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Shipping Law Waived for Puerto Rico; Vieques Suffers Devastation; Vital Supplies at Port; CNN Poll: 31 Percent Of Republicans View McConnell Favorably; GOP's Brat: Senate Leadership "In For Some Trouble"; Trump: Tax Plan "Once In A Generation Opportunity" Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 28, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The NEW DAY family has grown in an important way. My producer and pal, Rosalie Napoli (ph) just tied the knot. Look at Ryan. Good looking man. Boy, did he trade up. That's Mrs. Rosalie Sheehan (ph). They got married on September 16th in her hometown in Pennsylvania. Very nice.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I mean she went from Napoli to Sheehan, but, OK, for love, I'll allow it.

CUOMO: True. True.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for being here. So great to see you.

LUIS FONSI: Thank you for having me.

CAMEROTA: Time now for "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman.

CUOMO: Thank you, Fonsi.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking this morning, is bureaucracy costing lives, red tape standing between .3.5 million Americans of Puerto Rico and salvation? Look at this. Look at this. Thousands of containers filled with vital supplies, food, water, medical supplies, just sitting at the port in San Juan, not reaching those in need. Moments ago the mayor of San Juan made this plea.


MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: There's about 3,000 containers that are stuck there and there's no reason at all. So my cry today is, let's get it done.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, as she says that, growing lines for food, clean water, gas. You have millions without power. Half of all Puerto Rico's residents without water. Some having to resort to pleading in the streets for someone to come help. And while the White house is just announcing that it will waive the

Jones Act, the law that banned foreign ships from delivers that aid that John just showed you to the island.

Our Boris Sanchez is live in Puerto Rico.

Look, the mayor said, let's get this done. What are you hearing from people that are there?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, very emotional on "NEW DAY" this morning talking about her communications with FEMA asking her to write memos. She said, we don't have time for memos. We need to get the resources in those containers to the people here on the ground.

And since we've been here early this morning just outside San Juan, we've heard over and over people coming up to us and asking where they can get their hands on those resources. Where is FEMA?

We're standing just outside the San Juan ice plant. Since midnight there's been people gathering outside of here. They formed a huge line, dozens and dozens of people, all the way down the block waiting hours and hours for ice. This has been consecutive days now. At least five days where people have come outside the ice plant hoping to get ice for their food and medical equipment.

And, unfortunately, for another consecutive day, the owner of the ice plant has come and told them that he doesn't have the fuel to keep the ice plant running. And this is one ice plant out of several here in San Juan that we have heard are totally shut down.

People here on the ground are desperate. They want help. They want answers. And they feel they are not getting the resources that they need. They want the government to do more, John and Poppy.

BERMAN: All right, Boris Sanchez for us in Puerto Rico right there. A sense of the struggle the people are going through every day.

Thanks, Boris.

HARLOW: So, 50 miles off the coast of the mainland of Puerto Rico, there's the island of Vieques. And it is devastated. Our Bill Weir is there. And he shows us how the 10,000 residents are struggling in the aftermath of Maria. Watch this.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We lift off from San Juan. A route Steven has flown hundreds of times. But this is the scariest sky traffic he's ever seen.

WEIR (on camera): You said you could sense the tension in the air traffic controller's voice.

STEVEN: Absolutely. WEIR (voice-over): The airports have no working radar, so every slow Cessna (ph) and every fast jet is flying by sight in a dust-filled sky.

STEVEN: The air space is so crazy, it's actually dangerous right now.

WEIR: We cross over resorts, of neighborhoods all shattered by Maria. And eight miles later, touch down amid shattered airplanes, as some of the first outsiders to reach Vieques since the storm.

WEIR (on camera): It was just picked up by Maria and thrown here. And look at these over on this side.

WEIR (voice-over): Broken planes are just the first signs of Maria's strength. The entire island is ravaged, from the swanky W Hotel (ph), to the boats of Mosquito Bay.

WEIR (on camera): That is the cabin of a catamaran that tourists called the Naughty Mermaid. And if it looks a little bit odd, it's because it's flipped upside down by what the locals say were 200-mile- an-hour winds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one --

WEIR (voice-over): In happier times, the glow in the dark plankton that lives in this bay helps lure the tours that drive the economy. There is no salvaging the upcoming high season. But that is a worry for later. Right now, it's about survival.

[09:05:03] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're out of food. We are running out of food and water.

WEIR (on camera): That is the kind of heartbreaking, soul-draining scene that's getting played out again and again as people look at her cry, as she gets on a sat phone for the first time.

Oh, my God. It crushes your soul to watch that. And this is the line. This is a two-hour line of folks waiting to give proof of life to a wife or a husband or a father. It's rough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you. Give the kids a call. Bye-bye.

