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Hurricane Threatens Carolinas; White House Continues to Search for Writer of Anonymous "New York Times" Op-Ed Claiming to be by Trump Administration Official. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 10, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That looks like a direct hit. This could be the most powerful hurricane to strike the Carolinas in almost three decades. This hurricane poses a major flood threat inland because forecasters believe the storm could stall, dumping just a ton of rain.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, so we'll keep an eye on all of that.

Of course we're also following the continuing political firestorm over that "New York Times" op-ed written by an unnamed senior Trump insider. A sources tells CNN that President Trump's aides believe that they have narrowed down the search to just a few individuals. Vice President Pence is going so far as saying he is willing to take a lie detector test to prove he did not write it.

Let's start with hurricane Florence. Lets' begin with CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. Tell us what the storm track is saying, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's 105 miles per hour right now, and getting stronger out here in the Atlantic Ocean. A very warm surface temperature of the ocean giving fuel to the fire to get stronger. John, as you mentioned, this thing could stall eventually. Wouldn't it be fantastic if it stalled 24 hours too early? That's not out of the question. But we're seeing this 150-mile-per-hour storm in the Atlantic building surge, building rain, building tropical moisture, and that eventually all the models coming on shore somewhere in the Carolinas, less so this morning in South Carolina, more so for the North, kind of indicating maybe that turn that sometimes we see.

What we do know is that wherever this thing goes there is going to be an awful lot of rainfall, maybe 20 inches of rain. Now, the sun is rising in the Atlantic, and I want to take you to something else we have out there. There are two other storms out here. There is Isaac and there's also Helene. But there's Florence. As the sun rises on our brand new satellite here, just amazing pictures from this satellite. The eye, well-defined, likely going through rapid intensification right now by 11:00. I'm sure this will be a cat three. Amazing shots there from our brand new just launched satellite, guys.

BERMAN: Chad, just to be clear right now, you were talking about the forecast models and the tracks there. This really does look like it's heading right to the Carolinas, maybe around Wilmington, North Carolina. We don't know for sure. Is there anything that would push this off?

MYER: What we have is the big high pressure that's north of it. And that's not allowing it to go north. Typically these storms like to curve around and then move up towards the north Atlantic. That doesn't look like that's going to happen. But if it does stall like forecast models are -- again stalling just a little bit off shore, that would be huge. But if it does come onshore, we're not talking just Wilmington. There is going to be a 100-mile wide area with storm surge over-washing beaches, knocking down some homes. I'm afraid that is going to have to happen if it does make landfall. But that's still about 82 to 84 hours away so far on the models right now, John.

CAMEROTA: Chad, we know you'll keep an eye on it for us every hour. Thank you very much.

Meanwhile, residents in the Carolinas can't wait, so they're already scrambling to get ready for hurricane Florence. CNN's Kaylee Hartung is live at a store in Wilmington, North Carolina where people are stocking up. A Category four would be huge in that area, Kaylee.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It would be, Alisyn. And some stores here cannot restock their hurricane essentials fast enough. This grocery store in Wilmington sold out of its water supply well before they closed down last night. They expected to restock overnight, but the truckload of water they expected hasn't arrived yet. We are seeing shelves clear in groceries stores up and down the east coast from Savannah, Georgia through the Carolinas and into Virginia. Water and bread are gone. In home improvement stores, plywood and generators, they are selling out.

But people recognize that this storm isn't just a threat to the coast. We're seeing shelves clear inland as far as Rockhill, South Carolina, and the research triangle area of North Carolina. Yesterday, I spoke to some beachgoers who were trying to enjoy the last bit of good weather. But the locals, Alisyn and John, they told me they'd gone to the store to prep before enjoying the last bit of good weather here.

BERMAN: Kaylee Hartung in Wilmington, North Carolina. Kaylee, thanks for being there for us, appreciate it. We'll watch this storm all morning long.

