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AT THIS HOUR

CNN Forecasts 11 Races Moving Toward Democrats and Three Races Moving Toward Republicans; U.S. Commanding General in Afghanistan Announced That a U.S. Service Member Was Killed Today and Another U.S. Service Member Wounded; Nearly 500 children are Still in Government Custody, Which Includes 22 Children Under the Age of Five; Tropical Storm Bearing Down on the Florida Keys. Aired 11:30a-12n ET

Aired September 3, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The party in power generally loses about 27 seats. So there -- it will be a difficult battle.

There is a very slim chance the Democrats could gain up to 23 seats. But what's going to happen, as we get to this final sprint, Republicans are doubling down. I've been across this country the last few weeks.

There are a lot of people that stand on their feet all day, get their hands dirty, and they support President Trump, and a lot of folks in the bubble don't realize that. And the Democrats, while they want to lift their party up, it cannot be just about tearing Donald Trump down. And that appears to be their sole message moving forward and it has to be much more than that.

KATE BOLDUAN, ANCHOR, AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN: Well, Joe, what do you take from it? It's kind of the kickoff begins, the unofficial kickoff of the election really begins, post Labor Day. For aeons, you have seen on the Left and the Right, run to the extreme in the primary and back towards the center in the general, that's how you get elected traditionally.

But at least we're seeing, I guess on both sides, but let's focus on the Left, in candidates like Gillum in Florida, they're staying more to the Left. Risky or is this cycle different?

JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Alice is right that these are all individual races. And I think both sides, Democrats and Republicans, are trying to localize the race, keep it there. And particularly for Democrats, that's worked and that's why you have people like Conor Lamb or Doug Jones in places -- in conservative states like Alabama or in Pennsylvania 18 winning.

At the same time, you do have in other localities and states more progressive outspoken Democrats. I think also, what's going on though, this is all driven by Trump. I mean, the Republicans cannot run away from him. He's very unpopular, not just with Democrats, but with independents.

And frankly, there are a lot of Republican women, younger Republicans and college educated Republicans, that have been defecting and moving towards Democrats all year long. That's why this count keeps going up.

And the count, it started -- yes Alice is right, the party that holds the Presidency always loses seats in these midterms. But these numbers keep increasing and I think this update today is not going to be the end of it. You're going to see more races lean towards Democrats, the closer we get to November.

BOLDUAN: With three races that I mentioned Alice, CNN has upgraded to more in Republican favor. A former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, he makes the case this morning that it's because those candidates are breaking from the President, because obviously it works in their district, and that's why it's working for them.

Listen to Dent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE DENT, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: They reflect their districts very well. They have also separated themselves from the President on issues like health care, Russia, immigration. They've been very vocal about that and they can credibly go to voters and say they can be a check against the administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Lesson there?

STEWART: Absolutely. And we're seeing that play out in some of the races that our poll changed from toss-up to lean Republicans. Down in Texas, Will Hurd, he has been a check and balance on this President. He has been a hard worker and very accountable to those in his district, and he is doing very strong.

But that is, as Charlie says, it is by making sure you're sticking to your policies, but also you're not being a rubber stamp on this Presidency. And also in Pennsylvania, we have another strong race that is moving from toss-up to leaning Republican, because the candidates there are being accountable to the people in their district.

And we have another one that I sort of disagree with, the poll shows that it's a solid GOP to leaning GOP in Iowa. Iowa, while we have Steve King, he is an eight-term Congressman, has done a tremendous job that will be hook, line, and sinker for Congressman King.

But all of these, it's up to their constituents. If they like Trump, the candidates will align with them. If Trump is not popular in those districts, the representatives and those running for office are wise to speak out on that.

BOLDUAN: All right, Alice, Joe, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

STEWART: Thanks Kate.

TRIPPI: Thank you. BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, an update on the - there's really no other way to describe it, other than bizarre and mysterious, the so-called sonic attack injuries that have been happening for a couple years now against American diplomats, started in Cuba and then in China.

There's a new theory on what may have caused these attacks. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: The breaking news coming in right now, the new U.S. Commanding General in Afghanistan announcing that a U.S. service member was killed today, another U.S. service member wounded, in what is described as an insider attack. CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon with much more on this. Barbara, what are you hearing?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Kate. This is actually the first full day on the job for that general, the new commanding general, General Miller, in Afghanistan, compelled to announce a short time ago that a U.S. service member indeed was killed and another wounded in eastern Afghanistan. This is an area where U.S. troops have been operating in conjunction with Afghan forces, fighting both the Taliban and ISIS.

