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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Monster Hurricane Barrels Towards U.S., 20 Million Facing Threat; FEMA Warns Storm Will Create "Massive Damage To Our Country"; Trump: Puerto Rico Hurricane Response An "Unsung Success". Aired 7-8p ET
Aired September 11, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:01] TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Those memories are unchanged. If only for a few silent moments each September.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Each of those moments just unforgettable. I'm Jim Sciutto. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Out front next, breaking news. Hurricane Florence with 20 million Americans in its cross hairs headed straight for the east coast, why the most seasoned forecasters say this storm is unprecedented.
And President Trump says the response to the deadly hurricane that killed nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico was, quote, an unsung success. Really?
And top Trump Aide Stephen Miller's former rabbi is speaking out, slamming Miller for his hard line immigration policies. The rabbi is my guest. Let's go out front.
Good evening, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, we have breaking news. Do not ride out this monster. That order tonight from North Carolina's Governor as Hurricane Florence gains strength and sets its sights on the east coast. Right now, more than 20 million people are in the path of this category 4 storm. This, we'll show you right here, is the ominous image coming from space. The eye very clearly defined as it churns over the warm waters of the Atlantic. Wins right now up to 140 miles an hour.
The National Hurricane Center warning of a life-threatening storm surge and rainfall. That is why 1.5 million people have been told to evacuate. Thousands right now are boarding up, packing up, and hitting the road. We're going to show you the scene in South Carolina. Officers reversing traffic patterns along a major interstate that connects Charleston to Columbia.
Gas stations along major evacuation routes are running low or out of fuel. And at stores across the south, people report waiting up to 90 minutes just to buy plywood. Also, just a short time ago, at the White House, President Trump insisting his administration will do whatever it takes to ensure the east coast is ready.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are sparing no expense. We are totally prepared. We're ready. We're as ready as anybody's ever been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Tom Sater is out front now live in the weather center. So, Tom, there is nothing in this storm's way to stop it from a direct hit at this point. What are you looking at?
TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm looking at a beehive in the Atlantic right now. Kate, you mentioned it. You said it correctly. You know, it only takes one storm to change numerous lives. Now whether that's for a couple of weeks, a few months, or a lifetime, you can mitigate it with your decision.
This storm system, this morning, we saw the National Hurricane Center issue a watch. They have since enhanced it to a warning. Once they put out that watch, now the advisories are going to come out every three hours. There's going to be fluctuations, there's going to be changes. It's not chiseled in stone here but I want to share some of the very latest in the changes.
The warnings in effect from Santee River, South Carolina up toward duck includes areas of Albemarle and Pinnacle sound (ph) but they've increased the amount of rain and they have increased the storm surge now up to 13 feet. This is important from Cape Fear, Northward, just north of Morehead City. That means the storm system is such a distance away, as it moves to the U.S., even though it may not be a category 4, it's going to bring a wall of water unlike a storm that may develop right off the coast.
Katrina was a category 5 when it came into the gulf. When it made its way to New Orleans, it was only a category 2 but it produced a wall in an all-time record of 28-foot storm surge. So because this is so far away and showing no signs at reaching its peak yet, we're in trouble.
Now, the two major models, the European model, that's in blue. You can't see it because it's underneath the U.S. model. They are in total agreement right now, but watch what happens as we're into Friday now at 1:30 in the morning and then no landfall. One of the things we've noticed that we should mention now, this doesn't mean this is going to happen, I want to show you what the European model is saying this may occur. We're going to possibly lose the dominant steering currents. I remember saying that same phrase with Harvey in Texas.
This right now is at 6:00 a.m. Friday morning. Hasn't made landfall. What happens? Let's take it a little bit further in time. Still looks like it wants to. Slides down toward the coast of Charleston, still off the coast. Now, we're not sure this is going to happen. This is Saturday night. Then, it moves inland. What this tells us is if we lose these steering currents, worst case scenario, as we've been talking about, this stalling procedure, this stalling -- whether it's inland, on the coast, or if it stalls off the coast, still catastrophic because if it's over water, the engine continues to purr.
Now, we're going to continue to follow the national hurricane stats. We see the time stamps getting closer, which still brings it on shore, but until we get closer to our landfall, late tomorrow, we're not going to know definitely what the system may do and what those steering currents may be.
