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Florence Threatens U.S. East Coast With Historic Destruction; Some To Ride Out Florence Despite Evacuation Orders; Trump Calls Puerto Rico Response Unsung Success; Trump Electric Grid Was Dead Before Hurricanes Hit; Trump Praises Giuliani's Post Attack Leadership; Trump Jr.: I'm Not Worried About Going To Jail. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 12, 2018 - 01:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, as the monstrous storm takes aim at the U.S. East Coast, President Trump Praises his administration's response to last year's hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico which left almost 3,000 people dead. Plus, The Breakfast Club, President Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping making pancakes and cooking up stronger ties between Russia and China. Was it or was it not a racist cartoon? The artist who drew this unflattering caricature of tennis star Serena Williams insists these are racist.

Hello everybody, great to have you with us. I'm John Vause and this is NEWSROOM L.A.

Hurricane Florence could be a storm, unlike anything the U.S. East Coast has ever seen. More than 20 million people could be impacted by Florence now Category Four which could bring records storm surges, severe flooding and days of torrential rain as it moves inland. At this hour, about one and a half million people are under mandatory evacuation orders along the coast of North and South Carolina as well as Virginia. All of this yet another test for the Trump Administration but the President remains unabashedly confident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The safety of American people is my absolute highest priority. We are sparing no expense, we are totally prepared, we're ready. We're as ready as anybody has ever been.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now with more on this. OK, so this is changing almost a minute by minute, hour by hour, the path and you know when and where it will make landfall and where it goes from there. So what do we know?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, we know is this. The storm system is still about 1,000 kilometers away from land so preparation time is absolutely there. But it hasn't weakened much and certainly doesn't look like it's going to and if anything it has the potential to strengthen a little bit over the next couple of days because guess what, the Gulf Stream runs right there which is among the warmest bodies of water that has want to cross over here before it interacts with land. And really the complications with the system is that we frankly haven't seen a storm of this magnitude for about three decades and haven't seen one take a steering environment as such in really recorded history.

You have some 37 storms that have come within close proximity of this feature in the past 100 years of record keeping not a single one of them has taken a track as this one will over the next couple of days. And the American model here in red, you look at the European model in blue, it is pretty good consensus here. This storm system is going to perk up and it across the coastal region of North Carolina into the early morning hours of Friday. And you don't see the blue one because it's directly underneath the red one so the agreement is absolutely there. But you notice as we go into the overnight hours of Friday and eventually into the evening hours of Friday, the storm system doesn't really make landfall.

Official landfall would be right there the center -- and half the center of the diameter -- half the center of the eye moves over land and unfortunately, if this plays out, the storm system will want to park right along the immediate coast, produce a tremendous of rainfall before it makes landfall. And then go into the sunrise period of Friday morning, notice the eye perks is just offshore and notice before it makes landfall essentially resisting it. The environment here is such that the storm might actually shift a little farther south. (INAUDIBLE) is suggesting this and it could sit there even then going into Sunday morning before it tries to make landfall into Sunday afternoon.

Again, this is one of several models we're looking at. This is the most reliable one historically speaking. If that plays out, the rainfall becomes a major, major issue across this region and we go off the top of the charts here. And the white color contours, you don't see that every single day and that's upwards of a half a meter of rainfall in a period of 24 to 36 hours. And again, notice that cone kind of expands off farther towards the west here over the next few days after that. So the storm system essentially comes to a halt, John, as we go into the beginning of this weekend. And that is a major problem for the eastern United States.

VAUSE: Yes, it's going to be anxious couple of days. Pedram, thank you. And there's been one consistent warning from federal state and local officials to residents and tourists. This is not the kind of storm you want to ride out. Thousands have heeded the evacuation orders but others a hunkering down. CNN's Nick Valencia reports now from Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF BYARD, U.S. EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: This storm is not a glancing blow. This storm is going to be a direct hit on to our coast. NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, officials are pleading

with everyone along the East Coast to heed the warnings and not underestimate Florence's strength. The hurricane seen in this close- up satellite image expected to be the most powerful to hit the coast in decades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that you've been hearing about this storm in terms of severity is all true.

VALENCIA: These hurricane hunters speaking to CNN from inside the storm as a first-hand look at just how serious it is.

[01:05:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing to prevent the storm from continuing to intensify.

VALENCIA: More than one million people in Virginia and the Carolinas are under a mandatory evacuation. States of emergency had been declared there as well as in Maryland and Washington D.C. South Carolina police are reversing the highway traffic to make it easier for people to get out of harm's way.

GOV. HENRY MCMASTER (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: All we knew was it's coming. It's even stronger than Hurricane Hugo. Once it gets on the ground the velocity will be more but it'll be crawling across the ground which means more and more rain.

VALENCIA: Some are waiting it out taking the risk of a last-minute evacuation especially in areas like Myrtle Beach where there is no major highway access. For those staying and stocking up, long delays at gas stations and home improvement stores like at this Home Depot in Wilmington, North Carolina where there's a 90-minute wait for plywood.

Myrtle Beach mayor tells me that they are just now starting to evacuate the hospitals and she emphasizes that for those who are planning on sticking this out they will have no immediate help from first responders. In fact, the emergency room in Myrtle Beach will be closed. Nick Valencia CNN Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Rafael Lemaitre is Chief Communications Officer for Innovative Emergency Management. He's also the former Director of Public Affairs for FEMA U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. He's with us from Houston. Name, I guess it's that time of the year, good to see you.

