This is a rush transcript from "The Story," September 6, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, "THE STORY" HOST: Breaking tonight, one state is in full on recovery mode, which you, literally, can see all around me tonight as operation barbecue relief has made and delivered 300,000 meals in the state of Texas and Louisiana. Another state tonight, though, is an evacuation mode. Good evening, everybody. I'm Martha MacCallum, coming from you live tonight from Houston -- America's fourth largest city and a community that nearly two weeks ago bore the brunt of Hurricane Harvey.
Now, up close, the devastation is far worse than you can imagine. As you can see from these images from Fox News 360 video team earlier today I had this honor of visiting one of those neighborhoods with firefighters who spent days pulling people out of their homes, literally, while some of their own homes were underwater, and still, at this point some of those homes still are. Watch.
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MACCALLUM: What was the hardest part?
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MACCALLUM: We'll have more of that man's remarkable story from earlier today a little bit later in the show. Tonight, one of the biggest fears that people have in Houston is that people will forget them, and that is why we came here days after this hurricane hit. Earlier today, the House voted overwhelmingly to approve nearly $8 billion to help the recovery effort; a lot more is going to be needed while President Trump cut a deal with Democrats today to temporarily raise the debt limit in order to make sure that the Harvey funding will happen for these victims.
This comes, of course, as the Atlantic's most powerful storm on record is about to unleash its fury across the Caribbean. So, these are just some of the images that we have so far of Hurricane Irma. As of right now, it appears that Florida may be directly in its path over the next couple of days and that is something that President Trump is watching very closely as well, of course, and acknowledged just a little while ago.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unfortunately, now we're getting ready to respond to Hurricane Irma. We'll work together to help save lives, protect families, and support those in need. Together, we will recover and we will rebuild.
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MACCALLUM: A huge lineup of guest for you tonight live from Houston. In moments will be joined by the governors of Florida and Texas, as well as FEMA. Be, also sure to stay on top of the series of non-storm stories out there tonight -- there's a lot of those as well. And we will be bringing you all the breaking news from Washington tonight with regards to the debt ceiling and other stories. But let's get started this hour with the governor who is very much on watch at this moment, Governor Rick Scott.
Earlier today, he said that Hurricane Irma is bigger, it is faster and stronger than Hurricane Andrew, which we all remember because Hurricane Andrew was very difficult for the good folks of the Florida coast, in the southeast of this country and it remains really one of the most historic, destructive hurricanes in our nation's history. So, Governor Scott joins me now. Governor, welcome. Give us a sense of how this is looking for you and your state right now.
GOV. RICK SCOTT, R-FLORIDA: Sure. First off, my heart goes out to everybody impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Greg Abbott, I know is working hard to make sure they recover. This is a big storm; Irma is a big storm -- 185-mile-an-hour winds. It's way bigger than Andrew was 25 years ago. We're very worried about the winds and we're very worried about the storm surge. Our most vulnerable part of the state is the Florida Keys; I was down there today. We are evacuating people. We have started with our visitors and now we're doing residence starting tonight.
We've got to make sure everybody in our state that looks and watches this hurricane. It could go up the East Coast, it could go up the west coast if could go up the middle of our state; it's a big storm and we got to be prepared. We're working hard. I talked with President Trump and Vice President Pence both today. They said, all the resources of the federal government will be available to help us. We're taking at -- we're looking at this and taking very aggressive actions. I hope every citizen in our state and every visitor does the same thing to protect their family.
MACCALLUM: We hope they do too, Governor. You know, we saw what's happening in Puerto Rico as Irma moves across. And I saw one estimate that they will be out of power for four to six months. This is a huge hurricane, as nobody knows better than you, and I know you all are bracing for it. You know, in terms of the stress that this is likely to put on FEMA -- and we're going to talk to FEMA in just a moment on the U.S. government, the federal dollars that are going to be need for, perhaps, both of these states and the damage that they're going to incur. You know, as a manager and a governor, what do you think about that, how is that going to work?
SCOTT: The president has promised, the vice president promised that the federal government will be our partner and will show up and provide all the resources that we need to make sure we keep our citizens safe through this and will recover afterward, and that's my expectation that the federal government will do their job. The state government can do our job. I told our counties: do not worry about the cost, worry about saving lives. We can rebuild our homes. We can get our positions again. We can't we rebuild our families. And I told our state that we're going to do everything we can to keep everybody safe, and my expectation that federal government will be our partner.
