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Hurricane Michael Intensifying Rapidly As It Churns Towards Florida's Gulf Coast; President Trump Considering Numerous People to Replace Outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired October 9, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:21] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We have breaking news tonight on two fronts: a cabinet-level departure at the White House and a major hurricane heading straight for the Florida panhandle.

We're going to start with Hurricane Michael, now a cat 3 storm with little stopping it from staying that way or growing even stronger with winds approaching category 4 intensity by landfall. There's now nothing between it and Florida, nothing except the kind of warm water that hurricanes feed on.

Just a few minutes ago forecasters got fresh data. I want to go to Tom Sater who joins us with the very latest.

So, what have we learned about this storm now?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Anderson, the latest advisory keeps it as a pretty powerful category 3, but a couple of concerning issues. The pressure has dropped, which means it's getting stronger. They go on to say, the National Hurricane Center, that it's getting better organized. And something we rarely do but should do more is explain this infrared imagery.

When you look at a satellite imagery like this, those bright colors, those purple colors, Anderson, those are the colder and higher cloud tops. And for the last several loops, we've been watching most of that on the northern and northwestern flank. We've been waiting for it to complete the circle. It has now done this.

So, it's not out of the realm of possibilities that this category 3, which is only ten miles away, ten miles per hour away from category 4, to reach that before landfall. When we talk about the storm, this is significant because this -- in history now will be the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall within 40 miles of Panama City.

When we look at the warnings, they extend well inland. So the wind speed is going to continue to be contained with this. The surge is going to be a big problem. But it's just the population alone, when you talk about Fort Walton Beach, Destin and Panama City to the east, Apalachicola.

We're going to have issues of course with this landfall beginning sometime we think mid to late afternoon tomorrow. Now, tomorrow morning, the tropical storm force winds move in. But landfall should be between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m.

Right now, the track in the National Hurricane Center have the landfall as a 3 but it is possible still to have 4. We can't worry about 3 or 4 because it's bringing with it a major hurricane status that is going to move by quickly. This is not going to be like Harvey. It's not going to be like Florence and drop a lot of rainfall.

But what it will do is bring more of a punch and more of an impact than Florence ever did at landfall.

COOPER: Yes. You know, Tom, if you could just go back, I just want you to talk again about the storm itself kind of reorganizing itself and making that circle.

SATER: OK. Let me explain is this way. Yesterday, Anderson, the maximum winds were 40 miles per hour. By yesterday afternoon, they were 85. At this time, this is already a deadly storm. It's taken 13 lives in parts of Central America and heavy rain in western Cuba.

But we've been waiting for this entire intensification to kind of encircle the entire center. When that happens, it's like really pulling the cord on a lawnmower engine and all the cylinders are firing up. The water's extremely warm. The rain totals we could see around Panama City, even Tallahassee, eight, ten inches. But I think the winds are going to be a big issue as well.

There are so many factors. And every storm is different as we constantly talk about. But this one, again, I can't stress enough when it's going to be the strongest in history to come to Panama City. The track has not changed in the last several advisories.

COOPER: Also, you talked about storm surge. How -- what do you -- what are we looking at? How dangerous could that be?

SATER: This is the time of king tides. So the highest tides that we typically have in our cycle. You already have to consider that the water level's going to be about a foot higher than typical because of these king tides.

One change we had Anderson, this afternoon is that the storm surge, the greatest height has been increased now from 8 to 12 to 9 to 13 feet. Now, that's from Apalachicola, and that curves all the way around the big bend area.

Now, I don't want to sound like -- let me put it this way. If you had to pick a spot in the panhandle to have a surge, it's going to be that big bend area to the north, just to the east of Apalachicola because it's a coastal nature area. There's a lot of wetlands here. So, we'd like that to absorb the coastline.

But you do have a population in Apalachicola. The greater problem is even though that high storm surge because of the curvature that we have of the coastline from Panama City to Apalachicola and then the big bend. This is going to continue inward. And what we may have is some destruction of homes. There's no doubt when this system moves in that we're going to see

that surge even over that one-foot to four-foot to now 9 to 13. So, that is significant for all the homes in the area, especially the more populated areas toward the Panama City and slightly eastward.

COOPER: All right. Tom Sater, I appreciate that latest update.

[20:05:00] We just got that new information in. We're going to continue to follow this tonight, throughout this hour. We're going to speak shortly with one of Tom's colleagues who's been gathering information on the storm up close from the air flying through it. We'll also get a live for the one of the areas expected to be hit.

But first, another big departure from the Trump administration. Just a day after the president celebrated the confirmation of a second Supreme Court pick, we learned that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is going to be stepping down, which means a bit less than two years of the president's tenure. Of the three people in this picture with the president, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster are gone, and Nikki Haley will soon be gone.

