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Trump on Gun Laws; Desperation Grows in Puerto Rico; Las Vegas Mayor on Concert Massacre; Clark county Fire Chief on Concert Massacre; FEMA Aid Distribution. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 3, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:41] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


We do have a little breaking news because the president has just boarded Air Force One. He is on his way to Puerto Rico to obviously deal with the aftermath of the crisis there. Before he left, he spoke briefly with reporters. Here's what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, we have a tragedy. We're going to do -- and what happened in Las Vegas is in many ways a miracle. The police department has done such an incredible job. And we'll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.

But I -- but I do have to say how quickly the police department was able to get in was really very much of a miracle. They've done an amazing job.

Go ahead, Jim.


TRUMP: Well, I think she's come back a long way. And, you know, I think it's now acknowledged what a great job we've done. And people are looking at that. And in Texas and in Florida, we get an A plus. And I'll tell you what, I think we've done just as good in Puerto Rico and it's actually a much tougher situation. But now the roads are cleared, communication is starting to come back. We need their truck drivers. Their drivers have to start driving trucks. We have to do that. So at a local level, they have to give us more help.

But I will tell you, the first responders, the military, FEMA, they have done an incredible job in Puerto Rico. And whether it's her or anybody else, they're all starting to say it. I appreciate very much the governor and his comments. He has said, we have done an incredible job. And that's the truth.


TRUMP: We'll talk about that later.


TRUMP: He was a sick man. A demented man. A lot of problems, I guess. And we're looking into him very, very seriously. But we're dealing with a very, very sick individual.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.


CAMEROTA: Political analyst David Gregory is here with me to talk about all the challenges facing the president in this day ahead.

What did you just hear there, David?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, the president's talking about Las Vegas. We'll hear a lot more from him. He was cryptic when he said we'll talk about gun laws later. He doesn't want to get into such a politically difficult issue today. Probably not even tomorrow.

I think there will be a lot of questions about how and whether the president will weigh in on any kind of gun restrictions because we know what a difficult debate that is and we know how fruitless that has been in the wake of these mass shootings. He has a different ideological past. He may be more willing since he supported gun restrictions in the past. He's got a political base that will be very much against that. So that will be something to watch.

CAMEROTA: Well, look, I mean we'll see. And we heard -- we see Bannon basically throw down the gauntlet --


CAMEROTA: And say that -- that would be horrible for the base if the president were to have any movement on that towards gun control.

GREGORY: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: But let's talk about Puerto Rico. There is a strange message that I'm having a hard time getting my mind around coming out of the White House. We should -- if only these local truck drivers in Puerto Rico would show up, the crisis and the problems would be solved. There is a massive fuel shortage. There are not just trucks lined up filled with gas idling, waiting for the drivers to show up. We talked to General Buchanan who says his number one concern, his number one challenge today is that there's not enough fuel on that island and roads are impassable. I don't understand what is happening with the blaming of the truck drivers for this problem.

[08:35:15] GREGORY: Right. It's not just that. I don't understand why the president has to get into this business of making it all about him. I mean even a hurricane on Puerto Rico somehow has to be a reflection of him and why won't more people say that he gets an A plus. I mean it is really appalling as the president of the United States.

There are local leaders who are frustrated. He may think that's legitimate. He may think it's illegitimate. The bottom line is they're frustrated. Everybody can understand that. He's going to go down there. He's going to marshal resources to help. He ought to be speaking about it in those terms, that the government is here to do as much as it can to work with local officials and to protect our people. And that's the message he ought to be conveying. And he gets in his own way by lashing out at people who criticize him instead of doing everything that he can.

Look, FEMA is doing what it can. He's got an excellent homeland security adviser within the White House. These are difficult problems to -- and challenges to meet. But they're fundamental in terms of what government is supposed to be doing. I think the president has to recognize that. It raises the potential for awkward meetings on the ground in Puerto Rico, to say the least.

CAMEROTA: I'll say, because you know the mayor of San Juan is going to be at some of these hearings.


