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Category 5 Irma Barrels Toward Florida, Hurricane Jose Forms Behind It, Following Similar Path; Trump Blindsides GOP Leadership With Dem Deal; Trump Jr. To Be Questioned By Senate Judiciary Tomorrow; Mandatory Evacuation for Parts of Florida. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 6, 2017 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: This is what it did to the island of Barbuda, the island according to prime minister, barely habitable. Communications are out. The airport runway has been crippled. The prime minister estimating that 95 percent of structures on the island, 90 to 95 sustained damage. One fatality so far that we know about, a toddler, according to prime minister. Several killed on St. Martin which also took a direct hit.

[21:00:29] Officials there also reporting widespread destruction and according to the National Hurricane Center's Ed Rappaport, one model of the storm's track puts it directly over the Miami area which could bring, in his words, a once in a generation weather event.

Right now, it is moving past Puerto Rico to the north of Puerto Rico. CNN's Leyla Santiago joins us from San Juan. How have conditions changed since you and I spoke last hour?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Anderson, it would be the winds continue, there is still some rain. Irma is just that way, just north of us.

But, you know, I think there's a sense of relief among people here that it's not as bad, we're not feeling it as one expected this morning when there were concerns of this being a catastrophic event. And so since there's not a direct hit, people here are sort of having a sigh of relief. Not the message from government officials, however, who are saying do not let your guard down because, yes, there are some heavy rain bands just north of us, and we will still experience that heavy wind. So that means we could have other problems like flooding that comes into the area or power outages that are already an issue here in Puerto Rico. This is U.S. territory. So the U.S. government actually also declared a public health state of emergency. So even though this is not a direct hit, there are still some concerns that the government are saying you need to definitely heed the warning and not let your guard down just yet here on the island.


SANTIAGO: Anderson.

COOPER: Of course a concern for Florida is a direct hit. Leyla Santiago, thanks. Joining us on the phone is Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Senator, first of all, what is your message tonight to the citizens of Florida ahead of this storm?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA (via telephone): Well, I think the message is to heed their local and state officials that are asking them to evacuate from certain places, you know, and obviously a lot of people in Florida have lived through multiple storms but it's a state that's always growing. We have a lot of people that are new and perhaps have never lived through one of these. This is a catastrophic storm if its worst-case scenario.

And the other point, not just southeast Florida, it is such a big storm and it is such an uncertain track even at this late hour, that large swaths of the state from the east coast to the west coast of the state could be deeply impacted by this. So you worry about storm surge on coastal areas, you worry about a lot of people at the roads getting on there too late and getting stuck on the road in the middle of the storm coming in.

So I just hope people will heed the warnings and, look, right now it appears, at least in southeast Florida what I've seen the last couple days, the most mobilization, people are heeding those warnings.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Miami-Dade County, I talked to the mayor just a little while ago, they issued a mandatory evacuation only for certain areas. Do you think that evacuation order may be increased as this storm nears?

RUBIO: Well, that's the mayor's call to make. Obviously a lot of this is predicated on both the timing of the storm and the FEMA maps that have been laid out. I certainly think if you are in an area where evacuations are what they call voluntary right now, you should start thinking about the fact that at some point tomorrow, early, by midday, those could become mandatory. That doesn't mean the police comes out and force you to leave. It's a heightened sense of alertness.

And people also need to realize, I know it's inconvenient to leave your home but there's a reason why the areas are in where they are. They're prone to flooding, they are susceptible to high winds more than the inland areas are, and once that storm starts it's going to be impossible for anyone to get out to help you during the storm and potentially there's a lot of flooding after the storm.

COOPER: Yes, and obviously as you said, the storm could track all the way up, you know, the coast, east coast of Florida. That's some of the modeling, hundreds of miles long. It makes it hard for state, federal officials to preposition resources as they would probably like to do.

RUBIO: Well, I made the point earlier today, you know, FEMA is prepositioned, for example, they have significant assets waiting at an Air Force base in Alabama. The problem is, people need to understand, that the way the track of this storm is going, if it in fact, let's say it goes up by 95 as an example, I'm not saying that's what it's going to be, but let's say it did, it's possible. They can't come down with relief until that storm has cleared and it's safe to get here. So you got to be able to sustain yourself with enough food, and water, and medicine. That's another point people don't think. If you got important medicine that you take, life sustaining or quality of life medication or anything that's critical, you got to have access to that for at least five or six days because you just don't know how long it's going to take before pharmacies are open, electricity is back up and all the other things we see to -- you know, we take for granted in modern life.

