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Hurricane Irma Slams Caribbean, Florida Braces for Impact; Monster Hurricane Bears Down on Haiti; Trump Opens Door to Working on 'DREAMers' with Dems. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 7, 2017 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:59:01] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching NEW DAY. It is Thursday, September 7, 6 a.m. here in New York. And we do begin with breaking news for you.

At this hour, the Dominican Republic is beginning to feel the wrath of Hurricane Irma. Rain and wind are picking up on that island. Haiti, the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos also in the line of fire.

Florida is bracing for a potential direct hit from this deadly Category 5 storm. And there are mandatory evacuations already under way in some parts of the state. Landfall there is expected this weekend.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: There is still time. The hope is that that shift to the east continues. We'll be watching it. But right now Irma is punishing Puerto Rico. It wasn't even a direct hit, and still more than one million customers, no power. More than 56,000, no water.

The pictures tell the story. The monster storm literally the size of Texas, unleashing its fury on the tiny island of Barbuda. A hundred- and-eight-five-mile-an-hour winds. This is what they do. Disaster zone. Ninety-five percent of the buildings are damaged or destroyed. That's according to the prime minister. He flew over it. He says it's barely habitable.

Remember, there's another storm on the way in that direction. At this point nine people are reported dead, including an infant. The United Nations says the hurricane could impact up to 37 million people.

CNN has this storm covered like no other network can. Let's begin with CNN's Leyla Santiago, live in San Juan, Puerto Rico -- Leyla.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, we're certainly still feeling the wind, and there's still a bit of rain coming down. The big problems on this island right now you mentioned, the power. Yes, more than a million people without power at this hour, more than 56,000 without water; and there is no word on when that will come back. Officials saying this might not be a matter of days but rather weeks or months.

We are expecting the governor to give up an update in about an hour. So hopefully, we'll get more details.

In the meantime, emergency crews are already on the streets, trying to get fallen trees off the roads and help the people who may be also dealing with flooding. But you know, I'll tell you what, people here considering themselves lucky when you think about the other islands in this Caribbean.

Let's go to Barbuda, where it has certainly seen devastation. Government officials there saying this damage is estimated to be at $100 million. Ninety-five percent of the buildings seeing damage there. And even worse, this has proven to be deadly. This claiming a life of an infant in Barbuda. And that is not the only life. In St. Thomas, we have six deaths reported there and dozens injured. Obviously, those numbers we are expecting to rise because this, Chris, is not over yet for the Caribbean.

Fair point. It is hard to look at those pictures and imagine how anybody survives. Leyla, stay safe there. Traveling around after a hurricane, not easy. We'll check back with you in a little bit.

So where are we looking at next? Northern Haiti, that's Irma's path. Hurricane-force winds, torrential rains. Fears of deadly mudslides. That's a particular concern when it comes to Haiti.

CNN's Paula Newton is live in Haiti with the latest. You heard us talking about the mudslides. You've lived it before. We know what happens in that place, and help is slow and always inadequate.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Slow, Chris, and still preparations are a bit unnerving here. There are not a heck of a lot of evacuations going on. What is happening now, it just started raining.

We are expecting this storm to hit later this afternoon. Like you said, though, it's the flooding and the mudslide risk. We had people during Hurricane Matthew last year that were literally swept right from their homes into the ocean.

And as I said, unsettling, the lack of preparation. People know a storm is coming, but there really isn't much they can do. Remember, Chris, this is the poorest country in the hemisphere. They are bracing themselves. And you know, what passes for preparation here is a heck of a lot of prayer.

I don't have to remind you that this country has already dealt with a lot. The earthquake several years ago. We had a cholera epidemic. And I can tell you from being here during that time in the villages, these are not well-equipped medically to handle anything. On top of that, we had that devastating hurricane last year, Matthew. Massive destruction. It killed hundreds. Alisyn, here, as I said, they are praying.

CAMEROTA: Understood, Paula. Thank you very much. We'll check back with you.

Hurricane Irma is starting to hit the Dominican Republic. That's where we find Felicia Gilbert. She is stuck in her hotel room in Punta Cana.

Felicia, can you hear us?


CAMEROTA: OK, hi. So tell us what's happening there. What conditions are you seeing around you?

GILBERT: So outside there's just lots and lots of wind. You can actually hear it from inside the room. We've been told to stay in our rooms, put our luggage in the bathroom. We've been moved further inland from the room we were originally in at this resort. So -- and they gave us lots of water yesterday. So we're just doing what we can to kind of wait it out and hope that things clear up at some point.

