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ISIS Defeated in Raqqa; What's Next for ISIS; Family has Questions about Niger Ambush; Xi Jinping Set to Become Most Powerful Leader since Mao; Humanitarian Crisis in Puerto Rico; Trump's Net Worth Plummets. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired October 18, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:11] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour.
ISHA ESSAY, CNN ANCHOR: Raqqa falls -- ISIS no longer in control of their self-proclaimed capital in Syria. What does it mean to their ability to recruit, attack and kill.
VAUSE: The comforter-in-chief -- a congresswoman says Donald Trump called the grieving widow of a U.S. soldier killed in action in Niger, telling her he knew what he signed up for.
SESAY: And from hip-hop pioneer to water guy, Richard "Crazy Legs" Colon on his efforts to help Puerto Rico rebuild after Hurricane Maria.
VAUSE: Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Good to have you with us. I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.
VAUSE: After years of oppression and brutality, the city of Raqqa is no longer under ISIS control. And the capital of the terror group's self-declared caliphate is no more.
SESAY: The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say they've retaken the city and major military operations are now over. But months of fighting and the crushing rule of ISIS have left much of Raqqa in ruins.
CNN's Arwa Damon has more on what lies ahead.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces says that they hope to have the city of Raqqa fully-liberated within the next few days.
Now, they're focusing their efforts on trying to root out sleeper cells, small pockets of fighters that might be hiding out in the rubble, as well as clearing the city of improvised explosive devices that ISIS had the tendency to bury in streets and alleyways and in buildings.
But we are seeing some celebratory images as well in exclusive drone footage obtained by CNN. Celebrations taking place on a small scale inside one of the key stadiums within Raqqa -- what was once a strategic location for ISIS fighters as well as in one of the main squares.
This square was where ISIS carried out some of its most horrific and sowing (ph) atrocity -- the public beheadings, the public executions, the crucifixions. What is also evident is the sheer scale of destruction. Difficult to imagine how it is that this city is going to begin to rebuild and when the population would even begin to be able to return -- a population that by and large has been trying to survive in refugee camps within Syria that are quite literally bursting at the seams.
ISIS swept into Raqqa taking control back in 2013 declaring it the capital of its so-called caliphate. It can no longer make such territorial claims at this stage. The frontline now moving toward Deir ez-Zor where aid organizations are warning of an impending, looming humanitarian crisis there.
But what is also -- this is critical at this stage is recognizing that even though ISIS may no longer hold onto the territory that it once had its ideology is still very much alive especially within the digital world.
Arwa Damon, CNN -- Dohuk in northern Iraq.
VAUSE: Here with us now, Middle East expert, Lisa Daftari. She's the editor-in-chief of "The Foreign Desk". Also with us CNN's military analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.
And Colonel -- first to you. This is a stunning fall for ISIS considering what -- three years, three months ago, so many given days, they planted this flag. They declared God's kingdom on earth. They placed all their chips in creating a caliphate as proof of some kind of divine mandate.
Does that fairytale now fall alongside Raqqa?
LT. COL RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes.
And you know, as Arwa said we have to be careful to not call this the defeat of ISIS. This is the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa. This is the end of their territorial ambitions. It's the end of their territorial claims but the group goes on.
And the battle is not over in Syria. The battle is shifting to the southeast. We're going to fight the major battle, the end battle, if you will, the last battle will be the battle over the Euphrates Valley.
And we've got ISIS fighters coming from Iraq across the border into the valley in Syria. We've got these people that were allowed to escape. Remember there was a deal that allowed many of the ISIS fighters to leave the city. And now they are in Deir ez-Zor. So the battle is shaping up there.
But this, no doubt -- this is a major victory. This removes their capital. It takes away a lot of the cache that they had as an organization. So yes, this is a big deal.
VAUSE: And Lisa, as Colonel Francona said, ISIS, you know, it will live on and it will probably, you know, hold other pieces of territory as well. But that territory will not be in Iraq. It won't be in Syria. It won't be where Islamic scripture talks about the apocalypse, the end of times. It won't be -- you know, it won't be as special as Raqqa or Mosul, right.
