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Trump White House; Hurricane Maria Aftermath; Catalonia Referendum; Mysterious Sonic Attacks at Cuban Embassy. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired September 30, 2017 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00]

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Another resignation within Donald Trump's team, Health Secretary Tom Price is out over his use of private jets for government business.

And this from Puerto Rico:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're tied up here because we don't have IV antibiotics to give the patients and we have no place to get them.

VANIER (voice-over): Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, finds out just how hard it is for doctors and nurses on the island to get life-saving medicines to the patients who need them.

And homebound as the U.S. pulls nonessential staff from its embassy in Havana, Cuba, after a series of mysterious attacks against American diplomats.

Thanks for joining us, everyone. I'm Cyril Vanier. We're live from the CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

VANIER: And before we get to all those stories, we're monitoring breaking news here in the United States. There are reports of an active shooter on campus at the U.S. Air Force Academy -- that's in Colorado Springs, just south of Denver.

This video shows police cars rushing toward the scene. Officers are there investigating the incident.

The academy tweeted this, "We received reports of an active shooter on academy grounds. There is no confirmation of shots fired."

This is important.

"Security forces are sweeping the area."

The El Paso County Sheriff's Department tweeted, "EPSO and military personnel are investigating shots fired on the Air Force Academy. Nothing confirmed yet. More info will be forthcoming." The El Paso County Sheriff also reports that there are no injuries and

no shots were fired. The situation is in flux, so we'll pass on more information on this as soon as we get it. CNN teams are monitoring this for you.

Now let's get back to those headlines, a big development here in U.S. politics. Yet another key figure in the Trump administration finds himself out of a job. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has resigned. He had been under fire for using private jets for his government business trips when commercial flights would have been a lot cheaper for taxpayers.

Sara Murray has the president's reaction on this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not happy, OK?

I can tell you, I'm not happy.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump today accepting the resignation of Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price. The bombshell announcement coming after days of mounting controversy over Price's travel on private jets at a cost estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

TRUMP: It's not a question of confidence. I was disappointed because I didn't like it, cosmetically or otherwise. I was disappointed.

You know, this is an administration that saves hundreds of millions of dollars on renegotiating things. So I don't like to see somebody that perhaps there's the perception that it wasn't right.

MURRAY (voice-over): Price agreed to repay a fraction of the overall tab. But sources say the offer only appeared to exacerbate Trump's anger.

TRUMP: Well, we have great secretaries. And we have some that actually own their own planes, as you know. And that solves that. But we put in an order, that no more planes.

MURRAY (voice-over): This as the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico continues to mount, leaving Trump to the federal government's response.

TRUMP: When you have a category 5 wipe out an island like this, because you have nothing. You don't have the roads, you don't have anything and you don't have the people even to operate the equipment.

MURRAY (voice-over): Characterizing the crisis as unprecedented, he painted a bleak picture of Puerto Rico's conditions before the storm.

TRUMP: The electrical grid and other infrastructure were already in very, very poor shape. They were at their life's end prior to the hurricanes. We're literally starting from scratch. We will not rest, however, until the people of Puerto Rico are safe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Yes, and millions in Puerto Rico still have no water, gasoline or electricity. So we'll have a lot more for you on that in just a moment.

But first, more on the impact of Tom Price's resignation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: And professor Larry Sabato joins us now. He is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Larry, great to have you back on. So tell me this, there's been a lot of controversy obviously, since the beginning of the Trump presidency over a number of things but perhaps none which has smacked of entitlement and privilege the way this Tom Price scandal has.

What does that do to the Trump presidency?

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, of course, Trump handled it quickly. You have to give him credit for that. And Tom Price was trying to satisfy Trump by paying a part of the freight, a very small part of the freight, about $52,000 out of $1 million in private aircraft flights.

I think Trump handled this reasonably well. He insisted that Price resign and that's what Price did. If he hadn't resigned, he would have been fired.

He also sent a message essentially to the other cabinet officers, at least two of whom have been doing the very same thing, although not as extremely as Tom Price did.

VANIER: So that's interesting; when you say he handled this well, are you saying that politically he does not lose points essentially because Tom Price was made to leave quickly?

SABATO: Yes, and because he is seen as the one who acted to force him to quit. If this had dragged on for much longer and if Trump had defended Price and the other cabinet officers, now I think it would have cut Trump himself.

But he does have a good sense of what at least his base thinks about, how elites treat them and what government should and should not do. And clearly his base and probably everybody agrees that this kind of excess is unwise.

VANIER: Right, because this would look bad for any president but even more so for a president who's tapped into populist anger against the establishment.

