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CNN TONIGHT

Death Toll in Mexico's Earthquake Still Rising; Total Blackout in Puerto Rico Brought by Maria's Wrath; Mueller Asks White House for More Details. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 20, 2017 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: Take the time to learn how to pronounce the names of other countries, or at least the ones that exist. Thanks for watching 360. It's time to turn things over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news on headline stories all around the world.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you for joining us.

Fist, Puerto Rico, 100 percent without power tonight and the blackout could last for months as hurricane Maria spreads devastation across the Caribbean tonight.

Mexico, a desperate search for survivors of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake. The death toll at least 230, including children in elementary schools. Tonight some signs of life in the rubble. We'll bring you the very latest from there.

In Washington, sources telling CNN's special counsel Robert Mueller is asking the White House for documents and e-mails on the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey. Mueller's team also wants information on the Oval office meeting President Trump had with Russian officials when he bragged about firing Comey.

That as we're learning tonight that ex-Trump campaign chief Michael -- excuse me, Paul Manafort offered to give a Russian billionaire what he called private briefings on the 2016 campaign. That report from the Washington Post.

And on Capitol Hill the Senate's healthcare Hail Mary. Republicans scrambling for every last vote to repeal Obamacare. But are they playing politics with your healthcare? We'll discuss all of that in the coming hours here on CNN.

But I want to go right to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He is in Puerto Rico tonight for us tonight with the very latest on that. Nick, in Puerto Rico, it is reeling from the -- and taking the full brunt of Maria, the whole island out of power. Do you know the full scope of the damage yet?

NICK PATON WALSH, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: We're still getting -- beginning to see that picture and really today it was staggering having experienced the full force of landfall, the eastern coast in Palmas del Mar where we were this morning. Staggering winds there, 155 miles an hour at least.

Remarkable ferocious to be in. We then drove today after leaving that hotel, unfortunately, having to because of a gas leak there. We headed across back to San Juan through highway 3. Extraordinary scenes of devastation. Pretty much every tree you could find damaged in some way, torn clean out, flung across highways, power lines down.

The cables across the streets and the pylons themselves often shattered to pieces. And even wind turbines, their propellers torn clean off by the ferocity of that category four hurricane, initially category five.

Remarkable to see also too the highways turned into rivers. We had to drive through almost a mile with water at one point to reach the capital here and the capital itself substantially damaged as well.

We are talking about a country without power. There may be experiencing that problem for months to come. It's unclear when they can restore it. We saw how badly the infrastructure has been almost universally hammered in some way. And of course, too, still reeling from hurricane Irma.

Forty-six thousand people still without power before Maria even turned up yesterday morning. But as we saw the tropical rains persisted throughout the day dumping a vast amount of water. I think that's really what's causing people the biggest amount of problem now, simply the volume of liquid they're having to get through often at times.

What that's doing to infrastructure and the speed of cleanup as well, but this has been a quite devastating storm for Puerto Rico. Certainly, the worst in 90 years. Don?

LEMON: Nick Paton Walsh, painting the picture of that flooding unbelievable. We thank you for your reporting. Let's get to the phone now in Puerto Rico and Ahmed Shihab-Eldin. He is a senior correspondent for AJ+. Thank you, Ahmed for joining us.

So tell us what you experienced when Maria hit Puerto Rico. I understand you were right in the middle of it. Had you experienced anything like this before?

AHMED SHIHAB-ELDIN, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, AJ+: You know, I actually haven't, Don. And staggering is exactly the right word. This hurricane lived up to its epic expectations. It's been harrowing to say the least. We're actually on the northeast side of the island and we're fortunate to be in a large hotel. It's usually able to weather these storms well.

But you know, when they finally let us back into our rooms this afternoon the devastation on the hill next to us looked like a chain saw just raised through the hill. And, you know, to put it into little context for your viewers, I mean, there are 3.5 million people who live in Puerto Rico. It's the 29th, you know, most populous territory or entity, more than

Idaho, Nebraska, West Virginia. So imagine if one of those states not only lost all their power but when I spoke to the mayor at the stadium, which is the biggest shelter here, she said it's going to be at least four months before it's up and running.

Now, that was before the hurricane actually hit and started pummeling the coast. Today she said it would be six months. So, you know, it wasn't surprising for me to speak to a lot of people who in the past had never felt like they needed to actually seek refuge and this year they did with this one.

[22:05:10] LEMON: yes, unbelievable. I mean, the Caribbean really getting hit hard by these hurricanes, these storms, Ahmed. Puerto Rico is completely without power right now. It's likely going to be sometime, as you said.