WEIR: How does that feel?


WEIR: Can I see your eyes? Can you remove your sunglasses for me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We're doing all right. You know, it's just --

WEIR: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's just tough. We need help. You know, so go back and tell them.

WEIR: That's why I'm here, brother. That's why I'm here. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go back and tell them, we need help. Tell the

president, our senators, everybody needs help here.


WEIR: After the storm blew through, you flew down here with a bag of satellite phones?

ROBERT BECKER, RELIEF ORGANIZER: First flight. We had a lot of folks in the U.S. that were stepping up and contributing. And we decided the most important thing was to establish communications, because we weren't hearing from anybody.

WEIR: When is help coming?


WEIR: There are a lot of people who have promised to bring supplies, but it hasn't arrived yet, the deputy mayor tells me. Red tape seems to be their biggest enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The relief efforts and the aid, some of it may be coming. We're here and we're trying to get those coordination's through clearance, those orders to be issued so we can get them, because the island is feeling this type of pressure.

WEIR: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the tensions are running high.

WEIR: Do you feel American at moments like this? Do you feel neglected in moments like this? Somewhere in between?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think -- I think we have to take a deep breath and say, you know, we are U.S. citizens. It's been 100 years since Woodrow Wilson in 1917 made us U.S. citizens. It should mean something. And right now we are -- we are -- we are a forgotten island. And that shouldn't be.

WEIR: For years the U.S. Navy used this island for target practice until the locals got fed up. What better way to make it up to them by storming the beaches with aid instead of bombs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is something that needs and requires someone who knows how to distribute goods in the middle of almost a war zone.

WEIR: So you're making a plea for martial law?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am making a plea for martial law. I'm making a plea for having three, four, five days where we can distribute diesel, where we can distribute water, where we can give food. I mean it's been six days after the hurricane, and it's just a horrible scenario in Puerto Rico.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just need to tell my mom I'm OK. Do you have her number? WEIR (voice-over): Brittany (ph) moved here from Brooklyn four years ago. Now she's helpless because she has no cash in a cash-only society.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. I love you. Bye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on. Everything's going to be all right. OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have no (EXPLETIVE DELETED) money. They won't let us get money. And I can't use my debit card. So we're all screwed. I don't even know what to do.

WEIR: Right. Here's a few bucks. Here's a few bucks. Oh, my gosh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so stressful. But we're OK. Like, we're not going to die, but like there's no help. This is the only help. (INAUDIBLE) saved everybody here. Like, I don't know what else to say, but private citizens have come through for us, and no one else really has.


BERMAN: There's no help.


BERMAN: That message on the island of Vieques. Our thanks to Bill Weir for that report.

Joining us now, the former director of FEMA, who led the organization when Hurricane Katrina hit. Michael Brown joins us right now.

Mr. Brown, you know, you heard that last plea from the woman on Vieques, no one is here to help. You've seen the picture that we've been showing all morning of these cargo ships by the thousands -- not the cargo ships, the cargo trucks right there.

HARLOW: Three thousand.

BERMAN: Three thousand of them sitting at the port of San Juan not being distributed. The mayor says bureaucracy getting in the way of saving lives. How can this be?

MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER ADMINISTRATOR, FEMA: Well, there are two -- there are two intersecting timelines. The first timeline is, you have to assess the damage to the ports and the runways. And then once you assess that damage, you have to make whatever repairs are necessary so the ships can get into the port.

But, remember, once you get the ships into the port, you have to assess the damage to the docks to make certain that you can offload that -- those supplies from the ships on to the docks. At the same time, people's frustrations begin to grow as people are trying to get the supplies in.

So, for example, I've had people say to me, why don't they just take Chinook helicopters and just air lift everything in. Well, the problem is, you have to make sure that the pallets that you're going to take in from a Chinook helicopter, that there's a place to actually put those safely and that you then have people on the ground that can do the orderly distribution of those supplies.

So as this timeline of getting repairs and assessments and supplies in increases, and people start moving things in, at the same time peoples frustrations begin to grow and you start to hear these stories that, you know, where is the help, where is the help. And those two things will come together probably today or in the next, I would say, 24 to 48 hours. But you will hear and the media will report two things. They'll report the frustration of the people, which is absolutely understandable because they don't have power, they don't have water. They need help.

[09:10:29] At the same time, the government's moving as quickly as it can to get those things in. And I think what we forget in this country, because we're such a great, powerful country, that as as powerful and as great as we are, you can't just move a ship in unless the port's safe, unless the dock's safe.


BROWN: And as you heard in that earlier report, you can't use -- you can only use visual flight rules to land a cargo plane. And even then, you have to make sure that the runway is safe.

