Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Vice President Mike Pence Interviewed about the Crowded Conditions Inside Migrant Facility; Mueller Public Hearing on Capitol Hill Delayed One Week; Prosecutors: Epstein Paid $350,000 To Potential Witnesses Against Him; Labor Secretary Resigns Amid Outcry Over Sex Case Plea Deal; Barry Expected To Make Landfall As Hurricane; New Orleans Ordering Residents To Shelter In Place; "Life Threatening" Storm Could Test Louisiana's Levees With Up To 20 Inches Of Rain And Storm Surge; House Passes Bill To Extend 9/11 Victim Compensation. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired July 12, 2019 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We're closely monitoring tropical storm Barry which could reach hurricane force by the time it hits the New Orleans area sometime tomorrow. Now, whether it does or doesn't, the rain it is carrying could be -- could do some serious damage. We've got correspondents in the ground in New Orleans and the CNN weather center gathering the very latest information about what could be some very dangerous days ahead. We'll have more on that tonight.

Also ahead, the latest cabinet level departure number 14 from the Trump administration. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta gone in the controversy over his handling of the Jeffrey Epstein trial sex case when he was a U.S. attorney.

So, there's a full night ahead. We begin, though, with breaking news in upcoming ICE raids on migrant families this weekend, set against the conditions some of the captured children may soon be experiencing while in custody. And many others already are.

The latest development addresses but doesn't fully answer a question that we raised last night, why would the president publicize these raids before the fact? Announcing when they were to begin, destroying the element of surprise and potentially jeopardizing operations or even the safety of the people carrying them out.

Well, the answer is from an operational standpoint, there is no answer. The senior administration official describing the president's actions as, quote, head-scratching. However, there is an answer if you view this through the lens of politics and power. Namely, the point of the exercise is not operational success as such but sowing fear and a chance for the president to prove to his base he is tough on undocumented immigrants.

The fear being sown is not among those deported but among families as well, fear of being broken up, losing a parents ob both parents or spouse. Fear of children being sent to the county facilities ultimately foster care. And keeping him honest, the administration has been downplaying and

trying to hide conditions in some holding facilities. Today, Vice President Pence toured a location at Donna, Texas. And no surprise -- he concluded children are being treated there well.

CNN's Pamela Brown confronted him on that just before air time. We'll hear what he told you just a moment.

Meanwhile, here's what a Columbia University law professor and children's advocate told the House Oversight Committee today about what she saw herself in some facilities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELORA MUKHERJEE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: The toilets are open. There is no privacy to use the toilet. Children try to use those foil wrappers that you see to cover themselves, when they're toileting. And this leads to problems.

In Clint, we talked to girls so embarrassed that boys could see them while they were using the toilet. We talked to a boy who tried not to eat because he was so embarrassed to use the toilet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Here's that one Democratic committee member responding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I don't really care what their motivation was, whether asylum or economic betterment. They're not to be treated as sub-humans. This is not an American way of dealing with the stranger who comes and seeks succor. You can talk about road whether the poor border control is overwhelmed, that makes no excuse for how we are treating children. If there is one basic value that unites us as Democrats and Republicans as Americans, it is how we treat children. Their children, our children, it doesn't matter. That's a fundamental value.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Another witness, former acting ICE Director Tom Homan took exception to that and other criticism, saying he'd seen plenty of dead children on the job, telling the committee they, quote, died on the hands of people who cross the border because we have an open border.

Well, there is shouting on all sides of this issue, and on both sides of the border. And we've seen so far caged kids and overcrowded cells and families being separated. What we still have not seen is any real effort to come up with a comprehensive policy that can once and for all address this issue which continues to divide families and divide this country.

Now, before getting to what in the vice president had said to CNN's Pamela Brown at a facility today, I just want to show you some of the video that she took on her cellphone at the adult attention facility in McAllen. As you can see, it's crowded. The men are wearing dirty close. The stench, we're told, are horrible, as the overall conditions appear to be.

