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Tropical Storm Florence Moving at Two Miles Per Hour over Carolinas; Five Deaths Attributed to Tropical Storm Florence; Paul Manafort to Cooperate with Special Counsel as Part of Plea Deal; Anonymous Accuser Claims Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Sexually Assaulted Her; President Trump Continues to Deny Recently Released Death Toll Numbers in Puerto Rico in Wake of Hurricane Maria. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired September 15, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:18] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: So glad to have you here as we are watching what is now tropical storm Florence moving at a mere two miles per hour, essentially parked on top of the Carolinas right now. I'm Christi Paul. Victor Blackwell is in the thick of it there in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Victor, how is it going thus far?
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the wind and rain are still coming down and blowing us across here. The gusts occasionally are enough to make you shift your stance, but nothing as strong as what we saw in North Carolina. And now we've learned that there are two additional deaths attributed to hurricane and now tropical storm Florence, the two additional deaths we've learned in the last few moments in Cataract County. That's just southeast of New Bern where we know that there have been hundreds of rescues. Some people still waiting to be pulled out of their homes. And there are 4,200 homes there that have been either damaged or flooded. That coming from Dana Outlaw, the mayor of New Bern.
But here in South Carolina, the major concern in addition to the wind is the water, the swelling of creeks and rivers as the waters that have flooded North Carolina start to pass through some of those estuaries, some of those creeks into this part of the country. And we have our Nick Valencia who is about 20 miles away from me inland here in Conway, and he is in an area that is prone to flooding, and they are proving that the water that's coming through is going to be a challenge for them, again. Nick, what are you seeing?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is challenging right now for the local officials. They've shut down this road. This is probably the worst of it that we're seeing in Conway, as you mentioned, 20 miles from where you are, Victor. But just check out this house. We have been showing it to you all morning long. And just in the last two hours since we have been out here, that water level has gone up five or six inches or so.
And then I'll take you down this side of the road as well, if you want to pan around, Ralph Rodriguez (ph), our photographer, that water was not there on the road when we got here, not as significant it is now. And it is slowly, slowly starting to creep towards us those minutes and hours tick by.
The Waccamaw River is just a couple miles away from here, and I was talking to the Conway police department, and what they say is, they're really worried that that is going to swell and puts parts of Conway like this underwater. I wouldn't be surprised if by the end of the day this entire road is underwater. Certainly the police are also worried about as that water comes from North Carolina and drains and makes its way towards South Carolina that in the next three to five days they're going to see cresting, they're going to see these rivers and tributaries, estuaries, all flooded with water.
Residents here in this block, I know you guys are probably worried about them at home, they have evacuated from as far as what we can tell. We have seen some residents come and check on their friends, property. We have seen some other emergency vehicles that pass by through here occasionally, but the real concern is that rain is continuing to fall steadily. It is not a significant amount of rain, but enough to make this house in danger of getting its first floor flooded. Victor?
BLACKWELL: I understand the roads there are starting to flood as well, Nick, right?
VALENCIA: That's right. The road, let's just walk down the road here, guys. There's a bit of a drop off point here, so there's a divot in the side of this road. I tried to take a step in this water earlier and I fell probably to waist earlier. It just shows you just how much water has gathered and collected.
But as we walk this roadway, we were looking down towards the end of it, it looks like a bridge, we haven't walked down all the way there just yet, but it looks like a bridge, and that water is slowly but steadily coming down towards us. We're going to try to keep an eye on it and see just how much it creeps towards us. But as I mentioned, that river is a real big concern. Local emergency managers saying that this is a spot that flooded in 1999 during Floyd, also during hurricane Matthew. They're very worried about it today as well. Victor?
BLACKWELL: Nick Valencia there in Conway. Nick, you and the crew be safe there.
