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Hurricane Sally Makes Landfall Near Gulf Shores; Trump Tells Pennsylvania Voters at a Town Hall He Didn't Downplay Coronavirus. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 16, 2020 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the breaking news. Hurricane Sally making landfall near Gulf shores, Alabama. It is battering the Gulf Coast, all along Alabama and into the Florida Panhandle with torrential rain. Historic and life-threatening flooding is expected. Our Gary Tuchman is right in the middle of it. He is live in Pensacola Beach, Florida. Gary, we've been watching you standing upright somehow with these fierce wind-gusts and this pounding rain. Give us the latest.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if I weighed a few pounds less, John, I probably wouldn't be upright. But so far, so good. I will tell you, allegedly, the sun rises here at 6:33 a.m. Central Time, it's now 6:32.

So, once the sun comes up and there's a little more light, we'll take a look and see if the damage -- what kind of damage we have here. But I can tell you now from what we've seen during the night is extensive flooding and there's extensive damage. And we know about the damages because we've seen roof flying off buildings here. For example, that building right over there, there's a scaffolding and a roof that's been peeling off.

We see signs blowing around. Officials here, emergency officials here in Pensacola Beach and in Pensacola, which is the city to the north, Pensacola Beach is a barrier island where we are. The year-round population 4,000, the city of Pensacola has about 50,000. They are telling people not to drive around, now that the sun is up because there is so much hazardous debris in the road.

And that's a really important thing for us to emphasize. Yes, this is a rain event. It has been raining for so long since yesterday afternoon, torrential rains, but because of the damage, what you see in every single hurricane are power lines going down.

And even though there are 140,000 customers here in the Florida Panhandle without power, most customers still have power, including this area here, which is pretty remarkable, considering how long we've had these winds. And because the power is still on, that means the power lines could still be alive. And you don't see them, you can drive over them and you can electrocute yourself. So, that's a warning we always like to give people.

We also want to warn people this, because it has been raining for so long and we may have 15, 20 inches of rain by now and flash flooding, it is very dangerous to drive because you'll see a puddle, and you'll think it's just a puddle, and as you continue to drive and it gets deeper and deeper, and before you know it, your car floats away and that's how a lot of people die.

Now, people always ask us, John, why do we stand out in hurricanes when we're telling people not to be in hurricanes? Well, the reason we do it is to demonstrate what's going on and to give warnings like the one I'm giving you right now. You see how bad it is, don't go out and that's the warning that we give. But more importantly, that's the warning that the safety officials give here in the Pensacola area. John?

BERMAN: Gary Tuchman, a living, breathing example of why everyone should be inside near where you are. Please stay safe, watching the winds and the rain and the rising water there very carefully. We'll check back in with you in a little bit.

[07:35:00]

Let's go to CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers with the very latest on where this storm is headed. Chad?

CHAD MYERS, METEOROLOGIST: It's headed into southeastern Alabama and then eventually even into Georgia. But right now, we're looking from Apalachicola all the way through Mexico Beach and all the way over to Pensacola to be on the right side or the wrong side of the storm. Winds where Gary was, 92 miles per hour last hour, that was the biggest gust I saw. Otherwise, flash flood warnings in effect across a lot of the Panhandle of Florida. The winds coming in from Pensacola, blowing a 5 foot storm surge into Pensacola.

But the wind blowing out of Mobile Bay, and Mobile Bay, you have a 6- foot inverse surge. The water has blown out of Mobile Bay. Winds there from the north at 71 miles per hour, pushing that water out. Here's what the rainfall has already looked like over the past 24 hours, 20 inches of rainfall onshore in many spots here, and it's not going to slow down very much.

The winds are still going to be at least 85 or 90 all the way too, about 9 O'clock or 10 O'clock tonight because only half of this storm is even onshore. Now, by tomorrow, this does get into Alabama, Georgia, and eventually into the Carolinas. But that's the area that's going to see the most significant rainfall.

Spots here to the north aren't going to see 20, but you could see 6 to 10 in places that certainly can't take 6 to 10 without significant river and flash flooding, and there are still some spots with an additional 10 very close to the places, John, that have already had 20, just as the forecast said.

BERMAN: All right, this has gone on for some time, Chad, watching it very closely, thanks so much for being with us, keep us posted. MYERS: You're welcome, OK.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, nearly 196,000 Americans have been killed by coronavirus, but President Trump told Bob Woodward there was nothing more he could have been done. Doctors say that's far from the truth.

