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Forecast for Maria; Puerto Rico Braces for Maria; Trump's Speech to U.N.; Government Wiretapped Manafort; Mueller Plans to Indict Manafort; McConnell and Graham on Health Care. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 19, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Devastation all across the island. Maria made landfall today in Dominica as a powerful category five hurricane, crippling Dominica with winds as high as 160 miles an hour. It even ripped the roof off the home of Dominica's prime minister and left so much of the island in ruins.

The prime minister says they have lost pretty much all of what money can buy. That's a direct quote.

Right now there is a hurricane warning in effect for Puerto Rico with all kinds of concerns about water levels could rise as high as nine feet.

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is in the CNN Severe Weather Center tracking Maria's path.

You got that update. What's the news?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right. So we just got it in truly at 2:00, at the top of the hour. It is still a category five storm, winds 160 miles per hour. So, in reality, this is about the exact conditions that Dominica had to deal with yesterday as it crossed over the country. It has now exited other than maybe a few rain bands still left for Dominica, now making its way towards the Virgin Islands and towards Puerto Rico.

You can actually see it on Puerto Rico's radar right now because it is finally getting close enough. You can see some of the outer bands here, as well as the eye.

Now, here is a look at the track. We still expect it to be about a category five or a high-end category four as it makes landfall. Likely those winds will be between 150 and 160 miles per hour. One hundred fifty would be a category four, 160 would be a category five. So in terms of the category number, you're talking semantics. The point is, it's going to be an incredibly strong storm when it makes landfall over Puerto Rico.

From there it continues to the northwest, heading towards the Dominican Republic, as well as the Turks and Caicos.

Now, some of the impacts they're going to have in some of these places, including Puerto Rico, six to nine feet of storm surge. Some of the other countries to the east could be looking at seven to 11 feet of storm surge. In addition to that flooding is going to be a big threat, widespread. You're talking six to 10 inches of rain. But there will be several spots that could pick up 15, even 20 inches of rain.

That's not just a problem because it triggers flooding. It's also going to be a problem because of the elevation in a lot of these islands. It's very high, which can then trigger mudslides because of the amount of rain. We've seen it in the past with other tropical systems and it's very possible to have it happen again.

Here's a look as we zoom in even tighter into Puerto Rico. Again, most of these areas you're seeing that widespread about eight to 10 inches of rain. But there are going to be a couple spots, Brooke, that could pick as much as 15 inches of rain. And that will likely just prolong say a lot of folks getting the cleanup process to begin or getting their power back, which is probably the last thing those folks really want to hear.

BALDWIN: Still reeling from Irma and now Maria.

Allison, thank you.

Let's go straight to Puerto Rico and talk to Leyla Santiago. She is in this town of Louisa (ph). This is just outside of San Juan.

You've been talking to people. They're still hurting from the most recent hurricane. What are they telling you? How are they preparing?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now a lot of people are doing those last minute preps, trying to get their hands on generators, get in the stores, get any water that they can find.

I want you to take a look behind me at the coast just so you get a better idea of what it looks like. This is on the northern coast. This is actually pretty typical for right now. So I'm not sure that we're starting to necessarily feel Maria come in. This is what we typically see.

Now we -- this is the coast on this side. I definitely want to take you over here, because this is actually the line for ice. This is a rare line. A lot of people in this line have already told me they have been to two or three. One woman even told me up to seven locations trying to find water, trying to find ice, and they haven't been able to do so.

And I want to ask this gentleman over here.



SANTIAGO: He says he's been here since 10:00 a.m. And we're in the same time zone.


SANTIAGO: Yes. So it's about 1:30 and so he's been here for several hours.



SANTIAGO: So he is saying --


SANTIAGO: He's saying he's not scared of anything. But this is part of the preparation. Which is typical. I mean this is a tropical Caribbean island. They are used to these types of storms.



SANTIAGO: He says this is the easiest place to find.


SANTIAGO: But it's about patience and while this being an easy process.

Let me show you sort of the front of the line so you can see what it is that they're dealing with. They pay a few dollars over here and then the ice comes out and they are each allotted two bags. And already on the sign you can see it says that they are going to -- they are going to close at 6:00 p.m.

