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Kelly Defended Trump; Brexit Talks Still Unclear; Former Presidents Jabs Trump in a Speech; Women Fighters Celebrates Liberation of Raqqa; Syrian Forces Secure Safety for Citizens; ISIS Leader Missing in Action; Puerto Rico to Have Power Before Christmas; Miserable Hospital Situation in Venezuela. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired October 20, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, HOST, CNN: The unanswered questions continue to mount two weeks after an operation in Niger that claimed the lives of four American soldiers. This, as the president's right- hand man, a general who lost his own son in battle defends Mr. Trump's controversial condolence call.

Plus, Raqqa after ISIS. A CNN report on the destruction left behind after t terror group's defeat.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm George Howell. The CNN Newsroom starts right now.

Around the world, good day to you. He is seen by many as one of the few non-partisan figures in the Trump administration. The White House Chief of Staff John Kelly now defending the condolence call from President Trump to the widow of a U.S. soldier who was killed in Niger.

Kelly, the father of a slain service member himself made a very personal defense. He said that he thought Mr. Trump did the best to comfort the family of the Sergeant La David Johnson. Kelly also slammed the democratic congresswoman who was the Johnson family at the time for the call for politicizing Johnson's death.

We'll hear more from Kelly in just a moment. But first regarding that operation that ended in ambush in Niger there is still a great deal of uncertainty around how and why the soldiers died in the first place.

Our Barbara Starr has more on that attack that left four U.S. service members dead.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Green Berets were leading the 12-men team on a visit to village elders. They had done 29 routine patrols in the area over the last six months. This time it was all-out combat.


JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: 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 counter terrorist campaign.


STARR: According to initial reports the soldiers had just left the meeting and were back near their truck to meet up with those who would stayed behind. They walked right into an ambush.


STEVE WARREN, MILITARY ANALYST, CNN: A firefight is unlike any other human endeavor. It's confusing, it's loud, it's terrifying. There's blood, screams, danger all around.


STARR: A military investigation is underway.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do we anticipated this sort of attack, we would have absolutely devoted more resources to it to reduce the risk. And that's something that we're looking at right now.


STARR: But is known is disturbing. The troops had been told it was unlikely there would be opposition in the area. Now the U.S. believes it was 50 ISIS fighters who attacked them. ISIS was armed with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. The Americans had their rifles.

The U.S. troops fought back running for cover calling for help. Thirty minutes later French jets flew over the battlefield trying to scare off the ISIS fighters. They had no authority to fire on them. It was close to an hour before French military helicopters and a U.S. contractor aircraft came to evacuate the dead and wounded, U.S. officials say.


MARK HERTLING, MILITARY ANALYST, CNN: Did they know what was going on in the area? Were they sharing it with the right people? Did the African countries know something that the U.S. advisers did not know and they didn't share? That's another area. Third area might be how do you evacuate if you have potential casualties?


STARR: Tough questions now face the Pentagon and the president. What happened during the firefight? How did Sergeant La David Johnson get left behind? Was he killed instantly? What does the White House know?

All important questions to understand what went wrong, especially how did Sergeant Johnson get separated from his fellow soldiers when the evacuation aircraft took off they were one man short. No one can yet say why Johnson wasn't picked up.


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


STARR: Because nobody knew if he might be alive still plans for secret navy SEAL rescue mission were made. Sergeant Johnson's body was found nearly 49 hours later nobody can say why and how he was left behind.

Administration officials are telling me the reason you are seeing White House officials Secretary of Defense Mattis and others out of podiums talking about this is many inside the administration felt they've been losing control of the narrative and they wanted to get it back.

[03:05:07] Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

HOWELL: Barbara, thank you. General Kelly's remarks didn't address the operation itself. But he went into great detail about President Trump's call to Sergeant Johnson's widow. At times his words were emotional drawing from his own experience after losing his own son in Afghanistan.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: So he called four people the other day and expressed his condolences in the best way that he could.

And he said to me, what do I say? I said to him, sir, there's nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families. Well, let me tell you what I tell him, 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 and my son's cases 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.

