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CNN NEWSROOM

Interview with Representative Ted Deutch; Cities Struggle to Rebuild After Devastating Season; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired December 20, 2017 - 10:30   ET

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


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[10:33:04] DONALD TRUMP, JUNIOR, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: There are people at the highest levels of government that don't want to let America be America.

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JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump Jr., talking about a conspiracy against America. Here now, Democratic Representative Ted Deutch of Florida. He's on the House Judiciary and Ethics Committee.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us. You heard Donald Trump Jr. say there are people at the highest levels of government who don't want America to be America. What's your reaction?

REP. TED DEUTCH (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I think we should be very, very concerned about what Donald Trump Jr. said but not at all surprised. This is the perfect ending to a year that started with the president of the United States attacking the CIA, declaring war on the press. Throughout the course of the year, he further attacked the entire intelligence community because he doesn't believe the conclusion they reached about Russia interfering in our elections.

He met secretly -- he met with the Russians and disclosed classified information. Donald Trump Jr. met secretly with the Russians and was not honest about it. This is a concerted effort by Donald Trump Jr., Republicans in the House and the White House, to try to end this Mueller investigation, and the reason is because there is so much evidence and we've seen so much come from the investigation already that has them very, very worried. We need to let the investigation go until it's complete.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: You made a similar comment just a few days ago and you went a little bit further then, and you also said they seem to be taking orders, direction from the White House directly.

Do you have any evidence, Congressman, that the White House is directing an anti-Mueller campaign?

DEUTCH: Well, I'll be honest, I have no idea who's leading it, but it is clearly a concerted effort when you realize that the statements from the White House, from administration officials, from the president's family, from commentator after commentator after commentator on right-wing news programs and from my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, when they're all virtually identical, it's clear that there is an effort and a serious one at that to block the special counsel.

[10:35:11] And we should be very concerned about that. We have to get to the bottom of what happened, not just to know whether there was a direct link between the president and the -- and the Russians, but we have to get to the bottom of it to protect our democracy.

BERMAN: But you are suggesting -- there is a difference between suggesting that all of these people feel this way, to also say that your colleagues in House Judiciary are taking orders from the White House on this. I mean, do you think that your colleagues who sit in there, in that hearing room with you, are taking orders from the White House to try to spike the Mueller investigation?

DEUTCH: Again, I'm less concerned about whether this is -- whether these lines are coming from Steve Bannon or Donald Trump or Newt Gingrich. And it doesn't matter to me who's running this campaign. But when they all sound -- when every one of them sounds like a talking head from a conservative news network, then there is reason to believe that they're all working on this together.

It can't be a coincidence that they're throwing away -- they're throwing around these damaging terms, like coup d'etat? They're threatening -- they're saying this is a coup d'etat, a conspiracy against the president?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: That was FOX. That was on FOX.

HARLOW: That was a banner on -- I know what you're talking about. It was a banner on FOX -- FOX News.

DEUTCH: No. No. Well, it was also one of my colleagues in the House said it in committee and on the House floor.

HARLOW: Who said it?

DEUTCH: That is --

HARLOW: Who said it?

DEUTCH: Congressman Gaetz referred to this as a coup d'etat. This is something that we need to take seriously. You can't throw around this kind of language that questions the fundamental rule of law and the underlying institutions of our country and not expect it to have damaging, very serious consequences.

BERMAN: Look, Michael Hayden, you know, former director of the CIA, says the same thing on CNN last night. He said at one point, this will have a lasting impact. I think we know where you stand on this.

Let's quickly shift to taxes, if we can. The Brookings Institute says that 80 percent of Americans will see a tax cut next year.

That's a lot of Americans, Congressman. So, you know, in a vacuum, in and of itself, is that a bad thing?

DEUTCH: Well, John, let's take a step back for a second. This isn't happening in a vacuum. The fact is that this tax bill that will add over $1.5 trillion, as is, probably well more than $2 trillion to the deficit provides permanent and dramatic tax cuts for the largest corporations. Temporary tax cuts for the American people and when those reverse and the deficit is even larger, the speaker has been clear that the real goal here is to cut Medicare and to cut Social Security. Those -- that's the kind of thing that we ought to be worried about.

