Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Golfs As Hurricane Dorian Threatens U.S.; Hurricane Dorian Moving Slowly over Bahamas; Hurricane Dorian Forecast to Move Toward Florida, Georgia, and Carolinas. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- this morning. Alisyn Camerota is in New York. We just got some new information from the National Hurricane Center, and we will bring that to you very, very shortly.

Here on the Florida coast you can see the winds are picking up. It's been a wet morning as you can tell by looking at me. The storm is inching closer to Florida. They are prepared here. There are still mandatory evacuations in effect, and hurricane warnings all the way up to South Carolina at this point.

However, the worst of the storm is still inching past the Bahamas. We just got some video in from Freeport on Grand Bahama Island of the airport there, and you can see the damage that has been done. The water is simply everywhere. So even if the storm did pass through immediately, they would not be able to land any aircraft in there to get relief in because the runways are simply covered with a water. So the water has got to pass and recede before they can hope to land there in fixed wings. Maybe later today they'll be able to get some helicopters in.

We did hear from emergency relief officials in the Bahamas a short time ago that they are doing some boat rescues. The U.S. Coast Guard and British Navy on Abaco Island, and they have been able to land some helicopters there. We have learned of some fatalities, five at least. That number could go up as the morning goes on and they are able to reach more areas.

And Alisyn, here, as the storm moves closer it has been this excruciating waiting game because the speed of this storm has been really historically slow.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You can walk faster than this storm is moving, we're told. But the idea of we just have no idea of what the Bahamas are going to look like once the storm passes, and it's so scary to think about those water rescues that are happening right now. So John, thank you very much. We'll be back with you momentarily.

But we're also learning new details from southern California where 34 people are feared dead from this inferno onboard a dive boat. All five crew members made it out alive, and now there are questions about how all of those passengers became trapped below deck. So we'll talk to a man who knows the owner of that boat.

But for now we do want to get right back to John for the latest on Dorian. John?

BERMAN: Yes. And again, new data in from the National Hurricane Center, the 8:00 a.m. update. So let's go right to Chad Myers. And Chad, I understand it's gone from not moving at all to crawling northward. What can you tell us?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Northwest at one mile per hour. They did not change the intensity of the wind speed. We haven't seen that intensity lately from hurricane hunter, but because the pressure is still so low, this storm still has a lot more potential if it gets back in warm water. Think about this, it's been in the same water for days now, almost 48 hours. It has used up that energy. But if this gets into the gulf stream, there's more energy to come there. Northwest at one, following the coast on up. We expect it to pick up speed today.

Now that it finally has some forward momentum, we know that those two ridges we talked about last half-hour that were holding it down there, they are breaking down. So the amount of movement will begin to increase. And by later on today winds will increase as well. By tomorrow morning, after midnight tonight, Melbourne, you'll see wind gusts of 64.

Remember if this eye is 10 miles closer, this 62 in Daytona tomorrow morning goes to 72. If it's over here, it goes to 52. That's the back and forth of where we are as you hug the coast or scour the coast. We are going to push more water into the land masses here, Charleston, even up toward Buford. We're going to see Savannah here at a 50 miles per hour, pushing water into Tybee, but only a couple of feet. Right now our surge is 1.7 feet where you are. Except at least another two, maybe thee. And John, you are feet will be wet if that happens right now.

BERMAN: My feet are already wet, but they'll be wetter. Chad Myers, thank you very much for that.

Communications have been difficult all morning with Grand Bahama Island and Freeport. Patrick Oppmann and his team have been there for days now. I think we have contact with Patrick. Patrick, tell me what you're seeing as the sun comes up.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, John. We're looking around, and all the trees where we are have been mostly stripped of their leaves. We were lucky, though. We didn't get the worst of the storm, and that's how we were able to stay on the air. And it's been rough but I just think the people on the north side of the island who got those category five winds for hours and hours and hours, how are they doing? There's one neighborhood near the airport, you mentioned the airport being under water, neighborhood of Coral Grove. And I talked to people who evacuated from there, and they say it is completely under water, a whole neighborhood of people. Many people tried to ride out the storm there because they've done it previously on different hurricanes, other powerful hurricanes. [08:05:00]

And they say this time the water came in late last night, and not everyone was able to get out of the neighborhood. There were some people who went to the roofs, but there are no rescue efforts that we can see right now, and that is because still throughout much of this island you have hurricane tropical force winds, and that just complicates any people coming from outside either by aircraft or boat. The airport is closed and it's just too dangerous to fly right now.

I talked to one Bahamian official last night who said they realize how desperate the situation is here, they very much want to get people in. they're hoping they can get some of those Coast Guard choppers in today. We'll see if that happens. It's still too dangerous to bring a boat in here.

