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Hurricane Nate Heads for Florida; Las Vegas Shooting; Trump White House; Catalonia Crisis; Challenges for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. Aired 12mn-12:30a ET

Aired October 7, 2017 - 00:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Deadly tropical storm Nate is now a hurricane. It's headed to the U.S. Gulf Coast. We continue to monitor that storm.

Plus the calm before the storm, the White House as confused as anyone following the president's strange comments.

And mayday: the British leader delivers a disastrous speech putting her future as the prime minister of the nation at risk.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm George Howell and CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: It is a tropical storm no longer. Nate has just reached hurricane force winds and it is barreling toward the United States. That storm has already killed at least 24 people in Central America.

Heavy rains are expected to hit the region through Monday, bringing very strong flooding like what you see here. Some people scrabbling to escape a bus in Nicaragua, trapped in fast-moving waters there.

And the rains threaten to bring deadly mudslides as well, bringing homes down, burying them and knocking the power out in many of these areas. Now in the U.S. state of Louisiana, it is preparing for a direct hit. The mayor of the city of New Orleans has ordered evacuations and a mandatory curfew. Let's get the very latest live with our meteorologist, Ivan Cabrera, following this storm, a hurricane now.


HOWELL: Now to the U.S. state of Nevada, authorities there still hunting for a motive in the Las Vegas mass shooting that took place there. There is no known link between the gunman, Stephen Paddock, and terror groups like ISIS and he doesn't appear to have had any trouble buying weapons that he used.

Those weapons he used to kill 58 people.


UNDERSHERIFF KEVIN MCMAHILL, LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE: in the past terror attacks or mass murder incidents, motive was made very clear, very clear in most of those cases, by a note that was left, by a social media post, by telephone a call that was made, by--


MCMAHILL: -- investigators mining computer data. Today in our investigation, we don't have any of that uncovered. I wish we did. We will and are continuing to investigate with great tenacity and hope to arrive at an answer.


HOWELL: Fair to say there are a lot of questions. One thing though that we do know at this point, Paddock may not have only fired at concertgoers. Officials at the nearby McCarran Airport say that they found bullet holes on large fuel tanks there.

In the meantime, a source close to the investigations says that a note with numbers was also found in Paddock's room. Investigators also found large amounts of explosives in his car.

For more on this investigation, CNN senior U.S. correspondent Kyung Lah has this report.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Five days after Sunday's horrific shooting in Las Vegas, a focus on the explosive materiel found in the gunman's car, which contained a suitcase and a duffel bag full of ammunition and 50 pounds of Tannerite.

MCMAHILL: Sorry to tell you I don't know what he was going to do with all of that Tannerite. I wish I did.

LAH (voice-over): Bomb-sniffing dogs led police to the shooter's car parked at the Mandalay Bay resort. This YouTube demonstration claims to show the power of 30 pounds of Tannerite. A little more than half of what the shooter had stocked.

The Tannerite may have been used for target practice or placed there with the intent to explode if the car were fired upon. Stephen Paddock's suite was filled with weapons and extra rounds, but a law enforcement source says he also attempted to purchase tracer ammunition at a recent gun shop only failing because the vendor says it was sold out.

The glowing rounds seen here to help track accuracy in the dark. All it seems part of a deadly and premeditated plan.

ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You have to think back to this individual's background. He's very organized, he's an accountant, an auditor. So he planned this out very well.

LAH (voice-over): CNN has learned Paddock also booked three separate rooms here at the Ogden in Las Vegas between September 17th and 28th. That same week, more than a hundred thousand fans attended the "Life is Beautiful Festival" well within view of those same rooms.

[19:05:02] RODERICK: I think he went there, looked at it and eliminated that as a possibility.

LAH (voice-over): Paddock and his girlfriend Marilou Danley were avid travelers according to law enforcement sources. They say Paddock has taken at least 20 cruises, many to Europe with stops in Spain, Italy, Greece, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Danley accompanying him on at least nine trips.

It was Paddock's discussion of travel that his hairdresser recalls most vividly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His girlfriend was with him and again, just kind of doing her thing. and he sat down and was telling me about her leaving to go to the Philippines and he was going to be home alone hanging out for a while by himself.

