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Trump Defends Pardoning Controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio; Louisiana Braces For Heavy Rain From Harvey; Man Opens Furniture Store to Houston Evacuees; Trump Lifts Ban On Military Gear For Local Police. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 29, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] TODD GILLMAN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: And there many, many people who find this incredibly offensive that the president would pardon a lawman for unconstitutional actions, for racial profiling. For basically protecting a person using his office, as a lawman, to violate the rights of American citizens and using round-ups and detentions to enforce immigration laws that were not really within his purview because those are federal responsibilities.

So, this is -- this is a Rashomon test for the American public and many people find it terribly offensive that he was pardoned. And some people who are, clearly, very firmly in the Trump camp are very happy about it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Karoun, we're getting breaking news right now.

The president has just released a statement on North Korea. This is a presidential statement. It says -- Donald J. Trump says North Korea -- on North Korea.

"The world has received North Korea's latest message loud and clear. This regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior. Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime's isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table."

How do you hear that?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's not committing to one option or another so, like I said before, it's that the fundamental calculus of this is still the same. The question is, at this point, does the United States try to step up its game even further?

Remember, the U.N. sanctions that were passed were comprehensive. Their efficacy depends on how well they are enforced.

The Treasury Department has taken steps to list new entities and apply sanctions to them. But how hard will we go after Chinese banks and other institutions that are going around these sanctions? How well will China police its own country and its own institutions? How much further are we planning to go?

I mean, you know, there's this whole discussion about will there be a military option that's enforced or not, and that caused an entire scramble to basically clarify what the president had meant and talk down things that he had said.

So, the question still remains. Yes, we know that this is a move that the president does not support -- that he is now saying very distinctly it is not OK. But what does not OK mean in terms of what next steps we take? That's still not clear.

And, how well we're able to undo this threat depends on what those next steps will be.

CAMEROTA: All right.

Karoun and Todd, thank you very much for being here with us.


So we are marking the 12-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and for Louisiana, it's being marked by more rain and danger.

Tropical Storm Harvey is bearing down on that state. It's expected to make landfall tonight. There's already a lot of water on the ground and the situation is worse than we even knew.

Joining us now is Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. Governor, thank you for joining us.

You were telling the producers --

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: Thank you and good morning, Chris.

CUOMO: Oh, Governor, always a pleasure to speak with you.

You were telling the producers you've already had to rescue people in southwest Louisiana. What's the situation?

EDWARDS: Yes. Well, at about 6:00 last night, local officials there in Calcasieu Parish in and around Lakes Charles -- assisted by the National Guard, the Wildlife and Fisheries Agency, and the fire marshal -- they rescued about 500 people from flooded homes.

You know, that area has been inundated with rain for several days and the storm surge is preventing the rivers from draining the areas that would normally happen. And so, just the accumulation of rainwater caused the flooding and caused us to have to start the rescue operations. But that operation has now ceased.

But, as you know, the rain continues and we are bracing for landfall as Harvey is out in the Gulf actually strengthening a bit -- reenergizing and drawing that moisture off the Gulf. We anticipate that this is going to play out over the next couple of days. And when it finally starts moving north it's going to move across a large area of our state and so we're trying to make sure that we're ready.

CUOMO: In terms of need. Governor, what do you anticipate --

EDWARDS: I must have lost you.

CUOMO: No, it's OK. You got me now, Governor?

EDWARDS: OK. Yes, sir, I got you.

CUOMO: What are you anticipating in terms of need?

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, let me tell you the federal government has been excellent. The president has called twice. He signed the declaration we requested within a few hours of our making the request on Sunday evening.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Duke has been wonderful. And, FEMA administrator Brock has been great, as well.

[07:35:00] What we -- what we need right now is really Mother Nature to cooperate more than anything else. We believe we're positioned well. We've been staging assets and personnel.

We've got about 700 National Guardsmen, for example, that are working. We've got high water vehicles, boats, aircraft -- rotary-wing aircraft staged where we need them.

We just need for this storm system to move on through so that we can start to dry out. We already had one of the wettest summers on record and so the ground was inundated with water -- saturated, I should say. And so there's just not much more capacity for rainfall without additional flooding.

CUOMO: I know it's storm season. I know that it's part of the culture down there of knowing how to deal with this type of adversity. But on the 12-year anniversary of Katrina, this is the worst kind of situation you would want in terms of how to mark that occasion.

What do you tell yourself to kind of steel yourself against this kind of situation and threat?

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, the Katrina situation is one that ever since then, because of the experience that we had, we know how to deal with rain, we know how to deal with floods. We've got a lot of experienced people, we've got the right equipment.

