Return to Transcripts main page


Hurricane Irma Battering Parts of the Caribbean; Evacuations in Florida as Irma Approaches; Trump: 'I'll Revisit DREAMer Decision if Congress Can't Fix in 6 Months'. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 6, 2017 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, September 6, 6 a.m. here in New York. We've got a big morning for you.

[05:59:40] Hurricane Irma is a monster Category 5 storm, slamming parts of the Caribbean, packing 185-mile-an-hour winds. This is the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. It just went over the island of Barbuda hours ago. Irma's impact expected to be catastrophic. You have the storm surge, the winds and flash flooding. At this point Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, all in the direct line of fire as you see on your screen. The big question mark, Florida.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So Florida is under a state of emergency even now as Irma approaches. People are emptying out store shelves. They're dealing, as you can see, with long lines at gas stations.

We're also this morning following two other big stories for you. That's the fallout from President Trump's decision to end the program that protects DREAMers from deportations. And in a few hours, President Trump has a critical phone call with China's president over the North Korea threat.

CNN has global coverage of this like none other. So we begin with Hurricane Irma and CNN's Leyla Santiago. She is live for us in Puerto Rico. What's the situation there, Leyla?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, we're certainly feeling the winds pick up, the water, the waves come in a little more aggressively here in East Navarte (ph), Puerto Rico.

You know, Irma right now at this hour, 225 miles southeast of where we are. And yet, as we drove around this morning, I could also tell that people are getting ready. People went to sleep last night not knowing what we would wake up to today.

I have been in touch with the governor's office. They tell me they are wrapping up a meeting right now to get the latest with all the emergency management officials who have been working overnight. There are shelters in place, 460 of them. Many of them already opening up, ready to take people, especially from the eastern part of the island, where these are really flood-prone areas. And you know, this is -- you can see the water coming up behind me.

You know, Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island. We are used to seeing tropical storms and hurricanes this time of year. It's hurricane season. But you know, this is something the governor has said that is expected to be catastrophic, expected to be of a magnitude they have never experienced here on this island.

But the mood right now is a let's wait and see, hope for the best. But really, we don't think things are going to end up well here.

CUOMO: All right. Leyla, thank you very much. Be safe.

Joining us by the phone now is the governor, Ricardo Rossello. Governor, can you hear me?

RICARDO ROSSELLO, GOVERNOR, PUERTO RICO (via phone): Yes. Yes, thank you so much.

CUOMO: Well, thank you for making the time. We know you just got out of a meeting for the emergency planning. Do you believe you are where you need to be in terms of preparation?

ROSSELLO: Yes, we've been preparing for this for about a week already, on top of having initial preparations with all our team for the last five months. You know, Puerto Rico seems to be always in the line of fire with hurricanes flowing through. So, you know, we always want to make sure we're prepared.

Critically, we looked at the areas of flooding so that we could mobilize people. We also are focused on, you know, the last 24 hours, mobilization efforts.

So we are hoping for the best, but, of course, preparing for the worst. This is a Category 5 hurricane unlike has ever been seen before. So although we hope the trajectory continues up northward, we are preparing for the worst; and, of course, keeping people safe is our main objective.

CUOMO: Most people are sheltering in place, of course. But do you have people in the shelters already?

ROSSELLO: Yes. Yes, we do have people. We have a real-time feedback mechanism so that we can see how many people are -- are safe. We are working with the most vulnerable populations. Our team worked the past week to identify those potentially critical flooding areas so that we can start moving people and get them on the mindset that this could be a very tough storm. So things are moving.

Of course, once again, I reiterate, we will feel strong, very strong winds, and we expect -- we hope that it sort of skips northwards, but we are preparing for the worst. It's a Category 5 hurricane. And our main objective right now is not infrastructure, but it's the safety of the people of Puerto Rico.

CUOMO: What's your biggest concern in terms of the possibilities? We know that there's a little bit of chance in the path of the storm in which part of the storm actually hits the island.

ROSSELLO: Well, there's two main areas of concern. Obviously, under any hurricane, any category, flooding is a main concern. We just saw in Harvey how, you know, the main cause of death was essentially flooding. So we -- we really tackled that early on with preventive measures.

The second area of concern, of course, is you know, Category 5 winds are really aggressive. Just to give our viewers perspective, it's essentially the speed of a Boeing 340 airplane taking off. These are very strong winds that we're talking about, something that we have never experienced here in Puerto Rico and, quite frankly, not a lot of jurisdictions have.

So, again, we ask the people to keep us in their thoughts and prayers, hoping for the worst part of the hurricane to get us by. But essentially, we know we're going to feel strong hurricane winds anyway. And what we want to make sure is that we have our people safe and that we can rebuild immediately afterwards.

