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Hurricane Watch Issued for Carolinas, Virginia; CNN Poll: Trump's Approval Rating Falls to 36%; White House: Trump Open to Meeting with Kim Jong-un Again. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 11, 2018 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is theater of the absurd. Where is trust within this administration?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: To not even verify that some of these quotes seems very careless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's one of the most thorough reporters I've ever seen.

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR: I've never seen an instance when the president is so detached from reality.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. We have important breaking news. Just moments ago, a hurricane hunter leaving the eyewall of Hurricane Florence told us everything you're hearing about the severity of this storm, it's all true. This storm is bad, and it could get even stronger.

A hurricane watch is now up from South Carolina all the way up to the North Carolina/Virginia border. Florence is a Category 4 storm with winds of 140 miles per hour. This is on track to be one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the Eastern Seaboard in decades.

Listen to this: Florence could still intensify into a Category 5 storm before it makes landfall. We're talking about Thursday night into Friday morning somewhere, it looks like, along the Carolina coastline.

We have a remarkable view of Hurricane Florence from space. The International Space Station got a shot of this as it was churning over the Atlantic. Look at that eye wall.

CAMEROTA: I mean, our hurricane watcher said all of the elements are in place for it to intensify.

BERMAN: Nothing is standing in its way.

CAMEROTA: That's right. So more than one million people are under mandatory evacuation orders in coastal areas of North Carolina and South Carolina and Virginia. That includes the entire South Carolina coastline. As of noon today, people there are supposed to be evacuating.

And in North Carolina, parts of six coastal counties and Hatteras Island are also being evacuated. These scenes will look familiar to you, and they are now playing out everywhere that the hurricane is expected to hit. You're seeing homes boarded up, long lines at gas stations, some people already running out of gas.

Store shelves, look at this. I mean, they are barren. This is a hardware store, supermarkets.

So let's get right to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. He is, of course, tracking Hurricane Florence's latest path for us. What are you seeing this hour, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Alisyn, I'm seeing some good news. I'm seeing the eyewall that we had overnight, that 140-mile-per-hour eyewall, fall apart today. And so we're going to see, I believe, at 8 p.m. a reduction in that number from 140 to maybe 125, maybe 130, but do not let that fool you.

The storm is actually getting larger north and south and east to west. It just won't have that maximum wind speed in the middle, which means more people will feel hurricane-force winds when it does come on shore. And we do expect that eye to get its act together again later today and become that almost Category 5 storm at 150, 155 miles per hour. Takes 156 to get to be a Cat 5.

So here we go. Hurricane watches have been posted for Virginia Beach all the way down to Charleston. The storm took a slight turn to the right in the Hurricane Center forecast in the overnight hours. And the surge has moved slightly farther up into Pamlico Sound, into Morehead City with an impact here.

This is the European model. We talk about it all the time. But the American model is slightly farther, maybe even 100 miles farther north, trying to turn to the right with a glancing blow. Now, eventually, they both end up in the Appalachia area and with significant rainfall. I mean, we're going to see 20 to 30 inches of rainfall in some spots.

So, yes, we will see rip tides today. We will see a little bit of thunder shower activity around, but not yet from the hurricane. This is still days and days away. These are the days to prepare and to watch what's happening here. It's meteorologically spectacular to watch some of the pictures you showed from that NOAA 16 satellite you just showed. What amazing high res one minute -- every picture in that animation was one minute apart.

BERMAN: Chad, when will people on the coast start to feel the tropical-storm-force and hurricane-force winds?

MYERS: I think you'll get some outer bands Wednesday night and then, finally, the hurricane-force winds will show up noon on Thursday and then probably landfall somewhere after dark on Thursday. It depends, John, how far it turns to the north, because it's a longer distance, or if it goes farther to the south it's shorter. Your landfall here will be much earlier than your landfall up here by maybe as much as 12 hours.

CAMEROTA: Our NOAA storm tracker who you're -- you watched his report said not to be fooled by the fluctuations, and it goes from 140, as you're saying, down to 130 or 125.


CAMEROTA: But he was saying that he saw all of the signs that it will ramp back up again, maybe to 150. So the good news that you're telling us right now, is it possible the good news continues, and it further falls apart or are you just holding your breath for it to ramp up?

MYERS: What happens here it's called eyewall replacement cycle. We talked about rapid intensification yesterday. This is just a new term for us today. Eyewall replacement cycle. The eyewall that had that 140 is no longer circular. It's broken up. It's just not a big ring anymore.

[07:05:13] There's an outer eyewall that's trying to form, and it will ruin, blow up that inner eyewall itself; and that's what's happening now.

