Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Brags About Puerto Rico Response As Fed-Up Survivors Plead For Electricity, Water, Fuel; HHS Secy. Price Out After Private Jet Scandal; San Juan Mayor: "Mad As Hell" Over Hurricane Response. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 29, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:01:24] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And welcome back. We're live in San Juan, Puerto Rico. And as I said at the top of the last hour, this is an island where hundreds of thousands, millions of people are waiting, waiting in many cases for electricity, waiting for clean drinking water, waiting for -- in long lines, 10, 12 hours for fuel that sometimes isn't there because the generator has broken down at the gas station.

It's an island that is waiting to see what's going to happen, what their future holds, and their future is very much in the hands of the rest of the United States and the rest all the organizations who are trying to get things accomplished here.

We're going to have extensive reporting over this hour. But I do want to start with this blockbuster firing/ resignation, officially resignation of HHS Secretary Tom Price, stepping down today. Jeff Zeleny joins us now. Jeff, I mean, this was sort of predictable last night given the president's, you know, stated anger over what Tom Price had done. But it is still stunning just another domino that is very close to the president falling.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is, Anderson. Another Friday night firing here essentially. It is the first member of the president's cabinet to leave in this way. And it is something that was a drip, drip, drip all week long. The president I am told was growing increasingly unsatisfied and even angry about the optics of this more than anything else.

But late this afternoon when he was flying out of Washington, when he was leaving the White House, we caught up with him. He was taking some questions from reporters. And we asked him about the secretary and if he had confidence in his leadership. This is what he said.


ZELENY: Have you lost confidence in Secretary Price?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- I was disappointed because I didn't like it because medically or otherwise. So, I don't like to see somebody that perhaps there's perception that it wasn't right. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So is the perception that wasn't right, because, of course, all of his flights were actually approved in various ways. And there's nothing necessarily that was illegal about this, but the reality here is the optics of this indeed, some million dollars in flights, about half of that was military aircraft, half was private aircraft, simply flew in the face of what the president was trying to do.

And, Anderson, I am told the president finally became so fed up with this, he thought it was overtaking his agenda. But again, we heard much more about the optics of this than the actual substance here, the money here that was actually spent.

COOPER: Right, I don't see how it -- it doesn't look like it wasn't right. I mean, this is taxpayer money. He could have flown from Washington to Nashville, you know, for a couple hundred dollars, you know, maybe a thousand if he got a nicer seat instead of spending, I don't know what, $17,000 on that flight.

And again, as we said, I mean, this is -- it's the first cabinet secretary to step down. You had the National Security Adviser of communications, the head of the Communications Department, the press secretary, obviously, you know, head of the FBI, Bannon, Gorka, I mean, the list goes on and no.

ZELENY: It does go on and no, and in fact we have a list of just some of them in front of us there, Anderson. Of course, the first White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, he is central to this here because a lot of this was happening when he was essentially running things here.

So, the reality here is that this speaks to a couple things. One, the Trump government is still not filled. Now, there are two cabinet positions, the Health & Human Services secretary and the Department of Homeland Security which, of course, is so vital so what you are seeing there in Puerto Rico. Those professions unfilled. That's why these things matter.

[21:05:02] And the -- now acting director of the Health & Human Services Department is a mid level career official because the number two official also was not confirmed. That person is still sitting in the Senate here. So it really shines a light, Anderson, on the fact we're nearly in the month of October, and this Trump administration's government is still not filled in some critical positions, and there are many people here in Washington and elsewhere believe that that is one of the reasons that some of the response there in Puerto Rico has been slower than it otherwise might have been.

COOPER: Well, also, I mean, this raises questions about plane use by other cabinet secretaries.

ZELENY: It does. It does indeed. A fact, this evening a new directive went out from the director of the Office of Management and Budget saying that no more private flights will be happening, use common sense for his, but there are other members of the cabinet who are also involved in some flights that are now being investigated. Ryan Zinke, the Interior Secretary is the latest example of this. "The Washington Post" reported that he used a private plane as well. Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator. Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, also coming under some questions about this.

So even though Tom Price is gone, people on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats alike, still have many questions about this. So this story is not going away. This investigation is not going away despite the fact that now there is a new hole in the president's cabinet as he tries to turn the focus to again to Puerto Rico.

COOPER: Yes, obviously a big day in Washington. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

Obviously, to a lot of people here in Puerto Rico it doesn't seem like a very important day in Washington. Today, was an incredibly important day just as each of the last nine days has been and each of the days ahead are going to be. Layla Santiago is joining me now.

