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Historical Flooding in South Carolina; Coast Guard Search Continues for Missing Aboard Cargo Ship; Homeland Security Reopening Secret Service Investigation; Chilling Account from Oregon Campus Shooting Survivor; Pro Gun Control Groups Wants Sheriff to Resign from Oregon Investigation; Clinton Reveals Gun Executive Action Proposals as Poll Numbers Drop. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 5, 2015 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Be sure to watch CNN Special Report "BEING 13: INSIDE THE SECRET WORLD OF TEENS," tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

That's going to do it for me this morning. Thanks for being here. I'm Ana Cabrera.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.


Our breaking news this morning, rain and floods, the likes of which few Americans alive have ever seen before. Rescue crews now going door to door in South Carolina, searching for people who may be trapped inside. So far, seven people have lost their lives. It is feared there could be many more. You can see, these folks, they were forced to make a human chain to get to safety. Hundreds of people have been rescued by boat and by air so far between Columbia and Charleston.

BOLDUAN: Nearly two feet of rain has fallen in just a few days in some parts of the state. You can just look at the flooding right now. Rivers continuing to spill over their banks. More than 70 miles of I-95 was closed late yesterday because of this historic flooding. People living in the capital city are also being warned they could be without water now for much of this week as the flooding overpowers the water systems there.

Let's get to all of this and what it's going to look like today and beyond. Nick Valencia is live from Columbia, South Carolina, and Chad Myers is in the CNN Weather Center with much more.

Nick, first to you.

You're right there on the banks, which are obviously spilling over in many places. What does it look like today in South Carolina? NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's just remarkable, Kate,

when you look at the impact this rain has had. Just a consistent downpour. Right now, the intensity of that rain has stopped. It really isn't raining right now. That's the scary part for local officials here. They worry that residents are going to look out their window and think this is all over. But when you look at the weather models, it seems this storm is lingering and hovering over the state of South Carolina. Nowhere seemingly harder hit than here in Columbia, the state capital. The concern, of course, this is in the middle of the state. This water has to go somewhere, perhaps towards the coast. That creates another problem for places like Charleston.

Let's get back to that point about the water. I just spoke to the mayor of Columbia, Steven Benjamin, who told me that few places have had their water restored but there are still thousands of people without usable or drinkable water. They worry that that is going to be the issue going forward.

We were in Charleston yesterday morning and there was also an issue there with the toxicity in the water. A lot of the sewage system was damaged just by sheer force of the water moving through. There's a lot of oil, gas and who knows what else in this water.

We were seeing people go out with a sense of adventure, perhaps curiosity or boredom from cabin fever. That's what the governor is trying to keep people from doing. They want people to shelter in place. They don't want people out on these roads. No unnecessary rescues. There have been hundreds of water rescues all across the state. National Guard is on standby, about 600 National Guard troops. They're also bringing in resources from Tennessee.

But, really, it is the issue of this consistency of the rain. Where I'm standing right now, just last night, this was all under water. If you can see behind me, this river has swelled to about 15 feet higher than normal. The water, yes, has gone down about two feet, but they think that rain is coming again, more bands of rain coming that could create more problems and further catastrophe -- Kate?

BERMAN: Nick Valencia for us in Columbia, South Carolina.

The governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, will brief in about 20 minutes to give an update on the search-and-rescue operations and the condition of the state as a whole.

BOLDUAN: They're on lockdown. They can't go anywhere.

BERMAN: We'll bring out meteorologist, Chad Myers.

Chad, the volume of water, the amount of rain is staggering and, frankly, historic.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The water, the rain would not stop coming down. It was three days. I was watching this on radar going, please, will this heavy band of rain please move north or south? Do something. Spread it out, if you can. And it just did not. King Street, 21 inches of rainfall. That was in about a 48-hour period. We're talking about this 1,000-year rainfall event. I guess it. I get you're thinking, no way. The last time it rained was like in the year 1,015? No, no. This is a factor of what are the odds of getting a rainfall event like this in any one year, and the chances of getting it in South Carolina in one year, is 1,000 to one, .1 percent of a chance to get this. And so 24 inches in Mt. Pleasant, two feet of rain. Mt. Pleasant is basically Charleston, where this ship is. About 12.50 would be one in 100. So we doubled a one in a 100 year flood.

Some of the bigger numbers, Claudette put down 45 inches in Texas, Allison put down 37 inches in Houston. Here we go for this storm, 24 inches. So, not a new record-breaker for anywhere in the world, but certainly a big record-maker here for anyone who has ever lived in South Carolina since it has been a state. Obviously, something may have happened in the year four. I'm not sure. We don't know about that. But that's certainly a possibility. But 21 inches in Atlanta with their historic flood. 20 in Nashville with that historic flood. And, yes, Nick, said it's still raining. I don't believe we're going to get a lot of rain here in South Carolina. It's moved up to North Carolina. But the water is just still running off -- Guys?

