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Trump Renews Attack on NFL; Interview With Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello; Humanitarian Crisis in Puerto Rico; New Poll Finds Majority Think Trump Not Fit to Serve as President. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 27, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Fatimah Baeshen, thank you so much.


BALDWIN: Appreciate you.

BAESHEN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: All right, we continue on. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Just watching the clock here. We're minutes away from the president making a major speech in Indianapolis to sell his plan on tax reform, so we will take it live and listen in very closely.

But, moments ago, the president gave an impromptu news conference to reporters before boarding his plane, covering everything from the NFL to the crisis in Puerto Rico to health care.

And on that topic, he said he's not giving up and he could be ready to make a deal with Democrats.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Health care, we have it, we have the votes. Because of reconciliation, we have to wait until January, February to March, which we will do.

But, in the meantime, I will negotiate with Democrats to see if we can make a bipartisan bill.


BALDWIN: The president also weighed in on the primary defeat of the Alabama Senate candidate that he supported, Luther Strange. The man the president backed, on the left here of your screen, lost to the man on the right, Roy Moore.


TRUMP: Well, we have a man who's going to be a great senator. And I'm very happy with that. And 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.


BALDWIN: Those comments come as a new Quinnipiac University poll shows only 36 percent of the country approves of the job the president is doing.

That same poll found the majority, you see there, 56 percent, do not believe Trump is fit to serve as president.

Let's go to Gloria Borger, our CNN chief political analyst.

We saw the numbers. Let's just -- starting with these polls, it's an interesting number. Given the week he's having, I made a list, whether it's the highly criticized response to Puerto Rico, the fact that his guy lost in Alabama, that Steve Bannon's won, the NFL is coming together, despite his tweets, health care died again, special counsel, you know, the Russian investigation intensifying.

I read your op-ed, obviously, and you said that a friend of the president said, all of this is great for him.



BORGER: Well, it gave me a little window into what the president is thinking.

And somebody who spoke with him within the last few days said to me, look, particularly on the NFL controversy, the president believes that this is great, because he believes that he is actually speaking for the people who brought him into office, and as he told one of his friends, I say what they all want to say.

And he understands that he's going to have some problems with his base, particularly if he cuts deals with the Democrats, as he did on the debt ceiling and perhaps on dreamers and maybe even on health care and more, that what he's got to do is thread this needle and keep that base, that 30-plus percent on his side. And this is one way for him to do that.

BALDWIN: So, reading deeper into your op-ed, and we all remember the documentary you did on then-candidate Trump, talked to a woman by the name of Louise Sunshine.

She was the V.P. of the Trump Organization back in the '70s and '80s. And this is a quote that you have had on the brain ever since: "Donald has always managed to walk into a meeting and say something nobody else ever expected him ever to say, upend the entire meeting, leave everybody agog, and control every situation that way."

But I think, to your point, I thought the same thing, like, he's the president now, so?

BORGER: Right. And he's still doing the same old, same old.


BORGER: This was, you know, this was the M.O. If Donald Trump didn't like the way things were going, he would divert. Walk into a meeting, just throw the grenade in the room and walk out.

And then, in that sense, he would have control of the situation, which is what he's done with the NFL. He was speaking to an audience in Alabama. He knew that he would be applauded, that it would be well- received, he was at a campaign rally. He felt the energy, and he did it. And then he left.

And the staff is left to kind of sort of try and figure out what to do. But we all follow him around like moths to a flame. And so, one minute it's North Korea, and the next minute, he's diverting us. And he's saying, OK, well, let's -- I'm going to -- let's talk about the NFL. And then there are 20 tweets more about the NFL, so that's the bright, shiny object we follow. That's his M.O.

BALDWIN: The object we're following today, because I was talking to Stelter a second ago, at the deleted tweets and the now tweets in support of the guy he wasn't backing.


BALDWIN: I know you're with me. We're talking about Alabama and this Republican primary.