MACCALLUM: Governor Scott, thank you so much. I know we're going to be hearing from throughout the course of the next few days as we watch this thing brew and rip its way across Puerto Rico tonight, and we'll be watching it every step of the way. Our thoughts are with all of you there and we'll be on your side. Thank you so much for being here tonight, Governor.
SCOTT: Thank you very much.
MACCALLUM: So, from the state that is bracing for the worst to the one that is recovering from a huge hit, Texas Governor Greg Abbott joins me know. You and Governor Scott have a lot in common and you're bookends in this incredibly difficult time in America for your two states, Governor. Give me a sense of your reaction to the bill that was passed today, at least in the house, as it moves its way through -- $8 billion. You've said that you're going to need $100 billion from the federal government.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT, R-TEXAS: Well, Martha, first, welcome to Texas, we're glad to have you here. Second, my best to Governor Rick Scott. I spoke to him a couple of days ago about what looks to be a catastrophe headed his way. We hope it pushes east and they're able to avoid it, but I know that the governor and the state of Florida are getting prepared for this. Listen, as a concern as what Washington did today, we greatly appreciate, and I've already publicly applauded what Congress did today as they articulated. It's a down payment on the enormous expense that the state of Texas and our fellow Texans will incur.
The population, as well as the geography impacted, was far greater than what happened in Hurricane Katrina. That cost about $120 billion, I am anticipating that Hurricane Harvey and the flooding aftermath in the Houston area -- where you are now -- will total far more than what Katrina cost, probably upwards of $150 billion. But we've been working very collaboratively with both the Trump administration as well as Members of Congress. We all understand we're all in this together. You've seen Texans step up and take care of Texans, and we see our fellow Americans stepping up and taking their fellow Americans. We're all in one team here; responding united as a nation.
MACCALLUM: Let me tell you, I felt that so strongly today. The people of Houston that I spent time with are just so extraordinary, and the organizations like Operation: Barbecue relief that's here tonight, and all of these other groups that are helping are so incredible. But you know, one of the reasons we wanted to come here almost two weeks later, Governor, is because we see how these stories get so quickly forgotten. Are you concerned that once people move on, that you're going to have a hard time getting what you know you need to rebuild?
ABBOTT: Martha, that's one of our top concerns, because, listen, we all know what happens. And that is when people see others in streets that are filled with water, where the streets themselves look like it's the gulf coast and people whose lives are literally on the line, people coming in with boats saving other people's lives that captures people's attention. But when the cameras lead and the disaster leaves, attention departs also. And so, yes, we're very concerned about it, and then, of course, on top of that we have these other challenges that our fellow Americans are facing because of Irma, and there will be others.
And so, it's important that we as a team in this nation work together to build out of this. And understand this, Martha, and that is the nation was impacted by what happened in Harvey because of the spike in gasoline prices. Texas is the home of the petroleum industry as well as the gasoline industry and because of the hurricane, it impacted the wallets of everybody across America to the tune of about $100 million a day just in the rise of gasoline alone. So, that's just one of the ways in which we are all in this together.
MACCALLUM: You're so right. And governor, I've got to tell you I heard so many good things about you today and your leadership. All the areas that we have seen that got really moving again today because Labor Day, Monday, today was really one of the first days that people were trying to get back to their lives and it's beautiful, it's really inspiring and they give you a lot of credit, sir. So, I want to thank you for being here tonight. Thank you, Governor.
ABBOTT: Well, it's the average everyday Texan who deserves the credit.
MACCALLUM: Thank you, sir, we'll see you soon.
ABBOTT: Thank you.
MACCALLUM: So, we're talking about these dual storms. And FEMA, of course, is in desperate need of cash from Congress fast, with reports that money could run out by the end of this week. Joining us now is Kevin Hannes, FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer for the Hurricane Harvey Response. Good to see you once again, sir.
KEVIN HANNES, FEDERAL COORDINATING OFFICER FOR HURRICANE HARVEY RESPONSE, FEMA: Good to see you. Thank you for having me.
MACCALLUM: Well, you've had a heck of a week.
HANNES: It's been a busy week.