Now, given all of that, when all of that's done, you then still have to have the people on the ground to actually start doing the distribution. So I think you'll see things start to improve. But as things start to improve, peoples frustrations still continued to grow. This happens in every single disaster.

HARLOW: OK. But let's pull that picture back up of these 3,000 cargo containers filled with supplies that John was talking about. Those are off the ships. Those are on the dock. And those are not to the people yet.

So when they see that and the mayor of San Juan says let's get it done, it's incredibly frustrating for people. And you do have critics of the president, some in Congress, who are saying, this could be President Trump's Katrina. Do you agree?

BROWN: So what they -- so, Poppy, what they -- what they need do is -- in cooperation with the DOD, if whatever -- whatever cargo containers have been moved off the ships on to the docks, they now need to air lift service men in so they can start the distribution. And I would argue that that's something they should be doing today. They need to be doing that now because, again, frustration is beginning to grow. The supplies are there. Now, let's get busy, get off our rear-ends, and make certain that the distribution starts to occur immediately.

BERMAN: You say, let's do that now. Let's get it done. The president has said that his administration's response to the disaster there is great and amazing. Do you share that assessment? BROWN: Well, I -- look, I would put it in different terms. I would say

that it's efficient, and it's effective. But you're reaching that critical point where these two timelines come together that if you don't do the extra push to now do the distribution of those things that are there, that's where you start having the problems. As you -- as you actually pointed out --

BERMAN: You -- you talking -- you seem to be talking about --

BROWN: Pardon?

BERMAN: I'm sorry. You seem to be saying that the administration is suffering from a perception problem here. And you know that perception in a disaster response can be very important.

BROWN: Perception is reality. Perception is absolutely reality. And that's why I say, if we have -- if we have containers that have been moved off the ships on to the docks, the key point now is to absolutely push as hard as you can. In fact, Brock Long and the president and the secretary of defense should be saying to everybody right now, get everything out into a distribution center and start getting immediately things to people because they've now reached that critical juncture where if you don't do that, and you have people who are being interviewed and shown on television that, hey, we don't have anything here, that -- if you -- if you allow that to grow faster than you do the distribution, then you face the problem that I faced, and that is people are questioning, where is this stuff?

HARLOW: Why do you think today -- why do you think --

BROWN: I'm sorry, Poppy, what?

HARLOW: But why do you think today is the critical moment? I mean why do you say that has to happen today? I mean you just heard those people in Bill Weir's piece saying, we are Americans. We have no help. Only private citizens are helping us. Why was it not yesterday or the day before or the day before?

BROWN: Well, I -- I can't judge that because I'm not on the ground. But I would say that what -- if I were in your shoes, Poppy, and I had -- and I had a team of investigators, I would find out, how long did it take to do the assessments of the ports and the assessment of the docks. Because it's one thing to get the ships into the ports. It's another thing to get the cargo off the ships on to the dock. The question the people should be asking now, which I think is a legitimate question, where is -- where are the personnel to now start doing the distribution? I think that's the question that should be asked.

HARLOW: A lot of people are asking it this morning. Michael Brown, we appreciate your time, thank you.

BROWN: My pleasure.

HARLOW: Coming up for us, a Mitch switch? Just after calling the Senate majority leader weak at a private fundraiser this weekend, the president, this morning, says he has confidence in Mitch McConnell.

[09:15:00] BERMAN: So much for draining the swamp, unless the drained swamp has a runway for a private jet. New reports of cabinet members living the high life on the taxpayer dime.


BERMAN: This morning in the wake of the stinging losses in the Alabama Senate primary and on healthcare, President Trump said he has confidence in Mitch McConnell, but when it comes to Republicans as a whole, the review is not so positive.

HARLOW: A new CNN poll shows that the Senate majority leader is now sitting at just 31 percent approval, that is among Republican voters. It is down from 51 percent in April, and the news comes after several unsuccessful attempts at repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Joining us now Republican Congressman Dave Brat of Virginia. He is a member of the House Freedom Caucus who has not been shy about sharing his feelings, calling it an embarrassment to Congress right now what is going on. Thank you for being with us, sir.

And following what we saw in Roy Moore's victory in Alabama, of course, backed by Steve Bannon, anti-establishment in every possible way. What does this bode for the future?

[09:20:08] I mean, you're someone who succeeded that primary prominent of leadership. Is this just a sign of what is to come for the Republican Party?

REP. DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA, FREEDOM CAUCUS MEMBER: Yes. I don't think it's specific just to our party. I think that the press has not really analyzed it as a totality yet. This movement you're talking about, wages have been flat for 30 to 40 years.

