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STATE OF THE UNION
Hurricane Irma Hits Florida; Interview With Florida Governor Rick Scott; Interview With Arizona Senator John McCain; Interview With Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired September 10, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is hunkered down and praying for Florida.
The eye of Hurricane Irma is barreling through the Lower Florida Keys right now. It's a major Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 130 miles an hour.
The pictures coming in this morning from the Sunshine State depict slashing wind and rain, bent and broken trees, pounding surf. Irma is expected to spend the next day-and-a-half tracking up the west coast of the state of Florida. Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Tampa face the greatest danger, it looks like.
But, Irma, frankly, is so large and powerful, there are life- threatening hazards on both sides of the peninsula. It will be tomorrow afternoon before the storm crosses the Florida Panhandle and then hits Georgia and Alabama.
Thirty-six million people are in the path of this storm, according to the National Hurricane Center. Tens of thousands are in shelters this morning. And for many of them, it's too late to get out and it's only going to get worse.
We have reporters in Key West and in major cities along both east and west Florida coasts this morning.
We are going to start with CNN's Kyung Lah. She's in Miami Beach, which is getting hit with hurricane-strength winds.
Kyung, what are you seeing?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you what I'm seeing and what I'm feeling.
It's -- even trying to wear a ball cap tied to your head, it's very, very difficult keep anything secure. What we're seeing is not just flying ball caps, but flying signs.
The winds -- I'm going to step slightly out of the way. You can see for yourself what it looks like out here as these hurricane-force gusts come through.
We're anticipating it to get much worse. We're just beginning to see this here, Jake. What we're now hearing from the Miami Beach Fire Department and the police department is that they are no longer able to make any rescues because of what you're seeing here.
The debris is a major problem when it comes to winds like this. What they are concerned about most right now here in Miami Beach are the fall -- are the street signs that fall to the ground, the coconut that might be falling off the palm trees, tree branches.
We have seen -- when we first got out here a while ago, there were quite a few branches were on the street right next to us. And they're gone because they have just taken to the air.
Further down the street, you can see a lot of these buildings are actually quite secure, because they have storm protection against the windows and the glass. Flying glass is also a concern.
When we check in with the fire department, they said that they were quite busy for a while. They're trying to do some responses overnight. Late in the evening yesterday, they even pulled a man out -- someone -- I'm not sure of the gender -- pulled someone out of an elevator because of loss of power.
Losing power here is a -- is a problem. There is -- we woke up to no power. And there are stretches of this city that simply does not have any power.
As far as rescues happening right now, simply unable to happen. You can see the type of wind that I'm standing in. They can't send out their police and fire. And this was something that they warned people that, if you were ignoring the mandatory evacuation, if you were going to try to be on the street and you get injured, you simply will not get any help.
So, Jake, that is what is happening here in Miami Beach. We are anticipating conditions to deteriorate throughout the day. And here's the warning, and the reason why we're all doing this is to try to send the message to the west side of this state that this is coming your way and it is going to get worse -- Jake.
TAPPER: Kyung, it looks absolutely horrific.
Once, I was in a 110-mile-an-hour wind, and it felt as though my face was being blown off my skull. Describe for us, if you could, what it feels like to be in this as the first rings of this hurricane hit Miami Beach.
LAH: This is not 110-mile-per-hour winds.
We're hitting about 80 or so. And it hurts. I mean, the rain coming, pelting against you hurts. If you think of a -- what a really severe sandstorm feels like, that's what it feels like.
If you imagine what it's like to try to walk in a wind tunnel, the worst wind tunnel you have ever experienced on a normal day, that's what this feels like, inability to walk or to stand and to just try to not get hurt -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Kyung, please get inside. Thank you so much. Stay safe.
We're going to go now to an even more dangerous part of the hurricane right now.
CNN's Bill Weir is live for us in Key Largo, Florida.
Bill, tell us what you're experiencing right now.
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Much of the same, Jake.
I mean, the only way I can describe it is if you -- if you own a power washer, you know, where you clean your deck, spring cleaning, imagine taking it in the face.
It's coming down. Look at these torrential sheets of rain. And we're not set up here to be dramatic. We're actually set up here to be safe.
I'm in -- under cover. I'm under a solid stone condo. This is sort of a breezeway carport that we've set up. The camera is back as far as we can and still bring you a picture.
But the scary part about it is, the wind was predictable for the last few hours. It was coming from the Atlantic side. We're on the other side here. We're hunkered in. Biscayne Bay is over there.
But now it's getting so squirrelly, as it's whipping around and coming through and creating a wind tunnel effect here. All the power is out in the Florida Keys. No surprise there. They're super worried about losing a bridge. That's the main concern of the people down here.
You have got to understand, they know storms in the Keys. That's part of living here. It's like traffic in L.A. or heat in Phoenix, right? They have an average of one hurricane every four years, but nothing like this.
There hasn't been one this strong since Donna, 1960, 57 years ago today. So, this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event for the people down here. There's the storm surge to worry about, five- to 10-foot storm surge over these low-lying coral islands that could be devastating.
There is the tie line, again, as we mentioned, the power line that plugs into the mainland that also brings freshwater in. If that goes down, who knows how long recovery will take.
