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Report: Houston Officer Drowns Trying to Get to Work During Flood; 9000 Plus Take Shelter Inside Houston Convention Center; Harvey Churns Toward Louisiana; Photographer Captures Powerful Images of Flood. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 29, 2017 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] SYLVESTER TURNER, MAYOR, HOUSTON, TEXAS: Churches that were making their facilities available, subject to staffing and supplies. And that's -- the staffing and supplies would come from FEMA and come from the Red Cross. There are some additional shelters that we are planning to set up, either today or tomorrow, but subject to the cots and other things to come in from FEMA. But I will say that I've reached out to -- reaching out to other CEOs and asking for their assistance. For example, the CEO of Walmart is providing additional water supplies, towels, blankets, for one of the shelters that we are opening today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've heard from some other folks trying to volunteer in the area shelters and concerns about the Red Cross doesn't know that there are, in some cases, not sufficient supplies, that there's a lack of communication about what is needed. There have been delays in processing volunteer applications, people trying to help. Have you heard of that?

TURNER: Well, I mean, I think we have to put this particular -- in the proper context. Number one, the rainfall was simply unprecedented and the rainfall was very widespread, and it just didn't impact Houston, Harris County. It impacted all of the counties around it. And so, yes, you know, we are still waiting on FEMA and the red cross to provide the necessary supplies and staffing for all of the shelters that exist and those that may be need. So, everybody is being pushed. Everybody is being pushed. And that's why it's important to work as a team, and you don't just rely on any one or two sources. It's going to take all of us in order to meet the needs. So, you know, I just got off the phone --

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: This is tough. This is tough for the people in the greater Houston area who are being rescued. But it's also tough for the men and women in blue. Just reiterating what we just heard from a very emotional chief Acevedo there in Houston, Texas. You heard from him, he's only been on the job for nine months but he knew this sergeant Steve Perez who had been with the police department for 34 years, who lost his life doing what he loves and given his career and lifetime to, to serving the Houston police department. He was two days shy of his 60th birthday. His wife said, please don't go to work. His father-in-law said, please don't go to work.

But there he went and he passed away on Saturday morning as his car drove under an underpass that was too deep. So that is the first police officer related death that we're hearing of from this storm. Here, pictures of the president and the first lady. They have been in Corpus Christi. They have been in Austin, briefed on this storm. But you know, let's go back to Rosa Flores who is at the Houston convention center where they have had, I believe it was 9,000 people, I think initially they had 5,000 cots. Rosa, we're live with you now. You tell me, what are people sharing with you. What do they need?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They need everything, Brooke. That's what's so devastating, that everybody that's arriving here has lost everything, and they're still grappling with that idea of, first of all, losing everything, and then also with the trauma of being rescued by first responders or good Samaritans, getting plucked from their roofs and so for example, I talked to one woman who says that her son actually took their kayak to go ask for help so that first responders could get to her and her husband. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN PRESTON, RESCUED FROM FLOODING BY SON: My 17-year-old son, we never experienced anything, and he just didn't know what to do, and all he could think of is, the water's rising, it's still raining, it's not going to stop any time soon, mom, I got to get you out of here. So --

[15:35:00] FLORES: And you said that he went on a kayak to higher ground to get help, to get you out.

PRESTON: Yes, he did. He was very brave. He went on a kayak through the rising waters, and he went and got help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: And we're learning from city officials that another shelter will be opened and they're hoping to open that this afternoon, but Brooke, they're telling us that here at this shelter, they need wheelchairs, they need socks, they need blankets, they need pillows for people because they're arriving here soaking wet, and hoping for a little corner in this convention center to get some sleep and also get some food. Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coloring books, puzzles for the kids, you said it, they need everything. Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

And if you would like to help those affected by hurricane Harvey, you can. CNN has a list of vetted organizations for you on our impact your world website, just go to CNN.com/impact.

Next, lot of talk about Texas, but we need to focus on Louisiana here as well. It has been 12 years to the day, today, since hurricane Katrina hit. There is new potential for flooding as tropical storm Harvey continues churning off the gulf coast. To Louisiana we go. Coming up.

[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Louisiana is bracing for Harvey's next move. Keep in mind today marks the 12th anniversary of hurricane Katrina. That catastrophic storm just ripped through New Orleans, deadly aftermath capturing the nation. More than 1,800 people died from historic floods, tens of thousands more lost their homes and now officials are eyeing potentially dangerous flash flooding. Kaylee is live for us in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Tell me about some of the stories you're hearing.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, a couple of hundred people were rescued from their homes in the middle of the night as a drainage system overflowed. And now we're waiting for Governor John Bell Edwards to arrive here at command central in Lake Charles. I want to bring in the director of homeland security and emergency preparedness for this parish. What can you tell us about the rescues that are going on right now?