[00:05:00] LISA DAFTARI, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE FOREIGN DESK": Well, it may be in Raqqa and it may be in Syria and Iraq. I think while we've seen the cities fall and cities rise back up. And I think the best and most important question tonight as we learn about this news -- it was the vulnerability in Syria and in Iraq but more so in Syria that gave rise to ISIS. It was the vulnerability of the people not wanting Bashar al Assad in power and creating that power vacuum that led to the rise of ISIS.
So what will be the future of Syria? Will it lead to other groups rising? Will it lead to ISIS coming back? They're not calling this a victory quite yet. It's about 90 percent back in the hands -- or out of the hands of ISIS.
But still what happen now? Are they going to retreat and plan something on a larger scale? And more importantly are they going to double down and put all their energy towards their online efforts to have local recruits in Europe and other places in the world to launch their attacks there.
VAUSE: And Colonel Francona -- you know, this is an important point about, you know, having the caliphate, especially having you know, in Syria and Iraq, it was a selling point to attract foreign fighters. Now they've lost all those territory in Asia, (INAUDIBLE) territory which they once they held.
You know, obviously those foreign fighters have nowhere to go now for training. But what about those foreign fighters who are still afire? Obviously because it's a much harder sell to inspire them to go on and carry out attacks doesn't it?
FRANCONA: You know, it's interesting -- John. We've seen over the last few month, you know, because you know, ISIS can see the handwriting on the wall -- pardon my Babylonian reference there but they know that they're going to lose this territorial empire that they had in Iraq and Syria so they've already changed their messaging.
They've primarily started this in Iraq. We see a lot more digital outreach among ISIS and surprisingly to many of us observers, how it resonates among the Sunni population because ISIS is telling them, you're dealing with, you know, a Shia-dominated and Iranian-influenced organization in Baghdad. It's disenfranchised you.
So we're seeing them try to change their messaging there. In Syria they're -- as Lisa said, you know, they're down but they're not out. So this is not over but ISIS is smart enough. You know, they've been very adept in their messaging over the years. They know what resonates and that's how they're going to change their message.
So I think we're going to see more inspired memberships of -- members of ISIS, not so much foreign fighters coming to the caliphate.
VAUSE: Ok. Well, here's what Hassan Hassan, author of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror", told the "New Yorker". "Only a fool would call this a victory. It's only the expulsion of ISIS fighters from a wasteland. It's not a victory, not only because of the destruction. It's also not a victory because there's shameless lack of political track to supplement the military track. That's the Achilles Heel of Operation Inherent Resolve. They don't have a political vision about what will happen after ISIS."
So, you know, Lisa, you touched on this. Is there -- I mean there is a plan but is there a workable plan that's going to actually hold up?
DAFTARI: Right. And I think that that's what everyone has been -- they're kicking the can down the road. And now that all of this is being cleared up, you know, ISIS was this kind of security blanket of sorts of people who were hiding behind.
Whoever is involved in Syria was there for ISIS, the fight for ISIS. Turkey was there to fight. The Kurds, they feel they're there to fight ISIS. Iran is there to prop-up Bashar al Assad. They said they're there to fight ISIS, to rid of the jihadi insolence, et cetera.
And you look at all of this -- and now that ISIS would potentially be cleared away it's that huge elephant in the room is to say what's going to happen to the future of Syria. And will this -- I mean instead of patting ourselves on the back, yes the Raqqa lost their main stage.
They can no longer behead a young boy for smoking a cigarette in the main -- in the circle of town to have people watch these gruesome things. But, you know, having these recruits come from all around the world to the caliphate, to Syria and Iraq, that's died down a long time ago. It slowed down a while back.
DAFTARI: Right. Because they saw that they couldn't get people to come. So I think that they've already redirected their message to the online recruitment, to doing -- you know, you don't need a whole bomb. You can use your car to ram and kill people. You can use a kitchen knife, et cetera.
