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At Least 37 People Killed in North California Wildfires; Weinstein Expelled from Motion Picture Academy; Actresses Accuse Weinstein of Assault, Rape; Reports Reveal Trump Consumed by Dark Moods; Bannon Rallies Conservatives against Establishment; Flag Raised When Interior Secretary is in the Building; Desperate Puerto Ricans Drink Water from Hazardous Waste Site. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 14, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:00] REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: -- make, and do I think I'm indispensable? Absolutely not. But I do think I have a responsibility, which I intend to honor.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN HOST: Leader Pelosi, thank you so much.
PELOSI: You're welcome.
AXELROD: It's great to be with you.
PELOSI: Nice to see you. Thank you.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
We begin with a breaking news. Thousands of people in very real danger this weekend in northern California.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you at?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: This is Sonoma County, the heart of California's wine country. Seventeen separate and massive wildfires are burning at the same time, and several thousand people who live there are under orders to get away. Get somewhere safer than their homes. Sheriff's deputies going house to house, making sure nobody stayed behind.
It's not an empty warning. Nearly 3,000 homes in that city of Santa Rosa alone have burned to the ground, and at least 37 people have been killed.
The fires are covering so much real estate that the smoke is visible from space. Back down on the ground, CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Sonoma County right now, not far from one of those 17 separate wildfires burning right now. Miguel, what are you hearing about the work to get these fires under
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're -- they have been working these fires incredibly hard today. There are three fires that have come together here sort of in the Sonoma Valley between Santa Rosa and Napa, on that side of the hills.
I can show you sort of where we are right now. This is Ledson Winery on Highway 12. It has been attacked by helicopters around it because you can see, in the background, there are those high-tension electric lines that they have been trying to protect, as well as the winery and the properties surrounding this area.
And if you look farther south, you can see yet another fire, and that is near the town of Sonoma where, as I understand it, some structures have been damaged or destroyed overnight when that fire made a run in to that community.
The good news, if there is any good news in any of this, is that the red flag warning has expired now, 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, 8:00 Eastern. For the last hour or so, the wind has been almost nonexistent here. It is still warm but not hot. And the humidity is still very low but the wind has stopped, and that will help firefighters get on top of it.
Beyond all of that, in the next few days, there is rain in the forecast. So they hope they can hold on to this and get to a point where they have more water, more precipitation in the atmosphere, and actually knock these fires out, Ana.
CABRERA: That certainly sounds like some good news, perhaps a reprieve that's coming, but we've got 37 people now confirmed dead. What have you learned about why they didn't get out? Did they not get the warning?
MARQUEZ: Well, these fires happened in the middle of the night. People didn't have much warning, if any warning.
The warning system here is based on cell phone and home -- your home line. You have to answer the warning, heed the warning, and get out in time to actually make it work. A lot of people were caught literally asleep and weren't able to get out.
It is very concerning that the hundreds of people that are still missing, they've not been able to connect them with relatives. They've not been able to find them.
They're only now getting into those thousands of structures, both homes and businesses, to figure out if there are people who actually expired in there and burned or if they were able to get out somehow and just can't get back in touch with their family. Back to you.
CABRERA: All right. Miguel Marquez reporting for us in Sonoma County, California where those fires are still burning. Thank you. We are also following breaking news out of Hollywood tonight.
Disgraced movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, has been expelled, officially, from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the prestigious group that awards the Oscars.
Now, this decision comes after at least four women accused Weinstein of rape. And even more including big name actresses, like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, claim Weinstein did everything from sexually harass to sexually assault them.
He denies the allegations. His attorney says Weinstein believes all of the encounters were consensual.
And still, we're understanding rehab is the next stop for Weinstein. Before leaving town, he told paparazzi he wanted a second chance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
HARVEY WEINSTEIN, FOUNDER, THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY: Guys, I'm not doing OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not.
WEINSTEIN: But I'm trying. I got to get help, guys. You know what? We all make mistakes. Second chance, I hope, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No problem.
