Return to Transcripts main page
Roy Moore Defeats Trump-Backed Candidate in Alabama Runoff; Trump Defeats Response to Puerto Rico; San Juan's Airport Crippled by Hurricane Maria. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired September 27, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:05] 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 by announcing plans to visit Puerto Rico next week.
So we have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Alex Marquardt. He is live in Montgomery, Alabama, with the big news there -- Alex.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. That's right. All of the votes have now been tallied. Judge Moore with a resounding victory, winning with 54.6 percent of the vote. That is a resounding defeat for the Republican establishment, and a significant blow for the president, who had thrown his weight behind Moore's opponent, Luther Strange.
It is almost as if the president saw this coming at a rally that he was headlining for Strange last week. He openly mused about whether it was a mistake to be supporting Strange and saying that it would be a total embarrassment if Strange lost. Now, that has come to pass. And this morning, the White House and the Republican Party are dealing with a whole new political reality.
JUDGE ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE PRIMARY WINNER: Let's go again and make America great. Thank you. May God bless you.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore claiming victory in the state's GOP primary, using President Trump's slogan to rally supporters, despite the fact that he didn't get the president's endorsement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you think the president supported your opponent, and does that make you harbor any sort of resentment towards him?
MOORE: I have no resentment for the president. I think he's doing a great job. I think I can support him. And as long as it's constitutional, I'll be on his team.
MARQUARDT: President Trump quickly throwing his support behind Moore and congratulating him on the phone before apparently deleting three of his past tweets encouraging Alabamians to vote for Moore's opponent, the establishment favorite Luther Strange.
Vice President Mike Pence following suit, telling Moore "We are for you" after standing on stage, campaigning for Strange less than 24 hours earlier.
President Trump had openly wondered whether he had chosen the wrong candidate while campaigning for Strange last week.
TRUMP: I might have made a mistake. If Luther doesn't win, then I'm going to say we picked up 25 points in a very short period of time. They're going to say, "Donald Trump, the president of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the line. It is a terrible, terrible moment for Trump. This is total embarrassment."
MARQUARDT: Moore's victory a blow to both the president and establishment Republicans. A super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had funneled millions of dollars into TV ads targeting Moore, fearing that he'll be a headache on the Hill and taint fellow Republicans with his extremely conservative views.
As chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore was twice removed, including being suspended for going against the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage.
And just last week, he was accused of racially insensitive remarks, saying, "Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting." Now President Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, touting Moore's win as the start of a revolution.
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: You're going to see, in state after state after state, people that follow the model of Judge Moore.
MOORE: Now Bannon wanted to make clear that he did not get involved in this race to oppose his former boss. At the rally that he headlined for Judge Moore the other night, he said, "We did not come here to defy Donald Trump. We came here to praise and to honor him."
And speaking of Donald Trump, the president tweeting just moments ago about this race, saying, "Spoke to Roy Moore of Alabama last night for the first time. Sounds like a really great guy who ran a fantastic race. He will help to make America great again."
Now, the president has said that he will come out to campaign for Roy Moore in the general election. He is facing Democrat Doug Jones. The Democrats much more optimistic about the prospect of facing Roy Moore, but it will be very difficult for Democrats to win in this very red state. That election due to be held on December 12 -- Alisyn, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. Alexander, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Let's bring in our political panel. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory; CNN contributor Wes Lowery; and reporter at large and editor -- reporter and editor at large -- I've got to get it straight. Chris Cillizza gets upset. ""The Point," CNN Politics Chris Cillizza. I'm sorry I didn't get all 18 titles right.
David, let me ask you something here. Donald Trump is right. It is embarrassing that he couldn't get the person that he said should be the candidate across. It's also true that Luther Strange had ground to make up because of the political culture at play with Roy Moore.
But Roy Moore, couldn't you look at him as evidence of what happens when you start scratching at the areas that Donald Trump has and start making certain issues saleable politically again? Because Roy Moore is the steroids version of Donald Trump in a lot of these cultural wars that Donald Trump likes to stoke.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, there's no question about it. I mean, views about society's ills leading to 9/11, and the degradation of our society and all the rest. I think a lot of people including Republicans would find those views objectionable.