They are calling it an insider attack which generally in the past has meant someone in an Afghan military uniform or in fact a member of the Afghan military turns their weapon on U.S. forces. This is the sixth person in the U.S. military to be killed in Afghanistan this year. So far, we are told the wounded member is said to be in stable condition. The name of the deceased U.S. military member will be released 24 hours after family notification has been completed. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Just horrible, Barbara, and what is traditionally called a green-on-blue attack. Any word and of course, this just coming in, but any word on -- do they have the person who did it?

STARR: Well, in this very initial announcement from the coalition in Afghanistan, we have no word on that. I can tell you, in the past, U.S. forces, when they are confronted with these situations, generally move very quickly as to Afghan forces against attackers. In most cases, the attackers are very quickly killed, but we just do not have word at this hour on what has happened in this situation.

About 15,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan right now, Kate. The U.S. military under a lot of pressure to show results.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. On the first full day of the new commanding general in Afghanistan having to announce this, and a horrible day for these families at home being (ph) with this announcement coming in. Thanks, Barbara, really appreciate it.

All right. From that to this. Microwave weapons, that is what a group of scientists are saying, may have actually caused the head injury suffered during those mysterious sonic attacks on some U.S. diplomats and their family members. These are incidents that started back in 2016 and it was a real mystery when it first came out, but it has affected more than three dozen people since in Cuba where it started and then in China. Victims suffering hearing loss and concussion-like symptoms from this.

Joining me right now with more on this is CNN's Patrick Oppmann. Patrick, what are you picking -- what do we know about this? What are the scientists saying?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN HAVANA-BASED CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the first official theory. These are scientists that have been consulted by the U.S. government to try to understand what could have happened and their theory, and it still remains just a theory, is that microwave weapons, and this is an unconventional type of weapon that uses concentrated electromagnetic rays or radiation and beams it essentially using a small satellite with a certain degree of precision, they feel could have caused other kinds of symptoms we're talking about, concussion-like symptoms.

The mystery really has been here is what could cause concussion without any physical trauma being involved. Now, the FBI has been here several times. The team (ph) has been allowed by the Cuban government to come here and has found nothing, so while it's a theory, there's still no physical evidence to back it up. But, they're saying for the first time they feel they know what devices could be behind it and while this is still very much up in the air, it has had real effects.

You have only skeleton staff now here at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, all non-essential personnel, all diplomats families have been sent home. If you're a Cuban, you can only get a visa here in Havana. If you want to visit family members in the U.S., if you're an American citizen like me, up until recently, you could even get your passport renewed here. Cuban diplomats have been expelled from the U.S. So, it has a real impact on U.S.-Cuban relations.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and has had real and lasting impact, we must be (ph) very serious on the health of some of these diplomats and their families, when they are all brought back. Patrick, thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

So coming up for us, we've some more breaking news coming in. The National Hurricane Center issuing a hurricane watch for parts of the Gulf Coast now, as Tropical Storm Gordon gains strength. Where the storm is headed and the timing, that's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: It has been nearly six weeks since the court-ordered deadline came and went to reunite children separated from their families at the border. The latest numbers from the government show -- sounds a lot like I could have read this weeks and weeks and weeks ago -- nearly 500 still are in government custody. That includes 22 children under the age of five. Many of the parents of these children have already been deported, making understandably any reunion even more difficult. Those reunions now not up to the government, now up to the ACLU.

Joining me right now, Lee Gelernt, he's the lead attorney suing the Trump Administration over these family separations. He's Deputy Director for the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project.

We -- I think we've spoken almost weekly since -- even before the deadline came and went...

LEE GELERNT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR ACLU'S IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS PROJECT: Yes, right.

BOLDUAN: ...since this has really all happened. What is the explanation now for nearly 500 children still being separated from their parents?

GELERNT: Yes, well, I think the problem was that the government didn't give us -- didn't themselves look for the parents who were deported and didn't give us the information when they should have. So now, the process is beginning in earnest, but it's just beginning in earnest. We're hopeful that we will reunite these families soon, but I have to say that there is still a segment of this population who've been deported who we haven't found yet, we're very concerned about that.

BOLDUAN: The last time we spoke -- the last time we spoke, you were waiting for more or better...

GELERNT: Right.

BOLDUAN: ...contact information or any identifying information...

GELERNT: Correct.

BOLDUAN: ...to try to even make contact with many of the parents...

GELERNT: Right.

BOLDUAN: ...who have been deported. That information you're trying to get from the government, have you gotten the information?

GELERNT: Yes. So, the judge put his foot down and said give them the phone numbers. We have phone numbers, we have contacted most of the parents at this point, but there's still about 80 parents we haven't been able to contact. So, we need additional information from the government, but we're now on foot in the ground -- on the ground in Central America looking for those parents. And we have partners, Paul Weiss law firm, Justice in Motion, KIND.

