tv Anderson Cooper 360 CNN October 18, 2017 5:00pm-6:00pm PDT
political dance partner. now pence has to do it his way. jeanie moss, cnn. new york. >> all right thank you so much for joining us. anderson starts right now. thanks for joining us. a grieving military widow expects a call from president, the president never comes. these are reports we have tonight but we begin keeping him honest with how the president and his white house are dealing with criticism of the family of another fallen shoulder. we're talking about la davis johnson. he was 25 years old with a wife, two young children and a third on the way. today the woman who raised him said the president disrespected her son with what he said in a con doll lens call. we know about the call because
of a local congresswoman in the call when it came. sergeant johnson grew up in her community. congresswoman frederica wilson knows the family and was in the car with johnson's young widow when the president's call. she said the president told johnson's wife that her son quote, knew what he signed up for but i guess it still hurts. >> this is a grieving widow who is six months pregnant and when she hung up the phone he looked at me and said, he didn't even know his name, that's the worst part. i didn't hear the whole phone call but i did hear him say, i'm sure he knew what he was signing up for, but it still hurts. she was crying. she broke down and she said, he didn't even know his name. >> now in response the president tweeted, quote, democrat
congresswoman totally fabricated what i said to a woman of soldier dying in action. when asked for clarification today the white house says the call wasn't recorded but there were other people in the room. the president also said this today. >> didn't say what that congresswoman said didn't say it ate all. she knows it and she now is not saying it. i did not say what she said and i'd like her to make the statement again because i did not say what she said. i had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife who is sounded like a lovely woman. did not say what the congresswoman said and most people aren't too surprised to hear that. let her make her statement against and then you'll find it. okay let her make her statement again and then you'll find out. >> you'll find out, another suggestion of course the president has used many times before on solid occasions.
for the record it isn't just the congress it's the lady that raised mr. johnson saying the president was disrespectful on the call. >> is he denies that e ever spoke these words to the wid dow that he must have known what he signed up for or is he saying she took it the wrong way and it was taken out of context? >> the president's call as accounted by multiple people in the room believe that the president was completely respectful, very sympathetic and expressed condolences of himself and the rest of the country and thanked the family for their service, commended them for having an american hero in their family. >> well he didn't say those words he felt that she put it in
the wrong context, is that it? >> i'm not going to get back and fort. >> sanders did not deny the president used the words the congresswoman says he did. this wouldn't be a topic of public conversation if h -- he deflected the -- didn't call families of fallen soldiers. the following day he brought up the subject of the chief general kelly's son. general kelly told donald trump the president didn't call him but didn't think the president was use that publicly. he did. not only did she not receive a call she did not receive a personal letter from the president. just before air i spoke with whitney hunter. her husband, sergeant jonathan
hunter was killed in afghanistan just there summer. >> whitney first of all i'm so sorry for your loss and that we're talking under these circumstances. first of all, what do you want people to know about jonathan? what was he like? >> he -- he -- i feel like whenever something like this happens a lot of people bring out all the good things about someone but i -- he was genuinely the best person i've ever known. and even though we were only together for such a short amount of time he made me the best version of myself. and through this happening i know he still lives through me and he allows me to continue to want to be a better person. he had that affect on everyone, especially his soldiers, he was a sergeant, so he's a team leader. he had guys, he was looked up to, he was just a phenomenal
leader. he was absolutely hilarious in the funniest way ever. he was a genuinely good soul and that's so rare and i feel blessed and thankful to be the person he chose to marry. he was a great man. >> i want to ask you about your experience about the white house. president trump says he thinks he calls someone's family of whose died. did you ever receive a phone call from him? >> i didn't. i was told that i would but i didn't. >> did you have a chance -- i know you did have a chance to meet with vice president pence. >> i did. he is such an amazing man. he actually spent 10 to 20 minutes with us, it was the day of the dignified transfer so of course the emotions were high. he was genuine, nice, courteous.
