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INSIDE POLITICS

Hurricane Dorian Forecast; Dorian Batters Bahamas; Florida Prepares for Cat Two as Dorian Nears U.S.; Trump Plays Golf as Dorian Heads toward U.S.; Trump Tweets about Storm; Dorian Approaches Florida; Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) is Interviewed on Hurricane Dorian. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:12]

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing part of your day with us.

We're, of course, tracking Hurricane Dorian this hour as it batters the Bahamas. As you can see, CNN's John Berman on the scene for us in Florida. More from him in just a moment on what's in store for the East Coast of the United States.

But, first, these words, utter destruction everywhere we look. That's how one resident of the Bahamas describes it. Hurricane Dorian now a category two storm, but still lashing the Bahamas with sustained winds of up to 110 miles per hour. The storm has killed at least five people there. One Bahamian lawmaker telling CNN last hour it won't let up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IRAM LEWIS, BAHAMIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Right now we're taking a beating. The all-clear signs have been given. The wind is still howling. In some areas the water is rising. In some areas it's going down. We need wheelchairs, hospital beds, we need walkers. You know, we're just in a lot of problem right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Here's the simulation from the National Hurricane Center. Dorian literally, literally inching to the northwest. You could walk faster than this storm.

On the ground, much of Grand Bahama Island under water, homes battered by wind and rain, then swamped with the storm surge. The Red Cross says about 13,000 homes there have been destroyed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God. (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: You heard it there, oh, my God, one woman saying as she walks around her devastated home in Marsh Harbour. She went on to say everything is ruined.

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced 19 people last night out of that community and they're out searching again today, trying and hoping to find people still trapped in their homes.

Dorian's effect already being felt on the shores of Florida 100 miles away. Our John Berman there on Jensen Beach.

John, tell us what you've been seeing and how the progression is going.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's been like this for 36 straight hours, John, which is to say near tropical storm force winds, waves that have been kicking up like this. Periodically we get the outer bands of Hurricane Dorian passing over us. We expect it to strengthen, but just as it's crawling over the Bahamas, it is crawling past the Florida coast, inching its way up to the Carolinas.

And people here have been bracing for this for days now. The worst of it, believe it or not, is still to come. It won't be until much later today that people in Florida really start to begin to feel the impact of some of this. They have been watching the coast 100 miles that way where the storm is very closely and watching the forecast very closely.

So let's go to Chad Myers in the Weather Center for the very latest on that.

Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John, we're still 110 miles per hour moving northwest at two. Now, when I woke up this morning, it was stationary. Then it went to one mile per hour. Now it's two. So very, very slowly inching to the north.

And we're still getting those onshore winds from Ft. Pierce to Palm Bay, all the way to Daytona. We're still seeing the bottom edge of the eye over Freeport, still over the Bahamas. The eye is about 50 miles wide right now. It is going to move on up toward the north and likely make a close approach to the Carolina coast, either South Carolina or North Carolina as a 100-mile-per-hour storm. We're going to have to watch that.

What we're going to watch for here are the winds onshore. And you say every time that outer band comes by, the wind picks up. Ft. Pierce, 39, Melbourne, 39, up at a buoy up here in the ocean it was 54. That's just a gust from last hour.

Hurricane warnings are posted all the way from Florida to Savannah at this hour and even farther to the north around Charleston as well.

Ten to 15 foot storm surge. It is going down now across the Bahamas but that's at least where we were. The airport was under five feet of water. It was six or seven and a half feet above land -- above water before it started. So all of a sudden that's, what, you know, that's 12 feet at least. And we know that.

Why did this storm finally stop? Why did it just -- why did it not just keep going like it was? Well, it came out here from not that far from the -- from Puerto Rico, back up here around this high and then it got to here and there was nothing pushing it. It was between two high pressures. There was no wind like this, there was no wind like this, it was just stuck in the middle of nothing. Stuck in the middle of nowhere. And so it had no push to get out of the way. It just stopped for 36 hours right over the Bahamas.

We're probably still going to see four to six inches of rain, maybe 10 inches across parts of the Carolinas, but the storm still, right now, has a chance to get stronger. Again, I hope it doesn't, but now it's back or will be back into the gulf stream. For a long time today it was over the same water for 36 hours. It used up that heat. It used up the warm water and there was no more warm water left. But now that it's moving, we'll have to keep watching it.

Hurricane hunters are out there looking for it. Men and women putting their lives in harm's way for us.

John.

