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Florence Turns Deadly as it Stalls over the Carolinas; New Bern May Be Most Impacted by Storm; More Areas Ordered to Evacuate as Storm Travels Inland; Storm Recovery Will Take Long Time; N.C. Governor Gives Storm Update; CNN Rides with Marine Corp Convoy; North Myrtle Beach So Far Dodges Bullet; Manafort Enters Plea Deal & Cooperation with Mueller Team; Former Obama General Counsel Being Investigated for Ukraine Lobbying. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired September 15, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:00:08] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: It is 3:00 eastern, noon out west. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for being with us.

It is still an enormous storm. No longer a hurricane. Make no mistake, it is no less powerful nor less deadly. Roofs aren't blowing off houses, so the urgency is getting people to higher ground. People in North Carolina stranded in their neighborhoods, now piling into rescue trucks and boats with whatever they can carry. On the scene to help all over the storm zone, more than 6500 men and women of the National Guard and Air Guard. They're moving people to safety. They're moving heavy equipment where it is needed. National Guard units from as far away as Wisconsin are in the Carolinas to help.

Six people in North and South Carolina are confirmed to have lost their lives from falling trees, rising water, or electrocution. Those suddenly flooded areas are so dangerous.

And what about any relief? What was Hurricane Florence doing that people feared the most? It has stalled, spinning, dumping an expected 40 inches of rain without moving at all. Some places have more than 30 inches of rain.

We have CNN crews all along the storm's destructive path, now in places where the worst may be yet to come. Officials are warning, the coming flood disaster may cost more human lives.

CNN's Martin Savidge joins us from Wilmington, North Carolina.

Martin, you have been there for the past 48 hours. You have seen as the storm has evolved. What's happening now?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Well, as you can see, Ana, it is still raining here in Wilmington. As you point out, 48 hours, the conditions have been like this. Winds have died down, that is a major blessing. It is rain that is the greatest danger. The real threat is inland flooding. Communities are already facing or bracing for that reality. We have also had the benefit of at least some slight relenting of rain. Then you get bands that come in, and it starts to pour down again. And of course, flooding is the primary concern in North and South Carolina.

Miguel Marquez knows how long Florence has been beating up on the North Carolina coast. He has been out in it. And we've had heavy impacts along coastal surf line. He joins me from Carolina Beach in North Carolina.

Miguel, how are things now?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the most pleasant weather we have had in the last 48 hours. The wind is only blowing about 30 miles per hour sustained.

I want to show you, Martin. These are communities that live and die by their beaches. This is the beach here. Beach erosion here, look at the waves. I don't want to get too close, the drop is now about six to eight feet. There used to be 20 or 30 feet of beach that went out there. They lost the beach up and down the coast. These are communities that are going to be hurting and in trouble for a very, very long time because of this. They have trees down along a wide swathe of Carolina Beach. They have power lines down in many places. They have not had the sort of emergency situations and flood issues that they've had in other places. There's some flooding here, but it is not as bad as they anticipated or were concerned about.

Right now the hope is to get the bridge back open so people can get in and out of the area and get things back to somewhat normal. About 108,000 of the people they serve in New Hanover County, with all electricity off in Carolina Beach, it is going to be a long time before things are back to normal -- Martin?

SAVIDGE: Miguel, I was wondering, it is going to obviously take time to bring those people back. What are you anticipating over the next couple hours for the storm and for the return?

MARQUEZ: We have had heavy rain today and continuous wind. The rain just let up about 15, 20 minutes ago. It looks like another band is coming in. So I think they're going to have rain and wind for the next several hours. They won't be able to open that bridge until winds come down to 40, 45 miles per hour. But I'm guessing, just from the number of Duke Energy trucks in the area, number of emergency services checking out different towns, they don't want a ton of people coming in here until they have lines cleared, make sure there are no trees down in roads, and that water for the most part has left those areas where it is flooding onto roads. In several places, there's a foot or two feet of water. It's going to be a long time before they can get people back in here in a big way -- Marty?

[15:05:16] SAVIDGE: Miguel, thank you very much, reporting from Carolina Beach.

