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FEMA: 96,000 People in Texas Approved for Assistance So Far; Gas Prices Spike in the Wake of the Storm; A Look at Harvey & What It Left Behind; What the Future Holds for Southeast Texas Following Harvey; Trump Talks DACA, Dreamers; Trump Praises Organizations Helping in Wake of Harvey. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 1, 2017 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:00] RICHARD SERINO, FORMER DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR, FEMA: But FEMA assistance wasn't designed to make people whole. The maximum somebody gets is about $33,000. Even with that, the average, only $6,000 to $7,000. It's going to help people jump-start but not help them get back on their feet.

That's where all of the volunteers, all the donations people are making, both monetary and in time, that not just initially in this week, really looking how you can help and volunteer through affiliated good organizations that you're familiar with that can come in and help mop out these peopling homes, help them rebuild. They'll need money and people to help as well. Organizations like the Red Cross, Team Rubicon. And the Southern Baptists, feeding 20,000 people a day. It's organizing, and all of those folks coming together.

And it's important how we look at this, that we'll have the ability to be able inform across the different agencies. Administrative law doing a great job, the state director in Texas, informing people how they're able to do that. And also inspiring people. Inspiring people how they can help out, what they can do. And understanding that it's not one agency that's going to be able to do this. This is a whole- government approach, the whole-community approach. Neighbor helping neighbor as well. It's going to be a long haul. This is not something that's going to be resolved in weeks. This is going to take months and, in some cases, years.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Absolutely.

Richard Serino, former deputy administrator of FEMA, thank you for that expertise and perspective on this. Thank you so much, sir.

Still ahead, and as you're looking now on the other side of the screen, these are live pictures of evacuations taking place now. They're in Beaumont, Texas. They're being evacuated from a hospital there. Patients evacuated from a hospital by air in Beaumont, Texas. Seeing live pictures right now. We're going to continue to bring the pictures in to you as they come in. And so stay with us on that.

Meanwhile, the impact from Harvey is being felt from Texas to New York. Why you're going to be paying more at the pump for weeks to come. That's when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:36:14] ACOSTA: Adding insult to injury in Texas, storm victims trying to get basic necessities experiencing long lines for gas. It happens in storms like Harvey. And, in some cases, facing exorbitant prices. A convenient store in Houston was reportedly charging $99 for a case of water, which is just totally ridiculous. That's why you're hearing authorities saying they want to crack down on this.

CNN correspondent, Alison Kosik, is in Dallas.

Alison, are gas prices spiking there and what's happening across the country?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are seeing gas prices spike here. Most of the gas stations we're seeing in and around Dallas, they are up, according to the national average says it should be. This particular gas station is a little on the high side. It has $3.49 a gallon. Usually around $2.50. It is a buck over. We are seeing lines continue as the day goes on.

But as the day goes on, in addition to the lines we're seeing, we're also seeing gas stations run out of gas. Look at this one here. The yellow tape here. It means that these gas pumps no longer have gas. About 40 pumps at this gas station. Only eight can offer gas, because they've been, just run out. They're not getting new supply.

Why is this happening? Because refineries are shut down, because their flooded. Refineries in Port Arthur and in Houston. Also, vital pipelines, like the Colonial Pipeline and Explorer Pipeline, they are not running at full capacity. Not only are you seeing prices spike here in Texas, you're seeing them go up across the country. North Carolina seeing a spike of 29 cents a gallon since Harvey hit. Same with Georgia, 29 cents a gallon spike as well.

More bad news. When you thought this -- you could see the light at the end of the tunnel, analysts saying we might see gas prices go up more because it could take a while to get the refineries back online. We could see the national average sitting at $2.75 before long, which means, at gas stations, you may see it go higher than that -- Jim?

ACOSTA: Wow. That will have a punch on the economy.

Alison Kosik, thank you very much for that perspective. That's right.

Still to come, we'll talk to the man who wrote the book on "The Great Deluge" after Hurricane Katrina. What lessons can we learn? And what can we learn as Houston tries to rebuild? And the president heading down there this weekend. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:42:54] ACOSTA: This time last week, people in southeast Texas were nervously watching weather forecasts, waiting for Harvey to make landfall, hoping it would go easy on them. Days later, most of Houston and the surrounding area were under water. Some people were fighting for their lives and many lost everything. Here's a look back at Harvey and what it left behind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are about some of the worst conditions I have ever been in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need help. We need help right now. They got a whole family out there in the water. People is drowning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just because skies are clear doesn't mean the threat is over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thought we were fine and the water started coming up really, really fast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're literally in moments of panic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go. Go, go, go, go, go!

