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Suspected U.S. Airstrikes Kills 19; 27 Million Impacted by Watches, Advisories; More than 48 Hours Since U.S. Ship Went Missing; Trump Comments on Gun Control, School Shooting; Pope, Bishops to Discuss LGBT Families. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 4, 2015 - 07:30   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: We know that the MSF and we use these terms interchangeably.

[07:30:03] MSF being the international name for Medecins Sans Frontieres, same as Doctors Without Borders.

But an official with the group says that the compound is gated and no staff members saw any fighters there nearby, but there are reports from others that there was fighting nearby. What role will that play? If there was or was not, is this in some way excusable if there was fighting nearby?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's never excusable to fire on a hospital and I think that is the critical part of this investigation. But you got to remember, it was 2:00 in the morning. Most of the staff were asleep. There had been battles raging all day and there could be movement of troops in and around the border of this camp.

It's about the size of a football field. It is a big hospital for that part of the world. But, you know, I think we have to see what was going on at 2:10 a.m. in the morning with a battle raging and gates that could have been or could have not been guarded by the security forces of MSF.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I think it's important to point out, as you say, not excusable to fire on a hospital, but there some are making that distinction because some say there was fighting nearby and others say there was not fighting nearby. Hopefully, we will get a clearer picture as the investigation continues.

Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thank you so much.

HERTLING: Thank you, Victor.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Intense flooding and rising waters. We are talking about more than a hundred people rescued. Thousands of people don't have power right now. And folks in South Carolina, specifically, are going to have to deal with it for at least another day.

We are following the latest on what is being called a crippling storm and all of the water that is still yet to come.

Plus, missing at sea. The Coast Guard just finds one piece of a cargo ship, that ship that vanished in Hurricane Joaquin? Is time running out, some think, to find the crew alive?


[07:35:15] BLACKWELL: Look at this video. This is South Carolina, Columbia, specifically. And look at the center of your screen here.

People forming a human chain, trying to get to a man who is holding on to that stop sign. That is a street in this city. They are trying to pull him out.

You see people there standing, the water up to their knees. They are trying to get to another person here. You se as this video continues, the water is up to a man's neck here. He dips underwater for a moment. And eventually gets back to higher, safer ground.

But this is what people are dealing with primary in South Carolina, but in many communities across the East Coast. We know in Dorchester County, which is there on the eastern coast of South Carolina, there have been 140 water rescues overnight. That one county alone, the number of likely is going to grow in a couple of hours throughout this morning. And over the next couple of days as the rain continues.

I want you to listen to how a spokesman from South Carolina Emergency Management, Eric Rousey, described the situation statewide.


ERIC ROUSEY, SOUTH CAROLINA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT (via telephone): Basically, the entire state has been hard hit by these floods. It's a historic flood, the likes of which we haven't seen. Right now, we are -- we have got some rescue operations ongoing in Charleston and Dorchester counties in particular. We have got swift water rescue teams that are in place now just trying to get people out of the water.


BLACKWELL: Here is the map of the watches and warnings. You see there in red there in South Carolina, flash flood warnings and watches and warnings for flood up and down the East Coast and up into New York. Seven states total affected by these watches and advisories, as many as 27 million people feeling the impact.

PAUL: Turning now to a new clue in a desperate search for a U.S. missing cargo ship, one that has 28 Americans onboard. The U.S. Coast Guard says they recovered a life preserver that does belong to that ship they determined. It was about 75 miles from the ship's last known motion near the Bahamas, all of this coming more than 48 hours since the El Faro disappeared while sailing into Hurricane Joaquin.

Let's get the latest from the Coast Guard Captain Mark Fedor.

Captain, thank you again for being with us. Was this life preserve found in an area that you would expect it to be, based on the currents or the weather there? And what does it mean to your search today?

CAPT. MARK FEDOR, U.S. COAST GUARD (via telephone): Yes. Good morning. The life ring was found in an area where we were searching and where we expect to find any sign of the vessel. So, it was located approximately 70 miles to the Northeast of the vessel's last known position.

