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Hurricane The Size Of North Carolina Churns Toward U.S.; W.H.: DOJ Should "Take A Look At" Investigating Op-Ed Writer; W.H.: Talk Of Invoking The 25th Amendment Is "Ridiculous". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 10, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:06] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Out front next, Hurricane Florence on track now to be a catastrophic storm, headed toward millions along the east coast. We'll talk to a hurricane hunter who's flying over the category hurricane 4 right now.

Plus, Trump on the attack, calling Bob Woodward a liar and demanding the Justice Department go after the anonymous op-ed author. Is his shoot the messenger strategy working? Plus, could Ted Cruz really lose? Let's go out front.

And good evening, I'm Jim Sciutto in tonight for Erin Burnett. And out front tonight, breaking news. A life threatening strike. That is a warning tonight from the National Hurricane Center as Hurricane Florence grows into a massive dangerous category 4 storm. And tonight it is on a collision course with the east coast.

This is Hurricane Florence right now from space. It is a monster, already 600 miles wide and growing. Winds right now up to 140 miles per hour. That kind of power can rip roofs off buildings, snap trees and power lines, cause billions of dollars potentially in damage.

Right now, tens of millions of people are bracing for potentially devastating hits, store shelves already bare. Mandatory evacuations planned. Tom Sater is out front live in CNN Weather Center. Tom, is this headed straight for the east coast? It looks very big, it looks very powerful.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. In fact, you got to go back to September 22nd, Jim, 1989 when Hugo made landfall in the same area just north of Charleston at a category 4 status. This could be a little stronger.

Look at this. Today is the peak of hurricane season, can you tell? Florence, Isaac, Helene, two other chances. One by the Yucatan, but Florence really is the one that concern about because it's category 4 status. And it's in very warm waters.

Go back in history to the beginning of the satellite era. Where this is currently positioned, not one in history has ever made landfall in the U.S. that all moved to the north of Bermuda or in the open waters. But the models are in pretty good agreement taking this pretty close to Wilmington or Northward. Some deviation is possible in the next couple days. And this would be late Thursday.

By the way, high tide is around 11:00 Thursday night. Could it head to the outer banks? Still possible. So, again, we've got to watch this each and every hour when the advisories come out. But the waters go from the low 80s to the mid 80s to be operated. So this is high octane fuel.

It's possible in the next couple days we'll see some fluctuations in the strength, maybe dropping back to a category 3. Firing back up to category 4. Could it make it to 5? It could. It really could. The problem -- our two concerns here, notice the bubble of the zone. That means it may stall out.

Last year when Harvey made landfall at category 4 status in Rockport, it slowed to such a pace you could out walk it. And the models took a couple days to catch up to figure out, I can't believe this is going to drop 30, 40, 50 inches of rain. The terrain here is a big concern. More in that in a minute. But when it comes to the winds, Hugo made landfall with winds of 140. This could be the strongest in this area ever if we finally get a little bit stronger than 140.

By the way, Hugo killed 27 people and left 100,000 homeless. This means business. But the rainfall is the second part of the deadly equation. The first is storm surge, which we could, with the angle of the coastline put up a wave of over 20 feet. I mean, that is possible. But the rain is the second element. Water kills more with tropical storms than anything else. Surge and rain.

The high terrain, when you get up toward Raleigh to Lynchburg, into the Shenandoah, Jim, all of the communities that live in that topography, from the Blue Ridge down to the northern part of the smokies. Really a big concern, dropping 10, 15, 20 inches of rain. So it's a multifaceted problem, it's still quite a distance away, still looks to be late Thursday. But, again, it could fluctuate north or south. I just want everyone to know what evacuation zone that you are in so you can heed the warnings.

SCIUTTO: Heed those warnings. We're going to be watching. I know you're going to be watching it. Thanks very much, Tom Sater there.

There is another developing story tonight. Shooting the messenger. President Trump and the White House lashing out tonight against two individuals, two people who have come out with scathing critiques of this President. The legendary journalist Bob Woodward and the senior administration official behind the anonymous New York Times op-ed.

The President focused not on their message of a dysfunctional administration, but the messengers. Trump tweeting five times today about Woodward and the claims inside the explosive tell-all, which hits book stores tomorrow. The President calling Woodward a liar. A Democratic operative, calling his book a joke, a scam. That on top of what he said about Woodward over the past few days.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Then this idiot Woodward who wrote this book, which is all fiction. This Woodward book is a total fraud.


