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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  October 18, 2017 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT

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knows -- even though he's recused from it formally, knowing what stage mueller might be in in terms of bringing in sessions into the investigation. >> we're certainly cures about that. asha, thank you so much to you. "the lead" with jake tapper starts right now. thanks, brianna. the commander in chief facing off against the family of a man he sent into battle. t "the lead" starts right now. it's the latest controversy in a story is that should be about soldiers and sacrifice, but now it's about president trump. now the family of a fallen soldier is going back and forth with the president and his aides whether his attempts at condolences ended up offending them. russian trolls infiltrating america and hitting some sensitive nerves on racial issues to stoke racial division. now american citizens realizing they went along with it, apparently unknowingly. plus, it has been a month and millions of americans still
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don't have clean drinking water or electricity in puerto rico. as cnn gets a rare and stunning perspective at the scope of the damage. good afternoon, everyone. welcome to "the lead." i'm jake tapper. we're going to begin with the politics lead today in another jam-backed day at the white house. a bipartisan health care deal that the president seemed to support just yesterday, he is now slamming today, seeming to effectively kill that deal before it really got off the ground. president trump is making a push for his tax plan, meeting with members of the senate finance committee this afternoon, all while deal with the fallout from criticism from a gold-star family that he dealt with them disrespectfully. today, the president denying that he told the widow of sergeant la david johnson that the soldier knew what he signed up for, saying democratic congresswoman frederica wilson of florida who is close with the family and listened to the call on speaker phone fabricated the claim. told cnn that the congress
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woman's account was very accurate. chief of staff kelly and others were listening to the call. sadly at the center of it, a tragic loss and a family in pain. cnn's jeff zeleny starts us off today from the white house. >> reporter: president trump embroiled in a firestorm over his condolence call to the grieving would off of an american soldier killed in niger. >> didn't say what that congresswoman said. >> reporter: today at the white house, the president spoke about his call does to ms. johnson, the pregnant wife of sergeant la david johnson. who mourned the loss when his flag-draped toss debt arrived in florida. told cnn the president disrespected sergeant johnson by saying he knew what he signed up for. the president denied using those words, saying on twitter wilson totally fabricated what i said to the wife of a soldier who died in action, and i have proof. sad. he did not provide proof as the controversy escalated between the commander in chief and the family of a fallen soldier.
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>> i did not say what she said. i had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife who sounded like a lovely woman. did not say what the congresswoman said -- and most people aren't too surprised to hear that. [ inaudible question ] >> let her make her statement again and then you'll find out. >> reporter: wilson, a florida democrat, stood by her account. the soldier's mother also telling cnn the congresswoman's recollection was very accurate. when asked if she was shocked by the president's words, the congresswoman said this. >> stunned. still stunned. so insensitive. so insensitive. mr. trump is crazy. >> reporter: the extraordinary feud did little to shed light on what actually led to the ambush that killed johnson and three other american soldiers in west africa. for the president, it's the deadliest combat incident involving u.s. troops since taking office. asked earlier why he didn't address the attack for nearly two weeks, the president falsely claimed his predecessors did not
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contact the families of fallen troops. >> if you look at president obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. >> reporter: it was another mark against his credibility as he tries to breathe new life into his stalled legislative agenda. today, the president abruptly reversed course on health care. after signaling his support tuesday for a bipartisan deal over obamacare subsidies -- >> for a period of one year, two years, we will have a very good solution, but we're going to have a great solution ultimately for health care. >> reporter: he all but withdrew his support for the agreement. >> we're going to see the bipartisan. and lamar alexander's working on it very hard from our side. and if something can happen, that's fine, but i won't do anything to enrich the insurance companies because right now the insurance companies are being enriched. >> reporter: now, back to that niger attack about two weeks ago. senator john mccain, the chairman of the senate armed services committee, said they are not getting all the information that they need about
