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Hurricane Irma Update; Irma Bears Down on Puerto Rico; Florida Prepares for Hurricane; House Votes on Harvey Funds; Trump Jr. Expected To Speak to Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday; Susan Rice Meeting With House Intel Committee This Morning; Trump: If Congress Can't Fix DACA, I'll "Revisit" Issue. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired September 6, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Some levity to your life right now.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You believe that everything in that book is kid friendly?
CAMEROTA: Not everything. Not everything. It's really best for adults, I feel.
Anyway, pick it up at your favorite book store.
CUOMO: All right. There is a lot of news. We are tracking one of the worst storms to come out of the Atlantic. CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman have all the latest.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And the breaking news this morning, one of the if not the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, Irma is well past the category five mark with winds greater than 185 miles per hour. So far today, St. Martin, St. Barts, Barbuda have taken direct hits. And the Virgin Island and Puerto Rico bracing for the same later today.
We can show you some of the impact. Look at those flashing rights. Every one of those flashing lights, the power line exploding on the island of Saint Kitts And Nevis. Officials in Puerto Rico fear parts of that island might be without power for months.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. Mandatory evacuations underway in parts of the Bahamas and up to the Florida Keys. Irma is expected to arrive there on Sunday possibly.
Already we've heard from President Trump, who has declared states of emergency in Florida, Puerto Rico, and in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This morning he says watching hurricane closely. My team, which has done and is doing such a good job in Texas, is already in Florida. No rest for the weary.
CNN is tracking the path of this storm. Of course we are all over it. So let's begin with Chad Myers in the CNN Severe Weather Center.
Chad, what are you seeing this morning?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm seeing now the radar from Puerto Rico picking up the eye of the storm out here. It just moved through Anguilla and Saint Barts. It moved through Barbuda a little bit ago. About four hours ago. We've had no contact from that island since. Not even radio contact to its sister down in Antigua (ph).
Here we go. From the British Virgin Islands there's Anegada. There's Virgin Gorda and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Those will be hit next. And the hit next means 180, 185 miles per hour winds, if the eye wall makes direct contact, and that's expected.
So Barbuda had a wind gust of 155 overnight and then the wind mane (ph) broke. The anemometer just shattered. So we don't have any idea how big the winds were there. But they were at least 155.
All the way up the island chain, the watches and the warnings continue. But where does it go after that? Right through the Turks and Caicos and significantly impacting the northern section, the northern part of Puerto Rico with big waves. Same sorry for the Dominican Republic and also for Haiti. And there also could be very damaging mudslides and flash flooding in the DR and Haiti as well.
Overnight, the models have changed a little bit. And so has the hurricane forecast. Yesterday the hurricane was doing this from the Hurricane Center. Now it's turning to the right. And that's south Florida right in the middle.
I believe it may turn farther to the right sooner. And here's the reason why I believe that. If you look at the models, we're going to watch for this turn. It's going to be hours and hours. It's going to be dreadful to watch this. When is it going to turn? The models say it could be here, it could be here, but if it's here, that's the big problem for the U.S.
Back to you guys.
BERMAN: All right, Chad Myers. And that's what we are watching so very closely. The next update from the Hurricane Center comes at 11:00 a.m.
BERMAN: We'll hear from Chad much before that, though. Thanks, Chad.
Chad mentioned Puerto Rico right now. This is the last thing they need. CNN's Leyla Santiago in San Juan to give us an update.
Leyla, what are you seeing?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, emergency management officials are saying, look, you are running out of time for any sort of preparation for Irma as it arrives. It's expected to arrive later this evening. But, you know, the governor was asked at a press conference just a few hours ago, what's the deadline here? What is the absolute last moment for people to seek shelter? And he said in Spanish, (INAUDIBLE). That means now, John. So certainly we are still seeing people boarding up windows, people
hitting the stores where shelves are pretty much empty from those basic supplies that you typically try to get right before a hurricane.
