Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Maryland Senator Ben Cardin; North Korea Crisis; Hurricane Irma A Category 4, Florida Declares Emergency; New Threats and Warnings after North Korean Nuke Test; Trump Expected to End DACA Program. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 4, 2017 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:03]

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: So, what military options are still on the table?

Deportation fight. President Trump is expected to end President Obama's program that protects nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Will Congress act to let them stay, or will they face deportation?

And hurricane danger. With Texas still reeling, Hurricane Irma could be the next powerful storm to target the U.S. Florida's governor has already declared an emergency. Is the U.S. ready to deal with another disaster if it makes a direct hit?

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off tonight. I'm Jim Acosta. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ACOSTA: Breaking news: Hurricane Irma is now a dangerous Category 4 and warnings are up for a string of Caribbean islands.

While it is still too soon to gauge the storm's potential impact on the U.S., Florida's governor has just declared a state of emergency.

North Korea's largest ever nuclear test is sparking global outrage and a new war of words. South Korea's boosting its missile defenses and is answering with a live-fire exercise simulating an attack on a nuclear site, saying the display was meant to show a willingness to wipe out the North Korean regime.

At an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting today, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Kim Jong-un is begging for war. Saying enough is enough, she called for the strongest sanctions possible against Pyongyang. That follows blunt talk from the White House where President Trump said, "We will see," when asked if he's planning to strike at North Korea.

Defense Secretary James Mattis warned of a massive military response to any threat against the U.S. and its territories, including Guam. But North Korea issued new threats today, saying, if provoked, it would eradicate the U.S. with no trace left on earth.

We are covering all of that and more this hour with our guests, including Senator Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

Let's go straight to our breaking news.

With residents of Southeast Texas still reeling from Harvey, another powerful storm may pose a serious threat to the United States. You may not have heard about it yet. It is Hurricane Irma. And it is now a dangerous Category 4. Florida's governor has already declared a state of emergency.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

[18:06:28]

ACOSTA: Let's turn now to the growing tensions over North Korea.

Let's go live to the White House.

CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray is there.

What is the latest on this, Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the president spoke earlier with the South Korean president about the act of aggression in North Korea.

And on the call, the two world leaders agreed that South Korea should be able to possess more powerful weaponry to respond to threats like this. Now, this comes at a time when the White House is still saying that all options are on the table when it comes to North Korea.

And President Trump is pointing his finger at other countries, insisting they step up and do more to curb those provocations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): President Trump's bombastic threats.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

MURRAY: Appear to be ringing hollow with Pyongyang, as North Korea tested what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb over the weekend. While Trump recently complimented North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for his restraint.

TRUMP: Kim Jong-un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us. I respect that fact very much.

MURRAY: Now the administration is making clear its patience is running thin as this dangerous foreign policy crisis escalates.

QUESTION: Mr. President, will you attack North Korea?

TRUMP: We will see.

MURRAY: On Sunday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters military options were actively under consideration.

JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response.

MURRAY: As Trump revved up threats of economic pressure, tweeting, "The United States is considering in addition to other options stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea."

And at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council today, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley fired off this warning.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: War is never something the United States wants. We don't want it now. But our country's patience is not unlimited. We will defend our allies and our territory.

MURRAY: This weekend, Trump acknowledged North Korea's latest move was a major nuclear test and then promptly lashed out at other nations for failing to do more to curb the rogue regime's aggression. The president calling North Korea a great threat and embarrassment to China.

But on the heels of a nuclear test that shook the ground in South Korea, Trump saved his sharpest ire for a key U.S. ally in this predicament, tweeting: "South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work. They only understand one thing."

As tensions rise with North Korea, Trump is preparing to make a controversial move on U.S. soil. Sources tell CNN he is expected to announce Tuesday that he will end the Obama era Deferred Actions For Childhood Arrivals program, the program that allows young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to avoid deportation.

Trump plans to delay the decision for six months to give Congress time to come up with a fix, a move welcomed by some Republicans, but panned by Democrats and the head of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, who pointed to Trump's repeated vows to protect the so-called dreamers.

TRUMP: We love the dreamers. We love everybody.

JAVIER PALOMAREZ, PRESIDENT, HISPANIC CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: If he gets rid of DACA, he's showing that he is a liar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:10:01] MURRAY: Now, President Obama has been relatively quiet post-

presidency, but Trump's announcement tomorrow could be the kind of thing that would inspire him to speak up.

