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Harvey Regaining Strength, Poised To Strike Houston Second Time, Countless Still Stranded; Thousands of Water Rescues In Houston; Trump Defends Pardon of Arpaio. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 28, 2017 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And that was Salvador (ph) and a wonderful story with a happy ending. Thanks to all of you for joining us. "AC 360" starts right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The killer storm named Harvey regaining strength, ready to deal the Houston area another blow, as well as the Louisiana Gulf Coast and now perhaps new Orleans. Good evening, everyone, John Berman here in for Anderson.

The water is still rising in and around Houston. These are live pictures you're looking at right now of rescues going on. This is from our local affiliate, KTRK. This is in Northeast Houston neighborhood completely inundated. We've been watching this for a few minutes.

You can see people right there with a stroller carried out of the water there. We've also seen people carrying elderly. We've seen airboats, jet skis, motor boats, 18 wheelers covered past the windows. This is really a remarkable sight in this area. We understand -- we understand what this is, is people leaving, walking off a nearby interstate.

I think we have a wide shot from moments ago where you can see the scope of what this is. There's a wider shot of what's going on right now. And, again, the airboat driving past there, we also have a motor boat, jet skis there. And right in the middle, an 18-wheeler just covered.

And then there's the people trying to walk through this, trying to get to safety, trying to help each other out. And you can only imagine this scene is being played out across the Houston area right now.

The rain is still falling. According to National Hurricane Center, the storm could dump nearly two more feet of rain in the Houston area and up to 50 inches total in some places. Two reservoirs there are in danger.

Look at that right there. We're seeing an elderly couple right now being guided out of this situation. So many people there, you know, we don't know if those are government officials there helping or just good Samaritans, neighbors trying to help neighbors get through this, which is happening again all over the area right now. There is so much need. Sometimes people can't wait for the official help, and they need to get the help wherever they can. Look at that right there.

As we speak, the storm is gathering strength over the Gulf of Mexico. It is threatening still more destruction. President Trump travels to the region tomorrow, also perhaps on Saturday. He spoke about the crisis tonight. We're going to cover it all again as we watch rescues happen before our very eyes on this city, this mini city covered in water.

Just look at the scope of that, as far as the eye can see, people on the water, people trying to get out of the water in every imaginable craft available. This is Houston, the fourth largest city in America tonight with more rain in the forecast.

Let's get to Gary Tuchman right now, who is in Houston to give us a sense of what he's seeing. Gary?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, it is relentless. Much of Houston, Texas, the metropolitan area, the fifth largest metropolitan area in the country, the fourth largest city is under water. And driving around here is a dangerous crap shoot, especially when it gets dark out.

The top priority right now in the Houston area is finding people who are still trapped inside their homes. We spent part of the day today with the Urban Search and Rescue Team, team members from Nebraska and Ohio, who actually went to a nursing home looking for people there. And we'll have that story for you, John, shortly.

BERMAN: All right, Gary Tuchman for us right now in Houston -- in Katy nearby Houston.

I have a little more information about this picture you're looking at right now. This is near an overpass at the Beltway and Tidwell in Northeast Houston. Again, you can see just dozens of rescues before our eyes taking place. There are clearly people in need. There are also clearly people waiting through.

I see people carrying trash bags right there, filled with whatever they could get from their homes or their cars, which they could have been escaping, as well. So many people trapped in their cars, having to leave their cars behind. One thing you will hear again and again from the officials is do not try to drive in this situation, in this mess you're looking at right now.

There was an 18 wheeler submerged past it wheels. That couldn't get through. So believe me, your sedan is not going to make it through that either. Again, just so much to look at right here, so much need across that state.

If we can, I want to go to CNN's Brian Todd, who has been out with the rescuers all day. Brian, give us a sense of what you saw today and what difficulties are facing the rescue teams.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, John. We just a short time ago returned from some of those scenes that you're seeing in that very neighborhood that you're looking at in Northeast Houston. [20:05:06] We were out in a place called Lakewood, a very poor neighborhood of Houston, a lot of one-story homes and a lot of those home were up past the windows in water. We went with some rescuers and a private rescue team manning their own boat, who ventured out there this morning and they got to some people really without much time to spare.


TODD (voice-over): Marilyn Rice (ph) and her daughter, Lisa (ph), said overnight the waters in their house rose and rose.

MARILYN RICE, RESIDENT: Everything started floating and we picked up where we could to try to save it, but it did do no good because the water just been took over everything.

TODD: They were up all night and were huddled on the hood of their car until they were rescued by good Samaritans.

TODD (on camera): What do you say to these gentlemen here?

RICE: I thank God for these gentlemen.

TODD (voice-over): Another resident, Beverly Johnson (ph) was waiting on her car since last night when it was too dark for rescue teams to see.

