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Hurricane Florence Barrels Towards East Coast; Wilmington, NC, May Be Hurricane Bull's Eye; SC Orders Mandatory Evacuation of Coastline; Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Orders Evacuation; Polls: Trump Approval Rating Falls Ahead of Midterms; White House in Damage- Control Mode over Bob Woodward Book, Anonymous Op-Ed. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 11, 2018 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:13] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

We're watching breaking news playing out on the east coast of the country. Monster storm is barreling towards the east coast of the United States. Millions of people in its path. And more than a million so far ordered to get out of its way.

This we will show you is Hurricane Florence. A massive category 4 storm right now, which means it's packing up to 130-mile-per-hour winds right now, and it's showing no signs of letting up. Quite the opposite, actually.

Mandatory evacuation orders are beginning to take effect along the coastline of the Carolinas and Virginia. National Guard troops are being mobilized in those states and they're bracing for what could be the most powerful storm to hit the region in decades.

The danger is not just the brutal winds from the storm along the coast but also the potential of devastating storm surges and flooding far beyond the coastline.

This morning on CNN, we heard from a hurricane hunter who flew near the swirling mass of Hurricane Florence. His take? As bad as it looks now, this storm could get even worse.


RICHARD HENNING, HURRICANE HUNTER (voice-over): What I can tell you is that all of the conditions that are necessary for a hurricane to continue to intensify are present. We're seeing very little wind shear up here at this altitude. The instruments that we dropped showed a very favorable environment surrounding the storm. It's going to be traversing water temperatures that are around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. So there's nothing to prevent this storm from continuing to intensify.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: CNN teams are spread out covering this storm and all the preps that are under way.

Let's begin with Meteorologist Chad Myers who just got an update from the National Hurricane Center.

Chad, what is the latest?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The very latest is it's still at 130 miles per hour. Earlier today, it was 140, but we lost the inner eyewall. An outer eyewall tried to build. It's normal. Just like rapid intensification, that's another term we used yesterday. We're not seeing that now, but that could come into play again tomorrow.

So the hurricane hunter that you just talked to here, you had that sound on there, came in from the west. Flew around the entire hurricane, and then left. And at the same time, he was dropping these little drops on, like little parachutes, coming all the way down here. And what that was doing is telling the computer models and telling him as he was flying around that there's nothing else out there, no wind shear, nothing but warm water and this storm is going to get stronger again. Even though it lost some of its strength, it's going to be, again, in the category 4, almost category 5 category as we get later on today. Right now, we have 160-mile-per-hour gusts, 130-mile-per- hour wind.

Here it goes, one thing that did change in the 11:00 advisory is the approach time here. Now, it looks like category 4 approaching the Carolina coast somewhere around 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. on Friday. The storm is slowing down. And it's painfully slowing down. From here to here is 48 hours. So it's going to rain in this area for two solid days, heavy tropical rain. And that's another thing other than the surge is going to be a flash flood event. Rainfall that comes from the sky and floods, freshwater, where this surge is going to be a saltwater event pushing over these barrier islands. Could be 12 feet over those barrier islands in some spots. And let's hope that your house has 12-foot pilings on it or else some of those buildings will be in trouble. And that's why you as a person need to get out if you're staying there right now.

BOLDUAN: I think that's really important what you're showing. When you look at the models sometimes you think it's going to pass through. When you show it's 48 hours between what you were showing, that shows how much water can dump on places that are already going to be hit with winds beforehand. That's going to be devastating.

MYERS: It is, because it's already wet. The rain is going to be 25 inches deep, and the wind is still going to be 60. What are these big giant trees going to do? Fall down on power lines. If you need to get out of there, do. If you need power to live, you need to get out of some of these places, even if you're not on the shore, because some people may be without power for weeks.

BOLDUAN: Chad, thanks so much. We'll check back in with you. Really appreciate it. As chad is saying, the biggest headline is there's nothing that's

going to push this storm out of its way. It is coming. More than a million people are under mandatory evacuation orders right now. Many already hitting the road.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Wilmington, North Carolina, with this angle.

Kaylee, the governor said North Carolina, the way he put it, North Carolina is in the bull's eye, and Wilmington may be at the center of the bull's eye.

[11:05:06] KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Kate. And we're on the far side of one of two bridges that are leading people out of the city of Wilmington. Also, the exit route for anybody leaving the barrier islands protecting Wilmington, who are under mandatory evacuation. But because those barrier islands are beach towns, as people around here call them, are only expected to get out of town by 8:00 p.m. tomorrow night.

Well, we're hearing a wait-and-see approach from a lot of people we talked to.


DON MCGOWEN (ph), NORTH CAROLINA RESIDENT: I plan on sticking it out. I will make an evaluation tomorrow morning. If that thing is still coming at us at about 120 miles per hour, I may change my mind. We put everything away, all the furniture is put away. We did a lot of preparation for it. But we'll wait and see as far as the storm goes.


