Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea Renews Threat; Power in Puerto Rico; Ryan Visits Puerto Rico; Trump on Puerto Rico; Trump Ends Health Subsidies; California Wildfires Continue Burning. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 13, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kim Jong-un little rocket man. There has been a lot of bellicose rhetoric coming out of the White House, war of words exchanged back and forth, and things have been pretty quiet out of North Korea these past couple of weeks, which leads me to believe that these joint drills might be the time when they do this. And then, of course, we have to see how the U.S. would respond.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Will, we heard the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, speak in a rare public appearance yesterday, you know, about North Korea and what a threat it is and their increasing ability at re-entry for these new -- for these rockets. But he said, look, I hope diplomacy works. We're all -- we're hoping for diplomacy here.

What about the North Koreans? You've been speaking to the North Koreans. Do they feel the same about diplomacy?

RIPLEY: That was a very cryptic message from Chief of Staff Kelly because he said, you know, let's hope diplomacy works. In other words, hinting that something else might happen.

I've been talking with North Korean contacts at the United Nations. (INAUDIBLE) the New York channel that would be opened up if there were to be discussions happening back and forth between the U.S. and North Korea. And what I am told is that there are -- no discussions are happening. The channel has not been activated. And North Korea is not willing to sit down and negotiate with the U.S. right now because even though you hear people like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talking about a diplomatic path, President Trump keeps, in North Korea's opinion, kind of beating the drum of war, almost egging them on, provoking them to take some sort of step. And at least right now it seems like the North Koreans are more than willing to do so.

We've also heard officially from North Korea's foreign minister just a couple of days ago speaking to the Russian media saying that now is not the time for negotiations with the United States.

What that unusually means, if North Korea says they want to talk but they want to send a message, that they do something else, something provocative. And things could really escalate, especially if they follow through with that pledge to launch something in the direction of Guam. President Trump, that's when he threatened over the summer to reign down fire and fury like the world has never seen. HARLOW: Right. Let's hope not.

Will Ripley, thank you very much.

Ahead, always with them, but not forever. Two very different messages from the president on Puerto Rico in 24 hours. So, which is it?


[09:36:24] HARLOW: President Trump changing his tune, or at least his tweet tone about Puerto Rico. Yesterday he wrote, the U.S. government can't keep FEMA, the military and first responders in Puerto Rico forever. This morning he writes, the wonderful people of Puerto Rico, with their unmatched spirit, know how bad things were before the hurricane. I will always be with them.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So which lasts longer, always or forever? Think about that. And does it even matter given that we just learned that fewer people have power in Puerto Rico this morning than yesterday. Let's go to CNN's Leyla Santiago in San Juan, in Puerto Rico.

Leyla, it's extraordinary, fewer people with power this morning. What's going on?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, in the past, when those numbers have fluctuated, it has been because of some issue with transformers. You know, this is a system that was venerable before Hurricane Maria struck and certainly not serving many people today given that only 9 percent of power has been restored. Flip that around, that means 91 percent of this island still without power on the day that Congressman Ryan is expected to visit.

Now, I have just gotten off the phone with the -- from the Puerto Rican government. They're giving a few more details on what's expected. Ryan is expected to take an aerial view of the interior and western part of the island. When I asked if he will get off to actually talk to people, if he will land in those areas, see that devastation from the ground, I was told he will not have time to do that.

So that means that many will see the same thing they saw when President Trump came. The U.S. government landing on this island in the capital where the situation is very different from the rest of the island.

Just a few days ago we were in the western part. We were in the interior. We saw bridges that were down, blocking access to communities. We met a five-month-old kid that his mother was concerned because she didn't have enough milk to last another week. We saw that water was still an issue. Many communities running out of bottled water. And then, of course, all the communities we went to had no power. No power three weeks after Hurricane Maria struck this island.

HARLOW: Those numbers are extraordinary, Leyla. I mean 91 percent without power. Can you imagine if that was the case in Houston or the case in Miami three weeks later?

BERMAN: Three weeks.

HARLOW: These are American citizens.

Leyla, you've been exceptional on the ground. Thank you for bringing us all of this.

We're waiting for the speaker to arrive. We'll keep you posted.

Joining us now to talk about this and more, CNN political analyst Molly Ball and Patrick Healy.

Patrick, the president, this morning, you know, as John rightly points out, is it forever or is it, I'll always be with you, we can't be there forever? OK, those are his words. But is this an admission, you know, that he got it wrong yesterday when he said FEMA can't be there forever, just three weeks after this happened?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, I mean it's really striking, Poppy. I mean this is a president who liked to talk about how America was going to be winning like we've never won before under his presidency. That everything was going to get better. That only he could fix it. He alone could fix it.

And, in this case, this is a rare story where he is sort of dramatically kind of lowering expectations almost for himself and for Puerto Rico. But, yes, I mean comparing the tweets from one day to another, I mean it's sort of clear that Puerto Rico is going to need massive American assistance, or should -- you know, should be getting it for quite some time.