[19:05:03] SCIUTTO: And back at the White House, aides literally dusted off the press room podium for the first White House briefing in 19 days. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also railed against Woodward claiming that he did not verify some of the most damning statements and stories that have so far been released.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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 to not even take the time to get a $10 fact checker to call around and verify that some of these quotes were happened. When no effort was made, it seems like a very careless and reckless way to write a book.


SCIUTTO: A $10 fact checker. But when it comes to Woodward history, has shown he has credibility. He's covered some eight presidents now including one that he helped, of course, force out of office. Thanks to reporting about Watergate. Woodward is not Trump's only target now. The President and his administration slamming the unnamed author of that New York Times op-ed.


SANDERS: Frankly, the White House and the staff here are focused on doing our jobs. And trying to show up here every day and do what we can to help better the American people not deal with cowards that refuse to put their names in an anonymous letter. A gutless anonymous source.


SCIUTTO: But is the real problem the messengers or their messages. The disturbing (ph) look behind the curtains of the west wing. The claims of distrust, dysfunction, and top aides going around the President all to, quote, protect the country.

Kaitlan Collins is out front live at the White House tonight. Kaitlan, what your sources are telling you about the mood inside the White House tonight regarding this criticism?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jim, tonight these aides are trying to push suspicion out of the west wing. There was someone in the President's inner circle who wrote this op-ed, but they're also trying to convince President Trump to drop the matter all together in this search for whoever it is that authored this op-ed. But that's not likely to have much success because, of course, we know President Trump spent the weekend fuming about this op-ed, and despite Sarah Sanders saying today that no lie detector tests are on the table for these staffers. We actually know that after Senator Rand Paul suggested polygraphing, the staffers who have national security clearances, that President Trump didn't rule it out when he was asked about it in an interview. And he spent the weekend talking with allies and consulting with them about the idea of doing such. So certainly we've got that. Of course, the White House is continuing to make clear that they don't know exactly who it is that wrote this op-ed but that's not the only problem that they've got on their hand. They also have the Woodward book which hasn't even been officially released yet. It comes out tomorrow and that continues to raise even more question to in the west wing about who it is that cooperated.

And President Trump is publicly blasting. A lot of caution (ph) is fiction and fake news. But privately, behind closed doors, he's complaining to aids and naming out people that he believes helps Woodward write this book and gave Woodward information.

But, Jim, certainly a stunning part of what the White House were in tonight were the two people who have criticized the administration, one, that anonymous author in the op-ed, the other Bob Woodward in his book detailing all of these things that current and former staffers have said. One of those the White House believes the Justice Department should be investigating for a criminal activity that they're unable to name. And the other, Sarah Sanders not ruling out today the idea of suing Bob Woodward -- the President suing Bob Woodward over this book. But what is clear tonight is that the President wants to punish the people who are criticizing him.

SCIUTTO: The President's threatened to sue a lot of newspapers, et cetera. Those lawsuits never happened. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks very much.

Out front now, Marc Short, he's the former Director of Legislative Affairs at the White House. Marc, thanks very much for taking the time tonight.


SCIUTTO: So Marc, when you look at both the Woodward book and you look at the New York Times op-ed there is one consistent message here and that is people working closely with the President, who are concerned about the President's leadership, dysfunction in the White House, let me just ask you straight up. You worked in the White House for months. Did you witness any of this dysfunction when you were there?

SHORT: Jim, there's no doubt this White House operates different than previous. And for a lot of people watching NBC, that's very unsettling and disconcerting. But if you look at what the record of achievements are, not just on the economy, also with the President's promises that have been delivered from moving the embassy and Jerusalem, to making assurances on Iran, as well as what it's on the regulatory front, a huge Supreme Court vote (ph) coming up.

This administration has enormous achievements. And at some point, I think that many people covering the White House need to recognize what's been accomplished. And often we're seeing they're focusing on the process and the drama and what's happening inside. There's no doubt. The American people elected President Trump because he operates in a different style. That's no wonder.

SCIUTTO: But to be clear, we're not talking about meaningless drama here. If you read the Woodward book or even just excerpts from it, and this currently serving official in the administration, they talk about a lack of interest in the issues, lack of understanding of the issues, particularly on national security.

[19:10:12] There's a story in there about a tweet the President wanted to put out. That his own advisers said that could start a war because North Korea might interpret that as an active war. I mean, that's not just meaningless drama. That is dysfunction with consequence.

