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Puerto Rico in Crisis; Price to Pay Portion of Trips; Poll on NFL Player Protests; Americans on NFL Protests. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 29, 2017 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Brianna Keilar in for Wolf Blitzer. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you so much for joining us.

We're beginning with a brewing battle, Puerto Rico versus Washington. At issue, the federal government's response to Hurricane Maria. The mayor of San Juan slamming comments by the acting head of Homeland Security.


ELAINE DUKE, ACTING SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: 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. And the limited number of deaths that have place in such a devastating hurricane.

CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Maybe from where she's standing, it's a good news story. When you're 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 story. When you have to pull people down from their buildings because you're not -- I'm sorry but that's really upsets me and frustrates me. Damn it, this is not a good news' story. This is a people are dying story.


KEILAR: Elaine Duke is now in San Juan, Puerto Rico. These are CNN's exclusive pictures of her briefing on the plane in route there. Later this hour, she will hold a press conference which we are going to bring you live when it happens.

We have CNN teams on the ground to bring you the real story in real time. It can be summed up in three words. People are suffering. Sick patients are getting worse with the lack of medical care. Millions of people are still without drinking water. Food is running out. There are shortages of gas, cars are lined up for miles trying get it.

And one of the most frustrating aspects, thousands of containers filled with supplies are sitting at the port of San Juan. I want to begin with CNN Correspondent Boris Sanchez. He is on the ground in San Juan. So, Boris, you've been there several days now. Have you seen any improvement in the distribution of aid?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, incrementally. So far here at this gas station we're standing in San Juan, we have seen the line starting to move steadily. But it is a massive line, Brianna. It is blocks long. At one point, we counted more than 100 cars.

And at about 5:00 a.m. when we arrived, I actually got a chance to chat with the guy that was in the front of the line. He told me that he got here at 9:00 p.m. last night. The gas station ran out of gas so he just parked his car and went to sleep, waiting until it would finally open.

If you look over here to my right, you see people lined up with gas canisters. Some of them with many gas canisters to try to take this home and power their generators. We've seen people using all kinds of containers to pump -- to put gas into, including paint canisters, old jugs of laundry detergent. They are really scraping by.

And it's not just gas that they're lacking. I spoke to one woman that was in line this morning who told me that she had spent several hours in line outside a grocery store yesterday. And when she finally got inside, she was heartbroken because there wasn't any water. There wasn't the food that she was looking for. There's a lot of desperation here.

I was chatting with one man who asked me, where is Donald Trump? Where's the federal government? Where's the military? They are not feeling the aid here.

And to make matters worse, Brianna, there is rain in the forecast for Puerto Rico. The ground is already saturated. And in some neighborhoods, flooding is a serious issue, even without a hurricane.

We were in one neighborhood yesterday. There a channel going through it and it often floods during a regular rain storm. during Hurricane Maria, there was sewage going into homes. A lot of people in that neighborhood are homeless because their roofs have been blown off. They are now going to have to find shelter as we hear there are now two to three days of rain ahead for Puerto Rico -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Boris, stand by for us. As you keep an eye on things here in San Juan, we're going to keep you close.

Acting Homeland Security secretary, Elaine Duke, just responded to the San Juan mayor's criticism. You'll remember the San Juan mayor saying, damn it, this is not a good news story. Here is what Elaine Duke said after landing in San Juan.


DUKE: The end of my statement about good news was it was good news that the Puerto Rico, the many public services of the United States and the governor or Puerto Rico are working together. And I do believe that that is the way -- part of the way we believe. And it is nice to see the communities together trying to recover and support each other.


KEILAR: I want to discuss this with my next guest. David Lapan is the press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Thank so much for being with us, David.


KEILAR: Certainly a tough time and a tough job that you all have ahead of you here. I want, though, about your boss's explanation there because she said this was about people working together.

[13:05:02] But that's not what she said. She had said that it was a good news story, quote, "in terms of our ability to reach people."