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what actually led to this ambush. asked a short time ago on capitol hill if the trump administration was being forthcoming in all it knew about this, senator mccain's answer was no. jake? >> all right. jeff zeleny at the white house. thank you so much. the loss of a service member and the pain of his or her family is part of life in this nation that we at "the lead" try to treat with appropriate sensitivity and respect. we don't know exactly what president trump said to the grieving widow of sergeant la david johnson. congresswoman frederica wilson said the president said, quote, he knew what he signed up for, but i guess it still hurt, unquote, that the president did not seem to know johnson's name. and the congresswoman further suggested the president's words caused the widow to break down after the call ended. johnson's mother tells cnn that is accurate. he tweeted he had proof and the white house today said congresswoman wilson was trying to politicize a call to a widow and those who heard the call on
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the staff found the president's words perfectly respectful. all of that makes very little difference when you think about it, the family heard what it heard, even if the president was completely misunderstood, his attempt at comfort failed. under the best of circumstances, these moments between a commander in chief and a fallen serves member's family is just awful. the problem that president trump might have here, however, is that when it comes to sensitivity, when it comes to sensitivity about service and sacrifice, specifically, he's already made what cribs have assessed to be some grievously bad decisions. his attack on senator john mccain who spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in vietnam. mccain was tortured. he was suicidal. as the son and grandson of admirals, he would have been allowed -- he was asked to leave early as a propaganda effort, but mccain refused to do it, in defense to the p.o.w.s who had
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been there longer. this is how trump saw it. >> he's a war hero because he was captured. i like people that weren't captured, okay? i hate to tell you. >> then, of course, there is the khan family. he belittled them after their appearance at the democratic convention after they took issue with mr. trump's anti-muslim rhetoric. suggested that a fallen soldier's mother didn't speak at the convention because she was forbidden as a muslim woman to speak. in actuality, as she later said, she was just too broken up to discuss the loss of her fallen son. shortly after his inauguration during a visit to the cia, the president stood in front of the memorial wall there were there are now etched 125 star for fallen cia officers, including one for former navy s.e.a.l. christopher muller who saved the life of an afghan commander for sacrificing his own. another one for former marine major, the so-called line of fallujah who was killed in iraq.
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the president spent his time at the cia in front of that wall railing about media coverage ostracize of the crowds at his inaugural. >> it looked, honestly, it looked like 1.5 million people. whatever it was, it was. it went all the way back to the washington monument. i turn on -- by mistake. >> amidst all this ham-handedness, the president this week falsely accused president obama and previous presidents of never having phoned gold-star families. in an apparent attempt to make himself look more attentive and compassionate i suppose. in the midst of that effort, this glowing controversy sadly burst on to the scene as just another political weapon used by the president and used against the president. this most personal and horrific experience just one more piece of ammunition in the snark wars where nothing matters anymore except for scoring point, instead of focusing on the fallen men and women, we're focused on process and phone calls and letters.
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president trump when challenged on the fact that president obama did call gold-star families, not all of them, but some of them. he toll one radio interviewer the following. >> you could ask general kelly, did he get a call from obama? >> that's a reference to his chief of staff, retired marine general john kelly. kelly and his wife karen lost their son, a marine, first lieutenant robert michael kelly to a land mine in afghanistan in 2010. and truly what will honor the kellys and the memory more than any other, whether obama should have phoned them than writing them a letter is taking a moment to consider robert kelly and all the men and women who serve our nation while considering these words. quote, sons like yours who serve are men and women of character who continue to believe in this country enough to put life and limb on the line without qualification and without thought of personal gain, and they serve so that the sons and daughters of the other 99% don't have to. no big deal, though.
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as marines have always been the first to fight, paying in full the bill that comes with being free for everyone else, unquote. those were the words of general john kelly at a veterans day event for marines in 2010. what makes those words most remarkable, perhaps, he delivered that speech just four days after his beloved son robert was killed. now, i've learned on this job that telling the stories of troops and their families, that it's very important that we all choose our words very carefully when discussing these losses. it's not just journalists and politicians, all of us need to consider the unimaginable these families go through when we speak to them and speak of them. if you don't take great care, and, in fact, if you're reckless about these kind office sacrifices, the kind of sacrifice you see on your screen right now, well, then people not be twoilg give you the benefit of the doubt if on one occasion your words come out wrong.
