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Harvey Blamed For One Death in Texas, More Flooding Feared; Houston Reeling From Floods, Damage Amid Harvey's Wrath; Trump Closely Monitoring Harvey From Camp David; Analyst: Trump Admin. with be Judged on Hurricane Preparedness, Response; Devastation Fears Rising in Rockport; Trump Pardons Controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio; Texas Devastated as Harvey Lingers Over Flood-Prone Houston. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 26, 2017 - 17:00   ET



[17:00:27] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for joining me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. And right now millions of people in Texas are bracing for a potentially catastrophic flooding and torrential rain. The state is reeling from the most powerful hurricane to touch American soil in 12 years. Harvey is now a deadly tropical storm churning inland leaving widespread distraction in its wake.

Homes and businesses are destroyed. Hundreds of thousands are without power right now. The storms snapping utility poles like tooth picks. The damage in Houston alone could be in the tens of billions. And more flooding may be on the way for that low lying area. President Trump tweeting this, "Thank you to all of the great volunteers helping out with Hurricane Harvey relief in Texas."

Our CNN reporters are covering every angle of this disaster. Rosa Flores in Houston, Martin Savidge in Rockport, Texas and meteorologist Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center.

Let's get started with our special coverage. And let's first head to Harvey being blamed now for at least one death in Rockport, Texas. The storm came to shore as a category 4 hurricane leaving massive amounts of destruction there. The town's mayor calls the storm a, quote, "Severe blow to his community," but local and state officials are still as setting the damage caused by the initial landfall as they brace for rainfall.

Our Martin Savidge is joining us from Rockport. Martin, I understand you ran into some city officials that are preparing to respond to storm victims. What did you find? What are you learning?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, what you're finding is that this is a town that took a direct hit from a category 4 hurricane and everything around this community reflects just that. The devastation, the destruction you see behind us here is just emblematic of what you will find all over this community here. It definitely got a direct hit from those winds and it looks very much like a tornado came through. Not like a broader based winds that you would find from a hurricane.

So that just attests to the power of a Cat 4. And then on top of that, getting here is extremely difficult. It is still raining. It is still blowing. And both of those are problems for rescue teams getting in or flying overhead. And then on top of that, many of the roadways that you would use either to get in or maybe get out if you have had enough are becoming more and more overtopped by water.

So these are the problems that are going to compound on top of the tragedy that has already hit this community. And they are struggling. In fact, the first responders are the ones that are struggling right now. Take a look.

You can tell this is very much a town that is still caught up in the shock of the storm. They are still trying to organize their first response. They have emergency teams that are starting to arrive, a lot of them have come from outside the area. But they have a lot of problems here. Number one, no sign of any electricity. No cell service. And it's pretty clear if you look down here, they also have water problems.

So, that means sanitary issues, drinking water, basics of that. And then you take a look at the issue of just plain law enforcement. This is (INAUDIBLE) for police departments' vehicles. At least a number of them. You can see what the wind and the pressure did blow out just about every one of the windows in their vehicles there. And there is one pulling out.

So, despite the damage, they are still on the job. Let's walk you over, there is a lot of street flooding. In fact, as we try to come to this town, there is a lot of flooding, period. A lot of downed power lines. These are the resources that are continuing to come in here. And they are just now trying to organize. This is the public safety center. It took a devastating blow. There is water, everywhere you look, there is downed power lines everywhere, so that makes the streets very difficult to pass.

The only flag that is still up is apparently the city flag. And look what the wind did to the flag poles here. Snapped them. Broke them. Didn't bend them. Snapped them. And brought them down to the ground. So far as we've said, one fatality has been reported in this community. However we should also point out that the first responders are only now beginning to get out and search. So, we'll keep our fingers crossed the death toll remains or will remain at one -- Ana.

CABRERA: Yes. And Martin, what can you tell us about the person who died?

