Return to Transcripts main page


Top Trump Adviser Was On Brink Of Resigning Over Remarks; Hurricane Harvey Poses Big Emergency Test For Trump; Monster Hurricane Officially Becomes Category 3; Top Trump Adviser Breaks Silence, Criticizes President; Aired 3:00-3:30p ET

Aired August 25, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN: Go ahead, Austan. Really quickly (INAUDIBLE)

AUSTAN GOLSBEE, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO'S BOOTH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: Yes, but look, the question is would this anger the president enough that he would say, oh, yes, well, I'm not going to make you the Fed chair because you criticized me. He has done -- he has done far more rash things than that since he's been in office. So, I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't set him off that way.

BALDWIN: All right, Gentleman. We'll see about Gary Cohn's future.

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST: Sorry that it happened in Yale. I know you're open-minded, Austan, so some of the people --


GOLSBEE: Just go have some pizza there, Steve and you're going to change your whole food, you're going to be like, I'm moving to --

BALDWIN: Pretty darn good, pretty darn good in Connecticut. That white pizza. All right. We (INAUDIBLE) let's move on. Thank you both so much. Let's talk about this hurricane once again here. Top of the hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

BALDWIN: All right. Breaking news with this Hurricane Harvey, category-3 hurricane, barreling toward the U.S. Coast Line, gaining strength with every passing power. Harvey is expected to make land fall overnight and when it hits, it is projected to be the most devastating hurricane to hit the U.S. In 12 years. The full range and scope of this storm captured in these photos way, way out in space at the International Space Station. It's Hurricane Harvey moves towards Texas so too does the extreme flooding threat.

And that includes major U.S. cities, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, days of sustained rain expected to bring more than three feet of water. FEMA is already on the ground anticipating massive power outages, they are bringing in those huge generators of course as back up. Hurricane Harvey is expected to be the first natural disaster on President Trump's watch and the world will be watching. President Trump will be in Camp David as Tom Bossert just put it, just 45 minutes at the road, right? Where he has full capacity there to talk to the White House, to talk to emergency responders. President Trump's new FEMA administration warning folks in the impact zone, get out now.


BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTATOR: Texas is about to have a very significant disaster. The bottom line message right now, people have not heeding the warning. Again, their window to do so is closing. If they refuse to heed the warning, that's on them.


BALDWIN: And just to put this in perspective, I know there are these initial comparisons. Is this like Katrina or not? We're looking just at the language here, the ominous language from the National Weather Service. And if you go back ahead of hurricane Katrina's landfall, this was the language. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks. Persons exposed to the winds will face certain death if struck and water shortages will make human suffering incredible. That is an eerily similar warning actually to what we're seeing today.

This is -- this is -- this is the actual language. Locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months complete with roof, wall failures, life-threatening winds, and widespread power and communications outages. So that is at least just the comparison people are already making with the language ahead of this hurricane. CNN's Ed Lavandera is Galveston. Galveston was hit very, very hard by Ike in 2008. So far, I mean, at least I don't see folks behind you, Ed. Are people heeding the warnings and getting out?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, here on Galveston Island, you haven't really seen that much of an exodus of people leaving this particular island. You get the sense that most people seem content to be able to ride out the storm. We're going to be on the eastern edge of the storm here. And just one of those strong bands, one of the strongest bands we felt blew through just a few minutes ago. If you look back here under the horizon, this is looking back towards the east a little bit.

The hurricane bands are kind of whipping on shore, it is expected this is the next one that usually takes about five minutes or so to make their way towards we are. So, we're bracing for that here. But this is looking back towards the west. Hurricane Harvey out that way, these are coastal areas between here and Corpus Christi that will be of such intense concern here in the coming days as emergency crews prepared andhave prepositioned people and getting in preparing for high water rescues, swift water rescues.

And a lot of those communities were not necessarily everyone has evacuated. And many of those areas they've issued mandatory evacuation orders. But once again, you often see as we often do in these types of storms and that not everybody leaves. And it's not just, Brooke, people living along the shoreline that are in the most danger, as this storm comes on shore and then will meander its way through this part of Southeast Texas, and what we're told the forecasters expect is break the stall out over this region dumping more and more water and that prolongs the flooding situation here in Southeast Texas.

