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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Puerto Rico in Crisis; Interview With California Congressman Adam Schiff; Kushner Under Fire Over Private E-Mail Use; People Forced to Use Rope to Cross Washed Out Bridge; Chef Jose Andres Leads Food Mission in Hard-Hit Town. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired September 28, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're going to begin this afternoon with some breaking news in our politics lead.
Earlier this week, you might remember CNN reported that Jared Kushner, the president's senior adviser and son-in-law, had used his personal e-mail account for official White House business.
CNN breaking the story now that Kushner had not disclosed the existence of this personal e-mail account to the Senate Intelligence Committee. And the senators who head that committee are not pleased that they learned of the existence of this e-mail account from the media.
CNN is exclusively reporting right now, this morning, the chairman of the committee, Republican Senator Richard Burr, and the vice chairman, Democratic Senator Mark Warner, sent a letter to Kushner through his attorney, Abbe Lowell, instructing Kushner to make sure he has turned over every relevant document to the committee, including those from his -- quote -- "personal e-mail account described in the news media, as well as all over accounts, messaging apps, or similar communications channels you may have used or that may contain information relevant to our inquiry" -- unquote.
In a statement to CNN, Abbe Lowell, Kushner's attorney, said -- quote -- "It is perfectly normal that the committees would want to make sure that they received all pertinent records. We did review this account at the time, and there were no responsive or relevant documents there. The committee was so informed when documents were produced, and there is no issue here" -- unquote.
However, this issue could become even more serious if it turns out Kushner failed to turn over any private communications about the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference, and if, if he was actively trying to hide any information from the committee.
You may recall that Kushner has previously come under scrutiny for not disclosing contacts with more than 100 foreign officials during the campaign. He also was part of that June 2016 meeting in which he, Donald Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort met with a lawyer billed as being with the Russian government who was said to have incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, which we only know about, by the way, because of "The New York Times."
The Senate Intelligence Committee would not offer CNN any official comment on this morning's letter, which was labeled committee- sensitive. So, how did we get it?
Well, you might remember last month, when we told you and the British e-mail prankster who uses e-mail to impersonate members of President Trump's inner circle and solicits information from other Trump insiders by so doing.
Earlier this week, said prankster pretended to be Jared Kushner and he engaged in some back-and-forth with attorney Abbe Lowell about fictitious scandalous e-mails that fictitious Kushner had written.
This morning, after Burr and Warner sent their letter to Lowell, he inadvertently forwarded that very real letter from the very legitimate Senate Intelligence Committee to the fake Kushner account run by the e-mail prankster. He shared it with us and we have independently verified the later's authenticity.
The bizarreness of all that, however, is in contrast to how seriously the Senate Intelligence Committee chair and the vice chair consider this nondisclosure by Kushner to be.
Joining me now is Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is also, of course, investigating Russian interference in the election.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
What is your reaction to Kushner not disclosing to the Senate Intelligence Committee the existence of this personal e-mail account, at least according to the vice chair and the chair of the committee. Did he disclose it to the House Intelligence Committee?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Jake, we're going through Mr. Kushner's production to the committee.
Even prior to this issue coming up, we have had questions about whether that production was complete or not. And I expect that we will be following up with Mr. Kushner on it.
We certainly asked for any relevant documents, e-mails, text messages, any platform he used to communicate information that is relevant to our investigation. So, if any of those e-mails in that private account that's been reported pertain in any way to the investigation, they should have been turned over.
So we're reviewing the production again to determine whether it's complete. We may bring Mr. Kushner back, because he was brought in before the committee before we had received other documents from other sources that we may need to confront him with. So, at this point, we don't know. We need to find out whether there
are any materials either in a private e-mail account or elsewhere that have not been turned over to the committee that should be.
TAPPER: When the committees, whether the House or the Senate, asks somebody like Jared Kushner to turn over all pertinent information, there is something of an honor system going on. You are relying on him to do that willingly, and yet we know that Kushner in the past has at least initially not disclosed everything that he's supposed to disclose.
I'm thinking, of course, of the more than 100 contacts and meetings he had with foreign officials that he did not disclose initially.
SCHIFF: Well, our practice in the House -- and this differs a bit from the Senate -- is, although we are inviting witnesses to come in an initial stage voluntarily and only subpoena them as necessary, all of our interviews are under oath.
So when we ask the witnesses, as we often do, have you produced all of the documents that were requested of you, all the documents relevant to this investigation, those answers are under oath.
So we often will ask witnesses -- and I can't comment on the specific questions that may have been asked here -- but we often ask them, what e-mail addresses did you use, what text platforms did you use? Did you use encrypted applications?
So, of course, we will review our information to see what his testimony was. But, also, we will want to follow up to make sure that that document production was complete.
TAPPER: Representatives of Twitter met with investigators from your community today. The company has admitted that fake Twitter accounts and bots potentially linked to Russia helped spread fake news during the campaign.