One hurricane ended the overseas railroad in 1935, so they're really concerned about now infrastructure here. But, as you can see behind me, this is one of the many harbors. This is a boating community. Your boat is your home in many cases.
We met some people who decided to stay near their boats and ride it out in stone shelters like this (INAUDIBLE). But, at a certain point, it's up to the fates, it's up to Irma whether your boat and maybe even your family survives -- Jake.
TAPPER: Billion, the -- you're in Key Largo. That's in the Upper Florida Keys.
You have been spending the last few days in the Keys, all the way down from Key West up there to Key Largo. You have talked to people that refuse to evacuate. Why did they stay? Why are they remaining there?
WEIR: There's a lot of different calculations they make. In some cases, it might be institutional knowledge.
Somebody's nice welcome sign is just blowing past.
Some -- in some cases, maybe they evacuated for a storm that missed them, and it was too much hassle, and they vowed to stay behind because it was too stressful being away. In some cases, it was fear of getting on the road when there's no guarantee of getting gas. You don't want to run out of gas somewhere in the Everglades and have to sit through something like this in your car.
In some cases, it's, I want to be there to help as a first-responder for my neighbors. I want to check my property.
There's a lot of different logic. And the sailors I talk to say, hey, we're used to squalls. We ride out thunderstorms on our boats every day. We know how to do it. It's part of doing business.
But this is next-level. This is different. And even saw that in the faces of some of the old conchs, people who haven't evacuated, you know, 80-year-olds who decided, this one is too big and too bad and it's coming this way.
But there's something about the culture down here. It's divers and it's under -- sunken treasure hunters and drifters and partiers who come down here to live in paradise. They're fiercely independent. They don't like to be told what to do.
They don't like mandatory anything in life. So, they know they're on their own. They know there are no first-responders that will answer their call. The hospitals are shut in the Keys.
But this will be either one of those, sadly, you know, tragically romantic stories about captains going down with their boats. I mean, that seems to be the case right now. Or they will be lucky beyond belief if they get through this thing in one piece.
TAPPER: All right, Billion, you're doing an amazing job out there. Please stay safe.
We're going to now to CNN's John Berman. He is live in Miami, where there are wind gusts of 100 miles per hour. John, what are the conditions right now that you're experiencing?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The state of the union is wet, Jake, very, very wet and very, very windy. The National Weather Service just put out an advisory for downtown Miami. And Miami is a very tall city, a lot of high-rises here.
And they're saying that there are 100-mile-an-hour wind gusts at these high-rises. Stay away from the windows, you're being told right now, if you are on one of the upper levels of these high-rises and you shouldn't be.
The rain just coming down now, fiercely coming down right now, 450,000 people without power in Miami-Dade alone, Jake. That's a very high number. And the worst of this storm is still to come.
To put it in perspective, in Hurricane Harvey, which was bad in different ways, it was 300,000 people without power at its height. Miami-Dade County, one county, already more than that.
Want to show you one other thing, Jake. These docks behind me right now, the water is now lapping up over these docks. That can happen at high tide. We're still three hours away from high tide right now, so maybe the first signs that we have seen that there is a storm surge coming in.
Expecting three to six feet here in Miami. Six feet would put it up to about my waist. If it came up six feet, it would be about my waist. And that would be into some of the storefronts along this Intracoastal Waterway in downtown Miami.
The people who were told to evacuate here in these low-lying areas and where Kyung Lah out is there in Miami Beach, officials begging them, do not come home right now. Please stay in the shelters, stay in the safe areas you went to, because it isn't safe to be out right now, not in these conditions, Jake.
And these conditions are going to persist for some time.
TAPPER: Obviously, John, the wind at 100 miles an hour a huge concern, the storm surge a bigger concern, potentially, given that most victims, most fatalities in hurricanes are because of drowning.
What is the biggest concern in Miami right now?
BERMAN: The storm surge consistently has been the area of biggest concern for Miami Beach and also downtown Miami, these low-lying areas right by Biscayne Bay right here.
That's why they evacuated. They don't evacuate because of the wind. It's the storm surge they are mostly worried about. And most of the people, or many of the people, did move out of these areas.
The winds, they're concerned about because of the cranes. There has been a lot of construction in Miami. And there are more than 20 cranes, these giant cranes that they couldn't take down in time that are still up. They are said to be able to withstand wind gusts of 145 miles an hour.
I don't think we will get that here in Miami. I hope we don't get that. These cranes twist like weather vanes in the wind, which can be disconcerting to see, but they're supposed to move. So, right now, what people in downtown Miami have seen are these giant cranes moving with the wind.
It's supposed to happen, but a little bit of a frightening site as the winds pick up, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, my friend John Berman, stay safe. Excellent job down there.
Let's turn now for the bigger picture with CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. She's in the CNN Weather Center.
And, Allison, where is the storm right now and where is it headed?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right.
So, the center of circulation is 20 miles due east of Key West. So, we are starting to see that landfall about to take over the Keys, make it back out over open water, before it makes a landfall over the peninsula.
