Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump's Asia Trip; Russia Investigation; Battle against ISIS; Judge Rules Bergdahl Will Not Face Prison Time; North Korea Tensions; Exclusive Look At U.S. Military Drills; Crisis in Puerto Rico. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired November 4, 2017 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[04:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): As the Russia investigation heats up, President Trump travels to Asia for his longest overseas trip yet.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus the caliphate crumbles. ISIS forces losing their last significant stronghold in Iraq.

ALLEN (voice-over): And more fall out for actor Kevin Spacey amid sexual harassment allegations.

HOWELL (voice-over): 4:00 am on the East Coast. Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): And I'm Natalie Allen. NEWSROOM starts right now.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

ALLEN: Thanks again for joining us.

Our top story: U.S. president Donald Trump spending the night in the state of Hawaii. He and his wife, Melania, arrived there Friday afternoon.

HOWELL: Later they fly to Tokyo for the first leg of an extended trip to the Pacific Rim, this trip to that region the first for this president and the longest foreign trip yet of his administration.

ALLEN: On Friday Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump paid their respects to the fallen U.S. troops at the U.S.S. Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor. The president later attended a social function hosted by the U.S. Pacific Command.

HOWELL: President Trump will be away from the White House and his domestic troubles for almost two weeks. We get the latest now from CNN's Ryan Nobles in Honolulu, Hawaii.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The longest trip of the Donald Trump administration is now underway and the president's trip to the Asia Pacific region, the longest trip by any President of the United States since the George H.W. Bush administration.

And the president, en route to Hawaii, the first leg of this trip, was busy on his Twitter feed, talking about Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton; also talked about Bowe Bergdahl, the Army soldier who deserted his post, who escaped jail time.

The president did tweet once about his trip but he hasn't talked a lot about this trip in the weeks leading up to the event. This despite the fact that it will be vital to his administration and their goals, particularly as it relates to North Korea and the growing tensions with the Kim Jong-un administration.

The president will meet with leaders from South Korea, Vietnam, China, Japan, all who play an important role as it relates to dealing with North Korea.

In Hawaii, the president had a busy schedule as well. He met with the leaders of the Pacific Command; he got a briefing from them and also he toured the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor, meeting with veterans there, the president appearing especially moved by that particular event.

The president will be wheels up from Hawaii first thing in the morning en route to the first of his Asian destinations and that is Tokyo. In all, it will be a 12-day, trip ending in the Philippines next week -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, Honolulu.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: And here's a closer look at Mr. Trump's trip, he arrives in Japan Sunday, November 5th, and will visit U.S. troops and also meet and play golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

And the next day he will meet Japanese emperor Akihito. Then it's off to South Korea, where he will meet with its president but he'll skip the demilitarized zone. In China, the U.S. president will visit the Forbidden City with President Xi Jinping.

And then he heads to Vietnam for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. Final stop, Manila, for meetings at the Association of Southeast Asian nations.

That's a packed trip right there. Concerns about North Korea nuclear ambitions will dominate much of President Trump's trip to Asia, but there are many other important issues on his agenda. CNN global affairs analyst, David Rohde, explains what Asian leaders hope to achieve during Mr. Trump's visit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: He has done well on the foreign trips. He had some issues in his first trip to Europe, dealing with NATO leaders. But if he sticks to scripted speeches, he does well. He actually communicates less off the cuff; there is less tweeting and he will be away from all this domestic turmoil in the United States for a long period.

So that is a successful trip. If he does sort of -- if his tweets or offhand remarks, particularly in South Korea, where he has got such bellicose rhetoric and it's really South Korean lives, tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of South Korean lives that are in danger if there is a conflict with North Korea.

So his tone in South Korea must be more respectful and more cautious, I think, than it has been in the past.

One of the first agreements that Trump rescinded was the Transpacific Trade Agreement, it was a milestone of the Obama so-called pivot to Asia. So I think smaller countries like the Philippines and Vietnam are trying to understand what kind of role does the U.S. want to play in the region economically and militarily.

Will the U.S. again really counter China in the South China Sea?

And it's not clear. I mean, again, it's a pattern of Trump kind of pulling out of an agreement --

[04:05:00]

ROHDE: -- to win points domestically inside the United States with his political base but it sends a very confusing message to other countries.

