Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Praises Island After Prior Criticism; Paul Ryan, Congressional Delegation Visiting U.S. Island; Trump: We Will Decertify Iran Nuclear Dea; Trump Slashes Billions In ObamaCare Subsidies; North Korean Seafood Sold In China Despite Ban; Chinese Merchants: We Smuggled Crabs From North Korea; Trump: China Does Nothing For Us With North Korea; Bourdain Visits "Mad, Bad, Delicious, Confusing" Lagos. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 13, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are helping them with construction, but most important for Puerto Rico is their electric grids are essentially gone.

[16:30:02] Now, they were gone before these hurricanes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Fact check, though Puerto Rico's electrical grid had its issue before the hurricane, it is false to say their electric plants were gone before the hurricane.

All of this as House Speaker Paul Ryan and a bipartisan congressional delegation are in Puerto Rico to inspect the damage and relief effort.

CNN's Leyla Santiago joins me now from San Juan.

Leyla, what did Speaker Ryan have to say about what he saw firsthand in Puerto Rico?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he called this a humanitarian disaster, and it's important to note that the speaker flew over parts of the island, went into the interior by plane, but he didn't actually get off to talk to the people there, which is what so many people criticized President Trump about.

But I spoke to a former governor who was in a meeting with him and he said it was completely different. That Ryan was engaged. That he was very professional and he seemed to get a good grasp of the issues, even if only by air.

TAPPER: But with no signs of infrastructure being restored in the near future, you say many Puerto Ricans are trying to leave the island? You spoke to some families trying to flee to Florida.

SANTIAGO: Right. Many are trying to find ways off this island, be it because they can't get the medical treatment that they need right now or be it just because of the conditions. I met a family in Quebradilla, that's in the northwestern part of the island, and I want to introduce to you two little girls. One named Kendra. The other name Nayila (ph). I want you to watch my exchange with them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTIAGO: She worries about her because they're cousins. And now they're going to be separated because she's going to Connecticut and she's going to Florida. Their parents are worried about the conditions here.

(SPEAKING SPANISH)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANTIAGO: And it's not just families that are being torn apart and separated right now. Elderly also leaving because they can't get their hands on what they need right now. Florida -- the state of Florida saying in the last ten days, they have had more than 36,000 people arrive in that state from Puerto Rico, people that are leaving because of the conditions here right now -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Leyla, yesterday, Puerto Rican officials said nearly 20 percent of the island had electrical power. But that number, as you pointed out on Twitter earlier this morning, that's dropped to 9 percent power restoration. Has there been any sort of explanation?

SANTIAGO: Right. So I talked to the government about that as well today. They told me they are down to 9 percent, which let's flip those numbers to keep that into perspective, that is 91 percent of the island without power right now. They said there was some sort of failure in the central system overnight. They expect to be able to restore that by the end of today.

And when I asked for a little bit of longer term goals, they said by the end of this month, the goal is to have 25 percent restored. But, again, put that into perspective, the goal right now is by the end of the month 75 percent of the island will likely still not have power, weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated this island.

TAPPER: After Leyla's report yesterday, somebody from the navy reached out to me via Facebook to ask where the woman with the baby was so that they could bring relief to them and they -- got in touch with Leyla and her producer.

Leyla, great job, your stories of people having troubles on the ground directly bringing their attention to people who can help them. So, keep up the great work.

SANTIAGO: Thank you.

TAPPER: We have a lot to discuss with my panel today.

Jen Psaki, let me start with you.

Today, President Trump tweeted, the wonderful people of Puerto Rico with their unmatched spirit know how bad things were before the hurricane. I will always be with them. Some people say that that's a contrast from yesterday when he tweeted:

We cannot keep FEMA, the military and the first responders who have been amazing under the most difficult circumstances in Puerto Rico forever.

Is this a course correction? How do you see it?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's hard to know. I don't think his Twitter or tweeting is a big strategic decision-making tool from the White House, so perhaps he saw the error of his ways, perhaps somebody in the White House said to him that was a little harsh and isn't being well-received.

I think the ongoing issue here is that the Puerto Rican community in the United States does not feel that he is doing enough, does not feel that he is with them, and for the people who have electricity there, they don't feel he is either. So, that's an ongoing problem that's not going to be solved by a tweet.

TAPPER: And obviously, David, people with FEMA, people with the military, the first responders doing a very, very difficult job and really working hard, but there are a lot of people who continue to not have aid reach them. And, obviously, that's not specifically President Trump's fault if a meal doesn't end up in a mountainous region. But I think there are a lot of people who think, why is he, first of all, continue to keep saying to say how great everything's going when it's not?

