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Face the Nation September 3, 2017 Transcript: Mayor Turner, Brock Long

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS News: Today on FACE THE NATION: Breaking news overnight, as North Korea says they've tested a hydrogen bomb, and Texas struggles to recover following Hurricane Harvey. Just hours after his return from Texas and Louisiana where he toured the devastation caused by Harvey, President Trump faces yet another escalation in the North Korea crisis, as the country says they've conducted their most powerful nuclear test yet. It was the President and the first lady's second trip to the state since Harvey struck nine days ago. In Houston they spent time with evacuees in the Convention Center and handed out relief supplies. President Trump pledged quick financial aid from the federal government.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: About seven point nine billion. We signed it and now it's going through a very quick-- hopefully, quick process.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And he had plenty of praise for recovery officials.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And, Brock, come here a minute, Brock. What a job you've done, huh? What a job. And the water is disappearing and, though, we do-- we have a long way to go, but the water is disappearing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The floodwaters are disappearing, but the clean up and recovery facing millions of Texans is just beginning. We'll get updates from our team in Texas as well as the mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, and the head of FEMA, Brock Long. Plus, we'll look at the potential health risks as a result of Harvey and we'll hear from Texan himself, Bob Schieffer, about the spirit of the Lone Star State and its ability to get through tough times.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As tough as this was, it's been a wonderful country, I think even for the country to watch it, for the world to watch, it's been beautiful.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But as Congress heads back to Washington and faces battles over funding the government, will that spirit of unity prompted by Harvey last? We'll talk about that and the President's plan to potentially overturn an Obama administration directive that protects children of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

It's all coming up on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. John Dickerson is off today. I'm Margaret Brennan. There is breaking news this morning as North Korea says they've successfully tested a hydrogen bomb capable of being mounted on a missile that could reach the U.S. mainland. If so, it's a dramatic escalation in North Korean President Kim Jong-un's efforts to build his country's nuclear capability. President Trump has tweeted the first official U.S. response saying, "Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States. North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success." We begin our coverage with CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reporting from Tokyo.

(Begin VT)

BEN TRACY: North Korea triumphantly confirmed its test of a hydrogen bomb on state television. A strong 6.3-magnitude earthquake was detected at twelve thirty Sunday afternoon in northeast North Korea, near that country's main nuclear test site. The underground test appears to be about ten times more powerful than the last one, North Korea carried out one year ago. It came just hours after the country released these pictures of its leader, Kim Jong-un, inspecting what North Korea claims is a miniaturized hydrogen bomb capable of fitting on an intercontinental ballistic missile. Last week North Korea launched yet another ballistic missile sending it over northern Japan in a provocative warning shot to the United States and its allies. The U.S. and South Korea responded by conducting high-profile bombing drills on the Korean Peninsula. In July North Korea conducted two successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting the United States and says its latest nuclear test was designed to perfect a nuclear warhead for those missiles. Ever since its elaborate military parade this past April, North Korea has warned that it was ready to conduct this nuclear test. But said it would happen at a time of Kim Jong-un's choosing.

Kim Jong-un has significantly accelerated the pace of North Korea's weapons development despite international sanctions designed to cripple his regime. Just this year he has launched eighteen missiles and this is now the fourth nuclear test carried out since he took over North Korea in 2011.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to bring in CBS News senior national security contributor and former deputy director of the CIA, Michael Morell, for some analysis. Mike, what did we learn today with this test?

MICHAEL MORELL: Kim Jong-un has been undergoing a pattern of demonstrating enhanced capabilities. So in the last six months we've had submarine-launched ballistic missiles. We've had simultaneous launches of multiple missiles. We've had missiles capable of reaching the Continental United States. And now we have the most strongest, most significant nuclear test to date. So he-- he wants to demonstrate his ability to put a U.S. city at risk of nuclear attack, that is where he's driving.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And can he hold a U.S. city hostage with that threat?

MICHAEL MORELL: So we don't know for sure exactly where he's at. There's-- there's four pieces to this. The first piece is having nuclear weapons that actually work. We know that's the case. This is the sixth test. The second is having a missile capable of flying that far. He's now demonstrated that. The third is having a nuclear weapon small enough to put on one of those missiles, we don't know for sure whether he can do that or not, the intelligence community, an elite intelligence community assessment from late July. The Defense Intelligence Agency says he has that capability. That leaves us with the fourth, which is the whole thing working under the pressures of re-entry, right, having the separation of the warhead from the missile work and having-- having all of the electronics work under that great pressure and speed and heat of re-entry, right? We don't know if he can do that or not. So not sure exactly where he is, but every--every time he does one of these he demonstrates to us greater and greater capability.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do we know about Kim Jong-un himself? I mean what-- you just laid out it sounds like he's boxing in President Trump to negotiate on his own terms?

