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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Harvey Regaining Strength Before Striking Again; Texas Death Toll Rises, Several Cities Under Curfew Tonight; Nearly 500K People Expected To Seek Disaster Assistance; Trump Defends Pardoning Former Sheriff Arpaio. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 28, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We turn now to Erin Burnett OutFront.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, breaking news, Hurricane Harvey regaining strength, getting ready to strike again. Thousands of rescues, tens of thousands expected in shelters. We have the very latest on this catastrophic storm.
And Trump doubling down on pardoning Joe Arpaio saying he did it as Hurricane Harvey hit because he thought the ratings would be high.
Plus, North Korea lunching a missile moments ago. We are live in Pyongyang.
Let's go OutFront.
And good evening to all, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, bracing for another hit. Harvey right now is regaining strength, getting ready to strike again.
It is an unprecedented storm. It has overwhelmed Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, which what officials are calling some of the worst flooding in history. Large parts of Houston are under water and now at least seven people are dead in the wake of the storm, a toll that officials say is likely to rise.
The numbers continue to be staggering. Thirteen million people in Texas under a flood warning or watch. Nearly half a million, half a million people are expected to seek disaster assistance, 30,000 are predicted to fill area shelters.
Just think about that for a second, 30,000 people seeking shelter. And look at these pictures to give you a sense of the truly stunning measure of the storm. It has already dumped 25 inches of rain in Houston, another 25 could fall by Saturday.
When you look at these pictures, it makes sense. That is the year- long rainfall average for Houston, 50 inches, and it is coming in just one week. Those are the before and after photos of the exact same streets. Thousands have been rescued by first responders assisted by private citizens who have brought in their own boats to help in some cases. Many of those still stranded waiting almost three days since Harvey first hit. And one volunteer tells CNN some are starting to panic saying, quote, people that want to be rescued are trying to steal the boat. We have boats shot at if we're not picking anybody up.
That is pretty stunning to imagine for just moment. When you look at the situation though, you see images like this, that's a major highway, shut down, that massive sinkhole collapsed a large section of roadway just outside of Houston.
President Trump who plans to tour the area tomorrow, spoke moments ago and promised a quick response from the federal government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're going to see very rapid action from Congress and certainly from the president and that you're going to get your funding. It's a terrible tragedy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: CNN reporters are fanned out across the flood zone, covering this historic flood from everywhere. We begin with Alex Marquardt who is OutFront tonight in hard hit Houston. And Alex, right now, bracing for even more rain and flooding.
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are, Erin. This rain has been absolutely relentless. Officials are saying that they are so over stress they have repeatedly today asked civilians to help civilians. And that's what we've seen here in this area and elsewhere.
People are using what ever they can, boats, kayaks, even floaties like that one to go out and rescue their neighbors from these rising neighbors.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Block after block of homes now swimming in the rising floodwaters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all, all right?
MARQUARDT (voice-over): These quiet suburban streets turned into dark rivers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two --
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Kenny Evans (ph) with his boat responding to the call for everyone to pitch in.
KENNY EVANS: I've been trying to call FEMA and the coast guard. A lot of people weren't prepared for the storm. People didn't get enough and water and didn't make plans. We never expected something catastrophic like this to happen but they said it was going to happen from day one and it sure happened.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Yes, they are releasing it from the reservoirs. In this house, three people were forced upstairs by the water.
(on camera) This is the situation a lot of people with or debating whether to leave or not. Right now, the flooding in the ground floor isn't that bad. These neighborhoods weren't supposed to be badly affected. Now, the floodwaters are rising and people are realizing they have to get out. And so right now, they're making a tough decision weather to stay or to go.
(voice-over) Just one decided to leave, the others, staying behind.
(on camera) Does that frustrate you that you weren't told to evacuate?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Totally upset.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Did you have any sense that it was going to be this bad?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I mean, I knew it was going to be bad but not to this extent.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Neighbors pointed us to the home of an 86- year-old man living by himself. Evans found Ed Wendler (ph) in his dark bedroom with no power, unaware of the danger outside. We helped him in to the boat and he looked around as the place he's called home for almost 40 years.
And how does it feel to see the neighborhood like this?
ED WENDLER: I heard the commotion out here. That (INAUDIBLE) and going around picking up people.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): This water flowing directly from two nearby reservoirs. The dams opened to prevent more catastrophic flooding in the city.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: This is a place that Texas and FEMA will be involved in for a long, long time.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Officials warning the worst is yet to come. The rain expected to keep falling all week.
[19:05:06] It's all hands on deck, all 12,000 Texas National Guard now involved. The coast guard carrying out air and water rescues, ferrying more than a thousand people to safety. And armies of every day people now mobilizing.
