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Christine Blasey Ford to testify on Thursday; Bill Cosby to be sentenced; Struggling Puerto Rico a year after Hurricane Maria; New restrictions on green cards. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 23, 2018 - 17:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the "CNN Newsroom." You made it to Sunday. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. So glad to have you with me.

In just a matter of days now, the nation will hear directly from the woman who says Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago. No secondhand retelling of her story, no filtered statements through her lawyers. Christine Blasey Ford has agreed that Thursday she will walk into the Senate Judiciary Committee and tell her version of what happened to her back in 1982.

She says Kavanaugh, who was then 17, pinned her to a bed at a party, groped her, and tried to remove her clothes before she eventually got away. Following her testimony, Brett Kavanaugh will also get time before this committee to answer those charges.

We have live team coverage. CNN's Jessica Schneider is following developments in Washington and Boris Sanchez is outside Trump Tower in New York. Jessica, I'll start with you. We know the time and place of this hearing, but beyond that, there is still plenty that needs to be worked out.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, plenty of details here that Blasey Ford's attorneys are pushing for but that the committee really isn't budging on. So Blasey Ford's team, they really want witnesses here. Right now the committee is only scheduled to hear from Blasey Ford herself and Judge Kavanaugh. Blasey Ford's attorneys though, they wanted to have trauma experts to testify as well as other people who were supposedly at this party.

But to that end and just the past few minutes, the committee's chairman Chuck Grassley issued a lengthy update saying that the committee has been investigating for the past week plus behind the scenes and that the committee, the majority at least has talked to all four people who were at the party and they are reiterating that all four of those people they have spoken with, including Judge Kavanaug say they have no recollection or knowledge of this alleged party where Blasey Ford said this sexual assault took place.

So in addition to some news today, the committee says it's also tried to interview Christine Blasey Ford herself with no success. So, the committee, the majority, putting out this statement today saying, "The committee asked Dr. Ford to participate in a confidential interview with Republican and Democratic committee staff the day after learning of her identity."

That was actually September 17th after the "Washington Post" article. They continued to say, "The committee has reiterated that request over the past week." No response yet, though, from Blasey Ford's attorneys, but they have been in these ongoing negotiations for several days now. And finally this morning they did agree to that testimony on Thursday.

So here's what her attorneys issued in their statement. They said, "Despite actual threats to her safety and her life, Dr. Ford believes it is important for senators to hear directly from her about the sexual assault committed against her." And apparently she wants that all done at a hearing and not an interview. So what we now know is that Blasey Ford will, in fact, testify.

She will testify first before Brett Kavanaugh. They will go before the committee at 10:00 Thursday morning. This will all be open to the public. Christine Blasey Ford will also have dedicated security along with two of her attorneys at the counsel's table while she's being questioned. But really, Ana, all of this isn't actually settled.

Just this afternoon, Democrats sent a letter to President Trump asking the White House direct the FBI to investigate before Thursday's hearing. That's, of course, something they've been pressing for, for several days now, and they've reminded the president that when Anita Hill accused now Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, Ana, the FBI investigation was ordered by George H.W. Bush, and it took just three days. So Democrats once again reiterating that request. We'll see, though, if it happens here. Anna?

CABRERA: So they believe there is still time for that decision and that investigation to happen should the president move forward on that request. Boris, the president, he initially showed restraint. He said some things that a lot of people praised but then he became very vocal about the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh, casting doubt on her story, doubling and even tripling down on his support of his nominee to the Supreme Court. But some senior Republicans we know would like him to stop tweeting about it.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Ana. Several sources inside the White House last week told us that they were bracing themselves for the president to weigh in on this scenario with these allegations coming against his nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy following his retirement from the Supreme Court.

Ultimately, the president lost that restraint and started tweeting, not only claiming that left wing radicals were trying to destroy Brett Kavanaugh but also questioning why Christine Blasey Ford took so long to come forward with these allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

[17:05:05] That didn't sit well with a number of Republicans, including the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Sources say that he called President Trump on Friday and told him that those tweets were not helping Brett Kavanaugh, that it was not helping the confirmation process. Since then we've really not seen President Trump tweet about it or say

anything, really, about it publicly again, specifically about Ford's allegations, though he has defended Brett Kavanaugh as he did in that rally in Springfield, Missouri on Friday evening.