RAFAEL LEMAITRE, CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, INNOVATIVE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Good to see you.

VAUSE: OK, Florence is a triple threat. We've got the storm surge, there's the heavy rain which will cause the widespread flooding and there's also the powerful winds. If you were the coordinated response here, what would you see is the biggest danger out of those three and how would you deal with it?

LEMAITRE: Water. Water is the most destructive part of any hurricane when we see these come on board. Of course, wind gets the most attention and it can be deadly with flying debris. But at the end of the day, more than half of the fatalities that we see from tropical storms and hurricanes happen from drowning, storm surge, and indeed the National Weather Service has issued a storm surge warning for a lot of areas along the coast. So people really needed listen to local officials and where they've been asked to evacuate, heed those instructions immediately.

VAUSE: And so with that in mind, what do you say to anyone who believes that they can ride out this storm where they are if they're if they're in the, you know, path of Florence.

LEMAITRE: Don't be a hero. You're not only putting your life in danger but you're also putting the lives of any first responders who may be able to reach you in danger as well. This is a very serious unprecedented situation. You know, belongings, your homes, those are the types of things that you can replace but you cannot replace your life. And I understand many folks have had some you know, emotional connections to their homes, shelters are open to pets in many cases. It's really a time to get out. You have limited time. This could mean the difference between life and death at this point.

VAUSE: Ultimately this could end up being one of the biggest peacetime evacuations the country has ever seen. Ordering a mandatory evacuation isn't done lightly. So one of the logistical problems here that they're now facing and given that you know, more than a million people will ultimately be forced out of their homes. What does it say about the scale of the threat?

LEMAITRE: Well, this is the exact type of situation the emergency managers planned for year round. They've been ready for this. They practice this. We're seeing right now with contraflow operations, highways being open so that they only flow away from the coast. So far those evacuations seems to be working well. People need to understand that they have a role to play as well too. Make sure that you have -- when you evacuate you have a full tank of gas, you have enough supplies to last you for three days. And you have a plan that you know where you're going. You have relatives, you have cash on hand in case the power goes out. These are the type of things that everyone needs to kind of play a role in and making sure that they're prepared as well.

VAUSE: What's interesting is if you look at the path that Florence is heading and this was put out on a tweet by Steven (INAUDIBLE) from Villanova University, 70 years ago almost you know, 800,000 homes were at risk. Today, more than 11 million homes are at risk. It seems there's been a lot of development in places at high risk for hurricanes and flooding and that seems to be you know, clearly a man- made issue.

LEMAITRE: That's absolutely right. And as weather events like this more often and become more severe, we have to start thinking about how we implement smarter development policies and practices along the coast. Most of the development happening along the East Coast is happening in those coastal areas. So we have to think about the future. When we build back, how do we build that build back safer, how do we build back stronger in ways that make sense given the reality of where we are with disasters today.

VAUSE: So about building back we've seen how deadly these storms can be. Last year Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. The death toll that is now officially close to 3,000. On Tuesday the U.S. President was asked if there were any lessons which have been learned from that disaster. I want you to listen to his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[01:10:04] 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)

VAUSE: OK, you know, taking all the politics out of it, all the bravado, whatever, just objectively speaking for an emergency management point of view, when 3,000 people die in a hurricane, is that rated as a success?

LEMAITRE: Well, by FEMA's own admission, there were things that they could have done better. That's the Trump zone administration saying that they were stretched thin. And you know, you can see why that was the case. FEMA was dealing with the aftermath of not just Maria but Hurricane Harvey and hurricane Irma before that. The truth is we learned from every disaster. It seems that federal officials are leaning forward in this case. They've declared emergencies and states along the mid-Atlantic opening some forms of federal assistance to those state governors who need it right now. But right now I think you're right. I think most people need to focus not on the politics but what's happening on the ground, what local officials and governors are saying and take heed of those instructions particularly if they're asking you to evacuate from those areas.

VAUSE: Good advice to finish on. Rafael, thank you so much. I appreciate you being with us.

LEMAITRE: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, joining me now for more on this former L.A. City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel and Republican Strategist Luis Alvarado. OK, let's just continue on with this incredibly successful amazing response in Puerto Rico. By way of comparison, the death toll in Puerto Rico 2,975 to the incredible unsung success, Hurricane Katrina 1,833, Hurricane Sandy 143, Harvey 68. Luis, I'm just curious, does Donald Trump have a different definition of success to you know, how most people would define it?

LUIS ALVARADO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think that most people understand Donald Trump has a different view of many things in how he describes success or the way he approaches the challenges of the presidency. For us and the common folk who would probably see 3,000 death, we would say that is not success. And the question now begs you know, how do we see the presidency preparing for this next disaster? And I don't know if our country can look at the presidency or the executive branch and feel confident that they have their act together.

VAUSE: OK, well, we know that Donald Trump reluctantly visited Puerto Rico last year. It was not much of a success. Here's part of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack because we've spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico and that's fine. We've saved a lot of lives. If you look at the -- every death is a horror. But if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overpowering. Nobody's ever seen anything like this. Now, what is your -- what is your death count as of this moment, 17?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 16 certified.

