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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Residents Told To "Get Out Now!" As Levee Breaches; Officials Brace For More Devastation; Six Members of One Family Swept Away In Flood; Man Opens Up After Losing 6 Family Members In Flood. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 29, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Kyung Lah, thanks very much. I'm Jim Sciutto, thanks very much for watching. CNN's breaking news coverage of the Texas flooding continues right now. Erin Burnett OutFront.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, breaking news, Houston on the brink. The city inundated by record rain, now on edge, all eyes on whether a major dam will hold.
Plus, pure heartbreaks, six members of one family swept away in the floodwaters. And I'm going to speak to a family member who opens up about what has happened.
And T.V. Preacher Joel Osteen, sparking outrage. Why was he slow to open his Houston megachurch to Harvey victims?
Let's go OutFront.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, city on the brink.
Houston is a city on the edge this evening. This stunning Time Magazine video says it all as you see there. More than 4.5 million people in that area fearful another major dam could overflow making this historic catastrophe even worse.
Less than 20 miles west of Downtown, two massive reservoirs at risk at this hour. This is the scene near the Addicks Reservoir. For the first time in its history, water spilling over, overwhelmed by Harvey. An alarming message posted for residents, get out now.
And now, nearby Barker Reservoir, the other major reservoir in serious danger of overflowing tonight. Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States is steering down a disaster that could well leave homes underwater for weeks, taking years to recover.
More than 51 inches of rain have already fallen on Houston. The stunning number, less than an inch from the all-time American record and that storm, it's not over.
Harvey now over the Gulf. It is going to strike again, this time heading towards New Orleans. And tonight of course the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Thousands so far rescued, many more stranded.
A U.S. Customs and Border patrol team rescued these two people as you see desperately swimming against the raging floodwaters. Heroic scenes like this happening across Houston in the area and there have been tragedies.
Among the storm-related death, one of those lost, a Houston police officer. Sergeant Steve Perez, A 34-year veteran of the department drowning after he drove into a flooded underpass in the dark on his way to work to save others. Tonight an emotional police chief remembering his fallen officer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE: Once our team got there, it was too treacherous to go under and look for him, so we made a decision to leave officers there waiting until the morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And President Trump today toured the region thanking officials and first responders. He promised a fast response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We love you, you are special. We're here to take care, it's going well. And I want to thank you for coming out.
We're going to get you back and operating immediately. Thank you, everybody. What a crowd, what a turnout.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What a turnout. Well, our reporters are covering this historic storm across Texas. I want to begin with Martin Savidge, he is OutFront tonight at Sugar Land. And Marty, there more flooding on the way.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The only bright spot I guess we could say, Erin right now is that it's not raining. However, that is hardly any real good news because there is so much bad news.
In fact, we just got this. In Harris County, the fire marshal's office is now asking that everybody within 1.5 miles of a peroxide plant, that's chemical facility, everybody within 1.5 mile radius of that plant is being evacuated because floodwaters have apparently made it inside that facility and as a result, it's become unstable. There's the possibility for fire or even an explosion.
So it shows you how this storm is impacting people in so many different ways. But then you come here. You got three major waterways in this part of the Houston metroplex. It is the Saint Bernard River, it's the Brazos, and (INAUDIBLE) another reservoir. All of them are either out of their banks or over topping.
This area, like much of Houston, is still under the gun and still underwater.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): By the time the mandatory evacuation was ordered at the sprawling river (INAUDIBLE) subdivision in Sugar Land, Texas, it was too late. High waters had already cutoff escape, leaving hundreds trapped in their own homes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we're going through, people are starting to scream for help out of their houses. So that's when we realized how many people were in here.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Nearly a third Fort Bend County is under a mandatory evacuation order. Meaning, it's either already flooded or threatening to. All night long, anxious residents watch the waters rise all around them. By morning, families were being rescued by the boat load.
(on camera) What was it like coming out by boat?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very scary. This is a neighborhood that we walk with our children, we ride bikes. This is a very safe environment and to go through that area on a boat and have it kind of wobbling with the children very cared was just unnerving.
[19:05:05] SAVIDGE (voice-over): We joined a volunteer boat crewed by two oil rig workers and a pediatrician.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know these communities because I run back in here and I used to live back in here.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): The team passes by waving at anxious homeowners wanting first to get to those deeper in the subdivision who are at greater risk. There's a growing sense of urgency both for the rescuers and those waiting to be rescued as the waters continue to rise.
