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Trump Defends Presenting Doctored Hurricane Map; 2020 Democrats Slam Trump on Climate Crisis During Town Hall; New Images of Hurricane-Ravaged Abacos, Bahamas; Dorian Batters Carolinas with Heavy Rain, Wind, Storm Surge. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 11:30   ET



SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But, Kate, here's how the White House is explaining this. They say that prior to the cameras being let into the Oval Office for this briefing yesterday, aides were discussing how much worse the storm could have been. Then to emphasize their point, one of these officials, according to the White House, picked up a black marker and drew that line around the southern part of Alabama.

One White House official describing this whole incident as innocuous. But of course, that does not explain why President Trump then went on to use a seven-day-old map to defend this incident that took place yesterday.

The White House says he's being briefed hourly on the progress of Hurricane Dorian, Kate. But that still doesn't explain why he's still clinging to a forecast that's now more than a week old to explain a mistake that happened less than 24 hours ago -- Kate?


Sarah, thank you so much.

Let me bring in Brian Stelter, the host of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Brian, you took a deep dive into the reality and nonreality of kind of this whole episode, how actual fact and timeline and data that is publicly available clearly conflicts with the fact that they say he's been kept up to date on an hourly basis.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": That's why I think this is one of the most egregious errors of the entire Trump presidency. Because it involves --


BOLDUAN: It seems absurd, absurd --


STELTER: It's out of an "SNL" sketch, except it involves a real-life emergency situation.

President Trump has a government working really hard, really well to deliver accurate forecasts.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Yes.

STELTER: God bless the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center for what they're doing to make sure the public safe. Unfortunately, the leader of the government is spreading false information about this hurricane.

It's a shame to be talking about it when there are people on the Carolina coast getting battered right now by this storm.

But that is the president's fault. He doubled, tripled, quadrupled down, which sometimes sounds like a show of strength, but this is actually a show of weakness. He can't admit that he was wrong.

To go back to what originally happened on Sunday --


STELTER: -- he said this three times on Sunday. And he said that the idea that Alabama could get hit had just come up on Sunday. That's a lie. It's either a lie or a delusion. I don't know what's worse.

BOLDUAN: Because there was, if we -- if one of those things is worth the time to do it but --


STELTER: There's these spaghetti models we can show.

BOLDUAN: The spaghetti models that everybody knows.


BOLDUAN: There was one on Thursday --

STELTER: On Thursday.

BOLDUAN: -- that showed in early spaghetti that the -- one of the points could have gone into one-tenth of --


STELTER: Right. One of the outlier models.

BOLDUAN: Fine. But come Sunday -- these updates come multiple times a day. By Sunday, that was no longer anywhere in the threat zone.

STELTER: It was very clear it was going to skirt up the Florida coast. As it did, the forecast was spot-on. Thankfully, the Weather Center, the forecasters, paid by the government, have been on top of this storm. It's just a shame that the president isn't listening to his own forecasters. This whole episode makes me wonder who is giving the president this

bogus information. Where is he getting the ideas from?

BOLDUAN: Or he's not getting bogus information at all.

STELTER: Or maybe he's just making it up. But the bottom line is, when you look at that chart, whoever drew that bubble on Alabama -- people are calling it Sharpie-gate but it's actually serious. And it's not partisan. It's not left or right.

You look at what Governor Bill Weld said -- he's, of course, trying to challenge Trump in 2020, a long shot bid for the White House. Bill Weld says, unlike President Trump, if elected, I will never redraw a National Weather Service map to cover up my own dumb mistake.

That is a nonpartisan idea. I think every presidential candidate would agree with that.

BOLDUAN: Keep your hands off the National Weather Service Map.

There's been a lot of discussion bouncing off of that about how -- amongst Democratic presidential candidates about how, when and how much to respond to the president's tweets on a daily basis or on what he says.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg had a new take on this one --


BOLDUAN: -- when it comes to this map this morning on "NEW DAY" with Alisyn Camerota.

