Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Back from Disaster Zone, Trump Creates Political Storm; NYT: Trump Called Attorney General 'Idiot' & Disloyal; Sources: Facebook Uncertain of Russian Election Ad Buys. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 14, 2017 - 17:00   ET

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


TAPPER: I'm Jake Tapper. Now to THE SIT ROOM with Wolf Blitzer.

[17:00:07] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Reigniting controversy. President Trump returns from a show of support for Florida disaster victims and immediately overshadows it by reigniting the controversy over the racial violence in Charlottesville. The president repeating his claim that both sides were to blame.

Berating Sessions. A stunning new report says after the president learned a special counsel had been appointed in the Russia probe, he berated and humiliated the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, in an Oval Office dressing down, saying Sessions should resign.

What's the deal? President Trump defends his deal-making with Democrats to protect young immigrants while boosting border security. But is he still insisting on a border wall? The far right is already outraged.

And house of horrors. Search warrants in multiple investigations into the death of eight residents of a Florida nursing home. New details on the shocking conditions inside.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news, President Trump is back here in Washington after getting a firsthand look at the damage left behind in Florida by Hurricane Irma. But the president now faces a political storm largely of his own making. Arriving at the White House, he just reignited the controversy over his comments on the Charlottesville violence, repeating the claim that both sides bear responsibility, saying there were, quote, "very bad people" on the other side of the white supremacist rally.

And the president spent the entire day explaining his talks with Democrats on the deal to protect DREAMers, the 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Top Democrats say the president agreed to protect the DREAMers in exchange for tougher border security, but not including a border wall.

Arriving at the White House, the president just said an agreement on DREAMers would come first, and the wall would come later. He stresses an agreement would not include citizenship or amnesty. The president is facing a revolt on the far right right now, with some lawmakers and commentators declaring that he has destroyed his base. But the president says many Republicans agree with what he's doing.

And following North Korea's recent nuclear test, there is violent new rhetoric from Kim Jong-un's regime, which talks of reducing the U.S. mainland to, quote, "ashes and darkness" and threatens to sink Japan into the sea with a nuclear bomb.

I'll speak with Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents, specialists and guest, they are all standing by with full coverage.

President Trump now back at the White House after visiting the Florida disaster zone. Let's begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, the president used his trip back to the White House to create even more controversy on multiple fronts.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he did indeed. Good evening.

The president essentially is flooding the zone here, talking about as many topics as he can, perhaps to obscure the importance of all of them. But it was the revival of that controversial comments about that Charlottesville white supremacist rally that is drawing new attention tonight.

This is coming only one day after Senator Tim Scott, the Republican senator of South Carolina, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, met here at the White House with the president to talk about this very matter. This is what the president said a short time ago on Air Force One.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what's going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also, and essentially that's what I said.

Now because of what's happening since then with Antifa, you look at, you know, really what's happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying in fact, a lot of people have actually written, "Gee, Trump might have a point." I said, you've got some very bad people on the other side also, which is true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So again, what the president saying there that both sides were to blame, it simply is reviving a comment that really drew a big condemnation from members of his own inner circle, from military leaders, from business executives who distanced himself from the president. But it is Senator Tim Scott, who came here to the White House

yesterday to try and talk about this with the president. Our Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill caught up with Senator Scott shortly after those comments were made. Wolf, that is what Senator Scott had to say.

He said, "That's who he is" of the president. "To assume that immediately thereafter he's going to have an epiphany is just unrealistic."

Now all of this is coming as we were learning more about another rift inside this administration. That is what the president and his attorney general Jeff Sessions.

We've known for several months they've been at odds with each other, but Wolf, a new fascinating bombshell in "The New York Times" is reporting more inside details about what led to this explosive relationship.

[17:05:21] It is all back to that May meeting in the Oval Office when the special counsel, Robert Mueller, was appointed to oversee the Russia investigation. People close to the attorney general are telling "The New York Times" that the president berated him, accused him of being disloyal.