What more did you or your staffers learn about how this was exploited and what can be done, if anything, to stop it in the future?
SCHIFF: Well, I think we -- you know, I would consider this really just the first briefing of a great many to come, because I think the investigation still has a lot of work to do.
And I don't mean just ours. I think Twitter and Facebook have to do more investigating of their own platforms to give the American people a more clear answer and a more complete answer about the ways in which Russia used their platforms, in the case of Twitter, the use of bots, for example, but also the degree to which they tried to create trends on Twitter or push out false news or information that was attacking Hillary Clinton or helping Donald Trump.
We only, I think, got some preliminary information today. It was useful, but there is a great deal more that we need to learn. TAPPER: These Russian operatives who were using Twitter, Facebook,
and other platforms to spread misinformation, lies about Hillary Clinton, is there any evidence that you know of tying anyone in the Trump campaign orbit with any of these Russians?
SCHIFF: Well, these are some of the questions that we're going to ask when we have our open hearing with these companies in October.
And that is, what can they tell us about the targeting of social media on their platforms? How specific was it? Was it at the state level, or was it down to the precinct level? Did they see more activity directed towards certain individuals that was incompatible with a lack of access to the data analytics of the campaign?
They are not in a position, necessarily, unless they were in direct conversations with the campaign on this subject, to know what conversations the campaign may or may not have had with Russians or Russian entities.
But they can tell us about sophistication of the targeting. And they have enough experience, I think, in this area to give us a sense of, is this something that could be done blindly, is this something that could be done just on the basis of publicly available information, or would the Russians have really needed the campaign's data to target this well?
TAPPER: All right, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California, thanks so much for your time, sir.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: And this just into CNN.
Twitter has informed Congress that it took down roughly 200 Russian- linked accounts that sought to interfere in American politics. The accounts were identified by matching them up with Facebook accounts that had already been taken down by that company.
As with Facebook, the Twitter account sought to amplify political discord by highlighting hot-button issues, such as race and immigration, Twitter executives met with the Senate and House Intelligence Committees today amid the ongoing investigations into Russia's efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign.
Coming up: thousands of shipping containers sitting in Puerto Rico's ports. Is the aid getting to the people who need it the most quickly enough?
Coming up next.
TAPPER: And we're back with the national lead. After days of criticism, heartbreaking images, and infuriating news report, the Trump administration seems to be shifting in its public posture regarding the humanitarian crisis affecting the 3.5 million Americans in Puerto Rico.
Today, the Pentagon announced that it put a three-star general in charge of the relief effort, as the head of FEMA told CNN this about the current pace of recovery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROCK LONG, ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: No, I'm not satisfied, because the fact is, is that we will not be satisfied until we stabilize the situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Contrast that with President Trump repeatedly saying that his administration was getting good marks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They know how hard we're working and what a good job we're doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: More evidence of a shift today, President Trump waived the Jones Act to help speed up supply shipments on the seas.
When asked about the request for that waiver yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told CNN -- quote -- "Right now, it is not needed."
But that will not help this. Look at this video. More than 7,000 cargo containers, some possibly with vital supplies, sitting at a San Juan shipping dock, but the big problem, there are few trucks or drivers to move those containers and many roads are obstructed.
Let's bring in CNN's Boris Sanchez. He's at the Port of San Juan for us.
Boris, clear something up for us. The president's homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, he just said that all that cargo behind you, that's not the aid that is not getting to people. So what's the situation?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is confusing, Jake, especially because earlier in the day, we heard from a spokesperson for the governor of Puerto Rico, Yennifer Alvarez, who said that there were close to 9,500 containers at Port San Juan full of aid that weren't getting to the people that were need in here Puerto Rico.
A short while ago, I was able to clear this up with the vice president of Crowley's Operations here in Puerto Rico. Crowley is the company that manages these shipping containers. His name is Jose Ayala. He told me that this isn't designated federal supplies, federal aid. This isn't FEMA material that is not getting to Puerto Rico. Those shipping containers have already been disbursed. But these are still valuable goods that people could certainly use on the island, things like water, medication, clothing, all kinds of supplies that could help people that are in desperate need.
[16:15:13] So, he says they are just as vital to population here. He was trying to make the case that to the average person whose family is suffering right now who are starving and thirsty, don't have (AUDIO GAP) doesn't matter who is handing them the aid, it's more of a matter of getting it to them.
Part of the reason they haven't been able to is simply because there are not enough truckers available. We've heard several reasons as to why. It could be that some of these truckers aren't able to communicate with their bosses to let them know they're OK., that their homes are still in place. Many may not have the fuel to get to work.
There are a series of layers here, Jake, that are complicating getting resources where they need to go. One that likely will take some time to unravel, Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Boris Sanchez in Puerto Rico for us, thank you so much.
With food and water in scarce supply, one world renowned chef is taking matters into his own hands in Puerto Rico, making and handing out hundreds of meals from a tiny house in one of the poorest neighborhoods of San Juan.
