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Trump in Ugly Feud over Condolence Call; Iran's Supreme Leader Dismisses Trump's "Rants and Whoppers"; Iraqi Prime Minister Bans All Armed Groups from Kirkuk; Spain's PM Stands Firm on Catalonia Deadline; Puerto Rico Struggles to Recover after Storm. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired October 19, 2017 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour:

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): President Trump caught up in an ugly feud over condolence calls to the family of a man he sent to war.

VAUSE (voice-over): Crisis in Kirkuk: the Iraqi city is on edge when fears of another outbreak of fighting while the Kurds who were forced out, they say they've been abandoned by the U.S.

SESAY (voice-over): Plus a month after the catastrophic Hurricane Maria, many Puerto Ricans are still struggling for basic necessities like clean drinking water. We have a rare and stunning perspective on the scope of the damage.

VAUSE (voice-over): Hello, everybody, great to have you with us. We'd like to welcome our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause.

SESAY (voice-over): And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.


VAUSE: The White House is firing back at Democratic congresswoman Frederica Wilson who says the president disrespected the family of a fallen soldier killed in an ambush this month in Niger.

According to Wilson, who was listening to the conversation, which was on speaker phone, Donald Trump told the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, "He knew what he signed up for but I guess it still hurts."

SESAY: Mr. Trump called that totally fabricated and says he has proof.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't say what that congresswoman said, didn't say it at all. She knows it and she now is not saying it. I did not say what she said and I'd like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said.

I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife who is -- sounded like a lovely woman, did not say what the congresswoman said and most people aren't too surprised to hear that.


VAUSE: Joining us now Democratic strategist Caroline Heldman and Republican strategist Charles Moran.

Good to have you guys with us. OK. That woman is (INAUDIBLE) Johnson and the president also denied on Twitter that he had made those insensitive remarks.

"Democratic congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action bracket and I have proof closed bracket. Sad."

That led many to speculate if the White House had actually recorded this conversation. Here is the White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did they have a recording of his phone call with Masha (ph) Johnson?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, but there were several people in the room from the administration that were on the call, including the chief of staff, General John Kelly.

General Kelly was present for the call and thought it was completely appropriate. He thought the call was respectful and he thought that the president did the best job he could under those circumstances to offer condolences on behalf of the country.


VAUSE: OK, Charles, on the one side, there is a grieving widow, her mother, a congresswoman. They're saying one thing. On the other side, who have the president, his chief of staff saying something totally different.

Who do you believe?

CHARLES MORAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There's three sides to a story. There is what one person perceives, what another person perceives and the third is actually the words that were spoken.

I think the president was making the call to express condolences, as he said, on behalf of the nation. We know that the president sometimes can be a little inartful and the exact words which he uses. But I believe and I think that a lot of people do, that the president has just got a high-level respect for the military, if you look at some of the people he surrounds himself with.

In this situation he maybe did not necessarily use the best words at a comforting moment where the widow needed to be comforted and the family needed to be comforted.

But he did express the sentiment that, again, we have a volunteer military in this country and that everybody who serves puts their life on the line and that we as a country are grateful for his service in defending freedom abroad.

SESAY: Caroline, before I get you to weigh in, I want you to take a listen to Congresswoman Frederica Wilson herself and how she sums up her feelings about the moment and the impact all this had on Myeshia Johnson. Take a listen.


REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA: This man is a sick man. He's coldhearted and he feels no pity or sympathy for anyone, this is a grieving widow, a grieving widow who is six months pregnant.

This is a young woman. She's only 24 years old. She weighs maybe 110 pounds and she has two other kids, 2 years old and 6 years old. And when she actually hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, "He didn't even know his name."

Now that's the worst part.


SESAY: Caroline, (INAUDIBLE) hear that, not only as Frederica Wilson said, that he said those words, but she goes on to say, he didn't know his name.

Is this --


SESAY: -- simply a case of the president being inartful, to use Charles' words?

Or is this something bigger?

CAROLINE HELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think we've seen this pattern before, where the president has a real lack of empathy in situations where he needs empathy.

