Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Puerto Rican Press Conference; Millions still Suffer in Puerto Rico; Soap Star Joins Relief Effort; Price Pays Portion of Trips; Cohn Misstatement in Tax Discussion. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 29, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: Afterwards we had the opportunity to sit with their assets from the Energy Department, from the OMB office, from TSA, and the administrator is here with us, as well, so that we can have a -- a working session with our leads in energy, infrastructure, security, and other areas of our government.

So we are thankful for her leadership, for being here. I have to say that the secretary called on me prior to Irma and prior to Maria to make sure that we had our assets. Let us know that there were going to be naval assets off the coast ready for Puerto Rico once -- if we were able to meet them. And just to make sure that we could have direct communication in case a catastrophe such as this hit Puerto Rico.

So it is our pleasure to have you here, madam secretary. And we would like you to address the people of Puerto Rico and the crowd.

ELAINE DUKE, ACTING HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Thank you so much, governor.

It's really an honor to be here today. Even in these difficult circumstances. Having two major hurricanes in less than three weeks, your team has been exemplary.

The president sends his thanks to you, to you, representative, and to the people of Puerto Rico for their resilience and their dedication to recovering quickly to their normal lives.

The president sent me to Puerto Rico today to meet with the governor and our unified command team on the ground. I needed to see it in person to assess to see -- to -- how -- making sure that we all had the assets we need to continue the recovery.

I'm joined here today by Coast Guard commander of the Atlantic area, Vice Admiral Schultz, TSA Administrator Pekoske, Lieutenant General Seminent (ph) of the Army Corps of Engineers, and deputy secretary of Energy, Dan Brouillette, and the FDA administrator, Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

I will be going up after these comments to meet with our joint field office and ensure they have what they need to continue recovering. And these experts will be answering questions, along with the governor.

We have over 10,000 federal people on the ground. Many of them have been here since before Irma and stayed in between the hurricanes. We have the department of Defense, the National Guard, the territorial resources, and the federal teams all working together. The amount of integration of the working teams is really admirable. And it is something that will set the standard for the future.

The people, despite the working together, I know that the people in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are suffering. We are here, and we have been here to help them. We are continually bringing additional supplies and personnel to further assist distribution efforts on the ground.

In our visit today, we saw more clear roads and the ability to move from the initial response of lifesaving recovery and clearing debris into what the governor's current major focus is, is more effective distribution of the assets. And that's what we're working on jointly. We are moving forward on that.

We have been working closely together to help our fellow Americans. And yesterday I was asked if I was happy and satisfied with the recovery. I am proud of the work that's being done. I am proud of Americans helping Americans, friends and strangers alike. I am proud of the work that DOD, FEMA, and the territory, along with first responders are doing.

Clearly, the situation here in Puerto Rico, after the devastating hurricane, is not satisfactory. But together we are getting there. And the progress today is very, very strong.

The president and I will not be fully satisfied, however, until every Puerto Rican is back home, the power is back on, clean water is freely available, schools and hospitals are fully open and the Puerto Rican economy is working.

Right now our top priorities are the lives and safety of our fellow Americans. And there is much work to do. I have spent all morning with the governor and received those priorities to make sure we're on target.

We continue to stand with the people of Puerto Rico and all the survivors of this hurricane. And I thank you for your concern for this time that's so challenging for so many.

ROSSELLO: Thank you, madam secretary.

Also with us, our congresswoman, who would like to make some remarks about our visit today.

[14:05:04] CONGRESSWOMAN JENNIFFER GONZALEZ-COLON, PUERTO RICO: Thank you, governor.

And this is the best example when the federal government is working together with local officials in terms of getting Puerto Rico (INAUDIBLE). I mean having the Homeland Security secretary here, doing the job not alone, she brought all the resources from Homeland Security, TSA administrator, the deputy secretary of Energy. She brought the vice admiral of the Coast Guard. Also the Corps of Engineers. I mean, the communications guy for -- to help the island recover sooner. And I think this is a commitment of the secretary. This is the commitment of the president and the cabinet. And we are -- we are hoping that this devastation can go along soon. I mean we need to recover.

