Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

N. Korea Clams Successful Test of Missile Ready H-Bomb; Trump Threatens to Stop Trade with China after N. Korea Test; China, Russia Condemn N. Korea Test; 53 Dead, Nearly 36,000 Federal Rescues in Texas; Houston's Mayor: City is 95 percent Operational; Restaurant Owners Providing Comfort with Hot Meals; Aired 2-3p ET

Aired September 3, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining me this Sunday, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

President Trump is responding to North Korea's most powerful nuclear test to date, adding to today's escalating tensions with the rogue nation as he and the first lady leave church today. Here's that exchange just a couple hours ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, will you attack North Korea?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. The president not ruling out a military strike on North Korea and summoning his national security team to discuss the latest provocation.

The president even threatening to stop trade with any countries doing business with North Korea. That would include China, a near impossible task. Our correspondents are in place around the globe. Let's begin at the White House with Boris Sanchez. Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred.

As you said, the president now weighing all his options when it comes to responding to this latest provocation from North Korea. Their strongest nuclear test yet, and the news, the claim from North Korea that they've been able to miniaturize a nuclear warhead in order to be able to place it on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The president is now meeting with some of his top advisers and top military brass as well including the secretary of defense, James Mattis, his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster and several members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As you said, the president tweeted about one of the options on the table. Trade. Here's the tweet from the president just a few hours ago. He writes, "The United States is considering in addition to other options stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea."

Earlier today, treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin was on the Sunday morning talk shows saying that he was prepared to draft a sanctions package that would include that kind of language. Listen to more of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN MNUCHIN U.S. SECRETARY OF TREASURY: We're going to strongly consider everything at this point. And, again, I will draft a package for his strong consideration that would go as far as cutting off all trade or other business, and this behavior is unacceptable, and if countries want to do business with the United States, they obviously will be working with our allies and others to cut off North Korea economically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Now, one way to read this tweet, Fred, is a direct call to action to China. Experts, even within the White House, estimate that trade with North Korea amounts, 90 percent of it comes from China. So this is a way to essentially call China out. Perhaps threaten them in some veiled way. You recall back during the 2016 election the president was outspoken saying that he felt that China should do more to rein in Kim Jong-Un.

He later on expressed frustration that China wasn't doing more. And earlier today before this tweet in a separate one he said that China was embarrassed by North Korea carrying out this nuclear test.

We have yet to hear a direct response from the president other than these tweets. We will, of course, bring it to you when he does respond, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much. Boris Sanchez at the White House. Appreciate it.

So just hours before announcing that it did successfully test a hydrogen bomb, North Korea released these images of leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting what it says is an H-bomb and one small enough to fit on a missile.

That is particularly ominous across the border in South Korea. Our Paula Hancocks joins us now from Seoul.

So, Paula, what is the mood on the streets there?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, it's a little more concerned than it has been in the past. This is the fourth nuclear test under Kim Jong-Un and I've covered every single one of them from Seoul. This is the first time that I've had South Korean friends asked me what they think is going -- what I think is going to happen.

The main thing that they have at this point is what the U.S. president, Donald Trump is likely to do. So they're certainly more concentered than usual, but it is definitely business as usual, at the same time as well.

Now, the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in has called this an absurd strategic mistake by North Korea. That it's just going to increase its isolation. Let's listen to what his security adviser had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRANSLATOR: North Korea today ignored the repeated warnings from us and the international society and conducted a stronger nuclear test than before.

With the continue provocation of ICBM level missile launch, President Moon has ordered the most powerful response to condemn North Korea.

Along with the international society and decided to seek diplomatic measures such as pushing ahead for U.N. and see resolution to completely isolate North Korea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANCOCKS: Now, I know that the alert --

(0:05:00.4)

HANCOCKS: -- status of the South Korean military has been raised. It's not quite at the highest level, but it has been raised. The defense ministry also saying that the surveillance on North Korea has been raised.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman of both the U.S. and South Korea, General Joseph Dunford, spoke a couple of times on the telephone on Sunday.