You took an emotional journey. Explain where you went today and why.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I've actually flown over quite a few remote areas, but I actually got to go into my hometown today. It's about 45 minutes west of where we are right now. It's up in the mountains. It's what I call home. It's where family is. And what I saw there, Anderson, it was ugly.

COOPER: Let's take a look.


SANTIAGO (voice-over): This is relief. Seeing my family in Corozal for the first time, hearing them tell me they're OK. That's relief I found in Corozal but far from the relief needed on this island.

At the shelter in Corozal, a school, we find more than 120 people living in classrooms. The generator went out six days ago. No power, no water, and the staff tells us they have people here with cancer, HIV, diabetes, children with asthma like three-year-old Joanne.

(on camera): She walks everyday about 15 minutes to get therapy for her daughter who has asthma. She's three and a half years old and needs medical attention she's not getting here.

(voice-over): We then find Francisca Rivera, she has Parkinson's disease. Haven't had access to the medicine she need indeed.

(on camera): She's crying because she doesn't know about her family.

(voice-over): Desperation is growing. People are waiting in line to get water from mountain streams.

(on camera): He says they can live without power but they can't live without water, that's why they're filling spring water from the mountain side to take a bath, to cook, to eat. People are even resorting to washing clothes like this. This is Juana. She's been here since this morning washing clothes. Five to six hours cleaning clothes, she tells me. I'm asking her, where is the help? She says there's no help. No help has arrived here.

(voice-over): No help at all, none from the local government, residents say, nor from FEMA, which has only been here to do an assessment, not to deliver any aid. The people of Corozal are now in survival mode waiting for their relief.


COOPER: It's incredible. I mean, the roads are open to this town and FEMA's been there for damage assessment, which is certainly a good first step. But, you're saying -- I mean the shelters, do people have medicine, do people have food, do they obviously don't have drinking water.

SANTIAGO: So that shelter in particular, the refrigerator is bad because they don't have a generator. The generator went out six days ago. So they don't have food. They're relying on the good will of others. The water comes from the mountainside as we just showed.

And I got to tell you, these things that seems to be most impactful to people isn't the water, the power, it's the lack of communication. I came back with several notes of people saying please reach my family in New York, please reach my family in New Jersey. I can't get a hold of them because there is no communication. Cell phone towers aren't working right now.

[21:10:17] So it's not just power, light, lack of medicine, it's being able to reach family to say we're OK.

COOPER: And again, just a reminder. This is about an hour from San Juan?

SANTIAGO: This is 45 minutes west. It is up in the mountains. But, yes --

COOPER: But the roads passable.

SANTIAGO: The roads are passable. FEMA has arrived for damage assessment, but that's it. They haven't gotten any other relief beyond that.

COOPER: People need daily medication. Some are HIV positive. They have to take medication every single day or the virus comes back, other diseases as well.

SANTIAGO: Well, because there's no hospital right now, the hospital went down, they don't have access to medical assistance.

COOPER: Right. Layla, appreciate the reporting. Glad you were there. Thank you very much.

President Trump spoke about the relief efforts today. Here's some of what he said.


TRUMP: As far as Puerto Rico is concerned, that's been going, as you know, really well. It's been total devastation. We have over 10,000 people in Puerto Rico right now. We've getting truck drivers because the people from Puerto Rico, the drivers just aren't there. They're looking for their homes and they have a lot of other problems, likewise with the police force.

But I think it's going really well considering. Rick Scott was just -- governor of Florida, that's been a success. Rick is going to get involved also with Puerto Rico. And we've made tremendous strides, very, very tough situation. And a big question is what happens -- we have to rebuild. I mean, if you look at it, the electric is gone, the roads are gone, the telecommunications is gone. It's all gone. And the real question is what's going to happen later? It's a tough situation. The loss of life, it's always tragic, but it's been incredible.


COOPER: That was President Trump earlier today. I'm joined by the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello. Thanks so much for being with us. I know you're working around the clock. So we appreciate it.

You know, we just heard Leyla Santiago about a town that's about an hour from here up in the mountains. You know, they had a FEMA assessment, a person go there but they haven't gotten any relief. How quickly do you think that can change? Seems like the roads are open, the people there need medicines.

GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: Right, well, there's a lot going on, right? There's a lot of logistical efforts. There's a FEMA efforts, but there's also some private efforts such as United for Puerto Rico, efforts from our different government agencies, and we're taking food, water, and medicine everywhere. We would look it to be quicker, of course. It's not where it needs to be. But we recognize that there's a limitation in terms of the logistical support to get there. My commitment, Anderson, is to not rest until we make sure that all the medicine and all the resources get to the people of Puerto Rico.

COOPER: Is the limitation on the logistical resources. Is it a lack of trucks, a lack of drivers?

ROSSELLO: It is mostly a lack of trucks and partially a lack of drivers, particularly on the fuel generation side. But we've been growing. Today we saw more crates coming out, a lot more distribution getting to the people. Right now we've distributed over 2 million liters of water, over a million portions of food, and that's just on the very concentrated effort. There's, also, you have the Red Cross, Salvation Army that are delivering food. And I saw a chef. The chef --

CUOMO: Chef Andres. Yes. How big a bonus is it to have a three-star general on the ground here? What kind of a difference does that make?

ROSSELLO: I think it's a big difference. I solicited to have -- the collaboration of the (INAUDIBLE) here, particularly because of the specks and the capabilities they bring. They bring transportation, which is what we need. Medical support, fueling, engineering. So, those capabilities, I asked the president for them and now the three- star general is here and --

COOPER: Should it have been done sooner? Because, I mean, to talked to some people today who said, look, why, you know, why we haven't seen more military personnel on the ground sooner?

ROSSELLO: Right. That's really the question, but the reality is, Anderson, this has been a devastation with our president in Puerto Rico and, quite frankly, in the United States. Two category five, four-five hurricanes passing through (INAUDIBLE) in the span of two weeks. The grid was completely destroyed. The telecom was down. Roads were blocked up until now. Now there's a lot --

COOPER: Would the military have helped get the roads open sooner or the telecoms working a little --

ROSSELLO: I think the roads -- the effort with the road was pretty successful. Of course, except, the major engineering parts of it.

COOPER: But people said the roads are pretty open now.

ROSSELLO: They are pretty open. We've reached all municipalities, Anderson, all 78 of them. Some are harder to get to, and therefore the supplies that can get there are, you know, are more scant in more places than others.

[21:15:00] COOPER: You know, one of the gas stations I went to today, seems like they're not rationing anymore, people actually able to full up the tank which makes a big difference. They can go to work, make and earn money. And they can buy slice.

One of the bottom actually, the port seems to be -- not necessarily -- FEMA says it's not FEMA supplies, it's goods, water, medicine, food, that could be in stores for sale if the stores were open, if they were able to distribute it. Is that improving?

ROSSELLO: Yes. Actually, I took a decision today. Whereby, we informed all of those stores owners to either get the food and supplies out and distribute them or that we are going to buy them as government and we're going to distribute them. So tomorrow morning we should be either seeing a lot of those stores getting their goods, or the government will just take them, buy them, of course, and distribute them where the needs are.

COOPER: And the distribution points, because I've heard, obviously, in place like San Juan it's easier for people but out in some areas I've heard reports that, you know, there's distribution set or a center set up, people come from a municipality but then are told nothing here, come back in a couple days. ROSSELLO: There's two components. Those distribution centers do have resources, but we are also cognizant that it's hard for some of the municipalities to get to some of them based on the problems with the roads. So what we're doing is we're doing special missions to all those municipalities. So for example, some of the hard to reach municipalities we've gone five, six times. Get food, water, make sure that they have access to at least basic needs.

So things are moving, again, we need more resources. There's no doubt, we need to do better, but as we get those boots on the ground, I am sure and confident in the team with the federal government, with state governments that are also sending in acts over here, that we will have a united front to defeat this crisis.

COOPER: Governor Rossello, appreciate your time.

ROSSELLO: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Thank you very much.

We got a lot ahead, more coverage from San Juan and all over Puerto Rico ahead. We'll be right back.


[21:20:04] COOPER: All week we have correspondents really fanned out all across Puerto Rico trying to get as many different perspectives and see the situation as many different parts, because, obviously, a situation in San Juan may be different than the town even 30 minutes by main road.

Rafael Romo our CNN Correspondent is joining us. You were looking at the food distribution system. We were just hearing from the governor who is saying, you know, if stuff is stuck at the port, there, he made the decision they're now going to buy that stuff from the companies and distribute it himself. What did you see?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, what caught my attention was that -- we went to the supermarket. It is one of the few that is open. And --

COOPER: In San Juan or?