One other note, Ana, the "Washington Post" is reporting that Brett Kavanaugh spent several hours over the past couple days at the White House going through essentially mock confirmation hearings, play- acting testimony with aides, playing specific senators asking him questions about Christine Blasey Ford's allegations and generally his time at Georgetown Prep and what his life was like during that era.

They are clearly trying to prepare him for this. I also to wanted to point out President Trump did tweet moments ago, speaking about a meeting that he is set to have later tonight with Shinzo Abe here in New York. A dinner that the two leaders are sharing, though nothing yet about Ford's allegations or the announcement that she is set to testify on Thursday, Ana.

CABRERA: Again, the president in New York ahead of the U.N. General Assembly. Boris Sanchez, Jessica Schneider, thank you both. Joining us now to discuss, former Trump White House lawyer and CNN legal commentator Jim Schultz and former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti.

Renato, Ford's team says the Republicans are not allowing for outside witnesses to be called, that includes Mark Judge who was supposedly in the room when Kavanaugh allegedly attacked Ford, a polygraph examiner who conducted Ford's test and two trauma experts. If you were part of her legal team, would you agree to this?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, honestly, Ana, I think that they are leaving her with very little choice. I think there is no question that they are not -- this isn't really an attempt to get to the truth of the matter. You would obviously call in the other person who was allegedly in the room to get his statement under oath if you were actually investigating this.

You know, if I was her legal team, what I would consider doing is filing charges in Maryland and going through a different process there. But given that, you know, she wants to be heard, I think she wants the public to see what she has to say, she's taking the only opportunity she's been given even though the process doesn't appear to be one that's set up to find the truth.

CABRERA: Jim, if Republicans really wanted to get to the truth, why not hear from someone who is reportedly in the room especially if that person could back Kavanaugh's story?

JIM CHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not going to get into the issue regarding the witnesses, but what I will talk about a little bit is the issue here relative to --

CABRERA: Why not?

SCHULTZ: -- it was publicly reported that my law firm is representing Ford -- not Ford, I'm sorry -- Mr. Judge so I can't get into that issue here today. But I want to talk a little bit about the FBI piece, and I want to talk a little bit about what we just heard tonight, which is that an investigation has been ongoing as it relates to the staff reaching out to witnesses and having discussions, which is normal.

The senate has investigators. The senate has lawyers. The senate is very capable of fact finding. They do it every day. And that's what they're doing in this instance, is fact finding prior to a hearing.

CABRERA: And to that point, they say they have interviewed Leland Ingham Keyser who is a friend, a very long-term friend of Ford. They've also talked to Mark Judge who also issued a statement saying he has no memory of this alleged incident.

They have also talked with another person who reportedly was identified as being at this party, Patrick Smyth, who also has said he had no knowledge of the party in question nor do have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct that she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh. Renato, yesterday Ford's friend and classmate came forward, as I just mentioned, and said she herself doesn't remember this party. Is her specific statement more of a setback for Ford?

MARIOTTI: Well, look, obviously if you were assaulted at an event, you're going to remember it more vividly than if it was just one of many parties you attended when you were young. I don't remember every party I attended when I was in high school or college. I doubt many of us do, so it doesn't really surprise me, but sure.

I mean, it would be helpful to Ford if there was other people coming forward. I think that is a practical matter. It's very difficult to have a lot of witnesses who are corroborating details given the passage of time. And that's why, you know, for example, Mr. Judge would be important if at the very least to testify regarding whether he recalls a party at all, whether he knew Ms. Ford or Professor Ford, if he knew Kavanaugh and what context he saw them interact and so forth.

[17:10:00] So, you know, it's disappointing that the committee has decided not to have additional witnesses under oath. I think there is a value in having people come forward under oath and say that they don't remember something because then the American people get a fuller picture. I don't really think there's any reason or excuse that can be given for not doing that.

CABRERA: Jim, one of the other details that hasn't been worked out is who will question Christine Ford? Ford wants to be questioned by the senators. Republican senators want to bring in outside lawyers. Why?

CHULTZ: I think part of this is --

CABRERA: Go ahead, Jim.

SCHULTZ: Part of this is that the Senate would like to bring in outside lawyers to make this in a way so they are not perceived as attacking this witness. There is no question about that. That's why they would want outside witnesses, so they're not perceived as attack -- outside lawyers so they are not perceived as attacking this witness.

