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Trump Presidency; Niger Attack; Searching for al-Baghdadi; Security Forces Urge Raqqa Residents To Wait To Return; Merkel: Not Enough Progress For Next Phase Of Talks; Trump Rates His Response To Puerto Rico, 10/10; Puerto Rico Gov.: Humanitarian Ordeal "Far From Over"; More Than 78 Percent Of Puerto Rico Still Without Power; Spain Set to Impose Direct Rule On Catalonia; Chicago Art Institute Says Trump's Renoir Is Fake. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired October 20, 2017 - 02:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, White House chief of staff John Kelly (INAUDIBLE) emotional defense of Donald Trump's call to a Gold Star family on a late night presidential tweet, stirring up more controversy.

(INAUDIBLE) officials are finding answers are down for U.S. soldiers were ambushed and killed in Niger. We'll have the latest on the investigation.

Also Puerto Rico millions still in the dark a month after Hurricane Maria. We'll hear from the workers who are just trying to get the lights back on.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause. Great to have you with us for the third hour of NEWSROOM L.A.


VAUSE: For four days into the consolation call controversy and the Trump administration is attempting to clear the air. White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired general whose son was killed in action, tried to clarify what the president meant by a remark described as insensitive by the grieving family of a fallen soldier (INAUDIBLE). And which Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied ever making.


JOHN F. KELLY, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunford, told me, because he was my casualty officer. He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were, because we're at war.

And when he died -- and the four cases we're talking about Niger, in my son's case, in Afghanistan -- when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends.

That's what the president tried to say to four families the other day.


VAUSE: This is just the latest in what seems to be a never ending conveyor belt of self inflicted wounds from a White House which lurches from skirmish to distraction and then on to diversion. Briefly on Thursday, the world was reminded how it once was. A rare public appearance of former president George W. Bush delivering a point by point rebuttal of Trumpism.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry and compromises the moral education of children. The only ways to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.


VAUSE: And former President Barack Obama hit the campaign trail for the first time since leaving office, stumping for the Democratic candidate for New Jersey governor and also speaking out against the politics of division.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of the politics we see, now we thought we'd put that to bed.


OBAMA: I mean, that's folks looking 50 years back. It's the 21st century --


OBAMA: -- not the 19th century.


VAUSE: And then it was back to the Oval Office and business as usual.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Between 1 and 10, how would you grade the White House response so far to the --

TRUMP: I'd say it was a 10. I'd say it was probably the most difficult when you talk about relief, when you talk about search, when you talk about all of the different levels. And even when you talk about lives saved, it hit right through the middle of the island. Right through the middle of Puerto Rico. There's never been anything like that. I give ourselves a 10. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: A lot to get to this hour. Joining us, CNN political commentators Dave Jacobson and John Thomas; also joining us, professor of political science, Peter Matthews.

This was quite the day of contrasts. Let's start with John Kelly, the White House chief of staff.

Dave, he's a former general. His son was killed in action -- and he is out there, defending a president who avoided the draft because of bone spurs. And he's in this middle of a nasty feud with the grieving family of a fallen soldier but, at the same time, we now know that when Donald Trump made this statement...


TRUMP: 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.


VAUSE: It was blatantly wrong or a lie and despite what General Kelly had said just a few hours a go, Donald Trump tweeted this out just moments ago, "The fake news is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson, who was secretly on a very personal call and gave a total lie on content."

But she didn't because General Kelly came to the defense to clarify what she had said the president had -- explain it.

DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hard to explosion. This is emblematic of the schizophrenic nature that is our president, unfortunately. Let's not forget, the whole reason we're having this conversation is because Donald Trump politicized the issue. This is something that's supposed to be a solemn service that that president --


JACOBSON: -- no, no, no, it starts with Donald Trump creating this political firestorm because he excoriated President Obama over something that he thought he didn't do, which he did, which President Obama called fallen service members --


JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- and a congresswoman who wouldn't even attend the inauguration saw it as a political point to dance on the -- on the back of a fallen soldier, that's happening.

Should Trump have lied about what he said?

Absolutely not. I have no idea why he did that. But it was initiated by a Democratic congresswoman looking to score some political points on a dead soldier.

VAUSE: Why couldn't the president just say, hey, look, yes, look, I didn't mean that. I chose my words badly; clearly that was not the intention, I apologize for this grieving widow who's already going through so much right now.


JACOBSON: President Trump doesn't apologize, that's the problem. He says things like I've reached out to all the fallen soldiers. According to Axios, from earlier (INAUDIBLE) it's been about 43 fallen soldiers since Donald Trump has been president, nine of which haven't received any communication from Donald Trump.

