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Tornados Devastate Southern States; Residents in Alabama Begin to Assess Damage Caused by Multiple Tornadoes; National Security Shuffle; Trump Products Made in China; Death Toll From Tornado Outbreak up to 284

Aired April 28, 2011 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Brooke, thanks very much. Happening now, entire blocks wiped out in one of the worst tornado outbreaks in American history. The death toll pushing closer and closer to 300. Now 1,200 injured, many of them severely. This hour, powerful pictures and heartbreaking stories as the scope of this disaster just beginning to sink in.

Twister, tsunamis, earthquakes and more is there more deadly weather in the world right now? We are taking a closer look at the science versus the doomsday speculation.

And a big hole in Donald Trump's argument against unfair trade. It turns out he and his wife are fronting lots of products made in the country can he is railing against, China.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

This is what one deadly twister left behind in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Now imagine this scene many times over across the southern parts of the United States. This appears to be the most devastating natural disaster in this country since hurricane Katrina.

At least 283 people are dead in six states. Dozens of tornadoes were reported yesterday. More than 1,000 people, at least 1,200, we are now told, are injured. The hardest hit state, Alabama. President Obama now plans to visit that state tomorrow.

Let's go straight to Tuscaloosa right now where one resident says the city has been ravaged by what this resident is describing as a silent monster. CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is standing by live with the latest. Reynolds, the pictures are heartbreaking but you're up close. Describe what you're seeing.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, I can tell you that I consider Alabama my home state. I grew up here. I'm 41 years old, started my broadcast career here in the state of Alabama. Forecasting all kinds of weather, including tornado outbreaks and I have never in my career seen anything ever that matches this kind of devastation.

You will notice behind me in this street in Tuscaloosa, you will see a couple of dwellings that are standing for the most part but roofs are gone, windows are gone this one behind me, you can see a little bit of the concrete foundation but everything else, save for a few walls here and there, it's all gone. Farther on down, you can also see a lot of trees toppled over, debris all across the landscape.

If you go across the street there, seen photo journalist Jonathan Shear with us. Jonathan, if you can, show them the roofs over there apartment complexes, everything blown out completely. A lot of the roofs, you see some pock marks on there actually caused by the debris, debris picked up and nailed against that structure at a rate of around 200 miles per hour with this tornado that came through, Wolf, at the speed of about 60 miles an hour, again, coupled with those strong winds of 200 miles per hour plus.

It is one thing to think about these structures, one thing to think about how horrifying the experience must be but something altogether different to speak to someone who was actually involved, actually in one of these homes and they rode out the storm. In fact, let's go over and speak to our new friend. This is Cordell Shepherd had. Thanks so much for spending some time with us.


WOLF: I understand you were in this house right down the street, correct, and you were here during the tornado?

SHEPHERD: I was right over there second house on top of the hill. And I was just inside, listening to the news, paying attention, I got my quilts, my mattress and a football helmet and I got in the hallway, I laid down. I watched the news until the TV blacked out and I heard some sound like at a train, a lot of wind. My house was moving. I didn't know what to do

WOLF: Despite the devastation, you had very little in terms of injury, just an abrasion on your hand, I believe?

SHEPHERD: Right, right, right. One small cut. Right here.

WOLF: Right there?


WOLF: Hard to believe. Your relatives are at the hospital zuchl lose any friends, any family?

SHEPHERD: I lost one friend, I lost a friend. And it hurt to think about it. It hurt to think about it.

WOLF: I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I can tell you folks that not on the number gone up, 180 people, along, but there are many more missing. In this pile of the neighborhood, they have been searching for four kids. The number has been fluctuating from two, as high as four, somewhere in this rubble.

What is more bizarre, if you happen to look back towards this room, you can barely make out a sink, you can make out perhaps a dryer, part of a bathroom that is an area that many people are told to go to bathroom near the center of the house a lot of times the pluming can act almost like an anchor keep things protected in terms of these storms. Wolf, I will tell you the only safe place during a storm, a tornado this intense this strong, would be underground but in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, basements, storm cellars, that is a luxury that many people don't v certainly, I will tell to you devastating effect for lots of people in this community.

