Return to Transcripts main page


Texas Braces for Catastrophic Floods from Hurricane Harvey; Trump Criticizes GOP Leadership Over Debt Ceiling; Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired August 25, 2017 - 06:00   ET


[06:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, August 25th. 6:00 here in New York. Chris is off. David Gregory joins me.

Great to have you.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be here. Always on a big news day when I come around.

CAMEROTA: It always is. And we have breaking news this morning. So up first, Hurricane Harvey intensifying rapidly and roaring towards the Texas coast. In the past 24 hours, the storm has strengthened from a tropical depression to a category two hurricane.

Harvey is on track to becoming a major hurricane before making landfall tonight. More than 17 million people are under hurricane and tropical storm warnings this morning.

GREGORY: Yes. Catastrophic flooding is really the biggest concern right now as Harvey is expected to stall over Texas for days dumping as much as two to three feet of rain. That's really the biggest concern, even more than the wind. Tens of thousands of residents in low-lying areas are being ordered to evacuate as you might imagine.

President Trump now facing the first natural disaster of his presidency.

We want to begin our coverage with CNN's Nick Valencia. He is live for us in Corpus Christi, Texas, this morning where voluntary evacuations are under way.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, David. It is eerily quiet in Corpus Christi with the exception of this howling wind that has just picked up here in the course of the last five minutes. That rain is also picking up here.

Preparations have been well under way for the course of the last 48 hours in coastal Texas. Mandatory evacuations are not yet in place. But yesterday the city mayor asked for voluntary evacuations. A lot of residents got out of Corpus Christi well ahead of that.

We were on the highway coming in from San Antonio where we flew into and we were one of the only cars headed south, bumper to bumper traffic, as people were fleeing to areas like San Antonio, Dallas neighboring Austin.

I was speaking to one of these long-time residents here in Corpus Christi and he was telling me yesterday at about 6:00 a.m. there was, if you could believe it, nearly an hour wait in line at the grocery store. Basic food and services have really been depleted here in and around Corpus Christi as evacuations are -- voluntary evacuations are under way in about six counties here.

This is an area, as you can imagine, along the coast that has been here through this before. Hurricane Ike hit this area especially hard. But long-time residents tell me and take me back to 1970 when Hurricane Cecelia hit here. A lot of similarities between Hurricane Harvey and Cecilia. That one was especially damaging injuring more than 400 people, leaving many people dead here. This storm has the potential to get very ugly and we'll see just how bad it gets as the day develops -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. Nick, keep an eye on it for us. Thank you. We'll check back with you.

So as Hurricane Harvey moves back towards Texas, so too does the extreme flooding threat. And that of course includes cities like Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is live in San Antonio and that city is already under a local disaster declaration.

What's happening there, Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, that order has been in place since yesterday. Harvey on the horizon. But here in San Antonio you wouldn't necessarily know it yet. Everything, though, will change drastically come tonight as we're expected to see some of those additional effects of this massive storm.

Yes, those gusty winds will be a concern. But the real issue for some of these ailing cities not just here in San Antonio, but also Houston, will be that devastating flooding. Think about it. This storm is essentially going to hover around parts of Texas for days dumping some serious amounts of rain. So as a result many of these flood prone areas are going to be looked at by officials.

As a result many people in cities like San Antonio will not be going to school today, will not be going to work. Many of these roads will be clear as many people will be preparing because, again, things are quiet right now. But come tonight, it will be a much different story -- David.

GREGORY: Polo, thank you so much.

Take a look at this ominous video right now. The International Space Station is capturing images from space of Hurricane Harvey barreling toward Texas. Pretty massive storm. You can see just how big it is.

Let's get right to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar with the latest forecast and rainfall projections. And that is really the story, right, is how much rain and how long this storm is going to linger?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And we're already starting to see that scary trend. In terms of the storm itself, it's slowing down. Now with the latest update we have now movement is about nine to 10 miles per hour to the northwest. Winds around 105 miles per hour, gusting up to 125.

Those outer bands of the storm really already starting to surge into places like Galveston, Victoria and Corpus Christi, and a lot of lightning with these. So even before the main storm arrives, really even arrives what we call the central point of pressure, you can already start to see things like power outages and trees starting to come down from some of the intense thunderstorms.

We do expect it to strengthen at least a little bit, up to a category three. We're only about six miles per hour away from that right now. So it doesn't have to intensify all that much. Then it will weaken once it crosses over land and just sits there for days. That's the problem.

The other problem is gradually that forward speed will start to slow down. When that speed slows down, the amount of rain projection starts to go up and it does it rapidly.