For the viewers, listen to this.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D), SOUTH BEND MAYOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm really worried about -- I feel sorry for the president. And that is not the way we should feel about the most powerful figure in this country, somebody on whose wisdom and judgment our lives literally depend.


BOLDUAN: That seemed different to me.

STELTER: A tone of sympathy. Trying to almost reach out and say that he feels bad for the president.

That brings up this idea of instability. What happens when a member of your family is --


STELTER: -- getting things wrong all the time, getting confused, making stories up? You worry about that member of your family. I think, increasingly, we're hearing that kind of rhetoric, not just from Democrats, but Republicans as well, who are concerned with Trump.

BOLDUAN: But, Brian, what confounds me on this one --


BOLDUAN: I know you make a good point. When it involves a national emergency, but why dig yourself deeper into something that's clearly false when you honestly, you could drop it?

STELTER: You could.

BOLDUAN: Because there's a lot of more important things to be focused on like the current track of the hurricane.

STELTER: Right. I wish he was tweeting more about the Carolinas and about what's going on along the coast --

BOLDUAN: Just --

STELTER: -- and not Alabama. But, yes, it's the tendency, time and time again, to double, triple down to try to always prove you're right even when you're wrong.

That's -- normally, it's kind of a sideshow of the Trump presidency. But when it involves a real-life emergency, it's worse. And it's a big deal that he can't admit he was wrong about Alabama. And this happened in the middle of a big hurricane.


Frankly, I think this is going to be in the history books. It's going to be one the lies that end up in the history books because of how he doubled and tripled down.

BOLDUAN: It comes down to another black sharpie.

Thank you, Brian.


BOLDUAN: Thank you. Really appreciate it.

From one reality to another reality, the reality of climate change. Ten of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates joined CNN last night for a special event. Back-to-back town halls all focused on the climate crisis and their prescription for how to tackle it. Many were big, ambitious and expensive plans. Where they differed was on the details.

Where they all agreed, though, is one basic thing, that manmade climate change is real and an immediate threat to the country and the world, something the president has called a Chinese hoax before he took office. And since he took office, declared that he doesn't believe and doesn't even believe his own government's report offering alarming warnings about the impact of climate change.

The candidates, last night, did not hold back when it came to President Trump's position here. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's dead wrong across the board on basically everything. No, I mean it. I'm not being facetious. Look, you know, we've got to start choosing science over fantasy here.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST & MODERATOR: Just today, the Trump administration announced plans to overturn requirements on energy saving light bulbs. Would you reinstate those requirements --





SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hurts that we're all talking about.


WARREN: This is your problem. They want to be able to stir up a lot of controversy around your light bulbs and around straws and around the cheeseburgers.


BOLDUAN: One person that it seems we know was paying attention last night -- President Trump. He went on a multi-part Twitter tirade about the proposals during the town hall.

Coming up for us, cities along the coast of the Carolinas are now starting to feel the real impact, the effects of Hurricane Dorian. You're looking on the left side of your screen, live pictures of Charleston, South Carolina. Look at those palm trees.

South Carolina, parts of South Carolina, especially, are already underwater, seeing some flooding. Concern about storm surge now as the tide -- high tide is about to set in. We'll take you there live, next.



BOLDUAN: Let's get back to the Bahamas where the pictures tell the story. Vast destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. The prime minister calling it generational devastation. You can see it everywhere.

Before and after pictures, we can show you right here, show the international airport on Great Abacos Island completely underwater. Nowhere for rescue and relief planes to land and no way to get injured people out and supplies in.

Here, you can see what was once one of the neighborhoods, called The Mud, one of the impoverished neighborhoods. Looks like every home is submerged or wiped off the map.

The Abacos Islands are ground zero for the storms impact. And CNN's Paula Newton was the first correspondent to report live there yesterday. She's now spent 24 hours on the ground and she's joining me right now.