WEINSTEIN: Thanks, guys. And you know what? I've always been loyal to you guys, not like those (INAUDIBLE) who treat you like (INAUDIBLE). I've been the good guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[20:04:57] CABRERA: Let's bring in CNN's senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, and writer of "The Washington Post's" "Right Turn" blog, Jennifer Rubin. Jennifer also spent two decades practicing labor and employment law in Hollywood.
Brian, you first. The Academy still counts Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby, two men accused of rape and sexual assault, as members of their group. Why is Harvey Weinstein different?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Because the times are different, thankfully, than they were decades ago or even a few years ago. I think we're seeing, clearly, a change in society, and Hollywood wants to recognize that.
These board of governors' members made the decision today, they want to be on the right side of history. They don't want to appear as if they went easy on Harvey Weinstein.
I think there was a public groundswell in this case. It certainly didn't exist in the 1970s when Roman Polanski was convicted of rape. And even a few years ago with Bill Cosby.
I think we are experiencing something different in America now when women and men are reacting in horror to these stories. And not just hearing it, expressing outrage and moving on, but wanting to see something done.
So I think this is Hollywood today, trying to get on the record and saying, you are not welcome in this organization. And by the way, if Bill Cosby were still actively working and making movies or T.V. shows, I wonder if we'd see a similar reaction.
CABRERA: You got to wonder that.
Jennifer, one of the most disturbing things that has come out of this scandal, though, is this idea that Weinstein's behavior wasn't even a secret. People knew about it. Women warned other women to stay away from him.
As a former labor and employment lawyer, what can Hollywood do to make sure these types of allegations are actually reported, not just whispered about?
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, this is an endemic problem in Hollywood. It's a problem in any industry in which men have a disproportionate amount of the power.
So there are some things that they could do. Their legal counsel won't tell them to do that because their job is to remove liability, make it safer for them.
But frankly, I think it's time that people at the very top of the food chain -- I'm talking about the CEOs of these major companies -- take responsibility. So they have to be alerted when there's a serious allegation of sexual harassment or sexual assault.
They should also ban the use of these nondisclosure agreements, which essentially shut women up. And that's why they can't, very often, communicate after they've been employed as to what has gone on in the workplace.
So I think those things are two concrete things. And third of all, I think it's time for Hollywood to stop pretending that they're so special, and they need a more relaxed atmosphere and they need ambience. We could use a little less ambience, and they should have meetings in corporate offices.
They should ban these hotel get-togethers. They should start behaving like corporate America because, frankly, they have corporate America. Most of these are publicly traded companies.
CABRERA: You're referring to that casting couch culture some have described. In fact, that's how actresses Jane Fonda and Emma Thompson have talked about it as they have spoken out this week. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JANE FONDA, ACTRESS: It has happened to me. It has. I only met Harvey when I was old, and Harvey goes for young because that's more vulnerable, you know. But it's very, very common.
EMMA THOMPSON, ACTRESS: I spent my 20s trying to get old men's tongues out of my mouth, you know, because they would -- just thought, well, she's up for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Brian, don't you think it's interesting that we're hearing from so many women in Hollywood. I mean, where are the guys? Where's the outrage among men?
STELTER: There's been some interviews by George Clooney, by a number of other A-list Hollywood actors, expressing shock and horror of what was going on with Harvey Weinstein.
But I think you're making a very fair point, that this is not something -- sexual harassment and assault is not an issue among women just with women. It is something involving men as well as women.
And to the extent that there needs to be more progress in this country -- and there does -- men have to speak up right alongside women to make it happen. I think we could say that in the political sphere, we could say in the Hollywood sphere, say that in corporate America.
And corporate American at large, that it is still -- take corporate America, take the Fortune 500 companies, so dominated by men in the CEO suites. It is those leaders who are going to continue to make this progress that we're see in this country involving sexual harassment.
CABRERA: Because it does seem that women are treated and viewed differently. I mean, that's what this sort of a scandal really exposes.
