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Church Shooting Leaves One Dead, Wounds Seven; NFL Players Defy Trump, Kneel During National Anthem; Puerto Ricans Desperate to Reach Loved Ones Post-Maria; Congressional Action on Tax Reform to Move the Market. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 24, 2017 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:01] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

And we begin with a stunning show of defiance from the NFL against President Trump. Every single kickoff today in cities throughout the country, players, coaches, and even team owners, are kneeling or locking arms in solidarity after President Trump called for the NFL to fire any player who refuses to stand during the national anthem.

This is how the Falcons-Lions game opened. Owners of both teams took to the field and locked arms with their players. The singer who performed that national anthem also took a knee and raised his fist in the air.

And in Nashville at the Titans-Seahawks game, both teams stayed in their locker rooms while the anthem played on the field. The anthem singer at this game also took a knee.

North of Nashville in Chicago, the Steelers stayed in their locker room during the anthem as well, with one player, Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva, stood alone on the edge of the field with his hand over his heart.

Moments ago, President Trump told reporters he watched some of those protests and it seems as though perhaps he doesn't view the show of solidarity as an attack against his remarks. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was great solidarity. I watched a little bit. I was not watching the games today, believe me, I'm doing other things, but I watched a little bit and I will say that there was tremendous solidarity for our flag and for our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: If you're asking how we got here to the NFL publicly protesting the president and the president's publicly demanding that NFL players be fired, well, it all started on Friday when President Trump went on a tear during a rally in Alabama.

Here's a reminder of what he said, and I should warn you, some especially young ones in the room, are going to find this language offensive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now? Out. He's fired. He's fired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: The NFL for its part is responding with a message of unity during tonight's game. They're dusting off a one-minute ad produced for the Super Bowl earlier this year. Initially intended to show how the power of football can bring people together. Meanwhile, more than two dozen NFL franchises have spoken out in support of players and Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The controversy also ensnaring one of the most famous people in the world of basketball. NBA star Kevin Durant responding to the president's dustup with an NBA player Steph Curry, the Golden State Warriors rescinding the invitation to have that team, the champions this year, at the White House.

CNN sports correspondent Andy Scholes is joining us now.

Andy, this story just gets bigger and bigger.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana. And it seems to kind of just be snowballing from here. I mean, this morning we saw literally every single NFL team in some way, shape or fashion do something during the national anthem, whether it was locking their arms in solidarity, kneeling, many members of like, for example, the Saints took a seat during the national anthem.

Everyone did something in response to what President Trump said and then tweeted over the weekend. And for the first time ever we saw NFL teams not taking the field for the national anthem. Both the Titans and the Seahawks did that for their game as you mentioned earlier.

The Steelers did that as well in their game earlier this morning in Chicago, and their head coach Mike Tomlin just a few minutes ago explained the reasoning behind why his team decided that they weren't going to go out there for the anthem. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE TOMLIN, STEELERS HEAD COACH: We didn't ask for this. This was placed upon us by circumstance. I heard rumblings of guys talking during the course of the day yesterday.

My contention was that we would not allow politics to divide us, we're football players, we're a football team. If many of them felt like something needed to be done, I asked those guys to discuss it and whatever they discussed that, you know, we have 100 percent participation or we do nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: Now also for the first time we saw owners on the field as we showed you locking arms with members of the football team kind of showing that, you know, whereas President Trump asked for owners to fire players that knelt for the national anthem, well, owners were down there on the field showing that they have their players' backs.

CABRERA: All right. Andy Scholes, we appreciate that.

We have a lot of different voices and perspectives to talk to on this issue. Former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, as we mentioned, was the only Pittsburgh Steelers standing on the field today for the national anthem. He did three tours of duty in Afghanistan.

[18:05:04] The rest of the Steelers chose to stay in the locker room during the national anthem today. And as we mentioned the reasoning, according to Coach Mike Tomlin, was to remove the team from controversy saying on CBS this morning, it's not to be disrespectful to the anthem but to remove ourselves from the circumstance.

So let's talk it over with two-time Super Bowl winner Anthony B. Smith. You played for the Steelers. So I want to get your reaction to what Tomlin said on why his team stayed in the locker room.

ANTHONY B. SMITH, FORMER NFL PLAYER, STEELERS, JAGUAR, PACKERS, TITANS: How are you doing? And first of all, thank you guys for having me. Appreciate it.

CABRERA: Thank you for being here.

