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Family Freed from Taliban; Trump on Puerto Rican Aid; Reports of White House Turmoil; U.S. Woman, Family Free After Five Years As Taliban Hostages; President Slams Iran Deal As "Incompetently Drawn"; President: My Attitude On North Korea "Is The One That Matters"; Trump Claims Stock Market Gains Offset U.S. Debt. Aired 9:00-09:30a ET

Aired October 12, 2017 - 09:00   ET



[09:00:06] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Top of the hour.

We begin with breaking news.

An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children have been freed after five years in Taliban custody, captivity.

Let's get right to our Barbara Starr. She joins us from the Pentagon.

What are we learning about this family, Barbara?


This news breaking overnight. The Pakistani army actually putting the first public word out that they were able to rescue this family of five. An American woman, Caitlin Coleman, 31 years old, her husband, Joshua Boyle. He is a Canadian. And their three small children. You see them there. All those children born in captivity. They were taken hostage by a terror group in the region known as the Haqqanis, often affiliated with the Taliban indeed. They were said to been -- that they were being held in Pakistan.

What has happened is, over the last several days, the U.S. came into some intelligence that began to help pinpoint their location apparently with some accuracy because Pakistani security officials were able, by all accounts, to move in and rescue them.

The case has been well known but not well publicized that this family had ben held since 2012 when they were taken hostage. So it may be coming as a surprise to some people. But this is a family that U.S. intelligence had been tracking, had been looking for, along with the Canadians, obviously, trying to see if they could get any information on their location.

Our understanding is, at this hour, that the family of five is still in Pakistan. Arrangements are being made. They will either potentially all be returned to the U.S., possibly to Canada, the husband's country of citizenship. All those details being worked out. But right now some extraordinary good news for these five people,

these three small children born in captivity, an American woman and her Canadian husband.

Back to you guys.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good news, indeed, Barbara. To be clear, it was a Pakistani military raid based on U.S. intelligence. That was the U.S. involvement at the intelligence level?

STARR: Well, our understanding is that the U.S. began, in recent days, to really hone in on a possible location. They gave that information to the Pakistanis. In fact, the Pakistanis are e acknowledging publically they got intelligence from the U.S. Whether that all go them to those final few yards where they really were, we don't know, but it began to help everybody zero in on a location and they were successful in getting them.

BERMAN: We will no doubt hear more details about this coming up.

Barbara Starr, thank you very much for that very good news.

All right, new this morning, the president took a short break from attacking the First Amendment to go after the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. He wrote, we cannot keep FEMA, the military and the first responders, who have been amazing under the most difficult circumstances, in Puerto Rico forever.


HARLOW: Now, this comes amid some pretty stark numbers. Forty-five people have died, 113 people still missing, 83 percent of the island, Americans, without power still three weeks later.

Let's go straight to our Leyla Santiago, who has been in Puerto Rico since before the storm struck. What's the reality on the ground?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I actually just checked in with the governor's office. I'm' told the governor has seen those tweets. He's in a meeting right now, so we don't have a response from the Puerto Rican government at this hour to President Trump's tweets this morning.

But, yes, Poppy, let's do a reality check here. As we have been across this island, on the west coast, in the interior, you know, outside of San Juan, the areas that President Trump did not visit when he was in Puerto Rico, what we have seen is that much of this FEMA aid is moving but it is not getting to the most vulnerable people in their homes. Many of these communities, rather, are blocked off. As soon as they clear those roads off, when there's a bit of rain, there is a mudslide, and that means they can't get, still, to many of these communities. The people who need the help, the people who don't have bottled water, the people who can't get the medicine that they need right now. So a very different story.

When we were actually in an area that we visited just four days after Hurricane Maria struck, and we were the first people they had seen to even check if they had survived, we visited that place again just in the last two days. They told us we were the only people, still, that they had seen when it comes to outsiders. The mayor had come to deliver a box of food, but that food is now all gone. They shared it.

And then when I checked with one director of emergency management, and this really kind of paints the picture as to the gap in communication, he showed me this. This is what they are giving out. It is in English and in Spanish. It says register for disaster assistance. And it's got a number and it has a website to reach FEMA. That's hard to get to in an area with no cell service, no power, no communication. They can't call FEMA. They can't use the Internet to register for hurricane assistance. So that tells you that there's still a long way to go here.