CAMEROTA: That's who he's engaged in most of this war of words with because she's made a passionate plea to say, we need help. We don't have enough water. We don't have enough fuel. Awe don't have enough food. So she's saying, please help us. She's saying -- she also went so far as to say, we will roll up our sleeves and form a human chain if need be, but give us access to these containers.

This is Air Force One taxing down the runway as it is heading off to Puerto Rico. So that will be interesting to watch today, what happens when he and the mayor meet each other.

GREGORY: And here's the thing about this moment that we're in that I think is really significant. We are experiencing a national tragedy because of a mass murder on the scale that we've seen in Las Vegas. We are experiencing natural disasters, one after the other, that are not just taxing leadership and raising questions about how government can respond, but there's longer-term problems.

This is different than the kind of basic competency questions that any president faces, any administration faces. How he handles these moments will say a lot about how he's viewed as a president who can get things done. This is the core of what it means to lead. How you lead the government. How you deal with events that you could not have foreseen. That's what -- and how leadership is defined.

And we've seen presidents defined that way in the past. In our recent history, this becomes a very important moment for the president to look very deeply within himself about the kind of leadership he wants to project and provide and who he's going to rely on.

CAMEROTA: And it will be interesting to see what happens there on the ground, if these are just meet and greets and there's just a lot of handshaking and a lot of sort of reassurance, which obviously will be welcome, or if he does go to the more remote areas to see with his own eyes that people are really still struggling for food and supplies..

GREGORY: Right. And, look, it could be very difficult for him to get out to remote places because of what the -- the effect of that could be. When -- so you have a large motorcade and things like that. The bottom line is, his presence there is to say to Puerto Ricans and to the rest of the country, we are committed for the long haul.


David Gregory, thank you very much.

All right, let's go back to Las Vegas where Chris has been all morning reporting on the aftermath of the massacre there.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you, Alisyn.

Two quick things. One, the president isn't going to have to travel far to see the need in Puerto Rico. We didn't go far on purpose. He's also going to learn firsthand what it means to be (INAUDIBLE) and what it means to have the strength of character and of purpose that the people on that island have. They have everything inside of them they need. It's what outside themselves that's in short supply. So we hope he gets that when he's on the ground.

Here in Las Vegas, we wish that this was a complete shock, what happened here. We know that it is the worst of its kind, the massacre of 59 people, more than 500 injured. And yet it can't be entirely a shock. We've seen too much of this. Too much evil. Too much repeated. Too many patterns.

Joining us now is the latest leader to deal with this type of catastrophe, the Las Vegas mayor, Carolyn Goodman.

And, of course, these are the moments you pray you never get into as mayor, but you're forced to deal with it. And by all accounts, you've been doing your job and doing it well.

We know that you heard the show this morning and you heard a couple of the survivors who got through. And it's a horrible struggle for them to reconcile having made it through and have that blessing, and dealing with what it means. And there's so many who are in their position this morning, madam mayor. It's not easy.

[08:40:02] MAYOR CAROLYN GOODMAN (I), LAS VEGAS: There's a Latin phrase, carpe diem, seize the day. I think for those who survived all of it, it is about what you do with your life, how compassionate you are for others, how you stop asking what other people can do but see what you, yourself, can do. We're so blessed that we have these survivors, and so tragically distraught about what has happened to the 59 innocent people who came to our wonderful community just to enjoy a wonderful country western activity and show.

And I must complement our first responders and our law enforcement. And I know you've heard it again and again, but they didn't just happen to do their jobs. They have been so well trained. This is such a safe community.

You know, we have 43 million visitors every year, 350,000 a weekend or during the week. And so our law enforcement, our first responders, our hospitals, we're always ready. And not that we want to be put into action. We have Nellus (ph). We have Crete (ph). We have so much going on here, our convention business is enormous. And, yes, it's a place where our community just is brought so deeply down to its knees right now, and responding with giving blood, waiting in line five and six hours at the blood banks.