This storm is still a very powerful Category 4 storm. Here, you can see some of those really heavy bands of rainfall. For the few folks -- and maybe even none, but for the few folks that are still left along the Keys, you are dealing with torrential downpours at this time, not to mention some of your peak winds.
Then we start to move on to the surge threat. Now, the surge is already taking place along the east side. You're getting that onshore flow, those winds pushing all of that water on to the East Coast.
The west coast, it's doing the exact opposite. It's taking the water and pushing it away from the beaches. So, some of those beaches, you're actually just seeing miles and miles and of sand, but no matter where it should be.
This is very dangerous. When that water comes back in -- and it will do that as the storm pushes off to the north -- the winds wrap back around and will push all that water back in -- it doesn't come in slowly. It comes in fast and furious. And that will be deadly for anyone that is on those beaches.
Then, your total storm surge numbers are very impressive still. You will notice here along the east coast some of these numbers have come down. It's not because the overall numbers are lower. It's because they have already started to accumulate some storm surge. So, this is additional storm surge going forward.
The highest numbers still remain on the southwestern tier of Florida, because it's a little bit shallower there. The gradient that it goes off before it dips into the ocean is shallower. That allows for those heights to come up a little bit higher than they would on the Atlantic side, where it's a much deeper drop.
Here is a look at the track. It's over open water right now. So, we expect it to maintain Category 4 strength until it gets to about Tampa. It will weaken slightly down to a Category 3. But, after that, as it makes its way up to the Panhandle, this is where it is going to weaken rapidly -- this is a good thing for folks in the Panhandle, places like Georgia and Alabama -- because of this wind shear.
This pink color that you see here, this is going to kill that hurricane very quickly. The top shear, at those top layers, it's just going to rip that hurricane apart, again, good news for the folks up north, not so much for the folks that are dealing with the storm right now.
We've talked about storm surge, but winds are also going to be a major factor here, maximum wind gusts expected around 135 miles per hour in Key West, 137 in Fort Myers, about 130 for Tampa.
But even, Jake, up around Tallahassee, which is on the northern fringe, they could still be looking at wind gusts of 90 to even 95 miles per hour.
TAPPER: Allison, where is the -- the eye of the storm headed next? And tell us what the worst-case scenario is for the next 24 to 36 hours.
So, we have actually already seen part of that worst-case scenario take place in the last few hours. We have seen the track shift about 14 miles west. That may not seem like a big change, but it is.
It means the main path left downtown Tampa and shifted 14 miles west. You would think, Jake, saying, oh, great, it's away from Tampa now, that should be a good thing. It's actually the opposite.
It means more storm surge will actually be able to push into the Tampa Bay, and compared to if it would have just stayed directly over Tampa. And, unfortunately, that's what we're seeing. We're seeing that shift to the west. And that's likely what's going to take place.
Now, we talked about the current center of circulation. That eye is 20 miles east of Key west. It is going to push north and likely make landfall somewhere between Naples and Tampa. The exact location will depend on the speed and the movement of the storm over the next several hours.
TAPPER: All right, Allison Chinchar in the CNN Severe Weather Center, thank you so much for that.
Let's go back now to CNN's Kyung Lah. She's in Miami Beach, where conditions have really even worsened just in the last few minutes.
Kyung, what are you experiencing?
LAH: It certainly seem that the winds have picked up just a little bit, Jake.
We don't have an exact measurement of what the winds are like out here. But the National Weather Service says, in Miami, there are wind gusts of 100 miles per hour. So, I don't have a reader. I can't tell you exactly what it feels -- what it -- the accurate number is.
But I can tell you what I see and what we're feeling. We are getting blown around quite a bit. We are seeing debris on the streets. The concern here is that that debris will take to the air, and anyone who might be out and about could be injured by that flying debris. So, that is a big concern.
As far as flooding on the streets, we haven't seen too much. There's plenty of water on the streets, but the last time we checked in with the Miami Beach Fire Department, they said, as far as major flooding, that's not really something that that have seen as of yet. So, that is the good news.
The other good news is the storm surge. The concern of a storm surge, that, not so much. I mean, we haven't quite seen it at least come off the ocean, come off the beach here. We're right on the first major street off the ocean. And we just haven't seen that quite as of yet.
And that was a big concern, because they were worried that people might get caught in it and might drown, because even though these winds are severe, Jake, people tend to die most by drowning in that storm surge.
As far as anyone who is out and about, we've seen a couple of storm chasers. We've seen some local press. But we haven't seen too many people. And that's good.
The Miami Beach Police Department urging people to stay inside, telling them that, if they get injured, they are on their own -- 911, you're not going to get any help if you're out here.
The warning came out yesterday that if you are going to stay in Miami Beach, you're not going to be, at some point, able to get any help from the police department and the fire department.
And let's put all of this into perspective, because we keep talking about where the eye is traveling and how this is going to impact the west side. This is the early part. It's going to be much worse up there -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Kyung Lah, stay safe there in Miami Beach.
We're going to take a very quick break.
When we come back, we're going to talk to the governor of Florida. We're going to talk to Senator Marco Rubio. And we're going to talk to a first-responder who is in harm's way east of Key West.
Stay with us. We will be right back.
TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN. We have breaking news.
