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Reports of Significant Damage as Florence Strikes Carolinas; Manafort to Plead Guilty in Deal with Special Counsel; Official: Island of Carolina Beach Totally Out of Power. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 14, 2018 - 10:30   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

We continue to cover Hurricane Florence as she battered the Carolina coastline.

We do have major breaking news I want to get to out of Washington, D.C. In just minutes, the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is expected to plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy. And doing so in federal court today, he will avoid a second trial that was said to begin on Monday.

What we do not know yet, and this is very critical, is whether or not this guilty plea will include a deal to cooperate with Special Counsel Bob Mueller. Will that happen? We may find out in just moments. And what would that mean for Manafort to essentially flip and to cooperate with other strands of the Mueller probe?

Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. Co-anchor of the show who will be sitting next to me starting Monday, and there will be a lot of news to cover then. This is your beat. This is very significant because he is admitting to committing a host of crimes that he had denied before.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: A significant victory for the special counsel, no question. Second victory against Manafort, of course, because he had a conviction in the Virginia case, just a couple weeks ago. But it's also a significant turnaround for Paul Manafort. I mean he had fought tooth and nail against the special counsel. He spent millions of dollars on lawyers to fight this, and now he's pleading.

As you noted, he's pleading to two crimes. Conspiracy, conspiracy to witness tampering.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: He's forfeiting assets. He has not pleading to the other. He faced a total of seven charges. He's pleading to two of those seven but he's admitting to those other charges which included money laundering, illegal foreign lobbying, et cetera. So, in effect, acknowledging responsibility, but just pleading to two of those counts.

HARLOW: We continually hear from the administration, from the president, as we did after his first conviction, this is nothing to do with me. He's still a good guy. This was a long time ago. Russia is your beat. Talk to me about how this all ties back to Russia.

SCIUTTO: It is true that the bulk of this happened before he started working for the president. It is also true that this is tied to Russia. He was working for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians, many of them not the greatest people in the world. No question.

That said, others did that, too. Paul Manafort was not alone in there, but there are issues. The witness tampering, to be clear, took place afterwards. This didn't take place 10 years ago. It took place in recent months. So that, you cannot claim that all this happened in, you know, in ancient history. There's that.

The big question, as you mentioned, is does this mean he's cooperating now? Because that, of course, would be a troublesome development for the president. We don't know the answer to that question. But let's look at clues here.

He was charged with seven crimes. He's pleading just two of them. Typically, when a prosecutor accepts a plea like that, they want something in return. Rick Gates, Manafort's former deputy, he was charged with seven crimes, pleaded to two of them. We know he's cooperating. Doesn't mean that Manafort is, but it's an indicator.

HARLOW: Just on the cooperation point. We should find out in minutes in court here. Rudy Giuliani yesterday told "Politico" there's no fear that Paul Manafort will cooperate against the president. There's nothing to cooperate about. To that, you say?

SCIUTTO: Well, he's the president's lawyer. And he has every incentive to say that. Robert Mueller is also a very serious man, as you know. Would he give a deal like this if he wasn't getting something in return? In terms of cooperation? There are a lot of circumstances where he would not.

HARLOW: All right. We'll be watching very closely. Jim, thank you. I'll see you back here.

SCIUTTO: See you Monday. We couldn't wait until Monday.

HARLOW: I can't wait. We'll have a lot of news to cover. I do want to get back to the breaking news. Of course, we're covering Hurricane Florence as she batters at the Carolina coastline. We'll get back to Anderson Cooper down there in just a minute.


[10:39:21] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Florence. The slow-moving, grinding storm that is just pouring water over North Carolina, all along the coast of North Carolina. It's then going to be heading west, moving toward South Carolina. Then getting a taste of what people here have been experiencing now for many hours. Really picked up a lot this morning as the storm made landfall at 7:15 a.m. in Wrightsville.

I want to go over to Miguel Marquez who is in Carolina Beach, where they are obviously without power as well. Miguel, talk a little bit about what you're seeing there.