So, we had -- we were only able to get to the vessel's last known position yesterday for the first time. And conditions were still very difficult. One of our C-130 aircraft was able to go down to 500 feet, but they still only had a quarter mile of visibility. They are about 50 miles from the eye of the storm, so they had a quarter mile visibility and a hundred-mile-an-hour wind.

So, even though we were at the vessel's last-known position, search conditions were very challenging. So late yesterday afternoon, we found that life ring and that at least validated our search efforts and now we have to recalibrate for today.

So, what we are planning today is we have three C-130 aircraft that are up, including one from the Air Force. We also have a Navy P- 8 aircraft with a very sophisticated search to surface radar. What we are going to do with that P-8 aircraft is do a track line all the way from the vessel's last-known position to as close as possibly to that hurricane that is still out there, Hurricane Joaquin, and then search that area.

So, we feel like today is our best chance to find that vessel if it's still out there.

PAUL: Do you believe that there could still be survivors out there?

FEDOR: Yes, we do. We are going to continue searching for the chance there could be survivors there.

PAUL: OK, Captain Mark Fedor, thank you so much. And we certainly wish you the best of luck you and the crew there as you do this search.

FEDOR: Thank you.

PAUL: We hope to hear good news from you at some point soon. Take good care. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Well, the families of that missing crew held a meeting and met with the officials from the shipping company on Friday. It is being, as you might imagine, described as emotional. Those families wondered why the ship sailed into what was then a tropical storm in the first place.

[07:40:00] The president of the company said the captain told headquarters that he was confident the ship would make it. More than 48 hours after their loved ones disappeared, the families say that they are, as you might imagine as well, holding on to hope.


MICHAEL DENTON, FATHER ON LOST CARGO SHIP: You don't say anything. You don't stop hoping. Just keep it up.

REPORTER: Are you hopeful?

DENTON: Yes, yes, yes. Man, you got to be. It's very stressful, you know? So, just hoping everything will be better tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God is in the midst and we know. They will come home safe. They will be safe.


BLACKWELL: And as we heard from the captain there a few moments ago, they are continuing to search with the hope and belief that there are survivors. We'll get the latest on that throughout the morning.

Now let's move to politics. Donald Trump armed. The Republican front-runner says he has a conceal carry license and armed teachers would have stopped the Oregon campus shooting. You're going to hear his comments next.

Plus, Pope Francis was busy making history in several ways when he was here in the U.S., including meeting with a same-sex couple. So, what was that conversation like? We will talk to one of the men on your screen here.

PAUL: And one woman's solution to what is very frustrating situation on airplanes very often via #flightangel. This is a story you cannot seem to get enough of and we are so grateful. Join the conversation at We would love to hear your thoughts and don't forget to like us.


[07:45:00] BLACKWELL: If they had guns, they would have been better off. Those are Donald Trump's comments on gun control at the wake of the Oregon shooting.

Listen to more from Trump.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Second Amendment to our constitution is clear. Now, this is in light of what has gone on in Oregon. Every time something happens, they blame -- they don't blame mental illness that are mental health care is out of whack and all of the other problems.

And, by the way, it was a gun-free zone. I will tell you, if you had a couple of the teachers or somebody with guns in that room, you would have been a hell of a lot better off.


BLACKWELL: Played well to the room but let's do a fact checking here. That is not completely correct.

Although the school itself banned guns, Oregon's state law, a 1989 law, allows permit holders, concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons on campus and in other places.

Let's bring in CNN political commentator and anchor of New York 1 News, Errol Louis, and CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson.

Good to have both of you.



BLACKWELL: Ben, I want to start with you. I mean, what we are hearing from Trump is what we have heard from other Republican candidates for the nomination, focusing on mental health.

Where is the mental health plan if that's what needs to be fixed?

