Return to Transcripts main page


North Korean Regime Claiming Tonight It Has A Hydrogen Bomb; Floodwaters Are Receding But The Damage Is Jaw Dropping In Lake Charles, Louisiana; President Visiting Texas And Louisiana Earlier Today; Justice Department Revealing It Found Zero Evidence That Former President Obama Ever Wiretapped Trump Tower; Three Russian Diplomatic Facilities Here In The U.S.; Special Counsel Robert Mueller Now Has His Hands On A Letter That President Trump Apparently Planned To Send To Then FBI Director James Comey. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 2, 2017 - 19:00   ET



[19:00:17] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

And we begin with breaking news out of North Korea. The North Korean regime claiming tonight it has a hydrogen bomb. It can mount on an intercontinental ballistic missile. The country state-run media say these pictures show leader Kim Jong-un inspecting this new weapon at the country's nuclear weapons institute. It's important to note that U.S. officials have not confirmed that North Korea has this capability.

But I want to bring in our Ian Lee who is in the region reporting from there.

Ian, what more you can tell us about this?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So overnight here in Korea these, pictures were released of Kim Jong-un investigating and inspecting this nuclear missile, this ICBM being installed with an H- bomb. And this is significant, Ana, because this is the first time that North Korea is saying that they have the capabilities of putting a nuclear weapon on an intercontinental ballistic missile, an ICBM. And so release of this news, they are also saying that they have the capabilities of doing this, reproducing this, making more, as many as they like which is significant because experts didn't think that they were quite at this stage yet to miniaturize a nuclear weapon and put it on an ICBM.

CABRERA: Let me bring in CNN pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr on the phone because, Barbara, we were talking about knowing that they had maybe the components of some kind of hydrogen bomb that was determined back in January of 2016. But this appears to be the first time we are seeing, if it's true, a full bomb that it would be small enough, according to experts like Colonel Rick Francona that could potentially fit in an ICBM.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Well that's right. And that's why the intelligence community is going to look at that image, scrutinize it, look at everything they possibly have collected, any imagery, any intercepts, any information, any air sampling, any kind of telemetry, electronic signals of you will in the air from the weapons and missile program. Any radar that are they may be able to pick up to try and see over time have there been clues that get to this point that lead us to conclude that this image does represent an actually constructed, if you will, hydrogen bomb that could be placed on the front end of a long-range missile.

We don't know if the public or the media the answer to that. We know that the U.S. has believed since 2016 that the North Koreans may have had components of a hydrogen bomb and may have actually tried to test some of those components back a couple years ago. We know that the U.S. is watching the underground nuclear test site around the clock for any signs of another underground nuclear test. We know they are watching all the known missile sites they can find with U.S. spy satellites to see if there's launches in the works. But this will be what is determined and will we, we in the public will we ever really know. Because a hydrogen bomb, of course -- North Korea's capabilities to hold --

CABRERA: OK, Barbara, I'm going to jump in because it's hard to hear you. There is a lot of background noise. So forgive me for interrupting. But it was very difficult to hear what you are saying.

I want to go back to Ian Lee because you are there in South Korea, Ian. And obviously, this comes after a pretty active week by North Korea, by the U.S. doing military drills. In fact, doing a drill in which it intercepted an ICBM of sorts. And I know that North Korea has been doing a lot of saber rattling this week. I mean, could this just be more of the North Korean propaganda that we are used to seeing or do you see this as being extremely significant?

LEE: Well, you are right, Ana, this has been a week of back and forths that we saw kick off really on Tuesday when North Korea tested a missile that flew over Japan. And shortly after that South Korea carried out a military exercise that was designed to showcase their capabilities of taking out North Korean leadership in the event of a war. That was also followed up by a large-scale military exercise that involved the B-1 bomber, involved F-35 stealth fighters and F-15 from the Korean peninsula all coordinating and showcasing their unique capabilities over a ten-hour exercise.

North Korea brushed that aside when they came out on state media saying that this wasn't very significant. But this latest development, these pictures coming out and this statement, this claim that they have miniaturized an H-bomb to put it on an intercontinental ballistic missile, that will have many people here worried.

