Let's get the latest on both of these major stories that takes us first to the White House and CNN's Joe Johns is there. So, Joe, the president has been talking about both of these things on Twitter, first, on the NFL, he has not given this up?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. He certainly isn't giving it up. I'll get to that in just a second. But we do have a bit of news I'm told coming out of a meeting the president just had with the House Ways and Means Committee, that's the tax writing committee.
We're told that the president spoke to reporters very briefly and told them that he does plan to visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday of next week. So, there had been a big question about when the president was going to get to the Caribbean, when he was going to get to Puerto Rico, as well as the United States Virgin Islands and now it appears he's going to Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
Of course, backtracking now to the issue of the NFL, there has been a question about whether the president was prioritizing Puerto Rico because of all the tweets he's put out on the issue of the NFL. You read some of them there, Kate.
Here's one that he put out this morning, "Ratings for the NFL, are way down except before the game starts when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected."
Now, that in itself is a questionable tweet just because if people are, in fact, tuning out after the top of the games it's not clear why, whether, for example, there's a lopsided score and they lose interest, or whether they're tuning in to see what happened with the players and they're kneeling protests.
Here's another tweet from the president, "While Dallas," this is a reference, of course, to the Monday night football game last night, between Dallas and Arizona, "While Dallas dropped to its knees as a team, they all stood up for our national anthem. Big progress," the president writes, "being made. We all love our country."
So, Kate, as you say, the president is not giving up on this. It plays very well to his base. He's been tweeting about this ever since he started talking about it last Friday night in a speech in Alabama and it's quite clear that he's not giving it up. Back to you.
BOLDUAN: Not giving it up. All right. We will be waiting to get some of the video in, Joe, and we will bring that to our viewers as we get it when you were discussing when the president spoke with reporters there.
All right. Let's -- let's focus in on Puerto Rico right now. The island in desperate need of help and action. It's been almost a week since Hurricane Maria ripped through the U.S. territory. Power is still out throughout the entire island.
We will show you satellite images to put the problem in stark relief. The picture on the top was taken in July. The one on the bottom taken just yesterday. Almost completely blacked out.
CNN's Rafael Romo is on the ground in San Juan for us and bring him in right now. Rafael, the need is desperate and the image of that desperation is becoming just more and more clear as the days go by. The airport is one thing. News from also the San Juan mayor that two people passed away in hospital overnight?
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: That's exactly right, Kate. That's just one example of the tragic consequences of Hurricane Maria here in Puerto Rico. There's a huge problem in terms of distribution of fuel and that has apparently caused the deaths of at least two patients.
[11:05:04] They were at an intensive care unit at a hospital here in San Juan and because they ran out of diesel the medical equipment that was being used to keep them alive was not operational and very unfortunately they perished.
So, it's just very, very tragic that we begin to hear stories like that. Let me also tell you, I was able to visit the medical center here in San Juan. It's the largest trauma center in the entire Caribbean and I was able to talk to --
BOLDUAN: I need to bring in right now President Trump speaking about Puerto Rico.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: -- because of the first responders and we don't want to disrupt the relief efforts. We're going through a lot. The mayor of San Juan was nice and generous and thanking us for the great job we've done with FEMA.
We really have, we've worked very hard in Puerto Rico. It's very tough because it's an island. In Texas, we can ship the trucks right out there and you know, we can do -- we've gotten a-pluses on Texas and Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico.
But the difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean and it's a big ocean, it's a very big ocean, and it -- we're doing a really good job. I want to -- I want to go there Tuesday seems to be the first time we can do without really disrupting first responders and the efforts being made to help people.
We have shipped massive amounts of food and water and supplies to Puerto Rico and we are continuing to do it on an hourly basis. That island was hit as hard as you can see. When you see 200-mile-an-hour winds, even Texas didn't have 200-mile-an-hour winds, right?
But when you see 200 and even more than that, 200-mile-an-hour winds hitting a place and literally houses are just demolished, like tornadoes, like having hundreds of tornadoes, the winds, so we've never seen it.
It actually touched down as a Category 5. People have never seen anything like that and it was dead center. I mean, you couldn't be anymore and don't forget a week before it got hit by another hurricane. That one brushed it but that did tremendous damage too.
So Puerto Rico has tremendous problems with floods and with damage and collapse and I mean, we're still looking for people. We're still looking for people. I will be going there on Tuesday and I pay also stop at the Virgin Islands.
The governor there has done a terrific job of -- I mean, he's been devastated, but he's done a terrific job, but he's been very generous what he said about the relief effort, the FEMA folks have worked so hard.
