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Puerto Rico Had 1427 Killed by Hurricane Maria, Not 64; Judge in Manafort Trial Admits to Making Mistake When Scolding Prosecutors; Pence at Pentagon to Tout "Space Force"; Officials Say Children Found in New Mexico Were Being Trained for School Shootings. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 09, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:08] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: More than 20 times the official death toll. That is what a report sent to Congress is now suggesting. That Hurricane Maria could have killed many, many more people in Puerto Rico than the government has officially accounted for. The government releasing the report, saying 1,427 more people died in the aftermath of the hurricane than that same time period the year before. For perspective, the official death toll of the devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico is 64 people.

Joining me right now, CNN's Leyla Santiago, who spearheaded the effort to get a full and real accounting of how many people really died in the aftermath of Maria.

So, Leyla, this still isn't the official death toll. Why not?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Still not the official death toll, as you said. Today, that official death toll remains at 64. So let's talk about what exactly this is. So here's it is. This is the draft of the report that went to Congress last night, as Puerto Rico was asking for money in the recovery effort on the island after Hurricane Maria. And in it, it does say the official death toll is 64. But then it also acknowledges this estimate of 1,427, 1,427 deaths. That was an increase when compared to past years. So even though the government is acknowledging, hey, look, the data is showing an increase of more than 1,000 people in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, that death toll still stands at 64.

Why? Well, I actually just got off the phone with officials from the government of Puerto Rico, and they are saying that they have no plans to change that death toll, 64, until the study they commissioned coming out of George Washington university is complete. But what's the problem with that? We've seen delays with that study. The preliminary findings of that study were supposed to be out in May. That didn't happen. Then a recent release really only put out what the methodology of that is. So we really haven't gotten firm numbers and causes for these deaths under that study.

In the meantime, you know, that number, that death toll, is not changing. And why is that so important? Well, even though the government -- or the governor of Puerto Rico has acknowledged that the death toll is likely higher, in the meantime, families who have lost loved ones are still looking for closure, that acknowledgment. And even more important, as we are now in the hurricane season on the island of Puerto Rico, you know, if you don't understand the true death toll, if you don't understand who died, when, where and how, there's really no way to explore options in terms of preventing those deaths in the future.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Forget just the human -- the human decency side of this, of accounting for people who were killed in the aftermath of a hurricane. It's how to prevent it and make changes to protect people as we enter hurricane season this time around.

Leyla, you've been on it. More to come. Wait for the study. But still, an important moment here. Thank you so much.

SANTIAGO: Thank you.

[11:34:15] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a rare apology from the colorful judge in the Manafort trial. What he is sorry for, why he said it from the bench, and how it could impact the case. That's next.


BOLDUAN: In a trial that has seen no shortage of drama, another stunning development from day eight of the Paul Manafort fraud trial. As and it has nothing to do with the president's former campaign chairman or fraud, for that matter. This is about the judge and his behavior. Prosecutors filed a motion in court today requesting that Judge T.S. Ellis go on the record and told the jury he was wrong for an outburst yesterday. A short time ago, the judge did just that, saying he's human.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is joining me now with much on this.

Shimon, it is not every day that a federal judge admits he's wrong from the bench. What is this about?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: No, it's not. And it's not every day that you have a judge who continues to be so hard on prosecutors.

This all stems from something that happened yesterday. The prosecution had a witness that they called, an IRS expert, who happened to be sitting in the courtroom through the trial. When they called that witness and that witness said they had been sitting in the courtroom during the entire trial, the judge scolded the prosecutors essentially for that, for allowing this witness to sit there through this trial listening to other witnesses testifying. And the prosecutor reminded the judge, it was his own permission. They had asked him for permission to do so, and he allowed it. And so this morning, as you said, they went ahead and filed a motion with the court, requesting he apologize to them and to the jury.

[11:40:27] See, the issue, Kate, this was all happening in front of the jury. And certainly their perception of what they're seeing by the way the judge is reacting to this could affect their ultimate decision. And that is why the prosecutors wanted the judge this morning to apologize, which he did.

