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Hurricane Harvey Stalks Texas Coast; McConnell Offers Praise, Trump Criticizes McConnell; Fists Fly, Benches Clear During Yankees- Tigers Brawl. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 25, 2017 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Right away, I think Amazon was smart to say we're going to start cutting some prices on categories because, you know, the criticism of Whole Foods is the nickname is whole paycheck because it was expensive.

[05:00:05] If they want to go in there and really dominate, that was a pretty key first move.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Can we start with sliced watermelon? Which is like $14 for a package this big because they cut it up. It keeps me up at night.

OK. EARLY START continues right now with the latest path for Hurricane Harvey.


ROMANS: Hurricane Harvey gaining steam as it gets set to slam into Texas. Parts of the Gulf Coast in serious damage as the storm moves in, the first major storm since 2008. The strongest since Hurricane Katrina.

Guess what? The rain is not going to move out for days. Life- threatening situation there in the Gulf Coast.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: That picture from NASA tells the story.

I'm Dave Briggs. It's Friday, August 25th, 5:00 a.m. in the East. It is 4:00 a.m. in Corpus Christi, Texas, which is bracing this morning for Hurricane Harvey as it builds strength, 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 latest update also shows the storm slowing even more. It will linger along the Gulf Coast for several days. The National Weather Service says Harvey will bring life-threatening amounts of rain, nearly three feet in some areas.

ROMANS: More than 17 million people under a hurricane or tropical storm warning, 17 million. We're going to have a full forecast in a moment. I want to show you the pictures of Texas highways filled with cars

yesterday. Interstate 38 out of Corpus Christi backed up for miles. Those choosing to stay in place are not taking chances. They are filling sandbags, stocking up on food and water. They're boarding up windows.

Officials warn people this storm is not to be taken lightly.


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.


ROMANS: All right. CNN's Nick Valencia live in Corpus Christi, Texas, where it is dark behind you. But, boy, preparations are underway, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. It is eerily quiet here in Corpus Christi, Texas. And part of that has to do with a lot of the city already evacuated. It was yesterday that the mayor of Corpus Christi ordered voluntary evacuations.

But many residents didn't wait for the order to come. They got out of town ahead of time. It has been over the course of the last 48 hours. We have seen evacuations take place in at least six counties.

I was talking to a local resident here who was stocking up on bare essentials at the grocery store. You can imagine those lines are very long. He was saying even yesterday at 6:00 in the morning, there was a 45-minute wait in line to check out of the grocery store.

We are told by city officials that assisted evacuations from the local officials will continue at about 8:00 a.m. this morning. Cars, you mentioned those highways being packed bumper to bumper going north. We flew in to San Antonio here yesterday and made the two-hour drive south to Corpus Christi.

And we were one of the only cars, not surprisingly, heading south towards the coastal area. This is a place that's been used to being hit by storms. We mentioned Hurricane Ike back in 2008.

But some local residents, long time here, take you back to 1970 when Hurricane Cecilia hit here. And there's a lot of similarities between what is expected and predicted with Hurricane Harvey and that storm causing more than 400 injuries in 1970, as well as deaths.

People here preparing for the worst. Things here could get ugly as the day progresses -- Dave, Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, I think it's all that rain that's the real problem. There's the wind and impact originally of the storm, but then got to remind people that rain for days after. There's a lot of dangerous aftermath. I covered Ike and Gustav I guess back in 2008, you know? And it's a really big reminder that this is going to be a week of misery for folks, right?

VALENCIA: Absolutely. I mean, this is going to be a sustained thing. Officials here statewide, the Texas governor, has already spoken to President Trump, telling local residents here to brace for maybe four or five days without power, without water.

We know the hotel here that we're staying at is already taking precautions. When we arrived yesterday, Christine, the windows were already boarded up. Some bathtubs filled with water in preparation for those basic services to be cut short because this storm, as you look at the radar on your screen there, it's expected to be powerful -- Christine.

ROMANS: A sense of humor in that -- go home, Harvey. You're drunk.

All right. Thank you. Nice to see you, Nick Valencia.

VALENCIA: You got it.

ROMANS: You can see those pictures, you can see how clever that was. Thanks, Nick.

BRIGGS: All right. Speaking of how long the storm might linger, let's bring in meteorologist Karen Maginnis live in the weather center.

Good morning to you.

How long do we expect the rains to stick around southeast Texas?