But, you know, this is a Caribbean island. They are used to tropical storms and hurricanes as much as one can be for this time of year. But this one, even though winds are picking up, we're certainly starting to see a little bit more of aggressive waters on the coast, this one has really brought a lot of fear to Puerto Rico. The governor has said they have never experienced one of this magnitude in its recorded history. So people woke up today with a lot of uncertainty, waiting to find out what it will bring.
And, you're right, you know, it's not just this storm that is a problem here. There is another storm looming over Puerto Rico. And that is the economic crisis. They are $70 billion in debt. So anything catastrophic, any sort of destruction, John, well, that will be very difficult to rebuild, which is why the governor seemed to be so relieved when President Trump declared a state of emergency pre- landfall.
[09:05:07] Remember, this is U.S. territory. These are U.S. citizens. And at this point, we know that more than 700 of them have already gone to the shelters. But that's a relatively low number. This is an island of 3.5 million U.S. citizens that could be devastated in a matter of hours.
HARLOW: Leyla Santiago, thank you very much for your great reporting from Puerto Rico.
This morning, you've got mandatory evacuations underway in parts of Florida already. Our Rosa Flores is there in Miami.
And, Rosa, we just saw Chad sort of outline these different models, but there is that very scary model that brings this right into the heart of Miami-Dade.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, this storm is coming in with a lot of fury, and Florida is preparing with a lot of fury as well. Mandatory evacuations have already been issued for Monroe County. That includes The Keys. And here in Miami-Dade, we know that people with disabilities are being evacuated today. And the mayor here saying that he could issue mandatory evacuations for portions of this county as well as early as today, maybe tomorrow. And people do appear to be heeding the warning.
We're seeing a lot of grocery stores and hardware stores with empty shelves. We're seeing long lines at gas stations, people trying to prepare, because public officials said you need at least three days' worth of water and food and we're seeing people go to grocery stores, trying to gather all of those things for their families.
Now, just north of here, in Broward County, there's about 43 shelters there on the ready, ready to take up to 33,000 people into shelter. And then statewide, the governor of this state, Rick Scott, has issued a disaster declaration for all 67 counties. And he's also tapped into all 7,000 National Guard members and all of their assets and response capabilities. We're talking about high water vehicles, boats, helicopters, just to name a few.
Florida really hunkering down and making sure that people know that this is a monster storm. You need to pay attention. You need to figure out what the plan is for you and your family. And you need to take action.
HARLOW: Rosa Flores, thank you for your reporting from Miami for us. We'll check back with you.
On Capitol Hill, meantime, the response to another devastating storm, hurricane Harvey, is in focus for Congress. We've got the House set to take a vote today on relief for those affected.
BERMAN: Yes, just one of the many things that lawmakers will deal with today as the leaders of both parties prepare to meet with the president at the White House.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux joins us live now.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
The House is expected to vote about noon or so. And it is expected to pass this bill, this $8 billion nearly in hurricane aid for Hurricane Harvey victims. The drama that we're going to see, however, is really going to be on the -- on the Senate side because we have already gotten signals, indications on the Senate side, the number two in the Senate, Republican John Cornyn from Texas who's seen these flood victims, saying essentially that they are open and willing now to attach this emergency funding, relief funding, to raising the debt ceiling, allowing the government to borrow more money to pay for this because ultimately this is just a down payment, the $8 billion. They're looking at nearly more than $120 billion they expect in relief that is going to be necessary for Texas. Not to mention what is coming to Florida as well.
This is going to create quite a problem for some of the House members. We've already seen it here. The House caucus chair conservative, Meadows, he is saying that this is a terrible idea, Mark Meadows, that you should not use this as leverage. That it's just not right. But he also said that he believes that this, in fact, is going to work. It also provides some political cover for those who are uncomfortable with marrying those two things.
And we also expect as well that the president is going to weigh in on this. We have already heard from the Treasury secretary, Mnuchin, saying that this is a good idea. That this has to be enacted on very quickly. And that the president is going to be weighing in on this personally, either through a statement later today or a tweet. John. Poppy.