[07:05:12] But you know, this is what's so fascinating politically about where we are. You know, this is a tiger that Donald Trump is now trying to ride, that he helped to unleash but he doesn't control. He doesn't control Republicans when it comes to getting major legislation like health care done. He doesn't have that kind of juice, even though he does have a lot of power over some, even in the establishment. He can't completely drive the agenda.
And here's another example of it. Now, Trump is also hedged. What have we seen in this young administration? He, too, will campaign against the establishment and Mitch McConnell, criticizing Republicans for failing to get health care repeal done.
Now, he'll work with them on tax reform. Or he might go work with Democrats again. So it makes it all very fluid. Because there will be more Roy Moores out there who don't like the establishment, who don't like the lack of accomplishment in Washington, even under Donald Trump.
And, again, you can't, just because you're riding the wave doesn't mean you can control the current. I think that's where President Trump finds himself atop this Republican Party.
CAMEROTA: But Wes, isn't the other curious part here that Donald Trump backed Luther Strange and not Roy Moore? I mean, Roy Moore is the outsider lightning rod candidate. They would seem to have been the natural fit. Obviously, supported by Steve Bannon, the president's former adviser. So why did he go with the Mitch McConnell, Luther Strange candidate?
WESLEY LOWERY, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. I think there's any number of questions to this. I mean, part of this is very likely that, you know, Roy Moore does sit very far outside of the mainstream of political thought and even of political conversation. This is someone who I know that Republicans here in D.C. are concerned about what type of drama he might bring with him to D.C. This is the type of person who, if elected, might bring you an outrageous statement a week. And that could potentially be further distracting for a caucus that is theoretically governing the nation, but is doing -- having some difficulty governing the nation and passing their agenda. I don't know if Roy Moore helps with that any further in terms of this disagreement between Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.
But I also think, you know, it's interesting. Because very often in the Senate races or any of these congressional races we like to or want to link them to a broader conversation that we're having in D.C. about whether it be the presidency or something else.
Yet we -- I think it's important to remember often that the politics of each individual state are very different, right? Someone like Roy Moore has been a culture warrior there going back to Ten Commandments fights years ago, long before Donald Trump was a factor. Right?
And so of course we're going to have the Steve Bannons of the world parachuting in and trying to claim credit. And this is about the Breitbart revolution. I would be very surprised if most Alabama voters have any idea what Breitbart is.
And so I think there is a consideration there that, yes, while it's easy to fit this into the establishment versus outsider fight that we have framed with Trump and Mitch McConnell and Steve Bannon, we also have to remember the politics of Alabama don't really comport, necessarily, to the conversation we're having in Washington.
CUOMO: True. There is a little bit of this, of Trump being hoisted on his own petard also, Chris Cillizza, that you know, he stoked this. He made Breitbart relevant by bringing in Bannon. And now Bannon can say whatever -- he can double speak as much as he wants about not trying to hurt the president. The headlines are killing the president. He just went against the president in Alabama. You know, he's kind of taking the insurgency away from Trump.
But that's a side show that really Trump gave birth to. So he's going to have to own it.
But in terms of why he went with Strange, the math is pretty simple, and I'm sure your reporting bears it out, as well. He can't control the Tea Party. Moore is an outlier. Forget it. He doesn't even fit in the Tea Party. But he can't control the groups that he stoked during the campaign. He needs McConnell. He needs Ryan. He needs them to work with their main body. And that's why they came to him on Luther Strange.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. That's right. I mean, look, I do think Donald Trump plays to one side and then plays the other. He makes a deal with Democrats on the debt ceiling. Then we have the NFL stuff. You know, I mean, we see this a lot.
Now, I think he plays more to his base than he plays to Democrats and the center. I think that's what this was.
I think McConnell went to him. Candidly, my guess is Donald Trump -- he said he had never spoken to Luther Strange. He didn't know who he was. He said this at the rally on Friday night. So, you know, he doesn't know who he is. McConnell says, "We need this because" -- for two reasons. Wes makes an important point. Because one, Roy Moore, forget his politics, is going to be a massive distraction in Washington. And, two, it's important as the president that you be for our Republican incumbents, because that's the way they're going to be for you.
No, let's say health care had officially failed a month ago. Right? Not two days ago. I wonder if McConnell goes to Trump and says, "Hey, we need you" on this if -- if Trump gets involved in that way. Because you know, with health care now under the bridge and failed, I'm not sure that Trump necessarily is cozying up McConnell. Yes, tax reform is coming. But remember, he openly speculated about maybe McConnell needed to resign.
