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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  October 18, 2017 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

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the call never comes. is he's going to send him $25,000. the check isn't sent today when the story gets out. these are two reports we have tonight. we begin with how the president and his white house are dealing with the criticism of another family of a fallen soldier, one of four u.s. servicemen killed by enemy fire in niger. 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 the condo lessons call. we know about the call because of a local congresswoman who was in the car when it came. sergeant johnson grew up in her community in miami gardens. his father was a student at the school where she was plan. congresswoman wilson knows the family and as we mentioned was in the car with johnson's young widow when the president called. she said the president told johnson's wife that her husband, quote, knew what he signed up for, but i guess it still hurt. here is representative wilson this morning. >> this is a grieving widow, a
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grieving widow who is six months pregnant. and when she actually hung up the phone, she looked at me and said he didn't even know his name. >> no. >> now, 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, democratic congresswoman totally fabricate what i said to the wife of a soldier who died in action and i have proof. sad. now, saying he has proof sounds distinctly like a veiled suggestion he's used before. when asked for clarification the white house said the call wasn't reported but there were other people in the room. the president also said this today. >> i didn't say what that congresswoman said. didn't say it at all. she knows it. and she now is not saying it. i did not say what she said, and
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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 sounded like a lovely woman. did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren't too surprised to hear that. >> mr. president? >> let her make her statement again and then you'll find out. >> okay. let measure make her statement again and then you'll find out. >> well, you'll find out is another suggestion, of course, the president has used many times before on much less solemn occasions. for the record it isn't just the congresswoman relating what the president said. it's also the woman who raised sergeant johnson who said the president disrespected her son on the call. she says her account of the call was very accurate. at the white house today press secretary sarah huckabee sanders was asked what exactly the president was denying. >> is he denying that he ever spoke these words to the widow that he must have known what he signed up for or is he just saying that she took it the wrong way and it was taken out
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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 the 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. and i don't know how you could take that any other way. >> he didn't say those words. it was the context. he felt that she put it had in the wrong text. >> i'm not going to get into the back and forth. i think that the sentiment of the president was very clear. >> so it should be noted had her statement sanders did not deny the president used the words the congresswoman said he did. these sensitive discussions probably would not be a topic of discussion the way it is if the president hadn't defect question -- he deflected by saying other
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presidents didn't call families of fallen soldiers. then the following day he brought up the death of kelly told president trump that obama didn't call him but never thought the president would use that information publicly. he did in a radio interview just yesterday. in that same radio interview the president said he thinks he's called, quote, every family of someone who has died. that turned outed not to be the case. not only did she not receive a call, she did not receive a personal letter for the president. i spoke with whitney hunter, her husband was killed in afghanistan just this summer. >> whitney, first of all, i'm so sorry for your loss and i'm so sorry we're talking under these circumstances. what do you want people to know about jonathan? what was he like? >> he -- i feel like whenever something like this happens, a lot of people bring out all the good things about someone, but i
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-- he was engine wenl 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 that he still lives through me and he allowed me to continue to want to be a better person. and he had that effect on everyone, especially his soldiers. he was a sergeant, so he was a team leader he had guys. he was looked up to. he was just a phenomenal leader. he was absolutely hilarious and like the goofiest, just funniest way ever. he feels just a genuinely good soul and that's so rare. and i feel so blessed and thankful to have been the person he chose to marry. he was a great man. >> i want to ask you about your experience with the white house because obviously that's very much in the news. and president trump said he thinks he called every family of someone who has died.
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did you ever receive a phone call from him? >> i didn't receive a call, no. i was told that i would, but i didn't. >> did you have -- i know you did have a chance to meet with vice president pence. >> i did. oh, he's such an amazing man. he actually spent ten to 20 minutes with us. it was the day of the dig any fied transfer, so of course emotions were very high. but he was a very genuine, just nice, curtous. he shared his condolences. his wife was with him. i feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to meet him, of course, under those circumstances wasn't the greatest, but the fact that he made it a point to be there and just 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. >> it helped. >> oh, yeah. absolutely having him there was -- he didn't have to be there.
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he didn't. but he was, and it just -- it truly, truly meant a lot to me. >> i understand you were actually 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, and i remember he liked bolted it out. we were at starbucks. he bolted it out and i remember he came back in and he was like it was the white house and they were letting him know to tell me that, you know, the president was planning on reaching out to share his condolences with me and i should not necessarily wait by the phone but it's not really a phone call you want to miss. so 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 condo lessons 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 in a phone call?
