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Senate Sets Deadline for Accuser of Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh to Agree to Testify; Report Claims Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein Considered Invoking 25th Amendment to Remove President Trump from Office; Coal Ash May Enter Cape Fear River in Wake of Damage Caused by Hurricane Florence; Siblings of Congressman Cut Ad Endorsing His Opponent. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired September 22, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, carrying his water, and yet I'm out to do him in. You say two different things.

Thank you for watching. See you next week.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is Saturday, September 22nd. I am Dianne Gallagher in for Christi Paul today.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. You are in the CNN news room. We're following two huge political stories this hour. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is on the defensive, denying he suggested wearing a wire to record conversations with President Trump, or that he wanted to recruit cabinet members to remove him from office.

GALLAGHER: Meantime, the woman accusing the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault has until 2:30 today to decide if she will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

BLACKWELL: That's coming up. But right now, we want to take you live to Conway, South Carolina, where we are seeing flood waters begin to rise. Nick Valencia is there. Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor, and Dianne. We have been talking about this all week. In fact residents have been expecting this to happen. And now this water from Waccamaw River that overflowed from North Carolina that's making its way into South Carolina is starting to creep into the neighborhoods. Coming up in a live report in just a few minutes, we're telling you what they say now about a coal ash pond, and whether or not that water has actually breached into that ash pond. We'll tell you what the effect on the environment is going to be. We'll have a live report here from Conway later in the show. Guys?

GALLAGHER: Rod Rosenstein issued two statements denying the report that he floated a plan to remove the president from office. Want to read you the latest one. Quote, "I never pursued or authorized recording the president and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the president is absolutely false." Joining me now live from Washington, CNN justice reporter Laura

Jarrett. Laura, not one but two statements on this now. Rosenstein definitely does not want to be seen that this is something he was trying to do.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Dianne, Friday's remarkable news of these memos detailing Rosenstein musing about secretly wearing a wire to record the president and removing him from office sent a shockwave through the Justice Department as officials tried to do what they could to contain the damage. In addition to Rosenstein's denials, one person who was actually in the room told me he was clearly being sarcastic. And while no one is reporting that either of his proposals actually came to fruition, the revelations themselves could further imperil Rosenstein's delicate standing in the president's eyes as the investigation looms so large. Take a listen to what the president said in a rally just last night in Missouri.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have great people in the Department of Justice. We have great people. These are people I really believe, you take a poll, I have got to be at 95 percent. But you're got some real bad ones. You've seen what's happened at the FBI. They're all gone. They're all gone. They're all gone.


TRUMP: But there's a lingering stench, and we're going to get rid of that too.


JARRETT: It is too early to tell just how all of this is ultimately going to get resolved in the end. But in the event that Rosenstein is either fired or quits, there is a succession plan, I think it is important to note, at the Justice Department, and Mueller's work, I should say, will continue on, Dianne.

GALLAGHER: Laura Jarrett, thank you in Washington for all your reporting.

BLACKWELL: Joining me now to talk more about this, Laura is staying with us. And let's bring in Shan Wu, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Samantha Vinograd, CNN national security analyst and former senior adviser to President Obama's national security team. Thank you so much for staying with us, Laura, and welcome to the two of you. Laura, let me start with you. What's the view inside the DOJ? Do they expect Rod Rosenstein can make it to Election Day?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: When this all broke yesterday, I have to say I think officials were trying to do what they could to explain the motivations and the intent here. No one is disputing what McCabe's memos says, and that's where all of this is documented in contemporaneous notes. But what people are trying to say is that Rosenstein wasn't seriously considering actually taping the president. You see that now reflected in his two denials, one firmer than the other last night after he had a meeting at the White House.

And so I think what you're seeing here is them trying to figure out how best to contain it but realizing this is not good. Sources tell a colleague Ariane de Vogue that Jeff Sessions in particularly is upset and concerned about this news, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Shan, before the reporting from "New York Times" and the reporting since then, there was at least from the critics the narrative that firing Rod Rosenstein would be part of the case, would be evidence of obstruction of justice. Is that still the case after learning of these conversations about the 25th Amendment and the potential wiring, recording of the president?

