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CNN TONIGHT

President Trump Use Altered Map; Death Toll Rises to 30 in Bahamas; Hurricane Dorian Now in the Carolinas; Trump Personally Directed Homeland Security Adviser To Issue Statement On Hurricane Briefing; Dorian's Center Closing In On North Carolina. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: -- all are safe. But there are thousands still looking, so please stay connected.

Thank you for watching. CNN Tonight with D. Lemon starts right now. You know, D., we like to give them a little bit of hope. Let them know that some good things are happening as well, but there's a lot of hurt in the Bahamas.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: A lot of hurt. There's some good things happening on the ground with people, with emergency equipment and food and all sorts of resource that are being brought to the islands, but they're going to need a whole lot of help.

You want to bring the positive, but, I mean, we've got to be honest, sadly the death toll and the number of injured will probably go up.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: Because they're still searching for people. There are still places that are uninhabitable, so places that they can't get to. And if you, I mean, if you look at that horrific video, every time I see Patrick, Patrick Oppmann is in the middle of it.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: You know, he said tonight, I think it was to you, where he said you can -- you can sadly -- and he didn't want to be graphic, but you can smell death.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: You know? And you've been there before in breaking news stories and on these stories. It is just unbelievable what's happening there.

CUOMO: Yes, and the unknown is going to become a priority. They're going to have to do their rescue and their searching and we're going to have to stay on it and not forget because the need will only grow over time. And it just shines the light, Don, on why now is the time for leaders

to be focused on what matters. And the last thing they should be focused on is themselves, and, yes, I'm talking about our president.

LEMON: And a sharpie -- sharpie-gate, as you may want to call it. People might think it's you know, I hear the president's apologists saying, it's petty, you shouldn't be focusing on it. No, it is. This is a news story. This is the president of the United States. And if you can't trust what's coming out of the president of the United States' mouth, where are we, who are we?

And especially as journalists, why wouldn't we cover that? You're supposed to be able to trust the president. And getting resources is one thing. That's great they're getting resources there. But also, accurate information should be coming from the highest office in the land. Instead of doubling down on what, quite frankly, is not the truth.

CUOMO: Look, it just shows how low the bar is for this president to put himself first and use any means necessary to promote his own cause. It doesn't care that it's wrong, it doesn't care that he's going to get other people to say that he was right, he's going to lie to the American people about it, he's going to have someone or himself draw on a map in the most ridiculous way and he's going to stay on it while the hurricane is literally winding its way through the place that he's responsible for.

LEMON: Why even bring it all those days later? Why -- I saw it happening live and I was like, why is he pulling this thing up? Then I looked at that mark and said, that's not accurate. And then as it turns out -- I was just watching from home. As it turns out, it's not accurate. I said this is -- I kept wondering how many people would pick up on it. And obviously everyone picked up on it.

CUOMO: On a magic marker being used --

LEMON: Well.

CUOMO: -- to augment the hurricane cone.

LEMON: Look how simple this is. Chris, you know, Don, you made a mistake. I did? I'm sorry. I thought that my bad.

CUOMO: That's right.

LEMON: I didn't mean that. I'm sorry. That was -- there was so much confusion.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: And the irony of this press secretary --

LEMON: So many different paths in the beginning and move on.

CUOMO: This new press secretary coming after CNN because they made, like, a typo on a map, and, you know, CNN corrects it. That's what we're in the business of doing. We try to give you accurate information. We fall short, we correct it, we move on.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: The irony, really, there are more coarse words for it, but for this press secretary to come at us about making a mistake with the gaffe machine that --

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: -- they are in charge of at that White House, they couldn't even come up with a good story for that cone, Don. They can't even deny it and they deny everything, fake or otherwise.

LEMON: Here's the thing, nobody's perfect, no organization is perfect. When we make a mistake, what do we do? We say we made a mistake, we're sorry and we correct it, simple as that. That is the big difference.

If you're the president of the United States, I made a mistake -- it's just a simple my bad. There's a lot going on, Alabama wasn't, whatever. Let's move on. We would not be talking about it right now.

CUOMO: Yes, that's right.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: I was overcautious. I extended it too much. I just want everybody to be safe.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: He would have gotten a little bit of this. Good, you're right. Thank you for caring. We don't think that you have a lot of empathy in these situations. You did here.

