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Puerto Rico Without Power, Rescues Underway as Fiona Hits; Video Shows Trump Allies in Elections Office on Day of Breach; Texas Sheriff Launches Criminal Probe into Migrants Sent to Martha's Vineyard; Record Number of Migrants Arriving in NYC; Trump Team Opposes Disclosing Which Docs He Claims He 'Declassified'; Biden to Arrive in NYC Today Ahead of United Nations Address; Booby Traps, Torture Chambers Discovered in Liberated Cities. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 06:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Much of Puerto Rico is in the dark after getting lashed by Hurricane Fiona. Now Turks and Caicos is bracing for the worst.


Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Tuesday, September 20. I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman.

Overnight, Fiona gaining strength. It's now a major Category 3 hurricane with wind gusts up to 115 miles an hour and barreling towards the Turks and Caicos islands. Fiona delivered a devastating blow to Puerto Rico and ripped through the Dominican Republic.

Most of Puerto Rico without power this morning. It could be days before it is restored. Many people there also have no running water.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: At least two deaths have been reported from the hurricane, which dumped up to 30 inches of rain. Emergency crews have rescued well over a thousand people, including this woman, who had to be carried to safety. Many more may still be trapped in the flood waters.

Parts of the island -- Puerto Rico we're talking about -- are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria that made landfall in Puerto Rico five years ago today.

KEILAR: Let's go first now to CNN's Leyla Santiago, who is live for us in San Juan with the very latest. Leyla, what can you tell us?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, John, it is continuing to rain this morning. These are the outer bands of Fiona.

We are in the Northeastern part of the island, the capital, San Juan, where a very small portion of customers have actually had their power restored.

But in the interior, in the Southern part, where we spent most of our time, it's a different story. They are waking out -- waking up, rather, without power, without water.

And when you talk to folks there, I can tell you in the four days that we've been here, covering this storm, the anxiety over this is palpable.


SANTIAGO (voice-over): Hurricane Fiona gaining strength and hammering the Caribbean with strong winds and intense rain. The storm is heading towards Turks and Caicos today, following landfall in the Dominican Republic Monday.

On Sunday afternoon, Fiona hit Puerto Rico, causing an island-wide power outage.

GOV. PEDRO PIERLUISI (D), PUERTO RICO: By the time the tail leaves Puerto Rico, we will have gotten roughly 35 inches of rain. That's a huge amount of rain.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The governor says he hopes it would just be a matter of days to get electrical service back to most customers.

PIERLUISI: But one thing to keep in mind is that our grid is quite fragile still. It got fixed after Maria but not really improved since Maria.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The storm coming just as parts of the island were finally recovering from Hurricane Maria's destruction five years ago.

JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, RESIDENT AND BUSINESS OWNER: It's been rough. We've been just working to get back this neighborhood, get it back from Maria, that everything was destroyed. Restaurants, houses, everything was destroyed. And we just -- we just -- not all the way back, but we're just halfway back. A lot of people, more than Maria, lost their houses now. Lost everything in their houses because of the flooding.

SANTIAGO: This is the barrio, the neighborhood where the National Guard had to come and rescue people. Still a lot of flooding. I can hear generators powering the homes. And it is still pouring down with rain. Neighbors looking out, wondering exactly what will come next as Hurricane Fiona, the remnants of it, continue to demolish this area.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The family rescued during the storm, now safely in a shelter.


SANTIAGO: She says this was worse than Maria.


SANTIAGO: She's pointing out that they've already been underwater for 24 hours, and the rain is still coming down. So she's concerned about the 2,500 families that she says are impacted by this here. SANTIAGO (voice-over): At least a thousand people rescued from

floodwaters, more rescue efforts still underway as emergency responders try to navigate through difficult-to-reach areas.

In Utuado, the interior part of the island, 25-year-old Leomar Rodriguez watched this bridge come apart in just minutes and wash down the river.

On the West side of the island, rainfall swelling the Guanajibo River in Hormigueros, surpassing its previous record height at 28.59 feet, set during Hurricane Maria. Now, gauging to more than 29 feet, the National Weather Service said.

The damage from Hurricane Maria still looms large over the island.

CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, FORMER MAYOR OF SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: We've wasted five years. So the fear of the Puerto Rican people is that history will repeat itself.


SANTIAGO (on camera): And John, Brianna, you know, you heard the woman I spoke to in that shelter yesterday, who said this is worse than Maria. That is shocking to hear, especially on a day like today, the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria.

So, for many people in the interior, on the Southern part of the island dealing with what still is not over yet, the question will be how quickly can emergency crews restore -- rescue people, and how quickly can the power be restored here?

KEILAR: Yes. And we're seeing pictures of a rescue that looks like it almost did not succeed there. Leyla, people are really up against incredible odds there in Puerto Rico. Thank you for the report.