Many people have been sending out their SOS. on social media connecting with strangers all across the country who then relay their addresses to rescuers. At this house, we load three generations of the same family. They tried to drive out the day before but their car stalled in high water, forcing them to retreat and wait.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They told us yesterday, yesterday afternoon. And so we tried getting out like right after that. And we got stuck on --
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Like you tried to drive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we tried driving out. It wasn't this bad.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Back on land at the entrance of their own subdivision, residents suddenly find themselves homeless. Relieved to be rescued but now worried by something else. What do they do next? (END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: And all of those that were rescued from this housing complex, and it is huge. Have either found refuge now inside of any of the emergency evacuation centers or are staying with friends and family. The problem is, they could be there a long, long time. First, for the water to drain and then the rebuilding after that, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Martin.
I want to go now to Drew Griffin because he's in Beaumont, Texas which is east of Houston. And Drew, this area now has really taken the brunt of the storm and it could get worse. Obviously, where you are very different than Martin right now. You've got heavy rain.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, and it is getting worse. They expect to get much worse. In fact, the police department here sent out an urgent note, it's imperative for people to stay off the roads. That's because the roads are just nearly impassable in most parts of this county and it is creating rescue problems for the rescuers.
They just can't get out there, Erin in a boat because of the wind and because of the high water. They can't get their trucks to the places where they need to go.
Any rescue in water is dangerous. Take a look at this video we shot about 15 miles north of here earlier this afternoon where rescue workers were trying to bring in this girl and her dog. They jump off of the boat and (INAUDIBLE) they jump right into, for the girl, neck deep water.
Everything is treacherous when you mix water and rescues in boats. And just getting back to how the road conditions are here, Erin, you can see, this is an onramp to I-10. I-10 is closed heading into Houston.
This truck is trying to make it east. But even getting on eastbound I-10, he's got to navigate the waters of this onramp which as we can see right here is really getting deeper and deeper as this next wall comes in with the tropical storm, which is very much headed towards this area of Southeast Texas. Erin?
BURNETT: Incredible, and of course so important for people to know the risk, obviously, of being on these flooded waters if their car stalls out. Drew, thank you very much.
I want to go now to the Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee whose district includes most of central Houston which is under water tonight. Congresswoman, thank you.
I just want to look at a street in your district so everyone can understand what you are facing, what your residents are dealing with. This is before Harvey hit and now we'll show you how underwater that is. That is the same exact location. You see the stop sign. So that is what it looks like now. Congresswoman, are your residents safe tonight?
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: I'm so glad you asked that question because my every waking moment is to make sure that everyone that needs to be rescued should be rescued. Obviously, we have the most unique, historic, catastrophic, and significant natural disaster incident that I think may be in certainly Texas history and the gulf region history. And I'd have to recall my national history as it relates to water.
So we are underwater, there is no doubt. But we're trying to do everything we can to ensure the safety and security of our neighbors. We know that our friends in Sugar Land are facing a possible overflow of another water tributary and we are praying for them.
I think what you have to understand is that this gulf region is 50 feet under sea level. We are used to living, unfortunately, with this flooding. However, in the 21st century, we should be advanced. We should have our projects advanced.
[19:10:04] We should make sure that every aspect of technology be used. We're not at that point. And so what you are seeing is the actual response to all of this water, bayous, rivers, lakes, converging on each other.
It is not the word atypical is not appropriate. It is an episode -- episodic episode, if you will, that we have never seen before.
BURNETT: Houston obviously, you have now the convention center, 9,000 people. They're going to open another shelter.
BURNETT: Rivers are rising, and even when the rain stops, they're going to keep rising. Your flooding could get significantly worse even after this one comes out. Is there enough space right now, Congresswoman, and this is a crucial question, are these locations safe?
LEE: Well, that is our chief concern and our chief effort. That is, that the large venues that we are assessing right now and that will be opening in the next 24 to 48 hours, they are safe. They're very large venues. They've been used before and they can hold a lot of people that helps us because that means we can keep a lot of people safe, because we can put our resources focussed in more safe areas than to have people spread across the community.
There'll be large venues opening outside of the city of Houston. That will be helpful. But the point is, is that when we converge these areas and they are large areas, we can put our first responders, our firefighters, our medical teams there to help. And I think you were asking the question about water.
These places are clear now. They have had water around them. They have not had water in them. And, so, we would not put people in jeopardy.
But again, we are 50 feet below sea level. We expect to be hit tonight and tomorrow, but what the National Weather Service have said is that we will get past that. We are praying that we do.
BURNETT: So, Congresswoman, the president has pledged the storm recovery will be better than ever before. Are you getting everything you need? Is President Trump doing a good job right now?
LEE: Let me say this, there are always bumps in the road. I am hoping that the president is sincere. I'm hoping that he will put behind him the shutting down of the government, and I hope that dispose a border wall against an emergence. We are in a catastrophic emergency. We need him to keep his word.
We also need our resources from FEMA to get here much faster. We need FEMA at our various shelters, the big ones that we have. We need FEMA to get their trucks in so that we can have feeding stations.
