Return to Transcripts main page


Health Care Battle: Trump Falsely Claims Republicans "Have The Votes"; Interview with Film Director Spike Lee. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 27, 2017 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening.

Another big night ahead. We're coming to you from the site of a special 360 town hall, "Patriotism, The Players and The President."

What Colin Kaepernick began last year by taking a knee during the national anthem has certainly grown and the controversy surrounding it has erupted into a heated debate over racial injustice, free speech and the role of public figures of all stripes should play in the national conversation.

[20:00:12] President Trump weighed in on Friday, calling players who protest during the national anthem sons of bitches. He and his supporters say he's standing up for the flag and for the country. Others say he's using racially loaded rhetoric to rile up his base and distract from legislative failures.

Tonight, athletes, veterans, cultural figures, members of law enforcement and Gold Star families all join us, talking it out and taking questions from the audience. That's ahead in our next hour.

We begin with the news, though. This one with two new instances of what a fan of the president might call positive thinking and a skeptic who called rewriting history -- deleting it in fact. Last night in Alabama, challenger Roy Moore defeated Senator Luther Strange who the president had endorsed in a GOP primary runoff election.

Senator Strange, you'll recall, is the one he traveled to Huntsville, Alabama, to campaign for on Friday night. The one he tweeted about, quote: Big election tomorrow in the great state of Alabama. Vote for Senator Luther Strange. Tough on crime and border. We'll never let you down.

He also tweeted: Luther Strange has been shooting up in the Alabama polls since my endorsement. Finish the job. Vote today for Big Luther.

Or this one: Alabama, get out and vote for Luther Strange. He's proven to me that he will never let you down.

Well, Big Luther, as the president liked to call him, got hammered. It happens in politics. And the president or someone with access to his Twitter account, deleted the tweets that I just read. We got them actually from ProPublica, which keeps track of his tweets before they slip down the memory hole. The president who at times has been accused of attempting to rewrite history is now attempting to unwrite it, whether it's pride or just a salesman's habit of turning lemons into lemonade does seem to be part of a pattern that predates his presidency of rarely admitting defeat.

Another example, the president today on Senate Republicans' latest failure to replace the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have the votes on Graham/Cassidy, but with the rules of reconciliation we're up against a deadline of Friday, two days. That's just two days. And yes vote senator, we have a wonderful senator, great, great senator who is a yes vote, but he's home recovering from a pretty tough situation.


COOPER: He's referring to Senator Thad Cochran. He tweeted earlier with one yes vote in hospital and very positive signs from Alaska and two others, McCain is out, we have the health care vote, but not for Friday.

Keeping them honest, Senator Cochran is not hospitalized and the president today seemed to acknowledge that. As for the rest, well, no. Just no. You can be for or against Obamacare, for or against Graham/Cassidy, but there are simply not two sides to arithmetic.

The bill needed 50 votes, plus a tie breaker from the vice president to pas, only had 49 at best because several senators wouldn't commit either way. Forty- nine is fewer than 50.

Mitch McConnell pulled the bill. Now, if they had enough votes, the vote would have been held. It was not. And practically at the very moment President Trump said what he said, co-sponsor Lindsey Graham put out a statement which read in part, while we currently don't have the votes to pass the legislation, I'm not giving up.

And neither is the president and there's nothing unusual about that. It's just that one acknowledges reality and the other seems to be trying to create his own, on health care and the defeat of a chosen candidate.

We've got more on his reaction to the health care situation. Right now, CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us from the Capitol.

Phil, if they had the votes, I mean, they would have brought it to a vote, correct?


Look, there's a lot of complicated strategizing that goes on behind the scenes. A lot of head fakes, a lot of trying to do things, maybe things people don't know about. But there's one kind of tried and true clear reality. When you have the votes, you put something on the floor and you vote on it. It wasn't going to take multiple days for them to get to on the floor. Logistically, all they had to do was have a vote to bring it up.

They made very clear, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, the coauthors of this bill, that as of yesterday, they did not have the votes. And I can tell you explicitly as of today, those same three no votes that were no votes yesterday are still no votes.

At this moment, Anderson, they don't have the votes. They might in the future. It's very possible. There have been people that said positive things about the policy, but at this moment, they don't have the votes to repeal and replace Obamacare.

COOPER: And the comments about Senator Cochran, didn't he say he'd come in to vote if need be?

MATTINGLY: Let me put it this way. In talking to everybody at the senior levels of leadership in the Senate over the course of the five days leading up to this all falling apart yesterday, not a single person mentioned Senator Cochran's name or his health issue at all.

And I just tell you a little bit deeper here, we saw three public no votes. I'm told from several GOP aides that when they took an internal whip count, when they got a sense of where their 52 counts are, it wasn't just a three public no votes. There were several other senators who were absolutely opposed to the policy. They didn't want to talk about it publicly, but had it been brought up for the vote, they would have voted no.

So, Anderson, again, it's not just that they were three shorts and perhaps they can flip them. They were several short. They were a ways away. It may change in the future, but at this moment, the votes just simply aren't there and that's why they're not voting on this.