ABBOTT: There's so many heroes in Houston who literally saved the lives of their fellow Texans. Texans helping Texans. That is what we do as a state. And I don't think anybody does it better.
(END VIDEOTAPE) MARQUARDT: Speaking of Texans helping Texans just moments ago, you can see here this group of three men going out in a canoe dragging that floaty going out to help more neighbors.
Now, just a short time ago, a flash flood warning was extended for Harris County where we are right now as well as other counties. This area wasn't supposed to be hit so badly. There wasn't supposed to be this much flooding but there's been so much waters in those two nearby reservoirs that the Army Corps of Engineers has opened, releasing more water into this are to prevent more catastrophic flooding from elsewhere in Houston. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, Alex, thank you very much. And I want to go to Ed Lavandera who's in Dickinson, Texas. And Ed, you know, -- I know you've been out helping people, you spent the day with crews who are trying to save people trapped by the rising flood waters. What did you see today?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we spent the day with the National Guard unit out of Dallas that had been here for their third day here in the Houston area, a group known as the wolf pack. And they spent most of the day patrolling various neighborhoods, essentially been offering support to the first responders inside these neighborhoods and many of the volunteers that had launched boats into these neighborhoods that were flooded.
They would bring people back to these National Guard trucks and they would be taken over to the shelter. We were with that one group that was evacuated out of an apartment complex that was essentially sitting on a little island surrounded by water and we spoke with Carol Hill (ph) on the ride out.
It was interesting because a lot of these people who have been kind of inside their homes, unable to get out really didn't have a sense of the scope of the magnitude of how depressing the scene is around their neighborhood. And when you listen -- as you watch Carol Hill's reaction at her first glimpse of seeing the floodwaters around her tells the whole story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROL HILL: That's crazy. This is crazy. Oh my God.
And we thought it was not as bad because we saw pictures on T.V. and stuff like this it's kind of hard. It's kind of hard because (INAUDIBLE) just to realize it until you actually see it in person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: And so that shock for a lot of these people who have been holed up in their homes for the last couple of days, seeing the images up close on their own really unsettling for many of these folks here, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Ed. I will be checking back in with you and I want to go to one of the top officials in Houston. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, and Sheriff, thank you so much for being with us.
Obviously, it's going to start getting dark where you are. I know you've been responding to thousands of calls for people to be rescued. How much harder will this be, Sheriff in darkness?
SHERIFF ED GONZALEZ, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: Well, darkness doesn't help us and this has been devastating. I've been out here myself just in the last two hours. The team and I have help rescued hundreds of individuals (INAUDIBLE) getting them quickly to safe ground and then transporting them to shelter.
So, it's been really amazing for people. There was a 90-year-old woman that was wheelchair bound with broken ribs and others with small children and we have to help them. So -- and the worst is still yet to come unfortunately.
BURNETT: When you say the worst is still yet to come, are you worried at all about any panic? You know, one volunteer, I don't know if you heard me a moment ago. He told CNN that some people are trying to panic and he's actually described him saying some people are you know -- people are trying to steal boats.
People are afraid right now. Are you concerned about panic at all?
GONZALEZ: A little bit. There's the storm fatigue, folks weren't prepared maybe for the duration of this so far even though we did warn that this could be more like a marathon and not a sprint. And we're also warning people that, you know, we're not going to have any sympathy for people to take advantage of fellow Texans and trying to loot or burglarize and so we're watching that as well.
It's secondary, obviously human life is the primary thing but we're all coordinating where -- I borrowed a kayak yesterday from some neighbors, I did go in and helped a family of three and everyone is pulling together.
It's an impressive coordination of law enforcement resources, the local, state, and federal level and we're doing our best. And we're going to get through this. We're not giving up (INAUDIBLE) working around the clock and giving it all we've got.
[19:10:00] BURNETT: And I know you are working around the clock. You know, I wanted to just show our viewers an image -- I don't know if you seen it Sheriff but it's of a deputy sheriff in your county, Harris County, posted online and the caption is, this policeman worked countless hours, helping victims of Hurricane Harvey until he passed out from exhaustion.
You know, you talk about this being a marathon, not a sprint but we're almost 72 hours since the storm hit. You're saying the worst is yet to come. Do you have the resources? Does your team have the physical endurance here to continue for days more?
GONZALEZ: Absolutely. We do have the endurance and we're getting the resources built up as well again. We're getting deployments from different parts of the state. Other sheriffs have reached out to offer assistance and so, we're mobilizing all of those resources. Retailers are offering supplies as well.