This storm has been so slow to move. Much of the time you could have jogged faster than Hurricane Florence. When it finally moves on, New Bern, North Carolina, may top the list of some of the most impacted areas. So far, more than 400 people rescued with 4200 homes damaged. The town of 30,000 people sits between the Trent and Neuse Rivers, and the county, it is part of Craven, had been under a mandatory evacuation.

Joining me, the mayor of New Bern, Mayor Dana Outlaw.

Mayor, give us an update on the number of rescues, where things stand in your community?

DANA OUTLAW, NEW BERN MAYOR (via telephone): Well, the main thing now is to get water pumped down that's in the city. We had to wait until water receded enough to turn pumps back on. We can pump 42,000 gallons a minute once we have water receded enough. There are power lines down. We still have 6,000 customers without power out of 22,000 customers, so this is not time to be out riding around. There's plenty of news media that can report on that for you. It's very dangerous. Lines are down. Limbs are down. Ground conditions are saturated where trees are falling over. As with many hurricanes, people are hurt after the hurricane, not during it because of not heeding the government's advice to be safe and stay home.

SAVIDGE: That's absolutely true. We know that people are most often injured after what they think the worst has passed.

I know you have FEMA there and the Cajun Navy, a collection of civilians, to help with rescues. Are there still rescues under way in your community, people still in trouble?

OUTLAW: Most of what's going on now is out-of-town folks concerned about loved ones, shut ins, asking through 911 that we go out and check on these citizens. We are doing that. We're very concerned if we start a volunteer effort and, again, power lines are down and energized, that there are areas a tree might fall, we don't want people to be hurt. We are working through it, but want to be safe. Haven't had fatalities, and part of that is all of the planning and maximum evacuation we were able to get.

SAVIDGE: I don't want to get too far ahead, but people are going to begin to wonder when they can come back. What would you tell them?

OUTLAW: This is not the time to come back. I know we have 1200 residents in shelters now, and, again, we stress that if your home got water in it, you be careful before you move back in from several areas. One would be contamination, number two, would be electrical fire due to hot wires being -- the integrity of the system, proponents of electric system being compromised.

SAVIDGE: Right.

All right. We wish you the best of luck, Mayor. We'll keep in touch with you and your community.

Mayor Dana Outlaw, thank you very much.

He's the mayor of New Bern. They've seen extensive flooding.

The deluge and the flooding hitting the Carolinas isn't set to let up anytime soon.

CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is live in the CNN Weather Center.

Allison, how is it looking now? What are we evolving to? This is the next step. It is not the end.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I think that's it. Even some of the communities start to see the rain lighten up a bit, you have to understand ,where did all of that rain go. It went into the rivers, the creeks, the streams. For those, it will take three to five days for them to crest. This is still going to be an issue going forward.

Right now, Tropical Storm Florence, we saw it pick up speed, west at three miles per hour. It had been two miles per hour. Winds are still 45 miles per hour. But you still have some heavy bands.

One thing we want people to notice is that Fayetteville police in North Carolina have now issued a mandatory evacuation for Cumberland County because of some of the rivers, creeks, streams. Specifically Little River at Manchester is rising rapidly at this point in time. They expect, when it crests, to reach 35.5 feet. The previous record was 29 feet. They expect it to get above major flood stage but to exceed the record by six feet. And it is going to get there very quickly. They're telling people get out. Don't stay there. It is not safe anymore.

[15:10:04] Unfortunately, this is just one of the few rivers we're keeping a close eye on. We're expecting 20 of them to reach major flood stage in the next three to five days. And also nearly an additional 30 of them likely to reach moderate flood stage. The thing is, it is all of that water. You have water that originally came in from the ocean into the base, tributaries, inlets, pushing into rivers, creeks, streams. And you also have heavy rain coming down that will flow back into rivers, creeks and streams. And a lot of them will not crest until at least tuesday of the upcoming week. And it will likely take another three to five days after that before they get back to normal levels.