So why won't President Trump take more action to save more lives? Joining us now is Michael Cohen; he was President Trump's long-time former personal attorney. He is the author of the new book, "Disloyal", and he just launched a new podcast called "Mea Culpa". Michael, great to have you here this morning.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: Good morning, Alisyn. How are you?

CAMEROTA: I'm doing well, Michael, and I want to get to you and your book and everything that you've learned over these past three years that you've been through -- in a minute. But first, I just -- because you worked with Donald Trump for so long and knew him so well and worked side-by-side with him for the better part of decade, can I just ask you some questions about the news of the day because I think you can give us some insight into his thinking. I mean, let's just start with coronavirus.

You know, the president -- we had -- there was a town hall last night on "ABC" where so many people asked him about it, and he seems to think that there was nothing more he could do.

Though, as we know, doctors say that our testing was woefully inadequate in this country, he didn't want more testing. The contact- tracing, he didn't even attempt to put in some sort of system for that. He publicly won't wear a mask, very rarely does he wear a mask. He's holding indoor rallies right now, why? Can you give us some insight into why he's doing all of these things that are costing people lives?

COHEN: Sure. You got -- you have to first start with the notion that he does not believe in science, all right? He believes that what he says will happen. I mean, it's really a -- it's a fundamental character flaw in him.

He made a mistake, and as we all know in this country, if Donald Trump makes a mistake, he won't own it. And so, the fact that he wanted coronavirus to be the flu, he thought it was going away in a couple of days, it came in from one person, it turned out not to be that. He wanted to ensure that the economy stayed strong because that's basically his entire campaign. It's all about the economy.

So, if the coronavirus actually created a problem, as it has, and that the economy is now in the toilet, right? This is now a negative reflection on Trump, and God forbid, there should be a negative reflection. You know, the biggest problem is that Trump is a con man. And I talk about that in "Disloyal", I talk about in "Mea Culpa", everything is a con, including the way that he's behaving as it relates to coronavirus.

CAMEROTA: Last night, he said that he will -- he has a health care plan. He has a big health care plan on the back of --

COHEN: Of course, he does!

CAMEROTA: OK --

COHEN: Alisyn, of course, he does.

CAMEROTA: He said he was going to unveil it, in July, he said he was going to unveil it in two weeks. What is this? What is he doing? Why is there a secret --

COHEN: Let's go right back --

CAMEROTA: Why is he not unveiling anything?

COHEN: Let's go right back to what I just said a second ago, it's a con. In other words, he hasn't put out a single bill that has been bipartisan. Everything that he's done has been what, through executive order? All right. If he has -- right now, if he has a bill for health care, which this country so desperately needs, well, release it! Release it right now! He can't. Why? Because he doesn't have one.

[07:40:00]

So what he'll say is, well, here's what we're going to do. We're going to turn around, we're going to now allow insurance companies to go over state lines, it will cause competition, and I know about competition and I know about, you know, knocking down prices because of the competition. That's going to be his health care plan.

He doesn't have one! So, he tells you he does, but just trust me. Trust me. I have it and it's going to be great, it's beautiful, it's perfect. Just watch! It's going to be -- it's going to be wonderful! It's a lie. And everything that he's telling the American people is a lie.

CAMEROTA: Michael --

COHEN: And yet, I don't understand why 38 percent of this country still believes everything that Donald Trump says.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean --

COHEN: It's a lie.

CAMEROTA: Michael, you of all people should understand it, because you were -- I don't know what the word is, seduced. You were -- you were an ardent supporter of his. You did his bidding. You did -- you were his fixer --

COHEN: Let's call me what I was.

CAMEROTA: And so -- COHEN: Alisyn, let's call me what I was. I was a sycophant --

CAMEROTA: OK --

COHEN: Just like what's going on right now in this --

CAMEROTA: OK --

COHEN: Country.

CAMEROTA: And so you of all of people should be able to explain. What is it about Donald Trump that creates that feeling in people?

COHEN: Well, because he's playing -- he has a popularist view on certain things. So, for example, you know, talk about health care. Yes, people are right now concerned about their health care. So what does he say? Let's take the popularist view.

Well, I have a plan, it's beautiful, it's going to be great, right? No! I don't have a plan, but he makes people believe that he does. And using Stalin as an example, you say something enough times, you get enough people to say the same lie over and over and over again, people start to believe it. And that's the Donald Trump -- that's the Donald Trump I know. It's the Donald Trump I discuss in the book, "Disloyal" and on "Mea Culpa".

CAMEROTA: And you know, Michael, you've also said that you firmly believe that if President Trump doesn't win, he is not going to peacefully hand over power. And so --

COHEN: I said that.