We saw that with the Paris climate accord and we've seen that again with criticism of NATO allies. And now he has got to interact with these Asian countries, who want a clear direction and a clear vision from his administration.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: So the president traveling for this trip, at the same time his troubles continue to brew over the Russia investigation.

ALLEN: Yes, one Trump campaign adviser now says that during the campaign he had a brief passing meeting with Russia's deputy prime minister while visiting Moscow. In all, a rough end to a pivotal week in the Trump administration. Jim Sciutto has more about it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A pressing question: were President Trump and Attorney General Sessions misleading when they denied any knowledge of campaign contacts with Russians?

Here is Mr. Trump in February.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I told you General Flynn obviously was dealing, so that is one person, but he was dealing as he should have been.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: During the election?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, nobody that I know of.

SCIUTTO: And here is Mr. Sessions in testimony just last month.

SENATOR AL FRANKEN (D-MN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You don't believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians, is that what you're saying?

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not and I'm not aware of anyone else that did. And I don't believe it happened.

SCIUTTO: In fact court filings unsealed this week show that former Trump campaign Foreign Policy Adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators suggested at a March 2016 meeting that Trump meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

J.D. Gordon, a former national security adviser to the campaign, who was in the room for that meeting tells CNN that Trump heard out Papadopoulos and another source tells CNN that Sessions, a top campaign national security adviser and surrogate rejected the idea. The president responded by saying he doesn't remember much of the meeting.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don't remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting took place a long time, don't remember much about it.

SCIUTTO: Another former campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, tell CNN that he testified before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors Thursday that he informed Sessions he was traveling to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, though he said that the trip was not tied to his role with the campaign.

Papadopoulos' account is placing another under Trump adviser under scrutiny, Sam Clovis, who served as deputy campaign chairman. Court documents show that Papadopoulos contacted a campaign supervisor, who the "Washington Post" has identified as Clovis about a potential trip to Russia to meet Russian officials.

The supervisor responded encouraging Papadopoulos to make the trip. Papadopoulos' account was unsealed the same day as indictments of former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, in relation to their lobbying work for the Ukraine government.

In the indictments, the government alleges that they received tens of millions of dollars for their work and to hide that income, laundered the money through, quote, "scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts." Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty to charges, which cover activities prior to Trump's presidential campaign.

We're learning of another meeting between a Trump campaign associate and a Russian government official during the campaign that had not been revealed before. Carter Page, who served as a foreign policy adviser during the campaign, confirms to me that, in July 2016 during a visit to Moscow, he met with a senior Russian government official; that official, the deputy prime minister of Russia, Arkady Dvorkovich.

Now Carter Page tells me this was not a formal meeting, it was more of a casual hello, that they were both speaking at the same conference at the New Economic School in Moscow and, at that conference, he met with him there, again, saying it was not a formal meeting.

But earlier on Friday, Carter Page was interviewed by my colleague, Jake Tapper, and said that he didn't meet any government officials, Russian government officials, during his trips to Moscow, just business people, academics, et cetera.

This is another case of people, who were in the Trump campaign, who initially denied any contact with Russian officials under questioning or, when other evidence is revealed, admitting that, indeed, there were meetings,

"The New York Times" reporting that this was the subject of questioning during the House Intelligence Committee interview of Carter Page earlier this week -- Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Joining me now is Michael Genovese, political analyst and president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University.

Michael, thank you for joining us. Good to see you.

MICHAEL GENOVESE, LEGAL ANALYST: My pleasure.

ALLEN: This week saw the first charges in the Russia investigation and President Trump, by all indications --

[04:10:00]

ALLEN: -- is furious.

What is your assessment of the charges against his former campaign chairman and two other advisers and what it could mean to his presidency?

GENOVESE: Well, for a few days prior to the indictments, we knew something big was going to happen. CNN reported that. We weren't quite sure who would be the target. Manafort was one of the likely choices and, indeed he and his top aide were.

The huge surprise was Papadopoulos and that came out of nowhere. It shocked everyone. It sent the president into, we are told, a rage. And so the president had to go into a defensive mode and his Twitter attacks against everyone, from Hillary to his own Justice Department, are the result of that.

ALLEN: And it's deflect and deflect and deflect. But he really can't deflect away from this investigation.

GENOVESE: No. And, in fact, this has got to put the fear into Donald Trump because now he knows how serious it is and piece by piece, drip, drip, drip of this will have an impact on him.