CAMEROTA: Well, they will clear up at some point, but I think it's going to get worse before it gets better. We've been told by our meteorologist that the eye is going to arrive where you are about two hours from now. So it will get accelerated and worse as the eye approaches you.


CAMEROTA: Are you seeing the conditions, are you seeing the wind and the rain get worse at this point?

GILBERT: We are seeing that. Actually, I've heard it pick up in the last probably 10, 15 minutes or so.

CAMEROTA: How long have you been in your hotel room?

GILBERT: So we've been in this room for a little over a day. But we checked into this resort on Sunday.

CAMEROTA: OK. So what were you doing there? Is this supposed to be your vacation?

[06:05:02] GILBERT: This is a much-needed vacation, and unfortunately, it's been hampered, obviously, by -- by the storm that we were not expecting, or we were hoping would not get as bad as it's gotten.

CAMEROTA: Yes. This is not the stress-relieving vacation you were hoping for. I've been to Punta Cana. It's beautiful there. How are you going to get out now? What is your plan?

GILBERT: We're scheduled to fly out tomorrow, on Friday afternoon, given that my understanding Jose is behind Irma. So I don't know the chances of us actually making our flight. And unfortunately, our flight -- we're supposed to have a layover in San Juan Puerto Rico. So that's obviously very problematic. So I don't really know when we're actually going to be able to get out. JetBlue still hasn't -- it's my understanding our flight has not been canceled yet. So it's harder to rebook if your flight has not yet been canceled.

CAMEROTA: Who are you with there? GILBERT: I'm with -- I'm with two friends of mine.

CAMEROTA: OK, and I mean...

GILBERT: This was a girl's trip, you know, beach time. And it's obviously been a little bit different than what we expected.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Did you know that Irma was headed in that direction when you booked your girls' trip?

GILBERT: I did not know when I booked. But I spent a lot of time on the TripAdvisor travel forums, and I was definitely seeing sort of a pickup in traffic and people asking questions about that and expressing concern in the days leading up. But I just hoped that, you know, sort of given the path can change sometimes and that it looked like, at the time, it was going to be more north of the island, that we would be OK. And you know, obviously, it's kind of a gamble to take. And if we didn't come, we would have lost all our money, and you know, maybe that would have been the smarter thing to do. I don't know.

CAMEROTA: Yes, yes. I know, understood. I mean, these things are always a gamble.

And so, I mean, in terms of your nerves and how you're feeling, you know, on a scale of one to ten, how anxious are you right now?

GILBERT: I would say I'm probably at, like, a six. I think it really helps that we are at a resort that seems like they are taking the threat very seriously, and I would say as of over a day ago, we saw crews of people coming in with sandbags, sort of removing all types of furniture and chairs and things that could, you know, be knocked over or get caught up in the wind and hit someone, and we got notices under our door. So it seems like they're taking it seriously.

And as much as that could potentially make us nervous, I think we're happy to know that they're doing what they can to sort of take care of us and keep -- keep their guests safe. I think that definitely helps. And being further inland away from the beach, since we've been moved to a different part of the resort. So it makes me feel a little bit better.

CAMEROTA: OK, that's good. Well, Felicia, stay safe. We will check back with you through the program over these next three hours. It will be intense. But obviously, you are prepared and you can retreat even further into the interior of your hotel room. So thank you very much. Stay safe. We'll check back.

GILBERT: Thanks. You're welcome.


CUOMO: All right. So my Twitter feed is lighting up, saying, "Wow, Cuomo said Irma is the size of Texas. Well, here it is. Look at this image. It shows Irma superimposed over Texas. The storm is not over Texas. We're just laying it over there to show you dimensionally what we're talking about. The size is impressive. But the direction is what matters.

Let's get the latest on Hurricane Irma's track, from CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. And I know that all these islands matter, but people here in the United States are so worried about Florida.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, of course. And the models we've been looking at this morning still have pretty much a direct hit on some part of Florida.

The lady that we had online, a little TV right there, she's there. The eye is well north of her and moving away. No threat to that island at all, at least not from Jakata (ph). The threat to Dominican Republic is along the spine of the mountains here. As the rain piles up, it will flood and it will flash flood back down toward the ocean. Haiti, same story, same type of spine, same flash flooding on the north side.

Now let's move you forward here. We're going to put you into motion and take you right into Florida, because that's where the center of the hurricane track now is from the National Hurricane Center. Very close to what I would call the ocean reef in the Florida Keys as a Cat 4 storm.

