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Mulvaney: We'll Remove Mandate Repeal to Save Tax Reform; Collins Allegations Against Moore Extremely Disturbing; GOP Lawmaker: I Hope Moore Does Right Thing and Steps Aside; White House Uncomfortable with Roy Moore Explanation; Trump: I should have Left UCLA Players in China Jail; More GOP Lawmakers Call for Moore to Withdraw; Aired 2-3p ET
Aired November 19, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA CNN HOST: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
A possible turning point in the U.S. senate race in Alabama. Three of the state's largest newspapers are now urging voters to support democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore.
And the number of republicans calling on Moore to withdraw is growing. With multiple lawmakers speaking out this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: These allegations are extremely disturbing, but under the constitution, the test on whether or not you seat someone is whether they satisfy the age and residency requirements. So we would have to seat him, but I hope we don't get there. We're getting ahead of ourselves. I hope that the voters of Alabama choose not to elect him.
REP. BARBARA COMSTACK (R), VIRGINIA: I appreciate that the president actually was working with the White House and they've cut off funding to him. The national senatorial committee is now funding it. So you've seen people across the board. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee withdraw their support. Say he should step aside. I still hope he will do that and do the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Also today, the White House weighing in on the race this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR: We are uncomfortable with the explanations that Roy Moore has given to date.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: But just moments ago, we heard from the president, but not on Roy Moore. Instead on the UCLA players who were recently facing shoplifting charges in China. CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip is following this developments.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fredricka. The president has not said anything about Roy Moore in almost two months now since that primary race was decided in Alabama.
But today, he's actually launching into a Twitter war with LaVar ball, the father LiAngelo Ball, one of those three Americas who faced up to 10 year in prison in China.
The back story here is that LaVar Ball had actually downplayed President Trump's role in securing his son's release. He told ESPN on Friday, "What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."
Now, it's clear the president did not appreciate that at all. He had earlier, on Twitter, asked for the players to thank him for intervening. We know that through some sources that when he was in China, he spoke personally to President Xi Jinping and asking for some leniency for the players.
But today on Twitter, he weighed in in response to LaVar Ball saying, "Now that the three players are out of China and safe from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail."
That's a really extraordinary statement for the president of the United States to be making, suggesting that he might have left those three players facing 10 years in prison on a shoplifting charge in China.
Meanwhile, the White House still won't say whether or not the president is willing to withdraw his endorsement of Roy Moore in that Alabama race. A lot of people still asking the question today, why has it taken so long for the president to make his own statement on what he thinks should happen in that race?
WHITFIELD: So quite a few things there in mishmash of events response from the president via tweet. Talking about the UCLA players, implying that they're not grateful enough by way of the father of one of the players and then of course the White House coming out earlier today, not necessarily withdrawing support from Roy Moore, but also saying it speaks volumes that the president is not in Alabama campaigning for Roy Moore.
All right. We're going to talk about all of this throughout the next couple of hours. Abby Phillip, thank you so much.
All right. Joining me right now, Francis Rooney, a republican congressman from Florida. So, Congressman Rooney, good to see you.
First, I want to get your reaction about this tweet coming from the president saying that he should have just left them, meaning the UCLA players, in jail. In China.
REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: Well, I don't think he should left them in jail, but I was disappointed that the father of that young man made that comment as well. I mean, it's just one more instance of the reflection of the kind of pervasive moral depravity that we seem to be seeing in all fronts in America right now. I don't know what to do with it. I'm not a sociologist, but I'm going to try to read up on it and find out what were this thing, how this thing could be turned around.
WHITFIELD: Do you feel like in a case like this the president is in the right to express his thoughts and opinions about this, in this manner?
ROONEY: Well, I don't see why not. He got them out and I'm sure he was irritated as was I to see the father who's the role model for this young man, basically saying stealing is no big deal.
WHITFIELD: That the president is -- the expectation is the president would be kind of a moral authority, a leader on morality and decorum, whether it'd be on the national stage or perhaps even in the world stage.
Is he bucking that by expressing himself in this manner?
