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Puerto Rico in Dark as Fiona Unleashes Catastrophic Flooding; Trump Team Fights Special Master's Demand for Doc Disclosures; Migrant Children Now Enrolling in New York City Schools Amid Record Surge. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Much of Puerto Rico is in the dark this morning and it could be days before power is restored there. The storm dumping as much as 30 inches of rain on the island, this is catastrophic flooding and mudslides. More than 30,000 people have already been rescued. Efforts are still ongoing as emergency crews try to get people in more hard-to-reach areas.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And it hasn't stopped raining. Fiona's outer bands are still lashing Puerto Rico. Today marks five years since Maria's devastating landfall there. Some of who lived through that say the destruction and flooding from Fiona could actually be worse.

Let's get to Meteorologist Chad Myers. Chad, what's the latest update on this storm?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos is right in the way right now, 115 miles per hour, the eye very close. There's not a radar that will go that far to actually know, but within ten miles of that little tiny island and Cockburn Town, obviously.

This is a storm that was moving very slowly. That's what happened in Puerto Rico. This storm was moving at eight miles per hour. That is in the bottom 10 percent of forward speed of any hurricane ever as we list them out and that's why they picked up so much rain. That's why there was so much flooding, 32 inches near Ponce. That's just one town on the south shore where you get the word San Juan and it was less than ten. That's the north side.

Now, there's still more rain to come but probably less than a couple of inches. The storm now taking aim at the Turks and Caicos, battering that island nation right now, and then on up towards Bermuda as we work our way into the rest of the week, and it's going to get stronger. This is going to be 140 mile per hour storm. Right now, the storm surge in the Turks and Caicos between five and about eight feet, there it goes, there it gets stronger.

And, eventually, at the very end, it tries to turn left toward Newfoundland and up towards Nova Scotia. We certainly hope that doesn't happen, but that's 150 mile per hour storm, getting in colder water up there so it won't continue to be that strong. Brianna?

KEILAR: Well, five to eight feet in these low lying islands.

MYERS: I know. They're only ten feet tall.

KEILAR: I know. It's -- we'll be watching that. Chad, thank you.

Hurricane Fiona gathering steam, as you heard Chad saying there. It's traveling over these warm Atlantic waters. It has already left death and destruction in its wake in Puerto Rico. Two people have died.

Nearly 500 members of the Puerto Rico National Guard have been deployed since power was knocked out across the entire island. In the last 24 hours alone in the town of Cayey, the Guard says it rescued 21 elderly bedridden people from a nursing home threatened by landslides. And then in the city of Ponce, they rescued this man who was clinging to a pole after he was swept away by flash flooding as he was trying to get gas.

And last night, soldiers from a police battalion helped rescue more families trapped by floodwaters, firefighters rescuing this 91-year- old woman who was trapped in her home surrounded by floodwaters. Officials say more than 1,000 people across the island have been rescued by first responders.

President Biden has pledged response and recovery support to Puerto Rico following Fiona's destruction. Here in the next hour, we will be live on the ground in San Juan.

BERMAN: In just a few hours, a special master sifting through the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago holds his first hearing in New York. That's Florida. The hearing is in New York. A new filing -- in a new filing, lawyers for former President Trump oppose having to disclose specific information about the documents he claims in public though not in legal documents that he declassified.

I'm going to walk over to CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig to talk much more about this. So, it seems as if Judge Dearie here has basically said, okay, put your cards on the table here. If you're going to say these documents are declassified, show me.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Exactly, John. Donald Trump's lawyers are doing a bit of tap dancing here today. Here is why. Donald Trump has proclaimed loudly many times over that he declassified the Mar-a-Lago documents. Luckily, I declassified. That's from a Truth Social a couple of week ago.

A couple of problems with that. First of all, there's no evidence to support that. Second of all, there's counterevidence. CNN has reported that 18 former Trump officials have called this claim of declassification a complete fiction, total nonsense, B.S., laughable and ridiculous.

Now, today at 2:00 P.M., the parties have to appear in Brooklyn in front of Senior Judge Raymond Dearie. He's the special master on this case. Remember how became the special master? Donald Trump's team said that's the guy we want, and the DOJ said, fine.

Now, he has issued a draft plan to the parties here, how we're going to go through this special master process. And one of the things he said is, okay, Donald Trump's team, you need to tell me which specific documents he declassified.