SHORT: Jim, I think you look at the national security team that surrounds the President with Ambassador Bolton, Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Mattis, it's one of the strongest national security teams our country has ever had. And I think that you look at the record of achievement there, and the fact that we've reclaimed 99% of the territory that ISIS had, when Donald Trump became President, you look at the progress I believe we're making in North Korea, I think there's a lot that American people can be excited about, and pleased with. So, again, I think that we need to look at what the record is and what's happening.

SCIUTTO: Well, I will ask you to decide, what concrete progress you will attribute to North Korea. But let's look at the numbers because there is a problem. CNN had a new poll today in how the American people perceive this. President's approval rating 36%, down significantly. The unfavorable rating the highest in CNN's polling, 61%.

But look at these other numbers, only 32% of the country rate him as honest and trustworthy. 32% proud that he's President. 36% believed that he cares about people like themselves. 30% believed he will unite the country. 37% believe he respects the rule of law. Why if these are unsubstantiated claims as you're saying, and if you're saying this is the kind of President Americans elected. Why do those numbers show such a lack of confidence in this President?

SHORT: Well, there's no doubt that the country is divided on many fronts right now, Jim, but I also think that the President faces an unparalleled amount of negative coverage from the mainstream media. I think that certainly impacts what that polling shows. But, again, I think that the President and Republicans in Congress have a tremendous record to run on, and I do think that -- I understand the frustration that many in the White House feel with the book and with the op-ed.

But the best the administration can do to focus on their achievements, on new numbers just out Friday, not just on 4.2% GDP but for the last year, when people talk about the record unemployment, Democrats have said, but there's no wage increase. And now you say the 2.9% wage increase announced on Friday is the most in 10 years since the recession started. So there's so much positive news that the administration can be talking about. Also, on Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation, two Supreme Court justices in two years is a real mark the President is leaving on the Supreme Court. That's why I think we should be focused.

SCIUTTO: I have to ask you Marc and I know you're not the only one to use this talking point that if only the President got better coverage, everybody would see his great successes here. But let's be frank, the President creates his own coverage, does he not? He's often speaking directly to the American people via his Twitter feed. For instance, look at that number there 37% believe he respects the rule of law. Perhaps they're reading his tweets attacking the Department of Justice, the FBI making comments about trials that are underway as he did with Manafort. As he has with two Republican congressmen now accused of financial crimes. Is that the mainstream media coverage that's responsible for the American people reacting to those very public comments by this President?

SHORT: Jim, there's no doubt the President's found a way to, in his view, bypass the Main Street Media with his social media accounts. And I think he's able to communicate with American people. And I think that he probably want to acknowledge sometimes that he gets it wrong there. But at the same time, in many cases, the genesis of using that vehicle, he feels he's not going to get a fair shake in the mainstream media.

SCIUTTO: Listen, on this issue, because it's been interesting to watch the number of administration officials issue public denials that they were behind this op-ed, including the Vice President who was willing -- he said he'd be willing to take a lie detector to do this, why do you think the Vice President believes he has to say that in public, that he'd be willing. Is he, perhaps, indicating that the President suspects that he might be the person behind this?

SHORT: No, I don't think the President suspects that at all. The Vice President has been incredibly loyal and trustworthy on to the President. I think that the Vice President is responding to some accusations and media suspension who said he could be the source of it. But, again, at the end of the day, I do think the White House should pivot and stop and just move on. And recognize that whoever wrote this op-ed wants to be outed. They wouldn't go to the New York Times unless they did.

And if their purpose was really to try to go against the President's will, then the best thing they could do is be quiet. In fact, they came public, knows they want to come out and they want to be outed at some point. They should continue talking about their successes at this point.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you because President has asked his Justice Department to investigate the op-ed writer for possibly committing a crime and you heard Sarah Sanders from the White House podium today leave that possibility open. Do you believe that a person who wrote an op-ed like that in light of the First Amendment committed a crime?

[19:15:08] SHORT: I think it's incredibly arrogant if anybody inside an administration to believe that duly elected President of the United States they have more willingness to go against the will of the American people. And so I find that incredibly offensive. Having said that, again, think that the administration should focus less on this. Instead you focus on its accomplishments. And, no, I don't think there should be an effort to ask the Justice Department to research it.

SCIUTTO: Marc Short, thanks very much for taking the hard questions.

