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Harvey Blamed for One Death in Texas, More Flooding Feared; WAPO: Trump Asked Sessions to Drop Arpaio Case Before Trial; Houston Braces for Even More Flooding; President Trump's News Dump During Hurricane Harvey; New Video Shows Apparent Tornado in Texas; Expectant Mother Left Stranded by Harvey. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 26, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:09] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Major breaking news from the White House tonight. "The Washington Post" is reporting that President Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions about closing the case against political ally, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the man the President pardoned last evening.

More on than in just a moment, but, first, the disaster in Texas and dire warnings of potentially historic floods in days to come. Harvey is now a tropical storm that is stalled on shore within range of the flood-prone city of Houston.

Harvey could dump up to three feet of rain in some areas before this is all over. The monster storm has already left behind a wide swath of destruction in Rockport, Texas. Some homes and businesses are just piles of debris now, and more severe weather is expected soon.

This video shows a large funnel cloud rolling through a neighborhood in Cyprus, Texas, just northwest of Houston.

We just got some new reaction from President Trump tweeting, quote, wonderful coordination between federal, state, and local governments in the great state of Texas. Teamwork. Record setting rainfall, unquote.

Now, we checked with CNN Weather Center, no rainfall record set just yet. Seventy-five percent of the rain is yet to come.

Let's get started with our special coverage of the disaster in Texas. We've been showing you the devastation out of Rockport, Texas, one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey. It's also where the state's one fatality is being blamed on the storm.

And fresh, new drone video shows just how destructive those 130 mile- an-hour winds were. In the lone star state, more than 3,000 customers are without power in Texas at this hour, many trying to pick up the pieces of their lives after this devastating storm.

Our Martin Savidge is joining us now from Rockport.

Martin, I understand you had a chance to speak with some of the victims hit hard there in Rockport.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. People actually brought up the storm, which is hard to imagine when you look at the devastation here. First of all, why in the world did they stay, and then what could it have been like? You're going to hear from them in just a moment.

Two things. There is good news to report in that we saw a large convoy now of what looks like relief efforts making their way into the community here. This is everything from National Guard troops that will be helping to secure and patrol the streets, as well as heavy earth moving equipment that will be used to move the debris out of the way to allow more rescue crews to come in.

Also at this hour, going house by house, are the first search and rescue teams. To the fatality you've talked about, there is one that is being reported. But, quite frankly, the Sheriff here in this county says he does not know if it is possible there could be more.

There was just so much devastation, and the process of searching has only just begun. Right now, they're checking up on those calls for help that came in the night, and then the lines went dead. So those are the first places they'll begin, but this time, it's been divided into a grid. They're working that through the night.

As to survivors and what you see here, here's a little more.


SAVIDGE: This is fairly typical when you have a major hurricane, just a debris field that is spread all over. And it is all over this town, but I want to show you something else over here. You got to watch your footing because there's nails.

But take a look at this. This is not so typical. The entire front of this building, sheared of completely. Now, the interior's been knocked around a lot, but much of it is still intact.

You rode it out last night here?

TIM FREIBURGER, HURRICANE HARVEY VICTIM: I did, and it was crazy. It was crazy. The wind was unbelievable.

We first -- the wind came and we were -- went upstairs -- we have a two-story home -- and just peeked out the window because you really couldn't see much below. I had everything boarded up, except the upstairs windows. I couldn't reach them.

And the fence was waving, you know, when it first started. And then it gave way. About an hour later, we heard this big thump. Well, we have a very big chimney out of brick that had fell over onto the roof and collapsed a part of the roof there. And then, 45 minutes later, the garage had lifted up and slammed against the house.

SAVIDGE: Rockport's right on the water. That's part of the reason it got so hit so hard. It's a very tourist town. You can see that the marina didn't fare well at all.

There are, what looked like, dozens, if not maybe over a hundred boats here. Looks like many of them suffered varying forms of damage, from light all the way down to a total write off.


SAVIDGE: Also pulling into town, along with that relief column came many, many buses. These are buses that are being brought in to evacuate people. There are people who are sheltering in nearby communities in various shelters that have been set-up, and then there are people who stayed in their homes last night.

