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North and South Korea Both Flexing its Muscle; 13 toxic waste sites flooded or damaged; S. Korea Responds to North's Nuclear Weapons Tests & All Eyes on China, Russia Response; America's Last Line of Missile Defense; Lawmakers React to Trump's Plan to End DACA; State of Emergency in Los Angeles Area Due to Fire. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 4, 2017 - 02:00   ET


CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROM: South Korea stages a live fire drill to send its own message to North Korea after Kim Jong-un's regime detonates its most powerful nuclear bomb today.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And an ominous message from US leadership. Washington issues a stern warning to Pyongyang, promising a massive military response to any threats against the US or its allies.

Warm welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. We are live in Atlanta. I'm Rosemary Church.

VANIER: And I'm Cyril Vanier. It's a to pleasure to have with us here at the CNN news room in Atlanta.

We'll bring you more North Korea in just a moment. But, first, we want to bring you some breaking news. CNN has learned that President Donald Trump is expected to end an Obama-era program that allows hundreds of thousands of people who arrived in the US illegally as children to study and work in the country without fear of deportation.

CHURCH: Sources tell CNN, the administration will give Congress six months to come up with legislation to fix the problem. The program, I should say, and possibly allow the undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States.

Now, Mr. Trump's decision won't be final until announced. That is expected on Tuesday. The program is known as DACA. That's shorthand for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. These people are also known as Dreamers; and to qualify, they must've arrived in the United States before turning 16 and be under age 31 as of June 15, 2012. They also must have no felony convictions.

VANIER: A study estimates that there are nearly 800,000 participants in DACA. Losing them can cost employers $2 billion. The US GDP might take a hit of $280 billion over the course of ten years.

CHURCH: Well, Steven Erlanger joins us now from Salzburg in Austria. He is the London bureau chief for The New York Times. Thank you so much for being with us. Now, if the elimination of DACA is going to cost employers $2 billion and if GDP could lose $280 billion, then why get rid of it? What is driving this?

STEVEN ERLANGER, LONDON BUREAU CHIEF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: (INAUDIBLE) show that it's tough on migrants (INAUDIBLE) building the wall, they're building prototypes of the wall. It's not clear who's going to pay for it or why. They're talking about attaching funding for it to the raising of the actual debt ceiling. So, this is about politics.

CHURCH: And if this does go through and the DACA program is ended on Tuesday, what will that likely mean for the nearly 800,000 or so people who will be affected?

ERLANGER: Well, I think it will probably get challenged in the court. So, nothing will probably happen right away. But I think it goes to the idea of America -- it will be harmful for these people. There's no question. But the other question is, will it be harmful for the image of the United States abroad as a country of refuge that welcomes immigrants that --

CHURCH: Right.

ERLANGER: -- (INAUDIBLE) if you work hard and (INAUDIBLE).

CHURCH: All right. We are having problems unfortunately with the audio there. But Steven Erlanger joining us there from Salzburg in Austria. We will, of course, try to return to this. Thank you so much.

VANIER: So, let's get you the latest on the crisis in the Korean Peninsula. South Korea is responding to North Korea's claimed hydrogen bomb tests with its own show of force.

A defense official says they were meant to send a message that Seoul can wipe out North Korea's leadership and nuclear test site.

Reactions to the latest nuclear tests have been coming in from all around the world, including this ominous message from US President Donald Trump just as he was leaving church on Sunday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, will you attack North Korea?



VANIER: Well, the president also met with top officials at the White House. US Defense Secretary James Mattis briefed reporters and said the US has many options to deal with North Korea. Take a listen.


JAMES MATTIS, US DEFENSE SECRETARY: We have many military options and the president wanted to be briefed on each one of them.

We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack and our commitments among the allies are ironclad.

[02:05:00] Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam or our allies, will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming.


CHURCH: And CNN is covering North Korea's latest nuclear threat from across the globe. Our Ian Lee is in Seoul, South Korea; Correspondent Andrew Stevens is in Xiamen in China; and Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow at the US-China Institute is in Hong Kong. And White House correspondent Athena Jones is in Washington. Athena, what's the latest.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president and his national security team. The president convened that team here at the White House earlier on Sunday to discuss the situation and the US' military options.

