tv The Lead With Jake Tapper CNN October 16, 2017 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT
>> the nfl has a big meeting this week with team owners and the players' union to try to resolve the controversy. that's it for me. i'm brianna keilar in for brooke baldwin. "the lead" with jake tapper starts right now. thanks, brianna. steve bannon says he is looking for a brutus to take on mcconnell's julius caesar. someone who presumably has not read to the end of the play. all smiles. president trump presents a united front with mitch mcconnell as his former right-hand man steve bannon declares war on the establishment that mcconnell represents. president trump not only doesn't criticize bannon, he says he understands where he's coming from. no talk. north korea rejecting diplomacy with the united states for now as secretary of state rex tillerson tells me that the u.s. is ready to talk, quote, until the first bomb drops. plus, an explosive new
report accusing congress of disarming the dea and helping to fuel the opioid epidemic in the country. did the president's nominee for drug czar help push through that law? good afternoon, everyone. welcome to "the lead." i'm jake tapper. the republican party has never been more unified, president trump said today, except for a few hours earlier maybe when the president was blaming senate republicans for, quote, not getting the job done legislatively. he was backing former white house chief strategist steve bannon who declared a, quote, bloody civil war against republican members of congress up for re-election next year. bannon blamed them for stalling the president's agenda and president trump said today, quote, i can understand fully how steve bannon feels. which is a funny way to express unity and support for congressional republicans. cnn's senior white house correspondent jeff zeleny starts us off today from greenville, south carolina, where president trump will be this evening to fund-raise for the incumbent republican governor.
>> my relationship with this gentleman is outstanding. has been outstanding. >> reporter: president trump breaking the ice today with senate majority leader mitch mcconnell. it's too soon to know if they've buried the hatchet. >> we're fighting for the same thing. we're fighting for lower taxes, big tax cuts. the biggest tax cuts in the history of our nation. we're fighting for tax reform as part of that. >> reporter: with their vastly different styles on full display, two men stood side-by-side in the rose garden trying to make nice and hoping to smooth over the insults and infighting flying between them for weeks. >> contrary to what some of you may have reported, we are together totally on this agenda. >> reporter: the republican tax cut plan is a critical test for whether the white house and congress can actually govern. it's an incentive for trump and mcconnell to come together, despite a civil war raging inside the gop. the president's embrace of mcconnell stood in contrast to weeks of blaming and shaming him
for failing to repeal obamacare. >> we should have had health care approved. he should have known that he had a couple of votes that turned on him. >> reporter: and today, mcconnell did not question mr. trump's grasp of the presidency. as he did this summer. >> our new president has, of course, not been in this line of work before. and i think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen. in the democratic process. >> reporter: after a private lunch today, the president took questions for nearly 45 minutes. as mcconnell watched and occasionally joined in. it was an unusual sign of unity, considering trump loyalists like steve bannon had declared war on mcconnell and the republican establishment. >> yeah, mitch, the donors are not happy. they've all left you. we've cut your oxygen off, mitch, okay? >> reporter: but the show of solidarity at the white house today sent a clear signal the president is far less interested in tearing down the republican
party than bannon, his former chief strategist, is. >> steve is doing what steve thinks is the right thing. some of the people he may be looking at i'm going to see if we talk them out of that, because, frankly, they're good people. >> reporter: mcconnell did not mention bannon by name but he warned against to mount primary efforts against republican senators. >> you have to nominate people who can win because winners make policy and losers go home. >> reporter: his impromptu freewheeling news conference to an end. taking questions on one topic after another. he each look ahead to his next election, raising an improbable scenario. >> i hope hillary runs. hillary, please run again. >> reporter: jake, of course, hillary clinton has said she will not run for president again, but president trump is flying down to south carolina to campaign for someone here who helped him out in his own presidential campaign, that's the governor of south carolina. jake, but the president's not doing any public events at all. he's not selling or pushing his tax cut plan. and it is the future of that
plan which will help indicate the future of the republican majority in congress and, in fact, his legislative agenda. all of which seemed overwhelmed a bit by that spectacle at the white house. >> all right. jeff zeleny, thanks so much. appreciate it. i want to bring in my political panel now. scott jennings, he's a former special assistant to president george w. bush. senior political reporter nia-malika henderson and cnn political commentator van jones, author of a brand new book called "the messy truth." so let's dive right into it. this morning, the president says he understands why steve bannon declared war on the republican establishment. scott, mcconnell's pushback, we need people who can win elections in 2010, think it was. we nominated a whole bunch of tea partiers for want of a better term. and they lost all of their elections. we need people who can win. that's his agenda. and obviously steve bannon has a completely opposite point of view. >> well, first of all, the president is correct, i think, to channel and feel the