TODD (on camera): The rescuer leading this team, Seth Roberts, said he came to this neighborhood last night and tried to find people, try to get people out of their homes. He said it got pitch black. He couldn't find anyone to rescue because he couldn't see anything. These people have been waiting on their cars since last night and Seth and his team finally got to them.


TODD: Just corresponded with the leader of that rescue team, Seth, who just told me that he estimates he's pulled probably hundreds of people from their homes.

And, John, here's another thing that rescuers are telling people and officials here are telling people who need rescuing, and there could be tens of thousands of them who still need rescuing.

They're saying put a large towel, hang it from your window if you call in to be rescued. Make sure you identify your house that way. Hang a large towel from your windows so that rescuers can know that that's a house to go to, because addresses in these conditions were almost impossible to read and identify. John?

BERMAN: Hang a towel in your window so rescuers know you are in need. Brian Todd for us in Houston.

Again, what you're looking at on your screen right now is an area in Northeast Houston, near the Beltway and Tidwell. This roadway, which is covered by water right now, has turned into the scene where dozens of rescues are happening before our eyes.

You can see the people there in the fluorescent yellow jackets treating someone in that boat in a blue jacket. And now our affiliate, KTRK, is pulling out. Moments ago, we saw, you know, an older woman with two canes trying to walk through that street.

We've also seen so many boats now. They're wiping the lens now because it's still raining with more rain to come in there. There at the bottom of your screen, again, you see people walking out of the water carrying what they can, in cases, in paper bags and plastic bags.

And then at the back after the cameraman puts a lens on, you can also see, again, an 18-wheeler just covered, covered by the water there. We'll go back to that picture when our affiliate gets it back up.

If can, I want to go to Meteorologist Tom Sater. He joins us from the weather center in Atlanta. And, Tom, this storm is not done yet. What's in storm for tonight?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, I think, John, in the overnight period last night we reached the halfway point. I know we would like to hear it move a little bit faster, but since you could have out walked this system, we're watching more rainfall, maybe 10, 15 more inches for Houston area.

Let's not forget about Rockport. They will be without electricity for weeks. That was the landfall. That was the first edge of the sword. Computer models hinting that it would stall and it dropped, of course, two to three feet, we've got more coming.

But they also hinted those that it would come back offshore and that's exactly what has happened now. It's like taking a can of engine starter and shooting it right in the carburetor so it's going to gain some strength, unfortunately.

We're already seen nearly 40 inches. Can you imagine in Harris County another 10 to 15? But the center is overland now, so it's going to start siphoning more water and that's creating more rain in the Houston area and southward.

But now the threat has extended toward the east, where we've got already seen some rainfall in the New Orleans area. They could see another four to six overnight. But at least we're starting to see gaps in the time period and that means maybe after a secondary landfall, Wednesday morning, it start to pick up in speed, but the damage is going to be done.

We're looking at tremendous amounts of rain in Eastern Texas and all over Louisiana. We may have 10-inch totals reaching Central Arkansas and then into, of course, the Mississippi River Valley up into Southeast Missouri.

But, again, the threat for tornadoes is still with the parts of Louisiana. Those are the feeder bands that dropped to heavy rain Saturday into Houston. In fact, the records in Houston go back to 1930. The two rainiest days in the record books, Saturday and Sunday.

The threat for aid is going to be now needed and they're going to have to span their research efforts and rescue efforts to the North of Houston and toward the East. So a lot more rainfall with over two feet of rain, plus in these areas coming.

BERMAN: And, Tom, I don't want to diminish the threat to New Orleans unlike Charleston (ph) area as the storm moves east, but you said 10 to 15 more inches of rain in and around Houston.

We're looking at live pictures right now of rescues going on in Houston. Rescues right now before another 10 to 15 additional inches of rain, what is that going to mean for these inundated areas, these streets we're looking at right now?

[20:10:10] SATER: Well, the water levels that may have tried to recede somewhat are going to come back. There's no doubt. And I hate to tell you the story, but at Jefferson County, that's on the border of Louisiana, there is an alligator adventure park that's called Gator Country.

The owner is fearing right now after he built a certified high fence that the waters are rising so high that it only has to go about another eight inches, and that's the overnight rainfall, that 350 alligators are going to be able to swim over and roam free. He was able to capture the poisonous and venomous snakes, but he's not sure what to do with that. That's in Jefferson County. They're under an emergency right now.

BERMAN: All right, Tom Sater for us at the weather center.

Again, you're looking at live pictures from this neighborhood in Northeast Houston. This is intersection of Beltway and Tidwell where we've just been watching one rescue after another. Again, people being guided out trying to walk through, wade through this water, which is, you know, knee deep there, but up to people's waist behind them all.

And we've seen so many people guided out, first carted out in boats if they can't walk. And then, you know, walked hand in hand through this. You know, (INAUDIBLE) what we know is where they're going next, because so many areas in the city covered in water. There are shelters. Thousands of people are now housed in those shelters. Again, we're going to keep our eye on this scene as the minutes continue here to make sure that these people are taken care of.

