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Trump Turns Kavanaugh Fight into Political Battle Cry; Trump Falsely Claims Justice Kavanaugh was "Proven Innocent"; Kavanaugh Calls Allegations "Calculated Political Hit"; Hurricane Michael Strengthens, Aims for Florida Coast; Wall Street Set to Open Lower on Rate Fears. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 9, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:21] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. We have a lot of news this morning for people in the 300-mile stretch of the northern Gulf Coast. I'm talking to you, Florida Panhandle. Time is running out to secure homes and property if need be and find higher ground. Hurricane Michael is on the way. Now a category two storm expected to grow to a cat three with top winds of at least 111 miles an hour and a storm surge expected to be as high as 12 feet.

SCIUTTO: Tropical storm force winds will lash this area tonight and will strengthen by the hour until the center of the storm hits some time tomorrow afternoon. The words of the Florida governor, Rick Scott, quote, "We have never seen a storm like this hit this part of our state." Warning of the deadly threat Hurricane Michael poses today.

As we speak, evacuation orders are in effect in several Florida counties and advisories in several more. We are following all the developments across the state. We begin with Dianne Gallagher. She's in Panama City Beach.

Dianne, the forecast now is for Michael to be the most destructive storm to hit the Panhandle in decades. What's happening there? And what are the preparations like?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, you know, Jim, what was interesting is that the people who live here didn't have as much time as they usually do when storms are coming. Over the weekend there was just talk of this. Over the past 24 to 48 hours, that's when it became an emergency situation.

Now I want you to kind of take a look out here. You can see it's actually kind of a nice day at the beach right now. The wind has picked up. The water is starting to turn a little bit and the wave is a little more intense as the tide comes in. But the good news is, and if you can see from CNN air right now, not sure if we have it up flying at the moment, but the beaches are for the most part deserted.

And they have been trying to get people out, they've been trying to get people to go back inland at least for the next 48 hours when the storm comes in. There is a lot of talk about the winds. But I'm telling you, over the next 24 hours, from officials, the media and anybody here in Florida who was working to keep people safe, you're going to hear one reoccurring theme, and that is storm surge. Take a listen to the governor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SCOTT, FLORIDA: Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades. The storm will be life threatening and extremely dangerous. We are expecting four to eight inches of rain and some areas might see 12 inches of rain. The storm will bring torrential rain to most of the Panhandle and Big Bend which means flooding will be a major issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: And that flooding is what they are concerned about in places like this. They are low-lying, Jim and Poppy.

Now the thing is that on our way in yesterday we saw long lines of vehicles that were trying to get gas. As of late last night, a lot of gas stations had run out. We were told by the city manager that they were hoping to get shipments overnight so people could continue evacuating out.

Now the governor has already called off at least 1250 members of the National Guard to assist with the aftermath. There are 4,000 members on standby. And to help with those evacuation routes here in the Panhandle area, they've got an extra 100 highway patrolmen and women to help with that type of traffic.

Jim and Poppy, they are also getting rid of tolls in this area.

HARLOW: OK. Trying to get people out as fast as they can.

Dianne, thanks very much.

Let's go to Chad Myers. He's in the CNN weather center for a look at where Michael is now.

Chad, and just how it's barreling and in what direction exactly at this point.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Moving just west of due north right now, but it is forecast to turn a little bit up here toward Panama City. And it's probably a landfall somewhere between plus or minus 20 or 30 miles east or west of Panama City. Every single model is in agreement, and I don't say that very often. Every single model says it's going to get stronger. Every single model says it's going to come up and it's going to make a -- took right-hand turn right here into Panama City just like that.

So the surge that we're worried about is over here in the Big Bend area. That's where the water is going to get pushed and pushed and pushed for hours and hours. And up towards St. Marks and up toward Apalachicola. Those are the areas that are going to flood with salt water flooding.

All right. Now it's a 100-mile-per-hour storm. We know that. It has been growing in the overnight hours. Yesterday we were only at a category one, now a category two and certainly likely a category three at landfall. I don't see anything in the way of this getting stronger and none of the models do either.

So we're going to go with 120. And that's still plus or minus 10 percent. So let's go 120. It could be 108, and that would make it a cat two, but it could also be 132 if you do another 10 percent the other way. So certainly some gusty winds. Power lines are going to be down. The surge is going to be taking out a lot of the land mass.

[09:05:02] Twelve-foot surge it means all that water that's not 12 feet high, if you land is, let's say, 10 feet above the ocean, you're going to be underwater. At least part of your land will be under the water. That's the surge we're worried about.

