Return to Transcripts main page


Dorian Strengthens to Category 3 Hurricane in New Forecast; White House Doctors Hurricane Map; Dems Unveil Proposals to Address Threat from Warming Planet. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 5, 2019 - 00:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening to a special live late edition of 360. Hurricane Dorian is once again a category 3 storm strengthening shortly before air time. It's the water that authorities are concerned about in the form of rain and possible tidal flooding along the Georgia and Carolina coast.

As they brace for impact, the death toll, as feared, is rising in the Bahamas, standing at 20 according to the prime minister, who says the number will likely grow as search and rescue operations continue.

As for the destruction there, it is in many places almost beyond description. I asked one woman tonight about conditions in her neighborhood and she told me there is no neighborhood.

Tonight her story and others will tell you about President Trump's decision to make part of the hurricane story about himself, revisiting the falsehood he spread about where the storm might hit, refighting a battle that only he finds important as people in the Bahamas are fighting for their lives. CNN's Jennifer Gray is monitoring the storm tonight.


COOPER: Randi Kaye is in Charleston just in front of the one of those rivers.

What are the conditions like now?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are at the Ashley River. There's a marina here behind me. We can hear the boats clanging around as the winds pick up and rain continues for hours.

There's also been a sort of howling wind and at times it sound like it's screaming. We have also seen some of the water from the river already starting to spill over. As Jennifer was talking about, the water is a concern. We are expecting 40 to 50 miles per hour winds. We have had the gusts, 60 miles per hour gusts already.

But the water and the rising levels of water really seem to be the problem here. We are expecting a high tide about one hour from now at 1:11 am. That could be a 10 foot tide. That is certainly concern for the city of Charleston. Hugo was also a concern in 1989 at 12.5.

So the water is a concern. It's a triple threat. It's the rain, storm surge and it's that 10 foot tide. This city is not built to handle this. It's a low lying area. They call it low country for a reason.


KAYE: It's nearly above sea level. So that's certainly a concern. But the city says they're ready and they have the National Guard in place. They have FEMA here. They have pumps throughout the city that can pump out the extra water they are expecting to come in from the high tides and storm surges.

COOPER: There's mandatory evacuation in place. People finding force (ph) to leave.

Is there a sense from authorities about how many people have actually left or remain?

KAYE: About 830,000 people are under that evacuation order. We understand more than 300,000 have left. But that is not enough for authorities here. There's a sense of evacuation fatigue here. They have been under mandatory evacuation now four times in as many years. They had Florence and Matthew, Irma and now Dorian.

People are tired of leaving their homes. They say it's not worth it. The hardship of getting back home and move out and move back in. They would rather lay low and stay in inside and take their chances.

But authorities have said if you do that, you're not putting yourself at risk but rescue crews at risk. That's a real concern for authorities. They would like everyone to have evacuated.

COOPER: Randi Kaye, I appreciate you being there. Thank you.

And more now on what the people in the Bahamas are going through tonight. It is a horribly familiar story. The slow rolling disaster after a disaster, the ports and airports flooded or gone, emergency vehicles destroyed, first responders killed or missing or stranded, trying to find their own family and do what they can for others.

Government agencies operating in a state of shock. The end result can be as terrible as the worst hurricane, as we saw after Katrina or Maria and it can kill. The fear is that this could be happening now in the Bahamas.

There's much we don't know about what's going on. Sharon Rolle lives in the Abacos. We spoke with her Monday night. We haven't heard from her since then. We managed to speak with earlier this evening. Just consider, she was willing to use up precious phone battery power to get a message out about what she has seen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Sharon, how are you doing right now?

We talked to you on Monday. When we spoke to you then, you told us about the situation in central Abaco.

What's it like tonight?

SHARON ROLLE, BAHAMAS RESIDENT: For the most part I am trying my best to hold it together. It is extremely frightening. It's scary. I feel so distaste (ph) and, I mean, (INAUDIBLE) tide. It just -- it's scary.

COOPER: What's your neighborhood like right now?

ROLLE: There's no neighborhood. There's nothing here. We actually are sitting in a car now. We're just trying to figure out what's the next step. I don't feel safe. I don't see the authorities around. They say that they're here but I honestly don't see them.

There's a lot of death that's around us. It's a lot of chaos. There's a lot of destruction. You can literally smell the death in the air as the water dries up and the sun comes out. Like it's so unreal. It's devastated. Abaco is demolished. It's finished.

And we just need we need (INAUDIBLE) we need help. We need help. We need to evacuate. We need to get out of here. And we don't understand what's happening. We need to leave.

COOPER: Have you seen signs of police?

The Coast Guard?

Anybody coming?

ROLLE: We've seen the Coast Guard come back and forth for the past few days. We're not 100 percent sure who they're taking out. We see they are taking out patients. But we heard that they are also taking out some of the Bahamians who we don't know who. They're taking out some families but we don't know the capacity of that.

We have seen a few defense force officers. But the presence of the defense force officers, I'm sorry to say it but it's not being felt. I don't feel safe.

COOPER: Do you know, have people been going house to house to search for and account for everybody?