He said in his last press conference as president that if there was any effort to roll back DACA, he feels like that was the kind of moment he should speak out to -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Absolutely right. Sara Murray, thank you very much.

There is also tough talk from the Trump administration, which says all options are on the table against North Korea.

Let's turn to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, all of this tough talk, it sure is easier said than done. But here we go again.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Easier said than done, but, interestingly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis is making clear if it comes to it, it will not be a pinprick that the U.S. administers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): This live-fire exercise by South Korean forces a direct military response to the North's largest nuclear test, army and air forces simulating an attack on North Korea's nuclear test site.

Even as North Korean state media issued new threats to the U.S., including Guam, one editorial saying, "Every time the U.S. goes crazy talking about sanctions and war, our will of vengeance will become hundred and thousand times stronger."

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley very much in the hard-line mode back at Kim.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: His abusive use of missiles and his nuclear threats show that he is begging for war. War is never something the United States wants. We don't want it now.

STARR: Rising tensions pushing Defense Secretary James Mattis to exactly where he never wants to be: center stage at the White House.

JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: 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.

STARR: But are there credible military options without thousands of casualties?

MICHAEL HAYDEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: What I think Secretary Mattis was doing was simply trying to convince the North that we have this option and they cannot be certain we would never use it under certain circumstances. STARR: It may be the most critical decision ever for Donald Trump.

STEVE WARREN, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: How much of a price we are willing to pay, how much we are willing to bleed to accomplish our objectives, this is a decision not for military members. This is a decision for elected political leaders to make. And they always have to weigh the cost vs. the benefit.

STARR: Short of U.S. attack, the Pentagon could send an aircraft carrier offshore. The Ronald Reagan is nearby. More bombers could be sent. South Korea and Japan both upping their missile defenses in cooperation with the U.S., but there is no indication Kim Jong-un is listening.

JANG KYOUNG-SOO, SOUTH KOREAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): We predict that North Korea could fire an intercontinental ballistic missile to show that they have obtained the means of delivering a nuclear bomb to the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, the Pentagon could send additional aircraft and ships to the region. No decisions have been announced yet to that end, but for exercises and drills, the key question is, would any of that really change Kim Jong-un's mind about his weapons program, and the betting is that he would not -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Critical question to ask.

Barbara Starr, thank you very much.

CNN's Will Ripley returned last week from his latest trip to North Korea. And he joins us live now from Tokyo.

Will, what about this critical question, can the North's attitude, behavior, ever change?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they're trying to do, we're really seeing it very clearly, is to demonstrate to the United States that they defiantly are developing these weapons.

And the series of things that they have done are strategic, I believe, to try to make the case that they have the capability to launch an ICBM with a nuclear warhead to hit the United States.

They launched an intermediate-range missile last week over Japan, frightening people who lived in this country. Then they put out editorials calling on the United States to change its longstanding position of refusing to recognize North Korea as a nuclear power.

Then, over the weekend, they released these images of Kim Jong-un standing in front of what they claim is a miniaturized nuclear warhead, a hydrogen bomb that could go on an ICBM. A few hours later, they test the hydrogen bomb, creating a massive underground explosion, the biggest North Korea nuclear test to date. Now there are indications, according to South Korean lawmakers, that

North Korea is preparing to launch potentially another ICBM or another type of ballistic missile possibly towards the Pacific, perhaps even in the direction of the U.S. territory of Guam.

So, from the launch to the editorial to the photos to now this potential missile launch after the nuclear test, North Korea saying very clearly that they will not back down and they want the United States to acknowledge them, to give them respect, to give them legitimacy, something that the U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, made very clear today she's not willing to do.

[18:15:11]

So, frankly, I don't really see an end to this. And we don't know when this next launch is coming, Jim. It could be a matter of hours, a matter of days.

ACOSTA: All right, that's very disturbing. Will Ripley, thank you very much.

Let's get more on all of this with the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland.

Senator Cardin, thanks for joining us.

How much of a advancement is this for North Korea, what we saw over the weekend with this test?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Jim, first, it's good to be with you.

North Korea is very dangerous, what they're doing. There's no question about it. They're trying to refine their capacity not only to develop a nuclear weapon, but to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon against the U.S. and against the West. It's a very dangerous situation.

But what we need is to change the calculation. And to change the calculation, the United States needs to be a more aggressive leader with our regional partners in this, including China and hopefully also Russia.

