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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Trump And First Lady To Visit Storm Survivors In Texas; Trump Administration Seeks $7.858 For Disaster Relief; Hurricane Survivors Return Home, Survey Damage; Longtime Trump Aide Intends To Leave White House; White House DACA Decision Will Be Announced Tuesday; GOP Leaders Call For Dreamers Program To Stay; The Biggest Health Risks From Harvey's Floods; Floodwaters Could Pose Serious Health Risk; CDC Warns Of Glass, Metal, Snakes In Floodwaters. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 2, 2017 - 07:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[07:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the staples are out. A lot of isles are empty.

SARAH MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The President and First Lady, Melania Trump are going to get a firsthand look at the devastation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's our house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband sleeps in the truck. I sleep on the tailgate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not only is the water contaminated, it is highly contaminated.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will continue to coordinate with them and bring all of the relief and the comfort and everything else that we absolutely can to the gulf coast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, has new details about the real reason President Trump fired FBI Director, James Comey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a serious obstruction of justice investigation going on, against the president of the United States.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We will be fully transparent with his investigation. And frankly, I don't have anything to add beyond that.

MURRAY: All of this as the president weighs whether to bring to an end the deferred action for childhood arrivals or DACA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually don't think he should do that.

TRUMP: We love the dreamers. We love everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: this is NEW DAY weekend with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Saturday to you. Thank you for being with us. Today, the president will get a chance to look at Harvey's devastation. A few hours from now, the president and first lady will head to Texas and Louisiana. The waters there, we know, are starting -- just starting now to recede, but the misery, unfortunately, the death toll as well are rising this morning.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: The president and first lady will leave the White House about 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Their first stop will be meeting with victims of Harvey. They're going to do at an airfield on the outskirts of Houston.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to tell them to be strong and everything will be OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: The president's promise of swift government response is now handed over to Congress. The White House is requesting $7.85 billion in disaster aid, that's a couple billion more than initially expected. A vote on the aid money has been scheduled for late next week in the House.

PAUL: And in political news, the New York Times reporting Special Counsel Robert Mueller has new details this morning about the reason President Trump fired former FBI Director, James Comey. The Times reports the Justice Department handed over a letter drafted to Comey, but one which was never sent, in which the president explains his rationale for the firing. The White House Council reportedly thought the letter dictated by the president to a top aide was "problematic." And so, it has a lot of people wondering if this new information is pointing to where the investigation goes from here.

BLACKWELL: Also, the futures of about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants said to be decided by the president next week. His decision on the dreamer's program is coming on Tuesday, and he's not giving any hint, yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The dreamers, they're worried.

TRUMP: We love the dreamers. We love everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Let's start with the aftermath of Harvey. This morning, the death toll is at 50. Let's go to CNN's George Howell, he's live in Houston at the George R. Brown Convention Center. George, good morning to you. I assume people are starting to wake up, 6:00 local time there. What's happening, what's going to happen on the day ahead? GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Victor, we are starting to

see more people out and about after another night's sleep here, this home away from home. Many people who don't now have a home left to they can turn to. We're starting to see also the numbers diminish here. The latest estimate that we got from the Red Cross, somewhere between 1200, perhaps, people that are still here. The number, just a few days ago, 8,000 people. So, what we are seeing now, Victor, we're seeing people go into these communities to determine the extent of the damage.

I want to give you guys a couple stats though because it really tells a story. According to the governor of the state, Greg Abbott, some 440,000 Texans, as we understand, have applied for federal aid. So, you really get a sense of how many people are asking for help from the federal government at this point. $79 million has already been doled out in aid. And at this point, some 42,000 Texans are in shelters of a various kind throughout the state of Texas.

To talk about this shelter, again, the numbers are starting to diminish, but Producer Leslie Perrot just went out and determined, there are so many services being offered just quickly from FEMA assistance, housing assistance, legal advice, free transportation, play areas for the kids, Sunday worship services and counselor assistance. So, you do get the feeling that people here are getting a lot of help as they take those steps to get back out there and see what's left of their homes.

PAUL: All right. George Howell, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Well, a lot of the volunteers and first responder who've been working to help people have been at it for days. And one of them in Houston is Chris Eves. These are a few of the pictures that he has taken over the last couple days of the flood. He's been a volunteer firefighter for 24 years now, and he and his wife have hosted displaced people in their home since the storm began.