I think the efforts of the governor of Puerto Rico and all of the local staff, working together with the federal agencies, are the only -- the only way ahead to get these things done.

I feel proud to work with you, madam secretary, and to assign the resources that are going to be assigned during this next month in Congress for relief through FEMA and other federal agencies.

Thank you, governor.

ROSSELLO: Thank you.

Well, once again, we want to thank the whole team. We want to thank the general, the admiral. We want to thank the administrator, the doctor, and, of course, our FEMA team over here. But, of course, our homeland Security secretary for being here in Puerto Rico, standing strong with the people of Puerto Rico, making sure that the administration commitments go through. And we would like to now excuse the secretary. She has to head on over.

Thank you, Madame secretary.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so prior to the governor and the representative there, you were listening to Elaine Duke, acting Homeland Security secretary. Came down to Puerto Rico today. Definitely getting some heat for saying that the response so far was, quote, "a good news story." She responded a bit there saying she's proud of Americans helping each other. The mayor of San Juan weighed in on Elaine Duke's original comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: This is not a good news story. This is a people are dying story. This is a life-or-death story. This is -- there's a truckload of stuff that cannot be taken to people, story. This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water. If I could scream it a lot more louder -- it is not a good news story when people are dying, when they don't have dialysis, when their generators aren't working and their oxygen isn't providing for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: To be clear there, that was the mayor responding earlier this morning to Elaine Duke who had originally said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELAINE DUKE, ACTING HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I am very satisfied. I know it's a hard storm to recover from, but the amount of progress that's been made -- and I really would appreciate any support that we get. I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: This back and forth as millions of Americans rationing lifesaving resources, going to bed hungry, thirsty, still without power, water, gas. These pictures and stories we're getting from CNN's own teams on the ground speak for themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I can't even believe what's happening here. I mean she is -- there's no power. There's no water. She's a diabetic. She doesn't have insulin. She has an infection that could threaten her life. No ambulance will take her to the hospital. That's what's happening here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: With me now, CNN's Rafael Romo, who's at a supermarket in San Juan that has reopened.

But, you know, I see the line behind you. I know there are worries of some potentially dangerous stampede. I mean they have rules to get food. What are they, Rafael?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, first of all, these are the lucky people. These are the people who can buy the food they need, the water they need. This is not indicative of what's happening in the entire island. But we wanted to show you what people are having to go through.

This is a line. It takes about an hour to get inside the store. And they're only allowing about ten people at a time to be able to buy. People have -- the line actually has been grow longer and longer since we got here a couple of hours ago and they're rationing water, Brooke. They only allow a family to buy three gallons per family. So it's going very, very slowly.

[14:10:08] And I was just talking to the owner of the store and he told me that he is surviving on some of the supplies that he had before the storm. And he has managed to get some suppliers to deliver some goods in the last few days, four days ago. It's when he started getting more supplies.

But the reality is that this is not a good situation. This is the United States of America. This is a U.S. territory. And people are having to wait in line for hours and hours.

And now it's very hot here, Brooke. Just to give you an idea, 89 degrees right now here in this district of San Juan. We are in Rio Cuierez (ph). And people standing here, it's just very, very difficult for everybody involved.

BALDWIN: Can't even begin to imagine. They need more water. Let me just state the obvious. Hopefully help is on the way.

Rafael, thank you so much.

You know, obviously, our focus is on Puerto Ricans. And there are a lot of celebrity Puerto Ricans who are using their platforms to help get the water and food and relief to Mexico. People like Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Pit Bull, Rosie Perez, who will be joining me live here next hour.

But my next guest is Kamar de los Reyes. He is a Puerto Rican actor, best known for his role as Antonio Vega on the daytime soap opera "One Life to Live." He is a native of San Juan and is actively helping to raise money for relief efforts.

Kamar, it is so nice to see you. Thank you for joining me.

