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Trump was Told He Doesn't Need a Communications Director or a Chief of Staff; Pulse Nightclub Killer's Wife Acquitted on All Counts; Kentucky Community Lives Without Clean Drinking Water; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 30, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But this goes as we're seeing a president here now spending the long Easter weekend here in Palm Beach, Florida, away from most of his West Wing staff, away from his chief of staff, John Kelly. These are often the weekends where the president is polling his outside advisers, his friends, his allies, to see who they think he should bring into the administration -- Ana.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Kaitlan Collins, traveling with the president. Thanks so much for that.

Time to bring back our panel now.

Rachel, let's get right to it. Yesterday the president says good-bye to Hope Hicks, his fourth communications director so far in his administration. There's been outside advisers we're learning now telling him he doesn't need a communications director at all. In fact he's being told he may not need a chief of staff either. What's the thinking here?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I can tell you Republicans on the Hill, his top allies, people who are cheering for him and who really want to see his agenda passed, they think he needs a communications director and a chief of staff.

Listen, the president, he has sort of had a record in the past few weeks of sort of flip-flopping his position, the most biggest example obviously with the omnibus telling Republicans that he would support it. And his administration telling lawmakers that, yes, he wants you to vote for this and he's going to be there to support you back home if you do take this vote, only to sort of pull the rug out from under them and basically turn against them and blame them for a bill that he says does not have conservative or Trumpian values at all.

So there is a lot of back and forth going on at the White House right now. People are very concerned on the Hill, I can tell you that. I've also spoken to White House officials who, you know, like Kaitlan was just talking about, the changing policy position, they don't want to tell lawmakers what the White House feels anymore, they don't want to tell reporters, you know, what the White House is going to do because they don't know what Trump is going to do because he obviously changes his mind all the time. CABRERA: Scott, you've worked for a past administration, can you

imagine a White House without a communications director or a chief of staff?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. But then again this president is running his White House differently than any other president has in the modern era. Certainly I think the president needs all the help he can get. I mean, he's got a lot of political enemies out there, and the Democrats on Capitol Hill, we're in the middle of a tense midterm. We've got a very closely divided Senate, so personnel battles are happening every day.

I think the president needs all the good staff help that he can get and I think he's got some, but I would be very nervous and fearful if he tries to run the White House without some of the most senior level aides that traditionally keep the president's staff on track and keep the president's messaging apparatus on track.

Not having those two things in place I think would make a lot of Republicans nervous that the president's agenda wouldn't be getting the best help it can as a Republican Party tries to pass it.

CABRERA: Bakari, let's focus in on one of these personnel changes. The "Washington Post" has some reporting that the president's new pick to head the VA, Ronny Jackson, was, quote, "taken aback by his nomination." He even hesitated to take on such a big job according to a senior White House official. Now many have also criticized his lack of management experience to lead the government's second largest agency, including veterans groups and other Republicans. What does his nomination tell you?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean it goes back to this theory of chaos. But I will tell you that I'm hopeful and this may come as somewhat of a surprise, but I'm actually hopeful that Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C., that bureaucrats over at the Veterans Administration and Veterans Affairs, they actually give Dr. Jackson a chance. We really need him to succeed.

My sister is one of the deputy chiefs of staff at the Veterans Hospital here in Columbia, South Carolina. And just understanding what our veterans go through when they come through, the lack of care, the bureaucracy that sometimes burdens their care, we just do not give them the justice that they deserve, and so I'm very hopeful that he is successful and we need to do everything we can to prop him up. Democrats and Republicans alike. And make sure that agency is run smoothly.

The fact is, though, Donald Trump wants everything to be about him. The media wants everything to be about Donald Trump and Democrats want everything to be about Donald Trump. And so that's what you have, even at these Cabinet level picks. This is still a story about the chaos of the Trump administration.

CABRERA: Bakari Sellers, Rachael Bade and Scott Jennings, thank you, guys. We have some breaking news right now. The jury has reached a verdict

in the case against the Pulse Nightclub shooter's wife. Not guilty on both counts. Not guilty of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and obstruction of justice. As jurors found she did not aid her husband's killing spree nor mislead law enforcement agents in their investigation of the Orlando massacre.

Again this is just breaking, this announcement, the verdict at the jury.

Let's bring in our law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes and also with us, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Page Pate.

So first, your reaction, Tom, to this verdict.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think we know, Ana, from the beginning it was going to be a difficult charge to prove. There's been very few women brought up on charges of aiding and abetting terrorism, or even obstruction of justice and a terrorism investigation.

[10:35:07] And even though she made many conflicting statements, that she made the argument that she was afraid, that she had been fearful of her husband, so even though he may have gone to gun shops and she was aware of that, that she feared to report anything to anybody. So I think that, you know, the jury was very sympathetic with her in this situation.

CABRERA: Page, your thoughts?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know, Ana, if there was sympathy here or the fact that she was a woman. I think basically the government was unable to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury stayed out for several days trying to analyze the evidence. They had several questions for the judge, which showed that they were focusing on what she knew and when she knew it. Because it is not enough just to help her husband commit this offense, she has to know the offense is going to be committed.

