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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Bahamas Official: "Hundreds, Up to Thousands, of People Are Still Missing"; President Trump's Week-Long Grudge Match About a Hurricane Tweet Continues; President Donald Trump's Plan To Cut Some Military Spending To Pay For Border Wall; Biden Campaign Lowering Expectations For Iowa And New Hampshire, Betting On A Win In South Carolina. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired September 6, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
As hundreds of thousands in the Carolinas and Virginia are without power tonight, and Hurricane Dorian creeps toward New England, according to a new forecast released moments ago, the Bahamas has begun the desperate search for its own people, unsure of the death toll now at 30, and how far it will actually rise.
We want to pause here for a moment because likely you have seen pictures and heard accounts, some from government officials or eyewitness accounts of the horrors in the Bahamas. As you've also likely heard the accompanying worst-case scenarios about the death toll and how high it might rise and it might very well.
But right now, it hasn't, and for now, that is obviously a good thing, as we show you the pictures the reporters gathered and talked to people on the ground, we want to and will proceed cautiously because families in the Bahamas, in the United States and around the world with loved ones on the island are reading every news clip and watching for some sign of the people they have not heard from in days and many people have not been heard from.
It is a horrible reality in times like these when phone lines are down, roads are impassable and governments are overwhelmed. So with that, our first report CNN's Patrick Oppmann has spent the day in High Rock on the southern side of Grand Bahama Island, one of the hardest hit before today we had not seen.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reaching the hardest hit areas of Grand Bahama Island means driving through still flooded streets and streets that are no longer streets.
This area in the east of the island has until now been inaccessible since the storm. Little to no help has arrived.
The force of the hurricane through cars, through buildings. The storm stalled out here, the category five leveling whole towns.
Many rode out the storm in their homes, many did not survive.
Pastor Joey Saunders was on the third floor of his home with his son when the storm surge crashed in.
JOEY SAUNDERS, PASTOR: We started make out to the second floor of the house. And within about 10 minutes, and it started to flow up to the third floor.
And the water flow up to our head. And we felt this strong current trying to break lose everything in the cracks.
OPPMANN (on camera): And this was in the middle of the night?
SAUNDERS: One thirty in the morning.
And then the current was so strong, then the roof started to lift. And next thing I remember, I was underneath the water. My son (INAUDIBLE) and I noticed he had the search light. And he was just -- he just disappeared with the search light.
And I heard him screaming, daddy, daddy, daddy.
OPPMANN: He was in the water at that point, right?
SAUNDERS: He was already gone. And minutes ago, when I came from underneath the water, I threw my hand. I caught on to the truss. The roof carried me away. So, we were like about 600 feet away from each other for over two days. And we caught up into the pine tree of 32 feet high.
OPPMANN: So, the water carried you into a pine tree in the middle of the night. Your son was a ways away from you. What was going through your mind? You must have been terrified.
SAUNDERS: Yes, I was hoping that he was alive. And he thought I had died also. It wasn't until two days later that we saw one another. He was on the trailer right there. And that's when we saw one another again, yes.
OPPMANN (voice-over): The Bahamian government has warned people the death count would spike.
In places like High Rock where everyone knows of dead and missing family and neighbors, that news is no surprise. Even though this is one of the hardest hit areas, help from the government is yet to arrive.
SAUNDERS: The government is on its way. It will take a better time for other settlements but they are doing their thing gradually, you know.
OPPMANN (on camera): Do you wish they were moving quicker?
SAUNDERS: Yes, I wish they were moving quicker. OPPMANN (voice-over): People desperately need food and water before
time runs out.
SAUNDERS: A lot of people have lost most of their clothes, water, need food, stuff like that, basic stuff right now.
COOPER: It's Freeport -- Patrick joins us now.
Patrick, I mean, it's just a harrowing account. What else are you seeing and what more are people telling you just in terms of the response they are seeing? I mean, have people -- are there -- is there a big response on the ground now or is it still -- are people still waiting?
OPPMAN: People are still waiting is the answer. Freeport will be getting just now see the help arrive. We've seen cruise ships coming. The airport is still not operational.
There is a sense of some return to normalcy here. Even though we still don't have water or power, there is a sense of that at least food is coming in and help is coming in. But the hardest hit areas, Anderson, are not getting help. I mean, that's the irony of this.