[10:05:06] SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It certainly gives President Trump much more cover were he to fire him, and, frankly, Sessions may fire him too. Their each individual motivations could be rather nuanced. It would be perhaps a pretext for getting rid of Rosenstein, and for Sessions, it could be a way of taking the heat off of him, and the president is targeting him all the time with criticism. But it certainly gives him cover because it's a very unusual kind of conversation to have. I have been in high level justice meetings, I worked for the attorney general myself, and certainly people are very candid. They express themselves frankly, and it makes sense to me he could have been being sarcastic about the wire. If he was being serious about the wire, that's really quite a bizarre thing for the deputy attorney general to volunteer himself to do. He would have thought there was enormous crisis, and if he really felt it was that serious, it's hard to imagine he could walk back from that and continue to work there.

BLACKWELL: So Samantha, we're learning about this through the reporting on these memos from Andrew McCabe. What is the release of the memos, the president's flirting throughout the week with possibility of declassifying records and documents related to the Russia investigation. How does that impact the ability to do the job at the DOJ?

VINOGRAD: Victor, that's such a great question, because while there's a lot of he said, she said about what Rosenstein did or did not say, one thing we know for sure, and that is there was another massive leak of highly sensitive information to the media. The United States government has become such a leaking machine. You couple that with the fact that the president appears willing to declassify highly sensitive intelligence and intelligence sources and methods that could impact foreign intelligence services whenever he feels like he needs to satisfy a personal need, and you just have to ask yourselves why would our law enforcement and intelligence partners around the world feel in any way confident that information they share with us is not going to end up on the front page of "New York Times" if internal DOJ memos on highly sensitive conversations can't even stay within the building.

BLACKWELL: Shan, what would have been, and we know the plan did not come to fruition, but what would have been the value of these recordings in the context of impeachment or removal of the president? WU: They would have had to have been evidence of his lack of fitness

for the office. Obviously this has pretty much never been tested in modern times, but presumably if they could have captured him on tape sounding like he was deranged or if he was saying something very dangerous to the country, they could have tried to bring that attention to Congress.

What makes so little sense is just how would you really do that with the deputy attorney general wearing the wire and becoming the star witness. It just is not how things work. And he is the deputy attorney general, he is not the attorney general, he's not a cabinet level person to talk about that. It just seems like a very odd circumstance.

BLACKWELL: Laura, the deputy attorney general has denied this twice, as we said. First, he said the reporting was factually incorrect, then said I will not further comment on the story, and just a few hours later, further commented by saying he never pursued or authorized recording the president and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for removal of the president is absolutely false. How did he get from denial one to two?

JARRETT: I think it's safe to say, you can imagine sometimes in Washington, things snowball a bit. And between the first and the second, almost every outlet came up with their own version of this story. It was not just "New York Times." We did, "The Washington Post," ABC, NBC. So this was not just a "New York Times" story, it had really snowballed. So by last night when he went over to the White House, and Kevin Liptak reported this as well, that it was a situation where they really felt like he needed to issue a firmer denial.

But also to Shan's point, the idea this actually happening is quite stunning. And what I think really happened is there was a severe amount, deep mistrust in the days after former FBI director James Comey was fired, and through various sources I talked to yesterday, they just describe a frantic atmosphere where McCabe is so angry about the firing of Comey, who he really respected a great deal along with everyone else at the FBI, and the Justice Department is also reeling from the fact that they were thrown under the bus from Comey's firing. So you combine those two, and it is really just a hotbed of misunderstanding and mischaracterizations that we're now seeing play out in a really public way.

BLACKWELL: Samantha, quickly to you, the last we heard from the president on the DOJ is the lingering stench he discussed. What's that mean for the people who worked there? Are they now, as he tries to say or the White House tries to say, that this is about leadership and not rank and file, or do the rank and file feel that characterization of a lingering stench?