That's the only way I think we can get North Korea to really take a change in attitude towards their current program. So, what we need is really a surge in diplomacy. We have not seen that from the Trump administration.

ACOSTA: Yes, how does that surge of diplomacy happen? It doesn't seem to be what the president wants to do at this point. In fact, he was today talking about trade actions with China. He's accusing South Korea of appeasement. It sounds like he's isolating himself on this with more bluster and more tough talk.

CARDIN: I think everyone recognizes that a military option will have significant consequences. It could be catastrophic in loss of life. It really is -- it has to be a last resort. The way to change North Korea's calculation is to get China much more engaged in its actions with North Korea.

That requires diplomacy, not threats, but diplomacy. And that's what we haven't seen from the administration. We haven't seen really a game plan that could lead to a diplomatic end to this crisis.

ACOSTA: Because couldn't China just call the president's bluff when he talks about taking action against China on trade as a sort of leverage with North Korea? Couldn't China, President Xi just fold his hands and say, well, go ahead, I'm pretty comfortable, I'm pretty confident that you're not going to do what you're saying you're going to do, that the Chinese know that the U.S. can't afford a trade war with China to try to prevent an actual war with North Korea?

CARDIN: You're exactly right.

A trade war has a two-edged sword. It not only could hurt China. It could very much hurt the United States and our economy. There's no question about that. But the bottom line is at this moment, we want to end this confrontation with North Korea. We want to at least put a freeze on their program and hopefully go on a path that ends their development of nuclear weapons that could hit our country or our allies of our country.

That requires North Korea to have confidence that China will not tolerate North Korea's development, which North Korea, I think, recognizes China doesn't want a nuclear North Korea, but China hasn't acted on that. That's where the United States, I think, is losing a partner that could really help us change the equation in North Korea.

Instead, we see inconsistent messages coming out of the Trump administration. One day, they like President Xi of China. The next day, they want to impose additional sanctions. We haven't seen a consistent strategy as it relates to North Korea.

ACOSTA: And when you heard the president over the weekend when he was asked, well, are we going to war with North Korea, and he said, we will see, what did you think about that?

CARDIN: Well, I think the president's language certainly has escalated the problems. We know North Korea is dangerous. We know that. We know they have been developing weapons for a long time. We know that they're continuing along that path. That's all given.

But what the president has done is isolate the United States from having the type of cooperation from China and Russia that I think is absolutely essential to change the equation in North Korea. So, the president's language here saying, well, we will see about dropping bombs, what our military options are, I don't think helps us in trying to find a non-military solution.

ACOSTA: And should the U.S. try to start negotiations with the Kim Jong-un regime? You heard the president say a couple weeks ago in Phoenix, well, we feel like they're respecting us now. Obviously, this test over the weekend, I guess, runs counter to that

somewhat. But should we start to engage in these diplomatic talks with North Korea, do you think?

CARDIN: Our objective is to get North Korea to change its course, to first freeze its current development, so they do no more tests, and secondly to pull back on their development of nuclear weapons and the capacity of delivering those nuclear weapons.

[18:20:15]

The way to do that is to engage China and to have China work with the United States, so that North Korea is isolated. Yes, we need to communicate and work to change the equation there, and that will require some discussions with North Korea, but we're not in that position where we could make that productive unless we have China willing to really engage North Korea.

That's where I think the president's policies have not been clear. And, instead, we hear the rhetoric about dropping weapons or using military, which I believe isolates ourselves not only from North Korea, but also from China.

ACOSTA: OK, Senator, we want to take a quick break.

As you know, there is another big story developing in Washington, and that's President Trump's expected decision to end the DACA program for the dreamers. We will talk about that on the other side of this break. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:25:48]

ACOSTA: Nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants could soon lose the government program that protects them from deportation. Sources say President Trump is expected to end the Obama era program known as DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

We're back with Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

And, Senator Cardin, I want to get to this issue. We think the president is going to come out tomorrow, he's going to get rid of DACA. There might be a six-month delay on this. Obviously, it is going to cause great anxiety in the undocumented community, and in the Hispanic community, of course.

But I guess the question is if he's going to make it a six-month delay so Congress can pass something, are you confident at all that this is going to get through the Congress?

CARDIN: We don't know what Congress will do.

