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Definition Grows in Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico; IRS Shares Info with Special Counsel in Russia Probe; Trump Warns North Korea of Devastating Military Action; Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired September 27, 2017 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: -- are not in the phase of it getting better yet. Dozens have been arrested for looting, water, food, fuel, sanitation. All absent or in very short supply.
CNN's Bill Weir has been all over the island as much as he can be to capture the reality. He joins us now from San Juan.
I hope you're holding up well with the team. What can you tell us?
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're doing -- we're doing amazing compared to all the other folks down here, Chris. Thanks. As you say, 3.5 million more than -- about the population of Iowa. Imagine if half the people in Iowa didn't have clean drinking water or had to wait 12 hours for a couple of gallons of gas. That's the reality down here.
Maria has stripped bare, has reduced this place to scrounging for just the barest, most primal necessities as you mentioned, that is water, that is food, movement through fuel, and any signs of hope.
WEIR (voice-over): Beside a highway in (INAUDIBLE), this is the most dependable utility in rural Puerto Rico these days. A pipe tapped into a mountain spring is now the watering hole for a community of over 30,000.
(On camera): It's a natural spring?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a natural spring. It's always here.
WEIR: And are you boiling it or you drink it straight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can drink it straight. This is cleaner than the water you get from the -- from the Department of Water Resources.
WEIR: From -- OK. Well, that's good. You've got that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is cleaner than that.
WEIR: How is everything else in life? How -- do you have enough food, power?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Awful. WEIR: Awful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Awful. Awful. Those people that are -- have a shortage of food. The National Guard is not working up to the way it should be. They're all just standing there doing nothing. No electricity. No water for the city. It is going to take about maybe six, seven months for anything to happen here.
WEIR (voice-over): While safe from coastal storm surges, Maria brought hellish mudslides to mountain towns like this, cutting off families for days and forcing desperate decision-making. Do you burn precious fuel searching for supplies or stay put and pray for help?
Lydia has two cars with no gas, two grandkids to keep alive on a ration of crackers. With no way to reach that highway pipe, they drink rain water.
No water, no food, she tells me. It's nobody's fault. It's the weather. You have to go on.
(On camera): My heart breaks for you.
(Voice-over): "What worries me the most is my family doesn't know how we're doing," she says. "We don't have cell phone connection."
(On camera): On a scale of one to 10, 10 being horrible desperate, where are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight.
WEIR: You're an eight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight, yes. And eight going (speaking in foreign language).
WEIR (voice-over): "Eight and getting better," the young mayor tells me. "If the gasoline arrives, it will fix our problems because people are starting to get desperate."
And gas is more precious than water up here. National Guard vehicles can't move. Worthless ambulances sit idle. The hospital has one day's worth of generator fuel left and one volunteer doctor because the rest of the staff has no way to get to work.
(On camera): Are people starting to turn on each other?
(Voice-over): Yes, he says. There's been situations where people are stressed out, crying. Folks with dialysis, patients with cancer, bedridden patients who need ventilators.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything you can help with the voice in the outside, because I need gasoline and diesel.
WEIR (on camera): I will tell. I will tell the world.
(Voice-over): The fuel shortage is even more evident in San Juan where lines are miles long.
(On camera): They opened this particular service station at 6:00 in the morning. They ran out of gas by 3:00 p.m. so some people at the end of this line may not get the refuel they need.
The folks here are telling me that a local ring of gangsters called titere (ph), drug dealers, actually commandeered the gas station. Took over two lanes just so their guys could get the fuel.
How would you describe the level of desperation?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To the highest level. And not only here in the metropolitan area, but in the center of the island. (INAUDIBLE). It is very, very bad. And they are suffering. Everybody is suffering. And let's see how we can work it out and begin again.
WEIR: You are putting a brave smile on but --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I look always do that. Of course.
WEIR (voice-over): And some day, after the most primal needs are met, parents will have to figure out how to send their kids back to school. And at Wesleyan Academy, this is what awaits. There is so much to rebuild and so many now considering leaving this island for good.
(On camera): What message would you have for folks back on the mainland?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we have to keep calm. That's all I can say, just keep calm, because like I said this week we -- I told my family if this week we don't see anything getting better, I'm going to have to leave the island.
[06:35:06] I have been here already, like, 20 years. And I'm going to have to leave the island. I won't have any other choice.