But he goes after her and he says that he's reached out to all of them so he is totally disingenuous but more than that, he lies.

VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) strong words for Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, especially about the part that she was actually listening in to this phone call.


KELLY: It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred.


VAUSE: John, the congresswoman is a close family friend, has been for years and also John Kelly was listening in on the phone call as well.


THOMAS: I think it's different having your Chief of Staff of a politician who's listening in, who's making the call. I think a point was he even said early on that he counseled President Trump not to make any of these calls because the only person that a grieving widow wants to hear from is somebody that their spouse served with in the military.

So this is his point was just there's no need to politicize it having another elected official eavesdropping on the line, just --


VAUSE: She wasn't eavesdropping. She was invited there by the family in the car --


THOMAS: Well, he's saying he felt it was inappropriate.

JACOBSON: I guess for me like this whole thing stems from Donald Trump opening up this can of worms like we saw a report today that Donald Trump had promised the family of one of the fallen soldiers a check for $25,000 and then they never received it but then the White House just yesterday issued a statement saying that they sent out a check --


VAUSE: -- "The Washington Post" --


VAUSE: -- it was hours after the --

JACOBSON: But the fact is that none of this would've been part of the conversation had Donald Trump not lied about --


VAUSE: Peter, just to bring you on this, John Kelly has this reputation of being almost above politics. He's serving this administration for the good of the nation. Does this full-throated defense of the president and what he's been saying about the congresswoman, does that change his standing now?

Has he now become political?

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: Unfortunately, I think that it could very well be seen that way, at least half that nation or maybe more that Kelly was supposed to be this person -- and he was and in many ways he still is -- above the fray, a man of integrity, tell the truth, took sides on a political issue, on a politicized issue and he actually took one side over the other. I think President Trump was very controversial in what he did and what he said to the -- about the congresswoman, about to the mother of the fallen soldier.

The way he said it didn't come across very well and Kelly's defending it. So I think it was not a very good move on the part of the general. But he was trying to salvage his president, in a sense.

VAUSE: Also on the state, Peter, not one but two former presidents back in the political spotlight delivering a very stinging rebuke to the current occupant of the White House.

Is this unprecedented?

MATTHEWS: I think it really is and I think it was very remarkable, President Bush's speech. I didn't agree with a lot of Bush's policy but this time President Bush had to be admired for what he said about the character of America as being a nation built on ideas, not a nation of blood lying, not of blood and soil.

If you're putting it in any kind of -- you're repudiating any kind of white supremacy or supremacy or anything like that and President Bush took a firm stand against it and implicated President Trump for not doing it.

So it's quite a contrast. President Obama also spoke out against what President Trump has been doing and saying or implying that he condones some of these things and I think was very unprecedented that two recent presidents, former presidents, would actually say these about a current president.

But I think both of them see how important it that they speak out fully at this time.

VAUSE: And, Dave, it really was President Bush who stole the spotlight (INAUDIBLE) been out of the spotlight for so long.

Who's fans of the George W. Bush fan club now?

He's got all these new recruits who've signed up over the last couple of hours. He had this stinging criticism of what the current president -- this is what he said.


BUSH: We've seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns to easily into animosity. Disagreement escalate into dehumanization. We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism.


VAUSE: John, I'll ask you this, George W. Bush stayed out of the way and Donald Trump viciously attacked his brother, Jeb, during the primaries, campaign, when Donald Trump attacked George W. Bush's administration, calling him the worst president ever. He did not say a word. He has made it a point not to criticize the current commander in chief --


VAUSE: -- absolutely.

So why now?

What was the tipping point that made George W. Bush go on that stage and basically deliver this attack, not mentioning Donald Trump by name but saying --


THOMAS: Well, he was (INAUDIBLE) he had to give a keynote right. There were a lot of --


THOMAS: -- he was giving a speech -- obviously I think he meant it. I'm not saying that he didn't. Peter said a good point that we don't rely upon bloodlines. Well, the Bush family is pretty blue blood. I think in a sense he doesn't obviously like the state of our politics at all and not just President Trump. He doesn't like it when a Democratic congresswoman exploits a fallen soldier for political gain. I just don't think he likes where we are on any side and he wanted to

say his piece about it. And it is right to do it. Look, Jeb Bush got smoked largely because the Bush legacy. I think the Republican primary is hoping that the bushes, just like Democrats hope the Clintons will disappear.

VAUSE: Dave, this dime (ph) -- OK. You take John's explanation on the one hand. But it does seem that there has been a level of toxicity or a level of unhappiness within George W. Bush about how things are going and then finally he's let it all out.

