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47 Now Dead In Texas Amid Harvey Devastation; U.S. Coast Guard Rescues More Than 6,000 People; Brothers From Dallas Join Army Of Volunteers; Texas Officials Report Port-Harvey Price Gouging; Families Search For Missing Relatives; Gas Demand Skyrockets In Texas Post- Harvey; Texas News Crew Catches Hotel Price Gouging; Tropical Storm Irma Strengthens in Atlantic; What Harvey Disaster Means for U.S. Politics; Mueller, NY Attorney General Focus on Manafort; Volunteer Heroism Comes with Price in Texas. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired September 1, 2017 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell here live in Houston, Texas with our continuing coverage -- the aftermath of the Hurricane Harvey midnight here in Houston. At this emergency shelter, it's a place where so many people are calling home. Many people who lost their homes. We do understand, though, that the number of people at this shelter is on the decline at this point.
Let's give you the latest on the recovery efforts throughout this region, six days after this hurricane made land fall. The confirmed death toll now has risen to 47 people killed. With each day that passes, there are more and more stranded people in need of rescue. And they're being rescued from flooded homes across the region. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates it has brought more than 6,000 people to safety. So far, Harvey has dumped an estimated 27 trillion gallons, 27 trillion gallons, as 102 trillion liters of rain on both Texas and Louisiana. At least 100,000 homes either damaged or destroyed by this storm.
Federal officials say some 96,000 people have already been approved for emergency aid. So, there's been an army of volunteers, so many people coming from all parts of this country to help the people in here Houston with this terrible situation that people are dealing with. Two of those people are from Dallas, Texas. After seeing the devastating images on television, Jonathan and his brother Joshua Evola, they jumped into their truck and drove 200 miles with a boat in tow. And they've been busy rescuing people ever since.
Jonathan and Joshua Evola, joined live to talk more about their experiences. So, you know, we told the story about you, Jonathan, I believe. A story where we saw a video of you if remember this correctly, walking through water just about to your waist with an elderly woman on your back. You didn't miss a beat. You walked out that door, talk to us about that. And both of you, tell us about what you've seen.
JONATHAN EVOLA, VOLUNTEER RESCUER: Well, at that point that you're seeing the footage of -- it was a pretty long journey getting over there. The weather was crazy. I mean, Houston had just started bracing the -- and it was close to midnight when he actually rived on the scene. We had to go through barricades and roads that were closed. And the ones where it felt like -- it was just, you know, a pretty scary experience. We're going through highways that we didn't know how deep the water was below. And some areas where we had -- I have to jump out of the truck and walk ahead of the truck to see the depth to make sure that we wouldn't get stuck ourselves.
We were responding to a call from friends of ours that live in Houston that know we're heading in that direction, but tell us that we could stay with us we were continuing our efforts here to help anybody that needs the help with our boat and truck. Once we got the address, we started heading over there. We got to the house and we saw things that we never expected to see. It was dark. We were able to the home. The family was in distress and praying for their lives, either they were going to make it out. And we were able to comfort them and lift them into safety.
One of the gentlemen was -- you didn't see the footage of it, but he was disabled, wasn't able to walk, he just got done with a major surgery. We were able to take him out of the horrors of waters rising, just about to flood his bed. They thought it was epic. It would've not been a good situation for him. He wasn't able to, obviously, walk. So, when my brother and I were able to get the family to safety, we just continued on. We came to this house that's calling us. Mike and his family have joined and we went to -- just continue chasing the storm, and we ended up in Port Arthur. So, that's kind of the story in a nutshell.
HOWELL: Joshua, I want to ask you. You know, you see these disasters, and when you've seen so many, you learn one thing about them. Somehow, they change you and they affect you. If you don't mind me asking, has this changed or affected you in some way?
[01:05:05] JOSHUA EVOLA, VOLUNTEER RESCUER: Yes. Well, as you're talking, I'm trying to hold back the tears and the emotion. It's really hard to do that. It's changed me forever. The way this started is I was at home in Ennis, Texas. A Little town called Ennis.
