Return to Transcripts main page


Source: "Rocket Man" Line a Late Add to Trump's U.N. Speech; GOP's Hail Mary Plan to Repeal Obamacare Gaining Steam; Interview with Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts; Hurricane Hunter Talks to CNN As He Flies Through Cat 5 Storm. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired September 19, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:03] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, the breaking news, a massive earthquake in Mexico City, at least 116 dead at this moment. This as a dangerous category 5 hurricane heads straight for Puerto Rico. We're on top of both of these breaking stories this hour.

And Paul Manafort fighting back after our exclusive report that he was wire tapped. Trump's former campaign chairman now calling on the Department of Justice to release all of the intercepts.

And "rocket man", Trump's nickname for Kim Jong-un giving Elton John a whole new following.

Let's go OutFront.

Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, two major breaking stories at this hour. A powerful earthquake with a rising death toll, and that death toll has been rising very quickly over the past hour. This is the scene in Mexico City, a magnitude 7.1 quake struck there. Tall office buildings shaking, large pieces of debris, sheets of glass all, as you can see, crashing to the ground.

The president of Mexico saying dozens of structures in Mexico City have been completely destroyed, collapsed, as you see on your screen. And the number of dead, as I said, tragically has been rising and very quickly. It was only 42 within the past hour or so, now, 116 known to be dead. An untold number are injured as they're searching in those collapsed buildings right now and hoping to save lives. Across the country, millions are without power. And this disaster coming as a monster category 5 hurricane is tearing across the Atlantic, about to make landfall again. Maria at this moment on a collision course with the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Officials warning residents to evacuate or die. Maria is expected to make landfall in hours, packing sustained winds of 165 miles an hour. The National Weather Service predicts catastrophic damage for more than 3 million Americans on those islands.

The storm right now with a life threatening combination of extremely high winds, storm surge, heavy rainfall, and massive flooding. Up to two feet of rain expected. That's a combination of Harvey and Irma in one.

A lot to get to tonight. We want to begin with Paulina Gomez- Wulschner, OutFront tonight in Mexico City. Paulina, look, this happened on the anniversary of the massive earthquake in Mexico City. Stunning and jarring, and obviously massive damage and a death toll tonight.

PAULINA GOMEZ-WULSCHNER, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Good night, Erin. It was horrible. Just to feel the earth shaking once again, to feel that horrible earthquake hit Mexico in September 7th, once more, we got hit by this massive earthquake.

The damage is over the city, (INAUDIBLE) buildings collapsed. There are at least 30 people dead in Mexico City and eight missing. And this eight missing people are inside of a building that collapsed in Roma Norte, in the neighborhood of Roma Norte, and this is where I live. And the whole area was devastated so there's (INAUDIBLE) all over the neighborhood.

So it's very dangerous now in this minute and in this area of Mexico City.

BURNETT: And of course, they are searching for more survivors right now. Paulina, thank you. I want to go straight to Ricardo Ramos who joins me on the phone.

Ricardo, you're also in Mexico City, you were actually in a restaurant as this earthquake struck. You took a video of exactly what you saw. What did this feel like?

RICARDO RAMOS, WITNESSED EARTHQAUKE (via telephone): Hi, good afternoon. It was definitely a crazy experience. I was here for the earthquake that happened two weeks ago. But this one was much stronger due to the proximity right here.

Basic instinct was just grabbing everything and heading out to the streets, making sure we were away from trees and electricity cables. And I believe it lasted over a minute. So it was definitely the scariest minute of my life, I will say that.

BURNETT: I mean, it's stunning when we look at these pictures. You know, what we are seeing, giant pieces of glass fall from buildings and the way that those lights were shaking at the restaurant you were in, that wasn't a sway. That was a very dramatic shake that we're seeing.

I mean, how did that feel like? What went through your mind as all of a sudden, it started?

RAMOS (via telephone): Absolutely. Well, it's funny because they had a drill this morning. There's a drill they have been doing ever since the earthquake of the '80s. So at first, I thought it was a drill then I'm like wait a second, there was actual shaking.

So, you don't really feel fear in the moment, just that instinct of grabbing things and making sure you find safety and everyone else is safe. (INAUDIBLE) what just happened.

BURNETT: And after, as you ran out, as you say on instinct, you got out of that room where those lights are shaking. You now obviously, we understand, dozens of buildings have collapsed. The death toll right now, Ricardo, is 116. It has gone up very rapidly in the past hour.