You are looking right now at the current radar, as Hurricane Irma made landfall over the Southern Florida Keys earlier this morning.
It's a Category 4 storm with 130-mile-an-hour sustained winds. We just heard from our meteorologist Allison Chinchar that the storm will track up the west coast of Florida, which is obviously horrific news for places like Naples and Saint Petersburg and Tampa.
Right now, though, the areas of biggest concern are the Florida Keys.
Joining us on the phone right now is Maggie Howes. She's a certified first-responder. She's in Key Haven, Florida. That's about a mile to the east of Key West.
Maggie, where are you right now?
MAGGIE HOWES, CERTIFIED FIRST-RESPONDER: I'm standing on the second floor of a three-story Cat 5-rated concrete house, watching the water go by.
TAPPER: Key Haven has about 1,000 residents, I'm told. Is -- are any of them there?
HOWES: There are. There are quite a few houses that are filled with people.
There are at least four that I know of personally that have good friends waiting the storm out.
TAPPER: You say it's catastrophic. What -- what are you seeing? What are you hearing?
HOWES: Right now, I'm looking over the canal next to the house behind a triple-pane window.
And boats are being ripped off the davits. Palm trees are leaning over sideways. We just saw a tree blow down the street. Lines are coming -- the power lines are coming down right now. And it's just a very eerie, howling noise nonstop.
TAPPER: Obviously, hurricanes, the wind -- as been noted on CNN, the wind gets a lot of the attention, but it's the -- it's the water that is the most deadly.
At the end of the day, most victims of hurricanes, people who are killed by hurricanes, die because of drowning.
Tell us about the water. Do you see a storm surge? What's going on?
HOWES: There is a small surge taking place right now behind this particular house.
We're seeing probably -- it's about -- I would say it's between three and five feet behind this house. There are two seawalls here. And it has not breached the second one, other than the occasional wave. But we expect that to change.
We have also heard down the street that there is two to three feet of water in some other people's houses that are more in low-lying areas.
TAPPER: Are those people that are still there or those are just homes that...
HOWES: No. They -- some of them are with us right now, and some of them have gotten to other places.
TAPPER: Are you -- are you a resident of Key Haven?
HOWES: No, I live in Key West proper.
TAPPER: Is this the worst storm you have ever experienced?
HOWES: It's the worst storm I have been through myself personally, yes.
But I grew up on the Isle of Palms in Charleston, South Carolina, so I'm familiar with what catastrophic storms can do. Hurricane Hugo came through in '89, and I remember it very well.
TAPPER: Are you personally scared right now? I mean, you're in a building that I understand is as safe and secure as a building can be, but you are still in an incredibly vulnerable place on an incredibly -- during an incredibly vulnerable time.
HOWES: Well, no one is dancing in front of windows right now.
We all have life jackets and shoes on. We have kits ready to take with us and -- if something should happen. So, I won't say we are panicking, by any means. We have a lot of really level-headed people here.
But we're definitely paying attention to what's happening outside and hoping that this eye wall will pass pretty quickly.
TAPPER: Now, you're a first-responder. You can't go out to do anything right now.
First-responders, once the winds get above 40 miles per hour or so, you have to shelter in place as well.
HOWES: That's correct.
There's absolutely no way anybody can be outside right now. You would not be able to stand or walk at all in the wind that I'm seeing through the window right now.
TAPPER: All right, Maggie, stay in touch. Stay safe.
HOWES: Thank you.
TAPPER: We're all thinking and praying for people in Florida right now.
We're going to take another quick break.
When we come back, we're going to talk to Senator John McCain in his first TV interview since returning to the Senate after that cancer diagnosis. We're also going to talk to Senator Marco Rubio in Florida and Governor Rick Scott in Florida.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper. We're going to continue to closely follow the breaking news as Hurricane Irma lashes into Florida.
But we do want to pause right now and turn to a special interview. Senator John McCain returned to the Senate this week after undergoing treatment for brain cancer as he's taking on this personal battle.
The Arizona Republican has remained a vocal critic of President Trump. He has criticized the president this week for his decision to cut the deal with Democrats on the debt ceiling and other matters. He called the president's decision to end protection for undocumented immigrants brought to America as children the -- quote -- "wrong approach to immigration policy."
We have a lot of issues to discuss in this exclusive interview with Republican Senator of Arizona, John McCain. Senator, it's so good to see you.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, Jake. It's good to be back with you. I was just recollecting we have a 17-year --
TAPPER: Eighteen year.
MCCAIN: Eighteen year adversarial relationship.
TAPPER: Before I get to the issues I know you want to talk about -- I have to ask what everybody out there is wondering. How is your health? Where are you on treatment and prognosis? MCCAIN: I'm fine. The prognosis is pretty good. Look, this is a very vicious form of cancer that I'm facing but all the results so far are excellent.
Everything is fine. I have just more energy than ever and we are doing the defense bill on the floor of the Senate tomorrow, which will take all week, which is very important. And so I'm just fine.
But the fact is, you know, I'm facing a challenge. But I've faced other challenges. And I'm very confident about getting through this one as well.
TAPPER: How is your family taking it, Cindy and Jack and Jimmy and Bridget and Meghan?
