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The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcrpt 9/8/17 Mueller probe moves to the West Wing

Guests: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Howard Dean, Ron Klain, Ed Rappaport, Joyce Vance

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 8, 2017 Guest: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Howard Dean, Ron Klain, Ed Rappaport, Joyce Vance

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much. Today, Washington is completing funding for one hurricane, while bracing for another.

Fallout also continuing from that historic appearance by Donald Trump, Jr. before senate investigators. Now, tonight, we have a report on where the Russia probe is heading, including who Bob Mueller wants to interview. And the latest in politics.

But we are beginning, of course, in Florida where the authorities, experts and scientists all agree on one thing. This potentially cataclysmic hurricane is on the way. A Category 4 storm, it is expected to tear into the US coastline at wind speeds that now exceed potentially 155 miles per hour in the estimates and surges that may exceed 10 feet in height.

We also can report 17 deaths from the impact alone in the Bahamas already.

Now, in the United States, the path of the storm can wind through potentially the entire State of Florida. As you may know, one out of every American lives there. Buildings projected now to collapse completely into the sea according to experts.

One estimate from the National Weather Service tells us some areas will be inaccessible to human beings for weeks or more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The storm has taken lives already. It`s going to take more unfortunately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be unprecedented.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The beach right now, it`s like post-apocalyptic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thing does look like a monster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are running out of time. The storm is almost here.


MELBER: We may be running out of time, but at any moment, we do expect to hear a new update from Florida Governor Rick Scott, important for people in that state, as well as folks around the country, and we`ll bring that to you live.

But we begin right now with NBC`s Jose Diaz-Balart, who joins us from Miami. Jose, what can you tell us about what`s happening as people make these preparations?

JOSE DIAZ-BALART, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Ari, good evening to you. This could be the largest mass evacuation in the history of the United States.

What`s going on in South Florida is something that I`ve never seen before. And I think it`d be safe to say that very few people have. The amount of people that have decided to leave this area - we`re talking about hundreds of thousands of people, tourists that have been here, as well as residents, from the Keys all the way up north through the area in Orlando.

This mass movement, and you were just seeing in that story, Ari, how someone says it looks post-apocalyptic. Folks, if you`ve been to South Florida and South Beach, this is a vibrant, multilingual, multicultural city, filled with colors and light and passion.

And it is a ghost town here. There is - I just saw two joggers pass by. The cars you see are very few and far between. The long lines you all see are just at gas stations. And people have taken this very seriously, Ari, because it is such a monster storm.

And South Florida has had a history of dealing with monster storms, and I`m thinking of the 24th of August of 1992. I covered Hurricane Andrew. It was a far different storm. It was a Category 5 storm, but it left deep scars in South Florida.

But you know what, that was 25 years ago. A lot of the people that are here have never been to a storm like this, and so as the cone shifts and as it seems as though it goes more western one day or more eastern - the fact of the matter is this is a storm that everybody here has taken very seriously, hoping for the best, preparing for the worst, and that includes people just hunkering down and getting ready to deal with what could be a devastating storm.

MELBER: Our colleague Jose Diaz-Balart, who, as you mentioned, has covered so many of these. Thank you for your report tonight and stay safe.

DIAZ-BALART: Good to see you, amigo. Thanks.

MELBER: Now to MSNBC weather contributor Sam Champion over in Miami beach. What can you tell us?

SAM CHAMPION, MSNBC WEATHER CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Ari. I just want to set it up for you a little bit. We`re standing on Miami Beach here, in my home on the balcony. And then you`re looking out at downtown Miami there. Those are some of the islands behind us that people have homes on. And then you see the high rises that are built right along Biscayne Bay behind me.

I will just say what Jose has said, and that is that the beach has never been more quiet. This is normally a high drive time. And the causeway from here to there is jam packed normally. Now, there`s just a handful of cars there.

He mentioned a little bit about Andrew. And we can make a comparison for you just to show you on the graphics here what those two storms are like, if you put them back to back.

So, Andrew came in in 1992. It was a Cat 5 in the water, but actually came onshore as a Cat 4 and cut right across the bottom of the state. That went from east to west and the damage was intense. It was damage from south Miami and flattened Homestead and then moved right out into the Gulf.

Now, take a look at Irma. Irma is just about double the size really if you put them together. Irma was a Category 5 for 69 hours. It`s been breaking records the entire trip over here. And that shatters the record - the previous record was 17 hours. So, unbelievable, the strength of this storm. Still, should be a 4 as it makes impact on the tip of South Florida.

And, Ari, one more thing that I just want to say to people who are watching overnight tonight. This storm will go from the south of Florida all the way to the north of Florida, no matter what happens with its wobble on its initial impact.

Everyone in the state of Florida has to watch the strength of this storm. Now, as far as impact goes, the strongest part of this storm is right in the eye wall, the tight center, that beautiful clear center, if you`re looking at it from the satellite picture.

