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Three Dead In Waffle House Shooting; President Trump Set To Welcome French President; Trump Considers Full Pardon For Late Boxer Jack Johnson; Colin Kaepernick Receives Amnesty International Award; Power Restored In Puerto Rico; New Budget Forecast Predicts Soaring Deficit; Romney Not Ready To Back Trump's Re-Election; Romney Fails To Secure GOP Nomination In Utah Senate Race; EPA Chief Met Lobbyist Whose Wife Rented Him Room; WAPO: White House Doubts North Korea's Plan TO Halt Nuclear Tests; Pompeo May Fall Short In Committee But Pass Senate Vote. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired April 22, 2018 - 06:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Sunday morning to you. It is not a trick question. In fact, it's pretty straightforward. Will you support President Trump, the standard bearer for the party, in the 2020 election?

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Another high-profile Republican is punting, so to speak, on endorsing the president for reelection. Mitt Romney tells, CNN, quote, "I will make that decision down the road." Joining dozens of House and Senate Republicans who appear reluctant to back a Trump re-election bid.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't thought about that election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could be a completely different world by 2020.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a long way off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's far too early to make a judgment of that type.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talk about what might happen in that time I think is premature.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no idea who is going to run. Whether the president runs again or not I think is very questionable, candidly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. Why would he?


PAUL: All righty. CNN White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond, is with us as well as CNN political analyst, Julian Zelizer, and commentary writer and editor at the "Washington Examiner," Siraj Hashmi. Thank you, Gentlemen, all for being here.

Jeremy, want to start with you. So, the relationship between the president and Mitt Romney has been tumultuous. We understand that. Is it surprising however at this point that we haven't heard a solid position from Mitt Romney?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: He is following a long line of senators and Congressmen who are not ready to jump on to the Trump campaign 2020 re-election bid yet and telling of this president's current position, his approval ratings and situation in Washington. But Trump and Romney, in particular, of course, have a very tumultuous relationship and I think we have a clip of their longstanding feud.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I don't think Mitt needs lots of money, but I'll certainly do whatever is necessary. We need somebody great as a president. I think he'll be a great president.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Being in Donald Trump's magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I have a lot of friends. No, I have a lot of friends. By the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them! Did he choke?

ROMNEY: Here is what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: The last election should have been won except Romney choked like a dog! He choked! He went -- I can't breathe! I can't breathe, he said!

ROMNEY: I've had a wonderful evening with President-elect Trump. These discussions I've with him have been enlightening and interesting and engaging. I enjoyed them very much.


DIAMOND: So, clearly, these two men have had a very back and forth relationship, love-hate, love-hate. Right now, they are in the love phase where President Trump endorsed Mitt Romney for his Utah Senate bid.

Despite that endorsement, though, Mitt Romney, yesterday, not clenching the 60 percent vote threshold required for him to get the Republican nomination in that state outright. He will face a primary challenge in June.

A lot of state-based issues there as well, but it is notable that the president endorsed him and Mitt Romney not quite making the threshold although it is likely he will meet that threshold in June.

PAUL: All righty. Thank you. Julian, let me ask you about that. What do you make of the fact that we have an endorsement from the president? I want to read it to you because he sent it out in a tweet. This isn't something that he went and rallied for Mitt Romney.

But he did it on Twitter saying, "Mitt Romney announced he is running for the Senate from the wonderful state of Utah. He'll make great senator and worthy successor to Orrin Hatch and has my full support and endorsement."

Mike Kennedy, the state representative there in Utah got 50.88 percent. Romney got 49.12 percent, which means again, June 26th, they are going to face off. What was it here, do you think? Was it President Trump's endorsement that didn't do the job or is there a fracture, a broader issue of a fracture in the Republican party, particularly in Utah?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Some of the politics is local and some of this has to do with Mitt Romney collecting signatures rather than just relying on the nomination process which angered some Utah activists. Some of this is the baggage that comes with President Trump in 2018.

Mitt Romney is the quintessential candidate who has tried to play it from all sides. He was the never Trumper who then wanted to be secretary of state for President Trump and who is now receiving his endorsement.

So, I think he is angered both the moderates in the state and they are numerous for associating himself with the president. He is also angered conservatives because he came out so strongly in parts of the campaign against Trump.

He tried to have it all ways and so there is a lot of built-up resentment even though he still is very popular in the state. He is paying a political price for the president.