You know, we thought after Texas, they could take a little bit of a rest, FEMA, what they have done is incredible. So, they go from Texas to Florida, they happened to stop at Louisiana in between, and now Puerto Rico gets hit, but they've been there and doing a really good job. So, I'll be there on Tuesday and perhaps some of you will be with me. OK.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Puerto Rico is very important to me and Puerto Rico, the people, are fantastic people. I grew up in New York so I know many people from Puerto Rico. I know many Puerto Ricans and these are great people and we have to help them. The island is devastated.
It's -- I mean, some people say -- I read this morning, literally destroyed. The infrastructure was in bad shape as you know in Puerto Rico before the storm and now in many cases it has no infrastructure. So, it's -- you're really starting from almost scratch.
But these are great people. Wonderful people. They're hardy people. They'll be back but we're helping them -- I think we're really getting really good marks for the work we're doing. We are literally landing water, food, supplies, on an hourly basis and this is to an airport that has been devastated.
We're not talking about runways that are open and please land your plane right here. These runways are devastated and broken. The airports are broken. So those people are very important to all of us. I think I can speak for everybody sitting around this table.
So, we're working very, very hard on Puerto Rico and we're also getting tremendous efforts and we're sending tremendous amounts of supplies to the Virgin Islands.
BOLDUAN: All right. President Trump there talking about the relief efforts that are under way and maybe more to come from the federal government to Puerto Rico and also the U.S. Virgin Islands and also announcing his trip. He's going to be traveling to PUERTO Rico on Tuesday.
Joining me now to talk about the devastation and the damage and the response to Puerto Rico, Democratic Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez of New York. She, of course, was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the House. Hurricane Maria made landfall very near her hometown. Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining me.
REPRESENTATIVE NYDIA VELAZQUEZ, FIRST PUERTO RICAN WOMAN ELECTED IN U.S. HOUSE: Thank you for having me.
[11:10:06] BOLDUAN: I hope you had a chance to hear all of President Trump's remarks right there where he says that the U.S. territory is literally destroyed. The island was devastated and also that he'll be heading to Puerto Rico Tuesday. Your reaction?
VELAZQUEZ: Well, I'm happy to see that the president starts to comprehend the severity of this crisis in Puerto Rico. It is nice that we hear that he understands that basically the island has been destroyed.
And, therefore, the most fundamental duty of the president of the United States is to protect the homeland, that includes Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The fact of the matter is, that the administration has not been able to comprehend the fact that people in Puerto Rico are dealing with life and death issues.
It brought tears to my eyes when I hear that two people were -- died today or yesterday because they -- the machines were not fully operational. This is now a humanitarian crisis. It was a massive disaster that requires a massive response from the federal government. That has not happened.
BOLDUAN: Well, Congressman, I do want to ask you about that, because I'm hearing two different messages. From -- I hear that from you, I hear this from Republican Senator Ben Sasse, "The crisis for these Americans need more attention," he tweeted out, and "more urgency from the executive branch."
That's from Republican Ben Sasse. What we heard, though, from President Trump is we're getting big marks for the work that we are doing. He's talking about the federal response. Are you satisfied with how the president and the federal government has responded to Puerto Rico?
VELAZQUEZ: The coverage from the media is there for the people of this country to see that Puerto Rico has no power, no water, there are a thousand people in -- at the airport right now waiting to leave the island.
That there are 20,000 people waiting to take on the first flight leaving the island because there is no food, there is no water. People are looting right now because they are desperate.
What we need is a comprehensive plan from this administration to name a czar, three or four-star general, to oversee the whole relief effort, and the rebuilding of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. That is not happening.
I don't hear the president stated or telling the American people and the people in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands that this is the plan that he has to assist the people of Puerto Rico.
BOLDUAN: Do you blame a lackluster response for what we're seeing almost a week in Puerto Rico or do you also think that in some level it's the unique nature of Puerto Rico and being an island and how hard it was hit? Which is it do you think?
VELAZQUEZ: Well, it's a combination of so many factors. The reality is, Puerto Rico has been cut off from the rest of the world and it needed, based on the preliminary reports, when I came back with the governor of New York, we held a press conference, we explained the devastation, we begged for more aggressive response.
We need army there to help restore an infrastructure that doesn't exist at this moment and because of that, we are losing lives. People are dying. Let me say this we need to spend less time on putting out tweets and more time in addressing this humanitarian crisis because this is going to turn to be Mr. Trump's Katrina.
BOLDUAN: Do you want to see -- with that in mind when you invoke images of Katrina, do you want him to go and go there on Tuesday? You were just there on Friday. When he goes --
VELAZQUEZ: Well --
BOLDUAN: == what do you want him to see?
VELAZQUEZ: If that helps for him to really take a real -- to have a real understanding of the gravity of the situation in Puerto Rico, so that he basically deploys every resource that we have. We have done this before for other foreign countries. We have deployed the best and the best equipment to help provide the type of relief that is needed in order to --
BOLDUAN: And you do not see that happening right now for this U.S. territory?
