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Trump on Health Care; Trump Praises Alabama Candidate; Desperate Situation at San Juan Airport; McConnell Speaks on Tax Reform; Trump Comments on NFL Change; Nascar Owners Side with Trump. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 27, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:23] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go. Top of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

We start with President Trump on his way to Indiana to announce the details of his much-heralded tax cut plan. And we'll get into the weeds on that in just a second.

But first, the president stopping, speaking with media, making a bunch of headlines as he was leaving the White House, including on the possibility of an executive order involving health care. Here he was.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we have a man who's going to be a great senator. And I -- I -- I'm very happy with that. I spoke to him last night. I never met him. I never spoke to him. I'm very happy with him.

And I have to say, Luther came a long way from the time I endorsed him. And he ran a good race. But Roy ran a really great race. And I know what they did with Mitch and they used him very much in the campaign. But he works hard and I'm sure things will work out.

I just wanted to say, though, on health care, we have the votes for health care. We have one senator that's in the hospital. He can't vote because he's in the hospital.

QUESTION: Are you talking about Cochran?

TRUMP: He can't vote because he's in the hospital. We have two other votes that are coming and we will have them. But the problem is, we can't have them by Friday because of reconciliation ends on Friday. So we'll have to do it in January or February. But I feel we have the votes. I'm almost certain we have the votes.

But very importantly, I am also, during this period of a couple of months, I'm also going to meet with Democrats and I will see if I can get a health care plan that's even better. So I will negotiate with Democrats. But from the Republican's standpoint, we have the votes. We'll vote in January, February, or March.


QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) are you considering an executive order?

TRUMP: I am considering an executive order on associations. And that will take care of a tremendous number of people with regard to health care. And I'll probably be signing a very major executive order where people can go out across state lines, do lots of things, and buy their own health care. And that will be probably signed next week. It's being finished now. It's going to cover a lot of territory and a lot of people, millions of people.


BALDWIN: All right, so let's begin right there with Dana Bash, our CNN chief political correspondent.

And when I heard him say, we have the votes, but we're going to -- we're going to hang tight and wait for that vote, I want to work with Democrats, and then he talked about -- he wants to sign this very major executive order. News to me! What do you know about that?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are some things that the president, any president, can do by executive order. And this particular notion that he's talking about, allowing people to buy health care across state lines, that is kind of at the core of Republican credo when it comes to health care, and has been for a long time. In fact, during the campaign, Brooke, when we would ask then candidate Donald Trump about his health care plan, that was sort of the chief thing, maybe sometimes the only thing he would say about health care. So he is -- it sounds like he is working on doing something to get conservatives to understand that they're at least trying to keep the campaign promise that they had.

On the idea of having the votes for the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill that would fundamentally change health care, so-called block grants, send all the money that the federal government has back to the states, that might be true, eventually, but they're just -- you don't really know until you go through the process that they are saying that they are going to do what they call regular order, have committee hearings, go through the legislative text with a fine-toothed comb, as one should when you're talking about completely changing the health care system in America. We'll see if that happens.

But they all are connected. As I toss back to you, the idea of working with Democrats. Well, if he works with Democrats, which a lot of people would applaud him for doing, if Democrats are willing to work with him, it just depends on what the terms of the discussions are, then he's throwing overboard the idea of a conservative Republican solution to the health care issue.

So, you know, it sounds like he wants to go on a dual track. I'm not so sure how realistic that is.

BALDWIN: And continuing on your whole thought bubble and adding on, that wouldn't sit well with a perhaps Roy Moore if he were to go all the way and take, you know, the former Senator Sessions' spot down in Alabama. This was not the -- this was not the guy that the president had backed and we have all this reporting -- the exact quote from our sources was that the president went to bed, after his guy lost, he was embarrassed and pissed, quote, you know, following that loss. And multiple sources say he's furious with Mitch McConnell, who wanted him to back Luther Strange, and feels outdone by his former aide, Bannon. All the while, he just said there leaving the White House that now Roy Moore is a super-strong candidate. What do you make of all of that?

[14:05:22] BASH: Well, saying that Roy Moore is a super-strong candidate is -- it's actually kind of quite typical, if you are a party leader and one person wins in an intra-Republican fight, you traditionally back the person who won. So that is about as traditional as it gets for Donald Trump, for him to say that he's going to support Roy Moore, even though he called him Ray, he didn't really know his name I think yesterday or two days ago.


