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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Gorka Resigns, Trump Pardons Arpaio; Hurricane Harvey Intensifies to Category 4; Millions at Risk as Monster Hurricane Closes In; Arpaio Thanks Trump for Pardon
Aired August 25, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- during his pardon process had, what the White House affectionately called, a double blind process. Where the president didn't want to know who was applying for a pardon, he didn't want to have anything to do with it while it was at the Department of Justice. Because many people remember the pardons that Bill Clinton gave and everyone else gave to get in that level of trouble. But he didn't want to even touch that.
And so for someone to come along right now and make a pardon without going through any of the proper procedures or protocol, which is purely political, anybody who says this pardon is anything but political, this serves -- this does not serve to meet any end of justice whatsoever. I mean you're pardoning a racist. It actually shows you the compare and contrast that we've normalize behavior, which is unethical, immoral and is now what we call Donald Trump.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Again, just to be clear, you thought the first president to make a pardon that, at the end of day, is seen as purely political. It doesn't mean it is not controversial.
Guys, standby, if you will. Crossing now to the top of the hour and we haven't taken one breath yet. I want to bring everyone up to speed, just as one of the most powerful hurricanes in decades moves closer to the Texas Gulf, a huge political storm has descended on Washington.
President Trump picks this very moment to pardon the controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Also, one of his most controversial senior advisers has resigned. Sebastian Gorka out. All of this following the president's official order to bar transgender Americans from military service. They will no longer be allowed inside to apply to join the military.
So, Hurricane Harvey and the mother of all Friday night news dumps, let's begin with CNN's Sara Murray again from the White House.
Sara, again, walk us through this series of remarkable actions tonight.
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, John, this is the White House that is really wrapped its arms around the notion of Friday night news dumps and today is certainly no different.
As you pointed out, the president signed his memo officially banning transgender troops from joining the military. He also directed the Department of Defense that they could not use any resources to pay for medical treatment regimens for current transgender troops. So that cast their future into question.
Tonight, a White House official would not say if that means that if you're currently serving in the military and you are transgender if you will no longer be allowed to. So that's the question that still remains unanswered.
So, fast forward a couple hours, and then we get a statement from the White House saying the president has decided to pardon a controversial sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Arizona. Now, Sheriff Joe was being held in contempt of court because he violated a judge's order in a racial profiling case.
Now, the White House pointed to Joe's record in the military as well as his record in law enforcement, they pointed out that he's 85 years old and said he deserves a pardon. This comes just days after White House Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders said that the president would not use his Phoenix rally to pardon the controversial sheriff.
But of course when Trump took the stage, it was a different story. He said that he thought Sheriff Joe would be fine and tonight he made good on that promise. All of this comes as people are eyeing the president very warily when it comes to the issue of race relations.
That comment that he made in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville that equated white supremacists, neo-Nazis to the actions we saw from counterprotesters is still on the top of mind stinging for many Americans. And this move certainly is not going to make them feel more comfortable about where this president stands in terms of race relations.
So, there is yet another component of the Friday night news dump and this was Sebastian Gorka, another controversial Trump adviser, deciding to resign from his role at the White House tonight.
Gorka billed himself as a national security adviser to the president. But the thing that was a little bit confusing about all of this is even though he was constantly on T.V., he was always doing interviews, he was always speaking on the president's behalf in a very bombastic tone by the way that President Trump actually enjoyed, he didn't really seem to have a portfolio within the White House.
If you talk to other national security officials, they say they weren't really sure what Gorka was working on. He wasn't involved in key decisions or in key meetings. We know the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has been systematically going through the staff trying to decide are you in the right role? Are you prepared? Are you qualified for this role? Are you fully serving the president to the best of your abilities in this capacity?
And we're told that John Kelly's evaluation had a factor, played a part in Sebastian Gorka's decision to depart.
But I will tell you that ever since Steve Bannon was ousted from this White House, people have been talking pretty openly about the notion that Sebastion Gorka could be the next high profile individuals to be leaving.
BERMAN: And all of this, Sara Murray, after dinner on a Friday night. Sara Murray at the White House tonight.
I do want to note, the lawyer for Sheriff Joe Arpaio told me just a short time ago he was informed of this pardon this afternoon. Saw the paperwork, in fact, for the pardon this afternoon at 3:00.
So the White House waited, intentionally waited, at least five hours by my math to announce it to the American people. They timed it, why?
[21:05:02] Well, a Category 4 hurricane, a Category 4 storm hitting the Texas coast. Our Martin Savidge is in Corpus Christi with the very latest on that.
And, Martin, you've just been getting pounded out there. What's the very latest?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. South Texas is getting hammered. We're going into another hour of just extreme wind.
In fact, if you look at the radar signature, it looks like Harvey is just about kissing the outer banks area of some of the off islands. But that just means that the worst of it is still to come here at Corpus Christi. And we've been taking a beating for some time now.
The wind just continues to grow and grow. It's both fiercer, it's stronger. And it's having now starting to have a detrimental impact you can see on the infrastructure. They're not in view of the cameras here but there are places where there is damage inside of this town.
The lights are still on at this hotel but there are other areas where the power has gone out. This is very much a potentially catastrophic situation here.
Category 4 storm. We're not feeling the full brunt of those winds. There would be no way that I could stand up if that was the case. We have a building that is helping to shield us. But still at times, the wind hits you so hard. It literally takes your breath away. The air is pulverized with water. At the same time tremendous amounts of water coming down.
And that is going to be the long-term signature of this particular Hurricane Harvey because this system is going to stall, we're told, and then it is just simply going to be like a waterfall pouring off of the gulf.
Right now, the real concern though is for public safety. No one is supposed to be out. There are a few people who are out and about. But otherwise, you have to shelter in place and even the 911 responders say they can't get out in something like this. If it was life and death, they might try but that's a case by case call. There was no mandatory evacuation here in Corpus Christi. In a number of outer lying counties, there were. Some people may be wishing at this hour that they thought differently. There were a lot of people who did leave. But now, that is no longer an option and this is likely to be an event that goes on for days, John.
BERMAN: All right, Martin Savidge for us again just in the middle of the elements right now in Corpus Christi. And we do want to note the worst is yet to come.
The winds are still going to pick up where Martin is and then that area faces days of torrential rain. This will be a huge story for days to come and this huge story is the backdrop during which the White House has decided to dump an enormous amount of news tonight.