HARLOW: We'll be waiting for that. Suzanne, thank you very much.
So another key issue for lawmakers is DACA. You've got Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, set to speak at a news conference, the White House later today. The president, for his part, who initially said this is in Congress' lap, this is up to Congress to do its job on DACA, he confused things to say the least last night when he wrote in a statement, Congress now has six months to legalize DACA. Something the Obama administration was unable to do. If they can't, I will revisit the issue.
[09:10:03] Here with the definition of revisit is Joe Johns at the White House with more.
What does he mean?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we're still deciphering the meaning of that president tweet, quite frankly, Poppy, coming just hours after the attorney general announced that the administration was rescinding DACA and giving his reasons. Among those reasons, a lawsuit by attorneys general from red states that the administration says could have shut the whole program down rather suddenly.
Now, the significance of this, a couple things. First, it indicates the friction inside the White House over the issue of how to handle DACA. It also shows a pattern that we've seen in this administration of the president essentially sending his lieutenants out to take a position, send a message, and then the president undercutting that message one way or the other in a tweet, in a public statement, and, in some ways throwing his lieutenants under the bus.
The spokeswoman for the Justice Department was asked about that by Chris Cuomo on "New Day" this morning and she said, among other things, you can't put a lot of nuance in 140 characters, suggesting a need to ask the president what he meant by the tweet, and also indicating DOJ was in the belief that there would be a nationwide injunction in the event the president did not act.
Members of the president's party, like Lindsey Graham, saying this is all about enforcing the law. Now, the president has a long and busy schedule today, including, at this hour, a conversation on the telephone with Chinese President Xi. We're expecting him to talk about, about among other things, North Korea and the issue of trade with China.
John and Poppy, back to you.
BERMAN: All right, Joe Johns for us at the White House. Joe, thanks so much.
We do have some breaking news on the Russian investigation. Two big figures behind closed doors. Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice right now.
BERMAN: And tomorrow, Donald Trump Jr. heads to Capitol Hill. We have the breaking details, next.
This as we are tracking the monster storm. Millions of Americans in the immediate path of Hurricane Irma. We will bring you the latest.
HARLOW: Plus, "What Happened?" It's the title of Hillary Clinton's new book and she takes everyone behind the scenes of her loss, takes onus for some of it, also talks about why she thinks she is such a lightning rod. She says, in part, because she's a woman. Also weighing in on her marriage. We'll have all the detail the ahead.
BERMAN: All right. The breaking news has to do with the Russia investigation. We just learned that Donald Trump Jr. will go to Capitol Hill tomorrow to talk about contacts, alleged contacts, between his father's campaign and Russia.
Also, there's a meeting behind closed doors right now with another key figure. CNN's senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, joins us with the very latest -- Manu.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. Donald Trump Jr., the first time he will have a chance to undergo an extensive questioning from both the Senate Judiciary Committee staff and members tomorrow going behind closed doors.
This, of course, after the revelations that he had met with Russian operatives in June 2016 after being promised dirt on the Clinton campaign. A meeting that also included Paul Manafort, then the campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner.
Now I am told also separately that the Senate Intelligence Committee does plan to question Donald Trump Jr. as well and the chairman of that committee, Richard Berg (ph), told me yesterday that a number of questions that are still -- the committee still has about what the Russians actually intended to happen from that meeting.
Now, Donald Trump Jr. is trying to make very clear that he is going to cooperate saying his lawyer saying in a statement, "We look forward to professional productive meeting and appreciate the opportunity to assist the committee."
Now another big name, John and Poppy, is Susan Rice, President Obama's former national security adviser and someone who has been criticized by Republicans for her handling of intelligence reports believing she unmasked the identities of individuals, may have even leaked them to the press.
This is something that she has denied, but I am told that she is going behind closed doors. He is going to undergo a grilling and one person who maybe there could be Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who really has gone after the issue of unmasking so much so that it eventually forced him to step aside from that investigation.