[06:05:11] PAUL: OK, so let me ask you, Siraj. Are President Trump and Mitt Romney, are they friends or not friends? At the end of the day, does it matter?

SIRAJ HASHMI, COMMENTARY WRITER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, for one, they are, at best, frenemies, which, of course, you know, everyone has been saying nowadays that, you know, Romney is more known for demonstrative speech against President Trump and called him a phony and a fraud.

In the end, it really doesn't matter because Mitt Romney is the favorite to win that primary race and the general election in November. What is interesting, though, is that many Republicans, outside of Utah and some in Utah, believe that Romney is more known for that speech in March of 2016 in which he called President Trump a fraud and a phony.

So, what is interesting is will that actually take him over the edge. I think he'll be OK, considering the fact he is so popular there and he has enough name recognition to overcome that type of whatever conservative lapse he kind of rebukes then Candidate Trump.

PAUL: I need to get Julian here to a new issue this morning with Scott Pruitt of the EPA. Walter Schwab tweeted this out trying to make it as concise as possible. He said, "While Pruitt was state government, the "New York Times," says a lobbyist sold him a home for $100,000 less than she had paid for.

Her telecom employer paid the difference. He then voted to let the employer raise its rates. At the EPA, he hired her and the banker who lent him the money. They also say a shell company was used for this transaction and that he failed to disclose his interest in the shell company when he filed a financial disclosure form that's required under the state's ethic program.

So, here you go, you couple this with all of the issues he is already dealing with. I think we have a rundown here, D.C. housing arrangements, 24/7 security detail, first-class travel, office improvements that summit added up to $43,000 for a soundproof booth that the GAO says violated federal law.

At the end of the day, he is doing President Trump's job, the job that the president wants him to do. Does that alone make him safe, Julian?

ZELIZER: Well, it doesn't make him safe. I think this kind of story hurts in that it gives credibility to the idea that these weren't simply mistakes what is going on in Washington and this is a long pattern of how Pruitt lives his political life, right on the border of what is ethically correct and incorrect and sometimes going beyond it.

It is true. What makes him safe isn't that he is working for the president. He is actually moving forward on one of the key issues for the president, which is going after all kinds of environmental regulations that have been put into place over the past few decades.

So, it's balancing the scandal and the constant turmoil that Pruitt is causing this administration versus the fact that he is a partisan warrior on some of the issues that the president really cares about.

PAUL: But here's the thing, Siraj, is there a political consequence for President Trump if there is not one for Pruitt?

HASHMI: Well, that is the thing. We are seeing the bounds and line drawn with Scott Pruitt and how it applies to President Trump concerning the ethics blurring of the lines. What is interesting, though, is Scott Pruitt, albeit all the regulations that he's undone in the EPA, for conservatives he is kind of undermining their cause.

It's kind of like Kanye West announcing that he's, you know, coming out with a hot fire album in June, but then saying he's in support of president -- you know, a meeting with President Trump in December of 2016 and then supporting -- tweeting out his support of Candace Owens.

In many ways he is doing himself a disservice and President Trump by not firing him is somewhat of an indictment on his administration and it's not looking good. But, again, we are probably not going to see -- probably not see a resignation any time soon.

PAUL: All right. Jeremy Diamond, Julian Zelizer, Siraj Hashmi, sorry we ran out of time. Gentlemen, thank you so much. BLACKWELL: All right. There's breaking news out of Tennessee. One person is dead. Several others are injured. This is after a shooting at a Waffle House in Antioch in the Nashville area. A naked gunman police say wearing only a green jacket is out there somewhere and believed to be armed with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle. We have more details coming in by the minute from our affiliate reporter who is on the scene. We will get to those in a moment.

All right. Now according to "The Washington Post" the White House is privately skeptical of North Korea's plan to halt their nuclear testing site in that facility. There's concern Pyongyang maybe making a play to the U.S. to help ease sanctions on Pyongyang. We have details on that.

[06:10:04] PAUL: Also, French President Macron heading to the U.S. this week for a state visit with President Trump. We are going to look at their relationship. It's been a little rocky ahead of this White House arrival.

BLACKWELL: Also, Starbucks is closing 8,000 stores nationwide on May 29th for racial bias training? But one expert says, these exercises have proven time and time again to be ineffective. He'll be with us in a moment.