And look, even Governor Chris Christie, you know he's a supporter of the president. I like the idea that a guy who was tough who often went over the line even recognizes that there is a need for civility and he wants to start it at Seton Hall.

It's harder for a guy like this to get to that point.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: And it's a more real point when it's him. He says the apology is key, Don.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: When you make a mistake, when you go too far, you apologize. We have never seen this president do that once.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, sir. See you soon.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Here's our breaking news. Of course, we're talking about Hurricane Dorian battering the

Carolinas right now. And expected to remain a powerful -- very powerful hurricane with the potential for dangerous storm surges, life-threatening flash floods, OK? This is not over yet. A rough night ahead, especially for North Carolina.

[22:04:59]

We're going to go there live for you in just minutes. We've got a whole lot to cover for you and you don't want to miss any of it.

We are learning tonight that at least, at least 30 people have lost their lives in the Bahamas. Officials say they fear that toll will soar.

And as Dorian continues on his path of destruction, just look at the havoc in the Carolinas earlier today. Look at that. There's a jeep. It's trapped in the waves this afternoon in Myrtle Beach. The driver reportedly tried to make it along the beach and then got stuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He used to rush up there --

LEMON: Live wires sparking -- there it is in the flooded streets of Charleston. That after fierce winds and tornadoes smashed communities along the coast of North Carolina. One man surveying his property had this warning for people waiting out the storm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they say get, get. That's the thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: In the Bahamas, a top official says hundreds of people, you hear me, hundreds remain unaccounted for. Look at the devastation. This is in the Man-O-War in the Abacos. Every building is damaged with most utterly destroyed there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERRIE ROBERTS, DORIAN SURVIVOR: Words can't describe it. I don't wish it on nobody. Nobody. Words can't describe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you mind if I say something?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My grandfather --

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: They can never categorize this. Never.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My grandfather ran out in the middle --

(CROSSTALK) ROBERTS: It was like an atomic bomb went off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: We're going to have the very latest on the storm throughout the night. All the two hours that we have for you and then all night long here on CNN. Our correspondents are out in force in the storm zone.

And with all of this going on, with Hurricane Dorian hitting North Carolina with at least 30 people dead in the Bahamas, what does the president do as Americans are looking to him for guidance? Guidance on a deadly storm?

He continues to spread misinformation and repeatedly ignore the facts. I wish I could say it's surprising. Maybe in this situation when lives are being threatened and are already lost, maybe it is surprising this time.

In a five-day effort to avoid admitting, just admitting that he made a mistake. We all make mistakes. Nobody's perfect. Instead of admitting that he made a mistake, I want you to look at how all of this went down.

The president announcing last Thursday that he was cancelling his trip to Poland to keep track of the storm. It was that important. It was a big storm. He golfed twice over the long holiday weekend. But White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said he was being briefed hourly on Hurricane Dorian.

Sunday morning, 10.51 Eastern, the president tweeting this, "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."

And just 20 minutes later, a Birmingham, Alabama branch of the National Weather Service set the record straight tweeting, quote, "Alabama will not see any impact from Dorian." We repeat, "no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east." That's pretty clear. They even repeated it. No impacts from Hurricane Dorian. Yet the president just about 20 minutes later said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The original course was dead into Florida, now it seems to be going up toward South Carolina, toward North Carolina, Georgia is going to be hit, Alabama is going to get a piece of it, it looks like, but it can change its course again and it can go back more toward Florida.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: About an hour later, doubling down at his FEMA briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It may get a little piece of a great place, it's called Alabama, and Alabama could even be in for at least some very strong winds and something more than that. It could be. This just came up, unfortunately. It's the size of the storm that we're talking about. So, for Alabama, just please be careful also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, there is a correction. Surely someone on his staff must have told him, Mr. President, no, no Alabama. Surely, right? A great place called Alabama. You heard him, a state that went for Donald Trump by a huge margin in 2016. But I digress.

[22:09:59]

The fact is there were some very, very early models that showed a possible threat to parts of Alabama, but those models were from Tuesday, August 27th. Wednesday the 28th. Models were updated four times a day. So, by Sunday morning, remember, that was Wednesday, Tuesday and Wednesday, this is Sunday.

