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Trump & First Lady in Houston Touring Flood Damage; Interview with Former A.G. Alberto Gonzales; 3 Days Without Water in Beaumont, Texas; HEB Grocery Provides Hot Meals, Groceries; U.S. Officials Search Russian Annex in D.C.; Trump Talks to 1st Responders in Houston; 2 Brothers Travel to Texas to Help Storm Victims. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired September 2, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: We'll continue to monitor the president as he meets with victims of superstorm, hurricane, then Tropical Storm Harvey, of course. And he is there, you can see helping with some of the first aid and first responders. We saw him earlier meeting with people in shelters, giving kisses and hugs to some of those who have been affected, who've had to evacuate, who've lost everything.
Let's listen in just a little bit and see if we can hear.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You, too.
CABRERA: These are live pictures. You see the full press corps there with the president on this visit.
He's making a point to hit several stops he wasn't able to make the first time he visited the storm area on Tuesday. That's when he was able to meet mostly with just some of the local, state and federal officials. He went to a fire House there. This time he's been able to, again, meet with the residents and those who are directly affected. He was criticized earlier of not being empathic enough, compassionate in that first visit. The White House said some of the reasons he didn't meet and greet with some of those folks previously was because he didn't want to impact the emergency response efforts that were still ongoing at that time when they were literally in rescue mode throughout much of the Houston area that was flooded. So he is tapping into the heart of Texas and, of course, the heartbreak of one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.
Less than two hours ago, this was the scene when he met with evacuees who took shelter inside NRG Stadium in Houston. Now, the president again doling out hugs and kisses to the children. He reassured the adults who were there that the federal government will stand by them in a recovery that could take years.
This visit, the afternoon, blunting his criticism following the first few days. Even critics in his own party saying he failed to show enough empathy and compassion. And today, he seems to have embraced that role as the nation's Comforter-in-Chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Really, I think people appreciate what's been done. It's been done very efficiently, very well. That's what we want. We're very happy with the way everything's going. A lot of love.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did the family tell you earlier?
TRUMP: They were just happy. We say a lot of happiness. It's been really nice. It's been a wonderful thing. As tough as this was, it's been a wonderful thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Across Houston and much of southeast Texas, receding flood waters now show the daunting magnitude of the work ahead. Returning homeowners are emptying their flooded houses. Streets now overflow with soggy and stinky trash, ruined items that were once their belongings. The death toll across southeast Texas has risen to at least 50.
In Beaumont, Texas, that's northeast of Houston near the Louisiana border, the situation there is still grim. And getting even worse. The city of 118,000 is now in its third day without running water. And thousands there still don't have power. Workers are hoping to restore the water today if the river levels drop enough.
Let's bring in White House correspondent, Athena Jones. She has been traveling with the president, is joining us now from Houston.
Athena, we saw President Trump there, hugging evacuees, kissing children. He and the first lady then were serving meals at a shelter. We saw them at a distribution site helping with the water and the need there. How is he being received?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, the first shelter he went to, the NRG Stadium, housing about I think 1,700 people right now, there were a lot of smiles on the faces certainly on the children, but also of the adults as the president came in. This was a surprise, of course. The White House doesn't announce where he's going to go. They say he's going to a shelter, but they don't say which one. He walked in and caught folks by surprise. You saw him kissing and hugging children, posing for selfies. You saw he and the first lady then handing out food supplies, a meal of hot dog and chips, we're told.
He also spoke briefly with the press. Here's some of what he had to say there at NRG Stadium.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: A lot of water. But it's moving out.
But I think most importantly the governor, the relationship with the governor and the mayor and everybody it's been fantastic. And with the federal government it's been really great.
And we're signing a lot of documents now to get money. $7.9 billion. We signed it. And now it's going through a very quick -- hopefully quick process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[15:04:48] JONES: And we heard the president talk again about the hopes that Congress will approve that first tranche of aid, much needed aid for the people of this region as soon as they come back next week. The hope is there could be a vote as soon as next week, at least in one of the chambers of Congress, perhaps both of them.
We heard him mention, at that second stop that he went to, that distribution center, a church, I should say, that's acting as a distribution center, we've also seen him helping dole out supplies there, unloading some boxes, and telling the volunteers that they're doing a great job.