And in case people don't know who Roy Moore is, this is the man who won the Republican primary last night, here's a look.


ROY MOORE (D), ALABAMA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Our foundation has been shaken. Crime, corruption, immorality, abortion, sodomy, sexual perversion sweep our land. DACA is wrong. Dreamer is wrong.

Homosexual conduct should be illegal. Just because it's done behind closed doors, it can still be prohibited by state law. Do you know that bestiality, the relationship between man and beast, is prohibited in every state? Do you know that?

QUESTION: Did I ask you about having sex with a cow?

MOORE: No, you didn't, but...

QUESTION: Or a horse? Or a dog?

MOORE: ... it's the same thing.

QUESTION: No, no, it's not the same. You mean homosexuality is the same thing as bestiality?

MOORE: It is a moral precept upon which this country was founded.

You wonder why we're having problems in Newtown, Connecticut, and all across our country with killings, stealing, committing adultery? Because we have forgotten the law of God.

Sounds a little bit like the Pentagon, whose breaking came suddenly, at an instance. We have suffered a lot in this country, maybe, just maybe because we have distanced ourselves from the one.

America, the beautiful, or so you used to be. Land of the Pilgrims' pride, I'm glad they're not here to see babies found in dumpsters, abortion on demand. Oh, sweet land of liberty, your house is on the sand.

It's been very hard for my wife and myself to weather two, nearly three months of negative ads, ads that were completely false, that I don't believe in the Second Amendment.

I believe in the Second Amendment.


MOORE: Was talking about the division in our society, black and white, red and yellow.

They're so politically correct, they have become politically stupid.


BALDWIN: How does a guy like Roy Moore -- let's just talk on the sheer level of Republican agenda in Congress, and this is the if, if he makes it all the way through -- you know, how would someone like that help President Trump, help Leader McConnell carry out what they're trying to do?

BORGER: Not much. I don't know how.

This is why Mitch McConnell was opposed to him. This is why the president was convinced -- now that Steve Bannon was gone from the White House, the president was convinced that he ought to support his opponent, Luther Strange, who lost.

This man is not going to fall into lockstep with Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump or anyone else. You heard him say in one of those clips you used that DACA is wrong, dreamers is wrong. So, if the president cuts a deal with the Democrats on dreamers, can you imagine this senator, if he is elected, supporting that? I can't.

So, I think he marches to his own drummer. And I think the fear of Mitch McConnell, whom, by the way, the president blames for his endorsement of the wrong candidate in his mind now, you know, I think Mitch McConnell is taking a look at this. He's taking a look at Steve Bannon, who says this is the beginning of the populist revolt. He wants to keep control of the Senate, but he's worried you're going

to have a lot of these senators primaried to the right, perhaps successfully, and maybe, maybe handing Democrats some seats that they should not win, in his mind.

So, I think, you know, this wasn't a good outcome for Mitch McConnell. And the president's playing nice right now, of course, as he should, and he will campaign for Roy Moore, but I think it creates a problem for him down the road.

BALDWIN: I think so.

Before I let you go, let me ask you about one more thing that the president said en route to Indiana, you know, where he talked about his health and human services secretary, Tom Price, who, as we have been reporting, apparently used these taxpayer-funded private planes for government business. This is what the president said.


TRUMP: I was looking into it, and I will look into it. And I will tell you, personally, I'm not happy about it. I am not happy about it.

QUESTION: Are you going to fire him?

TRUMP: I'm going to look at it. I am not happy about it, and I let him know it.



BALDWIN: Yes. Do you think Secretary Price should be worried?

BORGER: I would be, if I were Secretary Price. "I'm not happy about it and I let him know it"?


We know that the president, you know, can use some language when he wants to. And I'm sure, you know, he understands what this looks like, that his HHS secretary -- you have got a health care bill up that failed, and he's asking people, perhaps, to pay more for benefits, and he's flying around on private planes to places like Philadelphia.

