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GOP Grapples with Kavanaugh Fallout; Hurricane Response to Maria; Chinese Billionaire on Job Pledge. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 20, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Margaret, you worked in the Bush White House. Now you're a consultant on these issues. I mean, Lindsey Graham's language yesterday, and this is quoted this morning in "The Washington Post," quote, this has been a drive-by shooting, Senator Graham says, when it comes to Kavanaugh. I will listen to the lady, meaning Ms. Ford, but we're going to bring this to a close.

I mean this is a Republican who sits on Judiciary. Do you have to be awfully careful not to repeat the mistakes of the optics of those white Republican male senators questioning Anita Hill in 1991?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean obviously we have to be careful and obviously Republicans have a credibility gap on Me Too and on women, and that is something that I think they are in their own way trying to be careful about. Maybe not represented by that, but with Lindsey Graham.

But I just want to step back for a second because this and the Me Too movement are different, OK? The Me Too movement -- let's be clear and let's remember -- of which I and many of us are very strong supports -- was about powerful men who were employers asserting their power over women who worked for them or who were inferior positions and then using that in sexually aggressive ways to disempower and diminish the professional advancement of women.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Repeatedly. And repeatedly.

HOOVER: And it was systemic. And it is pervasive in multiple industries throughout this country. That is a very different set of circumstances that what happened with Clarence Thomas, which I think falls in the category of Me Too if you wanted -- if you want to go that (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: If he was her boss.

HOOVER: And now we're talking about adolescents and alcohol, OK? I'm not saying the abuse is less important if there was sexual abuse. But that's hypothetical. We have to get to the bottom of this case. We don't know the facts yet. But Me Too risks overreaching in a really significant way by conflating these two examples.

SCIUTTO: Right. Let me ask you a question, though.

HARLOW: Yes. SCIUTTO: You talk about a credibility gap there. Alice and Margaret, too, for your thoughts, isn't there a credibility gap for Republicans who don't acknowledge that they've created this timeline here. You know, they're in a rush. And we know why they're in a rush to get this or what -- well, you could call it a rush or not call it a rush, but we know why they want to vote next week, because they want to get this in while they still have a majority in the Senate before the October 1st start of the Supreme Court calendar here.

Will you acknowledge that politics are playing a part in this on the Republican side and that doesn't -- doesn't that then raise questions about how serious Republicans are about getting to the bottom of this?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think, Jim, to be honest, we have to look at it from the standpoint that politics is playing a role on both sides. Yes, Republicans have made it clear they want to move forward with this confirmation. At the same time, they want to give Dr. Ford the opportunity to speak.

This is what she wanted when she --

SCIUTTO: All in one day, though, right? They want to give her the opportunity on Monday, right?

STEWART: Well, no -- well, Jim, first of all, we were supposed to have the mark up and vote today, and we pushed it back. And they're giving her the opportunity.

SCIUTTO: That's true.

STEWART: And they are -- they're -- they're making it on her timeline, when she's comfortable. But we also cannot overlook --

HARLOW: N, no, no, they're not making it on her timeline when she's comfortable.

STEWART: They -- they -- they have --

HARLOW: They're not. They're saying in California or in private, but not whenever she's comfortable.

HOOVER: Well, they --

STEWART: They have -- they have offered her many options. They've offered her -- whether they want it -- as I said, public, private, with counsel, with the committee. And they're giving her -- all options are basically on the table because they want to hear her story. But we can't -- but we cannot --

SCIUTTO: But the timeline has stayed consistent. The timeline hasn't changed.

STEWART: We cannot -- we cannot diminish the fact that Democrats are also culpable here, too. And I'll repeat the timeline.

HARLOW: And -- SCIUTTO: Right.

STEWART: Senator Feinstein had the opportunity to bring this forward two months ago and Democrats are also delaying and distracting from the real issue here, which is the confirmation.

HARLOW: Sure. Understood. And -- and we have -- we have Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who will vote on this. She's not in Judiciary but she'll put her vote forward as part of the Senate on this. We'll ask her about that.