But if the president go forward with saying the DACA program will end, it's not only tragic for the 800,000 that are protected today under DACA, that their future now will be very unclear. It also hurts our economy and it hurts what this nation stands for, our values.

Our values should be to protect people such as these dreamers who have spent basically almost their entire lives here, that are really part of our country. It is a tragic moment if the president in fact goes forward with that.

ACOSTA: And do you think your Republican colleagues are on the same page as you are when it comes to this?

CARDIN: I think there is a strong bipartisan interest to protect the dreamers.

The problem is how Congress will take up immigration legislation. The Senate took up immigration legislation a few years ago. And, in fact, we passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that dealt with the dreamers.

But at this time, when we have issues such as whether we're going to build a wall on our southern border, how we're going to deal with so many other aspects of the immigration system, including enforcement, it's difficult to see how we could get a bill through the Congress to the president that he would sign.

And it puts at great risk the dreamers, those who are protected under the DACA program. So, I would just urge the president, don't do this. It's not in our country's interest. It's against our country's interest. It's going to cause great anxiety among hundreds of thousands of people in this country. It could very well hurt our economy and it will certainly hurt America's reputation.

ACOSTA: OK, Senator Ben Cardin, thank you very much. We will be watching that decision tomorrow, as I know you will as well.

Thank you very much, Senator, for being on THE SITUATION ROOM tonight. We appreciate it.

CARDIN: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Just ahead: now a Category 4 hurricane. Irma could be the next powerful storm to target the U.S. Florida's governor has already declared a state of emergency. We will get the latest forecast next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ACOSTA: We're tracking new threats and warnings following North Korea's biggest ever nuclear test. The White House says all options are on the table. Of course, the question is what does that mean?

[18:33:19] Let's bring in our specialists. John Kirby, let's go to you first. South Korean intelligence, they are predicting that North Korea could fire an ICBM to show that they're capable of sending a nuclear weapon to the United States. What happens, potentially, do you think? What would the response be for the U.S.?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: Well, they've already -- they've already fired an ICBM that apparently has that range. So we know they've got the range. And we know they're certainly working on the nuclear bomb side of it.

What we don't know for sure is whether they can miniaturize it and get it effectively onto a missile. And we don't know if that missile can survive reentry. So there's still work that I think they are trying to do here.

But in the event that this would happen, it's important for people to know that there is a multiple-layered missile defense capability in the Pacific region and here in the continental United States.

ACOSTA: Will it work?

KIRBY: Ground-based, and sea-based, and it has worked and has been proven. Now, is it perfect every time? No, but we continue to perfect it and improve it. We've got THAAD there on the peninsula. There's sea-based. There's Aegis missile destroyers that have capabilities. And of course, you have interceptors in Greely, Alaska.

So listening to Admiral Harris, the Pacific commander, and Secretary Mattis, they say they're comfortable with the layered missile defense capabilities that we have, which really, the question, Jim, is what happens after that? OK, so you're knocking -- you intercept it, you knock it down. What -- how's the North going to react? And what does that lead to? And nobody wants it to lead to a broader conflict on the peninsula.

ACOSTA: Right. And Ron Brownstein, we've heard a lot of tough talk from the president of North Korea. I guess the question is does this really just end the way these confrontations always end with North Korea, which is the ransom is paid, and we continue with the same situation on and on and on?

Or have things changed so much with this latest test over the weekend, the testing of the ICBM that John mentioned, that it just takes it to another level where we can't afford do that anymore?

[18:35:06] RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, well, the short answer, obviously, is that we don't know.

I think it is important for North Korea to understand that there is always a military option on the shelf. The problem is there has been a reason that each of the three previous presidents who grappled with this issue from both parties ultimately decided they could not pursue that option.

Seoul is a city of 10 million people. There are nearly, what, 40,000 U.S. troops, as John Kirby knows better than I, in South Korea. And they are all within reach not of North Korean nuclear weapons but of conventional weapons.

So, I think administrations of both parties that have examined this, you know, and struggled with this over the last 20 years have all concluded that the collateral damage, the cost of any kind of preemptive military strike was too high.

Now, maybe North Korea is changing that equation, but I think most experts still believe that, if you're talking about preventive war and you have the certainty of these kinds of consequence, that any president is going to hesitate before making that move.

