Return to Transcripts main page
Harvey Aftermath; Floodwaters a "Toxic Stew" of Chemicals, Bacteria; President Trump's Visit to Texas and Louisiana; Kremlin Summons Senior U.S. Diplomat in Protest. Aired 11a-12n ET
Aired September 2, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:59:57] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And we're going to see more of these pictures as people try to rebuild their lives after this tragedy.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And our thoughts and prayers certainly with all of those folks.
Of course, the coverage of that continues as we pass it on to Fredricka Whitfield.
But thank you so much for spending some time with us today.
BLACKWELL: All right. Let's hand over to Fred with much more in the next hour.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks so much. You all have a great day.
BLACKWELL: You, too.
PAUL: You, too.
WHITFIELD: All right. We've got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. It's 11:00 Eastern hour.
I'm Fredricka Whitfield and NEWSROOM starts right now.
All right. We begin this hour with the President and first lady arriving next hour in Texas amid new images of devastation from Harvey. Take a look here. This home in west Houston catching fire just this morning as floodwaters surround it and all of this while many residents in other neighborhoods around Houston are returning to their homes and removing debris.
The President and first lady should land in Houston in the next hour and the two have a jam-packed day. They'll visit a disaster relief center and meet with survivors of the storm. Then they'll be greeting Texas congressional delegation members before leaving for Louisiana.
And later on today, the President and first lady will meet with the Louisiana delegation, visit with the National Guard and the so-called Cajun Navy. We've all come to know them and their efforts in rescuing people. So the latest on Harvey at this hour now. There have been 50 storm- related deaths. But as floodwaters subside, that number could go up. More than 72,000 people have been rescued.
We have reporters covering all angles of this story.
First let's go to Kaylee Hartung in Beaumont, Texas. Kaylee -- you are at a water distribution center. And it's been three days since water pumps failed in the Beaumont area.
What is the situation in terms of people who are going to be waiting in those long lines and whether they will walk away with something in hand?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred -- I can tell you right now anybody who gets in this line is going to walk away with two cases of water and a box of meals ready to eat.
But I want to give you an update on the water crisis here. A piece of good news, if you will, and that's the Army Corps of Engineers delivered six water pumps to Beaumont yesterday. They're being held in a staging area right now because an assessment needs to take place.
The bad news is the waters of the Naches River are still too high for that assessment to begin or for them to be near installation. I'm told that they're hoping to be able to assess that scene later today as they hope the waters will drop just a bit.
But I want to bring in Officer Hailey Morrow of the Beaumont police. Hailey, you have been on this distribution site since it began yesterday at 9:00 a.m. How do you quantify the number of people you've been able to help in this city as everyone is in such dire need of water?
OFFICER HAILEY MORROW, BEAUMONT POLICE SPOKESWOMAN: Well, we are very happy with the way things are flowing. You know, initially when it started, we weren't sure what to expect.
We've done this once or twice before in previous disasters. But yesterday we were running about 11 cars a minute. Today we've scaled down just a little bit. We have gallons of water, MREs and ice and we're working on setting up additional distribution sites.
So we pulled some people off of this operation and we're running about six to seven car as minute, so still being able to help a lot of people.
HARTUNG: and right now, Fred -- there's a line as far as Hailey and I can see here and people here at this front of the line. How long are they telling you it takes for them to even make it through?
MORROW: They're telling us anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes.
HARTUNG: That's really an incredibly efficient operation that's being run out of here. It was 16 trucks that came from Houston, from HEB, the grocery store that delivered these resources. Are you aware of more resources coming? Still running off of what you got here a couple of days ago?
MORROW: Well, we know that there are resources coming from everywhere, actually. So we're happy about that. And we're -- our operation center is working on the logistics to get additional sites set up. And we're just going to continue helping our citizens while in the background they're working on the pump system to get the water supply back to our city.
HARTUNG: Some people are reporting a slow trickle. You know maybe enough to wash your hands, but were nowhere near the water pressure that we need here.