ROONEY: Well, no. I think calling out the father for failing to do what a good parent should do is instill honesty and integrity in your children. My wife and I have certainly tried to do that with ours is a legitimate -- is a legitimate reflection of defending positive values. I was also glad he called out the pro football players who wouldn't stand up and pay respect to our country during the pledge of allegiance on the national anthem.
WHITFIELD: But is it one thing, if he takes issue with what the father would say, of one of the players that in turn he would see a favorable exchange to be -- to actually punish these young men.
ROONEY: Well, I would agree that the more technically correct response might have been to say the father is way off base here and we need parents to leave their kids with good values. And then focus back on the kids. I can see that point.
WHITFIELD: So let me ask you now about this Alabama senate race. Roy Moore, republican senator, Susan Collins was on CNN this morning and is looking at the race in this manner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Would you rather serve with Doug Jones, the democrat, than with Roy Moore?
COLLINS: I don't know Doug Jones at all, but I've never supported Roy Moore and I hope that he does not end up being in the United States senate. (END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So, where are you on this? Is it your feeling that he should step down or perhaps when in the U.S. senate, it might be difficult for some republicans to say out loud they'd be willing to work with?
ROONEY: Well, I think there's an awful lot of smoke and maybe there's some fire. A lot of people that seemed to be following this more closely than me feel that he's guilty even though it hasn't been proven. That there's enough people have spoken out and taken great risks to themselves that that goes a great credibility to their comments.
This is another despicable morally depraved situation that we're facing as a country.
WHITFIELD: What do you mean?
ROONEY: Well, the conduct of this guy, if true, which evidently a lot of people feel it must be for these ladies to have come forward, so many of them to have come forward. This is just disgusting what the guy has talked about doing.
WHITFIELD: Do you believe the accusers or do you believe Roy Moore?
ROONEY: I think that -- I don't really know. Obviously, we don't know. And on the one hand, you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but I'm very sensitive to the fact that so many people have come forward, so many women who feel to -- feel sympathy with these people who allegedly were abused. That I've kind of coming down on the side that maybe this guy shouldn't be in the senate.
WHITFIELD: So the White House said that it is very disturbed by the allegations. President Trump overall has been rather silent except for when in Asia saying he wanted to know more about it. His press secretary has instead spoken on his behalf.
Is it your feeling that the White House has said enough about Roy Moore? We know earlier today, one of the White House representatives also said that it speaks volumes that the president has not been in Alabama to campaign for Roy Moore. In fact, this is one representative here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHORT: Obviously, George, if he did not believe that the women's accusations were credible, he would be down campaigning for Roy Moore. He has not done that. He has concerns about the accusations, but he's also concerned that these accusations are 38 years old. Roy Moore has been in public service for decades and the accusations did not arise until a month before election.
So we're concerned about the several aspects of the story. We're very concerned about the allegations. But at this point, as I said, we think it's best for the people of Alabama to make the decision for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So Marc Short also went on to say that because the president hasn't been to Alabama to campaign for Roy Moore, that that sends a clear message. Do you believe that sends a clear message?
ROONEY: Well, I definitely think it sends a message, just like the NRSC pulling out their financial support. It's the message that there's enough smoke here --
ROONEY: -- around all these allegations that they need to be taken very seriously and that this is a very serious matter and quite possibly this individual is unfit to serve in the senate and would be better off not there.
WHITFIELD: Do you believe that the president isn't weighing in more strongly on this because it is a difficult predicament for him given that there were accusations from at least 15 women who accuse him of sexual assault or inappropriate behavior?
ROONEY: No, I think he's not weighing in because he wants to let the people of Alabama decide their fate.
WHITEFIELD: Does it make it difficult that he was even on tape "Access Hollywood," that tape the world saw a year ago where he joked around admitting to touching women inappropriately?
ROONEY: That was a difficult tape, no doubt about it.
WHITFIELD: Is that why he hasn't spoken more clearer on Roy Moore in your view?
ROONEY: Well, I couldn't speculate on that, but I do know that he said clearly, as many other people, including some Alabama people that Alabama needs to decide what they are going to do about this.
WHITFIELD: All right. Congressman Francis Rooney, thanks so much for your time today.
