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Donald Trump, Jr. questioned by Senate Judiciary Committee Staff. FEMA to address threat posed by Hurricane Irma. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 8, 2017 - 07:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Reaching across the isle. We know that DACA and immigration matters to you. I will come back to you on those issues when they manifest themselves in actual policy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll be glad to do it.

CUOMO: And I will test where you are on it. Again, be safe. Thank you for being with us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's see if you can test where the president is on any given day on DACA. Let me know.

CUOMO: That's what we do every day on this show. Alisyn, to you.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Chris, thank you very much. Turning to Washington now. Donald Trump, Jr. speaking to investigators on the Senate Judiciary Committee for hours yesterday about the ongoing Russia investigation. So, what questions does congress still have? Joining us now is Republican Congressman Will Hurd.

He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee and, Congressman. As you can see, we have a split screen there because we are awaiting at any moment to get a FEMA briefing on the direction and path and strength of Irma. So you'll forgive me if I have to break away from our interview.

CONGRESSMAN WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: No problem. That's really important. Being from Texas and realizing what Harvey did, this is important for the folks on the Eastern seaboard to know and know what's going on.

CAMEROTA: So you get it completely. Thank you for that. OK. So let's -- while we have time, let's talk about the latest in the ongoing Russia investigation. As you know yesterday, Donald Trump, Jr. went to congress and he met with investigators there.

He talked to the Judiciary Committee. We're still going to stand by because I don't see Brock Long yet. But in any event, he talked to the Judiciary Committee and it appeared to raise some questions of some of the folks including Senator Richard Blumenthal who sat in on that, a Democrat.

Here is a piece of the Don Jr. prepared statement. He said, "To the extent that they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out."

He, of course, is talking about why he took the meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower. Hold -- oh, sorry. Give us a second, Congressman. There's Brock Long.

HURD: No problem.

CAMEROTA: Standby.


BROCK LONG, ADMINISTRATOR FEMA: Countless U.S. State partners to achieve their response and recovery goals. Starting with the islands, the goal right now is to stabilize the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, to make sure that we are addressing all life safety and life- sustaining issues and we're in really good position to help them do that.

There's great communication with both governors in the island communities, and the objectives are very clear. Emergency power and restoring power, life-saving, life-sustaining commodities, emergency communications and security. So those are the goals that we are currently supporting.

And this is a massive effort because of the logistical nature of being able to access islands, we are very proud to have our partners with the Department of Defense. They've provided over six different Navy ships in the area that will be operating today to help us accomplish or help our island partners accomplish their goals.

Moving on, obviously Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States in either Florida or some of the Southeastern States. This is a complex forecast. Anybody from Alabama to North Carolina should be watching this storm very closely.

The forecast and the direct impacts of this storm have yet to be determined because, one, it's a very powerful storm. But the nature of the curve in that forecast after 72 hours is going to be the key to see who gets the worst impacts here.

It's not a question of if Florida is going to be impacted, it's a question of how bad Florida is going to be impacted and where the storm ends up over the next four to five days as it passes inland.

And I think it's very important to point out, any time the center of circulation of this storm travels inside that air -- that forecast air come, whether it's on the left-hand side or the right-hand side, it's a good forecast.

And then you have to, you know, add into that the maximum radius winds, how far out hurricane winds extend from that center of circulation. So that's why I'm saying, anybody right now from Alabama to basically North Carolina needs to be monitoring and taking preparations.

Obviously, there's a lot of evacuation activity taking place in Florida over the last 24 to 48 hours. Heed all local warnings. The goal is get out of a storm surge vulnerable area, that is wind-driven, coastal, storm surge flooding waters coming onshore.

That's the most devastating hazard associated with hurricanes. Get out of that storm surge area and get into a facility that can withstand the winds. That doesn't mean you have to travel hundreds of miles to do so, but get out of the storm surge area into a facility that can withstand the winds.

Later today, I know that other states are also considering evacuation movement, and the jurisdiction to ask or call for mandatory evacuations may be directed by the governor or your local officials. So make sure you understand who issues that warning, why you're being moved and take precautions.

Obviously, Governor Scott has been leaning very, you know, very far forward.


We have been in support of Governor Scott. We're helping him to address the fuel issues. Yesterday, the president proactively waived the Jones Act to be able to supply more fuel, to help the governor get more fuel into his state.

The president has been very quick to also issue disaster declarations in support of the response movements that are going forward. And we will continue to work with our partners. With me today is Secretary Price from HHS.