And separately, he, Devin Nunes, is leading a push to actually force Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the FBI director, Christopher Ray, to provide documents about that British dossier showing connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
And that warning he may even hold them in contempt of Congress if they do not produce documents backing up some of the questions that he has asked where it shows the fast pace of developments happening from multiple committees on Capitol Hill, first with Don Jr. tomorrow and also Susan Rice today -- guys.
BERMAN: Russian investigation launching into full gear now that Congress is back. Manu Raju, thanks so much.
It's in on top of all the policy that Congress wants to be making right now or may be trying to be making. The president meets soon with top party leaders on both sides of the aisle. It's just hours after saying if Congress can't help "DREAMers," he will revisit the issue.
HARLOW: So now our panel is going to tell us what that means. Everyone's wondering this morning. David Gergen is here, Abby Phillip and David Gregory.
So, Abby, he starts the six months stop watch yesterday, right, with his Jeff Sessions announcement on DACA, and then last night, he sorts of stops it or flips it or breaks it or what have you, and basically says, we are going to revisit issue, "I will personally revisit this if Congress cannot legalize DACA." Explain.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a lot of this has to do with the media coverage of the last 24 hours, which was I think really overwhelmingly negative. A lot of coverage folks saying on some 800,000 young people who are kind of in limbo as a result of this decision and Trump has from the very beginning been he concerned about that.
That's why he keeps saying something different from what you hear from his staff, from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Jeff Sessions, who talks a lot more about -- you know, about the rule of law, and about process.
[09:20:12] And Trump keeps talking about heart and there's a disconnect here between what he did and what he keeps saying. So, you know, I think his aides are holding out for the possibility that at some point in the future, maybe if we get to the six-month mark and Congress doesn't do anything, Trump could simply change his mind.
It's hard to see how that works from a legal perspective because, of course, there is sort of the looming threat of challenges out there, but it reflects the fact that Trump is just really not sure what he wants to do about this.
He wants to find a way to make everybody happy, including his base, and his base will not be happy with anything short of getting rid of DACA. They may not even be happy with Congress legalizing DACA, frankly.
BERMAN: You know, David Gergen, we often ask the question, you know, if voters or people understand what the president is saying or thinks, we might legitimately ask if the president understands he is saying or thinks right now.
What's Congress supposed to do with this? They weren't on a tight six-month deadline up until, you know, 8:30 last night when the president said, you know what, I'll go back to this if I have to.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know what they're going to make of it. It's very weird, very odd. I sympathize with the president in that these are hard decisions. But you know what? That's why you run for president.
The big decisions come to you, and to lead is to decide. And here he's waffling in the presidency, but more importantly, he has upended -- what they did yesterday upended the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people in this country who are reporting to colleges this week around the country, or in jobs, and they don't know what their lives are going to be three months, six months from now.
They don't know where they're going. They have to make plans if maybe deported. There is a good chance they'll be sent out of the country if this isn't resolved. So, you really have to, in this case, focus not on the president's waffling but on the chaos and the cruelty that's involved here.
HARLOW: David Gregory, so this will likely split the Republican Party, fracture it. We've already seen who's on which side so far, right? But you have two options, don't you?
You have either something happens at the six months and as the president said DACA is legalized by Congress and they may head into the midterms if they can't get other big accomplishments through with their one big legislative accomplishment being some form of amnesty for these folks or you have them heading into the midterms without helping these 800,000 young people in this country. Neither is great for the party, is it?
DAVID GREROGY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, there's an opportunity here, big time opening here for President Trump if he can see his way to seizing it and it's that leadership piece. Talking to Republicans on the Hill.
There's an opportunity to fix, at least temporarily this DREAMer situation and maybe it's just a deferral of a few years, but to couple it in terms of a longer fix with some element of border security.
You've heard Lindsay Graham. He talked this morning on "NEW DAY" about a downpayment on comprehensive immigration reform. I don't think the politics are right for something that comprehensive.
