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Forecast For Hurricane Florence; "Washington Post:" Manafort In Talks About Plea Deal; Donald Trump Jr. Claims NYT Op-Ed Writer Is Subverting The Will Of The People; Homeland Security: More Sophisticated Terror Attacks Are Deadliest Threat; Has Trump's Criticism Of NATO Damaged Relationships With Our Closest Allies?; McConnell Says Close Senate Midterm Races 'Like A Knife Fight In An Alley;' President Trump's Team Response To "Fear." Aired 11-12a ET

Aired September 11, 2018 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT" I'm Don Lemon. It is 11:00 p.m. on the East Coast. We are live with the breaking news for you on Hurricane Florence. A new forecast coming in right now for this monster storm that threatens 20 million people.

Hurricane Florence still bearing down on the Carolinas and mid- Atlantic coast where one end -- one half million -- one and a half million people have already been forced to flee. We've got a lot coming up on this for you. But let's get right to Tom Sater in the CNN Weather Center. Tom, good evening to you. A new advisory has just come in. What can you tell us?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We still have a massive Category 4 Florence here and it hasn't even reached its peak yet, Don. Some updates I need to tell you about, because it's such and active Atlantic right now. While we are watching Florence, authorities in Texas now are watching what is happening off the Yucatan.

We could have a depression or tropical storm in the next couple of days. You know, services are going to be spread out across the country. Let's back up from yesterday and really tell you what's happened in the last couple of hours. Early this morning, National Hurricane Center issued watches.

Once the watches are issued, we get the updates every three hours. It did not take long for them to push right into a warning now and that's from Santee River, South Carolina up to Duck, North Carolina including Albemarle and Pamlico.

So, these warnings are in effect. That means this is imminent. It is coming. The system is still massive. Last night, winds at 140, dropped this morning to 130. It slowed down this morning. Well, now it's speeding back up and it's back to 140, which means the system has lungs. It's exhaling, it's inhaling.

It most likely went through a little reorganization with the eye. But it is barreling still toward pretty much around the Wilmington area. Now, when we watch this, we have to understand this is much like Katrina. When Katrina moved into the gulf, it was a Category 5. When it went to New Orleans, it was only a two.

But the damage was done because when it was a 5, this up welling of water came with it and it shoved what was a record storm surge of 28 feet. That's the concern here. It's much different to have a storm develop out here in open waters than just develop near the coast. It's bringing water.

Now, this is what's different. In red here is the U.S. model. Blue which is hard to see underneath it is the European model. Yesterday and the day before, total disagreement. You can't see the blue. It's underneath. Total agreement. Now, this right now is at Friday at 2:30 in the morning. What happens? Does it make landfall? Looks like it stays off coast.

Both of these models in agreement now, that's Friday at 11:00, so again, let's get into more detail here and break it down. This is just a European model. Let me explain. This is going to fluctuate over the next couple days. Until it gets closer, we are not going to know exactly what is going to happen.

So the National Hurricane Center is poring through all the data and looking at many more models, but the European is good. Here's the resolution and the detail. The system now moves toward Wilmington. As expected, this model is Friday at 6:00 in the morning. Don, it doesn't want to make landfall. It comes really close and then it looks like it wants to shift down toward Charleston.

This is Saturday at 10:00 at night. So we go from 6:00 in the morning on Friday to 10:00 at night, two full days of staying offshore. Wave after wave of pounding outer bands of the heavy surf that continues to move in with the surge. With that said, it then carries through. That's the European model.

Just two hours ago, the U.S. model agreed to this as well. So let's see what has changed with the National Hurricane Center track now. They believe and we've got to stick with this is, let's be consistent here, they kick it in still as a Category 4, a little bit of a change because in the previous run --

LEMON: It had a three.

SATER: -- it had a strong three to a four, right. No one's going to notice the difference.

LEMON: Yeah.

SATER: So don't pay attention to that category. But now coming right over Wilmington, last night when I was with with you, we saw this track about 50 miles to the north. It's now back over Wilmington. But now they're trying to say, will it make landfall? They believe it will. They'll kick it inland a little bit.