Unfortunately, told you about the death toll getting close to the 200- mark. Certainly a possibility in the next couple of hours and days, we may surpass that number. Wolf?

BLITZER: In the state of Alabama alone, how wide of a path did this tornado behind you hit? In other words, if you go to your left, go to your right, how much of an area was destroyed as the area immediately behind you?

WOLF: OK, Jonathan, I don't know if you were able to hear Wolf, if we can, let's pan, from our vantage point, pan to our left and back toward our right, Wolf what we are seeing probably from our vantage point, without the obstruction of trees here and there, maybe several hundred yards wide in some places.

I can tell you that from high above, some aerial reconnaissance guesstimated the path a mile wide, maybe even more. The thing is about these tornadoes, Wolf it is not really a constant, not something that retains the same size the entire time. A lot of times these storm can fluctuate in size, certainly fluctuate in terms of power.

Keep in mind, most storms, most of the tornadoes when they form, most last a few seconds and dissipate all together. For this tornado to be on the ground as long a track as it, as wide and intense, certainly a rarity and of course with devastating effect.

BLITZER: Reynolds, thanks very much. We will stay in close touch with you, let's hope they find those four kids as part of that search and rescue operation. I'm sure it is being multiplied all over the southern parts of the United States. Reynolds, thank you.

A tornado survivor is joining us on the phone right now from Tuscaloosa. She is Lucy Arnold Sikes. Tell us where you and your family were when this tornado hit.

LUCY ARNOLD SIKES, TORNADO SURVIVOR: We rode out the storm, kind of like Reynolds just said, in our inner bath room we had an inside bathroom all off of our hall way, we hunkered down in the bathtub.

BLITZER: When you say "we," who was with you?

SIKES: My husband and I have a three-year-old and a six-year-old.

BLITZER: You, your three-year-old, your six-year-old, all ran into the bathroom got into the bathtub and I take it your husband joined you a minute or two later is that right?

SIKES: He did. I ran in with the kids kind of joked don't make fun of me for putting the kids in the bathtub, went out for one last look, came back in a strange look on his face and he stayed is right outside the door and in fact, it passed right across the street from us, behind a neighbor's house.

BLITZER: From the beginning part of the noise and the darkness that you saw until it passed, how much time are we talking about?

SIKES: We were probably in our bathtub about a minute and a half total where I was kind of scared, the popping and the cracking and the freight trains that he they say that you hear, you really do hear it that lasted about 25 to 30 seconds.

BLITZER: We have some images, some pictures you sent us. Here we see a car -- I take it this is your car that wound up destroyed in the front of your house?

SIKES: That is my Volvo, the safest vehicle on the road, and it was parked parallel on the curb can.

BLITZER: And this next picture of your house with a tree sort of looks like a tree collapsed on top of the house. Is that right?

SIKES: It is. And the orange in the background is a team from the University of Alabama that is taking the tree off of my house.

BLITZER: That is what we are hearing right now. Is your house still usable or basically destroyed?

SIKES: I have a feeling it is probably going to be basically destroyed, structurally, I'm a little bit afraid at one end of it. My back bedroom, the master bedroom is the only room that didn't have broken windows. All the other windows were broken out. The opposite corner from my master bedroom, the back corner is gone as well. I have not even seen my backyard yet.

BLITZER: I take it this picture, the one we are looking at, the children's bedroom, the living room it looks like all of your possessions basically thrown around, as if they were nothing is that what we are he seeing?

SIKES: That is exactly what you are seeing. I had closed the door to the children's bedrooms that lead to the hallway and the bathroom was off the hallway, and I was amazed when I opened the doors at what I saw. Every pane of the neighbor, historic neighborhood, wooden windows and all the panes are gone, shutters ripped off, blinds ripped off it sun believable.

BLITZER: So the four of are you in this bathtub and you are protecting your two little kids three and six years old. How are they doing, your kids? How did they come out of this?

SIKES: They're fine. They were really worried about their cat, we have found the cat. He is fine. We have been worried about roller skates and know when they are going to go back home. I don't think that will be any time soon, but we are going to be looking for a new house.

BLITZER: Looking for a new house. I hope there's tornado insurance right now that is going to be able to provide you a new house. Is there?