You drive just an hour through this debris field, to this town that was impassible because of all the water on the road just a few days ago, and it's like the hurricane just hit. I mean, it's a week ago the hurricane began hit thing area and nothing really has happened there.
And, you know, the little things that you notice, the families that have come from other parts of the Bahamas to look for their family members in places like High Rock. They have gone themselves to see if they can find their own family members and we talked to several of them and most of them had been unable to find anybody and usually don't even recognize the neighborhoods because they have been completely changed by the storm.
I remember today, I gave somebody a bottled water, which is precious for us but somebody asks you for water, and how do you say no? And I noticed this person took a little sip. They're dying of thirst practically and they took a little sip because they knew they had to make it last.
COOPER: And just in terms of recovery of people accounting for people, it's hard for us I think who are not there to get a sense of, you know, we hear from a Bahamian official, there are hundreds, up to thousands of people are still missing, is it apparent when you're on the ground that there are, that there are people who have died, who have not been collected or -- I mean, what are you seeing on the ground? It's hard to get a sense.
OPPMANN: So it is. There is a big gulf between what the government says and the government just is for whatever reason, the resources have not come into this part of the Bahamas as perhaps they have the Abaco and it's a big disaster and they are strapped. I get that. But we're mainly seeing U.S. Coast Guard presence.
But when you go around places like High Rock and everybody knows everybody in these towns, and they will tell you who is missing, who is dead and the numbers don't add up with numbers the government is giving us. And then today when we were watching Coast Guard chopper go around in the area, the woods where we were, the residents said that the because there say body back there and they spotted it.
So, that is still going on. You know, a couple of days ago, we were hoping that people could be recovered. I think that hope is no more. People couldn't have lived in these conditions so I talked to that preacher. And he spent 48 hours up in a tree and had to rescue himself and drive his son in to Freeport for a medical condition. He never got help along the way.
So I think it is unfortunately at this point a recovery operation, and the numbers so far the government have released are very different from the sense you get on the ground when people tell you about missing and talk to you about the family and this house over here that was swept away and we know they couldn't have made it, and then you drive to certain areas and the stench is overwhelming and maybe that's animals that's been killed. We don't know.
But these areas, a week after the storm hit look pretty much the same and no one has seen any major government presence any major government assistance. They are still waiting.
COOPER: Patrick, appreciate it. Thank you.
A few hours ago, the prime minister of the Bahamas thanked the U.S. for support, saying there is still a, quote, long road ahead of us, unquote.
The U.S. Coast Guard and other medical personnel from the States have been arriving to help with the search and rescue mission. Our Gary Tuchman is with one group on the hard hit Abaco Islands today.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in a section of Marsh Harbour called Mud and Peas. It's described to us as a largely Haitian community.
I've been covering hurricanes for about 37 years now. I've never seen a decimation like this that we're seeing here on the Abacos, in this town of Marsh Island, in Mud and Peas.
Right now, we are accompanying the U.S. Coast Guard, as we're looking for the possibility of any survivors. You can see them over here, searching for the rubble. And this gives you an idea of why it's impossible now to have a firm death toll. For example, you can this home right here, it's clear no one is going inside this home. These coast guardsmen are about to go in this home and other homes here to see if there's anyone inside.
And we'll give you a look at what they're doing right now as they're trying to plot out the next couple of hours, which direction they went ahead. But you can see, as this camera goes around in the circle, just the widespread decimation here in this section of Marsh Harbour.
People are shell-shocked. They don't know what to do. We saw more than 200 people lined up on the port hoping to get out in a ship to get out of here. Every one of them have lost their home. And we're not just talking about damage. We're talking about utter devastation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, I'm depressed, stressed. I don't know where to go. You know, disaster, I lost everything.
TUCHMAN: The reason they're in this line, more than 200 people with all their belongings is everyone had their house destroyed and they're waiting here, hoping to get on a ship or a boat out of this island, most of them want to get to Nassau.
This gentleman here is telling them right now that this ship and I'll give you a look at the ship to the left right here, that this ship which has delivered goods to the island will take them to Nassau. So, they're very happy about that.
