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New Day

Arthur Wreaking Havoc Along Carolina Coast; Interview with Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel; McDaniel Crying Fraud Over Mississippi Republican Primary

Aired July 04, 2014 - 08:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Breaking news, direct hit. Arthur makes landfall overnight.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are seeing strong winds as it makes its way to land.

BOLDUAN: A vicious category 2 with wind gusts hitting 100 miles per hour. Towns under tornado watches, trees toppled and power out for tens of thousands.

GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Please be safe inside your home and stay inside your home.

BOLDUAN: Hurricane winds still lashing the coast, as Arthur makes the Fourth of July march north. We are live in the middle of it all.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, bombshell hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he discuss the issue of being afraid of children -- his child dying in the car?


PEREIRA: Shocking allegations made in the case of a father accused of leaving his son in a hot car on purpose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are also photos of women's breast being sent back to him.

PEREIRA: Sexting underage girls, life insurance on the child, and searching online about hot cars, the benefits of being child-free and even how to survive in jail, and how his wife's actions may provide more clues. We break down the damning testimonies.

BOLDUAN: This is a special edition of NEW DAY. Hurricane Arthur hits.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BOLDUAN: Good morning and welcome once again to a special Hurricane Arthur edition of NEW DAY. It is Friday, Fourth of July. Happy Fourth of July, everybody. A lot of news happening though on this Fourth, 8:00 in the East. Chris is off today.

We're following the breaking news all morning on Hurricane Arthur. The latest radar shows the storm now moving quickly up the East Coast, but North Carolina, which took a direct hit, is still feeling its wrath.

PEREIRA: Arthur coming ashore late last night, as a category 2 hurricane. It rocked the outer banks with torrential rain, sustained winds of about 100 miles an hour. We know crews are now working to get the power back to some 18,000 customers who are waking up in the dark this morning.

We've got complete coverage for you today of the storm. We're going to start with our meteorologists Indra Petersons, she's in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

It's so interesting because the split shot shows Alina Machado a couple hundred miles south of you and she's standing there looking like she's having a day at the beach. Not the scene where you are, Indra, at all.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're kind of that in that transition zone. I mean, I keep talking about the winds switching from the East and West. But you kind of see, over my left shoulder, the clouds are moving so quickly. That's what you see when the system picks up its pace there.

A few times, once in a while, we see just a hint of sunshine. But again, we still got a lot of these outer bands to kind of work through before we're going to be done. So, every once in a while, we do get some of these strong gusts. I can show you over again, to my left what you're looking at is that huge level of beach erosion that we got early this morning when the winds were coming in from the easterly direction.

So, the ocean was up here and now that we're switching that direction, from a north or westerly direction, those winds are going all the way back down or the waves are going back down into the ocean. That is just one side here of the outer banks.

On the opposite side of us, of course, we have the sound so the opposite is happening there, where you're seeing the wind or water waves really piling up. Remember the sound is shallower water. This is key, guys, when it's shallower, the water rises even faster and higher. We're already hearing reports about five feet of storm surge and about less than 20 minutes so that's one of the concerns there and power outages as well.


PETERSONS (voice-over): At least 20 counties here in North Carolina in a state of emergency. Hurricane Arthur making landfall at 11:15 Thursday night.

CNN's Rene Marsh camped out at Atlantic Beach when it hit.

MARSH: The winds are extremely strong. And if you take a look at the skies, you can see them lighting up, and that is not lightning, those are transformers blowing up. That means people are without power most likely at this point.

PETERSONS: Despite the darkness along the outer banks, North Carolina's governor told the thousands without power to stay inside.

MCCRORY: Wait for this storm to leave for a long period of time before you venture to the outside.

PETERSONS: The now category 2 hurricane living up to emergency managers' fears.

Sustained winds of at least 100 miles per hour. Storm surges and dangerous rip currents are warding off Fourth of July beachgoers.

MCCRORY: We want to warn our citizens up the coast and our thousands of tourists who may be dealing with this for the first time, that this is a serious storm.