In addition to all you're doing to help the people of Beaumont, you also live here. What can you tell us about what this experience has been like for you?
MORROW: Well, it's hard to describe. It's hard to see helicopters flying over your city and see this line wrapped around, knowing that there are people here in need. Our first responders are going above and beyond working extremely long hours, our public works department.
Everyone is coming together and the word that keeps getting thrown up is just "Texas strong". We're going to get through this. We'll rebuild, we'll recover. And we just want our citizens and the country to know that we're doing everything we can to get everyone what they need and those basic necessities like water and food and things like that.
HARTUNG: Thank you so much, Officer Morrow, for what you're doing.
MORROW: Thank you.
HARTUNG: And Fred -- this distribution point off the 1700 block of I- 10 outside the Babe Zaharias Memorial -- old football stadium, if anybody is looking for a place to find the supplies that they need here in Beaumont.
[11:05:07] WHITFIELD: And then overall, Kaylee -- how will people learn of these other distribution centers that she said will be coming? Because we know reportedly there have been some locations where people were waiting upwards of four hours and then there was no water.
HARTUNG: And instances like that, Fred -- I witnessed one yesterday where it was a church who had tried their hardest to bring supplies in. But with roads, conditions changing so quickly as these waters ebb and flow, the truck coming in wasn't able to get to them sadly.
But the city will be posting on their Beaumont Facebook page, when they open up additional distribution centers. I should say the Southeast Texas Food Bank as well as the Antioch Baptist Missionary Church, both have a distribution sites open today.
WHITFIELD: All right. Kaylee Hartung -- thank you so much in Beaumont. And thanks to the officer, too -- Officer Morrow. All right. As tens of thousands of people return to their home to assess the damage, Houston's mayor says his city is quote-unquote "open for business"; small signs of recovery with fewer people in shelters and power now being restored in so many areas.
CNN's Stephanie Elam is live for us in Houston. You're still at the NRG Center?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am, indeed. Yes, we are here. And we are -- this is one of the last evacuation centers, major one, that opened up in the Houston area -- Fred. But we can tell you that they could accommodate some 10,000 people. They said so far they've had about 4,200 people come through here.
What's also been really just phenomenal has been the turn-out of people who maybe their homes are fine, but they felt a need to come here and volunteer so if you look behind me, you see more volunteers coming in. They come in, in three different shifts, even an overnight shift. And they've had people showing up here.
We just got updated numbers for this location in particular where they said that there are currently over 1,700 people that are here in this facility currently. Not only are they getting a place to sleep, showers, food, all of those things that you need. But they're also getting help from FEMA.
There are also computers in here to help them work out what their next steps are because they really have learned from different natural disasters, from Katrina and Rita to here with Harvey -- lessons along the way that are now helping implement this for these people and move them along so that hopefully they can get on their feet in their new normal -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. There's a lot of patience being packed there with many folks who don't have places to go, who continue to remain there. But good to know lots of resources are pouring in.
All right. Stephanie Elam -- thank you so much.
So as more people return to homes, the damage and the floodwaters they find themselves in, could pose very serious health risks.
CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is live for us in Houston. Elizabeth -- you and your team have been testing the water and you found some very nasty stuff in it.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right -- Fred. We went out with some professional water testers who are wondering what lurks in this sort of brown water and the results were shocking, even to these professional testers.
Let's take a look. Let's first look at the e Coli results. E Coli is an indication of the presence of various kinds of bacteria, including fecal bacteria. Our first sample that we took in this area, 8,600 cfus or colony-forming units; the second 3,700; the third 6,300. The EPA standard for recreational water is zero. You're not supposed to have anything in this water.
Now let's look at total coliform -- another indication of fecal bacteria. The first sample, 57,000 cfus; the second 43,000; the third, 45,000. The EPA standard for recreational water according to A&B Labs, the lab we work with in Houston -- less than 100 for recreational waters.