ROMO: In San Juan.


ROMO: Yes. And they have fresh vegetables, they have meats. They reopened on Friday, meaning two days after the storm, and they got their first new deliveries. They were operating with existing inventory before the storm. But they got their first shipments about four days ago. So, the flip side is that people have to get up very early in the morning, go there stand in line. They only let people into the supermarket 10 at a time. They can't pay with credit cards. Cash --

COOPER: Right, you got to have cash here.

ROMO: So, it's a very difficult situation. It kind of breaks your heart to see elderly people waiting in line for hours and hours. I saw mothers with babies. And today it was around 90 degrees here in San Juan, raining on and off. It was muggy. It was just not easy.

COOPER: You know, I think people don't realize how quickly if you don't have access to credit and you can only get cash and there's long lines at the ATM or banks running out of money, just how quickly you get desperate because you don't have cash. And, you know, for many people, you know, in the United States, they don't really think about it. But here, I mean, people -- a lot of people are just desperate, even though they have money in the bank, they just can't get it.

ROMO: And we saw both scenarios at the same location. It was -- kind of interesting. On the one hand, you had on the right side a line of people trying to get into the store and then on the left side you had people ling up in front of an ATM because they didn't have enough cash.

Now, there are, according to the government, only 90 branches operating for the entire island. And so, we are already seeing a shortage of cash everywhere. The government is promising to bring cash in, but we're not seeing that coming it yet.

COOPER: Rafael Romo, appreciate it. Thank you so much.

ROMO: Thank you.

COOPER: As I've said, we've got correspondents all over the island. Also retired Lieutenant General Russell Honore has come in, often in the case like this relying (ph) his expertise. He led the military operations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I first met him on the ground in New Orleans when he made such a big impression on so many people. We're very pleased that he is here. General Honore joins me now.

You know, last night when I was talking to you, I was in New York, you were on satellite. And I played something that a guy from I think was from Department of Homeland Security and adviser to the president was saying that this a text book operation, they didn't need a three-star general here, eight days ago, seven days ago, this is all the way it's done. You, I believe, an expert of it, but you said that's just bum, that this is not a text book operation.

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), LED MILITARY RESPONSE AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA: Yes, I think we got to adapt and overcome. The plan didn't survive contact with the storm. People was leading ahead of time, we had all of government here ahead of time. The storm overmatched the capacity that's here and it broke the infrastructure.

COOPER: You know, FEMA said, look, we can't preposition supplies in front of a big storm like that on an island like this. Is that the case? Because in the state --

HONORE: I think the budget guy need to say they must -- reposition. If you lead the people you've got to be able to preposition, I mean, the right structure. And build some warehouses around the country. This is not a criticism. This is a suggestion. We got to grow. We need to reopen Roosevelt road. We've got equivalent of a state here that's depending -- holding on this National Guard. Roosevelt road was not only a part -- a strategic fleet. It provided jobs and for some reason we closed it. Some people would say it was act of (INAUDIBLE) on Puerto Rico that did it, others it was a part of a drawn out, a military capacity.

Our military, what -- isn't today what it was during Katrina.

COOPER: Really?

HONORE: Right. A sick administration (ph) killed us. We got a lot of aircraft that can't fly right now. I think if the Congress went out and the joint chiefs and everybody laid out was (INAUDIBLE) aircraft. I don't think it's effective what we're doing now. The sick administration was a very hard pain on our military.

COOPER: What difference would it have made if there was a three-star general on the ground here eight days ago? If you don't have the troops, what's the difference?

HONORE: Let's say I'm partial because I arrived in New Orleans with four people for three day until (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: I remember --

HONORE: That general has a staff back in San Antonio. And he's issuing orders through that staff. He also had the entire northern command and the entire Pentagon to assess needs, call in what it need, stuff that could have been moving early. That's the only recommendation.

[21:25:13] COOPER: Nothing beats being on the ground.

HONORE: Nothing beats being on the ground, but he had to wait for orders. Jeff Buchanan is well trained for in what his doing. I serve with him before. He was in a part of the first army when we took on the mission of training National Guard and reserve.

COOPER: Right, it's not his choice to be here or not, it's an order.

HONORE: It's up to the leadership, Jeff Buchanan. And now we need northern command to give that general what he needs, because that's who he works for back home. That's his reach back.