PETERSONS: This is a photo from inside the eye of the storm. Of concern, the inner eye wall, now shrinking in size. The danger? The smaller the eye gets, the stronger the winds become.

MCCRORY: So, we're most concerned now about flooding inland and also storm surges in our sounds and our rivers further inland.

PETERSONS: Governor Pat McCrory says rescue and emergency crews are at the ready to assess damage and begin the clean up effort.


PETERSONS: So, here is the concern, it is the Fourth of July. We're here at a beach vacation spot. So many people waking up, the sun is up, thinking that Arthur is clearing out and it is moving out to sea but remember all that water came in, it needs to go back out but no longer will it be those wind waves moving back out, needs to find a way, and what you get are the strong rip currents.

So even as the system pulls out of here, people need to stay out of the water. We'll have this huge enhanced risk of these rip currents. Of course, we're still going to have that storm surge out there.

We're hearing reports of Highway 12, two and four feet of water out there on that highway, so everyone use caution in the regions as well and remember the storm may be exiting the Carolinas, but it is heading in our direction. It is staying south of the Northeast, but maybe that outward edge could hit Cape Cod area with 90-mile-per-hour winds in the latest forecast. So, definitely, something you have to monitor as the system heads in your direction.

BOLDUAN: All right. Indra, thank you so much. Indra is saying the storm is headed north-northeast.

But let's move a couple hundred miles away from Indra, where people in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, may have dodged a bullet. It appears that Arthur's bark was worse than its bite, thankfully.

Let's get to CNN's Alina Machado who's been live in Wrightsville Beach for us. Alina, what are you seeing?

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, you can see it is an absolutely gorgeous day in Wrightsville Beach. Very different story from what we saw here most of yesterday. We saw lots of rain and wind and at night, probably around 7:00 or 8:00 eastern we saw the worst of Arthur here in terms of heavy downpours and really high, very strong wind gusts.

Right now, you can see people are out here on the beach, getting ready to enjoy their fourth of July weekend and the reason for that is because the pack here, the punch from Arthur was very, very slight, no widespread outages in terms of power being out here, no widespread damage or flooding.

So, here in Wrightsville Beach, we're in good shape -- Kate, Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Alina, that means that maybe some of the people in Wrightsville beach can enjoy their Fourth of July without having to worry about the weather kind of raining on their parade, pun intended.

In light of day, people along the North Carolina coast are waking up and getting their first glimpse of what Arthur left behind as we mentioned. We know that some 18,000 people have no electricity. There are also reports of damage to some structures.

Joining us now by phone, Mike Sprayberry. He's director of the North Carolina division of emergency management.

Mr. Sprayberry, really pleased that you could join us this morning.

I guess, sunup was about 6:15 this morning. What have you had a chance to see outside where you are?

MIKE CHARBONNEAU, NCDOT (via telephone): Just to correct, this is Mike Charbonneau from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

But I just to kind of walk you through from the transportation side, what we're seeing right now is, you know, we've been preparing for the last several days, getting crews and equipment staged, to be able to (INAUDIBLE) there quickly. Mission number one was getting everyone to safety from Ocracoke Island.

This morning, we've got our crews out doing initial assessments. It's still difficult because we have rough conditions, especially on Highway 12 and Hatteras Island. We still have sound side flooding pushing several feet of water over Highway 12 and that area, and sand also covering the roads.

So, until that recedes, our assessment is limited. But preliminary assessments are showing no significant damage to the road which is good news, but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done, clearing that needs to happen, inspections at the Bonner Bridge that need to happen, inspections of our ferry channel that need to happen.

So, the message still from Governor McCrory and Transportation Secretary Tony Tata this morning are still -- there are still dangerous areas out there, there are still some areas that will be blocked and travel needs to be limited until we can get our crews out there to assess and clean up the damage.

PEREIRA: Yes, that's very important. And excuse my gaffe there at the start.

That is an important message. I want to zoom in a little bit more on that, because I think here is the concern. We have been getting reports that some areas didn't get hit as hard as some other areas have seen. We know the difference in these weather patterns creates a different reality for different parts of the coastline.