So back with us to talk politics our panel. Now, joining us, Brian Stelter, Bakari Sellers is here, Alice Stewart, Ana Navarro is on the phone. Also with us, former Bush ethics adviser Richard Painter, he currently teaches law at the University of Minnesota.
Ana, I want to get your reaction to those who haven't heard it. Again, I think the headline out of the White House tonight, the first presidential pardon of the very controversial sheriff from Arizona, Joe Arpaio, former sheriff.
ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: John, as I told you earlier, this is a slap in the face to the Latino community, to most of us in the Latino community. Perhaps not the guy who hates taco trucks but a lot of other Latinos see Joe Arpaio as a symbol of racism, of discrimination, of racial profiling, of abuses of civil rights and the president of the United States has seen fit to pardon him today, you know, in a very extraordinary move.
And I just see -- I think that he didn't do it in Arizona earlier in the week because he knew all hell would break loose, because he knew there would be thousands of impromptu protesters that would have shown up outside that rally to protest that act and what it would have meant. That's why the mayor of Phoenix warned him not to go to Arizona because he was afraid that he was going to pardon Joe Arpaio and what that would mean in that community. Turn it into another Charlottesville.
So we have a president of the United States, a so-called president of the United States. I would call him president of the divided states that in the last two weeks has stood with racist, with white supremacist, with neo-Nazis and now with this man who is a symbol for civil rights abuses and racial profiling. He is the president of 34% of Americans and that's about it.
BERMAN: And we will ask about the political implications of that in just a moment.
Also with us on the phone right now, George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley.
Jonathan, again, just to make the legal point here, the president unquestionably has the power to do this, the power to pardon people. That is an absolute power essentially that the president has. But you do note this is an unusual type of pardon and certainly an unusual process. Explain.
[21:10:04] JOHN TURLEY, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, it's unusual in a number of respects. First of all, this is occurring relatively early in a presidential term. But more importantly, this was someone who hasn't been sentenced yet. Sentencing was supposed to occur in October. Generally, a president will wait to see what the sentence might be. Arpaio was looking at probably less than six months, may not have gotten any jail at all.
But the most troubling aspect of this is putting the immigration controversy aside. This involved a classic and raw example of contempt of court. It really deals with the rule of law. It doesn't matter what the subject is. A sheriff has to live within the law and courts determine a great variety of things that sheriffs do from executing warrants to limiting police misconduct.
It's essential that regardless of any disagreement you have with the court that you comply with court orders because that's what the rule of law means.
Now, to put this into perspective, after the order was given to Arpaio, he continued to arrest people for 17 months. He didn't go back to the court and say I want to try to take an appeal. I want to get clarification. For 17 months, he violated a court order from a sitting judge. And about 171 individuals were arrested.
Now, it doesn't matter how you feel about the underlying issue of immigration. What you should care about is that you had a sheriff who flagrantly refused to comply with an order of a court. And that's what is so dangerous.
BERMAN: All right, Jonathan Turley, stand by. And again, we do note that this happened on this Friday night during a major hurricane hitting the Florida coast, which in some ways is a master class in media management. This is news dump 101 except it's not 101, Brian Stelter. It's really an accelerated version. An advanced class in news dumps. Explain.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: And the folks who in Texas who are weathering this storm are not going to be interested in Joe Arpaio tonight. They're going to be interested in trying to keep their homes from flooding or their rooms from being torn off.
But for the rest of the country, once again, President Trump back in the news. And I have to wonder if it's because Seb. Gorka has issued a scathing resignation letter.
In his letter, he has a lot of critical words about President Trump. He says that the forces that are against the make America great coalition are ascend in at the White House, that the true believers like Steve Bannon and Seb. Gorka have been pushed out.
You know, this letter comes out. It's leaked to a pro-Trump website and then you get the news about Joe Arpaio. Who knows what the exact timeline was. You've said that Arpaio's lawyer found out hours ago. But sure, it is curious that the president wants to make so much news tonight.
BERMAN: You know, the lawyer for Sheriff Joe Arpaio told me that he was told at 3:00 Pacific Time, which would be 6:00, which would be two full hours before the White House announced it to the people, and that's when the paperwork --
STELTER: And of course the transgender ban information was coming out around that time. So we'd already seen a news done by 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the directive about the transgender ban. Now, we've had multiple other stories and it's only 9:00 p.m. I find myself wondering what else could break tonight.
But in a serious note, the president is at Camp David. He should be and says he is monitoring this storm. We've not seen a Category 4 hurricane hit the coast of Texas since 1961. We haven't seen one anywhere in the United States since 2004. In some ways, all eyes in the Trump White House should be on Texas right now. But they seem to want to make other news.
BERMAN: So they got a lot done while they were monitoring the hurricane to be sure, Alice Stewart. I have had a chance to look at the full letter from Sebastian Gorka. Brian Stelter just read part of it. How much of a concern should that be to the White House? You're talking about Steve Bannon, would he be helpful or hurtful to the Trump administration? What about Sebastian Gorka?
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, let me just say this. I just got a note from -- an e-mail from the White House. And a senior White House official tells me that he did not issue his resignation. Therefore, they added that he no longer works at the White House.
BERMAN: So they're trying to tell us he was fired?
STEWART: That is the -- what they're implying in this. They're saying that he didn't issue his resignation. They will say he no longer works at the White House. So we're going to have this back and forth as we've done with other members of the senior staff that have left the White House.
But look, I think, this is clear as he said in his resignation letter that Brian indicated. Sebastian Gorka felt as though the make America great again policies are no longer going to be implemented in this White House.
With -- we saw this when Steve Bannon left. He was concerned about what the Chief of Staff Kelly and Ivanka and Jared and Gary Cohn and the Breitbart wing of the old White House refers to them as the Democrats in the West Wing, and they were concerned about policies they would be implementing,
Based on what Sebastian Gorka wrote in the letter that he says that his resignation letter, he said he didn't feel like his policies that he stood for and that the people that he knew supported Donald Trump stood for were going to continue to be implemented.
[21:15:10] BERMAN: All right, guys, I just got a thank you note written by Sheriff Joe Arpaio to the president of the United States. Let me read it out loud.
STELTER: Back to the other story, yes, yes.