But it's not possible to stay in this town now. There's just no electricity. There's no water. There's no telephone service. This town, by all modern conveniences, is essentially dead. And it's going to be weeks, if not months, to try to restore some of that service, so they're encouraging people to leave and go elsewhere, to those shelters in, say, San Antonio. Ana.

[20:05:06] CABRERA: Yes. Those pictures behind you, Martin, and what you showed us, what you walked us through, the amount of damage there, really, is pretty striking. Thank you so much for that report.

Breaking news concerning President Trump's pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. "The Washington Post" now reporting this hour that President Trump had previously asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions whether the government could drop the criminal case against Arpaio, but he was advised that it would be inappropriate.

After realizing the case would not be dropped, President Trump decided to let the case go to trial and grant Arpaio clemency if he was convicted. A White House official tells "The Washington Post," quote, we knew the President wanted to do this for some time now and had worked to prepare for whatever the moment and whenever the moment may come.

Now, when asked about the President's conversation with Sessions, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told "The Post," quote, it's only natural the President would have a discussion with administration lawyers about legal matters. This case would be no difficult.

And the paper says the Justice Department declined to comment.

CNN White House Correspondent Athena Jones is live outside the White House following this breaking news.

Athena, I know CNN is still working to confirm these details that "The Post" is reporting, but Republicans have already been very critical about this pardon. What impact might this news have?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Ana, I think this is a remarkable report by "The Washington Post." As you mentioned, we've reached out to several White House officials to get their response to this, to find out what more we can about this, but it's remarkable to see a president trying to interfere directly in a specific case.

This is not something we're used to seeing presidents do. In fact, in the past administration, if you tried to ask President Obama about a specific case, he would say that he didn't want to comment in order to avoid the appearance of politicizing what should be an impartial justice system method that is going to be carried out by the justice system.

And so that is one thing that's unusual. It's also interesting because this appears to be part of a pattern. You'll remember the now former FBI Director James Comey saying that the President, early on in his administration, had a conversation with Comey about maybe he could see a way to let the investigation into his then -- his national security adviser, Michael Flynn go.

And so this is just the latest example of the President potentially trying to interfere in order to help out an ally. And as -- so this is going to add, most likely, to the backlash that we're already seeing, as you mentioned, not just from Democrats but also from the President's fellow Republicans like the two senators, the GOP senators, from the state of Arizona who are calling this President's move, this decision, into question.

But also, just in the last couple of hours, by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who put out this statement via a spokesperson saying, 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. He went on to say, we should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.

But it also goes to show you, Ana, that this is something, as "The Post" suggests and as some of CNN's reporting has suggested, that at least the paperwork to pardon the Sheriff was drawn up recently. But this shows that the President has been thinking about this for several months now, if this report is to be believed.

He wanted to help his ally, Sheriff Arpaio, who was an early supporter of the President, an early endorser of the President, who was prominent on the campaign trail, and who also shared this with the President. Sheriff Arpaio was also a prominent proponent of the birther conspiracy that said that President Obama was not born in America.

So this is someone who has been a long-time ally of the President, someone he clearly wanted very much to help out. Now, he has done so, and we're seeing blowback and now more details emerging about how that decision came about, which is certainly to be -- to receive more criticism. Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Athena Jones at the White House for us. Thank you.

I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Michael Zeldin. He is a former federal prosecutor who has worked closely with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the past.

Michael, what are the legal implications of asking the Attorney General about dropping a federal case against a political ally?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO FBI DIRECTOR ROBERT MUELLER (via telephone): Well, so for decades, in order to prevent the appearance of political meddling in federal law enforcement, both Democrats and Republican administrations have had written policies that limit the contact of the White House with the Department of Justice.

In 2007, for example, then Attorney General Mike Mukasey issued a memorandum which said, essentially, there shouldn't be these things. You could have them around policy matters, but not on specific cases.

