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Trump Still Avoiding Discussing John McCain?; Stormy Daniels Gets Star Treatment in 'Vogue'; New Study Finds Thousands of Puerto Ricans Died Following Hurricane Maria. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 28, 2018 - 15:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's exactly right, Brooke.

Yesterday, the president, actually, we saw him so many times, but time after time refused to take any questions. Today, yet again, they opened up this meeting, in some ways unplanned, to reporters, so that the president can say a few words.

And it's likely that he will get some more questions about what caused that turnaround yesterday when it came to John McCain and the proclamation that he finally put out yesterday in the afternoon about the American flags here at the White House and at federal buildings around the country.

But there are also a lot of other issues at hand. There is some new reporting about North Korea and the state of those negotiations. There is a trade deal that the president announced yesterday and what is the fate of that? Where is Canada in all of this,even as the United States announces that they have come to a deal with Mexico?

Lots of questions for the president, but it's unclear whether he will actually take any questions today. This could just be an opportunity for the president to yet again change the subject to something that he wants to talk about, something that he believes is a more forward- looking, positive message coming out of his administration.

We know this morning he's been tweeting a lot about the economy, about want to get more credit for good news out of his administration. So, I wouldn't be surprised to see him doing a little bit more of that, Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Abby Phillip, thank you, at the White House.

To breaking news now out of Puerto Rico, where the governor there is about to respond to these new death toll estimates in the wake of Hurricane Maria. A study was just released by George Washington University and it puts the number of storm-related deaths at nearly 3,000.

That is nearly 46 times more than the government's official toll.

So, CNN's Leyla Santiago is with me now. And that's quite a different number than the government had. How did

they find this figure of 3,000?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, so, this is actually a study in excess deaths.

They took what they believed, George Washington University took what they believe would be the average had Hurricane Maria not destroyed Puerto Rico, and then this is the excess. This is the amount above that.

And they believe it's near 3,000. As you mentioned, Brooke, we expect the governor of Puerto Rico to make a statement in just a matter of minutes from Puerto Rico. And the big question will be, this is a study that the government of Puerto Rico paid for.

They paid $300,000 roughly for this study. So now will they change the official death toll to reflect that? And when I asked the governor that back in February, if they would accept the findings of this study, he told me that he plans to do so.

But, granted, that was before he saw the findings or the results of this study. And I want to make clear, as we mentioned, this is a study based on statistics. That means they don't really have a list of 2,975 names -- 75 deaths that account for all the people, which a lot of families now still feel that their loved one is still not accounted for, despite this study.

It's not a list. It doesn't actually acknowledge every single death, be it direct or indirect. When I say indirect, I'm talking about maybe not having power to use the medical equipment that they needed, maybe not having access to the hospitals, those of type conditions that we saw as so common after Hurricane Maria.

Now, Brooke, I know that, over the last few months, as we have reported on this, we have sort of thrown a lot of numbers your way. Remember, back in November, CNN did an investigation. We found that the death toll could be at least 500.

The Harvard study that came out a few months ago believes that a conservative estimate would be more like 4,600. Just earlier this month, the government of Puerto Rico acknowledged that it was in excess of at least 1,000 deaths, a little higher in a report that it sent to Congress.

So what makes this study different from all of the others is just the fact that this was commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico. The researchers had access to studies and facts and figures and numbers and interviews that the other researchers did not.

And they really stressed today when I spoke to the researchers that this also addressed migration. A lot of the Puerto Ricans who left the island after Hurricane Maria went to the States. They believe that this number factors that in. And that's what makes this a little different. BALDWIN: So, to the number itself -- and you mentioned how,

obviously, these victims' families want almost just acknowledgment and accountability.


BALDWIN: But what else -- why is this official number so important?

SANTIAGO: So, there are two reasons. One is just big picture.

If you don't understand what happened here in terms of the deaths, who died, when, where and how, there's no way of preventing this in the future. And I'm not talking preventing a hurricane, because I know you can't prevent a hurricane.


But I'm talking about making sure that those who are vulnerable, those who may not have access to things are prepared. And, in fact, this study did find that men over the age of 65 in poor areas were particularly vulnerable, that hospitals were vulnerable.