SHIHAB-ELDIN: Yes.

LEMON: Maybe six months or longer. How are people reacting to that fact, the news that you just delivered to us?

SHIHAB-ELDIN: Well, you know, there's a lot that's actually very internal politics here in terms of how, you know, the energy company, which is government owned and you know, they've been operating on kind of court orders. You know, when there's these kind of storms in Puerto Rico even not a category four, they often have these very long periods of time without any electricity.

But we have to also remember that this is going to be compounded by a series of problems, you know. When you don't live through a hurricane, you often expect the coverage relies on projections but the real danger and power of these storms I'm realizing now that I'm in it is how unpredictable it is.

You know, today people living in San Juan, you know, for those who actually slept, woke up to 50 percent of the capital flooded. Only 50 percent of the houses on the island are covered under wind catastrophe. So, if you look at it people's concerns are not just immediate concerns, are my relatives OK, am I OK, you know.

But also looking forward without electricity, without coverage, you know, hurricane Irma already even though Puerto Rico skirted it caused $1 billion in damages. Puerto Rico is bankrupt. It just filed bankruptcy in May. So Maria is expected to cause $30 billion in damages between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

So you talk to people and the sense of despair, the sense of disbelief, how is this another hurricane and what does this actually mean?

LEMON: Yes. Ahmed, I appreciate your reporting. Stay safe down there. We'll talk to you soon.

Now I want to turn to Mexico where a desperate search is underway for survivors trapped in a rubble by that powerful earthquake. Rescuers tonight racing to pull a young girl out from under a collapsed school.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live for us in Mexico City. Heartbreaking, Ed. What's the latest on this dramatic search and rescue?

ED LAVANDERA, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Hi, Don. Well, it's been a chaotic day. We are just a block away behind me you can see all of the thousands of people who have turned out to support the rescue workers who are working just a block away inside that collapsed school building.

And what we understand is that -- this is coming from a Mexican government official that says that they had -- the rescue workers have made contact with a young girl who they believe is still alive. They have not pulled her out of that rubble just yet. How many other people might be near her and in what condition they're in is not exactly clear either.

There has been a great deal of misinformation here throughout the day. A number of times throughout the evening, Don, the crowds here and those close to the building erupted in clapping, almost a sign at some point -- some people had been rescued. None of that has been confirmed. And none of that has been proven to be true.

So those rescue workers, I did get inside the school building in the courtyard area and watched many of these rescue workers work throughout the day earlier. And you can tell just how tedious the work is. At some point the whistle goes off and everybody stops talking. And that gives the workers inside -- some of them are even called moles that are crawling through that rubble to try to get to some of these people. Makes the situation quiet so they can hear what is going on inside that rubble.

Everybody is quiet. Standing there you could hear the muffled sounds of those workers crawling through that rubble trying to reach out and talk to whoever might be in there.

But a clear picture as to what exactly they're encountering there is just not available tonight. The best we have is that, as I mentioned off the top, that there's a young girl that they believe to have made contact with and they're still working to reach her. And given the activity and the frantic activity we've seen here throughout the night that seems to back that up, Don.

LEMON: OK. So let me ask you, what have we learned? Do we know how close they are to getting her? Do they know how close she is?

LAVANDERA: We don't. We've tried to get a better sense of just how close -- how close they are. It is really hard. I was up close to that area of that building that is collapsed today. And I have to tell you, seeing it from a distance and seeing the video images of it, it wasn't until I stood right next to that building that you really got the sense of just what a stark, horrifying scene it must be inside of that building and the weight of what they're having to deal with.

We've seen teams of men with wheel barrels pulling out five-gallon buckets of debris, one bucket at a time. So that gives you a sense they're basically pulling out small pieces and, you know, imagine that the work -- trying to get to where they want is very tedious and slow going.

[22:10:04] We're now going on almost, what, 36 hours since -- almost 36 hours since the earthquake struck and those teams are still in there trying to make that contact.

LEMON: Ed Lavandera reporting from Mexico City. Ed, thank you. I appreciate your reporting as well. When we come right back, major developments in the Russia investigation. Robert Mueller asking the White House for documents and e-mails on the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey. We'll tell you what it all means.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Some amazing new developments in the Russia investigation to report to you tonight. CNN's Manu Raju joins us now with more. Manu has that reporting for us. Manu, the Mueller investigation seems to be going at hyper speed now, so tell us the latest revelations about new demands that special counsel Mueller is making for documents from the White House.

MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, that's right. First time we've really seen in detail a number of demands that Mueller is requesting from the White House. About 13 areas according to the New York Times, in which -- talked to officials who had seen this request.

Roughly 13 areas, including the firing of his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn who as we know came under a lot of criticism for his communications with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak around the time during the transition president and for not disclosing that to the White House, something that also prompted the deputy attorney general at the time, the acting attorney general at the time to warn that he could be potentially blackmailed by the Russians.

[22:15:03] But also, Don, his handling of James Comey and the firing of James Comey and the interactions the president reportedly had in the Oval Office with Russians in which he said the firing of James Comey could relieve pressure on him from this FBI investigation.

Now, there are a number of signs, Don, that this investigation that Mueller has is now focusing a lot on the circumstances around James Comey's firing. One instance is that there are two senior FBI officials who may have firsthand knowledge of exactly what happened around the Comey firing, but the Justice Department is preventing them from being interviewed on Capitol Hill by the Senate judiciary committee because of the concerns about the special counsel's office that it could interfere with their investigation.

Now, earlier today, I asked Senator Chuck Grassley of the judiciary committee chairman about that issue. He said he's prepared to subpoena them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: What about the FBI officials?

CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: We've got subpoenas at the Senate counsel office. I'm going to have to when we get done there, I'm going to have to consult with Senator Feinstein.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: So a real sign that these investigations, Don, not just heating up in the special counsel's office but also on Capitol Hill, trying to figure out exactly the circumstances around the firing of James Comey, in particular and raising those questions about whether or not any -- there was any obstruction of justice whatsoever in the president's handling of that issue, Don.

LEMON: Manu, there's also a Washington Post report about Paul Manafort specifically e-mails he sent to a Russian oligarch while he was a campaign chairman for then-candidate Trump. What do you know about that?

RAJU: Yes, that's right. In fact, less than two weeks before Trump actually was accepted the republican nomination Paul Manafort reportedly sent an e-mail to an intermediary trying to reach out to a Russian billionaire who has ties to the Kremlin saying that he's prepared to give private briefings to Oleg Deripaska, the Russian billionaire saying in this e-mail if he needs private briefings, we can accommodate. That's according to the Post report.

Now, this is part of a batch of documents that have been sent over to Mueller's office, as well as to Capitol Hill, a sign that that investigation into Paul Manafort really is intensifying.

Manafort, of course, under a lot of scrutiny not just because his home was raided in July, also reportedly facing threats from the special counsel's office that he could get indicted.

Also the CNN reporting that he was facing a wiretap during the campaign before and after, but here on this specific topic, Don, Manafort's team saying it's really much to do about nothing. Saying it had to do more about past debts more than anything else and really dismissing this as insignificant. But we'll see what investigators when they look into this further, Don.

LEMON: I appreciate the reporting in the time, Manu Raju joining us from Washington.

Joining me now, CNN national security analyst, James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence. So good to have you on, sir. Good evening to you.

Director Clapper, there have been so many developments in this Russian investigation and I want to ask you first about new information that was first reported in the New York Times tonight that special counsel Mueller is asking for documents directly related to the president's actions and behavior while in office. How do you read what Mueller is asking for? JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE:

Well, first, Don, I don't have any inside baseball on any of this, so I'm just drawing inferences like everyone else is. To some extent this reminds me of the metaphor about lots of blind people touching the elephant and trying to describe the elephant.

I would say, though, that it appears to me that the scope of the investigation is broadening and deepening as the requests for information, as they have been reflected in the media reporting, seems to be getting more and more pointed and more and more specific. So I don't -- I don't know where this is all going to lead. I don't know if, you know, this is implicating the president or not, but...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well, that's what I was going to ask you. Does this mean the president could be the central focus of Mueller's probe?

CLAPPER: Well, again, the inference you could draw is that he is, but, you know, I don't know that. I would say and I've said this sometime ago when former Director Mueller was first appointed to the position of special counsel that if in his estimation there was no there there, he'd say so.

It appears, at least from what's going on, there is there there. And I don't exactly know where this is going to lead. But I'll also repeat something I've said on more than one occasion is that it is so critical that this whole process, whether in the Congress or certainly the investigation of the special counsel, come to a conclusion that is then transparently explained to the American people.

[22:20:13] LEMON: CNN also has some exclusive reporting involving Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman. Specifically that investigators got a FISA warrant to wiretap Manafort before and after the election. What's your reaction to that?