[17:05:01] SAVIDGE: Well, from what we understand last night, of course in the chaos and in the fury of this storm. There were at least 30 emergency calls that came in to volunteer Fire Department and the Police Department. They were all hunkered down. It would have been deadly for them to try to go out and respond. But heartbreaking nonetheless, you can imagine that they hear people crying for help, walls are falling on people and fire. The one fatality we know of apparently was as a result of a fire which is hard to imagine in the middle of a maelstrom rain. But just shows you the viciousness sometimes --

CABRERA: Just incredible damage there right behind you. Martin Savidge in Rockport, Texas for us. Thank you. Harvey may be a tropical storm right now, but it hit as a massive category 4 hurricane, the strongest one to slam into the U.S. in more than a decade. The result, widespread damage, torrential rain and flooding. Lots of it. Especially in the city of Houston. And it's not over yet.

CNN's Rosa Flores is there and joins us live. What kind of damage are you seeing there, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, the big concern here in Houston is flooding. Take a look at the bayou behind me. Normally this is a bayou that you would see its banks, but right now all you see is this raging river flowing toward the Gulf of Mexico. Flash flooding the big concern here. City leaders asking people to be very vigilant, to be very aware of their surroundings because this bayou like you see here, we're in the area of near downtown Houston, but these bayous meander throughout the city. And so, some of them are very close to homes.

I want to show you right here behind me, you can see that in this part of this walkway and runway path, it's still flooded. I won't be able to walk through. There has been some very brave souls who have actually taken their bikes through this pathway, but it's not recommended by authorities here. They recommend that if you see anything, that any concrete, any street where it is overflown by water, you are asked to stay away from it, Ana. Again, the big concern here, flooding. Flash flooding. Waters that can rise very quickly and can put lives at risk -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Rosa Flores, keep us posted on what you are seeing, what you're hearing there as more rain is on the way as Harvey hunkers down. Communities are bracing for the heavy rain. It could make four days of flooding. Also, there remains a threat of tornadoes.

Joining me now CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. And Chad, the movement of this storm seems to be unusual compared to others in the past. Explain.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, because the new movement from the 5:00 advisory from the hurricane center. I know you haven't had a chance to look at it because you're on the air. Now is stationery. Just as we worried about. Stationery. Not moving at all. And you think, well, okay, the storm is over land, it should start to die. You know, this is going to be okay.

No. Because a third of this storm is still over the Gulf of Mexico. And this is a very warm body of water. That is why the storm got so big so quickly in the first place. If you have one third of the storm still over water, it is not dying as rapidly as we would like. It's still going to grab this Gulf of Mexico moisture and put it on shore right into Houston, Galveston, all the way over to Lake Charles is going to see some heavy, heavy rain fall. And then there's also going to push back it back into Austin and San

Antonio which it's already doing now. We're also watching for the potential, some of the storms to spin. There is one storm just west of Houston there that did have a spin a little bit earlier. There may have been a small tornado on the ground. There was a pretty healthy spin on radar. Now it's kind of dying off, but we're still watching that tornado watch for the next few hours.

Which means any storm that comes onshore could spin, could put down a tornado. And you can look at some of the pictures on line from Katy, Texas from yesterday. That's where the tornado hit last night. There is about five to six inches overall. If I had to just take a paint brush and paint the whole thing, I'd say five to six. Some spots have three, but some spots have 14. So, that is going to run off.

You can't soak in 14 inches of rain in 24 hours. And so here is what the radar is going to look like overnight and this is concerning. By 8:00 tomorrow morning, look at this moisture surge for Houston, Texas proper and almost all the way up to, almost Dallas. Certainly college station. But how much rainfall is going to fall in the overnight hours? Houston may be under water when we wake up tomorrow. So, if you are in Houston and you wake up, watch yourself if you are going out before sunrise. There could be water on roadways that you don't want to get into.

CABRERA: All right. Chad Myers, still be watching for us. I want to turn now to a news conference with the Coast Guard talking about their response operation. Let's listen.

CAPT. KEVIN ODDITT, COMMANDER, COAST GUARD SECTOR HOUSTON-GALVESTON: Vessels that need to come in to port and we will prioritize these vessels and allow them to get in to port. We recognize that the ports in this region are critical and vital to the nation's economy. So, we want to get the port open for business as soon as possible. With that, I'll take questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us about today there have been a number of different rescue, can you tell us how many total have been rescued as a result of the Coast Guard's efforts and can you can speak to sort of work that the Coast Guard officers are doing, you know, in these turbulent winds and storms?

ODDITT: I am not able to speak to those specific efforts. That was done down in sector Corpus Christi's area of responsibility. We can work and get those details for those response efforts.