[19:05:10] So the changes keep coming, but there's no doubt this is a major hurricane that most likely this area of North Carolina hasn't seen since Hazel in 1954.
BOLDUAN: Yes. And by the time you know exactly what's going to happen, it's no time to get out. That's clearly what officials are talking about. Why they're raising the alarm right now.
Tom, thank you so much. A lot to change, a lot to come and watch this.
So also, we have new images just coming in of the mass evacuations under way as we've been talking about. On the left of your screen, this car is lined up for as far as, I can see, as people are beginning to evacuate Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. On the right, you can see the mad dash to secure a spot on the ferry back to main land.
So, out front now, let's discuss the status of things in North Carolina. North Carolina's Governor, Roy Cooper, is joining me right now. Governor, thanks for coming in.
GOV. ROY COOPER (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Yes, thanks, Kate. Glad to be here.
BOLDUAN: Thank you. So, right now, the storm is headed straight for your state. I mean, that seems very clear. Where is your biggest focus right now?
COOPER: We're in the bull's eye, and we're concerned about three things. We're concerned about storm surge, high winds, and inland flooding, and the main thing is that we want people to evacuate coastal areas. North Carolina, we're used to storms, nor'easters, we've had hurricanes before, but this is historic. This storm is big, and it's vicious.
And we know North Carolinians are a hearty bunch and many of them think about riding out this storm. We're telling the people of North Carolina, do not try to ride out a monster. You put your own lives at risk, and you put the lives at risk of first responders who may have to try and rescue you. So, we're continuing to get out the word. People a little further inland, we want to make sure that they are ready with their emergency supply kits and water and food and we're going to have shelters and help for them. The best preparation is common sense, and that's what we're doing right now.
BOLDUAN: Governor, you say this is going to be historic. How bad do you think this is going to be?
COOPER: Well, the meteorologists continue to tell us that there's nothing stopping this storm. We know that it is heading straight for the North Carolina coast, and what may be even worse is if this thing stalls, either just off the coast or comes inland and stalls and the meteorologists are telling us that that's essentially what is going to do, and then, you're measuring rain in feet and not inches. We have a lot of low-lying areas. We're concerned about the storm surge pushing the rivers and flooding areas, so we know that it's not just going to be at the coast.
Almost every North Carolinian is going to be affected by this storm in one way or another so we're encouraging all North Carolinians to be prepared. We know that there's probably going to be loss of power for a number of days and maybe even longer. I've talked to people in the utility companies. They've got people coming from all over the country to help get ready for this. So, we're hunkering down, and we're going to be ready, but we know it's going to be tough.
BOLDUAN: Governor, the President tweeted that he spoke with you yesterday. What did he tell you?
COOPER: He told us that we could get what we needed. I've had a conversation with the President, with FEMA Administrator Brock Long, the FEMA partners are here in North Carolina. They have said they're going to help us. We look forward to that help. We want to hold them to it. And we believe that they will be good partners with us.
We've had a good relationship with FEMA in the past, and we know that we're all in this thing together, local, state, and federal. We have to pull together, because people's lives are at stake, and we know what kind of long-lasting damage can occur.
BOLDUAN: Governor, the administration, I mean, the administration has faced a lot of criticism for its handling of past hurricanes, of Hurricane Maria last year. You talk about lives at stake. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in Puerto Rico in that storm in the aftermath. Yet today, the President called the federal response, as we're discussing federal response, to that success. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Governor, you say you all need to work together to protect the residents of North Carolina. Do you trust him when he says something like that? I mean, do you agree with what he said?
COOPER: We've had a good relationship with FEMA in the past. They have promised help to us. We're going to hold them to it.
[19:10:05] We've got a storm that's just a couple of days off the coast of North Carolina, and we know that everyone has to pull together to make this work, and we expect this to happen, and look forward to their help not only now but in the days, weeks, and months after this storm, because the storm this catastrophic, and we're pretty sure that it's going to be.
COOPER: There will be long-term recovery, and we're going to have to have significant federal help. And we're expecting that to happen.
BOLDUAN: And Governor, that's why I asking. You say you've had a good relationship with FEMA but what about the President here, when he says it's an unsung success of what happened in Puerto Rico.
