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Hurricane Irma Slams Caribbean, Florida Braces for Impact; Trump Stuns GOP, Cuts Debt Ceiling Deal with Dems. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 7, 2017 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[07:00:18] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We do begin with Hurricane Irma bearing down on Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We are seeing torrential rain, life- threatening winds, and they are actually picking up. This is a massive Category 5 storm. It's continuing on a path toward the southeastern United States. People in Florida specifically are gearing up for the potential of a direct hit. Yes, the track is shifting. But right now, they're still saying there is a need for mandatory evacuations in parts of that state ahead of a possible landfall this weekend.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK. So Irma is already lashing Puerto Rico. The island dodged the worst of the storm. Still, more than 19 million people are there without power, and more than 56,000 do not have any water at this hour. The tiny island of Barbuda did not avoid the storm's powerful wrath. A hundred and eighty-five mile-per-hour winds destroying everything in its path.

You can see the aftermath on the ground there in Barbuda. The prime minister says the island is barely habitable. Ninety-five percent of the buildings either damaged or completely destroyed. And the death toll is rising. The United Nations says the hurricane could impact up to 37 million more people.

CNN has Hurricane Irma covered like no other network, beginning with CNN meteorologist, Chad Myers. What is the latest?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The latest is that the storm lost a little bit of strength overnight, but I don't want you to focus on five miles per hour, because I can't tell the difference between 185 and 180.

The big story here for Florida is that everyone in Florida -- it doesn't matter what side you're on, except maybe Pensacola -- will see a hurricane-force gust. That's 75 or greater. Will you see 150? That's the true question. Where does it go from here?

Everybody gets a hurricane. But who gets devastated? There's the storm right there. The Dominican Republic up towards the Turks and Caicos. That's where it's going right now. That's what we already know.

Here's the question. After it makes its way all the way through the islands here, when does it turn? Or does it turn? The turn is very important to miss the U.S.

Skirting through the Bahamas, if it's east of the U.S., that's better. Through and into the Gulf of Mexico would be terrible, because then it would hit the back side of Florida here and still be a Category 4 or 5 storm.

But the real threat is, if this storm moves right over Monroe County, let's say ocean reef, which is the top of Key Largo, into Key Biscayne, into central Florida right through the middle -- and let me tell you, that's the middle of the cone. And we always say don't look at it, but you need to look at it, because that's where we are going to talk about the greatest possible loss of life, significantly higher amounts of damage if the storm hits south Florida when you have all those cities all the way up the coast, all the way to here.

Now let's back you up just a little bit, because there are other people that want to know what else could happen. If the storm stays to the right, where does it go? It's going to smash into North Carolina. And not as a Category 1. Because it won't have lost power here. It will still be a three or four, smashing up here.

And so this area here, Savannah, all the way to Myrtle Beach, you need to watch for that turn, and you don't want that turn. But Florida does want that turn. It is going to hit the United States somewhere. There is not a question in my mind that someone in the southeastern United States gets smashed from this.

But where does it turn, and how soon does it get into the Florida Peninsula. If it is right there in south Florida, this will be likely significantly worse than Andrew, because the storm surge would be 20 feet. There aren't many places in Miami all the way up to Ft. Lauderdale that are higher than 20 feet tall.

CUOMO: That's a sad but true category there. And look, even if we're hoping for that shift to the east, it doesn't mean that the storm misses Florida altogether. And as we saw from Puerto Rico, it doesn't have to be a direct hit to be a bad hit.

Chad, stay on it. Thank you very much for the information. Appreciate it. So what are the big concerns? Flooding. That's why you prompt evacuations along the south Florida coast, starting in just hours. Once those waters come, you can't get out.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Miami. What are you seeing?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.

Well, what we're seeing here in Miami-Dade is the list of evacuations keeps on growing. A very stressful time for people in south Florida. As you might imagine, these folks are patching their homes with plywood, grabbing their kids and their pets, putting them in their cars. And then, there's the long lines at gas stations, empty shelves. According to Florida Highway Patrol, they tell us that they've seen a lot of disabled vehicles heading north. Because remember, there's nowhere else to go. You can't go east. You can't go west to evacuate Florida. You have to go north. [07:05:11] Now, when it comes to evacuations, Miami-Dade had added

evacuations. Starting today at 7 a.m., anyone who lives in a mobile home is under evacuation. In Zone A, these are the coastal areas, including this island that's here to the south and also the barrier islands, where I'm standing right now in Miami Beach, Mercy Hospital is under evacuation. They're moving out, about 200 patients. Our friends to the south in Monroe County, about 25,000 people have already evacuated. More are set to evacuate, and our friends to the north in Broward County, those folks are under evacuation, too. Everyone living in a mobile home or a low-lying area is under evacuation, anyone who is living east of U.S. 1, and that includes Ft. Lauderdale, Hollywood, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach.