We saw this in Puerto Rico. We've seen it during his first trip down for Harvey, where he just reads it wrong. And in this case, I don't think that he has a lot of respect for military families.

During the campaign he mocked a Gold Star family; now he is calling a Gold Star mother a liar in addition to calling the member of Congress a liar. I just don't think this is something you make up. And I think it fits the pattern where we have a president, according to PolitiFact, who only tells the truth, fully tells the truth about 6 percent of the time.

So at the end of the day, I think a lot of Americans know that he's probably not telling the truth now.

VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) your point, there is now the spotlight on how the president has interacted with other families of fallen service men like Whitney Hunter (ph), her husband, Jonathan, was killed in Afghanistan. And she was expecting a phone call from the president.


WHITNEY HUNTER (PH), WAR WIDOW: So I was meeting with my casualty officer at the time and I remember he like bolted (sic) it out. We were at Starbucks. He bolted (sic) it out and I remember he came back and he was like, it was the White House and they were letting him know to tell me that the president was planning on reaching out to share his condolences with me.

And I should not necessarily wait by the phone but it's not really a phone call you want to miss. So he said to just be prepared to speak with President Trump.

And of course I waited but I never got the phone call.


VAUSE: And she never received a letter, either. And there are other examples, too, especially from (INAUDIBLE). You mentioned the Khan family. (INAUDIBLE) by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan as well. The Khans, of course, made that keynote address during the Democratic National Convention very critical of then candidate Trump.

But then candidate Trump hit back like this.


TRUMP: If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say. She probably -- maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say, you tell me.


VAUSE: So, Charles, to you, does this at least make you question your point where you say he has a lot of respect for the military?

He has respect for some of the military might be a (INAUDIBLE) point.

MORAN: Well, I think that that was totally inaccurate. You're looking at what was said during the campaign about the Khan situation and then very clearly a recent situation with a spouse, who had just lost her husband in the line of duty. I don't think that there's a correlation between any of them.

VAUSE: They're both military families. They both lost a service member.

MORAN: I don't -- I don't speak --


VAUSE: One was dissed by the president and the other one was slammed by --


MORAN: -- one situation here, where there is a --


MORAN: I don't I don't work for the White House so I don't know where she was in the queue of the phone calls and how the response mechanism was set up. But the president has said, Gen. Kelly has said, Sarah Sanders said today that he takes his phone calls.

The president said he takes his phone calls and his communications, letters of whatnot with family members who have lost their loved ones in the in the line of duty very seriously. It's one of the highest things in office that he can do in his responsibility as president.

And you know again there's the -- every situation has a different type of circumstance.

VAUSE: This is such a difficult thing for anyone to deal with, obviously you have grieving families, you have a president who has a solemn duty to express the nation's grief and condolences here.

And at the same time, you have a president who is politicizing this. And he has chosen to politicize this. It all started three days ago with a backhanded insult to President Obama and now it's blown up.

MORAN: Well, President Trump takes these things very seriously. I think especially the references that he's not supportive of our military. Ad I think that one of his analogies may have come from General Kelly. So he didn't receive a phone call and --


HELDMAN: No, but Obama had a breakfast with him, right?


HELDMAN: That was in person.

MORAN: -- the first lady and that was well after -- it was mentioned so it was an event but it was not in acknowledgment, specific acknowledgement --


SESAY: -- this was brought to the public domain by the president. He's the one -- nobody made him. To your point, he could have just that I take this very seriously. It's one of the solemn duties of being president. He's the one who decided to use the moment for politician point scoring and bring in President Obama and his predecessors.

President Trump on his own made this --


SESAY: -- it is.

MORAN: This is not the first time that he has tried to personalize this issue. He brings it up frequently in other different circumstances, that when he feels like he's being unduly criticized --


SESAY: But nobody was criticizing him. The question to him was why did it take you 12 days to come out and speak out about the fallen troops that died in Niger?

He's the one who made it into all of this.

MORAN: Well, again, the timeline is going to be what it's going to be and that's dictated by people in the White House, depending on where -- what the present schedule is. The most important thing is that the phone calls get done and that the acknowledgments are made.