BLACKWELL: All right. Back to this breaking news out of Tennessee. One person is dead. Several others injured after a shooting at a Waffle House in Antioch.

PAUL: Police say a man who was wearing nothing more than a green jacket is now on the run. He is believed to be armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. WTVF reporter, Sophie Nielsen-Kolding, is at the scene with details.


SOPHIE NIELSEN-KOLDING, WTVF REPORTER: Jennifer, you can see this Waffle House across the street is now a major crime scene. A lot of emergency vehicles and a lot of police around here.

[06:15:06] As for the gunman he was seen walking away from this Waffle House down Murfreesboro Pike to a Shell station. I just learned that the SWAT team and Metro helicopter who both have been called out because they think this man could still be armed.

Police say the gunman is a white man and that he was naked, only wearing a green jacket, when he walked into a Waffle House and started shooting, continuing to shoot people as he left through the parking lot. Police confirmed he left an AR-15 inside the Waffle House.

There was another shooting past that Shell gas station at the corner of Lavergne Couchville Pike and Lavergne Police are there and confirm it's related to the shooting. At least one person is in critical condition. Several people were rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center this morning and we are expecting another update this morning so stay tuned with News Channel 5 for the latest on this breaking story.


BLACKWELL: That from our reporter there at WTVF. Sophie, thank you so much.

PAUL: So, we are following this developing situation in Afghanistan this morning. A suicide bombing on a voting registration center in Kabul has now killed 31 people. Another 54 have been hurt. But what you're looking at are the pictures that are just coming into CNN. ISIS said it carried out this attack.

BLACKWELL: According to "The Washington Post," the White House is privately doubting North Korea's plan to stop nuclear testing ahead of the summit with the U.S. despite President Trump calling the move progress and good news in tweets.

PAUL: Here's the thing, officials are worried this could be a move by Kim Jong-un's regime to bring the U.S. to the negotiating table, ease sanctions on Pyongyang, and then violate the agreement and they believe that because it's happened in the past.

CNN international correspondent, Paula Hancocks, live with us from Seoul. So, there's been global reaction to North Korea's move that has been favorable, Paula. Do we have any way to truly gauge what the intention is, however, of Kim Jong-un?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Christi, the only person who knows why Kim Jong-un is doing this is Kim Jong-un, himself. I think it is sensible if the White House is, in fact, quite skeptical about what is happening and if they are concerned about what his intentions are.

If you consider the nuclear program for Kim Jong-un is what he staked his reputation on, part of the state ideology and written it into the Constitution. What we heard from him on Friday was that he was saying it was mission accomplished, that the nuclear missile testing had gone as far as he needed it to go, that he had got to the point he need to be.

There was no mention whatsoever about giving any of that capability up and we haven't heard that directly from Kim Jong-un at any point from him. So, it's really going to be wait and see what exactly he is willing to give up during that summit next Friday, if anything at all.

So, I think it's a very healthy dose of skepticism for the White House, according to that "The Washington Post" article. Now, of course, we can talk about the summit and talk about the politics and the missiles, the nuclear, but one thing we do need to focus on as well is the human aspect of this.

Millions of families were split apart by the Korean war back in 1950s. They are now watching the summit very closely because there could be a chance they would see their loved ones for the first time in almost 70 years.

We spoke to one man who said that he is skeptical because he has had his hopes dashed in the past.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): During the previous foreign relations, he even collected clothes for his North Korean family and threw them away when it turned sour. I was almost 20 when he left home, he says, and now almost 90. There is no joy of life to me. I'm waiting to die. I don't know why, he says, but the older I become the more I miss my brothers.


HANCOCKS: But one person who feels this more acutely than previous leaders is the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, who is the son of North Korean refugees and part of one of these family reunions with his mother several years ago and meeting his aunt for the first time. So, he understands the human aspect of this more than others. Victor, Christi, back to you.

BLACKWELL: Paula Hancocks there in Seoul. Paula, thank you.

PAUL: Thank you, Paula.

So, this is not the usual protocol, but the question is the most secretive agency in the United States going on this full-out public relations campaign? We are looking into the special measures the CIA is taking to seemingly help its deputy director who is nominated to be the agency's next director.