Let's go north up to Robeson County and Lumberton, North Carolina, where my colleague Polo Sandoval is there near the Lumber River. And as Nick referenced the 1999 flooding here, the people there just have to think back to hurricane Matthew and the flooding that they faced, and they're seeing the threat of that again.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That was only two years ago, Victor. So most if not almost all of the residents here have experienced that flooding already. The Lumber River, as you mentioned, is on the rise. An official telling me a little while ago that it is currently at about 11 to 12 feet. Flood stage is 13 feet, so as you can imagine, we do expect to hit flood stage in the next hour or two. The concern is that that the river level here is going to continue to rise. [10:05:11] And so what we have seen here, residents are keeping a very
close eye on the water levels. People have told me their belongings are packed, especially those who live near the river, they are prepared to go at a moment's notice. Many of them have been coming out to see for themselves, engage more or less with the situation. The river forecast certainly shows a major flood stage by tomorrow. That gives you an idea all of that rain that Florence has dumped has to go somewhere, as Nick just mentioned. It eventually makes its way into streams, creeks, and some of these major rivers. So that is what people are worried about. About 18 miles inland is not so much about the winds, of course. They have been spared that. But it's post Florence flooding that they're really worried about, especially those who experienced Matthew only two years ago, Victor.
BLACKWELL: Polo Sandoval for us there up in Lumberton, North Carolina. Polo, thank you. And you and the crew be safe as well.
If there are communities here that are not dealing with flooding or they don't have damage in their immediate neighborhood, there's a good chance that they are facing power outages, more than 900,000. Close to 950,000 customers across North and South Carolina are without power at this hour. Those aren't 950,000 people, customers, so there may be many people living in a single house. We have got on the phone with us Jeff Brooks with Duke Energy. I would like to ask you, how many of those customers are yours?
JEFF BROOKS, SPOKESMAN, DUKE ENERGY: Good morning. About 550,000 of those customers are ours, and we have seen numbers beginning to climb in South Carolina as Florence makes her way through the state, also in the southern counties of North Carolina. That's on top of all of the coastal counties in which pretty much every customer is out for extended periods. So we have got a lot of outages, we're seeing it continue to climb.
And the challenge has been really that our crews have been sheltering just like the citizens have. We haven't been able to be safely out in the field, doing assessments and work. And so that work is still just beginning. So there's a lot of work ahead before we'll be able to make progress.
BLACKWELL: So what's the threshold for your workers to be able to get out. I know these sustained winds are probably too stiff to get people out, but what are you looking for them to drop below?
BROOKS: We need it to get below 40 miles per hour, because they're using bucket trucks, they're using other heavy equipment, and we want keep them to be safe, obviously, because they're working with high voltage electricity. So as those winds get below that threshold, we're sending crews out to begin the damage assessment process. It is actually already starting in some counties inland and even some of the coastal counties near the north.
But the storm is moving very, very slowly, and so it's going to be some time before we get that. And you mentioned earlier, we are running concurrent with rising flood waters. So now we're beginning to see instances, I-40 has a closure on it going down to Wilmington. So as we move crews into the area to assist with restorations, that flooding is going to create real challenges in getting crews where they need to be.
BLACKWELL: Now, do you have resources, have crews available that once winds die down that you'll be able to get people back online and get them power back quickly?
BROOKS: We do. We have the largest deployment in the history of Duke Energy now in the Carolinas ready to respond, more than 20,000 line workers and support teams that are at more than 30 staging sites all around the impacted areas. So as storm conditions move out, we move those crews in, they begin their work, and will be working there until we get everybody is restored.
BLACKWELL: Jeff Brooks with Duke Energy. Thank you so much. I know your teams are working hard or at least waiting to get out to work to get people power back. Thank you so much for speaking with us this morning.
So Chad Myers in the severe weather center. Mr. Brooks said that he wants to wait until winds dip below 40 miles per hour to get people back online. How long will they have to wait for winds to die down and move on? This is moving at I call it lazy walker's pace, just two miles per hour.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right, exactly. And it depends on where you are in one of these bands. These bands are still making winds of 55 miles per hour, at least especially gusts. Closer to the eye or the center now that's on land, it is a little bit less. Every time you get a batch of rain coming off the ocean, that wind is going to pick up, just like if we're in a category two hurricane, these outer bands always feel more rain. It transitions the wind from up above down to the surface because of the rainfall itself and then winds blow. So we could still be talking another 10 hours before some of these crews could even get their buckets up in the air to try to get lines back up on those poles.