ROONEY: Thanks for having me on.
Whitfield: All right. Still ahead, lawmakers are not the only ones turning up the heat on Roy Moore. The editorial board of Alabama's largest newspaper is not only calling for Moore to step aside but endorsing his opponent.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. This morning, a scathing new editorial from Alabama's largest newspaper group calling on Alabama voters to support Moore's democratic opponent, Doug Jones, saying the election is a "turning point for women in Alabama."
CNN's Nick Valencia is live for us in Alabama. So, Nick, what are you hearing there?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fredricka. More bad news for the republican senate candidate this morning. For the second time in a week, a major media outlet here in the state of Alabama coming out against the republican candidate saying that he needs to step down. That was the earlier in the week. Today, they are pretty much endorsing the democratic challenger, Doug Jones. You see this bold headline here.
And this is what they say in part of their editorial. Saying quote, "Do not make your voting decision based on who it will affect on a national stage. Vote based who it will effect in your hometown. There's only one candidate left in this race who has proven worthy of the task representing Alabama. He is Doug Jones."
Fredricka, I'll take it back to you. Go back to you, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Well, sometimes that happens. We'll try to get back to our Nick Valencia, but some of the voters trying to express themselves all right there on a race that is now just three and a half weeks to go.
But let's talk about it further. This time with AL.com, managing prouder, John Hammontree. So, John, it's your dotcom outlet that we're talking about where this editorial board writes this. In part, "The seriousness of these incidents including one involving a 14-year- old child cannot be overstated. Do not let this conversation be muddled. This election has become a referendum on whether we will accept this kind of behavior from our leaders."
All right. So, what went into making this decision and going as far as the editorial board making this kind of statement?
HAMMONTREE: Well, I think we have been thinking a long time about who we would be endorsing in this race and obviously even before these allegations, there's a lot of Roy Moore's behavior and record that's just unpalatable.
He's been unseated from his position as a Supreme Court justice twice and he has made hostile claims to a number of Alabama residents, gay residents, Muslim residents, minorities.
And so this was just the icing on the cake. But I think that it does bring moral clarity to this moment. We each know somebody who has been the victim of abuse and how can we look him in the eyes and say this is the man that we're endorsing or this is the man that we're voting for and expect them to feel safe in the state?
WHITFIELD: But does it bring moral clarity? Because isn't that at the root of this debate or discussion? People see it differently, people are seeing it that Roy Moore is in the public eye for more than 40 years, these accusations are 40 years old. And while there are others say they have felt silenced for so many years because they didn't feel like there was an audience to be willing to hear about their accusations.
So talk to me about how voters are feeling very conflicted whereas the editorial board felt that they concretely had this message that you wanted to present.
HAMMONTREE: Voters do feel conflicted and, yes, the timing has been called into question by many voters. I think it's noteworthy that a lot of people have called in the timing -- called into question the timing of these accusations, but not necessarily the validity of them.
And so I think you are seeing more and more people across the aisle who are willing to take a stand against Roy Moore, particularly among voters. Now, it's true that the state party and the governor have each said that they will be voting for Moore and have threatened any republican who comes out --
HAMMONTREE: -- and speaks against Moore, but when you look at people across the state, it's not a monolith. I think when you get caught up in a "Saturday Night Live" portrayals or late-night T.V.s, start to think, oh, all of Alabama must be rallying behind this guy. And that's just not the case.
I think that you have a number of people of faith and people not of faith who look at this man and say this can't be our ambassador to the U.S. This is not somebody who represents the values that we stand for and I don't think it was a hugely for us to go out and join those other voices.
If you look back at the past, sometimes, the Birmingham News and other state papers have trailed behind what people were actively doing. You look at the civil rights movement and you had a number of people down here who were actively fighting for change and the newspaper didn't always reflect that. And we wanted to make sure we were joining with the voices who are passionate in this state.
WHITFIELD: But it does sound like, John, there was a breaking point, right? Because even in your editorial, you write -- you open up by saying, the accusations against Roy Moore have been horrifying, but not shocking
So if that's the case, it sounds like people have heard about these accusations for a very long time. But there was something in particular that happened this go around that encouraged you all as an editorial board to make this statement, to go for the democrat, Doug Jones.