BOLDUAN: What are the parents saying because there was a bit of a -- there has been a dispute, I don't know how best to describe it -- did the parents want to leave? Did the parents want to leave their children here because they thought they would have a better chance of getting their asylum cases adjudicated appropriately? So, there's a lot of confusion. What are the parents telling you when you're making contact with them?

GELERNT: Yes. So, that has been one of the disturbing problems. We have heard from the parents that they were misled or coerced into giving up their own asylum rights, didn't even get asylum hearings we're told. This is the best way to see your child, just accept deportation. We're hearing that from parents and that's very troubling. And so, we need to figure out a solution for those parents.

BOLDUAN: What is this -- more than a month now has passed since the deadline. I mean this is a federal judge telling the government...

GELERNT: Right.

BOLDUAN: ...to get its act together.

GELERNT: Right.

BOLDUAN: This is unacceptable. They were supposed to have the families reunited.

GELERNT: Right.

BOLDUAN: What's going to happen when another month passes and we speak?

GELERNT: You know, I'm hopeful that another month won't pass. I mean there may be some small group that we still can't find and that's going to be troubling because, as you've pointed out on this show, we don't want to treat these as just numbers, each person is an individual. I think we have a plan going forward now.

We're hopeful that the vast majority are going to be reached and make some decision about reunification quickly. Unfortunately, some of these parents are going to have to make the incredibly difficult decision to say, I'm going to stay in my own country and I'm going to leave my child to pursue asylum because that's what's best for my child. That is a horrendous choice.

BOLDUAN: Because the child is going back in order -- because they think it's safer back in their home country if they were seeking asylum...

GELERNT: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: ...going back to the parents.

GELERNT: The children desperately want to be with the parent but on the other hand, if they go back, they could be in such danger that they're making this profound decision as a family to leave the child here.

BOLDUAN: What -- I do note that you have said hopeful, that you're hopeful you're going to get these children back together every time we have spoken.

GELERNT: Right.

BOLDUAN: At what point, do you -- I'm sorry to say -- at what point, forget the hope -- at what point, do you lose patience with the -- I don't know, do you call it excuses or the slow walking or the effort that you've seen or lack thereof on the part of the government to get this done. GELERNT: I do want to make clear that we are making progress. We have reached about 200 of the deported parents. We think we will get about 200 of these deported parents in the next week or so either reunified or get from them a decision to leave their child here. So, I don't want to say that we're not making progress; it's not at this point just hope, where I think the hope has to come in is for those 80 or so parents we haven't reached yet.

We are making progress. So I do not want to suggest that this is completely futile, right, so -- I think this is coming way too late, as you've pointed out repeatedly. But right now, we are making progress.

BOLDUAN: But still...

GELERNT: Right.

BOLDUAN: ...how many months have passed and still there are nearly 500 children who are still separated from their parents. But thank you for coming, Lee, for the update.

GELERNT: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: We'll talk to you next week because that's what we do...

GELERNT: Right.

BOLDUAN: ...and will continue to do. Coming up for us though, we have some more breaking news coming in. We have Tropical Storm Gordon, is now gaining strength along the Gulf Coast. Where it is headed and when it could hit, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: It's more breaking news coming in on this Labor Day holiday, a tropical storm bearing down on the Florida Keys. Now, hurricane watches are in effect for parts of the Gulf Coast. Let's go over to CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers, who's tracking this storm. What's the latest, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the latest at 11 O'clock was that the storm is still getting stronger. Kate, this is absolutely an overachiever storm. 30 miles per hour when I walked in the door this morning, and then they bumped it to 35. All of a sudden, it hit the very warm water in the Everglades -- I know you think of it as land, but it's really more of just a warm, hot swamp -- and the storm took off.

It really began to develop and became a much stronger storm in the past three to four hours. And yes, hurricane watches are in effect for Mobile, almost all the way over to southeastern Louisiana. Now, it's forecast to be a 70-mile-per-hour storm tomorrow night - late tomorrow night with a landfall here. This is plus or minus 20%.

We do a very good job at direction, but it's that speed that may not be exactly perfect. And so, we have these storm surge watches and warnings here - three to five feet of storm surge; that's a life- threatening storm surge there, across parts of Louisiana, from Bay St. Louis over to Pass Christian. That's the area we're talking about, heavy rainfall as well.

We'll keep watching this. This has always been a storm that had no future. Now all the sudden, we're going, holy cow, the water is really warm. And this may be a much bigger storm than anticipated. Hurricane Hunter in it right now, about 50 miles per hour almost.

BOLDUAN: Almost. Well, I think a lot can happen in the next few hours. We'll be keeping close with you to get a good idea. I really appreciate it, Chad. Thank you so much. And thanks for joining us on this Labor Day. Inside Politics with Dana Bash for us, right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)