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General Appointed to Lead Puerto Rico Relief Reassigned; Hundreds Dead, Thousands Hurt in Quake Near Iran-Iraq Border; Interview with Representative Brad Schneider; Two Navy SEALs Accused of Killing Army Green Beret; Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired November 13, 2017 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:30:42] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The three-star general appointed to lead military efforts in Puerto Rico says the worst of the crisis is over and he plans to leave this week. But he stresses this does not mean the military is leaving. More than half of the island still does not have power.
CNN's Leyla Santiago was granted exclusive access with the general as he took his final tour of the island.
You know, Leyla, what did you see? What did he say?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we were with him as he was flying over the island in his last 24 hours here. He pointed out that the color of the island has changed, that Mother Nature is recovering, but at the same time he was also pointing out the lines that are down, power lines still down, and blue tarps over damaged homes. Still a lot of people struggling here without power, without water, and yet he agrees now is the time to leave.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): This isn't the island he saw when he arrived. General Jeffrey Buchanan arrived a week after Hurricane Maria to lead the military's relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
(On camera): Are you ready to leave?
LT. GEN. JEFFREY BUCHANAN, COMMANDER, U.S. ARMY NORTH (FIFTH ARMY): Yes, I think that we're in the right place to transition.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): On his last day here he visits the town of Maricao. Still no power here and one of the largest employers says it's struggling. Conditions are forcing employees to leave.
ERIC SANTIAGO-JUSTINIANO, VICE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER OF PUERTO RICO OPERATIONS, FRESENIUS KABI: Last month, in October, we had 15 resignations.
SANTIAGO: Buchanan still cannot deliver the news he'd like to bring to troubled towns.
BUCHANAN: What I know is this area's going to be down for a little while for electricity.
SANTIAGO: As he visits the town's distribution center, practicing his Spanish along the way many watching from a distance are grateful but concerned.
(On camera): He wishes that he would stay a little bit longer so that he could see all the municipalities and, as he describes it, what they're suffering still to this day.
(Voice-over): They need more help, he tells me.
It's not just Buchanan leaving, it's equipment also leaving. What was once 72 helicopters for relief, now 38. By the end of the week, 14. All part of the military moving into recovery mode.
(On camera): What do you tell the people, including even family members of your own troops who don't have power? Who don't have water?
SANTIAGO: What do you tell them as you say goodbye?
BUCHANAN: Yes. I -- you know, I think that, you know, we've got to -- we've got to work through the system. In the meantime, you know, one concern that I have is resiliency for the next emergency.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): He acknowledges the work here isn't over. Proof can be found in the very notes taken on his last day.
BUCHANAN: So we need three water pumps, we need three generators.
SANTIAGO (on camera): But many people, with your departure, fear that they will be left alone.
BUCHANAN: Absolutely not. So we're -- you know, the military is not leaving Puerto Rico. We still have about 2,500 Army Reservists on active duty here. We've got about 5,000 National Guard troops from both Puerto Rico and other places. And FEMA, who's been in charge of the effort from the federal perspective, is here for the long haul.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): Now Buchanan believes Puerto Rico must shift into a new phase without him on the island.
SANTIAGO: And, John, I asked Buchanan a very direct question. Will you be leaving this island with any regrets? He acknowledged mistakes were made, they learned from them, adjusted, but when it comes to regrets, the first thing he mentioned was -- really the only thing he mentioned was that he regrets not being able to save more lives.
BERMAN: And, of course, as he leaves, a reminder that millions of Puerto Ricans who live there cannot leave and are living right now in some cases without power as time goes on.
Leyla Santiago, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
Happening now a frantic search for survivors after a powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake rocked the border between Iraq and Iran.
[10:35:03] More than 400 people were killed and thousands more were injured in what has become the deadliest earthquake of 2017. It struck last night about 200 miles north of Baghdad. What was felt as far away as Pakistan and Turkey.
Jomana Karadsheh following all the developments for us.
Jomana, as the search goes on, what's the latest?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, John, when this earthquake struck on Sunday evening it was very difficult to get casualty figures to assess the extent of the damage and destruction because it was nighttime. Throughout this day, during daylight hours, we've seen the search and rescue operations taking place in Iran and in Iraq, and now what we understand is that the hardest hit area is the western province of Kermanshah in Iran.