LAH (voice-over): She says that haircut and conversation was two months ago, indicating just how far back the timeline for this massacre may go. But among investigators, frustration mounting a week in.

MCMAHILL: We have run down more than what more than a thousand leads in this investigation. While some of it has helped create a better profile into the madness of this suspect, we do not still have a clear motive or reason why.



HOWELL: That was Kyung Lah reporting for us there.

The Trump White House is refusing or perhaps unable to clarify mysterious remarks made by President Donald Trump. He was meeting Thursday night with senior Pentagon leaders for dinner when he had this to say.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You guys know what this represents?

Well, maybe it's the calm before the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the storm?

TRUMP: Could be the calm before the storm.


What storm is --

TRUMP: We have the world's great military people in this room, I will tell you that. And we're going to have a great evening. Thank you all for coming. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What storm, Mr. President?

TRUMP: You'll find out.


HOWELL: Many U.S. military families probably would want to know what the president was hinting there.

On Friday White House Press Secretary though would not speculate on what President Trump was talking about it. In the meantime, though the U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson appears to be on thin ice with the administration.

He was recently reportedly calling the president -- reported to have called him "a moron" and did not deny making the comment when he had the chance to. We get the very latest on the story from CNN's Ryan Nobles.


TRUMP: Thank you, total confidence in Rex.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite the president's insistence that he is confident in his secretary of state and Rex Tillerson's denial that he considered stepping down, top aides say their relationship is strained.

And a growing number of top diplomats and White House officials view the secretary of state's days as numbered.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Nothing has changed, despite what you may read in the --


SANDERS: -- media or watch on TV. I would certainly trust the President and my comments far above those of other reporters.

NOBLES (voice-over): In the briefing room, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders continued to push back on the reports that Tillerson could be on the way out. And a White House official tells CNN there's no indication that Tillerson's job is in jeopardy, primarily because Chief of Staff John Kelly's concerned about the optics of another high-profile administration official stepping down.

The uncertainty around Tillerson's future comes at a time when the administration is preparing to wade into one of its most thorny foreign policy matters, re-certifying the Iran nuclear deal hatched during the Obama administration.

TRUMP: You'll be hearing about it very shortly. Thank you.

NOBLES (voice-over): Trump could decertify the deal as early as next week, forcing the decision to be made by Congress, which would have 60 days to determine a path forward. While the President claims Iran has not lived up to the spirit of the deal, top administration officials like Defense Secretary James Mattis have warned pulling out completely is not in the best interest of U.S. national security.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Absent indications to the contrary, it is something the President should consider staying with.

NOBLES (voice-over): It's expected that the White House will announce a broader, long-range strategy for the Middle East, which will include the Iran deal and some beefed up measures to strengthen inspections and plan for what happens when it expires. But pushing that deal through Congress is always risky and will involve winning over fickle Republican hawks in the U.S. Senate, a job that could be made more difficult if the tension with the administration's top diplomat continues.

And on Friday in the briefing, Sarah Sanders was asked about Senator Bob Corker's comments that Tillerson is among a group of Trump advisers who is separating the countries from chaos.

Sanders responded that it is the president who is keeping the world from chaos -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, at the White House.


HOWELL: Let's now bring in political analyst Peter Matthews; he's a professor of political science at Cypress College live for us in our Los Angeles bureau this hour.

It's good to have you with us.

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: It's good to be with you, George.

HOWELL: Let's first talk about the president's secretary of state Rex Tillerson following the comments that he made, reportedly made calling President Trump "a moron." He denied that he was looking to resign from his post, the allegations that he was looking for the exits.

But the speculation is there that his days are numbered and there is also similar speculation about the president's chief of staff, John Kelly, that he may be under pressure as well.

MATTHEWS: Well, the secretary of state position is the most important cabinet position in historical order, the first cabinet position among equals. So it's very important to have a person with some stability and some status and standing.

And that's Tillerson, of all the options, he's the person needs to be there. That's why John Kelly, the chief of staff, wants to keep Tillerson there and looking at the optics of him having to leave early would be terrible.