HELDMAN: -- there's a disconnect between his words and his actions ---


MORAN: -- plenty of phone calls that the president -- and letters and communications of condolences --


MORAN: -- that the White House is making. They're getting it done.


VAUSE: Just occasionally they go badly.

HELDMAN: But you can't do that. And actually to defend Trump, it's not his fault here; this is John Kelly. This is his staff. There is something happening in the White House where they are not getting their ducks in a row and making this happen and you can't say, yes, OK, we're going to do it for certain Gold Star families and not others. That just -- that speaks volumes to those families who are not treated --

(CROSSTALK) VAUSE: And yet, for the most part, this is such a distraction. Really, there's another distraction which is going on as well, which is sort of related, it's Trump hammering the NFL over the players kneeling during the national anthem. They're protesting social injustice issues.

And on Wednesday, the commissioner, Roger Goodell, said players would not be forced to stand, despite all of the pressure which the league is getting from the White House. Look at what Goodell said.


ROGER GOODELL, NFR COMMISSIONER: We believe everyone should stand for the national anthem. That is an important part of our policy. It's also an important part of our game that we all take great pride in.

And it is also important for us to honor our flag and to our country.


VAUSE: But he said there it would not be mandated and that this is an issue which they are going to work through. They're going to find out the issues that these players are protesting. That was awkwardly followed by a presidential tweet.

"Too much talk, not enough action. Stand for the national anthem."

And so, Caroline, these are just sideshows but they seem to be substance for the president. This is what he thrives on; issues like tax reform, infrastructure, unemployment, all these --- health care, not getting any of the attention that these distracting issues are receiving from the president.

HELDMAN: And I think that has to do with the fact that we as voters and the American electorate have a very limited attention span and things like taxes or health care are really complicated. So he's throwing red meat right at his supporters.

And in this case, it's very clear that he is pitching to his supporters, who have higher rates of racial resentment. Not all of them do but we do know that there's a difference to between his supporters and other Republicans. And so he is playing up this, the racial element of what is happening with the NFL.

And it's sheer hypocrisy right when you look at the fact that he's defending the right of neo-Nazis to march, which you -- we -- it's freedom of speech; yes, we should all defend that right.

But then he is not offering the same right for freedom of speech for someone who is doing -- groups of people who were doing something respectful and protesting the violence against African Americans in our country.


SESAY: Charles, to John's point of the distraction, is it frustrating for you as Republicans that you are not talking about the issues because your president is taking you off track?

MORAN: All the issues that you brought up -- healthcare infrastructure jobs -- these are all things the president has been speaking about. He's been in office for nine months now and we've seen communication o all of these issues.

What I would like to see is more action out of the U.S. Senate for moving forward on pieces of legislation. The president has opined. But at the end of the day, you know, we've got the situation. The NFL is not a department, it is not a federal bureaucracy, it is a private entity and they can do whatever they want.

Most people in this country probably have some sort of opinion on this issue. The president clearly has an opinion on this issue and is not above voicing that opinion and has been pretty consistent from day one what it is the NFL has chosen.

They're going to do what they're going to do and the president's going to tweet what he's going to tweet and he has his opinion and --

SESAY: Is it good for the country, that the president takes this stand?

I hear what you're saying -- free speech; let everyone do what they want to do.

But is it good for the country?


MORAN: -- the issues of social injustice were not an issue five years ago. There were maybe not an issue three years ago. But they're an issue now. It's got people talking. Maybe it is a good --


SESAY: No, no, they were an issue.

MORAN: -- of issues existed. But the conversation was not happening. And now the conversation is happening. And it's receiving attention from the top to the bottom.

HELDMAN: Happening because the president used throughout his election very racially charged rhetoric and divided the electorate using race, talking about Mexicans, impugning Muslims, impugning immigrants --


MORAN: -- it's a challenge that more people voted in "American Idol" than in presidential elections. (INAUDIBLE) to your point that some of these complicated issues are things that people don't want to get their arms around and this is an easy, accessible issue.


MORAN: -- more of what it is. VAUSE: We are out of time. A steak dinner for anybody who can actually name what week this is as the White House proclamation.

HELDMAN: Is this something about getting along?

VAUSE: National character --


VAUSE: Thanks, guys.