And we have all these people -- when I drove home last night at about 10:00, there were more people out there with rental trucks delivering bottles and food and things to the hospitals for the families that are there attending to their loved ones who still remain in the hospital situation.

But it is something. This will not define us. This crazy misgrant (ph) will not define who this community is and will not define these people.

What we need to do is concentrate on the beautiful lives, these innocent people, who had families and they're here and they are going to live with this forever.

And for those who were there and those who are living here or are visiting or have seen your show or have been on social media, this is another sad, sad day in the world. It really is. In the world we know, we have these sick, sick people that are bound to go ahead and continue to repeat it. They will not define who these people are in the community, any more than they will all of us who love this country and love freedom and know that we -- each one of us have a responsibility to do our individual part, to make it better, and to stop this from happening.

CUOMO: You know, madam mayor, when something like this happens, one of the after action points, one of the lessons is, well, what do we do now to prevent this the next time? Some of the remedies make sense until you have to imagine them as a common practice. Are you going to magnetometer, are you going to have people go through hotels, you know, and have to have them go through some type of resonance (ph), you know, what that would do to extending the time of getting in and out of hotels. And I know that sounds like a frivolous concern right now in light of the tragedy, but to the everyday experience of going to a hotel, is that something that's going to be on your plate now to consider?

GOODMAN: I do have some concepts. But, keep in mind, that's private business. And those people that run the businesses will determine what they're going to do. I represent the city of Las Vegas and I represent Las Vegas to the world.

Our people are prepared. That's what we're supposed to do. We are to be preemptively prepared. And the first thing I did when I first took office was go back to the Federal Emergency Management training in Maryland, learned a great deal, spent five days with a huge team of people so that we knew immediately what we were to do in a first response.

Our people are so professional. I mean they were exemplary. In the hospitals, you cannot imagine how quickly everybody returned to hospital. Even if they had just gotten off that day, they were back there. And I mean a full, full staff. And every hospital responding.

And then this wonderful community, this diverse community, coming in, bringing food, doing everything they could, standing in these long lines to give blood because we asked them. They said, what can we do right now? We want to do something. Please let us help. And the reality was, we said, blood and funds. The sheriff had set up an account. And within 24 hours, we had over $2 million in that account to help these sad, sad families and friends of these lost 59 innocent lives. So it is the role of government to be there.

CUOMO: Well, and we will stay on all of the investigating, what we can learn about how this was able to happen, how it was responded to, and hopefully we all wind up in a better place.

[08:45:10] Madam mayor, thank you for joining us this morning. I know this is a difficult and busy time for you.

GOODMAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, a big part of this story is the response to the evil. There were first responders that had to jump into action when this began here in Las Vegas. The city's fire chief is going to join me next.

But as we have been doing this morning and for days to come, do not forget who was lost in this situation. Please, take a look at the victims in this attack.


ON SCREEN TEXT: Bailey Schweitzer, 20 years old.

Angela "Angie" Gomez, 20 years old.

Neysa Atonks.

Jennifer T. Irvine.

Sonny Melton, 29 years old.



CUOMO: Fifty-nine lives stolen by an evil man. Five hundred and twenty-seven injured here in Las Vegas. This is the deadliest mass shooting we've seen in modern history. Many people are still fighting for their lives.

And as hard as it is to believe right now, this could have been worse. There were thousands of people who were sitting ducks for a man who was loaded and armed to the teeth.

Joining us now is Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell, and he is just one of the leaders of first responders that jumped into action here.

Chief, thank you for making the time to be with us, my brother.


CUOMO: But when we look at the timeframe here and the variables, you can never train for a situation like this. How did the first responders negotiate this situation and act?

CASSELL: Well, we've never trained for a scenario like this, somebody so well armed, 32 stories up, with an open venue across the street. We do train for what we call hostile MCI's frequently. How we integrate with our law enforcement partners in what we call rescue task forces where we imbed firefighters with police officers and we go into harm's way wearing ballistic gear so we can try to get to people as fast as we can to stop bleeding and help them breathing to save lives. We know that that immediate combat care is what's needed.