SIKES: I hope so I talked to -- we use State Farm and I talked to two people in their claims department, one last night and one today, so my fingers are crossed.

But we have had really great help and I have to say this from the University of Alabama, the team taking the tree off my house, you but then as I came last night, students were pouring out of campus heading into these neighborhoods right around campus and I had a team of volunteers clean hide entire yard and packed up all my china, crystal, my fragile belongings and packed this up. These were students and moved them to my car to move them somewhere safe.

BLITZER: And you had a Bible collection is that right?

SIKES: I didn't have a Bible collection.

BLITZER: You didn't. Well, somebody had a Bible collection and then we are going to talk to later here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Lucy Arnold Sikes, thanks so much for joining us. We are happy you and your family are OK, physically OK. You got a lot of stuff to do. Let's not forget, Tuscaloosa is a city of about 100,000 people. It is the home of the University of Alabama. Lucy Arnold Sikes, thank you.

SIKES: Thank you.

BLITZER: Dozens of reported tornadoes, hundreds of deaths, entire neighborhoods, where nothing left throughout the south. Let's bring in our meteorologist, our severe weather expert, Chad Myers. Chad, a lot of people died. This is extraordinary. We hear of some tornadoes every year, but this season, it seems to be a whole lot worse.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It started out slow, then all of a sudden, the last ten days there has been at least one tornado every single day. Yesterday, obviously, was the culmination of all of that.

Now it is over, Wolf, storms moving offshore, unless you are down here in the low country of North Carolina, you are in good shape. The storms and watches and warnings are gone.

Let's go become to the video you had coming to is from the helicopter. It is the most telling it is the most telling as to why the death toll has gone up like it has. It is the most telling it is the most telling as to why the death toll has gone up like it has. There are homes that are completely gone. We will see foundations without a house on top of it the house is gone. Even if you were in a very safe place inside the house, you were gone with it.

There are certain tornadoes, F-5s in general, 120, maybe even higher than that, 150 miles per hour that literally if your house takes a direct hit, unless you are underground in a real Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma storm shelter, it un-survivable, you can't survive that type of storm and I think that's what we had yesterday act least for a few miles through Tuscaloosa. And the numbers are staggering.

BLITZER: Is this the new normal, whether earthquakes or tsunamis or tornadoes, the number of tornadoes we are seeing? What is going on here, Chad?

MYERS: Well, it's almost like why do we have more tornadoes every year? It is because there are more spotters out there spotting them y do more tornadoes hit cities every year? Because the cities are getting bigger there is less rural. There's more city, there's more chance for the tornado to hit a city because there are less farms around constituent making the farms smaller area that would have been basically caused no damage at all except to maybe some irrigation equipment, and then all of a sudden, you have towns and cities that are put where those farms were and you're hitting people, you're hitting towns, you're hitting buildings and homes.

No it is not getting worse, but yes we have had a devastating April and April is not usually as bad as May any given year. May usually has twice as many tornadoes as April. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

BLITZER: But people should be ready for it. I know we are going to talk later, you will give us some advice because if may is, in fact, a worse tornado month than April has been, folks all over the country have to be prepared for that chad, thanks very much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: President Obama is trying to show tornado survivors he definitely feels their pain. We're taking a closer look at what's saying and doing about the storm devastation.

And with gas prices soaring, one oil giant now reports mind-boggling earnings but wait until you hear how much actually. We should say how little that oil giant pays in federal income tax.


BLITZER: The country's troubled finances always a concern for Jack Cafferty. He is here with "The Cafferty File." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is back to work for Congress on Monday, as our lawmakers return from a fun-filled two-week spring break, all tanned and rested. During their time off, some members went back to their districts and heard from constituents, many of whom are angry and confused about budget cuts and deficit reduction plans.

Then there are others, like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and nine other senators who went on junkets to faraway places like China and the city of Macao, China's closest thing to Las Vegas.

The fun and games are all over next week though. One of the first big battles that awaits this Congress is the question of raising the nation's debt ceiling. The U.S. is expected to reach its current debt limit of $14.3 trillion on May 16th, a little more than two weeks away. If Congress doesn't figure out a way to raise it, we could default on our debt obligations would be devastating for the markets and for this economy.

