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Buttigieg: People are Looking for a President Who is Steady; Tropical Storm Barry Strengthens, Moves Closer to Coast; Sen. Lindsay Graham Says Trump Should Look Long and Hard at the Science of Climate Crisis; House Passes Extension of 9/11 First Responder Bill. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 12, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- be competitive with my Democratic competitors. Just as I plan to fiercely competitive with the President when the time comes to take him on. But I think some of the made for television moments can give you a little spike and then wear off. What people really want to know is, what are you about?


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: So what was your impression of the Mayor and what do you think he needs to do on that debate stage in Detroit? The one that CNN is hosting in a couple of weeks.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well you know, he talks about made for TV moments but the debates are on TV. So if you went to be heard or seen, you generally have to push off of something. He did have a fine debate, and he does make a great presentation. But you know, he's very even. And there are -- there aren't a lot of moments of drama there, and that may actually benefit him more or it would if he were the nominee of the party running against Donald Trump. I think people may be looking for the antidote to Trump.

But while you're competing for the nomination and you're trying to define your differences with others on that stage, you have to find ways to do it that are memorable. And I think that's something he'll be thinking about going into the next debate.

BALDWIN: David Axelrod, always a pleasure and let's tell everyone where to go.

AXELROD: Good to see you Brooke, have a great weekend.

BALDWIN: Thank you, you too. You can watch the whole interview with Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Brand new episode of "THE AXE FILES" airs tomorrow night at 7:00 right here on CNN.

Coming up, bracing for Barry, New Orleans preparing for a storm that could make landfall with a hurricane. The big question now, will the levee system hold up?


BALDWIN: If you are leaving New Orleans, your travel window is closing. Mayor Cantrell says people who live there, visitors need to be ready to shelter in place indoors starting tonight 8 PM local time there. Meantime, forecasters continue to warn of a triple threat from tropical storm Barry. The Mississippi River is already running high. The storm is expected to dump 10 to 15 more inches of rain, can you see what it looked like just this past Wednesday after nine inches. People are trying to drive through it, they are unsuccessful.

Then there is Barry's storm surge that could mean 2 to 3 more feet of water. And all of that before you factor in possible wind damage. Barry is still a tropical storm. It is flirting with category one hurricane strength, which would mean likely roof damage, fallen trees, downed power lines. Brian Young is live in Algiers, Louisiana, a town that is nestled -- as we can see -- right up against that mighty Mississippi. And so, what are people telling you there, are they hunkering down or they going to get out of town?

BRIAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there are some people who decided they're not going anywhere. In fact, they have a lot of people who are walking around us. They're taking pictures of me. Look at the edge over there. You have a family that sort of come out to look at the Mississippi themselves.

There are people who have markers out here on their own. And they believe they've seen the Mississippi rise within the last 24 hours or so. But if you look across the way over there you can see the beautiful city of New Orleans. You know how much precaution they are putting into this. You have police officers working 12-hour shifts. They tell us 118 of their pumps are up and running.

But you think about what happened on Wednesday when that torrential downpour came to this area. You saw water in the streets. In fact, there are still cars along the highway that got stuck in the water that were shut down. But, Brooke, the big question is, how are people preparing? And it just depends really on who you're talking to. We went to the lower ninth ward. We talked to a guy there who said, he will wait for God to give him a signal to move on because he had been through so much.

On the other sides of the city, they're taking sandbags and they're trying to get ready for this storm. In fact, listen to this gentleman talk about the effort to get sandbags up and ready to go?


JOE REISS, PREPARING FOR TROPICAL STORM BARRY: Yes, it's just crazy. The city of New Orleans hasn't provided any mandatory or any designated sandbag locations. We're all just out here trying to do what we can. On a local business owner. We've got local homeowners around here that are preparing for the worst. And, you know, the city doesn't really help out. We just got to do whatever we can to help all our neighbors out and community need member around here. So praying for the best. Preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. And hopefully God will spare us. (END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Brooke, you love to hear those efforts. People started getting together themselves to kind of put this together. There's that 10 to 15 inches of rain that people are expecting. Look, we've talked to people who live just across the way here. They don't have one sandbag out yet because they believe they can handle whatever storms on the way. They think this is a small one. So you understand they hear the word tropical storm, Brooke, they don't think hurricane. They think they're OK. City officials though are taking this lightly. There telling everybody to be prepared. And I can tell you, just look here, you can see people just walking their dogs. It's not reining here so you understand the difference of opinion.

