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Hurricane Irma Slams Caribbean, Aims for Florida; British Parliament Debates E.U. Withdrawal Bill; Trump Blindsides GOP Leaders, Sides with Democrats on Funding Bill. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 7, 2017 - 02:00   ET


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello. I am John Vause. We are following breaking news on Hurricane Irma. The storm now one of the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic. It is striking the Caribbean with winds close to 300 kilometers per hour.

Those wind gusts have been lashing Puerto Rico as the center of the storm moves across the island's northern coast. The governor says already there is significant damage.

Earlier, the storm turned deadly, killing two people on the island of St. Maarten. Another was seriously injured there. Another person was also hurt in St. Barts. A woman in St. Maarten sent this video of the damage on her street after riding out the storm.


STACY-ANN TAYLOR, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: We survived the hurricane. It was hell last night. It was hell. I don't wish this for any of my enemies.


VAUSE: Barbuda was devastated by Irma, the winds blowing in at well above the threshold of a Category 5 storm, killing a child and wiping out the island's telecommunication system.

The prime minister says the island is now barely habitable. These images from hurricane hunters flying through the eye of the storm (INAUDIBLE) look relatively calm, but the plane was clearly shaking as it flew through the eye wall.

Hurricane Irma is far from over. It's projected to hit the northern coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic next and the UN believes it could affect up to 37 million people.

CNN's George Howell joins us now live from San Juan in Puerto Rico. And, George, the wind, what's the situation? Is it starting to die down, keeping in mind there is still this threat of flash flooding as well as landslides?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Of course. Yes, things have died down a bit. But, John, it is important to point out, we are still feeling the effects of the storm still within its bands of reach. From time to time, you can get the heavy rain that comes and goes. You can also get those wind gusts that come and go. But as of the moment, many people on this island breathing a sigh of relief, feeling that people here dodged a bullet.

But let's talk about the damage that we do know of as of this point. We know that the electrical grid for many people is out. At least a million customers are without power. Some 70 percent of customers, in fact, without power.

The governor of this US territory says that there were no injuries reported. But, again, as you pointed out, significant damage that can only be determined by light of day. The good news again that this storm was just to the north of this island. We were on the southern part of it. We still felt the intense winds.

And I can tell you, John, from covering many of these hurricanes, this was one of the most intense storms that I have ever experienced, even though we were on the southern part of it, and not the dirty side of it, the northwestern side - the northeastern side, I should say, of the storm. The south side of the storm not quite as bad from what we could have experienced here.

VAUSE: Yes. We were hearing that too from a lot of people, who basically rode out the storm with the shutters of windows boarded up and that kind of thing.

When you look at the images from those other islands, though, in particular, Barbuda where there has been - a child was killed. And the island has basically been flattened. That, I guess, in many ways is a grim warning of the power that Irma could be bringing to the US mainland.

HOWELL: No. It is a clear warning. And that's something that people should take heed of because what many people experienced here - and they understand it. This is an historic storm. They understand they dodged a bullet. You saw what happened to Barbuda.

That storm is moving toward the United States. And I can even tell you, from my own anecdotal experience from covering storms, this was intense, it is no joke.

So, for people who see this broadcast, for people who are on the fence, if you are a deciding whether to evacuate or not, certainly important to listen to the officials in your area, important to evacuate because this is a very strong, powerful storm that is moving toward the United States.

VAUSE: OK, George. Thanks for the coverage. We'll talk to you again and we appreciate it.

On the island of St. Maarten, before and after pictures show the damage from Hurricane Irma. A CNN viewer sent us these pictures from a marina (INAUDIBLE). Beautiful and blue before the storm. After, you can see boats thrown about and trees ripped to pieces.

French officials say the storm tore the roofs of houses and knocked out power and communication systems.

Earlier, I spoke to one woman who was vacationing in St. Maarten. Hurricane Irma trapped her inside her hotel.


[02:05:03] LOREN ANN MAYO, STRANDED IN ST. MAARTEN: We had no idea what we were in for. We heard it on the news. We heard it from our families. And being from Florida, I have never experienced anything like this. And a couple of members of our group have actually are born in Florida or have lived there recently and nothing like this.