frustrations of republicans who want to see things happen. that's not an incorrect emotional impulse. that's what's makes his political instincts so good, being able to channel those kinds kinds of feelings. however, his anger has been channelled at the wrong people. according to the 3538 website of 94%. what good is it to go to the senate and vote for all of trump's stuff if you're going to get a primary out there? i was pleased to see the president say he was going to talk to bannon about not recruiting primaries against the people actually on the trump team. >> although i have to say, van, he didn't criticize bannon at all. he said he was going to talk to him. it was all very positive. this is a president who has been known to throw a punch or two. >> yeah, one of the things that's very interesting is his whole brand is how authentic he is. he gets up there, transparently lies about how much he loves mcconnell and how much they get along, meanwhile, his best buddy is like sharpening the knives and getting ready to take the guy out. maybe not as authentic today as
he might pretend to be. >> nia-malika, how serious a threat is this bannon campaign? bannon is talking about serious challenges to a whole bunch of, frankly, as scott points out, very conservative republicans. they happen to be establishment republicans, but they are very conservative. barrasso -- >> wicker. >> wicker. >> these are not -- these are not moderates. these are very conservative senators. >> yeah, i mean, it's serious because it's bannon. because bannon has a platform at breitbart. he also has money, right? he's got this family who is backing this effort. his notion is that 2010 and 2014 were different and that now sort of this will be a perfect storm because i think he also understands that voters seem to think that he is with trump, right? and that he is fighting for trump's agenda. that he is ultimately sort of the outsider. bannon is. y trump is as well. with that kind of organizations, perhaps it's something you have to take more seriously. i mean, think the issue comes
with what kind of candidates they're going to be able to recruit and will they be candidates that are able to be vetted and can really withstand not only a primary, make it through the primary, but then to a general election? that's something that's hard to do. >> the deeper problem here is just the poison from a bannon. you get to put out there the idea that even if you support trump, you still have to move further right. that's not how you're going to get your constituency any real help. you still are going to have democrats there. at some point, you've got to have people who can work together. you have bannon now who is going to make people terrified to actually make the government function, and that's -- win or lose, we all lose on that. >> scott, at some point, the president's going to have to choose between steve bannon and mitch mcconnell. these primary fights are going to be very difficult. you can't straddle them. at some point, bannon's candidates are going to be challenging mcconnell's guys like wicker. >> yeah, it would be i think catastrophic for the president
to choose against people who are voting with him on almost every single vote. that would send a terrible signal for future legislative exchanges. so i'm hopeful that the president has a continued dialogue with senator mcconnell about what it means to understand that politics is a team sport. >> everyone, stick around. lots more to talk about after the break, including the president's thoughts on who he would like to see run against him in 2020. stay with us. and now, i help people find discounts, like paperless, multi-car, and safe driver, that help them save on their car insurance. any questions? -yeah. -how do you go to the bathroom? great. any insurance-related questions? -mm-hmm. -do you have a girlfriend? uh, i'm actually focusing on my career right now, saving people nearly $600 when they switch, so... where's your belly button? [ sighs ] i've got to start booking better gigs.
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i hope. hillary, please run again. when you take a knee -- that's why she lost the election. i mean, honestly, it's that thinking that is the reason she lost the election. >> interestingly, nia-malika, you said, explain. >> i said he's essentially saying she was on the wrong side of the culture war and it's something that you've heard bannon talk about, this idea if you give democrats talking about race and racism, that republicans have an answer for that. and donald trump does have an answer for that. he very much revels in the culture wars. it's something i think that unifies his base, which is largely white. which really straddles all economic classes as well as largely evangelical christian as well. so he knows he's on firm ground. i thought that was an apt diagnosis in many ways in one of the reasons that contributed to hillary clinton's loss. >> it's one of the things we've heard when democrats criticize hillary clinton's campaign is that there was too much about bathrooms and not enough about jobs.
