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NFL Feud Intensifies; Response to Puerto Rico; Heath Care Vote; North Korean Threat; Stone Testifies on Hill; Desperation Grows in Puerto Rico; North Korea Says War Declared. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 26, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] SEN. STEVE DAINES (R) MONTANA, APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Honor our national anthem. We honor the flag. You have millions of young people who are watching NFL players who they idolize. And I think it's very important that we just teach these principles of respect.

I understand the seriousness of the issues of what's being protested and I respect the fact and the right for them to protest. But to show it in a way on the field, showing disrespect to the flag is something that I don't think should be allowed.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What you just had was a reasoned discussion on the subject. You did not call anyone a son of a bitch, for instance, which is what the president did. You know, there are people who disagree with you. Pat Tillman's wife this morning overnight gave a statement to Brian Stelter who essentially said that -- let me read that. Pat's service, along with that of every man and woman's service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We're too great of a country for that. The point is, there is a disagreement there.

My question to you is, is this an important area for the president to focus on this morning with 3.5 million Americans suffering in Puerto Rico, North Korea taking aggressive measures, the health care bill teetering on the brink of disaster right now. Is this what you want the president focused on?

DAINES: Well, the president is spending a lot of time and focus and energy right now on the North Korean crisis, spending time on what's going on in Puerto Rico. The images coming out of Puerto Rico are absolutely devastating. And, of course, that is a U.S. territory. So I -- you know, and the president -- I'm grateful for the fact that he continues to stand to put America first, that he wants us, as a nation, to show respect to our flag.

So I respect the president. I respect his strong stance he's taking right now to bring this country together and to show respect. To bring us together in unity underneath our flag, the red, white and blue, the stars and stripes. And I think that's something that young people are watching right now. And, frankly, the division we see on the fields on the Sunday there at the NFL are not helping us bring this country together.

BERMAN: Again, I would only say the divisions aren't only on the NFL field. Some people are looking and seeing divisions coming from the White House as well.

But I do want to move on. You talked about concern for the people in Puerto Rico. Your fellow Republican senator, Ben Sasse, wrote this morning, the crisis for these Americans needs more attention and more urgency from the executive branch. The potable water problems are substantial.

DAINES: Yes. Yes, I --

BERMAN: Do you think -- go ahead.

DAINES: Yes, well, I agree. I agree with Senator Sasse. Senator Rubio was there surveying the damage just yesterday. The images are absolutely devastating.

This is a humanitarian crisis. And I think you're going to see soon much more attention and resources being applied toward Puerto Rico. But we have got to be there to help the people of Puerto Rico.

I think that this is somewhat of an underreported story. Certainly we've had a lot of issues with Harvey.

BERMAN: Right.

DAINES: With what happened in Florida with Maria. But I'll tell you, what's going on in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is utterly devastating. And I'm grateful that we have Senator Rubio, Senator Sasse out there speaking on behalf of it. I join them as we as a nation need to come together here and help the people of Puerto Rico.

BERMAN: To be clear, you're saying you're agreeing with Senator Sasse that there needs to be more urgency from the executive branch?

DAINES: Well, I think we need more urgency from the entire country at the moment. You know, Brock Long of FEMA has been -- have been engaged there. It's one of their highest priorities. We need to come together as a nation and make sure that Puerto Rico is taken care of.

BERMAN: Amen. I agree with that 100 percent. The things we keep on hearing for people who are there able to get messages out, paint a very, very dire portrait of what's going on.

Let me ask you about health care quickly. You know, Senator Collins came out overnight and said she will not support the Graham/Cassidy bill. I guess the only remaining question is, will it come to a vote on the Senate floor? Do you want the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to call for a vote? Do you want the Republican members of the Senate to be accountable for their opinions right now?

DAINES: Yes, we'll see. I think we'll have that discussion at lunch today. Based on my count, I don't think we have the votes to pass it. So I think it will be a decision --

BERMAN: Do you think still -- but do you still -- do you still want to take the roll call in the Senate? Do you still want a vote inside the Senate? DAINES: Well, now the leader and the team will come to a consensus on that today at lunch. I think it is important that members are held accountable for their votes. Ultimately your votes show where you stand on an issue. We'll see how it goes today. I guess, as I look at it through the whip count, I don't think the votes are there. We'll see coming out of lunch if that goes to the floor or not this week.

BERMAN: Senator, very importantly, you just returned from South Korea. You went to the demilitarized zone. You've seen firsthand the situation there and you've talked, most importantly, to South Korea officials, defense officials on the situation on the ground here. How do they see things right now?

DAINES: Yes. Right.

BERMAN: Are they pleased with the way this is going? Go ahead.

DAINES: Yes, well, I had the sobering discussion, first of all, with General Brooks (ph) and his team there. He's the commander of the U.S. forces there in Korea. As well as meeting with the defense minister, Defense Minister Song Young-moo (ph).

They are -- we have a unified command over there. And I'll tell you, we've got the South Koreans and the U.S. forces there on one page.