BERMAN: I actually think it was on Twitter by the way because it says, "Thank you @realDonaldTrump for seeing my conviction for what it is, a political witch-hunt by holdovers in the Obama Justice Department. I am humbled and incredibly grateful to President Trump. I look forward to putting this chapter behind me and helping to make America great again. I also thank my loyal supporters who stood shoulder to shoulder with me in this fight and throughout my career. For those who are asking how they can continue to help, a donation to my legal fund goes directly to paying off my legal fees in this fight." So, Sheriff Joe Arpaio trying to raise money right now among everything else.
Jonathan Turley, if you're still with us, I just want to get your reaction to one central point that Sheriff Joe Arpaio makes in this Twitter thank you note to the president. He says he calls his conviction a witch-hunt by holdovers in the Obama Justice Department. Your reaction to that one line?
TURLEY: Well, it was not a witch-hunt. I admit I've been critical of Arpaio for a number of years. This was as clear a case of contempt as you can get. I'd be very surprised if the Justice Department would sign off on a petition of this kind. I've been down that road with the Justice Department before.
This is a very rare type of action that a client can receive obviously from the president of the United States. And the Justice Department -- one of the reasons we have that process is the Justice Department balances a lot of interests, balances whether the person has admitted guilt, whether this is the type of offense that warrants attention of a sentence.
All of that gets hashed out, which is problematic if you then circumvent the process because this case has a huge amount of significance for line prosecutors. They have to go in front of these judges and say when you issue an order to me, we will comply because we live by the rule of law.
And officers of the court and officers on the street alike make that pledge. When people say he was doing his job, his job was to comply with the United States Constitution. And you can't do that if you ignore a direct order from a federal judge.
So, for me, this has nothing to do with immigration. It has to do with respect for our system of law. And so that's what makes this so problematic.
BERMAN: Bakari Sellers is here with us as well, former Democratic State Representative from South Carolina.
SELLERS: Well, you know, as much emotion as I have tied in to what Sheriff Joe Arpaio represents, let's not forget that he was one of the first cheerleaders in the birther movement against Barack Obama. Let's not forget that he systematically instilled so much fear in immigrants.
But I was reading something from his contempt complaint and it said Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has failed, for example, to adequately respond to reports of sexual violence, including allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse of girls, thus, exposing women and girls who can constitute the majority of victims of crime, of sexual violence in Maricopa County, to a disproportionate risk of physical and psychological harm. You would think that one would prioritize such crimes as sexual violence over less serious offenses such as low level immigration offenses.
And so what that says is that you had someone who had so much bigotry and hate in his heart that it spilled out into his work performance. That's why the contempt of court is so serious. That's why it's such a large crime. Because there were other things that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office simply was not doing so that he could satisfy his racist urges to go out and round up as many brown people as he could.
BERMAN: Go ahead, Alice.
STEWART: Just to reiterate what the president's view on that is, yes, you're the lawyer. You're the expert on that.
SELLERS: I'm practicing law. Practicing is the key word in this whole thing.
STEWART: But the president views it completely different. He sees this as the sheriff executing his duties as sheriff. And he has always been an advocate for local jurisdictions complying with federal immigration laws. And he views this as what the sheriff was doing in this case.
Right or wrong, and clearly -- but I'm telling you this is how the president views it. And him issuing this pardon, he believes that Sheriff Arpaio's lifetime of service, 50 years in law enforcement and DEA and serving our country and in the military, he views that as something that needed to be taken into consideration. And his decision for issuing the pardon was, look, this is an 85-year-old man, served for 50 years and I'm going to show some compassion to this person. I'm not saying I agree with him. I'm saying that's where he's coming from.
[21:20:00] SELLERS: No, I hear you. And I think that, you know, regardless of the man, and so for a lot of us we're taking out -- for better or for worse, and I may be unfair in this criticism, but I'm taking out the fact that he's 85 years old. I'm taking out the fact that he was a military person and all of this stuff because of what he represents. Today, you know, regardless of the man, Donald Trump pardoned racism. BERMAN: Let me read you something which is making the rounds right now on social media. This appears to be a statement that then citizen Donald Trump made way back in 2012 that it has to do with the whole birther issue here. The president wrote, "Congratulations to Sheriff Joe on his successful cold case posse investigation which claims Barack Obama's birth certificate is fake."
STELTER: This was the height of the birther movement in 2012 when now President Trump was leading the charge. Arpaio was one of the people helping him by allegedly investigating, got to use air quotes for that, investigating President Obama's birth place. So you have this tweet from a pretty much exactly five years ago, then citizen Donald Trump thanking Joe Arpaio for it.
BERMAN: And, Bakari, to that point, I understand you are a lawyer, but you're also a politician as well. This seems to be, you know, President Trump taking a stand again against everything and anything that has to do with President Obama. He --
SELLERS: No. Look, yes and no, because nothing happens in a vacuum. Nothing in the political spectrum happens in a vacuum. We have to look at this as honestly. We have to look in this as a nexus that goes back to Charlottesville.
I mean we can start there with his response when you had images of bigotry, xenophobia and anti-semitism. And there is a direct line you can draw from that to Joe Arpaio. I mean there is -- that is a direct correlation.
And so, yes, everything that is Barack Obama. We know where Donald Trump's political career started with the birther movement. That is where it is. And his number one cheerleader was Joe Arpaio.
And so, for me, I am beyond, you know, fed up with Donald Trump. That happened 19 months ago, where many people like myself, we find our -- on a night like tonight, I'm still troubled by those good people who are still a part of that 39%.
BERMAN: You know, I have Richard Painter on the phone, who is an ethics lawyer in the Bush White House as well.
And, Richard, one of the things you've been looking at very closely and also very concerned about is the Russia investigation. Look, you know, the president does have the absolute power to pardon. Now, he pardon Joe Arpaio, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, in his first pardon showing a willingness to issue what some people consider to be political pardons.
Does this send a message for what he might be willing to do down the line to people who may be connected with him who could be in some kind of trouble with the various Russian investigations?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER BUSH ETHICS LAWYER: Oh, yes. And they've already been talking about that, the White House. Newt Gingrich was talking about that back in December. I was on a phone interview with NPR and Newt Gingrich was on the same phone interview and we talked about those ethics issues with the incoming Trump administration. And Newt Gingrich said, well, he can just pardon people if there's a problem. And they were talking that way a couple weeks ago even though the point of the president pardoning himself.
