Return to Transcripts main page
Thousands Try to Flee Hurricane-Devastated Bahama Islands; House Panel to Vote on Next Steps in Trump Impeachment Probe; Presidential Hopefuls Make their Case at NH Dem Convention; Iranian Oil Tanker Now Off the Coast Syria. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired September 7, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning -- everyone. Welcome. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
Right now a massive humanitarian aid effort is underway after Hurricane Dorian leveled portions of the Bahamas. The death toll is rising as fast as survivors are trying to get out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the scene right here live as we speak going on trying to get on the Bahamas ferry to get to Nassau by boat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: By the thousands they're trying to get out. Right now the death toll is at 43, but officials say there are uncollected bodies in the streets, and that, they warned, the number will rise, quote, "significantly".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bodies are in the harbor. It seems like we're in a movie because you hear stories where a mother had her son and her nephew -- she had to decide which one was going to live.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Assessing the damage from Dorian is still in the beginning stages. Areas of the Bahamas are in ruins. Neighborhoods are flattened.
Dorian hit Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands the hardest and the U.N. says at least 70,000 people are now homeless on those islands. Thousands of people remain missing.
And then just hours ago, a cruise ship carrying more than 1,400 evacuees from the Bahamas docked in West Palm Beach, Florida.
There will be numerous rescue missions throughout the day here in the U.S. as Dorian winds down and moves away from the northeast. Parts of North Carolina coast are under water and recovering. Take a look at those images.
And we're covering all angles of the devastation from the flooding in the Carolinas to the rescues in the Bahamas.
Let's begin with CNN's Rosa Flores live for us at the port of Palm Beach this morning. So Rosa -- what are evacuees saying? What are they feeling?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, most of the evacuees are not saying much, Fred, at this hour because you can see the emotion in their eyes. You can almost feel that emotion. There's a lot of people with bloodshot eyes, with teary eyes, others that are holding back tears. And then you see a lot of smiles just because they are seeing their family that has been here in Palm Beach waiting for them. So it's a mix of emotions.
Once they land, once they disembark, rather, they are welcomed by Customs and Border Protection. From what we understand, all of the officers working today are volunteers. They have been trained to work with individuals who have been traumatized because as you know, going through customs is never fun. It's usually stressful, and so they're trying to ease that process for all of the individuals who were disembarking today.
Now, we met one woman, Pat Allard, 83 years of age, and she just described the horrors that she lived. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT ALLARD, EVACUATED TO FLORIDA: I don't think there's words for that, you know, the sound of the wind and then the rain continually hitting the windows and everything and total darkness. This is how you walked, holding on to walls, you know. And you can't describe it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: Now Pat Allard is headed to Massachusetts -- that is where she's from. And Fred, from what we hear from county officials, they say that most of the individuals who disembarked today are either going with friends or family. They're staying at hotels. And at last check, no one is seeking shelter, but the county does have a shelter available if need be -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Rosa Flores -- thank you so much. We're going to check back with you.
So as harrowing as those stories are, they are actually the lucky ones. There are thousands of others in the Bahamas waiting for aid, like food and medical supplies to arrive.
CNN's Victor Blackwell is in Nassau where supplies are trickling in. And what are you seeing? How are they getting to people in greatest need? VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes -- Fred. This urgency is
palpable. Now, six days after Dorian hit Abaco, let me show you what we just saw from the U.S. Coast Guard a few moments ago. A chopper arrived with a person on a stretcher. Now, we don't know if that's a person who has some sensitive medical needs or if that's someone who was injured by this Category 5 storm.
But still, people coming over from Abaco, the latest count as of two hours ago from the Coast Guard was 290 people who have evacuated on their choppers from Abaco to Nassau here. But of course as you said, the urgency is to get those people off the island.
I went there, and we saw hundreds of people at the Treasure Key airport, at the Marsh Harbor airport who were crowded on tarmacs waiting to get onto flights here.
We also saw the damage. It is -- the scale is unimaginable. I went to the marina. The boats are still there, but they're not in the water. Here's what I saw.