One of the things that we're trying to do is be the best neighbor possible to Texas because they were very gracious and hospitable. They took in an awful lot of people after Katrina, as you would remember, and they remain obviously the center of gravity as it relates to Harvey.

So we're sending over search and rescue teams to Texas as we're able to do that. We're offering to shelter folks from Texas in Louisiana, should that become necessary. And so, we're trying to focus on preparing for and responding to the

storm here in Louisiana but also trying to help our neighbor in Texas. And certainly, we continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers, as well.

CUOMO: Well, that is -- that is some gesture, especially now with Harvey bearing down, that Louisiana remembers and returns the favor.

We know the Cajun Navy made its way over to Texas --


CUOMO: -- and they're trying to help.

And we will keep you in our thoughts and we will cover your situation and get the word out of what is needed in Louisiana.

Governor, always a pleasure. Be well, be safe.

EDWARDS: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: All right, Chris. Let's get the conditions on the ground in Louisiana at this hour.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is live in Lake Charles, Louisiana with more. What are seeing, Kaylee?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, I'm in the area that Gov. Edwards was just talking where around 500 people were rescued from their homes overnight.

And I was just talking with a group of men from Wildlife and Fisheries. Men who helped rescue the folks in this neighborhood last night, who also contributed to rescue efforts during Hurricane Katrina, and they say this is nothing like that.

This is nothing like what you're seeing out of Texas, but this is the first visual example we have of the damage of Harvey in Lake Charles. About 400 to 500 homes now flooded behind me as the drainage canal overflowed with all of the rainfall that we've seen here.

And the question and concern now is how much more rain will fall in this area. We've got a respite from it now but 10 to 15 inches of rain have already fallen in this area in the last two days. We're expecting six to 10 inches in other pockets in this area in the next two days.

The people -- officials are asking for vigilance in this area, telling people to stay in their homes if they can. Obviously, not safe for the folks in the neighborhood behind me to do that. But a real recognition of how quickly the situation can become dangerous as these waters rise.

CUOMO: All right, Kaylee. Thank you very much. HARTUNG: Chris --

CUOMO: Keep us apprised of the situation.

The governor there telling us that they are expecting to be OK in Louisiana. So much so that they're going to keep helping their friends in Texas.

So, another story for you.

A furniture store in Houston transforms into a shelter for flood victims. Why the owner feels compelled to do the right thing, next.


[07:42:37] CAMEROTA: More than 9,000 people are sheltering inside Houston's convention center this morning. That is almost double its capacity, and more people still need a place to go.

Enter a local furniture store owner who is taking matters into his own hands. Jim McIngvale joins us now on the phone. Good morning, Jim.


CAMEROTA: I'm well. Do people call you "Mattress Mack"?

MCINGVALE: I've been called worse. Yes, they do.

CAMEROTA: Well, they call you "Mattress Mack" because you have this furniture store. We're seeing pictures of what you've turned it into this morning -- of this shelter. We see kids, in fact, jumping on mattresses in their pajamas in your store while they're waiting for their fate to turn.

How many people do you think you have in your stores today?

MCINGVALE: We have two stores. One of them has about 360 people, the other around 400. So we've got lots of people in this horrible flooding and we're thrilled to have them.

CAMEROTA: Well, Jim, that is awfully kind of you. I mean, obviously, you are a philanthropist. You are a generous person.

But, you know, it's hard not to imagine that after people stay there that your inventory may not be usable or sellable.

How long do you think you're going to keep people in your stores?

MCINGVALE: Yes, some of them will stay two or three days. Some of them will probably stay as long as a week until they get back on their feet.

So -- but, you know, these are great people. They're not hard on the inventory. They're fine.

We've had nothing but good things to say about all these people that have gone through these incredible tragedies.

The other morning a young boy came up to me -- he was about seven years old -- at 1:00 a.m. in the morning as his parents stumbled in here. He was crying. He said -- his parents obviously couldn't speak English -- he said can we stay here? It just breaks your heart.

So we're thrilled to have these people here and, you know, life dealt them a bad hand and we're trying to help relieve some of the stress and anxiety that's on them right now so folks can get back to a life of normalcy in the future.

CAMEROTA: And how are you feeding everybody and taking care of them while they're there?

MCINGVALE: Well, we have two big restaurants. We have a restaurant in each store so that's pretty easy.

Something that's difficult because every grocery store and restaurant in Houston is closed with the hurricane. But we got back in business yesterday so we feed all these folks breakfast, lunch, and dinner and try to take care of them like they would be taken care of at a hotel. If we can do that and make their life a little bit easier as they try to get things put back together then maybe we've done something right in our life.

[07:45:12] CAMEROTA: I think you've done this before. Did you help out during Katrina?

