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Hurricane Irma's Path; Evacuations Happening in Palm Beach County; Islanders Survey Devastation; Harvey-Debt Limit Deal. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:10] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Irma is on a direct path for southern Florida. Giant storm surges predicted. The governor says it will be the most catastrophic hurricane in state history. Officials warning residents they best heed evacuation orders.


BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: I don't know anybody in Florida that's ever experienced what's about to hit south Florida.


KING: The images from Irma's path across the Caribbean are heartbreaking. Tiny Barbuda, fewer than 2,000 permanent residents, but the prime minister puts the cost of rebuilding at $100 million.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, my main concern right now is how we're going to survive after this. I mean that every house, every infrastructure, every (INAUDIBLE) is completely damaged and gone.


KING: And as Irma takes aim, Hurricane Harvey still very much an issue. The first installment of emergency aid money won final approved from Congress today. All 90 no votes in the House came from Republicans. Most of them mad at a broader spending and debt deal President Trump made with the Democrats.


REP. DAV BRAT (R), VIRGINIA: The idea that we're voting against relief is absurd. All we're asking for is a comma. We're doing to do something about the $20 trillion in debt going on the next generation. So, yes, I'm hugely frustrated.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: We begin the hour with Hurricane Irma churning westward now, just above Cuba, closing in on Florida. Downgraded to a category four, but that does not make it any less deadly or less scary. So far, at least 18 people have died in this storm. Irma expected to slam into Miami this weekend. The Red Cross says 26 million people are still sitting in the storm's path.

President Trump is being briefed again on the hurricane this hour. He issued his own warning on Twitter a bit earlier saying, Irma is, quote, bigger than we have ever seen. Urging, get out of the way if possible.

Mass exodus is underway. More than 650,000 residents urged to leave their homes in Miami-Dade County alone. There's mayhem at the airports. Some chaos on the highways. Official warning if you call 911 during this storm, no one will pick up the phone.


ROMAN GASTESI, MONROE COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR: This is a very, very serious storm. If you decide to stay in The Keys, you are on your own. The hospitals are closing. Our emergency managers, we're leaving. We're moving. If it's coming to Key West, we're going to go up The Keys, and vice versa. So there will be nobody around.


KING: If you live in Florida, maybe you're not sure what to believe or who to believe. Just look at what Irma has already done to small islands across the Caribbean. Homes smashed to bits in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In the Dominican Republic, waves rushed into a neighborhood so fast, that cameraman there, almost swept away. Let's watch.


KING: He says he barely escaped.

And the tiny island of Barbuda, now barely inhabitable. The prime minister estimates some 95 percent of the buildings are damaged. Devastation, he says, will cost $100 million to fix. Islanders who lost everything say they've never, ever seen anything like it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last night was the most devastating experience I ever had in my life. And I am almost 60. I witnessed Hurricane Louis, but it was never like this. This one is the worst and the most devastating. Done more damage to Barbuda than any other storm that we in our life ever experienced.


KING: And unfortunately for the Caribbean, Irma is not alone. Look at these pictures captured by NASA. Three hurricanes, from left to right, that's Katia, Irma and Jose.

CNN is covering Hurricane Irma from every angle. Let's get straight to Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center.

Chad, you hear these warnings. There are always people who don't listen to them. Take us through the path and explain just what is coming to south Florida.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The reason why they don't listen to them, John, is because typically we're talking about a category one. And, you know, you're going to get five mile wide of an area that really gets damage in a cat one.

This is not close. This is a category four, but it's not any smaller in size than when it was a category five. What's happened is that the eyewall got messed up for a little bit, called an eyewall replacing cycle. And now it is being replaced and it's going to be stronger again and we could get back to a five. So there's no reason to let your guard down here because, oh, it's a four. It's still the same.