Chris is on the phone with us. Chris, good morning to you. I first want to start with the decision to welcome some of the people into your home. There are firefighters who were doing God's work there trying to rescue people, help people, but not everybody invites people into their home. Why have you and your wife decided to?

[07:05:35] CHRIS EVES, VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER: I mean, it's the right thing to do. You help your neighbors. You help a fellow man in a time of need. You know, you just hope that people would return the favor to you if you needed it.

BLACKWELL: Chris, how many rescues are still happening? Is that phase over or are people still being pulled out of their home?

EVES: No, sir. That phase is over with. We're pretty much just in clean up mode right now.

BLACKWELL: How many people do you have with you in your home?

EVES: Nobody right now. They were all kind of place, found hotels for them to stay. So, right now, it's just my family.

BLACKWELL: Give us an idea, if you can, from your perspective, the gravity of what you were seeing, being there, how this has impacted your community.

EVES: It's just, I mean, devastation. I mean, I don't have figures on hand, but I thought it was, say, 60 percent of Dickinson flooded.

BLACKWELL: What do people need most from authorities?

EVES: They've really -- right now, people need clean clothes. They need somewhere to take a shower. They need somewhere to sleep.

BLACKWELL: Yes. It's the basic things that so many of us take for granted; a place to do laundry, a place to take a shower, electricity, if you can get to it.

EVES: Right.

BLACKWELL: They've had a good fortune. At least, some people to be welcomed into your home. Chris, thank you so much. Thank your wife as well. And thanks for being with us on NEW DAY.

EVES: Yes, sir. If I could just thank just a couple of people for all the help that we've had. Our initial response was only ten people. And from our station of volunteers, until we got help from the Texas Interstate Farm Mutual Aid System, we had a strike team from the Dallas area that is still here and still assisting us. So, I just want to thank them and the state of Texas.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely. You just did. Chris Even, thank you so much.

EVES: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right.

PAUL: In just about two hours, the president and first lady are leaving Washington, and they're going to go to that area on the gulf coast. They are set to meet with survivors of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and in Louisiana. Live from the White House right now, CNN White House Reporter, Jeremy Diamond with us. Jeremy, what do you know about this trip?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That right. Well, in just a few hours, we'll see the president and first lady heading to Houston as well as to southwestern Louisiana. This will be the president's first chance to visit actually and meet with some of the survivors of this storm. This comes, of course, just as yesterday the president's administration requested $7.85 billion in emergency federal disaster relief aid from Congress. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on that next week. And of course, the president here is hoping that Congress will swiftly approve that request for aid. Most of that aid will go to FEMA, which is, of course, handling the primary, federal response to Hurricane Harvey and the ongoing flooding there.

The president, today, with this visit, you know, will have a chance to really demonstrate that empathy, that many of his critics said he lacked in his first visit to the area, which came just a couple days after Hurricane Harvey first made land fall. Vice President Mike Pence visited the area just two days ago, and he set a pretty high bar for what the president will have to do to demonstrate some of that empathy, you know, hugging survivors, clearing some debris even in the area. So, we'll have to see if the president meets that. But even as he is leaving Washington, of course, a lot of new changes happening at this White House.

The president is dealing with the changes implemented by his Chief of Staff, John Kelly, aimed at putting a little bit more rigor here. But the president will also be losing, it seems. At the end of the month, one of his closest and most loyal advisers, Keith Schiller, the president's Director of Oval Office Operations, who was his former body guard for nearly two decades. Sources telling me, Dana Bash, and my colleague, Noah Gray, that Keith Schiller has told people in the last couple of weeks that he is planning to leave the White House. That, of course, could leave the president feeling a little bit more isolated.

PAUL: All right. Jeremy Diamond, quite a wrap up of headlines this morning. Thank you so much.

[07:10:02] BLACKWELL: Well, police are now managing mandatory evacuation in the Los Angeles area.

PAUL: Firefighters are working to protect homes from a growing wildfire. Take a look at some of the images we're getting in here this morning. This has burned 2,000 acres in a matter of hours. We know at least 200 homes have been evacuated, thus far. The fire is burning in the mountains there above Burbank, and the things it's moving downward. Now, firefighters say strong winds are helping fuel this fire and it's causing it to burn in four different directions, which really makes their job tough.

BLACKWELL: Yes. A report from the New York Times, suggests the special counsel may be targeting the president over his firing of FBI Director, James Comey -- former director now. And it centers around a problematic letter, as it's described. All of this as the president weighs whether to bring an end to the Obama-era program that protects undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation.

