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Monster Storm Takes Aim at North Carolina; White House Pushes Back Again on Woodward Book; Trump's Approval Rating Sinks; Dallas Police Shooting Victim Remembered; Putin & China's President Xi Meet at Economic Forum. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 11, 2018 - 04:30   ET



[04:32:57] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Florence barreling toward the eastern seaboard. Over 1 million people under mandatory evacuation as the category four hurricane approaches.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Top Trump administration is bracing for the Bob Woodward book which is today. They say they're over it, but the hunt for leakers continues.

ROMANS: But the new CNN poll was dismal news for this president. His approval rating sinking. It is the lowest among independents since he has been elected.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning. I'm Dave Briggs, 4:33 Eastern Time.

The president will be in Shanksville, Pennsylvania today remembering 9/11. But then it is back for hurricane prep. Millions on the East Coast waiting for this monster storm. 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 strengthen tonight, possibly to a catastrophic category five. Once the storm comes ashore, it is forecast to slow down, likely increasing heavy rain and flooding.

ROMANS: To get a sense of how strong Florence is, look at the satellite image of the storm out in the Atlantic. Note the tiny smooth eye at the center of the hurricane signifying a very strong, well organized storm.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joining us live from the CNN weather center with the latest.

What was remarkable to me, Pedram, is how quickly this thing went from a category two to a category four. The last 36 hours, this has been a rapidly growing and organized system.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It has been remarkable for all of us. And, you know, we see this more and more in the last couple of years, the storms going from a category one essentially to a category four within typically overnight. And it certainly was the case with this one as well.

And you take a look, we measured the wind field associated with the system. And it's about 250 miles in diameter. So, a very significant, large chunk of the water there taking up ahead of this. And, of course, this system migrates off towards the north and west, 140-mile-an-hour winds sustained.

[04:35:00] And we don't think it's going to get any weaker. If anything, potentially stronger as you were touching on there moments ago, and as it pushes up close to land, we think somewhere between 8:00 p.m. and midnight, the best bet for landfall as we go into Thursday night.

And the models have gradually shifted the track a little farther north and kind of begin to gradually exclude South Carolina out of this, but you can still see the portion of the cone which extends north of Charleston. You look historically across this region, when was the last time they had the storm.

And it was back in September 22nd, 1989. Category four as well, that was Hurricane Hugo, made landfall just north of Charleston. Took with it 27 lives, left 100,000 homeless, and at the same time, across the region, of course, the damage was widespread. And it was the costliest storm in U.S. history at the time.

Now, you take a look at this track, again, very ominous, very similar as far where it's slated to impact just north there of South Carolina. When you look at this region and population growth, upwards 25 percent greater population now than the 1980s. So, certainly all of this put together with the catastrophic storm moving ashore. It really stands to be one of the most dangerous storms we've seen impacted eastern seaboard -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Heed those warnings on the Carolina coast. Pedram, thank you, my friend.

Mandatory evacuations in effect for coastal areas in states directly in the path of Florence. United, Delta, American, Spirit and Southwest Airlines all offering travel waivers and advisories for airports in storm's trajectory. President Trump approving an emergency declaration for north and South Carolina ahead of Thursday's anticipated landfall.

Martin Savidge with more on the preps.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. Good morning, Christine.

Mandatory evacuation order for the community 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.

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.


ROMANS: All right. Martin, thank you for that.

President Trump still pushing back on those claims made in Bob Woodward's new book and echoed in "The New York Times" op-ed penned by an anonymous senior administration. 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.


BRIGGS: Sanders says lie detectors are not being considered to unmask the op-ed author. The press secretary taking aim at Woodward's book, "Fear", which comes out today depicting chaos and paranoia in the West Wing. She claims 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Meantime, Woodward's publisher says it will be printing a million copies of the book to keep up with demand. Woodward appeared on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" last night, responding to officials like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who claimed they never made statements that appear in 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, and 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.


ROMANS: We get more this morning from CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.


[04:40:00] 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.


BRIGGS: Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

As Jeff mentioned there, President Trump 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 James Mattis. And at Ground Zero, moments of silence to commemorate the moment each tower fell. They will also continue the annual tradition of reading the names of the victims.

A sharp drop in president's approval rating in a new CNN poll. He is down six points in the last month, reaching a new low among independents. Just 36 percent approve how the president is handling his job, 58 percent disapprove. He is doing significantly worse among independents, only 31 percent approve, a plunge of six points in a month.

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

ROMANS: His best numbers are on the economy. And speaking of the economy, with 56 days to go until midterms, new evidence of blue collar job growth. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows jobs in the goods producing industries that includes manufacturing, grew 3 percent from August 2017 to August 2018. That is stronger growth than the service sector which the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds grew 1.6 percent over the same period.