The manager of that lab, he said these numbers are huge. His lab tests water day in, day out. That's what they do all the time. He said he's never seen numbers this large in publicly accessible waters -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. So you know, I actually happened to speak with a family member who is a nurse and is there in Sugar land. And she says already they've been seeing people and treating people who did have cuts who were in the nasty water. Tetanus is among the things that are of great concern but then having the right amount of medicine.
Have you heard anything from officials there in the Houston area about whether they can handle what could potentially be a deluge of people injured or suffering from those contaminants?
COHEN: You know, I think so far they've, you know it sounds like they've been able to handle it. And I think there probably wouldn't be a deluge of people who have suffered from being in this water. It would probably be more gradual than that because this is the situation. If a healthy person gets in this water and ingests some of it by accident, they might get diarrhea but it would be self- contained.
[11:10:02] They, so to speak, they would get over it. They probably wouldn't need to go to the hospital. It's really an issue for people who are older, who are immune-compromised, who are more fragile.
The bigger concern for the overall population is if you walk into this water with a serious and deep-enough cut and you get this bacteria in it and you don't clean it out quickly enough, that's when you could get a potentially deadly infection.
But it wouldn't happen necessarily immediately. You're not going to see hordes of people heading to hospitals, but it certainly is a concern that that could happen. But again, the concern is mostly for people who are immune-compromised or who are in a fragile medical condition.
WHITFIELD: All right. Elizabeth Cohen -- thank you so much.
All right. The President's return trip to Texas comes as his administration is asking for nearly $8 billion in relief funds. A hurricane relief bill tops Congress' packed agenda when they return on Tuesday.
Boris Sanchez is following this for us from the White House and he's joining us live now. So Boris -- is the White House confident that Congress will approve this aid package as the President and first lady have already embarked on their trip to visit with people in Texas?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There certainly is momentum for it -- Fred. The President and key members of Congress pledging to provide aid for people in Texas and Louisiana very quickly. As you said, this aid package, nearly $8 billion, $7.85 billion to be exact -- the bulk of that money is going to FEMA's disaster relief fund -- $7.4 billion. Another $400 million is going to the Small Business Administration to help small businesses and homeowners. he House is expected to hold a vote on this aid package before the end of next week.
And one other note, Congress is expected to debate a budget before the end of September. It's expected that they're going to pass a stop-gap bill, a CR to keep the government funded through the end of the year. The White House has asked that if that is the case and a CR is passed, that Congress provide an additional $6.7 billion in Harvey relief aid.
This is really just a down payment, though -- Fred, these two initial steps. Though it seems like a lot of money, it is again just the first steps in helping a region that desperately needs it -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez -- thank you so much.
I want to talk more about FEMA's role in the overall recovery. Joining me right now, Richard Serino, a former FEMA deputy administrator. Good to see you.
RICHARD SERINO, FORMER FEMA DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR: Good to see you. Good morning, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Yes, we understand now so many homeowners, something like 80 percent of homeowners in Houston do not have flood insurance. So right now, what do they do? What can they do?
SERINO: Well, the first thing they should do is first register for help. Go to disasterassistance.gov, register for help or 1-800-621- FEMA. That's the first step. And over 400,000 have already taken that first step.
And what's essential to that is they need to get into the system to see what help they can get. And one of the things that people should realize is FEMA is not designed to make people without insurance whole. The maximum somebody is going to be able to receive is $33,300.
And that's where we have to bring in the whole of the community, the nonprofits, the faith-based community that we've seen step up just in the previous reports. We've seen how the private sector has helped out along with the Army Corps of Engineers trying to get water back. We've seen the faith-based community trying to feed -- helping feed people. We've seen all this.
And as we start to rebuild, those same group of people, the same number of volunteers are going to be needed, that just initially shelter people to help muck out people's homes to get people back in because FEMA can only do so much.
