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CNN NEWSROOM

Hurricane Florence Targets East Coast; Trump Approval Numbers Dropping; Interview With North Carolina Congressman David Rouzer; Interview With South Carolina Congressman Tom Rice. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 11, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:03]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Right, that payout yet to be determined, I know, pending this investigation. Keep us posted.

Hadas Gold, thank you so very much.

HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS, MEDIA, AND BUSINESS REPORTER: Thanks.

BALDWIN: You are watching CNN. I am Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Listen, this could pack the winds of Irma, the rain of Harvey. Hurricane Florence is forcing more than one million people to get out of the way. And, at this hour, more than a day from expected landfall, some evacuation routes are already clogged.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both lanes of US-501 northbound will shift left to the reverse southbound lanes and continue for a distance of 23 miles.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BALDWIN: This is from one evacuee. This is caught in traffic out of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. See all that traffic there? The Carolinas expected to get the brunt of Florence, now a Category 4, with 130 mile-per-hour winds, that is forecast to dump as much as 20 inches of rain in some areas, so much water that the risk of flooding extends miles and miles beyond the coast of the Carolinas days into next week, and could impact places like Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, and Georgia.

More than 20 million people face the threat of this storm. More than 1.5 million are currently under a mandatory evacuation. Plus, if these forecasts are accurate, Florence will hit farther north on the East Coast than any other Category 4 hurricane in history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF BYARD, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: I can tell you we are planning for devastation. This is not a light storm. This is not a glancing blow. This is a Category 4, a Category 5 storm, which is separated by miles per hour. We get wrapped up in it. This is a major storm that's going to hit

our coast. It's going to stay on our coast. It's going to dump amounts of water that the area, some of these areas have not seen in a long, long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's start with CNN's Kaylee Hartung. She's there live in Wilmington, North Carolina.

And, Kaylee Hartung, social media posts show 90-minute waits for plywood where you are. The stores are limiting customers on exactly how much they can buy. What's the story?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is true, Brooke.

The same is true for gas at gas stations like the one that I'm at. But you can't let this beautiful weather that we're standing in right now fool you, and you sure can't let the lack of heavy traffic behind me fool you either.

From what locals are telling me, the traffic in the Wilmington area not much worse than it is on a typical day. But a lot of people, they're taking advantage of the time that they have, despite some of the warnings from officials. That's because those barrier islands where there is a mandatory evacuation in place, yes, that deadline isn't until 8:00 p.m. tomorrow.

So we're seeing people take their time to get out of town, but making their preparations first. Everyone, I should say, who we talk to is taking these warnings to heart, whether. They're choosing to go or some stay, they recognize the threat this storm poses, like J.R. Pittman (ph), a longtime resident who I spoke to earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to get off the beach. I mean, there's nothing you can do. You are not going to stop that water. You are not going to the wind. If you don't get off, you're going to be a casualty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARTUNG: That's what I'm talking about, Brooke, people recognizing the real threat, the life-threatening capacity of this storm.

And so we have seen the lines stay moving in this gas station behind me today. Some guys filling up gas for their generators, so they can wait out this storm. Others filling up their gas tank, so they can get out of town and far beyond.

One man told me he had to drive 25 minutes just to find a gas station that had gas he could put into his truck and help him get out of town.

BALDWIN: Precious gas at times like these. Kaylee, thank you. A lot of people, though, are staying put. The mayor of Myrtle Beach,

South Carolina, pleading for people to get out now. More than a million people in the Carolinas and Virginia are under this mandatory evacuation in coastal areas. Lane reversals already under way on several South Carolina interstates so folks can get out of town.

Let's go Nick Valencia, who's in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

And, Nick, we talked to you last hour with the guy who said he's hunkering down. Is that the exception from folks you're talking to, or are most people planning to stick it out?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We want to talk to Congressman Tom Rice, who represents this district, because he was telling us the majority of the people that are here potentially are those that have decided to either stay or are slowly starting to leave.

He thinks a lot of people have left.

Is that right, Congressman?

REP. TOM RICE (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Oh, yes, the tourists have emptied out.

On any given warm day, a weekend they or summertime day, there are multiples of the residents here in the form of tourists. They are gone. And so the residents, a lot of them I think are staying around and watching the TV and seeing the path of the storm. I think most of them will leave before -- well before the storm is anticipated to get here.

[15:05:01]

VALENCIA: And you're joined here by your son Lucas. You have family here.

Are you guys worried, as local residents? Are you planning to leave?

RICE: We're going to get out of the evacuation zone, which is what the governor recommended.

