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Irma aims for Puerto Rico; Hurricane Irma's Path; Congress to Fix DACA. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 6, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:31] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

Breaking news on several fronts this hour.

President Trump just wrapping up a meeting with top congressional leaders, asking for swift votes on Harvey relief money and an increase in the government's debt ceiling.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have many, many things that are on the plate. Hopefully we can solve them in a rational way and maybe we won't be able to. We'll probably know pretty much at the end of this meeting, or the meetings that we'll be having over a short period of time.


KING: Plus, the president is frustrating and confusing his own party on immigration, sending mixed signals about protecting the so-called dreamers. The backlash from Democrats is intense.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: I want to cut to the chase. The president's decision, the president's decision to end DACA was heartless and it was brainless.


KING: And Irma takes aim. The storm is a category five. Winds hitting 185 miles per hour. Florida's governor, sounding the alarm, even though the storm is still days away.


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: This storm is bigger, faster and stronger than Hurricane Andrew. We are being very aggressive in our preparation for this storm. Remember, we can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life.


KING: Let's begin with Hurricane Irma, now slamming parts of the Caribbean and could be on a collision course with the United States mainland. Take a look at this video from the island of St. Martin. Just listen for a second. We're talking about one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded. And this is what St. Martin looks like now. Devastation there.

President Trump talking about the threat the storm poses to the United States just a short time ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a new and seems to be record-breaking hurricane heading right toward Florida and Puerto Rico and other places. We'll see what happens. We'll know in a very short period of time. But it looks like it could be something that will be not good, believe me, not good.


KING: The president says his team is ready. We have a team of reporters covering Hurricane Irma.

Let's begin with CNN's Leyla Santiago in Puerto Rico.

Leyla, what is the latest there as Irma takes aim?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we've actually seen several waves of high winds and rain. Right now things are calm. But, again, I think we're right in between some of the bands that are coming in with Hurricane Irma.

A lot of people on this island certainly feeling the uncertainty and the fear that comes with the unknown, not knowing exactly what type of destruction will follow. The governor of Puerto Rico saying that a weather system, a weather event of this magnitude has never been felt on this island in its recorded history.

And, you know, as we were out and about, we spoke to one woman. Her name is Mida (ph). And she was actually just closing up shop. She was closing the small business that she owns in an area that is expected to be very much impacted. And as she closed that door, John, she looked right over at us and said, look, this is now in God's hands because no one knows what is coming next.

They have 460 shelters that have been established, many of them open and operating. People already seeking shelter. Early this morning, the governor said that they already had more than 700 people in those shelters. Now, that is a small -- that is a low number given that there are 3.5 million people on this island. But they are trying to take precautions. The governor said they are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.


KING: Leyla Santiago in Puerto Rico. We'll keep in touch as this storm gets closer and closer.

Let's head now to the CNN Weather Center. Meteorologist Chad Myers has the latest.

Chad, we've been through a lot of these over the years and I don't recall many times hearing 185 miles per hour.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No, the closest I can remember even reporting on was Jian (ph) and that was in the eastern Pacific there, way out to the west, near the Philippians, and that was 195. And we had Anderson Cooper on the ground there for weeks covering that event.

This thing went right over Barbuda. It did damage. It -- we have not heard from that island in now six hours. It also went over St. Martin and Anguilla. And it is truly right now over the British Virgin Islands. There is an island right there, Virgin Gorda. The (INAUDIBLE) yacht club right there. I don't understand this, but Sir Richard Branson is on that island right there in a wine cellar. I think when he gets out of there later today, I think he will tell us what an unwise decision that was to ride this 185-mile-per-hour wind out. Everything will be demolished on those islands there in the BBI. And probably not faring much better will be the U.S. Virgin Islands from (INAUDIBLE), all the way up to Megans (ph) Bay. This will be a devastating impact.

[12:05:22] We know about parts of Bermuda. They're saying at some spots as the hurricane went over, ripped all the vegetation out of the ground. There's not a bit of vegetation left.

So where does it go from here? It gets into the Turks and Caicos, but there's not much land there, so we don't expect too much of a loss of power. Still, 160. Then 155. And maybe making a turn toward Florida. I say maybe because if we look at all these models, they all turn this storm very hard to the right, John. Very hard.