he shared his condolences, his wife was with him. i felt blessed to meet him, under the circumstances wasn't the greatest. but he made a point to be there and spoke to me in a genuine caring manner and it was very very nice. i was honored to have been able to have met him. >> its helped? >> oh yeah. absolutely. having him there -- he didn't have to be there, he didn't but he was and it truly truly meant a lot to me. >> i understand you were told that the president was going to call and that you should wait by the phone or have the phone with you at all times. is that right? >> yes, so i was meeting with my casualty officer at the time. we were at starbucks, he bolted it out and i remember he came back it was the white house and they were letting him know the president was planning on reaching out sharing his
condolences to me. and it's not really a phone call you want to miss. he said to just be prepared to speak with president trump. and you know, of course i waited but i never got the phone call. >> did you get a letter of condolence from the president? >> i didn't get a personalized letter from him, no, sir. would you have liked to have heard from the president either in a letter or phone call? >> i have, i've said it before and i truly genuinely feel that hearing from the president at this point or at any point honestly, i'm neutral on it. it's not really going to, you know, go either way for me as far as making me feel better. i feel that it would be an honor to receive a phone call from the president to, you know, have him set aside a few minutes to call me and express his grad constitute towards jonathan's sacrifice for our nation, but,
at this point -- i mean i've had such a phenomenal support system that i don't really think it at the time would have made a difference either way. >> the accounts of the condolence phone call to sergeant la davis john's wid dow, the reporter reportedly says he knew what he signed up for but i guess it still hurt. the president denied saying that. the mother who had sievreceived call saying it was stated. i wonder if the president would have called you and said that i wonder what your response would have been? >> i honestly -- the past two or three months has been a complete roller coaster of emotions, which i'm sure that's well expected given my circumstance, i can honestly say it probably would have depended on the time. somedays are good and some days are bad. i explained there to someone
earlier, i know from myself based on very very early conversations i had with my husband, like, me as a spouse and me being a woman going into a marriage with a soldier, i mean of course you know -- you know the risks. you know what you sign up for, he knew what he signed up for. he was ready to go full speed to do what he is for our nation. but if it's not my husband saying it to me, i don't care if it's my mom or somebody from church, i don't care who it is, it's not their position to say that to anyone. i and my husband know what we signed up for it's just insensitive. you don't say that, it's not his position. >> i know your one-year anniversary was a couple of days
ago, it was october 15th. you wen back to the place where you were married. i want to show you a photo at the marriage and also you took a photo when you went back. i want to read something you wrote. you said the purest love i've ever known i'd go through all this pain again if i can live those beautiful 9 months as his wife. that's extraordinary. >> yes. it's powerful. like i said earlier he was the greatest greatest blessing god could have given me. just a human being, to myself, my family he was my soul mate and i will truly believe that till the day i die. he was one of a kind. >> quote, he was the leader we all wanted to work for, he was
revered by his troopers and respected through the his unit. >> that was jonathan. i remember countless time he'd come home from work and work, a lot of people they leave it at work and come home and try to unwind. i know jonathan, so many times he always had a book in his hand or on his phone searching something to try to better himself and whatever he would to make the most out of his career so he could be who he needed to be for his soldiers. it was hard a lot of times just knowing, like, your home let's hang out, spend some time together. but it was so rewarding to have married someone who had such a drive to be the best version of themselves they could be. and i saw my husband transition so much in such a short time and i am so incredibly proud of him. >> his dad was obviously very
proud at how quickly he made sergeant and progressed through the ranks. windy again i'm for your loss and i appreciate you speaking to us. >> absolutely. thank you so much for having me. coming up, more about what we're learning from white house officials about the president talking about general kelly's son. the president offers a grieving military father, $25,000 but apparently doesn't follow through until the story hit "the washington post", now the check is in the mail. so we sent that sample i doff to ancestry. i was from ethnically. my ancestry dna results are that i am 26% nigerian. i am just trying to learn as much as i can about my culture. i put the gele on my head and i looked
into the mirror and i was trying not to cry. because it's a hat, but it's like the most important hat i've ever owned. discover the story only your dna can tell. order your kit now at ancestrydna.com. what's that, broheim? i switched to geico and got more. more savings on car insurance? yeah bro-fessor, and more. like renters insurance. more ways to save. nice, bro-tato chip. that's not all, bro-tein shake. geico has motorcycle and rv insurance, too. oh, that's a lot more. oh yeah, i'm all about more, teddy brosevelt. geico. expect great savings and a whole lot more.
ethat's the height ofs mount everest. because each day she chooses to take the stairs. at work, at home... even on the escalator. that can be hard on her lower body, so now she does it with dr. scholl's orthotics. clinically proven to relieve and prevent foot, knee or lower back pain, by reducing the shock and stress that travel up her body with every step she takes. so keep on climbing, sarah. you're killing it. dr. scholl's. born to move. looking for a hotel that fits... whoooo.
