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EARLY START

Harvey Leaves Texas Desperate For Help; Administration Responds To Harvey; Trump: Arpaio Pardon Timed To Ratings; North Korea Launches Missile Over Japan. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 29, 2017 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:32:35] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Helping hands stretch across southeast Texas as first responders, friends, neighbors, and strangers help the tens of thousands stranded, waiting for rescue from Harvey's wrath. And this rain is not letting up, folks. We're live in Texas.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: That's where President Trump heads today to survey the damage, but controversy follows him. Did he time the pardon of a controversial Arizona sheriff to maximize coverage during the storm?

ROMANS: And, North Korea launches another missile, this one over Japan. A serious escalation the prime minister says poses the most grave threat ever to Japan.

CNN is the only Western news organization reporting live from North Korea. Will Ripley is there for us this morning.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 4:33 in Houston, Texas this morning. That's where we start.

Desperation setting in for thousands of people on the Texas Gulf Coast still stranded by Harvey. This, with forecasters predicting much more rain yet to come.

ROMANS: There have now been more than 6,000 rescues by Houston police and the Coast Guard alone. That does not include many other agencies out there saving lives and regular folks and neighbors out helping neighbors.

Officials say there are potentially tens of thousands more people trapped awaiting rescue. The Coast Guard says it's getting upwards of 1,000 calls per hour.

BRIGGS: The official storm-related death toll now stands at four with several others suspected to be connected to Harvey, and that total certainly expected to rise.

An astounding 58 counties now under a state disaster declaration. All 12,000 members of the Texas National Guard have been deployed to assist.

ROMANS: As we said, neighbors helping each other, like the good samaritans carrying this wheelchair-bound man above the floodwaters. Four-legged residents also needing help. The Chamber's county sheriff's office reports rescuing well over 300 animals yesterday, alone.

BRIGGS: The terrible toll taken by Harvey now coming into focus in these before and after pictures. Roads, highways, houses, green space all left unrecognizable.

There in the middle of it all is CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam. He joins us now from Sugarland, Texas, southwest of Houston, where over two feet of rain --

ROMANS: Wow.

BRIGGS: -- has already fallen.

The National Weather Service, Derek, says south Houston has received 43 inches of rain -- a year's worth in three days.

[05:35:05] What are you seeing this morning?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And it doesn't stop, right, Dave?

BRIGGS: No.

VAN DAM: The rainfall is incredible. It has been relentless for three days since we started and, of course, there's more to come. We'll get to the forecast in just one second, but I think it's important that we put this all into perspective.

There are 15 million Americans under a threat for flash flooding as we speak. If you combined the entire square mileage of people under imminent flash flood threat now, 50,000 square miles -- that's roughly the same size of the whole state of Louisiana.

We were at the Brazos River earlier -- last night, actually, and that's about five miles west of here. Incredible -- I've got to show -- got to tell you about this place. The river has risen 38 feet since Saturday morning, and just within the past six hours, it's risen four feet.

And there's tons of communities and neighborhoods around the base of that particular river that are guaranteed -- most definitely under water as we speak because just looking at some of the flood inundation maps across that area, they were low-lying and with record-setting flood stage here coming up in the next coming hours. They're definitely begin impacted by these raging waters.

We have had harrowing stories coming from the volunteers and the swift water rescue teams that have offered their boats to find and seek out the people that are stranded within their homes. Incredible, incredible stories which we've been talking about all morning long. Now, in terms of the forecast going forward, more rain -- that's the story, that's the theme because this storm has moved into the Gulf of Mexico and will make a second landfall, believe it or not. I mean, this is an unprecedented situation.

And by the time it does so early Wednesday morning, we expect the heaviest of rain to move across the southeastern portions of Texas and eventually into Louisiana. They've already been battered very hard, but flash flooding warnings stretch from Baton Rouge into New Orleans, all the way to Galveston, as well as the areas here around Houston.

We've got long, long days, if not weeks, ahead of us here across the southeastern United States.

ROMANS: I'll say.

VAN DAM: Back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Derek Van Dam. Thank you so much.

And those pictures just telling the story, really, better than anything.