Obviously, emergency management, as I've been saying, is a partnership. It's not only a partnership across the federal government. It's a partnership through all levels of government all the way down to the citizens that we saw proactively step forward in Harvey.

We're going to need that same whole community approach today. And with me is Secretary Price. I'd like to turn it over to him for a few words about health and medical issues.

TOM PRICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Thanks, Brock. Any time in an emergency you want to make certain you've got the best people coordinating. And I can tell you that the American people couldn't be more proud of the folks at FEMA and the leadership that Brock Long and his team are giving.

I want to share a few words about Harvey and then, and then return to Irma. In terms of Harvey, we are -- we remain in the response and recovering efforts that continue. The lifesaving is -- activities are transferring to life-sustaining activities. Still have about 16,000 people in shelter. From a health standpoint,

there are four hospitals that remain closed. This comes down from a high of about 30 hospitals that were closed with the peak.

About 13 dialysis units are closed, but there's capacity to accommodate all of the patients in the Southeastern Texas area. Twenty-six nursing homes remain closed, but again, the capacity has been able to handle patients who were moved from those nursing homes.

HHS itself has had about over 5,000 patient encounters since the beginning of the -- of the storm there, and the vast majority of those unrelated to the storm itself, but needing to have attention and mostly minor health activities.

CDC is working with the state to work on a mitigation plan for mosquitos and the vector and that is ongoing and will continue for days and weeks. Turning to Irma, in terms of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas Hospital, the main hospital on St. Thomas has -- is closing.

The critical patients have been evacuated already and the remainder of those patients will be evacuated today, either to St. Croix or to Puerto Rico. In terms of Florida, this -- as Brock said, this remains a remarkably dangerous storm, and the window to get yourself in the right spot for weathering the storm, either evacuating or weathering the storm is closing rapidly.

Health and Human Services and others along with FEMA's direction have pre-deployed a number of individuals either in Atlanta or Southern Georgia as well as in Dallas, preparation for moving into Florida as the need arises and as the local individuals in the state request.

We have extended waivers so that medications can be provided for a longer period of time through pharmacies and I would encourage individuals to take an advantage of that. One of the things that HHS does is to identify those folks that are electricity-dependent for their health needs.

So whether it's folks on oxygen concentrators or those dialysis patients or individuals who have electric wheelchairs that they use in order to be mobile, we share that data and we provide that data to the states and have done so to Florida so that they can then contact those individuals directly.

And there are about 5,040 -- 5,400 dialysis patients that have been provided to the state, over 20,000 electricity-dependent and about 6,700 patients who are electricity-dependent on oxygen concentrators.

So I want to just echo the words that Brock stated about the governors leaning in. Governor Scott has been a remarkable partner in all of this. They have -- along with the governors in Georgia and South Carolina, they have been very, very aggressive in making certain that they are getting the word out to their population.

We got -- we're going to have a couple of rough days here, a number of rough days and whatever befalls us because of the storm, I can assure the American people that your federal government is working as diligently as we can to make certain we can respond to whatever needs arise. Thank you.

LONG: Thank you, Secretary. So just to recap.


CUOMO: All right, we're listening to the FEMA presser. That was the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price. One aspect of this is, how do you deal with the sick and the needy who are power- dependent in a storm that may knock out power? That just shows you the granular level of all the details that have to be dealt with.

So let's bring in Dave Halstead, CNN contributor, former director of State Emergency Management here in Florida.


Do you like what you're hearing in terms of coordination and management top down?

DAVE HALSTEAD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I do, but I like it the other way. You talked to the congresswoman. It starts at the local level. You hear the message, you hear the message consistently, you hear it across party lines. Then you go to the state level, Governor Scott leaning way forward.

Next, it'll be up to Brock Long and the FEMA team to back up anything that we can't provide here in the State of Florida. So what I see is a team certainly right now looking like they're very unified.

CUOMO: Now here's the problem or the challenge or the reality, however you want to put it. You can only prepare for so much. If this is what it is expected to be and again, never in the journalism business do you want to be wrong the way you want to be wrong in a situation like this.

I hope the models are wrong. I hope it blows farther west. It's going to be someone's problem wherever it goes. But if it's accurate, you can only prepare for so much. So for all the pressers and all the details, once it hits, there are going to be problems that are unforeseen and that can't be managed.

HALSTEAD: The way I look at it when I ran emergency management, you've got a power curve. You're going to be behind the power curve when that storm hits.

The question is how long does it take you to catch up? How long does it take you to get ahead of that power curve? Are you always trying to catch up or can you get ahead?