And I think one thing that's gone on here is this is a trial balloon here to see how much of a reaction there is to a pardon here of a lawless sheriff. And this is not just about -- it is about the rule of law. But it is about immigration as well because he enforced immigration laws in a discriminatory manner, which is exactly what the president wants to do and what he advocated in the campaign trail.
So, he's going to see how the public responds to this and then see what other kind of pardons he can issue. And, yes, I would not be surprised to see some pardons in connection with the Russian investigation either to get people to shut up and not testify or just to help his friends and family.
BERMAN: You know, Alice Stewart, you know, you have been sitting here and explaining, I think, for a lot of us an argument for why the president is doing this and how the White House has done it today. I do want to ask you though as a Republican who has worked, you know, in the business for a long time, do you think it was a smart move to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio after these last two weeks?
STEWART: After these last two weeks probably was not the best timing. But with regard to a president, who we all have said from the very beginning, he is very loyal to those that are loyal to him. And politics makes strange bedfellows. We have sheriff of Maricopa County in on a big issue like birtherism with a billionaire New York real estate tycoon and they have a long history together.
And we knew that if something like this were to happen and Sheriff Arpaio was going to be in legal trouble that the president would be there for him. So, this was not a matter of if but when. And he clearly indicated this was going to happen when he was in Arizona. And the fact that this was dumped late on a Friday night in addition to a couple other big news stories and in addition to a hurricane, it's not a surprise. But --
[21:25:03] STELTER: I was looking at the endorsement, the endorsement was in January of 2016. So, very early the GOP primary, Arpaio had his back.
STEWART: Right. And this is more of what the president has been doing. Really, really catering what he's doing and his actions to the 35%, his base. And Sheriff Arpaio represents strong border security, building the wall, immigration and 74% of Republicans want to see that. So this is good for the base but it's not good for the politics.
BERMAN: So, Ana Navarro, to that point, you know, Alice just brought up the 74% of American support the president on immigration, you know, in a lesser percent on the wall. But by and large on just about every question you ask Republicans right now, a majority, if not upwards of 70, 75, 80% does support the president.
And I know because, look, you know, we've been talking about this, you and I and others, for over two years, you know. This causes you, you know, enormous pain and umbrage. But is it possible at this point that your Republican Party is no longer really your Republican Party? That the Republican Party has shifted so much that this is a move that will be wildly popular with most of them?
NAVARRO: There's no question that the Trumpism is very different from the Republican Party that I grew up in. It's very different from the Republican values that I espouse.
Now, I will tell you, as long as there are Republican leaders out there like John McCain, like Lisa Murkowski, like Susan Collins, John Kasich, like Lindsey Graham, I feel represented in the Republican Party.
It is important for these folks to remember that the legislative branch is a co-equal independent branch. They need not kowtow to this president. They need not be a rubber stamp to every ridiculous thing he does.
And, you know, John, we've been talking so much about John Arpaio -- Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Let us not forget what he did earlier today. I mean, at 6:00 in the afternoon, a man who dodged the draft five times, banned transgenders, qualified patriotic Americans who want to risk their lives in service of this country, banned them from serving our country, throwing another bone to this base, you know.
So that in itself is so repugnant that somebody who did what Donald Trump did during Vietnam who -- you know, this week slammed John McCain. A man who was hanging by his thumbs for five years and then today also goes ahead and bans people who want to serve and risk their lives, something that he was unwilling to do.
BERMAN: Let me give you some new reaction to the pardoning of Sheriff Joe Arpaio from one of those Republicans that I think Ana Navarro still associates herself with. Senator Jeff Flake from the state of Arizona who wrote tonight, "Regarding the Arpaio pardon, I would have preferred that the president honor the judicial process and let it take its course."
So Jeff Flake coming out against the pardon, not the strongest, you know, condemnation, Alice Stewart, of the pardon. I would have preferred, but coming out again -- again, Jeff Flake is the senator from the state of Arizona.
STEWART: And Jeff Flake just wrote a book, very critical of the president. So he's doing everything he can to try and speak his piece but not get back on bad terms with the president during this time.
Clearly, I think, it's -- we're going to hear more Republicans giving similar statements like that. And yes. The legal system, we should respect the legal system and let it play out.
But that being said, the president has indicated for quite some time this was going to happen and it should be as no surprise.
BERMAN: Yes. And Laura Coates, legal analyst with us on the phone right now or maybe even in person.
Laura, you know, your take, again, you know, Jeff Flake of Arizona said he would have liked to have seen the legal process play out. Jonathan Turley, who's been with us all night, told us that he thinks this is a slap in the face to the rule of law because Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court of what the law said in the state of Arizona. Your reaction to the process and the decision?
LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I mean, Senator Jeff Flake's statement is an understatement that rivals only my shock to the president's pardoning of a man who has been notoriously a racial profiler of Latinos and people who he suspected of being immigrants.
Remember back in the 1990s, he started to gain the reputation of the so-called toughest sheriff in America when he had open tent cities for people that he suspected as illegal immigrants open to the hot, burning sun in Arizona, had people wearing pink underwear and pink handcuffs to try to humiliate them and often cut out lunches.
This is a person who is known to have been flouting the law when the court said, listen, you cannot engage in racial profiling. It wasn't the preference of the court that you not do so. It's a mandate of the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment and other aspects of it.
And so it's a shocking revelation that the president of the United States who has deemed himself the law and order president would endorse and condone the activity of a sheriff who chooses not to be the model citizen of following the law.
[21:30:10] And frankly, I have to agree wholeheartedly with the comments that Ana Navarro and many of your other commentators tonight.
Yes, the president of the United States certainly has the presidential prerogative to engage in pardoning and this is a political decision to do so. But it must be noted that when you have an administration who is already being questioned by the appointment of an attorney general with a somewhat tenuous connection with the civil rights agenda of people in this country and was already speculating he would not be able to enforce civil rights agendas that were long and proudly held by the former presidents of the United States. It's a shocking revelation and it doesn't bode well for the confidence in the Department of Justice.
BERMAN: All right, Laura, stand by, if you will. I do want to go back to the White House. Sara Murray is there. One thing we've not talked about for the last five minutes or so is Sebastian Gorka who was the deputy assistant to the president was fired tonight essentially because the White House is making sure that we understand that he didn't resign per se but forced out.
