Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea Accuses Trump of Declaring War; Japan's Abe Calls for Election; Taking a Knee; Dominica Struggles in Hurricane Aftermath; Iraqi Kurds' Defiant Vote. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 26, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:11] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea is making one of their most dangerous claims yet and they're threatening to shoot down American military planes.

VAUSE: America's team takes a knee Monday night while sources tell CNN the U.S. President is very satisfied his attacks on the NFL silent protest, in his words, have really caught on.

SESAY: And a week after Hurricane Maria, the island of Dominica has yet to receive any official aid. We'll talk to a business owner who has lost everything and is taking relief effort efforts in her own hands.

VAUSE: Hello, everybody. Great to have you with us, I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

Well, the White House insists the U.S. has not declared war on North Korea calling that suggestion "absurd".

VAUSE: Monday North Korea's foreign minister accused the U.S. president of declaring war with just a single tweet.


RI YONG HU, NORTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Last weekend Trump claimed that our leadership wouldn't be around much longer and hints at last he declared a war on our country.

Given the fact that this comes from someone who's currently holding the seat of the United States presidency, this is clearly a declaration of war.


VAUSE: And that came with the very specific threat to shoot down U.S. aircraft even if they're not in North Korean air space.

SESAY: Well, U.S. Defense officials say U.S. Naval exercises off the Korean Peninsula will go on as scheduled next month.

CNN's Bed Wedeman is in Tokyo and joins us now. Ben -- good to have you with us.

What more can you tell us about these exercises? We've been told they will go on. But will they be modified in any way in light of North Korea's assessment that the U.S. has made a declaration of war?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. We understand they will go on as scheduled. And, of course, we understand for instance that following that flight of the U.S. B-1 bombers along the eastern coast of North Korea over the weekend that according to Yonhap, the South Korean News Agency that the North Korean armed forces have moved some aircraft to the eastern coast and are bolstering their defenses.

So certainly, they're taking measures in the passage sort of in the event that there might be hostilities. But basically it's still really just a game of words and waving sticks around to a certain extent.

It is important to keep in mind that in the past, for instance, I mean we did hear Ri Yong-Ho, the North Korean foreign minister in New York saying that North Korea might shoot down U.S. strategic bombers off the coast of North Korea.

There is a history in fact of North Korea doing that sort of thing. On the 15th of April, 1969 which happened to be the birthday of Kim Il-Sung the first leader of North Korea. North Korean Forces did shoot down a U.S. reconnaissance airplane that was flying, according to the U.S., about 50 miles off the coast of North Korea.

The North Koreans claimed that the plane actually entered their air space. It ended with the killing of 31 American service personnel on board.

The United States, however, at the time was embroiled in the Vietnam War and took no action. Although President Richard Nixon did threaten that they would never allow the North Koreans to do that again.

Now, at the time, the North Korean military forces were in somewhat better shape than they are now. We understand that their air force, their missile forces are somewhat out of date. Sometimes their aircraft don't even have the fuel to fly. So it's questionable whether they really have much more to back up their threat with -- Isha.

SESAY: All right. Ben Wedeman joining there with some perspective from Tokyo. Ben -- appreciate it as always. Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, for more on this, joining us Democratic strategist Matthew Littman, CNN political commentator and Republican consultant John Thomas, and in San Francisco Paul Carroll, senior adviser at N Square an organization which seeks to reduce the risk from nuclear weapons.

And Paul -- I would just like to start with you. The Korean War ended with an armistice not a treaty which means that essentially the U.S. and North Korea remain at war.

Pyongyang often threatens the United States, you know, threatening to, you know, embroil it in a sea of fire. This time, though, we've got the North Korean foreign minister including a specific threat to shoot down American planes.

Firstly, do the North Koreans have the ability to be able to back up that threat? And does that matter? Is the threat in and of itself enough to be concerned about?

