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Hurricane Florence Track Shifts As It Barrels Toward Carolinas; Putin Insists U.K. Poisoning Suspects Are Civilians; Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair Live On New Day; CNN Reality Check: Will Independents Turn Their Back On Trump? Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 12, 2018 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00] JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, TIME MAGAZINE, AUTHOR, "PRIMARY COLORS: A NOVEL OF POLITICS": Jim Mattis, obviously, is one of them.

I think you have -- it's important that you have as many people like that surrounding this president because he ain't going anywhere for a while.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Can I ask you, Jeffrey --

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I have a different -- I just want to say I think we have to acknowledge a different view on this. I don't think it's an act of patriotism. I think if you want to take this stand you do much better doing it publicly.

We don't know who this senior official is. "The New York Times" has inserted itself into this story in a way where if this comes out and it's not very senior, then I think this whole thing will look different.

And I think that the counter-argument to that is that this is a person who is now feeding a narrative of paranoia by the President of the United States that people are out to get him instead of allowing people to evaluate what they think on the merits by putting their name to it.

There's lots of people --

BERMAN: OK.

GREGORY: -- who have come out with blind quotes about what they think is wrong with the White House.

BERMAN: Very quickly because we're now in overtime on this segment, Jeffrey Toobin.

GREGORY: Yes.

BERMAN: "The Washington Post" is reporting that Paul Manafort might be in discussions for a plea deal for the Washington T&C (ph) version of his legal issues. The significance?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's significant because it would be almost in everyone's interest. The Mueller team doesn't want to have the risk of losing a trial.

Manafort could limit his exposure perhaps to a longer sentence. Obviously, the Mueller people will want some sort of cooperation.

But, I -- frankly, at this point, I would be very surprised if this trial takes place -- the second trial.

BERMAN: We will watch and see.

Great discussion, Joe Klein, David Gregory --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you.

BERMAN: -- Jeffrey Toobin. Thanks very much. Authors of all fantastic books, I should say.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that is --

BERMAN: David Gregory used anonymous sources for "How's Your Faith?"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

BERMAN: A source familiar with God's thinking told me.

(LAUGHTER)

All right, a big shift in the forecast of Hurricane Florence. This puts millions more people now in harm's way. We're going to have the latest forecast and a live look at the track, and a report from South Carolina all coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:35:47] CAMEROTA: OK, there has been a shift in the track for Hurricane Florence that we want to tell you about because it affects millions of people along the east coast. This is a category four storm right now. It is expected to stall off the Carolina coastline and then shift south, which would put South Carolina and Georgia into greater danger.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has been tracking this for us. What are you seeing, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We saw this potential shift yesterday in the afternoon model runs. They kind of went up here and then they did this.

And it's like OK, you know, is that just a figment of its imagination or is it really going to happen? Well, in the overnight runs it's really going to happen.

It's going to make its approach toward Wilmington, North Carolina -- at least somewhere in there right along the South Carolina-North Carolina border -- and then it's going to lose all of its push.

This 48-hour forecast right here is exactly the same as we had all week, but this part is not the same -- that left-hand turn. That left-hand turn now takes it from Wilmington back toward Myrtle and all the way down eventually -- even the possibility of Charleston.

Notice where the cone has gone. The cone was here and now the models are so inconsistent and we -- now get so many errors at this point in time this far out that this storm could be offshore and could still be getting stronger.

Right now we don't know that. We're going to still watch this.

There's a hurricane hunter in the storm right now going to see what's going on and we will get a brand new forecast in a few hours.

The models are running right now. We'll see what happens.

BERMAN: And everything that we care about is happening behind those numbers two and three that Chad -- that Chad is showing you right now. We hope to get much more information about that very shortly.

Chad, thanks so much. Important forecast this morning.

Residents in South Carolina, because of this forecast, are even on higher alert than they have been.

Our Nick Valencia is live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with the very latest -- Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, John.

You can check out the waves. They are starting to get a little bit closer to shore this morning.

We just got off the phone with local mayor here -- Brenda Bethune in Myrtle Beach -- and she's really concerned about the latest forecast that Chad was just talking about. She says that this storm is massive, it is a very scary storm, and for those who have not yet evacuated she's urging them -- pleading with them to evacuate now.

She also did mention something that some first responders are going to get a break here locally in Myrtle Beach because they just expect them over the course the next 48-72 hours to just be working around the clock. They don't really know what kind of aftermath they're going to be dealing with but they are preparing for the worst.

