Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

Puerto Rico Gov't: At Least 13 Dead After Storm; Death Toll In Mexican Quake Rises to 286; North Korea Issues New Threat; Alabama Race Divides Trump, Bannon. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 22, 2017 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:00] LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this hour the government is trying to figure out how they will allocate some of the resources that are now coming in at the San Juan airport. They expect to see resources coming in from the U.S., New York, sending in a plane filled with generators, food, water. FEMA bringing in to the airport as well.

But I got to tell you, John, one of the frustrating things, this is a logistical nightmare. The government admitting it has not been able to reach certain parts of the island. And not just by road. Via land line to reach some of the government officials there. So what will come of the resources that come here logistically will be difficult to get to the most vulnerable people on this island, John?

JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: Leyla Santiago for the South Side of San Juan. A long road of recovery ahead. Very sad story there. Please thank the gentleman for his sharing time with us today. Leyla, thank you so much.

Hurricane Maria not done as the Turks and Caicos are now taking a very heavy pounding. So where is Maria heading next? Let's bring in Chad Myers, CNN's meteorologist. He's at the weather center. Chad, what are the latest stats on Maria and where is she going?

CHAD MYERS, CNN WEATHER METEOROLOGIST: Still 125 miles per hour, John. This is not slowing down. Hurricane hunters have been flying back and forth through it and still seeing low pressure and gusty winds to 125.

Now moving through the Turks and Caicos and eventually north. I wouldn't want to be on a cruise ship in the Bahamas right now. Certainly, this is a rocking atmosphere here. And the Atlantic Ocean will be rocking for the next few days and then pounding surf across the east coast with significant rip currents likely.

Now, here's the 11:00 advisory. It has turned slightly to the left, although it did at 5:00 as well. But it's slightly further. Why? Because for now the two computer models have a little kink in them. A little kink back towards the west.

And here's the newest. Don't think about that one. That was last night. There is the new 12 z or the 8:00 a.m. run even for the American model, the GFS. They both tried to push the storm closer to the United States for a while. Because Jose is up here kind of doing that to it but then finally shifting it off into the ocean away from Atlantic Canada, away from Bermuda and away from the United States.

Because look at the numbers that we're seeing here in Puerto Rico. A yard of rain. Three feet of rain in some spots still running off. There's the flash flooding there in San Juan right there. The landfall was way back out here 70 miles away or so. There will be some rainfall today, but not enough to make a difference. That rain will be in the ocean.

I will take you to one more thing, John. Here is what we're going through. Here's what we're going through in Puerto Rico. Here's San Juan. Here's Lila, Catania. It looks like a long way. All the way over here. Now let me zoom out and show you how far she got. That's it. She went from there to there including go any further.

So you can imagine what the rest of this island is going through. If you can't get that far in a day, think about how long is going to take to clean up all of this or even get there for that matter for these emergency managers.

KING: A long time just to get a good assessment of the toll and then a longer road to recovery. Chad Myers, appreciate it, from the weather center. We'll stay in touch.

The search for survivors is at this fourth day now after that devastating earthquake in Mexico City.

So patriotism, that solidarity there as emergency workers pause to sing the National Anthem. President Pena Nieto said there could still be some people alive in 10 collapse buildings. And a stunning developing, the hope that too many were holding to fades. The Mexican Navy now apologizing over confusion, following a report that a 12- year-old girl was still alive and trapped beneath the rubble of a collapsed school.

Let's bring in CNN's Miguel Marquez. He's near destroyed buildings that authorities fear it might collapse again. Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're in Condesa where a building maybe has dozens of people who are possibly alive. We've got heat signatures here -- these, as the Mexican Navy is apologizing as you say.

They released a statement a short time ago saying this is from the deputy of the Mexican Navy, deputy secretary of the Mexican Navy. "I want to make very clear that the information the Mexican public received about the existence of a girl who was alive underneath the rubble was released by the navy based on technical reports and the accounts of the civilian and navy rescuers. I offered the Mexican public an apology for the information disseminated this afternoon," meaning yesterday, "where I affirmed I did not have details about a supposed child survivor in this tragedy."

Essentially what he is saying is that they don't know who is under there now, whether it's a child, an adult or anyone else. The Mexican government had put out that statement shortly before this under secretary, the Mexican Navy said this 12-year-old, she doesn't exist at all.

[12:35:10] Now they're going back, to some of the Mexican government position, saying they don't know whether anyone is in that building at all. They are still digging there. They are still hoping that there is somebody alive there, but hope seems to be fading at that school.

Here in Condesa, if I can just show you quickly, this building is a multi-use building both offices and homes were in here. It is collapsed. If you look all the way at the top of the building, you can see what it looks like a normal day. There's a doorway there right next to it, jackets and a purse and the personal belongings. It looks perfectly normal.

The rest of the building next to it in that building partially collapsed. Three or four floors on top of each other. They believe what is going on here is that people are on the back side of the building possibly alive. They've gotten some heat signatures there. That is also where the escape routes were for the building.

