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Cost to Taxpayers of HHS Secretary's Flight Reportedly Grows to More Than $1 Million; Administration Calls Puerto Rico "Good News Story". Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 28, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight keeping them honest with Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and his apparent love of pricey private planes. New developments tonight about just how much all those plane trips cost the federal government, meaning how much they cost American taxpayers.

After extensive reporting on Price's trips and apparently anger from the president, today, a spokesperson said Price would reimburse the U.S. treasury for the cost of his travel. But it turns out he isn't really doing that at all. He plans to only reimburse taxpayers for the cost of a seat on many of the private planes he took, not the cost of the fuel or the plane or the crew, just the cost of a seat. His spokesperson said he would reimburse about $52,000.

Well, now, we're learning that the full cost of chartering the planes was far higher than previously reported. According to a new report in "Politico", which broke this story, Price's trips just since May have cost the American taxpayers more than a million dollars.

Just earlier today, the White House tried to downplay its role.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: To be clear also, the White House does not have a role on the front end of approving private charter flights at agencies, and that's something that we're certainly looking into from this point forward and have asked a halt be put, particularly at HHS, on any private charter flights moving forward, until those reviews are completed.


COOPER: Well, keeping them honest, the White House may not approve the private planes for the Health and Human Services Department, but it did play a role in Price's exorbitant travel costs overall. Tonight, "Politico" reports the White House approved the use of military aircraft for Price's trips to Africa, Europe and Asia to the tune of more than half a million dollars, which added to the private plane cost, pushing it over a million yon.

Again, Price has vowed to reimburse the government about $52,000. The HHS inspector general is investigating the whole mess. But in the case of private jets, anyone who knows how to use Orbitz or can figure out pretty quickly how outrageous Price's travel costs were. It's about $300 to fly commercial from Washington to Nashville. Price took a private plane at a price tag of more than $17,000.

At least 24 trips since May, according to "Politico". They found five private flights in one week, including one from Washington to Philadelphia. You can drive in about two and a half hours or take a train for about $72.

And let's not forget, this is just the kind of spending that Price railed against under the Obama administration, in particular, spending for private planes for members of Congress. Here is what he said about then Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2010.


REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: What I want to say to the speaker, don't you fly over our country in your luxury jet and lecture us on what it means to be an American.


COOPER: The magic of videotape.

Tom Price was still talking about being frugal as recently as this summer. "Politico" reports a conference in San Diego in June, Price said it's incredibly important to get rid of wasteful spending in government health programs and, yes, of course, he took a private plane to that very conference.

Jeff Zeleny joins us now from the White House.

I understand the White House just released a statement about this.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They did, Anderson, and this is clearly a sign of the White House trying to get their hands around what clearly has been a drip, drip, drip over the last several days. The White House is saying that sometimes the cost of a military aircraft, military travel is necessary in their words -- let me read this here -- use of military aircraft for cabinet and other essential travelers is sometimes what they say an appropriate and necessary use of resources. They're not specifically talking about this latest batch of trips, but they're saying in general. They are looking into more of these.

But, Anderson, this is clear that the White House authorized these trips on military aircraft because they own the planes essentially. But, Anderson, this is a sense where the White House clearly did not know how many flights they were talking about as the week went on. They have, in fact, learned this, I am told, from "Politico" and other news reports here.

So, this is something that certainly is going to make Secretary Price's already, you know, precarious situation even more so. COOPER: Well, also, I get, you know, I guess doesn't want to pay for

the full cost of these charter flights, but did he actually think that this was going to put it away by agreeing to pay for the equivalent price of like a business class ticket on these flights? Because I understand he commented just a little bit ago. What did he say?

ZELENY: You have to wonder about that because that is something, Anderson, I am told by someone who is familiar with the president's thinking, a close White House aide here, who is talking to us confidentially who says the president actually is incensed by this and the fact that it's $52,000 to pay for that when we're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is not going to help secretary price keep his job.

But we did catch up with the secretary a short time ago here in Washington. We asked him about where he stands. Let's take a listen.


REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, a couple of quick questions. Will the check that you're writing, will that satisfy your bosses and the taxpayers' questions?

PRICE: I think what we've done right now is to demonstrate good-faith effort that we've heard the concern and the criticism and we looked forward to the inspector general's report.

REPORTER: Do you plan to stay on the job?

PRICE: Absolutely.


[20:05:01] ZELENY: Well, he said there he absolutely would stay on the job, but, Anderson, of course, that is not a decision that's up to him. That's a decision that's up to the president. And that interview was done just shortly before this latest revelation out in "Politico" again tonight about a half million dollars more worth of foreign travel on military aircraft.

And again, it's not the travel necessarily that's the question here. Cabinet secretaries as we know travel all over the place. He was looking into the treatment of Ebola in Africa. He was attending world health organizations. What's different about this, Anderson, is that he is using either private planes or military planes. Every recent health and human services secretary we have talked to, we've talked to a lot of them, Republicans and Democrats, they say, look, we always flew commercial.

