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White House Press Briefing; Hurricane Aftermath. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 1, 2017 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: And 151 are considered to be independent shelters, which would be the type of shelter that, let's say, a church would provide.

Last night, the overnight population in shelters in Texas was 42,399. Of those amount, 6,000 are in state parks. In addition to that, our great friend and neighbor, Louisiana, has about 3,000 Texans in shelters.

And I want to express my deep gratitude to Louisiana and to the governor of Louisiana for helping with search-and-rescue missions, helping to save the lives of Texans and also express my gratitude to both individuals, as well as first-responders from Louisiana for being such tremendous humanitarians.

A pressing issue in Texas is the issue of fuel. Now, this is an issue that is pressing, in part, because of a reaction to some media reports, where the facts are that there's plenty of fuel, plenty of gasoline in the United States of America.

There's plenty of gasoline in the state of Texas. All that said, we are ensuring an even greater supply of gasoline, so we can tamp down any concern about accessibility to fuel that people may want to access over the course of the coming Labor Day weekend.

Working with all sectors of the oil and gas community, from refineries to pipelines, from operators, trucking companies, and retailers, we have worked in the past 24 to 48 hours to alleviate concerns about access to gasoline and to ensure that more gasoline will be coming or is already coming to the state of Texas.

Working with our neighbors and great friends Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico, fuel is being shipped from each of those states to the state of Texas to get fuel into the Dallas/Fort Worth area and then into the surrounding areas in the state of Texas.

The pipeline of gasoline that had been going from Texas to Oklahoma has been reversed, and that is now sending gasoline from Oklahoma to Texas. We have refineries that are coming back up in Corpus Christi and Three Rivers that will quickly be providing a much greater supply of gasoline.

The port of Corpus Christi has now opened with barges coming in already, with gasoline that came in today and will be coming in, in the following days.

And, also, I signed a waiver of certain regulations on fuel truckers to ensure that gasoline supplies can be more swiftly brought to the state of Texas from other states.

The bottom line is that the state of Texas will have plenty of gasoline showing up at gasoline stations across the state of Texas, so don't worry. We will not run out. And we will be back into our normal pattern before you know it.

One of the most important things we can do when we have times of weather challenges like hurricanes and floods is to make sure we can ensure an ongoing supply of food and water. I want you to know that we have accomplished points of distribution in all areas between Corpus Christi and Beaumont.

We are relying upon local officials, typically the county judge, on the announcement of the location of the points of distribution. If you reside in any of the counties that are in the affected area between Corpus Christi and Beaumont, and you are looking for food or water, contact your county judge or look for notifications from your county judge about where those points of distribution are.

Also, there are law enforcement officials, as well as emergency operation centers in each of those counties who should be able to provide you that information. We are proud to have worked very collaboratively with all military branches. From our military branch, we have received -- I can't read my writing.

[15:05:23]

We have received air support, meaning aircraft, from 43 states helping our mission. Now, I want you to know that we have received offers of help from all 50 states, but we have accepted it from 43, and we leave ourselves open to accepting it from the other seven, if necessary.

The primary focus of the aircraft remains on evacuation and search- and-rescue. We have had a tremendous partnership with the United States Coast Guard. They have done a fabulous job up and down our coast assisting in countless ways, and among other things, they reported today that they are getting our ports open as fast as possible.

And I think there will be a lot of good news to report here perhaps today and in the coming days about the success that's being made.

Some important information from FEMA. Already, about 440,000 Texans have registered for assistance from FEMA. And, already, FEMA has approved more than $79 million in assistance.

One thing that we focus on is trying to move evacuees from these evacuation locations into a more semi-permanent location such as a hotel room. We want you out of Convention Centers into a place where you have a living room and a bedroom and your own bathroom, and we get you there as quickly as possible. And let me clarify, when I say we, that is, FEMA, get you there as quickly as possible. FEMA has been very proactive and has been moving this process very

quickly. And I want to thank them for all that they are doing. Also, however, maybe the most important thing I can say to you today, if you are a Texan who's been impacted and dislocated because of the hurricane or because of the flooding or because of any consequence of the storm that has hit Texas, please contact online disasterassistance.gov, disasterassistance.gov.

You can join now the more than 440,000 Texans who have already accessed help from FEMA. Now, one thing that has led to an effective operation in response to this challenge of the hurricane and the flood is the collaboration that we have seen at the local, state, and national level.

