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Nine Percent in Puerto Rico With Power; White House Defends Combative Approach to Iran; Trump Cancels Obamacare Subsidy Payments; Death Toll Rising in California Wildfires. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 13, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:32:21] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, President Trump has a new message for the people of Puerto Rico. In his early morning tweet, he wrote, "The wonderful people of Puerto Rico, with their unmatched spirit, know how bad things were before the hurricanes. I will always be with them."

That, of course, comes after the president seemed to threaten to pull FEMA and first responders off the island just yesterday, saying, "They can't be there forever," he tweeted. That did not sit well with folks on the ground.

This won't either. Today, only 9 percent of the island has power. That's down from 17 percent yesterday. Yes, down from yesterday.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live from San Juan, where she has been since before the storm hit.

Leyla, what's going on with the power now?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point, you said it, 9 percent of the power has been restored. Put this in perspective. That means 91 percent of the island is still without power three weeks after Hurricane Maria struck. And I spoke to government officials and asked exactly what happened overnight to see the shift and not an improvement, the opposite direction. They told me there was some sort of failure in the central system. They're working to get that restored. Again, I asked what the long-term goals are, Kate, they told me 25 percent by the end of the month. Again, flip the numbers around. That means, by the end of the month, likely 75 percent of this island will not have power.

And these are the words from the Puerto Rican government on the same day the speaker of the House is scheduled to visit the island. I have been told by organizers as well as people in the Puerto Rican government that Speaker Paul Ryan is expected to take a flight, so he will get an aerial view of the island. That will be his exposure outside of the capitol. Remember, when President Trump visited the island, he was criticized for the same thing, for not talking to people on the ground outside at San Juan, as we have done. Just over the last few days, we got out of San Juan, talked to people in the western part of the island and interior. Very different story out there than what it is here. Out there, bridges have collapsed, communities remain isolated, remain with no communication. Mothers praying for help for their babies, elderly without medications, people without water. A third of the island still without water on the day the speaker of the House is bringing in a delegation from the U.S.

BOLDUAN: The video that we're showing from traveling the island is still so shocking. You spoke to folks, Leyla, you met weeks ago, they're still struggling. What are they telling you?

[11:35:05] SANTIAGO: You know, I spoke to one woman who didn't have a roof over her house. She was in the central part of the island. Kate, without a roof over her house, she's still flying the U.S. flag, calling the United States the salvation. Meanwhile, in that same statement, saying she's waiting for help. The help has not arrived.

We are seeing FEMA aid moving. We're certainly seeing more movement today than a week ago, two weeks ago, three weeks ago at this point. But somehow, it is still not reaching the most vulnerable communities on this island of 3.5 million U.S. citizens.

BOLDUAN: House speaker, congressional delegation, getting a firsthand look of their own today on some of it. Probably, not all of it.

Leyla, great to see you. Thank you so much.

Breaking news coming into us just now. The president set to layout his path forward very soon on the Iran nuclear deal. The secretary of state, the president's national security adviser are laying out their new defense of the president's approach. What are they saying? That's coming up.

But first this. His brother had a love for sports but a congenital heart defect kept him on the sidelines. And, sadly, his brother passed away at just 10 years old. This week's "CNN Hero" launched a nonprofit that gives other seriously ill children a front-row seat to their favorite sports.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: When you have a child, who is dealing with a life-threatening illness, their treatment protocol might be two, three years, and their tanks start to go dry.

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Game day experiences provide an opportunity for a family to get out, as a family, just being there together. And days like this, they really motivate the kids to continue their fight.


BOLDUAN: To learn more, please go to CNN

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:41:22] BOLDUAN: Breaking news. New insight into the president's decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the president's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, briefing reporters on what the president will say in just minutes, and why he is making the dramatic move.

CNN's senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, was at the briefing and she has the details.

Michelle, what are they saying? What are you hearing?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: The first thing we heard from Secretary of State Tillerson sounded like reassurance. He wanted to say, off the bat, the U.S. is staying in the Iran nuclear deal, we're not out of the deal, we're not renegotiating the deal, the deal is intact. He wanted to say that over and over again to make sure everybody knew this is not the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal into a greater unknown than exists now.