So I think that ISIS is always one step ahead. And I think that that's what we need to remember here. And to say it's a vulnerability on the ground. And for the U.S., for the allied forces, the question is to say do we want a feet at that table for the future of Syria, for the future of Iraq? And what's stake do we have and do we want to be involved on a humanitarian level, on a political level and what do we want to see for the future of those two countries.
VAUSE: Colonel Francona -- I want to finish up with a claim made by the U.S. President essentially that the success in this fight against ISIS is a result of essentially his presidency. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I totally changed the rules of engagement. I totally changed our military. I totally changed the attitudes of the military and they have done a fantastic job.
ISIS is now giving up. They're giving up. They're raising their hands. They're walking off. Nobody's ever seen that before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn't that happen before?
[00:10:02] TRUMP: Because you didn't have Trump as your president. I mean it was a big difference. I mean there's a big, big difference if you look at the military now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Colonel Francona -- is that a fair claim to make. Did Donald Trump bring new tactics that weren't tried before that were the game changer?
FRANCONA: There's a lot of bluster there. But the bottom line actually is true. He did loosen the rules of engagement. It did change the tactics.
I talked to Air Force pilots who were involved in this. They said they were able to react to emerging targets faster. They were able to put ordnance on targets faster and more ordnance.
So yes, the claim is true but there's a lot of bluster there.
VAUSE: Very quickly, did they come with a lot more civilian casualties though, those changes.
FRANCONA: Well, they could -- you could make that argument but there were very strict rules in place and those didn't change. And they instituted additional rules allowing the Kurds on the ground to determine when ordnance would be expended anywhere near them.
So they were trying to address that problem. They knew that when they lessened the amount of air sorties, the Kurds changed them and said, you know, you've got to keep this up.
We know that there are casualties but we need the firepower because as you know the Kurds were a light force. They didn't have, you know, a lot of armor, a lot of artillery. They were relying on air power to replace that. VAUSE: Colonel -- thank you. Colonel Francona, Lisa Daftari -- we appreciate you both being with us. It is a big story on a big day. Thank you.
SESAY: Well as ISIS' caliphate unravels, it would be tempted to say as they've just been discussing that the group is gone for good.
VAUSE: But as history is proven -- this fight is not over. Here's Nic Robertson.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN GLOBAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: This was the old ISIS, a terror group with territory. Now, shelled out of Mosul, shot out of Raqqa and being shorn with the rest of their so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
Change is coming. And this is what their future will likely look like. And network of social media of deep web connections. A virtual caliphate held together by trust, bolstered by far-flung franchises.
It's what al Qaeda did when it was beaten out of Afghanistan. Survived through trust, friends forged from the frontlines, dispersed around the world in defeat kept their ideology together through secret communications attacking when and where they could.
ISIS' changing circumstance is already breeding a change in tactics. Last year telling would be jihadists, "stay home and attack there". There were attacks in the U.S. -- in Orlando and San Bernardino; as well as in Europe -- Nice and Berlin and Brussels, among others last year; London and Manchester in the U.K. this year -- attest to the power of ISIS' message. And the demands of western governments social media companies toughen out on the terrorists.
Nevertheless, a virtual caliphate, ISIS will be weakest (ph). Without territory they'll lose safe training camps and a space to plot and plan atrocities with impunity. Loss of territory alone won't snuff them out completely.
ISIS' precursor in Iraq still carries out a wide ranging terror campaign from remote farms and urban lock-ups.
Candidate Trump threatened to bomb the expletive out of ISIS but it's easier said than done. Their extinction when it does come will be over time and through attrition. But until then, their social networking, virtual caliphate will remain a threat.
Nic Robertson, CNN -- London.
SESAY: All right.
Well let's turn our attention now to those four U.S. soldiers killed in Niger. Twelve days went by before President Trump said anything publicly about the fallen. And when he did so on Monday, his comments triggered a storm of controversy.