Paula, how do you describe what you've seen in the last 24 hours?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, the residents of these islands, as bad as the pictures are -- this storm defied description -- they're telling us, look, as bad as the pictures are, they went through the equivalent of a 36-hour horror movie. They were dodging projectiles flying out of the sky from debris in people's homes. They were pulling mattresses off of their beds to hold in doors and windows and garages that were coming over on top of them.

They cannot even describe what they have been through and, even to them, when they see the destruction in front of them, Kate, they cannot believe, those who have survived, they cannot believe they survived this storm.

The Abacosians (ph) I spoke to, these are hardened people with these storms. They've gone through and I can name them, go through Francis and Lloyd, all of those storms, Jean, they've been hit with. They're saying no, Hurricane Dorian was something that they have never seen strike anywhere in that area. And they are wondering what comes next.

I spoke to one man who was basically on his kitchen cupboards. He had this much room to breathe between the ceiling and his kitchen cupboards. He went under. His son pulled him up and he said to himself, I found the strength because I didn't want my son to see me die that way. When the eye finally went over them, they swam and then walked to other safe and higher ground.

Those are the kind of stories from everywhere. People going from room to room in their homes, Kate, trying to find shelter. They'd be in one room, it would blowout. They'd go into the bathroom, a window would blowout. Many of these people obviously trying to shelter the more vulnerable people in the family, kids and older people.

We've spoken to many of them. Honestly, a lot of them are traumatized and wondering what's next.

BOLDUAN: It's hard to understand how folks survived this when you see the images coming out there.

Most of the deaths so far have been -- that have been reported, which is obviously they don't even have their arms wrapped around it yet, has come from those islands.


I mean, what are folks telling you about the number of people that they're missing or people that they know have perished there?

NEWTON: You know, a lot of people have spoken to me about people they know have passed away. You're talking in the dozens. They know those deaths haven't been reported yet. You have to wait for the official word from government.

In speaking to people, they would give me the roll call of going through neighbors and friends they hadn't heard from or they know were either incredibly injured and needed to be Medi-vaced out or couldn't find. Those are the heart-rending stories, Kate, the people they can't find.

Communication went down sometime around Sunday. These are people, again, who have no idea what's going on.

I have to add, Kate, remember, they didn't know why the storm was still there. It lasted at least double the time a normal storm would hold. They're wondering what's happening. Every time a new gust of wind or thunderstorm would come up, until the sun was shining yesterday, they had no idea. They didn't know if they were in for another barrage of hell.

For that reason, they're now slowly starting to rebuild a little bit of communication. The satellite phones on those islands are lifelines right now. Everyone spreading the word. Your mom is OK, your dad is OK, your uncle is OK, your niece is OK. I found these people. This person was Medi-vaced out. It's all from word-of-mouth.

Kate, it's so devastating and traumatizing for the people there. The people I speak to say they can't process it. They just do not know how to comprehend what they just have been through.

They are trying to be strong. Yet, they know that, as the prime minister says, this is generational change. They know their lives will never be the same again, at least not on the islands, and that the islands will never be the same again.

BOLDUAN: Paula, you spent the night on the island. What was it like overnight?

NEWTON: You know, we were on Man-O-War. My thanks. Those people have no idea -- they can't hear me. They don't have communication. But for all the friends and family that know those people in Man-O- War, our thanks go out to them. They are doing everything they can. They are resourceful, self-reliant people. Many of them born on an island 2.5 miles long.

It is dark. We could see the stars last night. That was a relief. You hear the hum of one or two generators. They're pulling together.

We were in the home of Angel and Marcia Cruz. We slept on mattresses that had been up against the window, Kate, to save their children, Ariana and Channing. They couldn't be more lovely. They started to take food out of the refrigerator and cook it up. That's what we all know we do when the power goes out, just trying to get through day-to- day.

Now the shock is starting to set in and people on that island are looking around. Kate, we've seen boats turned absolutely upside down.

We were showing video to the Cruz family that we had shot with our drone. They didn't recognize their own streets. They did not recognize their own streets. They were pointing out to us things that were flipped over. Pieces of homes and boats that were just meters away from where they should have been. Again, trying to comprehend where they go from here.