VELAZQUEZ: No. I have not.
[11:15:06] BOLDUAN: You still have -- last I heard, that you have family there, that you had not been able to get in touch with, and that just shows -- if you can't get in touch with your family in Puerto Rico, just shows how devastating this hit is. Have you been able to get in touch with them?
VELAZQUEZ: Just with one sister the day before yesterday. She has to travel, I don't know, for 20, 25 minutes, to find a tower that allow her to make a phone call and we were on the phone for 5 minutes.
I learned that one of my sisters in San Juan lost everything because her house was flooded and that three brothers that she has been able to reach, that are fine. But then I have two other brothers that I have not been able to get any information.
So, this is my hometown, there was no way to be able to get there even when I went with Governor Cuomo. I did not want to interfere also with the search and rescue operations so I decided to come back without seeing them.
BOLDUAN: Can I quickly -- that's -- that is so sad you weren't able to see them. Can I quickly ask you, mid-October is the latest guidance that we have received when Congress will get an official emergency funding request to send more money to allow for more money to go to Puerto Rico, is mid-October is that good enough? VELAZQUEZ: No, it's not. No, it's not. And it is the responsibility of the federal government that when natural disasters strike, that we show up, that we bring the resources and it is responsibility of the leadership in the House, in the Congress to act immediately so we can save lives.
BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you so much for coming on and being the eyes and ears on the ground and so sorry to hear what has happened to your family and everyone there.
VELAZQUEZ: Thank you for the coverage because if it wasn't for you, the situation will be much, much worse. Thank you, and on behalf of my community, the Puerto Rican people, American citizens, we thank you for this type of coverage.
BOLDUAN: Thank you, Congresswoman. We'll stay in touch. Thank you so much.
A lot more to come. We will keep our eye on Puerto Rico and the devastation there. We are also going to be turning our focus here as well.
The Pittsburgh Steeler Army veteran who went viral for standing alone during the national anthem at their game now speaking out saying he has regrets how that played out, how he's embarrassed and never meant to be there by himself. New details coming up.
Plus this, the awkward proxy war that is setting -- playing out as we speak, pitting the president's base against the president's candidate. It's all part of the race to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. We are live in Alabama as voters hit the polls. We'll be right back.
BOLDUAN: So if you thought the president's feud with the NFL would end with Sunday night football or even Monday night football you were mistaken. The president still at it this morning on Twitter calling out teams by name for kneeling and seeming to delight in what he perceives as low tv ratings for the league.
Also, this morning, we are getting a better idea of just how much players and the teams are struggling with all of this. Pittsburgh Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lost sleep over the team's decision to not be on the field for the national anthem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN ROETHLISBERGER, PITTSBURGH STEELERS QUARTERBACK: I wish that we would have been on the field. That's my personal feeling on it. I'm entitled to that opinion. That's what's great about this country and what the troops are for. I wish we could have stood out there, but what was important was being united as well. That's what we showed, we showed unity. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Teammate Alejandro Villaneuva, a former U.S. Army ranger regrets appearing to stand alone as his teammates were in the tunnel behind him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEJANDRO VILLANUEVA, PITTSBURGH STEELERS OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: Whether I want it or not, my intended plan or not the reason I went out there by myself is the reason that is causing all this distress and making the organization look bad, my coach look bad, and teammates look bad. For anybody who thinks that Coach Tomlin is not as patriotic as you can get in America or any one of my teammates or the owner, I take offense to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Joining me now, one of the most iconic Steelers of all time, CNN Hines Ward. Hines, full disclosure, is a volunteer coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers during this past training season. It's great to see you, Hines.
HINES WARD, CNN SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR: No problem, any time.
BOLDUAN: You've been in touch with the team. What are they saying after all this?
WARD: Well, it's an unfortunate situation for Alejandro because he never wanted to be the focal point in all of this. I mean, he's just really miscommunication with what was going on in the team. He didn't know how far they were going out. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said moving forward that the team will be out for the anthem next week when they take on the Baltimore Ravens.
BOLDUAN: So they have a plan of what they're going to do now. The president, though, what is not planned and what no one can plan is what they will hear from the president next when it comes to this feud. The president tweeting about it.
This was the message he put out this morning. "The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can't kneel during our national anthem." What do you think the response would be from the league to that?
WARD: Well, from the league, I already know, there will not be a rule change. Commissioner Roger Goodell already came out saying that he would not -- nothing would happen, and he's not going to punish his players for protesting.