We need to have, if you will, the medical teams in, and I'm working with them. I worked with FEMA at every disaster, this is -- that dealt with hurricanes that I have been in and that's what we hope will come about from the president's visit.
And I have heard from the bipartisan leadership, I want to congratulate them in the United States Congress. They have called me and they have said there'll be no politics in this. Tell us what you need and we're going to get it. we're writing an (INAUDIBLE) right now and hopefully we'll get all that we need.
BURNETT: All right, well, Congresswoman, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
LEE: Thank you, ma'am. Also my sympathy to the family of the fallen officer and those who have lost their lives and thank all of the volunteers and first responders, everybody. Houston, you're strong and you're resilient. God bless you.
BURNETT: Thank you, Congresswoman.
And next, one of those families who lost six lives and one family swept away by flood waters, presumed dead tonight. They will tell you the story of this family.
Plus, President Trump touches down on Texas to witness storm damage first hand. Will he back those words with action.
And Joel Osteen, finally opening his mega church in Houston to flood victims. Why did it take so long. Tonight, Osteen, speaking out.
[19:17:35] BURNETT: Tonight, one family in Texas is dealing with a heartbreak, a heartbreaking tragedy because of Harvey. Four children, their great grandparents presumed dead after their van was swept away while trying to evacuate. The oldest child, Devy Saldivar was 16 years old, Dominic Saldivar was 14 years old, Xavier Saldivar, 8 years old, and Daisy Saldivar, the youngest, she was 6. Their great grandparents, 84-year-old Manuel Saldivar, his wife Belia was 81.
Fifty-six- year-old Sammy Saldivar was the driver of the van, he is the sole survivor. He managed to escape clinging to a branch. He was trying to save his parents and his great nieces and great nephews, trying to drive them to safety.
And OutFront now is Sammy's brother Ric. And Ric, look, words can't express what people feel when they hear your story. I am so sorry for your unbearable loss. How is your brother, who survived, doing tonight, Ric?
RIC SALDIVAR, LOST SIX FAMILY MEMBERS IN HURRICANE HARVEY: The last time I talked to him -- I mean, he's doing OK, all things considered. But, I mean, he's still blaming himself for the accident and everybody -- all my family keeps telling him it wasn't his fault. It was just an accident.
He was trying to do the right thing to get them out of the flood and up on higher ground, trying to bring them over to my house and it just didn't happen.
BURNETT: Can you tell us what happened?
SALDIVAR: Yes. Well, he was -- as I said, he was staying with my parents. He came down from Missouri to -- he was the only one that wasn't married or anything, so he came down and he said I'll take care of mom and dad. So -- they both had Alzheimer's.
He called my brother, Danny which was at -- he was already at his son's house, Adam, and trying to get to high ground. He didn't know that the kids were there by themselves. So he told Sammy go to my house and get the van because Sammy couldn't get his truck out by then.
He said, go get my van and you can get in the house and, you know, and get dry clothes and stuff. So Sammy got in there -- got in the house and took -- you know, made breakfast for mom and dad. I mean, dried their clothes, everything, you know.
And Danny told him -- he said, well, go get my grandkids there across the street, you know, at their house and just take them to Ric's. So, I said, yes, just bring them over here. So that's what he was doing. That's what he was doing.
[19:20:06] And he was trying to get around the flood. And he came up to a bridge that it wasn't very wide but -- I mean, very long but he -- it still has water on it. He was thinking about turning around and dad said, no, you can go, you know, just do it, you know.
And we were raised --- I mean, dad tells you to do something, you do it, you know. Even at 84 years old he was very demanding. So Sammy went across the bridge and he made it across the bridge. But on the other side of the bridge, there was a dip in the road and when the van went down, it just started floating and he had no control after that. And he said, dad kept telling him to go, go, you know, hit it and Sammy said it's not doing anything. It's just spinning and making it worse. And then the nose of the van went into the bayou and Sammy said him and mom and dad were all underwater and he panicked. He got out of his seat belt without even unbuckling it and got out of a half open window off the driver's side and he clinged onto what he called a twig which, you know, just a little branch or tree, I don't even know what, but he said that the tree -- I mean, the van was just bopping in the water.
That's how deep the water was and he could hear the kids screaming and crying, you know, trying to get out of the van and he kept telling them to go to the back of the van and, you know, open the back doors, open the back doors. But, from what he's describing, I'm sure the kids couldn't even grab a grip onto the van just to even reach the back door, much less open it.
And he said it just went under the water. And after that I got -- I talked to the sheriffs department since then and they told me that he was hanging onto the branch for like 45 minutes screaming for help. I don't know who heard him, but the sheriffs department went over there in a boat and they literally threw him in a lifeline.
And he grabbed onto it in the first shot -- the sheriffs told me the first shot he grabbed it and they pulled him to the boat and he was very upset, very distraught. And he just kept saying the van is down there, the van is down there. That's all he kept saying, the van is down there.