How could this affect the election? Republican operatives think good news about blue collar workers can add a range of other positive econ news. The president himself quoting Democrats James Carville, it's the economy, stupid. But Democrats argue the better picture includes health care, child care, college costs, economic security, income inequality and all of that will play more of a role for voters this fall.

BRIGGS: But are Dems making that case ahead of the midterms?

ROMANS: I heard progressives talking about health care more.

BRIGGS: About single payer health care, about Medicare for all.

ROMANS: But one thing that just seems to is why the president's overall numbers are not better if so many people, 69 percent -- how would you rate the economy? Sixty-nine percent say good. Why is the president not getting more credit? He takes credit every day, right? He talks about the economy.

BRIGGS: He should. Tax cuts have been helpful. Deregulation has been helpful.

ROMANS: But have they stayed on message? That's what I think they have stayed on message. I also think that you have, certainly among Republicans, there is some unease about debt and deficits here too. You know? This all comes at a cost.

BRIGGS: There should be. There's just an interesting dichotomy with the polling today.

OK, a Dallas police officer charged with manslaughter after she shot and killed a young man who was in his own apartment. New details ahead.


[04:49:08] BRIGGS: The scene last night at Harding University. The vigil for Botham Shem Jean who attended the Arkansas School. Students remembering the 26-year-old shot and killed in his own apartment last Thursday by off duty Dallas police officer Amber Guyger.

ROMANS: Also last night, protesters marched in Dallas demanding justice for Jean. About 100 people took to the streets demanding Guyger face murder charges. Right now, the 30-year-old is charged with manslaughter. New details about the shooting emerged yesterday in Guyger's arrest affidavit.

It says, she claims she mistook Jean's fourth floor apartment for her own one floor below. The door was already ajar when she tried to use her key card to open it. She claimed she saw Jean's silhouette across the room, pulled her service weapon. The affidavit says she yelled commands at Jean and shot him when he did not comply. Although, of course, he was in his own apartment.

[04:50:02] CNN's 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.

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. Ed Lavandera, thank you for that.

All right. Apple hosting the big iPhone event today. We'll tell you what to expect when we get a check on CNNMoney, next.


[04:56:28] BRIGGS: Russian President Vladimir Putin currently meeting with China's President Xi Jinping on the first day of the Eastern Economic Forum. The event is an opportunity for the Russians who turned to Asia in the attempt to strengthen ties their and expand their influence.

Matthew Chance is live for us in Moscow with the very latest on all of this.

Matthew, good morning. What's about to happen here?


That's right. This is a strategic bond getting even stronger between Russia and China really since 2014 when Russia essentially fell out of the West after annexed Ukraine. Back then, it is facing sanctions, as you know, from the United States and other Western Powers. Its response was to pivot east and to embrace countries like China, particularly China. That's been spearheaded and enhanced by this friendship that's developed between the Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin of Russia.

This is the umpteenth time they have met and they'll be forging closer trade relations, signing important trade deals between the two countries. As they meet in the Russian city of Vladivostok in the country's east, the countries' two militaries are also embarked on unprecedented exercises in that part of Russia as well, 300,000 military personnel from both countries, three and a half thousand from China, will be taking part in these vast military drills, the biggest since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

And that's a significant departure as well, because China becomes the first country outside the former Soviet bloc that has been invited to take part in these Russian military maneuvers. It is a sign of just how close that strategic bond as I called it has become, because just a few years ago, Russia perceived China as an adversary, because of the pressure that Russia and China have been put under with the trade war with the United States and China, it's forced these two countries together and forged a new power that is emerged in Asia -- Dave.

BRIGGS: An uneasy alliance as far as the U.S. goes.

Matthew Chance, thanks so much, live for us in Moscow.

Back here, musician Ben Folds has a new song paying homage to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Yes, a song about the deputy A.G. It is called "Mr. Peepers." The nickname reportedly used by President Trump to describe Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The song was published Monday for "The Washington Post" magazine.

Here is a sample.


ROMANS: Catchy. It depicts Rosenstein as a nerd begin bullied in school by people like Congressman Jim Jordan, a former elite wrestler.

Here is the singer/songwriter explaining his motivation.


BEN FOLDS, MUSICIAN: Rosenstein is much more real and painful to me than the other stuff because of the personal position he's been put in and the position that we're all in at this crossroads where we find ourselves deciding to stick up for our norms or not.


ROMANS: Folds supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election. He was called a member of the unhinged left by the National Republican Senatorial Committee for performing at a fund-raiser for Tennessee's former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen, who is running for the --