WEIR: I heard that from more than a few folks, thinking about just moving away from here for good. Of course getting off this island is a whole other matter. And there seems to be a real disconnect between the leaders in Washington and even the governor -- the Republican governor of Puerto Rico and those on the ground.
Here's some pictures of people now in Katrina fashion desperately painting SOS, calls for help on roofs and streets. They have no sense of FEMA's presence. And I should say there are plenty of FEMA personnel here. They're doing assessments, some places still doing search and rescue. But I had people come up to me and ask, are you FEMA?
There is such a long way to go to such a logistical nightmare just to move fuel, just the basics around that it will be weeks, if not months, before people can really assess and start reviewing the American response to this storm -- Alisyn. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Bill, you make such a great point.
I mean, the last time we heard it was yesterday there were 10,000 FEMA officials. That's a lot. But it's obviously a fraction of the 3.5 million people, every one of them who needs help in Puerto Rico. So it's just -- I mean, the numbers are staggering.
And then that shot that you showed there, Bill, where we see Jennifer Rivera, our producer, looking at what I believe was her school there. I mean, the emotional toll.
CAMEROTA: Of seeing everything that you loved and knew washed away.
WEIR: Imagine that. And imagine not being able to sleep because it's sweltering hot. The mosquitoes are going to come back soon. There is fear about dengue fever and Zika. Those sorts of illnesses. So -- you know, and anxiety. The Abuellas, the old grandmas, their anxiety medicine has run out. They're trying to take care of grandpa. His insulin is running -- you know, so it's just a cascade of most material need and stress down here.
CUOMO: And the biggest enemy is going to be time. You've got a lot of people who want to get in there and help. The port hasn't been up. The airports are backlogged. So time is going to start being an enemy as well.
Bill, thank you. Keep the information coming. The pressure is working. The president is speaking differently about Puerto Rico today than he was even over the weekend. So stay strong. Give our best to the group.
CAMEROTA: Up next, we have a CNN exclusive for you. The IRS now sharing information with Special Counsel Robert Mueller about key Trump campaign officials. Will they turn over the president's tax returns? All that next.
[06:41:37] CAMEROTA: So there are several new developments in the Russia investigations to tell you about. CNN has an exclusive report that the IRS is now sharing information with Special Counsel Robert Mueller about former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former National Security adviser Michael Flynn. And this is just one of several new headlines related to the Russia probe. So let's discuss all of them with David Gregory, Chris Cillizza and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.
Phil, let me start with you. What does it mean that the IRS is now turning over documents to Bob Mueller?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: A couple things. One simple and one is subtle. Simply you look at this and say, if you look at tax records going back years, did someone have income from individuals in Eastern Europe, Russia who might also have had been involved in the meddling campaign last year? I don't think that's what the story is, Alisyn. The story is a little subtler.
There's a lot of people involved in this operation, people at the periphery and the center of the Trump campaign. If you want to walk into the room to talk to them and you want to ensure that they cooperate, I want a hammer. And that hammer in this case is going to be something like you didn't declare income from certain sources over the past few years. That's a federal violation. You want a plea bargain? You want to talk. You want to talk about what you know on the campaign trail or do you want a charge? That's what's going on here.
CAMEROTA: They're using this as future leverage.
CUOMO: Right. But it's also just a necessity. If you're going to look at Manafort and what he did with financial dealing with different Ukraine-slash-Russian operatives, you need his tax records. If you want to talk about Flynn, and whether or not he was reporting income at the time, you need the tax records.
So that's not such an eyebrow-raiser. But you know Mueller better than anybody else in this discussion now.
CUOMO: That concern is it's a phishing expedition. He's going to go really broad until he finds something somewhere. That will be the pushback from the White House at least. What is your take on him and his instincts?
MUDD: Four and a half years of watching this guy every day, sometimes two, three times a day, never saw the man fish. He's disciplines, he's a former Marine going back to Vietnam in the '60s. He's decorated. He's not interested in spending three years looking for blue dresses which is what we did with President Clinton.
When you look at the acquisition of tax records, to my mind, this isn't fishing. This is a simple question.
MUDD: If someone is involved in political corruption, did they take bad money? How can you not ask that question?
CAMEROTA: Chris Cillizza, do we know if these will include President Trump's tax returns?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: It's sort of what's in Al Capone's vault? I mean, I feel like so many roads, Alisyn, lead back to that question.