PAUL: Also, from infectious diseases to snakes, health officials are warning of possible lasting dangers from Hurricane Harvey. Stay close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:15:15] PAUL: Another big moment in the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election here.

BLACKWELL: According to the New York Times, Special Counsel Robert Mueller now has a draft of a letter President Trump wrote revealing his reasoning behind firing former FBI Director James Comey, providing insight into his motive behind that decision. Now, the report says the White House counsel did not use the president's letter publicly because it had a tone that was problematic.

PAUL: A long-time Trump aide who hand delivered the public version of the letter blaming the Clinton e-mail scandal for Comey's firing and tends to leave the White House, though. Sources tell CNN, Keith Schiller, the Director of Oval Office Operations, leaving because of financial reasons. At least, one source, though, says the limited access to the president under new Chief of Staff, John Kelly, became a problem.

BLACKWELL: Now, this is a busy couple of days for the White House. The fate of dreamers across the country, we'll learn on Tuesday. President Trump is heavily considering getting rid of the DACA program -- deferred action for childhood arrivals. This is an Obama-era program designed to protect young, undocumented immigrants from deportation.

PAUL: A lot to unwrap here. Sarah Westwood, White House Correspondent for the Washington Examiner is with us, as well Josh Rogin, CNN Political Analyst and Washington Post Columnist. Thank you, both for being here. First of all, let's listen together to Ryan Lizza, Washington Correspondent for the New Yorker, and what he said about the Mueller investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: What we're talking about here both the letter that Comey has now, excuse me, Mueller has now gotten, and this meeting between the special counsel and Trump's lawyers. There is a serious obstruction of justice investigation going on against the president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Sarah, do you agree?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think this does give a window into what it is that Mueller is looking at because the president's allies and to a certain extent, the White House as well, has been trying to argue this is a probe that's expanding beyond its original mandate, which was the question of Russian collusion that was starting focus in on people like Paul Manafort, who is no longer associated with the president.

And now, we know that Mueller is requesting and receiving documents that are directly related to the central quest of the investigation, which is whether there was Russian interference and whether there is subsequent effort to cover that up. So, this is really telling about where the direction of the probe is going, it's not just focusing on Paul Manafort's finances, it's not just looking at the president's taxes. There is some meat to these questions about obstruction, about Russian interference that Mueller is focusing on in and that is problematic for the White House.

PAUL: All right. Josh, I need to switch gears here so we get everything in. We've been talking this morning about DACA. I know that Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this is really weighing on President Trump. And I want to read to you what Utah Senator, Orin Hatch, said in a statement because he's a staunched conservative, of course, he supported immigration reform but here's what he said: "I've urged the president not to rescind DACA. I've long advocated for tougher enforcement of our existing immigration laws, but we also need a workable permanent solution for individuals who entered the country unlawfully as children through no fault of their own, and who have built their lives here, and that solution must come from Congress." We are told there will be a decision by the White House on dreamers, as they're called -- these children who were brought here. We are going to hear that decision by Tuesday. Josh, do you believe the president will hand this over to Congress?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND COLUMNIST FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: I don't know. The early reports were that the president is going to take a tough line on the DACA issue, contrary to what he said and contrary to his sentiment that he loves the dreamers. You know, it seems that the pushback from Congress has been unusually strong in this case. It is really a battle between the president's, sort of, political benefit and his ideology here, right. There's a real issue here. He hates these 800,000 people, and not only takes away their protective status but identifies them for deportation.

That can have real political implications, but at the same time, you know, because of the sort of the president's commitment to the ideology of being tough on immigration, there's really no way to predict which way this will come out. I do think that this is an example where, you know, the president is genuinely conflicted. He's not only conflicted internally, his White House is conflicted, and this will be a major indication of whether or not the president is going to pursue hard line policies that are in line with his campaign promises to be tough on immigration or if he's going to adjust then modify, and respond to the realities, not just of the political situation in the White House but the actual vulnerable status of 800,000 people.

PAUL: Yes. Yes. But Sarah, even Paul Ryan, Speaker Ryan has come out and said let Congress handle this. What are the political implications for the president, because there are a lot of people, even Republican who says, let's just leave DACA.

[07:20:13] WESTWOOD: Well, the most likely way that President Trump is expected to approach this is not to just scrap the program outright. It looks like the president is leaning towards doing is to do a gradual winding down of DACA that would just let the work permits expire naturally for the people who have already applied for DACA protections and stop new applicants from entering into the program.