All right. We don't have that, but those boats have been pushed up to the shoreline. And those have been taken out of the water. Lots of damage there, Fred, and they will have years -- years to rebuild.
First they've got to find the people who did not survive and bring those who did survive to some safety and comfort.
WHITFIELD: And then, Victor, you know, for supplies that are making their way in, how and what's the method of distribution? Because you just laid out the difficulty of getting around what you had to do with the aid of a chopper in order to get around to get a bird's eye view.
But then how about locating people who were isolated and getting some of this aid to them? How are they going to do that?
BLACKWELL: And that has been the biggest concern and many of the people I've spoken with are just not satisfied with the speed and the efficiency of what they've seen from NEMA, that's the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency.
Even on their Facebook they have a survey monkey you can fill out that says "Find me NEMA" where you put in your name and your address and your phone number. And that's the way in which one of the ways that the government is trying to find people.
There's a hot line. I called it several times. That's what the government says to call for information and no one picked up. The several times I called, but there is assistance from groups like Samaritan's Purse. We know that USAID, the Fairfax County Urban search and rescue team will be going over with 57 people, four dogs, lots of supplies. We're told by the (INAUDIBLE) from the U.S. into Bahamas. they're going to be walking through the keys to find survivors and those who did not survive in a recovery mission. It is a patchwork here, but still it's in the very early stages. WHITFIELD: Right, and a reminder to people, I mean, we're talking
about places no power, no cell phone reception, so trying to get online, you know, to find these sources of aid, that's a giant obstacle because people can't communicate where they are largely.
All right. Victor Blackwell -- we'll check back with you. Thank you so much. Great work as you've been there and in Florida for a very long time now.
BLACKWELL: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Freeport Bahamas, which is the main city on Grand Bahama Island. And that area was hit the hardest. So what, Patrick -- does recovery look like? Because you have been weathering the storm yourself the whole way while you've been reporting on it.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's already been a week, Fred, and yet for so many of the Bahamians we've gotten to know, you would think the storm happened yesterday. You asked me what recovery looks like, I don't know. I haven't seen very much of it.
If it has come here, it's been very slow. We still don't have power. We still don't have running water, no one does on this island. We're coming to you because we have a generator and a satellite dish.
So for many, many people things look pretty much the same. Phone service has gotten a little bit better. (AUDIO GAP) gas now, you can get food here in Freeport. There are supplies slowly coming in, but from everything we've heard there's just a terrific log jam.
As soon as things come into the port, drive an hour from here, Fred, and it is a totally different scene. The government by and large has not gone out to those areas.
You see Coast Guard helicopters still looking for bodies. The mission appears to have changed from a mission of search and rescue to a mission of recovery. And increasingly the Bahamians that we are talking to are angry that they feel that they've been abandoned by their government here.
WHITFIELD: And then Patrick -- while people feel abandoned, describe the obstacles, that you know, assistance has in getting to people. And you talk about bodies strewn about and with that over time, with that kind of heat as well comes, you know, the fostering of diseases and illnesses.
So I mean there are colossal obstacles to even get aid and assistance to people. Describe that.
OPPMANN: Yes, and every government no matter how many resources they have has a lot of trouble with this kind of thing. It doesn't really matter to those -- the people waiting for assistance. There are roads that are still blocked.
[11:10:01] A lot of the emergency vehicles, a lot of the vehicles that will be used to restore power here were frankly flooded on this island. New ones will have to be brought in.
That is a huge logistical nightmare. But at the end of the day, time is running out, and we are looking down the road at perhaps another disaster, and a disaster of people not having fresh water, people who are drinking out of wells that have been contaminated by their salt water.
People don't have bathrooms in many of these towns and there are still dead bodies, dead animals. Things have to be picked up. People have to have some kind of sanitary conditions or as happens in a disaster zone, sicknesses will break out.
You know, when we get out to these areas yesterday it didn't look like hurricane damage. I've seen a number of hurricanes, it looked like a tsunami. Just things washed away. Houses taken off their foundations.