Let me give you an idea what they are going through. What were you just told? Will you be able to get on this boat and leave?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes, sir.
TUCHMAN: You must be very excited about be able to get out of here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, definitely.
TUCHMAN: What happened to your home?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Roof blown off, windows blown off.
TUCHMAN: A lot of these people are still looking for their loved ones.
I can tell you, though, they're just so grateful. It just happened just a couple of minutes ago. They will be able to board this freighter and had to Nassau and take it from there but there is absolute desperation here in this town of Marsh Harbour.
COOPER: There is Gary Tuchman reporting.
For more on the struggle to locate and save lives, we're joined by Iram Lewis, a member of the parliament in the Bahamas, with responsibilities in the Ministry of Public Works.
Mr. Lewis, I appreciate you joining us. The prime minister today said he's satisfied with the speed of the
government's response. Are you?
IRAM LEWIS, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT (via telephone): Yes, I am. The government is doing all that it can.
I want to say good night and thank you for having me. We appreciate you.
So, we are pleased with the speed that we are moving with, and our speed has been aided by the fact that we have a partnership going on now with the United States and our Caricom neighbors. So we have help, and that is making a major difference right now because it is much needed.
I've seen members of the U.S. Air Force on the airport. I've spoken with the colonel who's in charge. I've seen them as an advisory team on the ground.
So, we're just happy that help is not only underway, help is here, and the prime minister is right in this proclamation that we are moving as fast as we can, with the help of the United States and our neighboring partners.
COOPER: There is -- I certainly understand the difficulties, I mean, with the destruction like this, and, you know, the difficult with just a lack of resources to search. There is a lot of people that we have talked to that are reporters have talked to on the ground saying that they wish they saw more of a government presence in the Grand Bahamas and in the Abaco Islands, you know, searching for the dead.
You know, five days on or four days on, right now, the death toll still stands at 30. Obviously, officials have said it's likely to grow. But does the government have any actual sense of how many people have perished, of how many are still missing or is it still unknown?
LEWIS: It is still unknown. And part of the challenge that we're having, Anderson, is due that our police force is located downtown. And, unfortunately, that was in the basement. So, most of the vehicles owned by the police force has been pretty much destroyed.
So we're relying on outside transportation to come in to assist us. We took defense force rangers out to east end Grand Bahamas this evening, but in order for us to get there, we have to take heavy equipment (INAUDIBLE) to patch road to make it drivable so they can get to those areas.
So, part of the challenges that we have, limited transportation. And the resources being done -- go ahead.
COOPER: I'm sorry, do you know how many search and rescue personnel are whether from the U.S. or -- I talked to the prime minister yesterday. I think he said it's a team of 50 search and rescue people from the U.S.
Do you have a sense of how many search and rescue people there are actually on the ground doing searches?
LEWIS: The number in Grand Bahama has grown. BASRA, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard sending in another fleet tomorrow. So, again, we have more than 50 right now. The numbers are certainly inflated since then, and it's going to make a major difference.
Search, air search and rescue right now, we try to access them with the areas by boat. But, of course, we have to sometimes depend on the flow of tide. So that is restrictive.
So, the best way to get to most of the restricted areas will be by air and again, most of our aircrafts has been demobilized. We are happy to say that the airport itself, the major airport in Freeport was examined by Colonel Well (ph) from the United States Air Force doing seismic test and confirm the runway is stable, the area is a good staging point.
So, even when the U.S. air force comes in, I've seen two of the Osprey helicopters on the island today. They've been doing air patrol. So, tomorrow, we'll be able to get a good understanding of numbers that they would have been able to rescue, and also we can give an official count of the people in the Bahamas and world what numbers we have. We can confirm has been rescued and is no longer with us.
COOPER: I've been told by one person at times, Coast Guard at least in one incidence, a Coast Guard held cop tomorrow had to wait for a long time in order to take off because they didn't have a flight plan. Is that -- and they have to sort of in line for everybody else. Is that a -- or is there a problem at all with sort of, you know, red tape of the normal rules that one would go through whether it's customs forms that you have to fill out or flight plans that you're supposed to file.
Is that getting in the way at all of the speed of the response at all?
