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NEW DAY

Violent Tornado Slams Missouri's Capital, Rescues Underway; Tornado Survivor Shares Story; Homes Swept Away from Floodwaters in Oklahoma; Trump Storms Out of White House Meeting with Democrats; Judge Upholds Subpoena for Trump's Financial Records. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 23, 2019 - 06:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:58:55] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We do want to start with breaking news for you. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, May 23, 6 a.m. here in New York. And breaking overnight, a deadly outbreak of tornadoes hits the central U.S., a violent tornado striking Missouri's capital, Jefferson City, very early this morning. Residents there waking up to this.

Those are, of course, the sirens, but you can see just pitch blackness and the storm brewing over the central U.S. Rescues are underway. At this hour, multiple people are hurt. More than two dozen twisters carved a path from Oklahoma to Missouri in just the past 24 hours. Tornadoes are already blamed for killing three people in Golden City, Missouri.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There are reports of people trapped in the rubble this morning. One storm chaser said of the damage simply, "It's too much."

So you can see what the wind did to vehicles at a car dealership there, simply flipping them over. The Jefferson City Fire Department posted these words on Facebook: "Please pray for our citizens." Now, we will speak to the mayor there in just a moment.

Let's get right to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, who is tracking this outbreak of tornadoes. And there is still a risk as the morning continues, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: No question. The storms are still out there. This was a big storm: 160 tornadoes basically over the past six days. Eventually, a town or city was going to get in the way.

And late last night between 11 p.m. and midnight, Jefferson City did get in the way with this storm.

Now, it was dark. Chasers were out there, but it was dark. This is what they were seeing, basically flashes. They could see the lightning flashes and, all of a sudden, in the background they could actually see the tornado as it flashed. We're going to see it here again. Right there. That's what this looked like on the way into Jefferson City. So a fairly large tornado. No question about this. This was at least in the EF-2 or 3 range.

I'm going to take you hyper local and take you right into where the storm is. This is Jefferson City, right there. Right there.

So Jefferson City here with the rotation, Jefferson City right here with the storm itself. And the debris on the ground. I showed you this yesterday with the storm from Tulsa. That's what debris looks like just on the southeast side of Jefferson City. It's that blue. We look for blue in the correlation coefficient, because the blue means that it's not just a rain drop. It's not just a hail drop. It's something out of shape. It's a leaf. It's a tree. It's a branch. It's a shingle. Whatever it might be.

So this was a very large storm at the time. And there you see the debris up in the cloud itself. And as you said, this is still going on at this hour. This will still continue for many, many hours to come. In fact, it will redevelop in western Oklahoma later on tonight. This is where the radar is now through St. Louis, through Indianapolis.

But back out here to the west, it's warming up again, and it's still very, very humid. That muggy air, that rising air is going to cause more tornadoes again today. There's even a chance of some severe weather not that far from the big cities.

Right through the Keystone State, through D.C., possibly late, late tonight but more tornados back here in the plains. This is a week -- this is a week we knew there was a big trough in the west, a big ridge in the east. When you get that trough, you get the rising motion right through the middle of the country. And that's what you get, tornadoes like that.

We're still working on this. We're still digging on the content, how big it truly was, how many people were still trapped. This is an ongoing story. We'll cover it for you all morning.

BERMAN: All right, Chad. Thank you for being there.

Everyone out there, please be on alert this morning and listen to the warnings.

Joining me now by phone is David Bell. He rode out the storm in a semi-truck.

David, why don't you walk out us through what happened? You were driving in your truck and you heard what?

DAVID BELL, SURVIVED STORM IN SEMI TRUCK (via phone): The first thing I heard was my phone go off about a tornado warning. Then my girlfriend, who is also my fiancee, that posted a text message to me that I was headed into a storm that Brazito (ph), or Brazito (ph), I think is how it's pronounced, is the first town that got hit after Eldon. And I pulled off to the shoulder. BERMAN: Go ahead. Keep going.

BELL: Not but 40 seconds later, I watched it hit me.

BERMAN: You watched it hit you. What was that like?

BELL: You don't want to know, man.

BERMAN: You were in the front seat of the truck. What happened to your windshield?

BELL: I watched it explode.

BERMAN: The windshield explode. Were you hurt?

BELL: I've got cuts and lacerations to the face, to the elbows. I'm just -- I'm just glad that God was with me tonight.

BERMAN: I can't imagine what that must have been like. Some of the pictures we've been showing on the screen are of your truck, which appears to just be demolished and flipped over. What was the cargo you were carrying?