[20:10:02] So there's a long tradition of not doing this. And so the President doing this violates the many years of practical policy that is designed to ensure that people feel that the administration of justice is impartial from political intervention. So that's problematic.

With respect to the specifics of the pardon, there is a process in the Justice Department. There's an Office of Pardon. There's a pardon attorney in the DOJ. There are written guidelines in the Code of Federal Regulations that govern how these pardons should be issued. And none of those rules was followed.

And that creates lots of problems about why this was done and the message it sends with respect to the denigration of the seriousness of the offense that Arpaio was convicted of.

CABRERA: OK. Let me bring in Page Pate. He is a CNN legal analyst as well.

When we talk about this new reporting, Page, that the President, prior to the Sheriff Joe Arpaio, former sheriff now, being convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring and disobeying a judge's order to stop racial profiling, to stop pulling people over and detaining them simply because he believed they were undocumented immigrants, the President apparently went to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to "The Washington Post," and said please drop this case against Arpaio.

Given this reporting, if true, could it make the pardon now illegal in any way?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST (via telephone): I don't think so. The President has very broad powers when it comes to issuing pardons. And I think what he's done here, while many, I think, appropriately consider it the wrong to do given the circumstances of the conviction, the type of offense that was involved here, I think he's got a legal right to do it.

And even though he may have weighed in during the investigation, and I do agree that that violates, you know, years of both tradition and policy within the Department of Justice, it's still within his right to do it. So you can criticize it politically, you can criticize it from an ethical standpoint, but as far as legally and constitutionally, I think he has the right both to intercede and then ultimately to pardon him.

CABRERA: OK. Michael, Mueller, we know, is looking into whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired James Comey and when it came to the Russia investigation. Is it possible Mueller could be now looking into this as well?

PATE (via telephone): Well, I don't think so. I think they're --

ZELDIN (via telephone): I don't think so. It's --

PATE (via telephone): Sorry, go ahead.

ZELDIN (via telephone): I think these are unrelated matters. You know, the Deputy Attorney General is always free to expand the Mueller mandate to include something like this, but I don't think this falls within Mueller's purview.

But as was said in the outset, though, it does create the appearance of a pattern when the President, if true, ask that the Flynn matter be dropped, and now he's asking the Attorney General again a few months later that this matter be dropped.

And so I agree that he has the constitutional right to pardon. I do not believe, however, that he has the right to intervene in a specific case in order to effect a political outcome. I think that's beyond appropriate White House Department of Justice protocol.

CABRERA: Page, do you agree that this could back up --

PATE (via telephone): Well, there's a difference between --

CABRERA: Go ahead.

PATE (via telephone): No, I mean, there's a difference between what's appropriate in Justice Department protocol and what's constitutional.

I mean, I certainly agree with the idea that there are protocols and policies in place to prevent a president from weighing in politically into a decision about prosecuting someone, but the President still controls the executive branch. And so he has the ultimate authority to decide who is going to be prosecuted in federal court. So I think it's inappropriate, but I still think it's legal, and I think it's constitutional.

ZELDIN (via telephone): Well, it's could be --

CABRERA: So, Page, do you think it could back up --

ZELDIN (via telephone): It could, Page --


CABRERA: -- James Comey's story that -- let me just, sorry, get this out real fast to just -- I hear what you're saying, Page, in terms of the constitutionality.

PATE (via telephone): Right.

CABRERA: But then Michael was arguing regarding the Mueller investigation. When it comes to --

ZELDIN (via telephone): Yes.

CABRERA: -- evidence that could back up James Comey's story, that the President had asked him to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, I mean, could this be a piece of evidence, to some degree, regarding the President's pattern of intervening in an investigation perhaps?

PATE (via telephone): Absolutely. In that situation, I think it does show a pattern of conduct which somebody like Bob Mueller would be interested in because it shows or it helps him prove intent.

Because if this is the way the President handles or puts his thumb on investigations, wants to change the outcome of an investigation, wants to change who is going to be charged, what they're going to be charged with, then, although it's not within the specific directive that was given to the Special Counsel in this case, I do think it can be considered as evidence of intent.

