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Sebastian Gorka Resigns; Michael Flynn's Role in Clinton Email Security Examined; North Korea Test Fires Short-Range Missiles; Coverage of Hurricane Harvey Continues; Brock Long, FEMA Director Discusses FEMA Assistance in Texas; Sherriff Joseph Arpaio is Pardoned; Arpaio's Pardon is Criticized by Lawmakers; Probe Continues for Manifort and Flynn and their Influence in the Presidential Election Outcome. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 26, 2017 - 08:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Be safe. Now Harvey, as we said, it is now even at this hour continuing to pound the Texas coastline. But the White House has a lot of headlines coming out of it in the last 12 to 16 hours.

First of all, President Trump pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and he is now fair to possible jail sentence after his criminal contempt conviction related to targeting undocumented immigrants and it's getting a lot of controversial reaction. Both Republican senators from Arizona sounding off. We'll have more on that in just a moment.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Also, the White House announced that President Trump's adviser, Sebastian Gorka, is now out. The president signed the directive as well also banning transgender military recruits.

Plus, new details about the Russia investigation, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is examining the possible role that former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, played in seeking Hillary Clinton's e-mails from hackers.

All right. Let's start, though, with what's happening right now. That's Hurricane Harvey. We've got a team of reporters along the Texas gulf coast and a bit inland where this storm came ashore.

Let's start with CNN's Polo Sandoval in San Antonio for us. Polo, we know that there were hundreds of people who came to shelters there, maybe more, who were in hotels to get away from the coast, but the storm is coming that way. At some point, you're going to get the rain and the wind, too.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Victor. That's a good point. At this point, we've only seen wind gusts a little rain. So, the weather impact is not as severe as some of these individuals were especially thinking.

Some new numbers now suggesting close to 1,400 people from coastal communities sought refuge in some of these cities like Austin and Houston here in San Antonio, a total of about 24 shelters that the Red Cross has set up throughout Eastern Texas to meet the needs of these people who have fled the coastal area.

And those numbers are likely going to rise, because as the storm lingers and stalls over the lone star state, then some of that infrastructure would be affected like some of the power grids and power systems as well.

Which means, many of those people, even though their home may have fared fairly well in the storm. They may be without power which means some of the shelters may be the best options into these like San Antonio, which is why we're here.

Not only because there is that threat of flooding, but also because the coastal major cities will be affected in the area, this will be now be home to many people as the storm continues over Texas -- guys.

PAUL: All right. Polo Sandoval, we appreciate it so much. Thank you. A couple of people on the line for us right now, Nick Valencia is on the line for us in Corpus Christi. We also have the fire chief for Rockport, Chief Sims.

Chief, I'd like to go to you first, because there are have been a lot of reports from your area about damage to buildings, about possibly even some reports saying that some people may have been trapped. What can you tell us about what's happening in Rockport right now?

CHIEF STEVE SIMS, ROCKPORT, TEXAS FIRE DEPARTMENT (via telephone): Well, right now, we haven't been able to get out and make any kind of assessment of what we've got. It's starting to break daylight. We've still got pretty high winds going. But we will be getting out here before too much longer and trying to see what we got left.

PAUL: All right. And to Nick to you in Corpus Christi, we have you up in front of the camera, a little earlier. Typically, on these situations when we get you on the phone, one or two reasons, you're either on the move or something has happened with a shot. Has the weather picking up or are you out looking now?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Victor, we drove just a few miles outside of Corpus Christi, on our way towards where the chief is there in Rockport, and what we've seen a few miles out, there's no power anywhere.

The sun is just now starting to peek -- just coming up in the next 20 to 30 minutes. There are trees down, debris up and down U.S. 181. The damage, Victor, is extensive. We're waiting for the sun to come up to give us a sense of just how bad and wide ranging the scope of the damage is.