COOPER: Well, we know we've got a hurricane coming, and so we're going to depend on their help. It's important that we stay focused on the here and now --
COOPER: -- and make sure that we're ready for this hurricane, and I believe that we will be and we're going to expect our federal partners to be as well.
BOLDUAN: Governor, thank you very much for your time. We'll be checking back in with you for sure as North Carolina, as you said, is in the bull's eye. Appreciate your time.
And joining me also right now, Meteorologist Reed Timmer, he's in AccuWeather storm chaser. He's out front tonight live from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Reed, thanks for coming in. The beach where you are could take a direct hit. I mean, what are you expecting that beach to look like when Florence makes landfall?
REED TIMMER, ACCUWEATHER STORM CHASER: Here in Wrightsville Beach, we're on barrier island, this is on the furthest south part of the North Carolina outer banks and you do not want to be here when this storm approaches on Thursday. In fact, most of the people are boarding up today. They're evacuating the island here. With the storm surge of 10 to 15 feet, depending on exactly where that track's going to go, this barrier island is simply too low in elevation to handle that, so you're going to have feet of water, feet of storm surge up and over this island, waves on top of that. Eventually winds gusting to 150 miles an hour on top of that. And latest model trend they're also hitting at a stall out of this storm.
TIMMER: So those types of conditions could last even longer out here.
BOLDUAN: You know, Florence is being compared to a lot of big old bad storms from the past, some of the worst storms that have hit the Carolinas. I mean, we're talking Hurricane Hugo in '89, more than 20 people died in the United States. It caused billions of dollars in damage and also Hurricane Fran in 1996. I mean, how do you think this is going to compare to those? TIMMER: Well, again, a storm like this is something that you can't really compare with previous history, something this powerful, something that's unprecedented in previous history approaching the coast like this and then stalling out for days as well. We've just simply never seen a forecast track like this. So sadly, if it does take this track and especially if it does stall out, it's very likely that the North Carolina outer banks here will never look the same again, very sadly. And you certainly want to take those evacuation warnings very seriously and get off these outer islands because it's going to be absolutely deadly out here when this storm approaches.
BOLDUAN: Reed, you've talked about the stall. And I think this is an important thing to hit on. If this stalls, what will days of that kind of rain mean for any of these areas?
TIMMER: Well, there's three different types of flooding that are going to hammer this area, potentially all at once. There's going to be the storm surge inundation, that's going to be a wall of water with waves on top of it that will come over the barrier islands and into those inlet, potentially 10 to 15 feet, maybe even greater just to the right of that center. There's also going to be river flooding and flash flooding. So areas just inland that are impacted by that rain will experience those two types of flooding, even if you're outside of that storm surge zone.
And with a storm that's slowing down like that, it will likely be during multiple title cycles as well so you'll have that surge during high tide. And so a slow-moving storm, there's absolutely nothing more dangerous than a slow-moving tropical cyclone, especially a powerful one like this.
BOLDUAN: And it is on its way. Reed, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much. We'll be checking back in with you.
Out front next, as President Trump defends his response to Hurricane Maria, we are live in San Juan for the reaction.
Plus, Trump and Republicans suggesting former FBI officials were working to take him down, but where is the evidence tonight? And what happened to this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hope this man right here, Rick Scott, runs for the Senate.
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Donald Trump is the will of the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Why Governor Rick Scott isn't talking about Trump so much these days.
[19:17:48] BOLDUAN: Tonight, as President Trump prepares for Hurricane Florence, it's his defense of the administration's response to Hurricane Maria that's getting a lot of attention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful. The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think, was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: This despite the fact that nearly 3,000 people died in the storm and its aftermath.
Jeff Zeleny is out front live from White House right now. Jeff, does the President really believe that was a success?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, that is a great question. He certainly said it in the Oval Office today, but in many respects, in every respect, classic Donald Trump, does not acknowledge anything that he learned, any, you know, perhaps lessons learned along the way there from how Puerto Rico was handled. I mean, this makes what George W. Bush was just criticized for so much, Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job, look like nothing. The fact that he said unsung success simply belies the fact there.
So talking to senior administration officials, they say the President does not believe that, you know, the press and public have really taken into account how difficult the conditions in Puerto Rico were. Now, how bad the electric grid actually was, how good he did in Texas and Florida. He could have said all that, of course. He could have talked about loss of life.
