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Flooding Hits Parts of Maryland; Subtropical Storm Alberto Threatens Landfall in Florida; Summit Between President Trump and North Korean Leader May Still Occur. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 28, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Suzanne. All too familiar for those folks.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. I know this area very well. My parents live in Ellicott City, Maryland. There were violent thunderstorms last night. Lightning actually struck in their backyard, hitting a bush, setting it on fire. They are OK. But as you can imagine, things are devastating here. This is in the old part of Ellicott City, historic Ellicott City, where the flooding was absolutely massive.

I had a chance to talk to Howard County executive Allan Kittleman who said this was actually worse than what we saw back in July of 2016. If you can push in here you can see just the aftermath of some of this, just the cars stuck in the mud there. It was about 12:30 and Howard County police said they have at least one person was missing by the name of Everson (ph) Harmon (ph). Amazingly no fatalities or no serious injuries, but 30 rescues had taken place overnight. The old courthouse came down. The gentlemen barely made it out of there.

At this time we just saw the water just like a raging river moving cars swiftly down main street. At this time none of the businesses or residents are allowed to get back in their houses. It is just too dangerous. The gas has been shut off since the gas leak was discovered late last night. And what they are trying to do is just assess the damage and just how dangerous this is, if they allow people to even go down main street to begin with. And what is even more tragic here is they had been rebuilding here -- 96 percent of the businesses had come back since 2016. Twenty more new businesses were on Main Street. Many of those same folks are looking at devastating loss today, Alisyn and Dave.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: It looks like it, Suzanne. When we look at Main Street the water is above the plate glass windows there. Suzanne, please keep us posted as to what happens at this hour. We prayer for them.

Meanwhile, flooding is also a big concern in the southeast as Alberto gains strength and heads towards the gulf coast where it will make landfall. So CNN's Jennifer Gray is live in Pensacola, Florida, with more. What is the situation there at this hour, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Alisyn, we will be looking for flooding. In fact, some areas could see six to 10 inches of rain with this system. And this is a sloppy one. It stretches far and wide as far as the impact and the effects of this storm with rain being the main concern. I will give you a sneak peek behind me and you can see the seas are actually a little bit calmer than they were earlier. That's because with the position of the storm we are on the west side, so we actually have an offshore wind. And so that is pushing the water out.

Everyone on the east side will have an onshore wind, and that is where we can see some significant beach erosion as well as coastal flooding. We could see a storm surge of about two to four feet in those areas. But no one is going to be in the water today. Yesterday the lifeguards were combing the beaches up and down. Anyone that was in, they had to get out. It's going to be the same again today. Memorial Day you would expect the beaches to be jampacked by this afternoon. We are expecting them to be far less crowded for today.

Off and on rain will be expected all across the panhandle. But as I mentioned, anywhere from south Florida all the way up through Georgia, Alabama, including the panhandle, even South Carolina feeling the effects of this storm. So it is going to be a bummer day for a lot of people who had maybe barbecues or maybe beach days planned for today.

This storm is expected to make landfall later this afternoon with 65 miles per hour winds right around the center of the storm. We expect for it to maintain that intensity as it makes landfall and then quickly weaken once it goes inland. So Dave, this is going to be a messy, sloppy day for millions of people in the southeast.

BRIGGS: Sure is. Jennifer, stay safe. Thanks.

Now to politics and the high stakes diplomatic efforts to salvage the Singapore summit just days after President Trump abruptly cancelled it. A U.S. advance team traveling to North Korea for talks ahead of a potential meeting between the president and Kim Jong-un. CNN's Kaitlan Collins live at the White House for us this morning. Good morning, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, it hasn't even been one week since President Trump called off this highly anticipated summit, and now with these latest developments over the weekend that team traveling to North Korea, the South Korean president and Kim Jong-un meeting, among several other things, the president seems to have a new found optimism that this meeting could actually happen as scheduled on June 12.

But the president seems pretty confident about that, but the aides inside this White House are actually in charge of the planning and the logistics behind that summit don't seem to mirror the president's optimism about a meeting date of June the 12th.