>> it's true. i mean, i think at the end of the day, she's not president and he is. we've now had two presidents in a row that didn't like kaepernick's protests, but look at the way obama handled it. obama said, you know what, there are probably better ways to deal with it. i want kaepernick to listen to the people he may be offending and i want those people to listen to him. he used it as a moment to get some understanding and dialogue going and not to actually throw n more gasoline on the fire. that's part of the problem we have. it's why i wrote the book i wrote. i went around the country. it seems like there is a lot of common pain out there but no common purpose. increasingly politicians are using the division in the country for their end but not for the country's gains. >> what do you think, scott? >> i think donald trump is right. after eight years of obama, a lot of people, particularly in the middle of the country, felt we had been dragged very far to the left. almost to make the country unrecognizable in their view
were reacting to that. think that's why she lost the election in the states she did. for donald trump on the nfl issue, he doesn't care what people think in the urban centers, making sure people in michigan, pennsylvania and ohio are still with him emotionally. >> but isn't that awful? that he doesn't care. here's the deal, the conservative movement doesn't rationally have to go around antagonizing urban folks. conservatives could say, hey, you guys are complaining about lack of opportunity, lack of justice. we're conservatives. we care about that and we can help you. i don't like your symbols, but the sums of your complaint, i care about that. i'm going to call you in and talk to you. they're not doing that. doesn't that long term hurt the country? >> i think there are some republicans who heard what you have had to say about criminal justice reform and have acted on it. think in the case of the pft, in the case of any first-term president. they're looking at the connectivity they have to have with the people to win re-election. 80,000 votes in the middle of the country made donald trump president. if he loses those people, he's a
one-term president. >> he can keep all of those people and show he cares about folks in urban america. here is the problem. we've now gotten to a point where it's a 12-month four-year campaign and we dmenever get ard to governing for all the people. that's what's wrong. i don't think the republican party -- you can win with this stuff for a little while, long term, we can't fight about everything and still have a country. he's not done one thing yet to reach out to the people that those guys are out there taking a knee for. that's wrong. >> every now and then we hear something like for instance when president trump was talking about working with pelosi and schumer on the d.r.e.a.m.ers, although that seems to be kind of off the table now, but every now and then there does seem to be i think, oh, he does realize he needs do do better than 45%. he could actually win re-election easily if he tried to expand his base instead of only focus on his base. it doesn't happen very often. >> it's sort of he changes his mind. it seems to be of the moment, the daca thing, where he seemed
to suggest they had reached some sort of a deal. chuck and nancy came out and said as much. then he, again, had to talk about the wall and make that a part of whatever deal there is. that is him obviously trying to deliver on what his base wants. >> all right. van jones, scott jennings, nia-malika henderson, thanks one and all. van jones, congratulations on the book. >> thank you. >> a shocking condition from the north korea. the regime says it will not consider diplomacy until it has a missile that can reach the east coast of the united states. >> tech: so you think this chip is nothing to worry about? well at safelite, we know sooner or later every chip will crack. these friends were on a trip when their windshield got chipped. so they scheduled at safelite.com. they didn't have to change their plans or worry about a thing. i'll see you all in a little bit. and i fixed it right away with a strong repair they can trust.
