tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC September 25, 2017 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT
for us at 5:00. lester holt joins us from puerto rico in nightly news. several developing stories tonight. here in puerto rico apocalyptic scenes. our first look at ground zero where hurricane maria made landfall, and we're with the military amid a massive humanitarian crisis like few we've ever seen before. north korea calls president trump's threatening rhetoric a declaration of war and warns it has the right to shoot down american bombers in international air space. a dangerous new escalation with a nuclear-armed nation. critical condition. protesters in wheelchairs are dragged from a hearing at the capitol. a dramatic cliff-hanger with the clock ticking down. republicans mount a last gasp push to repeal obamacare. the white house today playing defense over president trump's nfl tirade. "nightly news" starts right now.
this is nbc "nightly news" with lester holt reporting tonight from san juan, puerto rico. and good evening from san juan. we made our way to puerto rico today. a day-long journey aboard a military transport. air national guard has an air bridge going now. a massive relief operation. there is devastation everywhere. it is like a curtain is slowly being lifted on this disaster revealing more and more of the suffering and the dire straits on this island. power is still largely out. that means banks and hospitals and the things that people depend on, they can't get to unless there are generators working. and in those cases there are long lines. gas stations. getting water is extraordinarily difficult. we're getting our first look at the ground zero where hurricane maria made its landfall almost a week ago. our gabe gutierrez is there tonight and has more. gabe, good evening.
>> reporter: lester, the massive cleanup effort is under way. this is the area where the eye of the storm hit. roofs blown off, lives torn apart. there is still a desperate need to communicate. no power and no end in sight. when maria roared on shore, puerto rico's southeast corner endured the first impact. >> this is the town, yes. >> reporter: in the coastal town of maunabo, norma rosado lost the roof off her home and her small business blew away entirely. >> many of us, we don't have a lot of money. that will take us a long time to recover from the things that we lost. >> reporter: now the hunt is on here for the basics. this woman snagging water from the side of a mountain. everything is destroyed, she says. with mangled power lines everywhere and eye-popping lines at gas stations, people here feel paralyzed and disconnected. satellite images show the island before maria hit and after, now almost totally in the dark. no cell service either.
and this woman hasn't been able to reach her family in indianapolis. when offered a satellite phone, she tells them she's all right, but her 95-year-old grandfather passed away during the storm. today san juan's airport packed as travelers rushed to escape on the few commercial flights. the u.s. military delivering humanitarian aid, launching relief missions from the "uss kearsarge" by air and sea. >> the marines are here, the marines are landing. >> reporter: rushing to help clear roads. >> this will not happen overnight. this is going to be a marathon. >> reporter: in northwest puerto rico engineers are inspecting a major dam after finding a crack. thankfully so far it's holding. >> it is sad to see. >> reporter: outside san juan pastor antonio font runs this massive church that his father built and maria ripped apart. >> and to see it just destroyed in just a few hours is really sad, but we are a church of hope. so we are going to rebuild. >> reporter:
rebuilding will take time for an island in crisis and in need. gabe gutierrez, nbc news maunabo, puerto rico. as we noted, we arrived here today aboard an air national guard c-130. an operation is being staged, essentially a hub and spoke operation, out of georgia bringing planes with needed relief materials. and they're realizing now this is a mission that's going to last a long time. this small piece of america almost a thousand miles from the u.s. mainland has never felt more remote, but it is not forgotten. with the sun barely up, this corner of the savannah international airport in georgia was alive with the sounds of vital provisions being loaded aboard national guard transports. a hub of an aerial lifeline providing humanitarian aid that takes on added meaning for these crews. >> we spend most of the time trying to do this overseas, over in a war zone. to be able to do it
back home and help out our fellow american citizens here after some of these hurricanes, it's pretty rewarding. >> reporter: for this crew of this puerto rico national guard c-130, their mission this weekend was personal. >> it's been a sacrifice not to be with my family, but mission comes first. so we are ready to just go back, see our families, then head back to the states or whatever to get the supplies. >> reporter: you can see the ramp is lined with planes from national guard units across the country, kentucky and texas and missouri. this c-130 belongs to the rhode island national guard. we'll be traveling on this one to san juan after a brief stop in st. croix. they're loading water and meals ready-to-eat. once airborne, the urgency of this humanitarian mission is apparent on their faces. what's it like flying into the hurricane zones in terms of what you're seeing out the window when you're descending? >> it's a little distracting, to be honest with you. i have a lot to do up here in the right seat, but when i see some of the devastation down there on the ground, it's pretty bad. i've never seen
