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Heavy Rain Continues to Affect Houston; Father and Son Reuniting after Being Separated During Hurricane Harvey; Trump Warns North Korea: "All Options Are on the Table"; Soon: President Trump to Visit Flood-Ravaged Texas. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired August 29, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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. So there's a security check to make sure everyone is safe and secure in this facility. Then you also see donation drops. People donating socks, pillows, towels. Right now they're is asking for plus size clothing. They're in need of a lot of that right now.
Then you see they move on to a registration site, and then beyond this wall, that's where people are sleeping. You see long lines back there because, like you mentioned, 9,000 people. Now, initially they had 5,000 cots here. They are bringing more. They are bringing more supplies. What I just heard from the Red Cross is they are incorporating partners that will bring in kitchens to cook food for up to 20,000 people.
Alisyn, as we've been talking about all morning long, people coming in in droves by buses. And now one other woman who I talked to, Alisyn, said that the community center where she was initially evacuated to flooded. And so some of these people have been moving to evacuation centers and then moved here because those evacuations flooded -- excuse me, those evacuation centers flooded. So a lot of stress, a lot of drama in this facility as well as people begin to figure out what to do next with their lives.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We can imagine, Rosa. And this is probably a good time to remind people that the red cross needs help financially, that people can make donations. You can go to our website also to find out. Rosa, thank you very much for all of that.
So the death toll is rising as rescuers try to bring thousands of people to safety. CNN's Scott McLean is live in the suburbs of Houston where the rain, it looks like it continues to fall. Maybe there's a respite right now. Scott, what's the latest? SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alisyn. Good morning again.
The rain is still very much coming down here. Where I'm standing right now in northeast Houston they're gotten nearly two feet of rain in the last two days alone. Other parts of this city have gotten more than two and a half feet. And there is still more on the way. Some estimates say there could be tens of thousands of people across the city that are still stranded inside of their homes.
And this neighborhood is no exception. We're sort of at the foot of it, one of the few entryways into it. You can see just how much water is back there. You can see the houses back there in the distance as well. That neighborhood goes back quite far. In fact there's a couple people I've spoken to this morning who say their loved ones and friends, they are back in some of the farthest houses back there. Some are wet, some are dry, thankfully, that are still in need of rescue.
And you can also see, I don't know if, John, you can see this. There's two gentlemen getting into that truck there. I actually spoke to them earlier this morning or the guys who are driving it. That's actually a big high water vehicle, and even it has stalled out. So there are plenty of challenges in getting out there. Last night, it was a constant rescue operation involving a lot of private boats that were going in and out, shuttling people out of there and high water vehicles as well.
And when the boats came out, they were bringing people under this underpass here for a little bit of shelter where people were coming and then getting on buses, trucks, things like that to be taken to local shelters. In fact, Alisyn, I spoke to one gentleman who had a box truck, a massive box truck that he said could fit about 30 different people in it at one time. He said he'd already taken about 200 people to local shelters. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So many people stepping up, and the need is great. One of the things that we're learning in this story is a bayou isn't like the gulf. It's a slow moving body of the water. It doesn't drain the same way. And it creates a lot of opportunity for back flushing when there's more rain, and that's why we're seeing the levels going up and down. Our thanks to Scott. We'll check back with him.
But now we have a different facet of the story to tell you about, a tearful reunion of a father and son separated by the storm. Aaron Mitchell broke down during an interview with CNN. He had lost everything but what mattered to him was he couldn't find his father. We got good news. They're back together again. We're going to speak to the young man and his father in just a moment. But here is their story to take you up to their moment this morning.
CUOMO: Like far too many, Aaron Mitchell chose to ride out the hurricane Harvey. The wind and water took everything but he hopes not everyone.
AARON MITCHELL, ARANSAS PASS RESIDENT: I just lost everything I worked for, everything. The only thing I got it the clothes on my back and hopefully my dad got out somewhere.
CUOMO: Mitchell telling CNN's Nick Valencia he traveled 12 miles on foot in the dark desperately searching for his father. But his house was empty.
MITCHELL: I haven't gotten a hold of anybody. If my mom and dad's watching, I'm OK. NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What are their names?
MITCHELL: Betty and Bryan.
[08:05:02] VALENCIA: Where were they last?
MITCHELL: My mom's in Oklahoma. My dad, there's no telling where my dad's at.
CUOMO: Mitchell couldn't know, but his father Bryan had been evacuated first to a shelter in Rockport, but when that area flooded he was evacuated again hours away to Austin. The CNN crew using a satellite phone to help him connect with his father for the first time since Harvey hit land. Here's the moment when he heard his father's voice.
