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CNN NEWSROOM

Hundreds Desperate to Flee St. Martin; Couple Returns to Flooded Home; Damage Assessment in Florida Keys; Work on Dreamer Deal; South Korea on Nuclear Weapons. Aired 9:30-10:00a ET

Aired September 14, 2017 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Everywhere that Hurricane Irma hit. This was a fierce storm.

We took out our drone yesterday to try to scope out some of the damage. And it's just incredible. The trees have all been plucked of all their foliage by those battering winds. Roofs have been ripped off houses. Homes, ruined.

But the real worry -- and I don't know if you can see it on this drone footage -- the streets are lined, they are covered, John, with trash. And trash, of course, attracts rats. Rats, of course, attract disease. And that's the big concern right now, there's no sanitation. There is no running water. Residents here telling us that they're very concerned that not enough has been done to try to improve the hygiene situation, to try to get in some temporary chemical toilets, disposable toilets, porta-potties, things of that nature.

At the moment, you have a situation, especially at the airport where you have a crush of more than 1,000 people descending every day, there is nowhere for those people to go to the bathroom. They are forced to simply walk a few hundred yards away from the terminal and go to the bathroom wherever they can. And that, obviously, presents authorities and residents with a really dangerous situation because it's so common, as you know, after an natural disaster, cholera, typhoid, these types of outbreaks are the biggest fear. So in addition to all the horrendous loss and devastation that these people are now looking to dealing with and reconstructing, they're also trying to stave off a major catastrophe, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Clarissa, so many things we take for granted so often become matters of survival at times like this.

Clarissa Ward in St. Martin. Let's hope the people there get the help that they need.

Now, at this house where I am in Big Pine Key, I've been talking to the owners the last few days, Harry Apel (ph) and Jen Demaria (ph) and they've been so strong despite the fact that their house really simply destroyed here.

But yesterday at one point, I did see Harry gazing into the open wall right there and sobbing. He's lost his entire house. They have to start from scratch, at least here. And there are so many people returning home to that reality, not just

in The Keys, not in the Caribbean, where Clarissa was, but all up the Florida peninsula.

Our Gary Tuchman went home with one family up near Jacksonville on the St. John's River.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here in northern Florida, many families still need a canoe to get to their front doors. Charmaine (ph) and Todd Moldenhower (ph) are going back to their home in tiny Green Cove Springs, Florida, for the first time since Hurricane Irma's floodwaters arrived. They have no idea what to expect once they open the door.

TODD MOLDENHOWER: You got this locked, honey?

CHARMAINE MOLDENHOWER: I didn't lock it. OK.

T. MOLDENHOWER: It's ruined.

TUCHMAN: It has just taken this couple a matter of seconds to learn their home has suffered catastrophic damage.

C. MOLDENHOWER: Oh.

T. MOLDENHOWER: (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

TUCHMAN: It's a nightmarish chaotic scene. Smoke detectors beeping loudly and incessantly. Charmaine and Todd's life's belongings, destroyed. At its highest point neighborhoods snapped this picture of the floodwaters reaching about six feet. The waters have receded from that high point, but continue to flow in the house.

C. MOLDENHOWER: Oh, that's not good.

Oh, my God.

TUCHMAN: Todd is in the Air National Guard. He was deployed to help hurricane victims as his house was getting flooded. He rushed home to be with his wife, who had evacuated to a neighbor's house.

T. MOLDENHOWER: Oh, my God, it's a mess. Oh, countertops are all unhooked. They're just floating.

C. MOLDENHOWER: Oh, my gosh.

TUCHMAN: Amid the wreckage, the Moldenhowers look for items that are sentimental to them.

C. MOLDENHOWER: (INAUDIBLE).

TUCHMAN: But they still can't believe what the force of all the water did in their home.

C. MOLDENHOWER: Oh, the refrigerator fell down. Did you see that, honey?

T. MOLDENHOWER: It's OK. Come here.

TUCHMAN: Like so many people in the path of Hurricane Irma, Charmaine and Todd Moldenhower's lives have taken a dramatic detour.

TUCHMAN (on camera): I'm so sorry for what you are going through. You've only been married three years. You're relatively still newlyweds and you've got a lot on your plate now.

T. MOLDENHOWER: Yes.

C. MOLDENHOWER: Yes.

[09:35:04] T. MOLDENHOWER: Yes. It will work out.

TUCHMAN: What it comes down to is you both are OK?

T. MOLDENHOWER: Yes, that's the most important thing.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Their plan is to rebuild and come back to this home. But first, they have to get over the shock.

C. MOLDENHOWER: These are of like pictures of his dad, who just recently passed. And then we have our photos from our wedding, graduation, and just happy times. But it's OK.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Green Cove Springs, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: That is so hard. Our thanks to Gary Tuchman.

This house behind me, one of the only thing to survive, a crock pot.

All right, let's go down to Key West right now. Joining me is Bill South (ph). He is a meteorologist who rode out the storm in Key West.