People could be trapped in some of these buildings. What kind of destruction have you seen as you have -- as you walked back from the restaurant, even?

[19:05:05] RAMOS (via telephone): Yes, I mean, starting with the restaurant, the lights and the power went out right away. A lot of parts in the street, cracked buildings, glass on the floor from broken windows. I personally did not see any of the demolished buildings but it's definitely a lot to see. I had to walk all the way back from (INAUDIBLE) which is one state, and it took me about an hour. So I got to see a lot during that hour.

BURNETT: All right, well, Ricardo, thank you very much. I mean, just amazing to look at these pictures. (INAUDIBLE) on the anniversary of that (INAUDIBLE) and all of a sudden, this happened. It's just stunning, and we're covering the story, and of course, hoping that we're going to hear about some big rescues and people saved from some of these collapsed buildings. As I said right now, the death toll a 116 confirmed. A number which has unfortunately risen very quickly in the past few moments.

I want to go straight to our other breaking story. Hurricane Maria, which is a deadly category 5 storm, decimating islands as it churns in the Caribbean. It is headed directly for Puerto Rico. The warning there is as serious as it possibly can be. They said evacuate or die. That's the warning.

And this is a new video right now. This is the U.S. Virgin Islands, winds and waves are getting more dangerous by the minute as that storm approaches. Tom Sater is OutFront tonight, and Tom, I can't believe what we're talking about those islands being struck again, and Puerto Rico with what they say is an evacuate or die hit.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Erin, and a lot of people evacuated to San Juan from the islands. We have new information now, it's kind of hard to fathom here because we thought Irma was this massive monster which it was, and now we got a storm that's getting stronger as the hours progress.

We have a pinhole eye. It's not the larger storms that are always the most destructive. Sometimes the smaller an eye, more compact storm, the more ferocious they can be. Irma had an eye about 23 miles in diameter, this is 11 1/2. And look at the winds, two hours ago, they were 160, the last hour, 165. That would still make it the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in Puerto Rico, and now we have just upped it to 175. This is amazing.

You'll notice how compact they are. We call this an annular hurricane. Take a look, cannonball. This is going to create a world of problems. It's 70 miles now from Saint Croix, don't think they're going to take a landfall, but anything is possible.

Hoping to get a secondary band on this radar. That would tell us as undergoing an eye wall replacement cycle. Why do we want that, because it can lose some strength when it goes through that process. That's the only thing that could be helpful to Saint Croix, U.S. British Virgin Islands which are getting -- pounded right now by the waves of rainfall, and for Puerto Rico.

We're going to look at this little closer here because the track takes it right over Puerto Rico around 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning, shoots it up towards the Turks and Caicos, they're now under hurricane watch, Southeast Bahamas and then slide it up the coast, keeping it away from the shoreline.

But we get in closer and you look at the path difference between Irma. Irma stays off the coast of Puerto Rico by 50, 55 miles and they still had a million people lose power. In fact, they've been in a recession since 2006. Unemployment is like 10.1 percent. Their massive labor force has been leaving, heading to the U.S.

They need power and they're going to need more of it. This is a population density map. Notice the bright red, so that's where you have the higher population numbers.

And this is San Juan, Erin, this is in the wrong place to be as the storm will really create a high force of wind there, knocking power out could be to the entire country.

BURNETT: I mean, Tom, it's stunning. And you talk about a storm that is, as you say, sort of a cannonball, so compact with that eye. And now the winds have gone from 165 to 175. Can it get stronger and stronger?

I mean, the thing about this storm that has been so shocking is how quickly it has accelerated. I mean, (INAUDIBLE), you know, some sort of a Lamborghini. It just all of a sudden that has taken off.

SATER: Yes, we saw this with Irma. I mean, in 15-hour time period, this jumped from a 1 to a 5. I mean, that's just outrageous. Since 1851 to last year, 2016, the number of category 5s that made landfall in the Lesser Antilles was zero. We've had two this month and we got a monster now bearing down on Saint Croix and Puerto Rico. We're next. We'll be watching it in the days ahead, but this is going to be a rough overnight period but a real rough day tomorrow because it won't be until tomorrow, late in the day, tomorrow evening that the system may finally take those tropical force winds, Erin away from Puerto Rico.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Tom. And as we're tracking this, I want to go to Nick Paton Walsh because he is in Puerto Rico where that eye, that pinhole eye, Nick that you're hearing about is expected to slam into the island just hours from now. And, Nick, what are you feeling right at this moment.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can see obviously the rain has begun here in the last hour or so. It really picked up as the sky has darkened. We're still 12 hours away from pretty much right behind me on the coast here, the east coast, Palmar Del Mar is where I am in Puerto Rico where we're supposed to see first landfall, potentially 165 miles per hour, the storm, as you were hearing.

