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Hurricane Harvey Stalks Texas Coast; McConnell Offers Praise, Trump Criticizes McConnell; Business Booming for Russia's Arm Dealers. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 25, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:12] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Harvey gaining steam as it gets set to make landfall. Parts of the Gulf in serious danger as this storm moves in, and record-setting rain won't move out for days.


BRIGGS: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs. This is frightening.

ROMANS: Yes, this is. Millions in the path of this thing.

I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, August 25th, 4:00 a.m. in the East. It is 3:00 a.m. in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Hurricane Harvey building strength as it takes direct aim at Southeast Texas. Now, a category-two hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour. Harvey is rapidly becoming more powerful. It was just a tropical depression this time yesterday.

The National Weather Service says Harvey will bring a life-threatening -- life-threatening amounts of rain, nearly three feet in some areas. This storm will linger there for days. We'll have the full forecast in a moment.

BRIGGS: This morning, there are mandatory evacuation orders for at least a dozen cities and counties along the Texas coast with voluntary evacuations in other areas. Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in 30 coastal counties and activated 700 members of the Texas Army Guard, Air National Guard, and Texas State Guard. Texas highways filled with cars yesterday. Interstate 37 out of Corpus Christi backed up for miles.

ROMANS: Those choosing to stay in place, look at that exodus -- those choosing to stay in place not taking chances, they're filling sandbags. They're stocking up on food and water. They're boarding up their windows. Stores shelves in Port Aransas, Texas, clearing quickly, as a city cancels court hearings and issues self-served sandbags to residents. Officials warning people the storm is not to be taken likely.


MAYOR RON NIRENBERG, SAN ANTONIO: The storm has the potential -- and I want to stress the potential, things do change -- to be a weather event that we talk about for years to come.


BRIGGS: Even the most fragile young lives being evacuated from Corpus Christi. Ten babies are being evacuated from a neo-natal intensive care unit. They're all expected in Ft. Worth by this morning, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. For the latest on this hurricane forecast, let's bring in meteorologist Karen Maginnis. She is live in the CNN weather center.

Tens of millions of people I guess in the path of this storm. And this will linger.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. That is probably the worst aspect of this is that it is going to just meander right around this Texas coastal area for days. Not even the computer models can agree as to what's going to happen once it makes landfall. Right now, the winds at 105 miles per hour. That makes it a strong category 2 hurricane.

Very warm water here. No shear or very little shear. Those are two contributing factors to this quickly mushrooming into a category three right before making landfall. When is landfall?

Well, the computer models were saying just about midnight on Friday going into Saturday morning. If it picks up speed, it will be earlier than that. Those of you who made the decision to leave Corpus Christi, Victoria, Galveston, all the down to Brownsville, good idea because if I had to rank what is the worst that can happen with this system, of all the terrible things associated with a category 3 hurricane, it will be the flooding, the widespread flooding.

Some of the areas, some computer models saying about 40 inches of rainfall. I think some of the averages are 15 to 20. Computer models may be overblowing that 40 inches.

Not over blowing the impact. This is low-lying area. Those roads you saw we jammed today of people getting out on Interstate 37, Interstate 35, Interstate 45 out of Corpus Christi, out of Houston, out of Galveston, they quickly become clogged.

But where you see the yellow shaded area, from just about the Texas/Louisiana border, all the way over towards Port Lavaca, we could see a threat of tornadoes. Yes, that's another aspect of hurricanes that probably doesn't get a lot of attention. But with this particular system, it is the volume of rain, and computer models have it going on shore, moving around, curving around. One outlier has it moving toward Brownsville. Others see a loop-to-loop and then headed off towards Louisiana coast.

It is going to be a tremendous impact. Power outages. It is going to stretch emergency services. It is going to stress food services for a lot of people. You may have seen pictures as well on social media, how it has

impacted folks who've been trying to get out of town, trying to board up their homes.

[04:05:08] We'll stay on top of this. I'll be back at the bottom of the hour and give you kind of a different perspective on what we can expect.

BRIGGS: Boy. Lingering through Wednesday.

Karen Maginnis, thanks so much. We'll check back with you in just a bit.

All right. The president turning to Twitter to warn everyone in Harvey's path, tweeting: As Hurricane Harvey intensifies, remember to plan ahead. The president is getting briefings and has spoken with Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The White House announced it stands ready to provide resources where they're required, while downplaying concerns about preparedness since there is no permanent secretary of homeland security which, of course, oversees FEMA.

ROMANS: Oh, interesting.

All right. Hurricane Harvey heading for the oil refineries, that means higher prices at the pump. Nearly half of America's petroleum the refineries are on the Gulf Coast. One-third sit directly on Harvey's path.

Now, oil platforms and rigs have been shutting down in anticipation, 39 facilities already evacuated. Refiners are closing to brace for the storm's impact. And that will disrupt the supply of gas.

So, here's what it means for drivers. Experts expect gas prices to spike 5 to 15 cents over the next week, especially in the South, Southeast, and Mid-Atlantic U.S.