...your budget? tripadvisor now searches over... ...200 sites to find you the... ...hotel you want at the lowest price. grazi, gino! find a price that fits. tripadvisor. t-mobile's unlimited now includes netflix on us. that's right. netflix on us. get 4 unlimited lines for just $40 bucks each. taxes and fees included. and now netflix included. so go ahead. binge on us. another reason why t-mobile is america's best unlimited network.
at the white house today, sarah sanders blamed the congresswoman for politicizing how the president -- the president's call to a grieving widow. in an interview yesterday, trump said quote, you can ask general kelly if he got a call from backup, he did not. general kelly has all been private about any public discussion of his son's death. here what sarah sander said about it today. >> sarah, did -- speak to chief of staff general john kelly before invoking his son's death? >> i know he spoke to him multiple times yesterday and today. >> in other words did general kelly know he'll be raising the memory of his son -- >> i'm not sure if he knew of that specific comment but they'd certainly spoken about it and he's aware and spoken several
times since then. >> so, did general kelly know the president was going to mention his son? >> well anderson, sarah sanders hinted at the fact that he didn't. and my colleague ran this down further and found that general kelly and other staffers in the white house were caught off guard when president trump originally brought general kelly and the story of his son. he was killed in afghanistan into this mix. remember, trump said you can ask my chief of staff, you can ask kelly about how he never got a phone call from obama. as you pointed out, kelly have taken great pains at trying to keep his son's death a private issue. a lot of members were surprised to see the president come out and talk in public about it like that. >> a statement was drafted for the president to give a statement after the four
sergeants were killed. what's the white house saying about that? >> one of the perplexing things about this anderson, has been the president's silence, why he waited two weeks and had to be asked about it before making a comment on this. when talking to white house officials about this they said look they got the information from the nfc, they tried to find the best way to tlifr it. and sarah sanders decided instead of putting out a statement she delivered it from the podium. she did do so on october 5th. it doesn't answer the question, anderson, of why we didn't hear anything directly from the president. why it took so long for the commander and chief to address this himself. >> is sarah sanders saying she thought it would have more impact if she spoke about it from the podium or a written statement from her, or her
speaking from the podium would have more of an impact than the president of the white house? >> the white house communicating i spoke to was that sarah sanders going out and tlifring a statement from the podium in front of cameras would have more might and magnitude than a written statement. they didn't clarify whether there was a written statement that was supposed to come from the press secretary or the president. it's possible anderson, that that was not a determination that had been made at that point. they got the information and decided this was better off delivered from the podium in the delivery rather than sending out an e-mail. >> thank very much. there's an a lot of tension today on one of the president's cal calls to a widow of a sergeant. "the washington post" reported today about the president calling that mother's ex-husband, a grieving military father offered him $25,000 and
never sending it at least not until the story hit the newsroomive newspaper -- newspaper. now the white house says the check is in the mail today. daniel, can you walk us through this. when did the president call the father and when did he tell them this? >> sure, thank you for having me on. in light of president, monday it was said he had called -- we decided to reach out to these people. they've been through a lot, some of them would probably want to speak up. this particular father in north carolina shared a story, which seven weeks after his son's death, the president called in july. the father was glad to hear from him. they had a discussion that the father shared that he was frustrated of the death gratuity and financial benefit that goes with having a fallen soldier in
the family. the president apparently shared some level of simple thisymptom think and said he was going to cut the father a $25,000 check. >> you wrote in your article that no other president has done something like that. it seemed the president was clear about giving the money. >> he appeared to be at the time. the father thought it was a sincere offer at the time. my colleague, lindsay beaver had can with him says it seemed farfetched. >> so -- >> he was not sure but sometime early in july. >> so what's the white house saying tonight about the president's conversation and the check? >> at this point the which can has been sent. i know your cnn colleagues reported that the check was sent today, we're trying to get that detail ourselves. but it appears that until we
move forward with this story today that was not the case. >> so sarah i know your still there, is that correct the check was sent today? >> it is. the white house confirmed with cnn. when we asked about the delay, the white house says there was a process they had to go through, and deal with a number of different agencies but didn't explain what that process would be, what other agencies they had to work with. they did insist the president has followed up on this a number of times and wanted to make sure the money got to this individual. but again, not a lot of details from the white house. >> so, sarah they're saying its coincidental that the check is in the mail today the day if story broke? >> it is quite an coincidence. >> i think it's important to say out of all the families the
white house was touch -- "the washington post" was in touch with they had different responses about why this outreach of the president mattered to them. >> we had several parents that were very happy to hear from the president. we had several that took exception to the fact that they didn't hear from the president. we had one who said they didn't hear from the president but didn't want to politicize. as you expect, cross section of america. thank you guys for joining me. four weeks till the day that hurricane maria hit puerto rico. the latest from the ground tonight.
