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Coastline Under Hurricane Warnings; Disappearance Complicates U.S.-Saudi Relations; Heitkamp Re-Election Race; Limo Crash in New York. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 9, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: 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 this storm surge as well.

So the rain fall, six to 10 inches. But look at this storm surge. We've been talking about this for the last few days. A very vulnerable part of the Gulf of Mexico where the water just gets trapped. Eight to 12 foot of storm surge. Some of this reaching inland as far away as Tampa, two to four feet. In Pensacola, two to four feet. So a very large storm that we're dealing with here.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I do think, and you know this, Ken, when people hear about, you know, the most ever, the biggest concern in decades, they feel like, well, I heard that before. I heard that before. I heard that before. So what would you say to people who aren't heeding the warnings, aren't heeding the evacuation orders?

GRAHAM: Yes, I just tell those folks, you know, you've really got to concentrate on this. Every storm is so different. So just because it didn't happen last time doesn't mean it won't happen this time. And little wiggles matter. So what happens is, after the storm comes through and if something didn't happen to them, they go, well, I've been through that before.

HARLOW: Right.

GRAHAM: And the little wiggles matter, right? So a small change in that storm could miss somebody. But, in this case, you know, we're talking storm surge of large values. And trying to make this point too. Just one example, I've got a lot of these maps. Apalachicola, these rivers that normally drain the water, storm surge is going to push inland. So even people well inland, miles inland, that (INAUDIBLE) to start looking at, you know, you start getting some significant storm surge.

HARLOW: All right, thanks for keeping an eye on it for all of us, Ken. We appreciate it.

Also developing, this story we're, of course, staying on, on the disappearance of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Turkish officials have now, this morning, been given the go ahead to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to try to find any trace of him because the last he was seen is in that surveillance video walking into the consulate in Istanbul a week ago today.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: He has not been seen since. Turkish officials believe "The Washington Post" writer was murdered inside the consulate, but the Saudis vehemently deny having anything to do with his disappearance. Since Khashoggi went missing, officials in Britain and France, along with the United Nations Human Rights Office, have called for a thorough investigation. President Trump, who didn't speak about this for a couple of days, had this to say last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am concerned about it. I don't like hearing about it. And hopefully that will sort itself out. Right now nobody knows anything about it. But there's some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Some saying that response doesn't go far enough.

Joining us now, CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller. He served as an adviser to both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state.

Aaron, you got decades as a diplomat. Have you ever seen what's alleged to have happened here? And let's make it clear, it's an allegation, because we don't know yet what the facts are. But what's alleged here, a U.S. ally, a close one in Saudi Arabia, taking out a journalist beyond its borders.

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: No. In fact, when the president says nobody knows what's going on, the reality is that's probably not the case. And you don't need to -- look, Jamal is a friend of mine. He's got four kids. He's got tremendous courage and integrity. And he's a damn good journalist and a reporter, resident in the United States, working for "The Washington Post," tremendous expertise on Saudi Arabia, a Saudi nationalist, a Saudi patriot, and, yes, critical of the current Saudi regime and its policies at home and abroad.

The reality is you don't need -- you don't need a Sherlock Holmes here to begin the line of questioning. The Turks may or may not know what happened. And in an effort I think to give the Saudis some slack, although Turkish-Saudi relations are not great, have not made their private accusations public.

But the place to start here is to pick up the phone, if -- at the senior levels of this government, and ask for an explanation from the Saudis. We have cultivated them. We have placated them. We have an exceedingly close relationship with them. Probably closer than any -- certainly any of the administrations that I worked for, Republican or Democrat. And we need an accounting. And then once the accounting is clear, depending on the credibility and verification, we need to do something now. HARLOW: What kind of leverage, Aaron, does the United States, does

President Trump specifically, have over Saudi Arabia, have with Mohammad bin Salman on this front to show them we're serious? I understand it's a complicated relationship given the $110 billion arms deal, how we need them on Iran, how we need them for Israeli- Palestinian peace talks. But all of that considered, doesn't the U.S. have a lot of leverage here?

MILLER: Well, you know, the president was reported to have said to King Salman, you wouldn't last two weeks if it weren't for our military. And that may be something of an overstatement. But the reality is, this has been a one-sided relationship over the course of the last 600 plus days. And I think the future of this relationship partially hinges on the degree of Saudi involvement.

[09:35:20] Look, we have sold Mohammad bin Salman as a progressive, as a reformer. The president of the United States, unlike his four predecessors, who went to Canada or Mexico, I believe, took his first foreign trip to Saudi.

HARLOW: There.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MILLER: We -- we have leverage.

SCIUTTO: One thing --

MILLER: We need to ask the question and make it unmistakably clear that we need an accounting because the reality guys is that our image, our credibility, to a large degree, is caught up with Saudi policies in Qatar, in Yemen, and with the Canadians at home.

HARLOW: Yes.

MILLER: So I think we need answers.

