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EARLY START

Hurricane Dorian Spared Some Parts of the Carolinas; Death Toll Expected to Rise Dramatically in Bahamas; Hero-Turned-Tyrant Robert Mugabe Dies at 95; Report Said Trump Personally Altered Hurricane Dorian Map; Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brother Announces He is Quitting Politics; Benjamin Netanyahu Touts Foreign Policy Chops Ahead of Election. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 6, 2019 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:31:11]

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Dorian now closer than ever to the U.S. coast line lashing the Carolinas and spawning at least two dozen tornadoes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This whole town is gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Hundreds remain missing as the death toll from Hurricane Dorian climbs in the Bahamas.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight. Zimbabwe's hero-turned-tyrant Robert Mugabe has died.

BRIGGS: Plus, the "Washington Post" says it has solved Sharpie-gate? Guess who altered that infamous weather map with a marker? Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. Happy Friday. I'm Dave

Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is exactly 31 minutes past the hour.

And breaking this morning, Hurricane Dorian creeping slowly northeast just off the Carolina coast trailing a path of destruction. In just the last few hours it has now weakened to a Category 1 hurricane. It has at least five deaths attributed to it in the U.S. Dorian's high winds and lightning strikes leaving more than 293 customers in North and South Carolina without power.

CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam is in Charleston this morning for us.

Derek, what's the situation in the Carolinas?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, Christine. We're in Charleston, South Carolina, the historic district right now. They're breathing a sigh of relief because they were spared the worst from Hurricane Dorian. A far cry from what's happening just to our north near Wilmington, in the Morehead City, in the outer banks region right now. We recognize that.

But just to give you an idea of some of the damage that we have encountered here. We have street lamps that have fallen over because of the strong hurricane force winds that took place 24 hours ago. We had swamped roads. We also had power lines that were down and over 160 trees that toppled because of the storm, but it's good to know that this city, a very vulnerable coastal city takes this so seriously. They did board up their homes, their businesses, they sand bagged some of the lower portions of their buildings all to prevent the potential storm surge and flash flooding that was in the forecast.

Now there were some locations that were under water but the pumping system here worked very well, very effectively, and took out the water rather quickly. It receded through the course of the overnight period.

Now what you're seeing behind me, this quintessential road in downtown Charleston within the historic district, I like to refer to this as more nuisance kind of damage. It will take, you know, maybe a day or two for these businesses to recuperate, pick up what happened and then they can get on with their day. But we think about the tornadoes that were spawned in North Carolina yesterday and the ongoing landfall of Hurricane Dorian right now and along the outer banks.

ROMANS: All right, Derek. Thank you so much. We'll talk to you again very soon. We have another hurricane update in just less than half hour.

BRIGGS: The big question now of course is where is Dorian headed next. Meteorologist Karen Maginnis standing by live in the CNN center with the latest.

Karen, good morning.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. It is brushing by the coast of North Carolina and some of the strongest winds that we probably will see with the system are making its way on shore right around Cape Lookout and the Moorestown area as it gets to race off towards the northeast at just about 14 miles per hour.

Now the National Hurricane Center does not say that this has made landfall, but certainly we are looking at the radar imagery and the eye is right over Cape Lookout. Now for it to be considered landfall, 50 percent of the eye has to be on land. So still some of those powerful bands moving onshore and they are saying that the storm surge could still reach about six feet. There could be between six and 10 inches of additional rainfall, but already some of the roads and bridges have flooded and making some of these areas absolutely impassable. Some of the wind gusts you see right here, 67 miles per hour. That's just off shore.

[04:35:02]

There is some dry air, which is filtering into the hurricane and it is pulling away. Right now, 90-mile-an-hour winds making it a Category 1 hurricane. Wind gusts are higher moving towards the northeast at just about 14 miles per hour. Now not just the flooding, the storm surge, but also tornadoes. 24 of them reported in the several days. And we'll tell you that right now there are reports coming out of the Carolinas and Virginia of nearly 300,000 people reportedly without power.