In the this morning, new this morning, CNN has learned that White House aides believe they have narrowed the hunt for the unnamed senior official who wrote the so-called resistance op-ed in "The New York Times" down to just a few people. Vice President Mike Pence, again, denies that he wrote it, and he is offering to prove it.


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

MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I would agree to take it in a heartbeat and would submit to any review that the administration wanted to do.

WALLACE: Do you think the administration should do that?

PENCE: Look, that would be a decision for the president.


BERMAN: In a heartbeat. Let's bring in CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, former Republican senior assistant to President Trump Marc Lotter, and former Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania Charlie Dent. He is now a CNN political commentator.

[08:05:00] Marc, I suppose I want to start with you because you worked inside those buildings. When you hear the vice president of the United States say strap me up to a lie detector in a heartbeat, it's pretty clear that this story has already had a very big impact on the administration.

MARC LOTTER, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think the vice president is just putting a voice to what everybody knows inside the White House, that it was not the vice president who wrote that letter, and he's also very confident it did not come from someone inside his staff. So they're going to continue looking. It's very important that we figure out who wrote this, because when you go into office, your job is not to make the decision, it's to execute the decisions that are made by the elected official. And if we have somebody in there who thinks they're smarter and they're going to make their own decisions about what should be enacted upon or what actions to take once the president makes up his mind, that is contrary to the way we do government.

CAMEROTA: Charlie, I've joked earlier in the program but, as you know, I like to recycle in my jokes. Why not a strip search? When it's gotten to the point where the vice president is saying that, couldn't the vice president have said this is all silly? We don't need to have polygraphs. We're all staying on our message, on our agenda. This is all silly. If there's one malcontent, I'm sure he or she will be discovered sooner or later. The idea that the vice president is going to the degree of saying yes, I support polygraphs, please strap me up, what does that tell you?

CHARLIE DENT, FORMER MEMBER OF CONGRESS: It tells me that the list of those people who would likely have not written that memo is much shorter than those who could have. The list is very long of people who might have written that memo. Now you hear all these denials. I'm not buying it.

Let's face it, there's a lot of discontent in the administration. It's that simple. And I wouldn't be shocked at any number of people could have written that. They sure as heck thought it. We all know that. The never-ending chaos, drama, dysfunction is very real. And to deny that fact is absurd. We can all obsess about the writer of this op-ed, and I certainly hope this is a senior administration official, but we can obsess about it, but we have to look at the root cause, and that's the president's behavior and conduct in office.

BERMAN: So Charlie, former Congressman, if I can just stay on this point with you for one moment. You say you know it. Is this because you saw it and heard it when you were still a member of Congress?

DENT: Yes, of course. I've said this before. I was in two meetings with the president on health care, and he pretty much berated me because I told him some of the problems of the health care bill. He didn't like it. I was opposed to the bill and he told me I was going to destroy the Republican Party. He was going to blame me. It was going to be my fault. I was going to take down health care reform if we didn't pass this health care bill in that form, which he later called mean, by the way. So I've been on the receiving end of that. I've seen this.

And so I'm not shocked when I hear people say these things. All that was written in that op-ed, I have either heard those same stories anecdotally or seen them in writing with the exception of the 25th Amendment whispering. So nothing there really shocked me. I get the sense that the president can be really rough on his staff, and I'm being generous when I say that. That's the way it is. That's the way he treats people. I don't think there's a lot of trust in that White House.

CAMEROTA: OK. Sometimes --

BERMAN: The FCC. All I can say, the FCC. Just saying.

CAMEROTA: We don't know what gremlin is behind that. But, Marc, I do say when we get Charlie's shot back up, that this demands response from you, because, again, you know how this all this operates. And the idea that there is a resistance, not of one person. This is not just one mole or one resistant person, of dozens of people. And Charlie Dent says this is an open secret, that it's hard to deal with the president and that sometimes people around him feel that they have to stop him from his impulses. Your response to all of that?

LOTTER: That's not how I would characterize it. That's not how I experienced my time in the White House or continuing when I continue to connect with my colleagues who are still in the White House. And I traveled with the president just about a week and a half ago and it's not what I saw.

