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Trump's Feud With a Soldier's Family; State of Emergency Declared in Florida Ahead of Speaker's Speech; Nikki Haley Calls Out Iran for UNSC Violations; Kurds With Grievance Against U.S.; Trump's Conflict of Interest; Better Late Than Never; Veterans to the Rescue. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired October 19, 2017 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH HOST CNN: An ugly feud over a painful phone call. President Trump says his call to a war widow was respectful. The fallen soldier's family disagrees.
Fiery rhetoric. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. blast Iran before the Security Council just hours after the supreme leader said President Trump has a big mouth.
And one month after hurricane Maria many Puerto Ricans are still struggling to get food, water, and power. And we will show you how one remote community is trying to cope.
Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in United States., and of course all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN Newsroom.
The U.S. President Donald Trump is under fire from critics who say he is politicizing the deaths of four soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger earlier this month. It took 12 days for the president to even mention the casualties. And ever since he did it's been one misstep after another.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny has that report.
JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: President Trump imperiled in a fire storm over his condolence to the grieving widow of an American soldier killed in Niger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't say what that congresswoman said. I didn't say it at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: Today at the White House the president spoke about his call Tuesday to Myeshia Johnson, she's the pregnant wife of Sergeant La David Johnson who mourns the loss when his flight drape casket arrived home in Florida. The soldier's mother and Congressman Frederica Wilson who both listen
to the call told CNN the president disrespected Sergeant Johnson by saying he knew what he signed up for. The president denies using those words. Saying on twitter that "Wilson totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action. And I have proof. Sad."
He did not provide proof as the controversy escalated between the commander in chief and the family of a fallen soldier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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. I did say what the congresswoman said. And most people aren't too surprise to hear that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the proof, Mr. President?
TRUMP: Let her make her statement again and then you'll find out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: Wilson, a Florida democrat stood by her account. The soldier's mother also telling CNN the congresswoman's recollection was very accurate. When asked if she was shocked by the president's words the congresswoman said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERICA WILSON, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Stunned. Still stunned. How insensitive. So insensitive. Mr. Trump is crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: The extraordinary feud did little to shed light on what actually led to the ambush that killed Johnson and three other American soldiers in West Africa. For the president it's the deadliest combat incident involving U.S. troops since taking office.
Asked earlier why he didn't address the attack for nearly two weeks the president falsely claimed his predecessors did not contact the families of fallen troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If you look at President Obama and other presidents most of them didn't make calls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: It was another mark against his credibility as he tries to breathe new life into his stalled legislative agenda.
Today, the president abruptly reverse course on healthcare after signaling his support Tuesday for a bipartisan deal over Obamacare subsidies. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: For a period of one year or two years we will have a very good solution but we are going to have a great solution ultimately for healthcare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: Yes, but with support for the agreement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're going to see the bipartisan. And Lamar Alexander working on it very hard from our side and if something can happen that's fine. But I won't do anything to enrich the insurance companies because right now the insurance companies are enriched.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: Now the underlying issue at the center of this extraordinary back and forth is that attack in Niger two weeks ago. Senator John McCain the chairman of the armed services committee said that he is not getting all the information he needs about what led to that attack that killed four American soldiers.
Asked directly if the Trump administration is being forthcoming, he said no.
Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.
CHURCH: And the White House says Chief of Staff John Kelly was one of several people listening in on that condolence call. Press Secretary Sanders said they all agreed it was appropriate and respectful. And Sanders lashed out at Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it is appalling what the congresswoman has done in the way that she's politicized this issue and the way that she is trying to make this about something that it isn't.
[03:05:01] This is a president who loves our country very much, who has the greatest level of respect for men and women in the uniform and wanted to call and offer condolences to the family. And I think to try to create something from that that the congresswoman is doing is disgusting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Well, joining me now from London associate fellow on the U.S. program at Chatham House Leslie Vinjamuri. Thank you so much for being with us.
LESLIE VINJAMURI, SENIOR LECTURER, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you. CHURCH: Now there has been a lot of reaction in the United States for the words President Trump used when he called the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson to offer his condolences. But we just heard there from the White Press Secretary Sarah Sanders who listened in on Mr. Trump's condolence call and she accused her of politicizing this issue. What's your reading of the president's conversation?