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also in politics today, attorney general jeff sessions pushing back and sometimes tense exchanges on capitol hill with his decisionmaking under review. sessions not only defended his coxs with russian officials during the 2016 campaign, but also found a way to explain why he told the same exact senate judiciary committee that he had no contact with any russians. manu raju on capitol hill for us. manu, he said he would not discuss any of his private conversations with the president which proved to be somewhat frustrating when the panel was trying to learn more about sessions' role in firing james comey as fbi director. >> reporter: no question about it. he didn't assert executive privilege but said the conversations with the president were confidential and should not be forced to disclose these private discussions, something that really frustrated democrats on the panel. afterwards i talked to one democrat, richard blumenthal of connecticut, he said the only
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way to get to bottom of this is have jeff sessions be interviewed by special counsel robert mueller. something sessions says he has not done just yet. for the first time as attorney general, jeff sessions returned to the committee where he served as a senator. and democrats did not give him a warm reception. >> you're saying you are privileged? >> reporter: at the heart of the dispute was sessions' testimony during his confirmation hearing in january when he said he had no contacts with russians during the campaign season. after press reports later revealed he did, sessions acknowledged interacting multiple times with then russian ambassador sergey kislyak, but said there was nothing to it. >> you suddenly changed your story. since you qualified your denial to say, quote, you did not discuss issues of the campaign with russians, what, in your view, constitutes issues of the campaign? >> i conducted no improper discussions with russians at any
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time regarding a campaign or any other item facing this country. no, no, no, you had a long time, senator franken. i'd like to respond. i don't have to sit in here and listen to his -- >> you're the one who -- >> charges without having a chance to respond. give me a break. >> today, senator patrick leahy said his former colleague may have misled the committee. >> my concern is you were part of the russian facade and went along with it. i'm sorry, i've known you for years -- >> it did hurt me to say you think i'm part of a facade. i'm not part of a facade. >> reporter: sessions was also asked if special counsel robert mueller interviewed him as part of his special russia inquiry. he paused for several seconds before answering. >> i'd be pleased to answer that. i'm not sure i should without clearing that with the special counsel.
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what do you think? >> i'm just -- have you been interviewed by them? >> no. >> reporter: but sessions did not answer many questions. particularly about his conversations with trump over the firing of fbi director james comey and whether the president fired him to end the russia probe. >> did the president ever mention to you his concern about lifting the cloud on the russia investigation? >> senator fieinstein, that cal for a communication i've had with the president and i believe it remains confidential. >> reporter: still, sessions did not hesitate to criticize comey for his handling of the hillary clinton e-mail investigation. >> i don't think it's been fully understood, the significance of the error that mr. comey made on the clinton matter. >> reporter: the chairman of the committee chuck grassley said many questions about sessions' contacts with russians could be cleared up if the fbi simply
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briefed the committee. >> the fbi did not do that, and now we have conflicts that think could have been avoided. >> reporter: and, jake, in some breaking news in the russia investigation, we are now learning that corey lewandowski, the former trump campaign manager, privately met with investigators behind closed doors today in discussing the russia investigation. lewandowski, of course, was on the campaign payroll at the time of some of the meetings that occurred with russian officials, including the june 2016 meeting in which donald trump jr., paul manafort, jared kushner and attended a meeting with russian operatives in trump tower. it's unclear whether or not he knew anything about it. lewandowski said he has no knowledge of that. we have not heard back from lewandowski, but learned he's the latest trump figure to be interviewed by the senate intelligence committee, jake. >> manu raju, thank you so much. breaking news about how russians tricked unwitting americans and hired them in an
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we know senior living. together we'll make the right choice. we're back with some breaking news in our world lead today. cnn has learned of yet another russian connected every effort to exploit divisions in the u.s., creating unrest. this one with a highly unusual twist. it turns out the operatives posed as an african-american advocacy group and hired unwitting black americans to further their 'cause. cnn's drew griffin has been digging into this. drew, how were these individuals targeted? >> jake, it is a strange tale, but cnn has learned a group associated with russia tricked personal trainers and paid them to hold free self-defense classes that were aimed at african-american activists. >> reporter: in january of this year, well after the presidential election, new york m martial arts instructor said he
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was contact bid a group called black fist, saying it would pay him to host self-defense class for members of the african-american community. >> particularly, but not exclusively for black people. >> did you ever think this was weird? >> a lot of times i thought it was weird. >> reporter: weird, but the money was good. $320 a month paid directly through pay pal and google wallet. and black fist would promote it. what was also weird, no one from black fist showed up to meet him. his only communication was in text and far away sounding phone calls from this man named taylor. >> yes, hello, this is taylor. i wanted to confirm the self-defense classes that we talked about last time. >> reporter: the digital trail suggests the contact on the phone was most likely connected to vladimir putin's state sponsored progress arm seeking to stoke racial tensions and disrupt the u.s. political system.