The attorney general, of course, a long-time senator from Alabama, Republican senator, said he had never been humiliated like that in decades of public life. He offered a face-to-face resignation with the president. That, of course, was declined.

I am told that their relationship was repaired somewhat, Wolf, but this is an incredibly interesting new detail about what angered the president so much about one of his long-time supporters. One of his first supporters in the Republican Senate, Jeff Sessions. Explosive new details in that "New York Times" report.

BLITZER: Yes. And it says it wasn't just a one-on- one meeting in the Oval Office. There were other aids present when the president berated him so angrily, as he apparently did.

Jeff, the outcome of the dinner they had last night, the president with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, certainly has stunned a lot of Washington. What's the latest information you're getting?

ZELENY: Indeed, Wolf, this is the second time in two weeks' time that the president has leaned toward reaching a deal with Democrats. This one is over DREAMers, those 800,000 or so young undocumented immigrants.

The president, as we know, had that private dinner here at the White House with Democratic leaders, and they essentially reached an agreement to do something on a DACA before the border wall or other things.

I am told by a White House official that the president believes that the DREAMers and the so-called DACA legislation executive action by President Obama takes priority over the wall, but conservatives expressed outrage over this as the day wore long. This is what the president said in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're not looking at citizenship. We're not looking at amnesty. We're looking at allowing people to stay here. We're working with everybody. Republican, we're working with Democrat. I just spoke with Paul Ryan. He's on board; everybody's on board.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So this of course, consumed much of the day here at the White House, as well as on Capitol Hill before the president decided to hold a wide-ranging news conference, essentially on Air Force One about this new strategy of working with Democrats.

But Wolf, in those comments to reporters as he flew back here to Washington. He also defended this very new strategy here at the White House. He said this of Republicans. He said, "I'm a Republican through and through, but it's not always working this way. If we can't stick together, then we'll have to get help from the Democrats."

So Wolf, taking all this together here, a lot to have digest, no doubt. There is a new strategy here at the White House and the president has a new priority on those DREAMers. It is something that he wants to focus on before he moves on to building that wall he promised so long ago. That's what some conservatives tonight are quite upset about.

BLITZER: Yes. Potentially very, very significant shift on the part of the president, working with the Democratic leadership. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

Let's go to Florida right now, where the president met with storm victims and saw some of the damage, even as this new controversy was kicking up back here in Washington.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is in Naples, Florida for us. Jim, this was the president's third trip to a disaster zone. Up until a few moments ago, the day seemed to be going pretty well for him.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that's right, Wolf. When it comes to the storm, I think that's the face. He did come face to face with some storm victims here in Naples, Florida. You can see some of the damage behind me, across the street from this mobile home community that the president visited earlier today. It was at that mobile home community where he passed out sandwiches, and he promised Floridians he will not turn his back on them when it comes to recovering from Irma. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We love the people of Florida. And they went through something that -- I guess the likes of which we can really say nobody's ever seen before. They've never seen a category like this coming. Because it came in, really, at a five. All you have to do is look what happened in the Keys.

But we love these people and we're going to be back and we're going to help. And the job that everybody has done in terms of first responder and everybody has been incredible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, the president did make some comments about the storms that have been hitting Florida and the Gulf Coast in the last several weeks. When talking to reporters on Air Force One, the president was asked whether or not these big storms had changed his opinion on climate change.

Wolf, as you know, in the past the president has said he believes climate change is a hoax. Here's what the president had to say on Air Force One earlier today. He said he's not changing his mind on the issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, the severity of these storms -- the one in Florida, the one in Texas -- has that made you think

TRUMP: If you take a look, we've had bigger storms than this, and if you go back into the 1930s or the 1940s and you take a look, we've had storms over the years that have been bigger than this. If you go back into the teens, you'll see storms that were as big or bigger.