CAMEROTA: Yes, so can you just explain since you know him so well, what does that look like? What practically does that mean?

COHEN: Well, like I said before the House Oversight Committee, my biggest fear is that there will never be a transitional -- a peaceful transition of power under Donald Trump. And I don't believe that there will. So let's talk about, you know, the first thing that he's going to do. He's already started removing ballot machines, he's already started removing mail boxes.

We do know that a significant portion of Democrats vote by mail. So those now under Louis DeJoy are going to somehow disappear. On election night, he's going to claim victory when he ultimately loses because all the ballots come in, assuming that they're properly counted, then he's going to contest it, he's got Attorney General Bill Barr that's become sycophant number one.

I mean, locking me up under retaliation is just a -- is just a perfect example. And he's going to claim that it's rigged, that it's interference by some foreign entity or some, you know, fictitious organization that's democratic controlled. And he's not going to peacefully leave.

You know, he -- I remember him once turning around and saying in the office, and it was sort of in relation -- in regard to Putin. It doesn't matter who you vote for, all that matters is who's counting the vote. And that's why he now has Louis DeJoy there with the mail and guaranteed, ballots that come in that are -- you know, for Biden- Harris, they're just going to disappear.

CAMEROTA: So you just brought up Putin. DNI Coats recently said that he has long believed that Putin has something on Donald Trump. Do you know why President Trump has a seeming soft spot for Vladimir Putin?

COHEN: You know, I think it's all about the money, and I think it's all about the power. I think he idolizes Vladimir Putin. There's a man who basically took over a country from Yeltsin. He has kept a stronghold on this country for you know, the last, what? Twenty-some- odd, 30 years, and he basically controls 25 percent of the country's wealth for himself.

And he's constantly talking about how each and every one of these oligarchs with their mega billions of dollars, that it's not even really their money. It's really Putin's money. And he tells them what to do with it and allows them to lead a blessed life, but as long as they stay true and loyal to him -- see, that's what Donald Trump is all about.

CAMEROTA: Yes --

COHEN: It's all about loyalty to Donald Trump. In New York, we say Donald is very much like First Avenue. He's one way, right? That's what he wants. He wants everybody to be loyal to him.

CAMEROTA: Right --

COHEN: But the guy is fundamentally flawed and he's a completely disloyal individual.

CAMEROTA: Which is what will be the title of your book. Michael --

COHEN: That's it --

CAMEROTA: Do you know what's in Donald Trump's taxes that he doesn't want to reveal? [07:45:00]

COHEN: Yes, the fact that he doesn't report the income that he claims, his wealth is not as significant, and I believe that they were probably very lenient in how they took deductions. His biggest fear is that if in fact that tax return is released, that there's a whole slew of organizations of accountants and forensic accountants that will rip through it, and he will end up with a massive tax bill, fraud penalties, fines and possibly even, you know, tax fraud.

CAMEROTA: Michael, who now that you are no longer in touch with him and no longer, you say, doing -- I mean, doing the bidding that you were doing, who is his new Michael Cohen? Who do you think is the new fixer for President Trump?

COHEN: Attorney General Bill Barr, Rudy Giuliani, to an outside extent. But I would say for the most part, it would be Attorney General Bill Barr. And boy, what a terrible shame, taking an illustrious career and throwing it right down -- you know, right down the toilet, all for what?

And I don't know why they do it? I don't know why Jim Jordan is doing it, Mark Meadows, I don't know why most of these Republicans refuse to stand up when they know fundamentally what he's saying is a lie, they know morally it's wrong, and they just go along with it.

I mean, just look at -- let's go back to COVID for a second. He's walking in the street and to be loyal to him, you can't wear a mask either, knowing that over 200,000 people have already died. A friend of mine's mom died the other day.

She doesn't call it the coronavirus, she certainly doesn't call it the China virus, she calls it the Trump virus. And that's really what it is. The man refuses to acknowledge that science is real. He refuses to acknowledge that every other country out there that has mandated mask usage has seen a tremendous decrease in coronavirus, except for this country. And he refuses to take responsibility for his own stupidity and his own actions.

CAMEROTA: Michael, people can read more about your feelings in the book "Disloyal", I'm sorry we're out of time. "Mea Culpa" is also how you're feeling now and where you go from here and the change of heart that you have had. Michael Cohen, thank you very much for being on --

COHEN: Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: With all of your perspectives --

COHEN: Thank you so much. Good to see you.

CAMEROTA: You too.