From Washington, by my count, that's just over an hour train ride.

BALDWIN: Right, not a good look, not a good look.

BORGER: No, not a good look. Uh-huh.

BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, thank you. Read Gloria's opinion piece. Go to Turning now to the scene of this just humanitarian crisis here

unfolding in the wake of Hurricane Maria, one week later, millions of Americans, in fact, most of the island of Puerto Rico is still without power. How long they will have to exist this way in a state of fear and desperation, officials are guessing months.


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.


CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR OF 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 had to transfer 11 of them of near-death conditions. No food, no water, no electricity.


BALDWIN: Commercial airlines, they're doing what they can, shipping supplies into Puerto Rico and packing the few returning flights with evacuees.

And with each passing day, growing concerns of a mass exodus because of just the desperate conditions on the island. But the main airport in San Juan, it is barely operational. FEMA is restricting flights. You have all these desperate passengers already been waiting for days and days to leave the island. And this one message says it all.

You will see it scrawled out in the center section, SOS scrawled out in a street corner in Punta Santiago meant to be seen from the air.

Let's go to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to my colleague Rafael Romo, who's standing by.

And you're getting word now, Rafael, of some sort of mob or looting incident. And you have some video. Tell me about it.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Earlier, we visited a supermarket where, according to the owner, just a few hours after Hurricane Maria struck the island, there was a group of possibly hundreds of people that looted his supermarket.

And we have CCTV footage of what happened. You essentially see people rushing into the supermarket. And what the owner was telling me is that these people were not desperate for food. They were not stealing vegetables or groceries or meat. They were stealing alcohol, cigarettes, computers. And so that gives you an idea of how difficult it is to ensure the

safety of the people during a natural disaster such as this one. Now, the irony of this is that he showed up only a couple of hours later, and the purpose, what he was trying to accomplish, Brooke, he told me that he wanted to reopen the supermarket as soon as possible, because it's the only store that sells food in that part of Puerto Rico, so he wanted to help the people.

What did he find? The store completely destroyed, Brooke, a really desperate situation, indeed. I had an opportunity to talk to the superintendent of police here in Puerto Rico, Michelle Hernandez, last night, and he was telling me that -- she was telling me that they have arrested 60 people so far for violating the curfew, a mandatory curfew, and also about 36 for incidents of looting and stealing.

But, definitely, if you look at the situation on the ground, those numbers are definitely quite too low, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Rafael, we know President Trump will be going to Puerto Rico on Tuesday, made some comments about the situation there moments ago. Here he was.


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


BALDWIN: All right, Rafael, you good to go? We're back live. I know you have the governor there of Puerto Rico standing with you.

I would love to hear his response to President Trump there.

ROMO: Yes, Governor Ricardo Rossello showed up. As you can imagine, he's a very busy man these days.

And he's now joining us.

Governor, thank you very much for being here with us.

We just heard from President Trump talking about the relief efforts. Are you satisfied from your perspective that the federal government is helping Puerto Rico fully and in a way that is going to satisfy the needs of all the residents on this island?

ROSSELLO: Well, they are. This is an unprecedented event.


President Trump has been in close communication with me practically every day, making sure we have the assets, giving orders to his team, so that they can execute. But we need to recognize, and I know you have been speaking to it, the

magnitude of this problem. This has been the biggest catastrophe in the history of Puerto Rico, in terms of a natural disaster. We essentially have lost all power. We have lost all telephones. You know, roads have been hampered. Human resources have been limited.

And on top of that, we're on an island. So different from this occurring in Florida or Texas, where you can call on your neighboring state and solicit some of that help, over here, you need to airlift it.

And the air traffic control has been clogged. So it is -- it has been a challenge, because of those unprecedented events. But they are responding. What we need to make sure is that the aid keeps on going. This does not end by any stretch of the imagination in a couple of days. This is a long run.