MCINGVALE: Yes, we had about 200 people from Louisiana who evacuated Katrina in here for a couple of nights so that made it easy for me to make this decision on Sunday when the hurricane got worse and the rain kept pelting.

Unfortunately, it's still raining here today so it's a catastrophic flood of biblical proportions and we're hanging in there keeping the faith and trying to make life better for a lot of these people.

CAMEROTA: Well, you are making life better for a lot of them and this isn't the first time, as I've said, that you've done philanthropic and really generous things.

You are known around town. You give away free beds if the Houston Astros win the World Series. You also have given money to local schools to help them improve their infrastructure and teachers' lounges, and stuff like that.

I mean, why do you feel so connected to your community and such a sense of urgency to help people there?

MCINGVALE: Let's just say I'm a social worker with a minor in furniture (ph).

CAMEROTA: (Laughing).

MCINGVALE: My daughter is a social worker. I believe in helping people. That's the way I was brought up. That's

what my parent taught me to do so, you know, I don't know anything else, so that's what it's all about.

CAMEROTA: So what's going to happen to these folks? What's the future for these people who we're seeing in these pictures in your store? Are they going to be able to return to homes or have those homes washed away or been ruined?

MCINGVALE: A lot of them, unfortunately, have washed away and been ruined.

The other thing is employment. So, you know, we still have three people that we hired during Katrina that still work here that slept here a couple of nights and we're trying to recruit four or five of the people that are here now. These are great people in here and the future is a little bit cloudy but we're going to be there to help them and help them get some job assistance and help them find some housing.

FEMA and the Red Cross do a good job of helping these folks make a bridge back to normal life. So the future will be difficult but I think the future also will be bright.

CAMEROTA: Well, Mattress Mack, you are a beacon of light in this storm. Thank you very much for opening your store to everyone and for sharing your story with us. It's great to talk to you.

MCINGVALE: Thank you. Have a good day. Bye-bye.

CAMEROTA: You, too -- Chris.

CUOMO: Our better angels are out and, boy, the demand is great for them. Our thanks to Mattress Mack.

The Trump administration moving to end the Obama-era ban on military gear for police. A lot of these rules came out of what we saw in Ferguson.

Is this a good idea? We debate it, next.


[07:51:30] CUOMO: President Trump signing an executive order lifting an Obama-era ban to resume transferring surplus military weapons and vehicles to local police. Good idea, bad idea?

Let's discuss. We have Cedric Alexander, deputy mayor of Rochester, New York and author of "The New Guardians." And, Jeff Roorda, business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association.

Gentlemen, thank you for being with us today.

Jeff Roorda, make the case for this move by President Trump.

We, obviously, spent a lot of time together in Ferguson. We saw the plus and the minus of the presence there of police and how they were acquitting themselves.

What do you make of this move?

JEFF ROORDA, BUSINESS MANAGER, ST. LOUIS POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION, AUTHOR, "THE WAR ON POLICE": Well, Chris, as you know, I'm down here in Nashville for the Fraternal Order of Police national convention. General Sessions was here yesterday announcing the lift on the ban and it was very well received.

University law enforcement officers were thrilled to hear that this protective defensive equipment is going to be available to us again, and that's exactly what it is. We -- it saved cops lives in Ferguson and other places where we've had mob violence and we ought to put it in the hands of cops so they can be safe.

CUOMO: Cedric Alexander, is it as simple as that to you?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, DEPUTY MAYOR, ROCHESTER, NEW YORK, AUTHOR, "THE NEW GUARDIANS": No, not quite as simple and certainly, I do understand what Mr. Roorda is saying. And being a police veteran myself, one thing we want to do, we want to keep our police officers safe, Chris, and that is critically important.

But I think the difference is here -- and I, too, there on the ground with you guys in Ferguson during those early -- during those early days. One of the issues that occurred there in Ferguson is that the optic of militarized weapons being used against American citizens who were exercising their First Amendment right became the issue.

Now, certainly, there was times when there was gunfire, there was violence. And certainly, you want to do and make sure you have the proper equipment to take care of your personnel.

If the president is going to go in that direction, and it appeared that he is, then here's what I would say as a law enforcement official and as a city leader is that if this equipment is going to be issued to police departments across the country several things has to happen.

I think, first of all, cities need to meet some certain criteria to receive that equipment. Number two, there needs to be extreme training on that equipment. There needs to be policies that are written that will determine when and where that equipment is used.

And I think it becomes critically important that the community, the police, and their legal sections all sit down and have a discussion as to how to best introduce whatever equipment they choose to desire into their communities.