[20:15:12] CABRERA: Michael, final thought?

ZELDIN (via telephone): No, I think that's right. I think that there is an absence of mistake or proof of motive or intent that this may relate to. I was trying to add to the question that, does this fall within his mandate?

But as a pattern of behavior, sure, I think it would be relevant to understanding whether or not Comey was being truthful about the Oval Office meeting where the Flynn case was asked to be dropped. It seems as if the President has a disregard for the traditions of communication between the White House and the Justice Department.

And I would say this one last thing, which is, while it may be constitutional, I think that if it's a corruptly undertaken act, then it may rise to be abusive. And that could give raise to articles of impeachment where one do find that.

CABRERA: All right. Michael Zeldin and Page Pate, thank you both. We really appreciate you jumping on the phone on such short notice. Much more ahead this hour.

Up next, where tropical storm Harvey is heading next. Stay with us. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[20:20:21] CABRERA: So those hurricane force winds may have passed, but, really, we're just getting into the thick of it. Eight percent of hurricane deaths are caused by the wind while 90 percent are caused by water.

And Houston is about to get dumped on. Already coping with serious flooding, more heavy rains are on the way. Officials have set up a staging area now for these emergency vehicles and crews at Darrell Tully Stadium in West Houston. That's where we find CNN's Rosa Flores.

And, Rosa, I understand there's been a little bit of action where you are? Looks like it's rainy and it's windy. It's getting kind of nasty out.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, for sure. What we're seeing is some winds coming out of the east, and you can probably see some of the rain starting to fall through. We're seeing these bands periodically here in Houston.

Now, like you mentioned, we're in West Houston, and this has turned into a staging area for first responders. You can see the ambulances there in the distance. We're expecting about 125 buses also to roll in at any moment. And those buses would be utilized for potential evacuations.

We should note that there is no evacuation in Houston. But, again, this is just the staging area for first responders. They just want to make sure that they're ready for anything that's to come.

This part of the parking lot, according to first responders, will be the staging area for all the military type vehicles. Now, we should expect those to roll in at any minute as well. And you can see that there's some fuel tankers here to my right also.

Again, they're staging this area to make sure that they have resources to deploy throughout the Houston area and to stretch all the way to Beaumont, which is east of Houston.

But, Ana, the big concern is this rain. The ground in Houston is already saturated. We've looked at the creeks, the bayous. We've driven around all over town. Those bayous are already swollen. All of this water has to go somewhere, and you can hear the thunder also.

All that water has to go somewhere. And what it does, just geographically, it rushes towards the Gulf of Mexico. And so all of these bayous that meander through the city of Houston, you know, they're -- that water has to go somewhere, and so that's the concern that a lot of people live around these bayous. These bayous swell.

There's also highways that dip and valley throughout Houston. That becomes very dangerous because, of course, and we've seen this whenever there's a storm of this magnitude, people trying to drive through water, which is extremely dangerous, which is what first responders are asking people not to do.

They're asking people to stay home. If they do see that water is rising rapidly, they're asking them to call for help. Ana.

CABRERA: All right. And 7:23 where you're at there, Rosa, it looks much later with how dark those clouds are. Thank you very much. Stay safe.

Let's check in with CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers for the latest forecast regarding Hurricane, now tropical storm, Harvey. Chad, what's next?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A flood in Houston tonight and into tomorrow morning, and I'll get to that in a second. One piece of good news that I want to show viewers is that we're losing color on the satellite. And what does that mean?

That means the clouds are not as high. The storms are not as intense. And the storm now is not even a hurricane. It's just a tropical storm, but that is some good news. That is a little bit of light on the end of the horizon here that, maybe, this will cut itself off earlier than some of the computer models have been saying.

But here is what we know in the short term. This storm has just started to move to the east, northeast, at two miles per hour. You put your treadmill on two, you're not going anywhere. That's how slow the center is moving.

But these arms, these feeder bands, and especially the one that you just heard in Rosa's live shot with the thunder, those feeder bands now are approaching Houston. Even a couple tornado warnings are just popping up there, south of Houston, and also to the west.