[10:10:00] So here's the radar now. Myrtle Beach and just west of you, that's where the center of the eye is. Conway, you did see some heavier rainfall earlier. But still, this area right through here is the fire hose of rain that we haven't been able to get away from. It hasn't moved for 24 hours. And we now know that there are some spots there that have 30 inches of rain already on the ground in places that are still flooding.
Flash flood emergencies going on here. Officials saying please don't even leave your home, it's that dangerous. If you are not in danger in your home, please don't leave it. We don't need you on the roadways, it is simply that bad.
So everywhere that you see purple, that's a foot of rain or more. Everywhere that you see white, that's two feet of rain or more. And that's still to come. Now, slightly good news with the forecast. Even though we have convection still in the ocean trying to push more rain in here, because the eye, the center, is going to slightly fly to the west just a little bit, so will this batch of rain, and it will move slightly closer to Wilmington and that area.
I know Wilmington, you don't need it either, but we need to spread this out just a little bit, because if we don't, we're never going to catch up. We're going to have 45 inches of rain in one spot and the flooding will be as bad as we've seen no matter what storm since the Europeans have come to America. It will be simply that bad.
So if the rain is here right now, it will shift to the east and to the south, but that is going to put Myrtle Beach right back into that flooding. And we already know that the river that we were talking about in Conway, the Waccamaw, we are going to see that go up 11 feet from where it is now. So what Nick Valencia was seeing is going to be under a lot more water not far from now, probably two days from now as the water rolls downhill. Victor?
BLACKWELL: Wow. Chad Myers for us there. Chad, thank you so much.
As we talk about South Carolina and the wind and rain here, the story as Chad said is still happening, the storm is still battering North Carolina. And I want you to listen to something that a spokesperson for FEMA said in the last hour, a warning to everyone there in North Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody said the other day, it is like being stalked by a turtle. This thing will not move up the coast, it will not get out of the way. And we continue to just get copious amounts of rain. So we really, really want to encourage the residents, not just on the coast but inland, and then looking at the path of the storm as it moves into more northern states, it is going to effect a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: The path of the storm, it is taking its sweet time getting on that path, heading west and then back up further north, Christi. We'll continue our special live coverage of now tropical storm Florence with sustained winds of 50 to 55 miles per hour. But for now, send it back to you in Atlanta.
PAUL: All right, yes, Victor, thank you so much. Giving us a real sense of what's going on there, and of course the bigger picture of what is to come here, not just in the next two hours but in the next few days. And I know that you watch this and sometimes you think I don't know what to do here. I want to help somehow. If you want to give aid of some kind to the people impacted by hurricane Florence, there are ways to donate. You can give blood, you can get in touch with charities that are responding. And we want to help you do so. Visit CNN.com/Impact. That will give you some more ways to help there. And thank you for doing so.
President Trump's former campaign chairman, he's flipped. Paul Manafort telling the special counsel now he will cooperate. What does this mean for President Trump? Stay close.
[10:17:41] PAUL: A firehose of rain is how Chad Myers just described what is yet coming to the Carolinas, so we're going to continue watching tropical storm Florence of course. But we do have some other stories we want to talk to you about. First of all, one of the big stories we are focusing on that hit recently is this huge win, seeming to be a win, for the Russia special counsel. We're talking former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort who stood before a federal judge yesterday, said three very important words here, I plead guilty. This is part of a plea deal. He will cooperate now with the special counsel's Russia probe. Here's CN's Sara Murray.
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort striking a plea deal and agreeing to cooperate with the Justice Department and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Manafort pleaded guilty in Washington, D.C., Friday to one count of conspiracy against the U.S. and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. That's after attempts to tamper with witnesses according to court filings. Manafort agreeing to cooperate fully, truthfully, completely on any and all matters the government deems relevant, according to the plea agreement.
It is still unclear what prosecutors want from Manafort, but the agreement requires him to turn over documents, testify in court proceedings, and provide interviews to the special counsel. Manafort even waived his right to have lawyers present for the interviews. The plea deal comes after Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud crimes in Virginia, and was facing another trial in D.C. In exchange for his cooperation, prosecutors dropped a number of outstanding charges against Manafort in both D.C. and Virginia.