One last thing that's not said enough about this tax bill, we had an opportunity here to take an Internal Revenue code that is big and complicated and full of giveaways, giveaways to the oil companies, giveaways to the hedge fund managers, and to actually get rid of those special interest favors and really simplify it and lower taxes for the American people. Instead, it's skewed heavily toward corporations and the highest earners. That's -- and it provides the mechanism to trigger these cuts in the future. That's why this is so concerning. That's why it's so unpopular among the American people.

BERMAN: We will see going forward. Again that bill will likely pass the House again today.

Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida, great to have you with us, sir. Happy holidays.

DEUTCH: Thanks. Happy holidays to you.

BERMAN: All right. We are days potentially away from a shutdown. House Republicans said to add billions in hurricane relief. Almost thousands across the U.S. still reeling from the hurricane disasters. Where are we on that recovery, next.

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[10:43:04] HARLOW: The government shuts down at 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning unless Congress does something to prevent it and passes a spending bill. House Republicans -- a number of people in the House want to see an $80 billion hurricane and wildfire relief bill tucked on to that. The cities ravaged by those natural disasters, they really want to see that relief come.

BERMAN: Still struggling to rebuild after the hurricane season.

Here's CNN's Bill Weir.

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BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most folks will remember Harvey for the water, the boats on boulevard, as Houston became a giant concrete bowl full of rain. But on the coast, they remember the wind, how the storm stalled here for 13 hours, spat out dozens of tornadoes and took apart a town devoted to birds, art and the sea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The aquarium that doesn't exist anymore. The Rockport Center for the Arts that doesn't exist anymore.

WEIR: One of these trucks holds 100 cubic yards of broken lives. Rockport will fill 200,000 loads. There's not a single habitable apartment in town. The schools are two-thirds full and the mayor worries his town could actually die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we had over 1300 businesses operating in the community. As of last week, we had 360 that re-open.

WEIR (on camera): And that's your tax base, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it is.

WEIR (voice-over): There's a big FEMA tent downtown, but the Rockport relief camp --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing this morning?

SAMANTHA MCCRARY, ROCKPORT RELIEF CAMP: I'm good. Did you have a good Thanksgiving?

WEIR: Is just really Samantha's backyard.

MCCRARY: This is donated furniture. This is more donated supplies.

WEIR: Where she housed, fed and supplied dozens of families with only private donations solicited on Facebook.

MCCRARY: This is our diaper barn.

WEIR (on camera): Look at this. That's the generosity of strangers there, right?

MCCRARY: Right. And I want to -- I want to make sure that everyone understands.

[10:45:04] We have received no state, county, national -- no government assistance at all. We got denied by FEMA three times. So we have --

WEIR: How do you feel about that?

MCCRARY: Oh, it pisses me off.

WEIR (voice-over): But just five minutes away, Beau and Rene could not be happier with FEMA because they just received a brand-new, three-bedroom, three-bath home, way more than one couple needs but FEMA insisted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So when I got the call about this, I was kind of shocked. I was like --

WEIR (on camera): You won the FEMA lottery, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just like, but I didn't sign up for this. WEIR (voice-over): Meanwhile, back at Samantha's relief camp, a family

of six shares a donated RV and a woman nine months pregnant lives in a tent.

(On camera): It seems like the aid is as fickle as the storm as to who is touched.

MCCRARY: It is. It is.

WEIR: And if you could talk to the head of FEMA, what would you say?

MCCRARY: Pull your head out of your ass.

BROCK LONG, FEMA DIRECTOR: Listen, I identify with Samantha's frustrations. I mean when you've lost -- not only you, but your neighbors have lost everything you've ever worked for, it's an incredibly tough situation.

WEIR (voice-over): Brock Long knows something about frustration, and baptism by fire, wind and water. Since taking over FEMA in June, nearly 5 million people have registered for disaster aid, more than Katrina and Sandy and Wilma combined.

LONG: But you have to understand, we don't have thousands -- tens of thousands of manufactured homes and travel trailers just stored somewhere ready to go. We have to buy these things.

WEIR (on camera): One FEMA trailer like that from cradle to grave costs what?