ODDITT: So, within Coast Guard, in Galveston, we have 850 active duty within that area that I described earlier. We also have almost 100 civilians. We brought in the two Coast Guard specialized flood response teams from Paducah and Memphis, Tennessee as well. We can get to you the numbers on those people. We have also brought in I think, I believe currently we have four additional aircraft at Ellington at our air station in Houston. As well as additional flight crews to support flight operations. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People know about Houston Galveston in this part

of the country that have a lot of refineries right along the coast. Can you speak to what preparations and communications your office is having with those refineries and are you concerned that this weather and this really strong system is going to take a couple days at least in this area and my cause any dangers of leaks or spills or any other hazards?

ODDITT: Sure. That's a good question. So, prior to a storm arriving or as it was forming in the gulf, we work closely with our port partners and industry and we monitor the track of this storm. So upwards of 72 hours out, we will start working with them to identify if Houston/Galveston area is at risk of being impacted by a storm. At that time, we start working with them to identify which ships are going to be departing port and we start placing conditions on them as well or making notifications so they can plan.

And the facilities here, they take preparations to ensure that their cargo lines and their tanks are prepared for the storm and then as the storm approaches, we set different port conditions, which allows them to plan on for example on Wednesday -- excuse me, on Thursday we set port condition Yankee which restricted deep vessel traffic to one way outbound and that allowed the pilots to work with the industry in order to have vessels depart port. And then on Friday, I end up setting port condition Zulu which closed the port.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you confident that the refineries have taken precautions necessary to prevent some sort of disaster?

ODDITT: I know that they are prepared and they have hurricane contingency plans and they take steps to minimize those risks to the port and the environment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any update on progress of what is being done for those passengers and those cruise ship passengers and ships out in the gulf?

ODDITT: Sure. So we are meeting daily, twice a day with the cruise ship operators as well as the city of Galveston and the Galveston port authority in order to try and identify opportunities to be able to get the cruise ships in. I know that the cruise ships have made alternative arrangements. I believe carnival has had two of the vessels go to New Orleans to re-provision and I believe that RCL has also made alternative arrangements in case they are not able to call on port here. So, we are working with them closely in order to identify when we can get them in ports.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And do you know when that will happen? Is it a matter of days? (INAUDIBLE)

ODDITT: It's difficult to predict right now based on the weather. So, it really depends on the storm track and when they can come in safely as well. Now, and keep in mind also that the pilots that help to navigate the vessels in to port and they have safety conditions also that they operate under as well in order to bring the cruise ships into port. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know you said that you can't speak

specifically about these rescues, but can you talk about the training your men and women go through to prepare for these types of weather conditions?

ODDITT: Sure. They're out there training daily. And that is what they do. They train daily and they practice and they're professionals. And they are provided with the best equipment in order to ensure they're ready to execute these missions.

[17:15:08] CABRERA: All right. We've been listening in to the Coast Guard officials briefing the public about their operations in preparation for what is yet to come with this tropical storm Harvey, the upcoming rains and how it may be affecting some of the ships that are still out there off the coast and including several cruise ships that are yet to be able to come in. And he's talking about coordinating those efforts and some of the alternative arrangements that are being made.

Coming up here in the newsroom, we'll continue to follow this massive storm that is still just lingering over the whole Texas State really. But really focusing in around that area of Houston. Some people are even trapped in a hotel and due to have a c-section. We'll speak with a woman who fled her home with her family and it's due to have her baby on Tuesday. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:20:06] CABRERA: We have some exclusive photos out of Port Aransas, Texas. These are some of the first out of this specific area. The City of Aransas was the first to issue a mandatory evacuation ahead of Hurricane Harvey.

And joining us on the phone is Danielle Weeks, she's lived in Port Aransas scheduled to have a c-section on Tuesday but right now she's trapped in a hotel room in Corpus Christi after fleeing her home with her husband, their two daughters and her mother. So Danielle, what a crazy situation. First, what is going on as far as the weather goes and the damage and your surroundings there?

DANIELLE WEEKS, EXPECTANT MOTHER FORCED TO EVACUATE: Right now it's raining and pretty windy. But where we're at isn't too damaged severely. The hotel we're at is pretty secure. So, we're safe as of right now. We've received some pictures of around where we lived in Port Aransas and it's pretty devastated there.