The Houston mayor has been at the center of the storm, in more ways than one. First, in leading the local rescue and relief effort. Second, in taking criticism for not ordering Houstonians to leave. I spoke with him about this just before air.


BERMAN: Mayor Turner, do you have any idea how many people are still stranded in their homes right now, how many need to be rescued? MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER, HOUSTON: We don't know the exact amount, but today, we are focusing solely on rescuing individuals who still may be in their homes or in their apartments. So that is our total canvassing effort for today, is to get them off from roofs, get them from their attics, get them from their homes. I do know that at this point we are sheltering public close to about 8,000 individuals. And I suspect that number will grow.

BERMAN: 8,000 individuals and growing in the shelters. Do you think you're dealing with dozens of people still that need to be rescued or hundreds?

TURNER: I'm hoping we -- at maximum, I'm hoping we're dealing with a few hundred, if not less. That's my hope. But quite frankly, for me it doesn't matter what if -- if it's just one person, we'll be looking for that one person. But the first responders have been doing an excellent job at reaching out, and we are canvassing the entire city, looking for people who are still in need of assistance.

BERMAN: You also know that there have been those around the country and in the city asking about the decision not to issue any evacuation order in Houston. Had you known that as much rain was going to fall, had you known that these floods were going to be as bad as they are right now? Do you feel like evacuations would have been warranted?

TURNER: No, and let me tell you why. There are 2.3 million in the City of Houston. There are about 4 million people in the county. You're talking about a population of about 6.5 million people. You can't evacuate 6.5 million people and put them on the road in two or three days prior to a storm. You simply cannot do it.

We were not in the direct path of the hurricane. We're dealing with the rain. It was always going to be a rainmaker for the City of Houston and Harris County. Both the county (INAUDIBLE) and I, we talked about it few several years ago. When the city did evacuate, more than 100 people lost their lives on the street.

You had people who were stranded, people who were in their cars from eight to 10 hours just going to Austin. It would have been chaotic and more dangerous to put people on the road. And then the people would have left but they were going to come back to the city of Houston. If people were trying to come back into the city now when the roads were impassable, it would have been a far worse situation.

There is no doubt in my mind that we made the right decision to prepare for it, for people to shelter in place, and now we are going to take care of Houstonians. We are doing that now. We're at (INAUDIBLE) around convention center. It's one of our shelters where we used to host, where we host conventions and conferences. Now we are hosting Houstonians.

We are going to take care of every single Houstonian who is in need that are right here in the city and we're going to meet their needs. I have no regrets at all for the decision that we made in having people to shelter in place. BERMAN: What is your message to Houstonians tonight as they face another tough night of rain ahead? What do you want people in their homes right now sheltering in place to know?

[20:15:04] TURNER: Well, the point is, if they're sheltering in place and they're in need, we will be there for them. We are not going to stop until we reach every single person who is in their home and needs to come out of their home.

And I cannot say enough for the first responders who are doing an exemplary job of reaching out. What I would say as well is that this is a city where we pull together, we work together, then now with the language of religion we got ethnicity (ph), we work together, we band together as one. That's being demonstrated now. That will be demonstrated in the years to come.

So I'm very, very proud of the people in this city, citizens, good Samaritans, neighbors, the business community, the nonprofits. I'm very, very proud of how we could come together.

No one is asking whether you're a Democrat or Republican. No one is asking whether you're here legally or not legally. No one is asking about your partisan or your social economic status. If you are in need, in this city, we band together, work together to give you the assistance you need to get back on your feet and that's exactly what's happening right here. The volunteers are simply incredible. And as the mayor state of Houston, I could not be more proud.

BERMAN: Mr. Mayor, you and your people an example right now, I think for the rest of the country. We wish you the best heading into tonight.

TURNER: Thank you. Thank you. Come and visit us. I think you'll be impress.

BERMAN: We'll be down there soon, Mayor. Thank you.


BERMAN: All right. That's Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston right now. The mayor telling me some 8,000 people are in shelters, also saying he thinks the need for rescues is somewhere in the hundreds. I have to say, that number seemed low looking at the pictures we're looking at right now.

Again, these are live pictures from the northeastern part of the city, Beltway and Tidwell for those who are familiar with the Houston area. And we've been looking at this. I even don't know how to describe it. It sort of like this inland sea right now in Houston right now with boats and people wading through and vehicles stopped.

It appears we've seen dozens of rescues before our very eyes. That's why when you hear the mayor say hundreds still in need, that seems low from what we're seeing. We're going to keep our eye on this. Tough, tough night in Houston as you can see. We'll continue to update you on the search and rescue efforts throughout the area. And later, the President's thoughts on the storm and his defense in this controversial comment of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which happen just as Harvey hit.


[20:21:15] BERMAN: I want to take you back now to Northeast Houston. It's hard to find words what we've been watching here. Dozens, if not hundreds of people being helped to safety, in a street covered in fast-moving water. And we have to say, it is getting dark right now.