SMITH: As far as that goes, I just seen it. I don't watch a lot of TV but I get most of my information through social media and stuff like that, but just recently watching that and hearing those comments, it's a situation to where I don't believe as a leader that you can remove yourself from the situation like this because it's not a political situation or issue.

You know, this is a worldwide issue and it's just about right and wrong. So regardless of however we're at, whatever kind of spin in politics we're trying to put on it, it's right and wrong. Everything that's going on right now is just wrong. And we got guys who are stepping up to the plate and acknowledging that and are going to speak up about it.

CABRERA: Take me inside the locker room. How do NFL players discuss or handle this controversy? I imagine not everybody agrees.

SMITH: Yes. Everybody handles it different. But at the end of the day we are -- have our own opinions about it and we discussed it and talked about it, and as leaders and of not only our communities but the next generation. You know, we tried to discuss the best situation and opportunities that we can do and influence people to do things the right way collectively.

CABRERA: Well, the president has said just this afternoon that his comments were about respecting the country, respecting the flag. This has nothing to do with race. Is that the case? SMITH: It has everything to do with race. Everything that's been

going on -- it's clearly a race issue and it's something that, you know, a lot of people don't like to talk about but it's something that has to be addressed and it's in front of our faces. It's in the media. It's on the newspapers, everything. So it's something we can't run from. We have to address the situation. And it's a racism thing. And it's something that has to be done about it. And it's time for our leaders to step up and collectively come together and push everybody out who was not doing it right.

CABRERA: Let's listen to what Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said today in defense of the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: He thinks this is about respect for the military and so many people who put their lives at risk and what the country stands for. And the owners should meet and they should decide on this rule the way they decide on any other rule. Again, you know, for as long as I can remember, people have stood in honor of the country. This isn't about politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So do players, do you think, in protest of racial inequality and injustice as they kneel during the national anthem, do they risk sending a message of disrespect to men and women in the military like Mnuchin suggested?

SMITH: Clearly not because we've all clearly stated this is not about disrespecting the people who went to war for us, for not political reasons, but specifically for equality and justice for everyone. So those statements are bogus. And everyone knows it. It's just false and it's clearly a black and white thing. It's something we can't run from. There's no sugar coating it.

It's a racism thing and we have to deal with it and it's being dealt with. And as far as players, we stand up for the flag is standing up for something. We don't stand up for everything that's going on right now. So a lot of people are taking a knee to that.

CABRERA: Well, thank you so much, Anthony B. Smith. I really do appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us this afternoon.

SMITH: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.

CABRERA: And now I want to bring in our CNN political commentators, former special assistant to President George W. Bush, Scott Jennings, and "New York Times" columnist Charles Blow.

So, Scott, even before the president decided to insert himself in this conversation, a new ABC News-"Washington Post" poll found two-thirds of Americans, 66 percent believe President Trump has done more to divide this country than unite it. And now you have players like Martellus Bennett of the Green Bay Packers tweeting this, "The idea that Donald Trump thinking that suggesting firing me from football confirms that he thinks that it's all I can do as a black man."

Does the president have more to lose or gain by taking up this issue?

[18:10:04] SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's a good question. The president has a knack and a gut-level political instinct for finding these cultural issues that get people spun up.

I mean, the issue of kneeling during the national anthem, I mean, for many people in the middle of the country it's a commonsensical issue. They don't like it. There was a survey done by Reuters last year that's found people overwhelmingly not liking Colin Kaepernick's kneeling during the national anthem so the president finds himself on the right side of public opinion in that case.

But for him, now he's engaged in a battle not just with one player, he's engaged in a battle with an entire league and he's engaged in a battle with several other sports stars. So while I think these players have every right to express themselves on the field, I also think they're in a position of danger because the NFL is already in decline and their fan base largely doesn't agree with their actions here. So this may make it worse for the NFL.

CABRERA: Charles, you tweeted this in reaction to this controversy. "How is Ben Carson still part of the Trump administration? How? As a black man how much compartmentalization," why can't I say that? "Compartmentalization do you have to do to work for a racist?"

So we saw pressure put on Jewish members of the Trump administration after Charlottesville to take a stand, to even resign, they didn't. But do you think then that being African-American there should be no African-American in this administration?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I just think that once you sign on to work as part of that team, then you're also signing on to being under the leadership of that team and Donald Trump is the leadership of that team. And there's no doubt in my mind that he is pursuing a path that leads him under the tutelage or at least of being a booster and promoter of people who are white supremacists, white nationalists, anti-Semites and so forth.