[09:05:28] You talk to the first responders, you talk to the people, and this isn't a matter of days, this isn't a matter of weeks, this is a matter of possibly years to get to some sort of normalcy while the president is already tweeting that he is thinking you can't stay in Puerto Rico forever on an island of 3.5 million U.S. citizens.

BERMAN: Leyla Santiago in San Juan for us on the ground seeing things firsthand.

Leyla, thanks so much.

Joining us now, our panel, to discuss this. Caitlin Huey-Burns, RealClearPolitics, first to you.

Look, the president saying that FEMA can't stay there forever, at the same time the EPA, his own administration, on its website putting out stories about people drinking from super-fun-site (ph) wells, contaminated water, because they can't get water anywhere else. His message is not exactly one of compassion.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right. Exactly. And in contrast to the vice president, who traveled to Puerto Rico and said, we are with you all the way here.

What's interesting about the president's response has been kind of this defensive posture that he has had about it, because he has come under fire for his response. Eighty plus percent of the island is still without power. As you mentioned, people are without drinking water. The reports outside of San Juan, where the president did not go, reveal a very different picture. And so the president is responding this way in contrast with a lot of people, even in Congress, who think that this needs -- more needs to be done.

HARLOW: And, remember, when he visited with the first lady, they were in San Juan proper. I mean they were not in the places that Leyla has been for weeks and weeks.


HARLOW: Guys, just listen to the vice president compared to the president on this one. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We now have more than 15,000 federal personnel on the island, Fifteen thousand. We will not rest until that job is done. Puerto Rico has a long road of recovery ahead. A very long road.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our message here today is the same as President Trump's message earlier this week, that we're here for the long haul.


HARLOW: We're here for the long haul, Mary Katharine. And this morning the president saying we can't be here forever.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, there's just no excuse for it. And the thing about, when he tweets this stuff, it doesn't matter if you have a feud with the mayor in San Juan and it doesn't matter if she has been political in that feud. There are people on the ground who are hurting. And there are federal resources that are on the ground doing their jobs. That not only denigrates the people who are hurting, who are victims of the storm, but those who are actually there trying to help. This was always going to be a really hard, logistical lift, and he has taken away all the benefit of the doubt that people might give him for that by being just mean about it.

BERMAN: Abby, by the way our newest White House reporter, welcome having you on in a different capacity right now. There's always a lot of talk about messaging from the president versus messaging for the administration. Where's the messaging on Puerto Rico coming from here? Because he seems to be free-lancing when he sends this out in the morning while the rest of his administration is trying to say, look, we're there in force with thousands of people working around the clock.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, John, that's the thing about Twitter. The thing about Twitter is that it's the president unfiltered. He doesn't have a teleprompter in front of him. He doesn't have cue cards. It's just exactly what he thinks. And I think that's what makes these comments, I think, even more different from everything that's been said before, because we know that that's where he is, even if it's not where the administration wants him to be.

Look, everything that we've heard from Sarah Huckabee Sanders this week, from the vice president, they said, we are going to be here until this is over. I think what's happening with the president is that he's actually very concerned about the costs, about the idea that Puerto Rico has, as he said, totally messed up the budgetary considerations that the administration has had to think about when they're trying to put this all together. That's on his mind right now.

And, frankly, the rest of the administration recognizes that it shouldn't be from a humanitarian perspective. These are American citizens. These are people who are entitled to the support of the federal government when they have no other recourse, and I -- you know, but the president unfiltered on Twitter, this is what he thinks and this is what he believes.

HARLOW: That --

BERMAN: Again, yes, no time limit on Texas or Florida.

HARLOW: I was just going to say that.


HARLOW: You've got to think if he would ever, every tweet that about Florida or Texas.

All right, ladies, stand by for us. We have more that we want you to weigh on.

The president's comments on Puerto Rico this morning come in spite or maybe because of reports that people close to -- very close to the president are openly questioning whether he is up to the job. Here are some headlines this week pointing to, quote, frustration and fury, aides saying he threw a fit, quote, unraveling, the president is, quote, lashing out, morning, night and weekends.