[16:35:01] And second of all, why a different message for Puerto Rico than for Texas and Florida?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think there's a different message. I think the message is our goal is to get the folks in there, get things restored and get out as soon as possible. I don't think there is any different message.

I think, you know, the folks -- there are still folks in New Orleans long after Katrina's been gone. So, I think the president's message was our job is to get in, I want these guys to get in, get things restored, and get out as soon as possible.

We don't plan on staying forever. If you're going to be there forever, that means you're not succeeding. And I think the president is reminding everybody of the good work as you said the folks from FEMA, the military, the National Guard, all the first responders on the ground there.

This is incredibly difficult work to do. If you have had an opportunity to see the video or travel, I do some work in St. John, it's been destroyed. The islands are just wiped out. I mean, it's like nothing you've ever seen.

And so, expecting going down there and getting some chainsaws and cutting some brush and everything is going to be fine is just -- is a little -- is a little unrealistic, and I think the president simply lauding the folks who are doing this incredibly hard work and incredibly difficult circumstances.

TAPPER: Well, President Obama was president during a number of storms. Would you talk to him before he would go out to talk about relief efforts such as Superstorm Sandy or any other natural disasters? And how would you contrast the two?

PSAKI: Sure. But his instincts were right on. I mean, they were to be empathetic, they were to speak to all populations in the same way.

I have to disagree with David. I think one of the biggest issues Trump has is not the necessarily handling of the people on the ground, of FEMA and the first responders who are professionals and trying to deal with a difficult situation, but that his tone and his tenor has been completely different from how he approached people recovering from the storm in Houston and other storms that have happened. That's not something you would have seen from president Obama or would have had to tell him not to do.

URBAN: Not surprisingly, I disagree with Jen, obviously. I think the president had a very lively well-received roundtable in Puerto Rico with the governor, with the mayor. She was very nice, even sitting around -- think she couldn't say anything mean about the president after that. And so, to somehow criticize the president for his tone I think is a little tone deaf on your case.

PSAKI: It's not my criticism. It's the criticism of the Puerto Rican people.

URBAN: You just criticized him right here. You just criticized him here. And I think it's unfair. I think he is -- he has been reaching out and pushing and pushing and pushing our military and FEMA and others in the administration to get things up and running there.

And, Jake, you just reported, you know, Puerto Rico is in rough shape. The infrastructure and some of the things there, the power grid was in rough shape to begin with. So, it's not going to be turned on overnight.

TAPPER: Of course, not.

Everyone stay right here. We got lots more to talk about, including President Trump's decision to dismantle two key pieces of president Obama's legacy. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:42:10] TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead. I want to continue the conversation with my panel. Jen Psaki, let's start with the decertification by President Trump of the Iran deal. Take a listen to the president today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We got weak inspections in exchange for no more than a purely short-term and temporary delay in Iran's path to nuclear weapons. What is the purpose of a deal that at best only delays Iran's nuclear capability for a short period of time?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Is he wrong?

PSAKI: Yes. Here's why. We had no possibility of creating a deal with Iran where they were not be moving forward to create -- to acquire a nuclear weapon before we had this deal. We had no visibility. We had no insight into what they were doing. And what they -- and what they were doing with their nuclear capacity. Now we do.

The breakout capacity was two months, now it's over a year. We know exactly what they're doing because we have a monitoring mechanism.

The problem with what he had to say today -- there were a lot of problems. One of them was he didn't lay out any strategy. He laid out the history of Iran. What many experts, most experts will tell you is that there is no evidence that doing away with the comprehensive deal that everyone says is working except for perhaps President Trump is going to help us negotiate any of the other pieces, it actually hurts our leverage.

So, he says he doesn't want Congress to act, people have said he said that. But now, we're in a very risky place. There is a Corker bill that's out there and that would violate the deal in itself.

URBAN: Look, not surprisingly, Jen and I have different viewpoints on this, right? I don't believe that Jen's correct in saying that we were verifying. I believe the inspectors weren't able to go in and inspect and verify that they weren't in compliance.

PSAKI: That's not what the IAEA or any foreign leader says.

URBAN: I think the IAEA was not -- I think the IAEA was not allowed in.

PSAKI: They put out a statement today.

URBAN: And, Jen, not surprisingly, we gave the IRGC, we're giving them tons of cash, right, to continue to be -- to destabilize the Middle East, to lob rockets into Israel, Hezbollah, and to fund terrorists to come to potentially the United States, take out the Saudi ambassador here in Washington, D.C. There was a -- there was an arrest made, a prosecution done under President Obama of some IRGC terrorist.

And so, this deal gives them billions of dollars and allows them to move forward without checking the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

PSAKI: David, I'm sure you know they were already being sanctioned to the top level they could be sanctioned. So, this does minimal or nothing, the additional sanctions.