ROLLE: Not that I am aware of. I think the Coast Guard are coming through, are persons that are actually bringing the bodies here or that are actually going out there and are identifying bodies. But not anyone I have seen going door to door, looking for anyone or trying to find out if families are looking out or anything of the sort.


COOPER: I know you said on Monday, a friend of yours had seen people who are dead in the floodwaters.


COOPER: Is that something you have seen yourself?

ROLLE: Yes. There are a few areas that have tons of fatalities. One gentleman we came across when he started to drive around the island, he said he passed three bodies and one of which was a child probably between age of 6 or 9 that he actually had to pull out of the water and put on the side out of the water on a step. It's so bad.

COOPER: Your home, has the floodwater receded from the area?

I imagine after several days it probably has.

ROLLE: It hasn't.

COOPER: Oh, it hasn't?

And I know you have gone to a friend's home.

So you can't go back to your home?

ROLLE: No, I cannot. And my friend cannot go back to her because we went there yesterday. And her apartment is demolished. It's gone. Everything is gone. Everything is gone.

COOPER: So where will you sleep tonight?

ROLLE: We are in the car. We don't know where we'll go tonight. We are actually operating on one phone at the moment. So we are trying our hardest to get in contact with somebody that can help us get out of here.

COOPER: If somebody in authority is listening tonight, what do you want them to know about what the people around you need and what --

ROLLE: We need help. We need (INAUDIBLE) to evacuate. There's no (INAUDIBLE). We don't hear anything. We don't know what's going on. We need to evacuate. A person that want to get off the island to know what's next. We have to get out of here. We cannot stay here. We cannot. We have to get out. We have to leave.

COOPER: Sharon, I don't want you to use any more power on your phone so I appreciate you talking to us and I hope the message gets out. We'll continue to check in with you.

ROLLE: Thank you so much.

COOPER: All right. Stay strong. Thank you, Sharon.

Sharon Rolle. Coming up next, I'll talk with a member of the Bahamas government about what's being done, what needs to be done. And we'll hear as well from some of the people who are waiting to be reunited with loved ones as well as some who have been rescued. Later tonight, President Trump and the mystery of the hurricane map,

marked up by a Sharpie, which (INAUDIBLE) says he knows nothing about though there he is pointing to it. Putting the eye in this hurricane as only he can.





COOPER: Hurricane Dorian is once again a cat 3 storm, strengthening within the last few hours and as the effects are felt along the Eastern Seaboard, in the Bahamas, the misery continues and in some ways may be just beginning.

Before the break you heard Abacos resident Sharon Rolle's concerns about safety and the response on the ground. Here's what she said when I asked her what she and the others around her need.


ROLLE: We need -- we need time (ph) to evacuate. There's no time (ph). We don't hear anything. We don't know what's going on. We need to evacuate. A person that want to get off of the island to know what's next. We have to get out of here. We cannot stay here. We cannot. We have to get out. We have to leave.


COOPER: Joining us now by phone is Iram Lewis, he's parliamentary secretary in the Bahamian Ministry of Public Works.

Mr. Lewis, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Before we talk about the government needs and resources, I just want to ask a personal question. I understand that yesterday you were trying to reach your sister-in-law and her two kids.

Were you able to make contact with them?

IRAM LEWIS, BAHAMIAN MINISTRY OF PUBLIC WORKS: (INAUDIBLE), Anderson, yes. We were able to make contact with them and they are safely sheltered in Grand Bahama.

COOPER: I'm glad to hear that.


COOPER: You heard Sharon Rolle there in the Abacos.

What kind of resources does the government have right now to respond to this level of destruction?

Obviously this is something you have not seen before. LEWIS: We have never seen this before. I'll give you an example of what's going on in Grand Bahama. The police department is looking in the city of Freeport. And because of the flooding, they lost about 75-80 percent of their vehicles. So right now they don't have the resources to go out there and search for people.

We have been seeking the assistance of companies with heavy equipment. The heavy equipment operators, they have been on the road, going through the floodwaters, trying to reach persons in distressed areas.

The southern side of the city of Freeport is getting better. The water has receded; the runway is now dry and has been cleared of all debris. However the control tower is pretty much out of it. So if persons were to try to fly in, (INAUDIBLE) clearance, you have to fly in on instruments because there's no control tower to direct the planes on the ground.

The eastern side of Grand Bahama, we don't know what's going on. McLean's Town, Freetown, High Rock, Gambier Point, we cannot get there because part of the highway has been washed out. So we can only access those areas by boat and (INAUDIBLE) water recedes (INAUDIBLE).

Again, during the daytime, we are able to get to certain areas. But at nightfall we cannot get to assist these persons because at night there's no electricity. There's no running water. And even there are two gas stations here and we don't even know the condition of the gas (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: Obviously there's all sorts of things in a storm like this where gas is critical. And there's a lot of logistical stuff that people just don't think really about that you need in order to be able to start doing rescues and be able to get basic information out.

Are there enough medical personnel, medical supplies, both -- especially also in the Abacos Islands, which obviously have been severely affected.