VINJAMURI: Well, you know what we've heard from the reports, I mean, I think that the key issue here is that it's very difficult thing for any president of the United States and it's an incredibly important thing to acknowledge the death of those who have given the lives for the country.
And the phone call as it's been reported suggests that the tone was wrong, that the words were deeply problematic. And I think the appropriate response from the president of course when facing this kind of questioning from the congresswoman would just simply be to reaffirm and choose better words to take that opportunity to correct, to make the record right.
CHURCH: ... Niger that killed Sergeant Johnson of course, three other U.S. soldiers as well as wounding two. He says we deserve to have all the information. Why do you think we're not seeing it?
VINJAMURI: Well, this is really the critical question. This is high stakes operation. Something clearly went wrong. I'm sure that they're looking into this very carefully right now. And it is interesting that this hasn't become more politicized in the way that if you look -- if you think back to Benghazi there was a tremendous amount of attention on that.
So, this particular response of course, the unintended consequence of Trump's response to the family of the sergeant who died might be to shed a light on that particular operation and to raise more questions in the public domain. And that would be appropriate because this is the very difficult operation and it remains very unclear what happened.
CHURCH: Leslie Vinjamuri, thank you so much for joining us. We do appreciate it and like to see and hear your perspective on these matters.
VINJAMURI: Thank you.
CHURCH: Well, rhetoric over the Iran nuclear deal heats up where the U.S. ambassador challenging the United Nations.
Plus, a prominent white nationalist is scheduled to speak at a Florida college in the coming hours and it's left the governor to declare a state of emergency. We'll explain when we come back.
[03:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. A U.N. Security Council session was supposed to be devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock but the U.S. ambassador focused on Iran. Instead, Nikki Haley accused Tehran of violating international law and U.N. resolutions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The regime continues to play this council. Iran hides behind its assertion of technical compliance with the nuclear deal while it brazenly violates the other limits on its behavior. And we have allowed them to get away with it. This must stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us now live from Tehran with what Iran has to say about this. So, Fred, the Trump administration is keeping the issue of the Iran nuclear deal front and center despite the fact that the Israeli Palestinian deadlock was supposed to be discussed. What has been the reaction to this ongoing attack in Tehran?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, exactly it's an ongoing attack. And there certainly have been multiple reactions not specifically to what Ambassador Haley said there last night, but certainly in general everything after last Friday when of course, President Trump gave his speech about what he calls his new Iran strategy. There has been a lot of reaction.
[03:14:56] Now the most forceful certainly came yesterday with the supreme leader of this country, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei coming out giving a speech blasting President Trump saying that he, quote, "pretends to be an idiot." But at the same time the Iranians he said "cannot let their guard down."
He also called him "foul-mouthed" and said that he was attacking Iran. One of things that the supreme leader said is that he believes that the U.S. is angry because the Iranians feel that they've been making a lot of headway.
Here in the Middle East he was talking specifically about the situations in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq where of course the Iranian wield a great deal of influence. And the Iranians feel or the ayatollah believes that that's one of the reasons why the Americans are so critical of them.
Now of course, the other big thing that's being talked about here and that President Trump spoke about as well is the nuclear agreement. And that certainly is on almost everyone's mind. The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he also spoke about the nuclear agreement as well.
He said that the Iranians would not ditch the nuclear agreement unless it was breached by the Americans. And he called then the Europeans to do their part to try and save the nuclear agreement while also being quite critical of the Europeans as well.
Saying, look, the Europeans really shouldn't criticize Iran's missile program considering some of the European countries have nuclear weapons themselves. But at the same time you can feel that the Iranians are to a certain degree counting on the Europeans to try and do their part to save this agreement.
Certainly if you look at some of the words that have been coming out of the E.U. some of the European countries, specifically like Germany, like France, Britain to a certain extent as well, they are still behind the nuclear agreement.
The Iranians are saying, yes, they are as well. However, they do feel that the U.S. is currently jeopardizing that agreement, and with that to a certain extent also isolating itself from the other signatories of that agreement. Rosemary?
CHURCH: And Fred, as this all plays out with the leadership there in Iran, what about the average person on the street? What is their view of President Trump and indeed the United States, and how much of this are they following?
PLEITGEN: Well, you know one of the things that you will hear from most Iranians, I would say -- I mean, it is still a fairly divided society. But I would say the majority of folks here they actually appreciate the United States. They appreciate the culture of the United States. They don't necessarily agree with the Unites States leadership.