JACOBSON: I thought it was a remarkable and frankly unprecedented one- two punch where you have two former Presidents of the United States excoriating the current commander in chief. But both former presidents were from different political parties. But I think this is really significant in the sense because it's not just George W. Bush. It is John McCain earlier this week; it was Bob Corker the week before; it was Jeff Flake, the Republican Senator from Arizona who wrote a book on this a couple weeks ago.

You're seeing Republican and Republican and Republican come out one by one, attacking the current commander in chief and I think really what it is, is a splintering of the Republican Party away from Donald Trump. There's the party of Donald Trump and then there's the GOP.


THOMAS: -- you're seeing the establishment having had enough of it and deciding to speak out against Donald Trump because he is not part of their group and he doesn't behave like them, either.

VAUSE: I want to ask Peter on this because we've seen John McCain, George W. Bush, earlier it was Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president all speaking out in defense of old-school Republican values. I'm just curious, are they trying to reclaim the party or this basically the GOP obituary?

MATTHEWS: I don't really see it that way. I see it as non-partisan because people from both sides have been speaking out about this president being quite a danger in some ways in what he has been saying and doing, not just on foreign policy and the nuclear crisis with North Korea but so many things when he condoned and equivocated on white supremacy at Charlottesville, for example.

He's done so many things that put us in a predicament as a nation. It's very concerning to a lot of our leaders and former leaders who rare not just talking being establishment. saving the establishment, we're talking about saving the United States of America and our heart and soul as a nation.

And I thought it was brilliant how President Bush defined the United States as I have before as a nation of ideas, unlike other countries that actually do look toward soil and blood and race and ethnicity. We don't do that. We believe that all people are created equal, as Jefferson said, and that we have to respect everyone with dignity. And I think the presidents of both parties and other leaders like McCain have seen that this has not been the modus operandi of this president and they are very concerned about it.

VAUSE: You mentioned the reference that George W. Bush made to white nationalism. Let's s listen to what he actually said.


BUSH: Our identity as a nation, unlike many other nations, is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. We've become the heirs of Martin Luther King Jr. by recognizing one another, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. This means that people of every race, religion, ethnicity, can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.


VAUSE: So, John, that's how it's done.


VAUSE: -- you have very fine people out there as well.

Why can't the current president do that?

THOMAS: Well, he had a good speechwriter.


THOMAS: I, unlike my Democrats, think George Bush is a smart guy --


VAUSE: But every president owes Donald Trump a debt of gratitude right now because --


THOMAS: -- by comparison, I suppose.

The issue is Trump did say something like that, he just didn't say it the first go-round after Charlottesville. And it would be nice. Look, I'd love it if he behaved more in that kind of measured tone. But he isn't. And the voters understood that though when they put him in office. Our elected officials, believe it or not, are a reflection of us --


JACOBSON: -- with his original message, he equated white supremacist to protesters. That's what he did at the end of the day and he hasn't apologized for it as of today still.

VAUSE: President Obama, who's at a rally in Virginia (INAUDIBLE) campaigning for the lt. governor there and again speaking out against the current state of politics in the U.S.


OBAMA: Instead of looking for ways to work together and get things done in a practical way, we got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry. To demonize people who have different ideas. To get the base all riled up.


VAUSE: Dave, (INAUDIBLE) President Bush and President Obama is that (INAUDIBLE) news of the day. They're not commenting about what's happening in the (INAUDIBLE) cycle (INAUDIBLE) much bigger issues which the United States is facing.

JACOBSON: Yes, it is a bird's eye view of how America is dealing with in grappling with this president, what he's doing to our country. But if you look at Donald Trump and the way he embraces politics, it's really identity politics. He is playing towards his base and it's that, you know, slice of the electorate that's angry, that's frustrated, that's largely not on the coast, it's in the middle, they feel dismayed. They feel like their jobs are being shipped overseas.

And he's communicating to that 37 percent that is still approval -- approving of his presidency. The fact is when you've got a George W. Bush presidency or a Barack Obama presidency, folks on both sides perhaps don't necessarily agree with their policies but they do agree that you know we need something that can move forward in terms of the common good.

And I think those two presidents the way their worldview was, look, I've got to be unifier regardless of whether you're on the blue team or the red team and we're just not getting that from the president.

VAUSE: Big issue, concepts. Meanwhile back at the Oval Office...


TRUMP: It was probably the most difficult when you talk about relief, when you talk about search, when you talk about all of the different levels. And even when you talk about lives saved, if you look at the number, this was -- I think it was worse than Katrina. It was in many ways worse than anything people have ever seen.