SCIUTTO: Ask her, yes.

HARLOW: But, Margaret, to you, before you guys go on this, I mean when you look across at what this means for the party across the country, look at the example of Alabama where Doug Jones, and the Roy Moore situation, won women 57-41 percent, that included 45 percent of white female college educated women in that state. Arizona, you've got two women up in that in Arizona to fill Flake's spot and the Democratic woman is leading 57-35 there. And Phil Bredesen, the male Democrat candidate in Tennessee, is leading among women 53-37 percent against Marsha Blackburn.

HOOVER: You've just outlined exactly what that credibility gap looks like when it turns to politics. But I do think that Republicans are going to have to make this calculation about whether this is Me Too or not, OK? Optics and politics matter. And, you know, and they're critical. But I think there is a really strong case for Republicans to make here that this woman absolutely deserves to professor -- and I want to say Christine Blasey Ford. I want to say her name. I mean it's every person deserves to be heard and have their story heard.

HARLOW: Good point.

HOOVER: But that has to be weighed against everything. Obviously, this is politics on the Democrat side too because every day they delay is a day that maybe they get to steal back the Supreme Court justice which they feel they deserve in the sort of cosmic force of karma because of Merrick Garland.

[09:35:10] There's just one other point though and you have to weigh this too.

Every time there has been a Me Too incident, right, Gretchen Carlson will tell you that within 24 hours of her laying her case down --


HOOVER: Women started coming to her, flooding in with more examples of where Roger Ailes had -- and there have been -- there are crickets in terms of what has come forward in the intervening moments in the last week since Professor Ford made her case.

SCIUTTO: Can't equate it with those other cases.

Margaret Hoover, Alice Stewart, thanks -- HARLOW: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much on all fronts.

HARLOW: Thank you both.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, one year on, we asked Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rossello, how the U.S. territory is healing after the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Maria.


SCIUTTO: Exactly one year ago today, Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, devastating the island, altering the lives of millions of people there. Many still suffering. An independent study recently estimated that in the aftermath of Maria, some 3,000 people there died.

[09:40:10] HARLOW: Joining us now is the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello.

And, governor, thank you very much for being with us. Obviously, we're all thinking about the people of Puerto Rico every day, especially today on this one year mark.

Can you just give us an assessment of how the Puerto Rican people are doing and feeling today one year after Maria struck?

GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: Yes, well, thank you for the opportunity.

And, you know, it's been a long recovery process. This is the wake of the biggest devastation in the modern history of the United States. So the people, our people, are strong. They're resilient. They've been battling back. And although we've had plenty of obstacles, they and we're trying to channel those and finish those. The truth of the matter is, that our hope is that we can pivot now to a stronger finish of the recovery and to a stronger rebuild of Puerto Rico.

SCIUTTO: I'm lucky enough to have been to Puerto Rico many times. And I know -- I know you're going to do it. A question, you are aware President Trump, in recent days, weeks, has called the U.S. response, the Trump administration's response to Hurricane Maria, in his words, an unsung success. He's also questioned whether 3,000 people died in the aftermath of the storm. First of all, would you call the U.S. response there a success?

ROSSELLO: Well, my -- my job has governor is to identify what has been good and what has been poor. And, you know, typically, in these conversations, there are some folks that claim it's been excellent or perfect and some others that have claimed that it's been completely awful.

Truth of the matter is, there's been good and there's been bad in this response. I can tell you, for example, that our relationship with HUD on the federal level has been phenomenal. We're about to make some announcement that will impact citizens in Puerto Rico in a positive way as money flows in.

But I've been severely unsatisfied with say, for example, the response of the Corps of Engineers lifting our energy grid and the excess bureaucracy that has been exhibited by FEMA (INAUDIBLE) over here without really no reason. So, you know, the evaluation I'll leave to the experts, but certainly it's my job to pinpoint things that have been good so that we can be thankful for them and things that have been bad, as the ones that I've stated.