MICHAEL MORELL: So this is-- this-- this capability that he-- that he is after, right, to put U.S. cities at risk, three reasons for him. One is he wants to enhance his own political prestige at home. He's-- he's put a lot of political capital in being able to do this at home. That's-- that's-- that's one--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the imperial.

MICHAEL MORELL: I think he's not, but I think he's-- he's somewhat paranoid. You know, he has killed many members of the elite who-- and that suggests to me that perhaps he thinks he's in some peril. But he-- but he wants to strengthen himself at home. The second reason is he wants to be able to deter us. He believes that we want to overthrow him. He believes that we want to reunite the Korean Peninsula on South's terms, right? We don't. We don't want to do that but he believes it. So he sees these weapons as the ultimate deterrent. And then I think the third reason he wants them is he wants to be able to extort us. So once he can demonstrate this capability then he'll say come and sit at the table, I'm a nuclear power, let's have a different kind of conversation and let's start the conversation by-- by-- by saying you the United States needs to leave the Korean Peninsula. So I think he wants to do all three of those things. I think, Margaret, that people are wrong when they say he's crazy. He's not crazy. He's very rational in his own world. He is-- he is smart. He is decisive. He is persistent but he's also an attention seeker, he's also paranoid in way I talked about and he's also extraordinarily violent. So this is a-- this is a different kind of guy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So President Trump convenes his national security team today. What are his options?

MICHAEL MORELL: So he has-- he has the first option which-- which any President has, which is diplomacy, right? Try to convince this person to step back from the brink. That's failed for the last twenty-five years.


MICHAEL MORELL: And there is absolutely no reason to believe it's going to be successful now. But I think we need to try; we need to push that. But, if that fails, which I think it will, we're left with two options. A military option--


MICHAEL MORELL: --which would be probably not be successful in fully degrading his capabilities and could create probably most likely a second Korean war.


MICHAEL MORELL: Thousands of deaths. Or the other option is acceptance of this capability, containment, deterrence just the way we contained and deterred the Soviet Union.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Tough options either way.

MICHAEL MORELL: Very tough options. Bad options.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you very much.

MICHAEL MORELL: You're welcome.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you. We'll be back.

We turn now to the other big story we're following this morning, Harvey's aftermath. The floodwaters are receding but the death toll and financial toll continue to climb. At least forty-five people have died as a result of Harvey, and the governor of Texas says damages will be much more than Hurricane Katrina, with some estimates reaching more than a hundred and sixty billion dollars. More than one million people have been displaced. Some two hundred thousand homes were damaged or destroyed in Texas and Louisiana. And gas prices have now jumped twenty-six cents a gallon nationally since just last week. We begin our coverage of Harvey this morning with CBS News correspondent Anna Werner, reporting from Beaumont, Texas.

ANNA WERNER: While Houston and some parts of Texas may be in recovery mode, here in the Beaumont area there are still entire subdivisions under water and what's worse, residents in Beaumont still have no drinking water. But last night city officials announced they believe they have come up with what should be a temporary fix.

(Begin VT)

BECKY AMES: We are not at the finish line but we've been undoubtedly regained a second win.

ANNA WERNER: Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames told reporters a temporary solution should restore the water service lost. The city's one hundred twenty thousand residents have no drinking water and are waiting in long lines for bottled water. But engineers have been working around the clock and now say they have come up with a stopgap fix, setting up temporary pumps to provide a water supply.

Sounds like you feel like you pulled off a save here.

BECKY AMES: It really did feel like a win. And it still does. But we have a long way to go.

ANNA WERNER: As the city and private companies work to bring up the water pressure first responders in Crosby, Texas, are watching the flooded chemical plant that caught fire Friday after two explosions releasing black smoke. The plant owner warned more explosions could come. And officials are monitoring air quality after the release of potentially hazardous chemicals.

MAN #1: Our national anthem.

ANNA WERNER: But some sense of normalcy returned Saturday as the Houston Astros played their first home game since Harvey struck. Players and fans observed a moment of silence and Houston's mayor took a break from hurricane recovery to throw out the first pitch.

MAN #2: On the corner.

(End VT)

ANNA WERNER: While Texans are anxious to return to their daily lives it will be days, probably weeks before many can return home here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: CBS News correspondent David Begnaud has been covering Harvey since it made landfall nine days ago. He's in South Houston this morning. David, how is the recovery going where you are?

