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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Hurricane Dorian's Aftermath; Sources: Bolton & Pompeo Have Gone Weeks Without Speaking; Dems Expand Probes Into Trump Possibly Profiting From Presidency. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired September 6, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being here with me at CNN.
Stay right with us.
"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: How do you get help to islands that were nearly wiped off the map?
THE LEAD starts right now.
One town was cut off for two days. Nearly every building has been destroyed. The destruction and humanitarian emergency coming into clear view, with the death toll from Hurricane Dorian expected to explode.
As President Trump melts down over a map, hot spots in the world are heating up, and now CNN reporting that his two top national security officials are at war with each other.
Plus, path to a massacre -- new information today on the gun used in the Texas drive-by mass shooting. Was the firearm actually assembled for the killer and illegally sold to him?
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We start with the world lead today. Authorities in the Bahamas say they are expecting even more horrible news in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. Medical staff telling CNN, as they treat the many wounded, that they are dreading and bracing themselves to learn how many are dead.
The storm killed at least 30 people, by last official count, but given the overwhelming damage to the islands and the hundreds of people who remain missing, Bahamian officials believe the real death toll is -- quote -- "unimaginable."
New video gives an example of Hurricane Dorian's force. You're looking right now at a Hummer. That's around 6,000 pounds. The powerful floodwaters picked up that vehicle and slammed it through the side of a house. Dorian is currently off North Carolina's Outer Banks as a Category 1
hurricane, still flooding towns and knocking out power, but it is the Bahamas reeling from total disaster. The U.S. Coast Guard alone has rescued more than 200 people there. A helicopter crew described seeing the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas for the first time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. NICHOLAS ZABLOTNY, U.S. COAST GUARD: The town was just leveled. It looked like a landfill. Saw that houses were just leveled. It was trash everywhere.
QUESTION: Had you ever seen that type of destruction before?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: CNN's Patrick Oppmann reports for us now from the Bahamas, where he tells us he was struck by the silence and the destruction and the stench of death.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reaching the hard- hit areas of Grand Bahama Island means driving through still flooded streets, and streets that are no longer streets.
This area in the east of the island has until now been inaccessible since the storm. Little to no help has arrived. The force of the hurricane threw cars through buildings. The storm stalled out here, a Category 5, leveling whole towns.
Many rode out the storm in their homes. Many did not survive.
Pastor Joey Saunders was on the third floor of his home with his son when the storm surge crashed.
JOEY SAUNDERS, PASTOR: We started make out to the second floor of the house. And within about 10 minutes, and it started to flow up to the third floor. And the water flow up to our head. And we felt this strong current trying to break lose everything in the cracks.
OPPMANN (on camera): And this was in the middle of the night?
SAUNDERS: One thirty in the morning.
And then the current was so strong, then the roof started to lift. And next thing I remember, I was underneath the water. My son is standing in it, and I noticed he had the searchlight. And he was just -- he just disappeared with the searchlight.
And I heard him screaming, "Daddy, daddy, daddy."
OPPMANN: He was in the water at that point, right?
SAUNDERS: He was already gone.
And minutes ago, when I came from underneath the water, I threw my hand. I caught on to the truss. The roof carried me away. So, we were like about 600 feet away from each other for over two days. And we caught up into the pine tree of 32 feet high.
OPPMANN: So, the water carried you into a pine tree in the middle of the night. Your son was a ways away from you. What was going through your mind? You must have been terrified.
SAUNDERS: Yes, I was hoping that he was alive. And he thought I had died also. It wasn't until two days later that we saw one another. He was on the trailer right there. And that's when we saw one another again, yes.
OPPMANN (voice-over): The Bahamian government has warned people the death count could spike.
In places like High Rock, where everyone knows of dead or missing family and neighbors, that news is no surprise. Even though this is one of the hardest-hit areas helicopter, from the government is yet to arrive.
SAUNDERS: I think the government is on its way, but it's going to take a bit of time because there are other settlements. But they're doing their thing gradually, you know?
OPPMANN (on camera): Do you wish they were moving quicker?
SAUNDERS: Yes, I wish they could move a little quicker than they're moving.
OPPMANN (voice-over): People desperately need food and water before time runs out.
SAUNDERS: A lot of people have lost most of their clothes, water. Need food, stuff like that, basic stuff right now.
OPPMANN: And, Jake, we are in the town of High Rock.
This is where Dorian, as a Category 5 came in and stalled. These people had Category 5 winds for over 48 hours, they say.
