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Analysts Examine President Trump's Comments on Press Licensing and Puerto Rico; American Woman and Canadian Husband Freed From Captivity in Pakistan; American Woman and Family Freed by Taliban; Interview with Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 12, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] JESSICA BARTH, ACTRESS AND PRODUCER: But I'm not sure, as far as I know he hasn't had any conversation with Harvey.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, obviously, it takes a whole community to stand up and talk about all of this. And so that's what you're doing today. And we appreciate you being here with us. Thanks for sharing your story.

BARTH: Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Let's go to Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the president is up and tweeting, and he just said some things about Puerto Rico that may make that situation worse. Let's get after it.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write what they want to write.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't get to pull licenses because he doesn't like what's being said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is increasingly angry at the coverage of his White House in crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A new "Vanity Fair" report claims sources in the White House is, quote, "unstable and unraveling."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look back and there wasn't this kind of very early questioning of the president's own abilities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over 170,000 acres have burned in these 22 large fires.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were pieces of ember just everywhere. It looked like we were at war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is now considered the most destructive wildfire in California history. (END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Thursday, October 12th, now 8:00 in the east. And up first President Trump's escalating his threats against a free press. In an apparent fit of pique the president is suggesting that he might use the federal government's to shut down news networks whose coverage he disagrees with.

There's also a new "Vanity Fair" report that says the president is seething and unraveling.

CAMEROTA: That report says top advisers and leading Republicans are growing increasingly concerned about the president's mental state. Meanwhile, President Trump's response to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico is taking another twist. Did the president make it worse this morning by saying that FEMA and the military cannot stay on the island forever.

So we have it all covered for you. Let's begin with Joe Johns. He's live at the White House. What is the latest at this hour, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, the president certainly gets irritated by news coverage, news coverage that is critical of him or his administration. He has taken issue with stories, he has taken issue with news organizations, but he's never gone as far as he has gone now, essentially suggesting he's up for punishing a news organization for its reporting.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.

JOHNS: President Trump sounding more like an autocrat than the leader of the free world, tweeting that network news licenses must be challenged and if appropriate revoked after saying he does not favor limitations on the media earlier in the day.

TRUMP: No, the press should speak more honestly.

JOHNS: Republican Senator Ben Sasse, a frequent Trump critic, firing back, asking, "Mr. President, are you recanting the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect and defend the First Amendment?"

TRUMP: The one thing with the Democrats, they stay together like glue. We have great policies, but the Republicans tend not to be as unified.

JOHNS: Sources tell CNN the president is growing increasingly frustrated with a stalled legislative agenda, and a new article in "Vanity Fair" describes the White House in crisis, with advisers struggling to contain the president who is increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods. The report cites two senior Republican officials who say chief of staff John Kelly is miserable, but remaining in his post to keep Mr. Trump from making a disastrous decision.

Speculation about Kelly's future growing Wednesday after his deputy chief of staff was nominated to replace the post he vacated as Homeland Security secretary. One White House source telling CNN they don't see Kelly remaining on the job for long without her and that he may have been giving her somewhere to land before he ultimately leaves.

According to one of "Vanity Fair's" sources, the president's former chief strategist Steve Bannon has said he thinks the president only has a 30 percent chance of making it through his full term. Bannon reportedly telling the president that the main risk to his tenure is the 25th Amendment to the constitution which allows the cabinet to vote to remove him. The White House is disputing these accounts as the president denies any rift with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

TRUMP: We have a very good relationship.

JOHNS: But making it clear that his own strategic opinion matters most when it comes to North Korea.

TRUMP: I think I have a little bit different attitude on North Korea than other people might have. And I listen to everybody, but ultimately my attitude is the one that matters, isn't it?

JOHNS: This as CNN learns that a tense and difficult meeting at the Pentagon prompted Tillerson to call the president a moron back in July, an official telling CNN Defense employees where ashen at Mr. Trump's direct questioning of his commanders and his lack of nuanced worldview."


[08:05:09] JOHNS: A well-known fact here in Washington, the president has not been able to get a health insurance bill through the Congress, so today he is expected to sign an executive action instructing the agencies to allow the sale of cheaper, less comprehensive insurance. It will be a big help for healthier people, but it will cause sicker people to pay more according to the experts.