Pamela Brown joins us now with what she saw and her interview with the vice president -- Pam.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I'm here at McAllen, Texas, at a facility that holds single adults.

[20:05:01] And I can tell you, we walked in there showing that video and immediately, the man in this cell began to pleating to us. First, they wanted to tell us they had been here for 40-plus days, then they talked about not given access to showers, not being able to brush their teeth. The moment I walked into that room, I was taken aback by this horrible stench, in fact, it's smelled like urine inside.

And the men just kept wanting to talk that they weren't being treated inhumanely, one of them said this isn't human, I'm not a terrorist. It was very hot inside of there as well. They were sleeping on a pavement. They were not cots for them. The only thing they had were blankets handed out to all of the documented migrants that were taken into the facility and that is all they really had.

I was told by CBP agents that they couldn't be given cots because there was not room for all of them. So, instead, it looked like not all of them could lay down. They were packed in so tightly.

So, that was the case here, and the Vice President Pence, he was visiting this facility. He also saw it firsthand. I did not see him talk to any of the adult migrants, but before we were here, we went to another facility called the Donna facility and that exclusively houses families -- family units, fathers who come over with children or men who come over with children, women who come over with children and there was a completely situation -- seemed like there is a different level of care, frankly.

Now, this is a brand-new facility. It was just made to help with the overflow and there was a lot of space and there were several different pods where different families were placed depending on gender and age, the vice president talked to a couple of the kids they're asking if they were well taken care of and they nodded yes.

So I press the vice president on the difference on level of care that we saw here today and whether he is comfortable with what we saw at this facility with the migrants packed in, pleading for help. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: We went to two different facilities today and it seems to be a big difference between the first one where the families were being housed and the one here where there are a single adult migrants. When I went in there, one of them said to me, I'm talking about the second facility. This isn't human the way we are treated.

It was -- there was a horrible smell, I'm sure you smelled it. You were in there as well. They were sleeping on concrete because there's not enough room for cots, we're told. It was hot. Some of them claimed they were hungry.

Is that acceptable to you?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, it's not, and it's the reason why we demanded that Congress provide $4.6 billion in additional support to Customs and Border Protection.

Look for the last six months, Democrats in Congress has been saying this is a manufactured crisis. But as you saw firsthand today, here at McAllen station where our cells are overflowing and now the temporary facility that you just saw had to be established and then the first facility that we saw where nearly 1,000 families with children are being detained ought to be a very clear message to every American that the time for action is now, and time for Congress to act, to end the flow of families that are coming north from Central America to her border is now.

BROWN: Should there be a different level of care for the families versus the adult migrants -- single adult migrants?

PENCE: I think it is all the same standard of care.

BROWN: What we saw today was different for the families versus the single adult migrants. It wasn't the same level of care.

PENCE: Well, what you saw today was a very clean facility where people were being detained indoors and then you saw a temporary facility that was constructed because this facility is overcrowded. And we can't keep people in a cell beyond what the rules and regulations allow for.

But everyone even in that temporary facility, Pamela, is getting three meals a day, they're getting health care, they're getting hygiene, and the Customs and Border Protection during their level best in an overcrowded environment, in a difficult environment to address this issue.

But Congress has got to act to make it for us to reduce the numbers of people coming into our country illegally, and that's going to require us to change the loopholes for former asylum laws. And my hope is today, two things -- I hope two things today, Pam. I hope first and foremost that we put the lie, this slander against Customs and Border Protection. People saying that families and children are being held in concentration camps is an outrage. The Nazis killed people. Our Customs and Border Protection, as you heard, they're saving lives every day.

[20:10:04] And you saw the profound compassionate care for those families and children in the detention facility today.

But the other thing is I hope we also move past this rhetoric about a manufactured crisis. I mean, the president wanted me to come down here today to look in on how families are being treated, but also to be able to show the American people that this system is overwhelmed, it's overcrowded, and Congress has got to step up to end this crisis on illegal immigration on our southern border.