CLAPPER: Well, I can't comment on a specific FISA order. I said some things about this on Meet the Press on the 5th of March, and I stand on that statement. I can't -- I can't confirm or deny. I just...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So, sir, let me play it and then get your -- just to remind people of what you said and this is what you said to Chuck Todd. This is back in March, and as you said on Meet the Press and then we'll finish up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, HOST, MSNBC: Let me start with the president's tweets yesterday on this idea that maybe President Obama ordered an illegal wiretap of his offices. If something like that happened, would this be something you would be aware of?

CLAPPER: I would certainly hope so. I can't -- obviously I'm not -- I can't speak officially any more, but I will say that for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president -- the president- elect at the time or as a candidate or against his campaign. I can't speak for other title three authorized entities in the government or a state or local entity.

TODD: I was just going to say, if the FBI, for instance, had a FISA court order of some sort for surveillance, would that be information that you would know or not know...

CLAPPER: Yes.

TODD: You would be told this.

CLAPPER: I would know that.

TODD: ... if there was a FISA court order on something like this.

CLAPPER: Yes. Something like this, absolutely.

TODD: And at this point you can't confirm or deny whether that exists.

CLAPPER: I can deny it.

TODD: There is no FISA court order.

CLAPPER: Not to my knowledge.

TODD: Of anything at Trump Tower.

CLAPPER: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So, the president's allies say that the fact that Manafort was wire-tapped proves that the president was right to accuse the former president of wiretapping him and you were wrong. What's your response?

CLAPPER: Well, again, I stand on that statement that you just replayed and I cannot comment on the media reporting, which is all we have, about a FISA warrant allegedly lodged against Mr. Manafort. I can't comment on that. I will simply reiterate what I said in March, and I stand on that.

LEMON: Yes. And that there is as far as Trump Tower being wire-taped, according to the president, your -- you say what?

CLAPPER: I stand on what I said on the 5th of March on Meet the Press, as you just replayed it.

LEMON: OK. So did you know -- and I keep -- just for clarity because there's been a lot of reporting on this, right, and people on -- you know, especially those supporters of the president are saying here is proof. So, did you know about a FISA warrant against Paul Manafort at the time? CLAPPER: I did not.

LEMON: You did not. OK.

CLAPPER: And again, I have to say that what we have is media reporting only. And actually, commenting on -- you know, FISA's are classified and so, you know, even if I knew something about it I couldn't and I don't. And again, I will just conclude by saying I stand on what I said on the 5th of March.

LEMON: Is it possible the president was picked up in a conversation with Paul Manafort?

CLAPPER: It's certainly conceivable. Yes, that's...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Is it likely?

CLAPPER: I can't say. I wouldn't want to go there, but I will say it's possible.

LEMON: OK. The Washington Post is also reporting tonight that while Paul Manafort was working for Donald Trump, he offered to privately brief a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska on the campaign. How would the Russians interpret that, Mr. Clapper?

CLAPPER: Well, obviously, you know, perhaps a -- they would regard it perhaps as a witting accomplice. Again, as part of their overall campaign to interfere with the election. So, if they had a witting and willing participant who would engage with them, talk to them who in their mind had some inside access or influence in the campaign, which at one point Mr. Manafort certainly did, I think they would view that as a favorable line of exploitation.

LEMON: I have to ask you about the meeting the president had with the -- in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the former Ambassador Sergey Kislyak where President Trump bragged about firing Comey to the Russians saying it relieved great pressure on him.

[22:25:05] People on both sides of the aisle grasp at these pictures -- or gasped, I should say, at these pictures. Do you think that that moment will come back to haunt President Trump?

CLAPPER: Well, it could. It's not to say that such meetings are inappropriate. I personally was somewhat taken aback by that from if no other point of view than just the security standpoint in light of the fact that only Russian media were permitted in the Oval and only Russian photographs were allowed to take pictures.

So I trust they were closely screened. And just the notion of this solicitousness with the Russians has been, for me at least, bothersome, particularly in light of the demonstrated interference in our election. It's appearing more and more to me that the intelligence community assessment that we published on the 6th of January may have only been perhaps the tip of the iceberg.

LEMON: Can I ask you, I just want to go back to -- and get your response to something, because on September 2nd this president's own Justice Department said that there was no evidence to support the president's claim is that President Barack Obama offered wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Again, that's what the Justice Department said in a new court filing. Wouldn't the Justice Department, his Justice Department know about if there was a FISA warrant or if there was any sort wiretapping on Trump Tower?

CLAPPER: Yes, absolutely. And I believe Director Comey said much the same thing in his testimony on March 16th before the House oversight committee for intelligence.