CABRERA: Oh, my. We're seeing pictures right now of you and your family in your hotel. Beautiful kids by the way. I know that you're scheduled to give birth on Tuesday. I can only imagine the stress of this whole situation. What have the past 24 hours or so been like for you?

WEEKS: Pretty stressful. Just nerve-racking wondering if the hospital can be able to do the c-section on Tuesday, where we'll going to go after we get out of the hospital, stuff like that.

CABRERA: Do you have a backup plan right now?

WEEKS: Well, after the c-section, we can always go back to where our families (INAUDIBLE) until we can figure out the damages and how we will going to get everything fixed. And sort everything out. But as of right now, we'll be in this hotel until we can have the baby.

CABRERA: Is it safe for you to travel?

WEEKS: No, it's not currently safe for me to travel too far away from the hospital because I have -- cervix which is basically a stitch holding my cervix closed. And so if I go in to natural labor, and my cervix starts to open, it could rip and I could bleed or lose the baby.

CABRERA: Oh, my goodness.

WEEKS: So, I have to stay kind of close.

CABRERA: Yes. No kidding. Have you been in touch with your doctor?

WEEKS: Yes. I spoke to them I believe it was Friday morning. And they said to travel as far as I needed to to be safe, but to stay relatively close to a hospital. Just in case I do go in to labor because I am almost 39 weeks. And they set to call on Monday to see if they will be able to do the c-section. Because right now they are in emergency mode only.

CABRERA: And you mentioned that you have seen some images from the area where your home is in Aransas. Do you know how your home is doing -- if it survived without damage?

WEEKS: No, we do not know. We have seen pictures of like around the area and a lot of the RVs and stuff which is what we live in or on their sides or tore apart. So, we're just waiting until they give the okay to go back to Port Aransas to go assess the damages.

CABRERA: Danielle Weeks, my heart goes out to you. You are a brave woman. Stay strong and thank you for joining us.

WEEKS: Thank you.

CABRERA: And I wish you the very best with the labor delivery process and the c-section that is scheduled for Tuesday.

Still ahead, disaster declaration. How President Donald Trump is promising to help recovery efforts in Texas. You're live in the CNN Newsroom.


[17:28:35] CABRERA: Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical storm and while the worst of the winds may have passed, now blowing up to 70 miles per hour, still strong. The Texas Gulf Coast is really bracing for the threat of potentially deadly flooding that could last for days. President Trump says, he is continuing to monitor the situation from Camp David. Let's go straight to Washington and get more on the federal response

to Harvey.

CNN's White House correspondent Athena Jones is with us from the White House. Athena, what is the President doing today in terms of coordinating response efforts?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Well, the President held a conference call in the late morning with Vice President Mike Pence who was on the call by video teleconference from here at the White House from the situation room. The President at Camp David, they spoke with other cabinet officials and senior members of the administration to talk about the federal response.

We know the President according to a senior administration official who gave a readout to CNN, the President had a lot of questions on a range of issues, specifically the flooding, mass power outages from this massive and lingering storm. We know that the President has been keeping up to date or kept up-to-date on all the developments with the storm since last night.

The chief-of-staff John Kelly providing multiple updates last night. Also this morning heading in to this video, conference call the President had with other members of this administration.

[17:30:00] We know from the official, White House readout, the President on this call emphasizes expectations that all departments and agencies stay fully engaged and positioned to support his number one priority, saving lives -- Ana.

CABRERA: And as far as him visiting this area where the devastation is, any update on that?

JONES: No specific update in terms of an actual date on the calendar. We know that the President very much wants to be able to visit Texas. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary, said during Friday's briefing, the president would, quote, "Try to make plans to go to Texas early next week." The question is whether it will end up being early next week. Some of forecasts show the storm lingering for several days, possibly into early next week. And we know that the president, in the words of one official, wants to get to Texas ASAP, but doesn't want to in anyway get in the way of any recovery efforts, have any resources diverted to his visit that could otherwise be going to recovery and response efforts -- Ana?

CABRERA: All right. Athena Jones, thank you.

