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Interview with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson; Foot, Water Shortages After Irma Hit Caribbean; Soon: Trump Welcomes PM Under DOJ Investigation; Trump Meets with Republicans & Democrats on Tax Reform; WSJ: Some Trump Lawyers Suggest Kushner Leave White House; Clinton "Convinced" Trump Associates Helped Russia. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 12, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] SEN. BILL NELSON, (D), FLORIDA (via telephone): And the hurricane, with spinoff tornadoes, completely tearing up the stands and their football stadium. Lo and behold, the police show up, with 10 elderly patients in a nursing home that had been abandoned. And the students of that university, since they had generators, they had power. They took those elderly senior citizens in and took care of them. That's one of the great stories that I've heard. The university president, Jim Tuey, my friend, years and years, told me this story when he called, panicked, needed diesel to keep those generators going, so they could keep those senior citizens cool.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is -- I have gotten wind of that same story, Senator, this morning. It is a wonderful story of people helping people, Floridians helping Floridians in a desperate moment of need. You can only imagine it's one of so many stories that maybe haven't even been heard yet, but there's still so many areas, so means places in the Keys, that we -- are cut off.

NELSON: Yes. We're going to hear many more of these stories in the future. This is now the time. Now is the tough time. If your life has been spared, you're not injured, your home is not destroyed, now is the tough, hard reality of digging out of all of the rubble, cleaning it up, trying to get your power back and whether you got it with the wind, or whether you got it with water, either way, it's a tough slog out.

BOLDUAN: And even though the power is still out in many places and that's a huge issue and there's still so much to be done, a lot after such a big massive disaster like this is the question of, what are the lessons learned. Do you have any lessons learned for state or for the response or for the citizens of Florida that you've already gathered so far?

NELSON: Two good lessons learned. People obeyed evacuation orders and a good part of the state evacuated. Second lesson learned is, after Hurricane Andrew when there were no building codes, the place was demolished. We saw flying right along the coast in southwest Florida, the building obvious. The new structures were standing. The old structures were demolished. The third lesson learned is that water can be your worst enemy because the waters comes in with the wind or with flooding, like is going on now in Jacksonville where I'm headed. And that water is a tough, tough competitor when you're trying to survive.

BOLDUAN: Sure is.

Senator Bill Nelson, thank you so much for jumping on, Senator. And thank you for your leadership in these efforts before and now in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. We appreciate it.

NELSON: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So, little food, little water, and almost no power. A paradise lost over and over again. Islands across the Caribbean, which were the very first, remember, to face the brunt of Hurricane Irma, are facing some dire circumstances. Now almost a week since Irma tore through as a category 5 storm, 100,000 residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands alone, are waiting for more help.

Just look at these pictures from one of the -- one part of neighboring St. Martin that got just wrecked by Irma. Aid is slowly trickling in amid reports of looting and robberies. Many from St. Martin are now being evacuated to Puerto Rico, which avoided a direct hit. And hundreds have lost their homes and thousands without power.

CNN's Cyril Vanier joining me from San Juan with more on this.

Cyril, what are you seeing there since you got on the ground?

[11:34:17] CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, Kate, I think you have to distinguish island from island. It's a different situation depending on whether you were on the path of the storm or just a few miles away.

Puerto Rico got lucky in a sense, OK. I'm on the northeastern part of the island in San Juan, the main city. And the eyewall of the storm was several miles out to sea. Yes, there were strong winds and some trees knocked down. One million people, about a third of the population, didn't have power in the immediate aftermath of the storm, a lot of that has been restored. Not all of it, by any means, but a lot of that.

To the islands that you were talking about, they are just east of here and southeast of here. The U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Martin, the destruction there was far greater because they were on the direct path of the storm. So, they are in a much harder situation. They've got to rebuild. Start with infrastructure. Everything that was made of concrete and cement, doing better than everything made of wood, which means, by the way, that if you're on the higher end of the income scale, you're probably doing better because you were in one of those structures. On the lower end of the scale, chances are your house is gone if you're on one of those two islands.

As far as the relief effort, I want to make an obvious statement of fact that is absolutely key here. We are talking about islands. What does that mean? You can't drive there. That slows down the speed with which you can bring relief and aid. So what we saw at the airport landing here in San Juan, were U.S. Air Force planes that are headed. And they've got an air lift going on to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and that is as it should be. The U.S. is bringing its resources to deal with its problems but you're still dealing with an island, still dealing with an air lift, and can only take finite quantities of goods, resources, people, rescuers. It is slower and the same thing is going on in St. Martin.

I want to leave you with this number, 60 percent. This is for St. Martin, 60 percent of houses that are uninhabitable. What do you do with that and where do you start with the rebuilding? How are kids going to go to school? Now is when school starts on the French part of the St. Martin island. Those people, they don't know if they will ever be able to live there again.

BOLDUAN: They are facing a brutal reality. And the images are still -- just the scope of the destruction on these islands is really just beginning to be known.