[10:10:06] VINOGRAD: Imagine what it is like to go to work Monday at the Department of Justice. You have the president talking about lingering stench of the DOJ, and FBI, and cancerous elements in its mix. And at the same time, you're looking across the table and wondering who leaked this information to the "New York Times." There's been this kind of toxic environment at the White House after a series of leaks. And I fear that it will start to permeate the Department of Justice as well.

BLACKWELL: Samantha Vinograd, Shan Wu, Laura Jarrett, thank you all.

GALLAGHER: Down in South Carolina they are feeling the effects of hurricane Florence still. New video this morning from the city of Conway, which is nearly underwater, as you can see, and the water is expected to rise in the coming days. CNN Correspondent Nick Valencia in Conway, South Carolina. Nick, glad you're still there, reporting from the ground. They have record flooding. What are you seeing in that area, and how are they preparing for what's to come?

VALENCIA: I think the best way it has been described to us, Dianne, is by local residents who say this is just like a slow motion disaster. We have been here all week long, and we've all known that it is coming, and we've all seen the water creep inch by inch from the Waccamaw River. All of this is overflow and it's now getting to people's homes. Believe it or not, this is not officially a flood zone. This hasn't flooded in years past, maybe gotten a little water back then in 2016, hurricane Matthew was the last major storm that came through here, and this area got just a little bit of water then.

This had major flash flooding after hurricane Florence landfall, and it is really remarkable to see a community still suffering the aftermath of a hurricane that landed over a week ago. All morning long, we have seeing residents come to this area, picking their jaw up off the floor after they see the water here. They're not used to seeing something like this.

And it is just spreading slowly but surely all across this community. In fact, the city administrator said he wouldn't be surprised if by the weekend he thinks that main street might flood. And if you have been here in this area there's only one or two ways out of here. They're very worried about a lifeline getting out of here if this water continues to rise. We talked to the fire chief earlier this morning. He said in some spots it is eight to 10 feet. We've seen this rise two to three inches in the few hours that we have been here. You see sort of a little bit of a drop off there, that fire hydrant, it is almost reaching to the top of that. Where we are standing here, it's getting close to our shins. And we have just seen this slowly, steadily rise.

The good news in all of this, though, guys, is that most of these residents have gotten out. They're not under a mandatory evacuation. This is not a mandatory evacuation zone. But they're heavily encouraged by the local authorities to get out. The bad news, though, is a lot of people here in this area since it's not technically a flood zone don't have flood insurance. Dianne?

GALLAGHER: Nick, thank you for that. So many people in the Carolinas will need help in the coming weeks and months.

BLACKWELL: Coming up, Senate Republicans applying pressure to the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault. Coming up, what could happen as we approach that 2:30 deadline set by Republican lawmakers.


GALLAGHER: So we are just hours away from a deadline set by Senate Republicans for the woman who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, for her to basically say if she's going to agree to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Christine Blasey Ford says that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when they were in high school.

Committee chair, Senator Chuck Grassley, gave Ford until 2:30 today to decide if she's going to testify or he says the vote on Kavanaugh's nomination will move forward Monday afternoon. Ford's attorney called the deadline arbitrary. Joining me now Travis Lenkner, a former law clerk to Brett Kavanaugh. Travis, thank you so much for your time. so you're a former clerk, you have been there in the room supporting Judge Kavanaugh, and you have been coordinating communications with former clerks since the president nominated him. It's safe to say you're a fan, correct? You believe he is qualified to serve a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court?


GALLAGHER: So my question here is what is the harm then in waiting on this a little bit? What is the rush, here, allowing another background investigation by the FBI, this time pertaining to allegations by Miss Ford. Is it just politics here? You're an attorney. Why not wait a little and let this play out?