I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and broken-hearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing, a member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the president of the United States to a young wife.

And in his way, tried to express that opinion that he's a brave man, a fallen hero, he knew what he was getting himself into because he enlisted, there's no reason to enlist, he enlisted and was where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be with exactly the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken.

That was the message.

And when I listened to this woman and what she was saying and what she was doing on TV, the only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go and walk among the finest men and women on this Earth. And you can always find them because they're in Arlington National Cemetery.

I went over there for an hour and a half, walked among the stones, some of whom I put there because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed.


HOWELL: Kelly saying that he was stunned that Wilson listened to that condolence call. But important to take a closer look at this point to clarify some of Kelly's remarks. First, he took issue with the fact that Wilson was listening to the call.

He did not address however why he and other staffers were also listening to that call. But in any case Wilson is a close friend of the Johnson family and Sergeant Johnson was a graduate of a mentoring program that she founded, so to be clear she was not eavesdropping.

Secondly, Kelly also did not dispute Wilson's account of what was said. He actually seem to confirm it despite the fact that President Trump repeatedly denied it before Kelly spoke. And once again, just a few hours ago. And finally he lamented how fallen soldiers were being politicized.

He failed, however, to mention the president's own words on Monday when he deflected a question on the operation in Niger by taking jabs at how his predecessors handled condolence calls.

Later, Mr. Trump mentioned Kelly's son specifically hitting President Obama for not cal1ing after his death. Some might call that politicizing.

Moving on now to the Middle East, the terror group ISIS is losing its grip, at least in terms of territory. Its self-proclaimed capital Raqqa, Syria fell to the U.S.-backed Syrian forces this week making it the last majority city that the terror group has held in the Middle East.

The only land ISIS still control is a small scrap of territory now in northern Syria. Much of Raqqa is in ruins and Kurdish security forces are warning civilians who fled the fighting to stay away until they remove all the land mines and ISIS sleeper cells that remain there.

Our senior international correspondent Arqa Damon reached the city center of Raqqa to give us a look at the very little that remains there and the enormous rebuilding project that remains to be done.

ARWA DAMON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It's hard to even find traces of the life that was. Or even imagine what these streets looked like when they were full of people with children laughing and playing. (Inaudible) is one of the battle commanders here.

[03:10:02] It was a 15-day battle just to try to retake this particular square and every single rooftop she was saying was lined with snipers. This was one of the main squares where ISIS would carry out their public beheadings and executions. And they would place the heads of their victims on these spikes as a gruesome reminder to others of what their fate might be should they decide to defy ISIS rule.

It is also where ISIS sold its Yazidi captives into sexual slavery. For the female fighting force of the coalition-backed Syrian democratic forces, the battle for Raqqa was deeply personal. They vowed that Raqqa would be liberated at the hands of women.

As we walk past some of Rosa's (Ph) fighters she says seeing them makes her happy, proud. Women established their bravery here, she says, it taught them their value beyond their value within the household. She tells us that she herself joined the fight against ISIS around three years ago.

The final battles she was just saying were taking place in this entire area between the stadium, that's right there, and then the square that's behind us and the hospital. And she was saying that ISIS fighters had actually underground dug tunnel systems between those three locations.

Now we can't go and see them because they still might have left explosive devices inside them.

Against the backdrop of the city's ruins the female fighting force within the SDF celebrated. Moments of victory, reunions but rebuilding it may be ever tougher than the battle itself.

Commanders tell us there are still small pockets of ISIS fighters. And clearing the city of explosives will take at least three months. And for those who called Raqqa home there is not much left to return to.

Rosa (Ph) held up the SDF flag at this very square the day the SDF took control of it. She says she did it in memory of those who died in a battle whose cost is not yet fully known.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Raqqa, Syria.

LEMON: Arwa, thank you. We saw pictures of the Syrian Democratic Forces in Arwa's report. Now we want to show you some dramatic pictures shot exclusively for CNN last month and those fighters battle ISIS streets -- street, rather in Raqqa.

