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Interview with Mayor Sylvester Turner; Trump Escalating War with GOP Lawmakers; Trump and Twitter; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 25, 2017 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00] ED LAVANDERA, CNN ANCHOR: Last moments to load up on supplies because especially in this area of southeast Texas major concerns about flooding and what this heavy rainfall will do over the next coming days -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Days and days of rain.

Ed Lavandera in Galveston -- Ed, thank you so much.

Joining me now is the mayor of nearby Houston, Sylvester Turner.

Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us. Houston has had an issue with flooding over the last several years. We are being told that the floods here could be even worse. How are you preparing?

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER, HOUSTON, TEXAS: Well, we are making preparations. We know that the areas that are prone to flood, and so we -- of course we ask people to take the necessary precautions. Don't get on the streets, especially through the weekend. We're not so much worried about today, but we are concerned with Saturday, Saturday evening, Sunday, Monday and possibly Tuesday.

So we are encouraging people not to get on the street. We are barricading those areas that are prone to flood, the underpasses. We are discouraging any use of those areas. All of our high water equipment is positioned and we are ready to go. We are providing -- we have always been in contact with the Red Cross. They have established about 56 locations.

More than about 20 churches already making their facilities available, if need be. But all city employees will be working today. But this will be a major rainmaker for us. We're not so much concerned about wind. We are concerned about rain over the next four to five days.

BERMAN: And that's such an important message. This is not a one-day and done thing like so many hurricanes are. You've got to be ready for days and days of this. Do you think that people in and around Houston are paying the attention -- paying as much heed as they need to?

TURNER: And John, I'm proud to say that they are. I mean, we've been talking about this storm over the last, you know, four, five days. People have been stocking up. We told them to make sure you get your kits available, your batteries, you know, food for your kids. We are telling people look, do not necessarily think one or two days, tomorrow and things are done. But we're saying to people be prepared now for the next four to five days.

And then, especially, watch out for your neighbors. Senior citizens and people who are disabled, in particular because they, over four or five days, they may think things are OK or they may try to venture out. We don't want them to do that.

For senior citizens, for people who are disabled, for low-income individuals, if there's a need, we're telling them to call 211 or 311 if, for example, an emergency situation should arise. But it's all hands on deck. The fire department is ready, the police department is ready. The office of emergency management is 24 hours. We will stay with this thing all the way through. But people need to know, this is not a one, two day event and done.

Even though it may seem like it may get better, but this is a four or five day event and especially starting tomorrow evening going through Monday or Tuesday. We are encouraging people to stay off the streets. Don't venture out if you don't have to. And to just exercise some common sense and do not panic.

BERMAN: All right. I hope the people of Houston are listening to you, Mayor Sylvester Turner and I'm sure they are. We appreciate you being with us. Good luck in the days ahead.

TURNER: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. With this storm bearing down on the Gulf Coast, a major legislative push just days away in Washington, what is the president doing this morning? He's attacking members of his own party. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:37:42] BERMAN: This morning, as the country braces for a major hurricane, President Trump facing a different problem, an escalating war between the president and members of his own party. There are new statement for the president attacking the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker.

"Strange statement by Bob Corker. Corker questioned the stability, considering he Corker is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in '18. Tennessee not happy." And then there is a statement from the senator -- former senator from Missouri, John Danforth, a scathing criticism of the president.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN national security commentator, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers.

Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for being with us. The president has got this feud now with Bob Corker. Bob Corker questioning whether or not he was stable. And the president today made this statement on Twitter where he revealed the contents of a private conversation apparently that he had with Senator Corker.

You know, as someone who has served in Congress and has worked, you know, on behalf of the president back during the transition, would you be happy to have your private conversations aired now for the public?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: You know, it's exasperating. If you really want to try to do some of the things that I think people wanted Donald Trump to do, when you talk about infrastructure improvement, when you talk tax reform and tax relief, when you talk about the big picture of getting health -- some free market ideas back into the health care debate, all of that seems to be lost on this president.

And it's just shockingly bad. You cannot poke the people who are going to have to vote and write and debate and amend the bills going through to support your agenda. It makes no sense whatsoever.

Think about where they were, John, when Obama came in and he had -- you know, he owned the House and the Senate and big numbers. And he came out to do something that he really didn't talk about a lot in the campaign when he did Obamacare. And he did that because he knew he had a short window to do something he wanted to do.

This president I mean has put on the boxing gloves and just started whacking away. It will stop his ability to get his agenda done. And I don't know why he doesn't understand that.

BERMAN: And there is this new criticism today from a different front, from the former senator from Missouri, John Danforth, highly respected within the Republican Party who wrote a scathing op-ed in the "Washington Post." Just one of the lines he said was that, "Our party has been corrupted by this hateful man and is now in peril."

[10:40:04] I have to admit I was surprised by this level of vitriol from Senator Danforth, an ordained minister. What do you make of it?

