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EARLY START

Irma Devastates Florida Keys; White House Won't Link Storms to Climate Change; U.N. Adopts New North Korea Sanctions. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 12, 2017 - 04:30   ET

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


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[04:32:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Florida Keys facing years of rebuilding after a devastating blow from Irma. The damage you're seeing is awful. Still plenty inaccessible on this Tuesday morning. New power outage numbers overnight, as well. Sixty percent of Florida without power. Complete coverage ahead.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And after the second record breaking hurricane in weeks, climate change back in focus. But the White House will not draw the connection between global warming and the outbreak of wild weather.

Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Thirty-two minutes after the hour.

You mentioned, 60 percent of Florida without power, and Governor Rick Scott said that could take weeks in some cases. They have to prioritize who they get back power on for first.

We begin with that, and the effects of Hurricane Irma, it's now a tropical depression moving to the north. The devastation though it left behind becoming painfully clear. Rescue teams struggling to reach the Florida Keys west of Key Largo, where up to 10,000 people who chose to ride out the storm may still require evacuation. Key West city manager insisting there are no plans to evacuate anybody.

ROMANS: For now, accessing the lower Keys by boat is too dangerous because of the debris in the water and U.S. 1 which connects the Keys the mainland is underwater and blocked by a large hole the crews are trying to clear. You're looking at Key West right now, old town part of Key West.

Later this morning, Monroe County officials will allow some residents and business owners back into the area.

BRIGGS: The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln now stationed off Florida's east coast. Its helicopters flying over the Keys to assist the conditions. The biggest threat this week will be river flooding in northern Florida, the city of Jacksonville reeling from a record storm surge and devastating floods, as you can see.

ROMANS: The same threat facing other coastal communities like Savannah and Charleston, South Carolina, where flash flood emergencies declared over night. So far, Irma is being blamed for five deaths, one each in Florida and South Carolina, three in Georgia, including two from falling trees.

BRIGGS: Power outage is still a big issue across the region. About 6.2 million customers in Florida, 1.4 million in Georgia. Hundreds of thousands more in a South Carolina, North Carolina, even Alabama.

ROMANS: It will take a lot of time to restore normalcy to the Florida Keys and begin the rebuilding process. Access to the area is limited. Authorities still trying to just even see the extent of the devastation.

Our Rosa Flores took an aerial tour of the region and has more from Opa-locka.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, Christine what you can see from the air and from ground is destruction. Let me take you through this because the first sign of Irma from about 1,000 feet up in the air is the murkiness in the water.

Normally, you see beautiful clear water. That's not what you see when you fly towards the Keys right now. Then, the other sign is just the debris.

[04:35:03] There is debris everywhere. There are mobile homes that look like almost they've been brushed with a broom. There are trees snapped, palm trees snapped.

And as you get beyond the seven-mile bridge, then you really start seeing more of that destruction. Now, we landed at the Naval Air Station at Key West. As soon as you land, you start seeing it on the ground as well, trees down, yachts submerged, homes submerged.

Now, I was there with two senators, and they were going and touring the federal facilities to see what it's going to take to bring back these federal resources in Key West. There were boats that were on ground that were not supposed to be there.

And so, the message from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy there is that it they're going to have to make an assessment of the structural integrity of those homes and buildings before they can bring back federal personnel. And when you ask the question, well, how long is that going to take, they don't know exactly when, because there is no water, there is no power, there is no sewage, and, of course, they want to make sure it's safe for those families to come back -- Dave, Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: All right. Thanks so much.

Slow start to the recovery effort in Miami-Dade County. At this point, 60 percent of traffic signals still out. Trash and recycling centers are closed. Offices in the county are shut down through Wednesday.

ROMANS: Port Miami will open today but frustrations are mounting for residents who are still being told to keep out.

CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam, he is live for us still in Miami, where he has been throughout this storm and the aftermath and he's got the latest.

You know, I look at gas stations that don't have gas. So many millions of Floridians who don't have power. Probably the biggest peace time evacuation in American history, I think. Millions of people who left -- what are the chances of them coming back and when?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, you now, there's a message from the Miami Beach mayor for instance. He says we're going to lift the evacuation order at 8:00 this morning. So, at least a little bit of silver lining there, a glimmer of hope for the people who have been evacuated.

