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Tracking Hurricane Irma; Trump: Military Action is Not His "First Choice" on North Korea; Facebook Sold Political Ads to Russian "Troll Farm". Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 7, 2017 - 06:30   ET


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

[06:30:02] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: 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. Wait until you see this.


CUOMO: This massive storm is ripping through the Caribbean right now. It just started to hit the Dominican Republic. Pictures tell the story. This is from hurricane hunters flying through the eye of the hurricane.

Joining us now from 45,000 feet in the air is NOAA Hurricane Hunters flight director, Paul Flaherty.

Paul, can you hear us?


CUOMO: So, what do you learn from being in the center of this particular storm?

[06:35:03] FLAHERTY: Well, we have airplanes both in the center and also outside of the storm -- I'm on the aircraft outside of the storm right now. We're really focusing on understanding what the steering currents are going to do with this storm. As you can see, it's a bit of a nightmare right now for a lot of people on the ground. We want to make sure we get the right people out of the way at the right time.

CUOMO: What's your best sense at this point, and we know, we keep telling the audience things change. Do you think this storm is going to continue on its current trajectory and hit Florida?

FLAHERTY: Well, as a Floridian right now, I can only say to get everyone in that area prepared. I'm over in Tampa and my family is ready to go if needed, even though we see the general path shift a little bit to the east, we are still going to be prepared.

We want everyone in Florida and everyone up through the Carolinas to be prepared, because if you don't prepare now, you won't have time when we know you have to go.

CUOMO: Fair point. What you're seeing in that storm in terms of steering currents leads you believe there's still a good chance it hits the Florida peninsula?

FLAHERTY: Well, it has a good chance. There's a lot of probabilities in play here. The models are starting to agree more and hopefully as we fly, we can collect more data that will force the models to agree and give us a really good probability of where the storm will go.

CUOMO: Paul, one personal note. When you first decided, yes, I want to be someone who flies into the middle of a hurricane, what was that like, that decision when you actually acted on it the first time?

FLAHERTY: Yes, that's a question I got a lot. I guess I didn't put a lot of thought into it when it first happened. It's what the reactions of others when I say what I do, that really brings the reality to the job.

But it's an amazing job. We don't ever want there to be hurricanes like this, but if there is and we have a role to play to make sure people get out of the way. And I'll come out here and do it every day if I have to.

CUOMO: What stands out about Irma? We know the people who look at the space shots of it are impressed by its formation and its eye. How about you as someone who flies through so many?

FLAHERTY: Yes. I've been doing this job for 15 years and I've seen a lot of big storms from '04, and '05. This one is absolutely gone rank up there. In the end, it really comes down to the destruction the storm causes. That's what's really going to mark the history of this storm.

We can't do much for property except help people get it prepared, but we can't get them out of the way. We just want to make sure everyone knows the reason we're out here so they can listen to the NOAA National Hurricane Center and the emergency managers because we're not out here for fun. We're out here to save some lives. And we just want people to listen to those who tell them what they should do.

CUOMO: There's nothing fun about what you're doing. That's for sure.

Thank you for the service. We're going to check back with you a couple times during the show and see what kind of data you're collecting and what that leads you to believe about this storm.

Please stay safe. I'll check back with you in a little bit, Paul. Thank you.

FLAHERTY: All right. Thank you for having us on.

CUOMO: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Look how calm they are. I'm more nervous on a commercial flight through a few bumps.

CUOMO: I mean that is no joke.

CAMEROTA: I know it isn't. That is incredible that they bring us those pictures.

So, there's a plea from the governor of Florida now to thousands of people in the path of Hurricane Irma, evacuate before it's too late. Are they complying? We're live in the Florida Keys to show you, next.



[06:42:24] GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I cannot stress this enough. Do not ignore evacuation orders. Remember, we can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life.


CUOMO: Governor Rick Scott days in advance urging residents in south Florida to get out. Hurricane Irma is coming, barreling closer. I know you're hearing that the trajectory is shifting east, and I know you're all very savvy down there, but the people who know say it's time to go.

Let's bring in Sheriff Rick Ramsay. He serves Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys.

Sheriff, thank you for joining us. We know you're very busy.

We have a lot of viewers in Florida on this show, and we know they are some of the most storm savvy people in the country and that often fuels decisions to stay. They don't want to leave their home. They want to be there to recover as quickly as possible. They don't want to get locked out of their communities.

But what is your word about what to do now?

SHERIFF RICK RAMSAY, MONROE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, we're telling people here that need to leave, this is one of the most violent storms we've ever seen. We tell people just what the governor said, your life is not worth it. We can rebuild your homes, but we can't take your life back.