MITCHELL: OK, dad. I'm going to jump on a bus. I'll be there. Are you OK? Yes. I'll jump on one. Dad, I love you.
CUOMO: Mitchell immediately jumping on evacuation buses bound for Austin. CNN's NEW DAY was there to help bring them together in person, taking this photo just after the joyful reunion.
CUOMO: Aaron Mitchell and his dad, Bryan, join me now. Gentlemen, it is great to see you this way. You're crying the best kinds of tears that there are in a situation like this. They are tears of joy, of knowing that what matters most has been found. How are you doing, young man?
MITCHELL: I'm doing -- I'm doing a lot better, you know? I'm really glad I actually found him. You know? I want to say thanks to Nick, you know?
CUOMO: Nick Valencia, the reporter who was there, he was happy to help out. It's one of those small things you can do on this job. But Bryan, it's got to warm your heart to know that your stepson was looking for you that way and that the love was that real in that moment of need.
BRYAN BACLE, REUNITED WITH SON AFTER HURRICANE: It was. It really was. I was so concerned, and not hearing from him for a few days. He was supposed to show up earlier on Friday and he didn't show. And then the police had come and asked me to evacuate at the behest of my family. So, it was hard to just leave knowing that he was going to be showing up, but I tried to leave messages, and I guess they blew away.
CUOMO: The fear of the unknown in a situation like this makes everything worse. Aaron, it's so easy for people to say, hey, things don't matter. House doesn't matter. You can rebuild your life, it's people that matter. It's easy to say, it's hard to live. What have you learned from this experience so far?
MITCHELL: You know, I've taken a lot of people for granted, you know, being wrapped up in materialistic stuff. I got a different outlook on things after Harvey. So my dad's my best friend. I really don't know what -- I don't know. Like I said, it's -- I'm little bit lost for words trying to even think about, you know, losing another person.
CUOMO: God forbid you even have to think about it. I'm sorry to put you on the spot. We all know how you feel. Every father, every son, ever parent out there knows. Bryan, in a strange way we learn things of value in hard times. And to know that the love is real and that what your son wanted more than anything else, he knew his mom was safe in Oklahoma, but he wanted to know where you are, he wanted to know you were OK. What does that mean to you?
BACLE: My dad's my hero. Quite a bit that he was so concerned. You wonder about your kids sometimes, and we all have our little differences as we grow older and our relationships become strained and changed, and it's just so much. It's overwhelming sometimes to think about the love between a father and son. And it's there, and that's what matters, and --
CUOMO: Well, look.
BACLE: Material things can always be changed.
CUOMO: They can. And everybody is living that in the worst way down there who are affected by the storm. You have each other. That's the building block for everything moving forward. And unfortunately, it's going to be a tough road. Any plans on what happens next, Aaron? I know the storm's not over.
[08:10:00] I know more rain is coming. But, any thought yet? Or are you just going to ride it out for now and figure it out once the rain goes?
MITCHELL: I actually -- I can't -- I can't really actually stop thinking about what I'm going to do next. It's going to take me a little while to actually rebuild where I was at. I still don't know what I'm going to do. I've got to find another job. That's obviously the first thing. I don't know. Try to pick up the pieces and move forward, you know, because that's all that anyone's ever got. Just take the hits, pick yourself up, and move on.
CUOMO: Well, it's tough to do, but you're going to be starting with the best foundation you could have, which is the love of family. And I'm glad you guys found each other.
MITCHELL: Yes, sir.
CUOMO: I know that Nick Valencia was happy to help as was the CNN crew. I wish you well going forward. We'll stay in touch. And I know there are a lot of fathers out there and a lot of sons who are appreciating the bond that you two are showing us at this moment.
BACLE: I have an aunt and uncle and cousin in Houston, so my heart is out to them as well.
CUOMO: Lot of families are affected. I hope they make it through OK. And I wish you both the best going forward. MITCHELL: Can I say hi to my mom?
CUOMO: You just did. But go ahead.
CUOMO: What do you want her to know?
MITCHELL: I love you. Just we're safe. And just stay out of the weather. Cat, hi. That's it.
CUOMO: Well done. Gentlemen, be well. We'll stay in touch. Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: That was beautiful. I'm so glad they found each other again.
CUOMO: Look, it is a hard way to have to realize what matters most. But Nick Valencia did God's work there helping them get in touch. Sometimes it makes the difference. Once you know everyone you love is OK, everything else is just a little bit easier.