HAMMONTREE: Sure. And when we say it's horrifying but not shocking, if you look at the aspects of his record that he owns, he may deny these accusations, but he owns his hostility to homosexuals. He owns his hostility towards Muslim-Americans. He owns his hostility to immigrants. It's not shocking that he is guilty of or at least accused of hostility towards women and children.
And so when we say that it's horrifying, but not shocking, it's very consistent with the pattern of behavior that he has shown in public life and without.
WHITFIELD: So it boiled down to morality versus politics for you all?
WHITFIELD: And has there been any backlash? Have you heard from readers?
HAMMONTREE: We have heard from readers. We have been accused of being a liberal media organization time and time again. That will always happen when we speak about something that our audience doesn't want to hear. But we've also heard a ground swell of support for our reporting on this issue and for our commentary on this issue.
We have readers all across the state who do not think that Moore's views are consistent with their beliefs and we've got Hispanic readers in Sand Mountain. And Vietnamese readers in Bayou La Batre and Muslim readers in Birmingham and we wanted to make sure that we were speaking to that audience and not letting just the commenters on our website drive the conversation.
WHITFIELD: All right. John Hammontree, thanks so much for being with us.
HAMMONTREE: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Coming up next, house republicans scored a major win this week when they passed their tax plan. But several GOP lawmakers are voicing doubts now about the very different senate plan which includes dissolving the Obamacare individual mandate. We'll discuss that after the break.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Now that the house has passed tax reform, the senate says it will get their version to the floor sometime after Thanksgiving.
The senate's version will include the repeal of the individual mandate in Obamacare, something not in the house version. Well, this morning on CNN, White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney said, "There may be some flexibility in order to get tax reform passed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: I don't think anybody doubts where the White House is on repealing and replacing Obamacare. We absolutely want to do it. If we can repeal part of Obamacare as part of the tax bill and have a tax bill that is still a good tax bill that can pass, that's great. If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill, we can, then we're OK in taking it out.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: We already have 28 million people who have no health insurance. Every other major country on earth guarantees health care to all people. Well, what happened here is 13 million more people would not have health insurance.
Now, some people say, well, if I'm 25 years of age and I'm healthy, he, no problem. I'm not going to buy health insurance. Well, you know what? 25-year-olds come out and diagnosed with leukemia, they get hit by buses. And you know who's going to have to pick up the bill for those 25-year-olds? You are and I am and everybody else in America who is now paying for health insurance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. I want to bring in Salina Zito. She is a CNN political contributor and a national political reporter at the "Washington Examiner." And Brian Karem. He is a CNN political analyst and executive editor at Sentinel Newspaper. Good to see you both.
BRIAN KAREM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, SENTINEL NEWSPAPER: Good to see you, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. So, Salina, you first. The OMB directive, Mulvaney says they could potentially drop this individual mandate portion if it would be an impediment to this tax bill. Is that likely the direction it's going to go?
SALINO VITO, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think they're pretty much open from all sources that I've talked to. And so pretty much open to keeping this very fluid and very flexible.
VITO: I think the bottom-line is that they want to have some sort of a tax relief, tax reform, but they also if they can be able to squeeze in removing the mandate. But most of all they want a win. And I think that's the most important thing here. For the republicans.
For the democrats -- I mean, yes -- for the democrats, they're in a cat bird seat and that's no is the most powerful thing you can use in politics. And so saying no, no, no about it, that's easier to do. The republicans had to explain things. They have to get into the details and people don't always have the patience for that.
WHITFIELD: And so, Brian, is that what it's contingent upon, this individual mandate, otherwise the tax bill looks like it's going to have the kind of support it needs in the senate?
KAREM: Well, I think you have to go back to what Mick said. I saw him on the hill this past week and he was talking about getting a good bill. You're not going to get any democrats to vote for this bill even if they drop that mandate, because it's looked upon as trickledown economics and that the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. They see as part of the continued class warfare.