SHORT: Thanks, Jim. Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: Out front next, the White House insisting the Justice Department find out who wrote that scathing New York Times op-ed as we've been saying. Did the author, as you hear from the White House, commit a crime?


SANDERS: Someone actively trying to undermine the duly elected President and the entire executive branch of government, that seems quite problematic to me.


SCIUTTO: And Trump tweets what he call some of the best economic numbers in a century. It's up to even his own advisers had to correct and says that's not true.

Plus, more on Hurricane Florence, it's already as big as the state of North Carolina. A state that happens to be in its direct path. My guess, a hurricane hunter will tell us what he sees live of that hurricane from his plane.


[19:20:04] SCIUTTO: Tonight, the White House is insisting it is the job of the Justice Department to look into who wrote the anonymous New York Times op-ed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no violation of the criminal code that goes along with the publication of this op-ed. So I'm a little curious as to what it is that the President believes may have been violated in the law as it relates to the publication of this op-ed piece.

SANDERS: Once again, we would consider someone who is actively trying to undermine the executive branch of our government inappropriate, and something certainly to cause concern, and they should look at it.


SCIUTTO: Out front now, John Dean, he's former Nixon White House Counsel, April Ryan, the White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and Patrick Healy, Politics Editor for the New York Times. Thanks to all of you. John, if I could begin with you. As a lawyer in the room, any laws broken here by writing an op-ed?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I cannot see any. We don't have a sedition law in this country where you get punished for speaking ill of the king. We don't have a law against anonymous speech. In fact, the founder's wrote the federalist papers and did it in an anonymous fashion. So, I can't imagine what they think this is a violation of -- it's not also the Department of Justice has regulations that prohibit this kind of inquiry.

SCIUTT: April, I wonder, is it a serious push from the White House to the Justice Department to consider charges against this person or is the White House just trying to change the subject and create a sort of punching bag here?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Well, I think it's all of the above, but most importantly, it's about the optics, Jim. This President understands that public perception of him is his brand. He is keenly aware of that Trump brand.

And for this op-ed, for these books to include mine "Under Fire" as well as Bob Woodward's that's come out, even Omarosa's, it shows a President who's dysfunctional, it shows people around him who are dysfunctional. And it's also showing that there are some people who could be viewed as a whistle-blower or someone who could, in their eyes, harming the executive branch of government. But, Jim, at issue once again is the fact that this President does not like for anyone to be unloyal and to walk away. And those stories and these books all talk about dysfunction that are playing into the eroding of his approval ratings.

SCIUTTO: Patrick, I'm one of the skeptics who wonders if there actually is an internal hunt for this person, or if that's a bit of window dressing too or created drama. What are your reporters telling you? Is there really a search now for dissent within?

PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. I mean, I think that there are a number of people around President Trump who know that the best way to keep him focused and sort of mollified is to say, you know, we are trying to get to the bottom of this. We know that leaks are priority for you, you know, the loyalty, you know, certainly is a priority for someone who has a long history of getting nondisclosure agreements from people. I mean, memorably asking essentially James Comey, you know, from the FBI and others, you know. Are you essentially -- are you my guy?

You know, and I think they understand that for the President to be able to calm down and focus for this President to be able to not just, you know, obsess about something, they at least have to be, you know, have to be telling them they're looking. Whether they're actually looking, whether that leads anywhere, Jim, you know, is unclear.

SCIUTTO: One of the many unclear things.

HEALY: Right. SCIUTTO: John, one issue, the op-ed writer stated was that there were whispers among members of the Cabinet about invoking the 25th Amendment to try to have Trump removed from office. Here's what Sarah Sanders had to say about that today.


SANDERS: I think we would say that it's about as ridiculous as most of Bob Woodward's book, the fact that that's actually being honestly discussed is ridiculous.


SCIUTTO: Of course you remember the Nixon administration, and we know that there were discussions particularly in the final days about limiting his ability, for instance, to launch a nuclear strike, based on your reading of the book and a relationship through the years, I imagine with Bob Woodward, do you consider that ridiculous?

DEAN: Well, I've known Bob for a lot of years, yes, and he's a very reliable reporter, he is well sourced. And if he says there was discussion, you better believe he's got it on some form of hard copy of digital recording or something where he's got it nailed. And I wouldn't be surprise. Omarosa also said that they had an internal code language using TFA representing the 25th Amendment. And that she had e-mails that indeed had that discussed.