[17:10:13] So we did have two, you know, horrific storms, epic storms. But if you go back into the '30s and '40s, and you go back into the teens, you'll see some storms that were very similar and even bigger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: So the president trying to have it both ways, both sides-ing, if you will, when it comes to these big storms. Earlier, you just heard in that comment to Floridians here that they've experienced something the likes of which we've never seen before when it comes to Irma. But almost a few hours later talking to reporters on Air Force One, trying to make the case that there was a stronger storm back in the 1930s and the 1940s.

Wolf, the scientific community believes that there is a very strong likelihood that there is a connection between climate change and these hurricanes, these violent storms that we're seeing not only here in the United States but around the world.

And earlier this week, you saw that discussion in the briefing room, where the national security counterterrorism advisor to the president, Tom Bossert, really didn't to want to answer that question. This remains a tough issue for this White House, where you have the president of the United States essentially saying he hasn't changed his mind on the issue of climate change. Apparently, he still believes it's a hoax. While officials inside the administration agree climate change is happening. They just don't know what to do about it, and they didn't know how to change the president's opinion on it, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jim Acosta, Naples, Florida, thanks so much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. He's a member of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's begin with a stunning new report just published in the "New York Times" about President Trump's deep anger at his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for his recusal from the Russia probe. The subsequent appointment of a special counsel.

Let me read a quick passage from "The New York Times" article. Quote, "Accusing Mr. Sessions of disloyalty, Mr. Trump unleashed a string of insults on his attorney general. Ashen and emotional, Mr. Sessions told the president he would quit and sent a resignation letter to the White House, according to four people who were told details of the meeting. Mr. Sessions would later tell associates that the president's demeaning tone was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life."

And according to to the "Times," Congressman, the president also called Sessions an idiot, said he was -- said choosing him as the attorney general was, quote, "one of the worst decisions" he had made. What's your reaction to this?

CASTRO: Well, first, you know, early on, I was one of the folks that said that, because of conflicts of interest, that Jeff Sessions should not be made the attorney general of the United States. We -- of course, there were those questions about his testimony and his veracity. And it's clear that Donald Trump does not want Jeff Sessions to be the attorney general of the United States. And for whatever reason, if the media account is true and Jeff Sessions tried to tender his resignation, I don't know why the president didn't accept his resignation, based on the way that he's treated him, based on the way that he hasn't backed up the attorney general on so many things now. And also why Jeff Sessions would continue to stay on in this capacity.

There were reports that maybe one or two weeks ago ago, from now chief of staff Kelly that indicate the same thing. That he was basically dressed down and treated like a child, basically, and bullied by the president. It's a very strange dynamic for these men to stay on there when they have a president who's completely disrespecting them, professionally and personally. Yet, they continue in those roles.

BLITZER: Yes, doing that, according to to the "New York Times," in front of other staffers, not just privately one on one, could be a pretty humiliating moment for someone along the lines of the attorney general or the White House chief of staff, for that matter.

So what does it tell you about the president, Congressman, that he expects, quote, "loyalty" from his attorney general?

CASTRO: That he basically pulverizes people. That he absolutely pulverizes the people close to him. And it's probably hard to have an equal relationship with him, where he regards somebody else as an equal.

I don't know that there's anybody over at the White House that he regards that way. Perhaps he has friends in his life or others that he regards as equals, but if he does, I certainly haven't seen it in any media accounts.

BLITZER: Let's turn to some other important news. The president's former -- President Obama's former national security advisor, Susan Rice, testified in front of your community, the Intelligence Committee, about her role in unmasking members of the Trump campaign last year.

Sources tell CNN that lawmakers, even Republicans, were satisfied with her testimony and concluded she didn't do anything improper.

I want your response, though, to President Trump's comments just moments ago, in which he again said this. He said -- and I'm reading specifically, a direct quote -- "She's not supposed to be doing that. What she did was wrong."