Now, here's where the tap dancing comes in. The Trump's legal team wrote, the draft plan requires that the plaintiff disclose specific information regarding declassification to the court and the government, and Trumps' team says, we don't want to do that right now. That's for later if we challenge the search, if we get charged with something. So, they're going to really be put to their proof today.

Now, look, it is a tactic that defense lawyers want to say as little as possible and save their defense for later but it's also worth remembering under be the American Bar Association's rules of ethics, it is a rule that, quote, a lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal, to a court, which could explain why there's this difference between what Donald Trump is saying and what the attorneys are saying.

BERMAN: And Judge Dearie saying, show me now. Show me now. I mean, this really could be a major part of the case all at once here depending on how it plays out. What else will Judge Dearie do today?

HONIG: Yes. So, a big issue for the day is timing, the calendar, the schedule. Really important to just sort of keep this in mind, the initial search for Mar-a-Lago happened back on August 8th. Here we are today, September 20th. We've already seen six-plus weeks lapse and the special master has not even started yet.

Now, the judge on this case down in Florida, Judge Cannon, has given the special master until the end of November, November 30th, to get this review done.

Now, DOJ last night filed a brief saying, well, let's get through about 500 documents per day, that should be reasonable. There are 11,000 documents total, so that's 22 days, three weeks and change, that would put us into the middle of October. Donald Trump's team says hold up, let's slow it down a little bit. They wrote last night all of the deadlines can be extended to allow for a more realistic and assessment of the areas of disagreement.

Now, is it realistic? Can they get through that? Absolutely, yes. Here is a comparison. Michael Cohen had a special master, approximately 4 million files. Here, we've got 11,000 documents. That is 1/4 of 1 percent of the volume. That special master got her review done in four months. Here, this judge has given them about three months. So, it's very much doable.

BERMAN: Yes. 4 million is greater than 11,000. That's my math lesson right there.

There's an appeal. The Trump team also has a filing deadline for today. What's that?

HONIG: Yes. So, speaking of 11,000. Donald Trump's team has filed a very limited appeal here. Of the 11,000 total documents, they are appealing only 100 or so classified documents. Their argument is those documents cannot be covered by executive privilege. They should not go to the special master. Now, Donald Trump's response to that is due today at noon.

Important to know, here we are in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case started down here in the district court. We're now up to the intermediate appellate court. That court of appeals, John, it's very important know, that is generally seen as the second or third most conservative court of the 13. We have 7 of the 11 active judges are Republican-nominated, six of them were actually Trump's nominees.

BERMAN: Elie Honig, thank you as always for helping us understand.

KEILAR: This morning, authorities in Texas are launching a criminal investigation into the transportation of dozens of Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard. And in New York City, we saw another round of migrants arrive at the Port Authority bus terminal Monday. Public school officials are facing the challenge of welcoming the influx of migrant children and making sure that their new students don't get left behind.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has more.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Inside this multi- storey campus in Queens, classrooms are fuller this semester. The Pan American International High School is in one of six New York City school districts that's taken in most of the over 1,400 school-aged children that arrived during the summer migrant surge, a figure that continues to climb. Principal Waleska Velez expecting to welcome at least 75 new students in the coming weeks, nearly all, she says, the children have recently arrived as asylum seekers.

WALESKA VELEZ, PRINCIPAL, PAN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL: We're prepared to support those them not only academically but with social and emotional supports.

SANDOVAL: But that may prove to be a long-term challenge for New York City's Department of Education, even as the nation's largest school system, it hasn't been spared millions in budget cuts and teacher shortages. School officials are scrambling to recruit certified by lingo educators, like Bernadette Coyoy, to help students integrate.

BERNADETTE COYOY, MULTILINGUAL SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER: It's a little bit more personal. They have to see that they can trust you. They can open up a little bit more and then they're willing to give a little bit more.

SANDOVAL: Coyoy noticing a high level of trauma in the eyes of the latest wave of asylum-seeking children that will likel increase the need of counselors. In many cases, the bare fresh, emotional wounds caused by the grueling months' long journey from South America to the U.S.

It's one that Neimary Coromoto Toyo knows all too well. The 13-year- old recalls how her mother, Maria Elena, would often cry as they trekked through the dangerous jungle of Central America.


The Venezuelan mother and child made it safely to New York in June. Neimary is now worried she speaks no English as she starts the eighth grade, only a few words.