[05:05:02] KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, already, some of these coastal areas in Texas are seeing some bands of precipitation, the winds are starting to pick up, and that northeastern quadrant, that upper right quadrant, that's where we're looking at the potential for problematic tornadic activity.

The Storm Prediction Center says certainly there is the risk of that. But in addition, we've got the storm surge. We've got the heavy rainfall for days, because there's nothing that's really moving this system along. Very conducive atmosphere. Upper levels, lower levels, also in the ocean or into the Gulf of Mexico.

The water temperature here right around 85, 86 degrees, very warm, which adds fuel to the fire. This is pure tropical moisture that's going to wring out across the coast. But it's not going to do it overnight.

One thing I want to mention -- we're still at a category 2. A strong category 2. But just about six miles per hour below where it would eventually become a category 3. So, here already bands moving on shore.

Where will this make landfall, and when? Well, the conventional thinking, the computer models have suggested all along, in the vicinity of Corpus Christi, which, by the way, the airport there pretty much as far as the major airlines are concerned, they're not bringing flights into or out of, as you would expect, because of the impact from Hurricane Harvey. That's what you would typically expect.

But all along the coast, even toward Brownsville, affected there. Hospitals have closed up. Medical offices, gas availability is becoming tight because so many people have filled up tanks as they head out on Interstate 37, Interstate 35, Interstate 45 out of Corpus Christie and Houston. So, Dave and Christine, this is so impactful, we could see some areas, computer models saying, about 40 inches of rain.

ROMANS: Unbelievable.

MAGINNIS: The next five days.

ROMANS: All right. Karen, thank you for that.

She mentioned gas there, not being able to get gas. Gas for everyone else is probably going to go higher. Around the country -- hurricane Harvey heading straight to the heart of oil refineries. That means higher prices at the pump.

Nearly half of America's petroleum refineries are on the coast. One- third sit directly in Harvey's path. Oil platforms and rigs are shutting down, 39 facilities have been evacuated. What does this mean for drivers? Experts tell us gas prices will spike 5 to 15 cents over the next week. Especially in the South, Southeast, and the mid- Atlantic U.S.

The good news here, gas prices are still near historic lows. And airlines are making it easier to change flights if you're connecting through Texas or headed there. Most U.S. airlines are waiving change fees for flights in the region including the big four -- American, Delta, United, and Southwest.

Each airline has different policies. Check. Most are allowing customers to make one flight change without paying that usual rebooking fee of about $200 or more. We just checked, Dave. The Houston airport is still open. Even if planes aren't going to be flying at some point, the airports are saying they expect to remain open. You know, they might have people kind of stuck there. So --

BRIGGS: Make those changes --

ROMANS: Yes. Exactly.

BRIGGS: On the phone. You might wait an hour or so, but try to do it ahead of that.

OK, to politics. President Trump and Mitch McConnell taking very different approaches as they try to get this relationship and legislative goals back on track. McConnell offering mostly praise from the Trump administration in a speech at a Kentucky Farm Bureau event. President Trump, on the other hand, well, he kept up the attacks on the Kentucky Republican on Twitter before and after McConnell's speech. ROMANS: He slammed McConnell for failing to repeal Obamacare and for

this, quote, I requested that Mitch M and Paul R, 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 with Dems holding them up, as usual, on debt ceiling approval. Could have been so easy, now a mess.

BRIGGS: The 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. The House Freedom Caucus, who has been supportive of the Trump administration, they want provision to curb government spending, did not want to vote against the V.A. bill. For now, the White House trying to dispel the notion of fractures in the Republican Party.

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.

[05:10:03] 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. With that in mind, what's next on the busy agenda? Oh, just a little thing called tax reform, the debt ceiling, a potential shutdown, funding the budget. We'll get into all of that, next.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: I'm often asked what is being the majority leader of the Senate like. It's a little bit like being a groundskeeper at a cemetery. Everybody's under you, but nobody's listening.



BRIGGS: Oh, that zany Mitch McConnell.

ROMANS: Cracks me up every time.

[05:15:01] BRIGGS: Trying to do a lighthearted approach as he addresses his party's leadership. It's just odd hearing humor from Mitch McConnell. Isn't it?

ROMANS: It is a tough time as McConnell tries to bridge divides in his party and his own rift with the president. They haven't spoken we're told in weeks. They have a lot to tackle when Congress returns to Washington.

BRIGGS: They do.

All right. Let's bring in Greg Valliere, political economist and chief strategist for Horizon Investments. He's a funny guy, that Mitch McConnell.