I cannot thank enough the men and women who served -- or who serve in our armed forces and what they have done to aid Texans in this very challenging time, whether it's Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard. They have stepped up and come to our aid and have worked seamlessly as we have worked every single day to keep our state and our citizens safe.

I'm proud that we have with us today the leader of this effort, General Robinson, who is the commander of NorthCom. And I would like to ask her to come up and say a few words.

GEN. LORI ROBINSON, COMMANDER, UNITED STATES NORTHERN COMMAND AND NORTH AMERICAN AEROSPACE DEFENSE COMMAND: Sir, thank you very much.

ABBOTT: Sure.

ROBINSON: Thank you very much.

Governor, I can't tell you how excited I am to be here and how proud and honored that you would have me be here with you. You know, on behalf of Secretary Mattis, Chairman Dunford and all the men and women in our active-duty armed forces, I would like to offer our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to all of those who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey.

ABBOTT: Thank you so much.

ROBINSON: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

And it is my role as the commander of NorthCom to be responsible -- OK -- OK -- to be responsible to deploy active-duty soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to support FEMA requests and the state of Texas for assistance to local, county, state, and federal civil authorities in devastating times like this, just like Harvey.

When disasters of this magnitude strike, a whole of government response is necessary, and DOD is a part of all of that.

You know, one of the things that we have learned over time is how important it is to have the right capability at the right place at the right time to support the needs of the citizens.

[15:10:12]

As we know, sir, I can't tell you how much we appreciate your leadership and the things that you have done and the leadership of FEMA and the things that we are able to do to support the two of you each and every day.

Our military has unique capabilities to support disaster relief. These same capabilities that make our armed forces so effective in combat make our forces uniquely effective in disaster relief efforts.

We have been and we will continue to deploy any and all capabilities requested by FEMA and, sir, of course, you.

I want to tell you, I had a conversation yesterday with Secretary Mattis, and he made the comment to me, Lori, Texas gets everything they need. And we will get it there as fast as we can.

I have to say, I'm so proud of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that have deployed in the effective area and that will continue to deploy as long as requested and needed. You know, the Army has provided 200 high-water vehicles to support Red Cross in the movement of personnel and the patients.

Army helicopters with hoisting capability are providing to help rescue and transport the survivors, and the Army is also receiving the receipt of life support items. The Air Force is providing strategic airlift, fixed-wing airlift, medical evacuation, airborne command-and- control and helicopters to transport people and supplies.

The Navy amphibious ships, USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill along with the Marines with the 22nd -- 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are en route should you need them.

Our Defense Logistics Agency has provided fuel, sandbags, generators and incident support bases and is delivering meals to dislocated citizens. And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has deployed experts to the state and FEMA, response notes to help provide technical assistance with the power restoration.

Sir, these are just a few things that the men and women in uniform are doing to help with the larger relief effort. And we are committed to assist at local, state, and federal agencies throughout this trying time for our nation.

So, Governor Abbott, Mr. Robinson (ph), Administrator Long, again, thank you so much for your leadership. We look forward and we will be there, steady, ready, and to support at a moment's notice.

Thank you, sir.

ABBOTT: Thank you, General.

ROBINSON: Yes, sir.

ABBOTT: Well, thank you, General Robinson. And, again, I cannot thank you or those who serve under you enough for what they have done to make Texas a better place. And if you would, please pass along my deepest gratitude to Secretary Mattis. We have had a seamless and really daily collaboration with members of the DOD throughout this process, and that collaboration will continue.

And I have expressed to our commander in chief directly my gratitude to all the DOD and the United States military has done to help Texas in this very dire time.

With that, I will be happy to take a few questions.

QUESTION: Governor, you talked about gas runs that are happening right now. People are going out and seeing lines snaking around their block and those red tags on the pumps. How do we instill confidence in them that supply is on its way?

ABBOTT: We have already heard today about one way that people are still with confidence. As they are on the roadway and they see these big tanker trucks filled with gasoline coming down the way, the best thing they can do is when they see one of those tanker trucks of gasoline, move out of that lane and let that tanker truck get down the road faster.

We have been working literally overnight, nonstop, to line up tanker trucks to be coming in from other states. That, in addition to the pipeline reversal and these other actions, the barge coming in, we are being -- I started to say flooded with gasoline, but we are -- have a bunch of gasoline coming in.

And so there is a perception of concern, but the reality is...

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, that was a huge, huge thank you from the governor, from the general really, to sailors and soldiers and airmen and Marines who have all swooped in to help in this rescue and recovery effort there in Texas and Louisiana.