[09:35:00] But I'll tell you, it's sobering. You look at Seoul, 25 million people, 35 miles away from the border. You have a population density there four times that of Los Angeles. We have 300,000 Americans in South Korea, 30,000 military personnel. And then the North Koreans, of course, were focused on their nuclear threat and they present a grave threat to the United States, as well as the entire world. They also poses weapons of mass destruction, nerve gas. They've got 15,000 artillery pieces, many of which are pointed right now at Seoul, have the ability to hit Seoul within 30 seconds.

So this is a very serious issue. I'll tell you what, I am grateful for General Brooks, the U.S. command, working with the United Nations command, as well as the South Koreans, because I'll tell you what, this is -- this 25 years of failed policies from Republican and Democrats administrations over the past. We now have a North Korea that is very soon going to be able to put a nuclear missile on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, and that presents a grave threat to the continental United States.

BERMAN: Senator Steve Daines of Montana, thanks so much for the update from inside South Korea and thank you for your empathy on the matter of Puerto Rico as well. We all need to focus much more on that. Appreciate it, senator.

DAINES: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right, this morning, confident and sometimes adviser to the president, Roger Stone, is on Capitol Hill. We have some pictures of Roger Stone arriving just a few minutes ago. He will testify today for the House Intelligence Committee. This in the Russia election meddling investigation.

Manu Raju up on The Hill for an update.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Roger Stone, President Trump's 40-year friend and adviser just entered this secure committee room. And this coming as Democrats have long wanted to question him because of his reputation largely as a political trickster. Abut I can tell you that I read through his very lengthy statement that he provided to this committee and released publically and he really tried to settle a number of scores going after Democratic lawmakers by name, demanding public apologies from Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, Jackie Speier, another Democrat on the committee, and Eric Swalwell as well, saying that they have maligned his name and that he, quote, resents any suggestion that he colluded with Russia.

Now, there are a couple of instances in particular that Democrats have long wanted to question him about, as well as whether or not he's had any connection with Julien Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and whether or not he had any advanced knowledge of that DNC hack. He firmly denied both in this very combative, public statement.

Democrats in particular also want to question him about why he did not provide documents to this committee. I'm told by sources that he did not provide any documents, on his records with Russians. And one reason why, a sources tell me, is because there were no public -- private communications about any -- any communications that he had with Russians. No records, private records, only public. Anything he did -- he said they released publicly, including a Twitter exchange that he had with an alleged Russian hacker, Guccifer 2 (ph), about -- they had a direct message exchange on Twitter, an innocuous exchange, in Roger Stone's words, and something that he released publicly.

But expect him to come out and answer questions afterwards. As he went in, John, I asked him the message he wanted to send to the committee. He said the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.


BERMAN: Manu Raju, a flare for the dramatic from Roger Stone. Thank you very, very much.

Huge power outages, shortages of the most basic necessities. We're going to get a live update from Puerto Rico, next.


[09:42:48] BERMAN: This morning, the president receives a briefing on the suffering in Puerto Rico, six days since Hurricane Maria hit. Power's still out for most of the island. Food, scarce. Water, scarce.

CNN's Leyla Santiago on the ground in Puerto Rico.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This woman doesn't even know who I am, but I'm the first person she's seen land here since Hurricane Maria battered the island. The floods, the debris, the lack of power all making already hard-to-get-to areas even tougher to reach. Even FEMA hasn't set foot in some parts of Puerto Rico.

We took a chopper from San Juan to remote areas largely unseen, like a small town next to the Guajataca Dam on the northwest part of the island. The dam has been breached and the government ordered 70,000 nearby residents to evacuate.

It is here in nearby Garadia (ph) where I was met with such emotion. The people starving for assistance.


SANTIAGO (on camera): She says if something happens to that dam, that could be just as bad as the hurricane itself.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Communications are so poor, many are asking us to send messages to their families.

From the air, you can see why. More than 3 million U.S. citizens could remain in the dark for months.

SANTIAGO (on camera): This is the problem. This is why Puerto Rico, 100 percent of the island, doesn't have power right now. Granted, the infrastructure was vulnerable before Maria passed by, but you could see with these power lines down what the challenge is. They're completely collapsed.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Heading further inland toward Utuado, the death toll is among the highest here. This is where we meet 56-year-old Risario Edia (ph). She is diabetic, just had surgery, and is unemployed. Now, she doesn't have a home either.

This is what Maria did to her home. Water spewing from every corner. By now, she thought help would have arrived. It hasn't.


SANTIAGO (on camera): So she's hopeful that someone will help her.


[09:45:01] SANTIAGO: To be able to rebuild this.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Flying south to even more remote Yauco, the roads are blocked, forcing us to find another way to get to this home. Coffee grower Gaspacho Varnez (ph) and Doris Velis (ph) tell us the problem here is food. Most of what they have left has gone bad.


