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Hurricane Nate Heads for Florida; Las Vegas Shooting; Trump White House; Aid Pours in to Puerto Rico; Catalonia Crisis; Russian Trolls behind U.S. Protest. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired October 7, 2017 - 02:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hurricane Nate barreling toward the U.S. Gulf Coast, leaving a trail of death and severe damage in Central America. We're tracking this storm.

Chilling details about the plans of the Las Vegas gunman. Investigators saying his entire car rigged with explosives.

Dueling protests fueled by Russian-made Facebook events. We'll tell you about that.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, want to welcome her views around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: Once a tropical storm, now Nate is a full-forced hurricane headed straight toward the U.S. Gulf Coast. Heavy rains and flash floods knocked out power and drinking water throughout Central America as a tropical storm. Nate killed at least 24 people in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras and hundreds of people have had to be rescued from floodwaters.

You see here, just look at this, here in San Jose, Costa Rica. The U.S. Gulf Coast is bracing for the direct hit from the strength of this storm. Our Ed Lavandera has the story from New Orleans.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The governors of the Gulf states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and here in Louisiana have declared states of emergency in the anticipation of Hurricane Nate making landfall here in this region this weekend.

Hurricane warnings have gone out from New Orleans, all the way to the Florida Panhandle as well. Emergency officials urging people to take the precautions they need to, to prepare for this storm. It's expected to make landfall as a category 1 hurricane, winds approaching 80 miles an hour.

But it's also the amount of rainfall that's expected and the storm surge that will come with this storm as it makes landfall. The good news is, it appears to be moving at a really quick pace, so that will really help out the flooding situation in many of these low-lying communities here along the Gulf Coast.

The mayor of New Orleans has already instituted a curfew that goes into effect at 6:00 pm Saturday night through Sunday morning. That is when the worst of this storm is expected to make landfall here, somewhere along the Gulf Coast, either Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Western Florida.

So all of those areas under a great deal of concern here this weekend as Hurricane Nate approaches. But as we walked around here in New Orleans and Louisiana, not a great deal of concern.

You get a sense, from many folks here in the French Quarter of New Orleans, people walking around, cocktails in hand, as the storm is a little more than 24 hours away. And in other parts of the city, this is a city very prone to flooding and always a major concern here, doesn't seem to be a lot of anxiety about what exactly this storm is bringing.

That is obviously -- sometimes causes a lot of concern for emergency management officials. They're urging people to quickly take the precautions that they need to, in anticipation of this storm arriving -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, New Orleans, Louisiana.


HOWELL: Ed, thank you for the report there.

Now let's get the very latest from our meteorologist, Ivan Cabrera, tracking this storm live for us.



HOWELL: Moving on now to the U.S. state of Nevada, authorities there are still hunting for the motive in the Las Vegas mass shooting that took place on Sunday. There's 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, weapons that 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 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: A lot of unanswered questions at this point. The one thing we do know now that Paddock may not have only fired at concertgoers. Officials at the nearby McCarran Airport say a large fuel tank was also hit by bullets.

In the meantime a source close to the investigation says that a note with numbers on it was found in Paddock's room. Investigators also found large amounts of explosives in his car. For more on this investigation here is CNN's senior U.S. correspondent Kyung Lah.


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.

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 --


MCMAHILL: -- 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: CNN's senior U.S. correspondent, Kyung Lah, with the investigation there.

In Washington, D.C., the Trump White House is refusing or perhaps unable to clarify a mysterious remark made by the U.S. 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: On Friday the White House press secretary would not speculate on what the president meant with that statement. At the same time U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson appears to be on thin ice with the president in that administration.

He was recently reported calling the president "a moron" and did not deny making that comment when he had a chance; however, he did deny that he was looking for the exits from the position. We'll get the very latest 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 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.


MATTHEWS: 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 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: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, U.S. aid is pouring into the storm-ravaged island of Puerto Rico. How one remote town there is coping now that help is finally arriving.

Plus leaders from the Catalonia independence movement appear in a Madrid courtroom to face accusations of sedition.




HOWELL: We're following the situation in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico where millions of people are still without power. This two weeks after Hurricane Maria ravaged that island. Just over half of the island now has water and sewage service and only 11 percent though has electricity.