The good news, gas prices near historic lows, and Harvey is making driving more expensive. You will be able to get a break from the extra fees if you are flying. Most U.S. airlines are waiving change fees for flights in the region including the biggest four -- American, Delta, United, and Southwest. Each airline has different policies, but most are allowing customers to make one flight change without -- without having to pay for those rebook fees. Usually cost 200 bucks or more.

BRIGGS: All right. Good news there.

President Trump and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, in politics now, taking very different approaches as they try to get their relationship and legislative goals back on track. McConnell offering mostly praise for the Trump administration at his speech at the Kentucky Farm Bureau event. President Trump on the other hand -- well, kept his attacks up on the Kentucky Republican on Twitter before and after McConnell's speech.

ROMANS: He slammed McConnell for failing to repeal Obamacare. For this, quote, I requested that Mitch M and Paul R, of course, House Speaker Paul Ryan, tie the debt ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. bill which just passed for easy approval. They didn't do it. So, now, we have a big deal of Dems holding them up, as usual, on debt ceiling approval. Could have been so easy, now a mess.

BRIGGS: Senate Republican leadership aide says the idea of tying the debt ceiling increase to a popular veterans' reform bill had been discussed, but the idea was rejected by hard-line conservatives that the Freedom Caucus, who want provisions to curb government spending, and did not want to vote against the V.A. bill. But for now, the White House is trying to dispel the notion of fractures in the Republican Party.

And our Sara Murray has more from the White House.



President Trump spent much of the day yesterday railing against members of his own party including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Despite all of that, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insists the president has a fine relationship with Republican leadership.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I think the relationships are fine. President Trump has worked with Leader McConnell to reach out to other members and to work on those shared goals. And we're going to continue to do that when the Senate comes back from recess.

MURRAY: They're still hoping to take on an ambitious plan to overhaul the tax system and they're planning on releasing more details on that next week. And in spite of Trump's grumbling tweets, Huckabee Sanders says they do expect Congress to raise the debt ceiling with relatively little fanfare and without attaching anything along with it.

Back to you guys.


ROMANS: All right, Sara. Thanks.

The president's press secretary not backing up her boss' threat to shut down the government if he does not get funding for a border wall -- a border wall that was to be paid for by Mexico in the first place. Sarah Huckabee Sanders refusing to say whether the president would reject a budget bill without money for the wall. She would only say the president is committed to making sure it is built.

BRIGGS: Either way, the president's approach is not winning over lawmakers.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: He has a right to demand funding, he has a right to make a choice what he wants to do. Any time you threaten a government shutdown is dumb. But this is a terrible way to do government, and we should never threaten anything like this.


BRIGGS: As to the president's promise to get Mexico to pay for the wall, Sanders claims that effort has not been abandoned, even the president did not Mexico at his rally Tuesday night in Phoenix.

ROMANS: The White House tries to smooth things over with Mitch McConnell. It is also pushing back hard against Bob Corker. The highly respected Republican senator from Tennessee questioned whether the president had the stability and competence to do his job last week.

BRIGGS: That claim met with blunt pushback by the White House.


[04:10:01] SANDERS: I think that's a ridiculous and outrageous claim and doesn't dignify a response from this podium.


BRIGGS: Corker and several other prominent Republicans slammed Trump's initial response to Charlottesville. Corker, a one-time Trump ally, who got serious consideration from the president for the secretary of state job -- interesting, though, Christine, there has not been a single tweet from the president about what Corker said, nor anything said publicly. You wonder why.

ROMANS: Yes. Fascinating what's going on behind the scene there.


ROMANS: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending shrinking the boundaries of at least three national monuments. According to "The Washington Post", the move could undo protections for millions of acres of federal land and open them up to oil and gas production. Oregon's Cascade, Siskiyou National Monument, and Utah's Bears Ears and Grand Staircase, Escalante National Monuments are being targeted. A White House official will only say the president has seen the Interior Department's recommendations.

BRIGGS: CNN has learned President Trump is considering two options for the future of DACA, the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, the so-called DREAMers. Option one, grandfather the people in the program or end it for newcomers or, option two, end it altogether. A source tells CNN the president is more likely to choose option one because ending the program altogether would be catastrophic for an estimated 800,000 DREAMers in the country. A final decision expected in early September.

ROMANS: All right. This disturbing story out of Colorado.

BRIGGS: Oh, man.

ROMANS: A teenage cheerleaders forced to do splits against their will. This was caught on camera. Now, several people are facing discipline.


[04:15:43] BRIGGS: All right. Now to that disturbing video. Five employees with the Denver Public School System, including two coaches placed on leave after the release of a disturbing video from a high school cheerleading practice.

The video shows a teenage girl screaming in pain as she's physically forced to perform a split. An adult in the video appears to be pushing her down, ignoring cries to please stop. Police say child abuse detectives are investigating the incident at East High School. The cheerleading coach on leave, claims the video was being taken out of context.

ROMANS: My gosh. We don't even -- don't even play the screams because it's --

BRIGGS: Far more painful if you do hear it.

ROMANS: All right. New details about the gunman who shot and killed a former co-worker at a restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, before taking hostages and holding off police for hours.