They're all coming together. They have golf carts on that island. They are all trying to help each other out. Yesterday, we came in, some other helicopter flights got in. They got some people out that were the most vulnerable. Now they're trying to get out the families.

They have food for about 10 days, which is great. The grocery store was not that damaged. And they are keeping it together there.

But here's the issue. Kids were supposed to start school. They don't know what to do now. They know that the schools have been completely destroyed. They're wondering what comes next.

But, again, Kate for anyone who survived this, incredibly, incredibly grateful.

BOLDUAN: Do they even know the first thing they need? One of the great challenges is not only getting aid into their hands but getting aid on to those islands because of the mess that is either any airstrip or would be any port or anywhere -- the beaches or everything that's in the water there. What do they need most at the moment?

NEWTON: Yes. They're clever on Man-O-War and a lot of the other islands. The first thing they did was start to clear debris. Why? They know they needed helicopters to land. They cleared the baseball field for us. We landed. It was clear of debris. That's where the helicopters have been going in. They got in the water, Kate, they got the food. OK, check, that's done.

Their main concern now are things like sanitation. They're so afraid of disease right now.

In many areas, not where I was on Man-O-War, but in the other areas of the Abacos, they know that there are dead bodies yet they tell me that have not been recovered. They're starting to worry about things like cholera. They need some type of a cleanup effort en mass to begin.


After that, they need some kind of sanitation. Human sanitation issues, all the garbage, things like that. After that they, need that all-important infrastructure. There are roads that are completely impassable because of debris or water. They need to be able to do that. They need to be able to use their phones. They can't communicate with

anyone right now. No power whatsoever. Even if you've got a generator, fuel. Where do you get your fuel?

Around Man-O-War, I can tell you they had certain homes that had been storing fuel and they went to get it so they can run a few generators but that's really all they had. Self-reliance is key.

The one thing they want everyone to know, they want to know where the government is. They want to hear from the government.

From this issue of security, which we have to talk about, there have been reports, of course, of violence and looting. They want the national defense forces from Bahama on those islands as soon as possible.

We saw military helicopters in the air last night, Kate, when we were on the island. They would come around with their spotlight. They didn't land, but perhaps just trying to make sure everything was under control. That was some type of a relief.

But they want them on the islands just trying to keep some order, because as people -- as this whole devastation wears on, people want to know that they are going to get food, water and medical help.

When they don't, they obviously -- you know, they break. So they're wanting to know that that kind of civil -- (AUDIO PROBLEM)

BOLDUAN: I think we just lost Paula's shot.

Paula Newton, in Nassau, after 24 hours at ground zero for this hurricane and the Abacos Islands.

Paula, thank you so much.

We'll get reconnected. She'll send in some of her material, she and her team, and the work they have been doing to get these images out and stories out. We'll be bringing that to you. Much more to come on that.

If you're looking at this and saying, how can I help when I'm helpless to do anything, there's something you can do. You can help the Bahamas. Go to our Web site, We've compiled a list of nearly a dozen charitable organizations that are helping in the Bahamas.

We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Welcome back.

We are following the track of -- the latest track of Hurricane Dorian, which is making its slow march north. As you can see right there from the latest images, the latest modeling, right now, it's feeling the effects in South Carolina.

And that's where my colleague, Erica Hill, is for us. She's joining us once again.

How's it looking, Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Kate, I can tell you, in the hours since we've been on the air with you, the conditions have definitely worsened. The wind has picked up and it is much stronger. These gusts definitely blowing much stronger.

It's tough to see, but over my shoulder, there's a marina. Just watching the masts of the sail boats, you can see how much they are moving now versus even just an hour ago.

This was downgraded to a category 2 at 11:00 a.m. It's only a difference of five miles an hour. We are really starting to feel the effects here.

And the focus for the next few hours in this area and further north, Kate, will definitely be on the flooding as we wait for high tide.

Our coverage continues live from Charleston, South Carolina, after this short break.