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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Hurricane Ian Makes Landfall in Cuba, Continues to Strengthen; People in Florida Prepare for Hurricane Ian to Hit; NASA's DART Mission Successfully Slams Into Asteroid; Russian Exodus Over Putin's Military Conscription Orders. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 27, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, September 27th. I'm Christine Romans.

Just in to CNN, Hurricane Ian just moments ago making landfall in Cuba. The storm is over the island's western tip as a major category 3 hurricane with a storm surge that had been forecast up to 14 feet.

Within hours, Ian will bear down on Florida's west coast with high winds, heavy rains. But what really has officials worried in Florida and urgently calling for mass evacuations is a huge storm surge expected to peak tomorrow.


MAYOR JANE CASTOR, TAMPA, FLORIDA: Tampa Bay is pretty shallow and is going to be pushing a phenomenal amount of rain up into our bay. There's really no place for this water to go. So the flooding, the surge is going to be monumental.

CRAIG FUGATE, FORMER FEMA ADMINISTRATOR, CHIEF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT OFFICE, ONE CONCERN: While we talk about Tampa Bay, we really need to focus on the warned area and why the hurricane center is so worried about storm surge is this is some of the most vulnerable coast line in the United States with high populations.


ROMANS: All right. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is live in the CNN weather center for us with the latest update from the National Hurricane Center. They've published a new outlook here just a minute and a half ago. What are they saying?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, hurricane warnings across southern Florida, southwestern Florida in advance of this feature. We certainly know this has everything it takes not only to maintain the intensity, Christine, but also strengthen beyond what we're seeing, 125 miles per hour which happens to be 5 miles per hour shy of a category 4 hurricane. Look at the model that have tightened up as far as the forecast

placement of where this storm could be sometime Wednesday into Thursday. Some of the models just off shore by as far as 20, 25 miles an hour from Tampa Bay, while other ones literally will take it directly into Tampa Bay.

So, we're going to kind of see how this plays out. Typically, about a 48-hour period, you're looking about a 15-mile average area spread there with model guidance. So, again, it could switch into shore or just off shore for the next several days. But what we do know for pretty high confidence here is that this will intensify to a category 4, imperiled all the coastline of Florida, which really is the worst case scenario when you look at tropical systems of this magnitude paralleling the coast, because we know what the counterclockwise flow around these tropical features, some of these exposed bays, waterways, Tampa Bay in particular, will take on a significant amount of storm surge.

And that is the primary threat with incoming tropical systems. Five to ten foot storm surge in and around the Tampa Bay area. And across the Pinellas County region, you're talking about there your home to some $30 billion of real estate among the most expensive real estate across anywhere in the state of Florida that is going to be at the height, and potentially, the most exposure of this particular storm.

And notice the models here for the American model and European model. I want to show you the rainfall amounts. Forecast now up to 20 plus inches and a few spots here indicated in both models. Incredible amounts of rainfall and a lot of this has to be with just how slow the storm system moves once we get into say Wednesday and Thursday into Tampa Bay we go, a storm surge threat possibly as high as 9 feet across this region.

And, again, really, the worst case scenario because we know as meteorologists will always tell you, it's not the winds that a lot of people get attention to these winds as being the most destructive element of these tropical features, it's a storm surge oftentimes arrived from the winds that accounts for about half of all lives lost with tropical systems. That's why it's so important to heed all the caution, all the proper warnings in advance of this feature because any time you get a storm surge that gets up to magnitude of 9, 10, 11 plus feet, they're going to push water to the top of the first floor of properties on the coast.

And again, nowhere in the state of Florida do we have as much value in properties, as much exposure to some of these areas where the storm is forecast to get very close into on Wednesday night onto Thursday morning, with incredible winds, incredible storm surge, and slows down to possibly about 3, maybe 5 miles per hour in its forward progression.

So, this could be a multi-day event from, say, Wednesday night to, say, Friday morning where the system finally moves out of this region before it's all said and done.

ROMANS: Yeah. It looks like a lot of trouble on the way for folks around Tampa.

OK. Thank you, Pedram. Thank you so much.


People on Florida's west coast now have just hours to prepare before the first wave of wind and rain from Iran arrives.