People who end up they told us in trees that were 30 feet high. That's where they rode out the storm after their houses demolished. So you can't overstate, I know people sometimes can get a little tired of hearing this -- you cannot overstate how severe the damage is, just house after house wiped out.
In one town we were told that there were only one out of ten houses still standing, and some of those houses, of course, were completely under water so will have to be demolished. It is -- you cannot overstate the extent of this disaster.
WHITFIELD: Right, it certainly underscores, you know, the devastation of that water and the force and voracity of this disasters.
All right. Patrick Oppmann -- thank you so much. We'll check back with you.
Excellent reporting -- excellent.
All right. At Marsh Harbor port on the devastated island of Abaco, our CNN team has just arrived and says part of it now resembles a ghost town. Take a look, I mean it just looks like a giant steam roller that's just come through. Hundreds of people are, in fact, lined up to take a ferry back to Nassau, and they are recounting horrific stories of survival.
CNN's Paula Newton is there talking to so many of them waiting to leave -- Paula.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAULA NEWTON: Yes, Fred -- they are so exhausted. I cannot imagine.
We are on day six here, and the storm (AUDIO GAP) -- another day here on Marsh Harbor people have come with anything they can carry, quite frankly anything that survived the storm and have come here to the port in Marsh Harbor. We have seen certainly a ferry, other boats and helicopters, and the main thing as well is that we have seen the Bahamian military here try and obviously keep some calm and really try and assure people that they will get out of in time
We have heard from many that they just don't want to stay here anymore. They do not believe it is safe and that there is nothing for them in terms of materials of food, water, medicine, and also just the basics in terms of infrastructure. They no longer want to be here.
NEWTON: All right. That's a picture of desperation. So many people lining up for ferries to try to get to safety, sustenance and water. Paula Newton -- thank you so much. Also excellent reporting.
All right. For ways on how you can help the victims of Hurricane Dorian, go to CNN.com/impact. The devastation and the despair felt by survivors and first responders is proving too much to bear in too many cases.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's upsetting that these people (INAUDIBLE) shelters> they're here and not being fed and the children --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: More stories of survival, and the long road to recovery coming up. >
Plus, top Democrats planning to tackle an impeachment inquiry again, but is this just more tough talk and no action? We're live, next.
[11:13:55] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
CNN has learned that the House Judiciary Committee is preparing to take a vote in just a matter of days which could open the way to impeaching President Donald Trump. The vote is expected to take place as soon as Wednesday and will lay out the ground rules for conducting impeachment hearings.
This development comes as Democrats broaden their impeachment probe beyond President Trump's potential obstruction of justice.
CNN's Joe Johns is at the White House for us. So Joe, you know, what do we know about these new developments and any response from the White House?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Ok. So you mentioned the beginning there, Fred -- the obstruction of justice question. Those are questions by and large that were raised in the investigation by Robert Mueller.
But there are other things floating around as well, including whether the President enriched himself or has been enriched by things that have happened after he came into office in violation of the constitution's emoluments clause.
There's a question of pardons and whether there might have been an abuse of power in the dangling of pardons to certain individuals.
A lot of things to look into there, and what we know now from the reporting of Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill is that Democrats are considering as early as Wednesday a resolution laying out the ground rules for how hearings are conducted and how witnesses are interviewed, how grand jury information is handled.
What we do know about all of this is that majority of Democrats in the majority in the House of Representatives do support at least an inquiry. And we have a graphic to show you, something like 134 out of 235 Democrats in the majority support that idea, including Congressman Anthony Brown of Maryland who was at a town hall this morning, and he got asked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY BROWN (D), MARYLAND: I'm not on the Judiciary Committee or the Government Oversight Committee where a lot of that action is playing out. But I certainly have been supportive of every effort in the Judiciary Committee to in a full force, full throttle way investigate these allegations so that they can make a determination, report back to the House, and we can act according to their reporting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: So that vote is expected as early as Wednesday up on Capitol Hill and they are expected to use as a blueprint the work that was done during the investigation of President Richard Nixon during the 1970s -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Joe Johns at the White House -- thank you so much.