By Sunday morning when the president cited an already nonexistent threat to Alabama, those models had been updated at least 15 times. Like I said, the White House insisting that the president was being briefed hourly, right? So, he's being briefed hourly. Updated 15 times. Remember, Grisham said he's being briefed hourly.

So why did he get it so wrong? Why did he continue to insist that people in Alabama were threatened, even though the National Weather Service said that there was no threat, that that was not true? Why did he double, triple, quadruple down? Actually, even more than that. On his very provably false claims.

Monday, Labor Day, president tweeting, after report on ABC News, "Such a phony hurricane report by lightweight reporter Jon Karl of ABC News. I suggested yesterday at FEMA that all along that along with Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, even Alabama could possibly come into play, which was true."

Jonathan Karl is a good reporter, by the way, and it wasn't true. Not on Sunday when he said it. The president going on to say under certain scenarios it was, in fact, correct that Alabama could have received some hurt.

Again, when the president made those statements on Sunday, Alabama had long since been ruled out as a target of the storm. And then there was yesterday. Things got really interesting. The president in the Oval Office showing reporters a clearly doctored map, one that falsely showed Alabama in the path of Hurricane Dorian. And it appears to have been altered by someone scribbling on it. With a sharpie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: That was the original chart, and you see it was going to hit not only Florida but Georgia. It could have -- was going toward the gulf. That was what we -- what was originally projected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Danny, please, Mr. Director, can you roll that back? Because obviously this was planned. Someone wrote on it. Not sure who. Someone wrote on the map and he's like -- can you just put that up on the desk? Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: That was the original chart, and you see it was going to hit not only Florida but Georgia. It could have -- was going toward the gulf. That was what we -- what was originally projected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Maybe you just fell off the turnip truck. I don't know. Let's take a look a little more closely, OK? See that? Sharpie scrawl over Alabama?

Now, we all know someone who likes to use a sharpie, right? Could that be a coincidence? I'm just saying, you know, let's be objective here, loves a sharpie, promotes it, there's a sharpie mark on Alabama. Is that a coincidence? And then just happened to have it there. Maybe it was just a coincidence. OK.

A source familiar with the Oval Office briefing would not deny, would not deny that it was president who drew the black sharpie line on the map.

Washington Post is reporting tonight that guess who drew that line on the map. More on that in just a few minutes. You want to stay tuned for that. Guess who drew that line on the map. That's what the Washington Post is reporting. We're going to have more on it.

But I want you to listen to the president's answer when he was asked how that map came to be altered.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You showed us a map earlier of the initial force.

TRUMP: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appeared to have been extended or something to include Alabama. Can you explain how that came to be?

TRUMP: No, I just know -- yes, I know that Alabama was in the original forecast. They thought it would get it as a piece of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And then this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that map that you showed us today looked like it almost had a sharpie written on it.

TRUMP: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:15:06]

LEMON: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. All of that. Seriously. People are in the path of a deadly hurricane and have died. And then last night the president tweeted the seven-day old hurricane projection map from the South Florida water management district.

The map so-called spaghetti projection, OK, showing multiple southeastern states in Dorian's path, including Alabama, but here's what the fact is. Graphics like this, like this one, they're not forecasts. They show raw output from a computer model and they include this statement, quote, "If anything on this graphic causes confusion, ignore the entire product."

And there's more. The president at it again tweeting, "I was with you all the way, Alabama." By claiming that the state was in danger when it wasn't. So how is that with you all the way?

And we're learning tonight that the president personally directed his homeland security adviser to issue a statement this afternoon that he was the one who showed the president a graphic that showed possible tropical storm force winds and the southeastern tip of Alabama. That is according to a White House source, which leaves us with the question of why you'd brief the president with information that was already out of date.

And by the way, the job of homeland security adviser has been downgraded twice under John Bolton, so the adviser who could, you know, could have been focusing on this dangerous storm is now being forced to give cover to the president who is unhappy that he was wrong about Alabama.

So unhappy that a source says that he called Fox News John Roberts into the Oval Office this afternoon to argue again that he wasn't wrong about Alabama. The president has made it really clear that this is all about ego. He just can't admit reality. Not when he'd also have to admit that he was wrong.

So, while people's homes and their lives are being threatened and, you know, at this very moment in time while he's doing all of this, the president's priority is covering up the truth. It's been that way all along.