DAVID BEGNAUD: Slowly and delicately. Margaret, people have letters from World War II that are drying in the front yard, pictures of a baby's baptism, the Abanew (ph) family lives here. They had a foot of water inside their house. Nearly everything was ruined. And so to protect what they have left from looters, which is a real problem around here, they've been sleeping in that tent for the last four nights with a box fan to keep them cool. It is as hot and humid here in Houston as you can imagine. But in the air there's also a moldy, musty smell. In fact, for folks who have respiratory issues, officials are saying the air quality is very unhealthy. As you look outside the Abanew home, their belongings stretch around the sidewalk, and as you look down the street what appears to be piles of trash or personal treasures, and it goes on as far as you can see. Especially as you get into the outer suburbs. It is unimaginable how many homes have been affected by this disaster. You know what have been the gems throughout all of this, the civilian Samaritans.

MAN #3: Tell us where to go.

DAVID BEGNAUD: The people who are recovery workers today were rescuers on Monday. Folks who we rode with who took people out of their home in chest deep water and brought them to safety have returned to those homes to help people rebuild, ripping out sheetrock. We're talking about people who don't even know the victims of this national disaster but showed up at their doorstep and said what can I do for you?

MARGARET BRENNAN: David Begnaud, thank you.

We go now to the mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, who joins us from the city's convention center. Good morning to you, Mayor. I want to know what does Houston need right now? What did you ask President Trump for when you met with him yesterday?

SYLVESTER TURNER: Well, two things, in terms of immediate needs. You know, housing, housing, housing assistance. We need rapid repair housing because many, many people have elected to stay in their homes that are now dry. But they need to be repaired. In some cases, they may need to be rebuilt. And this is especially important for our seniors, low-income communities, but really people all over the city. So housing, housing, housing, rapid repair housing. And I asked him to expand the rapid repair housing program for fifteen thousand up to thirty-five thousand. The second thing--debris removal. Most of city is now dry, and people are already putting out their heavy debris. Now the City of Houston started on Thursday picking up this heavy debris, but we have to get it done like now. It can't be sitting around thirty, forty-five, you know, two months from now. And so, advanced funding for debris removal--he understood it, it was a very productive meeting. But those are the two things that I'm highlighting up at the very front--housing, housing, housing. Recovery centers so that people can register. Go through the FEMA process. And then the third thing I don't want to leave this out. We have-- we have had first responders that have been out here assisting everybody else. But many of my first responders, over three hundred, have had serious flooding problems themselves. And so I ask for an expedited FEMA registration processing system, specifically for first responders, and he really gave a thumbs up on that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sir, Houston is the center of the petrochemical industry in this country. You've got so much--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --stagnant water there. What kind of contamination have you seen and what kind of help is the EPA giving you right now?

SYLVESTER TURNER: Well, that is still being assessed. Most of those superfund sites are immediately outside of the city of Houston. Certainly, we would hope that the EPA would be on the ground now to take a look at those superfund sites to make sure that contamination is contained and-- and limited. But I can't, specifically, speak to that. Many of those areas are outside of the city of Houston.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you say that Houston is safe now or that the drinking water is safe given that potential--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --contamination?

SYLVESTER TURNER: The drinking water was never a question. Our plants continue to function. So the-- no one had to bought any water in the city of Houston. The water system is safe. The electric grid is pretty much sound. There are only about twelve thousand people in the city of Houston without power. The airport system is up and running, the transit system is up and running. We've started picking up heavy debris. Let me be very, very clear. The City of Houston is open for business. Anyone who is planning on a conference or a convention or a sporting event or a concert coming to this city you can still come. We want you to still come. We can do multiple things at the same time. Now, we're checking on our seniors, low-income communities, houses across the city of Houston to make sure that we are repairing those homes but we can do that at the same time. There are only two areas that are under water in the-- in the City of Houston. That's in the northeast in Kingwood. That's getting better. And then in west Houston, those homes didn't flood because of the rainfall. They-- they are flooding because of the release of water from the reservoir. And-- and right now we are only talking about twenty-six homes in west Houston, and what I've said to them if you have water in your home, we're asking you to-- requiring you to evacuate, but if you don't have any water in your home you are fine. So I want to be very clear. Yes, it was a very, very serious storm, historic, unprecedented but the city of Houston is open for business. And so if you have a conference, a convention, a concert, any of those things that were plan-- that you were planning to come to this city we are still ready to welcome you. On Tuesday we are getting back on our feet and I'm expecting employees-- employers to open employees to go to work and all city employees you are due back at work on Tuesday.

MARGARET BRENNAN: An important message given that Houston is America's fifth largest economy. I know you want to drive that home. But can you give me a sense, yesterday you were trying to send that message clearly with this baseball game you had in your city, you threw out the first opening pitch.