BELL: Soda pop.

BERMAN: A lot of it, right?

BELL: Forty-four thousand five hundred pounds of it.

BERMAN: Forty-four thousand pounds. What did the power of the storm do to this truck, which was full of soda?

BELL: Well, that was just the soda alone. That's not including the truck and trailer.

BERMAN: And so what happened to the truck overall?

BELL: Honestly, truthfully, to be honest with you, that storm picked me up and slammed me down like I was nothing but a soda can.

BERMAN: Picked you up and slammed you down. Just demolished this truck with, you know, tens of thousands of pounds of cargo, not to mention the weight of the vehicle, correct?

BELL: It definitely gave me a new outlook on life.

BERMAN: And when it had slammed you down, what was your situation? You were trapped.

BELL: I should have been smarter and heeded the warnings.

BERMAN: So, David, you were -- were you -- I understand you cut your way out. You were trapped in your seat belt after the truck was toppled over?

BELL: Yes, I was. BERMAN: So explain to me what happened there.

BELL: I used a pocket knife to cut my seatbelt. And then I climbed out the front windshield that was no longer there.

BERMAN: You used a pocket knife to cut the seatbelt. Then you climbed out of the windshield which you told me moments ago had exploded.

BELL: Yes.

BERMAN: David, how are you -- Go ahead.

BELL: It exploded inwards and then literally sucked right back out.

BERMAN: How are you doing this morning, David?

BELL: Being grateful that I'm alive.

BERMAN: This sounds --

BELL: Just being grateful that I'm alive.

BERMAN: I can understand that feeling after what you went through. This sounds like it was an incredible, terrifying ordeal. How do you -- this is your truck we're looking at right here, David. Just so you know, David, you're looking at your truck right now. It's dark. We can't see much of it, but we can see it's pushed over completely on its side. And where -- the windshield, where you must have crawled out there.

BELL: I'm just -- I'm grateful to be alive.

BERMAN: David Bell, thank you so much for being with us this morning. We are glad you're OK. The storm has passed. Please get the help you need today. Thank you so much, David.

All right. That was David Bell, who tells me he's lucky to be alive.

CAMEROTA: Well, you can hear how emotional he is. He's been through a trauma. I mean, just having to -- How could you ever think that you were going to survive that when your truck is picked up and your windshield explodes?

BERMAN: No, he says he wished he has heeded the warnings. The bottom line is he didn't know about the tornado when he was driving in. And when he did get the alert on his phone and his girlfriend texted him, he did pull over. He did do what he needed to do. Unfortunately --

CAMEROTA: It was too late.

BERMAN: -- he pulled over when he was right in the path of this tornado.

CAMEROTA: He captured for us how terrifying it is. You can't do anything. And the strength of that can lift his truck. How much was it, 44,000?

BERMAN: Forty-four thousand pounds of cargo, and that doesn't count the weight of the truck.

CAMEROTA: So that's only one story. There are tons of stories like this this morning, because this powerful storm system is also bringing catastrophic flooding to Oklahoma, as you can see on your screen right now.

Homes are being swept off their foundations into this -- oh, my gosh, listen to that. The swollen river.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is live in Guthrie, Oklahoma, with more. What's the situation there, Omar?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Alisyn, all these tornadoes we have seen have been part of this huge system that really has brought drenching rain along with it, as well, including here in Oklahoma. They got a lot of it, enough rain that swelled these rivers, that covered many roads, even strong enough at times to rip homes off their foundations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Rising floodwaters swallowing this entire House and carrying it downstream. And another home swept away by raging waters. The Cimarron River overflowing, eroding the shores and forcing residents to flee their homes. And officials warning people who live along rivers or creeks to prepare to evacuate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said, "What did you say?"

And she said, "Our House is gone."

Our son called us and told us, "Get the heck out of there."

JIMENEZ: And Oklahoma residents dealing with the one-two punch: historic flooding and tornadoes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Depending on how much rain we get with the next round of storms, we could also be looking at another flash flood event with the river flooding.

JIMENEZ: Rescuers working around the clock to save those who are trapped. Emergency crews having to pull this woman out of a second- story window.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot drive up to their House. We have to get a boat in the water or two boats in the water. It's going to take us a long time to get to.

JIMENEZ: The storms are blamed for at least seven deaths in the region. Officials say dozens of people hurt in Oklahoma alone.

MAYOR G.T. BYNUM (R), TULSA, OKLAHOMA: So long as we are working and Tulsans take it seriously, and pay attention and prepare, then we will get through this safely.