You know, Texans hit hard by the flooding have been telling us their stories. Listen to a woman who was trapped for a time in her home and who lost everything to Harvey. And a man in Friendswood who borrowed a boat to help rescue neighbors stranded by the waters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABE MINOR, VOLUNTEER RESCUER (via telephone) It's surreal. It really is surreal. When you look around the grass is replaced with water. You know what I mean?

It looks like a marina. If you've ever been to a marina you see boats.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: Yes.

MINOR: Instead of vehicles you're seeing boats. You're seeing air boats and you're seeing makeshift rafts and things like that, and it's surreal.

And you want people to be safe, you know. I moved from South Florida to Texas so I've been through a few hurricanes and I understand like, OK, you have to get to safety.

If the area's flooding, get out of there. You can and will drown. You know what I mean? You have to leave.

If there's elderly people who can't move -- like in one of the homes I helped an elderly lady and she was just sitting on her couch in the living room and she didn't get up because her cane had floated away. And I'm like come on, ma'am. We carried her, we put her in the boat and it was really sad.

ROMANS: You know, Rachel, so many people don't have flood insurance because they don't live -- you mentioned an 800-year, you know, floodplain. Those places where they haven't flooded before.

Do you know what you're going to do next on the -- on the FEMA or the insurance front?

RACHEL GOWER, FOUNDER, THE UPPER HAND SALONS, HOUSTON, TEXAS: Well, we're going to file everything like we're expected to do and see what happens.

It's very, very scary. I have two teenage daughters and just started high school and I wanted better for them than this, you know. So it's very difficult to think about and to figure out where we're going to be living.

So again, we're fortunate because we do have family but so many people don't and they're in shelters. They're in big, huge buildings, you know, drinking bottled water and eating potato chips, and it's horrible to think about.

So, I don't know what the next step is, really, for us but we're amongst the lucky ones. There's no doubt about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So, Dave, we were looking at statistics. You know, 15 percent of people in the Houston area have flood insurance -- just 15 percent.

BRIGGS: That is frightening.

ROMANS: Houston is under water.

BRIGGS: But despite the desperation you heard there from Rachel, before that you heard the --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: -- inspiration and how she's, you know, fighting through this. How she's seeing that Texas spirit --

ROMANS: And upbeat.

BRIGGS: -- in her friends and neighbors. The smiles you saw in the photos there of her children through all this adversity.

[05:40:00] All right.

President Trump heads to Texas today. How's he managing his first natural disaster test and did he actually use this storm to boost publicity in the controversial pardon of former sheriff Joe Arpaio?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, a lot of people think it was the right thing to do, John. And actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally. You know, the hurricane was just starting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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BRIGGS: President Trump heads to Texas today to survey the damage and assess relief efforts. The White House has not yet announced where the president will travel but flight restrictions are set for Austin and Corpus Christi certainly give you a hint.

The president says Congress will take, quote "rapid action on disaster relief funding."

ROMANS: All right.

Let's bring back our political economist Greg Valliere. He's chief strategist for Horizon Investments. Good morning.

Let's talk about how well you think the president has done on this -- on this really important leadership role. And you've mentioned to us that he's got to be very careful about not taking a victory lap because there's still a lot that could go wrong here.

[05:45:10] GREG VALLIERE, POLITICAL ECONOMIST, CHIEF STRATEGIST, HORIZON INVESTMENTS: I think so far, Christine, he's done a pretty good job. He's been on top of it. He's convened a lot of meetings with people who are coordinating this.

But, as we wake up this morning and see the extent of the human suffering -- people on roofs, people not getting their medication. This is going to go on for a long time, unfortunately, and I think the one thing he has to avoid today is declaring victory. A victory lap would be very inappropriate because we've got such a long way to go.

BRIGGS: Certainly a great job by Brock Long, thus far, and FEMA.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: But to the president's point that I think you're going to see very rapid action from Congress. You're going to get your funding.

Given there are 12 legislative days once --

VALLIERE: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- Congress returns one week from today -- given they have to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling --

VALLIERE: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- how easy will this be? VALLIERE: Well sadly, Dave, the phrase 'rapid action by Congress' is an oxymoron.

BRIGGS: Right.

VALLIERE: Congress does not move quickly on anything. They're not back for a week, then it's going to take a few days to put a bill together, probably billions and billions of dollars in aid for hurricane victims.