On the other hand he's got to respond to the needs of the governor with FEMA, and then he's got to start thinking outside the box. And he's going to do this. He knows what to do. But, he's going to take him a few hour and -- because he's looking at a watch too. He's not looking at a calendar.

COOPER: You know, before I was down here. Everybody saying, look, the roads are impassable, roads are impassable. Leyla Santiago, you know, went to a place an hour from here -- HONORE: Yes.

COOPER: Was able to get there, roads were impassable, they still haven't received medication. You know, they had a FEMA assessment, --


COOPER: But they haven't received --

HONORE: You know, I send a three doctors there and hoping the folks look at it, the recommendation -- Liaison officers at every hospitals I only got 60 with a satellite --

COOPER: What is it -- what would that do?

HONORE: Communications, without communication we can't coordinate.

COOPER: So, Liaison officer with satellite phone in a hospital would be able to say they got no antibiotics here.

HONORE: And you get a helicopter taking over there. So you need more helicopters. You need more troop.

I'm sure he's figured that out, and I don't want to get in front of that general. And I no -- get in what he's going to do. You're going to see a difference here in the coming hours and days when you see his force and what -- I'm sure he's going to ask for. Because he needs more capability on the ground, you got a territory as big as many of our states.

COOPER: Right.

HONORE: With 4.3 million people, he needs more capacity to get the job done to include all the branch of services. You need to call them and say, hey, we can send this to you. And that need to happen now.


HONORE: We're fighting two wars on two fronts. But we've got tot be able to do this. We'll do it. And he's the right man to lead it.

COOPER: All right, General Honore, appreciate you being here. Thank you very much.

HONORE: Yes sir.

COOPER: Great to talk you to as always.

And when we come back we're going to have a round table with our correspondents who have been here in all different parts of the island. We'll talk to them about what they're seeing, what they are hearing and how it compares to other places they have been, Katrina, Haiti, elsewhere. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [21:30:39] COOPER: Welcome back here. We're going to have a roundtable with a lot of our correspondents. Many of them was in here for quite some time. Before we do that, I just want to show you some of their work over the last last several days. Take a look.


SANTIAGO: This woman doesn't even know who I am. But I'm the first person she's seen land here since Hurricane Maria battered the island.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is now the 5th consecutive day that people have been lining up here for hours only to be told they wouldn't but getting ice for their food and medical products.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We just spoke with a couple who had crossed this way and then walked two hours to the nearest supermarket to try to get bread and food and rice for their children.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I can't even believe what's happening here. I mean, she's -- there's no power. There's no water. She's a diabetic. She has no insulin. She has an infection that can threaten her life. No ambulance will take her to the hospital. That's what's happening here.

SANTIAGO: This note, handwritten, was passed along to our photographer in hopes it would reach a loved one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People, especially the elderly are being locked up in buildings.

SANCHEZ: We are hearing again and again from people that they are not seeing the help that they need.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dehydrated because they have no food for water.

SANCHEZ: Many people asking us, where is FEMA?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- gasping for air because her -- tanks, oxygen tanks have run out.

WATSON: What do you want people in the rest of the U.S. to know about Puerto Rico right now?



COOPER: And joining us now is Boris Sanchez, Ivan Watson, Leyla Santiago and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

I always hate to compare one disaster to another, because obviously each is unique and for people on the ground this is the worst thing that's happened, obviously, in their lives. What do you see here that you haven't seen in other places or that you have seen in other places? GUPTA: I think even in Haiti, Ivan and I we were talking about this earlier. I think we started to see things like water come in to places, you know, four or five days in. It wasn't everywhere in Haiti, obviously, but in the Port-au-Prince, I still remember that -- the people waiting in line. Nine days they got to some of these places that aren't that far outside of San Juan and they're still not seeing that. So this distribution is worse. And I think it's -- these commodities are on the island. It's just -- they're not getting it to the people who need it. It's like half the work has been done. Everyone, it's that OK, we're going to get the stuff on the island, we're applauding, it's great, we finished our job, and then the actual getting it to the people who need it, that part of it got lost somehow.

COOPER: Boris, I mean, yesterday you were talking to port officials and FEMA, I talked to (INAUDIBLE) and he was saying, look, the FEMA stuff has gotten distributed. We got that out of the port but port official was saying it's the commodities that are stuck in these crates, in these containers, and it could be on the shelves and feeding people, drinking water.