The difference here is usually these military planes, they're reserved for the secretary of state, the defense secretary, others who have urgent business that's in the matters of national security, not the health and human services secretary.

COOPER: Also, I mean, they just frankly haven't -- I mean, his office just hasn't been up front about the reasons behind this or the number of trips. I mean, at one point, they were saying, look, he's just so busy sometimes he's got to take private planes. One of these trips was to this, you know, to this island I guess and where they have a house with his wife and there was some sort of a conference there, but they we want like -- St. Simons, they went there like two days early. So, the idea that, you know, there was no commercial flight, there was no way to get there commercially, I mean, that's just bunk.

ZELENY: It has not held up and the reality here is we've seen a lot of these situations in Washington before where you think someone may hold on. And this will be the president's decision. We will see about this. But they have not essentially followed, you know, crisis management 101 by getting everything out there. Now you're wondering this latest revelation tonight are they trying to get everything out there?

But, boy, all these new revelations again are not giving the president confidence in his secretary, again, talking to someone close to this White House and the president saying that this has made it even more difficult for the president to stick with him. We'll see if he will or not.

But it also is opening questions for people throughout the government, other cabinet secretary, others, who else is doing this. Of course, there are many wealthy members of this cabinet who fly on their own planes. And that is fine. Other ones who are moderately wealthy.

I think Secretary Price has a net worth of plus $10 million or so, not enough to get a private plane. You know, was he wanting to live that sort of lifestyle as well? We'll see.

But, Anderson, no question tomorrow, the president will be asked again about this if he'll keep him on board. Again, it's up to him, but he's in hot water tonight.

COOPER: Yes. I think, by the way, I think $10 million net worth is more than moderately wealthy. That seems pretty --

ZELENY: No doubt, but probably not enough to buy a private jet.

COOPER: Probably so.

ZELENY: And that is -- you know, the -- I wouldn't know. I don't know.

COOPER: Yes. Jeff Zeleny, I appreciate that.

Joining us now is CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, also CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.

Jeff, I mean, what is going on with Secretary Price? I mean, this was a guy who was sort of ethical -- you know, there were ethical questions about him when he was in Congress. The idea that he wouldn't want every "I" be dotted and every "T" to be crossed is unbelievable. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the fact that he got

confirmed at all when he was trading stock in companies that his committee was regulating in Congress is pretty astonishing in the first place.

But also, I mean, the budget of the United States is about a trillion dollars. This is only a million dollars. If there is one thing that people are going to remember about Tom Price, it's the fact that he loved these private planes. I mean, it is vastly more significant and this is something Donald Trump understands very well.

It's one thing Donald Trump understands, it's public permission of stuff on television. And I don't see how he survives this because it reinforces every bad stereotype about the Trump administration. Rich people, privileged people, rules don't apply to them.

COOPER: Right. If the idea is draining the swamp, I mean, this is flying over the swamp in a private plane.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: This is continuing the swamp in a private plane. Look, I mean, I agree with everything Jeff said, particularly the fact that the president has become aware in recent days of just how damaging this is for him. That is what he cares about. What this impacts the public perception of him and his administration.

At the beginning of the week, people were telling me White House they thought Price was going to survive this, that he was going to pretty badly damaged, but he was already badly damaged. The president is not enamored of Tom Price, and in all of his cabinet picks, that's not his favorite.

The story in "Politico", I think it was yesterday, or two days ago, about him taking the plane and visiting his son.

COOPER: In Nashville.

HABERMAN: There were a ton of instances in that story about him mingling his personal life with the use of these jets. And that was what put it overboard for the president. The president began musing about the idea that Price should have to pay this back, but he was told by people in his own circle, look, that raises questions about what that will mean for other people in terms of these flights. What does that mean for other cabinet secretaries? What does that mean for staff who went on these planes?

As far as I know and I know this from two administration officials, it's not clear how many people were actually aware that Price was going to announce that he was reimbursing for that seat.

[20:10:07] There might have been a couple of people in the West Wing who knew. Most did not. The president as I understand, he did not actually ask him to do this. So, this continues to roll along as this chaos unchecked, and that just can't go on forever.

COOPER: It just seems like a moronic announcement to make that you're going to do this partial thing. I mean, I get it, he doesn't want to spend all that money. But --

HABERMAN: It's moronic on two levels.

COOPER: It just continues it.

HABERMAN: Well, A, it continues it, number one. B, it raises a whole host of legal questions about do other people then have to pay for their seats? How is this going to work? If you're doing it, what does that set in terms of the precedent.

And it doesn't go away. It is all about -- it is all -- well, it's not only about, it is partly about perception. And this president came in saying that he was going to be different. He was going to drain the swamp.

This week, we have seen him back an establishment candidate for Senate who lost. We have seen his administration mired in all sorts of investigations and now you have a cabinet -- an appearance of a cabinet run amok. That just can't continue forever.

COOPER: This is after the treasury secretary and his wife flew that plane to Fort Knox.

TOOBIN: The day of the eclipse.

COOPER: It just happened to be the eclipse and she decided to tweet on Instagram.