He also sent out a series of tweets starting early on Sunday morning, blasting North Korea, saying their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States, and saying the country has become "great threat", "an embarrassment to China", which is trying to help, but with little success.

And speaking of China, the president also tweeted at one point on Sunday about a potential economic retaliation for this latest test, writing "The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea."

One potential problem with that approach is that North Korea's main patron and trading partner is China. China accounts for some 90 percent of North Korea's trade, but China is also one of the US' biggest trading partners. And cutting off that relationship would have huge ramifications. So, that is a very intent threat there.

The White House also put out a readout of the president's latest call with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In that call, the two leaders condemned North Korea's continue destabilizing and provocative actions. The leaders confirmed their ironclad mutual defense commitments.

And the statement says that President Trump reaffirmed the US' commitment to "defending our homeland, territories and allies using the full range of diplomatic, conventional and nuclear capabilities at our disposal." So, a strong statement from the White House there.

The goal of all of this, of course, is to further isolate North Korea, to try to pressure them to end their nuclear ambitions, but so far nothing has worked. Tough talk hasn't worked. Economic sanctions haven't worked. We

could hear more about both of those at this emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council convening on Monday. We'll be watching to see what comes out of that meeting.

Back to you.

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to Athena Jones there. And CNN's Ian Lee is in South Korea's capital with the reaction. Ian, what has been interesting here, of course, is the way Donald Trump has attacked South Korea in the midst of all of this. How is that being received there in Seoul?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He basically accused President Moon of appeasement to North Korea. And that derives from early in President Moon's administration when he talked softer about North Korea, through diplomacy, through dialogue, wanted to settle their differences that way.

But he inherited a different government or a different atmosphere, different situation from his predecessor where you had North Korea who is defiant about their nuclear program. You have Donald Trump still talking tough.

And so, we've seen him go from -- President Moon go from talking about dialogue to a strong show of force. And we saw that earlier today when South Korea carried out military exercises. They tested ballistic missiles as well as air to surface missiles from their F- 15s.

They said that these tests, these exercises were to demonstrate that they could go after the Punggye-ri region of North Korea. This is where their nuclear program is based. They also said that these tests were designed to show that they could go after the North Korean leadership.

So, you are hearing a very strong President Moon now, coming out very forcefully, and trying to rally around his allies in the region as well. He's been talking with Prime Minister Abe of Japan. They've been in close contact with the United States.

But, really, you have this two-pronged approach with the military exercises as well as trying to rally the international community to put more pressure on North Korea through diplomatic and economic isolation.

CHURCH: Ian Lee with reaction there from Seoul. Many thanks.

VANIER: And let's bring in CNN's Andrew Stevens, who is currently at the BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China. Andrew, I want to read to you again this tweet by the US President Donald Trump.

"The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea."

[02:10:00] How realistic is this? We're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars of trade.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're indeed talking about an enormous amount of money and really global trade as well because, if there is that sort of development between the world's two biggest trading countries, it has got to have ramifications not just for the US and China, but pretty much everywhere.

Most of the commentary so far has been that, if Donald Trump carried that out, Cyril, it would lead to a spiraling recession across the globe, and that would include the world's biggest economy, the USA.

So, it is something of a sort of an own goal, if you like. And remember, this trade relationship between China and the US is worth bilaterally around about $518 billon. And of that, about $120 billion worth of US goods goes to China.

So, we're talking about US soybeans, cotton, airplanes, airplane parts, car parts, you name it, there is a lot of stuff going from the States to China. There's more coming back the other way, but even so there is potential for an enormous amount of damage to be inflicted on US produces as well. So, one comment today was that this wasn't even in the realm of plausibility, this sort of idea.

But it's interesting. Here I am in Xiamenm, as you say, and we've listened to President Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, once again speaking publicly -- this is the second time President Xi has spoken publicly in two days at the BRICS summit and once again he didn't reference North Korea.

So, the Chinese are still keeping a low profile. They have said in a different context through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through their website that they strongly condemn the action by North Korea and they remain committed to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

President Xi met with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of this BRICS Summit last night. They also reiterated their strong desire for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, Cyril.

But as yet, China is not ramping up the rhetoric. What it said, it has continued to say for some time now. What comes out of the UN, that emergency session, will be interesting. If there are further sanctions, China will be asked to play its part there.