We live in a very dangerous time, Chris. And if we go back to San Bernardino, our police officers are going to need the equipment to protect them in order to make the rescues, in order to engage a real threat that we know are out there, both domestic and foreign.

But it has to be training, policy, and community involvement to make sure that everyone is on the same page in understanding the importance of keeping everyone safe. But at the same time, Chris, I think it becomes critically important

that people understand, considering the history, that we have a better optic than what we had before.

CUOMO: All right. So this gets a little complicated, right? It becomes about the realities on the ground for police versus the optics and the perception of those they are policing.

[07:55:02] I mean, all three of us are very well aware of cases where officers have been outgunned, where they're going against people who have weapons that are military grade.

All right, so that's one scenario.

So, Jeff, Cedric outlined a different one which is that -- and we heard it from Sen. Rand Paul, Republican from Kentucky, saying that this sends a bad message. That this is a police state, not just police, and that that's not a message that you want to send to the American people.

What do you say to people who are afraid -- that they don't want military-style weapons and equipment being used against them?


ROORDA: To Cedric's point and to --

CUOMO: Hold on, Cedric. Jeff, go ahead.

ROORDA: Yes. To Cedric's point and to Sen. Paul's point, you know, law enforcement evolved and it evolved very quickly post-Ferguson. And I think they are more aware that it's not just tactics, that it's also optics and that they've got to balance their response.

But remember, we call this military equipment but a lot of it came into the use of the military after law enforcement had already been using it for years when our military in Iraq started getting into situations in urban warfare.

And again, just like law enforcement, the military was using that equipment defensively, not offensively, and we have to be careful about blanketly calling this equipment military equipment when it is, in its very essence, protective equipment that --

Again, you saw the BearCats in Ferguson.


ROORDA: Every one of those armored vehicles was scarred with bullet marks and each one of those scars represents a cop that could have been killed.

CUOMO: Cedric, what do you say to people who are concerned that this sends a bad message?

ALEXANDER: Well, it sends a bad message really because of what the perception and the optics have been in the past and certainly, community have a reason to be concerned with that.

We have seen more militarization of police departments across this country in recent years. Community is continuously telling us that's not what they want to see. But there are going to be -- this is not the type of equipment that would be introduced into a community every day.

CUOMO: Right.

ALEXANDER: This equipment -- if the president is going to use this or say police departments can use it again, there has to be policy as to when and where and how it will be introduced.

CUOMO: Right.

ALEXANDER: But we need to be very, very careful when it comes to using this equipment against American citizens who are exercising their First Amendment right.

CUOMO: Right.

ALEXANDER: And, quite frankly, many departments -- and I think Roorda would agree -- many departments have become very sensitized to this issue and many departments now take that equipment in situations where they feel something is going to become very dangerous -- they do keep it out of sight.

But it cannot just become a mainframe -- a part of what we do in policing every day. That's not going to be accepted by the community, it's not going to be accepted by elected officials because at the end of the day, me being a deputy mayor in my city, I'm going to determine as to when and where and how and if this equipment will be utilized. That's what it really rests on, is the city leaders, elected officials, and community members.

CUOMO: And the balance of message. Do you put equal money and resources into community policing and body cameras as you do into the military-style equipment? You know, then you wind up sending a different message to the populous in just doing one of those moves.

Jeff, Cedric, thank you very much, gentlemen. Appreciate your perspective on this.

ALEXANDER: Thank you for having me.

CUOMO: You made us better for it.

ROORDA: You bet.

ALEXANDER: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. We're following a lot of news. Let's get after it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. It is Tuesday, August 29th, 8:00 in the East, and we're following two breaking stories for you.

First, Tropical Storm Harvey regaining strength and ready to make landfall again.

This is the scene at the Houston convention center where more than 9,000 storm victims are seeking refuge from Harvey's torrential rains and flooding. That shelter is way over capacity already but it is still accepting evacuees.

This comes as President Trump leaves for Texas this hour.

CUOMO: The president is also facing an international crisis. The White House releasing a statement from the president moments ago warning all options are on the table after a major escalation from North Korea. Kim Jong Un launching a ballistic missile over Japan.

We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Rosa Flores live at Houston's convention center.

Rosa, we heard from the Red Cross that yes, they know they're over capacity but that they have a network of shelters. And yet, we also hear that the need for those shelters could double or maybe even triple over the next few days.

What are you seeing on the ground there?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I just talked to a woman who described the evacuation process as a Noah's Ark that started by boat, then continued by high-water vehicle, and then by bus. Why did she describe it like that? Because it included people, it included their pets, their animals, and they're all coming here.

Let me show you around. This is the entrance where people are coming in. Now, this is a mixed population, authorities here have told us, and so there's a security check to make sure that everyone is safe and secure in this facility.