STELTER: It speaks to male entitlement. And I'm glad, in a way, the only positive of this is, is that it's getting people talking about why Harvey Weinstein felt he was so entitled to do whatever he wanted in these meetings with women.
CABRERA: Jennifer, I talked to Attorney Gloria Allred earlier, and she is representing, we know now, a number of the women who are accusing Weinstein.
She told me she plans to meet with the Weinstein Company to discuss justice for these victims, and yet she also says that the statute of limitations has expired in some of the cases. So what could the company do to make this right, to give justice to these victims who are accusing him?
[20:09:59] RUBIN: Well, it's -- you know, that's a very good question because some of these women dropped out of Hollywood completely. Some of them have very poignant stories that they gave up their dreams. So for them, I'm not sure what would be fair restitution. I think she is testing whether these people who have now inherited
this company with Weinstein's name still attached to it -- although they're trying to come up with a different name, for obvious reasons -- what they plan on doing to make it right.
Do they plan on issuing public apologies? Do they plan on taking internal steps? Do they plan on being trendsetters now in Hollywood?
And I would add something about the men. You know, his brother gave a rather pathetic interview with "Hollywood Reporter" recently. His brother, Bob Weinstein, who has been in business with him forever. And he talks about how abusive he was to everyone, to men. He assaulted his own brother at one point, and even he didn't do anything.
And I think there is this toleration, both men and women, that powerful people in Hollywood play by different rules. And it's not until men and women start blowing the whistle and saying no that something is going to happen.
One of the things I am disturbed about, frankly, is that there are a lot of powerful women who now could have stopped this. Now, Gwyneth Paltrow is a very important person in Hollywood. So her remaining secret all these years, remaining quiet all these years, has impacted the lives of younger women.
CABRERA: Brian, do you have to be somebody famous to be able to get believed?
STELTER: Being famous helped a lot with this "New York Times" investigation last month -- last week. Ashley Judd's name in that story made a difference. I'm not going to sit here and pretend like it didn't.
Having names of famous actresses who said they have been harassed by Weinstein made the story land in a way that I don't know if it would have otherwise.
CABRERA: And, Jennifer, real quick, just, you know, the whole situation regarding the President a year ago when he was a candidate and that "Access Hollywood" tape came out has now been brought up again, in light of this Harvey Weinstein scandal.
And it begs the question, you know, after that happened, and he went on to become President of the United States, did that make people fear coming forward and saying something for fear of not being believed? Or do these stories of Weinstein -- we saw Bill O'Reilly, we saw Roger Ailes, also get taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct -- prove the opposite?
RUBIN: Well, you're right, we did elect someone who apparently harassed women, not only in the "Access Hollywood" tape out of his own mouth but the complaints of other women. And I think that's an answer that we're going to have to see over time.
Perhaps something good can come out of this, as Brian said. Perhaps women will feel more emboldened to come forward now. I certainly hope so because we've had a long torrid past of this.
STELTER: I think liberal Hollywood partly wanted to kick him out today because Donald Trump is in the White House. I think there are reverberations of the "Access Hollywood" tape that we're still seeing in America a year later.
CABRERA: All right. Brian Stelter, Jennifer Rubin, thank you both for the discussion.
CABRERA: Again, more than a dozen women have accused Weinstein of everything from sexual harassment to rape. CNN's Jason Carroll has their story.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Harvey Weinstein now asking for a second chance. This, as another prominent actress has come forward alleging she too was victimized by Weinstein.
Kate Beckinsale, who is now 44, posted her experience on Instagram, saying when she was 17, she was invited to a hotel to meet with Weinstein.
I was incredibly naive and young, and it did not cross my mind that this older, unattractive man would expect me to have any sexual interest in him. After declining alcohol and announcing that I had school in the morning, I left uneasy but unscathed.
Beckinsale says years after the alleged incident, she continued to reject Weinstein's advances, and as a result, she says her career suffered.
Beckinsale's fate is the reason why Hollywood insiders say so many kept quiet for so long. They say, for a time, Weinstein could make or break anyone.