DICK GREMILLION, CALCASIEU PARISH DIRECTOR OF HOMELAND SECURITY EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: The water's still rising in some places, abating in some areas but rising in others so we've performed several rescues today already. We're concerned now that we're having more of these spiral bands from the tropical storm dumping rain on us and if we get two or three more inches, we'll be right back where we were last night.

HARTUNG: A couple minutes away from a meeting with the governor. What's most important to communicate to him while you've got him here?

GREMILLION: Well, the same thing that I think everyone is thinking at home, the poor people who got water in their house, we're thinking about their welfare, how are they going to make it, do they have insurance, things like that. So, we're -- once the emergency's over, we're worried about people's welfare.

HARTUNG: And being right here in the middle of your command center, I can see projection have the storm here hitting directly Wednesday afternoon. What needs to happen between now and then?

GREMILLION: Well, we're restocking our search and rescue crews, watching this storm track, of course, they have it coming directly to us as a tropical storm now. Of course, we've been watching this for eight days or so, so we're -- everybody's ready to get this over.

HARTUNG: Absolutely. Thank you, Dick.

GREMILLION: Thank you.

HARTUNG: Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much. Eager to demonstrate leadership amidst a natural disaster, President Trump and the first lady in Texas today, we just saw them hop off the plane there in Austin, Texas, from Corpus Christi. You know, there are some questions as far as the president's beltway troubles and policies, will that hamper his ability to help these victims or really when it comes to congress and this whole federal funding fight, how's that going to go down. Ron Brownstein wrote a piece and he wrote, "Harvey may demonstrate just how much the manmade gales of political polarization has diminished the nation's capacity to forge common cause against even the fiercest natural disasters." I wanted to get right into your piece but first, you've seen the president today. You heard him in Corpus Christi and then with that Texas flag and the huge roar from the crowd a little while later. How do you think he's done so far?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, the key -- the real question is how the federal government has done, and so far, all the local officials seem to be giving it good marks. He's had a lot of vacancies in his government, a lot of questionable appointments but FEMA is one that had bipartisan support, 95 votes in the senate and they seem to be handling this very professionally in the near-term response. The longer-term question are, you know, as you allude to, both the funding of the reconstruction that is going to be massive and difficult and also one step beyond that, the question of the role of climate change in increasing the risk of catastrophic events like this, which is now, I believe, largest amount of rain that has ever fallen from one storm in the continental United States.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about the first piece of that, the federal funding.

[15:45:00] You talk about how everybody comes together, national unity in a time of crisis but you look at the past, look at Katrina, you look at super storm Sandy, and thus the bickering begins. What happened there to create such a, you know, political polarization?

BROWNSTEIN: Right. I mean, you see, the scenes we see every day have been remarkable about ordinary citizens coming together across every conceivable line of partisanship, race, class, just seeing each other as neighbors and helping out. Much more difficult to sustain that level of unity as you move to the national debate. After Katrina, Mike Pence, who is now the vice president, led an effort called operation offset, which said that the federal government should not put dollars into rebuilding Louisiana without offsetting it with budget cuts elsewhere, including the new Medicare prescription drug benefit that George W. Bush established.

Again, in 2012, with hurricane Sandy, Mick Mulvaney led an effort that said the federal government should only spend for the rebuilding of New York and New Jersey if it was offset with budget cuts. Two-thirds of house Republicans voted for that, even though it failed, and ultimately, the vast majority of Republicans in both chambers, including the senators from Texas and most of the Republican house members from Texas, voted against the aid to New York and New Jersey, arguing that it was stuffed with extraneous projects, an argument that I think has been pretty effectively debunked by "The Washington Post" among others, but now they are in the position of asking for help and it will be interesting to see whether Mulvaney and Pence will demand offsetting budget cuts elsewhere before Texas gets the aids it needs.

BALDWIN: It's those Texans that are in congress this go around that are going to need the help. And you saw the president promising swift emergency funding. But last question, for you, just prediction this time, will congress listen? BROWNSTEIN: I honestly -- I don't know. I think the instinct is yes.

I think the Republicans will back off the demands for offsetting spending cuts, knowing how much it slows things down but Paul Ryan was another one who called for that in 2012. So, we will see, you know, the northeastern Republicans on the other side of that have kind of preemptively tweeted they will support the funding this time but it really just goes to show, I mean, these two examples of Katrina and Sandy, that we are all in this together and the wheel is turning and by the way, as I mentioned in the story, I think almost all experts agree that climate change is increasing the risk of, you know, events like this. The former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told me Harvey is a glimpse of the future and I think that is a debate that we need to be having.

BALDWIN: It's a great piece. I read it first thing this morning. Urge everyone to log on to CNN.com to find it. Ron, thank you.

As I'm thanking you, these are live pictures, Paul and crew, they've been out and about. This is, I believe, Ray Driver, private citizen, working with the church, and just continuing to rescue people in these different neighborhoods here in the Houston area. Just stunning.