SABATO: That's right, the populism and the establishment feeling and this really came to head just as he is releasing a tax reform plan that many see as benefiting the rich. So I think he had to take the action that he did and he took it quickly. I'm saying that solves his tax reform problems.

But at least it does not make them worse.

VANIER: So I was looking at the list of people who have been fired from Trump's cabinet or who have left the Trump team since the beginning of the presidency and that's a very long list now.

The national security adviser, Michael Flynn, obviously, at the beginning of the presidency; the press secretary, the communications director, the chief strategist; I'm not even mentioning here the FBI director.

Is there -- is there a cumulative effect that hurts Trump here or not at all?

SABATO: Most average people really do not follow the ins and outs of who's filling these jobs and their name ID is under 10 percent. People can't name these people; they do not know them.

Now this is a tumultuous presidency. People have known that from day one. So I don't think they're surprised to see a well-above-normal exit rate for key Trump people.

What will matter is that policy suffers. What's hurting Trump is that he has not been able to get much of anything done other than the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice.

VANIER: But to the wider point of policy, Tom Price actually had a policy failure on his hands because he failed to help push through a reform of the health care and that was not what doomed him.

SABATO: I believe that Trump would have given him a pass and allowed him to find a way to stay had he actually gotten ObamaCare repealed and replaced. Remember Price was chosen because he had been a member Congress for over 10 years.

He was well respected by Republicans and the caucus and they're the majority in the House and the Senate. And the assumption was that he could actually get this done well. He failed at least twice. And there does not seem to be any reasonable prospect that it will happen anytime soon.

So what did Trump really lose?

VANIER: All right, Larry, great to speak to you again. Thank you very much for your time.

SABATO: Thank you, Cyril.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Now to that humanitarian emergency in Puerto Rico; 11 days after Hurricane Maria U.S. officials remain optimistic that the island is on the road to recovery. In fact, acting Homeland security chief Elaine Duke arrived in San Juan on Friday to check the situation first-hand. She had caused a lot of anger before leaving Washington when she called the federal response "a good news story."

On Friday, however, she was more temperate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELAINE DUKE, ACTING U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Clearly, the situation here in Puerto Rico after the devastating hurricane is not satisfactory. But together we are getting there. And the progress today is very, very strong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: In fact, across the island, the progress is very slow. Puerto Ricans are waiting for hours under a brutal sun for basic necesscities like food, fuel, cash. Some are tapping spring water to drink and wash themselves. You see it there.

Some aid is beginning to arrive and the nightly curfew that was meant to deter looters has been extended until 9:00 pm to give residents a couple more hours to try and get supplies.

Also, the National Guard has brought in heavy machine machinery to help clear blocked roads and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been tasked with rebuilding the electrical grid.

But deep pockets of misery remain. Stagnant floodwaters could end up causing diseases and heavy rains are forecast for this weekend, which could make recovery a lot harder.

CNN has teams covering all aspects of this crisis in Puerto Rico. Boris Sanchez is with residents of San Juan, lining up for essential supplies. Dr. Sanjay Gupta saw firsthand how difficult it is to get medicines to patients who really need them. Let's start with Boris. He shows us how Puerto Ricans struggle to get the everyday things they need.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've been standing at this gas station since about 5:00 am. I want to show you the line here because it has not let up since we have been here.

The first person in line here, a gentleman who told that he was here at 9:00 pm last night when this gas station ran out of gas, he decided to just park his car and sleep in the line. When it finally opened this morning, he was able to get gas and just a few moments ago, a large tanker came here and provided more fuel to this gas station.

So it appears that they will be open for a bit longer. But people in line told me they are hungry and they are flustered, the desperation, the anger here is palpable.

Getting key resources has proved daunting for Puerto Ricans, many camping in their cars outside a gas station, forming a line more than a quarter-mile long, waiting hours to fill their tanks. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really hard, like when you have to go and

check on your family; you have to (INAUDIBLE) gas (INAUDIBLE) and make all these lines so you can get gas. It's pretty hard.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Massive lines are also forming outside grocery stores and banks and many businesses are only taking cash, which is now in short supply. Much of what these people desperately need, essentials like food, water and medical supplies, have proved elusive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) not here. Not here. (INAUDIBLE) nothing, water, food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's been about nine days that we don't have help. Supposedly the U.S. has provided help but we don't have water, we don't have food, we don't have medicine.