We understand from this side that there was a decision that there should be some kind of combined military measure as soon as possible.

So potentially, we could see some kind of show of force from the U.S. and South Korea. We only saw that last week. We saw B-1B bombers flying across the peninsula alongside South Korean fighter jets. Clearly, it didn't make much difference to North Korea.

Kim Jong-Un is very able to ignore this kind of international condemnation, but there is some concern in South Korea as well about the Trump tweets.

The president talking about South Korea saying South Korea, his findings, I've told them, that talk of appeasement with North Korea won't work. There is concern about that mention of appeasement. The blue has come out with statements saying that they are in agreement with the U.S., that there should be strong sanctions and that pressuring sanctions should actually push them towards talks with North Korea.

One of the quotes saying Korea is a country that has experienced war. We can't let this experience be repeated again on this land. Moon Jae-in insisting there cannot be a second Korean war. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Paula Hancocks, thank you so much from Seoul.

All right. North Korea's nuclear test also drawing condemnation from two key allies China and Russia. In a joint meeting a short time ago, President Putin and Xi called for joint cooperation to diffuse the crisis. And the missile test is sure to come up in the larger economic meeting that they are attending.

Joining me right now is CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

So Christiane, North Korea's missile launch is also seen as an act of defiance to China, a longtime ally and trading partner with North Korea.

So, is China losing influence?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is obviously the key point of leverage. This is what the rest of the world, the United States included, is hoping that will actually have some force in the future to deterring North Korea. Hasn't worked so far. But there's a lot going on. You just saw the picture of President Xi and Putin and, yes, they condemn it, of course they do.

But in the past, they have intended to take Pyongyang's line saying if Pyongyang is to stop and desist and cease this provocation, then in return, or at the same time, the United States must stop its joint military exercises with South Korea, and its exercises and presence on the Korean peninsula. That's non-starter for the United States.

So now, the U.S. has to try to persuade China in order for China to exercise the only leverage really that's out there, is to persuade China that it is not looking for regime change in North Korea. It is not looking to remove China's buffer between it and U.S. forces.

In other words, on the rest of the Korean peninsula and just persuade China that it has to do everything possible to stop this course of action by North Korea. Because the U.S., many analysts are saying, he needs to put more money, more effort, more military personnel and equipment and sort of energy into a deterrence there on the Korean peninsula and to now, get into some kind of containment mode, because, you know, North Korea shown that it is not going to denuclearize and that it keeps modernizing and improving its nuclear capability, and now that it may have a miniature hydrogen bomb warhead to get onto an ICBM which could target the United States is the game-changing aspect of what happened today.

WHITFIELD: So this morning, the president of the United States was asked if the U.S. would attack North Korea, and this was his response, some see as rather ominous. Saying, "We'll see."

What does that mean and how might that be interpreted on the world stage?

AMANPOUR: Well, the president showed ambiguity there, of course. Now, in the past over the last month of this escalating tension, he has been more bullish, if you like, towards Pyongyang, talking about fire and fury. Talking about locked and loaded, and then you had this sort of counter-message from his defense secretary, General James Mattis and they say, well, actually, there is still room for negotiation.

But the fact of the matter is that now North Korea has shown that it is not going to abide by any of the negotiators' demands and that is to denuclearize. North Korea says, no. Why should we?

(0:10:00.8)

I've spoken to the people who really mostly plugged into North Korea. Americans who've had dealings very recently with North Korean officials, and they say they are not going to give up their nuclear deterrent. They are really paranoid that the United States wants to destroy the regime and people will say that the U.S. has to give a commitment, which James Mattis, Rex Tillerson did in their latest op- ed in the "Wall Street Journal" that they're not interested in regime change, but this is something that really has to be communicated, because North Korea wants to be also taken seriously as a nuclear power.

It wants to improve its economy and it's got to be shown that any action with this nuclear threat now is going to be very, very painful, indeed, if it continues down this path.

But everybody's concerned that there might be a miscalculation, a blunder. The regime isn't suicidal. But you just never know what might happen with mixed messages and unclear pathway forward, if you like.