[20:05:01] COOPER: All right. Phil Mattingly, thanks very much.

A lot to talk about. Joining us now is Kirsten Powers, Jason Miller, Kevin Madden and Paul Begala.

Kevin, does it make sense to you, the president's sort of strategy on this of saying, oh, well, we have the votes kind of but we just didn't have the time?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, not from the mechanics of trying to get the votes up on Capitol Hill, it doesn't. But I think the president believes that what they can do is continue to put pressure, continue to build momentum towards eventually having a vote. We are in this vicious cycle right now where you need to have a vote on Obamacare in order to sort of keep the promise of repealing Obamacare front and center for a base that is very animated over fulfilling that promise.

So, I think that's exactly what the president is trying to do is he's just trying to create some positive momentum and trying to put pressure on the folks up on Capitol Hill.

COOPER: Is that what it is, Paul, just positive momentum? PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's pathological lying.

Remember, the Jon Lovitz character on "Saturday Night Live", the Tommy Flanagan, the pathological liar. He's married to Morgan Fairchild. I am actually married to Morgan Fairchild.

So, it doesn't suit his purposes. This is what's bizarre about President Trump. I've said this before. We all lie, OK, but he in this case is lying when the truth serves his interests just as well.

The truth is what Lindsey Graham said. We're not quite there, maybe a little farther away than we realized based on Phil's reporting. But we're going to keep trying.

That I think keeps the pressure on better even better, than saying, oh, we've got it, the hay is in the barn, I'm just too nice a guy to call the vote right now. I don't want to inconvenience Senator Cochran.

It just -- honestly, the mind boggles because he's got a pretty good argument that's true and he's got a really lame one that's a lie and he chooses the lame lie.

COOPER: Jason, your mind doesn't seem to be boggled.


JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, not at all. I mean, look, Obamacare is failing. We have to spend billions to go and prop it up but the only thing we should be talking about today from Republicans and from the administration is tax reform and tax cuts. I mean, there's no need to go and try snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

This plan that they rolled out today is absolutely fantastic. It will get the economy going. It's a good rallying cry I think for the party.

I don't think the votes are there right now. The president might know something that we don't. But it doesn't look like the votes are there. Tell these guys, I know they've taken seven years and they haven't gotten very far and get in a plan put together. Tell Congress to get back to the drawing board, come up with something that's going to get our healthcare system back on track.

But in the meantime, it's tax cuts. That's what they should be talking about.

COOPER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Then why is he talking about health care?

MILLER: That's why I said. He should be talking about tax cuts. I'm trying to give him some free advice here.

POWERS: Yes, I mean, I think that he thinks that -- I hate to psychoanalyze him, but I do think that he knows that the people who follow him only listen to what he says. And so, if he says this, then they're probably going to believe it, whether it's true or not. I mean, we do know, as Phil Mattingly said, that there were three people who came out and said they weren't going to vote for it and then there were more.

So, we know that what he's saying isn't true, but I think there are a lot of people who just listen to him. That's where they get their news.

COOPER: It also just -- it puts us in a weird position we're where constantly having to say actually this is not factually correct. I mean --

POWERS: Right.

COOPER: -- when it's just a weird position to be in.

POWERS: Right. He also has convinced most of the people who voted for him that they can't trust the media, right? So, it's that they he thinks -- I mean, do you disagree with, he says this for his followers, right? So they won't think he lost.

MILLER: Again, I think the president probably is having conversations that we're not. He must think that they're closer than they are.

I personally from the conversations I'm having with the folks on the Hill don't think the votes are there. That's why I said talk about tax cuts. That's what they need -- that should --

COOPER: Do you think the president is just talking to the wrong people? That's kind of scary, isn't it?

MILLER: Well, no, I mean, look, you have a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill that are talking out of both sides of their mouth. Look how many Republicans have spent the past seven years saying we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare. They campaigned on it. They sent out fund-raising solicitations, and then they get up here and run for the tall grass and don't get anything done.

COOPER: You sound like Begala.


MILLER: I'm frustrated as a Republican that they didn't have a solution ready to go when President Trump won. I think it's absolutely ridiculous. I think there's a reason why voters are so frustrated with the party apparatus if they didn't have something. And so, look, go back, get it right. In the meantime, let's focus on something we can win on.

BEGALA: What he said about health care today, first, it does, as Jason points out, step on his story, and as Kirsten pointed out. What he said also, though, should continue to motivate the Democratic base. Progressives all around today were saying, keep fighting, keep fighting, we can't -- because they are close, maybe one vote, maybe three, maybe five.

And when the president says we're almost there, boy, that's going to panic my side and it's going to motivate them rather than -- you know, this is the problem. If you beat something -- how many times have they stopped the repeal of Obamacare now? A couple, two or three, and you tend to lose energy then, OK, we did it, we're done, you know?