LEMON: So the president's own Justice Department came to the conclusion after investigating that there was no wiretapping of Trump Tower?

CLAPPER: But that's -- that's what I draw from that, yes.

LEMON: Thank you, Mr. Clapper. I appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. When we come back, what Robert Mueller's team is looking for. I'll ask my legal experts what is it could mean for the Trump White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Sources telling CNN that special counsel Robert Mueller has requested White House documents and e-mails on the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey, as well as an Oval Office meeting between President Trump and Russian officials.

Let's discuss now. CNN contributor, John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel. Michael Moore, the former U.S. attorney for the middle district of Georgia, and CNN legal commentator, Ken Cuccinelli, the president of the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Gentlemen, good evening. Thank you so much for coming on. I'm glad to have you. John Dean, I'm going to start with you. Mueller's questions involving the firing of Michael Flynn and James Comey, what do you make of it?

JOHN DEAN, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Well, first of all, he clearly has a right to those documents. It's been established by the Supreme Court no less than a grand jury, and he certainly represents the grand jury in this instance, can get that kind of material.

And one of the things, Don, that strikes me about this is former special prosecutors have on two occasions taken their case to Congress for impeachment. And Congress is not very good at getting documents. In fact, Nixon was impeached for documents. So this may be -- he may see something and he's just gathering the material.

LEMON: Who -- when he said he had the right to it, who said, was that Ken or Michael who said yes, he does have the right to gather these documents.

KEN CUCCINELLI, LEGAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I was certainly nodding my head. He certainly does. And if you're going to have -- if you're going to have a probe like this, I think what's being requested here is entirely expected.

LEMON: Michael?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: I agree with that totally. I mean, I think he does have a right to them. I mean, I think that's -- he's doing exactly what he was asked to do. Some people have worried that the investigation would take a long time and I think he's simply moving ahead in a forthright manner with all deliberate speed and he's sort of hitting hard with some of his requests and that's just to be expected.

LEMON: Well, I mean, mark on your calendars. We have panel all three people agree. But Michael, listen, there's that...

(CROSSTALK)

CUCCINELLI: On that.

LEMON: Yes, on that part of it.

So now there's that meeting with Russians in the Oval Office, Michael, the president called Comey a nut job and told the Russians firing Comey relieved great pressure on him. The picture of that meeting left a lot of people dumb struck. What is Mueller looking for, do you think?

MOORE: You know, he may be looking for e-mails between staff members scheduling the meeting. He may be looking for itineraries that were set up or agendas for the meeting. He might be looking for things like recordings, transcripts, summaries of things that were said in the meeting.

But you know, the bottom line is he's using those things to try to find some connection or to see if there's a connection between the firing of Jim Comey and any promises or representations or deals that were made with the Russians. That would be my guess.

And so when I think about the scheduling and think about the calendaring, he might be looking to see, well, you know, did the -- how close in time was the meeting scheduled versus when the firing took place or when the memos came out, and so he's just putting pieces of the puzzle together. Sometimes you don't know what the puzzle looks like until all the pieces come into play. So I think this is just another piece of this puzzle.

LEMON: Ken Cuccinell, Mueller also wants more information on the president's involvement in the initial response to the news on the June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner had a whole bunch of Russians meetings with Russians. The one where Russians offered dirt on Hillary Clinton directly from the government. Are you concerned at all that it could tie the president to knowledge of Russian efforts to help him win?

CUCCINELLI: No. I think a better reflection on that is that the Manafort materials reported by the Post and the New York Times, when you look at that, what I found most interesting -- first of all, it looked like Manafort was marketing.

I mean, he's doing marketing with rich international clients that he's worked with before, and hey, look at me, I'm running a presidential campaign here, hey, would you like your own private briefings. And look, this is a guy who literally has done tens of millions of dollars of business with these folks before he joined the Trump campaign and how he failed certain filings that were required under federal law completely separate from the campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK. Ken, Ken, Ken, I'll let you finish, but...

CUCCINELLI: relevant than that.

LEMON: I will. But he's marketing himself for would you like private meetings. I mean, does that not concern you with people who are friends with Vladimir Putin, with Russians and he's running the campaign, no concern?

[22:34:57] CUCCINELLI: Yes. So then look at what was also reported by the Post where you've got other people in the campaign asking that actual question at the time. And Manafort is blowing them off. Look what he said to Hope Hicks, you know, ignore those questions. That's not relevant.