COLLINS: U.S. officials traveling to North Korea Sunday, the clearest sign that cancelled summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un may be back on. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are talking to them

now. They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it. We're going to see what happens.

COLLINS: President Trump confirming the meeting on Twitter, praising North Korea's brilliant potential to become a great economic and financial nation, noting Kim Jong-un agrees with me on this. It will happen.

The U.S. delegation led by former South Korea ambassador Sung Kim meeting with their North Korean counterparts in the demilitarized zone after surprise second meeting between the South Korean president and Kim Jong-un Saturday. President Moon telling reporters that Kim committed to a summit with Trump and to complete de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula, a key prerequisite for talks. But lawmakers on Capitol Hill expressing skepticism.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: I remain convinced that he does not want to denuclearize. In fact he will not denuclearize, but he wants to give out this perception that he is this open leader, that he is peaceful, that he's reasonable.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (D) ARIZONA: I think the North Koreans realize that total denuclearization on their part is not in their national interest. That is how they see it.

COLLINS: In a sign of uncertainty about the summit's future, President Trump going after the "New York Times" Saturday for quoting a White House official who said that holding the summit on June 12th as previously planned would be impossible due to timing restrictions. The president insisting the official doesn't exist and is a phony source, but the remark happened during a formal briefing organized by the White House that dozens of reporters attended. The only reason the remark wasn't on the record was at the White House's insistence. The comment was later confirmed in audio posted online.

President Trump also continuing to attack Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, lamenting that young and beautiful lives have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia collusion witch hunt. They went back home in tatters. It's unclear who the president is referring to, but Mueller's team has brought charges against multiple former Trump campaign staffers.

Mr. Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani acknowledging that the attempt to undermine Mueller's investigation in the court of public opinion is part of their strategy.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: It is for public opinion because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents, so our jury, as it should be, is the American people.


COLLINS: Dave and Alisyn, the president stayed back in Washington over the holiday weekend. He travelled to his golf course right outside of the district several times. At once we did see him golfing. He has also been very active on Twitter going after the special counsel. Today on his schedule the president will go to Arlington Cemetery to participate in wreath laying ceremony of course for Memorial Day.

CAMEROTA: Kaitlan, thank you very much. Let's talk about everything that we've learned. We have Gordon Chang, columnist for "The Daily Beast" and author "Nuclear Showdown, North Korea Takes on the World," and CNN political analyst Karour Demirjian. Great to see both of you.

So Gordon, let's proceed as if this is actually going to happen on June 12th. It looks like it might. At least we have two willing participants who seem to want it to happen on June 12th. So now that the North has revealed how much they do want this summit to happen with that conciliatory response to President Trump, that are they willing to give up on June 12th?

GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, "DAILY BEAST": Probably very little. The North Koreans will give up what they have to give up. And when they talk about denuclearization they basically put that in the sense of the U.S. has capable nuclear bombers. The U.S. has submarines. So at some point in the past we have heard the North Koreans say denuclearization of the Korean peninsula means U.S. gives up its nuclear arsenal. So there are all sorts of things to talk about.

What we should be talking about should be dismantlement. We want the North Koreans to dismantle their arsenal, give up their ballistic missiles. So there is of course a semantic issue here. But the United States needs to be very clear, they give up their nukes, they give up their missiles.

BRIGGS: But should we talk about that on June 12th or should June 12th if it happens just be setting the stage for future relations?

CHANG: I think it should be a stage setter. People in the administration are saying no, the North Koreans need to come to a statement of principles that they give up everything. That makes it very difficult to meet June 12th because we don't really have the time to actually get the North Koreans there. We have the power to get them there, but maybe not by two weeks from now. So I think the president, he should have that meeting, he should set principles, talk about things. But this is really very much up in the air right now.

