The Briefing Room: Inside FEMA headquarters amid storm preparations

Inside FEMA HQ as federal officials prep for hurricane response; Trump disputes the PR death toll from hurricanes in 2017; FEMA chief under investigation and updates on SCOTUS Nomination process.
21:52 | 09/13/18

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Transcript for The Briefing Room: Inside FEMA headquarters amid storm preparations
Don't do that. Either walk into the briefing room on ABC news political director Rick Klein joined by my colleague David Crawley and we are here at the headquarters FEMA in Washington DC. At the natural were that the national response coordination center hasn't really been in the thwart it what's going on behind us. You really see this room. At full operational with a hurricane like this coming in. And what you can see your all the different agencies and the represented here and each federal government agency state officials you can see Red Cross is here you can see National Park Service. Geez this is the coordination center basically where all the information is gonna commit and this will help female with their response to this hurricane Florence which is as. Just starting some of the bands of rain or in the winter hitting in lashing Sparta. The coast down in the southeast now. This is where the response starts from. They've actually done a lot of work in the week coming up to this we've seen the forecast for several days now they've been positioning a lot of materials. To get ready for the storm in the aftermath of a story. And let's check in right now with Dan Kaminsky come on join us Dan thank you for for being with us deputy administrator for for national response hear it enough. Tell us what the most urgent task for FEMA is right now in these critical hours before this one it's the Carolinas. So we want to make sure we're ready to go ready to go for any requests we might get as soon as the storm passes. Now right now tropical storm force winds are currently striking many areas in the Carolinas. That means local responders in state responders you have to take shelter. If you haven't evacuated you're probably have to take shelter hunker down and hope for the best I hope people are out of their flood zones I hope their way from the coast. But if not those people that do stay behind. Local state and satirist funders are gonna try to support as best as we can after the storm passed it they'll take a lot of. Americans understand that theme is job is not to be the first responder necessarily that's the state in the locals. Your job is to assist in coordinate but you have positioned a lot of material. Are you prepared are you ready for this story. I think we're ready we have personnel equipment and commodities just outside the impact area ready to go in. App that storm has now that concludes. Specialized assets like swift water rescue teams a swift water rescue teams were sourced from throughout the United States. From teams like our urban search and rescue team teams he might be for Meyer went. There's a special team. Kind of that that is focus on swift water rescue you can imagine that might be something we need in the aftermath of a disaster like this. How important is how all these different agencies working with the people their counterparts an individual agencies this is quite quite a quite a team you see behind us people that represent different parts the government absolutely if you look here you'll see a cross section of the federal government. Does he fifteen emergency support function that is basic division of all these agencies working together for example is at eight. That's health and medical the Department of Health and Human Services leads that meets HHS is responsible for coordinating. All of the health medical response for the United States government a lot of coordination happens here with the representatives here. And a lot of it happens at their headquarters at eight cases Hitler's just on the street. So coordinating easy actually much bigger that he be just the right here witnesses about sharing information that's everybody's saying it's at nerve center sharing information. But it's also about filling requirements. That there's a resource need on the ground. Whether it be a federal official on the ground thing we need more assistance of this type. Or state or local officials saying they need assistance eventually will make its way here. Don't be worked here and across the entire federal government. Every search need a rematch like a helicopter for accidentally we can't if someone in the field at the helicopter they can't just pick up the phones eight helicopter. We don't work that we to make sure we're totally coordinated to make sure that the closest most capable helicopter. Gets to that location. All right Dan Kaminsky thank you for for being with us if that's your job and going to be is a couple of days you or hear over FEMA extra again. And indeed we've been hearing from the White House throughout they about the briefings that president trump has been doing in trying to. Coordinate federal government response to this but out a tweet has overtaken everything as often happens with president trump this one are questioning the death tolls of