So the question is will it be a continuation of the drip, drip, drip policy, as it was in Watergate?

Or will this be some avalanche of information?

Will we have seven indictments come out all at once?

The president knows it's getting closer to him, to his son-in-law, to his son. And it has got to be a very tough time to be in the White House.

ALLEN: He expressed his frustration this week about the fact that he is not in control of the Justice Department, it's almost like he is in shock. And as president, he doesn't control everything.

What do you think?

GENOVESE: Well, it's not his personal toy. And the president has expressed literally frustration that he is not supposed to get involved. He's not supposed to have an impact.

Well, there is a firewall that is supposed to be there, that protects the justice system against an individual getting involved. Those firewalls were put in, for the most part, after Watergate, when we saw what a president, who wanted to misuse government agencies, could do.

And so there is a very good reason why the president can't get involved. But Donald Trump is not accustomed to that. Donald Trump is a problem solver and he wants to get his hands dirty in it and he can't and it frustrates him.

His attorney general didn't do what he wanted; the Justice Department is not going after Hillary as he wants. So he is very frustrated. But I think he will have to take that and there is nothing that he can do about it.

ALLEN: Could he not intervene and still try to do away with the investigation, fire Mueller?

GENOVESE: Yes, he could, at great cost. And question is, at what point might he get so angry and frustrated, at what point might the investigation get so close that he feels no alternative but to fire Mueller, take the consequences, knowing that he would take a huge hit and it might even be the beginning of a groundswell against him?

ALLEN: Let's talk about his trip to Asia. He is in Hawaii right now and he is headed to Asia.

What is at stake for this president as he heads to a critical meeting over North Korea and trade?

GENOVESE: There is a lot at stake because he has undone part of the global leadership mechanism that the United States has created, pulling out of TPP, getting into confrontational, rhetorical displays with our allies and friends and North Korea.

And so normally a presidential trip like this, you would have some prearranged agreements. Seems like there is not that. It seems like the president needs to shore up some alliances, mend some fences and try to convince a very skeptical set of allies, Japan and South Korea, that his playbook is the playbook they need to follow.

Both Japan and South Korea have expressed concern about his very harsh rhetoric. And so he has a lot of work to do there. Plus, in going to China, he has got an even bigger problem. He would love to have China intervene and influence North Korea. They may not have that much influence over North Korea.

But there is also, some critics are saying, almost a passing of the baton quality to this trip to China, that China is aggressively pursuing global leadership as the United States, by design, America first, is pulling back from leadership.

And so some people are saying that that trip to China might be, without intending to be so, a kind of passing of the baton, where the world starts to see China as the global leader and the United States as the out party.

ALLEN: Yes, the former CIA chief says that he thinks the most dangerous thing for the United States right now is the United States, because we are stepping back, in his opinion, from a global leadership.

What are your thoughts on that?

GENOVESE: That's right. The world that we live in is the world that was largely created by the United States and our European allies right after World War II. It's prevented a global war for 70 years-plus. It created a global trade mechanism, a global financial mechanism. That is what Donald Trump sees as the swamp --

[04:15:00]

GENOVESE: -- that needs to be cleaned up. And certainly there is a need for reform. But the United States has pulled back from global leadership into an America first, what is best for me, trade deals that don't work for us we don't want. TPP, no, we'll give it to China and let them take the lead.

So in place after place, the United States has been pulling back.

And are we the greatest danger to ourselves? We keep shooting ourselves in the foot and the extent that we keep doing that, we'll continue to be in trouble vis-a-vis China, which wants very much to be the global r certainly the regional leader.

And as President Xi said when he spoke in Davos in January, China is ready to take over the protection of global trade and the global currency markets.

ALLEN: We'll be watching his trip closely. Michael Genovese, thank you so much for joining us.

GENOVESE: Thank you.

HOWELL: A U.S. government study released on Friday contradicts the Trump administration's position on climate change.

This report says that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, have been the dominant cause of global warming for decades. The report cites warming temperatures, rising sea levels, more forest fires and heat waves as proof that the climate is changing.

Several government agencies and academic experts contributed to that study. The president has been a vocal critic of climate change, at one point, referring to it as a hoax. His administration has also worked to dismantle numerous climate protections.

ALLEN: Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, calls for celebration in Iraq and Syria as ISIS suffers two stunning defeats in one day.