HOWELL: I know Ennis. I'm from here, so I know Ennis.
EVOLA: OK. And I was laying on my couch with my children. It was a beautiful day outside, it was Sunday afternoon. And I was looking forward to a nice, relaxing afternoon at home when I was watching the news and I saw what Houston was going through. And right away, I felt something in me. I felt like God was telling me that I needed to get up off the couch and go help these people. It almost felt like a sin, and I almost felt guilty just lying there in comfort when people were suffering around this area.
So, I told my brother and say, Jonathan, instead of going to California tomorrow, you want to go with me? Let's go help some Texans. And he said, yes. And I was very glad -- I was very glad. It's comforting having someone with you, especially my big brother. So, we went on this journey, we had no idea where we're getting into, all I know is I have a big truck and I have a boat and I had the resources. So, we made our journey down to Houston. We don't know anything about Houston, let alone when it's underwater.
So, when we first got to this mission, which was tipped to us by the Priettos itself -- Mike and Tracy, the friends of ours that lived here. They told us exactly where we need to go, they told us about the Gonzales, where the ones that we rescued and that Jonathan carried on his back. And for somebody had his helmet so he's -- he was getting the brawl of it. And so -- it was very eerie like Jonathan was saying. You know, we used the highway ramp as a boat ramp, that was very different.
I was used to, you know, used to being a hunter, and used to being a fisherman who's going out doors. But one thing I can tell you right now that I've never done is to use a highway ramp as a boat ramp. And going through the neighborhoods was a total eerie. And seeing that dark, septic water, it was just -- it was -- what's in that water is disgusting. And it's rising over the mailboxes. The houses have no electricity. You have animals float around, meowing and barking.
When we got to this house, a little girl about 6 0r 7-years-old and this really hits hard to because I have a 3-year-old girl, and a 6- year-old girl, and a 2-year-old boy at home. This little girl is on the couch shivering and crying, and that broke my heart. I just had to turn away for a second before I grabbed and held onto her and just broke down. And then, we walked into the bedroom, and this gentleman just had surgery and the water is so close to his wounds, and this little snake swimming around his bed.
It's something that I don't think any human even knows how to deal with. Yes, it was very scary and it's going to change my life forever. One thing that I'm going to say that really is changing our lives and has changed our lives is the way everybody is coming together. In this day and age, when there's so much separation, there's so much -- you know, with politics, and religions, and racism, how everybody came in together in the name of love and humanity.
And that to me is the face, it is the hands, and the feet of God and of Jesus. And that's, you know, one thing that's changing my life forever is that not about talking religion, it's about walking the walk and it's about walking in love. And I almost see it refreshing. I hate to say that because everybody's suffering so much. But I've even talked to some of these folks. They're coming out smiling. They're walking out with one bag. How do you walk out with one bag out of your house? What did you even take with you?
And one thing that I see them taking with them besides from that one bag in their possession is thankfulness, gratefulness, and just being appreciative that everyone is coming together. You've got rednecks, you got city folks, you got Blacks, Whites, Hispanic. It's amazing. I'm telling you right now, it is so amazing. And then, seeing the U.S. Coast Guard, and the army, and people from all over the place, it is overwhelming to us. So, we love it. It's been just great. I hate to say that, but it's been great. It's been horrible, but it's been great.
HOWELL: No, I know what you mean. I know what you mean. Jonathan, Joshua, look, we appreciate you guys being with us. We're thankful you guys are both safe. You know, I know sometimes you see these things, you want to put your hands on it and you did. And a lot of people certainly appreciate your work. Thank you.
EVOLA: Thank you so much.
[01:10:05] HOWELL: The worst fears of some families are coming true in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The White House says, flooding has damaged or destroyed about 100,000 homes, and many people don't have flood insurance. Our Alexander Marquardt introduces us to two men whose homes are in ruin.
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the first time that Bill Wolf has been able to get back to his house since being evacuated.
BILL WOLF, FLOOD VICTIM: Surreal is probably the understatement of the century here. You know, watching a 30-foot fishing boat drive down the street is like something that you've just never seen before. I don't know, it's just crazy.