All right. Let's talk more about this now with David Swerdlick who is an assistant editor at the "Washington Post" and a CNN political analyst, and also with me Salena Zito a national political reporter for the "Washington Examiner" and a CNN contributor. Good to see you both.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning -- Fred.
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. So David, you first -- you know, at the center of this inquiry is, you know, the Trump Organization possibly profiting off international and domestic interests. But you know, is this latest push by Democrats likely to get more traction than say, you know, questions into possible impeachment just like Joe laid out following the Mueller report? Is this different?
SWERDLICK: Yes, good morning -- Fred. So I think it's still unclear, and we'll learn more next week. It's not clear whether this is going to lead to an -- a formal impeachment proceeding with articles of impeachment. and there's still a lot of resistance to that on the Democratic side.
That being said, it seems pretty clear that Democrats in the Judiciary Committee and Democrats in the House in general want to move the ball forward at least one notch, and this vote next week is to try and define the parameters of what an impeachment investigation would look like, whether or not they're going to impeach is another story for down the road.
But one thing that's also happening here is that members of the judiciary committee are turning toward looking at not just what was in the Mueller report, but also toward the idea of these what they say are violations of the emoluments clauses in the constitution, the President profiting off of his businesses as violations of his office and unconstitutional.
WHITFIELD: And then Salena, you know, are Democrats, you know, really risking a potential backlash? Because most polls do show that Americans don't support the idea of impeaching this president.
ZITO: Thanks for having me on -- Fred. I think that the challenge for Democrats right now is the base, the people that are most engaged in particular with the presidential primary process and shopping for a candidate, they're more apt and more excited and more demanding of an impeachment process. They believe that it is important.
Also, the other part of their coalition are the voters that put these suburban House Democrats in last November many of them, I would say most of them that ran in swing districts such as the one I live in, Connor Lam, did not run on impeachment. They ran on making Washington work, and working to, you know, working for a better, you know, jobs and infrastructure.
So I think that's the challenge and how they sort of maneuver through that is what we're going to watch in the next couple of weeks.
WHITFIELD: And David -- you know House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been very reluctant about launching impeachment proceedings but one has to wonder if, you know, the House Judiciary since it so voraciously, you know, entertaining this possible vote this week, if this time they have Pelosi's blessings?
SWERDLICK: So that's actually not 100 percent clear here, but clearly the House Judiciary Committee is going to move forward with this sort of baby step. I agree with Salena that there is political peril out there for some of these more moderate Democrats if impeachment goes to a certain stage including for members of the house like Democrat Conor Lamb who is -- who you would call a centrist or moderate Democrat in a swing district.
That being said, I think that there's some movement in the House Democratic Caucus to at least push this forward a little farther. In the last hour I actually spoke to Congressman Jamie Raskin from Maryland who said that he has put forward a resolution in the House Judiciary Committee to essentially disapprove of the President's violations of the emoluments clauses --
WHITFIELD: -- which he's been pushing for a very long time.
SWERDLICK: -- which he's been pushing and which he said to me he thought was something that there should be consensus around. That even for members who don't want to go as far as impeaching, the idea of reprimanding the President for violating the emoluments clauses should not be as controversial.
And he said and I'm quoting here, he described the President's violations as "self-enrichment, which he called the original sin of this administration."
And so there is some move toward at least addressing some of these other issues. Whether or not they lead to impeachment, I think we'll find out a little more next week. It's still unclear.
WHITFIELD: But then I wonder, Dave -- you know, is there potential backlash for the Democrats if they one more time talk about inquiring into an impeachment, and then they don't follow up and do nothing and just barely -- you know, barely over a year before, you know, the next presidential race. Is this problematic for the Democrats?
SWERDLICK: Well, I guess it depends on how you define doing nothing, right? I think some members of the House Democratic Caucus would say that holding hearings, investigating is part of their oversight function as an equal branch of government. And that even if they don't wind up drawing up articles of impeachment, that they are doing something.
SWERDLICK: Whether that's enough to satisfy the Democratic base as Salena said, and I think she's right, remains to be seen. But that's this delicate balance now between the sort of core of the Democratic caucus and the leadership including Speaker Pelosi who is trying to protect a majority going into a presidential election year.