CUOMO: Joe Johns, thank you very much. Joining us now is CNN political director David Chalian, and CNN political analyst and national correspondent for "Bloomberg Businessweek" Josh Green, he's the author of "Devil's Bargain, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the storming of the presidency." Steve Bannon just reportedly saying that the president only has a 30 percent chance of finishing the term. We will get to that.

But, David, does any of this matter, what the president says about the free press, what he says about the secretary of state? Because do you hear that? That's the sound of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and all these other Republican leaders, and Democrats, too, frankly, not saying anything about what the president is saying.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I struggle with this question all the time about does this matter. And as you know, John McCain says all the time when you ask him about something the president said, I'm not going to comment on what the president says or tweets. I'm going to comment on what the president does. And this whole notion that we learn through the campaign, don't take him literally but take him seriously.

And I sort of always grapple with this when these kinds of moments occur. But Chris, this is a fundamentally important issue. So even though I know every supporter of the president who is watching right now is going to think we're nuts for getting out there and saying it's fundamentally wrong to attack a constitutionally protected free press, that's wrong for the United States president to do, they're going to say that's whining.

But we do need to actually mark it, we do need to note, because this is different than simply complaining about what you think is unfair coverage, which every president in history has done. This is taking the levers of power that the American people have elected you to a position where you actually control some of that, and threatening to use it to actually do away with a constitutionally protected free press.

CAMEROTA: And by the way, if does end up having a pernicious effect even if it's a hollow threat, Josh. People do have animosity towards the press. People do make threats towards the press.

JOSH GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We can see that in public attitudes toward the press, we see IT in the way the public treats reporters. I've seen it myself, certainly more prominent television journalists get attacked left and right because Trump calls them out at rallies.

But to David's point, I do think it's important to look at what the president actually does. If you look at the threat he lobbied and the tools available to him, it's not quite clear that he can do what he says he is going to do. NBC is a broadcast affiliate, isn't licensed, as a broadcast network, isn't licensed by the FCC, so Trump would have to go after individual local NBC affiliates, and it's not clear he could do that until 2019. So even leaving aside the bigger constitutional issues, the First Amendment issues, he doesn't seem to have any idea what he's talking about when it comes to trying to shut down and silence the press.

CUOMO: So Josh, let's stay with you for a second in terms of if any of this is having any significant erosive effect on his power base. We do hear in editorials that people around him are getting anxious. Steve Bannon who you reported on a lot supposedly said that he only has a 30 percent chance of making it through the term not because of impeachment by Congress but his concern that the cabinet would turn on the president, a reference to the 25th Amendment, Section Four. What do you make of that?

GREEN: I talked to a source familiar with Bannon's thinking last night who described the "Vanity Fair" piece as, quote, "fake news." But I know from my own talks with Bannon, he has two concerns about how Trump might not finish his term. One is he might side with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, suddenly do the Democrats' bidding, and Bannon's fear in that scenario is that Republicans would turn on him and impeach him.

And of course the other scenario is that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, might find grounds to indict Donald Trump and he would be ousted from office that way. So I actually haven't heard a lot of concern, at least from Bannon's world, about the 25th Amendment, but this kind of dour feeling from within the White House and these dark moods that "Vanity Fair" reported Trump expressing, I think we can all see from his attacks on Twitter, his undermining of his secretary of state, his attacks on Senator Bob Corker, and his attacks on the press, frankly, I think it's an expression of Trump's frustration with his inability to move his agenda and an anger that he is being criticized and humiliated by some fairly prominent Republicans.

[08:10:01] CHALIAN: This 25th Amendment conversation goes to the heart of what the whole Corker battle was about, right? When Corker talked about an adult daycare center and somebody missed their shift, when Corker talked about Mattis and Ttillerson and Kelly being a line of protection from -- the country from chaos, this is what he is talking about. The people around the president who have to determine whether or not the president is fit to serve, that's at the core of what that battle was all about.

CAMEROTA: So let's talk about how we all have talked about how Twitter is a window into the president's mind and the president's thinking. So this morning he's thinking about Puerto Rico. And he has just tweeted "We cannot keep FEMA and the military and first responders, who have been amazing under the most difficult circumstances, in Puerto Rico forever." He's also talking about how Puerto Rico had their whole economic crisis and that's a real drain on the U.S., and sort of like that's on them. You know, they are on the hook for that. And so it's hard to know because he went to Puerto Rico. He seemed to be affected by what he saw down there, or at least he said he was. So what message does this send to the people of Puerto Rico?