This body camera footage shows the reality of war as fighters run between buildings. We'll show you this video in a moment avoiding sniper fire while bombs shake the ground and bullets whiz passed to them.

We look to see what's happening there inside Raqqa, Syria.

Still ahead here on Newsroom, Spain's worst political crisis in decades is deepening as Madrid threatens to take an unprecedented step to stop Catalonian independence.

Plus, Angela Merkel could be raising Theresa May's hopes. The German chancellor sending positive signals that Brexit talks could see progress.

[03:15:02] And the former U.S. presidents appeared to slam the current president. What Barack Obama and George W. Bush have to say about the political climate in the United States.

Live around the world, you're watching Newsroom.


HOWELL: Welcome back to Newsroom. I'm George Howell.

Spain is taking its most decisive step yet to crush Catalonia's independence bid. On Thursday, Madrid said that it was beginning the process of imposing direct rule on the region.

Our Erin McLaughlin has more now from both sides of this deepening political crisis.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The situation is exceedingly unclear for the people of Catalonia. Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution has never been invoked before. It is extraordinarily vague giving Madrid a range of powers everything from calling snap elections to exerting contro1 over Catalan government buildings.

Now in terms of the measures that Rajoy's government would like to implement we do not know. They did not say today. There's a cabinet meeting expected on Saturday. The minister is going to go over a range of options. Once they choose which measures they'd like to implement, then matter is referred to Senate where Rajoy's party has a majority.

So whatever they send to Senate is expected to pass. Now, in terms of the next steps for Catalan President Carles Puigdemont in his letter to the Spanish prime minister earlier today saying that he is not ruling out the possibility of formally declaring independence.

So now we have a situation where one side is moving towards exerting direct rule over Catalonia, another side moving towards a formal declaration of independence. Where all this could end no one really knows.

Erin McLaughlin, CNN, London.

HOWELL: Erin, thank you.

Now to Brussels, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel says there hasn't been enough progress in the Brexit talks to begin the next phase of negotiations. This, despite efforts from the British Prime Minister Theresa May to move things along.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Now both sides must work hard. We must say what our conclusions are when Britain wants this or that partnership. And we are not yet fully clear on that but it will happen.

It will happen within the required time frame and we all know when the end point of these negotiations is.

I want an agreement and not some unpredictable solution. We are working very intensively on that.


HOWELL: Let's get the very latest live in Brussels. CNN correspondent Bianca Nobilo following the story with us this hour. It's good to have you with us, Bianca.

Are there any clear indications that there could be some progress regarding these talks?

BIANCA NOBILO, PRODUCER, CNN: Good morning, George. There is some progress certainly there's more goodwill than there's been for a while in this Brexit negotiations.

[03:19:58] Last night after the dinner where Theresa May addressed the E.U. 27 and have an opportunity to reflect on the Brexit process so far. I attended a midnight briefing with Chancellor Merkel. She was really optimistic. I was quite struck by that. She addressed the three main sticking points of the Brexit negotiations.

She said on the issue of Northern Ireland she felt that the U.K. and the E.U. were very much on the same page. They're both committed to preserving that Good Friday agreement and doing their best to make sure that it didn't cause instability.

On the issue of citizen's right, she said significant progress had been made but not quite enough. Then she said on the issue of bill no more progress had been made. But she said that she was really heartened by Theresa May's approach and was very positive about Brexit being able to be a good deal for both side and agreement would be reached by the deadline of 2019.

She actually cautioned the British press in particular and said, don't worry so much that we haven't achieve this by this day or that by another one and actually as long as we put it all done by March 2019, and she thinks they will. Then it will be OK. She was really quite positive. So, that's a good thing for Theresa May to wake up too this morning, George.

HOWELL: OK. So just to get into that timeline a bit, again, we were expecting initially the negotiations to move into phase two at this summit. So if not now then will that happen?

NOBILO: We're now expecting December as the new date to move into phase two where a future trade relationship between the U.K. and the E.U. and other promises that their future relationship will be discuss. What's starting now and this is quite significant its internal

preparatory discussions in the E.U. to discuss what that future relationship might look like. So come December when there's another E.U. summit they can rubber stamp that and move on to the next stage in negotiations.