VAUSE: President Trump there basking in his own praise of the response to Hurricane Maria.

But Donald Trump does not deal well with criticism.

Do you think he will lash out at either Presidents Bush or Obama? And if he does, will there be consequences?

MATTHEWS: Absolutely there will be consequences because these are two men who are still admired by various people in the country and rightly so. He was lashing out at Puerto Rico, the victims of this hurricane, the fact that -- he blamed for not taking care of their infrastructure.

Well, Puerto Rico's footing the debt because the United States Congress passed a bill giving tax-free income to corporations to go to Puerto Rico and make profits off low labor, of cheap labor there and then in the end, those corporations left Puerto Rico when the tax break was taken away.

So Puerto Rico is not to blame for this and yet Trump was going after them. And I think that President Bush and President Obama in criticizing President Trump were right in doing so and he will lash back I've got a feeling. He doesn't take things lightly and he may do it more subtly this time because they are two former presidents. But he may not. He may go full force forward in the Trumpian way. We'll see.

VAUSE: We await the 3:30 am tweet from the White House.

Peter, thank you for being with us, also Dave and John, thanks so much.

MATTHEWS: My pleasure.

VAUSE: Still to come on NEWSROOM L.A., demands for answers after an ambush killed four U.`S. soldiers. The latest on the Niger investigation -- that's ahead.

And (INAUDIBLE) has fallen but where is the leader of ISIS? When we come back, the hunt for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.




VAUSE: Outrage and controversy over the president's phone call to the grieving family (INAUDIBLE) U.S. soldier there are growing questions about what led to his death and three other Green Berets in an ambush in Niger. For more on the investigation, here is our chief U.S. security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Tonight the head of the U.S. military is demanding answers on the deadliest U.S. combat mission of the Trump administration.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The loss of our troops is under investigation. We in the Department of Defense like to know what we're talking about before we talk. And so we do not have all the accurate information yet. We will release it as rapidly as we get it. SCIUTTO (voice-over): Two weeks after the ambush, Defense secretary James Mattis, officials say, is discouraged by the lack of information he's received from his own people on the ISIS attacking in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers and injured two more.

The 12 member U.S. Army team was meeting villagers in a town on the Niger-Mali border. They were walking back to their vehicles which were not armored when up to 50 ISIS affiliated fighters attacked them with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. The Americans fought back but were only armed with light weapons, such as rifles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There have been nearly 30 trips on this route already. So they had reason to believe that they were in a permissive environment.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): After 30 minutes, French aircraft flew by to try to disperse the attackers from the air and later to evacuate the wounded. The U.S. had to rely on a private contractor to airlift out the dead.

In the chaos, Sgt. La David Johnson was separated from the rest of the team and left behind. commanders launched a large joint U.S., Nigerian and French search and rescue operation; 48 hours later, Nigerian troops recovered his body.

Today Secretary Mattis attempted to answer hard questions about what went wrong. For one, why the military's own intelligence assessed it was unlikely the team would run into enemy forces.

MATTIS: The specific case contact considered unlikely. But there's a reason we have U.S. Army soldiers there and not the Peace Corps because we carry guns. And so it's a reality. It's part of the danger that our troops face in these are space terrorist campaigns.

But remember, we do these kinds of missions by with and through allies. It is often dangerous.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): And as the families grieve, another question: why was a U.S. soldier left behind on the battlefield?

MATTIS: U.S. military does not leave it troops behind. And I would just ask you not question the actions of the troops that were caught in the firefight and question whether or not they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once.

SCIUTTO: Chief of Staff John Kelly was asked another hard question at the White House podium today and that is why are U.S. forces in Niger. His answer was that this is an advise and assist mission to help train Niger forces to fight ISIS there and, in his words, a few U.S. Service members on the ground helping those local forces so that thousands more U.S. service members don't have to join the fight -- Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Well for months, Raqqa was at the center of an intensive and sustained military offensive as U.S.-backed forces reclaimed the city from ISIS. And these exclusive images show it was a victory which came with a heavy price. There are recorded over the past month and show coalition troops dodging ISIS sniper fire and falling between devastated buildings. (INAUDIBLE) harrowing stories as well, so many who lost loved ones killed in the crossfire or beheaded by the ISIS militants.

And right now one man is conspicuous by his absence. The whereabouts of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a mystery despite a determined offensive to find him. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First, Mosul in Iraq, now Raqqa in Syria. The caliphate is crumbling. But where is its self-declared leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

The truth is little is known about his whereabouts. American special forces continue to hunt him down but even as the battle to take Raqqa advanced, the coalition said last month they simply don't know where Baghdadi is and are unsure if he's in Syria or Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Speaking foreign language).