That really looks like the rest of the campaign, to the extent they had concerns about Manafort's contacts, Manafort was blowing them off, brushing them aside. That looks like Manafort is more in the hot seat here than anybody else. And it seems like, to the extent it's appropriate, appropriately so.

LEMON: But didn't Donald Trump higher Paul Manafort?

CUCCINELLI: Of course. Of course. But, you know, you're making an implicit leap that he hired him to have Russian connections. And that leap is really baseless based on what's before us so far.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I'm saying it was, it's a judgment call and also he hired him because of his experience knowing that his experience had to do with Russians and Ukrainians and the like.

(CROSSTALK)

CUCCINELLI: Well, he's worked on American presidential campaigns as well. I mean, what's unusual about it...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: What I'm trying to get at this is, you said there is no -- you believe there's no culpability for the president here, even though he is -- he is the guy who is running the country and running the campaign, then running the country now that the person he hired, well, that was his deal, I have nothing to do with it?

CUCCINELLI: Well, look, when you have the other people in the campaign questioning exactly the kind of thing that you're questioning, Don, it strikes me that the whole rest of the campaign had a different view. And I would expect that the president wasn't the only person standing with Paul Manafort as he tried to sort of market himself to these former Russian clients of his.

LEMON: OK.

CUCCINELLI: I'd expect the whole rest of the campaign to better reflect the expectations of the president at the time.

LEMON: John, what do you say to that? Does that hold water in your hearing and if that part of Watergate -- these were the guys, I hire those guys, I had nothing to do.

DEAN: Don, one of the things I think we have to put in context here and David Gergen made this point the other day, that Trump was an outlier candidate, he was not plugged into the establishment, in fact, he was anti-establishment that the normal kind of feedback you get from friends and associates would warn you about somebody and their past and their activities and whether they were appropriate or not didn't happen in this campaign. It was also small and chaotic.

LEMON: That's kind of what Ken is saying here.

CUCCINELLI: Yes.

DEAN: It could have been just -- it could have just been a rank, amateur on the part of Trump himself that result in this activity.

LEMON: OK. That's going to be it. Michael, next time we'll get you to weigh in more.

MOORE: That would be great.

LEMON: I appreciate you, gentlemen. Thank you so much. When we come right back, hurricane Maria slams Puerto Rico. One hundred percent of the island without power right now. We'll go there live next.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Hurricane Maria devastating Puerto Rico. One hundred percent of the island without power tonight. And there are fears the blackout could last for months.

On the phone is now hurricane chaser Mike Theiss. Mike, thank you for joining us. We're looking at before and after photos that you posted to Twitter right now showing the damage in Fajardo. The thing that stands out to me the most about these photos is that the trees on the hillside appear to be destroyed. What can you tell us about the conditions in Puerto Rico right now on the ground?

MIKE THEISS, STORM CHASER: Yes. That's true. Most of the trees have been defoliated. There's no more green left on any trees here and if there is anything left they've been wind burned. But right now it's a totally different scene than last night.

Last night all the guests were here in the lobby. We are taking shelter in the safe room. Now the lobby is empty. Everybody is in their room sleeping. Everybody is seeming exhausted. We don't have running water. But I can't complain because I think we're probably one of the few places on this entire island that power right now.

We have a backup generator. We have lights. We have fans so we're staying cool. We have, you know, the necessities that you need with power. So I feel very fortunate that we have power right now. Unfortunately, most of the island does not.

LEMON: Yes. How does what you're seeing, Mike, from Maria compared to other recent storms like Irma and even Harvey?

THEISS: Well, they'll all category four as it landfall and they're similar in the type of winds that I saw. But here being on this island and all that elevation that I was a bit elevated but I think the wind was even stronger. This is probably some of the strongest winds I've ever witnessed other than hurricane Harvey itself in West Florida.

I mean, this hurricane was just it intensified just in the matter of two days. I mean, just out of nowhere it dropped out of the bottom and it exploded. It came in here. I think there may have been a little bit less warning than the other hurricanes.

But overall, I tell you one thing that's interesting as I'm making friends with a lot of people here. And a lot of the folks evacuated Tortola and these other areas from hurricane Irma on their boats or their boats were destroyed there. They came here just to get into the path of another category five hurricane. So this is the year -- I mean, this year the Caribbean is just being hit really hard.

LEMON: Yes It certainly is. Mike Theiss. Thank you. I appreciate it. We've got much more tonight to come on hurricane Maria.

And up next, the GOP making a last ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare. What will be -- what will be covered and what won't. We're going to tell you what this latest bill could mean for your health care.

[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Senate republicans' last ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare picking up support tonight from President Trump.