LAPAN: So I understand the frustration of the people on the ground that are not necessarily getting the supplies or seeing people. But they do need to know that there are 10s of thousands of federal government employees, to include U.S. military personnel that are in Puerto Rico in the water and in the air actually above them as well working hard.

I know that we've had teams that have reached every single municipality on the island and we will keep doing that. So, again, we certainly understand the frustration. But I think what the acting secretary, again, was trying to convey is people are working hard 24 hours a day.

There is no shortage of concern about the situation there or for the people of Puerto Rico. And we're hard at work and we're going to stay hard at work until we get power turned on, until we get clean water to people, until people can move back into their homes and until kids can go back to school.

KEILAR: So, she's trying to reassure people that things are moving in the right direction. Of course, this is -- we're days out now, at this point in time.

So, I mean, it's pretty desperate where folks are. And I -- you heard Boris' there from San Juan. And we should certainly keep in mind that this is -- this is San Juan, right, this is the major city.

So, you get farther away, you get into the mountains, you get away from the big city. You get to Vieques; it's a different, worse, more desperate situation. When he said that looking at aid being handed out, it seems to be very incremental. That's the word from the ground. So, what's your response to that?

LAPAN: So, again, it -- this is not something that people that are in desperate circumstances like to hear. But given the devastation, given the circumstances, it's going to take time to make sure that that aid gets distributed. As you said, lots of things in San Juan. The capital, the port is open there. But moving things from the port into the farthest reaches. We're doing airlifts to try to do that because of the damage to the roads.

Actually, the Department of Agriculture has Forest Service teams that are called chainsaw teams that are literally there cutting trees and limbs to try to open passage. I know that there are 11 major roadways in Puerto Rico that have now been open.

Again, people don't want to hear that it's going to take time, but they should know that the federal government is doing as much as we can, as quickly as we can to get aid to people wherever they are.

KEILAR: I think one of the big concerns, and we saw this after Katrina too, is does the federal government have grasp of just how bad this is, of how bad what's happening there on the ground in Puerto Rico is? According to Puerto Rico's emergency Web site, they say 34 hospitals are up and running. We heard from Tom Bossert yesterday, a somewhat similar number.

I want you to listen, though, to what Dr. Sanjay Gupta with CNN told Anderson Cooper last night.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you give a hospital fuel for the next six hours, are they really considered up and running? Yes, technically they are. They have power.

The problem is that imagine trying to run a hospital like that, if you're running out of fuel, if you're running out of water. Hospital are buildings that cannot function at all without power. You can't put in a suture. You can't get an electronic medical record. You can't give a dose of insulin. You need power for everything.

So, it there's not a consistent source of that, it's not really a hospital that's up and running. It's not a hospital that's going to take new patients. It may meet the criteria, but it's not really doing the service for the people who need it.


KEILAR: Does the federal government have a grasp of which hospitals are up and running and really what that means for them? Does that mean that --

LAPAR: Right.

KEILAR: -- they have power. Does that mean that they're an hour away from running out of water which actually would obviously impede a lot of medical care. Is there a grasp of that, sort of, molecular level. Here's where the big issues are. Here is where it is very acute with this medical care in this part of Puerto Rico?

LAPAR: I think it' fair to say that we do. Again, it's a very incremental approach so you're going to have hospital that maybe yesterday had three hours of power.

KEILAR: How are you in touch -- how are you in touch to know?

LAPAR: So, it's having teams on the ground. Because, again, the infrastructure has been damaged. The communication architecture has been damaged so much that it's difficult to get communication. So, we're putting people on the ground physically at those hospitals.

KEILAR: With staff phones to be in touch.

LAPAR: Exactly. And, in fact, I had heard, too, that Marines are going out in teams with communications to be able to facilitate that kind of discussion and getting the word passed.

KEILAR: Sanjay, one of the doctors, --

LAPAR: Right.

KEILAR: -- was using his staff phone.

LAPAR: Staff phone, right.