So a lot of folks, Alisyn, very stressed today in south Florida, trying to grapple with the fact that there's a ginormous storm coming this way and trying to figure out what to do and what's the safest way to do it with their families.

CAMEROTA: OK. Rosa, thank you very much. Keep an eye on it for us.

Joining us now is the mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine. He is urging anyone who lives in Miami Beach or is visiting to get out. Mr. Mayor, thank you very much. I know it's going to be a busy day for you. When do you want them to get out?

PHILIP LEVINE, MAYOR OF MIAMI BEACH: We want them to start making plans right now to get out and start moving off Miami Beach. The last couple of days, I've been telling people, if you have friends, if you have family, please begin to move off Miami Beach. We issued a letter to all our visitors in the hotels. Even though it wasn't mandatory at the time, "Please cut your vacation short. Leave Miami Beach."

This is a serious, serious storm. I've called it a nuclear hurricane.

CAMEROTA: And what does that mean, a nuclear hurricane?

LEVINE: Well, I'm just saying, the power that a hurricane like this has is so powerful, it's so strong, I want people to understand that this is not something you want to ride through, not something you want to be in your House or your apartment and think somehow you're going to be a hero and stay on Miami Beach.

CAMEROTA: So you have, obviously, a considerable amount of senior citizens in your community. How are you going to get them out?

LEVINE: We've been working with our seniors for the last couple of days, also our homeless population as well as our special needs folks. We've identified where they are. We have buses. We have trolleys. We're going to make sure we can get them safely to a shelter.

One thing I want to say, Alisyn, is very important. If you have a pet, bring your pet with you. We have special shelters in mainland Miami where you can bring your pet. So we don't want to see people leaving their pets at home. You can bring them with you. We have certain shelters that will allow you to bring your pets, as well. CAMEROTA: Such a great note to tell people. Because obviously, they

are often so torn about leaving because of their pets. So where are you taking everybody? Where are these shelters that you think are safe?

LEVINE: We have multiple shelters on the mainland that are hardened, that can protect people in the event that this hurricane has a hit. They're operated by Dade County. We do not have shelters on Miami Beach. I'll be staying on Miami Beach with a command staff all the way through the storm, but we'll be actually in one of our hospitals, which is a hardened location.

CAMEROTA: So Mayor, look, you're obviously no stranger to storms in south Florida. But why does this one feel so different to you?

LEVINE: Well, I think the intensity, the way it's lined up. It's had so much opportunity. There's warm water around us, as your meteorologist says, to gain that much more strength. And most importantly, Alisyn, this is a barrier island. We're a low island. The storm surge, the potential flooding could be catastrophic. Listen, we are, you know, expecting and planning for the worst. We're hoping for the best, but we need people to understand. We want them to be safe, not sorry.

CAMEROTA: Mr. Mayor, you know, I sense this is now a mandatory evacuation that you're calling in your area. If people stay behind, what are the legal repercussions to them? If emergency responders have to go out and get those folks, after the storm passes, what's the responsibility of those people?

LEVINE: Well, that's a very good point. What's going to happen is we'll have a reduced staff as the hurricane approaches. At a certain point, our first responders will no longer be able to go out during the brunt of this storm.

We want people to understand there will not be public services available. You will be on your own. It's not a place you want to be. I can't stress it enough. Get off Miami Beach, whether you're a visitor or whether you are a resident. Find shelter. We have shelters. Or if you have friends you can stay at. This is a serious situation. We should not play around with this.

CAMEROTA: After Hurricane Andrew so devastated south Florida, obviously, you all took notes, you all made corrections, you beefed up the infrastructure. So what's changed since then?

LEVINE: Well, first of all, the construction standards since Hurricane Andrew are much greater, much stronger. All of the new facilities, all the new buildings that have been built since Andrew have a code that's way higher, which should be able to withstand all types of storms up to Category 5. So that's a major, major improvement.

[07:10:09] On Miami Beach, of course, we've begun raising roads, putting in pumps. But I stress to our folks that what we've done is no match for a hurricane. I mean, people have to realize that. We may have pumps. We have portable generators. We have portable pumps.

When it comes to the deluge, the massive amount of water a storm surge can bring, there's no pumps in the world that can handle that.

CAMEROTA: All right. Mayor Philip Levine, you could not frame it in any more stark tones than you have this morning, for everyone listening. Thank you very much for being on NEW DAY.

LEVINE: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So the concern about Florida is an acute concern. But we have Irma bearing down on Haiti right now.

CNN's Paula Newton joins us live from there. Mudslides the big concern. That storm, we're told by Chad Myers is expected to hit that northern spine of the island and then send flooding downward. What are you experiencing on the island?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've had a few rainstorms, but now, as you can see, it is clear. We expect more effects from Hurricane Irma within the next few hours.