CHALIAN: Can you imagine being in Puerto Rico right now and dealing with what you're dealing with and hearing this coming from the president. I would argue it seems that the trip to Puerto Rico actually did not impact him at all, because if you go back two weeks ago, he was leaving, I forget where he was headed, to a trip on September 29th, he was on the south lawn, he talks to reporters, and in this gaggle with reporters the president previewed all these tweets already. He said we are going to have big decisions to make. We're going to have to have a conversation with Congress about whether or not investment in Puerto Rico makes sense. So he already previewed this notion that rebuilding and fully investing is up for debate, not a given. So I am not terribly surprised to see these tweets this morning, except that what you said, he went there, he saw it, and he's still in this position of not sure it's worth everything going forward. CUOMO: There are people struggling to survive on that island right

now, they are American citizens. There is absolutely no end in sight to the need. Who is going to step up and correct the notion of the president that, you know, it's going -- you have to start thinking about getting out.

We do have a tweet from Senate Dem leader Chuck Schumer. He seems to be regarding the president directly as he did in his tweet, and he says "Why do you continue to treat Puerto Ricans differently than other Americans when it comes to natural disasters?" Josh, fair point. Never saw a tweet like this about Florida or Texas. What do you make of this? Is this really just about the president not wanting to be blamed for the disaster in Puerto Rico?

GREEN: I think it's a big part of it. What's shocking, though, is 80 percent of Puerto Rico still doesn't have power. So to attack them for a preexisting fiscal crisis when they're dealing with the fallout from what's a humanitarian crisis is puzzling on its face, certainly from the president.

But look, I think we know by now that Trump's tendency when criticized and attacked is to hit back. And he's come under quite a bit of criticism for his lack of response to the Puerto Rico crisis. Yes, he did go down and lobbed paper towels at Puerto Ricans waiting for aid, said some good words about how they're going to help, but there has not been action there. And the idea that he would threaten to pull out FEMA and emergency services at a time when people are dying and most of the island doesn't have power is really bizarre. I think it falls on Congress now to step up and pass some sort of an aid package to hasten the recovery there.

CAMEROTA: Josh Green, David Chalian, thank you very much for all of the political insight. We do need to get to breaking news right now for everyone.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: The Pakistani army says an American and her Canadian husband for free five years after being taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Let's get right to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She has all of the breaking details. Tell us more, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. The Pakistani Army announcing just a short time ago and now U.S. officials indeed confirming this extraordinary news that this American woman, her name is Caitlin Coleman, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, along with their three small children, five in all, have been retrieved, rescued by the Pakistani army from a terror network known as the Haqqanis, inside Pakistan, we believe. This couple, this American woman and her Canadian husband held for five years.

There has been a couple of sightings of them through video, but their case has not been really in the public consciousness. What we do know is that the U.S. provided some intelligence to the Pakistanis within recent days about the location of the couple and their three children. The Pakistanis acknowledging they got the intelligence from the U.S. and then moving on it and getting these people.

[08:15:05] At this hour, the five are still, we believe, inside Pakistan. It's not clear or how soon they will be returned to. Again, we are talking about an American woman and her Canadian husband. We are hearing it's possible they could be returned to the U.S. The husband may decide he wants to go back to Canada directly.

So, those arrangements are all under way. These three small children all born in captivity. The couple was taken by the Haqqanis back in 2012 and they have been held hostage every since -- Alisyn, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: This is unqualified good news, Barbara. Do we know anything about U.S. involvement in this?

STARR: Well, what we do know is that the U.S. had been trying -- as it does with all hostages, trying to track them, you know, all along the way. Haqqanis have held hostages throughout the years. They tend to move their hostages around so it's tough to track them.

But what we are told by U.S. officials that in recent days intelligence began to point in the direction of a location where these people were being held, and the Pakistanis moved in on it.

You know, the big hint of this came last night from President Trump when he was making that speech, and he spoke about the fact there would be good news in the coming day from a country in his words that had disrespected the U.S. It was a big signal about Pakistan. But I will tell you, U.S. officials I am talking to this morning say this is nothing but good news for this family of five.

CAMEROTA: Gosh, absolutely. What incredible breaking news, in fact. Barbara, thank you very much. Come back when you have more details for us.

CUOMO: All right. Speaking of the president, he is promoting his tax plan, calling it a middle class bill, but who really benefits? It's still light on details but there's enough to make a couple judgment calls, and we'll take you through it with a closer look, next.