And now, this energizes my folks. Maybe it energizes your folks, I don't know. But it's really good for the Democratic base for --

COOPER: Let me ask you about --

MADDEN: I think, yes, I think it raises expectations for the Republican base that can't really be, can't really be, you know, engaged, and I think that's a big problem, which is that, having a Mitch McConnell who looks like he's inefficient up on Capitol Hill continues to hamper the Senate's ability or even the House's ability to actually enact the agenda and that in turn hurts the president.

[20:10:08] That's why we're in this vicious cycle right now, to focus on it and reminds people that Republicans can't get this done actually hurts Republicans.

COOPER: Let's talk about Alabama. The president, arguably, you can say he didn't put his full weight behind Luther Strange. I mean, in Alabama on Friday night, he sort gave and took away from Luther Strange at the same time.


COOPER: Do you think people in Alabama -- was this a vote against the president or did people kind of think, oh he's not really sporting Luther Strange?

POWERS: I think it was more of a vote between Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and a vote against sort of establishment Washington. I think it kind of showed -- we talked -- a lot of people think these Trump voters are cultist and follow Donald Trump and do whatever Donald Trump said. I think what this showed us is that's actually not true.

Actually, these are people who have a point of view of what they want and Donald Trump is either going to be with them or they're going to do something different. And that's probably why he's deleting these tweets. It shows they don't just do everything Donald Trump says. Obviously, if they did, they would have voted differently.

COOPER: Was it a mistake you think for the president to back Luther Strange?

MILLER: I think he should have listened to folks in the White House who he said he wasn't their guy and he probably should have stayed out of that race. But I think what last nation's results really showed is that this Trump coalition, this wasn't just about this last fall, this is -- it's definitely, it's alive, vibrant and well. As we look ahead to 2018, whether it'd be in these Republican

primaries or as we even go into the general election, these voters are still frustrated, they're ticked off, they're mad at Washington, and they want to tip over the apple cart, they want to get stuff done. And I think it's a pretty strong signal to everyone in Washington.

COOPER: Does this help Republicans get stuff done, Paul, in D.C.?

BEGALA: I don't think so, no.

COOPER: Assuming Roy Moore you know becomes a senator.

BEGALA: And he may not. The Democrats have a good candidate down there, Doug Jones. He's going to run tough.

COOPER: You think Democratic can win in the Senate in Alabama?

BEGALA: Yes, it's tough. It's very tough.


BEGALA: But you get a better chance with Roy Moore than you did against Luther Strange, OK?

I -- until he deleted the tweets, I wanted to defend the president on this. You know, politicians are always -- no, I mean, this. They're so parsimonious with their precious political capital. And this guy is promiscuous with it and I like that. Seriously, he endorsed Katherine Handel in Georgia. She looks like she might now win in that House race. He went all in, she won, good for him.

He went all in for Luther Strange, all in but mostly. And so what? Luther lost. It's something to be admired when a politician sticks his neck out.

But then he come back and he deletes on the tweets, I wasn't really for Luther. And now, he's stuck with a guy who says that 9/11 was God's punishment against America. That's what bin Laden thought, not what Americans think. Who thinks that gays, homosexuality should be outlawed?

I mean, he's got crazy views that I don't think President Trump has. But if Trump going to yoke himself to Judge Moore, he's going to have big problems. He should have stuck, he should said, yes, I endorsed Luther, he was good on my agenda, proud of it --

COOPER: What does it mean for Paul Ryan? I mean, for all -- you know, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, all those watching that election last night?

MADDEN: Well, I think, one of worries you have to have is that this is going to embolden more primaries, whether it's in the House or in the Senate. The map gets reshaped now potentially by a lot of folks who said, you know, who said, you know, there's something out there I can draft off of, and I can go and I can take down an incumbent. Whereas before they might have not been able to do that. So, that signal that it sends could potentially cause a lot of

resources that the Republicans have to spend in primaries that they weren't -- that could have been better spent against Democrats in the general election. So, it definitely, you know, puts majority potentially at risk.

COOPER: Doesn't everybody know if you delete tweets, I mean, it actually draws more attention? Nobody goes back and look at the tweets, but the fact if you take them away, people notice, if you're the president of the United States.

MILLER: I think the bigger story that will probably come out is the president voiced his strong support for Moore, said he'd be down there to campaign for him. I think that's probably the bigger thing coming out of him. Look, everybody here has deleted tweets. I think everyone probably around the country has deleted tweets in the past. I don't think that's a big deal.



BEGALA: The president's support for Judge Moore is going to hurt swing districts and swing states Republicans a lot because they're going to go with them. They're going to say are you with the president in Alabama who thinks 9/11 was God's punishment against America? So, he's -- it's going to cause problems for moderate candidates.

MILLER: This isn't 2012. You're not going to try to Akin the entire Republican Party.

BEGALA: You will hide and watch, Jason. You hide and watch.