CAMEROTA: Those guys seemed changed by that experience.
So we are following more breaking news for you, though. President Trump has just issued a warning to North Korea after their latest ballistic missile launch from the White House. Pyongyang, we have this story covered. We're on the ground. That's next.
[08:16:16] CAMEROTA: We're following breaking news for you. President Trump responding with a strong message to North Korea's ballistic missile launch over Japan. This comes minutes before the president heads to Texas to assess the destruction from the Tropical Storm Harvey.
CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House for us with more on that statement.
I know that's just come out. What did you learn, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, a carefully crafted statement of just a few dozen words in the name of the president of the United States himself. And this comes just 12 hour or more after North Korea launched that over-flight that passed over Japan and plunged into the ocean.
Here's the statement: The world had received the 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. Finishing with some ominous language: All options are on the table, the statement says.
The White House also indicating this morning that the president last night did speak with Japanese Prime Minister Abe, speaking to him briefly. The readout of that conversation, the two leaders agreed North Korea poses a grave and growing threat to the U.S. and the region and they're committed to increasing pressure on North Korea. Very different tone, of course, from some of the other statements we've heard from the president.
Also, important to add that this all options are on the table language reiterates and reinforces a White House position that may have been in question after the departure of the president's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
Chris, back to you.
CUOMO: Joe, appreciate it. So, you have this war of words but then it's not just words because North Korea just launched a missile.
Let's bring in CNN's Will Ripley, the only Western journalist inside North Korea live in Pyongyang.
And you've been telling us this morning about the pressure within North Korea to deal with the United States from a position of strength. Is your sense that even these provocative acts are just that? They're just the language of strength as opposed to, you know, a real threat of action?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Chris, because if North Korea wanted to launch this missile at a city in Japan, they could have done that. They've proven they have that technical capability but they didn't do that. It was likely a dummy missile that frightened millions of people who heard air ride sirens and got messages on their phone saying they have to seek shelter in a sturdy building, that North Korea was coming. But yet, it landed harmlessly in the Pacific Ocean.
So, this was a demonstration of North Korea's technical capabilities. Had they point the missile south, this kind of missile could have very likely gotten quite close to Guam, but they didn't do that. Likely, knowing that it would cross a red line for the United States. Perhaps the U.S. would have been forced to act militarily. The United States didn't do that. Japan didn't even shoot down the missile even though it flew right over their airspace.
So, North Korea sends a strong message with a launch like this. They gain technical knowledge and also launched from their airport, here in Pyongyang, just 20 miles from where I'm standing right now. They launched it very close to a highly populated area, their capital. It's very unusual, but when it does, it sends a message to the United States that North Korea doesn't have to just launch these missiles from remote areas. They can launch them population centers which means a preemptive strike by the United States would be very costly potentially in terms of humanitarian catastrophe, lives lost if you United States were to try to bomb a missile launch site very close to any North Korean city.
So, they gain a lot with a launch like this, and at least so far, what have they lost? Seventh round of sanctions has already passed.
[08:20:03] They've already been condemned repeatedly for their other previous launches. The sanctions haven't even taken effect yet.
So, what is the United States going to do? When the president says all options are on the table, what real options do they have? And that is a question that the North Korea's think they know the answer to, which is frankly much -- Chris.
CUOMO: And you're putting your finger right on the balance here -- what is said versus what is done.
Will, do a favor. Stay with us.
Let's bring in the panel. CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and "Houston Chronicle" Washington correspondent Kevin Diaz.
Ron, look, Will is laying it out perfectly there, but it is also a frustrating situation for the United States and the U.N. They did pass the sanctions. They just launched another missile. It wasn't at Guam, which I guess theoretically would have been crossing a red line for the president of the United States.
But what options does Trump have?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, for over 20 years, we have been in this box where the diplomatic options are limited. The economic pressure is limited, and applied mostly through China, which has its own restraint on how far it's willing to go and the military options involve not only enormous damage in North Korea but I think more to the point, the potential of catastrophic casualties and property damage in Seoul.
So, it has always been extremely limited. But, on the other happened, what you saw her today, what you saw in kind of making this point in China -- excuse me, in Japan, as opposed to Guam was that there is the capacity to draw -- there does seem to be the capacity to draw red lines that has at least some constraining influence on the North Korean behavior.
So, you know, this is a delicate and frustrating balance, but it may be one in which ultimately, some form of deterrence will be the best option that we have, only because to paraphrase Winston Churchill, all of others have been tried and are, you know, are found lacking.