WHITFIELD: And then Salena, you know, shifting gears a little bit. President Trump now has a couple of Republican challengers for the 2020 nomination. And now several states are considering eliminating their primaries, which is their right to do, and there's precedence that it's been done for other incumbencies. So how beneficial might this be for the President, and what does it say about his leadership?
ZITO: Well, you know, there's two sides of this. I personally think that the primaries are very good for a candidate, no matter if they're an incumbent president or not. And here's why. It gives them an opportunity to not only, you know, develop a robust message and talk about the things that they've accomplished, right? From their point of view.
But it also gives them hints as to where weaknesses might be. I think that we all -- I remember covering this in 2012 when President Barack Obama in West Virginia, you know, had a no-name challenger who I think lived in Texas, if I remember correctly, who challenged him on the ballot and got 41 percent of the vote.
There was evidence there that the next campaign should have been able to look at and say, ok, here's where our weaknesses are.
WHITFIELD: That's a presidency that would be receptive to that. I mean are there indicators that this administration would be receptive to that and interested?
ZITO: I haven't seen any indicators in either way, but the parties are making sure there's no competition. I personally think it's important to have competition. Even if you have some embarrassing moments, you get to understand who your coalition is. And I think as someone who's running for president, that's a very important thing to understand.
WHITFIELD: David, last word?
SWERDLICK: Yes. No -- Fred, I would just say I think Salena's right about primaries being good for campaigns in a certain way. I don't think that the Trump campaign is interested in being challenged on certain issues on, let's say a debate stage or in a primary.
It's clear on the one hand that Congressman Walsh or Governor Weld, the candidates who are running against President Trump on the Republican side have really no shot at beating him. At the same time it's ironic that a president who ran saying that the system was rigged is sort of sitting by as these state parties essentially rig these state primaries in his favor.
WHITFIELD: All right, David Swerdlick, Salena Zito -- we'll leave it there for now. thank you.
SWERDLICK: Thanks Fred.
ZITO: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Thank you. Thank you so much.
All right. Straight ahead, Hurricane Dorian's devastation. We're live in North Carolina after the storm ripped through the Outer Banks tearing down a pier and other structures.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back.
As Hurricane Dorian moves away from the United States, we're learning more about the jaw-dropping devastation it left behind in the Bahamas. At least 43 people are dead after Dorian slammed into the islands as a Category 5 storm, and officials say that number is expected to grow significantly. A bird's eye view shows homes flattened into piles of wood and metal. The U.N. says at least 70,000 people in the Bahamas are now homeless. Hours ago, helicopters loaded with aid along with search and rescue teams departed for some of the island's hardest hit areas.
Meantime, the Carolinas are also in recovery mode after Dorian swamped the East Coast of the U.S. Mainland. The storm ripped through North Carolina's Outer Banks causing major damage, including tearing off parts of this pier.
CNN correspondent Alexandra Field is live for us in Kill Devils Hill, North Carolina this morning. So describe the devastation, how are people picking up the pieces?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred -- well people who rode out the storm or the ones who left the island as they were advised to do are coming back to see how exactly they fared through Dorian. What they really found is that they lost part of an iconic pier out here, the pylons ripped away by crashing waves, that were hitting here yesterday afternoon.
But for the most part throughout the Outer Banks it was a concern of flooding that caused most people to evacuate in advance of the storm or people had to deal with what happened in the aftermath.
The southern part of the Outer Banks was hit hardest. Of course Dorian made landfall over Cape Hatteras. There was a storm surge over Ocracoke island. Residents there have described seeing water coming in quickly by the sea, alarming many who were left on that island, about 800 people decided to stay in place.
They suddenly found themselves with no way out, no access road to get out, and of course the ferries were not running during the storm. Emergency management officials did offer to airlift out anybody who needed to be evacuated. Just one person, a 78-year-old man with prior medical conditions did decide to leave. Otherwise helicopters were used along with ferries in order to bring more supplies to the island. We understand the water quickly receded but repairs still need to be made to the road to Ocracoke -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Alexandra Field -- thank you so much in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. >
All right. The U.S. says an Iranian oil tanker previously seized by Britain is now off the coast of Syria, and it says a satellite picture proves it. We'll go live to the region next.