And I think one of the things that they are seeing with President Trump is that they believe a lot of the rhetoric that's currently coming out of the White House is quite unfair to the Iranians especially pertaining to the nuclear agreement. They feel that President Trump is out to get the Iranians.
There's some Iranian politicians who have come out and said look, they believe that U.S. foreign policy is, quote, "for sale" that he is siding with Gulf countries rather than to try to keep an open mind towards Iran. At the same time I think a lot of Iranians also see that there have been some provocations on the Iranian part as well.
You look towards earlier this year or late last year when there were some of those missile launches with Hebrew writing on some of these medium range missiles. That's certainly something that's also seen critical by some Iranians. But by and large, one of the things that you see again and again here is that there are big internal divisions in this country politically, especially between moderates and hardliners.
But when they are attacked from the outside verbally and in other ways as well, the Iranians do tend to come together and form a united front. And that certainly seems to be the case where a lot of even hardline Iranian politicians are saying look, we believe that President Trump with some of the thing he's been saying is actually been doing us a favor because he's united Iranian politics rather than divide it, Rosemary.
CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to our Fred Pleitgen, bringing us that live report from Tehran in ran where it is nearly 10.50 in the morning. We turn to Iraq now. The prime minister has banned all armed groups in Kirkuk except for the government security forces who now control the northern city. Haider al-Abadi's directed is intended to help restore stability after Iraqi forces on Monday drove out Peshmerga fighters. Now the Kurds had control the city for three years.
Our Ben Wedeman joins us now from the Kurdish stronghold of Erbil. And Ben, the Trump administration decided not to take sides as these two U.S allies fought over Kirkuk. How did the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters feel about that stand?
BEN WEDEMAN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Certainly, there is a real anger among many Kurds not just the Peshmerga fighters that the United States has betrayed them. Keep in mind that the Kurds were key allies here in Iraq and also in Syria we should stress, in the fight against ISIS.
The United States provided weaponry and training and the Kurds have never been shy about their desire eventually for an independent state, certainly one that would be carved out of what is Iraq today.
But what we're seeing is that in that city of Kirkuk that those tensions, the tensions between the Kurds and the rest of the country are certainly broadening the fault lines which divide the Kurds and the government in Baghdad.
[03:20:01] They return in the morning car after car of Kirkuk residents who fled the city when central government forces and paramilitary seize to control earlier this week.
Zirwan (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 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," Sana'a (Ph) tells me, "We were afraid to step outside but nothing happened, thank God."
Prezidul (Ph), a Kurdish veteran of the Iran-Iraq war looks on the bright side. "we're all Iraqis," he says. "There's no difference between Arabs and Kurds."
But all is not well here. Five-minute drive away and the tune is very different. "People are afraid," says Iwa (Ph), a construction worker. He says he's leave if he had the money.
Some parts of the city looks almost normal. Others like this usually busy market is pretty much dead. For few years Iraqis put their differences behind them and focus 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 supported the Kurds in their war against ISIS but turned its back on their desire for a state of their own.
"The United States bears responsibility for what is happening in Kirkuk," Ahmed tells me. As one conflict comes to an end, another looms large.
WEDEMAN: Now we understand that overnight what's known as the Hashd al-Shaabi or the popular mobilization unites, those are those Iranian- backed paramilitaries have pulled out of Kirkuk in response to the call by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. They pulled out of the center of the city.
Iraqi military and police still control this city as a whole. But that end as a result of course there were celebrations in Kirkuk among its Kurdish residents at that. But really, you know, having spent most of the day in Kirkuk yesterday I can tell you that the situation there is very tense. Rosemary?
CHURCH: Thank you so much for that report. Our Ben Wedemen in Erbil, where it is nearly 10.30 in the morning.