And potentially will leave all of its energy on Puerto Rico at this point. It's supposed to go right across the land, through San Juan, the capital and then begin potentially to slow as it leaves the island itself.

[19:10:10] But you mentioned Hurricane Irma there, a billion dollars of damage, 46,000 people still now without power two weeks after that hit. That caused a glancing blow. This is going to go straight through the island itself. And we've seen water being rationed (INAUDIBLE), for gas at this stage. Boards being put up on businesses, on hotels all over the place.

I'm in a seaside resort here that's being cleared out (INAUDIBLE) in the last hour. We've seen people in their beach buggies popping down to the coastline to get a final look as the storm begins to loom there. People taking the warnings I think to some degree seriously, but you're never going to know really until the real ferocity of the wind hits, who's been carrying away from the flood areas. We're talking about possibly, about an 11 feet of storm surge.

That's when water is first finally ashore by the ferocity of the storm. That's almost twice my height here. And maybe 25 inches of rain at some point, too. So a lot happening in the next 48 hours, and Puerto Rico, the question is, are they still in a heightened state of readiness because of Hurricane Irma. We simply don't know, or has so much damage already been done that they're weakened to the point where this enormously direct blow could be devastating?

You have to be over 89 years old to have seen anything like this potentially to hit Puerto Rico before. It's a dangerous day ahead.

BURNETT: And it's amazing when you're talking about 25 possible inches of rain, storm surge of 11 feet. A storm that is possibly going to end up being stronger as it strikes than of course Irma. So you're looking at Harvey and Irma in a sense combined. I mean, this is a monster of a storm. The warning where you are, Nick, evacuate or die. Are people heeding that?

PATON WALSH: Yes, as far as we can tell. I have seen some locals here who are clearly not running for their lives. It's hard to get a broader sense. We heard from the government earlier on today that they were seeing less in numbers in the shelters than they had perhaps expected. Maybe people have moved further inland.

It's the flood risk areas that are most we're concerned about. Hurricane Irma took three lives. One in a traffic accident, one through electrocution, and one, somebody being moved to shelter.

So, you know, people are more worried to think about what the water does with as it moves in huge (INAUDIBLE). In area like this, we expect potentially to be under water in the sort of day ahead.

But, yes, the broader question is as you say, how seriously have the warnings being taken? I think it's pretty clear people have heard them. The issue is, do they really buy the idea this is a once in a century meteorological event that could frankly devastate this island.

BURNETT: And where do you go during the actual -- as it strikes? I presume you'll move from where you are, or no?

PATON WALSH: Well, when we stop talking, yes, I'll probably move from here. But we got to move into probably the second floor in the buildings nearby. Trying to get a gauge between being able to see how the storm moves and keep ourselves further away from it.

But I have to say, in the last hour or so, that we've seen the rains pick up and we are still a solid 12 hours away from the ferocity of the storm actually hitting. This is just the beginning.

BURNETT: All right, please stay safe. Nick, thank you.

And next, breaking news. Paul Manafort making demands tonight about his intercepted phone calls after CNN reported he was wire tapped.

Plus, President Trump calling Kim Jong-un "rocket man". How the nickname actually made it into Trump's teleprompter. His prepared speech to the world at the U.N.

And a hurricane hunter who is actually flying into Maria at this hour going to join us from that flight live and tell us what the storm looks like.


[19:17:21] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, at this hour calling on investigators to release any intercepts of his phone calls or other communications. He says put it out there.

In a statement, Manafort's spokesman writes, "Mr. Manafort requests that the Department of Justice release any intercepts involving him and any non-Americans so interested parties can come to the same conclusion as the DOJ, there is nothing there.

Pamela Brown is OutFront in Washington tonight. And Pamela, you first broke the news that Manafort was wiretapped, and obviously, his team is angry about that. And so they're saying release the records.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is the first time that Paul Manafort is responding to our exclusive reporting that he was being surveilled by the U.S. Government under a FISA warrant, under a secret court order at least two times.