TOOBIN: And remember, Tom Price was brought on because he was a member of Congress and Congress was going to overturn Obamacare. That, of course, has turned into a major fiasco. It was the Senate, not the House where Price came from.

But still, there is nothing Donald Trump likes at the moment about House and Senate Republicans. Tom Price is a representative of them. It's another reason he's irritated.

COOPER: There's also CNN reporting tonight that the administration is basically on the hunt for leakers within the Department of Health and Human Services. I mean, what's interesting about that is as if leaking is the egregious part of this whole tale.

HABERMAN: I mean, that always --

TOOBIN: Ask Maggie, she's the one who gets --



HABERMAN: That always tends to be where this goes with this administration. It is part recognition that there's a public issue here and a very large part about paranoia and a fear that things are going on that we're not in control of.

The bigger question for the White House right now is what is happening at various agencies. And there's a clear sense when you put it all together, there have been questions about Scott Pruitt's spending at the EPA. His advisers have defended it pretty mightily. But, you know, this sound proof booth that he was putting in.

COOPER: He's got security which most heads of the EPA do not have sound proof.

HABERMAN: That's right, $25,000 sound proof booth. All of this becomes sort of a giant bag of what is going on here.

COOPER: It's also interesting because I think one of the very effective parts of then-candidate Trump's campaign was this notion of draining the swamp. I remember the first time he said it, Cory Lewandowski was on the program saying I think you're going to be hearing that phrase a lot. I think that's a winning phrase.

HABERMAN: He was right. It was.

COOPER: I just want to play you will at times the president talked about that.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it comes to Washington, D.C., it's time to drain the damn swamp.

Drain the swamp. We're going to drain the swamp of Washington. We're going to have fun doing it.

When we win on November 8th, we are going to drain the swamp.

We are going to drain the swamp of government corruption in Washington, D.C.

It is time to drain the swamp.


COOPER: And now --

TOOBIN: I think he wanted to drain the swamp. That's what I drew from what he was saying.

But, you know, look who is in the government. I mean, it's a bunch of very wealthy people, very privileged people. Fortunately, some of them like Betsy DeVos and Wilbur Ross can afford their own private planes and they're paying for their own private planes. But it is a very elite, wealthy group that is running the government, and apparently, Tom Price wants to live like them even if he can't afford it.

COOPER: Yes. Maggie Haberman, thanks, Jeff Toobin.

Up next, members of the administration defending their handling of the crisis in Puerto Rico. One calling it a good news story. We'll show you how that squares with what Puerto Ricans are experiencing, telling our correspondents on the ground.

Later, the latest remarks from the White House about the NFL, the continuing debate over taking a knee during the national anthem. We'll find out what Green Bay fans think about it tonight when 360 continues.


[20:17:46] COOPER: New developments in the crisis in Puerto Rico and two questions, is enough being done to meet the overwhelming needs there and is the White House painting an overly optimistic picture of their efforts so far?

Now, disasters like these are obviously a nightmare for the people affected, for relief workers on the ground, for decision makers on the field, all the way up the chain of command.

You got a badly damaged island, preexisting infrastructure problems, roads that are impassable. The list of obstacles in Puerto Rico is a very long one. Things go wrong and there are a lot of people at FEMA and elsewhere working around the clock to try to help.

All of which argues powerfully against appearing over confident.

This afternoon, acting secretary of homeland security, Elaine Duke, had this to say when asked whether she's satisfied with the government's response to Hurricane Maria so far.


ELAINE DUKE, ACTING HOMELADN SECURITY SECRETARY: I'm very satisfied. I know it's a hard storm to recover from. With the amount of progress that's been made and I really would appreciate any support that we get. I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.


COOPER: Well, it certainly is a good news story in the limited number of immediate fatalities from the hurricane. Beyond that, our correspondents on the ground in Puerto Rico are not hearing from a whole lot of people who see this as a good news story in terms of the government's ability to reach people.


MARIA ROSARIO, HURRICANE SURVIVOR (through translator): I'm getting desperate. This is no way to live really. They should bring us water or other supplies because the kids keep asking.


COOPER: Maria Rosario, that woman has been waiting days for anything, whether it's food or just a bag of ice to keep the food she has from spoiling. At local docks, FEMA says their supplies are getting distributed, but

port officials tell CNN that containers with goods for stores, water, food are stuck pause the roads are bad, communications are down and drivers are in short supply.

Today, the Pentagon named Army Three-Star General Jeffrey Buchanan to oversee military efforts on the ground, development many have applauded but which raises the obvious question, why has it taken more than a week?


ZELENY: What has it taken eight days to get a three-star general on the ground to start organizing this? We know the island situation, et cetera, but why eight days.

TOM BOSSERT, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR: Yes. Well, because it didn't require a three star general eight days ago. We have a three star general in charge of this and we had one in charge of this out of San Antonio from d minus 8.

[20:20:03] ZELENY: San Antonio is thousands of miles from Puerto Rico.


ZELENY: Why -- was it a mistake? Would you acknowledge it was a mistake looking back to not have this three-star general on the ground earlier?