ROGERS: I have given up being surprised about Donald Trump. I mean, if you think about the fact the he gave a relatively presidential speech on Afghanistan, and then goes to Phoenix and blows it up. You know, I just don't understand where he is going and what he wants to accomplish.

Again, attacking these members and even disclosing that conversation, if it happened that way, Corker may have said I'm wondering if I should run again, that doesn't mean he was asking the president of the United States if he should run again. And so you just worry about how he's trying to -- I don't know what he's doing. He keeps doing this by subtraction.

You know, politics is a game of addition not subtraction. And President Trump just seems hell bent on getting that list of people that are with him as small as he can possibly get them.

BERMAN: Subtraction and maybe division, as well, if you we're talking about math here.

All right. You're not just a former chairman inside the House of Representatives, you also are a big TV star. "DECLASSIFIED" which airs tomorrow tonight here on CNN at 9:00 p.m. An interesting episode this week about Cuba. About Cuba. Now the United States not really at war with Cuba in anyway right now

so why is there concern about spying?

ROGERS: Well, here's the thing about the Cubans, John, is really interesting. They are very good at it. We forget that. They have excellent intelligence officers who do recruiting, put people in the right positions in the U.S. government to steal information. And then what the Cubans do is leverage that information with the Russians, either sell it outright, get things for it, get arms deals, other things.

So they use the information they steal as a commodity with their Russian friends. And so when you see a Cuban spy, guaranteed that our adversaries are getting access to that information, which is why that makes them such a dangerous adversary in the intelligence world.

BERMAN: Very interesting, especially during these times.

Former Chairman Mike Rogers, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

"DECLASSIFIED" airs tomorrow night 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

Right now we're just minutes away from a new update from the hurricane center on Harvey. We will find out if the storm has reached category 3 status. We will also get a new forecast about just where it will make landfall and when. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[10:47:08] BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Texas is about to have a very significant disaster. The bottom line message is right now if people have not heeded the warning, again their window to do is closing. And if they refuse to heed the warning that's on them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. That was FEMA Director Brock Long issuing a dire warning for Texas, urging residents in the path of Hurricane Harvey to get out because your time is running out. The storm expected to strengthen to a category 3 storm. Maybe already a category 3 storm.

We want to bring in Nim Kidd. He is the chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

Thank you so much for being with us. Tell us your chief area of concern right now.

W. NIM KIDD, CHIEF, TEXAS DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: John, thank you for the invitation. Thanks for allowing me to speak to this audience. You know, life safety is our number one priority. It's been less than 24 hours. At 10:00 this morning will be the 24-hour mark since the National Hurricane Center officially upgraded the storm to a cat-3. For the days that we did planning and our local partners did planning

and citizens did planning prior to that, everybody was counting on a tropical storm high end maybe a cat 1. But in the last 22 hours, 23 hours now, hundreds of buses have been put in place, hundreds of ambulances, 300 high profile vehicles from the Texas Military Department, 800 state National Guardsmen have been put on active duty to come and support us and we work with our local officials along the Texas coast in the most threatened and impacted areas to be sure that they're issuing timely evacuations and warnings.

BERMAN: Three feet of rain in some places along the mid-Texas coast right there. How are you preparing for that? What is the impact?

KIDD: Yes, so the message to our citizens is, we have plenty of safe places for them to evacuate to. The city of San Antonio, the city of Dallas have opened up shelters. Many of our coastal communities have pre-developed point-to-point shelter programs, moving our folks that are on the coast further inland.

The three feet of rain is going to be a game changer for us. As you well know, very few states have ever seen that kind of rain over a 24 to 36 or 48-hour period. Our plan is to have life safety rescue boats, our swift water rescue boats, our urban search and rescue teams and our Texas military department and our Texas Department of Transportation.

We hope that people will heed the warnings. The Texas law only allows mayors and county judges to give a mandatory evacuation. The governor can recommend evacuations, but only a mayor or county judge can mandate that evacuation. And we've seen almost 30 jurisdictions in this impacted area to do that in the last 24 hours.

So as people are moving out, we will have those first responder resources ready to help move in and help evacuate the rest of those. Once we see this rain hit the ground and where it's going to go we will continue to do search and rescue operations.

BERMAN: And we hope people are listening as well. We did hear from a father of a 6-year-old boy at the beginning of this hour who told us he didn't think it was going to be that bad and he thought it was OK to ride it out in Corpus Christi. You know, what is your message to people like him when there is still time left right now?

KIDD: Yes, so, I urge them -- you had an administration along a little bit earlier, I give the same message that he does is, people have the option of evacuating now. That window is closing rapidly. I urge them to evacuate.

[10:50:03] They have the resources. If not, Governor Abbott has provided resources down into the Corpus Christi, in the Nueces County area, to assist them with evacuating. And people may think they can withstand the 125-mile-an-hour winds, that their homes might survive if they were built to the right code. But we will lose electricity for several days. And my urge to them is to get out while they still can. And if not, at least let family know where they are and if they are safe or not, continue to charge their phones, use social media and everything to connect with their families to let people know that they are safe and OK.

