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Amid Heartbreaking Stories, Official Says Prepare for "Unimaginable Information" on Bahamas Death Toll; Mercy Chefs Prepares Meals for Victims, 1st Responders in Bahamas Natural Disaster; Bolton- Pompeo Relationship Hits New Low as Tests Mount; Military Base Loses Funding for New School to Trump's Wall. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 6, 2019 - 13:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The power of Hurricane Dorian is on display and neighborhoods are in ruins. Massive vehicles just thrown through homes. The relief efforts underway to help those who have nothing left.

Plus, it's being called all-out hostility with top members of the president's national security barely on speaking terms amid a host of foreign policy tests.



KEILAR: Officials in the Bahamas say that the death toll from Hurricane Dorian has now risen to 30. And hundreds, possibly thousands are still missing at this point in time. Damage and debris have made it impossible to reach some areas until now.

We have CNN correspondent, Patrick Oppmann, and his crew who have been slowly making their way through Grand Bahama Island. The power of the hurricane leaving jaw-dropping scenes of devastation.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How do we explain the power of a category 5 hurricane? This is a pretty good example. You can recognize that this is a Humvee. These are enormous sports utility vehicles. You can't think of a bigger car.

It was picked up like a toy by the waters that Hurricane Dorian brought in here, the storm surge, and smashed holes in the house and finally came to rest here after smashing a hole in the garage. If anybody was here, it's a miracle they lived.

This gentleman, Washington Smith, he says he'll never ride out another hurricane the rest of his life. He has seen the power that these storms have.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KEILAR: Now, in addition to the extensive damage on the ground, according to early estimates by the United Nations, more than 70,000 people are in need of food and water.

Gary LeBlanc and his wife, Ann, founded Mercy Chefs, a nonprofit relief organization that prepares meals for victims and first responders in natural disasters. And Gary is joining us now.

OK, first off, Gary, tell us what you're hearing from people and what you need.

GARY LEBLANC, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, MERCY CHEFS: We're hearing that the devastation is just complete and utter. There are whole islands that have been wiped clean. Whole populations that are living outside without food, water or power. Everybody here is moving as quickly as they can, but the magnitude is just overwhelming.

KEILAR: So it's overwhelming, food and water, obviously, essentials are needed. Tell us what your first priority is and what you're going to be doing.

LEBLANC: Our first priority will be fresh water. We have two units that can do 7,000 gallons a day. Tomorrow, we'll be heading over to Freeport and getting those units installed. We're also working with some of the members of parliament that are on Abaco trying to make inroads to be able to get hot, nutritious meals to Abaco as quickly as possible.

KEILAR: So you are focusing on long-term recovery as well of the Bahamas. How long do you think that is going to take? How long do you plan to be operating this way?

LEBLANC: Well, Mercy Chefs will be here for the people of the Bahamas as long as we're needed. Based on what we've seen before, it's going to be years here in the Bahamas doing relief and recovery work.

KEILAR: I think you are definitely right.

Gary, thank you so much. Gary LeBlanc with Mercy Chefs.

They may be on the same team, but all of the members of the president's National Security Council are not on the same page. How disagreements at the top are devolving into all-out hostility.

Plus, just in, as the president attacks him, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell dismissed fears of an imminent recession. He did acknowledge there are significant risks facing the economy, but said he would continue to, quote, "act appropriate within his boundaries."



KEILAR: As the number of pressing foreign policy issues facing the U.S. grows, CNN is learning the relationship between two key members of President Trump's national security team is hitting an all-time low.

CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, has new reporting on the tensions between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security advisor, John Bolton.

What have you learned, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, there have been these tensions for a while but things have gotten even worse recently. We're told by multiple sources that the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the national security advisor, John Bolton, now rarely speak outside of formal meetings. They even went a stretch of weeks in recent days without even speaking to each other at all.

Now, that's a big change for these two guys who are pretty ideologically aligned on several issues, North Korea and Iran. They used to meet behind the president's back along with the vice president, Mike Pence, on national security decisions so then they could present this united front to the president and try to help sway his decision on some things.

But that has certainly changed. Their relationship doesn't mirror what it used to at all.

