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President Crosses Party Lines, Works With Dems on Debt Ceiling; Powerful 8.1 Killer Earthquake in Mexico; South Korea Expects Another North Korea Missile Test Tomorrow; Florida Bracing for Direct Hit from Monster Hurricane. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 06:30   ET


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Continuing to align himself with Democrats on fiscal matters this week and leaving the door open to working with Democratic leaders on immigration, President Trump giving DACA recipients reassurance they won't be targeted over the next six months while Congress works to pass a Dreamer's bill at Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's request.

[06:30:15] REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA, MINORITY LEADER: I was reporting to my colleagues, I said this what I asked the president to do. And boom, boom, boom, the tweet appeared. So that was good.


JOHNS: The president, like the rest of the country, is keeping a close eye on the situation in Florida. He's expected to have a midday hurricane briefing and then he'll head out to Camp David for a meeting with his cabinet -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Joe, thank you very much.

Let's talk about all of this with our CNN political analyst David Gregory.

Good morning, David.


CAMEROTA: OK. So, we have a lot to talk about.

Let's start with what it looks like Robert Mueller was focused on this week and that is, he wants to interview other White House staffers on the plane who were on the plane who watched or listened as that statement was crafted. It turned out to be a misleading statement about Don Jr.'s meeting with the Russians. So, that stands to reason. Of course, Robert Mueller wants to get to the bottom of it especially since Don Jr. didn't seem to be able to provide many details about why that statement was crafted in the way it was.

GREGORY: Right. You have changing stories about what happened, why he ultimately went to the meeting. It was supposed to be about adoptions. Then it was about testing for fitness. President Trump said anybody would have taken that meeting. I mean, there's so much evidence about what the Russians were up to,

and so many shifting explanations from the White House team, from the Trump family, that that's obviously an area of inquiry.

What is related to that is the idea that we know Mueller is looking into potential obstruction of justice by the president. The president's own lawyers have argued with the special prosecutor team they should not be investigating that. But there are a lot of threads here about whether the president told the truth, whether his family told the truth about what those contacts were at the time between the campaign and Russian officials seeking to manipulate the election.

CAMEROTA: So, Democrats seized on some of this, possibly overreaching. Senator Richard Blumenthal who sat in on the meeting with staffers, he felt Don Jr.'s evasive answers to his mind opened up new lines of inquiry and then Senator Chris Coons, Democrat, of course, he sent in not so subtle reminder via Twitter about perjury laws.


CAMEROTA: But, you know, that seems to have gone overboard. You can say you don't remember something, that's not perjury.

GREGORY: There's a couple of things that are difficult to reconcile right now, and that is that Congress, both the Senate getting more attention and the House which is more divided, are pursuing what they're pursuing, doing it publicly and in some cases behind closed doors.

And there is cooperation with the special prosecutor. We don't know what it all adds up to, because we don't know what the special prosecutor has and all his team has yet, and what it all amounts to.

So, that part gets hard to piece together other than just putting a lot of pressure. At the end of the day, we're not going to know whether tangible evidence is trying to manipulate the election on the part of the Russians equates to anything other than ineptitude, arrogance or bungling on the part of Trump officials as opposed to really colluding with the Russians to do something specific.


OK. David, let's talk about this somewhat surreal new bond, newfound friendship between Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. I mean, these -- their names to Donald Trump's base, Schumer and Pelosi, are synonymous with the bogeyman, you know? But Donald Trump seems to be, I mean, "The New York Times" this morning is reporting how much he's enjoying the media coverage, saying he's forging this new sort of bipartisan spirit.

It's impossible obviously to ever predict what President Trump will do. But this is shaking things up in Washington in an interesting way.

GREGORY: Look, I think there's always been the promise that Donald Trump is so unpredictable that he would buck his own party, that he would make things uncomfortable for Democrats, he would make things comfortable for them, he'd work with them. He's not an ideological person. He's not an ideological president. We're seeing some of the evidence of that.

But that detail in "The Times" this morning that he's watching the coverage and how positive it is that he's done a deal with Democrats, that he is that he's calling Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer is all you need to know. It's candy to him, the idea there's good coverage. He wants to be liked in this regard.