SANCHEZ: There's a series of logistical issues layered one on top of the other. You have a lack of truck drivers that are available to actually go pick up these goods and get them on store shelves. You have a lack of fuel to actually power the trucks. You have a lack of communication and try to coordinate their efforts. To unravel all these issues is a very serious and difficult task. I think the key thing for a lot of people is fuel.

Today, I stood in gas line from 5:00 A.M. until they close at 6:30 P.M. and the line didn't let up from 5:00 A.M. The guy that was at the lead of the line was there since 9:00 P.M. the night before he got there. They ran out of gas. He decided, I'm going to turn off my car and sleep here and camp out. Just like him, there are thousands of others waiting in line hoping to get gas. When we left tonight at 6:30 they shut down the gasoline station for security concerns. The face of the woman who was told by a police officer there's no more gas, it's indescribable. The pain that she felt being dejected, just the lack of resources is staggering, especially nine days after the storm hit.

COOPER: Right, because gas -- I mean, again, it's not just because want to drive around their car, it's to get to work, to earn money, to buy food and get water.

SANCHEZ: A lot of people what were in line had canisters that they were trying to fill. I saw people filling old launder detergent bottles because they didn't have anything else to put gas in. The need is tremendous.

COOPER: All right.

[21:34:57] WATSON: It's not just lack of these kinds of supplies like gas. It's lack of information. You go to communities and there's no TV now. There's no internet. The cell phones aren't working. And I saw a lady with an old school kind of -- almost walkman radio. Some people are listening to am --


WATSON: -- and fm radio to try to get some news from the outside world. And I asked again and again and again, has anybody come you to and told you what to do with your house if your walls fall down, if the roof was ripped off by the wind? And people just say "no" and so they rely on the communities. That's what's been so remarkable here, with no kind of real presence of a government or rescue effort --

COOPER: -- they could have police officers at the gas stations --


COOPER: -- that's making announcements. I mean, that's where people are. Everyone's waiting at the gas stations just making announcements about what's happening and where things are going where they're just going to pass word along.

SANCHEZ: They're also there for protection. Because, you know, we heard there are people that are people going to gas stations to assault people to steal from them because cash is obviously low around the island. And so any opportunity for violence, people will prey on that kind of thing.

SANTIAGO: And I think the commodity that's the big issue, right? The diesel and the generators, the gas to drive somewhere. I got to tell you, the number one complaint I get has nothing to do with those basic supplies. It is communication with their family. I come home, when I come back to this hotel, and I have a list of people to call. People saying can you just tell my family that we're OK. In a culture that is so -- that family is so central. It's almost like we can survive without power, we'll figure out the water, someone will eventually get here, but not knowing about my family or my family not knowing about me, I mean, that is where so many people are heart broken. So may people are heart broken.

COOPER: It's interesting, in San Juan, though, you know, there's not -- you know, these tall buildings survived the storm. There's no electricity in many of them. But it can be kind of deceiving, I think, you know, the city in many parts is intact. It's not like Port-au-Prince which so many ports had just crumbled. And yet, you know, it's the infrastructure, it's the electricity, it's the water, it's everything that kind of fuels these buildings that's just not there.

GUPTA: And most of your viewers are probably paying attention to the numbers of people who have died. And they're saying oh, it's high teens, low 20s, that's nothing compared to Haiti --

COOPER: Right, that's why -- an assistant Secretary of Homeland Security said it's a good news story.

GUPTA: Which is ridiculous. And, you know, you and I know first of all those numbers are probably not even remotely accurate. They don't know how to count. There's no communication with many part of this island. So you don't know how many people have died.

The suffering, how do you sort of contextualize (ph) that. People who are alive, but sort of caught between life and death, they're struggling, they may not survive. These are the stupid deaths that we always talk about, right? What is a humanitarian crisis?

COOPER: Right, stupid death is a term doctor (INAUDIBLE) doctors without borders coined which is, you know, it's a child dying because they can't get -- a $0.25 antibiotic.

GUPTA: Totally preventable gaps. I mean, and these aren't people who died because of the hurricane. They died in the aftermath for very preventable reasons, for lack of a IV antibiotic or even an oral antibiotic, for lack of hydration, for lack of insulin, for someone who is a diabetic. Someone who has heart disease. Patients are waiting chemo, you can't get chemo. Those types of things are going to cause deaths, so the numbers will go up. But the numbers are hardly really, you know, the best metric for all those.

COOPER: Appreciate all your reporting, really incredible job over these difficult days.

We're going to take a break. When we come back we're going to Washington where the resignation/firing, call what you will, of HHS Secretary Tom Price. We'll be right back.