The problem that they have is getting into it. The rain in the last couple of days has made the debris very heavy. It has made it unstable. And they say this building could collapse at any moment. John?

KING: Miguel Marquez is on the scene. More remarkable heroism. Trying, trying, perhaps it's caught-taking to trying to find survivors in Mexico. Miguel, I appreciate it very much.

Up next, President Trump and Kim Jong-un call each other crazy as North Korea issues a new ominous threat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:40:51] KING: Welcome back. A new rhetorical (INAUDIBLE) when President Trump stare down with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. Rocket man is now a madman too. President Trump tweeting from his Bedminster home 6:28 a.m. this morning. "Kim Jong-un of North Korea who was obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people will be tested like never before."

At least publicly, Kim Jong-un seems undeterred by the President's tough talk this week. "A frightened dog barks louder", the North Korean leader said of Trump and a rare on camera statement last night. "I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire." That fire North Korea's foreign minister says could come in the form of a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean.

If North Korea took that provocative step, it would be the first above ground nuclear detonation since 1980. So how would the United States respond if that happens? Listen here if Secretary of State Rex Tillerson won't or maybe he can't say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: While we will continue our efforts in the diplomatic arena but all of the military options, as the President has said is on the table. And once we can assess the nature of this threat, the President will make a decision regarding the appropriate action.

DAVID MUIR, HOST, ABC'S GOOD MORNING AMERICA: If they drop an h-bomb in the Pacific, if they somehow attach nuclear capability to one of these missiles, will the U.S. have to act?

TILLERSON: That will be the President's decision, David. There will be assembled and there is assembled on a standing basis a National Security Council that meets on each of these issues to advise the President. Ultimately, it will be his decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What are we to make of the rhetoric? Rocket man, madman, dotard. I know you want to jump in on that one. I know, seriously, you want to jump in on that one because you think it's -- even that word which, if you don't know it, all the search engines that are dictionary sites report a big increase today. It's not a polite term.

But, first, what are we to make of it? You know, there are some people just say you have two men who like to make provocative statements, who is -- don't pay attention such to the rhetoric, what's happening. However, when you're talking about a nuclear stare down in a potential miscalculation, the language to me is a little --I don't know if frightening is the right word, but what is it?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Well, what the White House has been sort of signaling, particularly since the President's speech on Tuesday, the totally destroy, you know, speech at the U.N., is that the President knows that he is being provocative and getting everyone talking about it. And that sort of what they want because when you're using a term like rocket man and then other countries start calling him rocket man, now they're like invested in the solution together.

It's hard to know always whether if the White House has a strategy that's all been discussed on the front end and then the President executes it and then they say what they were going to say or whether the President executes it and then they (INAUDIBLE) how to make use of the strategy. But that is how the strategy works all week up in New York, because in the hall ways people -- whether they thought it was ridiculous or smart r interesting or funny or dangerous, we're all using the phrase rocket man.

And the President's fascination with Elton John aside and the fact that Kim Jong-un's father had been called rocket man many years on a magazine cover. All of that aside, it was catchy and everyone remembered it and it got the dialogue going on the same week when the President was very much signaling to China's intent, sitting down with Japan and South Korea trying to get South Korea to move closer to the U.S. and Japan. And then of course the announcement by the Chinese central bank.

So -- But the rhetoric is different than the policy and the policy, when you listen to Tillerson, to Haley, to Mattis, even to the President is still very much that the military is being discussed in terms of a defensive option, not in terms of an offensive option and that they still believe that diplomacy, i.e., sanctions is the most effective and still a lot of running room on sanctions.

KING: And the President himself said, I believe it was yesterday, right, it was getting more flip about why not? The possibility of even having communications at some point with Kim Jung-un.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

KING: You call him rocket man, you call him mad man but you open the communication with this little bit of (INAUDIBLE).

KNOX: I mean, North Korea has been saying things like we're going to turn Seoul into a lake of fire for decades. The two most interesting tidbits for me in rhetoric (ph) with North Korean last week where Defense Secretary Jim Mattis asked whether the United States has military options that don't put Seoul at greater risk. He says, yes, we do. He doesn't give any details.

[12:45:05] But that's really, really important. Because one of the main deterrents to American military action is the prospect of tens of millions of people dying in South Korea and most of some Americans as well, that was really important. And the other was of course the hydrogen bomb threat. That does two things. It puts pressure on the United States.

If they fuel up a missile, put it on a launch pad, do you let them fire it up? They haven't shown 100 percent reliability in these things. They keep sort of corkscrewing in the ocean. Do you let them lob something over Japan or do you going to take it out, which of course it would be test.

And the other is that it -- I'm really curious about the relationship between Kim Jung-un and China. You know, these countries name patron (ph), because at some point do they say, all right, look, we don't want war. We don't want the regime to collapse. We don't want South Korea unified, the traditional interest they have. At some point, do they say like we going to get this guy under some kind of control here because his actions and his threats are making it more likely that the other bad outcomes occur.