KAMAR DE LOS REYES, PUERTO RICAN ACTOR: Thanks for having me on, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So let's go back. You managed to get a flight to Puerto Rico. This is after the hurricane hit, is my understanding. And you went because you wanted to help, you wanted to check in on your family, including your mother, who I read is half blind and partially deaf at 84. How is she doing?

DE LOS REYES: You know, I originally went to go rescue my mom, you know, to get her off the island. You know, I had booked two roundtrip tickets to get back two days later. She's -- she survived it physically. But, you know, as you can see, you know, the lines at the supermarkets, the lines at -- you know, to get water, she's not capable of doing any of that.

And, you know, what I believe the correspondent, Rafael, I believe his names was --

BALDWIN: Yes.

DE LOS REYES: You know, what he did mention about, you know, standing in those lines is, those are cash transactions only. So if you're lucky enough to get cash, you know, you have to stand in a line for two hours prior to that to get cash if, you know, if you're lucky enough to get it. So it's a horrible situation right now. Horrible.

BALDWIN: You -- I came in to work this morning just watching Instagram video after Instagram video from you. Let me just show our viewers just two videos that you took I think showing precisely that.

DE LOS REYES: Thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DE LOS REYES: No water. None. No water.

A lot of people are desperate to get off the island.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I mean, Kamar, you know, you said you were shell-shocked that conditions were way worse than you expected them to be. Talk to me about that.

DE LOS REYES: Yes, it's like a war zone out there, Brooke. I've never seen anything like it. And I've done -- you know, I've been to Afghanistan with, you know, on USO tours and it's just -- it's so close to my heart. It's hard to -- it's hard to breathe when you see your people suffering that way and when you see, you know, American citizens suffering the way they're suffering right now.

Bonzi (ph) airport is still not open. We still can't get to that side of the island. They're still without running water, without electricity, without communication. Food is running -- food is running -- I just spoke to a friend of mine five minutes before I walked into this studio who had been standing in line for two days waiting for gas. And she's in East Laverde (ph), which is in, you know, in the center of the biggest metropolis on Puerto Rico. And so imagine smaller municipalities and smaller cities like Bonzi (ph). You know, if she's there for two days, in Bonzi, they're there probably for four.

People are camping out, as you can see, leaving their cars there the night before, going, walking home, coming back the next day, checking to see if gas has arrived. If it doesn't come the next day, they go back home. They -- it's a crises like we've never seen, you know.

And here's the other thing, Brooke. You know, we keep talking about, you know, all these -- all the supplies that has been delivered. And, yes, it's being delivered. The planes are landing. But we don't have the manpower. We had 8,000 people in -- we had 8,000 soldiers land in 2010 in Haiti after the earthquake. In 48 hours they were on the ground, boots on the ground.

[14:15:20] We've had less than 2,000 soldiers in Puerto Rico and it took, what, over a week? I mean, I -- my student council -- my high school student council could have done a better job of administering this, of the relief effort than this administration has done. It's crazy what this mayor is saying and what the secretary -- I mean, I'm sorry, not the mayor, but the secretary has said. These -- they're just trying to save face at this point because this effort is -- has been miniscule. It's -- it's just -- it really makes me sick to my stomach, to be honest with you.

BALDWIN: You're talking about Elaine Duke, who we just heard from, the acting Homeland Security secretary.

DE LOS REYES: Yes. Yes.

BALDWIN: Who assured everyone there are 10,000, you know, troops on the ground, so to speak, DOD, National Guard, et cetera. But to your point, you know, there were not the full 10,000 some days ago.

Kamar, I appreciate you coming on. We need more and more voices like yours. As I mentioned, I have Rosie Perez next hour. So many people here in the, you know, mainland U.S. trying to raise their voices and do things to help. Let's keep up our conversation.

DE LOS REYES: Yes. BALDWIN: And I know your mom didn't leave. We didn't even finish that point. I've got to go the governor -- we're going to go to the governor of Florida? No.

So just lastly, your mother stayed. Thirty seconds. Your mom said, no, she didn't want to leave her island.

DE LOS REYES: Right. My mother stayed. She's proud and strong. And I'll be back to reassess the situation in a couple of weeks. And if I have to throw her over my shoulder and drag her out of there, I will.