Sara, I understand you have some new details about this.
MURRAY: That's right, John. The original sort of word we heard on this is that Sebastian Gorka has resigned. And in fact Sebastial Gorka is out there doing interviews it seems with some more conservative leaning news outlets in which his version of events is that he did resign.
But now, White House officials are saying that while they can confirm that he has left the White House, he did not resign. Other officials are telling us that this was in fact part of John Kelly's sort of systematic look at the staffers in the White House, look at, you know, whether they were doing the kind of jobs that were the right fit for them, whether they were serving the president.
And it was part of that process, part of the knowledge that Sebastian Gorka was out there saying very bombastic things on television without much of a portfolio within the White House that ultimately led to John Kelly making this decision. Sebastian Gorka was not going to fare in this White House he needed to go.
Obviously, Gorka appears to be spinning this as a resignation. Not surprising, we've seen that in this White House before. But officials are now saying, no, it's not actually a resignation. He was in fact forced out of the administration.
BERMAN: And, Brian Stelter, I want to bring you into this discussion right now because at least officially, Sebastian Gorka was some kind of a national security official even though what exactly he was doing in national security was always questioned how qualified he was to do, it was also in question what he really was as someone that went on T.V.
So, remind us of who Sebastian Gorka was. The controversy surrounding him and what he's saying right now.
STELTER: Yes, this time last year, he was a contributor to Breitbart. He was seen as a rather far right person when it came to national security and terrorism. His credentials have been called into question by even some of his former professors.
But, you're right, it was his role on television and also he spent a lot of time on Twitter. Between Twitter and television, that's what the president appreciated about Gorka. He was a staunch vocal, no matter what defender of the president.
And now, that is leaving the White House with Gorka being forced out here. But, it's unclear if Gorka was really ever in the key terrorism meetings that were happening in the West Wing.
STEWART: There are lot of times where he would go on with Chris Cuomo in the morning and his interviews that are scheduled for like five minutes would last about half an hour. They would just go add it and add it and add it, and the president actually liked that. Because he liked the fact that he would go back and defend and have this back and forth with --
SELLERS: You don't --
STELTER: But now, Gorka is saying that he disagrees with what he says are the moderates that are ascending in the White House. And this scathing letter that he calls a resignation letter which was leaked to a pro-Trump site, he says that these voices that were embodying the values of make America great again have been, "Internally countered, systematically removed or undermined in recent months."
BERMAN: All right, guys, stand by. Sorry Bakari, I don't mean to cut you off right now but on the phone with us, we do have Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of the state of Virginia.
You know, Ken, thank you so much for being with us. I honestly don't know where to begin because of everything that's happening tonight. But let's start with Sheriff Joe Arpaio who was pardoned tonight by the president. Your reaction?
KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, VIRGINIA: Well, it was political prosecution to begin with. So, it's not surprising to see a pardon, which is obviously a very political act used to kind of close this chapter out. And I think people will view the pardon based on where they start on Sheriff Arpaio.
The prosecution in 2016 was commenced the day before early voting began in Arizona. And, you know, when you make a decision like that at the Department of Justice, it of course looks political. And there was no new information not known to Arizona voters at that time so it wasn't like the government was withholding the information that an electorate needed to make a decision on the verge of an election.
So, here they go and they get a criminal contempt which is not unprecedented but darn close to it. The way a situation like Sheriff Arpaio was in with the court order that underlay the prosecution against him is normally handled as civil contempt. And that was bypassed by the Department of Justice to the surprise of virtually everybody.
[21:35:12] BERMAN: Let me just ask you if I can. And I don't mean to cut you off but I do want to --
CUCCINELLI: Yes, I hear you guys flying through things tonight so.
BERMAN: No, it's crazy. Jonathan Turley, obviously constitutional law expert, a guy who plays it right down the middle. I frankly have no idea what his politics are.
He says that the real issue here isn't necessarily even the prosecution. It's what the judge has decided that he was in contempt. You don't have to agree or disagree with the idea, you know, any policy on immigration. It's just that he decided not to obey the law as it was written and these judges for months were telling them to obey the law and he didn't.
CUCCINELLI: Right, and I have a lot of respect for Professor Turley. And I think what he lays out there is easy to understand.
At the same time, when you go back to the time period in question, the 18 months in question, you know, the sheriff's position was that -- was one of confusion on his part. That's what he says with respect to the continuing process by which they're handling law enforcement in his county.
And obviously, prior to the criminal prosecution, he was elected with fairly substantial margins. The smallest one was 6% which maybe it's because of my own history, that seems like a fairly comfortable margin.
But, you know, this is -- like I said, this is going to be viewed by Americans across the country, I think largely based on where they start. Where you end up is going to be based on where you start.
So I understand -- let me just make one quick point. I understand the concerns about this pardon if you're in the Obama Justice Department and you're making a decision like they did to start right at election time to move on this guy criminally, then it shouldn't -- politically, it was a political prosecution, this is a political pardon. And those two go together frankly. It's part of why the pardoning power exists for the president.
BERMAN: Yes, and I don't want to put words in your mouth or thoughts in your head. I get what you're saying. You don't seem to be saying in a very circumspect way by you don't seem to be jumping up and down with joy over it. You are obviously a deeply committed conservative.
CUCCINELLI: I am an idealist, and I wouldn't say I'm jumping up and down for joy. I think on balance, it was a defensible and positive thing for the president to do. And I hope future presidents, including this president, when he's on his way out, whenever that may be, won't initiate prosecutions of people running for office strictly for the purpose of defeating them. Which is why the timing of Sheriff Joe's prosecution was commenced when it was commenced. It was so he would lose the election, and he did.
That is now how prosecutions should be commenced. It is not how they should be carried forward and now President Trump has undone it.
BERMAN: And Ken, I'm dying at some point to ask you what exactly you meant by whenever that might be when you're talking about the end of the president's term. But hang on for one moment because I want to bring in Ana Navarro right now who has been listening to this and wanted to weigh in. Ana?
NAVARRO: Look, I think the judges in Arizona were very clear in their finding. T his man was convicted. And I just, you know, think this pardon is all about politics. I think the timing is all about politics.
I think when it didn't happen was all about politics. This was a very political move by Donald Trump who frankly wanted to do this. He wanted to do this. He can and he did. That's the bottom line.