What we're getting also, just think of the professional photographers who are in the thick of things as well, taking photos of scenes like this. We're going to talk to the woman behind the lens as the tragedy has been unfolding.

[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: This catastrophic storm Harvey has just provided all these compelling images. A lot of them taken by people who live in these areas in Texas and sharing them on social media.

But others are taken by seasonal professional photographers just out doing their jobs. This disaster has meant all-hands-on-deck for Houston's hometown newspaper and the Houston Chronicle and its team of journalists. So, these are just some of the photos of a staffer at the Houston chronicle and she is joining us from her so-called office at the Houston convention center. Elizabeth, thanks so much for joining me. We're going to fly through some of these, beginning with this photograph you took of this teary, exasperated woman sitting at the wheel of her car, and you said this hit you the most. Can you tell me about this?

ELIZABETH CONLEY, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER, "HOUSTON CHRONICLE": Sure. This is Jennifer Pena. I ran into her in the parking lot of Gallery Furniture where they were taking people who are displaced from the flood. Her and her family were out on their boats to help out. The first place they were taking people to stopped taking people, they were at capacity, so she was finding any way to take other people that they had in their cars already.

BALDWIN: Got it. Let's go to the next one. We've got a man in his home. You can see the water. It looks about ankle high, grabbing his medicine. Who is this? CONLEY: His name is Jose, and right now his last name escapes me.

But he had a lot of flooding around his house. His family said they would come pick him up the following day, and they just couldn't get through on the streets. So, again, Pena's family went out and got him out. He had some stuff going on his leg, like a big cut and stuff, so he couldn't go walking through the water which was about waist deep.

BALDWIN: And, you know, it's not just these images of the storm that are so powerful. You took a picture of a mother. This one really speaks to me with the mom in the seat with her daughter and the bottle of milk. Where was this?

CONLEY: Yes, that's actually at Gallery Furniture north of 45. They took in people. They actually did it at Katrina and they said they had about 20. This time they had 400 people at their place. This woman, it's actually her granddaughter, and there was no food there except there was milk at the coffee bar. So, they were able to grab some milk for her, but she was concerned about the lack of food for the granddaughter.

BALDWIN: So, you know, you're a journalist. This is your job to cover this, you know, but this is also so incredibly personal. Houston is your home. How is your home and how are you holding up?

CONLEY: My home is good. I live on the top floor of an apartment four floors up. I have a little leaking in the roof, but I'll be OK. We had flooding in our parking lot the first day, but that went through and I was very fortunate that I was able to get out, very fortunate that I have power and electricity. A lot of my coworkers -- this is still the beginning. It's still going on. So, they're dealing with water coming up to their home and even trying to get out of their neighborhoods.

BALDWIN: Elizabeth Conley, thank you for just doing your job and your professionalism. Keep at it with the "Houston Chronicle." Thank you.

Minutes from now, President Trump will be touring the main hub for emergency operations in Texas as the state is trying to cope with just all this water devastation that is still coming in from this storm Harvey. More on that. We're back in a moment.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: We'll get you back to special coverage of Texas in a moment. Breaking news into the investigation of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. Don Jr. has just agreed to sit down with a transcribed interview with the senate judiciary committee. This is all a response for that meeting where he met with Russians, that meeting happening at Trump Tower. Senior congressional reporter Manu Raju with more. Manu, what are you learning about this sit-down?

MANU RAJU, CNN Senior Congressional CORRESPONDENT: The sit-down, Donald Trump Jr. was invited to sit down in a public session before this judiciary committee in July. He cut a deal to avoid that public appearance. They had weeks of negotiations and now Donald Trump Jr. has agreed to a private, closed door meeting with senate judiciary committee staff and senators were also invited. They can come down and meet with Don Jr. in this transcribed interview that they will be discussing that Trump Tower meeting from June of 2016, in which Trump Jr., of course, as he said, was promised dirt from the Russians on the Clinton campaign.

Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort also attended that meeting. This will be the first time he does sit down with anyone from capitol hill. He had said publicly in the aftermath of the revelations, Don Jr. said publicly he would be willing to testify under oath before congress, but once he was invited by this committee to talk in public, instead he wanted to go behind the scenes, behind closed doors. It's uncertain, Brooke, if he will, in fact, testify in a public session. Other committees like the house and senate intelligence committee also want to talk to Donald Trump Jr. but we know now that he has agreed to a date for this closed-door session with the senate judiciary committee. They are not disclosing the date as of yet, but I was told by the top Democrat and Republican on that committee, they told me previously they expected him to come as soon as September, so we could be seeing him on capitol hill in just a matter of days here, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Got it, Manu. You'll be all over it for us as always, thank you so much. Many Raju in Washington. Thank you for being with us on this Tuesday afternoon. Getting word from the police chief there in Houston, Texas, the first police officer fatality in the storm, Sergeant Perez, 34 years with Houston PD.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. "The Lead" starts now.