BOSSERT: No, not at all. In fact, that doesn't affect the way we stage equipment and the way we handle area command and field operational command. This is textbook, and it's been done well.


COOPER: Well, homeland security adviser Tom Bossert saying this is textbook. General Russel Honore who led the military response to Katrina disagrees.


LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), LED MILITARY RESPONSE AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA: They've been slow to deploy the military. It took us seven days to appoint a brigadier general and another 24 hours for them to make a decision in the Pentagon, and we needed a three-star general.


COOPER: After days of criticism, the administration just today waived the Jones Act allowing foreign flagged cargo vessels to bring in supplies. The reason given Puerto Rico's governor only requested the waiver today.

Now, the president has touted his conversations with Puerto Rico's governor so it's surprising that the Jones Act never apparently came up.

And just moments ago, the president fired off two tweets on the subject. Quote: FEMA and first responders are doing a great job in Puerto Rico. Massive food and water delivered. Docks and electric grid dead.

Locals trying really hard to hip but many have lost their homes. Military is now on site and I will be there Tuesday. Wish press would treat fairly.

Joining us now CNN's Ivan Watson and Boris Sanchez, along with CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, all in Puerto Rico tonight.

Ivan, the people you spoke to today at that river crossing, had they seen any kind of aid, federal, local in the areas that they're coming from?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They have seen not a single bit of aid or assistance. And it's about 45 minutes drive from where Boris and I are standing here to the place where a bridge was washed out by flash floods during Hurricane Maria. We were able to drive there, then ford the river.

Take a little look at what we were seeing there and what people were experiencing there.


WATSON: The wire that they're hanging on to has been set up by residents of the town. This is their improvised method for trying to reach the outside world. We just spoke with a couple who had crossed this way and then walked two hours to the nearest supermarket to try to get bread and food and rice for their children, and then had to walk two hours back.


WATSON: That town, San Lorenzo, about a thousand residents there is only 25 miles as the crow flies, Anderson, from the capital San Juan. They have no electricity, no phones. You can see that the transport is paralyzed, the main way out to the outside world. People have to ford that river knee high water. You can't do it if you're elderly or if you're a child. And what do you do if there's some kind of medical emergency there?

Also, no running water. And they've gotten a visit from the municipal mayor. They've gotten a visit from FEMA two days after the hurricane, but no assistance whatsoever. The only help they've gotten was when local authorities allowed them to take the food out of the shattered school in town and distribute it ad hoc to the community -- Anderson.

COOPER: Sanjay, you've been at a shelter where there were people with serious medical needs. Talk about that and why they can't get the care they need or can they? DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what

happened was a lot of these folks even before the hurricane was approaching, they went to these shelters basically to evacuate their homes. And at that point, they basically have been there now for, you know, 10, lesson days, whatever number of days it has been, without any power, without any water. Many of these people left and went to those shelters because they were worried of their own illness, worried that they wouldn't be able to get medical care after the hurricane. And that has remained the case for, you know, again, several days now.

What we saw over there was those doctors who were trying to care for these patients but have not had any supplies, have not gotten the power that they need there, not even clean water. And now, they have no comms, no communications to be able to actually get these patients to the hospitals where they could possibly get some care.

We were there, Anderson. There was a woman who had been there for about 11 days, severe infection, life-threatening, the doctor said. She's been trying to raise anybody. We ended up giving her a satellite phone so she could get some help. But that was -- you know, and she eventually we were able to help her, but that's just one person. There are thousands more in shelters, there are thousands more who are probably still in their homes who haven't gotten to the hospitals yet.

So, the hospitals haven't even begun to see what they're likely going to see over the next several days, Anderson.

COOPER: I mean, it seems like a lot of the needs are also very basic. I mean, it's insulin, it's prescription drugs that people have to take every day and need to renew, disinfectant.

But without the right supplies at a hospital or even supplies in store shelves and we've seen containers today in port of -- not FEMA supplies but, we're told from port officials, of just regular goods that should be on store shelves.

[20:25:01] It's hard to get those to the stores. And without that stuff, I mean, this can turn life-threatening very quickly for a lot of people.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, that is really the point. And it's something that bears repeating is that I think a lot of these supplies that we're talk about are on the island. That's what we're hearing, whether it'd be antibiotics, whether it'd be pain medication, IV bags, even sat phones. But they're not getting to the people that need them as eye van was just talking about, the same thing here.

I didn't see any FEMA support and I asked the doctors on the ground there and they said for the last eight days, they haven't seen anything either.

You know, Anderson, you and I have covered a lot of these types of stories and people throw around this term humanitarian crisis or humanitarian disaster. What that means as you well know is that after the disaster, after the hurricane in this case, people could die of totally, totally preventable things. These are things that are preventable. I mean, these are simple treatments and yet people are liking going to die for lack of what are very basic, basic things.

So, getting those antibiotics to people is not just something as a logical thing. It is a life-saving thing here now. And I've seen this. People are really suffering out there because they've gone without for so long.