[11:05:31] BOLDUAN: The rain ends and the danger, it is definitely not over for many in that state.

Chad's on it.

Thanks so much, Chad. Appreciate it.

MYERS: All right.

BERMAN: More news just breaking this morning. The U.S. Coast Guard says it's searching for 33 people aboard a missing cargo ship, but the Coast Guard believes the ship itself has sunk. The "El Faro" went missing off the coast of Florida in the middle of Hurricane Joaquin. There's been no contact with the ship since then. A short time ago, Coast Guard officials said they are no longer looking for the boat. Their focus is solely on finding the 28 Americans and five Polish nationals on board. They have recovered life rafts, life boats, and they have located a body.


CAPT. MARK FEDOR, U.S. COAST GUARD: We had multiple reports of emergent suits, survival suits that were floating in the water, life rafts and life boats. We had to check each one. We did that methodically because we want to make sure there were no signs of life. We were hoping to find a survivor, so we needed to check every one.


BOLDUAN: That search continues.

Joining to now to talk about more this and what came out of that announcement from the Coast Guard, Alexandra Field. Alex, in looking at this, horrible news for the families of the

folks on board, but they say they're not giving up hope yet, they could still find survivors.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can't overestimate how difficult it must have been for the family members to listen to the frank words from the Coast Guard captain. It's the same captain who said, they would not discount someone's will to survive, and that's the hope so many are clinging to.

There was a big break in the effort yesterday. It was the first time the weather cleared enough for search planes to fly high and get a good luck over the Caribbean Sea. That's when they were able to identify a 225-scare mile debris field. After examining that, they found a life boat and a life ring, that you're seeing on the screen there, that had belonged to the ship. We do know, however, the life boat was in bad condition. There were no survivors above board. There was a second life boat on board that ship. That's what searchers are looking for now. They say they're making every effort to just look for life rafts in the water, potentially life boats in the water and other survival suits.

We do know, as you reported, they found one survival suit, they opened it up, there were human remains. They were not able to identify the person who had been inside that suit. They weren't even able to recover the body because they say it is so pressing to devote every resource right now to combing those waters to see if anyone is out there alive.

BERMAN: Well, it shows they are still involved in a very active search right now, hoping, hoping there might be survivors.

FIELD: Absolutely. This was a 70-000 square mile search area that they were able to cover aerially. They have now limited that to two debris fields. That's where they are really looking. That's where they expect they could find people. But the Coast Guard was, again, underling the very dark reality that the same conditions that would have caused this boat to sink, the same conditions that would have made this search effort so difficult are the conditions people would have faced as they were abandoning ship, making this extremely difficult --


BERMAN: A category 4 storm.

BOLDUAN: He made it very clear, we couldn't even get out there. 100-mile-an-hour winds, the search conditions were horrific. Turn that around, exactly.

ALEXANDRA: That's how they would have been abandoning ship in that weather.

BERMAN: Alexandra Field, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Just in to CNN, Homeland Security is now reopening its investigation into the Secret Service, this time, over allegations that agents accessed the files of a sitting member of Congress.

BOLDUAN: Of course, over revolutions that happened right after that, that the Secret Service director, Joseph Clancy, he now has a different recollection of events when he first heard about this issue from what he previously had told investigators. This all comes down to the files of Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the committee that obviously has been looking into the Secret Service's activities. Agents at the Secret Service apparently tried to embarrass the Congressman after he called for an investigation of the Secret Service and he's been looking into it.

BERMAN: Now he's announced he's running for speaker of the House, so a whole bunch of stories colliding right now.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.


BOLDUAN: You're right.

So one week before the first Democratic debate right here on CNN, Hillary Clinton is getting some bad news in two key states. We'll have that ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, he is in charge of the investigation of the Oregon massacre, the sheriff, who had a Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, and moments ago, new calls for him to resign.

And the chilling account from a woman who survived the shooting and looked the shooter in the eyes


[11:10:01] TRACEY HUE, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I was sitting in front of the classroom facing the teacher when everything happened. He just came in and shot towards the back of the wall and told everybody to get in the center of the room.



BOLDUAN: This morning, universities in the Philadelphia area are on high alert following threats of violence. Federal authorities say the threats were made to an unspecified university near the city. Now, several schools, including University of Pennsylvania and Temple, they sent out alerts because of this to their campus communities.

BERMAN: Officials at Drexel University say the threat was made on social media some time after the campus shooting in Oregon. The Philadelphia schools are open today but students are being told to report anything that looks suspicious.