WHITFIELD: It's quite a web. It's very difficult for so many people to navigate. Number one, emotionally they are just inundated and don't really know where to turn. They don't have the kind of paperwork. They weren't able to take that, you know, from their homes.
So if they do have access to you know applying for the FEMA aid and that's the $33,000 and then you mentioned there are all these other organizations, who -- is FEMA in a position where it would actually help people navigate, find all these other outlets, point them in the right direction? Who is there to help them with that?
SERINO: Well, when they call, they can get the help. Also with the disaster recovery centers, there's a suite of folks that are going to be able to help them when they go to what we call DRCs, disaster recovery centers.
We have people from the state, some of the nonprofits will be able to direct them. In certain cases there will be case managers that can help people through this very complex -- it's complex for the responders, it's complex for FEMA and it's most complex for the survivors themselves.
And that's why we have to continue to work and to help them navigate the system because it can be complex. And as we think about that, we also have to remember that throughout this, you know the children that are going through this -- because a lot of times it can be very stressful on families, but kids as well.
[11:14:58] So people should be aware there's special steps they can take care with their kids to help them through this period as well when you go into disaster recovery centers. That's scary for all sorts of ages, kids. You want to make sure you take special precautions with the kids, take time for them. Spend some time playing with the kids because that's going to be important as well. If the kids are stressed, of course, mom and dad become stressed and it goes from there.
WHITFIELD: Gosh, yes. I mean it's about family right now -- neighbor helping neighbor. Nobody wants this to be political. But there are many elements of this that do become political especially as we see Congress coming back on Tuesday. The White House wanting to ask, you know, for $7 million to $8 million to replenish FEMA's disaster relief fund.
Where are you on this spectrum when you hear at the early stages of this administration, of cuts to FEMA, cuts to EPA and now you have this colossal natural disaster? And it's an environmental disaster. It's a humanitarian disaster and supporting those agencies is particularly underscored and vital right now.
SERINO: Well, I think it's important to realize that whenever you see cuts to FEMA or some of the agencies that helping people, it's nothing we ever want to see. But we're seeing some movement forward with the disaster relief fund and again as mentioned, that's just a little bit because to put it into perspective, there was $60 million in the relief fund for Sandy. This is a very large disaster as well.
So we have to put things in perspective where it's going to go. Some things, you know, Tom Bossert -- the President's national security adviser (SIC) said we don't want to build back faster, we want to build back better, faster and stronger. So I think that that's important that we take the opportunity so that we can build back better as we move forward.
WHITFIELD: All right. Richard Serino -- thank you so much for your time and expertise. Appreciate it.
SERINO: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. More than 400,000 people registered for federal assistance since the storm and more than 100,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed and 80 percent of Texans, as I mentioned, don't have flood insurance.
But there are ways that you can help many of those people affected by the storm. For details go to our Web site, CNN.com/impact.
All right. Still ahead, smoke billowing out of a Russian consulate in San Francisco just one day before the U.S. deadline for the Russians to vacate that facility.
Stay with us on more details.
[11:17:25] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
We're expecting President Trump and first lady to arrive in Houston next hour to get a first-hand look at the damage from Harvey. It's their second visit this week to Texas. But this trip will also include a stop in Louisiana which the storm also battered.
Athena Jones is in Houston for us, joining us now. So Athena -- what are the President's plans overall as he visits Texas?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you said, he'll be touching down at an airfield a little bit south of Houston. He's going to be meeting with storm survivors, people who were badly affected by this hurricane. He's also going to be talking to volunteers who are helping out with the storm search and rescue and recovery efforts.
In the words of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the President will have a chance to meet extensively with quite a few storm survivors. He is then going to be heading to a hurricane relief center -- a place that's handing out aid for the people who are affected.
Then he'll return to that air field and meet with members of the Texas congressional delegation as Congress prepares to debate this emergency funding bill for Harvey victims. And after that he'll fly to Louisiana. But this is an opportunity for the President to talk to people who were actually affected. You remember, on Tuesday he avoided the hard- hit areas. The White House said the reason was that he didn't want to divert resources that could go to search and recovery efforts. He didn't want to divert those resources to supporting his visit. That is why we saw him meeting with state and local officials and touring an emergency operation center.
