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Special Counsel to Interview White House Staff in Russia investigation; Irma Targets Florida. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired September 7, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But this is about conduct by the president of the United States.
And connect a few dots here. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting recently the president's lawyers have already met with the special counsel and his team trying to disabuse them of the notion the president obstructed justice.
"The New York Times," I believe confirmed by CNN, getting ahold of the draft letter the president dictated his initial reasons for firing the FBI director, James Comey, never sent. Instead, they had Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, deal with that.
But, again, the president's mind-set, why did he want to fire James Comey? Was it an effort to obstruct the investigation? Now this, on Air Force One, flying back from Europe, the president of the unite helping his son work on a statement about this meeting and what you're going to say about it and involving presidential aides, who now have to get attorneys.
It tells you the special counsel is spending some serious time on a giant question. Was the president of the United States involved in an effort to somehow mislead, not only the American people, but -- he knows it's an active investigation -- to mislead investigators?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Just politically, even as the president, right, tries to turn the page, here is Russia rearing it's ugly head.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to have a lot more to unpack. This is a major development. We're going to continue to follow it.
But our special coverage of Hurricane Irma, this monster storm heading towards the United States, continues right now with Brianna Keilar.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar.
And we're beginning with the breaking news on deadly Hurricane Irma. Right now, Floridians are facing the reality of the catastrophic storm bearing down on them with the warning, do not wait to get out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the roof. The roof is about to come. Yes, there it is. The roof just went.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: No storm on record anywhere on the globe has maintained winds at 185 miles per hour for as long as Irma. The Bahamas just ordered the evacuation of six southern islands.
This Category 5 hurricane is now passing the Dominican Republic and Haiti. And tropical-storm-force winds are spanning some 300 miles at this point.
Six people are confirmed dead in the Caribbean. In Florida, the message from the governor is dire. Residents are facing deadly storm surge and life-threatening winds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Look at the size of this storm. It is wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts from coast to coast. Regardless of which coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate. Floridians on the west coast cannot be complacent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: I want to begin now with Michael Brennan. He's the chief hurricane specialist for the National Hurricane Center.
Michael, I know you're very busy. You're in Miami. Thanks for joining us.
MICHAEL BRENNAN, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Sure.
KEILAR: Give us the lay of the land here of what's happening with Irma.
BRENNAN: Well, right now, Irma's still a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane. Maximum sustained winds are still 175 miles per hour. It's now been at this intensity for a remarkable amount of time.
Right now, our biggest concern in the very immediate future is the core of Irma is about to impinge on the Turks and Caicos Islands. They could see storm surge of 15 to 20 feet, in addition to those 175- mile-per-hour winds there in the core.
So it's going to be a very dangerous, potentially devastating few hours for those islands. Then we expect Irma to move generally west- northwestward through the Southeastern Bahamas and then pass between the remainder of the Bahamas and the north coast of Cuba on Friday into Saturday, and then turn northward in the inventory of Florida Peninsula, and move northward as we get into Sunday and Monday, then and eventually reach up into the Southeastern United States. The bad news is, is we expect Irma to be a Category 4 or 5 hurricane
throughout this time, and we could be seeing the landfall of the core of a major hurricane on the Florida Peninsula during the day on Sunday.
KEILAR: What does that look like? What are you expecting the damage to be?
BRENNAN: Well, Category 4 and 5 wind damage is catastrophic. You can see total building failures. You can see trees -- total tree failure, major damage to infrastructure, power lines, things like that. In addition to the wind hazard, we're also expecting -- or not expecting, but we could see life-threatening storm surge everywhere in this pink area that is under the storm surge watch from Jupiter Inlet southward along the east coast, Bonita Beach southward on the west coast.
As the governor of Florida just mentioned, everybody on both coasts has to be prepared to evacuate if they're asked to do so by their local officials. We could see five to 10 feet of flooding above ground level from storm surge in these areas covered in pink, not just at the coast, but potentially well inland here on the southwest coast of Florida and especially south of Miami and Dade County along the Biscayne Bay.