[17:15:14] CASTRO: I don't think the president of the United States understands the concept of unmasking here. And he's basically grasping for something.

I can't speak specifically about her testimony, of course, but I can say that when she left the room, I think from what I could tell, all of us were convinced that she had acted professionally and well within the law.

BLITZER: And your Republican colleagues agreed?

CASTRO: Based on what I could tell from their questioning and their reactions, yes.

BLITZER: Let me get your reaction also to the president's comments just now, just a few minutes ago, about the Iran nuclear deal. Do you believe the president is going to walk away from this agreement? He says, "The deal was awful, one of the worst deals I've seen. Certainly, at a minimum, the spirit of the deal is atrociously kept. The Iran deal is not a fair deal," he said, "to the country. It's a deal that should have never been made."

What's your reaction to that?

CASTRO: That it's probably rhetoric. That he probably won't walk away. He would be stupid to walk away. You would -- he would basically be setting us back. You have another country, just as North Korea is pursuing an all-out nuclear program. Iran would essentially start doing the same thing again.

I don't think he'll walk away. I think it's rhetoric, but you know, it's his decision.

BLITZER: Yes. So far twice in this administration, he's had the State Department say the Iranians are complying...

CASTRO: Right.

BLITZER: ... with the Iran nuclear deal, and Secretary of State Tillerson twice had to sign documents to Congress -- every 90 days, he's required to do so -- that the Iranians are complying. He's done it twice so far It's going to come up again in October.

Let's turn to another important development today. Based on what you've heard, do you support the president, the deal that the president apparently reached with the Democratic leadership last night over dinner, which would protect the so-called DREAMers and at the same time, strengthen border security, although not approve a new wall?

CASTRO: Well, I saw the reports last night, and it indicated that there was a deal, and then early today the president, of course, said there was no deal. And so, it seems to be an agreement to come to a deal at some point.

Look, I'm optimistic and hopeful about the possibility that we can reach an agreement that will allow these 800,000 hard-working young people to live and work and stay here in the United States, their home country. So I'm hopeful about that.

And of course, there are no details on what this would look like. Remember, Wolf, that the comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2014, of course, had two anchors to it, first a path of citizenship, in other words, legalization. The other thing was increased border security.

So, the outlines of what they discussed are consistent with that 2014 legislation, although, of course, it won't be on as large a scale, because you're not dealing with as many issues.

BLITZER: Congressman Castro, we're getting some new developments, new information on the overall Russia investigation right now. The Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. I've got a bunch of questions for you. I've got take a quick break, though. We'll resume our conversation right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:22:41] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on a day when the president reignited controversy on multiple fronts after what should have been an impressive visit to storm victims of Florida.

We're back with Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. He's a member of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Congressman, I want to dig a little bit deeper into the overall Russia investigation into U.S. presidential election meddling. It's being conducted by your committee. As you know, Facebook now admits that they didn't know how that they -- they don't know, really, how many advertisements were purchased by Russia, Russia-backed groups during the campaign.

Based on the intelligence you've seen, how aggressive was Russia's social media effort in meddling in the 2016 presidential election?

CASTRO: Based on everything I've seen, I would say it was pretty aggressive.

And remember, this is basically a problem of first impression for companies like Twitter and Facebook, because social media's only been in bloom, basically, the last decade. And so, you know, Facebook, I'm sure, has never faced this problem before. A foreign government or its agents very extensively trying to influence an American election, you know, and all of this is, of course, based on public reporting, but it's going to be a problem that we're going to have to really tackle and solve in earnest.

And I hope that Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms will be willing to work with the Congress to fix this, to make sure that we cut off these fake accounts, that we cut out Russian bots on Twitter who have linked accounts that are trying to get common messages across, and do everything that we can to take out outside influence.

BLITZER: Are the Russians, as far as you know -- and you're on the Intelligence Committee -- still actively pursuing disruptive tactics on social media?