COOPER: Up next, the president add more fuel to his feud with the NFL, saying that they have to change or the business will, quote, go to hell. We'll talk it over with film director Spike Lee. He'll also be apart of our town hall, "Patriotism, The Players and The President", along with the current and former NFL players, as well as military veterans and Gold Star family, law enforcement and others. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Stick around.


[20:18:37] COOPER: We're now in the ongoing feud between the president and NFL coming to you from the site of our special 360 town hall tonight on this topic that starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. The President Trump addressed he issue today with reporters outside the White House. He doubled or tripled or quadrupled down on his criticism. Take a listen.


TRUMP: The NFL is in a very bad box. You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, flag and our country and that's what they're doing. In my opinion the NFL has to change or you know what's going to happen, their business is going to go to hell.


COOPER: Spike Lee is going to be part of our town hall, along with current and former players, veterans and others. He joins me now to discuss.

Thanks for being with us.

SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: Good to see you again, my man, my brother.

COOPER: Good to see you.

When you first heard Friday night the president in Alabama saying sons of bitches, talking about those people, our anthem, what did you think?

LEE: Well, first of all, for the community, the worst thing to do is talking about somebody's mother. And he said those sons of bitches. So, he's talking directly about their mothers. So, that's no-no. That's from the get-go, I mean, you talked about somebody's mother.

COOPER: That's one of the things, I talked to Michael Bennett and that's what he said. That's the first thing he said to me.

LEE: You talk about somebody's mother, I don't know about the rest of the world, but in Brooklyn, New York, you're talking about somebody's mother --


LEE: -- there's going to be some pans flying.

[20:20:02] COOPER: Do you worry the way this has played out over the last couple of days, the president weighing, so one can argue about why he's doing it.

LEE: Right.

COOPER: Does it take away from what Colin Kaepernick actually was trying to do? Does it make it about the president or free speech or celebrities, you know, speaking out?

LEE: Well, what Trump is good at is talking about football, the misdirection play. You're following the guy down the field and think he has a football and the other guy is going the other way high stepping into the end zone.

So, we don't think about what's happened in Puerto Rico. We don't think about Obamacare. We don't think about this nut in Korea and he focus on this thing. And all this other stuff, we've lost the ball. I think so.

COOPER: To -- in terms of when you saw -- last time you were on, you talked about Jerry Jones.

LEE: Right. Right.

COOPER: I'm wondering, when you saw him, you know, linking arms --

LEE: Not buying it. Not buying it.

COOPER: Not buying it?

LEE: No, because it's hypocritical, because I was not impressed that the owners were on the field arm in arm with the players, because the reason why this whole thing has happened is because Kaepernick took a knee and therefore he doesn't have a job.

So, if they want unity, this brother should be having -- he should have a job of one of the 32 teams, I think.

COOPER: You think there's no doubt he doesn't have a job because he took the knee and its too controversial?

LEE: I think so.

COOPER: The -- where does this go? I mean, because --

LEE: It's not de-escalating. I mean, this whole thing, the president's very divisive. I mean, it's --

COOPER: But, I mean, can players continue to --

LEE: Yes.

COOPER: -- take a knee, stay in the locker room?

LEE: It's -- it was 200, Sunday. There's going to be more Sunday.

COOPER: You think there's going to be more people.

LEE: Yes, I think so. I mean, this is like -- this is about of the wills.

COOPER: You know, we have this town hall tonight and there are going to be folks here asking who think this is unpatriotic and the president and a lot of people, good people say this is unpatriotic. This is disrespectful to the flag. What do you say?

LEE: Well, first of all, that's the wrong narrative. Every athlete who has participated said they have great respect for the country, great respect for the military and these other people are trying to twist the narrative to defuse what Kaepernick was talking about in the first place, how African Americans are treated, people of color, second class citizens are being gunned down in the streets. That's what the whole thing was about in the beginning. They're trying to twist the narrative.

COOPER: There are also a lot of people that think, look, highly paid athletes making tension of millions of dollars a year. This is a game. We're tuning in to watch a game. Is this the time or place to do this?

LEE: Yes. If we know anything about the history of sports in America, this is why I'm wearing this shirt. John Carlos, Tommy Smith, 1960 Olympics. Muhammad Ali lost the prime years of his life because he refused to be inducted into the Vietnam War. And he was on the right side of history.

COOPER: He was despised by the vast majority of America.

LEE: Muhammad Ali was the most hated man in America and now there's the whole narrative where people just want to think of him lighting the torch in Atlanta with his arm shaking of Parkinson's. That wasn't him in his greatest --

COOPER: Do you think people will look back at what Colin Kaepernick did with a time passing in a different way?

LEE: I think so. I also think that all these people on the Trump bandwagon, they're going to be on the wrong side of history. I'm positive of that. They're going to be on the wrong side of history.

COOPER: Do you -- the other criticism I heard from some supporters of the president on our program the other night was that a lot of the players now, they weren't doing this when Colin Kaepernick was doing it. He was pretty much out in the wilderness for a long time, he's paid a price.

LEE: Right.