And as the judge instructed the jury, she had to be someone that wanted this to occur. And I simply don't think the government had sufficient evidence to show that she was aware of specifically what he was capable of doing, and that he was going to do it. I mean, her concerns in hindsight, which he did express to the FBI, you know, I wish I would have done more, maybe I should have said something, that is not enough for a criminal prosecution in a case like this.

CABRERA: Tom, one of the defense arguments was that the FBI was coercive in their questioning of her and that, of course, was in relation to this potential obstruction charge. What do you make of that? Do you think that impacted the jury's verdict?

FUENTES: Well, I don't know if they actually were that -- you know, that much pressure was being put on her to be coercive. I just don't know those kind of details. But, you know, again, they're investigating almost 50 people being massacred, and, you know, that she had some information that he was up to -- you know, and again, I agree that, you know, it wasn't beyond a reasonable doubt, you know, in that sense and that there was plenty of question of what she knew and that she actually -- did she aid and abet or not, and the jury has spoken that she didn't.

But I think that, you know, as far as whether she was coerced into the confessions and the various versions of statements that she gave, I don't know that.

CABRERA: All right. Tom Fuentes and Page Pate, thank you both for being with us.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:41:30] CABRERA: Back to our breaking news out of Orlando. The jury has reached a verdict in the case against the Pulse Nightclub shooter's wife. Not guilty on both counts.

Martin Savidge joins us now from outside the courthouse.

Martin, what can you tell us about how the jury came to this verdict?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Noor Salman, 31 years old, had been facing the potential of life in prison. Instead the jury got up and said not guilty on both counts. She immediately sobbed, broke down in tears, she began hugging her defense attorneys and her two uncles that were also seated there began hugging each other.

It was quite clear they were very scared as to what the verdict might be. But in the end, it was the jury that listened to all of the testimony and determined even though it was her husband that carried out that horrible attack, 49 people died in that terrorist strike, they exonerated her, did not believe that she was a co-conspirator as the federal government is trying to maintain.

The federal government really painted a very dark, very sinister, even cruel picture of this 31-year-old American-born woman who was a mother of a 5-year-old. But the defense came back and said, no, she was deceived, she was manipulated by the monster of a husband, he had cheated on her, he had no respect for her. The jury clearly bought the defense's argument -- Ana.

CABRERA: Martin Savidge, thank you.

A water crisis has left some residents in Kentucky without safe drinking water. Stunning new report with Dr. Sanjay Gupta ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:47:27] CABRERA: Now to a deepening water crisis in Martin County, Kentucky. Some people there say they have not had safe water to drink for nearly two decades since a coal sludge spill. To take care of basic necessities in fact, some neighbors have resorted to bathing with rain water.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has their story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The hills of Appalachia are part of America's legacy. The people here in Martin County, Kentucky, proudly self-sufficient, but it's hard to take care of yourself when you don't have the most basic of necessities.

HOPE WORKMAN, RESIDENT, MARTIN COUNTY: So we have blue water here. That is crazy.

GUPTA: It's left Hope Workman with no other choice. Twice a week, Hope and her daughter drive up this dirt path on the side of a mountain.

WORKMAN: This is what we go through to get water.

GUPTA: Twenty years ago, she placed this 3.5 foot long pipe into this hillside to tap a spring just to collect clean drinking water because, obviously, no one drinks the water here.

(On camera): Do you drink it?

GARY BALL, EDITOR IN CHIEF, MOUNTAIN CITIZEN: Oh, no. No, no, no, there's no way that I drink it.

GUPTA (voice-over): Gary Ball is the editor in chief of the local weekly paper, the "Mountain Citizen." Water has been a front page story for most of his career.

(On camera): What's going on here? I mean, for the citizens, the people who live here and deal with this every day, where do they put this on their list of concerns?

BALL: In 2018, in the very place where LBJ declared war on poverty 54 years ago, water is our number one issue. That's hard to imagine.

GUPTA: You declare a war on poverty, 54 years later you come back there and you can't even reliably get clean water? What progress have we really made?

BALL: It's like a third world country here as far as water. We let our water system just dilapidate to the point of collapse.

GUPTA: You went how long without water?

WORKMAN: At that time, it was 10 days.

GUPTA (voice-over): To manage that, Hope has turned her pool into a makeshift reservoir, collecting rain water for even the most basic needs.

(On camera): In order to wash your clothes, in order to get water to bathe in, this is what you have to do?

WORKMAN: Yes, I did this in 17-degree weather and we had to take a chainsaw to drill through the ice.

GUPTA: Oh my goodness.

WORKMAN: To get to the water.

GUPTA: So you used the chainsaw to get through the ice.

WORKMAN: Yes.

GUPTA: And then siphoned the water with your mouth out of this hose?

WORKMAN: Yes. Yes.

GUPTA: That's what it's come to?

WORKMAN: That's what it's come to.

GUPTA (voice-over): In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the United States drinking water infrastructure a grade of a D.

[10:50:05] WORKMAN: This is the water that's coming out of my bath.