BASH: But having said that, there is no question that this was a very scrambled situation politically because the Trump voters or the Trump insurgents who helped push Roy Moore over the finish line in a very successful way, they're all Trump voters. They are the Steve Bannons of the world. And they were not happy, you know, a month or two ago, when Donald Trump decided to endorse the quote/unquote establishment candidate, Luther Strange. And, yes, they -- maybe he's blaming Mitch McConnell and other people. But, at the end of the day, he, the president, decided to listen to those who told him that supporting the guy who was already in the Senate, appointed there, who has been working on your agenda, is the right thing to do. And, you know, we'll see what kind of lesson he takes from his decision.

BALDWIN: Dana Bash, as always, thank you so much.

BASH: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We'll talk much, much more about the politics of all of this, but let's get straight to Puerto Rico.

Turning now to the scene of a humanitarian crisis unfolding in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The president considering lifting current restrictions on shipments into Puerto Rico. He was commenting also moments ago on the situation there.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And Puerto Rico's a very difficult situation. I mean that place was just destroyed. That's not a question of, gee, let's dry up the water, let's do this or that. I mean that place was flattened. That is a really tough situation. I feel so badly for the people.


BALDWIN: One week later, millions of Americans, in fact most of Puerto Rico, remain without power. How long they will have to exist in this state of fear and desperation, they're saying likely months. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. 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.


BALDWIN: The governor pleading, while a tearful San Juan mayor tells CNN about a horrific discovery.


MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Just yesterday we have been canvassing one by one all of our elderly homes, finding our elderly. And I'm not kidding, we have to transfer 11 of them -- of them near-death conditions. No food, no water, no electricity.


BALDWIN: Commercial airlines doing what they can, shipping supplies to Puerto Rico, packing the few returning flights with evacuees. And with each passing day, growing concerns of a mass exodus because of the desperate conditions on the island. But the main airport in San Juan, still barely operational. And FEMA is restricting flights, despite passengers have already been waiting for days and days to get off the island.

CNN is there, hearing the pleas of desperation from the Americans.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I had bought a plane ticket before the hurricane and I'm here since Friday and I haven't been able to leave. Sleeping on the floor without air-conditioner, it's horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you describe the level of desperation?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, to the highest levels. And not even -- no only here in the -- in the metropolitan area, but in the center of the island, (INAUDIBLE) is very, very bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has been looting the mayor of Aguas Buenas tells me. There have been robberies. And when it comes to the feelings of the people of this will town, we are saddened because we're still looking for people.


BALDWIN: But all -- one message says it all, in an S.O.S. written on a street corner in Punta Santiago meant to be seen from the air. You see it, S.O.S.

Let's go live to San Juan. Boris Sanchez is standing by for us. You're at the airport. People have been waiting for days and days,

long lines, no A.C. I mean just how desperate is the situation at the airport?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's tremendous frustration here, Brooke.

I actually just spoke to the young man that I've been keeping track of since we got here who says that some of his friends have actually been sleeping in a tent on a pickup truck in a parking garage since shortly after the storm, trying to come into the airport every single day to find out when they would be able to get off the island. He actually just told me that apparently American Airlines lost his information, so he is essentially stranded here, like so many others, since Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico about a week ago. Thousands of people have come to the airport. It's become a de facto shelter for many who were either here on vacation or those who simply don't have anywhere else to go. Their homes are no longer there.

[14:10:13] I actually spoke to one young man from Great Britain who is vacationing here, who said that initially he had gone to a sanctioned shelter and that he was forced to sleep outside because there was no A.C. He told me at one point that he feared for his life because people around him were being robbed of the MREs, of the emergency food kits that they had been handed. And he was terrified. He got very emotional talking about reconnecting with his family.

Fortunately, he has been able to get a plane ticket and get confirmed, because what you find is, again and again, with so many flights canceled and so many people showing up to the airport, the airlines have sold tickets that are now unable to be confirmed. On a typical day at this airport, you have 120 commercial flights. They're now down to 18. Yet the CEO of the airport tells me that that is a success because just a few days ago they were down to nine. Yesterday they had 10. Today they're up again to 18.