China has said that it is comprehensively and completely implementing UN sanctions as it goes. And so, if it continues that way, we would see more Chinese action in the form of sanctions, but nothing else at this stage, at least there's no indication of anything else at this stage from China, Cyril.

VANIER: Yes. Andrew, thank you very much. And, of course, we're going to take a very close look at what does come out of that UN emergency Security Council meeting. That's still a few hours away, though. Andrew Stevens in Xiamen, China, thanks.

CHURCH: All right. Let's go to former CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy in Hong Kong now. He is now a senior fellow with the US-China Institute at the University of Southern California and the author of the book Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis.

Great to see you. So, it appears that North Korea deliberately timed this test to embarrass its ally, China. How would you expect Beijing to respond to this and just how far might China go?

MIKE CHINOY, SENIOR FELLOW, US-CHINA INSTITUTE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: I think that's really one of the key questions. Is this a sort of provocation of such an extreme nature that the Chinese really feel compelled to take the kinds of actions they have so far been very reluctant to do? In particular, will the Chinese cut off supplies of fuel, which includes aviation fuel, to North Korea.

So far, the Chinese have expressed their anger at the attack. But it's interesting, if you compare, for example, the degree of Chinese indignation targeted at North Korea over this test or, for example, several of the more recent missile tests, if you compare that with how angry the Chinese have been towards South Korea for agreeing to the deployment of the US THAAD anti-missile system, there's no comparison.

The Chinese called in the South Korean ambassador. The Chinese organized boycotts of South Korean companies doing business in China. The Chinese curtailed tourism to South Korea.

We haven't seen anything remotely like that level of indignation targeted at North Korea. And so, to me, that suggests, even if the Chinese are going to do somewhat more, they're simply not prepared to budge from their core position, which is their interests are more endangered by pressuring North Korea to the point that it generates instability or puts Kim Jong-Un's back against the walls if he lashes out, and that, therefore, they're prepared to sort of live with the nuclear North Korea and not do the kinds of things the United States wants to see them do.

[02:15:11] CHURCH: And, Mike, I did want to ask you about President Trump's attack on South Korea, certainly its approach to North Korea, and his threat to deny trade to any country doing business with North Korea.

How might this help or hinder this effort to somehow stop or control North Korea's nuclear ambitions here?

CHINOY: To be honest, it suggests that President Trump is fundamentally unserious when it comes to really addressing this issue.

The US-South Korea alliance is absolutely crucial. And at this point, with South Korea in the firing line and tensions at a high, for the United States president to belittle the South Korean president and to threaten to withdraw from the US-South Korea free trade agreement, is just going to undermine confidence about the United States in South Korea.

The North Koreans, one of their strategic goals, has been for many, many years to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States, to undermine that alliance because that strengthens North Korea's position on the divided peninsula.

With his statement, President Trump has helped North Korea in seeing that process accelerate. So, it seems to me the kind of statements we saw from Defense Secretary Mattis, very clear, very blunt, very level- headed, are quite different in tone.

I don't think what President Trump has been saying so far has done anything other than make a bad situation worse.

CHURCH: Mike Chinoy, always good to talk with you and get your analysis. Appreciate it. Thank you.

VANIER: We're going take a short break. But when we come back, the flood waters are receding in parts of Texas. The toxic threats are floating to the surface. We'll find out what's in the water.

CHURCH: Plus, more on the reports that President Trump wants to end a program that allows thousands of young undocumented immigrants to work in the US. What lawmakers are saying about it, that's still to come.

VANIER: And America's last line of defense against attack, an exclusive visit to the remote land that hides a powerful secret underground.



[02:21:01] VANIER: At least 13 toxic waste sites in Texas have been flooded or damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, says it hasn't been able to safely access the sites, but it will do so as soon as floodwaters recede.

Now, some of the sites may have leaked petrochemicals, acids, solvents and pesticides into the flood waters.

CHURCH: Meanwhile, Houston's mayor says his city is 95 percent dry and mostly operational. Many businesses are expected to reopen on Tuesday, following the US Labor Day holiday. The storm killed at least 53 people and caused more than $100 billion in damages.


GREG ABBOTT, TEXAS GOVERNOR: The population size and the geographic size is far larger than Katrina and I think Sandy combined. We have over 5 million people who are affected by this.

