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House to Vote Soon on Hurricane Relief Funds; Cat-5 Hurricane Irma Barrels Towards Florida; House to Vote on Texas Aid Package as Disaster Relief Fund Runs Out of Cash; Trump: I Could Revisit DACA If Congress Doesn't Act; Susan Rice Meets with House Intel Committee, Donald Jr Next. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 6, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman, if the funding is needed desperately, obviously, these are two things that are -- there's a good argument both need to pass and need to pass quickly, a debt ceiling increase and emergency aid for Harvey victims. Do you think tying them together is smart?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think it's necessary. I don't think it's a deal killer either. I think they out to quickly get the $7.9 billion move it over to the Senate. If the Senate moves it to $14 billion, no problem pass it by the weekend.

I think in terms of the debt ceiling, I can say this, Democrat and Republican secretaries of Treasury bluff the House a lot, bluff the legislative branch saying we are running out of money and they move C.D.s around and they get an extension.


BOLDUAN: You don't believe OMB, you don't believe a Paul Ryan when he was told that FEMA could run out of money between Friday and tuesday?

KINGSTON: No. Kate, as a veteran appropriator, I have heard the song before. I heard it by bipartisan people up here. I would say the debt ceiling is a real issue. We need to pass it. I think it should be done during an odd year. You get into an election year and you have all sorts of problems. The House can deal with that separately. I don't think it should be a three-month extension. It needs to be a year or two. They're not going to deal with it during an election year effectively.

BOLDUAN: Chris, the three months that we are hearing is what came out from minority leaders, Schumer and Pelosi. They said they would support tying Harvey funding. They would get on board if it was tied to a debt ceiling of three months. It doesn't get you to the end of the year. What are Democrats getting with that?

CHRIS LU, FORMER DEPUTY LABOR SECRETARY: Democrats are getting leverage. There's a certain irony about the president meeting with the Democratic leadership today. You didn't see the Democratic leaders yesterday when they were talking tax reform, nor did you see them a couple month ago when you are doing health care reform. It's because the president needs Democratic votes. The Democratic leaders smartly are trying to gain as much leverage as possible, whether it's a DACA fix, whether it's shoring up Obamacare, whether it's de-funding the Voter Fraud Commission, as some have suggested. They're playing smart politics. It's not only the debt ceiling but it's keeping the government funded through the rest of the fiscal year --


BOLDUAN: Isn't that risky politically? Just as what we say, they have leverage. It's good politics. Isn't that dangerous? Unless you are in Washington. And you are on Capitol Hill, which we all were.

And, Congressman, you can speak to this, this is money going to hurricane victims. It needs to get there. This isn't politics.


LU: I'm sorry.

Look, there's been a long tradition of people playing games with these funding. I remember back in the mid 2000s when this would come up with supplemental funding for Iraq. It came up after Sandy. This is the way the game is played.


BOLDUAN: It doesn't make it right.

LU: It doesn't make it right. Look, this is the one time when the president needs Democratic votes. He can't get a clean debt ceiling passed without Democratic votes right now.

KINGSTON: Let me say this, when it comes to victims of a hurricane, you don't want to appear to be playing games and tying something into it that does not have to be tied into it.

We found out, as you know, Chris, with Hurricane Sandy, even though there were things tied into it that weren't hurricane related, Republicans got clobbered for balking on the funding. In my opinion, the best politics is the best policy. That's just to pass a funding bill for Harvey in a separate debt ceiling bill. I would not recommend a three-month bill. You are just going to create -- you are kicking it to December and then you will be right back where you are now.

BOLDUAN: Exactly what Democrats want. Who knew?

Congress, I need you to act as a translator for a second. When President Trump says get to work or I will re-visit the issue when he talks about DACA, what is he saying?

KINGSTON: He's saying the politics is against you. Get off your duff and do what you are supposed to be doing?