LENKNER: I think some waiting has already occurred. The allegation became public with the name of Dr. Ford attached to it when it was reported in "The Washington Post" Sunday, and pretty much immediately Chairman Grassley and the Senate Republicans reached out. They said they would make available a public hearing, a confidential private hearing, a confidential interview with committee staff, really anything the committee had the power to do, they were offering right away. And they have been negotiating in good faith with Dr. Ford and her counsel for almost a week now, the conditions under which that testimony might happen.

Everyone continues to say that if she wishes to testify, her voice should be heard, but I think what you're seeing overnight and today is that at some point if the decision isn't coming one way or the other whether she is to testify, the process is really at a standstill as we wait for this. And people have been willing to wait. But what I hear in Chairman Grassley and others now is a sense that it seems after having waited a week, they may feel it is appropriate to move on if there's no testimony coming in any of those confidential or public interview formats.

GALLAGHER: But it hasn't really been there's no testimony coming, right? Her attorneys are trying to negotiate. They have some demands, some which seem to make sense, and even some members of the committee said they make sense. Others, like her testifying after Kavanaugh, don't seem to gel as much, but they have a list of things that they're trying to make it as easy on their client as possible, so it sounds more like negotiations which is pretty commonplace in a situation like this.

[10:20:00] LENKNER: Sure. And as I understand it the Republicans agreed to some of the terms that I think everyone agrees are reasonable and would have been automatic anyway in any Senate hearing. So again I don't understand it or perceive it as an outside observer of the Senate process as anyone applying undue pressure as opposed to saying, look, we've acceded to a lot of requests to make this as easy as possible. We do want to hear the testimony. We were willing to hear it privately. We were willing to hear it in an interview, in any format that we have, the Senate, have to make available. And now it is really time after a week of discussing some of the finer points of what a hearing might look like to decide if this hearing will happen at all.

GALLAGHER: I want to read you something really quick from "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board. They said, quote, "The Democratic standard for sexual assault allegations is that they should be accepted as true merely for having been made. The accuser is assumed to be telling the truth because the accuser is a woman. The burden is on Mr. Kavanaugh to prove his innocence. If he cannot do so, then he is unfit to serve on the court. This turns American justice and due process upside down." Is that the feeling those of you who are kind of in the Kavanaugh camp think is happening, that his due process is being limited and turned upside down? This is a hearing for a lifetime appointment. This is not a criminal case.

LENKNER: That's exactly right. I think if there's anything that's frustrating for those of us who know Judge Kavanaugh so well, it is that in this environment since this allegation became public, of course people want to hear the testimony of Dr. Ford if she wants to give that testimony, and everyone has been very express in saying that her voice should be heard if she wishes to make it heard.

At the same time, there are really hundreds of people standing behind Judge Kavanaugh. There was a news conference yesterday with more than 85 women who have known him from all walks of his life, including many since high school, who are standing up and attesting to his character, and not just to a general character but to the idea that this allegation is wildly past anything that they could even conceive that Judge Kavanaugh would do, and those voices in this environment are having trouble breaking through.

So those of us that support him and who know him well just want to be make sure if voices are being heard, all of them are being heard. When you have a 36-year-old allegation, that allegation deserves to be given time to be put in the public eye if that's what Dr. Ford wishes to do, but it is 36 years ago. And it's going to be difficult to prove, quote-unquote, one way or the other. We really will never know.

So this is about the statements of the people who were allegedly involved, and then about the character and the other evidence that we have about the person who allegedly committed this, and I can just tell you for myself, for all of the law clerks and all of the people I'm in contact with regularly, everyone just believes that that is nothing that could be possible coming from him at all. GALLAGHER: Travis Lenkner, thank you so much.

LENKNER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: There's been a lot of talk about the 25th Amendment and the president. We'll tell you what it does exactly and how likely it is it will ever be invoked.


BLACKWELL: Welcome back. I'm Victor Blackwell.