But some of the worst to give you a sense of it right now this huge billboard toppled over. Utility poles bent in half like toothpicks. It appears as though a tornado has ripped through here. That's what the damage looks like from my perspective. The wind is still blowing pretty aggressively right now as well. This storm system, it's very still clear that it's still hovering over us and causing problems.

PAUL: All right. Do stay safe there, Nick. Thank you so much for the update and be careful as you are out trying to assess what's happening there. Ed Lavandera is in Galveston. Ed, I know that you have been through these storms before, help us understand what the conditions are there.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The winds have kind of sustained throughout the night. Though the rain has kind of come and gone. It hasn't been as extensive and intense as we expected.

[08:05:13] We're on the far eastern edge of this hurricane here on the Texas gulf coast. The real concern is, the kind of good news is, as you look behind me, power is still on here as we're waking up this morning.

Many parts of Galveston island, power has gone in and out a couple of times, but for the most part considering how long the storm has been going on. The fact that the power here on Galveston island for the most part seems to be intact is a good sign.

But the real concern is for communities just to the west of where we are, in areas, for example, if you look out here towards the Gulf of Mexico. This is the seawall. We're on Seawall Boulevard here on Galveston island and the storm surge never really made it over that seawall.

So that is worked out very well here, but the seawall doesn't extend forever, you know, it keeps going several miles that way and eventually it stops. That's where you get in communities in the low- lying areas where you find the homes that are built up on stilts and that sort of thing.

Some of those areas more to the west, not too far from here is where those mandatory evacuation orders were put in place. Again, kind of a similar deal. Not quite light enough out yet for emergency crews to venture out and still have enough time to get a full assessment of what kind of damage and what kind of situation they're facing.

So, as we give us a little more time, those emergency teams will be able to get out and survey. We'll start getting more of those reports to get a better understanding of what the conditions are up and down this part of the Texas gulf coast.

BLACKWELL: Hey, Ed. One thing I'm noticing from where you are. There is traffic there. I know from conversations with Nick in Corpus Christi, the fire chief in Rockport. They've asked people to stay off the roads, stay out of the way potentially of any first responders who have come out. Has that same request come from authorities in Galveston and people are just ignoring it?

LAVANDERA: Well, you know, we saw this throughout the day yesterday as conditions were kind of deteriorating. There hasn't really been a sense here. Very few people evacuated. There weren't any kind of mandatory evacuation orders.

Like they were only voluntary evacuation orders on the far west end of the island, and that's an area where it goes beyond where the seawall extends. The only time we saw authorities really kind of cracking down and trying to get people to act a little bit differently is that yesterday along the beach, throughout most of the day, there was a lot of interest from people walking on the beach taking pictures, and that sort of thing.

Later in the afternoon when the conditions had gotten at its worst point, there were some crews that were coming by telling people to get off the beach. So that's really been the extent what we've seen here on the island.

PAUL: All right. Ed Lavandera -- I mean, cars are just going by like nobody's business. You think where are they going, and what's open? I don't know what's open there. Ed, do stay safe. I do keep in your live shot seeing that lightning behind you and that makes me nervous. So, do stay safe, you and your crew there. We are thinking about you. Thank you.

Our meteorologist, Allison Chinchar, has been tracking Hurricane Harvey. She's in the CNN Weather Center. One of the things she's looking at, well, actually two things, one, the eye of the storm as to whether it's dissipating at all. And two, tornadic activity that you've been seeing.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. So, let's start with the first one, we may be looking at potentially the last frame of that eye before it finally closes up completely. That's a good indicator to us that the storm really is starting to decrease and lose a lot of its intensity.

However, with that said, now we start to move our focus for some of the outer bands and the set up that's beginning to take place that kind of concerns me is over here towards Galveston and Houston. We're starting to get what we often call training where these lines backfill.

You have a line that comes in and behind it starts to fill back in meaning those same places like Galveston and Houston are now going to receive continuous rainfall. Some of which could be very heavy and as you notice producing a lot of lightning with that as well.