hurricane Maria Puerto Rico C 3000 people did not tie into her is in Puerto Rico and went on to say that. This was done by Democrats in order to meet me look as bad as possible. Want to immediately turn to the mayor of San one knowing it was with us by phone right now harm Angeline Cruz mayor crews are you with us. Yes hanging out. What just give us your initial reaction when you heard about this about this tweet and what you feel like. This means at this moment for the people of your city and the people Puerto Rico. The most personal and his arm collegial in out to be able to lower prices and there was capital. To ensure that determine what is covered -- the year. It is an independent study by George Washington University. There's another one done by Harvard University. And at people. Around the world saw the devastation. And not only what happened the storm itself. But what happened after the storm the president still continues to change his don't worry because and he had announced that it. For him it's an on Fox's but I can tell you. That the conversation that are hurt just before. But quite different of the conversations. That he did not here in Puerto Rico I'm week. In that one hosted. HHS doctors and nurses. That have no place. All of pathetic and they have built large orders. And they stayed at the coliseum Puerto Rico a water to date until they got their marching orders fell. Coordination and I quote ready eco requests they get. That would indicate a Puerto Rico in fact. He's not. She understands that standard operating procedures don't always work. If Puerto Rico they were African arms to tell our our commitment. To go to the Internet. Report any damage if they were acting up. But can't quite the end to him we have all electric capital it tree. Now we hope for the sake of the people article. Collided. But the president remembers that his shot out. It thought about it all Wal-Mart is not a doctor he can get and apparently thought about dating the Clara company. That we have gone through and that the people of North Africa lineup. Won't go to without the president to be totally alienated. Some reality perhaps in his own inner circle and truck. He Connecticut shocked but what 3000 line but right time you're watched. You should never ever feel like he's done a good job. You know emergency response is never be politicized. Are you concerned that as were having a storm come into the United States right now that there's been this distraction. I'm concerned that the president didn't learn. Obsolescence that works well harsh. Aren't in Puerto Rico on competitor that debt. Anything different about him and about how we can get. But it is not that they can the president is deep. Not only elevating. That is all constituents about this time he had to offer. Comfort that the president can't reporter gone through paper towels. That's that's just doesn't go giant which is out story upbeat ready at this art good story reporter Rick. Any contract hit I don't want an end this thing about. The Democrats are making it won't look back you know. Now what made a pact if it was no evidence that you did a good chopped and the president detention should be aren't. Our after a black neck North Carolina and eat it was suspect that they BP and the kingdom of Storrow Drive inflicted. Aptly back and neglect. That he allowed his administration to but don't talk pottery. The mayor of San Juan commonly Cruz thank you for being with us on on a very busy day we appreciate your time. I had trying to conversation. Like the kind of conversation they did bring in now Luiz Miranda who. Is the Donna president Hispanic federation a former us senate aid for Democrats and I want to get into a bit of that the reality of what this death poll represents we saw the authors of the study from our Washington University talk about how they did this net ecologically of course deaths from a storm it's not. White light normal death counts from a from a tragedy like the shooting say because the be the impact is felt for a long time but up but this rant what what is the reality in light for people who suffer either those who suffered fatally died in the aftermath. War or are still struggling now to get their lives back. Every everyone know that many people die Ibn wind all of this was topping the we know that the afterward. Bill fact that there was no electricity the fact that aid the not. A rise. No calls total turmoil. In the ironman. And he has been Munson months almost a year now with September 20. When we celebrate the first anniversary. Of Eric and Gloria are hitting Puerto Rico where communities are steals troubling. Opt to get their life he orders worth thousands of police are steel in the United States. Not knowing when that judge is gonna say. Dot FEMA can no longer pay for the whole pills where they have been staying now for months and months and months. So this is not a normal all current and a precedent. Should know that he's simply not telling the true. You we heard from brought along the other day speaking about where Rico and some of these issues. The basically said the commonwealth wasn't ready to territory wasn't ready. And that he McCain and had to be the first responder had to basically take over the