And we've had a national movement from Bernie all the way through the Midwestern states, right to far left Midwest, this blue-collar Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, all the way through Trump.

And the problem is the bubble, right? So, it's kind of Americana versus the bubble. The bubble has got cranes going all over the place, new construction, shiny everything. The heartland hasn't had a wage increase in 30 to 40 years.

So, it's a bipartisan failure. Our welfare system is out of whack. K to 12 is not prepping kids to be pro-business and ready for business. We have serious work to do on both sides of the aisle. We can work together on some of that stuff.

But tax cuts right now is a little bit of good news, the markets are up yesterday. Capital investment was down a percent last year --

BERMAN: Let's talk about that.

BRAT: Yes. BERMAN: Let's talk about the tax cuts right now. We got the framework yesterday. Can you guarantee that this tax cut will not add to the deficit?

BRAT: I can guarantee that this tax cut is better than our current tax system, which --

BERMAN: That wasn't the question. That wasn't the question.

HARLOW: Try again, Congressman.

BRAT: You guys are always great on that. No one has been concerned on the left under Obama, he increased the debt from 10 trillion to 20 trillion and you guys --

BERMAN: But you've been concerned about this.

BRAT: I am.

BERMAN: A dramatic reading from the archives of Dave Brat right now.

BRAT: OK. I'll give you my --

BERMAN: On the national debt -- hang on, "We have a moral obligation to address the failure," talking about the national debt. "We owe it to our children and grandchildren to put this nation on a solid sustainable and permanent course toward eliminating deficit spending and reducing the national debt." So why was there this moral obligation under President Obama but not President Trump?

BRAT: No. Whoever wrote that quote was a very wise, moral man. What we got to cover here is about a trillion and a half, right? So, we are going to go deficit a trillion and a half over 10 years. So that's $150 billion a year.

If you get 1 percent economic growth or two more, right, added, we will pay for that. I'm an economist, if you get people entering the work force instead of -- they're currently leaving the work force, right, because the welfare system, the skills gap, and all these things we could talk about.

The deficit is a huge problem. My kindergartners now back home, they're the class of 2030. They'll graduate from college in 2034. That's the year that Medicare and Social Security go insolvent.

You're right. The deficit is a disaster. We're stealing from the next generation. The one thing we can do for them is get the economy moving again. We got to ignite the engine.

HARLOW: So, Congressman, I want to get through a few things before they yell wrap in my ear, OK. So, one, just yes or no to John's question. Can you guarantee the deficit won't balloon under this plan just like it did during Reagan?

BRAT: In the short run, there is going to be some deficit pain for sure, but by the end of ten years, economic analysis shows we should be OK.

HARLOW: OK. So, that's a no in the short-term. The second question is the president said when he was speaking earlier this week to a group of Republicans and Democrats, we may just see 6 percent growth.

OK, 6 percent growth is something we have not seen on an annual basis since the mid-1980s and that was because of the Reagan tax cuts, but the deficit ballooned. Do you think the president's math makes sense here?

BRAT: Well, it can. Again, we're abstracting from one side of the equation. All the burden is on economic growth and revenues. There's no talk about the spending problem we got in D.C., right? The thing I just talked about from Bernie all the way through Trump, the heartland says D.C. is out of control on the spending front.

So, the math can work. We can get to 4 percent growth. JFK did it. It's bipartisan. JFK was pro-tax cut, he got 4 percent, 5 percent real growth. Reagan got 4 percent, 5 percent growth.

You do get -- if you blow up spending with it, of course, deficits go up, and we've shown no ability to control. That's the swamp, right? Anything we do up here that has an impact on spending never goes through.

That is pastry, the cronies, the lawyers, the special interests are in total control. That's why you opened the segment with there's some discontent with Republican leadership especially on the Senate side. The spending side we have not dealt with at all.

BERMAN: We've got 10 seconds left. You want to send a message to the people of Puerto Rico about what you're doing to help?

BRAT: Yes. God bless, we had a vote yesterday. I voted yes. We'll have a vote today to speed relief. I think Trump is on it. We're all with you. You're in our prayers.

[09:25:08] We'll send you not only the money, but hopefully the equipment and the assets to get things done. We'll repair the rest of the country that was devastated in these hurricanes as well. Our hearts go out to you.

BERMAN: Congressman Dave Brat of Virginia, always a pleasure to have you on, sir.

BRAT: Thank you, guys.

BERMAN: Straight ahead, President Trump calls his tax cut a middle- class miracle, but what does it do for him and billionaires? It doesn't hurt.

HARLOW: Before the bell, stock futures pointing a little bit lower open on Wall Street just a day after markets surged on the news that President Trump's plan to cut taxes for businesses, next.