On Tuesday the President finally spoke to grieving family members and now we're learning from Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson what President Trump said to the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson. Thank a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA: Well, basically he said well I guess he knew what he signed up for but I guess it still hurts. There's no reason for the President to be so insensitive. Not only to the family of this soldier but the impervious rhetoric of, you know, it's disrespectful to the family of every soldier that has paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well, joining us now here in L.A. are political commentator and radio host Mo Kelly and California Republican National Committee man Shawn Steel.
Welcome to you both.
[00:14:59] Shawn -- let me start you. What is your reaction to these words as described by Frederica Wilson that the President said to this grieving widow?
SHAWN STEEL, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEEMAN: This is second-hand information from a clearly partisan and angry Democrat. However, David Johnson is a hero. He fought for the service to the United States and for free people in Africa, a part of the world we don't even see American servicemen actually sacrificing and hurting themselves and getting killed. And it shows the world fighting terrorism.
Trump did the appropriate thing by calling the widow.
SESAY: And if he said what she said --
STEEL: And you know what, it's rough. It's kind of a kind handling to a woman who's pregnant and I have great regard for that. But Trump is very sensitive and he's gone to every single major disaster in America personally without any hesitation and he talks to the fallen. He talks to every single gold star member.
If he's not the most smooth person in the world, it doesn't mean that his heart is in the wrong place. But I don't like these Democrat cheap shots. It doesn't become them.
SESAY: Mo Kelly. Let me ask you to respond.
MO KELLY, RADIO HOST: Sure.
SESAY: What do you say to that? What Shawn is saying is that if he said it, it was rough but for Frederica Wilson to come out and say is her kind of taking a political swipe at the President. KELLY: Well, it's unfortunate that all this has been used as a
political football but we know from history that this president is not sympathetic and he's not empathetic. Yes, he may have gone to Puerto Rico but how do you respond to Puerto Rico. He may have gone to Houston and other places but he looks at everything through the lens of blame and credit.
He wants to get credit for speaking to gold star families. He doesn't want to get the blame if something goes wrong. Donald Trump is not very good at showing empathy for people who have lost, people who may be grieving. Yes. He may have made the call but at the same time, it's 12 days later.
It's not a matter of whether David Johnson is a hero. He is already a hero. The question is whether the President handled it appropriately and accordingly.
SESAY: And what about that point, Shawn. It took the President 12 days before he publicly made a statement about it. This is a President who ran on the platform of the military.
STEEL: Yes. I don't think there's a time line in talking to a grieving widow. It's a fact, I think the bodies actually came today if I'm not mistaken.
SESAY: I mean I guess there's a time that's more appropriate than others as well.
STEEL: Well, I think it was -- I'm not going to argue about you know, the timing but talk about the empathy. One of the reasons Trump got elected, he showed a great deal more empathy to the poor working class in American than the Democrats have in 20 years.
SESAY: We're not talking about that.
STEEL: He won -- no, no. We're talking about empathy. We're talking about communicating with people. And he's successful.
Now again any time there's a little inkling and maybe a possibility that there's something off, it becomes a cheap political football but Trump did the right thing by calling the widow and he was sincere.
SESAY: Are you -- let me just be clear, just so that we have you for the record. Are you saying that if the President did indeed say this, forget -- take Frederica Wilson out of this -- but if he did indeed says he knew what he signed up for that people should not feel upset or --
SESAY: Is that what you're saying?
STEEL: No, no. Not at all because we didn't hear the whole five- minute conversation. That's a snippet (ph). I think -- I think there's probably a lot more that was s said. Hello I'm Donald Trump. I'm calling you. I respect the service of your -- SESAY: In what context were those words -- in what context are those
STEEL: I think he was trying to have human to human conversation and partisans are trying to make it something that it's not. And I think that's vicious and I think it's unfair but most of all it's cheap. It's embarrassing.
KELLY: But we can't talk about partisanship. We can't talk about cheap tricks and everything when it was the President himself who want to invoke previous presidents such as President Obama and make it an issue about whether previous presidents had actually even called out to these families. So it was made political before this moment prior to the call.