People are running out of food. People are running out of fresh water. We are on a generator. We haven't had power I think for two days, maybe. So unless you have the resources that we have, you are in trouble, you're in a dire situation, you need help now.

BERMAN: Patrick Oppmann and your team, terrific work in Freeport. Thank you so much for being there. Hopefully you will see that contact with the rescue are relief efforts shortly as the hours pass on.

I want to bring in Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center. Ken, thank you very much for being with us. The 8:00 a.m. update is in. We just heard from Chad. The storm moving northwest at one mile per hour. What does that mean and what do you expect over the coming hours?

KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: I'll tell you, John, after being stationary for about 24 hours, we'll take that one mile an hour at this stage, because we're looking, we've constantly been watching this for some sort of sign of movement. So northwest at one mile-an-hour, we think it's starting to have that northward jog that we've been advertising. We've just got to get these hurricane force winds and pushing of that water out of the Bahamas so everyone can start helping people there.

So it looks like that's started, but it's going to be a slow progression throughout the day and tomorrow to go northward.

BERMAN: When you talk about one mile per hour, even I can walk faster than that. How fast does a hurricane normally move when it's in these waters?

GRAHAM: When it's in these waters, it always varies on the steering patterns. I've seen hurricanes over the years move at 10 to 15 miles an hour where you're talking a quick progression northward. At other times they stall like this. It's all about the steering patterns, 300, 400, 500, even 1,000 miles from the storm, John. It all depends on the weather pattern. This is situation, stalled out, and eventually look how fast. You're talking about 2:00 p.m. tomorrow up close to the north portion of Florida off the coast. And then Thursday and even Friday up in the outer banks, so eventually this thing is going to speed up.

BERMAN: How close to the Florida coast are you forecasting now?

GRAHAM: It's just offshore, so we can see some of those tropical storm force winds make it the coast. But we're well enough offshore now that I think fewer places might be able to see those hurricane force winds. But still at this time the cone gets very close to the coast, and we're going to keep those hurricane warnings up just in case we get a little job over to the left hand side.

BERMAN: And talk to me now about North Carolina, which is, at the speed this is going, is days and days away from feeling the impact here. But what can they expect?

GRAHAM: We're always concerned about the storm surge, especially when you get up to South Carolina, North Carolina where you have a lot of those river inlets and those low lands. So by Thursday morning all this onshore flow will start over the Carolinas. And that's why we're already looking at storm surge watches in some of these areas in the Carolinas, because within 48 hours you'll start seeing some of that storm surge come up. And over there, it's not just along the coast. Some of that water could push in the river inlets. It could be miles inland and you still see the effects of that storm surge.

BERMAN: All right, Ken Graham, National Hurricane Center, thank you very much for being with us. We will speak with you again as this storm progresses. Thank you, sir.

And joining us now is the acting FEMA administrator Jeff Byard. Sir, thank you very much for being with us. This storm has been interesting. You've been preparing for this for days. It's been moving oh, so very slowly. What's the unique challenge that it has posed that in some ways it has barely crawled toward the U.S. mainland?

JEFF BYARD, FEMA ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR RESPONSE AND RECOVERY: First, thank you for having us. I want to thank the media for being just an outstanding partner. That is our biggest challenge right now is making sure the citizens are still taking hurricane Dorian very, very seriously, not just in Florida but Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and the media is part of our team when it comes to these efforts, and you're doing across the board a great job. As the director of the Hurricane Center that you just had on, at least it's moving and we'll take that. But the challenge right now is making sure that all the citizens in the affected area or potentially impacted area understand that a small deviation of the forecast can bring a tremendous amount of issues their way.


BERMAN: And I know it does get more challenging to get that message out, to tell people not to be complacent when they've been watching this for so many days. Aside from battling the complacency, can you identify what your area of greatest concern is along the coast?

BYARD: The area of greatest concern that we have, again, is just that cone of uncertainty. We all want to know where exactly to the nth degree the storm is going to make landfall or if it's going to make landfall. We just don't know that. Forecasters do a great job. The Hurricane Center does an outstanding job. I know most of the folks in there are doing outstanding work trying to get us that information.

So what we do at FEMA is we don't have that exact science, so we have to prepare from North Carolina to Florida, and we're prepared to support our state partners up and down the coast.

BERMAN: I know you've no doubt seen the video coming in from Freeport, from Grand Bahama, the islands out there. I know it's not your jurisdiction. You're more concerned about the United States right now, USAID and others are helping out the Bahamas where they can. But as you watch the video coming in from there, what's your assessment? How soon will it be before assistance can get in there?