Ambassador Haley's decision came as a surprise to some at the White House. The two big questions now, why is she leaving and who's next? There's breaking news on the second question. The president weighing in late today.

Our Jim Acosta joins us now and starts us off.

So, Jim, the president weighed in on all of this on Air Force one just a short bit ago. What did he say?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, he says he has a list of replacements down to five different candidates. That's a short list at this point. He mentioned that Dina Powell, the former deputy national security adviser over here at the White House, that she is on that short list.

He also mentioned that Richard Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany who had been talked about inside the White House earlier today, that he is not on that short list, that the president wants to keep him in Germany at this point. And, of course, much of the speculation all day long, Anderson, was about whether the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, might actually get this job. The president talked her up when he was speaking with reporters earlier today saying at one point that he couldn't think of anybody more competent than his daughter.

But she put a rest to that speculation, put out a tweet saying that the replacement for Nikki Haley is not going to be her.

COOPER: And is it clear why Nikki Haley decided to resign or announce this at least now?

ACOSTA: It's curious, Anderson, because she did submit that letter of resignation to the president last week. It was dated October 3rd. They chose to announce this today. I am told by a source familiar with all these discussions that part of

the calculus for Nikki Haley is she did not want to announce this last week in the middle of that huge firestorm over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. But interestingly, Anderson, she did not want to resign after the midterms.

And the reason why is this. They are concerned inside this White House, greatly concerned that the Democrats are going to take control of the House come this fall in the midterms and potentially the Senate as well. And Nikki Haley I'm told by a source familiar with these discussions did not want to seem like she was jumping ship or abandoning Trump at a time when he's pretty vulnerable if that happens in the upcoming midterm elections.

What's unclear at this point is where she goes next. We had even heard speculation earlier today, Anderson, that perhaps Lindsey Graham might come in and take Jeff Sessions' spot as attorney general after the midterms. It's been speculated that Lindsey Graham may actually leave after the midterms -- excuse me, that Jeff Sessions may leave after the midterms are over. That would open up a slot for Nikki Haley to be appointed to that Senate seat down in South Carolina.

She was asked about this earlier today in the Oval Office and here's what she said.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: It has been an honor of a lifetime. You know, I said I am such a lucky girl to have been able to lead the state that raised me and to serve a country I love so very much. It's really been a blessing, and I want to thank you for that.


ACOSTA: And Anderson, one other thing the president said earlier today is that Nikki Haley had made the job of U.N. ambassador more glamorous. We're not exactly sure what that meant. But it did fuel speculation all day long that that meant the president was thinking hard about potentially making his daughter Ivanka the next U.N. ambassador. But that's not going to happen, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

More now on who might replace Nikki Haley. As Jim Acosta said, it will not be the president's daughter as some people were talking about. What about his son-in-law?

Here's what Nikki Haley had to say about Jared Kushner.


HALEY: Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands. I mean, to redo the NAFTA deal the way he did. What I've done working with him on the Middle East peace plan, it is so unbelievably well done. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Joining us now is "New York Times" White House correspondent and CNN political analyst, Maggie Haberman.

Great to have you here.

So, I mean, a lot of fascinating things about this. First of all, the whole notion of the timing of this.

What do you make of it?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: My reporting is similar to what we've heard tonight, which is that she did not want to embarrass the president by doing this right after the midterms. She had made clear for a while that she wanted to go. First, she had to get through the United Nations General Assembly, then the Kavanaugh debacle took place and she didn't want to do it in the middle of that.

There are some West Wing aides that are frustrated that they actually ended up having a couple of good days where they got Brett Kavanaugh through, they had his swearing in yesterday, and now the week is going to be dominated it seems at least in part by Nikki Haley. At least the part that's not about Kanye West, who meets with the president on Thursday.

I don't think there is something deeper based on my reporting. I do think you are going to see increasingly a number of people whether they are cabinet level or undersecretaries or what-have-you who are going to be announcing in the coming weeks that they are leaving.

[20:10:06] So, it is not being announced right after what could be a difficult election.

COOPER: And that's not terribly unusual two years into an administration.

HABERMAN: Not at all. Look, these jobs are grueling. This is still two years on this job. It's not as if she held it for six months. It's not as if --

COOPER: Two years in this administration, I mean, feels very long.

HABERMAN: It feels very long to those covering it, to those serving in it. So I don't think this is a huge surprise.

I do believe she had said this before. But look, she is certainly seen as somebody with a political future in the Republican Party. She was seen that way before Donald Trump became the nominee for the Republican Party. She is seen that way since.

And I will say, it's striking the way she's played this exit. She's one of the only people who is not getting sort of kicked out the door on their way out.

COOPER: In fact, the president wanted to have a side by side with her in front of the press.