So, we're encouraging all our people to follow our mandatory evacuation orders and get out of the Keys and get to safer ground until the storm passes and then come back and see what is here, and if you can, recover what you can of your property. But staying here doesn't help anybody. There could be no essential services, hospitals will be closed, police, fire rescue will be impacted severely.

It's just not a safe place to be here before, during or after a storm. CUOMO: We're showing the roads. They seem to be heavily trafficked right now. What is your observation as to whether or not people are heeding the warnings? What are you seeing on the ground in terms of what is in place for you if you stay?

It seems like all the stores are out. Gas has been harder to get than expected. What are you seeing in that regard as well?

RAMSAY: Well, Chris, this is going to be a difficult time. We have a lot of people who started self-evacuating a day or two prior to the evacuation order, because they saw the magnitude of the storm, 185. So, people left on their own. A couple days ago we had huge amounts of traffic, backflows trying to get people out.

Now traffic is relatively light. But what you said is true. We're experiencing a lot of -- difficulty right now with fuel. A lot of gas stations have shut down, sent employees home, have no fuel.

So, we're worried about what's going to happen. I've been in contact with the governor's office trying to focus on getting fuel down here so that we can make sure the evacuation is smooth. But we are seeing grocery stores empty, supplies are almost gone from the hardware store or the stores are already closed, closed a lot normal than in past hurricanes. Past hurricanes they waited a lot longer. But due to the magnitude, people have heeded the warning and are leaving.

[06:45:00] So, those who are staying are going to have a difficult time with food and water, supplies, gas. One more reason not to be here. There's nothing to help deal with any crisis you may have.

CUOMO: Right. And now, we get to the brave few among us, like you and your men and women who will stay and be there. How will the fuel shortages -- are you OK for gas and provisions to be there for people? What is going to be your ability to help people who stay behind?

RAMSAY: Well, right now, we as well are concerned about our fuel capacity. We're dealing with emergency management. I talked to my commanders this morning.

We're trying to limit our cars on patrol to do more foot patrols, parking, not driving too much, because we have the same concerns. How do we keep our fleet going? We need our fleet going before and after storms for search and rescue missions.

So, we're concerned about preservation of our fleet. We're concerned about our fuel for our cars. Obviously trying to keep our people fed and watered, and get our people in safe places to ride the storm out.

We have to be in a category 5 building. There's only so many of those here. So, our focus is trying to save our patrol fleet, put our people out of harm's way. Once the hurricane is over, whatever it is, we're going to deal with it.

You know, we are concerned about our ability to have fuel to get from point A to point B. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. CUOMO: Well, Sheriff, I'm sure you're telling your family to get out

of harm's way, but you'll stay behind to do your duty. Maybe I'll see you down there. Be safe, Sheriff, and thank you. Let us know what word we need to get out to people.

RAMSAY: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: All right. So, Chris, we'll have much more on Hurricane Irma and its path. But, first, North Korea is expected to launch another intercontinental ballistic missile soon. What will the world community do now? We break it down, next.



REPORTER: Mr. President, are you preparing military action in North Korea?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll see what happens. We'll see what happens. Frankly, this is not our first choice. But we will see what happens.


CAMEROTA: All right. President Trump says all options are on the table when it comes to North Korea. His Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says the president has an executive order ready to sanction any country that continues to trade with North Korea if the U.N. does not pass new tough sanctions.

And just this morning, the North making more threats.

So, let's discuss with CNN global affairs analyst and former deputy secretary of state, Anthony Blinken.

Tony, great to have you here.

Can you give us an assessment of where you see the North Korea world relationship or U.S. relationship right now? Is this a stalemate or every day are the stakes ratcheting up?

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think the stakes are ratcheting up. And unfortunately, the momentum, the initiative has been with the

North Koreans, not with us. And we need to turn this around.


BLINKEN: And the way to turn this around is to have a deliberate, calm, sustained approach, to squeeze them and squeeze them for the purpose of getting them back to the table.

CAMEROTA: I mean, look, the U.N. has passed sanctions. What does that squeezing look like?

BLINKEN: So, there are two things, Alisyn. One is China has been on the fence for a long time, tried to have it both ways, doing just enough to stake with us but not so much that it pushes the North Korean regime over the edge.

China has gotten to the point that it has to choose. These provocations, everything that North Korea is doing is undermining China's place in Asia and making life difficult for Xi Jinping as well. So, they need to get tougher. There's a lot more they can do, particularly squeezing on oil. Other countries that have relationships with North Korea, they need to be severed, economic, diplomatic, military.