On the other side of that, you know, to be heard from the Senators is important but the Senate be heard from personally on this, I believe because they have to do the questioning. They ultimately have to make the judgments, but I also understand the need to try to be as sensitive as possible to what the witness' needs are in this instance.

CABRERA: We're just getting new reporting from the "New York Times" that Kavanaugh plans to submit a calendar from 1982 that he kept with no such party written on it. Renato, is that a strong piece of evidence?

MARIOTTI: I think it's very bizarre, Ana. You have supposedly a 17- year-old who is keeping detailed diaries of his social activity at that age and then has kept that diary or that calendar for, you know, god knows -- for what, 37 years? That is just bizarre and I think it kind of -- it goes beyond belief. It strikes me as a very desperate move.

CABRERA: I mean, Jim, even if this isn't on a calendar that he kept, whether you think it's bizarre or not that he has a calendar, that doesn't necessarily mean that this didn't happen.

SCHULTZ: Well, look, I think the one thing we need to keep in mind here is that Kavanaugh, from day one, has said he wanted to defend himself, he wanted to clear his name. This is just another piece of evidence that he sees as something that can help him to do that. I don't see it as an act of desperation whatsoever if it is in fact something that they intend to introduce. But I do see it as him thinking strongly that he has a firm leg to stand on in this and that he attempts to defend himself.

CABRERA: Do you think it would be fair then for her to be able to submit her polygraph test, her therapy notes or other notes she may have?

SCHULTZ: Well, I haven't heard that that's something that she would be willing to bring forward or has offered to the Senate. And ultimately that's up to the Senate in both cases as to whether they're going to accept that evidence to be introduced at the hearing.

CABRERA: Renato, like the president, some Republicans sound like they've already made up their mind. Let's listen to Senator Lindsey Graham just this morning.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I want to listen to her, but I am being honest with you and everybody else. What do you expect me to do? You can't bring it in a criminal court, you would never sue civilly, you couldn't even get a warrant. What am I supposed to do, go ahead and ruin this guy's life based on an accusation?

I don't know when it happened, I don't know where it happened, and everybody named in regard to being there said it didn't happen. I'm just being honest. Unless there is something more, no, I'm not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh's life over this.


CABRERA: Is Senator Graham right when he says Ford's case would have virtually no chance in any legal venue given how old the allegations are, Renato?

MARIOTTI: I don't know if that's necessarily the case. There are cold cases that are worked up. You know, keep in mind there has not been an investigation done by law enforcement here. There are hard witnesses that haven't been spoken to, and I don't believe that having amateur partisan political staff conducting questioning of witnesses is equivalent at all to the FBI or the police in Montgomery County, Maryland doing it.

So, you know, this -- let's be real here. This proceeding before the Senate Judiciary Committee is not a court of law. There is no legal process here. This is a glorified job interview of sorts, and it's a partisan process. And Lindsey Graham has made up his mind, and if this was an actual proceeding, he would have to recuse himself because he's obviously not trying to judge this from a neutral perspective.

CABRERA: Go ahead, Jim.

SCHULTZ: It's interesting to me you call it a partisan process at this point. We didn't hear that from the Democrats years ago during other confirmations. It's a constitutional process. It's not a partisan process. The nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is dictated by the constitution of the United States.

Article 1 and Article 2 powers come into play here. To say that this is just -- you have amateurish investigators, these same investigators conduct investigations into a number of issues that delve into national security. So now they're amateurs as it relates to this issue. I'm suspect of your comments there.

[17:15:09] CABRERA: Jim Schultz, Renato Mariotti, I appreciate it guys. Thank you very much for the conversation.

How do the current justices on the Supreme Court feel about the contentious confirmation battle and more important, how do they move past it? We'll discuss, coming up.


CABRERA: It may have all of Washington talking, almost all of Washington, because there are eight people who have not weighed in on the Brett Kavanaugh allegations and the partisan politics surrounding his confirmation fight, the eight current justices on the supreme court.

But that doesn't mean they don't have a strong opinion about it. I want to bring in CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic, and Joan, I think a lot of people are wondering are the justices even allowed to speak out?

