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EARLY START

National Weather Service: Florence Is A "Storm Of A Lifetime"; President Trump Praises Response To Hurricane Maria; Democratic Senator Releases Document Showing ICE Got $9.8 Million From FEMA; D.C. Cardinal To Discuss Resigning With Pope. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 12, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:33:21] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Florence barreling toward the east coast as a category four storm. More than one million people under mandatory evacuation orders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible unsung success.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Success? An island still crippled almost a year after Hurricane Maria killed nearly 3,000 -- twice the death toll of Katrina.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Good morning, everybody.

The National Weather Service warning of life-threatening, catastrophic flooding. A new forecast for Hurricane Florence issued earlier this hour. Its path has been adjusted southward. It is still expected to slam into North Carolina's coast tomorrow night or Friday morning.

Florence still a category four storm but it picked up strength overnight and could become a category five today.

One meteorologist at the National Weather Service warning everyone in the region there is potential for quote "unbelievable damage."

Florence, currently packing 130-mile-an-hour winds, is expected to stall when it makes landfall, raising concerns about that catastrophic flooding.

ROMANS: And now, the EPA tells CNN there's a threat of Florence triggering the release of toxic chemicals from nine hazardous waste sites along the Carolina coastline. The agency is performing vulnerability assessments on those sites right now.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking Hurricane Florence live from the CNN Weather Center, and this is a monster. In the last half an hour we've seen the path turn a little bit. Bring us up to speed.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, big changes overnight in the models. They hinted at this change yesterday Christine, but now they are full-on being with this change which takes the storm very close to Wilmington and turns it left.

[05:35:07] Does it stay offshore of slightly onshore? It doesn't really matter but the impact is for more people.

Now, Myrtle Beach, you're smack-dab into what this could be. Even Charleston -- you're back in the cone whereas yesterday you were out of it.

One hundred thirty miles per hour, wind gusts to 160. Still moving west-northwest at 17 miles per hour.

It's a category four. It is not intensely forecast to be a five. It is forecast to be 145. You need to be 156 to get to that five category but don't let that fool you.

North to south, this storm stretches all the way from Wilmington to Jacksonville. East and west, this goes from Wilmington all the way down to Daytona. It is a big storm with big impacts in many places.

So, nothing has really changed for the next 48 hours. The storm is driving itself toward Wilmington.

What has changed overnight is the turn to the left. That turn to the left that wasn't forecast yesterday and it could parallel the coast as a two or a three, do more damage along these coastal communities, and then finally turn right, and then back into places like Georgia with very heavy rainfall.

So maybe taking some of that heavy rainfall away from Virginia. Maybe North Carolina slightly out of that very rainfall. There still may be 20; there just may not be 40 inches because it isn't stalling over North Carolina.

We still have all these hurricane warnings all the way from south of Myrtle all the way to just about Kill Devil Hills. Heavy rainfall -- going to be 20 inches-plus.

We'll update you during the day as how the models will progress. But this left turn is very concerning for millions that thought they were out of it.

BRIGGS: All right. Great to have you, Chad Myers, this morning. He will be live throughout "NEW DAY" with updates.

Thanks, Chad.

Shelters are opening for those evacuating out of the hurricane's path. More than one million people under mandatory evacuation orders. That does not mean those people have to leave. It does mean, though, if they stay, first responders will not have to come to their aid.

Our Martin Savidge in Carolina Beach where the mayor thinks as many as 100 people may choose to ride out this storm.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Morning, Dave. Morning, Christine.

We really are now down to the final hours, at least for many people in these beachside communities in North Carolina -- this is Carolina Beach -- where people are going to finally decide whether they're going to stay or go.

Eight p.m. tonight is the cut-off point and after that, then the decision is pretty much made for anyone who decides to stay behind and here's the reason why.

This is a barrier island and as a result of that, there is just one bridge that connects to the mainland. Once the wind speeds get about 45 miles per hour consistently, that's when that bridge closes and that's your final route of escape. So for law enforcement purposes, once the bridge is closed then everyone here is on their own.