CASTRO: Well, you know, our intelligence sources have said that, in open session, that Russia basically has active campaigns against the United States and tries to -- continuously tries to influence the politics of the United States.

BLITZER: Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, thanks for joining us.

CASTRO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, more on our breaking news. President Trump reignites the controversy over his comments on the Charlottesville white supremacist rampage. Once again, suggesting that both sides bear responsibility.

And a stunning new report says that after the president learned a special counsel had been appointed in the Russia probe, he berated and humiliated the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, before other aides in the Oval Office.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:29:58] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including President Trump aboard Air Force One on the trip back from viewing storm damage in Florida, repeating his controversial remarks, blaming all sides for last month's violence during a white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Also breaking, the New York Times reporting the President called the Attorney General of the United States Jeff Sessions an idiot and disloyal after learning Robert Mueller (AUDIO GAP) So let's bring in our specialists. And Gloria Borger, it's a stunning report in the New York Times, how humiliated he felt Jeff Sessions. Let me read a couple sentences from the story. "Accusing Mr. Sessions of disloyalty, Mr. Trump unleashed a string of insults on his Attorney General. Ashen and emotional, Mr. Sessions told the President he would quit and sent a resignation to the White House, according to four people who were told details of the meeting. Mr. Sessions would later tell associates that the President's demeaning tone was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life."

He called Sessions, according to the Times, an idiot, said that the selection of the -- of Sessions as Attorney General was one of the worst decisions, he said, he had made. What's your reaction to that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let's give this some context, of course. This is because the President discovered during that meeting that the special counsel had been appointed and that was Special Counsel Mueller. So, he learned this news, he didn't want a Special Counsel, he didn't think Jeff Sessions sort of should have recused himself. And so, he went into a rage.

First of all, I have to say that Jeff Sessions is the most loyal person the President had during the campaign, he was the first person to endorse him in the Senate, and he remains a cheerleader for this President. But, the language he used and the way he flew into a rage, reminded me of something else that New York Times reported, which was about General Kelly. General Kelly got chastised loudly, apparently, in the same manner after the President wasn't happy with the crowd at the rally in Arizona this past summer. And he did the same to General Kelly who said that, in all of his years of public service, he had never been addressed like this.

So now, we have a couple of folks here, both of whom are loyal and Sessions, in particular, who has gone out of his way to support this President and this is the way they've been treated. This is the way the President behaves.

BLITZER: You would think after these men were humiliated like that in front of others, they would quit.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You sort of would, except being the Attorney General is clearly Jeff Session's life goal, my guess is he never thought he would get there because, frankly, if any -- literally any other Republican had won, Jeff Sessions probably isn't in the Cabinet at all, he's certainly not Attorney General.

With General Kelly, and I think probably with Jeff Sessions too, there is an element, Wolf, I think of, you know, I'm serving the country. I'm not necessarily serving -- yes, I'm serving Donald Trump but I am serving the country more broadly, it is important that I be there, which our Gary Cohn say that in the wake of the Charlottesville back and forth. And, you know, it's important that I do this job at this time. Now, of course, we are all replaceable at some level although we all like to think we are not, we all probably are. But I think some of that's the motivation with (INAUDIBLE) quickly, this is to Gloria's point, this is who the guy is.

You knew if you were Jeff Sessions what you were getting into, you didn't think that Donald Trump was Barack Obama in terms of temperament and demeanor, you kind of knew who he was. If you're John Kelly, you certainly knew who he was, given that he had run through -- but doesn't excuse the behavior.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, how do you see it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, he was very upset about being investigated for obstruction of justice. One of the good rules is if you don't want to be investigated for obstruction of justice, don't obstruct justice.

CILLIZZA: I'm right down with that.