But the flip side of this is a diplomatic strategy, to make clear to the regime that we're not out to end it, we simply want to deal with a missile and nuclear program. We're prepared to go to the table to talk, and we also need to know at the right time what we're prepared to give if we want to get something. All of that has to come together.

CAMEROTA: I know you think president Trump's blustery language, the fire and fury has not been helpful. Really, what do you expect an American president to say when the North and Kim Jong-un is saying he's going to annihilate Americans?

BLINKEN: Here is the problem -- of course, Kim Jong-un is the problem. Everything he's done is a profound source of instability and a threat to us. When you rhetorically lower the threshold on military action, as I believe the president has done, you play right into Kim's paranoia that we're out to get him, not just his missiles and nuclear weapons.

And what happens then is if you do something very deliberate and very appropriately cabin, like fly your planes over the North Korea peninsula, that could get misinterpreted by Kim as a regime-ending attack, and that's when you get into war, that's when you get bombasted into war.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about what the U.N. appears to have up its sleeves. So, there's an unnamed diplomat that shared with CNN what the new sanctions package looks like when you pull it up. Full ban of exports of oil to North Korea, full ban on textiles from North Korea, full ban on North Korea laborers generating earnings overseas, freeze assets on Kim Jong-un and the North Korean government.

So, how do you think -- how effective do you think those will be?

BLINKEN: Well, that's a very strong package. Part of the problem is with the oil. You have to get the Chinese to turn off the tap, because all that oil is basically through a pipeline from runs from China into North Korea. The Chinese need to turn -- they've done that in the past. For example, they cut the sale of jet fuel to North Korea. They need to do that.

We've been working for more than a year and a half, going back to the Obama administration, to get other countries in an economic relationship with North Korea to cut it off. For example, the North Koreans have thousands of guest workers sending money back home not to their families but to the renal ohm to pay for the missile and nuclear program.

CAMEROTA: How do we get China to acquiesce to this?

BLINKEN: So, few things. First, what President Trump said to Xi Jinping more than a year ago is, look, this is a core problem for the United States. We want to work this cooperatively with you. But if you can't or if you won't, if you're not going to squeeze North Korea, there are things we're going to have to do that are not aimed at you but that you won't like -- more missile defenses in the area, more exercises with the Japanese and the South Koreans. And yes, sanctions including if necessary, sanctions against Chinese companies doing business with North Korea.

CAMEROTA: And you think the Trump administration should continue that exact line?

BLINKEN: That's what I push, but do it deliberately, do it comprehensively, try and keep the rhetoric down and focus on what's real.

CAMEROTA: I want to talk about another fascinating and very troubling topic. The 2016 election, as we know the Russians meddled.

[06:55:02] Now today, Facebook is announcing -- disclosing, I should say, some of the things that these Kremlin-connected Russians did on Facebook, OK? They created something like 470 troll accounts as well as other ads that were meant to stir up vitriol, stir up outrage about issues connected to the 2016 election.

OK. So that's just so disturbing. And, you know, Hillary Clinton has a new book out in which she says she wishes President Obama had gone further. Once he knew Russia was meddling, she wishes he had made an address to the U.S. so that people knew that Russia was doing these things and maybe when they were reading their Facebook page, they knew that some of this was Russian-backed.

What do you think?

BLINKEN: Well, two things. First, the revelations from Facebook are straight out of Russia's playbook. This is exactly what they do. And what they're trying to do is divide us from each other and create these wedges.

CAMEROTA: It worked.

BLINKEN: And it's had some effect.

Second, it's hard not to feel total sympathy for Secretary Clinton in wishing and feeling more could have been done at the time. I think there were good reasons for the approach that President Obama took.

What we thought at the time was that Russia's principle was to sow doubt about the election, about its legitimacy. And so, in one sense, the more the president talked it up from the big pedestal, the more he'd be playing right into Russia's hand, actually creating the doubt, fueling the doubt that they were trying to sow. I think that's why he tried to take a sort of deliberative approach on this.

But look, we did have an unprecedented statement by the director of homeland security and the director of national intelligence back in October. That's the same day the "Access Hollywood" tape broke and kind of drowned out the message they were sending about Russian interference.

CAMEROTA: Wow. So fascinating. Tony Blinken, thanks so much for all of the insight.

BLINKEN: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: Let's get over to Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So, the big story is, of course, Hurricane Irma. Right now, it's slamming the Caribbean. It is barreling toward Florida. You keep hearing how big it is, how powerful it is.

How devastating could it be? Well, we'll judge by what we've seen already. We have live coverage of the impact, next.