[21:42:02] COOPER: We're going to have more from here in Puerto Rico coming up, but I want to turn to the big news out of Washington D.C., the resignation of HHS Secretary Tom Price after days of underplaying his private jet use, saying yesterday he was going to reimburse the government, meaning the taxpayers, but then what that really meant was he was going to pay back for the cost of his seat, not for the actual cost of the fuel and the plane to go to places that he could have flown a commercial jet liner that cost, you know, $17,000 instead of a couple hundred dollars like a flight from Washington to Nashville or Washington to Philadelphia of all places, when he could have taken a train for $72. But one of the things that President Trump said about Tom Price before the resignation was announced was that he was a very good man. Well, we look back and turns out the president said that about an awful a lot of people who end up leaving his administration.


TRUMP: General Flynn is a wonderful man.

Vines is good man.

And I like him, he's a good man.

He's a very, very fine man.


COOPER: All right, joining me now is Walter Shaub, who is the former director of Office of the U.S. government Ethics, who resigned from the Trump administration. Also Richard Painter, former George W. Bush ethics lawyer.

Walter, thanks so much for being with us. Are you surprised at the resignation of Tom Price and surprised at the -- the kind of a missteps along the way that Price and the people around him seem to make saying that making all sorts of excuses.

WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I wish I was surprised, but unfortunately I'm not. Once we started seeing the numbers grow and grow, I started thinking yesterday and the day before that this was inevitable. And I'm not sure that we reached the bottom of the well to know exactly how high that number is going to. And unfortunately, the lack of transparency has been symptomatic of this administration. In fact this whole instance is symptom, not the problem. The problem is that tone from the top that has led to this behavior by cabinet officials.

COOPER: You really believe that this comes from the top. This isn't a Tom Price problem, that it is a presidential problem?

SHAUB: Well, I mean, make no mistake about it, Tom Price has a problem and his behavior was extraordinary. Just look at the devastation that surrounds you where you are right now. And his behavior showed he had absolutely no concept of public service.

But I warned in January when I gave a speech, in January 11th that the bookings institution enormous, Richard was part of that event that we are facing a serious tone from the top problem with the president breaking the tradition of divesting his conflicting assets, he's traveling regularly to his properties to give them free advertising. The man even wore a hat that he's talking (ph) on his website when he did a hurricane press to talk about recovery efforts. And it's inevitable that that kind of message is going to trickle down through the cabinet, and hopefully not, but likely lower than that to really infect the administration at all levels unless the president himself changes the tone.

[21:45:21] COOPER: Richard, is this the end of, you know, plane gate, not just with Tom Price but with other cabinet officials?

RICHARD PAINTER, PROFESSOR OF CORPORATE LAW, UNIV. OF MINN: doubt it. There's nothing, by the way, of adequate controls in this administration. In the Bush administration, we had to sign off on charter plane travel, anything but commercial travel by presidential appointees, and those requests came through my office and we rarely granted them.

Whereas here we have a cabinet official traveling wherever they want on military aircraft and charter planes. We have the treasure secretary who is doing that. We have the EPA administrator and apparently the secretary of interior may have gone out to speak to a hockey team owned bay a GOP donor using in private these charter planes.

And there were White House staff apparently on some of these tips that Tom Price took.


PAINTER: Whether it's Kellyanne Conway or someone else, I want to know who in the White House counsel's office is reviewing these matters. Because we kept tight control on it in the Bush administration, they did in Obama administration, and it appears to be complete chaos in the ethics office in the Trump White House.

COOPER: Walter, when Tom Price said he was going to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of the travel which really he meant the cost of his seat, I mean, is there any universe where that makes any sense? I mean, if a private jet costs $17,000, and the only reason that jet is going from point A to point B is because Tom Price wants it to, he wants to have lunch with his son and go to some meeting on top of that, does it make sense he would reimburse for the entire cost of flying that jet?

SHAUB: There's no universal which that makes even a little bit of sense. In fact, if you look at the evolving explanations coming out HHS when they were being questioned by reporters, the story evolve. They were just completely out of touch with reality, referring to hurricanes when he's traveling to Aspen and Maine and Philly, and then talking about a lack of available flights when that just is clearly not true.