I should note that we talked before about how the president's first trip to Texas on Tuesday, he wasn't able to meet directly with storm victims. He instead met with state and local officials. He toured an emergency operations center. But the White House said they wanted him to avoid the hardest hit areas so as not to divert resources that could be used to help search-and-rescue efforts. They didn't want to divert those resources to protecting the president and planning his trip.
Well, now he's been able to come here and talk to these victims firsthand. And we know from the pool of reporters who are traveling closely with the president, who were on Air Force One, that they were able to see some of the flooded areas as they came to land in Ellington Field at about 10,000 feet. We saw several pictures of what the president would have seen from the windows of Air Force One. He spoke about that briefly as well at NRG Stadium.
And we're also learning that between that shelter at NRG Stadium and this church, where the president has been doling out boxes of supplies, the motorcade passed more devastation. So he would have seen the debris in the streets outside of homes. Pool reporters describe couches and wood panels and rugs as people begin to rebuild or to tear down so they can then rebuild.
And these are the kinds of pictures people want to see from a president in a tragedy like this. And he has now been interacting directly with people in a way that he didn't do over this week.
CABRERA: Yes. And I'm taken by some of the images we're seeing, as we're talking here, Athena, with him sitting by a table full of toys and talking directly with the children there.
I'm curious how much of this, do you think is choreographed? We know that he's a little behind schedule. The schedule they put out, he was supposed to be departing for Louisiana by now, but we saw him just moments ago there, still on the ground in Texas. Are some of these interactions spontaneous or is all of this planned in advance? JONES: Well, on some level, it's planned because they have to decide
where they're going to have him go and who they're going to try to have him interact with. But he's playing the role that you often would expect from a politician, interacting with the people that he encounters.
But it's very clear the White House is sensitive to this idea that some of the president's critics earlier this week said he hasn't shown a lot of empathy for the storm victims. So we saw Vice President Pence, a couple days ago, fill that role pretty easily, that role of consoler and comforter. We saw him hugging a lot of people. We saw him clearing debris. We saw him praying with his wife and Texas Governor Greg Abbott over the storm victims. And so people were saying that's what we'd like to see from President Trump. Well, now we're seeing more of that on these several stops today.
And you mention, yes, he has several more things on his agenda. He is supposed to meet -- or was supposed to meet earlier with storm victims there at Ellington Field soon after landing. That was changed to afterwards. So he's expected to possibly meet with more storm victims at Ellington Field, also meet with the Texas delegation, then fly onto Louisiana to meet with victims there and volunteers there. So they're really packing it in in terms of all of these stops. And I think it's part of the White House wanting to show continued engagement, which he really has shown all along, but this time, on this particular day, on a more personal level.
CABRERA: All right, Athena Jones reporting in Houston with the president. Thank you so much, Athena.
Of course, we'll continue to monitor the president's visit to the storm-ravaged area. We'll bring you more live images as we're able to.
Let's talk more about President Trump's second chance to act as Comforter-in-Chief. Joining us, CNN political commentator, Symone Sanders, a former press secretary for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, and also CNN political commentator, Scott Jennings, who served as former special assistant to President George W. Bush.
Scott, I want to begin with you, because you started working in the Bush White House about two months or so after Hurricane Katrina. President Bush, we all know, is heavily criticized for his initial response to that disaster. How is President Trump doing today compared to what we saw Tuesday?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he's off to a great start. I think the president has done a good job, from the response mechanism that his government is coordinating between state, federal and local. I think he's doing a great job today. These images we're seeing today, as the reporter said, is exactly what you'd expect to see out of a president who is often called on to be Comforter-in-Chief.
There's really two parts to managing these disasters. There's the initial response, but then there's the ongoing rebuilding effort. And what we're seeing in Houston right now is we're going to have years of rebuilding. It's going to cost billions and billions of dollars and take years and years of effort. And so the president will be judged on what he does in the short term, which I think he's off to a great start. But then all of Washington will be judged on what happens over the next several years as we try to pull this city back together.
CABRERA: Such a good point. We cannot overstate the fact that this is really the beginning of the recovery process.
