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Hurricane Florence Strengthening, Targeting East Coast; Trump Insists White House Running Smooth Ahead of Bob Woodward Book Release; CBS' Les Moonves Out Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations; Senator Ted Cruz in Jeopardy of Losing Seat to a Democrat; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 10, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Right now, Hurricane Florence is rapidly strengthening and targeting the East Coast. North and South Carolina are on track to take a direct hit from what could be a category-3 or 4 storm in just days. We'll have the forecast straight ahead.

Also in Washington, nothing to see here. President Trump tamping down reports of chaos inside the White House. This just hours before Bob Woodward's scathing new tell-all hits shelves. Woodward now firing back at the president's latest attack.

And Les Moonves is out. CBS's powerful CEO resigned amid sexual assault and harassment allegations.

We'll get to all of it this hour, let's begin, though, with my friend Chad Myers, our meteorologist in the Severe Weather Center.

What does Florence have in store for the coast?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Certainly an impact of a major hurricane. I don't think we're going to miss that, whether it hits the outer banks or all the way down somewhere north of Charleston, maybe Myrtle Beach, that's still up in the air because we're still about 80 hours away. Right now it's 105-mile-per-hour storm, but NCAR, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, saying that they believe by 11:00 that they'll probably put this at 1:20, which will take this to be a cat 3 hurricane.

That's likely, not yet but we'll see. And that's the 11:00 advisory. We're still an hour away from that. It is forecast to be 150. So what does 120 or 105? It's forecast to be 150-mile-per-hour storm by tomorrow afternoon. And that is going to be right over the warm water, and it's going to try to drive itself right into the Carolina coast.

Now there are still some models that try to stop it. There are still some that try to turn it to the right a little bit. But otherwise, just going straight into the coast with a significant storm surge. You know, 150-mile-per-hour storm in the water, even if it's 130 when it hits land, it still has the surge of a 150-mile-per-hour storm because the storm has been out there sucking all that water in for so very long. This is what we're going to be seeing here. This is a storm surge alert, and also then a flash flooding alert with this.

Let me show you now what this looks like. The sun is finally up in the Atlantic Ocean, and it's really a couple very good pictures here. We'll just take you to three different storms because we're talking about Florence, but Isaac is out there and Helene is out there as well. But there is Florence. What a storm out there. Now just zooming in to the morning shots of this, as the sun was rising over the Atlantic, it looks like a buzzsaw. It looks like something I would put on my chop saw and make some miter cuts, and those are the bad ones when they look this symmetric, we know that they are growing and growing quickly -- Poppy.

HARLOW: OK, Chad, keep an eye on it for us. I know you will. Thank you very, very much.

In Washington this morning, specifically at the White House, one of the president's top aides, Kellyanne Conway says she for one is not taking part in the search for whomever wrote that anonymous "New York Times" op-ed. Others are. The president wants Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, to investigate.

Let's go to the White House, Abby Phillip is there.

I mean, we know from our reporting, Abby, that the White House is very focused on who wrote this. And they're narrowing down the search. But Kellyanne Conway told you this morning it's not part of what I'm looking at right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. She says said she is not in any way involved in that search, even as the president is clearly pushing his aides to find out who the person is. He's even raised in the last week some national security concerns, concerned that he might be in meetings with people who -- or this person who wrote this "New York Times" op-ed. But on the other side of this, in lieu of finding this person, in lieu of a name coming out, we have a lot of officials denying that they were the ones behind it, and offering themselves up to take a lie detector test. Listen to Vice President Mike Pence.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Should all top officials take a lie detector test and would you agree to take one?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would agree to take it in a heartbeat and would submit to any review of the administration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the claims made in the op-ed is that there has been discussion of invoking the 25th Amendment to even remove the president from office. Have you ever been part of a conversation about that?

PENCE: No, never. And why would we be?