That ice skater analogy where you bring your arms in and you skate real fast around in a circle, you put your arms out and you go slowly. The eyewall that's farther away now, maybe 25 miles away from the center, is going more slowly, because the arms are out, compared to the eyewall we had yesterday where the arms were in.

Not a less dangerous storm, just right now smaller, higher -- the 140 will be gone, but that doesn't mean 75 all the way out for hundreds of miles won't still be there. The storm is not dying. It's just going to re-intensify later today.

CAMEROTA: Very helpful, Chad. Thank you. We'll check back with you, of course.

Joining us now is the FEMA administrator, Brock Long. Mr. Long, thanks so much for being here with us. I know you've been monitoring, obviously, all of the latest reports. So what -- what's causing you the biggest concern at this hour?

BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Well, right now I just hope that people are heeding the warnings that were placed by South Carolina, North Carolina, and eventually Virginia today in regards to evacuation. The president quickly approved the emergency declarations yesterday, last night, for -- to help us basically support the life safety evacuation movement as well as the life safety sheltering and mass care effort that's going to also result today and tomorrow as a result of those evacuations.

CAMEROTA: Correct me if I'm wrong, but what we've heard is that there are mandatory evacuations for the coastline of South Carolina that will go into effect at noon, but there is not a mandatory evacuation for Wilmington, North Carolina, which is where it's predicted to make landfall. Is it time for them to evacuate?

LONG: Well, the authority to issue evacuation either lies with the local jurisdiction or with the governor directly. If I remember correctly, the governor of South Carolina is the only one with the authority to issue mandatory evacuations. If I remember correctly, North Carolina local -- local jurisdictions are allowed to issue varying degrees of evacuation.

But the bottom line is, you know, I'm asking people to heed all the warnings that are put forward. I mean, the problem with the storm is, is it's going to make landfall as a Category 4 or possibly a 5 storm. We always plan one category higher than what's anticipated.

And the main primary driver of the evacuations is coastal storm surge, flood inundation, wind-driven water coming up on shore. In some cases, you're going to see upwards of 12 feet along the Carolina coast, the ocean rising 12 feet. That doesn't include the wave action on top of it.

And then, once the system makes landfall, here, again, storm surge has the highest potential to kill the most amount of people. It also has the highest potential to cause the most destruction.

But with this storm, what's unique is it's forecast to stall over -- you know, in four to five days, dropping copious amounts of rainfall across the Carolinas and into Virginia.

So this is not just going to be a coastal threat. It's going to be a state-wide threat for the states involved. And FEMA is actively prepositioning not only from, you know, South Carolina to Virginia, but upwards to -- to Delaware.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, look, I'm not -- I'm not -- you know, I know this is politically complicated. And I'm not asking you to big foot the mayor of Wilmington. But from everything you're seeing and everything you're saying, doesn't it sounds like the people of Wilmington need to start evacuating?

LONG: I'm sorry. What was the -- does it sound like the people of Wilmington need to what?

CAMEROTA: The people of Wilmington need to start evacuating.

LONG: Yes, please, heed all -- heed the warnings. Absolutely. This is --

CAMEROTA: Right. But I'm saying there isn't a mandatory evacuation for them yet.

LONG: That's a question for the mayor and for New Hanover County.

CAMEROTA: But from what you're seeing, you think that they should start packing up? LONG: I believe that people should be evacuating the coast of North

Carolina for the Category 4 storm, particularly get out of the areas that are vulnerable to coastal storm surge inundation and get into a facility that can withstand the winds, yes.

CAMEROTA: OK. Understood. You're going to be briefing President Trump this morning. What are you going to tell him?

LONG: I spoke to him yesterday and will update him again this afternoon, as well. Secretary Nielsen and I will be updating him later this afternoon.

Bottom line is how we're pre-positioned, if there's any -- any issues that we need to help our state partners overcome. Proper disaster response is one that's locally executed, state managed and federal supported.

So what we do -- and I've spoken to all three governors from South Carolina to Virginia, as well, yesterday to make sure that we understand their response and recovery goals and how best to support the efforts that are underway.

CAMEROTA: Yes, pre-positioning, obviously, we've learned is so vital. I don't have to tell you how bad last year was in terms of hurricanes, Harvey in Houston. We had Irma in the Florida Keys. And then, of course, we had the particularly deadly Maria in Puerto Rico.

So what did you learn from what went wrong with Maria --

LONG: Sure.

CAMEROTA: -- that you will apply this week?

