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2020 Dems Unveil Sweeping Climate Plans Ahead Of CNN Town Halls; Relief Efforts Underway As Dorian Decimates the Bahamas; CNN: TX Gunman Was Adjudicated a "Mental Defective"; Dorian Gains Speed As It Starts Hitting The U.S.; Dorian Leaves "Unprecedented" Damage in the Bahamas; CNN Reaches Freeport Airport: It's "Completely Destroyed"; Pentagon to Take Money from Military Projects to Pay for Wall. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 04, 2019 - 13:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: -- they're going to come on CNN and talk about a single topic, a topic that is very important to the Democratic voters and should be in is to American to general.

I mean that they have something to talk about. They have to come up with the plan and we have seen several candidates who didn't necessarily have detailed plans before they signed on to these town halls. Come out and do that. Elizabeth Warren, she does have a plan for everything. I mean, she kind of adopted in large part Jay Inslee's plan. He's the governor of Washington State. He was running for president on this single issue. Dropped out because he couldn't get attraction, but he had an impact on somebody like Elizabeth Warren. That's true for a lot of these candidates.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And what -- they all have a plan on the same issue at the same time. So you really can't compare them. And you can see how they represent them. Are they fully behind them? Do they understand the intricacies of it?

BASH: Yes. I mean this is important substance. And it's going to sound corny, but I'm proud. I'm so proud that this is happening on our network.

KEILAR: Well I am too. And I'm looking forward too Dana, thank you so much.

BASH: Thank you.

KEILAR: And be sure to watch her back-to-back town halls on the climate crisis staring at 5:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

We have more on breaking news, Hurricane Dorian eyeing the East Coast after decimating parts of the Bahamas. The effort is now under way now to get aid to areas that are left in ruins.

Plus, a fisherman's harrowing account of watching his wife drown in their own home. You're going to hear from him. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KEILAR: We're learning new details now about the shooter who killed seven people in Midland, in Odessa, Texas over the weekend including that he had been temporarily committed to an institution after being considered a threat to himself and to others. He was also deemed "in mental defective". That is a legal term which would have precluded him from passing a background check to legally purchase a gun.

Ed Lavandera is in Odessa. We have also learned Ed that he was arrested a couple of times in 2001. And that one of those times was while he was inside of a psychiatric and substance abuse facility. What can you tell us?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well these are all new details that really point to the history of just how this gunman Seth Ator was able to purchase the assault-style rifle that was used in the shooting spree that killed seven people and wounded 25 others last Saturday here in Odessa. As you mentioned, he failed a background check back in 2014. And that is because he was deemed a mental defective. And that is one of the reasons that could preclude someone from being able to legally purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer. And this stems from a temporary stint that apparently Seth Ator spent in a drug and a psychiatric facility in the Waco, Texas area perhaps back as 2001.

A county official in McLennan County there in Waco tells us that Ator was actually arrested at some point for breaking a window. And he was charged with criminal trespass and evading arrest back in 2001. And of course, all of that remain in his file as ultimately the reason why he failed that background check. But because of what is known as the gun show loophole, Ator was able to purchase a weapon from -- in a private sale. And according to our sources, that was done in the last few years. And that is essentially a way around these background checks.

If you were private sales firearms do not require the purchasers or the person selling conduct any kind of criminal background check to determine whether or not they should be legally eligible to own a firearm. We should point out that this is legal as it stands right now. Generally legal as it stands right now, but these new details pointing new light and shedding new light exactly how all of this unfolded. And the mental state of the gunman in this case. If you remember, investigators have been saying for the last few days that they've seen clear evidence in the gunman's home and other evidence that points to a downward spiral in the gunman's mental state here in recent months and years. Brianna?

KEILAR: It is just stunning new information. Ed Lavandera in Odessa, thank you.

Back now to a breaking news, Hurricane Dorian heading north after decimating the Bahamas. We will take you live to Nassau as recovery efforts get underway to get aid to places that are left in ruins.



KEILAR: In the Bahamas, the damage caused by Hurricane Dorian is becoming painfully clear today. The storm has passed and is revealing these pictures of destruction and now we're hearing the harrowing stories of survival and death.