I mean, I think it says volumes like Gary Cohn came forward this week and Kevin Hassett, when I asked him about it in the White House briefing room, tried to defer away from the fact that it's trickledown economics. But when you have a whole council of CEOs who are saying they're not going to reinvest if they get this money. They're going to give it to their --
WHITFIELD: Right. Because Gary Cohn was taken aback at that moment when it was like, a show of hands and few CEOs were like, I'm on board with this and he was like, where are you? So that says a lot.
KAREM: That says a whole lot and that says it's not going to pass. You add in repealing part of the Affordable Health Care Act and you already have some Republicans who are wavering. They will have to remove probably if they have any shot at passing it.
And even then, they will have trouble passing it because the feeling is that it is a part of ongoing class warfare and the rich will benefit far more than the poor and that even goes back to when they came into the press room and said, listen, they have changed the number several times, a thousand, 1,100, 4,000, whatever the average person is going to get back.
But when you tell me that if I get back $1,000, it's going to change my lifestyle and I can redo my kitchen and buy a new car, you have no idea what prices are like in the real world.
WHITFIELD: Yes, and Salena, that's a really -- yes, that's a tough sell because, you know, even the House speaker was like, you know, and you get another 1,000 or $1,200 a year, but, you know, when it boils down to it, is that the prize that the middle class was looking for when they heard and were sold that this text reform was going to be a great boost, particularly to them. We are talking about the CEOs. They were talking about turning hat money into jobs and we can't promise that. This is a tough sell, isn't it?
SALENA ZITO, CNN COMMENTATOR: Right. Well, a couple of things. First of all, I live in Western Pennsylvania, $1200 actually is kind of a big deal that's because --
WHITFIELD: Over a year. That's like $100 a month.
ZITO: It's a $100 a month, for a lot of people that's kind of a big deal. The other thing that I think that people miss is that they --
WHITFIELD: It's a deal, it's not like it's unimportant, but is it a big deal? When people were looking forward to a big change, was $100 a month what they expected?
ZITO: Well, here's what I think that people don't understand about not understanding people. People that work for middle sized or small sized or even larger companies understand if their company has the ability to open up and remove their inventory because their tax reform made things easier for them to do, they can understand that their wages will go up and they understand that there is more hiring.
If there is more hiring in their community, in their neighborhoods, then things are better for everyone around. So, you know, I think that's the part that we are sort of missing.
KAREM: That's because it's pure fix. It's not going to happen. As is it occurred every time that this type of thing has occurred, what happens is that the people who own the businesses, they distribute the money to the people who have stock, or they keep it in their pocket.
The fact is they don't reinvest, and the fact is that the average person does not see anything from it and a $1,000 or $1,200 a month was built and sold to us as a change of lifestyle. That's not a change of lifestyle.
That's you get to take your kid out to dinner a few times a year or paying down your credit card, but you are still in the same boat as you were 12 months before. It's very disingenuous.
ZITO: I interviewed the CEOs and a lot of companies out here in Western Pennsylvania. They said that they were going to open up the inventory and were going to hire depending on how the tax bill works. That's really important in places like Western Pennsylvania and Ohio and West Virginia.
KAREM: What they say and what they do may be two different things.
WHITFIELD: I was just going to say the pattern, though, is already been nearly cemented that the action doesn't follow with that kind of verbal promise. We shall see what happens this go round. Salena Zito, Brian Karem, thank you so much.
KAREM: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. The top U.S. nuclear commander says he would push back against President Trump if he were to order an illegal nuclear strike. Details after the break.
WHITFIELD: The top U.S. nuclear commander says he would refuse nuclear strike orders from President Trump if those orders were illegal. General John Hyten says his first obligation is to follow the law and not just the orders of the commander-in-chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENERAL JOHN HYTEN, COMMANDER, U.S. STRATEGIC COMMAND: I provide advice to the president. He'll tell me what to do and if it's illegal, guess what is going to happen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say no?
HYTEN: I'm going to say, Mr. President, that is illegal. Guess what he is going to do? He's going say what would be legal and we will come up with options of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is and that is the way it works. It's not that complicated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, joining me right now on the phone. So, Barbara, these comments coming after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this week on the president's authority to launch nuclear weapons. So, what exactly, you know, would constitute an illegal versus legal order.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, you know, Fred, General Hyten is right. It's not complicated, but it is one of the most sensitive things out there because as the Senate hearing reminded everyone, it is the president of the United States that has the sole and only authority to launch nuclear weapons.