COOPER: Yes, and obviously folks will be in Florida looking for aid from Washington. One quick political question before I let you go, President Trump today sided with Democrats in agreeing to sign a bill that would tie Harvey aid to a debt ceiling bill, raise the debt ceiling for only three months, it's a proposal Speaker Ryan called ridiculous and disgraceful. I'm wondering, do you agree with Speaker Ryan?

[21:05:14] RUBIO: You know, unfortunately, I wasn't there today. I've read the press account. It's not a dodge. I just haven't been there because I've been here dealing with this. I would just say I always prefer to deal with these issues standing on their own. I think it's better that way. I understand why you want to lump them all in here. But FEMA runs out of money on Friday, theoretically. That's an important thing.

Now the debt limit and all these other issues are critically important as well. But I always think you get better product when you deal with them standing alone. I prefer they have done it that way. I'm not a real big fan of the direction they've gone with it in this regard right now. But, and obviously at this point, you're kind of in a crunch. I mean, that's the direction that headed. But my preference had been they'd done it at least standing alone and not lump these things together.

COOPER: Yes. Senator Rubio, appreciate talking to you. Difficult times, obviously. Wish everyone the best there in Florida. We'll continue to follow it. Thanks so much, senator.

For more on what lies ahead, let's go to CNN Tom Sater in the weather center. So, let's just talk about the most important things, the strength of this and what is the forecast is.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it was the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the Leeward Islands. We know that for sure. Still just 5 miles per hour in strength away from tieing (ph) Allen in 1980, but this has surpassed Allen, Anderson, and it's now been churning for over 31 hours, with winds that are 185 miles per hour or stronger. Allen didn't do that. The super typhoon Haiyan that devastated the Philippines didn't do that.

Look at the winds, I mean, 185 miles per hour. Rockport in Texas was hit by winds of 130. This is 55 miles per hour stronger than landfall with Harvey in Texas, 55 miles per hour. That, alone, will snap some power lines and down some trees. Good news is, we're looking at the eye to stay north of San Juan, but the wake it has left and the destruction, we are now watching and we talked about it, that the eye would swallow Barbuda, which it did. And St. Martin, France's foreign minister said the four tallest building had been completely destroyed. Most of the buildings have been destroyed or partially. We haven't heard anything from Anguilla.

Moved across the British Virgin Islands, just a minor flooding really in some of the harbor around St. Croix, but now that it made landfall in the islands, it's going to take another day before they can get some flights, there's an airplanes up to give us some aerial coverage and assess the damage. But the good news is with Puerto Rico, the system seems to be lifting just a little bit away from them.

So as we talked about a little while ago, you see that there's an eye wall and then an outer eye band that's going through an eye wall replacement cycle. So it's going to take a few hours for this to strengthen. It could strengthen greater than it is now. When it goes through this process, the hurricane-force winds spread outward. So that damage may be felt in San Juan but they're not getting heavy rain band which is some very good news.

Still warnings for now, the Turks and Caicos which have started evacuations as well as southeast Bahamas, they're looking at a storm surge that's close 15, maybe 20 feet. Only about 6 feet for the northern coast of Puerto Rico, because they're going to be in the worst quadrant, that northeastern quadrant where the surge and winds are going to be howling.

Still now looking for a turn to the north. This track has changed slightly from what it was 24 hours ago. This morning, the National Hurricane Center pushed it about 60 to 70 miles eastward. Keep in mind, we still have this cone of uncertainty so it could still go west but still could stay off the coast of Florida.

Right now, however, the models, the spaghetti plots are telling us that some time on Saturday it makes the turn. We're waiting to see if it's going to interact with the landmass of Cuba because that could starve some of the energy and maybe break this category 5 down to a 2. But that would be devastating for Cuba. But it looks like it may stay offshore. So everything really important right now, Anderson, about the timing of this and what path it actually takes.

Two models I want to show you quickly, the European in blue, and here comes the U.S. model. Look how close together they are. Let's go into Sunday morning. Right on the tip, and you can see they're very close. The European model just a little bit more to the southwest coast of Florida. The U.S. model clips possibly just, let's say around Miami, but stays almost offshore like Matthew did last year, and then plows into Savannah, Georgia.

So anyone from Cape Fear in Wilmington back to Savannah, do not let your guard down. We could see this occur. We could also see it slide toward Tampa on that coast. But the trend, Anderson, has been a little bit more toward the east. So we got to watch that.