HOWELL: Plus Netflix responding to the growing scandal around actor Kevin Spacey, what that means for his hit show ""House of Cards." Stay with us.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(HEADLINES)

[04:20:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

ALLEN: And welcome back.

Iraq and Syria are celebrating two milestone victories in the fight to reclaim ISIS-held territory. Officials in both countries say the city of Deir ez-Zor in Syria and the town of Al-Qa'im in Iraq are now liberated.

HOWELL: And that effectively squeezes the terror group at the border between these two countries. CNN's Fred Pleitgen flew to Deir ez-Zor with Russian forces and the battle was in full swing back in September.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Syrian army's final major push into one of ISIS' last strongholds in Syria. Pro-Assad forces now say they've taken all of Deir ez-Zor City in the southeast of the country, a major victory in the quest to destroy the terror group. Units of our armed forces in cooperation with allied forces completed their duties in reestablishing security and stability to Deir ez-Zor City completely, the spokesman for Syria's Army says.

We flew to Deir ez-Zor with the Russian military, which backs the Syrian Army when the battle there was raging in September. (on camera): Even though the Syrian and Russian Army (inaudible) support to ISIS back, there's still are a lot of ISIS fighters here in this area. Taking the helicopter is the safest place to get to Deir ez- Zor.

Deir ez-Zor was one of ISIS' most important strongholds right in Syria's oil and agricultural heartland. ISIS' apparent demise in Syria recently leading Vladimir Putin to praise both Russia's and Iran's role in backing Bashar al-Assad.

Thanks to our joint efforts with Iran and also by Turkey, the situation regarding the fight against terrorism in the territory of Syria is developing in a very positive way, Putin said at a meeting with Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani.

Russian and Syrian forces are not the only ones beating ISIS back, U.S. allied fighters have also been rounding the terror group from large chunks of the so-called caliphate it once occupied including Mosul and ISIS' self- declared capital of Raqqa where the U.S.-led coalition is now trying to restore a civilian administration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as what happens in Raqqa after ISIS has been cleared and Raqqa is liberated, the Raqqa Civil Council is already established, and they are already eager to begin work, to restore essential services.

PLEITGEN: Like in so many places in Iraq and Syria, ISIS wreaked havoc on Deir ez-Zor's population, besieging a Syrian government enclave in the city for around three years.

Now that the group has been defeated here, both Russian and U.S.- backed groups believed they're in the final stages of crushing the group and ousting its remaining fighters from almost all of Syria -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Fred, thank you.

The U.S. president has slammed the sentence handed down on Friday against a U.S. soldier who deserted his post in 2009.

ALLEN: Bowe Bergdahl abandoned his post in Afghanistan and was then taken prisoner by the Taliban. For more on his story, here is Nick Valencia. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bowe Bergdahl walked into court on Friday at Ft. Bragg, visibly tense. Just moments later, a military judge sentenced him to be dishonorably discharged, thereby avoiding jail time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant Bergdahl has looked forward to today for a long time.

VALENCIA (voice-over): It was the culmination of a nearly 10-year saga for the 31-year-old who just last month plead guilty to desertion and misbehaving in front of the enemy.

It was June 30, 2009, when Bergdahl deliberately walked away from his Army post in Afghanistan. Within hours, he was captured by the Taliban and held hostage for almost five years.

Bergdahl said he spent most of the time living in a metal cage, barely big enough to stretch his legs, repeatedly beaten and tortured. Several servicemen were injured while looking for Bergdahl in Afghanistan, including Master Sergeant Mark Allen, who was shot in the head and left paralyzed.

In 2014, Bergdahl was released in a controversial prisoner swap for five detainees.

And during the campaign, then candidate Donald Trump blasted the decision and Bergdahl.

DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're tired of Sergeant --

[04:25:00]

TRUMP: -- Bergdahl, who's a traitor, who should have been executed. Thirty years ago, he would have been shot.

VALENCIA: Today, President Trump slammed Bergdahl's sentence, tweeting: The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our country and to our military.

Bergdahl tearfully apologized Monday to the soldiers who searched for him, saying, "My words can't take away for what people have been through. I'm admitting I made a horrible mistake," a mistake he'll have to live with for the rest of his life -- Nick Valencia, CNN, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: A Belgian prosecutor says he is studying an arrest warrant for dismissed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont. A Spanish judge issued the warrant after Puigdemont failed to attend a court hearing in Madrid Thursday.