But by that time, the van had been underwater for 45 minutes. So there was no way, you know, they survived.
BURNETT: The reality of it is none of us can imagine that loss, the loss that you are feeling and your brother. You know, our prayers are with him. The agony that he must feel.
You talked about your parents having Alzheimer's and I know they would have been married 60 years this October. You know, you said they were always together. How do you feel about I guess they were together. They were together.
SALDIVAR: Yes, yes. You know, when they started getting up in age, I started, you know, accepting the fact that they weren't going to be with me for long, much longer. I was blessed to have them as long as I did. But, yes -- I mean, even to the end they were -- you know, having Alzheimer's they would fight like they never fought before and then 10 minutes later they were hugging and kissing and, you know, holding hands all the time.
I mean, even at 84 mom would walk by and dad would grab her and put her on his lap. I mean, you know, she would -- he would grab her and put her on his lap and -- I mean, just very loving couple. I mean, it's -- and I know, you know, when they went, I mean, when they left us they were holding hands.
And I told Sammy that, I said, I know they went together. They were holding hands and he said, yes they were holding hands when I was driving the van. Yes, they were holding hands when he was driving the van.
And I can already imagine dad, you know, holding mom's hand real tight, you know, as the water rushed in, you know. But, yes, they were always like that. And as I said -- I mean, when they started getting older, I was already hoping that, you know, they would somehow go together, you know, because I couldn't see one without the other.
I mean, no matter who was left behind, it was -- they were going to -- they weren't going to last much longer without the other one. I know it. So I know they went to heaven holding hands.
BURNETT: Now, your great nieces and nephews were young. I mean, this is the part of the story that's hard to even talk about. Daisy, only six years old. Tell us a little bit about that little girl.
SALDIVAR: She was a -- I mean, as little girls are, she was just adorable, I mean, always laughing and always -- I mean, you couldn't help but laugh. Excuse me.
I mean, the minute she walked in the room she -- excuse me.
BURNETT: That's OK.
SALDIVAR: Yes. I mean, she was great. I mean, you know, every -- I didn't see her much. I wish I would have seen her more often.
[19:25:02] Before mom and dad really got sick, they used to take care of her and they were always talking about Daisy. Oh, you know, she did this and she did that. And, you know, just they were always just playing with her.
I mean, she was a very good little girl. All of them were. All of them were.
BURNETT: What do you remember, Ric, about them? I mean, they had their whole lives ahead of them, all four of them.
SALDIVAR: Yes. Yes, I know. I mean, that's the tragedy of it. I mean, you don't expect, you know, one kid to go, much less four, you know.
So, we were trying to help with the funeral arrangements because my brother and his wife, they weren't prepared for this. I mean, who would be, you know? So, we're just trying to help each other, you know, get through this.
BURNETT: Well, Ric, I think the prayers, the thoughts, care from everyone watching goes out to you and your family in this unbearable tragedy. Thank you so much for sharing and hopefully in that sharing a little bit of their memory and their life will last. Thank you.
SALDIVAR: Yes. I want to thank everybody for that and all my co- workers at work. Thank you very much.
BURNETT: And that loss, unimaginable.
Next, Harvey with this tragedy poised to strike Texas a second time in just hours as President Trump visits the storm ravaged state. We'll be right back.
BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump expected to land back in Washington, D.C. this hour. The president spent the day in Texas talking with officials at the storm zone. He made two stops, Corpus Christi and Austin. He avoided the hardest hit areas. The White House says this was to ensure that his visit did not interfere with recovery efforts.
Today, the president spoke about the toll of the storm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Probably there's never been anything so expensive in our country's history. There's never been anything so historic in terms of damage and in terms of ferocity as what we've witnessed with Harvey. It sounds like such an innocent name, Ben, right? But it's not innocent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Jeff Zeleny was with the president all day. He's OUTFRONT in Austin tonight.
And, Jeff, this was the president's first test on a natural disaster and, of course, this one a catastrophe, perhaps like not seen before.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, good evening. It was the first step. At first glance, President Trump received big praise from Texans here on the ground, officials and others. They like the fact that he was interested and presented an urgency in his interest in the recovery effort here.
But his words simply did not match the pictures what is unfolding here. That's so interesting because President Trump, of course, is a showman. He's very familiar with how stage crafting and television work.
So, that's what I was struck by today, Erin, is that his words simply did not match the devastation of the pictures. He did not offer any hugs. He did not offer much hope.
He talked about businesses more than individual people. He did not respond or react to that very emotional response from the chief of police in Houston about one of the officers dying here.