You said the flooding and the surge, that's your biggest concern for transportation right now. Are you ready with equipment that can deal with that?

CHARBONNEAU: We are. We have had crews and equipment staged for the last couple of days to be in those areas, those traditional hot spots that we know have trouble down along Highway 12, especially after a big storm like this. There are many parts of the North Carolina coast didn't have major impact.


CHARBONNEAU: I think the message this morning is the state of North Carolina wants to let people know the beaches will be open for business as soon as it's safe to do so. There are many spots that are already accessible. It's areas really Hatteras Island, Ocracoke Island. We want to get people back to the beaches, get our homeowners back and get businesses up and running again as soon as possible, but safety's got to be the number one priority.

So, the crews are in place but we have to inspect the pavement. We have to get the sand and water cleared off the roadway and we have the Bonner Bridge which is the only bridge from the mainland into Hatteras Island. We have to have crews get on a boat once it's safe to do and inspect that with sonar to make sure that there's no structural damage to the bridge.

A lot of safety checks, things we're going to do as quickly as possible. Again, commerce is important. Tourism is important. We want to get things back open as quickly as possible but we've got to keep safety as the top priority

PEREIRA: And we recognize that that is such an important part of the area, such a beautiful part of the eastern coastline. We appreciate you that are getting out there as best you can and as fast as you can, especially the fact that this is a day that you'd like to be with your families as well. Thank you so much for joining us to give us an idea of the work that's

ongoing and it will be ongoing today as that coastline prepares to kind of get back to normal in the wake of hurricane Arthur.

BOLDUAN: All right. Let's get back over to Christine Romans now for some of today's other top stories. We're watching Arthur but there is a lot going on this Fourth.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is a lot going on this Fourth of July.

In another sweeping land grab, ISIS militants have seized a major oil field in Syria. The field produces 75,000 barrels of oil a day, a string of villages and towns along the Euphrates River also fell to Sunni extremists. This as U.S. military officials say the door is still open to step up American forces in Iraq, should ISIS militants pose a threat to the U.S.

Tensions still on the rise in the Middle East as more rockets are fired near the Gaza Strip. The violence escalating amid growing unrest over the killing of a Palestinian teenager. Sixteen-year-old Mohammed Abu Khder (ph) is being buried today in East Jerusalem.

Second Supreme Court decision this week slamming Obamacare over its requirement for birth control coverage. The High Court ruled that Wheaton School, a Christian school, doesn't have to abide by contraception mandate because of religious objection to providing birth control to employees and students. Earlier this week, the justices said companies like Hobby Lobby could be exempted if their owners rejected on religious grounds.

All right. In just a few hours, the 98th annual Nathan's Hotdog eating contest kicks off. Joey "Jaws" Chestnut looks to extend his streak of seven straight titles. This is history, folks. He'll try to break his record of 69 hotdogs in ten minutes that he set last year.

On the women's side --

PEREIRA: She's no joke.

ROMANS: Sunny "The Black Widow" Thomas has her stomach set on a fourth straight championship. Last year, she ate 45 hotdogs.

PEREIRA: You know what it does? It makes me want to not have a dog today. That's what it does.

BOLDUAN: I actually will admit, I have never been able to actually watch.

ROMANS: What are you going to admit, Kate?

PEREIRA: Yes, I was going to say, you ate 60, what?

BOLDUAN: I've never been able to watch these things happen, these eating contests happen. It just really ruins whatever it is, it ruins it for me. So I love hotdogs too much to watch this happen.

PEREIRA: It's a good thing that Chris isn't here. He has that slightly competitive edge. He'd want to outdo Joey Chestnut.

BOLDUAN: They have something special, which is like, I think maybe multiple stomachs.

PEREIRA: I think you're right. Hollow legs.

ROMANS: Nothing says America like processed meat 65 times in a row.

BOLDUAN: Christine, you put it so eloquently.

