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Rico Continues Recovery Efforts in Wake of Hurricane Maria; Interview with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired September 29, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ELIZABETH COHEN, SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Having Charles around, did it make it easier to come off of heroin?
[08:00:00] CODY MORRIS, RECOVERING HEROIN ADDICT: He had faith in me and he only had known me for 10 minutes. He was like Cody can do this, he's got this. And he was staying in touch and making sure I was doing the right thing. You working today? Yes, I'm working. That's what I like to hear, you know.
COHEN: Does it take an emotional toll?
CHARLES JOHNSON, LUCAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPUTY: Absolutely. You can get really burnt out doing this. My phone never stops ringing. People are calling me 24 hours a day. I won't not answer that phone because somebody's life could depend on it.
COHEN: It's that commitment that's been making a difference in the overwhelming addiction epidemic in Lucas County.
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Toledo.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good for them for their efforts. Boy, the need is so great on that issue. We will be covering it for a long time. In fact, we are following a lot of news. FEMA is set to update the situation in Puerto Rico. So what do you say, let's get after it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a national emergency. Millions of our fellow Americans are in peril.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you acknowledge it was not a mistake to not have this on the ground earlier?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is really a good news story in terms of the ability to reach people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody needs help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill is $1 million, and he's paying $52,000. Who is picking up the rest? The taxpayers are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of these trips were official business, all of them were approved.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It reinforces every bad stereotype about the Trump administration.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am looking into that very closely. I am not happy with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning everyone, welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, September 29th, 8:00 in the east. The Trump administration says relief efforts in Puerto Rico are unfolding at a good pace. This morning President Trump is tweeting, he says, quote, "Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello just stated the administration and president, every time we've spoken they have delivered. The fact is Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of rebuilding." In a moment we will get an update from FEMA and we will bring that to you live as soon as it happens.
And 10,000 responders are on the ground to help, and we are told that more support is on the way. The Pentagon has appointed a three-star general to lead all of the military hurricane efforts on the island.
CUOMO: Logistics are a problem. There were unforeseen and unplanned for contingencies that are not part of the everyday reality. A ton of stuff has come to the island but it can't get to where it needs to be fast enough. How do we know? Because we have the biggest team of reporters in the business on the island and they see nothing but devastation everywhere they look. The need is great and it continues.
Just look at the drone footage that we have, obviously flying over the top and seeing what has happened. Puerto Rico needs help. It needs more help and it needs it fast. The lines are hour and hours long for gas that barely gets them through the same period of waiting. Water, ice, food, medicine, they are in short supply in the best of situations. They are almost nowhere to be found in the main. That has to change. Hospitals are struggling. Sanjay Gupta is down there showing the reality of what is happening, so that's why we are telling the stories.
CAMEROTA: So let's get information and perspective from the ground now. Joining us is San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. Madam Mayor, are you there. Good. Good to see you, mayor. We know how busy how you are.
CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR, SAN JUAN: Yes, I'm here. Good morning, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Good morning. It's great to talk to you. Yesterday, exactly 24 hours ago when we spoke to you, you told us the plight of all of these supply containers that are sitting at the port, they are somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 of them with everyday supplies for the people of Puerto Rico, and you told us about your frustration about trying to get whatever is in those containers to Puerto Ricans. And you said that when you went to federal officials, they told you to write a memo. Has there been any progress on getting what's in those supplies out to the people.
CRUZ: Yesterday I got a call from the White House staff. They immediately deployed FEMA people to our facilities, and we seem to be getting some headway. So I am confident by today or tomorrow we are going to start getting somewhere very fast. We are fortunate we have a logistics team New York Mayor de Blasio sent us.
Let me tell you something of the reality of it. Sometime, and I don't know whose voice I heard that said logistics has been a problem. That is exactly what it is, 3,000 containers or 10,000 containers sitting in a dock. When I had a mayor from the town of Comerio coming to me last night crying, saying I have no food, no water, and no medicine for my people. Can you spare me whatever is left over from San Juan?
[08:05:00] So I walked towards the FEMA employees that are now deputized in San Juan, and I said, look, if I give them a portion of what you gave me -- and I just want to let you know that yesterday we got three pallets of water, four pallets of food, 12 pallets of baby food and baby materials for San Juan. That was the first we have seen from FEMA and we are very grateful for that. These people were drinking water out of a creek where they are washing their clothes and where they're bathing themselves. So I said if I give them a portion of that, will you replace for San Juan soon enough?
