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Colorado Ambush; Lawmakers Face To-Do List and Midterms; Russia Cloud Follows Trump; Prayers for Puerto Rico. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired January 1, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:33:11] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this morning we're learning more about what happened before a man opened fire on five law enforcement officers in a Colorado suburb. One of them was killed. Before this shooting, in their first visit to this man's apartment, well, a man told deputies his roommate might be having a mental breakdown. Hours later, when they returned on another call, the sheriff says that his officers were ambushed.

Let's go to our Scott McLean. He joins us live in Denver with more.

Look, you have one of these officers killed and you have six more people shot and injured. What is their condition this morning?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so, Poppy, of those six people, three have been released from the hospital. The three deputies, they are still in stable condition. So that is certainly the good news.

And we're learning more today about the timeline as to how exactly this all unfolded. And we know the deputies were actually called down to this apartment complex in very suburban Denver, an area called Highlands Ranch, around 1:30 in the morning for a noise complaint. But when they got there, they didn't find any noise, so they left.

It wasn't until 3:00 in the morning that they returned to that complex for another call. And that's when Matthew Riehl, the suspect in this case, his roommate told deputies that Riehl may be having some sort of mental breakdown. But since there was no crime committed, deputies left.

Then, at 5:14 a.m., deputies returned a third time now. This time that roommate gave them the key to the apartment and said that they were free to go inside. Riehl, at some point, went inside of one of the bedrooms and barricaded himself inside. It was at 5:56 that he actually fired shots from that bedroom, managing to hit all four deputies. Three of them managed to scramble to safety.

And while they were doing that, Riehl continued to fire. Some neighbors, well, they were awoken to gunfire and some went for their own weapons. Listen.

[09:35:04] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN BEMAL, WITNESS: I heard a strong series of what sounded like automatic fire. So I -- immediately I jumped out of bed, grabbed my own firearm, went to my front door, looked out the window and I saw a heavy police presence, police running to the scene, a few police on top of some buildings. Just a rapid response.


MCLEAN: So it actually wasn't until 7:30 in the morning, we're talking more than an hour and a half after the first shots were fired by Matthew Riehl that SWAT teams actually went inside and killed Matthew Riehl. In that process, one of those SWAT officers was actually shot in the leg. He has since been released from the hospital. So that is good news.

We should also mention, Poppy, there were also two other people in the apartment complex, the roommate not among them. They were also hit by bullets. And, luckily, they were also released from the hospital yesterday.

HARLOW: Scott McLean, we appreciate the update. We're wishing all of them the best. Good to hear those officers are at least in stable condition this morning. Thank you.

So also this morning, an investigation into a deadly plane crash in Costa Rica. Twelve people were killed, ten of them are Americans, five of them from a single family from New York. The Costa Rican government posted these images. You see the flames there, the debris in a heavily wooded area. Prior to picking up the American passengers, apparently the pilots of this chartered plane had been delayed, even forced to change course due to high winds. We'll keep you posted on that.

Fighting for their agenda while fighting to keep their job, Congress stays away from jumping on an aggressive agenda. But what impact will the critical midterms have on their efforts? We'll speak to a Republican lawmaker, next.


[09:40:36] HARLOW: Doing your job while trying to keep your job. Congress back in session in just days and facing a major to-do list, but the critical midterms loom ahead this year. So what is top of mind for them?

Joining me now, Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

Good morning, sir. Thanks for being with us.

REP. KEVIN CRAMER (R), NORTH DAKOTA: Good morning. Thanks for the opportunity.

HARLOW: So Reince Priebus, former chief of staff, speaking to Axios, talking about how critical these midterms are and he equated 2018, the 2018 midterms, to a heart attack, saying Republican will only keep control of the House if everything goes perfectly. Are you as worried about your party in the midterms as apparently Reince Priebus is?

CRAMER: Well, I don't know that I am. I think it's, you know -- those of us in the House are used to two-year terms. We're used to being most accountable to the people. And we think --


CRAMER: And doing your job as well as you can, as best you can, is the most important political thing you can do. So I'm not as worried about it perhaps as Reince has expressed there.

However, you know, we are in that year now and it's time to get to work and get some significant things done.

HARLOW: Well, we know what history shows about the party in power in the White House and what happens to that party if they're in power in Congress in the midterms. Historically it's not good for that party, which would be your party, the Republicans right now. But now you have a president with a 35 percent approval rating.


HARLOW: And the question becomes, you know, how closely Republicans want this president to campaign with them in the midterms. What's your read on that?

CRAMER: Well, I -- that's a member-by-member issue, of course. I mean just like any previous president, presidents are popular in some places and not popular in other places. Fortunately for me in North Dakota, Donald Trump is very popular. He's earned that popularity. But each member has to make that decision for themselves.