PEREIRA: God bless America. And Thomas Jefferson would be so proud.

BOLDUAN: The Founding Fathers, this is exactly what they were talking about.

Coming up --

PEREIRA: Oh, my.

BOLDUAN: You marinate on that.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, controversy swirling after Mississippi's Republican primary, Senator Chris McDaniel, he is crying fraud. There is a heated runoff that was happening. Now, he's challenging the results of that runoff. Chris McDaniel is going to be joining us live to talk about it.

PEREIRA: Also, bombshell testimony in a Georgia toddler's death, why that little boy was left in a hot car and died. Investigators say his father was sexting with a half a dozen women. And there's so much more -- all the shocking details, ahead.



STATE SEN. CHRIS MCDANIEL (R), MISSISSIPPI: So much for bold colors. So much for principle. I guess they can take some consolation in the fact that they did something tonight, by once again compromising, by once again reaching across the aisle, by once again abandoning the conservative movement.


BOLDUAN: That was Mississippi state, Mississippi Senate candidate Chris McDaniel, the night he lost a heated primary run-off race with incumbent Republican, Senator Thad Cochran.

Well, now, Chris McDaniel says he plans to challenge the race. The campaign believes there's been pretty widespread voter fraud involved in that runoff, and they're offering a cash reward for anyone who can provide evidence of it.

This is a race that has gotten particularly ugly and gotten ugly fast. Thad Cochran's campaign offering one of the latest volleys. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think it's sort of the time has come now for the McDaniel campaign to put up or shut up. If they've got hard evidence, bring it forward, but quit talking about exaggerated numbers, that they know are not true.


BOLDUAN: Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel, candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Mr. McDaniel, thank you so much for coming in. Happy Fourth of July.

MCDANIEL: Hey, thank you very much. Happy Fourth to you as well.

BOLDUAN: Thanks very much.

I mean, there's no -- you really can't say it any other way, this race has gotten really, really ugly. You say that you are not going to give up. You are now planning to mount a legal challenge against the Thad Cochran campaign. When are you going to file that challenge?

MCDANIEL: Well, any day now. The integrity of the process matters. We believe that night on June the 24th, there were thousands of irregularities. And we've already found thousands of irregularities in the process.

But likewise we have the integrity of the election along with the integrity of the Republican Party. So, we believe the people of the state want to see the truth. They want to understand what happened that night, and that's exactly what we plan to show them.

BOLDUAN: Is this about the integrity of the Republican Party or is this about winning a race?

MCDANIEL: No, it's bigger than a campaign. It's bigger than a candidate. It's bigger than me no question about it.

BOLDUAN: So, do you care about winning at this point?

MCDANIEL: Everyone cares, but that's not what this is about. What matters here is that we find the fraud where it exists, the irregularities, correct them, move forward so people can have faith in the system again. Right now, there are many Mississippians, very angry and rightfully so because they feel their votes were nullified or diluted based on the irregular conduct that we saw that night.

BOLDUAN: So, do you think that you actually have the votes to still win or is it past that?

MCDANIEL: Well, we believe it's past that. The irregularities we found exceed 5,000 different ballot problems right now. Likewise there have been two allegations of criminal conduct on the part of the Cochran camp. Now, those allegations were distinct and separate in different parts

of the state. So, it's our responsibility to reach out there, find additional problems, if they exist, and finally, if the corruption is out there, to end it once and for all.

BOLDUAN: I've heard this from the Cochran campaign, I heard this from other Republicans, that you lost because the Cochran campaign had a better runoff strategy after that first primary, after that first primary vote. You may not like the rules in the way election law is set up in Mississippi, but that's the way the state legislature has set it up.

Is this just sour grapes?

MCDANIEL: No. Primaries matter because Republicans typically want to pick a Republican nominee. Democrats want to select their nominee and you select those nominees based on platforms and other issues. What you never want to see is complete pushover or crossover into another primary where it's essentially controlled by the other party, which is what happened that night in Mississippi.