LEWIS: As it is now, the Civil Aviation Department is located in Nassau. Our air control tower in Freeport and we're relying on command from Nassau. So, yesterday, for instance, we had to close down at 6:00 because night was falling and we wanted to get the planes on the ground out.
With respect to customs clearings, there is an order that was made. The form is very simple. Persons who are receiving goods on the airport or at the harbor, it's a simple list. There are boxes to check. What is the destination? Where is medical supplies, emergency pipes, tents, cots, mosquito netting, you check the box.
There is no duty, there is no VAT. You know, only I guess the person's bringing the freight (ph), they're free, and most of it is being done free of charge.
So, the process is very clear. It's very easy. There is -- there was some confusion initially but there's no blockade. We're smooth sailing and people leaving the airport are happy. Of course, there is -- the problem to make it to harbor because of the highway is limited. The personal getting in, and as soon as they can serve, yes, they're given their products.
COOPER: Iram Lewis -- I appreciate you taking the time. I know you must be exhausted as everyone is in the islands with the task ahead. Appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Thank you.
LEWIS: Anderson, I'm very appreciative with you. I want to say thank you to Keana McGee (ph) of Florida (INAUDIBLE). And I want to let you know that my hometown on the north side of Grand Bahama, I have not been able to go to yet. We don't know what the condition of our home, our fishing (INAUDIBLE).
So, right now, we are holding our breath, but I am expecting the worst and hoping for the best. Once again, thank you very much.
COOPER: Yes, well, we'll keep in touch with you. Thank you very much.
While cleanup and search and rescue operations commence in the Bahamas, the president continues his week-long fight over a mistake about a hurricane tweet. It's ridiculous. We're not going to dwell on this.
Later, Mexico won't pay for the wall but the children of the men and women and armed forces just may. We'll explain that ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we will build the wall as I said. We'll build the wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: As we showed you a few minutes ago, the pictures we continue to see from the Bahamas are devastating. Parts of the East Coast in the United States, took a lashing from Hurricane Dorian as well. Five people have died in the U.S. as a result of the storm. Hundreds of thousands are without power in the Carolinas and Virginia.
The resident's reaction has been I guess a bit odd to it all, to put it kindly.
"New York Times" White House correspondent and CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman joins me to try to make sense of it.
Maggie, I want to talk big picture in a minute and I don't want to talk much about or even say the word sharpie, which I just said but I know you have new reporting about who actually used that sharpie to draw that fake line on that map.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It was the president. It came out of a meeting he had been having with FEMA officials earlier in either in the dining room off the Oval Office or in the Oval Office itself, and he was sort of having a conversation and drew on it. And then it ended up being the map that he used. But as with all things related to this, he ends up just unable to say, yes, I did it and I was doing it in the context of X, Y, Z.
He says he doesn't know how it got there, the same way that he has continued to insist he was right about where the storm forecast was on Sunday as opposed to where it was days earlier.
COOPER: Right. I mean, I feel like you and I have had this conversation so many times but yet again, it's just -- it's a meaningless lie that didn't have to be lied about, the fact that he continues to talk about this on this day -- I mean, it just -- yes. It's just weird.
HABERMAN: We've seen him do a version of this Anderson over and over, over the last five years, whether it was, you know, and most memorably, I'd say, and comparably, was when he was trying to, you know, backfill his claims about his crowd size for his inauguration. That was not really an event that had consequences in terms of what he was talking about, whereas this one, when you're talking about a storm's path, that impacts many, many people. It impacts whether people evacuated. It impacts whether they have trust and what the government is saying.
The inaugural crowds go to that to some extent, but this one is different. He tends to do this when he is incredibly stressed or anxious whatever is in front of him and he burrows down and obsesses on some narrow thing that his aids don't totally understand and many of them have described feeling helpless over time to avoid help him deal with this or sort of move him past this and he just clearly isn't going to let go of it, and as you're watching images of people whose homes are gone, it's hard to reconcile.
COOPER: Is it clear to you how much of the president's time or, you know, energy or thought process -- you can't read his thoughts, but thought process goes into this ridiculous sharpie thing, you know, Alabama, the map issue, these rabbit holes he goes down? I mean, there is a lot of executive time I know and he spends a lot of time watching cable news and stuff, and I assume there is a lot of people running around the White House trying to go down the rabbit holes with him and, you know, NOOA came out with a statement today kind of justifying what the president had said.