CAMEROTA: Look, I mean this is what's so confusing is just what the options are. Will, as you explained, Steve Bannon, the former top adviser in the White House had said quite clearly just two weeks ago in his interview to the "American Prospect" that there is no military option.
I'll read it for you. There is no military solution to North Korea's nuclear threats. Forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about. There's no military solution here. They've got us.
So, when today, President Trump says all options are on the table, it's hard to know what that means.
RIPLEY: Absolutely. And that's exactly what North Korea's trying to do here is to show that even though the United States is significantly more powerful and, yes, they may bring aircraft carriers back to the region in a defensive posture, South Korea conducted its own bombing drills to show they could theoretically try to take out North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-un.
And while North Korea doesn't have that money, they don't have that power, they don't have the political clout, but they have in their hands the kind of weapon that is just dangerous enough to prevent the United States and its alleys from doing something that could topple this regime.
At the end of the day, that is exactly what the point is for Kim Jong- un. These missiles are about keeping him and his inner circle in power and it was the same goal for his father and the same goal for his grandfather before him.
CUOMO: Well, this has been going on a long time. We'll see if this current administration can figure out any new options seeing how they keep saying all are on the table.
The president just tweeted: Leaving now for Texas.
Kevin, that takes us down to your neck of the woods. The president wants to be there early. He says that the federal government is completely behind any needs for Texas and Gulf Region. He is bonded well with the governor there in Texas.
What does this trip mean?
KEVIN DIAZ, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Well, for the president, this is credibly important, because I don't know how things are going to play out in Korea, but if that story dies down, what happens here in Texas and the federal response could go a long way toward determining what this president's legacy is. We've seen how these natural disasters can turn into political calamities. That happened to George Bush.
So, he's under the spotlight here, and a lot of people in Texas are looking very closely how the federal government's going to respond.
CAMEROTA: What are you expecting, Ron?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I think we have a two-stage kind of discussion that are with he a going to be having here over the next several weeks. The first is the immediate response of the federal government, and state and local officials to this incredible calamity and catastrophic storm. And so far, they are getting, you know, primarily good marks for the response and for the -- as well as the public pitching in and really in almost in an unprecedented way with these makeshift flotillas.
[08:25:05] There are other issues looming around the bend, though, once the immediate danger is passed, and that is going to be paying for the enormous price of reconstruction. As you recall the vast majority of House and Senate Republicans, including most of the leaders from Texas, voted against the Sandy aide, arguing that it was filled with extraneous spending which has been largely debunked and demanding offsetting budget cuts for any new aid, including Mulvaney. He was the author of that. He's now the head of the OMB.
And then one step beyond that, Alisyn, I think -- at some point, there has to be a discussion of whether these sorts of events are becoming more common because of climate change. I mean, scientists are reluctant to attribute any storm to a change in climate.
But in my CNN.com column today, I quote the former head of NOAA as saying, look, this is a preview of the future. There is no doubt climate change makes because of -- particularly of warming the ocean waters and the gulf waters, make storms like this more common. Heavy rainfall in Texas events have become much more common there as well. And that is a discussion for around the bend and I think questions for this president to address at some point, once the immediate danger has passed.
CUOMO: Well, when we see why so many states move towards enforcing the strictures of the accord, the Paris Accord, even without the federal acceptance of it, it does seem as though we have 100-year storms every year or two. We have new live pictures from Houston of the flooding from our affiliate KTRK.
This is it. This is life on the ground there right now. You're seeing something that really captures the moment. You've got your first responders. You have the people in need and you have the citizens stepping up to help their own. And all the while, the situation continues to get worse, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Look at this little kid. A little child being taken obviously from a rescue off a boat, maybe mom or somebody there following him. And I mean it just continues. This has been going on for days. These folks are working 22-24 hours, because so many people are still trapped in their hopes.
CUOMO: Right. And now, we mark the 12-year anniversary of Katrina. And, look, that was a very different situation. We were there. There was a tremendous loss of life.
But you had a gulf and the Mississippi that had an ability to absorb and divert water that you don't have with a bayou. A bayou by definition is a slow-moving body of water. That's why you're seeing levels go up and down. It simply can't take this flow.
Look at this guy as boat. This guy's boat is underwater right now. He's going to go have to try to figure out how to deal with it. He's trying to help now, he's got to help himself.
CAMEROTA: Thanks very much to the panel as we continue to monitor all of this.
CUOMO: All right. President Trump is set to depart the White House any minute. He just tweeted as much. He's going to Texas. Up next, we're going to talk to a Texas congresswoman who has
displaced herself because of Harvey. What does the future hold? Next.