TOOBIN: Right, you think so? Don't fire the FBI Director who's been investigating you. Don't send your people out to lie about why the FBI Director was fired. I mean, this is a problem that Trump brought on himself. Steve Bannon with Charlie Rose on "60 Minutes" was exactly right when he said that this was the greatest political blunder in recent history, it may also be a crime. So, you know, he can yell at Jeff Sessions all he wants, he can yell about Rob Rosenstein and Bob Mueller. The problem here is what Donald Trump did to end this -- to try to end this investigation.

BORGER: And can I -- can I just say one more thing about Jeff Sessions? Jeff Sessions came into this administration to change immigration policy. He has called DACA unconstitutional. After today, on DACA or last night on the deal that may or may not have been forged, we'll see, imagine how Jeff Sessions is feeling today.

BLITZER: Right. Because according to the New York Times, one of the reasons he decided to stay, even though he was humiliated, is because of immigration.

[17:35:06] BORGER: Exactly

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: He thought he could achieve what he wanted.

TOOBIN: But don't kid yourself, Jeff Sessions is having a big impact on not doing criminal justice reform on, you know, so making sure people to have longer prison sentences, it's a forfeiture of, you know, seizing criminals or alleged criminals property, he's doing a lot as Attorney General. And so, he gets yelled that by Donald Trump, big deal, he's still the Attorney General.

BORGER: But he's been undercut by the President was my point. I got that.

CILLIZZA: Yes, it's totally right. TOOBIN: He absolutely has.

CILLIZZA: But I was -- look, this is --

TOOBIN: He's going to have a lot better days ahead.

CILLIZZA: And that's his calculation in that.

TOOBIN: Yes.

CILLIZZA: I mean, his calculation essentially is, yes, I'm going to get embarrassed sometimes. I mean, let's not forget this New York Times report is pretty remarkable, but let's not forget that Donald Trump repeatedly attacked Jeff Sessions on Twitter, "Beleaguered Jeff".

BLITZER: He called him weak. He called him weak.

CILLIZZA: Publicly embarrassed him.

BLITZER: He called -- he called him weak.

TOOBIN: Right.

CILLIZZA: This is not new that he does those things.

BLITZER: Yes, and I'm sure Jeff Sessions was unhappy, he wants to strengthen from his perspective immigration when the President tweets, does anybody really -- I want to throw out good, educated, accomplished young people who have -- who have jobs, some serving in the military?

CILLIZZA: The Attorney General.

BLITZER: Really?

BORGER: Right, exactly, and you know, the Attorney General's called it unconstitutional. He is not happy about this deal, I guarantee you, although we have not heard from him about it.

TOOBIN: But can we also focus a little bit on, you know, Donald Trump is talking about these DACA people as if they're the most wonderful people in the world. So why did you revoke DACA? I mean, you know, he didn't have to revoke DACA. Some people, they claim it's unconstitutional which is highly controversial, it may well be constitutional --

BORGER: Because of Jeff Sessions.

TOOBIN: Well, exactly. So, the idea that Donald Trump is so in love with the DREAMers all of the sudden, why are you -- why did you take away their legal protection with the stroke of the pen?

CILLIZZA: During the campaign as we've played on this air many times, Donald Trump called this an unconstitutional and an illegal act by President Obama, I mean, they're -- BORGER: Right, yes.

BLITZER: He said they would have to leave.

CILLIZZA: -- that's a hard to walk back, he will get rid of it.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stick around, we got more coming up, including the latest from the hurricane disaster zone. In Florida, investigators are getting new information about that deadly breakdown that left patients dead at a sweltering nursing home. Also, new threats coming in from North Korea, Kim Jong-un's regime says it will turn the United States into ash and darkness.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:41:58] BLITZER: Right now, we're learning new details about what happened inside a Florida nursing home where patients died in sweltering conditions after Hurricane Irma hit the State. Let's get the very latest from our National Correspondent Miguel Marquez, he's joining us from Florida right now. Miguel, what are you learning?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, this is becoming a massive investigation on many levels. The City of Hollywood has issued a search warrant and is conducting interviews with people in that -- in that facility. The States is -- the agency responsible for it is also looking at that facility. There are calls for the Federal Government to get involved. This, as people who had loved ones in that facility, are speaking out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: A search warrant in multiple investigations into the deaths of eight people at an elderly care facility. Key questions, when did the power fail? When did the air-conditioning go out? And why did no one raise the alarm until too late?