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welcome back to "the lead." the world lead now. kim jong-un will not talk. today, north korea said diplomacy with the united states is off the table for now because the rogue regime is committed to developing a missile capable of, quote, reaching all the way to the east coast of the mainland united states. this response came just hours after secretary of state tillerson told me that the president does not think diplomacy with north korea is a
waste of time, as he once tweeted. cnn's will ripley, who has been to north korea more than a dozen times joins me now. will, what does this flat-out rejection of diplomacy mean? >> reporter: it means that north korea, according to the official i spoke with, wants to send a clear message to the trump administration that they have an effective nuclear deterrence. they want to prove they have an intercontinental ballistic missile that can hit the mainland u.s., which means they would have to launch that kind of a missile to demonstrate its capacity. this official also says they would need to prove this is a weapon that could actually be viable, which would mean an above-ground detonation. a detonation over the pacific perhaps, like north korea's foreign minister threatened after president trump said at the united nations that the u.s. is ready to totally destroy north korea if necessary. so basically north korea saying no thanks to the secretary of state rex tillerson, even though he told you, jake, that the u.s. would pursue diplomacy until the first bomb drops. the question now is north korea going to do something that would
provoke the u.s. to take an action like that? >> how is north korea responding to these joint u.s./south korean naval drills that are happening over the next ten days in the region? >> reporter: we haven't seen any response yet, but past experience shows that north korea is always infuriated and threatened and paranoid as a result of these military exercises, which the u.s. insists are purely defensive in nature. when you have 40 naval ships, a u.s. aircraft dearer, fighter jets and helicopters off the waters of the korean peninsula, it would be very likely to see some sort of a military response from the north korea. in fact, the official i spoke with said this may be a final for the north to launch a missile or to test a nuclear device as they have around previous joint drills in the past. >> all right. will ripley, thank you so much. we appreciate it. after an explosive new report about what might have helped fuel the opioid crisis, there are calls for president trump to withdraw his nominee
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we're back with our health lead now. president trump today acknowledged some serious questions about his own nominee to be white house drug czar after an explosive report charging that nominee, republican congressman tom marino sponsoring legislation push bid drug companies that hobble the ability for the drug enforcement agency to protect the american people. a former dea deputy administrator served as a whistle-blower for the report by the "washington post" and cbs news. revealing this pharmaceutical industry friendly law that the dea had opposed for years was passed, fueling the opioid crisis. the whistle-blower says multibillion dollar drug companies courted a handful of members of congress, showering them with cash to get this done. >> this is an industry that allowed millions and millions of drugs to go into bad pharmacies and doctors' offices that attributed them out to people
who had no legitimate need for those drugs. you know the implication of what you're saying, that these big companies knew that they were pumping drugs into american communities that were killing people? >> that's not an implication, that's a fact. that's exactly what they did. >> joining me now is democratic senator claire mccaskill of missouri. senator, you announced you're going to introduce legislation to repeal the 2016 law that made this possible. it was passed by unanimous consent in the senate last year. president obama signed it. how did it become law in the first place? >> well, there is a lot of blame to go around. it's a combination of things. you had people who worked at the dea that went to work for the big drug companies. you had the big drug companies trying to wear down the dea's opposition over time, and working closely with members of congress to try to get a change in the law that would be
advantageous to them. now, i did
not go along with this. i wasn't here at the time. i was actually out getting breast cancer treatment. i don't know that i would have objected. i like to believe i would have, but the bottom line is, once the dea kind of -- the upper levels at the dea obviously said it was okay, that's what gave it the green light. and that's why we've got to repeal this provision, get back to more accountability for these distributors, because what they're doing and what they have done in the past is outrageous. >> the whistle-blower suggests that campaign cash is one of the key ways that this happened. do you agree? >> well, i don't think i would argue with him that pharma is one of the bigger players on the hill. there is no question, i mean, if you look at things like us not being able to negotiate prescription drug prices in the medicare program? i mean, really? based on volume. that was all pharma getting that done. so they are really an aggressive presence on the hill, no
question, but this is now a matter of public health crisis number one. and the notion that these distributors would send millions of dollars of pills into a community that had fewer than 1,000 people, millions of pills in west virginia, and that county ended up having one of the highest death rates from, of course, opioid overdose. so we've got to go back to the old standard. we've got to not give them a free pass by developing a plan, which this law did, and i'm hopeful most of my colleagues will agree with me. >> congressman tom marino. he is president trump's nominee to be drug czar. senator manchin of west virginia has called for the white house to withdraw congressman marino's nomination. president trump was asked about marino's nomination today. take a listen. >> i did see the report. we're going to look into the report. we're going to take it very seriously. >> if i think it's 1% negative to doing what we want to do, i will make a change.
>> do you agree with senator manchin that marino's name should be 1withdrawn? >> i certainly don't support congressman more eastbouarino f. in addition to that, you have to understand that the trump budget zeroed out the office they nominated him to head. it's ironic that the president is going to look into at. at the same time, i hope he weighs in that he didn't really mean it when he submitted a budget to congress that zeros out the office of national drug control policy. >> you launched an investigation into how opioid manufacturers have played a role in causing this horrific epidemic. can you give us an update on what you found so far? >> we've issued one report so far where we found a company was actually fraudulently participating in trying to get authorization to get their product, fentanyl product out on the street. there was so much inappropriate
activity in terms of sales and marketing in this company it was sickening. we are now looking at all of the companies that were aggressively involved in sales and marketing in the opioid industry, and now we've expanded our investigation into the big three distributors and the other major distributors of opioids around the country. we've got over 1.5 million pages of documents we've already obtained from these companies and we are in the process of continuing to work through them and we'll issue reports as we go along. >> what more needs to be done? what more powers does law enforcement need or what regulations does the dea need in order for this opioid epidemic to at least be hobbled a bit? >> well, we need a variety of things. speaking as a former prosecutor, we need to support law enforcement on the front lines. we need to make sure we have enough treatment and prevention moibs out the monies out there, especially treatment beds. we need border patrol officers, which are the one who's are in the ports. that's where a lot of these drugs are coming through.