And as you pointed out, Manafort is now calling for the Justice Department to release any intercepts. These conversations that he had involving him to the public. He's asking DOJ to do that, claiming that there is nothing there, and he wants the public to judge.

And as I pointed out, this is the first time that he is actually making his voice heard in the wake of this reporting that he was under surveillance by the U.S. Government both before and after the election. And during that timeframe, he spoke to President Trump, he was his former campaign chairman. He spoke to him on the phone in the same timeframe that he was under surveillance, according to our sources.

It's unclear if those conversations were ever picked up as part of this surveillance. And also in this statement, Erin, Manafort says that the U.S. Department of Justice's inspector general should conduct an investigation into these leaks and examine the motivations behind the previous administration's efforts to surveil a political opponent. That is also a line we have heard from the current administration, calling for leak investigations. Manafort was initially put under surveillance for his ties to a pro-Russia regime in Ukraine and then later for the FBI's investigation into Trump campaign's associates and Russians and any possible collusion.

Today, we should note, Erin that Senator Grassley of the Judiciary Committee told my colleague Manu Raju on camera that Manafort has not been cooperating with his committee. He also says Manafort may not meet with the Judiciary Committee because he was told he was facing indictment during a raid on his Virginia home in July, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Pamela, thank you very much.

I want to go now to Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, and Chris Swecker, former assistant FBI director for the Criminal Investigative Division. Of course, he served under Robert Mueller for two years.

So Jeffrey, let me start with you. Manafort certainly coming out aggressively here, playing hardball. Does this mean he has nothing to hide, put it all out there?

[19:19:59] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's actually very clever on the part of him and his spokesman because there is no way the Justice Department is going to just throw out these transcripts. It wouldn't be legal for them to do that. There are very strict rules about when and under what circumstances the Justice Department can release wiretaps or even acknowledge that they exist. So nothing is going to happen as a result of this.

But I do think it's a good public relations position to look like you have nothing to hide. I think much more significant is what Pamela referred to last time, I mean, just a moment ago, is he going to testify under oath without demanding immunity, without taking the Fifth? That would be a sign that he really has nothing to hide, and his lawyers would be crazy under these circumstances to let him testify without taking the Fifth.

BURNETT: So Chris, Manafort, you know, says, OK, put it all out there. But he's very specific here, any communications between himself and non-Americans. Now, as Pamela points out, we know President Trump talked to Manafort regularly during this time while Manafort was someday surveillance, and to state the obvious, Donald Trump is an American citizen.

So, if those records do exist, if Manafort talking to Trump, he's explicitly saying he doesn't want those released.

CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: Well, I mean, by the nature of FISA, any peripheral or incidental intercepts have to be sealed within a certain amount of time. I think it's 60 days, so nothing in the FISA world is publicized. Nothing should be publicized. It's a secret court.

And Paul Manafort and his lawyers know that. So, you know, I can see him calling for these things. None of this is going to see the light of day.


TOOBIN: Unless he ultimately goes to trial, in which case he would be entitled to obtain any recordings of himself. And presumably in a trial, some of it would be disclosed in open court because it would be evidence.

BURNETT: So, you're saying none of this will ever come out, which leads me to the other point in his spokesman's statement, right which is it's a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, they're saying. So whoever this is should go to jail? This information.

TOOBIN: You know, there is -- yes, I feel very conflicted about discussing this because that's right, it is improper to release information about FISA warrants. It is improper, but I salute our colleagues who get this information. I try to get this information ourselves. I understand why it's upsetting to Manafort and his team.

But, you know, we're in the journalism business and we want this stuff out there. And it is highly relevant and newsworthy that this campaign manager for the incumbent president of the United States was wiretapped by the United States Government.

BURNETT: And so, you know, Chris, this comes as we're also learning some new details about the tactics used by Mueller, right. In the New York Times they say, and I just want to quote this line, because I think it says so much. It says, Chris, "Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents, copied his computer files, looking for evidence that Mr. Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet."

What does that say to you, Chris that they're at the level of detail where they're looking at his spending versus his income? Who knows what, money laundering, what they're looking at here that they're actually getting at the level of photographing his suits?

SWECKER: Yes. I mean, this is what I would expect from former director Mueller, a thorough, hard-charging investigation within the boundaries of the law and the constitution. They're not playing patty cake. They went in there without a warrant because they had the probable cause to do that.