This is a very large and very potentially devastating storm. And what the governor said, I think, is exactly the right attitude, is that the first priority is no loss -- loss of life. So I hope others will heed that warning.

You know, they're actually closing the emergency room at Grand Strand Hospital. So if you stay and if you get stuck in this, you're on your own. The people can't come get you. And when they do come get you, there's nowhere to take you.

VALENCIA: It's always those that stick around that end up putting the lives of the first-responders in jeopardy.

Where are you telling people to go? Do you have evacuation shelters? Are you telling them to go further inland? What's the guidance? RICE: What I would do is get on the Horry County Web site or the state Emergency Management Division Web site. And they have shelters listed for you. There are hotel still available in the Midlands.

There's a wide range of options. Get on either one of those two Web site. I think it's SCEMD.org or HorryCounty.org, and there will be a lot of options for people who need help.

VALENCIA: How concerning is it to you, Congressman, how much does it bother you when people don't listen to the warnings? Because it happens all the time. We cover hurricanes year after year. Here we are in hurricane season again. And everyone I talk to outside of this Costco to get supplies, they're telling me that they're staying.

RICE: Well, it is certainly scary.

I mean, the thing is, this storm is not like a typical hurricane, which may be a Category 1 or 2 and hit us a glancing blow.

This is a massive, powerful, destructive, devastating beast. And it is headed right at us.

VALENCIA: And our last question. We talked about this with the mayor earlier this morning. This area, if you're familiar with it, doesn't have an interstate out of it. It's not connected to a major interstate.

Are you...

RICE: We are working on that.

(CROSSTALK)

RICE: I-73, priority number one.

VALENCIA: That sounds like a different interview question.

But are you worried about people and the process and how slow it could be to get out of here if everyone leaves at once?

RICE: Certainly. The governor's doing what they can. They have reversed the one major four-lane highway coming out here, is Highway 501.

So that'll certainly speed things up. But, no, there's -- people need to plan well in advance. Don't wait until the last minute. Don't get stuck here.

VALENCIA: All right, Congressman, thank you so much.

To your son Lucas, thanks for being on camera with your dad. Appreciate it. Good luck to you guys both.

You hear the congressman there, Tom Rice, saying get out while you can, don't put the first-responders in jeopardy. Even still, Brooke, I mean, you heard it last hour, people still planning this day, even despite those warnings -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Nick, thank you. And thank the congressman for us.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

BALDWIN: Florence could become the strongest hurricane to hit Carolina since Hurricane Hugo back in 1989.

So with me now from Wilmington, North Carolina, Congressman David Rouzer, who represents the area.

And, Congressman, good to see you, sir.

Looks can be deceiving with those beautiful blue skies overhead. I mean, when you look at all these different models, our weather experts are tracking all these models, and it looks like Wilmington is a prime target, no matter which model you're looking at.

[15:10:10]

So you tell me, sir, why isn't Wilmington under mandatory evacuation?

REP. DAVID ROUZER (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, the coastal towns are under a mandatory evacuation. New Hanover County, that which is a little further inland, is not.

But the local officials here are all encouraging folks to evacuate, particularly if they have a place where they can go. There are shelters that are being made available outside of this area, one in particular up in Raleigh, North Carolina.

We don't want anybody to take this for chance. In fact, if you go back and look through hurricane history, Hurricane Hazel hit this area in 1954, and its destruction is legendary.

This is a very similar type of storm. And everybody that I know is certainly taking this very seriously. I have got some friends that are saying, but many others that are on their way out of town, as they should be.

And just hope that folks will heed that warning.

BALDWIN: And to your friends that are staying, you say what, Congressman?

(LAUGHTER)

ROUZER: Well, they're adults, and they can make their own decision.

But there's a reason why a mandatory evacuation or an evacuation has been encouraged, even if it's not mandatory. And so I would encourage them to do so. But that that's their choice, obviously.

BALDWIN: Sure. Sure.

(CROSSTALK) ROUZER: I want to say, too, I just left the Wilmington EMS -- I just left -- can you hear me?

BALDWIN: No, go ahead. Yes, yes, yes, go ahead, Wilmington EMS.

ROUZER: I just left the Wilmington EMS.

They're doing tremendous work there. The director stood up and told his folks, he said, we have been preparing for this type of storm for five years. Now let's go and execute.

And so I just commend them for all their great work. And, again, to all the residents here, please heed the advice of the local officials and evacuate, if you can.

BALDWIN: One last one for you, Congressman.

Of course, we know the White House is in touch with various governors, FEMA. We know Trump is actually in a FEMA briefing right now. I mean, you're there on the ground. You just walked out of Wilmington EMS.

