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National Hurricane Center Reports, Dorian Makes Landfall Over Cap Hatteras, North Carolina; Bahamian Official Says, Prepare For Unimaginable Information On Death Toll; House Democrats Demand Documents Over Pence Stay At Trump Property; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) Kentucky says, GOP will only act on legislation backed by Trump; Former Starbucks CEO Won't Run For President. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 6, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00]

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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

We do again begin with a breaking news this morning of the impact, the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, which has finally made landfall in the United States.

Just about about an hour ago, the storm crossed over Cape Hatteras, North Carolina as a Category 1 storm, still with winds close to 90 miles an hour. Dorian is bringing powerful gusts, storm surges and heavy rain to that state.

Also there is a threat of tornadoes and flash flooding that persists, more than 418,000 customers still without power in the Carolinas and into Virginia. Jim.

SCIUTTO: As for the hardest hit, the Bahamas, CNN reporters on the ground say there is a chilling silence where neighborhoods once stood and there is the unmistakable smell of death in the air. This is the fact on the ground. The death toll officially sits at 30, but officials say prepare for unimaginable information as that number is expected to rise significantly. They're only just getting in there. Hundreds of people are still missing as the search for survivors goes on.

We are covering the storm from every angle as only CNN can. Let's get first to CNN's Alexandra Field. She is in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

Watching those waves crash behind you, Alexandra, boy, you can still feel the power of the storm.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim. It is absolutely a sight when you see this empty beach and those waves just ripping out here. That's because we're just north of the area where landfall was made. North of Hatteras Island and other islands south of here are already experiencing power outages, reports of flooding as results of the landfall. But certainly we are feeling the effects right here. The wind picking up since I last talked to you, Jim, the rain certainly coming down harder.

We're expecting the winds here in the next couple of hours to get up to about 60 miles per hour with even higher sustained gusts. Rain could in eight to ten inches. And the major concern for people here still, like other parts of the area, is the possibility of flooding. Maybe four to seven feet of storm surge over on the sound side.

So people who did not leave, people who did not follow the evacuation orders are definitely still being urged to stay inside. We just don't know the full effect of this thing until it gets out of here. That could still be a few more hours at least well into the afternoon.

We know that North Carolina has done a lot to prepare for this. They have search and rescue teams at the ready. They've got swift water teams at the ready. They've deployed extra National Guardsmen and women. But they're going to have to start to move resources to areas that need it. And they don't want to create problems where they don't have to have them.

So if you're here in this area, they are still asking people to just stay inside, wait this out, wait for it to sweep back to sea. Jim, Poppy?

HARLOW: Wow. Alex, thank you. Those images are remarkable.

Joining us now, Ryan Young, he's in Beaufort, North Carolina. Ryan, good morning to you. What are you seeing?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Well, look, the wind and the rain really started pounding us around 2:00 this morning. It was substantial for quite a number of time and then it sort of let up for awhile.

But, look, this is what we're seeing sort of in terms some of the damage in the area, in terms of turned over boats over here in the harbor. But outside of that, as we the tour the city, we haven't seen major damage at all.

But the wind and the rain definitely created some issues around here because we have over 200,000 people in the state without power. If you look off in the distance, there's another boat that's turned over there.

The good news is, as we've talked to people throughout this area and we've been surveying the area, no real damage to any structures or houses. We spent most of our night in that inland over there. We've seen firefighters and first responders doing their own assessment to try to make sure everyone is okay.

This area was hit and battered by Florence just about a year ago. People say that was a way worse storm. They were glad to get through this without significant damage, but the wind is still picking up. People are hoping no trees fall in the next few hours.

SCIUTTO: Ryan Young, thanks so much. Good to have you on the ground there.

Let's get big picture. Meteorologist Allison Chinchar, she is in the CNN Weather Center.

Allison, You made a good point the last hour, just the amazement of how this storm has managed to keep its eye for so long speaks to the power, how long it's been able to sustain that power. What do we expect over the next few hours and should people further up the east coast be bracing themselves as well?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They should but maybe not quite to the same extent that we've been warning folks in the Carolinas and Florida, for example.

Yes, you mentioned the eye. Look at it. Each time it tries to cycle through or it starts to get weaker. [10:05:00] That eye still maintains itself just going to show the intensity that this storm still has with it.