This time he's coming back able to talk directly to hurricane victims -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Athena Jones there in Houston -- thank you so much. We'll check back with you.
All right. Still ahead, a San Francisco is under heat warnings with temperatures soaring towards 100 degrees -- a robust fire is crackling at the Russian facility there one day after President Trump ordered it shut. It is raising a whole lot of eyebrows. We'll talk about that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've lived on this block for eight years, I've never seen the chimney going. And I thought why is it burning on the hottest day of the year?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:23:37] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
Russia is escalating its diplomatic feud with the U.S. now summoning a top American diplomat in Moscow to protest what it calls illegitimate aggressive action by the U.S.
What they're talking about is the White House ordering three Russian diplomatic facilities shuttered. The Russians have responded by calling it quote, "another violation of international law" by the U.S.
After the Russian consulate was ordered closed, smoke actually was seen coming from the building -- as you see right there firefighters arrived but were turned away by consulate staff.
The U.S. also ordered a Russian trade mission in Washington to be vacated by today and also a facility in New York. We'll continue to monitor developments there throughout the day.
Meantime let's talk about more about all of this with Jill Dougherty who is live for us in Moscow and Steve Hall, CNN national security analyst and former CIA chief of Russian operations -- Steve Hall.
Thanks so much to both of you.
Jill -- let me begin with you. So how big of an escalation is this? JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, it's getting serious because initially the response was kind of, I would say measured. But now you really have some very strong statements.
I mean this calling in the DCM, the deputy chief of missions and giving him that, you know, protest note which was extremely strong. You know again gross violation of international law and even going so far as to allege that maybe when they do apparently some type of search at the, at the consulate -- I'm sorry, at the annex in Washington, D.C., that the FBI might plant evidence.
I mean this is really quite extraordinary. And you have very serious statements coming from one of the top aides to President Putin.
[11:30:03] We still don't even know how President Putin is going to react to this. So I would, I would say it's very serious.
WHITFIELD: So, Steve, the U.S. and Russia showing that they're suspicious of one another. This idea of the FBI planting evidence and that's why the Russians are saying they don't want any kind of entry what do you think is behind the smoke? Is this the destruction of particular information that Russians just simply don't want U.S. authorities to ever get once they do enter that building?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, almost certainly the smoke that you are seeing out of the consulate is the destruction of classified information, probably just by burning it. Although, you know, it's also the Russians probably take a very broad view to what's considered classified early, any document that would be revealing in some sense that the Russians wouldn't want out there.
They've learned their lesson from Wikileaks and others. So, they're trying to burn as much as they can. To Jill's comments, it's really the height of irony that the Russians are claiming that this is a violation of international law.
I mean, the Russians are so guilty of this, and yet know that we're concerned about such things. You'll recall not too long ago, the young American diplomat getting out of the taxi cab in the evening front of the embassy in Moscow, being attacked by a Russian policeman, who did such serious medical damage that the guy had to be Medivac'd later on.
You know, there was a time in the '70s when the Russians tried to take advantage of a fire in the American embassy to see if they could get in when everybody else had evacuated so that they could get access to classified documents in the American embassy.
So, this is really an amazing assertion. It's the pot calling the kettle black especially coming from a country like Russia where there really isn't any meaningful rule of law. So, it's all great theatrics on the part of the Russians who do this really well.
WHITFIELD: So, Jill, is this a precursor to something else and what would that thing be? DOUGHERTY: You know when the United States announced they had to shut down the consulate and those two other buildings. They had a phrase in there, it was because of "parity." That each side now would have the number of diplomats, same number of consulates, and they also said we want you in essence, put a floor on this fight.