So, it's just working out the logistics. You know, our team is performing (INAUDIBLE) under this circumstances. And we do -- it's difficult, it's taxing on all our people, they have families as well but we're going to get through this.
BURNETT: I know that your rescues now are in the thousands, at least 2,000. We'll show everyone some before and after pictures just to try to give people around the country a sense of the incredible change that happened in just hours where you are.
Your mayor, Houston's mayor says he has no regrets in not calling for an evacuation. As this continues, and you say the worst is still to come, do you have any concern right now that that may have been a mistake?
GONZALEZ: No, not at the moment. Unfortunately, these storms could be very unpredictable. We've seen the opposite where many self evacuated immediately and then it caused a lot of hardships and other issues with massive evacuations that were necessary in hindsight.
You know -- and then we always learn from these. This has been a 1,000-year event so it's hard to plan everything just perfectly but we'll learn from this and again, we're going to get through it and the community is coming together.
BURNETT: It's a 1,000-year event, something no one is ready for. What do you say to people who are afraid right now and who may be starting to panic. You know, where they have water in their home, they're still safe but it's crawling up the first floor.
What do you say to people right now? What should they do?
GONZALEZ: Tell them to please stay calm, continue to try to reach 911 if they can so stay on the line and not hang up. To also continue to seek higher elevation in their home as the water rises. And, if need be, just try to seek higher shelter, more likely on the roof, definitely not the attic, unless they have some type of tool or something to cut through it like an ax because they could get trapped in the attic if the water continues to rise.
So just be patient. I know it's difficult. We understand that they were out there in the same elements. You know, I've been out there doing rescues all week, you know, the last few days as well. We'll get to you, you know, we'll bring in more resources so just hang tight, you know, stay strong and calm.
BURNETT: All right, Sheriff Gonzalez, thank you very much for taking the time. As the sheriff said, he's been going on rescue after rescue.
And next, the volunteers who have been doing just that, taking it upon themselves to join the rescue efforts, to help those who are afraid and stranded. But as darkness descends, is time running out?
Plus, President Trump tonight, strongly defending his pardon of Joe Arpaio. I'm going to talk to one man who says he was stopped by Arpaio's officers, even though he's been an American citizen for decades.
And, this iconic picture in the middle of the storm. We're going to tell you the story of Otis.
[19:17:06] BURNETT: Breaking news, panic rising with the life threatening floodwaters. Rescuers are losing daylight in Houston at this time for a third straight night. The drenched city submerged under torrential rain. The death toll now is seven lives.
In fact, the rain is now coming down harder and faster in some areas as the storm is actually regaining strength and going to be, of course coming back, striking again.
The National Weather Service has added a new color to the weather maps that we haven't seen before. It's a dark purple. They've added it to the weather graphics to illustrate this historic rainfall.
As we come onto the air tonight, more than 2,000 people have been rescued so far by boat and by air as you can see in this dramatic video.
Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is OutFront live in Richmond, Texas. And Derek, what are you seeing right now?
DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Erin, we are on an elevated position overlooking the Brazos River about 25 miles southwest of the city of Houston. And this river, believe it or not, has risen 35 feet since Saturday morning. That is higher than many apartment complexes in Downtown Houston, for instance.
It is incredible to see the amount of rain. It's been raining all day here and that water is flowing by all the rivers and creeks into this particular river here. You look at (INAUDIBLE) maps and the communities behind me, it's difficult to see because they're behind the trees, they are being flooded now. And they are going to continue to flood because this river has yet another 10 feet to go before it reaches its record level tonight.
And that's to eclipse a previous record set many years of 54 feet, we're expecting a 59-foot rise here. There are 26 helicopters, staged at the Sugar Land Airport about nine miles away from here and more search and rescue personnel setting up for a long night ahead.
BURNETT: Now, Derek, you talked about a 59-foot rise. It's a stunning number and I think it's hard for anyone to truly comprehends the scale of what you're talking about but we're also -- we just heard from the Harris County sheriff that it's going to get worse and that the worst is still to come.
So what does that mean? What is going to happen in the next hours, in the next days? VAN DAM: Well, probably the worst case scenario is happening now because the storm -- the center of the circulation is moving offshore. So, what that does is it feeds into the Gulf of Mexico. Remember, it's extremely warm there so it's going to take that moisture and it's going to pump it right back here on land.
The news here going forward over the next several days is, once it makes landfall again for a second time, it will bring the rainbands -- the heaviest rainfall with it. So we're expecting that to focus its attention on the extreme eastern sections of Texas, parts of western Louisiana, especially into Tuesday night and once again on Wednesday before it finally gets out.