What do we anticipate? It looks like by about midday this is going to be a distant memory and it could come soon enough -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Indeed. OK. Karen Maginnis, live for us in the CNN Weather Center. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. A grim scene and a sobering outlook in the Bahamas. Officials raising the official death toll from Hurricane Dorian to 30. There were thousands of people still missing. They know that number will rise. Body bags, coolers, morticians now being transported to Abaco and other hard-hit areas.

Our Patrick Oppmann on the ground in the Bahamas with more.

OPPMANN: Dave and Christine, we are in the small town of High Rock on Grand Bahama Island or what I should say was the town of High Rock. Look at the devastation here. This was the local town hospital, the clinic, and it's gone, beaten down to the ground by Hurricane Dorian's Category 5 winds.

We are only about an hour from Freeport but it is another world. The destruction here is just a different level. There are people that say that the Abacos received the worst of the damage but if you just venture a little bit further, places that people have not gone in Grand Bahama Island, you see damage that's every bit as bad and perhaps even worse.

This whole town is gone. There are about 300 people who live there and every house, every car, every structure has some damage, and many, if not most, are totally destroyed. This was a police station. Hurricane Dorian knocked down the concrete wall, took off the roof, and next door, the one-cell jail for this town is wide open. If anybody was inside, they're not there anymore.

The question now is, will towns like this recover and rebuild or simply cease to exist -- Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: Patrick, thanks.

Breaking overnight, Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe, has died at the age of 95. His passing was announced by the office of the current president. Mugabe was an icon of the African Liberation Movement of the '70s and '80s but his complicated legacy includes his transformation into an authoritarian strongman in later years.

International correspondent Farai Sevenzo joins us live from Nairobi with the latest.

A complicated legacy to say the least. Good morning. FARAI SEVENZO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.

Absolutely complicated legacies. You're talking about a man who at the death of apartheid, an apartheid many people always think of South Africa as being the place that had racial segregation and apartheid. But it was South Africa, it was Rhodesia which became Zimbabwe. It was Southwest Africa which became Namibia.

Across this whole swath of Southern Africa was a repressive colonial and racist laws. And of course, across the (INAUDIBLE) breath of this continent, Africa, because he took that apart with his liberation struggle, he was considered a hero.

And then came the complications. Just four years after becoming Zimbabwe's first African black leader and prime minister, he went on a massive oppression of the opposition, the ZIPRA people led by Joshua Nkomo, and the Matabeleland people, and 20,000 according to many analysts were killed during that repression. And then over the next 37 years he enacted laws that were akin to those apartheid laws by doubling down on demonstrations, people's rights to speech and freedom of speech, by completely controlling the way they moved and the way thought. And at the same time, he completely raised the literacy level of his entire country by no accident.

As Zimbabweans all over the world, an American (INAUDIBLE) in South Africa, in Nairobi because of the education that that man offered. But then again came another complication. He's intent to grab all the land that had been given to a few white colonialists in that crazy, chaotic land grab which was violent and absolutely repressive to many people. And at the moment the Zimbabweans are feeling a sense of expectation that he would die at 95 but also a kind of aggrieved by what he put them through hasn't really changed very much considering that Zimbabwe is back in the doldrums economically -- Dave.

[04:40:11]

BRIGGS: All right. Farai Sevenzo, live for us in Nairobi this morning. Thank you. Great reporting.

ROMANS: All right, 40 minutes past the hour. More retailers are positioning themselves in the gun violence debate. In a major shift, Walgreens, CVS and Wegmans are telling their customers to leave their guns home in states where open carry is legal. Walmart and Kroger made similar announcements earlier this week.

Retailers facing pressure from customers and employees to prevent gun violence especially after the shooting at a Walmart in El Paso that killed 22 people. Now Wegmans said the policy is intended to keep customers and employees safer and to help them feel more comfortable in their stores. It says this, "The sight of someone with a gun can be alarming and we don't want anyone to feel that way at Wegmans."