He has never once acknowledged the, you know, dramatic rise from 64 fatalities up to nearly 3,000, many of whom the George Washington University studies said happened after the hurricane in the months and weeks after because of the stifling heat. So the President simply, if he understands it, certainly did not want to acknowledge any mistakes there. But they are insisting that they are ready for this hurricane and think this one will be different because the structure of this is so different, it's not like Puerto Rico. Kate.
BOLDUAN: All right. Unfortunately, we have to say, wait and see. Jeff, great to see you. Thank you so much.
Out front now, Leyla Santiago, who is in San Juan where they are briefing (ph) now for tropical storm Isaac, and New York Times Columnist Frank Bruni is here, CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger is here as well. Leyla, you were there before, during and after Hurricane Maria.
[19:20:03] You saw the devastation and pushed the government to get a real count of the death toll from Maria, which, again, stands at 2,975 people. Does anyone in Puerto Rico think this was an unsung success?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, I think a lot of people are very proud of how far they have come in their own recovery efforts, but I want to tell you what I've seen over the last few days that really paint the picture as far as if this recovery really was an unsung success. Today, we were in Catano, I went back to a woman I met a year ago who in tears told me all I want is a dry bed, because Maria completely soaked it. She's still in that bed today. She still has a blue tarp over her home.
And while we were at her home, it started to thunder. She was crying from the anxiety of what could come. Not wanting to ever have to live through something like that again.
We went into Utuado, the interior part of the island, really hard-hit area and we were there at residents spent their evening filling in gaps in the road just so they can get their cars in, just so a school bus can go pick up the children to go to school. And when I asked the director of emergency management, is this safe, he said, no, but we have no other option. So, people here are proud of how far this part of the island has come, San Juan, where the tourists visit. We just saw cruise ship leave. This really has come a long way, but this is one part of the island. Everywhere else, you still really still see the signs of Maria and more importantly, the recovery that is still so far from over.
BOLDUAN: I mean, Gloria, just as the east coast is preparing for a big hit and just as Maria is still recovering, preparing for another storm, does he not get it or does he not care?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think the President is living in an alternate universe, call it what you will. He can not take responsibility for any kind of failure ever, and if you look at his entire statement today, as Jeff was pointing out, he was blaming it on the fact that there were -- it was really -- Puerto Rico was really hit by two hurricanes, that it had a terrible electrical grid to begin with, and that in fact, if you go back and you ask the governor at the time, the governor will tell you that he did a fabulous job. So, you know, this is a President who's incapable of admitting that he wasn't as prepared as he should have been and that he has not continued to follow up in the way he should have and he's just incapable of doing it. That's the only answer I can possibly come up with.
BOLDUAN: And look, all those things can be true, that what he listed out, Frank, can be true.
BOLDUAN: But it's still not an unsung success when nearly 3,000 people died. I mean, that goes without saying. The San Juan mayor, who was probably the -- during Hurricane Maria and the aftermath was really the chief critic and so outspoken against the President and the administration's response, she tweeted this to what he said today. "Federal response according to Trump in Puerto Rico, a success. If he thinks the death of 3,000 people is a success, God help us all."
If you can, take the politics and the emotion, like, out of it, away from it, is the President's response to this dangerous? FRANK BRUNI, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: It's dangerous. Well, first of all, it's callous, and that callousness began and was very present during and right after that hurricane in the way that he feuded on Twitter with the San Juan mayor. Let's remember how he was throwing paper towels out, the symbolism of which was just ghastly.
I think it's dangerous because as Gloria says, he has no capacity to learn, no capacity for self-examination, no fidelity to the truth. And if he's not going to be honest about history, he's not going to be honest about what happened and what went wrong, how are we supposed to feel secure in the response that we're going to see to this hurricane now and how are we supposed to feel confident about his response to anything when he will live in a world where if he says it, it is so. If he wants it to be a certain way, he will say it's that way and the facts don't matter. That happens with regard to the media. It happens with regard to Mueller and it's happening here with regard to what Hurricane Maria wrought and how the government responded.
BOLDUAN: And Leyla, I mean, Frank was alluding to it. This isn't just today, though. The President has touted the response to Puerto Rico as a success, really, all along. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico. We're still helping Puerto Rico. And I think we've done a really great job and we've had tremendous cooperation from the governor and we are getting there, and people are really seeing the effort that's been put into Puerto Rico.
