Return to Transcripts main page


Brutal Capitol Hill To-Do List Threatens Tax Reform; Trump's EPA Identifies 12 Toxic Waste Sites Affected by Harvey; Salt Lake City Police Apologize for Arresting Nurse. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 4, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:33:31] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Lawmakers are wrapping up six weeks away from washington. That is much longer than the vacation I just wrapped up. I just want to be clear. Yes, vacation guilt. And what they're heading back to is no easier than what they left behind. The laundry list includes avoiding a government shutdown, raising the debt ceiling, getting started on tax reform, none of which are easy. Now add to that emergency aid for Hurricane Harvey victims, and potentially some kind of action on Dreamers as we were just discussing. So welcome back, boys and girls, not get to work.

And welcome back boys and girls on the panel.

Alice, to you, with everything on their plate, and as we were already discussing, their affinity for not coming together on a bipartisan basis these days, what do they do first?

ALIC STEWART, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Clearly, the top priority would be funding relief for Hurricane Harvey victims. That is the top of everyone's mind. And as we're speaking, people are still cleaning up the mess and going through the debris. I think that is first and foremost. Based on all indications, it sounds as though they're going to tie that in with raising the debt ceiling, which is important. Look, we got a $20 trillion debt limit that needs to be increased by the end of the month. It's important so we don't default on loans that we tie in the Harvey relief on that. The administration is asking for $8 billion. That is just a down payment. We'll need more money down the road. I think from a priority standpoint, that should be first and foremost. And then the administration is pretty clear they want to tackle tax reform, at least get that ball rolling. Simplifying the tax code, reducing the corporate tax rate and eliminating loopholes on wealthy. And then certainly, if all goes as expected with DACA, they need to -- Congress really needs to roll up their sleeves and figure out what to do with Dreamers. And I think it's important we do it with heart and the correct way. I think we give those people the peace of mind that right now they simply don't have.

[11:35:27] BOLDUAN: Right.

But with everything on their plate, Bill, as we were just -- as we have been discussing, this is, recall, everyone, this is the Republican-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate who could not come together on agreement on how to repeal and replace Obamacare, even though they all agree in replacing Obamacare. Has a month changed this?

BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. I agree with Alice. I think the first priority has to be raising the debt ceiling and linking emergency relief funding for Hurricane Harvey to that. But that's easier said than done, too. That's going to happen in the Senate. It's not going to be so easy in the House, where you still have people who are against raising the debt ceiling, period. And some who are against any emergency relief funding, as we saw for Hurricane Sandy. And then, there's also, Donald Trump wants the wall. And to what extent is the wall going to be tide into that? If it is, this whole thing could fall about.

Beyond that, Kate, I have to tell you, there is no tax reform bill. I don't see any way -

BOLDUAN: I agree with you.

PRESS: -- there's no bill, that they could get anything done on tax reform. Nothing done on, remember, infrastructure, nothing done on that. In addition to nothing done on health care already. This is going to be a do-nothing year --


BOLDUAN: Infrastructure, health care, that is so two weeks ago. We're done with that.

PRESS: I know. Yes.

BOLDUAN: And we're on to the next one.

But in a strange and very sad way, Steve, could Hurricane Harvey be the one thing that breaks through and gets Congress to come together and get things done on two major priorities, the debt ceiling for one, and also hearing folks say because of Hurricane Harvey, we cannot allow the government to shut down.

STEVE HOGAN, TAX CREDIT ADVISORY BOARD: You have read my mind, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I don't know if that's good or bad.

That's good. That's exactly why I say that. I would hope that they're going to -- the American spirit in these political leaders is going to rise above the political spirit. I believe Hurricane Harvey, as we talked about, moved the heart and soul of every American, including our congressmen. So as a priority, if they start off by quickly bringing aid to the Hurricane Harvey victims, I think they're going to realize and, hope to god, that let's get together and let's pull it through for all of the other topics.

BOLDUAN: So with all this laundry list, adding DACA to the list, adding Dreamers to the list, does it make it easier or harder to get something done? PAUL (ph) HAYES, CNN OPINION WRITER: On DACA? It makes it enormously

harder. I mean -- and I say this as someone that believes in DACA. When we have the laundry list of items for Congress to do, all of a sudden, saying what are we going to do about a group of people who are noncitizens? Trying to prioritize that over a Texas, which suffered this catastrophic storm, that's going to be an extremely heavy legislative lift. And the problem is this president has very little political capital with these group of lawmakers, including some within his own party.