[06:05:03] We are not talking about three, four inches widespread here. We're talking widespread of at least one foot of rain. But there will be many spots, this purple color and the white that you can see here, we're talking 20, 30, and it's not even out of the question to get 40 inches of rain.

Keep in mind, a city like Houston averages 50 inches of rain for the year. We could easily pick up half of that in just a couple of days.

And David and Alisyn, the other threat obviously is going to be severe weather. The potential for some tornadoes as well as damaging winds.

CAMEROTA: OK. Allison, thank you very much for keeping an eye on that for us.

Joining us now is Reid Timmer. He's a storm chaser for AccuWeather. He is live in Port Lavaca, that is just north of Corpus Christi which is expected to be the bull's eye for the hurricane.

GREGORY: And you're looking at those outer bands right now. At the top of that image very close now to really hitting the coastline which is why that's where we're going to Reid at the moment.

CAMEROTA: So, Reid, tell us what you're seeing.

REID TIMMER, ACCUWEATHER STORM CHASER: Yes, I'm in Port Lavaca, Texas. I'm right at Matagorda Bay. You can see one of those many refineries behind me. I haven't seen some lightning flashes. I haven't seen any power flashes yet. The wind is still pretty light but it is going to be coming right up the length of this bay.

And so we do expect, especially if that landfall is just to the south of Port Lavaca, then those southeast will be piling that water into Matagorda Bay and we do expect that storm surge to be quite substantial here as it comes in tonight.

The wind will gradually increase as those outer bands rotate ashore. Right now we're getting some decent rain, some steady winds, but they're not that strong yet. But as those squalls come in, the wind will increase each squall. And we'll also have that tornado threat, especially as the son comes in. Especially in the front right quadrant of this hurricane. That's where you have the most -- the strongest wind shear for tornadoes.

And as those bands rotate ashore, we'll likely see those land falling water spouts right out ahead of the worst impacts of Harvey, which will arrive here tonight.

GREGORY: And, Reid, you covered Hurricane Ike, the last storm to hit the Texas coast back in 2008. That killed more than 100 people once it made landfall. 113 people with Hurricane Ike.

Are people heeding the warnings? What are you seeing in terms of people getting out now and how does this compare to covering that storm?

TIMMER: Well, it has been about nine years since the last hurricane impacted the coastal Texas. It was Hurricane Ike which was a category two. And I was at Galveston Island for that hurricane and we were entirely surrounded by storm surge. That was one thing about that storm, is those very large in size over the Gulf of Mexico, so it's piling that water up and we had a very substantial storm surge across Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula and Houston.

This storm is a different beast. Any time you compare those two storms, that can get you in trouble because they have very different impact. This hurricane is coming in further south, but it's also intensifying. It is more compact. It's going to come in as a category three, so it will have greater wind impact as well, and the storm surge will also be substantial. And it's going to sit here over the same area, continuing to drop that rain. So you're also going to have the flash flooding also well inland with this storm and the tornadoes. So you're pretty much getting every single bad natural phenomenon that you can get with a hurricane with Harvey as it comes ashore.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, we cannot underscore enough. Category three is huge, it's bigger than what Ike made at landfall. It's bigger than Super Storm Sandy when that made landfall. So -- but as we understand it, Reid, I mean, tell us if you're seeing something differently but the flooding is what is going to be the real deadly danger there.

TIMMER: Definitely the flooding. Any time you're getting feet of rain. I mean, it will only take six, eight inches of rain here to cause flooding. And we're talking 30, 40 inches, maybe even more in the hardest hit areas. And that's on top of those winds and the storm surge is going to be battering the coast, so the fact that this is going to be a very dangerous, life-threatening impact, many impacting the storm as it comes to shore, especially just near and to the right of where that eye comes in. And with the weak steering flow loft, this hurricane is going to be doing a lot of meandering as it comes ashore tonight.

CAMEROTA: All right. Reid, be safe and stick around for us. We want to check back with you. Thanks so much.

So there's a different kind of storm raging, David, if I may, inside --

GREGORY: Oh, you may.



CAMEROTA: Inside the Republican Party. President Trump blaming Republican leaders for the debt ceiling mess, and the president, of course, is threatening to shut down the government if he does not get funding for his border wall.

So our political panel is on top of all that next.


[06:13:32] CAMEROTA: President Trump is blaming Republican leaders for mismanaging the looming showdown over the debt ceiling while many in his party continue to grapple with the president's threat to shut down the federal government if a spending bill does not include funding for his border wall.

CNN's Jason Carroll is live at the White House with more on all of this.

Hi, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, Alisyn. The president using a bit of political strategy here going after Congress which is more unpopular in some of the polls than he is for not getting the job done on a number of his key issues. All this as one GOP aide says this president isn't doing his part to sell his own agenda.