[17:20:00] JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well, they're allowed to do what they want. You know, they are appointed for life, but I think they find it that it wouldn't be prudent to speak out. None of them did publicly during the more than 400 days Merrick Garland's nomination was hanging out there in 2016 into 2017. And right now we haven't heard from any of them.

But it doesn't mean they aren't saying things behind the scenes. Here's their general concern. It's that the very politicized confirmation process would suggest to anyone in the public that the court itself is very political and that any individual who emerges from this political process would personally have those kinds of political instincts, whether it be Republican or Democrat.

And Chief Justice John Roberts has spoken a lot about that and a lot about his worries. So he is not going to step to the forefront here and say anything that he thinks would exacerbate that kind of public perception.

CABRERA: Some of these justices have personal connections to Kavanaugh. Tell us more about that.

BISKUPIC: That's exactly right, and including the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts. He worked with Brett Kavanaugh dating back to the early 1990s when they were both in the U.S. Solicitor General's office.

Both of them had supported GEORGE W. Bush. And then when Brett Kavanaugh was a top aide to George W. Bush, he helped in John Roberts' nomination first to the D.C. Circuit and then actually to the U.S. Supreme court.

George W. Bush has written about how Brett Kavanaugh actually advised him about the choice back in 2005. And then of course you have Neil Gorsuch who went to Georgetown Prep, which is really in the media glare right now where Brett Kavanaugh went to high school.

And then on the other side, you have someone like Ruth Bader Ginsberg who has talked so much about this #MeToo moment and the importance of hearing from any women who might be accusing men of any kind sexual allegations.

And then finally I'll mention Alana Kagan who worked behind the scenes for Democratic presidents during confirmations, and she also as Harvard aw dean, hired Brett Kavanaugh, but she has some views about how the confirmations process should go. So, I think they all have their individual stakes both political, personal and also institutional.

CABRERA: It's also interesting of course Kavanaugh's confirmation fight has been compared to Clarence Thomas. How closely is Thomas watching all of this?

BISKUPIC: Oh, you know, Ana, we're reliving this. He must be reliving this, right? So I think that he is watching it closely. He has not said anything publicly. I know in the past he has reached out to embattled Republican appointees during these kinds of things, but we have not heard from him.

CABRERA: Interesting. Joan Biskupic, thank you very much.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

CABRERA: He used to be known as America's dad. Tomorrow he will be sentenced of sexual assault. Coming up, a preview of Bill Cosby's sentencing tomorrow. Plus, famed defense attorney Mark Geragos joins us live on what he'll be watching for.


CABRERA: Well, the man once known as America's dad, soon become one of the country's most famous inmate. The sentencing hearing for Bill Cosby begins tomorrow morning in a Pennsylvania courtroom. The 81- year-old comedian faces up to 30 years in prison for three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Cosby was convicted in April of drugging and molesting a former Temple University athletics administrator. And CNN's Polo Sandoval is here with me now. Polo, what can we expect?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We can expect to finally learn the fate of Bill Cosby come tomorrow, Ana. Will it be simply probation? Will it be 10 or possibly even 30 years? We'll certainly have to wait ans see. So, as we prepare to watch those highly anticipated punishment proceedings, we want it to pause, look back at the Cosby case and also look ahead.


SANDOVAL (voice-over): Bill Cosby has been under house arrest since being convicted of aggravated indecent assault in April. Prosecutors accused him of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his Pennsylvania home in 2004.

On Monday, the disgraced comic is set to begin the sentencing phase of his criminal trial and could be sent to prison for up to 30 years. His convictions could be merged because they all arise from a single incident. In that case, the maximum sentence would be 10 years.

KEVIN STEELE, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA: He used his celebrity, he used his wealth, he used his network of supporters to help him conceal his crimes.

SANDOVAL: This next legal chapter is likely to bring new challenges for the Cosby defense team. They'll argue their client should receive a short prison sentence, if any at all, pointing to the 81-year-old's failing health and history of charitable giving, also the fact that their client's April conviction was his first.

The prosecution however may call Constand and other Cosby accusers to the witness stand once again to give victim-impact statements. Constand provided emotional testimony during Cosby's re-trial. The defense team would have the chance to cross-examine all of the witnesses. Last week they also made an 11th hour attempt to have Judge Steven

O'Neal recuse himself from the case, citing bias against their client. That same judge will decide if Cosby will have to register as a sex offender with state police the rest of his life. A man once known as America's dad maybe forced to assume the title of sexual predator.