Well, right on the edge of that, as that storm is driving, the northern edge of it, the worst winds, the worst surge, so that`s why we`re so careful about where the impact of that eye will be. And it previously had been in the most populated areas of South Florida toward Homestead, to Miami.

Now, the Hurricane Center has adjusted that a little bit to the west, but we`re still cutting the storm across the central Keys. That will be devastating for the Keys, devastating for the Keys. And wherever the initial impact of this storm, it will be equally as bad.

I don`t want people to relax when they see that little wobble, Ari, from that east coast may be to the west coast side. I don`t want you to relax at all in any location. Stay tight with this storm because this is a big, big monster storm.

MELBER: Important warnings and we appreciate the historical comparison and context. It really gives you another way to understand just how massive this can be.

Sam Champion, as I`ll say to a lot of people today, stay safe. Thank you.

NBC Meteorologist Bill Karins has more on the tracking of the storm. And also, Bill, if you want to add on to that reporting on the comparison. Walk us through why it is that it stays a Category 5 or 4 for however long and how it hits the land and how that affects the potential devastation here.

BILL KARINS, NBC NEWS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. There`s no analogy to this storm. We`ve never had a storm this strong that`s going to cross this much land, including Florida, Texas or wherever else.

So, this is going to - we have nothing to compare this to. We`ve tried there with Andrew a little bit. But we saw this is twice the size and it will be with us at least two times, maybe three times as long.

So, let`s dive into the models. They`re all pinpointing now, a little further west, in between Key West and Key Largo, the first landfall. That will be 5:00 am Sunday. And that could be a Category 5 hurricane landfall.

You wonder if A1A, the bridge will even remain intact after going through this as we go throughout the early morning Sunday.

This is also when the hurricane force winds will arrive through all of South Florida, the Miami area, Homestead, across Alligator Alley here into Marco Island. The forecast has gotten much worse today in areas for Naples, Fort Myers, even the Tampa area.

But if we`re going to see the Cat 5 destruction that the winds can do, like the stuff we showed you from Barbuda, that would be down here around Naples and the Marco Island area.

If you haven`t evacuated from that area, get out now while you still can, you only have about 24 hours left, because all of our models are pinpointing that`s where the worst of the storm surge is. That`s where the Category 5 winds would be. It`s like the equivalent of going through an EF4 tornado.

So, you want nothing to do with that. You don`t want even to be sheltering a place in that unless you really, really have to. So, that`s at 1:00 PM Sunday.

The other thing is, if we slowed this down a little bit, I was hoping to get this storm out of here in a hurry, but even as of 2 AM Monday, it would still likely to be a Category 2 hurricane right over the top of central Florida, in between the I4 corridor of Tampa and Orlando. That`s where all our models are pinpointing. That would be extreme power outages and a lot of downed trees.

I was in Orlando for Charlie. It was only a Cat 1, bordering Cat 2 and it went through - we didn`t have power for two weeks. So, don`t think that further north is that much safer.

And at about the time - at 10:00 AM Monday, it`s still in Florida. So, we`re literally talking about 24 to 28 hours of this storm remaining in Florida.

Now, we still have about 24 hours. What could possibly change? Our American and European models unfortunately are in excellent agreement. They shifted a little further west during the day today.

There is that land fall right on the keys here about 10:00 AM. By 2:00 PM, that`s when the worst of it will be in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, even though the storm, the really nasty 150-mile-per-hour winds will be over here near the Naples area.

We will still have 100-mile-per-hour winds, about 50 to 60 miles away from the center, coming onshore, so around 8 AM to about 2 to about 4 PM. That is when we will lose all the power in areas of Southeast Florida. That`s when we will have some windows shattered. That`s when trees will go down. That`s also when the storm surge will come onshore here.

And then by 5 PM, that`s when everything will really start getting bad in areas like West Palm Beach, still horrible in Fort Lauderdale, hopefully a little bit of a break by Sunday evening down in the Keys as the storm moves to the north. And there you see by 8 PM Sunday.

What you don`t like is this excellent agreement. And, Ari, the thing with this storm, we`re trying to pinpoint who is going to go through the eye wall because that`s where the ultimate destruction will be. Those are the people that won`t be able to return to their homes for weeks.

Everybody else still has to go through the tropical storm force winds and the hurricane force gust. I don`t think anyone in Florida is safe from getting less than hurricane force gusts.

This area that we show here, the hurricane, look how huge it is. That`s easy going to cover the entire peninsula as we go throughout the day Sunday.

As the storm weakens, by the time, it gets up near Tampa and Orlando, that area shrinks a little bit. So, we`re hoping the damage around Melbourne, the Space Coast, Cocoa Beach, heading up into areas of Daytona Beach or Flagler County, we`re hoping it`s not going to be quite as extreme there for you as the storm begins to weaken, but that`ll be one of the stories we also have to watch.