not across the rio grande river, but, rather, through our ports. we need to do something about the fact that we are prescribing opioids at a level that is unprecedented in the world. and we've got to look at that through the ama and doctors and then we've got to look at the marketing and distribution of the drugs themselves. >> senator claire mccaskill of missouri, always good to see you. thank you so much. >> thank you, jake. >> the trump campaign has been subpoenaed by one of the women who accused mr. trump of sexual assault. the president weighed in on this. stick around.
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accusing weinstein of sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape to 40. 40 women. the film industry is finally taking action against the disgraced movie mogul. the board of the producers guild of america just voted to expel him. that follows the academy of motion picture arts and sciences board which ousted him this weekend. we should note that woody allen, roman polanski and bill cosby still remain members of that. the accusation against weinstein has prompted others to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against bosses and others in power. that brings us to our politics lead now. in the final weeks of president trump's campaign been nearly a dozen women came forward to accuse then candidate donald trump of harassment and sexual assault. former "apprentice" contestant summer zervos has issued a subpoena to the trump campaign for relevant documents. the president just minutes ago was asked about the case. >> all i can say is it's totally fake news. just fake. it's made up stuff, and it's
disgraceful what happens. but that happens in the world of politics. >> jessica schneider has the latest on this case. >> reporter: amid a cascade of complaints from multiple women last october that donald trump had sexual assaulted them over the years -- >> he came to me and started kissing me open-mouthed, as he was pulling me towards him. >> reporter: then candidate trump promise to take them to court. >> all of these liars will be sued after the election is over. >> reporter: the president has not sued, but his repeated bashing of his accusers -- >> when you looked at that horrible woman last night, you said, i don't think so. every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. total fabrication. >> reporter: prompted accuser and former "apprentice" star summer zervos to sue him for defamation in january. first reported by "buzzfeed,"
her lawyer gloria allred issued a subpoena to the president's campaign in march seeking documents concerning all women that asserted donald j. trump touched them inappropriately, including any basis that any such woman or women fabricated, created or lied about her/their interactions with them or motivated to come forward by fame or ten minutes of fame, money, politics or pressure from the clinton campaign. >> part of their argument is that the president is legally immune from being sued because he is president. we respond with a case of paula jones versus president clinton, which went all the way up to the u.s. supreme court. the u.s. supreme court indicated no man is above the law, even the president of the united states. is not above the law. >> reporter: the supreme court did allow paula jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against president bill clinton to proceed, but trump's lawyers argued this issuance of a subpoena is a different circumstance, stating ms.