BYARD: First and foremost, my heart -- prayers go out to the Bahamas. They're going to have a definite impact. I can imagine that there's going to be infrastructure loss, homes lost. Hopefully there's not a large loss of life. So first and foremost as a human, as a Christian, my heart goes out for that no matter what the jurisdiction is.

Secondly, as an emergency manager, you've got to start looking at what are those things that can rabidly stabilize a situation? Medical needs, power, water, food, all those necessities that you need to have to stabilize that. We've got a great network obviously within FEMA, but we also have a very strong network when it comes to USAID and State Department, and obviously Department of Defense and all the resources that they can bring to bear. So just as we have a system here within FEMA and with states and locals of requesting resources, there's a very similar system when it comes to international aid.

And as always, we support interagency partners just as they support us. But I have confidence that the American government through our system will render what aid we can to the Bahamas. But right now it's just getting those basic assessments, making sure you can clear airport or get some supplies in to help the government there.

BERMAN: Yes, they've been telling us right now they're just still in the stay safe mode. They haven't been able to get out and hardly even begin the rescue and relief operations. Acting FEMA Administrator Jeff Byard, thank you very much for being with us this morning and help getting the message out.

BYARD: Thank you for having us.

BERMAN: So Alisyn, again, the wind is picking up here again, might mean another one of the bands will pass over soon, and the sun rising over the Bahamas. Patrick Oppmann hopes to get out this afternoon to see the damage there.

CAMEROTA: John, it looks very bad where you are, but nothing compared to the Bahamas, so that should put all of this in perspective. Thank you very much.

So with Dorian bearing down, President Trump went on a tweet storm this weekend, providing Americans with erroneous information. Why is he getting seemingly simple facts wrong? Maggie Haberman on that and more, next.



CAMEROTA: Millions of people are under evacuations orders along the Florida coast for Hurricane Dorian, but President Trump warned people in Alabama to be careful. And that's not all that he got wrong from the golf course this weekend.

So, joining us now is CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She is the White House correspondent for "The New York Times".

Maggie, great to have you here.

So, he warned people in Alabama to be careful, and then he also seemed quite confused about a category 5 hurricane. So, here's what he said first in May when he knew about category 5 hurricanes, but now, two to three months later, he no longer knows about them. So, listen to this moment.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just came from a stop at Tyndall Air Force Base where I saw the devastating effects of that category 5 hurricane.

I'm not sure that I've ever even heard of a category 5. I knew it existed, and I've seen some category 4s. You don't even see them that much, but a category 5 is something I don't know I've ever heard the term other than I know it's there.


CAMEROTA: He doesn't know that he's ever heard the term category 5. When he says things like that, what's happening?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, in an instance like this, I think it's something that he likes the sound of a big number. And he always like the sound of a big number. So, it's wow, category 5, and he has this quality where he likes being the person who's bringing you the information and the bringing you the news.

And first clip was him getting off a plane saying, I just saw or I just spoke to or I just heard, and that's one of his favorite ways of communicating.

So it's not a surprise but not consist with what he's said before. He's not particularly concerned about being consistent as we know or concerned about whether what he has said in one moment contradicts with what he said before. He just likes the sound of it as it keeps coming.

CAMEROTA: I mean, if Joe Biden -- imagine if Joe Biden said he'd never heard of a category 5 hurricane --


CAMEROTA: -- people would be concerned about his mental acuity.

HABERMAN: They'd be talking about it. And, of course, we'd be getting accused of, we should really be focusing on Donald Trump if we focused on Joe Biden, too.

But, I mean, at the end of day, yes I think he says so many of these things that people lose track over how many of them that he's saying. They don't know whether it means that he is -- I know that there's a lot of theorizing out there about, you know, his mental state -- the president's mental state and how he's doing.

I don't actually think that's what he does. I think he likes the sound of it and he thinks that something -- a big number sounds good.


He has always been somebody who traffics in big numbers.

CAMEROTA: I know he thinks a big number sounds good but then why did he claim that he never heard of a category five.

HABERMAN: Because it sounds to better to say, wow, can you believe this? This is just -- this is shocking new information that I'm presenting you.


HABERMAN: I think, to be clear.


HABERMAN: I'm not in his head. I don't know exactly why he's doing it. But having seen him do a variation of the theme before, not just about hurricanes, but other things where there's been a big number attached to it, and he claims he's never heard of it before it's usually because he thinks it sounds impressive.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I know you're not a psychoanalyst and I appreciate that you always --


HABERMAN: For viewers at home.

CAMEROTA: Of course, and I totally get it. But we did have Anthony Scaramucci on earlier who thinks the some of this signals a mental decline. And all I'm saying is that --


CAMEROTA: -- the president is 70-something, Joe Biden is 70- something. There's a whole conversation about Joe Biden's mental state.