Just these wind gusts are just going to be pretty incredible site, Ari. To talk about Category 5 landfalls in our country, Andrew, and then you have to go all the way back to storms that were before our satellite era.

So, this will be - we`re all about to witness something that most of us - hardly any of us have ever seen before. And the fact that it`s such a large storm means no one`s going to be spared in Florida.

But if I had to pinpoint one city that I am very concerned for, it is that Marco Island and Naples area. They could be the ones getting the direct hit.

MELBER: And, Bill, you`re speaking to the true lack of any modern precedent, when you look at, as you were saying, that really wide, wide red circle representing the core of the hurricane, we can see that moving up, is there any time that something that wide has hit this much landmass in the United States?

KARINS: We`ve had huge storms before. Floyd was a very big storm with a huge wind field. Katrina, we had a huge wind field, very large tropical storm force wind field. So, we`ve had storms that have been this big before.

But what`s different is, remember Katrina was a Category 4, I believe, bordering on a Category 5 when it was in the Gulf. But by the time it actually made landfall, it did weaken down to a strong to Category 3.

This one is expected to maintain its intensity and hurricane (INAUDIBLE) maybe get a little bit stronger right before that landfall. And we saw what that does. Harvey did that. The storms that get a little stronger right before they come onshore, they have a little more oomph to them.

Again, if we do get this expected path right almost over the top of the Naples, Fort Myers area. That would be - that`s where Wilma came on shore really badly. That was only a Category 3.

These go exponentially. So, like, a Category 2 is not double worse than 1. It keeps getting worse and worse. It`s not just one category worse. A category 5 is 500 times worse than a Category 1.

MELBER: Right, right. We`re using very simple number system, but it actually reflects, as you say, a kind of growth that is really the potential humanitarian crisis that we`re all keeping an eye on.

KARINS: Imagine how we`re going to get power back to the State of Florida. You have to go from north to south, roads are going to be blocked. People are going to be wanting to get back to see what damage to their homes and how are - all these power crews have to go through the entire state, millions and millions of people have to get their power back on. Maybe months. Is that so crazy?

MELBER: Incredible displacement. And I will mention, a lot of our viewers know you from your coverage. As a colleague and a listener, I have never heard you sound an alarm quite like this. so, obviously -

KARINS: We thought - last year with Matthew, when we thought it could hit West Palm Beach, it was close to this, but Matthew just barely missed. I don`t see any way this one does.

MELBER: Right. In terms of the landfall. Bill Karins, thank you. We`ll be checking back in with you, of course, later in this hour. I appreciate it.

We`ve talked about the authorities` preparations. We`ve talked about the science and the meteorology.

Now, we go to the people. Jacob Soboroff has been in and around Miami Beach all day talking to people, local residents and folks, trying to help them under this mandatory evacuation order, which was first put in place yesterday. What can you tell us? What are you seeing at this hour?

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, thank goodness, Ari. There are not many people out here on Miami Beach right now.

I was talking to our friend and colleague Greg Melvin earlier today on our air. To think about that this is a Friday afternoon, now evening, on Miami beach, on South Beach, and there`s not a person inside or just a couple as you look down the beach. It is what you guys have been talking about. It does have an apocalyptic feel to it.

When you talk about the storm surge that Bill Karins has been talking about, that Sam Champion has been talking about, we are plus or power minus (INAUDIBLE), obviously, at sea level standing right here in front of the Atlantic Ocean, on Miami beach, a barrier island to Miami-Dade County.

We`re talking about 5 feet or 10 feet of storm surge once it comes out here. And what that is going to affect is not just people down here on the beach, of course. It will affect almost the entirety or much of Miami-Dade County, which sits at or below sea level.

What else is going to affect are these buildings right here. We have got thousands - 91,000 people live on Miami Beach, in the City of Miami beach.

We`re talking about hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars` worth of construction, worth of infrastructure. You`ve got elderly people that have decided to ride out this storm as we brought to our viewers earlier today on MSNBC.

There are still some people that have decided not to leave this area. And if and when that storm surge hits this area, the entire Miami Beach, which is, like I said essentially - it`s not essentially, it is an island - could end up almost entirely underwater.

That`s the big concern. The concern is getting people out in time. The good news is the local police department, Miami Beach Fire Department, Ocean Rescue has been out here all day long, driving up and down this beach, telling people frankly to get the heck out.

And that is what they`re saying today, which is after 40 mile an hour winds, the local first responders are not going to be out on tropical storm winds. You are on your own.

So, again, if anybody is watching is, they are in the Miami Beach area, in low-lying areas, it is time to get out. It was time to get out a long time ago. And it is only going to get more dangerous from here on now, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate it, Jacob. And appreciate the message that they are sending, which is not to be dramatic, but to be clear. There won`t be help later. They have to act now.