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cnn has confirmed the social media accounts connected to black fist are among the pages facebook identified as coming from russians, according to a source familiar with the matter. links to those accounts appear on the black fist website and black fist, which portrayed itself as an activist group seeking to empower black americans, was likely developed inside the russian troll factory in st. petersburg, russia. >> well, it's nuts. the reality is, he didn't talk about any of those issues. so that was really kind of what really happened. like, he really didn't talk about any -- >> there was no politics involved in this? >> there was no politics. >> reporter: look at what black fist said about its self-defense classes. they are by black for black and let them know that black power matters. his contact also wanted these
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videos and photos of blacks learning self-defense and the names and contacts for anyone who showed up. >> they did want that information. >> they did? >> actually, yes. they wanted -- they wanted names. they wanted numbers. and i did tell them that, you know, i don't know if i can, you know, get that -- >> reporter: he wasn't the only one. personal trainers and classes promoted in other cities, los angeles, lancing, michigan, according to event right and other pages where classes were being publicized, there were dozens. in tampa, florida, amateur boxer chuck jefferson says black fist found him through instagram, offered to pay him $100 a class through paypal. he confirms it was the same voice on the other end of the phone call. the same demand for videos to prove classes took place. though the entire setup sounded odd, he's having a hard time
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understanding why russians were behind it. >> so, i mean, when you have somebody that's going to pay you do something you love, i mean, it's hard to see it like a -- like a negative thing. it's hard to see it in that light, but, i mean, like i said, it was weird, it was different. >> reporter: the russians magazine "rbc" says dozens of other facebook, twitter and instagram accounts were all part of the internet research agency. at its height, the troll factory had a reach of more than 70 million per week. and, remember, jake, this all started in january of this year, meaning the russian propaganda campaign continued to operate even after the presidential election. also alarming, just how easy this was to do, even after u.s. intelligence agencies knew russia was meddling in u.s. social media networks. what we can't answer right now is why and what did the russians have in the works? jake? >> so strange.
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drew griffin, thank you so much. he's watched as several as his policies and initiatives have been weakened or undone by the trump administration. i'm going to talk to former attorney general eric holder next about what he would say to president trump if he got an opportunity to do so one-on-one. that's next. i've asked chase sapphire reserve cardmembers to find my next vacation. uganda, what are you up to? that's a real silverback gorilla. i'm freaking out! 3x points on travel and restaurants. sapphire reserve, from chase. make more of what's yours. from thecompanystore.comwith the new lacrosse comforter made in america and handcrafted in wisconsin. our exclusive hypoallergenic down and special breathing technology senses your body to never be too hot or too cold, so you are guaranteed the best sleep ever. starting at only $99 including
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and we're back with our politics lead. on monday, president trump falsely said his predecesor, president obama, did not phone families of service members killed in action. in response, president obama's former attorney general eric holder tweeted, quote, stop the damn lying, you're the president. i went to dover air force base with 44, that's obama, the 44th president, and saw him comfort bo both -- about that tweet and much more, including the controversy over president trump's call with the widow of sergeant la david johnson who was killed in action in niger.