[00:05:06] PAUL CARROLL, SENIOR ADVISER, N SQUARE: I think it's something less concerning than their statement a couple of days ago about the possibility of exploding a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

I think today's statement by Foreign Minister Ri is not particularly provocative given when happened over jus the last 72 hours. I'm not saying it doesn't matter but we have heard this kind of statement over the years about a declaration of war before. And as you said yourself and your correspondent said we are technically still in a state of war.

Now, North Korea itself is very much on a war footing every single day, its entire population, its propaganda machine. The United States, not so much.

So I wouldn't say that this is meaningless. I think the threat to fire at a B-1 or another American aircraft is just that, it's a rhetorical threat. I think it's highly unlikely they would do that because frankly I think they would fail and then they would look even weaker.

SESAY: John Thomas -- to you, the entire existence of the North Korean leadership, the cohesiveness of its society is predicated on this notion that they're under threat, that they're likely to be attacked imminently.

When President Trump stands on the U.N. stage and says, you know, they would be totally destroyed or tweets that they won't be around for much longer, isn't he just playing into their hands, reinforcing that very same narrative which could have desperate consequences?

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes. On the one hand, I see the statement today as North Korea's just propaganda machine to reinforce to its people that they are the victims but Trump's audience is different. It is the people of North Korea. It's the world.

SESAY: It's not the citizens we're worried about. It's the fact that Kim Jong-Un --

VAUSE: His audience don't have nuclear weapons.

THOMAS: Well yes, his audience does because he's talking to other countries and he's saying we need to band together to stop North Korea. So that's his audience when he's talking at the U.N. So I think he is striking the right tone here.

And the idea that, you know, Trump with a tweet is making a declaration of when North Korea is launching test missiles. I mean, they're actually like starting a war by their actions so I just think it's disingenuous.

MATTHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Hard to see how Trump is taking the right tone in this situation and not worsening the situation. Since Trump has come into office, the North Korea situation has gotten markedly worst. So it's hard to say that Trump is handling it well. It has gotten worse and worse.

VAUSE: Ok. So this is a stated U.S. foreign policy right now. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had to clear up a few little issues on Monday.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have not declared war on North Korea. And frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd.

It is never appropriate for a country to shoot down another country's aircraft when it's over international waters. Our goal is still the same. We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.


VAUSE: Matt -- you know, this seems to be part of the normalization of a foreign policy which is anything but normal right now. I mean for her to -- Sarah Sanders to say, by the way, we have not declared war on North Korea. Relax, everybody.

LITTMAN: There are a couple of important things here. First of all, you have a leader who seems to be a little bit unhinged, doesn't care that millions of people in his country don't have electricity, seems to want to show off his military all the time. And then you Kim Jong- Un, the leader of North Korea who also has many similar qualities it seems to Trump. They keep trying to one up each other on Twitter or these statements which is ridiculous.

Second of all, the United States doesn't have the same alliances that it did just a couple of years ago around the world. So in terms of trying to build up those relationships, a lot of these countries don't want to side with the United States like they used to because Donald Trump has offended a lot of these countries.

SESAY: Paul Carroll -- to you, as we talk about the new stated play and looking at the central characters involved, President Trump and Kim Jong-Un. Is there a diplomatic off ramp here or is that well and truly done for, especially in light of these latest comments from the North Korean foreign minister? CARROLL: I think the off ramps are vanishingly thin. In fact, the

statement that you played from spokeswoman Sanders, the other thing she said that wasn't in that tape was that we are continuing with maximum economic and diplomatic pressure -- period.

There was no statement about other things on offer, other kinds of off ramps. It has been made very clear we have lots of sticks. We have bombers. We have missiles. We have alliances. We have military hardware.

What's on offer to the North Koreans if they changed their behavior? Crickets are chirping. That's what's missing in this recipe, not only diplomatic off ramps but the minute it became personal through President Trump's statement at the U.N. and he got the response he got from Kim Jong-Un I fear that we have forgotten that there are 23 million North Korean human beings and there are millions of Japanese and South Korean human beings. It's not just about the two bullies on the playground.

VAUSE: South Korea's foreign minister warned that North Korea will carry out more provocations. In other words more nuclear tests, more missile launches in the coming days and weeks.