This judge is quickly becoming the story in this case. It just continues to go after prosecutors. And just a reminder, this is the same judge who went off the special counsel in bringing this case, the idea perhaps he was only suggesting doing this to go after Paul Manafort to get him to cooperate.

BOLDUAN: I just want to -- just do a quick summary of one of the transcripts. This isn't related to that witness, but what else the judge said. He said to the prosecutors, "Look at me when I'm talking to you." "I'm sorry, judge. I was." "No you weren't." The prosecutor, "I don't want to get yelled at again by the court for having some facial expression when I'm not doing anything wrong but trying my case."

It has been --


BOLDUAN: -- wild to follow this.

PROKUPECZ: At one point, Kate, the judge said that one of the prosecutors there had tears in his eyes. Good thing about these things, some of this is happening outside the presence of the jury. So that exchange happened outside the presence of the jury. So there really is no impact. But when it happens in front of the jury, there's always concern that somehow these interactions, these reactions by the judge, could sway their ultimate decision.

BOLDUAN: All right. Let's see what happens next.

Don't cry, Shimon. Don't cry.

PROKUPECZ: Try not to.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

Thank you so much.

All right. Right now, it became very quickly a favorite target of late-night comedians. But now, the Space Force is very real. Vice President Mike Pence is at the Pentagon talking about it right now. Is everyone on board, though? That's next.


[11:46:42] BOLDUAN: Late-night comedians couldn't stop making jokes about it when the president announced the Space Force.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration is reclaiming America's heritage as the world's greatest space-faring nation. We very well may soon have the Space Force. You've been hearing about


And we're actually thinking of a sixth. And that would be the Space Force. Does that make sense?

The Space Force, General. You probably haven't even heard that. I'm just telling you now.


BOLDUAN: Well, right now, Vice President Mike Pence is talking about just that, the future of the U.S. military in space, and the possibility of creating the first new branch of the military in 70 years. Here's Mike Pence.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And that's precisely why we're beginning the process of establishing a Space Force as the sixth branch of our armed forces. Just as in the past, when we created the Air Force, establishing the Space Force is an idea whose time has come. The space environment has fundamentally changed in the last generation. What was once peaceful and uncontested is now crowded and adversarial. Today, other nations are seeking to disrupt our space-based systems and challenge American supremacy in space as never before.


BOLDUAN: But not everyone thinks it's such a great idea, more of a waste of time and money, including my next guest, Deborah Lee James, the former secretary of the U.S. Air Force under President Obama.

Secretary, thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: You say the Space Force won't do anything more than make existing problems worse. Why?

JAMES: Well, I'm against having a separate entity, a sixth branch of the military Space Force, for a number of reasons. First of all, the space enterprise, though very important, is a mission that enables all other operations in the military. So we need more integration, not pulling it apart into a separate entity. Secondly, it would be a very, very small entity. Anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 people, depending on how you count. So I fear it would get lost in the shuffle of the big bureaucracy of the Pentagon. And third, the thrashing about that would come with such a huge reorganization, I believe and fear, would actually set back the momentum that we've seen in the last few years toward improving the space enterprise.

BOLDUAN: It does make me wonder, Secretary, basically, a branch of the military hasn't been created in 70 years. What would it mean to go about right now creating a sixth branch of the military? Because Mike Pence said today they want it established by Congress by 2020.

JAMES: Right. Well, again, it would be a huge undertaking. A major, major reorganization. And it wouldn't address by itself any of the problems or issues that various people have put forth. For example, it wouldn't in and of itself provide more money. If more money is your issue, Congress needs to appropriate more money. If war fighting is your issue, a separate military service does not do the war fight. That is what the combatant commands do. And by the way, the report today does call for a separate unified command for space. I think that's a very good part of the report. But the military service idea doesn't fix any of the challenges or the issues.