This is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean and it's a big ocean. It's a very big ocean. And we're doing a really good job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: I mean, as we mention, Puerto Rico's bracing for another possible storm to come its way. I mean, what do the people of Puerto Rico -- what do residents there do with this?
[19:25:04] SANTIAGO: Right. Listen, there's, again, it's almost an issue of mental health. There are so many people who get so anxious about this and are trying to be better prepared for what may come. Listen, this isn't a matter of a category 4 or 3 or 2 causing harm. Remnants from a tropical storm could really wipe out the power grid all over again. So, people are afraid. They are scared.
And let's acknowledge that, yes, FEMA is sort of powered up and had more supplies on the island, but even FEMA and their reports, their testimonies in Congress, have acknowledged that mistakes were made, that improvements must be made to the way they respond, and they're really bulking up supplies in an effort to do so. But the fact that the head of FEMA himself has acknowledged that changes need to be made for a very vulnerable system, I think, maybe contradicts a little bit what the President has said.
BORGER: And Kate, let me just add, because this is often compared to Katrina and George W. Bush's reaction to Katrina. And in his book, "Decision Points," Bush admitted that this really had a lasting and damaging effect on his legacy and he said, the problem was not that I made the wrong decisions. It was that I took too long to decide. And he admitted what his mistakes were. I think that is something that Donald Trump is just incapable of doing. Even when he's long out of office and looking back, as Bush did, I doubt he'll do it.
BOLDUAN: And can and does leave an indelible mark on a president's legacy with an inadequate response. Frank, contrarian view here. If FEMA, which has said it's learned lessons --
BOLDUAN: -- handles this hurricane well, Hurricane Florence bearing down the east coast or Isaac that's threatening Puerto Rico right now, does it matter what the President says?
BRUNI: About what happened in the past?
BRUNI: It does because it's not true. It matters that this President doesn't feel any fidelity to the truth. I mean, this notion that it was an unsung success, some things are unsung because the melody's damned ugly and that's the case in this and the people in Puerto Rico are still going to be hurting regardless of how well Donald Trump and the government handle Hurricane Florence and everything going forward.
BOLDUAN: Thank you, Frank. Thank you, Gloria, thank you, Leyla, so much.
Out front for us next, Trump charging a coordinated effort by the FBI and Justice Department to leak information damaging to his presidency. But where is the evidence?
And top Trump Adviser Stephen Miller called out by his childhood rabbi for peddling, quote, violence, malice and brutality. The rabbi is my guest.
[19:30:39] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: New tonight, President Trump once again attacking former FBI official Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and once again in an effort to try to discredit the Russia investigation, tweeting this: New Strzok-Page texts reveal media leak strategies so terrible and nothing is done at DOJ or FBI.
This after a Republican congressman, Mark Meadows, a top Trump ally, claimed, without evidence, that text messages suggest a coordinated effort to leak information that could harm the Trump administration.
Manu Raju is OUTFRONT with me right now.
Manu, what are the actual facts here?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Congressman Meadows did receive a batch of new texts as part of the Republican-led effort in the House to look into FBI actions that occurred in 2016 and beyond, and Meadows seized on several texts, two of which he highlighted in the letter, and one text from April 10, 2017, between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, says to her, I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ.
Now, he also texted Lisa Page about articles involving her, quote, name sake and that appears to be a reference to Carter Page, that former Trump foreign policy adviser, who of course was surveilled in 2016, late 2016.
Now, what that all prompted the president to tweet this morning, but it also prompted Peter Strzok's attorney to push back, actually saying this is not what congressman meadows or the president are suggesting, saying to there's nothing nefarious here, that the attorney said the term media leak strategy refers to a department-wide initiative to detect and stop leaks to the media and a source close to Lisa Page also says this is all part of that effort at the time to talk about how to stop leaks, not how to leak information.
But this all comes as Republicans in the House, Kate, pushing very hard for new information from the White House to declassify records involving that Carter Page surveillance that occurred in 2016. We'll see what the president decides to do but a lot of pressure that he does move forward on that here on Capitol Hill, Kate.
BOLDUAN: All right, Manu, thanks so much.
OUTFRONT with me now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell from California. He sits on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.