BERMAN: This morning, new video shows Republican operatives working with an attorney for former President Trump spending hours inside the restricted area of a Georgia elections office. This was the same day that a voting system there was breached.


CNN's Drew Griffin has been covering this story for some time now and joins us with the very latest on this -- Drew.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Pretty much confirmation here, John. This all happened on January 7, 2021, one day after the Capitol insurrection. But it's what it could mean for the future of voting that experts are so concerned about.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): The newly-obtained surveillance video shows a Republican county official and a team of operatives working for Trump attorney Sidney Powell inside a restricted area of the local elections office in Coffee County, Georgia. Among those seen, Cathy Latham, a former GOP chairman of Coffee

County, who is under criminal investigation for posing as a fake elector in 2020.

Latham previously claimed she was not personally involved in the breach, but the video appears to undercut that claim, showing her inside as a team of Republican operatives work on computers near election equipment and proceed to access voting data.

Scott Hall, an Atlanta bail bondsman and Fulton County Republican poll watcher, is one of the people who spent hours inside the restricted area. And in audio obtained by CNN, Hall later described what he did.

SCOTT HALL, ATLANTA BAR BONDSMAN & FULTON COUNTY REPUBLICAN POLL WATCHER: I'm the guy that chartered the jet to go down to Coffee County to have them inspect all of those computers, and I've heard zero, OK?


HALL: I went down there. We scanned every freaking ballot.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The Georgia secretary of state's office calls what happened in Coffee County criminal behavior, and a state criminal investigation is underway.

But election experts say the damage could be even bigger than the illegal accessing of voting equipment in Georgia and other parts of the country. These operatives may be undermining the security of elections in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the key defenses to an attack on electronic voting machines is that, in most cases, to complete a successful attack, you need physical access to the machines. And so these efforts to unlawfully gain access to the machines opens up a new sort of threat that -- that we haven't seen in the past.


GRIFFIN (on camera): We did get an adamant response, John, from Cathy Latham, the woman who was all over this video. Her attorney insisting Ms. Latham has not acted improperly or illegally.

This is just one of multiple breaches across the country that all seem to have connections to this effort to keep Donald Trump in office. Investigations underway in several swing states where this same exact type of activity was taking place -- John.

BERMAN: And you see it right there.


BERMAN: On the video, Drew. The video is relatively unambiguous. So the impact on the upcoming elections, Drew?

GRIFFIN: Yes. One concern here is, of course, with the physical access and computer knowhow, it's possible a bad actor could try to pull something on election night, but it wouldn't be easy.

The bigger concern is that so much misinformation about voting machines is being spread, a lot by these people, that a lot of us will just not accept election results because of the doubt that this kind of breach puts into the entire electoral system here in this country.

BERMAN: Yes. Perhaps intentionally undermining the faith in the system. Drew Griffin, as always, thank you for your reporting.

GRIFFIN: Thanks, John.

KEILAR: Authorities in Texas this morning launching a criminal investigation into the transportation of dozens of Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard.


SHERIFF JAVIER SALAZAR, BEXAR COUNTY, TEXAS: I believe that they were preyed upon. Somebody came from out of state, preyed upon these people, lured them with promises for a better life, which is what they were absolutely looking for, and with the knowledge that they were going to cling to whatever hope they could -- they could be offered for a better life. To just be exploited and hoodwinked into making this trip to Florida and then onward to Martha's Vineyard for what I believe to be nothing more than political posturing to make a point.


KEILAR: That is Bexar County sheriff, Javier Salazar. He says the migrants were only flown to Martha's Vineyard for a photo op as they were ultimately left stranded.

Lawyers for many of the migrants who ended up on Martha's Vineyard call the brochures given to their clients highly misleading, saying they were, quote, "used to entice their clients to travel under the guise that resettlement was available to them."

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis fired back last night.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): They all signed consent forms to go. And then the vendor that is doing this for Florida provided them with a packet that had a map of Martha's Vineyard. It had the numbers for different services on Martha's Vineyard, and then it had numbers for the overall agencies in Massachusetts that handle things involving immigration and refugees.


So it was clearly voluntary.

They said they didn't have housing. They said they couldn't accommodate. Like, let's just say that's true for a minute. Well, what does that mean for these poor towns in Texas? What does it mean for these other places across the country that are seeing influx? (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: For the first time, arrests of undocumented immigrants at the Southwest border exceeded 2 million in one year. That is according to newly-released agency data.

Countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba are driving the numbers up. Migration from these countries was nearly the same as the number of immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, marking a stark shift in the nationalities of people coming to the United States, compared to previous years.

Last month, 55,333 migrants encountered at the border were from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. And that is a 175 percent increase from last August.

The number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, now down 43 percent from last August.