Now, there are a couple different things that can go on here. Notice the eye and also notice the cone. The middle through here, the cone on this side, less of a cone on the left side of Florida than on the right side of Florida, which means the chance of it being over here is about 5 percent, over here about 5 percent. Somewhere in the middle about 60 percent. That's kind of how the cone kind of works there.

[06:10:07] But there is the cone, the middle of the cone on Sunday morning, late Saturday night after dark. This is what the models look like now. Many of them just offshore in Miami, a couple of them right along the coast, kind of like a Matthew scenario where it just won't leave. It's just pounding the coast for hours and hours.

And only one model, the U.K. net, the United Kingdom net model right through here on the west side of this, going through Key West and back up through the central part of the country.

I'm believing this because there are so many to the east right along the coast. I would hate to see a storm, though, scour the east coast with 130-mile-per-hour winds, making landfall somewhere around Key Biscayne, and running all the way through on up toward Jupiter and then finally getting offshore. That would be worst-case scenario, because half would be on land. Half would be on water, and it wouldn't die. And we'd still have 130- to 145-mile-per-hour winds all the way up the East Coast. That's what we're watching today. We'll keep you advised.

CAMEROTA: OK. That is a scary scenario. Thank you very much, Chad. We'll check back with you.

So in Florida, coastal evacuations are underway. Many scrambling for water, food and fuel. That's where we find CNN's Rosa Flores. She's live for us in Miami. What's the situation, Rosa? ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, good morning.

As the sun rises over Miami, there is a longer and longer list of evacuations. In Miami-Dade, the evacuation orders have been issued for anyone living in a mobile home, also anyone living in Zone A, which includes low-lying coastal areas, includes the island that's to my south, as well, and it includes barrier islands where I'm standing right now, which is Miami Beach.

Mercy Hospital is also evacuating about 200 patients. Now our friends to the south in Monroe County, which includes the Keys, according to the governor, 25,000 people have already evacuated. And then our friends to the north in Broward County, evacuation orders there have been issued for anyone living in a mobile home, anyone living in low- lying areas and anyone living east of U.S. 1, which includes Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach.

And as more and more people in South Florida begin to move north -- because remember, that's the only way out of Florida. You can't go east. You can't go west. We are hearing reports of gas shortages, empty shelves as more and more families are trying to get out of this danger zone. And according to Florida Highway Patrol. They tell us that they are seeing an increase of traffic. They've seen an increase of disabled vehicles on the side of the road. And starting today, they're going to start towing those vehicles to make sure to make way for all of the vehicles that are heading north away from the storm.

Now, as more and more people start doing that, Chris, we're of course, expecting even more evacuations to happen. It all depends where Irma is going. It all depends on what public officials will be directing residents to do later today. And of course, we're going to be keeping an eye on all of that.

CUOMO: And Rosa, as you know, the story in Florida is always about who decides to stay and ride it out. You know, when you have more experience with hurricanes, you can sometimes have confidence, sometimes false confidence.

We'll be down there with you soon. And we're going to have a lot more on Hurricane Irma as the storm continues its move through the Caribbean and up toward Florida. But first, there's a big political story, as well. President Trump blindsiding the leadership of his own party, going directly to Democrats to cut a deal on the debt ceiling. Is this the art of the deal or is this the art of deception? We're going to discuss next.


[06:18:04] CUOMO: President Trump is going to get a full briefing on Hurricane Irma at 10 a.m. Eastern as another kind of storm is swirling on Capitol Hill, a storm whipped up by the president. He stunned Republican leadership. He went right to the Democrats, to Schumer and Pelosi, House and Senate, and made a deal on the debt ceiling. The Republican leadership did not know.

CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House with more on the political fallout. This is one of those stories that's all about perspective. This could be seen as a very good thing or a very bad thing, depending on where you sit, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Chris. The president taking matters into his own hands to get hurricane relief to the victims of the hurricane on the Gulf Coast and, at the same time, increasing federal borrowing power. But he also aligned himself with Democrats, leaving the congressional leadership shell-shocked.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a great meeting with Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the whole Republican leadership.

JOHNS (voice-over): In a stunning move, President Trump bucking his own party, cutting a deal with Democrats to provide disaster relief funding, extend the debt ceiling, and fund the government for three months.

According to a senior White House official, Republican congressional leaders cautioned the president a day earlier that his tax reform plan would have to wait, given other legislative priorities in September.

But President Trump, eager for a win, struck the deal to clear the busy GOP September agenda by knocking off three major issues. House Speaker Paul Ryan blasting the proposal just hours before, pushing for a more long-term solution.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think it's ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment.