Here's a look at the current statistics. We're now down to 80 miles per hour. Still a Category 1 storm and still a very strong storm at that, and yes, going forward we now have the concern for tornadoes.

Here's a look at the severe weather threat. The green areas in portions of Louisiana, all the way down towards Corpus Christi, Texas. The main threat with that is going to be tornadoes.

So, we have this tornado watch box right here which does include the city of Houston until 1:00 this afternoon. The local national weather service saying if they're going to get it, this means the next coming of hours are really going to be the peak time for them to have some of those supercells to produce those tornados.

We're also looking at a wind threat as well, even though this storm is decreasing in intensity, we still could be looking at wind gusts upwards ever 60 to 80 miles per hour. Even throughout the afternoon hours even as the storm continues to die back down, so, don't rule out that threat as well.

[08:10:02] Some of the peak winds. We've had multiple reports of over 110 miles per hour. Even some in the 120s and the 130s. Again, these were several hours ago when the storm was making its landfall, but even still the flood threat is going to be not just a short-term problem because the storm is expected to sit and stay put for as much as five to seven days.

But it's also going to be a long-term threat. So, the short-term threat, again, here's a look at the next five days. We're talking widespread rainfall totals of six to ten inches of rain.

And there will be some pockets and a pretty wide pocket, this white color you see here of 20 if not 30 inches of additional rain. Again, this is additional on top of what we already have.

We also have flash flood warnings in effect. The longer term becomes the rivers. Right now, we have over 50 rivers at major flood stage. Two of which have the potential to break record crests in several days from now.

But again, it's a long-term threat. We know it's going to rain in this region in the next five to seven days. Over the first week, we've got the water that's going to accumulate in the rivers. It takes an additional week forever the rivers to crest.

And two weeks after that for them to come back to normal levels. The problem here Victor and Christi, this is going to be a month long, a month from now before we see these rivers back to normal.

PAUL: All right. Allison, thank you so much. It's good to see what's happening and what to expect because it sounds like it's not just what happened overnight, what we are seeing in these next few hours but in the next few days is where it could be really critical.

BLACKWELL: Quick break. We'll be right back.



PAUL: Flood coverage of Hurricane Harvey as the sun is now coming up and people can try to assess what they're dealing with from this monster storm that crashed into Texas.

President Trump tweeting this morning this to Chuck Grassley, "Got your message loud and clear. We have fantastic people on the ground. Got there long before Harvey. So far, so good."

Remember, Republican Senator Grassley had warned the president to be please stay on top of this hurricane.

BLACKWELL: So, as we're watching the damage that Harvey is doing. The hurricane center says (inaudible) Texas, a reported storm surge up of 6 1/2 feet. We know they can go up to 14 feet. So far, that's one of the numbers we're getting.

More than 200,000 people we know are without power across Texas. Rockport, Texas officials tell us that they're unable to get to people who have been calling in. Officials there actually told them to write their name and Social Security number on their forearm if they're staying at home, just in case rescuers find a body.

PAUL: So, Representative Blake Farenthold with the House Judiciary and Oversight Committee is from Corpus Christi, Texas. He is there right now and on the phone with us. Representative Farenthold, thank you so much for calling in. Help us understand what's happening where you are in Corpus Christi.

REPRESENTATIVE BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS (via telephone): Well, I rode the storm out at my home. Lost a couple trees in my yard. Shingles off of my house. So, I'm counting myself lucky. It's first light here.

I just got in the car a couple of minutes ago and visiting the homes of several of our friends who fled to San Antonio to make sure that their property is intact. A lot of downed trees in my neighborhood, but that's about the extent of the damage at least in my neighborhood.

PAUL: Did people in your neighborhood -- did they waited out with you?