MACCALLUM: And another couple of big ones coming, it looks like, for FEMA. How are you guys going to handle all this?
HANNES: Well, you know, FEMA is able to respond to multiple events at any given time. We structure our forces that way. And so, we were drawing down the federal response support this year in Texas, we were shifting them east in anticipation of Irma.
MACCALLUM: In terms of the money that were allocated today, and President Trump struck a deal with Democrats Pelosi and Schumer, and he said, you know, this is -- we're going to raise the debt ceiling because we need to fund FEMA, but there still more steps that is going through the Senate. You know, is there a possibility that you could run out of the money that you need before you get -- before those funds are released to you?
HANNES: I don't think so. I think -- as both Governor Abbott and Governor Scott mentioned, the nation is pulling together right now in a bipartisan way to ensure that as a federal government, we are there to support the citizens. It's their tax dollars, they know what the right thing to do, and they will make sure that we have the funding to support to recover.
MACCALLUM: With the area that I was in today outside of Houston has never flooded in 50 years. So, a lot of people there didn't have flooding insurance because they were concerned about it. In fact, the reason that the neighborhood that I was in flooded, was the because of the releases from the reservoir. So, they were almost kind of chosen at the least damaged area. Of course, they don't feel that way because it's their homes. But it's interesting to hear how all of that works. They want to be sure that those folks who don't have insurance are going to get the funding they need to rebuild their homes, what you tell them?
HANNES: Well, I think what we tell them right now is to ensure they register with us, with FEMA, disasterassistance.gov or at 1-800 number 621- 2362-FEMA. And then, that we're going to be there for them for the long haul. As Governor Abbott mentioned, this is a long marathon, we're looking at multiple and creative options to make sure they get back in their homes. You know, FEMA's intent is not to make your hole, but to give you that seed money to get started while you're on recovery. We have the small business and the administration that's with us, we have the housing and urban development, a community block grant development program. All these funds along with philanthropic organizations, our state and local partners pulling together those resources.
MACCALLUM: So, you're here and you've got counterparts in Florida right now that are just, you know, possibly beginning this process, and you don't feel like that's going to stretch you guys too thin?
HANNES: No, I don't. I mean, it may slow our recovery event, but we have the forces the and needs here. I talked with the administrator; he's assured me that what I have here, I can keep on the recovery side to begin the full force recovery for Texas.
MACCALLUM: Thank you very much.
HANNES: Thank you.
MACCALLUM: For what you're doing, and to your counterparts in Florida as it heads towards them. We're going to watch Irma and extract throughout the night. Thank you, sir.
HANNES: Thank you. Thank you very much.
MACCALLUM: So, the story continues here in Houston tonight. But first, we also have big news from the nation's capital as the House unanimously approved by nearly $8 billion plan to fund Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, but it comes with a catch. Karl Rove is here on that. Texan through and through will join me in a moment. And does Steve Bannon still have close ties to the White House? Sources say he has the ear of House Freedom Caucus Member Congressman Mark Meadows; he will be here to respond as well. Plus, why a Democrat from New Jersey, this lawmaker's corruption case could have huge implications for the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. When we come back.
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SEN. BOB MENENDEZ, D-NEW JERSEY: I've never backed away from a fight that I didn't believe was right, even if it meant opposing my own president or my own party.
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MACCALLUM: So, we're keeping a close eye on Irma tonight as everyone is and we can now tell you -- just breaking moments ago -- that the Miami mayor is ordering mandatory evacuation for all mobile homes in zone A and B. And that comes as the House strikes deal today to funds nearly $8 billion for the Hurricane Harvey recovery effort. And as you just heard from the government, he's going to need a whole lot more that. So, that news follows the White House meeting with the four congressional leaders today. The agreement also raises the debt ceiling, which as you know has been on the to-do list for Congress, and extending government funding for three months. Here's the reaction from both Senate leaders. Watch this.
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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Look, the president can speak for himself, but his feeling was that we needed to come together to not create a picture of divisiveness at a time of genuine national crisis. And that was the rationale. I'm confident in his decision to agree to what I'm going to be offering.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-NEW YORK: It was a really good moment of some bipartisanship and getting things done; no standing in their corner.
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MACCALLUM: Here with me now: Karl Rove, former Deputy Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush and a Fox News Political Contributor, and a Texan who feels very strongly about what's been going on here in the past couple of weeks. And we are so glad, Karl, that you're here with us. You are part of our inspiration for wanting to come here.
KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, thank goodness, to see this great group of people.
MACCALLUM: It's incredible, what's going on behind us. I can't even tell you, guys, but you know, check out our Operation: Barbecue Relief and we're going to you more information. So, I guess a lot of conservatives might look at Chuck Schumer, and say, you know, gee, if he's so happy, I don't know if I am, what do you say?
ROVE: Well, look, Mitch McConnell put the best gloss on it. The president wanted to get us past this moment. I think there's going to be a lot of Republicans unhappy with it because now -- they were unhappy about having to vote for one increase to the debt ceiling between now and the November 2018 election, now they're going to have to vote for it at least twice; once now, and then once again in three months. And having succeeded at this temporary program -- three-month increase of the debt ceiling, you can bet Chuck Schumer and Pelosi will be back next time around saying, we'll give you another three months but you have to give us this.
MACCALLUM: Yes. You know, I mean, the fact that these hurricanes are happening, I think had a big impact on this particular part of this process, right? I mean, if that hasn't happened, you probably would've seen a bigger fight: over cutting spending and that kind of thing.
ROVE: Look, I think they were probably going to get a clean debt ceiling for a year, until November of 2018 or December of 2018 and the funding. Because look, you're right, the FEMA funds run out tomorrow. Their bank account goes down to zero tomorrow; two days before Irma strikes Florida in all likely.
MACCALLUM: But do you think the FEMA representative we just spoke with was too sanguine about that? He wasn't worried about getting the money.
ROVE: They're going to get the money because this is the kind of thing that just concentrates the mind. Because -- particularly, you have a lot of Texans in positions of authority, determines very powerful committees, and the districts of some of those senior members have been hit and hit hard by this and it brings it home. I mean, if there's nothing -- you saw today just mounds of debris that need to be removed and lots of people suffering and lots of reconstruction needed and then you have Irma bearing down on Florida and that account is at zero, Congress was going to do it. The question was how long was the debt ceiling limit is going to be.
MACCALLUM: The, usually, mild-minded Orrin Hatch and very gentlemanly Orin Hatch had this to say about this today. Watch this.
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SEN. ORRIN HATCH, R-UTAH, PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE: I think that's just total B.S. It just shows the Democrats are not serious legislators, or at least the ones who make those kinds of stupid remarks. We have to be able to have a continuation of government in this country that isn't constantly plagued by dirty politics. And that's just dirty politics as far as I'm concerned.
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MACCALLUM: So, he was referring to exactly what you're talking about, they don't want to have to take more than one vote on this.
ROVE: Look, I've -- since my days in the White House, I wondered why we have debt ceiling increase votes because the government commits good faith and credit in the American people when it passes an appropriations bill that says we're spending this money. And yet, we come around, and then we always play politics with it. When Bush was in the White House as a Republican, Democrats voted against raising the debt ceiling each and every time. We when Obama was in the White House, the Democrat President, Republicans voted against the increase of the debt ceiling. And we ought to just get rid of it or at least end the politics. But here, what we've done is --
MACCALLUM: Well, maybe we can cut some spending one of these days.
ROVE: Well, you know what, Congress ought to cut the spending in order to keep the debt from going up. But look, it does go up and it does go down. It's been going up slower this year than in previous years but nonetheless, it's an unnecessary political battle in which everybody plays politics.
MACCALLUM: Before I let you go, I want to put up some of the pictures that you took. Because you are very close to the rural part of this area that got hit very hard, and somebody's barn literally just exploded.
ROVE: Well, that's a barn right there, that's what's left of a barn -- the rest of the barn is gone. And look, it's not just the barns. You know, between Corpus Christi and Lake Jackson, South of Houston, was where the hurricane hit. This was a rain event here, one in 1,000-year reign event in Houston, but down there it was an honest-to-goodness hurricane, a strong hurricane, and hundreds of thousands of people live in that rural part. Victoria, Texas, 100,000 people. And some of these towns: Taft, and Sinton, and Refugio, and Woodsboro, they're destroyed. A little town called Tivoli -- you'd call it Tivoli, but we call it Tivoli -- it's gone. And Aransas, Aransas Pass -- I mean these are -- it looks like a bomb has gone off. And while I'm glad that people are paying attention to Houston, we can't forget our, you know -- I mean, literally, I was talking to some farmers -- cotton farmers. The cotton is gone, the wind picked up every bit of cotton out of his field. Cornfields where looked like --
MACCALLUM: They're going to need a lot of attention and that's why we want you to be here tonight to mention that because that's really where it got hit hardest in many ways. Karl, thank you.