SANTIAGO (on camera): He says you work and work and work and it's for nothing because he's lost everything. SANTIAGO (voice-over): A common theme on an island of 3.4 million U.S.

citizens, now waiting and hoping that help is on the way.


SANTIAGO: And, John, I actually just had a conversation with the mayor. She pulled me aside. She was sobbing in tears. This was the mayor of San Juan. And she said, we need help, specifically in the hospitals. She said last night two people died in a hospital in an intensive care unit because they couldn't get diesel to that hospital in time. So, no generators. In the meantime, she says she has hospitals in San Juan that are hours away from being without power.

BERMAN: Leyla Santiago, thank you very much for the update. Thank you for your reporting. We are grateful. And I know the people of Puerto Rico are grateful as well.

One day after North Korea says it can now shoot down U.S. planes because the United States has declared war, that country moves military equipment to its coast. Stay with us.


[09:50:54] BERMAN: New this morning, North Korea moving planes and boosting its defenses along the coast. This comes one day after the country's foreign minister says that North Korea now has the right to shoot down U.S. planes because of a statement by President Trump that he says amounted to a declaration of war. The White House calls that conclusion absurd.

Joining me now to talk about this, General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander. He wrote the forward to this special edition, "United States Armed Forces: A Salute to America's Heroes."

General, thanks so much for being with us.

How concerned are you about this escalation? When you hear a senior North Korean official say the U.S. has declared war, that sounds alarming.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, it is alarming. That's the typical North Korean response to anything that the United States does that pushes them. So when they say that, though, we have to take that seriously because as we see now, they're moving assets and so forth.

We don't want them to shoot down one of our airplanes. If they try to do this, though, I'm sure that we have the right of self-defense. We'll go back at them. And this will further ratchet up the escalation.

What we really need is we need behind-the-scenes diplomacy to cut down the escalation, because there's no advantage gained in starting a low- level conflict here.

BERMAN: Are you concerned about the possibility of an accidental conflict with this rhetoric being the background?

CLARK: Well, the accidental conflict could occur by let's say some trigger happy North Korean missile man thinking he's obeying the dear leader's instructions and shooting down an American aircraft or shooting at an American aircraft, in which we case we respond by taking out the missile site. And that could lead to something. I don't think that would lead to an accidental war, but war by miscalculation is misunderstanding the intent of the other side. It's very dangerous in Korea right now.

BERMAN: Look, the exact statement that the North Korean foreign minister was referring to where he said that he believed the president declared war is when the president wrote on Twitter that, North Korea won't be around much longer. How --

CLARK: Well --

BERMAN: You know, what should they infer? What should the North Korean infer from that message?

CLARK: Well, I think the North Koreans are pretty smart in terms of interpreting American politics. So I think that inside the North Korean government they do understand what this is about. This is about playing to a domestic base. This is about a lot of braggadocio. This is about trying to ratchet up a crisis without starting a war. This may be about trying to pressure China.

But North Korea, by virtue of the way they operate, they never take a threat -- they never take it without ratcheting back up the escalation. That's the way the North always responds.

BERMAN: And moving the planes.

CLARK: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Moving the defenses to the coast. That's not far from where the U.S. planes fly when they fly. What message does that send?

CLARK: Well, it's one more step up the escalation ladder toward, as you suggest, an accidental war or a war by miscalculation. It's not reducing the chances of catastrophe in Korea, it's increasing them. And this is why we've said for a long time, the right thing to do is not to scale up the rhetoric, it's to work behind the scenes.

This is what we did in the Clinton administration when we got the original framework agreement in 1994. We were at almost this same position. We were talking about moving aircraft. The North Koreans were talking about, if you put an embargo in through the U.N., it's an act of war.

What we did instead, President Clinton sent President Jimmy Carter over and we cut the thing off. That could be done now. But has it been done? We don't know.

BERMAN: I want to ask you about something completely different, Iran, and something the president wrote over the weekend. He wrote this. He said, Iran just test fired a ballistic missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have.

So military officials tell CNN over the weekend they have no evidence that Iran did a ballistic missile launch over the weekend. Is the president getting information that the military is not getting? Does the president have to be more careful with his claims on Twitter? Maybe he was referring to something from months ago?

[09:55:09] CLARK: Well, I think it was something in the press that wasn't correct, that the president might have seen.

But the point is, if you go back and look at this, take it back to 2002, when President George W. Bush declared an axis of evil, he grouped these three countries, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea together. And, sure enough, they've worked together since then.

We went after the country that was the weakest and easiest to take care of in going into Iraq and we made a big mess of it. And now, President Trump is building on that sort of public lingering memory of linking geo strategy and morality to create crises and to whip up his base. This is extremely dangerous for the United States and for the world. And I'd like to see us resolve these problems with real leadership and real diplomacy.

BERMAN: General Wesley Clark, great to have you here with us. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

CLARK: Thank you.

BERMAN: In just minutes, we're going to hear from President Trump at the White House. What will he talk about? Will he talk about the crisis in Puerto Rico or will the fixation be on NFL rules.