[07:10:19] So I think he -- I don't want to say he got tricked into it. I think the reality is he didn't know either of the two candidates. He thought that this would help him internally, so he did it. But if it was a blind taste test, and you gave these two candidates to Donald Trump, he picks Roy Moore 100 times out of 100 in terms of approach, tone, and views.
GREGORY: Let's just remember there is tax reform coming.
GREGORY: And I think the president still wants to line up with the establishment, where he's got to believe they've got a much better shot than on anything as difficult as health care repeal.
CILLIZZA: Can I just say -- can I just make...
CUOMO: Tax cut. Tax cut, they have a better chance on. Tax reform, I don't know. Because he's going to have that Tea Party component again, David, who's going to say, "We need to have fiscal neutrality here. We've got to pay for these things."
GREGORY: At least the tax cut. You're right.
CILLIZZA: Chris, I just want to make one point to echo Wes. Because I think the tendency today will be to say there's going to be a Roy Moore in every state. There's not necessarily a Roy Moore in every state. This is a guy who's been at this for a very long time. You can't just necessarily prop up a state rep or someone and ensure that they're going to win.
There is a little bit of uniqueness in Alabama. It doesn't mean Bannon is going to try and he might be successful. This is -- there's not a Roy Moore in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arizona, Nevada where they're trying to do the same thing.
CAMEROTA: OK. Thank you, guys. Great analysis. Thanks for being here.
So President Trump defending his response to the hurricane-ravished Puerto Rico. The president now says that he will travel there, as well as to the U.S. Virgin Islands, next week. And he insists he was not distracted by his feud with the NFL. CNN's Joe Johns is live for us at the White House with more. What's
the latest, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, to hear the administration tell it, the response and recovery in Puerto Rico has been going very well, despite some of the circumstances on the ground on the island, which would appear otherwise. So much so that after several days of slamming the NFL and its players on Twitter, the president appeared to get extraordinarily engaged on the issue.
He did, among other things, announce that he is headed to Puerto Rico next Tuesday to see the situation for himself. Instead of slamming the island for its debt problems, the president announced 100 percent federal payment for debris removal and other emergency measures for the next 180 days.
And the president went on a public relations offensive, making the case that the federal government is involved, extraordinarily involved in the recovery in Puerto Rico, despite the circumstances including the geography. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've gotten A- pluses on Texas and Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico. But the difference is, this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. And it's a big ocean. It's a very big ocean. And we're doing a really good job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: And the president is also getting pressure now from Capitol Hill, specifically congressional Democrats who want him to suspend something called the Jones Act. That is a maritime law that requires supplies being carried between United States ports to be carried on United States ships. They believe that will make things much quicker for Puerto Rico.
The president today heads out to Indianapolis where that will be his one public event.
Chris, back to you.
CUOMO: All right. We have the president talking more about Puerto Rico, saying he's going to visit. Let's get the reality from the governor. Joe Johns, thank you so much.
Right now, we have Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo -- Ricardo Rossello. Governor, thank you very much for joining us.
I know that you are debriefing us on the numbers that are relevant to people in terms of showing the momentum of recovery. But you tell our audience what the reality is. What can you tell us about how much power has been restored and what the maintaining challenges are?
GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: Well, there is a challenge, Chris, and we're working hard. We're getting a lot of help from the federal government, but this is an unprecedented set of circumstances. So we want to make sure that we recognize that a lot of the resources are coming in. They're coming in by air or by boats. But they're starting to execute.
We've powered certain critical areas, such as Mayamon (ph), Maya West (ph), which is on the western side of the island. Those in turn power hospitals, which is critical. And we're working on powering San Juan, which is the main medical center.
We're reestablishing efforts to establish telecoms. One of the companies, AT&T, is going to bring about floating antennas so that they can reach around the island, areas that haven't been communicated.
[07:15:07] And collaborating firmly with FEMA. We're going to have about 30 missions to different municipalities so that we can get food and water in addition to those 30 or 40 that we did yesterday and the day before.
CUOMO: So you still have about 97 percent of your island without power. That means no sewage. How about access to water, food, the condition of livestock on the island? What can you tell us about those factors?
ROSSELLO: Well, with water, we did have generators, so we're powering those generators as a priority. Even though we're only 97 percent in terms of out, blacked out, we have about 50 percent of access to water. Notwithstanding we're making an effort to make sure that water gets to the places where, you know, the flow is not getting to. And we make sure that the people have those.