CARROLL (voice-over): President Trump intensifying his attacks on the party he leads, taking to Twitter once again to blast Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell for failing to repeal Obamacare. The White House insisting there's no problem.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The relationships are fine. Certainly there are going to be some policy differences, but there are also a lot of shared goals and that's what we're focused on.

CARROLL: The president also targeting House Speaker Paul Ryan blaming both him and McConnell for setting up a battle over the debt ceiling. The president claiming he tried to attach a measure to raise the debt ceiling to the Veteran's Bill, but Ryan and McConnell did not do it.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I don't really take it as going after me. I'm really not that worried about this. We have plenty of options ahead of us. We will pay our debts.

CARROLL: The speaker referencing the president's threat to shut down the government if funding for his border wall is not included in the House spending bill.

[06:15:03] SANDERS: He campaigned on the wall, he won on talking about building a wall. And he's going to make sure that that gets done.

CARROLL: The White House responding for the first time to Senator Bob Corker's concern about the president's temperament.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.

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

CARROLL: The president's feud with his own party raising questions about his re-election, Senator Jeff Flake suggesting Trump is provoking his own primary challenger in 2020.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The direction he's headed right now just kind of drilling down on the base rather than trying to expand the base, you know, I think he's inviting one.

CARROLL: Meanwhile, new details about Chief of Staff John Kelly's crack down in the West Wing. Politico reporting Kelly and another aide will now sign off on every document that makes it to the president's desk.

"The New York Times" reveals that sources say the former chief of staff Reince Priebus made similar attempts that weren't taken seriously but crossing a Marine is a different matter.


CARROLL: And the president's chief of staff, John Kelly, left a huge void when he left his position as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. That position still has not been filled. This as the president faces his first test as the first natural disaster is looming with Hurricane Harvey.

The president has reached out to both the governors of Texas and Louisiana last night offering any assistance that will be needed -- David, Alisyn.

GREGORY: Jason, thanks very much.

All right. So what does all of this mean? We want to bring in our political panel. CNN political analyst John Avlon and Abby Phillip, and AB Stoddard, associate editor and columnist at Real Clear Politics.

We'll get to the idea of -- John, of this first real test for President Trump and any natural disaster is for a president. What I'm really struck as he takes on Republican leaders that there is this notion of the Trump brand versus the Republican brand.


GREGORY: And he'll take on all commerce. He's making it very clear that he'll take on his own party and isolate himself in the process.

AVLON: Yes. Let's just focus for a second on how unusual this is. I'm being polite first for one quick second. The Republicans have unified control of government, and while Donald Trump maybe congenitally want to play the insurgent outsider, the reality is that he is running one of three branches of government. And he's spending most of his time right now attacking Republicans and the other.

And while Congress' approval may be lower than the president, which is an achievement upon itself, the contradiction as you know is everybody loves their congressman but they hate Congress. And you ask him, he's got to get something through Congress. Who is more popular among U.S. senators right now? Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump?


AVLON: That's going to be Mitch McConnell.

GREGORY. That's right. Yes.

AVLON: So he's building -- he's deepening massive problems for his own agenda come this fall. And he promised the Americans, not just that he'd build the wall, but he'd have Mexico pay for it. Now he's threatening to shut down the government to get it done. That's not going to fly too well.

CAMEROTA: Abby, lest people forget the president's promises during the campaign, here is a handy montage.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to build a great border wall.

We will build a great, great wall.

We're going to build the wall, don't worry about it. We're going to build it.

We will build the wall 100 percent.

I promise, we will build the wall.

And who's going to pay for the wall?

AUDIENCE: Mexico. TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall?



It will be a great wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

Mexico will pay for the wall.

And Mexico is going to pay for the wall and they understand that.

Mexico is going to pay for the wall. Believe me. 100 percent.


CAMEROTA: All right. So, Abby, before I let you respond, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about that promise that was repeated so often on the campaign trail. Listen to what she said yesterday.


SANDERS: The president is committed to making sure this gets done. We know that the wall and other security measures at the border work. We've seen that take place over the last decade. And we're committed to making sure the American people are protected. And we're going to continue to push forward and make sure that the wall gets built.


CAMEROTA: Right. But who's going the pay for it, Abby? I mean, this is one of these things that I didn't -- we don't know whether to take the president literally or seriously or neither with that promise because Mexico has said, no thanks, we're not paying for your wall. So what is this? Where are we with the wall?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, here is the reality check. Mexico is not going to pay for the wall. That's a fact. What's funny about that whole montage is that the Mexico part is the punch line of the whole rift.

[06:20:07] And it's been essentially summarily abandoned by this White House because they understand that not only does Congress have no intention of finding ways to make Mexico pay for the wall, but Mexico has already said that they're not going to pay for the wall.

