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North Korea claims successful test of missile ready H-bomb; Japan's prime minister: North Korea test "totally unacceptable"; Defiant North Korea says it just tested a hydrogen bomb; Texans clean up debris left behind by storm, floods; McCain to Congress: we're not Trump's subordinates; Congress faces packed September agenda; First look at Obama's parting letter to Trump; President expected to announce DACA decision Tuesday; Planes dropping flame retardant on La Tuna fire. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 3, 2017 - 17:00   ET

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


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[17:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: ... it detonated an advanced hydrogen bomb that is missile ready. It is the country's sixth test of a nuclear weapon and the first since President Trump took office.

Defense Secretary James Mattis did not mince words during a statement he made outside the White House this afternoon. He warned any North Korean threat to the U.S. or its allies will be met with, quote, massive military response. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY, UNITED STATES: We had a small group, a national security meeting today with the president and the vice president about the latest provocation on the Korean Peninsula.

We have many military options and the president wanted to be briefed on each one of them. We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea, and Japan, from any attack, and our commitments among the allies are ironclad.

Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming.

Kim Jong-un should take heed, the United Nations Security Council's unified voice. All members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses and they remain unanimous in their commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Because we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country,

namely North Korea, that as I said, we have many options to do so. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: The U.N. Security Council plans to hold an emergency meeting tomorrow morning at 10:00 eastern to discuss North Korea's latest provocation.

CNN is covering every angle of this story. We have International correspondents around the globe. Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, Alexandra Field is in Tokyo, and Barbara Starr is at the pentagon with more on the possible U.S. military options. But Paula, I want to start with you. How is South Korea reacting?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, there's really a little more reaction than we usually see from a nuclear test. I mean South Korea has an amazing ability to just carry on as though nothing has happened.

But certainly this time around, the sixth nuclear test does have some concern, not necessary just because of what Kim Jong-un has done and what he might do, but because of what the U.S. President, Donald Trump, might do.

There is uncertainty on both sides at this point from the South Korean perspective. Now we heard a very strong response from President Moon Jae-in of South Korea saying that this was an absurd strategic mistake from North Korea that will further isolate the country. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUNG EUI-YONG, CHIEF, SOUTH KOREA'S NATIONAL SECURITY (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): With the continued 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 UNSC resolution to completely isolate North Korea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANCOCKS: Now note that the South Korean military is on higher alert status. We know that they have increased their surveillance of North Korea according to defense ministry.

And there was also two phone calls between the joint chief of staff chairman of the U.S. and South Korea. The South Korea statement saying that there needs to be a combined military measure as soon as possible and they are expected to be.

No word on what -- that could be, what kind of show of force. Certainly we've seen bombers flying over the peninsula, bombing drills in recent weeks, as early as just last week. But there has been some concern here in South Korea by what President

Trump has been tweeting, most notably a tweet earlier where he said that South Korea should not be carrying out appeasement as he said of North Korea, great concerns about that. Ana.

CABRERA: Stand by, Paula. Alexandra, how is Japan reacting, because we all remember it was just this past Tuesday that North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan. Now we have this nuclear test and of course the new warning from the Defense Secretary, Mattis.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, days ago people in northern part of Japan are waking up to sounds of sirens and they were receiving a message telling them to take shelter as North Korea sent that intermediate range ballistic missile over the northern part of Japan.

At the time, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it the most grave threat from North Korea that the country had seen and now he is saying that this latest threat.

This sixth nuclear test from North Korea takes the threat to the next level, so much so that Japan had to send their sniffer planes into the air today to monitor for signs of radioactive material. The prime minister is again calling on all parties to fully enforce the latest round of sanctions against North Korea.

[17:05:00] He is saying that international cooperation is the key here. In just the last week, Ana, Prime Minister Abe has spoken to President Trump at least five times, two times just today.

Once after the state news agency in North Korea showed images of Kim Jong-un with what they purported to be a miniaturized hydrogen bomb and again after that sixth nuclear test.