MARGARET BRENNAN: What did that feel like? I mean does it feel like recovery is where you are now?

SYLVESTER TURNER: Look, it felt good. People were cheering. There were smiles. And by the way, I want to appreciate the New York Mets because they came down and they were at one of the first responders site, the police officers serving them lunch, I appreciate the Houston Mets. You know, Houston Astros won both of those games. Let me just say that. We won both. And so people-- people are feeling good. Even at this shelter where we are right now. At its peak there were ten thousand people in this shelter. The number is down to significantly less than two thousand in just a matter of five-- five days.


SYLVESTER TURNER: So there's-- the City of Houston, just like the surrounding region, was seriously hurt and it's going to be a very expensive proposition and we're going to take it day by day, week by week.


SYLVESTER TURNER: But, at the same time, this is a can-do city. This is a can-do city. We're not going to, you know, engage in a pity party. We're going to take care of each other, neighbors are taking care of each other, good Samaritans, businesses are responding, community, neighborhood--


SYLVESTER TURNER: --people are responding but we are getting back on our feet and we are-- we are open for business. And we do want people to continue to come to the city. The port, let me just say, the port of Houston-- the port of Houston is now open.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. Mayor, so many Americans thinking of your city this weekend. I want to thank you for joining us today.

SYLVESTER TURNER: We appreciate it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we'll be back in one minute.

SYLVESTER TURNER: Continue to pray for us.



MARGARET BRENNAN: The head of FEMA, Brock Long, will join us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA. Brock Long joins us from their headquarters in Washington. It's been a very busy time for you, Sir, I appreciate you making the time. Can you tell us, the White House has already asked for about seven billion dollars, expect billions more to be needed in Houston, quite soon. How much money does FEMA need to help this recovery?

WILLIAM "BROCK" LONG: That's hard-- that's hard to estimate right now. Obviously, not only is the President fully engaged, you know, his staff, Tom Bossert, Secretary Duke, all of us are working together to correctly inform the Congress on how to give us the enduring authority to go forward to make sure that we meet the demands for not only Harvey but potentially threatening Irma out there as well. So I feel like what we have going on right now is an excellent communication, you know, with the Congress and the Congress knows what needs to be done to-- to make sure that we can meet the demands of what's going on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You mentioned Irma. It appears to be strengthening. What are you expecting from that hurricane?

WILLIAM "BROCK" LONG: Well, what bothers me about Irma and-- and what we need the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and-- and folks down in southeastern United States as well as in mid Atlantic is is that any time a hurricane has a well-defined center of circulation, the confidence in that forecast track is pretty high when it comes from the National Hurricane Center. The models are in pretty good agreement. Right now we are ramping up. We have already forward deployed commodities into-- our island territories where we've already forward deployed incident management teams to-- to Puerto Rico as well as the Virgin Islands. So we're-- we're shifting focus to Irma as well as maintaining the effort to make sure that we have recovery command established in-- in Texas and Louisiana.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now when it comes to Harvey thirty-three trillion gallons of water dumped on U.S. soils has been called a one-in-one-thousand-year event. Do we need to be prepared for more extreme weather like this and-- and is the onus on the states rather than the federal government?

WILLIAM "BROCK" LONG: So I think that's an excellent question. And I need state representatives, state legislative officials, and local elected officials to-- to listen up, it's-- this is a call. It is a wake-up call for this country for local and state-elected officials to give their governors and their emergency management directors, you know, the full budgets that they need to be fully staffed to design rainy day funds, to have your own standalone individual assistance and public assistance programs. This is a wake-up call. People cannot depend solely on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to, you know, be responsible for a majority. You know states do a lot of work. They do a lot of work, but I think that we all have to collectively sit down after this event and figure out how to collectively improve as we all--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you saying-- are you saying there, Sir, that Texas should have done more to prepare?

WILLIAM "BROCK" LONG: No, no. Texas is a model. Governor Abbott, Chief (INDISTINCT), those guys are a model. What we need are for elected officials at all levels of government to hit the reset button, sit down, evaluate where their programs are with their state emergency management directors as well as their local emergency management directors and make sure that they have everything they need to increase their levels of self-sufficiency. We-- we-- this is a partnership. But this event is one that we're all going to have to sit down and hit the reset button on and figure out how we collectively improve.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your agency oversees the National Flood Insurance Program, which is going to expire at the end of the month unless Congress acts, about eighty percent or more people in the area hit by Harvey don't have any flood insurance. What are you expecting? Are people there basically on their own?