We don't, to answer your question simply. We don't know if it will include that. Trump has been reticent to release any of that. We have seen bits and pieces of it. Remember, I always remind people first major presidential candidate and certainly the only major president in modern times to not release his tax returns. Continues to say when asked he is under an act of audit, though you obviously can release your tax returns when you're under audit.
He has been so resistant to do it. This would be the only way I think that they would be obtained. I do not think that even when this long audit is over Donald Trump is going to voluntarily release his taxes. So if we're going to see any piece of them every make the public, aside from bits and pieces that we've seen come out from the '80s, one year, a few pages, this may -- this investigation will almost certainly be the vehicle for that.
Now I don't know if it goes up that high. You know, Manafort, Flynn. We know Mueller is looking into things like the firing of Jim Comey, the meeting the following day with Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov.
[06:45:11] But we don't know if it deals with Trump's financial interests yet. And so therefore I think it's hard to know the answer to that question.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I also think it's important to remember that just we're -- as we focus on where Mueller travels doesn't really tell us where he lands. You know, I think the critical question when we're talking about Manafort is really we know what Russia did. We know what Russia was trying to do. Was there someone or people guiding those efforts, helping those efforts from within the campaign?
CUOMO: Or who knew.
GREGORY: That's going to become a critical --
CUOMO: Or who knew. They didn't have to help.
CUOMO: If they knew. If people came to them and said I have friends, we're doing this with Facebook.
CUOMO: And we're getting these ads going, who should we target, how should we do it, just knowing might start us spreading the stake here. And that Facebook winds up being your other big headline. In fact you could argue it's the biggest discovery we've had to date. We always knew that people were using Facebook for that. And that's the real stronghold of fake news. But to have Facebook, to have the big operators turn and want to help the government, that's a big change. We have seen it discreetly, but not on this level. They've been reluctant to do it, Phil. How big a deal is this?
MUDD: It is a huge deal for a couple of reasons. We're seeing the specifics of what the Russians did. The government had some of this information intercepting Russian communications. The American public is now seeing that there is fire behind the smoke. The Russians were involved in placing these ads.
But these two pieces come together. The Facebook piece and the piece about getting IRS information for one specific reason. I can collect your phone records, I can get your e-mail, I can get a bunch of data in the 21st century. But asking questions like we were just talking about, who knew that the Russians were involved with this? Was that a conversation at a restaurant over a table that was never captured digitally?
I think if you can use those IRS records to bring the hammer down on somebody so they talk about what they knew and you can get beyond phone and e-mail records, critically important.
CAMEROTA: Chris Cillizza, I mean, just --
GREGORY: And by the way --
CAMEROTA: Hold on, David.
GREGORY: Yes, sure, of course. Sorry.
CAMEROTA: In terms of the ads, we now know that what they were doing was ginning up interest and fear around the Second Amendment going away, around gun rights and the fear around undocumented immigrants. That's what these Facebook ads were targeted, to targeted people.
CAMEROTA: And as you know Senator Mark Warner calls this a million- dollar question of how did they know that? How did they know who to target?
CILLIZZA: That's what I was just going to raise which is the sophistication of even a little bit of what we've seen. Obviously we have not seen the broad breadth of these 3,000 ads that were run on Facebook. But even the little indications that you point out, there is a level of sophistication as it relates to American politics that is worth drilling down on.
Is it possible that the Russians obtained that information by watching informative shows like NEW DAY? Sure, it is possible. That could be the case.
CUOMO: On the substance. Not the selectivity of who to send them to.
CILLIZZA: That's exactly right.
CUOMO: And what types of companion sites to fund.
CILLIZZA: This is -- I mean, this is the targeting of -- I mean, this is the targeting of -- I mean, this is micro targeting using social media, which is something that is not even that old in terms of campaigns in this country, much less a foreign power using it to target voters. Very sophisticated in terms of political tools and expertise. Where did they get it?
CAMEROTA: Yes. Guys, we're out of time. Thank you very much for all of the information on this, including the CNN exclusive.
CUOMO: All right. So we're seeing a ratcheting up in rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea. President Trump says he is prepared for military action but the if is the big part of the sentence. If necessary, if North Korea attacks the United States, then he is ready.