WALSH (voice-over): Just one week after that assessment came this audio recording, Baghdadi reportedly breaking his silence for the first time in 11 months. In it he mocks the U.S., calls on jihadis to defeat the Syrian regime and insists that ISIS remains, despite its territorial losses.

In the past, U.S. officials have said Baghdadi may be hiding somewhere in the Euphrates River Valley area and over the summer, the U.S. trying to take several shots at Baghdadi, according to U.S. officials who spoke to CNN, believing they had a chance to kill the leader in an airstrike but they have never definitively been able to confirm he's dead.

Those attempts came after Russia claimed the ISIS leader may have been killed in one of its airstrikes at the end of May but America does not believe those claims are true.

The last and only time the world actually saw the man with a $25 million bounty on his head was three years ago, delivering a sermon at al-Nouri mosque in Mosul, the sermon that set the mark for ISIS' vision and ideology and even now as the jihadists have of lost control of another city, their self-declared capital, Raqqa, and the fate of the man who built the caliphate remains a mystery, he remains the only symbol ISIS really have left, diminished now he's the caliph without a caliphate but still even hidden away, possibly able to inspire the sick and still spreading idea, the virus that is now ISIS -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Northern Syria.


VAUSE: Next here on CNN NEWSROOM...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a man's final hour of a power system, Maria devastated it, crushed it. So how do you fix it? Well, you get guys like Troy and Mick, guys who aren't afraid of heights.


VAUSE: One month after Maria, most of Puerto Rico is still waiting for the lights to come back on. CNN's Bill Weir takes us to the effort to repair the power grid. All of that in just a moment.



[02:30:53] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause. We'll check the headlines now.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, the father of a U.S. soldier killed in action has defended President Trump's condolence call to the widow of another dead soldier. Also confirmed, Mr. Trump said what was actually reported, that Sergeant La David Johnson knew what he signed up for. The President claims and continues to claim these words were a fabrication.

In Syria, Kurdish security forces are urging residents of Raqqa to stay away from the city. Other landmines are cleared and remaining ISIS fighters rounded up. On Tuesday, U.S.-backed forces said ISIS had lost control of its self-declared capital. And now hundreds of thousands of residents are wanting to return to home.

To Brussels, where German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, says the next phase of Brexit negotiations cannot begin because of a lack of progress. And that's despite the effort from British Prime Minister Theresa May to try and move everything along. Mrs. Merkel says (INAUDIBLE) that phase two could be reached by December.

On a scale of one to 10, Donald Trump grades his administration's response to the hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico, it's a solid 10. He met with the Island's governor at the White House on Thursday. The President, though, has been criticized for appearing to treat Puerto Rico as a lower priority compared with Texas and Florida, which were also hit hard by hurricanes just weeks before Puerto Rico. So, why 10 out of 10? Well, Mr. Trump says Maria's strength was unprecedented, and his administration was up for the challenge.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was probably the most difficult when you talk about relief, when you talk about search, when you talk about all of the different levels. And even when you talk about lives saved, you look at the number -- I mean, this was -- I think it was worse than Katrina. It was, in many ways, worse than anything people have ever seen. VAUSE: Well, Puerto Rico's governor says, there still lot of work to do to improve conditions on the island, but he is happy so far with the federal response.


GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO (NP), PUERTO RICO: The President has responded to all of our requests. Certainly, the men and women in uniform and a lot of people have been helping. But, as I stated today, there's a lot to still be done and we were glad to have the meetings today in the White House and in Congress to get that full long-term support for the people of Puerto Rico. That's the important part right now. This is far from being over, but we are glad to have the White House support.


VAUSE: Indeed, it is far from being over. Many are still waiting for critical supplies, food, clean water, and medicine. At last count, more than 78 percent of the island is without electricity. Bill Weir is there.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is the most popular music video ever. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's Despacito has been viewed on YouTube over 4 billion times. But most of that massive audience probably didn't realize the video was shot in one of the most notorious neighborhoods in all of Puerto Rico. Welcome to La Perla.

For years, this place was written off as being drug, and gang infested, community organizers fought against that stigma hadn't been a murder here in six years. And then came Despacito, and suddenly, this rush side of town was a tourist destination, and economy started to blow up. People felt good about themselves, but then came Maria.

Now, you've got an outbreak of conjunctivitis among the children. The clinic is without power, there's no roof on the schools, and there is no hope that help is coming anytime soon.