But just because the storm is over, doesn't mean the flooding is over. Those rivers still need to recede. That will take days, if not, weeks.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Derek. Appreciate that.
And looking at that river behind him, just a scale of 59 feet is what it's going to be tonight and that would be a record there, and that's before anymore rain.
[19:20:00] And OutFront now, George Huntoon, he's a rescuer. He spent the past couple of days rescuing victims trapped by the flooding.
I appreciate your time, George, I know you have been out. You just got back from a rescue now. You filmed some video of a couple of these, one of them people from an apartment complex as you went in and we can see the boat there, the level there of the water well up the trees.
What struck you the most here, George as you have been out on rescue after rescue?
GEORGE HUNTOON, RESCUED HURRICANE HARVEY VICTIMS: Well, it's definitely exhausting and it's a -- I just -- it's unlike anything I have ever seen when you get out there. You know, these people are begging you to get on the boat and you can't put everyone on there and you're having to tell people, hey, you know, hang on, we're coming back. I promise, we'll get you.
And, you know, pregnant women, babies, older people and dogs and cats and people that can't speak English and it's just -- it's everything. And, you know, you're doing your best to get to these people and -- like yesterday, there just wasn't enough boats. I mean, more started showing up later on but there were thousands of people. And when it got dark we had to, you know, shut down and all I could think is, I promised all these people I would be back and so (INAUDIBLE).
BURNETT: I mean -- so what is happening now? I know you talk about people being scared and wanting people to come back. You know, another volunteer told us as I just asked the sheriff about, you know, that people are panicking. Obviously this person had cited some instances of bad things happening, people trying to steal boats or shooting at boats because they were scared. What is the situation that you're seeing among people that need help? I mean, how scared are they? Are they going to be able to wait or not?
HUNTOON: So, there's a couple things. One is, there were some news reports saying that, hey, we don't need volunteers anymore and we don't need anymore boats. And -- I mean, yesterday there was one big part of the city, now there's three or four parts of the city that are going under. So they do need more boats.
You know, I feel like some of the, you know, the locals who are out there helping, they know the streets, they know where to go and then some of these guys come in from out of town and, you know, it feels like they're competing for rescues. But as far as the area I was working today and that's where the social media has helped out, people have been saying on Facebook or texting me and saying can you get to so and so and that's how I originally got started.
I woke up yesterday and had two friends that were -- who had put on Facebook that they were going under and I thought, you know, someone's got to go save them. At first I even thought to myself could I really do it and sure enough as I worked closer and closer.
But people are scared, it's -- today especially -- the area we worked yesterday, that was by Breeze Bayou (INAUDIBLE) floods really bad. But today on the west side of town, it was really bad because there's a -- you've heard of the reservoir that they're talking about and they've been trying to release -- and I don't know -- I haven't been watching the news but I don't know if they were releasing because this area of water started coming up really quick and we were -- we only went in there to get one person we knew but then we had to stay and bring everyone out.
But, yes, it's definitely a very, very scary time. And even I'm a little bit worried because I've never seen water like that. But the worst thing is, again, I couldn't, you know, I couldn't stay there and get everyone. And I had to get myself out of there because, you know, around 5:00, I had to get out there because the water was rising so fast, my car couldn't get out. I would have been stuck.
We barely got the boat loaded up. And so it's -- you know, it's definitely -- you know, we have a pretty interesting situation, that's for sure.
BURNETT: Well, George, I appreciate you taking the time to tell us about it and I know that so many are so grateful for what you're doing. So, thank you.
HUNTOON: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: George Huntoon.
And next, President Trump not backing down from pardoning Joe Arpaio. He said he did it as Hurricane Harvey was about to hit on purpose because he thought television ratings would be high. And tonight, moments ago in North Korea, firing a missile. We're going to tell you the latest on this. Our Will Ripley, CNN's Will Ripley, the only western journalist in North Korea. Tonight, we're going to go to Pyongyang.
[19:28:11] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump, not backing down from his pardoning of the former sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, of course arrested suspected of being in the United States illegally using racial profiling even after a judge said he could not. Here's the president today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Sheriff Joe is a patriot and Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our boarders and Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration. I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe and I think the people of Arizona who really knew him best would agree with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sara Murray is OutFront at the White House. And Sara, obviously, this is a very controversial pardon. You got Democrats and Republicans saying it was the wrong thing to do. The president though clearly defiant.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. Despite that (INAUDIBLE), the president made very clear today that he has no regrets about pardoning a very controversial individual in so early in his term. And he was asked about the timing of this, he decide or rather the White House decided to announced this pardon as Hurricane Harvey, this category 4 hurricane, was bearing down on Texas.