But when does that happen? Does that happen right over Monroe County and on up into Miami-Dade? That would be likely the most devastating hurricane in U.S. history. Does it turn to the right and go over the Bahamas? For the Bahamas, a devastating hit here. Or does it wait and get all the way west of Key West and get west of here. This is less likely. This is somewhere in the middle. And this right here is as most of the computer models now are talking, a slight right turn just to the east of Miami Beach, but still Miami Beach could have winds of 150. Could you imagine what that would do to the high-rises and the buildings and everything on Miami Beach. That would be a real mess. Now that's still four and a half days away. So keep that in mind.

KING: And in those four and a half days, important for everybody who lives there or has loved ones there.


KING: Keep in touch with Chad Myers here. Keep in touch and listen to your local officials as this plays out. Chad, we'll check back with you as developments warrant.

Turning now to domestic politics. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, today putting the best face on a decision we know the speaker don't like, President Trump's decision to complicate the fall congressional agenda by announcing his plan to revoke protections for the so-called dreamers. Now this may be wildly optimistic given past immigration battles, but the speaker says he hopes Congress can pass legislation that gives new protections to those young, undocumented immigrants and also beefs up border security.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: So I think there's a serious humane issue here that needs to be dealt with. But it's only fitting and reasonable that we also deal with some of the root causes of this problem.


KING: Now, the mixed signals from the White House could further complicate an congressional action. In making the announcement yesterday, it was the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, he spoke harshly of the Obama era protections.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs. Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and terrorism.


KING: But just hours after that, the president of the United States had a very different tone, saying on Twitter, quote, Congress now has six months to legalize DACA, something the Obama administration was unable to do. If they can't, I will revisit this issue.

Here to share their reporting and their insights, Abby Phillip of "The Washington Post," "The Wall Street Journal's" Michael Bender, Ryan Lizza of "The New Yorker," and CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson.

We've all lived through watching Congress try to do this over the past 10, 15 years, and the answer has been, they start, they fail, they start, they fail. How much did the president complicate the cause? Number one, having the attorney general come out and say illegal aliens, crime, terrorism, taking your jobs, very harsh language, very driven to the anti-immigration Trump base. But then the president says, I'll fix this. If Congress doesn't do it, I'll do it.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean it's a terrible negotiating tactic, right, this idea that it seemed like it was a final offer and that the Congress had to do this, and now he's saying, well, it's not quite a final offer. There's no essential do or die now situation in terms of doing this. There's no come back and do it later.

It's also unclear like what he means. I mean what would he do later? And does it also mean that he's not going to do anything now, right? And if you listen to Paul Ryan and you listen to Marco Rubio, they essentially say, they don't know what the president wants on this. They don't know if they put DACA on his desk whether or not he would sign it. They don't -- they want some guidance and leadership from him. And we'll see if we get that over these next couple of days.

KING: And as we wait for that, and we watch the Washington confusion to play out one way or another, there are 800,000 people who were told by the attorney general of the United States yesterday, in six months you're gone.


KING: You know, in six months you're gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prepare for departure.

KING: You're gone. And, again, you know, they have to decide, you know, do I try to reapply, what about my family, what about the roots? Many of them have no stake, no relationship at all with the country they would be sent home to.

So as this plays out, one of the things the Democrats say is, every time they get a chance now, they're going to attach what they call a clean dreamer's bill to any piece of legislation they can. Here's the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Let us say this, and I think I speak for the leader as well, if a clean Dream Act does not come to the floor in September, we're prepared to attach it to other items this fall until it passes.


[12:10:05] KING: I want to continue this conversation. I just want to show you, as we do, we're going to show you live pictures of the floor of the House of Representatives. They have just started voting on the first installment of the Harvey relief package. Hurricane Irma bearing down in the Caribbean, heading to Puerto Rico, perhaps to Florida. The Harvey aid package, it's about $8 billion, installment number one, being voted on in the House of Representatives.

We're going to keep an eye on that vote. We'll bring you the results when we get there. We expect it to pass overwhelmingly but we want to break that down as it votes.

But let's continue the DACA conversation for a minute.

The democrats understand, they believe this is a good political issue for them. They also understand how much it fractures the Republican Party. They cannot succeed, can they, in just saying, let's just protect the dreamers?

ABBY PHILLIP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I don't think they intend to necessarily succeed in having everything that they possibly want for a couple of reasons. One, because that's not how deals are made. But also because they actually care about the fate of these dreamers. I don't think they want to hold dreamers hostage in order to score political point.