So that's the problem. Then they put the kink in coming to the south. No longer heading up to the north and parts of Virginia, maybe panning around and installing in this area. It is still going to drop crazy amounts of rain and the surge is getting higher. That was an update today, up to 13 feet. We believe that could be higher.

LEMON: Either path is devastating. I mean, it is devastating.

SATER: Yeah.

LEMON: It's going to sit there, spin, bring water and storm surge.

[23:05:01] Thank you very much, Tom Sater. We'll check back with you. I appreciate the update. I want to bring in now -- Tom mentioned the National Hurricane Center. We will bring in now Ed Rappaport, the deputy director of the National Hurricane Center.

Ed, you know we have to meet on these occasions. I wish it was, you know, better news. But I hope people heed the warnings and get out. You have been tracking the storm all night. What is the best case or worst case scenario for those who are bracing for this hurricane?

ED RAPPAPORT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: We're very concerned. It's a dangerous hurricane now. And it will be a dangerous hurricane at landfall. The details as you've been talking about won't be known for a while.

Regardless of the exact time and exact location of the landfall of the center, this is a very large storm. And so there is a significant area that's going to be at risk from storm surge which is the greatest killer in hurricanes. We've got --shown here now is the area that is under a storm surge warning.

That means life-threatening surge. As mentioned, nine to 13 feet of inundation is possible along the coast and up some of the rivers, somewhat less to the north and south, but this entire area is at risk.

The second risk, second hazard we talked about before is that with the slowing and stalling storm, we're going to have excessive rainfall along the coast and inland and upwards of 20 inches near the coast. And the large area of Virginia, North Carolina could have five to 10 inches of rain and with the flooding that will occur due to that excessive rain.

LEMON: Ed, let's talk more about this. We know Florence could be a slow mover as Tom said and as the forecasts have predicted as it approaches the coast. How long could the hurricane stay around just pounding the Carolinas?

RAPPAPORT: It could last for on the order of 12 to 24, maybe 36 hours. Again, those details aren't known. We do know it will slow down as it gets to the coast and then probably move inland but it will be a threat through the weekend for some areas in the southeast.

LEMON: You saw the two different tracks, Ed, that Tom talked about. He says about the European model and then the American model and what have you. What is the difference in that either way, you look at it, it is devastating for the Carolinas, correct?

RAPPAPORT: That's right. As mentioned, the details of whether it slows just offshore, just onshore, which way it turns when it gets there aren't going to matter in terms of what you're going to get in the way of rainfall on that storm surge. In any of those scenarios, we're going to wind up with destructive wind and with life-threatening storm surge and inland flooding.

LEMON: Yeah. Mr. Rappaport, thank you so much. We appreciate your time. Thank you for joining us here on CNN.

I want to turn now to Virginia National Guard spokesman, Cotton Puryear. He joins us now via the phone. Mr. Puryear, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

The Virginia National Guard bringing up to 1500 soldiers. Even if Virginia doesn't take a direct hit it, heavy rain and flooding, it's going to remain a real threat to you. How extensive could this damage be to you there?

COTTON PURYEAR, SPOKESMAN, VIRGINIA NATIONAL GUARD (via telephone): Well, there is a lot of uncertainty. As your experts were just talking about, there is a lot that we don't know. So, the approach that we've taken is to try to get some capability spread across the commonwealth to work with our multi-agency partners.

We've got terrific first responders in the commonwealth. But in situations like this, they need some extra help. So that's what the Virginia National Guard is able to do.

LEMON: Yeah. So Cotton, in a storm of this magnitude, there's always the fear that people will not heed official warnings, that they're going to stay behind, stay in their homes. How much does that complicate the response for you?

PURYEAR (via telephone): Well, the hard work right now in terms of notification, our partners in the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the governor's office are trying to get the word out as best they can.

The localities are giving messages. So for us, we've kind of got it easy right now compared to the tough job they have to get the word out and let people know how serious this is.

While they're doing that, we're doing our preparation so we've got our people in place. But as you've been talking about, people just need to listen.