TOOBIN: Wait, I'm sorry, with a warrant.

SWECKER: And we're able to establish through a magistrate that they could get in to that house -- I'm sorry, with a warrant, without a knock. Sorry.

They were able to get a no-knock search warrant. And that's an extraordinary kind of warrant. The only time or most of the time when I had experience with those cases, they were drug cases.

But obviously, they were able to convince a magistrate that there was a potential for evidence to be destroyed and be destroyed quickly. So a very fungible evidence. So they are playing hardball and they're going at it aggressively.

TOOBIN: Very unusual in white-collar cases to have search warrants in this way.


BURNETT: It's funny, in the middle -- like he is still asleep. It's dark out. We have reported that. They picked the lock.


BURNETT: The guy things he's being robbed or killed or who knows what he thinks. They thought he was that quickly he could destroy evidence.

TOOBIN: That's right, and, you know --

BURNETT: And they got a judge to buy in.

TOOBIN: -- most white-collar investigations involve grand jury subpoenas where there is a certain level of trust that there will be production of actual records. Here, the existence of this search warrant tells you they don't trust Manafort at all. Not only to produce what he's required to produce, but not to destroy what he doesn't want the government to see.

So there is obviously a great deal of bad blood already.

BURNETT: Just to state the obvious, Jeffrey, right, he would go to jail for destroying evidence.

TOOBIN: He would.

BURNETT: And he obviously could go to jail for any kind of financial crimes or money laundering, never mind collusion with Russia if they are able to prove that.

[19:25:04] TOOBIN: Correct. And the reason they got these warrants, they got the search warrant because they -- though the rule is, you can only get a search warrant if you convince a magistrate there is probable cause that evidence of crimes will be disclosed. That's how the warrant system works.

So obviously, there is a great deal of focus on Manafort in this investigation. Doesn't mean he did anything wrong, doesn't mean he's guilty of anything but obviously --

BURNETT: Well, just like he can say release the transcripts because he knows no one is going to release them, although someone could leak them and maybe that would be problematic for him.

Anyway, thank you both.

And next, President Trump's carefully crafted insult was aimed directly at North Korea's Kim Jong-un and purposefully so.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: "rocket man" is on a suicide mission for himself.


BURNETT: That was not ad-libbed. Is Trump reckless or is this part of a strategy?

And the surprising turn of events on Capitol Hill. Republicans are now suddenly there. Guess what, ObamaCare may be going away.


BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump threatening to destroy North Korea in his speech to the world at the United Nations. Once again, calling Kim Jong-un "rocket man", just days after his controversial tweet.


TRUMP: 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.


BURNETT: It turns out this was not an ad lib. That was in the teleprompter. Many people knew about it in advance that are around Trump.

And Jim Acosta is OUTFRONT tonight at Trump Tower.

Jim, look, it was a late add to the speech, I know you've reported. But nonetheless, it was a formal and planned add. What more can you tell us?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. This was something of a tweet storm of a speech aimed at the conservative base. We heard everything but the president referring to Raul Castro and Nicolas Maduro as little Raul and lying Nicolas.

But getting back to that one liner from the president describing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as "rocket man", I'm told by senior administration official that was added as of this morning and the reason why is because it is essentially going back to the president's use of plain language that everybody can clearly understand, and in the words of the senior administration official, it translates clearly into Chinese. That is the comment I heard from one senior official.

But, Erin, expect to hear more of this plain language when it comes to the president and his efforts to curb some of these rogue regimes around the world. You heard the president talking about Iran earlier today. That is the next big foreign policy challenge that this administration has to deal with, on top of everything with North Korea. I talked with a senior administration official earlier today who said, look for the president to unveil a new Iran policy in the coming weeks as in this October, next month.

And when I asked this official whether or not the president is ready to crap the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal that was crafted with the world powers to curb Tehran's nuclear weapons program, the senior administration official strongly suggested that is going to happen, saying there's going to be a new comprehensive policy coming from the president -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Very significant development there, Jim.

And now, the former White House communications director and former State Department spokesperson for Secretary Kerry, Jen Psaki, did a lot with North Korea, and former senior communications adviser for the Trump campaign, Jason Miller, who is also the communications director for the Trump transition team.

OK. So, Jen, President Trump calls Kim Jong-un rocket man in front of the whole world, does it on purpose. Doesn't give him the respect we have been using his real name, right? As I just used his real name. He didn't do that.