CYNTHIA LITTLETON, MANAGING EDITOR FOR TV, VARIETY: You couldn't work in Hollywood and not know the stories and the reputation.
CARROLL: Take Gwyneth Paltrow. She came from a lineage Hollywood family, and in the 1990's, she was dating Brad Pitt. But that didn't allegedly stop Weinstein.
Paltrow told "The New York Times" Weinstein made sexual advances toward her when she was 22. Pitt, she says, confronted Weinstein.
Paltrow continued to work with him, winning an Academy Award for "Shakespeare in Love" under his, then, company, Miramax. Pitt also worked with Weinstein for years in films like "Inglourious Basterds" and "Killing Them Softly." Why?
LITTLETON: Even a Brad Pitt, at the point as when we was a marquee star, to stand up and say, I'm not going to work with Harvey Weinstein, would be damaging to his career. [20:15:00] CARROLL: A-lister Ben Affleck now facing questions about
what he knew about Weinstein. Weinstein was key to Affleck's rise to fame and cast him in "Good Will Hunting" and "Reindeer Games."
Affleck released a statement saying, what can I do to make sure this doesn't happen to others?
Actress Rose McGowan suggested in tweets that Affleck did know about Weinstein and that she had told him about her experience with him. Affleck's spokesperson did not return our calls.
LISA BONNER, ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER: This is a situation of power and influence and fear of reprisal.
CARROLL: The casting couch, not a new concept. Actress Jane Fonda says she found out about Weinstein about a year ago, and she is ashamed she did not speak out.
FONDA: It has happened to me. It has. I only met Harvey when I was old, and Harvey goes for young because that's more vulnerable, you know. But it's very, very common.
CABRERA: Again, that was Jason Carroll reporting.
Coming up, talk of chaos in the Trump White House is hardly news, but talk of a coup? What Steve Bannon reportedly told Trump about the biggest threat to his presidency.
And new developments in the Russia probe as the Special Counsel interviews President Trump's former Chief of Staff. The other top aides, who could be next?
[20:20:24] CABRERA: Just days after Republican Senator Bob Corker compared the Trump White House to an adult day care center, a new report is shedding light on the turmoil at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
"Vanity Fair" spoke to a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers, all of whom describe the struggle to contain a president, quote, increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods.
And "Vanity Fair" pieced, also, references reporting by CNN and other news organizations in recent weeks, including how the President's backing of a losing candidate, Luther Strange, in the Alabama Republican Senate runoff last month took a toll.
A person close to Trump says, quote, Alabama was a huge blew to his psyche. He saw the cult of personality was broken.
Now, the magazine also reports that President vented to his long-time security chief, Keith Schiller, and he said, quote, I hate everyone in the White House. There are a few exceptions, but I hate them. Now, the White House, we should note, denies the report, saying the
President's mood is good and his outlook on the agenda is very positive.
Joining me now is CNN contributor and Trump biographer, Michael D'Antonio. He is the author of "The Truth about Trump.
And also joining us is CNN Presidential Historian Timothy Naftali.
Michael, on that "I hate everyone in the White House" remark, you likened it to a parent who beats his child and then complains that his hand hurts. Explain.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": Well, it's kind of crazy for this fellow. And, you know, the President has challenged us all to understand him now for, what, almost 10 full months, to be complaining about how he hates everybody in the White House when they're all the folks that he picked. Some of them he got second picks on already.
So if anyone is to blame for the personnel decisions there, it's the President himself. And by all accounts, they really are trying to spare him and the country more trouble than has been caused already by his erratic behavior. So I'm not surprised that he is saying this, but it's rather shocking.
I -- Tim would be able to answer this better than I could, but I can't recall that there was a president, perhaps other than Richard Nixon, at the very end, who was so angry and so bitter about the people around him as this comment suggests.
CABRERA: Tim, you want to weigh in on that in.
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Oh, well, I think that Michael is right. I mean, I -- this conjures up the sort of final days -- I'm talking about the mood. I'm not suggesting that we are in the final days, but the final days of the Nixon administration.