[00:10:06] Also added this, "It is imperative that we, Korea and the U.S. together, manage the situation with astuteness and steadfastness in order to prevent the further escalation of tensions or any kind of accidental military clashes in the region which can quickly spiral out of control."

John -- many have made the point that the U.S. president right now is doing precisely the opposite of what he should be doing. Right now he's goading Kim Jong-Un. He should be basically staying silent. He should be leaving this to essentially a very experienced foreign policy team around him. He is making things worse.

THOMAS: Well, I think he is. I mean well, he is letting Rex Tillerson do his job. But at the same time, he's trying to project strength and letting this bully know that he can't bully us around.

I mean part of the reason he finds himself in this heap of crap is because multiple presidents -- not just President Obama -- have let it escalate to this point. And now Trump's going look, I have to fight fire with fire. I can't let this guy walk all over the United States. It's not a pretty situation.

SESAY: And Matt, to pick up on what John said that the President finds himself in a heap of crap, to use John's word, because of previous presidents. But the argument could be that it is this president's use of language, playing fast and loose with language, that has put him in a box of his own making.

LITTMAN: Well, also as I said before because the situation's gotten worse since Donald Trump became president. Why is that? Part of the reason is that Donald Trump keeps escalating the situation.

So now we are in a situation where if Kim Jong-Un doesn't act and he is locking weak to his own generals. If Donald Trump doesn't act then maybe we look weak, too. So we're escalating the situation over and over again. We have to take this down.

We don't even have an ambassador to South Korea. There aren't people at the state department and in these roles that normally work behind the scenes because they have chosen not to put those people in place. That's part of the situation we're in the situation we're in.

THOMAS: It's also because we have allowed Kim Jong-Un's missile program to mature to the point where he can do these successful test launches.

LITTMAN: Well -- but it's interesting because we also have a situation where in Iran we may get rid of the Iran deal which would allow Iran to build so we'd get into the same situation there. So --


LITTMAN: Yes, go ahead.

VAUSE: Sorry. I just want to bring Paul back here because, you know, essentially if you want to play a game of chicken, North Korea's probably the worst country you want to play that game with -- right?

CARROLL: Absolutely. I mean it's interesting. I agree with elements of what both John and Matt are saying. The problem is each leader here is now aiming for the perfect. And the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good.

The day is passed when we are going to have a North Korea that does not have some nuclear capability and missile technology to go with it. The question is, are we willing to risk a regional and possibly a nuclear war to stop that? That's the question.

Or can we live with something less? Can we live with a managed North Korea in the state it is? And then think about the medium to long term. The State Department spokeswoman talked about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. Ok - -great. Maybe that's a 2040 goal. But that's not an October 2017 goal. I think we have to get realistic about what's possible and avoid a war.

SESAY: John -- Paul, great point. And I want to put to John that very point. Has this administration really accepted that? I mean I hear you say past administrations have. Past administrations have failed to contain North Korea. I think that is fundamentally to ignore the fact that there are no good options when it comes to North Korea and there hasn't been good options for a very long time.

VAUSE: Let me just add. When Obama was president, it was like when is he going to stop blaming George W. Bush? When is Donald Trump going to stop blaming all those who came before him?

THOMAS: Well, I don't think President Trump is sitting around going it's all their fault on the North Korea issue. In fact, I think he's dealing with it head on unless you have a quote that I'm unaware of but -- in the can. VAUSE: There's plenty of them.

THOMAS: No. I don't think it's -- it's just historical reference. I don't think you sit there and go I can't -- I don't have any good options because they screwed it up.

No it's just a state of how things are and look, I think President Trump --

SESAY: But that's to suggest that they could have done it -- he could have done something --

LITTMAN: There is no benefit to escalating the rhetoric. There's no question -- it is a very tough problem. Obama when he met with Trump beforehand said this is the biggest problem you're going to face. This is a big problem.

But in reality North Korea's probably going to have a nuclear weapon and in reality there may not be a lot that we could do about it. So we have to -- yes, it would be great if the regime changed North Korea. That's not happening any time soon. We are going to have to find a way to live with this.