[09:10:17] Let's go to the White House where we find our Joe Johns.

Good morning, Joe.


What this picture suggests is it just sort of adds to the picture behind the scenes of drama in the White House. It adds to the picture that Senator Bob Corker was alluding to when he talked about the White House as an adult daycare center. And, of course, there's also some suggestion that the president has become increasingly distraught after seemingly losing the magic touch in Trump country, Alabama, by backing the wrong candidate in the Senate race there.

So this reporting from Gabriel Sherman in "Vanity Fair" magazine really describes a president who is increasingly isolated. And let me say that the White House denies that all of this reporting is true. Nonetheless, if it is true, it's fascinating and offers a lot of insight.

So, one of the quotes we've taken out of it, according to two sources familiar with the conversation, Trump vented to his long-time security chief, Keith Schiller, I hate everybody in the White House. There are few exceptions, but I hate them.

At the center of all of this, of course, is the president himself, as well as his chief of staff, John Kelly. Some suggestion in the reporting that he would like to get out of the White House, but sticks around because he wants to make sure nothing bad happens. Of course that's something else the White House denies.

Here's a quote, one former official speculated that Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis had discussed what they would do in the event Trump ordered a nuclear first strike, would they tackle him?, the person said.

So a lot going on here behind the scenes if you believe that reporting. The White House denies all of it.

Back to you.

BERMAN: All right, Joe Johns at the White House right now.

Back with our panel.

Caitlin, I want to put this to you. Gabe Sherman sets up his piece suggesting Bob Corker's comments about the adult daycare center are an inflection point that now people are talking more openly about the fact -- and these are, you know, Gabe's words, that the president is unraveling. Is this a real thing?

HUEY-BURNS: Well, you know, it's been interesting to see members of Congress really not come out and say what Corker has been saying, because a lot of them are up for re-election next year and are trying to get tax reform done and are trying to walk this, you know, very delicate balance that they've had to do. Is it telling what we heard earlier this week from a "Washington Post" reporter interview with Tom Barrack, a close friend of the president -- a long-time friend of the president, an ally of his, going through the media to try to convey his message and concern about the president's behavior. I think that was a very telling iteration of this.

But we've also seen him go after the press, which we all, I think, can acknowledge that it is very concerning for the president of the United States to be questioning the First Amendment in those ways. But I think it's part of a strategy that we've seen before where he comes from a point of defense trying to undermine the credibility of reporters, of people involved in various investigations. For example, we've seen him make this play before from this kind of posture.

HARLOW: We have. Just some of his words on the press yesterday because there were many. Quote, it is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write. First Amendment. OK.

Mary Katharine, Ben Sasse, Republican senator, writes, are you recanting the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect and defend the First Amendment here. Is this anything different than we've seen from the president on the press? Is this a step further than ever before?

HAM: This is -- this is not how this works. That's not how any of this works.

Yes, the First Amendment is sacrosanct. The president should not be suggesting that he's going to put limits on it due to the content of peoples' reporting.

This is -- he had sort of a transactional relationship with the First Amendment, the way he does with anything else. It's like if it happens to be ticking him off at the moment, he's anti. But I'm not sure that I buy that this is some new inflection point for this reason. I think Senator Corker is Senator (INAUDIBLE) right now and he will say what he will say.


HAM: I think the mood that you hear about in the White House, I'm just not sure it's that different than Trump in the Trump Organization, or Trump in the Trump candidacy, or Trump in the White House six months ago. It all feels like about the same level of volatility, unpredictability. And -- so I'm not sure that this is new. The only -- the only one that sounds like it might portend something different is the Tom Barrack interview, because he is, of course, very close with the president.

[09:15:02] HARLOW: Right.

HAM: And that one struck me as something perhaps new. But the rest of the reporting on his attitude and his tweeting just seems like par for the course. And that is what people voted for. And we knew what we were getting.

BERMAN: Right. I will say one thing that's different about the reports of volatility and now versus the campaign of the Trump organization is that he has nuclear weapons now, for instance.

HAM: That is an important distinction, thank you, John.