KEILAR: So, I think, especially our viewers --

LAPAR: (INAUDIBLE) in the Keys. Remember -- I remember CNN crews handing staff phones to people who didn't have communication after the storm.

KEILAR: That's right. But when you're talking about someone who's at a hospital, right? So, this is, sort of, in a more official role than just someone who's in their neighborhood, as so many thousands of people are dealing with that quite as well.

But, obviously, a hospital is an acute situation. Does that give you concern that there are not people there yet at these hospitals, providing that essential communications channel so that you really know how dire it is?

[13:10:10] LAPAR: So, again, I think that there are people at the hospitals, not all of them. There are still a number of hospitals that have not been able to reopen for various reasons. We're working incrementally through that. We have people on the ground. We -- again, our priority is life saving and life sustaining. And certainly, hospitals are a huge part of that. So, that's one of the top priorities of the Department of Homeland Security and all of our federal partners as we go through this.

KEILAR: All right, David Lapan, a very busy man. Thank you for talking to us. From the Department of Homeland Security. We appreciate you taking the time

Now, the secretary of Health and Human Services is on some pretty shaky ground. His fate is up in the air right now. And President Trump is considering whether to fire him, whether to fire Tom Price because of high flying and expensive travel. Price says he's going to pay for his part of the charter flights. But that's just a small fraction of the costs. Here's what he said about his future within the Trump administration and his response to the controversy.


TOM PRICE, SECRETARY, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: We think it's important to do a number of things. One is to say there will be no private air charters at HHS going forward. Now, second is to cooperate fully, obviously, with the inspector general. There is a review going on. And then, I called for an internal review within the department itself.

And then, finally, to pay for my portion of those trips. This is unprecedented. Never been done, to our understanding, before by a secretary, in spite of the fact that previous administration about secretaries that flew an awful lot.

I work at the pleasure of the president. The president is a remarkable leader. I'm incredibly privileged to serve in his cabinet and work on behalf of the American people.

And I look forward to gaining -- regaining the trust that the American people -- some of the American people may have lost in the activities that I took. And to not only regain the trust of the American people, but gain the trust of the administration and the president.


KEILAR: Let's bring in our panel now. We have CNN Political Analyst David Gregory, our Senior Political Reporter Nia-Malika Henderson; and CNN Politics Media and Business Reporter Hadas Gold with us.

OK, this is the question, David. Is this something that get Tom Price ousted?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think we know. I mean, I think it's too hard to read President Trump reliably on something like this. He's had kind of a lower threshold to fire people. He made it very clear, he's very transparent about how irritated he was with Price on this. I think the

answers from Price, the justification has fallen way short. But he seems to me to be on a -- in the middle of an effort to rehabilitate himself that must be encouraged by the president. But he may look and see how much heat there still is and decide that wasn't enough.

KEILAR: Does he have a true understanding -- Nia, does Tom Price understand what the problem is here? Is he getting it?


KEILAR: I have to agree with you on that, by the way.

HENDERSON: Yes, but he's paying a fraction of the cost, right? I mean, it's $400,000. He's paid $50,000 or something.

KEILAR: Forty -- some -- John Berman (INAUDIBLE). He said, I'll pay you $2.00 for the $10.00 I owe you.

HENDERSON: That's what it is. And then, sort of, want congratulations, right, when you pay that back. And this has been, I think, a through line from this whole thing. I mean, it's a story that's been dragging on for 10 days.

Their first response was inadequate and, sort of, I know we follow all the regulations and he had to do this because he had to meet with the American people. He didn't want to meet -- risk missing a commercial flight, right.

So, I think they've had a -- done a terrible job handling this. I was talking to a conservative radio host about this to get a sense of how callers are reacting. He said people are calling in and calling him a swamp rat. And essentially saying, they have to take the bus and he gets to take a private, you know, air travel. So, you know, not going over well and they're not responding well either.