Though the president has said he doesn't mind infighting between his advisers. In fact, he says he likes conflict at times. We're told that the rift between Pompeo and Bolton, and an additional rift between John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, the chief of staff, has created a breakdown in communication between West Wing staff and National Security Council staff.

Of course, this comes as there are several foreign policy tests that are facing this administration, not just North Korea and Iran but also China and Venezuela. People are pretty surprised that there has been such a breakdown in the relationship among some of the president's top national security advisers.

Now, the question is, what does this mean, how long do both of these men stay in the administration. There's no question that Mike Pompeo's job is safe, but he may want to leave for a Senate seat in Kansas, which we're told by sources he is still considering, even though he's denied it.

John Bolton, who some days is just hoping to not be fired by President Trump when he's soured on him at times, is keeping his eye on Mike Pompeo's job over as secretary of state, something he hopes, if Mike Pompeo does run for that Senate seat, he could take that job -- Brianna?


KEILAR: Just loads of palace intrigue there.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for the "New Yorker," Susan Glasser, with me.

You recently did this excellent profile on Mike Pompeo so it might not be a surprise to you that there's this rift. What is the effect of this? These are people in charge of foreign policy for the country.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: That's right. Really good reporting by Kaitlan there and it does confirm what I was hearing as I was reporting this for the "New York," and that was that they were not even on speaking terms, the national security advisor and the secretary of state, that they were communicating through intermediaries and essentially only interacting in highly formal meeting settings.

To the point of what does it mean, what does it matter, it suggests that an already dysfunctional system has been tested to the point and beyond breaking.

Obviously, President Trump himself is not really a kind of regular- order structured-meeting guy. So now to have the people who might be bringing that to him in conflict with each other as opposed to at least presenting a united front in how they would approach the president, who often disrupts foreign policy by tweet or my decree. That creates additional stress on an already stressed or broken system, number one.

Number two, Kaitlan pointed out there's a long list of foreign policy crises already under way. To that list, I would add a couple of additional areas that I think are sources of conflict either between Pompeo and Bolton or between them and the president.

Number one, Afghanistan. This ongoing peace talks that the special envoy is having, the U.S. special envoy is having with the Taliban I think is a source of backstage tension, intrigue and disorganization in the Trump administration right now. There were reports the other day that Secretary Pompeo was refusing to sign any possible peace deal. And that's one, Afghanistan.

Two, Russia. John Bolton is not a fan of Russia and Vladimir Putin. President Trump recently wanted to re-invite them into the G-7.

KEILAR: In your latest article in the "New Yorker" you write, quote, "It seems as if Trump is wacky, angrier, or more willing to lash out and more desperately seeking attention, that is because he is."

You actually looked at the president's Twitter feed, his press conferences from two years ago in August, and you contrasted it with this past August. What did you find?

GLASSER: It's striking. I started out skeptical, thinking Trump is just Trump and he's always been divisive or using his Twitter feed in ways that might shock foreign diplomats or the foreign policy world but, in fact, it was inflammatory.

But if you go back and look at August 2017 -- and that was a pretty wild month. You had "fire and fury" against North Korea. You had Charlottesville and "good people on both sides." You know, President Trump has tweeted more than twice as much in August of 2019 as he did in August of 2017.

And there's a real change in the volume and the nature of those tweets and those public statements as well. He's much more contentious. He's angrier. He's more bitter and vituperative. Direct insults at people. I'm not talking about the Democrats or anything like that or the fake news but named insults at people.

There were 14 in August of 2017. Even that was big news, right? But in this past August, 52.


GLASSER: And attacking, including his own chairman of the Federal Reserve 30 times.

KEILAR: Thirty times.

Susan Glasser, it's such an interesting look, such an interesting piece. Thank you so much for coming on.

GLASSER: Thank you so much.


KEILAR: And President Trump will get billions of dollars to help build his border wall, not from Mexico, but from military families who sacrifice every day for this country.



KEILAR: At the president's request, the Pentagon is diverting $3.6 billion in military construction funds to pay for the border wall. This is money to fond 127 facilities and projects. And among those who will suffer for it, military kids and their families.

The wall is a polarizing issue, but whatever you think about whether the wall should be built, let's put that aside for the moment and let's talk about what this means to military families.