I think what we have to make sure we understand is this is a president who surrounds himself with people who disagree. He had Gary Cohn, a very known Democrat, liberal, with very set policies and thoughts on economic policy, and he pit those against folks who had much more traditional, say, Republican economic themes. And he encouraged them to debate issues. But when he makes the decision, he expects the staff to actually go out and execute that decision.

So while there are very passionate, very heated debates inside the White House amongst people who are supposed to do that, so they can make the best case to the president on whatever the decision might be, I don't see that as being a resistance. And sometimes when people don't win the argument, they do feel like they have not necessarily won the argument. So this is not that surprising to me, but I can tell you everyone in there that I worked with, they focused on getting the job done. So when the president makes the call, that's what he was elected to do. Your job is to go out there and do it. [08:10:08] CAMEROTA: Look, the problem is the author of the op-ed,

Nia-Malika, says that the president is ill-informed and that James Mattis, as you know from Bob Woodward, is quoted as saying the president has the comprehension of a fifth or sixth grader. So it's not that the president has won the argument. It's that they think the president doesn't understand the argument and that's why they have to swipe documents that he might sign off his desk.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And this isn't really a new characterization of this president. We've heard from other officials on the record who said he likes his memos in bullet points. He likes his briefings very short and easy to understand. This isn't a president who sits up late at night with briefing books in the way that Bill Clinton did, in the way that Bush did, in the way that Obama did. We know that about this president. I think that's the problem that all of this poses, that it only underscores other things we've heard about this president from previous books or from previous senior administration officials, from senators. Bob Corker, for instance, going on the record saying the White House is an adult daycare center, likening the president to a child in many ways.

So I think that's the problem that this White House has, also that this president is just distracted by it. Even as he tries to stay on the economy and move away from this story, I think we've seen this morning him tweeting about the Bob Woodward book which of course comes out tomorrow.

BERMAN: Talk about that a little bit, Nia, because you're absolutely right. I was just looking at this that came from 48 minutes ago. The president says the Woodward book is a joke. And he goes on to say it's been discredited. There have been people like Mattis who have came out and said that conversations that have been depicted about me have not happened. But we haven't heard from Gary Cohn. We haven't heard from Rob Porter, who is clearly a major source from this book.

CAMEROTA: And the words from Chief of Staff John Kelly have seemed measured, not a complete denial of everything.

BERMAN: So watch the wording very carefully, but Nia, I think you're absolutely right, the president is focused on this. And the book doesn't come out until tomorrow.

HENDERSON: Right, right. He's obsessed with this. We heard in the interview that he had with Woodward on tape, basically saying he really wanted to talk with Woodward. That, of course, didn't happen. At one point he called Bob Woodward fair. So of course, now he's going against that, saying this is a book all made up of lies and it's fiction. He's going to write his own book.

Again, we know this is a president who has not always told the truth, who does deal in fiction himself. And Bob Woodward has a pretty good record in terms of revealing things about White Houses, whether it's the Trump White House or the Obama White House or the Bush White House that the White House's don't always like. I think the difference here is that those White Houses knew how to deal with Woodward I think a bit better, have more of a coordinated response to unflattering portraits of their White Houses. And this president seems to be all over the place, on one hand saying he wants to move on and talk about the economy, we saw some tweets about that. On the other hand, they clearly wanted to trot Mike Pence out there. I'm surprised Mike Pence hasn't decided to say he would do a lie detector test on air, live on television.

CAMEROTA: Now you're talking like a producer, Nia-Malika. I like this.

BERMAN: Speaking your language there.

CAMEROTA: Now you're speaking my language. We'll be bouncing that off the White House today. Marc Lotter, given all of this, just the past week, just the highs and lows and the drama of the past week, how concerned are you for Republicans in the midterms?