But what you're looking at behind me, I've got to set the scene. You're looking at the worst destruction in the Coconut Grove marina's 12 -- in the past 12 years. I want you to see how destructive storm surge coupled with winds over 100 miles can be. You can see that large luxury yacht behind me, that actually ran aground into this dock here, the smaller boats to my side as well.

And then so many, a multitude of stories to tell out of hurricane Irma, but one that we've learned just this evening, one of the sailboats is actually part of a fleet of nine sailboats that make up a nonprofit organization called shake a leg foundation. It was started by a man who actually was in a car accident about a few years ago, and his purpose was to bring some of the underprivileged children and adults across this region and get them interested in maritime activities, so sailing and kayaking and boating, and there was a fleet of about nine of these boats.

Unfortunately, six of them, now stand behind me on ground. The other three are actually sunk in the marina behind me. Only the tops of their masts are visible. So, that's just one of the many stories here, tragic events. There's going to be days if not weeks of cleanup efforts here in the Coconut Grove marina -- Dave, Christine.

ROMANS: Oh, yes, that will be along. I mean, so remarkable to me is you have this utter devastation for Florida Keys and all the way up to Jacksonville, two, you know, hugely different parts of Florida, this very big state and Irma really just raked across that state.

Thank you so much for that, Derek Van Dam.

BRIGGS: All right. The threat from this tropical depression not yet over. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest live from the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta.

Good morning, Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, we're watching the storm finally, finally fall apart here, after 40 hours over land. You see some of the clouds stretching to parts of the Northeast here. And what is left of the storm, we know one that will be retired, of course, along with Harvey. First time -- the second time in U.S. history have back to back storms retired.

And, of course, you take a look, the damage in a way of 16 inches of rainfall across portions of Florida. The storm system making landfall Sunday morning as a category 4, just 16 days after another category 4 in Harvey. That had never happened in U.S. history, of having category 4, two of make landfall in one season, made a second landfall near areas of Marco Island there across that region, same latitude, longitude as Wilma coming ashore, and then working its way just east of Tampa, of course, significant storm surge played out.

Now, we're beginning to see the spread and rain out across portions of the southeast into the Midwest as well. But impressive when you look at this because one out of roughly every three people across the state of Florida without power. That's 6.2 million.

[04:40:02] But in the state of Georgia, an incredible almost one and a half million without power because of the storm system. And you think about this, the three fatalities that we know of in the state of Georgia related to trees falling and then, of course, at least one fatality we know of in the state of Florida, really speaks volumes to the evacuation that were in place across that state. But when you think about the impacts in Georgia, how it was essentially a lot more limited than what occurred in Florida, why did the number get so high? Well, the trees there, of course.

We know trees in the state of Georgia, the pines, the oaks, significant trees that are well-known for being downed with any sort of powerful winds. But we had a lot of wet weather in the early spring season. You bring this down. We saw this with Hurricane Opal in 1995, eight fatalities related to trees falling down across the state of Georgia.

And this is going to be an ongoing concern because of the saturated soil over the next couple of days. Any gusty winds, even when the sun comes up, believe it or not, often we see after tropical systems move through trees gradually begin leaning over and falling over. So, this threat is very real.

And, guys, an arborist out of Atlanta estimates that 5 percent of the tree canopy could have succumbed to the storm and, of course, we'll see the survey over the next couple of days of this as well -- guys.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much for that. Nice to see you. Pedram, a lot of work to do, indeed.

Now, before Hurricane Irma made its way to Florida, it caused widespread devastation across the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

Look at here. This is St. Thomas. This boat is tipped over near the U.S. Customs and Border Protections office at Crown Bay. We're getting reports still scattered reports of entire resorts wiped away in St. John. Just gone on the island of St. John, the beautiful island of St. John.

Meantime, in Cuba, the death toll now stands at 10. Cleanup efforts also under way there after Irma pummeled Cuba.

Let's get right to CNN's Patrick Oppmann live in Havana with the very latest.