"Tourists wanted to come here," she tells me. "They came from Africa, China, South America. But after Maria, nobody comes. It's like a ghost town."

So, the doctors will see people in the dark here?

Doctor Wasito showed me around the powerless hospital, where cardiograms and electronic medical records are worthless.

Is it true that Luis Fonsi donated a generator? Five generators.

"They're trying to get it installed but they need to go to the Mayor's Office and fill-up paperwork," she tells me.

You need permission, huh? Oh, my gosh. [02:35:07] The excited scramble for a single bag of ice is proof that

potable water and power are still elusive luxuries over a month after Maria. Which puts enormous pressure on the men paid to electrify Puerto Rico.

There are countless hospitals, dialysis centers, homes depending on power that runs through that. Those lines over there, that's the artery, the main spinal column of a power system. Maria devastated it, crushed it. So, how do you fix it? Well, you have guys like Troy and Mick, guys who aren't afraid of heights. And you send them up, they heal the lines.

They are dreaming linemen, contracted by Whitefish Energy, a small, two-year-old company out of Montana. Raised a lot of eyebrows when they were given a $300-million contract without any input from the Army Corps of Engineers.

You know, the headline down here for a couple of days was, how the hell did you get this contract? This is your brand new company, right?

ANDREW TECHMANSKI, CEO, WHITEFISH ENERGY HOLDINGS: We've been around for a few years, and you know, we specialize in difficult and mountainous terrain projects. So, all I can say is we took the call and we're here.

WEIR: They called you?

TECHMANSKI: We called each other.

WEIR: He struck a deal with PREPA, the publicly owned utility, notorious for high prices, rolling blackouts, and a $9 billion debt.

Is it a risk for you as a businessman to take this gig?

TECHMANSKI: It's a risk -- it's a risk. But, you know, when you come down here and you see what I've seen and you have that skill set that can have an immediate impact on the people here, it becomes a mission. So, we --

WEIR: Not just a job.

TECHMANSKI: It's not a job. No, it became a mission.

WEIR: How long before juice is flowing through these?

TECHMANSKI: It's a good question. Now, we hope to have this line back up in the next three to four days.

WEIR: The governor is promising 95 percent power back by Christmas?


WEIR: Is that reasonable? Is that a fantasy?

TECHMANSKI: We'll do it -- it's going to take a lot of people to reach that deadline.

WEIR: A lot more people.

TECHMANSKI: Lot more than we have here today.

WEIR: Than we have here today.


WEIR: Yes.

Whitefish says they have 300 linemen on the island, with another 700 on the way. While they wait for 100 bucket trucks and bulldozers still stuck in Florida ports.


WEIR: You're welcome. So, it is anyone's guess as to when they'll have the lights back on in La Perla. But until then, there is little to do, but take care of each other. The kids with no school, elderly with no hospital. And they clean up, just in case the tourists ever decide to come back.


WEIR: Whitefish Energy is not the only power company working on this problem. There was another multi-million dollar contract handed out to a much more established company yesterday. But, Senator Marco Rubio says, the Army Corps of Engineers is still trying to come up with the plan to fix the power grid in Puerto Rico, more than a month out. Back to you.

VAUSE: Bill, thank you. OK, Spain is using the constitutional nuclear option to bring an end to an independence bid by Catalonia. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, says, the process of imposing direct rule over Catalonia will begin Saturday in a special meeting of the Cabinet. Any plan, though, need Senate approval where Mr. Rajoy's party has a majority.

Madrid's announcements came after the Catalan President threatened to formally declare independence unless Madrid agreed to talks.

Still, to come here on NEWSROOM L.A., Donald Trump claims to know a fake news story when he sees it. Well, fake anyway. Except perhaps maybe the painting which is hanging in his home, details ahead.


[02:41:01] VAUSE: U.S. President Donald Trump doesn't hold back when it comes to calling out what he believes is fake news. But this time, it isn't the news that's fake, instead, it's a famous painting which he says is an original, but it's not. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.



MOOS: We're talking about fake art. Is that really a Renoir in the President's Trump Tower apartment? Visible in the background as Melania did an interview.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What annoys him? What is he mad about? What does he like?


MOOS: Back when Tim O'Brien was writing his book, "Trump Nation: The Art of Being The Donald." The Renoir was hanging in Trump's plane.

TIM O'BRIEN, AUTHOR, TRUMP NATION: And I asked about the painting, and Donald said, "That's an original Renoir." And I said, "No, it's not, Donald." And he said, "That's the original, that's an original Renoir." I said, "Donald, it's not. I grew up in Chicago. That Renoir is called Two Sisters on a Terrace, and it's hanging on a wall at the Art Institute of Chicago."