The prime minister here has been saying that he is in lock step with the U.S. president, President Donald Trump. He is saying that he is counting on all parties to come together to enforce sanctions, he says specifically.

He is also counting on Russia to do its part. The prime minister did also speak to President Putin of Russia and the two will have a meeting next week. Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Alexandra Field, thank you. Stand by, Barbara. I want to bring you in because we heard from the defense secretary, warning without mincing words of a massive military response to a threat should North Korea present a threat to the U.S. or its allies.

But on another note he made, he said that they weren't looking to annihilate any country, namely North Korea. What do you know about possible military options?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as Secretary Mattis said, there are always military options. The president has been briefed on them more than once, wanted to be briefed again today in light of this massive new North Korean underground nuclear test, possibly a hydrogen based device because it carries it all really to a new level of threat.

The secretary is saying that the U.S. did have the ability, if it wanted to, to engage in massive military response, but this is always the problem.

If you're going to attack North Korea, the conventional wisdom remains unchanged that North Korea will attack Seoul, will attack South Korea. Thousands if not tens of thousands could be killed.

So this has become one of the biggest problems in going to really convince Kim. You have to convince Kim Jong-un that he is threatened, that he cannot survive himself and his regime if they were to launch an attack. Not total annihilation of the country, not annihilation of the North Korean people, but to convince Kim that he can't survive.

CABRERA: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thank you. Thank you Paula Hancocks. I want to talk more about North Korea's most powerful nuclear test to date and the global response.

Joining me now, Asia expert in Yale, senior research scholar, Mira Rapp-Hooper and CNN military analyst, retired Army Colonel Steve Warren.

Colonel Warren, first to you, we heard Barbara Starr said that this -- this hydrogen bomb presents a new level of threat. What exactly is a hydrogen bomb?

RET. ARMY COL. STEVE WARREN, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it certainly does. It is more powerful, more sophisticated, and able to be more miniaturized, so it is a greater threat. But regardless if it is a hydrogen bomb or any other type, it is still a nuclear weapon. And that's the key point here, I think.

CABRERA: A nuclear weapons monitoring group, it is saying this bomb, again, the U.S. working to verify its authenticity but should it come to fruition that these reports are accurate, that this is a bomb that's more powerful. Eight times potentially more powerful than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. How worried should we be?

MIRA RAPP-HOOPER, RESEARCH SCHOLAR, YALE LAW SCHOOL: So those estimates are certainly what we are hearing right now. It's worth noting that there's quite a wide range in those estimates.

Because we interpolate the size of the bomb that may have been tested based on seismic data, sort of like the way when we think about an earthquake, and those estimates are ranging really widely now.

But what we do know is that indeed this is at the very least, many times more powerful than weapons that were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It could be a thermonuclear weapon that is an H-bomb or it could be something that's called boosted fission device, that means sort of a hybrid between traditional atomic weapon and a hydrogen bomb. But the upshot of this is clear. Which is that from a political perspective, North Korea have attained

the ability to deliver massive nuclear weapons capability against major cities around the world.

Now, I want to make clear that to the American people and to our allies in the region, this does not mean that our country is in imminent danger.

It does mean that there has been a major change in the political situation, when it comes to the way that the United States engages North Korea.

We have to treat North Korea like they have this significant capability and accept this new strategic reality as we craft a strategy to move forward.

CABRERA: Colonel, do you agree with that?

WARREN: Yes, there's no question about it. The North Koreans are a nuclear power, plain and simple. They also have ICBM capabilities.

We haven't verified, we haven't seen evidence that they can make the nuclear warhead and intercontinental ballistic missile, but if they can't do it today, they'll be able to do it in fairly short order.

[17:10:00] So what we have to do is as we approach this, we have to look at it just as, Mira said, this is a nation now that has a nuclear capability, so we have to deal with them on those terms.

CABRERA: Now, President Trump also sent out a tweet that raised a lot of eyebrows today, offering another option in dealing with North Korea, suggesting the U.S. could cut off trade, U.S. trade, with any country that does business with North Korea. Is that a direct message to China?