It's not just the flooding in Houston. It's the hurricane swath all the way from Corpus Christi over to Beaumont. And so, it's going to require even more than what was funded for Katrina, which was about $120 billion.


VANIER: Now, people throughout Southeast Texas are returning to their homes to see the damage Harvey caused. One woman in Houston got a welcome surprise amid all the devastation.

Here is CNN's Rosa Flores who was right there.


ROSA FLORES, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Authorities say that they connected more than 36,000 rescues. Now, that doesn't include good Samaritans helping others. We caught up with one woman who was rescued by her neighbor and our cameras were rolling when she reunited with her rescuer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The house right across the street.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those are the people who came and got me out the water. My son couldn't come and get me.

And they don't even know how to speak English, but they came and got me, and I want to thank them because I called for help and they couldn't get to me. But that young man, he said, don't worry, mommy, I got you. He don't even know me. He didn't even know my name. I didn't even know his name.

He pushed me on the walker from here all the way to lay road five blocks in the water way up to his neck and my neck at the same time. This is my hero right here. I appreciate you so much.


Thank you so much. Because you didn't have to do it, but you did. And I appreciate you so much.

And when I fell in the water, his baby say, I'm so sorry, she is 4 years old, mommy, we didn't want to hurt you.

So I want to thank them for looking out for me, and they took me and brought me to my pastor's house. That's the only way I was able to get out of this water.

FLORES: He says that everyone is family. It doesn't matter what race you are. He says that everyone is family.

FLORES: Take a look at these pictures. This is what that neighborhood looked like during the storm. Now, we should also add that Javier Ramirez was also trying to take his pregnant wife and three daughters to safety.

Rosa Flores, CNN, Houston.


CHURCH: That is one powerful story right there. Well, NFL star J. J. Watt says he hopes to reach $20 million in donations for people affected by Hurricane Harvey. The Houston Texan's defensive end joined with teammates and volunteers to pass out relief supplies on Sunday.

VANIER: The 10 truckloads of food, water, clothing and cleaning materials were all donated. Watt says not a single dollar of the $17 million raised so far has been spent.


J. J. WATT, DEFENSIVE END, HOUSTON-TEXANS: I can't say thank you enough to the people around the world, to the people around America, to the people of Texas showing their compassion, showing their true colors, showing that when there is a difficult time, when times get tough, humans step up to help other humans.

[02:25:09] So, I can't say thank you enough to them. I hope everybody in the world gets a chance to see this and understand how much we appreciate it.


VANIER: Watt says more than 150,000 people from around the world have donated to his fundraiser.

CHURCH: Now, it's another powerful story right there. We'll take a very short break. But still to come, South Korea takes action with an exercise of force after North Korea detonates its most powerful nuclear bomb yet.

VANIER: Plus, reports are saying that President Donald Trump wants to end the DACA immigration program. What this means for thousands of young undocumented immigrants working and studying in the US. Stay with us.


VANIER: Welcome back, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church.


[02:31:09] VANIER: Let's get you a recap of the news we're following out of the Korean peninsula. South Korea is responding to Pyongyang's latest nuclear weapons test with a barrage of missile and military drills. A defense official says they were meant to send a message that Seoul is willing to wipe out North Korea's leadership and nuclear test site.

CHURCH: Meanwhile, a meeting of the BRICs countries is under way in China. Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are attending. All eye also be on Chinse President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin to see how they might further respond to the latest developments in North Korea.

VANIER: For more on North Korea's test of the hydrogen bomb, we're joined by Lassina Zerbo, joins us from Vienna, Austria. He is the executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

Lassina, thank you for coming on again.

We spoke to you yesterday, shortly after a tremor was felt. Now, you have sensors that allow you to get a good look, and you can tell us about the science of what happened yesterday, and how strong the detonation and the test was. So let's start with that.

LASSINA ZERBO, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, COMPREHENSIVE NUCLEAR-TEST-BAN TREATY ORGANIZATION: Yesterday, at 3:30, as mentioned, we had one of the biggest tremors ever recorded by our international monitoring systems. We're talking about a magnitude of six, the highest we have ever recorded. This is a clear indication that the program, the nuclear weapons program in North Korea is reaching a completely different level.