BROWN: The first facility that we went to was that a fair representation of how most of the migrant families have been treated under CBP care?

PENCE: You are at the epicenter here in the Rio Grande Valley and this crisis of illegal immigration. Sixty percent of those that are being detained coming across the southern border are coming through this sector. So, I think what we saw today was a very fair representation of how families are being treated.

And, look, I understand --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: This is one of them --

PENCE: I understand Americans are troubled --

BROWN: (INAUDIBLE) handle of the overcrowding.

PENCE: Americans are traveled by what they read in the newspapers about families that not being cared for.

BROWN: I mean, when you look at that, what do you see?

PENCE: Well, I can't account for that, what I can account for is that the facility that you saw --

BROWN: How can you not account for this?

PENCE: The facility that you saw today represents the level and the standard of care that we are working to bring to all of those caught up in this crisis. Remember, it was just a few short weeks ago that Congress finally acknowledged the crisis and gave us an additional $4.6 billion in humanitarian aid.

Now, we're going to continue to improve. We're going to continue to provide care at the standard the American people expect but, Pamela, remember, for the last six months, Democrats in Congress said it was in the manufactured crisis, and it was all we could do to finally get the Democrats in Congress to agree to give us additional funding to deal with this crisis. And so, we will continue to provide the level of care the American people expect and we will do with compassion, and with generosity, but ultimately, we have got to demands that Congress takes the next step, reform these asylum laws, close the loopholes and end this unprecedented migration.

BROWN: The DHS I.G. says that some children under this administration's watch didn't have access to showers, or hot meals. Does the administration take any responsibility for that? Democrats are not in the White House. Where does the buck stops?

PENCE: Yes. We read those reports and I know that they have been thoroughly --

BROWN: The government's report.

PENCE: They've been thoroughly investigated. I know that there were also lawyers who were here who presented what ultimately became substantiated allegations. But make no mistake about it, any allegation of people not receiving the standard of care that the American people anticipate is thoroughly investigated. The recent allegations of use are being thoroughly investigated.

But what you saw today I hope isn't encouragement to millions of Americans that even before Congress funded a temporary facility, we built that temporary facility to house families who were caught up in this crisis of illegal immigration.

And you saw not just three meals today, children with snacks, there were diapers, there were hygiene products, changing tables, children sitting in that comfortable air condition environment watching television. This is how the American people expect us to treat people who are caught up in this crisis and we are going to continue to work to make that a reality.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And, Anderson, this right here, this is a picture from the DHS I.G. report that I showed Vice President Pence as he touted the conditions at the first facility we visited today, showed him this. And I said, well, it doesn't align with this picture from the report. This picture is from May.

What I can tell you, Anderson, is a situation of overcrowding, particularly with family units, has gotten a lot better because of the supplementing funding from Congress, CBP was able to move out these children who are held for over 72 hours into these other facilities. And so, we didn't really get to see what sort of the height of the problem because of that. Also, border crossings are down because of the heat, because Mexico is helping more.

That said, we did see tremendous overcrowding at this facility that I met now with these adults and I spoke to a CBP chief about what I heard from many of them inside of there. You showed that video.

[20:15:00] Now, he did say that just yesterday, the day before the vice president visited, a trailer was brought with showers, with eight showers for these migrants. Before that, I'm told they didn't have access to showers. He did say that once a day they are allowed to brush their teeth, they have disposable toothbrushes. He said restaurants provide hot meals three times a day. So, he did dispute some of what we heard from the migrants.

He also said that the longest time period anyone has been here that we saw today was 32 days, that is less from what we heard from them.

As far as the tinfoil blankets, they would place the clot with these because there are more hygienic and they don't have to wash them. And so, this really laid out the picture today, Anderson, of what we are seeing in various facilities and we only saw sort of the tip of the iceberg of what is actually being taken place -- Anderson. COOPER: Yes. Pamela Brown, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

You heard a bit at the top of the program from an activists and attorney, Elora Mukherjee. She joins us now by phone.

