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Flash Floods Rip Through Maryland Town, At Least One Person Missing. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 28, 2018 - 09:00   ET



[09:00:24] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: A somber Memorial Day this morning at Arlington National Cemetery as the country honors those lost defending it. Next hour a searing reminder of the sacrifices that continue to be made. A fallen soldier will be brought home to his family at Dover Air Force Base. Then President Trump will arrive at Arlington to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York and we begin as we honor this Memorial Day also with a high level team of U.S. envoys in North Korea today. A second team is in Singapore intensively preparing for the summit with Kim Jong-un that President Trump cancelled four days ago.

Today not only is the first ever meeting between a sitting president and North Korean leader seemingly possibly back on it looks to be still set for June 12th, a mere 15 days from today. Let's go to the White House. That's where we'll find our Kaitlan Collins.

So, Kaitlan, so many developments since the news broke on this show that it was cancelled. Is it a go?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the big question mark here now, Poppy. Just four days ago President Trump called the summit off saying he believed it would be inappropriate at this time, on June 12th to hold that summit and now it seems that the United States and North Korea are essentially racing to set this back up.

Over the weekend we had a U.S. delegation cross over into North Korea to meet with their counterparts to discuss what that meeting will look like, what the ultimate goal they are going to be looking for would be. You see with several officials there who are there, now right now in North Korea meeting with those counterparts discussing what a summit in Singapore on June 12th could look like.

But also with the South Korean president meet with Kim Jong-un and also that advanced staff from the White House is on their way to Singapore. They should be arriving any minute now to really smooth out any wrinkles ahead of that summit.

So right now, Poppy, if you look at it all these actions, it does seem as though they are moving forward hoping the summit could happen on June 12th. And the president does seem to have this newfound optimism that it could move forward as planned even though that it's in just a little over two weeks. But his aides back here at the White House don't seem as confident in that timing there, essentially saying that it's too much too soon to get all those logistics in order for a summit like this, something that is so high level and takes a lot of planning to actually happen on June 12th. But right now the president, Poppy, seems quite confident that it could go forward.

HARLOW: Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much. Pretty extraordinary developments on that front over the weekend.

Let's go to our Matt Rivers, he joins us from Seoul, South Korea.

And Matt, as Kaitlan mentioned, so much of what has changed in terms of the U.S. stance on this is because of what the South Korean president Moon Jae-in did over the weekend.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, that summit that was held the second time in a month that the North Korean leader met with the South Korean leader, that clearly demonstrated to the rest of the world that look, the North Koreans want this to happen. Kim Jong-un was the one who reached out to Moon Jae-in here in South Korea to try and put forward the idea that the North Koreans want this to happen. But really interesting who is leading the U.S. delegation here. And we should talk about.

Ambassador Sung Kim, currently the ambassador to the Philippines, but look at his background. Before the Philippines, he was the special representative for North Korea policy in D.C., and before that he was the ambassador here in Seoul. He's quite familiar to the South Koreans. This is a guy who is an expert on North Korea. Without question he's one of the few at the State Department that you could point to and say he has the experience. He's got the chops, he knows North Korea very well.

And if you look even further in his past it was in the mid-2000s that he represented the U.S. as a special envoy during the last time there was substantive negotiations with the North Koreans and the Americans during the six party talks. And he knows better than anyone how tricky this can be because the six party talks failed. So he knows going into this how difficult it is going to be to try and strike a deal with Pyongyang.

But clearly what the United States is doing here is looking into its bench at the State Department and saying who is the expert, who knows how to do this, let's put that person front and center when we try and make history here by having a summit between the president of the United States and the leader of North Korea -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Matt Rivers, all important points. Thank you very much, reporting for us live from Seoul.

Joining me now, CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde, and from the Center for Korean History and Public Policy at the Woodrow Wilson Center Jean Lee is back.

Thank you for being here. And Jean, just to you first, you cautioned, his is a reality check for all parties right now.

JEAN LEE, CENTER FOR KOREAN HISTORY AND PUBLIC POLICY, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: The last week of uncertainty was a reality check. And I think it was good because it spurred them to show their commitment to this summit. There were some cold feet on all sides. It's interesting that summit between the North Korean leader and the South Korean leader they put that together in a matter of hours, almost to say look, it can be done.

HARLOW: Right.

[09:05:03] LEE: And so right now what we're seeing is all these parties sort of riding on that momentum. And I am watching very closely to see what happens in those meetings inside the DMZ. I have a lot of faith in that team. They know this issue well. They also know how not to let North Korea off the hook. North Korea has reneged on some of their promises in the past. But that is going to be some tough negotiations there. And whether or not they can get on the same page with the North Koreans is really going to determine whether this summit will happen or not.