HABERMAN: I think they considered it advantageous for both of them to basically send the message that there's no daylight, that she's going to campaign for him. That was the big message she was sending. No, this is not some prelude to 2020.

Look, if President Trump decides for whatever reason not to run in 2020, and we have no reason to believe he's not going to. But should that happen she could go there or she could wait until 2024.

COOPER: You know, a lot of people were making the idea of Ivanka Trump today. In fairness to the president, he was asked about it. It wasn't like he brought this up in front of reporters saying, I think she would be great but because of nepotism, people would criticize it.


COOPER: He was asked a question about it.

HABERMAN: Yes, this began essentially as a joke within the West Wing, whether Ivanka Trump had more of an interest in it or not, I can't say. She tweeted earlier that it's not going to be her. But this became a joke among West Wing staffers that this could be a way for her to have an exit strategy out of the West Wing last year. That obviously is not what happened.

But yes, the president was asked. He did not throw this out there. He got asked the question. And to be fair to him, he said I will get accused of nepotism. He of course criticized the press, you people will raise this. But that makes him exactly like every other politician I've ever covered.

COOPER: Did the idea of Jared Kushner, Nikki Haley obviously praising him effusively. Is that possible?

HABERMAN: I don't think so. I think again it's the same issue. I also have no indication that Jared Kushner or Ivanka Trump want to leave right now. I think they're pretty content where they are in their roles.

Nikki Haley has been aligned with both of them throughout her time in the White House. And I think that they will be among the voices the president will be hearing from as he looks to who he can replace her with.

COOPER: And that's not clear yet at this point?

HABERMAN: It's not. We've heard Dina Powell's name mentioned. She's a former deputy national security adviser. She's also close with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, although she developed her own relationship with the president.

He indicated he has a short list, that Dina Powell's someone he's considering but that there are other people he's considering. It's really important to remember with him no matter how many conversations he has, until he's made the offer and announced it, we're going to be hearing all kinds of contradictory things.

COOPER: All right. Maggie Haberman, thanks very much. I appreciate it.

Ambassadors to the United Nations have figured highly at key moments in history. You can think of Adlai Stevenson forcefully confronting the Soviets during the Cuban missile crisis or Jeane Kirkpatrick during the Reagan administration, a position that certainly matters on the world stage and as a listening post how the rest of the world sees this country.

With that in mind, I want to get some additional perspective from CNN chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, within the U.N. and on the world stage, how do you think the United States, its position is standing or changed in the two years that Ambassador Haley has been there?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, look, the entire duration of the Trump administration has repositioned the United States on the international stage. From a leader and a supporter of alliances and a nation as a superpower that stands up for the principles, the bedrock principles of the global world order, which it created and led and fostered since the end of World War II to now where it is not viewed as a leader anymore. It is viewed as a country that wants to pull back from the traditional American leadership roles.

So, whether it's Nikki Haley or Mike Pompeo or whoever it might be, they are in the service of the Trump administration where both Democratic and Republican foreign policy analysts have basically concluded that the United States under this administration is withdrawing from its traditional leadership role and sees the world much more as a set of small or large victories to be had rather than alliances and a U.S. agenda to be nurtured and put forth.

COOPER: It's so interesting because what Nikki Haley is saying, and it echoes what President Trump has said, is that the U.S. is respected now in a way that it hasn't been before. Foreign countries may not like what the U.S. is doing, but they respect the United States. It sort of echoes President Trump's line that world leaders used to be laughing at the U.S., they're not laughing anymore, even though they were literally laughing at the U.N. when he spoke.

AMANPOUR: Well, they were laughing at the U.N., as you remember. We were there together. When he said that "my administration is the most successful in the history of administrations."

[20:15:03] So, you know, people were laughing at him and then with him, and it's a pretty unprecedented thing for the president to say on the global stage.

However, here's the situation. President Trump has set up the United States in the words of one of these foreign policy analysts who've come out with these books about American leadership as sort of this wounded global giant. It is a view of the United States that very, very few people share because the United States is still the world's superpower -- strongest military, strongest economy, strongest influence around the world, strongest culture that it projects around the world.

So, the United States is not what President Trump portrays it to be. Therefore, the United States has not been laughed at in the past. And so the opposite is not true now, if you see what I'm saying.

COOPER: It is interesting Nikki Haley's role. She has stood out as I guess a moderating public voice in comparison to the president. She's been, you know, stronger, had harsher words when it comes to Russia, for instance, than the president certainly has, though she certainly was in lock-step with the administration on North Korea as well as Iran.

AMANPOUR: Yes. I think she's been much more in lock-step than otherwise. It is true that she had that sort of blip in April of last year, when she -- of this past year, when she came out and said that, you know, there would be strong sanctions against Russia because of the Skripal poisonings here in the U.K. It's true that this administration did take on Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons. You know, that's a good thing. Did it twice. It hasn't ended that problem.