Professor, you hear the vice president say that some the claims by lawyers who visited the facilities in Clint are completely unsubstantiated, and when shown a picture from the inspector general's report, the inspector general of Homeland Security, said he does not know how to account for that. How do you respond?

MUKHERJEE (via telephone): The Trump administration is in no position to call anyone a liar. "The Washington Post" has documented more than 10,000 false statements by our president. We went to (AUDIO GAP) has been detained for weeks.

We have collected hundreds of pages of sworn testimony and submitted them to the federal court. These allegations are substantiated. They are substantiated by people who work for the government.

The Department of Homeland Security office of the inspector general knows that the situation is a ticking time bomb.

There is another agency that also corroborates the allegations that we are making about children not being treated properly. The staff at the Health and Human Services Department have made 30 serious incident reports about children at Yuma suffering harm while being detained. So I think the question is --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Go ahead.

MUKHERJEE: -- who are the liars? Is it the people who said there was no child separation policy? Is it the people who claimed to be shocked that Border Patrol officers are part of the hateful Facebook group when it turns out they not only knew about that Facebook group, but that the acting head of CBP participated in that Facebook group?

Or is it people like me and the children who are associated with the Flores case who has time and time again proved their case in court? We live in a democracy. We are supposed to live in a democracy. The executive branch cannot make false claims and abuse people in our name.

The courts must stand as a check against the worse abuses of this administration and Congress must exercise its oversight authority.

COPPER: It's very interesting to me to listen to the vice president who speaks in a way that's very calming and very soothing and seems very rational, but what he is actually saying when shown a photograph again from the government, from the Department of Homeland Security inspector general report, he says he can't account for it, that's just not true. He can pick up the phone and call the Department of Homeland Security and he cam for that photo very quickly and very rapidly, and he says the reports of children not having soap or toothbrushes, that those are being looked into.

Those reports are weeks old. They have been investigated by reporters to the limited ability that reporters and lawyers like yourself are even allowed in, you're not even allowed to go to all these facilities and really have free rein or free access to them. The idea that he says it is being investigated, I mean, that's just -- that's really not an acceptable answer.

Not only is it non-acceptable, but it's false. Just last month, the United States Department of Justice argued before the circuit that the sanitary conditions for children does not require the provision of soap, does not require the provision of toothbrushes, does not require the provision of beds.

This is administration's own cruel policy position that it is arguing in federal court.

[20:20:03] The administration won't let independent doctors in these facilities. This administration will not let in public health experts. This is a crisis of cruelty and the children at the border are suffering.

In response to the national outcry, that outcry of the American people across party lines, this administration has decided to empty out many of the facilities.

COOPER: Professor Elora Mukherjee, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

This is also just coming in, Robert Mueller's testimony is being delayed. We'll have the latest on when it is being rescheduled for. Also the latest on the very serious storm moving towards the Gulf Coast, coming at New Orleans.

A lot ahead, say tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: I want to bring you some breaking news from Capitol Hill.

The Mueller testimony which was scheduled for next Wednesday is now delayed.

[20:25:02] The announcement was just made by the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

Let's go to CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju for details.

So, what are you learning? Why was this delayed?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, to get more time for Robert Mueller to testify. Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee and some Republicans have been criticizing the deal that initially been cut for him to appear this upcoming Wednesday. That deal would only allow him to appear for two, to two and a half hours, and roughly 22 members of the committee of more than 40 individuals have been allowed to question the special counsel.

Well, behind the scenes, the objections have been growing from Democrats and some Republicans who are not going to be allowed to question. So, as a result, behind the scenes, frantic negotiations all day long between Mueller's team and Jerry Nadler's team and Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee, who will also have a chance to questions the special counsel.