LOTTER: I'm not. I don't think that this book or this op-ed is going to impact the midterm elections. I think people are going to look at the economy. The front page of the "Washington Post" this morning talked about blue collar jobs growing faster now than any time since are Ronald Reagan was in office. Those are the things. The confirmation of soon to be Justice Kavanaugh, those are the things I think are going to motivate voters. I don't think this palace intrigue -- I think for the most part, many people across America outside of New York and D.C. just take it as a bunch of noise and move on with their daily lives and worry about what is going to impact them at home.

BERMAN: All right, friends, Marc, Nia-Malika Henderson, and Charlie Dent, we appreciate you being with us, thanks very muhc.

So he might have some name recognition, but there's one thing the son of Bernie Sanders does not have as a candidate for Congress -- his father's endorsement.

CAMEROTA: Why not?

BERMAN: Levi Sanders joins us next, live.



BERMAN: A self-proclaimed progressive, Levi Sanders, is one of the 11 democrats, running in the New Hampshire First Congressional District Primary, tomorrow.

While, his agenda is similar to that of his father's, Senator Bernie Sanders, "He has not earned his father's endorsement."

Levi Sanders, joins me now, of course big primary day tomorrow, thanks so much for being with us. As we know it, this is an 11 candidate field, this is a tough race, and it's very close. Won't your father's endorsement help?

LEVI SANDERS, CONGRESS DISTRICT 1, D: John, first of all, thank you very much for helping me.

My father and I don't believe in Dynastic-Politics, but, we do believe in Medicare for all, tuition-free public Colleges and Universities, paid equity for women, paid family and medical leave, our $15 minimum wage in dealing with income and wealth inequality.

John, 47 percent of American's right now have $400 or less, to deal with a medical emergency, or simply, their car breaking down.

BERMAN: You don't have to believe --

SANDERS: I do have the endorsement --

BERMAN: Go ahead.

SANDERS: I'm sorry. I do have the endorsement of Ro Khanna, who's doing a really great job in Congress. He's doing incredible work, and there's the Medicare for all caucus, as well as, Phil Murphy, well as a whole host of other folks --

BERMAN: Well, what I was going to say is --

SANDERS: I feel very, very good about this endorsement.

BERMAN: -- what I was going to say is that you don't have to believe in Dynastic-Politics, to say that I think, Mr. X or Ms. Y, is the best candidate for that seat, and your father hasn't even said, "Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has not said that."

SANDERS: John, what I can tell you is this; I'm very, very proud of the folks that have endorsed me. What's most important to understand is what Bernard Sanders has talked about, is now mainstream, our $15 minimum wage Medicare for all.

So, what I can tell you is, I continue to talk to folks in New Hampshire, and I hear from them, they talk about those issues.

[08:20:00] BERMAN: You are not your father. He is a politician from Vermont, you want to be a politician from New Hampshire, however, you did cite his politics. Is there anywhere politically, that you differ from folks in New Hampshire, and I hear from them, they talk about those issues.

BERMAN: You are not your father? He is a politician from Vermont, you want to be a politician from New Hampshire. However, you did cite his politics. Is there any where politically, that you just (inaudible) from your father?

SANDERS: Again, I would say, that what we do is, it's not really about different (ph), it's about what do have in common, where did, the vast majority of Americans have in common.

John, right now, we have seventy percent of the American public, who believes in a Medicare for all, single-payer healthcare system. We have 85 percent of democrats, and even 52 percent of republicans. BERMAN: You and your father are actually, appealed to many of the same voters who is now President Donald Trump. Some of the voters in the First Congressional District of New Hampshire, if you are going to win, you going to have appeal to those Trump voters.

How would you assess his performance as president, and how are you going to win those voters over? How would you be different?

SANDERS: Different. First, you know that's very, very good point. Right now, it's a plus-two Trump district. The way I'm going to win this voters over, is, what I've been talking about throughout the campaign, of $15 minimum wage, Medicare for all.

Again, when I talked to folks whether Democrats or Republicans, periodically (ph), 53 percent of Republicans, supported Medicare for all, Healthcare-System. They too, have high co-payments, deductibles, as well as premiums.