We want it to stop. It sounded ironic at the time, but maybe by doing this, getting equal that we can stop the tit-for-tat. But what is happening right now, and I think it is worrisome is that we don't know how far this is going to go.
Because some of the people who are in the government, let's say the new ambassador from Russia, who just arrived, ironically in Washington, D.C. on the very day that all this broke.
They've been saying, we want to have a better relationship, we want to be adult and professional and we don't want this. And yet, at this point it seems to be getting worse and we don't know precisely how President Putin is going to respond.
We've heard from the Foreign Ministry. President Putin may take a different tack. He could be harsher or he could be softer. But in any case, this is, it's like back and forth almost like a really bad tennis match and just going down and down and down.
WHITFIELD: And quickly, Steve, how far did you think it could go?
HALL: You know, I'm not sure, but one thing I am pretty sure of is that the Russians need this relationship much more than the United States? The nightmare for the Russians is, no, we no longer have these types of things in the news.
We no longer have this type of power to get in front of people. They need this a lot more than we do. There does need to be a stopping point, but let's remember how it started with an attack on our electoral system last year.
WHITFIELD: All right. And then closing of the compounds, the New York and Russian compounds under the Obama administration and now this is clearly real tit-for-tat. All right, Jill Dougherty, Steve Hall, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
All right, staying with Russia now, the investigation into the Trump campaign's possible collusion with the kremlin is picking up steam. The special counsel is now in possession of an early draft of Trump's letter justifying the firing of FBI Director James Comey. So now the obstruction of justice angle of the investigation also seems to heighten. Stay with us.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Another bombshell in the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, according to the "New York Times," Special Counsel Robert Mueller now has a draft of a letter President Trump wrote revealing his reasons behind firing former FBI Director James Comey.
It is unclear exactly what's in the letter, but the "Times" said it was met by opposition from the White House counsel, who reportedly described the content as problematic, angry and meandering. CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, has details.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Robert Mueller has new details about the real reason President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. "The New York Times" reports the Justice Department handed over a letter President Trump and top political aide, Steven Miller, drafted to Comey, but never sent, in which the president explains his rationale for the firing.
The details of that letter have not been disclosed. The "Washington Post" reports it was a multi-page letter that detailed Trump's frustration with Comey's unwillingness to publicly state that the president was not personally under investigation as part of the Russia probe.
The "Times" says White House Counsel Don McGann opposed sending the letter and ultimately a different one, written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was sent. The Rosenstein memo faulted the former FBI chief for his handling of the Clinton email investigation.
The White House wouldn't confirm the existence of President Trump's letter, but says his lawyers are working with Mueller.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: To the extent the special prosecutor is interested in these matters, we will be fully transparent with his investigation and frankly, I don't have anything to add beyond that.
SCHNEIDER: The letter disclosing President Trump's true intentions comes as the president's lawyers are making the case to Mueller in meetings and memos that the president did not obstruct justice when he fired FBI Director Comey in May.
A source familiar with the memos says the legal team lays out the president's constitutional right to fire for any reason and argues that Comey's questionable credibility prompted the firing. But it was the president himself who admitted to NBC that he fired Comey in part because of the Russia investigation.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
SCHNEIDER: Mueller's team is also coordinating with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Schneiderman launched an investigation into Trump campaign chair, Paul Manafort, this summer delving into Manafort's financial transactions.
Since the president cannot pardon state crimes, any threat of prosecution from Schneiderman could prompt Manafort to cooperate in Mueller's broader Russia investigation.
Meanwhile, California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is insisting Julian Assange and Wikileaks were not behind the leak of hacked Democratic National Committee e-mails last year.
REPRESENTATIVE DANA ROHRABACKER (R), CALIFORNIA: I think what we have here is really important for the truth to be known.
SCHNEIDER: Rohrabacher met with Assange in August at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where Assange was granted asylum. Sources say the Senate Intelligence Committee is now considering calling on Rohrabacher to talk about the meeting while Rohrabacher is promising to brief the president on the details Assange disclosed.