RAPP-HOOPER: Certainly President Trump may have thought he was making a direct message to china and indeed that probably was the intention there. However, the threat to cut off completely all trade with any country that does business with North Korea is pretty incredible.

CABRERA: But we know North Korea gets its lifeline economically from China, and yet also China's the biggest trading partner with the U.S.

RAPP-HOOPER: No question about it. So if the United States was to fully cut off all trade with China, that would result in a trade war and probably loss of between 3 percent and 4 percent of the United States GDP.

In all likelihood, what the president was actually trying to threaten was that the United States might impose more secondary sanctions, that is financial penalties against individuals or entities, meaning businesses and banks, that continue to support and finance the North Korean regime.

Now the secondary sanctions aren't a bad idea, they certainly have a role to play in any comprehensive strategy on North Korea going forward, but the notion that the United States would cut off all trade with China is just a complete nonstarter.

CABRERA: I wonder, Colonel, do you think Kim Jong-un is strategically trying to amp things up in order to drive a wedge between the U.S. and China?

WARREN: He absolutely is. He is trying to work the seams between the U.S. and China, and the U.S. and South Korea as well, so by conducting these tests -- so we can see that, you know, he picked, you know, a holiday weekend.

A time when the president and others are focused on our own disaster in Texas, so he picked this very strategically. We know he's had the capability to detonate this weapon for some time, and he's just been waiting for the opportunity to do it on his time line.

And so I think he picked this day very deliberately and I think he did it very specifically to achieve a strategic effect. And when we're talking sanctions, you hear a lot of talk about sanctions against the North Koreans, frankly because that's the most available lever that we have to pull.

But I think what's important to keep in mind as we talk sanctions is that the North Koreans have shown a tremendous ability to withstand pain. They take a lot of pain.

We saw in the '90s, they went through a famine that in literally, not figuratively, literally decimated their population, maybe as much as one in ten died of starvation in the '90s.

So the North Korean ability to withstand pain while they try to pursue their military goals is fairly well documented. So we have to just keep that in mind as we discuss ideas like sanctions.

CABRERA: Now there's such a delicate line because sanctions do impact with citizens who are innocent in all of this in North Korea. But it is the regime that is really pulling all the strings there. Thank you both for your insight and your expertise. Mira Rapp-Hooper and Colonel Steve Warren, we appreciate it.

Still ahead here in the Newsroom, daunting task southeast Texans are now facing, an enormous undertaking, clean up and rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey. We'll take you live to the flood zone.

Plus, dear Mr. President. CNN now has a copy of the letter President Obama wrote to President Trump on inauguration day. We will read it to you live here in the CNN Newsroom.

[17:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: The mess to clean up is overwhelming for tens of thousands of people in the Hurricane Harvey storm zone. President Trump has approved a number of FEMA funding measures to assist the recovery there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: And one of the measures he signed Friday, authorizes a 90 percent federal cost share of debris removal. So that's how to get rid of all the water, damaged furniture, appliances, carpets, that are all line in the streets now of neighborhoods like this one in Houston.

And Mayor Sylvester Turner has asked the president for $100 million to help with debris removal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Our Stephanie Elam is joining us from the Lakewood neighborhood where storm debris is clearly piling up there. Stephanie, set the scene for us.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's unbelievable, Ana, when you see what these families have been doing. Many of them were able to get back in Wednesday night after the storm.

And look at this, we're talking about everything, it see baby clothes out here, baby furniture, you see memories, and for many of these people, this home is all they have.

Every memory, everything that they care about is inside of these homes, and you look at where it is now on the side of the street here. There's still some water down here.

I just heard a conversation, they're trying to figure out how to wash clothes that may have survived the flooding here because they know with all of that murky, dirty water you have got to wash it a certain way.

Everything that you don't think about before a natural disaster like this they're now taking into account and trying to figure out what the next steps are, when FEMA is going to get out here to help these people figure out how to they can start getting some money back to rebuild.