Here's the thing, though, Chris. All that prep you just heard from the mayor, not going on here. The government here, nor has the capacity or the resources to do that. And that's really, really unsettling. The thing to remember is, in Haiti, you don't have to have a direct impact from Irma in order for the consequences to be absolutely dire.

You know, we haven't seen much prep here, although the government has basically done things like send out radios in case all communication goes down. You've not seen the prep that you've seen in other places with the water and the food.

And again, you make such a good point about the mudslides. Less than a year ago, Hurricane Matthew devastating the southern part of this country. You had people swept out of their homes by those mudslides and the flooding, right into the ocean. Really incredible scenes of devastation, and that is what they are bracing for here. Even as I say, Alisyn, if they are not taking a direct hit. As I said, we have seen very little in the way of preparation going on here where we are in Cape Haitian on this northern coast.

CAMEROTA: All right, Paula, thank you very much. We'll check back with you. So of course, we're keeping a close eye on this storm, but there is other news this morning.

President Trump making a deal with Democrats. Why he reached across the aisle and why Republicans say they are shocked.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:16:08] CAMEROTA: President Trump will get a full briefing on Hurricane Irma later this weekend. But there's a different storm brewing in -- on Capitol Hill. The president shocked GOP leaders by cutting a short-term deal with Democrats on the debt ceiling. CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with more. Hi, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn.

The president getting three important agenda items off of the list, very pressing agenda items including hurricane relief for the Gulf Coast. But in the process, he aligned himself with Democrats leaving the Republican leadership in the Congress shell-shocked.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, 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-WI), 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.

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-KY), 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 after tweeting that he would revisit the issue in six months. 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: The president is planning now to return to Camp David with his entire cabinet to sit down and talk about a range of issues including tax reform, and the growing crisis in the Korean Peninsula. This comes at a time when his son, Donald Jr., is headed to Capitol Hill for a closed-door meeting to answer questions before Congress about that mysterious meeting June of 2016, last year, with the Russian lawyer -- Chris.

CUOMO: Joe, thank you. Joining us now is Senator Angus King. He is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. We'll talk to you about the Russia investigation. Let me take -- get your take on a couple other headlines.

One, the president going directly to Democrats, getting a deal on the debt ceiling and Harvey relief. Good move?

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Well, I think you've got to put it in a little bit of context. This wasn't going directly to Democrats. The Democrats were in the room, but so were the Republicans. It was a discussion and a negotiation.

I can't read the mind of the president, but I think he wanted to clear the debts. He said, "Let's take care of these three things this the next four or five days, and then we can move on to some of the other important issues like DACA, like tax reform." And I think that was what his thinking was. And, you know, there's -- I think perhaps we're over-thinking this a little bit. And the president is a pragmatist. And I think in this case, he just said, "Let's make something happen here that we can clear three things and then move on."

[07:20:20] Well, then, Senator, what do you make of the Republican leadership telling, you know, reporters in abundance that they didn't like this?

KING: Well, you know, whenever there's a deal, one side or the other isn't going to like it. I think that's -- that's the situation. But it enables us now to try to get these three items off the table literally, if not today, in the next two or three days, and then we can start talking about some of the other issues.

There are also some bipartisan talks going on on health care. So there's plenty to do. And clearing the table on these -- on these three issues, at least at this moment, because of the deadlines looming -- we've got four or five deadlines in September. The FAA reauthorization, the Children's Health Program, the funding of the government. I mean, September 30th is a big day, and I think what the president has done has enabled us to work in a more orderly way through September and then into the fall. CUOMO: All right. You bought three months on the debt ceiling. He's

given you six months on DACA. What do you think of that move, giving it to Congress and saying you've got six months to save the DREAMers?

KING: Well, you know, I think the fact that he tweeted what he did yesterday indicates that he was actually having an awfully hard time with this decision. I don't like the decision that he made.

On the other hand, he has said to us, "Here is the time. You have time to work on this." He's clearly indicated that he wants to work on this.

You know, Chris, there's an interesting opportunity here for him. This could be Nixon goes to China. If anyone could make a deal on comprehensive immigration reform and make it work nationally, it would be this president. And I think he's setting us up to try to get something done.

Now, the question is what do we have to add to the DACA bill, to the DREAMer bill that's already pending that Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin have in order to make it work on a bipartisan basis and sell it to the president? I suspect it's going to have something to do with border security. I suspect it's not going to have something to do with a wall.

CUOMO: Well, but that's not what we're hearing, right? We're hearing that it may involve the wall, and that's certainly what the president would want. Senator Markey said yesterday any bill that has DACA and the wall in it is a non-starter. How do you feel about that?

KING: Well, I think that's probably the case. I mean, the truth is...

CUOMO: But why, Senator? Why is the wall so important to the left, you know, that it's just a non-starter, no matter what else is in the offing?