all-rid has served a far-reaching subpoena on the trump campaign that seeks wholly irrelevant information intended to harass the president. indeed ms. allred herself has questioned how the president could run the country if faced with broad discovery. >> any attacks on me, this is not new. people who oppose me often will attack me personally, which is usually a sign that they don't have a good argument against the merits of my argument. >> now, it is possible that the new york state court could rule that the subpoena needs to be narrowed considerably or that the defamation case itself should be held until president trump is no longer in office or that it should be dismissed altogether, but either way there was one notable name weighing in on the claims this weekend, hillary clinton. when asked about movie mogul harvey weinstein, she used it as a segue to label president trump as, quote, a sexual assaulter. that was in an interview with the bbc this weekend. >> of course the same has been
said about her husband, former president bill clinton. i want to bring in former u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york, preet bharara. he was dismissed by president trump in march. a fierce critic of the trump administration. preet, thanks for being on. looking at this case just as a legal analyst, what are summer zervos' lawyers hoping to get from these documents and does she have a chance of getting anything? >> there are lots of reasons why people want to serve document subpoenas. this one of those cases. the president of the united states himself is long known for being someone who is not afraid of litigating to make a point. not just to get a money judgement. now, my expertise is in criminal law, not so much in defamation and libel law, but it seems this plaintiff in particular is, you know, playing a game of what's good for the goose is good for the gander. so even if this person does not ultimately prevail on the merits, think the hope probably as a litigation strategy and also, you know, sort of a public relations strategy is to strike back at some of the things that
donald trump has been saying over and over again and to have some evidence to support the fact that donald trump shouldn't go out of his way to say the things he's saying because they're not true. >> if you -- i mean, president trump, i know he doesn't take advice a lot from people who would presumably know better. >> not from me. >> you would probably have said to him when these allegations come forward, don't go after any of these women, don't call them liars because they -- they have the grounds to go after you for defamation. >> look, i think there are probably a lot of occasions, not just this occasions, where the lawyers have been telling the president of the united states and when he was president-elect the best thing for you to do is keep your mouth shut. the best thing for you to do is ease up your twitter finger, obviously as we know time and time again, the president doesn't take that advice. it's probably not great for him legally. >> there is an interesting story is it might shed some light perhaps on why you were dismissed by the president in march. you were told that he wanted to keep you in your position as a u.s. attorney. he told you that in march.
he asked to your resignation. there is a new report in the "washington post" suggesting one possible reason for that, turkish president erdogan, it says, had previously been demanding that you be fired in the previous administration because of this u.s. case against a turkish gold dealer who has ties to iran. do you think that that might have something to do with why you ultimately were fired and what would the reasoning be, using this theory? >> jake, i have no idea. as i think people know, i was fired somewhat inexplicably in march after being beseeched to stay on for another term by the president of the united states. we had this case against a gentleman by the name of reza zden zara. it's currently pending. i know this to be true, last september, 2015, president erdogan of turkey, who seems to be something of an ally of the president on a lot of different things, urged that i be fired so the case against his ally in
turkey, reza might go away. whether or not it had anything to do with my ultimately being fired. what we do know is there was this case pending. we do know the president of turkey himself in a kind of outrageous way asked for the firing of an american prosecutor at the highest level with the vice president of the united states. and also we know that michael flynn had relationships with the government of turkey and he was ail member of the transition team and then for a period of time was the national security adviser. so i'm not making an accusation, but there are a lot of issues relating to the relationship with turkey and requestings being made by the government of turkey and i think those things bear some more questions being asked. >> indeed. i want to ask you about attorney general jeff sessions who sent a hate crimes attorney to iowa to help prosecute an individual who has been charged in the murder of a transgender high school student. what do you make of that? it's not the kind of thing normally that one would have expected from attorney general sessions, but is this just an attorney general using every tool in the tool belt? >> i think the attorney general
of the united states jeff sessions with whom i disagree on some things and lots of folks disagree with him on many things should get some credit for making available important resources from the department of justice with respect to this heinous what appears to be a hate killing in iowa of a person who is transgender. that does not mean in minds of many people that he's off the hook for how he has dealt with issues of discrimination on the part of various groups with respect to either the transgender population or others, but i think we can all be happy that he cares enough about this issue to send someone. the standard should be more than only caring when someone is actually murdered in an act of discrimination and bigotry. >> all right. preet bharara, thank you so much. always goods to have you on the show. >> thank you. >> the comfort is the navy's state of the art floating hospital. many people in puerto rico desperately need access to the ship so why are most of the ship's hospital beds currently empty? that story's next. we come into this world needing others. ♪
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now to the wildfires in california. at least 41 people are dead. more than 200 are missing and thousands of evacuees are wondering if their homes and pets have survived. those who have been able to return have come home to find rubble and ashes. the department of health and human services has declared california a public health emergency. however, among the heartbreak and devastation, some hope in the news that one of the biggest fires, the tubbs fire, is, we're told, 60% contained. also, a slight glimmer of hope, the national weather service for the san francisco area tweeted a forecast of rain expected later this week. since president trump's
puerto rico visit nearly two weeks ago, the official death toll on the storm-savaged island has tripled to 48. translation, these latest deaths were not directly because of hurricane maria, but rather from the lack of access to clean water or health care or electricity. and more. cnn's leyla santiago is live for us in san juan. leyla, why are so many americans still suffering three weeks after the hurricane hit? >> reporter: jake, you know, we have been spending the last several days visiting several hospitals, several community clinics. the private hospitals in the san juan area seem to be doing okay, but when you go to those community clinics in the interior on the western part or even just a few minutes outside of san juan, you will quickly notice that they are still struggling, still lacking medications. patients and doctors that are very frustrated right now. the music can only soothe so much.