MCCAIN: Well, you know, it's tough. And we've tried to include them in when we have conference calls with the doctors.
And by the way, Mayo Clinic -- and they're paying me nothing for this -- is excellent. NIH has been really good. And so, I'm getting the best treatment that anybody could get. And I'm very happy.
I'm very happy with my life. I'm very happy with what I have been able to do.
And there's two ways of looking at these things. And one of them is to celebrate. I am able to celebrate a wonderful life and I will be grateful for additional time that I have.
TAPPER: We were talking about old memories. I covered the Straight Talk Express, your campaign in 2000. I have a very vivid memory. One time we were flying on your airplane during that 2000 presidential race.
And you remember that plane was a bucket of bolts. That was an awful plane.
MCCAIN: It (ph) was (ph) on the cheap.
TAPPER: And we were going through turbulence. It was bad turbulence.
People on the plane were scared. I was scared.
You were standing in the aisle holding a glass of Vodka, I think, and you were saying, they can't kill me in a plane. I can't be killed in a plane. Because obviously, you survived a number of plane crashes as a Navy pilot.
Does this face-off with mortality feel different than previous ones you have faced?
MCCAIN: The other ones, I had much more control, obviously. I was flying the airplane, you know. Although the melanoma was similar to this but it's similar in that the challenges are very significant, obviously -- but everything so far has gone very, very well.
And I'm very grateful. And I've had no side effects, no nothing except -- frankly, an increased level of energy. And I want to thank the doctors and the nurses and the attendants and all of those who inflicted so much pain on me.
I didn't know I had any blood left. But I would like to thank them for their wonderful care. They're wonderful people.
TAPPER: Last question on health and we'll move on to issues and that is you went through chemo and radiation to fight this cancer. When do you find out if it worked?
MCCAIN: On Monday we will take an MRI. So far, all indications are very good.
But, again, I'm not trying to paint this as a rosy picture. This is a very virulent form of cancer. It has to be fought against.
We have new technologies which I won't bother you with the details of that make chances better. But, Jake, you know, every life has to end one way or another.
I think it was a playwright. I'll think of his name in a minute. He said I always knew that no one could live forever but I thought there might be one exception.
TAPPER: That reminds me --
MCCAIN: You've got to -- you got to have joy, joy. Listen, those joyful memories of the campaign in 2000 are some of the most enjoyable times of my life.
We were the underdogs. We were fighting our way up. We went to Sedona, you remember?
I mean, everything was so magic about that campaign. And I'm very grateful for having the opportunity. Remember, I'm the guy that stood fifth from the bottom of his class at the naval academy.
TAPPER: All right. Let's talk about issues because I know you want to.
You've been urging President Trump to work in a more bipartisan manner. This week he did that, he reached out to Chuck Schumer and Leader Nancy Pelosi to cut a deal to increase the debt ceiling, finance the government and fund hurricane relief. And yet you voted against it.
You were one of 17 Republican senators to vote against the package. Why vote against this for (ph) bipartisanship? MCCAIN: Well in all due respect, this was not an exercise in bipartisanship. The Republicans leaders, Ryan and McConnell, were surprised to hear that he had cut this deal with Chuck and Nancy. And the way you do deals is you sit down together.
You have good staff with you and you go with proposals back and forth. The proposal that the president accepted, the speaker of the House had just categorically rejected. So that's not the way we need to do business.
And the other aspect of this, if I might, is that the agreement that they made is basically devastating to national defense. Jake, we have had a hundred -- we've had 185 service members have lost their lives in noncombat actions over the last three years. We've lost -- only 44 were killed in combat.
And that's because our leadership, military and others, have told us that our military capabilities and readiness is declining. You know, not often that I like to make -- to give quotes but I think that it's important to recognize that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said that, if we continue on this road we've lost our advantage over our potential adversaries, not to mention putting the lives of these brave men and women at risk because we're not giving them the training, the equipment and the capabilities they need.
That's unconscionable. And this agreement basically freezes last year's funding in place, which is a cut of $52 billion.
Now this is a president that campaigned and said I'm going to rebuild the military. We're going to increase that. Well, that's not something that I can stand for.
I believe my first obligation as chairman of the Armed Services Committee is to make sure the men and women who are serving in our military have everything they need. Under this agreement they not only don't have everything they need their lives are in greater danger. We can't do that to them.
TAPPER: Let's talk about this issue of readiness because as you noted four navy ships collided with other vessels this year. It has costing 17 sailors their lives.
You're a Navy man.
TAPPER: One of the ships that crashed obviously The USS John S. McCain is a destroyer. I believe it's named after your father and your grandfather.
MCCAIN: Yes. Yes.
TAPPER: You're John S. McCain III.
MCCAIN: I'm glad you cleared that up. I've had some people say --
TAPPER: Well, people think that the ship is named after you.
MCCAIN: -- hey, I didn't know the ship --
TAPPER: Usually -- no it's -- But you are John S. McCain III.
TAPPER: Why is this happening?
MCCAIN: It has happened because we have not funded -- whenever you cut defense, the first thing that goes is the ones that are easy to cut, training, readiness, maintenance. Those things they just, you know -- if you cancel a ship then you alienate a certain amount of people who are sponsors of that project.