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>> 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 kind of 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 just to call me and express his gratitude toward 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 condo lessons phone call between -- to sergeant johnson's widow, the president reportedly said that he knew what he signed up for, but i guess it still hurt. the president denied saying that. the mother of the woman who received the call has said that
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that was stated. i wonder if the president had called you and had said something like that, what your reaction would have been? >> i honestly -- the past two and a half, almost three months have been a complete roller coaster of emotions. i'm sure that's very well expected given my circumstance. >> sure. >> but i can honestly say it probably would have depended on the time. some days are good. some days are bad. i explained this to someone earlier. i know for myself just based on very, very early conversations i had with my husband, like you are the spouse and, you know, me being a woman going into a marriage with a soldier, of course you know -- you know the risks. you know what you're signed up for. he knew what he was signed up for. he was ready to go, you know, full speed ahead overseas and do what he had to do for our
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nation. but if it's not my husband saying it to me or if it's not me saying it to my husband, i don't care if it's my mom or somebody from church, i mean, it does not matter who it is, it's not their position to say that to anyone. it's just not. i know what i signed up for and my husband knew what he signed up for. i just -- that's just -- it's insensitive to me. you don't say that. it's not his position. >> i know your one-year anniversary was just a couple days of ago. it was october 15. and i understand you actually went back to the place that you were married. and i want to show some photos of that. you took a photo, obviously, at the marriage and also you took a photo when you went back. i want to read something that you told one of our producers, i just thought it was so moving. you said the purest love i've ever known. i'd go through this pain a thousand times over again if i could relive those beautiful nine months of this life.
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that's extraordinary. >> yeah. it was a powerful. it really was. i mean, he -- like i said earlier, he's just the greatest, the greatest blessing god could have ever given me. i mean, as a human being, to strangers, to myself, to my family. i mean, he was just -- he was my soul mate and i will truly believe that until the day i die. he was one of a kind. >> i know jonathan's unit described him, they said to quote he was the leader we all want to work for, strong, decisive, compassionate and courageous. he was revered by his para troopsers and trpd throughout his unit. >> that was jonathan. i remember countless times he would come home from work and with a lot of people, they leave it at work and they come home and they try to just unwind. but i know jonathan, so many times he always had a book on his hand and he was always on the phone searching something to try to better himself in whatever way he could to make the most out of his career.
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so he could be who he needed to be for his soldiers. and it was -- it was hard a lot of times just knowing like, you know, you're home, like let's hang out, let's spend time together, but it was so rewarding to have married someone who had such a drive to be the best version of themselves that they could be. and i saw my husband transition so much in such a short time, and i am so incredibly proud of him, so incredibly proud of him. >> i know his dad was obviously very proud at how quickly he made sergeant and progressed through the ranks. whitney, again, i'm just so sorry 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. we learned more about that today. also the president offers a grieving military father $25,000
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at the white house today sarah huckabee sanders blamed the democratic congresswoman and the media for politicizing the president's call to a grieving military widow. she was also asked about how the president brought general kelly's son into the debate. president trump said, quote, you could ask general kelly did he get a call from obama. he did not. as we talked about last night on this program general kelly has always been very private about any discussion of his son's death. here is what sarah sanders said about it today. >> sarah, did the president speak to his chief of staff before invoking his son's death and what has become a political argument. >> i know he's spoken to general kelly multiple times yesterday and today. >> in other words did general kelly know he would be raising the issue of his son's memory when talking about -- >> i'm not sure if he knew of that specific comment, but they had certainly spoken about it,
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and he's aware and they've spoken several times since then. >> some new reporting on this. so did general kelly know the president was going to mention his son? >> well, anderson, sarah sanders sort of hinted at the fact that he didn't. they ran this down further and found that general kelly and other staffers in the white house were really caught off guard when president trump originally brought general kelly and the story of his son who 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. and as you pointed out, kelly has taken great pains to kind of keep the story of his son and his son's death a private issue. so a number of people over here at the white house were surprised to see the president come out and talk about it publicly like that, particularly in this context. >> and earlier today politico reported that the white house drafted a statement for the president to give expressing
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condolences almost immediately after the four service members were killed but he never issued the statement and chose to make no comments forth 125 days. what is the white house saying about that. >> one of the perplexing is the president's silence. we were talking to white house officials about this, they said, look, they got the information from the nsc. they were trying to decide the best way to deliver it and sarah sanders decided instead of putting out a written statement she felt like it would mean more if she delivered that statement from the podium and she did do so on october 5th. they were still tying to notify the next of kin. but it still 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 in chief to address this himself. >> is sarah sanders saying she thought it would have more impact if she spoke about it from the podium rather than a written statement from her or
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that her speaking from the podium would have more impact than a written statement from the president of the united states? >> the white house officials that i spoke to said that the determination among communications staffers was that sarah sanders going out and delivering a statement from the podium in front of cameras would have more might, more magnitude than a written statement, but they didn't clarify whether this was a written statement that was originally supposed to come from the press secretary, whether it was a written statement that was supposed to come from the president. and it's possible that that was not a determination that had been made at that point, that they just got the information and decided, look, this is something we're better off delivering from the podium in the briefing room rather than sending out essentially an e-mail. >> thanks very much. there's been a lot of attention today on the president's call to the widow of one of the soldiers killed in niger, but there are other stories. we'll talk to a mother of a servicemember who was very happy with a call she received from the president when her son was killed. that is coming up.