SESAY: Thank you.

VAUSE: Harsh words from Iran's --


VAUSE: -- supreme leader for the U.S. president saying he won't waste time with Donald Trump's rants and whoppers.

SESAY: It was Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's first response to President Donald Trump's refusal to certify Iran's compliance to the nuclear deal. Fred Pleitgen has more now from Tehran.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Under a week after U.S. President Trump gave his major speech on his new Iran policy, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei fired back, saying that he believes that President Trump, quote, "pretends to be an idiot," but at the same time he says that the Iranians need to, quote, "keep their guard up," because he believes that the Iranians are still very much in a battle with the United States.

He says he believes that the United States is angry because the Iranians have, quote, "foiled their plots" in places like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq and we have to think back that President Trump in his speech last Friday said that he wanted to curtail Iranian influence especially in Iraq and Syria.

But so far the opposite seems to be happening; the Iranians, especially in Iraq and Syria, appear to be stronger than they ever have been before. One of the things that of course especially the people here in Iran want to hear about is the nuclear agreement. That has come under question after President Trump spoke last Friday.

Iran's supreme leader has said that Iran is going to stay in that nuclear agreement; at the same time, he's going to wait and see whether other countries -- specifically the United States -- will reach that agreement.

But for the meantime the Iranians are staying in. Only a few hours after the Iranian supreme leader spoke, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, used the United Nations to -- for a fiery speech against the Iranians, saying that the Iranians were, quote, "playing the United Nations," that they weren't adhering to what she called the spirit of the nuclear agreement and also criticizing the Iranians for some of the missile tests that they've been conducting.

Iran's Supreme Leader earlier in his speech said those missile tests will continue and he also called out the Europeans who have also been criticizing the Iranians for that test and said that they should stop criticizing the Iranians for testing those rockets -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.


VAUSE: We will take a short break. When we come back, fear and uncertainty in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. The government forces took control from the Kurds. Right now no one is sure what will happen.

SESAY: (INAUDIBLE) trying to flee Kirkuk. A report from inside the city after the break.




VAUSE: Now that ISIS has lost Raqqa, its self-declared capital in Syria, U.S.-backed fighters are moving quickly on what's left of the terror group in the Eastern part of the country. The spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces says fighters from Raqqa are heading to the front lines in Deir ez-Zor, the last ISIS controlled real estate in Syria.

Meantime coalition forces comb through the national stadium in Raqqa on Wednesday which the terror group used as a prison. They're looking for explosives and ISIS sleeper cells --


VAUSE: -- and an SDF fighter who'd been captured by ISIS to few who entered that prison ever made it out alive.

SESAY: In Iraq the prime minister has banned all arms used in Kirkuk except for the Iraqi security forces who now control the northern city.

VAUSE: Haider al-Abadi's directive is intended to restore calm and stability after Iraqi forces forced the Kurdish fighters out of the city which they controlled for the past three years.

SESAY: Still the sudden shakeup has left the city of 1 million people on edge and on the move. CNN's Ben Wedeman has our report.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They return in the morning, car after car of Kirkuk residents, who'd fled the city when central government forces and paramilitaries seized control earlier this week.

Siduan (ph), a car mechanic, says it's safe to go back home now.

"The situation is good," he insists. "There's nothing wrong."

Units of the Iraqi army, the federal police and the Iranian-backed popular mobilization units have deployed around the city, replacing Kurdish forces who'd pulled out suddenly Monday morning.

Among shoppers beneath Kirkuk's ancient citadel, relief the change was swift and albeit by Iraqi standards relatively peaceful.

"I was scared," Sanaa (ph) tells me.

"We were afraid to step outside. But nothing happened, thank God."

(INAUDIBLE), Kurdish veteran from the Iran-Iraq war (INAUDIBLE).

"We're all Iraqis," he says. "There's no difference between Arabs and Kurds."

But all is not well here; a five-minute drive away and the tune is very different.

"People are afraid," says Iwa (ph), a construction worker. He says he'd leave if he had the money.

Some parts of the city look almost normal; others, like this usually busy market, is pretty much dead. For a few years Iraqis put their differences behind them and focused on the fight against ISIS. But now that ISIS has almost been defeated, those old differences are starting to resurface.