He is currently in Belgium and says that he will cooperate with the judiciary there. Puigdemont is charged with sedition, rebellion and misuse of funds among other things. Spain dissolved Catalonia's parliament after regional lawmakers voted to declare independence.

HOWELL: Many people around the world know the show, "House of Cards." The video streaming service Netflix is stepping back from what has been that flagship show for it and tossing out other projects involving the actor, Kevin Spacey.

Spacey under fire after nearly a week of sexual harassment allegations and now Netflix is canceling the release of the movie, "Gore," in which Spacey acts and produced.

Netflix appeared to leave the door open, though, to possibly broadcast "House of Cards," only if Spacey is not involved in it. The company that produces the political satire says that it has suspended Spacey as the investigation continues into allegations against him.

ALLEN: Coming up here, against a backdrop of threats from North Korea, we're in the Pacific Ocean for an exclusive look at U.S. military drills off Okinawa.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:30:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL (voice-over): 4:30 am on the U.S. East Coast. Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It's always good to have you with us. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): And I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories.

(HEADLINES)

ALLEN: Mr. Trump's first trip as president to Asia comes amid escalating tensions with North Korea.

HOWELL: Intelligence sources say another missile test could be imminent, even suggesting Kim Jong-un could engage in some kind of provocation while U.S. President Donald Trump is near his turf. CNN's Brian Todd has this report for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American B-1 bombers, along with South Korean and Japanese fighter jets, fly near the Korean Peninsula.

These are the weapons that experts say would play key roles in any strikes on North Korea. These maneuvers bring a swift brush back from Kim Jong-un's regime.

The dictator's news agency saying, "the gangster-like U.S. imperialist are staging a surprise nuclear strike drill targeting North Korea." It comes as President Trump heads towards Kim's turf, embarking on a multi-nation trip to Asia. Where analysts say, one country, one major security threat will likely consume his meetings with other leaders.

TRUMP: We'll be talking about, obviously, North Korea.

TODD: Tonight, military commands and intelligence agencies from Washington to Pyongyang are jittery because of so many potential provocations coming so close to the president's trip.

LAURA ROSENBERGER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NSC FOR CHINA AND KOREA Tensions are definitely at one of the higher points that we have seen.

TODD: According to South Korean lawmakers, brief by that country's intelligence agency, another North Korean missile test could be imminent because they've sighted movement of vehicles around a missile research facility in Pyongyang. Kim's regime has launched 22 missile tests this year. Recently threatened the U.S. territory of Guam; conducted one of the largest hydrogen bomb tests in modern history and threatened another. A U.S. official tells CNN, North Korea's working on an advanced version of the KN20, a long-range missile that could reach the U.S. with a nuclear warhead. A key question tonight: will Kim test Trump while the president is next door?

ROSENBERGER: I think there's a good possibility that we could see some kind of either missile launch or nuclear test while Trump is there. In a way that allows Kim to remain the focus of attention, to show that he's not intimidated.

TODD: Tensions are at a boil also because the two men have fired personal broadsides at each other recently.

TRUMP: Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself.

TODD: Kim responded by calling Trump mentally deranged. A high-level North Korean defector told us when Kim is insulted personally, he feels his hand is forced.

THAE YONG-HO, FORMER DEPUTY AMBASSADOR, NORTH KOREA U.K. EMBASSY: Kim Jong-un has to respond because he wants to continue to be shown or depicted as the supreme leader and gold of North Korean society.

TODD: Asked if President Trump will tone down his language on Kim while in Asia, H.R. McMaster says that the president will use whatever language he wants to use, obviously. But McMaster said what is really inflammatory is the way North Korea is threatening the world and he said there will be grave danger if Kim doesn't realize the president's resolve -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: We're staying in Asia, where we're watching war games that are deadly serious with the heightened tensions in the region. The United States is displaying its military might and preparation with its determination.

ALLEN: CNN was granted exclusive access to rapid response drills in the Pacific. As --

[04:35:00]

ALLEN: -- Ivan Watson shows us, the drills are off Okinawa but the clouds of North Korea are always on the horizon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pounding through the Pacific Ocean, a U.S. Navy transport vessel approaching the flooded belly of a much larger warship.

We are watching now how one of these landing crafts come on board the dark landing ship. It's a remarkable piece of engineering. And it takes a coordination of dozens and dozens of sailors.