GALLAGHER: And I'm Dianne Gallagher in for Christi Paul this Saturday. So there's a lot of talk about the 25th Amendment. It's swirling around Washington and really the whole country lately. Yesterday afternoon we learned that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly discussed wearing a wire and trying to recruit cabinet members to invoke that 25th Amendment. Earlier this month in the now infamous "New York Times" anonymous op-ed, a senior White House official says that there were, quote, whispers of using it to remove the president from office.

So what exactly is the 25th Amendment we're hearing so much about. Our digital director of CNN politics Zachary Wolf is here to explain. Zachary, a famous amendment, is everyone really quite sure what it does though?

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL DIRECTOR: Yes. It was enacted in the wake of the Kennedy assassination. It has to deal with presidential succession. And most of it, there are four sections of it, and the first three mostly have to do with if the president dies or is no longer able to perform duties, power goes to the vice president. But then there's this fourth section about how the cabinet and the vice president can essentially vote to overturn the president, to take power away from him temporarily.

And that triggers this complicated process where the president can disagree with them, then they vote again, and then it goes to Congress where two-thirds majority essentially would have to agree to take power from the president, and then the vice president takes over for the president. So it is this sort of long, complicated process that would play out over the course of three weeks, and it is like a sideway, it is not impeachment, it's not death, it is a different way for the president to leave office without being voted out.

And people just for some reason keep coming back to this. We've heard that Steve Bannon was obsessed with it. We know that Trump has been thinking about it, with the anonymous op-ed and now with this Rosenstein story, people inside the White House talked about it. It is so fascinating because it makes you wonder how they're dealing with the president on a daily basis.

GALLAGHER: Zachary Wolf, thank you for breaking down the amendment down for us.

BLACKWELL: We are now just four hours away from the deadline Senate Republicans set for Christine Blasey Ford to decide if she will testify about sexual assault allegations she's levied against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Joining me now for a breakdown on this and today's other political headlines, Tharon Johnson, the former south regional director for the 2012 Obama campaign, and Brian Robinson, former spokesman for Georgia Republican governor Nathan Deal. Gentlemen, welcome back.

[10:30:06] Let's start. There are four points on which that we know that Ford's attorneys and Senate Republicans are on either side of on, so we'll see if we can get some of those solved here. Let's put them up on the screen. First, with the opening statement, Miss Ford would like to -- or Professor Ford would like a statement with no time limit. Do you think she should?

BRIAN ROBINSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, give her her say. I think Republicans have bent over backwards to make sure she can tell her story. So don't set any arbitrary rules. And obviously we don't want her to filibuster this. We have given her enough time. This process does need to move forward. But give her as much time she wants as long as it's reasonable. Let her tell her story because we're going to confirm him, he's going to be on the Supreme Court. And we need to get going on this. We've been more than fair.

BLACKWELL: You're going to, and I want to get to the other points, but you're going to confirm him, it doesn't matter what she says?

ROBINSON: Look, no.

BLACKWELL: Clarify that, Brian.

ROBINSON: More than likely he is going to be on the Supreme Court, right, because nothing that has even been alleged to this point, and I don't know why you would hold anything back, but nothing that has been alleged up to now is disqualifying from the Supreme Court. There's a reason what we treat 17-year-olds different in our criminal justice system than we do adults. Their brains aren't even fully formed. We have a lot of growing up to do when we are 17. We don't even know that this is true.

BLACKWELL: Nothing she has alleged has disqualified him from the Supreme Court. Tharon?

THARON JOHNSON, FORMER SOUTH REGIONAL DIRECTOR, OBAMA 2012: I agree she definitely has got to be heard. Look, at a time we know that this is a lifetime appointment, it is the Supreme Court of the United States of America, it's the highest court of the land. So anyone who has decided to put themselves and their family through this grueling nomination process had to be able to be open to whatever may come their way.

I think that in this case with Miss Ford is that she should take as much time as she possibly wants, because I think that when she goes and testifies, I think it should be unlimited, because she's now exposing herself and all her family about something she alleged happened at a very young age. And so I do want to commend the Senate Republicans, particularly to Chairman Grassley, for giving her a little bit more time, but it has been sort of this air that we should rush this woman. And more importantly, what is the rush to get this confirmed? Let's not forget, Republicans spent enormous time and months blocking Judge Garland who should have been given a hearing and should have been given an up and down vote.