They need to understand how serious this storm is, they need to heed the warnings in their locality, follow the instructions that their emergency response officials tell them to do, and make sure they're in a safe place.

LEMON: What do you say to people who aren't evacuating?

PURYEAR (via telephone): I really don't have any information as far as what the evacuation situation is. I know the governor has -- there's a zone that he's declared you need to evacuate. They're getting the word out to folks. And all the emergency responders in that are doing everything they can to get people to places where they're going to be safe.

LEMON: I mean, what do you say to people who aren't doing it, who aren't heeding it?

[23:10:00] PURYEAR (via telephone): I'm not aware of anybody that is not heeding it. Everything that I see from the information that we receive, people are taking it seriously. They know that this is going to be something that we haven't seen in quite some sometime and they need to make sure that they're getting some place safe.

LEMON: That's good news. Because we just had -- before this show someone on saying, yeah, I'm not going to leave. But let's hope that everyone is doing exactly what you're saying and they are heeding the warnings. Thank you. I appreciate you joining us. Cotton Puryear, thank you so much.

PURYEAR (via telephone): Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Joining me now is Mayor Brenda Bethune of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She is on the phone as well. Mayor, we appreciate your time. We know it's very busy for you. You got lots of work ahead of you. You're doing it now. You got lots more ahead of you. This is really a monstrous storm gaining strength. How are you preparing there in Myrtle Beach?

MAYOR BRENDA BETHUNE, MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA (via telephone): Well, Myrtle Beach is practically a ghost town right now which is pretty eerie. But we are prepared. We've been preparing since Sunday and our crews have been working diligently.

I think right now, everybody is just trying to get some rest tonight before everything kicks in and we will be continuing to work around the clock until the storm is over and well after.

LEMON: You have -- you heard my conversation with Mr. Puryear before you. I know you have been personally pleading with people all day to heed the evacuation warnings. Are they listening?

BETHUNE (via telephone): I hope they are. It seems as though they are. And the issue with Myrtle Beach and the evacuation is as you know, we see over 18 million visitors a year. However, we do not have a major interstate to get people in and out especially during an emergency.

So that is why it is critical that people adhere to the warnings and get out of town quickly because of the time that it takes for people to evacuate.

LEMON: Yeah, because that's really slowing things down. I mean, look at the roads there. And that often happens. People wait too long. One way in and one way out. And there you go, you're stuck or there are not many ways out and then you're stuck. So mayor, what kind of state and federal resources are there for folks struggling to evacuate? Where are they telling them to go?

BETHUNE (via telephone): We have multiple shelters set up for our locals, for visitors. We have cleaned out our humane society and sent the animals there to safe shelters. We have shelters set up for our homeless community, which is so important. And we've also evacuated all of our medical facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, et cetera.

LEMON: All right.

BETHUNE (via telephone): So we do have the resources for people. We are using school buses to get people to shelters if needed. So we do have the means to get people to safety.

LEMON: Yeah. Mayor, good luck to you. Thank you. We appreciate your time.

BETHUNE (via telephone): Thank you so much.

LEMON: When we come back, The Washington Post is reporting now that Paul Manafort is now negotiating with the special counsel's office for a plea deal. What that could mean for the president who only recently praised his former campaign chairman's unwillingness to break?


LEMON: Paul Manafort has resisted cooperating with the special counsel Robert Mueller and hammered his former deputy for doing so. But according to a new report in The Washington Post, that may be changing.

Joining me now to discuss is CNN Contributor, John Dean, a former White House counsel for President Nixon. Good evening, sir. So, let's talk about this new report tonight. The Washington Post is reporting that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is in talks with Mueller's office about a possible plea deal.

You know, this comes as the jury selection for Manafort's second trial was delayed until Friday. This could be a huge development. What do you think of this?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Let me refresh your recollection because I'm sure you will remember that during the jury deliberations over in Virginia, Manafort's lawyers talked to the special counsel's office then about arranging a plea deal, and those broke off.

So this is really a resumption of talks that have broken down. I think Manafort is probably in financial trouble and trying to cut his costs.

LEMON: Let's talk about how you read this because the president praised Manafort, remember, for standing up to Mueller.