Well, the security guard who was shot outside the Las Vegas gunman's hotel room is telling his story for the first time. On the Ellen DeGeneres show Jesus Campos describes patrolling the hotel halls when he was sent to the 32nd floor. At first he thought he though he hears drilling sounds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESUS CAMPOS, SECURITY GUARD, MANDALAY BAY HOTEL: As I was walking down I heard rapid fire. And at first I took cover. I felt a burning sensation. I went to go lift my pant leg up and I saw the blood. That's when I called it in on my radio that shots had been fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And while Campos hid in the hallway he warned a hotel engineer and a woman coming out of another room to take cover. The gunman killed 58 people and wounded nearly 500 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The University of Florida in Gainesville is bracing for a speech Thursday afternoon by white nationalist Richard Spencer. Government and university officials fear violence will break out. Students have already held rallies against Spencer's planned speech. And Florida's governor has declared a state of emergency for Alachua County as a security precaution. Chris Sims is with the sheriff's office in Alachua County and he joins me now. Thank you so much for being with us. Of course Richard Spencer says he is flattered by the state of emergency that has been declared ahead of his speech. He even thinks it's quite funny. Why was the state of emergency declared?
[03:25:10] CHRIS SIMS, PIO SERGEANT, ALACHUA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: So, we would like our community to know and we would the speaker to know as we are not addressing him by name because we do not condone the speech in which he presents. We would like them to know that the declaration of emergency was not in placed based upon any believe of credible threats or threats of violence.
It was put in place out of request by Sheriff Sadie Darnell here in Alachua County to Governor Scott. Governor Scott of course does not take declarations lightly. He has some very tough questions. Those questions were answered to his satisfaction and he agreed that it would be best to place that declaration sooner rather than later.
The key component to that is that it opens up the opportunity for the law enforcement personnel here in Alachua County to get that immediate response from additional law enforcement resources should that be needed, should we encounter violence or civil unrest, which are those instances that were encountered in Charlottesville, Virginia and Berkeley, California endearing a very similar speeches.
CHURCH: Right. And it's worth noting Richard Spencer's messages make white privilege great again. Do you think it was wise for the university to agree to have him speak at their campus, or do you feel the right to freedom of speech is more important than those concerns?
SIMS: So, we obviously are working well with the University of Florida. We're working well with the city of Gainesville. We do not take a stand on the decision that was made. You must understand that decision was made based upon the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
You know, it is our job as constitutional officers to protect and defend that right whether we agree with it or not. We must become that neutral party. So, you know, we are going to do our very best to ensure that this event becomes a non-event that it goes without a hitch and we're going to ensure that our community is very safe, very secure. But that they have the right to make their freedoms of expression and freedoms of speech as they've been afforded by the U.S. Constitution.
The message we want to provide is clear. That you are welcome to your First Amendment right. You are welcome to your freedom of speech. You are welcome to that freedom of assembly, peaceful protest is welcome here Alachua County. What is not welcome is violence. We will have law enforcement there. And should you erupt in violence or civil unrest we will take swift appropriate action to ensure that that is handled in a very proper manner.
CHURCH: Chris Sims, thank you much for coming on CNN and talking with us. And we hope things go smoothly for you. Thank you so much. SIMS: Thank you very much. Yes, ma'am.
CHURCH: And we'll take a very short break here. But when we come back, Donald Trump has finally paid the $25,000 he promised to the family of a fallen soldier. What prompted him to write the check after nearly four months of delay?
Plus, a federal judge, he has an epic lawsuit over the president's ownership of the Washington Hotel. We will explain what that's about and we'll have more after the break.
[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN: A very warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and of course all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.
The White House is firing back at a congresswoman who says President Trump disrespected the family of a fallen soldier killed in an ambush this month in Niger.
Frederica Wilson says she was listening on speakerphone when Mr. Trump called Tuesday to offer his condolences to La David Johnson's widow. Her account differs sharply from the White House version.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERICA WILSON, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: I did hear him say, "I'm sure you know what he was signing up for but it still hurts." And when she actually hangs up the phone she looked at me and said, he didn't even knew his name. Now that's the worst part.
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's call as accounted by multiple people in the room believed that the president was completely respectful, very sympathetic and express condolences of himself and the rest of the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Meanwhile, President Trump has sent a personal check for $25,000 to the family of a number of another fallen soldier Army Corporal Dillon Baldridge was killed in Afghanistan back in June.
Now according to the Washington Post, Mr. Trump call the soldier's father and promised to send the money but it didn't happen until Wednesday, the same day the Post reported the story. The White House says the payment took so long because it had to go through several agencies.
It's not common for a U.S. president to make personal payouts to the families of fallen servicemembers.