HARLOW: Dave, to you, there are some experts who fear that South Korea may be sugarcoating exactly what the North Koreans stance is and how far Kim Jong-un is willing to go in terms of denuclearization, overstating it, to have a summit actually take place. Do you share in those concerns?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I do. I mean, a win for Kim Jong-un is to have the summit and be on a par with the president of the United States and no kind of clear agreement comes out of this. The worst case scenario is sort of a vague agreement that talks about denuclearization far in the future.

HARLOW: Right.

ROHDE: If Kim gets, you know, relief on the sanctions. And the key question here is immediate access for inspectors to North Korean nuclear facilities. And these have to be, you know, more access than what was in the Iran nuclear deal. President Trump has set a very high bar by ridiculing the Iran nuclear deal. Will he get North Korea --


ROHDE: -- to agree to more exhaustive inspections?

HARLOW: I mean, David, so exactly to that point the fact that President Trump just weeks ago withdrew ostensibly the U.S. from the deal -- the Iran deal by re-imposing those sanctions. We heard President Moon Jae-in over the weekend, of South Korea, say he is just not sure. Kim is not the sure, quote, "how firmly he can trust the United States' commitment to ending hostile relations and providing security guarantees for his government."

Is that a direct result of the flip that this country made on the Iran deal? ROHDE: I think it's a result of the Iran deal and it's a result of

the comments by Vice President Pence and John Bolton, the National Security adviser.

HARLOW: Right.

ROHDE: Saying that North Korea should follow the path of Libya and that's where Libya gave up its nuclear weapons but -- nuclear weapons program, excuse me, and Moammar Gadhafi was, you know, killed in an uprising backed by the U.S. several years later. So that really rattled nerves I believe in North Korea.

HARLOW: Both of them.

ROHDE: Jean, to you, over the weekend a message from the president on Twitter. Let's pull it up, very flattering towards North Korea after canceling the summit. And he writes in part, "North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial nation one day." The choice of words there, brilliant potential, referencing North Korea, is it flattery that works with Kim Jong-un?

LEE: Flattery does work. The president is trying to entice him to come to that table and make a deal. And I think this is good language in that it steps away from some of the more humiliating language that we saw from the president last week. The kind of language that the North Koreans absolutely do not like. The fact is it is an extremely poor country and is in desperate need of economic help. But they are an incredibly proud people and they don't want to be reminded of that especially when their leader is going to a summit that they expect is going to bring him legitimacy.

So it's a delicate balance. I am happy that he has listened to whoever has cautioned him on the language that he uses with the North Koreans if he wants to get them to the table. It is true that they need the economic help but they don't want that -- they don't want their country portrayed as desperate.

HARLOW: But also, David, isn't there a danger in using this flowery language? Brilliant potential, in the wake of the president calling Kim Jong-un just a few weeks ago honorable, saying he treated those American detainees excellently. I mean, America has a bar for human rights. And this is a regime under which an American college student, Otto Warmbier, died right after returning from being held in North Korea.

Is there a danger in the president using language like this?

ROHDE: There is but it's -- you know, it's nothing new that this president has downplayed human rights as an issue. And that's his prerogative. So North Korea has arguably one of the worst human rights records in the world. I do think these negotiations are a step forward. I think the fact again that was talked about earlier, Sung Kim, a very experienced State Department official, it's great he is there.

This shows the importance of actually expertise in Washington that the president has sort of denigrated, he's talked about the swamp. He is now relying on the swamp to not let the North Koreans trick him into a bad agreement.

HARLOW: David Rohde, Jean Lee, thank you both. Appreciate the expertise this morning.

A lot ahead for us this hour. Horrific images out of Maryland. Raging floodwaters ripping through businesses in homes. At least one person is missing this morning. We're live at the scene next.

Also, the president's lawyer with quite an admission undermining the special counsel is all part of the plan, at least the PR strategy that Rudy Giuliani is helping lead here.

[09:10:09] Can it help the president win in the court of public opinion?

And today the nation remembers the men and women who died in service to this country. You are looking at live pictures this somber morning of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The president will alive there next hour. You will see it live right here.


HARLOW: All right. Right now officials are searching for a missing person after flash floods have ripped through the heart of Ellicott City, Maryland. This is just outside of Baltimore. Terrifying images as the town's historic main street has pretty much been turned into a raging river. That murky brown water tossing cars up and down the street. The water recedes this morning and the scope of the damage is becoming -- wow, look at that -- even more and more evident. The governor of Maryland has declared a state of emergency.