BLACKWELL: More than 400 days. Let me come back to this statement from you, though, that nothing that she has alleged has disqualified him from the Supreme Court. Even if it is true. Even if he sexual assaulted her when he was 17 and she was 15, that's not disqualifying. He should be confirmed?

ROBINSON: Look, there's one eyewitness to this and that witness says what she is saying happened didn't happen. Both have been named. We know who they are. They say that didn't happen. But this was not a rape. Everybody was fully clothed. Is it inappropriate? Absolutely. Is that how any young man should treat any young woman? Absolutely not.

But if we went back and put this in a larger context, they were 17 years old, no crime was committed. Something terribly inappropriate that we should teach young men not to do for sure, but this is not something for a 17 should disqualify them when they're in their 50s and have shown to be responsible adults. No other accuser has come out. And what I am looking for is a pattern of behavior. And if we haven't seen any other example of this --

BLACKWELL: One sexual assault is a give-me?

ROBINSON: As a 17-year-old, sexual assault is, look, there are gradations. There are different grades of sexual assault. And I think we need to be careful about criminalizing 17-year-old behavior.

BLACKWELL: And this is an acceptable level of sexual assault?

ROBINSON: I said it is inappropriate. It is not a crime.

BLACKWELL: All right, you have been clear about that. We can't press any more on that because you have been clear this is an acceptable level of sexual assault.

ROBINSON: That's not fair.

BLACKWELL: I've asked you that. You said it is not a crime. He was 17 years old. And it should not prevent him from being confirmed, even if he did it.

ROBINSON: If the story as we know it is true, this should not prevent him being confirmed.

BLACKWELL: OK, that's your position. We've tested it, and you still hold to it. Let's go to another one here, that she should testify second after Judge Kavanaugh. Why should he defend himself and then she'll accuse him? Why is that order appropriate?

JOHNSON: I don't think that order is appropriate. I think that, again, I want to commend the Senate Republicans, particularly the chair of the Judiciary Committee, for giving her enough time. They have been working with her lawyers to really make sure that if this testimony happens that they feel she will be put in a fair and proper setting. But I think you should give Kavanaugh opportunity to respond, but you've got to hear the alleged victims' points of what she thinks happened and what she encountered on this day.

[10:35:00] And so I think to have him go first and to have her go second will completely discredit her statement. And I think at the end of the day, the American people deserve to hear what this woman wants to say if she chooses to testify. But I do believe that Kavanaugh should have an opportunity to defend and actually give his version of what he remembers happening when he was the age of 17.

BLACKWELL: Why don't Republicans want to hear from Mark Judge under oath?

ROBINSON: I'm sorry?

BLACKWELL: Mark Judge, under oath, the other person, the third person that Dr. Ford, Professor Ford alleges was in the room. Why don't they want to hear from him under oath?

ROBINSON: I don't know. Again, I think that Republicans serve themselves by being as open as possible. And I think that's why you see them moving the deadline back, working with Dr. Ford and her attorney to make sure that she feels comfortable, that she feels secure, that she can tell her story like she wants to. I think they're bending over backwards. And I think it would keep with that if they let Mr. Judge testify as well. Look, he's already said this didn't happen.

BLACKWELL: It is different to have an attorney release a statement and to say it under oath under penalty of perjury, right? Why not subpoena him, make him make his case in front of the committee?

ROBINSON: I would love for him to come make his case before the committee. I would absolutely love for him to do that.