THOMAS: When you saw Trump allowing his generals to speak, like General Mattis -- so I think he's trusting the right people here but you also saw a leak, what, a couple of weeks go from Steve Bannon saying exactly what Matt said. They have got us.

VAUSE: Well, the Japanese Prime Minister has called a snap election. A lot of the reasons for that is the threat coming from North Korea. This is what he said.


SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): In a national crisis with a shrinking and aging population, as well as a tense situation with North Korea, I'd like to stand on the front line and exercise strong leadership to deal with this national crisis.

[00:15:00] Election which is the basis of democracy should not be swayed by North Korea's threat. Rather, I believe we need to call an election and get approval from the public for the counter measure against the North Korea issues.


VAUSE: Ok. To CNN's Ben Wedeman in Tokyo. Ben -- Mr. Abe says this is a national crisis, but it's a national crisis which has also been pretty good for his approval numbers.

WEDEMAN: Yes, indeed -- John. Just few months ago, in fact, his approval ratings were in the Trumpian area. But thanks to Kim Jong-Un and the North Korean nuclear crisis he is now hovering around 50 percent and he sees that it's time to take advantage of that situation and call these early elections which maybe is held around the 22nd of October. And of course, this crisis also allows him to perhaps get a little closer to his goal of amending the American-imposed constitution which was introduced after World War II, a pacifist constitution and specifically he would like to amend Article IX which bars Japan from maintaining the ability to wage war.

So even though there are many Japanese who oppose that amendment, certainly, given the circumstances, it would allow him to have the opportunity to transform what are now known as the self-defense forces. About 2,000 personnel who are strictly barred from any sort of foreign deployment except as part of U.N. peacekeeping forces into something more like a modern war machine that would be able to perhaps take part in any sort of military action in the event that there are hostilities with North Korea -- John.

VAUSE: It would be a watershed moment. Professor Wedeman in Tokyo -- thank you.

SESAY: Thank you -- Ben. Also our thanks to Matt Littman and John Thomas -- always appreciate it.

VAUSE: And Paul Carroll as well.

SESAY: Oh, and Paul Carroll. Sorry, Paul.

VAUSE: In San Francisco. Long way away but with us in spirit. Thanks -- guys.

A short break here.

When we come back the White House defending President Trump and his feud with NFL players. We'll tell you that the chief of staff is now weighing in and he says the protests during the national anthem is appalling.

Plus, the Dallas Cowboys are known as America's team. How they responded during their Monday night match-up with Arizona.


VAUSE: Welcome back -- everybody.

Donald Trump's feud with protesting football players within the NFL is now heading into overtime. The Dallas Cowboys took a knee before the national anthem during their Monday night game against the Arizona cardinals. Both teams then locked arms during the anthem.

[ESAY: Well Monday, Mr. Trump tweeted "Tremendous backlash against the NFL and its players for disrespect of our country. Stand for our anthem".

[00:20:02] And Vice President Mike Pence, well got in on the issue also.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I stand with President Donald Trump. And I will always stand for our national anthem.

Folks, we've all got a right to our opinions but I don't think it's too much to ask the players in the National Football League to stand for our national anthem.


VAUSE: Back with us this hour Democratic strategist Matthew Littman and Republican consultant John Thomas; also from Austin, Texas former college football player and U.S. Army Green Bert Nate Boyer.

Ok. So we are hearing that many within the administration are far from happy that the President keeps this issue going on the front burner. That he's even involved in the first place.

Even so the White House chief of staff, John Kelly told CNN that he is appalled by a lack of respect shown to the flag. Here's what he said, "I believe every American, when the national anthem is played, should cover their hearts and think about all the men and women who have been maimed and killed. Every American should stand up and think for those three lousy minutes."

So Nate -- with all due respect to General Kelly, you're a former Green Beret. You specifically worked with Colin Kaepernick, the guy who started this protest in the first place about finding an appropriate way to protest.