Congressman, thanks for coming in.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Kate. Thanks for having me on.
BOLDUAN: So, what do you make of this?
SWALWELL: Well, it's september1th, and 17 years ago, we lost several Americans, first responders, including an FBI agent and about 10 FBI agents who died later on because of symptoms related to what happened on September 11th. You would think the president could at least just take a day off from attacking the FBI, but he hasn't. He persists, and, you know, now he has fixers in Congress like Congressman Meadows who are seeking to amplify his false rhetoric.
You know, the House Judiciary Committee, Kate, there's a lot of priorities that we should have, like children separated from their parents, children who are being deported and removed and sent back to dangerous countries, but we're back to Hillary Clinton e-mails and that's just sending the country, I think, in the wrong direction.
BOLDUAN: You called Meadows a fixer. Do you think the president put him up to this? SWALWELL: Well, he's very closely aligned with the president, and the
talking points all seem to also match up, and it's Jim Jordan, it's Mark Meadows, he's got this whole team of fixers on the House Judiciary Committee who have sought to obstruct any effort to find out what happened with the Russians in the last election.
And I put that in stark contrast, Kate, with what we saw 17 years ago on September 11th. Our country was attacked. Hours after the attack, Republicans and Democrats joined hands on the back part of the capitol, sang "God bless America" and went to work to address the attack.
And here, we're seeing the exact opposite. An adversary attacked our democracy and we're seeing people do all they can to make sure that adversary isn't held accountable and make sure that the president's team who worked with a adversary isn't held accountable
BOLDUAN: Bipartisanship is definitely gone, to say the least even --
SWALWELL: Doesn't have to be that way. Yes, it doesn't have to be that way.
BOLDUAN: It doesn't, but it is.
But given the denials are coming from Strzok and Page on this, can you be sure what the context of these messages was?
[19:35:03] SWALWELL: Well, what we know -- I sat in on and I interviewed both Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page and it was pretty clear and no Republican would disagree with this, they did not leak the information they knew about the Russia investigation. Say what you will about how inappropriate they were in their text messages, there was no evidence that anything about the Trump-Russia investigation was ever leaked.
So this seems clearly like they were part of an investigation to go after leaks to the media. So, again, I think this is an effort to just pervert what was going on and to go back to something they believe is a winning issue, the Hillary Clinton e-mails.
BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about something else. Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, he's been sentenced to two weeks in prison for lying to the FBI in the Russia investigation. He's also now speaking out and he says Jeff Sessions was enthusiastic, is the way he's putting it, about his proposal during the campaign for Donald Trump to -- for Papadopoulos to set up a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Sessions denied that very thing to your committee.
Here's Papadopoulos now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Attorney general says he pushed back. Is he telling the truth? GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: All I can say is
this was a meeting from about two years ago. My recollection differs from Jeff Sessions.
INTERVIEWER: He did not push back?
PAPADOPOULOS: All I can say is my recollection differs from his at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Do you think Jeff Sessions lied to your committee?
SWALWELL: Well, he has a pattern of not being truthful about his contacts with Russia. I think he should come back and clear that up.
And, Kate, George Papadopoulos is not just speaking out. He made this assertion when the stakes were the highest. He was under oath, about to be sentenced, and generally, when you're about to be sentenced, that's the time when you really want to be truthful, because if you're found to be lying, the sentence can be pretty steep.
And so, what Mr. Papadopoulos is saying actually goes in the same direction that all the evidence has gone with the Trump team, which is a willingness to do all they could to work with the Russians, and so we have asked the Republicans to bring back Attorney General Sessions, clear up his testimony, to bring in people like George Papadopoulos rather than to just close these investigations.
BOLDUAN: Let me ask you this. In the past, since Sessions has been attorney general, I've heard you say that sessions should no longer serve. When asked if Sessions should step down, you've said yes.
Do you think that is still true? Do you think he no longer should serve?
SWALWELL: I don't think he should serve any longer. I think he should resign for not being straightforward, and I get it. I hear all the time. We have to keep Sessions there to protect Bob Mueller.
I understand that argument. However, you can't keep somebody who has had ethical lapses there just to protect the personal you want there. We have to rely on the Senate to only confirm someone that would keep the Mueller investigation in place.