CNN's Victor Blackwell is in Nassau. And Victor, you've been talking to people who are trying to find out if their friends or their family members survived the storm. What have they been telling you?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well Brianna, this is the center of the rescue effort here in the Bahamas and at the International Airport in Nassau. You'll hear the chopper blades behind me because every few minutes there is either take-off or landing of a chopper from the U.S. Coast Guard or an aid organization, medical and supplies, Bahamian officials going over as well to the Island of Abaco, which is were we saw those first images of the property destruction.


But, as you mentioned, the priority is life and rescuing those who are still on that island. A few moments ago, my colleague from CNN Espanol Gustavo Valdes, recorded this video (INAUDIBLE) when a 10- year-old boy was plucked by the U.S. C.G, the U.S. Coast Guard and brought back here to this airport. He was crying. They were hugging him. Understandably, very emotional that this boy was found and brought back to his family.

And also another man, Stephen Rolle (INAUDIBLE) the storm and he says that this was not a cat 5. He says this had to be -- if there were other categories, something even stronger.


STEPHEN ROLLE, BAHAMAS RESIDENT: This couldn't have been a cat 5. If they had a category for this, this had to have been like an 8. We were trapped inside our apartment there. We were trapped inside our apartment. The wind came, blew every window out. I had to improvise, use a drop cord actually. He had to hold the only end, we had to make the run forward out during the winds. The only thing would saved our life is our pumped truck. We have a business in Abaco. We had to huddle up in our pumped truck. The glass started to break. We just had to stick through it.

The eye came. And that's what also saved us to head over to the clinic. But then it was the basically, one of the other two shelters that's holding up, that's strong, and everyone is going there. It's crazy.


BLACKWELL: Stephen says that five to seven-minute window, by his estimate, was enough for them to get from his apartment to that clinic when he says there are hundreds of people, many of them dealing with injuries right now. He says that this effort has started, but it is not happening fast enough. Now, this is the first day that the Bahamian government has given the all clear for their officials to get on the ground. I spoke with the minister of National Security, Minister Martin Dames and he says that now was the time now to start to put together some type of structure, some type of process so that there is not chaos.

It's not about going door to door, because based on the video we've seen a lot of homes have no doors. You can't tell what -- where these homes were. It's hard to even make out the streets steps where there before Dorian hit. So, yes, this process is beginning. It is hectic here at this airport, where we're seeing a lot of action. Family members coming here, a kind of keeping here, let me give you a look, Brianna. This is were -- if there are people who were brought here from those choppers, they get medical --

KEILAR: All right, we are losing our signal there that we just established with Victor Blackwell in Nassau. We'll try to re- establish that. But just looking at some of the pictures of this absolute devastation in the Bahamas, the homes and the businesses are flattened, cars, destroyed, roads completely impassable.

And Florida, which dodged a direct hit, is looking to lend a helping hand. Nikki Fried is Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, thank you so much for joining us. You were working on some of the recovery efforts for the Bahamas and I mean we're seeing it. This damage is monstrous. Where do you even begin with it?

NIKKI FRIED, COMMISIONER, FLORIDA AGRICULTURE: The stories out there are just heartbreaking and we've all been listening to it. You know, somebody who lived through Hurricane Andrew, I just can't even mentally get my brain around the concept of sitting for 40 hours through those storms. And Florida did, you know, got, you know, lucky, as far as we did not get that the brunt of it. But, our friends in the Bahamas and our neighbors did not.

So, we are still making sure we're watching, we're still having huge storm surges up and down the east coast of Florida and now going to Georgia's in South Carolina --

KEILAR: Nikki, Nikki I'm going to have you stand by for just one moment because we have a report -- a stunning report coming to us from Freeport. And I need to get to our Correspondent there, Patrick Oppmann. Patrick what can you tell us?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sorry, Brianna, I have some breaking news that's quite important well for the people of Freeport in the Bahamas. We after two days of trying, we're finally able to get into the Freeport Airport, which is the only airport on the island and the airport we traveled to the other day and it's gone. It was -- we saw the video the other night all waves crashing into it that was taken during the height of the hurricane hitting here.

But the level of devastation is absolutely breathtaking. There are no walls left to the airport. The ceiling has come crashed in and we saw part of a plane had been picked up and deposited in the middle of the terminal. The runway field is now a debris field. It would be impossible until all of that debris and there's a lot of it, could be cleared to land a plane there or for a plane to take off. Why is this important? Because, this island, we are cut off right now was desperately need for the people who are injured, and there are many people who are injured, they need to be medevaced.