BALDWIN: Good to see, you know, regular life rolling along in Algiers. But we'll see how they fair, you know, 24 hours from now. Ryan, thank you very much.

You know, Hurricane Katrina that hit in 2005 and it was obviously a nightmare scenario for the city of New Orleans. A category 5 hurricane followed by the failure of dozens of levees that were meant to hold back Lake Pontchartrain and the many canals and waterways fed by the Mississippi River. Overall, roughly 80 percent of New Orleans flooded to depths up to 20 feet within a day after landfall of Hurricane Katrina's eye.

[15:40:04] It is a ghost that still haunts a lot of people who live there.

CNN's Tom Foreman is with me now. Just given the warnings about all the water. I'm guessing a lot of people in New Orleans weren't wondering, could it all happen again?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, of course they are. They have to. Look, the levees have been rebuilt. They've been improved. They have been fortified. But this is about more than the levees, because of what you said. This triple threat. Water coming down from the Midwest, making the Mississippi River much higher than usual. Water possibly coming up from the storm surge, from this storm coming in. Those two forces colliding here at New Orleans as the rain comes tumbling down. And look at all that yellow. Everything there is below sea level. And the only thing really that protects it is this series of levees and flood gates all around the city.

Now normally this is how it works, and this is how it worked earlier this week when they had that massive amount of rain. What happens as this fills up like a bowl with all that rain, and then this huge pump system kicks in. They're almost all online right now pushing that water out to Lake Pontchartrain over here or to the Mississippi River over here. The concern here, Brooke, is that the river is just so high. And we're talking about potentially so much rain, maybe even more than what you've been talking about.

What happens if you get to the point where the river actually comes over and starts flowing into that bowl. Then you don't even know how to get the water out because there's nowhere to send it They don't expect this to happen in New Orleans. But if there's enough rain a little bit further down. You talk about the Ninth Ward, you talk about Chalmette, Violet down to Plaquemines Parish, places like that. Then you start saying, what do you do with all that water even if you're trying to handle it. There may simply be nowhere for it to go, except into the neighborhoods where people live -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Tom Foreman, thank you very much.

Coming up here, he is one of the President's closest allies. But even Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham, says Trump should admit that climate crisis is real. The message he hopes the President will hear loud and clear next.

Plus the emotional response from 9/11 first responder John Field moments after the House extended the funds for these heroes.


BALDWIN: The U.S. government could be careening toward a budget crisis. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sending a letter of warming to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the government could run out of money to pay its bills by September. That is earlier than expected and before Congress reconvenes after its summer recess, the budget shortfall is largely blamed on President Trump's tax cuts, Secretary Mnuchin called on Congress to increase the debt ceiling before lawmakers leave Congress for vacation.

On almost every issue, Senator Lindsey Graham has stood in close alignment with President Trump but not when it comes to the climate crisis. Senator Graham supports the science and while President Trump has been certainly a loud and fierce climate skeptic, as we've covered, now this week, the South Carolina Republican Senator took his differences with the President on climate science very public.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I would encourage the President to look long and hard at the science and fight the solution. I'm tired of playing defense on the environment. We will win the solution debate. The only way you're going to win that debate is to admit you've got a problem.


BALDWIN: CNN's climate crisis correspondent, Bill Weir, is here. I mean it's striking obviously to hear Lindsey Graham say that. Do you think his friend the President of the United States listens?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CRISIS CORRESPONDENT: Probably not, no. Lindsey Graham has been interesting. I went back to sort of comb the archives and see where he stood. He's not exactly a League of Conservation voters favorite.


WEIR: But he's better than your average bear as a Republican on the issue in terms of caring. But two years ago, two summers ago when President Trump pulled out of the Paris Accord, Lindsey Graham tweeted, "I support President Trump's desire to re-enter the Paris Accord after the agreement becomes a better deal for America and business."

There's no better deal when you're talking about putting out the planetary fire, you know, the President sees it as a negotiation the way you would a tariff fight or something like that. The Paris Accord was just an agreement that hey, everybody, our spaceship Earth is in real trouble and we have to do everything we can

to bring down emissions.

BALDWIN: What about you? What if you happen to catch the President's ear? You have an audience of one, how would you explain the science to him in a way he might understand?

[15:50:00] WEIR: I think, Catherine Hayhoe who is a great climate scientist talks about communication. And that when you try to pepper somebody with statistics, and trend lines and charts, they just shut down. What works is connecting people on the same level for what they care about, so as parents, maybe, or as golfers, hey, I heard that you had to get sea level permits to build walls around your course in Ireland, that's a hit against your business.