But I would also remind my colleagues that this was a president that didn't have a chance of winning the presidency. This was a president that people have counted out many times. And, by the way, several of my members -- my colleagues, Republican colleagues, got caught in the Trump wave to get elected in the first place. So I would encourage them not to abandon him too quickly.

HARLOW: So you say the president's very popular in North Dakota. I will ju7st point to some polling from FiveThirtyEight. Now, it's a few months old. It was at the end of September. But it showed that his approval rating in your state, you know, fell 21 points since the election. Are you saying he's made up that ground?

CRAMER: Well, I'm saying that in polling that I've seen that is at least that recent if not more recent, he continues to be very popular in North Dakota. And most importantly, Poppy, his positions are very popular. His policies are very popular. You don't have to love the guy to appreciate what he's done for our economy in North Dakota.

HARLOW: So -- all right, fair enough.

So the big question is, you said you were going to decide in January or February, and by my calculation it is the morning of January 1st, so I am wondering if you've decided, sir, will you run for Senate against Heidi Heitkamp?

CRAMER: Well, we're -- my wife and I, Kris and I, are prayerfully considering that, of course. We're talking to our friends and family back home. That's the first priority. All politics is local. And I have a very close relationship with the constituents of North Dakota. But we're also talking to our friends out here and, you know, we'll be spending some time this week -- I'm in D.C. this week. I wish my colleagues were here, speaking of a lot of things to get done. But, you know, we're considering weighing all of the possibilities and I may or may not get into the race. I haven't made up my mind.

HARLOW: A very political answer from you this morning, sir. Come back --

CRAMER: It's just the truth. It's just the truth, Poppy. I really don't know.

HARLOW: Come back and tell us -- come back and tell us when you've decided.

But, as you know, if you do make this run, it's going to be a tough one. She's got, you know, four times as much money raised as you.


HARLOW: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, I think we should anticipate a real knockdown, drag-out, even on the Senate side. Is he right?

CRAMER: Well, certainly the map benefits Republicans, but you just pointed out to -- the midterm history, of course, does not. That said, Senator Heitkamp and I both came to Congress the same year, voted in office by the same exact people. So North Dakotans are fiercely independent. And, you know, we each have to make our own case. I don't think that a North Dakota race is necessarily a national race.

So, yes, I think Leader McConnell's probably right, but that's why it's incumbent upon us to go make the case. I don't worry at all about the financial disadvantage. There's plenty of time to raise all the money necessary. I suspect if I get in the race, Senator Heitkamp and I will both have enough money to win and one of us won't. But there will be no shortage of resources in the race in North Dakota.

HARLOW: All right, let me ask you about the Mueller Russia probe.


[09:45:00] HARLOW: Because this is something that members of both parties are going to run on partly in the midterms. And you've called the Russia probe led by Special Counsel Bob Mueller botched. Some of your fellow Republicans, though, in Congress, like Representative Thomas Rooney of Florida, like Representative Peter King of New York, are warning, look, language like that hurts our party and we have to be careful. Here's part of what Rooney said. Quote, political cheap shots that sound good on Fox News, but in the real world are unfair to a guy that's given his life serving this country. Do you think they have a point, sir?

CRAMER: They may have a point in New York, but I'm just telling you that, from my observation, this -- you know, this whole idea of a special counsel and an independent special counsel was to restore confidence in our justice system and in this particular investigation. That's not happened, largely because he put together evidently a group of investigators that have an awful lot of anti-Trump bias politically. And, of course, we know about, you know, the various documents, the dossier and all of those things.

Frankly, I like what Robert Mueller's doing. I wish he'd -- you know, I wish he'd do it well. I hope he can wrap it up at some point. But what I do worry about is that this lack of confidence that comes from, you know, withholding information from the House Intelligence Committee, not responding to subpoenas, not showing up for -- to testify, all of that adds to the lack of confidence. And I think we could do a whole lot better.

HARLOW: I'm just confused because this is a guy -- I mean you called the investigation botched. Those are your words recently.

CRAMER: Right.

HARLOW: And then you say I like what, you know, Bob Mueller, I like what he's doing. This is a guy who -- a Republican. This is a guy who was appointed first by President George W. Bush, unanimously confirmed by the Senate. Do you have a problem with Bob Mueller? Do you think he's leading a biased investigation or don't you?

CRAMER: I think that he's put some bad people in -- some people in place who don't have the type of credibility or the type of independence that we should be expecting from a counsel like this.

HARLOW: Like -- like Peter Strzok, I would assume you'll say, with the (INAUDIBLE) --

CRAMER: Precisely.

HARLOW: Whom he removed months ago from the investigation.

CRAMER: Right. Precisely. But now we have this other situation where they are not responding to subpoenas by Devon Nunes and the Intelligence Committee.