JIMENEZ: The Army Corps of Engineers releasing 215,000 cubic feet of floodwaters every second in an effort to keep the Keystone Dam from topping its floodgates. Tulsa's mayor warning the threat isn't over.

BYNUM: If people don't take this seriously and don't prepare. And that is how lives could be endangered.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[06:10:05] JIMENEZ: Now, when we take a step back here. This is a region of the country that has really been pounded by heavy storms over the course of really the past few months, leading to flooding everywhere from Iowa to Texas. And because of that, it makes many of these places that much more vulnerable to flooding. And that could be a major concern as we move forward with rain expected to fall in the region over the course of the next few days -- John, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Omar, thank you very much. We'll check back with you throughout the program.

Turning now to politics, it was a doozy of a day yesterday. And we are still feeling the repercussions of that. Maybe forever, actually.

BERMAN: It was a doozy of a week yesterday.

CAMEROTA: It's been a doozy of a year.

BERMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: But there is a lot -- something different happened, and maybe it broke yesterday. President Trump walked out of this White House meeting with Democrats. He says it was because Nancy Pelosi accused him of a cover-up of the Russia investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES; Instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that had just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don't do cover-ups. This whole thing was a takedown attempt at the president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: The president went on to say that he cannot work with Democrats unless they stop investigating him. So let's discuss all of that. We'll bring in Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press secretary and CNN political commentator; Abby Phillip, CNN White House correspondent; and John Avlon, CNN political analyst.

Abby, I think the question is was the president ever going into that meeting really to hatch an infrastructure plan with Democrats? Because afterwards, it seemed like maybe, I mean, the Democrats accused it of being a pre-planned walkout. So do you have any reporting on did he really want to hammer out a deal?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Probably not. It had been over 24 hours in which the White House had been signaling that this infrastructure meeting was not going to go as everyone had planned. They were not going to be holding hands and singing "Kumbaya." They sent a letter to Pelosi and Schumer the night before, basically saying we don't want to work on infrastructure right now. We want to work on trade.

And then the president woke up on Wednesday morning basically in a rage. He started rage tweeting about the Mueller report early in the morning. And by the time Nancy Pelosi's comments came, which was around 10 a.m. or so, the president -- it was sort of the straw that broke the camel's back. That's how sources are describing it.

Yes, the president was angry about all of the stuff going into this meeting, but that was the tipping point for him, according to White House officials. And it really just was made easier by the fact that there are very few people in the White House right now really eager to sign off on a $2 trillion infrastructure bill.

Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, is -- is not very interested in this idea at all. And so when it comes to is there anybody in the White House who's going to stop the president from storming into the Rose Garden and blowing up an infrastructure meeting? I think the answer really was no. In the senior ranks of the White House, I think they were largely supportive of an effort to simply just put an end to these negotiations which were probably going nowhere anyway.

BERMAN: Let's just play Nancy Pelosi. We haven't heard what Nancy Pelosi said here, and I think it is worth listening to the speaker of the House of Representatives publicly accuse the president of a cover- up. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: In plain sight in the public domain, this president is obstructing justice, and he's engaged in a cover-up. And that could be an impeachable offense. We want to have -- to give the truth to the American people. But in striving to get that, the intervention, that the -- the obstruction that the administration has engaged in is -- as they say, the cover-up is frequently worse than the crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, look, this is the flip side of the total destruction strategy the president is pursuing. That's what she's talking about, echoes of Nixon.

I think for the president to get pulled into a fit of pique about this and to kick off sort of, you know, Donald Trump's terrible, no good, very bad day is incredibly self-defeating politically. This infrastructure -- his aides may not like it, but his campaign proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. This is something that can and should be a signature issue for him as

a builder where he might even be able to get bipartisan support, which is pretty unique in these times.

And yet, he decided to blow it up yesterday in a way that Nancy Pelosi also described as very, very, very -- three veries -- strange. That does not speak to confidence or a kind of vision where he's in control of his emotions or his political legacy.

CAMEROTA: But Joe, as a Democrat, I want to ask about Nancy Pelosi's strategy. Was it wise for her to publicly accuse the president of a cover-up? If she really wanted to negotiate with him $1 trillion or more of infrastructure, was that a good way to set the tone for the day?

[06:15:14] JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, she knew from the letter the night before that they weren't going to have a real negotiation on infrastructure. And administrations do this from time to time. They use leverage on one issue. They want -- they want this trade deal through.