This map here will show you the timing of the wind. And we're going to get wind by tomorrow morning well above tropical storm force. And that's why the managers in these areas want you out tonight. Get stuff done. Get it out and then get out of there. Do not spend eight hours or six hours sleeping and hope that you're going to get out tomorrow morning because that may not be possible.

Look at the power line outages. Widespread power outages for Panama City, Tallahassee, almost all the way on up even toward Macon, and certainly those power outages as far south as north Tampa Bay into that area there. That could even see some wind damage there.

A lot of these trees are pine trees. They haven't seen wind like this. They're going to fall down. Some of these houses haven't seen wind like this. They're going to be damaged. No question about it this is a big storm.

SCIUTTO: Listen, 100 miles an hour at a minimum. All that storm surge, no question, this is real risk.

Chad Myers, thanks as always.

We're joined now on the phone by Richard Rynearson, he's the mayor of Fort Walton Beach, also in the crosshairs of this storm.

Mayor, thanks very much for taking the time. As you know, your governor, Rick Scott, says this will be a monstrous storm. Are you ready for it?

MAYOR RICHARD RYNEARSON, FORT WALTON BEACH, FLORIDA: Well, we're as ready as we can be. Citizen safety, obviously, is our primary concern. We're closing our city offices today at noon. All our county schools are closed as are the county offices. We've made sand and sandbags available starting yesterday to all our citizens.

The only concern that I have is, as was previously mentioned, gas supplies are running very low. I passed three stations that were out of gas on my way from my home to the office here this morning. So that's the only concern. If people did not gas up and they're waiting until today to do so to leave, that may be an issue.

HARLOW: What about the storm surge? Our reporter was just going through the 12-foot threat in terms of the storm surge. What would that make the most vulnerable parts of your city if that is what plays out?

RYNEARSON: We keep a watchful eye on the storm surge. And 12 hours before we anticipate a surge, we will shut off all city water south of Highway 98, which is the main east-west artery through our city. And that way, if it were to be catastrophic and break water mains, et cetera, et cetera, we will not contaminate the whole city supply.

SCIUTTO: So I know a challenge for communities like yours as a storm like this approaches is just convincing people to take it seriously and obey those evacuation orders. Are people listening?

RYNEARSON: I believe they are. Evidenced by the long lines -- gas lines we saw yesterday, evidenced by the bare food shelves I saw in the grocery stores last night. So a lot of people have taken heed to this and have done their preparation. I think a lot of people are staying because of -- when I saw all the food had disappeared from a lot of the shelves, I was in three different grocery stores last night, and there was no bread to be found, water, all the bottled water had been purchased.

And a lot of other, you know, staples were getting in short supply. So people are doing the right thing. They're getting their supplies together. And in fact, later this morning, my wife owns a small business in town and we're going to go shutter the windows on that business. So we'll be as prepared as we can be.

HARLOW: Right. Setting the example for everyone there in Fort Walton Beach.

We appreciate your time, Mayor Rynearson. Thanks for being with us and good luck to you and all your citizens.

RYNEARSON: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Of course.

Also, to the Supreme Court, a big day today. In just minutes Justice Brett Kavanaugh will take his seat as the ninth justice on the high court.

SCIUTTO: He has promised he will be an independent and impartial justice starting with his first oral arguments at 10:00 this morning. They waste no time they get started right.

HARLOW: No.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue, she joins us live. Knows the court better than anyone. So, Ariane, how soon will this court, this new court, with this new

justice see cases like the ones we've been talking about in the run-up to this?

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: The key ones were these 5-4 split has been so decisive.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Right. Good morning, Jim and Poppy. Well, you're right. This is the first day on the bench for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and it comes after perhaps the most polarizing hearings in the modern day era. He's going to take his seat on the far right side of the bench. That's where the junior most justice sit. He'll sit next to Elena Kagan.

But today the case isn't one of those high profile cases you mentioned. But there are a lot of block-bluster cases working their way through the lower courts. And they're going to get here soon, on the Affordable Care Act, LGBT rights, issues like that.

[09:10:03] Keep in mind, with Kavanaugh on the bench, this court is poised to take a hard right turn now. And as for Chief Justice John Roberts and other justices, they're concerned now after those hearings about the reputation of the court. They all -- all the sitting justices went to that White House ceremony last night. They were there to support Kavanaugh for sure, but also it seemed like it was a show of force to show that the court isn't this partisan institution that seemed to come out during those hearings.

And as for Brett Kavanaugh, he has done something that no other justice has ever done. He has hired four female clerks. All along he said he wanted to push for the advancement of women in the legal field. But of course, it comes after those allegations of sexual misconduct that he has so categorically denied -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Very quickly, Ariane. Can you just lay out for our viewers how sort of extraordinary it was to see the president making those remarks last night about him, apologizing to him and then for him sort of to give this acceptance speech, if you will?