And that would actually give Congress time to find a legislative solution to DACA. Because what we are hearing is that the White House, the Trump administration wants to use DACA as a legislative bargaining chip to secure some of the other immigration enforcement concessions that they want to extract from Democrats, like funding for border wall, like enforcement of E-verify, like more money for detention centers, things Democrats might not vote for unless they were forced to because protections for dreamers were on the line. So, that's kind of the approach I think the White House wants to take

here. I think it's pretty clear that the president recognizes that leaving dreamers vulnerable without any kinds of protections would be politically untenable. And that's why I think you'll see he'll pressure Congress to take action on DACA, but have it tied to those immigration issues that he wants.

PAUL: All right. And Josh, really quickly, I just want to get your reaction to something that Senator McCain wrote in the Washington Post. Congress must govern with a president who has no experience of public office is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct. We must respect his authority, and constitutional responsibilities. We must, where we can, cooperate with him, but we are not his subordinates. We don't answer to him, we answer to the American people. Your reaction?

ROGIN: You know, I agree with John McCain. I think that you know, this speaks to what Sarah was just talking about. You know, there's been a broad dysfunction in Congress for a long time. It's not the result of one party or another. It's been slow, but steady deterioration of the ability of Congress to do things, to get things done, especially when those things are not what the White House wants to get done. So, when we talk about some sort of, you know, complicated trade over immigration policies, the reality of the situation is that Congress is broken and the legislative process is not functioning, and this imperils the legislative branches' ability to not only do its job and pass regular bills but also to have the kind of influence that would put it on par with the executive branch. That's been the situation for a long time. I think John McCain is just putting a big circle around it and saying that, now that we have what many people perceive to be an administration that is working in a way that's so unusual and so brash, in a way, that Congress needs to step up. I don't really think that's going to happen, but I think that John McCain is right on the edge of it.

PAUL: All right Sarah Westwood, Josh Rogin, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate you.

ROGIN: Thank you.

[07:22:56] BLACKWELL: I have a list of some of the things that are in this water in Houston. They're in because of the hour -- I mean, it is putrid. I'm not going to go through all the things, but we're going to have an expert in infectious diseases, with us up next, to explain the health risk of this water left behind.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: You're up early for a Saturday, but we're glad that you're with us. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. Busy day, busy weekend for the president. In just a few hours from now, he'll head to Texas and Louisiana to visit victims of Harvey. He's also pushing Congress for nearly $8 billion in the first round of recovery funding. Right now, there is a mandatory evacuation for Richwood, Texas. The water is still rising. These areas, also, in imminent danger of losing their sewer services. So far, 50 people have died after Harvey tore through this part of the state. 72,000 people have been rescued.

PAUL: Let's talk about the flood waters. Yes, they're receding, but health officials warn there are still major health threats that will linger for weeks, if not, months. So, let's talk about that with Dr. Peter Hotez, the Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Hotez, thank you so much for being here. First of all, we know that there are some pretty rancid things in this water that's there. What are the most immediate threats to people who have been in it?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN FOR THE NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Good morning and thanks for having me on. We know that there's both short term and long-term health effects that we can anticipate. And we actually know this because we learned a lot of lessons from Katrina a decade previously. So, for example, we have in the waters themselves, we have chemical toxins because we have a lot of oil refineries and gas refineries all along the gulf coast that's a major economic driver for the region. So, you worry about benzene exposure and other carcinogens, that's going to be one problem.

Second, there are infectious pathogens in the water. We have a unique type of flesh-eating bacteria and that is Vibrio vulnificus. So, if wounds get contaminated, that's going to be a concern. We have Staphylococcus, including antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus for contaminating wounds. We have bacteria pathogens that cause diarrheal disease, salmonella, shigella, E. Coli. And then when people are sent to evacuation centers or sent to shelters, then you have to worry about the stress and the crowded conditions. So, we worry about neuro-virus infection, which is a virus that causes very explosive diarrhea, we worry about respiratory infections. And that's just in the immediate term.

[07:29:49] And then, later on, as the floodwaters start to recede, it's going to create these pools for breeding mosquitos. We know, historically, from Katrina that we saw a lot of West Nile virus. So, there's a big uptick in that, and the doubling of neuroinvasive disease. So, we're going to be on the lookout for West Nile virus infection. And of course, now on the gulf, we have Zika, we have Chikungunya, we have some Dengue.