Here in Florida, I know our history has been that we get ahead very quickly. Andrew was our lesson. Andrew spanked us, Andrew taught us that we weren't prepared, weren't ready.

Since then we've done everything we can in the local level and the state level to be prepared. And you see now Brock Long, a former Alabama State Director is the head of FEMA. He's not some political appointee. He is a man who has done this.

CUOMO: He knows the job.

HALSTEAD: And he knows the job.

CUOMO: All right. So 1992, that was Hurricane Andrew, that was the last category five. There have only been three to hit the country since the 1800s.

People will say, "Irma ain't Andrew, it's only going to be a four, it's not a five so it won't be as bad. Your perspective?

HALSTEAD: I think you heard your meteorologist say, two miles an hour is what separates a four and five right now. Do we really want to go there and say, "Well, it's only going to be a four?"

A four is a catastrophic major hurricane any way you slice it, Chris. Catastrophic major hurricane.

CUOMO: All right. The bad news is, we're going to see trouble. The good news is we're going to have tons of preparation and we're going to have here -- you here with people like me to guide us through. Dave, I appreciate the perspective.

HALSTEAD: Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: Alisyn, to you.

CAMEROTA: Chris, thank you very much. We want to get back to now the very patient Congressman Will Hurd, he has been standing by listening to all of this. And we have all sorts of news of the day to talk with him about as well. Congressman, thanks for your patience.

HURD: No, absolutely. Look, I just want to implore your listeners or viewers on the Eastern seaboard, listen to your local officials, listen to FEMA. I think, you know, one of the things that we saw in Harvey is that federal, state, and local officials are working incredibly well together along with non-profit organizations in the private sector.

It really is, it really is amazing. I know Chris said that you can't, you can't be -- you can't prepare for everything, but having the level of preparation that we've been seeing, being led by FEMA and being led by the local emergency managers is pretty impressive.

And that's why you're going to see, you know, that, you know, loss of life be held to a, to a minimum and making sure that we get to recovery operations. I think this is a success story from Andrew, from all the -- from Katrina, about how to make sure the federal, state, and local government starts working together.

And I think the American people should feel good about the type of coordination and the lessons learned since those major, since those major national -- natural disasters. CAMEROTA: Yes, that is really heartening. It is really heartening.

The lessons have been applied. And we have seen people at every level working so hard and collaborating together which, as you say, has been encouraging.

So let's quickly talk about a couple of other important news stories of the day. When we were interrupted, we were talking about the latest thread from the Russia investigation. As you know, Don Trump, Jr. met with the Senate Judiciary Committee staffers yesterday, investigators trying to figure out what he knew before this meeting that he took with Russians at Trump Tower.

He has admitted that they were and there were e-mails proving that he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton and that's what sparked his interest and that's why he agreed to the meeting. So yesterday, in his prepared statement, let me read it for you again.

This is just a portion of it, he explains a little bit further his motivations. "To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character, or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed I should at least hear them out."

Congressman, is there anything that you heard yesterday in his statements and what has come out as a result that raised new questions for you?

HURD: Well, I'm not in the Senate and I'm not on the Judiciary Committee. So I didn't participate in any hearings.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, you are on intel, right? So you'll be talking to (INAUDIBLE)

HURD: Yes. I am on intel. And look, as you know, Alisyn, I spent nine and a half years as an undercover officer in the CIA.


If Russian officials come bearing gifts, it's probably not a positive thing.

And so I would not have taken the meeting even if you think it's an opportunity to, you know, help you in a, in a political campaign. There's still a lot of questions that are going to have to be answered.

I think coming in yesterday was the first step. You're going to have to dissect the comments that were made based with the evidence that may have. I wish this was and I think the American people wish this investigation was concluding at a quicker pace.

But we've got to do this in a bipartisan thorough manner and go wherever the leads may take us. You know, there's this issue about these Facebook ads that could be connected to a Russian internet troll. Was there any involvement in -- by Americans in helping with targeting of those ads?

There's a -- there's lot of questions that still have to be answered, and we're going to go through this in a methodical way.

CAMEROTA: OK. Let's talk about DACA, that, of course, is the program that protects the so-called Dreamers, the young people who were brought here as children through no choice of their own.

You have many Dreamers, obviously, in your district. So how do you feel about the plan that President Trump proposed which was basically, it's up to congress. The clock is now ticking. Congress has six months to figure out what to do with these folks.

HURD: I've been saying for a long time, it is congress's responsibility to take care of this group of folks. You know, these -- you know, we should be able to solve this problem for these children that the only country they've ever known is the United States.