Well, remember, it's very hard for these boats, which have save so many people to be out there after dark, keep that mind. There's clearly so much need still. I want to get back to "360's" Gary Tuchman who is in the Houston suburb of Katy. Gary, give us a sense of what you're seeing.

TUCHMAN: John, on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and now Monday, a fourth terrifying night for so many Texans still trapped in their homes surrounded by water. Today, we spent the day with some FEMA workers from Nebraska and Ohio rescuers who went to get people out of a nursing home surrounded by water.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Flood water encircled the Heritage Park Nursing Home in Katy, Texas, just outside of Houston, and inside, more than 80 seniors in their 70s, 80s, 90s. Some frightened, some confused, all thankful help has arrived.

The rescue workers beginning the work at getting them out of the nursing home one by one and in continuing gale force winds and driving rain gently bringing them on board military trucks in order to get them out of the flood zone.

DR. NICHOLAS KMAN, FEMA OHIO TASK FORCE MEDICAL MANAGER: You could tell some of them are very upset. And so that makes us upset, you know. But I think all we can do is do the best thing for the patient, try to comfort them, let them know it's going to be OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I got the ball.

TUCHMAN: Many of the residents are bedridden and not in good medical condition. Doctors perform checkups before they take those residents out to the trucks.

TUCHMAN (on camera): This rescue is being done with love, but also a sense of expediency. The current is getting stronger. The water is getting higher. This people need to be out of the nursing home as soon as possible.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The nursing home residents board the truck, sitting side by side, getting ready for their exodus.

KMAN: They'll transported to the central location at (INAUDIBLE), from there, we're sending them all to separate facilities best suited for their needs.

TUCHMAN: And where they will meet up with worried family members.

TUCHMAN (on camera): We're going to take you to a good place with lots of friends and family. And you know what caused all this?


TUCHMAN: No, not me, hurricane Harvey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know, because you're a dummy (ph).

TUCHMAN: Oh, I'm not a dummy. OK, you call me anything you want. I just wish you a good trip, OK? And you'll be OK. OK, that's my promise.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that's sweet of you.

TUCHMAN: And that's the rescuer's promise, too.


TUCHMAN: Thank you.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Many of these residents haven't left the neighborhood surrounding this nursing home for many years. But now they have all left, safety rescued, and trucked out by men and women grateful for the opportunity to help.


TUCHMAN: John --


BERMAN: Gary Tuchman back with us now.

TUCHMAN: -- of the people.

BERMAN: Gary, I'm sorry. I don't mean to interrupt you. Do you have any sense of how these nursing home residents are doing at this time?

TUCHMAN: John, I'm sorry for interrupting you, but I'll answer your question. The good news is all 82 of the seniors inside that nursing home are safe tonight. Eight trucks were brought to take them out. They went to a truck stop in a dry part of Houston. They were met there by many of their family members. So some of them are with family member tonight, others have been taken to other nursing homes in dry parts of the Houston metropolitan area. John?

BERMAN: All right, Gary Tuchman for us in Katy, Texas. All 82 of those residents now safe. On the left hand side of your screen, again, you're looking at Northeast Houston, where rescues continue to go under way on this road, just covered by water there. It is getting dark, so pretty soon those boats won't be able to do what they're doing right now.

I want to go to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's in Dickinson, Texas. And, Ed, you spent the day with the National Guard. What did you see?

[20:25:08] ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a unit of soldiers deployed from the Dallas area. Notice the Woolpack and they were spending the day in a convoy of trucks making their way through neighborhoods just like this, pulling people out of their homes, teaming up with other volunteers who had launched their boats into neighborhood. It's very similar to this, getting people out and moving them to shelters.

This is a process that has been going on for the last 36 hours. They desperately needed it in many of these neighborhoods. The one silver lining we kind of pick up throughout the day today is that in many of these types of neighborhoods here in the Dickinson area, and League City, and Friendswood, a lot of the people who were trying to get out of these neighborhoods have really been moved out.

In fact, we heard from a couple of different people that they've essentially been going out quadrant by quadrant and taking out neighborhoods that they believe for the most part have been evacuated. Everyone who had wanted to be evacuated had been evacuated. So that is that sliver of good news, things moving quickly for a lot of these people who essentially felt trapped in their own homes, John.

BERMAN: And, Ed, the tragic news is this is not over yet. We have a forecast for more rain, as much as 10 to 15 more inches for this area right now. Is that town prepared for what could come next?

LAVANDERA: Well, everyone is expecting -- you know, they keep receiving this forecast, these dreadful forecasts. And as we stand here tonight just, you know, an hour or so from darkness, you can see the rain continuing to fall.

We have had very little relief of rainfall throughout the day. And, of course, in the hours ahead, you start seeing the effects of that as they expect a lot of these tributaries and bayous that cut through this part of the area through the South of Houston to perhaps rise again and that's why there was that sense of urgency I think in a lot of these neighborhoods to get a lot of people out before darkness still again tonight.