And at the end of the day, he has complete authority to do it, but what General Hyten is telling Americans is their military will not follow illegal orders. What would an illegal order be?
[14:40:03] An order to the U.S. military has to be proportional to the threat. In other words, look, we are talking about North Korea here. If the president of the United States, any president, decided they wanted to attack North Korea with nuclear weapons, that order would have to be proportional to a threat.
It would have to follow international law. Of course, nuclear weapons have devastating impacts potentially killing tens of thousands if not millions of people in such a populated area as Asia. It would be a very difficult proposition.
General Hyten knows like all four-stars know that the political environment right now is very sensitive about President Trump. So, I think basically what he is doing is extraordinary in public talking about the possibility of when and if you refuse a presidential order.
So, again, it has to be legal and proportional to the threat and follow international law. What he is also saying is look, we will come up with other options. Nonnuclear and things that don't have those problems and those devastating consequences for the world associated with it. It's one of the most played four-star generals out there and he didn't pull punches about this.
WHITFIELD: Certainly did not. All right. Barbara Starr, thank you very much for being with us.
There are still so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, but first Anthony Bourdain in Seattle for "PARTS UNKNOWN." He explores the city's booming tech industry and the food scene and things that are popping up and lighting up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST, "PARTS UNKNOWN": Seattle, if you're looking for a dump site to dispose of the recently killed victim of your serial killing spree, this would be the perfect environment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Literally, you can hide bodies like a short drive from wherever you are.
BOURDAIN: In fact, it's been favored by serial killers throughout the ages, also chefs. Wow, that's really good, and musicians.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's hundreds, thousands of bands here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact you had us on the show made me realize that we've run out of things to --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, it's the landscape that inspired Curt Kobain.
BOURDAIN: Look at that? You have no idea how much that cost to arrange.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Wow, spontaneously just like that. Follow Anthony through Seattle tomorrow at 9 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Don't forget Puerto Rico is the rallying cry from the crowd you see in the live pictures from the mall in Washington, D.C. It's being billed as the unity march for Puerto Rico.
Tomorrow marks the two-month anniversary since Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory and there are still food shortages and by most recent tallies, half of the island's residents remain without electricity.
On Friday, the embattled head of Puerto Rico's power utility resigned due to the slow response to get the power restored.
I want to bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles on the mall there in Washington. So, Ryan, what are you hearing and seeing from people there?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, basically the message is from the hundreds of folks who gathered here on the National Mall is don't forget about Puerto Rico. It has been two months and there is a lot of work to be done.
And in particular, they feel that there is a lot of work that needs to be done by the federal government. As you can see here, pretty big crowd that has been listening to a group of speakers right in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
They started their march out on the other side of the mall right in front of the U.S. capitol and made their way down here to the Lincoln Memorial. Some pretty big names, Lynn Manuel Miranda, the Broadway musical star. His father also one of the speakers.
We also had representations from members of Congress. Senator Kirstin Gillibrand of New York was one of the speakers, and also the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulin Cruz.
The message is pretty clear. They want short-term help. They think there needs to be more funding and more resources given to the island of Puerto Rico. But also, long-term help, they believe legislation needs to change such as getting rid of the Jones Act, which makes it difficult to get things on and off the island.
This is very personal for many of the people that are in this march. Our producer, Liz Terrell (ph) caught up with a New York City firefighter who actually went and helped folks in Puerto Rico. His message is pretty clear. Don't forget about the people in Puerto Rico. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORGE SANCHEZ, NEW YORK CITY FIREFIGHTER: This is frustrating to see that eight weeks out. I think had it been anywhere else, it wouldn't be in this situation. But things like water. Get them filters. That's the big thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: A lot of the folks are here part of this rally that feel we saw this response in Texas and this incredible response in Florida because these are places in America that are much easier and more accessible by members of Congress and leaders that are in power.