We were prepared as far as food and water and things like that, but for the amount of rain beating on our balcony doors and the wind and just everything in general, the flooding that that came into our hotel room, we just had no idea really what to expect and it was a terrifying adventure that we've been on.

So, we're all safe right now. We're really happy about that, but we went to walk around the -

VAUSE: Sorry, didn't mean -

MAYO: Sorry?

VAUSE: Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt, Loren. I was just curious if you could talk about the rain and the wind at the peak of the storm. Just how powerful was it? And you said that the rain and the water kept coming in to the hotel room where you guys were taking shelter.

MAYO: Right. So, we have a front door that faced basically the first half of the hurricane and then eye passed over us and the second half came through the back.

So, we were - the water - we're on the sixth floor of this hotel. So, it wasn't the waves that came up or anything like that. It was actually the rain water. There was just so much rain and we have three sets of sliding balcony doors that it rained so hard that it slipped through the crack in the framework of the glass doors and we had probably 3 or 4 inches on the floor of our entire two bedroom room that we're staying in.

VAUSE: When that was happening, Loren, what were you thinking at the time when all this water kept coming through these glass doors?

MAYO: Well, we stood at the doors for a minute. We filmed some of the rain as you guys probably saw on my Facebook page. And it wasn't until we really realized we were probably in danger and the glass might actually break, even though we were told that the entire building is completely hurricane proof, that we backed off into the bathrooms and that's where we hid for most of the storm.

But the first half before the eye passed over us was just I think - it was like someone was physically just shaking every door as hard as humanly possible. It was rattling. There was noise. There was howling. There was rain coming from every direction. And if there was an - once it got light enough outside that we could actually see what was happening. There was just this creepy blue little light where we could see the rain coming through and I've never seen anything like it.


VAUSE: Loren Ann Mayo there speaking to me short time ago from St. Maarten.

Well, Irma is expected to reach the Florida area in about three days. The Florida Keys have already begun to evacuate. Many others across Southern Florida are also packing up and leaving.

The state's governor is warning no one should feel safe as the storm gets closer.

CNN's Kyung Lah spoke with one resident who is taking the governor's message to heart.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR US CORRESPONDENT: Everything you own is in your car?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that was inside of this place is inside of this car.

I'm beyond scared right now. I've never experienced a hurricane.

I experienced a tropical storm when I lived in Tampa, but that was nothing. People through Hurrican Harvey. This is hands down - I can't even begin to describe the feelings that I'm going through.


VAUSE: Well, meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is tracking Irma for us. And, Pedram, I know you want to tell us where the storm is and the strength and where it is heading, but I also want to know, if you can tell us why is it so hard to predict where it will end up crossing the US mainland.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEROLOGIST: Yes. So, the timing of where it's going to end up is all dependent on the front. There's a front and a drop in the jet stream. So, the upper level winds in the atmosphere that sometimes when you fly across parts of the world, you get a faster flight one time versus another. These sort of winds, up in the upper levels of the atmosphere, dictate where the storm ends up.

It is not the ocean currents beneath it. It is the upstairs elements that dictate the movement of this storm. And that front, as it comes to the south on Friday, into Saturday, is really going to dictate how the storm turns or when it turns based on when that front interacts with it. So, it's multiple things at once. And, of course, depending on how it currently interacts with the islands that it's crossing will all dictate where it wobbles. So, these storms do not travel in a straight line. They wobble back and forth. If you were to look at this in a very close perspective and draw lines, you would see the meander across their path, as they move forward

But I want to talk about something here because just doing some research on this and looking back, just out of curiosity, of how many storms we've had ever since 1851, when records began, in the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean that were hurricanes or tropical storms. That number is 2,600.

Only 32 of these 2,600 storms have reached Category 5 strength. Zero have been as strong as Irma has. Out of 2,600, zero have been as strong as Irma has for as long as Irma has seen and reached this magnitude and retained it.

[02:10:14] But in the last couple of minutes, the National Hurricane Center reducing the wind speed from 290 kilometers per hour down to 280 kilometers per hour - or 85, I should say. A negligible difference.