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Get out, dude!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That guy's truck is floating away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See people -- it's heartbreaking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I seen three dead bodies. Lord, please help us.

(CRYING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It felt like "Wizard of Oz," man. Seen a lot of things but that terrified me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Waiting on the boat. A lot of people swimming. Trying to save the kids. They try to reach a safe place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have been there like five days with no food, no lights and nobody came. Like, nobody came.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were on the roof. It was raining so hard. We didn't care. We just wanted to live.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The current just lifted up the van.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the kids were screaming. He could hear them screaming and crying. It kept yelling at them, climb out, get out the back doors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He couldn't do anything. The van went into the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like I told the sheriff, I'm so glad you saved my brother. I didn't want to lose my brother.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: Even after watching that, it's hard to grasp just how much damage has been done in southeast Texas. It's even harder to understand how long it will take to recover.

I want to talk about what the future might hold for the folks down in that part of the country with historian, Douglas Brinkley, who teaches at Rice University in Houston. He's also the author of "The Great Deluge, Hurricane Katrine, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast."

Doug, in a few moments, we expect video to come in of the president talking about DACA and the Dreamers. We might get to that in the middle of this, and show that, and talk to you about this.

But first, after showing footage of what's happening over the last week, it goes to show you how a natural disaster like this can come on suddenly and unfold in totally unpredictable ways. After writing that book on Katrina, what does the future hold for the people in Texas?

[13:45:28] DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN HISTORIAN: Recovery's going to be very tough. You have neighborhoods that are so waterlogged, it's going to take month upon month just to get rid of the stagnant water. There's going to be rising frustration. FEMA's done a better job than with Brock Long than they did with Brownie back in Katrina. Nevertheless, FEMA is going to be inundated with requests. They'll have a hard time meeting some of them.

You'll see the town of Houston pull together. This weekend, the Houston Astros are playing a doubleheader, giving out free tickets. The city's taking pride in Houston. And they'll want to talk about local heroes. Houstonians saves Houstonians. But we have to be careful not to forget those towns. In Katrina, it was Gulfport and in Mississippi, Bay St. Louis. Don't forget Port Aransas and Rockport, the towns that really took the brunt of the storm head-on.

ACOSTA: And, Doug, I don't mean to cut you off, but we're getting new footage of the president talking about the Dreamers. Let's listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, everyone.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

TRUMP: We'll release on DACA sometime over the weekend. Probably Sunday. Saturday. Latest will be Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, everyone.

TRUMP: Great feeling for DACA.

Excuse me? UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

TRUMP: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

TRUMP: Thanks very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

TRUMP: We'll be making a request. Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

TRUMP: For the state of Texas, yes. And Louisiana.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Tomorrow, I'm going to Louisiana with the first lady, and Texas. It will be Texas, Louisiana. OK?

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you, everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: OK. We just want to get viewers caught up on what we just saw.

Talking to Douglas Brinkley about this.

Earlier in the hour, you saw the president talking about this decision on DACA. He said it might happen today or over the weekend. In the last few moments, pointing out a slight distinction. The president saying tomorrow, Sunday or Monday, we might see a decision on DACA. Sounds as if, this holds, the president saying we won't get a decision on this today.

Doug, since talking about DACA, how big of a decision is this? This seems to be a larger decision, a more profound decision that could be very defining for him than it was for pardoning Joe Arpaio. Because you have so many young kids affected by this.

BRINKLEY: Absolutely. I mean, one has to hope that President Trump does the right thing and allows these DACA Dreamers to stay here in the United States. The idea of booting them out, giving them a year or two to move to a country where they may not even speak the language, and to leave the exiling of a whole class of people, it would be a horrible story unfolding in the coming months and years. So let's hope that doesn't happen. I can't imagine he's going to make saturday a DACA day. He's got to get down to the gulf south and show some heart and emotion. He only got medium reviews going there before, Jim, when we went down to Corpus Christi and kind of stood half a football field away from people. And I can't imagine. Many of the people struck in the gulf are of Latino heritage. For him to do DACA while he's down there seems to me to be farfetched. I'd say you're looking at Sunday, probably Monday morning.