[19:05:36] CABRERA: All right. Ian lee and Barbara Starr, thanks to both of you.

We will continue to follow this latest development. Of course, the U.S. will wait for reaction from our officials here as well as South Korea. We will bring you more on this breaking news as we get more information. Meantime tonight, we are also following the big news out of Texas and

Louisiana, and the impact of hurricane Harvey. These are images of the President visiting that area earlier today. And getting a side of the President that public rarely sees. More personal, more compassionate side, embracing his role as consoler and chief. He was on the ground in storm-ravaged parts of both Texas and Louisiana. He was giving hugs. You saw him kissing children, even took a lot of selfies with the victims, with the first responders of tropical storm Harvey.

Images like these of the President giving out food and loading up supplies, all the more striking since it was days ago that he was criticized for his lack of empathy. The White House now seeking nearly $8 billion in relief funds as the death toll from the storm reached at least 50. And today the President told a crowd he thinks the cleanup can happen quickly.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the water is disappearing and we have a long way to go but the water is disappearing. And you look at the neighborhoods and you see it's -- we just rode through this. And two days ago, even yesterday they had water. And today, it's all swept up and cleaned up. They say two years, three years, I think that, you know, because this is Texas you will probably do it in six months. I have a feeling, right?


CABRERA: So here is the reality. Floodwaters are receding but the damage is jaw dropping. Families returning to clear out their flooded homes. Their positions are now trash on the side of the street. Mountains of trash, devastation.

Ryan Nobles is joining us from Lake Charles, Louisiana. That is where the President and first lady have just departed for their trip home to Washington.

Ryan, tell us about who the President met there as he was making the rounds.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, I don't think there is any doubt that the big role the President played today was encourager in-chief. He understands that there is a long slog ahead for the people in this part of the country after hurricane Harvey and he wanted to say that the federal government is behind them 100 percent, that they will offer as much assistance as humanly possible.

But it's important to point out, Ana, that a lot of the work that's been done up to this point has bun done by volunteers that have come from all over the down the assist in the rescue and recovery effort. Among them, members of the volunteer Cajun Navy. This is a group of people that come from Louisiana and Texas, Alabama. There are people who have boats at the ready and just drove to this region without any official guidance, put those boats in the water and started rescuing people. And the Cajun Navy was part of the group that the President met with

here at this lake Charles, Louisiana armory. And the President specifically thanked those members of the Cajun Navy for the work that they did. Among them was Ben Huser (ph) who was part of a Cajun Navy crew that actually rescued a group of residents in two different nursing homes. He talked to me about that experience last hour. Take a listen.


BEN HUSER, CAJUN NAVY CREW: And we took those patients out roughly 70 boats. We got those people out, got them to safety. They have been in water for two days. Some of them with their feet, diabetic patients with their feet in the water for two days. And what I saw was devastating to me as a person and human being. That can't happen.


CABRERA: And Ben Huser lives in Hammond, Louisiana. He suffered and went through hurricane Katrina a few years ago. That's one of the reasons that he got in to his truck, carried his boat to the Texas- Louisiana border and pitched in to help. He rescued those residents from a nursing home in Port Charles, Louisiana. So Ana, just one example of the many stories that we are seeing of heroism here in the wake of hurricane Harvey.

CABRERA: It is so heartwarming to hear those stories.

Thank you, Ryan Nobles, for your reporting, again in lake Charles, Louisiana.

Now, there is another big story coming out of the Trump administration tonight. A new filing by the justice department revealing it found zero evidence that former President Obama ever wiretapped Trump tower. You will recall President Trump accused Obama of wiretapping him in a series of tweets back in March.

And here is just one of them. He wrote. Terrible, just found out that Obama had my wires trapped just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism. Now, President Trump also called Obama a bad or sick guy.

Joining me now is CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for the "Atlantic" Ron Brownstein and senior political reporter of politics, managing editor for the "Huffington Post" Amanda Terkel. And CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor, Paul Callan to weigh in on this major development.

Paul, I will start with you. The President is essentially -- he accused his predecessor of committing a federal crime. A lot of people had said there is no way that happened. A lot of people have said it was a lie. Now his own justice department is saying that.