BERMAN: All right, Ed Lavandera for us in Dickenson, Texas. Again, we have been watching Northeast of Houston right now as rescues are continuing in that area.

Next, someone who knows how to fight this particular battle, he led the effort in New Orleans. General Russel Honore joins us when "360" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: We're looking at live pictures of the impact of feet of rain, not inches, but feet, with more to come, 10 to 15 inches more perhaps in the Houston area. These are live pictures of the northeastern part of that city. We've been seeing these rescues play out before our eyes with boats, with people walking out, being carried out to safety, with no end in sight, frankly.

Joining us now, retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore, who led the rescue and recovery effort for Katrina. He is a CNN Contributor, a Louisiana native and he was born during a hurricane. He joins us from Baton Rouge. Also with us is Greg Carbin, a Chief Forecast Operations at the National Weather Service.

And, General, I know you can't see the picture we're looking at right now, but just let me describe it to you broadly. This is what looked like a main thoroughfare at one point, a wide road, and as far as the eye can see, we're seeing these live pictures right now all kind of boats to sort of rescue armada, you know, rubber boats, motor boats, air --

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- at one point, a wide road, and as far as I can see, we're seeing these live pictures right now, all kinds of boats, a sort of Rescue Armada, you know, rubber boats, motor boats, airboats, kayaks, and people being led out by their hands right now to safety. And it's getting dark. And pretty soon these boats won't be able to be on the streets. What do these people need to keep in mind as night falls there?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE (RETIRED), U.S. ARMY (via telephone): Well, they have to have hope and faith that the government is going to come, help them get out, those that are still there. And the ones that are being rescued are fortunate at this time that the good Samaritans have come in to reinforce the organized first responders. That's a blessing. The other one is that we haven't had more people lost their lives. That's a blessing. Based on the number of people we have got exposed in water, and I hope -- I heard the mayor. I like this mayor. I think he's a very proactive leader. But I hope this is not become a new doctrine in America that when we get a weather warning, that we find rational not to evacuate people, because the disabled and elderly should have been evacuated. People at the flooded portion have been evacuated. And volunteers should have been encouraged to leave.

We do not intentionally leave people inside of known threats. We have spent a lot of money in this country in training and preparing our first responders in our cities. And I hope this does not become another new doctrine that we're going to wait until the flood comes and then try to get people out.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, general, what the mayor told me if he felt like trying to move 2 million people before this storm would have created more dangers, and he cited Hurricane Rita where more than a 100 people died on the roads, back in 2005 when they were trying to be led out of the city. But you think at this point, it was a mistake not to evacuate, based on what we're seeing right now? HONORE: Yes, it was not the right decision. Let me tell you what happens here. We had a great flood last year right here right here in Baton Rouge, and most of it was about waist deep, as is the case in Houston. All of those people who had gotten out, they would have gotten out with their cars.

Now they listened to the government and their cars are gone, their apartments are gone, their houses are gone, their clothes have gone and they're stuck in a shelter. They're going to have a harder time to recover because they've lost everything they have, where some of them have been evacuated, where some of the clothes and some of the personal items. And should -- people should be given the option to do that. But to give them comfort that they didn't have to evacuate wasn't a good decision. But as many have said this is not the time to solve that. But this is the beginning of hurricane season. 12 years today, Katrina was in the gulf, about to hit landfall. And we don't want to, at the beginning of hurricane season, for another hurricane to come back to Houston and this mayor and this leadership say, we're not going to evacuate. They exposed too many people to be sitting in flood water and told dangers that they will have to risk their life from expose and being in that water.

And that is the piece we need to talk about because that's not our doctrine, to wait until the flood and then try to evacuate.

BERMAN: All right, Greg Carman with us, as well, Chief of Forecast Operations for the National Weather Service. Greg, I know you've been directly involved in the response along with FEMA you've been given an information what's -- quite the day. Tell us about that. What kind of coordination are you looking at behind the scenes?

GREG CARBIN, CHIEF OF FORECAST OPERATIONS FOR THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE (via telephone): Sure. Thanks, John. The event is truly stunning watching these images this evening. And, you know, I want to say it's also quite sad. My hearts go out to the folks in Texas and Louisiana, dealing with this catastrophic event. We have leaned forward. The federal government is leaning forward in this event. We have been providing forecasts remarkably accurate forecasts as far as the intensity of this system for about a week. There's always uncertainty in those forecasts, but we have been briefing all federal partners and local emergency managers both at the national and the local levels for days in advance of this event.

And really what is going on now is a response and recovery operation, and we're trying to get the best information into the hands of the people who need it and can make decisions to move those folk where they need to go.

BERMAN: And they're being moved right before our very eyes. Again, we were warned by you and other that feet of rain would be coming, and indeed, feet of rain has fallen with more to come. All right, General Russel Honore, Greg Carbin, thanks so much for being with us.