[19:25:11] SCIUTTO: Interesting. Patrick, CNN had a poll out today on a number of issues including big drop in President Trump's approval rating. But on the issue of this op-ed, a majority of Americans, 58% of respondents say that the op-ed writer should identify him or herself, only 30% say no, and it -- 36% say it was appropriate. 55 inappropriate for an administration official to work against Trump's agenda. On this issue, at least, this issue of identifying this person, is the President more in tune with Americans than others on that question?

HEALY: Well, I think what you're seeing in those numbers, Jim, is just how extraordinary the publication of this op-ed was. I mean, it's very rare for the New York Times to grant an anonymity for an essay of this profile, something that Washington Post or CNN. I mean, this doesn't happen a lot. And so I think it did surprise a lot of people. We, for years at the times elsewhere, there's been discomfort among readers with anonymous sources, with concerns that there are too many anonymous sources. This is something that our editors have certainly looked at.

But in this case, we felt like it was a significant contribution. Or I should say the op-ed page, felt like it was a significant contribution to the reporting around the Trump administration, where I think the, you know, the President has a point and he sort of understands his base certainly is that, you know, there is a lot of kind of confusion around, you know, what's going on inside the administration. The messaging is very unclear that comes out of it. Some days they want to talk about the tax cut, they want to talk about the economy, and then the President himself steps on his own message with some of his angry tweets or the way that he gets himself lathered up around trying to find the identity of the op-ed writer, for instance.

So, I think, in some ways, he, you know, he has sort of a point about wanting, you know, clarity and to sort of move on from something. And he says that we shouldn't be talking about this. And that he's the one who's often stirring up the drama.

SCIUTTO: April, the thing about Woodward and the op-ed is that they get an issues that yours and other of your colleagues in the White House, the reporting has shown signals of over the last several months, which is internal dissent, internal concerns. Did it strike you as consistent with what you've been hearing and reporting from the White House?

RYAN: It's very consistent. What this op-ed does and what the Woodward book does paints a broad picture. It gives you more context and texture. But this is stuff that we've known, but it gives you more of the setting, how it was said and what have you. And for the President to try to discredit Bob Woodward of all people. And at the time such as this, I mean, it's kind of cyclical.

Think about this. During the Watergate years, Nixon was trying to discredit reporters then, and it's happening again, and some would say, you know, there's similarities here. What Bob Woodward did is paint a picture of what was happening, and there's a credibility issue here. Who do you believe, Bob Woodward or the President? And when I say a credibility issue, it more leans toward the President than Bob Woodward.

SCIUTTO: OK. You see that credibility in numbers in CNN's polling as well today. April, John, Patrick, thanks very much.

RYAN: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Out front next, President Trump boosts economic numbers unseen in 100 years. They're good but not that good.


KEVIN HASSETT, CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: What is true is that it's the highest in 10 years.


SCIUTTO: That's a big difference. And why are top Republicans suddenly worried about Ted Cruz keeping his Senate seat.


[19:31:19] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Tonight, Trump's fuzzy math. The president tweeting today, quote, the GDP rate is higher than the unemployment rate for the first time in over 100 years! The GDP and unemployment numbers are right, but it's actually happened before, in fact, 62 times in the last 70 years and as recently as 2006.

Now, the chairman of Trump's Council of Economic Advisers, Kevin Hassett, was forced to correct his boss.


REPORTER: The president said the GDP rate is higher than the unemployment rate for the first time in over 100 years. That's just not true, is it?

KEVIN HASSETT, CEA CHAIRMAN: Yes, that's -- so I can tell you what is true, it's the highest in 10 years. And at some point, somebody probably conveyed it to him, adding a zero to that and they shouldn't have done that.


SCIUTTO: Why does the president feel the need to fudge the numbers when the economy is indeed so strong on its own?

OUTFRONT now, former senior communications adviser to the Trump campaign, Jason Miller, and former U.S. labor secretary under President Clinton, Robert Reich.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Jason, if I could come to you for a second, this has been a consistent thing, right, in terms of the president, even when there are good numbers, will often fudge or even make things up here. Why do that? Why distract from what should be a strong and positive message?

JASON MILLER, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER FOR TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Jim, I don't know the inside details for why the president got it wrong initially in that tweet, but there's absolutely no denying that this economy is on fire, whether it be the 3 1/2 million new jobs or whether the 4.2 percent GDP growth, or we're seeing the best wage growth in 9 years or 49-year low when it comes to new unemployment claims. I mean, the fact of the matter is, this economy is on fire, there are millions of Americans who are doing better off than going back to last January when the president was sworn in.