Let's not forget this is from the second day of the Trump administration. This is then press secretary Sean Spicer insisting we should all ignore what we had seen with our own eyes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest

audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: It's been almost three years since the president started his administration by arguing over the size of his inaugural crowd. And he hasn't changed at all. He still wants you to ignore what you have seen with your own eyes, what you've heard with your own ears.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Just remember, what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He still can't quite commit to simply telling the truth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When I can, I tell the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Here's the thing that we need to be able to rely on, the president of the United States to tell us, and that is the truth, all the time. And especially now with Hurricane Dorian battering so many Americans. Their lives could depend on the truth.

Storm-related death toll from Hurricane Dorian now up to five in this country, including two in North Carolina. We're going to go to the Carolinas for a live report next.

[22:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Hurricane Dorian battering the Carolinas today, bringing powerful winds, rain, flooding and tornados.

I want to get straight to CNN's Drew Griffin. He is live for us in Wilmington, North Carolina with the very latest. Drew, talk to me about the conditions where you are tonight.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, the wind has not been that bad, to be quite honest, Don, here along the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington, but the rain has not let up for hours. Just sheeting rain. Of course, that is the problem, especially in low-lying areas here along the North Carolina coast.

Prone to flooding. They do have a warning, a flood warning, a flash flood warning up. And as this rain continues to just pelt this area, we are waiting to see if those low-lying areas flood. The winds have not been that bad. I don't expect them to get much worse than this as Dorian, the worst of it appears to be passing by Wilmington.

Yet another city on mainland's coast that is escaping the brunt of this storm merely because this storm is skirting the coast and not coming into the coast. Don?

LEMON: Drew Griffin, Wilmington, North Carolina, thank you, Drew. Let's get down the coast now to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Martin Savidge is there. And he joins us now live. Martin, what are the conditions like at the moment where you are?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've got the winds. There's no doubt about that. In fact, the winds really picked up around midday here. And they have only intensified into the evening hours. There might be a slight lessening, but it's only by a few degrees, and we've had the rain, no doubt.

Tornadoes, though, that was something that many people had not counted on. It began very early this morning. And those spinoffs have caused damage. They call them spinoff tornadoes. They're not like the ones you get in Oklahoma, but --

LEMON: Wow.

SAVIDGE: A very still powerful force, and scare a lot of people because the hurricane, they expected, but tornadoes just drop out of the sky and they really are hard to predict. They've got people on edge again tonight, Don.

[22:25:08]

LEMON: Absolutely. Martin Savidge reporting to us from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Martin, thank you. Both Martin and Drew, please be safe out there.

President Trump on the defensive over showing an altered map of Dorian's projected path, ordering one official to fall on his sword over the false claim that Alabama was in the path of the storm. And we're learning more tonight about exactly who altered that map. I'll bet you can get. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: As Hurricane Dorian pounds North Carolina, the president has continued to focus on trying to defend his decision to show an altered map of the storm's path, falsely showing it heading into Alabama.

So, joining me now is Toluse Olorunnipa, Frank Bruni, and Michael D'Antonio. Michael is the author of "The Truth About Trump." Good evening, everyone. Toluse, I'm going to start with you. You have new reporting about who drew that line in sharpie on that outdated forecast track. So, who was it, Toluse?

[22:29:58]

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, my colleague Josh Dawsey and I have reported that according to a White House official President Trump, who is as you mentioned, is very well known as someone who likes to use sharpie, he likes to write on official documents in sharpie at this loop that was created to show the hurricane sort of moving toward Alabama, that it was the president himself who use his sharpie which is very well documented close to him in the Oval Office.

He used it to write on that map and try to defend what he had been saying previously, that Alabama should get prepared and be careful because the hurricane was headed its way, even long after the hurricane had turned northward and was no longer threatening Alabama when the president saw that news outlets and even his own government were correcting him publicly, he decided to bring out this old map, show it moving towards Alabama and add a little bit of extra with a sharpie to show Alabama right there in the cone, and it was the president himself who wanted to make that point.

LEMON: So it was the president? Wow. OK. Oh, wow.

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST: Gee, that is a shock.

LEMON: OK. Listen, seriously, it's just -- it's really unbelievable. You know, I don't want to laugh at -- and we shouldn't be. We should be covering, right, a lot of other thinks. But this is -- you want accurate information from the president. The president has said, you know, he didn't do it. By the way, in the tone, because I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. Anyway, we'll play that later. But it's a similar tone to Air Force One when he was asked about --

BRUNI: Precisely.

