Return to Transcripts main page


31 Dead, Hundreds Missing in California Wildfires; Trump Chief of Staff: I'm Not Quitting, Not Being Fired; Trump: FEMA & Military Can't Stay in Puerto Rico Forever. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 13, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:33:30] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Bad breaking news here. Thirty-one dead, hundreds more missing in those raging wildfires in California. This is now the deadliest week of fires in that state's history.

CNN's Ryan Young live in Sonoma with more. And I see you've got the mask on here. We keep hearing how thick and acrid the smoke is there. And it is far from over.

What are you being told?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is definitely far from over. And when you talk about how thick the smoke is, as our crews walked outside today, we could feel a difference. We have seen firefighters battling this fire. As we watched the smoke roll down the hillside here, you really get a chance to feel it.

We want to show you something. If you look at the edge of our light, it looks like snow here. That's the ash coming down from the mountaintop somewhere nearby us, as they continue to battle this fire. The human cost here, 31 people have lost their lives. They think more people may be dead, of course, because there's 400 people missing.

We will show you this video from above. You can see the effects from the fire in some of these neighborhoods.

The good news is people now know about this fire. So, when they tell you to evacuate, people are not hesitating. They're moving very fast. Whereas, sometimes in Sunday, this was catching people by surprise.

This is no longer catching people by surprise because of the devastation, the impact of it is so widespread. In fact, even trying to buy a mask like this, you can't do it in the city because everyone is prepared.

[06:35:02] So, it will be interesting to see what happens today as the firefighters continue to battle these fires -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And, Ryan, we know you obviously have been trying to get the word out. Let's hope those numbers of 400 missing go down over the course of our program and you can update us. We'll be back with you, Ryan. Meanwhile, will firefighters get any relief from the wind today?

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar has the forecast.

How's it looking, Allison?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's looking a little bit better, especially compared to the weekend when we had near hurricane force winds. Winds are not as bad, but you have to keep in mind, it still doesn't take much to spread the fires.

We have an elevated fire threat here in Orange, but down closer to Los Angeles, we have a critical threat today.

Now, this forecast is brought to you by Humana, start with healthy.

When we talk about the winds, you have to keep in mind that it's also the air quality that can be affected as well. That's why you see many people wearing those masks.

We have a fire threat today. The red flag warnings you see here in pink, we're talking north to northeast winds, about 30 to 35-mile-per- hour gusts. Sustained winds are likely to be less, I'd say about 15 to 20 miles per hour.

But again, keep in mind, while it may not be as high as it was over the weekend, these types of winds as we go through the day, especially the evening hours and tonight, that's when the wind gusts will peak is overnight. That's going to be the big concern about spreading the fires.

The eastern half of the country, quite a different story. Cool weather is going to be pushing back in for areas in the Midwest, like Chicago, St. Louis, and Oklahoma City. Your cool temperatures arrive on Sunday. For the rest, much of the East Coast, New York, Boston and D.C., Chris, it will arrive next Monday.

CUOMO: Right. And just to remind people, the reason we focus on winds when it comes to fire, it just turbo charges them. I've watched fire go from one hillside up over a road and into an entirely separate community. It literally rides the wind.

Thank you very much for the update. We'll check back with you.

All right. So, another big headline this morning, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly making a rare appearance in front of the cameras with an ominous warning about North Korea. Why he says you must be worried, next.


[06:41:11] CAMEROTA: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly making his debut in the press briefing room and brought along this stark warning about North Korea.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The American people should be concerned about a state that has developed a pretty good ICBM capability and is developing a pretty good nuclear reentry vehicle. I would believe -- I think I speak for the administration -- that that state simply cannot have the ability to reach the homeland. Right now, we think the threat is manageable. But overtime, if it grows beyond where it is today -- well, let's hope diplomacy works.


CAMEROTA: All right. Let's bring back A.B. Stoddard and David Drucker to talk about this.

Before we get to the substance of some of the things he said, let's just talk about seeing John Kelly in the press briefing room which was notable. And, of course, after all the palace intrigue, where is he being fired, is he not, how much tension is there with the president?

So, he said, A.B., that he is not quitting. He is not being fired. In fact, let me play that for you when he was asked how he responded. Listen to this.