WHITFIELD: All right. Christiane Amanpour. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

All right. Let me bring in Barbara Starr now at the Pentagon. We're hearing that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is calling its counterparts around the world including South Korea's foreign minister, Barbara, and the national security team is meeting with President Trump as well.

So, how much do we know about any possible U.S. involved military options that are seriously being discussed?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we can assume that they're being discussed. The president is well aware of the military options he has at hand, but not even a whisper yet from the White House, the Pentagon or the state department about what the next steps may be.

We did see treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin talk about sanctions, but what else could there be on the table? We've seen these military shows of force. U.S. bomber aircraft flying over the Korean peninsula. Ships moving into the region. Other aircraft exercises all of that. That's the usual menu that the U.S. military has been enacting at the request of the president. No indication at this point that he is, in fact, going to take any next steps, because as we've all talked about for so long now, any military attack options, if you will, none of those options are good. The general thinking that that could spark a very significant war on the Korean peninsula. Thousands of South Koreans could die very quickly, in a North Korean counterattack.

But, look, make no mistake. This latest test, very much a game changer as Christiane said. So there is going to be a look, one can assume very realistically once again what the entire menu of options may be.

And one thing that they're going to try and do obviously, a small but significant point. The U.S. has classified spy planes that fly after these nuclear tests. They try and collect air samples that gives them intelligence data on what was exactly involved in this test.

Those planes usually fly a couple days after a test so any plume, any cloud has time to get into the atmosphere. But right now, what we're being told is the prevailing winds are to the north, out of North Korea. That may take a plume over China and Russia, making it a little more difficult for the U.S spy planes. The U.S. intelligence community, to figure out exactly what happened here.

WHITFIELD: All right. It's gotten complicated and it sounds like even more so particularly with that element.

All right. Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

So coming up, 36,000 and counting now. Back in the states back in the state have been rescued by federal responders from the devastating flood brought on by Hurricane Harvey.

We'll take you live to Texas where the latest, where death toll now stands at 53.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: August 2017, catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey hits Houston and the coast of Texas and Louisiana. Distraction is massive. Families lost everything. The final impact, not yet known. But you can help. Go to cnn.com/impact for information and to find links to charitable organizations and resources. Your donations can make a difference. Stay with CNN for continuing coverage of Hurricane Harvey's aftermath and impact your world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(0:15:00.5)

WHIFIELD: All right. Today, marks a national day of prayer for people who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

The death toll has climbed to 53. Federal responders have rescued nearly 36,000 people and more than 2,500 pets.

Houston was one of the hardest hit cities in Texas, and despite the flooding and devastation, Houston mayor, Sylvester Turner says the city is 95 percent operation and most companies will be open for business on Tuesday.

However, evacuations for West Houston will stay in effect for at least 10 days.

Our reporters are on the ground. CNN Stephanie Elam is in Houston and CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez is in Beaumont.

Stephanie, to your first. What are you seeing?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, we are in a neighborhood that flooded here. They were told that it shouldn't be that bad.

(0:20:00.3)

ELAM: They thought that if they put their cars up and lifted them up off the ground a little bit, that would be enough.

It turns out that they got about three feet of water in their house, and this is during nighttime when this had happened. You can see the aftermath of it here. Folks on the street coming out and they are just pulling everything out and getting it out on the curb.

They did say that they're starting to see some of this cleanup begin. But as you can see, it's all up and down the street. There's more that is out here on the street.

And at this point, we go inside some of these houses, they've already started ripping out the walls, ripping out all of the old furniture, bringing that out, and that old drywall and they've got fans in there blowing.

Their concern now though is when they will be able to meet with FEMA to find out what kind of help they're going to get to help them to rebuild after all of this.

At this point, the houses are uninhabitable in this neighborhood, so everyone on the street really working to try to get things out and help their neighbors out figure out what the next steps are.

But they knew the one thing that they needed to do is start getting their homes to dry and the fact that they will probably rebuild here even though this was such a devastating turn of events.

