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Fans Pay Tribute to Franklin; Mayor Reacts to Revised Death Toll; Ex-con Turns to Meditation; John McCain's Legacy. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 29, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Parks and now Aretha Franklin. And today that gold casket arrived probably about a half hour ago and people got silent here once again as she arrived here.

But this has really been the story. This right here. The hordes of people that have been coming from all over the country who wanted to pay their respects. As you can see, again, it has started to wrap itself all the way around the building. One of the things they talked about is making sure they play the contemporary Aretha Franklin on the outside, but on the inside it's been all gospel music.

And there's been a lot of talk about how she looks on the inside with the red dress and the heels. People have been talking about it all the time, but they love Aretha Franklin here, especially in Detroit, someone who fed the homeless, someone who took their time.

Now, you talked about this is the second day of this event. We know tomorrow is the concert. People have been talking about that. Only 6,000 tickets. So you have Ariana Grande, Faith Hill, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson. People have been focused on that because they just want to standout side and see if they can hear some of that.

And then, of course, Friday is the funeral and we know that Bill Clinton will be there and so will Jesse Jackson. But this is what people have been focused on in Detroit, a chance to pay their respects to the queen of soul. It was a special day yesterday. It will be interesting to see how it all wraps up once again today.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Ryan, thank you very much for being there and covering all of that. We'll be watching.

So, there are these new numbers from Puerto Rico and they spike the death toll after Hurricane Maria to this shocking new high. So the story behind that with San Juan's mayor, next.


[08:35:25] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARMEN YUIN CRUZ, MAYOR OF SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Damn it, this is not a good news story. This is a people are dying story. This is a life or death story. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, that was San Juan, Puerto Rico's mayor just weeks after Hurricane Maria. She was reacting to a Trump administration official who said recovery from the storm was a good news story because of the limited number of deaths.

Well, now, almost a year later, the revised death toll finds nearly 3,000 people were killed by the storm, not 64 people. So the new number is 46 times higher than the government's previous estimate. And joining us now is San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.

Mayor, thank you so much for being here with us.

How did the government get the official number so wrong from 64, which is what they said, to we now know 3,000?

MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Well, sometimes people don't want to handle the truth. When we were walking around Puerto Rico, we were walking around San Juan, we could see the devastation and we knew that there were people dependent on life support systems, on insulin, chemotherapy, dialysis, that because they had no power, they weren't able to receive that.

So today is a very sad day and a very shameful day because those that did not want to see the truth that I'm hearing today, this is ridiculous. People from the administration, the Puerto Rican government saying, well, nobody is ever very prepared for a hurricane five. Well, that may be true, but the one thing that we were prepared for was to tell the truth. And as -- just as I saw it, just as I knew that this wasn't a good news story, that people were dying and that the bureaucracy and inefficiency were killing us, everybody should have had the presence of mind to just go out and tell the truth. But they didn't want to tell the truth because they wanted to sing to the tune of Donald Trump and the spin of the good news story.

Well, now, it's proven. This is a people died story. This is not a number. It's 2,975 people. And they're still calling it an estimate. It's 2,975 people that will never see the light of day and many of them died because of neglect. Neglect that was done by the Trump administration and that was silently approved by most of the political class in Puerto Rico.

CAMEROTA: And so, mayor, who do you hold responsible?

CRUZ: You know, everybody is responsible. But there were people in power that had the opportunity to request more aid, to request the aid when it was reasonable, to request the aid when it was need, to tell the truth and they didn't tell the truth. And the governor of Puerto Rico sat there besides the president when he said, oh, 16, oh, you ought to be commended. That's not a real disaster. Katrina is a real disaster.

Well, Katrina was a real disaster. And now we have more deaths than Katrina. And what comes out of the White House yesterday is simply a, we are very proud and we are -- of what we did and we are very committed. The Trump administration killed the Puerto Ricans with neglect. The Trump administration led us to believe that they were helping when they weren't really up to par and they weren't doing and they didn't allow other countries to help us. The past president of PREPA, the Puerto Rico Power --

CAMEROTA: Why is that? What does that mean, though, mayor? What -- what does it mean that they didn't allow other countries to help you?

CRUZ: I'll -- I'll tell you exactly. The past president of PREPA, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, has said that he wasn't allowed by the American government -- he didn't say who in the American government -- but he wasn't allowed to buy generators or light posts from any other country that wasn't the United States. We have this thing called the Jones Act that also forces everything that comes into Puerto Rico to come via ships that are U.S.-flagged.