Food is critical. So we're making missions with FEMA and on our local government efforts. We've distributed a logistic map. And we want to make sure that everybody gets their food and their water. As soon as I'm done here today, I'm going to go on one of those missions to establish and to see that water gets to the people that need it, as well.
CUOMO: Was there enough planning done in advance here? Do you think that the government had the assets on the ground that were necessary?
ROSSELLO: Well, this is unprecedented. There was assets. There was apprehension. We did get a prelim emergency declaration. We did have boats stationed outside of Puerto Rico prior to the storm to make sure that they could arrive as soon as possible.
But the level of devastation is enormous. And this is a second Category 4, 5 hurricane that passes Puerto Rico in the span of two weeks. We've seen major devastation. And the important thing is that the federal government reacts. Both the administration. You know, the president has been calling me continuously. We've been in contact. And they've been making their resources available.
Congress has also pledged their support. I've spoken to several senators and congressmen between yesterday and today in the morning. They pledged their support for an important aid package. It is critical. The people know that Puerto Ricans are proud U.S. citizens. After Irma, we helped out others, about 4,000 U.S. citizens that were stranded. We gave them shelter and food. During Harvey, we sent out resources to Texas, as well, so that they can help in the rescue process.
And now it's the time to take a quick decision and help out Puerto Rico as others have done. You know, the governor of New York has pledged and helped immensely. He was here in Puerto Rico. So people are helping. The governor of New Jersey, as well, has pledged support and resources, human resources, which are desperately needed here in Puerto Rico are coming over here.
So the effort is ongoing. But Puerto Rico is an island. And of course, it's been harder to get some resources relative to the contiguous states.
CUOMO: And, you know, look, a lot of Americans are just waking up to the reality that you're Americans on that island and that there's even, you know, a closer bond than might have been expected.
So a couple more questions. One, the Jones Act. People don't know what that is. You know. You're acutely aware of what it is. It sets a different pricing standard for goods and services that come over, essentially goods that come in to Puerto Rico.
Right now we're being told from our reporting that they're not going to waive the Jones Act even with all the extreme need. Are you asking for them to waive the Jones Act? And what are you hearing about making goods cheaper for you guys right now?
ROSSELLO: Well, we expect them to waive it. Actually, during Irma, which was much less devastating, there was a seven-day waiver. So we do expect action to go that route. We've talked on a bipartisan level with different congressmen and congresswomen, and they all support at least a temporary waiver of the Jones Act so that we can get not only access from U.S. maritime ships but from anybody that can actually bring help. And that is critical, but particularly for fuel.
You know, one of the considerations right now is the priority of getting fuel, diesel, gasoline all across the island. Right now we have enough fuel. We're limited by the transportation logistics. But at some point, of course, getting fuel into the island is going to be critical so that we can have the major functions of telecoms, hospitals, water, to be running appropriately.
CUOMO: Right now you have people who want to deliver fuel to the island, but you can't get it in and get it out to the areas where we're seeing these incredibly long lines feeding this concern from your people that, while they hear about FEMA being there, they don't see it. They don't feel it. Hopefully, that will change and change soon.
Governor, we know you have to go. You're always welcome on the show to get out the message of need. We will report on this. ROSSELLO: Thank you.
CUOMO: Be well -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK. So the desperation of Puerto Rico is also being seen at the San Juan airport. Thousands of people enduring days of little food and water and no air-conditioning. They're trying to leave but they're confronting major challenges in getting out.
[07:20:06] CNN's Boris Sanchez is live at San Juan's International Airport with more. What's the scene for us?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Alisyn.
Frustration is mounting here. There are massive, massive lines of people that are coming here and have been coming here for several days since the hurricane hit Puerto Rico last week. Many of them have no confirmation that they'll actually be able to get on a flight.
I want to swing the camera around to our left side, so you can see another huge line here. People have been sleeping on the ground, many of them uncertain if they will be able to get off this island, in part because radar is badly damaged. Air traffic control at this airport is largely inoperable. So it limits the amount of flights that can get off of Puerto Rico. It also makes it uncertain for those that already have tickets and already have confirmation if they will be able to catch those flights.