GREGORY: And it's just the hypocrisy of it. This is what Trump said he was against. You know, I mean, --

KEILAR: Right.

GREGORY: -- it's supposed to be this, kind of, populous messenger and then he's got people like this, at a time when he's selling a tax cut and defending that it's not, you know, a giveaway to the rich. You know, all of this stuff just makes it worse.

KEILAR: When some middle class may see their taxes increase.


KEILAR: How bad does this look, Hadas, for the administration?

GOLD: Well, as we know, this administration cares a lot about optics. And I actually took a look at the Google searches, what people are looking for. And searches for Tom Price have peaked in the last two days --


GOLD: -- over this than any time except when he was announced as the agent secretary fit. So, what people are remembering about him right now are these flights. And that's not what you want in this drain the swamp administration to have people think about, when they think of Tom Price, I think of taking private jets.

That's what people are thinking of right now. They should be thinking about him for health care, for the flu shot, for things like that. It's not working right now.

KEILAR: Well, and to that point of thinking about him for health care, I mean, our Gloria Borger has some reporting that if Price is fired, while there is some concern about finding a replacement, there's also this issue of it's a two for, right?

[13:15:05] He did this thing, Nia, with the planes. But also, you know, the Obamacare repeal has not gone so well.


KEILAR: So, get him out of here, right?

HENDERSON: Yes, that -- yes, yes. I mean he hasn't really gotten much of the blame on that. It's mainly been Congress with the president hammering on leadership.

Ordinarily in administrations you would have people lining up to replace somebody like this. You could draw from Republican governors, Democratic governors if it was a Democratic administration. The problem with this administration is, you might not be able to find someone who would replace him. And that's what Gloria Borger is hinting at. It might give them, you know, kind of cover and say, oh, you know, kind of turn the page on health care. Is that really going to make health care any easier if they get somebody new in there?

So, you know, we'll see what they end up doing. It's Friday. Maybe we'll get a news dump at some point.

KEILAR: And, Hadas, there's these 13 trips on the private charter planes. So many trips. It's just -- it defies thought here. But there's also that Price travelled on government planes on two international trips.

HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS, MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER: Exactly. And, listen, military government planes, that's not as bad as a private charter jet. But you also have to keep in mind that he took his wife with him, who is listed as an adviser. She is a physician. But a lot of his staff didn't fly with him on that plane. They flew commercial.

Listen, when Ivanka Trump flew to Germany, she flew commercial. That doesn't look good when the president's daughter, who arguably is more high profile, it flying commercial and he Health and Human Services secretary is flying on these military jets that cost $500,000. To an average American, that's a huge amount of money, in addition to all of these private charter jets.


DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: To all Americans that's a lot of money. (INAUDIBLE) it's a lot of money.

KEILAR: To tall Americans. I'm like that's five times the annual income according to the top economic advisers. Actual more, we know, right?

GREGORY: Yes. But he also railed against Nancy Pelosi from flying in a private jet across the country.


GREGORY: I mean, you know.


GREGORY: And I think, to Nia's point too, look, this is somebody who is a member of the House, who had expertise in health care policy, has not been very successful in the area of health care policy.


All right, guys, thank you so much for that.

Just ahead, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta helping take a suffer woman to the hospital because red tape is keeping her and others patients away. We're going to show you what happened there.

Plus, just in. New CNN polls on what Americans think about the anthem protest and the president's attacks on NFL players.

And, an emotional speech on race after several African-American cadets were targeted with racial slurs at the Air Force Academy's prep school. A lieutenant general with a stern warning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.



[13:20:49] KEILAR: All right, we have some brand new polling this hour revealing how Americans really feel about protests during the national anthem at NFL games. The new polling comes just one day after a game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. At the start of it, both teams walked onto the field and locked arms during the anthem. They asked fans to join them. But take a look at some of the people in the crowd. One man held up a sign reading, protest on your own time, not on my dime. Another sign says simply, we stand.

I want to bring in CNN political director David Chalian.