BOLDUAN: Didn't he negate the deadline that he set yesterday? KINGSTON: You know, if I was him, I would not have given it six

months. I would have said far less, maybe three months at the most. Congress has known about this problem for a long time. President Obama did not act when he had majority in the House and Senate. It's a difficult issue. Congress has been postponing it.

If you look at the way it's written now, it's full of problems. The people who are in it are bracketed, one criteria that had you to be here before 2007, another is 2012.


BOLDUAN: I'm telling you -- the president's not talking about that. He is talking about dealing with it at all. I'm going to re-visit this, which -- does that mean it's going to end in six months or he will extend it? That's what I'm saying.

LU: Kate, could I say --


LU: -- this shows how transparent the argument is that this whole thing was about the rule of law. This isn't about the rule of law. It's about appealing to a tiny segment of the president's base. If this is true as the attorney general said that the DACA was unconstitutional, the president can't re-visit it. That's why this is not helpful. It's not -- it's not helpful in terms of getting Congress to take action in the next six months.


[11:35:19] BOLDUAN: I can almost guarantee -- there are no guarantees in life. There's a good chance that the three of us will talk about this again in six months.

Congressman, great to see you.

Chris, great to have you on.

LU: Thank you.

KINGSTON: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Hurricane Irma barreling through the Caribbean right now with catastrophic force. Florida is in its crosshairs. The governor there says it's likely going to run down the middle of the state. Details on what could become the largest mass evacuation from Florida to the Carolinas.

We'll be right back.


[11:40:00] BOLDUAN: Keeping a close eye on Irma, the potentially catastrophic category 5 hurricane. One of the strongest storms recorded in the Atlantic, thrashing the Caribbean and barreling toward Florida.

The mayor of Broward County issued a mandatory evacuation for parts of the county. Governor Rick Scott issued an ominous warning this morning. Listen to this.


RICK SCOTT, (R), FLORIDA GOVERNOR: The storm surge and extreme winds are the biggest concern right now. The storm is bigger, faster and stronger than Hurricane andrew. We are being very aggressive in our preparation for this storm. Every Floridian should take this seriously and be aggressive to protect their family. If you are told to evacuate, get out quickly.


BOLDUAN: Category 5 hurricane is expected to hit Cuba Friday and saturday.

Patrick Oppmann is there.

Let's get another angle of what we're looking at. It looks beautiful. That's how it looks when a hurricane is coming fast and furious. What are you hearing there?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, it's the calm before the storm. It's a cliche but it is a beautiful clear day. But there's an ominous feeling in the air. Cubans are trying to get ready as best they can. We are seeing tourists trying to leave the island. This cruise ship, it wasn't due to depart until tomorrow, is expected to leave any minute now. But 2,000 passengers are aboard. It's trying to get back to Florida to get out of the path of this powerful storm. I talked to some people on the cruise ship who couldn't get a flight and they would get in a car and drive north. That's how scared some people are of the storm.

Cubans are trying to take shelter wherever they can. Keep track of the storm. Many who live in coastal areas, a great part of the island, know they will have to evacuate. Sometimes they go into the mountains in the mountains or caves or old Cold War-era bomb shelters. It's an enormous island. But the way this storm is tracking, it's going to have a major impact on Cuba.

BOLDUAN: Patrick, keep a close eye. I appreciate it. Thank you.

It does look beautiful. Not like the forecast you can see behind me.

Let's get back to Washington. This is a big topic there. Very soon, the House is expected to begin voting on a nearly $8 billion aid package for disaster relief after Hurricane Harvey. FEMA is running short on cash in the wake of the storm. A spokeswoman for the agency says, as of 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, the Disaster Relief Fund had a billion dollars left. Of that, a little over $500 million is immediately available. Remember, Hurricane Irma, as we are talking about, is barreling towards the United States.

Joining me to discuss, Democratic congressman from Texas, Joaquin Castro.

Congressman, thank you for coming in. I appreciate it.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, (D), TEXAS: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: The House is getting set in just a moment or two to start voting on this Harvey -- this Hurricane Harvey aid package. How confident are you that this is going to get through?