Behind me is one house that just had the front of it knocked in and was completely flooded. Believe it or not, this used to be a neighborhood.
There was house after house after house. They were all gone. There were three people who were in this house, a mother, her daughter, and a granddaughter. The house was swept away into the ocean. No one knows where they are. They are officially listed as missing. But residents say they fear that most likely they were swept into the ocean and they will never be seen again. Throughout the day, we have seen helicopters, Coast Guard helicopters, hovering over spots in this area. Residents say that's how they know another body has been found.
The grim work continues, and at this point we're told by residents they don't expect any more survivors to be found, Jake.
TAPPER: Patrick Oppmann, thanks so much for that story.
CNN's Paula Newton joins me now live from a different part of the island. She's at an airfield in Nassau, which is now being used as a staging area for aid and rescue teams.
And, Paula, I mean, frankly, it could take years for the Bahamas to recover from this.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, if ever.
The Bahamas will be for many decades likely transformed by this. And the reason for that is you are dealing with islands and keys that are isolated, at times spanning over several hundred miles. This is a deployment area, unfortunately, Jake, and not for lack of trying, but the aid effort has been, in fact, spotty and chaotic.
You have that mix of both government and volunteer aid, and given, as I said, how widespread the need is, it is difficult to really ascertain if people are getting everything that they need. And when we first start with the basics, the food and the water, then there's people who need to be evacuated.
And then as Patrick just told you in very grim detail, there is search and recovery, and that search and recovery mission is also very important, because it keeps away disease like cholera.
Listen, we're here in Nassau. This is also where they're bringing evacuees. I spoke to Elizabeth Nixon. Her story about even getting out of here was crazy. They put the kids, their nieces and nephews, in coolers to get them out.
But after that, they had to split up at the airport in Marsh Harbour. What happened? Some of them came here. Those children with some relatives are still at the airport. Take a listen to Elizabeth Nixon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH NIXON, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: Those babies can't stay another minute because they haven't eaten. Last night, they said they was in the airport and they didn't even eat.
NEWTON: Are they at the airport right now?
NIXON: Yes, they're in the front, but it's so chaotic. With those little kids are trying to push through, it's a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP) NEWTON: The issue here is that she's saying it's frantic. That is not the way on day six that you want to see all of this unfold, and she's desperate because she knows that those children have not eaten.
She knows they do not have water. Jake, listen, the challenge ahead, it is quite significant.
TAPPER: All right, Paula, thank you so much for that reporting.
Let's go now to Dr. Caroline Burnett-Garraway. She's on the phone from the Bahamas. She's the medical chief of staff at Princess Margaret Hospital, which is the only hospital in Nassau still able to treat critical patients in the entire Bahamas.
Doctor, thank you for joining us.
First of all, how are you doing? How are you holding up? How is your family?
DR. CAROLINE BURNETT-GARRAWAY, PRINCESS MARGARET HOSPITAL: Well, thank you, Jake.
My family is fine, and we're all holding up. It's a great team effort. It's tiring. It's exhausting. It's emotionally traumatizing hearing some of the stories about patients that come in, but we have to keep going.
TAPPER: Your hospital's the only one taking critical patients right now in Nassau. How strained are your resources?
BURNETT-GARRAWAY: Well, we have come together and deployed staff, and we shuffled staff so that we're managing.
The initial wave of critical patients from Abaco has -- they have come in. We have admitted them, taken them to the operating theater, if necessary. And now the second wave of the walking wounded are coming in.
Initially, they came by Coast Guard helicopters, and the airports are now open, so regular flights are bringing more patients in. But we have very strict and tight triage. We're sorting the patients, sending them to either a public health clinic, or the sicker ones have to come into this hospital.
TAPPER: You told CNN that you're treating the wounded right now, but preparing for the dead. You believe that the death toll is much higher than 30, right?
BURNETT-GARRAWAY: That's correct.
TAPPER: How much higher do you think it might be?
BURNETT-GARRAWAY: I can't estimate, but it's going to be high, so we are preparing. TAPPER: Some people coming to you have been trapped in their homes,
in some cases on top of their homes, for days on end. What kind of conditions are they in by the time they get to you?
BURNETT-GARRAWAY: So, dehydrated, exhausted, emotionally exhausted, but some have metabolic abnormalities from the long exposure.
And if they had a chronic illness, like diabetes or hypertension, it would be out of control.