President Trump's allies quickly distanced him from Manafort's illegal activities, which were related to Manafort's business dealings rather than his campaign work. Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, saying "Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign. The reason, the president did nothing wrong."
Still, the newest is a blow for the president. He has decried Mueller's probe as a witch hunt, that even as Mueller got guilty pleas from Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, Manafort's campaign deputy Rick Gates, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. As for Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen, he has also pleaded guilty to charges in New York.
Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.
[10:20:02] PAUL: Sara, thank you.
A decades old assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is threatening to impact his confirmation vote. Kavanaugh has denied these allegations. It comes at a critical juncture, though, obviously, as you look at this confirmation battle here. Here is CNN's Ariane de Vogue who has more details for us.
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A woman is alleging Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were both in high school in the '80s. The woman had not gone public with these allegations but she sent a letter to Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Feinstein said on Friday that the individual requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further. Feinstein redacted the name and referred the letter to the FBI.
Brett Kavanaugh has issued a statement strongly denying the allegation. He says "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time." In the letter, the woman alleges that Kavanaugh physically pushed her in a bedroom and, along with another male, locked the door from inside. They put on loud music. She alleged the two teens were drunk, and at one point saying Kavanaugh was on top of her with a hand over her mouth. She feared she was in danger at that moment.
She does not say whether she reported the incident to authorities, but she does say she sought medical attention, but didn't provide details or timing on that. Republicans note that the letter was sent in late July but it was only referred to the FBI this week, very close to the upcoming vote. One Democratic aide said that while some are frustrated that Dianne Feinstein didn't tell them about these allegations in advance, another said she was in a tough spot. The woman would not come forward with the allegation. Again, Brett Kavanaugh released a statement denying all of this.
Ariane de Vogue, CNN, Washington.
BLACKWELL: I am Victor Blackwell, live in Myrtle Beach. And tropical storm Florence is virtually parked over North and South Carolina. We're getting new reports of damage. And we'll bring you those reports in just a moment. Stay with us.
[10:26:48] PAUL: It is still an absolute mess in the Carolinas. And that green band that you see there on the radar is only going to make it worse here in the next few hours. So glad to have you with us. I am Christi Paul. Victor Blackwell is there in Myrtle Beach right now. You have got some new information for us?
BLACKWELL: I do. I do. We have been talking about rain that has come down on North Carolina and will be coming down over the next several days. Well, we've just learned that North Carolina has broken its all-time record for rainfall during a tropical system. It was held back in 1999 during hurricane Floyd at 24.06 inches. Well now hurricane and tropical storm Florence have broken that record and they may surpass it even more because this storm is not moving, Christi. It is moving at virtually two miles per hour. When I hear two miles per hour, I think about that old Fresh Prince song, "Two Miles an Hour, So Everybody Sees You." We see hurricane and tropical storm Florence. It is staying here for quite a while and it cannot move out quickly enough.
PAUL: All right, Victor, thank you so much. We're going to be going to Victor again in just a couple of minutes here. But Florence, remember, slammed ashore in North Carolina as a category one hurricane just a little more than 26 hours ago. It has since been downgraded, as you heard him say, tropical storm. But this is still dangerous. I want you to look at the fury that it brought with it as it hit.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The wind is whipping stronger than it has in the last 24 hours.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The eye did make landfall at Wrightsville Beach about six miles from where I am with a wind speed of about 90 miles per hour.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: This isn't just water that's coming this way. The ocean and the wind are forcing sand up into the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look all the way down among all those people, you might be able to make it out. That is the ocean. It is not supposed to be there right now.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Power is out all over the city. That tree over there to my left, to your right, looks like it is about to be uprooted. And we're getting a lot of strong gusts of wind.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are in River Bend, experiencing an extraordinary amount of flooding here. And a lot of people have said that they weren't expecting it to flood like this here.
PAUL: I want to give you another update on something we have been going back and forth here about some different information that was coming in. At one point we had said there were seven deaths we had been told attributed to the storm. It is five deaths attributed to this storm now. Two of those deaths apparently are being categorized as a murder-suicide.