anything like it. >> reporter: getting into san juan has not been easy, the airport has been struggling to get up to full operations. >> a lot of the facilities that we use to navigate aren't up. it's kinds of like the wild west a little bit. but we're trained to do it, and we do it pretty well, i think. >> reporter: finally on the ground you don't have to go far from the airport to appreciate just how great the need is. the military has put their own radar system in place temporarily here. they're trying to get it linked into the faa system. that will allow them to bring more flights in as the days go on. even as we look at what hurricane maria did to puerto rico, believe it or not tonight, it is still a hurricane, a category 1. while it's not a threat to make landfall in the u.s., tropical storm force winds are expected on the outer banks of north carolina. also a 2 to 4-foot storm surge and dangerous surf before this storm turns further out to sea. we'll have more from puerto rico in just a
moment, but first, let's send it up to new york with savannah guthrie who has some of the other big stories of the day. hi, savannah. >> hi, lester. there is breaking news tonight out of washington where a third republican senator has now come out against the latest gop bill to repeal and replace obamacare. that's enough no votes to doom that bill. this comes hours after protests erupted inside the capitol, some demonstrators in wheelchairs dragged from the hearing. our capitol hill correspondent kasie hunt was there for the dramatic moments and has all the late details. >> reporter: after an emotional day of protests and dozens of arrests, the last-ditch republican effort to repeal obamacare apparently dead tonight with senator susan collins of maine announcing she's a no after the nonpartisan congressional budget office said late tonight that millions more would lose coverage. this bill will have a substantially negative impact on the number of people covered by insurance, collins wrote in a lengthy statement. with only 52 republicans in the senate and rand paul and john mccain also voting no, there's no
path forward. earlier today the bill's co-author -- >> somebody better come up with a way to get medicaid in a sustainable fashion or else it's going to break the bank. >> reporter: the bill's only hearing held today was delayed by protesters who showed up before dawn. >> we left our hotel at 4:30 in the morning. >> reporter: screaming at its co-author lindsey graham. >> shame, shame, shame. >> reporter: once inside, yelling. capitol police dragging protesters in wheelchairs from the room. the hearing delayed. >> if you want a hearing, you better shut up. >> reporter: graham waiting to testify, and the bill's other author dr. bill cassidy. the public spectacle playing out across capitol hill. the cbo estimated that millions of people with expensive pre-existing conditions would not have comprehensive coverage under the plan but that it's hard to know the exact number because it could vary widely by state. that's what worries shaelynn who drove from pennsylvania with her sister brittany who has cerebral palsy. >> she was born with this disability. she is what's
considered a pre-existing condition. unfortunately for her, her services would get cut tremendously. >> reporter: after a few minutes inside shaelynn was dragged out and arrested. a few hours later the gop effort had failed again. this is another embarrassment for republicans who have been trying to repeal and replace obamacare for seven years. the question now whether republican leaders will even put this on the floor for a vote, and tonight that seems unlikely. savannah? >> all right, kasie hunt, thank you so much. now to the situation between the u.s. and north korea. it has been a war of words, but now the foreign minister of north korea is saying president trump's recent threats are, in fact, a declaration of war. are we headed toward a military confrontation? nbc's richard engel now on the new worries tonight. >> reporter: on the same day north korea said the u.s. has declared war, it released a computer simulation showing how it would destroy american aircraft and set a carrier ablaze.
it's propaganda but experts say there is now a real risk of an exchange of fire with nuclear-armed north korea or worse. the growing concern comes after president trump stepped up his personal insults against kim jong-un labeling him little rocket man and tweeting, he won't be around much longer. beyond rhetoric, the u.s. this weekend flew two advanced bombers near north korea's border. north korea's foreign minister replied today. "since the united states declared war on our country," he said, "we will have the right to make countermeasures including shooting down u.s. bombers even outside north korean air space." >> we've not declared war on north korea, and frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd. >> reporter: former nato supreme allied commander admiral james stavridis, an nbc news contributor, says this may go beyond the war of words. >> i would say the chances of an exchange of ordnance are now approaching 50/50.