LONG: Anywhere between $200,000 and $300,000. And then when it's done, I'm not allowed to reuse that trailer. I can't refurbish it and reuse it. We have to dispose of it.

WEIR: And look at this. This is everywhere on Big Pine Key, just mountains of busted appliances and mattresses. Look at these trashed jet skis over here.

(Voice-over): Meanwhile, the Florida Keys are providing another lesson in how FEMA dollars are spent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In fact, Key West is close to perfect.

WEIR: While they try to salvage the tourist season in Key West, the drive to Key West is far from normal. And it's all thanks to messy local politics. Even though Monroe County had cleanup contracts in place before the storm, Florida gave out emergency contracts two days after when demand for men and machinery was sky high. Before the storm, a contractor would have charged $3200 to haul away a wrecked boat like this. But now Florida will pay $20,000.

(On camera): Or $1,000 for a refrigerator that should cost $100.

LONG: Exactly.

WEIR: Meanwhile, you can't pay your guys overtime. LONG: Right.

WEIR: Should be outraged about that?

LONG: FEMA doesn't do debris. You know what we do? We coordinate the grant funding down to a governor, to the local communities to help them pay for those debris. I don't think FEMA should dictate the market rate of the private sector.

WEIR: Here at Snappers in south Key Largo, they're partying. Everybody here is staying, right?

(Voice-over): But maybe the best recovery lesson comes from a foul- mouthed bar owner.

PETER ALTHIUS, OWNER, SNAPPERS BAR: We are not leaving until the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hits the fan.

WEIR (on camera): Oh, OK, you can't say that, but --

ALTHIUS: Sorry. Sorry to stay that.

WEIR (voice-over): Peter went viral by mocking the storm with two S- bombs right before Irma turned Snappers to driftwood.

(On camera): It's completely gone.

(Voice-over): But thanks to decent insurance and devoted regulars who helped him clean up --

(On camera): What's up guys?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing?

WEIR: How are you?

(Voice-over): They were open within days.

(On camera): Look, it's a party.

ALTHIUS: Well, it was a very positive -- right after the hurricane and everybody's helping each other out. And the government is not doing anything. And you should expect that the government stands up and the government helps, and only help and only don't be in our way. Just do it. Make it happen. Make it happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: Thanks to Bill Weir for his reporting. You were down there for a very long time.

BERMAN: Big Pine Key doesn't look much different, sadly, in some ways.

HARLOW: Does not look much different. All right. In just moments, we will be seeing, possibly hearing from the president, holding a Cabinet meeting ahead of a major legislative victory for his White House. Much more ahead.

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[10:54:05] BERMAN: So cancer almost took away the career of a Houston Texan offensive lineman, but now he gets the chance to play again.

HARLOW: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Uplifting.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, guys, and I'll tell you what, it's going to be a special Christmas for the Quessenberry family.

Texan's offensive lineman David Quessenberry was diagnosed with non- Hodgkin's lymphoma after his rookie season and he had to sit out while he battled that illness.

And that was Quessenberry back in April after receiving his last chemo treatment at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston. So excited, as you can see, he broke the bell off the wall. Quessenberry was drafted by the Texans in 2013, but he never played in a regular season game. He played in the preseason this year, but was cut and put on the practice squad, but now he's been activated by the Texans and he'll be put on the field against the Steelers on Christmas Day.

All right. Cowboys quarterback Dax Prescott recently teamed up with a Dallas area grocery chain to surprise a lucky customer with free groceries.

[10:55:06] And you'd almost guarantee that being in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area the winner would be a Cowboys fan, right?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you -- oh, what are we doing? Can I deliver your groceries?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: You see there, her wearing a packers shirt. Dax said he was so glad he could put a smile on her face, even though she was a Packers fan.

Guys, you know, she was a true Packers fan because she was still wearing that shirt and it wasn't even game day.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: It never gets old.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: Never gets old.

Andy Scholes, thank you so much for that smile. Appreciate it, my friend.

All right. The House is set to revote soon on the big tax bill, it is expected to pass.

President Trump has already scheduled the celebration for this afternoon. He will give remarks. Keep it here.

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