But what they want to do is kick this to Congress. Because every 90 -- there's a law Congress passed when this deal was formed that said every 90 days, the White House has to certify the deal and stipulate a couple things, including that it is in the best national interest of the country to stay in the nuclear deal. Is what we're getting out of the deal good enough to keep lifting sanctions on Iran and allowing people to do business with Iran?

In this case, the president is saying, no, he is not going to certify it. But he wants Congress to rework that law and put in what they call specific trigger points so if Iran does certain things, like expand its ballistic missile program or wants parts of the deal sunset, they start doing more in the nuclear program, then immediately Congress would reimpose the sanctions that were lifted as part of the Iran nuclear deal. They want Congress to rework things so, if Iran does certain things, the sanctions go back on.

What's concerning about this, though, to some, including people from the Obama administration, who helped craft the Iran nuclear deal, they say, look, if Congress touches any of the sanctions that were part of the deal in the first place, that's essentially -- it is a renegotiating or a partial reworking of the Iran deal without any of the other countries that were part of it. They say this plan is reckless. They used words like "illogical" and "crazy." They feel this is a dangerous idea and a dangerous approach to foreign policy. Of course, what you hear from the White House, this is the most reasonable option. We're not breaking apart the deal itself, we're still in the deal. We just want to work out the part where the president has to certify it and Congress can or cannot lift sanctions. So there are a couple of options. Congress can do nothing, leave lifting of sanctions as it is. They can choose to reimpose sanctions right now, and that would end the deal, or they can have trigger points.

BOLDUAN: Threading the needle, but where are they threating the needle to. I think that's where this is going. Michelle, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

The president making his announcement shortly. We'll bring that to you live.

While we're waiting for that, joining me, Congressman Gregory Meeks, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS, (D), NEW YORK: Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: You have called -- you said the deal is imperfect, not a perfect deal, but wrote a letter to the president asking him to recertify. He is not going to do that. What does today's announcement mean?

[11:45:02] MEEKS: It is very worrying. I worry about today's announcement because what the president says matters. See, what people have to realize, first, the reason for the deal was for one reason, to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And the only way we were able to do that, not by bilateral sanctions by the United States. We've had bilateral sanctions by the United States and have not prevented them continuing to move forward. It was the multilateral sanctions. Getting P-5-Plus-1 together, other nations, Germany, France, Russia, China, the E.U., that's what put -- when the sanctions were collective, that made Iran come to the table. Violating that, then it is the United States that is pulling out and violating the agreement, which then means our word is not good, and it isolates us from even our most-valued allies.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, they're saying, specifically, he is not throwing out the deal. Do you see that as a victory or you don't believe it?

MEEKS: No. Because what he is doing is he is going contrary to what our allies have said, by not certifying the deal with all our allies and the IEIA, who is responsible for inspections. Also certifying, saying that Iran is cooperating with --

BOLDUAN: You think, in essence, he is pulling out of the deal?

MEEKS: In essence, that's the message. The message is, he is saying they don't want to live up to what the facts are. So the problem is, to me, is here we are again with this particular president, the facts say everything. Whether you have everybody looking at the deal that says Iran has complied, then the facts then say you should certify. Except, for this president doesn't care what the facts are. He is going to say, whatever the facts, I'm going to do what I want to do, and that divides us. He has done that every step of the way in almost everything he has done since he has been president of the United States.

BOLDUAN: He is kicking this to Congress, saying Congress needs to come up with triggers of what -- come up with triggers. Does that give you -- do you see that -- if he is kicking it to you guys, do you see it as an opportunity to fix it, improve it, protect it?

MEEKS: You're not going to -- the deal is -- and I talked to our allies. You can't renegotiate the deal. The deal is not going to be renegotiated without our allies. It is not going to be something that's done simply by the United States of America.

BOLDUAN: What I'm hearing from you is that you don't care. You think they're selling something that is different than what they're giving us. You think that, no matter how he sells it today, you think the deal is over?

MEEKS: I'm saying that the message that it is sending. So I would hope that Congress, and this Congress has not been as functional because, again, I think this president found a way to divide the American people. He's found a way to divide Congress. Even found a way to divide the Republican Party. So I don't know what will happen with this Congress because I am confused by it myself, being a member of it. I know the American people have to be confused by it also. And I think that's partially done because of the president of the United States.