Just imagine, Fred, in the middle of the night trying to get your family out when you see that the water is coming in to your home? That's exactly what they were dealing with here and then going to higher ground -- to a school and then eventually making it to the convention center before getting back here Wednesday to begin the process of cleaning up.

WHITFIELD: Right. Yesterday, you were at one of the hurricane relief centers. A place where people have sought refuge. They had been leaving.

Are they mostly going to stay with relatives? Because as you just said, their homes are uninhabitable.

ELAM: Yes. Some of the people we've talked to yesterday they found out their homes are fine.

At that shelter, I can tell you that the shelter numbers are starting to go back up as they're consolidating from the different areas around Houston. Other facilities are shutting down. And so they're bringing people to that bigger facility to help them out.

In this instance, this one family that we spoke to, they have about nine homes through their different families, from the wife's side and the husband's side in the same neighborhood. So normally, those family members that would be coming to help you in the situation, they're all dealing with the same thing.

But even still, as this one family is trying to work to clear out their house, they're also about to go over and help out one of their parents' homes right now just to do what they can because they realize they have to help each other out.

But just imagine, your entire family basically up ended by Harvey.

WHITFIELD: My goodness. All right. Thank you so much, Stephanie.

Let's head south now to Beaumont. That's where we find Miguel Marquez. So, Miguel, still water there. There's people are being able to enjoy some bottled water now. There is still big problems there.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Huge problems. The area not only Beaumont itself but the area around it, just still inundated.

This is Downtown Beaumont, this is the Neches River and this is good. I want to show you -- well, this is -- look, this is an industrial sight and you can get a sense of just how powerful that current was coming down the Neches at its height.

You can just see the amount of debris scattered across here. Much of this was here before, but it certainly been rearranged by the power of Harvey and all the water that came down.

This is the high mark. We were here just a couple of days ago, actually. Right here is the high mark where the Neches got to. So you can see how much it's actually come down already.

But this is Sunday. This is a day people are going to church here. There are a number of different water distributions. This is a community that is coming together, even local restaurants that have been shut down by this, they came together to figure out how to serve thousands of meals and deliver them to people in need.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: When people get a hot meal that is well made, what is the reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, joy. I mean, just fuel. I mean, it's just need. It's a sign of relief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I saw what was happening, I even tried to evacuate. I tried to get out. It was like God plucked me up and said go back to your community and start organizing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Now, the huge question here, too, really, when will I-10 open? It looks like it may be opening soon but it's not open yet going eastbound.

You can get to Houston from here. Number two is, when will the water start to flow? The answer, when this goes down even more.

At the moment, it doesn't look like it's going to go down enough for about a week, until they can get in there and fix those pumps and get full service restored to the city. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: My goodness. It is bad. All right. Thank you so much, Miguel Marquez, and Stephanie Elam. We'll check back with you.

All right. Coming up, a CNN exclusive from one president to another.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I just went to the oval office and found this beautiful letter from President Obama.

(0:25:00.9)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And now we know what that letter said. Find out, next.

Plus, President Trump's assertion that his predecessor wiretapped Trump Tower is officially debunked. But justice department confirms there is zero evidence behind that claim. Details, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

Well, it was an iconic moment during President Obama's final days in office, and now a never before seen point of view, photo, of the outgoing commander in chief --

(0:30:00.4)

WHITFIELD: -- slipping a handwritten letter for Donald Trump into the oval office desk.

For the first time, CNN has an exclusive look at the contents of that very special letter as well, and I'm going read it in full now and it's a nice comprehensive little read here.

"Dear Mr. President, congratulations on a remarkable run. Millions have placed their hopes in you and all of us regardless of party should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure. This is a unique office without a clear blueprint for success, so I don't know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful.

Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past eight years. First, we've both been blessed in different ways with great, good fortune. Not everyone is so lucky. It's up to us to do everything we can to build more ladders of success for every child and family that's willing to work hard.

Second, American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It's up to us through action and example to sustain the international order that's expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War and upon which our own wealth and safety depend.

Third, we are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties that our forbearers fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily applicants, it's up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.