And there should be a long-term fix and solution. The fact that we have six months to get this, to get this done, I think we can. One of the things that I've learned in my two and a half years in congress is that congress usually does better when there's a timeline.

And, you know, now that we have a timeline in order to deal with this, and I think this is -- this DACA fix, if you will, is probably going to be part of a broader border security conversation that's going to unfold over the next couple of months.

CAMEROTA: So you're optimistic, and that is good to hear. President Trump also tweeted yesterday that he believes that they have nothing to worry about. And that's quite different than, you know, the way they felt when they first heard it.

They felt, uh-oh, in the next six months we're out of here. And then he clarified yesterday, at the behest of Nancy Pelosi, we're told, for all those DACA that are concerned about your status during this six- month period, you have nothing to worry about.

No action. So Congressman, as you stand there today, you think that no Dreamers will ever be deported, you think congress will figure this out in the next six months?

HURD: I believe we can, and I believe we must. I've always said we -- the United States has benefited from the brain drain of every other country and let's benefit from -- let's continue that, and let's benefit from the hard-working drain as well.

Many of these folks have only attended, you know, American schools. They've gone to universities, they're participating in businesses. I've met some that are entrepreneurs.

We should, we should be able to get this right, and I believe that congress will act in a -- in the right manner to ensure that these groups of folks are able to have the legal status to continue staying in the United States.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Will Hurd, thank you very much for standing by with us, thank you for taking the time for "NEW DAY". HURD: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So we're following Hurricane Irma, of course, as the storm closes in on South Florida. Thousands of people are evacuating and leaving. Some deciding though to hunker down. So we're going to talk to one person who is going to attempt to ride out the storm next.



CAMEROTA: There are major concerns for the energy industry in Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma. Chief Business Correspondent, Christine Romans is in our Money Center. What are the concerns, Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CHIEF BUSINESS CORESSPONDENT, CNN: We know two my nuclear reactors are shutting down this weekend. Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station, it's located just south of Miami in Homestead and the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant is about a hundred-fifty miles up the coast in Jensen Beach.

Now both are right in the predicted path of the storm. Florida Power and Light tells us those sites are among the strongest in the U.S. They are designed to withstand heavy wind and storm surge. Turkey Points Nuclear Reactors survived a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew back in 1992.

Some 90 million dollars of damage back then. And also a number of gas stations in the area are shutting down because they have run out of fuel, Alisyn. At least 42 percent of gas stations in the Miami, Fort Lauderdale region are without fuel.

That's according to GasBuddy. Forty-two percent. Panic buying is causing long lines throughout South Florida. Florida's Governor Rick Scott trying to ease those shortages by directing state police to escort fuel delivery trucks.

He's urging gas stations to stay open as long as possible before the storm hits. Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much, Christine. Important information. Hundreds of thousands of people are under mandatory evacuation orders, all right? Now, some are mandatory, some are voluntary, some just about common sense and discretion.

But not everybody can make the choice to leave. You have emergency workers that have to stay behind. Irma is going to come ashore and some people are simply too vulnerable, too old, infirm and can't leave.


Joining us now is Hattie Willis. She is the Executive Director of an organization called Communities United and also with us is Linda Blackshear. She's under voluntary

evacuation order but is planning to ride out the storm. So we have two very different perspectives. First, thank you for being with us.



CUOMO: Good luck and be safe. Good luck and be safe. So, first, you. You need to be here because you want to help the seniors.


CUOMO: And what is the word you have for those who feel that they just either don't have it in them, or physically can't get out because of their age and infirmity? What's the message?

WILLIS: I want them to stay safe, make sure that the things we have displayed here, that they have them there.

CUOMO: Battery operated fan.


CUOMO: Flashlight with extra batteries.

WILLIS: Correct.

CUOMO: Bleach.

WILLIS: Bleach.


WILLIS: Because you need to keep the water pure and it'll keep it clean because some of the water will get contaminated.

CUOMO: Now, obviously not for drinking but for water that you're going to use for what?

WILLIS: You can drink it but you need to let it sit for three to four days before you drink it.

CUOMO: Even if you put bleach in it?

WILLIS: Just a cap, not a lot.

CUOMO: Oh, all right.

WILLIS: I mean, and one important thing we want to say.

CUOMO: Hold on a second now.


CUOMO: We're not hearing you. So let me take this off.


CUOMO: Move it past my ample gut. Hold on a second. All right. We're going to both use this one. Can you hear Hattie now, Jubs (ph)?