It's the same, except for maybe a little bit of rise in pressure, this is still a devastating storm. You can just see the eye is not as distinct now, but it will get back, I guarantee it. It's going to get back over this warm water against just to the south of Turks and Caicos, north of Cuba. It may react with Cuba a little bit and make some flooding there, some damage in the Cuban Keys, but then eventually it gets to the U.S. Keys, Key West, Key Largo, Islamorada, and that's where landfall will be. The first landfall will be is right here, and that is Sunday, 8:00 a.m.

[12:05:16] It won't lose any power when it gets over the Everglades here and moves to the north because there's no real land there. It will even get stronger, possibly, because the water in the Everglades is even warmer than the water in the ocean.

So here's what the models look like. By Sunday, 6:00, West Palm, you're about 40 miles per hour. Miami, you're almost 60. Naples, you're going to get to 90 miles per hour by later in that afternoon. So this is a big storm right over the Everglades. So that's some good news that it's over the Everglades, but not really because the storm gets bigger and 100 mile-per-hour winds all the way from Fort Pierce all the way to the other side, including Fort Myers.

Then it moves up to the north over Orlando. Orlando, you're going to see 90 to 95 mile per hour gusts. Tampa, probably 85. Jacksonville, you're going to see a lot of onshore flows. Savannah and Charleston as well. Going to get flooding along this coast as we push water inland.

And then where all the evacuees are going, Atlanta, Atlanta's going to get 60 or 75 mile-per-hour gusts because the storm just isn't done yet.

It's the surge that I'm worried about and the landfall around Islamorada will make surge, Josh, all the way through Key Largo, all the way to Ocean Reef. But the biggest surge will be into Key Biscayne. Key Biscayne is where Andrew went in, and into Homestead. But it didn't bring as much surge as it brought wind.

This is going to bring 10, maybe 12 feet of water. So anyone that's not more than 12 feet above water is going to get water in their house and it's going to be sloshing and there's going to be waves on top of it, 10 to 20 feet. You can imagine what that water power is going to do to those homes. Those homes will be gone. And so that's why you need to be gone in some of those low-lying areas.

There will be some flooding. There will be some rain. But this is more of a floodmaker because of the surge and then wind damage maker all along the coast. Both sides. East side and west side. Nobody gets out. Nobody gets spared here. Because it goes right up the middle.


KING: Nobody gets spared here. Important. You should listen -- listen to your governor, listen to your mayor, listen to Chad Myers. He knows about these storms.

Chad, we'll check in a bit later for more on that storm surge.

Plenty of people in Florida remember the last killer hurricane that hit south Florida. That was Andrew 25 years ago. Listen here, we found a man who survived that storm now helping people prepare for this one.


JOEL MELENDEZ, HOMESTEAD RESIDENT: Serious, you know? This ain't no game, you know? And I feel for a lot of people that I can't help and I can't get to because I'm only one guy, my brother and I, you know? So I -- hopefully I made some type of change or I saved a life or two. That's all that matters at the end of the day.


KING: Amen to those good Samaritans. That was Homestead, south of Miami.

Brian Todd is in Palm Beach County, north of Miami, where one huge concern is keeping the county's older residents safe.

Brian, talk us through the evacuations. How are they going there? What are local officials saying?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, this is a very complex and frankly very tense evacuation scenario because this is what they've got to do. The mandatory evacuation for Palm Beach just went into effect two hours ago. They are trying to get people from that barrier island, that's Palm Beach, across the intercostal waterway here, across these bridges, soon as possible, before tomorrow. They want people off the roads by tomorrow.

But a lot of people are staying. They're hunkering down. And it's dangerous to stay on that barrier island. You've got to get across to West Palm Beach, where we're standing, and then further inland if you can. There are 15 general population shelters in West Palm Beach over this way. Not any that we know of in Palm Beach because they want people to get out. And what they're going to be doing is locking down this bridge so that

no boats can go through. That's a given. There won't be any boats on the water then. But they're also going to be manning checkpoints on these bridges. The police are going to be checking to see if anyone coming across during the storm has proof of residence of Palm Beach. You don't have that, you can't get on to Palm Beach. They don't want anyone coming in just to see the waves.