By early afternoon, suddenly the roads were once more jammed with people fleeing the city. Rumors spreading that Kurdish officials were being rounded up, the clashes were about to erupt.

"People are afraid of war," says this man.

And with the fear, anger at the U.S., which had supported the Kurds in their war against ISIS, has turned its back on their desire for a state of their own.

"The United States bears responsibility for what is happening in Kirkuk," Ahmed (ph) tells me. As one conflict comes to an end, another looms large -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Kirkuk.



SESAY: The situation in Kirkuk seems relatively stable for now the threat of renewed fighting is always present. As we just saw in Ben's report, even just a rumor of facilities can cause thousands of people to suddenly flee from their homes.

Wendy Tauber (ph) is Iraq country director for the International Rescue Committee and she joins me now from Irbil.

Wendy (ph), thank you so much for joining us. I know that you and your colleagues have witnessed the hordes of people fleeing from Kirkuk and a great many have made their way to Irbil where you are.

Tell us what you are learning about their decision to leave Kirkuk and their specific fears.

WENDY TAUBER (PH), INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: Good morning. We're learning a lot of uncertainty and lack of clarity has informed people's decisions on whether to flee or to stay. We had some of our own team members take a preemptive move on Monday, to jump into their cars and get to somewhere they'd feel more safe.

And just yesterday and the day before some of them have already retired to Kirkuk, where the situation at the moment is fairly calm despite rumors all night of different fighting erupting around the area. So it's a very fluid situation. It changes by the hour, by the day and we are hopeful that conflict won't (INAUDIBLE) as mentioned, the transition was fairly peaceful.

But it's a very unpredictable situation.

SESAY: What is your sense of those who have left as to whether they'll go back anytime soon and if they don't, what lies ahead for them outside of Kirkuk?

TAUBER (PH): What's concerning is that while some people were able to take the decision to move and jump in their cars, others leave more rapidly with fewer assets and now may find themselves stranded if the front lines shift.

Some people have fled the camps that they were living around Kirkuk and now may find themselves caught --


TAUBER (PH): -- between front lines or uncertainty and not sure where to go next. And they fled with practically nothing, as they had lived in camps relying entirely on services in those camps.

So I think our main concern is finding those people who may be unreachable at the moment and we hope that the forces of any kind on all sides will be able to let us access these populations.

SESAY: How do you do that?

That's the goal but what's the method?

TAUBER (PH): I think what is going to be hard for us as humanitarian actors, the International Rescue Committee will be trying to identify the new authorities that we have to work with to access populations.

For example, the previous governor has been removed and a new governor is in place so we're trying to travel to Kirkuk this morning as soon as possible to meet with him and explain the work that we do and the humanitarian principles by which we operate, so that he can try and get us permission for access.

SESAY: I know you've been working the in the six camps around Kirkuk long before now. Just give our viewers a sense of the work you have been doing and the level of need.

TAUBER (PH): We do basic provision of goods such as clothing, underclothing; we're looking toward winter coming so it's a very concerning time for new displacements. People are going to start to be freezing cold if they don't have appropriate shelter ad goods.

We also provide cash assistance when people are out of camps. That way they can go to shops and decide what they need most urgently. We're looking at protecting people, which means giving legal assistance; many people who have just come out of ISIS-held areas have no civil documentation, can't prove who they are.

They have no identity and that makes it very hard to even pass the checkpoint let alone access any basic services.

SESAY: Wendy (ph), before I leave you, how concerned are you that the different groups within the Kirkuk, the Arabs, the Turkmen, the Kurds, how concerned are you that ultimately those long-stifled tensions will erupt back to the surface again in the near future and lead to disruption and people fleeing once more?

TAUBER (PH): What we hear from everyone we speak to, they've all been affected by the various wars over the years. They've all lost family members. No one wants new fighting. People just want to their normal lives so I think it's up to the politicians to try and build on the post-ISIS environment toward peace and reconciliation because that's what the people want most.

SESAY: Well, Wendy Tauber (ph), appreciate you joining us. Stay safe out there and better luck with your efforts in trying to track down those who right now you can't find. Thank you for joining us.