So, it was definitely a test of presidential leadership, the first moment here, but there is no sudden gratification from something like this. This challenges of major magnitude here. This is something the president will be graded on indeed for weeks, months, perhaps years to come here. But I talked to Senator Ted Cruz and John Cornyn who were with him
today and he said he generally showed interest, even though that empathy, Erin, did not seem there.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny. And now, Ben Ferguson, who's host of "The Ben Ferguson Radio Show", of course, from Texas, and Dan Pfeiffer, former senior adviser, communications director for President Obama.
So, Ben, it's not just your home state. This is affecting your family. Your in-laws' house is flooded.
And, of course, we know the tragedy we just heard. People have died. People are missing.
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
BURNETT: There are more than 10,000 people in shelters tonight and the waters are still going up.
You heard the president. He talked about how expensive this was. He's been getting a lot of compliments on how he's handled it. But yet as Jeff Zeleny said, the empathy seemed to be missing.
Did she show enough empathy today?
FERGUSON: Look, you talk about people that are dealing with this right now, they care about the government's response and they feel it right now, the president is getting it right. The way he was ahead of time working with the governors, making it clear that the National Guard was available, declaring it early before everything had gotten out of control that this was a disaster area, making sure that all of the fixed aircrafts that they could get down there and the Coast Guard aircraft were available, making sure that there was water coming in by the millions of liters.
You talk to the people affected by this, they're rooting for the president to do this and do it well because their life depends on it. The local elected officials are not talking politics. The mayor is not talking politics. The congressmen and senators are not talking politics because they realize this is a big job.
And if he treats it like a business, that's probably a good thing because there are a massive amount of logistics here. There are people in the ground -- let me just say one other thing about this --
FERGUSON: There are people right now that are literally being rescued and they're being rescued because of the response, not just of the government, but of volunteers who are out there risking their lives. If you ask them about -- if the government is doing their job, right now, they are saying yes they are. So, I think the president was right in what he said today and I think the federal government, Republicans and Democrats, are getting it right in Texas, working together, not talking politics. BURNETT: So, Dan, let me ask you. We have these meetings. He
listened to their briefings. Obviously, when he greeted the crowd, it felt perhaps a little bit more like a rally. Let me just show the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. What a crowd, what a turn out. This is historic, it's epic what happened. But you know what? It happened in Texas and Texas can handle anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Roaring applause there, Dan. Is he getting the tone right?
DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let me say a couple things first. I think it's good that he went. I think the timing is right. It's important for the presidents of either party to go visit and let the people on the ground know the government cares, is focused on their needs and doing the right thing.
I thought his tone was a little off.
[19:35:01] That's not actually I think that important. And I think Ben right. People on the ground don't care about the political optics of this. They don't necessarily care about his tones.
BURNETT: It's actions, not words.
PFEIFFER: Actions. Exactly, and I was in the White House when hurricane Sandy hit, and I got to watch people like Craig Fugate and I listen to Lisa Monaco who was White House chief of staff who coordinated the Sandy response do this.
It is a massive job. This may be the biggest thing that Trump ever does. And this is the first -- the first step is rescue.
FERGUSON: I agree.
PFEIFFER: Obviously, it's incredibly important. The second step is clearing the homes, so removing debris. And the third is finding long-term housing situations -- and housing solutions for these people. So, there is a lot to go here. We'll see what the federal government does.
But this is by far, this may end up being the biggest thing Donald Trump ever has to handle in his time as president.
BURNETT: Right. And, of course, everybody roots for him to get it right because this is what matters for this country right now.
Ben, there is going to be questions of timing, right? The president was quick in effusive with praise in officials handling the storm, right, which is something you would say, OK, that's a good thing. First day, he came out, tweeting. And then today, four days after Harvey hit, here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The world is watching, and the world is very impressed with what you're doing. So I just want to thank you on behalf of myself, the first lady, the governor. You have been incredible working with our men.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Of course, four days after Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush went, right, he went on the scene and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Again, I want to thank you all for -- and, Brownie, you are doing a heck of a job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK, look. We all know how that ended, right? Brownie was the FEMA director. He was criticized heavily. The agency's response went down as a disaster.
Ben, is the president in danger of making that same mistake? He's complimenting everybody for what they're doing now. Could that backfire?
FERGUSON: Look, moral is low. People are dead. You look at Sergeant Perez who died last night trying to save people's lives in Houston.
The majority of elected officials, people may not realized it, in Houston, are Democrats. He's giving praise to people that don't care about politics. Of course, there is -- I guess you would argue a risk here. But the difference is, this president came in and understood, you got to cheer people on that have had no sleep. You've got to cheer the citizens on that are risking their lives to help their neighborhoods.
Literally, my brother-in-law has been out all day in a boat, saving people's lives, elderly people, pulling people from their houses. When you have the president come in and say, you guys are doing a great job, this is bigger than directly talking about one FEMA director, who was back in Katrina -- remember, he was tweeting out about the color of his tie. The guy was out of touch.