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>> thank you so much for doing this. i want to ask you, there is this very uncomfortable situation going on right now when it comes to the president calling the grieving family of this soldier who was killed in niger, one of the four, la david johnson. with a congresswoman and now supported by a member of the family saying that the president was not respectful. maybe didn't even nola david johnson's name. however it went down, that family did not leave that encounter feeling good. what's your reaction? >> those are tough calls to make. i had to make them myself, talking to the relatives of fbi agents, other agents, federal agents who had lost their lives in the line of duty. they're tough calls to make, but they're the kinds of things that you have to do if you want to lead, you know, certain organizations. i'm distressed to hear that the
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family did not feel that they were treated appropriately. those kinds of interactions i think in some ways reveal you for who you are. can you as the leader of the organization, your country, empathize with the person who has suffered, you know, the ultimate loss? can you reach out? can he comfort? that's something that i think is important in our leaders and it bleeds over into other things. it shapes your -- it's an indication of how you view the world and underlies, i think, you know, policy decisions that you're going to make that might be unrelated to the personal interaction. so that's distressing to hear. i don't know all the facts, but that as reported is distressing to hear. >> this comes, of course, just a couple of days after president
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trump said erroneously that president obama didn't phone the families of troops who had been killed in action. you tweeted directly to him that he should stop the damn lying, you're the president. you were tweeting to him directly, so i wanted to ask, if you had an audience with him, just one-on-one, what would you say to him about what he said about president obama? >> i would have said, mr. president, you crossed the line there. i understand you've got a tough job. i generally hold my powder, but that was a line you crossed. it was an unfair thing. president obama, you know, spent a great deal of time dealing with those issues, interacting with people who had suffered those kinds of losses. the relatives of people who had suffered those losses. and to imply that president
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obama was not appropriately sensitive, not appropriately involved was something that i was simply not going to allow to go unaddressed. that was not going to -- that made me mad in a way that few other things have, and that's why i was as direct in that tweet as i was. and i would tell him, you know, i would tell the president the same thing and in the same language that i used in that tweet. >> stop the damn lying. >> stop the damn lying because it was a damn lie. >> you worked with james comey when he was the fbi director. there is a newly relessed memo suggesting he was working on his statement in may of 2016 before he ultimately cleared hillary clinton of any criminal wrongdoing later that summer. i know you've been critical of comey for being as outspoken as he was during that press conference and also the comey letter he wrote right before the election. president trump tweeted that the
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memo that's been released, this newly released document suggests that comey wanted to clear hillary clinton, quote, long before the investigation was complete. what's your take on all of this? >> well, i've been critical of jim comey, but i've also known jim comey for 20, 30 years. he's an honest guy, and the determination that he made and i think inappropriately announced, i think is based on the facts, based on his interpretation of the law and it was nothing more than that. it was a good-faith assessment by a person who i think has done a lot for this country. >> what do you make of him working on this memo in may before he had even interviewed hillary clinton? some of the president's supporters and president trump himself are suggesting, see, the fix was in, he was never going to go after her criminally? >> well, you know, assuming the facts are as you say, you can make determinations about where an investigation is likely to go before you actually speak to the
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subject of that investigation. that inquiry had been under way for an extended period of time. a lot of resources had been used. a lot of people had been spoken to. a lot of documents had been reviewed. so you can get to, you know, pretty close to the end of an investigation and understand where you're going to go with it before you actually talk to the subject of the investigation. and my guess is that's probably where jim comey was. >> president trump said that nfl players who take a knee should be suspended, that the league should suspend them. the nfl's declined recently to force players to stand during the national anthem, which the president this morning tweeted showed, quote, total disrespect for our great country. i believe you're a football fan and you have an opinion on this. what do you make of this controversy and do you understand those who are offended when players take a knee during the anthem? there are a lot of, for instance, gold-star family who's feel it's offensive. >> yeah, i mean, first, i think that people -- gold-star families should not necessarily
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feel offended because the purpose of those demonstrations was not to disrespect people in the military, not to disrespect the flag. these are players expressing -- using their first amendment rights to express views about the interaction between people in law enforcement and communities of color. that's what the stated purpose of the protest is. having said that, they certainly have that right, but people certainly also have the right to react to the way in which they perceive, you know, these protests. i think that these protests really offer us an opportunity for some dialogue to talk about the underlying issue that the players were trying to raise, you know? let's talk about the way in which law enforcement interacts with certain communities in our country. if we do that, i think something positive can come out of this controversy. and i think, unfortunately, what the president's done here is to try to politicize something. he's trying to create a social wedge issue where there is really not the need.