HARLOW: I mean, you know, "The Wall Street Journal" this morning, I'm sure you saw it, has done a really important deep dive on the numbers a year later, looking at the reality, facts that cannot be denied, right? And it includes, you know, of course we know Puerto Rico was essentially bankrupt, right? Had gone through a formal bankruptcy ahead of Maria. Unemployment there over 9 percent now. The economy has contracted 7.6 percent in the last year. Eight thousand small businesses have remained closed since Maria. The population is expected to decline 12 percent in the next five years. That's going to hurt the tax base a lot.

What is the number one thing Puerto Ricans need from the Trump administration right now given this stark reality?

ROSSELLO: I think a few things. Number one, eliminate the excess bureaucracy. You know FEMA has imposed certain processes in Puerto Rico that are not imposed in other states. And the main -- you know, the reason why this happens is that Puerto Ricans are treated as second-class citizens. You know, we're a territory of the United States. We're not a full state. And it's about time that we have this discussion. If you are, you know, empathetic about the treatment that Puerto Ricans have received, that U.S. citizens have received in Puerto Rico, then we need to deep dive into the main root cause of the problem, which is colonial territory in the 21st century.

So my petition to all decision makers is to have a firm position on this, to let everybody know if they stand with Puerto Ricans to have equal rights, to transition into statehood --

HARLOW: Right.

ROSSELLO: Which is what the people have asked, or if they're going to support this undemocratic form of colonialization moving forward.

I think it is important also to cover the progress. So you mentioned the 9 percent unemployment rate.

HARLOW: Right.

ROSSELLO: I know it seems high in the United States, but that is the lowest unemployment rate we've had in the history of Puerto Rico. It typically hovers around 12 percent to 14 percent. The past seven months have been a steady incline. Tourism is coming back. Crime rates have gone down.

HARLOW: Right.

ROSSELLO: So while there is -- there are many challenges --


ROSSELLO: And I'm not shying away from them, there's also a lot of reason to cover the progress.

SCIUTTO: And I know you're focused on the present and the future, but I do have to ask you, is there any doubt in your mind that those 3,000 Puerto Ricans, those 3,000 Americans lost their lives as a result of this storm?

[09:45:07] ROSSELLO: No, there isn't. Look, I'm -- my formal training is as a scientist. So I very much value science and well done science at that. Once the aftermath of the storm came over here, we have a -- we had a very unsatisfying protocol to get to the death toll number. Once we realized that, we looked for independent study. George Washington steps in. And they took their time. I evaluated everything that they did. And it is my view that it was a very well done estimate of the death toll numbers. Of course at this juncture we can talk about estimates. But certainly it's in the ballpark. And that's why I have taken it upon myself to take that number, the 2,975 excess death number as the official toll in Puerto Rico.

HARLOW: Yes. Governor, to your -- your broader point about representation of Puerto Ricans when it comes to voting for president and representation in Congress. I know you sent a letter to the White House and you talk about Congress has the power to, you know, to admit a new state. But the president has to sign the territory into statehood to make it official. I know you haven't heard back yet on the letter, but please let us know when you do get a response from the White House.

Thank you, governor.


SCIUTTO: Thank you, governor.

ROSSELLO: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. Also be sure to watch this. CNN's special report, "Storm of Controversy: What Really Happened in Puerto Rico." That airs tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only right here.

SCIUTTO: And the latest casualty of President Trump's trade war. Chinese's tech billionaire says that tensions over tariffs have forced him to back out of a pledge to help create some 1 million American jobs.


[09:51:17] SCIUTTO: The president is touting U.S. jobs today, though his trade war with China could cost them. Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma now saying that rising tensions killed his pledge to create 1 million new jobs here in the U.S. HARLOW: So last year, you'll remember, the president promised that --

well, made that promise, saying the U.S. and China would have, in his words, a friendly cooperation and a reasonable trade relationship. Ma said this at the Trump Tower meeting. You see him there meeting with the president right when he was president-elect. Listen to this.