And so, yes, can he go in and be a little more precise on a few of the tweets? Absolutely. And I think they have a good economic team around them with Kevin Hassett and Larry Kudlow. And they can get him all the precise numbers to make sure that's tight enough for going- forward.

But the biggest news of the day, I'm glad this White House is hammering on the economy, I want to see them do it every day. Let's have Kevin Hassett out there Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Great message, stick with it, guys.

SCIUTTO: Before we plan the messaging, let's give a chance to Robert, a chance to respond to Jason's assessment of the economy.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: I think the economy is very good in many respects. I mean, 3.9 percent unemployment is extraordinarily good. But it's not nearly as good as even the data shows. I mean, let alone, let's put aside the P.T. Barnum Donald Trump

aspects of what he has been saying but just look at the actual facts. For the last 19 months of the Obama administration, you have average monthly job growth that's higher than the first 19 months average job growth per month of the Trump administration. But even to a bigger point and I think Jason was trying to make this, I'm not sure it's wise for Donald Trump to taught the economy when so many Americans are still very worried about health care, and health insurance, about how to afford college for their kids, about their pensions which are evaporating, about their wages. I mean, wage -- today, wages, I mean, the average monthly wage is actually adjusted for inflation below what it was in 1973.

I mean, most Americans and most workers particularly have been shafted, they know that. They are still in very bad shape and for Donald Trump to tell them it's wonderful, you've never had it so good really is not very convincing.

[19:35:01] I hope Democrats not only tell them the truth, but also come up with the kinds of policies that really are going to address these underlying problems.

SCIUTTO: Jason, what's your response to that, the benefits of this growth have been concentrated at the top and leave many folks behind?

MILLER: Well, with all due respect to the secretary many and I think he's leaving out some of the details we're seeing some of the fastest job growth is with African-Americans, with Latinos, people have been left behind previously during some of these recoveries. And the fact of the matter is, these folks are starting to see job opportunities that are there.

During President Trump's time in office so far, we have seen record low unemployment rates again for African-Americans, for Latinos, for women, and these are all good stories.

Now, a lot of these economic successes, and part of the boom is from the efforts the President Trump putting the deregulation coming out of 2017. And we'd just now starting to see some of the growth from the tax cuts. I think going in to 2019 and 2020, we're going to see a lot more of that.

But there's a critical point the secretary mentioned that I think warrants going back to, and that's when you talk about policies of the Democratic opponents. And as we move forward, as we start to see all the -- we're seeing them already, Democrats going into Iowa and New Hampshire, starting to talk about 2020, to go out there and promote tax hikes, to go out there and talk about $32 trillion Medicare for all, I mean, these are terrible policies that in no way will go and help move the economy forward.

And so, Democrats have to be careful when they talk about -- when they start talking about policies because that's where Trump gets into his best place, where it's this matchup choice between him and Democrats that want to hike taxes. SCIUTTO: On that point, because in our poll today, and, Robert, I want to give you a chance to respond, but just a data point here, a devastating poll on virtually every front, but the one positive number for Trump, his highest marks are on the economy, 49 percent approve of the job he's doing on the economy, and you see there foreign affairs, immigration, foreign trade not looking good for him.

Is Jason right that that is territory that is perilous ground for Democrats in 2018 and 2020?

REICH: Well, not at all. I mean, that 49 percent approval on the economy, that's good more than half of Americans do not think he's doing a very good job on the economy, even though that's his best card.

And again, I think -- I think when Democrats are realistic with the public about who benefited from the tax cuts. I mean, overwhelmingly, I mean, almost all the benefits of the tax cuts went to corporations and executives and big shareholders, Jason knows that, that the Republicans aren't even campaigning on the tax cut. That's the one legislative achievement they got through Congress. And they're not even campaigning on it, because they know most Americans did not get anything out of that tax cut.

And the same thing as -- I mean, look at health care, look at what the Trump administration has done to subvert, to undergird, to really unravel the Affordable Care Act? I mean, I can't believe that any Republican with a straight face would say people are better off with regard to health care right now. They aren't. Three million people are worse off.

SCIUTTO: We're going to have to leave it there. Jason, Robert, thank you for walking us through it.

OUTFRONT next, Republican leaders panicking that Ted Cruz could lose his Senate seat in Texas. Could Texas really turn blue?