Trump knows that. You know, we've learned recently through some of the transcripts from the calls between President Trump and the president of Mexico that Trump has essentially acknowledged that this is an issue that he needs political cover on domestically.


PHILLIP: He doesn't want -- you know, he understands that privately it's a non-starter with the Mexican government, but he needs political cover for it publicly. So that's why we're having this conversation.

You know, at the same time, I think it just reflects the fact that, you know, governing is really hard, and some of these things that he promised to folks on the campaign trail are never going to happen. The wall being paid for by Mexico is certainly one of them. And even just idea of a wall, generally, I mean, you ask people like Mitch McConnell, hey, are we going to build a border wall? His response is, I believe in border security. I want border security. So he's not full throatedly endorsing a wall.


PHILLIP: So there are problems on even --

GREGORY: But here is the question, AB, is, whether this is an opening gambit. I mean, you know, Trump would have no shame about saying, OK, well, yes, I said all this time that Mexico is going to pay for it, now it's going to be U.S. taxpayers. But it's still a worthy goal and it's something that we're going to do and I promise we're going to do it.

He could negotiate and there could be, you know, pushing his own party to the brink. He may get something out of this, I mean, that a lot of conservatives do support which is the concept of more border security.

AB STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right. It's just a question of how in an intense fight, once they get through the debt ceiling fight about the government funding legislation which has to happen pretty much around the same day, by the end of the fiscal year, end of September, 12 legislative days left, with all the pushing back and forth these different sort of feuding coalitions within the Republican conferences and the Congress and the White House.

What in the end becomes his prize? Right? Does he get a down payment on the wall? Does he get over $20 billion? The estimates range between $21 billion and $70 billion. Shutting down the government in 2013 costs $24 billion. How far is he willing to carry that threat and what is the negotiation? What does he give in return?

AVLON: And just also -- yes, and how insane the prospect of one party having unified control of government and we're still talking about a government shutdown possibility that's on the rise.

GREGORY: Right. Look, the biggest problem with this is that running as an insurgent, positioning himself as the Trump brand, in the end he's got to achieve something. If he goes back to borders, the Trump leadership has to result in something and he's got to bring his party to his side.

All right. We'll talk to you down the line here. Thank you very much.

We're also following the big story of Hurricane Harvey of course baring down on Texas. Looking at live pictures right now. Big question this morning, is the state ready and is FEMA prepared?

The federal government. With no secretary of Homeland Security in place. He's now inside the White House as chief of staff. We are live from the Gulf Coast coming up next.


[06:27:31] GREGORY: We're getting live pictures. Hurricane Harvey as preparations under way as it's coming ashore. Some of the outer bands hitting the area now.

Hurricane Harvey will make landfall tonight, coming ashore late tonight or early tomorrow as a category three hurricane. That's what's important. That is a major storm. The storm could dump as much as two to three feet of rain in some areas.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Corpus Christi, Texas. He's got latest this morning -- Nick.

VALENCIA: Good morning, David. The worst of the storm is not expected until much, much later tonight, Friday, into Saturday morning, but we're already getting an indication of just how severe this storm is expected to be. Just over the course of the last 10 minutes, the wind has started to pick up, that rain has been steady throughout the early morning hours.

Preparations here have already been under way. Police saying just basically the entire city has been already shut down. Assisted evacuations will continue later this morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Officials have been doing that over the course of the last 24 hours.

The city's mayor ordering voluntary evacuations. But many residents that we spoke to got out of here well ahead of those ordered voluntary evacuations.

We were driving in here on the interstate and we saw plenty of cars going north towards cities seeking shelter here in this area. This is a place that has been hard hit by hurricanes in the past. Hurricane Ike came through here back in 2008 and really damaged a lot of this community. But really you have to go back all the way 40 years to Hurricane Cecelia, to the last time Corpus Christi took a direct hit. More bad news is expected in the forecast later today -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. Thanks, Nick, for that.

So is Texas ready for Hurricane Harvey? Joining us now is retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore. General Honore was the commander of the Joint Task Force Katrina. He became known as the category five general.

General, thank you very much for being here and for bringing your expertise with us this morning. What worries you the most as you see this hurricane approaching?

LT. GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): Well, the water. The inland -- projected inland flooding combined with the high surge along the coastal areas of Texas, from Corpus Christi all the way over to Louisiana border. People will experience something that they have not experienced before based on the predictions we are measuring. Normally means your rainfall in terms of inches. We could exceed a foot of water in some places. At the same time, along the coast the surge water is coming in and flooding places that don't normally flood. And places like haven't had the surge of these types since 2008. And that is a big problem, Alisyn.