And it seems like this is a president who doesn't -- he does not do well with failure. He does not do well with feeling like that is on his hands. And the way that he has been framing the devastation in Puerto Rico is just, it's kind of mind-boggling. We know he uses Twitter to talk to his base, and that's what he seems to be trying to do -- to do

here, sort of suggesting Puerto Rico's been a problem for a long time and don't blame me.

[09:40:15] BERMAN: You know, this is as close as you will get to a rhetorical retreat, I think, from President Trump.

HARLOW: There you go. Yes.

BERMAN: Because yesterday was, you know, not forever. Today it's always. It is interesting, he did changed his tune.

Molly, though, I want to get you on health care, because this is a significant move overnight from the president ending these subsidies to insurance companies to help low income Americans pay for their health care. This is on top of other moves that undermines Obamacare as it stands right now. The president doing everything he can to call it the Democrat's Obamacare. But as he keeps making these moves, does he now own the health care system in the United States? MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's certainly what you

hear from, you know, Republicans in Congress. They are very worried that they are the ones who are going to get the blame for this because they are the ones in charge. And we have seen Trump blame the Republican Congress. We've seen Trump blame Obama and the Democrats. But there are a lot of members of Congress who are not thrilled about the idea of running in a system where -- in a situation next year where it's possible that the health care markets really are melting down.

I think he does own it for better or worse, right? If it does get better in the ways that he's promised, he'll get praise for that, too. But if it gets worse in the way that a lot of experts are predicting, that is going to be on him. It will be interesting to see if the Congress takes action to mitigate Trump's action here.

HARLOW: Right, if they appropriate the money or not.

BALL: Right.

HARLOW: Patrick, how -- does this make it harder for congressional Republicans to get a repeal and replace of Obamacare through, say, in the new year? Because the analysis is, and we won't know until it kicks in for the -- I guess it would be the, you know, the next year of premiums, but all the experts say this will hike premiums up because you're going to take healthier, younger people out of the pool.

HEALY: Right.

HARLOW: Does it make it harder, maybe, for Republicans to get changes through and hold the trust of the American people on that?

HEALY: It does make it harder, Poppy. I mean what President Trump needs to do, if he's really serious about repeal and replace, is find a program that he can propose, and that Republicans can propose, that can get Susan Collins, moderate from Maine, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, John McCain from Arizona and maybe a Rand Paul from Kentucky. You know, he needs one or more of those votes to get something through.

And right now it's clear he's going -- President Trump is going to what his sort of base instinct is, which is not to work with a legislative body, but to go to an executive order, to go to a -- sort of a CEO model of the presidency and just start making these changes.

But Molly is right, he's going to own this, you know, for better or for worse. But what it seems like, he's taking his eye off, you know, what Republicans had wanted to be the ball, which was figure out, you know, some kind of way to thread that needle. And, you know, they've been so unsuccessful at it at this point in terms of repeal and replace, you know, it's hard to imagine what he's -- what he's really going to come up with legislatively.

BERMAN: So, Molly, what happened to his friends, Chuck and Nancy? You know, I'm old enough to remember, you know, a month ago -- HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: Roughly when the president was striking these back room deals with the Senate minority leader and the House minority leader and there was this notion that they could fix everything on all fronts. Does this mean that that's just not going to happen at all?

BALL: Well, it's interesting. I mean it was actually just a couple of days ago, right, that Trump was talking about working with the Democrats, and that was sort of a threat to the Republicans in Congress, right? And he is saying now, with this move, he's saying that this is an attempt to bring Democrats to the table. But that's certainly not how Democrats see it. They don't want to participate in a process that they see as sabotaging Obamacare.

I mean, I think repeal and replace is -- it's almost inconceivable at this point, especially with the reconciliation deadline passing. They now need 60 votes to do anything.

HARLOW: Right.

BALL: And so it's -- those votes just don't exist for anything that is currently on the table or even sort of a glimmer in anybody's eye. So I don't -- I don't see it. But you see that the president wanted to get something done. He wanted to at least say he did something.

HARLOW: Right.

BALL: The problem is, that something has consequences.

HARLOW: This is, Patrick, the I alone can fix it president. But these two big things today, health care and Iran, he's actually just punting it out of his court into Congress' court.

BERMAN: Great point.

HEALY: That's right. That's a really good point. I man basically, you know, he ran on ripping up the Iran deal. I mean he talked about it extensively. He ran on changing health care. And he -- and presented himself, as we know, as this incredible dealmaker who was going to be able to both bring the adversaries back to the table and renegotiate deals on America's terms, you know, as well as move all this legislation through, a united republican government in Washington. And what we're seeing, you know, nine months in the presidency is just both on the foreign front, diplomatic front, legislative front, you know, gridlock. I mean that's a nice way of putting it. But nothing sort of moving through. And as John pointed out, these kind of rhetorical retreats when things aren't going his way.

[09:45:19] BERMAN: So, Molly, General Kelly told us he was not resigning yesterday and wasn't going to be fired yesterday. Does he need to make that announcement every day going forward to sort of prove his point, or is this something that's, you know, open and shut now for good?