We also have the rain we have been talking about. Take a look this. A heavy rain band north of Wilmington and another south of Wilmington. In those two bands, you have rain coming down two to three inches an hour. If you only got one hour's worth of rain, that would be fine. You could handle that. For a lot of the communities, it is raining straight for over 40 hours. That additional two to three inches adds up. Take, for example, Emerald Isle, 20 inches. Morehead City, 23 inches. Elizabethtown, 23 inches. These are amounts of rain that have already fallen. Swansboro, 30.5 inches. That sets a new record for the state of North Carolina for any tropical system that's ever passed through the state. Again, keep in mind, it is still raining.

When you look at the widespread amounts, we expect six to 10 inches in a lot of places to come down, Martin. Some spots could pick up to another foot of rain on top of what they've already had.

SAVIDGE: Allison, you lay it out in a frightening but succinct way. We have to point out, Ana, this storm is morphing into something else.

Many officials we talk to in North Carolina fear this could be more dangerous and deadly.

CABRERA: Right.

SAVIDGE: Flash flooding can come with very little warning. They're saying water will be in places many people have never seen it before. They may think I dodged a bullet, storm didn't come to me. Oh, no, it may be on the way now, you just don't realize it -- Ana?

CABRERA: No doubt about it. I am having flashbacks to Hurricane Harvey and what we saw when that storm passed through and then the flooding came, and how dire a situation that became.

The governor of North Carolina saying the danger is more imminent now than 24 hours ago as the hurricane made landfall.

Martin Savidge, we will be checking back in with you throughout the hour.

We also expect to hear from the governor of North Carolina with another storm update to give us a better sense of where things are now and where it may be headed.

Stay with CNN. You're watching special live coverage of Hurricane Florence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:17:17] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CABRERA: Our breaking news. We are just learning of two new storm- related deaths, all due to Tropical Storm Florence, bringing the death toll to eight. Local officials saying the new deaths were due to flash flooding and swift water on roadways. Even though the storm's label has been downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm, its damage and threat to do much more is no less intense.

It is now the second day of rescues from high water, which are happening now. At least 400 people have been saved, and more than 960,000, almost a million people in North and South Carolina are without power. Almost two feet of rain has fallen in some areas, with forecasts closer to three feet looming.

After more than a million were put under mandatory evacuation, there are more areas now facing the same orders to get out.

Let's turn to CNN Kaylee Hartung in Rocky Point, North Carolina, where I know more people are trying to leave.

Kaylee, what are you seeing?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORESPONDENT: Yes. That's right. I'm told any given day it is about a 200-yard walk to the river from this property. Now I am standing in the water to the northeast, Cape Fear River in Rocky Point, North Carolina. This gives you a tremendous visual example of danger that's ahead. Inland fresh water flooding that we are anticipating here. This river is not expected to crest for two more days. Monday, a new record of 25 feet is expected to be hit. And as the water flows onto the property, the family that lives here tells me they expect water to come to their door to their home, on the second story of the home, Ana. That's a tremendous visual example. It is difficult to wrap our minds around as we stand here knowing where we stand. We'll be under water.

With that information, this family has been packing up and working to get their most precious possessions together and get out of town. Susan lives in this trailer behind me. She lived through Hurricane Floyd, when the current record for the crest of the river was set, she says she lost everything. At that time, they didn't know to get out as well as they do now. She left with not so much as a toothbrush and came back to nothing. Today, they have been taking out beds, the mattress, tables, chairs, anything they can. Susan says when she does have to start over, at least she will have some furniture.

This house, of course, built in days since Hurricane Floyd, about 11 years ago. Now raised on stilts as FEMA mandates when in one of the flood zones. But now this family leaving their home with what they could put in a truck or trailer, and they don't know where they're headed. Ana, that was the most difficult thing for me as I watched them pack up things most important to them, including a grave marker for Susan's daughter, Susan, that passed away last year from leukemia. They dug up the plaque and a light they kept on top of it, wanting to ensure that's something they could hold onto forever, even if the storm takes so much else from them.

[15:20:37] I'm sure there's so much fear for those people and they're trying to do what is right and playing it safe rather than sorry.

Thank you, Kaylee Hartung for that update. Stay safe as well, my friend.

As Florence promises to deliver disaster for days on the southeastern seaboard, recovering from its aftermath will last longer.

For more on that I have Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Earth Institute.

Dr. Redlener, thank you for being with us.