And you have to ask yourself as a principled person in politics or business or whatever, is this something that I can condone? Can I put my name on this? And everybody who is part of Team Trump now is putting their name on that. And that's a problem for me.

And in this particular case, this starts with Kaepernick protesting, you know, police brutality, and Trump's response -- and I think this is something America has to answer herself, his response to expression of grievance by black people. America has the same response.

How do you respond? Does it upset you when people point out that there are inequalities? When people say that there's oppression? Does it upset you? Does it make you want to lash out at the people who are pointing it out? If it does, that says something about you. It says something about Donald Trump that from the time that Black Lives Matter appeared on the scene he has been attacking them viciously and this expression by Kaepernick was an expression of the back -- of unity with Black Lives Matter. And he's attacking that viciously. That says something about this man.

CABRERA: Scott, do you think the president gets it? Because he said today this is not about race. Is he missing the whole point of why people are protesting on their knee during the national anthem?

JENNINGS: I think the president and a lot of his supporters don't see it that way. They see it as a disrespect to the national anthem, they see it as a disrespect to the flag, they see it, frankly, as a disrespect to the traditions that we all have in this country to stand up during the national anthem. They don't just happen at NFL games. They happen at every little league game, they happen at every high school soccer game.

I mean, we play the national anthem and we all stand up and I think a lot of the president's supporters, and he's channeling their feelings, absolutely see it as wrong to not continue to honor that American tradition.

So I think the president finds ways on these cultural issues to insert himself because he knows that a great many people in the middle of the country see it his way and he also knows he's going to get this reaction that he's getting today.

Look at the reaction he's getting from the coasts and from a lot of people on the left wing of the political spectrum. That then further emboldens his supporters to believe that hey, we are in the right area. So he has a real gut-level instinct for doing that and I think people who over react to it frankly play right into the president's hands.

CABRERA: But if you're saying people are overreacting, I mean, it's not just people who are on the left side of the political spectrum. It's people who are reacting who say racial inequality, injustice is not OK and that is why we're seeing the united stance by members who have even supported Donald Trump saying his comments were not OK.

JENNINGS: Yes, look. I think that everybody has a right to that opinion, and I don't -- I don't object to anybody expressing their opinion. And again, I don't object to the players doing what they're doing. I'm giving you some political analysis here and in the political analysis of this Donald Trump finds these cultural issues, he inserts himself into the middle of it and he gets these reactions.

He gets them every single time. And so people who are upset with Donald Trump being the president or Donald Trump's policies, I think they ultimately give him what he wants when they react the way that they do.

[18:15:07] We've seen it on several issues in the short time that he's been president. This is the latest, it won't be the last because I think the president understands exactly the kind of reaction he can get from a lot of the people that frankly are never going to come around to supporting him or his administration.

CABRERA: Charles, politically speaking, do you agree with that?

BLOW: That he's playing to kind of --

CABRERA: That this is maybe a good political move by the president?

BLOW: Good is -- I don't use that terminology, but is he playing to racial grievance and using that to his benefit? Yes. There's a venal part of this president who exploits situations to his own benefit. And he is using -- he's used it from the very beginning, coming out, talking about Mexicans and rapists and whatever. He's using an anxiety that exists in white America to his advantage. So is that good?

CABRERA: He's talking about patriotism.

BLOW: No, this is -- this is about how America responds to black people when they protest in inequality and oppression. That is what Kaepernick was doing. You can try to make it be about patriotism and flags and battle cries, but it is not.

It is about how do we respond when people who feel like people -- they're oppressed or people who like them are oppressed, when they say, enough, do we respond by being open to that complaint or do we respond by trying to crush it? That is all that this is about. And there's a large part of white America that responds negatively to people saying that there is oppression and they want to crush it. And that is what he is playing into.

CABRERA: Let me remind you how President Obama responded to this as the racial wounds of this country are ripped open during his term. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that that may cause, but I also want people to think about the pain that he may be expressing about somebody who's lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So obviously I meant President Obama. That's President Trump initially. But here we have an African-American president who was criticized for being too nuanced on race. Now we have a president who is being criticized for being too bombastic on race. How should a president address this issue?

BLOW: Well, I think that there's an interesting point there, which was, you know, we have to -- if people are experiencing pain, it's not our job to say your pain is illegitimate. It is -- the compassionate thing is to say is that I will hear your pain. I may not agree with what you're saying, but if you're in pain, I as a human being want to relate to that pain and understand where that is coming from because that will help me to understand you better.