So I've talked to several first responders here who are somewhat concerned that not everybody is taking it as seriously as they -- as they should be taking it at this point. But at this point, it's really hard to evacuate given that what -- the amount of time that is -- that is left. Just a little while ago, some officials were saying that essentially that the time to evacuate that window is closing very rapidly here along the coast. You put yourself in far more danger if you start driving away in these conditions as the winds pick up, bridges onto barrier islands will be shut down and driving in those conditions is far more treacherous.

And then on top of all of that, here in Galveston Island, there is a tornado warning in effect. So, that is supposed to last another 10 minutes or so. So as these bands come on shore, it's not just the rain and the wind, but here in these initial bands creating the possibility of tornados which is another horrible thing to have to worry about. So, we'll continue to monitor that as well, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Off we're talking about a double whammy, you know, the question of course when this landfall, how long it just sits and churns as we -- as we heard, you know, that worries about all the rain and that storm surge, Ed Lavandera. I know you'll be in the middle of it. Stay safe. Thank you so much. Let's go from Ed in Galveston over to Nick Valencia in Corpus -- in Corpus Christi. I see some of that water beneath you, maybe not quite as crazy as the pictures in Galveston but that I know will change.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It will change and it will change -- here, Brooke, and that's officials are very concerned about. They've been stressing to local residents all morning long -- all morning long, get out of town while you still have time. We've been keeping an eye on this water as it slowly been inching up and creeping up. Earlier this morning, that water was not flooding first step but now it is. One of those heavy bands of rain is now starting just to slowly work its way over Corpus Christi.

The wind has been the story really though all morning long into the early afternoon. And that wind just now starting to pick up as I said that. Part of the problem here, unlike where Ed Lavandera is where there are mandatory evacuations, it's only an order for voluntary evacuations here. And local officials I was speaking -- I was speaking to earlier, at least one of them says, they hope they don't regret that later. This storm is expected to come midnight into noon Saturday. That's the worst part of it anyway. That's the expectation.

People have decided if you can believe it, to stick this out. This is an area that has been accustomed to getting hit, coastal Texas. We talked about hurricane Ike earlier in 2008, some long-time residents taking it back to 1970, the Hurricane Celia, that was a lot of parallels between Hurricane Harvey and the storm -- and the Hurricane Celia. Heavy winds now starting to pick up, Brooke. And even now as I talk about evacuations, there's still people here who decided to come out and check out the water just to see out of curiosity to see what this storm is expected to bring. Brooke?

BALDWIN: Seems OK for now not to be doing that later. Nick, thank you to you and the crew in Corpus Christi. Let's go straight to our meteorologist Tom Sater who is at the scene in weather center getting all of those National Weather Service updates. And so, I mean, I see it -- I see it, you know, bright, purple, and red churning on the screen. What's ballpark landfall?

TOM SATER, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: It's a great question because the latest coordinates now, Brooke, put it just 75 miles from Corpus Christi. 75 miles and it's moving at 10 miles an hour. So if we do the math, this is no longer going to be, you know, after midnight into the wee hours. This could be as early as 9:30, 10:00, 11:00 p.m. local time. So, do not wait until the last minute. It is a category- 3 just moments ago. We saw the winds kick up. A few hours ago it was a pressure drop and I mentioned that it takes a while for the winds to catch up to that dropping pressure but it would happen.

It's a major hurricane now. Heavy bands of rain, tropical storm force winds. We've got power outages already. Keep this in mind as well. When you get closer to landfall and you have more time, you start to think that the computer models are going to agreeing more, that's not really happening. What we do know for sure, the winds will increase. Already we're getting gusts around Corpus Christi, 44, 56 miles per hour. That's enough to snap tree limbs and that is occurring. So therefore, the power outages.