Cyril, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

So coming up for us, back to Washington. Any moment now, we will see President Trump live from the White House, welcoming the prime minister of Malaysia. The prime minister who is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Details on that ahead.


[11:41:16] BOLDUAN: Minutes from now, President Trump will welcome the prime minister of Malaysia to the White House. Normally, there's little controversy about a head of state visiting the president of the United States. This time, it is different. The head of -- this head of state, the prime minister of Malaysia, is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for charges of corruption as he faces re- election back home.

For more on what this is, let's get over to the White House. Dan Merica is watching everything there.

Dan, what is the White House saying about the visit and this investigation?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: It's not every day the president meets with a foreign leader under DOJ investigation. That is what will happen behind me in mere minutes. This meeting as you mentioned comes as the Department of Justice investigates the prime minister and his family for corruption. The charges are they skimmed money off of a fund. And actually, that money went through U.S. financial institutions why the Department of Justice is involved.

Sarah Sanders, the press secretary at the White House, tried to divorce this meeting from the investigation. Here's what she said yesterday when reporters asked about it.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not going to comment on an ongoing investigation being led by the Department of Justice. And that investigation is apolitical and certainly independent of anything taking place tomorrow.


MERICA: This leader certainly isn't the first controversial foreign leader the president has met or talked to, but he is up for re- election and Malaysian policy experts say a photo with the president at the White House will boost his chances.

Now the meeting is going to focus on North Korea and President Trump certainly hopes to find an ally in this fight. But really, it's the meeting at all, the fact that the meeting is happening at all, overshadowing whatever they talk about in the White House today -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Right. We will be keeping an eye on they will be meeting, won't be holding a press conference. That's the latest. We will see what is said when the pool is allowed in.

But tonight, interestingly, Dan, the president is having dinner with some -- with Republicans and Democrats alike. What's this one about?

MERCIA: This is about tax reform. And really, we can put this under the lessons learned column. Remember when President Trump pursued health care reform, it was a Republican effort. It was led by Republicans in the House and Senate and, obviously, here at the White House and they got no Democratic support. A lesson learned from that is Mark Shore, a top legislative aide at the White House, told reporters is, you can't really rely on 50 or 51 Republicans because you're on shaky ground there. You need Democratic support. Today, Democratic Senators Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly will come to the White House to meet with the president, along three other Republicans and really, this is lessons learned from that health care fight. You need the Democrats to be on board and President Trump helps and thinks, frankly, he can get some of these moderate Democrats to back his tax proposal and make it successful on Capitol Hill.

BOLDUAN: Especially when they're moderate Democrats from states where the president won quite big.

Great to see you. Thank you so much.

MERICA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: There is that. Dan laid it out from the White House.

Also this, a new wrinkle in the Russia investigation. The "Wall Street Journal" is reporting that members of the president's legal team concluded that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, should resign as White House senior adviser because of the extent of his contacts with Russian officials and Russian business men. Add to that, the fact that Kushner initially did not disclose these contacts, of course. He later said it was an oversight. Basically, these members of Trump's legal team thought Kushner had become too much of a liability for the president in the midst of this ongoing investigation.

Joining me now, CNN's Chris Cillizza. CNN political commentator and host of the "Ben Ferguson Show," Ben Ferguson, aptly named and political commentator. And CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen, is here as well.

Chris, one thing we do know is that the president did not take the advice of the members of his legal team. Kushner is still, of course, the senior adviser to the president. What does this mean at this point?

[11:45::06] CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT- LARGE: Well, it means that his counsel's advice, legally, to keep him as protected as possible was to do X and he chose to do Y. It doesn't mean that keeping Jared Kushner means anything concrete as it relates to the special counsel investigation. It just means lawyers are going to be the careful side here.

What I would say, though, is it is a reminder of why you don't always want to go into business with family members, right. It is hard to do the hypothetical, but let's imagine that that was Steve Bannon they gave that advice about President Trump you should part ways with Steve Bannon, legally, dicey territory as it relates to the Russian investigation. My guess, it would be an easier conversation to have with the president. The idea that they're going to jettison the son- in-law, his daughter Ivanka's husband, it's just touchier. It's why having people who are directly -- who are related to you, working for you in an official capacity, it's going to create situations, maybe short of this, in a normal situation, but it's going to create stuff like this. It's why people are always wary of the situation being set up.

BOLDUAN: Touchier, a technical term.

Ben, do you think he's a liability for the president?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I also think this story has been blown out of proportion. The fact is every attorney that has actually representing him, has now come out on the record and said, this did not happen, that this was not being said. I do think that lawyers, their job --


BOLDUAN: It's not all of them that have come out.

FERGUSON: Everyone that has come out and said --


BOLDUAN: They're not denying the report, the accuracy of the report. They're saying that they --


FERGUSON: They never said that. I'm sure there's lawyers in the room that had a conversation about X, Y and Z, and different scenarios, but I do not believe for a second when you see these lawyers coming out that, all of a sudden, they said he needs to go. I'm sure they talked about different scenarios but the fact is Jared Kushner is at the White House, I don't see him leaving any time soon. I think the president likes his counsel, I think the fact that he's a son-in-law and this issue of you don't want do business with family is also a narrative that people want to push. It's not necessarily based in reality, though.