TAPPER: Dr. Caroline Burnett-Garraway, thank you for the work you do and thank you for the time.
BURNETT-GARRAWAY: Thank you.
TAPPER: All-out hostility and a deep disconnect, the new low reached in the relationship between two key Trump administration officials -- that's next.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're back with the politics lead and new details about the all out hostility between two of President Trump's top officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser, Ambassador John Bolton. This comes as the U.S. is involved in aiding the Bahamas after deadly Hurricane Dorian, and Iran is ramping up nuclear development, and Russia is flexing its military muscle in Europe, and the trade war with China is causing issues, and North Korea is regularly testing new missiles and on and on.
As CNN's Kaitlan Collins now reports for us, even amidst all these conflicts and international challenges, the president's top two advisers on these issues, Bolton and Pompeo, recently didn't speak for weeks.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): CNN has learned long simmering tensions in the president's national security team have turned into all-out hostility. Three sources say national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rarely speak to each other outside formal meetings, and recently went weeks without talking at all.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like watching it. I like seeing it.
COLLINS: It's a big change from their old relationship when the two would meet with Vice President Mike Pence before going to the president on a foreign policy move. While they still see eye to eye on the issues, Trump sees them differently.
TRUMP: Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process.
I actually tempered John, which is pretty amazing.
COLLINS: The president claims he doesn't mind the chaos.
TRUMP: I like conflict. I like having two people with different point of views.
COLLINS: But aides say the breakdown has left communication between the White House and State Department to subordinates, at a time when the U.S. is facing multiple foreign policy tests.
They may not be speaking, but Bolton is keeping a close eye on the secretary of state's job. While sources say Pompeo has his eye on an open Senate seat in Kansas.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm flattered when people say Mike would be a good United States senator representing Kansas.
COLLINS: And as the White House is trying to downplay concerns about the economy, the new August jobs report revealing that hiring slowed last month.
But Trump seems to be more focused on being right than the latest jobs report. He's now on day six of insisting Alabama was in the path of Hurricane Dorian and is now suggesting reporters should apologize to him, claiming this nonsense has never happened to another president.
COLLINS: Now, Jake, the thing about this breakdown in communication between Pompeo and Bolton is that they still agree on a lot of the issues at their core. What's different is the way they approach President Trump.
TAPPER: Hmm. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.
Let's chew over all of this.
Jen Psaki, let me start with you. As someone who served in both the State Department and the White House, how concerning is it if the national security adviser in the White House and the secretary of state don't have a good working relationship?
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, in a normal White House, the national security adviser is really the coordinator of the entire national security team. So they're not a person who would be negotiating deals typically or traveling a lot. Sometimes they travel a bit.
But the break down is a reflection of the dysfunction here, right? So if Pompeo and -- if they're not talking at all, if Bolton and Pompeo are not talking at all, it means they're not having kind of conversations after national security meetings. They're not having phone calls where they're saying where do we go with this? What do you think of this crisis? That's a huge problem.
Though reading this story, I think what stuck out to me was the fact that the isolation of Bolton because Pompeo clearly has an in to President Trump. I mean, we've seen that. Typically, the national security adviser is the most powerful in the sense that they have the ear of the president. They can walk into the Oval anytime, they know what they're thinking, they speak on their behalf. That certainly was the case White House I worked in. This reflects his isolation and that was interesting to me.
TAPPER: You worked in the Bush Sr.-Quayle White House. What do you make of all this? I mean, certainly, the Reagan White House had some competing personalities, people didn't get along, especially with the first lady at the time. But how significant is this for the country and for the states?
BILL KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE WRITER: I mean, usually, it is about something -- the dispute is something real. So, Weinberger and Shultz, secretary of defense and state under Reagan, had actual different views on some key issues, arms control, negotiations and other things. This seems to be entirely personal about who has more access to the president. They don't seem to actually differ that much on most issues.
The dysfunction is deep. I've talked to a few people who have been in or are close to people who are in the White House and in State and Defense, and I mean, people are just throwing their arms up. There's no process. There are no interagency meetings.
I mean, you can make fun of these things, they're overdone probably by those of us who have been in Washington a long time, they don't need to have quite as many of them.
This is sometimes happened in past administrations. But it is kind of important when you're dealing with Iran and Afghanistan and Russia and China and Venezuela, et cetera, to have some coherent policy making and coordinating State and Defense and CIA, and there's apparently none of that. I really think literally none of that is happening.
