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24 Dead as Storm Makes Landfall; Trump Says Together We Will Endure and Overcome; ICE Officials Warn Flood Victims of Impersonators; Christie Blasts Cruz Who Voted Against Sandy Recovery Funds. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 30, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: After hurricane Katrina, when flood waters finally receded, the full scope of damage and death was finally revealed. Let's bring in retired Lieutenant General Russell Honore, who helped organize all the relief effort in the wake of Katrina. General Honore, great to see you again. I hear you have been out and about on a boat today, sir. First, just tell me where you went and what you saw.

RUSSELL HONORE, LIEUTENANT GENERAL, (RET): Yes, we went out to a small village, working to go in and did initial recon with the Cajun Navy. Working with local officials, found a gentleman who needed to go back to his apartment to get his medicine, escorted him in, inspected the place, got his medication, able to get him back on his way, and then our leader, he went off and did a recon of the community, didn't find anyone there needing evacuation, so we returned back here to base at the convention center. But it was exciting run.

This whole concept of the good Samaritans, Cajun Navy, Texas Admirals, this is due to a technology disruption. One of the lessons we learned after Katrina, we had to organize our helicopter grid search, so we used the system that had been used in the military for years, and that's still handled for helicopter search. We need to -- technology disruption in how we manage volunteers when they come in and where they go. There's a lot of wasted hours and time, and it's hard to get from point a to point b, but I couldn't be prouder of what's happening. There's a good piece of technology, of programming that caused people to go from social media, where I am, where the problem is, and then be able to coordinate with the local officials to get access.

So, we can get better. We found one that's working, but it could get better based on some technology application. What I saw today was very, very encouraging as far as the search and rescue effort, and it's going to take more of that, Brooke, with the scope of what we got to deal with.

BALDWIN: Good. What about -- I mean, go back to Katrina and listen, that was an entirely different disaster, but when those waters receded, you know, that was when the real damage and, you know, not to be gruesome, but that's when the bodies -- I mean, we keep hearing from Houston that the death toll will likely rise. Can you just talk about that next chapter in the storm? HONORE: Yes. When you look at the survival rate of people, how many

days they can go without food, how many days they can go without water, we're starting to hit that crunch point this weekend for how many days people can go without water and food, depending on what they had in their homes, and this is going to be an extensive search because it's so big. If you're going to do a doctrinal search, every home has to be approached. You knock on it first. There's nobody answer, you move on until everybody gets the knock. Then you go back and based on whether you heard somebody in there or not, you have to go in that home and see if there's any people, animals, or remains in that home.

And when you look at the size, from Corpus Christi all the way now into Port Arthur and Beaumont, this is enormous, Brooke. So, I do think we're going to have to scale up because you cannot use volunteers for those types of search. The volunteers work for search and rescue. You have to have a certified coroner and medical people to handle remains. You can't use the volunteers for that. And federal troops, along with -- if you're going to use them and national guard, with police to make entry into private property.

[15:35:00] So, the second phase of this, going into homes and doing a recon, is going to be a lot more complex and I don't think they've scaled up enough to be able to do this in a timely manner, because until you search everything, you can't let people back in.

BALDWIN: And how did they determine, general, how people can be let back in based upon how a certain home is, I mean, what about mold and then obviously there's respiratory issues? How do they determine the timing on all of that?

HONORE: Well, the authorities hold on as long as they can under the rubric of security. You can only go in if you live there, and then you can only go in after so many days after they've secured the power lines, but that only lasts for a few days and people start finding ways to get into their homes. And then we need to start having more and more public messaging to make sure people have signed up for FEMA and then start looking at what -- how many have signed up, and the next thing is to make sure people are aware of the hazards on media and in the paper and classes here in these shelters to make sure when they go in their home.

They don't do anything that will cause themselves to be made sick, such as handling mold, such as not handling cleaning equipment right, such as going in your home and your gas is still on or the electricity's still on and there's water and you get yourself accidentally injured. Or the operation of a generator. So, we still got a lot of work to do in that area, but by and large, it's a blessed day because the sun's shining here, and more and more people are showing up here at the convention center, and the center of activity now is at Port Arthur where it's totally inundated over there and a big rescue operation going on. Hats off to the good Samaritans.

BALDWIN: Yes, sir. And at least that sunshine is out. That accounts for something. General Honore, you are the best. I am glad you are there. Thank you, sir. HONORE: Thank you. Thank our volunteers.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Thanks to them as well.