We believe that is probably because of the southern interaction here with parts of Puerto Rico. Much the same could occur as it moves over Hispaniola. Of course, the track is going to begin to move towards the north and west. So, perhaps lessening the impact on Hispaniola as far as weakening even further this.

But as you notice the progression on this, the Turks and Caicos in the crosshairs of the storm system. Later on, on Thursday afternoon and beyond that, the Bahamas.

Together, these islands are homes to over 0.5 million people. Together, several million people visit every single year. And you see the storm surge, 4.5 meters to 6 meters. They do not have more elevation than, say, a couple of meters to work with across much of these islands.

And when you bring 6 meter storm surge in these regions, homes will be entirely washed away. Also, their foundation. Which is why this story could be as devastating as folks have ever experienced.

And again, when you think about 2,600 of these storms have moved across these regions, zero have been as strong for as long as this storm has.

And I want to go in for a close look because the Turks and Caicos being in the direct path of this, you notice the forecast of where this major hurricane Irma is expected to move. The northern and eastern side of the storm, which is by far the strongest, the most devastating side of the storm, but line perfectly here with what are essentially 40 low-lying coral islands.

And these are part of the continental crust that was left over when the continents separated from Africa and became itself on its own with North America. So, what is left beyond this, some limestone shelves here offshore. And these do not have much, if anything, as far as elevation to work with.

So, you can essentially walk out hundreds of meters into the ocean and still be in ankle deep water, which gives the most beautiful beaches on our planet across this region. And they're in the crosshair here with the storm moving ashore later on today.

And notice the track. It does take it out towards Cuba. That's where confidence is high of where it's going to be on Saturday, John.

But, again, there is a disturbance coming out of the eastern United States that'll bring autumn like temperatures down into parts of even Florida. That is going to dictate where the storm turns. And at this point, the timing of that is what is very difficult.

And, in fact, the National Weather Service across dozens of cities in the United States is sending special weather balloons up at this hour to try to learn where this front is going to go, which typically would be the first shot of autumn air right now. It could have - $50 billion to $100 billion of implication in damage, if it doesn't track and send the storm offshore.

VAUSE: OK. Hopefully, we'll get a better idea, the closer it gets. Thanks, Pedram.


VAUSE: Well, the island of Barbuda took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma. The prime minister calls the destruction unprecedented and says the island is literally rubble. And he spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper.


COOPER: Mr. Prime Minister, if you could describe the scene you saw over Barbuda today.

PRIME MINISTER GASTON BROWNE, ANTIGUA & BARBUDA (via telephone): It was heart-wrenching, absolutely devastating.

I have never seen any such destruction on a per capita basis compared to what I saw in Barbuda this afternoon.

Ninety-five percent of the properties in Barbuda were damaged. The infrastructure was damaged. All of the institutions, the lone hospital, the schools. It is absolutely heart-wrenching.

COOPER: You said that 95 percent of the structures are damaged. How many of those are completely destroyed?

BROWNE: In my estimation, probably about - probably 20 percent, 30 percent of the properties were totally demolished. And let me add here to that, even the lone airport as well was damaged. So, it cannot accommodate any form of flight. The only way to access them now is by helicopters. We have a situation too in which the telecommunication system was totally destroyed. So, for example, we have seen cell towers literally broken in two.

COOPER: So, is the island right now cut off?

BROWNE: Well, it was. And that is why it took us so long because we could not have gotten any form of communication. They had a ham system there that was actually ham radio system. It was destroyed. They even had a few satellite phones and apparently those got damaged during the storm.

So, they had absolutely no mechanism to communicate with us. It was too treacherous for any boats to go over to Barbuda and even try helicopter. But a few of us have journeyed over there this afternoon.

We actually risked the elements to get an idea as to what was happening because we noticed that after about 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. last night or this morning, we could not have gotten any form of communication from Barbuda.

COOPER: In some of the video from today, we can see the cell tower seems just snapped. In terms of injuries or fatalities, what have you learned?