entire operation. I I think we we think what the people it but all of yet. People hire people like them. The thought these dot FEMA did he own report. We're date indicate at number one. Not a lot of the assistance. A FEMA relief sources and profits but they hot. He put the people would transfer to the Virgin Islands because of it ma and that they were ill prepared to deal with what the equal. FEMA. All reports it but it still precedent and all of the people all around him trying to re create history. And sort of bold barred ghostly although these fake news that they create. I wanna play some of what's up walk along the FEMA administrator Sid just days when asked about this. That they weren't going to the tale here FEMA in terms of the standing to tweak but but he was asked them by a couple of different reporters including our Mary Ellis park's. Now the V these successes or failures and forgery atlas. I believe that the these people worked around the clock and a 100% in the Puerto Rico and we kept Puerto Rico from complete and total collapse. No doubt about it. What we have to do now is how do we rebuild Puerto Rica think that the conversation needs to be here how you rebuild the commonwealth. In a more economically and resilient faction. I I have to lose a grand what about that I have no doubt. Not those of the peace all those people were behind him. Jury Gloria all those people war there behind you guys are dealing with the power line it are working very very hard. No one he's challenging that but the fact is not Puerto Rico totally collapse. So to say that they stop but collapse it's. Eight. Puerto Rico collapsed mine he fumbled the U electricity in my. 48. Months. Sell to try to indicate now that song how. They were saviors in Whipple people when their own report indicate that not in topic it's simply. A lie. The press that a lie. The theme people war trying to recreate. And rebuild. Reality. Are simply not tallying the true. All right Lewis ran a thank you for being with us appreciate you're the time he spent on this issue and appreciate you come in and talk to us thank you. And David Crowley another headline today jarring under the circumstances a story broken by Politico overnight that's not talked about the Office of Inspector General. Investigation into brothels we just talked about the head of FEMA. About saw some private travel that he's potentially allegedly. Used using FEMA vehicles out wanna talk to the reporter who broke that story operate that sort from Politico. I Daniel Lippman and and Daniel. Give us a sense of awe of what this investigation is looking at and I'm also curious about the timing and and it how your reporting let up to this moment in the war FEMA is so so much in the news if there was any. Relation to the satellite you. These noisy investigation and that the timing without with team under a microscope. You know we have heard about this a few months ago but we couldn't Everett nail it down and got a tip about this yesterday morning so we spent all day. Working hand basically what the IG is looking that is Brock long. Would routinely travel on Thursday nights are Friday morning's. From team headquarters. Two North Carolina where has he and his family live. Full time and be the issue is you can't use a steady suburban without. Authorization. If you're going on a personal trip to back home for the weekend. So he spends the weeks. In weekdays in DC and goes home on the weekends but. The issue is about taxpayer dollars. Andy were you able to come up with a total amount. We were not able to taxpayer dollars and cents. They're still looking mad at that right now the IG investigation. Hasn't concluded. This was sparked by an accident that shabby suburban. Got into and there's also questions about this aid who accompanied him and drug drove him. He was put up and hotels on taxpayer dollars in North Carolina. On the weekends. And in they don't think that he got in authorization. For him just to put up his. Drivers. Up in hotels. Without gain that cleared from above and there's a spark to rupture with. DHS. And here's until some that did to us secretary confronted him. In a Brock long a few weeks ago and asked him to consider resigning according to one of our sources on. Other sources dispute that and said it was more of a professional second. Well as a Rudy is seen in our program here we did talk to brought along earlier today he has seen your article on this is what he had to tell us earlier. About this story. Everyday we work very closely theologian GAO to make meaningful improvement to make sure that weren't enough programs and policies according to. Regulation and bottom line is we'll continue two fully cooperate with the investigation. I would never end intentionally. Run a program. Incorrectly. Our minds we made mistakes on the way programs run it will work with the LIG to get those corrected. You know doing something unethical was not part of my DNA and it's not parliament track record factory. Yeah but even win again Daniel what what do you make of that you know you were looking to get comment from FEMA. They've been picking the questions over to the office but the general not quite a denial from him there there's this investigators along