HONORE: First responders.

BALDWIN: Of course.

Coming up next, President Trump saying, moments ago, we will overcome Harvey's devastation. Special live coverage continues in a moment.


BALDWIN: We have certainly seen the best of America during this crisis, thousands of strangers helping one another, people coming from all over the country to rescue those who have been stuck, neighbor helping neighbor, but let me tell you that there are sporadic reports now of looting and now this directly from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or I.C.E. Let me read. This is the warning. I'll read this directly for you. This is part of what they're saying here.

"There are disturbing reports that people representing Homeland Security Investigation Special Agents are knocking on doors in the Houston area, telling residents to evacuate, presumably so these imposters can rob the empty homes." It goes on to say that any homeland security or immigration officers will carry badges and credentials and people need to ask to see those. They also point out that Immigration Customs Enforcement is not conducting enforcement operations in the affected area. Just a heads up and a fair warning.

Moments ago, President Trump talked directly to the victims of the flooding disrupting thousands and thousands in the gulf coast region. Here he was in Missouri.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Torrential rains and terrible flooding continue to pose a grave danger to life and to property. Our first responders have been doing absolutely heroic work to shepherd people out of harm's way and their courage and devotion has saved countless lives. They represent truly the very best of America. We must be vigilant. We must protect the lives of our people. I was on the ground in Texas yesterday to meet with Governor Abbott, who is doing, by the way, an incredible job. And local officials so that we could coordinate the very big and unprecedented federal response.

In difficult times such as these, we see the true character of the American people, their strength, their love, and their resolve. We see friend helping friend, neighbor helping neighbor, and stranger helping stranger. And together, we will endure, and we will overcome. The citizens of Texas and the Gulf Coast need all the prayers, support, and resources our communities have to offer. Recovery will be tough. But I have seen the resilience of the American spirit firsthand all over this country. To the people of Houston and across Texas and Louisiana, we are here with you today. We are with you tomorrow, and we will be with you every single day after to restore, recover, and rebuild.


BALDWIN: Let's go straight to Missouri to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny and clearly, on teleprompter there today. How do you compare how he did today versus yesterday?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Brooke. No question, a different tone from the president today here in Missouri versus yesterday on the ground in Texas.

[15:45:00] There's been a lot made of the president's empathy, did he show empathy yesterday, did he talk directly to the victims. He didn't talk about the victims yesterday. He didn't talk about the, you know, the personal, searing nature of this catastrophe that we're seeing unfold. The White House acknowledged today that the president, you know, he did not want to get in the way yesterday, so he did not see victims face to face, but they do acknowledge privately that he could have spoken more about the victims.

That's exactly what he did here today, Brooke. He mentioned the word, people, multiple times, saying that the country is thinking about the people of Texas, the people of Houston, so I think that this is something. The president is going to be judged by actions of this government, not by one visit, not by one speech here, definitely, Brooke, this was a presidential speech in every way. This is something that the American people want to hear from their president that he is on this, so a different tone yesterday for sure, but I think, you know, as we follow this in the weeks and months and perhaps years to come, the recovery, he'll be judged on the, you know, the recovery efforts and the rebuilding efforts, not simply a speech yesterday or today, Brooke.

But now make no mistake, this is at the center of his agenda. He came here to Missouri to deliver a tax reform speech and he did do that. But this Harvey recovery effort is going to be front and center in his administration for likely years to come, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about that. Let's talk about the recovery effort, because therein lies the rub, right? I mean, he has promised swift, you know, recovery effort funding, you talk to congress, based upon what happened pre-Katrina and pre-hurricane Sandy, we shall see. In fact, just this morning, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who felt the brunt, obviously, of Sandy, blasted Texas Senator Ted Cruz on this very issue. Here he was.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, GOVERNOR (R), NEW JERSEY: If the federal government's not here, Chris, to help people when 50 inches of rainfall on them in a historic way, then what the hell are they there for? That's it. And I have no sympathy for this and I see Senator Cruz and it's disgusting to me, that he stands in a recovery center with victims standing behind him as a backdrop and he still repeating the same reprehensible lies about what happened in Sandy. And it's unacceptable to me. Absolutely unacceptable.


BALDWIN: So, it's unacceptable, you know, he's saying, essentially the roles are reversed, right? These Texas senators and even, you know, Mick Mulvaney, who was in congress at the time, all wanting to hold back during those recovery efforts.