We still have our track, still making landfall which could be now a strong category, the same story the last couple of days. The national hurricane's back into the water, Brooke, and then takes it north into Galveston and the Houston area. I want to show you another model. It's called the European model and it does very well when we talk about systems like this. I'm going to put this into slow motion for you. So, it moves in near Corpus Christi, same song and dance. Moves in, take a look at what it's going to do here in the next couple of days.

Slides up in San Antonio, heavy rain in Austin, drops back down. And where is it on Wednesday? The same location, it made landfall tonight. And it continues to spin up and around the Houston area. This is looking a lot like the American model which last night and even today wanted to push it into Texas and keep it in Texas until Saturday. That's the problem we're talking about. It's not the all focusing on the landfall at a category 3, it's focusing on what happens after landfall. If you do not have a steering current, what's going to happen?

It is interesting to note that this model here, this is the national hurricanes that backs it back up toward Galveston is not the only model that brings it back to regenerate in the warm waters of the gulf. It's not the only model to give it a second landfall. What this tells us, well, what's going to happen here? Who knows? We know it's stalling. That's all we need to know right now. As we go through the process and the hours ahead we'll get a better idea of the steering current but right now we could be looking easily at Houston with 22 inches of rainfall.

They flood when there's three or four, that's over half their annual rainfall. Corpus Christi, they could possibly see their entire years' worth of rain in just a couple of days. That's the problem.

BALDWIN: That is a huge problem if we are talking 22 inches in Houston.


BALDWIN: And Tom, thank you. We'll stay in close contact with you as you're watching this thing so, so carefully. I'm sure David Paulison is as well. He was appointed by President Bush top leave FEMA and then days after Hurricane Katrina, after widespread criticism but the Federal government responds there. But we have these pictures of FEMA sending generators to Texas and we know the president has been briefed by FEMA and Homeland Security officials, David. Nice to have you on. With what we know about this hurricane so far, can you put yourself in the shoes of, you know, Brock Long, the current FEMA chief? What would you need from the president right now?

DAVID PAULISON, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: Yes, yes. They've got their hands full. But you got a great emergency management, Brock Long. You got General Kelly in the White House, you got Elaine Duke in Homeland Security. So, we got some good people there. I'd be telling the president that, you know, we need to move early and move fast, move strong and that's what they're doing. Those are changes that we put in place after Katrina. We learned the current model simply doesn't work on a catastrophic event.

This sure -- surely can classify the catastrophic event. The fact that what we just heard is hurricanes are probably going stall and stand over at Corpus Christi and Eastern Texas. And that does not bold well for the people who decided to stayed and did not heed the warning to evacuate.

BALDWIN: I mean, David, if we are talking stalling, let's just spell this out for people. Stalling equals increase chance of flooding. What can people do, those who are there now to -- I don't know, make for a better situation on the back end of this?

PAULISON: Well, you know, we saw what happened in Katrina where people did not have the opportunity to evacuate and stayed in their homes. We lost over 1,800 people. And this is a -- this is a devastating storm now. There's no big levy to break like we had in Lake Pontchartrain. But still, you're talking about 2 or 3 feet of rain in a very short amount of time. And this thing could last 18, 24, maybe 36 hours. They, you know, they need to hunker down and make sure they stay in as safe a place as possible. If they still have time to evacuate, you know, my advice would be to, you know, pack your car up and go north.

BALDWIN: Yes. We know that of course we were briefed by the White House and the Tom Bossert, the Homeland Security adviser who seemed, you know, totally on it with regard to this hurricane. The president did tweet a couple hours ago that he talked to the governor of Texas and governor of Louisiana. For historical contacts, just for people following along, President Obama held a press conference to caution, you know, everyone ahead of Sandy. President Bush held one from the (INAUDIBLE) Texas ranch to warn against Katrina. How important -- how much does it matter that the president does or doesn't address the nation or the fact that he is going up to Camp David or not?

PAULISON: I think it's very important. I think the president needs to hear from their elected leader. You know, whether elected politics or not, they put that aside. They need to hear from the leader of this country that they're on top of it, they understand what's going on and they're making sure that the state and local communities are going to have the supplies and support that they need to get through this catastrophic event. So, yes, I do think it's very important.