And it's true that right now because of various issues the U.S. has managed to get Assad and his allies not to do one last push on the rebel stronghold of Idlib and thus potentially cause hundreds of thousands of casualties. We don't know how long that's going to last.

But there are all sorts of other issues on trade wars and the rest that are still very, very difficult for the U.S. and the IMF suggesting that this, quote/unquote, strength is going to cost the U.S. economic growth and the global economy as well.

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour, thanks very much.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

COOPER: We have much more ahead tonight, including President Trump's incoming Supreme Court justice and a consequential first day on the job for him. We'll tell you the cases that came his way and how he's being received.

We'll also talk with a hurricane chaser with a terrifying-sounding mission, flying into big storms like this one. He's been doing it with this one. He's got plenty to say.

And later, the question how bad could it get tomorrow in Florida? We'll look back at some of the deadliest storms to hit the Florida panhandle, ahead.


[20:22:02] COOPER: We reported at the top of the broadcast hurricane Michael is growing stronger and could according to the National Hurricane Center become the most powerful storm ever to hit the Florida panhandle.

We know that in part because of the work of our next guest and others. He's somebody who heads straight for any hurricane he can. In fact, he and his team fly over into and through them.

Jack Parrish is a flight meteorologist and project manager with the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration. He just landed. He joins us now by phone.

Jack, if you could just walk us through what you were able to see today from the air about this storm.

JACK PARRISH, FLIGHT METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): Well, hello, Anderson. Our team from the NOAA aircraft operations center in Lakeland flew the G-4 jet around several different patterns around Michael. We were dropping a number of our dropsonde instruments. We dropped 27 total today, took observations, all quadrants around the storm.

Today's main mission had to do with the intensification of Michael. Yesterday we had a really big mission that had to do with where the storm was going. Today, it had more to do with how strong it was going to be.

And we found some things that would cause the storm to grow, a few that might keep it from growing any faster than it's growing right now. And I just got back on the ground.

COOPER: And it seems a lot more organized than it was just a short time ago.

PARRISH: Yes, sir. And Michael has fought the odds. We saw plenty of shear to its north yesterday. It didn't seem to care. We saw some shear today, and we thought the only mitigating factor we saw was a fairly substantial area of dry air on its west side, which seems to be getting trained around the south.

But near the core the center of the storm is shielding itself from that dry air intrusion fairly well. So, we certainly saw all indications of a very strong cat 4 -- I'm sorry, a very strong cat 2. And it could make its way up to cat 3 in that direction before landfall.

COOPER: How would you compare this storm to others you've seen? Obviously every storm is different and Florence was much more of a rain, a water event.

PARRISH: Yes, sir. This one is moving, starting to increase its speed. The energy in this storm is quite close to the center. We expect it to make landfall with a decent forward motion. So for it to loiter inland, the inland flooding like Florence, we're going to see something quite a bit different this time.

Again, a lot of its energy is near the center. So if you're unfortunate enough to be near the center and especially just a little to the east of the center, that's where the strongest impacts are going to be from the wind field. And then the geography of the Appalachia Bay area, that big bend area of the Florida peninsula and panhandle, that's an area that's prone to very large storm surges.

So, I would expect anywhere from Panama City over toward St. Marks and maybe even toward Cedar Key to be highly impacted by storm surge.

COOPER: You said you saw some things that might indicate it could get stronger.

[20:25:02] You said you saw some things that might keep it from getting stronger. Could you just quickly kind of summarize both?

PARRISH: Yes, sir. Well, anytime that the energy starts to close in near the center, this is the conservation of angular momentum. This is the ice skater bringing their arms in close to the center. The spin gets faster near the center. So, that's certainly a factor.

Very warm sea surface temperatures, and we did see a decrease in the shear on the north side of the storm. And then the only mitigating factor honestly that we saw today was quite a bit of dry air over on the West Side. Some storms seem to be able to shield themselves from that.

Florence was able to do so for a couple of days and then was severely impacted by it. So we can do a cat 1. Of course it had a totally different problem of it slowing down as it made landfall.

COOPER: Jack Parrish, appreciate what you do, you and your team. Thank you very much.

PARRISH: Well, thank you.

COOPER: With this storm intensifying as it gets closer to landfall, I want to go next to what as we just heard may be a very dangerous place indeed, Destin, Florida.

CNN's Brian Todd is there for us now.

So, what are you seeing around you? How are people preparing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, they're preparing by hunkering down and kind of staying in at this point as we're on the eve of the landfall of the storm here.

This is the Destin harbor walk. Normally on a night like tonight, it would be teeming with people. Very popular area for bars and restaurants.

