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Millions in Path of Hurricane Florence; White House Braces for Book Release; Trump's Approval Rating Sinks; Dallas Police Shooting Victim Remembered; Putin & China's President Xi Meet at Economic Forum. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 11, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:13] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Millions of people on the eastern seaboard in the path of Hurricane Florence. Right now, a devastating category four hurricane with the potential to get even worse.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House on guard ahead of the release of Bob Woodward's book today, trying to say it is business as usual as they hunt for leakers in the White House.

BRIGGS: Plus, President Trump's approval rating sinking. Now at a new low among independents. We have to discuss the economic rating he's receiving which is tremendous.


BRIGGS: Hard to figure out why it's not echoing among the general population.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, September 11th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

All right. Millions of people in the East Coast still waiting for a monster storm here. Hurricane Florence expected to hit North Carolina Thursday night as a category four. That means sustained winds near 140 miles per hour with higher gusts. Florence is expected to strengthen tonight, possibly to a catastrophic category five. Once the storm comes ashore, it's forecast to slow down and that increases the risk of heavy rain and flooding.

BRIGGS: To get a sense of just how strong Florence is, check out this satellite image of the storm out in the Atlantic. Note the tiny smooth eye at the center of the hurricane signifying a very strong and well-organized storm.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us live from the CNN weather center in Atlanta.

Pedram, good morning. How big is this thing? What should they expect in the Carolinas?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is remarkable. You know, we're watching it about 1,000 miles east of land right now, and all eyes on the storm system. And location is sitting at this point, when you look at the latitude and the longitude, in fact, in over 100 years of hurricane data that we've looked at, a storm across this particular region within about 100 miles of the region, we had 37 storms that have been in this place and not a single one of them has actually impacted the eastern United States. Just about every single one of them have kind of guided off towards Bermuda, a lot of them shifting away from the United States.

But the steering environment is such that this system is poised to move directly west/northwest. And unfortunately, when you take a look at how rapidly it intensified in the last 36 hours, from a category one to category four and it could still get stronger. It will maintain intensity for three days here prior to making landfall. So, here we go again, as you watch it carefully, you go through 8:00 p.m. and 9:00, that is the best bet of Thursday night to Friday morning.

Model guidance, in fact, has shifted a little further to the north, kind of beginning to remove North Carolina, South Carolina I should say, a little bit out of the picture and enter North Carolina and Virginia into the picture. Notice in Washington, D.C. falls in line with the cone. And really important to note, one of three storms, in fact, makes landfall somewhere outside the forecast cone.

So, certainly, don't fall in love with where the cone is located, anywhere within this vicinity is fair game with the storm system. And when you take a look at category fours or category fives, by definition, according to the National Hurricane Center, these are catastrophic damages that are left behind of systems. The model guidance has shifted to the north. But you notice high concentration near Wilmington or North, Thursday overnight. And this concern, Dave and Christine, when it makes landfall, it slows down dramatically. And when that happens, we are looking at 20 plus inches of rainfall potentially across this region.

And this is the American and European model overlaid across one another. Notice what happens near landfall, both systems being kind of migrating back out over the open waters, and not making complete landfall. If this happens, this is the worst-case scenario with the category four that pushes up against land and backs up a little bit as it produces tremendous damage right there on the coast.

ROMANS: Yes, bottom line, people should make your plans now and start preparing. All right. Thank you so much for that, Pedram. We will talk to you again very, very shortly. We will get updates from the hurricane officials.

All right. A mandatory evacuations in effect for coastal areas in states directly in the path of hurricane Florence. United, Delta and American and Spirit and Southwest Airlines are offering travel waivers and advisories for the airlines in the trajectory. President Trump approving an emergency declaration for North and South Carolina ahead of Thursday's anticipated landfall.

CNN's Martin Savidge has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave, and good morning, Christine. The mandatory evacuation order for the committee of Carolina Beach here, which is on the barrier island, goes into effect in just a short while. Still, no real feeling of the storm other than when you look out for the water. You can see the way the waves are rolling in here, and the local say that is not the way they typically come in.

So, that does suggests there is something lurking just over the horizon here. The people who are enjoying it most, you can probably see the surfers themselves as they go out to ride. There was an emergency meeting of this community last night and they really were using some very strong language.

[04:05:02] They were saying this storm coming this way and it is expected to come this way is perhaps the strongest they have ever seen here. It certainly the strongest they felt since 1954 and hurricane Hazel.

Let's show what you they fear may happen. It is the storm surge and everyone knows about that. The water pushed ahead of the storm that comes ashore.

See these berms? They run along the beach here. They go, well, for as long as the eye can see. The water is expected to go over those berms. They're 12-feet high.

That means the storm surge I expected to be 13 feet or more. In the marina, the water level is expected to be 9-feet above the ground. That's why the mandatory evacuation order is going into effect. They hope to have everyone on the island is getting off by 8:00 p.m. Wednesday because that is when the tropical storm-force winds are anticipated here. They are definitely worried -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: They should be.

Martin Savidge, thank you.