MARQUARDT: Well, see how high the water is, though.
WOLF: Yes. So, I mean, we'll see if I can even get in or not.
MARQUARDT: Captain Kenny Evans is taking Wolf back.
CAPT. KENNY EVANS, RESCUING FLOOD VICTIMS: One minute you're stressed about your gutters, and the next minute everything you have is ruined.
MARQUARDT: It was Evans who rescued the Wolf family along with their cat and dog in the middle of the storm on Monday. After navigating the boat to the door, we wade into the living room. Furniture, now floating through past the pictures of his sons.
WOLF: I'm really proud of him. I'm really proud of him, my wife -- my family. They're tough little kids.
MARQUARDT: They're holding up.
WOLF: Yes, yes. It's -- I'm not an emotional guy. I'm pretty calm, and this has been too much for me. To be honest, I don't know if I want to be here very long.
MARQUARDT: Back in the office the real loss becomes clear.
WOLF: I got a 150-year-old family (INAUDIBLE) in this water.
MARQUARDT: Stacks of photo albums, baby books, and other sentimental items. The worst part is the personal stuff?
WOLF: Yes. I mean, this is the stuff that you can't replace, right? This is my son's birthday in the household.
MARQUARDT: Upstairs where it's dry, Wolf throw his sons toys and sheets into garbage bags. So, you think there's a possibility that you may never live in this house again?
WOLF: I don't know. Yes, I mean, it's going to sit here for a month or two. It's six-feet water so --
MARQUARDT: Up and down this neighborhood, people taking stock of their belongings and their lives. 86-year-old, Ed Wendler, is also back for the first time. With Captain Evans, we found him on Monday in his dark bedroom, alone, with no power. He needs his medicine, so Evans heads inside past countless possessions now suspended in the dark flood waters.
This was Ed's office, all these papers piled high on a desk and other are all totally ruined. The water here is so high, at the back there in the kitchen, the fridge is now floating on its side. On the boat, Wenlock tries to take it all in.
ED WENDLER, FLOOD VICTIM: This is very confusing. I can't get wrapped up in my mind. What is going to be next, what I'm going to need to do?
MARQUARDT: Wendler and Wolf are just of the countless people who Captain Evans has helped this week, and his work is far from over.
EVANS: It's not even really -- you see this stuff on T.V., but this is total devastation in every way -- physically, emotionally.
MARQUARDT: Alex Marquardt, CNN, Houston.
HOWELL: Alex, thank you so much for the report. Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, as flooding continues here in Texas, some vital supplies are running low. More on the of hundreds of reports of price gouging. Plus, families are searching for tirelessly missing relatives and looking for people, many of these people are missing. How organizations are working together to try and reunite families; that story ahead.
[01:17:41] HOWELL: Thousands of people are displaced after Hurricane Harvey devastated their homes. One group, though, that's trying to help, the Texas Center for the Missing is working to reunite missing people, missing family members. They're right or there. That's their booth, and during the day with this shelter is at capacity. Many people, walking around. This is where you go if you lose a child, if there's a relative that you can't find, they are there to help. And earlier, I spoke to Amanda Smith from that organization to tell us about what they're doing.
HOWELL: Amanda, when you think about all the people that are in this shelter, and the possibility of a child walking away, a relative missing, or someone missing, how do you guys manage that fear? AMANDA SMITH, MEMBER, TEXAS CENTER FOR THE MISSING: Yes, we've had
that happen very frequently in the past few days, that what will happen, for example, we just had a grandmother earlier, she couldn't find her 11-year-old daughter. She was in a state of panic because there are so many people here, you don't know who you're interacting with, and so we actually had and my fiance here, he roamed her around and helped her. He was back with the family and helped reunite with the daughter. So, there's a case happening minute-by-minute here.
HOWELL: But you guys, you handle the shelter --
HOWELL: But you're also opening this up to anyone throughout the Metro area.