They spoke about the communication between local, central and federal government, lacking in preparation. This really does point out some of the vulnerabilities that they had and makes recommendations moving forward.

Now, I asked the researchers today, you guys have given this to the government of Puerto Rico. What was their reaction? And they said that they seemed interested, they asked a lot of questions, had some concerns.

But my big question to them after that was, OK, did you talk action? And they referred me to the government of Puerto Rico on that. And so we're hoping to hear from the government as far as what will happen.

But the reality is, this is an island that's $70 billion in debt. Even if they have the recommendations, they may not have the resources to move forward with that.

And just to get back to your last question, the other reason this number is so important is to the families. They qualify for FEMA assistance to pay for those burials. They qualify to have that help. And if they are not included in the official death toll, that can be a challenge.

So from a big picture, this is about what happened understanding for preventure -- from -- for prevention, rather.


SANTIAGO: From a family perspective, this could be financial assistance in a time when they really are still struggling almost a year -- can you believe that?

BALDWIN: No. SANTIAGO: It's been almost a year since Hurricane Maria.

BALDWIN: That is why we have to keep talking about this story. Thank you for all of your reporting on Puerto Rico. We will listen for the governor there in just a bit.

Leyla Santiago, thank you for now. We have to keep talking about it.

SANTIAGO: You bet.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Coming up next, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham got pretty emotional just moments on the Senate floor remembering his dear friend, his best friend in the Senate, Senator John McCain. We will play those touching words for you, if you haven't heard.

Plus, check this out. Stormy Daniels poses for "Vogue" and shares details about what life has been like since she took on President Trump. We will talk to the writer behind this extraordinary story.

And, later, at least one senator comes against renaming the Senate building after John McCain. We will explain the history behind Richard Russell, the man who the building is named after for now.

Stay with me. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: We are back. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

The president has been meeting with the president of FIFA potentially about the World Cup coming to North America in the coming years, but we know that reporters were within the room and were wondering if there was perhaps any explanation with regard to the recent passing of the late Senator John McCain, any explanation of his walk-back from this White House, finally that statement last night, the flag at half- staff.

So let me bring in someone who was just actually in that pool spray. He is Michael Bender, CNN political analyst and White House reporter of "The Wall Street Journal." So, we will talk to him in just a moment. Also with us, Margaret Talev. She is the senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News. Josh Rogin is with us. He's a columnist for "The Washington Post."

So, welcome to all of you. And it's a bit of a grab bag today on all these different topics.

But, Michael, just starting with you. You just walked out, and you tell me if there was any headline, per se. But what I really want to know was, is the White House explaining at all this turnaround from this president on Senator John McCain? MICHAEL BENDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, no. The White House is

definitely trying to turn the page from the John McCain story, their version of the John McCain story.

And obviously they have been having trouble doing that because the president has been unable to turn the other cheek. They opened up a meeting today with the head of FIFA and the president, and a lot of discussion inside the White House about whether or not that was in order to talk about something different.

I will say all of the television sets I saw in the White House this afternoon were tuned to the Lindsey Graham eulogy from the Senate floor. So, it is on the thoughts and minds here in the White House.

But inside the Oval Office today, there a lot of talk of FIFA. The president's very proud he's bringing the World Cup to the U.S. in 2026. One funny moment. He realized that 2026, he won't be president, and mused about maybe we will extend the terms, maybe the U.S. will extend term limits for him to be president.

A little bit of news from the president. He was asked -- there was a lot of shouted questions at the end. The one he focused on was a question about whether or not the U.S. will -- his administration will investigate Google for its search practices that he was complaining about earlier today on Twitter.

He stopped short of saying -- committing to an investigation, but did ramp up the rhetoric, saying Google, Facebook and Twitter are all treading on what he called very, very troubling territory, saying that these companies have taken advantage of thousands.

So, did see a sort of tick-up on his rhetoric aimed at what is really a key sector of the U.S. economy right now.

BALDWIN: You mentioned Senator John McCain's dear friend Senator Lindsey Graham, on the Senate floor.