NATE BOYER, FORMER NFL PLAYER AND GREEN BERET: Yes. I mean, personally I want everyone to stand, too. I don't think they're lousy minutes, those three minutes are very special minutes to me.

And you know, that's why when we have at our sporting events before they play the anthem they ask everyone, would you please rise, you know. It's sort of an invitation.

And I would love it if everybody felt that pride in country that I feel in those moments. But if they don't, they're suffering from something and they feel like there's issues that need to be addressed and they don't feel inspired to stand, I understand that. I support that right. That's a right that I --

VAUSE: Nate just -- if I missed (inaudible) specifically, how did you come up with -- just remind us because I know we've done this before but it's been a while. Just remind people specifically how you came to this idea of kneeling during the anthem as a way of protest?

BOYER: It was Colin Kaepernick and I came to it mutually just through conversations, you know. He was sitting initially in protest and I sat down with him for couple of hours when his whole team was starting out and he was looking for a little bit of guidance and opinion and kind of my perspective.

Together, we came to this idea of him taking a knee because I thought it was more respectful and showed that he was willing to give a little bit and show some respect to, you know, not only the anthem itself but those who maybe died for what that flag and song represents.

SESAY: John -- the Dallas Cowboys, your team.

THOMAS: My team.

SESAY: Your team.

THOMAS: I know.

SESAY: America's team locked arms as we said right at the beginning. They took a knee but not during the anthem itself.

Since President Trump's comments really essentially about Kaepernick who kicked this all off and other players lairs; we have seen players, we have seen coaches, we have seen owners of teams. We have seen veterans take a knee and say that they stand with player and anyone's right to peacefully protest. Did the President make a miscalculation here by taking on this fight?

THOMAS: I don't think he did at all. In fact, I think he's winning. I mean first of all, the ratings are down after Sunday's game. We'll see what happened on Cowboys night tonight but ratings are down.

LITTMAN: Ratings are not down.

SESAY: CBS has said they had the highest rating that they had --

THOMAS: No. On Sunday night their ratings -- well we can argue about that but --

VAUSE: And various parts of the country that are dealing with the aftermath of massive disasters.

THOMAS: Ok. But regardless, I think President Trump's point was not that Colin Kaepernick or other people can't disagree and their right to free speech is not protected and encouraged them to speak.

I think his point was just not during the national anthem. For me when I go to a Cowboys game, my favorite part of the game is the national anthem because although I know in that stadium there's a lot of people that disagree with me politically, for that one moment we come together be we live in a great country that provides opportunities for everyone.

THOMAS: It's just a nice moment of solidarity to break that up with a form of protest speech doesn't seem appropriate. I think that was Trump's point. And I think not only Trump's base agrees with that but I think Americans are going to agree with that.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, here's a reminder from last year from Kaepernick about why he is, in fact, protesting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COLIN KAEPERNICK, NFL PLAYER: The media painted this as I'm anti- American, anti-men and women of the military. And that's not the case at all.

[00:25:00] You know, I realize that men and women of the military go out and sacrifice their lives and put their selves in harm's way for my freedom of speech and my freedoms in this country and my freedom to take a seat or take a knee.

So I have the utmost respect for them --


VAUSE: Matt, do you think the President understands what this protest is about. I mean he says it's not all about race.

LITTMAN: Well, I think -- the President clearly wants to divide the country on race. That's what's going on here. And when he refers to the players the way he refers to the players and then the next day a lot of the players are out there taking a knee, this is now become a protest against the President not what Kaepernick intended it as.

And I'll tell you that when it first started with Kaepernick I thought that's not the best way to get out your message during the national anthem.

You should actually stand up for the national anthem otherwise people don't know what the message is that you're trying to send.

However, now I think that because Donald Trump has brought this up to the place that it's in, it has become an issue of Donald Trump and the injustice that a lot of people feel exists in this country.

This is a peaceful form of protest. I don't think -- I think Trump's whole goal is to divide the country -- right? He is a divider, not a uniter. And that's what he's trying to do here. I don't think the country's going to support him, segments of the country will.