Just hours before Harvey hit, CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, wrote an op-ed saying this natural disaster will be a critical test for the administration. She wrote, "This administration is about to face a challenge from without, an act-of-God type challenge, and it will be judged on whether it has sufficiently nurtured and empowered the bureaucracy, which it has often dubbed the swamp, to allow it to do what it needs to do. That is, to support local and state planning to prepare for the storm and respond once it hits."

And Juliette Kayyem joins us now.

Juliette, you are the former assistant secretary to the Department of Homeland Security. Has this administration passed the test in this initial 24-hour period?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I really want to commend the FEMA leadership. In particular, their communications have been very strong. No one in Homeland Security, in the middle of a hurricane, which we are still in, and certainly we'll see a lot of flooding the next couple days, would say, so far, so good, especially that now that we have our first fatality.

But in terms of the surge of resources that occurred before the leaning in, FEMA's motto is "Go big, go fast, bring stuff in quickly," unlike what they did in Hurricane Katrina. You are starting to see some of the consequences of that. We still don't know the damage assessments and what the declaration process will look like to start to steer recovery dollars to Texas, in particular.

CABRERA: And you wrote that President Trump's insistence that a Mexican/U.S. border wall will be built by the U.S., not by Mexico, has meant that budget requests aimed at Homeland Security money there would go away from FEMA and local and state response plans and towards the wall construction. "So these are budget priorities that will have real world consequences," you write, "for on the ground."

What consequences do you think this could have?

KAYYEM: Well, I think these are real consequences. I'll be very blunt about it. The wall dollars have to come on from somewhere. And some of the budget requests they are coming from parts of the Department of Homeland Security that simply cannot -- just couldn't survive without them. FEMA and preparedness and responses aren't as politically galvanizing as a wall or immigration enforcement. But it's on days like that when I realize that it's called the rainy day fund for a reason. You do it because you know that there, by for the grace of God, go I, if it's Texas or New York or Boston where I am. And so I think we need to focus on what parts of the department and our responsibility apparatus are being impacted by the focus of the wall for getting outside the politics and realize that we do need to invest in response and resiliency capabilities as well as helping a state like Texas. You will see Texas is a red state, it has two Republican Senators who have in the past been opposed to disaster funding and emergency disaster funding. They are now for it. And that is because it sometimes takes a tragedy coming to your hometown to see the benefits of a rainy day fund.

CABRERA: The test continues as we speak.

Juliette Kayyem, thank you so much.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

[17:34:23] CABRERA: Coming up, Harvey becomes deadly after the first fatality is reported in Rockport, Texas. We'll go live to Victoria where fears of devastation are rising. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: We're continuing to follow breaking news. Harvey downgraded to a tropical storm with sustained winds of about 70 miles per hour. And we know at least one person has died. At least 12 to 14 other people are injured. Tornado watches are still in effect. Nearly 300,000 are without power. And Harvey is not letting up. And the mayor of Rockport telling CNN that there is widespread devastation.

And we are told President Trump had an update on Harvey and had a lot of questions about flooding and mass power outages.

And let's take you to the town of Victoria, Texas, where we are seeing signs of flooding. Authorities there say most Victoria residents refused to evacuate before the hurricane hit earlier this morning, ignoring the dire warnings from local officials. And now floodwaters are saturating the town about 20 miles from the Texas coast.

Let's get right to Derek Van Dam in Victoria.

Derek, tell us about what you are se seeing and experiencing right now.

[17:39:44] DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we are in Victoria. The first thing that happened to me as soon as I got to this location about 10 minutes ago, the door flew open on my vehicle, my hat flew off, and we knew we were in a strong feeder band. We have seen minor structural damage and power lines and tree limbs that have come down. But now we're seeing rain maybe two inches an hour. We will start to see the flooding ramp up and it will be quite significant. We've been talking about how the storm will set up shop. It will hover in the same location for days on end. Here is one of the feeder bands right now. I would say anywhere between 45 to 50- mile-per-hour wind gusts at the moment. So getting up to tropical storm-force winds. And you can just tell that we are still in the brunt of the storm. It is not over. And we will continue to monitor the damage potential across this location. We're about 10 miles away from the city, from the coast right now, as we speak -- Ana?

CABRERA: All right. Derek Van Dam reporting, be careful, stay safe. Thank you for that update.