And quickly for you, just a little history. Since 1970, here are your category 4 and 5 storms that made landfall, Hugo in 89, 140 mile per hour winds. Then, of course, we had Andrew that came in from the east right across homestead, Florida. We all know that 25 years ago. Those winds were 165. Charlie at 2004, 150. And of course, we have Harvey in Texas at 130. This system is so much stronger than all of them. We can only hope for some weakening. We can only hope for the small window that it slides away from the U.S. But again, that window I really think, Anderson, is closing quickly.

[21:10:14] COOPER: Yes. Tom Sater. Tom, thanks very much. The top of the program we showed you what it looks like in Barbuda. A short time ago I spoke with the phone with the pilot Greg Scott, whose chopper carried a camera crew and the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda over the destruction you're seeing now. Here's our conversation.


COOPER: Greg, the prime minister is saying that Barbuda is barely inhabitable now somewhere near 90 percent destruction according to him. What did you see flying with him flying over there today?

GREG SCOTT, FLEW PRIME MINISTER OVER BARBUDA (via telephone): Yes. That's exactly what I agree with the number there. It was absolutely shocking and emotional for all of us on the helicopter because we just couldn't believe what we were seeing. Just -- buildings gone or just a pile of rubble. Rooftops gone. Water everywhere. It's a flat island and the water's not running away. There's water everywhere. So people are wading through water to walk down the road. It's just unbelievable. Really is.

COOPER: I know you've been flying for some 18 years. I mean, have you ever seen anything like this?

SCOTT: No, I haven't. When I first got to (INAUDIBLE), I've seen some damage from Hurricane Jose. You know, it was kind of shocking. But nothing like this. This was unbelievable. And the prime minister said the same thing. He's never seen anything like it. It's just unbelievable.

COOPER: It looks from the pictures like you were able to fly pretty low. Are you -- were you seeing people on the ground there?

SCOTT: Yes, we were able to see people on the ground. Wanted to make sure the prime minister got a good view what had happened and, yes, we could see people walking around. We saw one guy up on his roof already trying to repair it. I guess so it doesn't leak tonight or next couple of days because we got another one coming.

COOPER: And are there rescue or recovery assets in the area that you could see?

SCOTT: They -- what we had hoped we would see something from the French, from the French islands, but they're all busy taking care of their own problems in France St. Martin but there will be some response. We got a couple international organizations that will probably start to get into action and tomorrow we're involved, going to be moving water and supplies. The coast guard boat will probably be able to get on to the seas now that they've gone down and start moving things over. We're going it be very busy tomorrow. COOPER: And what's the condition of the airport, the runway?

SCOTT: The runway, it's interesting, there's some big divets (ph) that have been left by a container, you know, 40 foot steel shipping container, it did a tumble across the ground, through the airport grounds and over the runway and apron and the container is nowhere to be found. We don't know where the container went. The markings on the pavement are obvious that it was a big steel container. You can tell one of the markings is really obvious.

COOPER: You just --

SCOTT: Where it went, we don't know.

COOPER: Is the runway usable?

SCOTT: A skilled pilot might be able to -- if he knows there is some small divets (ph) in the runway that he might be able to maneuver around them like in a small twin engine islander, for example, that we fly down in these islands. So --

COOPER: Obviously for relief efforts, a working runway is important.

SCOTT: Yes. I think it wouldn't take much to fix it if they came over with a bucket of -- and a boat with a hard pitch, they could have it up and going very quickly. The holes aren't very big. There's nothing there right now, you know?

COOPER: It's just incredible. Greg Scott, I appreciate talking to you. Thank you.

SCOTT: Not a problem. Take care.


COOPER: More on the storm next including the view from 45,000 feet. What a NOAA hurricane chasing flight director told me about the data coming from inside the massive weather system late today, why he says it's growing stronger.

Later, politics. Did the man who had someone ghost write a book called, "The Art of the Deal", for him get rolled by the Democrats? How some say President Trump gave away the story in the debt ceiling talks today and the fallout from it tonight.


[21:17:39] COOPER: Hurricane Irma, category 5, deadly, thankfully now passing north of Puerto Rico after slamming St. Bart, St. Martin. And (INAUDIBLE) waster to Barbuda an island.

Late today I spoke with a NOAA flight director, Richard Henning, about a storm tracking mission. Now we played this during the last hour but wanted to run it again because what Mr. Henning said about Irma's strength is significant to say the least.


COOPER: Richard, this is your third mission flying into Hurricane Irma. How does this flight compare to the previous one?