COOPER: Boris, I mentioned those shipping containers. You were at the port in San Juan today, where some of those containers and supplies waiting to get trucked out. Just explain, you know, what those containers are because I talked to the head of FEMA, Brock Long, the administrator, who is saying, you know, FEMA has been able to get their emergency supplies off ships, distributed as best they can and they said they're doing that in a lot of different ways.

But the guy from the port you talked to, what did he say was in those containers?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He said that they were every day supplies. Simple medications like what Sanjay referenced. Everything from Tylenol to refrigerated items that are withering away as they sit at the port, clothing, food, cars, anything that is out there could be used by the people here in Puerto Rico, at least according to the vice president of Crowley, the company that manages those containers.

I've heard from several people on the street tell us, asking us, where is the aid, where is the relief, where is FEMA? If the gridlock, the series of problems, the layers of problems that are holding those containers back from getting to where they need to go could be unraveled, then people would have more access to those very necessary items, Anderson.

COOPER: That's one of the things that the White House were saying, a lot of people were saying, even during Hurricane Harvey and in Florida as well is that if you can get stores open where people can purchase goods, that helps the entire emergency situation. Obviously, that's what you're saying a lot of those supplies are.

Boris Sanchez, Ivan Watson, Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much.

Some of the correspondents, producers, photojournalists, we have dozens on the ground right now in Puerto Rico and more to come.

More details on the three-star general who will now undertake the massive coordination to save lives in Puerto Rico. I'm going to talk to General Russel Honore, who led the military response in Katrina. And as we showed you earlier, he's pretty fired up over the Trump administration's response to the crisis.

We'll be right back.


[20:31:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, as we've heard tonight and all week, the level of destruction in Puerto Rico is really unimaginable, a humanitarian disaster with more people, more Americans living in Puerto Rico than in 21 states.

Earlier today, I spoke with FEMA Administrator Brock Long about the response efforts.


BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Unified command is what's working. And so people are seeing that on the ground in Puerto Rico as well as behind me. So all of the government forces are working together.

What we've done is we've escalated -- several days ago, we escalated the amount of forces coming in from DOT, which is why we've seen Brigadier General Kim on site working hand in glove with FEMA, as well as the governor. So the communication is starting to come up, it's working. And we are actually getting to all the communities with commodities, regardless of what's being presented. And the bottom line is that, we're sustaining the hospitals, we're pushing forward. We know the 44 operational capacity, we're trying to assess the others that are remaining. We're starting to get more capacity coming into the islands as air ports and sea ports are starting to be opened up and utilized.


COOPER: A lot of more of that interview online. As Administrator Long mentioned, the Pentagon has named the Three Star General to lead the military's response, Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan's report to some duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He is scheduled to arrive in Puerto Rico tonight.

The question now, is why it took so long for this to happen?

Lieutenant General Russel Honore joins me now. He led the military response to Hurricane Katrina.

So General Honore as we just heard from the FEMA Administrator Brock Long says the unified command is working in Puerto Rico, the supplies are starting to move both by on road and in some cases helicopter air drops. Is that how you see it? Are things beginning to work?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE (RETIRED), LED MILITARY RESPONSE AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA: Yes, in bureaucratic terms, starting to work. But it's not meeting the needs of all of people. I mean, every reporters has come up, they're not making this up, talking to officials, seeing things on the ground. And I do respect Brock. I do respect Tom Bossert, they're trying their best.

But they require policy guidance from the President on what he wants them to do. And I think that's where the gap is. When we should have been moving the military last Saturday, the President was out playing golf and twittering. I think the cabinet didn't meet until Monday, if I followed their meeting schedule. And it wasn't Tuesday that they announced a general was going in to lead the federal effort. And they sent Brigadier General Deputy (ph). And then today General Buchanan, we knew as a very confident general. He and General Kim both -- they know what they're doing. And I hope they're given the authority to do that what they need to do. In New Orleans, the President told me do what I have to do and indicated to Secretary Chertoff who was already on the ground in New Orleans. And Mike Brown who was in ground in New Orleans that I was so sort out any confusion in the evacuation and had the authority to do that what I needed to do.

I heard a conversation earlier today where they indicated that if the task force commander wanted to do air drops, he could make a recommendation. That's bullshit. Now that the commander Buchanan is on the ground, he needs to be giving orders and figure out what rules he needs to be break to save lives. Because this is bureaucratic responses, not working with all due respect to the White House, they could have put lipstick on this pig but this thing is moving too slow. And they don't have to scale right. We need to have at least 100 helicopters there. We got less than 60 at this time. We need 15 ships there. We've got less than 10. I mean, we've got to get moving and think all to save lives.

We could have deployed an airfield opening from the air force. And they have the capacity to jump in --

[20:35:04] COOPER: Let me --


HONORE: -- the opening, they didn't do that.

COOPER: And General Honore --

HONORE: We got a lot of tools in the box, they didn't use. I'm sorry, Anderson.