[14:50:11] And they want to remind the folks here in Washington that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. It deserves the same level of tension and they will keep the fight up as long as it takes to get back to normal -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles in D.C., thank you so much for that. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. President Trump's private Mar- a-Lago Club in South Florida is losing the Palm Beach elite this winter season to a competitor. He once said got the leftovers. The cancellations actually began after the president refused to condemn white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
More than a dozen events supporting groups like the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the American Cancer Society decided to boycott, and you may be surprised what other groups are now taking the place by being visitors at the Mar-a-Lago Resort.
David Fahrenthold, "The Washington Post" political reporter and CNN contributor wrote the story and he joins me now. This ahead of the president and first lady and family going to Mar-a-Lago to spend the Thanksgiving holiday.
So, tell us what you've uncovered in terms of how different, you know, business is now at Mar-A-Lago?
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's going to be a really different year this year. President Trump's club spent all these years accumulating these really lucrative and very fashionable galas, luncheons and society fundraisers, all the sort of best people in Palm Beach would come to.
So, they made Trump a lot of money. These things could pay as much as $275,000 for a night's party, but they also perhaps equally important brought the most important and wealthiest people at Palm Beach to Donald Trump's house for the night.
So, that night he was the king of Palm Beach. Almost all of that business has now left. As you mentioned, the Red Cross and American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen. In the aftermath of Charlottesville, they all decamped mostly to this place called "The Breakers," Trump's main rival.
So, Mar-a-Lago is going to be a really different year this year, scenes will be very different. He's not going to have -- in addition to the glamour of the presidency, sort of his old role as ringmaster of Palm Beach.
WHITFIELD: And "The Breakers" is nothing to sneeze at. I mean, it has a history of luster, the Rockefellers and Vanderbilt and U.S. presidents have all stayed there. There is a lot of luster that comes with "The Breakers," but the competition is for Mar-a-Lago.
So, now we understand one of the groups coming to the club calls themselves the "Trumpettes USA," and this is how they describe themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think what Trump represents appeals to everyone. It's not just rich or poor, but middle class that wants him. When they said the 1 percent, there is only 10 million millionaires in the country. There are only 536 billionaires in the country. The rest is middle class who is trying to struggle, but they are doing OK. We are all middle class. Just because you dress well doesn't mean you are in the 1 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So what does that clip reveal?
FAHRENTHOLD: So "The Trumpettes" are led by a woman named Toni Halt Kramer, who is a member of Mar-a-Lago, a wealthy person who lives in Palm Beach. She is having an event and all these mainstream charities that have left and the groups that are filling in the open dates are not mainstream charities.
They are either conservative groups or a Christian Broadcasting Network-affiliated groups, and in two cases, they are random people who decided to have their own events with the goal of funneling some money to the president.
And so, Ms. Kramer, "The Trumpettes" are having a big dinner. It's $300 a plate and it looks like the kind of thing people do to raise money for charity, but there's not really intent to raise money for charity. The money goes to Trump.
These are people who are fans are Trump's from his old life from the grandmaster of Palm Beach. Casting herself as the head fan of Donald Trump nationwide. She is trying to bring in people and I think she is from all over the country and the world for what is a well-healed expensive Donald Trump rally in Mar-a-Lago.
WHITFIELD: So, for a minute, there were reports about how the Trump properties including Mar-a-Lago got a real bump in membership and fees went up, you know, taking advantage of his ascension to the presidency. Has it now taken a hit and is this a microcosm of perhaps other Trump properties for memberships or competitive rates that was once a main stay?
FAHRENTHOLD: Well, it's hard to know for sure with the Trump Organization because they are so private. But as far as I can tell, the presidency is basically pulling Trump's properties in opposite directions.
The Trump Hotel in D.C., which can bring in people to do business with the president and meet the president, won a leg up in their negotiations with the Trump administration. That hotel that is selling politics and monetizing Trump's position is doing very well.
A number of other properties like New York and Chicago and the golf clubs around the country, Trump is not going to visit them very often. There is not an easy way to monitize the power of the presidency.
At the same time, they are located in cities where Trump is not that popular. So, you've seen (inaudible) evidence.