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18 Dead, Hundreds Rescued as Flooding Emergency Worsens; Kavanaugh: "This is a Completely False Allegation"; Search for Missing Chinese Actress, Fan Bingbing. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 17, 2018 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So, Florence's fury is not over, as catastrophic flooding in the Carolinas only gets worse this morning. Murky floodwater cutting off entire neighborhoods. Just look at this aerial footage. That is stunning. That's outside of Fayetteville, North Carolina, a little bit earlier today. Florence is now being blamed for 18 deaths.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Lots of folks are still in danger. The youngest of those deaths, a 3-month-old baby, and right now, just a dire situation involving a levee unfolding in Lumberton, North Carolina.

[10:35:07] Polo Sandoval, he is there. Polo, tell us who's in danger, how many people, and what's the situation with the levee?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim and Poppy, it seems that most of the residents here in Lumberton feel that sense that they have made it through round one. The Lumber River has made it almost as far as it's going to go and already surrounding some of the area businesses and several homes here.

Yesterday, one of these makeshift levees was breached. We were there riding with the coast guard as the system, this temporary system that had been built up began to essentially fall apart in certain portions here. We noticed water was seeping through the sand and the gravel that had been built up to try to keep the floodwaters at bay. Though it was compromised, it at least bought people some time.

To answer your question there about the number of people, it allowed hundreds of folks to at least head to higher ground. Right now, there are at least 1300 people in shelters. The main levee itself along the river bank seems that it's doing its job, according to officials. Seems that it's holding up OK.

The main issue here now, Poppy and Jim, will be access. Portions of Interstate 95, one of the main roads in and out of the city of Lumberton, it is flooded out. These floodwaters will be hanging around for quite some time now. The floodwater not expected to recede at least until later this week, which means supplies, help, it may have a difficult time getting in. Even the first responders themselves, Jim and Poppy, telling me that they're going to have to find another way in and out of the city.


SCIUTTO: Polo Sandoval, thanks. Watching those bulldozers there. I mean they're literally building the levee as the water is rising.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, Brett Kavanaugh is at the White House as we speak as he faces sexual assault allegation and allegation of sexual assault. We'll talk to the reporter who spoke directly with Kavanaugh's accuser.


[10:41:26] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. We're following seismic developments in what was already a fierce Supreme Court nomination battle for judge Brett Kavanaugh. Psychology professor named Christine Ford has now gone public, very public, with a sexual assault allegation that she says occurred when she and Kavanaugh were both young students in private high schools in the D.C. area in the early 1980s.

She said that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed one night at a drunken party and that she was afraid he might accidentally smother her. Just alarming allegation.

HARLOW: Right, and she, according to her attorney, says and she said in this letter to Dianne Feinstein that she felt like she could be killed at one point. We heard from her attorney earlier this morning on CNN. Who said yes, she will publicly testify if she is called before the Judiciary Committee to do so.

Right now, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, you see him with the president the night he was nominated, he's at the White House. We don't know if he's meeting with the president, but there you see him entering White House grounds moments ago. He is calling this story in his new statement completely false and declaring he is, quote, "Willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way that the committee deems appropriate."

Let's bring in Emma Brown. She is the investigative reporter for "The Washington Post" who uncovered all of this, who broke this story. Thank you for joining us.

Let me begin with the fact that you had been reporting this out for weeks on end. This came in to "The Washington Post" tip line, if I'm correct, and this woman, Miss Ford, did not want to go public with her name. She was very weary to do so. How did this unfold?

EMMA BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, Dr. Ford first contacted us in early July, and the timing was this was before President Trump named Kavanaugh as his nominee, but Kavanaugh was clearly on the short list. So, Dr. Ford contacted us and told me her story at that point, but she was terrified about going public. She didn't want to speak on the record. And of course, when someone speaks to a reporter off the record, we have, you know, a responsibility to keep that off the record and to honor that pledge of confidentiality. So, as she struggled this summer to decide what to do about her story, I did what reporting I could without betraying her confidence.

SCIUTTO: Emma, there is an allegation from Republicans that this is -- you have heard the phrase, 11th hour character assassination by Democrats. Specifically targeting Senator Dianne Feinstein, saying why did she sit on this for so long, just reporting it to fellow committee members last week. I want to ask you what the accuser here, what Dr. Ford, what she thinks of how Senator Feinstein handled this.

BROWN: Right. Well, she wrote that letter to Senator Feinstein at the end of July and was very clear in the letter that she expected the information in it to be kept confidential. And so, you know, her feeling was that Feinstein did everything she could to honor that request to keep it confidential. And she, I think, feels grateful to Feinstein.

Her lawyer said, you know, spoke about that in my story. That they feel like she really honored the request for confidentiality. And of course, Feinstein only passed on the letter to the FBI after stories started to come out about it. And it was the stories that started to come out and the reporters knocking on her door and coming to her workplace that made Dr. Ford feel like her calculation had shifted. You know, at the end of August, she had decided I'm not coming forward. It's not worth it.