President Trump still pushing back on claims made in Bob Woodward's new book "Fear" and echoed in "The New York Times" op-ed penned by that anonymous senior administration official. The White House repeating the president's call for the Justice Department to investigate the identity of the unidentified opinion writer citing national security concerns.


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

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Some news here. Sanders says lie detectors are not considered to unmask the op-ed author. The press secretary also taking aim at Woodward's book "Fear" which comes out today depicting chaos and paranoia in the West Wing. She claimed the legendary journalist was reckless.


SANDERS: A number of people have come out and said that Woodward never reached out to corroborate statements attributed to them which seems incredibly reckless for a book to make such outrageous claims.


ROMANS: Meantime, Woodward's publisher says it will be printing a million copies of the book to keep up with demand. I think it's in its seventh printing.

We get more now from CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, at the first White House briefing in some 19 days, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked, of course, many questions about the two anonymous accounts that really have been shaking the White House, offering deep portraits of deep dysfunction inside the West Wing here. Of course, Bob Woodward's book which was officially released today, and that anonymous op-ed from last week in "The New York Times."

Now, Sara Sanders said the White House is not focusing on trying to find out who the author is. She said they're trying to focus on the matter at hand and change the subject and move on. The president, of course, perhaps hasn't gotten that memo. He has been very focused, we are told, internally finding out who this is.

But we also saw an extraordinary comment from the vice president, saying that he would submit to a lie detector test. So, I asked Sarah Sanders this question.

Do you know if the president believes these denials that have been coming in from the top advisers or does he believe that it's someone from within? Does he believe that lie detector test should be issued as the vice president volunteered to do?

SANDERS: No lie detectors are being used or talked about or looked at as a possibility. Frankly, the White House and the staff here are focused on doing our jobs. Not deal with cowards that refuse to put their names in an anonymous letter.

ZELENY: So, clearly, the White House is trying to put the name on the mystery behind all this, you know, Washington whodunit if you will, rather than the substance actually behind these anonymous accounts, the substance of the fact that top aides here are trying to keep the president from harming the country in some respects through what they call, you know, these strange impulses that he has had. So, clearly, the White House is trying to turn the page beyond this,

but the president has kept fueling it himself. We will see if that continues. Now, of course, the president will be flying to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, for a brief stop there to mark 9/11, of course, and coming back to the White House having a meeting as well about hurricane planning and preparation. But it is still the two anonymous accounting shaking the White House that have certainly created a deep sense of paranoia inside these walls -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Jeff, thank you.

As Jeff mentioned, President Trump is headed to Shanksville, Pennsylvania today to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Vice President Pence will attend a ceremony at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Mattis.

And at Ground Zero, there will be moments of silence to commemorate the moment each tower fell as we have done every year since 9/11. They will also continue this annual tradition of reading the names of the victims.

[04:10:02] BRIGGS: Bob Woodward's book tour in full swing. He appeared on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" last night responding to officials like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who claimed he never made statements that appeared in Bob Woodward's book.


BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "FEAR: TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE": These are people who are trying to survive and keep their jobs. So, look, I know other reporters who heard things from those people and they heard the exact same thing and it was off the record so they could not use it.

When I did the reporting for this book, no off the record. I'm going to use it. I'm not going to say where it came from. So, I think in our business at times, we are cheating the public. We learn secret things off the record. We are part of the gang.

And I think we have to stop doing that and saying let's use it in a way that we can tell the public.


ROMANS: A sharp drop in President Trump's approval rating in a new CNN poll. He is down six points in just the last month, reaching a new low among independents. Just 36 percent say they approve how the president is handling his job, 58 percent disapprove. He's doing significantly worst among independents, only 31 percent approve, a plunge of 16 points in one month.

The president also faring worse on a range of attributes. Only about a third of those polled say he is honest, cares about people like them, and really unite the country. Only 32 percent say they are proud to have Mr. Trump as their president.

Time for an early start on your money.

The White House struggling to focus on the strong economy. The president himself mucking up the message with the false info about just how strong this economy is, forcing his top economists to come out and contradict the boss.

Here's the bad info. Yesterday, Mr. Trump wrote the GDP rate is higher than the unemployment rate for the first time in over 100 years. That's not true. It happened 62, 63 times. It's happened a lot of times.

At the White House press briefing, Kevin Hassett, his top economist, cleaned it up.


KEVIN HASSETT, CHAIRMAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: What is true is that it's the highest in ten years and at some point somebody probably conveyed it to him adding a zero to that, and they shouldn't have done that. And I can say at least, we number geeks here at the White House are grateful for -- when the press finds mistakes, we don't we are grateful.


ROMANS: From the White House, they are grateful when the press finds mistakes from the president. You heard it here. It is not ten years. It's actually about 12 years.

In any rate, with 56 days to the midterm elections, the economy should be a strong selling point for the president's agenda. But his tendency to exaggerate, to embellish, he goes for superlatives, the best in a generation, the best ever, the most wonderful booming economy in history, you see in these poll numbers --

BRIGGS: Tremendous.

ROMANS: -- but it's not translating outside of that specific poll point.

BRIGGS: I'm just going to bathe in that for a while from Hassett, being thankful and grateful the press points out mistakes.