FARENTHOLD: Some did, some didn't. I would say it's about 50/50 in my neighborhood. It's a lot of high ground and a lot of my neighbors felt confident to stay. Folks in Port Aransas and Rockport, some of those areas on the front of the bay, probably faced it a little bit worse than I did.

I'm thankful now the winds have laid down enough and it's just a small light rain, and a little bit of wind in Corpus Christi right now. So, hopefully, we'll be in a position where crews can get out and start making the necessary repairs to get electricity back. It's clearly safe for our emergency vehicles in Corpus Christi now.

BLACKWELL: Congressman, stay with us for a moment. We've got live pictures up on the screen, courtesy of our affiliate, KSAT. And we're seeing some of the, I guess, damage, that's been caused.

There we go -- some of the damage that's been caused by the hurricane, actually, these are coming from another affiliate here. You see fencing that has been ripped down. And still, the wind, you know, we talked this morning about how 90-mile-per-hour winds is nothing to sneeze at.

This is obviously some gusting that's happening here, but the damage we're getting, the first look as the sun is coming up. Congressman, back to you and where you are in Corpus Christi. Did the authorities there, first responders, did they have and do they have the resources necessary to appropriately and adequately respond to some of these calls? We know that some of the neighbors cities have been unable to get out to get to people?

FARENTHOLD: Well, Corpus Christi is a larger area, 300,000-plus, it's something that we planned for, but you get into some of these smaller towns. I represent all up and down the coast, including Rockport, Aransas, and these areas. You've got police departments that are only a handful of people. The same is true for the sheriff's department.

[08:20:08] So, it's a little bit tougher for them than it is for our bigger metropolitan area like Corpus Christi. I'm -- weather permitting, I'm planning on heading up the coast to check out, you know, what is happening in some of those cities.

Meet with the mayors and make sure that they're getting all of the assistance they need from the federal government. That, quite frankly, with the storm still a Category 1 hurricane near Goliad, that's between the coast and where FEMA has staged their resources in Seguin.

PAUL: OK, the light pictures that we're looking at here I believe are from Victoria, Texas. I just want to quickly ask you. The focus was on Corpus Christi going into the storm, but it seems like Victoria, Rockport, they're the ones that are struggling the most this morning. How prepared are their communities to take care of them? And how might you help in that regard?

FARENTHOLD: So, again, anywhere along the Texas gulf coast we consider ourselves to be hurricane-prone areas. Victoria is a little bit further inland. They would have had -- they would have had preparations.

But, you know, you can't prepare for the amount of water that comes from some of these hurricanes. You've got the Guadalupe River that goes through Victoria and river flooding. The real loss of life typically in these storms is usually not from the wind but from the water.

PAUL: Very good point to make.

BLACKWELL: All right. Congressman Blake Farenthold of Texas 27 is right there in your hometown of Corpus Christi, thanks so much for being with us this morning. We'll check back in a little later today.

PAUL: Meanwhile, I want to go to Ed Lavandera. He is in Galveston. Dangerous conditions had been seen there, the wind, the rain, the seawall apparently not as bad. Ed, help us understand what folks are dealing with there and now finally that as Representative Farenthold said, first light is making its way in there.

LAVANDERA: Well, yes, you're looking back towards the west. You take this road down, and you start making your way toward that section of the Texas gulf coast where the brunt of Hurricane Harvey came ashore. And now, you look out this way, here you have the Gulf of Mexico. Clearly, the surf out there, still incredibly intense. You see the seawall here. The good news here in Galveston Island, at least in this part of Galveston Island, that storm surge never really made it over that wall so that's good news.

It extends out here towards Houston quite a ways before you have the bridge that takes you off of the island. This is an area back in 2008, Hurricane Ike made a direct hit, a very similar storm to Hurricane Harvey, in many ways.

So many people around here very much accustomed to these types of storms. What's interesting and what's really the main concern, we've talked about, you talk to many people and they can rattle off all sorts of tropical depressions, and storms, much smaller storms that caused a great deal of widespread, flooding damage and death in many of those cases.