So, in that way, I don't think we should over-read anything because he can change. He can make a deal tomorrow in a way that hurts Democrats. So, I don't think there's anything lasting.

But I do think there's an opportunity to seize on some of these issues, whether it's immigration, not just Dreamers, but a broader immigration deal even around taxes.

[06:35:00] The president wants to get something accomplished this year. And there are real schisms within the Republican Party, that conservative base that is more and more distinct from Donald Trump's world view that he may have to turn to Democrats. He'll turn wherever he has to in order to get something done.

But I think what's striking about this week is the conservative movement, a lot of which opposed Donald Trump in 2016 is finding reason to go its own way beyond the midterms as we get closer to 2020.

CAMEROTA: And also, just very quickly, I mean, there are real life manifestations of his newfound friendship with Nancy Pelosi. She said she encouraged him to reassure the Dreamers. And then he tweeted out, for all those DACA concerned about your status, you have nothing to worry about. No action.

I mean, that sounds like a direct outcome of his conversation with Nancy Pelosi.

GREGORY: Right. And it also suggests he's willing to deal on a stand-alone piece to remedy the Dreamer situation, although I'm sure he'd like something broader if he can get it, some Republicans are working on that. But I think this is an area of the Dreamers whereas much criticism as he's getting. It's not really something he wanted to do.

What he really wants to do is put pressure on Congress to alleviate the problem. He's signaling certainly to Nancy Pelosi directly that he'll go along with that.

CAMEROTA: OK. David Gregory, great to talk to you. Thanks so much.

GREGORY: Thanks, Alisyn. See you.

CAMEROTA: We're following a lot of breaking news. A powerful 8.1 earthquake off the coast of Mexico near the border with Guatemala has killed at least 15 people and that number is likely to rise. The quake which Mexico's president calls the strongest one in a hundred years collapsed a hotel. It has damaged homes in Mexico and Guatemala.

The quake also rattling Mexico City which is 600 miles away. You can see, it shook buildings there. It sent worried residents fleeing into darkened streets, 800,000 are now without electricity.

In the showdown with North Korea, President Trump reiterating that North Korea is, quote, behaving badly and it's got to stop, end quote.

Meanwhile, the U.S. finished deployment of four more anti-missile intercept systems in South Korea as that country's prime minister predicts another North Korean missile launch tomorrow, as it celebrates its founding day.

CNN's Will Ripley is live inside North Korea for us. He's in Pyongyang with more.

Give us the latest, Will?


We just landed here a couple hours ago. I have to say the mood in the city not tense, but really still buzzing from the nuclear test on Sunday, North Korea's largest nuclear test ever. We saw people out in the streets practicing their dance moves. We saw people putting a fresh coat of paint on public spaces, getting ready for this big foundation day celebration tomorrow.

We're expecting huge crowds in the city, and South Korean intelligence expecting to see possibly something even bigger, a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile launch.

Officials on the ground here won't confirm whether a launch is coming. It would make sense for North Korea to send this message to the world after the nuclear test. They want to prove they have an intercontinental ballistic missile that can carry a warhead to the target like the mainland United States.

The sense from officials here is they continue to feel that the United States is missing the point, that President Trump when he says he's not ruling out a military option but that nothing is inevitable, North Korea says it would be a big mistake for the U.S. to underestimate their capabilities. And over the past few days, they've been putting out warnings not only for the U.S. but for South Korea and Japan as well, reminding the world that they have these weapons, this H-bomb they say. And they say they're not afraid to use it if provoked. We could see another demonstration later in the day, Friday evening, U.S. time and that's why we're on the ground here watching -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Will, it is so helpful to have you on the ground in North Korea for us to give us all of that important context. Thank you very much.

So, a senior Republican aide tells CNN that the House will vote this afternoon on a $15.2 billion Hurricane Harvey relief package passed by the Senate on Thursday. The measure also increases the debt ceiling and funds the government for the next three months.

Meanwhile, all five living presidents are joining forces to help Hurricane Harvey victims.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Hurricane Harvey brought terrible destruction, but it also brought out the best in humanity.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: As former presidents, we want to help our fellow Americans begin to recover.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: Our friends in Texas, including Presidents Bush 41 and 43, are doing just that.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: People are hurting down here, but as one Texan put it, we've got more love in Texas than water.