[19:10:48] PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, they have. This is a very serious crime. It's punishable by five years in prison. In other words, Obama could have gone to prison, theoretically, for violating this law. Of course, he could have been prosecuted until after he left off.

This is a very, very serious allegation. I'm wondering is the President going to apologize now to President Obama since he accused him of a federal felony that his own justice department says never occurred? So it will be interrogatory see what the Trump reaction is.

CABRERA: Could there be any legal ramifications for this President?

CALLAN: Well, I mean, he actually could be sued for defamation for defaming President Obama by accusing him of being a criminal. However, one President suing another for defamation would be probably a first in American history so I don't think we will see that happen.

CABRERA: I'm going to bring in Ron Brownstein. The President, he was derided fake news yet he spreads his own. He calls allegation of Russian collusion. He made up story while making up this story about former President Obama. What are we to make of this?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look. I mean, he has said many things along the way since coming down the escalator, you know, over two years ago that simply were not true. And it kind of goes to his political situation, you know. He is looking at, you know, approval ratings of 34, 35 percent, much lower than any other new President at that point in his tenure.

At a point when most things in the country have basically been going pretty well, you know. The economy has been growing. Hasn't been creating jobs as fast as it did under Obama but it's still creating jobs. The burden that he is operating under is a verdict about him and his approach to the presidency, predominantly. I mean, some of its issue and healthcare, but a lot of it.

Even FOX News in their poll this week, a majority of Americans, 53 percent use the word bully to describe him, 44 percent said unstable, 25 percent said Presidential, only 25 percent. So I mean, the problems that he has, I think to a large extent, are kind of exemplified by this. People have not seen in him the kind of judicious care and stability that they expect in a President. And I think that is more than anything else the reason why his approval rating is running 10, 12 points below his vote less than a year ago.

CABRERA: Amanda, account President be trusted or believed?

AMANDA TERKEL, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, THE HUFFINGTON POST: I think that's a great question. So far, no. I mean, the way that the President sort of -- the way that Donald Trump sort of became known nationally recently before he ran for President was basically spreading fake news that Obama wasn't a citizen, that he was born in another country, that he wasn't constitutionally eligible to be President.

This is -- you know, Donald Trump was sort of the far most further out there. So he has been spreading fake news for a long time. And quite honestly, a lot of times he tweets these things that have no basis in fact and his own administration can't even defend them. His press secretary will have a tough time defending them when reports question them about the President's own tweets. And often the press secretary says, look, tweets speak for themselves. And now you have his own justice department led by attorney general Jeff Sessions who say complete Trump loyalist saying, no, we also can't stand behind what Trump says. So it just shows that, no, you really can't believe a lot of what the President is saying.

CABRERA: All right. Paul Callan, thank you. Ron, Amanda, you will be back with me with a little bit later in the show. Thanks, guys.

Coming up, the diplomatic feud between the U.S. and Russia heats up as the FBI conducts new searches. We will get a live report. Stay with us.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:18:51] CABRERA: Developing right now, the state department confirms it just searched three Russian diplomatic facilities here in the U.S. but denies accusations by the Russian government that there were threats to break down the doors.

Here is one of the facilities in question. A Russian trade annex in Washington, D.C. officials in trench coats and police in bullet proof vests were swarming this scene earlier today. And it follows this, a plume of black smoke pouring out of the chimney at this Russian consulate in San Francisco yesterday, the day after the Trump administration order the building closed.

Now, when firefighters showed up to investigate, they were greeted by this site, a man seeming to shirt firefighters nothing to see here. It sparks the speculation, though, that the Russians were burning documents before a search of the building of American security services.

I want to bring in CNN contributor and former CNN Moscow bureau chief Jill Doherty.

Jill, what is Russia now saying about all of this?

JILL DOHERTY, FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Well, it is really been pretty extraordinary. I mean, the video that I were referring to of these inspections of those properties now has been put on to the website, actually the Facebook page of the Russian foreign ministry. And it would appear that in a way they are trying to make almost a legal case. What they are saying is, and in fact they use this word, it was an invasion of their property. They say that it was against all international law. And, and very critical comments, very almost personal comments coming from the spokesperson from the foreign ministry on her site on the Russian foreign ministry's Facebook saying that -- calling it devilish clownery, stupid, illegal, and meaningless. And then she goes on to say she was watching all these pictures and that it was embarrassing, et cetera.