DE VOGUE: Well, it seems to me that it was much more of a political rally, right, instead of this ceremonial swearing-in of a Supreme Court justice who's there to hear cases from both sides of the spectrum. Instead, the president really pushed on a campaign rally, as it were, talking about the justices in a way that the justices, those people sitting in the front row, they don't like that because they don't like the court to seem political.

HARLOW: Yes.

DE VOGUE: They don't like the president talking about the court as a political institution, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Ariane de Vogue, outside of the Supreme Court. Again, those oral arguments begin in less than an hour. Thank you so much. And we're going to talk more about exactly what Ariane just laid out.

The Supreme Court pick turned political pawn four weeks to the day before the midterms? And the president is fine-tuning his political battle cry, use the Kavanaugh fight to rally voters.

SCIUTTO: It was just on Friday that we were going through the vote on this.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: It's Tuesday and he's sitting on the court with decisions to make.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: In other news, the mystery deepens around a missing journalist who's been a critic, a vocal critic of the Saudi government. Now Turkey says that Saudi officials have been given the green light to search the Saudi consulate as part of the investigation.

And it wasn't even supposed to be on the road. The stunning details we're learning about that deadly limo crash in upstate New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00] SCIUTTO: We are now exactly four weeks to the day out from the midterms, and today President Trump takes his political battle cry to the key state of Iowa.

HARLOW: That's an important state, don't you think?

SCIUTTO: Certainly --

HARLOW: You can expect to hear him dig into Democrats over their attack on his Supreme Court pick. But could remarks like this energize Democrats even more?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure. I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny were proven innocent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: With us now, Salena Zito and Matt Lewis. So Matt, first question to you, we've got new polling out this morning and it shows us what the American people think, and when asked, who do you believe, the women or Kavanaugh in all of this? Fifty two percent say the women, 48 percent say Kavanaugh. The president says in his words, you are quote, "proven innocent", about Kavanaugh.

This wasn't a trial -- on what basis? MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I know, I think it's

aiming -- technically speaking, his wording is inaccurate. You wouldn't really frame it that way. You know, we don't know what happened all those many years ago. There was no evidence to support the claim. We can say that. That's different from being "proven innocent".

HARLOW: Right.

LEWIS: But that's a technical thing, right? I think what Donald Trump realizes simply is that he can't anger his opponents anymore than he already has. If you're a Democrat and you're looking at the midterms in a month, nothing Donald Trump says or does today is going to make you any more angry or energetic or passionate than you already are.

The Democratic base is already excited, they have the energy. I think what Donald Trump is trying to do is to ratchet up that same enthusiasm on the Republican base.

SCIUTTO: Well, Matt Lewis, sorry, you said there wasn't any evidence. I suppose you could argue there was no irrefutable evidence. But are you saying that Dr. Ford and her testimony, who even the president called -- which even the president called credible. Are you saying that she's been proven to be wrong or a liar here?

LEWIS: No, I just still think that's evidence. She made an allegation --

SCIUTTO: Exactly --

LEWIS: That was unsubstantiated. Now, I don't know if she may -- she may be right, she may have misremembered. But there was no evidence to corroborate her allegation.

SCIUTTO: Salena, as you look at the numbers here -- and obviously men and women, understandably, have a different view, not across the board, but it's in the polling that Poppy was citing here. Where does this leave the Republican Party as we are four weeks out from the midterms?

We know the party already had a deficit with women, particularly suburban women. And that's shown in a lot of provisional election --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: In the last year. Where does the party stand with women voters as we approach the midterms?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Much better than it did ten days ago. Republican enthusiasm is up --

SCIUTTO: How is it better?

ZITO: Well, the enthusiasm --

SCIUTTO: I was very specific about women because that's not -- it's not in these numbers. I mean, enthusiasm in the party, but not among women voters.

ZITO: Well, I mean, I've been out on the road talking to people. And I think that what happens is women voters -- it depends on where you live. It depends on where you are as suburban women and what is the educational density in the suburb that you live.

[09:20:00] So if maybe you are in somewhere in the suburb of Erie County and even if you have a college education, you view the world and circumstances a little bit different than if you are in suburban Virginia and you have an equal amount of college education.

So it's sort of like what we talked about in the book, educational density is important. So in some of these swing districts like say Mike Kelly's district in Erie where he's facing lawyer Ron DiNicola. It -- he might -- he will be probably better off in the long-run than say someone in the suburban district, say Chester County or in Philadelphia --

HARLOW: Philadelphia, I think Salena make an interesting and an important point county by county, right? And it's --

ZITO: Yes, absolutely --

HARLOW: Educational level and it's suburban, I would just point people to two important poll numbers, you know, brand new from Cnn. Fifty three percent of women now have a negative view of Kavanaugh, 64 percent of American women regardless of party say it's a problem that you have two sitting justices on the Supreme Court who have faced charges of sexual harassment or assault during their confirmation hearing.