going. Yeah I think once a concludes then we'll see if he stays. At the agency. You know you can imagine that a guy like talk long. Move is supposed to be in charge of this stuff. For him to leave the office on Thursday night's routinely. And and especially when you have it more active hurricane season the last couple years then before. It that just has sent the wrong message to something my employees and so. Of course is gonna say that they're gonna Trotter reconcile. Differences with the IG but it may not be up to have that John Kelly calls and up. And says you have to resign activist Nelson doesn't want you there anymore that could escalate the situation. All right eleven from Politico thanks so much for being appreciate it thank you. And indeed what other political headlines today this is a bizarre one really strange and you know I've covered a lot of these you cover a lot of these over the years what happened today with the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Cavanaugh was was odd and we're gonna have a lot to report out in in the coming days around this but. The basics are that the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats asked for a delay on the nomination vote. Not really that that's that on usual what is unusual here is that senator Dianne Feinstein senior Democrat on the committee. I has acknowledged that she has information an anonymous letter that she passed on. To the FBI that it's now investigating very weak for this to be happening let's check in an Alley Rogen I know Alley this has been. Quite the buzz on Capitol Hill lot of quality of the Democrats on the committee don't even know what senator Feinstein is sitting on here how is this on hope. Yeah I wanna make a few things clear it's there's no indication that the vote. In the committee on Brett Cavanaugh was delayed because of these new revelations that I think was long the plan. Democrats had the ability to Italy to and that's what they were always going to it's also not clear how many Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have been made aware. Of the contents of this letter it is simply that. They are being absolutely scrupulous about not talking about it and deferring everything Dianne Feinstein herself was also being pretty mom as you laid out. What ABC has confirmed as that Feinstein received information. Regarding judge Kavanagh and has referred it to you federal investigative authorities. And that that individual strongly this is from her written statement today. Strongly requested confidentiality. Declined to come forward or press the matter powered. And Feinstein has honored that decision so again this we don't exactly know who won the committee how does this information now. What ABC has not been able to confirm I wanna make that very clear that this is reporting come in from other outlets. Is that this letter was regarding. An allegation of sexual misconduct toward the letter's author. So again a lot of things that we don't know. But are coming to light about this allegation but it doesn't make you wonder Rick YE. It seems that this is something that if they had had this letter during. Kavanagh as confirmation hearing they would have brought it up to him so that. When he gives an indication of when this might have come to light to senator Feinstein. That we we do we know this is like so many other issues we're dealing where it. Including Moeller went on it's an investigation that's ongoing now apparently just starting so we really have no idea. How long it might take have you gotten any indication from the Republican side whether this will affect. Did. We do not at this point have any sense that it's going to affect. The schedule that Republicans have laid out chairman Chuck Grassley on the Judiciary Committee. Told reporters today that he actually has not seen this letter yet and that he is respecting. His ranking member Dianne feinstein's request for confidentiality. And he's going to allow the Democrats to move through whatever process they deem appropriate. But we have had no indication that this vote. In the committee to referred to the full senate floor is going to be delayed. Past third next Thursday September 20 an afternoon which is when it was determined today that that vote would be Helm. Yeah right you just eat the draft he hurt you. We had some announcements over the speaker hearing and very busy news day course of relations go out and Rogen. And we are gonna wrap it up from here. Quite quite a lot happening and he's definitely and and. These are the people who you know it they're not on the front lines there on the computer lines in the phone line to answer the call when. Do you get. Calls from the areas that are going to be stressed by the storm over the next couple of days it's this. As we've heard from everybody including our own ginger Z this is going to be a water offense. A flooding event and we wish all the folks here and those on the ground. That's 100% and we're all in all of this action and all of the news developments at abcnews.com in the coming days for David Curley I'm Rick Klein thanks for being here on the briefing room.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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