FERGUSON: Well, I think that is a plan that both Democrats and Republicans should be able to come together on and have a simple starting point. And many Republicans have advocated, I'm one of them, for saying that you're committed against your will by the state that should automatically be a trigger to deal with you not having access to guns for at least a period of time. And I think that's where you could actually have the president come together, with Republican leaders and they could push this moving forward.

But I -- I go back to what Trump said a moment ago. If you got a kid or a husband or wife who was in this class, do you wish there was somebody there possibly that would have a gun that went through training and was willing to protect? We always see heroes. People that put themselves in harm's way in these situations, whether it be teachers or classmates that do what they can to stop the gunman, but they are not having a fair fight.

And we have had gun-free zones. I think this is the most important thing. We have tried this idea all over the country. Every single time that one crazy person decide to break that rule, we always lose. So, this idea of we have tried it, it's not working, it's time to look at alternatives.

BLACKWELL: But it's important to say this was not a gun-free zone but there was a ban on campus, but there was the '89 law in Oregon that allows concealed carry permit --

FERGUSON: But most people -- right, but most people took the ban on campus as being a gun-free zone, so if you're a student there you'll take it.

BLACKWELL: I got you.

Let's move to Errol. I want to talk about what the president said, people who want stricter gun laws should be as adamant about those as the people who oppose them, in effect, the single issue voters. Any evidence that is going to happen, Errol?

LOUIS: No. I mean, there are -- there are mothers groups, there are victims of violence groups, there's the Brady campaign that has been going on for decade.

But the voting data doesn't suggest that people are willing to do that, nor should they have so. By the way, just -- I mean, by way of just the facts of this most recently massacre out of the hundreds that have already happened this year, there was at least one person with a gun permit on campus at the time. He just happened not to be in the right building.

I mean, there is no evidence. You know, you can go back 30 years and you can't find evidence of one single mass shooting that was stopped by one of these mysterious armed civilians --


BLACKWELL: Hold on, Ben. Hold on, Ben.

LOUIS: Mysterious armed civilians who were supposed to step in. I'll say having taught at the university level as an adjunct for about ten years now, when we teach most of the university classes are taught by adjuncts nationwide, you are not going to, for the average of $3,000 per class that's taught to a professor, an adjunct professor, turn them into, you know, sort of armed guardians.

If you want to rethink the entire system and have a bunch of shooters who can also teach, you know, algebra or political science or something, good luck with that. But I don't think that is serious solution.

FERGUSON: Let me -- Victor.


FERGUSON: Hold on, this is important.

BLACKWELL: Limited time, Ben! I've got to get this in!

FERGUSON: He just said -- hold on a second!

BLACKWELL: I have to get this in. Hold on, Ben!


FERGUSON: -- this year.

BLACKWELL: Hold on for a second. Let's get to Syria. Trump has had comments and limited on time because of the breaking news. I want to get to that as well.

Let's hear from him on Syria.


TRUMP: So we're going to help because we do have a heart, but we can't take them in the country and there is a problem. You could have a Trojan horse situation. This could be the ultimate Trojan horse.

I don't think it is. It probably isn't. But the word probably is unacceptable, right?

But let me just tell you. If they come in and if I win, they are going back. They are going back. OK?



BLACKWELL: Ben, Errol, I know we could have an entire half hour on gun control.

[07:50:00] But I want to get the comment the idea of bringing some Syrian refugees to the U.S. could be a Trojan horse for some type of military coup? Is that what he's saying, Ben?

FERGUSON: I'm not exactly sure what Donald is saying there. I think he thinks we're bringing in too many people in this country too quickly and he's saying this is just political correctness by saying, implying that somehow America must bring in people refugees from countries that are in turmoil. I think there's many people that are going to disagree with him on this one.

You can't -- if we're going to bring them in, let's make sure we screen them. Let's make sure we know who they are. If we have any doubts about their intentions, and obviously, that's a red flag. But to say you're going to send them immediately back, I would be hard pressed to see that turning into reality.

BLACKWELL: And, Errol, as you heard, it played well to the room, and not just to that room, but to significant part of at least the GOP base. Do you believe it's broader than that?