RICHARD HENNING, NOAA HURRICANE HUNTERS FLIGHT DIRECTOR (via telephone): Well, the last three flights that we've done, we've essentially followed the same kind of a pattern. I'm flying in the NOAA Gulf Stream jet which is a high altitude hurricane hunter reconnaissance aircraft. I think this is the aircraft that flies across the top of the storm at 45,000 feet.

And what we do, there's a key element to our mission, is that we're releasing (INAUDIBLE) which are essentially the opposite of the weather balloon, instead of going up the sands (ph) fall by parachute and transmit data back to the aircraft, critical like pressure, temperature, GPS, wind direction, wind speed, and all that data gets gathered by the aircraft. And we transmit it via satellite to the National Hurricane Center. It goes directly into the computer models for forecasting the track which everybody in the entire southeastern U.S. is now focusing on that track. So we are dropping 33 of those sands on our mission this evening in order to refine the accuracy of the track.

COOPER: And in terms of what the storm is doing right now, I mean, can you say if it's getting weaker, is it maintaining or is it getting stronger?

HENNING: The storm has actually, sadly -- sad to say the storm is actually getting stronger. The latest aircraft in the center measured a pressure of 914 millibars which is the lowest it's been and we're continuing to see winds measured directly by the aircraft in the range of 150 to 160 knots at the surface in the eye wall which is over 180 miles per hour. So this is a legitimate category 5 hurricane. There's -- you really can't overhype this storm.

[21:20:10] It's the strongest storm that has ever formed in this part of the Atlantic. We've had cat 5s that have formed further to the west, closer to Miami. Of course, we had Andrew then we have had storms like Katrina and Rita in the gulf of Mexico back in 2005, but we really haven't seen a storm like Irma. So it's extremely dangerous especially with the path that it's projected to go through the Bahamas and threaten Florida, also a very large storm.

COOPER: Yes. It bears repeating what you just said this is the strongest storm in the Atlantic that we have ever seen. And it's getting stronger. Is it getting stronger because it's going over warmer water as it approaches the U.S.?

HENNING: Yes. That is a big part of it. Part of it is the upper- level environment around the storm and that's exactly what we are measuring right now with our gulf streak jet. Again, we're up at 45,000 feet getting a full profile of the atmosphere from that altitude all the way down to when the sand splashes in the ocean. So it's not only the environment around the storm that's important, but also the ocean temperatures and the ocean temperatures ahead of Irma are very, very warm. We're talking water temperatures of 87, 88 degrees Fahrenheit and that just is fuel for the fire. The waters through the Bahamas heading toward Miami are about the warmest they've been all year.

COOPER: And you talked about the size of the eye. If you could just repeat how big that eye is, and I know yesterday people were talking about how sort of perfect the eye wall was. I'm wondering how it looks today.

HENNING: The eye continues to have that perfect what we call stadium effect to it, where it looks like you're inside a circular football stadium. Right now the eye is approximately 15 miles across. It's actually getting smaller. It's going through another one of those what we call eye wall replacement cycles where there's a double eye wall right now. That outer eye wall is forming that has a wider diameter than the inner eye wall. And it's contracting in toward the center and normally what that does it actually weakens the storm briefly.

So what you might see overnight is you might see the hurricane bottom out in intensity, maybe even weaken just a few millibars, but then once it completes that eye wall replacement cycle, it's right back to being even stronger than it was before and Irma's been pretty amazing because it's gone through about four or five of these cycles over the last few days.

COOPER: It's incredible to see. I appreciate all the work that you and all your colleagues are doing to keep us informed. Richard Henning, thank you.

HENNING: Thank you. Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: We have much more on Hurricane Irma shortly. The path of the storm heading toward Florida. We'll have an update from Puerto Rico where they're already seeing effects.

Up next, though, a political storm. The controversial deal President Trump made with Democrats and what Republicans think of it, next.


[21:27:31] COOPER: As Irma is moving up through the Caribbean toward the United States, Congress is moving forward to approve relief for Texas and Louisiana after Hurricane Harvey pounded in just last week. Instead of agreeing with members of his own party, however, on how to handle that process, President Trump made a deal with Democrats combing extending the debt ceiling in funding the Harvey relief. That's the Democrats wanted all along. The president spoke about the deal aboard Air Force One today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. We agreed to a three- month extension on debt ceiling, which they consider to be sacred -- very important -- always we'll agree on debt ceiling automatically because of the importance of it. So we have an extension, which will go out to December 15th. That'll include debt ceiling, that'll include the CRs, and it'll include Harvey. The amount of money to be determined, but it will be include -- because everyone is in favor obviously of taking care of that situation. So we all very much agree.