CAMEROTA: Karoun, let's talk about that expedited timeframe because we've had diplomats on here who have said this kind of delicate diplomacy usually takes years. But President Trump obviously breaks the mold. He does things differently. And I'm wondering if you think that Congress thinks this might just work. The response to President Trump doing it so differently, how is Washington thinking about it?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the one area where lawmakers and other people in Washington are giving the president some credit is that he is switching up the play by saying, OK, sorry, this isn't going to work. Actually it is. [08:10:06] Some people are saying he is destabilizing the North Korean leader in ways he is probably not used to and maybe there's some benefit in that. But I think a lot of people are very, very concerned that the president is looking for a deal too much, that he is putting too much stock in this summit as an end in itself and not actually for what it could potentially lead to, which is much more complicated than a handshake, and they are worried that by giving the North Korean leader that handshake, you are already elevating him to a state of more importance than he deserves given that he really done that much yet. Yes, there have been prisoners released, yes, they have blown up a facility, but that is not the substantive end of denuclearization that everybody in Washington wants to get to. And they are worried that Trump may not have his eyes on that prize because he wants for his brand of presidency to be able to say I did something that nobody else could do in the last several decades. But it may not be more than a photo-op.

BRIGGS: Right now it looks awfully good, Gordon, for the president. To use a Seinfeld reference, Jerry Seinfeld once said if you do the preemptive breakup, which George Costanza did, you can take back hand in the relationship. It appears the president has taken control back of this scenario of the relationship, has he not?

CHANG: He certainly did. On Thursday when he withdrew from the summit he got the North Koreans to basically give that string of extremely conciliatory messages. And that was an important sign because it showed the world that North Koreans think that they have a weak hand. Now, you've got to capitalize on that, because that's just not enough. And this is where the president needs to have discipline, some coalition building, all sorts of things that people don't generally assign to the president.

BRIGGS: I think you are being kind there. But he has taken back at least control and has Kim on his backfoot right now.

CHANG: Absolutely. And this is important because we have the North Koreans where we want them, and we shouldn't let them out of the box. There are a lot of things that Kim is going to do to try to squirm out of the position that he is in, and we just shouldn't let him do that. So for instance we shouldn't let Chinese back into the process. We should be very careful about what the South Koreans might try to do because they want to be in Singapore, as well. And the president has to realize he has a lot of power he can use even short of the use of force in order to get the North Koreans to do what they don't want to do.

CAMEROTA: Karoun, various senators were on Sunday shows yesterday talking about, not reservations, but at least concerns about what could happen at the summit. So here is Marco Rubio.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: Ultimately I remain convinced that he does not want to denuclearize. In fact, he will not denuclearize. But he wants to give out this perception that he is this open, that he's peaceful, that he's reasonable. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: So what happens if they walk away with a handshake?

DEMIRJIAN: I think that is what people like Senator Rubio and others are concerned about. If they walk away with a handshake that says North Korea has given up its entire nuclear arsenal I don't think very many people in D.C. see that as an actual possibility. But if they walk away with just the handshake and nothing else the problem is that people think that puts Kim Jong-un in a position of far more stature than he has earned at this point.

The president is very good at talking very flatteringly about people that we consider to be not good leaders, people who abuse human rights, to be despots in many ways, but this is how the president approaches these sorts of individuals in his Twitter stream and elsewhere. The problem is that that is a pretty big win for North Korea which has been a really rejected hermit kingdom for a really long time and wants to be let back in. If they are let back in without having to give anything that's very serious up, eventually, Gordon was saying the United States has the upper hand right now. You can give up that upper hand if you actually level the playing field more by giving Kim Jong-un the position of being seen with the leader of the free world as equals having not actually done the thing that we want him to do and the rest of the world wants him to do to deserve to even be in that general circle.

BRIGGS: President Moon welcomed him with a hug over the weekend, Gordon, which was a stunner. How do you get them to denuclearize? How do you guarantee the safety of a killer, or arguably the world's worst human rights abuser? What are the mechanics of that and what are the optics of it?

CHANG: Trump made that guarantee on Thursday I think. Completely unacceptable for an American president to speak that way. We can say, for instance, as former secretary Tillerson said a few months ago, we do not have regime change as American policy. That's OK. I can sort of accept that. But when you say we guarantee security, that means basically we are going to use the U.S. armed forces to make sure that the North Korean people don't dispose their own leader. That is just completely wrong.

CAMEROTA: Gordon Chang, Karoun Demirjian, thank you very much. It just gets more fascinating and suspenseful. Thank you both. Have a nice Memorial Day.