ACOSTA: And Kaitlan Collins, the president was tweeting yesterday that the U.S. is considering other options in terms of what to do about North Korea, including going after this issue of trade with China as a way of using some kind of leverage on the North Koreans. Obviously, they're a big trading partner with China. How real is that talk? Is that just sort of a mirroring of the president, you know, saber rattling on North Korea with his tough talk on trade with China?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he said he was considering cutting off trade from anyone who does business with North Korea. Obviously, that specifically meant China. But it would spell economic disaster here in the United States. Everyone knows that China has the world's second largest economy. They're our biggest trading partner.

But they're not our only allies who do business with North Korea. Germany, Brazil, and Mexico, and all of them do, as well. So it's not likely that he would just cut off trade entirely with China. They could choose to target certain companies in China, but that's really up.

But what we're seeing here is the president lose patience with the international response to North Korea.

ACOSTA: And part of that patience that he's losing is with South Korea. We saw the president seeming to criticize South Korea yesterday in a tweet, David Swerdlick, essentially saying that they've been engaging in appeasement with North Korea, saying that will not work.

How -- how productive is that? How helpful is that, to be talking about the South Koreans in that way?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, so, as Ron said, we have 30 or 40,000 U.S. troops in South Korea. Seoul, South Korea's capital, is about 30 or 40 miles from the demilitarized zone. President Moon Jae-in served in the South Korean military. The idea that he, a staunch ally of the United States, would need a reminder from President Trump about the stakes here, I think is unproductive, especially in such a public way, Jim.

ACOSTA: And Kaitlan, tomorrow we do expect the president to make a very big decision on DACA. And we do expect him to terminate that program, perhaps with ta six-month delay to give Congress some time to fix it.

What do you think the potential is here for this White House moving forward? Can they -- can they convince Congress to do something that they haven't been able to convince Congress to do so far, which is pass a very big must-pass piece of legislation? It hasn't really worked out on health care and other big issues.

COLLINS: Yes, it will definitely be a challenge for them. As you said, they have not gotten Congress to do anything, even though they often tell Congress how to do their jobs. So it's not likely that this would be any easier for them.

But this is a really big issue. What are they going to do next for this, and what if Congress doesn't pass this legislative fix for these people? Because the president has said he wants them to have -- he wants to have heart for them. He wants them to rest easy and that he loves these DREAMers.

ACOSTA: He's basically telling Congress, "Now you have heart. I tried to have heart on this. Now it's your turn."

COLLINS: That's right, because he doesn't want it to fall on his shoulders that he made this decision, because he wants it both ways. He wants to be able to say that he followed through on his campaign promise, but he also doesn't want to deport these people who were brought here as children. So he's really backed into a corner here.

ACOSTA: And Ron, they don't really have -- not everybody has heart up on Capitol Hill. We've learned that over the years, I guess.

BROWNSTEIN: Look, the history here is instructive, and maybe predictive of how this is going to unfold. You know, sometimes critics say why did President Obama protect the DREAMers through executive action? Well, he only did that after legislative action failed with a Republican-led Senate filibuster.

The legislation to permanently legalize the DREAMers actually did pass the House in December of 2010 and then it got 55 votes in the Senate, but 36 of the 39 Senate Republicans and five Democrats joined in a filibuster that stopped it. Those voting against the bill included Paul Ryan in the House and Lindsey Graham and John McCain in the Senate.

And what the -- what the opponents argued, either, like Jeff Sessions, they argued this was an amnesty bill and they opposed it. Or if they supported some action for the DREAMers, they said it had to be coupled with steps on enforcement that were unacceptable to Democrats.

And you could, Jim, easily imagine that happening again, with Republicans demanding either funding for the wall or other steps that Democrats would not accept and this miring in the Senate (ph), even though every public poll -- and I'm aware of four of them -- have found that two-thirds of the public overall and a slight majority of Republicans say they do support permanent legal status for the DREAMers.

[18:40:10] ACOSTA: Sounds like more heartburn than heart in store for Capitol Hill, David. I mean, with this busy legislative calendar coming up, I mean, now they're going to add DACA to a very long list of things that have to get passed.

SWERDLICK: Yes, it's going to be a challenge for Congress. They already have moved incredibly slowly. They haven't been able to execute on the major pieces of legislation like health care that President Trump wants. Now they've got this one month to get done what they already had to do, which was to increase the debt ceiling, add that to the Houston flood relief, add that to now DACA, and this is going to stretch a Congress that's not used to really working in an efficient, expeditious way.