SMITH: Absolutely, yes. So, you know, we've had people getting displaced from nursing homes, and you know, from flooding. They've been coming here to the shelters and getting displaced with families. So, we've had people coming here and looking at the main point for Houston as far as the shelters are concerned.
HOWELL: So, you're working with the Red Cross, you're working with Houston Police Department. You guys are sharing files to make sure that if you get a report, they know about it?
SMITH: Absolutely. We're working in tight coordination with the Red Cross. The Red Cross will register the people as they come in here. We've got some data from that, so if a missing person comes in, we will cross-reference with the Red Cross information. And then, we'll also work with the Houston Police Department.
HOWELL: You guys are non-profit, how important is an effort like this during a disaster like the one we're looking at here?
SMITH: I mean, it's been -- it's incredibly effective what we're doing, not only here during disastrous times, but this is what we do as a non-profit organization in the Houston and Galveston region. So, our team, we have about 24 board members and 2-1/2 full-time staff, who do this on a daily basis.
HOWELL: So, you know, just to get the word out, if someone sees this there somewhere in the Metro area or even just outside of Houston, if know of someone that they're looking for, they can file a report, they can get to you guys, they can get to Red Cross and police?
[01:20:15] SMITH: Absolutely. That's correct. And that's what we're doing here today.
HOWELL: Amanda Smith there, explaining what she and her organization are doing here at this emergency shelter. That's the very latest here live in Houston, Texas. Let's toss now to my colleague, John Vause, live in Los Angeles this hour to pick our coverage. John, authorities now warning of a harsh cracking down on anyone that's caught price gouging.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that's right, George. Harvey has brought out the best in many people. But as often the case in disasters like this, it also brings out the worst in some. Hundreds of complaints of rapid price gouging are under investigation by state officials, others have been called out on social media like this: a case of water for $42.00, somewhere reportedly charging as much as $100 for a case of water. The White House had this warning for anyone caught charging hugely inflated prices.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BOSSERT, ADVISER, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY: Gouging will not be tolerated. Jeff Sessions and the president of the United States will not tolerate gouging. Anybody that's going to out and tries to take advantage of a disaster victim, expect law enforcement to come on him with a hammer. That's not acceptable on a regular day, it's certainly not acceptable when people are suffering.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Well, for more of this now: Business Expert, Ron Patel, joins me here in Los Angeles. Ron, good to see you. OK. Sometimes price gouging, it's pretty obvious. $20.00 for a gallon of gas? That's price gouging. But when it's $4.50 for a gallon of gas, its base was furious in short supply there are long lines. Keeping in mind, the national average at the moment is $2.45. A gallon in Texas is $2.25. $4.50, that kind of seems like the market setting the price.
RON PATEL, BUSINESS EXPERT: Yes. And I think, you know, specifically when you see the infrastructure, and you know, Houston is about what north or 20 percent of the U.S. economy of gas, it kind of is -- kind of normal, especially on that end. But to go up to $20 is way too much.
VAUSE: Where do you draw that line, though?
PATEL: Well, I think it's when, when you have a lot of this pushback where you get -- you see the social media, you see the push back of, you know, people needing. I mean, even for example happening in Dallas, right?
PATEL: You know, I think that kind of self-inflicted, where people ran to the gas station because of Harvey and kind of caused the shortage.
VAUSE: It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, almost, in a way. OK. Under Texas law, once the states have declared a disaster. This is a law: it's illegal for anyone to be selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine or another necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price. Is that just within the disaster zone or is it statewide, because I think for fuel, it applies statewide? How does all this work?
PATEL: Listen, I would take it as statewide. Everyone's being affected, even from Austin to Dallas, to outside the zone. And because of the supply chain and because of, again, hitting the fourth largest city -- population -- Houston. It has a huge effect in all of Texas, especially for the infrastructure. So, when it comes to food supply and into even gas, I don't think it applies as to one, it has to be applied to everything.
VAUSE: OK. But you imagine that, say, if someone is, you know, hundreds of miles, you know, the infrastructure is still intact. If they're charging $42.00 for a case of water, no one's going to pay it.