CUOMO: All right. And please know that you can reach out to us with any information that people need to hear, and I hope that everybody is wrong and that somehow this storm does less than expected. Governor, be safe and be well.

ROSSELLO: And thank you so much for the opportunity.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Chris, there are also mandatory evacuations and school closings in the Florida Keys today in advance of Irma. People from Miami Beach to Jacksonville are loading up on food and supplies. They are leaving store shelves empty.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Miami with more. What's the situation there, Rosa?


Well, this storm is moving in with a fury, but Florida is preparing with a fury, as well. Mandatory evacuations have already been issued for Monroe County. That includes Key West.

Now, here in Miami-Dade, people with disabilities will be evacuated starting today with possible evacuation orders in this county, for portions of this county, possible today or tomorrow. People are responding to the call to heed the warning for this monster storm. Public officials asking people to have food and supplies for at least three days. And indeed, we're seeing empty shelves in grocery stores and hardware stores and long lines at gas stations.

Our friends to the north in Broward County have 43 shelters that can shelter about 33,000 people. And statewide, the governor of this state has issued disaster declaration for all 67 counties and tapped into all 7,000 National Guard members and all of their assets and resource capabilities -- Alisyn. CAMEROTA: All right, Rosa, thank you very much. You saw those lines

of the traffic there. For a lot of people, the calculation becomes is it worth the time to evacuate. And that is a choice that often comes with big consequences. Later on, we're going to talk about the situation in Florida, what they're worried about, what they're ready for with Governor Rick Scott.

All right. We want to show you some really incredible footage of Hurricane Irma from space, one of the reasons that at least the meteorologists are marveling at what they're calling almost a perfect storm in terms of its formation, its shape, churning in that eye, captured by the International Space Station.

Here's the actual eye. Take a look at that. That is your energy source. And obviously, all the pain spreads outward from there. Now, as beautiful as it is, who cares? What we want is for it to miss all the vital and populated areas. That all comes down to the path.

Let's get right to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. We get that it's a pretty storm; we get that it's a huge storm. The question is where is it going to go? What's it going to do?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, over the next 24 to 48 hours, I think we really know that. After 72, you still have about 150 miles either way that the storm can go.

Right now Barbuda really took a direct hit. At 185 miles per hour, there may not be vegetation left on the island. Now St. Martin up toward Anguilla and eventually, the BVI later on this morning, and really right over just to the north of Puerto Rico. That will be a battering wind and battering waves for Puerto Rico and then eventually on up into the Bahamas, really causing significant damage to the Bahamas. Some of the islands are more than nine feet tall. Storm surge here may be 20 feet. You get the idea what's going to happen to those islands.

So what has changed overnight? A significant change from here to here. But all the models this morning are here. But the National Weather Service said, National Hurricane Center said, "Wait a minute. Let's not go over here just yet. Let's kind of average it out." Because we believed that yesterday this was pretty good. Now, today we'll have to see if this new path, this new model run is correct, and we'll know that later on this morning.

Here are the models from overnight. Notice the big right-hand turn. Could scour Miami Beach all the way up even into North Carolina. It could go even to the right of there. We're watching the Bahamas very closely. But clearly, if Miami-Dade up to Card Sound Road (ph) and Homestead pick up the eye of this storm, it's a devastating storm for South Florida. That's the center of the eye. Don't focus on it yet. A hundred and fifth miles, left to right. There are the models. They're saying landfall in Charleston.

A couple days away. Make sure you pay attention. Not yet time to evacuate, because we don't know where to go just yet -- guys.

CAMEROTA: Got it. OK. Keep following those models for us, Chad. Thank you very much.

Now to Washington. Just hours after stopping a program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, President Trump tweeted out a sliver of hope for them. He says he'll revisit the issue in six months if Congress fails to pass a law that protects them.

[06:10:04] So let's bring in Joe Johns live at the White House to help explain what's going on.

Hi, Joe.


The president and the administration are turning up the heat on the United States Congress to come up with a package that will protect those young, undocumented immigrants from deportation. It comes after the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, announced the administration is rescinding the program started under President Obama known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It affects about 800,000 people.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a love for these people, and hopefully, now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.

JOHNS (voice-over): But the stakes of congressional action or inaction seem a lot higher today. President Trump tweeting Tuesday night that he plans to revisit his administration's decision to end DACA if Congress fails to pass a law protecting DREAMers within six months.

TRUMP: Really, we have no choice. We have to be able to do something. And I think it's going to work out very well, and long- term, it's going to be the right solution.

JOHNS: Press secretary Sarah Sanders explaining the president would support signing legislation as part of a broader immigration overhaul but neglected to say whether Trump would support a stand-alone bill that only addresses DREAMers.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have confidence that Congress will step up and do their job. We stand ready and willing to work with them in order to accomplish responsible immigration reform.