But take a look over here. This bar shut down like all the other bars and restaurants on this harbor walk. These tables, these heavy tables turned on their sides in anticipation of this storm.

I talked to the manager of this place earlier today. He's got to stay close he thinks for at least 24 hours. He hopes to reopen soon after the storm passes, Anderson. But as you talked to with the storm chaser just a moment ago, this is

going to be a big wind event. The storm surge they may be able to withstand a lot of that in this area. It's going to be bad, but they could withstand it.

What they're worried about is the wind in these areas. Can businesses like this one and houses around herewith stand the very powerful winds that are apparently going to be much more powerful than Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas a few weeks ago? There's going to be a lot of shingles torn off, shutters torn off, things like that. A lot of power outages. People are preparing for that as well.

The Governor of Florida Rick Scott said you've got to have three days of supplies because they anticipate at least maybe a million people without power in this region, Anderson. So, they're telling people if you're going to stay and hunker down make sure you've got your three days of supplies here because you're going to probably need them. There isn't going to be power for maybe close to a million people. But they are encouraging people in some of the lower-lying areas not far from where we are to get out. However, their window of getting out, their window for evacuation is just about closed -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, the time people have had to prepare for this, it's much shorter than it was for Florence.

TODD: Absolutely. I mean, we first got word this was going to turn into a hurricane on Sunday. Now, the serious storm watchers were watching this before then. But again, as we've been hearing, you know, it just didn't really seem to gather strength in earnest until basically late Sunday. So you didn't have a lot of time to prepare.

Now, people around here are kind of used to these storms coming up quickly, but one thing to point out, they haven't had a major hurricane here in the Florida panhandle for 13 years. So, there are a lot of people around here who are not used to this and may not take the warning seriously, but officials here are saying you've got to take it seriously.

They are encouraging people to get out. They say the term mandatory evacuation but that's a relative term. They can't really make people evacuate. They can't go into their homes and pull them out. But they are strongly suggesting people here in low-lying areas to evacuate, Anderson.

And they think that they've gotten a lot of good response to that. But another key thing that they're concerned about are the tourists. Now, normally, this town in the summer has about 70,000 people here. There are about 13,000 people who live here year-round.

So between those two, I just talked to the mayor a short time ago, they think they had about 40,000 here sticking around in October. A lot of them have left. But they are ready about the tourists, Anderson, not used to these conditions maybe not taking this too seriously.

COOPER: Yes, Brian Todd, appreciate it. Thanks. We're going to keep a close eye on the hurricane throughout the


North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp as you'll recall voted against Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. She seems to be in a difficult political race obviously and maybe political trouble because of that vote. Coming up, I'll talk with the senator about actions and consequences.


[20:32:52] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It was a working day for the newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to said day after his ceremonial swearing in at the White House. He was at the court asking questions on several different cases. As his wife and daughter sat in an area reserve for special guest.

He also exchanged a couple of jokes with Justice Elena Kagan with Kavanaugh breaking out into a big smile. The Chief Justice John Roberts wished Kavanaugh a quote, "long and happy career in our calling".

Meantime, a few blocks away at the White House, President Trump kept on insisting that some of the protesters against Kavanaugh during the confirmation hearings were paid to be there and hadn't yet received any money.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: You know, a lot of those were paid protesters. You saw that. They're all unhappy because they haven't been paid yet. I've been calling it. They were paid protesters, that was professionals. That was orchestrated. When you look in the halls of Congress and you see screaming like that, and it's like chimes. One goes, the next goes, these are paid protesters. I don't know that their energy is great. I can tell you the energy on the Republican side, I don't think it's ever been greater.


COOPER: Well North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp voted against Kavanaugh's confirmation, knowing that could be political parole for her reelection bid. I spoke with her just before air time.


COOPER: Senator Heitkamp, the President has called the protesters last week at the Capitol a mob. He said some were paid professionals who were unhappy because they hadn't been paid. Does any of that make sense to you?

SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP, (D) NORTH DAKOTA: I think one of the most important things we can do now that that the nomination process is over is to sit back, reflect and to think about what we need to do in reaction to an outpouring of so many people who have been victims, who haven't told their story before and maybe have told their story. I think it's really important that we not diminish that, that we have an appropriate response nationally. And, so, I think it's really now time to kind of have that conversation and do it in a way that and moves this is country forward and unites this country.

COOPER: Your Republican opponent -- I mean along those lines, Congressman Kevin Cramer, he was (INAUDIBLE) talking about the #metoo movement, referring to the women in his own family and he said and I'm quoting, "they cannot understand this movement toward victimization. They are pioneers of the prairie. These are tough people whose grandparents were tough and great grandparents were tough." I know you talked about your own mother experience being sexually assault as a teenage. I'm wondering what your response to what Congressman Cramer said this.