[12:05:04]

BERMAN: Chad Myers, thank you very much for that forecast.

One thing Chad said was chilling, the ragged eye wall still, still over Freeport in the Bahamas. It has been there for days.

Our Patrick Oppmann and his team have been riding out the storm there. I don't think they have slept in two full nights. Communications have been coming and going as they can. Patrick and his team have been sending us updates. They filed this just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Grand Bahama, the winds have died down somewhat, but the devastating damage and weather conditions still make it very difficult to venture out and get a sense of how bad things are.

We have heard reports of the hospital here being flooded, of an animal shelter being basically completely under water, of people who have lost their homes and have basically had to escape with nothing but the clothes on their back.

Late last night a group of people near the building where we're staying just showed up completely soaking wet. They were carrying a woman who had fallen and had broken her hip. Many of the people were carrying their pets. Some were very distraught that they had to leave their pets behind in homes that had very quickly flooded. They told us how just in the matter of hours the water began quickly rising in their homes. And by the time they got their belongings together and were preparing to evacuate, they said the water was so high they could not open the doors of their homes. Some people just said they had to break their roofs to climb out of their homes.

And the sense here is that things have completely broken down. Cell phone service is spotty at best. Electricity is out. Many people have run out of food and fresh water. So it is a dire situation.

But until the airport opens here, until the government is able to bring in boats with resources and supplies, it's not clear how the situation can improve or when there can be a wide-scale search and rescue effort.

So, for the moment, even as the weather slowly clears, people here in this part of the Bahamas are still very much on their own.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Freeport, the Bahamas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: And our thanks to Patrick Oppmann and his team for that. What they have been experiencing is nearly beyond belief.

And I can tell you, the entire coast of Florida has been gazing with this wary, watchful eye out toward the sea and the Bahamas with the knowledge that Hurricane Dorian is inching closer to Florida. There is still several counties with hurricane warnings here, which means they expect hurricane conditions. Still counties with mandatory evacuation orders.

I want to go to CNN's Brian Todd, who's in Sewall Point, Florida, to get a sense of how things are there.

Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, John, this scene right here is the reason why people, officials from this area all the way up to Jacksonville are telling citizens not to let down their guard, do not return from evacuation because of the storm surge.

This area right here, this jetty off Sewall's Point, we just talked to a local police officer. He said normally this is about three or four feet below what you're seeing now. This is very high storm surge for this point where he says you can usually walk down to the beach here. And we're just kind of getting sprayed as the storm comes this way.

A lot of the outer bands of this storm are still hitting us, kind of intermittently, and -- but there's often -- they're often very, very strong surges when they hit like this. And we're going to get some rain here soon.

This affecting -- this area over here, that's Sewall's Point. That's the town of Sewall's Point. About 75 percent of that town has evacuated according to the local police chief. But you can see the way the -- this is the Indian River Lagoon and how low it is to some of these houses. We've already seen some flooded roads over there and they are telling

people do not come back to your homes yet, do not come back from evacuation. This is one of those evacuation routes. This is the Stewart Causeway that goes over to Hutchinson Island over there. That's a barrier island. They're also under mandatory evacuation orders.

And, again, people telling them, if you're hunkered down, stay hunkered down, do not come out. That's what the real worry is, that people are going to get a little bit complacent or they might get a little overconfident and think that a lot of this storm has passed north. They're going to come out and venture into this stuff. They say it's really too dangerous now, John.

That place also could be cut off, like the other barrier island south of here, Jupiter Island. They cannot get to these people when the storm hits its height here in the next several hours and they're not going to get -- be able to get to them afterward either. So the people who elected to not leave these barrier islands could be cut off for a couple of days, John.

BERMAN: That's right, Brian, people need to be patient because the worst is yet to come in Florida. Certainly not going to be as bad as the Bahamas but will create conditions that are very dangerous.

Much more of CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Dorian right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:14:31]

BERMAN: Welcome back. John Berman in Jensen Beach, Florida. This is CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Dorian.

The storm has turned northward slightly, beginning its long, slow march up the Florida coast. Conditions here should get worse very slowly over the next 12 to 20 hours.

In the meantime, let's go back to John King in Washington.

John.

KING: John, we'll be back to you momentarily. The slowly part is important as we watch the path of this storm.

And as we watch from here in Washington, President Trump has been attentive to the hurricane. On Twitter, of course, tweeting and retweeting updates, including from the National Oceanographic Administration advisories with regularity.