ACOSTA: And John Kirby, I want to play some sound from President Trump in a 2012 interview he did with CNBC talking about the DREAMers. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP (via phone): As an example, you have people in this country for 20 years. They've done a great job. They've done wonderfully. They've gone to school, they've gotten good marks, they're productive. Now we're supposed to send them out of the country? I don't believe in that, Michelle, and you understand that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: John, what kind of message are we going to send to the world when President Trump, I guess decides to go against then 2012 Donald Trump, who was professing that we should show a lot of love and compassion and sympathy for these -- these DREAMers? I mean, the world is -- the world is really watching this decision for the president. The way that they've watched what he did with Charlottesville and so many of these other racially sensitive issues.

KIRBY: Speaking as a former military man, I mean this gets right to the heart of who we are supposed to be as a country. And we are a nation of immigrants, and the military itself is a military of immigrants.

Just so you know, there's about 8 to 10,000 DREAMers that are -- that have enlisted through a special program in the military, and now the military is reviewing that right now, that program. So, I don't know how the chiefs will react to this.

ACOSTA: How do you deport somebody who's in the military?

KIRBY: Exactly. So this -- this is a problem. So you've got people that are now serving. And when they enlist, Jim, they enlist because they have special skills. Either foreign language skills that nobody else has or special medical skills. So these are talented individuals that are really contributing to national security, and they're serving honorably right now. What do you do with them?

And do you break faith with the contract that you signed with them? And I think that does not just send a powerful message to the world, but to our own troops and their families about what it means to serve in uniform.

ACOSTA: And Ron Brownstein, what John was just talking about there, you have kids, or young people, in the military who could face the risk of deportation? I mean, have they really thought about all these ramifications on both ends of Constitution Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue? BROWNSTEIN: Well, look. Look at the direction the president has been

going on immigration. I mean, threatening to shut down the government over the wall; the original executive order on Muslim majority nations; the pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. I mean, there has been a very consistent pattern here.

And as I said, it's easy to imagine how this might unfold on Capitol Hill, where you have a combination of Republicans, some Republicans who will oppose any version of this, as Jeff Sessions did in 2010, as amnesty; and others who might be willing to accept a solution for the DREAMers but only if coupled to provisions on enforcement that they know Democrats can't accept, that are poison pills. That was Paul Ryan's argument, for example, in 2010 when he voted against it. That they needed these other provisions.

So whatever the -- you know, whatever the president says tomorrow, he has -- there's a very strong possibility that this will ultimately fail in Congress and that ultimately, he will be the one who ends the program, in effect.

ACOSTA: OK, all right. Thanks very much. Great discussion on those issues. Thank you very much.

Just ahead, our breaking news, Hurricane Irma upgraded to a powerful Category 4 storm. Florida's governor has just declared an emergency. Is the U.S. ready for another disaster if it strikes? When we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:48:25] ACOSTA: Our breaking news, even as Texas struggles to get back on its feet after Harvey, another powerful storm may pose a direct threat to the United States. Hurricane Irma is now a dangerous category 4 storm, and a state of emergency has just been declared in Florida.

Let's now turn to meteorologist Tom Sater at the CNN severe weather center.

Tom, this is going to be something to watch over the next several days.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, exactly, Jim. In fact, I want everybody to make sure they understand that. This is a long-term event.

So, what I share with you now, let's say I show you a model that shows a land fall in Miami as a category 4 next Saturday, do not think Miami is going to have a category 4 next Saturday. Every day is important. Every computer model run that come out a couple times a day is important. Any deviation to the north and south is going to change the end game.

But here's what we do know. Notice the sustained winds, 130 miles per hour, that's the same strength Hurricane Harvey was at when it made land fall and devastated Rockport. We saw the suffering there and there is going to be some more suffering going on beginning with the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles. Anguilla may take a direct hit. Conditions will quickly deteriorate tomorrow afternoon. Then we'll watch the watches, Puerto Rico, British and U.S. Virgin Islands, those will become warnings.

It looks right now if we're going to go with the models, the system stays pretty much over water. That's where we want most of the stronger winds. That's where we want the heavier rain. They are still looking at six to nine foot storm surges in the islands, 10 inches of rain. Now, if you've got a flight to maybe have a vacation, I wouldn't be going this week, but you're OK from around Barbados, southward. If you do have a vacation in this area, call ahead by the end of the week o to see if they still have power or communications.