CRUZ: And we weren't allowed to even buy generators and light poles from countries that the U.S. buys them. So there were no inventories in the U.S., we were told, but we weren't allowed to go outside and get them. So the neglect and the spin --

CAMEROTA: And so, mayor, I mean -- well, I just want to talk about what you're -- what came out of the White House yesterday, because you mentioned it.

So the White House -- the president says he's proud of how he handled Hurricane Maria. He says -- well, actually, Sarah Sanders said this yesterday, the president remains proud of all of the work the federal family undertook to help our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.

[08:40:13] Should President Trump be proud?

CRUZ: Shame on President Trump. Shame on President Trump for not even once, not even yesterday, just saying, look, I grieve with the people of Puerto Rico. Shame on him.

First of all, he doesn't even take a time of the day to say, look, I'm sorry that you people are grieving. I'm sorry that your people died. And, secondly, what is there to be proud of? The 2,975 dead. Is that what he's proud of? Is he proud of that maybe this is over now and he thinks it's going to go away? Well, it's not going to go away. We're going to remember this forever. This will be a stain on his presidency for as long as he lives. Because rather than coming here to support us, he came here to throw paper towels at us. And we will never forget. And we will always remember.

CAMEROTA: The mayor -- I'm sorry, the governor, the Puerto Rico governor, has admitted. He says, I agree, I have made mistakes. I agree in hindsight that I could have done things differently. What do you want to see him do? Can he stay as governor?

CRUZ: You know, democracy gives him a four year term. But what I would like to see him do is fire the people that were in charge of that part. Yesterday he stood there with Secretary Pesquera and one of the things that the report states is that there was too much power given to one person to control the emergency management units. That was Hector Pesquera. When I, back in October, I said, look, we're dying here. There must be more than 1,000 people dead. Using the same numbers that the government of Puerto Rico was giving us, I was called by that man, Hector Pesquera, a Charlton, irresponsible, show me the proof and then you can talk.

But now he's part of the commission that's going to look into this more deeper and is also going to make recommendations. Well, you know, there are things that municipalities are doing that we don't need any reports to tell us. One of the things that we're doing in San Juan is we are making small centers called Centers for Transformation --


CRUZ: Community transformation, where people will have solar-charging capabilities for their cell phones, where they will be able to go and keep their insulin because it's refrigerated, where they can take care of their asthma --


CRUZ: Because a lot of people died of that, asthma, and not having the appropriate insulin. Well, they can get first aid. They're taking CPR classes and so forth. So we're making sure that we push that first level of response in the first 72 hours to the communities and that they are empowered to do that.

CAMEROTA: And so --

CRUZ: But now, you know, we're going to have this commission that should move things along.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but I want to ask you, mayor, is that given all of that, given what you've seen, given the woefully inadequate response, as we now know, because the death toll for Maria is higher than Katrina, are you ready for hurricane season? Are you ready for the next one?

CRUZ: No, we're not. We're not. First of all, people are traumatized. A couple of weeks ago, Hurricane Beryl was set not even to hit Puerto Rico and people were traumatized by this. Two days ago there was flooding in San Juan just from regular rains. Just two days ago, flooding in different areas of San Juan. We still have thousands of roofs, or blue roofs, that are not safe for people. If they have -- even when Hurricane Beryl, the governor was saying, if you have a blue roof or if you have a tarp, please, go to a shelter. Don't stay in your house. It's not safe.

Our electronic grid is very inefficient still. You can lose your power a couple of times a week., And most of the hospitals still don't have any generators. In San Juan, our hospital now has two generators and a 10,000 tank gallon of diesel.


CRUZ: So, you know, we have done as much as we can do to prepare, but we're not ready.

CAMEROTA: Well, Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, we appreciate you coming on and sounding the alarm of what you see and we certainly hear your anger about what happened during Hurricane Maria. Thank you very much. And, obviously, we will be checking back in with the island, as we have for the past year because of this.

Thank you very much for being on.

CRUZ: Thank you for not forgetting us.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, next, the John McCain you don't know. His friend gives us a glimpse inside his private side.

First, though, an ex-con who turned his life around with the help of meditation. His story in this week's "Turning Point."


VINNY FERRARO, MEDITATION TEACHER: Back in the day, I was just trying to survive the conditions of my life. Now I ain't surviving no more. I'm thriving.

[08:45:02] Both my mother and father dealt with addiction. So I participated in drugs and of just the street life. And it led me to being locked up.

At 20 years old, I was living in, like, a crack house. I was 110 pounds. And so I had to hit a bottom. And the most unlikely person walked in. Somebody I hated. My father. So the person that kind of introduced me to that world actually introduced me to the door out of that world.

