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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Irma Upgraded To Category 4 Hurricane; Hurricane Irma Strengthens, Heads Towards Eastern U.S.; Florida Warns Residents To Make Disaster Plans For Irma; New CNN Film On President Reagan; President Trump to Decide on DACA Wedneday. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 4, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

RICHARD TRUMKA, PRESIDENT, AFL-CIO: So, he can't claim credit that he took the unemployment rate down.

The job rate, the creation rates this month was 156,000. That's below what's necessary for population growth. So while we inherited a pretty good economy that was on the mend, wages are still flat. Wages still need to be adjusted, because workers have gotten behind in this recovery, and the stock market going through the roof doesn't mean anything to a worker whose paycheck is flat and has been flat for the last 10 years.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: You left the manufacturing council, along with other leaders, in the wake of the president's handling of Charlottesville.

What would it take to get you back to the table with the White House?

TRUMKA: Well, we talk to the White House regularly. We talk to them every day. We talk to members of his Cabinet every day.

It's not about a matter of talking. It was the symbolism of being on the council after he had that spirited defense of neo-fascists and white supremacists. That was above and beyond. That was just a point that really went to divide the country. And no president since Woodrow Wilson, I don't think, has divided the country.

And what we want to do is make a statement that we want a president that will bring us together. We hope that he becomes that president, that he unites the country, rather than polarizes the country, because that would be good for America.

BROWN: All right, Richard Trumka, thank you very much.

TRUMKA: Happy Labor Day.

BROWN: Yes, same to you. Happy Labor Day.

Well, tomorrow is a big day in Washington, with Congress back to work on an ambitious agenda. What can it mean for Harvey victims who desperately need help? That's just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:45]

BROWN: And we're back with our politics lead.

Congress is coming back from recess, and my panel is here to discuss the week ahead.

And I have a feeling it's going to be a very busy week and lots to accomplish here. We have a big announcement, Kaitlan, coming from the White House tomorrow when it comes to DACA. The president has changed his thinking on DACA several times.

How much did the states' lawsuits against DACA play in this decision, do you think?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think it had a lot to do with it. I think they really forced his hand here by setting this deadline of September 5, because we saw before the president had kind of backed off his campaign promise, which was that he would immediately terminate the program as soon he got into office.

And clearly we didn't see that happen. And we really saw him start to back off it as soon as he won the presidency. In December, he said we will work something out for the dreamers. Then we saw him progress to dreamers can rest easy. And just last week he said he loved the dreamers.

They're really forcing his hand because this is certainly not something the White House wants to be dealing with as they're dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey as well. But the president is kind of backed into a corner by this deadline.

BROWN: Right. It does make you wonder about the timing with everything on the table.

Emily, he is essentially -- the White House is essentially leaving it up to Congress for the next six months. Congress has been dealing with this, struggling with this issue for more than a decade. What are the chances this divided Congress will be able to pass legislation replacing DACA?

EMILY TISCH-SUSSMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's a great question.

It's not like this Congress is racking up so many wins. It's not like they have been able to produce so much out of this Congress at all, although I am a little bit optimistic that this is the one thing that can pass.

We spent the past of couple weeks this summer spending so much time having most of the Republican Party trying to distance themselves from the white nationalist base that Trump is really playing into.

I do think this is an opportunity for many Republican leaders in Congress, even Paul Ryan's comments last week, to say, look, it's the process we oppose, not the content. This is incredibly unfair. We told these people we would take care of them. Now it is time for us to step up.

I think we're seeing a lot of encouraging steps from Republican leaders to really take responsibility.

BROWN: Congressman, do you agree?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I certainly don't agree that President Trump's base is white nationalists.

Just because you disagree with the philosophy doesn't make everybody a racist or white nationalist. But let me say this.

The problems that are with DACA, with I think most people are discussing it don't even know, but you had to be here before June 15, 2007. As an example, what about June 16? What about July? Why then? This is a narrow bracket of people.

BROWN: And 800,000, around 800,000.

KINGSTON: Yes.

It's still a narrow bracket. And it did not solve any problems. Case in point, 2012, there were about 15 what's called an unoccupied alien children, 15,000.

By two years later, that number went to 60,000. None of those are covered by DACA, so the idea of doing this through executive order and not looking at the whole comprehensive picture, I think, is ridiculous.

I believe it is unconstitutional. That's why nine attorneys generals are filing this lawsuit. And I think that it is better left up to Congress who can consider these things and have hearings and so forth. By the way, President Obama also said it was unconstitutional at one point, yet he went ahead and did it.

BROWN: So you're saying leave it up to Congress. Congress has a lot of other items on its plate. Of course, as we mentioned, it is going back tomorrow.

It has tax reform to deal with, Harvey funding, the debt ceiling, preventing a government shutdown. What do you think, Congressman? Does the White House need to do more in dealing with Congress to get things done?

KINGSTON: No.

You know what? Congress has its own self to blame. I was in Congress for 22 years. When you are in the majority, you need to work five days a week. You need to work late into the night. You can't do a three-day-a-week schedule and sit on things.