So very complicated process here. They're trying to get people off this barrier island because the storm surge we're told is going to be about five to ten feet. I'm standing about five feet above the water here and, of course, that means it's going to come up to where I'm standing and even higher. And there's going to be wave action on top of that. This is a slightly higher elevation than over there. So they've got to get people off that island.

You talked about the elderly. That is just a huge problem right now. They're trying to get as many elderly people into shelters as possible. They have one special needs shelter in Palm Beach County. The pre-registration for that is just about at capacity, John.

I just talked to the owner and manager of an Alzheimer's care place that's run out of a house, just like one of these over here. He's got only four patients there. H e's going to move them from that place to another one of his facilities, but not to a shelter. He thinking he can care for them better there. He's concerned because they get confused, they ask questions, they get scared. That in a microcosm is just the problem associated with moving the elderly here and getting them secured. That is multiplied thousands of times, of course, because there are so many elderly people here in Palm Beach County and they're going to open up a special shelter for special needs people if they need to, John.

[12:10:10] KING: Brian Todd in West Palm Beach.

And what Brian says is very important, remember the logistical challenge here. Hundreds of thousands of people moving. If you have to move, if you have to get to a shelter, if you have questions, deal with them now. Deal with them as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the bigger challenge you pose to all those local officials trying to help you out.

Despite the evacuation warnings, many islanders wouldn't or couldn't leave. And now they're stuck waiting and worrying about their friends and neighbors and also about the coming hurricane, Jose.

Elizabeth Doody Jackson lives on St. Thomas. She and her husband hunkered down there for the storm with three others. She joins me on the phone.

Elizabeth, you went outside to check on your neighbors. Tell us about the destruction. Tell us how people are doing.


Yes, we decided to venture out and try to help the neighbors here on St. Thomas. We're in a lot of shock. There's more destruction than we could have imagined. There are wires down everywhere. Trees blocking roads. So (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And you say the only hospital on the island has been destroyed. One of the things you're been doing, you're rare in that you have -- it goes in and out, I understand, but you have cell phone capability right now, which is rare because most of the communications are knocked out. What are you doing? You're using your own social media to try to help your neighbors communicate?

JACKSON: Yes, we are. I mean thank God for social media. I didn't know if I'd ever say that, but thank God. It has kept us able to find out who is safe. The more we're trying to get the word out, people back in the states have been contacting my social media, trying to find out if their loved ones are OK, because as far as we know, there is no Internet whatsoever. Of course no TV. There is absolutely no cell phone reception outside of what we're understanding from AT&T, one tower that is hitting the north side of the island. So we're trying to be able to get as much information back to you guys in the states from people that are here.

There's a lot of people that still have no contact whatsoever to let their loved ones know that they are OK.

KING: And, so, Elizabeth, do you have any way of getting information from local officials about when services might be restored, about where supplies might be available for people who need them, or are you in the dark?

JACKSON: No, absolutely not. I'm sorry, what?

KING: There's no -- there's no -- no --

JACKSON: We have -- we have -- absolutely none. We're not getting any information from the government as far as what to do, where to go. when help is coming. We did see a couple helicopters flying overhead this morning. We saw somebody being lifted off the top of a house from our house the other day.

Outside of that, we have no idea. We're not even -- we have no information where Jose is. How close it is. I have a son back in the states that I've been texting back and forth and the boys and my husband (INAUDIBLE) have been trying to communicate with family to find out what is going on. Is anybody going to come here? When can we get out? We have enough water and food to get us through the week, but, you know, where do we go after that?

From what we understand, the grocery stores are destroyed. We found out from our landlord who was able to get down to our house with a bobcat clearing away debris that their -- everything's gone. Everything is gone.