[10:40:00] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I want to show you what's happening on Carolina Beach right now. That back side of the storm is definitely here. The wind now blowing up from the south. This is the ocean. The waves are now coming up much higher. We're getting pretty close to high tide at this point. So, the waves are starting to come up much higher. The wind has really kicked up as well.

One thing that officials across new Hanover County are asking individuals is that if you have an emergency, make sure it's a life- threatening emergency before calling 911. They say their 911 center is extraordinarily busy right now. Because people are calling about downed trees and flooded roads. But not life-threatening emergencies. They have their swift water rescue teams at the ready. But they have not had to affect any rescues at this point.

But now, this whole area, Carolina Beach, which is completely out of power. New Hanover County, which is also 94,000 people here, out of power. We're now bracing for the second part of the storm and just judging from the direction that the waves are coming and the height at which they're coming, clearly, there is a surge coming in right now. And they will have to sort of wait it out and see how bad it gets. Everybody on alert here. Waiting now to see how bad this storm gets and how the county gets through it. Anderson.

COOPER: All right, we're going to go back to Miguel because we actually lost our ability to actually have a communication with him. In a situation like this, communication obviously, as you can imagine, is pretty difficult. I want to go to Bill Read, former director of the National Hurricane Center.

Bill, just in terms of what we have seen from the storm so far, I'm wondering what you make of it, how it compares or what it compares to in past storms.

BILL READ, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, this has been a very unique storm. The path it took right off from the get-go was along a path that we have not seen. It came into the Carolina Coast. This is not unusual, though, to see a very strong major hurricane actually lose some intensity before landfall. That is comparable to some of the other storms I have seen in the past. See some of the people talk about some historical storms back in the 1950s that were also slow moving here, though that is fairly rare. Usually, storms of this latitude are moving at a much faster clip.

COOPER: And just in terms of what people here should be anticipating and thinking about over the next day, where do you see the kind of the arc of this storm -- what is it looking like? READ: Oh, this is the part that bothers me the most as far as the impact. You're going to have such a slow motion off to the west that's going to keep bringing these rain bands inland over the same spots. In southeast North Carolina and then later today and tomorrow into northeast South Carolina. The excessive rainfall is being forecast, I think, is going to materialize. And we're going to see record levels of flooding in many communities. And the continuation of the rescues that you're seeing today, maybe in other communities, due to that rain.

COOPER: You know, the mayor here in Wilmington, he's talked about as much as 40 inches of rain in some places. And getting as much as you know eight months' worth of rain in just three days. It's an extraordinary amount. And just, is the size of this storm still what it was? I haven't been able to actually see radar because we were out of power. But yesterday, you know, we woke up to learn that the storm had really doubled in size.

READ: Well, there's an outer rain band this morning moving into the tide water area of Virginia. Almost more than a state away from where the center is now. So yes, it's still a very large circulation, and although the winds will die down, I think the size of the circulation won't contract. You'll still get the heavy rain where we're forecasting it there in North Carolina and South Carolina.

COOPER: Bill, appreciate your expertise. We're going to take a short break. More of Hurricane Florence when we come back.


[10:48:57] COOPER: Well, just as Chad Myers had predicted or told us to expect, winds picking up here. Rain also now just starting to pick up a little bit. We anticipate obviously even more rain in the coming hours, as much as, you know, in five or six hours, even greater bands of rain as the storm continues to just slowly churn over this region after making landfall early this morning.

I want to check in with our Nick Watt, who I think is in North Myrtle Beach. Nick, explain -- correct me if I'm wrong if you're not in North Myrtle Beach and also just how are things there? What's it looking like?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I am in North Myrtle Beach. You're right. And the conditions seem to be similar to what you're getting up there. The wind is picking up. I would say gusts right now of about 60 miles per hour. They are forecast to rise to about 90 miles per hour this afternoon.