BRIGGS: Ahead, 1,500 immigrant children unaccounted for. The feds say they are not legally responsible. Will anything be done to keep immigrant families together? We'll discuss that next.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: -- hedge 1,500 immigrant children unaccounted for and the feds say they are not legally responsible. Will anything be done to keep immigrant families together? We'll discuss that next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The federal government admits it has lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied immigrant children last year. Health and Human Services officials says his employees are not legally responsible for these children.

Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York. She serves on the Homeland Security and Veteran Affairs Committees. Let's start, where are these 1,500 kids? Why has the U.S. government lost track of them?

REPRESENTATIVE KATHLEEN RICE (D), NEW YORK: Clearly, this is a humungous problem that we have to deal with. There should be a way to track these people. They know where they are going. They don't just release people into the ether. They make sure that there was a sponsor.

That they are supposed to do a background check on. There is no reason for this to happen. I can't imagine. We are talking about children here. These are defenseless kids who are fleeing violent circumstances in their home countries coming here to be taken care of and we are losing them.

CAMEROTA: Right. Away from their parents. It is so worrisome because I don't want to go to the worst-case scenario. When federal officials try to call to check on them they couldn't find 1,500 of them and 28 of them they confirm have run away.

RICE: Yes, and not only that but some have been engaged in child labor that clearly is a violation.

[08:20:08] We should not have kids working when they are not supposed to be. The overall problem here, Alisyn, is that we have bills right now in Washington, D.C. that if they were brought to the floor of the House, they could pass that would address immigration issues, would address DACA, border security.

CAMEROTA: Would it address this?

RICE: Overall it would. What it would do is it would figure out how to be stronger at the border. By the way, this is not a Republican or Democratic issue. Everyone knows that we need strong border security. The bills that are out there all of them include borderer security. And then pass the citizenship to address the --

CAMEROTA: Then why aren't they being brought?

RICE: It's a very simple reason, politics. You have a caucus within the Republican Party right now in the House called the Freedom Caucus. They are holding Paul Ryan hostage. They are saying, for instance, we are not going to support the farm bill, which went down a couple of weeks ago unless you agree to put immigration bills on the floor.

There is an effort led by Jeff Denham, a Republican from California, right now that has the support of almost every single Democrat. It will be upwards of about 25 or 30 Republicans. It is a bipartisan discharge petition, which would allow upwards of four immigration bills to come to the floor for an up or down vote.

Whatever bill gets the most votes that -- it's called "Queen of the Hill." The problem is Paul Ryan will not bring these bills to the floor. So, look --

CAMEROTA: Because he is afraid that if people had to vote on it they would be punished in the midterms?

RICE: Well, I don't think it is so much that. I think that he is feeling pressure from the Freedom Caucus. They support one particular bill that does not have the support of even moderate Republicans. He can't allow that to happen. There is this back and forth. When I hear people say this is all the Democrats doing this, they have no control over anything.

CAMEROTA: Well, maybe you want to mention that to the president because here's what he tweeted this weekend, "Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from their parents once they cross the border into the U.S."

RICE: We know that the president is incredibly good at tweeting. Most of what he tweets is not true. That is factually not true. Everyone knows that the Republicans are in charge of every branch of government right now. That's the truth.

I wish we had more of an ability to bring bills to the floor, but we don't. The person who can do that is the speaker of the House and that's Paul Ryan. He said he is not going to run again so he is a bit of a lame duck speaker. That has led to more dysfunction when it comes to addressing this immigration issue.

CAMEROTA: I mean, look, these are intractable political problems, but in the meantime, 1,500 unaccompanied minors are unaccounted for. Can your committee, the Homeland Security Committee do anything?

RICE: When we get back to Washington, I will ask the chairman of the committee, Mike McCaul from Texas for us to do a hearing and look into this. This is our role on these committees is to engage in oversight over the agencies just like what we are seeing here. We can't allow this to happen. This is not what our country stands for.

If we can't protect minor children who are fleeing violent circumstances, they don't want to leave their home but are being forced to. We should be a beacon for people who need to or want to just live a happy, healthy life.