Let's talk about what we're witnessing still as the storm bears down on South Carolina and North Carolina, dumping tremendous amount of water. You know what it looks like when people are prepared to respond to a disaster of this magnitude. What is your assessment of what we're seeing right now?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: I think people and officials are doing as well as they can do, given the immensity of the storm. Unfortunately, we're at the beginning here. We're going to see more flooding, rain, rivers overflowing, massively through North Carolina and South Carolina. So in some ways, the worst may be to come.

That said, I think FEMA has been working with state and local partners and it is all good. As far as we can hope for. So the officials in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia have been geared up. The role of federal agencies like FEMA, Health and Human Services is to support local efforts so that most of the brunt of immediate response is on state and locals. They're pretty well prepared. FEMA is backing them as they should.

Fatality-wise, we have seen around eight people.

CABRERA: Eight is the latest number, right.

RELENER: Unfortunately, that's probably going to rise for things beyond anyone's control. And the big thing is, as you were saying, what is the recovery going to be like for --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Right. I want to talk about that in a moment.

Right now, we know the water is the biggest danger. If you were to give any advice to people that may be watching us now, if they didn't leave their homes, what can they do to stay safe, and also to try to protect their property and home?

REDLENER: The protection of property and home under this kind of natural disaster impact of this nature is really difficult. That said, people need to get out, put themselves in safety, their families, children in particular. They need to get out. If it is too late to get out, they need to be at the highest point of their homes. Need to be ready to take valuables, important papers to upper floors of their home, wait to be rescued if they experience flooding in their neighborhood, which will be the case for many folks there. Natural forces, you don't have much control over. It is going to do what it is going to do. Officials are prepared. Hopefully, almost everybody should have already evacuated from high-risk areas. We'll see.

CABRERA: Some of these areas haven't had flooding before. Beyond dangers of drowning, the water has other potential dangers for people that are worth considering. Contaminants, I suppose.

REDLENER: Contaminants, farms, fertilizer, superfund toxic waste sites through those communities. We'll see all kinds of issues potentially arising from contaminated water. When water recedes, you'll see standing water, mosquitos and other type of diseases that may be carried by mosquitos. There's lots to worry about in the immediate aftermath of the storm. It's a big deal.

CABRERA: We talked about evacuations. There are medical facilities and hospitals that had to evacuate. Will the destination hospitals be prepared for a huge influx of people? How long might it be for those facilities to be safe enough to get up and running again?

REDLENER: Sure. First of all, one of the things we don't do well in general in any part of the country is think about the destination communities for housing people long term. Don't forget, some people may not be able to return to homes or communities for weeks or months, we don't know how long, until homes are ready to be reoccupied.

[15:25:00] The most dangerous part of this is evacuation of hospitals. We have intensive care units, newborn units, all sorts of things with people at serious levels of vulnerability. Even the moving of them between hospital A and where they're going to hospital B in some destination community, that transition is difficult and fraught with danger. When they get to the hospitals, will hospitals have enough bed space? There's been some planning on that. Not every person in the destination hospital can leave. We're going to have overcrowding, people that lose medical records. Hopefully, won't be too many of those. This will be a serious health and public health challenge. But people have time to prepare. Hopefully, we'll see that most hospitals will be ready to receive patients. Hopefully, the patients will be transported safely and securely. But that remains to be seen.

CABRERA: Dr. Redlener, thank you so much --

REDLENER: Thank you.

CABRERA: -- for being here, helping walk viewers through what we're seeing and what's next to come.

Up next, our Brian Todd is with a convoy of rescuers. We'll go live to his location when we come back.

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[15:30:39] MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Martin Savidge, in Wilmington, North Carolina, where we continue to follow what was Hurricane Florence, now Tropical Storm Florence, and what is morphing from what was a major storm of wind and tide to what is now flooding.

Let's listen to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper as he updates the circumstances in the state here.

ROY COOPER, (D), NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: -- U.S.64 and east of U.S. 73, 74. Don't make yourself someone who needs to be rescued.