Is this a big time suck for him?
HABERMAN: It is. I mean, look, this -- as I said, he tends to burrow and obsess on something very narrow that he tries to control, really narrow that he tries to control when there is all sorts of other chaos around him. In this case, I think it's the chaos and uncertainty around his own reelection and economy and a couple of other factors that he's facing as president.
But it does take up a fair amount of time. It takes up the time of his aides. What often ends up happening is -- you know, look, I'm not a mind reader neither of you. But based on the descriptions we heard from people, what happens is aides will come in and out for unrelated meetings and he ends up bringing this up in these meetings.
And then he'll have an eruption of temper and he'll order something done about it after watching a cable segment, or reading a story about the Alabama issue. And it just becomes self-triggering.
COOPER: Maggie Haberman, appreciate it, always. Thank you very much.
President Trump's plan to divert military funds to pay for his border wall is running into backlash. Coming up, could it also backfire politically? We'll look at that ahead.
COOPER: As the news and death in the wake of Hurricane Dorian has dominated the news coverage this week, the Trump administration did something that you might not notice -- pressing ahead with his plans to divert more than $3.5 billion from approved military construction projects to help pay for portions of the long promised border wall. That means, you, the taxpayer are paying for the wall if indeed it's ever built. It's at the expense of the military that the president has talked about lovingly, which is a far, far cry from who candidate Trump said was going to pay for the wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We are going to build a great border wall.
And who is going to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: And who is going to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: It will be a great wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
Mexico will pay for the wall. And Mexico is going to pay for the wall and they understand it.
Mexico is going to pay for the wall, believe me 100 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So yes, that's just not true, not happening, wasn't going to happen then, isn't happening now, not going to happen.
As we mentioned, your taxpayers put in the bill and it's coming from military spending because the President couldn't get the approval from Congress. And in some of the communities affected by the recent proposals, there's concern as well as some anger.
CNN'S Alex Marquardt reports of the impact in one military town.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Norfolk, Virginia is home to the US Navy's Atlantic fleet and the largest naval base in the world. The area central and vital role in military operations and national security hasn't stopped the Trump administration from naming four different military projects here whose almost $80 million in funding will now be diverted to pay for the border wall.
Rep. BOBBY SCOTT (D), VIRGINIA: All of these projects are being lost for a wall that makes no sense and everybody knows it.
MARQUARDT: Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott has represented the district for almost three decades and says President Trump's decision is costing his constituents jobs.
SCOTT: It means that the jobs that could have come to the area won't come to the area. Tens of millions of dollars worth of construction, that's a lot of economic impact to this area they were going to lose for a wall that is not needed.
MARQUARDT: In all, $3.6 billion in military funds are being taken to help pay for the wall. 126 projects from firing ranges to aircraft hangers to child care, both at home and abroad whose budgets are being gutted.
In Virginia, the four that are losing $77 million in funding are a naval ship maintenance facility, two hazardous materials warehouse projects and a cyber operations facility. In a place with such a historic and important military heritage where 40 percent of the economy is related to military funding, that hurts both financially and emotionally.
COL. BRUCE STURK (RET), DIRECTOR, FEDERAL FACILITIES SUPPORT: Our community is a fabric built on military veterans and very healthy military population here in the Hampton Roads Region, so I think there's a general sense of disappointment.
MARQUARDT: Bruce Sturk, retired from the Air Force as a colonial, last serving at Langley Air Force Base which is now being stripped of $10 million for the cyber operations and training facility. At a time when cyber attacks are one of the greatest threats to national security along with others that will now be ignored says Democratic Congresswoman Elaine Luria, a retired Naval Commander whose district is also affected.
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D), VIRGINIA: You know, I know firsthand from, you know, having spoken to the commanders at the basis where this impact is going to happen, it's going to impact our mission and our security.
MARQUARDT: Not just the security of the nation but those serving it, whose priorities now may not be addressed.
LURIA: It's like your husband, it's your neighbor, it's your wife who was going on a deployment and you don't want to think that, you know, their ship wasn't maintained properly or they didn't have the right tools that they needed to go do their job. So it hits home a lot in a community like this where everyone is so tied to the military.