URBAN: So, then, why does anyone care? If it does anything, why is everybody caring? You know what the president's doing here, Jake? The president's

taking care of America. He's looking out for the safety. His number one job as president of the United States is to take care and protect the American homeland. That's what he's doing in this case right here.

TAPPER: I want to turn to Obamacare, which is another part of the Obama legacy that the president is starting to dismantle today.

[16:45:00]

David, the President said that they're going to suspend these payments to health insurance companies. Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros- Lehtinen, she tweeted about today's decision, "cutting subsidies will mean more uninsured in my district. POTUS promised -- President of the United States promised more access, affordable coverage, this does the opposite." Now my colleague early on the show Christine Romans said 6 million Americans are going to see their deductibles go up as a result. That's what these you know, subsidies did, as they defrayed the costs for individuals. How does this fulfill the pledge of better insurance and cheaper insurance?

URBAN: So look, I think the Congress is going to have to act on this, right? And so, going back to this, 2011, the House sued. We were in federal district court. I don't think anybody at that point in time expected the CSRs to continue. I think --

TAPPER: Those are the subsidies.

URBAN: Yes, subsidies. I don't think anyone expects it to continue. Everybody knew there was a new administration coming on. There was no appropriation made for this money. The administration decided to make a payment moving forward and wait and see and they decided they couldn't do it anymore. There were no appropriations being made. They can't go forward. It wasn't put forward in the ACA. There's no funding mechanism. And so, this is, yes, great, it's Medicare. It's expanded Medicare. It's what Bernie Sanders is putting forward, single-payer system, right? Is that what you're moving towards here with this continued payments? You know, in the state of Pennsylvania, you have --

TAPPER: The Commonwealth.

URBAN: Yes, the commonwealth. Excuse me, Jake, you're exactly correct. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, how could I forget, you know, insurers are pulling out 40, 50 percent of Pennsylvanians are -- have one insurer, one choice.

TAPPER: Yes, there are problems -- there are big problems with ObamaCare. So then let me ask you, Jen, because I know obviously, you oppose the decision made today. I want to go beyond that and past that. Here was the President's message to Democrats on health care moments ago. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What would be nice, if the Democratic leaders could come over to the White House, we'll negotiate some deal that's good for everybody. That's what I'd like. But they're always a block vote against everything. They're like obstructionists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: How should Democrats play this?

PSAKI: Democrats should negotiate. And they've said they would. And Schumer has said that since January. And there were conversations and bipartisan negotiations happening this summer that were destroyed because of the last-minute effort to try to repeal ObamaCare again in September.

TAPPER: But you think Schumer and Pelosi should go to the White House and try to negotiate a new health care bill or a fix of ObamaCare or whatever as soon as possible?

PSAKI: Sure. And here's why. What Trump is doing is he is destroying ObamaCare and he's destroying health care for Americans with the cut off of the CSR payments, with that terrible executive order he put in place yesterday with the Small Business Association plans. Democrats should absolutely get to the table. Republicans should as well. And I think they will. It's not just Ileana Ros- Lehtinen, you have the Governor of Nevada, you have many Republican leaders across the country who are saying this is very bad, taking away the CSR payments. And now is the time where he should -- Trump should allow and he should get involved if he can, this to be fixed.

TAPPER: Jen Psaki, David Urban, great to have both of you on. Thank you so much. Have a great weekend.

URBAN: Thank you.

TAPPER: The United Nations has issued sanctions against North Korea, but is China upholding these sanctions? We're going to visit one town along the Chinese and North Korean border to find out next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In our "WORLD LEAD" today, North Korea is once again threatening to strike the U.S. territory of Guam with its ballistic missiles before next week's U.S.-South Korean joint naval exercises. These continuous threats from Kim Jong-un may explain President Trump's frustration and complaints that China is not doing enough to stop North Korea. And the President might have a point. A CNN investigation has uncovered China may not be enforcing new U.N. sanctions as it agreed to do with its citizens working around the system to get fresh seafood from North Korea. Here's CNN's Matt Rivers with his exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When on the hunt for illicit North Korean goods, it's best to head to Northeast China. Driving along the North Korean border, we head for Hunchun, a city known for buying and selling North Korean seafood. There we quickly found a street filled with seafood markets, recording on our cell phones to avoid being spotted by the Chinese police. In just the second store we tried, we saw this.

And this is North Korean crab?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

RIVERS: The shop owner said she got a fresh shipment of North Korean crab in just the night before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These were smuggled from North Korea.

RIVERS: Two doors down, more crab, still illegal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those big hairy crabs are from North Korea. We got smuggled in them a few days ago.