A terrifying account of the Oregon college massacre. Tracy Hue is alive because she played dead. BOLDUAN: She's a mother of three and she was shot in the hand.

She spoke exclusively to CNN about the horrific ordeal. She said the gunman, when all of this was happening, he was calm, even seemed happy, if you can believe it. He showed no mercy, even for a woman confined to a wheelchair.

Here's some of Tracey Hue's account of what happened in that classroom.



[11:15:18] HUE: I was sitting in front of the classroom facing the teacher when everything happened. He just came in and shot towards the back of the wall and told everybody to get in the center of the room.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So did he hit anyone? Did he hit anyone when he first shot that first shot?

HUE: No, he just got everybody's attention. And everybody looks to the door he had guns guys him. He was armed. He had a bulletproof vest on. And he didn't seem stressed like he was anxious or anything. He told everybody to get on the ground. Everybody huddled to the ground. The girl in the wheelchair tried to get -- she got off and tried to get down on the ground.

SIDNER: Wait. There was a woman with in a wheelchair during all this?

HUE: Yeah. She had a dog with her. But the dog was just on the ground. She got off the chair. She went on the ground. And then he told her to get back on the chair, and then she tried to climb back on the chair, and then he shot her.


BOLDUAN: Unbelievable that she has even the composure to retell this story so soon after this happened.

In a very strange twist this morning, there are now calls for the sheriff in charge of the investigation into this Oregon shooting to resign immediately. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a pro gun control group, wants Sheriff John Hanlin replaced because of his past positions on gun regulations and for posting on YouTube video pushing a conspiracy theory surround the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary.

BERMAN: In a statement on its website, the Brady group said, "Citizens of Oregon voted for the expansion of Brady background checks in a law signed by Governor Brown this past May. In pledging not to enforce the new law, John Hanlin has clearly demonstrated his political ideology trumps his responsibility to protect his community."

CNN's Ryan Young joins us now from Roseburg, Oregon.

Ryan, you know, I think the families of the victims there don't want politics to be involved in the investigation in the mourning period right now, but clearly there's a lot surrounding this sheriff.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Clearly. A lot of people have ideas of their own that they want to talk about this as it's fresh in everybody's mind. And even here, we've seen chaplains walking around today. And I want to point out there's a sheriff's department vehicle sitting just over my shoulder here where they're checking on everyone's I.D. as they go towards the school.

Look, the Brady campaign wants to prevent gun violence. They say they want the sheriff here, John Hanlin, to resign immediately. They believe the sheriff's statements and views about gun control and his unwillingness to enforce some laws in the state are reasons why he should step down. But that's a conversation a lot of people have mixed feelings about right now, especially in this community with so much pain going on right now.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And on the heels of that, when you talk about the pain in this community, you also had the opportunity to speak to the father of the gunman this weekend. He had some surprising things to say about it all.

YOUNG: He did have some surprising things. We went to his house. We had a 25-minute conversation, five of which was an interview we had. I can tell you he was quite open, quite candid, just about his feelings. He did not want to talk about his son's mental health, but you can understand the pain he was going through. He talked about the other victims involved in this. In fact, that's one of the reasons why he wanted to talk. He said, look, he didn't know what he wanted to say to the families but he wanted them to understand that he was really sorry for what had happened and he understands that his son would be considered a monster from now on you, and he was very open just about his raw feelings on Saturday.


IAN MERCER, FATHER OF CHRISTOPHER HARPER-MERCER: It has been, as I said before, devastating for me and my family, but we're not alone in this. My heart goes out to all the families that were affected by this. And I know words will not bring your families back and I know that nothing I can say can change what happened, but, please believe me, my thoughts are with all of those families. How on earth could he compile 13 guns? How can that happen, you know? They talk about gun laws, they talk about gun control. Every time something like this happens, they talk about it and nothing is done. I'm not trying to say that that's to blame for what happened, but, Chris had not been able to get a hold of 13 guns, it wouldn't have happened.

YOUNG: Did you know he had 13 guns?

[11:20:00] MERCER: I had no idea he had any guns. I had no idea he had any guns whatsoever. And I'm a great believer that you don't buy guns, don't buy guns, you don't buy guns. YOUNG: So even you, you want changes? You want the gun laws to


MERCER: It has to change. It has to change. How can it not? Even people that believe in the right to bear arms, you know, what right do you have to take people's lives? That's what guns are. They're killers. As simple as that. It's simple as that. It's black and white. What do you want a gun for?