BROWNE: Well, luckily, there was only one fatality. I'm told that, apparently, one of the properties that was destroyed and the mother was actually moving the child and, obviously, they were trying to get to safer ground, and they were in the process of leaving the property that was damaged. Apparently, the child suffered a fatal injury.

[02:15:16] But when you look at the extent of the devastation, I'm surprised that we did not have any more fatalities. So that in itself would have confirmed that they would have had a high level of preparedness.

But the monstrosity that this storm was, anything that would have been in its path, evidently, would have suffered the wrath of that storm.

So, it is easily one of the most consequential storms to have actually developed in the Atlantic and certainly to have actually stormed through the Caribbean.

COOPER: What are the capabilities in terms of relief of getting what's needed to that island? I know you said the runway is damaged. Obviously, that's something that needs to be repaired in order to bring in large aircraft.

BROWNE: Well, yes. So, what we'll have to do is to use Antigua as a hub and then to then use helicopters and some boats to move these relief items into Barbuda.

And we're presently negotiating with different international agencies in different countries. We've actually estimated the rebuilding effort to be no less than probably US$100 million, and that is conservative because you're talking about putting - by rebuilding everything, all of the institutions, the infrastructure for telecommunication, to roads, curbs and drains.

It is just absolutely heart-wrenching. Even the two hotels on the island, those are totally demolished as well. It is terrible.

COOPER: Prime Minister Browne, I appreciate your time tonight and wish you the best. Thank you.

BROWNE: Thank you, sir.


VAUSE: Well, still to come here, millions are still trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Now, Irma is heading to the US mainland, raising questions about the government's ability to help with the recovery and the research - the rescue efforts, rather, which is still to come.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. We're tracking Hurricane Irma, which is barreling the Caribbean with winds near 300 kilometers per hour.

Irma is one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record. It's killed at least three people so far and caused catastrophic damage to a number of islands.

The exact path of Irma is uncertain, but forecasters believe it will side-swipe the northern coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and could hit South Florida in the coming days.

All told, the UN believes Irma could impact up to 37 million people.

Here's a first-hand look at what it means to be hit by those incredibly powerful winds. This was the scene on the British Virgin Islands.

Kennedy Banda says he recorded the pictures moments before the doors and windows were blown out. He says seven people, including his two young children, were sheltering in the bathroom. He had to push against the door to try keep it closed.

[02:20:14] And this is from the hurricane's eye wall as it passed over the US Virgin Islands.

Well, I spoke with Raphael Lemaitre, the Former Director of Public Affairs for FEMA and CNN's National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem.


Juliette, long before this storm gets to Florida, right now, Puerto Rico is feeling the brunt of Irma. What's the biggest danger for the people of Puerto Rico. What's your advice for them right now as this wind and this rain continues to hit the island?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Basically that it's not over yet because it didn't hit - so far, Puerto Rico has not gotten a direct hit.

But as the correspondents have been saying, the next wave comes, which is, of course, storm surge, flooding and then sort of the deterioration in some ways of critical infrastructure.

So, all of these islands, whether they're directly hit or not are going to sort of face this second wave almost immediately of the flooding and concerns then go to public health concerns and then, of course, public safety concerns if infrastructure is down.

So, it's going to be a very long haul. I will say there is some silver linings that we're hearing. We're not hearing a lot of fatality rates, something that we do measure success by. We don't know what the final numbers will be like.

But at least the numbers we're hearing so far are not catastrophic, when you actually think about what these islands have been facing. Part of that is because of - some of the planning part of that is because people were able to at least evacuate to higher level.

So, that's what I'm looking at as it heads towards Florida and then, of course, what Florida is going to do in terms of its own evacuation planning.

VAUSE: We will get to Florida in a moment. But, Rafael, I just want to talk about as Puerto Rico and some of the other islands right now, particularly Puerto Rico. What capacity do they have to get out there for this recovery effort, if you like, once the worst is over.

RAFAEL LEMAITRE, FORMER DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, FEMA: Well, the good news is that FEMA treats these territories and those islands as if they were a state. So, the good news is that we've had federal officials there that are pre-deployed.