So it means in the hours in between there is going to be some soul- searching. There is going to be a lot of people looking at the track of the storm.

And there's something else they take into account here in this part of North Carolina and that is they believe all previous storms have weakened just before they come ashore. If this is a cat three, many people say hey, I can take that. If it's a cat four, that makes them want to go.

So it is part math and part mysticism. But whatever it is, people on these islands are going to have to make their decisions today. Otherwise, they are here and they could be trapped here for a long time without electricity and without any chance of rescue -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Yes, that -- they're preparing for power outages for some time.

President Trump also advising people to heed warnings and evacuate in a statement from the Oval Office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And they haven't seen anything like what's coming at us in 25- 30 years, maybe ever. It's tremendously big and tremendously wet. Tremendous amounts of water.

It could very well be very similar to Texas in the sense that it's tremendous amounts of water. Texas was the one that had, I would say to this point Brock, probably more water than we've ever seen in a storm or a hurricane, and it went out for seconds and thirds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The president drew criticism for another statement he made there from the Oval Office. He praised his administration's response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was just revised upwards from 64 to nearly 3,000.

CNN's Kaitlin Collins has more from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLIN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, President Trump raising several eyebrows when he cited his administration's response to Hurricane Maria, in Puerto Rico, when talking about how they're preparing for Hurricane Florence as it barrels toward the east coast.

The president was in the Oval Office. He had just finished a briefing with the FEMA administrator Brock Long and he cited Hurricane Maria as one of his administration's most successful times since he's been in office.

Now, of course, that was the storm that devastated Puerto Rico, killed roughly 3,000 people, and left millions without power for months.

[05:40:01] So the president raised a lot of eyebrows when he made comments like this.

TRUMP: The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible unsung success.

COLLINS: Now, in that same Oval Office meeting, President Trump brought up the denials of his two former top staffers -- his chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and his staff secretary Rob Porter -- both who played pivotal roles in Bob Woodward's new tell-all book about the Trump White House.

President Trump said he appreciated their denials, he felt that they were excellent, and felt that they showed that Bob Woodward's book is fiction, making it pretty clear why Rob Porter and Gary Cohn issued those denials in the first place -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Kaitlin Collins there at the White House -- thanks.

Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon claiming the Trump administration is diverting hurricane relief money from FEMA to fund ICE just as hurricane season is getting underway.

Merkley released a Homeland Security document on Tuesday showing a transfer of $9.8 million. The document says the money is coming from the agency's travel, training, public engagement, and I.T. budgets, not disaster relief. But, Sen. Merkley insists the White House is diverting money from response and recovery budgets to fund additional immigrant detention camps.

He says any shift in funding will make it even more challenging for FEMA to respond to natural disasters.

Let's bring in "CNN POLITICS" digital director Zach Wolf, live in Washington.

ROMANS: Good morning, Zach.

BRIGGS: Tremendous to have you on the show today, Zach.

The statement about Hurricane Maria one year -- almost one year after it hit Puerto Rico -- "unsung success."

Some say that's reminiscent of George W. Bush saying this about FEMA director Michael Brown just days after Katrina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Again, I want to thank you all for -- and Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job. Our FEMA director is working 24 --

(APPLAUSE)

They're working 24 hours a day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Now again, that was just days after Katrina. We are almost one year after Maria.

Are these similar sentiments, and what does it reveal about President Trump that he still feels that way about Maria?

ZACHARY WOLF, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICS: They might be similar sentiments but I believe when Bush made that statement that not all of the flooding had happened. Not all of the disaster --

BRIGGS: Right.

WOLF: -- had happened there in New Orleans and elsewhere.

Whereas, we -- it has been well-documented what happened in Puerto Rico with all of the issues. Nearly 3,000 people dying.

Even if in the back of your mind you want to defend the government's response and you're Donald Trump, why you would say it's an unsung success is kind of beyond comprehension just from the perspective of 3,000 people dying.