But simply raising the debt ceiling may not be that simple at all. House Speaker John Boehner has said he will not agree to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats promise to make meaningful spending cuts to the budget and reform Medicaid and Medicare.

In a recent interview, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who worked in the Bush administration, called Republicans who insist on linking a debt ceiling increase to budget cuts are "our version of Al Qaeda terrorists." O'Neill says the two issues should not be part of the same debate, and that lawmakers who insist on doing that one anyway are putting our society at risk.

Maybe he is right, but then putting you the country at risk has never been that big an issue for Congress, now has is? Think about it. Here is the question. How do you see the debt ceiling fight being resolved? Go to Post a comment on my blog. Another game of chicken coming up, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. We are used to it by now. We will see who wins this one and how they finesse it. Jack, thank you.

Right now a state of emergency is in effect for all of Alabama and parts of five other states pounded by all these tornadoes. Many storm survivors are tallying their losses and counting their blessings.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to seem materialistic, but just to lose everything is -- to lose everything is the worst feeling. It is the worst feeling ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best is to help somebody and worst is what you are looking at.


BLITZER: President Obama is calling the loss of life in the southern storms heartbreaking, and he is promising to help in any way possible. The disaster cast casting a pal over the president's announcement of his new national security team.

Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry. The president quickly moving October devastation in the south.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So quickly that last night, just hours after the devastation started, the president officially declared an emergency for the state of Alabama, significant because that frees up federal resources a lot quicker to make sure federal aid gets there as fast as possible.

The president has had his FEMA director Fugate, on the ground, the governors affected by these states, as you mentioned, not just Alabama. And the president topped off his remarks before getting to the national security announcements that you mentioned by saying he was heartbroken by this devastation and vowed that the administration would do all it could to help, Wolf. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The loss of life has been heartbreaking, especially in Alabama. In a matter of hours, these deadly tornadoes, some of the worst that we have seen in decades, took mothers and father, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors, even entire communities. Others are injured and some are still missing. And in many places, the damage to home he is and businesses is nothing short of catastrophic.

We can't control when or where a terrible storm may strike, but we can control how we respond to it. And I want every American who has been affected by this disaster to know that the federal government will do everything we can to help you recover.


HENRY: As part of that federal response, the president himself is now going to be traveling to Alabama tomorrow. He was already headed to Florida to Cape Canaveral for the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour, the president going to is stop in Alabama to lend a hand and show personally how involved the administration is, Wolf.

BLITZER: And obviously, those are lessons learned from earlier presidents who didn't necessarily move as quickly, we are talking specifically Katrina, as you well remember, Ed.

HENRY: That's right. The symbolism is great, obviously, but also is an important ability for the president of the United States to show the federal government is all over this situation. As you know, they prefer not to go immediately, the president waiting a day or so because the president's large security contingent can often slow down, as you bring in local and state police and whatnot for security, can slow down relief efforts. He wants to get there as quickly as possible but not interfere, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, thanks very much.

CNN correspondents are fanned out across what we are calling the tornado disaster zone. Stand by. We will take you live to north Georgia where they haven't seen this kind of damage in decades.


DANIEL LEE, RINGGOLD RESIDENT: I couldn't compare it to nothing that I've ever seen in my lifetime. My dad is 41 he said he couldn't compare it to nothing in his lifetime. It was bad. It was terrifying.



BLITZER: Tornado survivors are struggling to find the words to describe what they have been seeing, experiencing over the past several hours. The death toll is now up to at least 283 in one of the worst twister outbreaks in U.S. history. More than 1,000 people are injured in six southern states, powerful storms struck yesterday.

The death and the devastation is worst in Alabama. The state now is reporting a shortage in its emergency blood supply because of the disaster. The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa has suspended classes, canceled final exams, rescheduling graduation ceremonies.

And 14 people are dead in nearby Georgia, where tornado survivors are describing this as the storm of a lifetime. CNN's Rafael Romo is joining us from Ringgold in Georgia. What is it like there, Rafael?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, people here in Catoosa County tell me this is the most devastating storms and tornados this community has seen since at least 1974. And the destruction, as you can see behind me is massive. But this community is coming together to get back on their feet.