They keep telling us it's coming from the U.S. but we don't see it.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): In other parts of Puerto Rico, cries for help are being answered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish). Thank God.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): People run onto the streets to wave down the mayor and other officials in Guyama city, as he drives through town, offering emergency food and water from FEMA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

SANCHEZ (voice-over): The mayor asks for calm and admits he knows they will need much more. Further complicating recovery efforts, the weather forecast; while many remain homeless, parts of Puerto Rico are at risk for flash flooding this weekend, with rain again expected to hit the already battered island.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said it was rainiing coming on this weekend. I don't know how we're going to deal with it because it's still flooded everywhere.

SANCHEZ: And that gentleman, Kevin, lives in a neighborhood where many people are homeless. Hurricane Maria ripping the roofs off of several homes. We werr there yesterday and we were told that there is a canal that runs through the center of their neighborhood and it often floiids for just a typical rainstorm.

During Hurricane Maria, raw sewage was flowing into people's homes. Keep in mind there is set to be more rain this weekend.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Our thanks to Boris Sanchez there for that report.

Now the situation facing many sick and injured people on the island is dire. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, says only one hospital is fully operational out of the 69 on the island; 56 have limited capabilities and just getting medicine and supplies is a bureaucratic headache.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta was in the middle of that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. ASTRID MORALES, VOLUNTEER: We're tied up here because we don't have IV antibiotics to give the patients and we have no place to get them.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I kept thinking to myself, how difficult could this be?

If these life-saving supplies are on the island of Puerto Rico, why aren't they getting to the people who need them?

What's standing in the way of that happening?

And can I make it happen myself?

The first place I'm going to try are these DMAT tents, disaster management assistance team, the HHS. This is the federal government. See what they have to offer.

I was with the doctors yesterday who were volunteering and this is what they were asking for.

OK. So we've been waiting about 45 minutes now outside the HHS tent. We know that they have medications. What we heard is that they got to run it up to lines of command, two chains of command, and then they get back to us.

But, again, it's been 45 minutes.

How are you doing?

We're going to go and try somewhere else.

We're trying to get to some of these medications because we went to some of the shelters --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can get some here.

GUPTA: Is there medications here?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we have the medications just arrive.

GUPTA: OK. OK. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish). GUPTA: Because the hospitals have been slow to start back up, these are all volunteer doctors over here, who have basically come, trying to gather supplies and take it out to the people who need it. They're trying their best. It's a slow process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

GUPTA: OK, OK. Yes, if we can get a few doses, we will take it over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it through?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have only some of the antibiotics (INAUDIBLE).

GUPTA: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need it also.

GUPTA: Yes, that would be great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)?

GUPTA: All right. Perfect. OK, Doctor, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other one I will give you --

GUPTA: Appreciate it. Thank you.

It's all about getting the supplies and then getting them to the people who need it. These come from an organization called Direct Relief. You can see they're set up right underneath this parking structure with all these medications.

We got them. Now we're going to take --

GUPTA: What Dr. Morales asked was that we get these medications and see if we could bring it to this clinic, this hospital. This is one of those places that is up and running. But without these medications, they haven't been really able to take care of patients.

Dr. Rodriguez, I was told to bring you this.

DR. RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

GUPTA: These are --

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

GUPTA: Let me tell you what we have. There's all sorts of antibiotics, primarily. But Dr. Morales said that you were needing a lot of this.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

GUPTA: Is that true?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

GUPTA: How are you getting -- you can go through it. And there's also pediatrics.

Well, I hope this helps.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, a lot. Thank you.

GUPTA: You're doing great work here. Keep doing what you're doing.

It's like a little baby.

(LAUGHTER)

GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Loiza, Puerto Rico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Now some call it justice; others say it's civil disobedience but just about everyone in Spain has something to say about Sunday's independence vote in Catalonia. Reaction from both sides coming up after the break.

Plus this, the United States is slashing its embassy staff in Cuba after mysterious sonic attacks on American diplomats. Cuba says it is not to blame. Stay with us.

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VANIER: Welcome back. I want to update you on the breaking news that we've been following here in the U.S. There are reports of an active shooter on campus of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Now this video I showed you earlier shows police cars rushing toward the scene and officers are there investigating the incident.

Now the U.S. Air Force Academy tweeted this, "We received reports of an active shooter on academy grounds. There is no confirmation of shots fired. Security forces are sweeping the area."

Here is more details from the El Paso County Sheriff's Department, "Military personnel and law enforcement are clearing dorms, including knocking on doors to check on cadets on usafa. No reported injuries or shots fired."

All right, so that's good news but the stlory is still developing, so will bring you the details as they emerge. CNN teams are working on this right now.

People around the world are keeping a close eye on the Catalonia region of Spain, where an independence vote is set for this Sunday. The mood in Spain is mixed; in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, the regional capital, thousands of people marched on Friday to show their support for the controversial referendum.