MARQUARDT: Alex Marquardt, CNN, Norfolk, Virginia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A lot of the anxiety about those cuts in military projects already approved falls along political lines. Democrats mostly opposed, Republicans either supportive or just staying quiet about it.
CNN Political Director David Chalian joins me now to talk about how this diversion of money might just backfire on the President.
David, the transfer of all of these Defense Department money, I mean, it certainly is a reminder that all along the President was claiming that Mexico was going to pay for this wall and we heard that over and over again.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, it was a call in response in the 2016 campaign with his most hardened supporters. We've known for sometime of course that Mexico is not going to be paying for the wall. That was really clear from get-go.
But remember, back in January, February, Anderson, the government shut down over this. It was clear Mexico wasn't going to pay for this. So that cat was sort of out of the bag already but that didn't stop President Trump from wanting to pursue the wall.
COOPER: There's also political ramifications in terms of, you know, where -- what military bases are affected by these cuts and to what degree. I'm not sure if the Pentagon, you know, is going to be-- takes that into account or if the White House is going to insists of, you know, if they are reviewing, you know, what states Colorado, Florida, Arizona, these cuts are going to take place in.
CHALIAN: Yes. And not just about the President's own reelection effort, the politics of that, but probably even more dangerous for vulnerable Republican incumbents, especially running for Senate in places you just mentioned.
Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, all on the list for these cuts and projects, and they have the most targeted Republican senators by Democrats who are trying to take over control of the Senate. So there is no doubt, in fact, even Mitch McConnell's spokesperson put out a statement saying that McConnell wants to review one of the projects in Kentucky and make sure the money is there for it. COOPER: You know, in normal times if a candidate who promised, you know, there's going to be a wall with a big beautiful door in it and it's going to be -- everything is going to work great, and Mexico is going to pay for it and that doesn't happen, that candidate once they, you know, once they are running for reelection, they would face the wrath of voters for that.
I don't know if the President's supporters care at this point one way or the other. I mean, it seems like he can kind of promise anything and not deliver and it doesn't matter.
CHALIAN: Yes. I'd guess we do know and that is I agree to, Anderson. I don't think this has the potential to harm the President politically but again, those running on the ticket with him, they don't have that kind of teflon that the President has. And what has happened here, he has given a political gift potentially to Democrats who can make an argument, not get mired in the argument over border security and immigration, but just make the argument two things that are really popular.
You're taking money away from potential jobs and you are taking money away from the military, the very men and women we entrust to protect us. Those are universally popular things and Donald Trump handed the Democrats an opportunity to go after Republicans on the ballot beneath him on those very scores.
COOPER: Yes, which is interesting because I mean Donald Trump always, you know, says that how much he loves the military and how he supports them more than anybody else has. So we'll see how it plays out in the campaign trail. David Chalian, thanks very much.
COOPER: Well, up next, a report that Joe Biden's team is lowering expectations about winning both Iowa and New Hampshire and his focus will be on winning other states. We'll talk to a member of his team when we continue.
COOPER: Joe Biden's team is saying the first presidential battleground test in Iowa may not be a must-win state for him and either would first primary in New Hampshire be. Politico is reporting as well that South Carolina, where majority of the voters are African- American is a place where a win is everything for Biden.
Joining me to discuss is Congressman Cedric Richmond, a Campaign Co- Chairman for the former vice president. Congressman Richmond, good to have you on again. Appreciate it.
Does it make sense to you? Does it concern you that five months out the Biden team seems to be maybe lowering expectations for a win in Iowa or New Hampshire? REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), NATIONAL CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR, BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT: No, I think that the one thing you don't want to do in a campaign is declare victory in a place before an election. Then your voters get complacent, people expect you to win. And they may or may not go through bad weather to get out there to vote for you.
And I think that this race is so important. One thing we will never do is take voters for the granted and, two, we'll just continue to bring our message to the voters and ask them for their support, their vote, their prayers, and I think that's exactly what we're going to do in both Iowa and New Hampshire, then you have Nevada, then you have South Carolina.
COOPER: Are they -- do you think they are important to win for the vice president?