LONG: Yes. Proper emergency response and recovery takes the whole community and emergency management is like a chair with four legs. And I've said this many times. The four legs represent, first, one leg is the federal government. The second leg is state and local governments. The third leg is going to be the private sector nongovernmental organizations, and the fourth sector is the citizen.

[07:10:16] If all four legs of that chair are present going into the response and recovery, then the disaster goes really well, like we saw in Harvey and Irma.

When any one of those legs is missing, the disaster doesn't go nearly as well as we would like it to, and that's what we saw in Maria. So what we're having to do is, you know, make sure that, one, we're getting ready to pump 50 -- you know, possibly $50 billion of FEMA, you know, tax paying dollars into Puerto Rico.

So never before has there been a better opportunity for Puerto Rico and the commonwealth to become more disaster resilient and economically viable. And what we have to do is concentrate on pre- disaster mitigation when we rebuild the infrastructure going in. So that's what we're working on right there, as well as building a commonwealth and a municipal capability and emergency management that did not exist before the storm.

CAMEROTA: Understood. But when you say that those four legs all have to operate well, do you think that the federal government did all it could in Maria? I mean, I'm asking because we haven't spoken to you since the death toll went up.

LONG: Sure.

CAMEROTA: As you know, it's 46 times what the government said originally. There were 2,975 people killed in Puerto Rico as a result of Maria, and so is there anything that FEMA and the federal government could have done better?

LONG: That's -- that's a great question. You know, look, we threw as much as we could towards Puerto Rico as possible within FEMA. And if you look at the numbers, like not only the response dollars that went in, the amount of staff that was put into Puerto Rico from this agency and across the federal government was higher than any other of the disasters that we've worked last year.

You know, we've put close to 24, $25 billion into Harvey, Irma and Maria, and Puerto Rico has received half of that funding.

In regards to the deaths, look, I work every day. One death is a death too many. We work every day. FEMA works every day to try to prevent deaths.

The bottom line is, is that there's a difference between direct deaths of, you know, the winds, water, collapsed buildings, things that kill people directly versus the indirect deaths. Indirect deaths are always higher than the direct deaths after many events.

You see car wrecks because the stoplights are out. You see people falling off their roofs trying to fix them. You see chainsaw accidents. Spousal abuse goes through the roof.

There's a lot of things that come after disasters occur in the long- term. But what I really believe is that we have to concentrate on the pre-disaster mitigation, fix the infrastructure that was crumbling before the storms in the commonwealth so that we prevent this from ever happening again.

FEMA doesn't control the infrastructure and how well or how it's not maintained in this case. And if you remember, I had to ask for special authorities in the third supplemental to be able to fix deferred maintenance, infrastructure that was allowed to decay. That's the first time that FEMA has ever had to do that in history, as I'm aware, and so we take that forward.

Now FEMA is one of the largest employers in Puerto Rico. We've hired over 1,800 Puerto Ricans to become part of that emergency management arm to make sure that we build a strong backbone for the commonwealth in emergency management and at the local level.

CAMEROTA: Yes. LONG: So we've got -- there's a lot of work that needed to do to put that whole community response into place, and that's what we're concentrated on.

CAMEROTA: I understand. I mean, I just think that, for the 2,975 families, they don't make that distinction between whether someone was killed by wind or whether, a week later, they died because they couldn't get their medicine. You know, to them a death is a death.

LONG: Right. Fair enough.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Brock Long, we wish you the best today. We will be watching. Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to update us.

LONG: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. Coming up in our next hour, we will get a new advisory from the National Hurricane Center and speak to its director, Ken Graham.

BERMAN: All right. Turning now to politics. The White House, Sarah Sanders, is sending the same message as the president, calling for the Justice Department to look into who wrote the anonymous op-ed in the "New York Times" claiming that there's an internal resistance to the president. Listen to this.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If that individual is in meetings that -- where national security is being discussed or other important topics, and they are attempting to undermine the executive branch, that would certainly be problematic and something that the Department of Justice should look into.


CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile, a new CNN poll shows the president's approval rating falling to 36 percent. That is down six points in just the past month.

The biggest drop is among independents, where his approval has dropped 16 points since August, falling to an all-time low of 31 percent.

So joining us now are CNN political analysts. We have David Gregory and April Ryan. April is the author of "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House." Great to see both of you.