JOHNS: A senior Republican source described Trump as being in "Apprentice" mode, making the deal on the spot. A second source saying he cut off Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin mid-sentence.

[06:20:02] At the height of a tense meeting, sources say, first daughter Ivanka Trump entered the Oval Office to pitch her agenda on the child tax credit, throwing the meeting off topic. Republican leaders visibly annoyed by her presence and then left to answer questions on the president's unexpected deal making.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: His feeling was that we needed to come together, to not create a picture of divisiveness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will tell you that I gasped when I heard it. I think he felt like this was the best deal he could get.

TRUMP: We walked out, and everybody was happy, not too happy because you can never be too happy. But they were happy enough.

JOHNS: Seemingly also on the president's mind: opening the door to working with Democrats on a DREAMers' bill as more than a dozen blue- state attorneys general threatened to file suit on his decision to rescind DACA. Trump denying he's sending conflicting messages about his plan.

TRUMP: No mixed signal at all. Congress, I really believe, wants to take care of this situation. Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I.


JOHNS: The president now planning to return to Camp David to meet, this time with his full cabinet to talk about everything from tax cuts to the growing crisis with North Korea.

It comes on the same day his son, Don Jr., is expected to appear on Capitol Hill behind closed doors to answer questions about that controversial and mysterious meeting with the Russian lawyer last year.

Back to you.

CAMEROTA: OK, Joe. We'll get into all of that with our panel. Thank you very much.

Let's bring in CNN political analysts David Gregory and John Avlon; and associate editor and columnist for RealClearPolitics A.B. Stoddard.

A.B., let me start with you. Why did Donald Trump do this? Is this Donald Trump the deal-maker and party be damned?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATED EDITOR/COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: I don't think it was that he really woke up yesterday morning and decided that he wanted to be bipartisan. There's a lot of poison in the well right now. It was really as bad as Republicans thought it could be, with the president attacking Republicans over the summer, when they got back from the August recess with all this work to do in 12 legislative days. This was beyond their imagination.

He basically wanted to do something that he thought would help clear the decks or get back at Republicans or both, but what he's done is made everything way more complicated for his own objectives. He's given the Democrats more leverage before December. He's created another perilous vote for Republicans. He slowed down momentum on tax reform.

CAMEROTA: Wait a second. You say slowed down momentum. I mean, isn't it the breathing room? Wasn't that what he was supposed doing, his aides said, the breathing room of September? Now he can focus...

STODDARD: No. They have to work as a team. They have to do a bunch of other things. To get reconciliation instructions for tax reform, they'd have to come together on a budget that requires a little unity. They're lacking in that department right now. They have to still pass the flood insurance program, the Children's Health Insurance Program, do a bunch of other stuff. They have this disaster relief, which is going to make tax reform and tax cuts far more difficult. The deficit is going to balloon even more between now and December. This idea that somehow he was growing his coalition is hooey. He was

actually just making a shotgun deal that really sells out, in the end, his long-term objectives. And it doesn't really -- I think it makes everything much more complicated for December, but it really, really invites Republicans who have been so acquiescent and silent on Trump to really come out and give up on him now.

CUOMO: That's a good end point there, because that's the -- that's the question. What will they do now? David Gregory, so the president goes and meets with Schumer in the Senate, meets with Pelosi, makes his deal. But it's not his deal. They have to vote on it. Do you think the Republicans will show any kind of spine, if they don't like the deal, and you know, who am I to question A.B. Stoddard? If they don't like the deal, they could not vote for it, right? The leadership could buck it. But everybody is saying that won't happen. So what's the calculus here?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think that's going to happen, because they don't want to mess with the debt ceiling, and it's really more hard-core conservatives, Tea Party folks who have been willing to play chicken on the question of raising the debt ceiling. And the president has really taken that off the table.

I think it's impossible to read too much into this in terms of whether the president is doing what we thought he might do at the beginning of the administration, which is find a way to confuse Democrats by luring them into certain deals and making life more difficult for them politically. There's a lot of time that's already passed and a lot of damage that's been done for that to be real.

But yesterday I talked about the president being a bystander with regard to Congress. Now he's reaching out, alienating conservatives, reaching out to Democrats and seeing where he can do business. And maybe A.B. is right. Maybe there's room here -- the financial questions are difficult. Maybe on comprehensive immigration there's something to be done if he's paving the way for some negotiation with Democrats.