MOOS: The Art Institute confirms it's been there since it was donated by this art collector in 1933. The Institute told the Chicago Tribune, we're satisfied that our version is real. Now, the President's Renoir is being referenced in quotes, call the fake in various languages, the butt of jokes. His is signed by Wrenwahr, so it's all good.

Next thing you know, the painting was popping up all over. Hey, I have one, too. Got mine at the gift shop in Art Institute of Chicago. Before the election, Two Sisters on a Terrace hovered over a 60 minutes interview.

TRUMP: He's entitled to make a mistake every once in a while.

MOOS: Theorized one poster, "Without a doubt, Trump bought a forgery. But a master huckster can never admit he was swindled." Biographer Tim O'Brien had a different take.

O'BRIEN: He believes his own lies.

MOOS: Remember the bogus magazine discovered on the walls of Trump golf clubs. Someone tweeted about the painting was that hanging next to his fake Time Magazine cover? It is now, somebody's been framed. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause, "WORLD SPORT" is up.


[02:45:08] KATE RILEY, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Hello and welcome, everyone, to WORLD SPORT, I'm Kate Riley at CNN Center. We are starting with the Europa League. And it was a Thursday night trip, Arsenal to Serbia and there they faced Red Star Belgrade with the Gunners are looking in excellent shape in Europe sitting top of the group with two wins from two. Even if Red Star hasn't won any European Cup since 1991. A visit today ground will always be a tricky one with Red Star down to 10 men, the north Londoners took full advantage. (INAUDIBLE) and Jack Wilshere were involved in the buildup rather resting these days, they found Olivier Giroud, scored one goal with an overhead kick. It was a touching night, sort of the Premier League Cup, but they come away with all three points and that gives them three wins from three in the competition. Final score there 1-0.

Elsewhere in Everton while hosting Lyon (INAUDIBLE) record best as Europa League victory. The Toffees has just one point from two matches and their boss Ronald Koeman, a man under serious pressure these days, both in this competition and the English Premier League as well. Ashley Williams scoring the equalizer for The Toffees. (INAUDIBLE) be on the pitch after shoving the visiting goalie a few minutes earlier. Then Lyon looking to overcome some rough justice as they managed to pull ahead thanks to Bertrand Traore this time. Everton lose 2-1 on the night. That means they are rock bottom abruti. Everton next play on Sunday at home to Arsenal, Koeman is badly in need of a result.

A simple governing body in England is under fire and its leadership is being questioned over the handling of discrimination claims against ex-England women's coach, Mark Sampson. The Football Association apologized to striker Eni Aluko and her teammate Drew Spence on Wednesday after new evidences uncovered surrounding alleged racist remarks made by Sampson to the players. Aluko initially made her claims against Sampson last year as part of an F.A. inquiry into its management culture.

The 35-year-old Sampson who was appointed as women's coach in late of 2013 was sacked last month. He had denied being a racist and he said his conscience is clear. Under his tenure, England women's team have their highest ever finish to World Cup, making the semi-finals in 2015. F.A. Chairman Greg Clarke and Chief Executive Martin Glenn were grilled with difficult questions about the incident

During a parliamentary inquiry, the organization was described as shambolic. And a member of parliament questioned whether the F.A. bosses are fit to stay on the job. England's sports minister Tracey Crouch urged the F.A. to improve and warned it could lead up to 40 million pounds of its funding if it doesn't reform.

Away from football for now and we are turning our attention to Formula One where the title may be decided in Austin, Texas. Winning in Japan last time out, Lewis Hamilton and his team could walk away with the championship on Sunday. Not only can the Brit go on to pick up the individual title but his teammates at Mercedes can also be crowned as the Constructor's Champions team. This is what Hamilton has to do this weekend. He's got to outscore Sebastian Vettel by 16 points and he's also got to finish three points better than teammate Valtteri Bottas as well. Hamilton certainly is on success at the circuit of the America and Austin, Texas, winning the last three times there.

Meanwhile, Hamilton has denied that he will be taking a knee during the American National anthem on Sunday. In recent weeks, we have recalled seeing NFL players protest racial and social injustice in the United States. And Formula One drivers are required together ahead of the race as the host nation's anthem is played. The Briton reiterated, he has no plans to take a knee during the anthem.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lewis, I must just ask, there were talks that you've been saying you were thinking about taking a knee at the anthem on Sunday. Have you decided what you're going to do?