[20:35:20] HEITKAMP: Well, I don't understand what he meant. Did he mean that if you are a victim of sexual assault you shouldn't talk about it? You shouldn't disclose it? You shouldn't report it? Which I think would be a horrible message. But if the other message that if you're a strong woman you aren't ever going to be victimized because that's the wrong message, too. It has nothing to do with the strength of who we are and has to do with how we together bring a community to avoid sexual assault.

And to me I thought -- I mean my reaction was pretty personal, it's a story that no one in my family has really told publically before. But, you know, it's kind of like, well, my -- my mother, you know, thinks this. And I'm like, here's my mother's story. And as a result of my mother's -- what happened to her, she raised five incredibly independent women who all, many of which, are involved in helping victims in involved in helping people recover from these kinds of assaults.

And so it was just an interesting, I think, reflection. And I don't think it was hopeful or helpful. It wasn't, say, look, you know, we're going to have a plan that's going to deal with this as the problem that it is and move this country forward.

COOPER: You were obviously a yes vote on Kavanaugh and then switched to your vote to no after you rewatched his testimony understand with a sound off. I found that really interesting. I'm wondering, can you explain what you saw with the sound off that made you change your mind?

HEITKAMP: Well, I think -- first off, it's important to know that I watched it in its entirety. I watched her testimony. I watched their testimony. I listened. And up until the point of this hearing, I was preparing statements saying I was going to be a yes. I watched the hearing. And during the process of listening, I thought, this is a -- this is -- you know, we expect someone to have decorum, we expect someone to have a judicial temperament. And what I saw, I thought, well, it's maybe tainted by what I heard. And so I turned off the sound and watched it with the sound off, just his opening comments.

And what I saw was someone who was angry, someone who was aggressive, someone who really, I think, challenged everyone in the room and you can understand that and appreciate that. I mean, of course he was going to be angry. But I think there is a way to express that anger in ways that maybe can communicate anger but maintain judicial decorum.

COOPER: You're obviously in the midst of a very tough reelection fight, and I know you feel voting the way you did was the right way. Do you worry? Are you concerned that it may have cost you your Senate seat?

HEITKAMP: You know, I said all along this isn't a political decision. It's not why I came here. I promised people in North Dakota that I wouldn't make a decision based on what team anyone is on. But I what I saw and what I learned in applying the facts, but also applying judgment. And so, you know, I knew that the easy political vote would have been a yes vote, but I also knew that my parents raised me to do the right thing as I see it and experience the consequences of that, whether it's re-election or not getting re-elected. That to me is wasn't the point. The point is that at the end of the day you all have to look at yourself in the mirror and think about what your future holds if you compromise something like this based on politics.

And I believed a yes vote would have compromised my true belief that this person did not have the temperament to be on the Supreme Court, and that's a lifetime appointment, far exceeding any of my terms or tenure in the United States Senate.

COOPER: Senator Heitkamp, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

HEITKAMP: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: If political wins for Senator Heitkamp, they'll look especially favorable, the forecast for Democrats as a whole this November seems to be much better, if you believe the polls. New CNN polling suggest Democrats are well ahead of Republicans in a generic ballot match up with 54% of likely voters saying they support the Democrat in their district and 41% backing Republican. There are also key signals on the crucial women's voter, but it's not all together rosy for Democrats.

I want to talk about with CNN political director David Chalian. So David, just how much of an advantage do Democrats seem to have right now heading into the midterms?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's a pretty significant advantage. Remember, our newest poll is showing a national assessment on a generic congressional ballot. We know these races play out district by district. But this measure has been a telling measure. And the Democratic double digit advantage right among likely voters, we haven't seen it this wide for the Democrats Anderson, since dating back to 2006.

[20:40:12] That's the last time that Democrats had this kind of an advantage on this question, and we know in 2006 they won both the House and the Senate. COOPER: Obviously, the women's vote has been talked a lot about in the wake of the Kavanaugh hearings and even before. I'm wondering where their support lands right now.

CHALIAN: Yes, we seen them a couple different places in our poll. Specifically about Kavanaugh that you mentioned, we did see overwhelmingly women say they believe the women who made allegations against Kavanaugh more than they believed Kavanaugh. That's one place we see women showing up. But in this issue of do you choose the Democrat or Republican in your district if the election were today, the numbers are astounding. Democrats are winning female voters by 30 points. Republicans are winning male voters by five points.

So do that subtraction there, that's a 25 point gender gap in the Democratic advantage if the Democrats win control of the House of Representatives in November, Anderson, it will be because women delivered that majority to them.

COOPER: Is there good news for the Republicans in the poll as well?