Now North Korea is saying well, we think you declared war so we're going to shoot down some of your planes. God forbid. But where do we go from here?
[06:51:56] CUOMO: All right. To be very clear, President Trump has been warning North Korea of devastating military action against them if they provoke the situation too much. And that becomes a very interesting concept to define. U.S. intel sources tell CNN North Korea may be boosting their military readiness.
Joining us now is CNN national security analyst and former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.
It's good to have you with us. Can you help us understand the state of play between what's being postured by the United States and why?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, what concerns me -- thanks for having me, Chris. What concerns me here is again this rhetorical gun battle that's going on right now. And what we say which we claim, for example, is not a declaration of war. Well, it's really not important what we think. It's what the North Koreans perceive.
And one thing throughout all of this I think we should remember is the president of the United States does have a cadre of superb advisers around him. Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, National Security adviser McMaster and of course Chief of Staff Kelly. What Kim Jong-un doesn't have is a set of advisers who are thoughtful and sober and moderate.
He has a bunch of psychopaths around him and if you see pictures of Kim Jong-un you'll notice you have these medal bidet generals who, you know, have their notebooks and they are dutifully taking notes. So what concerns me here is nobody knows what will set off Kim Jong-un's fuse. And the things that we utter I think sometimes -- you know, the president comes out with I wonder how much thought is given to that because we don't consider what the impact is in Pyongyang.
The other fact I'd point out which was brought home to me when I visited there in 2014 is that in addition to being the head of state of North Korea, Kim Jong-un is also a deity. And in fact, you know, Korea's -- North Korea is a family-owned country. So his father Kim Jong-il and his grandfather Kim Il-sung, the founder of the DPRK, the whole family line is considered deity. And that's to the extent that there is any religious in North Korea, it's them.
CAMEROTA: So -- CLAPPER: So when we're casting, you know, these nets of condemnation
on the head of state, well, he's also a deity. And of course the North Korean regime uses that for domestic consumption.
CAMEROTA: Yes. That is an interesting context. So if you think that calling him names is dangerous, then what is the next step for the U.S.?
CLAPPER: Well, if it were me, I would try to cool it on some of this heated rhetoric.
[06:55:07] I really like what Secretary Mattis did about, I don't know, half a dozen missile tests ago when he simply said we know the North Korea have launched a missile and we have no further comment. That would drive the North Koreans crazy. Because this plays to their craving for attention for face. And so Kim Jong-un has got to be eating this up when the president of the United States is engaging directly with him and in a manner in which he's doing it. Of course they use this for, again, for domestic consumption in North Korea.
And the other point I'd make in terms of these threats about our readiness to, you know, conduct hostile military action, well, I think what they are thinking about, what about the military dependents, the families of our military people, and the civilians who were there, the State Department, Department of Defense, not to mentioned the thousands of Americans who live in the Republic of Korea, not to mention the tens of thousands of dual citizens.
So if we're going to and we're serious about initiating hostile military action in North Korea, I certainly hope there is some thought given to the fate of these people.
CUOMO: All right. James Clapper, thank you very much. Appreciate the insight as always, sir.
CLAPPER: Thank you, Chris.
CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here.
Meanwhile, Roy Moore beats Luther Strange in Alabama's Republican primary runoff last night. What is the fallout for President Trump as well as McConnell and the GOP establishment? We get into all that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A significant blow to the president who of course endorsed the opponent of Judge Roy Moore.
ROY MOORE, ALABAMA: Together we can make America great. We can support the president.
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: You're going to see in state after state people that follow the model of Judge Moore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lindsey graham said if Judge Moore wins we're all in trouble. And you bet they are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The magnitude of this disaster is just really hard to comprehend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's absolutely ridiculous that when people are suffering and dying to talk about something that is irrelevant.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wasn't preoccupied with the NFL.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president committed full resources to help the governor rebuild Puerto Rico.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't grasp the severity of the crisis. This is catastrophic.
ANNOUNCER" This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Up first, voters in Alabama rebuking President Trump. The state's controversial former chief justice Roy Moore winning convincingly in a GOP Senate runoff beating Luther Strange who had the backing of the president and the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
This upset -- and it was by a big margin, by the way -- could be a sign of trouble for the GOP establishment ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, President Trump defending his response to the crisis in Puerto Rico and saying that his feud with the NFL did not distract him. The president surprising some staff members --