PAUL: It's 24 minutes past the hour right now. Glad to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. This week, the Senate will decide the political future of CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

PAUL: He's been nominated by President Trump to become the next secretary of state, of course. Senator Chris Koons of Delaware said he would vote no on Pompeo, which means Pompeo most likely will not have the support to get a favorable vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tomorrow. He is expected to be confirmed despite that in a full Senate vote. That's assuming he can get the support of a small number of Democrats in red states.

[06:25:10] BLACKWELL: The CIA Pompeo will likely be leaving is facing some questions of its own now over whether the agency has crossed a line in supporting Pompeo's potential replacement, Deputy Director Gina Haspel. Look at the tweets here. One nominates her and one clearing her in destruction of waterboarding tapes. Is this OK? Let's bring in CNN law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell, former FBI supervisory aide. Good morning to you, Josh.


BLACKWELL: Let me read for you what we have read from or heard from a representative of the CIA, a spokesman here. He says, this is from Ryan Treponi, "If it appears CIA is being more robust than normal in supporting this nomination that's because we are." How rare is this?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's unusual. Let me say at the outset that I have nothing but the greatest respect for the men and women at the CIA. I had the pleasure working with many of their case officers overseas when I was at the FBI.

I think they have the hardest mission in the U.S. government. That said I think we need to step back and realize what we are seeing here and take Gina's name out of this. We are seeing a government agency aggressively advocating for the confirmation of their own appointee.

She is well known within the agency but should not become the norm and I would argue it's inappropriate for an agency to be doing a full- court press to confirm a political nominee when you think about the support that an agency normally provides a nominee it's usually logistics and getting hem briefed and ready and that kind of thing.

Rare to see this campaign to really push for that confirmation. The reason why it's concerning not only on its face but look within the ranks of the CIA. I talked to some former colleges who think very highly of her but are there the dissenting voices within the CIA and why aren't we seeing those? This is one side of the narrative.

BLACKWELL: I've gone through several months of the CIA account there. I went back to the truncated period. Nothing there but only about three or four days. So maybe not fair also. You said Gina Haspel, they have said where she was and what she was doing. Is that a safety concern, a danger and when you compare that to what Congress wants to know about her time in Thailand in the destruction of tapes of interrogation methods and actions, what do you think about that element?

CAMPBELL: Well, so I think transparency is always good. Obviously, in an intelligence agency where you have someone who has lived a life undercover and a lot of details that maybe they can't share I think it's good they are going back and try to determine are there elements of her life that we can then share and put out there because she is going to become a very public person and leading that government agency.

That part I think is good. Kind of the selective amplification of certain stories. When I was in government, I was part of a working tried that would look at the government's use of, you know, Twitter accounts as you showed in social media and try to determine what is a best practice?

Should we as a government agency and U.S. intelligence community be above the fray when it comes to politics, when it comes to, you know, propaganda? I think with some of the tweets what is concerning not only do you see the amplification of certain news story which is very interesting.

But also, you know, this "Washington Examiner" piece was an opinion piece about her that the government is putting out. So, I know, you know, any government agency is going to have negative stories out there about them. Are they going to be, you know, promoting those as well just to kind of show, you know, both sides of the issue or is this very much a one-sided thing?

I think we need to step back. Cia mission is too important in this area where so many norms are being destroyed and government agencies pulled into the political muck I think they need to stay above the fray.

BLACKWELL: So, let's talk about what you mention a moment ago the broader politicization of the law enforcement community, the intelligence community. We have covered for some time now the intra- government weaponization of information but now we see the agency as a whole, the brain of the CIA being used to push a political nominee. Is that limited to the single case or is are you seeing that this is now starting to penetrate other parts of the government?

CAMPBELL: Gosh. I hope it's limited to the single case. Obviously, I haven't seen CIA beyond that use their official accounts to kinds of push that kind of narrative. If you look at -- I know the person who used to run that account and I don't know if she is still running it but focused on the agency's history because so much they can't talk about and so it's fascinating.

People should follow them because you see that insight into the history of the agency, its culture, a lot of the important work. I hope this is an aberration from the norm where you see them actually using this for more of a campaign but, you know, obviously folks are going to be watching it very closely.


BLACKWELL: Yes. They certainly have been several tweets from the CIA account since the announcement of Gina Haspel as the next -- the nominee for the director of the CIA. We'll see if it continues.

Josh Campbell, good to have you.

CAMPBELL: See you, Victor. Thanks.

BLACKWELL: All right. Christi --

PAUL: All right. Dangerous situation we're going to update you on. We know now that three people are confirmed dead after a shooting at a waffle house in Antioch which is outside of Nashville.