It's still a Category 1. Yes, it has technically made landfall not that long ago over Hatteras. But the areas surrounding it are still getting very heavy rain, very gusty winds, and, yes, the potential for tornadoes exists throughout the day today.

When you look at the wind gusts around here, you're still seeing them around the 60 to 70-mile-per-hour range. That's going to continue for the next several hours before it finally moves entirely offshore.

Looking at these rain bands, again, it's the one coming on shore. Those are the ones that we have the best concern for in terms of tornadoes. So states like Virginia and North Carolina still have the potential for tornadoes for the rest of the day today.

We also have flooding that's going to be a concern. Flash flood warnings and flood watches are still in effect for several states today as those heavy rain bands continue to slide over.

Keep in mind, any additional rain will be on top of what they've already had. Portions of North and South Carolina picking up over ten inches of rain. Wilmington picking up over nine inches of rain yesterday. They actually set a daily rainfall record with the amount of rain that they had. And even more is expected in some of these cities. Most areas likely only about an additional one to three inches. But, again, remember, it's on top of what they've already had.

Now, as this system finally exits the Carolinas, cities like Boston, Hartford and even Portland, Maine, will be next to get some of those outer bands. Again, guys, it won't be nearly as bad as the Carolinas, say, got, but you still do have the potential for some gusty winds and very heavy rain to move up to some of the northeastern states.

HARLOW: Okay. We'll be watching. I know that rain is coming this way. Allison, thank you so much.

So you've got hundreds, if not, unfortunately thousands of people that are still missing in the Bahamas. That is according to the latest update from the Bahamas tourism director. Right now at least 30 people have died in the Bahamas. But that death toll is expected to go so much higher, because this was the strongest storm ever to hit the islands.

SCIUTTO: Those poor communities there bracing themselves for those losses. In its wake, look at those pictures, complete destruction, homes crumbled, concrete walls leveled. One resident telling CNN it's like an atomic bomb went off.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann, he's been on the ground bringing us a vision of the power and destruction of this hurricane all week.

Patrick, goodness, I'm looking where you're standing right now. Tell us what that tells you about the force of this storm.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we have been struggling to convey in a way that doesn't sound exaggerated or ridiculous. The ferocity of the storm, the power of this storm, and this is one of the better examples we found, this is a Humvee. You know a Humvee weighs and how big they are. The water came into the garage, it picked it up and slammed holes in the house, slammed it through the garage where it got stuck here.

Over there behind me, you can see it punched a hole through solid concrete. This is an incredibly well built house. The man who built it, Washington Smith, is a builder. He knows what he's doing. That's probably how this house is still standing. It's all cracked up along.

But the most impressive things, Jim and Poppy, I can show you, he knew the storm was coming in. He has access to heavy duty equipment. He got a 20 ton truck and put it in front of his garage to keep his cars from being taken away. The truck is not there anymore. It's gone. We don't know where it is, where the sea carried it off. I don't see a leaf of green left. (INAUDIBLE) --

SCIUTTO: Patrick, we're losing you there on the ground.

Listen, you're in the middle of the wake of a storm so the technology can be tough. But you got a sense of the power there, no question.

HARLOW: A hummer through a house, I mean, amazing.

SCIUTTO: And then you imagine what that does, of course, to human bodies. And in that line he said last hour about just smelling, unfortunately --

HARLOW: Death.

SCIUTTO: -- the wake of death, the smell of death. And then that is really what we are bracing for and the people of the Bahamas are bracing for for that death toll to rise. HARLOW: Yes, exactly. Okay. If we can get Patrick's line back up, we will get back to him. But in the meantime, we're tracking the devastation across the Bahamas that Dorian has left behind. And that need, that immediate need for food and supplies, Chef Jose Andres who helps these areas in so much need, again, down there, this time, helping feed survivors on the front lines.

SCIUTTO: Yes, people are starving.

Plus, Democrats now demanding documents over the vice president's stay at a property in Ireland owned by President Trump and the president's attempt to hold the next G7 Summit at another resort he owns in Florida.

And the girlfriend of the estranged husband of a missing Connecticut mom has been arrested again. We have the explosive new details in this story coming up.

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[10:10:00]

HARLOW: Breaking news, CNN has just learned the House Judiciary and the House Oversight Committees are now demanding documents over the vice president's stay at that Trump property in Ireland, also over the president's proposal to hold the G7 at his Doral Golf Resort in Miami, Jim.