[12:15:07]

But that attention doesn't extend to the exact details or to the president's offline activities. The president played golf yesterday, provoking considerable backlash and accusations he is not spending enough time worrying about the hurricane. Today, the president defending himself, saying the round of golf was very fast, in his words, and telling one of his critics, London's mayor, maybe he should pay attention to his own city's problems.

Now, the White House insists the president received real-time updates about Dorian, including when he was out on the golf course. And the president, of course, is entitled to spend his Labor Day holiday however he wishes.

But, remember, the president, this president, once felt very differently about golfing while president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (August 19, 2016): Obama ought to get off the golf course and get down there.

I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf.

He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods.

But if I were in the White House, I don't think I'd ever see Turnberry again. I don't think I'd ever see Doral again.

But I'm not going to be playing much golf, believe me. If I win this, I'm not going to be playing much golf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Here with me to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace with "The Associated Press," CNN's Phil Mattingly, and Vivian Salama with "The Wall Street Journal."

There's clearly the hypocrisy of the Obama reference, which we could just set that aside in the -- in the sense that there are a lot of things this president said as a candidate, especially about Obama, that we can attribute, if you want, to just a politician saying things. So there's the hypocrisy.

The other question, though, to me more is the empathy factor. Yes, the storm was hitting the Bahamas yesterday, not really the United States yet. But I can't find the words for it. But has he rewritten all the rules, all the norms?

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, the empathy question is something that this president has struggled with in a lot of different situations, but certainly when it comes to natural disasters that are barreling down or poised to barrel down on parts of this country, it just doesn't come naturally to him. And, in some ways, he doesn't really try.

I do think, you know, as president of the United States, yes, he's not going to be down there actually sandbagging, you know, anybody's home or building, and he has other departments that are overseeing, you know, other parts of the storm management. But, ultimately, he is in charge. I mean what the federal government does, the response of the federal government to these types of situations ultimately rests on him. And so other presidents have just been a little bit better about the optics around them, understanding that eventually the questions if something does go wrong land on their desk.

VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, and bear in mind that he was supposed to be going to Poland this weekend to begin with and he cancelled that trip in the name of monitoring this hurricane, and then the very next day he went and played golf. And so again, like Julie says, a lot of it was optics more than anything else. Whether or not he was receiving constant updates or not, he may have been at the golf course, but it's -- it's just not a good look in a time of crisis when a lot of Americans are, you know, evacuating their homes and things like that. They wanted a little bit more from the president in terms of empathy.

KING: Not a good look. And this is a president who expresses self- confidence, to say it. He always says, I'm smarter than the generals. And now, apparently, he's also smarter than the forecasters. The president saying this on Sunday in a tweet. In addition to Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama will most likely be hit much harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category five. Be careful. God bless everyone.

The National Weather Service, in addition to local meteorologists in Alabama then feeling compelled, this from the National Weather Service, Alabama will not see any impacts from Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain far too east.

What -- anybody who lives in hurricane-impacted areas gets on edge during the season, and then when you hear one is coming and you see it on the national news, you worry, is it coming my way. Alabama? No.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and then he defended and doubled down on that even after it was proven that it wasn't true.

Look, I think the bottom line here is pretty much this, if the government is fully prepared, if FEMA is in the right place, if DHS is in the right place, if the local governments and municipalities are getting what they need from the federal government, then it's all a wash. Everybody says, OK, fine, you know, do whatever you need to do. If that's on a golf course or anything else.

I think the concern, as it has long been, and we saw it play out in real-time back in 2017 during the hurricanes that hit then is that this lax kind of a -- this seeming lax approach from the president extends down the government, a government that is right now acting officials are pervasive. They're not totally sure who's running what at what position. And I think you combine saying a place that's not going to be hit by a hurricane might be hit by the hurricane. You combine playing golf and all those things.

If something goes wrong, this becomes particularly bad because all people need to do is point to the president's Twitter account or point to the president on the golf course. If everything goes right, if the administration is in the right place, if it's giving what it needs to give to make sure people are helped, people are safe, then I'm not totally sure it matters at all in the end.

[12:20:03]

SALAMA: Well, don't -- and don't forget that also the transfer of funds from FEMA --

MATTINGLY: Yes.

PACE: Right.

SALAMA: To DHS while the hurricane was at the -- at Puerto Rico's doorstep. So all of these things combined, like Phil was saying, it -- again, it just -- it raises a lot of condemnation from his critics about what has been (INAUDIBLE).