JOHNS: Senator Marco Rubio urging the president to take the lead and clearly outline what kind of legislation the president is willing to sign. Some lawmakers urging immediate bipartisan action to swiftly pass a new DREAM Act by the end of September.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: The clock is ticking. We're now in a countdown toward deportation for 780,000 protected by DACA today. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: My challenge to the

president is that you talk very glowingly about these kids. Help us. Help us in the House. Help us in the Senate.

JOHNS: But others are skeptical about Congress's ability to pass comprehensive immigration legislation. Senator John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, telling CNN a large-scale immigration bill would pretty much guarantee failure.

The move to end DACA fell well beyond the halls of Congress. In his harshest criticism yet, President Obama slamming the decision to rescind his 2012 executive action in a lengthy letter as "wrong, self- defeating and cruel," saying in part, "Let's be clear: the action taken today isn't required legally. It's a political decision and a moral question."


JOHNS: And across the country nationwide protests were on display as President Trump seemed to reverse his own promises to protect young immigrants from deportation.


JOHNS: And another busy day on tap for President Trump today. He first speaks on the phone with Chinese President Xi, later meets with the congressional leadership, then flies off to North Dakota for a speech on tax reform -- Chris.

CUOMO: Joe, appreciate it.

All right. So the president has ended protections for DREAMers, punted the issue to Congress. Yes, they make law, but they have failed to do it. These people have been seeking protection since the early 2000s. What does he expect lawmakers to do? What priority will these people have? We discuss next.


[06:17:08] CAMEROTA: Now to the fallout from President Trump's mixed messages about the DACA program. Hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions called DACA unconstitutional, Mr. Trump implied a willingness to act on his own, tweeting, "Congress now has six months to legalize DACA, something the Obama administration was unable to do. If they can't, I will revisit this issue!" Explanation point.

Let's bring in our CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. Great to have you. Tell us a little bit about the president's mindset from your reporting. Why does the White House appear to be so conflicted about this issue?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, because why should this issue be different than any other issue, No. 1?

But No. 2, I think there's two things going on, to your point about mindset. The president does not actually want to do this. He does not, by all my reporting, is extremely torn about it. He meant what he said when he said earlier this year this is not an enforcement priority, that he did worry about criminals and not people who are brought here on their own.

The problem is the president campaigned on ending DACA. And so if you don't want to end DACA, you probably should not promise people that you are going to during an election season. And that is where they find themselves. Look, it's absolutely true there was no easy fix here. That is very true. It is absolutely true that there was this deadline, although many people argue it was an artificial, created deadline by the states, threatening to sue. And that was why they said, you know, "We're ending it." Their argument is they said they were ending it so that it didn't just end, essentially, if there was a legal challenge and it did not get upheld.

However, the way they rolled this out was so chaotic, I don't even think it was a rollout. It was a leak-out, where they completely lost control of the process, from the very first story broken by Eliana Johnson at Politico, which made clear how uncertain a lot of the details surrounding this was going to go were, that it just allowed people to fill the void with fear, concern, rhetoric, all kinds of things. And these are people's lives.

And so while it's, you know -- it is certainly true, by all my the reporting, that the president is having a hard time with this, I think the kids who are facing deportation or adults who are facing deportation who were brought here as kids, but are now active members of their communities, are probably facing a harder time.

CUOMO: The president is on record saying, "I don't know how you send people back after they've been here 20 years." He's on record as saying it.

He's also on record for decades never yielding to pressure of a lawsuit. He usually applies the pressure. He didn't want this to come to a legal conclusion here, which would have probably given him very clear space.

So it goes to your point about why is he doing it now and what does the word "revisit" mean? That's what he said at his tweet, if you want to put it up there for people, that he might revisit this if Congress doesn't get it done which is, just to remind people, exactly how we got DACA. They've been asking for it since the early 2000s. Congress failed, several different iterations of putting it in different bills, House and Senate, and then Obama felt compelled to revisit it.

[06:20:07] HABERMAN: That's right. Look, I mean, there is a legitimate point to -- to make, which is that this was done around Congress, but it was not done around Congress to be sort of flighty and -- and deciding what parts of the law you want to enforce. There was a very real situation that Congress was not dealing with. To your point, over, I think it was, 16 years. So that was why Obama did what he did. There was a clear option, and he took it.

The president -- the current president has taken what could have been a clear option, and he has appeared to take everything. And so he ends up -- and look, we have seen him do this for years. He likes to act like a dealmaker. He treats everything as if it is an ongoing sliding scale where you can negotiate up until the last minute. You don't have that option here. This is something entirely different. And so you have seen the administration send such unbelievably conflicting signals.