At the same time, they're starting from a position of strength here. They know that Republicans also don't want to be seen as heartless and cruel. So they're starting from, you know, their corner, and they're saying, hey, if you guys don't want to play ball, come to us a little bit. And I think that Republicans will come. But I also expect that Democrats will say OK to border security. They've done it before. It's not like there are a lot of Democrats in the caucus right now who have not voted for some measure of boarder security. Arguably, a militarization of the border. And if you look at some of the proposals that they've supported in the past, I think we will get a deal that is going to be a little bit of what Trump wants, a little bit of what the Democrats want. And nobody -- it's in nobody's best interest to leave the dreamers hanging.

KING: And so what's the message to the Trump base? This is something he promised to do on day one. He's -- during the campaign he said, elect me president. I will reverse the Obama executive actions, including DACA, the dreamers.

And then yesterday the attorney general comes out and announces they're finally doing it in pretty strong language, putting them on notice and the memo distributed by the administration essentially said, make your plans, you're out of here.

But then the president says last night, well, if Congress doesn't fix it, essentially he opened the idea that, I want them to stay. I want to do something about this. Although he doesn't say that explicitly.

Here's what Breitbart says about his. Donald Trump's Tuesday night DACA tweet is a rare negotiating blunder. Whatever caused Tuesday evening's DACA tweet, perhaps a loss of nerve in a Bannon-less West Wing. It was an error from which Trump must extricate himself and soon.

All politics is local.

RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": A reminder that Steve Bannon is (INAUDIBLE) runs that website.

HENDERSON: Yes. He probably wrote that article.

KING: Keep the boss happy.


LIZZA: Well, yes, he had a gun to Congress' head with this six-month deadline. And, you know, as we all know, Congress doesn't really do a whole lot unless it has -- is coming up against a serious deadline. And then he backed off with this vague revisit it. But does anyone really think revisit means he's going to go back to the Obama era executive action and reinstate DACA unilaterally from the White House if Congress doesn't pass it? I man there's no way he's going to do that.

KING: They have no idea what he means. (CROSS TALK)

KING: They have no idea what he means, be isn't that the test of a president should explain what he means?

LIZZA: He doesn't know either.

PHILLIP: I think he wants to have it both ways. I mean I think that's ultimately what his about. He wants to make everybody happy with this. And that's not how leadership works, to your point.

KING: You can't --

PHILLIP: I mean you have to make a decision. And I also don't think -- there is no -- there is way to revisit DACA at this point after the attorney general declared it unconstitutional. You can't go back and then say, oh, well, never mind. I -- maybe -- you know, I think some people argue that maybe Trump doesn't understand the full scope of all of this. But I think he does. I just think that he wants to kind of get ahead of some of the negative coverage here.

HENDERSON: He wants to please -- yes.

KING: You can't please -- you can't please half the people on this issue, let alone trying to please everybody on this issue. It just doesn't work that way.

MICHAEL BENDER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Right. And when it comes to the Trump base, anything that can be construed as amnesty, we will see screaming headlines from and from that base, you know, going after Trump if they think anything of -- any sort of DACA fix provides amnesty.

And, you know, the other thing, when it comes to sort of negotiating tactics here, what Trump has basically done is, right, is put this into 2016. "The Wall Street Journal" has a poll this morning that that looks at how Americans views have changed our immigration. Immigration is a -- you know, is a hot potato issue. But ten years ago, 48 percent of the country said that immigration hurt America. Now that 64 percent say immigration helps America. And the shift there is among Democrats, right? And so whether or not Schumer and Pelosi are -- their goal is to score political points, they will take every opportunity going into 2018 to use this as a political wedge and --

LIZZA: They need to -- they need to make a serious decision about what they are willing to give up to get DACA passed.

KING: Right. Will they give up border wall funding? Will they give up other stuff?

LIZZA: It's not really an ideological principle case against some border security. I mean all Democrats are for border security.

HENDERSON: And -- yes, and will they -- yes.

LIZZA: And so that would be a huge substantive victory for the Democrats to have a legislative DACA fix.

HENDERSON: And what will they insist on -- yes.

LIZZA: And at some point they're going to have to come to that realization.

KING: See if -- see if (INAUDIBLE).

[12:15:06] HENDERSON: Yes. And will they insist on citizenship or, I mean, is any -- what will they insist on in terms of what part of this?