But what the president did today was he came in today and cheered the people on that are saving people's lives and the police chief who talked about he's got people in helicopter pulling people that are surviving on power bars and up in the air long after they probably should be. God bless them and the president's job is to boost morale.
I have always said this, I root for the president of the United States of America, no matter what party he is, on national security issues, and foreign policy issues and most importantly, when you have humanitarian crises like this. And what the president was doing was rooting on all the people on the ground who were doing everything they can to literally save lives and I give them credit for that.
BURNETT: Dan, you know, President George W. Bush actually did just speak out, former governor of Texas and, of course, former president, obviously with the Brownie moment. He said, I know you are going through a really tough time and just know there are a lot of people that will help you and help the people down there a lot.
What do you make of that and his response, Dan?
PFEIFFER: Well, look, George W. Bush, former governor of Texas, former president of the United States, I think that's the right thing for all of us to rally together for all the people who are affected by this terrible storm.
And to your question, Ben, about whether the president is going to regret those remarks, that's all going to matter in the response. If the response goes well, people will think those are the right remarks. If the response doesn't go well, then people will look back and say that was wrong.
That's what really is going to matter here is the substance. It is not going to just matter. It is going to matter to people in Texas long after the national media leaves and it's no longer the main topic on the news because there will be tens of thousands of people who maybe without homes for a long time. How are those going to be addressed?
And the thing that gives -- like all Americans, we want the Trump administration to be seen here, but I think what worries me some is we have a lot of vacancies in a lot of key agencies and hopefully people can step up and do the right things there.
BURNETT: Yes, right. There are a lot of vacancies and some crucial positions obviously, directly relevant to what we're seeing right now. Thank you both so very much.
And next, Joel Osteen speaking out. Tonight, he's under fire for being slow to open up his mega church to storm victims. His brother in law is OUTFRONT.
Plus, more breaking news. Houston officials say there are now 10,000 people in shelters at this hour and they are watching the dams. One already overflowing.
[19:43:32] BURNETT: Just hours from now, the breaking news, Harvey expected to make landfall again. The storm already broken rainfall records for the continental United States, catastrophic flooding inundating Houston and now, that same area could be hit again. An additional 15 inches of rain is possible in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana. Still in the middle of it all, even those hit hard by the storm are trying to save their neighbors.
Alex Marquardt is OUTFRONT in Houston.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These used to be the baseball fields in a west Houston neighborhood. Now, it's a lake. One filled with a growing armada of boats, trying to get their fellow Texans to dry land.
Adam Nesloney and his cousin Austin brought their powerful fast moving airboats up from Rockport, one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Harvey.
ADAM NESLONEY, VOLUNTEER: I mean, when there's people in danger and we're just sitting there with boats, it's a bad feeling sitting at home with them. So, we packed up and came and doing what we can for now.
MARQUARDT (on camera): You had plenty to do at home, though. You have to rebuild and get back to your life.
NESLONEY: We have a lot to do. Man, I'm -- you know, I'm a big believer in karma and just doing what's right and I think it all comes back to you at the end and pay it forward kind of deal.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): With Nesloney and local firefighter, Captain Kenny Schwinn, we made our way to nearby homes. Many are still riding out the storm, hoping the water doesn't get any higher.
(on camera): Why don't you guys want to leave?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard to leave your house.
MARQUARDT: You're not afraid that the water is going to get higher.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, if anything, we're just going to go to the second floor.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Captain Schwinn is disappointed the people removing aren't trying to get out.
CAPTAIN KENNY SCHWINN, WEST LAKE FIRE DEPARTMENT: We can only advise people to do so much. If they don't want to leave, I can't force them to leave.
We don't know if we're going to be able to get back to them. If water is rising, the current will get stronger here shortly, that we can tell. Some of these smaller boats aren't going to be able to power through that current.
MARQUARDT: But Sandra and Jim Bricker had not doubts and were touched by the Nesloneys coming to save them.
SANDRA BRICKER, RESIDENT: It's super emotional. And I don't want to cry, but actually, these guys are from Rockport and from Corpus Christi, where the hurricane hit, and I know their homes were hit harder than our home right now at least. And it's emotional they would come out and help us.
It's total chaos. It's awful. Everybody on every part of Houston is affected.
MARQUARDT: Well, Erin, right here on the edge of this flood water in west Houston, you really get a sense of the scale of this massive operation for the rescues. All afternoon, people have been coming in, dropping those they rescued here on dry land.
And just look at all these resources here. You've got local police from Houston. Just beyond that, firefighters. You also have county officials, as well, as just off here to the right, these regular folks dropping their boats in the water.
We have seen people not just from here in Houston but as you saw there in the piece from elsewhere in Texas and well beyond -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Alex.