So I don't know that there was anything out of the ordinary about the letter. But it's just not Nancy Pelosi who's accused him of a cover- up. The Southern District of New York --

CAMEROTA: Let me be clear. It was only strategic. So 15 minutes before she's going to this meeting should she have publically used the word "cover-up"? Did she think that was going to endear him to the meeting?

LOCKHART: I don't think her strategy was to endear him. And I think what, you know, it's 40 years later and -- actually, it's even longer than 40 years later. There's a sound bite that Americans will always remember, which is Richard Nixon saying, "I am not a crook."

BERMAN: Which was about taxes.

LOCKHART: Which -- and what we'll remember from yesterday when all the dust cleared is Donald Trump sitting there, saying, "I don't do cover-ups." Because the next 18 months are going to show that he does do cover-ups, and he is going to have to live with that line.

So again, I don't think her strategy going in was to build momentum behind infrastructure, because she knew the president wasn't going to negotiate on that.

CAMEROTA: So neither side was going in, really, to do what they said they were going to do.

BERMAN: I just want to make one point. Under Nixon during the impeachment proceedings or during the investigations, there was a ton of legislation passed. Let me just read some of the things. In 1973, the Federal Aid Highway Act, the Endangered Species Act, the budget act, the War Powers Resolution. Stuff can happen during an investigation.

CAMEROTA: For sure. Of course.

BERMAN: As Joe was saying, you know, it's not just Nancy Pelosi who said cover-up. The Justice Department of the United States of America.

CAMEROTA: Oh, I'm only talking about strategy.

BERMAN: But my point. But my point is this. He chose -- he chose to take the words from Nancy Pelosi. For some reason, Nancy Pelosi saying cover-up bothered him more than the Justice Department saying he's Individual One coordinating hush-money payments to silence porn stars.

LOCKHART: He's put himself now in a political corner, I think as John was alluding to. And this -- this has a similar feel of the government shutdown. Which is he loses his temper. He takes a strong position. And then he wakes up in the morning and says, "What do I do now?"

Thirty-eight days later in the government shutdown, he's basically said, "I am going to keep all of America's business on hold until they stop being mean to me." I don't think that that's a strong political position.

BERMAN: Abby, do we know -- do we know, Abby, if the White House has completely taken its marbles and gone home? I mean, will the president not engage in the business of the country? Have they made that clear?

PHILLIP: We don't know. But if -- if the past is any judge, the White House is going to follow the president's lead. They will take what he has said, and they will act on it.

But to Joe's point, this really flies in the face of everything the White House has been saying for months. They've been trying to argue that we're about the people's business, that we want the economy to grow, that we are interested in doing infrastructure. And we're interested in doing an immigration package that the president just rolled out about a week ago.

And now the president is saying the exact opposite. He's saying we're not going to do literally anything until Democrats stop investigating me. And I think that for a president who's trying to run on a strong economy, trying to run on -- you know, on the Democrats being the ones focused on the Mueller investigation. He basically turned that on its head yesterday and said, "I'm not going to do anything because of the Mueller investigation." I think that's going to be a problem for the White House going forward and especially into 2020.

CAMEROTA: Quickly.

AVLON: Big time. When Bill Clinton was impeached he said, "I'm going to go work on behalf of the American people." Right? And he had to deal with Republicans. There's a template for how to do this.

The sign on the presidential podium yesterday, "No Obstruction, No Collusion," is a perfect metaphor for what's become of this administration. And the impulse to follow the president's worst impulses leads you to nowhere.

CAMEROTA: All right. Well, stick around for this, because coming up in our 8 a.m. hour White House press secretary Sarah Sanders will be here to answer some of these questions live.

BERMAN: That will be fascinating.

All right. Another judge has given Democrats a new legal victory in their battle to get the president's financial records. So what happens next?

CAMEROTA: And we're staying on top, of course, of breaking news. There are violent tornadoes that are carving a path across Missouri. People are trapped at this hour. There are rescues under way. We have people live there on the ground. We will bring you there soon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:24:18] A new major victory for House Democrats in their quest to get information from the president. A second federal judge refused to block House subpoenas to get access to President Trump's financial records while lawmakers in New York passed a bill allowing Congress to get the president's state tax returns.

Joe Lockhart and Abby Phillip are back. Now joining us also, Laura Coates, former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst.

Laura, let me read to you just a little bit of the decision from Judge Edgardo Ramos, who basically said this isn't a close call that Congress has the right to the records. He said, "Any delay in proceeding may result in irreparable harm to the committees."