And where were you during the storm? You guys were hunkered down. You had a direct hit.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We were in the center of north coast of the island. We thought the storm was going to go by us. Decided it was going to come to Cuba, and it was a devastating blow on the island. All the way from where we were, up the coast, to have been in the middle of a category 5 hurricane, as it was when it hit Cuba. It was an experience I hope not to repeat anytime soon.

The issues here as Cuba begins to pick up and clean up is that area where we were where that direct hit took place is the center of their tourism industry. So, you have hotels that were badly damaged. You have causeways out to the Cuban Keys that were wiped out, and that's going to deprive the Cuban government of badly needed currency. As well, you have a lot of their agricultural industry being based in that area. It's going to have a huge impact. It's going to require them to import more food.

You know, the Cuban government prides itself in hurricane preparedness, but obviously, you cake a hit from a category 5 hurricane, that just goes up the coast, all the way to Havana. You have hurricane force winds here in Havana, and, you know, there's really no way to prepare for that.

So, the good news is the airport is opening today. It's going to allow tourists who have been trapped here to leave. It's going to allow more resources to come in here.

Cuban President Raul Castro has called on the people to unify and work together to rebuild the island. It's going to take a long time though, guys.

ROMANS: Oh, yes, it certainly will. All right. We're glad you're safe and keep us up to speed on how that recovery begins.

French President Emmanuel travels to the devastated islands of St. Maarten and St. Barts today. St. Maarten half Dutch and French. St. Barts is a French protectorate. He will head there today to sample the devastation there.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, new sanctions against North Korea passed by the U.N. Security Council. How is Pyongyang reacting. CNN, the only western TV organization in North Korea. We're live in Pyongyang, next.

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[04:47:54] ROMANS: All right. Wall Street record highs for stocks after Irma avoided a worst case scenario. That Dow soared more than, look at this, 250 points. That was the biggest rally in six months, the S&P 500 has never this high, a record high for the S&P.

Now, Irma caused extensive damage but insured losses, it looks they are less than predicted. So, insurance companies' shares drove stocks higher. For example, Travelers led the Dow with a 3 percent rally.

Also helping the rally, relief over North Korea. Stocks have largely ignored geopolitical headlines this year. One exception, though, tension with North Korea.

So, when the country failed to launch missiles over the weekend, and the U.N. imposed new sanctions, the market calmed a bit. Wall Street's fear gauge, the VIX, fell more than 10 percent. The money flowed out of so called safe havens like gold. Gold prices dropped one percent.

BRIGGS: New sanctions against North Korea adopted unanimously by the U.N. Security Council one week after the rogue regime carried out its sixth and largest nuclear test. The United States originally circulated a proposal calling for a full ban on oil exports to North Korea, as well as an asset freeze on Kim Jong-un.

The final resolution does not go quite that far.

Let's go live to Pyongyang and bring in CNN's Will Ripley, the only Western TV journalist reporting from inside North Korea.

Will, good morning to you. No matter what the sanctions, will any of this have any impact on the further development of that nuclear program?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The North Koreans will say no, and they point to their track record as evidence of that, Dave. You have seen round after round of increasingly strong sanctions from the U.N. Security Council. And yet, North Korea, as you said, just conducted their sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date, which by the way caused the global markets to dip for a while and we were just talking about the impact on the markets.

North Korea certainly knows when they engage in provocative behavior, they can send shock waves throughout the world, including the financial markets, even though this country itself remains impoverished. And yet, even in that state of economic challenge, they continue to launch missiles as well. They've launched dozens of missiles under the current leader Kim Jong-un.

[04:50:02] And in fact, indications are that they are ready pretty much at any moment to launch their next intercontinental ballistic missile. South Korea thought it was going to happen a few days ago. It didn't happen. It didn't happen over the weekend. It didn't happen in the immediate aftermath of these sanctions.

But one thing we know about North Korea, they like to remain unpredictable and we know that they are angry about these sanctions threatening the United States with pain and suffering with unbearable consequences as a result of this new round of sanctions. They blame the U.S. We've heard this kind of rhetoric from North Korea before.

But in the end, what they're seeing here is a watered down version. No oil embargo, no black listing of Kim Jong-un, no grounding of their national airline. Just another item adds to the list of things that they can no longer legally sell -- textiles along with coal, and iron and lead and seafood. And yet, North Korea still manages to make a lot of money on the black market and in fact, their economy grew by almost 4 percent last year -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Will Ripley live for us in Pyongyang, thanks, Will.