New York State Assembly Woman Catalina Cruz, a former undocumented student herself, she knows all too well what that feels like.

CATALINA CRUZ, NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY: This isn't just any old immigrant child coming into our city and our Department of Education system, these are children who have severe trauma, families that have severe needs, and we've got to invest in them and the rest of our city to make sure that our children and our teachers and our community's position to welcome them.

SANDOVAL: Alan Cheng, one of the DOE's superintendents, worries not so much if a system teaching over a million kids can take on a few hundred more, but how.

ALAN CHENG, HIGH SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT, NYC DOE: The challenge will be how do we ensure continuity of these services, how do we make sure that these people are not forgotten after the first week or the first month and how are we really able to say, what does empowerment look like?

SANDOVAL: Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


BERMAN: Thanks to Polo for that.

So, free after 23 years behind bars, a judge vacated the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, who was serving a life sentence for the kidnapping and murder of his then-high school ex-girlfriend. The case gained attention from the podcast, Serial, and later in HBO series. But Syed's troubles may be not over yet.

I want to bring in CNN's Alexandra Field. This all happened, well, relatively speaking, so fast, Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Adnan Syed has been fighting for years for his release, but it was really less than a week between the time that this motion was filed and Syed was unshackled in the courtroom.

Still, prosecutors have been clear to say, this is not a declaration of his innocence, it's a sign of their lack of confidence in his conviction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FIELD (voice over): Free from prison after 23 years behind bars. A crowd swarmed Adnan Syed outside a Baltimore Circuit Court moments after a judge vacated the murder conviction against him. Syed didn't stop to speak, whisked away in a car and ordered to wear an electronic ankle bracelet until the state decides whether to pursue a new trial against him or drop all charges in the death of Hae Min Lee, his ex- girlfriend, a high school student, strangled to death in 1999. Her body was discovered weeks later.

MARILYN MOSBY, STATE'S ATTORNEY FOR BALTIMORE CITY, MARYLAND: We're not yet declaring Adnan Syed is innocent but we are declaring that in the interest of fairness and justice, he is entitled to a new trial.

FIELD: Syed has maintained his innocence since he was convicted in 2000. Defense attorneys have repeatedly tried to have him exonerated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It felt like they have got to have the wrong guy.

FIELD: A popular HBO series raised new questions about the case against Adnan Syed in 2019.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Young lovers from different worlds.

FIELD: But it was the hit podcast, Serial, that brought the case and the possibility there had been a miscarriage of justice to national attention in 2014. Lee's brother, Young Lee, telling the courtroom, this isn't a podcast for me. This is real life. And tearfully adding, whenever I think it's over, it's ended, it always comes back.

But the judge ruled in favor of the motion filed by prosecutors who had asked for Syed's immediate release following a year-long reinvestigation into the case against him that turned up a slew of failures cited in a 21-page court document. Among them, the unreliability of cell phone data used in the original trial, advances in DNA testing and most critically newly developed information about two alternative suspects and the state's failure to disclose critical information about those suspects to the defense at the time of the trial.

MOSBY: Our investigation uncovered that one of the suspects threatened Ms. Lee, saying he would make her disappear, he would kill her. We also received information that provided motive for that same alternative suspect.

FIELD: A final decision on whether to actually proceed with a new trial will likely hinge, according to prosecutors, on the results of touch DNA testing of some items recovered from the crime scene, a technology that didn't exist at the time of the crime.

Still, for throngs of Syed's supporters, this is the first victory more than two decades in the making. For the family of Hae Minn Lee, the start of another search for answers in the death of their beloved.

STEVE KELLY, ATTORNEY FOR LEE FAMILY: This family is interested in the pursuit of justice. They want to know more than anybody who it was that killed Hae Min Lee.


FIELD (on camera): The Lee family is said to be in a state of shock for nearly 23 years. They have believed that Syed was the murderer. There are now considering their options for an appeal. John?

BERMAN: Yes. Alexandra Field, thank you so much for that. And we are going to speak to the attorney for the victim's family about the judge's decision.


KEILAR: A senior U.S. military official says that tanks are, quote, absolutely on the table to provide to Ukraine in the future, but the official adds they're not currently in option because of issues of with training and maintenance.

Ukraine has requested tanks, fighter jets and long-range missiles from allies. They say their current tanks and weapons aren't enough to keep up their momentum against Russian troops in the eastern and southern parts of the country there.