WILLIAM "BROCK" LONG: No, people are-- it's tough. So individual assistance is offered up by Federal Emergency Management Agency is basically just a ray of hope. It's a bridge to kick-start recovery. Those who are uninsured are most likely eligible for FEMA's individual assistance program. They can help them with the host of things, not only rapid repairs to their home, maybe some, you know, some-- some funding for, if they've lost their jobs and different things or, you know, rental fees and that kind of thing that they can pay. The bottom line is is that it's not going to be enough to make anybody whole. The other thing is is that, you know, in this country, you know, federal disaster recovery support comes from multitude of agencies. Also the SBA would be offering up low-interest loans to those as well because they have a disaster declaration. HUD funding kicks in. So what we have to do is help citizens understand what they're entitled to to-- to-- to kick start their recovery.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Brock Long at FEMA, good luck to you, Sir.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: If you're looking for ways to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, please visit our website


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including a look at some serious health issues that could affect the victims of Harvey as well as our political panel and some thoughts about Harvey in Texas from the one and only Bob Schieffer.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm Margaret Brennan. We're joined now by Doctor Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health. He's coordinated the medical response at NRG Stadium this week where more than two thousand evacuees were sheltered and even had to evacuate his own house. Doctor, are you back home yet?

DR. UMAIR SHAH: Yes, my family came home two days ago. It was a pretty harrowing experience for all of us, so. And-- and it just underscores that this hasn't just impacted our community it's impacted even our-- our responders.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What is the feeling there on the ground? Do you have a sense that you have moved into the recovery phase?

DR. UMAIR SHAH: Yeah. There, you know, there are still some places where some streets that are having some flooding that-- that, you know, has continued to have some impact on the recovery side.


DR. UMAIR SHAH: So that is-- I don't want to say we've completely gotten out of that immediate phase, but, yeah, we're moving towards that longer-term look at what's-- what does recovery mean for our community.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you've been telling people to avoid those floodwaters, they've got everything from snakes to alligators and now this concern about chemical contamination. For you what is the greatest health risk?

DR. UMAIR SHAH: Yeah, apologies, there's a truck right behind me, so I'm having a little bit trouble hearing you. But just to let you know that, you know, we've been-- we've been talking to our community throughout this before-- before the storm, obviously, during the storm and-- and even now post-storm that flooded waters have a number of different hazards and that-- that includes like you said, critters and snakes, those kinds of things. But also the real concern around downed power lines and-- and really our biggest concern is that these waters are not safe. They're not-- there, you know, there are harmful, whether substances or chemicals or bacteria, other kinds of infectious disease agents. And so when-- when folks are being exposed to these, we are really asking them, we're imploring them to take precautions so that they are cleaning, disinfecting in doing those things. And if they have to-- to even throw out items that they have-- that have been exposed to that. That's very difficult, as you know, for example, if children have their favorite toy and that toy has-- has now been exposed to water and you can't clean it and we're saying throw it out, that inherently becomes a really challenging message to-- to a child.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What are some of the chemical--

DR. UMAIR SHAH: So these are the kinds of things that are really--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah, what are some of those chemical--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --contaminants that you just gestured to? I mean there was concern about this chemical plant and some explosions there, and fumes in the air, but then there's also concern that there might be chemicals in those floodwaters. What are you seeing? What contaminants are there?

DR. UMAIR SHAH: Yeah. You know, right, so the kinds of things that you-- you have to always think about is that the floodwater is, first of all, it's got-- you know, even if it looks clear, it-- it likely has something in there. But the real concern is that household chemicals just very-- you know, everyday chemicals that people have in their homes have now mixed into those waters. Then you also have the-- the challenge where you might have a mechanic shop or another, you know, business that may have been flooded out and they may have other more industrial type of chemicals that can go in. And so I-- rather than talking about the specifics, there are a lot of different chemicals that can go into the mix. And then, obviously, as you-- you've mentioned when you have large-scale chemical activities that really starts to become an increasing concern. So we have to really manage that. And that's why that message is just stay out of those waters or-- or do what you need to do to clean and disinfect.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you feel you have all the resources you need if you don't know the contaminants yet? Do you feel like you're prepared to deal with the fallout?

DR. UMAIR SHAH: You know we've been through a lot of emergencies before, everything from Alice-- Tropical Storm Allison that-- that we had a large-scale flood event, as you know. Hurricane Katrina where we had twenty-seven thousand, right, twelve years to the date right behind me in the Astrodome here. Hurricane Rita response where we had to evacuate and then Hurricane Ike that hit us and then storms in between. So we-- we always use those experiences to really help us as we move forward. But the one thing that I would say is that no emergency is alike, and that this is a massive, massive devastating emergency for our community. And on that national level, you know, as-- as many of the health departments across the system know we are oftentimes the-- the offensive line of that football team. People don't know the work that we do until something like this happens. And so I think it's really important to know that resources for capabilities are absolutely always necessary. Do we have enough? You never have enough. But we have really what we think right now to-- to continue to manage this acute phase.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Doctor Shah, thank you very much. Good luck to you. And we'll be right back with our panel.