KING: I don't consider it important to the left or the right. And for me it's not an ideological issue. It's a practical issue. It doesn't make sense. There are ways to secure the border. In some places, a wall may make sense. We already have a wall. I've seen it, down in McAllen, Texas. There are places where you have fences. There are places where you have sensors. There are places where you have guards. Just building a 2,000-mile wall is not practical. It's expensive. And there are a lot of -- there are a lot better ways to achieve the same goal, which is to provide border security.

CUOMO: So why don't you like the decision that the president made with DACA in the initial instance to -- to cancel the program, if that's the way to get Congress to act?

KING: Well, the unfortunate part is, it's thrown hundreds of thousands of people's lives into absolute chaos, fear, uncertainty. These are people who have been here literally all their lives or since they were 6 years old. They were brought here. They had no choice in the matter. They think of themselves as Americans. They're working; they're paying taxes. And it's created this enormous uncertainty.

I think, you know, there are other ways that he could have handled it. But I'm not -- I think Congress ought to step up and deal with this. I think the pattern of the last -- I don't know, you could say 30 or 40 years, has been for Congress to abdicate its responsibility to the executive. And so I don't think it's a bad thing that we have to deal with it. But the uncertainty that's been created in those people's lives is really -- is really unfortunate and unnecessary.

But I think the good news is, I sense that there's a real opportunity here and some bipartisan interest in -- in solving this problem.

CUOMO: Well, I'll tell you what. It would be political kryptonite to anybody who is on the wrong side in terms of getting this done in six months, because if these people fall into ISIS hands, you know, we all know how that process goes. I know people is saying they're not an enforcement priority now, but if you're a law and order person, you're going to be in a tough position six months from now if you don't create law to protect the DREAMers.

KING: And that's exactly why the decision was so -- so hard, because it's going to put people in that -- in that shadow situation, which is -- which is just not right.

CUOMO: And Senator, give us an update on the status of essential items within the Russia investigation. You've got Don Jr. before Senate staffers today, obviously being questioned again about the meeting where he went to this open solicitation to get bad news about Hillary Clinton. You have news about Facebook, saying that I guess it inadvertently sold ads to sites that wound up forwarding Russian propaganda attempts against the United States. What do you make of these two headlines?

[07:25:20] KING: Well, they're -- they're both very significant, I think, and they're both representative of what there may be more to be learned. First on that meeting, we know from that meeting that Donald Trump Jr. was anxious to have that meeting, was anxious to try to get dirt on Hillary. He knew where it was coming from. That's -- that, in itself is disturbing.

The real question is, were there meetings? Were there follow-up meetings? And was that part of the beginning of a relationship? And we're not yet ready to determine that. But that's got to be examined.

On the Facebook thing, that's also a big deal, because that verifies what we had been told by the intelligence community as far back as October of 2016, and this is that the Russians were actively trying to intervene in our election by disinformation, by fake news, by planting stories, by trying to undermine people's confidence in the election and in the candidates.

Here it is. I mean, we know they did it. My suspicion is that there is going to be a lot more to that story. There are two pieces. No. 1, were there more of this kind of ad buying by these -- by the Russians? And No. 2 -- and this is the question, obviously, that our committee

is going to be digging into, was there some relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russians in terms of where they planted those ads, where they put them, who they were targeting? Did the Russians have their own political consultants saying, you know, do this in a certain county in Wisconsin? Or did they get that information from somewhere else? That's an important question we've got to dig into.

CUOMO: The president says it's a witch hunt, and there are people saying, "We haven't heard anything about the Russia investigation. They haven't come to any conclusions. It proves that there's nothing there." What do you say to critics?

KING: Well, No. 1, it's not a witch hunt. We know that, and we know that from the unanimous opinion of the Intelligence Committee in October. We know it from their opinion again in January. We know it from voluminous data that the Russians were involved in our elections, that they were trying to defeat Hillary Clinton, help Donald Trump, that it went all the way up to Putin. I mean, that -- that is well- established.

What isn't well-established is whether there were indeed contacts and cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

The other thing we know, Chris, is that the Russians were trying to get into state election systems and registration rolls. It appears they were unsuccessful, but they're going to come back. And I think that's the point that people are missing about all this. By focusing so much on Trump and the Russians, we're missing the fact that the Russians were doing this. They've done it in the past, and they're going to keep doing it. And we've got to be prepared for it.

That's what I consider our major mission in this investigation, is to prepare the American people and things like our voting systems for what will inevitably come in 2018 and 2020 and beyond.

CUOMO: Regardless of the involvement with the Trump campaign, these issues matter, and they're going to matter in the upcoming elections. Senator Angus King, as always, a pleasure. Thank you for being on the show.

KING: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris. Back to Irma. The Caribbean already seeing the power of Hurricane Irma firsthand. Look at these pictures. We have a live report for you from Puerto Rico next.