And finally, take time in the rush of events and responsibilities for friends and family.

They'll get you through the inevitable rough patches. Michelle and I wish you and Melania the very best as you embark on this great adventure and know that we stand ready to help in any ways which we can.

Good luck and Godspeed, BO, Barack Obama.

All right. With me now to discuss this letter that we're all now reading and seeing for the very first time, CNN presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley, and also with us, David Siders, who is a senior political reporter for "Politico." Good to see both of you, Gentlemen.

All right. So, let me begin with Doug and get your thoughts on the content, the spirit of this letter, for now everyone to see.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, it reminds us of what a class act Barack Obama is. It's a very simple but eloquently written, something to leave behind and hopefully for President Trump to reflect on.

Other presidents have done these similar notes. It's worth saying that Bush 41 wrote a similar note to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush wrote one when he left office. So, it's kind of become an American tradition.

What I thought was interesting, though, it was in ways a civics lesson that President Obama is giving Donald Trump, but it's sheer graciousness and it's nice to see that baton could be passed from 44 to 45 and with having a letter like that is sort of a seal of a connection between the two administrations. WHITFIELD: So, then David, you know, this letter does say a lot about the character of the writer, and potentially about the recipient, how it is received. So, does it make it even harder to understand why President Trump says and does so much to undercut his predecessor?

DAVID SIDERS, SENIOR REPORTER, "POLITICO": Well, it is striking that the letter came -- you're right. President Trump spent how many years with a false narrative of the birtherism and campaign got so nasty, yet I think what's really striking about it to your point is that the letter I think frames it's both the fear that a lot of Democrats in particular had when the president was elected.

These fears about the institutions, kind of the bedrock issues of democracy that Barack Obama touched on. But then also I think maybe the hope at least at the time, and we were, what, eight months ago that this president could, or maybe could have a pivot or a change.

And Barack Obama -- we saw him shaking hands with the president when he came in and I think the letter was a reflection of this idea at least then that Democrats thought this president might be able to pivot and become something that now they certainly don't feel that he's become.

WHITFIELD: And so, Doug, the letter serves as both a reminder of the gravity of the job and encouragement for the need to inspire. I mean, in those three points, the president, Obama, talks about securing the futures of children and families willing to work hard.

Upholding traditions including the separation of powers and civil liberties. Paraphrasing now, and we stand, Michelle and I stand ready to help you and Melania. Does it seem that President Trump appreciates any of these three points made?

BRINKLEY: No. I think he's coming, Donald Trump came to drain the swamp. He doesn't really care about institutions in the way that President Obama is talking about. You see him giving a black eye to whether it's the EPA or the Justice Department, or the FBI is constantly warring with institutions.

I think what happened is that there was this window of hope that this letter represents that Obama and Trump had a little bit of a friendship. They might be able to consult with each another once in a while.

But then General Flynn incident blew up and Donald Trump started getting paranoid, putting out a tweet then that "Can you believe Barack Obama had bugged Trump Tower?" That is false.

The Department of Justice has said it's false. Whatever little warmth was there between Trump and Obama is was very short-lived and subsequently, President Obama has come out and criticized President Trump for pulling out of the climate Paris accords and trying to repeal and replace Obamacare. So, I would say there is no love lost between these two figures at this state.

WHITFIELD: And now the timing of the release of this letter, the ability for all of us to now read it and when the Justice Department just revealed that it found zero evidence that former President Obama ever wiretapped Trump Tower as President Trump had been claiming to your point, David.

[14:35:00] And in this filing released just last night, the DOJ writing this, quote, "Both FBI and NSD confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets."

So those President Trump tweets back in March included these accusations, "Terrible. Just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism."

And then tweeting, "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon Watergate, bad or sick guy." So, David, will this be embarrassing to President Trump?

SIDERS: Well, I think it's certainly a defeat for him inside of Washington I think this matters more. You had an intelligence community that was deeply offended by these claims that saw the president as trying to make intelligence a partisan apparatus, which it's not.