KEILAR: Yes, the water is really the danger here.
All right, Michael Brennan, thank you so much. We do appreciate it.
KEILAR: Now, in Florida, we are seeing fuel shortages.
There is panicked buying. There are runs on basic supplies like food and water ahead of this monster storm. Just take a look at some of the lines south of Orlando. People there were waiting up to three hours to get sandbags to protect their homes.
I want to go to Brynn Gingras. She's on Florida's Merritt Island, which is east of Orlando.
And, Brynn, I understand that there are actually inmates who have been dispatched to help line the island with sandbags.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
And three hours is an understatement, Brianna. We actually just got another shipment of sand at this distribution center, but that's not the issue. There's no lack of sand. It's actually the efficiency of the whole entire process that's really slowing down people here who are just trying to get 10 sandbags per household, because, like you can see, these inmates are taking a rest for right now, but there's only two things to use to fill these sandbags.
They fill the sandbag, tie it up, and then put it in the back of these cars. And you have got to check out the lines for these cars. We're at an athletic field, recreation area, here in this county, and the line just snakes all the way around this whole entire park area, and even down the street.
We have been talking to people who have been waiting here for upwards of eight hours just to get those 10 sandbags. And they have actually opened four distribution centers in this county.
I actually want to talk to this woman here.
Thanks, ma'am, for talking to us.
You have been waiting quite a while, you said.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, since 8:15 this morning.
GINGRAS: Well, 8:15 this morning.
And I'm imagining you're trying to conserve gas as you're waiting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, but that's not happening.
GINGRAS: It's really not.
Tell me. This is a mandatory evacuation by 3:00 tomorrow for the barrier islands of this county. Are you on one of those islands?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Generally, we would be, but we don't ever leave. My husband never leaves, so here I stay.
GINGRAS: Here you stay. You're going to ride out the storm, despite the warnings?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We have every year.
GINGRAS: And are you taking any sort of extra precautions besides these sandbags?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Outside of supplying the home with batteries and gassing up for our generator, that type of thing, that's about all that we have.
GINGRAS: Now, you say your husband's never left, so you clearly have gone through storms. You have heard the warnings about this storm. Any fear going on in your head and in your husband's?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
GINGRAS: You're not worried?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we trust in the lord to take care of us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And our prayer is that he will just keep us all out of harm's way, and trust in him that he will send the storm out into the ocean, where it belongs, and not here on land.
GINGRAS: Any backup plan if emergency services can't actually get to you because they're trapped?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not really. We don't have a boat or anything like that. But, you know, we will just...
GINGRAS: You're really going to ride it out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, ma'am.
GINGRAS: All right, well, you're almost at the end of this line, since 8:30 this morning, waiting for these sandbags.
That's what we're hearing from a lot of these cars, Brianna, and at some point, they're going to have to cut this line and basically stop sandbagging for the rest of the night and start again tomorrow.
But if you heard me say 3:00, mandatory evacuations for this county on the barrier islands for mobile homes and low-lying areas, but just like that woman said, many of these people, they're not leaving. They're going to stay. They're going to ride it out. They're going to board up their homes, despite all the warnings for this monster storm -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes. And obviously with that comes tremendous risk.
Brynn Gingras in Merritt Island, Florida, thank you.
Let's listen in now to Florida's Governor Rick Scott.
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SCOTT: I have directed state law enforcement to provide escort services to gas trucks to get them through traffic, so they can get to the stations faster.
These state law enforcement escorts are happening right now. For gas stations and evacuation zones, we need you to stay open as long as possible so people can get out.
We will arrange police escorts for your employees so they can get out safely. We need your gas stations to stay open as long as you can.
My staff is reaching out to gas stations in the keys to help provide -- to provide contact, to help coordinate law enforcement escorts for staff and tankers.
We know fuel is important. And we're absolutely devoting every state resource to addressing this. Three tanker ships are delivering fuel to Port Tampa today for resupply efforts, each delivering 1.2 million gallons of fuel. State law enforcement continues to escort fuel supply trucks from Port
of Tampa and Port Everglades. While we are making progress, you will see lines or outages, unfortunately. I know this has to be very frustrating, and we will not stop working on this.