But today, the president insisted in no way was he trying to bury the news. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, a lot of people think it was the right thing to do, John. And actually in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be higher than they would be normally. You know, the hurricane had just started and I put it out that I had pardoned -- as we call -- as we say, Sheriff Joe, he's done a great job for the people of Arizona.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: So you see him making a pretty incredible argument there that in fact, the pardon may have gotten even more attention because it came amid the storm and it maybe ratings were even higher than they would have been on a Friday night. But, Erin, I can tell you that as we were talking, the White House aides on Friday night as we are waiting through this news, none of them disputed the notion that this was part (INAUDIBLE).
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Sara. Now, OutFront now, a man who was pulled over with his wife by one of Arpaio's deputies, even though he's been a U.S. citizen for decades.
Daniel Magos, his testimony helped convict Arpaio in a class action lawsuit about racial profiling. And Daniel, I appreciate you're taking the time, I know you just heard the president there, right?
Saying, Sheriff Joe is a patriot, he loves our country, he protected our borders, and the people of Arizona who know Joe Arpaio best would agree with this pardon. Do you?
DANIEL MAGOS, WITNESS IN FED CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT AGAINST SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO: No, I don't. He was not enforcing Arizona or Maricopa County laws or statutes, he was trying to enforce federal laws of immigration and crossing the border without documents.
BURNETT: And I know, Daniel, you were pulled over with your wife, you were out together driving, by one of Arpaio's deputies. So when this question comes up of racial profiling, tell me what happened to you.
MAGOS: I was driving to a job site and one of Arpaio's deputies was coming the opposite direction. I was waiting for a left turn signal to come on so I could turn to the left.
And then the deputy came across the intersection, slowed down to almost zero, focused his eyes on my wife and I, staring at both of us, and then he accelerated at a high rate of speed, made a U-turn and turned his signals on, his lights on and his siren and came after us.
BURNETT: And he asked you a lot of questions that made it clear it was racial profiling to you, right?
MAGOS: Yes, correct.
BURNETT: What did he ask?
MAGOS: I had asked -- well, he asked me for my documents, you know, driver's license, registration, insurance on my truck, but then he demanded my wife's driver's license. And I told him my wife was not the driver, I was.
And during the whole stop, the whole traffic stop, he was never talking to me or my wife in a decent tone of voice. He was always yelling at us and his right hand always on top of his gun intimidating us. And he did intimidate my wife, but not me.
BURNETT: Now, I know that this obviously happened to you and to your wife and I know that this had a lot of an impact on her, Sheriff Arpaio went on Fox News just after the pardon and he reacted to it. I want to play for you, Daniel, a clip of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, FORMER AMERICAN LAW ENFORCER (voice-over)
TEXT: Well, it's great. I love that president. He supports law enforcement and I'm very humbled. After all these years, 55 years for law enforcement around the world and here I am on the defense table, because they wanted to do everything to get rid of me, certain people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sheriff Arpaio says he's the victim here. What is your response to that? What happened to you and your wife after the stop?
MAGOS: After the stop, we went to the American Civil Liberties Union and filed a complaint because I tried to file a complaint with the sheriff's department and they would say, "We'll return your call," and they never did.
A few occasions, I called them, they never returned the call. My son- in-law called another three or four times, they told him, "We'll return the call," and never did.
So, that was the reason that I went to American Civil Liberties Union and they took the case and put me in the racial profiling file lawsuit that they could file against Sheriff Joe and Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Daniel, I appreciate you're taking the time and telling us your story again. Thank you, Daniel Magos.
In OUTFRONT now, David Gergen, April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and Doug Brinkley, Presidential Historian. David, you just heard Daniel Magos, his story.
Donald Trump though, President Trump is very proud of this pardon. Will it help him or hurt him when it comes to voters?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it will help in the short-term to enforce his base, that's clearly why (INAUDIBLE) we have this bizarre story.
We all thought he was trying to hide the announcement in the storm, and instead he made the announcement because of the storm.
But I must tell you, Erin, in terms of long-term politics of the United States with the Latino vote growing ever more important in some of these states.
This sends a message from Trump and increasingly from the Republican Party that if you're Latino, you're not welcome in our party.
And it just seems to me -- it's just incredulous that this isn't part of republican sort of understanding now after what happened in California. There was an incident in California, of course the Proposition 187 some years ago, it was seen as (INAUDIBLE) Latino, and California has been a democratic state ever since.
So, I think that long-term just politically, but it's -- the more important thing about this is the morality and the values it states, but it does have political repercussions.
