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EARLY START

Harvey Batters Gulf Coast; Trump Visits Texas; U.N. Ratchets Up Pressure on North Korea. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2017 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: China says it upholds all U.N. sanctions, but some experts are skeptical, claiming Chinese leaders want to preserve Pyongyang's regime as a buffer against U.S. influence in the region.

[05:00:05] So, crises on multiple fronts for President Trump. The other, of course, hurricane, now Tropical Storm Harvey. We'll have the latest on that as EARLY START continues right now.

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RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: The gulf is taking another hit from Harvey, a new update from the National Hurricane Center shows Harvey making landfall at this hour. How much longer will Harvey linger?

Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Rene Marsh.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Yes, this storm is back in the Houston area. We'll have the forecast for you in moments. It is Wednesday, August 30th, 5:00 a.m. in the East. It is 4:00 a.m. in Houston, Texas. We welcome our viewers in the U.S. and around the world.

And we start in Houston. Harvey has made landfall once again after already bringing death and destruction to southeast Texas. More rain bands of rain coming now to add to the already record breaking totals. The highest rainfall total from Harvey so far, almost 52 inches in Cedar Bayou. That's southwest of Houston, already a record in the continental U.S. for any tropical system.

MARSH: This morning, there are now 11 confirmed deaths from Harvey, including a Houston police officer, 60-year-old Sergeant Steve Perez. He drowned trying to get to work during the flood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: We couldn't find him and once our dive team got there, it was too treacherous to go under and look for him. As much as we wanted to recover him last night, we could not put another -- more officers at risk. For what we knew in our hearts was going to be a recovery mission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARSH: Now, "Reuters" is reporting a death toll of 17, including a family of six -- four kids and their great grandparents. BRIGGS: Northwest of Houston, officials say water keeps rising in the

Addicks and Barker Reservoirs even as it flows over the dam's spillways. Thousands of homes in the area have between three and five feet of flood water in them. Water is not expected to stop flowing from the Addicks dam until mid-September.

MARSH: Right now, Houston is under curfew until 5:00 a.m. Central Time, 6:00 Eastern, part of an effort to stem looting of businesses and homes. The Harris County D.A. says 14 people have been arrested for looting in the past two hours. He says anyone caught looting in the disaster area faces extra punishment.

BRIGGS: Countless others still awaiting rescue. Officials say at least 9,000 to 10,000 people have been rescued in the Houston area alone, between police, fire and the coast guard. That includes this rescue of a mother and her baby. Some dramatic video. Of course, that's all on top of the huge number of private rescues we've been reporting on.

MARSH: Those working to save lives, well, they need rest and they need to recharge as well. Here are exhausted Texas National Guards troops sacking out on brand new mattresses in a sleep store showroom between rescues. That was in Richmond, Texas, which is where we find CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

Derek, tell us, what's the latest from where you are?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we know that the Toyota and NRG Centers have been opened. They have opened their doors for evacuees. The Toyota Center, for instance, has capacity of 18,000. So, you can imagine just how large these two arenas are.

There is so much to talk about, but the one thing you're probably noticing if you're watching the show regularly as yesterday at this time, 24 hours ago, I was getting battered by rain. I'm in Houston or just west of the area in Richmond, and I'm not wearing a raincoat. Rain has come to an end here to Galveston.

That doesn't mean the threat is over, because the water is still going to rise. The rivers and streams across this region.

Let me show you what's happening. We're at the Brazos River, OK? This is in Richmond again, just west of the city of Houston. And we got here seven hours ago. And I'm going to reference this fence because that was fully exposed when we first arrived.

Now, the water is about halfway up. A slow, slow rise, but still enough to inundate some of the homes behind us right up to the front doorsteps and that's just some of the homes around here. This river has risen 40 feet plus since Saturday morning and it's still rising now. We're expecting a crest of about 57 feet and that is eclipsing previous records by roughly five feet. Dangerous conditions for this area.

You can imagine that the conditions going forward for this particular region is going to be health concerns. We, in fact, had the EPA on the ground as we speak, taking water samples. They expect chemicals within this water, E. coli, salmonella.

Imagine if you had a bruise or a cut on your leg and you had to go fetch some of your belongings out of your house that was flooding.

[05:05:08] You are going to have an instant infection. I mean, imagine what's lurking behind us.