We told you this morning that roads are getting dangerous and worse with every passing minute. That has come true with a vengeance. When a storm is bad enough to shut down interstate highways, you know other roads may be even in worse shape. All roads in the state right now are at risk of floods. Roads you think may be safe can be washed away in minutes. If you must drive, don't drive on flooded roads. Just a few inches of water can sweep your car away.

Be alert for sudden flooding and be prepared to get to higher ground quickly. Pay close attention to flash flood warnings, follow local evacuation orders.

If you have evacuated from the coast to a safe place, don't go back now. Even when the evacuation orders are lifted on the coast, it isn't safe for you to get there. Plus, you'll be in the way of rescue-and-recovery efforts that are going on.

As rivers keep rising and rain keeps falling, flooding will spread. More and more inland counties are issuing mandatory evacuations to get people to safety quickly.

I now want to recognize the secretary of Transportation, Jim Trogdon, who will give us an update on road conditions and predictions a few hours and days down the road.

Jim?

JIM TROGDON, NORTH CAROLINA SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Thank you, Governor.

Road conditions across nearly all our state will be rapidly deteriorating in the coming days. As Hurricane Florence continues to pound North Carolina, flooding will increase moving from east to west, according to predictions. Almost all North Carolina will be subject to flooding, especially those areas as the governor highlighted, those are subject now as we speak.

Beginning earlier this morning, flash floods began to close major routes, several sections of I-40, I-95, U.S.-70, U.S.-1 and U.S.-501. Within hours from our 11:00 a.m. conference to 1:00 p.m., the number of North Carolina primary roads impacted by flash flooding increased from 60 to 100. I think you can see on this slide. The blue covers areas already reported blue events. We anticipate those will be --

SAVIDGE: So you are listening to North Carolina's Governor Roy Cooper as he gives us an update.

I have to warn about this road thing. Last night, we were driving back from Wrightsville Beach to Wilmington. You don't see the water on the road in the middle of the night, primarily because most electricity in many areas was knocked out. You can come across it and suddenly find yourself in a lot of trouble. There's no doubt flash flooding -- I covered a lot of natural disasters, flash flooding is the most frightening and some of the most powerful force you will run across. When the governor says major roads are being shut down, the problem is that people that would evacuate and move, are now finding ways they would get out being cut off for them, or they can move somewhere and water will rise when they get to somewhere else. This is the predicament they're facing in a state. It's fast moving, ever changing.

Brian Todd knows this. He's joining us from Onslow County, in North Carolina, and he's riding in a Marine Corps convoy.

Brian, what are you seeing?

[15:35:17] BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in Onslow County, outside Jacksonville, North Carolina. Catastrophic flooding here. Some 30 rescues that needed to be undertaken. Most of them from homes. The fortunate part for these folks, they live near a major Marine base, Camp Lejeune. We are in a convoy of high-water vehicles. There are a couple vehicles following us. We're going to a place where high water rescues are necessary. We're told there are people in need, possibly a medical emergency. Don't have much information on that.

We can tell you that they've had at least 30 rescues needed to be undertaken, most from homes. Some from vehicles. And they're trying to get to as many as they can. This has been happening since midday yesterday.

They have about 300-some people in shelters here since yesterday afternoon. Some of them made their way to shelters themselves. Many of them had to be pulled out of their homes and cars.

One official told us a short time ago, they had an ambulance pickup overnight with a cardiac arrest patient. The ambulance got there, picked up the patient, and the ambulance took on water. These are some of the risks that rescuers and first responders are going through. They need vehicles like this to get to some of those places. We're on our way to one of them now. They're not accessible by truck or other vehicle. They have three coast guard helicopter units deployed here, and swift-water rescue team from Indiana. They're deploying a lot of resources here. One Marine official told me they've had amphibious assault vehicles deployed here to try to pull people out. But calls keep coming in for people to be rescued from homes.

We'll check out and see where people are in need and hope to bring you an update later -- Martin?

SAVIDGE: Brian Todd in our rolling coverage as part of the Marine convoy in Onslow County, which is where they're running into real flooding problems. They're running into flooding problems all over the state. It is going to continue. Many can escape, but others, the elderly, disabled, they cannot. This is what the National Guard and many others are trying to rescue at this moment.