And so it's very possible that both Kelly and Tillerson would be leaving. I don't think they will right away. Tillerson might go before that because the conflict with the president on not only policy but personality, unfortunately, and Tillerson's disagreed with the president on the Iran nuclear deal, he wants to keep the deal, work with it; the president wants to jettison it, let it go.

And the same thing with North Korea. Tillerson just came out and said that he's had to direct line North Korea; we should use diplomacy. And president undercut him the next day and said, stop wasting your time negotiating with North Korea, very bad relationship at this point and this is showing up in public, that is also very bad.

HOWELL: Certainly the secretary of state has to show no daylight between the thinking, the mindset of the U.S. president but, again, as you point out, President Trump many times on Twitter undercuts his own secretary of state.

Let's talk about the Iran nuclear deal now and reports that President Trump may move to decertify that agreement. So by decertifying it, he would then kick it over to legislators to decide a path forward, could result in more sanctions.

What does this do for the effectiveness of this deal?

MATTHEWS: It undermines it completely, increased a lot of instability, not just with the United States and Iran, but the six- party talk, there was the P5, that will be the U.K., China, Russia, France and Britain plus Germany, that's the sixth country, they negotiated this together collectively with the United States and Iran.

And the United Nations (INAUDIBLE) auspices. The United Nations is involved in it because the IAEA, that's the inspection agency of the United Nations, actually is involved with inspecting and they accomplished a lot because Iran allowed the inspections to come in.

And Iran agreed to stop its plutonium production, to put that under freeze. It has been certified as not producing uranium for bombs, either, and the inspectors are able to keep track of it.

That why almost all the countries in the world want to keep this agreement with Iran in order to proliferation from recurring and that's --


MATTHEWS: -- very important, especially with the crisis in North Korea at the same time and the president needs to look at all of this in a very comprehensive way and not just a knee-jerk way, say let's get rid of this particular agreement because he doesn't like it or because his supporters may not like it.

HOWELL: All right. You mentioned North Korea, the president's comment also about the calm before the storm and then when asked about that, he said, we'll see. It's a cryptic comment but we'll see. Some speculate he was talking about North Korea.

We don't know that for certain. But is this President Trump's style to say things like we will see because clearly he's done this before on major issues. Take a look here. We can talk about it in a moment.




Thank you.

TRUMP: Well, let's see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you considering military action in North Korea?

TRUMP: We'll see what happens. We'll see what happens.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you plan to stay in the Iranian nuclear deal?





HOWELL: So that comment, "we'll see," we've seen that before on major issues, the president known for making off-the-cuff remarks on these major complex topics.

What impact does that have on the significance of whatever he's talking about?

MATTHEWS: Because of the uncertainty it's creating, when you say we'll see, the other countries, including our competitors, North Korea, others, don't know what he means by that.

And when you have uncertainty and miscalculation can arise you could have a war begin and this is the dangers of arbitrary (INAUDIBLE), mid-American story and said World War I began through miscalculation.

Uncertainty brings about miscalculation and the president I think was wrong in saying that we'll see and making people think of a cryptic prediction that we don't exactly know if he means it or what exactly he means.

It is very dangerous to have the uncertain and to project uncertainty to the world and to our competitors and to the enemies that we might have. And to our friends as well. They are concerned about this in the president need to be a lot more clear and stop talking off-the- cuff like this in very critical situations.

HOWELL: Also very a busy week President Trump, the administration rolling back the Obama-era protections on birth control, a lot that we will, of course, be watching here in the Newsroom.

But Peter Matthews, thank you for your time today.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Good to be with you.

HOWELL: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta, Georgia, and still ahead, Theresa May's nightmare of the week now ends but the U.K.'s challenges are far from over there.

Plus leaders from the Catalonia independence movement appeared in a Madrid court and face accusations of sedition. Stay with us.




HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

For the very first time, Madrid is apologizing for the violence surrounding Catalonia's independence vote; nearly 900 people were injured during --


HOWELL: -- polling activities there, according to Catalonian officials.