So we trained on that. We never anticipated anything of this magnitude.

CUOMO: When you were getting into it and you were hearing the reports of how many and whether they're moving and we've never heard fire like that here. I mean that is war theater stuff of, you know, a world away. How did you process the need?

CASSELL: Well, one, I've got to say, my men and women, and the men and women of all the fire departments and police departments here did a wonderful job ono Sunday night. By the time I arrived, you know, I'm coming from home, the shooting was over, thank God, and -- but my men and women were well engaged in taking care of the patients.

And I've talked to some of them. Some of them I've known for many, many years and they're definitely wounded a little bit by this mentally right now. We've got some scars to heal up of our own.

CUOMO: I mean, look, it's something that you men and women have to deal with all the time. That's why you're the best of us. And that's why we revere our first responders.

But that kind of fire, that duration, that number of injured, how close was it to being overwhelming for you guys?

CASSELL: Well, it pushed us to the brink, but I wouldn't say we were overwhelmed. The hospitals were -- did a phenomenal job with I mean hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of patients that came in, some of them critical and some mortally wounded, unfortunately. But they -- they did what we train them to do. They did what we've already planned on, but just on a larger scale. The way they used the instant command system, they deployed their resources and then, you know, broke the area into chunks and managed it.

[08:50:10] CUOMO: Now, one of the things that I think is important to talk about, it sounds a little insensitive, but here's why I'm talking about it. We hear from the guys who are on the ground -- I was talking to them last night -- and they wanted this to come out too. The kind of rounds this guy was using, and this being automatic fire, which means it's going a lot faster than usual and speed matters when it comes to bullets and their destructive power.


CUOMO: This guy probably knew that the way he was doing this, he was going to send rounds that would go through multiple people and that it would expand, you know, his effectiveness. And that's something that you guys had to deal with and it's something that people need to know at home also that that's one of the things that these weapons -- and I'm not get into a discussion with you, that's for our leaders, for them to take on.


CUOMO: But that is the reality on the ground, is it not? You must have been seeing that with your first responders, that you were seeing wounds that might have been multiple people getting hit by this guy by single rounds.

CASSELL: Yes, there's no doubt. The weapons systems that he employed in this attack were -- were lethal, high-powered, you know, definitely not good things to be in play.

CUOMO: And, look, thank God you guys were here to triage and deal with it and you kept so many people alive, and hopefully, you know, they make it out and they live their lives and they're part of this story of how we endure a tragedy.

But thank you for being there for everybody.

CASSELL: You're welcome. Thank you.

CUOMO: You are our heroes for a reason. Unfortunately, the way you have to prove it, none of the rest of us would ever be able to do it. That's why we have you. Thanks for being with us, chief.

CASSELL: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, Alisyn, to you in New York.


President Trump is on his way at this moment to Puerto Rico almost two weeks after Hurricane Maria actually destroyed the island. So we're going to get a live report from San Juan on how the relief efforts are going today. That's next.


CAMEROTA: President Trump is on his way to Puerto Rico as we speak. The White House says he'll be overseeing the relief efforts and getting a first-hand look at the devastation there from Hurricane Maria. The president has already described the federal response to the disaster as fantastic.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live in Puerto Rico.

So, Leyla, tell us what you're seeing today and how it differs from all of the days that you've been there reporting.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are in Flabaha (ph) right now, Alisyn. And this is the distribution center. You can see people already at work. There are lines outside.

Here it is. This is the aid from FEMA. This entire row. And I've got to tell you, two days ago I was here and there wasn't even half of this. So this is significantly more FEMA aid that is coming to the distribution center this morning.

What I did was track it from the moment FEMA arrived in Puerto Rico, or this aid arrived, and how it gets to some of the smaller, outer lying areas. And I want you to see what we found.

[08:55:10] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Now, on the move, help, two weeks after Hurricane Maria.