SESAY: Let me just read the White House statement just so that we have their words on record. CNN reached out for a comment and this is what we got back. The White House official telling us the President's conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private. The question is will this go away just because they said that?
But I still want to move on and ask one more question on this issue before we talk Raqqa. Shawn -- as you made the point, Sergeant La David Johnson's remains arrived back in the U.S. on Tuesday. He was part of that group of Green Berets who lost their lives in Niger back in October, early October.
And La David Johnson's body was discovered 48 hours after he was -- he was discovered 48 hours after in a remote area of Niger. He had been separated from the rest of the fallen. There are questions about what happened. His wife is -- his widow is about to have their third baby. I want you to take a listen to what Frederica Wilson had to say because the family has questions. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILSON: It was a solemn cry (ph) because they were still upset about the fact that this, this cannot be an open casket.
[00:19:59] They were upset because they don't know why he was separated from the rest of the soldiers. This could turn out to be another Benghazi.
SESAY: Shawn -- I have to give our viewers some background, of course, as Frederica Wilson mentioned Benghazi. She's of course, referencing that September 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya that led to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and a number of U.S. nationals which dogged the Obama administration.
Will this dog the Trump administration?
STEEL: I hope not. It's fascinating to hear a partisan Democrat use the word Benghazi to cast aspersions against Trump because Benghazi was a horrible and a defining moment in Hillary Clinton's service as Secretary of State and Obama certainly suffered with that.
In any case when you lose an American soldier or just any American you need a good thorough investigation. We're going to have to trust the military to do the right job and to make sure the political forces aren't in the way.
But I would rather have a member of the family, I'd rather the widow herself talking about this, not some Democrat hack. This woman's embarrassing.
SESAY: Mo Kelly.
KELLY: Well, I don't think this is more about politics. This is still about people. Unfortunately four soldiers lost their lives doing the work of America around the world. I don't expect, as an American citizen to be told everything that we're doing in regard to our special forces. They're doing work which is probably top secret and classified in many areas.
What I am concerned about is how we as Americans will respond to it and then look at the deaths of these young men. It bothers me if only because we're seemingly more concerned about the things that are unimportant as opposed to the things which are important.
But that started with the President when he wanted to say well, I've always called the family of the fallen as opposed to previous presidents. This is only being discussed because of President Trump.
SESAY: Very quickly Shawn Steel because we're out of time.
The President's comments in the Rose Garden where -- to reference what Mo Kelly said, he basically jabbed at his predecessors for how they have treated the families of the fallen. Leon Panetta, former defense secretary said, those comments demean the presidency.
STEEL: I don't know what the scoreboard is how many times that Obama actually called gold star family members or not. I'm not even that interested. I do know that Obama went to Bethesda Hospital regularly to see wounded soldiers. I have because my son-in-law is a physician in the Navy. He actually saw Obama do that. Not a lot of publicity.
So I think Obama's heart was in the right place. And I don't think you need to make jabs like that but on the other hand, when the President does the right thing and he's actually, you know, reaching out and talking to somebody, you know, to attack him for, you know, what he said that you don't even know what he said that's something that's awful.
SESAY: Just to be clear, Frederica Wilson was in the room. She did. She was listening in on the phone call. Just so we're clear. So just so we're clear.
STEEL: She heard one-half of the conversation.
SESAY: It was on -- she was with the widow.
SESAY: It was on speakerphone. She heard. So just so we're clear on the facts.
STEEL: Well, I guess the widow didn't waste any time then in calling the local Democratic congressman.
SESAY: Frederica Wilson was present.
STEEL: Yes. All right. Fair enough.
SESAY: We're going to leave it there. Gentlemen -- I thank you as always.
KELLY: Thank you.
SESAY: Thank you.
VAUSE: Well, still to come here on NEWSROOM, L.A. could China's President Xi Jinping be on the verge of a power grab. We'll fly to Beijing when we come back.