COOPER: But now, they're doing this because of the president. Do you think it's an anti-Trump sentiment that is making some players link arms --

LEE: No. I think it's a combination of both things. And when he says -- he was really telling the owners like the owners are the plantation owners, and the guys playing the league, you know, they're on the plantation. You can't say anything.

And so, the thing has really escalated. And then get back to it -- we're talking about somebody's mother, that's a no-no. And he has not apologized. And also --

COOPER: He's not going to apologize.

LEE: Did he talk about the mothers of the neo-Nazis, the alt rights, the KKK, those guys, crazy people in Charleston?

COOPER: He said there were some very fine people.

LEE: Oh, you know, of course. Their mothers weren't SOBs.

COOPER: Do you think he's speaking in harsher terms about these --

LEE: Of course. Of course. And also, in my opinion, this guy has given all these groups the wink-wink, the green light to come out of the darkness, come out and just show who you are. And that speech in Alabama, Alabama, home of George Wallace, Sheriff Bull Connor, the bombing of the Sixth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, there's -- Alabama, I mean, come on.

COOPER: There's history.

LEE: There's history in Alabama.

COOPER: You're saying you can't take the president's comments out of the context of where I said them --

LEE: Yes.

COOPER: -- to the crowd that he said them to.

LEE: I mean, he's playing to his strength. I know he was there for the support this guy, but he's in Alabama.

COOPER: The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said something. I just want to read to you and see if you agree. He said about the president in recent interview. For someone who has sworn to uphold the Constitution, this is either an example of immense ignorance or willful treason.

LEE: Both.

COOPER: You go further.

LEE: Both. We have more.

COOPER: So, but -- I come back to, though, if -- I mean, the subject is racial inequality, racial injustices that exist in this country, how does that -- where does it -- I mean, people always talk about there should be a conversation about it. We're going to have a conversation tonight.

LEE: How many town halls you've had? I mean, this is like, to me, race is always simmering under the surface and it takes O.J. or this or that who just explodes. But it's always under the surface. And we really have not had an honest conversation about race in this country, I think.

COOPER: I always think that it only is talked about in town halls like this when it explodes on the surface. It's never kind of talked about in the calm times in between.

LEE: Right. People just want to push it, you know, under the rug and hope that it never raise its ugly head anymore. But it's always there. It's always there, I think.

COOPER: Spike, thanks very much. We're going to talk to you more in a little bit.

LEE: In a little while.

COOPER: In a little while.

LEE: All right. COOPER: Spike Lee.

When we come back, the devastation of Puerto Rico. What the administration is being asked to do about it, but so far isn't? As well as a close up look of the medical challenges on the ground from our reporters.


[20:31:36] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, tonight the situation in Puerto Rico remains grim and in some ways and in some places are getting worse. About a 1.5 million people are without access to running water, about 97 percent of the residents are without power, gasoline shortages plague the island.

Here's another item on the enormous devastation, federal regulators say that 91.1 percent of cell phone sites there are out of service, which is actually up slightly from yesterday.

Now, all of this might make the discussion of an obscure law dating back to 1920s seem a bit beside the point but it's not. The Jones Act in 1920 requires all goods carried by one American port to another to be carried by ships built and operated by Americans. It's a limitation that can hamper the flow to release supplies into disaster areas and make it more expensive, which is why it's frequently waive during national emergencies as it was recently for Texas and Florida.

The Department of Homeland Security can do that but so far have not. On Monday, a group of Democratic law makers as well as the governor of Puerto Rice and San Juan's Mayor sent a letter to Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke, requesting a one-year waiver, a waiver they said would speed the delivery of fuel, food, medicines, clothing, building supplies, all the thing that are necessary.

Yesterday Senator John McCain out of his voiced to the call, in response DHS says, the problem is not getting supplies. The island is getting them unloaded on the ducks. So there is disagreement there. Keep in honest, the President who says he's considering a waiver only a blink he mentioned that aspect of it and instead seem to focus on the needs of shipping companies first.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a lot of shipment, and a lot of people and a lot of people to work in the shipping industry that don't want the Jones Act lifted. And we have a lot of ships out there right now.


COOPER: So, no question is complicated perhaps more so than it was for Texas and Florida. However, one thing is (INAUDIBLE) where they say, the Jones Act cost Puerto Rico a lot of money in good times and bad, $537 million a year according to the 2010 study from the University of Puerto Rico. More now on the tremendous scope of the damage on the grounds specifically to the Islands' Medical Facility. CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is there.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: In the middle of desperation another potential crisis may be brewing.

DR. MARIA RODRIGUEZ, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, LOIZA HEALTHCARE CENTER: This is not a small place, it's the whole island. And the problem with the diesel and the gasoline, we are trying to work with these people. We are trying to still providing services to these people.

GUPTA: Dr. Maria Rodriguez has worked at this community health clinic for 24 years. It's one of 70 such places all across the island who service the front line for preventive healthcare, everything from broken bones, to counseling, to pharmacy services for many Puerto Ricans. But as fuel dwindles so with care.