And also breaking tonight, televangelist Joel Osteen speaking out after coming under enormous criticism for not taking in evacuees from the hurricane. Osteen tweeting: Victoria and I care deeply about our fellow Houstonians. Lakewood's doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter.
Today's announcement coming almost 96 hours after the storm first hit. In that time, Osteen was blasted by some for possibly turning his back on those seeking shelter.
OUTFRONT now, Don Iloff Jr. He is also Joel Osteen's brother in law and he is the spokesperson from Lakewood Church.
And, Don, I appreciate your taking the time and answering the questions that people have. Let me just start with your church, Osteen's church, Lakewood. You've said the doors were open today.
How many people are there now?
DON ILOFF, LAKEWOOD CHURCH SPOKESPERSON (via telephone): Well, you know, we've had several busses. I don't know the exact count, but I know that George R. Brown, which was the shelter that was closest to us here that they chose to use has now come to capacity or overflown to capacity and they have brought in several busses. So I would say probably a few hundred at this point --
BURNETT: All right, probably --
ILOFF: -- have entered the building. Yes.
BURNETT: You've been putting pictures out tonight to explain the delay. I'll show them to our viewers. They show flooded hallways. Obviously, the church is more than 600,000 square feet. Could you tell us how bad was the damage?
ILOFF: Well, the damage -- there hasn't been as much damage. But this building, if one understands, before we took this building over, this building has had eight feet of water in the bottom floor. So, the fact is that this building when it floods, it floods in a torrent. And it floods quickly.
And it was -- we installed flood gates, but, you know, you have to have a lot of faith in those if you're going to put a lot of people into the building.
BURNETT: So, are you saying there was eight feet of water, that it had flooded? Or are you saying you were concerned that it would flood?
ILOFF: During it. No, no, no, what I'm saying is during Hurricane Alicia, before we took the building over -- excuse me, Allison, when Allison hit Houston in 2001, this building flooded, and there was over eight feet of water in the bottom floor of this building. And, so, that's where we have actually the most room to put people.
So, you know, if we were to have gambled and put people into that area and this building would have flooded, which we have ten-foot storm gates --
ILOFF: -- flood gates that we installed when we took over the building. And the water has come to within about a foot, actually maybe less, of spilling over those flood gates. So, we had concerns, you know, from the very beginning --
ILOFF: -- as far as the safety of people in this building and that was too great a concern for us.
BURNETT: Yes, you thought it would be a gamble. I mean, your critics, you're well aware of this, right? They're posting videos and pictures like the ones that I'm going to show here which suggested the church suffered little damage.
ILOFF: Well --
BURNETT: You see the cars in the parking lot. I mean, when you look at it, did you wait too long to open your doors to those who need shelter?
ILOFF: Well, let me start by saying the doors were never closed. And in fact, we did have people come to the church on Sunday evening or maybe it was Monday morning, but it was some time overnight. We had about ten people here at the church and they rode out the storm here. A few were maintenance people who are keeping an eye on the flooding, were just maintaining the building.
Others were here to receive anyone who came into the church needing help. Now, we were not designated and still are not designated as a --
ILOFF: Shelter. And so -- well, by FEMA. Once you are designated as a shelter by the city or county or by FEMA, then you get all the assistance, you know, the beds, you know, all the things that you need in order to sustain, you know, people over a period of time.
[19:50:03] And so, the fact is, our doors were never, ever locked. In fact, we did receive people into this building over time. So that narrative, which I've seen on social media, and I didn't see it until late, because I was kind of -- we were all kind of busy. But it's really just very untrue and it's completely false actually.
So we did receive people, and so we have -- you know, at this point, you know, the city -- we found out yesterday at 2:00, those photos that you see, the ones that say there's no damage, those were taken at about 2:00 yesterday.
ILOFF: And so, the -- if you know how the city of Houston is set up, the streets are the drainage system for much of the city, and they drain pretty quickly, at least they did around the building. So --
BURNETT: So, let me just ask you, though --
BURNETT: -- because I know that, obviously, Joel's tweet, Pastor Osteen's tweet came out today about the doors being open, and anybody could come. I just wanted to read some of the criticism of your brother-in-law, Joel Osteen, that came in, in the time between the storm hitting and when he sent that tweet.
These are also from Twitter, one saying, shame on Joel Osteen, Jesus would open the doors and care for the needy. What a disgrace to Houston and Lakewood Church.
And then there's this one, when Joel Osteen has a gigantic church and a $10 million home in Houston but is only offering to prayers to people affected by Harvey.
What is Joel's reaction to this criticism?
OLIFF: Well, well, you know, I think listen, the criticism comes from anywhere. You could have read a thousand more tweets, you know? I mean, there's plenty of people to criticize, you know?
But the fact of the matter is, the Twitter critics don't determine who we are or what we do. I mean, we're going to -- we're going to act as we should act. They have nothing to do with our mission.