Does the scare minimize, humiliate Kim Jong-un?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It sounded more like a term of endearment to me. But, look, I think what was interesting about his use of that term is that it shows and highlights his obsession with the news of the day and what's going to pop on Twitter and what's going to pop in the news. What we did not hear in that speech is a comprehensive strategy on how he would approach North Korea, what differently he would do diplomatically, and what exactly these escalating military threats mean.

And I think the rest of the world, most of whom were sitting in that room, that's what's unique about UNGA, were probably scratching their heads.

COOPER: Jason, what do you say? Rocket man, purposeful?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. And I love the line, and I love the speech. I think it will go down on the Mt. Rushmore of Trump speeches as one of the best he's given so far.

But look, what I think the president was doing today was continuing to isolate Kim and his regime. For all of us who saw the excellent Will Ripley special, the behind the scenes that he did this last Friday on North Korea, this is an entire regime that is propped up based on lies and deception and what the president is doing is taking what is a perceived strength for Kim and turning it into a weakness. And this is something where he might think this is -- Kim might think this is a strength, but now it's flipped around and he's being mocked.

And here's the reality, we have to continue to split off North Korea from the Chinese and from the Russians. We have to take that next step further and cut off their fuel supply. It's going to be up to that if we're truly going to go and finally cut them off from the rest of the world.

BURNETT: Which, of course, they haven't moved to do anything on the fuel supply, which is a bigger -- it's a bigger issue, and maybe that's what he should have talked about.

But, Jason, to your point about him being mocked, the president may be disappointed to hear you compliment a CNN documentary, but also he isn't the one who thought of the nickname, rocket man. That was actually "The Economist" back in 2006 who called rocket man Kim's father. Kim Jong-il.

Look, if that nickname is so effective, why didn't it work? North Korea was kind of close to zero then, and now here they are basically a full nuclear power?

MILLER: Well, I think up until this point, I mean, we have been coddling North Korea. And I think at a certain point, we have to quit putting them in their corner and giving them a blanket and a juice box and telling them they're going to be on time-out. We have to start taking real steps, which we have seen the Trump administration start doing. It's good that we have gotten buy-in from the security council so far.

We have to continue going, as I said, I think really the fuel shipments are going to be the next step in this. But good for President Trump for realizing how serious this problem is, and further moving to isolate Kim from the rest of the world.


PSAKI: Look, I think the issue here is that escalating rhetoric is not a sign of strength in terms of how the global community perceives you. It's a sign sometimes of absurdity. I think today that was an example of that.

The fact is what he could have done today is actually given a propaganda victory to the leader of North Korea by saying he's going to destroy the country that millions of people live in.

[19:35:06] So, let's see what they do and if they use that in the coming days. I think that's a more likely outcome than a change in their strategy or a different approach.

BURNETT: One thing I will say, Jen, is Trump has this ability to sort of name somebody something that's absurd and humiliating and it sticks. And nobody else would even think of it or do it, and he does it and it sticks. Here he is with a few other people.


TRUMP: I call him Little Marco. Little Marco. Hello, Marco.

In the case of lying Ted Cruz, lying Ted. Lies. Oh, he lies. You know Ted, he brings the Bible, holds it high, puts it down, lies.

And then, of course, we have crooked Hillary. Crooked Hillary, folks. She's been crooked from the beginning.


BURNETT: I mean, Jen, there was something about those names that worked.

PSAKI: You're right. And maybe we should give Jason some credit here, too, for his work on that during the campaign.

But look, Trump, you like him, you don't like him. He's a marketing genius. He says things that stick in people's minds. That is effective on the campaign trail. That's different than what you do in a diplomatic arena and how you use your speech at UNGA.

So, really, using your speech here -- this is a place where the world is really used to the United States driving the agenda. I mean, President Obama used his first speech to talk about climate change. It was purposeful so that that could be a driving global agenda item in the years ahead.

I'm not sure what we take away from this speech aside from his ability and willingness to use more heated rhetoric.

MILLER: Well, and the fact that, you know, Jen, I think you bring up a really good point. I mean, the fact that we're talking about North Korea tonight out of all the different issues that the president talked about today, I think really puts the focus at the right point. I mean, this is the single most critical issue that our country is facing on the foreign affairs stage right now.