SESAY: John -- I think it is interesting, you know -- as a non- American, you know, anyone can tell by listening to me -- that the President seems to be framing this conversation around Kaepernick as being one that the protesters and those who follow in his footsteps as not being patriotic, not loving this country, about it going against the essence of this country.

But what they're doing is part of the essence of this country, is it not? The first amendment -- to be able to protest. I mean it seems a little incongruous to me.

THOMAS: Well -- again, Trump is not saying he doesn't have the right to protest. He's saying don't do it there. I mean you have to think Kaepernick is --

SESAY: But that's not how it goes.

THOMAS: Because of this country, Kaepernick has the ability to make million of dollars a year, sit in the stadium, you know have that platform --

SESAY: Nobody's giving him those millions. He is working for those millions. There's a notion that people are handing these millions to him.

THOMAS: But your --


SESAY: He's not protecting his right to protest.

THOMAS: No. But in that moment, it's to pay homage and respect to the nation that afforded you these opportunities to have those achievements rather than making it a political statement.

SESAY: Let me ask you this because this is not an original point on my part and it has been said over and over again. When President Trump during the campaign said make America great again, that notion this country wasn't great. Nobody took umbrage with that.

You know, this segment of the population now take umbrage with what Colin Kaepernick is suggesting which is that parts of this country are not great.

THOMAS: Yes. If you were doing it during the national anthem, I would have an issue with it. Doing it on the campaign trail I don't think is a problem. Colin Kaepernick has a Twitter account. Lebron James has just 500,000 followers short of what Donald Trump has. If they have beefs, they have other ways to get out these messages just not during the national anthem.

LITTMAN: Donald Trump could not manage to figure out in Charlottesville. He thought everybody was equal basically, right. I mean that's what he said to Charlottesville. They're all fine people. I mean, you know -- that's the biggest softball you can get is Nazis are bad and Trump's (inaudible) that was a miss.

But in this case, of course, he's able to go after these people who are African-Americans which is really he's going after them because Trump's whole goal is to divide the country.

THOMAS: You're inferring into something he never said.

VAUSE: I want to bring --

LITTMAN: That's right. I am inferring it but it is true in other ways that he's shown racism --


LITTMAN: -- which he's doing in this case.

In other words, why did Donald Trump send out a tweet during the campaign that said 80 percent of homicides against white people were committed by black people and the opposite is true? No one asked him. Why did he say that? THOMAS: I can't -- you'd have to ask him.

VAUSE: Nate -- I want to bring up another point because up until 2009 football teams weren't even on the field during national anthem. It's only when -- well, the military started, you know, paying the NFL a lot of money to essentially support the troops and improve its image that, you know, this sort of -- the anthem started taking on sort of a little bit more than it was before.

Is that how you understand it?

BOYER: That's not completely true. That is true in that timeline but originally -- an interesting note about the national anthem. The song is actually "Star Spangled Banner" and in 1917 it was first played at sporting events during the World Series in the midst of World War I to honor the military. That's the reason they started doing it.

So the essence of the anthem being played at sporting events is the honor the military originally. Now, over time, you know, things have obviously changed. Didn't even become the national anthem until 1934.

But one of the reason it became it is because of that tradition through sporting events and you can look this all up. There's a great article about it by (inaudible). And it's very interesting but that's where that came from.

So that's been lost over the years, obviously that the reason we play the "Star Spangled Banner" originally at sporting events is to honor the military.

VAUSE: Matt -- finally to you, right now the President has to deal with Puerto Rico which is basically devastated; 3.5 million Americans are struggling for their lives. Texas with Harvey, Florida with Irma. He's staring down at a nuclear confrontation with North Korea.

[00:30:07] How does he have time to tweet about the NFL?

LITTMAN: Well, he has time to tweet about the NFL and time to watch "Fox and Friends" and time to watch -

LITTMAN: Well, he has time to tweet about the NFL and time to watch "FOX and Friends" and time to watch all the things that Donald Trump watches on TV.