In other words, we are in other words we are getting from, I think, all layers right now and this with the foreign ministry very serious, you know, professional statements of rage about this. And with the implication that maybe they can make a legal case some place. And then these expressions rage that are just quite personal and pretty emotional.

So what do we draw from this, Ana? I think right now we would have to wait for what is Russia going to do in response? It's very late on a Saturday night, Sunday it could be quiet, but Russia has said it's going to do something. And we don't exactly know what that will be.

I think what they are going to try to do, and the Americans have been doing this too. Analyze the situation, figure out how you can respond diplomatically without completely blowing everything up, although it's getting very bad right now, and get the point across and really, you know, send that message that this has to stop. But the way that they are both sending the message is to continue this tit for tat.

So I would say it's quite extraordinary. I certainly have never seen anything like this. And it is ironically happening under the administration, you know, of President Trump who wanted to improve things. The Russians also see a big disconnect there.

[19:22:17] CABRERA: So where it goes from here, we will see.

Jill Dougherty in Moscow, thank you.

Coming up, one of the people closest to the President is apparently on his way out. So who or what prompted this?

Plus, a letter President Trump planned to send to James Comey now reportedly in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller. So how worried should the President be tonight?

And our coverage of the disaster in Texas continues as we see more unforgettable storm images including this flood victims who found solace in a piano.


[19:27:22] CABRERA: We are back way new piece of evidence in the Russia probe.

"The New York Times" is reporting special counsel Robert Mueller now has his hands on a letter that President Trump apparently planned to send to then FBI director James Comey explaining why he was firing him. Now, the letter was drafted by Trump himself with White House aide Stephen Miller but never sent.

"The New York Times" reports it was blocked by Trump's attorney Don McGahn who said he is angry and meandering tone was quote "problematic."

Back with me are political analyst Ron Brownstein and Amanda Terkel.

So Ron, what do you make of the fact that Mueller now has a copy of this letter that the White House counsel thought was problematic? BROWNSTEIN: Well, look. I mean, you know, it kind of goes with what

the other revelation we have had in the last few days which is that the Trump -- the President Trump's legal team has present to the special prosecutor - special counsel arguments as to why the President should not be charged with obstruction of justice. You wouldn't do that preemptively. I mean, you would only do that if you were worried they were, in fact, going down that road and it would be within that context that this would be relevant.

At the least, the first thing this does is further blow up the initial explanations from the White House, including from the vice President who was apparently in the meeting where this was discussed, and had previously blamed the firing on the recommendation from the justice department. But certainly it starts with that, and then, you know, it gets to how it fits into pieces of puzzle that we are probably not aware of at this point.

CABRERA: And let's remind everybody, here is the President back in May explaining his decision to fire the FBI director James Comey.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, in fact, when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


CABRERA: So, Amanda, when you couple that with the fact that the President himself apparently drafted this letter to Comey, not to mention that untrue statement about his son's meeting with the Russian lawyer, where do you see this going?

TERKEL: Trump should be very worried. I mean, we don't know exactly what was in that letter and we don't know the exact reason that Trump's lawyer blocked him from sending it, you know. As you mentioned angry and meandering tone. But did Don McGahn determine that there was something illegal in the letter that sending it would open Trump up to some, you know, something that he's basically facing now?

So I think that is a key question, was that -- does that letter show clear obstruction of justice? What exactly is in it? And, yes, I mean, the White House I feel like Trump's White House does all it can to sort of protect the President and then you have the President go out there, give an interview like the one you just played where he, himself, brings up the Russia probe and to sort of connects the dots for all his critics.

[19:30:14] CABRERA: I think that's what has a lot of people curious to learn what is in that original letter.

But let me ask you guys about another development we have learned. Someone else is leaving the White House. Keith Schiller who is the director of oval offices operation, formerly President Trump's bodyguard before he was President, he had he been with him. In fact, since 1999. And just to refresh everybody's memory, he is so trusted, he's been so loyal to the President, it was Schiller who was sent to the FBI to deliver Trump's letter firing Comey. It was also Schiller who rushed to the podium when a protester tried go after President Trump on stage.