David Gregory, I'll start with you. What do you make of these approval numbers that have dropped so precipitously in the past month?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, there's been a battering ram on President Trump, much of it of his own making. And I think that you look at the number among independents. At some point, even those who might have voted for President Trump look up and say, "This is a guy who's got a problem being a leader." I mean, "I alone can fix what's happening in America." That's what he

said at his convention, and now as a leader, that's being undermined by his own leadership style and those around him who are beginning to complain about how he does the job. It gets to a question of incompetence, what you're able to -- you're able to do, and I think there's some erosion of support.

All of that, so much of that personal in nature in the way he governs, as distinct from all of the wind that's at his back because of the economy, because of the performance of the stock market, because of him delivering on areas like trade that he campaigned on, delivering even though there's a lot of people that don't like it. He certainly is making good on areas where he has said, you know, he would make good.

But this leadership style, these problems, this kind of controversy surrounding him is beginning to undermine how people view him.

BERMAN: And it has hit significantly across the board in just the last month. You've seen a drop in all these key personal attributes. And we can show you, you know, "can bring needed change" down five points since March; "cares about people like you" down six points since March, "honest and trustworthy" down, "proud to have this president" down six points, "will unite the country" down five points. Across the board, April, he has taken a hit.

Harry Eten, our numbers guy, Rainman, suggested maybe it was the passing of John McCain which put things into perspective for voters. Maybe it was that. Maybe it was the op-ed, maybe Bob Woodward's book, maybe Michael Cohen getting indicted. I could go on like this for a little while, maybe this, maybe that, but there's been a lot.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's a perfect storm. It's the exposure of the dysfunction and distraction and everyone coming in together, be it Michael Cohen, be it the exposure of things by the late John McCain and his death, and also this op-ed piece about Woodward's book that's out today; Omarosa's book with her tapes and videos, what have you; and even my book that talks about how they deal with the press. All of this fact is coming to bear on this president.

And, you know, the crazy thing about it is today, on this day of all days, the 17th anniversary of September the 11th, the day of this major storm, this is when you see who a president really is. And what we've gotten in the last few weeks and months is that this is a president filled with distraction and dysfunction.

And when you talk about the economy, you know, left to his own devices, that would even go down, because right now it's OK. But think about this: the issue of tariffs. You had his base, farmers, very upset about that. Think about this. He threatened to shut down the government over a wall. Those are paychecks to federal workers and contractors who depend on the federal government. Then you also have --

CAMEROTA: Yes. But, April, I just --

RYAN: -- the issue of immigration. The president wants to stop immigration.

CAMEROTA: April, I'm sorry -- I'm sorry, I just want to interrupt you, because what he would say is, obviously, but manufacturing is up and construction jobs are up and optimism about the economy is up. I mean, he feels that he's unsung here and that all of these things have happened since he became president. Obviously, the economy was ticking back up --

RYAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- remarkably under President Obama. But, you know, President Trump says that it's folks like us when we have these conversations that don't give him credit where credit is due for making coal miners and manufacturing feel better.

RYAN: Once again, once again, manufacturing could be impacted by trade.

Then also -- and let's go to the immigration issue. When you have a president talking about stopping immigration, you could impact negative -- negatively impact the American economy, because many of these immigrants -- and it's been proven by economists -- that if these immigrants aren't taking these lower paying jobs, who's going to do it? And a lot of people will not in this country, and it's going to cause an economic shift.

So left to his own devices, the economy could change. So right now, we're seeing all the other points go down, but the economy is something that's still teetering.

BERMAN: It's not teetering. People who you ask in this poll, actually --

RYAN: It will be. This president, if it's left to this president's own devices.

BERMAN: Maybe, but right now let me just tell you what the number is here, April. David Gregory --

RYAN: I hear you. I hear you.

BERMAN: OK. But 69 percent of people in this poll rate the economy as good. That, David Gregory, that's a good number. What's interesting, though, I will say is the disconnect between that number and the approval rating. But the economy number, in and of itself, is very good.

GREGORY: Right. Well, I think -- I think --

RYAN: Right now.

GREGORY: -- he's being battered in different directions that's impacting his approval rating. And I think, you know, the way people view him personally, even supporters of him, gives a lot of people concern at the very least. But they look at the direction of the country with regard to the economy. And I disagree with April. I think that people are -- they're seeing tangible benefits from the economy.

She's right, of course, that the prospect of trade and ongoing trade wars makes a lot of businesses worried and more cautious. But they still are spending. There is a lot of tax money that's coming back their way. With he see from the last jobs numbers that wages are actually going up as well as the overall economy. The president is taking on the trade imbalances and those who he says are taking advantage of America.

There's a lot of people who hear that and say, "Yes, right on." Especially because that's what he campaigned on.