Buried in the story is that Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, has his own senior national security adviser, because Mulvaney and Bolton don't get along. And so, this guy who worked on the National Security Council, or, I don't know if you've ever worked at the NSC, but there's some Hill background in defense and foreign policy is working for Mulvaney. So --
TAPPER: And -- but this is -- the president likes dysfunction. He wouldn't put it that way. He'd say he likes competing viewpoints. We saw this on the campaign.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he does, and I don't think he cares that there isn't a process and there aren't interagency meetings. I also don't think we should be that surprised that John Bolton may not be getting along with people in the White House. I mean, we kind of knew this is what was going to happen when they brought him in. So, that in and of itself is not surprising. The president was warned about that when he was considering bringing him on that he tends to rub people the wrong way.
So, I don't think that's a shock, and I just don't think this is the kind of thing that bothers the president. The things that bother him are when people are taking credit for his accomplishments or when people are telling him, you know, that you said Alabama was in the path of the storm and it wasn't really, when they're challenging his sort of dominance over the narrative.
But if he's like you guys are all fighting amongst each other, like, fine, go for it. Whoever wins out, that's whose opinion, you know, gets to be number one with the president. He'll ultimately do whatever he wants.
TAPPER: To that point, there doesn't seem to be anybody challenging the president on that other than the media and the facts.
Toluse, you were part of a team that broke the fact that President Trump is indeed the one who with his sharpie pen tried to make it look as though the path at the hurricane at one point was projected to go right into Alabama, which obviously that was the worst, you know, graphic portrayal I've ever seen.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, other people within the administration are fighting over Afghanistan and Iran and China. The president is obsessed over very minor sleights, whether it's attacking his former aide Anthony Scaramucci or drawing a sharpie on a map to show the hurricane was going to Alabama when it wasn't.
The president is focused on these minor issues. Some of his aides are concerned he's so focused and so obsessed with some of these issues that don't really matter at the end of the day. But for days on end, he gets riled up about media coverage and about things that are relatively minor in grand scheme of things. And while that's happening that allows there to be this infighting in the administration over the may major issues because I know that when they finally get the president's attention, he can easily be swayed on things that are more important than the things he's focusing on at the moment.
TAPPER: I want to get your reaction because the Trump campaign today is promoting a magic marker, a sharpie of their own you can buy from their Website. As our fact checker Daniel Dale put it, this seems to be a first. The Trump campaign is selling memorabilia of its own dishonesty.
KRISTOL: You know, Joe Walsh's campaign is selling a sharpie with don't lie on it. I hope sharpie is doing well, I guess. They owe you a dinner somewhere, you know, for publicizing the fact that -- you know, it's all kind of funny except -- I mean, we do -- American foreign policy is pretty important.
The president may think it's amusing to have all these people jostling around, but what do you do if you're a serious -- you know, a country, either an ally, or -- I mean, it really is -- it's really bad. TAPPER: Not to mention the fact that there's a whole peace deal with
the Taliban and Afghan government coming down the pike, and we don't know what's in there or whether or not anybody in the White House is going to sign off.
Everyone, stick around. We've got more to talk about.
Coming up, questions about the vice president's stay at a Trump property in Ireland, far from over as House Democrats are testing a new strategy to conduct more investigations and oversight of the Trump presidency.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Democrats on the House Oversight and House Judiciary Committees today demanded that the White House release documents related to the decision of vice president pence to stay at President Trump's Ireland resort this week, more than 180 miles away from where Mike Pence's official meetings were being held.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins me now.
And, Sunlen, what specific information are Democrats looking for here?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the committees they say they have grave concerns about all of this, and they are now demanding details and documents from the vice president's stay at the president's resort in Ireland. They want, for example, an itemized cost of pence's trip including a breakdown of security, transportation, and all of the lodging costs.
The committees are also additionally now looking into the president's recent suggestion that his private Miami golf course could potentially host the G7 meeting next year. All this, the committee says, raises serious concerns about the president potentially enriching himself, potentially in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
The House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings saying in a letter sent to the administration today, quote: The committee does not believe that U.S. taxpayer funds should be used to personally enrich president Trump, his families, and his companies.
And the opening up of this new front, of course, is part of the House Democrats' new strategy to widen their investigation of President Trump, widening it out beyond just the Mueller report. Investigate other aspects of President Trump where they see potential abuses of power and to potentially help them of course answer whether they will formally recommend articles of impeachment. This will be a big focus for the fall for Democrats of course with Congress, Jake, back in session next week.