COOPER: Well, that move certainly surprised party leaders. And (INAUDIBLE) report tonight says sources inside and close to the leadership have used, "The full range of expletives," in text messages reacting to the president's deal with Democrats. It's also at odds with Mr. Trump's own previous comments or tweets as the case may be back in January 2013. He wrote, "The worst negotiators in history otherwise known as Republicans have just offered to suspend debt ceiling for four months. Pathetic!" Joining me now, Kirsten Powers, Matt Lewis, Ed Martin, A.B.Stoddard, and Paul Begala. Matt, I mean, is this anything but a clear win for Democrats?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Donald Trump got rolled. Democrats couldn't have gotten a better deal if they had Barack Obama in the White House. It's really infallible (ph).

COOPER: Explain why this a good deal for Democrats.

LEWIS: Well, look, so what happens now is, first of all, I would say this. It's so rare that Republicans get to feel like they have the moral authority and they have the emotional issue on their side. For a brief moment today, you could tell that Paul Ryan believed he was in that position because he wanted to have this long-term sort of raising the debt ceiling --

COOPER: Right, 18 months.

LEWIS: It was going to be tied to, you know, to funding --

COOPER: Harvey.

LEWIS: -- hurricane relief. And he was going to dare Democrats to vote against that. I don't think they would have. I think Democrats would have had to have gone along with raising the debt ceiling and funding for Harvey, but because Donald Trump gave in, now two things happen. Number one, Republicans have to come back several times between now and the midterms and raise the debt ceiling.

[21:30:03] COOPER: And they need Democratic votes to do that.

LEWIS: Right. And to get those Democratic votes, they will have to compromise on other stuff and horse trade. So, maybe they're talking about tax reform three months from now. Chuck Schumer can say, well, we'll raise the debt ceiling, but you have to give us this on tax reform. So this isn't just a disaster in terms of negotiating today, it will have a long-term ramifications that will hurt, I would say, the cause of conservative --

COOPER: Ed, I mean, you had Paul Ryan just earlier today calling it, I think, disgraceful, was his term. Was it a mistake?

ED MARTIN, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, I want to start by praising Nancy Pelosi because look, Nancy Pelosi a few days ago she condemned Antifa and the violence, remember this, it was a big deal. And Feinstein said Trump could be a good president.

Today we saw the president of the United States act like a president. For those of us -- the debt ceiling is a probable. But the negotiation -- North Korea is threatening to start a war with us, right? So does anyone want a shutdown of the government? No. And it's only three months and he got Harvey out of it and got the optics for the country, they look up and they're not saying, oh, my gosh, this president is against Democrats all the --

COOPER: -- Republicans saying this was a wise move?

MARTIN: I think it's a great move. It's a great move for the country.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He didn't need to do it I think is the point.

MARTIN: Me too.

POWERS: Well, there was -- I don't think anybody really thinks the Democrats wouldn't vote to raise the debt ceiling, right? So, I mean, you don't really need to trade for that. I mean, that's something they're going to do, anyway.

MARTIN: But I just --

LEWI: Grasping defeat from the jaws of victory.


COOPER: A.B., I mean, how do you -- there are some Republicans today, clears the way for something like tax reform, perhaps.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REALCLEAR POLITICS: It doesn't because there's nothing that you can really get off the ground between now and December 15th that actually gives you a worst deadline and a worst, Matt, as matt has indicated with more leverage for Democrats come December. It waste time.

And so, while it looks like it makes December less frantic, it actually creates more problems. The problem here is trust.

I happened to be in a Republican senator's office this morning while this was happening and we did not know it had happened yet. We were talking about the lack of trust. How do you work with Trump? Is there a strategy now? Is there a long-term plan? No. We take it day by day. We're in reactive mode. We have no way forward. We literally have to deal with what happens every five hours in terms of all the deadlines we have in September trying to get to tax reform. These storms will really increase the deficit. They will push up momentum and time and energy that would be spent on tax reform. But this breakdown in trust, the leadership ensured last night he would agree to an 18-month extension of the debt ceiling increase so that they wouldn't have to keep voting to raise the debt ceiling, a politically perilous vote. And they can just get to the midterms and move on. They were told last night that he was going to agree with that. He pulled the rug out from under them. And he might think that he can build a coalition by working with Democrats. That's a great idea. But you don't subtract at the same time by shooting the leadership in the stomach.



COOPER: You're smiling. I haven't seen you smile like this in quite a while.