So, I don't like this, you know, enemy of my enemy is my friend approach to this. If Jeff Sessions wasn't straight with Congress, he should be gone just like anyone who wasn't straight with Congress.
BOLDUAN: Congressman Swalwell, thanks for coming in.
SWALWELL: Yes. My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, Trump adviser Stephen Miller, his one- time rabbi now calling him out, charging that he's, quote, damaged the lives of thousands of children. That rabbi is OUTFRONT tonight. Plus, does Governor Rick Scott of Florida think President Trump is a
liability in his run for Senate? New details ahead.
[19:42:16] BOLDUAN: Tonight, Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to President Trump, and an architect of the president's immigration plans, is taking heat from his own rabbi over the family separations at the border. And reminder, there are hundreds of children who have still not been reunited with their parents despite a federal court demanding they do so.
So, this rabbi's Rosh Hashanah message? Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels said this in part: Honestly, Mr. Miller, you've set back the Jewish contribution to making the world spiritually whole through your arbitrary division of these desperate families at our southern border.
And he also said this: The actions that you now encourage President Trump to take make it obvious to me that you didn't get my or our Jewish message.
OUTFRONT now is Rabbi Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom.
Rabbi, thank you for coming in.
RABBI NEIL COMESS-DANIELS, BETH SHIR SHALOM SYNAGOGUE: A pleasure. That you know for having me.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.
Why did you choose to speak out on this?
COMESS-DANIELS: Well, I chose to speak out on it because it's something that is kind of sticks in the craw of the Jewish people, because we've been refugees under so many conditions during so many times in history, and ultimately, what we need to make clear to anyone who's listening, certainly a senior adviser to the president, is what our values are, what our morals are. And when they're transgressed, we need to say something about it.
BOLDUAN: Miller's family attended your synagogue. They were members but they're not members anymore. Did you reach out, rabbi, to the family directly before speaking out publicly?
COMESS-DANIELS: No, I didn't. You know, Stephen Miller was a member of my congregation when he was about 9 or 10 years old, when his sister was older, she became a bat mitzvah at our synagogue.
So, I didn't reach out to them. I haven't known them for a very long, you know? But this was a matter of national outreach to try and get the ear of Stephen Miller.
BOLDUAN: You know, in an interview with the "New York Times" back in June, Miller defended the separation policy, and he's told "The Times" this: It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.
What do you say to that, Rabbi?
COMESS-DANIELS: Well, there are laws, as far as Judaism is concerned, and many other religions, that transcend our immigration laws. You know, we have a notion about welcoming the stranger because we were strangers in the land of Egypt. And we're supposed to see the world through that lens, which we try to do every single day of our lives.
[19:45:07] In addition to that, during my sermon, I quoted three verses from the bible that make it clear that the Jewish people consider sacrosanct the relationship between parent and child, especially mother and child, and if we're going to interfere with that, at all, then we're being cruel.
BOLDUAN: Rabbi, let me ask you. This was part of your -- your sermon was part of, obviously, your Rosh Hashanah message. Is this all politics or is it more than that?
COMESS-DANIELS: Well, this isn't politics at all, actually. I mean, this is being hashed out in the political arena, but as far as I'm concerned, as far as we're concerned, this is taking place in the spiritual arena. And we have a spiritual mandate to take all the broken pieces of the world and put them all together.
And literally, here, we have families that have been broken apart and children that will be broken for their entire lives because of this trauma, because of this experience, and their parents as well. So, we have not just a right, I think, to speak about it but an obligation as well.
BOLDUAN: Let us see if Stephen Miller responds.
COMESS-DANIELS: I hope so.
BOLDUAN: Rabbi, thank you very much for coming in. Happy New Year. Thank you.
COMESS-DANIELS: Thank you. Thank you very much.
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, Rick Scott, a long-time Trump supporter, now distancing himself from the president in a crucial Senate race. Is that a smart move?
And 17 years later, a nation pauses once again to remember the 9/11 attacks.
[19:50:28] BOLDUAN: They were once inseparable, at least politically speaking. But you don't have to take my word for it. Listen to the Republican governor of Florida, Rick Scott, and the president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope this man, right here, Rick Scott, runs for the Senate.
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Donald Trump is the will of the people. We need to listen to the people.
TRUMP: You look at a place like Florida, it's really well run by Rick Scott.