I was told by those two men yes. They report to John Rabin who was kind enough to come visit us yesterday. And they took one truckload, that's all they could take last night, but it was better than having nothing. And this is replicating all throughout the island of Puerto Rico. Logistics is a problem. We know that. How do we get around it? This situation, well, there is no energy at the ports so we cannot lower the containers. You do it the old fashioned way. You open the doors, you have a line of people, and you just whatever you can move it with people with two arms, you just move it back and forth and make sure that that supply chain starts running steadily. In a town of 20,000 people, when you get two pallets of rations, that is not going to do much.
CAMEROTA: Right, and when you -- I want to interrupt you so people understand. When you say that San Juan for the first time yesterday got three pallets of water, how many bottles is that?
CRUZ: That's about 4,132 bottles of water for a population of 350,000. I mind you, not all of them are in need. We are doing -- somebody just said great job.
CAMEROTA: We heard.
CRUZ: And we thank you because you are helping us get a better voice out there. I am very appreciative of that call from the White House staff, and I am sure that things are going to start moving. But this is San Juan, the metropolitan area, the capital city. Out there, there are thousands of Puerto Ricans that are still struggling. What kind of Puerto Rican would I be if I only want to satisfy the needs of my city and not worry about everybody else out there?
CAMEROTA: But mayor, let me ask you something about the White House because we just want to understand this discrepancy we are seeing. The acting secretary of homeland security says, quote, "This is a good news story what's happening in Puerto Rico in terms of ability to reach people." Do you think this is a good news story in terms of reach?
CRUZ: Who said that?
CAMEROTA: Yes, she said --
CRUZ: Is that what she said?
CAMEROTA: She, she's the acting -- Elaine Duke, she's the acting homeland security director -- and we keep hearing this from the White House. They want us -- we can play it for you. Hold on, Madam Mayor, let us play this for you and our viewers. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELAINE DUKE, ACTING SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I am very satisfied. I know it's a hard storm to recover from, but the amount of progress that has 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, and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Go ahead, mayor.
CRUZ: Well, maybe from where she's standing it's a good news story. When you are drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story. When you don't have food for a baby, it's not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from their buildings -- I'm sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me.
I would ask her to come down here and visit the towns and then make a statement like that, which frankly it's an irresponsible statement and contrasts with the statements of support that I have been getting since yesterday when I got that call from the White House.
This is -- dammit 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 truck load 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 the oxygen isn't providing for them. [08:10:11] Where is there good news here? The good news is that we
are getting heard. The good news is that there's boots on the ground. The good news is people from FEMA have their heart in the right place and the HHS people know what to do. For heaven's sakes, somebody let them do their job. Let them get the food in hands of people, and then let's talk about good news. I'm really sorry, but when you have people out there dying literally, scraping for food, where is the good news?
CAMEROTA: What do you want the White House to do?
CRUZ: Well, yesterday -- and again, I was privileged and thankful and very hopeful when I got a call and things started moving in San Juan. I asked them and let them know that San Juan could be a point of distribution. And we are closer in going to the northeastern part of the island. When diesel is a problem, if you have to go 40 miles to get three pallets of water, and why don't they give you the 21 pallets of water over the week.
I don't know who said it, I heard it. It's a logistics nightmare that we didn't anticipate. That's clever. Let's fix it. Let's put drone out and drop things. Let's put parachutes out and drop things. Let's just get people out there. Sometimes the most difficult problems are solved in the most simple ways.
This mayor from a very small town of 20,000 people got one little truck that he got -- somebody loaned him the truck, came to San Juan, and picked up some supplies. It really isn't that difficult if it wants to be done. The logistics don't take the place of the action.
And I know the FEMA people are working hard and they're doing their best. So this is a message for President Trump -- thank you for calling San Juan yesterday and listening for our May Day call. There are 77 other towns that are waiting. They're anxiously and will be very grateful to you and to the American people if you continue to step up to the moral imperative that you have taken on all over the world to help those in need.
So help us. Not having the containers full -- and I know he can do it because he did it yesterday with San Juan. Somebody heard me, and they just came to San Juan and things started moving and rolling. But this has to happen on a continuous basis for the entire island of Puerto Rico.
CAMEROTA: We heard from General Buchanan who is now on the ground --
CRUZ: We have faith.
CAMEROTA: I know you have faith. You have been making this plea every day that we have spoken to you. It has been, I think, nine days since the hurricane. And I know you think things should have happened sooner. When we spoke to General Buchanan who is now the three star general who has just arrived on the island yesterday on the ground, he says that roads are still impassable the infrastructure is so broken. That's why it is hard to get to those more remote areas that you are talking about. CRUZ: Let's get it done. Well, let's get it done. Let's get them
cleaned up. Let's just put a crew of people out there with enough equipment and let's just push things out of the way and move. Where there's a will there's a way. Isn't that the American way of doing things? You never get distracted by the obstacles and you move ahead and you push on and you show the world what you can do. Let's show them. Let's just show them one more time what the U.S. can do and save some lives. This is not about water that's warm so you can take a bath. This is about water that is drinkable so you can save a life.