CABRERA: You're talking about empathy?

BLOW: This is empathy. And this is a basic human characteristic. And I think we're kind of missing that when people are saying, you know, I understand -- you know, all deaths are bad. Community violence happens. I just don't expect violence to come from the state towards people who look like me. Maybe -- you know, like on the block in my neighborhood I may live in a dangerous neighborhood.

I have some expectation that I have to do things to keep myself safe there. I do not want the people who I call to protect me to come and kill me. That is a real fear that people have.

CABRERA: Right.

BLOW: And whether or not you agree with how they characterize it, whether there are statistics they're using, it's a real fear.

CABRERA: Sure.

BLOW: And how do we connect to that? And Obama was saying there, you have to understand what he's feeling. And whether you agree with it or not, understand the feeling. That's a human feeling. I think we have missed the ability to empathize with people particularly when they feel oppressed.

CABRERA: Scott, even the Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, who was a big Trump supporter, he gave a million dollars to his inaugural committee, gave him the Super Bowl ring, had this to say.

"I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the president. There is no greater unifier in this country than sports and unfortunately nothing more divisive than politics. I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of team work and the importance of working together toward a common goal."

So even if his supporters are calling him out, shouldn't that give the president pause?

JENNINGS: Well, the NFL has clearly decided to go all in on this. I mean, you've got players who are doing the kneeling on the field, the owners are joining them, the NFL put out a statement. So the league has decided en masse that they're going to come out against the president here. And that may or may not be the right answer for them.

I mean, look, the NFL is in decline. Ratings are down, the stadiums are half empty. A lot of parents don't want their kids to play football anymore because of the concussion and safety issues. And so now they are taking a huge political risk, in my opinion, or a huge business risk, frankly, by possibly angering, you know, half the country by wading into politics here and opposing what the president has to say. So we'll see how it turns out for the NFL. I think Robert Kraft is staying inside of his industry in calling out the president.

[18:20:06] You know, Ana, this reminds me of the issue that took place back -- (CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: But do you think the president has that much weight in the sports world then?

JENNINGS: Well, I think the -- I think the president has weight in anything he opines on. I mean, no matter who the president is, when you speak or tweet in this case, or speak at a rally the way he did in Alabama, what you say instantly becomes news. And so what I am really surprised at, frankly, is the NFL, which is in a perilous situation right now anyway with its fan base and its overall business situation, is choosing to further wade into this with some of the statements they've made.

I mean, I watched some of the coverage today. There were a lot of folks in the stands booing today when the players were taking a knee. And so what they're gambling here with is further eroding a fan base that seems to be slipping anyway.

CABRERA: All right. Scott Jennings, Charles Blow, got to leave it there. Thanks, guys.

Coming up, the president just returned to the White House and before he even walked in the door he made some new comments on this controversy surrounding NFL players and the anthem protest. You'll hear from him next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:25:06] CABRERA: Before the break we brought you some of what the president has said about the ongoing NFL protest. Well, the president has just spoken out again, this time right outside the White House.

I want to get straight to CNN's Boris Sanchez right at the White House for us.

Boris, what did he say?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Ana. Yes, the president is digging in his heels here. He started out Friday night at that rally in Alabama saying that the owners should fire players that decide to take a knee during the national anthem. Today earlier in the morning he tweeted out promoting a boycott against the National Football League unless owners do something.

Before he left his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, he reiterated that idea. And then he spoke about that again after he landed here at the White House saying that the flag has to be respected and that a lot of people agree with him. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think that the flag has to be respected. Our country has to be respected. There is plenty of room to do other things, but our country has to be respected and I've always felt very strongly about that. And by the way, most people agree with me. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: And, Ana, in just the last few moments the president tweeted again about this controversy. He writes, quote, "Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their national anthem or their country. NFL should change policy."

So this is not something that the president is shying away from.

One more interesting note, Ana, earlier before he left Bedminster when he was speaking with reporters, he was asked if he felt that his comments inflamed race relations. And he said, no, this has nothing to do with race despite the fact that when Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling during the national anthem more than a year ago, in August of last year, he explicitly said that he was doing it to protest the way that he felt police officers were dealing with communities of color.