Suzanne Malveaux joins us now live from Ellicott City. The images are stunning. And I know the water is receding. We're seeing more and more of what has been left in its wake. What do we know now about this missing person?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, it really is tragic what we are learning. I mean, so far, no significant injuries and no fatalities, which is absolutely extraordinary, but there is this missing person now.

And, certainly, they're looking fast and furious to find him. His name is Eddison Hammond and he is - Hermond rather. He is 39 years old. He was a visitor of the area, not a business owner or not a resident, but somebody who happened to be here in historic Ellicott City.

He went missing and was last seen around 5:20 in the evening. And then, an official report to police came in shortly after midnight about 12:30 that, in fact, no one had been able to find him. So, certainly, a lot of people looking for him today.

We have also had a chance, Poppy, to go to one of the homes of one of the people who lives in the high ground able to look down below. And it is absolutely stunning. It is catastrophic. What you see is just these cars turned over like toys because of those gushing flood waters. And just mud everywhere impacting, making whole swaths of the street and the areas impassable.

We saw watermarks of buildings, specifically at this resident's home that you could actually see how high the water had come up to this second story. I mean, really, just extraordinary stories.

Even a couple yesterday that one of our producers got a chance to talk to, a couple who had their wedding there right downtown in the ball room, they had their vows, said their vows, but nobody could get to the reception. They had to high tail it out there, grabbing their heels, trying to get out of there in time because this thing happened so quickly, so amazingly fast.

I had a chance to talk to the Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and he told us that this was worse than what they had seen in July of 2016, that it was not yet safe to actually get back into people's homes yet, that the gas had to be cut off because of a gas leak, many people without power, that this is just devastation beyond belief here.

And 96 percent of the businesses destroyed last go around were up and running. There were 20 businesses that had been added on to main street.

And I asked him - he's just announced weeks ago a $1 million grant for FEMA to get systems in place for flood detection, to avoid and to protect residents and businesses from this very thing happening.

Could there have been anything that they did in a timely manner to prevent or perhaps protect citizens? Here is what he said.


ALLAN KITTLEMAN, HOWARD COUNTY EXECUTIVE: After the flood in 2016 and working on the recovery there, you can't get things done in a year or two. It just can't happen. And you saw, we had the money from FEMA two years later. I mean, that's how it works.

And so, we have plans. We have storm water retention ponds that we've been working on. We have a piping that we are planning on to install. And so, there are things that we are doing. It just can't be done in less than two years.


MALVEAUX: There were 30 rescues overnight. The old courthouse has come down. Right now, people are just waking up and trying to get to where they belong, their belongings as well as their residence, their businesses here to try to make sense of how to rebuild once again, Poppy.

HARLOW: Suzanne, thank you for that reporting. And joining me now on the phone is Chas Eby. He's the chief strategy officer for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

Chas, thank you for being here. I'm so sorry about what your - this entire community is going through, especially, as Suzanne mentioned, this is two years after another devastating flood there.

Can you confirm at this point - is it still the case, there are no reported deaths or injuries?

CHAS EBY, CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER, MARYLAND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: Yes. Hi, thanks for having me on. We are not aware of any deaths or injuries at this time, although you've seen reports of a potential missing person.

HARLOW: And what can you tell us about the 39-year-old named Eddison Hermond, we've learned, apparently visiting the area. Any update on his condition?

EBY: No, although I do know that all of the first responders in the area are aware of a potential missing person or actively looking for him. And we're here to support them in anything they need to help do that and get it accomplished.

HARLOW: We know that your team, the emergency management officials, told people to stay away from main street, from this downtown area last night. Is that still in effect this morning?

EBY: Yes. One of the first things that Howard County officials, along with the state, will be doing today are initial damage assessments. But, along with that, we also really need to ensure that everyone is safe in the area and that buildings are safe to reenter before anyone is allowed to do that.

And so, that's going to happen this morning and that's why we're asking everyone to stay away from main street.

[09:20:02] HARLOW: And the priority today is what? I mean, is there still a search-and-rescue operation underway?

EBY: Priorities today are - definitely still include ensuring the safety of first responders as well as structural safety and infrastructure safety of the area. However, it's now also time to turn and begin looking at recovery efforts and how we can support Howard County and Ellicott City's recovery.