We were glued to every word of it. Let me just play. In case anyone missed it, here's just a piece of the South Carolina senator just remembering and honoring his best friend.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He had wanted to be president. He was prepared to be president. But it was not his to have.


And I remember, above all else, the speech he gave that night. John taught us how to lose.

When you go throughout the world, people remember his concession speech as much as anything else.

There are so many countries where you can't afford to lose, because they will kill you. And John said that night, President Obama is now my president.

So he healed the nation at a time he was hurt. I learned that serving a cause greater than yourself hurts. Anybody in the military can tell you the risk you take. He couldn't put his jacket on. He couldn't comb his hair, because he got hurt serving a cause greater than himself.


BALDWIN: So emotional, Margaret.

And you just can't help but note the contrast between Senator Graham and how he's feeling toward, you know, this American hero, his dear friend, and the reaction from the White House.

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, and Brooke, we are going to see several more days of this now, with the events unfolding, the actual official events now that will be unfolding in Arizona, and then, of course, making their way along with Senator McCain here to Washington to the cathedral and ultimately to his internment.

President Trump is going to either have to come to terms with the accolades or change the subject, or both. And I think we are seeing a little bit of that with his decision to just go ahead, put the flags at half-mast yesterday, make the statements he's made, and then try to turn to topics like, you know, the economy or soccer or the Internet.

It's been a losing proposition to try to hold back full and emotional support for Senator McCain and his legacy.

BALDWIN: Another potentially losing proposition, what, their high hopes on North Korea and denuclearization.

Josh, to you. What is going on with that?

JOSH ROGIN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, well, first, I just wanted to say something quick about Senator Graham and Senator McCain.


ROGIN: I had the privilege to travel with them around the world about a half-a-dozen times.

And I witness the bond, the brotherhood that they felt. But also Lindsey saw John McCain as a mentor, as someone who could teach other senators and really other countrymen about the impact that one senator can have and the impact that America can have around the world. And that's a mission that John McCain was dedicated to that Lindsey Graham, I'm sure, will continue.

On North Korea, it is kind of a mess. We're at a stalemate. Right now, the North Koreans are accusing the United States of backing away from the talks, and the United States is accusing North Koreans from backing away from the talks.

I reported yesterday and CNN confirmed this morning that Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol sent a letter to Pompeo complaining about America. And that was why Trump canceled Pompeo's trip to North Korea and now we're kind of in a holding pattern, and it could go one of two ways.

Either they could -- both sides could move back towards each other and we could get this diplomacy started again or they could both walk away from each other and ramp up the rhetoric. And what that leads to is a bunch of really bad scenarios for both North Korea, the United States and the region.

BALDWIN: Speaking of the president, we now have the tape. Michael Bender, you were there. Let's watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, in soccer, we have the referee, and they have cards, yellow cards and red cards. Yellow card is a warning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when you want to kick out someone...



TRUMP: That's true. That's true. That's very good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, this could be useful. I don't know.

TRUMP: I like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's for you.

TRUMP: I like that. I like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next media session.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.


TRUMP: Congratulations.


TRUMP: Appreciate it.


TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate it.


TRUMP: Yes, the wall will be paid for very easily by Mexico. It will ultimately be paid for by Mexico.


TRUMP: Yes, I think Google has really taken advantage of a lot of people, and I think that's a very serious thing and it's a very serious charge.

I think what Google and what others are doing, if you look at what's going on at Twitter, if you look at what is going on in Facebook, they better be careful, because you can't do that to people. You can't do it.

We have tremendous -- we have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in and, you just can't do that.

So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they're really treading on very, very troubled territory, And they have to be careful. It's not fair to large portions of the population. OK? Thank you very much, everybody.




BALDWIN: So, Michael Bender, on his -- we know the president was up early this morning tweeting about Google and saying that, you know, it's political and that -- the search results.

And Google's responded saying, no. But what do you think -- bigger picture, what's the president doing trying to do there? Is it, to Margaret's point, trying to turn the page on the conversation this week? How do you read that?