FEMA, I know, has been in touch with state and local officials to make sure that they're getting preparedness information out to local officials. They've also prepositioned supplies, food, water, tarps, those kinds of material, should they be requested by the governor and the officials there.

But Juliette is absolutely right. We're still not out of the woods. They need to remember that actually a lot of fatalities continue to occur after landfall - downed powerlines, flooding. And so, it's important that people there stay vigilant.

VAUSE: OK. This now gets us to the issue of what happens in the next couple of days when Irma sort of heads towards Florida, maybe makes landfall, which looks likely, which will be the second major hurricane to hit the mainland US in two weeks.

This is raising a lot of concerns about the capacity of FEMA to deal with two major disasters like this. The FEMA boss, he admitted that there is strain, but they're not being stretched.

How do you see it, Juliette? Are they able to cope with these emergencies back to back? LEMAITRE: I think so. First of all, people should know FEMA is divided into different regions. So, there's not like one FEMA that's deployed. And Texas is a different region than Florida. And so - they're four and six.

And so, there's a new region that has to deal with this. It's not to say that people aren't tired, that the agency itself isn't overstretched.

But one of the benefits of having divided their assets, their people, deploying materials that may be needed that those have been done separately. So, that's good news.

The second thing, of course, is each of these events is actually a local event. It's going to be driven by local decision making about what Floridians should do. I urge people in Florida listen to your local emergency managers and then local press about what to do rather than people on the national level or saying everyone should evacuate. That's just not the way it works.

Just one final thing on FEMA, though. What we don't know is these storms after storms, right? So, we've had Texas, Florida, we've got two more out in the Atlantic. And I think it's safe to say that, at some stage, it does - these storms are going to stretch even the federal government's capacity if they just keep coming as they are right now.

VAUSE: With that in mind, Rafael, the conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, he is actually based in Florida. He was on his radio show earlier this week.

He's told his listeners not to take this storm too seriously or listen to the advice of the government. He said it was all conspiracy to promote climate change. And also went on to say it was all a money- making scam. This is part of what he said on Tuesday.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO SHOW HOST: There is a symbiotic relationship between retailers and local media. And it's related to money. The media benefits with the panic, with increased eyeballs, and the retailers benefit from the panic, with increased sales. And the TV companies benefit because they're getting advertising dollars from the businesses that are seeing all this attention from customers.


[02:25:16] VAUSE: So, Rafael, lot of people listen to Rush Limbaugh. They hang on to his every word. So, what impact could something like this have in a disaster like this?

LEMAITRE: Those are dangerous messages, clear and simple. We can't muddy the waters ahead of storms. Everyone needs to be speaking with a clear voice.

Governor Rick Scott, who is a Republican, has been very clear to residents of Florida that they need to take this storm seriously. If anything, these storms are a huge strain on the disaster relief fund and on taxpayers.

And frankly, it's these private organizations that come in first after there are disasters in many areas to provide food and water and these kinds of services.

So, it's really not helpful to have that kind of mixed message going out to people. We really need people to listen to science-based information about what they should do ahead of these storms.

VAUSE: Yes, good advice. Rafael, thank you very much for being with us. Also, Juliette, we appreciate your advice and your insight as this disaster passes and heads to the US mainland. Appreciate it.

Well, North Korea is celebrating its recent nuclear test with fireworks and a parade in Pyongyang. North Korea has lined up to throw confetti and cheered for the scientists involved in Sunday's hydrogen bomb test.

A different scene though in South Korea. Hundreds of protesters fought with police outside a military base where US antimissile systems are being deployed. Authorities say dozens of people were injured during the protests.

A short break here. When we come back, we'll be live in Puerto Rico for an update after the island was slammed on Wednesday by one of the most powerful storms ever recorded.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. Hurricane Irma is now approaching the Dominican Republic as it churns west through the Caribbean as Category 5 storm.

Puerto Rico was slammed as the storm passed of its coast to the north. A million people there are without power.

To the east, the island of Barbuda took a direct hit from these 300- kilometer-per-hour winds, making it one of the most powerful storms on record and leaving 95 percent of the buildings there damaged or destroyed.