[10:30:03] So again, there had been seven deaths, but five of them are attributed to this storm in terms of a 77-year-old man who was found dead at his home. He had gone out to check on his hunting dogs. The wind knocked him down. There was a mother and infant who died when a tree fell on their home. And another man in the north county who was electrocuted when he was attempting to connect extension cords outside his house. So Victor, we just wanted to make clear some of the new information we had coming in about the death numbers that have been fluctuating a bit.
BLACKWELL: Yes, those details coming from law enforcement. They have corrected the numbers they released to us. Now again, five deaths attributed to the storm.
Let's go now to David Cotton. He's the county manager there in Onslow County in North Carolina. David, good morning to you. First, I understand that there have been rescues across Onslow County. Are there still people waiting to be rescued from their homes? And give us an idea of the conditions there.
DAVID COTTON, COUNTRY MANAGER, ONSLOW COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: Sure. Good morning. There are approximately 40 folks in the queue waiting to be rescued. For the most part they are not in imminent danger, but flood waters are rising quickly, and we are working with the Coast Guard and Marine Corps to deploy helicopters and swift water teams. We have had a swift water team that just arrived from Indiana that has already gone into service, and we are actively rescuing those folks as we speak.
BLACKWELL: These 40 people or so, I know that's an estimate, are they in one specific locale or are they spread across Onslow County?
COTTON: Sure. For the most part we have isolated there, 10 people needing rescue from one location. And beyond that it is the individual homes with two people or one person. The overall conditions are really deteriorating as we speak. As you mentioned, the storm is not moving, so we are moving beyond flooding like we have never seen. Places that are not identified as being in flood plain are being flooded. Homes that would have never been expected to have ever seen any water damage are up into the first floor, over the roof of vehicles. So it's going to be a long process of cleanup. But right now we're still focused on the rescue.
BLACKWELL: Those 10 that you said in one location, which city are they in, or are they in unincorporated Onslow?
COTTON: They are near Jacksonville. It's right on the unincorporated border between Jacksonville and just being in the county itself.
BLACKWELL: OK. Was there a mandatory or even a voluntary evacuation order for your county? And how many people do you believe decided to leave?
COTTON: There was. We started with a voluntary evacuation when we declared a state of emergency on Monday. Tuesday based on conditions and when we anticipated the storm arriving, it was actually a category four on Tuesday and coming straight for the new river which is right in the center of our county. I then issued a mandatory evacuation. We did a mass transportation of those that did not have vehicles to get out in partnership with Onslow County school system to Raleigh. That was just over 1,100 individuals that caravanned to Raleigh. And beyond that, we were estimating those that heeded the warning in the neighborhood of 30 to 40,000, maybe more than that. But we're a county of 200,000.
BLACKWELL: All right, sir, thanks so much for spending a couple minutes with us. I know that you have a lot of work to do and there are still those people who are waiting to be rescued. The best to you and the people there in Onslow County. You said you have rescue teams from Indiana coming in, and hopefully they'll be able to assist shortly. Again, thank you for your time. I'll let you get back to work.
[10:35:02] Christi, again, this story has not moved on, the storm has not moved on solely to South Carolina. As we heard from the county manager there. There's still a lot of work to do in North Carolina. Back to you.
PAUL: Yes, and a lot of people who still need to be rescued. Victor Blackwell, Victor, thank you so very much.
Another former Trump aide is flipping. This time we're talking about Paul Manafort, the same person President Trump called a brave man last month for refusing to break. What does this mean? We're going to discuss it.
[10:40:10] PAUL: It's 40 minutes past the hour right now. So glad to have you with us. We're going to keep our eye obviously on Florence there that continues to makes its way further inland into the Carolinas.
But want to talk about President Trump because he is doubling down on his questioning of nearly 3,000 person hurricane death toll in Puerto Rico. "No way," he tweeted, "that the number jumped from 16 people to 64 people," and I quote here, "like magic to 3,000 people killed." President Trump first disputed this death toll Thursday. He claimed the Democrats put out those numbers to make him look bad. The island's governor formally raised the death toll from hurricane Maria following a study that was conducted by researchers at the George Washington University.
So Maria Cardona, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist is with me, as well as Scott Jennings, CNN political commentator and former special assistant to President George W. Bush. Thank you for being with us.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning, Christi.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.