But, as you mentioned, the air-conditioning isn't working. Something as simple as printing a boarding pass is impossible. Not to mention the amount of energy that it takes to turn on some of the TSA screening equipment, that which isn't damaged, is simply too much. They're running on emergency generators right now that the CEO says use about 5,000 gallons of fuel a day. He says that if the situation continues like this, it could become unsustainable. And that's the big fear, not just that the damage that Maria caused has devastated the island structurally, but that over time there are fewer and fewer resources to go around.

It is certainly a frustrating thing not only because of a lack of physical resources, but also a lack of information. You'll have to remember, there's not much Internet access here following the storm. And cell service, at best, has been spotty. So what we've heard from a lot of people, especially with family that live in the center and southern part of the island, is that they don't know how their loved ones are doing.

I heard from a doctor that works in the intensive care unit in a hospital in San Juan who told me that she has no idea how her parents are. She fears for their health. They're elderly people with diabetes. She told me that she hiked for seven hours on foot to get to their home. And when she was about to get to that town, she couldn't get there. The road was cut off by a giant sinkhole.

So the resources are getting to Puerto Rico, but it's just logistically impossible to get to places that are either cut off because of destruction on the road or because of large boulders blocking roads. It is a nightmare here. And the fear is that unless resources get here immediately, they will continue to dwindle and the situation will continue to get worse, Brooke.

BALDWIN: That is unreal. And someone sitting next to me can relate in terms of trying to get in touch with family members. Boris, thank you so much there at the airport.

You know, it's not just the people who are in Puerto Rico who are increasingly anxious. Their family members, to Boris' point, also back here in the U.S. mainland pleading for help.

Jamie Harper, a celebrity makeup artist living here in New York posted this emotional video on Instagram asking people to please share it and spread the word. She joins me now.

Jamie, thank you so much for swinging by.

I mean exactly what Boris said, the fact is, you have all this family in Puerto Rico and you're barely able to talk to you said your mother for 20 second on the phone?

JAMIE HARPER, CELEBRITY MAKEUP ARTIST WHO HAS FAMILY IN PUERTO RICO: I talked to my mom for 20 seconds. The reception was really bad. All I could hear was that she made a long line for like two hours to be able to use that person's phone and she told me there were thousands of people waiting, so I have to get off, but I'm alive.

BALDWIN: Oh, my gosh.

HARPER: But I couldn't ask her how my brothers are, how the kids are doing. I mean, there are so many -- I talked to my brother, finally, on Sunday, briefly, and he told me that he was scared. That he hasn't had food for two days. That he took over the elderly people that were upstairs, because their apartment was severely damaged and flooded, so they're all trying to help each other. And that's a good spirit of Puerto Ricans. We unite and we stick together. But when help is not getting there on time, it's been now one week.


HARPER: One week. And my brother didn't have water two days ago. What can I -- I can't contact him again. I don't have a way of saying, hey, are you OK, you know? There's -- it's not just me. I volunteered and I heard many stories of Maya (INAUDIBLE), Isabella, Selina, like, there's people looking for their loved ones and they have not been able to reach them. BALDWIN: I feel your frustration. I see it in your eyes, just looking

at you. You talk about your brother and this is one of three brothers you have. I mean, correct me, but as of yesterday --

HARPER: I have one more in the states, yes.

BALDWIN: You have --

HARPER: And a sister. And she's worried, too. We're all trying --

BALDWIN: Have you been in contact with all of your family now, at least, even though it's seconds? No?

[14:15:03] HARPER: No.



BALDWIN: So you're left not knowing.

HARPER: I don't know. And that's the thing, if I don't know how they are, if they're safe. I've been hearing about people not having gasoline. He was telling me about a couple in his building that took their little son to the gas station and they were like, hey, this is my son, I have no cash, can you please give me $2 of gas? How are people supposed to get out money of the ATM if there's not a working ATM, you know?

BALDWIN: No power, right.

HARPER: The simple things. Even the hospital in Aguadilla, he told me that the windows were wide open because there's no electricity.


HARPER: So if people are coming in sick or all of these things could happen from -- I don't want to be negative. I want to think positive. But there's an awareness that was not in the media until recently and I'm just grateful that finally these voices are getting heard and that with your help and with everyone's help that they finally get a bottle of water or food delivered to them.