HARLOW: Help us understand, compared to two years ago, because our reporter on the ground there, Suzanne Malveaux said, this is even worse in terms of how catastrophic it appears to be in the initial stages from two years ago.

Yet two years ago, the flooding destroyed 96 percent of the businesses. What is this in your eyes compared to two years ago?

EBY: Well, I'm always hesitant to compare disasters because, to the people that they effect, it's devastating to them. But I have to admit, in this case, with this having recently happened, it is heartbreaking. I mean, this is a devastating event. These people have been through it before. They have shown a lot of resilience. But it's certainly - we've seen the videos, the photos. We've talked to officials there and it is absolutely a devastating emergency.

HARLOW: The city adopted the slogan "Ellicott City Strong" after the flooding two years ago. Today, to help all of the people affected this, is there anywhere people can donate, anywhere people can go to help immediately?

EBY: So, local officials are going to be releasing additional information about donations and volunteerism and related things like that. I would encourage anyone interested in helping, they certainly appreciate that to follow the advice of those local officials. They will be putting it up online and through social media.

HARLOW: Thank you very much. Chas Eby, we appreciate your time and thanks for the work you are doing for those folks.

All right. Let's go now to our meteorologist Chad Myers who joins us in the weather center. This was so fast and it's so devastating, and yet this is the area that was hit so hard two years ago. Why such devastating flooding here specifically?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You've got 8 inches of rain in three hours above a city that has about five different tributaries running through it and under it. You're going to swell those rivers sometimes.

You pave a lot of the ground. Because we make new shopping centers, the pavement doesn't soak in like dirt would soak in water. So, it all just starts to run off.

So, 8 inches of rain in Ellicott City. Even more just to the east of there. This was just a day where it rained in the same places for a very long time.

There's Ellicott City right there to the west of Baltimore. Look at the radar from yesterday. One storm after another after another in the same spot. We call it train-ing, like a train - just one car on the same track over the same time.

Right just up-river - or upstream really of this Ellicott City, it went up 7 feet in about 15 minutes. Seven feet high. The water went up 7.5 feet. An then, all of the other tributaries contributed to that. And so, we know that at least some spots may have picked up about a 15-foot rise in water.

And it's amazing that only one person is missing, to be honest, and none of this was from Alberto. This is not Alberto's moisture. That could come later this week.

HARLOW: So, let's talk about that. You are talking about the storm that is brewing, specifically targeting Florida; 3.5 million people now under this tropical storm warning. What is Alberto? What's the intensity? And when is it expected to really hit? MYERS: It's a 65-mile-per-hour storm without really an eye. There's not a lot of moisture, not a lot of convection around the middle of the storm, but there is a lot of rain to come. Sixty five miles per hour is a blow. Make sure the umbrellas aren't on the beach. Get yourself out of the way. Stay away from windows. That's all. We're not talking about a hurricane at all here.

But look at some of the pictures now just coming in from Panama City. The sun is up. We're getting our first daylight shots. This is Pensacola. Here, the waves are offshore here. The wind is blowing away. This is the good side of the storm.

Panama City, you are on the bad side of the storm. That is where the onshore flow is coming and this is where the weather is going to be bad all day long. Apalachicola, St. Marks, Panama City Beach and even toward Destin, that's where the center of this is going to come onshore.

That's the center. We are not worried about the center. We never worry about the center when it comes to a tropical storm or a subtropical storm. Just then get its acts together. That's all that means.

But what it means is that we're going to get tremendous amounts of rainfall. And over the next five days, we will get tremendous more rainfall, even back up into Baltimore and Ellicott City where it's already saturated.

But there are spots in Mississippi and Alabama, Poppy, that will pick up 8 inches of rain over the next three days. That could make flooding in other places. This ground is pretty saturated already.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Chad, appreciate the reporting. Thank you very much. Keep an eye on it for us.

[09:25:00] Ahead for us, to politics we turn. President's lawyer Rudy Giuliani revealing that his team has a strategy to try to win over public opinion in the Russia probe. What he told our Dana Bash next.


HARLOW: All right. You're looking at live pictures on this Memorial Day morning from Arlington National Cemetery. To the right of your screen is where we will hear from President Trump in a little over an hour's time. You will see that live here, of course.

To the left of your screen, as we see every Memorial Day, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where the president will also lay a wreath.

Meantime to politics, and the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani - is he his lawyer or his political strategist? It seems like he is both. Giuliani sat down for a long interview this weekend with our Dana Bash and he made it clear that the president's team has a PR strategy when it comes to trying to craft public opinion of Robert Mueller's Russia probe.