I want to get a sense of how things are down there, Bill. If you can hear me, you're 30 miles south of where I am in Big Pine Key. Give me an assessment. How is the recovery so far?

BILL SOUTH, METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): It's going along but it's slow. I'll say that much. We're having the main issue is with the water. We're under a boil water restriction. But there is no water pressure, very little. You've got two two-hour windows a day that they turn the water on basically for hygiene and clothing (ph) and nothing more. You know, you could store a couple of buckets of water for flushing toilets or what not. And whenever those -- whenever those two hours two times a day are over, where you're at is probably the worst, if not -- Cudjoe Key is bad, too. Anywhere from Big Coppitt to Big Pine Key with the most destruction.

We've been sending teams of meteorologists -- I know we're not construction workers, but we've been sending teams the past two days out to the area of Big Pine and Cudjoe Key to try to help people out. Put a tarp on someone's roof yesterday. One of our coworkers lost everything who lives on Big Pine Key. So, you know, we're here in Key West, but really where the people need the help are from Big Coppitt Key to Big Pine Key.

BERMAN: Yes, Big Pine Key is where I am, Bill. And I can tell you, they have no water here at all. I mean they would love to have two hours of water a day here.

Down in Key South, have people started trickling back home? I mean they haven't really let residents come back down from the peninsula yet. What are you seeing?

SOUTH: Well, that's right. You can't come back. They're going to stop you. And they won't let you back just because they want to establish some type of infrastructure that's stable before letting people back in.

Really the only cell service is AT&T. And that was just established yesterday. And like -- you know, I hate to talk about what we're going through in Key West when there are people from Big Pine that are just, you know, suffering beyond what people should be suffering. And it's pretty sad.

We need -- we need to get them water. I -- the city of Key West is here every day. The National Guard's here. So really things started to pick up, I would say, Tuesday night. A lot of C-130s started to fly into Key West with supplies.

BERMAN: Right.

SOUTH: They were able to set up points of distribution throughout the lower keys for food and water. And now we're starting to get fuel. You're seeing -- there's one gas station that I drove past to get to work that's open, and there's a one-lane line I would say about a half mile long waiting to get gas. So we're getting -- we're getting supplies. It's just getting them out to where the people need them the most.

BERMAN: All right, Bill South, down in Key West.

Bill, I can tell you, up here in Big Pine Key there is a lot more destruction, but people are beginning to get the help that they need. The water is being distributed here. Food has begun to be distributed. And like you down there, there is a cell tower here now. So, Bill, you know, rest assure things are improving here.

Bill South in Key West, thanks so much for being with us.

Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, John. So ahead for us, Democratic leadership this morning touting their negotiations with the president to protect dreamers without funding a border wall. But the devil, as always, is in the details. A member of Congress who was in key meetings with the president yesterday will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:43:57] HARLOW: President Trump says he is working on a plan to protect dreamers. He met with top Democrats about it last night. He tweeted about it this morning. And right before he and the first lady took off for Florida, he said that leadership in the Republican Party, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, are, quote, on board.

All right, so this is a president who is showing his deal-making stripes in spades. Let's get some perspective from a Democratic congressman who met with the president yesterday, Tom Souzzi.

Thank you very much for being here, congressman.

To be clear, you were not in this meeting last night with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer about DACA, although I would have loved if you were and could shed some more light on the confusion between the White House and them on this one. But you did speak with the president in your meeting earlier yesterday about DACA. What did he say to you he is willing to do?

REP. TOM SOUZZI (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, let me just be clear, we had a meeting yesterday with about 14 members of Congress and the president and some of his staff to talk about a whole host of issues, including DACA. And regarding DACA, he's very sympathetic. I mean he seems very, very clearly that he does not want to punish these young people that came to this country with their parents, even though they were undocumented at the time, but are now living productive lives. And we really should not be punishing these people and we should be embracing them and, quite frankly, they're important to American society.

[09:45:14] HARLOW: So our reporting from Jeff Zeleny, Phil Mattingly, Jim Acosta in Washington this morning is that a senior White House aide is saying that the president is so dedicated to this DACA legislation and letting dreamers stay here, he says it takes priority over a border wall. That's saying a lot because that was like promise number one on the campaign trail. What do you make of that? And did you get that read from him?

SOUZZI: I think the president, like many Americans, quite frankly, recognize that this is the right thing to do. And there may be people who are trying to pull him in different directions because of the politics. But when everything's said and done, he knows, I know, the people at the meeting yesterday, quite frankly everybody in Washington and throughout America know that this is the right thing to do to help these young people to live lives free of this anxiety and this dread.

HARLOW: Yes.

SOUZZI: And, quite frankly, there's even more we can do. The Dream Act --

HARLOW: Well, not -- not everyone in America. If you've read Congressman Steve King's Twitter feed this morning, you will see he is anything but happy about this. You know, he's tweeted multiple things, saying he's blowing up his base, et cetera. But also look at this on amnesty. He said Reagan led with amnesty in 1986, Bush 43 led with amnesty in '06, Obama led with amnesty in '13. All failed. So Trump leads with DACA amnesty in 2017.