For example, there are 12 different appropriation bills. They're going to pass eight this week. It should have been done in July. But at least the House is going to act on it. The Senate hasn't passed any of them. BROWN: What do you think, Emily? Should the White House carry more

of the onus?

TISCH-SUSSMAN: Well, I certainly agree Congress should be working more.

But what we're seeing out of this administration is a totally different thing from every spokesperson. We're seeing just out of last week that the White House-led -- office was leaking different things about policy in Congress that the president was then saying publicly.

[16:40:10]

Communication is a huge problem on every front in this administration. You don't know the final word until it comes out of the president's mouth. I think it makes it incredibly difficult for him to be working with Congress when they have no idea what he's going to veto.

BROWN: And tomorrow is also a big day for the president because he's going to be meeting with the big six, a team of allies in the Cabinet as well as Congress. They're going to be discussing tax reform.

How likely is it, Kaitlan, that they're going to be able to get something done on that front?

COLLINS: Well, it's definitely going to be challenging for them. That was number one on their list and it's kind of fallen and shifted down with everything that's happened.

And certainly aid for Texas and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey is going to be their number one priority. But the president is going to North Dakota tomorrow to sell his tax reform plan a little bit more, so we will see some progress there, potentially.

But what's also going to be really interesting about this meeting is that it's his first time meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell since they have been in this very public battle. We know they had a profanity-laced phone call while the president was on his working vacation in New Jersey, so there are a lot of outcomes that could happen with this meeting.

BROWN: I'm sure we will all be watching that.

KINGSTON: Tax reform, repealing Obamacare and infrastructure, those are the big three that the Republican Party has promised to do.

Tax reform is not a Donald Trump idea. It's an idea that has been out there for years. The last major reform of course was in 1986. It is time to get this thing done, and I don't think the legislative branch needs to look to the executive branch on these issues.

BROWN: I want to talk to you, because we're mentioning Harvey, Harvey funding. The president had his second trip to Texas over the weekend. As you will recall, the first trip, he was criticized about not meeting with the victims, not talking with the victims.

This time around, it was a different story, as we see here in this video. He is interacting there with the victims. Do you give him credit, Emily?

TISCH-SUSSMAN: I do. I do give him credit for going in and actually spending time with victims. His tone throughout even in the second trip when he was attacking the media is incredibly tone-deaf, saying, I hope everyone is having a good time.

It's really -- it's incredibly hurtful to people who have just lost their home, lost family members, including about -- including tens of thousands of DACA recipients who are in Houston who are currently going out and rescuing people.

And then he's saying, look, at the top of my agenda isn't really to help you all. I'm still planning on cutting billions of dollars from FEMA, from emergency funding and every other agency that supports disaster relief. I'm also still planning on trying to cut revenue. I'm also still planning on pulling your work permits.

Yes, I'm thrilled he spent some time with children and I'm thrilled that his tone got a little bit more sensitive, but what really comes down to the brass tacks of, what is he doing as president?

BROWN: Congressman, your quick reaction?

KINGSTON: Well, look, number one, he could not go to see victims on the first trip because that would have been counterproductive.

They were in 100 percent search-and-rescue mode at the time. He's already been there twice. Do you know it took Barack Obama two weeks to get down to the Gulf after the BP oil spill? Two weeks.

But we don't ever hear criticism about Barack Obama and his insensitivity on it. The president is handling this largest disaster potentially in American history great.

And the trains are running on time. The people who are complaining about it aren't in Houston, Texas or Louisiana. They are here in Washington, D.C., and most of it is just the usual partisan sniping.

BROWN: We got to wrap it up here. Congressman, thank you very much. Kaitlan, Emily, thank you. Appreciate it. Happy Labor Day.

TISCH-SUSSMAN: Thank you.

BROWN: And the national lead. With the wounds of Harvey still fresh, another hurricane is on its way to the U.S. and gaining strength -- the path of danger up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Breaking news, the "NATIONAL LEAD," Hurricane Irma has just moments ago but upgraded to a major storm, a category four hurricane. Florida appearing to be right in its track. Authorities there are sounding the alarm, warning Residents to stock up and get their emergency plans in order right now. I'm going straight to meteorologist Tom Sater. The various models are starting to agree that the continental U.S. is in the hurricane's path. When might Irma hit?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, you know, let me back up to Thursday when we first introduced Irma. We said that we really going to need about four or five days and that's starting to unfold. As you mentioned, the models are getting into agreement. But when we showed you a model last Thursday, the European model and the U.S. model were 1,200 miles apart. The U.S. model up by the Northeastern U.S. and the European down by Florida. Well, now they're pretty close and I'll show you. This system right now is just as strong as Harvey was when it made landfall and devastated Rockport, Texas. The winds are the same, 130 and it's moving right over the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles. That's Saint Kitts and Nevis. That's Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla.