[08:20:45] CUOMO: We're following breaking news.

The Pakistani army says an American, Caitlan Coleman, and her husband, who is from Canada, are now free, five years after being taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Let's talk with this with Republican Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. Coleman is one of his constituents.

What do you know about this?

REP. SCOTT PERRY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I know quite a lot about it. I have been working on it for about five years and met with the Coleman family just probably within the last month, two days ago on the house floor talked about the Coleman's plate, the family, their children, born in captivity, and our urgent need to get them out of there.

So, we're really gratified. It's just a great day for us in the fourth district of Pennsylvania. And even though we don't have Caitlan quite home yet, knowing that she's out of the Haqqani network's hands is really inspiring and invigorating. It's good news all around for us.

CUOMO: Caitlan Coleman there in the picture next to you right now, Congressman, and her husband, Josh Boyle. This is great news for that family. Do you know about U.S. efforts to get to release?

PERRY: Yes. We've been working on it. We worked on it with the Obama administration and, of course, with the new Trump administration. And throughout the time, I can tell you that the family has been somewhat frustrated, think there have been different levels of interests from the administrations. Each administration has been well aware advised on the situation, and doing something to secure their freedom, secure their release.

CUOMO: Has there been any recent change or recent development within the negotiation that triggered this?

PERRY: Well, we don't, as members of Congress, we don't get to know exactly how that is going. The Trump administration seemed to take a more vigorous stance and seemed to be more interested in the issue working directly with the family back here in Pennsylvania and with me.

That's just my perception. And so, that's all I know from this end. It's a long way from Washington, D.C. to the tribal areas of Pakistan and Eastern Afghanistan.

CUOMO: Well, it is good news no matter how it came about.

PERRY: Yes, yes.

CUOMO: And hopefully, we can learn more about the process and let people know what the government did.

So, let's go from one situation, where the government is paying attention to people in need, to another one where it seems like that's not happening enough. Puerto Rico, the president just tweeted and he suggested in there that you can't keep FEMA and first responders in Puerto Rico forever. That seems insensitive, given that the place is still in a throes of crisis.

How do you explain that tweet?

PERRY: Well, I think the bigger picture is that Puerto Rico has been in a financial crisis for quite sometime and we dealt with it with a bill called PROMESA a few years ago.

CUOMO: Right.

PERRY: But it's not nearly out of the woods. I would argue that that financial crisis and the corruption, the lack of attention on critical infrastructure, and those types of things have contributed or been contributing to some of the horrific problems Puerto Rico has had in the wake of the storm.

I think the point the president is making is that FEMA has a finite mission and a finite amount of time to be there to get people back into power and get back into some kind of civilized living condition. But then, at some point, it's up to Puerto Rico to get themselves out of this circumstance and help their people. And I think that's reasonable.

FEMA was never meant to be on the ground, in place or a state or community, you know, forever.

CUOMO: Nobody is suggesting they would be there forever. It just seems odd to talk about not having them there forever when the place is in the throes of a crisis. This is not something we have heard about Florida or Texas or other places that are in a state of distress.

We get that they have infrastructure issues and they have a financial infrastructure problem as well. But what does that have to do with helping them right now?

PERRY: It doesn't. There's no doubt the president is completely committed to helping those folks, having FEMA there. As a matter, I think if you look at the response between Florida, between Texas and Puerto Rico, overwhelmingly, Puerto Rico has had a huge amount of attention because they need it.

[08:25:07] They're in a different circumstance than everybody else, but at the same time, I think all of us Americans have to acknowledge there's a huge financial crisis that we're going to have to deal with right here in Washington, D.C.

CUOMO: It seems like it's not the time to be talking about it. There are people starving on the island. It's not a time to talk PROMESA or their debt structure. You know, yes, that's part of the architecture of that problem, that's part of what you have to deal with.

But you say, there's no question that the president is fully committed. There's every reason to question the nature of the --

PERRY: No, Chris.

CUOMO: You are saying it's a success story and they are in dire need.

PERRY: It is a success story. You're not on the ground there.

CUOMO: Where is the success? I was on the ground there, sir? Don't tell me what we know and what we don't know. We're there reporting every day. Where is the success?