COOPER: No, it's all right. I just want to play you something the White House said today because there was a lot of bureaucratic and sort of technical language in there. And I wasn't quite sure -- I mean, I know what the bottom line they're saying that this General wasn't needed eight days ago, which I don't quite understand the logic on that. But let me just play what the White House said and then I just want you to respond to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why has it taken eight days to get a three-star general on the ground to start organizing this? We know the island situation, et cetera. But why eight days?

TOM BOSSERT, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Yes, well, because it didn't require a three-star general eight days ago.

We have a three-star general in charge of this, and we had one in charge of this out of San Antonio from day minus-eight and day minus- two and all the way through until today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: San Antonio is thousands of miles from Puerto Rico.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why -- was it a mistake -- would you acknowledge it was a mistake, looking back, to not have this three-star general on the ground earlier?

BOSSERT: No, not at all. In fact, that doesn't affect the way we stage equipment and the way we handle area command and field operational commands. This is textbook and it's been done well.


COOPER: So he's saying, this is textbook, what do you make of that?

HONORE: Must be a new book. I haven't read that book. The job of the United States military is to save lives. And we've lost eight days through this bureaucratic process of making decisions, where the President and the cabinet not meeting immediately to figure out solutions to these complex issues. And it took seven or eight days to believe the Jones Act (ph). It's taken eight days to announce a three-star general. You know by way, the FEMA Director is still in Washington, D.C. And I think he's good man but he needs to move on the ground, that's around here tomorrow and I hope he beat me into Puerto Rico because he needs to sort this out on the ground, not for Washington, D.C. doing press conferences. He needs to be on the ground with the governor if he's going to be commander of this with the governor.

Everybody when you show up in Puerto Rico works for governor. Even though the three-star general they works for the governor and the governor's priority. That's the way it works. But that general has to get the authority from the President and the National Command Authority that if he needs to deploy more troops, he calls for them and they show up.

You know, I was thinking that within the next 24 hours, we could air drop elements and aides in there that could bring in stuff as supposed to ammunition and help get things in the far out reaches. Link up with the National Guard and create an area network that can be sustained for a few days with air drops in the far off places.


HONORE: But way they're doing this is like a bureaucrat planning an inaugural or something. This is too slow and it's not scaled right. In Katrina I had 20,000 federal troops. They still don't have 10,000 federal troops on the ground.

COOPER: Yes, and this is obviously --

HONORE: We got 7000 National Guard, about 3000 federal troop. We had 200 helicopters -- we have less than 100 helicopters in. I mean, we don't have aircraft carrier. If the carrier was there, it could handle the air.

COOPER: Yes. General Honore, we'll talk to you tomorrow night. We'll be on the ground as well. I appreciate that.

Coming up next, President Trump's claim that the tax cuts in his new tax bill won't make him even richer, keeping them honest in that talk and the author of the art of the deal.


[20:41:30] COOPER: Keeping them honest tonight there is more proof tonight that the President has a problem with the truth or alternative facts. We got three examples in just the past 48 hours. Number one, this pledge from the President yesterday when he unveiled this long- awaited Republican tax plan.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our framework includes our explicit commitment that tax reform will protect low and middle income households, not wealthy and well-connected. They can call me all they want. It's not going to help them. I'm doing the right thing and it's not good for me, believe me.


COOPER: It's not good for me, believe me, he said. Keeping them honest, the burden of proof is frankly on him after all we have knowing for the simple fact we have no idea what taxes the President actually pays as we all know, he has never released his tax return, citing in IRS audit. In fact, he's only president in modern history not to release his tax returns.

It is very possible that the President and his family could benefit from some of the tax reform proposals that including the possibility of repealing the alternative minimum tax or AMT, which is a decades all tax put in place to make sure the rich pay their fair share.

In March of this year, his 2005 tax return, got leaked part of it. It showed that citizen Trump paid more than $31 million due to AMT. That tax wasn't in place back in 2005. He would have only had to pay $5.3 million in taxes of savings and more than $25 million.

Now the health care, number two on our list, the problems with the truth for the President the last 48 hours. Listen to what he said yesterday.


TRUMP: We have the votes on Graham-Cassidy. But with the rules of reconciliation, we're up against a deadline of Friday, two days, that's just two days. And yes vote senator, we have a wonderful senator, great, great senator, who was a yes vote. But he's home recovering from a pretty tough situation.


COOPER: Well as we mentioned last night, he was referring to Senator Thad Cochran, keep them honest, Senator Thad Cochran was not hospitalized as the President tweeted previously and he's recovering at home from a procedure, as for having the votes on health care, no, no way, not a chance. And pretty much at the very moment President Trump said that, the cosponsor of the very bill that the President was talking about, Senator Lindsay Graham put out a statement and reading in part, "While we currently don't have the votes to pass the legislation, I'm not giving up."

Now in number three on our list of untruth by the President in the past 48 hours. This one was posted on Twitter this morning, while defending his election victory and President is once again keeping praise on himself, "virtually no President has accomplished what we have accomplished in first nine months, and economy roaring."