You have an ear to the ground. What would you want this president to know as the storm approaches your home, your home districts?

ROUZER: Well, we had a call this morning with the administration, Brock Long, who's administrator of -- the administrator of...

BALDWIN: FEMA.

ROUZER: Administrator of FEMA.

The administration is well aware of the scenario here. All hands are on deck. The federal government is going to have all resources available to us. And I know -- I know the president has been well briefed by Brock and others in the administration.

So I have no concern about that whatsoever. And I just hope that folks will heed the warning to evacuate. The flooding could be significant. And that's what concerns me the most. You could have anywhere from 15 to 30 inches of rain, not just here, but much further inland. That's a real concern for all of us as well.

BALDWIN: That's what our meteorologist was just saying. If you're going to leave town, don't just leave the coastal area. Make sure you get really far inland, because they will still see potentially two feet of rain, all those floodwaters.

Congressman Rouzer, thank you.

ROUZER: Great to be with you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Still ahead here, we will talk to a man who has evacuated his wife and children from the Carolina coast, but says he is staying to ride out the hurricane. Let's let's ask him why.

And, first, Don Jr., the president's son, says he's not afraid of going to jail when the special counsel reveals his findings. Hear what he had to say about that and Mueller's motives.

And President Trump's approval rating falls significantly in eight separate polls. What's behind this?

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:18:21]

BALDWIN: Despite his involvement in orchestrating that now infamous Trump Tower meeting, the president's oldest son, Don Jr., is speaking out about the Russia investigation and what it could ultimately potentially mean for him, like when he's asked the possibility of jail time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: I'm not worried about any of that, you know?

That doesn't mean they won't try to create something. I mean, we have seen that happen with everything. But, you know, again, I'm not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So it sort of stopped, but basically he's saying if somebody makes something up to lead him to go to jail, there you have it.

CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson is with me, as is senior political analyst Josh Green. He is a national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek.

And when you listen to that, clip Josh, to you first. Does it sound like it all he's resigned to the fact that he might serve time, depending on what may transpire? How did you read that?

JOSH GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he's putting on his best face.

He's got to realize, having watched people close to Trump kind of fall one by one either to indictments or guilty pleas to the Mueller investigation, and know that he's somebody whose actions and meetings are being scrutinized.

But, on the other hand, he's one of the few surrogates that the president has left to send out and talk to the media and try and push back against the various encroaching storylines, from Bob Woodward's book to the anonymous op-ed, that have been dominating the news cycle the last couple days.

BALDWIN: You mentioned the op-ed. He was actually asked about that. Nia, let me play this for you.

[15:20:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's pretty disgusting. That's pretty sad.

Perhaps it's a disgruntled person who's been thrown out because they didn't deliver on what they were supposed to do.

QUESTION: What's the crime, though?

TRUMP: Listen, I think you're subverting the will of the people. I mean, to try to control the presidency while not the president, you have millions and millions of Americans who voted for this.

I think there are people in there that he can trust. It's just -- it's a much smaller group than I would like it to be.

QUESTION: Who do you trust?

TRUMP: Well, I will keep that to myself.

QUESTION: And they're not family?

TRUMP: Well, obviously, yes, I'm talking outside of family. I think that one goes without saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Josh just mentioned how he has few surrogates left in terms of this whole trust gap in the White House. Are his family members the only ones the president can trust?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you can imagine that after this op-ed, the sense of paranoia around that White House has only increased.

They said, oh, they have narrowed it down, that maybe it's somebody NATSEC, but who knows? Perhaps it's somebody in that White House. In that White House, there are few family members at this point. There's Ivanka, there is Jared. There was at one point Keith Schiller, who was his bodyguard. There was at one point Hope Hicks. She's not there anymore.

So you imagine that there is some concern that there is this shrinking circle of people. He's got Bill Shine in there at this point who is on the coms team. But these are people who are sort of new to the Trump circle.

So as Josh said, there are only a few people who have that kind of loyalty to the president that he can rely on. And even with that, what we have seen over these last weeks is even the people that Trump thought were loyal to him, like Michael Cohen, people that he could depend on, then have turned against him. So I think it should be of obvious concern to Don Jr., but it should be concerned about too Americans to that there's the shrinking circle in the White House around this president. If anything, if you're in the administration, you want to expand the circle. You want to be bringing new people in that you can trust.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Not have it be smaller and smaller.

HENDERSON: Exactly.

BALDWIN: Right.