BERMAN: All right. Nim Kidd for us, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, we wish you the best of luck in the days ahead. Please let us know how we can help.

KIDD: Yes, sir. Thank you. Keep us in your prayers.

BERMAN: All right. We'll have an update on the hurricane in just minutes from the National Hurricane Center. How strong is it now? The latest forecast and where it will hit. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:55:19] BERMAN: All right. This morning, new statements from the president of the United States on Twitter. Not about the hurricane bearing down on the Texas coast right now, but new jabs at Republicans. And new praise for his own administration.

With me now, someone who has read every single one of the president's tweets in book form.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: That's right.

BERMAN: I should note. Bill Weir.

WEIR: Hi, John. Those are going to have to go into volume two. These are all the president's tweets, volume one. We did this for tonight's big special because we tend to dismiss a lot of these as digital, ethereal, disposable thoughts. But these words will be studied for centuries as the sign of our times and it's fascinating when you go back and see how he learned to weaponize Twitter from the early days.

The genesis of this -- of this volume is back in 2009 when it was really just a promotional tool. But over the last few years, how it has become his shield and his weapon.

BERMAN: And very interesting. Not just you, not just the media reading these statements on Twitter, but some very important audiences as well.

WEIR: Not just in friendly capitals around the world, but enemies as well. And we talk about that with some former spy chiefs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEIR: When it comes to American adversaries in Pyongyang or Moscow, following Donald Trump on Twitter, what worries you the most?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA AND NSA DIRECTOR: If I'm the head of a hostile or even friendly intelligence service, I've got a new office over here. Follow that account. Tell me what this man is saying. It's tremendously revealing.

We know the president's hot buttons, we know his vulnerabilities, we know what upsets him, we know what he demands from his subordinates. We even know his sleep patterns based upon his Twitter usage.

WEIR: Right.

HAYDEN: That's a tremendous gift to a foreign power.

WEIR: All of those things somebody like Vladimir Putin, say, takes great pains to hide.

HAYDEN: Of course.

WEIR: Yes.

HAYDEN: Because you don't want to advantage the other guy.

WEIR (voice-over): While lashing out at "The Washington Post," this tweet declassified a top secret operation to arm Syrian rebels. Intentional or not, it's the kind of revelation that makes jaws drop in the capitals of both enemies and allies.

STEVE HALL, RETIRED CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: I can guarantee you that there are liaison services right now, services that work with us, foreign intelligence services who have probably decided to do a little self-editing and have said, look, we just don't know what he is going to do.

WEIR (on camera): They're withholding valuable information from the U.S. out of fear that he might tweet it.

HALL: I believe that that's probably happening.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: It is really fascinating to hear that right now. When you hear Michael Hayden talk about the sleep patterns.

WEIR: Right.

BERMAN: That will be known around the world because of the president's Twitter use.

WEIR: And that's the thing, what worked so well for him in the campaign, the idea that the most powerful man in the free world is talking directly to me, I get the tweets at the same time John Berman at CNN does is incredibly attractive to his base. But at the same time historians look at this, national intelligence experts look at this, and think, if there's one thing that might bring this man down, it could be his Twitter habit. He never used e-mail as a businessman, he was very savvy about it, but sometimes seem to get drunk on Twitter.

BERMAN: And there are --

WEIR: Figure it.

BERMAN: Even just this morning, who knows what the president doesn't say on Twitter. When you say as much as he does. WEIR: Exactly.

BERMAN: What you don't say is also important. People have noted all morning the president has a lot to say, but he hasn't talked about the hurricane this morning on social media.

WEIR: Right.

BERMAN: And the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, about 30 minutes ago, he used Twitter himself to say, hey, President Trump, pay attention to this hurricane right now. Don't let this be your Hurricane Katrina.

WEIR: It's the purest representation to his inner -- to what is his innermost thought and innermost life is. And that's why even his -- some of his biggest attracters, we talked to Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney, who says I hope he doesn't stop because those tweets show the kind of information Americans really need to know.

BERMAN: And it is interesting. You know, the White House has made clear, while initially they said don't pay attention to it. It's just social media. They have now made clear these are official statements. They consider it to be official policy.

WEIR: These tweets will go next to the Federalist Papers, to the writings of Lincoln, Adams and Jefferson. And when people try to figure out what happened to America in 2017, Twitter is our guide.

BERMAN: All right. Bill Weir, this will be very interesting to see. Thank you very much.

That special, CNN special report, "TWITTER AND TRUMP" airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern Time.

Again, we are just now getting a new update from the National Hurricane Center on Harvey. CNN's special coverage continues right now.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Clarissa Ward in for Kate Bolduan.

Hurricane Harvey teetering on the verge of a category 3 storm and growing stronger by the minute.