SANTIAGO (on camera): So these are meals that are now being handed over from the federal government, FEMA, into the hands of Puerto Rican National Guard. They are now on their way to remote areas on the western part of the island to get to the people that need it most.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): After an hour and a half following the convoy, one truck peels off to Buenania (ph), still baring the scars of Maria in southwest Puerto Rico. Badly-need water, food. It's the first time the National Guard delivered aid straight from FEMA here according to town officials.

But it's not all for here. The rest goes down the road to another community in need. The vice mayor in this town of more than 20,000 admits the lines are getting longer.


I'm asking him if this is enough.


SANTIAGO (voice-over): Frustration is growing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are people here who need other people. Please do something.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Is the government doing enough?

LIZA MINNELLI PACHECO, PUERTO RICAN LIVING IN TAMPA, FLORIDA: Not enough. Let's be real. If this would have been the United States, none of this would have been happening. A lot of people have found --

SANTIAGO: But this is the United States.

PACHECO: Well, that -- no, a lot of people don't know that this is the United States and they don't treat it like the United States.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The food sent by the U.S. government barely makes a meal.

SANTIAGO (on camera): There are 20 of these in one of these boxes. They are an emergency meal. And each one has crackers, raisins, granola and some Vienna sausage for these people to take home.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Less than an hour later, the announcement comes, there is no more food.


SANTIAGO (on camera): She says she's sad that there's no food left, but at least there's water that she can get now for later.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Federal help is arriving, but it's not nearly enough for everyone in need. Here in Guiania, the wait continues now for more water, more food, for more help from FEMA.


SANTIAGO: And so you can see, Alisyn, the FEMA aid is here. The problem for many is getting it -- be -- to the -- to the areas that are more remote outside of San Juan.

A quick antidote, when we were there, the water packages that were coming in, they were actually dividing them in half, giving them to the people so they could reach more homes.


CAMEROTA: Leyla, it is so helpful to have you on the ground there so that we can see, you know, with our own eyes all of the challenges that face FEMA and the people there. Thank you very much for all of that reporting.

We want to go back now to Chris, who is live for us in Las Vegas this morning.


CUOMO: All right. And anybody who's been on the ground in Puerto Rico can tell you, Alisyn, it ain't not just about the drivers. That's a complex situation. And those people who are getting food, at least they knew where it was. Communication's an issue. Logistics are an issue. Hopefully when the president sees it firsthand, and he won't have to travel far to see it, there will be things that change even more because there are a lot of first responders trying to get the job done.

So here in Vegas, we're dealing with a catastrophe of a different order and of a different type, but the same impact. Country singer Jason Aldean, we all know him now because he was performing on stage when a gunman opened fire on thousands of innocent people just trying to enjoy like. He just released a statement on Instagram. It reads, over the last 24 hours I have gone through lots of emotions, scared, anger, heartache, compassion and many others. I truly don't understand why a person would want to take the life of another. Something has changed in this country and in this world lately that is scary to see. This world is becoming the kind of place I'm afraid to raise my children in. At the end of the day, we aren't Democrats or Republicans, whites or blacks, men or women, we are all humans and we are all Americans and it's time to start acting like it and stand together as one.


CAMEROTA: He goes on to say that is the only way we will ever get this country to be better than it has ever been. But we have a long way to go and we have to start now. My heart aches for the victims and their families of this senseless act. I am so sorry for the hurt and pain everyone is feeling right now and there are no words I can say to take that pain away. Just know you are all in my heart and my prayers as we all go through this together. Time to come together and stop the hate. Hash tag stopthehateprayforlasvegas.

Well, Chris, I mean he couldn't have -- nobody could have said it any better. I do think that everybody fears for their children right now, and we don't want to be in a world where this becomes commonplace.

CUOMO: The world is what we make it, Alisyn.

We'll keep covering this massacre here in Las Vegas. We are in continuing coverage. We're going to cover the president's trip to Puerto Rico.

[09:00:11] So we have CNN "NEWSROOM" now picking it up with Poppy Harlow and John Berman.