You know, it's amazing. We've had a number of presidents with volcanic tempers. Dwight Eisenhower really had a volcanic temper. Bill Clinton had a volcanic temper. John F. Kennedy could use the F bomb, and used the F bomb quite a lot.
CABRERA: He looks so innocent in all the pictures.
NAFTALI: Well, listen, remember that what he didn't have was Twitter. OK?
CABRERA: All right.
NAFTALI: So the thing about Trump is that it's the anger plus -- again, as the reporting goes, anger plus dislike and hatred of the place.
These other presidents were frustrated and were angry and wanted, you know, better results, but they had an understanding of the place they were in and what it meant. Whereas, this is a president who came to office, saying I'm going to change everything, and the rules don't apply to me.
So I think this is unusual and a particularly toxic combination. Now, this is just reporting.
NAFTALI: We don't know how much of it is true, but I will say one thing that's coming out that's been gone on the record. Thomas Barrack, Jr., close friend of the President --
CABRERA: Known him for decades.
NAFTALI: -- known him for decades has, in a sense, legitimated some of this by coming out and saying that, you know, some of what he's hearing from his friend is a little worrying.
CABRERA: Well, let me, in fact, go to that quote. We have that ready to go. And this is exactly what he said.
This is what he told "The Washington Post" -- he thinks he has to be loyal to his base. I keep on saying, but who is your base? You don't have a neutral base.
He goes on to say: your base now is the world and America, so you have all these constituencies. Show them who you really are. In my opinion he's better than this.
NAFTALI: Yes. He also mentioned the fact that there are too many yes men around the President.
I think that -- and again, you know, a biographer of Mr. Trump would be better at this, I suppose, but you get the sense with Donald Trump that he's used to having enablers around him. He's not accustomed to people standing up to him and saying no.
[20:25:05] CABRERA: Well, we know -- he makes no secret he prizes loyalty. And you know, we had that clip earlier of his cabinet going around, saying how much they love him.
So that's something that's so important to him, but this is the other thing that's kind of interesting. The last couple of weeks, we have seen members of his cabinet come out and say, no, I never said anything bad about the President. I'm not going anywhere.
In fact, I want to remind everybody what John Kelly, his Chief of Staff, said earlier this week when there were rumors that came out that he was miserable because he couldn't control the President. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEN. JOHN KELLY (RET.), WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: And I was not sent in to or brought in to control him. And you should not measure my effectiveness as a chief of staff by what you think I should be doing.
But simply, the fact is, I can guarantee to you that he is now presented with options, well thought out options. Those options are discussed in detail with his team. And then he comes up with the right decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Michael, you write there's four men fighting against what you call Trump's chaos for the good of the country -- Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and then economic adviser, Gary Cohn. What separates these four from the rest of the pack?
D'ANTONIO: Well, part of what separates them -- first, I call them the competent four. So they seem to be men who have brought with them competence and experience that is invaluable.
And they also have this preexisting status where they are so well respected and so accomplished on their own that they don't need the President in the way that others have needed him, have needed the job per se.
And I think what Tim was saying about the enablers that were around Trump, previously, is absolutely true. He actually said -- a lot of executives say they want the people around them to be smarter than them. I don't. I want to be smarter than everyone around me.
And what he was saying was that he doesn't trust anyone. So he would rather be more clever, more experienced, more intelligent than anyone around him because he's afraid that they might get one over on him. And the other --
CABRERA: He cares about the I.Q.
D'ANTONIO: He does. And you know, the Chief of Staff, Kelly, one of the other things that he said in that press conference was that he actually works hard to help the President get to the decisions that he's making based on the input he has received.
A lot of what Kelly said actually contradicted itself. So he said that I was sent in and then he said, oh, I was brought in. It makes you wonder what the real dynamic is here and how committed he was to supporting the President in that press conference.
It was remarkable in that he was charming. He was pleasant. He was not yelling at the press and calling them the enemy of the people but --
CABRERA: A lot of people actually said he seemed presidential at that press conference.