And then, the issue is does it move on its own or more likely, does it become part of another bill -- the debt ceiling increase and overall budget. People who are worried about not getting the debt ceiling increase, they have found an answer, and that is to tie hurricane aid --

BRIGGS: Right.

VALLIERE: -- to the bill. It would make it much easier to pass.

ROMANS: Well, they don't want to tie V.A. -- they didn't want to tie the debt ceiling to the V.A. funding, but you think this gives them an out, maybe?

VALLIERE: I really do, Christine. I mean, maybe they could tie it to the overall budget. My sense is the overall budget won't get resolved until December.

But they could tie it to the debt ceiling and make a debt ceiling passage virtually certain. I think they're going to go in that direction.

BRIGGS: All right. So that's not all facing the president.

You have the North Korea threat with missiles launched --

VALLIERE: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- over Japan yesterday, and the Russia investigation stories in "The New York Times" and the "Washington Post."

One from the "Post" talks about Michael Cohen, a close business associate --

VALLIERE: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- to Donald Trump, e-mailing directly to a top lieutenant of --

VALLIERE: Yes.

BRIGG: -- Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, asking about interaction regarding this Trump Tower, Moscow, and the president punting on whether or not Russia is a security threat to the United States.

Where does that leave him in all of this? VALLIERE: Well, it leaves him still in real trouble and I think Robert Mueller, the special counsel, will subpoena Michael Cohen, asking him about these e-mails and what he was trying to do.

Trump, yesterday, seemed to indicate still a very benign view toward Putin and Russia. So, with all these other stories, North Korea, the hurricane, we haven't heard much about Russia, but believe me, that investigation is still very active.

ROMANS: What about the pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio --

VALLIERE: Yes.

ROMANS: -- in Arizona? And the president defending that yesterday, you know, saying, in fact, maybe he timed it -- saying he did time it for maximum coverage -- maximum ratings around the Harvey coverage of the Friday night pardon of Arpaio.

What is the -- what is the angle here?

VALLIERE: Well, he got a lot of coverage because he did it on a Friday night and everyone saw in that a hidden motive.

I have a hunch, Christine, that they had planned to release it on Friday night before Harvey was even a hurricane. While it was still forming the Gulf, I think they had decided let's dump this on Friday night and it won't get a lot of publicity.

So it's absurd to contend that he wanted to get this more attention. Of course, he didn't.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: Well, he certainly wanted the question yesterday, breaking out the names Marc Rich, Susan Rosenberg --

VALLIERE: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- Chelsea Manning, Oscar Lopez Rivera. An interesting comparison but he was certainly ready for it.

Greg Valliere, we appreciate your time this morning.

VALLIERE: OK, you bet, yes.

ROMANS: Greg says a big -- you know, the big X factor out there right now is, frankly, North Korea. Really watching that.

BRIGGS: No question about that.

All right. The catastrophic flooding in south Texas starts an outpouring of love and support across the sports world.

ROMANS: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Good morning, Dave.

Usually, a city rallies around its teams but in this time of need the teams are reaching out helping hands to help their fans and the people of Houston.

In the NBA, Rockets' owner Leslie Alexander is donating $4 million to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's Hurricane Harvey relief fund. The team said the money's intended to help Clutch City come back stronger than ever.

Major League Baseball Astros' owner Jim Crane also donating $4 million to relief efforts. And the MLB Players Association and the league jointly pledged $1 million to several organizations, including the American Red Cross.

How about the NFL? Patriots' owner Robert Kraft is going to match the first $1 million donated to the American Red Cross. And the Pats have a special connection to the city of Houston. They've won two of their five Super Bowl titles there.

How about the individuals like Texan star J.J. Watt? I texted him last night and he is overwhelmed by the amount of support his fundraising effort has received. Including his own $100,000, the fund has raised $1.1 million.

[05:50:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J.J. WATT, DEFENSIVE END, HOUSTON TEXANS: Our people are coming together. People are helping raise each other up, and I think it's not only from the state of Texas, it's from all over the country.

And I think that's something special about this country. That's what this country is about, is helping each other when we're done, lifting each other up when we're down.

And I think that we're in a time right now where, obviously, the city of Houston, the state of Texas, especially the southeastern part, is down and so we need to help them as much as we possibly can. And I think it's been unbelievable to see the amount of support that people have shown.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: J.J. received a text from another star and it became one of the largest donations to his fund. Rockets star Chris Paul, he made a $50,000 donation.