Right now, they can't be medevaced by plane. I don't getting the helicopter land (INAUDIBLE). And then we need to buy water, food everything got in. Most can come up in and out of the airport. It is a ruin. The fences are knocked down over the walls, no wall left. If anybody were enough to stand there, I don't know how they would be alive.


And again, you know, anyone else, so we'll just be as well recording and would like some help. This is the main lifeline to the outside and it's now been cut off.

KEILAR: All Patrick Oppmann, reporting from Freeport, Bahamas. I want to bring Nikki Fried back in, Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer services because you are going to be lending assistance to the Bahamas. And now you're hearing about the situation there. He says the runway is a debris field.

So, I mean there's even a question of obviously they have to clear out all that debris. If you're trying to bring in supplies, you need a runway. There's an issue of medevacing people. I suppose helicopters are obviously helpful with that, but in terms of bringing in resources, this is going to be a giant obstacle. How is that something that can be handled?

FRIED: Yes, you know, we're certainly going to monitor this as well. You know, we have a lot of resources here in the State of Florida that we were organizing for our search and rescue missions. And now our attention now obviously go to our east coast, but, you know, obviously now down to the Bahamas. So we've been talking to a lot of the state legislators that are planning on delivering products down there into different aspects.

And I've also reached out to the Minister of Agriculture. We've all seen his horrible video online and throughout the news media. And so we've been talking to them and trying to coordinate. So it's important everybody stays vigilant and starts turning their attentions to the resources. Anyone to our website to -- to kind of always check on and some of those deliverable items. There are things that they're needing as you just heard, everything. But most importantly, we were hearing batteries, nonperishable food, even can openers, you know, the manual ones not electric, water resources as well as diapers for both adults and kids, baby formula.

So we've been talking to a lot of our Ag community across the state as well who were so fortunate to have gotten out at this one. But we're trying to enhance to get our resources down in the Bahamas. You can also rechecking in, in our website which is Flor -- to see where some of those areas are that you can be delivering supplies. And we also are coordinating some with the private airplanes and some of the other entities across the state and agencies to make sure that we're doing coordinated efforts. The last thing we want to is to increase the chaos that's right now unfortunately unfolding as we're saying.

KEILAR: That's right and keeping an eye on all of the needs to make sure that you can meet them all appropriately. And Nikki Fried, thank you so much for talking to us.

We are going to take it back in the Bahamas. The airport we just learned in Freeport, the way to get into this island is completely destroyed according to our CNN reporter who is on the ground and finally got a look at this.



KEILAR: The President is moving on his promise to take Department of Defense funds and repurpose them for his border wall. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has authorized $3.6 billion in military construction funds to instead be used on fencing along the southern border. And according to the Defense Department, this means 127 military construction projects will be put on hold.

Paul Rieckhoff is an Iraq war veteran, he is the founder and executive director of the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America. And you -- Esper has said Paul, that the money is necessary. He says, it's necessary to support, "the use of armed forces in connection with a national emergency". Is that true?

PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER, IRAQ & AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Well that's not what the money was authorized for. There's plenty of ways to pay for a wall and you can do it without raiding the Pentagon, it's not -- the Pentagon budget is not a political piggy bank that you can shutter when you want to fund the political project. This money was authorized for other things by Congress and bipartisan way. So it's outrageous, it's unprecedented and it's bad for our national security and bad for our troops.

These are construction projects that would have been funded, that that money is now going to go toward the wall. Let's put this in realtime perspective. There are military basis in Savannah, Georgia, Hunter Army Airfield, Fort Benning, Fort Stewart. Those are going to get hit by this hurricane. And they're going to need construction costs and they're not going to have them, because the money is instead going toward the border wall. So this is really politicization of our troops in the military at its worst and it's really bad for everybody.

KEILAR: Well, that's the thing, is it really is -- it inserts the military into a partisan policy. I wonder what you think the long term effect of that, considering we've seen this in other places as well, including just troops being on the border. What do you think the long term impact of that is? RIECKHOFF: It's terrible. It's terrible for our national security, it's terrible for our politics. You're a military spouse, you know first hand how important construction projects are, military schools. And if you can go and raid the money for that to fund the political project -- and this isn't really even about the wall, it's about the President. The President should not be allowed to dip into the Pentagon budget and fund something else.

And so, you know, even if he want to fund the wall, find some royals (ph) to do it, don't snatch that money away from our troops. And construction cost when we're about to get hit by a hurricane just underscore how raid -- our radius is.


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