LEMON: -- the hush money. The same tone. I have no idea what you're talking about.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But the reason we're talking about this --

LEMON: Would he do this because you've known him for a while? You wrote "The truth about Trump." Is this something that he will do to make his not reality, reality for everybody else?

D'ANTONIO: Always. Always. This is the kid who gets a "d" on his report card, changes it to a "b" and thinks no one is going to notice. I mean, this is really absurd, but we're talking about this, because the president who talks about fake news is a fake president. He is not up to the job. This is how he has conducted himself his entire life. He has cheated at every game he's ever played. So he is going to cheat at this. He can't bear to be wrong about anything. So he's going to do something ridiculous like this.

LEMON: Yeah. And, listen, I want to get this Frank, because we get it right. So, let me just make sure and look at my notes here. We know that President Trump directed his homeland security adviser Rear Admiral Peter Brown to issue a statement this afternoon to give him cover, because the president was wrong about Alabama. There are hundreds of -- thousands of Americans at risk right now. Right? And you have all of the people who have died in the Bahamas. And he is most concerned about this?

BRUNI: Yes, there is nothing more important than the president's ego and the president's image. I mean, this has been the most consistent theme of his presidency. I was thinking of all the things along the way. And I think one of the things we need to mention, that you went into it at great length in your book about Mike Pence.

The president was so rattled by his loss of the popular vote that he declared that there were millions of illegal votes, then he appointed a commission, a federal commission to study and prove there were illegal votes. It never did and it was disbanded without any further word. That is very similar to drawing with a sharpie. It's like -- why does he do this?

LEMON: What is that?

BRUNI: What is it? It's a kind of pathology. And as Michael said, it's totally un-presidential. I mean, the president should be concerned about our welfare, not the pristineness of his image and the size of his crowds. I mean, this is just so ridiculous. I mean, what comes next? Paper Mache illegal ballots that he has made, or do we begin drawing stick figures into the bleachers of Trump rally, so its looks like more people are in there.

LEMON: You talked about that commission. It was dissolved when they couldn't provide evidence in court.

BRUNI: So what did he do? Again, classic, he shifted the blame. He said the problem is the states won't cooperate with us. They won't give us information. So, I'm still right, Don Lemon, I'm still right. There are all these illegal votes, it's just these other people won't let me prove it.

LEMON: Yes. Toluse, you know, and this national security adviser, this position, it really used to carry weight. It was downgraded twice. He is now being forced to fall on the sword for this president. Why is there this constant scramble at the White House or by, you know, the president's supporters to try and protect this president's ego?

OLORUNNIPA: Don, we've seen this multiple times where the president says something, he gets way out in front of his advisers or he says something that is flatly false and the machinery of the government, the machinery of the Trump administration whirls into action to try to justify what the president said, try to find out if there is information out there across the government that backs up what the president has said.

We've seen it on -- in so many different examples where the president says something and the government scrambles to try to back him up, not to leave him out there on a limb, and this is just another example. He is had this 225-word lengthy statement by his counterterrorism and national security adviser, you'd think that, you know, counterterrorism and national security are two things that are very important that he would be focusing on rather than defending the president's tweets and statements from, you know, a week ago. [22:35:05]

It's clear that he's being used in this instance to try to protect the president. The president has been fuming, according to our reporting, very fixated on this issue. He has been very consumed by the fact that people are calling him out over his Alabama tweets, and he wanted his government to defend him, and the issue of loyalty is something that is very important to this president.

No matter what position you're in, no matter how high-ranking you are within his government, he wants people to show him loyalty, even in his cabinet and even among his closest advisers. And this is one instance where the counterterrorism adviser was being asked to show his loyalty by sort of falling on his sword and saying the president was correct even when the president was not correct.

LEMON: OK. I can understand loyalty, but, I mean, this is whole another show, as they say. Thank you all. I appreciate it.

Just ahead, I'm going to talk to a former NOAA official who says the president's lie about Dorian's path is shocking and disturbing.

[22:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So -- and we're back. I want you guys to whatever you're doing watch this next segment. It will tell you why we're doing this, why it's so important that there is accuracy coming from the White House. Because the president is doubling down and then some on his claim that Alabama was going to be hit by hurricane Dorian. A claim refuted by the national weather service.