We will watch this because there's a tornado watch just about everywhere across that region, from Beaumont all the way back to about Katy. And Katy got hit yesterday with a small tornado. But to all the people that got hit, how small it was, and they can -- you can see the damage if you want to on there. You go online, you could see it at

Here is the rain. Heavy. That purple, already 10 inches on the ground. Already 10 inches in the rivers and in the bayous because that, already, is running off. There's no place for that 10-inch rainfall to go.

Here is what the forecast rainfall looks like tonight. I show you the radar all the time. This is what the model is predicting next hour, 8:00 local time for Houston. The rain is in Houston. Even the potential for some tornadoes in that area.

[20:25:07] Move you ahead to 4:00 a.m. The rain is still in Houston. It's also still in Beaumont.

Move you ahead to church time, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, it's still raining. Slightly to the east of Houston, but the damage will have already been done.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, I want you to part the drapes and look outside and see what it looks like in Houston where you live because this entire purple area, right there, that's 10 inches of rain in the next 18 hours and in some spots more.

That will cause flooding citywide. I don't know what part of the city yet because they don't know what big storm hits what big town, but it will be somewhere in the metro where there will be water in your neighborhoods that you want to get rid of it. You want to get away from it in the very early morning. And, you know, you're not going to get a middle of the night wakeup

call from the fire department saying getting out, water's coming. Make sure you have your app turned on your phone. You can easily download a free one. Make sure you have your weather service radio on because the flash flood issue tonight in Houston is getting graver.

CABRERA: God bless those people.


CABRERA: Chad Myers, thank you for the update.

Major breaking news from the White House tonight. We continue to follow "The Washington Post" reporting that President Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions about closing the case against political ally, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the man the President just pardoned last night. More on that in just a moment. Stay with us.


[20:30:57] CABRERA: Hurricane Harvey wasn't the only thing making headlines in the past 24 hours. President Trump made a few of his own as the storm was barreling toward the Texas coast.

Last night, he pardoned controversial former Arizona sheriff, Joe Arpaio. The White House then announced that Deputy Assistant Sebastian Gorka is out.

Trump also issued a presidential directive banning transgender recruits in the military. That coming yesterday afternoon.

CNN Senior Media Reporter Oliver Darcy is joining us now.

So, Oliver, do you see this as just a typical Friday night news dump by an administration, or is it different this time because of the timing regarding Hurricane Harvey and then throwing this out when the biggest storm --


CABRERA: -- in time last decade was barreling toward the U.S.?

DARCY: Yes. Usually when administrations want to get news -- you know, negative news or critical news out, they do so on holiday weekends, you know, before the Fourth of July or whatever it may be.

But it seems like this -- in this case, they took advantage of news networkers focusing on, you know, this huge storm barreling toward Texas, and they knew that we would have to devote most of our time to covering it. And so they, you know, issued this directive banning transgender individuals from the military. Then they noted that Joe Arpaio had been pardoned. And then they noted that Sebastian Gorka was gone.

And so they knew we could not cover all this news at once, in addition to a large hurricane. And so it seems sort of like a deliberate strategy here.

CABRERA: But this news is going to out at some point, I mean, even if it wasn't on Friday night during the hurricane barreling toward us. It's going to get out anyway eventually?

DARCY: Right, it will get out there but each one of these stories could have been, you know, filling up an entire night or even week on cable news. And so they dropped three massive stories, knowing that most of our coverage is still going to be on the hurricane.

You know, we've been talking about the hurricane all day on CNN. And so while these stories are getting some attention, they're not getting as much attention as they would otherwise have been receiving.

CABRERA: Well, on the flip side, I talked to somebody here a little while ago who suggested that, perhaps, the President actually thought he -- these stories might get more attention by dropping them during the hurricane because eyes are going to be glued to the T.V. to see what's going on with the hurricane. That eventually this news was going to come out, it was going to bubble up, and it was going to happen during the hurricane coverage.

Could that be a possibility, that he was actually trying to call attention to these controversial moves?