PAUL: Good morning to both of you. I want to read something after all of this, late last night the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, had this tweet out. He said "Mr. President, I would very much be willing to walk you through the scientific process of the study and how GW arrived at the excess mortality number estimates. There's no reason to underscore the tragedy we have suffered in the aftermath of hurricane Maria. In the meantime, I hope you consider sending a message of support to show you stand with all of the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico that lost loved ones. It would certainly be an act of respect and empathy."
Scott, is it time to switch focus from numbers to people because there's so much that needs to be done there? JENNINGS: Yes, no question. I don't understand why the president is
obsessed with this number, frankly. It was a devastating storm. We all agree on both sides of the aisle, the storm one of the most devastating to hit any part of the United States ever. They had massive electrical failure, massive water failure, almost all roads were impassable, it was devastating by any measure. So you can easily see how loss of life of magnitude that was found by the researchers could occur.
The most important thing a federal government can do, of course, in the aftermath of something like this is exactly what FEMA Director Brock Long said they did, which is study it, learn from it, and update their procedures and protocols for the future. So the real issue here for the president is not the numbers, not the statistical death toll, but what did we learn from the aftermath of the storm and how are we applying it to future storms. That's what the American people want to hear. And it would be best for him to take that messaging advice and move on.
PAUL: Maria, I wanted to ask you, because this is very personal to you. You have family there. What do they need there, what do you want to hear from the president, you personally?
CARDONA: Well, I wish that he would listen to people like Scott, but what we have seen from this president is that he is incapable of showing respect. He is incapable of showing empathy. I grew up on that island. My brother, as you said, lives there with his family. I saw this devastation when I was there over the summer personally.
What the president just said in terms of questioning the 3,000, and frankly, a lot of people think it was more than 3,000 lives that were lost, I can't even begin to describe to you how offensive and hurtful that is to the American citizens not just that live on the island but the American citizens who live in Florida, who live in Texas, who live in Pennsylvania. Guess what, elections are coming up. I think this is not only offensive and just completely ridiculous on behalf of the president, but it is politically stupid.
PAUL: Scott, do you agree with that? Is there a risk politically for the president here?
JENNINGS: Well, he is putting Republicans in uncomfortable positions. I noticed the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, who is now running for the United States Senate, had to distance himself from the president on this issue. So his political allies like Governor Scott are having to take a step back from him. Speaker Paul Ryan had to take a step back from him because everybody basically agrees that this was a devastating storm in which there was massive loss of life, and you don't want to look insensitive to that because objectively speaking, it is true.
And so yes, when you put your closest political allies in a position of having to step away from you, you're not only making your own life hard, you're making their life hard. So just speaking of the raw politics of it, it leaves the president a little bit isolated when the rest of political America tends to agree with the facts as they have been reported by the researchers.
PAUL: All right, speaking of truth, Scott, since you brought it up, I want to talk to you about Paul Manafort. He is now pleading guilty, pleaded guilty I should say, and agreeing to cooperate with Mueller and his investigation. Take a look here. We have a screen of the people already in the Trump team who have either pleaded guilty, have plea deals, and are cooperating with Mueller.
[10:45:12] We have got George Papadopoulos, we've got Flynn, we've got Cohen, we've got Rick Gates. Now we add Manafort to that mix. And he has agreed, the cooperation agreement he signed, states that he will testify fully, completely, and truthfully before any and all grand juries at any and all trials of cases or other court proceedings in district of Columbia and elsewhere. This is very broad. He now essentially has to talk to anybody at any time about anything it sounds like. Scott, what does this mean for the president?
JENNINGS: Well, we don't know exactly because Manafort may have information that's germane to investigations that have nothing to do with the president, or he may have information that's germane to things going on with the central question of the inquiry, of course, which is was there collusion with Russia, which is so far unproven, alleged but unproven. Even Bob Woodward today said, I noted, that he looked hard for two years and found no evidence of Russian collusion.
So it would be difficult to speculate what Manafort is going to do. Obviously his choosing to cooperate must be worrisome for the White House, but he was with the campaign a short period of time, he is connected to things that have nothing to do with the campaign. So I think before we go down the road of speculating that Manafort is going to bring down the president, it is important to remember, he may say things about people and other situations, lobbying situations, for instance, that are completely unconnected to Donald Trump.