Symone, let's put optics aside, what the images are telling us today. Listen to what the state's Republican governor has said about what
President Trump is actually doing to help that state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[15:10:13] GREG ABBOTT, (R), TEXAS GOVERNOR: From the president to the vice president to the entire cabinet, there's been one of both compassion from their very heart, by the way they've been moved to see the devastation, but also there's been a deep commitment to ensure that they will do all they can to help rebuild Texas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So the president has promised to give this state everything it needs to recover. He's meeting personally with victims today. Is he doing exactly what a president should be doing?
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think in going there today and working effectively with the state and local government, yes, President Trump is doing what he should be doing. But I think he also has come off, one, a little bit disconnected. And, two, there are some wider reaching implications. Two weeks ago, President Trump signed an executive order that reversed an Obama-era EPA regulation that said every piece of public infrastructure project, whether it's hospitals or housing, has to be built a few feet above the 100-year floodplain. That will ensure or reduce the risk of flooding. If you are really interested in preventing things like Houston from happening again -- remember this is the third 500-year flood in Houston in the last three years -- it is really, really important that regulations such as those that the EPA is actively involved, that President Trump and his administration understand the wider-reaching implications, which are -- which, again, will take time rebuilding down the road, but there are things this administration can do right now that I don't think they necessarily understand the ramifications of, and I don't think they're doing it.
CABRERA: Scott, do you agree with that in terms of some of the actions that he has taken in the past? Do you think he'll have second thoughts on that rollback of that one regulation or the money that he had redirected from FEMA to go toward building the border wall?
JENNINGS: Look, I think that only a liberal Democrat could come in and tell us that EPA and government regulations could prevent an epic hurricane like what we just saw come ashore. I mean, that's sort of a nonsense talk. I just think that what is important right now is that we save lives,
that we get this city back on its feet. And then all of Washington, led by the president, focus on rebuilding.
Again, what happened after Katrina is really important. It took years and years and years of money and rebuilding effort coordinated between the federal and state government to get that city back on its feet. And it really was a bipartisan effort. I think really the time for partisan attacks is not today. I think we've got to all come together as Americans.
SANDERS: But, Ana, I want to be clear --
JENNINGS: I think the president is leading us in that effort right now.
SANDERS: I want to be clear I'm not making a partisan attack. What I'm saying is actual and factual. Rebuilding is going to be really important. Bipartisanship in this effort is going to be really important. It is vital people understand that what happened in Houston, what happened in Katrina, what is currently happening all across the world, there are floods in Southeast Asia right now, in Nigeria, these things are not once-in-a-lifetime happenings. These things are becoming more normal due to the state of our climate, however, you want to call it. And so because of that, if we talk about rebuilding, we have to talk rebuilding in a way that prevents things such as this from happening again. An easy fix to that is every single public infrastructure project that takes place from now until whenever has to be built above the 100-year floodplain. I don't think that's partisan. I think that's smart.
SANDERS: For folks to not -- for folks to automatically see me talking about practical things that the federal government can do to prevent things like this from happening again, taking into account how we plan our cities, to say that that's partisan, I think is a copout.
CABRERA: I think this is just the beginning of a discussion that is sure to continue to happen in the days, weeks and months to come as we do continue to follow the recovery process and the rebuilding process there in Houston and beyond.
Symone Sanders and Scott Jennings, thank you both for joining me.
Coming up, President Trump and the first lady are expected to have more events there in Texas before heading to Louisiana to view the storm damage there. We'll bring all of that to you live, right here on CNN, just ahead.
And also, the Justice Department now weighing in on the Trump claims that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him during his campaign. We have the breaking news when we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [15:15:30] CABRERA: President Trump's visit to Texas continues at this hour. Earlier, we showed you him passing out supplies at a shelter. He met families as well. We'll bring you much more of the president's visit as we are able to do so.
Meanwhile, we have some major news out of Washington. The Justice Department revealing it has found no evidence that Trump Tower was ever wiretapped, as the president has alleged in a series of tweets. In an official filing, the DOJ writes this, "Both FBI and NSD confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets."
Among the president's tweets were these accusations, "Terrible. Found out Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism." And this, "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad or sick guy."
I want to talk more about this with the man who led the Justice Department under Republican President George W. Bush, former attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez.
Thank you so much, former Attorney General, for being with us.
I know you're learning this news since as it's breaking at this hour. I want to get quickly your reaction. How significant is this, the DOJ saying there's no evidence to support President Trump's controversial wiretapping claim?
ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't think there are going to be many Americans surprised by this filing by the Department of Justice. I think what happened is President Trump relied upon a source in making these tweets. And that source was obviously terribly wrong. So the Department of Justice has confirmed, I think, what most Americans have believed or known to be true for quite a long time. And that is that President Obama did not engage in ordering wiretapping of Trump Tower.
[15:20:14] CABRERA: Have you ever seen the DOJ directly contradict a president like this before?
GONZALES: I think if you gave me enough time to think about it there's a strong possibility that that would be true. Again, you know, sometimes statements are made that come out of the White House, sometimes directly by the president of the United States, based upon incomplete or inaccurate information. And it does occur from time to time where there's a correction made by one of the agencies within the executive branch.
CABRERA: Do you think the president will learn a lesson from this one?
GONZALES: Well, let's hope that he does. I think, obviously, when something like this happens when you make an error, you make a mistake, you make a misstatement, you know, hopefully, you learn from that and try to be more careful next time. CABRERA: I want to turn to the Russia investigation. We'll let you
get a chance to get more read-in on the other stuff, but there was some other news that is pretty major when it comes to the investigation into the president perhaps obstructing justice, which we've learned is part of the probe that special counsel, Robert Mueller, is doing. Now "The New York Times" is reporting Mueller has a letter the president apparently drafted himself with White House aide, Steven Miller, that explains his reasoning for firing then-FBI Director James Comey. Now, this letter's different than the letter written by Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein that Trump officially submitted as his explanation for Comey's firing. And the "Times" says that White House counsel, Don McGahn, saw its contents as problematic. What does that tell you?
GONZALES: Well, listen, oftentimes in government and in business, in the private sector, you know, you draft things, you discover as you think about it maybe it's not the best way to say it, that maybe this is not accurate. And it becomes a draft and remains a draft and doesn't go into final form. I have always suspected it's more likely than not that President Trump remove James Comey not because that James Comey was leading this investigation into Russia, but because James Comey would not announce publicly that Donald Trump was not the subject of the investigation, even though Mr. Comey had informed the president many times that he was not the subject of the investigation. I've always suspected that is the reason why Mr. Comey was fired. And apparently, if you take the draft as being true, that appears to be the reason why the president decided that he should make a change at the FBI.
CABRERA: Just a quick follow, we don't know the contents of this letter, this original letter, apparently, but do you think it will have an impact in the obstruction-of-justice issues that the special counsel's looking into?
GONZALES: Well, I think Bob Mueller's going to be looking at why there were so many different explanations or rationales given publicly for the removal of James Comey. That obviously does raise questions about what was real motivation. So, again, it presents a challenge for the administration in that, I think, it is going to encourage the special counsel to dig deeper into the real motivation behind the removal of Mr. Comey.
CABRERA: I really want to also get your take on this important decision that's upcoming, talking immigration, the president's decision on DACA, which is a program, for our viewers who are maybe less familiar, for young working immigrants known as Dreamers. It temporarily protects them from deportation, let's them get work permits, and go to college. If you have the president's ear -- I'm just getting word the president is speaking right now. Forgive me for interrupting.
Let's listen in real fast.
TRUMP: How many days was it up?
(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: That's unbelievable.
Look at this guy. You just became famous.
TRUMP: You just became famous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's good. That's fine. Let me take my glasses off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tell you what we did, we looked out the window and tried to find the ark to see if it was coming down the street and it didn't come. You guys did.
TRUMP: Thank you.
Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. It's going to happen. Going to happen very fast. It's already happening.
Thanks. Good luck, everybody.
CABRERA: Again, here we have the president meeting with more survivors of Hurricane Harvey in Houston. We heard briefly that interaction with one of those storm victims there, saying we were waiting for the ark, referring obviously to Noah's Ark. And he was sort of making a joke about it. He said, it didn't come, but here you are, that's what counts. So showing appreciation for the president making the effort to go there and meet directly with the people.
We'll continue to monitor the president's trip to the storm-ravaged area in Houston, as well as his upcoming visit that is still expected to happen later this afternoon in Louisiana.
I want to bring back former attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, and talk about a really important issue affecting millions of people in this country, potentially. Specifically, we're talking about DACA, which affects about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, again, giving them work permits, letting them go to college.