CNN's Gloria Pazmino is live at New York's Port Authority bus terminal, where there is an expected influx of some migrants. Gloria, can you tell us what you're expecting, what you're seeing?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATION CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, we have been seeing numbers of peoples arrive here at the Port Authority bus terminal over the last several months.

In fact, just this past weekend, a record number of people, at least 1,000 migrants arrived here. That's according to city officials. And that is pushing the city to a limit. In fact, Mayor Adams said that the city is reaching a breaking point, required to provide shelter as migrants come in to a system that is already under pressure.

KEILAR: And what are people saying as they come, Gloria? Can you tell us a little bit more about what challenges they are escaping from?

PAZMINO: Sure. These are people that have been on a very long journey to try to reach the United States. And we should make it clear that, once they cross at the border, they turn themselves into Border Patrol.

And that is when they become paroled as asylum seekers. And they actually are technically documented as their immigration proceedings are moving forward.

People who have been arriving here at New York City, some did not know that they were being sent to New York City. I spoke to a family who said that they were put on a bus from Texas, sent to New York, and they just had to figure it out when they finally arrived here.

That really shows you the challenges that the city is facing in addition to those who are arriving here.

KEILAR: All right. Gloria Pazmino, live for us in New York. Thank you for that. BERMAN: So just hours from now, the special master sifting through all

the Mar-a-Lago documents, all the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago, holds his first hearing in New York.

Donald Trump's lawyers are fighting Judge Raymond Dearie's order that they disclose details about the documents that Trump claims he declassified. It seems as if the judge says, Hey, what documents do you say you declassified?

CNN's Kara Scannell has been following these developments and joins me right now. So Judge Dearie, the special master, getting to work. This is interesting today.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, today is the first hearing in this case since Judge Raymond Dearie was appointed special master.

He was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan. He's been serving for 36 years. He has managed a lot of cases. And I think we're starting to get a sense of how much control he's taking and how seriously he's taking this role.

So he had circulated a draft case management plan to the parties, which we've got a glimpse into through disclosures, through filings from the former president's team and from the Department of Justice. But we'll get the nuts and bolts of this at the court hearing.

What it indicates is that the judge is saying, OK, let's figure out a plan of how we're going to do this. He's suggesting that they go through and do their classifications, you know, what's presidential, what's personal, what's privileged, by October 7.

Trump's lawyers are already pushing back on that, saying that's a little fast.

He's also asked Trump's team. He's saying, OK, tell me what is the declassification issues here? But Trump's lawyers are saying, Wait, wait, that's premature, because this could get to the defense of any -- the merits of our defense on any subsequent indictment, if it comes to that. So they're already showing some pushback.

Now, DOJ is very much wanting this to continue apace. They're suggesting that they have a third-party vendor so everyone can do their markings at the same time to keep things moving. They propose going through 500 documents a day, and then want to meet with the judge weekly to discuss this.


So going to be very interesting to see the dynamic in the courtroom today and just how Judge Dearie's going to lay out this plan.

BERMAN: It's been interesting, because in public, Donald Trump and people around him have said, Oh, he issued a blanket declassification of all documents. But they've never argued that inside court or a legal document. Correct? SCANNELL: That's right. And his lawyers have been very careful around this issue saying, you know, sort of flirting with it out there, but not really wanting to get into the merits of the argument at this point.

BERMAN: Could get to the nub of everything here. Kara Scannell, great reporting. Thank you very much.

The U.N. General Assembly kicks off under the cloud of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. President Biden facing a major test.

And complexion problem? Plastic surgery? A new book detailing former President Trump's criticisms of Nikki Haley and Nancy Pelosi. We will speak to the co-author of "The Divider," ahead.

KEILAR: Plus, evidence of torture in cities abandoned by Russian troops. CNN is live on the ground in Ukraine.



BERMAN: The United Nations General Assembly begins today with world leaders together in person for the first time in three years. It will be anything but business as usual, with Russia's ongoing assault on Ukraine topping the agenda. This is a major test for President Biden, who will speak tomorrow.

CNN's Kylie Atwood here for the General Assembly. We're lucky to have you in person this morning. What can we expect?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, I think the major test this week is, is there the sense of unity in terms of continued support for Ukraine?

Obviously heading into the winter, there are concerns about countries maybe backing off their support, right, given the economic concerns. So is there this sense of unity and continued commitments, new commitments to backing Ukraine as they face this Russian invasion?

This is the first time that the United Nations General Assembly is meeting since Russia invaded Ukraine. And so we'll watch to see what these different leaders say. The new commitments that they make.

Today what we'll be watching for is Turkey. Their leader will be speaking. We also have Kazakhstan, key because they are on the border with Russia. And then you've got a number of European countries. You have France. You have Germany. You have some Eastern flanked countries.

And then another set of countries that will be interesting to watch are the African countries. You have the Central African Republic. You have the Republic of the Congo today. A number of other African countries.