And they have agreed for the special counsel to come in for an additional hour for the House Judiciary Committee. So, instead of two hours, he's going to testify for three hours. And then, they will take a little bit of a break and appear before the House Intelligence Committee afterwards, and that will likely be a two hour session with members of the House Intelligence Committee. And all those members will get the question Mueller. And Mueller, in his request, according to the statement, wanted to delay the testimony for an additional week. So, the Democrats agreed to that in order to get an extra hour of questioning.

Now, we have also learned this, Anderson. Democrats wanted to bring in Mueller's deputies behind closed doors to question those individuals. But there has been resistance from the Justice Department, and at the moment, those deputies will not be appearing for that closed session. Democrats are still trying to bring those individuals in separately.

They did hear from one senior FBI official before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors yesterday. But at the moment, that close session is not happening but the public section will now occur on July 24th, a week later, and Robert Mueller will have an additional hour. So, all of members of the House Judiciary Committee will be able to question him for five minutes each. Those are ultimate question, though, Anderson. How much will the special counsel reveal? Will they go beyond the four corners of the court and will shed any new light than we don't already know? Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. Manu Raju, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Joining us now, former Nixon White House counsel, John dean, and former Obama deputy assistant attorney general, Elliot Williams.

So, John, you testified before the same Judiciary Committee not long ago. I'm wondering what you make of the delay in Mueller's testimony?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I can understand the members being upset that they weren't getting enough time to get their television time. And I've never been a fan of even when I was counsel of that committee of the five-minute rule. I think it's very difficult to work with, and clearly under the five minute rule, they couldn't get all the members in.

I think they should just take blocks of time and have key members do the questioning and not try to have everybody in the show.

COOPER: Well, Elliot, the other option, too, is also not having one each, you know, member make minutes-long statements which seem more like grandstanding off ending that and it's up time that could be asking Mueller questions or hearing Mueller's direct testimony.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: So, like John, I worked up on the Hill as well, and the problem is, they all care about the underlying enterprise, they all care about getting to the truth, but they also care about their moment, and they care about speaking to their constituents, they care about their own needs as elected officials. And at the end of the day, that often means giving speeches and so on.

The problem is that, look, the House Judiciary Committee alone, as Manu has said, just the Democrats, there's 24 of them. So, if you're giving each of them five minutes, that is two hours right there. You are shutting out major members of the committee.

And at least in the current structure of Congress, a lot of the more interesting members of Congress sit at the bottom of the dais, they're the more junior, more dynamic and frankly sometimes better questioners. And so, it probably made sense to either get more people time to question or like John said.

The problem is the Supreme Court hearing as well where they -- there is an effective questioners. They're not litigators. They're not trial attorneys. They're members of Congress. They are elected officials, and they sort of act like it.

So, they are only going to run into problems with these high profile hearings.

COOPER: John, I mean, it's such a strange system is going to set up and is designed with impediments all the way to actually have affective testimony.

DEAN: It is and it's odd, Anderson, because the rules of the House and the committee really don't require them to do it the way they are doing it. They could -- they could agree to have certain members to the questioning. They could agree to have members who could have more time. Occasionally, you will see members give their time to others who are good questioners.

And as Elliot mentioned, some of the best questioners of the committee right now are the newer members.

[21:30:00]

They come from trial attorney backgrounds. There are some former prosecutors, some former U.S. attorneys and assistant U.S. attorneys and they're good at questioning. So, they would be -- it would be healthy to let them have a run at it.

COOPER: Also, Elliot, I mean, it's going to be interesting to see one can -- I mean, if past is pro-like you can only assume that this is going to be two separate hearings. The Republicans are going to be pursuing completely different line of inquiry than the Democrats are.

WILLIAMS: They absolutely are. And the Democrats sole goal here, and I think it ought to be simply getting Robert Mueller to put the report in the public record, one of the most powerful things we've seen over the last two years was his doing a press conference where he said the words -- I mean, I -- were I to able to exonerate the President I would have, but I couldn't have. That was actually far more powerful than seeing it on paper.