BERMAN: You know, what's interesting -- I mean, he may not be an expert on health care, but Michael Cohen is an expert on Donald Trump. So when asked why Donald Trump keeps on claiming that there's a health care plan two weeks away, Michael Cohen knows, because it's a lie. It's a lie! There's not a health care plan two weeks away. There wasn't a year ago and there wasn't in July.

CAMEROTA: On that note, President Trump made several false claims when he was questioned by undecided voters at a town hall last night. So we have a CNN fact-check for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:50:00]

BERMAN: All right. Developing overnight, the president held a town hall trying to correct I think some of his own history of admitting to downplaying the coronavirus pandemic.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think, Bob, really to be honest with you --

BOB WOODWARD, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Sure, I want you to be --

TRUMP: I wanted to -- I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.

WOODWARD: Yes, sir --

TRUMP: Because I don't want to create a panic.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I didn't downplay it. I actually in many ways I up- played it in terms of action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So that was Donald Trump retroactively fact-checking himself. But there was more, much more to check from "ABC's" town hall last night, and who better to do it than our own walking fact-check tour de force, Daniel Dale.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: He said again, Democrats won't protect people with pre-existing conditions, that is nonsense, as a voter told him Democrats created those protections. He insisted he didn't praise China on the virus, he did so repeatedly, we know that.

He claimed that nobody knew at the time he was praising China, that seniors were especially susceptible to the virus. That was one of the first things we learned out of China and out of Italy and out of the U.S. He claimed that Biden said in March that the pandemic was quote, "totally over exaggerated". I can find no evidence that Biden ever said that.

He said that Winston Churchill was kind of like him, playing down stuff because he went on roof tops in London during the Nazi bombing and told people everything is going to be good. Churchill did not speak from the roof tops and did not say everything was going to be good. He warned of suffering and danger. Trump said that he fired James Mattis, Mattis resigned. He said that protesters took over 20 percent of Seattle, it was a 6 block area, nowhere close to 20 percent.

He took credit again for sending in the National Guard in Minneapolis, saying that this happened after a week and a half of violence there. It was not even close to a week and half, it was days and the Democratic governor is the one who activated the Guard.

He said he essentially repealed Obamacare by getting rid of individual mandate, not even close to true with the Medicaid expansion, pre- existing conditions, protections, other stuff remains. He said the cupboards were empty of ventilators, his administration admits he inherited about 16,000 from Obama, he did his usual false boast about so-called bans on travel from china and Europe, they were not complete bans.

He said stocks are owned by quote, "everybody". Just about half of Americans own stocks. He repeated his nonsense about testing causing cases, testing merely reveals and helps fight cases. He said that Biden has agreed to a Bernie Sanders-style-socialized health care. He fought Sanders on that issue, he has very much not agreed to a Sanders-style plan.

BERMAN: Later, as we have to move on from Daniel Dale because at some point he's got to breathe.

CAMEROTA: I was just thinking that, he also has to sleep, which is why I think we haven't heard from him yet this morning. He's sleeping off that bender.

BERMAN: I think it's remarkable to hear Daniel do that and just go line-by-line-by-line-by-line, and let us know what is real and what is not. And look, that's what was interesting about the town hall last night that we saw, the health care thing just continues to jump out at me, right? Because the president has made these claims that he's going to reveal a plan. He hasn't revealed a plan, why? Because as far as we know, there really is no plan.

CAMEROTA: That's Michael --

BERMAN: Michael Cohen told us it was a lie.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, Daniel Dale just makes it so simple. Just -- he knows, in one sense he says he's going to do this, that didn't happen. He said it was 20 percent, it's less than 1 percent. He just makes it so simple to understand.

[07:55:00]

BERMAN: Yes, well, for most people. Maybe not the president.

CAMEROTA: All right.

BERMAN: Hurricane Sally has now made landfall. Torrential rainfall, life-threatening floods. We have reporters right in the middle of it, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, good morning everyone, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world, this is NEW DAY, we do have breaking news. Hurricane Sally making landfall, hammering the Gulf Coast at this moment with torrential rain. More than 40,000 customers are without power in the southeast. Some areas could be under 3 feet of rain.

Three feet before it's all over. We have a new advisory on the forecast track of the storm, it isn't moving quickly. It is going to inch over the southeast, dropping even more rain. We'll speak live with the director of the National Hurricane Center in a moment, and our reporters who are right in the middle of it. CAMEROTA: We're also following coronavirus developments. More than

1,400 new deaths reported in the U.S. on Tuesday. That's the highest single day total in more than a month.