BALDWIN: With the water, you were trying -- was it your brother you were trying to get water to --

HARPER: My brother.

BALDWIN: Through Amazon and --

HARPER: I was.

BALDWIN: And how was that working out or not?

HARPER: Look at the price for the shipping on the top, for today.

BALDWIN: $3 million --

HARPER: No, 3,000, or something like that.

BALDWIN: No, I'm looking at the dot. That's 3000063.00.

HARPER: For shipping. But that was today. And three days ago I tried to ship it and it said $600 for two cases of water. And it's not just Amazon. And I don't want to -- I just want to bring awareness. Please, companies, if you see people struggling, do not try to capitalize.

I also saw airline flights. Today they're lower. But there's so many people that try buying them and they were $2,400. People that are going through a disaster like this, trying to get their loved ones, it's not just one person, it's thousands of people --

BALDWIN: Of course.

HARPER: Millions of people that want to get out and they don't have the option.

BALDWIN: What just frightens you the most?

HARPER: I don't want to think of the worst, but if you don't deliver water, food, essentials, people will go crazy. And they will do anything to survive. And that's -- I know Puerto Ricans have a great heart. They're amazing. But when you're in desperation --

BALDWIN: You do a lot of things.

HARPER: And you don't see the news or you see a shopper that just passed by you and they can't do anything and you're like saying, hey, help me, I'm here. How -- there's people that are living with a dead person in their house because they passed away and they're not able to get them out. So I just can't stress the fact that if you know things and you know people and you have contacts, keep reaching out to your congressman to change laws, to help us, because we are American people. There's so many people that don't know that.

BALDWIN: No, this is America. This is America.

HARPER: This is America. These are Americans that are being stranded in some parts of the island because there's no access. They need workers for the -- to deliver gas. They can't find the drivers. You know, there's so many things that are blocking the road. And you can't get to one town.

BALDWIN: We have so many CNN crews. It's tough when you just look at the images. I mean the images speak for themselves. But thank you so much. Bless you and your family. They need help.

HARPER: They need help.

BALDWIN: That's an understatement.

Jamie, thank you very much.

HARPER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: For that.

Just ahead here, we're going to keep talking, of course, about Puerto Rico and the dire situation there.

Also just a reminder, live pictures out of Indianapolis. President Trump is turning to tax reform this afternoon, suspecting to outline some of his details on that agenda. We'll take it live next hour.

Also moments ago, President Trump saying that the NFL will, quote, go to hell, if it doesn't change its policy on protesting the national anthem. We'll discuss that, next


[14:20:54] REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Thank you.

Senator McConnell.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, no one has been more passionate about what we're announcing today than the speaker for a longer period of time. And he's laid it out is very well.

To summarize what this is about, it's about getting America going again and growing again, providing jobs and opportunity here, rather than overseas, providing middle class tax relief for hard-working American families so they can get ahead. Put another way, taking money out of Washington and putting it into pockets of our citizens.

BALDWIN: All right, so you've been listening to Republican leadership, obviously on the House and the Senate side there, talking about tax reform. This is all ahead of the all-important speech from President Trump which we'll take live when he outlines all these details in this --


BALDWIN: With the president on this issue. Nascar, Richard Petty and Richard Childress, have threatened to fire their drivers if they protested during the national anthem. And my next guest says, that doesn't come as a surprise. He is Bill Lester, one of four African- American drivers since 1961 to compete at Nascar's top level.

Bill Lester, a pleasure to meet you, sir. Welcome.

BILL LESTER, RETIRED NASCAR DRIVER: Thank you. Appreciate the invite.

BALDWIN: So before we talk Nascar, I'd love to just hear your thoughts on the president's message on NFL has to change or the business is going to hell. What did you make of that?

LESTER: Well, that's the first time I heard about that. And I'm taken aback by that comment, as well as a lot of the comments that he's made. I mean he's very opinionated and oftentimes, as far as I'm concerned, to a fault. He should be trying to unify this country as opposed to polarizing it. There are so many people on either one extreme or the other extreme. And that just seems to be the wrong message in terms of what this country needs in terms of unification.