So, good for President Trump for elevating it, not just for the country but for the rest of the world. We have to get buy-in, and again, those missiles, they might not just be pointed add the U.S. We have a lot of allies like Japan and South Korea and others in the theater who could be targets.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

PSAKI: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, last ditch salvo on health care. Guess what. It might actually happen, just when you weren't looking, Obamacare could be gone.

And breaking news, Hurricane Maria strengthening, aiming for Puerto Rico. They're saying evacuate or die. Right now, category 5 storm. It has just increased in the past few minutes since our show began to 175 sustained winds per hour.

Someone inside the storm right now, a hurricane hunter, in a plane is going to call us and talk to you in just a moment.


[19:41:19] BURNETT: Tonight, Republicans pushing ahead with a Hail Mary plan to repeal Obamacare, a plan that just might work. Among other things, this plan would get rid of the Obamacare individual and employer mandates. It would get rid of the Obamacare subsidies, and this one is important, too, allow insurance companies to charge more for people with pre-existing conditions.

OUTFRONT now, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, Ed Markey.

And, Senator, I appreciate your time tonight.

Look, this bill has snuck up stealthfully, nobody was watching and then, all of a sudden, here it is. It is real.

Can it pass?

SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, it's just Trumpcare again. It's a zombie Trumpcare bill. It does pretty much the same thing.

It's going to throw tens of millions of Americans, potentially off of their health care. It's going to not give them a guarantee that their pre-existing conditions are covered. It's going to slash Medicaid and other funding by $700 billion, which will be used ultimately to give tax breaks for the Republican wealthiest supporters in America. And the 2.8 million Americans who right now are covered for opioid

addiction treatment, well, the funding levels are going to be slashed dramatically, and the care for their families is going to be put in jeopardy all across this country.

BURNETT: Look, your point of view, of course, is what I would expect. But as you know, the reason that the highly public efforts to repeal Obamacare failed earlier this year was not Democrats like yourself, Senator, it was Republicans, right? They couldn't get Republicans on board.

And some of those big names who wouldn't vote yes before might vote yes now. Conservative Senator Mike Lee, he says he's impressed by the proposal, his word. John McCain has not ruled out supporting the bill. His vote, of course, was the one that doomed the last vote.

Does this worry you?

MARKEY: Well, what's going to happen now is that the volume of voices across the country that were heard back in July are going to be once again activated. So, there are going to be more tweets and Facebooks and telephone calls than this Congress has seen since all the way back in July when Trumpcare one came up. So, Trumpcare two is no more attractive to the very same people.

And so, there is a stimulus response quality to Congress, and there's nothing more stimulating that millions of Americans registering their opposition to a bill which hurts their families. That's going to be unleashed over the next week.

BURNETT: The authors of this bill note something, Senator, that's pretty important to you. They say that four states, New York, California, Maryland, and your state, Massachusetts, get about 40 percent of Obamacare funding. Their plan, though, would equalize Medicaid funding across the state. So, instead of having it all go to four states or I'm sorry, that lion's share, it would be equal.

Isn't that a fair thing to do?

MARKEY: What they miss is the next sentence where then they say, but we're going to cut the total funding by $700 billion. That's going to hurt everybody. So they're going to give smaller chunks --

BURNETT: So, would you be onboard with equal funding if the overall amount -- because if all we did was equalize it, you'd lose money.

MARKEY: If all the states that are now not in the system joined, they would get the funding as well. If Texas joined, if Florida joined, if all those Southern states joined, they would get the funding that Massachusetts and other states are receiving right now, and they would receive it in a much larger measure.

Right now, they're just sitting on the sidelines. And their own citizens are being harmed. Their health care is not as well- protected.

So, let's not miss this central point, though, that they want to cut it by $700 billion.

[19:45:01] A vision without funding is a hallucination. They're going to hurt the health care of people in all 50 states if that amount of money is taken out of the health care system.

BURNETT: Senator, thank you for your time tonight. Senator Markey from Massachusetts.

MARKEY: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the breaking news. Hurricane Maria just really now beginning its assault, approaching Puerto Rico in the final stages. Residents there are preparing for literally the worst. They are saying evacuate or die. Is this what's headed their way?

An expert is flying through the eye of the storm. The heart of that storm right now, his first flight in to figure out what's happening, calling us from the airplane.

And on a much lighter note, what Donald Trump's new nickname for Kim Jong-un is doing for Elton John.