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the "washington post" reporting today president trump offering a grieving military father $25,000 and then never sending it. now the white house says the check is in the mail, send today. so, dan, can you just walk us through your reporting on this. when did the president call the father and what exactly did he tell him? how did this come about? >> sure. thanks for having me. in light of the president's comments on monday saying that he had called either all or very close to all gold star families from his era, we decided to reach out to these people. you know, it seems lining they were the missing element from this story. they had been through a lot. some of them would probably want to speak up. and this particular father in north carolina shared a story in which several weeks after his son's death the president called in july. the father was glad to hear from him. they had a discussion in which the father shared that he was frustrated that the death gra tu wit, financial benefit that goes
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with having fallen soldier in the family was going to his own ex-wife. the president said apparently shared some level of sympathy and said that he was going to cut the father a $25,000 check. >> and you write in your article said the president said no other president has done something like this. so it seems like he was serious about giving the money. >> he appeared to be at the time and the father, i think, was trying to sort out whether or not it was a sincere offer at the time. he at one point in the purview that my colleague had with him said that he knew it seemed far-fetched. >> so how long ago was that call? the promise of the 25,000? >> he was not exactly sure, but he was sometime probably early in july. >> so what's the white house saying tonight about the president's conversation and the check? >> at this point the check has been sent. i know your cnn colleagues have reported that the check was sent today. we're trying to get that detail
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ourselves. but really it appears until we move forward with this story today that was not the case. >> that is correct now, the check, was it sent today? >> that is correct. the white house has confirmed to cnn that the check was sent today. when we asked, of course, about the delay and why it would have taken from july until now to make something like that happen, the white house said that there was a substantive process they had to go through. they had to deal with a number of different aegds, but they didn't explain what that pros would be, what other agencies they need to work with, especially why it would take so long. they did insist that the president has followed up on this a number of times and wanted to make sure that the money got to this individual. but again, not a lot of detail from the white house and why there would be a lag time. >> so they're saying it's purely coincidental that the check is now in the mail the day that the "washington post" broke this story. >> it is quite a coincidence. the process took awhile and the check was in the mail today. >> out of all the 13 gold star
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families the "washington post" was in touch with, whether or not they had been called by the president, they all had different responses about whether or not the president's outreach mattered to them. they're not obviously monolithic group and this is such a personal and difficult subject. >> yes. 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 that they didn't hear from the president, bit they didn't want to politicized. so, yeah, it's a real grab bag, as you'd expect. cross-section of america. >> yeah. appreciate you joining us. coming up, we'll speak with the mother of that soldier, balanced ridge and later four weeks to the day since hurricane maria slammed into puerto rico, the island still struggling. we'll have the latest on the ground tonight. ( ♪ ) ♪ one is the only number
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it all adds up to our most reliable network ever. one that keeps you connected to what matters most. our headlines so far tonight have been about the president's handling of calls with gold star families, an issue he himself raised in order to deflect attention from what he clearly saw as a critical question about his silence on the death of soldiers in niger.