Poppy, I've always believed that the best backstop to corruption or the perception of corruption is complete transparency. I'd like to see a lot more transparency. I think you would see the rhetoric toned down a little bit if you saw -- if you had more of that. I want Bob Mueller to succeed in getting to the truth. And I think that's hampered when you have situations like you have and when you have a lack of response.

Can you imagine if Congress -- if a member of Congress wouldn't respond to the FBI's subpoenas or questions? We just -- we need to have this co-equal -- three co-equal branches of government working to hold each other accountable, restore confidence.

HARLOW: So just to be -- just to be clear, as we button it up, you want the Mueller probe to continue --

CRAMER: I don't --

HARLOW: But you want him to hand over more information to --

CRAMER: To House investigators.

HARLOW: Partisan politicians on Capitol Hill?

CRAMER: Listen, there's three co-equal branches of government, Poppy. The executive branch doesn't have more authority than the legislative branch. The legislative branch has oversight and authority over the executive branch. It all works best when we're all holding each other accountable. You can't have one agency that says, no, we're not going to cooperate with the oversight of Congress.

HARLOW: We appreciate you being here, Congressman Cramer.

CRAMER: The pleasure was mine. Thanks.

HARLOW: Let us know what you decide about the Senate run.

CRAMER: Happy New Year. You'll be among the first 25 or so.

HARLOW: Take among out of these. Come tell us first.

Thanks for joining us.

CRAMER: All right. Happy New Year.

HARLOW: Take care.

All right, prayers in Puerto Rico. As the U.S. celebrates a new year, many American citizens live on Puerto Rico with no power still after Hurricane Maria. How they are holding on to hope.


[09:52:23] HARLOW: Around the world this morning communities, towns, ringing in the new year. But for so many Americans on Puerto Rico, what this new year brings is uncertainty. Many still without clean water, months and months without power, all after Hurricane Maria made that devastating landfall. Some of the hardest hit are relying on their personal faith even more as the new year begins.

Our Leyla Santiago continues to follow all of this for us in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

What did you find?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, listen, early in the morning there were certainly celebrations in Cantera (ph). This is the tourist area of San Juan. And so we did see the displays of fireworks, people hoping that this new year would bring good things with it.

But then there were those who stayed in their homes and are really just relying on prayer.


SANTIAGO (voice over): Even in the holiest of places, where prayers for 2018 are sent to a higher power, it's hard to escape the realities of life after Maria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problems (ph), the needs, the sorrows, the hopes.

SANTIAGO: Father Colacho (ph) sees it every day in the streets he's walked for 20 years, in the community that has relied on his guidance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They come to church to charge their (INAUDIBLE) or to charge their cell phones.

SANTIAGO: Before mass, on New Year's Eve, Jorge Alicea plugs in his phone, a tablet and the lamp that will get him through another night in the place he's called home for decades. Now --


SANTIAGO (on camera): So no power, no water, no roof.

Much progress has been made here in San Juan, the capital. The tourist areas, even the financial district moving forward right now. But in its shadow, Cantera, it is an area where people feel forgotten, want more help, still no power. And for 2018, high hopes can be hard to find.


SANTIAGO: He says the new year is another year in which he's waiting for someone to come and help him.

SANTIAGO (voice over): Jorge (ph) doesn't expect help anytime soon. He says FEMA told him he doesn't qualify for a temporary roof. His home is too damaged.

SANTIAGO (on camera): I'm asking him, when it rains here -- they get wet. It's that simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep fighting. Keep trying. Start again. We are with you. You are not alone.

SANTIAGO (voice over): Words of comfort Father Colacho knows will only go so far for Jorge and Cantera.

[09:55:05] SANTIAGO (on camera): What will New Year's look like here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New year. They say new life. It's not new life. It's new fight.

SANTIAGO (voice over): And so here, where they've made the town of Bethlehem look like their own, blue tarps and all, they pray. Pray for the miracles they believe in. Pray for the strength to rebuild in the new year.


SANTIAGO: And, Poppy, something that really stuck with me about Jorge, he lost everything. He doesn't have a roof. He doesn't have power. Charges all his electronics at church. And yet he still locks his door. And when I asked him why he's locking the door, he said this is where I sleep at night. So there's still some sense of this is my home for him, despite the fact that he doesn't have anything sheltering him.

Right now the government is saying that about 55 percent of those who can get power actually have power. But as this new year comes in, that means nearly half of this island still does not have light in their homes.

HARLOW: It's unbelievable. These are American citizens. And because of you, we are staying on this story. Thank you for being there and continuing to bring it to us every single day, Leyla. We appreciate what you're doing.

All right, we are following the latest developments in Iran. A dozen people now dead as the government -- anti-government protesters shows no signs of stopping. What the president is saying of Iran and both President Trump, next.