D'ANTONIO: He did.
CABRERA: We got to leave it there, but I appreciate both of you coming on. And I would love to continue the conversation on another show another day. Thanks, guys.
CABRERA: Michael D'Antonio and Timothy Naftali.
NAFTALI: Thank you.
CABRERA: A quick programming note for everyone, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be on Jake Tapper's "STATE OF THE UNION" tomorrow morning at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific.
Coming up for us tonight, Trump's former Chief of Staff interviewed as part of the Russia probe, and he is not the only White House official that they Special Counsel wants to talk to. Who else could be next?
And as we go to break, live pictures from northern California. Firefighters are still battling massive wildfires, one of several you're looking at here. And now 37 people have died.
We're staying on top of this story. Stay with us.
[20:33:20] CABRERA: This is our war. Fighting words from former White House strategist Steve Bannon trying to fire up conservative activists at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. Now, the executive chairman of Breitbart News calls on them to wage a war that he says was started by the Republican establishment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, BREITBART NEWS: We're going to take them on, and we're going to stand them down. OK?
BANNON: There's no doubt about that. There's no doubt about that. But there's a time and season for everything. And right now, it's a season of war against a GOP establishment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles joining us from the White House.
Ryan, Bannon pulled no punches. He even named names as he called out the Republican establishment.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He did, Ana. And he called out specific Republicans who Donald Trump really needs if he hopes to advance his agenda, specifically Mitch McConnell, who is the Senate Majority Leader. And Bannon even evoking Shakespeare in talking about his attempts to
take McConnell down. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANNON: Up on Capitol Hill, because I've been getting calls, it's like before the ides of March, right? The only question is -- and this is just the analogy or metaphor, whatever you want to call it. They're just looking to find out who's going to Brutus to your Julius Caesar.
BANNON: Yes, Mitch, the donors are not happy. They've all left you. We've cut your oxygen off, Mitch. OK?
Money is not courageous but money is smart. OK? And right now, money is sitting there saying, hey, I see these folks. They're worked up. They're mad and mad for a reason.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[20:35:03] NOBLES: Of course, Brutus betrayed Julius Caesar and murdered him. If you play the play out to the very end, of course, Brutus ends up committing suicide. Bannon did leave that part of the story out, but, Ana, it shows just how frustrated Bannon and that group of supporters of Donald Trump's that he represents are at this particular time.
CABRERA: Now, I understand Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation has reached those who have served with the President. Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus questioned yesterday. Tell us more about that.
NOBLES: Yes, that's right. And this shows that the Special Counsel is taking it very seriously, and that they want to ask questions to the people very close to the President. Reince Priebus, there was no one more close to the President during the waning days of the campaign and in the early part of his administration.
And there have been others. Hope Hicks who is now the communications director is among those that have been questioned by the Special Counsel. As has Sean Spicer and Don McGahn. This investigation continues, Ana, and it's clear that the White House needs to take it seriously.
CABRERA: Ryan Nobles at the White House. Thank you.
Coming up, he's already under scrutiny for his travel habits, but now the Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke is making headlines for a flag raised whenever he walks into work.
[20:40:24] CABRERA: All federal buildings fly the American flag on their rooftops, but over at the Department of the Interior, the U.S. flag has some company, a special flag for the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. And it's raising a few eyebrows in Washington.
CNN's Tom Foreman has the story. Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ana. The Interior Secretary is proving to be one of the more controversial and colorful members of the administration, not merely marching to his own beat but also flying his own flag.
FOREMAN: Even outside the Interior Department, it's easy to know if the Secretary is at his desk because he has ordered the secretary's flag raised above the building when he's in and taken down when he is out, according to "The Washington Post."
The Queen of England's staff follows a similar protocol. But on this side of the pond, not even the President does that.
TRUMP: Ryan is an Eagle Scout from big sky country in Montana.
FOREMAN: Still, from the get go, Ryan Zinke has set himself apart.