HARTUNG: Wait and see, like I said, that's what we're hearing from a lot of people.

So these gas pumps are staying filled, Kate. This parking lot staying busy. A line just a minute ago forming. But otherwise, no mass exit from North Carolina yet.

Now, it's a different scenario in this state as opposed to South Carolina. Here, decisions are made on a county by county basis, whereas in South Carolina, there you go the governor has said everyone who lives on the coastline is under mandatory evacuation. They're doing things there like reversing eastbound lanes of two major highways to help people get out of Myrtle Beach and out of Charleston. That's not a decision that they have gone to yet here in this area of North Carolina. The governor and the Department of Transportation here saying that Interstate 40 will remain a two-way interstate. They believe that is best for the flow here -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, they attributed it to a study that was done that they say helps facilitate evacuations faster. At least that's the case in North Carolina. South Carolina, as you said, a different situation.

Kaylee, thank you so much. Let's head to South Carolina. South Carolina is also bracing to take

the brunt of this monster storm. Mandatory evacuations, as Kaylee was mentioning, for coastal South Carolina counties beginning at the top of the hour.

CNN's Nick Valencia is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Nick, what are you seeing there?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, despite those mandatory evacuations, you know, you're always going to have people who decide to stick it out.

We're joined by a couple of those people here.

You are local residents. Let's see if I get it right, Kaley Burrows -- Candice Burrows, Laura and Jackson Randolph.

You're sticking it out. Come in here, Kaley, so you get on TV.

You're sticking it out. You think that's the smartest thing to do?

CANDICE BURROWS, SOUTH CAROLINA RESIDENT: I do because we're well prepared.

VALENCIA: What makes you well prepared when the governor is telling you to get out, the mayor is pleading with residents, please, please, get out of here.

BURROWS: We have things boarded up. We got a lot of supplies from Walmart, generators, so we're good to go.

VALENCIA: Have you been through a major storm like this before, Laura?

LAURA RANDOLPH, SOUTH CAROLINA RESIDENT: We have been through a couple. But not --we weren't here for Hugo, but some of the other ones that have come by, we have been around. We feel secure with everything. We feel like we prepared. We have our kits ready. We're ready to ride it out and hope for the best. Of course, we're keeping an eye on the forecast. If something changes and we need to go, we'll get out at the last minute if we can.

VALENCIA: You were telling me off camera, you are even watching the Euro models.


VALENCING: You are keeping an eye on everything and watch the news.

You hear on the news, us pleading with you. U.S broadcasters saying please get out. Reiterating what the governor says and the mayors says. I'm sure there are people at home watching you and saying you have two young kids. Are you sure you're putting them in the safest situation? BURROWS: I think because I have watched so much of the different

stuff and I feel like we have a good plan. We have plenty of supplies that I feel like we'll need and should something come up, if we have to, we could evacuate.

LAURA RANDOLPH: Right, we could.

BURROWS: But we're ready to go if we need to, but right now we're secure with what we have.

VALENCIA: The mayor told me earlier, the mayor of Myrtle Beach, that she's worried about the process of evacuation. You don't have an interstate. You're not connected to one. It could be slow. We're hearing the traffic is already very high.

LAURA RANDOLPH: It is, but I still think we'll be able to get gone if we need to.

VALENCIA: Real quick, Jackson, I talked to you earlier. Do you know what a hurricane is?


VALENCIA: Have you been through one before?


VALENCIA: What do you think about this one coming for the coast here? You ready for it?

Yes. All right, we hope your parents are as prepared as they say they are.

Thank you so much for spending time with us here.

Again, you know, the mayor is saying everybody get out. Governor as well. You're looking at some folks here deciding to stick it out -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Nick, thanks so much. And thanks to them.

It's always deceptive, a beautiful scene behind you, and how quickly that's going to change in the next 48 hours. I really appreciate it.

Let's head back to North Carolina. Joining me on the phone is Tim Owens, the town manager of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, which just issued a mandatory evacuation order for the town.

Tim, can you hear me?

TIM OWENS, TOWN MANAGER, WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH (via telephone): Good morning. How are you doing today?

BOLDUAN: I'm doing well. Thank you for jumping on the phone.

As you well know, you have seen the forecast, we're hearing from the National Hurricane Center. This hurricane is headed for North Carolina. Wrightsville Beach could be facing the worst of it. Where are you focused might right now?

[11:10:09] OWENS: We started Friday with our preparation, and we're basically focusing on the landfall pretty much at Wrightsville Beach, a category 4. We're having a mandatory evacuation at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. Residents are encouraged to get their belongings and move out. No visitors will be allowed on the island. We're all in a flood zone here, the entire county is in a flood zone. We're taking our essential vehicles and fire apparatus and things of that nature across the bridge and into a safer location. So we'll be doing that. We're manning our EOC, our emergency operations center, here tomorrow. We suspended all the town operations other than focusing on the storm.