There are so many stories to tell here, but the bottom line is, an extraordinary amount of rainfall has taken place. In fact, 15 trillion gallons of water has been dumped on this region. That is enough to raise the level of all five Great Lakes by one foot. Put that into perspective, right? Dave, Rene?

BRIGGS: It is really difficult to put it all in perspective, the sheer volume of water, the size of Houston, but you're doing a great job of doing so. Thanks so much, Derek.

Well, as Harvey makes landfall again, said to pick up some speed and weaken as it moves out of the area a bit faster.

Let's bring in meteorologist Karen Maginnis live this morning in the CNN Weather Center.

Karen, good morning. What are you seeing?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Dave and Rene, two points I want to make. We just got an update from the National Hurricane Center. Harvey has made landfall again as a tropical storm, but it is continuing to pick up that moisture, deep moisture from within the Gulf of Mexico.

And I have seen -- the other point I wanted to make is I've seen a number of tweets coming out of the Port Arthur area. That is generally in this vicinity -- Beaumont, Port Arthur. A number of people reporting very heavy rainfall there. They set a record rainfall total for the day in Beaumont, that was roughly 18 inches of rain.

Three-day totals unofficially saying about 40 inches of rain. So, this is one of the areas that hasn't really been talked about a lot, but all day long, they were in heavy, deep convection, deep tropical moisture and right now, right along that I-10 corridor between Beaumont and Orange, that's where we're looking at some of the heaviest bands.

It came ashore -- Tropical Storm Harvey came ashore in the vicinity of Cameron, but pretty much the entire coast of Louisiana is expecting a storm surge between one and three feet. Maybe as much as two to four feet, but it is going to move more quickly.

Harvey is going to pick up its speed, drop a lot of that moisture off right along the ArkLaTex region, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. We could see substantial rainfall amounts there as well. Then trekking across the Tennessee River Valley, weakening maybe later today or going into early on Thursday morning. So, tropical storm weakens to an area of low pressure and just will

wring out across the Tennessee Valley and into the Ohio Valley. So, we'll keep you updated on that. Back to you, guys.

BRIGGS: Karen Maginnis, thanks so much.

A big part of this story in Houston has been the heroic efforts of rescue teams, both professionals and civilians, working long grueling hours under terrible conditions, many of them flooded out themselves.

For more on that, let's bring in Marty Lancton. He's the president of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association, joins us on Skype this morning, just past 4:00 this morning in Houston.

Good to see you, sir. Thanks so much for doing what you're doing.

When you're out there rescuing Texans, what are you seeing in your community?

PATRICK "MARTY" LANCTON, PRESIDENT, HOUSTON PROFESSIONAL FIRE FIGHTERS ASSOCIATION: Thanks, Dave, Rene. Thank you for having me on, and the interest in what the firefighters have been doing.

I'll tell you, the men and women, the over 4,000 firefighters have been nonstop and effecting rescues all across Houston and what we're seeing right now is just utter devastation and the word catastrophic is not something that -- a term that we use lightly. I don't use that term lightly, but I'll tell you, what we have seen out there is catastrophic and you're talking about widespread devastation with the citizens of Houston, the Houstonians as well as the first responders and the firefighters.

We have close to 100, now I don't have the count, somewhere between 90 and 100 firefighters that have also been affected. The same as the Houstonians and they're out there still effecting rescues and doing whatever we can and we're not going to stop until we make sure that all the citizens that continue to need help, that we're going to get to them.

BRIGGS: And, Marty, I know your heart goes out to the victims. In particular, Sergeant Steve Perez who lost his life, trying to go to work to help there in Houston. But on the positive side, talk about the sense of community you're seeing, the spirit you're seeing, and the fight and the people of Houston, Texas.

LANCTON: Well, like you said, our thoughts and prayers have already reached to our counterparts at the police department, for Sergeant Perez, along with all of the Houstonians and the surrounding area that lost their life. I -- it is simply amazing to see Houstonians come together from all walks of life to be there for each other. That is, I think, what embodies the spirit of what the city of Houston is all about and the state of Texas.

And it's humbling for those of us that serve the citizens of Houston to see it firsthand.

[05:10:03] And I can tell you our first responders, our firefighters are still out there. We're not going to stop.

We have a saying here in Houston, come hell or high water. Houston firefighters are going to serve and I think we're seeing all of that within the past week.