But some of the places here, they've already ripped out the drywall. The water went up about three feet in some homes, this home here probably about my height, I am just over five feet tall, so you're talking about a lot of water.

At one point they said it was just rushing through, they were fighting current. They found a neighbor's boat and used it to get out with a four month old baby that the neighbors had with them.

This is the kind of story -- these are the kind of stories you're hearing from people here. And now they're just getting back here, now that they made it through all of that, now they're getting back here to try to figure out how they start putting their lives together and their homes.

CABRERA: Wow, those images and all of that stuff behind you, it just speaks to how resilient the people are there, Stephanie. Meantime, Eric Turner, I know is still ordering some evacuations, a mandatory evacuation for a rather small area in west Houston with the latest. [17:20:00] What can you tell us about it?

ELAM: Right, that area in west Houston that you're talking about, those evacuations is because of flooding but it's not because of the water coming in, just because of the hurricane, it is because of pressure on the dam that they've released some of that water into that neighborhood.

So they start under mandatory evacuations. The city is saying that they are sending people there, first responders to see if they can find if there's any elderly people there, folks with disabilities. They're checking on houses one by one.

But while this neighborhood here where I am, they are at the point of ripping everything out, people who live in those neighborhoods can't even get to their homes to see where they are and how much water is in those homes right now. We're looking at probably another week or so if not more, Ana.

CABRERA: Wow. Even with the water going away, so important as you point out not to forget those people in that state and how much need is there. Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.

Coming up, Congress returns to Washington this week with a very full plate including the debt ceiling, funding bill for Harvey relief, of course. So what is the time line on these very pressing issues? We'll discuss. You're live in the CNN Newsroom.

[17:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Congress gavels back into session this Tuesday after Labor Day, and after a month long recess, Senator John McCain who is currently fighting brain cancer will also be returning, and he's already painting a rather grim picture of the road ahead in a fiery new op-ed in the Washington Post.

Senator McCain slams the gridlock, the partisan divide and President Trump. He certainly writes Congress must govern with the president who has no experience in public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct.

We must respect his authority and constitutional responsibilities we must where we can cooperate with him, but we are not his subordinates.

We must be diligent in dis charging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power and we should value our identity as members of Congress more than our partisan affiliation.

With us to discuss those heated words, CNN Political Commentator and assistant Editor for The Washington Post, David Swerdlick and here with me in New York, CNN political analyst and New York Times Editor, Patrick Healy.

So Patrick, President Trump and Senator McCain haven't exactly been buddies, to say the least, but still they are members of the same party, and those sound like fighting words, no? PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, this is a

resentment relationship, Ana. I mean, last that we heard was President Trump going to Arizona for his rally, and kind of reminding everyone that Senator McCain hadn't been on his side for that health care vote earlier in the summer.

And that is someone -- and that is something that President Trump still remembers, still grates on him. He is still was talking about Congress getting serious with passing and repeal and replace of Obamacare.

And he still blames senator McCain for that, so I think that's just indicative though of this larger relationship problem that President Trump has.

Coming out of August recess, this is a president who has been alienating members of his own party, not building bridges to people like, you know, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and you're starting to see daylight more and more between the Republicans and the president just on DACA alone. You know, an issue that's going to come up next week...

CABRERA: With even the border wall, we saw Jeff Flake this morning...

HEALY: Absolutely.

CABRERA: ... saying if he is talking about a physical wall, that's not something anybody should support. That was pretty stark.

HEALY: Absolutely. I mean this is a -- this is a president who, you know, he ran on being kind of in a relationship business as a successful business man, so he knew how to work with people. But right now, he is still alienating members of his own party.

CABRERA: David, let me read you something else that Senator John McCain, said this weekend.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

CABRERA: That was during this forum in Italy where he said he thinks the majority of Americans really are pro-alliance, pro-trade, pro- globalization.

And he added quote, it may not look that way on Twitter. Our foreign friends always tend to focus on the person in the White House but America is far bigger than that. Is McCain telling foreign leaders to ignore the president?

SWERDLICK: I think it is sort of a combination of a shot across the bow and him seeing that his role is to stand up for what Republicans more traditionally have stood for.