TAUBER (PH): (INAUDIBLE). Thank you.

VAUSE: Still to come here on NEWSROOM L.A., Spain's prime minister standing firm. He's given Catalan leaders a deadline to clarify whether the region has declared independence or not. That deadline now just hours away.





VAUSE (voice-over): Welcome back, everybody, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from L.A. I'm John Vause.

SESAY (voice-over): And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour:


SESAY: Well, the European press commentator Dominic Thomas joins us now.

Dominic, good to have you with us. The deadline is ever creeping closer, so to speak, 4:00 am Eastern is when that deadline will hit.

Hate to put you on the spot but what are your expectations for how this will go?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CHAIR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH & FRANCOPHONE STUDIES, UCLA, CALIFORNIA: It's absolutely extraordinary. The deadline was Monday. It's been extended. I think Rajoy is aware of two things.

First of all, he's heading to the E.U., where they're having that summit and he's aware of the fact that the E.U. has been scrutinizing this a little bit more. And it's clear that the separatists want independence.

And so they're under enormous pressure to declare independence and it's obvious that this is the path that they want to go down.

The only way out that seems possible would be for them to talk about having a new election in the region, not a referendum but a new election that would allow the people to express their will.

But it does seem fairly obvious in that context that the will of the people remains ambiguous in this.

SESAY: It does seem that neither of these men, Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, or Carles Puigdemont, the leader for Catalonia, seem willing to make any kind of concessions.

Is this because their own personal political fates are tied in with the next move here?

THOMAS: Right. There's no alternative really for Puigdemont. He has to go down the road of independence --


SESAY: Or is it political suicide -- ?

THOMAS: -- political suicide really for him. In fact, in any case, he's basically being banned from future office because of his activities with independence so that he won't be rerunning again for the presidency of the region.

The separatists are pushing for this. For him to back down and simply go in to negotiations to improve the fathis (ph) of the region wouldn't help the cause that he's fighting for. And Rajoy's political future, is attached to maintaining the unity of Spain and the people around him are pushing him to not back down.

Yet both sides is blaming the other. SESAY: Of course the expectation or the calculation is that if we hit that 4:00 am Eastern deadline less than 6.5 hours from now and Puigdemont stands his ground and says this is it, we're breaking away, that Article 155 of the Spanish constitution will be triggered and Madrid can take control of Catalonia.

Can that be done without force?

THOMAS: No, not only without force but without violence and the mistake one could argue that the government of Madrid made was to intervene in the referendum rather than simply allowing it to proceed and declare it illegal and unconstitutional, which it has.

So that intervention triggered violence, which brought incredible international scrutiny to the plight of the Catalans and put Rajoy under international pressure. That was a faux pas. One would think that as much as he wants to avoid declaring Article 155, he will have to do that.

But if he starts to move the military in and to take over, he will not only galvanize separatists but also people who will be sympathetic to their cause because of the problem of demonstrating violence some 40 years after the country's 1978 constitution, when it escaped the dictatorship of Franco.

SESAY: I must make clear to our viewers because --


SESAY: -- obviously I'm using some kind of different clock. It's 3.5 hours away, the deadline for this decision. So get your clocks set, 3.5 hours away from the decision that Carles Puigdemont has to make.

Let me ask you this, though, in a way, the very fact that Puigdemont has gone this far, the very fact that we have seen this flight of capital, these banks, these companies leave, I mean, in a way, the die is cast.

THOMAS: Right. It's funny to the parallel, very quickly, with Brexit, many people discovered what Brexit was really all about after the referendum. In the last two weeks, many people in Spain and in the region of Catalonia are discovering the implications of what a declaration of independence would mean, withdrawal from the European Union, leaders like Macron being completely uncompromising in terms of the fact that Catalonia would no longer be part of the European Union.

The number of businesses that have been leaving the region and people are starting to realize that this area of Spain that is, relatively speaking, wealthy, in which unemployment is lower, would be not decimated by the negatively impacted by this particular referendum.

And that's the problem that Puigdemont faces as well the longer this goes on.