ROMANS: Yes, but presidents --

WOLF: I'm sorry, go ahead.

ROMANS: But presidents are judged by how they respond to natural disasters -- they just are -- and how well they can harness the federal, state, and local -- and local resources. So this is a test for the president.

Could he be inoculating himself against criticism by already going out there and saying this is going to be tremendously wet and it's going to be the worst ever? Oh, no, no, no -- Maria really was a success.

WOLF: Yes, there's probably some of that. And, you know, let's not look at -- it's a hurricane, it's a tax bill -- whatever it is -- whatever Donald Trump says it's going to be the best. It's going to be the biggest.

Whatever hurricane is coming in it's going to be the biggest. It's going to be -- and in this case, it may very well be.

But him sort of casting back, defending that record or just not really knowing potentially what happened --

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: -- in Puerto Rico, I think that's also a possibility.

BRIGGS: Yes.

OK, the storm inside the White House. Still, this "New York Times" anonymous op-ed and "Fear," the book that just came out yesterday from Bob Woodward.

And now, some more denials that continue to pile up -- one from staff secretary Rob Porter.

And this from Gary Cohn -- this denial to "Axios." "This book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House. I am proud of my service in the Trump administration and I continue to support the president and his economic agenda."

Is that a non-denial denial of that fact that in this book it suggests that Gary Cohn stole documents off of the president's desk?

WOLF: Yes. He doesn't deny that so this is a textbook non-denial denial in which the facts of the book are not really disputed, but maybe the sentiment of the book is put out there. Or maybe Gary Cohn just wants to play a little clean-up for the parts of the book that mention him.

But he certainly doesn't say what happens in the book didn't happen. That's a very important note to make.

ROMANS: Some of these are distinctions like didn't steal documents off the table. Actually diverted them or put them lower down in the path.

WOLF: Right. ROMANS: Or managing the flow of information there.

Look, we're hearing from House Republicans about another tax cut -- more tax cuts.

What is the -- what's the gambit here? Is this something that is serious or is this political intent ahead of the midterms?

[05:45:05] WOLF: I mean, Republicans might seriously want to make tax cuts permanent for individuals --

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: -- which they were unable to do in the last tax cut that they passed. They made them permanent for corporations and not for individuals. I'm sure they want to do that.

Is this the vehicle that's going to get us there? Almost assuredly not.

This close to an election in which they are almost definitely going to lose power this is more of a political document, I think, than a legislative one.

ROMANS: And where -- of gosh, what happened to the Republican Party on deficits? We're hearing from the Congressional Budget Office that they're going to hit $1 trillion in deficits a year earlier than we thought and they're talking about make tax cuts permanent.

I mean, I just -- the DNA of the Republican Party has changed.

BRIGGS: Perhaps why Paul Ryan is making an exit. This one would add another $2 trillion to the deficit.

Zach, good to see you, sir. Thank you.

ROMANS: Thanks, Zach.

WOLF: Thank you.

ROMANS: History will be made one way or another in New Hampshire this November. Voters in the first congressional district will either -- elect either the state's first openly gay or first African-American congressman in a district that regularly swings between the two parties and, in fact, President Trump in 2016.

Democratic voters chose Chris Pappas from a crowded field in last night's primary, a field that included Levi Sanders, the son of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Pappas will take on Republican primary winner Eddie Edwards, a former police chief and Navy veteran who got a big (audio gap) on the campaign trail from (audio gap).

All right.

New numbers on middle-class income. How much money do you have? Party like it's 2000? The numbers compare to the early 2000's.

We get a check on "CNN Money," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:50:35] BRIGGS: All right. "NEW DAY" less than 10 minutes away.

John Berman joining us. John, you are headed into this storm straight after the show.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm looking at it right now. You can see it right there behind me. Yes, after the show I'm heading down to Wilmington, North Carolina.

It may very well be -- and you've been talking about this -- that this storm has shifted even south of that. What a big move.

If you went to sleep thinking this thing was North Carolina and Virginia, you're waking up and South Carolina very, very concerned this morning.