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: And this has become a test of loyalty, as to who within the president's inner circle is loyal enough to him and as we saw last week, dozens of senior officials, Cabinet members coming forward saying I didn't do this. But at the same time, it's been days. No name has emerged, and we're looking to see how far the president is going to push his aides and even potentially his attorney general to find this person, potentially prosecute them, but of course, Poppy, there's been no indication that they know of any reason why this person would need to be charged with anything given there was no classified information disclosed in that op-ed.

HARLOW: Exactly. Abby Phillip at the White House. Thank you very much, Abby, for the reporting.

Let's talk about all of this. "Washington Post" reporter, CNN political analyst Karoun Demerjian is with me and our senior political analyst, senior editor of the Atlantic, Ron Brownstein.

So, Karoun, to you first, I mean, the president just tweeted again, you know, saying phony books, articles, TV hits, et cetera. Ignore all that. The economy is good.

[10:05:03] He called it a joke, the Woodward book. He called it another assault against me. Well, this morning in another interview, Bob Woodward is standing by his reporting and he's saying this. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a couple things that are -- I mean, they leap off the page. You have John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, calling the president idiot, saying we're in crazy town. That's a quote.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Kelly now says that never happened. I didn't say it. Jim Mattis, another person, quoted as saying the president's understanding is like a fifth or sixth grader. He comes out subsequently and says I didn't say it. Are they lying?

WOODWARD: They're not telling the truth.


HARLOW: OK. So, Karoun, to you, I mean, assuming Bob Woodward did not, the journalist he is, did not misquote or fabricate this, that is not his reputation at all. Why would Kelly or Mattis put their names to lines like that in the first place?

KAROUN DEMERJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, everybody in the White House who may have ever said something critical about the president is trying to establish the fact that they are loyal to the president right now. I mean, you're talking about lie detector tests. You're having various investigations called for by the president of the United States. That's got to be an element of concern to people who are in the administration, who are trying to say no, it wasn't me, whether or not it was them.

We haven't had anybody come forward and say yes, I penned that op-ed. And it's unlikely that we will see that happen anytime soon. But, you know, it's not the first time that we have heard -- that we have seen reporting about discord in the White House, about members of the president's staff pushing back against the president who then on the record will say, oh, no, I didn't do it. This is a well-established pattern. It's just that the level to which --


DEMERJIAN: -- it's gotten in the Woodward book, it's surprising that the certain quotes, the certain anecdotes that he's telling, they are surprising, but in a way, kind of just the culmination of what's been a pattern really since this administration started where you've seen this sort of tension play out over and over again.

HARLOW: Ron, part of the White House strategy here is to point to the economy and say the economy is good. Nothing else matters. I mean, if that were true, the president's poll numbers would be much higher. As has been the case with previous presidents with strong economies.


HARLOW: Listen to something that I found fascinating that Kellyanne Conway said to Jake Tapper yesterday morning on "STATE OF THE UNION," sort of paraphrasing the president here about the Woodward book.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Hey, Bob, it doesn't really matter what you write in the book because the economy is doing so well. We're doing great in terms of bringing peace, not war around the globe, the regulation is down --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: But if the president wanted to talk to Woodward, shouldn't he had a choice --


CONWAY: And the president says that's the real story. That's the greatest story not told.



HARLOW: So, I mean, Ron, you know, I suppose it works for the president's most ardent supporters but what about everyone else? What about in the suburbs?


HARLOW: What about the independents he got that he needs again?

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Well, first of all, by the way, on the Woodward book, this is a, you know, Washington ritual that goes back to the 1970s of immediately after a Bob Woodward book is published, all sorts of people say no, I never said that. You know, and look, we have seen this movie for 40 years. And you know, there's no question that sometimes things get a little embellished, but the basic stories have all held up I think over time.

Now, on your point, it's really the key point here, which is that unemployment is under 4 percent, and the president's approval rating is only around 40 percent. That level of unemployment, I think for most presidents, we'd be talking about 55 percent or perhaps a little more of the country approving. And that delta, that difference is really made up primarily of voters who believe that Donald Trump is either temperamentally unsuited to be president by judgment, temperament, or values.