MACCALLUM: Thanks for coming to Texas.
MACCALLUM: Thank you for having us, a real pleasure. So, still to come tonight as this monster -- look at this thing churning out there as it a barrel through the Caribbean and it is headed towards the southeast of the United States. But today I got a firsthand look at the damage left behind here in Houston. We're going to show you that. Plus, as Top Democrat Bob Menendez becomes the first sitting Senator in almost a decade to go on trial for corruption charges. Charlie Hurt and Mary Anne Marsh with their take on this case and why it matters to everybody in America.
MACCALLUM: So, that is a lot of work. Take a look at --
MACCALLUM: There is oven like that all over here, it is absolutely amazing. And speaking of pork, let's talk about Capitol Hill. All right. So, developing tonight, one of the nation's most powerful Democrats in federal court today on bribery charges. The New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez is facing 12 counts of bribery, conspiracy, and fraud, and it all stems from his relationship with Florida Dr. Salomon Melgen, who gave the senator private flights, expensive vacations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to his campaign. And then, did he want him to do certain things for him in Congress is the question of this trial. He's the first sitting senator to stand trial for corruption charges since '08 but even a trial may not stop them from voting on bills. Watch.
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MENENDEZ: When the conflict exists, if it becomes a conflict, a clash between those constitutional rights, I will make a decision based on the gravity of the situation and the difference that my vote could make.
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MACCALLUM: Charlie Hurt, Political Columnist from the Washington Times and a Fox News Contributor; and Mary Ann Marsh, a Democratic Strategist who served Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State John Kerry. Welcome, to both you. Great to have you here tonight.
MARY ANN MARSH, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST AND FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Good evening, Martha.
MACCALLUM: Charlie, let me start with you. Good evening. Let me start with you on this. I mean, obviously, there are two sides of this story, what's going to happen in the courtroom and the impact it might have on Congress. What do you think?
CHARLES HURT, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND POLITICAL COLUMNIST FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, absolutely. And you can't overstate the importance of what the court of public opinion, how that plays out in this case as well. Of course, one of the most damaging things about this whole case is the Dr. Melgen has already been convicted of trying to build, defraud the federal government. Federal -- help, you know, Medicare and Medicaid out of over $100 million. And this, especially with the backdrop of Obamacare collapsing, it's devastating for Democrats. Obviously, it's devastating for Bob Menendez. But it's devastating for Democrats all around.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, THE STORY HOST: Mary Anne?
MARY ANNE MARSH, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yeah. I mean, the legal charges, obviously, are very serious. You can't underestimate that, and the threat to Menendez is very serious as well. But it's the political ramifications. If he's found guilty, that could have a real ripple effect through the 2018 midterms. First and foremost, Menendez, if he were to leave office, a Republican governor, Chris Christie, would appoint a replacement. That person would stay in office through 2018. Many of these votes like on the Affordable Care Act only survived by one vote. And now you add another Democratic state on the board in the 2018 midterms when Democrats are looking to try to win the senate back in New Jersey could be another tough race for them if Menendez does not make it.
MACCALLUM: You know, the judge in this case originally, Charlie, said that he wanted him in court because the lawyer try to say, you know, he's a sitting senator, there will be days when he won't be here. How much do you think that could impact this case if he -- if votes come up and he say, I'm not going to do this that day?
HURT: Well, of course, laws prevent law enforcement or courts or anybody else from keeping a legislator from his job. I don't know why for some reason people think that a legislator's job is more important than anybody else's and, of course, if you get a speeding ticket on the way to work that's your problem. You don't get to just keep on going the way these guys do. But, I do think that that that was certainly some of the most interesting fireworks out of the first day of the trial.
MACCALLUM: Mary Anne, quick thoughts then we've got to go. Your last thought.
MARSH: Look, I mean, it's a tough call for Menendez, but there's a lot of important work, it could come down to one vote and it could be Menendez. He's taking a chance in court. He's taking a chance on the hill. He's in a very tough, tough spot, but I could see him going to vote, no doubt about it.