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paul, let me start with you. first of all, this is such a hard discussion to have because no one wants to politicize this. the president did bring this notion up of who has called, who has not called, so i guess that brought it up into the public's conscious. where do you see the developments over the last 24 hours. >> i think it's bad for everybody. i think the country is disgusted by it. it's bad for our politics, military, moral for people overseas and most of all it's bad for the skron son family. they've been thrust into this. and frankly, i think they probably want to be left alone. and if they want to speak, they'll come out and let know know. but i think that the president should leave them alone, the media should leave them alone and we should let them go through an unimaginable series of circumstances and try to drive as much support as we can to them and other gold star families. maybe they're getting more attention now. we can hear the stories of these heroes and the heroism of the
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survivors. >> i honestly think there's a question of whether this democratic congresswoman should have told this story. now, she was asked to tell the story by the family, then that's one thing and the mother of the fallen soldier has confirmed it. so at a minimum very haven't expressed that they're upset. but once that happened, then it would have been an opportunity for president trump, i think, to maybe show a little empathy, the empathy that apparently was missing in this call and to say, well, you know, gosh, you know, that's not what i meant. and instead he -- you know, he started to make accusations against president obama and then started making more claims that weren't true such as he's called every single family of a fallen southerly. turns out that's not true and started this snowball effect that turned into this politicized environment. >> it is one of those things as we talked about, there are many kinds of gold star families from many backgrounds and perspectives and some may or may
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not like president trump. you two people can have a conversation and words can be spoken and the president could have meant one thing and spoken twords to a grieving widow felt deeply offensive and may not have been meant that way. what do you make? >> well, the whole thing, i defer to the veterans, right. i mean, i think there's a part of this that's such a sacred moment. and i don't think any president probably would say it's particularly easy. as you point out, if you talk to the wrong wife, doesn't matter what you say, right, because they may not be willing to talk to anybody of the they may not be feeling like wonderful about it. but it's just become such a mess now for everybody. we watched today the press conference, and i kind of hoped, well, they said nafta might go down and the health care -- i kind of hoped that it would spin us off into that, you know, and the president didn't tweet i don't think this afternoon. so i thought maybe we'd get off of it. but i agree, it's just kind of a mess and i think that sometimes -- i was hoping kelly also being -- kelly said he was on the call
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and he thought the president did the right kind of call. the family has a right to say they didn't hear it, and i thought maybe that would clean us out of it but here we are. >> there's good things happening. isis is on the run right now. we're not talking about that. we're talking about this. this is an important story. i do think president trump made a big mistake by waiting weeks before talking about what happened in niger. i think he made a mistake by not sending the letters at least out. having said that, i die think that there's been a media feeding frenzy and we've not shown grace to donald trump here. and part of the reason is that people are through with giving him the benefit of the doubt. they've made up their minds, at least mountain media. i think a lot of media folks have made up their mind about donald trump. they've seen that quite often it doesn't pay to extend a lot of grace to donald trump.
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but, look, i think it's entirely possible that what he said wasn't nefarious. it was awkward and i think he was probably trying to say, you know, look, these people are heroes. when they join the military, especially if they're in special forces like the green berets, when they are called up, they know that they may not come back. and that's a heroic thing. and i think we need to honor that. but -- >> i guess my question is i don't know that this would even be in the public discussion like it is and certainly in the ten or that it is had the president himself not used it as a way to deflect from a question that he could have answered very easily and instead deflectly going after former presidents for what how he characterized -- >> he said it's important, but what's really important is what the president says now. what does he do going forward? he sets the tone. he's the commander in chief.
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he can drive the dialogue and where the country goes with his twitter account alone. so i think it's up to him now to try to figure out how to move us forward. the department of defense is going to be determine enshall. the military is going to be defer enshall. he can set the tone here. he can reach out to mrs. johnson and say how do we make this right? we need leadership right now and we need that kind of vision toward the future -- >> russia is another big story that no one is talking about. it's part of a larger story about how russia has been trying to drive us apart, you know. and i think the most recent story today is how they're trying to stir up racial an monthsty in america and bring blacks and whites against each other, bitterness. this story, part of what i really hate about this story is it's also pulling us apart. i mean, the one thing we should be united about is honoring, you know, men and women who serve who have fallen soldiers.