paying less for my medicare? i'm open to that. lower premiums? extra benefits? it's open enrollment. time to open the laptop... ...and compare medicare health plans. why? because plans change, so can your health needs. so, be open-minded. look at everything-like prescription drug plans... and medicare advantage plans from private insurers. use the tools at medicare.gov. or call 1-800-medicare. open to something better? start today. ♪
today, smart planning is helping the new new york rise higher than ever. as the world leader in unmanned aerial systems, we're attracting the world's best talent to central new york. and turning the airport into a first-class transportation hub. all while growing urban areas into vibrant places to live and work. across new york state, we're building the new new york. to grow your business with us in new york state, visit esd.ny.gov.
hard discussion to have because no one wants to politicize this. the president brought this notion up of who has or who has not called. where do you see the developments over the last 24 hours? >> i think t bad for everybody. the country's disgusted by it. it's bad for the people in the military and overseas, and most of all it's bad for the johnson family. i think they should be left alone, if they want to come out and speak they'll let everybody know. but i think the president and media should leave them alone and let them go through the circumstances and try to drive as much support as we can for them. if it's a silver liningwy can hear the stories of these heroes. >> kirsten. >> i honestly think this is a question of whether this snask
congresswoman should have told this story. if she was asked to tell the story by the family that's another story and the mother of the house has confirmed it. but, once that happened, then it would have been an opportunity for president trump to maybe show a little empathy, the empathy that apparently was missing in this call. and say, well, you know gosh, that's not what i meant. instead he started to make accusations against president obama and more claims that weren't true, such as he's called every single family of a falling soldier, and it's started this snow bawl effect that's turned into this politicized environment. >> there is many families from different backgrounds and perspectives, some may or may not like president trump. two people can have a conversation and words can be spoken and the president could
have been meant one thing and spoken those words that to a grieving widow felt offensive, may not have been met that way. i think -- what do you make? >> the whole thing i defer to the veterans. i think there's a part of this that is a sacred moment. i don't think any president if you asked any of them would say, it's particularly easy. if you talk to the wrong wife doesn't matter what you say because they may not be willing to talk to anybody, or feeling wonderful about it. its become such a mess now for everybody. we watched today, the press coverage, and i kind of hoped -- well they said nasa would go down. i hoped it would spin us off to that. the president didn't tweet this afternoon. i agree it was a kind of a mess. i was hoping kelly also being -- kelly said he was on the call and he thought the president did a the right kind of call.