And the key there to watch his what they say, what they're asking the international community for. Because we know that the food crises in those countries have been deepening because of the war in Ukraine.

Obviously, tomorrow we'll have President Biden. We don't know a whole lot about the specifics that he's going to roll out tomorrow. But what we expect, that he's probably going to double down on continued commitment to Ukraine. We've seen just in recent days that he said it'll -- he'll do whatever it takes to continue supporting Ukraine as it faces this Russian invasion.

So we'll watch for that tomorrow. We may learn some more details from the White House as to what to expect.

BERMAN: Important to note, Vladimir Putin not coming.

ATWOOD: Right.

BERMAN: President Xi of China not coming. Modi of India not coming. So there are some people not here --


BERMAN: -- who are major players in this discussion. Nevertheless, it will be a big moment when President Biden speaks.

Kylie Atwood, great to see you in person. Thank you.

KEILAR: Ukrainian forensic experts working at a mass grave site in Izium have recovered 146 bodies so far, most of them civilians, two children among them. Officials say Russian forces turned a police station, this one here, into a torture chamber and that many of the dead bear signs of violence.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is joining us live from Sloviansk, Ukraine. What a horrible discovery, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, as Ukraine forces continue to push South from their recent gains in Kharkiv, pushing towards Russia perhaps on a front near Luhansk (ph) they weren't expecting. They are uncovering horrifying scenes of what life was like under months of Russian occupation.

Here's what we saw in the key and still contested, it seems, city of Kupiansk.


WALSH (voice-over): There's no respite in victory here. An artillery battle still shaking the liberated city of Kupiansk.

This occupation slogan, "We are one people with Russia," seems comic, now the Ukrainians have chased the Russians across the bridge and further South.

A shell has landed under 100 meters from us. Another swiftly follows.

It's unlikely Moscow can retake places lost in the past weeks. So this is about vengeance and spite. This prisoner has claimed to be local, but they think he's a Russian

soldier, deserting or left behind. What else Moscow left behind is far uglier.

These tiny rooms with their detention center, where as many as 400 prisoners were held at one time, we are hold. Eight or nine prisoners per cell.

Booby traps now in their place. A warning written next to this room.

WALSH: So he's writing "grenade" there on the wall.

As they move through these cells, they're finding booby traps, left it seems by the occupying forces. That one in there, a grenade left under a tray of half-eaten food. And it just shows you the hazards ordinary people are going to find coming back.

A place like this sure used as a key detention center by the Russians, but across this town, the damage is extraordinary; but also, too, is the risk of unexploded ordnance and, potentially, booby traps.

WALSH (voice-over): They're discovering, too, other scars from torture. This former prisoner is introduced to us by the Ukrainian security service. He says he was imprisoned about a month ago, as he was once a cook in the army.



GRAPHIC: This is the room where I was interrogated. They put me on this chair. There the investigator sat and there was the guy with the telephone and another one who helped.

WALSH (voice-over): The telephone was an old wind-up model, used to send electric shocks into him. He thinks his interrogator was experienced from the Russian security services.


GRAPHIC: They told me: "You think you are tough. Let's find out how tough." I was also shot with some kind of pistol. Here and in the leg.

WALSH (voice-over): They asked him who he was in touch with from the army.

The Russians burned their interrogation records hurriedly.


GRAPHIC: The main thing is to survive and to withstand. It took me a week and a half to recover when I got out. They promised I'd only see the sun and sky again if they forced me into a minefield.

WALSH (voice-over): Elsewhere, signs of the mindset fueling the Russian invasion. They found time to paint this mural. The Russian -- see the "Z" on his arm -- next to a pensioner and the flag of the former Soviet empire, burnished in flames.

Pause a moment here in the bloodshed and ruin and consider how truly odd this is. They were only here a matter of months, yet so speedily tattooed this building with their machinery of pain.

So much here clearly beyond use. So few locals huddle in its empty husk. Winning does not heal the wounds, just gives them enough time to feel them.


WALSH (on camera): Now just up the road from where I'm standing here in Sloviansk, there appears, according to Russian officials, to be fighting for a key town of Lyman. That is vital, potentially, for Ukraine slowing any Russian progress.

Here, Russian officials calling very fast now for referendums in areas they control, perhaps to enhance Moscow's so -- so-called control over those areas.

But Ukraine's going to have an answer to that. Their counter offensive continuing to move forward in multiple areas. The question now being, where is the focus of the next main push going to be?

Back to you.

KEILAR: We'll be taking a look at that throughout the show. Nick Paton Walsh, live for us in Ukraine, thank you.

Wall Street investors on edge as the Federal Reserve meets today. What an interest rate hike could mean for you, next.

BERMAN: So a new book says Trump's former national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, was so worried that Rudy Giuliani was a foreign influence agent he wouldn't let him alone with Trump.