Again, live pictures right now. Pictures from moments ago now from northeast Houston with rescues just by the dozens you can see right there, that baby being led to safety. [20:35:07] The President expressed confidence today that Congress will quickly approve federal disaster relief funds. That and his defense of pardoning Joe Arpaio, next.


BERMAN: Harvey threatening in Houston still getting hit hard. Today, President Trump praised how people are handling the devastation. He predicted that Congress would act quickly to approve disaster relief funding and commented historic nature of the storm. Look at this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's the biggest ever. They're saying it's the biggest. It's historic. It's like -- really, like Texas, if you think about it. But it is a historic amount of water in particular. There's never been anything like it.

So the people are handling it amazingly well. And the people of Texas, as you know, have really persevered. And when you watch the spirit and the enthusiasm, and helping each other, the teamwork, it's really been something for people to say -- I think even in Finland they would say it's been pretty incredible what they've been able to do.


BERMAN: All right, joining me now with more, CNN Kaitlan Collins live from the White House. Kaitlan, what else did the President have to say about the ongoing situation in Texas?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, we know that the President and the First Lady are traveling to Texas tomorrow. We heard from Texas governor Greg Abbott today. He said he doesn't expect them to go to the areas that where the hardest hit, John, but he thinks they'll stay in area like, Corpus Christi, or San Antonio, so two of those and they may go back later this week including a possibly trip to Louisiana, depending on what's happening there.

But as you noted, during that press conference today, the President did say that he thinks he and Congress will be able to come to an agreement on some relief funding for these flood ravaged areas. But when he asked if all of this going on with Hurricane Harvey makes him reconsider his threat to shut down the government, over funding for his boarder wall, not only did he not say no, he double down on his need for this wall saying that this is a separate issue from this funding and the wall still needed from a security standpoint and that hopefully it won't be necessary to shut down the government over this border wall, John.

BERMAN: And Kaitlan, the President was also asked about his pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, particularly the timing which came right as the Hurricane Harvey, a category-four storm was founding the Texas coast.

[20:40:06] COLLINS: Right. Not only did it come during that Friday night, it was also the same time that he directed the Pentagon to begin implementing his ban on transgender service members. And at the same time as the ouster of one of his most controversial aides in the White House, Sebastian Gorka. But today, the President insisted that he was not trying to bear the news of his pardon of the sheriff. Then he was actually trying to highlight it. Listen to what he said.


TRUMP: In the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally. You know, the hurricane was just started. And I put it out that I had pardoned, as we call -- as we say Sheriff Joe. Sheriff Joe is a patriot. Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our boarders. And Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election, an election that he would have won. So -- and he was elected many times. So I stand by my partner Sheriff Joe, and I think the people of Arizona who know him best would agree with me.


COLLINS: We actually know in fact there are a lot of people in Arizona who do not agree with this pardon. One of those people being Senator John McCain, others being members of the President's own party, House Speaker Paul Ryan, also criticized the move. But what's clear from today, John, is that the President does not regret pardoning the sheriff.


BERMAN: No, not at all. All right, Kaitlan Collins for us at the White House tonight.

Joining me now, Ana Navarro, Michael Caputo, Jeffrey Toobin. You know, Jeffrey it was notable in the President's defense of the pardon what he did not talk about at all, which was the law, that Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted of breaking, contempt of court, nor, you know, what the court had ordered him do, which was to not violate the civil rights of Latino residents of Arizona.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right. And this was a long, continuing drama in Phoenix. There had been many challenges to Arpaio's rule. And the one that really stuck was that he was accused and found to have conducted immigration round-ups. That included lots of people who were not illegally in the country. A judge told him to stop. Not only did he continue, he brazenly defied the court and said, I'm going to continue any way. That's what led to the contempt of court finding. And that's what he was about to be sentenced for. And that's what ended as a result of the pardon. That legal process.

BERMAN: And again, not discussed at all by the President. As far as I could tell, up until this point.

Michael Caputo, what the President did talk about, though, was how many other bad pardons presidents have made in the past. It was almost as if he was saying look, there's a hall of shame out there for presidential pardons, and this one is in a long line of controversial presidential pardons. Is that a good defense?

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Well, it's not a good defense, but it's a fact. If you're pardoning someone, they are in some criminal jam-up or they've been already in jail. We saw President Obama free FALN terrorist who was responsible for deaths and hundreds of bombings.

BERMAN: You're doing it, too.

CAPUTO: We saw it, you know -- well, absolutely. Listen, pardons are, by their very nature, controversial. And I think that President Trump, while a lot of people disagree, especially on CNN, about this pardon, you know, he was looking at an 85-year-old man who had never been in trouble in his life who he felt and a lot of people in our camp feel was railroaded by a weaponized Department of Justice. And at 85 years old, you know, convicted of a misdemeanor and what we thought was an unfair trial. He should have been in front of a jury to begin with. They were trying to put him behind bars. And I think the President in a lot of ways had compassion for Joe Arpaio, it's the kind of compassion that a lot of people on the side of the President agree with.