So, David, just how divided is the country on this issue?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The country is pretty divide, Brianna. Take a look at this brand new poll number. A CNN poll conducted by SSRS. We asked Americans, are the athletes that are kneeling during the anthem doing the right thing or the wrong thing? Look at this, 49 percent of Americans say they're doing the wrong thing, 43 percent of Americans say they're doing the right thing. Divided and leaning a bit towards actually Donald Trump's position. We'll get to him in just a moment.

We also want to look at this by race and by age. And here it just tells the story of America, right? Fifty-nine percent of whites say that the athletes are wrong for protesting during the national anthem. Only 12 percent of blacks say the athletes are wrong for doing so. And 34 percent of Hispanics. That's the racial components.

Let's look at it by age. A big divide between how people under 45 and over 45 see this. Under 45 years old, 37 percent say the athletes are wrong for protesting during the national anthem. Over 45 years old, 59 percent of them say that they're wrong for protesting during the national anthem.

Now, as I said, we also know that Donald Trump has called on the NFL to put a rule in place. So we asked Americans, should professional sports actually demand, require that athletes stand for the national anthem? Forty-nine percent of Americans say yes, 47 percent of Americans say no. Again, complete divide.

Where there is more consensus on this issue, is the country saying Donald Trump shouldn't be involved? Take a look at this. We asked, so, was Donald Trump right -- or did he do the right thing or the wrong thing in terms of criticizing the players who were kneeling during the anthem? Only 34 percent of Americans said Donald Trump is doing the right thing. Sixty percent of Americans say he's doing the wrong thing. You rarely get that kind of consensus on anything these days. But clearly a healthy majority think Donald Trump is doing the wrong thing.

And then, of course, we want to take a look at how this breaks down by race. We took a look at that. Fifty-one percent of whites say Trump was wrong to criticize athletes for kneeling. You see across every racial group here is a majority. A simple majority with whites. Ninety-seven percent of blacks said Donald Trump was wrong. Seventy- two percent of Hispanics.

And if you look at the partisanship, of course, that is involved here too, Brianna. Take a look here and you'll see that 86 percent of democrats, of course, say Donald Trump was wrong. Sixty-one percent of independents, the great middle of the country that Donald Trump is looking to court. And yet also nearly a quarter of Republicans, his base, say that he was wrong to criticize the athletes for kneeling.


KEILAR: All right, David, thank you so much for explaining all of that. A lot of interesting numbers there.

And I want to bring in our panel to talk about it. Joining us now is CNN sports analyst and sports columnist for "USA Today," Christine Brennan. We also have former NFL player and president of the NFL Players Association, Domonique Foxworth. And David and Nia back with us as well.

Christine, that really stands out to me, that 97 percent of African- Americans say that -- well, I mean, they're saying this is wrong for Donald Trump to weigh in. He has said it's not about race. But the effect of the perception of it among black Americans is that it very much is.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Absolutely. And that's something we've been talking about all week. You can't get away from that.

What really struck me though was that six in 10 Americans are saying Donald Trump made a mistake. I've got to believe that is a real shock to one person in particular Donald Trump. And, you know, when you see the fans out there who are either saying USA or whatever, not doing what Aaron Rodgers said and link arms as he -- as the Packers did and you kind of think, well, that must be the mood of the country.

[13:25:11] But to hear that it's basically a balance act on this, I think is interesting too. And it really goes to what the NFL has done, I think, over the last week, which is to say, embrace the players. We've never seen this kind of unity between the union and the ownership as we have this week. And I think this poll proves that the NFL is doing the right thing, especially when you look at the future. Younger people, oh my goodness, who's your season ticket holders in the next 20, 30, 40 years?

KEILAR: That was a very interesting dividing line in that poll.

Domonique, what do you think about this? And also the president, even though you have six out of 10 people, as Christine said, saying that the president shouldn't be weighing in on this, he's got a lot of support. Is he really boxing in NFL players with this?