And President Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the controversial sheriff. Ahead, we'll speak with Arpaio's attorney.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:45:36] CABRERA: As Hurricane Harvey slammed the coastline, the White House dropped some major news that President Trump had pardoned Sheriff Arpaio. It's a controversial move that the White House apparently hoped a category 4 storm might overshadow. Here's why. As the self-proclaimed world's toughest sheriff, Arpaio became the face of the immigration crackdown. In 2011, as part of a racial profiling lawsuit, a U.S. district judge ordered Arpaio to stop detaining Latinos simply because he believed they were in the country illegally. Arpaio refused to comply with that order. And he told TV reporters that he would, quote, "Never give in to control by the federal government." And so, last month, the 85-year-old was convicted of criminal contempt for refusing to obey the court's order.

And I'm joined now by Jack Wilenchik, Mr. Arpaio's attorney.

Jack, thanks to joining us.

A number of Republicans are slamming the president's decision to pardon your client. Senator John McCain says, quote, "It undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law, as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions." Republican Congressman Justin Amash writing, quote, "Arpaio was convicted of defying court order to stop defying the Fourth Amendment."

What is your reaction?

JACK WILENCHIK, ATTORNEY TO FORMER SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO: Well, you know, it's people like that and anybody who questions this pardon, I'd like them to actually study the case and understand what it was about. One of the big problems is that we never got a jury, which is something we asked for multiple times. To people like that I say, I would have loved to have you on a jury because you would have seen.

This order was very technical. It was nothing to do with race or Latinos. It was a very technical order that said that the sheriff's office is not a federal immigration agency and, therefore, they cannot enforce federal immigration law. So what happened here was everyone at the sheriff's office did not understand the order, because they looked at it and said, surely we can keep cooperating with the feds. It is a common practice across the country. That is what Sheriff Joe was convicted for. It was not for violating civil rights. It was for a very technical violation of a very ambiguous and hard to understand order.

CABRERA: And I'm being told, as we've been talking, Speaker Ryan, Paul Ryan, is publicly criticizing this pardon. Here's what his spokesman tells the "Wall Street Journal," quote, "The speaker does not agree with the decision. Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not believe that that responsibility is diminished by this pardon."

So just to be clear, the speaker is wrong here?

WILENCHIK: The speaker is wrong here. And this is why, when politics tries to mix with the courts, it's very tough. But at the end of the day here, the president did the right thing because there should have been a jury in this case from day one. And at this point the appeal -- in fact, the sheriff is an old man. He's 85. And this would be a lot more money and wasted time all around. So I would have rather seen us go to jury in the first place, but now we're dealing with a wrongful verdict. An old man who can't deal with a lot more of this. So the speaker --


WILENCHIK: So I invite all these -- go ahead.

CABRERA: Let me ask you, though, because you talked about the rule of law and the way the system is supposed to work, does Sheriff Joe Arpaio believe in this country's judicial system?

WILENCHIK: He does. And frankly, he's been mistreated by it. I don't believe he got a fair trial.

CABRERA: If he believes in the system, though -- he got the trial. He was convicted by the system in a criminal contempt.

WILENCHIK: The president is actually pardoned that. The system pardons are a part of that system.

CABRERA: I'm not arguing that. But you're saying the system was not fair.

WILENCHIK: The system was not fair, so the pardon was a fair thing do.


CABRERA: And Sheriff Arpaio tweeted after this, and I want to ask you about this. He said, quote, "Thank you @realdonaldtrump for seeing it as a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama Justice Department."

Does he know the judge who order him stop facial profiling was appointed by President Bush?

WILENCHIK: The judge he's referring to was the judge in the criminal contempt trial, which is a separate thing. The judge in his criminal contempt trial was a Clinton appointee. And I won't say that is what colored her opinion. I think it was more an issue of the court trying to vindicate the court at the expense of the truth.


[17:50:14] CABRERA: He's saying it was about politics, though, with the statement that your client made. But you're telling me that politics were part of the pardon as well? So can you have it both ways?