DEAN: I do.

LEMON: There's been a lot of reporting that Manafort might be hoping for a pardon from the president. So, how do you read this move here?

DEAN: Well, I read it as he's trying probably to negotiate a lighter sentence or a lighter crime if he agrees to plea and saves the government the trouble of going through this second trial and seeing the best he can do on that.

But I don't see any indication he's willing to cooperate with the special counsel at this point. I think it's where they broke down before. And I suspect unless he's ready to cooperate, they'll break down again.

LEMON: Are you surprised by this or did you see it coming?

DEAN: I was surprised the talks broke down originally because I think they were feeling their oats. The jury was out. They thought they put on a good case. They got hit with eight counts they were indicted on, they've got 10 that they were mistrialed on, that the government could come back at them again. So he's in a world of hurt.

LEMON: Let's talk about this anonymous New York Times op-ed because Donald Trump Jr. was asked about that, about this in an interview. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's pretty disgusting. That's pretty sad. Perhaps it's a disgruntled person who has been thrown out because they didn't deliver what they were supposed to do.


TRUMP JR: I think you're subverting the will of the people. I mean, to try to control the presidency while not the president, you have millions and millions of Americans who voted for this.


[23:20:01] LEMON: Subverting the will of the people. That's not a real crime.

DEAN: That's some variation of sedition, which is talking about the king in foul terms. We don't do that here. I think that's really what he wants is a sedition crime. I don't think it's going to ever happen.

LEMON: He also said in that interview that he wasn't afraid of going to jail because he knows that he hasn't committed any crimes, he hasn't done anything wrong. From what we know with his involvement in planning the Trump Tower meeting, should he be concerned?

DEAN: He could very well be a co-conspirator, Don, because there is no question that that meeting took place. There's no question that the Russians made a proffer of some kind. There's no question what's in those e-mails.

And there was an effort to hide what had really happened in the meeting on Air Force One when they were putting out a statement when The New York Times was about to report it. Yes, his hands are not clean at this point.

LEMON: So the new book, Bob Woodward's book, I'm talking about "Fear," released today, and despite the public push back from the Trump administration, Woodward said he is hearing something different in private. I want you to listen to what he told The New York Times.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One key person who is in office called me and said everyone knows what you've said here is true. It's 1,000 percent correct. And then this person has said some public things that contradict that.


LEMON: Because of Watergate, you know this from experience. How much do these public denials mean if anything?

DEAN: Not very much. We know that Mark felt his principal source for Watergate or one of his key sources, deep throat, was putting out public denials and came within a hair's bread of doing it in front of a grand jury when the prosecutor stopped and whispered in his ear maybe he wanted to think twice before he denied it in front of a grand jury.

So I don't think we can take him seriously. I think we should take seriously Bob Woodward's reporting. He's done eight or nine presidents now. His reporting has held up over the years. I'm about 10 chapters into the book. It's a better read than I thought it would be.


DEAN: So, I think this book is going to emerge and he's on the right side of history. And he's disclosing what I think is really just book one of a multi-volume set.

LEMON: Yeah. I'm behind because I haven't started yet. You know, good luck. I will start soon. Thank you, John Dean. I appreciate your time.

DEAN: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Make sure you stay with CNN, everyone, for the very latest on Hurricane Florence, OK? Stay tuned because we have a lot more. We're going to keep you posted on that.

When we come back though, tonight on the 17th anniversary of 9/11, a new assessment of the dangers off terror attacks. I'm going to asking Fareed Zakaria. Would our allies still come to our aid today like they did after 9/11?


LEMON: A new assessment from the Department of Homeland Security finds that coordinated planned attacks by a terrorist organization remain a more deadly threat than a lone wolf style attack, that on the 17th anniversary of the September 11 attacks when we relied on our allies and NATO to stand by us. But would they still stand by us today? That's a good question. Joining me now to discuss is CNN's Fareed Zakaria, the host of GPS right here on CNN. It's good to see you. Thank you so much. You know, after 9/11, Article Five NATO was invoked the first and only time in America's defense.