TRUMP: 16 people certified. 16 people versus in the thousands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Yes, I remember the time there was a lot of criticism that he liked. The empathy, those comments are insensitive and there were warnings that you know, the death toll is going to skyrocket at some point and it did. But you know, Donald Trump was praised, Wendy, for his empathy they showed in in Texas. He was praised in the similar response in Florida. But something is different about Puerto Rico and I can't quite put my finger. I want to -- there something that you know, is different through those three U.S. territories and states. I'm just wondering what that might be.

WENDY GREUEL, FORMER L.A. CITY COUNCILWOMAN: Well, I think it is one, the nationality, the you know, the ethnicity of the people that are there and necessarily you never recognized even when he talked in that clip before. I've seen it when he then talks to the governor and says from our country which he made it sound like you're from another country. I think it defies logic that he thinks it's successful that 3,000 deaths. He's not even acknowledged that there's more than those 16 deaths. He's never said I recognize that happen. And I think you have to figure out when you have success after disaster.

It's not just about that first seven to ten days, it's about the long haul. It's about those months and years and how you've been able to get people back on their feet. And looking at that, Puerto Rico is still not up on their feet.

VAUSE: And with that in mind, whether the issue for Puerto Rico has been the restoration of electricity, it's been months in many parts of the country. Again, here's the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[01:14:52] TRUMP: Puerto Rico got hit not with one hurricane but with two. And the problem with Puerto Rico is their electric grid and their electric generating plant was dead before the storms ever hit. It was in very bad shape, it was in bankruptcy, had no money, it was largely you know, was largely closed. And when the storm hit, they had no electricity. Essentially, before the storm and when the storm hit, that took it out entirely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And you know it's true, the power grid was in pretty poor shape. But Luis, is this the standard that all states will have to -- you know, abide by? Oh, I'm sorry Alabama, your school system was a pretty crappy shape before the twisters went through, so we're not going to rebuild it to any kind of decent and you cannot get what you had before.

ALVARADO: Well, I think, when I was in Puerto Rico, what I keep hearing is the challenges that although were U.S. citizens, we don't get to vote. And since we don't vote, we're not really attractive to receive the attention that many other states or populations and other states are getting.

And that's one of the reasons what they feel that not just the power grid but many other systems within Puerto Rico were borderline, ready to collapse when the hurricane just came and knocked it over.

And the question now is what happens to Puerto Rico now, and I think the challenge is -- you know because there is more hurricanes coming and there's more potential challenges. So, I think that -- I think America has to make their mind.

I mean, are they U.S. citizens? Are they part of the U.S. or are they not? Because we can't just leave them floating in the wind.

VAUSE: Yes, yes.

ALVARADO: I think the U.S. actually has to man up and actually bring them into the fold.

VAUSE: But when did this calculation that you know, that are (INAUDIBLE), so they didn't get their right and non-entitle the same services?

GREUEL: Or we're coming to help you but you've really caused us -- I mean, you've taken our whole budget out of whack. I mean --

VAUSE: You cause so much trouble already.

GREUEL: Yes, who says that when you're trying to save lives? And I think they are U.S. citizens, they are part -- you know, we're not going to -- you know, cut them off.

So, I think it is an -- any kind of emergency when you have this kind of hurricane that you have to do the humanitarian aid. And it shouldn't matter whether you're in Puerto Rico or Texas or Florida or North Carolina, South Carolina.

VAUSE: Wherever, yes. OK, will the president began his day, Tuesday, as usual, complaining about the Russia investigation on Twitter. But then he remembered something, 17 years in September 11th, was the tweet. He also took to Twitter to praise the man who is now his lead attorney in the Russia investigation.

"Rudy Giuliani did great job as mayor of New York City during the period of September 11th. His leadership, bravery, and skill must never be forgotten. Rudy is a true warrior."

You know, Luis, he lacked the empathy on making to Puerto Rico. Today, he really struggled to find that role a consoler in chief. And none of that helped was helped rather by this photograph you had to see, it was taken at the memorial site in Pennsylvania. The president is giving his supporters a celebratory double fist bump. You know, it's of teeny stuff, isn't it?

ALVARADO: For many Americans, who probably lost somebody, they can't reconcile those sentiments or expressions with the ones that they have to relive on a day like today where it's -- you know, it could have been 17 years ago, but to them, it's just 17 seconds ago.

VAUSE: Yes, it's just that.

ALVARADO: And the pain is still there. There's still many yet suffer and many who were not touched still feel the pain. I mean, I remember the pain and then, I didn't lose anybody there, but I remember that my life changed.

VAUSE: Yes.

ALVARADO: And it still hurts.

VAUSE: Which is hardly surprising that the president who has sort of used division to govern struggles and bringing the country together on a day like this.

GREUEL: A day like today is the -- is the time that you're supposed to be -- that's a somber moment, it's a moment where you say we are all one. And that we are going to remember those that are fallen.

I just was at the 9/11 memorial just a few weeks ago, and it was a moment where the world came together and the U.S. came together. Today, we don't have that same feeling, and our president needs to have empathy and be able to respond in moments like this to not tweet in the morning about all these other issues. But instead, remember that this is a day we must remember those who lost their lives.

VAUSE: It's an important day. Let's meet up with the other firstborn son of the Trump family, Don Jr. All with his fiancee and former Fox News host, Kimberly Guilfoyle calls him Junior Mint. So, on Tuesday, Junior Mint was interviewed by ABC's Good Morning America. Boy, it didn't go well. Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TARA PALMERI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Your father has denied reports that he's worried that you might be in legal jeopardy because of the Mueller investigation. But are you scared that you could go to jail?