And the paradox Republicans face is that many of the places that are doing best in this economy, particularly these white-collar suburbs and the big metros are the places where those doubts are the deepest and thus their vulnerability is the greatest. So, you know, the idea that the economy itself will be a silver bullet, certainly it is better than not for Republicans, but this election seems to be driven more by the anxieties about the personal behavior of President Trump, his commitment to the rule of law, and the demonstrated unwillingness of Republicans in Congress to really impose any kind of constraints or barriers on him.

HARLOW: So speaking about those Republicans, Karoun, in Congress, powerful Republicans like Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who said yesterday to Jake Tapper that he wakes up every morning thinking about possibly leaving the Republican Party to become an independent, he also said this.


SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: I'm committed to the party of Lincoln and Reagan as long as there's a chance to reform it. But this party used to be for some pretty definable stuff. And frankly neither of these parties are for very much more than being anti.


HARLOW: OK, you can talk. But what are you going to do about it, Karoun? I mean, that's exactly what Jake asked him, and he said, well, you know, talking is an important part of democracy. It is, but also when you sit on Armed Services, when you sit on the Banking Committee, when you sit on the Judiciary Committee, what are you going to do about it to check the president?

[10:10:04] DEMERJIAN: Yes, I mean, look, there's that element of people are voicing a lot of opinions but not necessarily putting their money where their mouth is. There's also -- you have to remember, there's a lot of figures in Congress right now who are eyeing 2020 and thinking about how they might position themselves to be more appealing beyond their state confines. If they're -- you know, using (INAUDIBLE). But look, the field is open right now with the passing of John McCain

and the retirements of Bob Corker and Jeff Flake coming up, there is room for somebody else in the Republican Party to kind of step up as the critic-in-chief of the president. You kind of have to stay in the GOP for it to work that well, but Ben Sasse is one of the names that people are tossing around about somebody who could be that sort of, you know, answer to the Trump wing of the party. It's just it doesn't seem like he's quite sure where he wants his political future to lie. And he's very new in Congress also.

You're talking about the departure of some fairly senior people leaving this gap into which Ben Sasse knows, he must know, that people are thinking he could fill it, but it's not clear if that's really what he's going to do.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, Poppy, real quick.

HARLOW: Yes. Sure.

BROWNSTEIN: I mean, Sasse does embody the kind of white-collar center right voters who are finding it harder to identify with the Republican Party under Trump, but he's certainly, as you both said, he has not put his money where his mouth is. I mean, right now, Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse are both on the Judiciary Committee. I mean, they -- this is a moment of maximum leverage. They could say they would not vote to sent Brett Kavanaugh to the floor unless and until they get a vote on the legislation, for example, protecting Bob Mueller. They have leverage.

HARLOW: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: They are choosing not to exercise it and really to do nothing. Almost to act like kind of pundits in the bleachers, kind of commenting from afar and denying the actual authority and power they have to try to advance the goals they say they support.

HARLOW: Thank you both. A lot to cover this Monday. We appreciate it.

Ahead for us, a major shakeup at CBS, the CEO Les Moonves is out. This as six more women come forward accusing him of sexual abuse and misconduct. What does it mean for the network and what will justice look like for these women?

Also, is Senator Ted Cruz in jeopardy of losing his seat to a Democrat in Texas? Why the lieutenant governor of Texas is reportedly asking for President Trump's help.

And Serena Williams fines thousands of dollars after this outburst at the U.S. Open. The controversy, the fallout, and why Serena says this was blatant sexism, and now a number of her male tennis co-stars are backing her up.


[10:16:49] HARLOW: CBS chief executive Les Moonves is out. Forced out in the face of new sexual misconduct and abuse allegations. He is the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to lose his job because of allegations sparked in the midst of the Me Too Movement. His departure comes as the number of women who accuse him of harassment and assault has now grown to 12.