RICHMOND: I think every state is important to win, and I think everything state is important to have a great showing. Some states you stack up better than others but for the most part, nobody is conceding the first two or any of the first four primary states. I think our numbers are still good in all of those. And I think we're just going to continue to fight there.
COOPER: Would you agree with what Politico is saying that there are people saying that South Carolina is a must win for the vice president.
RICHMOND: Well, look, I think South Carolina is important. I believe that the African American vote in South Carolina is the first real state that has a significant portion of African American vote, and I think that that influences other states.
So I think it is very important to do well in South Carolina. Part of the question is, win it by what margin, lose it by what margin. So I think a lot of it is a little more nuance than just do you win. I mean, a win by one point and a loss by one point are basically the same. The question is, do you win big, do you lose big in any of the four states?
COOPER: The latest jobs numbers out today are especially strong for African American unemployment. Obviously, you know, President Trump will be running and talking about that a lot. It's obviously great news for everybody in the country.
Is that going to hurt you think Democrats whether it's vice president Biden or anybody else from or, I mean, is that going to change African American support you think in South Carolina in 2020?
RICHMOND: Absolutely not. Anderson, I've said this before when I was chair of the Black Caucus, the black unemployment rate during slavery was zero. It means nothing if you look at the people who are underemployed, the people who are not seeking work.
If you look at the atmosphere that this President has created for black people in general, whether you're sleeping in your dormitory, common room at Yale, whether you're barbecuing in a park in Oakland, whether you're at Starbucks, whether you're renting from an Airbnb. African Americans live in an increasingly hostile environment and I don't think that you can take the unemployment rate and say that means everything is hunky-dory great for African Americans and things are not.
The struggle is real, and this President and what he says about go back to your country and all the other racist things he said, I do not think the job numbers matter.
COOPER: Congressman Richmond, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
RICHMOND: Thank you.
COOPER: Democratic Strategists, Ayesha -- Aisha, excuse me, Aisha Moodie-Mills, our CNN Political Commentator. Aisha, how risky of a strategy do you think this is? I don't know if you call it a strategy really but just the sort of public lowering, I guess, of expectations on Iowa and New Hampshire?
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, actually, there's something else that I think is riskier, frankly, than playing with the primary states. If you think about Biden's strategy as we see it playing out right now, he is very much trying to appeal to a working class white part of the electorate that went for Donald Trump, that frankly an MIT poll just came out showing that many of those voters also have some racial animus.
And so, trying to appall the black vote, while also trying to appeal to white folks who may or may not be racist, but certainly have racial animus, is something that Biden is going to have to, you know, really figure out how he balances.
I'm reminded of Lyndon Johnson who everyone knew said racist things, was a racist in the sense that he was a man of his time. But also did some really amazing work around civil rights and moved us forward as a country, and he was able to do that because it was a different era, it was a different time.
So you can say kind of say, "Hey, I'm with you black people but I'm going to talk bad about you in a different room." I wonder how Joe Biden navigates some of his gaps around hugging a segregationist, some of his gaps around even calling Barack Obama clean and articulate, but then having conversations about, you know, black people is being poor.
And is able to do that because, you know, the truth is, is that some of the white people he's trying to pull appreciate that kind talk But at the same time, they are going to add up what African Americans that he's going after are going to look twice and say, "Wait a minute, you're acting like a man of your era. You can't age in the '50s and '60s but this is different. Black voters have a different type of power now and we're not really going to be for someone who plays both sides."
So I think that the risk here is appeal, he is trying to appeal to everybody in a way that I don't know that is going to play out well on race.
COOPER: I guess, I mean, then the question is how solid do you think the former vice president's support is among African -- the African American community? I mean, is it, you know, what Hillary Clinton had, you know, was their front runner and had the most important in the African American community until she didn't and Barack Obama, you know, we all know what happened.
So is -- how solid is Biden's support do you think?
MOODIE-MILLS: Look, here is what I think that he's doing well. He's doing right. The support that we're seeing in the polls right now are these traditional African American voters, many of whom are over 50, folks who are the reliable kind of base that goes and votes and the ones that answer the phone for this, for when people call.
I think that those people he's doing all right with. I don't know how well he's going to be doing with young black voters and with young people generally. And that's going to matter when it comes to turnout.