LOUIS: Well, I imagine it would get a cheer in some corners but Ben is right. You happen to have courts, you know? If people come over here as refugees, they're granted a certain status. The president can't simply cancel that and sort of send them back because he feels like it or because he's afraid some of them might be terrorists in training.

That just doesn't -- you know, it sounds like somebody who does what Donald Trump says he does, which is watch a lot of television to get his ideas about foreign policy. He'll have to do better than that to come up with a serious plan about a serious situation where I think most Americans want to actually be of some help and not be guided by, you know, sort of off the cuff comments and getting applause in one room on one night.

BLACKWELL: All right. Errol, Ben, thank you both so much.


BLACKWELL: And, of course, we'll continue the gun control conversation.

Also a reminder to everybody at home, the first Democratic debate -- where you know that topic is going to come up -- set to take place one week from Tuesday, October 13, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

PAUL: Donald Trump, of course, has been the talk of late night laughs. So is Hillary Clinton. How does Mrs. Clinton do, Secretary Clinton, when she's live on "Saturday Night Live" herself? Not talking about Kate McKinnon. I'm talking about the secretary.

We're going to break down her performance next hour.

Also, we'll talk to a same-sex couple who met with the pope when he was here in America. What did they talk about? We're going to ask them, next.


[07:56:21] PAUL: You know, in Rome today, the focus is on family. The pope is playing host to a meeting of bishops holding a papal summit to discuss the role of church in family life including whether LGBT families should raise children.

Well, today's meeting comes on heels of news that a Vatican dismissed a priest who publicly announced that he was gay.

This pope, though, has been fairly inclusive of the church's LGBT members saying, quote, "Who am I to judge?", end quote, when he was talking about a person's sexuality.

We are joined by Yayo Grassi. He and his partner met with the pope while the pope was in Washington.

Thank you so much, Mr. Grassi, for being with us. Tell me --


PAUL: Of course.

What was your conversation with the pope? What did he say to you that stuck with you?

GRASSI: Well, the conversation with Pope Francis was actually a very private one. It was a meeting between friends. We have been friends for the last 50 years.

It was a wonderful way of him being very generous with his time to receive me. I wasn't expecting a private audience with him. I thought it would be just part of a general audience. I was extremely pleased to see him in a more private environment within the nuncio secretary in Washington, D.C.

He basically talked --

PAUL: Did he speak at all about your partnership there? About your partner?

GRASSI: My partner was there, and he knows that I am gay. I mean, the pope knows that I'm gay and he has known it for quite some time already. We have never discussed any matters regarding relating to being any gay. He never asks any questions.

The only thing I asked him was when we saw each other in Buenos Aires, when we saw each other in Buenos Aires when he was still Cardinal Bergoglio, was what was his opinion regarding what was about to happen in Argentina in 2010 regarding the passing the law of the equalitarian marriage.

And he was a very -- he gave me a beautiful and very soft answer and he said, basically, what am I to judge? I'm not going to deal with it. That is a civic problem. It's not a religious problem.

PAUL: So, if you can say anything to the pope today as he goes into this papal summit to talk about the church and the family, what would you say to him? What would you hope he would hear from you?

GRASSI: I wouldn't be as pretentious to say something to him. I think he's one of the wisest people we are lucky to have among us in this kind of turmoiled time.

So, I really don't know. That is a very good question, but a question that I have not thought because I don't think that we can -- that I can tell something to him that he doesn't know or I cannot put him in a situation that he hasn't been put already.

PAUL: Sure.

Well, Yayo Grassi, we certainly wish you the very best. And what a special moment that must have been for you. What's historic, obviously, for so many of the people who follow him here in the United States, but for you especially and your partner. Best of luck to you both and thank you for being with us.

GRASSI: Thank you so much, Christi.

PAUL: Of course. Take good care.

GRASSI: Thanks.

PAUL: And thank you for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: Your NEW DAY continues right now.