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Congress' Handling of America's Gun Violence Epidemic; Record- Setting Dorian Stalls; Mayor of Charleston Talks about Evacuations; Boat Fire off Santa Cruz Island. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 2, 2019 - 08:30   ET




Good to see you both this morning.

So, Congressman, I want to start with you on this because we heard from the president there is, this isn't really going to change anything. I -- we know that the Senate is not due back until a week from today. They'll be back on the 9th. Republicans are certainly not moving without a clear sign of support from the president.

So in terms of not changing anything, does this mean that we are stuck where we're at, where there's not even a conversation, let alone any movement on talk of gun control legislation?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Erica, I'm not convinced that the Senate will not move. I know my senator, Pat Toomey, is engaged in some pretty serious conversations with the White House and others in the Senate. I believe Senator McConnell is going to be under tremendous pressure to move something.

The House has passed a universal background check bill. Toomey-Manchin in the Senate is out there. I suspect they're going to put something -- I think they're going to be under pressure to put something on the floor. Whether it passes or not is another matter.

Now, of course, you have the president out there who's a wild card. You know, he has very few fixed policy positions and they shift. And I think that's what we're seeing on -- on the universal background check issue. He can't seem to make up his mind if he's for them or not.

And, it's true, these universal background checks may not have prevented any of these recent tragedies, but they are good policies. So I think it's not a very good argument to say, oh, they wouldn't have stopped anything. But I think the American people are demanding some action and the president and I think the Senate are going to have to respond.

I mean clearly in the polling, the American people want to see something done. And there is broad support -- 93 percent in this last poll from Quinnipiac, which was released on just Thursday, support universal background checks. Ana, as we look at this though, those numbers and the will of the

American people don't seem to come into play very often these days.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, they don't, because so many political officials are being held hostage by the NRA. The power of the NRA over Republicans in particular and this president, we saw that after the El Paso shooting. He talked about tightening up background checks, something that's got huge majority support. And, after a call with the head of the NRA, he changed his mind.

Look, you know, I -- I wish I was as optimistic as Charlie is. Maybe I'm suffering from the hurricane blues. But I think that it was a moment of strange honesty when he said nothing's going to change, nothing's going to happen. If nothing happened after 20 little kids were shot and killed in Sandy Hook, if nothing happened after almost 20 teenagers were shot and killed here down the road in Parkland, no, I don't think anything's going to happen now.

And I am sick of politicians offering their thoughts and prayers. We didn't send them to Congress to pray. We sent them to Congress to address the national crisis we are facing. And what we have going on with these mass shootings is a national epidemic. So get off your duffs and do your jobs and leave the thoughts and prayers for the rest of us who don't have the power to legislate.

HILL: I feel like we need a beat after that, Ana, I -- just -- just to let it sink in.

And I think your passion is important and we need to hear it. And there has been much said. As we know, thoughts and prayers are important. And I know that they help people in so many ways through so many different situations. But to your point, they do not change what is happening. At least that's not what I've seen. And yet we know -- I'm sure that many of you have seen this now from -- from Texas State Representative Matt Schaefer, who said, he says no to red flag pre- crime laws, no to universal background checks, no to bans on AR-15s or high-capacity magazines, no to mandatory gun buybacks. What can we do? He goes on to write on FaceBook Saturday, yes to praying for victims, yes to praying for protection, yes to praying that God would transform the hearts of people with evil intent.

There's got to be something in between the two there, though, Charlie. I mean, really --

NAVARRO: Yes to voting them out. Yes to voting them out.

DENT: Yes, that's --

NAVARRO: If they're not willing to address a problem like this, vote them out.

DENT: Well, I think it's pretty easy. Look, I can't understand why somebody would say something like that. Universal background checks, you know, 90 percent support. They can be done.

I'm in a pro -- in a pretty strong Second Amendment state here in Pennsylvania. We have something close to universal background checks and we did this in the 90s with the Republican legislature and a Republican governor. That's -- and it will not infringe Second Amendment rights. A red flag law, everybody agrees we need to do something there. Obviously there's civil libertarian concerns that have to be addressed. But that can be done.

We could talk about raising the age to buy firearms to 21 in all cases. That's not a hard thing to do. You know, banning the bump stock, they should do that thing legislatively. I know it's been done administratively. There are all sort of things that they can do that wouldn't infringe on the Second Amendment. There should be a -- maybe a debate about limitations on magazine capacity. I mean let's at least have the conversation. It's absurd to say we can't talk about any of this.

HILL: It is so important to have the conversation. And one thing we've been talking about in our conversations this morning is the fact that perhaps hearing from more law enforcement officials and people who are dealing, as we saw on Saturday, law enforcement officials were targeted and shot at. Perhaps hearing more from them could, in fact, move that conversation forward.


Listen, before we let you go, Ana, you are right there in Florida. As we know, a proud Floridian as well. And you've been tweeting a lot about Dorian that is headed your way, with a good amount of humor, which is what I always expect from you and love about you. But things are -- things are serious there. So, what is the sense -- just give us a sense, how are people handling it right now, especially if this continues to shift and now it's just sitting out there?