the family has the right to say they didn't heard it but i thought that would cleave us out of it but here we are. >> yeah, and good thing, isis is on the run, we're not talking about that, we're talking about this. it's an important story. i think president trump made a mistake to wait two weeks to talk about what happened, or sending letters out. having said that, i do they there's been a plead ya feeding frenzy and we have not shown grace to donald trump. part of the reason is people are through with giving him the benefit of the doubt. that i have made up their mind -- at least in the media. i think a lot of plead ya folks have made up their mind about donald trump. they've seen that often, it doesn't pay to extent grace to
donald trump. i think it's possible, what he said wasn't nefarious i think it was awkward. i think he was trying to say, look, these people are heroes. when they join the military, especially when they're in special forces like the green b barretts, when they are called up they know they're there's a possibility they wouldn't come back. >> i don't know that this would be in the public discussion like it is had the president himself not used it in a way to deflect from a question he could have answered easily. and instead deflect by going off former presidents for what he characterized -- >> well he said, she said is important but what's important is what the president says now. he sets the phone, he can drive the dialogue and where the country goes with his twitter account along.
it's up to him now to figure out how to move us forward. the department of defense is going to be differently, the media's going to do what they do and he can set the tone here. he can reach out to mrs. johnson and say how can we make this right and move forward. we need that leadership now -- >> russia, another big story nobody's talking about, it's part of the larger story about how russia is trying to drive us apart. i think the recent story is how their trying to stir up racial animosity and have blacks and whites hating each other. the one thing we should be united about is honoring men and women who serve following soldiers and this is not good for the country. >> and kirby, there was a statement drafted for the
president to release in his own names about the former sergeants. i'm wondering if it wasn't because -- who -- coming from sanders at the press come podium. i'm not clear if that statement was supposed tb a written statement from the press or the president himself. having been in the corners of power like this how are statements like that normally handled? >> well, it zpentds on the case -- depends on the case. many times where decisions were made in agencies that not only was a cabinet official going to make a statement by the president himself would and everybody would follow in his lead. to say they wanted it to be more effective coming from sanders at the podium doesn't grasp with
me. it could have come in a printed statement, having sanders doing it and say it was more effective, i don't buy that. >> where do you fall on this? >> i associate myself with everything the panel said, particularly paul. this is one issue we should never politicize. it's the one thing all of us should be able to get behind is making sure these people get the support and attention they're going to require going forward. these are very very difficult for them. i also agree with paul, the president should reach out to the family and try. and he should apologize. even if he don't bereave he said -- believe he said anything untort. it doesn't matter. it was sieved by the -- received by the family he should recognize that, apologize and move on.
>> kirsten, the story bubble up about the $25,000 check. >> right, exactly. there are actually zsh and there are other troubling things could you tell me out, a lot of people haven't been called and a lot of them haven't received letters. there is something at least in the system, is it necessary the president's fault, no but there's certainly a staff problem. when somebody has given their life from this country their families deserve a letter from the president, if they can get a found call, even better. they should be recognizing that as a problem and fix it. the president doesn't have to be perfect, it's just -- instead he goes on the attack against first against president obama and then against the congresswoman saying what she said isn't true, i dare her to say it again, if she says it again, the mother comes out. >> the president doesn't have to
be perfect by the margin or error and military issues and gold star issues are very small. these are not things you can screw up, their sacred to the american people. anything that gives the appears we are divided is bad for america it feeds or enemies. that's what they want. we've got to be unified especially around our gold star family. they can speak for themselves, i think you all are doing better in empowering the voices and letting them have a debate. they've sacrificed what we can't begin to comprehended. >> in fact we're going to speak to the ex-wife over the man with the $25,000 check about her son. she has a very different perspective, she did get a phone call from president trump and
was pleased with it. she also met with vice president pence. it does seem like vice president pence is the one wlof gone to doe very and the two families today have had a tremendous impact on them. >> the one thing we're critiquing something is how the white house is handling something that trump didn't have to handle. there is a part of this where, if you like what he did -- but i think he's learning right, he's a new president. maybe one over the thing to have out of this is on this kind of question we give the president the benefit of the doubt to improve. no matter what you say to some families it's going to be per receivered in a way and you've got to be able to say -- >> his son is a marine, he's got cultural competent. he deals with this on a daily