And I think this will be a vindication for them and a problem with the president inside of Washington. I would side -- I'm not sure it's so great. I don't know it doesn't get muddled up with all of the Washington election investigation issues that I think voters expressed in recent months that they're frankly confused by and tired of.

WHITFIELD: And so Douglas, will this haunt President Trump's presidency now that the contents of that letter are public?

BRINKLEY: You know, I think that -- look. Barack Obama always takes a very high -- raises the bar higher than anybody could imagine. Donald Trump wrote a tweet about wiretapping. What's the most popular Obama tweet recently?

When he quoted Nelson Mandela after Charlottesville. Again, just beautiful language, appealing to our higher angels of our nature, Donald Trump goes the low road all the time. He's always kind of the political fight of some sort.

So, I don't think we could even have two people more different than Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Their styles, their way of viewing the world are so diametrically different.

WHITFIELD: All right. I think most Americans would hope even as different as presidents could be, you know, current presidents, predecessors, would always have that commonality, you know? Given they have shared that same responsibility and that somehow in perpetuity they might still be friends, regardless of personal politics. We'll see.

All right. Douglas Brinkley, David Siders, thank you so much. We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:42:07]

WHITFIELD: A new salvo in the diplomatic war of words between the U.S. and Russia. Russia is protesting its eviction from three of its compounds, in San Francisco, Washington, and New York this weekend.

The Kremlin releasing a statement this morning saying in part, quote, "We treat these developments as a blatantly hostile act, a grave violation by Washington of international law. We urge the U.S. authorities to come to their senses and to immediately return the Russian diplomatic facilities."

I want to bring in Steve Hall. He is a CNN national security analyst and a former CIA chief of Russia operations. Good to see you, Steve. So, is this firm diplomacy or a threat?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, from the Russians, it's a little bit of both, but it's the reaction that actually should be expected and is good, because it shows we've sort of gotten through to them.

It's laughable in the sense that, you know, whenever the Russians talk about violations of international law, of course, they are probably right up there in terms of folks who do that on a regular basis. You only need to look as far as Crimea to see gross violations there.

But, you know, this shows that the strong tactics that this administration has decided to take at least in this particular context are working. It's gotten the Russians' attention and they're irate about it, and sometimes that's the only way you know you're actually getting through. So, it's actually not a bad thing.

WHITFIELD: So, last month Congress in fact approved new sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the U.S. elections and among other things, you know, which also sparking the latest diplomatic fight. So, did that crush any hope for a restart between U.S. and Russia and relations?

HALL: Well, it certainly looks right now like any type of restart, reset or any of, you know, activity that which, the goal of which to get Russia and the United States closer, it doesn't look hopeful, doesn't look good for that right now.

But, again, that's not necessarily a bad thing. You can't allow yourself essentially to be manipulated and walked all over by a foreign power that's an adversary. Let's remember, the reason that all of this started was because the Russians chose to attack the U.S. electoral system last year and then a chain of events started.

So, yes, it doesn't look good for closer ties between Russia and the United States right now, but again that's not necessarily a bad thing. Russia needs this relationship with the United States much more than the United States needs the relationship to be great with Russia.

WHITFIELD: And perhaps this serves as a reminder to Russia about that. All right. Steve Hall, thanks so much.

All right. We have got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. But first here's this week's "Turning Point" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Doc Todd is a hip-hop artist and a veteran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a Navy corpsman, which is essentially a combat medic. So, I was deployed in 2009 to Southern Afghanistan. My roommate killed on the first day.

[14:45:06] I was ultimately medevacked for bilateral (inaudible) pneumonia which just simply means I had pneumonia in both lungs. I told my friends all the time, I'd rather have gotten shot because that's like more heroic.

I've struggled with depression. I've struggled with anxiety. I thought school was a really important part of my transition. Started building a career in wealth management.

GUPTA: But after a client of his died, Todd had a change of heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went to Philadelphia for the funeral and we buried so many friends to, whether it be suicide or substance abuse, I really had enough.

GUPTA: He quit his job to pursue his true passion, music.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Growing up free-style rapping is something that I did.