Now the commander in chief's inexperience in public office could be a reason for his inartful handling of these events. But as CNN's Jake Tapper shows us Mr. Trump has long had trouble showing respect for veterans of the Armed Forces. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: The loss of a servicemember and the pain of his or her family is part of life in this nation that we believe try to treat with appropriate sensitivity and respect. Now we do not know what exactly President Trump said to Myeshia Johnson, the grieving widow of Sergeant La David Johnson.
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson claims the president said, quote, "he knew what he signed up for but I guess it still hurt," unquote, that the president did not seem to know Johnson's name. And the congresswoman further suggested that the president's words cause the widow to break down after the call ended.
Johnson's mother tells CNN that that description is accurate.
The president, however, on Twitter and to reporters denies this. He tweeted he had proof and the White House today said that Congresswoman Wilson was trying to politicize a call to a widow and that those who heard the call on the White House staff found the president's words perfectly respectful.
I mean, all of that really makes very little difference when you think about it. The family heard what it heard even if the president was completely misunderstood. His attempt at comfort failed.
Under the best of circumstances these moments between the commander- in-chief and the family of a fallen servicemember are awful, just awful. And the problem that President Trump might have here, however, is that when it comes to sensitivity, when it comes to sensitivity about service and sacrifice specifically, he's already made what critics have assessed to be some grievously bad decisions.
[03:35:10] If you back to 2015 his attack on Senator John McCain who spent five and a half years as prisoner of war in Vietnam, McCain was tortured, was despondent at times he was suicidal, as the son and grandson of admirals he would have been allowed, he was asked to leave early as a propaganda effort by the North Vietnamese. But McCain refused to do it in deference to the POWs who had been there longer.
But this is how Trump saw it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK? I hate to tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Then of course there's Khizr and Ghazaka Khan, the gold star parents of Army Captain Humayun Khan who was killed in Iraq. He belittles them after their appearance of the democratic convention after they took issue with Mr. Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Then candidate Trump suggested the fallen soldier's mother didn't speak at the convention because she was forbidden as a Muslim woman to speak. In actuality as she later said she was just too broken up to discuss the loss of her fallen son.
Shortly after his inauguration, during a visit to the CIA, the president stood in front of the Memorial Wall there when there are now a 125 stars for fallen CIA officers including one for former Navy SEAL Christopher Mueller who save the line of an Afghan commander before sacrificing his own.
Another one for former Marine Major Douglas Zembiec, the so-called line of Fallujah who was killed in Iraq.
The president spent his time at the CIA in front of that wall railing about media coverage of the size of the crowds of his inaugural.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It look, honestly, it looked like a million and a half people, whatever it was, it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument and I turned on and by mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Amidst all this mishandedness the president this week falsely accused President Obama and previous presidents of never having phoned gold star families. Making an apparent attempt to make himself look more attentive and compassionate I suppose.
And in the midst of that effort to depict himself in glowing light this current controversy ironically enough suddenly burst onto the scene as just another political weapon used by the president and used against the president. This most personal and horrific experience, just one more piece of ammunition in the snarky wars for nothing matters anymore except for scoring points.
Instead of focusing on these fallen men and women and their families who will never be the same we're focused on process and phone calls and letters in the spot, President Trump challenged on the fact that President Obama did actually called gold star families, not all of them but some of them, he told one radio interviewer the following.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You could ask General Kelly did he get a call from Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That's a reference to -- that's a reference to his Chief of Staff retired Marine General John Kelly. Kelly is his wife Karen lost their son Marine First Lieutenant Robert Michael Kelly to a landline in Afghanistan in 2010.
And truly what will honor the Kelly's and the memory of Robert more than anyone debating whether Obama should have phoned them instead of writing them a letter is to take a moment to consider Robert Kelly and all of the men and women who serve our nation while considering these words quote.
"Sons like yours who serve our men and women of character who continue to believe in this country enough to put life and limb on the line without qualification and without thought of personal gain and they serve so that the sons and daughters of the other 99 percent don't have to. No big deal though, as marines have always been the first to fight paying in full the bill that comes with being free for everyone else." Unquote.
Those were the words of General John Kelly at a Veterans Day event for Marines in 2010. And what makes those words most remarkable perhaps is that he deliver that speech just four days after his beloved son Robert was killed.
Now I've learned on this job that telling the stories of troops and their families that it's very important that we all choose our words very carefully when discussing these losses and it's not just journalists and politicians. All of us need to consider the imaginable that these families go through when we speak to them and when we speak of them.