basis. so there is an experience -- >> do you think he should apologize whether publicly or private to the family or call and say look, there was a misunderstanding? >> i think he should. >> ed do you think that? >> i think he should reach out to them. call and say you may have heard this wrong and this is what i was trying to do. when he talked about you signed up for this, that's language that the military people relate. >> we don't know what he said or what they heard. getting in that just keeps this going. >> i meant that that language is something that the military -- because he heard it from a policeman in las vegas. my point is he was trying -- >> but when people of critical of donald trump, especially in the republican primary and you have criticisms about his temerment and -- temperament and
manifestations -- these are some of the mistakes that don't get made if the president were mike pence. >> do you think it was wise for the president to reflect that question and go back after former presidents? >> yeah i do. to turn this into a competition with president obama or bush, it's totally inappropriate. this is the solemn duty of any kplaern and chief. president bush called it being comforter and chief. you should be able to wrap your arms around this and take it seriously. for him to turn this into another competition and i'm better than the last guy. completely wrong. >> i want to thank everybody in the panel. coming up i'll speak to the mother of a fallen soldier. the president offered her $25,000. we'll talk to her about the phone conversation she had with the president and how it
impacted her. we'll be right back. precisely conforms to your body for up to twice as much pressure relieving power... so you'll sleep deeply... and wake up, feeling powerful. find an exclusive retailer at tempurpedic.com whstuff happens. old shut down cold symptoms fast with maximum strength alka seltzer plus liquid gels. how much money do you think you'll need in retirement? then we found out how many years that money would last them. how long do you think we'll keep -- oooooohhh! you stopped! you're gonna leave me back here at year 9? how did this happen? it turned out, a lot of people fell short, of even the average length of retirement. we have to think about not when we expect to live to, but when we could live to. let's plan for income that lasts all our years in retirement. prudential. bring your challenges.
ridge. this afternoon we talked with his mom. tina, i'm so sorry for your loss. first of all, can you tell us about your son dilan, what kind of son was he? >> he was amazing honestly. such a great person. always had a smile on his face and wanted to make everyone else happy. he wanted to be a soldier from the time he was 7 or 8 years old. he stuck to it and he did it and did it well. i'm very very proud of him. >> that was something he'd always dream of being? >> yes, absolutely. >> i know you -- i believe you met with vice president pence, is that correct? >> that's correct. >> how was that for you? >> it was an amazing experience. i didn't know what to expect and i was just overwhelmed with how genuine and how caring and --
they were just amazing. they were very thankful for my son's service. i just -- i conhave asked for anything more. >> and president trump called you as well. how was that? >> again, it was amazing. not knowing what to expect, it kind of took me by surprise. he was again very genuine, genuinely thankful for my son and his service, very encouraging. he -- he expressed, you know a sincere gratitude and it was very very nice. >> it was everything you would want it to be? >> absolutely. you know, i didn't feel like it was forced or scripted or something that he felt like he
had to do. he just -- you know, it was just like talking to a friend. >> i'm sure you're aware of the report that the president offering to send your ex-husband $25,000 when he spoke to him on the phone. do you know anything about that situation? >> i do not. i have not there. again it's my ex-husband, i have no idea what transpired, what was said so i really don't have any excellent on that. >> i wonder what you make of these reports about the president not calling some gold sta star families. i spoelk to a widow earlier who had not spoke to him. and that the president told a widow last night, he knew what he signed up but obviously he still hurt. >> right. you know, as far as him calling
or not calling, all i can speak to is my personal experience. >> sure. >> and it was fantastic. as far as knowing what they signed up for, you know, people take things differently and i'm sorry, you know she was offended. i fknow personally, i can't spek for other people, but personally i know my son knew what he signed up for. that don't offend me that just gives me more respect for what he did. he knew, he knew the danger and risks. he believed firmly in what he was doing in protecting this country and they do, they know what they're signing up for. >> is there anything else you want people to know about dillon? >> everybody -- everybody loves their children, but i truly liked dillon as a person. and if you talk to anybody who's
ever met dill liston, to meet hs to love him. he was truly a very good person and i couldn't be more proud of him. kris >> kristi that i when we come back, four weeks to the today after hurricane maria struck puerto rico. the island stale disaster zone. access to food and water is the difference between life and death for some. bill weir takes us to one of the communities struggling right now.
whoamike and jen doyle?than i thought. yeah. time for medicare, huh. i have no idea how we're going to get through this. follow me. choosing a plan can be super-complicated. but it doesn't have to be. unitedhealthcare can guide you through the confusion, with helpful people, tools and plans. including the only plans with the aarp name.