Joining us now, we have retired Brigadier General Steve Anderson. He's just back actually from a meeting in Warsaw with the Ukrainians about their military effort. General, thank you so much for being with us.

As we just heard there, you have this U.S. official saying that tanks are on the table, obviously not now, maybe later. You're a former tank platoon leader. How effective could U.S. tanks be compared to what Ukraine has at this point?

BRIG. GEN. STEVE ANDERSON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, thank you, Brianna. I don't want to overstate the significance of having M-1 tanks in Ukraine. When you look at what they have currently, you'll notice one thing that kind of jumps out at you, and that they're small. They're small, they're nimble, they're mobile. And that is not how I would describe an M-1 tank. It's a 60-ton beast.

There's great use for it probably in some open areas, but the problem with the M-1 tank is probably going to be too big to cross a lot of the rivers and the bridges that they have in this area. So, let's not overstate that.

The other I would tell you about the M-1 tank is it's a turbine engine. It's going to use a different fuel, a jet fuel. They presently use diesel fuel. So, that's going to present some significant logistics challenges to the Ukrainians to try to use that.

However, we need to give everything to the Ukrainians they asked for. We need to ensure that they win this conflict with Russia. It's in everybody's best interest they do so.

KEILAR: And what you say is they need U.S. contractors who are not all the way in Poland? ANDERSON: That is true. We've got a big problem. They've got a big problem. Right now, when something breaks in this area right here, they've got to evacuate it all the way to Poland. That's like if your car broke in Chicago, you'd take it all the way to Washington, D.C., or New York City to get it fixed. And, of course, nobody would do that. It's a 1,500-mile round trip, it takes 30 days.

What I'm saying is the time has come now for the Biden administration, State Department, Department of Defense to approve U.S. contractors on the ground in Ukraine. Now, I'm not saying return to the days of the Iraq and Afghanistan war, where we had hundreds of thousands of contractors on the ground. These are very capable people, the Ukrainians. We need to talk about dozens of contractors, perhaps hundreds, but not hundreds of thousands.

What would they do is they provide the technical expertise, the maintenance expertise and the repair parts that they need to keep their systems operational. They're having a terrible time with M777s, the HIMARS, all these systems we've given them, we can't just hand them the keys, we have got to give them the capability. U.S. contractors on the ground in Ukraine would provide that capability.

KEILAR: You mentioned the HIMARS, so the weapons that are being provided with these missile systems, the HIMAR systems, go about 50 miles. Of course, Ukraine would like more. But what is clear is the U.S. is saying to weapons that would go about 200 miles, no. Yes to about 50, that's what they have, no to 200. What would those longer range weapons mean? Where would they be used? What kind of difference might they actually make?

ANDERSON: Well, these longer-range weapons are going to give Ukrainians standoff. I mean, 200 miles -- this is a big map here, okay? This is about from this line to this line, okay, to the edge. What's left now in the Donbas is about 200, 250 miles. And what that would give the Ukrainians the capability to do is to target deep targets, their logistics lines, their railroad hubs, their fuel depots, their headquarters, et cetera. They could wreak havoc by firing long-range missiles to the edge of the border.

I think that we should give the Ukrainians everything they've asked for. They've proven themselves to be very worthy and very trustworthy. They're fighting for all of us. And we need to make sure they're empowered to do that.

KEILAR: And just to be clear, the U.S. government certainly not there at this point. Russia says that is a red line but this is something we are going to continue to watch. General, thank you so much for taking us through this this morning.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

KEILAR: New this morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis defending his decision to send migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. We'll discuss whether it was legal.

BERMAN: The Supreme Court set to take on past and present election issues this upcoming term. We have new CNN reporting.

And abortion rights at the forefront in the Georgia governor's race.


EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: How much emphasis do you plan on putting on abortion rights in the closing weeks of your campaign?

GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE STACEY ABRAMS (D-GA): It's going to be front and center in the conversation.




BERMAN: This morning, abortion, one of the issues at the center of the high-profile race for governor in Georgia after a court ruling for Georgia's ban on abortions after six weeks back into effect.

CNN's Eva McKend has the latest.


MCKEND (voice over): In an election year, even your local farmer's market could become the sight of a surprise campaign stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stacey, we're big fans. Could we get a selfie real quick?

ABRAMS: Of course.

MCKEND: Here in Georgia, the future of abortion rights has become central to Democratic Nominee for Governor Stacey Abrams' strategy to win in November.