ANNOUNCER: Donate to We are all in this together.


CAMEROTA: President Trump was not included in the public service announcements. However, he did tweet his support for the initiatives, saying he's proud to stand with presidents for One America Appeal.

Well, there you go. That's -- we're just seeing more and more bipartisanship, Chris, here. At least, that's what silver lining of Hurricane Harvey has been.

[06:40:01] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, look, you know, it is the blessing of hard times. You know, hard times make strong people and can bring people together. And hopefully, we'll see that if the worse comes to bear down here in Florida.

We have the latest for you on Hurricane Irma. The path does suggest it is heading right where we are. So, that makes this all about making it through whatever comes, and the rescues, the search, the survival falls on the shoulders of first responders.

Here is the good news. They have a hell of a team down here. We're going to show you an inside look into the massive prep, and we'll tell you about the challenges for the search and rescue, next.


CUOMO: Search and rescue. Those are the realities post-catastrophe. And that will likely be the case after Irma if things stay the way they're predicted to go now.

[06:45:03] So how do you prepare to battle a storm the likes of which we may have never seen? We got an inside look from the elite team responsible for saving the

rest of us down here in south Florida. Take a look at the first responders.


CUOMO (voice-over): Hurricane Irma may make history in all the worst ways.

(on camera): If you said you have to see a storm of that size like a bowling ball. And to finish the metaphor, what does that make Florida?

JOSEPH ZAHRALBAN, FIRE CHIEF: That makes us the bowling alley.

CUOMO: So, it's all about the pins are going to get knocked down?


CUOMO (voice-over): Only three category five hurricanes have hit the United States since the 1800s, the most recent one a painful memory to generations of Floridians, Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

ZAHRALBAN: I was completely in awe of the devastation that occurred and what a hurricane is truly capable of doing.

CUOMO: And now, history is feared to repeat itself, with a storm that may not be as strong, but almost twice the size, Hurricane Irma.

ZAHRALBAN: The challenge that's headed our way quite honestly is unprecedented.

CUOMO: The first responders here, more than 500 strong, highly trained men and women are prepared for whatever Irma brings.

ZAHRALBAN: We are designed to be a self-sufficient team, meaning we can be deposited into an area whose infrastructure has been completely disseminated and being able to function and perform those search-and- rescue activities.

CUOMO: But the reality is for all their tools and skill, once the storm hits, you'll have to ride it out alone.

ZAHRALBAN: We are completely committed to laying it all on the line to go out there and rescue anybody who needs to be rescued. However, during a storm, there's nothing we can do for you. You're going to have to wait until afterwards to get rescued.

CUOMO: Some of the teams just came back from Texas, working 20-hour days doing search and rescue in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Despite going from one disaster to another, they say they are motivated to protect their home front.

SCOTT DEAN, ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF: Harvey obviously took a lot out of us. But now you're talking about home front. So, we have that second wind and we're going to keep going until we get through this storm and this devastation.

CUOMO (voice-over): How do you balance duty to the citizens with where your heart is which has to be home and what's going on with my kids, what's going on with my family? When you have to leave them, what do you say to them?

DEAN: It's obviously the most difficult part. Give me a minute. You tell them you love them and hope you make it back.

CUOMO: You're going to be there, and we'll be here to help any way we can.

DEAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Thank you for what you do. Without you, we got nobody.


CAMEROTA: Wow, Chris --

CUOMO: We call them angels -- we call them angels on Earth for a reason. And we don't usually get to see that side. These are big, strong people, men, women. They all put duty first.

But just imagine, for the rest of us, we know what we signed up for. I'm coming here, but I know my kids are safe, I know my wife is going to be OK. They don't know that and they're out here for the rest of us in the worst of situations anyway. You've got to have heart, and your soul tells you these are the best among us.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's exactly what I was going to say. I mean, they're heroes, but they're human, of course. I think what you showed so well there is the toll it takes on responders, you know? We see all the victims. It takes a huge toll, obviously on regular people and a big toll on responders. They make huge sacrifices as well.

CUOMO: And unfortunately, we're probably going to see that here once again, Alisyn, because if Irma is anything like what they expect it to be, it's going to be bad, and they're going to be working around the clock and we'll be here to tell the stories of what they do.