VANIER: In terms of magnitude, how does that compare with the previous tests, the fifth nuclear test?

ZERBO: Today, we talk about magnitude this morning of about six. The 2016 one, a year ago, we talk about 5.1. We talk about .9. So you talk about a factor of ten every time you take one magnitude unit, so that's pretty serious.

VANIER: So just beyond the numbers, so people understand what this means, how strong is this? How powerful? How much devastation does something like this cause if used in the real world?

ZERBO: If it's used in the real world, we're talking today, if we compare this type of detonation from what happened in Nagasaki, we're talking about a magnitude, let's say, 400 times. That's what you're looking at roughly.

VANIER: There were two events yesterday. So I just wanted you to clarify that, now that you've had 24 hours to look at it. There was a tremor, and then some sort of collapse.

ZERBO: Yes. I think we had eight and a half minutes after the main blast, we had a second event. We had a good look at it until this morning. We're looking at more of -- it's unlikely this is a second explosion. We're talking about tectonic release, the pressure that is coming geologically, rather than something that is induced by an explosive.

VANIER: Can you confirm -- are you in a position to confirm to us that a hydrogen bomb was, indeed, tested? That was the claim by North Korea. Japan, for its part, believes that is indeed what happened. We haven't had a confirmation from the U.S. or from South Korea.

ZERBO: This confirmation comes from a good comprehensive test organization. We try to give technical confirmations that are trustworthy, unbiased and for them to draw a conclusion. However, we talk about the magnitude, that is unprecedented. And that clearly indicates the program has reached a different level.

VANIER: Given your political outlook, because you are involved in trying to limit nuclear weapons on earth and nuclear programs on earth.

[02:35:05] ZERBO: Yes, that's -- I mean, we would hope that the treaty that we're working for, that this international monitoring system is designed for, we would hope that the treaty is into force by now. This is a treaty open for signature since 1996, with the hope that it would enter into force in three years, two to three years. We're more than 25 years down the line. We have a treaty in force, there's no room for explosive testing. With a treaty in force, any violation to the treaty to the treaty will induce a process for law enforcement under the executive council of the organization that would be the test-ban treaty.

VANIER: Lassina, I can't let you go before asking you this. What precedent do you think this is setting? What message do you think this is sending to other countries who see North Korea making progress on the path to a nuclear weapon and who may be tempted to follow suit?

ZERBO: That's the wrong message. I think we have -- it's about time that we stop this escalation with North Korea, because, indeed, if North Korea continues progressing in developing a nuclear weapon, we're giving, I'll use the word hope, to countries that might have this ambition. But we're working on the non-proliferation treaty that has been serious. North Korea is the only country in this 21st century. It's my hope that diplomacy will prevail and we'd be able to stop them as soon as possible. This should be seen as the last wakeup call to stop this endeavor by North Korea, so that no other country tries to do explosive testing towards the development a nuclear weapon.

VANIER: Coming to us from Vienna, Austria, Lassina Zerbo, from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. Thank you so much.

ZERBO: Thank you.

CHURCH: The North Korean nuclear test has the U.S. reviewing its military options. In the country's far north, a battery of interceptor missile stands ready should a hostile power try to attack the U.S. mainland.

CNN's Kyung Lah traveled to that remote site in Alaska for an exclusive look at America's powerful last line of defense.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is America's final shield, the last and only protection against an incoming North Korean nuclear missile. Housed deep underground in the heart of Alaska's wilderness at Fort Greeley about 150 miles north of Fairbanks, the heavily armed 49th Missile Defense Battalion secures 38 missile silos, dotting a landscape frigid even in late summer. The tip barely revealing what lies beneath.

We're allowed rare access to bring you up close to America's ground- based missile interceptors or GBIs. UNIDENTIFIED U.S. MILITARY OFFICIAL: This is what will be launched

here out of Fort Greeley to intercept any threat that's coming into the defended homeland.

LAH (on camera): The key piece of equipment is right here.

UNIDENTIFIED U.S. MILITARY OFFICIAL: The kill vehicle is right there towards the top.


LAH (voice-over): The kill vehicle to take down any potential intercontinental ballistic missile coming to the U.S., including from North Korea, which the U.S. could face in the future.

Here's how it works. North Korea launches.