BOLDUAN: But that is still allowed under the open primary laws of Mississippi. You don't like it. You should take it up with the state legislature.

MCDANIEL: No, it's not allowed, not in that full respect it's not, because if they voted on June the 3rd in a Democratic primary, they are not allowed by law to cross over to June the 24th and vote in the Republican primary or a runoff. That's not allowed.

BOLDUAN: Well, there is admittedly, and I think you can agree to this, the way it's written is murky and confusing at best. Some of the smartest minds in Mississippi law, they are confused as it how it will be applied. The line you're talking about is this, "No person shall be eligible to participate in any primary election unless he intends", that's the operative word, "to support the nomination made in which he participants."

Intent, does it mean at that moment or forever?

MCDANIEL: Well, you've misread the law. You're dead wrong there. It has nothing to do with that piece of statutory code.

I'm talking about a separate piece of code that specifically prohibits crossovers that participated in the June the 3rd primary to come over in the Republican runoff on June the 24th. That's an entirely different code section there.

BOLDUAN: So, you think you're going to find more, enough irregularities with what you're talking about right there to cover the almost 7,000-vote gap that separates you and Thad Cochran?

MCDANIEL: Right now, we have found more than 5,000 irregularities. There are 19,000 absentee ballots we still haven't seen yet. There are two distinct and separate allegations of criminal conduct on the part of their camp. This is a serious issue. We're going to look into it for the

integrity of the process and for the integrity of the Republican Party. Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: How long do you think this is going to drag out?

MCDANIEL: It won't drag out too much longer. We have our people in the field. They'll be working all next week to find the additional irregularities that we believe are out there. We'll follow up on the different tips that we've heard from throughout the state, and after that, we'll have our evidence together to move forward.

BOLDUAN: One thing that kind of raises some eyebrows is you're now offering a cash reward, offering $1,000 to folks who can provide evidence for you of voter fraud.

Do you really believe that you're going to not only get evidence of voter fraud, but that you're going to get evidence that is going to lead to arrests and convictions? That's a pretty high bar.

MCDANIEL: It can be. Any criminal statute can be a high bar but that's exactly what we owe the people of Mississippi. If fraud was committed, if vote buying took place as alleged, we have an obligation to find it and root it out once and for all. There's nothing wrong with that process. It needs to happen for the integrity of the election process, absolutely.

BOLDUAN: The Cochran campaign says this is a publicity stunt. This is more about Chris McDaniel's public image, than anything else. Also suggesting that this is more about paying down the primary debt that you've wracked up than anything else, than it is about winning an election. Is that true?

MCDANIEL: It's not true. We don't have any primary debt, not one dime. What this is about is the integrity of the election.

And here's what I will suggest to the Cochran campaign. Instead of accusations like that, instead of ridicule, instead of name calling, why not join us in this process? Why not go out there hand in hand, let's find the corruption that exist, root it out once and for all. I think that's their obligation, wouldn't you?

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you about this conference call. I've been on many a conference call with campaigns, many reporters do, they happen all the time. I have never been on one like this and I think many people would say they haven't as well.

So, our viewers know what we're talking about I want to play a part of the conference call with the Thad Cochran campaign that got completely out of control. Listen to this.


CALLER: If black people were harvesting cotton, why do you think it's OK to harvest their votes? They're not animals.

BARBOUR: I'm happy to address question, no matter the lunacy of it.

CALLER: Why did you use black people to try to get Cochran elected when they're not even Republicans? And you're treating them as if they're just idiots, that they'll vote for Cochran just because they're black. That's ridiculous.

BARBOUR: If the individuals who've decided that they want to hijack this call, will ust let us get through with it, I'll be glad to answer any of your questions.


BOLDUAN: Now, these comments we don't know who that person was. It appears they're not supporting Thad Cochran which suggests they are supporters of yours. I want to give you this opportunity and the chance to condemn those racist remarks that were made with a lot of reporters listening.

MCDANIEL: Well, sure, absolutely. This has nothing to do with race from our perspective, nothing whatsoever. This is about ideology and principle. This is about the Republican platform and conservative values.