Another issue that we saw in this polling, Matt Lewis is the issue of impartiality when it comes to political persuasion. Look at what we heard from Justice Kavanaugh during the hearing. Let's listen to this first when he talked about the Clinton and revenge on behalf of the Clintons. Here he was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRETT KAVANAUGH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pen-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, revenge on behalf of the Clintons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: And here he was just last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAVANAUGH: My goal is to be a great justice for all Americans and for all of America. I was not appointed to serve one party or one interest.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: Fifty six percent of American voters now, Matt, feel that he

is influenced by his political beliefs. Remember, this is a former political operative who worked in the Bush White House, who worked with Ken Starr, I mean, patron of President Clinton. He's going to consider cases, having to do with gerrymandering, et cetera. Where does that leave us?

LEWIS: Well, I think it's troubling for America. I think this is unfortunately a long process. If you're Republican, you feel like partisanship started maybe with Robert Bork and the effort, even though he was highly qualified and experienced, they attacked him on ideology.

Obviously Mitch McConnell --

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Well, the question his ideology. I mean, and he had positions. So is that attacking based on that ideology, to have questions --

HARLOW: Yes --

LEWIS: No, I think before Robert Bork, there had been the assumption that if you know, if you were nominated, you were experienced, you were qualified. That your ideas wouldn't disqualify you. Your -- but anyway, that's how Republicans view it, right or wrong, that this started -- they're going to say Dems started it with Robert Bork --

SCIUTTO: Oh, yes --

LEWIS: And Clarence Thomas. I think Democrats have a good point. You know, Mitch McConnell broke a lot of norms and Democrats could also point to the 2000 election where the Supreme Court, you know, ended up giving George W. Bush, awarding him the presidency essentially.

So, this is kind of a long time coming. I think the problem is that the Kavanaugh thing and whether, again, if you're Republican, you might say, hey, they waited until after the hearings to unload these allegations. If you're a Democrat, I think you might say Kavanaugh broke norms by coming out and giving that firing --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

LEWIS: Fiery testimony. But whatever the case may be, I think the real problem isn't Brett Kavanaugh. Like nobody cares what people think of Brett Kavanaugh. It's the court. Do people now all of a sudden view the institution of the Supreme Court --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

LEWIS: As a partisan entity? And if that happens, that is of course very dangerous --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

LEWIS: For American democracy.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we had Senator John Kennedy on the show --

LEWIS: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Last week, Republican, of course, remember the Judicial Committee, and he made that very point after saying that many Americans view the court as politics via another means, and that's a problem --

HARLOW: It's a huge problem --

SCIUTTO: That seems to be bipartisan support as you're saying, Matt, on that concern. Bipartisan concern about that --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Matt and Salena, thanks very much --

HARLOW: Thanks guys --

SCIUTTO: It's going to obviously be a conversation we continue going forward. In other news that we're following, growing in the Gulf, getting stronger now, Hurricane Michael expected to lash the Florida panhandle as a category three storm, 120 miles an hour. We'll get the very latest from the National Hurricane Center next.

HARLOW: We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street, stocks expected to dip a little bit at the open. Treasury yields as you've seen keep rising because the economy is so strong, you've got investors, well, got spooked about what that means and if interest rates are going to keep going up quickly.

[09:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right, Hurricane Michael is growing in strength right now. It's a category two storm spinning towards the Florida panhandle, expected to grow into what the government there is calling a major cat three storm making landfall tomorrow.

SCIUTTO: Millions of people in its path, more than 300 miles of coastline under threat of damaging winds, life-threatening storm surge, flash flooding as well. Joining us now is Ken Graham; he is director at the National Hurricane Center. So Ken, folks will hear a lot, here it comes a record-breaking storm, historic storm, et cetera.

Tell us what's unique about this one and particularly where it's going to hit on that panhandle because that seems to be one of the issues as well --

HARLOW: Yes --

KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Yes, Jim, it's like -- you know, you really look at this system here and as we look at all the impacts, it's got every impact associated with typical hurricanes. One of them is the winds. Let's talk about that, 195 miles away from the center.

We've got tropical storm force winds which is just staggering. So you think about still a tropical storm in Georgia and continuing as a tropical storm across the Carolinas. So you're going to have a wind issue. So you're going to have the heavy rain, plus the wind and we're very concerned about the storm surge as well.