[00:23:18] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: So China might just be on the verge of a huge political shake up. Two hours ago the 19th congress of the Communist Party convened in Beijing, the twice a decade meeting which usually announces national policy and goals for the next five years.
SESAY: But this is really about Xi Jinping. He now stands unchallenged as he prepares for a second five-year term as president, emerging as one of the country's most powerful leaders in decades.
VAUSE: Well, Matt Rivers joins us now live from Beijing. So Matt this could be one of the most significant Communist Party meetings in a generation, all centers on Xi and to what extent he will redefine Chinese politics.
MATT RIVERS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And the president continues to speak right now. He gave the opening speech to the party congress here. He continued. We're not watching him speak for well over three hours at this point.
And the things he's been saying really are kind of the similar things that we've heard in the past. He's kind of listed off the party's achievements over the last five years, talking about things like environmental improvements, military buildup, economic growth, diplomatic successes abroad.
That's kind of the script for these kind of speeches. But what's different about this, I think is Xi Jinping's real focus on the party controlling every aspect of society. One of the things that you've seen is his continued emphasis saying that all of the things that we've achieved over the last five years can only continue if the Communist Party has absolutely control over all aspects of society. And many would argue that Xi Jinping has absolutely control over the
Communist Party therefore it's Xi Jinping himself kind of having absolute control over the entire country and the direction that country moves forward.
And that's what we're looking at here is Xi Jinping using this party congress to really cement his status as the most influential, the most impactful Chinese leader, you could argue since Mao Zedong. And I think that over the next couple of days depending on what happens here, we could see Xi really cement his status in Chinese Communist Party history.
VAUSE: Yes. We could also find out if he names a successor or whether he will stay in power beyond the two terms which has been (INAUDIBLE) there. I guess if Xi does emerge as absolute power, the question which follows, how will he use that power?
RIVERS: Yes. I mean I think you're going to see, you know, him continue to try and do the same things that he's done over the last five years to really centralize the government, centralize power within the government, continue this nationalistic trend within the culture here, continue to build up the military -- kind of trying to get China to continue its ascent to kind of go mano-a-mano with the United States in terms of being the most powerful country in the world.
But you mentioned it there, John, what he does with it moving forward, can he stay on past 2022? Will he go find some other way to keep power in China? That's what a lot of China watchers here are going to be looking for.
VAUSE: The proven model of staying in power.
Matt -- thank you. Matt Rivers, live in Beijing. We'll be checking in with you again. Appreciate it.
Well almost a month after Hurricane Maria, American citizens in Puerto Rico still desperate for food, water and medical care and a mayor is warning about the thin line between life and death.
SESAY: Plus, an '80s flashback. Crazy Legs from the Rock Steady Crew is trying to help Puerto Rico but some know him as the water guy. He joins us just ahead.
[00:28:36] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE (voice-over): Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.
SESAY (voice-over): I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour:
(HEADLINES) SESAY: U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are going through a painful and
slow recovery. It's transforming the island and its residents. U.S. citizens like Samuel Hollande (ph), he is 18 years old and has cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
VAUSE: He needs surgery but his family lost everything when Hurricane Maria hit almost a month ago. And now they live in a school turned into a clinic. Volunteers are trying to help but they don't have a lot to offer.
This woman is sitting on bed soaked with rainwater, isolated in the mountains. She's saying I can't do it anymore.
Our Ed Lavandera has more on the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As local legend has it the town of Vialba (ph) was the first city in Puerto Rico to get electrical light more than 100 years ago but now people wonder if this might be one of the last places to get the lights turned back on.
To understand what they're struggling with, Mayor Javier Hernandez (ph) tells us to jump into his police Humvee for a ride.
We drive deep through the mountain valley.
LAVANDERA: He says things are improving so slowly that it's like the hurricane just struck here yesterday.
Vialba (ph) is a city that sits high in the mountains of Central Puerto Rico. It's home to about 27,000 people. The nightmare and the logistical nightmare that Hurricane Maria left behind is everywhere. It took three weeks just to clear some of the major roads.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): There is no electricity anywhere in the city. The mayor says it's taken weeks for state and federal officials to understand how desperate the situation is here. He's asked federal authorities for industrial generators. They haven't come.