PERRY: Yes. You are reporting every day and we're also getting reports ever day that people are getting food. They're getting water and their needs are being serviced, but it's been devastated, and these things don't happen overnight. And they really don't happen overnight when they've been neglected for years and decades --

CUOMO: Right, but when you have less than half the people with power and water, where do you see success? Nobody is saying the first responders aren't working so hard. We see it every day.


PERRY: Every single day, you folks on CNN --

CUOMO: But it's not enough?

PERRY: What is enough? What is enough? Having the power on the next day?

CUOMO: Having them not starving in the hills of Puerto Rico, sir.

PERRY: They're not starving in the hill, sir. They are not starving.

CUOMO: Not existing on the box lunch and a six-pack of water -- you are wrong.

PERRY: Would you have U.S. Army go in there and set up mess tents and feed every --

CUOMO: Do whatever you can.

PERRY: They are doing whatever they can. There is a limit to everybody's ability, including the United States government. There is a limit to those things, and they are doing absolutely everything they can and more.

CUOMO: One after another of people of experts in this type of recovery say more --

PERRY: Have you ever done any recovery operations, Mr. Cuomo? Have you ever done it?

CUOMO: I've been around very many of them.

PERRY: You've been around it, but you have done it? You've been around it, but have you done it?

CUOMO: I'm a journalist. It is your job to make sure these things happen and it's my job to check your efforts.

PERRY: That's exactly right. I have done those things and we are doing everything we can. The president will never be doing enough for you. That's the point. We'll never be doing enough.

CUOMO: It's not about the president. It's not about whether he's doing enough for me. It's about the people of Puerto Rico. I don't get where your head is on this. People are in dire need.

PERRY: The United States is there. It is a success. We are there working diligently every single day, and you are trying to make it looks like nobody is there ever. CUOMO: No, that's demonstrably false --

PERRY: You didn't go to Houston and do that or to Florida and do that.

That's what you are trying to say.

CUOMO: I'm not trying to say that at all.

PERRY: Let me ask you, then, what does a success look like to you? What does it look? Every single person has to have power the next day?

CUOMO: Crisis abated. The people who need food and water having it. Not 100 percent restored back to power. We get this is --

PERRY: If the water gets there five minutes late, is that a crisis?

CUOMO: It's not five minutes late. In places outside San Juan, they are not even close to that.

PERRY: Quantify your claim, Mr. Cuomo? Can you quantify any of it?

CUOMO: Look, here's my concern --

PERRY: You just can't make these claims and not put any metric to it? Who is without for how long? Who? How many people? Who are they?

CUOMO: You have less than half the country that has what they need to --

PERRY: Without power.

CUOMO: -- without need to sustain life, fresh water, power, food, places to live.

PERRY: Mr. Cuomo, you are simply making this stuff up. You're making it up.

CUOMO: How am I making it up? What am I making up?

PERRY: If half the country didn't have food or water, those people would be dying, and they are not.

CUOMO: First of all, Congressman, when you look at the numbers that are being put out by FEMA, you do know that overwhelmingly they still don't have people with power restored and many don't have access to water. You do have dozens of people who have died there.

PERRY: When you say access to water, Mr. Cuomo, do you mean running water out of the tap from a pump or do you mean water delivered, drinking water delivered by the U.S. Army or FEMA?

CUOMO: Both.

PERRY: What do you mean? CUOMO: Both. When we're there on the ground, still now, certainly

getting hard pressure of water through the pipes is not happening. That's related to the power. We know that.

PERRY: Because it requires electricity. That's exactly right. But we are delivering water to these people. We are delivering water --

CUOMO: I know, but it's not enough. I'm not saying the efforts aren't in earnest and you don't have thousands of people --

PERRY: But what is enough? Tell me, quantify what is enough that would satisfy your network. What is enough?

CUOMO: You -- it's not about my network. Come on, Congressman. It's about the people on the ground there.

PERRY: It is about your network because nobody else reports these things. We realize that. That's what we're doing.

CUOMO: Why are you -- how can you get angry about the fact that people in Puerto Rico are suffering?

PERRY: I am not angry, I am sad about the fact that people are suffering --

CUOMO: Why would you fight over the need? The need is real.

PERRY: I'm not fighting over the need.

CUOMO: We just need to do more and you have to sustain the efforts and the idea of talking about being there not forever seems insensitive and if not reckless right now.

PERRY: Senseless and reckless --

CUOMO: Insensitive.

PERRY: Insensitive and reckless, those are inflammatory terms used by you, but they don't defect the real situation. The president is sensitive.