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you know, i think he could really be -- do something positive with the controversy, and i think what he's chosen to do is to do something political. >> we're going to have much more of may conversation with former attorney general eric holder when we come back, including why he thinks the trump administration's justice department is not being run well. stick around. what kind of sorcery is that? it's not the magic-wand kind. it's the rfid-collar-and- internet of things-kind we created with chitale dairy. so every cow can let farmers know how she feels and what she needs to be healthier- (phone vibrates) all with a simple text. tah-dah. magic can't make digital transformation happen. but we can. that's the power of vmware, part of dell technologies. ♪ ♪
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kyle, we talked about this. there's no monsters. but you said they'd be watching us all the time. no, no. no, honey, we meant that progressive would be protecting us 24/7. we just bundled home and auto and saved money. that's nothing to be afraid of. -but -- -good night, kyle. [ switch clicks, door closes ] ♪ i told you i was just checking the wiring in here, kyle. he's never like this. i think something's going on at school. -[ sighs ] -he's not engaging. i think something's going on at school. he's a nascar champion who's she's a world-class swimmer who's stared down the best in her sport. but for both of them, the most challenging opponent was... pe blood clots in my lung. it was really scary.
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do not take xarelto® if you have an artificial heart valve or abnormal bleeding. tell your doctor before all planned medical or dental procedures and before starting xarelto® about any conditions, such as kidney, liver, or bleeding problems. you've got to learn all you can... ...to help protect yourself from dvt and pe blood clots. talk to your doctor about xarelto®. there's more to know. and we're back with more of my interview with former obama attorney general eric holder. i asked mr. holder about moves by the trump administration to walk back criminal justice reform and whether efforts to lessen penalties for some nonviolent offenders is effectively dead. >> i hope that's not the case. i hope that people will -- in law enforcement and people at the justice department will look at the statistics, will listen to the police professionals who all say that, you know, criminal justice reform is a -- is a good thing. and, you know, it wasn't too long ago where this issue was
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supported by republicans and democrats, liberals and conservatives. the opportunity was there, certainly in congress, to bass some meaningful legislation in that regard. the comments -- many of the comments made by the attorney general and by the president are simply inconsistent with the facts. you know, the notion that there is a crime wave out there that we are dealing -- we're in a period of american carnage. again, inconsistent with the facts. we have crime rates that are at 40-year lows. they've gone up. >> they've gone up certainly in the last couple of years. and every city we want to make sure that we have measures in place to deal with those issues, but i lived through a time when i was the united states attorney in washington, d.c. when this city was called the murder capital of the country. and we're in a fundamentally different place now than we were in the early '90s. it doesn't mean that we shouldn't, you know, focus attention on those places where
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crime, violent crime in particular, is a concern, but i think we have to be careful in the language that we use and base policies on the evidence as it exists. >> what do you say to voters out there who hear you and others talking about criminal justice reform and they think you just want to be soft on crime? you just don't want people who commit drug offenses to go to prison, but they're killing people in different ways just as much as somebody with a gun. >> well, criminal justice reform is not soft on crime. and what i would tell people, first off, anytime you hear somebody say soft on crime, hold on to your wallet. that's a political slogan and really has little or nothing to do with good law enforcement. criminal justice reform is about using the limited resources that exist in the law enforcement community in the most effective way to protect the greatest number of people. and it means putting violent offenders in jail for extended periods of time. it means looking at people who
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are doing things in a nonviolent way and trying to understand what is it that we can do to hold them accountable but at the same time to make sure that they do not become repeat offenders. >> i want to ask you about the federal court judge that has just blocked the third version of president trump's travel ban, calling it discriminatory. some legal analysts think that this version, 3.0, because it includes some non-muslim majority countries, venezuela and north korea, might actually pass constitutional muster. what do you think? is it discriminatory on its face? >> you know, i have not really examined the new version of this, but the, you know, the reason for it is something that i find pretty disturbing. i think this was something that is more politically driven than driven by a concern about the national security, and if one looks at, you know, the initial iteration of this and the need
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to have it in place quickly, that was months ago and it's hard for me to understand why there is this, you know, continuing -- there's this continuing need. >> you had very strong views as an attorney general. you were deferential to the president, as was most of the cabinet when it came to not getting out ahead of him, but i know you a little bit and you're a very passionate progressive. has it been difficult to you to hold your tongue so much, so often, when attorney general sessions disagrees with you on so many issues across the board? >> yes, it is difficult to do what i thought was good work, work that made the nation better, more fair, nmore just, and to see those policies being taken apart is something that has been hard to watch. at the same time, i've tried to be respectful and only when certain lines have been crossed have i raised my voice. but, yeah, it's been a difficult
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thing to watch and it means that i think i have to be a part of the resistance and to try to save as much of the great work i think that we did as is possible and to try to ensure that we put in place leadership in 2018, in 2020 that will be supportive of the positive things that we did. >> you're a member of the resistance? >> yeah. yeah, i am. there is no question about that. you know, i'm a progressive democrat committed to the ideals of my party and proud of the work that i did as attorney general. >> and our thanks to former attorney general holder. be sure to tune in tonight for a special cnn live debate, senators bernie sanders and ted cruz will debate the republican tax plan. i'll moderate along with my cnn colleague dana bash, it all starts at 9:00 p.m. eastern only on cnn. coming up, millions still without drinking water, hundreds of thousands more without electricity. this is the situation on the ground in puerto rico one full month after the hurricane maria devastated the island.