BURNETT: It may. But, Doug, I guess the question I have for you is, does every president do something like this? I mean, the president was ready, you know, for the question of, "Why are you doing this?"
In fact, he read a list of controversial pardons by other presidents. Here's President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Clinton pardoned Susan Rosenberg, a member of the Weathered Underground. Charged as part of a bank robbery that led to a guard and two police officers being killed.
President Obama commuted the sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera who was charged as part of a violent independent group from Puerto Rico, responsible for 28 Chicago area bombings and many deaths.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: How does Arpaio compare, Doug?
DOUG BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, look, it's -- I mean, incredulous is the right word that David Gergen just used that Donald Trump is disuniting America.
And the fact that he pardoned somebody who was seen as a race-baiter, anti-Latino, somebody who is, you know, the -- really, the kingpin of racial profiling, and he pardons him in the middle of a catastrophic Category 4 storm slamming into the Texas Coast and has the gull in the East Room of the White House to tell people he did it for TV ratings.
Who are these people supporting Donald Trump that are willing to allow him to say something? If you are going to pardon Arpaio, which I don't think is a good idea, do it at the right time. Clearly, Friday wasn't the right time, but he's proud as a rooster over it, and I find it a bit demented.
BURNETT: Do you buy it, April, that he did on purpose because the ratings were would beehive for the hurricane?
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes, I buy it. He's a TV mogul, he's an entertainment mogul. It was strategically placed news. You could even say he manipulated the news cycle.
But unfortunately, he did this at the peril of those in Texas right now and those who are in the grips of Harvey. Friday, we saw the winds blowing, people being told to evacuate.
This is the moral leader, this is the leader of the free world, this is the president of the United States who's supposed to be watching overall America.
And if I was a resident of Texas, I would wonder. And that's the question, one, what are the residents of Texas when all of this is said and done and they find this out, what do they have to say, this Red State?
And ten two, this -- going back to what David said, this reinforces Charlottesville when the president spoke from his heart. This reinforces a lot of different things. So, there's several things on the table. This is totally different than what we've seen before.
BURNETT: All right. All of you, stay with me, please. Next, we have the breaking news. Trump's long time attorney admitting he reached out to the Kremlin for a Trump Tower project in Moscow. Efforts to build in Russia going well into the Trump campaign.
Plus, more breaking news from Houston at this hour, new numbers about the thousands who are now displaced ongoing rescues as darkness falls. And this now, iconic picture and the story behind it, we'll tell you.
BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump's attorney confirming to CCN, The Trump Organization was pursuing plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow well into Trump's presidential campaign, and the president was aware of all of this.
Keep in mind, the president, of course, has said repeatedly that he has had no business dealings with Russia. Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT. And Pamela, what more are you learning tonight?
PAMELA BROWN, CCN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we've learned that Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal lawyer was in talks with Moscow through an intermediary about a proposal to build Trump Tower there in Moscow during the campaign.
In fact, Cohen said in a statement today that he emailed Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov for help on this project on behalf of The Trump Organization.
Now, Cohen says that he never heard back and the deal fell apart in January of 2016 just before the presidential primaries. Cohen also said he discussed this proposal with Donald Trump three times between September 2015 and January of 2016.
And he said the discussions surrounded the negotiations about the deal and then to tell him that the deal was off. He described those conversations as short and the intermediary he was working with, Erin, was Russian-born developer, Felix Sater. And according to "The New York Times," Sater urged Trump to come to Moscow to tour this proposal, and even suggested to him that he could help him win the presidency, Erin.
BURNETT: Which is obviously an incredible thing there. He just, at the end, even suggested he could win the presidency. How significant is all of this?
BROWN: Well, I can tell you that Special Counsel Robert Mueller would likely be interested in this as part of the possible collusion with Russia during the campaign investigation.
Additionally, investigators on the Hill are interested, they've received Cohen's emails just today. As you know, he pointed out, Trump has denied having any business dealings in Russia of Michael Cohen after the election, also denied having any dealings with Russia.
So, those statements are belied at least in parts by the fact they were trying to secure a major real estate deal in Moscow during the start of the campaign, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Pamela, thank you very much and let's go back to our panel. April, The Trump Organization was pursing plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Okay, we know that. Contrary to what they had said before. This went on well into the presidential campaign, January of 2016. His personal lawyer reached out to Putin's top spokesperson for help.
Donald Trump was aware of all of that because his lawyer discussed it with him three times. What impact will this revolution --
BURNETT: -- have on the Russia investigation?