MACCALLUM: Yeah. Well, this case is going to be high drama and everybody is going to be watching for all the reasons that you two just pointed out. Thank you so much for being here.
HURT: Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: Charlie and Mary Anne. So breaking tonight, Rick Reichmuth is watching very closely the path of Hurricane Irma. Also, the house freedom caucus had a pretty hard pill to swallow to agree to raise the debt ceiling today, not something that they like to do without making some cut in the budget. So how flexible will they be when it comes to tax reform versus tax cuts? This man is at the center of it all, freedom caucus chair, Mark Meadows, will answer live, next.
MACCALLUM: So as Texas continues to pick up the pieces here in Houston, and doing it by cooking a lot of barbecue, that's one of the ways they're helping. We are now seeing some very alarming images that are showing Hurricane Irma as it cuts an equally destructive path and is making its way towards Florida. Incredible video, look at this, of a plane flying right through the eye of Irma. Can you imagine? Those pictures just blow me away. It is unbelievable. A 185-mile-per-hour winds in this storm. So joining me now, Rick Reichmuth, with a look at how this is going and where it's tracking. Hi, Rick.
RICK REICHMUTH, FOX NEWS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, thanks to those hurricane hunters we get such a better idea of where it's going and what it is doing. We don't have measurements over the ocean. We can't send out the balloons and everything, so the planes provide a crucial look for us. Two walls -- two eye walls that kind of looks like we're probably going through a replacement cycle of the storm. It's a cat 5 storm. It will likely go through some fluctuations just as it does that cycle a number of times over the next couple of days.
But here in Puerto Rico, we've been seeing winds up towards hurricane strength, unfortunately, that outer band right there is just off of San Juan, that's where we have the hurricane force winds, and the cat 5 hurricane force winds are in that inner circle. Take a look at what happens over the next couple of days, it's going to scoot to the north of Hispaniola. And tomorrow, it is going to pummel Turks and Caicos. And by Friday, will be towards the Bahamas. No way getting around this. Those islands are going to take a direct hit from the cat 5 storm.
I will tell you also, the water out here is really warm. In fact, warmer than what the water that's been over already. And it doesn't look like it's going to have a lot of interaction from the islands there, which would have broken a part of it. So because of that, the forecast, the official forecast still brings it a category five storm all the way through here until we get to Saturday, and then it's going to make this right-hand turn. Normally, this right-hand turn wouldn't make a big difference exactly where that happens, but it's going to be happening right as we getting towards the coast here of Florida.
The way this is situated here, big differences for what happens with the trajectory of the storm. So this is one of the models that we really like and trust. Saturday, it makes this big turn and potentially landfall of a major hurricane somewhere around the Miami area. And it looks like, again, it hugs the entire coastline, somewhere of Florida throughout the day on Sunday. And by Monday, it may be making a secondary landfall, Martha, somewhere in the Georgia, South Carolina area. So, it's possible it stays just offshore, we can't say that just yet. But everybody from South Carolina throughout Florida is going to have to be watching this. And we'll continue to track it and tell you everything as we get it, Martha.
MACCALLUM: Pretty scary. Rick, thank you very much. So also developing tonight, as we reported earlier, President Trump sending some shock waves to Washington earlier today, on the debt ceiling deal with Democrats. It came just an hour before the president hit the road once again, and he was pushing his tax reform plan at a North Dakota oil refinery and here's what he said. Listen.
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TRUMP: If we want to renew our prosperity, restore our opportunity, and reestablish our economic dominance, which is what we should be doing, then we need tax reform that is pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-worker, pro-family, and yes, pro-American. Anybody that's going to vote against tax cuts and tax reforms, whether it's in North Dakota, or anybody else, or anyplace else, you've got to vote against them and get them out of office because it's so -- it is so bad.
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MACCALLUM: Take applause for that and that group. Congressman Mark Meadows is chair of the house freedom caucus, a very powerful group whose influence could make or break tax reform, and he joins me now. Congressman, good to see you tonight, welcome to "The Story."
MARK MEADOWS, HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS CHAIRMAN: It's great to be with you, Martha. And our heart goes out, obviously, to the folks there in Texas, but certainly those in harm's way potentially in Florida as well.