It seems to me like, you know, every so often, when there's a major, you know, catastrophic event, we come together as Americans. Like, for example, 9/11, we were all Americans. We all bonded and got together with each other. And as soon as 9/11 went away, we all went back into our silos. And it was, you know, this person versus that person. They look different. They act different. That sort of thing.

Well, the same thing kind of happened recently with regard to the events in Houston and in Florida, with regard to the hurricanes. I mean everybody pulled together essentially as Americans, and now as kind of the spotlight has shifted, you know, we still have issues here where we're talking about race.

BALDWIN: Let's get into that because, you know, as we've been talking about the NFL, we're talking about Nascar, because it was earlier this week the president actually took to Twitter praising Nascar and said, so proud of Nascar and its supporters and fans. They won't put up with disrespecting our country or our flag. They said it loud and clear.

[14:25:09] Now, just about 70 percent of the NFL is black and you know the story with Nascar. So is that a fair comparison for the president to make?

LESTER: Well, you know, my thoughts about it is that those that are in Nascar, that's a culture, you know? These drivers, these crew members and such, they typically grew up in the southeast. They grew up together. They came up through the system of short-track racing, dirt track racing, that sort of thing. They know each other. They all have common beliefs, bonds, culture.

And so, yes, they're all pretty much peas in a pod, you know? This is an over exaggeration. But for the most part, that's the case.

As opposed to somebody like myself, who, you know, I came from the west coast, from northern California. I have a technical background with a degree in engineering. I came from a completely different type of racing, which is sports car road racing as opposed to Nascar racing. And when I came over, believe me, I was not really embraced. The fact is that --

BALDWIN: You've been booed. You've been booed.

LESTER: Yes, I've been booed. I have been booed and it was surprising to me because, you know, I think that I did a great job behind the wheel. I think that I respected the sport. But for no reason that I can foresee, I was booed. So that happened mostly at tracks where, you know, it's very non-progressive. And I'll just call it out, Talladega, Alabama, I have never been so uncomfortable in a racing environment as Talladega. Or Martinsville, Virginia, which specifically was one of the places where I was booed very heavily. And I just couldn't understand why. I've never made disparaging remarks or offended anybody to my knowledge. But for whatever reason, I wasn't really embraced. Now, that's not to a man, I was pleasantly surprised about the fact

that there were some fans that really did, you know, embrace me and say, we're happy you're here. But by and large, for the most part, you know, when you're getting booed loud and clear for nothing that you think you deserve, it makes you sit back and take pause.

BALDWIN: Well, good for you for staying in that seat and doing the do, Bill Lester. And, you know, as you're talking about Talladega and Alabama, I'm thinking about, this is where this whole conversation started, right, with the president in Alabama last week when he said what he did, the sons of bitch -- forgive me for cursing, I'm just quoting the president -- you know, comment.

The president had said that these football players, you know, are private employees who are -- he sees it they're at work while they're taking a knee or standing arm in arm, which he says makes it inappropriate. I mean do you understand this argument? I mentioned, you know, Richard Petty or Richard Childress and wanting their drivers to be fired if they dare do this. I mean I guess what are they trying to do, just ultimately protect the Nascar brand or is it much more than that?

LESTER: Well, you know, one of the differences between Nascar and like football and basketball, baseball, there is no players' association or players' union or anything like that in Nascar. It's a -- Nascar is an independently-owned operation, company. It's not one where, you know, you have, you know, a board or anything of that nature, for the most part. You know, it is independently owned and operated.

And the owners are basically those that can come with their money, with their resources, and participate. Now, those employees, those drivers, they have no protection. So they are employees of that racing team. And if they go against the wishes and the owners' beliefs, then they can potentially be fired and there's no recourse.

BALDWIN: They could get fired.

LESTER: So, of course, they're going to stand up and, you know, march to the beat of that person that employs them.

BALDWIN: That's incredible what's happened and how this continues, just everything, the comments the president continues to make. We've got more conversations on this.

Bill Lester, thank you for your voice.

LESTER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Nice to have you on, sir, very much.

And tonight, please don't miss the Anderson Cooper town hall. It's on patriotism and the players and the president. It airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern here on CNN. You won't want to miss that, speaking of bigger conversations.

Coming up, candid remarks just in from the former first lady, Michelle Obama. What she says about the women who voted for Trump to be president, next.