More now from CNN's Ryan Young. He's in Tampa.


MAYOR KEVIN WELCH, ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA: This could be the storm that we've hoped would never come to our shores.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Up and down the West Coast of Florida tonight, hurricane preparations underway. It's been a century since the Tampa area of South Florida has been directly hit by a hurricane and now hurricane Ian could change history.

BARRY BURTON, PINELLAS COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR: Everyone and I mean everyone in Pinellas County will witness some degree of impact from the storm.

YOUNG: Nearly 170,000 people have been ordered to evacuate in the Tampa area alone, and schools and universities announcing closures in preparation for the storm and set up as emergency shelters.

CASTOR: We are looking at the possibility of 10 to 15 foot storm surge. And clearly that would be very devastating for our community.


YOUNG: Residents here taking this seriously.

MIKE VAN TEEFFELEN, ST. PETERSBURG RESIDENT: Yeah. I wasn't really worried about it yesterday, but today, you know, you start making your preparations and doing what you've got to do, right? Tie everything down, secure your cars. Make sure you've got enough food and water at the house and that's all you can do.

ARTHUR GARCIA, FLORIDA RESIDENT: I think we're taking it pretty seriously. Up until yesterday we were thinking it was going to hit Panama City but right now, I think it's -- it's real.

YOUNG: The Tampa area of Florida more vulnerable than other parts of Florida.

GARY MITCHUM, ASSOCIATE DEAN, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA COLLEGE OF MARINE SCIENCE: There are a lot of low lying areas compounded with a lot of development. So we have a large population that's built up since the last hurricane, and it's built up in low lying areas. So, we have a lot of exposure, a lot of risk.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: The Florida National Guard has activated 5,000 Florida guardsmen as well as 2,000 additional guardsmen from Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina.

YOUNG: Every official here with dire warnings to prepare for the very worst.

CASTOR: This is going to be a storm like we have not seen in the past.


YOUNG (on camera): And we talked to residents who waited in line for up to two hours to be able to bag up some of this sand. They are taking this warning very seriously because they want to put these bags around their homes to block some of that water. In one location they told us they had given out 10,000 bags and that was before 1:00.

Ryan Young, CNN, Tampa, Florida.

ROMANS: All right. A lot of work to do there.

All right. In just a few hours, five members of the Oath Keepers, including leader Stewart Rhodes, go on trial in Washington, D.C. for seditious conspiracy. Federal prosecutors will argue that Rhodes called for an army armed civil war on January 6 was literal and criminal.

The trial could reveal new information about coordination surrounding the Capitol Attack. It is the first sedition trial in the U.S. in years and comes on the eve of the January 6th committee's public hearing expected to focus on extremism this week.

All right. Remarkable footage of another Trump ally. Roger Stone has emerged from the day before the 2020 election where he says in front of a documentary crew that he has no interest in waiting to count actual votes before contesting the election results. Listen.


ROGER STONE, TRUMP ALLY: Excellent. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the violence, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the voting. Let's get right to the violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get right to it.

STONE: Shoot to kill. See an Antifa, shoot to kill. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) 'em. Done with this bullshit.


ROMANS: All right. The clip is one of several obtained by CNN that the Danish filmmakers shared with the January 6th committee.

Another clip features Stone saying that if the election results are, quote, up in the air, the key thing to do is to claim victory.

The filmmakers tell CNN the January 6th committee seemed most interested in stone's relationship with the White House and his alleged ties to the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Stone responded to the footage in a statement to CNN.

I challenge the accuracy and authenticity of these videos and believe they have been manipulated and selectively edited. I also point out that the filmmakers do not have the legal right to use them. How ironic that Kim Kardashian and I are subjected to computer manipulated videos on the same day.

Stone goes on: The excerpts you provided below prove nothing. Certainly they do not prove I had anything to do with the events of January 6th. That being said, it clearly shows I advocated for lawful congressional and judicial options.

All right. Wednesday, the January 6 hearings resume with new witnesses and evidence. Join CNN for special live coverage, "Attack on Democracy: The January 6 Hearings" live tomorrow, starts at noon Eastern.

All right. Two words you don't often hear together, successful and crash, but cheers all around from NASA's mission control team after it successfully crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid in the first test of planetary defense.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have impact, a triumph for humanity in the name of planetary defense.