That is the concern as the storm is inland and it starts dumping that rain, and it takes several hours for it to develop. As far as the wind pushing towards the north, it makes it hard for those tributaries to empty out into the Gulf of Mexico and relieve some of the flooding pressure more inland. So that's why it's a concern.

The longer the storm hovers over this area it will make it that much more difficult for those floodwaters to recede. You look at around me, power's intact. The wind has come down significantly here. Even in the last hour since we've been out here this morning.

So, occasional strong gusts, but this is, by no means, winds that would cause any kind of severe damage. And it actually makes it a little bit easier for those crews to get out there and start assessing the damage now that the sun is coming up.

PAUL: And getting a little support from somebody driving by with a honk.

BLACKWELL: A little bit. All right. Ed Lavandera for us there in Galveston, thanks so much. He mentioned the rivers and Allison Chinchar told us that more than 50 river gauges are now showing major flooding, more than 50, and 18 with moderate flooding. We'll check with Allison in a moment aAnd also we'll check in with Nick Valencia who is out on the road.

PAUL: He's on the move and he has been giving us some great perspective of what he's seeing. Here's some of his dash cam video that they are seeing now, but he's talking about some serious extensive debris that he's seen. We're going to talk to him in a moment. Stay close.



BLACKWELL: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of Hurricane Harvey. FEMA is warning that this storm has turned into a deadly inland event.

PAUL: Harvey is now a Category 1 hurricane. It hit as a Category 4. Here's the thing, there are still 80 miles per hour winds, heavy rain coming down. It could pound the region for days and potentially deadly 13-foot storm surges.

BLACKWELL: All right. The president is also facing some tough responses after a wave of developments from the White House overnight including his decision to pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

This move spares Arpaio jail time after he was convicted of criminal contempt related to targeting undocumented immigrants. Then after that, the White House announced the president's adviser, Sebastian Gorka, he resigned.

And there are some reports suggest the chief of staff, John Kelly, actually fired him. Some conflicting reports from inside the White House.

PAUL: Also want to talk about the "Wall Street Journal's" reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is examining the possible role former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn played in seeking out Hillary Clinton's emails form hackers. And all of this as North Korea test fired over night several short-range missiles that's in spite of warnings from the President and sanctions from the UN. So a lot's going on overnight here but do want to talk to FEMA Administrator Brock Long right now. He's on the phone with us from Washington. Thank you so much Mr. Long, for joining us. Help us understand where in Texas the real concerns are this hour.

BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: So right now, I mean this is a very dynamic forecast. There's a lot of uncertainty in this rainfall forecast so we've got to be careful and focusing on one specific area. You know, we obviously have damage reports coming in from the coastal storm surge event and high wind event as the storm was making landfall last night but again, we've got to continuously watch this rainfall forecast over the next 72 to 120 hours. And, unfortunately for Texas citizens, this is going to be a devastating, long, and frustrating event.

BLACKWELL: Devastating, long, and frustrating. I just want to read your tweet here, "Citizens of Texas, this is now turning into a deadly inland event." First, do you know if it has indeed been fatal? And second, what led you to that really stark warning to the people of Texas?

LONG: You know, the best storm, you know, the most similar storm, and all storms are different. If you look at what happened in 2001 with Tropical Storm Alison when over 35 inches of rain occurred over a five-day period in Texas. We saw death and we saw massive amounts of devastation. This is shaping up to be an inland flooding event very similar to that.

BLACKWELL: Any confirmation of fatalities that you know of?

LONG: No, we do not confirm fatalities at this point. That's ll done by typically local government coroners at this point.

PAUL: So what is FEMA's role from this point on?

LONG: That's a great question. So emergency management is a partnership. All disasters begin and end at the local level. And so once the capacity to achieve response and recovery has been exceeded by the local government, the state will supply resources to reinforce them. And then once state resources have been, have reached their capacity, you know FEMA has already mobilized and staged in the state to be able to help supplement and support the state with achieving the response and recovery goals.