[06:25:05] The real question goes to your question, which is, is he going to start working the conservative base harder to keep them in line? Because he's giving them a lot more room to start walking away -- the conservative movement to start walking away and saying, "Look, this guy is just not -- he's not a party guy. He's not a Republican guy."

And who knows? Maybe Trump wants divided government. You know, maybe he thinks that will be better for him in the long run.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, being a party guy, you know, shouldn't be the standard of success in American politics. And you know, did he undercut his own congressional leadership? Yes. Do they feel betrayed this morning? Yes.

But a president of the United States reached out across the aisle to try to form a bipartisan coalition to avoid an imminent unforced error that would have been a disaster for the country. A possible government shutdown, and he passed -- and passing flood relief at the same time.

That's a good thing if we want to break through partisan deadlocks. Yes, I understand there's a lot of hurt feelings. There's going to be a lot of anger, a lot of implications to his overall agenda. And the congressional leadership, probably, you know, feels completely betrayed by the president. But from an American populist perspective, this is a president who just reached across the aisle to get something done, and that's a good thing.

CAMEROTA: I think that's a really important note, because we don't get to say that often. And, you know, places like Breitbart, Steve Bannon, they don't like it.

AVLON: Yes, no.

CAMEROTA: So here is the headline just to show you, before we move on, Breitbart says, "Meet the Swamp: Donald Trump punts September agenda to December after Meeting with Congress." There you see Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. I mean, these are, you know, what they consider sort of the iconic devils of the other side. And you could see the president in that picture with them.

AVLON: You want to consider the source. Breitbart -- Breitbart is a toxic receptacle for some of the ugliest thought that can be attributed to the right wing.

CAMEROTA: And that's the point, is that he's alienating that base.

CUOMO: But that can only be -- that can only be a good thing for anybody, no matter what your political stripe. But how you do it matters. John, you're right. Reaching across the aisle is good. How you reach across the aisle matters, as well.

STODDARD: I just don't think what he did yesterday is effective. He has not reached out to Democrats in eight months in office, on transportation projects, on immigration, on tax reform, on Obamacare. The Republican Party set out to do that completely on a partisan line vote.

Now they're in a jam because of failure, talking for the first time in a bipartisan way on stabilizing the marketplace for Obamacare. The president just turned yesterday on a dime. He, like I said, was not growing the tent. He was shooting his leadership in the face, and that is going to have repercussions down the line. So it wasn't really a big bipartisan moment, the kind that really lasts, that builds coalitions for the future.

AVLON: That's right. This is a three-month punt. But I think it's still a good thing to get debt -- to get the debt ceiling lifted and disaster relief put through, however it's done.

CAMEROTA: David Gregory, we need to change subjects for a second, because today Don Trump Jr. is going to Capitol Hill. He will be speaking with the staffers of the Judiciary Committee, talking again about the Russia investigation. This is the first time that he, somebody this close -- I guess Don Jr., I should say, is going to be speaking with them. What do we expect?

GREGORY: Well, there's a lot of questions about the circumstances of the meeting, what he thought he was getting, why he was so enthusiastic about getting this kind of information to hurt Hillary Clinton.

And I think all of this, as we start to learn more about other aspects of the investigation, what's in the headlines this morning, that a company with ties to the Kremlin was buying up ads on social issues for Facebook, that kind of media campaign, that propaganda campaign that the Russians were influencing, and they were behind.

This gets to the question of whether they had any witting or unwitting partners in the Trump camp to work to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. So I think that meeting, which we should remember begins with this promise to offer dirt on Hillary Clinton. That's taken enthusiastically by Don Jr. and is shared with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, the campaign manager at the time gets to that critical core question.

AVLON: And look, the reason this is significant isn't just because it's the president's son. That's highly unusual. Let's not forget that.

But the point is that we know that Russia wanted to help the Trump campaign. It's irrefutable now despite all their denials. We know that the only human being not named Trump the president seems to have not criticized is a matter of principle, is Vladimir Putin. And now because of yesterday's story, we know that Facebook gave ads to a Russian-backed firm running ads to influence votes on Russia's behalf -- on Trump's behalf by Russian entities. You don't need -- you know, this is walking and quacking like a duck, folks. And we're going to connect the dots, but that's part of what...

CUOMO: It also matters that he's with the Senate staffers today, not the House. So he's going to get -- it's going to be a much more straightforward situation, much less political.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. So stay with CNN for continuing breaking news coverage. We have, of course, our top story, Hurricane Irma.

But up next, we are live with a hurricane hunter as he tracks the deadly storm from the air.