ROMO: The steeple was torn off the roof and part of the assembly hall was destroyed. But the main building at Welcome Hill Baptist Church was spared by just a few feet. This north Georgia town of some 6,000 lost at least seven people to the tornado that ripped apart.

DANIEL LEE, RINGGOLD RESIDENT: I looked out the back door, coming to our house, shut the door, run to the hallway, and it was gone and everything.

ROMO: Daniel Lee said there was no time to waste. He enlisted neighbors and volunteers from as far away as Chattanooga to help clean off the debris left by the most powerful tornado this storm has seen in four decades.

LEE: I couldn't compare it to anything I have seen in my lifetime. My dad is 41 and he couldn't compare it to anything in his lifetime. It was bad. It was terrifying.

ROMO: Kim Cooper says her family was barely able to escape the tornado aft her husband gave the alert.

KIM COOPER, RINGGOLD RESIDENT: It was bright. You could see the window, big bright and all of a sudden, went dark. He opened up the back door and he said "Run," because it was coming and we hit the floor. That's how I got my eye all busted up.

ROMO (on camera): This is how powerful this tornado was, it uprooted this enormous tree, leaving us. You can see here, a small crater, the family says that they feel lucky the tree didn't fall on their house.

ROMO (voice-over): The extent of the damage from the tornadoes and powerful storms around town is difficult to fully comprehend. But residents in Ringgold said just like this cross at welcome hill church, they are glad they are still standing.


ROMO: And I'm standing in the parking lot of Welcome Hill Baptist Church here in Ringgold and as you can see behind me, the assembly hall was badly damaged. The church, only a few feet away, was spared. Wolf? BLITZER: Rafael, thanks very much. We are going to have much more on the tornado and the tornadoes, I should say, and the aftermath. That is coming up.

Other important news we are following, including escalating bloodshed in Syria. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories "THE SITUATION ROOM" right now. It is getting much worse in Syria right now.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. Heavy firing is being heard all around the area. In the besieged city of Daraa, witnesses say the streets are littered with bodies as tank and security forces tear into homes making arrests. CNN has been denied access to report from inside Syria and cannot independently confirm these accounts.

Meanwhile, three key senators here in the United States, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, are now calling for the country's president, Bashar al-Assad, to go.

A new victory for Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, as loyalists seize control of a border crossing with Tunisia. Pro-Gadhafi forces bombarded the opposition with heavy shelling, which reportedly led to a number of casualties.

And at least 14 people are dead and another 23 injured, most of them tourists, after an explosion ripped through a cafe in the Moroccan city of Marrakech, according to state-run news. Officials say the blast appears to be an attack. Several French nationals were among the wounded. French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement condemning that violence.

And search teams have located a portion of the crucial data recorders from that Air France flight that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean almost two years ago, but the important memory unit is still missing. The discovery comes just weeks after a key piece of wreckage was found containing a number of bodies. Those bodies have not yet been recovered -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That explosion -- it looks like a terrorist explosion -- in Marrakech, Morocco, very worrisome, what is going on over there.

Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.

We're monitoring other important top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM as well. That's coming up.

Plus, President Obama announcing a major shuffle in his national security team. We are taking a closer look at what's at stake for the president with this new team.


BLITZER: Turning now to the White House, where President Obama has just officially announced a major shuffle in his national security team. Among the proposed shifts, the current CIA director, Leon Panetta, he will replace the retiring defense secretary, Robert Gates. And the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, he will replace Panetta over at the CIA.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are the leaders that I have chosen to help guide us through the difficult days ahead. I will look to them and my entire national security team for their counsel, continuity, and unity of effort that this moment in history demands.


BLITZER: There's a lot to talk about. Our senior political analyst Gloria Borger is here.

We can't overemphasize how significant politically for the president this national security shift could be as he tries to get re-elected.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: This is the first major restructuring that we have seen of the president's national security team. And it has serious implications for everything, including Afghanistan, which is, of course, so important because they have to decide how many troops to start withdrawing from Afghanistan this summer, not to the mention the fact that the Defense Department is looking at huge budget cuts, even in the president's budget. It's about $400 billion over the next dozen years or so.