CHALIAN: There's a couple tidbits of good news. Firs of all, the President's approval rating is at 41%. Last month it was at 36%. So, he's on the rise a bit. You rather be on the rise than the fall, those still 41% not a great number. Not where anybody would want their incumbent President to be four weeks out from an election. But the other thing is they're sort of besting the expectations game right now, we ask the country, who do you think is going to be in controlled of Congress.

And a majority of American say, they believe Republicans will still be in control of Congress after this election.

COOPER: So, I mean is it possible that this may have an impact on turnout? I mean do these kind of polls? Because, I mean there's so much talk about Democrats being so far in the lead, is there concern among Democrats that that may make people complacent or, you know, turn out more Republicans who are concerned, obviously, about a possible Democratic takeover out of the House.

CHALIAN: It's a good question, I remember back in 2016 some Hillary Clinton names were concerned about the complacency effect because she was running ahead in the polls. I think there were lots of other factors obviously other than that that went into that final result. What I see in these numbers, Anderson, there is no way of any kind of a complacency effect for Democrats. They are so super charged on enthusiasm, eager to get out. I feel like they would walk across glass to get to the polls the way that these numbers look right now. And Democrats -- and Republicans I'm sorry, are also starting to get into the enthusiasm game. Democrats still have a clear advantage, though, and that is an advantage I would imagine they're going to be able to ride all the way to Election Day.

COOPER: And just last, I mean a lot of talk about Democrats possible retaking the House. The Senate, though, does that seem out of reach for them? CHALIAN: I wouldn't say out of reach, but nearly so. It is two totally different universes that this election is playing out on for the House and for the Senate. And so much of the terrain for the battle of control of the Senate is in deep red states, real Trump country where Democrats are up for re-election. And so that's where actually I think the Kavanaugh effect, that boost that Republicans are expecting to get, that's where we may see it the most in Trump country in red areas. So it may help save the Senate. The math is so difficult. Democrats would basically have to hold on to everything they've got and run the board on their few pick-up opportunities.

COOPER: All right, David Chalian, fascinating. Thanks.


COOPER: Now back to the latest news on Hurricane Michael. As we reported, the storm is getting a better organized, could strike as a powerful category three storm. Just ahead, I'll talk with the mayor whose city is directly in the predicted path.


[20:47:21] COOPER: More on our breaking news on Hurricane Michael. The storm is bearing down at the Florida panhandle. The latest bulletin from the National Hurricane Center puts sustained winds at 120 miles an hour, now a category three, but could make land fall as a powerful category four. Here's the latest on its projected path with the coastline looming ever closer. Widespread evacuations have been ordered across the panhandle.

I'm joined now by Greg -- Greg Brudnicki, the mayor of Panama City, Florida. Mr. Mayor, thanks for being with us.

Can you just walk us through the preparations happening right now ahead of the storm?

GREG BRUDNICKI, MAYOR, PANAMA CITY: Well we have been preparing for this now for the last three days pretty intensively. And we're about as prepared as we can be. Some of the things that we can't predict are going to be, you know, the tornados, the spawn off of these storms. And so right now it looks like that we're directly in the path of the storm.

COOPER: I know evacuations are still taking place. How are those progressing? It's a mandatory evacuation, but obviously, you know, people sometimes heed the warnings. Sometimes they choose not to.

BRUDNICKI: We begged. We've asked. We've knocked on doors. And it's gotten to the point now where if you are saying, then you better hunker down because we've probably tried to evacuate 120,000 people from our county. And at last count we only had about 25,000 that left. So, in the past, we've had a lot of storms that turned out to be not that big a deal, and so, you know, people get complacent, but this one we are directly in the path. We've been on the edge of several over the last few years. This one we are right in the path. So my advice to the people that are now staying that, you know, once the winds get over 50 miles an hour, our first responders, police, fire, they're not going to be able to get to you. So hopefully you got enough water and food and stuff to take care of yourself. You know, we've done everything we can do to get people to live but right now they're going to have to honker down.

COOPER: And are there shelters in the area that, you know, last minute people suddenly decide to -- that they need to need leave where they're leaving they can go to?

BRUDNICKI: Absolutely. There's four different schools. I think two of them now are just about full. Then we've open two more. So we do have shelters available. And we've got 24-hour news coverage, you know, local news coverage, telling people where to go, what to bring to make sure that they've got, you know, their medicines because there not going to be medicines there. We got special need shelters.

So we are fully prepared. We've been through these things before. But, you know, we really don't know what's going to happen until it happens, and hopefully it will not be as bad as we think it's going to be. But I'm afraid it may be.

[20:50:05] COOPER: And just finally, your message to anyone in that area in Panama City tonight is what?