This morning, we heard from one of his accusers who says Moonves destroyed her life. Listen to this.


PHYLLIS GOLDEN-GOTTLIEB, MOONVES' ACCUSER: That's a joke, it's so bad. Of course, he did. I mean, he took my whole career right after he appeared naked. He came running into my office and did this whole thing about -- that I didn't send the memo to anybody. And then he picked me up and threw me against the wall. I mean, I just lay on the floor and cried. I mean, I didn't know what was going to happen to me.


HARLOW: In a statement, Moonves said he was saddened to leave the company. He claims the allegations against him are untrue. And I should note, this statement offers no apology. "CBS This Morning's" Norah O'Donnell spoke about the allegations against Moonves on her show this morning just after she had to address similar accusations, of course, about her former co-anchor Charlie Rose. Here's what Norah said.


NORAH O'DONNELL, CO-HOST, CBS THIS MORNING: For me, it's been another sleepless night thinking about this. The pain that women feel. The courage that it takes for women to come forward.

There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and it is pervasive in our culture. And this, I know, is true to the core of my being. Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility.


HARLOW: Our senior media correspondent Brian Stelter is with me.

Brian, you broke this story when it happened yesterday, that Moonves was out. And when Norah talks about pervasive, you -- I'm glad she said that. You cannot say that enough, from Harvey Weinstein on down to Les Moonves. How big is this and how powerful was he in the industry?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I think for the entertainment industry, this is the biggest Me Too earthquake that was imaginable. Because Moonves until yesterday was arguably the most powerful TV executive in the business, running the top broadcast network and was among the highest paid men in the television business. Frankly, one of the highest paid CEOs in America, no matter what industry you're in. You'll see here on screen, he was at CBS running the company for about

20 years. And he was making about $70 million a year. So ultimately this is a story partly about money, partly about power.

Meanwhile, the company is just trying to move on. Right? The new acting CEO Joe Ianniello sent out a memo to staffers. The title was looking forward. You know, they're trying to turn the page. But I'm not sure how possible that's going to be given the outstanding questions about money.

HARLOW: Talk more about what is alleged that he did to these 12 women, because Ronan Farrow's new reporting that broke yesterday morning and then subsequently, you know, Moonves was out, that really is what moved the needle.

STELTER: Yes, I mean, really what happened here, if you want to know the story behind the story, Farrow starts talking to these women in August.


[10:20:05] STELTER: Six additional women who are fed up, frustrated that CBS wasn't taking action against Moonves. He starts doing his reporting. After Labor Day, he starts calling CBS. Within 24 hours of Farrow calling CBS, we started to hear that Moonves was going to leave. So that's an example of how reporting has impacted, the new reporting from Farrow clearly moved the needle here. It's partly because of the allegations in the follow-up story, as you mentioned, came out yesterday were even more disturbing than the first story --

HARLOW: Let's listen --

STELTER: -- by describing forced oral sex and other allegations against Moonves.

HARLOW: We do have some sound of Ronan Farrow, was his reporting. Let's listen to what he said just this morning on CNN.


RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: There thread through these stories is of really vindictive retaliation, something he denies but a lot of these women who don't know each other say over and over.


HARLOW: Retaliation.

STELTER: Right. Abusing his power in cases where he was rebuffed by these women. Insuring they wouldn't work for CBS in the future. Those are the kinds of claims. And they are pretty similar claims from various women at various points in Moonves' career.

Now, it is true many of these allegations date back decades ago, but this is all what the two law firms are looking into. These two law firms CBS hired to look into the allegations. They've been at work for more than a month. Doesn't seem like they're going to be finished anytime soon. And ultimately that's what will determine if Moonves is going to walk away $120 million richer or with a lot less money than that.

HARLOW: Right, because the 8k filing that you -- you know, that you have to file with the SEC for big changes, I mean, six board members got replaced as well.

STELTER: Yes, a whole shakeup. Yes.