I don't think that Donald Trump deals with all of these situations that you're mentioning. That's how he has time. Let's remember health care is failing in Capitol Hill; Donald Trump hasn't pushed it. Tax reform's really not going anywhere, infrastructure not going anywhere.


LITTMAN: North Korea situation --


LITTMAN: -- North Korea's situation's getting worse, right?

And then we have the hurricane situation in Puerto Rico, where millions of people are without power and if you add that Donald Trump tweet from today, he's basically saying that they're bankrupt and it's their fault, if you have that tweet that he sent out a few hours ago.

VAUSE: And with that, we shall say thank you.

LITTMAN: Thank you.


VAUSE: And John and Nate as well. Thank you so much.


VAUSE: God bless America. Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you.

VAUSE: We will take a short break. When we come back, millions struggling in the wake of Hurricane Maria. There is now an urgent plea from Puerto Rico's governor to avoid a mass exodus.

SESAY: And if Hurricane Maria's private in Dominica, the situation is just as critical. We'll talk to a storm survivor from there in just a moment.




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour:


VAUSE: A week after Hurricane Maria millions in Puerto Rico are still without food or water and there's no sign now (INAUDIBLE) will be repaired anytime soon. The storm created a dire situation on the island which is already struggle with an economic crisis.

FEMA's administer and Homeland Security adviser are in Puerto Rico to assess the devastation.

SESAY: They'll brief U.S. president Donald Trump on the situation on Tuesday. Late Monday, President Trump tweeted about Puerto Rico, making his first direct comment on the disaster in days. The governor says the U.S. --

[00:35:00] SESAY: -- territory is facing a humanitarian crisis and he's urging Congress to send aid to help the island recover.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want this bill -- the resources that would've been allocated to another state because we're U.S. citizens, proud of that and have the flexibility to execute in financing as well.

If this is not done, if proper care is not taken for Puerto Rico, I'm afraid we will succumb into a humanitarian crisis and you will see a massive exodus of Puerto Ricans into the United States.


VAUSE: The island of Dominica was Maria's first target in the Caribbean. The prime minister says the storm killed 27 people and destroyed the country's agricultural and tourism sectors.

SESAY: The country is known for its lush greenery but, sadly, not anymore. Now, as you see those pictures, it looks more like a wasteland. the United Nations says about 80 percent of the population was affected by the storm and there's an urgent need for food and water.

VAUSE: Among those who have lost so much, Liz Chears (ph) is one of them. She lost two businesses when Hurricane Maria hit Dominica and she join us now from the island of Guadalupe.

Liz, thank you for being with us. It seems Dominica is just a giant debris field and you'd been back there. When you look at it, that must be incredibly difficult to deal with just emotionally as well.

LIZ CHEARS (PH), HURRICANE MARIA VICTIM: Yes, it's very hard to see the island in this way. It was the most beautiful island of the Caribbean. And it's devastating.

VAUSE: Now you and your husband, Richard, you were both on the island when Maria hit. And we've seen the destruction it's caused to your business there.

But how terrifying was it when the storm blew over?

Did you ever have fears for your safety?

CHEARS (PH): Of course. Of course. It was very scary. We were in the bathroom of one of our buildings, the downstairs bathroom. And we thought we would be safe there. We've had a concrete roof but about midway through the storm, we had to evacuate that building because the river was coming down so heavily. It became a landslide. And we had to evacuate pretty much in the middle of the storm, in the eye.

We (INAUDIBLE) and pulled up what's in them (ph) and their door blew off. So we stood in our house, holding a mattress to their door for the last three hours of the storm. VAUSE: We've just been looking at some of the pictures of the devastation to your business. It was a get-away. It was in the rain forest. Beforehand, it just looked like this amazing, tranquil, secluded spot that was like nothing else you'd ever find anywhere.

And you pretty much lost everything right now, right?

CHEARS (PH): Yes, we have lost our business. I wouldn't say we've lost everything. We have our lives. We have each other. We have our family and luckily I'm a citizen; he's a U.K. citizen. We have options.