CUOMO: Can you hear her? I'm asking the director. All good? Hattie, speak.

WILLIS: Hello?

CUOMO: Good. All right. So let's do this again because it matters.


CUOMO: For the elderly.

WILLIS: Right.

CUOMO: These are the things you say they need. Take us through them.

WILLIS: Right. They need to have a battery-operated fan. They should have a seven-day supply of water, a seven-day supply of food, first aid kit, bleach. It will keep the water pure. Also get your medications. And Walgreens right now will give them a month's free medication if they go right now today.

Make sure that you write down your medication, the doctor, your phone number, your -- the next of kin and someone if you're not leaving so they will be able to be in contact. And most important, Red Cross has this on their website and this is for seniors and it will help them if they need some help.

CUOMO: Two things.


CUOMO: One, Walgreens will give them free medication.


CUOMO: If they go and they do not get the free medication, contact Communities United, let her know who isn't staying true to the pledge. Hattie will tell us and we will come after them and make sure that they are honoring their responsibilities.

WILLIS: Very good.

CUOMO: Second, you said that you can put bleach in water and it would be OK to drink. That scares me. I didn't know that. How is that true?

WILLIS: It will purify the water if it's contaminated. You put it in a -- you only put a half of a cap in --

CUOMO: And how much water? WILLIS: In -- two gallons.


WILLIS: And then let it sit. And in a couple of days it will be drinkable. It's fine, it'll clean the water and you can use it.


WILLIS: All right.

CUOMO: Good to know and also flashlight, extra batteries, very important.

WILLIS: One more. Everybody should have Off.

CUOMO: Right.

WILLIS: Right?

CUOMO: Now, people are going to say, "Oh, who cares?" But what are the bugs like after a storm?

WILLIS: Right. They're very bad and they're volatile and we already have bugs right now that are killing people. So we need to make sure that the fingers are safe.

CUOMO: And we've seen that in Harvey.


CUOMO: Which is where the mosquitos are going to carry infection and illness. So you got to be ready.

WILLIS: Correct. Absolutely.

CUOMO: OK. Now there's you, Linda Blackshear. It is great to have you here.

BLACKSHEAR: Thank you.

CUOMO: I'm going to use my mic for you as well.


CUOMO: You're not leaving. Why?

BLACKSHEAR: The reason that I'm not leaving is because that I'm not in an evacuation zone and I have someone to live with me. But they are elderlies that live in my residence that doesn't have anyone, so they really need help if it comes to evacuation.

CUOMO: So, you're not in a mandatory evacuation zone?


CUOMO: Are you in a voluntary evacuation zone?


CUOMO: All right. So now, even though I just met you, there's going to be an obvious concern about why you didn't leave. What's your answer?

BLACKSHEAR: Well, first of all, I feel safe. And I have someone that's living with me which is my grandson, but if I needed some place to go I have somewhere to leave and go out of town.

CUOMO: So, you've taken time to do what the officials call a plan?


CUOMO: And do you have supplies?

BLACKSHEAR: I have all the supplies. All these -- all the essentials.

CUOMO: You have all this kind of stuff?

BLACKSHEAR: All these -- yes.

CUOMO: Did you know the thing about the bleach and the water?

BLACKSHEAR: Yes, of course. As a matter of fact, I volunteer with Miss Willis whenever they -- she's doing hurricane seminars to educate the seniors that really don't know and need to know. So all of the supplies that she has displayed here I have them.

CUOMO: So, you are staying, but, you have somebody with you?


CUOMO: You've taken time to have a plan and you have the supplies, God forbid you need to stay holed up and shelter in place for even 72 hours.

BLACKSHEAR: Right. My shutters are up. Everything's good.

CUOMO: Well, God willing you will be safe and I look forward to talking to you after the storm.

BLACKSHEAR: Thank you.

CUOMO: Thank you for getting the word out. I did not know that about the bleach. And in fact, I'm not even sure I completely believe it yet. I'm going to Google it.

WILLIS: Google it.

CUOMO: After I get off.

WILLIS: OK. Thank you. CUOMO: All right. We are following a lot of news. Irma is making its way to South Florida. It is hitting Cuba, it has devastated the British Virgin Islands. We have all the best proof and all the best pictures. Let's get after it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.


CUOMO: All right. Good morning. Welcome to your "NEW DAY". It is Friday, September 8. It's 8 o'clock here in Miami. CNN is on scene bracing for Hurricane Irma. Just a few minutes ago we heard the FEMA administration.