HARLOW: Says he could get anywhere from, what, zero to $120 million, $180 million when he leaves.

STELTER: That's right, imagine a $120 million pot of money that's going to be put in a trust in the next few days. And within a matter of months, it will be determined by a bunch of lawyers whether Moonves gets to earn that money, take it with him, or whether it goes back to the company. For now, it's going to be sitting there as this giant X- factor, and I think that's what makes this Me Too case different from all the others we've talked about for the past year. It's about the financial stakes. And I'm already seeing a lot of folks on Twitter, including some who work at CBS, saying why would Moonves be paid this much money on the way out the door.

HARLOW: I mean, the money represents so much, right? But money aside, these women, their voices, their stories, what they say happened to them for decades and decades, ruining lives is what many of these women allege.

STELTER: I think it's an important reminder that even one experience.


STELTER: One encounter that Moonves might have had 30 years ago would change the course of these women's lives because it would affect their careers.

HARLOW: Correct.

STELTER: Penalize their careers, and you know one way to solve that is to insure there are more women at the tops of these companies and not entirely male dominated profession like the way media has been.

HARLOW: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Thanks.

HARLOW: For the reporting. Again Brian broke that story and he's all over it for us this morning.

Ahead for us, Senator Ted Cruz in Texas fighting for his political life and a seat that should be an easy win for him. Next, why a new report says Texas Republicans have been asking the White House to come in and help.


[10:27:38] HARLOW: All right, it was supposed to be an easy win, but now Senator Ted Cruz is fighting for his political life in the deep red state of Texas. And as polls show his Democratic challenger gaining ground. Cruz has this message, though, for Democrats or for voters about Democrats. He said over the weekend, and I quote the senator, "They want us to be just like California, right down to tofu, silicon and dyed hair."

Meanwhile, Politico reports that after a lobbying campaign by a state official, the president is coming to the rescue of his former rival in the 2016 campaign and will headline a rally for Cruz in Texas next month, but we're learning a Trump administration official behind closed doors said this race may be closer because of one thing, likeability.

Harry Enten, our senior political writer and analyst is with me.

There's so much to chew on here, but let's begin with that Cruz statement over the weekend, trying to rally voters by saying Democrats want us to be just like California right down to tofu, silicon, and dyed hair. You think he's talking to an old Texas. What do you mean?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: I do think he's talking to an old Texas. I mean, look, where is Texas growing? It's growing in the suburbs of Dallas and Houston. This is where Hillary Clinton made major strides over Barack Obama. Remember, she did better in Texas relative to Barack Obama, the margin, and when you are talking about dyed hair and silicon and all of that, you're really talking to rural areas. You're talking to white voters without a college degree.

And to me, where Ted Cruz needs to make sure he keeps Beto O'Rourke, the Democrat's margins down is among white voters with a college degree and statements like that don't help his cause at all.

HARLOW: What about what Mick Mulvaney, the Budget director, said at this private event in New York City, standing alongside the Ronna Romney McDaniel, the RNC chair? You know, about all of this. I mean, he said there's a very real possibility we win a race for Senate in Florida and lose a race in Texas for Senate. And he says, how likable is the candidate? That still counts. Is he right?

ENTEN: I will say the polls are certainly close. It's almost like you look at the polls in January, Cruz is up 10, then you look at the polls in May, he's up eight, then you look in August, he's up six. So the race is definitely closing. And it does seem to me that the reason the race is closing is because Ted Cruz's favorability rating is hovering right around 50 percent. So his poll numbers are staying static, but Beto O'Rourke keeps climbing, climbing, climbing, climbing, climbing, as he becomes better known.

HARLOW: What about what Mulvaney said at that same fundraiser big picture when it comes to likability and the president? Because we know how involved the president wants to be in midterms, how much he will be on the road with these candidates in Texas, they're happy, right, for Cruz.

ENTEN: Sure.

HARLOW: But Mulvaney said this.