(on camera): It's very possible these proceedings could possibly go into Tuesday, Ana. One other question that we could get answered this week, will we actually hear from Bill Cosby? You'll recall that he did not testify during that retrial earlier this year. If he does take the stand (inaudible) it wouldn't be that unusual. (Inaudible) and given that opportunity to face the judge and ask for leniency.

[17:30:05] CABRERA: And he hasn't shown any remorse since this all took place. Thank you, Polo Sadoval.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Joining us now, CNN legal analyst and defense attorney Mark Geragos. He has represented some of the most prominent figures in the world over the last three decades including Michael Jackson, Wynona Ryder, Chris Brown and former congressman Gary Condit. So Mark, Cosby could be sentenced from -- anywhere from probation to 30 years in prison. Which way do you see it going?

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that this judge will probably give him a substantial period of time in prison, would be my guess. I don't think in this milieu and given the evidence of what the jury found that he's going to give him straight probation.

The one thing and the only reason I don't say that with -- assuredly is that he did let Cosby stay out between the time that he was convicted and the sentencing tomorrow. That's highly unusual. Usually judges will what they call romance (ph) somebody upon conviction over felony in a serious felony like this. So, that's the one thing that leads me to believe that he's going to show some degree of mercy.

CABRERA: There is expected to still be a debate over whether he should be branded sexually violent predator. What strategy do you think his defense team will use to try to prevent that from happening?

GERAGOS: I think they probably have already lined up at least a witness or two and it's usually psychiatric testimony with somebody who has got a specialty in the proclivity and the prognostication, if you will, as to whether or not somebody is going to re-offend.

So, they're going to have -- somebody is going to talk about his age, they're going to talk about the length of time that has elapsed since the offenses and they are going to probably opine that there is very little risk of him being what's called an SVP, a sexually violent predator. So that's -- generally there will be a whole psychiatric and a mental health evaluation that addresses that.

CABRERA: We also know his attorneys plan to appeal regardless of which way this goes. Do you think Cosby, given his age, will be allowed to stay out of jail while that happens?

GERAGOS: That's also an unusual situation. Usually in felonies, you're not allowed to stay out on appeal even if you were out on appeal pending the trial. The change of circumstances, which is the magical term the judges and the courts use, is that you're now convicted and it's an uphill battle.

Remember that most appeals -- the conviction is affirmed somewhere in the neighborhood of the high 90s percentage. So, that is usually unlikely, but if the judge were to give him something in the neighborhood of two to three years, I think that becomes more likely. If it's a heavier sentence, I think that weighs against letting him out on appeal.

CABRERA: As we mentioned, Cosby hasn't shown any public remorse, nor has he offered any sort of apology to the victims. His wife has even complained the judge is biased against her husband. How do you see that factoring in, and if you were his defense attorney, would you suggest he take this opportunity to speak out and to show some remorse?

GERAGOS: Well, this is one of the great conundrums in a case like this. I've been on the receiving end of defending clients who maintain their innocence and then if you don't show remorse, and if you don't show contrition, then you're told, well, you haven't accepted responsibility.

I mean, in the federal system for instance, you actually get a bonus for showing acceptance of responsibility, and generally judges, when you put them through the trial itself, give you in the parlance, tax and service charge on top of what you normally would get because you've tested the system.

It's not supposed to be that way. Ideally, the system is set up so that you can go to trial so you can make the prosecution prove their case and hold their feet to the fire. But generally as a practical matter, it's evolved over the years that if you go to trial and lose that you're going to get a more harsh sentence than if you had worked out a plea bargain or a deal in the first place. And so, there is -- if you're maintaining your innocence, it's extremely unlikely that you're going to see him being contrite.

CABRERA: Some say the sentence could be a bellwether, that Bill Cosby could be seen as the new example in this era of #MeToo, of the consequences of sexual assault in Hollywood. What are your thoughts on this? Will we see this as maybe the start of something? Will we see more of these types of cases?

[17:35:00] GERAGOS: Well, it's interesting, my father used to say, who was a prosecutor, he used to say if you want to send a message use Western Union. Nobody knows what that means anymore, but there is an element of judicial discretion which allows judges to send a message, basically, to the community on certain kinds of cases or on any case, frankly.