He struggled to get helicopters to evacuate three people who needed kidney dialysis and oxygen. They, along with one other person, died.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).
LAVANDERA: He said evacuation helicopters didn't arrive on time to get them out of here to save lives and they ended up dying.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Local crews deliver meals and water to 1,500 families. That's still not enough. And he's not convinced all the relief supplies are reaching the residents here.
LAVANDERA: The mayor says that he's worried that -- and he's heard that there is food and water that has be sent for this town, Vialba (ph), and he believes it's just sitting in San Juan and not making its way here. LAVANDERA (voice-over): The mayor says major help has only started to arrive in the last two days. FEMA officials are processing disaster claims and he's getting some logistical help from the military.
LAVANDERA: (Speaking Spanish). Is it too slow?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).
LAVANDERA: Yes, he says it's too slow because the line between life and death is very small, very thin here.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Ed Lavandera, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
VAUSE: For many around the world, Crazy Legs and the Rock Steady Crew are best known from the early day of hip-hop and the mainstreaming of breakdancing. Here's an '80s flashback to the movie, "Beat Street."
VAUSE: That was Richard Colon (ph), aka Crazy Legs, considered the most famous B boy of them all.
These days in Puerto Rico he's the water guy. For the past few weeks, Colon (ph) has been working with Ways for Water, a non-profit group, distributing water purifying kits to some remote parts of the island.
And with the help of a few hip-hop friends he's also started Rock Steady for Life, a fundraiser to try and provide just the basic which so many still don't have almost a month since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.
And Richard Colon (ph), Crazy Legs, joins us now from New York.
Welcome. Glad you're with us.
VAUSE: You've just down to Puerto Rico. And is still pretty grim, right?
RICHARD COLON (PH), HIP-HOP ARTIST: It's pretty devastating down there. There's a lot of desperation. There are a lot of people who are fending for themselves because they feel that can no long rely on FEMA or the federal government to do what is necessarily in an immediate and long-term manner. So it's pretty grim down there right now.
VAUSE: So explain your particular project.
How did this all start?
You went back to the storm and you seem to realize pretty quickly in a few days that a shortage of clean water was actually the real problem here because all these weeks later now we're hearing that the island, because of this of shortage of water, could be facing a second disaster.
COLON (PH): Yes. Well the thing is that wastewater was already on the ground. They rode out the storm, which was a beautiful thing. They anticipated first that this was something that was going to happen and an immediate response was going to be needed.
So when I was in Holland, I actually reached out to Red Bull and I was literally crying in my hotel room I just sent them an e-mail, saying, hey, you are the most powerful people I know and the people that can actually help me help my people.
Can you please help me?
And they connected me with Ways for Water, which they already had a relationship with, and I was taught how to use the filtration system. I learned how to teach people how to use them. And then we got them distributed into the communities so that we affected about 15,000 people.
VAUSE: And the water purifying kits are pretty simple to use. They go beyond just delivering a truckload of water. It's the teach a man to fish theory. Right?
COLON (PH): Yes. And not only that. You go to a river or a ravine and just literally take the water out of there and run it through the system and now you have clean water. So if people aren't getting to you with supplies and you need water and you have access to a river, you can convert that water into drinkable water --
COLON (PH): -- chemicals.
VAUSE: So the chlorine gets there. They can help themselves. They don't have to sit back and wait for everybody to do all the work for them, which is I think what the U.S. president said a few weeks ago.
COLON (PH): Well --
COLON (PH): -- well, the Puerto Rican people, my people have been doing everything they needed to do with the very little supplies that they are entitled to because of how they pay into the government.
So the thing is that for someone to say that we are lazy people is just ridiculous because when I went down there, the only people working toward cleaning the streets and rebuilding the homes were the people of Puerto Rico.