And, of course, the question about the CIA, General Petraeus going over there. There are lots of people saying, is there too much militarization of the intelligence community now with the use of drones, et cetera?

So these are big issues that all have to be decided by the president's new team.

BLITZER: It's an enormous challenge right now. You've got a war in Iraq. Still unclear what's going to happen there.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Will that country have a good relationship with us or with Iran, for that matter? You've got 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, still $2 billion a week. You've got Libya, maybe Syria, the whole region exploding right now. The challenges are enormous.

BORGER: Enormous. But, you know, it's interesting, because it's not as if the president has picked people that we don't know.

They are -- everybody in this team is a known quantity. They have worked together, and it's interesting, because I think Leon Panetta was the choice of the outgoing defense secretary, Gates. So, they are both known as being more pragmatic than ideological.

All of these people are very easily confirmable. I think what the administration was looking for was more continuity than anything else. BLITZER: Why not bring in some new blood? Because not everything is going that well on the national security front now. Why not bring in some new thinking?

BORGER: Well, it was very -- I mean, it's clear. They have a decision to make, and they decided to go with the people they know because they want some continuity, because they want people who were there at the beginning of certain decisions to decide what happens at the other end.

BLITZER: No doubt Leon Panetta's major challenge will be to take that, what, $600 billion or $700 billion a year Pentagon budget and start chopping tens and tens and tens of billions of dollars.

BORGER: And Wolf, as you know, this is a man with one of the most extensive resumes in Washington. One of the things he did was he was -- he was the budget director, OMB chief. He also ran -- for Bill Clinton.

He also ran the House Budget Committee. This is somebody who knows how to look at a huge budget and cut it, and that's exactly what he is going to have to do.

You know, we saw Secretary Gates cut weapons systems. That's one thing. Leon Panetta is actually going to have to shrink the defense budget, and one would argue that's a lot more difficult job.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.


BLITZER: Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst.

You have probably heard Donald Trump rail against China. But guess where the products so many of them that bear his name are actually made? You guessed it.


BLITZER: We've got some new charges of hypocrisy against Donald Trump coming up right now.

Lisa Sylvester is here. She is in THE SITUATION ROOM with some props.

What's going on here?

SYLVESTER: OK. You know, Wolf, Donald Trump, he has been very critical of China. American manufacturing jobs, being sent to China, the American consumer buying the products, and the Chinese then turning around and financing U.S. debt.

He says that this is a cycle that leaves the American workers out of jobs and leads to huge budget and trade deficits. But as you can see here, that hasn't stopped Trump from cashing in on the sales of products, burying his name, made in China.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): Donald Trump tells it like he sees it, jobs going to China, China manipulating its currency, and the U.S. worker getting squeezed.

DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: When it comes to manufacturing, China is making all of these products, and they could be made in North Carolina, they could be made in Alabama, they could be made in lots of our places. And right now, they are not.

SYLVESTER: But guess what? Products with the Donald Trump designer label, from high-end shirts, to ties, to cufflinks, are made, where else? China. Not in a U.S. manufacturing plant and not employing U.S. workers.

His wife Melania launched a line of jewelry sold on QVC last year, but look where it's made -- China.

CNN's John King sat down with Donald Trump.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": People will ask, is this guy a hypocrite? He is out there beating up on the Chinese and his wife is making money selling products made in China.

TRUMP: Because of the fact that China manipulates their currency -- and they really manipulate it big league -- and our people aren't smart enough to know what's going on --

SYLVESTER: Trump says he sees zero hypocrisy here, although he has previously called products made in China "shoddy," even referring to them as "crap." Trump licenses his name to Van Heusen, which manufacturers the products bearing the Donald Trump logo. We contacted Trump's organization for comment, but calls were not returned.

But the U.S. Business and Industry Council's Alan Tonelson defended Trump, saying don't blame him, blame the system.

ALAN TONELSON, U.S. BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY COUNCIL: When Washington decided in the early and mid-1990s to expand trade with China, it inevitably created overwhelming incentives for U.S. manufacturers ranging from garments to the most sophisticated goods imaginable over to China.

SYLVESTER: Public Citizen, a group that advocates for fair trade, says Trump should now put his money with where his mouth is and make sure future products licensed with his name are made in the U.S.