GUPTA: Now he hopes that his album "Combat Medicine" will help veterans heal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not alone. The song was designed to attack veteran suicide and let people know that there's other people out there that have been through same things that you've been through and have overcome that.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:50:41]

WHITFIELD: It has been just over a week since Hurricane Harvey slammed the Texas gulf coast. At least 53 people have died and more than 72,000 people had been rescued overall. The White House is asking Congress for more than $7.5 billion in initial disaster relief. This morning Texas Governor Greg Abbott talked about the need for that aid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: This is making it clear, this is just a down payment. Let's not compare it to Sandy. Let's compare it to Katrina. Listen, the population size and the geographic size is far larger than Katrina and I think Sandy combined.

We have over 5 million people who are affected by this. It's not just Houston. It's the hurricane swath all the way from Corpus Christi over to Beaumont. So, it's going to require even more than what was funded for Katrina, which was about $120 billion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: I want to bring in Kenneth Feinberg, an attorney who was the special master for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, and also worked with victims of the BP oil spill. So, Ken, good to see you, and do you agree with the governor's assessment?

KENNETH FEINBERG, SPECIAL MASTER, SEPTEMBER 11TH VICTIM COMPENSATION FUND OF 2001: Well, I think this is a government problem. The government must come to the rescue. These programs, like BP, or Katrina, those were privately funded programs with private donations from BP or from citizens all over the United States.

What the governor is talking about is massive government relief, through FEMA or other sources, to help with the reconstruction of whole communities down there. Very, very different from what we did in 9/11, or what we did in some of these other tragedies.

WHITFIELD: So, largely, you believe it will have to be federal assistance to the tune of billions of dollars to help this entire swath of, a good portion of South Texas to rebuild and recover?

FEINBERG: That's right. Now, there were two other interesting aspects about this. There's been a great deal of privately donated money, in the millions of dollars. It is very --

WHITFIELD: You have to wonder how will that be distributed or assist in the rebuilding? We know a lot of money on the front end has been dedicated to providing food, temporary shelter, water, et cetera. But is it your hope that a lot of that private funding which is already in the millions, by various, you know -- from various directions that it will also help in the recovery?

FEINBERG: I think so. You can't replicate government programs. That money that was donated privately, they've got to sit down and decide what exactly do they want to do with that money?

For example, that money may help those who lost loved ones. Those who were physically injured. Some of that money may go to help alleviate financial burden of the families who survived.

There's also another question -- after Katrina, there were very innovative insurance programs set up to quickly resolve insurance disputes between insurance companies and insureds who owned property, automobiles. I suspect the state of Texas will promote this notion, let's try and resolve these insurance claims quickly without resorting to the courts and lawyers and litigation. We'll see.

WHITFIELD: Except, what, 80 percent of the people hit don't even have flood insurance. So, they may not be able to file those claims with insurance companies, however, many are trying to file with FEMA and in order to decide compensation, FEMA requires documentation for proof of loss in some cases.

Saying, quote, "The proof of loss must be signed and sworn to by the insured with attached documentation to support the amount requested." So, help us understand, because when you talk to people who have lost everything and now hear they've got to provide documentation. What is really meant by that?

FEINBERG: Well, you see, that's the issue of how much the bureaucracywill require to accelerate payments. One thing we learned in the Katrina program that I designed, and administered, was that efficiency and speed trump everything.

[14:55:08] You have to make certain presumptions about documentation. You've got to get the money out quickly. Every day that you delay providing this type of financial assistance really hurts these folks whose live in this area.

And I think how the state and the insurance departments and others promote this notion of accelerated acceptance of claims, even if it's not flooded it might be wind. It might be rain, automobile damage.

These are insured issues that ought to be accelerated, along with taking this privately donated money and using it not to replicate government money, but to fill gaps, for example, compensating the families of the dead. Those who were physically injured, et cetera.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Taking in and managing that money, I mean, millions of dollars from professional athletes, from entertainers, and even private organizations and various drives across the country. That's going to be really pivotal and important. Kenneth Feinberg, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate your perspective.

FEINBERG: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We've got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)