But the reality is that Donald Trump is the leading Republican voice on immigration in America. He campaigned on this. He swept up the energy among the conservative base for this push for border security. He has an opportunity to work with Congress if he will actually lead on this issue, to get something on border security.
It's probably not going to be the ill-conceived wall notion, but he can still do it and declare victory and also help the DREAMers as well as, and force Congress to do its job.
There's actually nothing inherently wrong with the president standing up and saying Congress actually do your job, but he's got to lead them. He's been such a bystander on so many issues, this is an area where he actually has to lead.
BERMAN: David Gregory is right as he always is. The big complicating factor here, though, is that the president or the White House is saying two things at once it seems. Sarah Sanders at the White House yesterday says the president wants to sign a comprehensive immigration reform.
And maybe only comprehensive immigration reform protecting the DREAMers would only be part of that. But the president's own words overnight. Again, if we parse the statement that he sent out to the American people last night, he says, "Congress now has six months to legalize DACA."
He made it seem, Abby, as if maybe he would sign something that was a discreet measure just to protect there 800,000 people. Marco Rubio was basically begging the president overnight tell us what you'll sign, Mr. President.
PHILLIP: The reality is he hasn't told Congress anything about what he wants, he might sign. I was communicating with House leadership aides yesterday and they were like we have no idea if he would sign a bill that legalizes DACA or sign something else immigration related.
[09:25:01] We don't know if they want to couple the wall funding. They haven't made those decisions yet, which is really surprising given the magnitude of the decision that was made yesterday.
But they hadn't thought about what happened next, what the legislative strategy is going to be. I think it will be actually a really tough decision. Honestly, there a lot of people talking to the president right now who do not want him to play ball on DACA.
They are not happy with the way that this has gone down. They don't like the talk of Congress legalizing this program. So, he's going to get pulled in a lot of different directions -- growing a consensus on the Hill for one thing.
But the president is definitely being influenced in the other direction. It will be hard for him to push through his base on this issue no matter what --
GREGORY: That's the combination that's important. There are too many Republicans and even some Democrats, I presume, who consider just acting on the DREAMers as a way that it incentivizes illegal behavior. That's why I think there have got to be -- a lot of Republicans' minds
want to deal on this, something on border security that's tied to this. There's been a lot of momentum for that for a long time frankly going back to say 2005.
More of a crackdown on border security. So that's where you may see some compromise if they can marry those two things together.
PHILLIP: The question, though, is what is border security? I mean, is it the wall or is it --
GREGORY: Yes, I think it's something short of the wall.
PHILLIP: I think it's going to be short of the wall, but the president wants something short of the wall.
GREGORY: Yes, but he could declare a victory if it's short of the wall, if it still looks like it's his plan, but again, that's what -- they've got to create a path for him and he's got to know how to actually take it and not just be advising.
HARLOW: All right. Guys, we're out of time. Thank you all for being here very much, David Gergen, Abby Phillip, David Gregory.
Senator Bob Menendez' corruption trial just kicked off this morning in New Jersey. This is a big deal. You see him walking just moments ago because this is the first bribery case involving a sitting U.S. senator in over three decades.
So, Menendez spoke to reporters just moments ago as he headed into court for day one. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I appreciate all of my supporters who have stood by me as I try to clear my name. I am thankful for the countless New Jersians who have either called me or called my office and say they have my back as I've had theirs. Not once. Not once have I dishonored my public office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: So, what is he facing? He is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in what the prosecutors called bribes, flying on private jets, taking paid vacations, all by this doctor who donated a lot of money to his campaign, gave him a lot of gifts, and now it's on the prosecution to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.
BERMAN: If the New Jersey Democrat is convicted, his replacement, if he were to lose his seat, would be appointed by a Republican governor, which caused all kinds of issues to the Democratic Party. We will follow this case very, very closely.
The president may be putting pressure on Congress to fix the protection for DREAMers, maybe he released that pressure. We will ask a key member of the Senate what she thinks about the president's statements next.