GUPTA: So how does the water get so contaminated here in Martin County? It's worth looking at how we get our water. Here, it comes from the Tug Fork River, where it is then pumped into the Crum Reservoir, and from there it makes its way to this water treatment center.

(On camera): After getting treated, about 2 million gallons per day of fairly clean water then leaves this treatment facility through a cascade of pipes traveling all over the county. Problem is, those pipes are all so old and cracked. More than 50 percent of the water leaks out before it gets to the people who need it. Even worse, it's what's getting into those pipes and into the water.

(Voice-over): We've reviewed the most recent EPA data, and the Martin County Water District has violated federal drinking water standards every quarter between October 2014 and September 2017. In fact, until just a few months ago, the district's nearly 10,000 customers received notices that their water had exceeded federal limits for potentially cancer-causing chemicals.

(On camera): Doc, I got this thing, what am I supposed to do about them? Am I going to get cancer?

DR. LON LAFFERTY, FAMILY MEDICINE: It's a very difficult question. I can't tell them that it's safe or that it isn't safe.

GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Lon Lafferty is the quintessential small town doc. He's pretty sure that almost every person in this county has come to see him at some point in his clinic.

LAFFERTY: We shouldn't have to be asking in 2018 whether or not the water is causing cancer in our region. We should be to the point in 2018 in the richest country in the history of the earth that we have clean water. It shouldn't be a question.

GUPTA: Eastern Kentucky has some of the highest cancer rates in the country, and there's plenty to blame, smoking, obesity, but one thing stands out to many who live there, the water.

(On camera): Is it the rainwater that you're getting is better than what's coming out of your faucet?

WORKMAN: Yes.

GUPTA (voice-over): On this day, Hope is filling up three additional pots of water from her pool.

WORKMAN: It's not easy, but it beats not being able to flush the toilet or take a bath. I hope you see this, Mr. Trump, because I don't know who else to talk to about it, they ain't doing a damn thing.

GUPTA: President Trump released a $1.5 trillion plan to address all of the infrastructure for the whole country, but experts estimate $1 trillion alone is needed just to meet our drinking water demands for the next 25 years.

LAFFERTY: Central Appalachia at this point is being left behind. Central Appalachia certainly voted for President Trump, but we always kind of take a wait-and-see kind of attitude, time will tell.

GUPTA (on camera): Is water a basic human right?

BALL: I believe so. I believe so.

GUPTA: That's not happening here.

BALL: That's not happening here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: And Ana, I can tell you this is not a unique situation. There are about 150,000 water systems in the country, but it is the small ones like Martin County that accounted for 72 percent of the total EPA violations. They are often small, often rural, and often ignored -- Ana.

CABRERA: Incredible report. Thank you, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. To think most of us take drinking water for granted.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:58:00] CABRERA: March Madness, college basketball, final four tip-off tomorrow. We are there.

Coy Wire is here -- Coy. COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. How are you, Ana?

70,000 fans expected to pack the Alamo Dome. Schools like Kansas, Michigan, Villanova, they may be used to those larger crowds. But Cinderella team Loyola-Chicago, they have an arena back on campus that holds only about 4500 people.

Kansas packs a place nearly four times that size for some perspective. So when the kids from Loyola laid their eyes on the court in San Antonio for the very first time at practice yesterday, they were in awe. They were taking it all in. The videos, the selfies, taking in the moment where they're going to take on Michigan tomorrow.

CNN Sports asked players from all four teams to let us know what it's like to be one of the few who've made it this far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLAYTON CUSTER, LOYOLA-CHICAGO GUARD: The Final Four is crazy. It's unlike anything that I've ever seen.

MORITZ WAGNER, MICHIGAN FORWARD: It's pretty cool. I mean, it's once in a lifetime experience for all of us, and we try to make the best out of it.

JALEN BRUNSON, VILLANOVA GUARD: To experience it with your brothers, the guys you've been working all fall, all winter with, even the summertime working really hard. Just to get to this point, it is really a blessing.

DEVONTE GRAHAM, KANSAS GUARD: The Final Four is an unbelievable feeling. It is something that you always dream of.

CUSTER: It's an experience that not a lot of people get and I'm glad we're getting there, you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUSTER: Join Turner's Allie LaForce and Steve Smith for all access at the Final Four at CNN "Bleacher Report" special airing tomorrow at 2:30 Eastern on CNN.

Now an 8-year-old kid named Mariah was unleashed on the players as a reporter. She's the daughter of Nevada's coach Eric Musselman, whose team was beaten by Loyola-Chicago in the Sweet 16. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You beat my dad at Nevada. Don't you want to say sorry to my dad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We beat your dad at Nevada?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I'll say sorry to you, but I'm not going to say sorry to your dad, if that's OK? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What the heck is a Rambler? I have no idea what

a Rambler is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Rambler comes from old mascot which was a hobo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A hobo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: All access tomorrow in our sister channel TBS -- Ana.

CABRERA: So cute. Thank you so much, Coy.

"AT THIS HOUR" is next. I'm Ana Cabrera. Thanks for being here.