If you take what he talked about today, those have been the Republican values of the last 20, 30, 40 years. If you talk about the op-ed in The Washington Post, from the other day, Senator McCain sees his role now. He has passed his presidential ambitions. He is not up for re- election this time and stepping into this elder states man role, and speaking on behalf of traditional Republicans, and not -- and saying as he said, not going against the president.

But not sort of just folding in behind this president when Republicans don't agree, calling for regular order. Calling for Congress to act as if it is what it is, a co-equal branch of government to the executive.

But I don't know that necessarily Senator McCain would characterize himself as telling other foreign leaders to ignore President Trump, so I wouldn't put those words in his mouth at this point. Ana.

CABRERA: It might be easy for somebody who is a supporter of the president to say, you know, McCain, he's always been a maverick and he and the president have never gotten along, and just kind of brush it off.

But it is not just McCain as an official or somebody with influence who is speaking out against the president. I want everybody to take a look at this. We have Republicans who are telling him not to end DACA.

We have Secretary Mattis who won't immediately implement his transgender ban in the military. The Senate won't pass health care at this point. Members of his own cabinet have slammed his response to Charlottesville.

North Korea doesn't seem scared. CEOs don't want to be on his councils, Republicans have refused to drop or delegitimize the Russia probes in Congress.

[17:30:00] So Patrick, do you think the president is actually losing influence?

HEALY: I think among the leadership in Congress, they want to go their own route. They're not looking necessarily -- they're not looking to the White House to be setting the agenda in terms of what they're going to do. You heard just this House speaker...

CABRERA: Is that -- is that unusual?

HEALY: Absolutely. This stage is -- look and President Obama had differences certainly with Harry Reid, with Nancy Pelosi when they were in majorities in the House.

But at least in the first year when the president usually has the most political capital, you know of a first term, there aren't these kind of divides.

And you have Paul Ryan, House Speaker, coming out sort of very comfortably late last week saying, you know, I don't think that -- I don't think we should end DACA, I don't think the president and the way the president is proposing this is the right way to go, Congress to fix it -- let's look to Congress to fix it. I mean right now, you have President Trump, you know, talking a lot about tax reform, that is something that Congress wants to do.

But as your list showed, I don't think a lot of Republicans are looking towards the White House to be saying, OK, we've got a successful political strategy for how to get the votes here. They haven't been able to do that for nine months now.

CABRERA: And meantime, they have a lot on their plate, David.

SWERDLICK: Right.

CABRERA: It will be incredibly busy for Congress just this month alone. Here's what needs to happen by end of September, raising the debt ceiling to avert default, passing budget to avoid government shutdown.

Passing health care bill if Republicans still want to use that simple 51 majority vote and of course there's the Harvey relief bill. What do you think is going to be the most difficult to accomplish of that list?

SWERDLICK: I would say health care just because Congress in both House and the Senate I think is weary of trying to pass the health care bill, that is losing traction, that doesn't have the full weight of the White House as bully pulpit behind it.

They really have got to focus in this week and in the coming weeks on Harvey relief, and also on addressing whatever the president announces tomorrow -- excuse me, Tuesday with DACA.

The president does not take the opportunity that he's got -- I don't want to treat the hurricane as a political event, it is a tragedy, people died, people lost everything, but in terms of politics, President Trump has been able to turn the page, start a new chapter with Hurricane Harvey relief.

If he comes back on Tuesday and announces by pressure from some of the state attorneys general that he's going to end DACA, he is going right back to the culture wars that we were having two or three weeks ago, and then Congress will have to come in and clean up the mess.

I just want to make one point about what, Patrick was saying, and I think he's right, is that if you look at poll numbers, and President Trump is in the high 30s now.

Those poll numbers allow members of his own party to say look, I'm going to stick with you where I agree but I'm not going to sticking with you where I don't agree because they see that the president still has strength within the Republican base.

But they also see that he's losing that strength bit by bit and it shouldn't be lost this quickly in his first year if he was executing on agenda that made sense to more people that were outside the White House.