YOUNG: How do you psychoanalyze this? We had that conversation. You walk away sometimes with more questions. You feel for him and you understand his pain. But at same time, everyone wants answers as to how this happened. Of course, after that interview, you really are left with more questions. Of course, he said he hadn't seen his son since he left for Oregon. He said he had a good relationship. He said there were no precursors that he thought would lead to this, but you have to wonder what else was going on in his life.

BERMAN: Indeed.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Ryan.

BERMAN: Ryan Young, in Oregon for us. Thanks so much, Ryan.

Hillary Clinton, just moments ago, she proposed some new gun laws, new gun legislation, executive action she's looking into as a candidate for president now. This, in the face of some new poll numbers, which spell trouble for the Democratic, can we still say, front-runner? We'll break it down next.

BOLDUAN: And door-to-door searches, hundreds rescued from floodwaters in South Carolina. We'll talk to a man who was right in the middle of it and got some amazing video, captured a moment of rescue on camera.

Plus, later this hour, South Carolina's governor, Nikki Haley, she will be updating everyone on the urgent situation there and what today could look like in that flooded state. We'll bring that to you live.


[11:26:07] BERMAN: We have a live picture of Hillary Clinton in Manchester, New Hampshire, holding a town hall event. You can see her taking questions from the crowd. She proposed new gun control measures today, some possible executive action she would take if she is elected to the White House.

She's also facing some pretty big challenges. A new poll in the "Wall Street Journal"/NBC News, show voters in New Hampshire and in Iowa, they view Bernie Sanders much more favorable than Hillary Clinton. She's not doing well in hypothetical match-ups with Republicans either in New Hampshire. She trails Jeb Bush, 49 percent to 42 percent. She leads Donald Trump 48 percent to 45 percent. She trails Carly Fiorina by eight points.

BOLDUAN: Take a look in Iowa. The numbers aren't good for Clinton there either. She -- there she'd lose to Bush by 11 points. She'd lose to Trump by five points. And she'd lose to Carly Fiorina by 14 points.

Joining us now to discuss all of this, Mike Shields, former chief of staff for the Republican National Committee, and now president of the Congressional Leadership Fund; and, Brad Woodhouse, former communications director for the Democratic National Committee.

Gentlemen, it's great to see you both.


BOLDUAN: Brad, great to see you.


BOLDUAN: Brad, first to you.

Brutal numbers for Hillary Clinton in both New Hampshire and Iowa. This is obviously when the campaign had been kind of restarting their restart to show a more, you know, more heart and more humor. What are they going to do when they keep seeing numbers like that?

WOODHOUSE: Kate, I'm dumb-founded at that analysis. The polls show that, yes, she's behind Senator Sanders in New Hampshire, where he's the Senator from the neighboring state. It also shows she's ahead in Iowa, ahead nationally, ahead in South Carolina, ahead in Nevada.


BOLDUAN: So you don't believe head-to-heads? You don't think they're worth the copy they're written on?

WOODHOUSE: These head-to-heads against Republicans, general election match-ups against Republicans in specific states I do think are silly this far out. Remember, in the Democratic primary, Kate, we haven't even had a debate yet. And we're looking at general election polls versus Republicans in specific states? I don't think they mean anything. And I think what is more meaningful is that she is ahead in every state in the Democratic primary except New Hampshire.

BERMAN: You brought up debates. We should say there is a debate coming up right here on CNN one week from tomorrow night. So, thank you for that brief promo.


Mike, Hillary Clinton is talking a lot. She's increased the number of interviews she's doing and I think doing public appearances, much more of that. This morning she was on the "Today" show and she was talking about Benghazi, this Kevin McCarthy statement from last week that a lot of people have talked about. Kevin McCarthy talked about the political advantages for Republicans with the Benghazi investigation. Hillary Clinton responded out loud really for the first time this morning. Let's listen to what she said.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of making a partisan political issue out of the deaths of four Americans. I would have never done that. And if I were president, and there were Republicans or Democrats who were think being that, I would have done everything to shut it down.


BERMAN: She was ready for that, Mike Shields. She certainly was. She says she'll still testify before the committee, if it doesn't disband before then, although I don't think it will. But doesn't this give her a much better position going into that hearing than she had before?

SHIELDS: I don't know. The last time she testified, it was a mitigated disaster. It's interesting she's leaning so forward into this.

Look, her campaign is off the rails. Brad knows, I know, as political professionals, you try to win the day. It's about, what, 150 days since she first put out her video announcing her campaign in April. How many days has she won? I don't think she's won maybe four or five days. She's going to announce something today on gun control. In 2000, she was for gun control. In 2008, she was against gun control. Now, again, she's for gun control. What we know is within 14 hours, that story will be out the news anyway because there will be another e-mail revelation that comes out. So I'm sure she's going to try to lean into this. She's got to --