BEGALA: Since January 20th. But here's why. The Democrats had a very weak hand. They don't control the House, don't control the Senate. They had a couple things going for them. Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi together, have 66 years of experience on the Hill. The president in his 229th day of experience running the government. Experience matters.

Second, they have unity. Republicans are horribly fractured and the Democrats, believe it or not, are in all right, they are united, they haven't lost a Democrat on a key vote even on health care when the president was trying to repeal Obamacare.

But I think the biggest thing is what A.B. was talking about, President Trump, we saw this today, he hates Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan more than he hates Chuck Schumer --

MARTIN: Come on. Come on.


LEWIS: He has more in common with Nancy Pelosi.

BEGALA: He gave more money to Chuck Schumer than any other politician in his career, any other senator. Chuck Schumer received more money from Donald Trump than any other senator of either party. They have done business together.

LEWIS: This is what -- Ted Cruz, Ted Cruz warned about this. He said if you elect Donald Trump president, get ready for him to start cutting deals with Chuck Schumer about a year in.

MARTIN: Guys, yesterday he did what he promised on the campaign trail and today he did what leaders do which is faced with North Korea, faced with hurricanes, faced with strife, he stood and said we got a deal. And, you know what, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have been in power a long time. They got to start moving. They go to start doing stuff. They can do it, too. If they want to do DACA, let them do it. If the want to do tax reform, let them do it. The president is leading big. He's growing his -- the people that look up to him as a leader and I'm sorry --

COOPER: How is he growing the people who look up to him --

MARTIN: The country. The country. No. When Nancy Pelosi condemns Antif's violence and the country starts looking up and saying, OK, we're not divided the same way.

LEWIS: If Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio had cut the deal with Democrats that Donald Trump cut today --

MARTIN: They couldn't get elected.

LEWIS: If they had cut that deal, --

MARTIN: They couldn't get elected.

[21:35:00] LEWIS: -- Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh would be calling them communist sellouts today, and you probably would be too. They couldn't get away -- Donald Trump cut a deal that if any other -- any real conservative had done it would have been --

POWERS: Yes, but that's the point. He's not a real conservative, right? And I think this is what he's always been driven by is wanting to win. And he wants, you know, he's not -- he's not interested in ideology. Ideology doesn't matter to him except if he thinks it's going to help him win something. If he thinks it's going to help him get some points on the board.

COOPER: Does this impact on DACA at all, three months from now could the Democrats hold that --

BEGALA: I've been in touch with Democrats on the Hill. They think they're going to win on DACA. The president has already wavered about it.

COOPER: Right, the president said he's going to revisit it which is an odd negotiating tactic to announce right after you've just --

BEGALA: Democrats feel like that they're going to get a fix on DACA and in that sense maybe what the president did yesterday could be a blessing because this does -- this can only be done permanently through legislation, not through executive orders. That was the problem with President Obama's executive orders, why he resisted doing it so long. The Democrats --

LEWIS: If you're Chuck Schumer, you're smelling blood right now. If you're Chuck Schumer, you're thinking this is how it's going to go now and they've got leverage, right? So it's not just that they sense they have a president who's willing to basically go their way, they have leverage. They could say if you want to raise the debt ceiling, if you want to avoid a government shutdown, whatever the crisis of the moment is, give us this. And maybe if Donald Trump been in a meeting for an hour and he's tired and wants to leave, he'll give it to them.

MARTIN: But look, guys, he ran for office, he ran for president on this stuff. He got in, and he put Mattis in charge. Mattis is by most accounts fighting a war like we want him to fight. He goes and puts Sessions in charge and Miller in charge. The policies are just what he said --

LEWIS: And he said he was going to get rid of the dreamers, didn't he?

MARTIN: He did. He ended the program. You guys were yelling about it yesterday. He ended the program. And what he did was he -- I want to be kind to people, --

LEWIS: He has not ended the program.

MARTIN: Well, he said in six months I have a window.

COOPER: He did say he'll revisit it if Congress doesn't do anything.

MARTIN: You guys are pretending that he's not leading. The whole time he's leading and he's getting people to pay attention to the fact, two weeks ago you would have said he's a dictator. He's doing things outside the scope of what he should do. Today he's cutting deals with Democrats to keep the ball moving.

COOPER: Everyone stick around.

When we come back, the latest developments on the Russia probe, Donald Trump Jr. speaks to Congressional staffers tomorrow. We'll get you caught up on Russia-White House watch.