VAUSE: OK. This is what happened to a local news crew at a Best Western hotel in Roxton, in Texas. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So $321.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's it normally? Is it high because of the weather? You think so? $321 is the total?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, God. That's high.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: OK. So, the rate for that hotel outside of Hurricane Harvey is about $120 a night. So, this hotel was Best Western was charging three times at. A spokesperson for the parent company of Best Western told the Washington Post that all the hotel guest there are now being reimbursed and they're severing ties with that particular hotel, saying it was totally egregious what they did. The problem though is that if you're a big company like Best Western, you got a lot of independently owned franchises. If they behave badly like this, it can have a very big outsize negative impact across the entire group, right?
PATEL: Exactly. And you know, I'm going to take one more step further and call Best Western out even further that you knew this was going to happen, you need to put harsh language into these franchisees to say, hey, if anyone gets caught, this is what's going to happen. You know, listen, things happen anyway, and most likely that would deter it.
But in the case like that, it was really that clear: you do not do this, and you're actually there to support the consumers, support the citizens and the community. Act like the hotel that you're in the community. That's the language, I think, will the Best Western wants to be the local place to say. They may be acting that way, and they needed to hammer that message before the hurricane had got there.
VAUSE: Because the actions of one impacts the actions of so many others.
VAUSE: OK. There are those out there who argue that, hey, this is just business. You may have heard of the well-known Libertarian, John Stossel. He tweeted out: "Texas, a state that I thought understood capitalism, punishes people who practice it." OK, what's wrong with that argument apart from everything?
[01:25:05] PATEL: I mean, you know for me to answer that, if you look at what other companies are doing there. You look at Google, Caterpillar, Wal-Mart, Airbnb force, you know, kind of -- urging people to have free housing. Why are they doing this?
VAUSE: They could good publicity, you could argue that you know --
PATEL: You could argue with air counter earlier when they let this happen. And they're not actually trying to make -- I mean, they're losing money at the end of sense. And I think even you've got the big companies, but a lot of stories, which I've seen in social media and hopefully we see more of it, is the local mom and pop shops. There's not enough said for the people that are helping the locals down there.
You know, with this big story for the matches -- I mean, not just that, the local grocery store, you have a HAB down there in Texas. They are doing what they're supposed to be doing. And they're helping, and they're not trying to make that profit margin. They know that they're there to help. And at the end of the day, it's about being part of the community. That's the Ethos, and if you want to be in this big business on long term standing, that matters more than any short-term gain that you can get.
VAUSE: Exactly. The short-term gain, a long-term pain. It's all business, either way. Ron, good to see you. Thank you very much.
[01:26:10] VAUSE: Well, as Texas recovers from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a powerful new storm is barreling across the Atlantic Ocean; where it could strike? More on that in just a moment.
[01:30:34] HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN's continuing coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. I'm George Howell, live in Houston, Texas.
There are plenty of roads that are now impassible throughout the region. Many businesses that are underwater in the Houston metro area. Fort Bend County, southwest of the city, is one of areas. With us this hour to talk more about the situation, Alan Spears, with
the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management. Alan on the phone.
Good to have you, sir, with us this hour.
So right there, southwest of Houston, we're talking Rosenberg, Richmond, Texas, I was just there a day ago watching the Brazos River slowly creep up, getting closer and closer to homes that it hadn't already destroyed. The river still rising?
ALAN SPEARS, OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, FORT BEND COUNTY (via telephone): It is. It is still rising. And we don't expect it to crest until, oh, probably, late, late Friday night.
HOWELL: Late Friday night. And here we are, six days in since the storm hit. Have you ever seen anything like this, a storm that hit, caused a great deal of damage, went back out into the gulf, reloaded, and caused damage again?
SPEARS: No, I can honestly say we haven't. I am pretty sure, just off the top of my head, I don't know of any other time that this has happened like this. And, and I know there are areas of the county that -- we receive somewhere between -- some parts of the county, received 30 inches of rain. Some parts received as much as 50 inches of rain.