Many of the players that followed suit in kneeling during the national anthem have also voiced concerns about that. So you have two very different perspectives on not only why the players are kneeling but also the fact that he feels that players locking arms during the national anthem is acceptable even though they're apparently doing it in solidarity with players that are defying the president. A lot of questions still to be answered on this issue, Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Boris, thank you very much.

Some breaking news out of Washington meantime. CNN can now confirm that Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, has used a private e-mail account to communicate with other White House officials.

This is a remarkable development considering the Trump campaign's vitriolic attacks against Hillary Clinton's use of private e-mail. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: She deleted the e-mails. She has to go to jail. She doesn't even remember whether or not she was instructed on how to use e-mails. Were you instructed on how to use them? I can't remember. Hillary Clinton can't keep her e-mails safe and you know what, folks, she sure as hell can't keep our country safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones is following this latest development -- Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Here is what we know. We know that Jared Kushner on occasion used a personal e-mail account, a private e-mail account, to communicate with administration officials. This is something that his lawyer has acknowledged.

We have a statement from Kushner's lawyer, Abby Lowell, who says that Kushner uses his White House e-mail address to conduct White House business. But he went on to say that fewer than 100 e-mails from January to August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal e-mail account.

These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an e- mail to his personal rather than his White House address. So Kushner's lawyer saying there's nothing wrong here, nothing -- no evil doing in all of this.

It's important to note that we're talking about a private e-mail address, not a private e-mail server, which was the issue with Hillary Clinton. You'll remember that on the campaign trail Candidate Trump spent a good deal of time attacking Hillary Clinton on this issue of her use of a private server, using it to try to raise questions about her credibility and her trustworthiness, saying that her use of this private server showed she had something to hide.

This is different. This is a private e-mail account. Still, this is likely to be controversial, at least in some quarters. It's odd to see a senior adviser decide to go this route, to have any communications with other -- with government officials on government business using a personal account.

And the issue here, and the concern is that use of a personal e-mail could go against the Presidential Records Act which requires that government -- government messages be archived in some way. Now Kushner's lawyer Abbe Lowell said there's nothing to worry about there either. He says, "All non-personal e-mails were forwarded to Kushner's official address and all have been preserved in any event.

So Kushner's lawyer is saying that there was no wrongdoing. But given the various investigations into the 2016 election meddling and Russia's role in that and whether there were any Trump aides or associates who were directly involved, it is possible that some of those investigators, whether on Capitol Hill in the congressional committees or at the FBI, might have an interest in Kushner's private e-mail traffic.

Back to you.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. An interesting and ironic development. Thank you very much, Athena Jones.

Coming up, a gunman opens fire on churchgoers leaving a service in Tennessee, telling Sunday school teachers to keep kids sheltered. How this violent attack played out and the man police are calling a hero, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:26] CABRERA: New developments out of Tennessee, a deadly church shooting outside Nashville today.

The man accused of opening fire is now out of the hospital himself and will be charged with murder and attempted murder. Police say Emanuel Samson is the man who opened fire at the end of a Sunday prayer service.

One woman is dead, six other parishioners are injured. Police credit a 22-year-old usher who was pistol-whipped with stopping the gunman.

And the FBI and the Justice Department have now opened a civil rights investigation. CNN's Polo Sandoval is joining us now.

And, Polo, you are still learning more information.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It seems that every hour brings a new development in this case, Ana.

And now, we understand that there will be a federal investigation as well that will be launched into the events of what happened just outside of Nashville here. The Department of Justice and also the FBI will be launching a civil rights investigation as they try to find be a clear motive and answer that question why did this take place earlier today.

Here's what we know about what went down. At about 11:15 this morning, just outside of Nashville, as services were wrapping up, we're told, according to police, that this 25-year-old gunman by the name of Emanuel Samson pulled up to the parking lot of that sanctuary then shot and killed a woman in the parking lot, and then proceeded to make his way inside of the church.

That's when he came face to face with an usher who, by some accounts, was pistol-whipped by the suspect. That usher then returning to his car, grabbing a pistol that he was certified to have, went back inside, and that's when there was a form of struggle and there was -- at one point, the suspect himself was shot.

Hearing from authorities, they are calling this 22-year-old usher a hero. The man's name, Robert Engle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE ANDERSON, CHIEF OF POLICE, METRO NASHVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Mr. Robert Engel, the usher, he physically engaged the shooter. And during the struggle, the shooter was shot. At this time, we don't know exactly how that happened, whether he shot himself or whether the gun discharged during the struggle.