RAELIN STOREY, CITY OF HOLLYWOOD SPOKESWOMAN: The initial investigation has determined the facility had some power. However, the building's air-conditioning system was not fully functional. Portable A/C units were being used --

MARQUEZ: Police say the first call for help went out Wednesday morning, 3:00 a.m., a patient in cardiac arrest. An hour later, a second call, a patient suffering respiratory failure, minutes later, a third call. Only then, did emergency workers and staff from Memorial Hospital start a mass evacuation.

JUDY FRUM, CHIEF NURSING OFFICER, MEMORIAL REGIONAL HOSPITAL: When I initially walked in the door with my colleague as well as fire rescue, we saw a very -- we saw a bunch of staff and they were extraordinarily stressed and panicked.

RANDY KATZ, MEDICAL SPECIALIST, MEMORIAL REGIONAL HOSPITAL: There were patients that was critically ill, there were patients that were not living any longer, that were upstairs on the second floor when we entered the building. So, there were a number of very, very sick patients there, and there were number of patients that appeared dehydrated, appeared in respiratory distressed.

MARQUEZ: Three patients were discovered deceased on the facility's second floor. Then investigators discovered another person died at the facility Tuesday, their body already moved to a funeral home.

STOREY: As we began this investigation, we were made aware of that death and we went to the funeral home, the medical examiner went to the funeral home and did claim that body and that is now part of this investigation.

MARQUEZ: In all, 145 elderly patients evacuated, 39 admitted into Memorial Hospital facilities, many suffering from the effects of the heat.

VENDETTA CRAIG, NURSING HOME PATIENT'S DAUGHTER: What should happen to them? Whatever the law allows, and then some. We saw our elderly away, they're a cash crop. It's not necessary, that's my mother, somebody's mother, somebody's sister, somebody's father. It's not -- they're not dollar signs.

MARQUEZ: The deaths underscoring the seriousness of Irma caused power outages across five states. Still, more than 2-1/2 million households without power. In the hard hit Keys, frustration among residents unable to survey the damage to their homes as supplies and relief only starts to trickle in.

[17:45:04] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been here for 15 years, my thought -- and I watched this whole thing on the news with Dallas and Houston and the response here has been nil.

MARQUEZ: Across the Caribbean, where Irma destroyed entire islands, the death toll continues to rise as the scope of the disaster begins to come into focus.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, the agency for Health Care Administration here in Florida that regulates these facilities says that they were on conference calls with all of their facilities. They had multiple opportunities, the rehabilitation center here had multiple opportunities before the storm, during the storm, and after the storm, to raise their hand, raise the alarm, they never did, they said. The company will only say that they were talking to the Florida Power & Light Company about trying to get the electricity restored to full power, that never happened, clearly, but why you would call the light company when you have a 911 emergency is the giant question here, Wolf.

BLITZER: What a heart breaking story. All right, Miguel, thank you for updating us. Miguel Marquez in Hollywood, Florida.

Coming up, amid signs, North Korea is getting ready for another missile launch. Kim Jong-un's regime issues a new round of threats aimed at United States and now Japan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:51:04] BLITZER: Tonight, there's a new barrage of threats from North Korea. Threats that seem even more ominous because of new information coming in about the explosive power of Kim Jong-un's latest nuclear weapons test. CNN's Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Brian, there are all sorts of signs right now that another missile launch could be imminent?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, South Korean officials now say that we are in a window where North Korea could fire up another test of a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile. This comes as we get new information tonight about just how powerful Kim Jong-un's last nuclear test was. The dictator now appears to have a bomb with more explosive power than he's ever had before.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Kim Jong-un's State Media issues blustering new threats, saying Japan should be nuked so it sinks into the sea and another dire warning to the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's reduce the U.S. mainland to ashes and darkness.