Some call this complicated procedure "taming the dragon." We have been invited to see annual military exercises off the coast of Okinawa on board the U.S.S. Ashland. This is a ship that can transport dozens of vehicles and house hundreds of sailors and Marines. A small floating city, where a visiting officer marks an important step in his military career.

A ceremony at sea where Marine Lieutenant Jesse Schmitt (ph) receives a promotion to the rank of captain. The U.S. commands the world's largest navy, but in two separate incidents last summer, Navy ships from the 7th Fleet collided with merchant vessels, killing 17 sailors. The Navy concluded, these accidents could have been avoided. Commanders say they've served as a wake-up call.

STEVEN WASSON, COMMANDER, U.S. NAVY: Not being complacent and use all means available to evaluate your current situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming upstairs. Steady on course. One, two, zero. Checking one, two, five.

WATSON (voice-over): In response, the Navy fired eight senior officers and stepped up training and monitoring from the decks of these giant vessels.

Every night, the chaplain leads the ship in prayer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

WATSON (voice-over): At dawn, hundreds of marines prepare for the day's big event, assimilated assaults on a beach in Okinawa. Amphibious assault vehicles splash up the back of the Ashland. And line up for the invasion. This operation on land, sea and air --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Push, push.

WATSON (voice-over): -- requires the coordination of thousands of sailors, Marines and soldiers.

WATSON: These exercises help prepare the armed forces for the possibility of conflict. But they're also about sending a message of deterrence to U.S. enemies like North Korea which continue to engage in a war of words with Washington.

WATSON (voice-over): Senior commanders say these annual war games also send a message to U.S. allies.

KEVIN NORTON, COLONEL, U.S. MARINES: They're well over 22 countries in the Pacific that are friends and allies training, working together and that network, quite frankly, provides stability and security throughout the entire Pacific.

WATSON (voice-over): The U.S. has been the preeminent military force in the Pacific since World War II. In the era of "make America great again," some wonder whether the U.S. can or wants to continue playing this role here -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Okinawa, Japan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Those certainly some of the questions the president will face as he sees leaders in that part of the world. Of course we continue to follow it.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, officials say nearly 40 percent of power is now back on in Puerto Rico. Some towns still entirely dark.

ALLEN: Plus, the island power outage could be affecting the hurricane death toll. Why San Juan's mayor said hundreds of people actually died from the storm.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:40:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

In Puerto Rico, for many people, there is still no light at the end of a very long tunnel. It's been more than six weeks now since Hurricane Maria tore through that island.

ALLEN: And entire towns are still without power, despite the governor's office touting restoration figures. CNN's Leyla Santiago has the latest for us from San Juan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What you can't see across the street, people, life without power.

SANTIAGO: This is the only light that he has. And you can see that it's a little light from like a Christmas tree, it looks like. And it's powered from a car battery, which I know it's difficult to see so I'll actually light it with my cell phone.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Six weeks after Hurricane Maria, Luis Rivera (ph) now sleeps next to the open window in his home to get through those long hot nights with no power. He is one of many. Satellite images show the island before Maria, after and now.

Not much has changed and Puerto Rico's power authority claims there's no way of knowing how many people like Rivera are in the dark.

So we called each municipality, that's 78 of them. We couldn't reach most. Communication still not reliable. But of those reached, the overwhelming majority say most people do not have power. Nearly a third say the entire town is in the dark. And yet the power authority and the governor's office insist they are on track.

When it comes to power restoration, they say they're at 37 percent on the island. But that's the percentage of power generation. How much power is being produced, not how much is actually making it to homes and businesses. A big difference when you ask one of the unions at Puerto Rico's power authority.

EVANS CASTRO, PRESIDENT, UEPI UNION: (Speaking foreign language).

SANTIAGO: He said he can technically have no one with power but still have 100 percent generation. That's why he thinks the numbers are questionable.

We noticed government officials changed how they report the numbers on power, initially using the percentage of clients with power, something they denied until we reminded them of this tweet by the governor's mansion, retweeted by the power authority listing clients with service two weeks after Maria.

The governor's office said it was a mistake. The tweet was deleted shortly after CNN asked about it.

When we first approached the governor's office and (INAUDIBLE), we were told by both that they have always reported generation, not clients.