BOLDUAN: And, Tim, I mean, we're looking -- the forecast and information I'm looking at is six to 12-foot storm surge and also the fact that in the latest track, the storm is slowing down. Which can be, in the aftermath, after landfall, can be where much of the devastation can happen. If it just sits on top of the coastline and sits on top of your town and just keeps dumping rain and wind, what could that mean?

OWENS: You know, that's a concern for the town, but it's a concern for the region in general. We have a lot of people coming from out of state helping us recover, and a lot of times you have flooding on I-40 or I-95 because of the rains. So that's a big concern. You know, how these folks get in to help us recover from this event. So we're going to hunker down here for the most part and hope for the best.

BOLDUAN: I worked in North Carolina years back. Been in Wrightsville Beach ahead of a storm, and I remember, I'm having flashbacks to so many people, a lot of storefronts and business owners saying that they have been through storms before. We heard it from folks in South Carolina actually. They say they're well prepared. They're going to ride it out. What do you say to folks who say they have seen this before, they'll be fine riding it out this time.

OWENS: I have worked in coastal community in North Carolina for over 20 years. This is the most extreme case I have seen. And I would not recommend anybody ride this one out. I think this is going to be a bad one. I think everybody needs to heed the warning to evacuate.

BOLDUAN: Tim, you have a long few days ahead of you, but I really appreciate you jumping on the phone. We will check back in with you. Thank you so much.

OWENS: Have a good day. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

We're going to continue to track that. But heed the warnings. Listen to Tim Owens. He's been through this before. We're going to keep on this throughout the day.

We're also watching this. Say what you will about the polls, but there are now eight of them showing President Trump's approval rating falling right ahead of the midterms. If you discount one poll, you can discount two polls. What about a trend? What should Republicans be hearing in this trend? Should they be worried?

We'll be right back.


[11:17:12] BOLDUAN: One constant in the chaotic first term of President Trump has been his approval rating. Holding relatively steady considering the controversy after controversy that has marked his time in office. Well, today, he might not be able to count on that. A new CNN poll shows 36 percent of Americans, 36 percent, yes, approve of the job that the president is doing. That's down six points since last month. And when broken down by party, that drop is even bigger among Independents, a 16-point drop. Hitting a new low among Independents, actually.

This comes as the White House is, of course, still in damage-control mode following the one-two punch of Bob Woodward's new book "Fear" that is officially out today, and the anonymous "New York Times" op-ed of last week.

Here's Sarah Sanders on that.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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 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.


BOLDUAN: Let's go live to the White House right now. CNN's Abby Phillip is there.

So, Abby is there any reaction, first, from the White House on these new poll numbers out today?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey, Kate. The White House hasn't responded directly to these poll numbers, specifically, but it's important to note that President Trump over the last several days has been talking about why he's not getting more credit for one thing, the economy. These poll numbers seem apparently to reflect that, despite the fact the economy is roaring, despite the fact that many Americans give him credit for it, his poll numbers continue to sink low. And as you just mentioned, this is a White House reeling from a number of controversies, Bob Woodward's book, two former Trump aides who faced criminal charges in the last several weeks and this then anonymous op-ed. You can tell President Trump is frustrated that the economy is not ruling the day and it's perhaps being overshadowed by all the rest of this controversy happening around him. BOLDUAN: Abby, on the Woodward book, Sarah Sanders made it clear that

they are trying to move past that and the "New York Times" op-ed. But are they really?

PHILLIP: They're trying to. And of course, the book actually comes out today, which means there could be a whole new wave of stories coming from the Woodward book, the details and revelations that people will pore over in the coming days. But this is actually more about what President Trump is going to do. He has often returned to Bob Woodward in the last day or two, attacking Woodward, accusing him of telling lies about him. This is something that is on President Trump's mind. And as much as the White House might like to move past it, President Trump clearly wants to attack it head on. The problem is, I'm not sure he's going to be able to. Bob Woodward is standing by his book. And of course, it's being corroborated by a lot of other pieces of evidence, including that op-ed that painted a pretty dreary picture of what's going on in this White House -- Kate?

[11:20:17] BOLDUAN: Yes. At the very least, with the book being released today, folks around the country can read the account and the reporting for themselves rather than listening to it through any filter, any media filter that might be out there. They can now read it for themselves. That, in and of itself, is a moment that, as you said, might create more that the White House needs to answer.

Great to see you, Abby. Thank you.

Joining me is April Ryan, a CNN political analyst, White House correspondent at American Urban Radio Network, and also author of the book "Under Fire." Jackie Kucinich is here, a CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief at the "Daily Beast." And Chris Cillizza is a CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large.