I think -- look, what I was hearing on Saturday and on Sunday before, you know, it became clear that they were still negotiating up until the last second on Monday about what this was going to look like and how many people are going to be impacted in that six-month window and how they would implement this winddown, the president was telling people, he knew he had gotten himself into a politically untenable situation, he didn't -- or let me rephrase that. He was in a politically untenable situation. I'm not sure how much he felt he had done it himself. He didn't want to be in that position, and he did want to revisit this in six months if Congress doesn't act.

The problem with that is people in his own White House are saying to him, there is no real way to do that, because the A.G. has said this is unconstitutional. So how, in six months, if Congress doesn't act. I mean, look, you can never say never, but let's be clear. It doesn't seem like the likeliest bet, if you're a betting person, and after that it's not really clear what your options are.

CAMEROTA: So now there's all sorts of backlash from even Republicans, from even right-leaning media. Here's the "Wall Street Journal" yesterday: "As America's problems go, these young adults shouldn't even be on the list." And it shows the Republican Party is at its worst. Is deporting these people really how Republicans want to define themselves?"

Is this catching the White House and the president off-guard? Are they surprised by this backlash?

HABERMAN: Well, no, it's not catching most people in the White House who understand this issue off-guard. It is delighting Stephen Miller, the president's top national policy adviser, who has pushed this along with his former boss, Jeff Sessions. Stephen Miller, who was a congressional spokesman -- Senate spokesman for a long time, now finds himself in this pretty significant position of policy making.

CAMEROTA: But hold on one second. He's delighted, because this is a play to the base, right? So he has the base's interests at heart. But if Republicans are speaking out against it and Congress and the "Wall Street Journal," why does that make him happy?

HABERMAN: He's delighted because he believes it. It's not just that it's a play to the base. This is actually what he believes. This is what -- this is what most Republicans have, in almost all polling, have been against by a majority, even in some cases a very slim majority.

But there is a segment of Republicans that favor this. That is the segment of Republicans to whom this president plays over and over. The president, by the way, look, we have seen repeatedly, in his mind,

he will have a plan and he will feel like he knows what he's doing. He very rarely completely understands the impact of that. He was pretty briefed on this. It was made pretty clear to him what was likely to happen. He went ahead and did it anyway.

And one of the things that has been so add about how this has played out, is that, you know look, he outsourced the announcement to Sessions which he saw, because he didn't, by all accounts from everyone I spoke to, he didn't want to be the one saying, "I'm ending this." He didn't want that video. And so you heard his statement about love, and we're going to have something that works out very well, which appeared just completely at odds with what was being discussed in every other direction.

But he has had moments throughout this of both acting like the president and acting like a spectator, and you don't really get to choose.

CUOMO: Right. I mean, look, let's be clear, also: this doesn't play to the interests of the base in a real way. It plays to their fear; it plays to their anger. This is part of an emerging culture war, us versus them. The spin about, well, what about veterans? Why don't you worry about them? They have nothing to do with each other, these two issues.

But a bigger concern is what motivates the president's actions. Does your reporting confirm or suggest what we're hearing elsewhere, which is in the hours before this decision was to be made, the president wasn't sure about what this would mean: "Should I do it? I don't want it on me. All right, we'll do it, but let's put it on somebody else." Was it that chaotic?

HABERMAN: Yes. Yes, and literally -- I mean, I wasn't kidding before when I said before that they were negotiating up until the last second on Monday. It was that chaotic, because the president was completely unsure where he wanted to go or hard he wanted to go -- let me rephrase that. He did know on some gut level what he wanted to do. He also knew that this was not politically tenable to do what he wanted to do. So he was hearing all of these various, you know, menus of options.

There was a signal coming from the White House to a lot of people who work on this issue on the keep DACA side, that there was going to be a broader window for allowing people to have renewals than what actually ended up being rolled out. That left people feeling sandbagged and as if they had been lied to, even if it was a misunderstanding, under the best-case scenario.

[06:25:22] Literally, every aspect of this was poorly handled. It was because, as with almost everything, they have been arguing about this until the last minute. The other thing that I heard from several people is that there were a bunch of voices involved in this. John Kelly has tried, the new chief of staff, implementing and instituting a more streamlined process about policy. This one, for whatever reason, had a lot more people involved who realistically probably shouldn't have been. And I think that added to the sense of whiplash.

CUOMO: Rolling the dice with 800,000 people is a damned thing. Boy.

CAMEROTA: Maggie, stick around, if you would. We have more questions for you.

So he just called North Korea an embarrassment to China. Now President Trump is about to get on the phone with Chinese President Xi. After all the threats and criticism, how will this call go? We'll take a closer look next.


CAMEROTA: President Trump and China's president holding a high-stakes phone call in just a few hours to discuss North Korea as Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korea's president meet on the...