Obviously that's a three-month delay from when it was initially thought we'd move into phase two back when article 50 was triggered earlier this year. But it is progress. And I think that was always expected to be stumbling blocks along the way. But Theresa May and the E.U. leaders can be heartened by that.

It's definitely a move in the right direction. The Maltese prime minister coming into the council today said that he thought Theresa May's speech last night was candid, sincere, and warm and her best yet. So she's really starting to bring E.U. leaders back on site. That's encouraging for the U.K. in this negotiation process.

HOWELL: CNN producer, Bianca Nobilo, live for us in Brussels. Thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

Here in the United States a former president made a rare political speech on Thursday appearing to criticize the current president.

Republican George W. Bush spoke at a New York forum and said that bigotry in the country quote, "seems emboldened."

Earlier, our Jason Carroll filed this report on that story.


JASON CARROLL, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: While President Trump was never mentioned by name but it was very clear who former President George W. Bush was talking about when he gave his speech here earlier this afternoon. He went over a number of different topics. He started out by talking about the political divide in this country.

The political culture saying, quote, "the discourse is created by what he called a casual cruelty." He then went on to talk about the cyber threat posed by Russia, saying Russia made a project of turning Americans against each other.

He also tackled the topic of trade. It's been very clear that the Trump administration and the President himself has talked about wanting to possibly pull out of NAFTA if he can't renegotiate that particular trade agreement. Bush saying that you simply cannot wish globalization away.

But the point during Bush's speech that seemed to get the most attention was when he talked about race in America. And said that there's simply is no place for racism in this democracy.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our identity as a nation unlike many other nations is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood.

We 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 fully, and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.


CARROLL: At that point the audience erupted in applause. And you'll remember that President Trump was criticized by many, many people for what they saw a lack of a proper response to the racial unrest there in Charlottesville, Virginia.

You know, there is something that is said of former presidents that they -- that they don't criticize a sitting president and that's why what was seen here today was so remarkable.

Because what you saw was a former republican president criticizing a current republican president, and what many people are saying is it's really symbolic of what is being seen in Washington, D.C., which is a real deep divide within the Republican Party.

[03:25:08] Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: Jason, thank you. Mr. Bush wasn't the only former president who appeared to question Donald Trump's leadership on Thursday. The former U.S. President Barack Obama also spoke to two campaign rallies in New Jersey. He didn't mention the president by name but he did urged Americans to reject fear and division. And at Virginia event he had this to say.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Instead of our politics reflecting our values we have politics infecting our communities.


Instead of looking for ways to work together and get things done in a practical way, we've got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage.


HOWELL: The former U.S. President Barack Obama speaking there at a campaign rally in the U.S. state of Virginia.

A U.S. company is hoping to resume the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370. Australia's transport minister says Ocean Infinity is close to a no-find no-fee deal. That means the company won't benefit financially if it doesn't find the plane.

The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared as you all remember back in March of 2014, 239 people were on board that flight. Malaysia, Australia, and China announced in January that they were suspending the search for that plane.

Still ahead here on Newsroom, hunting down the elusive and mysterious leader of ISIS. The latest in the game of cat and mouse with incredibly high stakes.

Plus, why one of the world's harshest critics U.S. President Donald Trump gives himself a 10 out of 10.

And later, one of Harvey Weinstein's oldest collaborators is breaking his silence on the scandal surrounding the disgraced movie producer.

Stay with us.


HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers around the world. You're watching CNN Newsroom. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

The White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is defending President Trump's condolence call to the widow of a soldier killed in combat. He also confirmed Mr. Trump said what was reported that the slain soldier knew what he signed up for. The president claims those words were a fabrication.

[03:30:08] The German Chancellor Angela Merkel says there hasn't been enough progress to begin the next phase of Brexit talks. That despite efforts from the British Prime Minister Theresa May to move things along. Ms. Merkel says that she encouraged negotiators to reach phase two by December.