[14:05:06] So right now the line continues to grow. We've been here several hours. These people not only concerned about Hurricane Maria coming, but what could come after. I've said it several times, this seems -- there's something else looming over this island, and that is the economic crisis. $70 billion in debt. They have not seen a storm of this magnitude since 1928 make direct landfall. So a lot of people concerned, Brooke, about what could come after Hurricane Maria makes its way through this island.

BALDWIN: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE), ice, the magic word there clearly in San Juan right now.

Leyla, thank you for that. Thank you for talking to him as well. Not afraid, he says.

Meantime, the president of the United States defiant and scornful as he faced a curious United Nations today for the very first time, outlining an America first approach to foreign policy and lashing out at North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, the man he once again called rocket man, warning the U.S. would, quote, totally destroy, the country of 25 million people.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has great strength and patience. But if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is readying, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.


BALDWIN: And he continued on. The president using this global stage to tick through his list of enemies, also signaling he could decide to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, which he called an embarrassment to the United States.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States and I don't think you've heard the last of it. Believe me.


BALDWIN: Let's discuss. I have Aaron David Miller with us, CNN global affairs analyst and former Middle East negotiator, and Heather Conley, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state. She is now the senior VP for Europe and Eurasia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

So, welcome to both of you.

Aaron, let me begin with you. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of what he said about Iran and North Korea, just the first big picture, you know, this is the first time before -- you know, that he spoke in front of this body, which he previously criticized. How do you think he did?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, largest speech, largest stage this president has had in nine months. I think, frankly, and it may come as a shock, I think in some respects he exceed expectations for two reasons. It was two speeches, Brooke. It was the tough guy speech in which he felt most comfortable elevating the senior access of evil, North Korea and Iran, and the junior access, which is Maduro of Venezuela and Cuba. Syria fits somewhere in between. I think he was very comfortable. More comfortable with that speech.

The second part of the speech was the globalist speech in which he tried to reconcile his America first speech with a kind of what I would call planetary humanism. He talked about women's empowerment. He talked about anti-slavery. He talked about global health. He talked about anti-milarial (ph) programs. This was effort, I think, and for Trump, life's about addition, not subtraction. This was an effort, I think, to at least neutralize and placate some of his critics.

The problem is, these two speeches, in some respects, just don't fit together because -- last point. If Trump's going to solve problems like North Korea and Iran, he's going to have to depend on those people in that room. And the reality is that doesn't square all that well with America first.

BALDWIN: Let's drill down on a couple of the points you're making. Heather, so let's talk about North Korea. And a senior U.N. diplomat described to my colleague, Jim Sciutto, the shock -- this person described the shock in the room as President Trump threatened to destroy North Korea. This is the direct quote. You could feel a wind had gone into the room when he said that. People were taken aback. There were rumblings. It is an emotional reaction.

So, you know, the rocket man and then the whole we'll destroy you piece. I mean, listen, the world is accustomed to his bluster on Twitter, but how do you think this kind of language sat with world leaders in the room, let alone over in Pyongyang?

HEATHER CONLEY, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes, I mean, those were the words that, quite frankly, the entire speech melts away and all focus is on his extraordinary words. When the president of the United States calls for the total destruction of 25 million people, it's extraordinary and I'm sure the air really went out of the room.

[14:10:08] This is a really important speech. It's a critical venue to lay out where the global super power thinks about countries and the use of both its economic power. The president talked about the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan and America's generosity and juxtaposed against this extraordinary statement.

It does not help when you call another leader by a derogatory name. President Trump wouldn't want that either. This is a very serious issue. America's military forces are poised.

BALDWIN: You know, Heather -- let me -- if I may, I'm listening to you so carefully, but there are Americans, and especially Trump supporters and others who are saying, listen, the sanctions haven't worked so far. The North Korean economy hasn't been crippled. They keep advancing their missile program. What's wrong with a little tough talk?

CONLEY: Well, the tough talk, if you'll recall when President Obama gave a tough line about a red line and did not do that, America's creditability is hurt. When the president speaks such extraordinary language, you place the -- America's creditability on the line. And that's what made this statement so extraordinary. That's why people are extremely concerned.