If you had the president's ear right now on this issue, what would you advise?
[15:25:21] GONZALES: Well, there are two key questions to ask. One is, do you believe these individuals, again, that were brought here by their parents through no fault of their own, this is the only home they've ever known, do you believe these individuals deserve some kind of legal status? And if you don't, then they should be removed from this country. But if you do believe they should receive some kind of legal status, what is the best way to achieve that? From my perspective, I think there is a question as to whether or not
President Obama had the authority to do what he did, in terms of providing this program.
A much better route would be to seek legislation through Congress. We've already had Speaker Ryan talk about the fact that he believes these people should remain in this country. And that is fine. But anyone who's in this country, in a post 9/11 world, we need to know who they are, and they need to be here on some kind of legal status. Many of these children present very sympathetic stories. But even refugees we bring from other countries that are persecuted, we bring them over in some kind of legal status. And so if we're going to keep these children here, if they're going to remain in this country, they need to do so under some kind of legal status. There is a question whether or not the president can bestow that status. So let's resolve the issue. If you believe that they are entitled and should receive some kind of legal status, Congress should do it through legislation.
CABRERA: Should the president extend it or end it?
GONZALES: Should the president -- again, it depends on whether or not he believes they should be entitled to legal status and if he's advised that the has --
GONZALES: -- the legal authority by his counsel and by the attorney general then he may go ahead and do that. But even if he does have that authority, in my judgment, a much better route is to simply work with Congress and pass legislation to make it more permanent.
CABRERA: And that's what we're hearing from Congress as well, even those who agree that these people should be protected or given some kind of temporary status, Republicans and Democrats alike.
One reason there appears to be a deadline this week, because 10 states attorneys general threatened to sue the federal government over DACA, and asked for action from the administration before September 5th. Now, we've learned one of those A.G., the one from Tennessee, has since changed his mind. Let's say the others move forward with legal action, then what happens?
GONZALES: Well, again, it depends on what the White House is going to do. The White House -- the president may pull down the executive order ending the program. If he allows it to continue, to expire on its own, I'm assuming the legislation -- the litigation will continue. However, if Congress takes action, it may rule out the litigation. So a lot's going to depend, again, on what the Congress does. For those people who believe that these individuals are entitled or should receive some kind of legal status, I really am hopeful it's done through legislation.
CABRERA: What do you believe? Should they receive some kind of legal status in your opinion?
GONZALES: In my judgment, yes. They present a very sympathetic story. Again, these are individuals who were brought here through no fault of their own by their parents. This is the only home they've ever known. Many of them, you know, are very, very productive in this country, quite frankly. Now, Congress will have to decide the parameters of who would qualify. For example, you know, it would have to be someone who doesn't have a criminal record, someone that is responsible, people, perhaps, if they go to college. So Congress can work through exactly what qualifications would be -- would have to be met in order to qualify for any kind of legal status.
CABRERA: Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, we really appreciate all your time this afternoon. We hope to have you back to continue our discussion another day. Thanks, again.
GONZALES: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, more live pictures out of Texas. This is in Beaumont, where residents there have gone days without drinking water. Now, we will go live to a distribution center when we come back.
[15:33:36] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM.
This is video from just moments ago. President Trump visiting with residents of the Houston area neighborhood. You see first lady, Melania Trump, there along his side. There may be more events, we're learning, in Texas with president and first lady before they head to Louisiana to survey the damage there. We will take you with us through this journey as the president continues his visit, and bring you more live pictures as soon as we see him again.
Meantime, residents of Beaumont, Texas, have gone for about three days with no running water. The Army Corps of Engineers has since arrived. They have six pumps ready to replace the area's failed water pumps, but the only problem is the water in the river is still too high to even begin assessing the damage.
Let's go to Kaylee Hartung, in Beaumont, joining us from a food and water distribution center there.
Kaylee, what do you see happening there? What's been happening there this afternoon?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, at this HEB, on the corner of 11th and College Street in Beaumont, service is halted for just a couple of hours so the folks of HEB's Disaster Relief Unit can gear up for dinner service. Hot meals and water for the people of Beaumont in such dire need. You can see carts here behind me. We've got the grocery store open here. And they tell me that the shelves are still stocked.
I want to bring in Danny Flores, who is really running the operation here.