PAUL: Right, right. And so in that sense we had this other Mueller investigation targeting attorney Greg Craig, who is a prominent Democrat. Maria, what do you make of where that's going, and how many people might be sitting back right now, because Scott's right. There is nothing yet leading to collusion with Manafort.
CARDONA: That we know of.
PAUL: Nothing that he is doing thus far that he has said. But now that he is dipping into a Democratic line, a Democrat here, is there reason for Democrats to be worried?
CARDONA: No, not at all. In terms of what I know about the connection with Greg Craig has to do with his law firm doing work for some kind of foreign agent work that they were not registered for the Ukraine. So again, all of this leads to the connection of Paul Manafort. And while I agree with Scott, we don't know if Paul Manafort is going to bring down the president, I think the president is going to bring down the president because he is the one at the end of the day who has been at the center of all these connections.
Clearly, Paul Manafort was his chairman. Michael Cohen -- the chairman of his campaign. Michael Cohen was his personal lawyer for years. Michael Flynn was his national security adviser. All of these people who have been indicted, who have pled guilty, have close connections to the president as much as he now wants to distance himself from it.
And so this does not spell good news for the president moving forward. We don't know what else Mueller has, but clearly there have been indictments in this. There have been again, people who have pleaded guilty. So, of course, the president is shaking in his boots. And so I wonder if his ridiculous and offensive statements about questioning the death toll in Puerto Rico are efforts to distract from all of this other stuff that is going on.
What we do know is that going into an election where everybody, including Republicans, are so nervous about this president, his connection to the Republican Party, I think that Republicans would do themselves a great service by distancing themselves finally from the president and calling him out on his incompetence and on his unfitness to lead.
PAUL: Maria Cardona, Scott Jennings, I'm so sorry we have ran out of time. But also so good to get your perspective and your insight. Thank you both.
JENNINGS: Thank you, Chrisit.
PAUL: Absolutely. Kaylee Hartung is in Pender County, North Carolina, and she's going to walk us through what they're seeing there. It's a pretty dicey situation I understand. Stay close.
[10:53:47] KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Pender County, North Carolina, they are no strangers to flooding, but they are preparing for something they don't believe they've ever experienced before. I am Kaylee Hartung. We're standing now in the waters of the northeast Cape Fear River. They have breached the bank. They begin flowing into the first property that you can see here.
This family, they lost everything in hurricane Floyd when that river set a record at about 22 feet. Now that river is expected to crest, setting a new record of nearly 25 feet on Monday. This family wanted to wait it out, see what this storm would bring. And now they recognize it is time to go.
You see this car back here, they are literally loading up furniture, taking it out of this trailer into their car. Earlier today they loaded up their tractor, lawnmower, things of that nature, trying to get them to higher ground. But the house that this family rebuilt after they lost it in hurricane Floyd was this one back behind me. This one they built up on stilts as FEMA requires them to do, but with 25 foot crest from the river they expect that water to maybe reach that second story. And so it is time to go.
This county, Pender County, was under mandatory evacuation. County officials telling me they have not received any calls for service. Nobody needed to be rescued. But Victor, Christi, we recognize that there's a lot more the storm could bring.
[10:55:09] BLACKWELL: Kaylee Hartung for us in Pender County, thank you so much. And it really is, Christi, the look at the next chapter of what's happening from Florence. Nick Valencia showed it to us in Conway at the Waccamaw River. Polo Sandoval up in Robeson County next to the Lumber River. The swelling of these rivers and creeks and the flooding that's coming, North Carolina setting an all-time record for rainfall from a single tropical system, with beating hurricane Floyd back in 1999, surpassing 24.06 inches, and more rain to come.
PAUL: Yes, no doubt about it. And that thing just sitting there at two miles per hour, it is doing nobody any favors, no doubt about it. Victor Blackwell, thank you so much.
Our storm coverage continues in the next hour of CNN's Newsroom. We're going to turn it over to our colleague Erica Hill in Myrtle Beach and Alex Marquardt in New York. Take good care of each other. See you tomorrow.