COOPER: Yes. Aisha Moodie-Mills, appreciate it. Thank you very much. Great to have you.
COOPER: Still to come, the President's name game, the nicknames he has for the folks he has a beef with and his new target.
COOPER: All right, let's check in with Chris and see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Hey, Coop, we got in Bahamas, the fear of what we don't know, how many people are really missing, and how many of those who are missing are lost, and how long will it take, and do they have the resources there to even find out.
You and I have lived situations like this before. Time is of the essence to find out what the real numbers are and the scope of this tragedy. So we're going to cover that. We've got Lenny Kravitz on for how the need is on the ground and what needs to happen. He lives down there, that's that.
Then, we have the fear of what we do know. What this president is trying to pull off with his Alabama gaffe cannot be tolerated. He gets no apology for him being wrong, maybe forgiveness, but no apology.
COOPER: Yes. Eight minutes from now. Chris, I'll see you then.
And coming up, President Trump going after one of his top officials, wait until you hear the new name he's now calling Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. It's not one of his typical insult, I mean it meant to be an insult but does it work? "The Ridiculist" is next.
COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist" and, tonight, it's another edition of President Trump's name game kind of like scrabble but with no rules and double word score for cursing.
The President's latest target is Jerome Powell, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Mr. Trump took a quick break today from binge- watching Judge Jeanine to complain about interest rates and once again bash Mr. Powell. So when you may recall the President himself appointed.
But, in levying his insult on Twitter today, the compost pile from which his most fertile phrases bloom, the President failed to Peg Powell with one of his go-to nicknames, not lazy, not crazy, not lying, not crying even.
Now, when it comes to Jerome Powell, this was the best the President could do, "Where did I find this guy, Jerome? Oh, well, you can't win them all."
Now, I assume that's intended to be a biting insult but Twitter doesn't actually have a voice, so just typing the name Jerome doesn't work. That is his name. "Where did I find this guy Jerome? Oh, well, you can't win them all."
It has no bully bravado, no snide slitherine snarkiness. For this tweet to work, the President is relying on you, the American people, to get in touch with your inner bully. You can do it.
Jerome, maybe that's too campy. Jerome, maybe that's more like it. That's more presidential, I think. Jerome. It's like Jerome was given would come to shrimp cocktail, the Trump Taj Mahal in 1990 and never said thank you for such a big fat beautiful elegant shell fish, and Mr. Trump has never forgotten.
The reason, though, one can assume that President Trump uses Jerome as an insult, aside from the fact that insult are his stock and trade, is because Mr. Powell often called by his nickname Jay and our very stable genius knows that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I've nominated Jay to be our next Federal Chairman. He is strong, he is committed, he's smart. Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay. Now, I would like to invite Jay to say a few words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So yes, that was when he was announcing him. So it's Jay on the good days, Jerome on the bad. I don't think that was a very good one. Also let me state the obvious, there's nothing wrong with the name Jerome. I mean, no matter how the President says it or tweets it, it's a fine, distinguished name. There's Jerome Robins who directed Gypsy and the Wes Side Story on Broadway, Jerome David Salinger, better known as JD Salinger, author of the "Catcher in the Rye," that's a book, if the President is watching. Even comedian Jerome Seinfeld, you might have heard of him.
This also isn't the first time that the President has (inaudible) to use one of his favorite words, when the nickname rubber meet the nickname road. Remember, during the government shutdown, when Speaker Pelosi canceled the State of the Union. President sounded like he had a whole new name cooked up for her. He cooked it up real good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're supposed to be doing it and now Nancy Pelosi, or Nancy, as I call her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Oh, snap, burn. Nancy, as I call her. I mean, Haters going to hate but be beware. This president is a counter puncher. He'll repeat your given name back right at you. And then, he'll tear up your birth certificate. Boom, just like that.
As for Mr. Powell, if he is bothered that the man who gave him job is now publicly heckling him. He is not showing you, which is showing a lot of Federal Reserve, which is what actual human adults should do.
And as for President Trump, well, it is almost a weekend, and while many Americans enjoy a couple of days away from the noise, he'll no doubt have the volume cranked up on the golf course and on "The Ridiculist."
News continues, I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?