ROMANS: We have impact.

All right. NASA's DART mission, that's Double Asteroid Redirection Test, launched ten months ago. The goal was to knock an asteroid off its course. The DART team thrilled with their achievement.


ELENA ADAMS, DART MISSION SYSTEMS ENGINEER: We've worked on this mission for at least seven years now and it's been a work of over a thousand people that have put their heart and soul into it. So to see it so beautifully concluded today was just an incredible feeling.


ROMANS: NASA says it will take a couple of months to determine just how much the asteroid's path was changed.

All right. Just ahead, the vice president in Tokyo. Why the Japanese are calling it condolence diplomacy. Plus, poking the bear. The fight against inflation puts the Dow back

into 2020 territory.

And soldiers and sin. What a Russian church now says about faith and war.


ROMANS: All right. Separatists in Russian occupied areas of Ukraine are wrapping up referendum votes that have been universally condemned to annex the land. Now, the Ukrainian military said there's no way in or out of Kremlin controlled Kherson.

In a nearby Zaporizhzhia, it's nearly impossible for men aged 18 to 35 to leave.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins me right now live from Kramatorsk, Ukraine.

Nick, you write so eloquently here. You say the war in Ukraine has reached a dangerous tipping point.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, fundamentally, in the days ahead, we're going to see, it seems, Russia capitalize on the slightly numbers of turnout. We're hearing from these fake referenda in the occupied areas in the sort of '70s, '80s even so far. But they have received this fake mandate to assimilate these occupied areas.

It seems that Ukrainian officials are making it clear that the traffic in certainly male refugees in Zaporizhzhia and all from Kherson appeared to have stopped. There have been concerns since the beginning of the war, I remember being in Kherson when it fell, locals, military aged men that they would be drafted into the army.

Now if these areas become Russia, which seems to be highly likely in Moscow's view, it's almost a certainty anyone who hasn't been drafted from Ukraine to fight against Ukraine. Horrifying choices for those individuals.

The United States has said that it will likely unveil more economic sanctions against Russia when they choose to declare false that these areas are now part of Russia. But they wait for that particular official for what Sergei Lavrov called formalization of these areas being Russian territory. He also said, this is why we are at a pivotal point in the war, that Russia will useful protection for the areas that they consider part of Russia.

This is signaled from Moscow that essentially a larger part of their arsenal may be available to them in the events that they expand Russian territory. That territory comes under attack. It seems highly likely that Kyiv is not changing its calculus, that it is focusing, according to Ukraine, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Donetsk, which is Russia's main goal, he said last night, and it's also Ukraine's main goal. Intense fighting around here. The neighbors say it's hit too. We're in

for a pivotal moment because it's quite clear that Russia's conventional army is not working. It's failed in the last six months. This partial mobilization is chaotic. Basically, it's generating more dissent at home than it is really soldiers for the front line.

And so, what is Russia left with. The remnants possibly of its air force of which we've seen little so far but also the things it's happy to signal about now and that's the nuclear stockpile. Horrifying to even imagine that is something the Kremlin are considering. U.S. messaging has been clear to reassure allies, to warn of the consequences if that were the case and so we are into a very dangerous week ahead here in the war, possibly the most significant since it began in February -- Christine.

ROMANS: Vladimir Putin is still a very dangerous proposition, no question, with a lot of ahead of us here.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much for that.

All right. Protesters flee. That's how some Russians are reacting to Putin's recent military mobilization order in this predominantly Muslim area in southwestern Russia. Residents say they're being targeted for conscription.

And here a police officer shoots into the air to disperse another crowd of protesters.

CNN's Nic Robertson takes a look at how Russians are responding to Putin's decree.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: At Russia's borders, Vladimir Putin's comeuppance, the life blood of his war in Ukraine, military aged men fleeing fears of conscription.

MIKKO HAUTALA, FINLAND'S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Basically, the Russian in-flow of people has doubled in the course of the last five days or so. We are already into process of basically squeezing the in-flow.

ROBERTSON: Georgia, another border, Russia's would be recruits are racing for.

Cars backed up for tens of miles, and the two-day wait. They don't need a visa, but even so, Russia slowing the exodus to a tiny trickle.