>> reporter: he says north korea could fire at an american jet or ship. the u.s. could fire back. >> we are at such a high level of potential escalation to full-blown war because of the relative inexperience of the leader in pyongyang and the leader in washington. >> reporter: the spokesman for the united nations today seemed to agree. >> fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings. >> reporter: concern president trump and kim jong-un's game of brinkmanship could become a conflict. the big worry among experts is that there is some exchange of fire perhaps fueled by the rhetoric and that it snowballs. the national security adviser, h.r. mcmaster, said the u.s. doesn't want war but can't discount the possibility. savannah, back to you. >> richard, thank you. tonight the white house is playing defense, caught in a firestorm over president trump's targeting of nfl players for kneeling during the national anthem. in the meantime, the president today is
continuing to fan the flames. nbc's peter alexander has the heated back and forth. >> reporter: after a wave of defiance, the sports world standing up to the president by kneeling down, tonight some of the greatest athletes are calling out president trump. >> we have to figure out a way to come together and be as great as we can be as a people. because the people run this country, not one individual. and damn sure not him. >> reporter: but the president's not backing down. today tweeting stand for our anthem, insisting the issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. despite his polarizing comments attacking colin kaepernick, among others, who began taking a knee during the national anthem last year to highlight police brutality and racial injustice. >> wouldn't you love to see one of these nfl owners when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now? out! he's fired! he's fired! >> reporter: the roster of critics growing including patriots quarterback and trump friend tom brady.
>> i certainly disagree with what he said and, you know, thought it was just divisive. >> this isn't about the president being against anyone, but this is about the president and millions of americans being for something, being for honoring our flag, honoring our national anthem. >> reporter: the intersection of sports and politics dates back decades, from muhammad ali to mexico city, but now fresh battle lines are being drawn. several nascar owners warning they'll boot teammates who demonstrate. while one of the sport's biggest names, dale earnhardt jr., is voicing his support for peaceful protests. tonight the nfl spokesman who says this feud has unified the league and its players is delivering a message to the president insisting if he wants to engage in a positive, constructive conversation, he has their number. savannah. >> peter, thank you very much. also from the white house, news about the new travel ban the administration is hoping will pass muster with the supreme court which weighed in on the issue today as the
president's senior adviser and son-in-law was swept up in a controversy all too familiar over his e-mail. chief white house correspondent hallie jackson now with the story. >> reporter: tonight the president's original travel ban long in legal limbo is catching a break from the supreme court. the justices set to hear arguments in two weeks are instead postponing that, a sign the court thinks the legal battle over the old ban is moot because of the new version just unveiled. >> the tougher, the better. >> reporter: the president's new tougher ban puts indefinite restrictions on visitors and immigrants from eight nations including five muslim countries on the original list. the latest version removes sudan and adds chad, venezuela and north korea. with critics arguing it still seems like religious profiling to them. >> it reeks of the first two travel bans where they were targeting muslims in first two and even with the addition of north korea and venezuela, at its core, it's still a muslim ban. >> reporter: the new travel ban just one of
the headlines out of the white house today including this one. jared kushner, the president's son-in-law, using private e-mail as a government employee. his lawyer tells nbc those messages were mostly news articles or commentary forwarded to kushner's official address and preserved. will the white house commit to releasing jared kushner's private e-mails related to government business? >> i'd have to ask. i'm not aware of that conversation. >> reporter: democrats now demanding to see those e-mails. it's different from what hillary clinton did, use a private server repeatedly as secretary of state. still, after campaign moments like these -- >> i made a mistake using a private e-mail. >> that's for sure. >> reporter: a political irony to some is inescapable. clinton with msnbc's chris hayes. >> i'm waiting to see the outrage on the part of republican members of congress about this. and you will not see it. >> reporter: hallie jackson, nbc news, the white house. former congressman anthony weiner is headed to prison. he was sentenced today to 21 months for
sexting with a 15-year-old girl. weiner is the estranged husband of one of hillary clinton's most senior aides, huma abedin. he was fined $10,000 and ordered to report to prison by november 6. he also must enter into a sex offender treatment program after his release. still ahead, more from lester in puerto rico. and the terrifying moments when a gunman opened fire at a church in tennessee. survivors describe what it was like, as we learn new details about the suspect. stay with us.