SCIUTTO: Aaron, let me ask you this. I had the privilege of meeting Jamal as well. And when I speak to journalists in the region, Saudis and others, they are scared for their own safety, right, because they worry that this could happen to them as well, whether by the Saudis or other countries that have shown willingness to do murder outside their borders when you speak about Russia and often targeting journalists.

I wonder, because folks at home might question at times, what is the power of an American president calling authoritarian governments to ask for violating human rights, whether it's Kim Jong-un or Vladimir Putin or the Saudi crown prince. Does it matter? And does this president have to make a more strident demand that those leaders follow and protect human rights?

MILLER: You know, the late John McCain -- and I argued with him about this point -- believed that our values are our interests. And we have no interests without associating those interests with democracy promotion, gender equally, respect for human rights. The reality is that we rarely, not since the Kennedy administration,

have we actually interceded or brought any pressure to bear on Saudi Arabia with respect to any of their internal policies. So they're -- the fact that we have not done this I think offers a huge opportunity now, particularly with a president and a son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who have established very close relationships with Mohammad bin Salman and King Salman, to basically do this ask. Our credibility, Jamal's future, his family, it's all tied up in this. And I really do think privately we need to get answers from the Saudis, and they certainly have them.

HARLOW: And, Aaron, your point in "The Washington Post" this morning was, if it is proven that, you know, the Saudis did this, if he was murdered at the hands of the regime, you sanction Saudi Arabia, you stop the arms sales, because if you believe that your values are your interests, that would maintain that point.

We have to leave it there. We have a lot of news. But thank you for being with us today.

MILLER: Take care.

HARLOW: So we're going to turn to North Dakota now. Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp was a no vote on Brett Kavanaugh, as you know. She didn't start out that way. In fact, she tells our Dana Bash she was a yes vote until something changed her mind. Plus, how her mother's experience affected all of it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:42:21] SCIUTTO: Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp was already fighting for her political life, that is before she voted no on Brett Kavanaugh last night. She represents a state, North Dakota, that went for President Trump by 36 points. A deep red state for a Democratic senator.

HARLOW: Right. Right. Ruby red for her. So voting no on Justice Kavanaugh could put her -- will put her potentially in more political peril.

This morning we are learning her no vote was not her first instinct. What changed her mind? Only Dana Bash could find out. She sat down with Heitkamp in North Dakota. She joins us live from Bismarck this morning.

It is a remarkable interview in everything she told you.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you.

Yes, she really is open. Look, Heidi Heitkamp, her instant is that it is probably politically detrimental the way that she voted no on Kavanaugh, but she says she is holding out hope that it is proof of her independent streak.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Heidi Heitkamp having fun, walking in a classic North Dakota parade. Her smile masks her political reality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to win this.

BASH: She is the most endangered Senate Democrat and knows voting against Brett Kavanaugh probably didn't help.

SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: It's been a tough week for me because, you know, the political rhetoric is, you can't vote that way if you expect to come back. And I tell people, Ray and Doreen Heitkamp didn't raise me to vote a certain way so that I could win. They raised me to vote the right way.

BASH: Applause here, but elsewhere reminders that President Trump carried this state by 36 points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know how we're going to get -- ever get over that.

BASH (on camera): So you're obviously a North Dakota voter. You're disappointed with her vote against Kavanaugh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BASH (voice over): Her Republican challenger, Congressman Kevin Cramer, well ahead in the polls, said he was shocked.

REP. KEVIN CRAMER (R), NORTH DAKOTA SENATE CANDIDATE: I really fully expected her to vote yes.

BASH (on camera): Why.

CRAMER: Because she'd been building her entire campaign, really her entire brand, as the bipartisan senator from North Dakota.

BASH (voice over): Heitkamp voted for Neil Gorsuch and planned to do the same for Kavanaugh.

HEITKAMP: I had the office prepare -- begin to prepare a statement saying that I was voting for him.

BASH (on camera): Really?

HEITKAMP: Up until -- up until that hearing.

BASH: Wow.

HEITKAMP: No, that --

BASH: That changed everything?

HEITKAMP: It did for me.

BASH (voice over): She didn't believe him and worried about his temperament, especially after watching a second time with the sound off.

HEITKAMP: We communicate not only with words but we communicate with body language. We communicate with demeanor.

BASH (on camera): And what did you see in his body language?

HEITKAMP: I saw somebody who was very angry, very nervous and I saw rage.

BASH (voice over): Cramer is appealing to voters who see all this as victimization run amuck.

[09:45:06] CRAMER: (INAUDIBLE) personal destruction at the -- as -- with this broad stroke, being just accepted is offensive to a lot of the women in my family.

HEITKAMP: You should be so grateful that your mom has never been victimized and that your wife's never been victimized and your daughters haven't. But people in my life have, including my mother. And, you know, to suggest she's not strong because she's a victim was like -- like a trigger for me.

BASH: Heitkamp is trying to focus elsewhere.

HEITKAMP: This is high tech.

BASH (on camera): Super high tech.

HEITKAMP: Yes. And it's also really expensive.