And so, you know, we've been working with the city and with the county for days and days, even before the storm hit. And we knew exactly what they were going to do. They were setting up the George R. Brown Convention Center as a shelter. And we knew what we were going to be doing and that was -- in conjunction with the city, collecting supplies and things that were needed for the different shelters as they ran out of things.
ILOFF: And the fact of the matter is, as of about 2:00 yesterday, we made the determination that the flood waters had receded enough that we could go ahead and start the collection process, which we did. And today, we've collected -- it's unimaginable.
ILOFF: You see the photos of the things we've collection. In addition to that, in our conversations with the city yesterday we became aware, they told us that the capacity of George R. Brown, which was our near shelter --
ILOFF: -- the capacity for George R. Brown was about -- at capacity. And so, we then said, well, we can open up and we can do this. So, we began to take people in and began to, you know, in large numbers. So --
BURNETT: All right. Don, thank you very much. I know you said there's a few hundred. So, we'll see where this goes from here. But I thank you for your time, Don Iloff.
And next, the breaking news: we're learning special counsel Robert Mueller has issued to Paul Manafort's associates. And North Korea at this hour issuing a new threat directly to the United States.
[19:56:15] BURNETT: We have more breaking news at this hour. The Russian investigation ramping up. Special counsel Robert Mueller increasing the pressure on former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Mueller now issuing subpoenas to both the former lawyer from Manafort and his current spokesman.
Evan Perez is OUTFRONT with this breaking news.
And, Evan, what does this say about where Mueller is going?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESEPONDENT: Well, Erin, these are hard nose tactics, no doubt about it. The subpoenas went to Melissa Laurenza and Jason Maloni. Laurenza is a lawyer with Akin Gump law firm here in Washington. And until recently, she was an attorney representing Paul Manafort. Maloni is currently the spokesman for Manafort.
Now, this is something of an aggressive tactic that suggests an effort to add pressure on the former Trump campaign chairman. What the subpoena of Laurenza raises potential attorney-client privilege issues and I bet that Akin Gump will be being pretty aggressive in protecting that information. Prosecutors usually try to avoid these kinds of fights, Erin, as they pursue their case.
BURNETT: You're learning, I know, Evan, that Donald Trump, Jr. has agreed on a crucial detail on a meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee and what is that?
PEREZ: That's right. Our Hill team, including Manu Raju is reporting that Donald Trump, Jr. has now agreed to sit down with a staff in the Senate Judiciary Committee. There's going to be a transcribed interview. It's going to be behind closed doors.
Hopefully, it will answer some of the questions the investigators have about the June 2016 meeting where a Russian lawyer was coming with opposition dirt on Hillary Clinton. Now, we don't know the exact date of this, Erin. But we've been told by the senators previously to expect it in September.
BURNETT: Evan, thank you.
BURNETT: And more breaking news. A new threat tonight from Kim Jong- un, saying North Korea will launch more missiles into the Pacific Ocean as the United States and the U.N. are meeting in an emergency meeting about North Korea. President Trump warning all options are on the table earlier today.
Will Ripley is OUTFRONT. He is in Pyongyang.
Will, new threat from Kim Jong-un. What does it mean that North Korea will do?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, I was just handed this moments ago. This is the "Rodong" newspaper here in North Korea. On the front page, you should see their supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, all smiles, surrounded by his rocket scientists who oversaw the missile launch yesterday.
And what this new information from the North Korean government says is that this missile launch was a prelude they say for future launches into the Pacific Ocean. And also a prelude for military action to contain Guam, that key U.S. territory, home to 160,000 plus U.S. citizens.
Andersen Air Force Base, Naval Base in Guam. North Korea clearly not dialing down, the rhetoric but stepping it up, saying they will not back down but will defiantly push forward. And they're expressing their fury with the United States for those ongoing joint military exercises that are happening right now with South Korea, now in their second week. North Korea also saying just within the last couple of hours that those exercises were the motivation for this missile launch, which flew over Japan, terrifying people who live there, who woke up to air raid sirens, and got messages on their phones, telling them to take cover.
This missile did go down harmlessly in the Pacific. But now, North Korea is indicating they'll launch more missiles potentially of this kind, the Hwasong-12. It's an intermediate range missile first unveiled at the military parade here in Pyongyang back in April. I saw it firsthand. This is a missile that is believed to have a range of at least 2,300 miles, which does put all of Japan, all of South Korea, including the key U.S. military bases there, and Guam within its potential striking range.
So, now we have to watch, wait and see how the United States will respond here -- Erin.
BURNETT: Obviously, a crucial decision, of course, as the president is dealing with perhaps the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history. Thank you very much, Will Ripley, as we said, live from Pyongyang, covering that breaking news.
And thanks for joining us. Of course, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere. You go to CNN Go.
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