ROMANS: I think it was smart of them to put him up for the first, however, in that. He is nice, he's mild-mannered, he's kind of nerdy about numbers, honest. So, that was a breath of fresh air.

BRIGGS: We may be seeing Mr. Hassett again at a press briefing.

Ahead, new details in the shooting death of the young man in Dallas, killed in his own apartment by an off-duty police officer. That officer is now charged with manslaughter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:17:52] ROMANS: The scene last night at Harding University. A vigil for Botham Shem Jean who attended the Arkansas school. Students remembering the 26-year-old who was shot and killed in his own apartment last Thursday, killed by off duty Dallas police officer Amber Guyger.

BRIGGS: Also last night, protesters marched in Dallas demanding justice for the Jean. About 100 people took to the streets demanding Guyger face murder charges. Right now, the 30-year-old officer is charged with manslaughter. New details about the shooting emerged yesterday in the Guyger's arrest affidavit. It says she claimed she mistook his apartment for her own, one floor below.

Guyger says the door was already ajar when she's trying to use her key card to open it. She claimed Jean's silhouette across the room, and pulled her service weapon. The affidavit says she yelled commands at Jean and shot him when he did not comply. Of course, he was in his own apartment.

Ed Lavandera has more from Dallas.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, the mother of the 26-year-old man who was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer while he was in his own apartment says she simply wants to know why and how all of this could have happened. There is still much confusion and very few answers as to what transpired when Dallas police officer Amber Guyger says she mistakenly walked into Botham Shem Jean's apartment south of downtown Dallas last week and fired the shots that killed him.

But the attorneys for the victim's family said the officer received special treatment. They don't know why it took three days for investigators to arrest and charge her with manslaughter. They insist that could have been easily done in the hours just after the shooting.

Dallas police say they want to be transparent. That is why they called in the Texas Rangers, state police force, to investigate this shooting. Those investigators worked throughout the weekend leading up to the criminal charges being filed Sunday night.

But now, the district attorney in Dallas says there is a possibility these criminal charges could be upgraded to murder. The prosecutors say they are going to present more evidence and testimony to a Dallas grand jury, and based on that, that grand jury, the D.A. says, could choose to upgrade the criminal charges from manslaughter to murder.

[04:20:14] But the timeline for that will probably take several weeks. Meanwhile, the family for Botham Jean say they are planning funeral service for later this week -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Thanks for that, Ed. BRIGGS: All right. The leaders of Russia and China meet to strengthen

economic ties as tensions from the West keep them out. We are live in Moscow just ahead.


[04:25:01] ROMANS: Russian President Vladimir Putin currently meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the first day of the eastern economic forum. The event is a key opportunity for the Russians who have turned to Asia in an attempt to strengthen ties there and expand their influence.

CNN's Matthew Chance live in Moscow with the very latest -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks for that meeting between Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, and Vladimir Putin, the Russia leader is one of a whole catalog of meetings the two leaders have had, it's a personal friendship, which has been part to spearheading the so-called pivot east that Russia has embarked since its relationship with the West and the United States in particular began to deteriorate back in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and the sanctions that have been imposed against the country by Washington over hacking and other issued as well.

As the two leaders meet at the economic forum in Vladivostok, there is something really significant is also taking place also in east of Russia. Joint military exercises between the Russians and Chinese, 300,000 personnel are involved. These are the biggest military exercises Russia has staged since the end of the Cold War, 3,200 of those troops are from China, as well as China's military vehicles, Chinese aircraft is involved as well.

Just a few years ago or a decade ago or so, China was perceived by Moscow as an adversary. But the fact that it is being included in these military exercises and close bond with Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin shows it is more of an ally. It's a response in many ways to the pressure that has been put on both Russia and China by the West and by the United States in particular, sanctions on Russia, the trade war against China.

It is almost forced these two countries together, forging a new power, which is emerging in the east of the globe in the Asian region, changing geopolitics in the world, very significant indeed, Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, incredibly important shifts to note. Thank you so much for that, Matthew Chance in Moscow.

BRIGGS: All right. The U.S. special representative for North Korea beginning his meetings with South Korea's foreign minister. Steve Biegun says he's looking forward to discussions on how to work with South Korea to move the denuclearization process forward in North Korea.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un asked him to act as a mediator. Moon saying he will take on the role until the U.S. and North Korea are able to conduct more active dialogue and communication. The White House reiterating President Trump is open to another meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong- un, citing a letter from Kim.


SANDERS: The president has received the letter from Kim Jong-un. It was a very warm, very positive letter. We won't release the full letter unless the North Korean leader agrees that we should. The primary purpose of the letter was to request and look to schedule another meeting with the president which we are open to and are already in the process of coordinating that.


BRIGGS: The White House is planning to one sign it considers hopeful, that parade in North Korea this week focused more on economic growth and less on the country's nuclear arsenal. CNN's Will Ripley says that doesn't mean the country has gotten rid of any nuclear weapons.

Coming up on the program, Hurricane Florence now a category four, barreling towards the East Coast and could get worse, millions in its path. We are live in the weather center with an update.