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welcome back to "the lead." in our national lead today, we're going going to take a look at puerto rico one month after hurricane maria devastated the island. the u.s. commonwealth, of course, remains in shambles. 80% of the 50i8d is without power. one-third of the island is without clean water or plumbing and the death toll continues to climb. every death has been called a preventible death as the health crisis looms over the 3.4 million american citizens there. a doctor on the ground described the state as, quote, post
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apocalyptic. leyla santiago joins me now. -- to discuss the hurricane response and relief. one month after the storm, from what you see on the ground, has the response, has the relief effort improved at all? >> reporter: well, listen, you'll see more helicopters in the sky. you'll see more trucks on the ground moving supplies, but day-to-day, daily life for many puerto ricans now includes no power, no water, no cell service. it's like a new normal here. >> where i live -- >> reporter: he's been clean for a month. not much seems to have changed. >> so it's like -- it's like it was yesterday. >> reporter: angel lives in the eastern coast of the island where the sea rushed in and maria left little behind. >> we are suffering because we don't have electricity. >> reporter: one month later, there are still people gathered
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the at the church hoping to get supplies that come in here in this area, and their lives are on display on the sidewalks. you can see furniture, you can see paintings, even a christmas stand down here. this home doesn't have part of its roof. there is no cell service here. nobody has power and food and water are limited. a month we've been here. we've seen and felt maria's terrifying force, and in the aftermath, dramatic rescues, desperation on the ground and through the mud, we've been the first to reach communities out cut off by the storm. despite president donald trump's visit and his own rave reviews of the recovery, more than 80% still don't have power. about 40% of the cell towers remain down, and roughly a third no running water. banks that are open have lines that can be hours long. more than 100 bridges damages,
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18 closed until further notice, cutting off entire communities. rebecca rodriguez tells us her family's bakery has been here for decades. >> wow, this is how high the water came. which is at least four feet. >> reporter: the only light here comes from our camera. >> what once smelled of fresh bread is really now -- it smells like something is rotting in here and she's upset because none of this will be covered, according to her insurance. >> reporter: every day brings uncertainty. >> of all the things you had in here -- >> this is what i've been able to save. because the mattress, i'd throw it out, the chairs, i throw it out. >> this isn't much. >> no, but what can we do? >> reporter: as time passes -- >> my watches. >> these are all your watches. >> reporter: disaster has become a way of life.
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>> it's no good. >> reporter: as maria never left. >> it's a mess. >> reporter: and when you talk to people about the recovery, people are no longer saying this will be a matter of months. many now saying this will be a matter of years in recovery efforts, and, jake, one more update, a few days ago we told you the story about the u.s. "comfort." a navy hospital out at sea just off the coast of puerto rico. when we brought you that story, we told you 33 of the 250 beds on that ship were being used to treat patients from puerto rico, that number has gone down. today that number stands at 29. only 29 of the 250 beds on the u.s. navy's "comfort" is being used despite the fact that small community clinics are still in need of medication and more treatment for their patients. >> unbelievable.
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leyla santiago. thank you so much. that's it for "the lead." i'm jake tapper. next in "the situation room," wolf blitzer will talk to senator chris coons who questioned attorney general sessions today. i'll see you later tonight for the cruz versus sanders debate on tax reform. stay with us. as king midas, i expect a lifetime guarantee. and so should you. on struts, brakes,
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happening now. disrespecting the dead. an ugly feud erupts over president trump's dealings with families of u.s. troops killed in combat. a democratic congresswoman is standing by her claim the president was disrespectful during a phone call to one soldier's widow. and now after a report the president promised the father of another dead soldier $25,000 and never followed through, the white house says t