BOLDUAN: Just as we continue the conversation, just want to note, as we were talking about with Dan, President Trump welcoming right now the prime minister of Malaysia. And just as quickly as they take their photograph, they will head in for meetings and, hopefully, get video of them in one of those meetings later.

Hilary, not unrelated to this question, is Hillary Clinton's book now out. She has a big event, barns and nobles in New York City happening right now. As part of the rollout, she told "USA Today's" Susan Page she is convinced that Trump associates colluded with Russia, helped Russians interfere in the election. Here are quotes she told Susan Page: "There was communication and there certainly was an understanding of some sort and goes on to say, there's no doubt in my mind that there's a tangle of financial relationships between Trump and his operation with Russian money. And there's no doubt in my mind that the Trump campaign and other associate have worked hard to hide their connections with Russians."

Is this helpful?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know -- it doesn't matter if it's helpful. What we know is there is a special counsel investigating this very subject. We know that this isn't about Jared Kushner. This goes to Donald Trump consistently feeling like he is above the law. You know, it's the meeting with the Malaysian prime minister or it's, you know, the firing Jim Comey, that things don't stick to him. And so I think what Hillary Clinton is saying is, look, we've had U.S. intelligence confirmation, five different U.S. intelligence agencies confirming that Russia interfered. We have amazing coincidences about timing of releases of Clinton campaign information to overshadow negative information about Donald Trump. When the "Access Hollywood" tapes came out, so did a new dump of Clinton campaign e-mails. So what Hillary Clinton I think is saying is, for her, this just feels like too many coincidences. The Trump campaign consistently teased out that they were going to have a lot of dump on Hillary the same weekend don junior had a meeting with a Russian lawyer saying they wanted to give information about Hillary Clinton. So --



ROSEN: -- it's appropriate for her to say I think there's too much here I don't believe that nothing happened. That's totally fine.

FERGUSON: I've never enjoyed a Hillary Clinton book more than this one. Because what she needs to do is read what she wrote and how much of a sore loser she is. She blames everyone else --


[11:50:02] ROSEN: You didn't read the book.

FERGUSON: I have -- I've read quite a bit of it. It's been amazing.


FERGUSON: Let me finish what I was going to say, OK?

First of all, you don't know what I read or didn't read. That's -- what I've read has been amazing. Hillary Clinton literally blames everyone else and instead of the fact that the American people didn't trust her. And the Democratic Party should pay attention to Hillary Clinton on what not to do next time. When you come out and blame everyone, except for the fact that you didn't run a good campaign, people didn't connect with you, Democratic voters didn't trust you, and then you rip on Bernie Sanders, and say he's not a real Democrat. You even blame Barack Obama for one of the reasons why you lost this election, which was her biggest ally, her biggest asset on the road for her, was Barack Obama. You take cheap shots at Barack Obama, who helped you probably more than any other modern-day president trying to get the White House to someone else. You've got to look at this if you're a Democrat and say, what in the world is the Democratic Party doing right now?

BOLDUAN: I will say one thing, one thing Hillary Clinton would love to hear right now, this is the best book he read.


BOLDUAN: Hillary Clinton would like everyone --


ROSEN: She took overwhelming responsibility for losing the campaign. The book is "What Happened."


BOLDUAN: It is a look back. What exactly did happen. They can move aside if they want to look back as they look forward. Or if they want to look back as they move forward

Chris Cillizza, you get the first round next time --


CILLIZZA: It's OK. I'd like to do that.


BOLDUAN: I'm sorry.

All right. Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.

Do not miss a special edition of "A.C. 360," tomorrow night. Anderson will sit down with Hillary Clinton to discuss the 2016 election. That's tomorrow at 8:00 eastern only on CNN.


BOLDUAN: Approximately three million children in the U.S. have hearing loss. Their parents helping them, of course, is both emotional and expensive. Many low-income children don't get the care they need. That is where one of the year's "CNN Heroes" comes in.

Michelle Kristi has opened up a whole new world for the kids. Take a look.


MICHELLE KRISTI, CNN HERO: A child with a hearing loss can achieve anything. Unfortunately, some fall through the cracks and sometimes the kids are bullied. A lot of people in their life tell them they can't do things. Their parents are often told their child is never going to learn to speak, which is not true.


[11:55:16] BOLDUAN: To see Michelle's kids speak up and take on the world, go to

We'll be right back.


[11:59:52] JOHN KING, HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

Irma's devastating blow to the Florida Keys is just now coming into focus.


BROCK LONG, FEMA DIRECTOR: Largely from storm surge, 25 of the houses initially have been destroyed and 65 percent have major damage. Basically, every house in the Keys was impacted by this one way or another.


KING: Uprooted trees and broken power --