KELLY: I will just offer to you that, although I read it all the time pretty consistently, I'm not quitting today. I don't think I'm being fired today. And I am not so frustrated in this job that I'm thinking of leaving. Unless things change, I'm not quitting. I'm not getting fired, and I don't think they'll fire anyone tomorrow.


CUOMO: He is also sitting in front of a podium, just like Rex Tillerson was directed to, to clear something up that bothers the president.

CAMEROTA: Right. For sure, I mean, all of this gossip and the palace intrigue bothers them. And he tried to shut it down.

A.B., how effective?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, I think it was so effective the chief of staff upstaged the president. And I wonder that the cost-sharing reduction announcement that came out 11:00 was design to change the subject from how commanding and comforting and reassuring and measured and resolute Chief of Staff John Kelly was at the podium yesterday.

I think that he obviously was sent out to do the sort of damage control to clean up everything. I think that if you read between the lines of what he said, he doesn't mean that he's not so frustrated. It means that he not so frustrated that he's going to quit. He actually made clear that he should not be judged on what people expect his aim, his goal of his job to be --

CAMEROTA: Of managing the president.

STODDARD: That he cannot stop him from tweeting. And he can't manage the president. He's simply trying to control the flow of information.

So, I think it was reassuring to people. I think that, you know, he was, as I said, very measured but resolute, comforted, but he has a commanding presence. I think he said all the right things to just deflect from this really heated narrative of the week that the president is leading to things that could prompt World War III, that people think he is a moron and he can't get through discussions in the tank of the Pentagon about nuclear weapons without worrying, the highest national security officials in the country, and on and on.

So, it basically fulfilled the goal. He suppressed frustration which helps in defense of the president's frustration with the press. But again, I do think he upstaged him and I wonder if he'll be allowed to be sent out again.

CUOMO: Well, but, you know, that last part that kind of raised my eyebrow, David Drucker. If he wants to come out because the president told him to or whatever, that's fine. If he wants to put out the North Korea stuff, which is certainly a grabby headline and will distract from intrigue, well played by them.

[06:45:00] But for him to say I encourage you to get better sources, do you buy that? Do you question your sources? A.B., do you question yours and all the different outlets? We are all hearing the exact information to the closest quarters of this president? Do you believe you're just off?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think Chris, that presidents -- all presidents, not just President Trump, in fact, all politicians that I deal with as part of my job, they habitually complain about the conclusions that I draw based on reporting from sources. People providing us with information that help us draw a conclusion about what is happening behind closed doors.

When you're reporting on the White House, the only way you're going to do this is to talk to anonymous sources who are close to information. Often the sources willing to go on the record, as much as that can help the credibility of your story, often know less about what is going on because if they talk on the record, people won't let them stay in the room as things are being discussed.

But I do think that the way General Kelly talked about the complaints the White House has with our stories was a respectful way and very normal way for politicians to complain. He didn't accuse us of making things up. Didn't call it fake. He said I don't think you're talking to the right people.

Even if that was a little high grade spin, I thought it was perfectly within the bounds of complaints that politicians will always level against very accurate reporting and sometimes reporting that they may not be in agreement with based on the discussions that they are having.

CAMEROTA: All right. A.B. Stoddard, David Drucker, we have a lot of news to get to. Thank you very much for being with us.

CUOMO: All right. So, the president has other things to worry about. He is facing backlash for tweeting that FEMA and the U.S. military can't stay in Puerto Rico forever. And once again kind of making the case that Puerto Rico shares a lot of the blame for its current situation. Why would he say that, next?


CUOMO: There's growing backlash over what President Trump tweeted about Puerto Rico most recently.

[06:50:01] Particularly, his comment that FEMA, the military and first responders can't stay and help forever.

Now, of course that's true. You can never have temporary help forever. But why would you mention that in the midst of crisis?

There is no abating going on in Puerto Rico. It is not better there. Some say he did this in response to the San Juan mayor coming out and being critical about the government's efforts again.

But would he really do that just for this political back and forth?

Our next guest just returned from Puerto Rico. New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

It's good to have you here.

Let's deal with the fact that should be most obvious but keeps getting clouded over. Did you come back from Puerto Rico saying, boy, that's a success story?

MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO, NYC COUNCIL SPEAKER: Definitely not. I mean, it is outrage is what I call level of disinterest to deal with this in a focused way. We have personnel on the ground. They're working hard. But we don't have the level of resources when I look at it at face value in the research and looking at the details. But what Irma received, what Florida received after Irma, what Texas received after Harvey, the level of focus and attention, with FEMA resources on the ground.