DR. UMAIR SHAH: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're back with our political panel. Ruth Marcus is the deputy editorial page editor and columnist for The Washington Post. David Sanger is the national security correspondent for The New York Times. My namesake, Margaret Talev, over here is the senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg. And Nancy Youssef covers national security for The Wall Street Journal. Overnight, David, we had some big news. North Korea carrying out a major nuclear test as President Trump has tweeted. Was that a confirmation that it was what North Korea says it was?

DAVID SANGER: It sure sounded like a confirmation that it was at least a big test. We don't know, for sure, that it was a hydrogen bomb. North Koreans claimed about a year and a half ago that they had exploded a hydrogen bomb. We don't think they had then. But it certainly looks to be four-to-six times bigger than anything they've done before, which is to say four to six times bigger than the bombs that took out Nagasaki and Hiroshima. So this was a big explosion and if they don't own a hydrogen weapon yet, they will soon. I think Mike Morell had it about right when he described the paucity of options here. But I also think that the Trump team test-- tested for the first time with this, they may not fully agree that there are no military options. You hear members of the team talk about military options that they think they have. They agree that it would be horrible. They agree there would be a lot of-- of blowback to it. But I'm not sure they're persuaded at this point that military is off the table. 
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Margaret, what are you hearing is happening at the White House today? The President tweeted, what's next?

MARGARET TALEV: That's right. And the President's two tweets on this subject were interesting because the first one was pretty measured, you could call it a General Kelly, H. R. McMaster tweet. And the second one moved pretty quickly into how South Korea is weak and so is China. But the President's at church this morning and then he will convene a meeting with his national security leaders. And I think at that point they'll resume these conversations that have been ongoing. I mean this is-- the idea that there could be a test like this has been known and predicted all summer, but to come so soon after the fire and fury comments suggest it's either a test of what President Trump will do next, a test of how China will react, maybe both. So they'll go right back today and huddle at the White House and discuss these options.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Nancy, we know that the secretary of state's been making calls. He talked to his counterpart in South Korea. But when we talk about disconnect within the administration, you saw that earlier this week, you know, at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, came and seemed to be reversing a statement that the President had made when the President tweeted "talking is not the answer." Then Mattis said, "We're never out of diplomatic options."

NANCY YOUSSEF: That's right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Who's right? And which is the strategy?

NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, so far Secretary Mattis has been right in that after those comments were made, the White House put out a statement about a read-out of a call between President Trump and the president of South Korea, President Moon, in which they talked about diplomacy as an option. The reality is that Mattis has an interest in pushing diplomacy. From his perspective he's trying to protect relationships with allies, reassure them that the U.S. is there to support them, reassure the-- the West itself that there are other options what he sees as catastrophic military options. Yes, they're there. But the consequences are so big and nobody understands that more than the secretary of Defense from the position where he sits and the military options that he's looking at at a regular basis.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, yet, the President tweeted this morning as you referenced there, Margaret, South Korea, "I've been telling them appeasement is not an option."

NANCY YOUSSEF: Yeah. It's-- it's very confusing because, at some point, a party has to be chosen. Is it the trade relationship with South Korea? We saw this week some discussion about tearing up that five-year deal or dealing with the North Korean threat. That is, allies all have to be on the same page, and if we're arguing with South Korea about trade, it makes it much harder to get on the same page about how to address South Korea. So there seems to be a back and forth about what the priority is in terms of the administration. And we saw that in the tweets in which he referred to appeasement with South Korea, which, by the way, became a breaking news alert within the South Korean press.

RUTH MARCUS: That's a few things that are alarming here. One is that at the very moment that we should be making sure that we're on the same page with our allies we seem to be unnecessarily, unsurprisingly provoking them both on talking about tearing up the trade deal and on the appeasement front. And then to David's sort of scary remarks I understand why the administration would want North Korea to believe that military options are on the table but they-- there are options but they are, as you said, catastrophic, and the thought of using them. So if talking is not the answer it might not be the answer alone maybe talking with sanctions, maybe the containment. But military options are a disaster.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we have the treasury secretary out this morning already saying, well, we're-- we're readying another round of sanctions. What are the options, David, that you refer to?

DAVID SANGER: Well, there are sanctions you could go do, but we've been trying sanctions since 1953 in various forms since soon after the Korean War ended. So if you wanted to do sanctions it would make a difference, you'd have to go after their energy supplies. And going after their energy supplies is very hard to do in less than--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's a China question.