How much of an emphasis do you plan on putting on abortion rights in the closing weeks of your campaign?

ABRAMS: It's going to be front and center in the conversation. Women deserve full citizenship in the United States and certainly in the state of Georgia and they are being denied that because of Brian Kemp's draconian six-week ban.

MCKEND: In 2019, Georgia's incumbent Republican governor, Brian Kemp, signed a bill into law that bans most abortions when early cardiac activity is detected, usually at around six weeks of pregnancy.


The law was blocked until Roe was overturned.

Emphasizing abortion rights has proved to be successful recently for Democratic House candidates in Republican-leaning Alaska, and a battleground New York district signaling the issue has likely energized Democratic voters in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision.

DR. POORVI CHORDIA, GEORGIA VOTER: I definitely think this is something that people should consider while they're voting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it could be the difference in our state.

MCKEND: A recent Quinnipiac poll about the midterms in Georgia showed 57 percent of likely voters say it's very important a candidate shares their views on abortion. Within that group, 63 percent back Abrams and 36 percent support Kemp.

The daughter of Methodist pastors, Abrams was not always a fierce advocate for abortion rights. On the trail, she talks about her personal evolution on abortion, amplifying the issue last month at a roundtable for women who have suffered pregnancy loss.

ABRAMS: What gives me the greatest hope is that you all are speaking up.

MCKEND: Meanwhile, Governor Kemp is principally focused on economic issues, such as inflation, which likely Georgia voters rank as the most urgent issue facing the state, according to the same poll.

In a statement to CNN, Kemp's campaign says the governor has consistently affirmed his position on abortion and will continue to focus on bringing hard-working Georgians relief from 40-year high inflation. That message resonating with Kemp supporters.

DR. BARRY ZISHOLTZ, KEMP SUPPORTER: People want to make it just about one issue but I think people need to be concerned about paying for their groceries and for gasoline too.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): We also protected the sanctity of God's greatest gift, life.

MCKEND: Speaking before a conservative anti-abortion policy group this month, Kemp spent little time talking about abortion.

KEMP: We passed the heartbeat bill here but we've also done adoption reform. We have done foster care reform.

MCKEND: Historically, Kemp has supported a full ban with the only exception being for the length of the pregnant person. But previously, Supreme Court is returning the issue to the states, while Abrams doesn't support any government restrictions on abortion, arguing it's a medical issue that should not be bound by arbitrary timelines. Kemp has adopted a less strident tone as the conversation about reproductive care has become so pivotal in the closing months of the campaign.

KEMP: I understand people may disagree on when an abortion should be legal or when it shouldn't be.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MCKEND (on camera): Now, Abrams was at an event just last night and she said that when she was traveling, campaigning in South Georgia, speaking before a group of black Georgians in their 50s and 60s, talking about the six-week abortion ban, that this issue was animating. But she argued that if you might have asked a pollster if older black Georgians care about abortion, that pollster might argue that they don't. But she is under the impression that this issue is widely resonating. John?

BERMAN: Eva McKend on the ground for us in Georgia, Eva, thanks so much for sharing your reporting.

KEILAR: When the Supreme Court begins a new term next month, it could fundamentally change how elections in America are decided. And it all hinges on a dispute over gerrymandering and an obscure legal theory promoted by allies of former President Donald Trump during their effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Joining us now is CNN Supreme Court Reporter Ariane de Vogue. Tell us about this case, Arianne.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right. The Supreme Court is once again right under the political hotspot, and this case could really change the elections going forward, and it boils down to this. Republican lawmakers are coming to the Supreme Court and they want them to adopt, like you said, this obscure legal theory that we haven't heard a lot about. And, basically, it says under the Constitution, when it comes to federal elections, that state legislatures have the final say on voting regulations, things like redistricting, right, voting rights, early vote. That's too say that state supreme courts have to stay out. They cannot weigh in. And supporters of this theory are looking at the U.S. Constitution and the elections clause, which says that the times, places and manners of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature. So, that's what they're relying on.

But supporters of voting rights are looking at this and say that's no way to read the elections clause. State supreme courts have always been able to weigh in, to serve sort of as a backstop to make sure the lawmakers aren't violating the state Constitution. And they're worried. They say that this could bring rogue state legislatures pushing through really aggressive rules. And Democrats are worried because, right now as things stand, the majority of state legislatures are controlled by Republicans.