Let's put this up from Great Britain, a commitment of 4,200 soldiers, Germany 3,900, Italy 2,700. This President Trump has been really hard on NATO and the alliances. The alliance is strained. Do you think they would respond the same way today?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: First, I think underscore how extraordinary it was as you said, first time in the history of NATO Article Five, which says an attack on one is an attack on all is invoked, not clear that it needed to be invoked. After all, Britain had suffered terrorist attacks, Germany has. But they -- all the other NATO countries came to our aid and offered, you know, how can we help.

When we declared war on Afghanistan, they all came in. Germany sending troops. Remember, Germany has really been reluctant to send troops because of its history. So all these countries, you're up to 30, 40 countries participating. Many of them show up in Iraq, as well. Many of them disagreed with the mission privately and showed up.

So the question you asked is, would they still show up? I actually think they would because these are mature grown-up countries that understand that the Atlantic alliance is the foundation of global stability and order.

My question is, what about the other side of that? That's the real worry. I was in Europe and the real worry is what if something actually did happen? What if Vladimir Putin launched a massive cyber attack on Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia, the Baltic Republics, that he believes should be part of Russia?

Would Donald Trump invoke Article Five? Would he come to the aid of Europe, European countries in precisely the manner that the United States had promised to do for 70 years?

LEMON: That's a very good question. After NATO summit earlier this summer, this is what the president said about Article Five on Fox News. Watch this.


TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS: Membership in NATO obligates the members to defend any other member that's attacked.

[23:30:04] So, let's say Montenegro which joined last year is attacked, why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack? Why is that --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I understand what you're saying. I have asked the same question. You know, Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people.

CARLSON: Yeah, I'm not against -- TRUMP: By the way, they're very strong people. They're very aggressive people. And congratulations, you're in World War III.


ZAKARIA: So as it happens --


ZAKARIA: As it happens, three weeks ago, I was in Montenegro --


ZAKARIA: -- and I had lunch with the president of Montenegro. I asked him about this. And he said the whole idea that we would drag the world into World War III, I mean, it's the United States that is launching military actions all over the world. It's the United States that has 3,000 nuclear missiles.

We're sitting here trying to preserve our independence. And the point he makes is, it's not about us, it's never been about us. But if the Russians, and he was very clear that is where the threat to Europe comes from, if the Russians were to start attacking small vulnerable European countries, what is the lesson of the 20th century?

That that is a very dangerous world to be in and you are much better off stopping it early than doing something much later on when the problem becomes a much larger conflict. So the way to prevent a large scale global war is to deter and respond at the earliest provocations rather than waiting for the conflagration to grow.

You know, his view was Putin has decided that he is going to try to seek to undermine Europe and undermine the west in every way he can. He's going to push wherever he can. And so far he's not getting a lot of resistance from the United States.

LEMON: The reason I laugh is because -- I'm just flummoxed by the level of discourse even with that exchange. I'm like that is an interview with the president of the United States and that is what they're talking about and discussing. It's mind boggling.

ZAKARIA: What's mind boggling is it is undermining the credibility of NATO.

LEMON: Right.

ZAKARIA: It's undermining the credibility of the -- this kind of platform that keeps global peace and stability. It's one thing to have concerns that you privately express to your cabinet officials, to your national security counsel and say how should we manage this.

But on Fox with Tucker Carlson? You start musing about maybe we shouldn't be honoring our -- this is an obligation the United States has had since the formation of NATO. Suddenly the president says maybe we shouldn't do it.

LEMON: It's not just in that form, because attacking NATO has been a consistent theme for this president on the campaign and as the president. Watch this.


TRUMP: Number one, NATO is obsolete. And number two, the people aren't paying their way.

It's obsolete and we pay too much money.

NATO, we're going to have the people that aren't paying that are going to start paying.

It's obsolete.

We are getting ripped in NATO. They don't pay their bills.

NATO is obsolete and has to be rejiggered.


LEMON: Can you make sense of this? And when our allies hear that, it has to do damage, no?

ZAKARIA: Of course it does damage. It's important to point out this sort of fundamentally misunderstands the problem. Donald Trump has increased defense spending. He believes that the United States is not spending enough money on defense.