WHITFIELD: At Marsh Harbor port on the devastated island of Abaco, our CNN team just arrived and says parts of it now resemble a ghost town. Hundreds of people are lined up to take a ferry back to Nassau, and they're recounting horrific stories of survival.
Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're at a section of Marsh Harbor 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 decimation like this that we're seeing here on the Abacos in this town of Marsh Island in Mud and Peas.
Right now, we're accompanying the U.S. Coast guard as they're looking for the possibility of any survivors. You can see them over here searching through the rubble. This gives you an idea of why it's impossible now to have a firm death toll.
For example, you can see this home right here, it's clear no one is going inside this home. These coast guardsmen are about to go inside this home and other homes in here to see if there's anyone's inside.
We'll give you a look at what they're doing right now is they're trying to plot out the next couple of hours, which direction they want to head. But you can see as this camera goes around in a circle, just the widespread decimation here in this section of Marsh Harbor.
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 on a ship to get out of here. Every one of them have lost their homes. We're not just talking about damage. We're talking about utter devastation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, I'm depressed. That's all. I don't know where to go. It's been a disaster. I lost everything.
TUCHMANN: The reason they're in this line, more than 200 people have kind of with all their belongings, almost everyone has 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 right here is telling them right now that this ship, and I'll give you a look at the ship to your left right here, this ship which has delivered good to the island will take them to Nassau. They're very happy about that.
Let me give you an idea of what they're going through. Miss -- what were you just told? Are you going to be able to get on this boat and leave?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes, sir.
TUCHMANN: You must be very excited about being able to get out of here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely.
TUCHMANN: What happened to your home?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Roof blown off. Windows blown out.
TUCHMANN: 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 a couple of minutes ago. They were told they won't be able to board this freighter and head to Nassau and take it from there. But there's absolute desperation here in this town of Marsh Harbor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Gary Tuchman -- thank you so much.
We have so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM right after this.
WHITFIELD: All right. Poising him for re-election, Republicans now reveal the news that four states are poised to cancel their 2020 GOP presidential primaries and caucuses in a show of support for President Trump. Republican officials in South Carolina, Nevada, and Arizona are expected to announce the cancellations in the coming weeks. And Politico is reporting Kansas Republicans are also considering nixing their primary.
CNN political reporter Rebecca Buck is joining us right now, so Rebecca -- you know, the President's challengers are crying foul. So far he's got two who are saying that they are in the race, but this really doesn't come without precedent, does it?
REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Fred. But it was in a slightly different situation that we have seen this before from Democrats and Republicans alike with incumbent presidents running for re-election, some states have decided in the past to forgo their presidential primaries. The most recent example was in 2012 when South Carolina Democrats decided President Obama was running for re- election unopposed, they weren't going to spend the money to hold that presidential primary.
But of course there are Republicans this time around who are saying they intend to challenge President Donald Trump. Joe Walsh, former congressman from Illinois, you have former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld also in the race, and former congressman from South Carolina Mark Sanford also saying he is considering running against Donald Trump.
So you have a situation where you could have a contested Republican primary, but Republican officials in these states are saying they want to support the President and that these primaries are not going to be enough of a challenge to stop them from forgoing their primaries. We have officials in Nevada and South Carolina meeting this weekend likely to make that decision and Arizona next weekend -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Rebecca Buck -- keep us posted. Appreciate it. BUCK: Thank you. >
WHITFIELD: All right. Right now in New Hampshire, all but one of the Democrats hoping to be president are taking the stage at the state's Democratic Party convention. The big draw at this weekend's event, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Biden, well, he had a bit of a slip this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Limit to four years, I believe history will look back at this presidency as an aberrant moment in time, but if Donald Hump -- Donald Trump is reelected -- Freudian slip. If Donald Trump is reelected, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation.