And if we don't take great care and in fact, if you're reckless about these kinds of sacrifices, the kind of sacrifice you see on your screen right now, well, then people might not be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt if on one occasion your words come out wrong.
[03:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CHURCH: There's an anti-corruption measure in the U.S. Constitution that supposed to prevent foreign governments from giving gifts to the president without permission from Congress. Now it's called the Emolument's Clause.
And a group of ethics experts are suing Donald Trump over it. D.C. area business owners have joined the suit saying the president's hotels and restaurants are harming their businesses.
A federal judge heard the case Wednesday and is now considering whether the case can go forward.
Walter Shaub is with me now to talk about this. He is the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and he joins me from D.C. Thank you so much for being with us.
WALTER SHAUB, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Thanks for having me.
CHURCH: So, ethics experts are suing the president and now a judge needs to decide if that case will go forward. What do you think the judge will decide given what we know now?
SHAUB: Well, the judge sounded a note of skepticism today about the plaintiff's rights to go forward. The issue is one of whether they can establish that they've actually suffered an injury as a result of the president's actions. It's a very difficult standard to meet in a lot of cases get dismissed on that ground.
It wasn't looking great for the plaintiffs today and in the court room.
CHURCH: Interesting. And of course, we know Mr. Trump's two sons took over the day-to-day control of his businesses when he took office. But these plaintiffs and other critics have said that's not enough, do you agree with that?
SHAUB: Well, some of the debate stems from the precise definition of the word emoluments, you mentioned gifts and that's certainly one of them but the two parties disagree over what the definition of gift is.
The Department of Justice's legal opinions from prior years do establish a precedent that it can be more than gifts. If, for instance, you went and provided services like gave a speech or did some consulting work for a foreign government and they offered to pay you, you can't except that if you're federal employee or an elected official in the federal government.
But what's unclear is whether or not you can receive payment in exchange for services of a corporation and in this case it's a hotel. So the question is whether the profits from the hotel with people staying there or foreign governments renting rooms for events would qualify as an emolument.
[03:45:11] The judge actually sounded skeptical of the federal government's opinion and seemed to side with the plaintiffs more on the merits of the case. The government was urging a very narrow definition and the plaintiffs offered sort of a more common sense broader definition of this obscure term.
So, really it comes down to whose definition wins but first they've got to get into court and the plaintiffs were having some trouble getting over that threshold today.
CHURCH: And of course the United States has never had to deal with a situation like this before, has it? And what's at issue here with these payments from foreign entities to Mr. Trump's hotels, his clubs, his restaurants. So what should he be doing with these payments, how can he avoid this situation?
SHAUB: Well, first of all, if he had followed the tradition of past presidents he would have divested or more, you know, sold off those assets and he wouldn't have them so we wouldn't be having this debate. We're only in this situation because we have a president who declared publicly that a president can't have a conflict of interest, which of course is a matter of common sense is just illogical.
But if he's going to keep the hotel at one point he had offered that they were track which payments were from foreign governments and segregate those out and give that money away. They backed away from that and have refused to even carefully track the payments from foreign governments.
So, it's hard to know what they could do if they're not willing to even segregate the money, much less decline in and that's sort of what prompted these cases. And there's actually more than one case.
One of the cases is brought by members of Congress and they seem a little more confident that they're going to get standing in this case because the Constitution actually provides that Congress has the say- so and in whether or not a president can get this and their allegation is they should have been consulted so they may fare a little bit better on the standing issue.
CHURCH: We shall just have to see what the judge decides on this case. Walter Shaub, thank you so much for joining us and adding your perspective and your analysis to this. We appreciate it.
CHURCH: And we'll take short break here. But still to come, CNN takes you to a remote area of Puerto Rico with the roads are barely possible and hurricane victims is still struggling to survive day by day.
Do stay with us. We're back in a moment.
[03:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Thank you for choosing to stay with CNN. I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri for weather watch here.
And how about a very mild perspective here across the eastern half of the United States? While back towards the west it is all about the wet weather, it is snowy conditions from the higher elevations as well.
But how about taking up to 22 out of Chicago, 24 in Atlanta, also 22 in New York City, Montreal is stunning 19 degrees afternoon. The autumn colors beginning to really flourish across his region. And of course such temperatures will certainly want to help out as well.