If you want to help J.J. help the people of Houston you can visit youcaring.com/jjwatt and you can donate there.

And if you want to watch J.J. and the Texans, who've been staying in Dallas, they've been practicing at the Cowboy's facilities. They've been unable to return home.

The teams are scheduled to play in Houston Thursday but now they'll stay in Dallas and play the game at AT&T Stadium against the Cowboys on Thursday.

ROMANS: All right, Coy Wire. Nice to see you. Thanks, Coy.

BRIGGS: Good to see these athletes stepping up.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BRIGGS: Thanks, Coy.

ROMANS: All right.

A North Korea missile launch is rattling world markets. Global stocks down around the world. "CNN Money Stream" has that, next.

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[05:55:37] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Kim Jong Un, I believe he is starting to respect us. I respect that fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Well, apparently not. The U.N. Security Council holding an urgent meeting today in response to North Korea launching a missile that flew over Japan.

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling the launch reckless and the most serious and grave threat to his country ever.

Will Ripley is the only Western journalist in Pyongyang. He joins us live this morning, 6:26 p.m. there in Pyongyang.

Will, what's the latest?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: More than 12 hours after this launch which has just created an uproar around the world, North Koreans still not aware that it has happened because it hasn't been announced on state media yet. We were out on the streets just in the past few hours and were told we couldn't tell people about it because there hasn't been an official announcement.

But I can tell you that officials who are in the know here, they say that this is a justifiable action in their view. They say it is the United States driving the situation on the Peninsula to, as they put it, the brink of an explosive nuclear war.

And it was certainly a frightening development here in the region as this missile was launched about 20 miles from where I'm standing here in Pyongyang. They launched it from the Pyongyang Sunan Airport -- the airport that we flew into over the weekend. This is where diplomats, and businesspeople, and tourists fly in.

North Korea, perhaps, sending a signal to the United States by launching from near a highly-populated area that if the U.S. were to think about a preemptive strike it could have grave humanitarian consequences if North Korea now has the technical capability to launch missiles from just about anywhere, not just remote areas.

That missile flew over Hokkaido in northern Japan. Some five million people were woken up by air raid sirens and frightening messages on their phones telling them to take cover.

The trajectory of the missile put it down in the Pacific Ocean, harmlessly. It wasn't targeting any population centers but it certainly does send a message that North Korea has the capability to send this kind of missile that distance. And had they aimed to the south it could have come very close to Guam, something North Korea has been threatening as recently as a few weeks ago.

In response, an emergency phone call between President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and South Korea conducting its own ballistic missile drills in response as the tensions in this region continue to escalate -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Kim Jong Un has now launched more missiles this year than his father Kim Jong Il did in his 17 years in power.

Will Ripley live for us in Pyongyang. Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning where that is top of mind.

Global stocks and U.S. futures falling overnight after the North Korean launch of a missile over Japan. European markets down more than one percent. You can see German markets down almost two percent.

In the U.S., you've got the Dow. Dow futures down about 130 points right now.

Stocks this year have largely ignored geopolitical events but the only exception there, North Korea. And while markets are not freaking out yet there is caution on the North Korean situation.

Money is flowing into so-called safe havens, like gold. Prices there up about seven-tenths of one percent.

Flooding, right now, devastating the Texas Gulf Coast, trying to tally the damage in the early going. It's too soon, really, to have exact numbers but the early estimates put property damage at $40 billion, making this one of the costliest storms ever to hit the U.S. Only three hurricanes cost more.

Now, typically, high winds cause the most damage but in this case -- in Harvey's case this is a flooding event and many homes don't have flood insurance. Fifteen percent -- just 15 percent of homes in the Houston area are covered under the National Flood Program.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

Houston bracing for another hit from Harvey. How much more rain is coming to an already flooded region? "NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's definitely a very, very scary time.

ROMANS: Officials say there are potentially tens of thousands more people trapped awaiting rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are just beginning the process of responding to this storm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It happened so fast. You're literally in moments of panic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to take care of every single Houstonian.

TRUMP: We will get through this. We will come out stronger than ever before.

BRIGGS: North Korea launching a missile over Japan prompting an urgent U.N. Security Council meeting today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, is furious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly, this is a highly, highly provocative missile test by North Korea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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