This is a dangerous situation. We need to make sure that we are doing everything possible to not resort to conflict. We have a lot of tools at our disposal. But when you eliminate those when the president of the United States accelerates and escalates to that type of rhetoric in a forum which is dedicated to international peace and security. It's very extraordinary.


That's North Korea. Aaron, what about Iran? And just so, you know, everyone watching, is that we're talking on this, October 15th is the deadline. That's when the U.S. must certify if whether Iran is compliant with this whole nuclear deal.

And so we heard the president call the Iran deal an embarrassment to the U.S., saying essentially that it's time for the world to join the U.S. and demanding Iran's government in the pursuit of death and destruction. So it sounds like he is ready to walk away from this deal.

MILLER: I mean I don't think you have to read much between the lines. This is the strongest signal yet that by October 15th, when he's compelled to certify whether Iran is in compliance with the four conditions set in the deal, that it seems as if he's going to not certify.

Now, does that mean not certify and kick it to Congress? Does that mean not certify and try to renegotiate additional terms? But clearly I think he's -- he's prepared. And this creates -- he's climbed up a tree on this one, Brooke. I t's going to be tough to climb down.

One last point. One of my old bosses, George Schultz (ph), a very wise man, said, when you don't have a policy, the temptation is to give a speech. And both on North Korea and Iran, the underlying substantive problem here for the Trump administration is that we do not have an approach to deal with the reality of North Korea's nuclear stockpile or the prospects that Iran may well turn into a punitive nuclear power. And that's why --

BALDWIN: That's a problem.

MILLER: Keeping the agreement, as imperfect as it is --


MILLER: Is important because there ain't a plan b on this one. And that's the real problem. And the president couldn't cover it up, I suspect, in the speech that he gave.

BALDWIN: Well, the president of France, who's talked to Christiane Amanpour, who we'll talk to next hour, you know, obviously wants the U.S. to stay in and is hoping to have some conversations to dissuade President Trump from pulling out. We'll talk to Christiane about that at the top of the next hour.

Meantime, Heather and Aaron, thank you so very much.

Coming up, under pressure. CNN learning that the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was wiretapped, both before and after the election by the U.S. government. Why he was under the microscope and was President Trump also monitored while Manafort was wiretapped?

And, happening now, Senate Republicans meeting behind closed doors, discussing a Hail Mary attempt to overturn Obamacare. Their effort is gaining some momentum. We are learning what President Trump is doing behind the scenes to also patch some things up with members of his own party, including Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican, Alaska. How's that going. Got a lot to talk about today. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching



[14:18:43] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

To a CNN exclusive now where sources are telling us that federal investigators wiretapped Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign chairman, both before and after the presidential election. In fact, the sources say, the government snooping continued into early this year, including during a time when Manafort was believed to be talking to the president. These sources point out that the surveillance on Manafort actually began not over Russia, rather, Ukraine and any possible role Manafort had had in corruption accusations involving its ruling party there. The surveillance ended at some point in 2016. But then the wiretapping on Manafort started back up.

So, let me get to CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz, who was part of this team that broke this story wide open.

Shimon, let's start with the when and the why. When and specifically why did federal investigators revive their surveillance on Paul Manafort?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. So we've been told that it started back up sometime after the FBI began its investigation into Trump campaign associates in July. U.S. intelligence obtained intercepts that showed Russians were talking about Trump associates and ways they could influence them. There was also intelligence that showed suspected Russian operatives communicating with Trump associates. All of this and other information eventually led the FBI to open an investigation and obtain a FISA warrant on Paul Manafort.

[14:20:12] BALDWIN: All right. So then we remember when President Trump tweet a couple of times that the Obama White House had wiretapped him over in Trump Tower, but there is zero evidence of this. Do we know if the president was at all caught, though, on any of Manafort's wiretaps?

PROKUPECZ: Right. We don't know, Brooke. But what we've been told was that the FBI was listening to Manafort's conversation earlier this year, well after the campaign. We're told by our sources that the president and Manafort were still speaking during that period and so it is possible that those conversations were collected by the FBI.

BALDWIN: OK. We're going to have more on that piece in just a moment.

Shimon, thank you so much.