But if he cares about legacy, you know, Richard Nixon signed the EPA -- created the EPA, signed the Clean Air and Water Acts. Is known as other than Teddy Roosevelt, one of the champions of the environment, it's one of the bright spots on Richard Nixon's resume. Imagine if Donald Trump could harness the will and momentum of all of those Cabela's shopping Republicans who are intimate with the natural cycles of nature, have seen what pollution is doing to their favorite spots.

BALDWIN: Imagine if.

WEIR: Imagine if and be the President who not only goes back into Paris but rallies people to figure out solutions because there's are a ton of them, we're just not talking about.

BALDWIN: So glad you are. Bill Weir, thank you very much.

WEIR: Happy birthday, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you, Bill.

Just a short time ago, the House voted yes to legislation extending the funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for another 71 years. That is threw 2090. It comes weeks after the bill received nationwide attention due to impassioned pleas for support from surviving first responders and of course comedian Jon Stewart. Earlier Steward celebrated the hard-fought victory for funding with first responder John Feal and other supporters.


JOHN FEAL, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER: Not many people around this country can say they went to Washington, D.C. and made the process work. We made -- we forced -- we shamed the process to work. So Lou Alvarez's passing is not -- is not in vain. I'm not crying. And I know Lou is smiling right now and when Lou gave me his shield to give to Mitch McConnell, and I shook Mitch McConnell's hand, and I'm going to keep Mitch McConnell's word that he said he was going to get this done before the summer recess. Well, I could tell you now that when we leave here today and we get off air that we're going to make sure that Mitch McConnell sticks to his word.


BALDWIN: He mentioned Lou Alvarez. Alvarez was a bomb squad detective who dedicated his final years fighting for this fund. He died last month from complications of cancer linked to the time he spent with other first responders down at ground zero. That bill now heads to the U.S. Senate where timing of the voting isn't clear but he mentioned Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has promised to hold a vote on it.

Last fall we shared the story of Luke Mickelson, a top ten CNN Hero from Twin Falls, Idaho who saw a need in his home town and ended up quitting his day job to follow his new-found passion, giving kids a good night's sleep by building free bunkbeds and in less than a year his project has taken off in ways that a small-town farm boy never would have imagined. Take a look.


LUKE MICKELSON, FOUNDER OF SLEEP IN HEAVENLY PEACE: We went from one community to over 200 communities now, over 30,000 volunteers. We've also received over 50,000 bed requests.

We're here to deliver beds. You want to show me where this go?


MICKELSON: All right.

We started a new program in 2019 to help those kids that have been affected by natural disasters throughout the country.

Probably the best.

We bring dignity and self-respect. We're bringing something that they own and could be proud of.

You like it?


BALDWIN: So cute. How many beds can one man build in a day? Go to to learn more about Luke's story and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero.

Coming up, we are following two breaking stories on the Trump administration's revolving door, another cabinet member gone, on the same day we get word that the President is considering replacing his Director of National Intelligence.


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Hi, Brooke Baldwin. You know I call you Brooke B. Or just Brooky. I don't know what to say. We've become such good friends over the years, it is hard to explain. Good friends, great colleagues, you know it doesn't happen very often but we have this chemistry where they put us together and somehow it just worked because -- because we love each other.

This is not us on the picture that you're looking at. That is not us on TV. That is us hanging out in our personal lives. We spend great times together in New Orleans, we've spent great New Year's together, we've spent great summers together on the beach. We've spent great winters together out at my place in Long Island, and of course you're fantastic, beautiful wedding.

And I hope that we get to spend many more years together as friends and as colleagues. At least the same number as your birthday. 40 more years together. 4-0. Welcome to the 40 club. I could tell you but I'm only 30 so --

BALDWIN: Right, of course you are.

LEMON: I have a long way to go to get there. Happy birthday, my dear.

BALDWIN: That was so sweet of you. Don Lemon. That is so sweet of you. You guys got me. And I have my closest and best-est gal pals. Rashad, boys, do you all want to get in? No. Oh, my goodness. It is my birthday. I totally got surprised.

CROWD: Happy birthday, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Oh, my goodness. How did you get this picture of me when I was like six? Eric? Thank you. Randy, all of you guys in the control room, all of you wonderful and Catherine, Allison, Akee, Rashad, Al, everyone just thank you so much. Here's to 40. I think I'm done. I'm taking a vacation for two weeks. So deuces. Jake Tapper, take it on over.