KING: The question here and now, what are the optics, what is happening, and then in the idea that just the -- well, should a president be out golfing when there's a hurricane coming I guess is another question, but we will watch this one as it plays out. And let's hope -- let's hope, to your point, that it stays out and the United States is not severely impacted.

Up next for us, an update on Hurricane Dorian's path. The weather is already ugly in Florida. An interview with that state's senator, Rick Scott, coming up. Stay with us.

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[12:25:22]

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

It's safe to say millions of people along this coast are looking out there gazing eastward at Hurricane Dorian and wondering will it move closer to the Florida coastline as it heads ever-so-slowly northward.

Let's get the very latest on the forecast now from Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center.

Ken, once again, thank you very much for joining us.

Tell us about the path of the storm and if it has made that northward turn.

KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Yes, John, we're watching it real close. And it looks like we're finally up to about 2 miles an hour. That doesn't sound like a whole lot, but at least we have a trend of movement and not stationary battering the Bahamas. So with time, continuing to move to the north, and that's why right along the coast of Florida, and even Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, with time, they're going to all be dealing with this throughout the entire week.

BERMAN: Chad Myers was telling us it is now a category two hurricane. What are the chances of it strengthening as it moves out over the open water?

GRAHAM: I think at this point we're looking at, you know, kind of keeping that strength, maybe even coming down a little bit. But here's the biggest point I really want to make. We focus a lot on those -- the winds right in the center. In this case, even if those winds come down, the entire wind field has expanded.

In fact, we're starting to see tropical storm force winds. Over the last couple of days we've talked about 100 miles, 120 miles away from the center, now 175 miles, especially on the north end. So we're seeing the wind field expand. So even if the winds are lower in the center, the impacts can be the same.

BERMAN: And we're beginning to feel the winds pick up here as time goes on.

Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center, again, thank you for being with us. We look forward to speaking to you over the next day.

So joining me now by phone is Florida Senator Rick Scott.

Senator Scott, thank you very much for joining us.

Let me tell you what I'm hearing from the people in your state. They're saying, we've been watching this for days. Where is Hurricane Dorian? Do we have to continue to be so careful? What's your message to them?

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL) (via telephone): Well, it has to be frustrating. It has to be frustrating if you've evacuated, done the right thing. It has to be frustrating if you waited to get ready. Your kids are out of school. You might have gone to a shelter. Yes, you have to be extremely frustrated with how slow this is.

I think the National Hurricane Service, I think Ken Graham, they're doing the best they can with the information they have. These storms have a mind of their own and we still have to be careful because this thing could turn west and hit us. But even if it doesn't, we're getting -- we're going to get rain, we're going to get storm surge and people don't realize that storm surge is deadly. Four to seven feet of storm surge, you know, it's deadly. We're still going to get significant winds. So -- and possible tornados. So I -- I -- I -- look, I -- my heart goes out to everybody, especially right now everybody in the Bahamas.

BERMAN: Right.

SCOTT: What -- what they have gone though. Gosh, it's just -- you're -- you know, when that first child was -- they said the seven or eight-year-old little boy died, I have a grandson that age. And you think, oh, God, I can't imagine life without him. And you know there's going to be so much death and destruction there. And you just hope it never happens anywhere in the United States.

BERMAN: You were talking about the storm surge. And, yes, two things. Number one, our heart does go out to everyone in the Bahamas right now as we're getting more information and more video back there to understand just the scope of the damage.

Number two, on the storm surge, I can see it right where I am. They're expecting another two feet or so here in the intercostal by Jensen Beach, which will mean the area I am is flooded. That will be the case fully up the coast.

People need to remain vigilant. So what's your message to the people on the coast here this morning?

SCOTT: Well, I think they need to follow, you know, follow the news, follow what you're doing. I think you're doing a real service to people to keep them informed in a manner that they can -- that they can stay safe. And then when -- you know, this is going to pass at some point. Hopefully it won't be a direct hit to Florida. But understand there's going to be rain, there's probably going to be flooding. You know, the storm surge is going to have an impact. So be careful and be careful afterwards.

You know, we have a good chance that people are going to lose some power for a period of time, so get ready. Get your water. Get your food. Get your medicine. Get ready for that.

And then, afterwards, be careful. Know how to use a generator. If you don't know how to use a generation, get -- go someplace and ask them. Don't put it -- don't run a thing in your house. Be careful with these chain saws.

[12:30:00]

I mean -- and in the meantime, remember, you are responsible not only for your family but you're responsible for any pets. And then take care of anybody around you that you know might need a little bit of help.

END