So the first thing that goes is readiness and training. And readiness and training has gone down and down and down so that -- and they are deploying with -- let's talk about the Navy -- with fewer ships at greater repeatedly of exercising which then cuts down on training, cuts down readiness et cetera. And the answer is inevitable.
And by the way, our service chiefs have been warning --
MCCAIN: -- us about this for several years. This is the product of the last eight years, not the product of this year.
So I appreciate the president's commitment but we have got to spend more money on defense given we're in the most turbulent world we've been in the last 70 years. I don't want to make a lecture but at the end of World War II, we design a new world order, the longest point of peace and prosperity in history.
That is now unraveling and I don't have to tell you all the places in the world where it's unraveling. This requires a stronger national defense, a stronger military.
I mean, look at crisis we're facing in North Korea. This is really serious.
TAPPER: Let's talk about North Korea.
TAPPER: There are experts who say that the only real answer is for this country and the world to be able to try to live with a nuclear North Korea. What do you think?
MCCAIN: I don't think so. I think that Kim Jong-un is not rational. I know that he is rational to the degree that he wants to confront the United States of America.
But I think more importantly, if you allow him to have nuclear weapons and South Korea, Japan and others who are under our -- quote -- "nuclear umbrella," don't, I think that's out of balance. TAPPER: How do you prevent him from doing it?
MCCAIN: One is China. Obviously China can put the brakes on Kim Jong-un. So far they have not.
In face in some ways they've increased their assistance. But the other is to make it clear that we really have two choices.
One, accept that or have a nuclearized region. The third option is -- that we got to do along with it is missile defense, capabilities to defend Korea. In other words make sure that Kim Jong-un knows that if he acts in an aggressive fashion, the price will be extinction.
And we need a better relationship with Japan and Korea. But the way the Korean defense minister just a few days ago called for nuclear weapons to be redeployed. We had them there once in South Korea.
TAPPER: Do you think the U.S. should do that?
MCCAIN: I think it ought to be seriously considered. But I also think that we got to tell the Chinese it will hurt the United States if we lose some trade with you. But I'm telling you now, it going to have -- something is going to have to change because otherwise we're presented with unacceptable two options.
TAPPER: You've been -- you've been very critical of the president when it comes to his moves on DACA, the Obama era program that provided some temporary protections for undocumented immigrants brought here as children through no fault of their own.
You said that the president's decision to end DACA is an unacceptable reversal of promises made. Do you think that Congress should codify DACA? And do you think there should be a path to citizenship for the so called Dreamers?
MCCAIN: I think yes and yes. But I think it ought to be done in a comprehensive fashion.
You know, a few year ago we passed through the Senate with a vote of 68 votes comprehensive immigration reform. That STEM -- science technology and engineering people, guest workers, a number of other provisions which makes it comprehensive. Border security, et cetera. We need to do that and so that -- and make that part of it the Dreamers' part of it.
Second of all, it is not conscionable to tell young people who came here as children that they have to go back to a country that they don't know. And by the way there is (ph) 900 of these Dreamers that are serving in uniform in United States military.
Now, are we going to go to a young man or woman serving in Afghanistan or Iraq today and say, hey, by the way, you're a Dreamer. Get back to -- fill in the blank. We're not going to do that to these young men and women who are serving in uniform. But we need a comprehensive plan. We need it to go through Congress, which DACA did not, as you know.
MCCAIN: And we did it once in the Senate. We can do it again in a bipartisan fashion. And we're going to talk about how partisanship is now -- seems to be dominating the environment in Washington to the detriment of the American people.
TAPPER: Hurricane Irma as it hits Florida I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that many experts say that the storm is more intense, because of climate change.
Back in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy and then super storm Sandy, your daughter, Meghan McCain, tweeted, "So are we still going to go with climate change not being real, fellow Republicans?"
The Republican Party, as you know, generally speaking, acts as if climate change is not real. There are exceptions, you, your daughter, Meghan, the Republican mayor of Miami. But generally speaking, the president, the governor of Florida, et cetera, act as if it's not real even though the overwhelming scientific consensus is that it's real and it's man made.
MCCAIN: I don't know because I can't define their motives.
But I know this that there is -- things happening with the climate in the world that is unprecedented. Second of all, we need to have, in my view, nuclear power as part of the answer. It's the cleanest, cheapest, in many ways, source of power.
My friends in the environmental community refuse to make that part of the equation. I'm not saying it is the equation but I'm saying it has got to be part of it because they're basically anti-nuclear.
Now I spun off a little bit there but we have to understand that the climate may be changing and we can take common sense measures which will not harm the American people. And our (ph) (INAUDIBLE) in fact, solar and other technologies make it cheaper for -- energy for many of the American people, including a state like mine where we have lots of sunshine. So I think it's time for to us sit down.
Again, all of these problems that you and I are discussing and want to discuss require what our founding fathers wanted us to do. In the issue of course of the health care why didn't we have hearings, have amendments, have debate, bring a bill to the floor, have amendments, have debate and then come up with a product?
Listen, we just passed through the Senate Armed Services Committee a bill to defend this nation. Vote was 27-0, OK? Why?