UNIDENTIFIED U.S. MILITARY OFFICIAL: Impact location is Los Angeles. We are engaging this threat at this time.

LAH: Instantly activating a secured room in Fort Greeley. What you're seeing now is a drill, declassified, so we can show you generally how the ground-based interceptors work to protect the U.S.


UNIDENTIFIED U.S. MILITARY OFFICIAL: As the alarms go off, what you'd see is those white shells that you see behind us would separate extremely quickly, and immediately you'd see a flash of flame as that GBI would leave the tube at a really incredible rate of speed.

LAH: Outside the earth's atmosphere in space, if it works, the interceptor kills the incoming nuclear weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED U.S. MILITARY OFFICIAL: We train to shoot a bullet at a bullet and destroy it so it doesn't destroy us.

LAH (on camera): Have the drills this year taking on a new meaning?

UNIDENTIFIED U.S. MILITARY OFFICIAL: What that does is that just makes it more real for us. Because now, I've got a leader of a foreign country who says, I'm going to take my missile and I'm going to kill your citizens with it.

LAH: What kind of confidence do you have if North Korea launches a missile that this system will work?

UNIDENTIFIED U.S. MILITARY OFFICIAL: I have 100 percent confidence this system will work.

LAH (voice-over): That's despite a 60 percent success rate. Out of 18 test launches, the interceptors have only struck its target 10 times in controlled launches.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN, (R), ALASKA: Just because we've had some failures, doesn't mean we're not learning. LAH: Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan believes the interceptors are still

America's best shot as a last defense as North Korea moves rapidly closer to being able to strike the U.S. mainland. Introducing a bill boosting the number of missiles to a total of 72, setting the possibility of 100 missile interceptors. So far, a cost of $40 billion to taxpayers.

[02:40:17] SULLIVAN: Doing nothing in the face of this threat when we clearly have the capability to make sure we have a very protected homeland is not an acceptable option, and I think most Americans would agree with me on that.

LAH (on camera): So what about the argument that North Korea will never actually fire a missile? That this is just for it to gain a bargaining chip? Well, Senator Sullivan says the flaw in that thinking is that it assumes that Kim Jong-Un is rational. He calls it expensive but a necessary insurance policy.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


VANIER: Coming up after the break, reports say that Donald Trump is expected to end a program that allows young, undocumented immigrants to work and study in the United States. We'll have reaction from U.S. lawmakers


[02:44:49] CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. U.S. lawmakers are reacting to reports that U.S. President Donald Trumps is expected to end the Obama program known as DACA that protects hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Sources tell CNN that President Trump will give Congress six months to fix DACA.

U.S. Democratic Congressman Jimmy Panetta tweeted this, "Congress, Republicans and Democrats, must act immediately to protect Dreamers, young men and women who contribute to our community and country.

VANIER: This is what Independent Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted, "If President Trump ends DACA, it will be one of the ugliest and cruelest decisions ever made by a president in modern history.

And California Senator Dianne Feinstein tweeted this, "There are more DACA recipients in California than in any other state. We stand with them. We have their backs. #Heretostay."

And Donald Trump has made contradictory statements on DACA in the past. In February, he tried to assure those protected under the so- called Dreamer program saying it was a difficult subject.


TRUMP: DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me. I will tell you. To me, it's one of the most difficult subjects I have. Because you have these incredible kids, in many cases -- not in all cases. In some of the cases, they're having DACA and they're gang members and drug dealers, too. But you have some incredible kids. I would say most of them. They were brought here in such a way -- it's a very, very tough subject. We're going to deal with DACA with heart.


VANIER: Joining me now is CNN political analyst and presidential historian at Princeton University, Julian Zelizer.

Julian, how do you read this news? Do you read this as the end of DACA or a way to force Congress to find a solution to it?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think President Trump has been very hostile to DACA in the campaign, in the early months of his presidency. Many members of the Republican caucus in the House have been dead-set against this program. So I don't think President Trump is looking for this to be fixed or restored. I think this is a program that President Trump is happy to see go away. And it's a way to appeal to some of his core supporters who have seen his anti- immigration stance as a defining part of his presidency.