KING: And help with the lost translations because you think what the regime said is actually tougher than it's been translated here in United States.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: No, but in all seriousness, I think the dotard translation is a little unfortunate. Because what Kim Jung-un actually said was, (INAUDIBLE) is like a derogatory term for an old person, a senile person. (INAUDIBLE) is like a version of lunatic with a little bit of fool.

So, you know, when we hear Donald Trump using these harsh terms to describe Kim Jung-un, he is giving it right back. I think we hear dotard and we think what is this (INAUDIBLE), where we've never even heard it before. This is some serious name calling that's going back and forth.

And both of you have discussed, you know, conflating the sort of this personal conflict that is happening between Trump and Kim Jong-un. That's dangerous because there are actually serious and obvious geopolitical challenges and problems that Pyongyang poses. And there, you can imagine a scenario where there ends up being some kind of diplomatic solution even if it's short-term that actually involves Kim Jung-un staying in power. So what then? What does it mean for the personal conflict that Trump has gotten very involved in with Kim?

KING: Excellent point. (INAUDIBLE) that conversation but we'll keep an eye on the story.

Up next, why a special election in Alabama is pitting President Trump against old friends like Steve Bannon, Sarah Palin, Sebastian Gorka.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:51:34] KING: Welcome back. Big Luther Strange as he is called is the President's choice in Alabama's Senate Republican run up. And if you didn't already know that? Well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LUTHER STRANGE (R), ALABAMA: Who does the President support? The President supports me. If you have not followed the President on Twitter, I urge you do so. He just tweeted a great tweet out about his enthusiastic support for me and my campaign.

The President of the United States will take time out of his schedule -- with all the things going on in the world today, to come to Huntsville tomorrow afternoon and campaign for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's right. That was last night's debate and the President is heading to Alabama just a few hours. And he's bragging he's already moving the numbers. You see that tweet from the President there. "Will be in Alabama. My endorsement move mightily, gained mightily since my endorsement".

This is a huge test of the President's sway over Republican voters. And it pits him against several long time allies who are backing former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Take Breitbart. Steve Bannon told the site's reporters and editors, the Alabama race should be priority one until Tuesday. Look at the site. It shows the website almost all Alabama Senate poking the President, casting Strange as a Mitch McConnell puppet.

Sarah Palin, former White House Adviser Sebastian Gorka also breaking with the President on this one. You see them in Montgomery there last night. They were there for the debate and to support Roy Moore. Why does it matter?

We know that the debate within the Republican Party fracture as in over the Democratic Party. They have the great drama of the President versus Steve Bannon. The President here, the big disruptor in 2016, Mr. establishment at least in this race. Why does it matter?

MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think there are obviously some big national implications and just the President himself have the power to move? I think actually you see over the last several weeks, in the polling for this race, Luther Strange is actually made up big deficit. He was down something like 16 points and he's moved up. I think that's the President. It's also Mitch McConnell's pack. It's also the Chamber of Commerce.

It's also problem with Roy Moore ultimately, but I also think we can be a little too Trump-focused and forget that in a local Senate race in a race that's off a national election. There's a lot of local issues that come into play here with Luther Strange put into Jeff Session's seat by Governor Bentley, sort of one of his last act before he resigned in disgrace.

There's a lot of, I think, bad blood around that decision and ultimately this sort of goes back, really back to like 2010 when Bentley first won the Republican nomination. This is a Republican- dominated state and there's a lot of internal tensions within the Alabama Republican Party that we're seeing play out in here. You're going to see a lot of sort of grass roots conservatives just stick with Moore because of some of those long lasting issues that really have nothing to do with Trump.

KING: And Moore has become a national name at times because the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court taking a very hard position on gay rights, of constitutionality and having national promise.

Listen to him here last night. He understands how popular the President is among the Alabama Republicans, so he's trying to urge voters to pay no attention essentially to the President endorsement, but he hasn't criticized the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: The problem is President Trump's being cutoff in his office. He is being redirected by people like McConnell. They do not support his agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I'm sure the President thinks of himself as someone who can be redirected by Mitch McConnell, but the President has decided whether it's for healthcare votes, tax reform votes, other Senate agenda, Republican, Trump agenda priorities that he thinks he wants strengths there not McConnell.

[12:55:07] TALEV: Well, and --

KING: I mean, not Moore -- sorry.

TALEV: -- a little bit more of a wild cart. I mean, if he ends up being the one who assumes the seat, President Trump maybe has a little bit less control over the Senate narrative than the junior senator from Alabama does. So, there's a lot of stake here. It gives us a little sneak peek at the mid-terms and what President Trump (INAUDIBLE) to see he want to go blow up the establishment Republicans and try to get people further to the right into office, stack the composition of the Senate and the House or does he want to make decisions on a case by case basis that help him with grand strategy on taxes and other big issue?

KING: I'm really fascinated to see if the President just sticks to promoting Luther Strange when he standout today or if he gets into the debate about Roy Moore. It will be interesting to see the President's choice. We'll keep an eye on that event.

Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics. Hope to see you Sunday morning right here 8:00 eastern. Back here Monday as well. Quick break and Jim Acosta takes over coverage. Have a great day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)