BLACKWELL: One more thing here. We've talked about Kavanaugh. I want to talk about this ad that came out overnight that's gone viral. This is in an Arizona house race from a candidate, David Brill, against the incumbent there, Paul Gosar. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paul Gosar the congressman isn't doing anything to help rural America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paul is absolutely not working for his district.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they care about health care, they care about their children's health care, they would hold him to account. If they care about jobs, they would hold him to account. If he actually cared about people in rural Arizona, I bet he would be fighting for Social Security, for better access to health care. I bet he would be researching what is the most insightful water policy to help the environment of Arizona sustain itself and be successful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is not listening to you and he doesn't have your interests at heart.

My name is Tim Gosar.






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paul Gosar is my brother.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wholeheartedly endorse David Brill for Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Dr. David Brill, and I approve this message.


BLACKWELL: That is cold.


JOHNSON: We have been doing campaigns for almost two decades now. And there's not this unknown thing where you have sort of debates and tension privately with your siblings, even with some of your parents. My brother, who sometimes is my biggest critic, but he's also my biggest fan, would never go out and sit down and actually participate in a 60 second ad in this great forestry scene and tell people don't vote for --

BLACKWELL: Not just one sibling, six.

JOHNSON: Out of nine. This is bizarre.

BLACKWELL: We have to wrap it. Tharon Johnson, Brian Robinson, thank you both. Dianne?

GALLAGHER: It could be the start of a major environmental crisis. North Carolina flood waters trigger a dam breach that could spill coal ash into the river. We've a live report from Wilmington, North Carolina, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:43:02] BLACKWELL: Hurricane Florence is still making a big mess in the Carolinas. Flood waters have triggered a dam breach at a power plant. This is Wilmington, North Carolina. It could be spilling coal ash into the Cape Fear River.

GALLAGHER: CNN correspondent Kaylee Hartung has been on this story since before the hurricane came. She's in Wilmington now with more details. Kaylee, what can you tell us about the situation there?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dianne and Victor. Environmentalists fear that coal ash is entering the Cape Fear River. But Duke Energy who owns the natural gas plant that's home to two inactive coal basins says that's probably not the case, at least not yet. And that's the problem we are facing. At this point we don't yet understand the full extent of danger the people of Wilmington are in.

So it was Thursday when the waters of the Cape Fear River first flooded into a cooling lake on this natural gas plant's property which was formerly a coal burning power plant. And then Friday we first learned of the breach of the dam, several breaches. I should say, the video we can show you now of this power plant was taken before the dam was breached.

And so now the question is how long will it take for the coal ash basin to begin flooding into the cooling lake as well. Right now Duke Energy says there's no visible sign of coal ash in that cooling lake. We have seen helicopters overhead all morning long, monitoring the site. They tell us there are water samples being taken. Those will take days before they're back. But again, at this time Duke Energy says there's no visible coal ash in that cooling lake. But again, this is such an on-going situation, a fluid situation literally, if you will, and extent of damage people could be facing, especially downstream from the river, is not yet known. Coal ash is one of the largest forms of industrial waste, and its impact and harm could be tremendous.

BLACKWELL: So you're in North Carolina. Let's go to the Waccamaw River and flood waters in South Carolina. They spilled over into an ash pond at a separate power plant I understand.

[10:45:10] HARTUNG: Right. Similar but different situations between Wilmington and Conway, South Carolina. At 9:00 a.m. this morning, we learned that flooding Waccamaw River had overtaken a dike at what was known as Grainger Generating Station site. This a Santee Cooper Power Company area. And they say there's no significant environmental impact at this time. But again, a very fluid situation. The danger of coal ash getting into a river and the ways in which humans can come in contact with it, obviously such a precursor to the impacts that people could feel.

But these are two very serious situations that both states say they have their environmental agencies monitoring, whether it be overhead, visually, water sampling, drones are involved, helicopters are involved. These are very sensitive situations that are being monitored very carefully on a state and local level. GALLAGHER: Kaylee Hartung in Wilmington, North Carolina, thank you

for your dedication to this story.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to Texas where we know they love football, they love the tailgating.

GALLAGHER: And, as you said, Coy Wire. He is experiencing it all for us in Austin.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Here in Austin, the University of Texas, the Longhorns, taking on number 17 TCU. It's game day, baby. We have your sports coming up on CNN newsroom after the break.