Bribes paid to jump the line before a feared total exit ban removed for September 27th.

In three hours, we jumped 40 kilometer, 30 mile line. It's not a nice thing to do, but, alas, the 27th scares me greatly, this military age man says, adding the border guard called me a deserter. But not everyone fleeing. In Siberia, recruitment, resentment took a

violent turn. At close range, a man shooting a recruitment officer. Other would-be recruits scatter, run screaming from the room. The officer wounded, taken to hospital.

In Dagestan, a mostly Muslim region of Russia, police fired over protester's heads. Anger particularly strong here as many residents feel recruitment falls too heavily on their community.

Putin's fabled ability to read Russia's mood appears to be fading. His own officials admitting mistakes will be made. The chairman of the federation council of the Russian Federation, saying officials overstepped to take such liberties is unacceptable. And in my opinion, the harsh reaction we are seeing in society is deserved.

Beyond doubt, so many young men voting with their feet, and leaving shows trust in Putin is at its lowest ebb in years.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


ROMANS: All right. The head of the Russian orthodox church says Russian soldiers who die fighting in the war against Ukraine will be cleansed of all their sins.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joins us.

And, Clare, there's more to the story. Tell us about this church leader, very close ties to the state and to Vladimir Putin.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He has been a long time ally. A key partner, Christine, in bringing about some of his more repressive social policies over recent year, things like the controversial gay propaganda law, I think like decriminalizing domestic violence.

So, a very key figure in Russian society, and he has previously criticized the war going even further, sort of offering some kind of spiritual incentive to those being called out. The fact that if they die during their duty, they will be cleansed of their sins.

And his comments, of course, as we saw just there in Nic's piece, calls coming in the face of widespread opposition of widespread opposition to the mobilization in the face of ongoing exodus of military age men out of the country and in the face of official admissions that it's all going 100 percent plan, that there are mistakes in how the mobilization are being carried out.

Of course another thing about the patriarch is, in the past few months expressed opposition to this war. This has also divided the Orthodox Church. Up until May, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was under the Moscow patriarchy. They then broke away as a result of this.

And it also highlights divisions in the Christian church as a whole. The pope has been very vocal in his opposition to this war. Just last week, as President Putin announced this mobilization, Pope Francis criticizing it, calling it a terrible situation in Ukraine.

So Patriarch Kirill, very influential in Russia, but also, sort of growing opposition abroad to his comments.

ROMANS: Clare, I'm curious, how much influence does the Russian orthodox church having the daily lives of Russians? In so many countries, see an influence of the church winning. What is it like in Russia?

SEBASTIAN: You know, under Putin, he has brought it back, obviously, in soviet times, religions are encouraged at all. But now he has brought it back as this very crucial element to society.

And as I said, it has been a key partner in bringing about his whole conservative, even repressive policy. So, I think the role of the Orthodox Church in Russian life has grown under Putin's regime, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Clare, thank you so much, great context there.

Still ahead, American workers fighting to keep the pace of crushing inflation. First, Vice President Kamala Harris now paying final respects to Japan's longtime prime minister.


ROMANS: Vice President Kamala Harris is in Japan are now leaving a U.S. delegation, attending the state funeral for Shinzo Abe. Japan's longest-serving prime minister was assassinated in July.

CNN's Blake Essig joins me, live this morning from Tokyo.

Blake, we have heard some call this condolence diplomacy, what is happening there?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I've heard it referred to as funeral politics, Christine. Several heads of state, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris have already held or plan to hold bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Kishida while they are here in Tokyo.

That fact is one of several reasons as to why this taxpayer-funded state funeral has been so controversial, and that controversy, as expected, play out throughout the day, as protesters are for and against a state funeral, made their presence felt. Inside Japan's famous Bunraku Theater, which is just a few hundred yards from where I'm standing, a completely different scene played out for roughly 4,300 guests in attendance throughout the service.

Each guest including the U.S. vice president had a chance to offer flowers, and a video tribute with images of Abe were played to the men most likely to receive him as prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, and the current prime minister, Fumio Kishida, each delivered a speech.

The constant theme for almost everyone who spoke, including the current prime minister, focused on Abe's accomplishments.