BALDWIN: Might have to do that. Kamar del los Reyes, thank you so very much.

DE LOS REYES: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up here, the -- we call it the frequent flyers club. Scrutiny now growing around the number of president's cabinet members and their big-ticket travel habits on your dime, the taxpayer dime. The question now is, is this a fireable offense? We'll tell you what President Trump is currently considering.

Also, a word on dignity and respect.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEUTENANT GENERAL JAY SILVERIA: That kind of behavior has no place at the prep school, it has no place at USAFA, and it has no place in the United States Air Force. If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The Air Force Academy superintendent with a powerful message after racial slurs are scribbled on doors of five black prep school cadets. The speech and his message now reaching a much larger audience. That man, Lieutenant General Jay Silveria, will join me for a live interview. Do not miss this, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:22:18] BALDWIN: Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

President Trump's own cabinet members are putting his "drain the swamp" brand truly to the test because three -- three of his secretaries and his EPA administrator under fire for their use of private or military flights. The worst defender, if you want to rank them, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. A source just telling CNN that the president is steaming over Secretary Price for his, quote, stupid use of private jets. Price reportedly spent more than $1 million of taxpayer money in travel costs, including taking two dozen charter flights. Politico just reported the biggest chunk of change here, $500,000, comes from at least two multi-stop international trips on a government plane. The secretary defended the trips. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: All of these trips were official business. All of them were within budget. All of them were approved by the normal processes that every other administration has gone through prior to the trip, not after.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Secretary Price is doing a huge mea culpa by offering to pay back some of the costs. And even the some of the cost piece, that is even getting criticized. Since Secretary Price is only paying for his seats on the chartered flights, just under about $52,000, Price praised his move.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRICE: This is unprecedented. Never been done to our understanding before by a secretary, in spite of the fact that previous administrations have had secretaries that flew an awful lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's talk to CNN's senior economic adviser, Stephen Moore, who also advised the Trump campaign, and CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar, who's also global business columnist and associate editor for "The Financial Times."

So, welcome to both of you.

And, Stephen Moore, I mean, just honing in on Secretary Price, you know, he says he will, his word, "absolutely stay on" as health secretary. Should he be fired for this?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISER: No, he shouldn't be fired for this, but he may not last. Look, you know, that --

BALDWIN: Why shouldn't he be?

MOORE: Well, look, this was poor judgment, but I think some of these criticisms are a little unfair. And, by the way, I am not justifying this. I hate this. I hate these, you know, Washington, you know, insiders being treated with royal treatment. It just -- it smells bad to the American people and it contradicts Donald Trump's message of draining the swamp.

But my only point would be, Brooke, that, you know, I've been in this town a long time, 30 years. This is -- you know, secretaries of departments, they do fly all over the country and sometimes all over the world and they do use government planes to do so and so it's not that unusual. I don't like it. I'm not defending it.

[14:25:04] BALDWIN: But to my understanding, in terms of reading, you know, about previous secretary's extenuating circumstances, dire circumstances upon which you would choose, you know, a charter plane.

MOORE: Yes. Yes. Right.

BALDWIN: A lot of folks go coach, go commercial. I mean a million dollars is not nothing.

MOORE: Look, I'm in favor of that, Brooke. I'm with you on this. I think they should be flying commercial. I do it. You do it.

BALDWIN: Yes.

MOORE: So, you know, look, I can't defend this.

BALDWIN: OK.

MOORE: But I think, you know, to fire him for that, he's -- he's guilty of poor judgment.

BALDWIN: OK. OK.

Rana, should he be fired? What do you think?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: You know, I -- amazingly, I'm going to agree with Stephen on this.

BALDWIN: Yes.

FOROOHAR: You know, I t's -- I don't think you should be fired. It's tonal, though. And, you know --

MOORE: Yes.

FOROOHAR: As you well know, it's not great coming at a time when the White House has just announced a tax plan that it's trying to sell as a boon for the middle class. I don't feel that it is. But it's really about tone and judgment, as Stephen says. This is not the kind of news you want breaking at the time you're trying to convince the American people you're giving them a big break.