Plus, Hurricane Irma, yes, hitting Puerto Rico hard right now. The latest on the storm tracking, ahead.


[21:41:24] COOPER: Back in town after the August recess. The Russia investigations are heating up again. Tomorrow, Donald Trump Jr. is scheduled to speak with staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee which has been ramping up its own inquiries in recent months. I spoke with a member of that committee, Senator Chris Coons earlier.


COOPER: Senator Coons, can you first e explain what's going to happen tomorrow? This is going it be behind closed door. The American public will not see or hear from Donald Trump Jr. Is any topic off the table?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELWARE, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, Anderson, what I'm really looking forward to is an upcoming public hearing where I'll get the opportunity to question Donald Trump Jr. under oath in front of the full Judiciary Committee.

This week what's happening is a staff interview where I believe Donald Trump Jr. has voluntarily come in and is open to being asked virtually any question by staff that is relative to the ongoing investigation.

COOPER: That interview from the staff, is that on the record? I mean, is that under oath?

COONS: Yes. It will produce a transcript that will be accessible to members of the committee and to others who are investigating the potential concerns about the conduct of the Trump campaign. Anyone who testifies in front of a Senate committee is under the restrictions of a statute that says if they attempt to mislead Congress, there are legal consequences.

COOPER: Obviously the issue of that meeting last June with the Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer, or at least the woman who is presented to Donald trump Jr. as a Russian government attorney, though she denies that, obviously that's going to be one of the key things focused on in this interview tomorrow and also if there's a public hearing from you. Does it surprise you, still, I mean, the -- you know, the Trump White House, Donald Trump Jr. has claimed to have been fully transparent but there's still so many questions we do not know about that meeting. Not the least of which is that Donald Trump Jr. in the initial e-mail is informed that Russia is backing his father's campaign and, A, he doesn't seem to react to that in any way. And it's hard for me to believe that he would not then go and at some point tell his father this bombshell news.

COONS: That's right, Anderson. That is exactly the thing I most want to ask him in an open hearing is how is it possible that you received news from someone you know by e-mail that the Putin regime is attempting to help your father win the American presidency and your response is, great, let's have the meeting rather than, what the heck are you talking about, or I need to refer this to law enforcement or at the very least, I need to warn my father that there's something completely inappropriate going on here.

COOPER: How important is it also to figure out the president's involvement in crafting the statement that was initially released by Donald Trump Jr. But from all the reporting by "The New York Times" and others, it was the president who had some level of involvement in crafting that statement.

COONS: Well, Anderson, part of what the Judiciary focus is obstruction of justice which is distinct from what the special counsel or even the Intelligence Committee are focusing on. They're focusing on broader areas. It would go directly to that question, whether the president, himself, was involved in trying to cover the tracks of those who were involved in efforts on behalf of his campaign. Obstruction of justice is a fancy word of saying -- fancy way of saying that he tried to get in the way of any ongoing investigation. He tried to cover their tracks. So that's what we'd be getting at in questioning what role he had in crafting and helping issue a misleading initial statement about the participants and the purpose of that meeting in Trump tower in the summer of 2016.

[21:45:04] COOPER: And Senator Warner, the vice chair of the Intel committee which has its own investigation says he doesn't see his committee's probe wrapping up before the end of the year. Would you see the same for the Judiciary Committee?

COONS: Given that it's September and given how many other things we've got on our plate as the Senate, I would agree. I think it's unlikely we'll conclude this before the end of this calendar year.

COOPER: And finally, this whole idea of the turf war between the House and Senate Intelligence Committees plus the Senate Judiciary Committee plus the special counsel's office given that Robert Mueller's team is really the only group in power to actually bring criminal charges against anyone suspected of wrongdoing, would you want Congress to at least give Mueller first dibs on what, if any, legal substance emerges from all this?

COONS: I think it is absolutely critical that we coordinate closely with Robert Mueller and the special counsel so that we do not inappropriately interfere in his investigation or inadvertently prevent it from reaching a legal conclusion. I think there was a dustup a few days ago or maybe weeks ago now that was largely rooted in a misunderstanding about the release of transcripts of the work product of Senate committees and I'm hopeful that that's getting resolved.

COOPER: All right, Senator Coons, appreciate your time. Thanks.

COONS: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: We're going to be right back with the latest on Hurricane Irma, what is happening right now in Puerto Rico and how Florida is getting ready.