ZELENY: No doubt, Brooke, and now this challenge and in fact the burden is on this president to corral Republicans and different points of view here, and Chris Christie, you know, the governor of New Jersey, talking directly in very pointed words to Senator Ted Cruz. No love lost between these two gentlemen, you know, they were challengers and rivals in the 2016 presidential campaign but I talked to Senator Cruz yesterday on the ground in Texas and he is sort of dismissing all of this, but the reality is there.

Will some fiscal conservatives vote for this recovery package? And one of the reasons he and many Texas Republicans voted against it, they said that it had simply too much pork in it, too much sort of other things, you know, that were not offset by cuts elsewhere. So that is going to be the rub in this massive government aid package, Brooke, likely to be twice the size of the Sandy package, which was $50 billion. So, the president is the leader of the Republican party. He'll have to corral these very different points of view.

BALDWIN: We will be watching, Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much in Missouri for me this afternoon.

Coming up next, mega church pastor Joel Osteen speaks to CNN after opening his Houston church to flood victims. What he says to critics who say that he did not act fast enough.


BALDWIN: Harvey has separated thousands of Texas families, one of then a mother and her critically ill newborn baby. Let me show pictures of Sophia being evacuated by a specially medically equipped airplane to a children's hospital in Fort Worth. She was born six weeks early, she cannot breathe on her own yet. Sophia's mother couldn't travel with her by air, so she drove through heavy rain for three days to reunite with her baby.


ITZEL GUTIERREZ, BABY SOPHIA'S MOTHER: Stressed. That's what I have. Stress and I just want my baby. I just want to go home with her.


BALDWIN: Sophia's mother says she's getting stronger every day, and what's more, doctors in Fort Worth tell her they may be able to help her daughter breathe on her own again very soon.

Houston megachurch pastor Joel Osteen is speaking publicly for the first time today, pushing back all the criticism that he and his church faced that they didn't act fast enough to open their doors to flood victims. As flood waters rose around Houston, leaving most everybody under water, Twitter blasted the tele-evangelist for not opening his doors sooner. Here's how Osteen explained that today to my colleague Chris Cuomo.


JOEL OSTEEN, HOUSTON MEGACHURCH PASTOR: The church has always been open. Our doors, we received shelter victims just the first day or two. But there was a time, Chris, that the place was flooded.

[15:55:00] That's not a true statement, people who say that. We have floodgates right behind me and it was within a foot of that. You were seeing as well as I do, this was a huge storm. But the idea we wouldn't receive people.

We've been here in this community for 60 years, in tropical storm Allison we housed 3,000 people, so we've always been open. There is a big shelter four miles away, the city shelter that has all the dormitories. Once they filled up, people started coming here, but how the notion got started that we're not a shelter and we're not taking people in is a false narrative.


BALDWIN: Osteen says Lakewood Church is now housing hundreds of people displaced by Houston's flooding.

Coming up, we're live in Beaumont, Texas where a CNN crew saw a harrowing moment getting a man from his car. On live TV.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this. Get out, dude! You got a power cord?



BALDWIN: I just wanted to leave you with this today. Just think about how we started this month, with images like these.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will not replace us!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Angry words and arguments about old wounds that are fresh and fierce, issues that still divide us today. And now here we are at the end of the month with this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just simply need more people in these boats, in these vehicles going door to door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two sick and disabled and two in wheelchairs right now on top of that roof. I have no idea how they got them on top of that roof.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please help us! Oh, my god.


BALDWIN: When faced with disaster, when it matters the most, this country comes together. The things that divide us at the moment, irrelevant.

It kind of changes the face of humanity somewhat. No matter color, religion, political standpoint, everybody is coming together and doing a good job.

Back in Charlottesville, people traveled for hundreds of miles with messages of anger and division and hate. Now in the wake of this category 4 hurricane with their own safety on the line, their own families in the path of danger, people came, not with torches but boats and bottled water and courage. And what we've seen is that actions are more important than words. The desire to help is greater than words to harm.

This is a country where we are both things, but think how much better we'll all be off if we can make the rest of the week, the year of the election season look more like the heroism in Houston than the conflict in Charlottesville. I just can't help but believe we would all be better off if we could be on higher ground. And a note to all of you as well, if you want to help, you can. Go to our impact your world site. No donation, they say, is, of course, too small.

There is a whole list of vetted organizations where you can peruse and help. Just go to That is I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Thank you so, so much for being with me. We're going to send things to Washington. My colleague Brianna Keilar is sitting in for Jake Tapper, "The Lead" starts right now.