BERMAN: What is President Trump done well?

SANDERS: What is Trump done well? President Trump, in my opinion, we - that's really something I don't think that's really an important question to ask. I mean right now, through (ph) what I was saying to you, is that, it's very important that we become less divisive.

What I can tell you is that I think that we can work with Donald Trump on the issue of infrastructure.

BERMAN: I mean, I do think it's an important question to ask what he's done well. If you going to criticize someone I think you need to assess the full picture and say, this is gone well, this hasn't gone well, this are areas which could be improve and all. It's not a totally irrelevant question, especially the voters of the First District, who, as you said, Donald Trump did well there.

SANDERS: Ok, all right. So, you know, what I would say to you very clearly, is that, what Donald Trump has done well based on talking to folks who are Trump supporters is, what he's done is that, he has got people motivated about politics. So, whether you're a democrat or a republican, right now, we have probably about, 10 to 15 (ph) percent of folks, who are going to vote in this primary.

So, what I can tell you, whether it's Donald Trump or other folks in a Democratic Party, the goal is to bring people together. That's what I would say when I hear from folks. But, I can tell you very clearly the economy, is not going well, based on when I talked to folks, whether they are conservative as well as democrats, in District 1.

We have $7.25, federal minimum wage, if you work 40 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty.

BERMAN: Finally, I know you say your family does not believe in dynastic politics, but if I told you right now, I have Senator Bernie Sanders on the line, and he wants to endorse you, in your candidacy for Congress, would you accept that endorsement? SANDERS: John, I am just concentrating on ensuring that we have a Medicare for all single-payer Healthcare, tuition-free public colleges and universities.

I have a tremendous endorsements from a whole folks -- at this point, I will accept an endorsement from anybody who -- who -- believes in Medicare for all Healthcare system, who believes in tuition-free public colleges and universities, pay equality (ph) for women, paid family and medical leave, a $15 minimum wage.

So, of course I would, I would - definitely accept an endorsement by anybody, by those means.

BERMAN: Levi Sanders. Thank you again, for joining us talking about a range of subjects. Crowded field tomorrow, big race tomorrow we wish you the best of luck sir.

SANDERS: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Do you have Senator Bernie Sanders on the phone? Is this - a big deal?

BERMAN: I -- I -- I don't-- I don't. And I -- you know, he knew, that I didn't, because he knows, that this is something they've discussed and he knows that this is an issue, but I do think it's interesting to have him say, "I would accepted it if offered".

CAMEROTA: I think that's interesting, I also thought you're going to be like, "caller?", but that was --

BERMAN: No, I didn't. know what you were working on backstage. You were working on getting a lie detectors test for - lie detector for Vice President like Mike Pence also(ph).

CAMEROTA: I have set up, and it's for you first. And then for Vice President. All right now -

BERMAN: That thing would explode.

CAMEROTA: It is, it is smoking, back there. Meanwhile, we have to give you an update on this story that of course you've been following for months now. Hundreds of immigrant children, still separate from their parents. As a border, they have still not been reunited, and one mom's agonizing wait, to see her autistic son.

That's next.



CAMEROTA: It has been two months, since that federal judge ordered that the family separated at the border be reunited. But one mother from El Salvador is still waiting to be reunited with her autistic son.

CNN's Nick Valencia, joins us now, with her story. Nick, what you've been learned?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. For those first cases of reunification it took weeks, and those were the ones that were very cut and dry, and there was no mistake that they were parents of those children. But, these last cases, are a little bit more complicated and more difficult. In some cases the government has labeled these parents as unfit or abusive parents, or in the case that you are about to hear, has labeled them a criminal.


VALENCIA (voice over): Zero tolerance separated Raquel (ph) from her two young sons. But two months after a federal judge ordered separated families to be reunited, Raquel (ph) is still waiting.


VALENCIA (voice over): But, help hasn't come. She's not sure it ever will. Her harrowing 20 journey from El Salvador, seeking asylum has instead, brought even more pain.