CUOMO: And the administration and supporters will say, no, no, no. It's more. We've done more there. We are doing amazing things on the ground there. We have gotten so many meals, so much help to so many people. You're not giving us credit for that. Shame on you.

MARK-VIVERITO: No, that's not true. There are obviously a lot of reporters on the ground. But there are veterans who are in the middle of the mountains, helping people out, and they are reporting on their own what they are seeing. They are not seeing sort of FEMA representation in the more remote areas.

We have seen the reporting of the health care crisis that is happening. The hospitals are running on generators. And you cannot run a hospital 100 percent on generators. People that need dialysis treatments, people that are cancer patients that need treatment are not getting the treatment they deserve or merit. We have medical evacuees, we have climate refugees, people leaving the island. It's a fragile infrastructure. We still have 80 percent of people without power, and more than 50 percent without clean water.

And we've seen the reports, that EPA had to issue a report, because people were trying to access wells on superfund sites and people have died from bacterial infections because they're drinking polluted water.

These are preventable deaths at this point, right, and we have to make sure this administration is focused. So, I've been saying that the message from the president yesterday in his tweets was sadistic, when you have people in crisis and you're saying you're going to turn your back on them. It's ridiculous.

CUOMO: What do you make of this counter narrative, whether it's the agent of narrative, like Geraldo, who confronts the San Juan mayor and says, where are people dying, I'll go there now. I'm here to help.

Or the congressman he had on yesterday, who just hopped a plane with the president recently before and says, you're numbers about the need, they're off and that it's never enough.

And the president's main thrust, which is, let's be honest, Puerto Rico, you're mess, and that's part of the reason this is bad and we wont' be there forever.

MARK-VIVERITO: No, these are apologists for an administration that is reckless and irresponsible. And when it comes to the people of Puerto Rico, we have to be very clear, that we are being treated like second class citizens, despite the fact that we've had U.S. citizens for 100 years. And it was an island that was invaded by the United States and Congresswoman Velasco was saying yesterday, with that invasion comes responsibilities.

So, to somehow make it seemed and I heard some of the interviews with some of the Republican congress people, they see as others. They see us somehow foreigners, that the United States have a responsibility to these U.S. citizens who have also given their life in terms of serving in the military with distinction over the years.

So, there is a real double standard, which I think has racist undertones, that's the way I have to interpret it that we are now being treated or given the same treatment as states have had similar catastrophes.

So, we are not going to let them forget it. A lot of people that are living are going to Florida, which is definitely a state that matters.

CUOMO: Thirty-plus thousand so far have left and as we're talking before the interview, I believe that number is artificially law because you can't get.

MARK-VIVERITO: Yes. CUOMO: You know, on their feet, the airport was completely congested, some nice folks from JetBlue were down there, volunteering, as part of a kind of ad hoc tax force to figure how to figure out how to coordinate flights, but you can't get out, for most people there. So, that number of 32,000 might be artificially low.

MARK-VIVERITO: I agree, as the same way that I think the reported deaths are artificially low. But we'd have to figure focusing on the electrical grid is critically important and making sure we have the experience to be able to do that. We have to talk about the Jones Act, we have to talk about debt relief. Most of the aid that was provided yesterday are from loans to the island of Puerto Rico which is which economic crisis.

There's a lot to talk about, a lot of to do.

[06:55:01] And this congress needs to step up to the plate. We have to focus on the president, yes, and hold him accountable, but Congress has a responsibility here too. And some of the talk I have been hearing from these congressional reps, looks like they need a history lesson in the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.

CUOMO: There is one big bulk aid package that's making its way through Congress very quickly. It's not headed to the senate. But that's just the first wave.


CUOMO: Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands. You will have multiple waves of need.


CUOMO: Thank you for being on.

MARK-VIVERITO: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Appreciate it, as always. So, the president making a major change to health care affecting millions of lower income Americans. What does it mean for you? We have facts forward.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an intentional effort just to undermine and sabotage Obamacare.

UINDENTIFIED MALE: A few people benefit, but a lot of people get hurt.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: We're creating something that is freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The cost-sharing reduction payments around being made. That's the fault of the current administration. DRUCKER: This squeezing of the insurance market is going to cause

them a world of political hurt.