ROMANS: All right. The White House pushing back on former chief strategist Steve Bannon who called firing James Comey, quote, the worst mistake in modern political history. How the administration responded, next.

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[04:55:38] BRIGGS: All right. Welcome back.

The White House depending itself against criticism from President Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon telling "60 Minutes" the president made the worst decision in modern political history when he fired FBI Director James Comey. The administration, as you might imagine, pushing back.

Here to discuss, CNN contributor, Julian Zelizer. He's a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

Good morning to you, sir.

ROMANS: Good morning.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Let's first play for you this interaction between Charlie Rose and Steve Bannon -- perhaps a bit of a leading question but you can discuss that -- and then, Sara Sanders' reaction to that comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE ROSE, 60 MINUTES: Someone said to me that you described the firing of James Comey, you're a student of history, as the biggest mistake in political history.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: That would be probably -- that probably be too bombastic even for me, but maybe modern political history. I don't think there's any doubt that if James Comey had not been fired, we would not have a special counsel.

ROSE: Right.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think Steve likes to speak in kind of the most extreme measures. I'm not sure that I agree with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: All right. So, you're a historian. Biggest mistake in modern political history to fire James Comey?

ZELIZER: I wouldn't rank it there yet. You know, Watergate, weapons of mass destruction, there's a huge list of mistakes we can talk about.

We'll see where this goes. If the report comes out and it's very damaging, if it causes a serious political backlash, then Bannon might be right, but it's a little too early to make that statement.

BRIGGS: To make somebody teach about it at Princeton, let's say, I mean, but maybe an entire class.

ZELIZER: Absolutely, it's been a defining part of the presidency and a lot of it was triggered by that.

ROMANS: Another defining part of this presidency is loyalty, and a loyalty that this president demands. And we got a peek into the thinking behind the loyalty that is demanded of people when Steve Bannon criticized Chris Christie's loyalty. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANNON: Billy Bush Saturday to me is a litmus test. It's a litmus test. And I said it the other day to General Kelly during the Charlottesville thing.

ROSE: You took names on Billy Bush Sunday, didn't you?

BANNON: I did. Oh, I got them. I got to -- you know I'm Irish. I got to get my black book and I got them.

Christie, because of Billy Bush weekend, was not looked as for cabinet position. I told him the plane leaves at 11:00 in the morning. If you're on the plane, you're on the team. Didn't make the plane.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Remarkable, right? I mean, they were talking about multiple. Billy Bush weekend, after Charlottesville, there are these -- what traditional political observers would call gaffes by this president that become a litmus test.

ZELIZER: Well, the White House, this White House really demands loyalty. It needs loyalty because there's so many things that are outlandish or controversial are damaging to Republicans, that that strong loyalty is essential so that people don't break from the team.

The same loyalty they need on Capitol Hill to the president, because there's so many moments since January 2017, where a Republican, a member of the administration could have said, it's enough. And that's the attitude that prevents that.

BRIGGS: All right. Also, some interesting reporting today from "The Wall Street Journal" that some of the president's lawyers wanted, expected Jared Kushner to resign after they learned of the extensive communications between Kushner, the son-in-law of the president, and the Russians throughout the campaign. But that it wasn't all the lawyers but some expected him to quit.

Where does that leave this investigation?

ZELIZER: Well, it leaves it where it is, meaning he is a central player. He -- the Trump children, the whole family, which in some ways was always an asset to the campaign, is now a focus of the investigation. And so, that kind of internal back-fighting doesn't really change the broader story.

The place to keep your eye focused is Mueller, this team he's put together and the report. But we know that Jared Kushner remains at the center of this in part because of the financial aspect of his life and career.

ROMANS: It's so interesting the way the family plays into the dynamic. You know, we just published a story on CNN Money about how the white logs reveal that Janet Yellen who is the Fed chief, you know, probably one of the most powerful women in the world, had launch with Ivanka Trump earlier on in July to talk about women's issues after Janet Yellen gave a speech. But it is just remarkable for someone like me who's covered the Fed and covered, you know, central banks for so many years, it's just something unheard of in any other administration.