TODD: Threats taken more seriously now that North Korea's latest nuclear test appears to be more powerful than originally estimated, perhaps 17 times the size Hiroshima.

JOEL WIT, FOUNDER, 38 NORTH: Obviously, the blast was much larger than the previous ones. And so, what the data is telling us now is that the size of the blast was in the range of 250 kilotons.

TODD: The test was strong enough to create a crater in the mountain for the first time. New satellite photos from 38 North show activity is continuing at the test site and even spreading to a new location.

WIT: There's a truck in front of one of the tunnel entrances, and what's important is that there hasn't been activity at this particular location for over a year. And so, what it's telling us is that maybe the North Koreans are going to activate this part of the test site for future tests.

TODD: South Korean officials say the North could also be preparing for another test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. This, in spite of the U.N. hitting Kim's regime with yet another new round of sanctions, that squeeze its access to cash and cap the oil it can import.

MICHAEL GREEN, SENIOR ADVISER, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The sanctions will take a bite out of North Korea's cash flow, there's no doubt about that. Is it enough to get the North Koreans to stop racing towards the finish line of a deliverable intercontinental ballistic missile with a warhead that could potentially hit the U.S.? Probably not, I think the North Koreans are close enough to the end zone that they're going to keep muscling through and getting this capability and force us all to negotiate. TODD: Another potential pressure point on North Korea, moving U.S.

nuclear weapons into South Korea is also off the table. The President of the South Korea tells CNN.

MOON JAE-IN, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH KOREA (through translator): To respond to North Korea by having our own nuclear weapons will not maintain peace on the Korean peninsula and could lead to a nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia.

TODD: With few good military and diplomatic options left for the United States, analysts warn of what the North Koreans could do once they achieve a nuclear ICBM.

GREEN: They will tell us to end our nuclear umbrella over Japan and Korea, to pull troops out of Korea, to stop sanctioning them, they will act like a gangster driving through the plate glass window of the neighborhood store and demand things for us not to be threatened by them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And tonight, top members of the American military seem to be acknowledging that Kim Jong-un now has the most powerful of nuclear weapons. Air Force General John Hyten, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, was quoted moments ago by Reuters as saying of North Korea's last nuclear test earlier this month, quote, I have to make the assumption that what I saw equates to a hydrogen bomb. That would mean, Wolf, Kim Jong-un now has, what the five main nuclear powers have, the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, and China, all have hydrogen bombs in their arsenals and now it appears North Korea might as well.

BLITZER: And also, now more than ever, the U.S. and South Korea have to be on the same page, Brian, but there are serious questions tonight over whether or not they are.

[17:55:03] TODD: There are, Wolf. And President Trump has, you know, recently tweeted that South Korea's talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work. Well, today in a CNN interview, South Korean President Moon Jae-in downplayed any rift between him and President Trump, saying he believed the President was only meaning the allies have to act together and take a firm stance against North Korea, but they have got to be on the same page, Wolf, now that Kim has these hydrogen bombs, potentially.

BLITZER: Brian Todd back in Washington after excellent reporting in Florida, Texas, Charlottesville before. Welcome back, Brian Todd.

TODD: Thank you.

BLITZER: A quick programming note, be sure to tune in to CNN tomorrow for our exclusive documentary, "SECRET STATE: INSIDE NORTH KOREA". CNN's Will Ripley had unprecedented access to people and never before seen places in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, among other places. "SECRET STATE: INSIDE NORTH KOREA" premieres tomorrow 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN. Coming up, more on the breaking news, President Trump returns from a show of support for Florida disaster victims and immediately overshadows it by reigniting the controversy over the white supremacist rampage in Charlottesville. We'll be right back.