So, so many of them have come in and they were just expressing their gratitude and reiterating what we heard from the secretary of defense saying, Texas gets everything they need.

They were just addressing those gas runs. A lot of people, you know, worried that they won't have the gas in Texas. The governor trying to reassure everybody, saying, hang on, we're bringing shipments of gasoline in from neighboring states and beyond, so you should have the gas that you need, trying to reassure Texans of that, and, really, though, hammering home how still so dangerous eastern areas of Texas like Beaumont, Texas.

[15:15:12]

I know I have got Ryan Nobles standing by in Orange, Texas, not too far from Beaumont.

But Ryan, just listening to the governor talking about the Neches River, how that continues to rise. He said it was seven feet above the record and it's going to stay that way for another week. So that, I'm sure, affects folks down the way where you are.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No doubt, Brooke. I mean, listening to the governor, he was talking to the people in this community of Orange, Texas, and you could see this is the reason why.

Take a look at this neighborhood. I mean, we're now a full 48 hours after the flooding started, and we have been talking to residents. You can see a couple of them there in the distance who have been coming in and out, checking their properties.

And they're saying in some of these houses it's still as high as four or five feet worth of water, so they have a long way to go. And the concern they have is that even though the water does appear to be receding in many of these neighborhoods, you mentioned the Neches River -- the Sabine River is only about two miles from where I am standing right now, and that has yet to crest.

That may not crest until some time in the middle of next week. That could bring with it a whole 'nother round of flooding, so they really cannot begin the recovery effort here yet because they just don't know if the worst of the flooding is over.

And I told you this yesterday, Brooke, and it remains the same. Everyone I have talked to today, they have just never seen flooding like this before. I talked to one gentleman who said that he's lived in this community for more than 40 years. He's seen water maybe trickle down the street, but never come up to his door.

He was walking through three feet of water in his house for two days and he said it's just been something like he has never seen before. And that's what this community is still dealing with even today -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: So here's one more question for you, Ryan, and I know your photo journalist zoomed in on those kids, I guess on ATVs.

Are those families who haven't left? Who are the people who are still in the neighborhood behind you?

NOBLES: For the most part, what we have are people that have come after already evacuating and coming to check out their properties.

BALDWIN: Got it.

NOBLES: The vast majority of people that live in this neighborhood behind me, they have already gone and come back.

But I will tell you, I did talk to a gentleman who just rode it out, was in this neighborhood for the last three days, and it got to the point where his cats were starting to get out of the house. And that's what finally led him to decide that it was time to get out of the community.

So, I'm not telling you that everybody in this neighborhood is out of this -- out of their homes. It's impossible for us to tell you that. I do believe the vast majority of them are. And I will also tell you that about two hours ago, we saw a cadre of National Guard troops with the high-water vehicles and they actually made a complete canvass of the entire neighborhood, knocked on every single door, asked if anyone needed help or needed to be rescued.

And those National Guard troops told us that everyone that they encountered said that they didn't need any help. So there is just an immense amount of resources available for the people that need that help, at least when it comes to the rescue and just getting to somewhere safe.

I think the big thing everyone here is worried about is the recovery, which is going to take a very long time to do. And I should also tell you, Brooke, I have talked to probably 20, 25 different people. Only one of them has told me that they have flood insurance.

So this is going to be a long and expensive recovery for the folks in Orange County, Texas.

BALDWIN: Yes, it is.

Ryan Nobles, thank you so much for us there.

Just a heads-up to all of you. Again, we're watching and waiting for that White House press briefing to begin. Live pictures there of the press Briefing Room. We will be right back.

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[15:22:48]

BALDWIN: Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

A lot of Harvey's evacuees are just now returning to their flood- damaged homes trying to see what's exactly left, and much of it is just being taken to the curb to be hauled away.

Nick Valencia is standing by in a Houston neighborhood talking to folks who are helping.

You were saying last hour a lot of these people are in line waiting to see what remains of their homes. Who have you been talking to?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Brooke, this crowd has grown by the hour here, people waiting to get on some of these civilian boats to get back into their homes.

It was just a little while ago that we spoke to this gentleman. Want to give him the space here, but he is one of the first-responders, civilians that has turned into a first-responder. He went back in to get some of his stuff from his place. Now he's using his boat, along with this friend here who I presume that he just met to go help rescue people.