CAMEROTA: Right. Except that it really does sound as though we are ill-equipped to do that.

RICE: There is no question that there is a resource issue. That we do not have enough judges and detention facilities and resources. Let me put it this way, Alisyn. We don't have a commitment to give the resources to take care of this issue in a comprehensive way that we need to do it. CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about what Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, has been saying about the Mueller probe. He was on the Sunday shows this weekend talking about how their PR strategy to try to win over the American people, so the president can never be impeached and that he is trying to taint the probe and why. Listen to this.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: They are giving us the material. I couldn't do it if I didn't have the material. Of course, we have to do it in defending the president. We are defending to a large extent we are defending here it is the public opinion because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrat or Republican, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. So, our jury is the American people.


CAMEROTA: Doesn't this make perfect sense? He has boiled it down to impeach or not impeach and that is up to the American public he is saying.

RICE: Rudy Giuliani should be ashamed of himself. I can't say it more bluntly than that. He is a former U.S. attorney. He worked side by side with members of the FBI and other intelligence agencies. For him to deface the work that they do is a disgrace.

[08:20:10] We want to focus on the facts. What he wants to do is spend every day out there. He is good at it. He is very good at obfuscating the facts and putting stuff out there that he knows is not true.

What we have to do as listeners, I'm a listener and voter is say I will call you out on that. That is not a true statement. I will not utter the words that they are talking about when they are talking about the investigation.

Let Mueller do his job. If the American public is going to be the ultimate arbiter of what the truth is and what the truth is not. They can say how they feel by going and voting especially this November. Forget about 2020.

We have critical elections coming up now. There are a lot of Republicans saying about what Rudy Giuliani is doing. This is wrong. We have to focus on the facts and let Mueller do what he is doing.

And as a former federal prosecutor, for Rudy Giuliani to be saying the things that he is saying when he spent most of his career relying on the facts and trying to convince juries to rely on the facts is truly a disgrace.

CAMEROTA: So, what is he doing?

RICE: He is doing it because people live -- we live in a sound bite world. The last thing you hear tends to be maybe the last thing that sticks in your mind. What I encourage people to do is not just listen to what Rudy Giuliani is saying but do your research and figure out what you believe the truth to be because we know this president has -- it's provable lies most of these tweets.

It's unfortunate that it comes down to this. I don't like calling people liars. The American public deserves to know the truth. When you have people like Rudy Giuliani who used to be someone that we looked up to, to adhere to the rule of law and honor the rule of law actually trying to degrade it is as a former federal prosecutor is so disappointing.

CAMEROTA: We have former Senator Rick Santorum on. He said one person's informant is another person's spy. In terms of what they are saying that the FBI spied on the campaign. I think for some in the American public it can be confusing. How is investigating a crime spying?

RICE: Well, it's not. But what this administration is incredibly good at is wordsmithing whether it's the word spy or witch hunt or lock her up or build the wall they are good at messaging. We as the listener, we have to be more discriminatory when we listen to what is being said to us and what people are asking us to believe.

CAMEROTA: You are on the Veterans Affairs Committee. Finally, on this Memorial Day, you know, President Trump promised to make things better for veterans. Has there been progress?

RICE: So, let me first say that like every other American, my thoughts and my gratitude are with the brave men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice. This is a somber day. We have to remember what this day is all about.

I will say that in the hyper-partisan world of Washington D.C. right now the one committee I believe truly behaves in a bipartisan way is House Veterans Affairs Committee. I am honored to represent my constituents and the brave men and women where I live.

We have passed great bills one called "Mission Act" that is going to give more access to veterans to get the health care that they deserve. It is going to allow pre-9/11 veterans to get home care that they need. It is a very comprehensive bill that is going to fix a lot of problems that is plaguing right now.

We need to support the VA right now. We can't go down the road of privatization because our government owes it to the men and women who wear the uniform of this country to give them the services that they need.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for explaining all of that to us and for being here. Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, great to see you.

RICE: Thank you.


BRIGGS: All right. President Trump taking part in a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery later this morning. We will take you there to Section 60 where service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have laid to rest. Next on NEW DAY.