DONALD TRUMP, JR., ELDEST SON OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm not, because I know what I did and I'm not worried about any of that. You know, that doesn't mean they won't try to create something. I mean, we've seen that happen with everything. But -- you know, again, I'm not.

PALMERI: But some say that Mueller has been successful. He's -- has an indictment of Manafort, he has a plea deal from Cohen, he has Papadopolous sentenced. You know, he's got a litany of close associates of your father's under investigation and some convicted --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP JUNIOR: All for things that happened way before they were ever part of any campaign. So, that they get Manafort on a 2006 tax charge -- you know, again, I understand that they are trying to get my father and they'll do anything they can to get that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[01:20:01] VAUSE: Luis, we think Don Jr. has inherited his father's keen sense of how the law works.

ALVARADO: Our communication skills. I'm sure --

VAUSE: Yes. I'm -- not really understand what Manafort and Cohen -- I mean, Cohen in particular, but done for.

ALVARADO: Well, and I don't know what role -- under what role he's being interviewed there. I don't know if he's spokesperson for the campaign, I don't know if he's --

VAUSE: But that leads, told me that if they do the campaign.

ALVARADO: Yes, he's no role that I aware that he should be quoted for representing anything but himself.

VAUSE: Yes.

ALVARADO: And if he's only representing himself to these things, not a fear to go to jail, then, more power to him. The question is at the end of the day, all the evidence will tell a tale. And we'll know exactly where the chips are going to fall.

VAUSE: But Wendy, why would he agree to this interview, what's in it for him? And this seems like incredibly bad decision-making.

GREUEL: I don't know who's advising him or Trump on many of these issues. Maybe it's Rudy Giuliani.

VAUSE: Right. Maybe it's Rudy Giuliani.

GREUEL: But, you know, we can all read the paper in this to the news.

VAUSE: Yes. GREUEL: It says -- you know. Papadopoulos and Cohen, these were all done. And Flynn acknowledged that they did things during the time in which it was Trump was running for election.

VAUSE: Yes. And thought it was about the early jail for it.

GREUEL: Yes.

VAUSE: And nearly two weeks but still, of course, we can also ask why did Don Jr. also post this photograph on Instagram which shows him chomping into an alligator-infested swamp. He says he did it for a bit and it was easy money and everyone on the Internet pretty much made the same joke.

GREUEL: Yes.

VAUSE: So, I mean, I know that we saw.

ALVARADO: I don't know about, you know -- and he's the other thing when --

VAUSE: Yes, he's going to be the smart one, apparently.

GREUEL: Yes, apparently not.

VAUSE: I think about this, smart one.

GREUEL: Apparently not.

VAUSE: Wendy and Luis, thanks so much.

ALVARADO: Sounds of pleasure.

GREUEL: OK.

VAUSE: OK. OK, a short break, when we come back, when we come back, war games and business deals wants rivals Russia and China as many deeper ties as relations with the West are restrained.

Also ahead, with hurricanes and typhoons getting bigger and stronger. Experts say the sort of climate change cannot be ignored.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Beijing and Moscow are promising closer ties as the two countries meet at an economic summit in Russia. According to Newsweek, Chinese President Xi Jinping has described Russia's Vladimir Putin as his best, most intimate friend.

Those Deeping ties are also stretching to economics and also to the military Russia's biggest war game since the Soviet era now underway. And thousands of Chinese troops have joined the major military exercise.

CNN's Ivan Watson, live this hour from Hong Kong. And this is the two countries locked in disputes, separate disputes with the U.S.-China trade dispute. Russia facing -- you know, a raft of U.S. sanctions for interference in the 2016 presidential election. And that it seems is what's driving these two together in a very serious way.

[01:25:18] IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it does appear to be a contributing factor. And you know, these two countries have been strategically aligned to some extent in the United Nations Security Council. For example, they have a history of voting and vetoing together there when they see policies that they don't like.

But there's clearly been a drift, you could say, or a push between Beijing and Moscow to come closer together. And that's been underway for some time now. You hear -- you see here both on the military front a show of military force led by Russia with these military exercises that the Ministry of Defense in Moscow says involves more than 300,000 troops from Russia, some 3,000 troops on the part of China, and then, this political display of unity where the two leaders are side by side.

This is the third time they're meeting face to face just this year. But it is the first time that the Chinese head of state is attending Russia's now Fourth Annual Far East Economic Forum with pledges of economic cooperation declarations that they want to go beyond at the national level that they want to get their provinces and regions to start making deals together.

And you know, the Chinese and Russian markets aren't typically very easy for any outsider to penetrate, and here there are pledges to try to work together. One example is that there'll be a joint venture established between Alibaba -- you know, the Chinese retail e-commerce giant and a number of Russian companies like Mail.Ru Group.

And with the -- and MegaFon that's a telephone company in Russia with the goal of trying to establish a digital Silk Road. And that underscores, John, the disparity here on the economic front for Alibaba. This is not an enormous deal because this is an enormous company.

But China -- Russia's economy is much, much, much smaller than China's. It shows the kind of disparity between these two countries. And also perhaps, why it hasn't been as easy for Chinese investors to get into Russian markets as perhaps, they would have liked. Even though there have been declarations of cooperation in the past between these two leaders. John.

VAUSE: Well, they seem to be cooperating quite nicely with making pancakes for each other which was quite sweet. But you know, apart from the -- you know, the sort of the stuff for the cameras, there has been some -- you know, significant progress I guess, all decisions being made here when it comes to the use of their own currencies -- you know, for trade between these two countries.