In Syria, Kurdish security forces are urging citizens of Raqqa to stay away from the city, this until they finish clearing land mines that left over from ISIS fighters.

On Tuesday U.S.-backed forces said that ISIS had lost control of its self-declared capital. Now hundreds of thousands of residents there are waiting to return.

As ISIS continues to crumble, one important figure within that group has been conspicuously missing. The whereabouts of the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are a mystery despite a determined offensive to find him.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has this report for us.

NICK PATON WALSH, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: First Mosul and Raqqa, now Raqqa in Syria, the caliphate is crumbling. But where 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 advanced the coalition said last month they simply don't know where Baghdadi is and they're unsure if he's in Syria or Iraq.

Just one week after that assessment came his audio recording, Baghdadi reportedly breaking his silence for the first time in 11 months. In it he mocks the U.S. calls on Jihadist to defeat the Syrian regime and then says 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. tried 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 air strike.

But they have never defensively been able to confirm he's dead. Those attempts came after Russia claim the ISIS leader may have been killed in one of its air strikes 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 the $25 million bounty on his head was three years ago delivering a sermon at al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, the sermon that set the mark for ISIS's vision and ideology.

And even now as the Jihadists have 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.

HOWELL: Nick, thanks for the report.

It's been more than 40 days and after two brutal category five hurricanes, the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John is still completely without power. Here's the scene of the almost total devastation after hurricane Iram ripped through the island back in September.

And any recovery effort that is getting there were set back further by hurricane Maria which badly batter the infrastructure and the buildings to every island in the U.S. territory.

The U.S. president is defending his administration's response to the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico. Mr. Trump met with the island's governor at the White House on Thursday. He was responding to criticism that he seems to give Puerto Rico a lower priority than the U.S. states of Texas and Florida which were also hit hard by hurricanes.

But Mr. Trump has a clear message praising his administration for handling the disaster. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It hit right through the middle of the island, right through the middle Puerto Rico. There's never been anything like that. I give ourselves a 10. I think that locally there, I really think locally they have, in this gentleman great leadership, I have to tell you, he is -- it's a tough job. But we have provided so much, so fast.


HOWELL: Mr. Trump giving a 10 out of 10, however, thousands of people on that island still suffering without power, waiting for water, food, et cetera. And Puerto Rico's governor there's a sitting with the president, my colleague Anderson Cooper spoke with the governor earlier. Listen.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: So, governor, the president gives the federal response in Puerto Rico a 10, would you give him that?

RICARDO ROSELLO, GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO: Well, you know, the president has responded to all of our requests, certainly the men and women in uniform and a lot of people have been helping.

[03:35:01] 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're glad to have the White House support of this effort.

COOPER: A report of Bill Weir on the ground there is seeing a lot of obviously continued destruction in rural parts of the island. He spoke to a local FEMA director there who was they don't need more troops or help on the ground. Is that your belief as well, essentially the FEMA director were saying that too many people can actually create more of a problem.

ROSELLO: Well, I think we've reached the number that was identified in the onset. You know, we have about 15,000 DOD personnel, they are helping on cleaning, clearing roads, making logistics, helping on the medical front, and delivering supplies to the more vulnerable areas.

So, we do have the resources in terms of human resources. Now we need to continue getting some of the aid in terms of more provisions, water, food, medicine, generators, and so forth.

And Anderson, something that is critical from my vintage point, we have to be focusing on getting our energy grid back, back there, backup it up.


ROSELLO: So I laid out an aggressive agenda for our power authority, for the corps of engineers and for FEMA so that we can achieve a significant amount of growth in terms of the energy access in Puerto Rico. COOPER: I want to ask you about that because you set the goal of 95 percent of the island's power back by December 15. The CEO of Whitefish Energy, the contracted company working to restore power told Bill Weir that they are going to need a lot more manpower than they currently have today if they want to meet that deadline.

