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Poll: Trump's Approval Rating Drops to 38 Percent Amid Recession Fears; NYT: Commerce Secretary Threatened NOAA Firings after Agency's Birmingham Office Contradicted Trump's Dorian Tweets; Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) Discusses Alleged Threats to NOAA by Wilbur Ross, Says Ross Should Resign, Military Members Staying at Trump Resorts, Impeachment; Polls Now Open in Critical North Carolina Special Election; N.C. Democratic Party Chair Wayne Goodwin Discusses the Special Election. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 10, 2019 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Baldwin. Thank you so much for joining me.

Is it still the economy, stupid? By stupid, I'm talking about myself. Because if it is, you could be looking at some new red flags ahead for President Trump.

A brand-new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll showing the president's approval rating is slipping, with particular trouble around his handling of the trade war with China. And 38 percent of voters approve of the job performance right now, down from 44 percent in July, with 56 percent disapproval.

When it comes to the trade war, just 35 percent approve of his job there, 56 disapproving.

On the overall economy, his approval rating there has also tipped down, now at 46 percent, 47 percent disapproving.

Let's put more information and more data actually behind those poll numbers.

Christine Romans, chief business correspondent, is here.

Christine, it's not just the poll numbers offering troubling signs from President Trump that you are tracking right now. What are you looking at?.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The strong economy is central to the president's re-election hopes, right? When you talk to voters, they are expressing some concern. You see that number you showed, 46 percent approve the economy, 47 disapprove.

When you dig in within those numbers, you see why. Six in 10 think there's a recession likely in the next year, six in 10. Only 35 percent say it is unlikely.

When you ask why, it's because of China. How concerned are you that the trade dispute with China will raise prices? And 60 percent say they are concerned the president's trade war will raise prices for them.

Here's what they are worried about here, manufacturing. Manufacturing activity shrank for the first time in several years last quarter. Look at manufacturing job creation. It has slowed down here and petered out. The very sector the president has embarked on in this trade war to protect, talking tough with China, raising tariffs, that's where hiring has stalled.

This morning, we also learn that small business optimism is falling here to a five-month low in August, from the chief economist of the organizations that put these numbers together: "The pessimism we are seeing is contagious, even though the actual economy is thriving."

And in terms of the economy, it is solid.

BOLDUAN: Right, right.

ROMANS: The job market is strong, 7.2 job openings in America, near a record high, 3.7 percent unemployment. That is historically low here.

So the economy is doing well. It seems, though, the messaging is a problem here. You got the White House, the president calling it the best economy in history. It's not. But it's growing and adding jobs.

The challenge for the administration is squaring the strongest economy in history message with Trump's own demands that the Fed cut interest rates to stabilize it. You don't need to cut interest rates in a booming economy. So the president having trouble messaging how you can it have both ways.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Especially on that exact point, that's the clearest example of, what exactly do you mean, what exactly is your message here.

When it comes to one of the big trouble spots --

ROMANS: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- when it comes to the trade war with China, are you seeing any signs the administration is considering, I don't know, tweaking its strategy as this drags on?

ROMANS: No. I see zero, zero evidence of that. Even the president has recently been sort of telegraphing and tweeting and saying that he thinks maybe the Chinese want a different president before they're going to move. And then he says, oh, the trade strategy is working.

This morning, we heard from Peter Navarro, who is one of president's top trade advisers here, that the tariffs are working, China is suffering because of them, and this is the strategy they're using. BOLDUAN: It comes to -- maybe it's going to start coming down to who

will be suffering more. Because everyone says, who wins in a trade war, absolutely nobody.

ROMANS: Absolutely nobody. Two more rounds of tariffs that are due starting in October and December. And now we're talking about, for the first time on consumer goods, things you buy at -- consumer electronics, shoes, clothing. That means the bite could hit faster.

BOLDUAN: Christine, great putting it all altogether.

ROMANS: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it. Thank you very much.

ROMANS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: There's another story we are watching this morning. The "New York Times" is reporting that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross got on the phone and threatened to fire top employees at NOAA for contradicting the president's inaccurate forecast that Alabama could be hit by Hurricane Dorian. When he predicted it, it was inaccurate.

NOAA is the federal agency in charge of weather forecasts. Last week, the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service tweeted out a correction minutes after the president claimed that Alabama could be harder hit than anticipated.

Here's what the weather service then sent out, saying this, "Alabama will not see any impact from Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama."

Because of that, scientists stating scientific data, the Commerce secretary threatened to fire them.

Joining me right now is CNN White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez.

Boris, the Commerce Department is denying this, this threat coming from Wilbur Ross. But what are you hearing?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Kate. Just a few moments ago, less than 10 minutes ago, the National Weather Service put out a statement about this ongoing controversy.