So, Ron, if you were to put yourself in the President's shoes, how significant is his departure?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, this has not been obviously a significant policy adviser. But one thing we have known about this President is that there are not a lot of people who get into his kind of, you know, circle of trust, as Robert de Niro would say.

You know, there are not a lot of people -- it's not easy for him to trust new faces. And he is now, you know, in a situation in the White House where inevitably you have to good beyond to run the country, you have to go beyond those you are most immediately comfortable with. And after this incredibly turbulent first eight months, you know, you kind of look around the room and there are fewer and fewer faces that are familiar to him, other than his family. And we have seen some in great reporting by our friends at the "New York times" in week that he is chaffing at the discipline imposed by his new chief of staff John Kelly and vice-versa, you know, back and forth.


BROWNSTEIN: So, look, it is always - I mean, look. It is always a difficult adjustment to go from whatever you are doing before to be President of the United States. And there are very few people that Presidents -- I think any President feels that they are essentially looking out only for them and have no other agenda. I think it's even more true with this President. And, again, as he looks around the table, there are few people who he really, you know, has that kind of history with.

CABRERA: You know, you said something that brings up John Kelly and his influence on this President and the operations on what is get together President that apparently according to our reporting here at CNN may have a role in why Schiller is leaving. He says it's primarily because of financial concerns, but one source said he grew frustrated with this new system put in place by John Kelly. For example, he doesn't like that he has to call into the White House switchboard in order to reach the President over the phone. We are hearing more of those types of stories.

So Amanda, what do you think happened here?

TERKEL: Yes. I mean, I think there is frustration by people like Keith Schiller. You know, we heard that the White House used to be a place where anyone could basically drop by the oval office, say hi to the President if you wanted to see them and it was very, very casual. It wasn't like a traditional White House under previous Presidents.

The new chief of staff general John Kelly has tried to make it more professional. So even Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have to good through him if they want to see the President unless it's on personal business. And so that has shut out a lot of Trump's close advisers who Kelly has believed, you know, may not be a good influence, may be sort of pushing him to tweet something that he shouldn't tweet, giving him information he doesn't need and just generally wasting his time spot that has been a frustration for some of Trump's long-time aides.

CABRERA: Real quick, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. The basic conundrum here is that the President deep down believes he was elected precisely because he is unconventional. Because he doesn't follow rules. Because he communicates in, you know, in different ways and is not scripted.

The problem is that that style, while effective in many ways as a candidate, has been problematic as president both in the terms of getting things done in Congress, but also, as we were talking about before in the way the public is perceiving him. They are expecting different things out most Americans out of a President than they were out of a candidate. And I think as long as he believes that is the key to success whoever is trying to kind of mold him into a different direction is going to have a very frustrating time.

CABRERA: All right, Ron Brownstein and Amanda Terkel, thank you both for being here.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up after long lines and lots of desperation, we have an update now, some good news finally, on a Texas City that lost its clean water supply.

And another of the unforgettable images after hurricane Harvey, this time a nine-foot alligator was pulled from a home in Humboldt, Texas. Officials say the flood water have displaced wildlife. They warn people returning home there may somebody unwanted visitors.


[19:38:56] CABRERA: I want to take to you Beaumont, Texas, now. A much welcomed sign there. Progress in one of the city's hardest hit by hurricane Harvey. A short time ago Beaumont officials announced initial repairs to the damaged water system are complete. That means residents who have had to wait in the long lines the past few days for bottled water and ice may finally be catching a break.

Kaylee Hartung is in Beaumont outside the city's water treatment facility.

So Kaylee, do we have any time frame on when that water is going to be back for these residents?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we don't have a time frame for when this water is back in full force in Beaumont because that all depends on the nature's river and when it can recede more than it has to this point. Because right now the water is so high that it's flooded the two intake facilities for the city of Beaumont. But what we just learned at a press conference with the city manager

and other top city officials is there's a temporary fix in place right now. They are in the process of restoring water to this community while those intake facilities are still flooded. And it was a story of a local family, the Crenshaw family who owns and runs Tiger industries here, they had the resources and assets here in Beaumont to respond to this crisis.