A judge can say that I want to sentence you and I want to make sure that people understand this is something we don't tolerate, whereas maybe 20 years ago doing ludes (ph) with somebody, Quaaludes with somebody was an acceptable thing. That is no longer acceptable.

I mean, there is always this evolution. The idea that Bill Cosby is getting sentenced the same week that we're about to hear the Kavanaugh accuser testify and we've got kind of this backsliding, at least, and the backbiting in the #MeToo movement, it's an interesting time we live in.

And certainly judges read headlines, read the newspapers or the internet now. Newspapers are kind of quaint. And they understand what the milieu is, and in most cases judges are elected. And when judges are elected, they understand that they're supposed to be impartial, but at the same time reflect the community.

CABRERA: Mark Geragos, always good to get your take. Thank you very much for joining us.

President Trump has hailed the government's response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, calling it an unsung success. Others call it a failure. So what is life like on the island now one year after the storm? We're live in San Juan, next.


CABRERA: Puerto Rico is still rebuilding from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria more than a year after the deadly storm made landfall. And while most of the island now has power and water, residents are struggling to recover. CNN's Rafael Romo is joining us now from San Juan. Rafael, what is the biggest challenge still facing residents there.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, definitely rebuilding homes. We've been traveling around the island for the last few days by land and air, and we have noticed that even though most people still have -- already have water and power, the problem remains homes.

And all of those blue tarps that we've been seeing the last few months, over the last year, actually, they're still there. And we visited some homes that aren't in the process of rebuilding and an organization that is helping people get back to their houses.


ROMO (voice-over): Before you can grasp the true extent of the devastation, you have to see it from above. We're flying over Puerto Rico a year after Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean island.

(on camera): What would you say, Daniel (ph), is the main challenge? I see you trying to rebuild all of those homes for people who were left homeless after the hurricane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're still going to places every week where we're finding new homes for people that are living under a blue plastic tarp. And, you know, one year after the hurricane, there are still thousands of homes that -- that's their only -- their only coverage they have is a blue tarp over their roof.

ROMO: We're flying with a team of Samaritan's Purse, an American charity helping people rebuild their homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of the area o the island are extremely remote, extremely difficult to access, high up in the mountains.

ROMO (on camera): Blue tarps were meant to be a temporary solution for homeowners whose roofs have been blown by the hurricane. Really a 30-day fix, but they are still visible around the island and they are a symbol of the devastation and a reminder that there is still much to be done.

(voice-over): On the ground, this is what recovery sounds like. Obrian Rios (ph), a heart patient, could not be more grateful that his house is getting a new roof.

(on camera): He says it's like being able to live again.

ROMO (voice-over): After waiting for more than a year, the blue tarp will finally be replaced with a real roof. In some of the most remote areas where power was unreliable even before the hurricane, Samaritans Purse is providing solar panels to residents.

ZACH SPRAU, SAMARITAN'S PURSE: So we design the system to be able to run a mini fridge 24 hours, then with some other small appliances like writing and device charging and a fan.

ROMO: Today they're installing the panels of Ada Gonzalez's (ph) home, a diabetic who needs refrigerated insulin around the clock. Back in Arecibo, (inaudible) Rodriguez show us her house.

She says there's still the living room.

It's been a difficult year for Rodriguez, her daughter and granddaughter. The hurricane completely blew off the roof, forcing them to live elsewhere.

Everything got wet. The fridge got damaged and then take a look at this. This is a clock on the wall that stopped at 7:05. That was the moment when it got wet because the hurricane had blown off the roof. A sign that's among the few things that were not damaged at their home. Having a place to go, it says, it's home. Rafael Romo, CNN, Arecibo, Puerto Rico.


[17:45:00] ROMO (on camera): And Ana, those solar panels, they're installing about 10 a week, but the need is so great that people are asking for even more. Back to you.

CABRERA: And seeing all of hose blue tarps, it's unbelievable. Rafael Romo, thank you for that reporting. It could force millions of low- income families to choose between government assistance and permanent settlement in the U.S. A new proposal from the Trump administration that would deny green cards to immigrants using food stamps. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:49:55] CABRERA: Welcome back. I want to tell you about a new move by the Trump administration to crack down on legal immigration. According to the "New York Times Times", the administration wants to deny green cards to immigrants who use public assistance for food or for public housing.