You talked about the imbalance between these two economies. But so, is this move to -- move away from the U.S. dollar for trade, and to their own country -- current currencies rather, is that sort of more symbolic than substandard? WATSON: Well, you know, they signed an agreement about this back in June about trying to do bilateral trade using their own currencies and they talked again about this, this week in bloody bus talk about trying to do that as well.

If the Chinese currency is quite a bit more stable than the Russian one is which took a hard hit in April when the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia. So, that could raise some questions about a bilateral trade that has grown over the last year.

Putin -- President Putin said that the bilateral trade had gone from 87 billion dollars in 2017 that he hoped it would reach a hundred billion dollars. But again, that's kind of chump change for the Chinese who have a much bigger volume of trade with a country like the U.S. But, of course, the U.S. and China are now engaged in a trade war.

Meanwhile, Russia has had four years of rough relations with the European Union and with the U.S. since it invaded and annexed Crimea. So, what you clearly have is two countries that are almost being pushed closer together as they face isolation from the U.S. and from Western countries. John.

VAUSE: Yes, I guess -- you know, desperation makes strange bedfellows. Although, you know, as you say they've been moving closer for some time. Ivan, thank you. Appreciate the update.

Still to come here, a potentially deadly hurricane on an unprecedented track heading to the United States. Two others not far behind, a super typhoon in the Pacific, Hawaii hit by a major storm. Welcome to the world of a superheated planet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:30:00]

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: ...to the world of a super heated planet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Welcome back everybody. You're watching CNN Newsroom live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. We'll check the headlines this hour. More than 20 million people could be impacted by Hurricane Florence, heading towards the U.S. east coast.

The storm now category four, it is expected to move slowly inland after making landfall in the Carolinas on Friday morning. Days of torrential rain, storm surges, and severe flooding are expected.

About one and a half million people are under mandatory evacuation orders along the coast of northern South Carolina, as well as Virginia. Some though are defined forty (ph) and ready to ride out the storm.

There are warnings, though, to these people, if they stay behind, no one will be there to rescue them. President Trump says the federal government is standing by ready to help, but he is still being criticized for his administration's response to Puerto Rico's disaster last year after Hurricane Maria.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump called that response an unsung success. Three thousand people have died after Hurricane Maria and much of the island went without power for weeks. Good news from the charts (ph).

We're tracking some other tropical storm systems, as well, around the world, meteorologist Pedram Javaheri back with us to look at that. So, you know, we've got Florence, but that isn't the only major weather event which has a lot of people worried.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we've got a stronger storm, and, potentially, a far more destructive storm considering where it's headed and you have people that it could impact over the next couple of days, John.

We're talking about Mangkhut (ph) with this super typhoon, equivalent now to a category five, and, frankly, a healthy category five equivalent system sitting out there, an incredible satellite presentation with this feature, two hundred and sixty kilometer per hour winds.

I just looked at the max significant wave height ahead of the storm. They're sitting at 39 feet or about 12 meters. That's how high the oceans are ahead of this feature as it begins to, really, move its way westward towards portions of Luzon.

And that's a concern going into late Friday night, early Saturday morning, potentially makes landfall in a very mountainous region here across northern Luzon, at last, working its way, Ilagan into Baguio.

Some of these communities, certainly, could see a life threatening amount of rainfall, flash flooding and landslides. That's the primary threat. And then, it moves on into portions of the South China Sea.

And by early Monday morning, it threatens places such as Hong Kong, as a weaker storm. So, we're going to break this down for you here because the timing on this is really critical as it goes into the early morning hours because once you get into these higher elevation communities, not only are you getting tropical system rainfall with category five equivalent wins, but, of course, the mountains themselves, they act to squeeze all of this rainfall as well.

So, that's why we think this could be a life threatening scenario into northern Luzon. And then, notice where it parks up as we approach sunrise on Monday morning. Of course, the work week starts, and in places like Hong Kong, the eastern side - the north eastern side of this storm, which is the most potent side of the storm, lines up and that could be a secondary impact.

There, potentially, is a category three equivalent storm as it moves ashore towards southern Gwandong.

[01:35:00] And lastly, we have Tropical Storm Olivia, John, which I'm not interested right now, but keep in mind, in six decades of weather keeping. So, it's the satellite era. We've only had four storms cross the Hawaiian Islands as tropical storms or greater.

This would be number five. Of course, the entire island is on alert, here, for tropical storm conditions. And it looks like Maui is going to be the impact point there in the next 12 or so hours.

VAUSE: So, there is a lot of unusual stuff happening when it comes to weather, Pedram. So, thank you. Appreciate it.

JAVAHERI: Thank you, yes.

VAUSE: And that, of course, is baking the question, what does climate change have to do with all of this? Jess Phoenix is a geologist and executive director of Blueprint Earth, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the Earth's environment. Boy, you got your work cut out for you don't you?

JESS PHOENIX, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BLUEPRINT EARTH: Oh yes. It's - it's a good time to be in the environmental business, I guess, or a bad time.

VAUSE: Or a depressing time, yes.

PHOENIX: Yes, either way.

VAUSE: Well, thank you for being with us because there's - let's just, you know, look at what's happening around the world. We have the super typhoon behavior in the Philippines. We have Florence. And behind Florence is Isaac and Helene as well. You know, this is what life looks like, I guess...