ROMO: Governor, did you have a conversation with President Trump and did you specifically request to have the Jones Act lifted so that aid can flow more fully to Puerto Rico?

ROSSELLO: I did not solicit that to him personally, but it is something that would help Puerto Rico, certainly, at least in the short run.

In the long term, we can discuss the benefits, the merits of having it or not. But right now, in the short run, in the emergency, we need to have everything that's accessible

ROMO: Any other official in your administration that requested that to the federal government, as far as you know?

ROSSELLO: We requested it for Irma, and we got it for Irma. We got a seven-day waiver for Irma. So we expect that either through Congress or through the administration, this should find its way.

ROMO: So are you just waiting on an answer then?

ROSSELLO: Yes, we waiting on an answer.

ROMO: OK. Now, the numbers remain quite high. And this is information coming from you earlier today during a press conference, 97 percent of people without power throughout the island.


ROMO: Half the people without running water. What's happening, Governor? What's the disconnect between what you and the federal government are telling us, which is that the aid is here, and getting that help to the people inside the communities throughout the island?

ROSSELLO: So, right now, we are in emergency mode. Our focus is not necessarily restoring energy.

The energy grid has been destroyed, Rafael. It's not that some cables have been down. It has been destroyed. And we need to rebuild it. That doesn't get rebuilt in a day. We have already called upon experts (INAUDIBLE) different teams that are going to come over here, equipment.

But the equipment doesn't drive itself over here. We need to crate it through boats. So those efforts are ongoing. What are we doing right now? We're making sure we get food, water, and fuel everywhere on the island.

Today alone, we have 50 missions, 50 missions to some of the 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico, so that we can get food and water to them.

I, myself, have gone on several of those missions. Just got back from one in the southeast part of the island. And earlier this morning, just went to a community that was completely disconnected. You may have seen the images on social media. It was a big SOS sign that they wanted food and water. We went there, got food and water, established some of the security protocols.

So we're doing it, but we're really focusing on what -- you know, what needs to get done right now, which is making people have their life support.

ROMO: Governor Ricardo Rossello, thank you very much for joining us.

And just to add to what the governor said, Brooke, the federal government has about 10,000 federal employees here assisting the government of Puerto Rico in recovery efforts -- back to you from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

BALDWIN: Rafael, that was excellent. Thank the governor for us.

And, again, one of those headlines on the Jones Act, they said that they are waiting on the waiver of the Jones Act. Could happen any moment, any day now, that they did get it for Irma.

Thank you so much from Puerto Rico.

Let me just move on and remind all of you watching we are moments away from seeing the president. He is turning his attention to tax reform today. We know he landed just a short while ago in Indiana. He is expected to outline details of his sweeping tax plan there in Indianapolis. We will take him live momentarily.

Also ahead, the president said today that the NFL will -- quote -- "go to hell" if it doesn't change its policy on protesting the national anthem. "Go to hell," he said.

My next guest is a former astronaut, a former NFL player. His response to the president next.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You very well may know, retired NASA restaurant Leland Melvin from the

photo taken of him with his dog. This is a social media favorite. Here it is.

But now the astronaut, who is also a former NFL player, is calling out President Trump for his attacks on athletes who protest during the national anthem. And so he wrote this open letter to the president.

And it ends with this. He writes: "Donald Trump, please know that you are supposed to be a unifier and a compassionate and empathetic leader. If you can't do the job, then please step down and let someone else try. I pray that you do the right thing. May God bless you."

Well, moments ago, the president continued his attack on the NFL, mocking the league's TV ratings.


TRUMP: I think the NFL is in a box. I think they're in a really bad box. You look at what's happening with their ratings, you look at what's going -- I mean, frankly, the only thing that's doing well in the NFL is the pregame, because everybody wants to see what's going on.

The NFL is in a very bad box. You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, our flag, our country, and that's what they're doing. And, in my opinion, the NFL has to change. Or you know what's going to happen? Their business is going to go to hell.