Steve King's not happy, but apparently Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are on board with this. To be clear, you and Democrats are not in control of Congress right now, but do you see the president as malleable on this because it seems like you guys are the only ones who can get him to make deals?

SOUZZI: Well, I think there are Democrats and Republicans that recognize that the people in American want us to work together to get things done. And this issue of undocumented immigrants goes back to the 1980s, as you pointed out, when tens of thousands of people came over the border from El Salvador during the death squads and the civil wars down there. And it's time for us in America, not only to address DACA, but to look at the dreamers legislation, the Dream Act, and also, quite frankly, the whole issue of undocumented immigration in this country. Let's take it one step at a time.

HARLOW: But what I'm asking specifically -- what I'm asking specifically is, are you looking at the last two weeks, these deals, the deal he cut on the debt ceiling with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, this potential deal on DACA, potentially giving the Democrats on tax reform, either keeping taxes at or above where they are for the wealthy right now. Is this a president that you see as malleable by the Democrats right now?

SOUZZI: Yes, I do. I see the president wants to talk about infrastructure, tax reform, DACA, health care. He realizes that people are sick and tired of politics. They're sick and tired of politicians playing the blame game and they wants us to get things done. And he needs --

HARLOW: So -- so getting things --

SOUZZI: He needs to work --

HARLOW: Go ahead.

SOUZZI: Go ahead.

So to get things done, we've got to reach across party lines. And we've got to work with people that we don't agree with on every single issue. And we've got to -- for those people that are just stuck in one place and want to make it partisan, let's move beyond those folks and find the people that can work together to get things done, like the people in the problem solvers caucus.

HARLOW: OK. But, very quickly, to that point, what should Democrats give? I mean Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer made clear they're not giving an inch on the border wall funding. Should Democrats give a little more in this because the president's clearly giving?

SOUZZI: Well, on this particular issue, I think that this is something that the American people overwhelmingly want with the exception of Steve King and other folks named Steve that we all know about. But the bottom line is, is that this is something that's easy. We don't need to make this a big negotiation. This is the right thing to do. Let's just make it happen for the advancement of these people and this country.

HARLOW: So is that a yes or no? Should Democrats give a little more?

SOUZZI: (INAUDIBLE) -- Democrats -- Democrats can give things on certain issues. It depends on what the particular issue is. On this particular issue, I don't think there is a need to give anything more on this because it's something that's the right thing to do and it makes sense politically and governmentally and policy perfective for the American people. And we'll negotiate on lots of different things when it comes to tax reform and infrastructure and health care and all the different issues we need to address in this country. We've got to be willing to give and take a little on different things. We're not going to give up our values, but we can find common ground to try and help the American people, especially when it comes to things like job creation.

HARLOW: Congressman Souzzi, thank you for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

SOUZZI: Thank you, Poppy. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: All right, ahead for us, South Korea will not fight fire with fire. That word coming down from the new president of South Korea, vowing not to develop nuclear weapons in the wake of the North's aggression. He sits down for a rare one-on-one interview with our Paula Hancocks, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:54:09] HARLOW: Welcome back.

A new threat from North Korea this morning. A government spokesperson apparently released a statement threatening to reduce the U.S. mainland to ashes and darkness and also threatening to sink Japan into the sea. This is rhetoric we expect from North Korea, but this is just the latest.

So this comes as South Korea's new president says he does not want his country to develop nuclear weapons in spite of the nuclear program and increasing threats from the North. He sat down with our Paula Hancocks for his first television interview since the North tested that hydrogen bomb earlier this month.

Paula, it's a rare chance to sit down with him. What stood out to you?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, the first thing he said was about the option of having nuclear weapons within South Korea. There's been a growing voice over here saying that they would like tactical nuclear weapons and not rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella. I asked him about that and he was pretty clear in what he had to say.

[09:55:16] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRESIDENT MOON JAE-IN, SOUTH KOREA (through translator): We need to develop our military capabilities in the face of North Korea's nuclear advancement. I do not agree that South Korea needs to develop our own nuclear weapons or relocate tactical nuclear weapons in the face of North Korea's nuclear threat. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANCOCKS: Now, I also asked the president about whether or not he would still talk to North Korea. Certainly that's what we heard at the beginning when he came to power. Now he is focusing more on sanctions and pressure. But he said he would still talk to North Korea, but at the moment the pressure was important to try and stop war breaking out.

Poppy.

HARLOW: Paula Hancocks, thank you so much.

Of course, people can go to cnn.com and see much more of your interview with the president.

Also, tomorrow night, television you will not want to miss. Join our Will Ripley for an exclusive journey inside of North Korea. See places that few individuals in the western world have ever seen before. "Secret State: Inside North Korea," that is tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only right here on CNN.

All right, we are minutes away from the president's arrival in Florida to assess the damage of Hurricane Irma firsthand. We're following all the developments. Stay with us.