Now, one of the owners says he was a disgruntled former dishwasher at Virginia's on King. Police identify the victim as the executive chef. Thirty-seven-year-old Anthony Whitten, according to witnesses. Diners crawled under tables and ran for the door when the shooter entered the restaurant and announced, I am the new king of Charleston. He was shot and critically wounded by police after being cornered.

BRIGGS: Her pipe dream finally came true. Fifty-three-year-old Mavis Wanczyk of Chicopee, Massachusetts, the sole winner of the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot. Mavis discovered she won while leaving her job late Wednesday at the Mercy Medical Center. So, how did she celebrate the life-changing event?


REPORTER: What are you going to do to celebrate?

MAVIS WANCZYK, POWERBALL JACKPOT WINNER: I'm going to go hide in my bed.



ROMANS: As for Mavis' job, she called in rich. Telling her longtime employer she would not be coming in to work ever. BRIGGS: Ever.

ROMANS: Mavis did what most winners did -- she took the lump-sum payment of $480 million. That's $336 million after taxes.

BRIGGS: You're still coming to work, though?

ROMANS: I think I'm still coming to work, I think. But I've got to start buying tickets if I ever going to win, but I don't buy the tickets.

BRIGGS: All right. A good old-fashioned base brawl in Detroit. The Yankees and Tigers giving a preview of the Mayweather-McGregor fight that comes Saturday night. The benches clearing three times. That's where things boiled off in the sixth when the pitch from Miguel Cabrera went behind him. He and the catcher had words, threw punches. That melee ensued at home plate.

And later, Yankee reliever Dellin Betances hit Detroit's James McCann in a helmet. Benches cleared again. Terrifying moment there. Then, in the eighth, the Yank's Todd Frasier hit, and again, both teams emptied their benches. There were eight ejections on both sides, including the two managers. Fines and suspensions -- you bet they're coming. Bad blood between these two simmering since last month when four players were hit in the game at Yankee Stadium.

ROMANS: Three times the benches cleared? Three times?

BRIGGS: Three times. The first one, Miguel Cabrera, there were some real punches thrown. Nasty.

ROMANS: They got their hockey.

All right. "Saturday Night Live's" 43rd season begins September 30th. NBC announcing Ryan Gosling will host the season premiere. Jay-Z will serve as musical guest. Meantime, "Weekend Update" summer edition returned for its third episode Thursday night. Guess who made an appearance --


ALEC BALDWIN AS PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: People ask me why are you doing a rally only eight months in? Folks, it's never too early to campaign for 2020. Mike Pence is already doing it.

But, first, I want to talk about Charlottesville. As we know, there was a tragic victim that came out of Charlottesville -- me.

Folks, the media has treated me so unfairly by reporting my entire remarks -- even the bad ones. So I wanted to set the record straight about exactly what I said. And I have the transcript right here, OK? I moved on her like a bitch but I couldn't get there --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I still want to know who was this -- I feel like I have to say, on behalf of black people everywhere, we don't know this fool. (END VIDEO CLIP)

[04:20:08] BRIGGS: Trump also dismissed Steve Bannon who came out to the stage at the "SNL" rally as the skeletal death figure.

Next, a renewed push for dominance by arms dealers in Russia. Live in Moscow with more on how new factories and fewer restrictions are boosting a dangerous industry.

ROMANS: And we are continuing to track Hurricane Harvey. Harvey gaining strength rapidly as it gets set to make landfall in the Gulf.


[04:25:01] ROMANS: All right. Business is booming for Russia's arms dealers who are once again pushing for global dominance after years of decline. Russia now moving into markets once dominated by the Americans. CNN visited Russia's biggest arms fair.

Fred Pleitgen live from Moscow with what we found.

Good morning, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. Yes, it's called the Army 2017 Arms Expo, just actually happening right now in the southwest of Moscow. And it's interesting to see that a lot of these Russian arms dealers -- you know, in the past, when you saw Russian weapons, you would also think they were quite crude, they were fairly cheap, and they were actually spread around the world.

But now, the Russians are saying they're moving into more high-end markets, markets that would often be dominated by American gear in the past. You're talking about combat jets. You're talking about attack helicopters.

One of these Russian arms dealers showed me their newest attack helicopter called the MI-28UB, which is an upgraded version of one of their gunships that they have. They say the big thing for them is fewer export restrictions. That's one of the reasons they're getting into markets that used to almost exclusively buy from the United States.

You're talking, for instance, about Egypt. They just sold the Egyptians attack helicopters. Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, bought anti-aircraft systems from the Russians only a couple of months ago. They say they're also selling to Indonesia, as well.

So, the Russians saying, look, we're still cheaper than the West, our gear is getting better, and we certainly don't ask the kind of questions, for instance, about human rights. For instance, about internal conflicts that, for instance, the U.S. would ask.

So, they certainly are making a big, big push, especially, Christine -- and you know this very well -- since rest of their economy is having a lot of problems now because of international sanctions, Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And because of the crashing in gas prices, right? That's an important -- oil price, such an important exporter.

All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much for that, Fred.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, Hurricane Harvey intensifying quickly but moving too slowly. That combination putting parts of the Gulf Region in life-threatening danger. We have the very latest on Harvey's path, ahead.