VANIER: But he does seem, based on the public signals and his own words on this, he doe seem conflicted about this. President reportedly wants to act with heart. He says, we love dreamers, we love everybody. His press secretary has echoed those thoughts, saying the president loves people, which is a slightly strange quote, but that's what she said just a few days ago. So what' the psychology of Mr. Trump on this issue?

ZELIZER: I think it's hard to see those words as credible. For many Americans, certainly who are watching those kinds of statements, they see a president who might not want to appear as harsh as some think that he is. They're trying to soften his image. But he's been really consistent when he talks about public policy. He opened his presidential campaign talking about immigrants and the threat they pose. He's never been open to any kind of immigration reform. And DACA, which is a pretty popular program, in both parties, is not something he had to move forward in terms of eliminating. So I don't think the words of kindness and sympathy car much weight given the record that he's put forth.

VANIER: Is Mr. Trump acting under duress here? A number of states have sent an ultimatum for the president to respond by December 5 on his immigration policy and specially on the DACA program or else they would challenge it in the courts.

ZELIZER: He's acting under duress but he's also acting willingly. This is a deadline he's happy to have. And this created a circumstance for him to move forward with something he and his advisers understand is controversial. So I don't think he's unhappy about how this all unfolded.

VANIER: Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst, thank you very much.

ZELIZER: Thank you. VANIER: Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, firefighters battle the

largest fire in Los Angeles history.

[02:49:11] CHURCH: And just ahead, the latest on the conditions there. We're back in just a moment.




CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. The governor of California has issued a state of emergency for the Los Angeles area due to an ongoing brush fire. The La Tuna blaze is the largest fire the city has ever seen, consuming more than 2800 hectares, or 7,000 acres.

VANIER: Officials say the fire is now 30 percent contained. More than a thousand firefighters are battling the flames. The fire started on Friday and spread quickly because of hot temperatures and high winds.

So how is the weather going to factor in on this?

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now live with that -- Pedram?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Guys, we're seeing one of the hottest stretches of late August in early September we've ever seen across this region of California. I want to go in towards this region. We know the fire weather is exacerbated by the winds, by the extreme temperatures. But the elevated terrain in La Tuna Canyon area, we talk about just north of just north of Los Angeles, any time you go in towards an area you have mountainous terrain and a lot of topography in this region, you know the firefighting weather behavior will be extreme. I want to break down exactly what we're talking about. Fire and terrain play hand in hand here when it comes to the way they spread. In fact, when you have a 20-degree slope and 20- mile-an-hour winds, increasing that slope by 10 degrees, doubles your fire speed that it travels. So you go from 20 to 30 degrees, your fire is now traveling 40 miles an hour. So that sort of an elevated terrain not only exacerbates how quickly the fire spreads but also you can pick up embers, transport them downstream, begin additional fires. So it becomes a very difficult proposition for firefighters, which we know thousands are working across the state of California, 12,000 to be precise, around this region, with some 130-plus active wildfires in the western U.S. The record temps, about 19 records expected across the western U.S. on Monday alone.

Of course, we want rainfall. There is tropical disturbance moving off of northern Mexico, pushing off from California as well that has brought a couple millimeters of rainfall. A good rule of thumb with these storms is they bring gusty winds, but half an inch of rainfall can't stop the spread of wildfires. Increase that to a couple inches or more, it can extinguish flames. That's what we want to see, but it's not in the forecast across that region. Going out towards the Atlantic, I want to touch on what's happening

her, because a lot of people paying close attention to Hurricane Irma. Slated to be a category 4 within the next 36 hours. The models are in good agreement that the storm system may retain that major hurricane status for the foreseeable future. You watch the tracker around the Turks and Caicos late this week, Friday or Saturday, the Bahamas. But the model agreement. And what we look for here, Rosemary and Cyril, is a run-to-run consistency of how these models want to focus. At this point, the most recent run of the models is bringing it farther to the south. That could impact Cuba and the Bahamas. If this enters the Gulf of Mexico, this is fair game for anyone living in the gulf coast states. So that is something we're watching very carefully into this weekend.

[02:56:14] CHURCH: All right, thanks so much, Pedram, for keeping an eye on that.

And that wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church.

VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier. Thanks for being with us.

The news continues right after this. Stay with CNN.


[03:00:08] KRISTI LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: South Korea holding a live- fire military exercise today after North Korea tested its biggest hydrogen bomb to date.