LORI WALLACH, PUBLIC CITIZEN: I think it's going to be very hard to pass the American public's laugh test if you are reinforcing what they already feel, that current trade policies are killing our jobs and destroying our country's economic strength, but at the same time, you are contributing in any way to continuing that trend.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SYLVESTER: Now, in addition to calling Trump's public relations company, we also contacted Phillips-Van Heusen. They on the Trump license to make those shirts and those ties. But our calls, Wolf, were not returned.

BLITZER: Well, obviously -- the obvious reason they are made in China is because they can do it a lot cheaper than if they were made in North Carolina or someplace else, right?

SYLVESTER: Exactly. And that is what Trump's point is, that the reason why manufacturers are going to China is because of the current trade policy, the current trade system, which actually encourages companies to go overseas, to move their production overseas. And it is, at the end of the day, a lot cheaper to make it there than it is here in the United States.

BLITZER: On the other hand, if he were to say the quality would be so much better if Americans made it, as opposed to Chinese, I have to sell it for a little bit more, but you know what, you're getting an American-made product, you're not getting something made in China, he could use that as an argument as well.

SYLVESTER: He could, and that's going to be -- we'll have to see if that's what happens, if they now make some kind of a new arrangement, new agreement to make the manufacturing, to move the manufacturing here to the United States, because it's going to be very hard for him to continue this line of his saying, you know, all these jobs are going of to China when his own products that we have here are made in China.

BLITZER: Yes. If he runs as a Republican presidential candidate, the scrutiny of everything he has done, he won't know what hit him. This is only just beginning, the charges of hypocrisy and everything else. He's going to have to have a really, really thick skin to run for president of the United States given all the baggage, given all the history, and the open books he's going to have to put forward.

Lisa, thanks very much.

So, how much did you pay to fill up your tank this week the same time one huge oil company here in the United States is posting unbelievable profits and it's getting a tax break from Uncle Sam at the same time? What's going on?

And another red flag for America's nuclear safety as a power plant is affected by those deadly tornadoes in the South.


BLITZER: Jack is back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: How do you see the debt ceiling fight being resolved? Congress, back next week, and we will reach our debt limit, most people say, by May the 16th, a little more than two weeks. Michael in Virginia writes, "I see the Biden commission and the Gang of Six being combined into a new fiscal commission to include enough Republicans to get them to agree to raise the debt ceiling. This new fiscal commission will be well staffed with the task of producing legislative language by a date certain with a fast-track vote at the end."

John in Louisiana writes, "It will go down to the last possible minute, and then the Democrats will give in to the Republican demands. What else is new?"

April writes from Iowa, "I don't see the debt ceiling debate being resolved. I think Republicans are going to refuse to lift the debt ceiling unless they get changes the Democrats are unwilling to give. It's all a big game of chicken."

"The American people are paying the fine. I don't see anything good coming out of this debate, but I usually don't see anything positive coming out of Congress anyway."

Jim in Toledo writes, "The Republicans will allow passage. They took a beating over the spring break."

Carl writes, "Until it affects both corrupt political parties, I don't see it being resolved. We absolutely need a new government. Just my opinion, but I see a revolution in our future. We have got to top the evil, corrupt politicians from destroying this once great country."

Dave writes, "There really is no choice but to raise the debt ceiling. Not to do so would be a disaster and make our deficit problems worse."

"There's not a financial expert alive who thinks allowing the U.S. to default on its debt is a good idea, which is what will happen if the debt ceiling is not raised. Anybody who votes against it is a fool."

And R. writes from Minnesota, "The politicians will raise the roof speaking about this. Then they will raise the ceiling, and the rest of us will hit the floor, financially speaking."

If you want to see more on this subject, go to the blog,

It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks.

BLITZER: You know, the financial stakes for the country, interest rates, the economy, economic growth, are enormous.

CAFFERTY: Yes, they are.

BLITZER: I think we all agree on that, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes, they are.

BLITZER: Thank you.

A political battle, a huge one, over tax and jobs. Is the House Speaker saying one thing, doing another thing? Stand by.

And we'll return live to the tornado disaster zone in the South, where life as people know it has been turned upside-down.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only reason I knew this was my house, because my car was on top of it.