RYAN: Well, Mueller is very stealth with what he's doing. There's not much leaking, but I'm sure that this is playing into -- very much into this investigation. There -- I mean, there are questions right now of conflict of interest and collusion.
We had heard something about this as early as that the email issue with Don Jr., Donald Trump, Jr., and his meetings with his brother-in- law and others when it came to the Hillary Clinton -- what is it, opposition research.
So, we had heard that they had been trying to put their name on a building there, but it's flushing out even more and they --and what's really telling is the fact that they attempted to get approval from the Kremlin and just could not.
So, there's a lot swirling around right here that I'm sure Mueller will be interested in if he's not already on.
BURNETT: So, David, here's the thing. As Pamela was just reporting, we know that the proposal was under consideration from September of 2015 until the end January 2016. It had progressed, right?
It didn't end up happening, but it had progressed to soliciting building designs and negotiations over financing. Okay. In January of 2016, this is all still going on. Here is then candidate Trump talking about Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Putin came out and said nice things about me and everyone went crazy. They said, "Oh, isn't that terrible?" Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with Russia and use Russia in order to get rid of ISIS and let them spend some of the money instead of us always spending the money? So, I have good relationships with many people and that's an asset.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, David, was he trying to play to Putin there to cozy up to him? I mean, again, let me emphasize, he was spoken to three times by his personal attorney about this deal. He was well aware of it.
GERGEN: Well, it's hard Erin knowing the facts we do so far and they're scanty just how serious this was taken within The Trump Organization, was (INAUDIBLE) was he taken seriously by The Trump Organization, was he someone on the outer circle that was just engaging in puffery?
It's hard to know. But what I do think is we see a steady pattern by Donald Trump that we've all talked about being very solicitous of Putin and very solicitous to the Russians.
And wonder -- and everyone wondering, does this have some economic rationale behind it, is that why he's being so solicitous?
Not thinking necessarily it was a tower but rather that it might have been some loans or money that came in earlier. I do think it's -- while we don't know enough to be, I think, too judgmental.
It's worth pointing out that law fair a respected email or site -- website, and national security is saying tonight that this is the first time we've seen the kind of material that could be used on in an impeachment proceeding.
BURNETT: Which is a pretty stunning thing to say. I mean, because, Doug, here's the other part of this. Trump is aware of this, right?
And Putin's top spokesman was involved and yet he has said again and again, point blank, black and white, that he had no business deals with Russia. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever. I don't have any property in Russia. I don't deal there. I have no businesses there. I have no loans from Russia. What do I have to do with Russia? The closest I came to Russia, I'd bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida. Bought it for 40, I sold it for 100 to a Russian.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, Doug, did he lie or is he actually walking the line of truth there? Because obviously, he tried to do business with Russia, according to this reporting, but he failed and all he says here is he didn't actually do business with Russia.
BRINKLEY: Well, what we now know is that Donald Trump's lawyer was seeking to do -- get favors done for him from Putin. That's a big, big part of the puzzle. People are trying to construct over what is Donald Trump's obsession with Russia, his cover-up mode that he's been in for this entire year.
You're starting to get republicans wanting to distance themselves from Trump. Vice President Pence did a very fine job on Texas Radio today, explaining the storm.
And a lot of republicans are starting to think that perhaps impeachment may be around the corner that with -- that this fall, next few weeks with the showdown going in congress, threatening the walls, not getting money, there's going to be a government shutdown.
It's starting to show the -- I think the shrinking of the Trump presidency and this is an important news revelation.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much as we continue to cover those developments.
Next, breaking news from North Korea, just firing a missile. Is Kim Jong-un going to provoke Donald Trump again?
The only Western Journalist in North Korea tonight is our Will Ripley, we're going to be live on the ground.
And breaking news on of hurricane Harvey, we have new figures coming in. The Houston mayor just speaking out with some new numbers. And this viral picture speaking volumes about the disaster there.
BURNETT: Breaking news. North Korea, defying President Trump, launching a test missile tonight. This is the fourth missile test in just a past few days.
The Pentagon confirming, the missile flew over Japan and the prime minister there calls the launch "Unprecedented, serious, and a grave threat." Senator Lindsey Graham just this moment says that this is a "big-time escalation of the conflict."
It comes as the United States and South Korea conduct a joint military drills, even though the North said that could lead to nuclear war.
Will Ripley is OUTFRONT from Pyongyang, the only Western Journalist there. And obviously, you have been there so many times, you know what you're seeing now, Will.
Kim Jong-un is defying President Trump. Tonight's launch, you say is a significant one. Why?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's very different from what we've seen previously because it was launched around 20 miles from where I'm standing right now. It's very rare for North Korea to launch a missile from its capital.