We should point out, the man that Wilbur Ross allegedly called, the acting administrator of NOAA, Dr. Neil Jacobs, gave a speech to the National Weather Association this morning. They put out a statement shortly after he spoke, saying they are proud to represent their dedicated meteorologists.

Now in this story, Ross apparently told Jacobs to fix the contradiction in that tweet from the Birmingham office from the National Weather Service. When Jacobs hesitated, Ross reportedly told him that NOAA's staff would be fired if he did not. During his speech, Jacobs referenced this ongoing controversy about

the president's tweets regarding Hurricane Dorian and he path of the storm. He walked a very fine line in talking about this controversy. Listen to what he said.


DR. NEIL JACOBS, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE, NOAA: At one point, Alabama was in the mix as was the rest of the southeast, the ensemble -- not just the GFS ensembles, but the Euro ensembles, the numbers were all over the place, particularly further out into the forecast.


SANCHEZ: Jacobs not directly addressing what the president said, that was inaccurate.

He's right that Alabama was in the mix, it was in some of the projections of the path of Hurricane Dorian. But when the president tweeted this out, it wasn't. The models had shifted long before and the president tweeted out inaccurate information.

CNN reached out to NOAA. They referred our questions about this Wilbur Ross story to the Commerce Department. A Commerce Department spokesperson reached back out to CNN basically denying the story, staying that it was false.

We should point out several lawmakers have called for an investigation into this. At least one Democrat, Congressman Don Beyer, of Virginia, calling for Ross' resignation -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Boris, thank you so much.

Let's speak to that Congressman right now. Joining me right now is Democratic Congressman Don Beyer, of Virginia. He sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee that oversees NOAA.

Congressman, thank you for being here.

REP. DON BEYER (D-VA): Yes, thank you, Kate, very much.

BOLDUAN: You have called for Wilbur Ross to resign over this. The Commerce Department flat-out deny this threat happened. You are calling for him to resign. Do you think that's premature at all?

BEYER: I don't think so at all. I think this is the final straw, Kate.

Ross has been a disaster so far. I mean, he lied or mislead on his ethics Forms. He got all involved in what looks like insider trading. He's been held in contempt by the House for denying their subpoenas. He -- now this is sort of a final straw of threatening to fire senior NOAA appointees if they didn't stick up with Trump's false claims about Alabama.

I just listened to Acting Director Jacobs. He was pretty clear to avoid saying that the president didn't tell him that. I think I believe the "New York Times" in their reporting.

BOLDUAN: We have learned yesterday that the National Weather Service director, is at kind of same conference you are talking about. This national service director prompted a standing ovation when he praised the Birmingham office that I talked about earlier at this conference. It does not sound like they are deterred by these threats.

Are you concerned about what this episode means then for forecasts in the future? Because they don't seem to be deterred by it?

BEYER: Well, I'm glad they're not. But we have this whole culture right now where Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, and the president go after federal employees again and again.

They just moved two major Department of Agriculture agencies to Kansas City. We're talking about moving a lot of the Bureau of Land Management offices out of New York or out of Washington. They seem to decide the best way to get rid of this so-called deep state is to move them, the easiest way to fire them.

Federal employees are really under attack from this administration and this National Weather Service is the most recent example.

BOLDUAN: I do wonder, "The Atlantic" put it -- made this point, that it's not the storm, it's the coverup. Is that what this is for you?

BEYER: Yes. It's also Trump's amazing insecurity and even narcissism over this. I think for most people they will say, look, I made a mistake and move on. This has dominated the news now for five or six days. It's a little silly.

I like what Mayor Pete Buttigieg said, he just feels sorry for the president that this is such a big deal.

BOLDUAN: There's also other reporting I want to ask you about coming from the "New York Times." This about the president's golf resort in Scotland. The reporting is that, in 2014, Donald Trump, he struck a deal with the local airport in Scotland there to help increase flight track and, thus, final flight crews to funnel them at his resort nearby.

This comes just as the Air Force is looking into Air Force pilots staying at Trump resorts when they have to do stopovers. At least in one instance, the Air Force is reporting that the price for the Trump property was cheaper than the other option, the local Marriott.

I wonder, from your perspective, because you have been kind of spearheading this kind of issue, what is the problem then here?


BEYER: Well, if it really was cheaper, but that's awfully hard to believe looking at all the rest of the Trump properties.

The larger issue, whether it's Attorney General Bill Barr holding his annual conference at a Trump hotel or Trump enticing the G-7 to his Trump place in Florida next year, it's the whole question of, should a president be president in order to make more money for himself and his family.

We're pursuing the emoluments issue in Congress right now, trying to make sure we hold him accountable.

In the latest Defense Authorization Act, I was a part of the team of four that got an amendment that says, any spending on the president's property needs to be duly reported. We hope that will come out of the Senate intact.