Jacob Soboroff, thank you. We`ll be checking back in. We go right now Catie Beck driving from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando. This is on 95 North. Catie, what can you tell us?

CATIE BECK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ari. The same thing that Jacob said. The highway here is an absolute wide open space. There are very few cars traveling at this hour.

You`ve heard the stories of the traffic backs up, of people evacuating from Miami, thousands and thousands trying to rush out.

I think that happened yesterday and the day before, but today the roadways are really open. It seems like people really heeded those evacuation warnings and headed to higher ground and safer places in North Florida.

Struggle now is that the path of the storm could end up coming there as well. It could end up coming to Orlando, which is where we`re headed. We have learned that Disney World have made an announcement that they`re going to, tomorrow, shut down the park, presumably until about Monday or Tuesday.

They haven`t made that decision final yet, but they`ve said they want to make sure that all of their guests are safe and that they are concerned enough about this storm making landfall in Orlando and what that could mean for the safety of park-goers

So, we will be headed to Orlando, but our trip there, as I`ve shown you, it`s a pretty open, wide 95 North right now, not too many people rushing to get away at this point, which is probably a good sign. Ari?

MELBER: Catie Beck, thank you. Reporting from the road there.

Up next, we`re going to look at Southern Florida, which is, of course, used to hurricanes, but Irma, one of the most power storms on record.

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins me on the emergency planning. Plus -



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have my confidence in God. I know we`ve prepared for the storm. And when the storm is coming, the best thing you can do is to prepare for it. You don`t just sit there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s going to be unprecedented. If it continues on the same course, it will be unprecedented.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The beach right now, I went out this morning just to look around, it`s like post-apocalyptic.


MELBER: The Miami-Dade area now undertaking its single largest evacuation ever. Officials telling over half a million people the time for waiting is over and it`s time to get out.

Let`s get right to it with Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Her district is one of many that lies right in the path of the storm in Florida.

Congresswoman, what is your top concern at this hour and what are you learning from your discussions with authorities?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, one of my main concerns is the folks that have refused to leave despite mandatory evacuation orders.

While we have seen quite a few people make their way to shelters, get out from the low-lying areas, and Miami Dade, as you said, is undertaking the largest evacuation in their history, there are people that are choosing to stay put.

This is a very, very serious storm. We`re grizzled veterans down here. We live in hurricane alley. We`re used to preparing for storms, but unfortunately there is a lot of people that get a little cynical because we do a lot of prep and then thankfully, most times, particularly in modern times, we`ve not had to ride out and deal with a very significant storm.

You showed a graphic earlier, Ari, of Andrew, which was one of the most devastating storms in our history in the United States, and essentially Irma would swallow Andrew in terms of its size.

My district really appears to be headed for a direct hit. Even with the western jog, because I represent an area that is the Sawgrass to the Seagrass from the Everglades to the ocean - and the distance between Naples and Westin, which is my hometown, is just under 100 miles and the width of the hurricane force winds is about 75 to 90 miles.

So, we are going to have a lot of people get hit very, very hard and we`ve not had a storm that is really going to affect every major metropolitan area in the state virtually. So, that`s my concern.

But we`re preparing. We`re working with the states and the local and federal officials. They`ve pre-positioned equipment and supplies.

The HHS at the federal level has medical teams pre-positioned, ready to come into the state and already pre-positioned in the states. So, we`re ready for the aftermath of this thing, but it`s going to be devastating.

MELBER: Congresswoman, you mentioned it, the few people, but people nonetheless, who are there, who for whatever reason aren`t leaving, maybe they don`t consume as much media, maybe, as you mentioned, they feel they have "been through this before," what do you want to say to them tonight?

SCHULTZ: Anyone within the sound of my voice that is in a mandatory evacuation zone absolutely needs to get out. You do still have a few more hours. You have this evening that you can evacuate, get to higher ground, go west, go to emergency hurricane shelters that are open and available, but it`s absolutely essential that you not leave yourself vulnerable in the path of devastating storm surge where there are no emergency personnel that are going to be available to help you, if you remain in the path of that storm. It`s absolutely critical.

MELBER: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you for joining us on a busy time for you and your constituents.

SCHULTZ: You`re welcome.

MELBER: We`re going to continue tracking this historically large storm and we have more for you on that later in the hour.

But up next, we`re going to turn back to some other stories that would have been probably the top story tonight, breaking out in Congress today. The resolution of one set of hurricane relief. Democrats winning part of that fight. Rifts deepening between the Trump White House and Republicans in Congress and new reports on Russia.