BALDWIN: What about the nation hearing from him ahead of it? The White House is saying he might go to Texas early next week. Does he need to address the nation?

PAULISON: I'm sorry. I couldn't understand the question.

BALDWIN: Does the president need to address the nation like previous presidents as they pointed out or --

PAULISON: Well, you know, here's the -- here's the -- I think it is important that the president makes a visit but not now and not immediately after the storm because it takes a lot of resources to move the president around. And so they let (INAUDIBLE) to do their job first. And then the president should make a visit, I think that's important to see that.

BALDWIN: Now and I think --


BALDWIN: No. Forgive me. Please continue.

PAULISON: Yeah. Now we learned a lot of lessons from Katrina about, you know, not waiting for the storm to make landfall before we make a move, not waiting for the -- for the governor to do declaration request and get that through the process. And I'm very pleased to see that Brock Long has done that. They moved generally. Now, I'm very pleased with the governor being proactive. State of Texas has a great emergency management system. And so I'm comfortable that everything that can be done is going to be done between the local state and Federal government to make sure that we handle this storm as best we can.

BALDWIN: Yes, sir.

PAULISON: It's going to be a tough storm. It's going to be a tough storm.

BALDWIN: Yes. Well, also just, you know, credit to the White House. They said that they are already talking about sending the president to Texas next week. David Paulison, thank you so much. Appreciate your time --

PAULISON: Thank you.

BALDWIN: -- a head of this -- ahead of this hurricane here on Texas and Louisiana. We have the latest updates for you. Special coverage continues, Hurricane Harvey on the other side of this break.


BALDWIN: All right. Back to our breaking story here, this Hurricane Harvey upgraded now to a category-3 hurricane just churning off the coast of both Texas and Louisiana. Let's go to the White House to our correspondent there, Kaitlan Collins who's standing by. We were briefed by the White House a while ago especially hearing from Tom Bossert, important right now ahead of this landfall, this mega, mega storm. You know, the president is leaving for Camp David momentarily which Tom, you know, assured everyone is just 45 minutes up the road. What is he doing though to prepare for this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. The president just left the White House here about a few minutes ago, Brooke. And he is tweeting about the hurricane. He just went out, just now saying that he encourages everyone in the path of Hurricane Harvey to heed the advice and orders of their local and state officials. That's also what we heard from Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert during that press briefing just a short time ago from the White House here. He said that the president is being regularly briefed by Bossert and by his Chief of Staff John Kelly.

We know he received a full briefing this morning from the acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke as well. And the president is tweeting and encouraging everyone to stay safe. The White House has issued multiple statements on it and the president will spend the weekend monitoring the storm essentially at Camp David. Tom Bossert also said that the president is going to stay in regular contact with the governor of Texas, Greg Abbot and the governor of Louisiana.

We know Greg Abbot has requested that they may get a national -- declared a national disaster already. Brooke, that would allow those Federal funds to go ahead and go to places in Texas, in Louisiana where they are most effected by the storm as it progresses. That's what Tom Bossert talked about a lot during that briefing, just now he warned this is going to be a storm that doesn't go away quickly. So he is telling people to definitely heed the advice and now is not the time for them to loose trust in their government.

This is really the first time we've seen the Trump administration have to deal with this kind of natural disaster test. And as you know, this is going to be presidency defining. It really was, Brooke, for George W. Bush, 12 summers ago when hurricane Katrina hit and a lot of people said his administration really botched their response to that. So we do see the Trump administration trying to get ahead of the storm and heed these warnings and be proactive with this.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, I understand that the vice president will be staying behind in Washington monitoring the storm from our nation's capital. Who else is going with the president or with the president to Camp David?

COLLINS: We just saw him leave, we're sure John -- chief of staff -- Chief Of Staff Kelly will be with him along with Melania Trump and his family. And as Tom Bossert said, they are just 45 minutes away. So presumably the president will be able to do what -- from Camp David what he would be able to do here from the White House. And we also heard Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders kind of said that they're already planning on a trip for the president to Texas early next week. Now, that will likely depend on how serious this storm is. As you know a trip by the president creates a lot of commotion.