About 24 is across the board out of Washington. It shows you how uniform the perspective is across parts of the U.S. But here comes the Pacific moisture we track for a couple of days now. Some areas could be looking at as much say a couple of feet of snow coming down in a matter of several days and with it blustery weather.
And as you typically see early in the season with these early wind makers, there is plenty of fall leaves to go around that really makes these trees essentially acts as filled in we have a lot of trees down a lot of power outages as well. And when you put up a lot of snow on to leaves that have fallen yet that is also problematic as well, so certainly watching that carefully around the northwest.
But noticed this trend we went back to cooling off in San Francisco, warms up again. We went back to cooling off in Los Angeles, Santa Anna in full effect come Sunday afternoon 35 degrees in store there into Southern California.
As always if you have weather photos we've love to see, share with us, hash tag CNN weather.
CHURCH: Right now millions of Americans in Puerto Rico still don't have power or clean running water. It's been a month since hurricane Maria hit but the slow pace of relief and extreme destruction make it seem like the storm hit just yesterday.
And as CNN's Bill Weir reports conditions are especially dire for people in remote parts of the island.
BILL WEIR, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: As storm bring Maria's one month anniversary we head out of San Juan by air and below to the ground. All the better to see the mud slides, broken bridges, shattered homes.
We passed Arecibo, one of the biggest radio telescopes in the world. But we are looking for intelligent signs of life in the western mountains where people have been waiting for help for weeks.
We land, and inside the Mayaguez airport a group of big hearted military veterans has turned to baggage claim into a bunk house and operation centers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're at like 30,000 meals, 35,000 meals and I don't how many...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's just with the small trucks we've had and by hook or by crook getting supplies.
WEIR: They came down on their own dime and shake their heads in frustration with FEMA. If it were up to them they bring in the National Guard 15,000 at the time on two week rotations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought you had to pay these guys anyway to sit at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and then for two weeks...
WEIR: Right, right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're wasting our money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All this talk about bringing the contractors, the security contractors arrived with shotgun on the trucks. I'll get you 5,000 military vets they will go for helping the world for free.
WEIR: We head into the hills in search of answers but soon get a taste of the logistical headaches here. Maria obliterated the stretch of highway. And with little hope for road crews the neighbors are building their own bridge.
Do you feel like Americans in moments like this, do you feel taken care of as citizens?
"We're not people that say the government must help us," Santiago says. "We're all part of humanity; every person does the best they can." What kind of help are you getting from the outside, have you seen FEMA
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We see FEMA, we see the group that came from America. They purified the water.
WEIR: And these are the bedrooms, the guys some are soldiers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That's right. Yes.
WEIR: Yes, we met them at the airport.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were beautiful people.
WEIR: Thanks to Junie (Ph) and his mini monster truck we get passed yet another mudslide and soon tracked down one of FEMA's top men on this island. Couldn't you use national guardsmen in two week rotations to come in. Are you begging your bosses for more men?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we have 4,500 national guardsmen coming in.
WEIR: But just as a point of comparison two weeks after the Haiti quake the U.S. had 22,000 troops on the ground in a foreign country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know how much more we can bring, we are actually impacting the economy of Puerto Rico. If I keep on flooding the place with food and water when is it that their local neighbors are going to help their supermarket?
WEIR: Is it true that FEMA had a presence in New Orleans for like seven years, right? People were living in FEMA trailers for years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in New Orleans just two years ago and we left 5,000 mobile homes there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we were there for seven or eight months responding there. We're in Florida and we're in Harvey and we want to be in Puerto Rico, now we're in Virgin Islands also for as long as it takes.
WEIR: For as long as it takes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For as long as it takes.
WEIR: Despite what the president says.
[03:55:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what? We don't follow -- I don't see a TV, so I don't even pay attention to that. I pay attention to the mission that I have in my heart which is fixing Puerto Rico. WEIR: In just a few hours we've been at shooting, an amazing development at this abandoned airport. The air National Guard out of Tennessee and Kentucky has arrived and are militarizing this airport. They tell me off camera they got 500 guys, more are coming that they've been sitting back home for two weeks chomping at the bit to calm but there are so many layers of bureaucratic red tape they just couldn't pull the trigger.
But the good news is they are here now. They've got supplies and they're going to start pushing them into the mountains as soon as they possibly can.
CHURCH: Incredible report there from our Bill Weir.