If you are concerned that you do not have a way to evacuate because of fuel issue, please call your local emergency hot line or the Florida Emergency Information hot line at 1-800-342-3557, which is a dedicated emergency management hot line. We will get you out.
But you have to call now if you're in an evacuation zone. We cannot save you when the storm hits. We cannot save -- just remember this. Once there's an evacuation order, get out. We can't take care of you in the middle of a storm.
If you know you're going to a shelter in your county, please take only how much fuel you need. You don't need to fill your tank to the brim if you're going to stay in your county. I have said this many times. Please only take what you need. Be considerate of others.
The GoBuddy (sic) app is a great resource to find open stations with fuel, the GoBuddy (sic) app.
Yesterday, I asked the governors of Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina to rescind weight and driver regulations so out-of- state resources could move expeditiously into Florida. All of these states worked quickly to respond to our requests.
The EPA has approved an emergency fuel waiver request from the Florida Department of Environment Protection, which will allow more fuel to quickly enter the state. All ports still remain open and are operating to bring fuel and supplies in.
We are laser-focused on how we get as much fuel as possible to ports while they are open.
The Florida Keys, I have offered school buses for transportation needs in Monroe, Miami-Dade, and Broward counties. At this time, Miami-Dade is using these services to help evacuate those with special needs, and Broward has buses on standby.
Monroe has said they do not need these buses right now because they are using city buses. But my offer still stands. Right now, there are mandatory evacuation orders in effect for the Florida Keys. This means all residents and visitors, leave the Keys.
We estimate that about 31,000 people had already evacuated from the Keys as of 6:00 p.m. last night. If you're in the Keys and still home, leave and get out. We can't save you once the storm hits.
The entire Lower Keys hospitals has already been evacuated. All other hospitals in the Keys will be evacuated today. I have been very clear with Monroe County that the state will provide whatever resources are necessary to get the hospitals back open quickly following the storm. We also have a task force devoted entirely to helping prepare and
respond to the Keys. Their issues are somewhat different, because they have all those bridges down there. For the remainder of the state waiting on evacuation orders, listen to your local officials.
They will tell you if and when your area needs to be evacuated. If you are told to evacuate, get out quickly. The roads will up quickly as you need to go. We can expect additional evacuations as the storm continues north through our state.
In Broward County, there are volunteer evacuations ordered for mobile homes in low-lying areas, and mandatory evacuations ordered for east of Federal Highway, including barrier islands.
In Miami-Dade County, there are mandatory evacuations ordered for barrier islands, Bay Harbor Islands, Golden Beach, Indian Creek Village, Miami Beach, North Bay Village, Sunny Isles Beach and Surfside.
In Monroe County, there are mandatory evacuations for all residents and visitors. If you're in any of these evacuation zones and you're still at home, leave.
In Collier County, there are voluntary evacuations ordered from Marco Island. In Hendry County, there are voluntary evacuations ordered for low-lying areas, non-slab built homes, mobile homes and R.V.s.
I cannot stress this enough. Do not ignore evacuation orders. Remember, you can rebuild your home. You can buy your possessions again. We can't rebuild your life and we can't recreate your family.
Regardless of which coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate. The storm can move and change at a moment's notice. Floridians on the west coast cannot be complacent. And those in coastal areas should be prepared to leave.
Traffic. Many of you, I know, are already stuck in traffic. I know it has to be frustrating. But please be patient. Evacuations are not meant to be convenient. They are meant to keep you safe. We're trying to do these evacuations as safely as possible.
We have increased the number of troopers on Florida highways to help move traffic and keep people going down the road. Real-time traffic information and evacuation routes is available at FL511.com.
We have traffic cameras on every major highway in Florida, and we're clearing traffic issues in real time so we can keep people moving. FDOT and law enforcement are working diligently. We are already seeing bottlenecks at major highway junctions, which brings up an important point.