I think that's -- there's a lot of truth to that. And to be fair to the president, this is someone who is always trying to push the envelope on news, always trying to drive another and a different headline, a new headline. Not really mattering if it's -- if the last one was bad or good. Right?

There's a lot of good news, as the president has spoken about, that this White House views as good news on the economy, that they rarely give time to breathe before the president is making news on the next subject.

So I think that's sort of a lot just his M.O. And the big picture here on this particular issue is, I think this is how he truly feels about some of these social media companies right now. He does feel that the good news out of the administration is being suppressed.

He obviously views the media as playing a role in that. He views social media as playing a role in that. And there's some irony of a president who's driven so much news using his own social media platforms now complaining that these platforms aren't doing enough to help him. BALDWIN: Last question, Margaret.

Over to you on the attorney general and Jeff Sessions. We know that he put that statement out end of last week sticking up for himself. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, just said this moments ago?


QUESTION: There seems to be renewed interest, including by some members of your conference, in the job that Attorney General Sessions is doing. Does he still have your confidence? Do you still think he's doing a good job in that role?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Yes, I have total confidence in the attorney general. I think he ought to stay exactly where he is.


BALDWIN: Total confidence, Margaret. That is different from what we heard from Senator Graham when he was on TV this morning. We have asked so many times, are his days limited, but are his days limited?

TALEV: Well, Mitch McConnell would like to get a Supreme Court justice confirmed first, then try to hang on to Republican control of both chambers, if possible. It would make everything a lot easier for the Republicans next year and he's trying to keep members from losing their jobs.

And Republican leaders are concerned that any move on Sessions now ahead of midterms could create a real wild card situation that would not be good for them and could jeopardize this very important confirmation.

So, I think that is what that is about. Come back in mid-November and let's see where the quote stands. But from McConnell's perspective, you know, he's always tried to walk that fine line between not encouraging President Trump to do things that defy presidential norms, but not antagonizing him and creating more chaos that could create additional drama because the pressure always ends up falling on the lawmakers who are running for office.

It doesn't seem to stick to the president himself.

BALDWIN: We will talk again then about that in November.

Margaret and Josh, Michael, thank you all so much.

Coming up next: Stormy Daniels gets the full "Vogue" treatment with designer clothes, a famous photographer. The writer who sat down with Stormy Daniels and her lawyer in a New York hotel is with me live, Amy Chozick, on what details on her new life, what she has to say about the president. All kinds of details.

Stay with me. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BALDWIN: Stormy Daniels like you have never seen her, all decked out in high-end designer couture, photographed by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz and gracing the pages of high fashion's Bible, "Vogue" magazine.

This is, shall we say, a far cry from the film sets where she was once an adult film star or the strip clubs where she now dances. It is a bit closer to the look she dons for media appearances outside courthouses where she is suing the president of the United States and his one-time lawyer Michael Cohen over keeping quiet an alleged affair.

Daniels is getting the royal "Vogue" treatment in a gown by a designer who refuses to dress the first lady. The article is called "Stormy Daniels Isn't Backing Down."

And with me now, Amy Chozick, who wrote the "Vogue" piece. She is author of "Chasing Hillary."

So nice to have you on.

AMY CHOZICK, "VOGUE": So good to be here. Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: OK. So just start at the beginning. Why did you want do interview her?

CHOZICK: Well, I was really intrigued by her.

And there's been a lot written about her, but after that "60 Minutes" interview, she really hasn't done any interview. We haven't heard her own voice in this.


CHOZICK: We have heard Michael Avenatti, her lawyer, defending her and talking about the case, of course.

But I really wanted to get at kind of the psychological and personal toll that it's taken on her being one of the president's, you know, chief adversaries. What is that like?

And so we really kind of dove into that over a couple conversations.

BALDWIN: So, you talk about -- I have to quote this line in the piece, because you set it up, comparing her to, of course, what we saw in that "60 Minutes" interview...


BALDWIN: ... all fancy and makeup job and everything.

And you write: "In person, Stormy is nothing like that stoic, on- message woman. She is blunt, foulmouthed, funny. I ask her for more details on her alleged 2006 affair with Trump."