HOWELL: Wow. Just to tell our viewers, you know, so we have viewers from around the world watching this hour who may not be familiar with the region, that part of the state of Texas, but that Brazos River does it typically flood? And do you have any precautions, things you are able to do to mitigate that?
SPEARS: Well, unfortunately, this is the third flood we have had on the Brazos River in last three years. And which is -- which is -- I have been in this office for, for eight and a half and I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it. We have learned a lot over the last two years. And so we have a pretty good idea of, you know, depending on what the water levels are, what areas are going to flood. But the levels that we are seeing this time are more than on record, to tell you the truth. We are kind of treading on new ground here.
HOWELL: Briefly here, and we will talk more with our meteorologist, there is another storm growing in the Atlantic. Is there a big concern about that? Don't know where it is going yet, but I'm sure you are keeping an eye on that.
SPEARS: We are keeping an eye on it. We are keeping our fingers crossed that it just doesn't come here because the recovery effort that, that is ongoing right now is going to take -- locally, as the water goes down. It is going to take months. And you know, in some instances years. So this is a, this is a flood that is not going to go away any time soon for us. And we really don't need any more rain.
HOWELL: Alan Spears on the phone with us. Thank you for taking time to explain what is happening there to the south west of Houston. As the southeastern part of this country focuses on the remnants of
Hurricane Harvey, as I mentioned, another strong storm brewing in the Atlantic Ocean. Over the course of a day, Tropical Storm Irma strengthened to category three. Winds, 185 kilometers. That's 115 miles an hour.
Our Meteorologist Derek Van Dam live at the International Weather Service on deck to tell us about this.
Derek, couple of days ago, right, you and I standing along the Brazos River talking damage there. You heard what Mr. Spears said. He is keeping an eye on this, worried about it. We could face this again.
[01:34:37] DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. As if one storm wasn't enough, George, we have three named storms that are currently threatening or are threatening the mainland of the United States. Unbelievable to note. Most of North America, actually seeing the impact from the tropical systems. Irma across the Atlantic, as we speak. Harvey, the remnants of that. Tropical Storm Lydia, impacting the Baja peninsula.
Let's focus in on Irma, the next major storm we want to keep a close eye on. We have several different computer models, as meteorologists, we look to for guidance for the track and strength of the tropical systems. What you are looking at now, a European-based model. That has it tracking across the Leeward Islands. As we head into late next week, talking early Sunday morning, we have the potential, at least as computer models show now, European model, a hurricane, category 4, category 5. That's intense. In between the Florida Straits and into Cuba. The other model that we look at which is called, the GFS, global forecast model, American model, has it making its way toward the New England coastline. Still a strong category 4 hurricane. And then other computer models, hopefully, showing the storm veering off towards the Atlantic. Still a lot of variables at play here. But about a 1500 mile spread between the models, and that means there is still a lot of uncertainty to go. We have a long way before the storm really threatens the landfall here in the United States. But of course, that's, the next major storm we have to keep a close eye on.
Let's talk about Harvey, what it is doing now. See it rotating across the Ohio and Tennessee River Valleys. This storm system has produced so much rain. But there's still more rain to come. Flashflood warnings across Kentucky and Tennessee. Let's not forget what is happening in southeast Texas and western Louisiana. How could we. George and I, 24 hours ago, were sitting at the banks of the river in Fort Bend County, south and west of Houston, we saw how the water was creeping up. In fact, we have 25 flood gauges at major flood stage as we speak. Honing in on the Brazos River in Richmond, where we were a day ago, incredible to see that this river is still rising. Remember, water has to seek its own level. So as the water streams down towards the Gulf of Mexico, it has the to fill some of the larger river beds. That would be the Brazos River. Unfortunately, as the it continues to rise, look at this gauge. It shows five days of record flooding. This river will not start to recede until the middle of next week. And even that, there's still days to go before it completely recedes into the river bank -- George? HOWELL: Incredible.
Derek, thank you so much.
Still ahead, the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, visits the hurricane-damaged region here in the state of Texas. A look at what the disaster means for U.S. politics, as CNN NEWSROOM pushes on.
[01:41:56] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. It's 10:41 here in Los Angeles.