BOLDUAN: So let me ask you about health care while I have you here, since it's a new big announcement today. The president canceling subsidy Obamacare subsidy payments. Members of Congress -- many a conversation about what this would mean. You call it sabotage. But a court ruled it illegal. The court ruled that there were not appropriations for it, and that payments were wrong. Does he have a point?

MEEKS: No. See, but he knows it is sabotage because they don't want to come to the table to work something out so that those issues, you know, that people may have problem with the Affordable Care Act, can be fixed. So what --


BOLDUAN: Does this bring you to the table?

MEEKS: No. Because what it has the effect of doing, it just shows the heartlessness of this particular president. Because who is going to be victimized by it? It is going to be the poor. It's going to be individuals, Americans, who don't have health care.

BOLDUAN: The president says, Democrats come to the table and fix it. That's what he tweeted out this morning.

MEEKS: Democrats have always talked about coming to the table. Only the president talks about repeal and replace. That's not fixing. That's getting rid of. When you come with --


BOLDUAN: But it was collapsing.

MEEKS: And you want to -- (CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: In reality, it is collapsing now that he makes its move. But you say it is sabotage.


BOLDUAN: Do you have obligation to come to the table?

MEEKS: It is on him and the Republican Party, just as with Mr. Dent said on your show. It is him and the Republican Party. He is sabotaging the Affordable Care Act and health care, quality health care to millions of Americans. That's why I think you'll see a number of states attorney generals suing the president and the Congress to make sure that does not happen.

BOLDUAN: What I hear is, this does nothing to get Democrats to the table to negotiate a bipartisan deal, even though Charlie Dent said he was optimistic that that could happen.

Congressman, great to have you. Thank you so much.

MEEKS: My pleasure.

[11:50:01] BOLDUAN: You've got a lot of work ahead of you.

Coming up, live pictures we're going to show you right now from Sonoma, California. The death toll from the wildfires there is still on the rise. Thirty-one people killed, thousands of homes, structures, people's livelihoods lost. The fires are still burning. We will take you there for an update.


BOLDUAN: The fires are still burning. The death toll is rising. The images out of California and the wildfire is ravaging entire communities. They are just devastating. Firefighters are desperately working all night long, all day long to try to put out the flames. The death toll jumped to 31 people. Authorities say they have been finding bodies that are so severely burned they have to use dental records and fingerprints to identify them for their families.

Ryan Young is live in Sonoma with an update.

Ryan, what's going on behind you?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we made our way up the mountain here. We wanted to get closer to where the firefighting efforts are going on. You see these guys behind me. They tell me they have been going for four days straight to try to contain the fire.

What they are doing is setting up a fire line. This is happening right now. They set a path through here. You can hear the fire. And it starts to go up these trees here. They have been working nonstop.

Of course, you talked about the number of people who died, 31. But there's 400 people who are still missing involved with this fire. They even brought in cadaver dogs.

But this is the operation going on right now. With these heavy winds, they are cutting a path through these mountains to raze. They're cutting down trees. They're trying to make sure that, as they set these lines, this has no more fuel to go on. And this has been going on nonstop for several days. Eight thousand firefighters are in this area. We will pan up to show you the ridge line so you can see the firefighters who are standing by. They moved heavy machinery into this area to clear a path here. And down this mountain, there are million-dollar homes sitting up here. Of course, right now, they're not worried about saving all the homes, of course. They trying to save the top part of the mountain. They're trying to though. They dropped, they targeted on some of the roofs here. And they've been talking to the neighbors to make sure they get out.

So you can see this operation is still ongoing. The fire intensity, you can definitely feel it on your skin. These guys are working hard -- Kate?

[11:55:35] BOLDUAN: I want to make sure, it looks like you are really close to the flame, Ryan. You are all safe, right?

YOUNG: Definitely, safe. They got our back, to say the least. And we are watching out for each other.

BOLDUAN: Ryan Young, thank you so much for bringing us these stories. Please stay safe.

Coming up for us, in just minutes, President Trump and a major announcement on the future of the Iran nuclear deal. The president, once again, targeting a key legacy item of President Obama. So what is President Trump's vision now for the path forward with Iran? That is coming up.