This move at a minimum could affect hundreds of thousands of people and does not need to be approved by Congress. Joining us now, Michael Shear, he is a reporter for the "New York Times." And Michael, you have an in depth piece when you look at this. You laid it out quite nicely. Explain who this affects.

MICHAEL SHEAR, REPORTER, NEW YOR TIMES: So this affects legal immigrants who are either trying to come into the United States either on a temporary or permanent basis or immigrants that are already in the country on a legal basis but don't yet have a green card that would let them stay here permanently. So maybe they're on a temporary visa, student visa, or work visa but they're trying to get a green card.

The government would essentially say if you're in one of those categories of people and you are using public benefits, you are poor, you're struggling and to you're using food stamps or maybe you have Section 8 housing which helps you have shelter, that they'll use the use of that against you essentially in determining whether or not you're going to be a drain on the society, a drain on the country and deny you a green card as a result.

CABRERA: And in your piece you say that some 380 plus thousand people is what the administration estimates will be affected, but there's other data out there that suggests up to 20 million people could be affected. Explain why immigration advocates see children, including U.S. citizens as the most vulnerable here.

SHEAR: Right. So the 20 million figure is probably an upper estimate of the number of people, the entire universe of legal immigrants that don't yet have a green card that could be affected. So that's probably an overly large number, but the advocates think two things.

One, the children could be affected because even if you're a U.S. citizen child you could have a parent who is in one of these categories, who's an immigrant, who does not yet have a green card, who's applying for a green card and trying to get one. And if your parent is deemed to be a drain, what they call a public charge, a drain on society, that your parent could be denied a green card and ultimately deported which could separate you from your parent.

The other thing that advocates worry about is that even immigrants who aren't necessarily -- who, let's say, already have a green card or who are working and may be taking some services to supplement the income that they already have.

That they will be so worried about this possibility that they'll simply withdraw their children and their families from these public benefit programs to which they're legally entitled to be in but they'll withdraw from that out of the fear that something could happen to their immigration status if they continue to take the benefits.

CABRERA: I mean, I know under federal law right now it's already a requirement for an immigrant to prove that they won't be a burden so how is this different?

SHEAR: Well, it's an expansion essentially. Yes, you're right. There's always been a sort of general idea that if you're going to be allowed to come into this country, especially if you're going to be allowed to come in on a permanent basis, that the government generally wants to make sure that you have something to contribute and that you're not just going to be a drain on the system.

And so some cash payments, for example, cash programs have always been used as a way of saying, if you take too much cash, that's going to count against you in your quest for a green card. But what the administration now is doing is expanding that dramatically beyond just cash programs to all sorts of public benefits.

And they're expanding the pool of people to whom this applies so dramatically that the advocates fear that it will make it much, much harder to ever get a green card again in the country, which is what frankly the Trump administration -- that's one of their goals, is to really dramatically limit the amount of legal immigration into the country.

CABRERA: Michael Shear, thank you for breaking it down for us. We appreciate it.

SHEAR: Sure, happy to.

CABRERA: Still ahead, red wave or just rose colored glasses. President Trump is in full campaign mode but will he be a boost or a drag on Republicans in the mid terms?


CABRERA: It's a reunion of royal importance. A new documentary is giving an inside look at the Duchess of Sussex. Meghan Markle seeing her wedding dress for the first time since her wedding day.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Buckingham Palace, conservators for the royal collection are preparing the world's most famous wedding dress for a very special reunion.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm doing well, thank you.

MARKLE: Fantastic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it as beautiful as you remember?

MARKLE: My goodness, it's amazing, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the first time the Duchess of Sussex has seen her dress since the wedding day.

MARKLE: Wow, very pretty. Beautiful. Somewhere in here there's a piece of -- did you see it? The piece of blue fabric that's stitched inside?


MARKLE: It was my something blue. It's my -- it's the fabric from my --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, how nice. Well, I hope it's still in there.

MARKLE: Yes, exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll have to look at that.

MARKLE: It's fabric from the dress that I wore on our first date.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that's about the most romantic thing I've heard.


CABRERA: A little fairy tale ending for this hour. The documentary called "Queen of the World" debuts October 1st on HBO.

[18:00:010] You are in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for staying with me.