Despite that apology, the standoff between Spain and Catalonia is far from over, as our Atika Shubert explains.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the streets of Barcelona may seem like business as usual but frankly there is still a lot of nervousness and confusion about what happens next in this political crisis.

Both the Catalonian government and the Spanish national government seem to have entered a sort of lull as they survey the aftermath of the independence vote on Sunday. Madrid's representative to Catalonia today actually offered an apology on television for the number of people who were injured as they were trying to cast ballots in that independence vote on Sunday, much of it due to this very tough police action by the national police.

And this is really the first act of contrition that we have seen coming from Madrid. At the same time, however, today, Catalonia's police was hauled before a court in Madrid and he faces allegations of sedition, the claim in his case is that he didn't do enough to prevent protest in the run-up to that vote.

In the meantime, we still have businesses here in Barcelona, very nervous, two of the biggest banks here have actually now legally moved their homes to other cities and other parts of Spain, trying to find some way to protect themselves from the political insecurity.

Also on Friday, the official results from the vote came in, no real surprise in the numbers, 90 percent of those that voted, voted yes to independence. There were about 2 million voters and according to local government officials here, that's about 43 percent of the electorate.

But those numbers don't mean anything to Madrid. The national government has said very clearly the vote was invalid. So the big question is if and when Catalonian president Carles Puigdemont will declare independence, as in the past he has said he would do.

There was a plenary session, Catalonian plenary session scheduled for Monday. That has now been moved to Tuesday after the Spanish constitutional court said the first session could not take place.

But what Puigdemont will say, what he will announced and perhaps, more importantly, how Madrid will react still remains to be seen -- Atika Shubert, CNN, Barcelona.


HOWELL: Atika, thank you for the reporting.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, the British prime minister Theresa May, could she be looking for the exits -- a Mexit with Theresa May?

A group of lawmakers from her own party want her out. We'll have the very latest as NEWSROOM pushes on.




HOWELL: In the United Kingdom, Brexit talks call for a change in leadership and what some see as a crisis in confidence. Those are just a few of the challenges facing the British Prime Minister Theresa May. And it may only be the beginning. Here's CNN's Nina Dos Santos from London.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Our economy is back on track.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR (voice-over): The stuttering performance of the British prime minister at the Conservative Party conference is viewed by many as a symptom of a deeper malaise, a crisis of confidence in the British government, triggered by a --


DOS SANTOS (voice-over): -- disastrous election, which cost the Conservative Party its majority and left some to suggest Theresa May is in office but not in power.

Now word that 30 of her own MPs would back a call for her to stand down, that claim coming from the former co-chairman of the Conservative Party Grant Shatt (ph), the public face of this rebellion; 48 MPs are needed to trigger her removal.

Today, Theresa May moved to steady the ship.

MAY: What I think is necessary for the country now, what the country needs is calm leadership. That's exactly what I'm providing and I'm providing that with the full support of my cabinet. Thank you.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): But this call for calm, like the falling letter behind her confidence backdrop as she delivered her speech, is not a good look for the prime minister.

And the timing is terrible: with Brexit negotiations set to continue on Monday, the prime minister's weakness cannot have escaped the notice of E.U. negotiators or of the markets, with the pound having its worst week in a year.

The prime minister had hoped that a mea culpa over her decision to call a snap election would have turned the tide on her fortunes but to no avail.

MAY: I hold my hands up for that. I take responsibility. I led the campaign and I am sorry.

DOS SANTOS: There is one saving grace for Theresa May, that's the fact that, faced with a resurgent Labour and opposition, her party will do all it can to avoid triggering a general election. So until its members can fix on a suitable successor, it's likely that she may limp on a little while longer -- Nina dos Santos, CNN, at Westminster in London.


HOWELL: Nina, thank you.

A message has been sent to the world as anti-nuclear weapons groups -- a group wins the Nobel Peace Prize. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons received that honor. The coalition was the driving force behind the U.N. -- the U.N. nuclear weapons treaty that was adopted in July.

It's no coincidence that the campaign known as ICAN was recognized as fears of a nuclear conflict between United States and North Korea continue to grow.

Thank you for watching this edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. "CNN STYLE" is up next. But first your world headlines after the break.