BERMAN: But if it was just about the age and the sentence, he could have commuted the sentence, which is different than a pardon, saying that wiping the slate clean completely, which is what he decided to do. He made that choice. I'm just thinking that clear.

Ana, one other thing the President made clear is why he chose the timing, Friday night. You were here with us Friday night when the President released this news that he was pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio, while a category 4 storm was making landfall. He basically said today that he was using the ratings boost from hurricane coverage to draw focus to the pardon. I'm not sure the people of the Texas coast would be thrilled that their tragedy was being used in such a way.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think that was one of those off the cuff, stupid, flippant, you know, inappropriate comments that Donald Trump tends to make when he's not on script. One of the things that I found interesting about this press conference, that unlike to be off the rail on hinge press conference post Charlottesville, this time he came with prepared remarks. He obviously had all of those what about examples of presidential pardons by other presidents prepared and was ready to answer that question. I think you're seeing the influence of John Kelly trying to bring some disciplines to this press conference when we saw that kind of a remark.

[20:45:18] And yes, he showed compassion to his political crony Joe Arpaio. It would have been nice if he could show his compassion to so many immigrants, to the so many Latinos, to so many citizens, Latino citizens, Arizona citizens, a lot of them African-Americans, who were racially profiled, who were abuse, who had to go through civil rights violations at the hands of Joe Arpaio. Those people deserve respect, those people deserve compassion, and that is something that the President of the United States is incapable of doing because all he knows how to do is throw a bone to his base and damn everybody else. BERMAN: And Jeffrey Toobin, one of the theory that's been kicked around, it's not just throwing a bone to the base, it's throwing a bone to his supporter in some kind of legal trouble, which has led people to wonder whether or not this was a sign to people who are tied up or connected to this Russia investigation saying hey, when push comes to shove, if you are charged or convicted here, I have your back.

TOOBIN: Well, it certainly it's a message that was heard in that way. I can't speak to what was going through Donald Trump's mind. But it is so unusual at this early stage of a presidency to conduct -- to issue a controversial pardon like this to a political ally. I mean, Bill Clinton's pardon of Mark Rich was appalling, a disgrace. Rich was a fugitive. It was on the last day of his presidency. His pardon of his brother, Roger Clinton, was on the last day of his presidency. George Herbert Walker Bush pardoned a lot of the Iran contra people at the very end of his presidency. To do it at this early stage is a sign that he's being to take some political heat to pardon his friends. I expect that Michael Flynn heard that message loud and clear, and he may benefit from it ultimately.

BERMAN: Any cost, Michael Caputo, to Paul Ryan, John McCain, Jeb Bush, Jeff Flake, and a list of other Republicans that you probably consider establishment Republicans coming out and saying this was a bad idea?

CAPUTO: My response would be yada, yada, yada. These guys are against every single thing that the President does that's -- even the least bit controversial. I don't think Paul Ryan, John McCain, or anyone else in that crowd would have thought to pardon Sheriff Arpaio or anyone else for that matter, who was headed for personal bankruptcy, who was being prosecuted by a very political Justice Department. They wouldn't have done that, but because they don't have the kind of guts to do those things. They're against Donald Trump all the way down the line. They're going to be against anything he does.

BERMAN: Jeffrey, in a political process --

TOOBIN: Let me raise this business about -- you know, this was a crusade from the Obama Justice Department. This contempt was initiated by the judge in the case. That's who brought this case. The idea that this was some kind of vendetta from the Justice Department, I mean, that's just not true.

BERMAN: Michael?

CAPUTO: Well, if you think that the judge in the Justice Department weren't communicating, you're also a little naive on that report, on that part too. We were talking about the Justice Department that met on the tarmac with Bill Clinton. This Justice Department was going right off the rails in many different ways.

TOOBIN: Do you have any evidence, Michael?

CAPUTO: And for all of us to think, this had nothing to do with us. BERMAN: Hang on, Michael. Hang on Michael. You're suggesting that a federal judge colluded with the prosecution here. Do you have any evidence of that or are you just --

CAPUTO: No, I don't. I'm just saying that the Justice Department was very deeply involved of --

BERMAN: You just accused without any evidence a federal judge of some kind of collusion.

CAPUTO: No, that's not what I've done. What I'm saying here is that the judge was an Obama appointee. The Justice Department that brought this down on Arpaio was very -- listen, this is all about immigration and specifically illegal immigration. It is a partisan, very visceral debate with people really entrenched on both sides. And Sheriff Arpaio became a kind of vision of all of that. And this 85-year-old man who was going to be driven into bankruptcy by these proceedings, the President saw that as something --

BERMAN: Hang on, hang on. I'm sorry, Ana, go ahead put the last words.