It flew more than 1,700 miles, flying over populated areas in a key U.S. ally Japan and coming down -
RIPLEY: -- in the Pacific Ocean, prompting alerts to go out to Japanese citizens to take cover.
A very frightening situation in the region and this is the kind of missile that could, had it been aimed in a different direction, could have potentially gone all the way down to Guam.
Remember, North Korea was threatening that just a few weeks ago. They did not carry out that threat in the last few hours, but what they did do is try to show the United States that they have missiles in their arsenal that are capable of reaching key U.S. military assets in this region and also many U.S. citizens potentially in harm's way along with millions of U.S. allies.
BURNETT: And Will, what does this mean about Kim Jong-un's fear of President Trump? Right. Okay. He didn't fire it towards Guam, but he's making a very loud and clear point that he could hit Guam.
President Trump had threatened fire and fury if that ever happened. So, Kim Jong-un is testing the president here, clearly.
RIPLEY: Right. This is North Korea saying to the United States that even though Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State praised him for showing restraint. President Trump said just in the last week that North Korea respects the United States.
When we get on the ground here in Pyongyang, we got a very different message from officials, they are still seething over those remarks from President Trump.
They are furious about the ongoing joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea, which have entered their second week, and this is a defiant show of force by North Korea, wanting to let the United States know they have weapons in their arsenal that they're ready to use.
And we may not see this be over just yet, because South Korea believes there are preparations underway right now and North Korea's nuclear test site at Punggye-ri potentially for a sixth nuclear test.
Officials have been saying for months that North Korea could push the button on that test with almost no notice, and just about any time.
And given North Korea is so angry right now about all these different developments, we have to watch the situation here very closely. It could escalate.
BURNETT: All right. Will Ripley, thank you very much. Live in Pyongyang. And of course, that nuclear test is significant for so many reasons including they have not done one of those in a year, so it would be a major test for President Trump.
And now back to our other top-breaking story, the Houston mayor announcing the city has now rescued more than 3,000 people in the aftermath of hurricane Harvey. Those numbers have gone up dramatically today.
As Harvey regained strength tonight, it is gearing up to strike the Southern Coast again. The midst of tragedy, though, there have been many powerful images. One of them, this photo of Otis, that's the name of the dog, carrying a bag of dog food down a rain-slicked street.
It quickly went viral and it left thousands wondering if his owners would ever find him. Well, it turns out, five-year-old Carter Miles is the owner of Otis and he'd left him in the care of his grandfather when he was evacuated.
I'm joined now by Salvador Segovia and Otis. And Salvador, thank you so much. You know, and Otis is of course with you now. I know your family evacuated ahead of the storm and you were going to check in on Otis. And what happened?
SALVADOR SEGOVIA, OWNER OF OTIS: Well, actually, I evacuated my grandson and my daughter to Laredo due to the storm. And my grandson make him -- wanted to take care of Otis for him.
Well, in the midst of the storm, things got rowdy and I'm thinking by crackling, cracking, and dismembering trees and whatever, loud noises and a rumble.
I'm thinking Otis got kind of like scared and kicked the door or pushed the door with his paws and broke the hinge and ran outside. So --
BURNETT: Your grandson is only five-years-old.
SEGOVIA: Yes, five years --
BURNETT: And Otis is really important to his life. He loves him as a dog and I know Otis also helps him as well, right?
SEGOVIA: Yes. Because -- well, my grandson, he's gone through -- he has gone through seizures and he's asthmatic, you know, he has asthma. And kind of -- Otis is his best buddy. BURNETT: When Carter came home and you were able to reunite --
SEGOVIA: Reunite them both --
BURNETT: -- Carter and Otis and tell him the story, what happened then?
SEGOVIA: Well, what happened was that when this lady put it on Facebook -- I didn't know it was on Facebook already until my daughter called me and told me, "Dad, why is Otis on Facebook? I thought you were taking care of him."
I said, "Well, I lost Otis." She said, "Well, he's on Facebook." And that's when this lady sitting here beside me came and took a picture. She drove up and told me, "Do you own a dog?" I said, "Yes." She said, "Is that him coming down the street?"
I said, "That is Otis." And then she said, "Well, we spotted him this morning coming across the highway and he had his big bag of dog food in his mouth."
He came directly to where I was, laid them bag of dog food --
SEGOVIA: -- in front of me, like telling me, "Well, open it up and give me some," you know.
BURNETT: And that was Salvador and a wonderful story with a happy ending. Thanks to all of you for joining us. AC360 starts right now.