Basically, as was the case with the first judge in the Mazars case, the legal arguments being made by the president and his associates hold no water, these judges are finding.

[06:25:08] LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, that's pretty much true, John. Because the reason for this is it's incomprehensible the Constitution would have granted Congress the oversight power and the power to remove a president for any criminal misconduct.

Now they defined it kind of loosely into high crimes and misdemeanors. But it would be unfathomable that they'd be able to do that and not be able to investigate the president or have the subpoenas meaningfully, actually, be effective.

And so it makes sense on the constitutional lines, what perhaps is odd to people and perhaps was shocking to the president but not to mention Nancy Pelosi, was the idea that this coequal branches of government, there were three of them. And while the Congress and the president were playing that chicken game, both driving at each other, figuring out who would actually yield first, the judiciary said there's no reason to even have this game. It's clear that Congress has this authority. And moreover, the more important part here is that they actually said

that Congress doesn't need to keep proving to the president of the United States, in the course of checking and balancing, that they have legislative purposes. If they assert that they do, even though it may be broad, if there is legitimate oversight function, so be it. And they must be trusted.

CAMEROTA: But of course, the White House will appeal this, as they are the Mazars thing. So now the Deutsche Bank and the Mazars thing, the courts have gone the way of the Democrats and Congress, who were trying for oversight. But the White House still has some tricks up their sleeve. We understand maybe it can be fast-tracked. Maybe it will take years.

But nevertheless, Democrats this morning, Joe, are feeling sort of bullish, that finally -- I mean, they feel they've been stonewalled for a long time. Obviously, the Mueller thing didn't go their way. And so now do they feel like the tables are turning?

LOCKHART: Well, I think in a large way, this is -- this is a gift for Nancy Pelosi and bolsters her strategy. I think there is some division within the Democrats about how quickly to move to impeachment.

Speaker Pelosi has been saying let this process play out. We have a legal case. It doesn't have to take forever. So these are ow two big victories in a row. And I think that gives her some breathing room within the caucus. So internally, her politics, it's good.

You know that Trump has basically taken the position that he's going to take everything to the Supreme Court, because he believes that it's his Supreme Court now.

And I think the really interesting question is, you know, what happens when the Supreme Court rules against him? Because there's just nothing in Trump's character or record that shows that he respects any ruling outside of his own feeling.

So that will be the -- and if you're looking at it from Nancy Pelosi's point of view, even if one of these cases gets to the Supreme Court and he defies the Supreme Court, then she's got her, you know, ace in the hole of saying now we have to impeach.

BERMAN: I'll only say if the Supreme Court rules against him.

LOCKHART: If. That's exactly right.

BERMAN: It's an if, it's not a when at this point. And we don't know how long it will take to get there.

Abby, though, in regards to yesterday between these two court cases between the New York state law, which now will allow the Ways and Means Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee to go to New York and say, "Hey, we want the president's taxes in New York and turn them over."

Is there a sense that the legal walls are closing in a little bit on the president?

PHILLIP: Well, it almost feels like you have a bottle of water and someone keeps poking holes in it. And it keeps -- you know, water keeps coming from different holes on different days.

And I think the White House is trying to plug as many of these holes as they can. But they're not really keeping up with, I think, what seems to be the pace of investigations, the sheer number of investigations and the sheer number of avenues with which various investigatory bodies can get information that they are seeking to continue pressing the president.

And I think it's becoming a major struggle. Now, this is a president that has a lot of resources. And I think he's using them to his advantage to the extent that he can.

He is put a massive team of lawyers and attorneys on all of these different issues. But the New York state law is a great example of a case where they really can't do anything about that. That body has passed a law that could allow, you know, other bodies to gain access to the president's tax returns.

And I think there may not be anything that they can do about it. And the courts have shown that they are willing to -- to rule in favor of the Democrats.

And Joe's right. The president is not going to accept that. But -- but this is going to be a lengthy process in which, you know, perhaps they might have rulings that are in their favor going down this road.

But ultimately, I feel like the likelihood of them succeeding on all of these different fronts, it seems just very far-fetched at this point. But -- but the strategy from the White House's perspective right now is just to push back as much as possible, delay as much as possible, and just simply hope for the best and hope that the timing works out well for them politically.

CAMEROTA: All right. Abby, Laura, Joe, thank you all very much.

Now back to our top story. Violent, deadly tornadoes struck Missouri overnight. The state's capitol took a direct hit. We have all the breaking details from the ground, next.

[06:30:00]