MELBER: As Hurricane Irma is barreling towards United States, President Trump signing a Hurricane Harvey relief package, the one negotiated by Democrats and the House voted to send $15 billion out there for Harvey, with 90 nos from Republicans. That`s a stark sign of interparty anger with Trump right now.

Many Republicans saying that Trump blindsided them by cutting that deal with those two democrats you see there in the Oval Office, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

And Trump`s Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is actually the kind of Republican who would be complaining about this if he didn`t take a job with Trump. He literally founded the conservative Freedom Caucus, which is the group that agitates against deficit spending, but today he was making the case for Trump.


MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: I was in there today, making the case that they should vote for this.

That`s not the right question to ask.


MULVANEY: Because I work for the president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you won`t say whether -

MULVANEY: I don`t think that`s a relevant question.


MELBER: It is always helpful when people in politics tell us what the right questions are to ask.

Meanwhile, conservatives going in hard on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.


ALEX MOE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Did you get to talk to Mr. Mnuchin?

REP. MARK WALKER (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I did. I thought he did a very poor job in answering our questions today. In fact, his last statement was, ``vote for the debt ceiling for me." I thought that was pretty weak.


MELBER: Weak. Meanwhile pressure mounting on Speaker Ryan this morning. A member refusing to voice support for Paul Ryan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want leadership to change. Are you OK with Speaker Ryan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to ask to do what we told the American people we were going to do.


MELBER: With me now is Ron Klain. He severed in senior roles in Obama White House and wrote in "The Washington Post" today that Schumer and Pelosi just totally suckered Trump. Also with me former Vermont Governor and DNC Chairman Howard Dean.

Gentleman, good to speak with you. This is partly, of course, where politics and policy meets the hurricane, which is on everyone`s mind right now. And it`s partly where politics in the age of Donald Trump goes, Gov. Dean, where it doesn`t seem like anyone, including literally Donald Trump, knows what he is going to do when he walks in the room.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: That`s true. And if it where another president who had a track record of consistency and thoughtfulness, I actually think that we would say, this is really smart.

Here is why. There are about 90 of those people - about 70 of them weren`t going to vote for this no matter what Trump said.

So, if Trump is thinking ahead, which he never does, he actually knows that he has to make a deal with the Democrats because he can`t get the Republicans on board. Ryan is too weak a Speaker. So it`s odd because I don`t give Trump any credit for foresight whatsoever but if another President had done this, we`d all saying how smart he was.

MELBER: Yes, Ron Klain, I mean, there is -- part of this that is sort of bumbling into what could be strategy but as the governor says it`s not strategy, doesn`t count if it`s an accident.

RON KLAIN, FORMER AL GORE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, you know, I think for Donald Trump it was a mistake for this reason. What the Democrats got out of this deal was a very short term lease on President Trump. Governor Dean is right. To raise the debt ceiling, to fund the government, he needs Democratic votes. But a savvier president would have done what Steve Mnuchin recommended which is try to get a deal defunded for the next two years and put the Democrats on the back bench for the next two years. What Pelosi and Schumer got was a deal that puts Trump on a 90-day leash. He has to come back to it again, 90 days from now and get their votes again and perhaps two or three times before Election Day 2018. This means the Democrats are going to be relevant. They`re going to have leverage and they`re going to be able to bring their preferences to the table and have some power in dealing with Trump. And that`s what the Democratic Leaders very wisely got out of this agreement.

MELBER: Right. And dealing with Trump also appears to be a lot of one-way loyalty. As you know, Governor Dean, these Republicans --

DEAN: That`s true.

MELBER: Yes. I want to play something for you to get your response. These Republicans upset about how he undercut them but he will break no criticism. Steve Bannon in some very flashy comments on 60 Minutes going back to something that many Trump supporters said they didn`t agree with. What he said in the Access Hollywood Tape. And Bannon says Chris Christie cost himself any role in government over voicing what so many people said, which was even if you do agree with some Republican positions Trump advocated, that was over the line. Here is Bannon on that.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Billy Bush Saturday to me is a litmus test. It`s a litmus test. Billy Bush Saturday showed me who really had Donald Trump`s back to play to his better angels. All you had to do and what he did was go out and continue to talk to the American people. People didn`t care. They knew Donald Trump was just doing locker room talk with the guy. Christi because of Billy Bush weekend and was not looking 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.


MELBER: Governor.

DEAN: I think that`s probably right. I really do. I think Ron`s point is a very, very good one. He -- what Trump has done which is really infuriated the Republicans has empowered the Democrats to do something about DACA. Now Trump is going to have a choice. If he wants to work on another agreement of which DACA is a part, he can undo a fair amount incredible ill will that the Hispanic community in this country has for Trump and the Republicans over the objections of the Republicans. And so, I agree. Ron is absolutely right. He has empowered the Democrats. That may not be all bad from my perspective.