Danny, what can you tell us about what's been accomplished here today? [15:35:04] DANNY FLORES, MANAGER, HEB DISASTER RELIEF UNIT: Bringing
hope. You know, Texas took a little bit of a hit, but we made adjustments, you know, like we always do. And we're able to give a lot of folks water, ice. And really what we have here is bringing some hot meals to folks who haven't had anything in a while.
HARTUNG: How many people were you able to serve through breakfast and lunch here?
FLORES: Today, we've done about a little over 4,000. Since we started in Victoria last saturday, we're probably at a good 30,000. Good Texas folks we've been able to serve hot meals.
HARTUNG: You and your trucks have been on the road all week, from Victoria to Rockport to Houston and now Beaumont. From your perspective, seeing each of those sites and the people in need, what makes the situation in Beaumont different as you've seen it today?
FLORES: Well, we had a little bit of sunlight today. But, you know, no matter what, we're family, we're Texas, we're HEB, we're from here. And really give that little more hope to somebody. So blessed to be able to do this not only here in Beaumont but also in the other affected areas. And just the "thank yous" are more than enough. Really, we take it to heart. Unfortunately, we've had a number of disasters through the years. We've perfected something that you don't really want to be perfecting all the time, but we're able to adjust and we're able to give the community what they need.
HARTUNG: And right now, they need food and water. With no running water safely here in Beaumont, and in a lot of places no power, what hot meal are you guys serving up for dinner tonight here?
FLORES: Well, today we're going to do some chicken cordon bleu, wild rice and green beans.
HARTUNG: Thank you, Danny, for all you've been doing for the people of Beaumont and other areas of Texas.
FLORES: Thank you.
CABRERA: Sounds delicious. Comfort food.
Kaylee, before we let you go, real quick, what is the status of restoring water to those people.
HARTUNG: Ana, last report, the six pumps the Army Corps of Engineers brought in, they're still sitting at a staging area. The commander of the Southwest Division of the Army Corps of Engineers on his way here to Beaumont to discuss with local officials what happens next. As you mentioned at the top of this, the water is still too high for them to do much in way of assessment or installation. But we're waiting on word from the city. I'm told they're in the EOC right now trying to figure out the next steps. We expect to learn of a press conference in the coming hours here. CABRERA: Keep us posted.
Kaylee Hartung, in Beaumont, Texas, thank you.
Up next, the tit for tat between Russia and U.S. government heats up with U.S. officials inside the Russian annex in Washington. You're looking at live pictures, in fact. We'll get an update on the diplomatic tensions here live in the CNN NEWSROOM, next.
[15:41:53] CABRERA: More breaking news tonight. The diplomatic feud between the U.S. and Russia just took another turn, and it appears to be escalating. I want to show you live pictures of the Russian annex in Washington, D.C. We are getting reports U.S. officials have entered this building, may have begun a search. Eight people in trench coats were seen walking through these gates. Four guards have been posted just outside the gates, two with police bulletproof vests.
Now, we're also hearing the Russians have left this annex. Russia, hours ago, summoned a senior American diplomat in Moscow protesting State Department orders to close three Russian diplomatic facilities in the U.S., including this one.
Now, Russia just released a statement which reads in part, "The U.S. authorities must stop the gross violations of international law and breaching the immunity of Russia's diplomatic institutions. Otherwise, we reserve the right to reciprocate on mutual basis."
One of the facilities ordered to close is the Russian consulate in San Francisco. And take a look at this. This was just after the U.S. issued this order. You can see smoke rising from that building. Firefighters who responded were actually turned away by consulate staff.
Let's bring in CNN contributor, Jill Dougherty. She's joining us from Moscow.
Jill, how serious are these developments?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Ana, I think they're very serious. I mean, this is really pretty unprecedented, at least in the modern history of Russia. You have -- I mean, those pictures that you're showing right now, the United States going in now, taking possession, actually going into that building carrying out a search. The Russians said, in fact, just a few minutes ago they had very vociferously and seriously pushed for having their representatives on the site, because they were actually saying that perhaps the FBI would let's say plant compromising information or things that could be used for compromising the Russian government. I mean, it's very serious.