And Florence on track to be one of the biggest hurricanes ever to hit the East Coast, bringing potentially catastrophic flooding in its wake. My guest, a hurricane hunter just flew over the storm. I'm going to speak to him live from inside his plane.


[19:42:31] SCIUTTO: Tonight, warning flags are going up in Texas where Senator Ted Cruz is fighting to hold on to his seat. Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke has tightened the race so much that top Republicans are warning that Cruz could lose. The state's senior senator, John Cornyn, telling "Politico", quote, we're not bluffing, this is real and it is a serious threat.

Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to believe a Democratic Senate candidate in Texas can turn out more than 1,000 people to a rockin' lunchtime rally. But Beto O'Rourke had the sweaty voters energized.



LAVANDERA: Polls show O'Rourke within striking distance of Republican Senator Ted Cruz. Beto has reached peak savior status among Texas Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are really, really yearning for something like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is ultimate, extreme Beto supporter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm the wonder woman for Beto.

O'ROURKE: We are making this happen.

LAVANDERA: Even the Beto faithful admits winning this race is still the longest of long shots, but they hear the distant echoes of Obama's 2008 hope and change campaign. Just before he went on stage for his third rally of this state, O'Rourke told us he doesn't feel the pressure to save Democrats.

O'ROURKE: We all just get that this is the election of our election. Everything's on the line, stakes could not be any higher. And we're meeting the moment.

LAVANDERA: O'Rourke doesn't shy away from pushing the progressive agenda in this red state, he talks of improving education, immigration, providing universal health care, criminal justice reform.

O'ROURKE: And they're frustrated frankly with people like me.

LAVANDERA: And a recent speech supporting NFL players who kneel for the national anthem went viral, catching the attention of celebrities and athletes around the country.

O'ROURKE: I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I got to say, I can think of some things more American. How about --

LAVANDERA: The anthem kneeling debate is just what the Cruz campaign was looking for. Game plan for Cruz is simple: paint O'Rourke as an extreme and reckless socialist liberal.

CRUZ: This is Texas. If you want a big government, gun-grabbing liberal, well, the Democrats have given you one.

God bless Texas.

LAVANDERA: There are signs that Texas Republican Party feels the race may be too close for comfort.

[19:45:02] The O'Rourke campaign is winning the fundraising battle and Cruz voters are worried that Beto yard signs seemed to sprouting up all over the state.

And the state party has thrown in some social media posts of O'Rourke's mug shots from skirmishes with the law in the early '90s and some light hearted mockery of O'Rourke as a dazed and confused punk rocker.

CRUZ: We've got a race. It's a real race. We're taking it seriously.

LAVANDERA: We sat down with the senator at a barbecue joint in Austin.

CRUZ: Congressman O'Rourke is going hard, hard left, higher taxes, higher regulations, socialized medicine, open borders, aggressive gun control, impeaching the president -- those are great issues to raise money in Hollywood, but that doesn't reflect what Texans are.

LAVANDERA: A Cruz rally might seem more subdued, but conservative political passion in this state runs deep and it's well-organized. Cruz believes if he focuses on turning out the vote, he wins.

CRUZ: If freedom loving Texans, if common sense Texans show up at the polls and vote, we'll have a very good election and we'll win in November.

LAVANDERA: Something is happening on this campaign trail. But then again, Texas Democrats have been here before. They have seen a few Democratic stars burn brightly in the past, raising the hopes of a blue wave, then election days turn those stars into dust.

Will the same story repeat itself this year?


LAVANDERA: And, Jim, we have more evidence that Republicans not only here in Texas, but across the country are growing increasingly concerned. Recently, President Donald Trump announced he will be coming here to Texas in October to hold a rally for Ted Cruz. No one expected they would need presidential help in this particular Texas Senate race, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

OUTFRONT next, Hurricane Florence an enormous category four storm, heading straight for the East Coast as we speak. A hurricane hunter who just flew over the storm is going to join us live from inside his plane.

And Jeanne Moos on all this talk about lie detectors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to hook myself up to this lie detector for the rest of the campaign. It's wonderful to be here. OK, well, it's great to be here.



[19:50:26] SCIUTTO: Breaking news, a massive category four hurricane is heading straight for the East Coast. And if Hurricane Florence stays that strong, it will be the most powerful hurricane to hit the Carolinas in nearly 30 years.

Joining me now on the phone from a plane that just flew over the hurricane is Paul Flaherty. He's a flight director for NOAA hurricane hunters. He's also a meteorologist.