Much more coming up after this. Stay with CNN.

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[15:42:13] SAVIDGE: I am Martin Savidge, in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Back to breaking news. The death toll from the storm formerly called Hurricane Florence has risen to eight. Just this hour, we got confirmation two people are dead north of Wilmington, North Carolina. Police say they were caught in flash flooding and fast-moving water. Eight people have now been confirmed dead as a result of this storm and its aftermath, including one death in South Carolina after a car hit a tree that had fallen in the road.

Let's head to that state to check in with CNN's Nick Watt in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Nick, we know that's where Florence moved after North Carolina. What's the situation now? NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Martin, we're under flash-flood

warning, storm-surge warning, and still under evacuation order. But so far North Myrtle Beach has dodged a bullet. The real concern is that surge, this ocean. A couple of hours ago, the water was right where I am here. You can see this debris on the sand. Another two feet and that would have inundated this town. So far so good. The water is retreating. You can see a little bit of beach erosion. That's also going to be a problem, up and down this 60-miles stretch of beautiful Carolina coastline, the Grand Strand, and further north.

You can see a couple of people there. About 2,000 hearty souls deciding to stick it out at North Myrtle Beach. There's talk of wild horses there on the Outer Banks, apparently, they have instinct that they know how to survive. I think a few people around here feel they have similar instinct. Who knows? Maybe they do. The grocery store is now open, serving those people.

It is not yet over here. Looking at the radar, looking at the sky, I can see we have another band of rain coming in shortly. We are forecast to get 10 inches of rain here over the weekend. This place has flooded before. It flooded in 2016 for Matthew, flooded in 1989 with Hugo. Hugo destroyed most of the structures on the coast. These have been rebuilt. You can tell they're up on stilts so storm surge flows through. The problem is hazards on the next block are not on stilts, they're on the ground. And since '89, since Hugo, a lot more people have moved here.

So far so good in North Myrtle Beach. But it is not over yet. We all know it is moving slowly. We have been told rivers may not crest for another few days, more rain is forecast. Officials in North Myrtle Beach tell us they're watching the situation closely. So far, we lost a lot of power, few trees down, power lines down. Nothing near as bad as feared -- Martin?

[15:45:03] SAVIDGE: Nick Watt, thank you very much, with a view from South Carolina.

Ana, I want to stress, it's going to soon be getting dark. The problem is in many areas that were impacted, there's no electricity. People that did stay behind in their homes may not have the ability to hear warnings or see much because it will be so dark in their own neighborhoods, and that water will rise tremendously fast. I can't underline enough how dire the circumstance could be for North Carolina.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: And as we heard in the last press conference from the governor as well as other state officials in North Carolina, they anticipate the entire state could see flooding, including places that haven't flooded before.

Martin Savidge, thank you for staying on top of it for us.

We have more ahead in the NEWSROOM, other news we are following. Big developments involving Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, pleading guilty to conspiracy and agreeing to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. What this could mean for President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:50:28] CABRERA: We'll be getting back to our storm coverage in just a moment.

We have other major news to tell you about. This weekend, another one of the president's men has flipped. This time it is Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign chairman. Meaning, Bob Mueller now has a firsthand account of what went on inside the Trump campaign, as well as that infamous Trump Tower meeting. Manafort is now the fifth Trump campaign official to plead guilty.

Joining us now, CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, and CNN political commentator and "Washington Post" columnist, Catherine Rampell.

Paul, the White House says this has nothing to do with Trump. Let me read you the tweet from Rudy Giuliani today. "According to sources, the Manafort defense, the cooperation agreement does not involve the Trump campaign. There was no collusion with Russia." Another wrote, "Travel by Mueller, same conclusion, no evidence of collusion. President did nothing wrong."

Is it possible Manafort could have told Mueller's team, I'll give you everything except anything about President Trump?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. That's not possible. When a cooperation agreement is negotiated with prosecutors, generally the agreement is that whatever they ask you about that they think is relevant to ongoing criminal investigations, you have to provide the information. And if you don't, and if they have a good faith belief you of the information, they can withdraw the offer, the plea offer, in terms of what they're recommending sentence-wise. If he has something on Trump and Mueller asks him about it, he has to answer the question.