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and this is not good for the country. >> there was a statement drafted for the president to release in his own name about the deaths of former soldiers in niger and it wasn't released because the white house thought condolences would carry more weight -- or the statement would carry more weight from sarah huckabee sanders at the pressroom proceed dwrum. and i think it's not clear whether that statement was supposed to be a written statement from the pregnancy or a written statement from the president himself. having been in the corridors of power like this, how are statements like that normally handled? >> well, it depends on the case. if you want it really to have gravitas, though, you want the plinl to be the one to release it. many times decisions were made -- not only was not a cabinet but the president himself would and everybody would follow in his lead. so to say that they wanted it to be more effective by coming from sarah sanders at the podium
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doesn't wash with me. if you want to have the weight of a condo lessons statement it should have come from the president skpchlt it could have just come from a printed statement. but to have sarah sanders do and say that was more effective, i just don't buy that zbloor we haven't heard from you. just in general on this story, i know you wrote for where do you fall on this. >> i associate myself with everything the panel said. paul, i agree with him. this is one issue that we should never politicize. it's the one thing that all of us should be able to get behind is making sure the people get the support that they need and the attention that they're going to require going forward. these are very, very difficult times for them. i also agree with paul that the president should reach out to the family or at least try. as i wrote in my piece, he should apologize. even if he believes he didn't say anything untoward and maybe he does. maybe it was about the context that he said it. it doesn't matter. it was received a certain way bt family. he ought to recognize that pain and apologize for it and move
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on. i think that would be very, very good. >> also, when the president speaks this and the reporters start looking into it, it turns out he didn't do exactly what he said and the story bubbles up about this $25,000 check. >> right. exactly. and so i think that there are actually -- and there are other troubling things that have come out which is the fact that he says he's called all these families. it urns on out a lot of them haven't been called or received letters. is it necessarily the president's fault? no. but there's certainly a staff problem there. when somebody has given their life for this country, their family's deserve a letter from the president and if they can get a phone call, even better. and so i think that that should be something that, again, they should just be recognizing is a problem and they should fix it. the president doesn't have to be perfect. it's just, you know -- but instead he goes on the attack. he goes on the attack first against president obama and then he goes on the attack against the congresswoman saying what she said isn't true and i dare her to say it again.
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and then she says it again. and the mother comes out and it just starts this whole very unseemly process. >> the president doesn't have to be perfect but the margin of error on gold star family issues are not small. these are things you cannot screw up. anything that gives the appearance that we're divided is bad for america because it feeds our enemies. this is what they want. there are folks overseas right now watching this who are serving for us in iraq and afghanistan and they see us ripping each other apart. that's terrible. we've got to be unified especially around gold star families. they can speak for themselves. i think you've done a great job today empowering those voices. they're kind of a true north for us, four our country, patriotism. they've sacrificed what we can't even begin to comprehend. >> yeah. in fact, we're going to speak to the ex-wife of the man who -- with the $25,000 check about her son. she has a very different perspective. she did get a phone call from
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president trump. was very pleased with it. she also met with vice president pence. it does seem like vice president pence in all of this is often the one who has gone to dover and met with families. of the two families i've talked to today, that has had a tremendous impact on them, the personal meaning. >> one of the things we're sort of critiquing closely is how this white house has handled something that president trump wouldn't have had to hand. pence would have had to handle a guards man getting killed or something. there is a part of this if you like what he did, you say he knew the guy that would be really good at this or if you think he farmed it out to him if you don't like. he's learning. he's a new president. maybe one of the things we could have out of this is on this kind of question we give the president the benefit of the doubt to improve that there's a question no matter what you say to some families, it's going to be perceived in a way and you've got to be able to say, okay,
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doesn't matter. >> so there is an experience factor. >> yeah. >> and not unkpon for the first year of a president. >> do you think he should apologize, whether it's publicly or privately to a family or call and say, look, there was a misunderstanding. >> i think he should. >> do you think that? >> i think he should reach out to them. i'm not sure he should announce he's apologizing. he should daul them and say you might have heard this wrong. i'd like to point out again because it meant a lot to me to read it. when he talked about you signed up for this, that's language that the military people relate to. >> we don't know what he said -- 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. he was trying. he was trying to get into that. and that's what mattis is saying. >> but when people were critical of donald trump and you would have krift sichls about hids temperament, about his lack of experience, this is one of the
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manifestations of that. now, you could argue we needed an outsider to come in and shake up the system and mistakes will be made, billion well, these are some of the miss taks that don't get made with a mike pence, let's say as president. >> do you think it was wise for the president to deflect that question by going back and going after former presidents? >> yeah, i do. to turn this of all things into some sort of competition with president obama or even president bush because he talked about other presidents too, i think totally inpatrolman. again, this is a solemn duty of any commander in chief. president bush called it being comforter in chief. it's the one thing that no matter what political stripe you are you should be able to wrap your arms around it and take it very seriously. for him to turn this into a competition i'm better than the last guy, completely wrong. >> come up next as i mentioned, i'll speak to the mother of a fallen soldier, dillon balanced ridge. the president offered her ex-husband $25,000. we'll talk to her about the
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earlier tonight we heard about the $25,000 check that president trump sent today to the family of a fallen soldier. this after the "washington post" reported on the promised oh nationdy the commander in chief but the check wasn't mailed today. it was sent to the father of dillon baldridge. he was shot to death by an afghan police officer in june. just before air time i talked about dillon with his mom, tina palmer. >> tina, i'm so sorry for your loss. first of all, what can you tell us about your son dillon? what kind of a man was he? what kind of a son was he? >> he was amazing, honestly. he's such a great person. always had a smile on his face. always wanted to make everyone else happy. he wanted to be a soldier from the time he was seven or eight years old. and he stuck to it and he did it and he did it well. i'm very, very proud of him. >> that was something he had always dreamed of being? >> yes.