SESAY: Dominic Thomas, we always appreciate it. We'll keep the conversation going. Thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you.

VAUSE: OK. We'll take a short break again. When we come back, it has been a month since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico but parts of the island still look as if that hurricane happened just yesterday. We'll take a look island where disaster has become a way of life. That's next.





SESAY: Hello, everyone.

It's been four weeks since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico virtually decimating the island. And many are working hard to get the U.S. territory restored to normal.

VAUSE: The governor's office has reported that 19 percent of the island now has electricity. Almost 70 percent of people there have access to running water but a boil order remains in effect; 61 percent of the people there have phone services and the Puerto Rican governor Rose Ajoyo (ph) will visit the White House on Thursday for meetings on relief efforts.

SESAY: To bring the story home, still litter the landscape across the island. CNN's Leyla Santiago has visited many of the communities struggling to survive and she has the very latest.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One month later, we are seeing more FEMA aid moving, more helicopters in the sky, trucks that are distributing supplies to all parts of the island. But still the majority without power, many without clean water.

You take your cell phone outside of San Juan and you'll quickly read "no service." It's like a new normal for Puerto Ricans on the island.


SANTIAGO (voice-over): He's been cleaning for a month. Not much seems to have changed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, it's like it was yesterday.

SANTIAGO: Angel St. Kitts (ph) lives in Humacao, the eastern coast of the island where the sea rushed in and Maria left little behind.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're suffering because we don't have electricity.

SANTIAGO (on camera): One month later, there were still people gathered at the church, hoping to get supplies that come in here in this area. And their lives are on display, on the sidewalks, you can see furniture, you can see paintings, even a Christmas stand down here. This home doesn't have part of its roof.

There is no cell service here. Nobody has power and food and water are limited.

(voice-over): A month we've been here and seen and felt Maria's terrifying force and in the aftermath, dramatic rescues, desperation, on the ground and through the mud. We've been the first to reach communities cut off by the storm.

Despite President Donald Trump's visit and his own rave reviews of the recovery, more than 80 percent still don't have power. About 40 percent of the cell towers remain down and roughly a third, no running water.

Banks that are open have lines that can be hours long. More than 100 bridges damaged, 18 closed until further notice, cutting off entire communities.

Rebecca Rodriguez tells us her family's bakery has been here for decades.

(on camera): Yes, this is how high the water came, which is at least four feet.

(voice-over): The only light here comes from our camera.

(on camera): What once smelled of fresh bread is really now smells like something's rotting in here. And she's upset because none of this will be covered, according to her insurance.

(voice-over): Every day brings uncertainty.

(on camera): Of all the things you had in here, this is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what I've been able to save, because the mattress I threw it out. The bed, I threw it out. The chairs --

SANTIAGO: This isn't much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. But what can we do?

SANTIAGO (voice-over): As time passes --

(on camera): These are all your watches.

(voice-over): Disaster has become a way of life, as if Maria never left.

(on camera): And when you ask people on the island how long it will take to recover, how long will it take to get to a sense of normalcy like pre-Maria, they will tell you this is not a matter of months. This is likely now a matter of years -- Leyla Santiago, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.



SESAY: (INAUDIBLE). This is a story for you.


SESAY: Australian police had a front row seat for quite a spectacle. A kangaroo version of mixed martial arts. Their chopper's infrared camera capturing this late-night throwdown in Victoria. They're pushing, there's slapping of course, big kicks.

VAUSE: Charisma (ph), look at that, we don't know actually what but these are probably a couple of blokes. They're fighting over who gets the ladies, really, it's all about mating rights, who's the dominant one. (INAUDIBLE), everyone.

Now we contacted National Geographic (INAUDIBLE) they tell us that kangaroo feet, they can deliver a bone-crushing kick that can even kill a (INAUDIBLE) Australia. But yes.

SESAY: Bone-crushing kick?

VAUSE: No, no. (INAUDIBLE). But good day, you fellows. Get into it.

SESAY: And there we must leave it. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Stay tuned now for "WORLD SPORT."

SESAY: And then we we'll be back with another hour of news from around the world. You're watching CNN with kangaroos.

VAUSE: Cheers.