RYAN ZINKE, SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR: For those who don't know me, I get my inspiration from Teddy Roosevelt.
FOREMAN: Like the 26th president who served in the military and rode horses through D.C., Zinke is a former Navy SEAL who cowboyed up for his first day on the job. Boots, hat, and saddle.
Like Roosevelt, Zinke's a big fan of hunting and fishing. But unlike Roosevelt who protected 230 million acres of public land, Zinke almost immediately began issuing orders to roll back restrictions and open more public lands to fans of both sports. Even installed a deer hunting video game at the Interior building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are the new hunter hero.
FOREMAN: Zinke sponsored a "bring your dog to work day." And while several departments offer commemorative coins as souvenirs, Zinke, again, took it a step further having one stamped out with his name.
Some of his actions have provoked sharp criticism. Several trips he made involving private jets and government aircraft are being scrutinized by federal watchdogs, including one visit to Las Vegas during which he spoke to an NHL hockey team owned by a political supporter.
His aides say all the trips were justified by scheduling matters. Yet environmentalists have raised alarms over how much they say Zinke is meeting privately with oil, gas, and mining interests while leaving activists out.
Zinke's assessment of the uproar about the jets? Well, he cited another rough rider from the past.
ZINKE: I'd just like to address, in the words of General Schwarzkopf, a little B.S.
FOREMAN: Which is another way of Zinke saying he's done nothing wrong. And as for the special flag, a spokesman told "The Post" that's just another sign of his commitment to transparency, Ana.
CABRERA: Thank you, Tom Foreman.
Coming up, the daily struggle three weeks after Hurricane Maria. Americans in Puerto Rico using makeshift pipes to get water. Others are so desperate, they're turning to a hazardous waste site for water. Special CNN report next.
[20:48:00] CABRERA: Breaking news. A ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee is now asking DHS to investigate contaminated drinking water in Puerto Rico. It follows a CNN report on water utility workers distributing contaminated water to American citizens on the island.
Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking if the leadership knew Puerto Ricans were drinking water from a hazardous site. Now, the local water authority was apparently unaware the site was contaminated until CNN alerted them.
CNN's Ed Lavandera has the latest.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Some Puerto Ricans are so desperate to find water here on the island that they've started tapping into wells on what is described as a Superfund site.
This is an official designation issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. Superfund sites exist all over the country. They're considered some of the most toxic sites and ground areas in the United States.
Here in Puerto Rico alone, there's 18 of these designated Superfund sites. The focus is just on one of them near the -- in the town of -- around the town of Dorado, Puerto Rico, which is just west of San Juan, the capital here of this island.
We were with an EPA team as they were taking water samples. And as I mentioned, a few days ago, reports started emerging that people were lining up at some of these wells, getting drinking water or water that was being used for cleaning or other purposes in their homes, in the toilet system, and that sort of thing.
So a great deal of concern about just how much exposure some residents here might have had to this water. And there is now a testing being done on these water wells to determine if, at all, this water is indeed toxic. Just because the Superfund site is around there and there are toxic
chemicals in the ground, EPA officials say it doesn't mean that those chemicals have reached the water there.
But nonetheless, over the course of this next week, they will be testing this water to determine whether or not these wells should be turned off or controlled in some sort of way.
[20:50:03] We have seen long lines of people getting into these water wells, using them either for drinking, some people have told us, or as I mentioned, cleaning purposes around their homes. It just kind of goes to show you just how desperate the situation for many people still remains here in Puerto Rico when it comes to water.
EPA officials say they're really more concerned about long-term exposure to this. That it would require residents to be drinking this water for longer periods of time, months if not years, for them to see the effects of that -- of those toxic chemicals in that water.
But nonetheless, it is still very much a dangerous situation, and they are trying to spread the word out there. In the meantime, this really does show just how desperate the situation is for many people.
And EPA officials are urging these residents to stay away from these water wells around the town of Dorado, Puerto Rico, until these test results come back. So that work will continue, and we're told that it will take at least the better part of this week for a full understanding of exactly what is in that water.