After El Paso, Walmart reported multiple incidents of people trying to make a statement about Second Amendment rights, people coming into stores and carrying guns openly, brandishing their firearms concerning customers. All of the retailers will still allow law enforcement officers to openly carry firearms in their stores. BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, a new revelation about that altered

weather map President Trump showed off in the Oval Office. New but not so surprising details are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:46:05]

BRIGGS: The "Washington Post" reporting that it was President Trump who personally altered a Hurricane Dorian weather map with a Sharpie to make it look like Alabama had been in danger. The White House has been trying to clean up this mess by attacking the media and releasing alternative hurricane maps. Administration officials even crafted a 225-word statement defending the president's fabrications, but their boss just can't seem to move on.

Here's Kaitlan Collins.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine and Dave, we are now on day six of the president refusing to drop his false claim that Alabama was in the path of Hurricane Dorian, a claim that he made on Sunday but is continuing to make now, even in the face of several meteorologists saying that the president was not accurate when he made that claim.

The president is going to great lengths to claim he was right, even having his Homeland Security adviser, this person, Rear Admiral Peter Brown, issue a statement defending the president's remarks from last Sunday when he made that claim where, in this statement that is pretty extraordinary for the White House to issue, Brown said that the president was briefed in an update on Hurricane Dorian on Sunday and that that briefing included, quote, "The possibility of tropical storm-force winds in southeastern Alabama."

Of course, all of the models of that time on Sunday show otherwise, yet the president is continuing to make this claim and clearly seems to be sensitive to this idea that his claim could be wrong. So wrong, in fact, that my colleagues, Jeff Zeleny and Jake Tapper, are reporting that on the president, on Thursday afternoon, summoned the FOX News White House reporter to the Oval Office after he had been criticized on air for making the claim about Alabama, that the president told the FOX News reporter he was correct. He even, according to an internal e-mail that my colleagues saw, said he just wanted some acknowledgment that his claim about Alabama was correct, even if at the point that the president had tweeted it on Sunday it was no longer the case.

Clearly, we are seeing the president not wanting to drop this despite several people saying that the president should essentially just move on from it. Instead, he is doubling down on this -- Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Thank you, Kaitlan.

British Parliament now set to debate and vote again next week on whether to hold an early election. The vote more likely to pass this time because a major objection from the leader of the opposition is expected to be removed today. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he'd rather be dead in a ditch -- those were his exact words -- than ask for the E.U. -- to ask the E.U. for another Brexit extension, as he suffers another blow. His own brother abruptly resigning from politics.

CNN's Anna Stewart live in London. She is outside Parliament -- Anna.

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think many people here will be thrilled. At least it's Friday and this crazy week of politics has ended, although of course the crazy politics itself likely hasn't. Now to recap the big events this week, firstly the bill to block a no- deal Brexit. The most enormous defeat for the government. They ended up expelling 21 of their own MPs. Another Conservative MP actually defected, went to another party.

And this. This was the most dramatic moment I think. The resignation of Boris's own brother Jo Johnson, not just as a minister but as a politician entirely. Now the big question, when will there be a general election. We know there will be one. All sides in parliament want one but they don't agree on when. Now the government will try once again as you said on Monday to try and get a vote through. They need a two-thirds majority and they may not get it.

Many in the Labour Party want to see Boris Johnson go to E.U. first and ask for that extension before they agree to an election. And as you said, that is something Boris Johnson said he does not want to do. He'd rather be, quote, "dead in a ditch."

Plenty more to come next week. And I have to say the prime minister already in campaign mode. He was in Yorkshire today talking about new police recruits. Today he is in Scotland promising multi-millions of pounds to British farmers.

[04:50:00]

ROMANS: Remarkable. All right, thank you so much for that, Anna Stewart in rainy London town.

All right, President Trump says he saved the coal industry. Hear what the coal workers union says. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: 4:54 Eastern Time. And a key architect of the Trump administration's Mideast peace plan is stepping down. Jason Greenblatt worked alongside the president's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to develop a still secret plan. This as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again trying to show off his foreign policy chops ahead of the elections later this month.