These are some of the pictures from our affiliate WTVF that are coming in to us now. But that person, the shooter, is on the run right now. He is described as a man who was wearing only a green jacket and nothing else.

Believed to be armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. And police are now looking for him. We know that several people were shot but that the people who have died has now -- that number has just increased to three people who are now dead. We will continue to follow this as they continue to try to find this shooter this morning.

Jacqueline Kennedy was the last first lady to host a dinner at Mount Vernon. That is, until Melania Trump. Next, we have some of the more lavish details that are awaiting French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife as they make their state visit here with the president and his wife. And also who is not on the list might be surprising to some.

BLACKWELL: Plus, Starbucks is shutting its doors across the country on May 29th for training and education on racial bias. One expert says these kinds of exercises have become a failed go to plan for all businesses to address racial conduct. He joins us next.



BLACKWELL: French president Emmanuel Macron will arrive in the U.S. tomorrow ahead of the first official state visit. A dinner of President Trump's presidency.

PAUL: Yes. During his trip, he is going to join or address a joint session of Congress. This is the next step in what has been a rocky relationship between the two political leaders and first lady Melania Trump is hosting a state dinner this week in honor of Macron's visit.

Now this is a dinner that is a major diplomatic moment for the Trump administration. It's also the culmination of months of hard work and attention to detail by the first lady personally.

With us now CNN White House reporter Kate Bennett. Kate, thank you so much for being here.

So, first and foremost, how is it that the first lady is preparing for this occasion and doing so we need to point out on her own. She did not hire a planner as it is, obviously, very often done in the past.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. Most first ladies, most White Houses have hired event planners for recent state dinners and most of the state dinners have sort of ballooned into big hundreds of people. The Obamas used to tent the back lawn and hang chandeliers and there would be -- I think Gwen Stefani performed at the last one, a lot of celebrities.

Different feel for the Trump administration. The first lady really felt that she could handle the details. Victor, remember she has a background in design. She's very detail oriented.

She's into the history and tradition of the White House so she felt that she could tackle this with her social secretary, of course, who also has a background in event planning and the White House staff who stay on through administrations so they have been there. Some of them through dozens and dozens of state dinners.

So, certainly she has a support staff to help her with this but she did come up with everything from the flowers to the color scheme. I was told she even picked the chair coverings for Tuesday night's dinner.

PAUL: This is what is interesting. She is giving, obviously, such precise meticulous detail to this.

Let's talk about the guest list. There are no congressional Democrats on this list. That is unusual. Is it is not is?

BENNETT: It is. Yes. Politico reported this.

The -- it's typically that state dinners include folks from the other side of the aisle so to speak and that they can be bipartisan guest list. Apparently that is not the case with the Trump administration. I don't think anyone is really that surprised to hear that in terms of how divisive this political climate has been in Washington this past year or so.

However, there are most dems as far as we're aware going to the state dinner which makes it a very sort of -- a big break from tradition that is typically done. There is also no media going. Also there is better tradition of inviting White House reporters from certain networks or news paper reporters.

Folks that represent the media that apparently is also not happening. However, I have to mention this state dinner is taking place in the state dining room at the White House which is much smaller. The guest list probably will be I'm hearing between 100 and 150 people.

So certainly when you include the French delegation and those related to the diplomacy of the two countries it probably doesn't leave a lot of room but still it's kind of a jaw-dropper that there won't be anyone from the Democratic Party as we are hearing.

PAUL: Right. So it brings to question what the intention is of that and the fact that, as I understand it, as it has been reported, the president had no input on this dinner, is that correct?

BENNETT: Well, he didn't have any input on the design or anything about, you know, sort of the menu and how it was going to look and feel. He certainly was busy with his own schedule. It was something that the first lady wanted to handle independently.

But in terms of the guest list I would imagine the West Wing had some input. Likely the State Department did as well. It's typically and protocol dictates. So certainly there are a lot of hands and minds involved in getting into that guest list.


But apparently, again, this is a different era. Things are being done differently.

PAUL: So -- yes. And because of that how important is this state dinner?

BENNETT: It's extremely important. This is the first time the Trumps are hosting an event on a world stage.

Again, as you mentioned at the beginning it's months and months of planning. The Trumps are hosting the Macrons for a special double date night at Mount Vernon the night before. So this is a sort of a two-day extravaganza.