SCOTT: Donald Trump is successful because he works his tail off.
TRUMP: Rick Scott is -- has done a fantastic job. Fantastic governor.
SCOTT: Donald Trump will make America great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Well, now Governor Scott, who is in a too-close-to-call race for Senate, barely mentions the president and certainly isn't seen with him much anymore.
So what is going on here?
OUTFRONT now, senior writer for "Politico", Marc Caputo, who has covered Florida politics for decades.
Marc, thanks for coming in.
MARC CAPUTO, SENIOR WRITER, POLITICO FLORIDA: Thanks. How are you, Kate?
BOLDUAN: This is your great reporting. What is the thinking here?
CAPUTO: Well, the thinking is survival. You know, the president is not the most popular figure. Presidents generally see their party punished at the polls in their midterm. And Donald Trump is no exception.
And Governor Rick Scott is certainly doing well, considering all of the political headwinds that Republicans have been facing nationwide, and even in Florida so far. So, in the words of one of the Republicans we spoke to, it's kind of a keep-away-from-Trump strategy. It might be a little bit more hide and seek, or perhaps even some, now you see me, now you don't, depends on which one you choose.
But in the end, the governor is just keeping enough distance away from the president so he's not attracting too much attention, but he's not giving or presenting so much of a distance between himself and the president that it becomes a problem.
BOLDUAN: But, I mean, but, Mark, this isn't just any old Republican candidate for Senate distancing himself from any old Republican president. I mean, Rick Scott and Donald Trump, they were close, as you lay out in your reporting. I mean, is Scott's strategy going to work in Florida, do you think?
CAPUTO: Well, so far it's working. The polls are tied. The Quinnipiac poll had them at 49 percent each, Bill Nelson, the incumbent senator, and Governor Rick Scott. So, it seems effective.
But understand that though there are headwinds that the governor is facing, his campaign team says that he has enough financial clout and enough of a record to create his own weather patterns to kind of push against them, and again, so far, it looks like that's happening.
BOLDUAN: There is one quote that stood out to me in your article about this. It's a top Florida Republican saying this. Rick is doing what a sensible Republican should do, but also saying, this isn't an F-you to Trump, but the president might see it as such.
How big of a risk is that for Rick Scott?
CAPUTO: Well, how big of a risk is anything when you're trying to predict what President Trump is going to do. And that's part of the game in Washington and the situation in Washington, and within Florida, is no one really knows what's going to get the president going in the morning, outside of what he might see on television.
So they kind of tread softly. And again, in Rick Scott's case, he is not pushing himself too far away from the president. So, though he kept his distance and didn't go to a Tampa rally with the president in July, he flew down on Air Force One and was in the background when the president walked down the steps of air force one on to the tarmac. So, it was a little bit of optics there, but not too much.
BOLDUAN: But, can Rick Scott both do that and also then have former President George W. Bush coming in to headline two fund-raisers for Scott this Friday? I mean, it's a tight rope, but it's a really narrow one to do that.
CAPUTO: It is. But this is Florida. And Florida has razor-thin election margins. So, Governor Rick Scott, for instance, has never achieved 49 percent or more of the vote in any of the major contested elections he's been in. So he's generally won on really tight margins and balancing on his own tightrope and dealing with whatever situation he's facing.
So, this is just a new situation and a new challenge for him.
BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Fascinating, fascinating, fascinating. And let's see what happens in the midterms, coming up.
Great to see you, Marc. Thank you.
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, remembering 9/11, those lost and the heroes who stepped up.
[19:58:51] BOLDUAN: Seventeen years after the worst terror attack ever on U.S. soil, the nation paused today to remember the nearly 3,000 men and women and children lost on that terrible day. In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the newest memorial opened, a 93-foot
tower erected to honor the 40 passengers and crew killed after they stormed the cockpit of United Flight 93 and changed history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They boarded the plane as strangers and they entered eternity linked forever as true heroes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: In New York City, family members and loved one, as they have done on every anniversary, reading the names of all of the lives lost on September 11th. And at dawn, the flag unfurled along the west wall of the Pentagon marking the point of impact where American Flight 77 crashed into the building, killing 184 people.
After 17 years, the sorrow from what transpired that day remains so very real. We will not forget. Thank you so much for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.