NAVARRO: I've heard from Trump supporters the entire day about the poor 85-year-old man. Well, the poor 85-year-old man had been terrorizing Latinos and doing racial profiling in Arizona for decades now. This last time he got booted out of office, Latinos and the people of Arizona finally got themselves organized and booted this shameful official out of office.

TOOBIN: And he also ran --

NAVARRO: But he has been doing this for a long, long time. And he finally had to pay the piper and Donald Trump saved him at the last minute.

BERMAN: Eighty five years old is also considering, we understand running for office again.

TOOBIN: And he ran for re-election and lost at 84. So, you know, a limited amount of sympathy for the fact that he's 85.

[20:50:05] CAPUTO: Thankfully sheriffs like Joe Arpaio who want to enforce America's immigration laws won't be afraid to do so in the future.

BERMAN: All right, Michael Caputo, Ana Navarro, Jeffrey Toobin. One note here the judge was appointed by Bill Clinton not an Obama appointee but a Democratic appointee, at least from a Democratic president.

Up next more on the rescue effort in Houston, we'll tell you what happened to these women in assisted living facility. We'll also speak with a volunteer rescuer from a group.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: We get to see new information about the rescue operation we've been showing you throughout the hour in northeast Houston. KTRK report Ted Oberg tells us the people that you're seeing here, many of them have walked as far as three miles over flooded streets. He says that more than 100 people are down there waiting. There aren't enough boats to get them to safety, and it is getting dark. So people right now are waiting and hoping to get to the spot to be rescued. Coast guards pulled their boats out of this area because the water is too shallow. So the coast guard is not there.

Many of the rescues today have been at the hands of private citizens, not official first responders. Among those people helping a group known as the Cajun Navy, they are volunteers with boats who have been running rescue missions since the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. And just before air I spoke to one of the Cajun Navy volunteers Joshua Lincoln.

Joshua, I want to talk about one specific rescue you were involved with today and I want to put up a picture, I know, you can't see it but the picture of Wilma Ellis (ph). She's 73 years old. You guys rescued her today. Walk us through what happened. I understand that when you came down upon her she was face down in the water.

JOSHUA LINCOLN, CAJUN NAVY, LOUISIANA (via telephone): Correct. We were in the water, probably the first boat in the water in the area. We turned right into a street that had a large amount of current flowing through it, and our boat could barely make progress so we advanced maybe 100 yards. And as we advanced, we saw some debris and stuff floating in the water, and we were just watching the current, which way it was going. And I think I heard "it's a body" and it just kind of sounded jokingly, to me. And then I said, no, that's a trash bag.

Seriously, I thought it was a trash bag. As we got closer and the current pulled it closer to our boat, we realized it was a body and instantly Donnie (ph) jumped from the vessel, brought her up out of the water. Ricky (ph) was manning the boat. He jumped in immediately, also. I was at the front of the boat leaving us in a serious current with nobody manning the motor in the back. They quickly grabbed her, started to resuscitate her and were able to get her to breathing slowly. And then we were able to control the boat. So we got her back to safety and that's that.

[20:55:44] BERMAN: She wasn't breathing when you found her. You guys had to resuscitate her. Any idea how she's doing now? Again, Wilma Ellis, 73 years old.

LINCOLN: Wilma is doing fine. We found three family members. The family members thought she was safe at high ground, a school, so they were misinformed. But a gentleman through the Cajun Navy in Baton Rouge was able to locate the relatives and have them get back over to her. They thought she was safe and sound but that was done all through social media and Cajun Navy.

BERMAN: You know, if you hadn't found her, what do you think would have happened to her? LINCOLN: If we hadn't -- if we would have been 30 seconds late, I think she would not have come back.

BERMAN: It seems like you came a long way to do this. Why is it so important to you?

LINCOLN: I think it's important because in my life I've been through a lot of storms including Katrina. So seeing how people in Texas responded and helped us in a disaster kind of tugged at my heart. I lost -- my house was flooded and lost all kinds of things during Katrina. That tugged at my heart and I was like, you know what, I'm not going to go to work tomorrow. I'm just going to head that way and meet up with somebody and do what I can do. And that's, you know, what every man in the Cajun Navy have done. Man and woman.

BERMAN: The different kind of work you're doing right, paying it forward. And I have to say, saving at least one life here, and I know your work is not done. Joshua Lincoln, thank you so much for what you do, really an unbelievable example for all of us.

LINCOLN: My pleasure.

BERMAN: All right, there was another rescue that received national attention because the pictures are just so heartbreaking. I want to show you an assisted living facility in Dixon (ph), just a horrific scene. This photo went viral after it was posted on social media. We are happy to report that everyone in this picture was rescued. They are now safely at another facility. We'll be right back.


BERMAN: Thanks so much for watching "360." I'm John Berman. CNN'S coverage continues now with Chris Cuomo. "Cuomo Prime Time" starts now.

[21:00:07] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to Prime Time.