BALDWIN: I have Leland Melvin with me now. He is the author of "Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances."

It is such an honor to have you here. And thank you so much for everything you have done for this country way, way up above.


BALDWIN: But let's talk about the president and all of this.


And, first, I would love to just get your response to what the president said moments ago at the White House. The NFL has to change and their business is going to hell.


We have to stop this kind of -- this diatribe and this language against people, because it's not unifying the country. It's tearing us apart.

And from space, you don't see -- you see no borders. You see people working together that used to fight against the Russians and the Germans. And we're now working together breaking bread.

So, Mr. President, please, please, tone it down. The Constitution allows us to do these things, allows us to pray and protest and have freedom of religion and petition.

Let's do the things that the Constitution says. Veterans say that the flag, you know, it's a symbol, but it's not the thing that we have to, you know, divide us with.

BALDWIN: You talk a lot about language in this letter to the president.

And you, sir, are a proud Wahoo. You graduated UVA.

MELVIN: Wahoowa.

BALDWIN: Wahoowa. Grad school.

And so it was just really personal for you to see what was happening in Charlottesville some weeks ago. And you talk about the president's language in the wake of Charlottesville and the Nazis coming to town on your precious grounds, and how the president responded to that, talking about hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides and blame on both sides.

And yet there he was a couple of nights ago in Alabama calling Colin Kaepernick an SOB. And you contrast the two. What's your point on that?

MELVIN: I mean, if you can call a black man who's protesting peacefully an SOB, but a Nazi who has guns armed to the teeth to make America white again, and you can't call them something similar, I mean, there's a major difference here.

And there's a problem here. And so people who look like me, I think, OK, I'm an SOB, but this Nazi is -- they're just -- they're good people. There are good people on both sides.

And so I -- I'm just troubled with that. And it made me want to write this, because I was so troubled.

BALDWIN: My next question, I guess, is more big-picture, because you look at everyone who took a knee on Sunday. And then some teams on Monday stood, linked arms. It's Green Bay asking their fans tomorrow night, you know, to lock arms during the national anthem.

Where do we go from here? What is the point of all of this? What's the message?

MELVIN: The message is, you know, our Constitution protects us and allows us to honor the flag and honor the country the way that we want to. It's a freedom of speech.

And so let's not get so small-minded and this divisive language to keep people from coming together. From space, you don't have that. We work together. And let's just tone down the rhetoric, too, because that's inflaming and incensing people and getting them spun up, you know? And I just -- we have got to stop this.

BALDWIN: You talk about honoring the flag and patriotism. And I have seen -- I look at the picture of you on the cover of your book.

And what's on your left arm?

MELVIN: I have a flag.

BALDWIN: It's the stars and stripes, on the space shuttle as well.

You, sir, know what it means to be a patriotic American. The president says these players are being disgraceful and that this is all about the flag and patriotism.

What does it mean to you to be patriotic?

MELVIN: It means that you honor the founding documents and the language that we use to allow people to have these freedoms.

And the flag is a symbol. We have many symbols of our patriotism. We have people that go into battle and fight and work and save lives. We have firemen. We have police officers. We have football players that are giving their all on Sunday to play.

And, you know, but they're not allowed to do their constitutional rights, and they want to get fired and they go to hell and they're SOBs.

This is beyond the pale.

Mr. President, please, stop. Please.

BALDWIN: Leland Melvin, thank you so much, and thank you for one of these as well.

MELVIN: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: A pleasure to have you on.

MELVIN: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Just a couple of hours from now, Anderson Cooper will be hosting a town hall about this national anthem controversy. "Patriotism: The Players and the President" airs tonight here on CNN 9:00. Please don't miss this very important conversation.

We are, meantime, minutes away from President Trump taking the podium there in Indianapolis to roll out his plan for a major overhaul of the tax system. We will explain what it would mean for you, your taxes, your money.

Stay here.