So the first step was letting go of the substances. And then I got exposed to meditation. When I got serious about practice, I wanted to take it into these neighborhoods where the suffering was really great.

We find ourselves floating.

In San Francisco, a lot of people come to Friday night to look inside, people that have been through addiction, incarceration, older people and tech people come meditate with us.

The practice helps me in so many ways. I felt alone in the world and now I feel like I belong to the world.



[08:50:30] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK DAVIS, FORMER MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER AND FAMILY SPOKESMAN: Do not despair of our present difficulties. We believe always in the promise and greatness of America because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history. Farewell fellow Americans. God bless you. And God bless America.


CAMEROTA: That was the final moving message from Senator John McCain, delivered there by his longtime friend and former campaign manager and family spokesman Rick Davis. Davis will be a pallbearer at McCain's funeral in Washington on Saturday and he joins us now.

Rick, that's so poignant. I mean it's so beautiful. What was it like for you to deliver those final words from Senator McCain?

RICK DAVIS, FORMER MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, it was a real honor that the family had asked me to do this. It was a beautiful message by the senator. And it was -- it was a great opportunity to maybe try to use his words to frame what we hope is an ongoing look at his life and his message to the American people to try and create some confidence that the future is still a very positive place for us.

CAMEROTA: Can you tell us about why that was so important to him? Why did he want you to deliver the words only after his death?

DAVIS: Well, I think he thought that there may be a period of time where he isn't active in public life, as had -- as did turn out to be true. And he wanted to ensure that around the time of his passing, that there was a discussion about his views, and not just his life, but why he led his life the way he did. And I think the essence of that message really embodied the accomplishments of his life. And when you're John McCain, why not put it in your own words? It's actually a classic kind of thing that is unique to Senator McCain, I think.

CAMEROTA: No, it's a great point. There's -- it's hard to beat his own words for getting his message out.

DAVIS: Right.

CAMEROTA: I always find it so poignant when anybody has the time to plan their own funeral. And that was the case with him.


CAMEROTA: And so what was the back story on why he wanted George W. Bush and Barack Obama to deliver eulogies at his funeral? I mean, obviously, political rivals who vanquished him. So why was that important to him?

DAVIS: Well, I think as you -- you look at the next five days of celebrations of his life, starting today at the state capitol here in Arizona, he wanted different messages to come out of each of these different events. And his service to the people of Arizona is really part of the focus of today's activities. But even tomorrow at North Phoenix Baptist Church, the first memorial service that will be held, he has this old friend and close friend of the family, Joe Biden, speaking. And I think that that on its own is telling that John McCain was the

kind of man who never looked backwards. You know, he was the guy who could reconcile and help open up relations with Vietnam, not only a place that he spent almost six years in captivity, but with a president, Bill Clinton, who he probably disagreed with most of the time. But he saw it as an opportunity for Vietnam to come out of the shadows and become a good partner for the United States. And so he set aside any trepidation he might have had about it to move forward.

He's -- the same with George Bush and Barack Obama. These are two men who he battled for over a year to win a nomination and to win the presidency. And he was denied both by these two gentlemen. And the reality is, he never looked back on those campaigns. The day after each of those campaigns, he said, OK, let's get moving.

His passion and love for the Senate was the place that he could focus his attention. And I think the idea of their presence, even at his memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington, is a testament to the fact that he wanted to send a message to people, that even though these are the two people in the world who kept him from becoming president, one of the great ambitions of his life, he could still work with them. And he felt their message to the American public would be important. As important as his own. And so I think he's very good at the symbolism of public office. And I think in this case, even after he's passed away, he's still at work.

[08:55:24] CAMEROTA: So what will you remember most?

DAVIS: Well, his drive. We've been talking a lot about it this week, especially in early mornings like this, from Arizona. Senator McCain would do these on a regular basis. I mean, 3:00 in the morning, 4:00 in the morning and then -- and then do an entire day of work. And probably a couple of evening shows.

We always had arguments with him about doing Sunday shows from his beautiful place in Sedona. I would say, relax, you don't have to get up that early on a Sunday. Oh, no, no. I mean the opportunity to be in the arena, to make a statement, to engage in an issue, to throw a couple punches, that was always more important to him than a couple of hours of sleep. And so you couldn't keep up with the guy. And we'll miss that pace. He was an urgent man. He wanted things done quickly. And it's a real testament to him that he had the power to do it.

CAMEROTA: Well, Rick Davis, our thoughts are with you, our condolences are to you, all of his loved ones and his family. And thanks so much for sharing your personal relationship with him with us this morning.

DAVIS: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: CNN "NEWSROOM" with Erica Hill picks up after this break. We'll see you tomorrow.