SCIUTTO: This comes as House Democrats [10:15:00] have said that they are broadening their investigation into the president beyond Robert Mueller's findings. Manu Raju is following these developments from Washington here.

So, Manu, I mean, what's the strategy here? Because, I mean, it's sort of a kitchen sink approach here from Democrats now. But do they expect that this will resonate more because it gets to business and profiting off the office?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, potentially, they believe that should be the focus going forward. Right now, what they're doing is focusing on potential constitutional violations of the emoluments clause, which is essentially aimed at limiting a president from enriching himself while in office and limiting foreign influence.

Now, the House Oversight Chairman, Elijah Cummings, has sent several letters to White House officials demanding information about the decision by Vice President Mike Pence to stay this week at Trump's golf resort in Ireland about 180 miles away from Pence's official meetings in Dublin.

Among the questions, the cost of the trip, as Cummings demands documents showing communications arranging the stay, which the vice president's office originally said came at Trump's suggestion, something the president later denied. Now, separately, Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Chairman, sent letters to the White House Counsel's Office and the Secret Service demanding information about Trump's proposal to hold the G7 Summit next year at his Miami golf resort.

Now, this all comes as Democrats tell me they are broadening their focus, other impeachment probe to look at whether the president potentially enriched himself while in office. They want to go beyond obstruction of justice, which so far has been the main focus of the committee.

Now, they're looking into issues like emoluments, also reports the president may have dangled pardons to officials to carry out his immigration policies, as well as those hush money payments to silence the president's alleged extramarital affairs.

And, of course, guys, this all comes as Congress is set to return next week from its summer recess. The question is will they move forward on impeachment as the window is closing. That's the question that Democrats have to answer in the days and weeks ahead. Guys?

SCIUTTO: Yes, November 2020, right around the corner. Manu Raju, thanks very much.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, and Lisa Lerer, National Political Reporter for The New York Times, she is also a CNN analyst.

So, Dana, I begin with you. I mean, what is the White House's defense for the president directing major events to his properties?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't know that they really have a defense. But what is interesting about Manu's reporting and Jeremy's reporting about the Democrats expanding the probe, Jim, is what I have been told from Trump world is that the numbers that they look at show that this is his Achilles heel, for all the chaos and the economy, which we can talk about in a second.

But when it comes to, you know, controversy, it's not necessarily, you know, the sharpie or other things relating to his chaotic Twitter feed. It's the notion that he's enriching himself. By using taxpayer money and the power of his post to enrich himself, that's a big red flag for the voters that they need in 2020.

Democrats obviously see the same polling. Aside from the fact it's a no-brainer if you're in the other party and you have oversight power to go this direction, and the Pence trip gave them another avenue, so did the G7 Summit debacle. So that is maybe an obvious political and policy avenue.

But it is one that is a potential real problem for the president.

HARLOW: Lisa, I'd love to ask you about Congress and their other focus when everything is back in session, and that's guns. You know, McConnell says I'm not going to do anything unless I know the president is on board. The president says we're working on a number of things with no specifics. And then we just heard this morning from Indiana Republican Senator Mike Braun who said this, quote, if we are not willing to do some of the common sense stuff, probably legislation will occur that we will regret and it will infringe on our Second Amendment rights. Is something changing here among Republicans?

LISA LERER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that is the big question. I have to say that I'm pretty skeptical as to whether something actually gets done when they come back in Congress. I think Congress is really bad with dealing with things that are not directly in front of them. And we're a little removed -- we're really in the midst of this hurricane now and that's where a lot of focus has been.

I also think it's really -- this is legislation that's generally very, very hard to pass, and it's particularly hard to pass without strong presidential leadership and involvement. That's certainly after Sandy Hook, the Obama administration made a huge push to pass gun legislation. They still were unable to do it. And that was with the full force of the White House behind that effort.

So the real question is whether something has changed. And if something has changed, can Congress get something through, can Republicans get something through without President Trump leading the way? Because so far, the White House has been sending out very mixed signals on what, if anything, they want to do.

SCIUTTO: I mean, are those signals really mixed though, Dana? Because, yes, they've sent out signals but in terms of reality, because this is a president who showed no interest in doing anything [10:20:00] that will upset what he perceives to be his base support, and it's an all-base strategy for 2020.