BRUDNICKI: Well, what they need to do is get in a safe place. Wherever you are, hopefully it is a safe place and, you know, we'll see in the morning. We're going to get some wind, we're starting to get a lot of wind right now. And in the morning it's going to probably get up to the 40 and 50-mile-an-hour range. And by tomorrow afternoon, you know, we might be hitting 125-mile-an-hour winds. So do not leave your home or leave wherever you are. You know, stay inside and don't go out stargazing tonight and don't go out tomorrow looking around, because there could be downed power wires and, you know, there could be things being blown around. That people could get hurt. So our number one priority is to keep people safe. And we can keep you safer if you stay home.

COOPER: And we're told there's obviously going to be a big wind event. It's going to be fast moving. How concerned are you about storm surge?

BRUDNICKI: Well, storm surge is going to be a big deal f. you're on the coast you need to be off the coast. If you're in a low-lying area, you should have already gotten out of there, because rising water, you know, there's nothing you do about rising water. And we're supposed to get six to nine foot. And that in many of the low lying areas can be life threatening. So people need to get off the coast if they're on the coast. If they're not on a high bluff, then they'd better expect to have some problems.

COOPER: Mayor Brudnicki, I wish you the best and everybody in the area. We'll continue to checking with you. Thanks very much.

I want to check and see what Chris is working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: There's no time a journalist wants to be wrong except when it comes to predicting hurricanes.


CUOMO: You know, we totally hope it doesn't have the same strength, it moves right away, you know, it stalls out and makes a turn. But this looks like it's going to be bad. And, you know, there's a good chance that you and I won't be in the same location 48 hours from now if they get hit the way that they're anticipating.

We're going to talk to Andrew Gillam, now he's the mayor of Tallahassee. So he has a few concerns about what's going to be happen here, everywhere from the curve in Florida to his own domain proper. And also, we'll play some politics with him about how they got ready this time. The criticism that came towards in 2016, was it justified? So we're going to take people through that. We also have a congressman who's going to be in a district that's very hit. A lot of poverty in the areas where the storm is going to be. Are they ready to help those people? We'll take you through all of it.

COOPER: Yes, Chris, that's about eight minutes from now. Look forward to it.

Coming up, we're going to have the latest on the track of Hurricane Michael. And we'll look at other powerful storms that have hit the same area over the years, see what could be in store in the days to come.


[20:57:01] COOPER: Again, Hurricane Michael could be close to category 4 strength when it makes landfall in Florida. According to the latest information from the National Hurricane Center, the landfall is expected in the big bend or panhandle area, and if it stays a category 3, it would be the strongest storm to directly hit the panhandle in more than a decade. Now if history is any guide that certainly won't be pretty.

Randi Kaye tonight looks back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out for that aluminum. Now, get back.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In July 2005, Hurricane Dennis slammed into the Florida panhandle as a dangerous category 3 storm with 120 miles per hour winds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This, of course, is the most dangerous time when the winds are this strong.

KAYE (voice-over): It made landfall near Navarre Beach, causing widespread flooding throughout the area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is highway 98 that goes along the coast in the Florida panhandle. And what's going on here is that the ocean, the gulf of Mexico, is breaching the roads. KAYE (voice-over): Three people died in the aftermath of the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is very, very similar now as telling you to Hurricane Opal in '95. Opal made it up to 150-mile-an-hour winds.

KAYE (voice-over): Hurricane Opal hit the panhandle 10 years before Dennis making landfall just east of Pensacola. The deadly storm hit land as a category 3 with 144 miles per hour winds. More than 100 miles of Florida's gulf coast virtually destroyed from the winds and rain. There were at least nine fatalities blamed on the storm.

In 2004, the year before Dennis, four major storms struck the state of Florida within the span of six weeks. Hurricane Charlie, Frances, Ivan and Jean caused widespread death and destruction throughout the entire region including the panhandle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be large scale. Every shingle on the roof going to be gone.

KAYE (voice-over): Frances landed on the east coast of the state as a category 2 in September. And then made a second landfall in the panhandle as a tropical storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winds have become significantly stronger in this particular area right off the beach. By the way, what you see flying by me is not snow it's foam.

KAYE (voice-over): Hurricane Ivan's eye hit gulf shores, Alabama, as a cat 3 that same month. The hurricane force winds extended into the Florida panhandle causing even more damage to the already battered region.

If Hurricane Michael makes landfall as a category 3 as predicted, it will be the first major storm to directly hit the panhandle in 13 years.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Naples, Florida.


COOPER: We'll be following it every step of the way.

A reminder, don't miss "Full Circle", our daily interaction newscast on Facebook. You get to pick some of the stories we cover. You can see it weeknights 6:25 p.m. eastern at

The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

[21:00:02] CUOMO: All right, thank you Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Prime Time."

Hurricane Michael is just hours away from slamming into the Florida panhandle. Now, a category 3 and stronger than Florence.