And it's extremely painful for families that are in a special type of need. I spoke with one family that has a disabled child. A mom telling me that she fears her her son's life. They were turned away at a hospital earlier, and they came here, trying to get on a flight that was already scheduled for today by JetBlue. But they've not gotten a clear answer. Here's more of what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NASIR ZATAR, FATHER OF SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD: This is insane. This is completely unacceptable. I mean, we're human beings. We're not animals. We're being treated here as animals.
CINDY ZATAR, MOTHER OF SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD: In this condition, he can die in any minute here. We need to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: That family also telling me that they're looking forward to President Trump coming here to the island of Puerto Rico to see the extent of the damage with his own eyes. They said that help could not get here soon enough. They believe that the government was not prepared for Hurricane Maria -- Chris and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Just hard to know where to assign blame, other than Mother Nature.
CUOMO: And it's impossible to do something like this right. You're not going to prevent it, and you're not going to turn it around any time soon.
People keep comparing it to Katrina. That was years in the making, and it was months until there was any semblance of return to order there.
CAMEROTA: Boris, thank you for all of that.
Coming up, I will speak to Trump voters to find out how they're feeling today, what they think about the president's response to Hurricane Maria and the other hurricanes. So it's another one of our special "Pulse of the People."
CUOMO: First, the GOP establishment is startled after Roy Moore defeats Luther Strange in Alabama. What will it mean for Senate majority leader McConnell? We're going to ask a Republican senator next.
[07:26:40] CAMEROTA: Big news out of Alabama this morning. Establishment favorite Senator there, Luther Strange, who had the support of President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, lost. He lost decisively to Roy Moore, a conservative with a history of controversy. What does this mean for the GOP?
Joining us now is Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Good morning, Senator.
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Good morning, Alisyn. How are you doing?
CAMEROTA: I'm doing well.
So what do you make of Roy Moore's win over Luther Strange who had the support of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump?
JOHNSON: Well, I honestly think it's best to let the voters in a particular state choose who their nominee's going to be. And it may not come as a surprise to you, but I'm not a real big fan of the professional political campaign class. They spent a lot of money. They think they're a whole lot smarter than they actually are. So in the end, the voters of Alabama will choose who they want to represent them.
And you might have noticed, in our conference we had a pretty broad spectrum of opinion and ideology. So you know, we've got a bunch of cats here, and whoever comes in, and hopefully, it will be a Republican. Hopefully, Judge Moore will win, and he'll just be one more cat in the mix.
CAMEROTA: Corralling cats is complicated.
Do you worry that because of Roy Moore's win, that the race, the general in December, will be more competitive and that a Democrat could run away with it? JOHNSON: Alabama's a very conservative state. I have a hard time believing they're going to send a Democrat senator who will caucus with the liberal agenda of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. So I don't think that's going to happen.
Again, I'm looking forward to getting a solid conservative to serve with us so that we can actually repeal and replace Obamacare, we can do some real pro-growth tax reform. Those are the top agenda items.
CAMEROTA: Roy Moore is a conservative, but he's a controversial one. He has lots of positions that are in sort of the lightning rod category. So let me just remind our viewers some of the things that he's said and get your take on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOORE: My personal belief is it wasn't, but it's probably overdone in a few days. And let's begin, and something else will come along.
The (INAUDIBLE) of God and (INAUDIBLE) and we've suffered. Maybe, just maybe, because we distance ourselves from the one.
To teach this, you must worship this way are completely opposite of what our First Amendment stands for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Senator, even I could not understand what he was saying during those clips.
JOHNSON: Nor could I. I didn't want to be difficult (ph), but I really couldn't understand it.
CAMEROTA: It's not your earpiece, and it's not the viewers at home having to adjust it.
But listen, the point is this, Senator, you know that he's said lots of controversial things, that President Obama is a Muslim, that the Ten Commandments need to be in the statehouse. What do you think of those things?
JOHNSON: Well, Alisyn, no two people agree 100 percent of the time, not by a long shot. And so, again, we've got a pretty strong -- pretty broad spectrum of political opinion and ideology serving in our Republican conference, certainly serving in Congress. And so you just deal with individuals as they are.
I have found, coming here to Washington, you see there's an awful lot of stereotypes of individuals. You know, what exactly -- how the press portrays them is not necessarily the individual that they are. So anyhow, I've never met Judge Moore. I'm looking forward to meeting him and hoping we can work together and really address these serious challenges. They had legitimate concerns. We were up against this artificial clock.