MACCALLUM: Absolutely. I want to talk to you about tax reform because, obviously, the house freedom caucus is going to want real reform. They're not going to want what was seen in the past, a temporary tax cut package that doesn't really change the underlying difficulty of the code. How confident are you that that's what you're going to get?
MEADOWS: Well, I'm confident that if we continue to listen to the people, your viewers, the ones that are tuned in right now, that we'll get it done. Because, I mean, I just came back from being back home in North Carolina over August, I heard that the real frustration is that we got to start delivering, put things on President Trump's desk. So I'm very confident that we will actually make good progress in the next 3 to 4 weeks. I spoke to the speaker today. Obviously, he's all hands on deck. We'll be meeting with the west wing, Mr. Cohn, tomorrow, to try to make sure that we deliver on behalf of the American people. And really what President Trump has campaigned on for a long time.
MACCALLUM: So what's your message going to be to the White House? Because-- you know, would you vote for something that was only tax cuts and that didn't have sort of spending function at all, so real tax reform that changes the way the code works and lowers the corporate tax, I mean, would you vote for anything that didn't include those things?
MEADOWS: Well, I think our primary focus must be this is to simplify -- everybody wants to get rid of the IRS. They want to go to a simplified coast guard to be able to fill out their tax return. You know we have the opportunity right here to do real reform. Now we can cut the rates and we can pound ourselves on the chest, or pat ourselves on the back, and say we've done a job well done, but really that's not what the president has promised, that's not what the freedom caucus has promised. We want real reform. If we get real reform, will get the economy moving again. And as we get the economy moving again, you know, moms and dads on Main Street will be able to put more money back in their pocket. And so, it's all about reform instead of just the cuts.
MACCALLUM: In terms of Steve Bannon, who felt very strongly about these things, and, you know, sort of has your ear and you have his, I'm sure. How impactful can he still be outside the White House on these issues?
MEADOWS: Well, you know, you're breaking up a little bit there, Martha. But I think how influential can he be outside of that, I can tell you the president not only is weighing in with members of congress directly as he looks at tax reform, if that's what you were saying. You know, the west wing is all in on this. But it's not just with members of the freedom caucus, it's across the board. But here's the other thing that we've got to do, is we've got to make sure that we don't take the easiest way out. We need to actually do what is best on behalf of our economy, and the markets are waiting for that. We've got to get it done and make some decisions.
MACCALLUM: I hear you. I just what to -- I ask you about Steve Bannon, specifically, and whether or not he has your ear and if you're pressing for the things that are important to him and important to you when it comes to your discussions with the president.
MEADOWS: Well, obviously, I get to talk to Steve on a regular basis. We get to talk to a number of people. For me, I think the more information that you get the better your informed decisions are going to be. But it's all about that Trump voter, the ones who turned out on November 8th making sure we deliver for them. If we can do that, and I believe that we can, then what happens is we start to gradually return the confidence in Washington, D.C. Right now, it's at an all-time low. I think even today, we look at that and say at what point will we get a win?
MACCALLUM: Congressman Meadows, thank you very much. Good to have you with us tonight.
MEADOWS: Thank you, Martha. It's good to be with you.
MACCALLUM: So tomorrow, we're going to get the story from House Speaker Paul Ryan. I will sit down for an exclusive interview with him on Capitol Hill about the tax reform plan, and where he's willing to compromise, and whether or not it's going to be real reform or just tax cuts. Don't miss the interview, that's tomorrow night at 7:00 right here on "The Story." Looking forward to that. So up next here, we are in Houston, as you know, and I want to take you on a very special ride with a man that you will be glad you met in a place where the floodwaters are still rising in some cases and are waist deep. Despite losing it all, he is still working to help others deal with devastation. His amazing story is right after this, don't go away.
MACCALLUM: Twelve days after Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana, the impact is still being felt right here in Houston. And one firefighter that we met with today really felt this firsthand as he experienced it in his own neighborhood. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: So this is your neighborhood?
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Has been for a long time.
MACCALLUM: Where did you grow up?
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Just on the other side of the freeway. But all of my best friends lived on this side, and these were my stomping grounds.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: There's my wife, trying to get the cat. Don't go under that tree. That tree has fallen. Hey, when you go back out, go next to the house towards the front door. That tree is going to fall.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: This is my home. I mean, this is where I played football right up the street. There's my gray Forerunner. My wife's car is in the garage. And it was over the roof about a week ago today. You can see the discoloration of the brick, right? The dark on the bottom and then the light up top.