And anti-referendum rally is planned in Madrid in the coming hours. Spain's government says the vote is illegal and it has deployed police officers to prevent it. But campaigners for independence have vowed to proceed anyway.

The vote is being driven by people who believe that Catalonia has been neglected by the central Spanish government.

We sent our Isa Soares to Spain to get a closer look at how both sides view this hotly debated referendum.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sea of red, yellow and blue screams to be heard.

These are the yells of defiance.

"We will vote. We will vote," a message the central government of Mariano Rajoy, who, in the last week, has been accused here of (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

SOARES (voice-over): "He has lost his democratic compass," tells me this man, "and he thinks he can stop this with the use of force and the courts in a perverse manner."

Earlier in the day if the streets of Barcelona, that anger and frustration was matched by the deepest desire to vote, come what may.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

"We're going to vote with carnation," tells me this lady, "with flowers. And there will be no type of violence. No one will stop me because we're so many. I don't think they can do anything."

SOARES: According to the Catalonian government, some 150 referendum websites have been suspended. What this has led to is the creation of more traditional campaigning, right here on the streets of Barcelona.

People can approach, asking for information regarding polling stations, which ones are open from what time and, critically, they can collect their official ballot paper.

SOARES (voice-over): This is a grassroots referendum, too, with people occupying polling stations like this school to make sure that police cannot close it and (INAUDIBLE) stop them from voting. "The option to vote yes or to vote no is up to each person," he says,

"and what we want above all else is to vote. We want to manifest our opinion and our desire as a people."

But a look towards the Barcelona port suggests the central government of Madrid has other plans. Here are reinforcements, as many as 7,000 police officers awaiting to be deployed to stop a referendum the central government calls unconstitutional and illegal.

But while the (INAUDIBLE) may be ready to trash the party, Catalonians now are celebrating in the hope that, on October the 1st, they'll be finally heard -- Isa Soares, CNN, Barcelona.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: The United States is reducing staff and services at its embassy in Cuba after mysterious sonic attacks against U.S. diplomats. Americans are also being warned not to travel there. CNN's Patrick Oppmann has the latest from Havana.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just two years after the reestablishment of full diplomatic ties, the U.S. embassy in Havana has seen better days. Hurricane Irma battered much of Cuba and Havana's seafront boulevard where the embassy is located.

U.S. diplomats are still picking up from the storm and now are facing another calamity. Diplomats' families and nonessential personnel are being ordered to return to the U.S. after at least 21 members of the embassy staff were targeted by what U.S. officials say could have been sonic attacks.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have it under evaluation. It's a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered. We've brought some of those people home.

OPPMANN (voice-over): U.S. officials believe that, starting last November, devices that emit sonic waves could have targeted U.S. diplomats while they were in their homes or staying in hotels. Who is behind the attacks and the motive is still unclear. Cuban officials deny responsibility and say they are investigating the incidents.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA, CUBAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Cuba has never perpetrated not will it ever perpetrate actions of this sort, nor has Cuba allowed or will it ever allow its territory to be used by third parties for that purpose.

OPPMANN (voice-over): U.S. officials say they believe the Cubans know more than they are saying and what they call rogue elements of the island's formidable intelligence services could be involved.

OPPMANN: Not long after the U.S. complained to the Cuban government about the attacks, Raul Castro himself personally promised American diplomats that Cuba would investigate the incidents. The FBI was allowed to come to Havana and security increased at U.S. diplomats' homes. But U.S. officials say still the attacks continued.

OPPMANN (voice-over): U.S. officials say, as a result of the attacks, they will stop issuing visas to Cubans effective immediately and issue a travel warning to Americans thinking of visiting Cuba.

Despite the harassment, both current and former U.S. diplomats say now is the wrong time to lessen the U.S. presence on the communist-run island.

VICKI HUDDLESTON, FORMER CHIEF U.S. DIPLOMATIC MISSION IN HAVANA: It is the worst possible thing that could happen to both countries. And what worries me more than anything is that hard-liners on the Cuban side and the U.S. side might be behind pushing this idea.

OPPMANN (voice-over): U.S. officials say their first priority has to be to keep U.S. personnel and their families safe. But they concede that American diplomats leaving Cuba could be just what the people behind these mystery attacks were hoping to accomplish -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: And just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, heavy rain about to make the lives of hurricane survivors in Puerto Rico even more miserable than they are right now. Derek Van Dam from the CNN International Weather Center is on his way. He will be here with that story right after the break. Stay with us.

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VANIER: It has been 10 days since Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico. Entire towns are still underwater with the threat of more flooding to come.

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VANIER: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.