And on this op-ed, there is this greater overarching question that is being floated, Josh, to the fact that we have all sort of like baseball cards of all these people within the Cabinet and beyond who are denying, it wasn't me, right?

So, if the op-ed writer is actually one of those who's denied it, do you think "The New York Times" should expose that person?

GREEN: No, I don't think so.

Look, I mean, "The Times," as any reputable journalistic outlet would, makes an agreement with a source to protect that source, in the case where you offer anonymity, as they did in this case. Certainly, that source is going to have to protect himself and give some kind of plausible deniability or excuse, knowing that, if he's exposed, he will most likely be fired and maybe worse for what Trump considers a fairly egregious sin.

So I think you see this not only with "The Times" op-ed writer, but we have seen just today Gary Cohn, Rob Porter, former senior White House officials, come out and kind of criticized Bob Woodward's book for which they're presumed to be sources, without actually saying, yes, I didn't talk to Woodward.

So it's a delicate dance that senior officials in Washington have to perform when they cooperate with a book like that or when they write an op-ed like this. It isn't the part of the journalistic institution to out the people that they're relying on for anonymous information.

BALDWIN: They're dancing, they're dancing, all right.

There was -- Nia, there was this dramatic drop in President Trump's approval rating. And as Harry Enten points out on CNN.com, it wasn't just CNN.

Eight high-quality polls have been completed in the past two weeks. You can see the numbers for yourselves, right? Every single one has Trump's approval falling. Why such a dramatic drop?

HENDERSON: If you look at this past month or so of headlines, Paul Manafort, the trial and then the guilty verdict from that jury. You think about Omarosa, the "Unhinged book," the tape that came out. He called her a dog. You think about John McCain, his handling of his death, which a lot of people found despicable, in the way that he reacted to it with -- and has talked about John McCain, even when John McCain was alive

It's just been a really, really tough week for this presidency. I mean, you think -- not to mention Michael Cohen, not to mention David Pecker. All of these headlines and sandals would really, I think, any presidency, maybe you would see this over four years or eight years.

With this president, we have seen it over a really short period of time. I think, if you're Republican, what's most troubling for you, two things really. Republican support is something like 83 percent. If you're Republican, you want to see it probably higher, closer to 90 percent.

And then those numbers among independents, those are going to be swing voters. Those are likely people that may have voted for Democrats in the past. Maybe they voted for Trump. Don't really have a real allegiance to the party.

The fact that his support among independents, I think, is something like 33 percent, and a lot of the drop is because those independents are now kind of losing faith in him. That should be really troubling to not only the president as he looks to reelection, but in the near term certainly to Republicans who are on the ballot in November.

[15:25:03]

There is only bad news in many ways for Republican facing this blue wall. And you look at this dip and approval rating for this presidency, this president. In November, it's going to be all about him. And this approval rating is not going to help.

BALDWIN: A lot of books written about it. I mean, Josh, you wrote the definitive book on Steve Bannon, "Devil's Bargain."

There's your plug, right?

GREEN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Think of all the books -- you're welcome.

Think of all the books that have been written just in the last 20 minutes -- 20 months. You have "Fire and Fury" and the Omarosa Manigault-Newman book, and you -- we were talking about the Bob Woodward book.

I have to imagine every time somebody at the White House calls him a liar, he's like ka-ching.

Is Trump making America buy books again?

GREEN: Oh, absolutely. Look, he's been a godsend of the nonfiction publishing industry, I can

tell you from firsthand experience. I think to some degree, though, this even ties in the earlier point about why his approval ratings are falling.

Trump was elected because he was viewed by enough people as being a strong commander in chief, a strong leader. And what all these books have in common, I think, including mine, is that when you go inside and tell the real inside story, based on the people around him, what you see is something quite different, and that image of strength erodes.

I think what's happened over the past summer is that there's been one story after another after another that show Trump either out of control or doing dishonorable things, like trashing McCain or separating migrant children from their mothers.

You see his complaints out there, they're all about him now. He's tweeting about Woodward. And he's not really doing anything for the country. I think, collectively, that's led a lot of the movement and independent voters who seemed to be split on him at the beginning of the summer, and now are shifting in a direction that is much more negative.

BALDWIN: Josh and Nia, thank you both so much.

HENDERSON: Thanks, Brooke.

GREEN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Just ahead here, this cartoon, have you seen this, of Serena Williams being called racist. And now this newspaper and the cartoonist are doubling down. Hear how.

And he is the fired FBI agent whose text messages have been the focal point of President Trump's anger. And now we're seeing new texts from Peter Strzok -- what they reveal and his explanation ahead.

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