And then he goes around saying the NATO -- it's very expensive for us because the NATO countries aren't paying. Which is it? Does he want to spend more on defense or does he want to spend less on defense?

If you were to bring back troops from NATO countries, for example, unless he plans on then firing all those troops, he's going to having to house them in the United States which by the way will be more expensive because Germany pays a part of the costs.

It houses those troops for free. It provides them with facilities for free. We'd have to do all that ourselves. We would actually lose money if we did what he was --

LEMON: Why doesn't he sit down for an interview with you or someone who is going to challenge him like that and say, listen, I got to ask you this, instead of Montenegro?

ZAKARIA: He mentions about South Korea every time. Every time I patiently try to point out, it's cheaper to keep them in South Korea than it is to keep them in Fort Bragg.

LEMON: Can I read something? This is from a portion of an op-ed that you wrote for The Washington Post. You said, "Bob Woodward's new book and The New York Times' op-ed written by an anonymous official make claim that behind Trump's ranting, impulsive, incoherent, and narcissistic facade lies a ranting, impulsive, incoherent, and narcissistic man."

So, what if our allies read Woodward's book and they hear that, you know, the rogue members of the Trump administration talking about things like this, what does it do to our standing in the opinion of the United States?

[23:35:00] I hear it from people who are not from here. What are you guys doing? What's happening?

ZAKARIA: Look, the United States has always been the grown-up in the room. If you think about the times that the Europeans have objected to an American president and people often bring up Ronald Reagan, it's entirely true the Europeans were upset with Reagan.

But it's important to remember what the issue was. Reagan was trying to be more internationalist, more aggressive against the Soviet Union. He was trying to defend the western project more than the Europeans were. He was saying you guys are too soft on the Soviets. You are not deploying enough missiles. I want to do more, more, more.

What you have here is a Donald Trump who says I don't believe in the western project. I don't believe in NATO. I don't believe in the western alliance. What is NATO? NATO is the alliance of western democracies that have held together and tried to maintain peace and maintain a climate for the preservation of democracy and liberty and human rights.

He's saying I don't believe in this stuff. That is a much more damaging posture than Reagan who was sort of saying I believe in this more than you guys do. You're not doing enough. I want to confront the evil Soviet Union more.

So, this is the first time in 70 years we have had an American president who doesn't believe in the American project. This has been after all America's foreign policy project for 70 years ever since the end of World War II.

So that's a much bigger deal than even the circus around it. I mean, there have been circuses in the past, nothing quite like this to be sure.

LEMON: Yeah.

ZAKARIA: It worries me because I think that's the part of it that might last. It's some of this -- the circus will go away. But the sense that the United States has lost faith in its own creation, that will linger and people will start substituting it, start freelancing. Then you're in a very different world.

LEMON: Yeah. Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Don't miss CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS Sunday 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Again, thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

When we come back, Mitch McConnell compares tossup Senate races to a knife fight in the an alley. We're going to break down the battle for the Senate. That's next. [23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Mitch McConnell warning that Republicans could lose in the Senate in November. The majority leader says at least nine races are dead even.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: All of them too close to call and every one of them like a knife fight in an alley. I mean, just a brawl in every one of those places. I hope when the smoke clears that we'll still have a majority in the Senate.


LEMON: Senator McConnell is talking about these states. He is talking about Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia. So let's discuss now.

CNN Political Analyst, April Ryan is here. She is the author of the book "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House." Also Republican strategist Rick Wilson. He is the author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies." And CNN Political Commentator and former Trump campaign adviser, Steve Cortes, who loves to read his Twitter feed after his appearances here on the show. I'm sure.



LEMON: I look at it sometimes afterwards. Boy. Boy, oh, boy. You're a brave man. Thank you all for joining us. Good evening to you. Rick, does McConnell really think the Senate is up for grabs or is he just trying to motivate voters? I'm not saying he's fearmongering but is he trying to motivate them by scaring them a little bit?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I think he's trying to juice some of the donor class into kicking in for the last 50 days or so. But I do think he's got some legitimate concerns about the way the field looks right now. There were some races they thought would be easy walkaways, especially West Virginia, North Dakota.