The U.S. vice president Mike Pence stopped in to Puerto Rico on Friday amid criticism about the lack of progress on the island. He says though that he understands that residents are frustrated. He says though it will take time to rebuild.

Mr. Pence visited St. Croix and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he was briefed on recovery efforts taking place there.

There been so many lives have changed in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria hit. Our Leyla Santiago visited the small town of Lares to see how residents they are coping with the aftermath of this terrible storm.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These winds are nothing compared to Maria's wrath for the people of Lares. This time, they're a sign that help has arrived.

Half an hour earlier, Customs and Border Protection agents deployed from San Juan, two and a half weeks after the storm, to deliver FEMA's aid to hurricane survivors in need.


SANTIAGO: Why is this now going to go by air versus by land, for that place in particular?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty far up the mountain. So it's a pretty good community and there's also a hospital there.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): This team has been flying over hurricane devastation for weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we did Harvey and Irma. And I think the thing that's striking is how much, on a larger scale this is, compared to those. They seem to be a little more isolated and this seems like the entire island was really devastated.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Wheels touch down, engines do not stop. Unloading begins. Ten minutes on the ground.

As soon as we arrived, police officers arrived, firefighters arrived. People from the municipality, social services. They tell me that some of this will be --


SANTIAGO (voice-over): -- delivered straight to the municipality people in areas that haven't been able to get out. And some of it will be delivered to the hospital.

This river flooded the hospital the day after Maria struck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we've been a couple weeks without power. SANTIAGO (voice-over): Dr. Adrian Gonzalez says half the supplies coming in are from FEMA.

Do you feel that the federal government is doing enough to help you?


SANTIAGO (voice-over): In this remote mountainside community, rooted in Puerto Rican pride, the recovery mission has only just begun. The winds of hope have arrived in Lares. FEMA is bringing help, now with a sense of urgency -- Leyla Santiago, CNN, Lares, Puerto Rico.


HOWELL: Leyla, thank you for the report.

In Spain, the government is admitting for the first time that not everything went well on Sunday's Catalan independence referendum. Madrid's representative to Catalonia has apologized for the police violence there. Nearly 900 people were injured there. However the standoff between Spain and Catalonia is far from over.

The regional parliament will meet on Tuesday, this after Spain's highest court blocked Monday's session.

Think of all the talk of Russian election meddling. It doesn't affect real people? If you think that, it's not exactly true. Coming up, how fake news generated from deep inside Russia spawned an anti-Muslim protest in the U.S. state of Texas. Stay with us.





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

We've heard many times from U.S. officials that Russia meddled in last year's presidential election and now we're learning more about the exact tactics that they used and just how effective those tactics were.

CNN's Clare Sebastian looks at the protest in Texas that originated from Russia.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The small group of anti-Muslim protesters gathers outside an Islamic center in Houston, Texas, in May of 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down with the Nazis! SEBASTIAN (voice-over): A much larger counter rally forms across the

street. Just another example of the struggle for tolerance and understanding in America.

And yet this is different. The anti-Muslim protesters were responding to an event promoted on Facebook, called Stop Islamization of Texas, it was organized by a Facebook group named Heart of Texas.

Heart of Texas, according to sources with knowledge of the matter, is among 470 fake pages or accounts Facebook turned over to Congress following its investigations into ads generated by Russia.

Ads Facebook said came from an organization called Internet Research Agency, that according to people who worked there, operated out of this building in St. Petersburg, 55 savage in the streets (ph), more than 5,000 miles from Texas.

The Houston rally, an example of a Russian effort that had real impact on the ground.

While the stated mission of Heart of Texas was to promote Texans' secessionism, CNN has recovered parts of the account that suggest sowing religious, racial and social discord was also part of its playbook.

One post asks, "Since when has this country turned into a liberal cesspool full of all sorts of ethnic and sexual minorities??

Another raises the issue of voter fraud and another argues against gun control.

The Houston rally was small and ended peacefully, according to the Houston Police Department and yet the Council of American Islamic Relations in Texas had alerted the FBI after a post on the Facebook event page threatened to, quote, "blow this place up." Fear and divisions on the streets of Houston, engineered from Russia -- Clare Sebastian, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: Fascinating. Clare, thank you.

Thanks for being with us for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. "LIVING GOLF" is up next. But first, your world headlines after the break.