DARCY: I don't -- I can't imagine that being the strategy going forward there, just because each one of these stories really deserve its own sort of news cycle.

I mean, pardoning Joe Arpaio, that -- they were still talking about it during this huge hurricane, which really shows how important of a story it is, how big of a story it is. And otherwise, this story would have been something we would have been talking about, you know, on cable news for a long time.

It would have been on the front page of every paper for maybe a couple of days. And instead, we are pulling back as we're covering the hurricane, which is something that we have to do, really, because it's so much in our public service to, you know, get -- make sure that people in these areas have information that could save lives.

CABRERA: All right. Oliver Darcy, thanks so much for giving us your take.

DARCY: Thank you.

CABRERA: Nice to see you.

[20:34:05] Now, tomorrow morning, on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," we'll have Jake Tapper. He's going to sit down with the Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, and the FEMA Director Brock Long. His show, of course, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.


CABRERA: Breaking news concerning President Trump's pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight this. President Trump had previously asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions whether the government could drop the criminal case against Arpaio but was advised, apparently, that it would be inappropriate.

And after realizing the case wouldn't be dropped, President Trump decided to let the case go to trial and grant Arpaio clemency if he was convicted. The White House official tells "The Post," quote, we knew the President wanted to do this for some time and had worked to prepare for whenever the moment may come.

Now, when asked about the President's conversation with Sessions, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told "The Washington Post," quote, it's only natural that the President would have a discussion with administration lawyers about legal matters. This case would be no different.

Now, the papers says the Justice Department declined to comment.

I want to talk it over with a couple of men who both voted for President Trump. Julius Krein, the founder and editor of "American Affairs" journal. He is now disillusioned with the President. And Gary Abernathy, the publisher and editor of Ohio's "Hillsboro Times Gazette," who says he likes what the President is doing.

So, Gary, I'll start with you and just get your reaction to this news of, first, the President's decision to pardon Arpaio.

GARY ABERNATHY, PUBLISHER EDITOR, THE TIMES GAZETTE: Well, honestly, I mean, I think it's -- I understand it's a controversial decision. As I understand it, the Sheriff was up on a misdemeanor charge. He was facing six months in jail.

[20:39:59] Frankly, to me, it doesn't rise to the level of the controversies that arose when President Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, a big campaign donor, or President Obama's pardoning of Chelsea Manning.

But, you know, I understand that it's -- a lot of presidential pardons are controversial, and this will be also.

CABRERA: So, Gary, let me just throw this at you real fast. The ACLU had called this pardoning move a presidential endorsement of racism.


CABRERA: Your thoughts?

ABERNATHY: Well, you know, racism is the popular charge. I mean, to me, and I wrote an -- I wrote this in a column for "The Washington Post" recently which has graciously invited me to write a number of columns.

You know, we've expanded the definition of racism, or to use the word to accuse someone of being racist to cover everything that people don't like about someone. I think it's a shame that we throw that word around so much because, you know, it's a conversation ender when, really, we need to have more of an honest conversation about race in this country without that word being thrown out immediately.

CABRERA: Well, that word wasn't just thrown out. The race played a very key role in terms of why the Sheriff was convicted of criminal contempt because it was specifically --

ABERNATHY: Race -- I -- Ana, I agree race played --

CABRERA: -- dealing with racial profiling. But, Julius, "The Washington Post" now reporting that the President asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions about dropping the case against Arpaio. This is obviously prior to the pardon and prior to it even going to trial.

Julius, it's similar to what fired FBI Director James Comey complained about when he said he was asked to back off Michael Flynn. I know you voted for President Trump. Are these the moments that upset you?

JULIES KREIN, EDITOR, AMERICAN AFFAIRS: Yes. I think it's fair to say that they are. And I'm not an attorney and I can't comment on any of the facts of the case, but, yes, it's one of the most divisive, inflammatory actions that can be taken.

And I think it will probably make longer-term, more substantive immigration reform even more difficult. And it was always going to be difficult, but now, I would say it's impossible given the administration's antics. And it seems like a case of red meat to his base in order to cover up a much larger failure.