Those first responders that are still working today -- well, they're going to be working in evacuating the hospitals and those coastal nursing homes to try to get the elderly out of harm's way.

They're also going to be going door-to-door in these neighborhoods to check on people who may need things ahead of the storm and making sure things are locked down.

But one of the things that she's really stressing is saying that there's not really going to be any medical facilities or emergency rooms for those that decide to stay. Those hospitals will be closed down. The emergency room, as well, will be closed down. So if you are watching this from Myrtle Beach or anywhere really in coastal Carolina, the time to evacuate is now -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Nick. Thank you very much for the warning.

So, now to this story.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country has identified those suspects of that nerve agent attack in the U.K.

Well, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair shares his thoughts on this and so much more, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:42:50] CAMEROTA: Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia knows the identity of the two suspects accused of poisoning that former Russian double-agent and his daughter in the U.K. But, Putin says they are quote "civilians" and apparently not Russian intelligence officers.

Joining us now to talk about this and so much more, we have former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He is the executive chair of the nonprofit Institute for Global Change.

Mr. Prime Minister, great to have you here.

TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER, EXECUTIVE CHAIR, TONY BLAIR INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL CHANGE: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, so let me play for everyone -- finally, Vladimir Putin has addressed this and he says he does know who these suspects are. So let me play this, via translation, for everyone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): We, of course, looked at what kind of people they are and we know who they are. We found them.

I hope they appear and speak about themselves. This will be best for everyone.

There's nothing unusual or criminal there, I assure you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: He's trying to suggest that these are sort of regular civilians.

This is quite different from what British Prime Minister Theresa May has suggested, which is that they are Russian military intelligence officers.

What are we to do with this information from Putin?

BLAIR: I mean, I think we should prefer the version of the British prime minister, frankly.

And, you know, this is a -- this is a terrible event in the use of chemical and toxic material on British soil in order to kill those people and actually, someone tragically died as a -- as a result of it.

And there's a proper and due process in Britain and these people should go through it, but I don't think that's likely to happen.

CAMEROTA: But, so what message is Putin sending? The fact that this was on British soil, what message does it send to other world leaders?

BLAIR: Well, I think it shows -- look, Russia is an extraordinarily difficult phenomenon to deal with because there's a level at which in certain areas and on certain topics you have to work with Russia.

And, you know, practically every American president, every British prime minister wants to try and get into the right relationship with Russia of cooperation, but the trouble is they keep doing these things.

Not just their actions in relation to what happened in Britain and the poisoning of those people but also, for example, the interference in the democratic processes all over Europe at the present time.

[07:45:06] So it's a very -- you know, what you've got to do is deal with Russia in two different respects. There will be areas where you're going to work with them -- the force -- and for example, it's impossible to see a solution in Syria that doesn't at least have Russia at the table.

On the other hand, where they do these sorts of behavior you've got to call them out. There's got to be a punishment attached to it and it's got to be made absolutely clear what's acceptable and what isn't.

CAMEROTA: And so what do you make of President Trump's desire to have a close friendship or relationship with Vladimir Putin?

BLAIR: Well, it's the same thing that all American presidents that I can remember -- President Obama wanted to do a reset. President Bush thought he could work with President Putin.

CAMEROTA: You don't see this in a different light? You don't think that what President Trump is asking for is in a different vain than just what you're describing?

BLAIR: Well, I think the actions of the American administration are what I would look at in respect of it and those actions actually have been pretty strong. And in relation to what has just happened recently in the U.K., the Americans have been strongly in support.

But -- I mean, I understand the desire to work with President Putin in certain areas but they've got to be called out on this behavior because certainly, over on our side of the water, it's having an impact on our politics. I mean, there's no doubt about that. In fact, just recently for example, in Denmark, there was a whole series of measures that were announced in order to make sure that they uncover exactly what is going on within their country's politics and exactly what elements of those the Russian government and state are responsible for.

CAMEROTA: And so do you think that someone needs to tell President Trump exactly what kind of threat Vladimir Putin is? Do you think that he understands that?

BLAIR: I'm sure he's been told that many times, so let's -- but as I say, what -- you know, do we (INAUDIBLE). I'll judge the administration on their actions.

Actually, America recently has strengthened its forces in Eastern Europe. I welcome that. So whatever rhetoric is at work came out of the recent NATO meeting. If you actually talk to people at NATO, American and certainly your Defense Department here is making a very strong commitment to the defense of Eastern Europe, which is right.