But first, Paul Manafort is the central figure in yet another bombshell story involving the Russia investigation. "The New York Times" reporting that when federal investigators raided his home in July, prosecutors, under special counsel Bob Mueller, told Manafort they planned to indict him. The piece goes on to say the move was just a glimpse of how Mueller is playing hard ball. Here's a quote. Mr. Mueller's team has used what some describe as shock and awe tactics to intimidate witnesses and potential targets of the inquiry.

We should also point out here, that Paul Manafort has denied ever knowingly communicating with Russian operatives during the election and he denies participating in any collusion with Russians to undermine U.S. interests.

With me now, one of the reporters who wrote this "New York Times" story, Pulitzer Prize winner Matt Apuzzo.

Matt, nice to have you on.

You know, reading your whole piece today and putting it all together, I mean, what does it tell you about how aggressive Bob Mueller is being?

MATT APUZZO, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, you know, when the two roads diverge, it seems like Mueller and his team are steadily taking the more aggressive path here. It's really unusual to see prosecutors in a special counsel investigation using search warrants to begin with, much less search warrants where they don't even knock, where they pick the locks and go in. Then to turn around and tell somebody we -- you know, we expect to indict you and then subpoenaing their lawyer to testify against them. I mean these are really aggressive tactics. We know that they're -- they've been telling people, come testify before the grand jury and saying, we're going to kind of dispense with the ordinary preliminary steps of first coming in and doing an interview. Either come in and talk to the grand jury or just take the fifth and, you know, take your chances.

BALDWIN: Right. So then the question is, OK, so why do this so aggressively? And I love this quote in your piece. Let me just read it for everyone watching. Solomon Wisenburg (ph), who is deputy independent council in the investigation that led to the impeachment trial of President Clinton om '99 said to you, they are setting a tone. It's important early on to strike terror in the hearts of people in Washington or else you will be rolled. He went on to say, you want people saying to themselves, man, I had better tell these guys the truth.

Is that the sense that you got as far as why this is all happening the way it is?

APUZZO: Sure. I mean, I think it's a combination of things. One, Mueller and his team clearly feel pretty good about the evidence they've developed in -- on some tracks here. The Flynn track, Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, and the Manafort track. So, you know, they don't -- they don't need to take anything but aggressive posture.

And on -- you know, to the point of the quote you just read, if that's not the intention, that's certainly a -- has an added benefit when you take an aggressive posture, you send a -- you set a tone. And, you know, he has really rubbed a lot of people in that way. Made them feel like he's out there just trying to do shock and awe trying to send a message like, you know, nothing but extreme cooperation will do.

BALDWIN: Matt, thank you. Matt Apuzzo of "The New York Times.

APUZZO: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Ahead here, empty threats or promises not yet fulfilled? My legal panel weighs in on the explosive details surrounding all of what we've just discussed, the wiretapping of Manafort, where the special counsel's investigation goes from here.

Also, Republicans preparing for a Hail Mary on health care. Republican senators racing to get an Obamacare repeal bill passed, but the outcome is nowhere close to certain.


[14:28:26] BALDWIN: All right, fresh out of lunch with Republican leadership. Here's the Senate majority leader on health care today, Mitch McConnell.


So, have at it (INAUDIBLE).

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, number one, I've never felt better about where we're at. It's pretty well clear to me where the country's going under Obamacare and Berniecare. It's going into further bankruptcy. It's more decisions further away from where you live. And in 1996 we block granted d money for welfare reform and it worked like a charm. We put governors in charge of the program. We held them accountable.

So here's the choice for America. Socialism or federalism when it comes to your health care? Four states get 40 percent of the money under Obamacare, New York, California, Massachusetts and Maryland. They represent 20 percent of the population. Our goal is by 2026 to make sure that every patient in every state gets the same contribution roughly from the federal government and allow people in your states to make decisions that would have been made in Washington.

The most beneficial aspect of this bill is follows. If you don't like Obamacare, who do you complain to? You can complain to me, but I sure as hell don't run it. If I could get South Carolina in charge of this money, that would have been spent in Washington by a bureaucratic who's unelected, I promise every South Carolinian the following, if you don't like your health care, somebody will listen to you. It's your governor and your state house representative. You can go to the state house respective, who most likely goes to the same hospital you do.

[14:30:05] You can go to your governor, who will listen to you because they care about your vote if nothing else.