Great to see you guys.

April, let's start there. Sarah Sanders tried to turn the corner yesterday.


BOLDUAN: I was talking about it with Abby. Do you think she did?

RYAN: No. She did not. What basically happened is that Sarah basically put the point on the fact that they believe this White House believes that someone did do it. It's not a myth. Someone did it. And they're calling them a coward. You know, for the vice president to even say or allude to the fact that there could be -- you know, he would take a lie detector test, is saying something by itself, all unto itself. The Trump brand has been hit. This is not a good thing. When you have a book like Bob Woodward, a man who was there and broke Watergate, and it's the same thing happening now. It's cyclical, where a White House would knock the reporter. That's what happened during the Nixon time in Watergate. Now this administration is doing the same exact thing. I mean, you have a lot of books out, to include Omarosa's, to include mine, that talk about dysfunction, and also the distractions of this administration. This president's brand is taking a hit. And the American public is feeling it. That's why his poll numbers are dropping so low.

BOLDUAN: And, Jackie, there's an argument to be made that the White House can use the "New York Times" op-ed to their favor in terms of the deep state is there an actively working against them. But can they do the same with the Woodward book?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So to your point on the op- ed, in the poll, there's some fascinating numbers with 55 percent didn't think it was OK --


KUCINICH: -- that an administration official did that. And even more thought that this person should put their name on it. But with the Woodward book and the op-ed, because they sort of dovetail with each other, you had 59 percent of people saying that they thought that administration officials were working against the president's agenda. And don't take Bob Woodward's word for it. We have seen this live and in person with Russia policy, with some of his North Korea policy. We have seen officials, particularly on the national security side, do one thing where the president says another. Which doesn't make the president, as April said, look very good. And it doesn't make it look like he's in control, which is extremely important to his image.

BOLDUAN: Then, Chris, you have, as April points out, the vice president making the extraordinary statement that he would take a lie detector test, if need be. And now you have Woodward coming out and doing interviews.

I want to play for you what he told Stephen Colbert when asked about the top officials who have come out denying what is attributed to them in the book.


BOB WOODWARD, JOURANLIST & AUTHOR: These are people who are trying to survive and keep their job. So, look, and I know other reporters who have heard things from those people. And they heard the exact same thing, 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.


BOLDUAN: And don't forget that everyone, including Deep Throat himself, denied their way through the Watergate scandal. I mean, pointing out -- folks have been pointing this out today, but it's worth bringing up, the legendary editor, Ben Bradley, saying about all that in his book this: "Little by little, week by week, we knew our information was right when we heard it. Right when we checked it once, and right when we checked it again. Little by little, we came to realize that the White House information was wrong as soon as we checked it. That all these statesmen were lying."

So what are people supposed to do now?

[11:24:48] CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT- LARGE: Well, this is the natural, I think, evolution and end point in some ways of what we know is a credibility crisis at the White House. I think it's very hard -- when the president of the United States says this is all fiction, you only need to go back to August 14th when he called bob and said, you have always been very fair, I wish I had gotten a chance to talk to you. That phone call was recorded. You can listen to it. It was recorded with the president's permission.

The other piece is just pure self-preservation. Bob is right with Colbert. If you were someone who participated in the Woodward book -- and let's be honest, he didn't make any of this stuff up, folks. This is Bob Woodward. He's Bob Woodward for a reason. You're not going to -- if you like working at the White House, you're not going to say, yes, that was me, I talked to Woodward, those quotes are pretty much right. You're doing to deny it because you know any other answer gets you fired.


CILLIZZA: I don't think we should be surprised by any of this. This is the way that Bob's books work, have worked, with Obama, with Bush. It just happens to be this president. There are a lot more aides willing to say things that are going to make him very angry and paint him in a very, very negative light.

BOLDUAN: Jackie, on this CNN poll out, Trump's approval rating is now down to 36 percent. But it's not just that. It's that the drop is in line with a handful of other national polls that are out there. Politicians tell us all the time, right, they don't listen to one poll, one poll at one time. They watch for trends. So what do these politicians hear in this trend?

KUCINICH: I think, if you're a Republican running in a competitive seat, you hear, don't hug the president. Because they're looking -- many Republicans are fearing a blue wave, whether or not it happens yet, we'll have to see. But if you're on the bubble, you are talking about the economy. You're talking about anything but this president. Heck, we have even seen Rick Scott, who is running for Senate in Florida, not be as cozy with the president as he has for month and years before this. And I'm sure he has an eye on this trend.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's a fascinating kind of sample right there. That's a fascinating example you're talking about.

Great to see you guys. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Coming up, fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok's attorney blasting the president this morning, accusing him of peddling conspiracy theories. If this hadn't gotten ugly before, well, we're there now. Why is he doing that? That's next.