BOLDUAN: Defense Secretary James Mattis this week said that military leaders, in his view, "are in complete alignment with the president's concerns about protecting our assets in space, to contribute to our security, to our economy, and we're going to have to address it as other countries show a capability to attack those assets."

There was some question if he was on board before. If he wasn't on board with this before, it sounds like he's on board now. Do you think he is being straight forward?

[11:50:33] Well, I think Secretary Mattis and other top leaders in the Pentagon, who are already on record with saying that a separate service or a separate corps is not a good idea, I think they're now stuck because what's happened in the intervening six months is that the president of the United States has simply said do it. That, by the way, took everyone by surprise. So they're stuck. And they have to do something now to back up the president's words.

I would also note being aligned with the concern is an interesting way of putting it. It is very different than being aligned with the solution that the president has put forth. And Secretary Mattis certainly did not say that.

BOLDUAN: He did not.

So quite a few mocked the president for bringing this up. I don't know if it's just the name sounds kind of funny, if you will. I don't know. But is there a real concern in space? There seems -- it seems to be a huge issue to be concerned about. Or do you think this is more of a sci-fi fantasy?

JAMES: No, there are concerns. There are challenges. By the way, the entire military faces challenges. We face challenges all around the world every day, and we mitigate through strategies and approaches that we take, and budgetary infusions. So this challenge, make no mistake about it, the U.S. Space Command and the forces that we have in the United States force base are the best in the world. Our assets are the best in the world. But what has happened lately is that other countries have been catching up with us in ways that are worrisome, which is why the Pentagon, for the last three, four years at least, has been very focused on speeding up the acquisition process, putting more money towards space, elevating space within the command structure. All of these things are ongoing. And once again, I fear that a major reorganization would set us back in all of the momentum, and it would not solve any of the challenges that we are facing.

BOLDUAN: Secretary, thanks for coming in. This is a fascinating discussion to be happening about this. I appreciate your time.

JAMES: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a terrifying twist to a horrible story. You're looking at live pictures from New Mexico. Authorities are saying at least one of the 11 children who were rescued from that filthy compound in horrible conditions in New Mexico was being trained to commit school shootings. The shocking details that are coming out now. That's ahead.


[11:57:40] BOLDUAN: Shocking new details about the tragic story coming out of New Mexico where 11 starving children were found living in squalor. Authorities now say at least one of the children was being trained there to carry out school shootings. On site, on that compound, they found an A.R.-15 rifle, five loaded 30-round magazines, four loaded pistols, and so much more.

Police raided the compound last week in search of a missing toddler who was allegedly abducted by his father. That boy is still missing. Remains of a child were found on site. Those remains have not yet been identified.

CNN's Scott McLean is live from the compound with much more on this.

Scott, if it couldn't have gotten worse -- I mean, if it couldn't get worse, it did. These five adults were charged with child abuse. Then this terrifying detail coming out about training to carry out a school shooting. What more are you learning?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, so I can tell you that defense lawyers here, they are urging restraint when it comes to that accusation. It actually comes from the criminal complaint. I'll read you part of it. It says, "A foster parent of one of the 11 children stated the defendant had trained the child in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings." That same line is repeated in all five criminal complaints against all five defendants, though it has not been proven in court.

I want to show you where I am now, Kate. We're at the back end of this massively sprawling complex. It seems like it is a shooting range that's been set up. You can see this dolly was maybe used for target practice because it is riddled with bullet holes, or these propane tanks over here. These wall of tires, they seem to have constructed a berm. There are also targets here, a person drawn out there that seems to be drawn by a child.

We're also getting new information from text messages, Kates, between a neighbor in this area, who didn't want to be identified, and one of the people who have been charged, Lucas Morton. In those text messages, Morton is always asking for supplies, asking for things because he says he cannot leave the compound during daylight hours, only at night. He doesn't explain why. At one point, he says it's God's orders -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right. So much more to learn.

Scott, thank you so much for being on the ground. Really appreciate it.

Thank you all so much for joining me today.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

[12:00:10] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your --