CASTRO: I believe that it will get through. I think you will see a lot of support, both Republicans and Democrats, doing what we should as a Congress, which is come together to support the people of Texas and Houston and the Coastal Bend region and the Golden Triangle, who were devastated by Hurricane Harvey. I have faith that this Congress will pass an aid package.

But it should also be noted that this is close to $8 billion. It's going to require probably well over $100 billion to truly fix the damage in Texas caused by this hurricane.

BOLDUAN: Do you agree with the governor? You think it will go over $100 billion like Katrina did?

CASTRO: I do. I do. If you look at the devastation to people's homes, to the infrastructure of the cities and towns, to the businesses there, that it will probably be over $100 billion.

BOLDUAN: What about tying -- it's going to go to the Senate. Then it comes back. What about tying it to the debt ceiling? There's some conversation that is what some of the administration want. Democratic leaders, Schumer and Pelosi, say they would support it if it's tied to a three-month debt ceiling increase. Do you like a three-month debt ceiling increase?

CASTRO: I think, for most Democrats, we believe this should be a clean bill. We should be able to vote on Hurricane Harvey relief. It should be separate from the debt ceiling. But it's a decision made by the speaker and Mitch McConnell. I support increasing the debt ceiling. I happen to agree with both of those things. Still, I think that we would prefer they be separate.

BOLDUAN: Do you think it's playing politics if they tie it to the debt ceiling?

CASTRO: I would prefer it be clean. We have to make sure, most of all, that people don't play any games and threaten the aid to the people of Texas because they're trying to achieve something else.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, is it playing games saying that they will sign on to a three-month debt ceiling increase? That doesn't get you much. Paul Ryan called that ridiculous.

CASTRO: You know, if you look at the last few years in the Congress, things have been happening on a shorter timetable. Extensions that used to go for two years or a year, have been going six months or three months. That's not much of a big surprise.

[11:45:13] BOLDUAN: Let's see where that goes.

You have that, and you also have another big issue that you care deeply about, the DACA program. I don't know if you have a chance to see it. What do you make of the president's tweet this morning about DACA? Saying, if Congress doesn't get it done, get a fix in place, I will re-visit this issue, he says.

CASTRO: It's very confusing, most of all, to the people whose lives are going to be affected by this decision, those 800,000 young people who are DACA recipients. Also confusing to members of Congress and the American public. He seemed to suggest that if Congress doesn't get this done that I guess he means re-visit it, he could put DACA in place again? It's unclear. Regardless of what the president said this morning, the decision yesterday or a few days ago means that Congress has to get its act together and pass a DREAM Act to make sure the folks who are as American as any of us, as President Obama said, except on paper, they can stay and work and live in the United States.

BOLDUAN: With his tweet, Congressman, does it give you some hope that he might not eliminate the program after six months?

CASTRO: It could be read that way. I think that we have to continue in Congress focusing on doing something legislatively. There have been a lot of people, over the last five years, including many Republicans, who have gone on television and said that they could agree with DACA, except they believe it was wrong for President Obama to do if as an executive action, that it should have been done legislatively. Here is the chance to do it legislatively to work as Republicans and Democrats and do the right thing and pass a bill.

BOLDUAN: Do you have a clear idea -- I asked this of Steve King. You two stand on different sides of the political spectrum, to say the least. He told me this morning, he does not -- he says he doesn't know where the president stands on this. Do you have a clear understanding of where the president stands on Dreamers right now?

CASTRO: Well, I can't say that I can read the president's mind. All I can do is respond to a decision that was made and announced by Jeff Sessions the other day that they are going to end the DACA program. That's the only indication I have about the future of the program, which means that Congress has to do its job and pass the DREAM Act as soon as possible.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, are you saying you take an announcement from Jeff Sessions more seriously than you take an announcement from the president of the United States?