So outside of my communication, really, with my son, who lives in Ohio, who's name is Cole (INAUDIBLE), he goes to Capital (ph) University out there, and he has kept us up to date on even where the storm was. He was taking us through it step by step watching the eye and told us the second it was hitting (INAUDIBLE).-

KING: Elizabeth --

JACKSON: So that is the only communication that we are having. There is no whatsoever. So we look forward to finding out when we're going to have help, who's coming in, and what we should do.

KING: Elizabeth Doody Jackson from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Elizabeth, we'll keep in touch in the days ahead. We're also -- the government says three Navy ships are coming to the U.S. Virgin Islands to help. We will keep in touch in the days ahead for your updates on the situation on the ground. Also to make sure you're getting any help we could help you with, if we can.

Up next, Congress today approving badly needed emergency relief for Hurricane Harvey. Remember Harvey? President Trump is pleased. Other Republicans, not very happy.


[12:19:00] KING: Welcome back.

I want to show you some live pictures. This from our affiliate, WSBN. This is Homestead, Florida, about 40 miles south of Miami. Those lines, people waiting to sign up to get into a shelter in Homestead, Florida. Again, this just one of the early glimpses of the massive logistical challenge facing local officials and state officials all across Florida. Hundreds of thousands being told to evacuate their homes and get to safer ground.

Live pictures here of Homestead, Florida. We see the law enforcement officials there. People lining up to get into a shelter opening in Homestead directly in the path of Irma as now scripted. We'll keep in touch with the storm there.

Back in Washington today, a big win for President Trump. The question is, at what price? The House of Representatives voted 316-90 in favor of legislation that includes nearly $8 billion as a first installment for Hurricane Harvey relief. All 90 no votes came from Republicans. And those votes had little to do, maybe nothing to do, with Harvey money.

Republicans don't like the rest of the legislation. It raises the borrowing limits and keeps the government running through early December. That's the deal the Republican president brokered with top Democrats and conservatives say he got zero concessions in the process. So, emotions are raw.

[12:20:06] In a closed door meeting before the vote, sources tell CNN the Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, asked members to vote for the package, quote, for me. That prompted outrage from members. The president's budget director, a former House member who not long ago railed against raising the debt ceiling without cutting spending, defended the boss. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: I thought it was absolutely the right thing to do. I think the president is sending the message that -- the president is a very results-driven person. And he saw opportunity to work with the Democrats on this particular issue, at this particular time, to get those things done. We would love, love, love to continue to work with Republicans and will to get tax reform done, to get infrastructure done, to address again the debt ceiling.


KING: Count them, three loves there. Love, love, love to continue working with Republicans.

Here to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Hirschfeld Davis of "The New York Times," "Bloomberg's" Sahil Kapur, Michael Shear of "The New York Times," and CNN's Sara Murray.

How long is this? What is the lasting impact of this? Republicans are mad. Surprisingly, in a meeting with their leadership sitting right there, the president pulled the rug out from under them and sided with the Democrats.

It's a win for the president. Most Americans probably think, good, Washington's working. This is the way it's supposed to be. So you're going to keep the government running. You're getting Harvey relief money to the people who need it. You raised the government's borrowing limits so that we can pay our bills like American families have to do.

So, out there, a good thing. In town, Republicans are seething. They think the president turned his back on his own party and they think this set -- this deal sets up for them tough votes and complications.

JULIE DAVIS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, and this is their worst nightmare, of course. This is what everybody feared. A lot of conservative Republicans feared Donald Trump would do when he got into office is that he would cut deals with Democrats and essentially freeze them out.

You heard Mick Mulvaney there saying that he's a result-oriented guy. He's also a like, what's in front of me, let's get passed what's the immediate challenge that's in front of me kind of a guy. And I think that had a lot to do with this.

So it's not clear that this is going to be a template necessarily for him going forward. And it's certainly not clear that this is going to entice Democrats to work with them on other issues because they have a lot of leverage here and this -- and this deal has shown them that.

But for this 15 minutes, for this, you know, week or two weeks, this did get him where he needs to be. Of course the danger is that he, I think, has really liked the results of this. He's -- like you said, he's getting good reviews about it. The public likes it. He was gushing about the headlines in the newspaper, which he rarely does. So he now knows this feels pretty good when I cut a deal and --

KING: It's his first deal.