PHOENIX: Yes.

VAUSE: ...on an overheated planet. The important point, with all of this, though, is that, you know, climate change didn't cause the hurricanes or the typhoons, but they made them worse because this is a natural disaster which is a, potentially, a man made catastrophe because of the choices we've made.

PHOENIX: Right. And then, what we're doing is interfering with the way the jet stream operates. I mean, the jet stream is current of air that actually goes from west to east. And that's why flights going west to east take a lot less time than going east to west here in the states.

Normally, that jet stream would push a lot of these storms back out into the open ocean. But now, the jet stream is up further north than it was before. And that's because the tropical regions are actually expanding.

VAUSE: Right.

PHOENIX: So, we're getting more hot air at - at different latitudes than we used to.

VAUSE: And there's a lot going on here, too, with the - with the melting of the sea ice and the impact that has on everything, but also, because we're putting all of this heat into the atmosphere which is then absorbed by the ocean, which absorbs most of the heat that we put into the world.

PHOENIX: Right.

VAUSE: And that means that the water is hotter which is - is jet fuel for these hurricanes...

PHOENIX: Yes.

VAUSE: ...which is why they're so much stronger.

PHOENIX: No, that's exactly it. And the - the average surface temperature of the ocean has been increasing. We've got data that says that and we're seeing the effects. Like with Harvey, we had a hurricane that actually stalled over land.

And that is what caused, you know, the massive flooding, and the massive destruction. We're seeing something that could be very - very similar here with Florence. And that's why everyone is on such high alert.

VAUSE: Even with Florence which was, if you look at the predictions, up to 35 inches of rain. That's like three feet.

PHOENIX: Yes.

VAUSE: It's almost like a meter of rain in some parts.

PHOENIX: Right. And that's not even, necessarily, the most dangerous thing.

VAUSE: Yes.

PHOENIX: Storm surges are the big concern.

VAUSE: Thirty foot storm surges.

PHOENIX: Yes, up to 30 foot, yes. So, I mean, that's massive. And, basically, over 12 feet is when a storm surge becomes very, potentially, deadly.

VAUSE: OK. So - so, you know, there - there is a definite link. We're not, entirely, sure. You know, there's not - science is never absolute.

PHOENIX: Yes.

VAUSE: But, you know, you can - if it - if it - if 99 out of 100 scientists say you've got cancer, you get an operation, right?

PHOENIX: Yes, you've got a problem. VAUSE: OK. So, in the past few weeks there's been reports that the Trump administration wants to relax the rules which govern the release of methane which is one of the biggest problem emissions when it comes to greenhouse gases.

The administration has moved to rollback vehicle emission status put in place by President Obama. Also, want to, sort of, ease the rules on coal fired power plants. It would be one thing if this U.S. government did nothing to fight climate change. It is quite another to see it, actively, working against the measure which are being put in place to try and mitigate the problem.

PHOENIX: Exactly. And, I mean, we have a history of Republican presidents actually taking environmental action. You had Nixon, created the ETA.

VAUSE: The ETA, yes.

PHOENIX: You have Ronald Reagan dealing with chlorofluorocarbons. You had George W. Bush who, actually, dealt with cap and trade, to put in limits...

VAUSE: Yes.

PHOENIX: ...so that we could help deal with these sort of challenges that we're facing. And Trump is, I'd say, the first president in recent memory, probably ever, who has, actively, worked against a conservative principle which is to conserve...

VAUSE: Yes.

PHOENIX: ...the natural environment.

VAUSE: I want to play a clip - it's from a video by Katharine Hayhoe...Hayhoe, sorry. She works at the Climate Science Center. This is what she said. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHARINE HAYHOE, DIRECTOR, CLIMATE SCIENCE CENTER: If we only use our experience with past disasters to inform future preparations, we run the risk of, dangerously, underestimating the amount of area that might be burnt, coastal flooding, rainfall, even the average strength of the hurricanes that do come our way.

Our civilization is built on an obsolete assumption, one that's becoming, increasingly, dangerous, that our climate is stable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) because she goes into everything great and explains it all really well.

PHOENIX: And she is one of the top climate scientists in the world, so.

VAUSE: Yes, and she's gets, like, tons of abuse.

PHOENIX: Yes.

VAUSE: It's nuts.

PHOENIX: They all do, but it's - it's bad.

VAUSE: I mean this point of, like, preparing for the future disasters as opposed to the ones that we've already had that...

PHOENIX: Yes.

VAUSE: ...is irrelevant. You know, I thought things would change after Sandy, maybe, after Hurricane Harvey, you know, maybe Maria, but...

PHOENIX: It would've helped with Katrina.

[01:40:00]

PHOENIX: It would have helped with Katrina, you know -

VAUSE: Yes, exactly. But now we've got Florence. I mean, is this the moment when everyone says it's all (ph) hang on, you know? Or again, there was a tweet here which I though was - sort of summed it up.

We know what's next. Climate change, we mentioned after these big hurricanes, are strengthen by warming seas for almost as long as gun control was discussed following massive school shootings.

PHOENIX: Yes, and that's the thing is we're at a point where even if you are denying climate change, you have to see the reality. I mean, it's right in front of us. You know, all the evidence is there in front of you. The cards are on the table. We know what's going to happen.

And, you know, the U.N. Secretary General was just talking the other day about how we have till 2020 to take -

VAUSE: Yes.