ACOSTA: I was going to ask you, Doug, you're from that area and know it well. I imagine you have a good number of Dreamers who live in the Houston area. And can you imagine if you live in an area that's been flooded out, maybe your home taken out, and you're a Dreamer, and then find out that the president has taken away your DACA status, it sounds like a very bad P.R. problem for this White House 30 potentially.

BRINKLEY: Horrific. Already, he's not very popular in urban areas of the U.S. But I promise you, in Houston, where the Latino community is very large, he's not a beloved president. Yet, people are hoping that he'll show some emotion. So what a cold thing to do if he went down to Houston or Louisiana and did a DACA speech, saying we're going to boot you. I don't expect that to happen. I'm hoping when the president gives hints, I love the Dreamers-type thing, he means it and ends up doing the right thing Monday and getting this issue behind us. These are obviously American citizens who need to be treated as such.

[13:50:00] ACOSTA: And he's under so much pressure inside the White House. You have people like Steven Miller, his policy writer, who is a veteran of Jeff Sessions Senate office, and the attorney general, who are pushing him to get tough on these Dreamers, get tough on immigration. And yet, you have people like Gary Cohn, the economic adviser, the more moderate folks inside the White House who are saying the president should be careful with this. And you have the president, he has promised time and again to show great heart to these kids. How can you even pull the rug out from under them after saying, repeatedly, you're going to show great heart?

BRINKLEY: I think it would be a public relations disaster for the president. But we've seen him walk into P.R. disasters before. So, anything's possible. But it seems to me the moments high here for the president to do the right thing. So what if Miller doesn't like it or some of the Alt-Right doesn't like it. He seemed to be able to purge the Bannon crowd lately. Hopefully, this is showing a new Donald Trump, heading into September, where he doesn't polarize our country more on an issue that polls show they don't agree with the president on. Most people want to embrace the Dreamers. They recognize they're essential American citizenship. And for him to go that far right and that draconian and do something that filled with malice, seems to me it's only going to see a president who's already struggling with below 40 percent approval rating sink much lower.

ACOSTA: And speaking of how he's going to be perceived down there, you mentioned he was in the region just a few days ago, and there was a video that got everybody's attention when he said, look at this crowd here, look at this turnout, and it did leave a blemish on his performance down there. He didn't really get up close and personal with very many people either, in contrast with the vice president who was doing just that yesterday. How do you think he needs to handle himself when he goes down to Texas and Louisiana tomorrow?

BRINKLEY: Well, I think what he needs to have a Trump moment when he shows empathy. It seems to be his short suit. And by that, I mean, look at what Bill Clinton did after the Oklahoma City bombing and the empty chairs of Oklahoma and the heart that he showed. Look at President Barack Obama after the tragedy in Charleston when he sang "Amazing Grace." Look at Ronald Reagan after the "Challenger" disaster. He needs a moment where we're feeling a kind of empathy from him. And he's often been described as having a narcissistic personality. That means you don't have an ability for empathy. You're basking in self-love. He needs to transcend that. Just like the people of Houston and the gulf south are transcending the storm, he needs to transcend that hesitation and get to the people, hug the real victims of the storm.

ACOSTA: Yes. And Doug, apparently. just a few moments ago, the president praised the first responders down there in the region.

Let's show that footage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much.

The first lady and I are pleased to welcome Gail McGovern, of the American Red Cross, David Hudson, of the Salvation Army, and Kevin Ezell, of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. These people have been absolutely incredible in what they've done. We'd like to thank them and their staffs and volunteers for the incredible work they're doing and in helping people affected by Hurricane Harvey. It sounds like a very innocent name, but it's not an innocent hurricane, that I can tell you. It's of epic proportion.

These organizations and the many other nonprofits involved represent the generosity, determination, and unbreakable spirit of the American people.

And Mike Pence was there yesterday and represented this country so well in the love and the care. And I had so many just great comments about your visit. So I appreciate it.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: And when a disaster strikes, they work to help others in the time of need, which was over the last week, believe me. They've already provided tens of thousands of displaced gulf coast residents with meals, water, shelter, fresh blankets, and clean clothing.