Stick around. We'll bring you that story.
[16:20:25] TAPPER: And we're back with the national lead, the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Puerto Rico.
Here's evidence of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. This is central Puerto Rico. CNN found people forced to hold on to a rope for dear life as they crossed this bridge that had been washed out by the hurricane.
CNN's Bill Weir made his way to a different hard hit part of San Juan and he joins me now live.
Bill, you met up with celebrity chef doing what he can to help victims.
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is the moment when so many people are trying to just engage in some action, something, as the frustrations over the federal response boil over. I got a Twitter message last night from one of the most famous chefs in the world who said, hey, I'm feeding 5,000 people tomorrow in one of the poorer neighborhoods of San Juan. So I want to check it out.
WEIR (voice-over): In happier times, he'd be barking orders at Sous Chefs, in one of his 26 restaurants, from Spain to Beverly Hills. But today, Jose Andres is one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Juan, with volunteers from eight to 80 working paella pans and sandwich assembly lines, all in an urgent race to feed as many hungry Puerto Ricans as humanly possible.
(on camera): Which is more satisfying to you as a chef? Serving a gastro creation in New York or Washington, or helping someone down here?
JOSE ANDRES, CHEF: I always say that chefs like me, we love to feed a few, but I think we love even more feeding the many.
WEIR (voice-over): He's become almost a fixture in disaster zones from Haiti to Harvey, but was most recently in the headlines for a two-year legal battle with the president. After candidate Donald Trump referred to Mexicans as rapists, Andres pulled his restaurant from the Trump Hotel in Washington, both sides sued and later settled.
(on camera): You've had a rather public feud with President Trump in recent years, what is your reaction to him lifting the Jones Act today?
ANDRES: Probably the Jones Act has been one of the bad things that happened to Puerto Rico over many years. I know moment like this, you wouldn't have the island. You need pragmatic, smart, business-like decisions. I will say I will clap at him for doing this. But we need to make sure it's happening and it's use for the betterment of the lives of the people of Puerto Rico.
We know that after situations like Haiti, we had between 25,000 and 30,000 military on the work. I was there. I watch it. Of course, very good operation for a very big disaster. I hear that we have only 5,000 people in this island.
Long story short, we have great military, we have great National Guard. It's a moment to be using them for the betterment of the lives of so many Americans, yes. And what's the moment? The moment is now.
WEIR (voice-over): He says half of his job here is navigating around the red tape that snarls massive federal projects like this. Some, but not all of the food is donated. And some time after things have calmed down, they'll figure out how to pay for it all.
ANDRES: Who has the money? I don't know.
WEIR (on camera): Yes.
ANDRES: I'm sure Red Cross has money. I'm sure FEMA has money. And I'm sure they're using the money well. But I can tell you that will as the private sector, we can use the money better.
WEIR (voice-over): It turns out the paella guy is faster than San Juan traffic will allow.
ANDRES: (INAUDIBLE) when we get the pickup truck, with food (INAUDIBLE) I will send it.
WEIR: But the day's first sandwich delivery is ready, bound for the doctors and nurses at the University of Puerto Rico hospital.
(on camera): Doing great work. Thanks, chef. All right, here we go.
(voice-over): We race across town and as we arrive at a place where an emergency room is full and generators are nearly empty. There is a stark reminder of why they're all working with such urgency. Just as the nourishment is wheeled in, a victim of Maria's brutal aftermath is wheeled out.
WEIR: A reminder of such horror that is still playing out across most of the island. Pitbull, the celebrity singer sent a private jet down here to evacuate cancer patients, but, you know, singers and chefs can only do so much. This is a humanitarian crisis on the biggest scale we've seen in a long time right now.
But for those who do feel compelled just to do anything, even to give a sandwich to a doctor, #chefsforpuertorico is Jose Andres' charity.
[16:25:01] You can see there, it's actually going to very, very good cause.
And, Jake, after seeing so much misery in Vieques yesterday, he also vowed to send two boats worth of food out there tomorrow. Fingers crossed for those people who are still hoping against hope that help will arrive on a bigger scale.
TAPPER: All right. Bill Weir in Puerto Rico for us, thanks so much.
Some members of President Trump's cabinet are coming under fire for using private jets on a taxpayer time. One of those cabinet secretaries just made a big announcement about his travel. And that story is next.
TAPPER: And we're back with some breaking news in our politics lead.
Department of Health and Human Services secretary, Dr. Tom Price, has been on something of shaky ground after taking flights using taxpayer funds, for more than two dozen private planes while on government business.
Now, Secretary Price says he will no longer take private charter flights as secretary. He also says he's going to write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury for the expenses of his seats on those charter planes.
Now, earlier when asked if he would fire Secretary Price, President Trump responded, "We'll see." The president has made it clear he's not happy about the practice, in which at least three cabinet members have engaged.