we're back with a big unanswered question one day after a gunman opened fire at a church in tennessee killing a woman and injuring half a dozen other people. just what was the alleged shooter's motivation? we get the latest now from nbc's kerry sanders. >> reporter: prayers today for the victims shot by a masked gunman moments after church services concluded on sunday. >> dispatch, this is a level one mass casualty incident. >> reporter: six people injured. a seventh, 39-year-old melanie smith, killed in the parking lot. her 19-year-old daughter, brianna. >> there's no understanding it. >> reporter: the suspect, 25-year-old emanuel kidega samson accidentally shot himself when an usher wrestled him to the ground. 22-year-old caleb engel held the alleged gunman at bay with his own pistol. >> he's my hero. >> reporter: minerva was feet from the gunman when he began
shooting. her 6-year-old son and seven other kids in a bible study class barricading themselves behind a closed door. what about your own safety? >> you know, you're a mother. you don't even think about you. >> reporter: according to an affidavit, samson admitted he was armed with a handgun and he fired upon the church building. samson, an amateur body builder studying to become a security guard, emigrated to this country from sudan as a child. police records show he was involved in two domestic disturbances earlier this year. no charges were ever filed. in another report police say samson texted his father in june that he had put a gun to his head threatening suicide. tonight the fbi has launched a civil rights investigation hoping to find a motive for his alleged attack at a church where parishioners say he had occasionally visited. >> i just want to know why, why he came to the church, why he did what he did. >> reporter: kerry sanders, nbc news, antioch, tennessee. in a moment, back
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. we're back now from puerto rico, but we want to turn to the other major natural disaster we've been following, that huge earthquake in mexico which has left more than 300 people dead nearly a week after that 7.1 earthquake. the search continues for anyone who may somehow still be alive underneath the rubble. many remain homeless. in fact, tens of thousands remain homeless. and funerals are under way in a country shaken by two significant after-shocks over the weekend. more now from nbc's miguel almaguer. >> reporter: six days after the deadly earthquake here, signs of life are still coming from beneath the rubble. six people may be alive buried in this building. dozens of family members anxiously wait. adrian moreno, 26, is not on the list of survivors, so his brother daniel prays. "we know they are
working very hard," he says. "we have hope that won't die." with more than a hundred rescues, including this dog over the weekend, chances for miracles are fading. when this seven-floor apartment complex came crashing down, there were 15 people inside. 12 were killed, 3 survived. in this rattled country, fear is evident in everyday life, but tonight it's lives they are trying to save. miguel almaguer, nbc news, mexico city. i'll be back in just a moment with some final thoughts from san juan. ===jess vo===
the bold statement a bay area high school band is planning within the next hour. ===raj vo=== also, atm robbery spree. how many cash machines this couple is accused of hitting in one day. ===next close=== next. finally from puerto rico, this is an island with a long way to go on its road to recovery. leaving the airport the signs of despair were apparent everywhere. even people just parking around a lone working cell tower to try to get a message out. or people just a short distance from us gathered in a long line for a restaurant able to serve food. we will continue to cover this story and update you as puerto rico recovers, as we said, home to almost
3.5 million americans. if you'd like to help, we've put a list of organizations on our website. thank you for spending part of your evening with us. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, good night from puerto rico. protests -- are pr of vocal reactions. this right now at 6:00, the silent protest prompting a lot of vocal reaction. this evening the dallas cowboys kneeling during the national anthem. will be the end of an emotional 48 hours? the news at 6:00 starts right now. good evening and thanks for being with us on this monday. raj mathai. >> jessica aguirre. it's not oem the cowboys known as america's team. a bay area high school band is joining the national debate when it plays the national anthem at the a's game within the hour. as we said the cowboys and cardinals are the latest teams to join the protest. happened 30 minutes ago.
but over the weekend nfl teams linked armed during the anthem, blasting athletes who take a knee during the anthem. >> the president was at it again late this afternoon. tremendous backlash against the nfl and its players for disrespect of our country. on friday mr. trump said nfl owners should fire players who kneel in front of the flag. now the a's are also instrumental in reigniting this debate. students in oakland are sounding displeasure with equal rights. marianne favro joins us from the coliseum where the students are about to perform. >> reporter: that's right at 6:5 a tonight members of the oakland unified school district honor band will perform the national anthem at the oakland a's "a" game. i talked with students this afternoon who told me they plan to perform on bended knee and it won't be the tiers time. last year inpo