DAVID SANGER: That's a China and a Russia question, but, primarily, China, and the Chinese still have not come to the conclusion that it is worse to have a nuclear North Korea than to collapse North Korea. So they are not likely to do anything that would lead to collapse and cutting off energy could go do that. There are cyber options, in other words, a way of trying to attack the North Koreans without it being clearly us and without causing the kind of chaos that you would from bombing from-- from the air or doing something similar to that. The problem is we don't think they're terribly effective. We reported that there was a cyber operation against their missile program that President Obama authorized starting in 2014. Unfortunately, if it was working for a while, it's not working any more terribly effectively. And, finally, there are options that would, basically, cut off all interactions with the country, intercept shipping, do the kind of embargo that the United States did against Japan prior to Pearl Harbor, tried against Cuba at various moments. But that risks conflicts at sea.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ruth, Congress is coming back in session.

RUTH MARCUS: I hear that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're-- we're gearing up for that. Senator McCain will be returning to Washington, but before that he went to Italy and he made some pretty extraordinary remarks at a forum, and I want to read these to you and share them with our viewers. And he pointed to sort of America's role in the world saying, "Many are questioning whether America is still remaining engaged in the world, upholding traditional alliances, and standing up for the values we share. And this has much to do with some of the actions and statements of our President." And he gestured to the "debate underway in the country right now about what kind of role America should play in the world. The future of the world will turn to a large extent, on how this debate in America is resolved." What is he bringing back to Washington for President Trump?

RUTH MARCUS: Well, you know, Senator McCain has never been exactly shy about stating his views. But now he's sadly and gravely ill--

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is not politics (INDISTINCT) at the water's edge.

RUTH MARCUS: He-- and he-- I-- I have to point out that he wrote a very full-throated op-ed for The Washington Post this week where he talked about how Congress needed to stand up to President Trump, about how he acts as if Congress is not a coequal branch of government. So he is back and loaded for bear. And I think deeply worried as are many members of Congress, many of his colleagues about a retrenchment in the world of the United States and a need to sort of send signals to our allies that, while they may have qualms about this President, he will not be President forever, and that the U.S. is not going to abandon its role in the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Margaret, that's an extraordinary message to be sharing with our allies but Senator McCain, clearly, thought it was a necessary one.

MARGARET TALEV: Yeah. I mean I think John McCain is in full legacy/leave nothing on the table mode right now. And he is saying the things that the House Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader either don't feel that they should say or feel that they can't say strategically for reasons that have to do with party unity or midterm elections. But I also think that if you ask McCain he would say that Trump started it in terms of not leaving politics at the water's edge and that the President crossed line in a way that previous Presidents haven't. Where does this all go? Politically speaking, in terms of geopolitics, look at Angela Merkel, look at the French leader, look at the rest of the world leaders, our Western allies increasingly open to publicly expressing some of their concerns about U.S. leadership. So I'm not sure broad strokes what impact it has on the world. I think, domestically, it has an impact and McCain's effort seems to be to embolden Republicans and Congress to speak out more forcefully even if it involves contradicting the administration.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the crisis most immediate at home has been Harvey. You saw the President return to the state of Texas this weekend, and he said as tough as it has been, it's been a wonderful thing to watch. Perhaps, a reference to some of the signs of unity there, Ruth, how do you grade the President's response?

RUTH MARCUS: So I think you need to grade the President on two different metrics. One is kind of technical merit. How well has the federal government working with state and local governments responded to this crisis. On the-- and that may be the most important metric. And I would give the administration so far a good grade on that, we have not-- Brownie would not have gotten in trouble for heck of a job. Brownie, if he had been, in fact, been doing a heck of a job. So on that some worries about what's happening with the superfund sites, some quibbles about if these proposed budget cuts had gone through what might have happened but technical merit, good grade. On the emotional response, let's be clear, this President is kind of empathy impaired. And so I think he wants to say the right thing but the right thing doesn't come out of his mouth. So, you see comments like the one you cited, he'll talk about the great turnout--


RUTH MARCUS: --he'll talk-- he'll use the opportunity to take a jab at the media. He doesn't do-- feel your pain very well. That is not good for him. It's not good for the country but I think he's trying his best on that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does the debt ceiling increase that needs to happen get tied to this Harvey relief?