MACCALLUM: Yeah, you could see how high it was.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: That's basically your water line.
MACCALLUM: Did you consider trying to drive out?
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: I did, but the water, as you can see in the street is still, you know, at about 4 to 5 feet. And even if I was to pull the car out I would have basically plugged the car.
MACCALLUM: Yeah. You went in -- you went inside yesterday?
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Three days ago.
MACCALLUM: What was that like for you?
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: It was hard.
MACCALLUM: What was the hardest part? I'm sorry, Scott. Awful, right? Oh, man. But everybody is safe, right?
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
MACCALLUM: At such a pretty spot. You know, it's going to be beautiful again, I know it is.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the water going to the bayou. So that's a good thing.
MACCALLUM: So this water, just to explain to everybody, is from -- they release this water.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Sunday night.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: They had to.
MACCALLUM: So the water was rising from the rain originally.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.
MACCALLUM: But then, what happened?
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Once they released the dams, which ended up having to release early, that was basically to protect the infrastructure of the city and the port of Houston, and I get that. But, you know, basically, we were sacrificed for the greater good.
MACCALLUM: How does that make you feel?
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, you know, I -- obviously, frustrated. Mainly because they've known about this stuff.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: They've known that there's a problem and it's not been fixed. And so, you know, all the reports said that this would happen and this is what happened. There's a lot of good that has come from this, to be honest. The community, my high school friends.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: The school I went to, Texas Tech, the fire department. I mean, I can't tell you -- I met with New York firemen yesterday.
MACCALLUM: Came all the way down to help out?
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
MACCALLUM: Yeah. That's what they like doing, right?
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: That's what they do.
MACCALLUM: I'm sure they've both get in the car. We're going to go to Texas and we're going to help out.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: They help out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: So here now, Darren Ott, Houston firefighter, who is a good friend of Scott, and is behind firefighters helping firefighters. A great organization that is helping people like Scott. You know, Scott has rescued people from probably six, seven hurricanes in this area. He says I'm the person who goes in and helps people and, you know, he felt bad for breaking down there, he goes my high school buddies are going to give me such a hard time, I can't believe I lost it. But, man, he's been through so much, Darren.
DARREN OTT, HOUSTON FIREFIGHTER: Absolutely.
MACCALLUM: So what are you guys doing to help people like him and others? Your brothers.
OTT: So firefighters helping firefighters, it's a nonprofit, nobody is paid in the organization, and its firehelpingfire.org. And what we're doing is trying to raise as many funds as we can for active and retired to be able to cut a check for everybody that has been devastated by this flood. The last count I heard were somewhere in the 300 range and I'm sure it's still rising.
MACCALLUM: They're sort of the people you think that last, right? You see the families on TV, and you see the firefighters and other first responders helping out and you don't realize that they're helping out while their own homes are being flooded.
OTT: Yes. I told you I was doing rescue with one guy and, you know, here we are taking people from a post office in chest high water. And then after we dropped them off, he looks at me and says, well, I have nothing to go home to either.
MACCALLUM: Darren, we're going to help them. And we have it up on the screen, firehelpingfire.org. Thank you so much for everything you've done.
OTT: Thank you.
MACCALLUM: We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
MACCALLUM: All right. So we want to thank the great -- operation barbecue relief, who have been working so hard throughout this whole show and throughout the week in the past couple of weeks here in Houston. They've served over 300,000 meals to our first responders, military and residents since the storm hit. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: You hand somebody a hot barbecue meal that just lost their house, God forbid, they lost a loved one during the time or something, and they thank you, that heartfelt thank you. I mean, all I did was cook a pork bud or a pork loin to help them. But if I take the hurt away for 10 minutes, or they forget about it for 10 minutes, it makes a huge impact in their life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: That's what it's all about. So they are ready to roll wherever Hurricane Irma or the next disaster might take them. For more information you can log on to operation barbecue relief and get -- to donate some money and get involved, whatever you want to do. So we want to thank everybody so much for having us here tonight. Tomorrow night, Paul Ryan in Washington. Tonight, say goodbye, everybody.
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