KING: This is -- you all raised the issues that have sent every other immigration bill off the rails.


KING: Even if it started looking strong, then these issues come up and off we go.


KING: Everybody sit tight.

Next, as Florida braces for a possible hit from Hurricane Irma, the House is voting right now on emergency money for southeast Texas and Louisiana, still trying to begin the recovery, of course, from Hurricane Harvey.


KING: We're going to take you straight to Doral, Florida. The Florida governor, Rick Scott, giving an update on preparations for Hurricane Irma.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: This should help families evacuate quickly and safely. We are preparing for Irma to directly impact our state. And while it's still too early to tell exactly where this storm will hit, it is critically important that all Floridians keep a close eye on this incredibly dangerous storm.

[12:20:08] Do not sit and wait for this storm to come. It is extremely dangerous and deadly and will cause devastation. Get prepared now.

The National Guard. I just activated an additional 900 members of the Florida National Guard. By the end of the day, there will be a total of 1,000 guard members to immediately begin assisting with ongoing Hurricane Irma preparations. The Florida National Guard, incredibly important to executing emergency preparedness and response action across the state and I will continue to activate more members as need.

These members will be in place to help with evacuations and sheltering, as well as a coordination of search and rescue with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. National Huard members will also be assisting utility companies following this storm as they respond to return power to homes and businesses. I've directed the remaining 6,000 available members of the Florida

National Guard to report for duty no later than Friday morning. In addition, 13 helicopters and more than 1,000 tactical high water vehicles are on standby.

The Florida National Guard is coordinating with other states and the National Guard Bureau to insure approximately 30,000 troops, 4,000 trucks, 100 helicopters and air evacuation crews are ready to support our state.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is preparing search and rescue teams for potential deployment. The Fish and Wildlife Commission has more than 200 officers standing by for the first wave of response based on potential storm impacts. Thirty teams with supporting resources such as trucks, coastal and river patrol boats and ATV and two shallow drop boats are prepared for evacuation support, search and rescue missions or any additional needs.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, FWC, the Department of Highway and Safety and other partnering agencies are identifying the resources for deployment a response. The Florida Highway Patrol is monitoring road and traffic conditions to ensure roadways are clear. Each FDLE region has established a minimum of two response teams and a logistics planning team ready to deploy to impacted areas.

Utility providers. I've been in constant contact with Florida's utility providers are they're already working on staging and asset allocation so they can return power as quickly as possible following the storm. They are actively positioning resources throughout the state and in neighboring states.

We know from previous storms how incredibly important it is for power to be restored as quickly as possible. I will be talking to the utilities often throughout the day and have urged county and city officials, including sheriffs and police chiefs, to reach out to their utility providers so we can all work together in response to Irma.

Lake Okeechobee. Water levels in Lake Okeechobee are being lowered as well as the surrounding canals. Routine inspections of the Herbert Hoover Dike are taking place and additional inspections will begin once the late approaches 17 feet. The lake level currently is 13.68 feet. Based on current rainfall forecasts at this time, we have no major concerns with the dike, but we will remain in contact with the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to monitor the dike.

Shelters. If you are evacuate from The Keys, you can shelter at Florida International University. We're working hand in hand with the counties to insure that shelters are available for other communities who may need to evacuate. There's absolutely no reason for anyone not to evacuate if you're ordered to do so. Shelters will be available and you should follow the directions of local officials to go to the shelter that fits your needs. Families can go to to learn where shelters are in your area. Comcast will be opening more than 137 free Xfinity wi-fi hot spots throughout the state for individuals in need, including non-Comcast customers. For a map of those hot spots visit

The state is staging supplies such as meals, shelter support trailers and water at the state logistics resource center in central Florida for deployment as needed. We will be positioning these goods once we have a better understanding of the path of this storm.

Last night I spoke to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who told me that HHS had disaster medical assistance teams en route to Florida. These rapid response teams aid in the provision of medical care to those who need it after the storm.

We have also heard reports on the news of grocery stores being out of water. Retailers are working as quickly as possible to fill grocery store shelves with water and other emergency resources. All weight and driver restrictions have been waived and tolls are waived, so this is helping.

We've been in touch with retailers where more supplies are clearly on the way. If you visited a store yesterday and found a shortage, you should go back today to get your supplies once everything has been replenished.