HABERMAN: Sure. And it's I completely agree with you. And I think there's a lot of interesting notes in the coverage of Donald Trump and of Joe Biden that either overlap or are not the same and could be -- I think in terms of Anthony Scaramucci, there's a lot of people who used to work for Trump or support Trump who are very big on the idea he's getting worse, quote-unquote, because -- I personally don't believe that he is actually really changing. I think this is who he has always been, and I think he's just talking more publicly and I think he has fewer staff around him.

But I think it becomes easier to think he wasn't like this when I was supporting him for certain people.

CAMEROTA: OK. Jim Mattis, former defense secretary, has come out with a book today. And he has said some -- he's condemned President Trump in a very diplomatic --


CAMEROTA: -- sort of tame way.

But here's one of the things that he said: Using every skill I had learned during my decades as a marine, I did as well as I could for as long as I could when my concrete solutions and strategic advice especially keeping faith with our allies, no longer resonated, it was time for me to resign.

How is this type of thing playing in the White House?

HABERMAN: There was some concern about some of the books that are coming out. Mattis was actually not really one of them. They didn't think there was going to be a ton of information in there, there's formal concern about other books that could be down the road for former administration officials.

But, look, it would not surprise me as some point as Jim Mattis is out and about promoting this book if he gets a tweet from the president saying "I fired him" or something along those lines. I think we should note, as gently critical as Jim Mattis as being of the president there, he's made pretty clear he said in his interview with "The Atlantic" he owes a debt of silence for a while and it won't be forever, but he is writing a book.

And so, it's a little hard to sort of reconcile, I'm going to be quiet but here's my book and you should see what I say in it.

CAMEROTA: Who else is writing a book, the ones that they're concerned about?

HABERMAN: I think there's a bunch -- without naming names, there's a bunch of former officials who have either had outreach or have expressed interest in it themselves, and I think there's more incentive to burn the bridges down by those books.

CAMEROTA: Interesting. OK. There was another hideous mass shooting this weekend. It seems

like every week we're reporting on these. And originally with the last mass shooting in Texas, President Trump had come out strongly and talked about background checks and he did a 180 after taking to the NRA.

Why does the NRA still hold so much sway with him given that they have been hobbled by some of their own scandals and crises? Why are they still able to change his mind?

HABERMAN: Ironically, the president actually says in private conversations at the White House the NRA is, quote-unquote, going bankrupt. He's aware of their problems but he's been warned by advisers that he should not think they're going bankrupt in the next year and a lot of their members are his supporters.

Now, they don't represent all gun owners. The president obviously has supporters outside the NRA. But as we've seen with this president time and time again when there's a chance to kind of pivot towards a center modulating position, he just tends to burrow into his base. I think he's terrified of his core group of supporters leaving him ahead of this election because he really doesn't have many other places to go.

CAMEROTA: He and the White House are suggesting a policy to combat mass shootings of the death penalty, expediting the death penalty. Have they explained how that would help since many of these mass shooters get shot on site like this guy?

HABERMAN: I mean, you just raised the key question here, which is that essentially mass shooting -- it's not as if fear of getting the death penalty is going to be a deterrent to a lot of these shooters. I think they think that it's a way to look like they're doing something without actually to try to twist arms to bring background checks legislation or other forms of legislation.

CAMEROTA: Maggie Haberman, thank you very much for sharing your reporting with us. Always great to talk to you.

All right. Please join CNN and ten Democratic presidential hopefuls for an unprecedented event on the climate crisis. All ten candidates will take the stage on one night to address this critical issue. This is tomorrow night starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

All right. Let's go to Florida where John is in the thick of the bands of Hurricane Dorian.


What's happening at this hour, John?

BERMAN: Even with the wind and waves splashing behind me that conversation with Maggie was fascinating. I loved listening to every second of that.

I will tell you, here, they're watching hurricane Dorian as it inches closer to the Florida coast. And we're getting word the U.S. Coast Guard is now involved in search and rescue operations in the Bahamas.

Coming up, we're going to speak to a Coast Guard official and get the very latest on how those crucial efforts are going.


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

Still about 100 miles off the Florida coast, just passing over the Bahamas where it's caused so much damage, inching closer to Florida, may not make a direct hit on the land here. But we will be feeling the impacts all over here past Charleston, South Carolina.

There is some new data from the National Hurricane Center.

Let's bring in Chad Myers from the CNN Weather Center to get a sense of where things stand this morning -- Chad.

MYERS: Slight movement, and I use the word slight lightly. One mile per hour, John, to the northwest. We expected the.