PHOENIX: - dramatic action, and that's where we are. So I think it's a matter of scientists, business leaders, whatever government officials can taking action like we're doing here in Califronia.

VAUSE: OK, so with that in mind, let's go into our time machine and go back to the Senate floor for maybe the most assanine moment in the history of U.S. politics.

PHOENIX: Oh, I know what you're talking about.

VAUSE: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP) SEN. JIM INHOFE (R), O.K.: We keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record. I asked the chair, "you know what this is? It's a snowball and that's just from outside here." So it's very, very cold out, very unseasonal (ph). So Mr. President, catch this.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

VAUSE: Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Republican senator. I mean, have we moved beyond that (inaudible). Oh, it's cold. It can't be fine - it can't be global warming?

PHOENIX: I think that more and more people are starting to see the effects in their own backyards. It's very tangible when, you know, your house almost burns down or you've gone through a sustained period of drought -

VAUSE: Or a flood.

PHOENIX: Yes, or a flood, or you see massive tornadoes developing more so than normal. So I think most people get it, and studies have shown that, yes, the public actually does believe - not that it matters whether or not we believe it in - but I think it's we still have to deal with the problem of big money and the fossil fuel lobby having a controlling interest in elected officials.

VAUSE: I'm going to play that clip every time there is a major -

PHOENIX: Thank you.

VAUSE: - hurricane -

PHOENIX: It's so bad. It's so bad.

VAUSE: Yes.

PHOENIX: Yes.

VAUSE: It's each - you know -

PHOENIX: I mean, I just really hope everybody in the past - there's about 25 million people in the cone that this storm is projected to take, to hit, and there's more outside of that, but I hope that they take the warnings very seriously.

VAUSE: And, you know, because this is the path and the threats that it brings and the dangers, this is what is unprecedented.

PHOENIX: This is the real deal, yes. No one has seen a storm like this in this area ever.

VAUSE: Yes. And we're still within the climate change (ph).

PHOENIX: Yes.

VAUSE: Jess, good to see you.

PHOENIX: Good to see you, John. Thanks.

VAUSE: Coming up here on Newsroom L.A., and editorial cartoon of tennis star Serena Williams was condemned as racist, but the artist who drew it isn't backing down.

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[01:45:00]

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VAUSE: Well, in a few hours, the European Parliament will vote on whether or not to punish Hungary for undermining democracy. The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, is under fire for his hard line immigration policies and for clamping down on the court, the media, and non-governmental groups.

If the parliament's motion passes, and it would be unprecedented if it does, it could lead to suspending Hungary's voting rights in the block. (inaudible) attacked the E.U. report on his government.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

VIKTOR ORBAN, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Let's speak clearly. Hungary is going to be condemned because the Hungarian people have decided that this country is not going to be a country of migrants. With due respect, but with upmost certainty, I reject that pro-immigration and pro-migrant forces of the European Union should threaten and blackmail and smear Hungary and the Hungarian people based on false (ph) allegations.

With respect, I inform you that whatever decision you will make, Hungary will accede to the blackmailing. Hungary will protect its borders, stop illegal migration, and Hungary will defend its right if needed even against you.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

VAUSE: Well, for the motion to pass, it needs two-thirds of the 751 member parliament, and that, at this point, is still unclear.

The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. has warned Russia and Iran of dire consequences if airstrikes against the last major rebel-held stronghold in Syria continue. Nikki Haley told the U.S. Security Counsel that the world has a clear military escalation by Syria and Russia in the Idlib province, and she added Russia and Iran have little interest in a political solution. The U.N. Secretary General appealed to all sides to try and stop a bloodbath.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS: It is absolutely essential to avoid the full-scale battle in (inaudible). This would unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in the blood-soaked Syrian conflict. I make it clear to you (ph) that to all parties invited to the (inaudible) and in critique (ph) with the city (ph) guarantors of the de-escalation zone, namely Iran, Russia, and Turkey, spare no efforts to find solutions that protect civilians, preserve basic services in hospitals, ensure full respect for international humanitarian law.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

VAUSE: And estimated three million people are in Idlib province right now, and that includes close to a million people. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more now from Damascus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The situation in and around Idlib province in the north of Syria continues to intensify, and if you look at where most of these airstrikes have been taking place, they've been taking place in a lot of places in Idlib, but specifically in the south of Idlib province. That's where a lot of the casualties happened and that's also a lot of where the air and also artillery strikes happened as well.

The Syrian government provided us with some video showing some of their planes and some of their rocket launchers firing toward Idlib province. They also said that from the other side, from the rebel side, there had been some cross-border firing in the other direction and some people were killed on the other side as well.

Now, the message that we're getting right here in Damascus is they say that this offensive could be imminent, it could happen anytime, but at the same time they also say as long as the wheel haven't been set in motion, there could still be some room for diplomacy. Of course, we know there's that meeting today in the United Nations, the U.S. and Russia going at it once again. Also, there's another meeting with the U.N., with the Russians, the Iranians, and the Turks to try and find some sort of compromise, but, of course, with every moment that goes by and with these airstrikes continuing in Idlib, the chance of staving off an offensive growing dimmer by the minute.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Fred Pleitgen there, at least 68 people dead and more than 168 wounded after a suicide bomber targeted a demonstration in Afghanistan. Officials say the bomber set of the explosives in a crowd gathered outside a police station near the Pakistan border. The Taliban has denied involvement, and authorities believe violence will escalate out of next month's parliamentary election.