This is not why you are supposed to be president of the United States, why any of us do public service, is to enrich ourselves, is to rather serve the American people.

BOLDUAN: When it comes to this, when the president said yesterday that he didn't know anything about the Air Force pilots staying at his property. Does that make a difference to you?

BEYER: Not much. First of all, he has a reputation for lying quite a bit. But even if he does, he's created a culture where people the Air Force schedulers may decide, this is a way to please the president, and also to spend money at his property. That is itself not the kind of culture that we want.

BOLDUAN: Much more to follow up on that as this investigation over the Air Force actually continues, which I'll definitely have to speak to you about that more.

As Congress is back, it's great to see you back on the Will Rogers camera.

One issue that is front and center this week is the fact the House Judiciary is engaged in an impeach investigation of the president.

Speaker Pelosi is not comfortable with that kind of wording. She was talking to my colleague, Manu Raju, and she would not say if the House is conducting an impeachment inquiry.

From your perspective -- you've called for impeachment proceedings. From your perspective, what is going on?

BEYER: Well, I'm not on Judiciary so I only know what I read and who I talk to. They seem to be very serious about putting together a responsible articles of impeachment process.

I understand the Speaker Pelosi's ambivalence. On the one hand, if we don't impeach this president, when will we ever impeach a president? He's done so much wrong, so much to hurt the country.

On the other hand, we know that control of the House, sort of the politics of it, could be in jeopardy. We want to maintain a majority so that, in 2021, the great bills we are passing might actually pass the Senate and be passed by the president.

BOLDUAN: That's --


BEYER: It's not an easy position for Speaker Pelosi to be in.

BOLDUAN: Right. But at some point, the sky is blue. Right. I mean, at some point, reality is reality. The view is that, I find it, is it a semantics game still, even though this has been going on over and over all throughout the summer being in the semantics game, are we moving towards impeachment proceedings or not.

Now the day has come, Congress is back from recess. From your perspective, are they launching, is the House launching an impeachment inquiry?

BEYER: Yes, they are. I think there's a clear majority of the Democratic caucus that's come out for impeachment. Chairman Nadler is clearly moving forward. I don't know when we will see it. I do know he wants to make sure when it's presented on the House floor, it's bulletproof.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, it's always great to have you on. I appreciate the time. Thank you.

BEYER: Yes, thank you, Kate, very much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, is one of the first political tests of 2020 already under way? North Carolina voters heading to the polls right now in a district President Trump won by 12 points. This race is looking like it's going to be quite a bit closer. We will take you live to North Carolina in a second.

Plus, we have new reporting about that secret mission to extract a spy from Russia and why President Trump doesn't seem to trust foreign assets like that.

[11:13:49] Stay with us.



BOLDUAN: Today, North Carolina voters are headed to the polls. It's a holdover and a do-over from the 2018 midterm election. Yes, almost a year ago. But it may have a whole lot more to say about the upcoming 2020 election.

Republican Dan Bishop, he is fighting to keep a North Carolina House seat Republican red. It's a district that President Trump won by 12 points in 2016. But it is a race now that the Democratic candidate, Dan McCready, has a real shot at. But this race has been anything but easy to predict since the wild

allegations and evidence of ballot fraud surfaced right after voters went to the polls last time around.

How high are the stakes? President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have both traveled there this week to try to rally supporters. That tells you something.

Here was the president's pitch last night.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow, we take the first steps to firing Speaker Pelosi and winning back the House in 2020.


TRUMP: We need everybody to get your friends, get your families, get your neighbors, and get out and vote.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Dianne Gallagher is if North Carolina.

Dianne, folks are heading to the polls now. What are you hearing from voters?


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, just under 300 at this particular polling station since 6:30 this morning. The truth is, from just about everybody, they are ready for all of these ads to be gone. They say they're glad Election Day is here.

They have been inundated with what is one of the most expensive special House races in the U.S. history. There's incentive on Republicans, Democrats to win this election. Because It is seen as a kind of a bellwether right now.

I reported in the Charlotte area on politics for years. The fact I am here reporting on a tossup in the ninth district is astounding.

Look, early voting totals seems to favor the Democrats. One, that happened in 2018 as well, and Dan McCready ended up losing by just under a thousand votes in that discredited election.

Two, in North Carolina, you can't count on someone being registered as a Democrat necessarily meaning they will cast their vote for a Democrat. You have a lot of older voters especially who have been Democrats for a long time.

So you called this unpredictable. It is coming down to the wire, which is indicative of why the president and the vice president, other members of the Trump family have been here stumping for Dan Bishop so hard. He's run a campaign, very similar to Donald Trump's rhetoric. The ads

have mirrored what we have seen on a national scale in terms to of what they're trying to do there.