BOLDUAN: That actually leads me to something I've been wondering since this all started. Goodell, I remember seeing him on the Hill all the time. He's not one to shy away from meeting with -- meeting with the leaders of power, meeting with lawmakers to talk about things important to the NFL. All of this reporting, I mean, that the president is very pleased with how this played out and there is no sign that he will be backing down any time soon, do you think that Goodell should head to the White House and try to figure some way out of this to end this feud?
[11:25:13] WARD: No. I don't think so. I think he needs to stay out of the political world and just focus on being a commissioner for the NFL. I do believe he needs to come out and speak openly to the players, listen to the players about moving forward. I mean, we talk about unity as a league it starts with our Commissioner Roger Goodell.
BOLDUAN: Do you see this whole incident and it's not over yet, but do you see this whole thing as hurting the league or helping the league in the long run in some way?
WARD: Well, it can go either way. It's a sticky subject. It's like oil and water. But I mean, it hurts me to say this, but I think the Dallas Cowboys, they did it the right way.
You know, they were sensitive to both parties in the sense of trying to fight social injustice, meanwhile, you know, trying not to be disrespectful for the flag. You heard the fans kind of booing them early, but when they stood up for the flag, I think it was a way to please both parties.
BOLDUAN: You've been to the White House before, Hines. That's become a topic of conversation if athletes will be going to the White House. Some of them disinvited, which ever order of operation it is when it comes to the president. Do you think this is going to impact this back and forth on whether the next Super Bowl team heads to the White House?
WARD: I've been to the White House twice and it's a huge honor. When the president calls players SOB, that's taking it personal a little bit and so I think there has to be or needs to be an apology from the president to the players and to the NFL in order for that to happen. So, we'll see if that happens.
BOLDUAN: We will see. That is one that's the only certainty is you and I will see together. Great to see you, Hines. Thank you.
WARD: No problem, Kate.
BOLDUAN: All right. Let's continue the discussion, though. Joining me right now A. Scott Bolden, a former chairman of the D.C. Democratic Party. I'm sure you probably played football in high school, Chris Cilizza, reporter and editor-at-large for CNN Politics, probably, I don't know, Chris, did you play football in high school?
CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Let's be honest with each other --
BOLDUAN: I -- OK. Nothing else needs to be said. Jason Miller, I bet you busted some heads, CNN political commentator and former communications adviser for the Trump campaign. When did you play football, Jason? JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I played my first two years in high school. Not particularly well.
BOLDUAN: There we go.
MILLER: My head probably got busted a lot more than the other guys but had a lot of fun playing.
CILIZZA: I played when I was smaller by the way.
BOLDUAN: Peanuts. It's the highlights of your life. All right. Let's get to it, Jason, the president is not giving up on this. Let's talk about the politics. Hines talked really eloquently about the view from the league and what this is -- the struggle this presented for the players.
But from the president's perspective, Jason, the president is not giving up. Jim Acosta is reporting he's actually quite satisfied with how this is playing out saying it's caught on. Why is he itching for a fight on something like this when so many other problems are facing him right now?
MILLER: Well, Kate, I haven't spoken directly with the president about this and so I can't speak to the accuracy about the mood going into this, but I know that one of the things the president is passionate about is that the national anthem should be a unifying event.
This should be something where we're honoring people who have given their lives in defense of our country. Current service men and women and first responders who are keeping us safe at it is right now and the whole reason why this is happening is because there's a frustration and anger by these players that are going on the field and disrespecting our national anthem.
So, when President Trump is voicing his opinion on this, he's speaking for millions around the country who see that activity and say you know what you are your right to first amendment and free speech, but don't do it disrespecting our flag and national anthem. This is something people are really fired up about.
BOLDUAN: Scott, what do you think?
A. SCOTT BOLDEN, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE WASHINGTON, D.C., DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, Kate, I think the president is operating from a base of ignorance, if you will. First of all, these players aren't protesting the national anthem, aren't protesting the flag or the war or the soldiers.
They're protesting racial injustice, police brutality and the imperfections of this country and the racial divide. Now if that's true and I know that to be true, why isn't Donald Trump attacking the underlying reason for the protests themselves.
For example, Rosa Parks wasn't protesting the bus. She was protesting racial injustice. Ghandi wasn't protesting food. He was protesting injustice in his homeland.
So, while the First Amendment is difficult and what have you, you cannot oppose their right because the people who fought for this country and our way of life fought for those players to have the very right to do what they're doing.
It's highly inappropriate for the president including talking about them as SOBs. When you do that you talk about their mothers as well.
BOLDUAN: Jason, what about that? That's one thing that Hines said. That the president took it personal and that's where the problem really lies.
BOLDEN: Highly inappropriate, highly.
MILLER: I have to disagree with Scott's logic and quite frankly, I think it's flawed logic here. I don't see --