Keeping them honest, plenty of economists question how much a first term president can take credit for the economy. However, the rest of his claims flood out false. The President has not signed one major bill. Several of the measures he promised to enact on day one are still in Limbo, including the border wall, repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Joining me now Tony Schwartz, Ghostwriter of the Trump Biography "The Art of the Deal." He also contributed an essay to the book, "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump." And back with us is CNN Political Analyst and New York Times White House Correspondent, Maggie Haberman.

Tony, you spend a lot of time with then citizen Trump as you were writing the "Art of the Deal," I mean, does he believe what he says? Does -- when he says things which are not true? I mean, or is it just, you know, a marketer's way of talking?

TONY SCHWARTZ, CONTRIBUTOR TO THE "THE DANGEROUS CASE OF DONALD TRUMP": Well, you know, I used the phrase in "The Art of The Deal" truthful hyperbole to explain when he was saying things that weren't true and truthful hyperbole of course is none sense, there is no such thing. Hyperbole is a lie.

[20:45:03] I actually think the question that actually this book raises, number of its essays my psychologist says, is Trump crazy like a fox or he just crazy? And I think the overwhelming weight of evidence suggest that he is just crazy, and not crazy, casual crazy. I'm talking about crazy. I'm not a psychiatrist so I actually can get away with thing, just the crazy as a personality disorder. That comment he makes -- well, any of these, you could say are delusional. Delusional is, you say something that you incontrovertibly know not to be untrue.

COOPER: Right, he said the hospital thing about that Thad Cochran numerous times now already. And (INAUDIBLE) how many in the sound bite he did say he's at home but other times, he just says he's in the hospital. And that's not why the health care vote didn't happen.

SCHWARTZ: Simple answer is he says whatever he thinks serves him and while he's saying it, he does believe it.

COOPER: Maggie, you've seen that. Do you believe? MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think that's exactly. And I think that is always has been exactly. And I think there are times when he knows it's not true but he's telling himself it's true and then I think there are times he genuinely believes it. But I think that everybody is looking for some rational explanation for why he does things and people are looking for some core ideology that he has. And he doesn't have any of those things.

He will say what it takes to get through very tiny and correct me if I'm wrong, you've spent a lot of time with him but he will say what it takes to get through certain tiny increments of time. He is just focused on sort of the next 10 minutes basically. And, you know, he is -- I once had a conversation with somebody we're trying to explain how he he's sort of the guy from a "Friends" episode, who keeps promising the girl he has no intention of calling that he's going to call her tomorrow for the next day. He often says he will do somethings that he has no intention of doing just to get through the situation.

He believes that he can sort of paint his own version of what reality is. And we have seen this over and over again. He did it throughout the campaign. This is nothing new.

COOPER: I mean, Tony, I mean, that -- it works -- it was certainly work in many cases when he was a real estate developer or sort of painting his own reality. Obviously the stakes are far different and people weren't following up on -- I mean, there was, you know, gossip reporters who were covering it and, you know, they're not going to be follow-up whether or not --

SCHWARTZ: And seemed harmless. Yes, it wasn't -- it didn't have much moment. There's a great description that's relatively little known that I think actually is a very interesting way of thinking of Trump from Erich Fromm, the great psychiatrist. Erich Fromm called marketing personality. And marketing personality is actually characterized by an absence of character structure so that you can say whatever you want to say because there's no conscience underneath that's keeping you -- that's serving as barometer for you. And that's exactly what happens with Trump. And yes, what's changed is the stakes are much higher. And every time now that he says something that's not true, a lot of people know it.

HABERMAN: Right. It's also what's changed is that, you know, we were talking earlier in the show about his tax returns not being -- in the segment about his tax returns, not being made available. You've never quite seen what his company is worth. You had Forbes did an estimate over many years but it was never really clear. He would always say, you know, in one deposition he said, you know, it could be based on how he felt it was worth at any given moment.

But this is the government and there is proof. And this is why the stories for instance about the cabinet officials using these jets. That's just a fact, that's not something that people are making up, does not something that fake news is writing quote/unquote, this is just reality. And there are just certainly things when you are in government, you can't just create your own picture as much as people may be suspicious of government and as difficult and translucent and opaque as government can be, it's just not the same as it probably has.

COOPER: Let's see how people -- I mean, in his businesses we have people around him who would say no or would say, look that's not the case?

SCHWARTZ: No, I don't believe he's ever had people around him who would say no because you don't say no to Donald Trump more than once or twice.

COOPER: He doesn't like it.

SCHWARTZ: He doesn't like it. You're not going to stay for very long if you say no. And I do believe that a John Kelly knows very clearly that Trump is deeply disturbed and that he is utterly untrustworthy and he is managing him all the time out of some belief -- put aside ideology, out of some belief that it's better that he'd be there than he not be there.

I never met anybody who worked for Trump who didn't know who Trump was within a very short time.

COOPER: And yet many have stayed for long periods of time.

SCHWARTZ: Yes. I mean, I think, you know, including his family has stayed loyal. Not necessarily his wives but his family -- his immediate family stayed loyal because I think there's a bit of stockholm syndrome. I think that actually is what happens when you're around Trump. And you get used to being -- to having a very -- what until recently or you can even say continues to be so, very glamorous life and you get addicted to it. And so I think that's what happening. But I think they know.