BALL: I think that was very much a press conference for the president's benefit. And now that the president has been mollified, you know, who knows. And everybody in that White House walks on egg shells every single day. You never know when the rug is going to be pulled out from under you because the boss' mood changes. That, I think, is seen as a feature, not a bug (ph), by the president. He likes to keep people on their toes. And we are seeing -- and, you know, General Kelly also, if the nomination for DHS goes through, has just lost his principle deputy, who was sort of his right hand in the White House.

HARLOW: Right.

BALL: So that could potentially also upset the order that he has been trying so hard to impose.

So I think things are very much up in the air and the reports of chaos inside the White House, which have basically been a constant --

BERMAN: Right.

BALL: Since January are things that I'm also hearing cohobated by my sources. It's just kind of a mess in there, always.

BERMAN: Molly Ball, Patrick Healey, we love you forever and for always. Thanks for being with us.

HARLOW: We mean that.

BALL: Thank you.

HEALY: Thank you, John.

HARLOW: Have a good weekend.

BERMAN: All right, Russian efforts to meddle in U.S. politics did not end with ads and messages on FaceBook and Twitter. A CNN investigation of a Russian-linked account show it extended to YouTube, Tumblr, even Pokemon Go.

HARLOW: It's pretty extraordinary. We sat down with Arianna Huffington, the founder of "The Huffington Post," and asked her, so what are the consequences for America. Listen to this.


HARLOW: The challenge of fake news and authenticity. And we see tech execs dealing with it right now. Outlets being used by Russian troll farms to influence American politics in the election. Where do you fall in that debate? What do you see happening?


HARLOW: A dangerous moment?

HUFFINGTON: Yes. It's a moment when we are realizing that we can't just leave it all to algorithms. Because in the attention economy, what is good for this company's bottom line is not good for democracy. Because what happens is the algorithms are going to feed you content that confirms your biases because what -- what is -- what are the algorithms designed to achieve? They are designed to get you to click. And you're going to be more likely to click if you are a conservative Republican voting for Donald Trump to (INAUDIBLE) that Hillary Clinton is an axe murder, and you are more likely to click if you are a liberal supporter for Hillary Clinton on a (INAUDIBLE) that tells you that Donald Trump will put scientists who defend climate change to jail. Now, neither of these things happens to be true, but confirmation bias is really what drives these algorithms.

HARLOW: What's the solution then? If you were sitting atop one of these companies, what would you do?

HUFFINGTON: I think this is the time where we need to put the public interests above the bottom line for the interest of democracy and ultimately for the interest of the companies, because we are seeing again and again that companies that are being driven primarily by profit or growth or quarterly earnings end up paying a price.


BERMAN: We're going to hear from these companies before Congress soon.

HARLOW: Interesting.

BERMAN: That will be interesting to see.

HARLOW: November 1st.

BERMAN: All right, 400 people missing, 31 dead in the California wildfires. And today the situation could get even worse. Stay with us.


[09:53:29] HARLOW: This morning, firefighters are bracing for weather that will just fuel the flames in California. More wind, no rain prompts one official to say the misery and heartbreak are not going to end any time soon. Thousands of firefighters battling at least 21 wildfires that are torching entire communities.

BERMAN: Thirty-one people are dead, 400 still missing. CNN's Ryan Young is in Sonoma this morning with a look at the situation on the ground, Ryan, which just isn't good.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, and the air quality is getting worse. It's hard for us to breathe at this point. And all around us we have this thick cloud of smoke. But when you talk about all of the people who are missing, I think that's really the truly scary part here because they're going to bring in cadaver dogs to go through some of these neighborhoods to try to find some of the people who are missing. So you know at this point some it is a search and recovery moment.

We want to show you this. If you look at our light there, you can see the edges of the light. And it looks like it's snowing. Well, that's the particles and embers that are coming down from the fire that's nearby. And you look in the distance, you can see the damage that was done to this dairy.

We just see the smoke rolling over the hills here. The firefighters have been working nonstop. I don't think we can mention this enough. Some of these firefighters have been working for 48 hours straight trying to battle this fire. They're in a mountain terrain. It's very difficult. There's been air drops of water and other fire retardants to try to knock this down. But this fire is not giving up. And there's so many of them.

I think the only good news that we can really tell everyone is the fact that everyone knows there's a fire now. So you won't have the surprise that you had for some people this weekend where the fire kind of leaped over a couple of highways and then all of a sudden was in a neighborhood.

[09:55:08] But the devastation is amiss. As you drive around, you see everything from homes to large wineries that have been affected by this. And then the idea that more help is coming. So we have been told that some international resources are coming in, some other states are pitching in.

But, again, you talk about the wind. And we feel it again today. To know that these firefighters are out there dealing with this in the mountain terrain and the fact that the winds are shifting, this could be another long day, it could be another long few days before I think Thursday is the next time they think rain will be in the situation. So it's getting kind of interesting here, guys.

HARLOW: Oh, Ryan Young, thank you so much for being there, your entire team. We hope things turn around for them.

All right, the president, working on dismantling key Obama-era policies, the Iran deal, Obamacare. In moments, we'll hear from him. Stay with us.


[10:00:08] HARLOW: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. We have some live pictures for you this morning. Hopefully any minute now