I want to bring in now CNN congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly. Phil, good evening to you. Thanks for joining us tonight. Tonight President Trump tweeted this, "I would not sign Graham-Cassidy

if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions. It does. A great bill. Repeal and replace."

People like Senator Susan Collins, health insurers, outside healthcare industry groups all say it doesn't. So who's right, Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, Don, President Trump is not on the right side of this at least in one respect. The guarantee, one of the corner stones of Obamacare that those with pre-existing conditions not only would have access to plans but also wouldn't face increased prices because of their pre-existing conditions, that disappears with this bill.

And there's nuance here that's important. Because the bill does maintain the requirement that insurers provide plans to anybody with a pre-existing condition. Here is where it gets a little bit complicated. It allows states to apply for waivers to get out of Obamacare regulations. One of those regulations is the price protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

Now, in its place this bill says that states to obtain these waivers would have to be able to show that they would be able to give affordable and adequate care to individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Those are two very ambiguous terms, Don, that aren't defined in this bill. When you talk to experts who have been reading this, you talk to insurers themselves, they make very clear while not every state will opt out and some states, while not every state will opt out and some states will most certainly maintain those protections, the option is there. The guarantee is gone and it's an almost certainty that some states will opt out and those with pre-existing conditions will end up paying more, DOn.

LEMON: So, Phil, comedian Jimmy Kimmel has become an influential voice on healthcare. Last night he called out Senator Bill Cassidy, one of the co-sponsors of the bill. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: I don't know what happened to Bill Cassidy, but when he was on this publicity tour, he listed his demands for a healthcare bill very clearly. These were his words. He said he wants coverage for all, no discrimination based oh pre-existing conditions, lower premiums for middle class families and no lifetime caps. And guess what? The new bill does none of those things. And this guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:50:06] LEMON: And Senator Cassidy responded today, Phil. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL CASSIDY, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: I'm sorry he does not understand. Under Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson more people will have coverage and we protect those with pre-existing conditions. States like Maine, Virginia, Florida, Missouri, there will be billions of more, billions of more dollars to provide health insurance coverage for those in those states who have been passed by Obamacare and we protect those with pre-existing conditions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Phil, break it down here. Who is right? Is it Bill Cassidy or is it Jimmy Kimmel?

MATTINGLY: late night comedian battling with senator. Exactly where we all expected to end up nine months into the healthcare debate.

Look, both have points that are accurate here, but Jimmy Kimmel is probably more on the side of right here. Again, nuance is important and there are specific designs in this bill. As I noted, state flexibility is something that republicans, conservatives have been pushing very hard.

It's the kind of essential idea behind changing the subsidies structure spiral, sending block grants to the states and letting states design their own systems. But in that flexibility becomes a reduction of the regulations. The regulations that make sure guaranteed caps are there, that make sure pre-existing price protections are maintained.

And then on the idea of more people being covered, Don, the way this bill is drafted, the way these block grants will go out, the way Medicaid will change from an open-ended entitlement to a per capita program. The spending will go down. If spending goes down, states are going to have to make very difficult decisions about coverage.

The idea that there will be more people covered under this bill as it's currently drafted because of the spending, it doesn't ring true when you talk to analysts and you talk to a lot of senators. It's not just democrats that have problems with this. As you noted, several republicans do as well.

So, obviously nuanced complexity, all these things very important here, but Jimmy Kimmel has valid points and obviously this has become a central part of the debate right now.

LEMON: And more to come. Phil Mattingly, thank you, sir. I appreciate it. So if the Graham-Cassidy bill is passed and signed into law, each state's health care funding will be directly impacted. Some will win and others will lose. Big time.

Let's discuss now. CNN's Tom Foreman is here. Tom, what do you know?

TOM FOREMAN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Don, for the tens of millions of Americans who rely on some sort of federal assistance for their healthcare, here is a really key element of this thing. It would take the decision over how that money is spent, many of those decisions away from the federal government and it would give those decisions to state governments across this country.

And it would it in the form of the money. It would take those block grants, give it to all the states and say, now you spend it as it you see fit. And because each state would not necessarily receive the same amount of money that they would expect from Obamacare, yes. There would be winners and losers.

So, with California over here for one example. California bought into Obamacare big time. Sign up a whole lot of people. A lot of people in the Medicaid, which is part of it. The healthcare consulting firm Avalere say that they believe in their analysis that in 2026 California would lose 13 percent of its federal funding under this proposal.