Ed Lavandera, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
CABRERA: Thank you, Ed. We now know, too, there are still about a third of Puerto Ricans who don't have access to clean drinking water. About 80 percent or more don't have electricity. So we're going to stay on top of that.
Coming up here in the newsroom. The fight to save one of the planet's most special places before it is ruined. CNN's Bill Weir previews a brand new episode of "THE WONDER LIST: MADAGASCAR" next.
[20:55:40] CABRERA: It's the size the state of Texas, and millions of years ago, Madagascar lay under the sea. But once the east African nation rose to the occasion, it did so in grand fashion.
Our Bill Weir has a sneak peek of tonight's premiere of the new episode of "THE WONDER LIST." Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Millions of years ago, this was all coral reef until Madagascar heaved out of the sea. Fire, wind, and water then took over, carving the karst into steak knife and saw blade and needlepoint canyons.
Whoa, look at that! Are you kidding me? Talk about a death trap.
The tribes who ran barefoot through this called it tsingy, which means tiptoe.
Everything here wants to poke you, yes?
WEIR: The rocks, the plants. But while this is a jagged, angry place for human beings, turns out to be a wonderful haven for all other kinds of life. You see, the tsingy is like a Manhattan apartment building with different tenants at different levels.
Up top, you got your lemurs and your lizards frolicking in the sun. And then down in the middle regions, you can find bats and parrots. And then way down there where it's humid and lush, there are orchids and insects the size of your fist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So much to learn about Madagascar in tonight's episode, Bill Weir. It is awesome from what you showed us with that small clip.
But, I mean, this is a place that has endured a series of crises over the years affecting the country's fragile ecology there. I know there was a pandemic that plagued the planet in the Middle Ages. What else did you learn?
WEIR: Well, it is such an amazing place. Most exotic place, and I've been out of a hundred countries. It's a continent unto itself.
As you can see, that's the Indri lemur. Those things wail like car alarms in the forest mists. So much of the life, 80 percent of life on Madagascar lives nowhere else.
But they've also seen a string of almost Biblical bad luck -- bad government for the last 60 years, failed democracy and coupe attempts and assassinations. Poverty level, one of the worst in the world.
And so these precious forests where so much of this unique life lives is shrinking as desperate people, you know, turn the trees into charcoal to sell or cut it down to grow rice to survive.
And it's one of those places that you realize, boy, if we don't pay attention now -- and maybe education is the key for folks to lift them up to protect their places -- this is one of those places that we are going to mourn once it's gone.
CABRERA: Why do you think this is not an "it" place, a tourist destination?
WEIR: Because it's so rough. It is one of the darkest countries in the world in terms of electricity. Only 15 percent of the island has power. You know, it's like going back to another century. There are -- you know, the French colonized this place, so there are a
few resorts. Nosy Be is an island that's sort of the playground for the rich from Europe who come down to Madagascar.
But mostly, it's just instable -- the instability of government, you know, hasn't fostered a vibrant economy there. And it's so untapped and it could be one of those places, as you say, that's a perennial hot, you know, like an Iceland or Portugal is emerging. Everyone's talking about that. And that could save --
CABRERA: Or a place where those who love the outdoors, want to go be with nature.
WEIR: Exactly. Oh, my God. And I know you love all of that, Ana. You would love this place.
WEIR: And so it takes a hardy eco tourist to go in there, especially now because they're having a plague, a rare pneumonic plague that's broken out.
CABRERA: Right, right.
WEIR: That the World Health Organization is trying to get America to kick in tap down. But I just wanted to cast a little light on a special place.
WEIR: And I think you'll like tonight's episode.
CABRERA: Well, thank you for shining light on it. Bill Weir, thanks for joining us.
Meet people working to protect Madagascar's unique wildlife. "THE WONDER LIST WITH BILL WEIR" airs next right here on CNN.
And that's going to do it for me. Thank you for being here. I'm Ana Cabrera. I'll be back tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. I hope you'll join me. Have a great night.