ROHRABACHER: And I understand that a meeting with myself and the president is being arranged. So, at that point, the purpose is, to alert the American people to the truth.
SCHNEIDER: And the Russian/American lobbyist who is inside that June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower which included Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer among others is telling his story.
The "Financial Times" reports Renat Akmechin (ph) testified before a grand jury, SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT Mueller is using on August 11th. Don Jr. took the meeting when he was promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
SCHNEIDER: Donald Trump Jr. has agreed to sit down with the Senate Judiciary Committee for a transcribed interview behind closed doors as investigators dig into that June 2016 meeting.
Senators have told CNN they expect him to appear as soon as this month. It's still unclear, though, if Don Jr. will eventually testify publicly, but committee leaders do say an open session is still on the table. Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
WHITFIELD: All right. Let's discuss this now with my panel. David Swerdlick is a CNN political commentator and Julian Zelizer is a CNN political analyst and a historian. Good to see you both.
All right, so, David, you first, you know, what is the possible significance of this letter? Why is it potentially so important or damaging?
I'm not hearing David. So, I'm presuming you don't, either. So, Julian, why don't you tackle that question? Is this potentially damaging, informative, what?
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is, for a while we were talking about the potential for tapes to exist so that we could hear what President Trump said and understand some of the rationale behind decisions like firing Comey. So, the letter is intriguing because this is President Trump explaining himself, explaining his mindset and why he was moving toward that decision. So, this offers Mueller and potentially other investigators some evidence some obstruction of justice was part of the rationale.
WHITFIELD: So, this highlights the potential, you know, wing of the obstruction of justice, you know, and of the investigation, when the "New York Times" is reporting that it was the White House counsel, Don McGann, who reportedly thought this letter which was drafted by the president, and apparently it was shared with you know other members, there and it was Don McGann who thought the letter was problematic because it was angry and meandered in tone. That's not very good, is it?
ZELIZER: No, absolutely and again we don't know what's in the letter and we're trying to figure out just from bits and pieces, what it said. But clearly, there was a reaction within the inner circle of the administration.
Including the counsel to the president, that something was wrong or potentially problematic with the way that the president was thinking about this. This is not new. We've heard this in many parts of the Trump presidency.
But again, this is not journalists. This is not Congressional investigators. This is a lawyer working for the president, who seemed to have the reaction that something was off with this memo.
WHITFIELD: And David, I think we've got your audio, there you go. I can hear you now. So, your impressions of what this potentially means because while there was that draft letter, which is not what the public ended up hearing.
What the public ended up hearing was what the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ended up drafting in a letter. That the handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation was the most problematic issue as it pertained to Comey.
[11:45:06] But what does it mean now, that potentially it's the real -- it's the thinking behind the president prior to Comey, which upstages whatever the Rosenstein letter stated?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Yes. Good morning, Fred. I heard most of what Julian said and I think I mostly agree with everything that he said. This underscores the letter that "The New York Times" and the "Washington Post" haven't seen but have reported on.
Underscores something that we already knew going back to May, which was that the president and the White House gave the initial reason for the dismissal of Director Comey as this idea in the Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein memo, that the president was unhappy with the way that Comey had handled the Clinton investigation, which was always fairly thin. And then immediately a couple of days later, he told NBC's Lester Holt that, no, he was actually thinking at least in part about the fact that that he was unhappy with the Russia investigation.
So, now here comes this letter that suggests in fact, yes, what we thought about it then was maybe the case going -- you know, going forward from that firing. You have a situation here now, where even though I don't think this proves that there was a coordinated effort to obstruct justice if that is what indeed Special Counsel Robert Mueller is going after.
I think this is one more brick in that case that he would be building and that, I think should be a concern for the White House.
WHITFIELD: And then apparently, Rosenstein and others were also concerned, Julian, that in that draft from the president, reportedly he actually even had anecdotes and comments from private conversations between he and Comey.