CABRERA: David Swerdlick, Patrick Healy, gentlemen, thank you for the conversation.

SWERDLICK: Thank you.

CABRERA: Up next, a CNN exclusive. We have a first look at President Obama's inauguration day letter to President Trump. Hear his advice and thoughts on his time in the Oval Office. Don't miss it. You're live in the CNN Newsroom.

[17:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: We now know the contents of that handwritten letter former President Barack Obama left in the Oval Office for President Donald Trump on Inauguration Day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: And here are newly released photo on instagram of President Obama leaving that letter in the top drawer of the resolute desk on January 20th, that was taken by former chief official White House photographer Pete Souza.

And has Trump said to have cherished that letter but he never revealed the contents publicly. He has however shared it with visitors to the Oval Office. And CNN now has an exclusive copy of the letter from someone President Trump showed it to. Here is some of what it says.

Dear Mister 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 about any advice from me will be particularly helpful. Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past eight years.

And among those reflections President Obama writes, 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 forebears fought and bled for.

Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it's up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: CNN Presidential Historian and former director of the Nixon Presidential Library Tim Naftali is joining us now. Tim, you say this letter is very different than past president's letters to those successors.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think it is inconceivable that any previous, formers or soon to be formers, would think it necessary to write to their successor that they should respect the rule of law and the separation of power.

CABRERA: So that stood out to you.

NAFTALI: It stood out to me. I mean after all, President Obama was writing this letter and he remembered what president-elect or at that point candidate Trump have said about Judge Curiel, the judge who he yet attacked for the way he handling the Trump University case.

There's no doubt in my mind that President Obama was trying to say to incoming President Trump you know something, you may think you understand this office, but until you get to this office, you can't really understand it.

And let me tell you something, one of the things I've learned in eight years is that the post Cold War World that we've helped create is one we have to keep working on.

[17:40:00] We shouldn't dismantle. Now that's a complete attack on the ban idea of economic nationalism to incorporate in the idea of America first.

CABRERA: So you're telling me he was listening to the president's rhetoric as well on his campaign.

NAFTALI: And he was listening and he was saying, you know what, you're going to find that that international system that you've been attacking is more important to the United States and U.S. than you imagined and that U.S. leadership is more important.

And the other point is of course, he was saying to President Trump delicately, very, very softly, but in a way that no other president had ever written to a successor. Don't forget that you are the custodian of democratic institutions.

And it is your responsibility as it has been for all 44 presidents -- 43 because we count Grover Cleveland twice before he'll to leave the office at the presidency with those institutions at least as strong as they were when you came in.

This is a more -- this is more of a tutorial as a letter than ones we've seen before. Sort of the great -- the great, great letter to date beforehand was the letter that George Herbert Walker Bush wrote to Bill Clinton.

And you have to take yourself back in time. That was a bitterly fought election. George Herbert Walker Bush was crushed in losing.

And yet, he wrote and he love to write -- loves to write letters by hand, he said to Bill Clinton, first of all, he didn't write dear Mister President. Obama wrote dear Mister President.

CABRERA: Yes.

NAFTALI: He wrote Dear Bill.

CABRERA: Very casual.

NAFTALI: And he said at the end of the letter, he said I am rooting hard for you. It was a colloquial letter, it was a letter about from one person who's about to leave the office of presidency to another saying you know, it's going to be tough, but I want you to succeed because we all want you to succeed.

CABRERA: Like saying water under the bridge, our differences go.

NAFTALI: Very different time.

CABRERA: I want to ask you about one other part of the letter. This is how President Obama wrapped it up. He wrote, and finally take time in the rush of events and responsibilities for friends and family.

They'll get you through the inevitable rough patches and he adds that he and Michelle are there to help President Trump, and first lady Melania where they can.

And I don't think anybody would argue that again, they didn't see eye to eye on a lot of issues, but we know at least to date, based on what we understand, the president -- current president has not reached out to President Obama whereas it was commonplace for other presidents to do so.