And that's the nature. That is the nature of these storms.

This one could stall off the coast for a day, for two days, and that might make the storm surge even bigger. And then, of course, we're talking about 30 inches of rain.

So yes, I head down after the show today. The hurricane certainly the biggest story of the day.

We're also following all kinds of other news as well.

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon -- he came out with this report that he got overnight that says that FEMA shifted $10 million from its budget to border control to deal with the tensions of people coming across the border.

And think of the timing of that. Ten million dollars from FEMA that potentially could be used for hurricane response going to immigration issues. Now, FEMA says none of that money would be used for hurricane response.

But as Christine Romans will tell you, money is fungible -- fungible, she always tells me that money is.

So we're going to be talking to Sen. Merkley a little bit later this morning.

We're also talking about new poll numbers. I'm not sure I can even tell you what they are because they're embargoed until 6:00.

ROMANS: OK.

BERMAN: So for eight more minutes it's a secret that you and I -- all three of us are going to have to keep. But we've got new CNN poll numbers coming out in a little bit. Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, John.

BRIGGS: See you in a bit.

ROMANS: Travel safely.

Fifty-two minutes past the hour. Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than a 100 points yesterday. A surge in energy stocks and Apple helped ease the effects of trade tensions.

Dow and S&P futures right now looking up. The European markets opened higher today. Tokyo closed lower after strong gains Tuesday.

There are a record number of job openings in the U.S. And this -- the biggest share of workers since 2001 quit their jobs. That's a good thing -- the quitters. It shows workers are confident they can get better jobs.

Now, do you feel this? Are you feeling all this? Brand new data from the Pew Research Center shows income for middle-class families is just now returning to levels of 2000 -- the year 2000.

Let me show you. The typical family of three had an income of just under 78 grand -- $78,500 in 2016. In 2000, it was just under $78,000.

Only upper-income families have seen a real uptick here. Low-income Americans have yet to recover back to 2000 levels. Those households had a median income of just over $25,600 in 2016, below the nearly $27,000 they made in 2000.

It took a long time to crawl back to that level.

Workers at two of the biggest U.S. steelmakers are threatening to take action as tariffs on foreign metal push prices and profits to their highest levels in years.

The United Steelworkers Union voted to authorize their bargaining committee to initiate a strike at U.S. Steel facilities. They're demanding higher compensation and better benefits after a 30 percent rise in steel prices this year.

They say they could also strike at steelmaker ArcelorMittal if an agreement isn't reached soon.

Contracts for both companies expired September first.

BRIGGS: Wow, we'll keep our eye on that space.

Ahead, the archbishop of Washington says he'll speak to the Pope about resigning. This, all over demands he step down over his handling of clergy sex abuse. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:58:33] BRIGGS: The embattled leader of the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, says he will soon travel to the Vatican to discuss with the Pope his possible resignation. Wuerl faces increasing calls to step down over his handling of clergy sex abuse cases.

ROMANS: In a letter to priests in the D.C. diocese, he writes, "At issue is how to begin effectively to bring a new level of healing to survivors who have personally suffered so much and to the faithful entrusted to our care who have also been wounded by the shame of these terrible actions and have questions about their bishop's ability to provide the necessary leadership."

Cardinal Wuerl submitted a resignation letter three years ago at the customary retirement age of 75, but he has continued to serve.

All right, 59 minutes past the hour. That's it. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Chad Myers straight ahead with the Hurricane Florence projection with "NEW DAY." We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ROY COOPER, NORTH CAROLINA: This is historic. This storm is big and it's vicious.

JEFF BYARD, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: This will be a storm that creates and causes massive damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do not want to be here when this storm approaches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be prepared and we're going to recover no matter how bad this is.

TRUMP: I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a despicable act of neglect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is not a single request the president did not grant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did face a crisis and he failed miserably.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

BERMAN: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's September 12th, 6:00 here in New York.

And we have breaking news. A major shift in the forecast for Hurricane Florence that could affect tens of millions of people.