BERMAN: If there is a level of concern now, I would say the concerns are different, but I do understand what you are saying about the volatility. Abby, to you, General Kelly, his name comes up in every one of these reports, and either he's on his way out or is not on his way out and is happy as can be, depending on which report you read. Where are we now? Is this guy saying or going?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's really not clear. I mean, I think that John Kelly is still doing his job and I think he probably intends to do it for as long as it's tenable. There have been some real tensions between him and Trump.

I mean, Trump is not someone who like to feel like he's controlling. What John Kelly has done fairly successfully, you hear this inside and outside the White House is streamline what kind of information this president receives.

Trump is used to being able to have people come in and out of the oval office and put things on his desk and pick up the phone and call whoever he wants to call and John Kelly is trying to clamp down on that. He has not had as much access to some of the people that he tends to talk to as he would like.

And beyond that, some of his close confidants, people like Keith Shiller, no longer work in the White House. So, Trump is a little bit isolated here and some of that is by Kelly's doing.

He's been trying to push out people who he thinks are not conducive to Trump sort of being focused and prepared to do the tough parts of the job. But the result has been a president that is kind of stewing in the oval office, and he wants to reach out to the people that he talks to and communicates with, his sounding boards.

All of that is producing this atmosphere of tension in addition to the fact that we have Puerto Rico, these natural disasters that are outside of his control. He doesn't feel like he's getting enough credit. He feeds off of positive reinforcement.

He's not getting very much of that in the media. There are a lot of things going on right now, and that dynamic is pushing Trump and Kelly against each other. We will see how long that lasts. Trump realizes he needs John Kelly more than John Kelly needs him.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's just helping your fellow Americans as commander in chief. It's not about the credit you get, it's about doing what is right. Thank you very much, Abby, Caitlin, Mary Katherine. Nice to have you.

Ahead for us, the president calls the Iran deal incompetent, says something has to be done about North Korea. His cabinet may not agree, but President Trump is making clear his options and his opinions are the only ones that count.

BERMAN: The wildfires in California raging and getting worse by the hour. Towns evacuating. Thousands and thousands of firefighters at work with people on the run.

And new women coming forward accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, this as Hillary Clinton speaks for the first time on camera about this.



HARLOW: This morning, two major stories on the foreign policy front, really three big headlines to get through. President Trump is set to likely decertify the Iran deal, point it back to Congress as it's one of the most incompetent deals drawn that he's even seen.

BERMAN: The president is ratcheting up the war of words with North Korea saying the situation should have been handled years ago.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN global affairs analyst, David Rohde, and CNN military analyst, Colonel Rick Francona. David, I will start with you. Not on North Korea or Iran, but I want to talk to you about Caitlan (ph) Coleman, who was released and out of captivity of the Haqqani Network in either Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And I asked you, you were held by this network, by these terrorists for seven months. Your reaction to this news this morning.

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: First, it's wonderful news. This is a family and these were two children that were held there. They were held for five years. She was pregnant when she was grabbed by them. She gave birth to two children in captivity so it's wonderful that they are out.

There are questions about how it happened. President Trump is already claiming credit for it, maybe he deserves credit, but I think there will be more to come out about how this happened.

HARLOW: And also on the Iran deal, the president is set from all the reporting, set to decertify it tomorrow, but for most Americans, that means it's over. It is anything but that. It punts it back to Congress and you see this as a way of looking like the White House and the president are really doing something on this one. It doesn't change a whole lot.

ROHDE: It doesn't. This is another issue of the president declaring something like fix health care and he dumps the problem on Congress. So, no, the deal stands. Congress will decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran. If Congress reimposes sanctions that abrogates the deal, but what the president is supposed to do, we expect on Friday, will not end the deal.

BERMAN: Colonel Francona, you think that some of this pressure and rhetoric by the president and the administration might actually be changing things. You think that Iran might be starting to feel some of the pressure. Explain.

LT. COLONEL RICK FRANCONA (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think the Iranians have blinked. If you read the comments coming out of Tehran, they were hard over on not willing to discuss the missile program at all. They said that's already been negotiated. That's already been settled.

There was a change to the U.N. resolution that was part of this deal and it called on the Iranians not to develop missiles rather than the previous wording which was they shall not. They were anyone to ram this through as part of the deal. I think that was a mistake.