And this is how it looked and sounded on the island of St. Maarten. The French interior minister says some of the strongest buildings on the island, including the police station and government offices, have been destroyed.

CNN's George Howell live again for us this hour in St. Maarten, Puerto Rico. So, George, a million people without electricity. Officials have been warning it will take months to repair the grid. What's the latest?

HOWELL: Electricity was absolutely a problem going into the storm, John. And now we understand some 70 percent of customers without power, one million customers. We also learned a new number, 56,000 people without water. Water is a problem. So that's something else that will have to be addressed as we see light of day. The amount of damage on this island, from place to place, you can see trees that are down. Things of that nature. But a great deal will have to be assessed during the daylight hours.

We know many people breathing a sigh of relief, John, that they dodged a bullet. The eye wall of the storm passed to the north of Puerto Rico, and that's the good news, because the closer you get to the eye, the stronger, the more intense the wind, the more intense the rain. Not to say that wasn't experienced here. Just 30 to 50 miles ay from the eye of the storm, it was an intense, powerful storm. One hell of a night for many people. But this is certainly ominous for many people in the path of the storm. Something they should take heed of. It is a very strong beast of a storm that is moving towards the United States.

VAUSE: At this point, George, no fatalities there in Puerto Rico. We hope it stays that way. Is that because of good planning at this point or just good luck?

HOWELL: Maybe a little bit of both, John. Many people around the world saw what happened with Hurricane Harvey and people here saw that as well. When we arrive on the island, you can see many people, you can see them boarding up their stores, homes, taking the necessary precautions to get food, water supplies. Also paying attention to the advisories. There was a mandatory evacuation that many people took part in, taking advantage of the nearly 500 shelters open for people. There was a great deal of warning that went out, many heeded that warning, and that is the good news this day. But we'll learn more about the true extent of the damage, John, as we have daylight hours.

VAUSE: George, we appreciate the update. And still a long night ahead for you. But thank you.

Irma has caused chaos with airline schedules. Hundreds of flights have been canceled, but not Delta 431. Out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and into New York City in quick time. Aviation expert live tweeted the flight. "You really want to fly to San Juan during a category 5 hurricane? Delta 431? Everyone else has turned around." Then this, "Now flight 302 has to climb out of San Juan, and they're doing so between the outer bands of Irma and the core of the storm." Amazing stuff. Delta says the flight was never in harm's way and the pilot's followed proper procedures.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's government is facing a crucial test in parliament as M.P.s begin debating a key Brexit bill. On Wednesday, Prime Minister May said, "The repeal bill helps deliver the outcome the British people voted for by ending the role of the E.U. in U.K. law. But it's also the single most important step we can take to prevent a cliff-edge for people and businesses because it provides legal certainty."

CNN's Max Foster is live outside the British parliament this hour.

Max, good to see you. The main aim of the legislation is to incorporate 40 years of E.U. law into U.K. law. Pretty simple, pretty bland. So why is it facing such stiff-arm opposition here?

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a symbolic moment, as you say, because the bill that was voted on in 1972 which made Britain part of the European Union will be repealed if this vote goes through. And then all of that law that has taken place on the continent with respect to the U.K. will be brought back the U.K., to the parliament behind me. Big part of the whole Brexit process and the vote in the referendum was bringing sovereignty back to the House of Parliament, back from Brussels. As you say, it has become very controversial, not because anyone opposes Brexit. I think most politicians agree that the will of the people was Britain wanted to leave European Union. And now it's how the process takes place. And there's a great deal of concern that as the laws that come back into parliament are transferred into U.K. law, they won't be scrutinized in a detailed way as laws normally are here. And it's effectively a paragraph by the government. And it's not just an issue for the opposition here, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party. But many people within the Conservative Party itself. They are concerned for the type of Brexit we're looking at right now isn't what they want and they want to oppose it and make their voice heard. We'll hear that in the coming days.

[02:35:00] VAUSE: So when do they begin debating the bill? And when do we expect a vote? Any chance it will be defeated?