And so, it seems that they were sort of caught in the echo chamber where they had no idea of how their words sounded outside the government. And I think that's really usually a very strong indicator of a tone problem. Richard is not kidding you when he talks about how strict he was in the Bush White House. I was at the Office of Government Ethics at that time, worked with Richard and I saw how he dealt with them. And I saw how his counterparts in the Obama administration handled this.

Sure in history there have been isolated instances of misuse of government planes, charter planes and other things, but this problem is metastasizing this administration. And as Richard pointed out, we're learning that more and more people did this. I think we're not only going to learn --


SHAUB: -- that the price is higher than we thought, but we're going to find this is true in other areas as well.

COOPER: Yes. Walter Shaub and Richard Painter, I appreciate both of you your experiences. Thank you very much for talking about it and being with us.

When we come back, I want to reply in the last hour, I talked to the mayor of Puerto Rico. She had some very tough words for the president for the assistant Secretary of Homeland Security who said this was a good news story, excuse me, the Mayor of San Juan. I want to reply the entire interview with the mayor of San Juan, because I think what she says really brings home -- her perspective and the perspective of a lot of people here on the ground about what is happening and what needs to happen.


[21:53:20] COOPER: Welcome back. Carmen Yulin Cruz is the mayor of San Juan. I talked to her in the last hour. She's been very vocal about trying to get attention here, about trying to get more aid here on the ground. I want to play part of that interview.


COOPER: You said you're mad as hell earlier today. Tonight you're wearing a t-shirt that says help us, we are dying. That's really happening. That's not a metaphor.

MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: No, it's not a metaphor. If you go also inside the island, it's very important that people know people are drinking out of creeks. Here in San Juan you have people that are in buildings and they're sort of becoming cage in their own building, old people, retired people that just don't have any electricity. We've taken 37 people out in the last two days from retirement homes. Some of them have been left to die there. They have no dialysis or nothing of the sort. So it is dying.

COOPER: How are you holding up? I mean, you must be even been working nonstop.

CRUZ: My house got flooded. It got cleaned out. Everything inside is lost. I'm staying at the coliseum where we have the largest refugee station in all of Puerto Rico, 685 people. We have --

COOPER: That's where you're staying.

CRUZ: That's where I'm staying with my family. We're sleeping on cots. We're eating the same food that refugees are eating. And we're doing the best we can. And I'm getting whatever -- I'm exhausted. I can tell you that. But you know what? I have to get the voice of our people out there.

[21:55:00] I lived in the United States for 12 years. I went to school there. I had my child there in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. I know what the U.S. heart is all about. You know, you are an intelligent, daring people. So, I just don't understand why things have become so complicated and the logistics are so unsure mountable.

COOPER: I've got to say it hurts me so much to hear so many people on this island say to me and say to reporters we're Americans, we're Americans, that they have to explain that as if we shouldn't know that. I mean, I just find that so -- I think it says something about the way people here feel about the way things have been handled.

CRUZ: There's a lot of linked history. There is a lot of cross moving. There's people in Orlando, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Houston. Every time there is a problem, we are a kind of people that share our sorrows but also share our triumphs and we just don't understand. And sorry, maybe I'm too tired. I get a little emotional, but, you know, we're dying here. We truly are dying here. And I keep saying it, SOS. If anyone can hear us, you know, if Mr. Trump can hear us, let's just get it over with and get the ball rolling, you know. When you have to do an emergency tracheotomy, you're not concerned if what you're doing with is the actual correct and precise knife.

COOPER: You just want things done.

CRUZ: You just want things done. Sometimes you've got to be able to build the plane as you go along. I was supposed to go to a FEMA distribution center that is in (INAUDIBLE) -- that's about 30, 40 miles from San Juan. When there's one that's about 230 miles and the answer was, well, that's how the plan was done.

Well, you know the great plans of myself and men. Things have to change. We've got to move fast. And frankly, we have to show the world that we can do it. And in that respect I want to thank all of you people from the news that have been doing such a great job in amplifying our voices and making sure that people know that we're here and that we count on you to get our voice out there.

COOPER: There's a lot of people counting on you Mayor. Thank you very much.

CRUZ: Thank you.

COOPER: Appreciate it.


COOPER: I hope everybody stays with CNN in the coming days. We're continuing our extensive reporting from all over Puerto Rico. We're going to take a short break and more news ahead. We'll be right back.


COOPER: That's it for our two-hour broadcast from San Juan tonight. We'll obviously be here all through the weekend. We'll bring you AC 360 Monday night from Puerto Rico as well. Time to turn things over to Don Lemon in "CNN Tonight".