Donald Trump does pose an -- it's not hypothetical, his threat to this nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Ok. Political reporter Arlette Saenz was there. So there were a lot of laughs. He even made a little fun about that slip, calling it a Freudian slip. So was it a Freudian slip, was it intentional or really was it Freudian?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Fred, it seems like what the former vice president said was a bit of an accident, but you did hear chuckles from the crowd.
But right now we're hearing from John Delaney, he's just one of the 19 Democratic contenders who is here at the New Hampshire state Democratic Party convention taking their pitch directly to Granite State voters.
And we've already heard from Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, former Vice President Biden and Cory Booker giving some of the early remarks here. Take a listen to what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Our president isn't up to this moment, we all know that. Where he lacks the moral authority to lead, this president has more in common with George Wallace than George Washington.
SENATOR CORY BOOKER, (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got to beat Donald Trump. But beating Donald Trump is the floor. It is not the ceiling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAENZ: So that's just a little bit of the taste of the message that voters have been hearing at this state convention. And as I mentioned right now John Delaney is speaking behind me, one of 19 candidates. Not all of these candidates are going to be appearing on the debate stage.
This convention, you know, kind of gives voters here a chance to tune in. It's after Labor Day, so for a lot of people they are just starting to tune in, just starting to hear from these candidates. So these voters are getting to hear these personalized messages when it comes to the Granite State which is the first in the nation primary that these candidates will be competing in.
And earlier this week, you heard aides to Joe Biden kind of down play expectations when it comes to the state of Iowa and also New Hampshire. They acknowledged that it's going to be a dog fight, but they argued they don't necessarily need to win these states in order to win the entire nomination.
So we're also in a short while going to be hearing from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two people who are really battling it out for the progressive support among Democrats. They are both from neighboring states.
SAENZ: And don't forget, Bernie Sanders won this state in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. And he's hoping he can kind of bank on that support heading into this primary, Fred.
WHITFIELD: So Arlette -- real quick, you know because of opportunities like this, is there a feeling among those Democrats who don't necessarily make it to the debate stage that perhaps it's not a giant deficiency because there are other forums in which to, you know, stump?
SAENZ: Well, they're certainly trying to take advantage of these opportunities to meet one on one with voters. You do have these lower tier candidates who have not qualified for the next debate. They could potentially qualify down the road. But it gives them the chance to spend some time in the state as the second nominating contest, that's going to be critically important and gives them a chance to tailor their message and connect with voters here -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Arlette Saenz -- thank you so much.
All right. The U.S. says an Iranian oil tanker previously seized by Britain is now off the coast of Syria. And it says a satellite picture proves it. We'll go live to the region next.
WHITFIELD: The U.S. says a previously seized Iranian oil tanker is now off the coast of Syria. The ship was detained by Britain back in July and was thought to be carrying oil to Syria in violation of various sanctions. Iran denied the accusations and the ship was eventually released.
[11:54:54] WHITFIELD: But just a few hours ago, national security adviser John Bolton tweeted this satellite image. He says it is the same ship and claims it places the tanker two nautical miles from a naval base in Syria.
Ben Wedeman is joining me right now. So Ben -- do we expect the U.S. or anyone else to take any action against that ship?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point, Fred, the U.S. has actually tried to take actions on a variety of occasions. Before the ship was released by Gibraltar on the 15th of August, the United States asked authorities there to impound the ship. They did not.
And then as it was heading toward the eastern Mediterranean, Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran actually e-mailed the captain of the ship offering him millions of dollars to divert the ship to a port nearby where the U.S. might be able to impound it. But nobody responded to that e-mail.
On Friday the United States Treasury Department blacklisted the ship. So as far as we know from Mr. Bolton's tweet, it is two nautical miles off the Syrian coast but there's no indication if they're going to taking any further action against this ship which might at this point actually be offloading its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Ben Wedeman -- thank you so much.
All right. Families are separated and have no idea whether their loved ones are alive or dead. CNN's special coverage of the humanitarian crisis in the Bahamas caused by Hurricane Dorian next.