FOSTER: There is a chance it could be defeated. We had an election early on in the year and Theresa May lost her big majority. Not quite enough. If the opposition are against this bill and she needs the DUP on board and, to make sure they all are, then it's a case of how many are on her side. It's a huge test of Theresa May's authority, whether or not she can be forward effectively. As there's certainly people in the Conservative Party that want to see her go. All sorts of instability though. Is it the best thing for the country? The best thing for the party? These are the sorts of debate we'll see over the coming days. The vote is due Monday evening, local time.

VAUSE: So some interesting days ahead.

Back to Wednesday, though, a coalition of more than 80 pro-Brexit conservative lawmakers said there's a powerful legal case that the U.K. doesn't owe the E.U. a penny at the time of withdrawal. This has been quite contentious because the E.U. says the E.U. owes Britain about $12 billion. How will that be met with in brussels?

FOSTER: Hugely sensitive issue here, because many people who voted for Brexit don't feel any money should be going to the European Union. The of the whole process was that money would come back to the European Union. It's not as simple as that. And there are ongoing commitments to Britain will be involved in that they'll have to pay into. The issue currently in the negotiations between the U.K. and the E.U. are they're not moving forward at all. They're making no progress on core issues they should be making progress on, which they're all said they'd make progress on. One of the main issues for the U.K. side is that the negotiators aren't empowered to negotiate this. Every time they want to get something through, they have to go back to Paris and Berlin. So those are very slow, tense, and they're not making any progress. That a reality right now.

VAUSE: Which, oddly enough, is one of the reasons why so many in Britain wanted to get out of the E.U. in the first place.

Max, thank you. Good to see you.

Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, President Trump crosses the aisle on a major funding deal, essentially crossing the Republican leadership in the process.


VAUSE: Welcome back everybody. Texas has a long recovery process after Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma is threatening large-scale damage to Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

President Trump says the administration is ready to help.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a new and seems to be record-breaking hurricane heading right towards Florida and Puerto Rico and other places. We'll see what happens. We'll know in a very short period of time, but it looks like it could be something that will be not good. Believe me, not good.


[02:40:11] VAUSE: Meantime, in U.S. politics, Republican officials say President Trump blindsided congressional leaders by siding with Democrats on a major deal to keep the government up and running. This photo says it all, taken through the Oval Office window. That's the president getting up close and comfy with Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, whom Trump has referred to in the past as "Crying Chuck." No tears now however. "Crying Chuck" cut a deal to extend the debt ceiling by three months in exchange for an $8 billion emergency funding package for relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

I asked our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, about that deal a little earlier.


VAUSE: This was a true bizarro-world moment. The Republican president taking the first offer put on the table by Democrats and then he went on to talk it up. Listen to what he said.


TRUMP: Mitch and Paul and everybody, Kevin, and we walked out and everybody was happy. Not too happy, because you can never be too happy, but they were happy enough.


VAUSE: "Mitch" being the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and "Paul" being House Speaker Paul Ryan.


RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He condemned the idea 20 minutes before he walked in the room.

VAUSE: There are lot of things right now, but they're not happy.

BROWNSTEIN: No. It's hard to know whether this is strategy or caprice. Even as this is happening, the administration and congressional Republicans are negotiating a tax bill that completely excludes Democrats. They're still maneuvering literally to try to revive by the end of September a repeal of Obamacare that completely excludes Democrats. And then the president, with no advanced notice to anybody, including his own staff, decides he's going to make a deal with Democrats on extending the debt ceiling and funding the government into December and getting the disaster relief funding for Texas. Do you have a strategy or do you have just an erratic caprice?



VAUSE: Some say the president just wanted a win.

BROWNSTEIN: I think he just could afford a loss. There's no win here. The president has agreed to the Democratic desire to extend the debt limit, which we have to raise in the U.S. because we run an annual deficit, only until December. Republicans wanted one vote at the end of September, sweeten it with the disaster relief for Texas, and have that extend through the 2018 election. What the president agreed to was extending only until December. Meaning they'll have to cast another vote and another vote. And historically, it's been hard for Republicans to get the vote to raise the debt limit because many of their conservative members won't vote for it without large spending cuts. So he gave Democrats more leverage in a second vote in December.


VAUSE: CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, speaking with me a short time ago.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

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