[10:45:02] And then she started to feel like things changed. Her privacy, she didn't have as much privacy anymore. She felt like people knew her name, and somebody would likely, you know, out her.

SCIUTTO: So just to be clear, you're saying she requested specifically from Senator Feinstein that she not release her name. In other words, that she reported this accusation on the expectation or perhaps even the condition that her name not be shared by the senator or others?

BROWN: Yes, she definitely had the expectation of confidentiality, both when she wrote that letter, the conversations I had with her up until very recently, you know, she expected those to be kept confidential. I think it's hard for people to understand, why would you tell somebody and not expect it to leak, but you know, I think we live inside the beltway where you're more likely to think that way. And she had an understanding that what she was telling the senator was confidential. And she had this, what she calls a -- she felt a civic duty to tell someone what she had been through.

HARLOW: And Emma, as you know, I mean you're an investigative reporter. Among the best of the best at this. You listen to people's accounts, and then you do your reporting on it. And a big part of your reporting here, Emma, was the therapy notes from the sessions. You know, all the way back to 2012. All the way back, frankly, to 2002, as well. The lie detector test, et cetera. Can you just walk through for us some of the other reporting around her allegations? BROWN: Yes, the therapy notes actually come from 2012 and 2013. So, Dr. Ford says she didn't tell anybody this story in any detail until 2012 when she was in couples' therapy with her husband. And at that point, she told the story in some detail.

Her husband, I interviewed her husband who was on the record. He has a clear recollection. He says, of these sessions where he says his wife recounted this incident and also said Brett Kavanaugh's name during those sessions. And voiced concern at that point that he may someday become a nominee to the Supreme Court. In fact.

The therapy notes from those sessions, the 2012 sessions, do not mention his name. They mentioned, you know, assault by boys from a, quote, "elitist boy's school" who went on to become high ranking members of society in Washington. The following year, she was in individual therapy, and she reported an attempted -- yes, an attempted rape in her teens. So those are -- you know, those are -- she told nobody, so at the time or for years, which makes it difficult, but we have these pieces of additional information about her allegation.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's fantastic reporting. Emma Brown, thanks so much for walking us through. You came to where we are.

BROWN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, she has starred in some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters and is considered one of China's, perhaps the world's even, biggest film stars. But now she's gone entirely missing. We'll have much more behind this high profile, this mysterious disappearance.


[10:52:36] HARLOW: It is a mystery worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. A famous actress disappears without a trace, but this is not a work of fiction.

SCIUTTO: No, it's the truth. Fan Bingbing, one of China's biggest stars, has not been seen at all since June. She's also familiar to American audiences for her role in the "X-Men" franchise, but she's one of China's most bankable stars by far.

CNN's Matt Rivers joins us now from Beijing. Matt, is there any sense of what happened here?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're getting some clues, but no definitive answers, Jim and Poppy. It's hard to overstate in China how famous Fan Bingbing is. I mean this would be like the equivalent of Jennifer Lawrence or Meryl Streep just going missing. And Fan Bingbing is an A-plus list celebrity. She's incredibly famous here in China.

But all of this really started back in May when she was first publicly accused of being involved in a tax avoidance scheme. Basically, signing fake contracts in order to not have to pay taxes on all of her very sizable income. It was in June that she made her last social media post. And then since then, she has not been heard from. She denied the allegations, said she didn't do anything wrong, and that's it, the last we heard of her.

We have tried to reach her to no avail. We have reached out to three different government ministries all day today, all of whom are not commenting on this. The only clue that we have to her current status is a state media post that went up on a website, an article that went up on September 6th that said that Fan Bingbing was brought under control and about to receive legal judgment, but that article was quickly deleted.

And since then, the government clearly doesn't want people talking about this. They're censoring social media posts on Chinese Internet. State media is quiet, and all day today, Jim and Poppy, we have been reporting about this for 12 hours now. Every single time we talk about this, the CNN signal is cut off by sensors that are employed by the government here in China. They don't want us talking about it, they don't want the public talking about it, but you know people are going to ask questions here in China. You can't just take the most famous actress in this country and not have people ask questions about it.

SCIUTTO: That's a treatment normally reserved for things like Tibet, sensitive topics.

HARLOW: It is. Matt, thank you very much. You lived and worked in China, Jim.

SCIUTTO: This is a big story. It is. We're going to keep watching it.

HARLOW: OK. Thank you, Matt. We'll be right back.


[10:55:00] HARLOW: Television's best in show will be on display tonight. It is the 70th Annual Emmy Awards. "Game of Thrones" leads the pack, 22 nominations for that show including a not for outstanding drama series. The show is squaring off against last year's winner, "The Handmaid's Tale."

SCIUTTO: On the comedy side with winner on the sidelines "Atlanta" and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" are the leading comedy contenders.

HARLOW: Thank you so much for being with us this morning. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. "At This Hour" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.