We have been seeing that happen all day. If you want to walk with me, Steve. These people here are just going through the worst of it right now. This is the worst area of Houston that remains. The flooding is just as bad as it was a few days ago. There's no sign of the water going down.

I have heard from residents that say that the water's as high as four feet in some places. We're here by the Addicks Dam, and people have told me here a part of the problem is the Army Corps of Engineers has released water into this area, so some people are a little mad at those that are seemingly trying to help out.

You see some of these supplies that have been brought for those that have been affected. You have gasoline cans to presumably power some of the motors here that are being launched out, someone's air mattress here, food and supplies for those emerging from the water.

It's just heartbreaking to watch this all morning long, in the sense that, Brooke, here we are a week later and people are still living through what they have been living through when the hurricane first hit, if not worse. I was speaking to one gentleman who said there's parts where the water has even gone up.

There are still high-water rescues happening behind here. There are people that are still stranded in that community behind. And, yes, some people are afraid to leave, but that partly is because they're afraid for their own safety and they're afraid of the security of their own homes.

They're worried about looters, people going into their apartments while they're gone. We saw the Houston Police Department go in with a high-water vehicle earlier this morning. They brought out a group of people. Some of them had not touched dry land in over eight days, since even before the hurricane -- Brooke.

[15:25:01]

BALDWIN: Tell me, what's the guidance people are getting from Houston city officials? Because I have heard different versions of, do go home, don't go home. What's the directive?

VALENCIA: At this point, in this area right now, it's, everybody, get out right now. Get out while you can.

Even still, like I said, though, Brooke, there are people that are refusing to leave, that are on the second or third stories of their apartment complexes, and they're just going to wait it out. But from what we have seen, we went into that water yesterday, and it looks just as high as it was yesterday.

So it may be a long time coming before any of this water comes down -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Nick, thank you.

We are waiting, again, for that White House briefing to begin. We were briefed by the governor of Texas. Now we are watching Washington, waiting for Sarah Huckabee Sanders to stand behind that podium and brief the White House press pool. We will take it live.

Stand by. You're watching CNN.

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SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Wanted to make sure the governor of Texas was able to complete his briefing before we came out, and that you guys were able to pay attention to for that.

I will keep it quick up here at the top, so we can get to your questions.

The president and his homeland security team and the entire administration continue to focus on the lives and safety of those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. Yesterday, at the direction of the president, the vice president, Mrs. Pence, Labor Secretary Acosta, Transportation Secretary Chao, Energy Secretary Perry, VA Secretary Shulkin, and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Duke traveled to Texas to speak with people on the ground and assess the damage.

Earlier today, the president signed a proclamation declaring this Sunday a national day of prayer for those affected by the hurricane. And just this afternoon, the president heard from the heads of the Salvation Army, American Red Cross and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief on their efforts throughout the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

As Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, said, the American people are bound and determined to bounce back and these organizations, along with so many others, have been on the ground from the beginning helping the people of Texas and Louisiana do just that.

The president will be back in Texas tomorrow to visit with storm survivors and tell them personally that the federal government is here to help in any way that we can. The president is currently finalizing a supplemental request to support the needs of emergency responders at the federal, state, and local level.

And we will share more information on that later.

The president has had calls with several foreign leaders who expressed their support for the American people during this difficult time. Just today, he spoke with the presidents of South Korea, Kazakstan and Colombia. We will have readouts coming on each of those calls later today.

And I would also like to take this opportunity to follow up on a question I was asked yesterday and announce that the president will host the emir of Kuwait at the White House on September 7 and the president of Spain on September 26.

Finally, I would like to reiterate the message that Tom Bossert, the president's homeland security adviser, gave yesterday, in case there's anyone watching today that is in need of assistance. Once you have access to a functioning computer, please go to www.disasterassistance.gov. And if you have access to a working phone, please call 1-800-621-3362.

And with that, I will take your questions.

QUESTION: Sarah, you mentioned the supplemental.

Does the president feel that it would be helpful to tie the supplemental to the vote on raising the debt ceiling? And do you have any details on the amount of the supplemental (OFF-MIKE)

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Right now, those details are being finalized.

And we will have more information shortly, most likely by the end of today.

QUESTION: What about the issue, though, of tying the vote to the debt ceiling?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Again, those -- those details are being finalized as we speak, and we should have something for you by the end of today.

QUESTION: Sarah, so, what -- the president said that he would have a decision on DACA in the next couple of days.

Can you talk a little bit about --