JACK MA, CHAIRMAN, ALIBABA: We are specifically talking about (INAUDIBLE) trade, you know, supporting 1 million small business, especially in the Midwest of America. Small business on the platforms, selling products, agriculture products and American services to China.


HARLOW: If you think about that -- Christine Romans, our chief business correspondent is here, it's not only that Jack Ma said we're going to, because of this, create a million jobs he said in the Midwest of America.


HARLOW: Our terrain. He said about -- that's like Trump country.

ROMANS: Yes. Yes.

HARLOW: And now what?

ROMANS: Yes, and he's connecting, you know, American small business, American farmers with Chinese customers. That's what that was all about.

Well, now he's saying, no, that pledge is off. That pledge is history because of the president's trade agenda. This is what he said, the promise was made on the premise of friendly U.S./China partnership and rational trade relations. That premise no longer exists today, so our promise cannot be fulfilled.

It was a promise, to be fair, over about five years. It wasn't a promise to build factories or anything here.

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: So some folks at the very beginning had doubted whether you could really get to that million overall.

But it just shows you that some of the business leaders who were optimistic in the early days of the Trump administration about what he could do for tax cuts, what he would do in terms of regulation, what he would do in terms of flipping the switch of confidence, which has happened, by the way. You know, a switch has been flipped and you have business more confident, but not on the trade front. On the trade front they're very, very concerned.

Jack Ma saying that, frankly, this could be something that's 25 to 30 years this trade war could go on. I think that is the worst case scenario, of course.

HARLOW: Yes, why does he think that?

ROMANS: He thinks that this is -- we're entering a new era of disconnect between the U.S. and China trade outlook. And the president would say -- and the president's supporters would say, yes, we are, and that's a good thing because --

SCIUTTO: Why? Politically it will be hard for the next president of whatever party to pull back. You know, pull back, you might be seen as weak, right? You might be seen as weak if you relax some of this.

ROMANS: Yes. Absolutely. And, look --

SCIUTTO: Without corresponding concessions from China.

ROMANS: You're right. And when you look at the overlapping politics heading into the midterms, right? You look at lunch bucket Democrats. They like the president's tariff plan, unless you're a soybean farmer, right? Unless you're an American soybean farmer, you like that he's being tough on China. And if you are a suburban Republican, you like that he's being tough on China. If you are a conventional establishment Republican, media, academic, the so-called elites in the Republican Party, they don't like it. But the president doesn't care about them. He cares about the other two groups.

HARLOW: Yes, but you can't -- you can't just (INAUDIBLE) --

SCIUTTO: Well, his own -- his own economic advisers didn't like the idea too for a time.

HARLOW: That's true.

SCIUTTO: Gary Cohn, et cetera.

ROMANS: Yes, you're right.

HARLOW: Thanks, Romans.

We'll be right back.


[09:58:49] HARLOW: All right, one final trip around the world from our friend and former colleague, Anthony Bourdain. The 12th and final season of "Parts Unknown" premieres this weekend on Sunday. The episodes takes place in Nairobi. And Bourdain, alongside of comedian W. Kamau Bell, take residents and talk to them about Kenya's culture and the economic challenges that country faces.

Watch this.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, "PARTS UNKNOWN": Beers and goat head soup, a global classic. Slow cooked, well, goat's head. My companion, Mr. Bell, unaccustomed as he is to the ways of Africa, is new to this dish. But I don't want to sound all Colonel Mustard, but I eat this for breakfast by now, you know what I mean?

W. KAMAU BELL: I hear the word goat's head soup, and I think, oh, yes, it will be meat from the goat's head in a soup.

BOURDAIN: No, no. (INAUDIBLE) goat head.

BELL: (INAUDIBLE) as you see. A full-on head of a goat.


SCIUTTO: It's haunting a little bit to see him there. The final episodes of Anthony Bourdain "Parts Unknown," they start this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time right here on CNN.

[10:00:02] HARLOW: All right, top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

We are one day away -- that's 24 hours right to the minute from the now or never deadline set by the Senate Judiciary Committee for Christine Blasey Ford. The panel