>> he's a very strong kid. very strong. >> reporter: the family of 18-year-old sammy lost everything, their home completely flooded nearly four weeks ago. >> we walked miles every week. i lost my car. i lost sammy's minivan. everything. >> reporter: the national guard rescued them. when the family took sammy to the hospital -- >> it was full. >> the hospital was full? >> no place for him. >> reporter: then now living in a school turned clinic run by volunteers. >> he can become acutely ill if he continues to be here. >> reporter: cerebral palsy, epilepsy have left sammy bedridden. he needs surgery and more. >> you don't have oxygen? >> not right now, no. >> reporter: help sammy needs to stay alive can be found offshore, a floating hospital ready to serve. the united states navy ship
"comfort." operating rooms, intensive care units, an impressive state of the art operation now at puerto rico's disposal. >> anybody who comes to the comfort, we're happy to see. >> reporter: how many patients could you have right now? >> well, so the package we have on board now is to support 250 total beds. >> reporter: and yet many of these beds are empty. we asked the ship's mission commander why. >> i know that we have capacity. i know that we have the capability to help. what the situation on the ground is, that's not in my lane to make a decision. >> reporter: which patients are lucky enough to come here, that's decided by puerto rico's department of health. we went to their boss, the governor. >> at the end of the day, there are patients that need help with a ship and empty beds. where is that disconnect and what are we doing about it? >> the disconnect or the apparent disconnect was in the communication flow. >> reporter: hospitals we talked to told us they don't know how to send their patients to the
comfort. the governor acknowledged the system, the communication must get better. the count now, 33 of the 250 beds on the comfort have patients. as generators at hospitals fail and vital medical supplies run short. it seems like there is a lack of communication. do you know what the criteria is now? >> no. no. >> reporter: tough for doctors. >> i feel horrible because i can't help them. >> reporter: and tough for vulnerable families. knowing the comfort could help. and, you know, the governor tells us he has made a few changes to the protocol, hoping that he can get more patients on that ship, but that was several days ago and those numbers still stand today, jake, still such a small percentage of beds filled on that boat, on that ship. i've got to tell you, i was so
impressed. immea i mean, what they can do on that floating hospital is very impressive, but you can imagine or you can understand why so many are frustrated with the access to that today. >> leyla santiago keeping an eye out for the 3.4 million american citizens in puerto rico. thank you so much. staying with our national lead, despite obama administration officials having referred to army sergeant bowe bergdahl as having served with, quote, honor and distinction, today bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and miss behavior before the enemy. disappeared from his base in afghanistan in june 2009 and held in captivity by the taliban until may, 2014. he was released in exchange for five guantanamo bay prisoners. some of his former unit members have blamed him directly or indirectly no the deaths of six soldiers. bergdahl could face life in a military prison. finally from us today, earlier when president trump was asked if he reached out to the families of the four service member who's had been killed in
an ambush in niger, the president made a shocking claim. >> i will at some point in time call the parents and the families. because i have done that traditionally. the traditional way, if you look at president obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. a lot of them didn't make calls. >> earlier you said president obama never called the families of fallen soldiers. how can you make that claim? >> i don't know if he did. no, no, i was told that he didn't often. a lot of presidents don't. they write letters. >> a simple fact check would prove that this statement is categorically false. president george w. bush, president barack obama, other former presidents all reached out and telephoned family who's lost service members in the line of duty. there are countless examples of president obama, whom president trump just mentioned, giving his condolences.
former white house photographer pete suza posted one of those today, consoling first class army sergeant jared monty. former obama aide tweeted that's an effing lie to say president obama or past presidents didn't call the family members of former lost service men in action. he's a deranged animal. i don't know about that last part. it's hard to understand why president trump keeps to make claims like this. that's it for "the lead." i'm jake tapper. turning you over to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." happening now. closer than ever. a free-wheeling news conference, president trump appears side-by-side with senate majority leader mitch mcconnell, saying they've never been closer. but the united front comes just hours after the president said his party isn't getting the job done and after his former chief strategist bragged conservatives