NAVARRO: Well, look, I'm in Miami. We're -- we live on the verge of hysteria on a normal day, so you can imagine how we behave when a hurricane is coming.

It's been nerve-racking. I think I'm not the only one who's been sitting at home watching the little blip on the screen and eating her way through the hurricane supplies and drinking my way through everything that's not tied down. It's a -- you know it's -- it's -- you're happy that -- as a Miamian, I'm happy that we're out of the cone of silence (ph), but you can't be happening to see what's happening everywhere else and to know the level of anxiety and nervousness that's going on all over Florida, the east coast, and what's happening in the Bahamas, which, you know, it's almost part of Florida where -- they're -- they're not part of the United States, but if you live in Miami, if you live in south Florida, it's somewhere that you go to and that you're so familiar with. And so it's -- you know -- and you realize, you look at the screen, and you realize, but for the grace of God that could have been us. And so it's -- it's just awful.

HILL: Well --

NAVARRO: It's awful, and I -- I hope people will help the victims and the people affected by this, because it's going to be devastating. HILL: Ana, I'm so glad you said that because it is such a reminder

that we are all neighbors in this and we are all so close and that a lot of help will be needed, and we will certainly stay on top of that and let folks know as well how they can help.

Thank you both for being with us.

NAVARRO: Thank you.

HILL: Really appreciate it.

And a quick programming note for us here at CNN, join CNN and 10 Democratic presidential candidates for an unprecedented town hall event on the climate crisis. All ten will take the stage on one night to address the critical issue. That's Wednesday right here starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Want to go back now to John Berman as we continue our coverage of Hurricane Dorian. And John is live there in Florida at Jensen Beach.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Erica, and you can see the water starting to come up here on the beach. High tide actually isn't for four more hours right now. And you can see the water has been coming up right here. The wind is pushing it, as Chad Myers was telling us, ever so closer, which means the storm surge here, it is beginning even now with the worst of the storm not expected for 24 hours. We're going to check in and get the latest on the forecast with Chad when we come back.



BERMAN: All right, welcome back. I'm John Berman in Jensen Beach in Florida. This is CNN's special live coverage of the Hurricane Dorian.

As you can see, the water is already getting fierce here. The surf is kicking up. And it is moving closer. The tide is coming in, but you can see the surge pushing that tide even higher.

This is about the high tide mark from last night and the high tide today isn't even for four hours right now, so you can see what's going on here.

Let's get the latest forecast from Chad Myers in the Weather Center.

Chad, I know this storm inching devastatingly slowly over the Bahamas and toward Florida.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I have a six-hour satellite loop and radar loop that I want to show you. It's hard for you to see it, John. But this storm moves like eight miles in six hours. It just has stopped.

Now, the one good thing that I've noticed here, just on the past couple of frames, and maybe I'm just wishful thinking, but the white is leaving. The white are the colder cloud tops. Now we're kind of into the grays and the blacks, which means the storm may be losing some intensity.

And why would that happen? Because even though the eye is completely clear right here, you are getting the water around Freeport to be colder. The hurricane has used it already. It's used all the energy, the heat. You're mixing it up from the bottom. So we may not be 88 degrees anymore. We may be 78 degrees. And that would be a significant difference, stopping intensification, and start ramping it down.

Here is that satellite picture -- or the radar picture here from the Keys. Here's Freeport. We have our Patrick Oppmann right there and he's doing a fantastic job. Take you back, 2:00 in the morning, and we move you all the way to 8:00. It just hasn't moved. The people in Hira (ph), if there are people there, they have seen the sky now for six hours because they have been in the middle of the eye, which there's very little wind there. But if you're on the periphery, that's where the wind is.

You're way over there on the coast here, John, and we're going to see your closest approach, I think, in likely 36 hours. It's going to take a really long time for this storm to get there. There are a number of models that take this very, very close to the space coast. And everywhere along the east coast, 10 miles one way or the other for this will change your winds from 60 to 90 miles per hour. I think 60's a good number if we keep it offshore. Stewart, 70, Melbourne, 73, Daytona Beach here, this is Wednesday, 72. But if this gets just 10 miles per hour -- 10 miles closer, we're going to ramp those numbers up 20 miles per hour. So that's going to be a big deal.

John, I have you on our radar. I have our CNN position right there. You have a few more hours of clear just to your east, but more of these outer bands are coming, just not right now. Enjoy the sun.

BERMAN: Yes, I will, for the minutes that we have it, Chad.

MYERS: Right.

BERMAN: Chad Myers, thank you very much.

Amazing to think that the worst of it's still not for 36 hours here on the Florida coast. Appreciate it.


And as we look forward, it is days of impact on the east coast of the United States, including all of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Joining me now is the mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, John Tecklenburg.

Mayor, thank you very much for being with us.

What do you have in store for today?