"Washington Post" reporting that a source told them it was the president himself, again, this is the "Washington Post" saying this, the president himself who altered an outdated map to include Alabama in Dorian's potential path.

So, joining me now to discuss is Monica Medina, and she is a former NOAA general counsel. I am so happy that you're here. Please talk to us about how unprecedented this president's lie or misinformation about this hurricane is.

MONICA MEDINA, FOUNDER, OUR DAILY PLANET, FORMER NOAA GENERAL COUNSEL: This just doesn't happen, Don. Thanks so much for having me on to talk about it, because when I saw this, I couldn't believe it. Having been at the agency and knowing how important the accuracy of these forecasts is, it's shocking that the president would think that he could change it.

No president has ever done this before in modern history. No NOAA administrator would do it. No Republican, no Democrat. It's completely unprecedented, a lie like this, and it's consequential. Unlike the lies about his crowd size or his hand size, this is a lie that has consequences for people in their day-to-day lives. So it's really shocking. LEMON: Well, and also, you know, it's such an important story. So

many people have died. And, you know, you know this, the death toll will most likely go up, because we haven't seen and, you know, some of the areas and a lot of people are still unaccounted for. When people say, well, why are you focusing on this and the president and a sharpie and don't you have better things to report on, what do you say to them?

MEDINA: What I say to them is that the entire weather forecast enterprise, which is a public and private partnership, relies on the accuracy of that forecast that the president doctored. So when he changes it, it creates confusion in the system and then people's lives really are at risk.

And next time maybe the weather service won't tweet out a correction so quickly. And the president or his underlings will get to the weather service Director, who is an acting Director -- the head of NOAA is an acting Director, and they could intimidate the rest of the weather service into not correcting, and then we have real problems.

Real confusion in the system. And when that happens people die. That is why there is a statute that says you can't create a false weather report. Because so many people are passing this information out and it's got to be accurate.

LEMON: If people in the government, Ms. Medina, had acted under the guise that Alabama was in the storm's path, what would have happened?

MEDINA: Well, as you could see already, it was hard enough to predict what was happening with Dorian, and there were evacuation warnings and people didn't heed them because they were worried that they were being evacuated in a way that was unnecessary. If this president expands that cone of uncertainty, even more people might have to be evacuated or board up their house or close their business unnecessarily. And then the next time they won't heed that warning. And it could be, its hurricane Michael headed right for Alabama.

LEMON: So let's try to counteract some of the misinformation or disinformation, OK?

MEDINA: Yes.

LEMON: What should people know tonight about this storm?

MEDINA: What people should know tonight about this storm is that the storm surge is an incredible problem. It's getting closer and closer to North Carolina. And they need to heed the warnings of their local first responders, their government. If they say to get out of the way, get out of the way because roads and bridges will be impacted and people's lives will be at risk trying to save the people who don't get out of harm's way.

LEMON: I just -- one quick question for you. You say that what Trump did is illegal. What law did he break?

MEDINA: He broke a criminal law that is -- that was put in place in order to make sure that people don't falsify these forecasts for either public gain or for political gain. We don't politicize or use as the -- in the government use that information to make money. And we don't use that information for political benefit. That is the point of those statutes. Those forecasts have to be accurate. The public has to have 100 percent trust in them. And so do all the other people in that weather enterprise who pass that information on. They have to know that it's true.

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LEMON: Monica Medina, I told people to sit and watch you. I hope they did. Thank you so much. I appreciate your expertise. A former official at NOAA under the Obama administration, the former NOAA general counsel under Clinton. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

MEDINA: Thank you for having me.

LEMON: Hurricane Dorian now lashing the Carolinas as it moves closer and closer. How officials are preparing for the worst. That is next.

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LEMON: The center of hurricane Dorian expected to move near or over the coast of North Carolina in the next few hours. The storm already bringing heavy rain and tornadoes, knocking out power to thousands in the state already. Joining me now by phone, from Wilmington is Anna McRay, the assistant emergency management director for Hanover County in North Carolina.

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Anna, thank you. I know that you are very busy. You guys are preparing, you're going through it. Give us the conditions on the ground right now, please.