VAUSE: But despite all that you --


CHEARS (PH): -- elsewhere.

VAUSE: -- sorry to interrupt but despite everything you've been through, I understand that you and your husband, Richard, the last couple of days, you've actually been taking it on yourself to fly in relief supplies into Dominica?

CHEARS (PH): Yes, we ourselves got flown in to Guadalupe on Friday and on Saturday I set up a crowdfunding website and began to raise money. And on Sunday, we flew in 700 pounds of supplies already.

Today we flew in -- there's 300 pounds of supplies. So in two days, we've managed to fly in 1,000 pounds of supplies and we'll continue to do this as long as the money is coming in. So --

VAUSE: How desperate is the situation on the island?

Has any -- you know, what you might call official aid, has that actually reached many people on the island there?

CHEARS (PH): Yes, it -- there are -- there are helicopters dropping supplies now and (INAUDIBLE) -- I haven't been back since Friday but my husband has been flying every day and there were many helicopters in the northern airport yesterday. And I think also in the southern airport as well, (INAUDIBLE).

So those airports are getting supplies. I don't know how the supplies are getting to the people because Dominica is very mountainous (ph) and (INAUDIBLE) is very cut off. So the villages that are in the mountains, which is all of the villages basically, are pretty cut off. And I'm --



CHEARS (PH): -- how these supplies are getting in. But --

VAUSE: OK, well, you --


VAUSE: -- you said you'll continue to do this while the money keeps coming in. You've got a crowdfunding --


VAUSE: -- page at And there it is, so, what, it's up to $16,000.

If anybody wants to help, go there, give money and keep going.

Liz, great to speak with you. And good luck.

CHEARS (PH): Thank you.


SESAY: Yes, they need a little help --


VAUSE: -- lost everything (INAUDIBLE) lives and husband but now flying in supplies.

SESAY: Amazing.

VAUSE: It's great.

SESAY: Amazing.

Still to come, Hollywood actor Salma Hayek speaks to CNN about the devastation in Mexico after last week's deadly earthquake. Now she's helping with the relief effort in hemming (ph) the country.

VAUSE: Also ahead, Iraqi Kurds defying the national pressure (ph) and they cast their ballots in a referendum on independence. We'll talk about the consequences they could face.




SESAY: Hello, everyone.

A controversial purge (ph) by Iraqi Kurds is meeting resistance from across the region. The Kurdistan regional government says 72 percent of eligible voters cast their votes in Monday's independence referendum.

VAUSE: Kurdish leaders say this will give them a mandate for independence from Iraq but this vote comes with an international backlash. Turkey's president says it's illegitimate and has threatened military action against any future Kurdish demands for independence and one Iraqi lawmaker says the parliament of Baghdad has authorized the government to use force to maintain the unity and sovereignty of the country.

The death toll from last week's earthquake near Mexico City has climbed to 326. Bad weather and aftershocks have slowed the search efforts. Officials, though, say they'll search the rubble for at least two more weeks until they're certain no one else is missing.

SESAY: In meantime, actor Salma Hayek has teamed public with UNICEF to help relief efforts in her native country.


SALMA HAYEK, ACTOR: What has really moved me is the response of the Mexicans, the people from architects and engineers to construction workers to whoever has like a little restaurant, opening it for free; everybody's donating; everybody's hand to hand, picking up the debris and donating water and their time.


SESAY: Daily life is slowly returning to some kind of normalcy there in Mexico City. There's traffic back on the streets. Offices have been opened. But still, thousands of schools remain closed and many homeless are living in the street.

VAUSE: What was striking, being in Mexico City, is that are parts of -- huge parts of the city which were untouched. And then you go up the neighborhood and you see the absolute devastation.

And it's very concentrated, very focused in these neighborhoods and then you drive on and then it's back to normal.

SESAY: And that's the fear in these situations, that they get forgotten because they're tucked away.

VAUSE: And everything's back to normal.

SESAY: In small pockets.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Stay tuned for "WORLD SPORT."

SESAY: And then we'll be right back with another hour of news from all around the world. You're watching CNN.