And even if he doesn't stray from the report, just get him to say the words and layout the allegations and the charges but, no, it's two hearings. It's -- if the Democrats do it well, it's laying out the allegations of the report. And if the Republicans do it well, what they need to do is call it a deep state conspiracy and that everybody is in cahoots and out to get Donald Trump and that's what you're going to see.

And they're far more -- and to be clear, the Republicans on the committee are far more coherent in their strategy than the Democrats are. You know no obstruction, no collusion and it's a deep state plot to take down the President. The Democrats are kind of more all over the place on a lot of this.

COOPER: Yes. And I mean, John, you know, clearly this is -- for Democrats this is about, you know, getting people to see Mueller who, you know, Republican opinions are not withstanding has credibility in many people's minds actually saying the words that they haven't read because the vast majority of Americans haven't read the report. But aren't, John, most people's opinions of the Mueller investigation pretty much baked in already?

DEAN: Well, I think they are to a degree although they are pretty much captured by just headline knowledge and not much more. Anderson, one of the things that's going to happen because of this delay, I can tell you from personal experience, it will build up more interest in the hearings.

My hearings were canceled, for example, and held over for another week because (INAUDIBLE) was coming to United States back during Watergate. Here we have a situation where there is a delay. It's going to create more interest in the hearings. The flap about them today and the people were expecting them, that all builds interest in what's going on.

COOPER: John Dean, Elliott Williams, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Coming up next, another member of the Trump administration heads for the exit. We'll talk about why Labor Secretary Alex Acosta didn't last the week. He's leaving.

There's breaking news in the case of the sex offender. He declined to take to court. Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:35:53] COOPER: There's breaking news tonight in the Jeffrey Epstein child sex trafficking case. Court documents filed by federal prosecutors today alleging he paid $350,000 to people, and I'm quoting from the filing now, "who are close to him during the time period charge in this case and who might be witnesses against him at a trial." The prosecution citing records they received from a financial institution.

Meantime, the former Miami U.S. attorney who gave him that lineate deal in his first case back in 2008 has now left the Trump administration. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta becoming the 14th cabinet-level official to leave, not to mention the umpteenth departure up and down the west-wing organization chart. It is actually an extraordinary number of departures under very interesting circumstances in many cases.

Acosta was replaced, no surprise, by an acting secretary, one of many acting top officials, including at defense, Homeland Security, the U.N., small business administration and the FAA.

I want this latest departure now from CNN's Jim Acosta who joins us now. So, Jim, the President publicly praised Acosta today on the south lawn. Is that the case privately?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, Anderson. I'm told by a senior administration official that the President had been stewing over this, over the last 24 hours. And, Anderson, there are officials inside the White House who were concerned that there were just continue to be disclosures in the Jeffrey Epstein case and that this was going to continue to make Alex Acosta look bad not just here in Washington but potentially out on the campaign trail.

You saw a whole slew of Democratic contenders weighing in on this earlier this afternoon. And in the words of the senior administration official echoing Watergate, he was saying what did Alex Acosta know and when did he know it. When they're asking questions like that inside the White House, that's not good.

COOPER: Well, it's also not good when this -- when the person himself, Secretary Acosta, comes forward to give a press conference to basically kind of put this away as an issue and really doesn't -- he doesn't apologize, doesn't really kind of show much humanity and only seems to kind of make it worse and add to it.

ACOSTA: That's right. And, you know, I talked to this administration official who said, Anderson, that it appeared that Acosta had stabilized things a little bit. But when you talk to officials across the west-wing, what you would hear was sort of muted praise that for Alex Acosta.

They sort of stopped the bleeding that he gave some information to defenders to counter his critics and so on. But there wasn't this full throated support coming from the administration that Alex Acosta was going to stay on the job.

COOPER: And was it more the political optics of the controversy or the substance of Acosta's deal with Epstein that bothered the President? Because clearly the President or at least people in the White House knew about his role in the Epstein matter before he was made secretary. ACOSTA: Right, Anderson. I mean, they were certainly worried about these revelations and the potential for more revelations to come out and damage Alex Acosta further right until the end of the year and end of the up coming campaign season. But, you know, there's another element to all of this and that is internally Alex Acosta was not viewed as being sufficiently loyal to the President's agenda.