BLACKWELL: Are you getting damage reports yet in? We know that from some of the localities that we've spoken with, that they've not been able to get out to see what's around. What, from your perspective, have been the reports of what has been the result of what we've seen over the last several hours?

LONG: Well, I think what we're going to see is a large flood insurance program mission. We're going to see a lot of uninsured damages to public infrastructure. We're going to see a very sizable what we call individual assistance mission to helping citizens overcome some of the damages as well. It's really hard to gauge the amount of damage right now because of the way, you know, this system is still impacting the area. We can't fly resources in. We can't, you know, move our-put our staff in harm's way to conduct, you know, joint preliminary damage assessments and impact assessments with our state partners at this point. We do know that there are damages occurring but as I said earlier, this is just the beginning of this event. Damages are going to continue over the next 71 to 120 hours in my opinion.

BLACKWELL: The President tweeted, "You're doing a great job, the world is watching, be safe." I know this is your first major event like this as FEMA Director. You confident you have everything you need to respond to the people of Texas Gulf Coast?

LONG: I've got an amazing staff and it's my job to coordinate the resources of the entire Federal Government right now. The President has given me all the authority to be able to do that by expediting the Governor's Major Disaster Declaration request. We are moving forward. We are leaning forward and we're trying to think of all ways to help our state and local partners at this point.

PAUL: All righty. Well we so appreciate it FEMA Administrator Brock Long with us there in D.C. Thank you sir for being with us. Best of luck to you and your team.

LONG: Thank you.

FEMALE: We'll be right back.

BLACKWELL: You're seeing this video from Victoria, Texas. More coverage in a moment.



BLACKWELL: All right. Pictures here coming in from Victoria, Texas. That's where what is left of the eye of Hurricane Harvey is no. You see some pretty strong wind gusts actually; some substantial sustained winds here have ripped down fencing there as well. Fortunately, this photographer has the protection of a building there but still the winds, although this has died down from a Category 4 when it hit land to now a Category 1. Still causing significant damange and the story for the next several days will be the rain.

PAUL: The world is watching. That's one of the latest tweets from President Trump this morning talking about the Hurricane Harvey response and the world is watching for his leadership at the end of the day as George W. Bush learned with Hurricane Katrina. A President's storm response can derail an Administration. CNN Presidential Historian, Douglas Brinkley joining us now. You study more of course more than Presidents. He's also, we shold point out, the author of "The Great Deluge. Hurricane Katrina, Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast." Thank you so much Mr. Brinkley for begin with us. Your assessment so far of what we know from the President's response, FEMA's response since they have a new head there and what we're seeing in the early hours of this storm?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR: Well I'm here in Texas and Governor Abbott I think got a good jump on this hurricane. There are some questions of why it wasn't a mandatory evacuation at Corpus Christi. But as the lights starting to shine here, we're going to have to see how extensive the damage is to the outer most towns-Rockport, or Port Aransas. Those are the fishing villages that are really outdoor recreation hubs. They're blubbed places but they're out there; they're like Key West.

You know? Really just stuck out into the sea and we'll have to see how much damage has occurred. There's going to be a need here in the next 72 hours for a lot of emergency and relief operations to get to people that stayed, people that now may without electricity may not be able to be on their ventilator or respirator. People who are disorientated. You can get dehydration, that can kick in. And also this water soaks everything so the possibility of fires for example often happen with this kind of flooding and water contamination. Is the water safe? Can you wade in it? So we'll have to see how all that plays out here within the days.