So, certainly we condemn any racist comments whatsoever, but bear in mind, we have no idea who that person is, neither do you, and likewise --

BOLDUAN: I said that.

MCDANIEL: Yes, absolutely, so we're not -- you understand there are people out there we have no control over. We have no idea who that person is.

BOLDUAN: Do you regret that this has gotten so ugly for any part that you've played in this whole race that it's gotten so ugly?

MCDANIEL: Let me tell you what I regret. Here's what I regret. The last two and a half weeks of that campaign, they went out to Democratic communities, predominantly African-American in our state. They called me a racist. They race-baited.

They said if I was elected, I would suppress their right to vote or do away with it. They said if I was elected that welfare would be cut off. They said if I was elected that funding to historically black colleges and universities would be cut off.

I regret any campaign of divisiveness that deals with race in the manner they dealt with it. That was unfair. It's improper, and in so doing, they ran a scare tactic campaign that pushed 42,000 at least Democrats into the Republican primary.

Do I think that's a problem? Absolutely. Because I don't think divisiveness and that type of race-baiting belongs in the Republican Party.

BOLDUAN: You definitely don't like how they run their campaign. That is absolutely clear, Mr. McDaniel.

But for the part that you've played, this is two people running in this race, any regrets you have in how ugly this has gotten?

MCDANIEL: Which examples do you have where we've been ugly?

BOLDUAN: I'm just saying there are two people running in this race. Do you think you've run a completely fair campaign?

MCDANIEL: Help me understand which examples do you have that show I haven't run a clean campaign?

BOLDUAN: I'm asking if there are any regrets now that you're part in one of the ugliest primaries we've seen in a long time.

MCDANIEL: I can't control the Cochran's race baiter, name calling. If you can find an example where we did something like that you let me know and we'll talk about it.

BOLDUAN: The longer this drags out, the uglier that it gets, are you at all concerned about your political future? You wanted to be the next U.S. senator from Mississippi. Do you think that this at all is going to damage or risk your political future in Mississippi politics?

MCDANIEL: It's not material. What matters right now is that we do the right thing.

I am a conservative. I believe in conservative principles. I believe the party needs to fight for those principles.

Our party, Senator Cochran, has not fought for those principles.

To the extent that fighting for what I believe hurts me, then so be it. To the extent having courage in a fight like this hurts my political future then so be it. It's better we learn to stand and fight and keep surrendering. This is one of those fights and that's what we're going to do.

BOLDUAN: You're going to fight on, you're going to file this legal challenge in the next couple of days you'd said? If it doesn't go your way --


BOLDUAN: -- in the end, are you going to accept the result and support Thad Cochran?

MCDANIEL: What I'm going to do is, if the court rules against us, certainly, we'll respect the court's decisions. As to endorsing or going forward with Thad Cochran or whoever else, I'm going to have to make that call after all this is said and done.

BOLDUAN: Do you think you can support him after all this, what you said in this interview about him?

MCDANIEL: You know, what did I say about him? I was pointing out what they did.

BOLDUAN: No, I mean, what you said is going on between you guys throughout this race.

MCDANIEL: You know, it's a good question. We want to find conservative leadership that doesn't have to do what they did to be successful. I'm going to have to really think seriously about it after we get to the second phase of this, if it comes to that.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate your time this morning. We look forward to seeing where this goes. Everyone wants to see what happens with the outcome of this race because at some point, a senator from the great state of Mississippi needs to head back to the U.S. Senate. Happy Fourth of July.

MCDANIEL: Yes, you as well. Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks very much.


PEREIRA: All right. Great conversation, Kate. We appreciate that.

When we come back, more coverage of Hurricane Arthur. We're going to tell where you it is right now, where it is headed, what you can expect throughout the day.

Also, a big story we've been keeping an eye on. Justin Ross Harris, was he sexting as his son lay dying in a hot car? That's one accusation that came out of a difficult to watch hearing in a tragic case. What else do police say proves it was murder? We'll take a look.