Regardless of what it means for so many Americans and just how antagonizing an act it is for so many Americans. Not only -- not just Latinos but anybody who believes in civil rights should be today, offended by this act of the president of the United States.
BERMAN: I want to switch gears while I still have Ken on the phone right now because Ken Cuccinelli still with us. I want to get your reaction to Sebastian Gorka being pushed out so the White House says. I mean, they make it clear that Sebastian Gorka did not resign.
Sebastian Gorka is someone who has been associated with what a lot of people call the alt-right, certainly Breitbart, the more nationalist Trumpist wing right now of the Republican Party. And on his way out, Brian Stelter has been quoting a resignation letter Sebastian Gorka says that he thinks the ascendent group inside the White House is this more -- what some people consider more moderate wing, Gary Cohn, Jared Kushner, maybe the chief of staff, John Kelly.
Do you think that assessment, Ken is an accurate assessment from Sebastian Gorka and does that concern you?
[21:40:06] CUCCINELLI: I mean -- I think that's a captain obvious statement. I mean, there are no conservatives in significant positions of influence within the White House itself. I mean, you got Scott Pruitt over at EPA, you know, Rick Perry at energy and so forth but not in the White House.
And I really don't know much about Gorka. I never really understood why he was there in the first place. But I will say that on the more general point, the White House is not peopled with conservatives at this point. I mean, they're just not there in positions of influence.
BERMAN: And we could go down the roster and I can get your opinion on each and everyone, but I do think your opinion of that is certainly significant in and of itself, again, as someone who has worked as part of the party for as long as you have. No, no, I'm not arguing --
CUCCINELLI: -- the conservative movement feels that way. This isn't -- this is pretty widespread among movement conservatives.
BERMAN: All right, standby, if you will, Ken and everyone else because now joining us on the phone is CNN Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley.
Doug, thank you so much for being with us. Historically, we know that the president has the power to pardon. Historically, we know that presidents have issued pardons which are political and controversial. What stands out to you about this pardon?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, one thing that stands out is he went to Camp David and did a (INAUDIBLE) today. You know, the Gorka and Sheriff Arpaio are really kind of connected.
One, losing Sebastian Gorka, the Breitbart alt-rights not going to want him out of the White House. One the other hand, there'll be cheers on the alt-right world for backing on the sheriff and pardoning him.
I think that we're looking at Donald Trump really trying to be a maverick. Trying to do things his own way. He's been recognized since he's got a brutal political fight coming up in the fall. His legislative agenda hasn't accomplished anything. He couldn't repeal and replace ObamaCare so he's starting to do things like transgender in the military today and Sheriff Arpaio and it kind of makes the Gorka story secondary.
And at all costs, Donald Trump time and again protects his base. But history is going to see this as Donald Trump pardoning one of the leaders of the birther movement on Obama, so it's inherently in history going to have a racist cast to it.
BERMAN: And it's interesting, Doug, because a lot of times, most times, when you're dealing with pardons in so far as they're controversial, they color the legacy of the president after he is out of office. You know, Marc Rich happen in the final days of the Clinton administration, cup, wine, burger (ph) and others associated with Iran-Contra happen at the end of George H. W. Bush administration.
I'm trying to think, the only other pardon this controversial that I can think about that didn't happen at the end was when Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. Now, obviously, Joe Arpaio is not Richard Nixon but it's the only thing I can think of analogous to the timing.
BRINKLEY: And no president ever done it in the middle of a category 4 hurricane that's hitting the Gulf Coast. I mean, the timing to me while millions of people are evacuating and he's trying to kind of jack up the Friday evening news cycle for some reason by doing all these moves right now.
Presidents wait to pardon people usually at the end of their administration. This one is of a highly political nature. It comes the very same week he's doubling down on building of a wall along the Mexican border. He's talking about shutting down the government in coming weeks, and he's championing somebody like the sheriff as being a great American hero.
So it's a real moment where Trump is showing his I think his xenophobic, anti-Mexican-American, you know, hard right side of him and that may be who he truly is as a person. It's a big evening, it's a big event. And we're going to talk about it for weeks to come.
BERMAN: You know, Brian Stelter, we are talking about the notion of a Friday night news dump. Traditionally, when you think about that, you think people are trying to hide information, trying to reduce coverage of it.
So, is it that or is this the president trying to hijack the coverage of the hurricane?
STELTER: He does of course like the opposite of a news dump, meaning, trying to hide something. The president seems want the attention on these stories and not on that hurricane on the other side of your screen.
Just to be clear, 130 miles per hour winds will take down houses. There will be a massive storm surge into Port Lavaca and Rockport in the next couple of hours. We're talking about thousands of people, who if they're still in their homes, need to be in bathtubs with a mattress on top of them.
It's a Category 4 hurricane. And I know FEMA said they're ready, I know the Department of Homeland Security has said that it's ready. The president has tweeted the right things earlier in the day about the storm at it gains strength.
But he does seem to be trying to make other headlines for some reason. And the White House has done something really unusual as well on Gorka by putting out the statement that you were describing, Alice, on background comment from officials saying, well, essentially Gorka was forced out.
[21:45:02] They are stating something really clearly to conservatives that (INAUDIBLE) was talking about, that we didn't want Gorka in this White House anymore. So it's creating a huge new controversy for the White House.
BERMAN: You know, Alice, as you weigh in here, I just want to point out one thing here. I don't truly believe at the bottom of my heart that most Americans know who Sebastian Gorka is. You know, I don't think he is a household name by any stretch of the imagination.
SELLERS: Nobody in politics knows who he is.
STELTER: But people --
BERMAN: Not everyone in politics?
SELLERS: Nobody knows him -- nobody in politics knows who Sebastian Gorka is.
BERMAN: But the people who do know him are very specific group of Republicans.
STELTER: That's why it's leading Breitbart right now.
BERMAN: It's a very, very limited audience.
STEWART: Absolutely. Look, to the point you guys were making about the president wanting to draw attention to this. If he wanted to draw attention to pardoning Sheriff Arpaio, he would have done it when he was in Arizona or he done it this week, he wouldn't have done it on a Friday night. And if they wanted to draw attention to the White House flexing their muscles and getting rid of Gorka, they would have done it earlier on the day.