You know, the single biggest anxiety I have is not all the -- you know, frankly, politics everywhere is in a pretty strange state right now here and back home and across Europe.

The thing that concerns me is that at this moment -- at this juncture of our history it is very important that America and Europe rediscover the importance of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance. It remains the bedrock of our stability, our security, our future prosperity. And in the light of the challenges that are coming down the track at us, that is the single biggest concern I have.

CAMEROTA: And you think we've forgotten that?

BLAIR: Well, I think it needs to be recalibrated, not just as a strong alliance of interest but a strong alliance of values.

You know, the reason we like living in our countries is because you have democracy, you have the rule of law, you have a free and independent media, and these are important things to support and protect.

And when I look at the world today I see two huge challenges. One around Islamist extremism right across the world.

My institute is publishing a report on this tomorrow that shows it's a global phenomenon with many different tentacles and it's important we deal with it and deal with the ideology behind it.

And secondly, the rise of China. I mean, my kids -- I've now got grandchildren. My grandchildren's' future is going to depend to a large degree on our geopolitics. It's going to be utterly transformed by the rise of China.

That's not a problem but it is a huge change and it's a big challenge. We're far better able to deal with China if Europe and America are strong and together. CAMEROTA: I know that you do often talk about extremism and I know that you'll be presenting some of your suggestions tomorrow to the Council on Foreign Relations for what to do because you're just back from Rwanda and Kenya.

Is there any way to boil it down? Is there one thing that we need to know about extremism?

BLAIR: Yes, you've got to tackle the ideas behind it and not just the violence because the violence is a security issue. But if you look at what we spend on security, which is enormous, and you look at what we spend on trying to root out the ideas behind this extremism, there's an equilibrium -- an imbalance between the two.

We need to do much more to tell countries they've got to reform their education systems and root out prejudice from their curriculum.

And we've got to do far more to tackle what is I think going to be a big threat, which is the northern part of Sub-Saharan African, which is at risk of having exploding populations, poverty, and radicalization.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about what you're reading. Apparently, a lot of people in the U.K. are reading Bob Woodward's new book. It has become a best seller in the U.K. It just came out yesterday.

Why all the interest?

BLAIR: Well, this is -- I mean, this is a sort of global soap opera, isn't it? And I haven't read it myself. I mean, I've read about it because you can't really escape it.

I mean, the only thing I say to you is your politics is quite strange right now. OK, that's -- I think we can agree on that.

But I could take you to the U.K. where we have a conservative government taking us out of Europe even though, frankly, the leading members think it's a really bad idea.

[07:50:06] And the Labor Party leadership that's further to the left than anything we've ever seen is now convulsed by allegations of anti- Semitism.

And I could take you from the south -- Greece through Italy, up through the middle of Europe, and then up --

CAMEROTA: And so what is happening with this trend?

BLAIR: So what's happening is Western society is dividing in a very, very fundamental way. It's partly because people's incomes for a certain category of people have stagnated, but there's a huge cultural divide going on.

And social media is a revolutionary phenomenon. It's changing the nature of the debate. It's changing the way we exchange information. And I think the single biggest problem we have right now in politics

is that the idea of building bridges between these two tribes is out of fashion and it needs to come back into fashion because otherwise, you end up with two groups of people not talking to each other, not listening to each other, and not even liking each other.

CAMEROTA: We know something about that here.

Tony Blair, great to talk to you. Thanks so much.

BLAIR: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Always great to have you in the studio -- John.

BERMAN: Let's talk about what you're reading -- the Tony Blair book club. I would join that club.

All right, thanks very much.

In the meantime, millions are now under hurricane watches and warnings. In minutes, we're going to have a new update on the track of Florence. There were major developments overnight. You're going to want to pay attention to this.

We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: A brand new CNN poll shows that Independents are turning their backs on President Trump in record numbers. That could be a big problem for Republicans come November.

[07:55:05] John Avlon here to tell us why -- Mr. Avlon.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, guys.

Look, Independents Day may have just moved to November. Not independence E-N-C-E but independents E-N-T-S. It is becoming clear that as Independents go, so go the midterms.

And that new CNN poll shows Donald Trump's job approval among Independents plummeting 16 points in one month to an abysmal 31 percent.