FERNANDO PADILLA, DIRECTOR, PROJECT MANAGEMENT OFFICE, PREPA: I'm not sure on the facts. But (INAUDIBLE) what I can state is when we started restoring critical loads, it's more you can identify better who are the clients. That's as much -- as I can say. It was during a very limited period of time.

SANTIAGO: Since the power authority says those numbers are no longer available, we asked their workers. Their estimate --

[04:45:00]

SANTIAGO: -- about 5 percent of customers may have service, not nearly as high as the percentage of generation. And Rivera worries a bad situation may be getting worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

SANTIAGO: He believes that because the contract was canceled this is only going to take longer. Puerto Rico has now announced it plans to cancel a controversial contract with a company hired to help bring back the island's power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

SANTIAGO: He has no idea it would last this long. As he sees it, politics may now be another reason he and countless Puerto Ricans may not be getting power anytime soon -- Leyla Santiago, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Yes, and the mayor of San Juan says the lack of power has contributed to Puerto Rico's death toll.

HOWELL: That's right. Carmen Yulin-Cruz says that at least 500 people have died from the hurricane but the government official count only stands at 54. Yulin-Cruz told CNN that victims have been excluded because the cause of death wasn't properly recorded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARMEN YULIN-CRUZ, MAYOR, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: What we do know for sure is that people have been catalogued as dying out of natural deaths when they were, for example, hooked to a respirator; there is no power. The small generator that they have gives up and then, of course, they die of natural causes.

But they are related to the lack of electricity. I know of hospitals that have had people that died when they were on intensive care because the generators are not made to run for six, seven weeks at a time.

And what we cannot understand is what is the point, right, of saying that these deaths are not related to the hurricane?

They didn't occur the day of the hurricane, September 20th, but it certainly unfolds as the aftermath of the hurricane's continuing to take its toll.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: So a continuous nightmare there in Puerto Rico. The power grid was in need of repair even before September's hurricane shut it down completely.

(WEATHER REPORT)

[04:50:00]

HOWELL: Still ahead, we'll preview the key moments and challenges the president faces as he travels on his tour to Asia. Stay with us.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SPORTS) (MUSIC PLAYING)

ALLEN: More now on our top story. President Donald Trump kicking off his tour of Asia with a pit stop in Hawaii. On this trip he will meet some of the region's most powerful leaders.

HOWELL: There is a lot on the agenda. Our CNN reporters take us through the major challenges.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Tokyo, the top priority is the U.S.-Japan alliance. So you can expect to see Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. president Donald Trump projecting friendship as they tackle two major issues, trade and North Korea.

Over in Pyongyang, officials are still furious over President Trump's speech at the United Nations, when he threatened to totally destroy their country and insulted their leader, calling him "rocket man." They're also angry about ongoing joint military exercises. The North Koreans tell me the time for talk is over and it's time to send President Trump a message.

[04:55:00]

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Manila, President Trump will meet a fan of his in Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte. The popular but controversial figure has had nothing but praise for the U.S. leader and the two will discuss Duterte's ongoing war against drugs.

The big question, will Trump bring up alleged human rights abuses committed by Duterte's government on targeting not only drug dealers but drug users as well?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The priority for South Korea during trump's visit is North Korea. President Moon Jae-in has gone along with the U.S. policy of sanctions and pressure. But ultimately Moon wants dialogue, more engagement with the North and it's a desire that, in the past, Trump has called appeasement.

And then there's trade, Trump has convinced Seoul to renegotiate the trade deal between the two countries but Seoul doesn't want many changes.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: President Trump's biggest schedule challenge in Vietnam will likely be convincing APEC leaders with his views on free trade. He will address the Asia Pacific Economic Committee Summit, telling them he wants fair trade and balanced trade.

Perhaps the most watched event, if it does happen, is a possible bilateral between President Trump and President Putin of Russia, although, if it does take place, it's likely to be shrouded by discussions of Russian meddling in U.S. presidential elections.

The other event still not on the schedule that may happen, a trilateral between President Xi of China, President Putin and President Trump; likely, North Korea on that agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest issue for China when President Trump arrives here in the Beijing will be North Korea. The Trump administration wants China do more to force North Korea to stop developing its nuclear weapons.

China says it is doing enough already. That issue will dominate conversations, though expect discussions over things like trade and opioids as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Coming up at the top of the hour now, I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. The news continues here on CNN right after the break.