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Over One Million People Ordered To Evacuate Ahead Of Hurricane Florence; Trump Pushes Back Again On Woodward Book; Plunge In President Trump's Approval Rating. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 11, 2018 - 05:30   ET



[05:33:45] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Florence barreling towards the Eastern Seaboard. Over one million people under mandatory evacuation as this category four hurricane approaches.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Bob Woodward's book "Fear" out today. The White House says they're over it, but the hunt for the leaker continues.

BRIGGS: Plus, a new CNN poll with dismal news for the president -- his approval rating sinking. It's the lowest among Independents since he's been elected. But some very good numbers on the economy as --


BRIGGS: -- you might expect.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 34 minutes past the hour.

Millions of people on the East Coast waiting for a monster storm here. Hurricane Florence expected to hit North Carolina Thursday night as a category four. That means sustained winds near 140 miles per hour with higher gusts.

Florence is expected to strengthen tonight, possibly to a catastrophic category five. Once this storm comes ashore, it is forecast to slow down. That means heavy rain and flooding.

BRIGGS: To get a sense of just how strong Florence is, check out this satellite image of the storm out of the Atlantic. This video released by NASA just within the hour. Just incredible -- look at that eye.

[05:35:00] Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us from the CNN Weather Center with the new hurricane forecast.


We're watching the storm very carefully here. The update coming in a 5:00 showing very little change as far as the magnitude. The strength of the storm still sitting there as a category four. In fact, we do have hurricane watches on the coastal regions of the Carolinas on into Virginia. Also, storm surge watches that have been issued across that region as well.

And we do think this storm has what it takes to not only maintain intensity but potentially strengthen a little bit over the next couple of days as it enters waters into the middle 80s and eventually into the upper 80s before it approaches land sometime Thursday night into Friday morning.

So here's what we're looking at.

Thursday night into Friday morning, a category four landfall possible. Still targeting areas around portions of South Carolina on into North Carolina and potentially, Virginia. And notice as the storm makes landfall we do believe it will slow down tremendously and that will make for a very, very heavy rainmaker.

And, of course, when you look over history -- you look at what storms of similar magnitude have made landfall, Hugo stands above all as one of the most destructive. It came ashore on September 22nd of '89 and left behind 100,000 people homeless across that region.

And, of course, with Florence, a similar track. Unfortunately with Florence, it could potentially slow down. That will bring in additional heavy rainfall -- as much as 20-plus inches across some of these coastal communities, guys.

ROMANS: All right, thank you for that.

Mandatory evacuations now in effect for coastal areas in states directly in the path of Hurricane Florence.

The airlines -- United, Delta, American, Spirit, Southwest -- they're offering travel waivers. Go do that now if you are diverting travel. They're also giving advisories for airports in the storm's trajectory.

President Trump approving an emergency declaration for North and South Carolina ahead of Thursday's anticipated landfall.

CNN's Martin Savidge has more.



A mandatory evacuation order for the community of Carolina Beach here, which is on a barrier island, goes into effect in just a short while.

Still, no real feeling of the storm other than when you look out to the water. You can see the way the waves are rolling in here and the locals say that is not the way they typically come in. So that does suggest there is something lurking just over the horizon here.

The people who are enjoying it -- most, you can probably see, are the surfers themselves as they go out to ride.

There was an emergency meeting of this community last night and they really were using some very strong language. They were saying that this storm coming this way -- and it is expected to come this way -- is perhaps the strongest they have ever seen here and certainly, the strongest they've felt since 1954 and Hurricane Hazel.

And let me show you what they fear may happen. It is the storm surge and everyone knows about that -- the water that is pushed ahead of the storm that comes ashore.

See these berms? They run along the beach here. They go, well, for as far as the eye can see.

The water is expected to go over those berms. They're 12 feet high. That means the storm surge is expected to be 13 feet or more. In the marina, the water level there is expected to be nine feet above the ground.

That's why the mandatory evacuation order is going into effect. They hope to have everyone off this island who is getting off by 8:00 p.m. Wednesday because that's when the tropical storm-force winds are anticipated here. They are definitely worried -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: OK, Martin Savidge, thanks. Heed those warnings, folks.

President Trump pushing back on the claims made in Bob Woodward's new book and echoed in "The New York Times" op-ed penned by an anonymous senior administration official.

The White House repeating the president's call for the Justice Department to investigate the identity of the unidentified opinion writer, citing national security concerns.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If that individual is in meetings where national security is being discussed or other important topics and they are attempting to undermine the Executive Branch, that would certainly be problematic and something that the Department of Justice should look into.


ROMANS: She made some news at that press briefing. She said that lie detector tests are not being considered to unmask the op-ed author.

The press secretary also taking aim at Woodward's book "Fear," which comes out today, depicting chaos and paranoia in the West Wing. Now, she claims the legendary journalist was reckless.


SANDERS: A number of people have come out and said that Woodward never even reached out to corroborate statements that were attributed to them, which seems incredibly reckless for a book to make such outrageous claims.