After Parkland, he kind of talked about stuff and even, you know, laid into Republican lawmakers for being afraid of the NRA here. But if it's about presidential leadership, it ain't going to happen in an election that he perceives as being close, is it not?

BASH: Yes. I mean, just look at what the president said in one of his gaggles on the White House lawn last week, where it was right in the aftermath of one of the latest shootings and he said, this isn't something that a background check ban could really -- or universal background check, I should say, would really help.

SCIUTTO: We just had a shooting. The guy failed a background check because he had a mental issue and then bought a gun from a relative which would have been covered under universal background checks, so it blows up the NRA point.

BASH: Precisely. But -- I'm sorry. But just -- what could be different now is that the NRA, that he has been, you know, sort of frankly bowing to since Parkland, is a little bit weaker, a lot weaker on its leadership level. The grassroots is a different thing, but weaker and chaotic on a leadership level, which the president, given his personality, sees as a potential sign of weakness. That is the only different dynamic.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. LERER: But we also know from reporting that the White House -- aides in the White House commissioned a poll and they found that a lot of these measures -- most of these measures would have no impact on the president's base.

And as you correctly point out, this is a base strategy in this election. He's reactive to the needs of his base. And you do have to wonder if the president does not see this as resonating with the people who he believes will put him back in office, you know, a year- plus from now whether he's going to put his neck out to do it.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Dana, other news. Howard Schultz, former Starbucks CEO, not going to run for president. He sent a long letter this morning out. And he said, look, despite, you know, my efforts here, there's just not the will to elect an independent because most people think it's going to mean the re-election of Donald Trump. But he also -- Dana, you read that letter.

He also warned against far left candidates. And said he's going to spend all that money he was going to spend running for president to push for bipartisanship, et cetera. That's about $100 million by some estimates. But this is a guy who vowed in 2011 to not donate to any political candidates until Washington sort of got its fiscal House in order.

So how significant is it that he says an independent can't win but he's got money that's going to go somewhere?

BASH: It's significant if he spends it. We'll see if he actually puts his money where his mouth is.

And if he uses Michael Bloomberg as a model, who could have told him, probably did tell him in public and private, if he would have asked, that he has done a lot of research that already showed him an independent can't win in the current climate. He is and has had history, Michael Bloomberg, that is, of spending money and he said he will do the same to try to defeat Donald Trump.

What is so remarkable about the Howard Schultz non-starter is the way he got vilified by Democrats who have one goal --

HARLOW: I know that shocked him. That shocked him.

BASH: Yes. He had one goal only which is defeat Donald Trump because they saw a strategic road block in a Howard Schultz run because it would siphon votes away from the Democrats to potentially help elect the president.

SCIUTTO: Later in 2000. But was Howard Schultz ever really running for president?

BASH: I don't know. That's a question for Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Dana Bash, Lisa Lerer, thanks very much. HARLOW: I think the answer is yes. I mean, I think he really, really thought that this could happen.

All right, so ahead for us, a search and rescue operation push in the Bahamas. Those are pushing on, a push for the islands. Getting more support is also pouring in. You've got private citizens, volunteer groups. And even the Defense Department pitching in. We're going to speak to a group that is helping provide meals to thousands, next.

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[10:25:00]

HARLOW: Hurricane Dorian has officially made landfall over Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. That happened this morning as a Category 1 storm. And right now, Dorian is slamming the North Carolina Coast with heavy winds and strong rain.

Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in North Carolina. In fact, there is a power outage impacting all of Hatteras Island right now and Oak Island. Dorian has spawned at least 24 tornadoes. Many of those came without warning across Carolinas over the last few days. In North Carolina, officials there are warning residents that life-threatening flooding is also possible.

SCIUTTO: So the Bahamas, prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering. That was the warning from the Bahamas Health Minister. Right now, at least 30 people have died in the Bahamas. However, hundreds, if not, thousands, and take a moment to absorb that, of residents are still missing.

Meanwhile support for the Bahamas is pouring in, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper authorizing Defense Department support for the Bahamas. And right now someone else lending a hand. Chef Jose Andres' World Central Kitchen is helping feed thousands in Nassau.

Joining me on the phone is Josh Phelps. He's the relief [10:30:00] operations manager for World Central Kitchen. Josh, good morning. Thanks so much for taking the time this morning. I know you're doing a lot of important work there.

[10:30:00]