So, Kate, it's interesting to watch this play out here right now. Voters are ready for some representation.

BOLDUAN: Yes, they're ready, maybe to get somebody working for them in Washington.

You spoke with Dan Bishop recently about the role President Trump is playing in this special election. What did he say?

GALLAGHER: He did. We spoke actually at length about the fact that he found President Trump to be a good leader. He was with him last night at that rally, with him at a rally if Greenville before.

I think that this, though, here, take a listen, really sums up how he views their philosophies.


GALLAGHER: In district nine, is a vote for Dan Bishop a vote for Donald Trump?

STATE SEN. DAN BISHOP, (R), NORTH CAROLINA & CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I certainly will go to Washington and work very aggressively to help President Trump.


GALLAGHER: Kate, on the flipside there, McCready, he has sort of avoided painting himself with any of the national Democrats saying he prefers a moderate grassroots campaign that fits this district better.

BOLDUAN: Dianne, let us see what happens as the voters continue to go to the polls.

I really appreciate it.

Let's talk about this. Joining me is the chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Wayne Goodwin.

Thanks for being here.


BOLDUAN: You obviously hope a Democratic candidate wins today. If McCready does win, what message does that send?

GOODWIN: That sends a message that we want to move beyond the divisiveness that a Trump and Bishop campaigns have brought to North Carolina and to other states.

The Republicans and President Trump are in panic mode. They won this district by 12 points in 2016. They were narrowly ahead by 900 votes before the last election was invalidated due to election fraud. And polls show this election is now neck and neck.

Democratic nominee, Dan McCready, a Marine. It has the momentum. And I think the message is that we are ready to move North Carolina forward. And enough with this name calling that Trump and Bishop have been doing against a very valiant honorable man, Dan McCready.

BOLDUAN: On the flipside, then, if Dan Bishop wins, what does that then say the message is? What does that say about the strength of Trump district?

GOODWIN: Well, I don't believe Dan Bishop will win. If he does win, it will be an extremely close race on an Election Day that is out of the ordinary and that the Republicans will have spent millions and millions of dollars and Trump and his family will have spent lots of time here trying to push Bishop over the finish line.

You've heard a moment ago in this interview where Dan Bishop said that a vote for him was a vote for Donald Trump. A vote for Bishop is a vote for divisiveness, a vote for the types of things that are tearing this country apart.

I believe this race is a close race and that Dan McCready has the momentum to win the race.

But either way, the message will be sent that this is going to be a harbinger, a barometer for 2020, and that Democrats are fighting for every vote in every district. And that it's going to be something as to watch here in the 9th district tonight and, of course, in the coming months.

BOLDUAN: So where Donald Trump says yesterday that he does not see this as a bellwether, you do?

GOODWIN: I do. I do, indeed. I mean, again, Trump had a 12-point lead in this district just a couple years ago and now it's neck and neck. It has to be a bellwether.

And North Carolina is a bellwether state as it is. It's going to be on the battleground in the presidential race.

Of course, it's rather telling in Trump's rally yesterday, all he can talk about is seeing 2020 and his own race. That I think is -- it ensures that he sees it as a barometer whether he admits it or not.


BOLDUAN: Let me play some more of what the president said, about North Carolina Democrats, while he was in North Carolina last night.


TRUMP: Tomorrow is your chance to send a clear message to the America-hating left.

For the other side, I don't think they're big believers. They're not big believers in religion, I can tell you.

A vote for a Democrat in 2020 and a vote for any Democrat tomorrow in North Carolina is a vote for the rise of radical Socialism and a destruction of the American dream.


BOLDUAN: That's the president. That's what President Trump had to say to North Carolinians last night. What do you say to him?

GOODWIN: Well, that's a lot to unpack. But what I'll tell you is this. Once again, President Trump is lying. He is using divisive rhetoric. He's calling a capitalist, Dan McCready, who is a clean- energy entrepreneur that's brought 700 jobs to North Carolina, a Socialist? He is using buzz words.

To call into question the faith of Dan McCready, to call into question any candidate, to call into question the patriotism of a Marine in this race. I mean, nobody else in this race has vowed to serve overseas other than Dan McCready. It is offensive that we have Trump, once again, calling names and trying to divide and distract.

If Dan Bishop says a vote for him is a vote for Donald Trump, we don't need that type of rhetoric reflecting the ninth congressional district. So it's time to move on.

I am strongly encouraging folks to exercise their right to vote and speak loudly at the ballot box in the ninth district today.

BOLDUAN: Let us see what voters say today and tonight.

Thanks so much for coming in, Wayne Goodwin. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, they risked everything to spy on hostile powers. Now sources are telling CNN that President Trump doesn't trust them. The president's problem with foreign assets. Why? Next.