BLACKWELL: all right Doug was a perfect person to have this conversation with. You've written the book about Katrina. You know Presidential history. You know Texas. We just received this tweet that came out from the President this morning about his new FEMA Director, Brock Long who we spoke with. He tweeted, "You're doing a great job, the world is watching." Of course that is so reminiscent of what President Bush said in 2005 to his then FEMA Director Michael Brown. And the President told him as we remember, "Brownie you're doing a heck of a job." Here's how President Bush looked back to 2010 on that moment and that assertion. [BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: These two governors saying this guy is doing a good job. And of course I say, "And Brownie you're doing a heck of a job." Basically what I was saying is good job. You're doing what we expect you to do.

MATT LAUER, NEWS ANCHOR: That's not what we were seeing?

BUSH: Exactly, I understand, I understand. So the only think I can tell you, is you're right.

LAUER: And you write that critics turned your words of encouragement into a club to bludgeon you.

BUSH: They did.

LAUER: With good reason?

BUSH: Yes, I mean, you know, as president sometimes your intentions get overwhelmed by perception. My intention was simply to say to somebody who is working hard, keep working hard. It turns out that those words became a club for people to say, "Oh this guy's out of touch."


BLACKWELL: Douglas, how important is a President, an Administration's performance in these situations of natural disaster politically?

BRINKLEY: Well, it's politically crucial. I mean you have to stay on top of it. George W. Bush was in San Diego when Katrina hit. He stayed out there, gave an irrelevant foreign policy speech, and then when he finally made a big decision, he never went in to Louisiana or Mississippi. He did a flyover. And then when finally landed in Mississippi, and he did that Brownie quip, FEMA was AWOL. They were nowhere to be seen. The Superdome was packed with people. There was a hole in the roof. All of the busses had been drowned because they were below sea level, parked. So New Orleans had turned into a real crisis. And here, Bush was trying to do attaboy Brownie kind of lines. So I would warn President Trump to not over praise your Head of FEMA. FEMA doesn't kick in until the storm kind of dies down and we could see if they assist the community in a quick fashion. Whether people can get the funding they need communities and individuals to be able to be helped by the federal government or not. We just don't know who's doing a good job at this point.

PAUL: And we don't know what the damage is yet. But if it is extensive, if there are deaths, how soon do you think the President should wait before he goes?

BRINKLEY: I would get down there on Monday, if I were him. This rain is going to be continuing. There are going to be some fatalities out of Harvey. The real concern, though, is that, you know, the long-term damage for the area that this could end up being a $40-$50 billion dilemma that the United States has. And the President needs to let people know I care. The point of the President we've been calling him Counselors in Chiefs or hand holders, but people want to know that the Presidents representing all of us in and that they are keenly aware what's going on and they're there to provide any kind of assistance possible. During Katrina, the 101st Airborne eventually had to be called in. President Bush was widely criticized, why didn't he get that Federal help early? He waited almost an entire week before that happened.


BLACKWELL: Professor, let me get your response to something that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted out overnight, of course you know that as we're watching what's happening with Harvey, there's a lot of news that came out of the White House. These were the tweets, a series of them from Chuck Schumer, "As millions of people are prepping for the hurricane, the President is using the cover of the storm to pardon the man who violated a court's order to stop discriminating against Latinos and ban courageous transgender men and women from serving our nation's armed forces. The only reason to do these right now is to use the cover of Hurricane Harvey to avoid scrutiny." Then he ranted, "Camp David, so sad, so weak." The timing here is not lost on the Minority Leader. What do you think of it?

BRINKLEY: I find it inexplicable why President Trump, right when a Category 4 hurricane is about to pound American shores that he's doing controversial bits like a Joe Arpaio, the pardoning. It's obviously a lightening rod figure. It's going to eat up a lot of oxygen about the storm. I don't know why he chose to do that. I would have waited days or a week just to be focused on the storm. He wasn't. So I think Senator Schumer makes a very fair critique that from now on when anyone writes the history of this week, it's going to be the hurricane will be intermixed with all of these kind of retrogressive moves that Donald Trump has made in dealing with transgender in the military and with Joe Arpaio.