When one American suffers, and I say this quite a bit, and especially lately, when you see what's going on, we all suffer. We're one American family brought together in times of tragedy by the unbreakable bonds of love and loyalty that we have for one another. And there is a great love and a great loyalty in this country. And I think we've all seen it, maybe more so than ever before over the last four days. So, I think we really have seen it.

Nowhere is our unity more evident than in the actions of our volunteer and charitable organizations that rally to their neighbor's aid when disaster strikes.

[13:55:00] The people of Texas and Louisiana were hit very hard by a historic flood. In their response, they have taught us all a lesson, a very, very powerful lesson. There was no outbreak in crime. There was an outbreak of compassion only. Real, beautiful, strong compassion. And they've really inspired us as a nation. To be honest, they've inspired the world because the world is watching.

We're pleased to receive an update from Gail, David, and Kevin on the work of the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.

The federal government is on the ground bringing in significant resources to bear. And I want to assure these organizations and the others involved that we will continue to coordinate with them and bring all of the relief and the comfort and everything else that we absolutely can to the gulf coast.

And I want to also thank the governor and lieutenant governor of Texas. They have been outstanding. Just the coordination and the level of relationship has been, I think, pretty much unprecedented. So I just want to thank them. I want to thank all of the folks working on the ground for the administration.

Tom Bossert is here today.

Tom, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Every American heart is with the people of Texas and Louisiana. They're strong and resilient. And they have really overcome, and we're in the process of just about where I can say overcome this horrible devastation. Now it's going back to work.

But the Coast Guard in particular have to also thank. They saved probably thousands of lives. We were just talking about it. Going on to seas that very few people would want to be on in the worst of times and they were saving a lot of people out there.

Together, we will help them all recover from this tragedy. We'll renew our hope in community and will renew our hope and rebuild those homes and businesses and schools and places of worship with a strength and vigor that comes from the love within our souls.

And I just authorized and signed a proclamation for prayer. And we're going to have on Sunday a prayer Sunday.

And, Mike, that was something that was very special that just took place, so I think it's going to be something to see and to witness. It's been a long time, and our country deserves it, frankly.

I want to thank my wife, Melania, the first lady. She's been so involved in this and helping so much.

And so I want to thank you.

Would you like to say a few words? MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: It's great to be here

with an amazing people. And I want to thank all the volunteers all across the country that have came to help to Texas. And fantastic job. And we are going tomorrow to visit them. And I just want to tell them to be strong and everything will be OK on the end.

TRUMP: I didn't tell her I was going to do that, Steve.

(LAUGHTER)

And she did a great job.

But she really has, she's been so dedicated to this. This is very much affected her, what's happened in Texas, and neighboring states, frankly.

So, I want to thank you, First Lady.

MELANIA TRUMP: Thank you.

TRUMP: Salvation Army?

DAVID HUDSON, SALVATION ARMY: Yes, well, we're, first of all, very appreciative of this opportunity and appreciative of our partners in service. We are working hand in hand with groups like the Red Cross where they provide shelter for people and we're able to provide meals. And even though we're limited in being able to get in to a lot of the impacted area, we've already served hundreds of thousands of meals. And literally millions of meals will be served. And we can only do this as we partner together. And as I've told my coworkers, this is a time that we're all Texans. And no matter where you're from, we're all about serving Americans in need.

And I'd like to thank you, Mr. President, the Red Cross, and the Baptists, and all the other agencies that partner with us. Together, we can make a difference.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Very nice.

Southern Baptist?

KEVIN EZELL, SOUTHERN BAPTIST DISASTER RELIEF: We're three different organizations but we work best as one. And the joy of this is we really do lock arms. And have the capacity to feed over 400,000 people a day.

And, Mr. President, thank you for FEMA. They've been incredible through this. We've come through many disasters. And they've done a --

TRUMP: Absolutely.

EASEL (ph): -- just a fantastic job of stepping to the plate and being prepared and allowing us to volunteer in the way we're prepared to do.

TRUMP: Well, I think we should thank Brock Long and all the people at FEMA and the people at Homeland.

And I have to say General Kelly, who's been so much involved, as you know. He just left. And he's now in the White House. But his spirit and everything else that's been involved over the last few weeks getting ready, because really, this has been probably now almost two weeks since we felt it was probably going to hit that area. But General Kelly has done a --