[21:50:09] COOPER: As we said at the top of the broadcast, the island of St. Martin took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma. These new photos just in from the island were taken by a resident. His home was spared. He's got a concrete roof and hurricane shutters. But he tells CNN that many others are not so fortunate. "From my balcony at home, I count at lest 24 homes and apartment buildings with either partial or entire roofs missing." He's running a generator. He says he has fuel to last for about a week. In a moment we'll get more from Florida in preparations there. First, let's go back to San Juan, Puerto Rico and Leyla Santiago. Leyla, the storm is to the north of the island. So clearly it's not going to make land fall (INAUDIBLE) assumedly good news. What are the conditions like right now?

SANTIAGO: Well, we're still seeing a bit of rain and wind gusts coming in from the north, come in from that way where Irma is. And we're expecting that to continue on through the night. But really for the people here, the people that I'm hearing from in their homes, there's really a sigh of relief. Breathe in a sigh of relief given that it's not as bad as many expected it to be. That's what a lot of people here on the island are saying. You talk to emergency management, the governor himself, they're saying don't let that guard down just yet. We're going to have a lot of problems here as a result of this hurricane that never actually made landfall here.

One of the major problems, flooding already on the eastern part of the island they have had to rescue more than several dozen people from cars and homes that have been flooded.

The other big problem, Anderson, that will be power. More than 900,000 homes without power at this hour. And already authorities are saying this isn't a matter of days, it could be weeks, possibly months before power is restored here.

So now damage assessment begins. Already we're getting some reports of damage on the eastern part of the island and the FEMA director has said that that will be a priority. They will begin damage assessment as soon as possible tomorrow, Anderson.

COOPER: And how long are the winds, the rain supposed to last? I mean, when is it supposed to be at its worst?

SANTIAGO: Already emergency officials are saying that they expect tomorrow to be able to go into the areas that were hit the hardest. But this could be the worst that we see at this point.

But again, officials are pretty much begging people, don't let your guard down just yet. The flooding could really be a problem that comes up pretty quickly here on the island.

COOPER: Yes. Leyla Santiago thanks very much. Meantime further along the storm track people have already begun pouring out of the Florida Keys. There's only one way to leave, only one road out. Florida's governor take the suspended the tolls on state highways. States of emergency now in effect all the way up to North Carolina. For now the focus is on South Florida. Joining us now is the Mayor of Broward County, Barbara Sharief. Mayor, according to the models right you, Broward County could be directly impacted by Hurricane Irma. Is the area prepared?

MAYOR BARBARA SHARIEF, BROWARD COUNTY, FL: We are very prepared right now. We have put in place our emergency preparations. We've been practicing this for a long time. We have enough fuel. Now it's up to the residents of Broward County to follow the warnings and precautions that we've been given and evacuate in the areas where we have advised to evacuate.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, there are mandatory evacuation orders for parts of your county. What's your advice to anyone who's on the fence about staying or not?

SHARIEF: Listen, for us we've learned lessons over the past few years. We've weathered Andrew. Andrew was a category 4. This is a category 5. We went through Matthew and we've only had the bands of Matthew. But when we waited and we saw how people just procrastinated on leaving, they really did put themselves in harm's way. So right now our goal is to minimize the fatalities and protect our residents as best we can and that comes in the form of being early to evacuate and making sure that they're safe.

COOPER: I know there have been reports in parts of the area, the gas and water are in low supply. Is there a plan and place to secure resources as they're need? SHARIEF: So, we do not have a shortage of gas right now, it's just the demand and getting it to the gas stations. Broward County has been prepared for this. We have plenty of gas at our port and we are moving the tankers as quickly as we possibly can. As far as other federal supplies, when the governor declared a state of emergency, FEMA kicked in and we are now able to access all of the supplies from FEMA, that's water, food, temporary housing assistance. We have the Red Cross on site. They've already been staging. So we are prepared. We're ready.

[21:54:59] COOPER: Mayor Sharief, I appreciate your time and I wish you and all the folks there the very best. We're obviously going to continue to follow it, a very closely in the days and hours ahead. We'll be right back.


COOPER: We'll the sun won't come up for a few more hours that already in places the effects from Hurricane Irma are plain to see and terrifying to hear.

(INAUDIBLE) anyone with a chance to avoid, confronting Irma to take it. And we wish the best to everyone. (INAUDIBLE) CNN's coverage of this dangerous storm continues obviously throughout tonight and in the days and probably weeks ahead. We go now Don Lemon in "CNN Tonight".

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: And it is major breaking news. Look at your screen, a monster hurricane, her name is Irma, slamming through the Caribbean right now taking aim right at Florida. Thousands and thousands of people fleeing before it is too late.