Independents have always had a complicated relationship with this president -- check out the rollercoaster trend line -- but this is the lowest he's been yet and that could spell big trouble for the GOP this fall.

Consider this.

At this time in 1982, Ronald Reagan was dealing with a deep recession. His numbers among Independents reflected it -- 44 percent approval. Democrats gained 26 House seats that year, cementing their majority.

Fast-forward to 1994 midterms. Bill Clinton also at 44 percent among Independents. Republicans won Independents by double-digits that year and recaptured the House for the first time in a generation.

The next big congressional wave came in 2006 when George W. Bush was at a dismal 30 percent approval among Independents. His party went on to lose both houses of Congress in what W, himself, called a thumping.

And at this time in 2010, President Obama went head-to-head with a piping hot Tea Party. His approval numbers among Independents stood at 40 percent and Democrats lost the House. Obama called it a shellacking.

Now, there's a clear pattern here. Independents like checks and balances, especially when one party controls Washington. And this trend is not Donald Trump's friend.

The headwinds are even more intense because 43 percent of all voters now identify as Independent according to a Gallup survey. That's close to an all-time high.

Look, this may seem surprising given the intensely partisan nature of our political debates today, but it can be seen as a reaction to and a rejection of the increasing polarization of the two parties.

After all, Independents were a distant third behind Democrats and Republicans until the late Johnson administration. They really ticked up in the early 1990s and had been a plurality for the past decade.

And there are now 10 states where registered Independent voters outnumber registered Democrats or Republicans, including Iowa, Colorado, and most of the northeast.

Independent voters are also particularly influential in those 30 swing districts that CNN currently rates as toss-ups, and those will decide which party controls the House of Representatives for the next two years.

There are certainly other factors to consider when you're reading the midterm tea leaves. But with less than one-third of Independents in the president's corner, despite a booming economy, it's safe to say that as Independent voters go, so goes the nation.

And that's your "Reality Check."

CAMEROTA: John, so fascinating that the majority -- or the most people who are identifying as Independents just don't believe that the party line -- the Democrats or the Republicans -- fit where they are anymore or who they are anymore, and that is really telling.

AVLON: It is. Politically homeless.

CAMEROTA: There you go. OK, John. Thank you very much.

All right. So, late-night hosts -- they're talking about President Trump's Hurricane Florence response already.

BERMAN: And somehow -- and I'm not sure how they did this -- they found humor in the new Bob Woodward book, "Fear." Here's your late-night laughs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SETH MEYERS, NBC HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": President Trump commented on Hurricane Florence today and said the storm is quote "tremendously big and tremendously wet."

Yes, man, you're the president. Why do you always describe things like you're blindfolded at a Halloween party?

It's tremendously big. It's tremendously wet. Ooh, is there brains?

JIMMY KIMMEL, ABC HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": The book is selling very, very well. A spokesperson for Simon & Schuster said we've reprinted six times for a total of seven reprints to meet extraordinary demand, and we'll put one million books in print before we've even gone on sale.

And it's all thanks to the tireless and non-stop work of their social media marketing whiz, Donald J. Trump, who does nothing but talk about it.

MEYERS: Press Sec. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday that the White House is not considering conducting lie detector tests to uncover the author of the anonymous op-ed published in "The New York Times" because putting a lie detector in the White House would be like putting a smoke detector in Willie Nelson's dressing room.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I don't understand why he had to go Willie Nelson.

CAMEROTA: I think that --

BERMAN: Dragging Willie Nelson into this --

CAMEROTA: Willie Nelson does not mind. Willie Nelson does not mind.

BERMAN: Based on what I just saw there you're probably right.

CAMEROTA: He does not mind.

BERMAN: About anything.

CAMEROTA: And anytime that I can --

BERMAN: Nothing can do Willie Nelson.

CAMEROTA: -- you can add Willie Nelson, its value-add.

BERMAN: I'm going to remember that. I'm going to remember that after the show.

CAMEROTA: All right. We have a big update for you because the National Hurricane Center has just issued a new advisory for Hurricane Florence. Where will the storm make landfall? Our breaking coverage continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: All right, good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, September 12th, 8:00 in the east. And that time, 8:00, is crucial.

We do have breaking news.

That brand-new 8:00 update from the National Hurricane Center -- new data just in which provides some new context for the major shift in the forecast we saw overnight in Hurricane Florence.

It is now a category four storm, 130-mile-per-hour winds, and it seems to have shifted south, putting South Carolina --