CABRERA: Gary, you mentioned in your "Washington Post" column that you wrote earlier this month -- and I want to read just a quick quote from it. You say, I like that Trump is a game changer, a disrupter, a practitioner of what I see as crafted chaos. Our stale system and its corrupted processes are in need of disruption.

And last night was certainly a classic example of all of that. He signed that order to move forward with the military transgender ban. He pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Another one of the White House advisers got the boot. And all while a Category 4 hurricane was barreling toward the U.S. Do you support all of that?

ABERNATHY: No, I don't. You know, first of all, I don't spend a lot of time, if you actually read my columns, defending President Trump. I spend more time defending people who voted for him and who continue to support him.

But, you know, when I talk about his crafted chaos, you know, I think President Trump does seem to operate from a position of the only thing worse than people talking about you is people not talking about you.

And so he sends out, you know, all sorts of (INAUDIBLE) -- he releases a bird that way and a squirrel that way, and I think he gets a kick out of watching the media chase all these things down and constantly change the subject. I don't know if it's a strategy that works in the long run, but it is certainly different. It's certainly a disruption.

And, you know, I read earlier today someone talking about how, you know, after seven months, they had given up on, maybe it was your other guests, expecting Trump to change.

I think this kind of disruption is going to go on for a year or two because you've got the establishment Republicans, establishment Democrats, and establishment national media who are going to fight tooth and nail against Donald Trump because he's not part of the establishment. He's not part of them. So I think it's actually very early in the process.

CABRERA: Julius, I actually want to read part of your op-ed because you wrote, I voted for Trump and I sorely regret it. And I quote, not only has the President failed to make the course corrections necessary to save his administration, but his increasingly appalling conduct will continue to repel anyone who might once have been inclined to work with him.

Julius, did you think the President's conduct would dramatically change or the way he operated would change once he moved into the White House?

KREIN: I didn't think it would dramatically change, but I guess I didn't think it would change dramatically for the worse. And that's what happened.

And, you know, disruption and the media provocation, I think that did work to a large extent as a candidate, but he's not a candidate anymore. He is the President. And he needs to get things done and accomplish things (INAUDIBLE) to achieve the sort of the change that people want. And he's doing the exact opposite of that.

[20:44:58] CABRERA: Let's take a look the latest poll numbers because the polls are going the wrong direction if you are the President and his supporters. His approval rating right now is just 34 percent.

Gary, is this the case of the President being misunderstood, do you think, or is he really just simply not listening to and executing based on what the majority of Americans want?

ABERNATHY: Well, I think he understands -- and that's a good question, Ana. I think he understands, and a lot of people in politics understand, approval ratings during your first year aren't as important as the approval ratings in your fourth year.

And I think you know -- again, the poll you're citing, there's other polls showing him still at 40 or even 42 percent, but that's not the same as a re-election poll. You know, that's just Trump alone.

I think that -- and I think the poll numbers are a little low. I think the same phenomenon exists that existed in the campaign. A lot of people who support Trump don't say so to pollsters but it not unpopular.

But it's really amazing to me that he has even that kind of an approval rating with the constant beating that he takes from the national media, frankly.

CABRERA: Gentlemen, thank you both so much for your time tonight. I really do appreciate it.

ABERNATHY: Thank you. Appreciate you.

KREIN: Thank you.

CABRERA: We're back in a moment.


[20:50:42] CABRERA: Welcome back. We continue to follow our breaking news, tropical storm Harvey. And we have dramatic video showing an apparent tornado near Houston.

This is a massive funnel cloud rolling through a neighborhood in Cyprus, just northwest of the city. We don't have a sense of exactly how much damage this storm may have caused just yet, but the local news outlets are saying there appears to be at least some damage to homes in this area.

Our teams on the ground continue to dig for some new information on that. Meantime, let's bring in CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers in the weather center.

Give us the latest, Chad. You've talked about the threat of tornadoes among other threats out there.