You do not need to evacuate out of the state or hundreds of miles away to be safe. Find shelters in your county. We are coordinated with Google's emergency response team to prepare to close roads in Google Maps in real time in the event that Hurricane Irma forces the closure of any roads in the aftermath of the storm. At my direction, all tolls have been waived across Florida roadways.
This should help families evacuate quickly and safely. Again, if you are concerned you do not have a way to evacuate due to traffic, call the Florida emergency hot line, 1-800-342-3557. It's a dedicated hot line.
National Guard. Today, I'm activating another 3,000 National Guard members to help with shelter operations and evacuations. Today, we will have more than 4,000 Florida National Guard members activated to immediately begin assisting with ongoing Hurricane Irma preparation.
Tomorrow, every available member of the National Guard, 7,000, will be deployed around the state. Thirteen helicopters and more than 1,000 technical high-water vehicles are on standby ready to be deployed.
By using resources from other states, we also have 30,000 troops, 4,000 trucks, 100 helicopters and air evacuation crews ready to support our state.
I have talked to President Trump multiple times and he has assured me that Florida will get all the help from the federal government that we need. So far, we have requested disaster tarps, water, baby food supplies, supply trucks, search-and-rescue personnel, and equipment and incident management teams, military water craft and aircraft with the capability to move fuel from the mainland to the Keys at Marathon, and a military vessel like a Marine or a Navy ship to sustain shuttle operations and complete ship-to-shore missions.
This vessel will allow us to move crew, supply and fuel to the mainland. I have also mentioned the major concerns of the Florida Keys to FEMA, including and potentially destruction of bridges.
If we lose a bridge, people are stranded. FEMA's looking at all options to assist the state with this.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. They are preparing search-and- rescue teams for potential deployment. They have more than 200 officers standing by for the first wave of response based on potential storm impacts. Thirty teams with supporting resources, such as trucks (INAUDIBLE) riverboat patrols, ATV, shallow draft boats are preparing for evacuation and support, search-and-rescue missions or any additional needs.
FWC is also coordinating with partners of states such as Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, in case additional officers or resources are need.
The Florida Highway Patrol is monitoring road and traffic conditions to assure roadways are clear. FDLE has established 18 emergency response teams for deployment to impacted areas and seven logistics and planning teams.
Utility providers. They are actively pre-positioning resources throughout the state and in neighboring states. We know from previous storms how incredibly important it is for the power to be restored quickly.
Florida Power and Light and others have activated emergency response teams and have thousands of workers preparing to respond to Irma. They are also working with many -- our utilities are also working with many of our out-of-state utilities and electrical contracting companies to secure additional resources.
Shelters. If you're evacuating from the Keys, go to Florida International University. There's absolutely to reason for anyone not to evacuate if you're ordered to do so. Shelters will be available should you -- and you need to follow the directions of local officials and go to the shelter that fits your needs.
If you need a hotel, visit Expedia.com/Florida. Expedia's working on hotel occupancy in real time. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has encouraged all hotels to waive pet policies, offer shelter and be compassionate with cancellations.
Families can go to Floridadisaster.org/info to learn where shelters are in your area.
Comcast will be opening more than 137 free Xfinity Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the state for individuals in need, including non-Comcast customers. You can go to Xfinity.com/wifi. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile are also helping with these hot spots.
The state is staging supplies such as meals, shelter support, trailers and water resources at the State Logistics Resource Center in Central Florida for deployment as needed. We will be pre-positioning these goods to help everyone in the storm's path.
Volunteers. We need volunteers. We have had more than 8,000 volunteers sign up in the last, I think, 36 hours. This includes more than 1,300 state workers. This is great, but we still need more. We need a total of 17,000 volunteers statewide.
If you want to volunteer, go to VolunteerFlorida.org to sign up, or you can call 1-800-FLHELP1. We need more volunteers. You make a big difference in people's lives. You can help with shelters, food distribution and response efforts.
Every Florida family must prepare to evacuate, regardless of the coast you live on. We are 100 percent focused on making sure everyone Floridian and all of our visitors have timely information on this storm. And we will continue to closely monitor Hurricane Irma and issue updates throughout the next few days.