And then you have this other thing that's happening in San Francisco. A very, very important consulate for the Russian government. Don't forget the San Francisco consulate is out by Silicon Valley, a very important object of interest by not only the Russian government but Russian intelligence. So big question now I think you'd have to say is, how will Russia respond to what is happening with these searches. Because, after all, the last word is with Vladimir Putin. He has not weighed in on this. We're hearing a lot of very angry statements from diplomats, but what will Russia actually do? What will Mr. Putin do?
CABRERA: And they haven't responded since at least the statements they put out, but as we were showing again, the picture of the smoke coming out of the consulate in San Francisco. Are the Russians giving any explanation for that smoke?
[15:44:57] DOUGHERTY: Well, the explanations coming from a Facebook post by Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry. And on that rather kind of informal posting, she said, look, what we're doing is we are preparing to shut down that consulate. It's kind of like, you know, turning off the lights, turning down the heat, turning off the electricity, et cetera. And she explained it as part of that. Others, of course -- and there have been -- there actually was a member of Congress, who said it's quite obvious that they are burning things, could be documents. We don't have any direct confirmation.
But whatever is happening, you can definitely say right now that the Russians, I think, are quite shocked in the sense that, even under Obama, whom they pretty much hated, that things like this didn't quite happen, but this is even worse coming in the administration of the man who they thought was going to improve things.
CABRERA: Good point.
Jill Dougherty, thanks so much for joining us, from Moscow tonight.
Up next, meet two Hurricane Harvey heroes, brothers, with no connection to Houston, who drove to that city to help any way they could. Their amazing story, their amazing images, next. Don't go away.
[15:49:42] CABRERA: Live pictures right now out of Houston. This is where President Trump has just arrived now at Ellington Field. This is where Air Force One will take him and the first lady eventually to Louisiana from here. But it looks like he may be meeting with a few additional people on the ground there. Before they take off, the word was he was supposed to meet with the Texas delegation while he was also visiting this area. And may also be meeting with some first responders. So we'll continue to find out exactly what he's doing.
We brought you the images live here on CNN as he hugged, kissed children, some of the flood victims. As he met with some of the volunteers who are involved in the relief and the aid efforts.
And there we see the president again meeting some folks there on the ground. Shaking hands. It appears that Governor Greg Abbott is also along there. We see Senator Ted Cruz among those folks. A quick picture, I didn't catch everybody there. But members of the Texas delegation certainly, part of their -- of course, there's Congressman Al Green as well. And Sheila Jackson Lee was another one we saw in that picture. We planned to speak with one of the members of Congress, whom he was
supposed to meet with during his visit coming up in the hours ahead.
But again, the president still in Houston, now walking over to first responders. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Mr. President.
Good to see you again.
TRUMP: Great job. Great job, everybody. That's great.
Thank you very much. Have a good time. Fantastic job. Thank you. Great job.
TRUMP: Thank you.
Great job, everybody.
TRUMP: I like that. I like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A pleasure --
TRUMP: Thank you. Have a good time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got something else for you, sir.
TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you, man.
You guys have saved a lot of lives. Saved a lot of lives. How many lives? I'm hearing 4,000 or 5,000.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somewhere in there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somewhere in there.
TRUMP: I mean, that's big stuff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 12 people for me.
TRUMP: Boy, oh, boy, and that's literally saving their lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
TRUMP: They were out there, and they were in trouble, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, they were.
TRUMP: 12 people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President.
TRUMP: Fourteen years old.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you mind if I get a picture?
TRUMP: Yes, real fast though.
TRUMP: Well, 12 lives, we'll give him one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President.
TRUMP: Great, great job, everybody. Fantastic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An honor to meet you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six and --
TRUMP: Six is pretty good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you mind if I get a picture?
TRUMP: Did you save them with the helicopter?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
TRUMP: How was the weather out there? Not too pleasant?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 50 miles-an-hour winds.
TRUMP: How did that compare with the bad storms you have seen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the worst.
TRUMP: This is about as bad as it gets?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
TRUMP: By the time it got to shore, it was bad. It was a 4.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. We were flying in 60 mile-an-hour winds. It was really bumpy.
TRUMP: Flying in how much?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixty miles-per-hour winds.
TRUMP: What could a chopper like that handle?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot more than that.
TRUMP: So you can go more than the 60 or 70?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We'll go out in anything, sir.
TRUMP: Better you than me.
TRUMP: Have a good time. I'm proud of you. That's great.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I get a picture?
TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to meet you.
TRUMP: Pleasure to meet you. Great job.
A lot of people you saved, huh?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I get a picture?
TRUMP: Thank you. Congratulations.
TRUMP: Thank you.
[15:54:57] CABRERA: Hard to hear what they're saying, but we did hear and see the president shaking hands, expressing lots of thanks to these men and women who are among the hundreds if not thousands of rescuers who have been working tirelessly in southeast Texas this week, since Tropical Storm Harvey dumped inches and inches -- actually feet of rain on that region, sending people panicking. And many lives have been saved. In fact, we are told at least 72,000 people have been rescued in the past week. And these are members of the military, the Coast Guard.
Just to give you a sense of the sheer quantity of work they have been doing, we are told at least 2,100 people in Beaumont, Texas, were rescued by the Coast Guard and Texas National Guard. Of course, we have been talking about the many volunteers who also moved into this area.
This is the end of the president's trip to Texas at the moment. He is going to be heading to Louisiana here shortly from Ellington Field after this meet-and-greet with the rescuers. Earlier, we saw him meeting with volunteers and, before that, with residents and victims of the flooding as he continues his visit to the storm-ravaged area. And again, we see other members there, here meeting with members who are those responders who did such great work.
Among the people who raced to this region to help save lives were a couple of brothers, one from Dallas, the other from California. They dropped everything to help, and help they did. They discovered a family of five trapped in their dark, water-logged home. Three elderly people, a young girl and a teenage boy, who were apparently overlooked and left behind initially, holed up in three feet of filthy water. One man who had just had surgery was lying on a bed with a snake swimming close by. And you see here one of the brothers even carried out an elderly lady on his back.
That man is Jonathan Evola. He is joining us along with his brother, Joshua.
Thank you for being here, and going above and beyond and helping those folks.
Talk us through, first, what happened.
JOSHUA EVOLA, VOLUNTEER RESCUER: Absolutely. So it's a pleasure to be here, and it's a pleasure to be of service to Houston and everybody in need.
I want to quickly say that -- a lot of people heard our stories already about the testimonies of us being out there and first responders helping save lives, rescue people. We just want to say that now that that's over, and now that, you know, basically, all the Rambos are kind of out of the way of rescuing folks, that the greatest need for them now is for water and for food, for handyman, contractors. Anybody can come in and help to restore these folks' homes.
I don't know if you have the pictures or not. We had to stop on the side of the road to get on with you, but showing all the debris and belongings outside of the house. It is overwhelming, but everyone is on board right now to restore their homes. And we're just asking that anybody that can give, whether it's money, your time, whatever it is. I don't think they're in need of boats any longer. We have all that covered. But right now, we're needing folks to pull together and come help to support folks that are in dire need.
CABRERA: Jonathan, we showed that image of you carrying out that elderly woman on your back. Have you spoken with her since?
JONATHAN EVOLA, VOLUNTEER RESCUER: I have not. Tracy, who is coordinating all of our rescue efforts, has been talking to her daughter and they're doing well. They're in a safe area. They're just glad to be OK and with their family. CABRERA: It's amazing to see the sheer amount of people who came out
with the biggest hearts and such bravery, including yourselves. And to hear you say, help them more, we need more people to chip in and do what they can.
I know you guys are headed out of the flood area for the time being. But I understand it's not over yet for you. Talk to me about what you plan to do next.
JOSHUA GREEN: It's not. OK. So it's definitely not over. Actually, it's just begun. There's so much more that Houston is up against and Beaumont and that whole area. This -- they're up against, you know, standing water, disease, mosquitos, having to rebuild, mold that's going to be developing in these folks' homes, so it's very urgent. Anybody who can help and make their way down here to help restore that's what we're going to be doing. We're connecting with organizations and churches and creating teams that are nonstop, going to be continuing in to Houston to help these folks. They're in dire need of that. Now is not the time to back out and go, oh, all the heroes are there. Everybody is there. No, now is the time for everybody to be involved.
We were touched on the way over here. We saw a man that looked like he barely had any provisions himself holding a sign that said, "free food." He wasn't asking for food. He was wanting folks to stop so he could feed them. There were people on the side of road with clothes saying "free clothes." So this is what we need right now, everybody to pitch in. And it's the little --