They clearly wanted this to get dropped in the headlines. And unfortunately, we're talking about this instead of letting people know in hurricane's path what they can do to protect themselves. But this is the state of play that we're in.
You were talking earlier about other controversial pardons by presidents. And I think they're two totally separate issues and categories. But I do think with regard to President Obama pardoning Chelsey Manning, facing a 35-year sentence for leaking classified information, that's a controversial pardon.
I mean, that just goes to show presidents have the power and the authority to issue pardons based on whatever issues and whatever reasons that they want.
BERMAN: But did they pardon or commute that sentence?
SELLERS: But with all due respect to that comparison, she did serve time, and she was punished for her crime, and whether or not you think the punishment was long enough or however culpable you think she was for the crime, she did serve a punishment for the crime.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio, by pardoning him before he was actually sentenced will never serve punishment for the crime he committed.
But I want to talk about this quote/unquote news dump that we're seeing. I mean, if you think about the news as we all searching on Twitter earlier today, it was the transgender ban that he put in place. We were talking about all of those individuals who whether or not they wanted to -- whether or not they were transgender, straight or not, if they wanted to serve our arm services and serve our country, they should have every right to do so.
I believe it was Senator Tammy Duckworth who put out an amazing statement as she was bleeding in her back. It didn't matter whether you're gay or straight or in between or anything else. She wanted you there to help her.
And then we went to the Category 4 storm with a 130 degree winds which we have people, who unfortunately, they need to make sure that they evacuate if they still can, if not, they need to take shelter. Then you're talking about Sebastian Gorka who -- I mean, is a buffoon. Nobody knows who Sebastian Gorka is outside of people who appreciate Pepe, the Frog.
And then you're talking about Joe Arpaio. And what we haven't talked about, and I'm glad you didn't scoop me was that, North Korea tested three missiles today. They all failed.
STELTER: A very few hours ago.
SELLERS: A few hours ago.
BERMAN: By they shot short range missiles into the sea of Japan.
SELLERS: And this was the same person who the president of the United States said now respects us. Imagine if they disrespected us what they would be testing. I'm saying all of this to say that there is so much going on right now with this Trump administration. What most Americans want is they don't want a pardon of Arpaio. They don't want to be dealing with a transgender ban on a Friday night. They don't really care who Gorka is.
What they want is calm. They want the White House to be calm. They want steady leadership. They want somebody to bring this country together and what Donald Trump is the anthetist of, is calm.
BERMAN: Well, I think what the White House would say is, they didn't vote for calm, they voted for jobs perhaps. And they're going to deliver maybe on the jobs part but the calm part they never promised it and it ain't coming.
SELLERS: Well, they didn't delivering on nothing right now.
BERMAN: Just one point here, you know, President Obama did commute the sentence of Chelsey Manning. You know, you say semantic. It's not just semantics right, because if you're commuting the sentence, the person is still convicted of the crime, just gets out of jail.
If you're making a pardon, if you're issuing a pardon, you're saying, you know what --
SELLERS: The person is absolved from --
BERMAN: Exactly, which in this case was still contempt of court.
STELTER: And Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday as she was asked that that this is going to happen and she suggested that this would follow the normal processes. The reporting from our colleague (INAUDIBLE) tonight is that it did not follow the Justice Department processes. It went around the normal course of pardons.
BERMAN: And, Alice, you had something on that. Basically, the White House is fine with that. I mean, the White House all but told us they weren't doing it through the normal way.
STEWART: Right. Well, when they were originally -- when she was originally asked yesterday, the reporters specifically asked, look, have you sought a recommendation from the pardon attorney or the from deputy attorney general or have you sought an FBI background check which is part of the process for seeking a pardon. And she says, as, Brian said, she indicated look, we're going through the normal thorough process of issuing pardons. And as we have found out, that, that may not have been the case.
BERMAN: Ana Navarro, you are still with us as well. Jump into this conversation.
[21:50:03] NAVARRO: Yes. You know, it strikes me as I am listening to this entire thing and I'm trying to process it, that we shouldn't lose sight of the forest for the trees.
I think Donald Trump is doing something else with this pardoning of Arpaio. He is sending a message to all of those people that were involved in his campaign, that are part of Trump world that are right now being questioned and being part of this Russia investigation, I have absolute power to pardon, and I have no qualms about using it.
Even if it is done in an extraordinary way, even if it's done without the approval of Justice Department, I can do it all by myself and I will. Come hell or high water, I don't care what anybody says, I don't care what the media says, I don't care what the pundits say. I don't care what 65% of Americans say.
I think he is sending a message to the Manaforts out there. Be not afraid. I can pardon, and I will.
BERMAN: And that is something, Richard Painter if he's still on the phone with us brought up earlier that this is something that -- Richard Painter is gone but he's saying that the White House has been sending messages all along that this power does exist.
And we know from some reporting over time, also the president has asked questions about the power of the pardon. Ken Cuccinelli, former attorney general of the state of Virginia, still on with us right now.
You know the law, Ken. Do you take that message from this that the president would be willing if he sees fit to issue pardons in the Russia investigation? If it does lead to any convictions ultimately?
CUCCINELLI: None per se. I think that's an interesting observation but I would say, you know, I'm somebody who thinks the pardoning power should end on November 1st of an election year. So you shouldn't be able to pardon people after election day, at the end of any term.
The one thing that I think is -- really gives everybody a shot at this, whether they like it or don't like it, is the fact that he has done it before, before assuming he funs for re-election in 2020. And the point when he's going to be accountable for it. And one way or the other some people are going to be more likely to vote for him because of it and some people are going to be less likely to vote for him because of it.
But I will give him the credit for doing it straight up here in, you know, when he is actually accountable for it. I appreciate that. And if I can make one other point responding to Bakari's comments. He said, you know, Americans don't want to see this and don't want to see that.
Look, Bakari's whole list -- no offense Bakari, Americans don't care about it. There are a small portion of people who care about Gorka if they even know who he is. There's a small portion of people in this country who really care a lot about this pardon now that they know about it.
SELLERS: That's not true.
CUCCINELLI: -- in Arizona.
SELLERS: But that's not -- CUCCINELLI: You know, I just -- we need to keep the forest for the
trees clear here and --
SELLERS: We're talking about all these forests now.