He is also making huge strides for conservatives who want to see a more conservative Supreme Court. That's happening. You know, Neil Gorsuch is on the court, and Brett Kavanaugh, for all of the drama on Capitol Hill, is also cruising to nomination. Those things matter, and those are real deliverables for the president.

CAMEROTA: OK. We have to leave it there. April --

RYAN: But that's not the economy. That's not the economy. And the economy once again it's coasting, he's coasting --

CAMEROTA: No, it's going up.

RYAN: -- on the good one of the prior president.

CAMEROTA: It's more than coasting. It's firing on all cylinders.

RYAN: But at the same time, left to his own devices, if this president were to shut down the federal government, the tariff issue, the trade issue --

CAMEROTA: Those things will certainly have an impact. Agreed.

RYAN: -- it could be a perfect storm. There could be -- right. Exactly.

CAMEROTA: OK. But today in terms of what people are being polled on, they're feeling very good about the economy. OK. We'll leave it there. I'm going to have the last word.

April, thank you very much. David Gregory, thank you.

BERMAN: All right. President Trump's Taft-taught (ph) national security adviser wants to see more action from North Korea when it comes to denuclearization. So why is the White House talking about another summit with Kim Jong-un? We will discuss next.


[07:25:51] BERMAN: President Trump's national security adviser says the United States waiting for North Korea to take firm steps toward denuclearization, but a new letter from Kim Jong-un to President Trump has the White House talking about a potential second summit between the two leaders. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: The recent parade in North Korea for once was not about their nuclear arsenal. The president has achieved tremendous success with his policies so far, and this letter was further evidence of progress in that relationship.

A number of things that have taken place: the remains have come back; the hostages have returned; there's been no testing of missiles or nuclear material; and of course, the historic summit between the two leaders. And this letter is just further indication of the progress that we hope to continue to make.


BERMAN: All right. That's Sarah Sanders right there.

Joining us now is the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper. He's a CNN national security analyst who spent a big chunk of his career dealing with the issue of North Korea.

And Director, if we can take this in steps, what does it tell you that Kim Jong-un wants a second meeting?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, if he does, not knowing the content of the letter, this could be an opportunity for somewhat of a do-over from the first summit.

I think it would be a great opportunity to do what wasn't done the first time, which first, I think it would be very useful to ask Kim Jong-un straightaway what is it that North Korea and he would require so they don't need to have nuclear weapons to feel secure; and secondly, to try to have some agreement on what denuclearization means. And I say that because in the North Korean mind, I believe denuclearization also applies -- on the peninsula, would also apply to the U.S.

And just to take a moment, John, I might also suggest a very contrarian view, unconventional, would be that, as Sarah Sanders outlined of late, North Koreans have exhibited pretty responsible behavioral. No missile tests, no underground nuclear tests. They returned the remains; hostages were returned, et cetera. And of course, North Koreans now obviously are expecting something from us reciprocally, other than just more coercion.

We might give some consideration, though, because they are behaving responsibly, is perhaps to accept the fact they're part of the nuclear club.

I think many who watched this -- this whole nuclear weapons business would just as soon that India and Pakistan, for example, not have nuclear weapons, but the hard fact is they do, and they have behaved responsibly with them. And perhaps we just need to recognize that with North Korea. I think it's going to be very, very difficult and take a long, long time before they will denuclearize. BERMAN: I think that's an important point that you're making, if

you're right. You're suggesting that perhaps the reason they didn't put their long-range missiles in this parade, the reason they haven't done any nuclear tests is because they have them, and they're going to keep them. Not a sign that they're itching to get rid of them?

CLAPPER: Exactly. I think the reason that North Korea is behaving temperately of late has more to do with -- and at least it's my belief -- the fact that they achieved whatever it is they think they needed for nuclear deterrence, not so much because of anything that this administration has done or said.

So for the first time ever in a nuclear dialogue with the United States the North Koreans don't show up as supplicants, which has always been the case in the past.

BERMAN: Are there signs, independent of this parade, that North Korea has taken concrete steps to denuclearize in a way that would meet the U.S. definition?

CLAPPER: To my knowledge, no. In fact, the commercial imagery that's available would indicate just the opposite.

BERMAN: So what message would it send, then, Director, if the president -- we don't know if he'll agree to it or not. I mean, John Bolton doesn't seem to be as eager to do it as Sarah Sanders was indicating. But what message would it send to Kim Jong-un if President Trump did agree to a second meeting without concrete signs of denuclearization?

CLAPPER: Well, I think it's much like the -- the first summit. You know, the president had tremendous leverage with that summit just by agreeing to meet with the North Koreans --