Now, we are staying in a house on stilts on the beach. I tried to grab a few hours' sleep overnight. It was hard because you could actually feel the house moving in the winds. It was blowing in the wind.

[10:50:04] Now, the issue here is going to be the water. That storm is going to turn south-southwest, so at some point later today, we're basically -- we here in North Myrtle Beach are going to be between the eye of the storm, the intercoastal waterway, which is big body of water, and the ocean.

Now, that tide is supposed to be out right now, and I can tell you, it is not. We're going to get high tide at about 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, so storm surge is going to be the real issue here. This place flooded back in 2016 in Matthew. It's probably going to flood again. The question is just how badly. We're already under a flash flood warning down here.

Now, most people did evacuate from this town. About 85 percent, but there are about 2,000 people hunkered down, trying to ride out this storm. It's going to be a long and a very wet wait until this passes. As you said, Anderson, this storm is crawling and dumping all this rain as it moves very, very slowly over the Carolinas. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Nick, you were saying you were in a house on stilts. Do you have a sense of how high those stilts are? And because you know, I mean if you're getting -- if you end up getting a storm surge like they were talking about in some areas of 12, 13 feet, even some houses on stilts are going to have flooding on their first level.

WATT: Yes. I mean, I think we're going to be OK. Our stilts are about 12, 13 feet high. Then we have two stories above that, so worst case scenario, we go to the top floor, but it's not really predicted to be that high here. I think it will be, you know, somewhere in the four, six, maybe a little higher than that. It will flood the town, but listen, some houses are going to get flooded, there's no question about that. I think our one will be OK. But for a lot of people here, there's going to be a lot of damage.

And as I say, it's going to just take time. You know, previous storms that have passed through here moved quick. This one is just lingering. And that is going to be the protracted pain that people are going to feel. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, and pain and in some cases you know there's fear. There's also just boredom where you're cooped up inside your house. You know, with your pet, with your kids in some cases. And with the storm like this, it just goes on, you know, for days, it's just going to be a miserable grind for people there.

WATT: It is. And your power went out this morning just a little after the landfall, which was about 50 miles north of us. So yes, I mean the streets this morning are empty. Yesterday, before the storm really hit, there were a lot of people down here on the beach. Sight seeing, essentially. There is nobody out this morning. Everybody is hunkered down. But as you say, as this drags on, people will be tempted to go out. People might be tempted to drive around. That is not what people should be doing. The advice is definitely, Anderson, to stay home. Hung hunker down, no matter how bored you are, don't come out unless you have to report what's happening. Anderson.

COOPER: Nick, thanks very much. I want to go to Martin Savidge who is in Wrightsville Beach. Martin, that's where the storm actually made landfall at 7:15 a.m. I don't know if you were awake at that time or on the air. I'm curious to know what that was like and how are things now? I think we're having -- Martin, can you hear me? All right, we're obviously having some trouble getting Martin Savidge there in Wrightsville Beach.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is not a lot of damage here. Took heavy wind gusts, without a doubt. If you look at -- you really can't probably see in this rain, the ships, the boats. - I can -- Do you hear me?

COOPER: Let's go to break.


[10:59:09] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

COOPER: Welcome back to the top of the hour. Our continuing coverage of Hurricane Florence. Winds picking up, rain picking up here in Wilmington, North Carolina. Just part of this long, slow-moving system that is going to be with us all throughout the day. Moving into South Carolina as well.

I want to check in with our Chad Myers. We have reporters all throughout North Carolina and South Carolina. We are reporting this storm, but let's get an overview. Chad, where is the storm now, what's it looking like?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's about 20 miles to the southwest of you, and it still looks very wet. There's still a lot of the storm that's over water, over the ocean. Still picking up more humidity to dump on these already flooded areas. 14 rivers in major flood stage or higher. Some even making a run at record. Davis had a wind speed of 108. Wilmington Air Park, not far from where you are, 105. That happened about three hours ago when the eye was right on top of you. So, a couple of things that are still going on.

The rain continuous on up to the flooded areas here around New Bern.