According to authorities who's there through state media the latest figures we have seen and the death toll has been climbing throughout day is at least 395 people have been confirmed killed and more than 6,000 others were injured. These are rural areas. These are villages and towns that are not really designed and built to withstand such a powerful earthquake.
Across the border in Iraq, it was the Kurdistan region and also northeastern Iraq that was impacted the most by this earthquake. According to authorities there, they say at least seven people were killed and more than 500 others were injured. And that includes many cases of severe shock according to health authorities in Iraq.
What officials there now are saying, they're very concerned about in Iraq, is the state of the Darbandikhan Dam, that is a dam to the east of the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah. They say that there has been some cracks in the dam. No leakage yet. But they are concerned. They're continuing to monitor and assess that dam and they're asking people within that area around the dam to prepare to evacuate if necessary -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Jomana Karadsheh, we're watching this very, very closely, thank you so much for your reporting.
So what did Attorney General Jeff Sessions know? 24 hours from now we might have a different answer. He's facing lawmakers as part of the Russia investigation and this could get very interesting.
[10:41:40] BERMAN: A big day tomorrow for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He will testify before the House Judiciary Committee. This comes as there are new questions about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election and what Jeff Sessions knew about it. A member of the House Judiciary Committee joins me now. Democratic
Congressman Brad Schneider of Illinois.
Thanks so much for joining us, Congressman. You among others wrote a letter to the attorney general saying -- warning him essentially, you're going to ask about inconsistencies with answers that he has given mostly to the Senate over the last several months in regards to some of the Russia issues.
What do you mean by inconsistencies?
REP. BRAD SCHNEIDER (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, John, thank you. It's good to be here. This is an important hearing tomorrow. It's long overdue but I'm glad the attorney general is finally coming to the Judiciary Committee. I think this is an important opportunity for the attorney general to set the record straight. There have been a pattern of changing stories, changing narratives of what happened, how many contacts have been between the Trump campaign administration and the Russians. I think news reports are showing up to 30 documented contacts.
We need to understand what's there. This is a chance for the attorney general to set the record straight and restore his credibility.
BERMAN: He has said that he didn't know of any other contacts besides his meeting with the Russian ambassador between the Trump campaign and the Russians. He was in a meeting with George Papadopoulos who said he suggested at the time that the president meet or then the candidate meet with Vladimir Putin, also said that he had been talking to Russians.
Do you think that the attorney general has been telling the truth?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I think that's what tomorrow's hearing will help shine a light upon. The attorney general has changed his story multiple times already. What he needs to do is set the record straight and lay out everything he did know when he knew it and what contact this administration and the campaign before it had with the Russians. I think that's very important.
BERMAN: Congress has its hands full right now, tax cuts, the tax reform, the Republicans are putting forward could come to a vote in the House this week. The president in the Philippines just put out a statement on that, and I want to read it to you.
He says, "I'm proud of the Republican House and Senate for working so hard on cutting taxes and reform We're getting close. Now how about ending the unfair and highly unpopular individual mandate in Obamacare and reducing taxes even further, cut the top rate to 35 percent with all of the rest going to middle income."
That's actually two big changes to the Republican plan if they go ahead with it, getting rid of the Obamacare individual mandate and cutting the top rate from 39 percent to 35 percent.
What impact do you think that this new statement from the president might have?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I'm just hearing about the statement now, but I think you see in there a consistent pattern of this president to try to undermine and take away health care from millions of Americans. He's doing that again. And within his proposals on the tax code he's trying to give tax breaks to those who have the most and put the burden on Americans who are working the hardest and struggling the most.
I think that's the wrong track to go. I think everyone agrees that we need tax reform but it's got to be tax reform that supports the middle class, gives the middle class a break, grows our economy and doesn't put our children's future at risk by increasing the debt.
BERMAN: I think it's fair to say you weren't going to vote for this tax plan as it was anyway so the president's statements aren't going to make you any less likely to vote for it. I just wanted to get your reaction on that.
I also want to get your reaction to some political commentary from "Saturday Night Live" that took place over this weekend.
[10:45:03] Now you can smile at "Saturday Night Live" but it's really speaking to the current state of the Democratic Party and those who are leading the party. So watch this, Senator, if you can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You'll love our fresh new ideas delivered by fresh new faces like me, Nancy Pelosi.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And me, Dianne Feinstein.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And me, Chuck Schumer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language) Tim Kaine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we learned our lesson from the last election, we can't just appeal to coastal elites. We need mouse breeders from Wisconsin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And window lickers from Ohio as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: That's the first part of that statement, Congressman, I promoted you to the Senate. You're a working member of Congress in the House of Representatives so let's make that clear. But the first part of that from "Saturday Night Live" is very interesting. It does point out right now that this is -- there might be a generational issue right now for the Democratic Party. Do you think there is?