RODRIGUEZ: In a way that if we continue to provide the services in this area, we stop the patient's go to the hospital that is already overcrowded.

GUPTA: They have been told that they have just six hours of fuel left. And at that point without any help they will have to close their doors.

RODRIGUEZ: What else we can do? The only thing we can do is go into the shelter, do the medical evacuation but we can't provide medications to those patients.

GUPTA (on camera): And that's in part why you're seeing tents like this pop up in places like San Juan. You see even before a Maria a third of the population here was reported to be in poor health, more likely the older here, more likely they have chronic disease, like hypertension and diabetes. And they're the concern, what happens to all these patients if they don't get access to care within the next several days?

[20:35:04] GUPTA (voice-over): Getting healthcare services up and running is key, but the only way to do that is to make sure clinics like this are powered with fuel. And right now that's a big unknown.

Domingo Cruz, Director of San Jorge pediatric hospital knows just how critical it can be. Just two days ago --

DOMINGO CRUZ VIVALDI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SAN JORGE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: The hospital was dark. And all of a sudden, as you may understand everybody was very nervous. We were -- we started evaluating transfers, we'll transfer to other hospitals, patients that could have been discharged home earlier than what it was initially to proceed.

GUPTA: They were running low on fuel just two days' worth and a dozen children on ventilators. VIVALDI: We were ready to evacuate the entire hospital if we didn't get power somehow early afternoon.

GUPTA: A neighboring hospital brought 1200 gallons of fuel and then yesterday a U.S. military tank provided three more day worth to keep this generator going.

VIVALDI: It was a close call and we thank God it worked out.

GUPTA: It's been trying professionally as well as personally. In the midst of the storm his mother passed away.

VIVALDI: The day of the storm -- the day after the storm I showed up. We need to be open, we have people looking for us.


COOPER: Terrible occasion. Sanjay joins us now. Sanjay, you're inside a tent with special team of workers. What are they saying about people's needs? What are they saying?

GUPTA: Yes, this is Disaster Management Assistance Team Tents. This is sort of what HHS, Department of HHS is doing here in Puerto Rico right now. They have to set up these tents, it's completely dark outside and they setup this tent. They give about 72 hours with the supplies and they're basically taking care of whoever they can take care of.

The issues is this, Anderson, as we saw -- we're in San Juan, people are still sort of coming out of those areas that have been hardest hit, trying to make their way to these tents. The hopefully is in over the next several days they can set up more of these tents in those other areas as well. Take the care to the people who need it.

COOPER: I mean, last night, Bill Weir -- you know, we saw somebody who had a small supply of insulin left, needs to be refrigerated, obviously they don't have power. Just the, you know, every day medical needs of people, even those who weren't directly injured or what have you by the storm, what happened to the clinic that had six hours left to fuel?

GUPTA: Yes, it's unbelievable, we've been trying to be in contact with them, they're about an hour outside of San Juan. And simply can't get in touch with them. They were very worried that they weren't going to get fuel, they are very worried that no one is going to able to communicate with them and that's what seems to have happened.

What exactly happened to those patients that were there, what happens to the emergency room, we don't know. But that sort of the picture of what's happening right now on the grown here, Anderson. Not just there but, you know, probably 70 other locations around the island.

COOPER: Sanjay, I appreciate you being there. When we come back, CNN exclusive sources tell us that a Facebook ad bought by Russians during the 2016 elections represents the Black Lives Movement, specifically targeting two cities both rocked by racial tension.


[20:42:22] COOPER: There's breaking news on Facebook's involvement with Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. The CNN Exclusive, we're now learning that at least one of those Facebook ads purchased by Russia during the campaign was targeted toward specific cities with specific messages.

CNN'S Dylan Byers joins us now with that. So what did you learned from sources, Dylan?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR MEDIA AND POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Anderson, what we've learned is that, one of these ads and again just one of the 3,000 ads that will soon be handed over to Congress, one of them was a Black Lives Matter ad that targeted the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore.

Obviously those cities were hot beds of protests and even riots in response to police shootings of African-American men. And what this begins to show us and certainly begins to show investigators on the hill and likely the special counsel Robert Mueller as well is the level of sophistication that these Russians ad buyers had in terms of understanding the American political landscape, understanding what certain divisive flush point would be and contributing to an overall climate of political discord and chaos in the United States in the realm up to the 2016 presidential election.

COOPER: I mean, the ad though, it doesn't seem that like it deals directly with the election.

BYERS: No that's absolutely right. We would like to think of these ads being pro-Donald Trump or anti-Donald Trump, pro Hillary Clinton and anti-Hillary Clinton. That's not the case, very often with the Russian ad buyers were doing was really just trying to undermined American democracy generally, doing that by basically pitting one group of Americans against another group of Americans. What we believe and what our sources believe is that the ultimate goal here is really to sort of make American democracy look bad, not just in the eyes of Russian citizens but citizens perhaps living in former soviet black states and then also to basically crippled the American political system by having so much chaos, discord, partisanship and instability.