RIVERS: Smuggled in because a few weeks ago 7,000 miles away, the U.N. Security Council Passed new sanctions on North Korea, that included a total ban on seafood exports. They're worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the regime. China was the biggest buyer, but that was supposed to stop two months ago, and to a large extent it did. Processing centers here closed down. People lost their jobs. But clearly, it hasn't stopped completely. One woman even told us how the crab is being smuggled in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People bag them up and float them across the river at the border. We are not worried about it.

RIVERS: So part of the reason that that smuggling can happen is because most of the land border between China and North Korea looks like this. It's pretty open. Right on the other side of that river right there, that's North Korea. You can see it probably wouldn't be that difficult to get across. CNN can't determine how much crab is still being sold, the scale of it all. The Chinese government would not comment for this story, but consistently say that they enforce all sanctions. But the Trump administration says Beijing is not doing enough. They want tougher sanctions.

[16:55:13] And here, a bit further south along the border, the city of Dandong is the perfect place to see how China props up the regime economically and against U.S. wishes. This is all legal. Trucks loaded down with goods. Everything from food to solar panels rumble across the Yalu River into North Korea each day. Total Chinese exports to North Korea are up around 30 percent this year. North Korean laborers work in Chinese factories and send their wages back to the regime, and then there's this, a particular sticking point for the U.S. and a place the Chinese government does not want journalists to film, these huge oil tanks storing the fuel that is sent across the border each day. This facility right here is really the embodiment of the disagreement

between Beijing and Washington. The Trump administration does not want oil running through its pipelines to North Korea, but so far, Beijing is not willing to totally do that.

China has only agreed to limit oil exports in line with current U.N. sanctions. Beijing fears that an oil embargo could help cause the regime to collapse and lead to a surge of refugees over its border. In the meantime, back in Hunchun, U.N. mandates feel pretty far away. You can book a table at a local restaurant and pick out your very own North Korean crab. Clear sanctions violations served up hot and fresh. Matt Rivers, CNN, Hunchun, China.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And in our "POP CULTURE LEAD" today, he's been everywhere, man but Anthony Bourdain says he has never seen a city like the one he's taking you to this week in "PARTS UNKNOWN." I talked to him earlier about this weekend's episode.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: So there is such a huge chasm between the rich and poor in Nigeria, why?

ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST: There is not a lot of trickledown. I mean, there is a lot of oil money, but the people who control that oil money are not big on sharing and it tends to stay within this sort of circle of cronies and really not spread around.

TAPPER: And it seems like there is such drive, there's such ambition, so many people working two or three -- two or three jobs.

BOURDAIN: I've never been any place where I've seen such wild entrepreneurial positive thinking. A go, go, unrestrained capitalism. Completely out of the purview or control of the -- of the government. Everybody under -- particularly in the capital city of Lagos, 20 million people, these people understand the government is not going to provide them with anything. So everyone -- somehow provides themselves with power, water, all basic services. You've got to hustle in Nigeria and they do. And the positive attitude is unlike anything I've ever seen.

TAPPER: What's the -- what's the best example of an entrepreneurship that you've seen?

BOURDAIN: There is an area there, it's -- I believe it's hundreds of millions of dollars going through this one area, neighborhood of Lagos called computer village. It just -- a bunch of people started selling for cell phone covers, cell phone cases, then electronic equipment. Kids started coming from the provinces without even a high school education, learned from repetition how to fix iPhones in the streets with their own tools, start their own electronic stores, were legit. But the difference between legitimate tax paying business and a street business is completely permeable. But this is a huge, huge generator of untapped revenue, all self-built. TAPPER: And you talk about the government not doing things for

people. And in fact, when the government has tried to get involved, this usually made things messier and harder for people. So they provide their own water, they provide their own electricity. What else?

BOURDAIN: Well, to some extent, law and order is administered largely by people called area boys who workhand-in-hand with the police and are kind of like old ward boss used to be back in the early days in New York politics. Meaning the people who run and administer the streets and tax everyone from pedestrians, cab drivers, bus drivers, they're street gangs.

TAPPER: And what was your favorite food? Obviously, that's the point, so to speak.

BOURDAIN: The Nigerian pepper soup is amazing.

TAPPER: Why?

BOURDAIN: It's basically everything I like. You know, a foot or a shank of meat, spicy as hell and utterly delicious.

TAPPER: All right. Well, sounds good. My mouth is already watering. Anthony Bourdain, thanks so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And you can catch Anthony Bourdain's exploring Lagos in "PARTS UNKNOWN" this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN. But before that, be sure to tune into Sunday morning to CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." My guest will be Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. and again at noon Eastern on Sunday. That is it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you Sunday morning. Thanks for watching.