MELBER: Right. And that goes to what he wants to do with it. And the problem for Donald Trump is he has never articulated reasons for when he does these things. So this one looked really, as the kids would say, Rando. Governor Dean, thank you. Ron, stay with me because I`m going to talk about one other thing. We got to do an update here on the monster storm barreling towards the Florida Coast. What has been the subject of most of our hour? Hurricane Irma now expected to make landfall this weekend. The winds are going to go up to 150 miles an hour. From the National Hurricane Center in Miami, I have Acting Director Ed Rappaport. We want to get right to you. What is the most important information you want to convey?

ED RAPPAPORT, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER ACTING DIRECTOR: Our most important concern is the storm surge hazard. We have a video of what the storm surge looks like behind us. At this point, we`re expecting five to ten feet of storm surge on the southeast coast of Florida and the Florida Keys, as much as six to 12 feet on southwest coast. That`s a life threatening condition. And on top of that storm surge, we`re going to have damaging, potentially destructive waves.

MELBER: So, when you talk about the surge, you`re talking about what people are actually going to see on land. Does that include potentially even if they`re not right close to the eye of the hurricane?

RAPPAPORT: Nearest to the eye of the hurricane will be the strongest winds. And what we`re seeing, in that case, is very close within say 30 miles of the eye will be the category 4, maybe category 5 winds. But the hurricane is fairly large. Hurricane conditions spin up 50 miles in every direction. So with the forecast to the center coming across the Florida Peninsula, it`s really the entire Florida Peninsula that could be affected by those winds and again our greatest concern is going to be the storm surge for the Florida Keys and potentially for southwest and southwest of Southeast Florida Coast.

MELBER: And briefly, the reports that entire buildings could go down. What can you say about that?

RAPPAPORT: South Florida -- in fact Florida as a state has the strongest building code but category 5 can challenge any structure. At this point though, we have a category4 hurricane and we think that those winds while potentially destructive to many structures will likely be not enough to cause loss of life if people are in a well-fortified building particularly with shutters up on that building.

MELBER: Copy. I know the National Hurricane Center is very busy and doing a public service. We wanted to get your pieces of information here on the air tonight. Ed Rappaport, thank you for joining.

RAPPAPORT: Thank you.

MELBER: Ahead, more on this storm but also, breaking news on the Bob Mueller-Russia investigation. He has specific names according to the Washington Post that he wants to interview. And we`ll have more on this historic storm headed towards Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of frazzle right now. Americans are -- I`m hoping everybody making it through safe. If it means losing power you know and not having water, things like -- I`d rather deal with that than anybody lose their life.


MELBER: Turning to a major development in the Russia probe, this might be the top story in America on this Friday evening if not for the hurricane headed towards Florida. The question that Bob Mueller`s inquiry has always been obviously, where is it headed? Who is in the eye of this probe? Well, on this Friday evening, we have news, another scoop on Russia that gives some clarity about that. The Washington Post reporting late today, Mueller is looking to interview specifically six former or current Trump aides who worked in the White House including Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer. Those prominent faces could thus end up in an FBI interview or even a grand jury box. The list also concludes spokesperson Hope Hicks, White House Counsel Don McGahn, one of his deputies and a spokesperson who works closely with guess who, Jared Kushner. Now, we don`t know what these interviews will be about.

And as you may have heard me saying before when covering cases, there is nothing automatically negative to be inferred about someone being asked for this kind of interview. But this news does give us some clues into at least the kind of stuff Mueller is looking at. The inclusion of White House government lawyers, for example, is not normal and it suggest that there is some interest in at least reviewing the handling of the firing of Jim Comey, the White House delay in responding to the DOJ`s stated concerns about whether Russians could blackmail Michael Flynn and any potential obstruction issues relating to that cover story hatched for Donald Trump Junior about his meetings with Russians at Trump Tower.

I want to bring in Joyce Vance, a former Federal Prosecutor and back with me Ron Klain. Joyce, you heard me do my disclaimers and that`s to be fair. But certainly the inclusion let`s start of the White House Counsel and Deputy is fascinating because he has potential arguments for both lawyer- client privilege and executive privilege. But Bob Mueller still thinks there`s something to talk about.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It is really interesting. Courts have ruled that the White House counsel doesn`t have an attorney-Clint relationship with the President or other White House staffers. I think Bob Mueller is on firm ground here. He`ll have the opportunity whether it has to be litigated first or not to interview the White House Counsel and his Deputy. Both of whom are identified by the New York Times as being on his list. And they, of course, were present for this dramatic meeting where Sally Yates, then the Acting Attorney General of the United States came over from the justice building to visit with the White House Counsel. In and of itself a rather unusual meeting to let them know that there were problems with then-National Security Director Michael Flynn and his contacts with Russians. So I think it`s predictable that Mueller will focus in on those conversations. Interesting that he`s there already, Ari.