ROSELLO: Yes, I agree. We certainly our expectation is to have about 1,000 or 1,200 brigades here in Puerto Rico. Right now what we had we had about 231 brigades from the power authority. That number has started growing, we are about 400 right now. We're getting more equipment, we're getting more materials.

But if we want to meet those aggressive milestones we're going to need more support and that's what we've been asking the corps of engineers.


HOWELL: Governor Ricardo Rosello speaking with Anderson Cooper earlier.

Here's a bit of what Puerto Rico is still facing, many people there still waiting for critical supplies. Supplies like food, clean water, and medicine, and at least the latest count here more than 78 percent of the island still has no electricity.

Our Bill Weir has this report.


BILL WEIR, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It is the most popular music video ever, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's Despacito has been viewed on YouTube over four billion times. But most of that massive audience probably didn't realized 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, murder here in six years and then came Despacito and suddenly this rough side of town was a tourist destination. And economy started to blowup. 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 is no roof on the school, and there is no hope that help is coming anytime soon.

"Tourist wanted to come here," Beshida (Ph) 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. Dr. Gracita (Ph) shows me around the powerless hospital for cardiograms and electronic medical records a worthless.

Is it true that Luis Fonsi donated the generator? Five generators. "They are trying to get it installed but they need to go to the mayor's office and fill out paper works," she tells me. He needs permission.

The excited scrambled for a simple 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 piles of 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, crushed it. So how do you fix it?

Well, you got guys like Troy and Nick. These guys through on the crane of heights and you send them up, they yield the lines. They are Adriman linemen contracted by Whitefish Energy, a small two-year-old company out of Montana.

[03:40:06] It raised a lot of eyebrows when they are 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 and terrain projects, so all I can is we took the call and we're here.

WEIR: They called you.

TECHMANSKI: We call 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?

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

WEIR: Not just a job.

TECHMANSKI: It's not a job. It became a mission.

WEIR: How long before dues is this long duty?

TECHMANSKI: It's a good question and 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?


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

WEIR: You need a lot more people.

TECHMANSKI: A lot more than we have here today.

WEIR: That what we have here today.


WEIR: 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: So it is anyone's guess as to when they'll have the lights back on in La Perla. Until then, there is little to do to 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 still trying to come up with the plan to fix the power grid in Puerto Rico more than a month out.

Back to you.

HOWELL: Bill Weir on the story in Puerto Rico.

New developments in the scandal involving disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein. The Los Angeles Police Department says that it has opened an investigation into Weinstein after a woman came forward with an allegation of sexual assault in 2013.

This comes as one of Weinstein's closest and most successful collaborators is breaking his silence on the scandal after an Oscar- winning director Quentin Tarantino told the New York Times he has known about Weinstein's alleged misconduct were women for decades would failed to take responsibility and action for what he heard.

Weinstein has denied any allegations of nonconsensual sex. And another actress is sharing her own Harvey Weinstein story. Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o detailed her encounters with the movie producer in the New York Times column. She writes that in one meeting he took her to a bedroom to offer to give her a massage.

This incident is similar to other accounts for more than 40 women who have accused Weinstein of inappropriate behavior. The 12 years slave actress added that by speaking up they can ensure rapid predatory behavior is no longer accepted in the industry.

Just ahead, an incredible report from inside Venezuela. Desperate patients at one hospital virtually abandoned as the country spirals into chaos.


HOWELL: In the nation of Venezuela, months of nationwide clashes have left more than 100 people dead. Now the country's opposition is calling for more protests after President Nicholas Maduro's claim that his party won most of the governorships in regional elections.

Pollsters had predicted a majority of states would go to the opposition which now says it will not take part in scheduled talks with the government without a full vote recount.

Venezuela's downward spiral has led to an acute shortage of many basic goods with an estimated 85 percent of medicines now impossible or difficult to find.

Guillermo Galdos is a local journalist who witnessed the devastating results when he visited a psychiatric hospital.

Here's his report.

GUILLERMO GALDOS, JOURNALIST: El Pampero hospital is home to some of Venezuela's most vulnerable residents, tucked away from the political chaos spilling into the streets of Caracas, a heartbreaking mental health crises is widely stealing what's left of these patients humanity.