NAFTALI: Well it depends on the president.

CABRERA: Does it matter?

NAFTALI: Well, there are only a few people in this country at this moment who understands what it is like to be president. Their experiences are invaluable.

And it makes no sense not to listen to them or at least seek -- seek their advice. But I think that President Trump basically sends a signal to President Obama when he tweeted about the wire tapping, the non-wire tapping of Trump Tower, that he didn't really want a relationship.

You don't tweet to the world to 34 plus million that somebody is a bad man if you want to engage him. So I think that for whatever reason, President Trump decided in March this year that he didn't need President Obama's help. And that's too bad and I hope he changes his mind.

CABRERA: Well, Tim Naftali, thank you so much for sharing with us your take on all this.

Coming up, a major decision from the White House is expected on Tuesday. Will the president scrap the dreamer program for the young, undocumented immigrants? You're live in the CNN Newsroom.

[17:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: In two days, the White House is promising a decision on whether to continue DACA, that's a program that offers protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

And candidate Trump then promised to immediately reverse that Obama era policy, but some members of his won party are urging him to break that promise. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake is among them. He spoke to our Dana Bash this morning. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Obviously you hope that presidents keep some of their campaign promises and you hope that they ignore others. This is one that he ought to ignore.

There are 800,000 DACA kids, kids who are brought across the border and the median age I think is six years old for those 800,000 when they came across the border. They should not be punished for the sins of their parents, that's just the basic principle that we ought to follow here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Joining us now is Raul Reyes, the immigration attorney and CNN Opinion Writer here right with me. Raul, Thank you so much for being with us.

RAUL REYES, CNN OPINION WRITER: My pleasure.

CABRERA: I know you agree with what we just heard...

REYES: Right.

CABRERA: ... from Senator Flake. You have also said that you believe President Trump is being bullied into making his decision.

REYES: Yes.

CABRERA: What do you mean by that?

REYES: Well, what people need to know about this deadline is that it is very artificial and arbitrary. What -- the situation we are in now, this stake sent the president -- what basically amounts to assist and desist letter, threatening to sue if he doesn't end DACA.

CABRERA: Talking about nine states attorneys general.

REYES: Nine states attorneys general, there is no lawsuit yet. And the president could do absolutely nothing, DACA would continue and the states would have to figure a legal strategy.

Go through the courts, try and get an injunction against a program that is already up and running, and has been successful for five years. That's a difficult task to go on. It's not the same as when, we have run the state sue President Obama on DAPA.

[17:50:00] CABRERA: Right.

REYES: Which was the deferred action for parents of the dreamers other even the Affordable Care Act back then at the time that were theoretical, it's different when you -- legally, it's different when you're talking about a program that's already in place. So the president could have done nothing. So I think in my view, as

someone who came to power in part because by selling his negotiation skills, the smartest thing for him to do would have been to just ignore it.

CABRERA: And he still could, right?

REYES: Well, the problem is it has been elevated. He has elevated it by focusing attention on this. And now, thanks to just the confluence of factors, he could be potentially ending DACA at a time when -- listen, Texas is the number two state for DACA recipients.

Houston I believe is the top five city for DACA grantees. And we have to remember also the agency that oversees DACA is DHS which also oversees FEMA. So they have their hands full. This is really the last thing that people of Texas needs and certainly this president.

CABRERA: Sure, very timing aside though.

REYES: Right.

CABRERA: And a lot of Republican critics of DACA have argued that it was the way this protection was implemented. This protection...

REYES: Right.

CABRERA: ... it was through executive action and they argued President Obama was outside his authority.

REYES: Right. That's the argument that they don't like the fact that he took executive action.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Couldn't Congress be the answer in coming up with a fix?

REYES: Absolutely, Congress is the answer for a fix but I think what a lot of people don't realize, it doesn't have to be a binary question of either we have DACA or Congress fixes it. We can have both.

DACA can stay in place until Congress finally does get around to fixing it. There is no need to up end the lives of thousands of young people who are contributing to society just to put some sense of urgency on Congress which may or may not act.