this would be more attention, perhaps, more outrageous from the media as well and certainly more government relief in place. four weeks to the day after maria made landfall on the island, almost 3.5 americans are still facing a humanitarian night mayor. bill weir has more. >> reporter: as dawn brings maria's one-month anniversary, we head out of san juan by air and low to the ground. >> terrain, terrain, pull up. pull up. >> reporter: all the better to see the mud slides, broken bridges, shattered homes. we pass one of the biggest radio telescopes in the world, but we're looking for intelligent signs of life in the western mountains where people have been waiting for help for weeks. we land and inside mayaques airport, a group of military veterans has turned baggage claim into a bunk house and operations center. >> i think we're at, like, 30,000 meals.
35,000 meals. that's just with the small trucks we've had and getting supplies. >> they came down on their own dime and shake their heads in frustration with fema. if it were up to them, they would bring in the nacle. 15,000 at a time on two-week rotations. you have to pay these guys to sit at fort mccoy. you're wasting your money. all of this stuff bringing in security to ride shotgun on the trucks, i'll find you vets who will come for free. >> reporter: we head into the hills and soon get a taste of the logistical headaches. maria obliterated this stretch of highway. with little hope for road crews, the neighbors are building their own bridge. >> do you feel like americans in moments like this? do you feel taken care of as citizens? [ speaking foreign language ] we're not people that say the government must help us. santiago says, we're all part of humanity.
every person does the best they can. >> what kind of help are you getting from the outside? have you seen fema? >> we've seen fema. we see the group that came from connecticut. they purify the water. >> are these the veterans? >> yes, that's right. >> we met them at the airport? >> they are beautiful people. >> thanks to juny and his mini monster truck, we get past yet another mud slide and track down one of fema's top men on this island. >> couldn't you use national guardsmen in two-week rotations to come in? are you begging for more men? >> no, i'm not, because we have more than 4,500 national guard coming in. >> two weeks after the haiti quake, the u.s. had 22,000 on the ground in a foreign country. >> i don't know how much we can bring without impacting the economy of puerto rico. if i keep flooding the place with food and water, when are
they going to open their supermarkets? >> isn't it true fema has a presence in new orleans for several years? people were living in fema trailers for years. >> we were in new orleans just two years ago and we left 5,000 mobile homes there. and we were there for seven or eight months, and we flooded that. we're going to be in puerto rico and now virgin islands also for as long as it takes. >> despite what the president says? >> you know what? we don't follow -- i don't see tv. i don't even pay attention to them. i pay attention to the mission i have, which is fixing puerto rico. >> reporter: in just a few hours we've been out shooting an amazing development here at this abandoned airport, the air national guard out of tennessee and kentucky has arrived and are militaryizing this airport. they tell me off camera they have 500 guys, more are coming. they have been sitting at home chomping at the bit to come, but there are so many layers of bureaucratic red tape and they couldn't pull the trigger.
but the good news is they're here now. they've got supplies, and they're going to start pushing them into the mountains as soon as they possibly can. >> bill joins me from san juan. sanders said we're trng to do everything we can to help the people of puerto rico. does the outlook on the ground match what we're hearing from the white house? >> reporter: maybe now that these guys from actually arriving and they've been wanting to arrive for two weeks. that's what the guardsmen told you. snappers, the bar on key largo that got obliterated by irma is open for business tonight. you go around puerto rico a month after maria, and it's hard to see that anything has changed. there's so much to do here. but a good sign that the guard is here now. >> so frustrating that a lot of those guys you talked to off camera say they have been sitting around for two weeks chomping at the bit. i talked to first responders who
said they were there for days wanting to get out and were just waiting around. bill, i'm glad you're there. it's time to hand things over to dana bash and jake tapper. the debut with senator bernie sanders and ted cruz on the tax plan starts right now. [ cheers and applause ] live in washington, this is cnn's debated night with senators bernie sanders and ted cruz. at issue, president trump's new tax plan. will congress go for it, and how might it affect your wallet? i'm jake tapper. >> i'm dana. president trump again promised his plan been a boon to small businesses and the middle class, but the critics say it's a boost