COOPER: Do you think we'll going to learn more in, you know, the coming weeks or months about how exactly these ads were targeted? How they selected, what ad or what place?

BYERS: I do believe we'll learn more Anderson. I don't believe we're necessarily learning that on the record from Facebook or on the record from Capitol Hill. I do believe there will be more of sort of drip, drip, drip coming from the sources we're speaking with, primarily because this is an issue of such concern of the American people.

I also think we'll going to begin to understand how ads were targeted through other digital ad platforms, Twitter will be needing -- representatives from Twitter, I should say, will be meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee tomorrow. The Senate Intel Committee has also called for a public hearing with representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google. So there will be more answers, and as you and I know this information has a way of getting out there.

[20:45:11] COOPER: Yes. Dylan Byers. I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

CNN's new Senior Legal Analyst Preet Bharara joins us now. He is the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who President Trump fired earlier this year. Thanks very much for being here.


COOPER: So if you're Robert Mueller and you're hearing about these ads, the Russian ads on Facebook, does that -- does it matter for the investigation do you think in any way?

BHARARA: Look, I think it matters to the extend as part of the mandate for Robert Mueller just to figure out what happened in connection with the investigation. And what happened in connection with the Russian kind of affect our elections in some way. Some of that involves potential collusion. Nothing that I've heard so far with respect to the Facebook ad issue as it relates to collusion in anyway but I think part of what, you know, Congress and the Department of Justice and the American people want Bob Mueller to figure out is the degree to which the Russians were trying to do something, so chaos or influence people as an outside party on our election.

COOPER: And also I guess, how they knew -- I mean, if it's targeted ads to certain places or, you know, targeted data of knowing where to kind of try to influence things, I guess it's also how they knew that. Is it just their knowledge of the United States or something else.

BHARARA: Yes, I mean a lot of this information is publicly known, right, you can read the paper and you can watch television. And you can wonder if there's --

COOPER: But do you know, there is --

BHARARA: Yes and the American people should remember is, you know, there are a lot of different ways that Russians try to figure out what's going on in the United States. And sometimes it's infiltrating intelligent agencies like the FBI and the CIA but sometimes it's something that doesn't seem as dangerous but can still be very serious. People may forget that seven years ago, my office along with the FBI, persecutor to the Russian's firing.

And the nature that Russian's firing was, there were 10 Russian nationals who were living under American names acting like ordinary Americans, and in random towns and cities across the county. And the purpose of that was to understand the American society, understand in part an American culture and this kind of, sort of interference with an election and selling discord and confusion about who believes what is only possible if you have a deeper understanding of American society and culture.

COOPER: The Director of the DEA resigned, and you knew him --

BHARARA: I did, Chuck Rosenberg, the Acting Director of the DEA who was the long-time public servant in law enforcement was the U.S. Attorney in Virginia for a period of time. He used to be the Chief of Staff to Jim Comey. Friend of mine, colleague of mine, he resigns this week effect October 1st. And there's been some reporting, I don't know if it's true or not that one of the reasons he stepped down is he that has a concerns about Donald Trump's infidelity to the rule of law. I don't know if that's true. I think we'll hear more about that. If it is true I think it will make him the first significant law enforcement official to resign and protest over the attitudes and a protest of Donald Trump, and if that's so that's not a small thing.

COOPER: You think -- does it send a message to others? Does it -- I mean, does it make a difference?

BHARARA: Look, I think the more people see reaction to the ways in which, you know, the President and some of the people in the administration approach law enforcement issues, it can change some minds. You know, for example, one of the reasons people speculate that Chuck Rosenberg stepped down because of difference in opinion with how the administration thinks about rules of law issues is -- do you remember some weeks ago President Trump at a rally suggested that law enforcement officials should not treat suspects lightly. They should rough them up putting them in the squad car.

COOPER: Right, put their hands on their heads and --

BHARARA: Exactly. And Chuck Rosenberg in an email that was reveal later internally at the DEA basically denounced that. And so that's not how we treat people. We treat people with respect and dignity according to the guideline that are prescribed to us by the Justice Department. So, the more people I think, talk about those things, who are in a position of power, I think the more, you know, other folks will listen to it. He's not someone from the outside.

COOPER: Right.

BHARARA: To the extent he has his concern, he's someone on the inside who's choosing to leave.

COOPER: Also reporting that Robert Mueller is now getting information from the IRS, not clear exactly who it's about. Is that just par for the course, I mean that any investigation, any extent of investigation like the kind that's being undertaken, investigators would want tax information whether it's Manafort, Flynn?

BHARARA: Yes, in a huge percentage of cases that I would oversee that would involved financial transactions and complicated financial dealings, it's often the case that you seek orders to get the tax return of individuals and look at tax information which is very, very difficult to get. There's a higher bar. It's a higher bar to get tax information, and should be in the United States. The tax information is private. But you seek a particular kind of order with the approval of a judge to get those tax return information. I don't think it's unusual at all and it's to be expected.