CAMEROTA: Mayor, we've also heard of the desperate situation of trying to get fuel. Even people who have cars don't have the gas to get to their relatives, to get to the people in the outlying areas that need help. And we've also heard of a dangerous situation where people are so desperate for gas they are even showing up at gas stations with weapons. What is the security situation like in Puerto Rico today?
CRUZ: Well, it's starting to ramp up because people are getting desperate. People need fuel not only to get around, but you need fuel to put into generators for life-saving situations in order to cook whatever meal you may have. Puerto Rico continues recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Some people have gone back -- and I've seen this, in condominiums and common complexes.
[08:15:03] They just take wood and they figure that they cook for the community. And that is -- that is good news, that people are starting to share what they have, and they have found some commonality.
Last night, I was in a place called La Perla. They're disenfranchised community in San Juan. And the people from Operation Blessing give us these little lamps that were solar-powered. So, anything solar, anyone wants to send, send it to me in San Juan, Mayor Yulin, San Juan municipality. I'll pick it up and I'll take it anywhere you want me to take it.
But you could see the community, Alisyn, just all of a sudden, having their hope and springing up back up and taking back the streets, so people are allowed to take back the streets, because they have some sort of way of flashing some light in the area, literally, it's not only light but it's hope and it's the renewed knowledge of things that could and have to get better.
But what is happening is that more and more the police have had to take custody of the gas stations, as you mentioned, and as you probably have seen through the videos people spent about half a day, if not more -- remember, there's a curfew at 7:00. So, the few people that can go to work because they have a job still to go to, perhaps have to spend a day or half a day off that work just to get gas to get to work.
So, you know, if we could through using military logistics, military- like logistics -- not the military, but military-like logistics, if we could use that brainpower in order to establish remote or different gas facilities, that would help a lot. It would help ease and make sure transportation comes along. The other thing is our communications.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
CRUZ: Our communications are spotty at best. You can reach us sometimes, and cannot reach us at other times. So, if we don't get our infrastructure, if that doesn't get a priority, and to me, communications is a priority. Hospitals are a priority. Getting people food and drinking water is a priority, and those nursing homes and elderly homes are a priority because they are becoming just human cages for people that are sick and unable to fend for themselves.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Mayor, you -- I think it's fair to say -- have been the most outspoken of all of the public servants and politicians down there, and every time you speak out with an appeal like this, things do seem to get done. So, thank you very much for your candor this morning, and obviously, we will be checking in with you every single day. Thank you.
CRUZ: Alisyn, can I say one last thing?
CRUZ: Again, Mr. Trump, we appreciate everything you are doing. And we know it can be done faster. Help us save lives. We will be forever grateful.
CAMEROTA: We hear you, Mayor.
CRUZ: Thank you, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Thank you so much for taking the time -- Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: A hard situation there. You see it with the governor, you see it with that mayor. They are appreciative for what is being done and it is not enough. Both things can be true. The reality on that ground is as real as her pain is real, and that's why we keep covering it.
CAMEROTA: I mean, but she has actual suggestions. That's not just pie in the sky. I hope somebody helps us. She has actual suggestions of what needs to be done, let's start a human chain, let's unload the trucks one by one, let's get everybody -- but she needs help organizing.
CUOMO: And they -- look they have real logistical issues, and some could have been foreseen, others could not. And one of these situations, a lot of things wind up being true. There's a tremendous amount of manpower. There's a tremendous amount of effort, it's not enough. There's a lot that has been delivered. It's not enough.
The problem that is layered on top of it is our president's desire to be congratulated for what's being done and to be seen as a winner in this situation. Nobody is winning right now, and that's the reality.
So, we are awaiting a live update from FEMA on the federal response to Hurricane Maria. What are they doing on the ground? What still needs to be done? We will bring it to you as soon as they step up to the podium, you will get it live.
[08:23:06] CAMEROTA: All right. We just heard the mayor of San Juan making an emotional appeal to President Trump and telling him that his recovery effort is not a good news story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: When you are drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story. When you don't have food for a baby, it's not good a news story. When you have to pull people down from buildings because -- I'm sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me, you know?
I would ask her to come down here and visit the towns and then make a statement like that which, frankly, it's an irresponsible statement and it contrasts with the statements of support that I have been getting since yesterday when I got that call from the White House.
This is -- dammit, 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 truck load 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)
CAMEROTA: All right. Joining us now, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" correspondent Maggie Haberman, and CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod.