CABRERA: So you don't think Trump is in the clear?

CALLAN: It depends on what Manafort has. I will say, because most of the counts against Manafort related to things that happened well before the Trump campaign, and the only things that sort of went into the campaign period were rather detailed in terms of the discussion level in the first trial, and nothing seemed to implicate the president personally. So I don't know. I think at this point it looks like he doesn't have anything new to give to Mueller in that area. But Mueller's been so secret, we'll have to wait and see what develops.

CABRERA: I did notice in this plea agreement there was language in which it basically said that Manafort has to tell them anything about any crime committed, not just the ones they know about or are charging him with.

Catherine, the president praised Manafort, said he was brave, he said he refused to break under pressure of a deal. Did the president celebrate too soon? CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think a little bit,

yes. If Manafort is counting on a pardon or Trump is contemplating a pardon, this deal complicates the politics of a pardon. Trump said Manafort was innocent, he was the victim of a witch hunt and good for him for standing by his innocence and continuing to maintain it and not flipping or making things up and what have you. Now if Trump goes ahead and says, you know what, I'm going to pardon this guy, after he has -- after -- "this guy" being Manafort -- after Manafort has already copped to committing crimes, then it very much looks like Trump is not trying to protect this person who is unduly witch hunted, if you will, but rather that he is trying to keep -- transparently trying to keep someone from testifying against him or providing any evidence that would implicate the president or the president's son or son-in-law, for that matter.

CABRERA: We have five people now who are big parts of Trump's orbit who have pleaded guilty, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, and now Paul Manafort.

Paul, to you, what might Manafort be able to offer the Mueller team that those other four couldn't?

CALLAN: I've always thought that Manafort might have had information directly linking the Trump campaign to the Russians. Because, remember, most of the money that Manafort earned from Ukraine where he was acting as sort of a political consultant came from Russian- supported candidates in Ukraine, including the president of Ukraine. Manafort spent a lot of time with Russians, soliciting Russian business. He's a guy with a lot of Russian contacts. And he then becomes the campaign chairman for the president. So he looks like a really promising source for Mueller to look at. But whether, in the end, that source materializes is quite another question, because, remember, Mueller was never able to come up with indictable offenses that linked to the president when indicting Manafort. So it's really a mystery as to how close this gets to the president.

[15:55:03] CABRERA: It's interesting because more and more people become part of the country as well.

Catherine, we've learned that a member of the Obama administration's general counsel, Greg Craig, is also under investigation for involvement in Ukraine lobbying, and apparently, there's a connection to the Manafort case. No charges filed at this point in that case. But doesn't this poke holes into the claim by Trump and his supporters that this is a witch hunt and that Mueller is driven by some kind of political bias?

RAMPELL: Yes, I think this idea that Mueller is driven by political bias, particularly since he's a registered Republican, seems a little bit bogus to me.

You've also pointed to an interesting element in all of this, which is that Manafort cooperating might not only give Mueller information about the president. It might give Mueller information about others in Trump's orbit, including Roger Stone, who apparently has had some grand jury activity going on. And including lots of other people related to Trump, people who advise Trump, even people who Manafort himself has worked with in the past. He might she tell light on lots of other questions we still have besides the Trump Tower meeting.

CABRERA: Manafort is brought up in the dossier and --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: Right. Or the GOP platform. The GOP platform, why was that changed as it pertains to Russia and the Ukraine? So there are a lot of questions that maybe Manafort might be able to answer that don't necessarily directly implicate the president, but are still, you know, a matter of interest from a criminal justice perspective.

CALLAN: You know, I --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Sorry, I have to leave it there, guys.

CALLAN: OK.

CABRERA: I'm up against the clock at the end of the hour.

Thank you both.

CALLAN: OK. Thank you.

CABRERA: We'll continue our conversation another day. Thank you, guys.

In the Carolinas, it's far from over. And I want to take you back there to where Hurricane Florence is now Tropical Storm Florence. The worst is still yet to come. The water is still falling and the flooding is happening. It's crossing the state of North Carolina and into South Carolina as well.

Stay with us. This is special CNN live coverage.

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