COOPER: Interesting. Tony Schwartz, thank you, it was interesting, Maggie Haberman as well.

[20:50:05] When we come back, the latest installment in the Trump versus the NFL what the White House said about it today. Still talking about it, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears and their fans handle the national anthem before tonight's game, next.


COOPER: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is continues to defend the President's feud with the NFL. Here's what she said this afternoon.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It certainly shouldn't be. As I've said several times before, this isn't an us-versus-them. This should be something that brings our country together. These are symbols of what our country stands for, and this should be the opposite of what that is. This should be a very unifying moment when the national anthem plays, all Americans should be proud to stand up, salute that flag, salute that anthem, and be part of that process.


COOPER: The President's comments have not brought the country together on this issue. Just moment ago, players for the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears took the field for Thursday night football. Players have requested that all fans in the stadium lock arms in solidarity. Here's what happened.


COOPER: You can see the players locking arms. No one it appears took a knee.

Our Randi Kaye is Green Bay Wisconsin tonight and talked with fans before the game. Randi?


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the shadow of Green Bay's Lambeau Field, we found plenty of beer, brats and opinions about President Trump's recent review of NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a patriot. He is American citizen as well. He has his own opinion. And I agree with his opinion.

APRIL BOUCHER, GREEN BAY PACKERS FAN: I don't believe that they should be fired. I think the people of American have a right to express their opinion and the NFL players do as well.

KAYE (on camera): Do you agree with what the President said that these quotes, "sons of bitches" players should be fired for kneeling during the anthem?

CHUCK GILLE JR., GREEN BAY PACKERS FAN: He could have used his words a little differently of course. But I think overall his message was positive for patriotism in our country.

KAYE (voice-over): This Chicago Bears fan strongly disagree. He says the players have every right to kneel and express their freedom of speech.

RAUL LASSO, CHICAGO BEARS FAN: I believe that they are just protesting racial inequality. And I think that the President should worry about bigger things.

KAYE: Jordan Lenihan agrees.

JORDAN LENIHAN, CHICAGO BEARS FAN: The President should stick to Presidential things. And then, you know, NFL stick to NFL things. I've -- you know, it's a lot inner mix right now. I think Trump should really focused on, you know, tax reform and things like that.

[20:55:12] KAYE: And on the issue of race, again, mixed opinions about the President taking on a league that's majority African- American.

KAYE (on camera): The President says this isn't anything about race. This is about respect for the flag, it sounds like you don't buy that.

STEVE DANNENBERG, GREEN BAY PACKERS FAN: No, I mean, look at the history. Just go back to the stuff that happened in Charlottesville, I mean, he didn't come out and denounce them. But the men and the guy takes a knee for equality and things like that and unity, he's all over them.

KAYE: Do you think the President's comments were racist as some have suggested?


KAYE: Were the President's comments racist in your opinion?

GILLE: Not at all. I don't so whatsoever. I don't understand the whole racist issue here. People who kneel, I think they're more racist than the people who stand for it.

KAYE: How can those who are kneeling be racist when they're kneeling apparently to try and help promote racial equality and get rid of police brutality?

GILLE: Are they really? Are they really?

KAYE: That's the message they say.

GILLE: Are they really, though.

KAYE (voice-over): And white this couple agrees that players should not be fired for kneeling during the anthem, ask them who's going to win tonight's game, and it's a whole other story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rogers 300 yards, three touchdowns. 24-20 Packers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honestly say, there is like three. All right, I think they'll keep it a close game, but I'll say Bears by three for sure.


COOPER: Randi joins me. Did anyone you spoke with today agree that the players should actually be fired if they kneel down?

KAYE: Anderson, we spoke to more than 50 people, not a single person actually thought that any player who kneels down should be fired. Some thought they should be disciplined, maybe even find, but not a single one thought that a player should be fired.

We also talk to one fan who was quick to point out. He said, if you start firing people now for taking a knee. So many players are kneeling down that you're going to lose the season. You're going to have to fire half the NFL. So that was the point that he made. We also talked to them about this rule Donald Trump has suggested to prevent players from taking a knee during the anthem. Sort of like the rule that was put in place to prevent them from celebrating and dancing in the end zone and one guys said, that's impossible you can't penalize a player for something that happened before the game. So again that's not going to work either, Anderson, in his opinion.

COOPER: All right, Randi, thanks very much, I appreciate that.

When we come back, the exclusive new reporting, the Russia investigation, plus, what the White House is now saying about Secretary Tom Price's expensive private plane trips with the price tag now reportedly topping $1 million.


COOPER: We begin the hour with the CNN Exclusive. A Twitter and Facebook account both disguised to look like they were run by the same black activists were actually the work of Russians. The accounts are part of the material being handed over the Congress for its investigation to Russian meddling in the presidential election.

The accounts both called Blacktivists posted videos of police brutality against Africans-Americans and wrote about injustice to Africans-Americans. Take a look at the Facebook page. It says watch another salvage video of police brutality.