What they have done, it's really a feat of engineering as we learned about it, Ana. They have piped about 600 feet from the water treatment plant into the nature's river to allow that water to be pumped into the facility, treated, and then pumped back out to the people of Beaumont.

Now, the challenge that will exist in the coming days while we are still seeing the levels of the river change is that as that water does go down, they will have to chase the water, maybe pipe more into it to be able to get more water into that treatment facility.

But still such an ongoing crisis here in Beaumont, Ana, as we learn more. But there's some relief coming to the people of Beaumont. It's temporary. It's important to remember that there is still a boil notice if any water is coming through your faucet. And when it does start flowing again later today, you really should take every precaution you can to boil the water and recognize that more help is on the way -- Ana.

[19:41:05] CABRERA: All right. Kaylee, real quick. Do you have an update? We know there were a number of hospital patients who had to be removed, had be airlifted and taken other to other facilities because of this water issue. Any update on their status?

HARTUNG: You know, Ana, the last report we had, the patients who were still in the hospital here in Beaumont, they were not in critical condition. They were able to be taken care of. We have got a couple of the PIOs here.

Could I ask you for an update on the patients in the hospital? We don't have it here.

Yes. Ana we'll have to get balk to get specific information on that.

CABRERA: All right.

HARTUNG: But people here dealing with the situation as they can.

CABRERA: Such good news that those water solution is at least starting to take effect. We appreciate that.

Kaylee Hartung, thank you.

Coming up, it was the rescue seen around the world. And now nearly a week later CNN's Ed Lavandera reflects on this moment and how covering this heartache in the flood zone has affected him.

Plus, as we go to break, we want to show this. "The Washington Post" capturing a moment firefighters battled flames in waist high water. This is Houston. At one point, the crew was actually driving under water to find hydrants to attach their hoses to. And, of course, we just want to show these images and express such appreciation for all of the hard work many, many heroes have shown throughout the past week.


[19:47:05] CABRERA: Welcome back. It was the emotional rescue seen around the country. And it played out live right here on CNN almost one week ago as our own Ed Lavandera was reporting from a flood neighborhood in Dickinson, Texas. Watch.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You want to give me your hand, sir. and I can try to pull you up? How are your arms feeling?


LAVANDERA: Jason, you want to come up here and help?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can help lift if you that's OK. You ready.


LAVANDERA: One, two, three.



LAVANDERA: I got you. I got you. Get that into the there. All right. Not too bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just sit wherever you feel like is the most comfortable for you.

LAVANDERA: You feel like moving, just sit on the edge and we'll take care of you.


CABRERA: That was the beginning of that situation. Our Ed Lavandera is joining us by phone now.

And Ed, I just wanted to have a sort of reporter's notebook conversation with you, a more personal moment because that moment that happened here, obviously, completely unscripted, completely unexpected, you just never know what you are going to find when you are covering a disaster like this. And I know for you, you probably weren't even thinking you were just acting because like reacting essentially because that's who you are. That's who you are.

Now that you have had a few days to reflect on this moment, how do you feel about all of the attention it received? Because it was quite a reaction after this.

LAVANDERA (on the phone): I have never been so stunning my life about a reaction to a moment, you know. All we were thinking about as things were unfolding that day and seeing this rush of people bringing their own boats and kayaks or whatever to come help all these people was documenting all that.

As a reporter we just want to put ourselves in position to tell the story has it's unfolding right in front of us. And the story of the day quickly became what people were doing, not the first responders, not the coast guard or anything else, just regular people rush together scene to help their neighbors and trying to put ourselves in that position to tell that story. That's why we met Austin Seth that day, the man that you saw there helping Pam Jones and her elderly parents. So we just wanted to put ourselves in a position to be able to tell that story as best we could and I had clearly have no idea that something like was going to unfold in front of us.

[19:50:00] CABRERA: Exactly. Still kind of gives me goose bumps when I watch the video because it was so touching. But I wondered if the fact -- this is a state where you lived. Does that add another dimension when you are covering the devastation there?