BALDWIN: Let's listen, Kaitlan. Let's listen.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you have --



BALDWIN: OK. I'm not the best (INAUDIBLE) I think that was good luck everybody when asked, you know, Mr. President, what's your message to the folks in Texas and Louisiana, good luck, everyone, and off he goes to Camp David. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much. Let's go straight to Retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore White House o led relief efforts down in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. General Honore, it's been a minute since you and I have spoken. Given the situation right now, it sounding like from the White House they are most concerned about the rain and storm surge. What is your advice for the president as he heads off for the weekend?

RUSSEL HONORE, RETIRED LIEUTENANT GENERAL: Well, if I was given him direct advice I'd tell him to stay in the White House.


HONORE: Number one, number two, well, we've got 16 million people waking up tomorrow morning and possibly Sunday morning going into Sunday afternoon with water at their front door and in their homes. And we went through this in Katrina with our president on vacation and I know Camp David, I've been part of the National Command structure before, the cast over here. But again, we got a message of the president going to take a weekend off while 16 million people don't know after they wake up tomorrow morning and have a roof on their house in the next two or three days.

So, my recommendation would have been stay in the White House. That's why it's built to have all of the convenience in the world and command the nation. Number two, I would not wait on the governor of Texas to wait for a pre-storm declaration decision. It's like they're going through checklist of how you do this listening to the lawyers. The president could sign that pre-storm declaration without any request from governors just like President Bush did before Katrina. This should be done. It's the 26th of the month. A lot of working people have no working money left. If he signed that (INAUDIBLE) declaration, more shelters could be opened before the communities flood.


BALDWIN: Well, let me -- let me stop you there because I think people don't -- General Honore, I think people don't fully understand the significance. I mean, this is all about money, right?


BALDWIN: This is opening up the copper so that they'll have more money.

HONORE: It's about money.

BALDWIN: Yes. Go ahead.

HONORE: To get ready. It's (INAUDIBLE) when you see FEMA shipping generators to Texas, it's like going to Alaska with -- to take ice. There are generators all over Texas. That's a symbolic move and it's an old move and sometimes you need to do it in areas that don't have support. But Texas have an enormous industrial capacity. If the governor of Texas was authorized to preinstall generators on places that they already know they need them but those small town mayors will not request the generators until after the disaster because if they do it before the disaster, they have to pay for it.

So we need to tweak the response plan again because every time I see FEMA got generators headed to Texas or some part of Louisiana on interstate 10, I say, here we go again. We've got enough generators in Texas to float a -- to sink a battleship and we're sending generators. We need to change the model. The elevation in Corpus Christi is seven feet. They weather people have said, they're going to have up to a 12-foot surge. Why don't they have mandatory evacuation?

So we need this presidential declaration and no contrary to what the White House spokesperson said, he does not have to wait for the governor to request a pre-storm declaration. If I should have done, been done a day before so more poor people could get ready and more of this poor communities could get generators plugged up for when the lights go out, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Understand. Understand. So, I think his word was, we're going to lean into it. Maybe that means it's a yes and that's going to happen. We'll wait and see. General Honore, I have a feeling we'll be in close contact with you over the course of this weekend here as this hurricane is hitting in the aftermath. It's always a pleasure, sir. Thank you so, so much.

HONORE: But we hope for the best and everybody is working hard at it. But this is a move that we could make without a request from the government.

BALDWIN: I got it. I got it.

HONORE: The president has got the authority to do that.

BALDWIN: I got it. Yes, sir. General Honore, copy. Thank you.

HONORE: Some foot elevation in Corpus Christi.

BALDWIN: Copy. Still ahead here, forecasters warning of catastrophic and life-threatening flooding as Hurricane Harvey closes in on Texas. Also ahead, one of his top advisers -- president's top advisers breaking a silence on the president's Charlottesville remarks with a sharp review why Gary Cohn cone reportedly prepped a resignation letter. Michael Smerconish weighs in, next.