At Joint Base Andrews, where the president flies in and out of the Washington, D.C., area regularly on Air Force One, families need a new daycare. They have needed it for years.

According to the Washington Post," the building that they're using now, which was constructed in the '40s, has multiple unusable rooms due to mold infestation. The air-conditioning system is basically kaput, the heating system, too. Power outages. A car had hit and damaged the building.

I can tell you that personally as a military spouse with a husband who deploys, one of the greatest sources of stability for me is knowing that my kids are well cared for in a safe and healthy environment while I'm at work. For many military families, that means on-base day cares or schools. Like at Fort Campbell, in Kentucky, where, as the "New York Times"

reporters, 552 students from two middle schools are squeezed into one as they wait for construction of a new school to accommodate all of them. A school where the air-conditioning and heating works properly. Where there aren't multiple classes of kids in the same room struggling to concentrate as various lessons go on around them.

[13:55:14] Now those plans have been shelved indefinitely. The $60- plus million that would have paid for the new facility is gone.

To put that in perspective, this is Fort Campbell, home to, among others, the 101st Airborne, which has sent troops to the border on the president's orders.

And also the Fifth Special Forces Group. You might be familiar with their work. They're the commandos who entered Afghanistan about a month after 9/11, the legendary Green Beret horse soldiers who carried out a daring mission to link up with the northern alliance and oust of the Taliban in an effort to end its safe harbor of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda militants who were responsible for carrying out the September 11th attacks.

That's the kind of stuff that these folks answer the call for. And their kids, like yours, deserve a middle school that is not packed to the gills and in disrepair.

Military service is a family business, and that includes the kids. They move, they adjust, they sacrifice, too. And our country has a covenant with military families that their needs will be met so they can serve and our country is breaking that promise.

Joining me now to discuss is one of the teachers at Fort Campbell, Jane Loggins.

Jane, thank you so much for coming on to talk about this.

You're a military spouse. You teach in an elementary school there on base. And you're also a big figure in the union that represents these teachers. Tell me about your initial reaction when you heard that Fort Campbell wasn't getting this new middle school.


The initial reaction at Fort Campbell, I think, is just disappointment. Huge disappointment. We were promised that when the two schools merged together it would be for approximately a year. This is the third year now that those middle school children have been in a building that's an older building.

There are problems, like you said, with the HVAC system, heating, cooling. They've had leaks. We've had classes within classes where children have to pass through other classrooms to get to their classroom. It's not the most effective environment for our children to be learning in. These are military children. These are military families. They put

their lives on the line and they deserve the best. They deserve the environment they were promised three years ago to learn in.

KEILAR: That was promised three years ago and they thought they would get really in just a year.

I want to look at something that Senator Lindsey Graham said back in February about Fort Campbell potentially having to sacrifice this new school for the border wall. Let's listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Let's just say for a moment that he took some money out of the military construction budget. I would say it's better for the middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border. We'll get them the school they need but, right now, we've got a national emergency on our hands.


KEILAR: Do you think it should be a choice between these two things?

LOGGINS: I don't want to get into the politics of the situation. What I do know is that what we do educating military children, we do it very well academically.

But there's a whole other side to it that you mentioned. Our families want their children in a safe location. They want them feeling secure. And there's a whole social/emotional side to what we do for those children.

They've lived under the stress of war their entire lives. Multiple deployments. We deploy probably more than any other base. And the military families should take a priority. That's the one middle school on Fort Campbell. There's no other option for them. And they deserve a quality school go to.

KEILAR: Speak more to the sort of social/emotional element of this. What is that -- why is that so important just to have a, you know, clean, relatively new facility where there aren't trash cans catching leaks. Why is that so important that they have a haven?

LOGGINS: Often at home, as a military spouse -- my own children went to Fort Campbell schools. My husband deployed with Fifth Group. And there's stress at home during each of those deployments.

The school should be a safe haven for them where they can learn academically and where they can share their fears. Because there's fear in every student when their parent deploys. They don't know if their parent will come back.


And having an environment that is quality, the climate is good, you're not walking through other classrooms to get to classrooms, your teacher doesn't have to come in --