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absolutely. >> i know you -- i believe you met with vice president pence s is that correct? >> that's correct. >> how was that for you? >> you know what? it was an amazing experience. i didn't know what to expect, and i was just overwhelmed with how genuine and how caring. they were just amazing. they were very thankful for my son's service. i couldn't have 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
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encouraging. 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 ra wear of the reports today about the president offering to send your ex-husband $25,000 when he spoke to him on the phone. do you know anything about that conversation? >> i do not. i was not there during the conversation. again, it's my ex-husband. i have no idea what transpired, what was said, so i really don't have any comment on that. >> i wonder what you make of these reports about the president not calling some gold star families. i spoke to a widow earlier who
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had not haertd from him and also the fact that the president reportedly told a widow last night about her husband that he knew what he signed up for, but i guess it still hurt. obviously the white house said that did not happen -- that was not said or it was not said in the way that it's being interpreted. >> right. you know, as far as him calling or not calling, all i can speak to is >> 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 know personally, i can't speak for other people, but personally i know that my son knew what he signed up for. and that doesn't of fend me. that just gives me more respect for what he did. he knew, he knew the danger and risks. but he just believed firmly in what he was doing in protecting this country and they do, they know what they're signing up for.
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>> is there anything else you want people to know about dillon? >> you know, everybody -- everybody loves their children, but i truly liked dillon as a person. and if you talk to anybody who's ever met dillon, to meet him was to love him. he was just truly, a very good person and i couldn't be more proud of him. >> tina i appreciate you talking to us and again i'm so sore for your loss and all your sacrif e sacrifice. >> thank you, anderson, i appreciate it. when we come back, four weeks to the today after hurricane maria struck puerto rico. the island still a 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. each year sarah climbs 58,007 steps.
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roughly 3 million americans don't have power. roughly 1 million don't have running water. for many in puerto rico it seems like hurricane maria hit just yesterday for the level of destruction still plaguing the island. if this was texas or louisiana, 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. where the stakes can be life and death. cnn's bill weir tonight 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
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mountains where people have been waiting for help for weeks. we land and inside mayaques airport, a group of big hearted 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. and i don't know how many crates -- and 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 national guard, 15,000 at a time on two-week rotations. you have to pay these guys to sit at fort mccoy in wisconsin. you're wasting your money. all of this stuff bringing in security to ride shotgun on the trucks, i'll get you 5,000 military vets, we're all down here for free. >> reporter: we head into the hills and soon get a taste of the logistical headaches. maria obliterated this stretch of highway.
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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. >> reporter: 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. >> reporter: are these the veterans? former soldiers? >> yes, that's right. >> reporter: 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 soon track down one of fema's top men on this island. couldn't you use national guardsmen in two-week rotations to come in?
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are you begging your bosses for more men? >> no, i'm not, because we have more than 4,500 national guard coming in. >> reporter: two weeks after the haiti quake, the u.s. had 22,000 troops 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 had 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 responding there, and we flooded that. we're going to be in puerto rico and now virgin islands also for as long as it takes. >> for as long as it takes? >> 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 in my heart, which is fixing puerto rico. >> reporter: in just a few hours we've been out shooting an amazing development here at this
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abandoned airport, the air national guard out of tennessee and kentucky has arrived and are militarizing this airport. they tell me off camera they have 500 guys, more are coming. they have been sitting at home for two weeks 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. today's white house briefing sarah sanders said we're continuing 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 are actually arriving and they've been wanting to arrive for two weeks. that's what the guardsmen told you. by point of comparison, snappers, the bar on key largo