BLITZER: Incredible survival stories amidst miles of deadly devastation in Alabama.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in this house with my 89-year-old aunt and my 7-week-old granddaughter. And how in God's name we survived, I cannot tell you.


BLITZER: Just moments ago, another death confirmed in Alabama, bringing the death toll from the southern tornado outbreak throughout the South up to 284. Seventeen hundred people have been injured.

We are joined now by the Tuscaloosa County sheriff, Ted Sexton.

Sheriff, thanks very much for coming in.

You went up in a helicopter and you saw the devastation. Talk a little bit about what you saw, because we have some of those pictures.

SHERIFF TED SEXTON, TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, ALABAMA: Very emotional to watch -- to look at your community after being destroyed. Right now we are still in a search and rescue mode. We're trying to help bring quality of life back.

As you mentioned, many people are upside-down. Just a total catastrophic event. They have the clothes that on their back and nothing else.

The film that you're looking at, it looks like that for 30 to 40 miles, clear across the county, on up into Jefferson County and into downtown Birmingham. This is without a doubt one of -- without a doubt, the worst storm that I have ever seen.

BLITZER: I mean, this is -- we're talking about a city, Tuscaloosa, of about 100,000 people. The University of Alabama there.

And you are saying that the search and rescue operation is intense right now. Are you expecting to find survivors?

SEXTON: Yes, sir. We're a county of about 200,000. And this affected the city of Tuscaloosa.

It went through an area of student housing. It went back out into an unincorporated area that is heavily populated. This touches all persons, economically, and what have you.

It has been a very devastating storm. But Tuscaloosa, however, is a very well-prepared community. A lot of planning, a lot of collaborative effort that goes into this. And even with all of the efforts that we have made, this has still been a storm that -- as the weather service said, we could look for a horrendous storm, with a 45 percent chance of seeing one.

But when this storm came, and came through, and with the sheer magnitude and size, it took about two or three seconds once we saw it to realize this was beyond anybody's wildest dreams of ever seeing a tornado like this in our community.

We've had severe storms before, but nothing like this. This damage is concurrent, it runs for 30 miles like this.

BLITZER: And I just want to remind our viewers, the video we're showing, video that you shot when you were up in this helicopter just moments ago. And you say you have never seen anything like this in your area before. Right?

SEXTON: Well, I've had the opportunity to see a lot of storms nationwide, and I have not seen anything of this magnitude. But we're a strong, resilient city. We'll come back. Everybody knows how to be neighborly.

We will continue to work . We're in search and rescue mode right now, and then eventually we will shift back over to recovery and start the -- we have got a lot of work ahead to bring this community back.

But as I said, this is a resilient community. We're a university community. And we have a lot of inner strength, and we're looking forward to working to build a lot of lives. Folks had an extremely catastrophic event that took place in their lives yesterday.

BLITZER: Are you letting people return to what's left of their homes, to search through the rubble for their possessions? Or are you keeping them away?

SEXTON: No. In many areas, they are being able to get back in to see what's left of their life. As I mentioned, many only have the clothes on their back and their homes have been destroyed.

Oftentimes, when you see tornadoes, you still see frames of houses. You don't see that here. You see -- these houses have been imploded, basically, in a 30-mile stretch.

Many communities within our county, Alberta City, the Hope (ph) community, as well as the city of Tuscaloosa, greatly affected. And so people are starting to come back in and see what -- how they are going to rebuild their lives, what they have left, and how they move forward. BLITZER: And finally, Sheriff, the University of Alabama, the students there, how are they doing?

SEXTON: As I said, there were several student areas on the perimeter of campus that were affected, and those areas were basically obliterated also. The university opened up shelters for those students affected last night. And there were many there.

And I saw Dr. Witt just a few minutes ago, and he has been very proactive in making sure that the students get whatever their needs are. They are in the last week. We are going into exam week. And so students have one more week in this semester. But the university has been offering any assistance possible to ensure that these students receive the help they need.

BLITZER: Good luck, Sheriff. Good luck to all the folks in Tuscaloosa. We'll stay in close touch with you. Thank you very much.

SEXTON: Thank you.