By the 2027 the aggregate would be 19 percent loss. And by 2036 it would be a whopping 41 percent loss out there. And 34 other states would go through some version of this. Health care advocates say they think that would be cuts to the working poor, cuts to people with chronic conditions and cuts to people with very expensive medical treatment that they can't pay for.

But what about these green states in here, what's going on there. Well, Avalere says some of the states that did not buy into Obamacare a lot might initially see their funding go up. Places like Texas, for example, where they believe that there can be about 14 percent increase in the money.

But here is the thing that has a lot of the politicians here talking in this town. Look at the green states out here. Not all of them but almost all of them are states that voted for Donald Trump and are republican strongholds. Don?

LEMON: Yes. And you can certainly see the politics at play here. So let's be more specific. Does this mean some states will continue to get more federal aid while others are left to struggle, and why are the losses ramp up so quickly, Tom?

FOREMAN: Well, these are great question. Now remember, all these numbers are kind of squeeze right now because we don't have the Congressional Budget Office assessment, which we would like that. Hopefully, we'll get one in the not distant future here.

But here's the thing. Even among the states this way and I'm going to change this ma in a moment. And every state out here that changes to gold or brown like California over there, every state that changes like that is a state that in the long run will have less federal funding under this plan...

LEMON: Wow.

FOREMAN: ... than they would expect under Obamacare. And guess what. It's all of them. Analysts say in the long run there will be less federal funding across the board and that's because those block grant the cornerstone of what we're talking about, after 2026 they seized to be under this plan. [22:55:05] That money goes away, which means every state put there has

to come up with another way to raise that money or cuts that they can live with or maybe, maybe, Don, Congress will once again have to take up this thorny issue.

LEMON: Wow. And start all over again. Tom Foreman, great explanation. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

FOREMAN: You're welcome.

LEMON: When we come back, a doctor who is also a mom explains why she opposes the GOP's latest attempt to repeal Obamacare.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Tonight opposition to the latest Obamacare repeal bill is growing among healthcare advocacy groups.

I want to bring in ow Dr. Elizabeth Murray, the national spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics who is a pediatrician at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Doctor, I appreciate you joining us this evening.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement saying in part, "The bill maybe disguise under a different name but it contain the same dangerous policies as a legislation that fail to advance out of the Senate earlier this summer. In fact, Graham-Cassidy goes even further in its attacks on Medicaid."

Explain why this is a bill you cannot support.

ELIZABETH MURRAY, PEDIATRICIAN, UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER: I cannot support it because I know that keeping kids covered and giving them routine access to care and preventative medicine is the very best medicine. You know, I work in an emergency department and I can tell you that asthma untreated is a fatal condition, sycophila untreated is a fatal condition and we want to make sure there are kids grow up healthy and strong.

And so, by giving them preventative care, giving them early access to excellent care we are going to allow kids to master, and in some cases, conquer these illnesses and go on and be healthy, successful, and productive members of society.

LEMON: So, Dr. Murray, break it down for us, how will this bill affect families and specifically children.

MURRAY: Well, we don't know for sure. But the things that concern me the most would be the caps on lifetime of care. You know, even people who are insured like my own family. I had a premature daughter who is now happy and healthy.

But it's very possible that during her time in the NICU she could have met her cap. And again, instead of going on and having all the care she needs we could have been struggling and balancing and trying to figure out how we could pay for her care. That doesn't make a healthy population.

Rolling back the Medicaid expansion doesn't make for healthy adult. We know about 11 million adults, those adults could probably also be parents got coverage under the expansion. And if we roll that back then that means we're going to have more parents who aren't doing a good job of taking care of themselves. And healthy parents help us to help healthy kids. And overall, healthy society.

LEMON: Yes. Dr. Murray, the American Academy of Pediatrics joins all these other groups who are lining up strongly -- to strongly oppose this bill. So what needs to change here, do you see a path forward at this point?

MURRAY: We need a path that includes maintaining coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, regardless of chronic conditions. We need to make sure we continue to expand to get those last few percentage points covered. We know right now we're at 95 percent coverage for children.

We want to move forward, we don't want to roll that back. And we want to make sure that things like block grants and other caps just do not exist, those are completely inflexible programs that in the likes of things such as the hurricanes we've been seeing and the natural disasters or the infectious disasters like the Next Zika we want to make sure states have the flexibility to give the care they need, not just be lock into a finite sum of money and try to decide which -- which battle is the most important to fight when it comes to the health of the population.

[23:00:08] LEMON: So from a medical perspective is that what you just mention if you were drafting this legislation that those are some of the changes you would make. Are there others?