Mr. Engle sustained serious injuries himself, and he's the hero. He's the person that stopped this madness, and so we're very, very, very grateful to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: So hero seems to be emerging from all of this. We're also learning some new information on the gunman himself that apparently showed up to that church, Ana, with two weapons, with two pistols, and also that he had previously attended services there at that church just outside of Nashville.

But that clearly does not answer that question, why? What is that motive? Police did say that they have some evidence that they've already recovered that may point them in that direction, but they still do not have a clear answer to share at this point.

CABRERA: Interesting, though, the civil rights investigation. That tells us a little bit about where they're going with the investigation.

SANDOVAL: It certainly does.

CABRERA: Thank you so much, Paulo Sandoval.

SANDOVAL: Thank you.

CABRERA: And coming up, President Trump firing back at football players, coaches, and owners after an unprecedented show of defiance across the NFL today.

We'll have the latest in this escalating controversy coming up next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:42:26] CABRERA: They kneeled or locked arms or raced their fists or stayed in the locker room. No matter how they protested, NFL players, coaches, and team owners sent a united message of defiance to President Trump today.

And joining us now to discuss, CNN Senior Media Correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.

So, Brian, NFL broadcast partners typically don't broadcast that part of the event, the national anthem.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Right.

CABRERA: What are your take always for how the networks handled this?

STELTER: Today, certainly, sports was news. We've seen all day long the networks, the -- really, the partners of the NFL --

CABRERA: Yes.

STELTER: -- choosing to broadcast the anthem live throughout all these games. We're going to see that again tonight on NBC, again tomorrow on ESPN for Monday night football, because the anthem, now, is a big news story.

I was talking with an NFL source this afternoon who said, if President Trump thought he could divide the NFL, well, he was wrong.

We've seen team owners and players linking arms today. It's the opposite of what Trump was talking about on Friday night.

CABRERA: And yet he is not backtracking, whatsoever. He is digging in, continuing to defend his own comments. And, in fact, he just tweeted again, saying sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their national anthem or their country. NFL should change policy.

And he's been going after the NFL over its ratings. In fact, also tweeting this today.

STELTER: Yes.

CABRERA: NFL attendance and ratings are way down. Boring games, yes, but many stay away because they love our country. Leagues should back U.S.

Do you think his background as a former reality T.V. star is influencing his perspective here?

STELTER: Definitely. Reminds me back when he was on "The Apprentice." He would send reporters like me -- I worked for "The New York Times" back then. He would print out "People's" articles, circle the mention of "The Apprentice," and write to you about how high his ratings are.

So he was always laser focused on ratings while a reality T.V. star. That remains true as a President of the United States. He's been citing the ratings here repeatedly.

He believes that the anthem protests are a reason why NFL ratings are down. But the fact is NFL ratings are only down modestly in the past couple of years. It may have very little amount to do with anthem protests because there's other bigger factors.

The bigger point here is that there is even more attention now on the NFL as a result of the President's criticism. If anything, he's going to see the ratings go up as a result of all of these. I don't know if that's what he wants or not. I don't know if he's trying to distract us all or not.

You know, one of the issues for newsrooms is whether he's trying to change the subject, whether President Trump's trying to change the subject from North Korea's -- the challenges associated with North Korea, the ongoing Russia investigations --

CABRERA: The healthcare, which we all agree.

STELTER: And the healthcare bill that seems to be on life support.

[18:45:00] There's a number of issues that are very ugly that are surrounding the White House right now. You have to wonder in cases like this that the President brings up the NFL in order to distract, or if he's just impulsively reacting to whatever he's seen at any given time.

CABRERA: Meantime, we understand the NFL or, I guess, the broadcasters of tonight's game of the NFL, Sunday night football, which is on ESPN, of course, they're going to play a unity ad. Let's watch.

STELTER: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Inside these lines, we don't have to come from the same place to help each other reach the same destination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No time to waste, let's work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Inside these lines, we may have our differences but recognize there's more that unites us. Inside these lines, it's a game of inches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Touchdown!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there's no such thing as an easy yard in the fight to move forward and live.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: I got mixed up there for a second because Sunday night's on NBC.

STELTER: On -- yes.

CABRERA: Monday night is on ESPN. But regardless, what more can you tell us about this ad?

STELTER: This was something that originally ran during the Super Bowl. And it's notable that the NFL has decided to dust it off and broadcast it again tonight. This was supposed to just be a Super Bowl ad from, what, nine months ago.