Paul, thanks very much for coming on now. Tell us what you saw when you flew over this storm.

PAUL FLAHERTY, HURRICANE HUNTER (via telephone): Well, this is the third day I've been flying the storm on this aircraft, with this crew, and it has greatly increased in its strength over these last three days. We did expect to find a much stronger storm today, which we did. It was a little bit eroded on the south side, which we weren't expecting to see. And we're hoping that maybe it will cause it to weaken a little. It's certainly allowed it to stop rapidly intensifying to 900 to 940 millibars.

But people have to know that this thing coming into the U.S. is a major category 4, possibly category 5 storm. This is extremely important and they need to be paying attention.

SCIUTTO: We're looking at some video now, our viewers, from a flight yesterday. In that time frame, how much stronger has the storm been getting each time you take a look at it?

FLAHERTY: Yes, we were watching it as the eye wall was forming yesterday. We had an interesting view yesterday along the G4. And, of course, with our P-3 inside the eye of the storm. Yeah, we were watching it develop.

And you know, you have kind of have that sick feeling in your gut. We went through this with Irma in Florida last year and, of course, the last couple of years, everyone up the East Coast has been concerned about one storm or another. So, it doesn't change, whether it's headed for our house, or in this case, somewhere around North Carolina to Virginia, South Carolina.

We all know people up there. And it just kind of hits you in the gut when you see this thing strengthening and knowing that the forecast is calling for it to come in as such a strong storm. So, yes, we don't like what we're seeing and I don't think you like much of what you're seeing on the ground, either.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, we're showing you a picture from space, snapped by an astronaut from the International Space Station. You really get a sense of the scale there, the size of the state of North Carolina, which, as it happens, is right in the crosshairs of this storm. We've made comparisons to Harvey, but as far as the East Coast is concerned, the biggest since 1989.

In your view, how dangerous is this storm?

FLAHERTY: Well, it is very, very dangerous. It is life-threatening. One of the things as we come out here, we do everything we can. We want to make sure that we get the best data going to the National Hurricane Center, the NOAA National Hurricane Center in the models and to the emergency managers and to the media so we can get people out of the way because it is a life-threatening situation.

And every time, there's going to be those people who decide to stay. And we read about their names and their stories, and we want to try to know why they didn't go. I just want to make sure none of your viewers, I'll be reading about them here later in the week.

SCIUTTO: That's good advice. Heed those warnings. Heed those orders.

Paul Flaherty, stay safe up in the here, I know we're going to keep talking to you.

FLAHERTY: OK. Thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on the vice president so loyal that he can't wait to take a lie detector test.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would agree to take it in a heartbeat.



[19:57:50] SCIUTTO: Sarah Sanders says the White House is not considering using a lie detector test. Did anyone tell that to Vice President Pence?

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Folks in the White House must be quaking at the specter of lie detectors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to hook myself up to this lie detector.

MOOS: No, not him. The senior staff, as the president tries to find out who wrote that op-ed, even if Sarah Sanders said --

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No lie detectors are being used or talked about.

MOOS: They were talked about to Vice President Pence when he was asked if he would take one.

PENCE: I would agree to take it in a heartbeat.

MOOS: Seems like there's a lot of lying to detect. The president tweets, Bob Woodward is a liar. Bob Woodward says of the president --

BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: Because he can't tell the truth.

MOOS: President Trump is depicted pressing start with his Pinocchio nose as he makes staffers take the test.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara tweeted, if anyone in the administration has to take a lie detector test, it should be Trump.

Back during the campaign, an impersonator on CBC played the candidate testing himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am going to build a wall at the border. There is going to be a -- oh, yes, I am, buzzer, yes I am. You know who is going to pay for it? Mexico.

MOOS: Although the lie detector got one big thing wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to win this thing.

MOOS: Comedian Ricky Gervais did an unscientific survey, what would be the funniest test for Trump to take. IQ beat out lie detector.

CHARACTER: I'll ask you a few questions and you just answer truthfully. Do you understand?


MOOS: And while the president is looking for rats in the White House, NBC Washington unearthed surveillance video they described as showing an actual rat pulling a fire alarm, forcing the evacuation of a D.C. condo. That rat's smart enough to operate a White House polygraph, takes one to know one to ferret one out.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a loser.

MOOS: -- New York.


SCIUTTO: Thank you for joining us. I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AC360" with Anderson Cooper starts right now.