PAUL: All right, Douglas Brinkley, again author of "The Great Deluge Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Always appreciate your voice and your being here. Thank you sir.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

PAUL: So we're going to keep obviously our eye on Harvey, on Texas, because there's a flurry of news out of Washington as well as we were just talking about. Talking about the pardons, about another White House departure here, about new details regarding Russia and the investigation, and, Michael Flynn and then of course North Korea fired off three new missiles overnight. We'll talk about all of that in a moment, stay close.



BLACKWELL: We'll continue our coverage of Hurricane Harvey throughout the morning, but let's now talk about all that came out of the White House overnight. The pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio; the resignation or firing, depending upon which White House official you ask, of the Advisor Sebastian Gorka; the President's transgender ban, the transgenders are not allowed to serve in the United States military; and now there's this new reporting from the Wall Street Journal reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is examining the possible role former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn played in looking for Hillary Clinton's emails from hackers.

PAUL: Gabby Morrongiello, White House Correspondent at the Washington Examiner with us now. Your reaction and what Washington is saying about all of this, particularly from the "Wall Street Journal?"

GABBY MORRONGIELLO, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well look, I think that this probe by special counsel Robert Mueller is really heating up. Not only just for Mike Flynn, the former National Security Advisor, but also for Paul Manafort. Accompanying that "Wall Street Journal" report last night was a report by the "Washington Post" which indicated that Robert Mueller is now issuing subpoenas and seeking testimonies for the Grand Jury from, you know, public relations executives who worked with Paul Manafort closely during that time when he was lobbying for a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party.

And so I think that there's a lot of focus on what these two individuals, Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn who seem to be in the most precarious position, what influence they had on the campaign and what they were trying to do. Whether they were soliciting emails from Russian officials that had been on Hillary Clinton's server and were obtained through malicious means, and also whether they were trying to set up these meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

BLACKWELL: So no comment from Flynn's attorneys, but I wonder earlier in this probe, we know that the President had sent a message to Michael Flynn to hang in there, and I'm paraphrasing here, are there still, from you reporting or your understanding, any communications between the President, the White House, and its former National Security Advisor?

MORRONGIELLO: No, I've spoken to a few sources inside the White House recently who said the President has been advised not to be speaking or in contact in any form with Mike Flynn. So they have truly severed ties. Although, I think this message that was sent last night with the pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is that , look, President Trump is always keeping an eye on what's happening with those who are loyal to him and perhaps would be open to doing something similar if Mike Flynn was every indicted.

PAUL: Oh John McCain tweeted about Arpaio. And let's remember John McCain is from Arizona. He said POTUS pardon of Joe Arpaio who illegally profiled Latinos undermines his plan for the respect of rule of law. How much pushback, how genuine does this pardon look on the surface and why now? Usually we don't hear about pardons from a President, especially not a first-term President in the first seven months.

MORRONGIELLO: Yes, well I mean to the first point there's been a lot of pushback not just from lawmakers in Arizona but people who really felt that Sherriff Joe Arpaio was guilty of participating in racist activity. And that this should have at the very least been held, this pardon should have been withheld until we saw his sentencing which was set for October. So, you know, John McCain, Arizona's Senator Jeff Flake, both of them not only felt like flies in the face of President Trump's commitment to enforcing the rule of law, but also undermines the judicial system which President Trump already has a pretty strange relationship because of previous criticism.


BLACKWELL: Yes, the so-called judges and the criticisms of Judge Curio and from no evidence actually that the Department of Justice weighed in, offered to review of this pardon. Gabby Morrongiello with the "Washington Examiner" we've got wrap it there. We're coming up at the top of the hour. Thanks for being with us.


PAUL: And thank all of you. We want to say thank you for being with us. We're going to be back with you at 10:00.

BLACKWELL: And of course we're going to be covering Hurricane Harvey throughout the morning, stay with us. "Smerconish" is up right after a break.