BRIGGS: Look, it's no laughing matter when you look at the headlines. I mean, markets high, debt ceiling with unease. You have the president of the United States saying if we have to shut down the government, we are building that wall. And, Greg, 12 legislative days for the House and Senate to fund the government. With all that's happening in Washington, D.C., and the feuding, the infighting with Republicans and their own president, how do they get all this done?

VALLIERE: Yes, this is not funny. Like Harvey, there's serious things right now. I would say to get things down, you need to have a unified message.

And earlier this week, the president made what I thought were a series of rookie mistakes. First of all, he threatened a government shutdown. So, if there is one, he gets blamed.

Secondly, he said, we're going to get the wall. He doesn't have the votes. Before making a statement like that, you need to find out if you've got the votes.

And third and most importantly by far -- he has now jeopardized key budget issues like the debt ceiling. And for everyone who thinks this is just an arcane story that doesn't make a difference, interest rates are starting to creep higher. Treasury paper that expires in the month of October is starting to rise. The yields are going up. It's costing the government money. ROMANS: You know, just remarkable to me. The Treasury Department

basically trying to sell America's debt. At the same time the president calling the debt ceiling situation a mess. The commander- in-chief, the person who basically is the title head of the American economy calling it a mess, even as the United States government needs to fund its operations.

Here's what he tweeted yesterday, the president did: I requested that Mitch M and Paul R, tie the debt ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. bill which passed for easy approval. They didn't do it. So, now, we have a big deal with Dems holding them up, as usual, on debt ceiling approval. Could have been so easy, now a mess.

What do you make of that? What do you make of that?

VALLIERE: Christine, the reason they couldn't do it had nothing to do with the Democrats. It was the Freedom Caucus in the House that said, no, we don't want a clean debt ceiling bill to go to a veteran's measure. We want to have all these provisions on the debt ceiling.

So, no, it's factually inaccurate that this is a problem for the Democrats. Well -- although they were going to obstruct. The main problem was the Freedom Cause in the House.

BRIGGS: So, you've got Paul Ryan, well, Paul R, instead of the House speaker. Instead of the Senate majority leader, Mitch M, and Steve Mnuchin all saying, we're going to raise the debt ceiling. Are they carrying on without this president?

VALLIERE: That's a good point. I think increasingly, they're just going to have to go their own way and get their bills done. But there's a problem. There's a really interesting story this morning in "The New York Post" that says the White House is saying, well, we're not going to kill the state and local tax exemption, which is a big deal with states like New York. Are they negotiating a tax bill without Ryan's knowledge?

So, yes, I think Ryan would like to move on his own. But he's got to always look over his shoulder because the White House is going to second-guess everything.

ROMANS: And you hear -- then you hear some reporting that they're moving ahead on tax reform, and they're talking about what they're going to do, how to treat the 401(k), taxes on 401(k)s, tax preferential treatment on 401ks. You're hearing movement on some things and the White House is going to stay out of it. But then you hear the president or something from the White House about what they want to do.

So, who's in charge here?

VALLEIRE: Well, that's right. There's unanimity among most Republicans on the Hill that they want a tax bill. I think there's a broad consensus on that. The problem is the details.

And I think it's going to take many months, probably into the spring, before they can iron out all the details. I do think we'll get a bill, a modest bill. But it's months away.

BRIGGS: Goldman Sachs is pretty plugged into this administration. In guidance to investors last Friday pegged the odds at 50/50 of a government shutdown. Do you agree with the odds?

VALLIERE: No. I think when push comes to shove, we'll get the debt ceiling increase. It will be dramatic at the last minute. And I think on the shutdown, they'll do what we call a C.R., sorry to get arcane, a continuing resolution, that will keep the government operating through mid-December. So, we'll go through as we always do around the holidays, a big --

ROMANS: Ridiculous, right? It's so ridiculous. Greg, you know, why can't we run -- can't we run this government in the same way when we're not doing continuing resolutions and having the showdowns every time?

[05:20:00] VALLIERE: Right. It will be a mess. It will get done on December 22nd. I don't see a shutdown. And I also don't see money appropriated for a while. At some point, Trump is going to have to step down about that.

BRIGGS: All right. We're going to ask you in 20 minutes about the "Wall Street Journal" write, "Trump divorcing the GOP Congress," an interesting piece in the Murdoch-owned "Wall Street Journal."

Greg, thank you.

VALLIERE: You bet.