SCHNEIDER: You know, John, as I travel around my district I'm talking to people who are sharing with me concern about their future, their children's future. They're looking for government to work to help create job opportunities that are going to raise American standard of living. Educational opportunities that are going to make sure our kids learn the lessons and skills they need to compete in a global 21st century economy.
They're looking for a message that I think the Democratic Party is really delivering that we are the party of the American dream.
BERMAN: But -- but, Congressman, they're also looking for messengers and the question is, you know, are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer the right messengers right now?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I believe we have a lot of messengers and Nancy Pelosi is the leader. I think she has done a good job over the last year if you look where we are, a year ago, after the election in 2016, I think the expectation was that the Affordable Care Act, which is not perfect but a step forward providing insurance to millions of Americans, was going to be on the chopping block in January.
Here we are in November and millions of Americans still have insurance. We need to address the issues, address the problems, stabilize the markets, as a group I'm a part of called the problem solvers caucus has put forward ideas to do that, but I think the broad Democratic message is that we're fighting for all Americans for working Americans to have the opportunity that our parents and grandparents sacrificed to give us making sure our kids have a better opportunity in the future.
BERMAN: You must know somebody because you're on two good committees, Judiciary and Foreign Affairs. How would you grade the president's Asia trip as he is on the home stretch right now?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I think it's too early to give the president a grade. I will tell you I've watched closely as he traveled to the five nations. I breathed a sigh of relief that we didn't create any new crises. The president didn't create any crises. But, you know, the world is a marketplace not just for commerce but for ideas and leadership.
I think what we're seeing with President Trump and this administration is ceding in the marketplace of ideas and leadership to countries like China and Russia. We need the United States to lead. I believe the world is a safer place when the United States is at the front. I think everyone benefits including the American people.
BERMAN: Congressman Brad Schneider, we look forward to watching you tomorrow in the House Judiciary Committee hearing which will take place at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time right here. You can see it here on CNN. Thanks, Congressman.
Murder in the military, an Army Green Beret is dead, two Navy SEALs stand accused. Could money have been the motive? New details next.
[10:52:52] BERMAN: Shocking new details this morning in the murder of an Army Green Beret. The "Daily Beast" reports that two Navy SEALs. Are accused of killing Staff Sergeant Logan Melgar back in June after he allegedly found out they were stealing. According to two Special Operations sources cited in the report the SEALs offered to cut Melgar in but he refused.
CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon.
Barbara, we know the circumstances surrounding this death were murky to begin with but this a chilling development.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It is something that you really just do not see very often, thankfully, in the U.S. Military. The Navy Criminal Investigative Command taking this over. It is now an NCIS criminal investigation after the death of Sergeant Logan Melgar in June. It was ruled by a military coroner to be a homicide, so death at the hands of another.
Now what is on the table here? What is being investigated is the role of two Navy SEALs who are part of SEAL Team Six, we know that. We have not confirmed the other details that the "Daily Beast" is reporting that there was a very significant dispute between the men that the sergeant discovered that the Navy SEALs were essentially taking money from a fund being used to pay off informants, which is something that Special Operations do.
They apparently, according to the "Daily Beast" tried to cut him in on the operation and he refused. But beyond that, we really don't know what has happened here. It's all a matter of a criminal investigation. What does appear to be the case is it became a criminal investigation after it was clear that it was a homicide, that this man did not die of some other cause, some sort of accident, that this was death at the hands of another.
So now this full blown investigation into how a Green Beret died in June in Mali, in Africa, assigned to the U.S. Military operations there, and what role two Navy SEALs played in all of it -- John.
BERMAN: Once again facing new questions about the role of U.S. troops in that part of the world.
Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Thanks so much, Barbara.
[10:55:05] BERMAN: Roy Moore, Republican Senate candidate in Alabama says he is staying in the race. Some Washington Republicans say it is time for him to go. The White House has not gone that far at least not yet.
There are new developments in this case. We'll tell you all about them coming up.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Twelve days, five countries, two political hacks, one liar, a short and fat dictator and for the finale, a tweet storm.
It's been a busy tour of Asia for President Trump. He's in Manila for one more day and there is a new controversy --