MARSH: And, Marty, you know, a lot of the officials said that no one could have planned for this because they've never seen anything like this before. But you say firefighters have feared this storm for quite sometime and had been urging the city to better prepare. Tell me more about that.

LANCTON: We have. The firefighters here in Houston, we've seen a fair share of natural disasters and what we typically see after -- and I think history will probably dictate what -- the decisions that the -- that people in positions of power made, but I can tell you, as far as operational concerns, you know, lack of resources and planning is something that we have tried to bring to the attention to the city for quite some time now.

MARSH: So, give me some specifics though. When you say lack of resources and planning, what have you seen on the ground there that has just not gone right at all? Give us really specific examples.

LANCTON: Sure. Well, you know, when this storm first started happening and the citizens started calling for help, you know, what we have seen and what we've experienced of the Houston firefighters dealing with right now is a lack of high water vehicles, lack of rescue boats, lack of training, and lack of a solid thorough plan, even on the training issue, you know, we've had our fair share again of swift water rescues with the Tax Day and Memorial Day floods, and the concern that we have had is that you know, when the citizens call, we want to make sure that we provided the best possible avenue for which them to be rescued and definitely feel as though the resources were lacking overall within the fire department.

BRIGGS: A very unfortunate wakeup call for perhaps government officials across the region. What you're not seeing a lack of is fellow firefighters not just there in Houston, but we understand from across the country volunteering to help you guys outs.

LANCTON: Absolutely. We have both state and federal resources. We have what's called the task force teams which are FEMA teams, urban search and rescue. We have people from all over the country.

We have gotten phone calls. I got a phone call from the president of the Uniformed Firefighters of Greater New York, FDNY. They sent a contingent of people.

We have people from California and Utah. Their urban search and rescue teams and so many more that I can't even name, but the outpouring of support from the community across the nation is something that is, Houstonians won't soon forget and you know, I'm proud of our city. With the firefighters are doing what they can do.

BRIGGS: We're proud of you as well. Marty Lancton, thanks so much for doing what you are doing. It is amazing to see the bravery you're all showing, the courage and the spirit. Thanks so much. We know you have a long day ahead of you. So, thanks for starting so early with us.

MARSH: Thank you.

LANCTON: Thank you all very much. Appreciate it. Have a good day.

BRIGGS: You know, interesting, Rene, that warning that Marty talked about, they wanted people to do more.

MARSH: Right.

BRIGGS: Perhaps this is a wakeup call for other cities that might be facing similar situations in the future.

Ahead, President Trump went to Texas to survey the Harvey damage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to get you back and operating immediately. It happened in Texas and Texas can handle anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Did the president put enough focus on the victims of this horrible flooding? More next on EARLY START.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[05:18:02] TRUMP: This was of epic proportion. Nobody's ever seen anything like this.

Governor, again, thank you very much and we won't say congratulations. We don't want to do that. We don't want to congratulate. We'll congratulate each other when it's all finished.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARSH: All right. There you see the president alongside Governor Greg Abbott of Texas and the president suggested during his visit to Texas, recovery from Harvey will take as long as five to ten years. In Austin and Corpus Christi, he voiced confidence that Congress will find the money to rebuild. He met with officials, but did not make prominent mention of the victims.

He will get another chance to do so. The president is set to return to the gulf region this weekend.

BRIGGS: All right. Joining us now, CNN political analyst, Josh Rogin, columnist for "The Washington Post".

Good morning to you, sir.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

BRIGGS: All right. So, the president is not like the presidents we've become used to. He's not emoter that we've seen in the last few decades and some people he said rubbed people the wrong way. Here are some of those sound bites from the president yesterday in Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. What a crowd, what a turnout.

I will tell you, this is historic, it's epic what happened, but you know what, it happened in Texas and Texas can handle anything. Thank you all, folks. Thank you.

We have had a tremendous group of folks, thank you very much for the job you've done and a man who's really become famous on television over the last couple of days. Mr. Long, we appreciate it very much. You have been just outstanding, and I can tell you that my folks are telling me how great your representatives have been in working together. It's a real team. And we want to do it better than ever before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: OK, Josh, we become quite accustomed to seeing president empathize with the victims, mention those suffering, those who have lost their homes and lost their lives like Sergeant Steve Perez.

[05:20:09] Is it fair to judge President Trump on the lack of empathy he shows or should we judge him by the federal response to this horrific storm?