BURNETT: Breaking news, millions in the path of a catastrophic hurricane. Maria right now, 175 miles an hour. That's gone up 10 miles an hour since the program began.

This is video -- new video out of St. Croix. The deadly winds and drenching rains right now are decimating entire islands and the direct hit, the first direct hit to a major land body is going to be Puerto Rico tonight.

[19:50:06] Officials on the island of Dominica say the damage is mind- boggling. We actually have not been able to get images of that damage and how bad it is right now.

As conditions are deteriorating on the ground, I want to go now to the air. Joining me on the phone is Richard Henning, flight director for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA. He's actually right now in a plane flying over Hurricane Maria in the jet that we're going to show on the screen, so you can see exactly what it is. He is in that plane, and right now that plane or plane just like is on top of Maria.

Richard, this storm, category 5, and you see it from space, it is powerful to see, it is huge and it is strong.

Where are you exactly right now?

RICHARD HENNING, FLIGHT DIRECTOR, NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION (via telephone): Hello, Erin, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with your audience with such an important subject. We are actually flying right over Puerto Rico. At this time, we're

about to head off the south coast in the island. We're getting in closer towards the center of the storm. We're at 45,000 feet.

And what we've done throughout the day is lay a pattern of what we call drops sondes throughout the Bahamas and north of Puerto Rico to sample the atmosphere out in front of the storm, which is going to be very critical for where it goes after it hits Puerto Rico.

Unfortunately for residence in Puerto Rico, it's pretty much a sure thing. It is going to strike Puerto Rico. The question is where is it going to go after that. But everything we're seeing from the aircrafts and the other aircrafts in the storm right now is that this is a catastrophic storm. We're talking about a storm that's actually more intense than Irma.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you about that on this intensity point. I mean, this storm went from a category 1 to a category 5 in about 12 hours. I mean, I know that's incredibly rare, and you're now inside the storm. I mean, what are you seeing, Richard, that explain such a massive and fast power surge or intensity surge?

HENNING: Well, sometimes what happens is all of the conditions that intensify a hurricane come together all at once perfectly. And unfortunately for the citizens of Dominica, that happened just east of the island yesterday afternoon and through the evening. And it was about an absolute worse-case scenario you could imagine for that island, where the storm dropped an incredible amount of pressure in the eye, the wind increased dramatically right before it made landfall across that island. And it actually weakened slightly as it went over Dominica because it is such a mountainous island, and small with very tall mountains.

But now, after it emerged last night over the Caribbean and gotten back over open water, there's absolutely nothing to -- it's intensity right now and again, it is a 909 millibar hurricane which is historically low for this portion of the Caribbean. You're talking about a storm that's approaching the intensity of Katrina. It's already more intense than Hurricane Ivan, back in 2004, that was a major category 5 storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

This is a storm that you really can't -- you really can't overhype it. It's not as bad as it's going to get to the islands of Puerto Rico. They just need to -- they just need to be ready for it as best they can. Heed all the warnings from the local emergency management people because again, all the science that we're gathering today in the case that there's nothing right now that's going to spare Puerto Rico from a direct hit from this storm.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Richard, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much for your work.

Of course, it's the work of Richard that helps us understand the storms and where they are headed.

Next, rocket man, Jeanne Moos-style. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:58:24] BURNETT: Trump's new nickname taking off with Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a verbal missile --

TRUMP: Rocket man is on a suicide mission --

MOOS: -- that exploded on social media.

Reaction range from infantile to awesome, tweeted one critic.

Tell other countries respect this nation again.

Tweeted another, I would bet you Kim J-un likes being called rocket man.

Posted someone else: Leave Elton John alone.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: What's your favorite kind of music? What music do you listen to?

TRUMP: Well, I think Elton John is great.

MOOS: No word on whether Elton John thanks its great that the president is using his song.

Google says searches for rocket man have skyrocketed.

It was "The Economist" magazine that first dubbed Kim Jong-un's father "rocket man" back in 2006.

The president first tweeted the insult Sunday.

JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE NIGHT HOST: He named Kim Jong-un after an Elton John song, "Rocket Man". I would have gone with tiny dancer but you know, I'm not the president.

MOOS: One fan tweeted of President Trump: he's a master troll and brander.

(on camera): For those who say President Trump is trolling North Korea's leader, look, a president Trump troll doll exactly exists.

(on camera): The president of the United States is trolling and Elton Jong-un is live in concert.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: Anderson starts now.