LAVANDERA: Yes, you know. I think there's probably a little bit of that. I have grown up in Texas and have the privilege of doing this job here. Texas requires a lot of attention. So there's some of that. And obviously, knowing Houston for as many years we have been traveling there and reporting from there, yes, I think that helps out on a lot of levels.

CABRERA: In Dallas, you are finally getting a day off. You are base there in Dallas. We have seen the fuel shortages, the long lines at gas stations across the state, the price gouging. What are you experiencing now?

LAVANDERA: You know, I think all of that will kind of, you know, kind of go by the wayside. I think things will kind of get back to normal, at least I hope they do. I'm headed back to Houston tomorrow. It was a couple days after that and I still haven't seen exactly all of the video and how it's played out. I haven't had time to go back and kind of watch it on my own. But one of the most striking things from this week was several days after I got a - received a message from Pam Jones' daughter who was trapped in her own home. And somehow was watching that entire event unfold live. So I had no idea that Pam Jones and her family and her parents were being watched by other family members. And that they had -- they witnessed all of that live as well. And I got an incredibly beautiful message telling us how grateful they were for the way that situation was handled and being able to - them to see that Pam Jones and her grandparents were being pulled out to safety. Helped them out in that horrible day. So it was just a message that blew me away.

CABRERA: So cool. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much for taking some of your day off to call in so we could have this conversation. And thank you for all your hard work. LAVANDERA: Ana, as I told you, you know, we were on the air together.

As I told you and your team, especially that moment when we brought out Pam Jones's grandmother, the other thing that struck a chord is, you know, I have no idea (INAUDIBLE), his mother was suffering from Alzheimer's. (INAUDIBLE). I had no idea what was going to emerge from that house. And you know, out of respect and dignity for her mother, you know, I'm grateful to your team for rolling with us and kind of backing off when we had to back off so we could tell the story as tastefully as possible. That's also resented with people all over. It's a decision I'd make again in a heartbeat as well. So, and you know, so grateful to work with, you know, colleagues who understand that moment and knew how to react.

CABRERA: Well, he led the way there. Ed Lavandera, thank you.

We will be right back.


[19:57:025] CABRERA: The worst of circumstances in Houston has brought out the best chance for one family to say thanks. It's meant for the man who led the military effort after hurricane Katrina, General Russell Honore. And it is coming from a mother who is not in Houston who lost everything back in 2005 except what matters most.

CNN's Stephanie Elam has her story.


ALEXANDRA WHEELER, KATRINA SURVIVOR: I really owe many this man my life Because the things he did for my children --

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly a week after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Alexandra Wheeler was at the end of her rope.

WHEELER: We hadn't eaten in six days. I ran out of formula and food for them. So they were really hanging on by a thread.

ELAM: After the levy broke flooding her neighborhood, Wheeler waded through the water with her six and a half month old twin boys.

WHEELER: I had one in a carrier in the front can one in the back.

ELAM: At one point something in the murky water caught her foot.

WHEELER: It was two bodies collided like this. Their arms were stretched out. They were full of water. And they raised up to the top (INAUDIBLE).

ELAM: By the time Wheeler made it to the convention center, she and her boys were starving, dehydrated and exhausted. That's when she first heard his voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put those weapons down, damn it.

ELAM: Unarmed, Wheeler and a group has been stopped by the military.

WHEELER: We are like, we are the victims. What are you pulling guns on us for?

ELAM: Then she saw the three star commander who ordered to guns lowered. General Russell Honore, the man who led the military response after hurricanes Katrina and Rita is also the man Wheeler credits with saving their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, come on.

ELAM: It's a moment CNN captured as it happened. The general personally coming to Wheeler's aid.

What do you think would have happened if you did not run into the general?

WHEELER: We would have died. No question. We would have died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Tiger. Let's go.

ELAM: Almost 12 years later to the day, Wheeler and her boys rode out hurricane Harvey in Houston, the city that became their home after Katrina. While the water came close to their apartment, the family fared much better than Harvey. And after years of trying to get in touch with the general.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who them boys over here? Who that?

ELAM: Finally the opportunity to thank the man in uniform who had shown them such compassion. And for the general, a chance to see how those tiny babies who were once so close to death are now thriving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boy, you guys grew up in 12 years.

WHEELER: Thank you for saving our lives.