BASH (voice over): Hurting farms, like Tom Brizowski (ph), whom she invited us to meet. He says China's soybean tariffs, retaliation for Trump's trade policy, already cost him $100,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is it going to work out? I haven't heard a plan yet.

BASH: Cramer says he opposed Trump's new tariff plan against China at first and lost.

CRAMER: Once the president sets a strategy, a global strategy, I think it's better if we get behind him, unify, and win a trade war fast, rather than undermine the entire process.

BASH: Six years ago, Heitkamp won by a single point. Her warning this year, the shrinking middle means more gridlock.

HEITKAMP: If someone like me can't get re-elected, what does that speak for other people who want to be moderate? Or does it just encourage people to go to their base? I think that's a real concern.

BASH: For now, Heitkamp is determined to be herself. When a band plays, she grabs the mic.

HEITKAMP (singing): You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And, Jim and Poppy, she really is having a good time on the campaign trail, despite the odds she knows are very long. And, of course, this state here, this race has national implications. The most important of which for Democrats is that they really don't see a path to taking control of the Senate without Heidi Heitkamp winning re- election here.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: And it's often so personal. I mean with Lisa Murkowski as well. She mentioned a personal experience influential to these votes.

HARLOW: That's a good point. Yes.

SCIUTTO: Dana Bash, thanks very much.

BASH: Yes.

SCIUTTO: A failed inspection and an improper driver's license. Officials now saying that the limo in that devastating crash that killed 20 people never should have been on the road in the first place.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:51:53] HARLOW: All right, welcome back.

This morning, really disturbing information about the company that owned the limousine that crashed and killed those 20 people in upstate New York on Saturday. According to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the limo was not even supposed to be on the road because it had failed an inspection last month.

SCIUTTO: And the driver of that vehicle should not have been behind the wheel at all because he didn't have the proper type of driver's license to operate a vehicle of that type and size.

CNN's Polo Sandoval joins us from Amsterdam, New York. That's where many of the victims, they were from, with the latest.

I understand you're there at a memorial today, people coming out and sharing their thoughts of them.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim and Poppy, there is that sense of mourning, but at the same time anger because of that information that was released yesterday by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that this vehicle was not certified to be on the street to begin with, and then, of course, also that the driver of that vehicle lacked the proper licensing to be able to drive that.

We also understand from the National Transportation Safety Board and also state police that they have already recovered what you can consider the black box of this vehicle, this air bag control module, that hopefully will provide more clues, was speed a factor, or perhaps something else that was wrong with the vehicle.

Prestige Limousine, for its part, the company that owns and operates this vehicle, has responded saying that they are launching an investigation of their own. They're obviously cooperating with authorities as well.

And, at the same time, that they are also offering their condolences to the families of those 20 people killed.

That's the main question, though, Jim and Poppy, what exactly happened here? Nobody knows yet.

HARLOW: Yes. What about where you are? The memorial. The community outpouring. What are people saying?

SANDOVAL: Right.

You know, Poppy, this space was filled with hundreds of people last night. What stays behind are some candles, flowers, and a wall of messages. This banner here that was left behind. And what I really -- what really stands out to me is how personal many of these messages are.

For example, this one from Eric Steenberg (ph), likely related to Axel Steenberg, as you can see here, he writes, rest in peace to Axel, Rich, Amy, and my good friends who were brothers and sisters from another family. You can see right here, another one, a relative here, rest in peace, Adam and Abbey. Our prayers are with you. Fly high, my beautiful cousins.

And as you continue to read these, Jim and Poppy, again, what stands out is that these are not just simple messages of condolence. They are personal. That is because in this community, everybody seemed to have known, in some way, shape, or form, one of the 17 passengers of that limousine.

HARLOW: All right, stay --

SANDOVAL: There's a lot of pain in this part of the country right now.

HARLOW: No question. They were all close, four sisters among them inside that limousine, and everyone deserves those answers.

Polo, thank you for being there.

Back to our lead story, and that is the hurricane that is barreling towards Florida. Hurricane Michael is a monstrous storm this morning, set to become a cat three hurricane when it reaches the Florida panhandle. We're tracking it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:59:13] SCIUTTO: With the midterms exactly four weeks away today, 28 days, we want to know what is driving you to vote this year.

HARLOW: So every day we ask you, and then we play it right here. Why are you voting? Here's what you told us today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIAS DIAS, VOTER FROM EAGLE PASS, TEXAS: I'm voting because I need a new type of government. One that's inclusive and reflective of my own values, as well as the values of people that I know in Eagle Pass, Texas.

TERESA MILLER, VOTER FROM TAMPA, FLORIDA: My most important issue would be that we don't have someone who continue -- that would expand abortion rights because, to me, you're killing an innocent child.

BARBARA FRANKEL, VOTER FROM NEW YORK: A woman's right to choose is critically important. And I think we all need a voice to speak up and to take a stand. And no man should ever have any say in terms of our own bodies and what we choose to do.

[10:00:05] RITA SMITH, VOTER FROM JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI: I think it's very important that we vote for those that are going to support President Trump and his agenda. Make America great again.