Nurse Evila Martinez (Ph) works tirelessly with little to no resources to attend the needs of her patients.

The state run hospital like much of the country is running short of supplies, medicine, and even food.


The situation is so dire that this mental health hospital hasn't even a psychiatrist on staff for four years. But Evila (Ph) who essentially runs the show here refuses to be far from those who need her the most.

One of her immediate worries malnutrition.

This man already dangerously thin, has lost another half kilogram in two months. Evila (Ph) this way she came to strech the food they do have as far as she can, but now she will have to stretch it even further.


Many of these patients have been forgotten by family members and society. But Eligo (Ph) is one of the lucky ones. His mother Lucila (Ph) is one of the few family members who receive the love ones. She says the hospital is lacking (Ph) under the weight of a country in crisis.


Lucila (Ph) now use her pension to buy Eligo (Ph) the medication he so desperately needs.


One of the most troubling things she sees the lack of security for those living behind these walls.

Armed thieves have broken through El Pampero Psychiatric Hospital more than 17 times in the last few years. They have stolen drugs, air conditioning units, and even the patient's Christmas dinner.

[03:40:01] These days the nurses that work in here they have to look themselves up alongside the patients. This nurse was mocked on her way to work and knocked for the first time either.


The situation has become so unstable surrounding the hospital. The police now patrol the perimeter facing off against the criminals who still try to breach the hospital walls to get what they can.


Losing supplies is hard enough, but Evila (Ph) the state of fear that harassing them sleep under is far worse.


So, how does Evila (Ph) cope with this insurmountable odds?


Undeterred by thieves, lack of resources, specialists, and even the most basic necessities for living Evila (Ph) and her staff shoulder on.


Doing what it seems their power to care for the souls that many have already long forgotten.

Guillermo Galdos, Venezuela for CNN.



PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When we read the papers tomorrow everyone is going to report this thing differently. Breitbart is going to lead with "Ryan slams the president amongst liberal elites." New York Time is going to report "Ryan defends the president in a state Hillary won." And the president will tweet 300,000 at Al Smith dinner and cheer mention of my name.


HOWELL: The republican House Speaker Paul Ryan poking a little fun at the U.S. president there. Mr. Trump loves calling stories that he doesn't like fake, but this time that term is being used to describe the famous painting that he claims is an original.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has this.



TRUMP: Fake news.

MOOS: We're talking about fake art. Is that really a run walk in the president's Trump Tower apartment visible in the background as Melania did an interview.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What annoys him, what he's mad about?


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I ask about the painting, then 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's Renoir is called two sisters on a terrace and it's hanging on the wall at Art Institute of Chicago.

MOOS: The Art Institute confirms it's been there since it was donated by this art collector in 1933.

[03:55:04] The Institute told the Chicago Tribune we are satisfied that our version is real. Now the president's Renoir is being referenced in quotes, called a "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. I got mine at the gift shop in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Before the election, two sisters on a terrace hovered over a 60 Minutes interview.

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He believes his own lies.

MOOS: Remember the bogus magazine discovered on the walls of Trump golf clubs, someone tweeted about the painting wasn't hanging next to his fake Time magazine; it is now somebody's been framed.

Jeanne Moos, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Most people might be pretty tired after listening to a three and a half hour speech but for those who want to applaud the remarks of the Chinese president that were made this week in Beijing, well, there's an app for that. The operator of the WeChat messaging and social media platform designed a game that lets users cheer Xi Jinping's speech. And when they tap their phone screens animated hands applaud, clips of the address.

Here is an image of the great hall of the people in the background for realism there.

Well, Los Angeles Dodgers are headed to baseball World Series for the first time in 29 years. They crushed the Chicago Cubs. The cubbies 11 to 1 to win the National League tenet knocking out the defending champs, the Dodgers now await the winner of the American League championship series either the New York Yankees or the Houston Astros.

We'll see what happens next.

Thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell. The news continues with Hannah Vaughan Jones live in London.

You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.