WILENCHIK: You can. You know what, I think it's a fitting thing, it really is. This case started with politics. As I said earlier, it's about an order. The order caused when the Obama administration revoked the authority, and that's what started all of this. It was a very political decision to stop the sheriff's office. That led to the order that he was accused of violating. So for the next president, the current president, stepped in, and undo that episode, so to speak, with the conviction, and there's a fitting appropriateness to it because it started -- this whole case started with a political act. CABRERA: Do you think that this pardon had something to do with Joe

Arpaio's loyalty? Pardoned for being loyal to the president?

WILENCHIK: It's complicated question. At the end of the day here, Joe wouldn't have been prosecuted if not for his politics. So it follows this whole case. To answer the question, we all know that, you know, they like each other and like each other's politics, just like we know the Obama administration did not like the sheriff's politics. So it's very hard to separate politics from the space. It's been a problem since day one. That's why you ask for a jury to get to the bottom of the truth here and try to get an independent version.

CABRERA: CNN spoke with Daniel Montless (ph), a key witness in the federal civil rights lawsuit against Arpaio. First, background to the viewers. He and his late wife were pulled over by a Maricopa County sheriff's deputy back in 2009 without probable cause. They were searched. They were asked for proof of citizenship, even though his wife was born in Arizona, and he was a naturalized citizen for 50 years. And he said, quote, "This, I am experiencing anger, disbelief, disappointment. To me, one criminal, one racist pardoning another one. They are all the same. Trump and Arpaio are the same. This is a low point of my emotional roller coaster."

I know that you are -- it's your job to defend your client, Sheriff Arpaio. But can you understand, perhaps, why victims of Arpaio's racial profiling feel this way?

WILENCHIK: The answer I have for them is, of course, the criminal case doesn't have to do with race. But the answer I have for them is don't blame --


CABRERA: It did. It had to do with race based on what he was doing, in ignoring the judge's order, had to do with race.

WILENCHIK: Not in the criminal case, but there was a separate order in 2013 that said the sheriff's office was using race as a factor. They had been trained to do by the federal government, by the way. It's part of the federal government's manual to use race as a factor. So, you know, for people like that who feel like they are wrongfully detained, law enforcement is in a tough position. You have to understand that. At the end of the day, you can blame law enforcement, you know, you can blame the large number of illegal immigrants in the country, or you can blame the law. I just felt it was fair for the law enforcement.

CABRERA: Jack Wilenchik, thank you for your time.

WILENCHIK: Thank you. Appreciate it.

CABRERA: That's this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. In a moment, we'll be back in Texas as the damage from what is now Tropical Storm Harvey mounts. But first, it's back to school time. And in classes around the country, students learn about the people who make this world better. One teacher in suburban New York developed a unique way to help students get inspired by some amazing individuals.


UNIDENTIFIED TEACHER: "CNN Heroes" is absolutely helping me to mold my little buddies in fifth grade into the type of teenagers and adults that we all want them to be.

As you're watching, think about what makes your heart feel good. Here we go.

And in our classroom, it always starts with the "CNN Heroes" segment. So we watch it and then we have a great discussion. When the Skype call goes through --


UNIDENTIFIED TEACHER: It never gets old.

"CNN Heroes" makes me a better teacher because I know that they are giving us the most invaluable lessons that you would want any kid to have.


[17:54:27] CABRERA: To see more of "CNN Heroes," go to CNN And while there, nominate someone you think should be a 2017 "CNN Hero."

We're back after this.


CABRERA: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.

Right now, millions of people in Texas brace for potentially catastrophic flooding. The state is reeling from the nation's most powerful hurricane in 12 years. Harvey is now a tropical storm, turning inland and lurking dangerously close to the flood-prone city of Houston.

This is dramatic new video. A pair of Texans named Doug and Penny Williamson, shot this video from their home where they are currently hunkered down. Authorities closed all the roads leading into the town, and this is near the Williamson's family home. They have a generator running. Other families lost everything, entire homes filled with possessions. Hundreds of thousands without power. The storm snapping utility poles like toothpicks.

We have brand new reaction from the president, tweeting, "Thank you to the great volunteers helping out with Hurricane Harvey relief in Texas." Our CNN reporters are covering every angle of the disaster. Rosa

Flores is in Houston, Martin Savidge is in Rockport, Texas, and Meteorologist Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center.

Let's get started with our special coverage.

First, to Rockport, one of the areas hardest hit by those 130-mile- per-hour winds from Hurricane Harvey.