I can not stress this enough. Get prepared now. Know your evacuation zone now. Listen to your local officials. This storm has the potential to catastrophically devastate our state, and you have to take this seriously.
Even though the National Hurricane Center map has it in this cone and has it going up the East Coast, it could move further west. It could be -- it could also go east. But we all have to be ready. This is a catastrophic storm that our state hasn't seen. It's already killed a lot of people in the Caribbean. Don't think you
can ride out this storm. Protecting life is our absolute top priority. No resource or expense will be spared to protect families. That means you need to plan now where you will go. Don't wait. Figure it out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Governor.
KEILAR: All right, that is Florida's Governor Rick Scott.
I also want to bring in right now Mike Theiss. He's a hurricane chaser. He's in Key Largo.
So, Mike, what we heard from Governor Scott was obviously that there are mandatory evacuations there in the Keys. But the hospitals either have been evacuated or are going to be evacuated ahead of this storm. With that in mind, you know, what does this mean for that area that you are going to be riding this storm out in?
MIKE THEISS, HURRICANE CHASER: Well, listening to the governor, that was quite chilling. This is a reality. This is happening, guys. This is the worst-case scenario that looked like it's about to take place here in the Keys. It is extremely sad.
But back to the question, the plan is to get into a good building and ride it out in somewhere I feel we will stay safe, solid, concrete building that I can go up a few floors if I need to with a concrete roof.
There's not many of those locations in the Florida Keys, but there is a few. So we feel we are safe where we're staying to a point. Of course, it's not recommended. I recommend all my friends and family, anybody in the Florida Keys, please get out of here. Just leave here.
It's going to be hell afterwards. If we take a direct hit, this is not going to be the place you want to be. Like the governor says, just get out.
KEILAR: But, Mike, if you get hurt, there are really no resources for you. There are going to be no hospitals that are operational.
I have teamed up with Reed Timmer and some other storm chasers, and between us, we have lots of medical supplies. We have the -- we have, you know, the basic stuff to help injured people, as well as food and supplies and everything else, gasoline. So we feel we're fully prepared for any kind of scenario down here, and we plan on staying in a building safe and not getting hurt.
I mean, we do feel the buildings that we have picked out as places of possibly staying will withstand the hurricane. It will still be extremely scary and it will still be dangerous, but we feel we can ride it out in these locations and document the hurricane. KEILAR: OK.
So, one of the things about the Keys, for anyone who has been there or seen pictures of the Keys, is they are connected by these above-water bridges, these sort of highways.
It's, you know -- it's almost a beautiful stretch of highway that connects the Keys. What are the concerns with that?
THEISS: Oh, man, it's one of the most beautiful drives in the world, and it's a sad to see this happening, but, yes, it's like 42 or 43 bridges that connect all the Florida Keys all the way down to Key West. It's over 113-mile stretch of roadways.
And I think the big problem is, is not only the bridges, but sometimes just before the bridge, the road gets washed away, so the bridge might actually be there, but still the road is washed away. And I have seen this in several hurricanes that I have documented here over the years much less strong as this one.
And the water comes over the island. The bridges get closed down, and you're basically stuck here. So we are planning on that. We're not going to be surprised if we're stuck here for a week. We're fully prepared for that. And, like I said, this is my home. I was born and raised here, and this is -- it's heartbreaking.
KEILAR: No, it really is.
All right, Mike Theiss, you stay safe. We know you have supplies there, but, you know -- and we know you're going to be cautious. We will be thinking of you as you're riding out this storm.
As the governor warned there, he said, we can't recreate your family. He wants people gone for mandatory evacuation areas like the Keys.
Coming up, I'm going to talk with an American tourist who is stranded on a Caribbean island that is about to get slammed by Hurricane Irma. We're going to talk to her about how she is planning to ride out this storm.
Also, the president's son Don Jr. facing questions on Capitol Hill, what he is telling investigators about his infamous meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer affiliated with the Kremlin.
This is CNN's special live coverage.