RUTH MARCUS: I think in-- in a strange way, the-- all of the problems that are coalescing in September for Congress in a very short timeframe, the debt ceiling, the government funding, have been made, ironically, perhaps a little bit easier by Harvey so some of the usual-- because we're going to need billions of dollars, the administration has asked for the first tranche of that money and so the usual maneuvering about how we can't do this without offsets and things like that. And the-- the threats to FEMA operations and other operations that would not just come from the debt ceiling but--


RUTH MARCUS: --from shutting down the government, I am hopeful that-- that Harvey, for all the suffering it has caused, I don't want to be empathy impaired myself, is going to make what needs to happen in Washington a little bit easier.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we know the President's going to announce his decision on this deferred action--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --that's going to impact the children of immigrants who brought their kids here illegally, that's going to be on the fifth. Does that impact, undue the goodwill that we've been talking about?

MARGARET TALEV: It-- it depends both on what plan he is going to unveil and how he unveils it. And--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do we have indication so far?

MARGARET TALEV: We do, but, sort of. But everyone I talked to in the White House says that this has been a matter of intense debate, where feelings have changed and shifted in terms of precisely what to do. But, look, here are the parameters that we all know. There is some push for congressional Republicans to take the lead on the fixed, and there is the counterbalancing threat of the lawsuit, the court challenge by a group of red state--state's attorneys general, and the President trying to find that sweet spot in the middle where he fulfills a campaign promise to crack down on illegal immigration but shows empathy for DREAMers. So what does that look like? Does the President say the white-- the administration is not going to enforce--


MARGARET TALEV: --not going to support, you know, defend DACA in court challenges and really wants Congress to fix it and then kind of leave it to Congress to fix it. Some version of that is what people are expecting. But, as we all know with this administration, until it happens it's very hard to know precisely what. The thinking though with DACA--


MARGARET TALEV: --just like you see Harvey potentially tied to debt ceiling, there's a thought that if this ends up in Congress with real action there may be potentially room for compromise where DACA and some sort of wall effort are paired together. And that's the thing to look for next week.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's a long-- long laundry list and we've got through about half of it right now. Thank you. We're going to be back in a moment with some thoughts from one of our favorite Texans here at FACE THE NATION, Bob Schieffer, is going to give us his impressions of Hurricane Harvey.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Americans have been moved by the pictures and stories of people helping others even total strangers in the aftermath of Harvey. A rare moment of unity in an often divided nation. We asked one of our favorite native Texans, Bob Schieffer, who covered his first hurricane in Texas back in 1967 to give us his thoughts about Harvey, a storm that hit Texas fifty years later.

(Begin VT)

BOB SCHIEFFER: Hurricane Beulah was my first one. It slammed into the Texas coast back in 1967 before I came to CBS. It left one-sixth of my home state under water. Harvey would be even worse, but as I watched what Harvey wrought, I was struck by just how similar those pictures were to my memories of Beulah fifty years ago.

Our technology is so good now we knew exactly when Harvey would make landfall and a lot more. But it's not the technology we remember. It's realizing the awesome power of nature, this was Beulah, this is Harvey.

Somehow, the big ones always turn out worse than we thought. This is me, one day into Katrina.

We knew it was bad. Tonight, we are beginning to understand just how bad.

In a hurricane, it's all-hands-on-deck whatever your job. Reporter Brandi Smith of our Houston affiliate KHOU was doing a live report when she saw a man trapped in a flooded truck. She flagged down a rescue boat team, and led them to him.

BRANDI SMITH: I am terrified for him and here he comes.

BOB SCHIEFFER: As she was reporting, her station was being evacuated because of high water.

But it's always the most vulnerable who suffer the most. These kids got through Beulah. These will make it through Harvey.

The pictures of traffic jams of Texans who didn't wait to be asked for help made me proud. They just loaded their boats on trailers and headed into the worst of it.

Nor will I soon forget the pictures of those poor people in a retirement home. We can be thankful they were found.

As it always is, we saw the worst bring out our best. After the awful scenes we saw just weeks ago in Charlottesville, in Texas, we saw white kids and black kids just being kids. In a hurricane, it doesn't matter if you are black or white or brown or purple. Maybe we do have to be taught to hate.

The statistics this storm has generated are staggering. More important are the numbers we'll never really know, all those who just showed up to help. Like Mattress Mac, the furniture dealer who opened his showroom as a shelter to hundreds, singers who sang, barbers who showed up at shelters with their clippers, people forming human chains to rescue others from the flood, bakers who baked, and the pizza guy who would not be deterred. And, yes, that is Spider-Man.

Only Texans would know all this unfolded on and around the very battlefield where Sam Houston and his ragtag army--against all odds--fought for and won Texas independence from Mexico. This week their descendants met another powerful force. It's not over, yet, but my money is on Texas.

For FACE THE NATION, this is Bob Schieffer.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. John Dickerson will be back next Sunday. For FACE THE NATION I'm Margaret Brennan. Have a great Labor Day.


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