Well, she just couldn't have said it any more plainly, Maggie. What she was responding to the homeland security secretary, Elaine Duke, saying, actually, are rich (ph), to people in need, it has been a good news story.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, there's a problem with making sweeping declarations in any kind of disaster. We have certainly seen it in New York with the mayors over many years. This is obviously a much broader scale.
[08:25:01] There is a degree to which you see in the Trump administration, officials beginning to adopt the same language the president does constantly which is something of self praise, and something of talking about how well they are doing, because that's important to the president. We have seen him tweet that repeatedly.
You can look at the images of what's going on and you can see the delays. I think you said it before, right before I came on, the two things can be true, it can be true that there are efforts to make this happen and it can be true that it's not good enough. And when you listen to this mayor, her words are pretty heartbreaking and clearly very heartfelt. This is not going to end anytime soon.
And you have the president this morning tweeting about how big decisions are going to have to be made about rebuilding and that feels, I think, for people who are there dealing with this early to be saying with this.
CUOMO: Bossert says, his homeland security adviser, well, that's about cash on hand. Florida and Texas -- also, you know, you are talking $100 million, $200-plus million in debt, they're easily, billion dollars of debt really when it comes to all together, but they had cash on hand. But that's not how it plays.
It plays that the president was putting a condition axe on how much the government will do to help rebuild as a function of their own solvency right now. There's an aspect of this that is just politics. We know what the politics are on the ground. You hear it from the mayor. You hear it from the governor. You hear it from all the reporters.
We know what it is. It's bad. It's not getting better fast enough, period.
The politics that we are hearing from Bossert, Elaine Duke, they are being put in a position by somebody -- we will leave that open -- to go out there and say we are doing great. Don't let the media frame us as not getting this done, but the reality is, it's not getting done. Whether it's about blame or not, Axe, he can want to be a winner all he wants, nobody is winning in Puerto Rico right now.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And there's more to this, and Maggie is the world's foremost expert on Donald Trump and can probably speak volumes on this. But the -- you know, she talks about the heartbreaking testimony we heard.
The question is, can his heart be broken? Can he display any kind of empathy for other people? And that has been what has been absent from his rhetoric. It's all
about him. It's always about him.
And this is a place where the president of the United States needs to express through action and also through words a sense of connection with people who are desperate and people who are dying who are American citizens. He just cannot do that.
CUOMO: He didn't even talk about it for almost a week. He was caught up in the NFL situation.
AXELROD: That's right. It was compounded by this contrivance, and it was something of his own invention of this rekindling of the Kaepernick controversy, which was purely a political exercise, he engaged in it all weekend-long as the people of Puerto Rico were calling out for assistance. So, you know, this goes not just to operational issues. This goes to
personality deficiencies in the president. We have seen it before and we are seeing it now.
CAMEROTA: Well, look, empathy or no empathy, Maggie, they want action. And what has happened this week is that when the president has heard testimony like that on our air and elsewhere, then he has acted. He does lift the Jones Act.
Once he hears that something is going wrong and then, of course, he does want the reputation of being in control and being a winner and then he does do something reactively.
HABERMAN: Right. I mean, he's -- look, I find it very unlikely that General Kelly, who has a very impressive and respected resume, has not told him in briefings what was going on in Puerto Rico. But for whatever reason, this president always needs to see it himself and needs to see it from the outside world coming in from television and that is what moves him.
It's good they lifted the Jones Act temporarily, but it's still not clear why it took so many days. Whatever the reason is that it takes him so long to get there on certain issues, for people who are suffering, for voters in various places in the country, for people in Puerto Rico, in Florida, wherever we're talking, it doesn't really matter to them what the reason is and what is going on in terms of the psychology of the president, as to why it takes him a while.
This is just we have this play out over and over again with him, this is a major crisis not of his own making. I would argue, this is one of the first -- take out North Korea, which is partly his involvement in terms of escalating rhetoric, and this is the first real crisis that is not of his own making that he is having to face.
It's not on the U.S. mainland, and so, it's possible people are looking at it differently. But it's a massive, massive human catastrophe and we are just getting started.
CUOMO: And, you know, there's a little bit confusion. People -- so, why was the governor, why were the mayor, why did they say thank you then, you know, if the response isn't enough? There's a political reality, you bite the hand that feeds you in a situation like this, things can get worse real fast especially with this administration.
So, you got to be -- you have to allow the political leaders down there to show thanks for what is going on. It doesn't mean that they are not asking for more.
Axe, let me ask you about a different topic. Tom Price, what's your analysis on what the health and human services secretary did that was wrong, reaction to it by saying he'll pay for a little bit, and what his ultimately fate is going to be?