But now, the NFL wants to run it again during NBC's broadcast because they want to send a message of unity. That they believe football is a unifying force, has the power to bring people together. They're trying to take the high road here.

You know, the NFL is choosing this afternoon not to respond to every one of the President's tweets about the NFL. They don't want to be seen as taking the low road here, fighting with him. They want to appear to be above it all.

They want to be, as they bill themselves, a unifying presence in the United States. And that's why this story is so big, right, Ana. This is about patriotism, protests, and it's about --

CABRERA: About race. About power.

STELTER: -- our national past times.

CABRERA: Yes.

STELTER: It's about race and power and ultimately, what it means to be an American. About what it means to stand up or not stand up for the flag.

The President seems to want the flag to only be a representation of his supporters and his fans. I think the NFL and most Americans would disagree. And that's why this debate's going into the workweek.

This is not going away whether the President keeps tweeting about it or not. He has brought issues to the surface here in this debate about what it means to be patriotic, whether you're standing up or sitting down.

CABRERA: That's the story that's much bigger than a sports story, we can say. Thanks --

STELTER: Yes, it really is. And I think the NFL is trying to say that with this ad tonight.

CABRERA: Yes. Brian Stelter, as always, thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

CABRERA: And still to come, officials in Puerto Rico are describing apocalyptic conditions after Hurricane Maria ripped through on Wednesday. And still without power and communications, many in this U.S. territory are trying anything to reach their family on the mainland.

We're going to introduce you to some of the folks who are working through this in Puerto Rico, next, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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[18:52:12] CABRERA: No water, no power, no cell service. Roads completely washed away or covered in debris. Residents now cutoff from the rest of the world. This is what the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico looks like right now days after hurricane Maria devastated the island.

More than 4,000 Army reservists were deployed to help here, but Hillary Clinton called for more today, tweeting: President Trump, Secretary Mattis, and DOD should send the Navy, including the USNS Comfort to Puerto Rico now. These are American citizens.

CNN's Leyla Santiago shows us how Puerto Ricans are struggling to get calls to the mainland to let their families now they survived the hurricane.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From above, the images tell the story of Maria's destruction. But on the ground, the faces tell the story of its desperation as many on this island of 3-1/2 million people struggle to reach their loved ones.

JOSE FLORES, REACHED DAUGHTER BY PHONE: This is the only place where we can get signal.

SANTIAGO: On this highway overpass, dozens pull over, hoping that this spot is the one to reunite family, if only by a voice. Jose Flores drove for hours to get here, to get to cell service, to get to tell his daughter in Florida one thing. FLORES: So she'll let my family know that we're fine.

SANTIAGO: For others, borrowed satellite phones are their last hope.

People are trying anything they can to reach out. This note handwritten was passed along to our photographer in hopes that it would reach a loved one.

It says, among other things: Tony, OK. Tony at Frank's house and love you all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

SANTIAGO: Later that day, we were able to get a call out to his girlfriend in New York.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So it was just such a relief. Neither I nor his family has really slept all week just worrying about it.

SANTIAGO: An SCC report found 96 percent of cell towers in Puerto Rico are not working. The government here says it's trying to figure out which towers need generators and fuel to start working again, a small sign of hope on this island with so much to rebuild.

For many here, the first chance to talk is the first step to recovery.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Thank you, Leyla.

Well, tax reform, Congress expected to get the ball rolling on this issue this week. And when it comes to money, you know Wall Street will be eagerly watching.

Christine Romans tells us what to look for "Before the Bell" rings on stock market this week.

Hi, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNNMONEY CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Wall Street eagerly awaiting new details on tax reform.

[18:55:00] This week, congressional Republicans are expected to release a framework for the GOP plan. The consensus document will outline where the House and Senate tax-writing committees agree. Then legislation will be written to fill in the details.

The promise of tax cuts could power the stock market even higher. Last week, the Dow and S&P 500 hit record highs even as the Federal Reserve left the door open for another interest rate hike by the end of the year.

Investors are now betting there's more than 70 percent chance the Fed will raise rates in the December. That's up from a 36 percent chance just a month ago. Hopes for higher interest rates are driving bank stocks higher. Financials are up more than nine percent this year.

In New York, I'm Christine Romans.

CABRERA: Thanks, Christine.

Coming up in our next hour, we are following the feud brewing between the President and the NFL. The latest in just a few moments. Stay with us live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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