We're going to keep following the hurricane coverage. We're going to show you the path of what is to come. It is closing in on south Florida.

So, what does that mean? Well, hundreds of thousands of smart people are evacuating. Not easy, but necessary. We're going to talk with a few who can't get out, who are going to face down Irma. The storm chasers are going to join us live next.


[06:52:18] CAMEROTA: South Florida is under hurricane warnings as they watch Irma coming their way. As of this hour, it is a category 4 storm, meaning it has winds of 155 miles per hour and is expected to hit there on Sunday. So, let's bring in storm chaser for a, Brett Adair.

Brett, I understand you just made it out of Puerto Rico. You've just landed in Ft. Lauderdale just a couple hours ago.

So, tell us what you saw in Puerto Rico.

BILL ADAIR, STORM CHASER, LIVESTORMNOW.COM: Alisyn, we had pretty good hurricane-force wind gusts in Puerto Rico. Luckily they dodged the bullet with the eyewall passing about 35 miles to the north of San Juan.

So, there was some damage to the power infrastructure there and there were some tree damage. But, luckily, they were spared the worst of Hurricane Irma.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, now, you're in Ft. Lauderdale waiting and watching as Irma approaches. What are your plans to chase this storm?

ADAIR: Well, we've been looking at very good reinforced buildings. We've been kind of scoping out some of the parking decks. We have approximately ten crews in southern Florida that have been here for three or four days kind of scouting out areas so we can come in and cover the storm and do it safely and just, you know, kind of talk to the people and give them a sense of what the meteorologists and the media is doing in terms of telling them, you know, this is a serious situation and you guys really need to heed these evacuation orders.

CAMEROTA: So, Brett, look, obviously, you do this for a living. Does Irma feel and look different to you?

ADAIR: Irma is definitely a powerful storm. I was in Hurricane Harvey a couple weeks ago in Texas, and we dealt with the loss of a roof and back wall of our hotel there in Rockport. And, you know, this storm is bigger and stronger currently than Harvey. So, it absolutely does set in that you could be dealing with something much worse than you dealt with all season long.

CAMEROTA: So, Brett, is the point of you chasing the storm, do you try to get to the exactly the point where it makes landfall. Is that your goal?

ADAIR: We absolutely like to be in the strongest core of winds and where the impacts are. We obviously feed video out so we can, number one, serve some of our clients. But number two, we want everybody to be able to see what's happening potentially in their neighborhoods without them having to be there. So, we're kind of an eyes and ears source of what's going on for -- we've had comments and e-mails from homeowners and people concerned about relatives that ask us questions and see if we can go shoot particular areas for them just to give them a sense of calmness, to know their homes are still there.

[06:55:10] CAMEROTA: And, look, Brett, I mean, you -- what you do is risky. It's very risky. It's life-threatening. You do it a lot.

How -- are you scared when the storm rolls onshore and makes landfall? ADAIR: You know, we've all had our moments where we've been nervous.

The key is you have to be very strategic about the way you operate on the ground. That's the reason we have people come in days in advance and we have escape routes. We have extra fuel. We have extra resources, just in case something happens, because we're all human. And, you know, these storms are Mother Nature's fury and we can get caught off guard every now and then.

CAMEROTA: All right. Brett, stay safe, take care of yourself. We'll check back with you during the duration of this storm. Thanks so much for taking time to be with us.

ADAIR: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, Chris, you heard him there. I mean, they have a system. They have studied this, they say they're strategic, they say they're prepared and obviously they do this very different than any regular person who would consider riding out the storm.

CUOMO: They are ballsy, period. I mean, I've been up in those planes.

CAMEROTA: That's the word I was looking for.

CUOMO: I don't know how they do it.

Let me help you out, my sister. That is the word. One of them taught me -- danger is real, fear is a choice, preparation is a better choice. They live that way. But that was a great interview to have to let people know how far some of us are willing to go to educate the others.

So, it all comes down to the reality -- all the prediction, all the models. What will Irma's impact be on Florida? We have the best information. Another aspect will be the response, the job of our leaders. Are they getting it done right now?

We have a former Florida governor who handled nine natural disasters in his two terms, Governor Jeb Bush. Is he staying here? What does he think about the state of preparation, next.