CNN's Oren Lieberman explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[04:55:02]

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Boris Johnson may be Britain's new prime minister, but he's part of an act we've seen before from Benjamin Netanyahu. Right before the elections here the Israeli prime minister looking again to highlight his foreign policy skills and as Mr. Security, he kept the conversation on his favorite topic.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We have in terms of Iran's aggression and terrorism, and I'd like to talk to you about how we can work together to counter these things for the benefit of peace.

LIEBERMANN: His diplomatic schedule has been busy, hosting the leaders of Ethiopia and Honduras in Jerusalem, and a trip to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin in the works.

It's the same strategy he employed before the elections in April, one that turns the attention away from the corruption investigations he faces. The 69-year-old faces charges of bribery and breach of trust pending an upcoming preliminary hearing. He has insisted he's innocent and a victory with a religious right-wing coalition he seeks in the elections would allow him to legislate immunity from prosecution.

Netanyahu, who served as Israel's foreign minister until February, sees foreign policy as one of his strengths and his personal relationship with some of the world's controversial leaders a bonus. He hosted Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro in Jerusalem and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who visited the Western Wall. He met with President Donald Trump in Washington where Trump officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So this was a long time in the making. Should have taken place many decades ago.

LIEBERMANN: And he met Putin in Moscow, inviting him to come visit Jerusalem.

Netanyahu's main rival, his former chief of staff Benny Gantz, slammed his last-minute travels as politically motivated.

BENNY GANTZ, FORMER NETANYAHU'S CHIEF OF STAFF (through translator): Benjamin Netanyahu's travels running from place to place are throwing dust in the eyes of the people.

LIEBERMANN: Instead Gantz said Netanyahu should be visiting Israel's heartland, where he will be. Gantz insists he can handle world leaders with the same finesse as the man he once served. Gantz was once Israel's military attache to the U.S., has little other diplomatic experience to prove it.

(On camera): That visit to Putin will be a big one for Netanyahu. First it will be the most high-profile visit right before the elections, unless of course that is Netanyahu manages to plan a visit to Washington in the next week and a half. But just as importantly, it's a chance for Netanyahu to try to win some of the Russian vote. Normally that vote belongs largely to one of his major rivals, his former defense minister. And that is one of the biggest obstacles to him winning a sixth term in office. That is why he is going to Putin to try to win some of that Russian vote and increase his chances of winning the election.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Oren. Thanks for that.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. You can see European markets all higher. Asia closed up and now European markets have opened a little bit higher here as well.

Let's take a look at Wall Street. Small gains there. The stock logged their best day in three weeks on renewed trade hopes yesterday. The Dow jumped 379 points. The S&P 500, the Nasdaq all higher as well.

Escalating tensions between the U.S. and China have really weighed on markets throughout the summer. And now there are new talks on the agenda for early October that spurring a little bit of optimism.

Investors also gearing up for the August jobs report. That comes in just a few hours. Economists expect the report will show some weakness thanks to the summer lull and the trade war.

Two years ago President Trump told the "New York Times" I'm the one that saved coal. I'm the one that created jobs. You know West Virginia is doing fantastically now. But the president of the coal miners' union, Cecil Roberts, painting a harsher reality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CECIL ROBERTS, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA: Coal's not back. Nobody saved the coal industry. We're going to continue to lose coal mining jobs, just like we lost steel worker jobs, just like we lost auto worker jobs. Not because we can't compete, because of bad public policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Roberts said Trump cutting back some of the Obama-era regulations that limited coal power plant emissions kept the coal industry in existence but plants are still closing dramatically and the market keeps shrinking.

Congress tried to make it easier for borrowers to apply for federal student loan debt forgiveness and rejected 99 percent of the applicants. A new report shows the Education Department only approved 661 applications under its Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. 53,000 applications were denied. Congress set aside $700 million to expand the program last year to address the low number of people qualifying for debt forgiveness but the fix hasn't had the desired results. Democrats are pointing to the report as evidence the Education

Department isn't doing what it should to help borrowers apply. A spokesman for the department did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.

But Congress wanted to make sure there was debt relief for student loan debtors, right, who meet certain qualifications but the Education Department has not been following through.

BRIGGS: More than $1.5 trillion in federal student debt --

[05:00:00]