DAVIS: And I can get things -- something done.

KING: Yes. Right.

DAVIS: The irony, of course, is that this is a deal to do none of the things that he campaigned on.

KING: Right.

DAVIS: It doesn't cut spending. This doesn't cut taxes. It doesn't, you know, build a wall. It doesn't crack down on immigration. So it is a risk, and we'll just have to see how long it lasts.

KING: Yes. But to your point, the administration is trying to tell Republicans, look, the president did this, this once. Calm down. Stay with us. We got to do tax reform. We've got to do other things we need to do.

But listen to the president yesterday, to Julie's point, this is the first big deal he brokered. Republicans may not like that it was with Democrats. The president likes it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we will have a different relationship than you've been watching over the last number of years. I hope so. I think that's a great thing for our country. And I think that's what the people of the United States want to see. They want to see some dialogue. They want to see coming together to an extent, at least. And I think you see that with DACA. You see that with so many different things.


KING: If you listen to that, in Washington, so you just raised the debt ceiling without any spending cuts. Conservatives are mad about that. And there's the president of the United States sitting there saying, we're going to do more of this, including giving what a lot of those conservatives think is amnesty to the dreamers.

SAHIL KAPUR, "BLOOMBERG": It's never wise, I think, to assume that one thing President Trump does is necessarily indicative of future actions. But one House conservative aide I was speaking to is worried that the -- you know, the positive coverage he's gotten out of this is going to motivate him to want to cut more deals with Democrats.

The really intriguing thing here I would say is that there is nothing forcing Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell in the Senate to accept this deal. They control the floor. They could have said no and they could have said we're going a different way. This shows how much power President Trump has over their base, over their decision-making. And if President Trump decides to do this, it could be -- you know, if he decides to move further in this direction, it could be a sign of things to come.

MICHAEL SHEAR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": But, you know, to the point of not getting carried away here. I mean remember back when the House voted on -- eventually voted in a way that Trump liked on the first version of the health care bill and he held that big, you know, sort of celebratory moment in the Rose Garden. You know, you would have thought that was a moment where he, you know, reveled in working with Republicans. And it wasn't that much longer that he was attacking Mitch McConnell and attacking Paul Ryan.

So, I mean, if you're the Democrats here, you don't get -- you don't sort of suddenly think, well, now we have a lasting, trusting partner in the White House. You know --

KING: I don't think they think that, but I do think they think they have a hand grenade that divides the Republicans right now.

SHEAR: And that might work. And that may -- right.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But the most surprising thing about it is that it took Trump this long to snub Republican leaders and cut a deal with Democrats. I mean this is what he campaigned on. He campaigned on getting deals done and he's basically been snubbing Democrats since he got to the White House. So the most shocking thing to me about this is that it took this long.

[12:25:14] And I do think he could try do it again. And I do think most people sitting at home watching that say, maybe it's not a bad thing if both parties are involved in passing major legislation that impacts the future of our country. This is not a great example of that, but for future (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Right. Well, the question is, a lot of Republicans think it makes it harder to get tax reform because they have to vote again on the debt ceiling in a couple of weeks. They have to vote again on a spending plan to cut -- by early December and it makes it harder to do other things. Then they think they go into a midterm election year. A lot of House Republicans think, Mr. President, you may lose the House because of your partnering with the Democrats. So we'll see how this plays out.

Let's -- time out for now. More politics in a little bit.

Any minute now, though, we expect Florida's governor to give us an update on the evacuations, other emergency preparations for Hurricane Irma. We'll be back in just a moment.


[12:30:04] KING: Welcome back.

Irma has already run roughshod over islands in the Atlantic. The storm has now killed, sadly, at least 20 people. As it hopped from Antigua, to Barbuda, to St. Martin, to Puerto Rico, leaving behind misery