[20:40:04] Senior administration official said that Alex Acosta was not moving swiftly enough on his deregulatory agenda here in Washington. And when -- they're saying those sorts of things inside the White House. You can just imagine a situation where Alex Acosta was essentially giving them all of the information that they needed to essentially cut bait by the time this morning came around.

But, you know, according to our sources, Anderson, Alex Acosta was not one of the President's favorite cabinet members and it took the Jeffrey Epstein case, unfortunately, to force him out. Anderson?

COOPER: Jim Acosta, Jim, thanks very much.

Just ahead, a live report from New Orleans and the very latest forecast for the tropical storm that's now expected to strengthen when it hits. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: There's breaking news report of Louisiana as the state prepares for the first U.S. hurricane of the season. The National Hurricane Center updated its predictions just moments ago.

Now, as we look at the view of Algiers Point on Mississippi across from the city, we can tell you the bulletin confirms that tropical storm Barry is expected to make landfall tomorrow as a hurricane along the central coastline of Louisiana.

Now, officials have directed those low lying areas to evacuate, others to be off the streets in less than an hour as responders prepare for a dangerous storm surge, heavy rains and high winds.

I want to check in with CNN Meteorologist Tom Sater. He's tracking developments now for us from Atlanta.

[20:45:04] So, let's talk about where the storm is right now and exactly when you think it's going to make landfall.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Anderson, it's kind of interesting. The 8:00 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center adjusted the position. At 5:00 p.m., the advisory had it 70 miles offshore from Oregon City, well, now its 85 miles. So one, they either had to just reposition it, or two, it's hard to find the center.

It's not very well organized. Most of the convective activity, the brighter colors, those are the higher, colder cloud after the south. But now the rain is getting in Plaquemines Parish. We're starting to see the lightning. We're also starting to see, just like we had two days ago when we had 9 inches of rain in New Orleans, that was the extreme western periphery and the 250 calls to emergency services. Now, it's all the way eastward and to Tampa, North of Jacksonville.

But with this center, still hard to find. We still think maybe 8:00 in the morning, give or take an hour, we'll have landfall in the south central areas. But it could handle a hurricane. If it makes it to category one, the winds at 74 miles an hour will be absorbed. The marsh lands are sparsely populated. But we're starting now to really see that flow coming in from the southeast. That is the storm surge we'll talk about.

It does change its trajectory yesterday making it up the Ohio River towards Cincinnati. This time, it quickly makes its way towards St. Louis. They've already had two major crests on the Mississippi River this year, so that's astonishing by itself. And then all that rain makes its way back toward Louisiana again.

COOPER: So, the biggest threats right now are what?

SATER: Heavy rainfall for the entire region and the surge, even though we're looking at maybe three to five-foot surge, this is not like Hurricane Isaac back in 2000 -- what was it, 2012 where we had, of course, a nine to 12-foot storm surge. This three to five foot storm surge will be enough to impede the flow of the Mississippi that's expected to hit 19 feet.

Yesterday the height of the river and, of course, New Orleans was 16, we're almost at 17 now. So a closer inspection of the graph tells us here this little peak, this is the surge, Anderson, that southeast wind backs that river up going to 19 feet. That expectation that was yesterday at 20 down to 19 is significant because the levees are at 20 feet.

We could have had over topping everywhere, but you get in closer and all of these red dots along the levee system are areas where they're below 20. So over topping could still take place. This is unprecedented. We're not sure how this is going to turn out, but you've got to believe in the core of engineers and they're saying they're going to make it through this.

But 10, 20 inches everywhere, I'm concerned about the entire state of Mississippi because 911 calls could not just be in New Orleans, it could be anywhere from Lafayette to Baton Rouge all the way up to the north, maybe even east of Little Rock to Memphis. So, it's going to be a widespread event. The category means nothing.