The two first ladies are taking a special visit together around Washington the day of the state dinner. You know, it will be all the pomp and circumstance of the arrival where the limo pulls up and Macrons come out and there's that photographic opportunity on the front steps of the White House.

So it really feels important. It's also a sign that the two countries are friendly and this is sort of a reciprocal move.

Remember last summer when the Macrons invited the Trumps to come to Bastille Day and hosted them. They had dinner in Eiffel Tower. They sat and watched the parade. That had a big, big impact as we know on President Trump who now wants to have his own military parade in Washington.

So certainly this is a payback so to speak in terms of hospitality.

PAUL: All right. Kate Bennett, we appreciate you being here. Thank you.

BENNETT: Sure. Thank you.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Colin Kaepernick wins an award for taking a knee during the national anthem and much more. Why his public protests are garnering worldwide recognition and appreciation?



PAUL: Well, President Trump could be considering another pardon this time at the request, wait for it, of Sylvester Stallone.

The president tweeted yesterday, "Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson. His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial. Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!"

Johnson was the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion. In 1913 he served a year in prison for taking his white girlfriend across state lines for so called "immoral" purposes. The sentence and imprisonment destroyed his boxing career. He died in 1946.

BLACKWELL: Colin Kaepernick is awarded Amnesty International's highest honor for his public protest on the football field. The former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers is known for kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games to protest police brutality against black people.

Amnesty International says Kaepernick embodies the spirit ambassador of conscience award because of his exceptional courage and activism.


COLIN KAEPERNICK, AMBASSADOR OF CONSCIENCE AWARD WINNER: My love for my people serves as the fuel that motivates me and fortifies me on my mission. It is the people's unbroken love for themselves that motivates me even when faced with the humanizing norms of a system that can lead to the loss of one's life over simply being black.


BLACKWELL: In the past this award has gone to Nelson Mandela, Alicia Keys and several others.

PAUL: People in Puerto Rico are waking up this morning (INAUDIBLE) loss of power for the second time this week after an excavator hit a main power line. But some of them do have power for the first time.

BLACKWELL: The crews that restored power to most of the island in fact still recovering from Hurricane Maria category four storm hit seven months ago but there are people who tell CNN they are reluctant to go back.

PAUL: Many seeking shelter fled to Florida. They're now moving from motel-to-motel to avoid winding up on the streets.

CNN's Ed Lavandera spoke with these families who are really on the brink of homelessness.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a pep talk for the soul. Following a week of highs and lows that symbolizes the shaky road to recovery facing thousands of people from Puerto Rican storm survivors.

After Hurricane Maria thousands of families left the island and signed up for the FEMA Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program that pays for hotel rooms until families can move back into permanent housing. Seven months after the storm, there are nearly 2,700 families still using the motel voucher program like Millie Santiago and her family.

(on camera): Why did you come to Florida?

MILLIE SANTIAGO, STORM EVACUEE: (Speaks in foreign language).

LAVANDERA: She says it was never her intention to stay here this long and she thought she would be able to come here a little while and go back.

(voice-over): Instead Santiago is known as the mayor of the Super 8 motel. She helps evacuees who ended up in a string of motels along Highway 192 in Kissimmee, Florida. Navigate the red tape of disaster relief.

These families say they were told the motel voucher program would last until May but about 60 percent of the families were stunned to learn this week they were no longer eligible and about to get kicked out of their rooms a month early. That set off an intense week of rallies, tears, and calls to political leaders and activists demanding help. Then relief as word spread that the FEMA program would likely survive until mid may.

Father Jose Rodriguez says there is no transition plans to help these families get back on their feet.

FATHER JOSE RODRIGUEZ, CHRIST THE KING EPISCOPAL CHURCH: These are people who have been impacted by a natural disaster. They didn't come here for spring break. They didn't come here for vacation.

They're not out here at the beach side tanning. They're not at the hotel pool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a nice day.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): "The Florida Project" film captured the gritty reality of motel life along Highway 192 in Kissimmee since the great recession 10 years ago the marginal and homeless have found refuge in the cheap rooms on this stretch of highway surrounding the utopia of Disney World.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Don't you think we are going too far?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: No. Just come on. Don't be a loser.

(on camera): After Hurricane Maria, community activists say about 180 people from Puerto Rican families moved into these same motels along Highway 192.