LEWIS HAMILTON, FORMULA ONE DRIVER: I honestly don't remember there ever been a talk of me thinking about it, or maybe, I can't remember what I happen to said before. I am in support of the whole movement. And there's no secret of that. But we're here to (INAUDIBLE) on my job this weekend. So I haven't made any plans.


RILEY: Later on the show, we're sticking with Formula One, we are chatting to Hamilton's former teammate and world champion himself, Jenson Button gives us a rare insight into what it means when F1's biggest prize and why his father was such a big part of his success.


[02:52:12] RILEY: Welcome back to WORLD SPORT. As Lewis Hamilton gears up for a chance at another F1 title, Jenson Button knows exactly how he may be feeling right now. The Brit won the world title in 2009, in what was his first season with the new team, Brawn. He retired from the sport last year and has since swapped the pit lane for the pen to write his first autobiography. It's called "Life to the Limit." Some would say it's a bit of an expose of life in Formula One. And earlier, he told our Christina MacFarlane why he revealed so much of himself in a book.


JENSON BUTTON, FORMER FORMULA ONE DRIVER: My life is always -- it's always been out there because in Formula One, you know, we're always on T.V., and they're always looking to get into your private life. But I think you're very reserved when you're in a sport because you're trying to focus on the most important thing, which is to succeed.

But since Formula One, I've had time to relax, had time to think and reflect on all the great times on my career, also the difficult times of my career, and that was the perfect time to write a book about it, and it's been pretty emotional, and --

CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I just -- I just want to remind people before we get into speaking more about it of your achievements in Formula One, 18 seasons in Formula One, over 300 Grand Prixes, but you didn't actually win your first race until after your 100th race in Grand Prix, that's perseverance for you. And then just three years later, of course, one of the most unlikely stories in motor racing, you took a brand new car and a brand new team to win the biggest price in Formula One, the World Title. And Jenson, it is now eight years ago yesterday that you lifted that title in Brazil. Even after all these time, can you still remember the feelings, the thought, the taste of the air in Brazil when you won that championship?

BUTTON: Oh, so well. You know, drivers always mention race victories as being, you know, living in the moment. But the world championship is something that you will always -- it will always be with you. You know, you wake up in the morning and it's the first thing you think about, a world champion. There -- it's never going to go away.

MACFARLANE: And Jenson, perhaps little known facts that people are going to learn about you is that your dad and your career has been front and center every step of the way from the very beginning to the end, and I just want to take a moment to read an extract from the book, the dedication at the front of it that you wrote. You said, "For the old boy, simply put, I couldn't have done any of it without you, not just because you're my dad who I love dearly, but also because you are my best friend, my confidant, and my inspiration then, now, and forever. Together every step of the way, we made our dream a reality. I love you and I miss you."

What people might not know is that your dad obviously passed away back in 2014. Tell me about the relationship you had with him and how it spurred you on, even when he was doubting you at times in your career.

[02:55:04] BUTTON: Well, thank you for reading that. I definitely couldn't have -- yes. Well, he -- you know, I wouldn't have been racing if it wasn't for him. You know, he -- I was lucky enough to get a gift which most kids would dream of, which was a car when I was 7 years old. But all through my career, he's been there, you know, he's been the guy that I can bounce things off of if I'm not happy about something or I feel, you know, I'm missing something or I need some inspiration, he was always there for support, you know? We got to Formula One and he took a step back and he just -- you know, he always watched over me. And he was one of those people who just steals a piece of the furniture really in Formula One. I think, you know, the amount of people I've had come up to me that say we miss you and your old boy is -- it's even now that happens.


RILEY: Yes, great stuff from Jenson there. And you can hear more on his possible plans to race next year. In Super G, in fact, head to our Web site, All right then, that brings this edition of WORLD SPORT to a close. Before we leave you, we're going to leave you with a preview of the WTA Finals which is set to begin in Singapore on Sunday. Here's our relax minute.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beginning Sunday in Singapore, an unpredictable women's tennis season concludes at the WTA finals. The ever- consistent Simona Halep makes her fourth consecutive appearance this time with the added pressure at the top seeds. While Wimbledon's Champion Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova aimed to regain their form that made them world number one earlier this season.

And Saturday, the saluting battery of the latest grand harbor will signal the start of the 38th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Hosted by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, the 606 nautical-mile course through the Strait of Messina and around Sicily offers breathtaking scenery tactical challenges in equal measure. A multi-national fleet of Corinthian and professional crews will have their patience and seamanship pushed to the limits as they race for their spots in sailing history.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The unanswered questions continue to mount two weeks after an operation --