(inaudible) commemorations marking the 17th anniversary of 9/11 on Tuesday and remembering for nearly 3,000 people who died. These commemorations have been taking place across the U.S. and here's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 17 years ago in the hours after the attacks, air travel coast-to-coast was suspended. The skies fell quiet for the better part of three days, and every year since, the silence has returned.

With bowed heads and broken hearts, the whole nation has watched survivors and their families wrestle with their grief, seeing the landscape of the tragedy transformed. Even watch the presidency change hands, but the message has stayed the same.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This memorial is now a message to the world. America will never ever submit.

[01:50:00]

This memorial is now a message to the world. America will never ever submit to trainee.

FOREMAN: Those are not just words. Terrorists who planned that terrible day were hunted fiercely in Afghanistan, and indeed around the world. And there network was decimated. Thousands of American troops lost their lives in the process. But a promise was made.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER US PRESIDENT: No matter how long it take America will find you and we will bring you to justice.

FOREMAN: And it was kept.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER US PRESIDENT: The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda. And a terrorist whose responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, woman, and children.

FOREMAN: Since that dark day so much has changed, technology, demographics, our politics, our past times. 68 million new American's have been born. Some who graduated high school just last spring, learning about the attacks as a piece of history. But for all those who lived through that awful day recall the lives lost.

MIKE PENCE, US VICE PRESIDENT: They were mothers, and fathers, and fathers to be, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, they were family.

FOREMAN: Those memories are unchanged, if only for a few silent moments each September. Tom Forman, CNN Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

VAUSE: It was just breakfast. Two work colleagues sitting down for the most important meal of the day. Only it happened in Saudi Arabia. And that was when the man got arrested because he was having a meal with a woman. Take a look at the video it shows the two sitting down, eating, offensive according to the Saudi authorities.

The two apparently violated interaction laws between unrelated men and woman. Here's Becky Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The most remarkable thing about this story is how utterly innocent the video is. Let me walk you through it. You are watching a man and woman having breakfast together. Their laughing and joking, they invite others to join. They appear to be streaming it to their friends since all happing in Jeddah.

Normally a pretty relaxed part of the Kingdom. Now towards the end the woman dressed here head to toe in black with a face veil feeds her male friend something, now this video, being shared widely in the Kingdom. And that is where the modernity of social media crashed into what is powerful traditional elements in Saudi culture, conservative forces kicking up a fuss.

Well the man then arrested for what authorities are describing as appearing in an - and I quote "offensive video" and breaking rules that quote "regulate woman's placement at work". Remember public spaces are gender segregated by law there. So even as the Kingdom goes through transformative social, political, and economic changes lead by immensely powerful Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

In Saudi Arabia absolute power isn't so absolute since its founding the ruling family has been in a unique deal with a conservative brand of Islam known as Wahhabism. So its future must always be in lock step with it's past. And that is why even a breakfast in Saudi Arabia can be a really, really big deal. Becky Anderson, CNN Abu Dhabi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[01:55:00]

VAUSE: Well what is and what isn't racist? Well to many an Israel county in Australia sparks outrage (inaudible) three, and with is Serena Williams. But the Brad Drewett (ph) and his employers are doubling down as the team sought out racism but rather behavior. Reporter Brent McCloud tells this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRENT MCCLOUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of Australians most popular cartoonists drawing fire from the world's most popular orphan.

MARK KNIGHT, CARTOONIST: Well done on reducing one of the greatest sports woman alive to racist and sexist tromps. To have J.K. Rowling trolling me is well, it's something I didn't expect in life.

MCCLOUD: Harry Potter writer just one of thousands who've taken to social media condemning this depiction of Serena Williams at the U.S. Open. A reaction that the cartoonist didn't anticipate.

KNIGHT: One of the greatest of all time, who I have admired and drawn many times having a dummy speech. And I can say that when I drew the cartoon it was like yes, that's not bad and off it went.

MCCLOUD: The U.S. Association of Black Journalists referenced a racist past when it called it a repugnant cartoon which exudes racist and sexist characters of both women. But Williams depiction is unnecessarily Sambo like.

KNIGHT: Her facial expressions are one of somebody having a dummy speech. I don't know how I could have done it any other way.

DERRYN HINCH, AUSTRALIAN: I support him on it. It's a great cartoon and I don't think there's any racism here at all.

MCCLOUD: Mark Knight has the support of his news corps chiefs who dismissed the online attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this world of perpetual out rage where people are looking for victim hood, nothing surprises me.

MCCLOUD: The daughter of civil rights activist Martin Luther King called that response unfortunate with their consideration for the painful historically context of such imagery.

KNIGHT: Look I'd say in my defense I've done - I'm not a racist. I've done cartoons supporting Adam Goodes and his bluing (ph) situation.

MCCLOUD: As Mark Knight goes back to the drawing board he says he won't be referencing himself in tomorrows cartoon. But he may rethink just what he depicts in future drawings. And not just because of the response he's been getting.

KNIGHT: My family are worried and upset at the threats that we're getting. Is it going to affect me in the future? Maybe it will, maybe I will have to pull my punches.

MCCLOUD: He'll leave the last word to his famous cartoon Pete.

KNIGHT: What have you gone and done now?

MCCLOUD: Brent McCloud, 9 News.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: You've been watching CNN "Newsroom" live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. The news continues on CNN right after this.

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[01:59:00]