And I believe, you know, Hurricane Harvey relief effort will go smoothly at first. But we don't even know how much money they will need. And it's going to -- that's when it will start getting messy when Texas needs more money and we may see some push back from states.

And in all of this, I did want to mention we've seen this devastation, this DACA decision certainly enflames tensions that we did not need right now. One of the victims of Hurricane Harvey, one of the last missing responders, was a DACA recipient who died while he was a volunteer rescuing other people. He died. He was a DACA grantee.

BOLDUAN: Also, I saw there were 126,000 DACA recipients in Texas and Louisiana.


BOLDUAN: So there are a lot of those affected and being affected even more.

Bill Press, I love you, but you get it next time.

PRESS: All right. I'll save it.

BOLDUAN: You save it. It's a good one.

PRESS: By the way, I enjoyed being here. Thank you. CNN, thank you. I really had a good time here.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for coming together.

Great to see you. Thank you so much.


[11:39:07] BOLDUAN: Coming up, the toxic threat lingering in Harvey's wake. How President Trump's EPA is responding to toxic waste sites hit by the hurricane. What they're up against and what they're facing. That's up next.


BOLDUAN: Now more than a week later, some victims of Hurricane Harvey are just now returning to see what is left of their homes in Houston and many other places. Thousands more are still in shelters, still unable to reach their homes because of floodwaters that haven't yet receded. It will take years and billions of dollars for Texas to recover from this historic storm, historic damage that it brought with it.

During his visit to Texas over the weekend, President Trump promised fast action on getting aid to Texas. To start, he is asking Congress to approve an initial aid package of nearly $8 billion.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott says that's just a fraction of what his state will really need.


GREG ABBOTT, (R), TEXAS GOVERNOR: We have over five million people who are affected by this. It's not just the people in Houston. It's the hurricane swamp from Corpus Christi over to Beaumont. And so it's going to require even more than what was funded for Katrina, which was about $120 billion.


BOLDUAN: Just astounding.

Compounding the already massive recovery effort that is just now getting under way, concerns over environmental hazards, the number of toxic waste sites that have been affected by the hurricane. The EPA says at least 13 sites were flooded or damaged from the storm.

Joining me now is a former EPA administrator under George W. Bush, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.

Governor, great to see you. Thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: When you see the images, it is so startling. And they're dealing with so many problems on so many fronts.

[11:45:10] TODD WHITMAN: Sure.

BOLDUAN: Just two of them, with regard to the water, is some places do not have running water. Other places are dealing with the potential toxic water. You see all of this, and what are you most concerned about?

TODD WHITMAN: You also have to add mold, what the water has done to the houses. Once you get that black mold in, that is extremely dangerous to human health. You talk about the flooding and the super fund sites, it depends on what stage the sites were in, in the recovery. If they were capped and cemented, then they're probably OK. But the other sites, you got to be worried about what is going into the water system. And there are some water systems that have been compromised. You have sanitary sewer overflows. You have some really nasty stuff that is in that water. Now, is it making its way into the drinking water or not? That's what the state and the city has got to be on top of. In fact, all the cities, because they are the primary responders. The federal government has a role to play, and EPA has a role to play in this. BOLDUAN: If you're back at your old post at EPA, what do you focus on


TODD WHITMAN: First of all, if I were at my old post, I would have a regional administrator. They don't have one. They don't have the staffing that they need in the agency to be able to respond in the way they normally would. They have career staff. You have emergency response personnel. They know their jobs. They will have been out there.

BOLDUAN: Is it hampering their work?

TODD WHITMAN: Yes, it is hampering their work. You need somebody to be there encouraging them, telling them where to go, placing them where they need to be placed. They know their jobs. But they need someone who is setting out that policy for them, without a question. But they will do a certain amount. They do know what to do. And they will be testing the air. They'll be testing the water where they can. And they will be sharing that, hopefully, in real time with the responsible officials.

BOLDUAN: Do you -- you have been critical of the president and of the administration, of his proposed cuts to the EPA, among other things.

TODD WHITMAN: Among other things.