BERMAN: Bakari --
SELLERS: Quit talking about all these forests now and let's be extremely clear. There are a large group of people who are terrorized by Sheriff Arpaio. There are immigrants, undocumented immigrants, there are people who actually well legitimate citizens of this country who are ripped apart, had to show their papers, put on the side of the road, racially profiled.
There are people who legitimately are concerned and fearful about somebody like Joe Arpaio because he got to be racist and hide behind a badge. So, I understand what you're saying, but you cannot minimize the effect and the terror that Joe Arpaio ripped on not just a small fragment of this country but a large swap of this country who are very, very pissed off tonight, because law and order only matters from a stage in Kansas. It doesn't matter in practice for Donald Trump.
BERMAN: Guys, stand by. And Bakari, I want to bring in someone in this discussion who I'm pretty sure disagrees with you wholeheartedly.
On the phone is Arizona Republican Congressman Paul Gosar who thinks today is a great day. He says in a statement the pardon reflects the very reason we voted President Trump into the Oval Office, to uphold the rule of law.
Congressman, to uphold the rule of law, is that what happened here? I thought the law decided in Arizona that Sheriff Arpaio was in criminal contempt?
REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: Isn't it interesting that he wasn't (INAUDIBLE) a fair aspect of a trial because he asked for a jury trial. So from that standpoint this was railroaded all the way through.
When you talk about a justice system that was so negligent from the Obama administration, and set up Joe Arpaio from his day one, wheterh it'd be Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch, that's hardly an application of the rule of law.
BERMAN: We had Jonathan Turley on with us before, again, constitutional scholar, George Washington University School of Law, who says that that interpretation of it, here simply doesn't hold.
You know you call it a political prosecution. But the courts, were the ones that ultimately decided that he was in criminal contempt. They had told him he needed to follow the law, and he didn't.
GOSAR: They politicized this and no one can say otherwise. It was very politicized all the way through there. So, when we start seeing the application of the politicalization by the courts, there, we have to draw a line. [21:55:02] BERMAN: The judges? So you're saying the judges?
GOSAR: The president actually has the opportunity to pardon, as he sees fit. Just like Mr. Clinton and just like President Obama did in regards to that.
BERMAN: You know, I don't know if you had a chance to listen to some of the discussion here but there have been those -- Bakari Sellers among them that one of the things that Sheriff Joe Arpaio did, that this law was about or this criminal contempt was about is, that he would go after people, ask for their papers essentially, try to take them into custody with no proof of any kind of violation of a law. Just on the suspicion perhaps that they weren't legal citizens based on, who knows what, their appearance. And -- go ahead.
GOSAR: Once again, when you politicize the law, when you forbid the individual from a jury trial, I think you got a big problem in the efficacy in regards to the rule of law the way it is applied.
BERMAN: Bakari Sellers is just here with me, he wants to ask you a question sir.
SELLERS: I just have to ask you Congressman, is racial profiling OK? I mean, what the central aspect of Joe Arpaio's crime was racial profiling. And if you're going to defend him, I have to ask you directly, is racial profiling OK in any shape, form, or fashion?
GOSAR: Racial profiling is not OK no matter how shape, when or where. But from the standpoint of where this application was with Joe Arpaio, you know, hardly when you politicize it, do you have a rational application of the law.
BERMAN: You know, Congressman, what does tonight tell you about the president of the United States and this White House right now. What message are you getting with the pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the, you know, firing of Sebastian Gorka?
GOSAR: Well, the thing, he is real. He believes that -- that, you know, he's got success in mind, and he's got outcomes that he wants to make sure. He's a businessman.
What he wants to make sure is that, what he promised the American people he's getting done. That's what I see. And from that standpoint, those that helped him get along the way, you know, get to the president of the United States, he's going to make sure he helps them out, making sure that they, that are do the due process.
BERMAN: He's going to help out the people who helped him even if it means this pardon. Congressman Gosar, thank so much for being with us.
The breaking news right now, in addition to all the breaking news, is Hurricane Harvey which the Category 4 storm is on the verge of coming ashore in Texas. The president just signed a disaster order freeing up federal aid for the storm. I want to go to WeatherNation's Ben McMillan, he's in Ingleside, Texas, just a few miles from the eye of the storm. And Ben, just doesn't look good there at all. What can you tell us?
BEN MCMILLAN, FIELD CORRESPONDENT, WEATHERNATION: Yes, this Category 4 hurricane is getting very close to coming on shore. The eye wall with wind over 100 miles an hour. It's going to affect the area from Inglewood up to the area of Fulton, probably the most severely.
This is now probably the maximum wind of the storm will have on the coast. And it's just starting to move in now. The eye is moving closer.
BERMAN: And this is not the worst to come, is it? I mean, it is about to hit right now but you could be in for several hours of this, correct?
MCMILLAN: That's correct guys. We've already seen water transformers blowing here in the last 30 minutes. Large rain power flashes that have lit up the sky.
You know, that is indication of what's to come. It's going to be a long night for Texas residents as many parts of the infrastructure, in this area, will be shut down, including fresh water, power and other amenities.
BERMAN: Talk to me about storm surge right now. Are you seeing any and what's the concern where you are?
MCMILLAN: Guys, we're looking at about six to 12-foot storm surge in this area from Corpus Christi up to about Fulton. And that's problematic for Corpus Christi for example, that city is about 300,000 people, and only seven feet above sea level. So storm surge of six to 12 feet could be problematic for any areas from that area up the coast.
BERMAN: And then of course there is this which is that as bad as the surge might be, as bad as the winds are right now. The worst may be tomorrow, the day after and the day after where they're expecting several feet of rain, Ben.
MCMILLAN: That's correct. Guys, we're losing audio here. But we can receive 30 inches or plus of rainfall in some areas.
BERMAN: All right, Ben McMillan for us who is in Ingleside, Texas right now. Again, the eye of the storm crossing over the Texas Coast very, very shortly. Ben, our thanks to you. We will let you get into safety right now as this continues to get worse throughout the evening.
A very busy evening to say the least. Not just this category 4 storm hitting the Texas Coast but also the news of the president's first pardon of the controversial sheriff, Joe Arpaio from the state of Arizona.
Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president, very controversial, out, fired from the White House. And a whole lot more.
Time to turn it over now to CNN's Don Lemon in CNN TONIGHT.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: There is breaking news and a lot of it so just fasten your seat belts. This one is the first --