BRIGGS: Afternoon baseball are wonderful American tradition, becomes fight night in Detroit. Fists flying, benches clearing, Yankees, Tigers. Looking like the undercard or perhaps the main event for Mayweather/McGregor.

Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:25:05] BRIGGS: All right. Fight fans, you don't have to wait until Mayweather/McGregor tomorrow night. The Yankees and Tigers, that game ended in an all-out brawl yesterday that might be better than Saturday's fight.

ROMANS: Not even one all-out brawl, three all-out brawls, right? Andy Scholes with more on this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.


It's definitely an eventful afternoon in Detroit. Luckily for Major League Baseball, the Yankees and Tigers don't play for the rest of the season. The teams do not like each other, especially after yesterday's game. And I'll show where it escalated. Bottom of the sixth, Tommy Kahnle

getting ejected by the home plate umpire. When play was about to resume, Cabrera and the Yankees' catcher Austin Romine just get into it and now it's on. Both benches clear.

As you can see, multiple punches were thrown by a number of players. They eventually get back to baseball. In the seventh inning Dillen Betances hit James McCann in the head with a 98 mile per hour fastball. The benches cleared again, but this time, there was no fighting. Eight players were ejected in this one. When it was all said and done, the Tigers would go on to win the game by 10-6.

One of the biggest story lines surrounding the NFL preseason continues to be Colin Kaepernick and the fact that he remains unsigned. Many players in the NFL voiced concern that he is being blackballed by teams because of his social activism. Buffalo Bills' running back LeSean McCoy says Kaepernick is not worth the distraction he brings.


LESEAN MCCOY, BUFFALO BILLS: The star players that can be on the team with a big distraction, and, you know, there's other players that they're not good enough or worth it. I think his situation's not good enough that -- to have him on the team with all the attention that comes along with it.


SCHOLES: In the meantime, Kaepernick breaking his silence, tweeting to thank those who came out to support him during a rally outside of the NFL's offices in New York on Wednesday. Kaepernick tweeting: My faith always has been and always will be in the power of the people. The number of civil rights groups have threatened to boycott the NFL this season if Kaepernick is not on a team by the start of the season.

All right. Tomorrow night, the wait is finally over. Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather will step into the ring. Mayweather is a heavy, heavy favorite, which has many fearing that this fight won't come close to living up to the hype. Though UFC president Dana White says that's not necessarily a bad thing.


DANA WHITE, PRESIDENT, UFC: When you're tuning in to watch a sporting event, right, the World Cup, you know, your team's in it, just because it's the World Cup it doesn't mean it's the best soccer game you've ever seen, right? The Super Bowl isn't always the best football game you've ever seen.

You know, a mega fight like this -- it might not be the best fight you've ever seen. It's part of live sports. It's part of professional sports. But I can tell you this -- Conor McGregor has never been in a boring fight ever in his entire career. I don't expect Saturday to be either.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: That was Dana White speaking with CNN's Don Riddell, guys.

I tell you what, heavy bets have started coming in on Mayweather. They took multiple million-dollar bets in Vegas yesterday according to reports. And just so you know, Christine, if you bet a million dollars on Mayweather to win the fight, you only win $200,000. So the return is not great.


SCHOLES: That's how confident some are that Mayweather will win the fight easily.


BRIGGS: Dana didn't do a great job encouraging me to fork over the 100 bucks on Saturday -- I was on the fence. Now --

SCHOLES: He basically said it's fear of missing out. He's not guaranteeing it's going to be great.

ROMANS: All right. Andy, nice to see you this morning.

SCHOLES: All right.

BRIGGS: Thank you, man.

All right. Her pipe dream finally came true. Fifty-three-year-old Mavis Wanczyk of Chicopee, Massachusetts, the sole winner of the $758.7 million in Powerball jackpot. Mavis discovered she won leaving while her -- while leaving her job at the Mercy Medical Center. 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. Mavis did what most winners do, she took the lump sum of $480 million. That works out to a cool $336 million after taxes.

BRIGGS: Your advice for Mavis?

ROMANS: Grow the money. Don't spend it.

BRIGGS: Mine is change your cell phone and your e-mail and go hide somewhere.

EARLY START continues right now with the latest projections for Hurricane Harvey.


BRIGGS: Hurricane Harvey gaining steam as it gets set to make landfall, parts of the Gulf in serious danger as the storm moves in. Record-setting rain won't move out for days. They're talking 2008 Ike which killed 21 people.