They said we are not willing to discuss this yet. Just last week we heard the Iranian Foreign Ministry mentioned that perhaps we could talk about some things like the missile program. I think the Iranians are beginning to feel the pressure.

As David said, throwing this back to Congress really doesn't abrogate the deal and I think the Iranians want to make sure that the deal is not abrogated. So, I think they are showing willingness to at least talk about some of these conditions. I think that's a good sign.

[09:25:03] HARLOW: On all of these issues on North Korea, Iran, the president made very clear yesterday, David, that his opinion is different than some of those in his national security team, and frankly all of those in his national security team around him.

His words, ultimately my attitude is the one that matters, isn't it? That's the way it works. This comes as the "New York Times" editorial board this morning questions whether he should have singular authority to launch nuclear weapons preemptively.

What message does it send that he is vocal about disagreeing with his own national security team on some of these key issues?

ROHDE: This is Donald Trump. You know, he won the election by being vocal, but together Iran and North Korea, this general approach of a president himself being the most aggressive person, it's a huge gamble for Donald Trump.

Maybe Colonel Francona is right, and maybe the Iranians will blink and maybe North Korea will blink. But we haven't seen that yet on any of these international issues. We haven't seen that even domestically in terms of Congress acting on major legislative things. But this is the president doubling down on his aggressive approach and disagreeing with his own advisers.

BERMAN: You know, Colonel, you mentioned Iran blinking, what about the European allies, other nations of the world here, they may not blink when it comes to the Iran deal?

FRANCONA: Well, I don't know if they need to blink, but they certainly have a vested interest in this deal not going away and you know, for the Europeans, there's a lot of economic issues here that they are concerned about.

Because one of the big things -- in fact, my belief, the whole thing for the Europeans and the Iranians was an economic deal. You get rid of the sanctions and the U.S. sanctions were the ones that are important.

Because the attitude that you can deal with the United States or you can deal with Iran, but you can't deal with both. That put a lot of pressure on European companies. That's now going away, they like it.

They look forward to a great relationship with the Iranians and they don't want that to be put at risk so they have a vested economic interest and this is not going away and they will put a lot of pressure on the United States to not reimpose sanctions.

HARLOW: They are already. David Rohde, thank you. Colonel Francona, we appreciate it very much.

Meantime, the president talks a lot about the stock market gains we have seen, but now he's doing something that we have a hard time understanding. He says that the increase in the stock market is actually helping reduce the national debt. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The country -- we took it over at over $20 trillion, and as you know in the last eight years they borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country.

So, they borrowed more than $10 trillion, right, and yet we picked up $5.2 trillion in the stock market, possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months in terms of value.

So, you could say in one sense we are really increasing values and maybe in a sense we are reducing debt.


BERMAN: CNN's chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, joins us right now. In any sense, Christine Romans, does an increase in the stock market reducing the national debt?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: In no sense does an increase in stock market reduce the national debt, John. Let's look at the stock market because the president really wants to take a victory lap here on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and others.

The Dow up 25 percent since the election. The Nasdaq up almost 30 percent. The S&P 500 up 20 percent, put that in perspective, though. Look at the Trump bump on the overall bull market. It's been a relatively recent addition.

It is $5 trillion, but that goes to companies and it goes to shareholders and it goes to investors. It doesn't reduce the national debt. You guys, the national debt is how much Congress has already spent. To reduce the national debt, you have to really cut spending or really raise taxes.

Guess what? Nobody is talking about raising taxes. It's about tax cuts here. If you don't pay for the tax cuts the president proposes, you could add to the national debt. So, putting these two things together is something that in the business world this morning has just confounded economists and debt watchers because these two things do not go together in any sense.

Looking at the stock market right now, very close to record highs, 64 and 65 -- I am not even counting anymore how many record highs since the election. We do point this out every single day. You can see a little step back here today, just a little pause in the rally, so watch that guys.

BERMAN: All right. Christine Romans with lots of sense this morning. Appreciate having you. Thanks so much, Christine.

Strong winds, dry air, deadly wildfires in California getting deadlier. The latest from California, next.