They thought they had -- Arizona was going to swing into position and McSally would take a clear lead. Those haven't worked out quite like they hoped. There's a lot of hope for Republicans with Rick Scott in Florida because he's got such a financial advantage over Bill Nelson. But their polling remained stubbornly tied.

The majority leader is correct that the polling is locked up in a lot of states inside the margin. The problem for the Republicans is they live or die by Donald Trump. And the problem for the Democrats is a lot of them don't quite have -- a lot of them are in red states that aren't the easiest places for them to run.

LEMON: A knife fight, Steve, in an alley? How worried should Republicans be about the midterms? CORTES: I think he's exaggerating. First of all, I'm very worried about the House in the midterms. As a matter of fact, right now, I would say we're going to lose the House. The Senate, I'm not worried about at all. I really think McConnell right now is acting like a lot of football coaches. Lou Holtz did this for Notre Dame when they were at the height of their power. They would be playing slippery rock state, and he would say we sure hope we can get on the board and then they would win by six touchdowns.

So, I think that's what McConnell is doing which, by the way, is smart, because he should try to rally the troop, he should try to shake the trees for donations and not make it seem like a fait accompli. The math just happens by luck (ph). Just works (ph) very favorably in the Republicans favor this time. The Democrats are defending 10 states that Trump won. Five of them that he won by double digits. The odds that they can hold all ten of those are extremely low, and they have to hold all 10 if they have a reasonable chance of getting the majority.

LEMON: Gee golly. I mean, that's going to motivate them.


CORTES: That's what Holtz used to say. I'm quoting him.

LEMON: Gee golly.

[23:45:00] So April, listen, McConnell also admits that Texas Senator Ted Cruz, can you imagine if he loses? He's facing a competitive race against Democratic challenger Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

A Texas Senate seat hasn't gone to a Democrat in Texas in 25 years. What does it say about the Republican Party? That even -- listen, that this race is getting tight in -- I mean, flaming red Texas?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Flaming red Texas too can be in trouble right now in the midst of this movement. What is this? We are still finding it out. I mean, Don, to be honest with you, ever since President Trump won, I really take polls with a grain of salt when it comes to predicting elections.

Look what happened with Pressley in Massachusetts. And look what's happening in Florida, Maryland, and Georgia when it comes to the governorship. Things we haven't seen before. There is a discontent just like Barack Obama after his eight years. This president came to being as a direct result of those who did not want Obama. Let's just call it for what it is.

And now people -- and the common thread between Obama and Trump was the word "change." People wanted change. People are trying to figure out, you know, this thing is broken. Let's fix it. They don't know exactly what it is. They want something new. And there is this percolating discontent. And this president is very concerned about the fact just like Steve, he believes that the House is going to go. He already believes they're going to lose the House. He's very upset about that. Let's see what happens in the Senate. For Ted Cruz to be in jeopardy, for an incumbent to be in jeopardy, a man who wanted to run for president, that is huge in the words of President Trump.

LEMON: Interesting. OK, we're going to discuss more, and we're going to talk about something. I'm sure Steve wants to talk about this Bob Woodward book more than anybody on this panel. We'll give him and the rest of our panel the opportunity right after this.

RYAN: Fear, fear.

LEMON: We'll be right back. Fear.



LEMON: So, a source close to the White House is telling CNN that the Trump administration applied a lot of pressure on former Trump officials, Rob Porter, Gary Cohn, to discredit Bob Woodward's new book. Both Cohn and Porter released statements raising questions -- raising issues, I should say, with quotes attributed to them in the book.

Back with me now April Ryan, Rick Wilson, Steve Cortes. Speaking of this book and The New York Times anonymous op-ed, I'm going to write a book called "It Wasn't Me." But anyways, I digress. Somebody should. They should get it out real fast.

April, a separate source close to the White House also tells CNN that they are pushing anyone who is remotely associated with this book to discredit the information. Why is this White House so obsessed with this book? Because I remember Bob Woodward writing books on other administrations, and I know they weren't this obsessed with it.