TAPPER: Because it was done in a bipartisan way. MCCAIN: It's done in a bipartisan fashion. We fought and we argued and we are still mad at each other but we came up with a bill that all of us could support.
And I guarantee you except for a couple of outliers, we will get this done and to the president's desk. That's what the American people want us to do.
The American people now see Gorsuch and some regulations. That's what they see with nine months of undivided Republican majorities. That's not good.
TAPPER: The last question for you and I hope this is not our last interview. I know a lot of people want to interview you and I appreciate that --
MCCAIN: A lot of people want it to be the last.
TAPPER: But it's my last question for you. And I hope I don't run this clip for another 50 years. But how do you want the American people to remember you?
MCCAIN: He served his country and not always right. Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors, but served his country.
And I hope we could add honorably.
TAPPER: I think that we can say honorably. Senator John McCain, it's always great to have you here.
Do not be a stranger. There's a seat for you any time you want.
TAPPER: It's great to see you. Say hi to Cindy and everybody else.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
TAPPER: Coming up next, the very latest on Hurricane Irma making landfall -- we're going to go? I'm sorry.
We're going to go to Kyung Lah right now. She's in Miami beach.
Kyung Lah, what are you experiencing right now? Kyung, can you hear me?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sorry, it's a little confusing out here, Jake. It's a little confusing out here, Jake. You'll have to forgive me.
Because what we're having out here is a hurricane. I mean -- and we're starting to see conditions worsen pretty much the last time that I was with you, it didn't feel quite as bad as this. It certainly feels a little bit worse now, little bit harder to stand. It's hard to gauge what's happening with the trees because until they snap we just don't know. What we have seen break off are street signs. We have not seen any major flooding here.
And we do want to stress, if you are in Miami beach, you are on your own. There is no more police and fire out here to help you, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much, Kyung. As always stay safe.
We're going to turn now to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. She's in the CNN Weather Center.
Allison, where is the storm now? Where is it headed?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right. So it has officially made landfall over the Keys. It did so at 9:10 this morning, now it's going back out over open water and very warm water, I should mention.
So we don't expect this storm to really change much in the next couple hours. Right now still a Category 4 storm, 130-mile-per-hour winds. You can see some of those incredibly heavy rain bands not just around Key West but also the outer bands, Fort Pierce, Fort Lauderdale, even Fort Myers starting to pick up in some of those heavier bands of rain.
Current wind, notice Key West, nothing. That's because the station is broken. It stopped reporting after it likely took an incredibly high wind gust.
Elsewhere though we're seeing 40, 45, 50, even 60-mile-per-hour wind gusts. And those are going to increase because the track is expected to take it off the west coast. Heading towards Naples, Fort Myers eventually into Tampa.
Now the one thing you will notice is we do expect it to eventually weaken by the time it gets to Tampa. So it's a slow weakening. However, once it gets to the panhandle it's going to encounter some shear and that is going to rip the storm apart very quickly.
So it goes from a three down to a one, down to a tropical depression incredibly fast. The big story we've been talking to about is the storm surge. Right now the biggest storm surge is on the east coast side of Florida.
All of that water is being pushed in from the strong winds. On the west coast side it's entirely the opposite. The water is actually retreating.
It's being pushed back out. You do not want to be on the beach when that water comes back. It comes back in fast and furious and it can turn into a deadly situation incredibly fast.
And it is going to come back. As that storm makes its way north crossing over the main peninsula, that water will come back in and that, Jake is when we're going to start to see some of the biggest storm surges for the west coast region of Florida.
TAPPER: And what's going to happen -- we have obviously a lot of individuals, including our own Kyung Lah in Miami Beach right now, what's going to happen as the storm hits Florida to the areas of Miami and Miami Beach?
CHINCHAR: Right. So she -- the current conditions that she is dealing with now are going to sustain that way for several hours before she finally starts to see conditions get a little bit better in Miami. And that's going to be for most people in southeast Florida.
It's going to remain bad for hours and then it will finally begin to let up. Now the rain bands will be off and on, you'll go from light showers to torrential downpours.
But in terms of the winds those are going to remain hurricane-force gusts for quite some time. The west coast side, you're going to start to see conditions deteriorate rapidly over the coming hours, especially the folks in Tampa.
TAPPER: All right. Allison, thank you so much.
And we're going to go back to CNN's Kyung Lah. She's in Miami Beach.
And, Kyung, we're told the conditions where you are are going to get worse. Are you able to detect that just on the ground? Kyung Lah, I'm not sure if you can hear me?
Let's go back to Allison Chinchar. So, Allison, in the severe weather center the storm has made landfall obviously in Key West, it did so 9:10 this morning, you've said, and it's making its way up the west coast of Florida.
There are a lot of individuals who fled southern Florida for places upstate that are now right in the eye of the storm.
CHINCHAR: Tampa being one of them. And unfortunately what we have seen in this short term, the last couple hours is a shift in the track.
Around Tampa it's only a 14-mile difference. It's no longer expected to go right through downtown Tampa, but just about 14 miles west. And, Jake, under normal circumstances you would think that would be a good thing.