ROGIN: I think we have to take both of these things into consideration. You know, the president had two jobs yesterday in Texas. One was to reassure the people of Texas that help is on the way and two is to express as he said some empathy for the victims.

He did relatively well on the first point, relatively poorly on the second point. But, Dave, I heard you talking about this in the last hour, and I thought you had it exactly right. If you're expecting this president, President Trump, to be the consoler in chief, you're going to be disappointed. It's just not who he is. It's not who he's going to be.

So, with that in mind, we can sort of take a look at his remarks and look towards the weekend visit that's coming up and give him a chance to sort of do better, and that would include not only mentioning the victims as you had mentioned, but maybe calling on Americans to help out, mentioning relief organizations that people can donate to, and sort of correcting some of the missteps that he made yesterday.

You know, these kinds of symbolic visit to disaster zones are a tricky thing. If you inject yourself too much, you're seen as opportunistic. If you don't inject yourself enough, you're seen as aloof. You know, that's a tricky needle to thread for President Trump. He didn't do it perfectly this time, but I think his real performance on this crisis will be judged over weeks, months and years, not just days.

BRIGGS: Some were put off by the fact that the hat the president was wearing was immediately for sale on his Website for $40. The suggestion by some that he was profiting off of this storm. But we shall see if he gets it right this weekend, Rene.

MARSH: Right. And I mean, going off of what you're talking about here, whether he's being effective as the consoler in chief and then looking at the other side of this is how was the operation and the response, the federal response working? How ultimately will he be judged? What's considered a success? If he fails on the consoler in chief part, could it still come out that people look at this for a win for him?

ROGIN: Yes, I think that's the key question actually and we're so early in this crisis. You know, as of the last time I checked late last night, FEMA had not been able to ask for a preliminary estimate or funding from Congress because they simply don't know the scope and the scale of the devastation yet. It's still unfolding, the waters are literally still rising.

So, what this response will be judged on is whether or not the emergency resources are sped to the locations in time. So far, that seems to be going reasonably well. Whether or not Congress responds quickly to provide funding while avoiding the politicization of the issue, that's going to be a big hurdle, and whether or not these people in communities are provided for in long-term.

And what we've seen in past similar disasters is that both of these parts of the response are crucial and the much more difficult one is the long-term response. And that's what the administration will have to do. They'll have to keep focused and sustained attention on this. And for any administration, especially this one, that's a tough thing to do.

BRIGGS: That's one crisis. The other, of course, North Korea launching that missile over Japan. You've written about this. An interesting response from James Clapper, the former DNI, to Chris Cillizza of CNN, essentially Steve Bannon had it right. There's not a great military option for handling North Korea.

What does Japan want and need from the United States? How do you expect the administration to handle this?

ROGIN: Yes, I wrote a whole column saying that Steve Bannon was right, we can't really attack North Korea. It's not a good idea. It's not viable, tens of millions of South Koreans would die in that scenario, and that's to be avoided at all costs.

What our allies, Japan and South Korea included are looking for is for us to maintain a tough negotiating position so that when we sit down with the North Koreans, that we get the best deal possible. That's where this is headed.

Now, the key to that, of course, is China, and I think the question facing the administration and the Japanese and the South Koreans for that matter is how tough should we be with China? Are they really helping us? And if not, should we start to put sanctions on them.

And I think that's where we are in the debate. You know, if we don't see something soon from the Chinese in terms of real pressure, there are going to be increasing calls over the region, for the U.S., to put pressure on China to put pressure on North Korea. Now, that might not work either, but that's the next thing we've got to try.

BRIGGS: No good answers on this North Korea nuclear threat.

Josh Rogin from "The Washington Post", we'll talk to you in about 20 minutes and get more on that situation.

MARSH: And the U.N. Security Council is now demanding North Korea to stop any further missile launches. But does Pyongyang have any reason to listen? We are live in Seoul.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[05:29:19] NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: What happened yesterday is absolutely unacceptable and irresponsible. They have violated every single U.N. Security Council resolution that we've had and so, I think something serious has to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARSH: An ultimatum from the U.N. Security Council. Member nations say they're furious over the latest missile launch condemning it as outrageous and a clear sign of how seriously the U.S. takes this threat, the U.S. conducted a missile defense test early this morning, successfully intercepting a medium range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul, South Korea, with all of the latest -- Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Rene. Well, it was a condemning statement from the United Nations as it was for many of the regions, many areas in the region on Tuesday.