BOLDUAN: Yes, among other things. But with regard to this, are you saying that there is something or anything that the Trump administration has already done that made this disaster worse?

TODD WHITMAN: Well, I think it's what they've not done. It's by not appointing people to fill those jobs in the regions. Those are the ones that are closest to what is going on in that region. They're the ones that know the players. They're the ones that deal with them and have the most direct contact. Very hard to organize that kind of a thing through -- from washington remotely, without having somebody there who is really in charge on the ground. And that's what your regional administrators do. And to my understanding, I don't know that they've even nominated people for the positions yet.

@: Which really points out --


TODD WHITMAN: And there are 10 of them. There are 10 regions around the country.

BOLDUAN: Yes. There is no immediate quick fix that you are putting forth because --

TODD WHITMAN: This will be a long-time problem anyway.

BOLDUAN: Governor, always great to see you.

TODD WHITMAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it. Laying out the huge task ahead for all of them.

Coming up for us, a Utah nurse put in handcuffs after refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient. She is now speaking out to CNN. Why she says stood her ground in the face of an aggressive officer who would not take no for an answer.


ALEX WUBBELS, NURSE: Please, sir! You're hurting me.


WUBBELS: No. I have no reason to walk. Stop, you're hurting me! Please!



[11:52:48] BOLDUAN: Handcuffed, dragged out of work, and now an apology. The Salt Lake City police chief has apologized now for the arrest of a nurse who refused to let officers take a blood sample from an unconscious crash victim. The nurse says she was just doing her job.

In July -- this is how this all happened. In July, a crash victim was admitted to the University of Utah Hospital's Burn Unit, not a suspect, but police asked for his blood to be drawn. And this is what happened when the nurse says she could not, because it was against hospital policy.




WUBBELS: Ah! Stop! Stop!



BOLDUAN: So that's what happened. As I said, Salt Lake City police say they've apologized, but that not be enough for how this will end up.

Joining me now, CNN correspondent, Jason Carroll. He's following the latest.

A lot of people talking about this.


BOLDUAN: Of course, what really brought it to light is quite startling. Where does this go? Where does this go? She's speaking out.

CARROLL: A number of things. Here's what people need to understand when watching that particular video and what they need to take into account. The nurse, Alex Wubbels, who was arrested, was following hospital policy when it comes to drawing blood from unconscious patients. She was also following the policy agreed upon by police more than a year ago. And, her attorney says she was also following the law. Now, what you don't see in that video right there is, before the screaming took place --


CARROLL: -- she was calmly trying to explain to the officer in question, Salt Lake police detective, Jeff Hain, what the hospital policy was. Payne was not having any of it and he placed her under arrest. University police and university security watched as she was handcuffed -- you can see there -- put in the police cruiser.

Earlier today, on "New Day," she described what that experience felt like.


WUBBELS: I was obviously very frightened. And I think, since this has happened, I've been able to sort of surmise I feel betrayed, betrayed by the police officers. I feel betrayed by my university police and security.

He was aggressive from the beginning. As a nurse, it's my job to assess a situation, to assess a patient. And my assessment skills led me to believe that Officer Payne was already agitated.


[11:55:08] CARROLL: Well, there were protests over the weekend calling for the officer to be fired. Wubbels received an apology from the Salt Lake City Police Department and the mayor.

According to the police report, Payne made the arrest after he called a supervisor, who advised him to arrest Wubbels if she refused to let him draw that blood sample.

The department has opened an internal affairs investigation. Payne and another employee are on full administrative leave pending the outcome of that investigation.

I know your question is going to be. Your question is going to be, lawsuit. Look, she is --


BOLDUAN: Reading my mind.

CARROLL: She is considering, obviously, a lawsuit. She feels as though security didn't do enough. She feels as though the university didn't do enough to protect her. And she's waiting for the outcome of that investigation.

BOLDUAN: We'll watch this video. Make your own judgment.

Great to see you, Jason.

CARROLL: You bet.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for joining me.

Coming up, Harvey relief border security, the debt ceiling, and much more, the brutal to-do list on Capitol Hill and what it could mean for the easiest one of all -- and that's no sarcasm -- tax reform. That's coming up.


[12:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

An emergency meeting at the United Nations and tough talk from the Trump White House after North Korea escalates an already dangerous showdown with a massive nuclear test.