They say they feel trapped in this motel life because they're working minimum wage jobs, affordable housing is scarce and the Federal Disaster benefits just aren't enough. FEMA though says that at some point this is no longer a disaster problem but a social problem and that the agency is doing everything it can to help these families.

(voice-over): FEMA says there is a rental assistance program that's only available to storm victims on the island not for those who left.

Millie Santiago's family left Puerto Rico because the storm wiped out their day care business and they came to Florida so her two children could enroll in school.

(on camera): And so now they've been trying to figure out what to do here. (Speaking foreign language). You want to stay in Orlando?

SANTIAGO: (Speaking foreign language).

LAVANDERA: I don't have a choice now, she says.

Diana Ramos is working part-time and taking culinary classes and hope she can land a better job in one of all the Orlando area theme parks. Without the motel room, she worries she would be sleeping in her car.

She says I'm incredibly scared and I have no idea where I'm going to go.

Ramos and the other evacuees living on this motel row know time is running out.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Kissimmee, Florida.


PAUL: There's breaking news this hour. A manhunt is under way right now for a man who is wearing only a green jacket who allegedly walked into a waffle house in the Nashville area and began shooting with something that looks to be similar to an AR-15.

BLACKWELL: Three people are dead, several more injured. Stay with us. We have got more on this breaking news out of the Tennessee at the top of the hour. Our affiliate reporter is there on the scene.

First though, remember when every dollar added to the deficit was a threat to future generations? You remember that several people said it was a threat to the country, itself. Whatever happened to that?



BLACKWELL: We have talked a lot about the president's tweets this weekend but there is one you probably missed. This one.

"Nancy Pelosi is going absolutely crazy about the big tax cuts given to the American people by the Republicans. Got not one Democrat vote. Here is a choice. They want to end them and raise your taxes substantially. Republicans are working on making them permanent and more cuts."

Now the president has (ph) (INAUDIBLE) that the Republican tax cut that he signed into law just before Christmas as one of the largest tax cuts in the history and most sweeping tax reform in a generation. That was in an op-ed published on "USA Today" on tax day.

What the president did not mention neither on his op-ed nor his tweet is the new government report released days earlier that projects historic deficits in part because of the GOP's tax cut.

Now to be fair, a lot of people overlook this report. It's been a busy couple of weeks. But we think you need to know about it because the news is not good and the government says it is only going to get worse.

Here it is. It's from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It's their annual assessment of the economic outlook for the next decade.

So looking out to 2028 and here is the headline. The CBO projects that starting in 2020 the U.S. government will run a trillion dollar deficit again. That means the U.S. will spend a trillion dollars more in a single year than it takes in.

That is 2020, just two years away and it's two years sooner than the CBO projected just a few months ago. Now the government says you can partly think the big spending bill that both parties passed last month for that.

Now, you might have noticed that I said the U.S. will run trillion dollar deficit again. Well, that is because during the financial crisis the annual deficits surpassed a trillion dollars four times and at its peak it hit 1.4 trillion in the last year of Bush, first year of Obama, the highest ever.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to confront the fact our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead.


BLACKWELL: Now the differences between then and now are huge. Then, the economy was falling off a cliff. Unemployment was between seven percent and 10 percent, interest rates were at historic lows. But now the economy is strong, unemployment is 4.1 percent and interest rates are climbing.

And in this economy the U.S. will build on, as Speaker Ryan calls it, the "crushing burden of debt" but it's hard to grasp really a trillion dollars, right? I mean, we could all name a few billionaires we have seen on TV, but there has never been a trillionaire so how can we appreciate a trillion dollars?

Let's try this. That was $100. It took what? Ten seconds.

Consider this. If I were to stand here and toss $100 every ten seconds nonstop until I reached $1 trillion, I would be here for every second of every day for more than 3,000 years. That is just one trillion. I say just one, because the CBO projects trillion dollar deficits in 2020, in '21, in '22, in '23, in '24, in '25, in '26, '27, and then by 2028 the CBO projects the United States will spend a trillion and a half more than it will take in.

A new record in good times. Here is the CBO director Keith Hall. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KEITH HALL, DIRECTOR, CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE: Nobody knows what is too much debt. What will cause a fiscal crisis?


You know it really depends upon the country. It depends upon the situation.


BLACKWELL: Now President Trump says Republicans now want to make the individual tax cuts permanent.