MYERS: Absolutely. An enhanced tornado threat, I would say, for the next three to four hours over Houston proper because of that little flare-up of red and purple there. It's a feeder band of the storm still. A feeder band because it's not that far from the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.

That gulf is very warm, 84, 85 degrees, even after the storm went over it. Before the storm went by, using up some of the energy, that water was 86 degrees. Now, it's dying, although not quickly enough for the people of Texas. Not moving very much either. East-northeast at two miles per hour, but we expected that.

We knew this storm was going to stall. That was where all the alarm flags went up. By now this storm should be in Arkansas. It should be gone. The westerly winds should have picked it up and moved it away, but that didn't happen.

And that's why we still have this significant threat of big weather tonight, the tornadoes, not that far west of Houston. Also, though, the significant threat of flooding because the ground is already wet from the 24 hours almost now of rainfall, and it's still raining.

The threat tonight, still of tornadoes. Tornado watch in effect pretty much all night long for Houston. But the real threat, I think, is where it has already rained, five to six inches. Up here in the purple, that's over 10.

But what's going to happen tonight, that feeder band is going to sit right over Houston. Whether it's Sugar Land or Katy or Pasadena or Houston proper, no one knows. I mean, this is still 18 hours away from by the time you wake up tomorrow to where the real flooding is occur.

But this is what the radar is going to look like now in about 15 or 20 minutes. And then tonight, it's going to continue to spin. And see this feeder band right through here? Here's Houston, here's Beaumont, Port Arthur, Lake Charles. There could even be some tornados in parts of Louisiana tonight as some of these storms roll on shore.

Now, they're waterspout type tornadoes, EF0s, EF1s, 100, 105, 110 miles per hour. Not maxi tornadoes that happen in Oklahoma and Texas during the spring. These are storms that roll off the ocean. They're spinning already because the whole thing is spinning, they hit land, and then they decide to put down a tornado.

It's happened already today. We showed you the pictures there. It will happen again tonight.

Now, get real close to your T.V. set and focus on this because this is what scares me for tonight. This is what scares me for Houston tonight. See this purple area here, all the way up Beaumont, too. Two pieces right there.

That purple is 10 inches of rain in the next 16 hours. There's no place in America that can take 10 inches of rain in 16 hours. That's the real risk of flooding tonight.

And if this is over the western part of the state, we say, OK, yes, there will be flash flooding. You put this over a major city, all of a sudden, that's big-time flash flooding.

There's so much concrete, it's not going to soak in. The ground is already wet. That's not going to soak in. All of this is going to run off.

CABRERA: It does not sound good.


CABRERA: Chad Myers, thank you for the update.

MYERS: Sure.

CABRERA: Now, the storm has already left scores of people in limbo, many in pretty desperate situations. Expectant mother, Danielle Weeks, she's among them. She was forced to evacuate from her Port Aransas home and is scheduled to have a C-section on Tuesday, but she is currently trapped in a hotel room right now in Corpus Christi. I spoke with her last hour.


CABRERA: What have the past 24 hours or so been like for you?

DANIELLE WEEKS, HURRICANE HARVEY VICTIM (via telephone): Pretty stressful, just nerve-racking wondering if the hospital is going to be able to do the C-section on Tuesday, where we're going to go after we get out of the hospital, stuff like that. CABRERA: Do you have a backup plan right now?

[20:55:02] WEEKS (via telephone): Well, after the C-section, we can always go back to where our family is, and we can wait until we can figure out the damages and how we're going to get everything fixed and sort everything out. But as of right now, we'll be in the -- we'll be in this hotel until we can have the baby.

CABRERA: Do you know how your home is doing, how -- if it survived without damage?

WEEKS (via telephone): No, we do not know. We've seen pictures of like around the area, and a lot of the RVs and stuff, which is what we live in, are on their side. They're tore apart. So we're just waiting until they give the OK to go back to Port Aransas to go assess the damages.


CABRERA: My thoughts, my prayers, are with all of you tonight in Texas. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

That's going to do it for me. My colleague, Brooke Baldwin, is going to take it from here. Much more of our special breaking news. Live coverage continues in just a moment.