The U.S. Vice President has seen firsthand the impact and devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. Mike Pence met with the Texas governor in hard-hit Rockport Thursday. He also spent time talking with those who survived the storm, offering support and empathy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On behalf of the American people, with the leadership of President Donald Trump, to the people of Texas, we are with you today, we will be with you tomorrow, and we will be with you every day until this great state and these great communities recover and rebuild to be even better and stronger than ever before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Joining us in Los Angeles, Peter Mathews, political science professor at Cypress College.
Peter, good to see you.
PETER MATHEWS, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, CYPRESS COLLEGE: Good to be here.
VAUSE: The visit by Pence was straight out of politics 101. How to meet disaster survivors, hug them, pray with them. Don't brag about the crowd size. Then you move on. It is a fine line though for Mike Pence. He's always so cautious not to upstage Donald Trump.
MATHEWS: Right. It's the natural thing to do. Pence is a natural politician. He felt he had to touch the people and he hugged them. His wife, Karen, prayed with them. That's what should be done really. It should be done naturally, not in a forced way. You are right, he was worried maybe he looks better than the president.
VAUSE: Almost every single time he said anything, he was like, and as the president has said and as Donald Trump promised. He is mindful.
VAUSE: Mindful in deferring to the president. It becomes awkward sometimes.
MATHEWS: Absolutely Especially given the visit tuesday by the president.
HOWELL: Mostly in his limousine. Didn't stop and meet the people. Didn't want to upstage the reconstruction effort. But you can meet people and say, how are you doing. These are fellow human beings, Americans.
VAUSE: Well, to his credit, the president promised to donate $1 million out of his own pockets, his own money. No, small gesture. Questions of Donald Trump following through in the past when --
VAUSE: -- he's offered a donation and maybe hasn't followed through.
MATHEWS: Also a very small amount compared to the billions.
VAUSE: He described it as a small loan at one stage back in the political campaign. At the same time, Donald Trump proposed a budget which would slash funding for almost every government agency which is working in Texas to help the people affected by the storm. So $1 million personal donation. Great. These people, in many ways, would be helped a lot more if that budget wasn't cut, but possibly increased.
MATHEWS: That's right. There is difference between a commitment on a collective level that society should make by passing a law and saying here's the money from the taxpayer, because we're all in it together. The other is let's do voluntarily and give what we can and only would work possible, if some people, a few people. A completely wrong way to go about it.
VAUSE: But this is basically a different sort of belief in many ways.
MATHEWS: It is.
VAUSE: So, you know, from what we have seen over time, which one works better, leaving it up to individuals to show generosity or having the government do it?
MATHEWS: You have got to have the foundation of the government doing it. Then you can also allow people to be generous individually if they want to. Nothing can replace a collective effort of society to care about the public interest. Look at this, when there are disasters -- in 1950, the first disaster struck, and the federal government was authorized to get involved, it was because individuals cannot do it and afford it on their own. In 1974, when President Nixon expanded the Federal Relief Act, he put more money into it, got more agencies involved. President Carter brought about FEMA to centralize it. Again, government action, but also personal involvement and personal donation of time at least.
[01:45:29] VAUSE: OK. At the same time that all this is happening in Texas, Special Counsel Mueller continues with investigation into the alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. What we have seen, what we are seeing is an increasing focus on Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager. The New York attorney general is also involved in this investigation, focusing on Manafort. That is significant for a lot of reasons beyond Paul Manafort, right?
MATHEWS: Very significant. At federal level, any federal offense the president is accused of, he can pardon himself or pardon anyone accused of a federal crime. But a state accusation, a state prosecution does not allow the president to give clemency or pardoning anyone regarding that. That way, the prosecutor and investigators can investigate and get people to go and collaborate in a state type of investigation, which is what they're doing right now.
VAUSE: The theory always was the president pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, almost as a signal to anybody being questioned or pursued by Mueller, I have your back, don't cooperate if you get convicted, I will pardon you. This sort of negates that.