What we need now is volunteers. We need more volunteers. I encourage all Floridians that can volunteer to do so, to help prepare and respond to this storm. Volunteer Florida has 43 community response emergency response teams on standby to deploy to areas of need. American Red Cross teams are arriving in Orlando for staging with 26 tractor trailers at the state logistics resource center, 150 trailers at the state's farmer's market and 100 emergency response vehicles staged to north Florida. The Red Cross is also sending 1,000 volunteers to Florida.

[12:25:27] The Salvation Army is on standby with 32 cooking units in Florida and additional supplies staged and waiting deployment in neighboring states. The Florida Baptist Convention has 35 kitchens on standby ready to feed 35,000 meals a day. Floridians can go to to sign up for volunteer opportunities. Volunteers makes a huge difference in these emergencies and help with shelter, food distribution and response efforts. Your efforts could make the difference a family needs to get through this storm, so please volunteer.

Regarding school closures. To find out if your local school district is closing, please visit the Florida Department of Education website at or call your superintendent.

State offices in Monroe County are closed today until further notice. State office closures in all other counties will follow the direction of county officials and will be announced as they are determined. I've directed state offices in all 67 counties to be closed on Friday.

Every family needs to have a plan. Have a disaster preparedness kit and be ready today. Do not sit and wait. Prepare right now. For details on how to create a personalized plan, visit If you need to fill your prescriptions, do it today. You can fill them

early at your local pharmacy so you're prepared. We're working closely with our federal and local partners to make sure our communities have all the resources they need. We are 100 percent focused on making sure Floridians and visitors have timely information on this storm and we will continue to closely monitor Hurricane Irma and issue updates throughout the next few days.

But I cannot stress this enough, get prepared, know your evacuation zone, listen to your locals. This storm has the potential to devastate our great state and have to -- and you have to take this seriously. Remember, we can rebuild your home, we cannot rebuild your life.

This is a life-threatening storm and protecting life is an absolute top priority. Let's remember Andrew, I had hospitals back in Andrew. We evacuated two hospitals and moved patients south. And then, at the end, Andrew moved south and we had (INAUDIBLE) patients for hours. So this is a -- can be a devastating storm, more storm surge than Andrew, bigger than Andrew, more wind than Andrew, so everybody take this seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, governor.

And now we have our two great senators from the state of Florida, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.

KING: You're listening to the governor of Florida, Rick Scott. The state senators about to speak now, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. We'll drop out of this.

The governor again emphasizing, even though Irma is four full days away from potential -- potential landfall in Florida, 185-mile-an-hour winds convincing the governor he needs to be out there several times a day telling the residents of his state, do not underestimate this. Listen to your local officials. Be prepared if they tell you to evacuate. Also addressing already some of the supply shortages, saying many stores in that area of southern Florida out of water already. Governor Rick Scott. That's the second time I've seen him on television today. Politicians trying to get out ahead of this one, get his state prepared.

I want to shift now, as Florida prepares and elsewhere prepares for Irma, I want to show you some live pictures from the House floor. Members of Congress voting right now on disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Nearly $8 billion in much needed cash for folks in Texas and Louisiana included in that legislation. This just the first round of funding. We expect this bill to pass momentarily.

Senate leaders, however, it gets a little complicated when it moves over there. They will take the Harvey aid bill and most likely attach it to a bill that increases the government's borrowing limits, the debt ceiling, which means many conservative members of Congress are squirming, to put it lightly. The White House also wants to marry the bills. But when he was asked today, President Trump wouldn't commit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: Mr. President, are you willing to do a debt ceiling that's connected to Harvey relief funds?



KING: Now, Democrat leaders say they're willing to cooperate to an extent, which predictably outraged the House speaker, Paul Ryan.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We've got all this devastation in Texas. We've got another unprecedented hurricane hitting -- about to hit Florida, and they want to play politics with the debt ceiling? I think that's a ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment when we have fellow citizens in need to respond to these hurricanes so that we do not strand them.


KING: That's a bit of irony there in that the debt ceiling usually fractures, divides, complicates, quicksand, quagmire, call it what you will, the internal Republican politics. The point the speaker was making there, and forgive me, America, this is a Washington process conversation, but it's one of the complications. It's one of the complications. You would think $8 billion in Harvey aid. You all watched that play out the last week and the week before. Boom, easy, right, pass it, go.

[12:30:13] But Congress does have to raise the debt ceiling.