Well, preparation is the order of the day here in Charleston and in South Carolina. And I want to shout out to the amazing teamwork of first responders at the city level, the county, all jurisdictions in the state of South Carolina. We really have an incredible team working together to keep our citizens safe and our property safe. So preparation is the order of the day.

BERMAN: And you have mandatory evacuations, which will go into effect for some counties today?

TECKLENBURG: Absolutely. So we'll be supporting the governor's order, which is effective at noon today. There's a lane reversal of I-26 and a mandatory evacuation order at noon. We'll also be reaching out to those citizens most vulnerable in our community, make sure they know about sheltering options and transportation to get there. And, of course, at last minute, we're working to keep our storm drains clean and provide sandbags to our citizens who decide to stay here. So we're all battening down the hatches and getting ready for what will come later this week.

BERMAN: We understand you could get some of the worst of the rain from this storm, and also the storm surge as well. What's the area of biggest concern for you? Charleston can be prone to flooding.

TECKLENBURG: Absolutely. We've seen this now for the last five years in a row. So, honestly, we're well practiced at getting ready.

Flooding is a major concern for us. But, you know, we've really learned to be resilient. Charleston has now got a chief resiliency office and officers and we bounce back quickly from whatever happens here in Charleston. So I must say, it's a shame to have to evacuate Charleston, it's such a beautiful city, but we welcome everybody back shortly thereafter.

BERMAN: Yes, especially on Labor Day weekend, which I know is normally a very busy weekend for you. But we know, as you say, you'll bounce back quickly.

Mayor John Tecklenburg, thank you for being with us today.

We will speak to you over the next few days as this storm goes from close to us to closer to you.

So, thank you, Mayor.

TECKLENBURG: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: All right, let's go back to Erica now in New York.


HILL: And John, we actually have breaking news out of California, where we're learning the Coast Guard is responding to a fire on a boat there just off the coast. Dozens of people on board that vessel. We have the breaking details for you, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

HILL: We are following breaking news.

The U.S. Coast Guard in Los Angeles racing to a boat with more than 30 people on board on fire near Santa Cruz Island, which is off the coast -- off the coast, as you see there.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Los Angles with more of these breaking details.

I know this is happening pretty quickly, but what do we know at this hour, Steph.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right, Erica. What I can tell you is that we know that there is a boat that has been reported as a fire, according to the Coast Guard. Thirty-four passengers on board, as well as five crew members.

What we understand, according to some of the tweets coming out from the Coast Guard, is that they were able to get some of the crew off, one with minor injuries, and they're working to get the passengers off as well.

And just to give you an idea of where that is, it's sort of off the coast of Santa Barbara and also Ventura County is there, where you see Santa Cruz Island. Right now you have to keep in mind, it is still dark here in California and this has been going on, we think, for about 40 minutes or so since we've gotten word about this. But it's a 75 foot boat near Santa Cruz Island that came in reported as a fire, but they are responding and trying to rescue the people on board, Erica.

HILL: All right, Stephanie Elam with the latest for us there. Thank you.

Also with us, Aidan Cooney, a petty over with the U.S. Coast Guard.

And we just heard a little bit there from -- from Stephanie Elam. Of course we know they've been on scene, from what we understand, for about 40 minutes. One of our affiliates, KTLA, is reporting that the Ventura County Fire Department says there are 34 fatalities.

Can you confirm that, sir?

AIDAN COONEY, PETTY OFFICER, U.S. COAST GUARD (via telephone): I -- we don't have the information at this time about 34 fatalities. The most information we have that we can pass is that there have been five of the members on the boat that have been taken off the boat by the Coast Guard and that the fire was ongoing. That's the last information that I was passed.


Do you know --

COONEY: And that is -- what?

HILL: Do you know what type of boat this was? We know it's a 75 foot boat. But, again, it's -- it's so early out there on the West Coast. Was this one of the ferries that runs back and forth to Santa Cruz Island?

COONEY: The last I heard, it was a commercial diving vessel, possibly giving tours. That was the last information I've been passed.

HILL: And are there typically boats out that -- that early in the morning?

COONEY: I can't speculate to -- as why they were out there so early.

HILL: And how far off the coast are we talking? Do you if it was closer to the island itself, closer to Ventura, on the mainland?

COONEY: I also don't have that information at this time.

HILL: From what I understand, there were multiple rescue assets launched from local agencies, according to the Coast Guard. And as we just heard, they've been out there for at least 45 minutes, I understand, working from both the water and from the air.

Have you been given any information? Do they have a sense at all of how large the fire is on board the boat or what may have caused it?

COONEY: No. We can't speculate to that at this time since the situation is still ongoing. I'm sure there will be an investigation and that will give us all of those informations. And as we get them, they will be released.


HILL: We appreciate you taking the time. I know this is -- this is unfolding as you and I are talking here. So, again, Aidan Cooney with the U.S. Coast Guard, appreciate you joining us. Thank you.


HILL: We will continue our breaking news coverage on this story developing out of California, on Hurricane Dorian as well. "NEWSROOM" continues right after this quick break.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Jim Sciutto. END