RYAN: Well, first of all, even before we start, let me say Bob Woodward has got a winner. I mean, just off of the fact that Bob Woodward was one of the reporters who was involved in telling the truth and exposing Watergate.

And it's the same scenario today as it was back then. You have a president trying to discredit a reporter who's finding the truth and telling the truth, and ultimately, there could have been impeachment hearings, but Nixon resigned.

Look what's happening now. And I just -- on a side note, tonight, I had my own book event and I started the event off with saying "Hi, my name is Bob Woodward," and the crowd roared. I mean you cannot buy this. Bob Woodward -- I mean really, for real, he has the gravitas of being --

LEMON: OK. RYAN: -- this incredible journalist who digs for the truth, and this president and this White House is -- they are afraid. They're afraid of the truth --

LEMON: I'm short on time, April.

RYAN: -- the president knows intrinsically -- the president knows that people were talking.


RYAN: The president knows it.

LEMON: I want to get everybody in before we run out of time. Steve, Rob Porter says the book is selective often misleading. Gary Cohn says the book does not accurately portray his experience at the White House. But they're not denying these specific stories. Why not? Because it's sort of a non-denial denial, but why aren't they denying specifics?

CORTES: Right. They didn't and I'm not sure why, but both generals did. And that's what I care a lot more about, General Kelly and General Mattis. And I certainly take their word over the word of Bob Woodward.


LEMON: I asked you about Porter and Cohn. But you brought --

CORTES: I said I don't know why.

LEMON: I thought that was a good pivot. That was a good pivot.

CORTES: I don't know -- no, I answered your question, which is I don't know why they weren't more specific in their denials. But I also want to touch on this point that April mentioned, this idea that Bob Woodward is somehow infallible. Look, he -- because he was a great journalist way back when eight-track players were popular in cars --

RYAN: He still is, Steve.

CORTES: -- it doesn't mean that he's infallible ever since.

RYAN: He still is.

CORTES: If we look -- no, if we look at his track record of books, it is spotty at best. If you look at his John Belushi book --

LEMON: That is -- Steve, that's absurd.

CORTES: -- if you look at the things he said about these nuisances -- if you look at the things he said about Vail (ph), about Bob Casey, thoroughly discredited --


LEMON: How old is this president? This president had his share of 45s (ph) and eight-track players. Hold on. Hold on.

CORTES: The idea that he is an infallible journalist is simply not true.


CORTES: And I for one am going to take the word of General Kelly and General Mattis --


LEMON: I've got a short time. I got a short time.

RYAN: This president once again --

LEMON: I want to bring Rick in. I have a very short time here. Rick, listen, infallible and credibility, those are two separate words with separate definitions.

WILSON: Bob Woodward has chronicled nine presidents. And I've watched this as I've been in politics for 30 years now. And everyone speaks to Bob Woodward. They know that he is the first draft of history. Everyone bitches and complains, says oh, he got the story wrong, he got this detail -- the guy goes back, he does dozens of interviews with all these principals and the people that deny it are embarrassed in the end.

[23:55:09] Everybody makes mistakes. But the scope of Bob Woodward's work, the overall content of his work, has proven to be an incredibly infallible guide to presidential history. He's had an insight into operations of the Oval Office. And then when he looks at this as the most chaotic, shambolic and dangerous that's he's seen, I believe him.

LEMON: I've got 10 seconds if you want to respond to that, Steve or April?

CORTES: Look, I would say this. I do think when you talk about the scope, I do believe this is happening. I believe there's a cabal of crony insiders within the administration, yes, who are working to thwart the president. We know that from The New York Times op-ed.

And I implore the president to take action against those people who are trying to nullify the will of the people from 2016. You can laugh, but it's very real and it's very dangerous because the permanent political class --

RYAN: Too late.

CORTES: -- is real and it's fighting this president even from the inside.

LEMON: We should ask John Baron --

WILSON: Thank God.

LEMON: -- about who the source is or David Dennison. (LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Thank you.


LEMON: I couldn't help myself. Thanks, y'all. Our coverage continues.

WILSON: Good night.

LEMON: Good night.