[10:51:20] GALLAGHER: Victor, it is Saturday. So you know what that means?

BLACKWELL: I know you know what that means.

GALLAGHER: Fans are getting ready for another day of college football. And of course we are fired up. It is the start of the ultimate tailgate tour.

BLACKWELL: CNN takes you to the biggest and the best tailgate parties across the country. Coy Wire starts us off in Austin, Texas, home of the Texas Longhorns. Got a big day ahead, Coy.

WIRE: Good morning to you, Victor and Dianne. A truck sized smoker right here. The fumes are getting me. I want to eat barbeque so badly. My friends had to get going because the party is getting going. By kickoff today, just under six hours away, it is going to be hotter than a Texas barbeque here in Austin. This Bleacher Report brought to you by TUMS.

Now the Texas Longhorns, they are looking to keep a good thing going. They're two and one entering their first big 12 test. And they're coming off a huge 37-14 win over USC last week, kicked them out of the top 25. Today they face in-state rival number 17, TCU. They're looking to get back on their froggy feet after they got knocked down by number four, Ohio State, last week.

And speaking of those Buckeyes, they're going to get their head coach Urban Meyer, back on the sidelines when they host Tulane later today. He served, you'll remember, a three game suspension for his handling of the domestic abuse allegations against his former assistant coach Zach Smith.

Now, next week, though, the Buckeyes are going to face number 10 Penn State, and what a second half performance the Nittany Lions put on against the fighting Illini. Trailing early in the first half, oh, my, they put a good old-fashioned passionate butt whooping on the Illini, 42 unanswered points in the second half. Heisman candidate Trace McSorley tossing three touchdown passes in the game. Penn State wins big 63 to 24. They host the Buckeyes in Happy Valley next Saturday. Listen to this. Three of the NBA's best teams raise money for

hurricane Florence victims. You have Steph Curry, Chris Paul, John Wall, all North Carolina natives. And they launched a crowd sourcing site aimed at getting relief to those in need off to a good start. Their goal is $500,000.

Now, coming to this college town, I wanted to immerse myself in Texas Longhorn and Austin culture. Victor, Dianne, I went to this place called Alan's Booth that has over 18,000 pairs from classic to quirky. They have one pair made of American gator that cost $13,000. It's that pair right there, $13,000. I also got to meet one of college football's, actually college football's biggest mascot, his name is Bevo. He is a Texas Longhorn. He's 1,700 pounds. He's a celebrity. He's friends with Matthew McConaughey. He attended George W. Bush's inauguration back in 2004. It's the reason that he has a three-year, $4.8 million deal with Chevy so they can name one of the pickups the official truck of Bevo. I feel like a million bucks because I have me a new cowboy hat from here in Austin that has already been Victor approved. So I am winning at life. It's going to be a great day here. And Dianne, your Vols are going to beat the Gators later today.

GALLAGHER: I like the sound of that, Coy. Texas suits you, man.

BLACKWELL: The hat is perfect.

GALLAGHER: It really does.

WIRE: I might not come back. And if I do, I'll bring you some barbeque.

BLACKWELL: Don't come back without barbeque, please.


BLACKWELL: Coy Wire, thanks so much.

We'll be back.


BLACKWELL: The city of Lagos is known Nigeria's Silicon Valley. One computer programmer is determined to help girls succeed in the tech industry.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I went for the first time, I was surprised to see the living condition of Namibians. Most girls are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. Many of them are not thinking education or plan for the future. I believe girls should be given opportunities. What you can see you can aspire to. They need to be shown another life.


GALLAGHER: If you want to see the full story, go to I want to thank you for watching.

BLACKWELL: There's much more ahead in the next hour of CNN Newsroom. We turn it over to Fredricka Whitfield. Good morning to you, Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, good morning to you. I know it's been a busy one.

BLACKWELL: It has been. It's going to be a busy afternoon, too.