MELBER: Right, and as you know in legal circles, that`s the kind of meeting that isn`t just a meeting because it forces the hands of the people getting the warning. If Sally Yates comes over and says this rises to this level, that`s not a personnel opinion like, hey, I don`t think this person is doing a good job. It`s a -- has some legal component which she explained in her public testimony. So that`s the Flynn Piece.

I want to ask you and then bring in Ron about the Comey piece because McGahn may have been doing a good job -- we don`t know as White House Counsel -- in trying to stop Donald Trump from doing what he thought was potentially a legally dangerous thing, reading again from the report. Mr. McGahn gave Miller, Stephen Miller a marked up copy of this first draft letter about firing Comey highlighting several sections he believed needed to be removed. Joyce, in his roles as White House Counsel, again, I don`t imagine that that has to do with word choice. These are poetic decisions, right? He thought there was something really wrong with that letter.

VANCE: That`s really the only conclusion you can draw from his effort to keep the President from sending this letter. We know that the President was concerned about the ongoing investigation into Flynn. And it`s very important to note the timing here. If the President had wanted to fire Jim Comey over the way he engaged in the Clinton investigation, you would have expected him to rip that band aid off right at the top of the administration, not continue to court (INAUDIBLE) with public applause, fireside dinners, private Oval Office meetings.

And so, the fact that he waited some period of time and then fired Comey while the OIG, the DOJ Office of Inspector General investigation into Comey`s conduct was still ongoing. The point of that being that if the President waited until that investigation had concluded to then fire Comey, he would have had some cover. But the fact that they launched this letter in the middle of those two events and the White House Counsel was concerned about its content makes you wonder if there wasn`t something about the Russia investigation in the lines of that letter.

MELBER: Right. And Ron, speaking of someone who has been in this White House conversations, walk us through that personnel part because the President doesn`t have tremendous authority to decide who to keep and who to fire. Trump officials are right about that as far as that goes. You can basically fire someone for no reason but not for an illegal reason.

KLAIN: That`s right, Ari. I think you have the right point here. Obviously, the President has broad authority to dismiss federal officials even the head of the FBI who does have a term of years but can be dismissed. But he can`t do it for an illegal reason. And if he fired Jim Comey to obstruct the investigation of the Russian controversies around the 2016 campaign, that would be an illegal reason for firing him. And what`s happening today with these six White House staffers being subject to interviews is just the start of what`s going to be pardoned upon here, you know, rising water in the west wing.

Because these six people will say, well, you have to know these other three or four people were involved. And those three or four people say, well, these other three or four people were involved. And so before this was over, the list is going to be much larger than six and the questions are really going to go at what the President knew, what the President was involved and what he was doing when he drafted that statement on Air Force One that lied about Donald Trump Junior`s meeting at Trump Tower. There`s a lot of fodder here for Bob Mueller and his team.

MELBER: Right. And you don`t start an investigation at the top of the org chart. You start at the bottom. I mean, no disrespect to Mr. Josh Raffel if we put the pictures back up. Our viewers here at MSNBC follow politics closely. They know a lot of these names. They don`t probably know Mr. Raffel because he`s not a key White House figure. And so, it`s very unlikely that he`s been brought in as the end of the line. He`s being brought in at the beginning the line and you have to work your way up at least in traditional investigation. So it is fascinating to get some of these first clues. It`s a big story, I expect we`ll be covering it more next week when we have more time. Joyce Vance and Ron Klain, thank you, both.

KLAIN: Thank you.

MELBER: Up next, back to the top story today. We`re going to look in South Florida. People bracing for the impact of Hurricane Irma.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m kind of getting anxious right now since because I can`t get out. I have a family to go back to so I`m just really worried.



MELBER: Our coverage continues. Hurricane Irma continuing to barrel towards Florida in what could be one of the most devastating storms the United States has ever seen hit land. I want to go back to NBC`s Bill Karins. Bill, you walked us through it with precise detail, the timeline earlier in the hour. What do you have for us now?

BILL KARINS, NBC NEWS METEOROLOGIST: I`m very concerned with our friends in Cuba. That`s been the million-dollar question, how bad will the storm be in Cuba? I want to show you, this is the visible satellite imagery. It goes black as the sun set, but look at the eye, really close up closing in on the Cuba coastline. We can see in in an infrared imagery a little better here. I mean, this is going to be raking the coastline of North Cuba. We haven`t really talked much about the effects of the storm on Cuba, but they could be just as devastating, especially if we continue this westward drift here. Very scary and nervous times for the north coast of Central Cuba and eventually all the way up there through the northern portions.

So the hurricane center here is assuming the storm will not weaken that much over Cuba. There`s still a chance it could. That could be one of the saving graces for Florida. But we`re going to assume at this point that it doesn`t weaken over Cuba and at the stage close to the warm water. That leads us to two things that are going to cause the most damage, the storm surge, that will cause billions of dollars of damage, and then the winds, which will cause billions upon billions of dollars of damage.