And that the president really was willing to share that, reveal that. It appears from what's being reported about the letter, is that the president felt all of that was justifiable and OK if he would have released that?
ZELIZER: It's not totally a surprise and that we've heard him talk about a lot of this in the open. We've heard so much from the president himself in some way, we don't need a letter or a tape. He's been very candid about what he was thinking.
But it does display kind of recklessness, I think, in terms of how this situation unfolded in May, which has certainly been a problem and opens him up in this investigation.
It's not simply about collusion, it's not simply about the financial transactions, it's clear Mueller is also concerned about the way he handled the investigation after Comey was fired and before he was fired.
WHITFIELD: All right. Julian, David, thank you so much. We'll have you back. Appreciate it.
All right. Still ahead, alarming video of a police officer out of Utah shoving a nurse out of a hospital and then arresting her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're done, we're done, you're under arrest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't be under arrest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Wow, dramatic images there. Why the arresting officer says the nurses was interfering with a police investigation even though she says she was following hospital policy.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Salt Lake City's Police Department has apologized to a local nurse after she was arrested while following hospital protocol. The nurse refused to let the officer draw blood from an unconscious victim without legal consent. As you can see on this body cam video, things got rather heated. Here is Dan Simon.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The disturbing video comes from the inside of an emergency room. The woman screaming, a burn unit nurse, who was being arrested by a Salt Lake City police officer.
UNIDENTIFIED NURSE: Please, you're hurting me.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Then walk.
UNIDENTIFIED NURSE: No.
SIMON: The incident captured by police and hospital cameras happened in July. Now the district attorney says he wants a criminal investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED NURSE: What department are you with?
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Salt Lake City police.
SIMON: University of Utah nurse, Alex Wubble (ph) says she was just doing her job, following hospital protocol by refusing to let police take a blood sample from an unconscious patient.
UNIDENTIFIED NURSE: Is this patient under arrest?
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: No.
SIMON: Wubbles says Detective Jeff Pane demanded a blood sample from a car crash victim who is in a coma and severely burned. His truck smashed by a car racing from police according to local media. Wubbles calmly explains the policy for obtaining blood.
UNIDENTIFIED NURSE: The three things that allow us to do that are if you have an electronic warrant, patient consent or patient under arrest, and neither of things the patient can't consent.
SIMON: She even gets her supervisor on the phone who backs her up. The tension only escalates.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: She's the one that has told me no.
UNIDENTIFIED SUPERVISOR: Yes, but Sir, you're making a huge mistake right now. You're making a huge mistake because you're threatening a nurse.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: OK. No, we're done. We're done. You're under arrest. We're done.
SIMON: Salt Lake City's police chief apologized and said what happened was unacceptable.
CHIEF MIKE BROWN, SALT LAKE CITY POLICE: I was alarmed by what I saw in the video. I want to be very clear we take this very seriously.
SIMON: For now, Wubbels isn't filing a lawsuit.
ALEX WUBBELS, NURSE: I feel very strongly in giving people the benefit of the doubt and I truly believe that he was honest in his apology and sincere in his willingness to try and make change and make things better.
[11:55:02] SIMON: Police released Wubbels without charges that day after she sat in the police car for 20 minutes. Detective Payne said in a written report that his watch commander advised him to arrest the nurse for interfering with a police investigation.
Payne and another officer now on administrative leave as internal investigators look into this startling incident.
SIMON: And as you can imagine, that video really has local leaders outraged. The mayor of Salt Lake has also apologized to the nurse, Alex Wubbels. And one thing we should also tell you about her is that before she was a nurse, she was an Olympic skier.
In fact, she qualified for two Olympics so, obviously there's some mental toughness there and she's glad that she got that apology from the police department. As for the officer involved, we tried to reach him and his lawyer, but thus far those efforts have been unsuccessful -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Wow, some stunning moments there. Keep us posted on that one, Dan Simon. Appreciate your reporting on that. All right, NEWSROOM continues right after this.