And speaking of executive actions, presidents have been taking executive actions and issuing executive orders at least as far back as Eisenhower.

Donald Trump himself issued an executive order on January 25th ending the Obama era deportation priorities. So that is a debatable point.

The real fact id that this -- now this is reality. If he ends DACA, each day, about 1400 people, young people will lose their status and will be at risk for deportation. And we know in the Trump administration, the arrest of non-criminals

are up 150 percent. So these young people will be at risk for removal from the only country many of them know.

CABRERA: I wanted to ask you about what that looks like legally because let's say he ends it on Tuesday, makes his announcement.

REYES: Right.

CABRERA: Throwing out the executive order. Even if Congress, we talked to number of Republicans who say they want to protect these dreamers.

REYES: Right.

CABRERA: They wanted to do something in Congress that there doesn't needs to be by partisan support for that but who knew if how long it will take to get that legislation through.

REYES: Exactly.

CABRERA: And so, what happens in that gap period? What would that look like?

REYES: Well, what that would look like would be quite inhumane because DACA is not a program with a fixed start date and an end date.

People apply for DACA then they get a two year to be in the program and so it's sort of a rolling period of beginnings and endings.

If he were to end it on Tuesday, effective the next day, some people whose DACA was up which has not able to renew it. So each day these people would be at risk for removal from the country.

And we're talking as I said, the none -- the arrest of non-criminals are up. So these are among the best and brightest in the country.

These are people who are there in medical school. They're serving as law enforcement. We saw this week, one of them a DACA grantee was a first responder in Houston helping rescue people.

Immediately they would be at risk for removal from this country, which I think no matter what your polls are, I think many people on the left and right agree that that would be inhumane.

But to talk about letting the president to end it and wait for Congress, that's not a solution, because every day matters. Every day 1400 people will face the potential risk of deportation.

CABRERA: Raul Reyes, thank you so much for coming on.

REYES: Thank you, my pleasure.

CABRERA: Nice to talk to you. Coming up, inching closer. Hurricane Irma already has the potential to be the next major weather threat for the U.S. We will show you the latest track live in the CNN Newsroom. Stay with us.

[17:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: California's governor has now delayed a state of emergency in Los Angeles County as crews try to get a handle on a massive fire there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: The La Tuna fire has destroyed three homes and burned 5800 acres, that makes it the largest fire in Los Angeles County -- Los Angeles the City rather history there.

And more than 1,000 fire fighters from around the state are now battling this fire and crews are also tackling it by air using flame to drop flame retardant on the hotspots.

Right now it's about 10 percent contained but the fire chief says he's optimistic they'll make big progress today since the weather conditions have improved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: To Texas now where the focus is on cleanup from Harvey's destruction. And now there's anxiety growing over another storm that is rapidly gaining strength in the Atlantic.

Irma is now a powerful category three hurricane. And meteorologist Tom Sater is joining us from the CNN Weather Center. You guys have been watching this one for a good week now. Tom, how are things looking?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, last Thursday, Ana, when we first introduced everybody to Irma, we mentioned that we needed four or five days. It's only been three.

But the computer models are getting in better agreement. That gives us some confidence but it's not looking good. Right now, a category three will soon be a four.

Hurricane watch as an effect for the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles, Barbados, Barbuda, that is Antigua, that is Saint Kitt's, maybe British virgin islands next.

But again, the national hurricane center track makes it a category four as we get into Monday and into Tuesday, keeps it at a category four towards the Bahamas. It's trending southward.

We don't want that because it could bypass Florida and get into the gulf. We don't want a landfall of any type. But these models are in fantastic agreement. We want them to have a handle on the environment.

But quickly for you, just to give you an indication, two different models that we're watching, pretty much in differences. Well it doesn't want to seem to come up, but let me just explain it. We're going to have the possibility of a Florida landfall or a

Carolinas landfall. We'll know more in the next couple of days, that would be on 9/11. We have one saving grace, Ana, and that it gets pulled up un just towards the coast and pulls that away. So again that...