DOMONIQUE FOXWORTH, FORMER PRESIDENT, NFL PLAYERS ASSOCIATION: I hope not. I mean I -- honestly that polling is disappointing. But what was more disappointing to me was those signs. Because the signs that say that -- and people who say that you should separate race and politics and things from sports, like that is a form of like pernicious kind of supremacy in and of itself. And like people -- many people, like black people like me, I don't have a choice to forget about the past. I don't have a choice -- when they were asking me to come on this show, they asked how to spell my last name so I could be on this show. Like, I got my last name from my father, who got his last name from his father. But if you keep going down the line -- like it came from a slave owner. So there is not a time where I don't -- I'm not reminded of racism and not reminded of this country's history. So it upsets me and it bothers me that people get angry, that we want to interject a little bit of reality, that these players want to act as our country's conscience on occasion and you can't take five minutes to acknowledge the injustices that have gone on and will continue to go on in this country because it makes you a little uncomfortable because you paid your dime? Like that's -- it's disrespectful and it's a bit of just unfairness that I think goes without -- that people experience and don't even recognize.

GREGORY: Can I just say, I mean, one of the -- there's so many different thread here. What we know is that a lot of Americans, the majority of Americans in this poll, don't like this form of protest, right? And we can have a debate about whether that's appropriate or not. Even, if you've been watching the Vietnam War documentary Ken Burns has done that's so powerful, even when Americans turned against the war, a majority did not agree with the tactic of a lot of the protesters. So they -- because there was a sense of rallying around the flag. What Donald Trump has done, as the president, is effectively cast the

NFL players, most of whom are African-American, as not being entitled to make this protest, as if they're somehow out of control and not, many of them, not all of them, powerful, successful, people who have a platform who are going to use that platform because that's their expression. And what he's saying is, no, no, you shouldn't be able to do that because you're disrespecting -- and, by the way, a lot of the players, are we were just talking about, are finding some common ground and saying, well, maybe we won't kneel anymore, maybe we'll lock arms to defy the president, but also to say, we respect the disagreement about kneeling during the anthem, which is tough for a lot of Americans.


KEILAR: You -- Dominique, you were --


KEILAR: I can just --

FOXWORTH: Yes, because I mean --

KEILAR: Every word you're hanging on here.

FOXWORTH: Yes, so I just -- I don't think that we can have a discussion on whether it's OK or not. Like that's not a thing that we can have a discus on. Like, I hate to disagree with you on that, but I think that's part of the problem is that we're willing to have a conversation on what -- whether what they're doing is OK or not. Like, the people who believe that players should be required to stand, like, we're venturing into autocracy territory. Like, that's not American.

What is American is protesting. The right to protest. Like, we can go through our nation's history and even as far back as when slavery was around, like we protested -- not us as black people because we weren't allowed to do those sorts of things, but we became a country from the root of protests. Like, I just don't understand anyone who would think that protesting is somehow un-American or disrespectful for the flag, especially when what they're asking for is us to live up to our stated ideals that we've never lived up to in the first place.

KEILAR: So there's this op-ed in "The Post" written by a member of the Army and it starts out -- she says, in the United States, our armed forces pledge an oath to the Constitution, not to the flag and not to any individual leader. That oath would carry me all over the country into some unpleasant corners of the world.

Nia, I hear people who are part of the military, but they are a minority, when they're speaking as someone part of the military saying, hey we -- we are -- we pledge to the Constitution, not to the flag, not to President Trump, or to President Obama, or to President Bush, and yet they have a minority view of, even though I would stand myself and I wouldn't kneel, there's this disagreement.

So how do -- how do you square that if you have folks who are pointing out something which is true, there's a pledge to the Constitution, but the popularity has sort of -- of their idea, they do not have that with them?

[13:29:57] HENDERSON: You know, I think it doesn't matter. And we talked about this before, this whole idea of critiquing forms of protest, right? People didn't agree with the March on Washington protest. They thought that there should be a different kind of protest.