[18:50:05] This is a major category 4.

Here's the timeline. Wednesday, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos will be on the northern edge with the Bahamas. But again, any deviation north and sound changes this.

The National Hurricane Center track keeps it at category 4. This is something you'll see during the week as well. It may drop down to category 3 then rebuild to 4. We have to see thousand interacts with landmasses.

And, again, by looking at this, you would think the forward momentum is going to take it into the Gulf of Mexico. We can't are rule that out just yet. But here's what we do know: if you look at the steering currents, high pressure is keeping it on a southward movement.

When it gets closer to Cuba on Friday afternoon, we expect the northern turn. Thanks to this trough. Although, we want to see this turn sooner than later because if there's any hope and possibility that it would skirt and stay off the U.S. coastline, we want that to happen. But that window is shutting.

So let's take a look at the spaghetti plots, again, a tight cluster, means they have a real grasp, Jim, on the environment. And then sometime Friday, it turns to the north. Until that turn occurs, we will not know who's going to have the landfall, and at what time. Could stay in the western half, could stay in the eastern coast and move toward the Carolinas. But it's going to be a major hurricane. There's a good chance, category 4, outside chance, category 5, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. We're going to keep a close eye on this, Tom. Thank you very much. We know you will as well.

And we'll be right back. Much more news straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:14] ACOSTA: A new CNN film takes an unprecedented look inside the White House during Ronald Reagan's presidency. "THE REAGAN SHOW", an all archival film, compromised of largely seen un -- largely unseen footage, offers an unfiltered behind the scenes glimpse of America's 40th president. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening, this is Ronald Reagan, president of the United States of America. Got no history books over there? I don't think so.

I am pleased to speak to you on the occasion of --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you OK?

REAGAN: Good evening. This is Ronald Reagan, president of the United States of America.

I'm pleased to speak to you on the occasion of a New Year. On behalf of the American people, I wish you all a happy and healthy new year. Let's work together to make it a year of peace. There is no better goal for 1986 or for any year. Let us look forward to a future of chistoye nyebo for all mankind. Thank you, spasibo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You say it better than I do but it sounds like you had a T in it, instead you nyebo.

REAGAN: Nyebo. Chistoye nyebo. Chistoye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Fascinating stuff.

I'm joined now by CNN presidential historian, Tim Naftali.

Tim, tell us more about this documentary. There's a lot of video that was shot by the Reagan White House and it shows us the behind the scenes glimpse at the president we just never saw before. Like that clip where the president is practicing his New Year's address to the USSR.

What do you -- what do you make of this documentary?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think it's a great look at Ronald Reagan. It -- you know, it's valuable because it shows you how much respect he had for the office and the extent to which he was creating the image of his presidency.

There's a wonderful moment, there's a clip from an interview that he did with David Frost, the British journalist, and Frost is saying to him, you know, you -- you auditioned for parts in Hollywood, you obviously auditioned for the presidency, what was the harder job to audition for? The president -- Reagan said, obviously the presidency, because not only do you have to learn the lines, you have to write the script. And there was a real sense about Reagan that he was writing his own script. It wasn't like he was reading someone else's.

So, when you watch this film, you get a sense that he is very sensitive to the dignity of the office. The other thing that comes across is that he's very affable, because

you've got this unscripted moments where he's letting go and talking, you know, being improvisational and it's kindhearted, even when he's critical, he's critical of the "Washington Post". He's critical of the Soviets but in a lighthearted, affable way for the most part.

ACOSTA: Yes, and, Tim --

NAFTALI: You couldn't imagine him tweeting it.

ACOSTA: Right. I was about to say, in contrast to what we're seeing today, that sunny optimism always comes through with Reagan. I get a sense that we're going to see a lot of that in that documentary. Such a huge contrast with the politics of today.

NAFTALI: No question. Oh, really, if there had been social media then, he still wouldn't have -- President Reagan still wouldn't have produced the tweets we're seeing from the current occupant of the Oval Office.

One thing to keep in mind, also, is there's a great debate over why Reagan changed with regard to the Soviets by the end of his second term. There are some comments he makes in front of the camera, but not broadcast, to give you a sense that he knew, he really worried about the Soviets but knew he had to work with Gorbachev. It was very smart.

ACOSTA: Fascinating stuff. All right. We'll be watching.

Tim Naftali, thank you.

"THE REAGAN SHOW" airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.