COOPER: Preet Bharara, I appreciate being with us. Thanks so much.

[20:50:00] When we come back President Trump was asked today whether he'll fire HHS Secretary Tom Price for reportedly taking dozens of private planes, costing tax payers hundreds of thousand of dollars. The President response, next.

And stay tone for our "Town Hall: Patriotism, The Players and The President" at the top of the hour here on CNN.


COOPER: Tonight, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's future seems like it could be up in the air. President Trump says, he is not happy about reports that Price took frequent private plane trips on the taxpayers' dime. Here's what the President told reporters today.


TRUMP: I was looking into it and I will look into it. And I will tell you personally I'm not happy about it. I am not happy about it.


COOPER: So when asked if he would fire Price, the President said we'll see. POLITICO first reported that the Secretary has travel on charter flights at least 24 times since May. The HHS inspector general is investing and Price says, his office is doing an internal review. Here's what Price said on Fox News Saturday.


TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: All these as you mentioned were work related and official business. And of the 11 trips over the last eight months, 11 trips over the last eight months, the majority of them were either the opioid crisis or the hurricanes. But we've heard the criticism. We've heard the concerns and we take that very seriously and have taken it to heart.


COOPER: Keeping them honest, the reporting is at least 24 trips since May, not 11, over eight months. A new reporting from POLITICO shows what sure seem like pleasure trips intermingled with the business. In August for instance, POLITICO says, Price flew in a private jet to St. Simon's island, an exclusive resort in Georgia where he and his wife own land. His speech to doctor wasn't until a day and a half later.

[20:55:13] In June, POLITICO says he flew in a private jet to Nashville and had lunch with his son who lives there. He also spend about an hour touring a medication dispensary and giving a 20 minutes speech to health summit.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked if it's ever appropriate for cabinet officials to spend tax payer money on private planes.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think there are certain instances where it probably is, but again, I think that has to be done at a case-by-case basis.


COOPER: There are rules about this, as POLITICO points out, federal travel regulations say officials can only charter plane if no commercial airline service is reasonably available. In multiple cases, POLITICO found that there were indeed commercial options available for the trips that Price took, including that flight from Washington to Nashville at a price tag of more than $17,000.

Two commercial flights were available that same morning for about $100 to $300. Even more surprising were the five private flights POLITICO covered in one week including a flight from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia. Not only was there a commercial flight available, it's also just a two and a half hour drive or $72 train ticket. And this is just the kind of spending that Price actually railed against?

Under the Obama administration in particular, spending for private planes for members of Congress. Here's what he said about then- speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2010.


PRICE: What I want to say to the speaker, don't you fly over our country in your luxury jet, and lecture us on what it means to be an American.


COOPER: Well, Tom Price still talking about been frugal. POLITICO reports at a conference in San Diego in June, Price said, it is incredibly important to get rid of wasteful spending in government health programs, and yes he took a private plane to that conference.

Joining me now is Norman Eisen, CNN Contributor, and former White House Ethics Czar for President Obama.

Ambassador Eisen, does it make any sense to you that a cabinet member would even think something like this was OK?

NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, thanks for having me. And it shows that the tone at the top that President Trump has set is permeating the administration. This is arrogance run wild. It makes no sense at all that Secretary Price and others in the administration would be abusing private jets this way. It would have been a firing offense in the Obama administration.

COOPER: Is it OK to really -- is it fair to blame President Trump on this one? I mean, the White House is pushing back saying that this wasn't White House-approved travel. EISEN: Well, Anderson, when you have a President who's announced that he's going to hang on to his businesses laden with conflicts, and when he's constantly there promoting his businesses, making money off them, it sets a tone that anything goes. And Price is simply got the message and ran with it. It's not an isolated incident. Other cabinet members have also been accused of abusing their private jet privileges. There's a sense of prerogative and entitlement at the expense of the American people that is the opposite of ethics and government. Our most fundamental principle is that public service should be done for the public trust. Here, they seem to see it as a chance to achieve private gain.

COOPER: I can understand if there were security concerns, but I mean, he is the HHS Secretary, and on top of that, I mean, there were a number of commercial flights available. I mean, a flight from D.C. to Nashville, there were two according to POLITICO that day. It's a frequently traveled-to city, San Diego as well for that conference, I mean, even D.C. to Philadelphia, does any of that make sense?

EISEN: It is completely illogical. When I said, in the White House, it was part of my job to review this request. They were few and far between. There are extraordinary instances where private travel is necessary, but Anderson, honestly the man could have gone to union station and taken the train from Washington to Philadelphia. A private plane for that purpose is just an abuse. And the inspector general is looking at it, and I expect that Dr. Price is going to hit very hard.

Remember, there have been ethics questions about him dating back to his days in Congress when he was allegedly trading on stocks relating to legislation he was doing, so this shouldn't come as a surprise to us, but it's very disappointing.

COOPER: Norman Eisen, I appreciate you being on. Thank you.

Our Town Hall: Patriotism, The Players and The President starts right now.