CASTRO: I have said several times that, at the White House, on any issue, it's unclear who speaks for the president. Sometimes the president doesn't speak for the president because he flip-flops. The thing is, we can't just sit down and believe -- sit down for the next six months and believe the president will take care of it in the end if nothing happens in Washington. We have to get to work and do something. BOLDUAN: I have to get one quick question in. You sit on House

Intel. Susan Rice, she met with the committee this morning. What can you tell me about the meeting?

CASTRO: Not much. That information is sensitive. Some of it classified. Except that we're moving as quickly as we can through a long list of witnesses. We're continuing that work. We hope that by the end of this we can come to a conclusion on a few things. First, that everybody --

BOLDUAN: Was it worthwhile? Was the meeting with Susan Rice worthwhile in the Russia investigation?

CASTRO: It was very informative and helpful.

BOLDUAN: A grilling, would you describe it as?

CASTRO: No. I think it was fair. I think it was an informative questioning.

BOLDUAN: Informative questioning. Just what I like to do every day.

Congressman, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

CASTRO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next, more on the Russia investigation, including details on Donald Trump Jr, Donald Trump's son. He is taking a trip to Capitol Hill to speak to investigators.

We'll be right back.


[11:53:25] BOLDUAN: The Russia investigation back in the spotlight. Former national security advisor, Susan Rice, has been meeting this morning with the House Intelligence Committee. Seeing some video right there.

Tomorrow, it will be Donald Trump Jr's turn in the hot seat. The president's son facing in the Russia investigation. His first time facing congressional investigators.

Senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju, has all of the details.

Manu, what are you picking up? I just spoke to Joaquin Castro. He called the conversation with Susan Rice very informative.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: It seems that there are a lot of questions there in that particular session of how the issue of unmasking, but that is really not going to be the focus on the Senate side, not for the Senate Judiciary Committee or the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee, of course, now the home of this first time -- the first time that Donald Trump Jr will actually answer questions about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. This is going to be a staff-level meeting of the Judiciary Committee so members can sit in on the meeting. But I'm told there's an expectation that Donald Trump Jr should appear publicly.

One tough Democratic Senator on that committee, Dianne Feinstein, said if he does not appear publicly, the committee is prepared to subpoena him.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D), CALIFORNIABOLDUAN: There's an interview scheduled, I'm not sure exactly where it is, but it is a staff interview.

RAJU: Will there be committee members going?

FEINSTEIN: I can't comment on that, because I don't know.


[11:55:05] FEINSTEIN: But the process that we have decided on, if a committee member wants to go and drop in, that's fine. But these are staff interviews and staff is not to be interrupted, no Senators to take over the interview.

RAJU: Do you plan on going, Senator?

FEINSTEIN: No, I do not. We will have a public hearing, with Mr. Trump at an appropriate time.


RAJU: And I followed up by asking her specifically whether or not he would be subpoenaed, and she said that, yes, that is very likely that he could be subpoenaed if he does not actually appear for this public interview, which I believe they had an agreement to deal with.

Now, also another question for the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committees to look at the issues about efforts to go to this Trump Tower Moscow project, something that we understand that Donald Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen was pursuing, even during the time of the campaign. This is something that Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senator from South Carolina, also said that he's interested in learning about, whether this is evidence of any business dealings with Russia. And he also expects him to come to the committee meeting as well.

BOLDUAN: Any time on when -- I mean, this will be a huge deal if Donald Trump Jr appears publicly at a hearing. Any information on that?

RAJU: We have been asking committee members, and we don't have any indication that it's been scheduled yet. But that's something that Democrats want to have this month. Chuck Grassley declined to comment, the chairman of the committee, when I asked him just moment ago -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Stand by for that.

Great to see you, Manu. Thank you.

We are tracking, staying very close to Hurricane Irma, monstrous category 5 storm moving close to the United States. The latest from the National Hurricane Center and a look at the worsening conditions happening right now in Puerto Rico. That's coming up.