So the storm surge, the worst of it, the most -- the greatest concern, the Naples area, Captiva, Fort Myers, heading south toward as it heads towards Alligator Alley and all the way down towards Everglade City. That`s 12 feet of storm surge possible. They don`t usually put the houses up higher than that on the stilts. Those are the houses that could get water in them, waves in them, and be washed out and destroyed and washed out into the sea. That`s why it`s very important anyone throughout this coastal area, listen to your emergency managers. If they`re telling you to get out, you only have about 24 hours.

And now I made this graphic to kind of help every one time the worst of the winds. This will tell you when the damage will begin in your city or in the area of your interest. As we go through 8:00 a.m. Saturday winds at 50 in Key Largo or 40. This will not knock power out in the Keys. They`re pretty storm hardy down here in the Keys But as we go through the day on Saturday 8:00 p.m., the winds in Marathon starts to kick up to 80 miles per hour, Key Largo, 74. These are hurricane gusts. That`s when we could start to get some power outages and some downed trees.

Notice, not too bad during the daylight hours nearly evening through Central Florida but watch what happens when we wake up Sunday morning. Miami starting to gust near Hurricane, Key Largo, 180, look at Marathon, 127, Key West 127. That`s the heart of the storm. And during the day on Sunday, we get that possible second landfall up here around Marco Island towards Fort Myers. I mean, that`s my concern. You go through the eye, 130-mile-per-hour winds potentially, maybe even gusts higher than that.

That`s the -- you know, that`s the scary part of this storm, Ari. A lot of people are going to lose power. We`re going to have tons and you know, thousands upon thousands of damaged roofs. But as far as the destruction goes, you don`t want to be near that eye.

MELBER: Thank you very much, Bill Karins. We`ll be back with you again in our coverage. NBC`s Kerry Sanders is out in Miami Beach live. Kerry?

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there`s a little bit of activity here, but mostly this is a deserted area. Folks who know would (INAUDIBLE). This is really quite a view to see it quite empty as it is. The hotels have been closed. A lot of people really are from other parts of the world. I met people today who are from Belgium, from Germany, one couple that`s here on their honeymoon. They were told by the hotels they needed to get out. Some of them actually took Ubers over to the evacuation centers. And that`s where there`s a problem. We have such a large evacuation under way of people who have decided to go to shelters that it turns out there are more people than there was space in the shelters.

At some point today, a list of other shelters that were going to open leaked out, went on the internet, people started lying up. Those other locations, the lines got so long there that not everybody could get in there. A lot of frustration and a lot of concern, especially for folks who`ve never actually been through a hurricane. The lines and the problems look like they`re being worked out. The 40 shelters in Miami-Dade County look like they will be able to accommodate. It`s estimated that there`s anywhere between 100,000 to maybe 500,000 people who will be looking for some sort of emergency shelter. That is unprecedented. This is like writing the book, or the new book, on how to handle a hurricane. At the same time, sheltering in place is not just something for humans.

One of the big questions people often have is whether they can take their animals and their pets to shelters. Yes, they can, but at Zoo Miami, which was leveled during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, today they were moving the flamingos. Those flamingos are being placed in a spot which will hopefully be safe. It was built after Hurricane Andrew and was built to a new standard. Ari?

TAPPER: We`ve seen a lot of different images, a lot of them harrowing now on a little different but all of it makes you think just about the tremendous threats that are out there to people, to animals, to the infrastructure, to the roads, the buildings. It`s just -- it`s just a lot to take in. Kerry Sanders, thanks for your reporting. Please stay safe.

Hurricane Irma is already devastating in the Caribbean as we`ve been reporting deaths there. We`re going to go live to the Bahamas next


MELBER: We are back with our Hurricane Irma coverage here in Manhattan. NBC`s Rehema Ellis though is live in the Bahamas. Rehema what can you tell us?

REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you that the wind is kicking up as Irma is making her way up here into the Nassau area. She already touched ground in the Southern Bahamas. And authorities say that it`s so devastating there that people who were evacuated may not have much of anything to come back to. Here in Nassau, where I am, they`re really concerned about tropical storm force winds and a storm surge they say that could be up to 20 feet. That`s the height of a two-story building which they say if that happens, it could be life threatening. The airports are closed, and that`s what made it impossible for a couple we spoke to from Wisconsin who came here. They wanted to get out but couldn`t. So they`re holding on to each other to ride through the storm. Ari?

MELBER: Rehema Ellis in the Bahamas. Thank you and stay safe. And thank you for watching our coverage tonight. We`ll be back here on THE BEAT 6:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday but our Hurricane Irma coverage continues. "HARDBALL" starts now.



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