ANNA MCRAY, ASSISTANT EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR, HANOVER COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA (through phone call): So right now we're kind of going through the worst part of storm, passing us just to our east. Conditions will be rough for just a little bit now, but are going to improve overnight. And that is going to allow our damage assessment team to get right to work as soon as the winds settle down on Friday, and we'll start to pivot towards recovery as quickly as we can and be able to continue to support our citizens through the recovery effort.

LEMON: So, Anna, we know, and we have some video of this tornado that was captured on video spinning near Wilmington. The National Hurricane Center is also warning of life-threatening storm surge, flash floods tonight. So I know you're concerned about all of it. What are you most concerned about? Is it the flooding?

MCRAY: Yes, I would say definitely the flash flooding and the surge are some of our biggest concerns tonight, not only because they're normally dangerous elements of any tropical system as it's passing us, but more so because of the dark of night and debris that may be down on the roads. So we're really encouraging people first of all, you know, to turn

around, don't drown. You know, if they come across any roads that seem to be covered, just find another route, but most importantly, don't even come out right now. Hunker down. Hang out and ride the rest of the storm out.

LEMON: You know, Anna, there are some concerns about Dorian making landfall. How worried are you about the possibility or just a direct hit from this hurricane?

MCRAY: I think it's always a concern. It doesn't change the big factors of the wind field that we're seeing right now. The storm surge, the flash flooding. We want to make sure throughout the event, no matter where the eye of the storm passes, that we're able to adequately maintain our resources to make sure that our public safety partners have everything they need to ensure public safety, and that includes being able to work here in our emergency operations center.

We've been working since Monday with our emergency management staff, with the full activation of all of our county staff on Tuesday, working closely with our existing long-term recovery group, and that is made up of a lot of non-governmental, faith-based and other partners, as well as working with business partners through our Business (Inaudible) partnership, just to ensure that everybody is aware of the threats and hazards.

And then supporting our citizens however they need it, working through sheltering, supporting duke power, and making sure that people have the resources they need and the information they need to get through the rest of this.

LEMON: Anna McRay, thank you so much. I appreciate your time. Stay safe, OK?

MCRAY: Thank you so much.

LEMON: Thank you. I want to go now to Mayor Jerry Dove in Southport, North Carolina. He joins us by phone. Mayor, thank you so much. We know that you're busy, it is a busy time for you as well. The eyewall right now alongside the coast of North Carolina, what are you guys experiencing tonight?

JERRY DOVE MAYOR, SOUTHPORT, NORTH CAROLINA (through phone call): At this time we're experiencing tropical-force winds and rain. Actually, I believe from the last forecast, I've heard the storm is actually north and east of us. So it has passed over us, but we're kind of on the backside of it now. Still experiencing those winds and rain.

We do have some good news about it. I was pleased to compare this one with hurricane Florence. This one is moving a lot faster, and hopefully it won't do as much damage as Florence did. And the other thing, too, is our rivers and our tidal creeks aren't at their capacity, so they can hold a lot more water than we had when Florence had come through. They were already at their crest just about when Florence came through. And the last good thing that we can see is that that tidal surge is

not going to be as high as they predicted. They've predicted seven feet. Now the weather service tells us it's only going to be about one to four feet.

LEMON: Well, that's -- listen, I'm glad you're looking on the bright side because all those things you said are important. You saw how that storm, that hurricane really sat on top of the Bahamas, and that really caused significant problems. And it's still an intense hurricane, but if it moves through faster, there's a potential that it's less threat, and there's less damage and less loss of lives. So you guys seem to be prepared. Evacuations have been ordered for areas that are close to you. Have Southport residents been leaving the area?

DOVE: There has been some of our folks have left that were in low- lying areas close to the river, and a lot of our folks, they have been through these things, and they're pretty well prepared. We had a lot of folks that did stay through it and -- but we did put in a curfew effective today mainly for safety reasons.

[22:55:11]

There's one bad thing about it is that the city is without power right now. We lost power, so you're talking about somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 people without power. But we have the power company is standing by with crews to come in as soon as the winds subside a little bit.

LEMON: All right. Well, we're wishing you the very best. Mayor Jerry Dove of Southport, North Carolina. Thank you so much for your time. Best of luck.

DOVE: Thank you.

LEMON: Breaking news, the brand-new forecast for the hurricane just ahead.

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