BALDWIN: OK.

You mentioned tax reform, so let's just go there.

And, Stephen, let me pose this to you. You know, as you well know, the president's been making this mega push for his tax plan. This morning he was talking before a manufacturers group today. And Gary Cohn, his top economic adviser, is obviously helping him sell the plan. He spoke yesterday saying this is the opportunity of a lifetime for him.

But Cohn also said, when he was speaking in front of media at the White House said, you know, and I'm paraphrasing, but the average household income is $100,000. And, first of all, it's not. It's $74,000. And he also said, you know, it will be great because you can put money back into your own pockets. You know, you can renovate your kitchen for $1,000. And if anyone watches HDTV, you know that that is not at all what it costs to redo your kitchen.

And, I mean, Rana laughs, but this is the guy in charge of rewriting, you know, the tax plan in this country. You talk about tone deaf on Secretary Price. Is this tone deaf on behave of Gary Cohn?

MOORE: Maybe a little bit. Boy, you're asking me tough questions, Brooke. But, look, I'll --

BALDWIN: Welcome to the show, Stephen Moore.

MOORE: I will say this, that --

FOROOHAR: I want to know how much Gary's kitchen costs.

MOORE: Yes.

BALDWIN: Not $1,000.

MOORE: Well, Gary Cohn's a very rich guy. And I mean $100,000 probably is middle class to him.

But also I'll say this. You know, Gary Cohn is a New Yorker. He's from New York. And in New York, if you're living in Manhattan --

BALDWIN: Oh, come on, Stephen.

MOORE: No, look, if you live in Manhattan, you need $100,000 to be in the middle class.

FOROOHAR: Brooke's (INAUDIBLE).

MOORE: Now if you live in Mississippi, that's not going to be middle class. But, look --

BALDWIN: He is writing the tax code for all of us. For America.

MOORE: I believe so.

BALDWIN: And these are the numbers. I mean we laugh, but these are the numbers he's throwing out on, you know, middle class or average Americans. It's wrong.

FOROOHAR: You know, it reminds me -- you remember during the Bush administration when he was asked about the price of milk. I mean these things are small, but they actually do matter. And it's -- again, it's not great at a time when you're trying to sell a tax plan as a boon to the middle class.

I mean the truth -- the sad truth about this tax plan is that the wealthy are really going to benefit disproportionately from it. And I think that that reflects the fact that at this point, you know, there was always a debate, is the White House going to be a populist White House or is it going to be kind of a traditional Republican laissez faire trickle-down White House. And I think the answer in this tax plan is clearly it's the latter.

MOORE: Well, every time I met with Donald Trump on this -- because, as you know, Brooke, I worked on this plan on the campaign with Donald Trump.

BALDWIN: Of course.

MOORE: And he always talked about the middle class. He said, I want this to be really aimed at the middle class. I don't want it to be a tax cut for rich people like me.

Look, where I disagree on this is that I think if you cut -- the heart and soul of the plan is really to try to cut taxes on our businesses. And the plan is designed to create more middle-class jobs, to bring a lot of those jobs that have left for Mexico or China or India, those other countries, to try to bring them back. And if we do that, that will be good for the middle class. It will mean higher wages and more job opportunities.

FOROOHAR: You know, it fundamentally --

BALDWIN: Last word.

FOROOHAR: Depends though on whether or not you think that tax cuts actually create real growth. I think they create growth for Wall Street. There's not a lot of evidence in 20 years that they've actually created real main street economic growth. And that's my problem with this plan.

BALDWIN: All right, Rana and Stephen, thank you.

I'd love to know if anyone can find a kitchen renovation for $1,000. Sign me up.

FOROOHAR: Me, too.

BALDWIN: Thank you both. Thank you so much.

MOORE: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, you should be outraged. That is the message from the Air Force superintendent who gathered 4,000 cadets into this one room so they could hear this extraordinarily important message about racism at this prep school and in the military. That lieutenant general joining me live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)