BRIGGS: Meantime, Woodward's publisher, Simon & Schuster, says they'll be printing a million copies of the book to keep up with demand.

Woodward appeared on "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT" last night, responding to officials like Defense Sec. Jim Mattis, who claimed they never made statements that appeared in Woodward's book.


BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "FEAR: TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE": These are people who are trying to survive and keep their job.

[05:50:00] So look -- and I know other reporters who've heard things from those people and they heard the exact same thing and -- but it was off the record so they couldn't use it. And when I did the reporting for this book, no off-the-record.


BRIGGS: More from CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and David, at the first White House press briefing in some 19 days, press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked, of course, so many questions about the two anonymous accounts that really have been shaking this White House, offering deep portraits of deep dysfunction inside the West Wing here. Of course, Bob Woodward's book, which is officially released today, and that anonymous op-ed from last week in "The New York Times".

Now, Sarah Sanders said the White House is not focusing on trying to find out who the author is. She said they're trying to focus on the matter at hand and change the subject and move on.

The president, of course, perhaps hasn't gotten that memo. He's been very focused, we're told, internally, finding out who this is.

But we also saw an extraordinary comment over the weekend from the vice president, saying that he would submit to a lie detector test. So I asked Sarah Sanders this question.

Do you know if the president believes these denials that have been coming in from some of his top advisers or does he believe that it's someone from within? And does he believe that lie detector tests should be issued as the vice president volunteered to do on Sunday?

SANDERS: No lie detectors are being used or talked about or looked at as a possibility. Frankly, the White House and the staff here are focused on doing our jobs, not deal with cowards that refuse to put their names in an anonymous letter.

ZELENY: So clearly, the White House trying to put a focus on the mystery behind all this -- you know, a Washington whodunit if you will -- rather than substance actually behind these anonymous accounts. The substance of the fact that top aides here are trying to keep the president from harming the country, in some respects, through what they call these strange impulses that he's had.

So clearly, the White House is trying to turn the page beyond this but the president has kept fueling it himself. We'll see if that continues now.

Of course, the president will be flying to Shanksville, Pennsylvania for a brief stop there to mark 9/11, of course, then coming back here to the White House having a meeting as well about hurricane planning and preparation.

But it is still those two anonymous accounts shaking this White House that have certainly created a deep sense of paranoia inside these walls -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: As Jeff mentioned there, President Trump is headed to Shanksville, Pennsylvania today to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

Vice President Pence will attend a ceremony at the Pentagon with Defense Sec. Mattis.

Here's a live look at Ground Zero in New York. Later today, there will be moments of silence to commemorate the moment each tower fell. They will also continue the annual tradition of reading the names of the victims.

I can't believe it's been 17 years.

BRIGGS: Yes, and still one of those moments that I know is very emotional for you. You were here. You were not far from Ground Zero and --


BRIGGS: -- it's still fresh.

OK, elsewhere, a sharp drop in President Trump's approval rating in a new CNN poll. Just 36 percent say they approve of how the president is handling his job, down six points in just the last month -- 58 percent disapprove.

He's doing significantly worse among Independents. Only 31 percent approve -- a plunge of 16 points in one month.

The president also faring worse on a range of attributes. Only about one-third of those polled say he is honest and cares about people like them and will unite the country. Only 32 percent say they are proud to have Mr. Trump as their president.

But on the significant upside for this president, almost 70 percent of those polled say the economy is doing better, and that's usually what midterms hinge on --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: -- folks.

ROMANS: Joining us here, CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer, historian and professor at Princeton University.

It would seem as though -- I mean, the president, just this week, quoted James Carville -- "It's the economy, stupid." If it's the economy, stupid, why aren't the president's other numbers doing better?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, it's everything else. It's the way he conducts himself, it's the stories about the White House. It's certain policies such as family separation at the border that have been so divisive that keep bringing him down.

So he's a president who's almost working hard to overcome what should be the biggest political asset that a president could ever hope for, which is a booming economy.

BRIGGS: I just find impossible to believe that a president with that number on the economy is at 36 percent. We hope the polling is fixed from 2016.


BRIGGS: We will find out.

You write about American democracy can't fix itself for "The Atlantic." In it, you say this about the midterms.

"This is the question on the ticket whether a voter prioritizes creating a real institutional check on the White House or whether they are willing to continue tolerating the risks incurred from one-party government under Trump."

[05:45:00] What are those risks?

ZELIZER: Well look, we've now seen many. If all the accounts are to be believed from "The New York Times" and from "Fear," we have a president who is somewhat out of control who can't even be trusted by his own advisers.

We also have a risk, as we see with this Congress, of a Congress that isn't willing to really do anything, even when its own members are outraged by the actions of the White House.

So the only real solution in the short-term is a check. A check on the president, I think will only come with divided government. ROMANS: So it's just remarkable. Is that -- is that moment then the midterms? Is that what you're trying to say in this piece?