COOPER: Yes. Tom Sater, appreciate it. We'll be watching. For a ground's eye view of the flooding and the preparations underway for landfall, let's check in with our Gary Tuchman who is in lake view area of New Orleans. Gary, how is it?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the outer bands of tropical storm Barry are now hitting us. The worst though, as we just heard, will come in the morning. But we are here in the lake view district of New Orleans right next to Lake Pontchartrain. This was devastated during Hurricane Katrina and where I'm standing is where much of the devastation emanated.

This is the 17th Street Canal, it's the largest drainage canal in New Orleans. To the left and to the right is the levee, you just heard, 20-foot levee Tom was talking about. These are 20-foot levees. These levees were constructed after Hurricane Katrina because the levees that were here before failed before Katrina.

A 450-foot gash on the left side was split off of the levee to the east side, to the left, and that's what led to water pouring into the neighborhoods from Lake Pontchartrain. The failure here, the failure in other levees led to the devastation, hundreds of people dying here in New Orleans, up to 1,800 total from Hurricane Katrina.

Right across from this canal is this water pumping station. As we speak, we hear it. There are people inside. The purpose of that building is to pump rain water, pump flood water into Lake Pontchartrain right behind that building.

Officials here in New Orleans feel that that pumping station, the new levee system constructed since 2005 will leave everybody safe in New Orleans. At least that's what they're hoping for right now as the rain starts to come down much heavier than it was even 30 minutes ago. Anderson?

COOPER: And just some people you're talking to, what are their thoughts about this storm and how concerns do they seem to be?

TUCHMAN: As you know, Anderson, this neighborhood was so heavily damaged and most construction here is new, since 2005, less than 14 years old. There is no mandatory evacuation order. And, in fact, most people have remained inside their homes. And most people feel that this isn't going to be so bad, that they'll be OK because there wasn't a mandatory evacuation order, so they're not excessively worried.

[20:50:02] Nevertheless, it's very eerie feeling being here where so much devastation happened 14 years ago and everyone is hoping for the best.

COOPER: Yes. I'm glad you're there. Gary Tuchman, thank you very much.

Just ahead, what lawmakers did on Capitol Hill today to help 9/11 first responders. Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Coming up, the longer waited vote on Capitol Hill for 9/11 first responders. First, let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris, what do you got?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Coop. Have a good weekend if I don't talk to you again. I'll be taking that on in the closing, putting pressure on Mitch McConnell to not do what he did the last time. Don't scuttle this bill at the last minute. Use the money for something else. You made a promise to a man who is now gone. He gave you his badge, Luis Alvarez, do right. That's going to be our closing. Left, right, and reasonable has to get together beyond -- behind that.

[20:55:06] We're also going to look at this footage from the border. Two different angles, Coop. The first one is its good for people to see it. Its bother some good. Don't look away. Look at it, absorb it. Not you, you've lived this, but for people at home.

Now, we want to start listening to the politicians. I'm glad they've discovered a reality that they've been told about for six months. I'm glad that this White House says that they want a fix that they've never tried themselves.

So we have to give people an education tonight about what they're saying now versus what they've known and nobody saying what they will do. That's what we're taking on. And I have David Crosby tonight. How cool is that?

COOPER: Oh, that is very cool. Wow, cool. All right, Chris, I'll see you about four minutes from now. I look forward to it.

Coming up next, at long last, the news in the struggle to get permanent funding for the heroes of 9/11 who right now battling illnesses from those terrible days. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: An update on a story we've been following here on "360." 9/11 first responders and committee Jon Stewart are one step closer to a permanently authorized victim's compensation fund. The bill passed the House today, 402 to 12. It heads to the Senate where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to hold a vote within the next few weeks.

Stewart was deeply critically, you may remember, of Congress during testimony in June. Today, he told CNN that passing the bill in the Senate "will be a chance to exhale," but it doesn't fix the grief obviously for these responders "to continue to experience going forward."

The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time."

[21:00:00]