MATHEWS: It does. The signal was there, but not sure what Mr. Trump understood what he was doing, because this does negate it. Get the state level involved -- and Schneiderman has a history of going after Trump and trying to find what was done and malfeasance, yes, the president early on.
VAUSE: He has been after Trump a long time.
MATHEWS: A long time.
VAUSE: Is there a downside or upside for the president? He can point to that, say, look, look who is going after me, this is all politically motivated.
MATHEWS: He can say that. Will people believe him? The evidence has to be there. If Schneiderman provides evidence that he meets with investigators, including Manafort, and the follow-the-money investigation --don't forget he hired people who have expertise in money laundering and things, financial crimes. This is very important that -- that Comey is, that -- that Paul Manafort is being investigated for that reason by Schneiderman and Mueller. Very important.
HOWELL: OK. Peter, good to see you. Thank you for the insight.
MATHEWS: Thanks. Good to be here again, John.
After a short break on CNN NEWSROOM, we'll much more on the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
[01:51:37] HOWELL: Welcome back. We've been seeing some acts of bravery, acts of kindness and selflessness that are inspiring, to say the least. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, civilian volunteers have set off in boats and rescued victims of the flooding, but, for some, the heroism comes at a price. We have more now from CNN's Randi Kaye.
BENJAMIN VIZUETH, HOUSTON VOLUNTEER: We are on a rescue mission.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 12:06 p.m. on Monday, in Houston, Benjamin Vizueth was live on Facebook, out rescuing people in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. A short time later, at 12:33 p.m., he posted this video. By now, Benjamin, two of his brothers, a friend and his wife's stepfather were back in rescue mode with two journalists from the DailyMail.com in tow.
Benjamin's sister-in-law, Stephanie Jacquez (ph), says their wives said, "You did enough, you saved lives already." And they all wanted to continue.
By 2:50 p.m. Monday, they were hauling their boat on its trailer down the street preparing to put it back in the water for more rescues. Minutes later, they were in high water and in high spirits.
KAYE: The men never could have predicted the dark turn their afternoon would soon take. Just about 20 minutes later, Benjamin Vizueth posted his last video of the day at 3:07 p.m. It shows the rescuers along with the DailyMail.com journalists in the boat.
At one point, one of the men is knee-deep in water walking down what appears to be a heavily flooded street. The boat passes flooded gas stations as the men battle heavy rains and gusting winds.
It's hard to hear what they are saying but there doesn't appear to be any sense of panic. The video lasts about seven and a half minutes.
About 10 minutes after that, we've learned the men lose control of the boat in the strong currents and drift toward power lines.
A family member recounts what happens next, saying the current was too strong, they grabbed an electricity line and they all fell into the water. Sparks were coming out of the water. They were electrocuted several times.
Reporter Alan Butterfield, from the DailyMail.com, told his paper, "The boat was crackling and smoking. I was desperately trying to swim away from the power lines in the water. I felt electricity in the water. It paralyzes you for a second. How we survived electrocution, I don't know."
Butterfield, the other journalist and Jose Vizueth held onto a tree. They were rescued nearly 24 hours later and are recovering from electrical burns in the hospital. Later, the bodies of two others were both recovered. Benjamin Vizueth
and Gustavo Rodriguez, who owned the boat and was driving it, are still missing.
In all, this team of amateur rescuers saved seven lives, including a disabled elderly woman, but lost theirs in the process.
Benjamin's family friend, Jessica Rivera, told CNN, "If you needed help, he would always be there. I'm not surprised he was out rescuing people."
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
[01:55:07] HOWELL: We tell these stories about how incredible these survival efforts are to rescue people, but it is dangerous work. Randi Kaye giving us some perspective there.
Thank you, Randi
If you want to know what you can do to help those affected by the storm, log on to our "Impact Your World" Web site, CNN.com/impact. You can find vetted charities working to help the hardest hit by the devastating storm and the flooding. That's at CNN.com/impact.
Live in the United States and around the world this hour, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM's continuing coverage of Hurricane Harvey. I'm George Howell, live in Houston, Texas.
Our coverage continues right after the break.