And in fact, it might move right over that. Then it's the U.S. British Virgin Islands and have a watch. That will go to a warning as well as Puerto Rico. Six to nine-foot storm surges, ten inches of rain. Most of the heavy rain I think is going to stay over water, but here's is just a little time plan for with tropical storm force winds. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba and possibly even extending into Southern Florida. But let's run the National Hurricane Center track and you'll get an idea. It hasn't really moved much, it's been trending south. And if you look at this, you think, well, my goodness, this is heading right into the Gulf of Mexico. We can't rule it out, but I don't think that's the best case scenario right now. We have still a window open, although it's closing. But we have a window open that we could see the system turn to the north and stay out in the Atlantic off the coast. But that window is shutting quickly.

Most likely, what we're looking at Pamela, as we get in towards Friday, we're looking at a turn to the right. We don't know when that will happen so we can't give you exact location of a landfall or the timing just yet. But let me show you the European now with the U.S. model. And as we put these in comparison now, first of all, they're on top of each other. So we start out at the same location. You want to see agreement. They're not moving from each other. But as we get closer out or farther out, I should say, there is some variation. This is Sunday afternoon. Now, last Thursday, it was Saturday night we had it here, so it hasn't been moving much. Let's take it now to 9-11 and it does look like if it doesn't make landfall in Florida, somewhere in the Coastal Carolinas so everyone needs to start preparing, have a plan, sit down with the family and discuss this. Next weekend, maybe a major hurricane at least category three, four, it could be five.

[16:50:50] BROWN: Of course all of this on the heels of Hurricane Harvey. Tom Sater, thank you very much.

Well, the T.V. personality turned President who often took a dramatic approach to politics. No, I'm not talking about Donald Trump but the man who may have set the stage for him. That's up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] BROWN: And we are back with our top lead. It's the great communicator like you've never seen him before. A new CNN film provides a rare look into the Presidency of Ronald Reagan with never- before-seen video clips and behind-the-scene moments. Here's President Reagan preparing for his 1986 New Year's message to the Soviet Union.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let us look forward to a future of "chistoye nebo" for all mankind. Thank you. "Spasiba".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You say it better than I do, but it sounded as if you had a T in it. I think you said neitba.

REAGAN: Nebo, nebo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: I want to bring in CNN Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley. So, Douglas, why are we talking about Reagan now?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, because Ronald Reagan is the originator of make America great again slogan and Donald Trump hijacked it. Also, Reagan cast a very large shadow over the United States. Our national airport is named after him, his Presidential library in the Simi Valley is the most visited, conservatives think of him as the gold standard. There has been a kind of re-evaluation of Reagan that he is more of a, you know, a very ranked quite highly by Presidents these days, but nevertheless, many on the left still see him as the boogie man.

BROWN: And some say for the former actor being the President of the United States was really his biggest gig. Here's a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: I've got an idea for another picture, just one more. I've got the chain saw. No, and you're blocking me off stopping me for --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So President Reagan really knew how to use videos and photos to carefully shape his image and really push his agenda.

BRINKLEY: Absolutely. I mean, during World War II, he had made over 260 propaganda films for Army Air Corps. And then of course famously he worked for General Electric and did T.V. shows like Death Valley Days. He was -- that shtick that you just saw, that's up and straight off the Red Skelton Show or Lucille Ball. His humor was of a -- kind of generation ilk, you know, Joey Bishop, Jackie Gleason and the like. But he brought those gifts of humor into his speeches. I once edited a book called The Notes where Ronald Reagan had a joke for every speech. You know, he would give no matter what the topic. And we see some of that in this really first-rate CNN documentary.

BROWN: And Vice President Mike Pence has said during the campaign, I believe it was that Trump reminds him of Ronald Reagan and that Trump is the new Ronald Reagan. Do you agree?

BRINKLEY: Completely disagree. He also incidentally said that Donald Trump is Theodore Roosevelt. Look, Ronald Reagan was optimistic, genial, non-menacing, open-hearted towards LGBT, people towards the border, on immigration. They are very different. Reagan used optimism as an oxygen. He couldn't stand at the center to have enemies. And as you see, Donald Trump covets enemies daily.

BROWN: How do you think President Reagan would judge President Trump so far in your opinion?

BRINKLEY: Nancy Reagan once told me, asked me one time. She gave me all of Ronald Reagan's diaries but never put words in what he would have done because -- and how he would have judged things because Reagan was a conservative pragmatic. I mean, his pragmatism was pure William James. He always thought you had to keep your box office over 50 percent. Meaning you got to be 50 percent popular on any issue. You see Donald Trump working in the 35, 40 percent zone. For Ronald Reagan, that would be political failure.

BROWN: Very quickly, what would be the big takeaway with this show tonight?

BRINKLEY: Reminding us of how funny Ronald Reagan could be, how endearing even when he's making mistakes or flubbing things. There was something very likable about him.

BROWN: And like you had mentioned, he always had a joke for every speech he gave no matter what the topic was. Really fascinating insights, Douglas Brinkley, thank you so much. The Reagan Show airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Well, that's it for THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown in for Jake Tapper and I turn it over to my colleague Jim Acosta. He is in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Happening now, nuclear reaction. North Korea response to President's Trump's threats of fire and fury by detonating the most powerful nuclear bomb it's ever tested.