ZELIZER: Yes. People talk about the 25th Amendment, they talk about impeachment, and all that might be on the table. But the real thing that's on the table right now is the midterm election --

ROMANS: Right.

ZELIZER: -- and trying to create Democratic control. Again, for a check to the system.

ROMANS: Here's what Sarah Sanders said at the White House press briefing about this talk about the 25th --


ROMANS: -- Amendment.

You saw Elizabeth Warren -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren say that that should be looked at -- this -- she said that earlier this week.

You've heard people talking about it. Here's what the press secretary says.


SANDERS: The fact that that's actually being honestly discussed is ridiculous and frankly, it's insulting to the nearly 62 million people that came out and overwhelmingly supported this president. Voted for him, supported his agenda, and are watching and cheering on as he successfully implements that agenda every single day.


ROMANS: There could be a risk on the left for those who are saying 25th Amendment -- remove the president from office --


ROMANS: -- because of basically mental incapacity, right? That could be a risk for the left if they keep doing that.

ZELIZER: Yes, that's true. I mean, this a process whereby basically the cabinet is moving to get rid of a president because they're not fit for office. And if Congress approves, all of the sudden you have a president Pence. And so, the fear for Democrats is that's going too far.

Again, rely on other mechanisms such as midterm elections or even possibly impeachment, depending on the Mueller report. But this might hurt.

But again, with the poll numbers we're seeing -- if they're accurate -- a lot of the public isn't that far off from some of the discussions we're seeing. BRIGGS: That's for another day.

Today, the president will be in Shanksville talking about 9/11 --


BRIGGS: -- perhaps trying to unite the country.

You're a professor at Princeton. Many of your students -- most of your students have no memory --


BRIGGS: -- of 9/11. What do you want them to remember on this day?

ZELIZER: Well, I want them to remember not the politics of the -- of the horrible event that happened, but what happened and what it felt like in this country.

I start my class on that always by showing five minutes of a compilation of the news from that morning, starting with the weather report when everything seemed great here in New York, to the aftermath of the attacks.

And I think students -- what, 17 years later -- don't remember that, and so they don't remember what 9/11 meant. And so that's what I want them to feel because it changed the country.

ROMANS: That picture of September 14th we're showing you right now -- an iconic -- an iconic September 17th.

I was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange when it reopened for trading and tanked --


ROMANS: -- with John McCain, and Hillary Clinton, and the mayor, and the governor, and it was a bipartisan face. It's a moment that does not exist today -- a bipartisan together unity base.

ZELIZER: And it was a moment -- it was a moment, unfortunately. It wasn't the permanent response to what happened.

ROMANS: All right, Julian.

BRIGGS: Terrific you start your classes with that message.

ROMANS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Thank you, Julian.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

There are major debt concerns for electric carmaker Tesla. We'll have the update when we get a check on "CNN Money," next.


[05:52:47] ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

Relief in U.S. stocks Monday. The S&P and the Nasdaq snapping a 4-day losing streak, but the Dow fell a little bit.

Stock markets in Asia higher on news of a possible second meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Tokyo -- you can see they are closed -- up 1.3 percent.

Watch shares of Apple and the companies that supply it. Shares of the companies that supply parts and assemble products for Apple fell yesterday. The drop happened after President Trump said Apple should shift production to the U.S.

Tesla -- Tesla's bonds are imploding -- $1.8 billion of the electric carmaker's bonds due in August 2025 plunged to a record low Friday. They traded for just 84 cents on the dollar, down from 98 cents a year ago. More than $9 billion of Tesla debt is scheduled to mature before 2025.

As Elon Musk steals headlines, he is ramping up Model 3 production which could take some pressure off the company.

Tesla's stock price has plunged 29 percent from the peak on the day that Musk -- remember, he tweeted about going private. This is despite a six percent rebound on Monday.

BRIGGS: Having some paint options, I guess, to save some money on the Model 3.

Ahead, famous singer-songwriter Ben Folds on a fascinating subject -- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. We'll play you this earworm, ahead.


[05:58:31] Musician Ben Folds has a new song paying homage to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. You heard that correct. It's called "Mr. Peepers."

Here's a sample.

Would he call him Mister Peepers? Send some thugs to smash his glasses? The institution's standing tall Though we tried our best to trash it Aren't we all the keepers Of this fragile young Republic? And when all those Mister Peepers people fall... Lord help us all

Folds depicts Rosenstein as a nerd being bullied in school by people like Congressman Jim Jordan, a former elite wrestler.

It will stick in your ear.

BRIGGS: Get it done, iTunes. Get that on there.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" is right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Florence is getting stronger and stronger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have already ordered mandatory evacuation of all people in all evacuation zones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are not taking this storm seriously, you are making a mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is in panic mode. He's far too worried about a book.

SANDERS: A number of people have come out and said that Woodward never even reached out to corroborate statements.

WOODWARD: We better wake up. This is not partisan.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY.

It is Tuesday, September 11th. Obviously, a date filled with sadness for so many of us and we will remember that dark day 17 years ago later in the program.