VAUSE: It's incredible the gap which is there, which is being filled by these private individuals like you and like a bunch of other people who just stepped up. Texas and Florida both hit by hurricanes, they never experienced a lack of clean water like is happening in Puerto Rico right now.
Do you think many on the mainland just don't comprehend the scale and the scope of what is needed by Puerto Ricans right now?
COLON (PH): Well, you're dealing with a situation that is affected by the infrastructure of Puerto Rico not being sufficient enough to withstand any kind of storm. You have a lot of the lines which are up above ground and those lines need to be removed because they're antiquated and things need to go underground so we can get right back up and going if this ever happens again.
So I don't think people understand that we're dealing with a system that is kind of broken because you have so much debt and the government isn't willing to relieve the island of Puerto Rico of that debt.
VAUSE: This whole recovery effort has become so politicized. That must be incredibly frustrating for people who just want clean water, something to eat and, God forbid, turn on an electric light sometime.
COLON (PH): Well, the thing is we are working on a mission right now. Now that you bring up lights, we worked on a deal with them. We partnered with Empowered. And I'm going down there on the 25th of October with 3,000 solar lights to get into the deaf community as well as inland areas and the west side of Puerto Rico.
So I'm really concerned about my people and the community I live in down there, my friends and family who have property there. So we're trying to do all that we can to try to make a difference with the fundraiser we have, Rock Steady for Life, which is GoFundMe.com/rstforlife, if anyone wants to support.
But we're doing the best we can with very little.
VAUSE: It sounds like you're doing a lot with a little. And good on you for that. So thank you.
COLON (PH): Thank you.
VAUSE: Good to speak with you, Richard, thank you.
COLON (PH): Thank you very much.
SESAY: Really important --
VAUSE: There are so many people who are filling this gap which appeared because of the federal response for whatever reason, the federal response has been lacking.
SESAY: Quick break now. He's a rich guy and he'll tell you himself frequently. But it seems President Trump isn't as rich as he used to. A look at just how far he's slid down the rankings of the rich -- next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (MUSIC PLAYING)
SESAY: Hello, everyone.
If there's one thing we know about Donald Trump, it's this: he hates to be a loser.
VAUSE: Last year, though, he lost $600 million which is a lot of losing by anyone's standards. Our Jeanne Moos has more on his downward slide.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump has a rich vocabulary when it comes to counting his wealth.
TRUMP: I'm really rich.
I'm very rich.
I'm much richer than anybody ever dream.
Nobody knows how rich I am.
MOOS (voice-over): Actually, "Forbes" says it does. And though the rich may be getting richer, President Trump isn't. Last year his net worth was estimated at $3.7 billion. Now it's down to $3.1 billion.
MOOS: President Trump's not going to like this.
He fell 92 spots. Last year, he was 156 on the Forbes' 400 list of richest Americans. Now he's skidded to 248th.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER MAYOR OF NYC: Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.
MOOS (voice-over): Michael Bloomberg, by the way, is eighth on the list. The top three are Bill Gates, Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett.
Trump has estimated his own net worth.
TRUMP: Well over $10 billion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which is laughable. It's comical. It's comical.
MOOS (voice-over): Critics scoff at Trump estimates.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That "Forbes" has long had a -- the Donald Trump rule, which is whatever Donald Trump says, we usually then have to divide by three to what the real number is.
TRUMP: When I say about the $10 billion, I'm not doing that to brag. Who cares.
MOOS (voice-over): The same day the list came out, Trump tweeted, "So much fake news being put in dying magazines and newspapers. Fiction writers."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, like Trump is not a rich man. Donald Trump is like what a hobo imagines a rich man to be.
TRUMP: It turned out that I'm much richer than people think.
MOOS (voice-over): And no one seems to think about it more...
TRUMP: I've made a fortune.
MOOS (voice-over): -- than Donald Trump.
TRUMP: A vast fortune.
MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
VAUSE: You know how we know how much money he actually has?
He released his tax returns.
You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.
VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Stay with us. A live edition of "WORLD SPORT" with Kate Riley is up next. You're watching CNN.