Great, the main center is not going to go over downtown but further west. The problem with that is that it actually allows more of the storm surge to pile into Tampa Bay.
So in theory, yes, your winds may not be as strong as the center of circulation pushes further to the west but it increases your chances for the storm surge and potentially the height of said storm surge as well.
TAPPER: All right. We're going to go now to Key Largo, Florida, where we find CNN's Bill Weir. Bill, you're in the upper Keys. The hurricane made landfall in the lower Keys at 9:10 a.m. Describe the conditions you are experiencing.
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really a dramatic shift as the wind starts to whip around.
Actually Irma came ashore at the exact spot we did the last evacuation live shot, I guess, Friday night, as people were really starting to head north on U.S. 1 after so many admonitions from first responders and the authorities.
Now we actually had to move our position to the under end of this carport. So now we're facing Biscayne Bay and this is where the sloppy, dirty side of the storm as you talk about will start to pick up.
As an extra menace we have a sign here that says, caution, crocodiles in the area, a reminder of the biodiversity in this part of Florida. You know, you could, I guess, make a joke about a crocnado (ph) but if that is the case it would not be a threat it would be obviously wildlife is at much risk here as much as human life.
But we're checking in with the contacts that we have made over the last couple days around. We're hearing from people on the other side, on the Atlantic side the Key Largo, who are riding it out.
They are losing tiki huts. They're seeing sheets of plywood blow around. No major boat damage.
If you remember to Hurricane Andrew, the way those boats were stacked like by cordwood, nobody has seen that yet at this particular -- thank goodness. But the big concern is what these big 110- mile an hour winds will do to the infrastructure in this part of the Keys.
The ocean railroad that they build back in the '30s was taken out by a hurricane. People worry that if one of those bridges goes it will cut off the Keys from the mainland for unforeseeable future.
They do have a desalination plant. They do have a power generation station that could give them maybe 60 percent of their peak power to tide them over to get things back to normal, but it is really -- I think this is my eighth hurricane.
I'm hardly a seasoned meteorologist. We did Katrina together, did Ike and Gustav. This is the most violent I have ever seen, Jake.
TAPPER: Stay safe, Bill.
WEIR: We will.
TAPPER: Joining us on the phone is Senator Marco Rubio. He's a Republican of Florida. Senator Rubio?
Joining us on the phone right now from his home in Miami, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
Hurricane Irma's destructive eyewall hit the Florida Keys just this morning, do you have any sense of how bad it is down there in the Keys?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA (on the phone): Well, I don't think anyone does at this point. Obviously there's not a lot of people there. Thankfully they left.
The ones that are we're not in communication with, but we can just imagine if you've ever been to the Keys, these are very narrow chain of islands basically built on coral rock and coral reefs. And it's not going to be good which is why we needed to get people out of there.
We're deeply concerned about the storm is intensifying. The waters are over 90 degrees in the Caribbean base and the Florida straits and the gulf stream in the region.
So we're concerned about it intensifying and as it heads into southwest Florida, Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa Bay -- I mean, that has always been our biggest fear is a massive storm headed into that region, pushing all that water in there plus the wind. We're deeply concerned about that.
So frankly everybody in Florida needs to be taking precautions. The worst is yet to come for south and southeast Florida which is still facing bad storms.
We haven't had power in my house since 2:00 in the morning, and so forth, but southwest Florida, this is a very disturbing chain of events here. And we just pray for the best and hopefully people have heeded the warnings and you are hunkered down in a safe place.
TAPPER: You are in your home in Miami. Are you safe? Why did you decide to ride out the storm in your home?
RUBIO: Yes. First, I'm not in a flood zone, I'm not on the coast. My home was built in 2005. So my roof is built to withstand a Category 3 storm, which we won't get the effects of in Miami, and my roof can withstand that as well.
So we have shutters on the window and so forth. Now, a lot of people left south Florida and some of them drove to Tampa and Orlando. And now they find themselves kind of in the eye of this thing or certainly facing this thing down.
And so that's one of the calculations we made. At this point hopefully those people who have left south Florida and moved into other communities in the state this is not the time to get on the road and try to head back. This is the time for them to have confidence hopefully in where they are and just stay in place and ride it out.
But, you know, (INAUDIBLE) storms (INAUDIBLE) is move your family. There really wasn't anywhere in Florida that I could point to and say, if you go there you're not going to see (ph) the storm. It's going to cover all of Florida.
I know people that went to Georgia that are now figuring out how to get out of Georgia because it's headed in that direction.
TAPPER: Where are your wife and children?
RUBIO: They're here. I think the kids is still upstairs and sleeping.
You know, when you put shutters on your home, it's darker than ever. So it's a pretty good sleep actually. It gets dark inside the house.
So hopefully they'll -- but we're going to be in this tomorrow morning, I mean, that's the threat in south Florida. But it's just beginning for the rest of the state, but they're here thankfully and everyone is safe.
TAPPER: Senator Rubio, we're praying for you and your family and all the citizens of Florida this morning.
Thank you so much.
RUBIO: Thank you.
TAPPER: Stay with us. I'll be back in two hours, but CNN's breaking news coverage of Hurricane Irma continues right now.