LEWIS: No, there's sufficient medical supplies. We hope the Coast Guard comes in with their rescue team, that they will have medical supplies on board, primary healthcare, even first aid kits. In the city of Freeport itself, the hospital has been flooded. (INAUDIBLE) not dry out and they are able to use the emergency room.

We have a resort staff (ph) unlimited. There was a child there who had a procedure done at Joe DiMaggio Hospital a few weeks ago and he had a seizure yesterday. And there's no way we could have gotten him out in time today.

The U.S. Coast Guard just sent a team in. But it was not an ambulance. And they came to the hospital and spoke to the parents of the child.

And because of the front (ph) that they had to pretty much (INAUDIBLE) take care of the child for an hour until he get to Nassau, the parents made the decision not to send the child in the helicopter because it was too risky.

So they're hoping that he can intubate their baby at the hospitals tonight with limited resources, that the baby might -- will survive. They're hoping that the ambulance will be able to get in tomorrow to take the child to either Nassau or to the Joe DiMaggio hospital in Florida.

COOPER: And the food supplies, distribution of food or water, does the government have stockpiles of food or water?

And is there anybody distribution at this point?

Or is that something that still hasn't been able to begin?

LEWIS: In Nassau there's (INAUDIBLE) one of the cruise lines. They are preparing hot meals tomorrow.

We have been told that some 20,000 meals are being prepared in the morning. The members of parliament, the emergency operation center, our local (INAUDIBLE) which is the equivalent of your FEMA, we are organizing teams tomorrow to receive the food.

There will be feeding centers and there will be teams to distribute the foodstuffs on the island of Grand Bahama. So we are getting help. However, getting to us, that is the challenge. The airport, pretty much, like I said, is just out of commission.

So the best way to get to us now is by boat. That's the safest way to get to us, by boat. And the challenge here is that basically when you get here, you can get here but once you're here, how do you leave?

We need adequate not only food supplies but we need fuel, diesel, gasoline and perhaps even aviation fuel so that jets can come in and out.


COOPER: Just very briefly, are you considering asking the U.S. for military personnel or even cruise ships.

You talked about a cruise ships, a lot of ships go to the Bahamas for a cruise ship, allowing people to stay on a cruise ship.

Are there -- would you like the U.S. military to come?

LEWIS: Absolutely. Every option is being considered right now, any way that you can get the help to be brought to us, we will be greatly -- we will be forever grateful.

So cruise ships maybe a good way to house people, personnel, we'll be asking persons, civilians, air conditioned tents, sleeping bags because we have to set up a tent city like was done in the United States during Hurricane Katrina.

So in the areas of Freeport where we can set those areas up but we need supplies to come in. Our government, we are relaxing the custom laws. We are doing our best to ensure that protocol is some instances are just not ignored but they are relaxed to allow help to get into the country because basic needs must be met.

COOPER: Iram Lewis, I wish you the best. We'll continue to talk to you. Thank you so much.

I want to talk more now about the rescue works. Our Victor Blackwell has more from Nassau.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Megan and Raevyn Bootle arrived at Nassau's airport early Wednesday morning to wait for three evacuees from the Bahamas, Abaco.

RAEVYN BOOTLE, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: We haven't had any direct contact with either our mother, our aunt or our grandmother since the hurricane hit Abaco on Sunday, so we're hoping that they'll be evacuated soon and we can see them when they arrive here.

BLACKWELL: U.S. Coast Guard and Royal British Navy Rescue Teams have plucked scores of stranded people from the northern island. Some arrived with injuries from the ruthless storm. Stephen Rolle, rushed to a clinic in Marsh Harbor for shelter after his roof started to tear away at the height of the storm three days before he was rescued.

STEPHEN ROLLE, BAHAMAS RESIDENT: We were trapped inside our apartment. The wind came, blew every window out. This couldn't have been a cat five. If they had a category for this, this had to have been like an eight.

BLACKWELL: Ten-year-old Alex ran from a chopper to his aunt after days without power or clean water. By sundown, Raevyn and Megan got word through a relative that their mother and grandmother and aunt are fine and they say they will wait at the edge of the tarmac until their flight lands.


COOPER: Victor, are the people you spoke with worried about security on Abaco now?

I just talked to a government official. It doesn't sound like there's not much in the way of police or food distribution by the government or distribution points. There just doesn't seem like the infrastructure is there.

BLACKWELL: So Raevyn and Megan, no, they're not concerned.


BLACKWELL: But we heard a range of claims about security and violence on the island, from some saying it is very violent to others saying it is not. Now I also spoke with a minister of national security today.

He said that this would be his first day on the ground on Abaco. Only flyovers before now because today was the first day of all clear. He admits that this is the period in which they assess what is happening there to try to keep there from being some chaos.

He suggests that the claims of violence are being started on social media. Some of them have been debunked. But he says he expects some will be validated. He also says that there are about 100 police officers, Bahamian police officers there, some national forces as well.

But they're in the phase now, determining what is on Abaco to determine how to keep things.

COOPER: Victor Blackwell, thanks, in the situations we have seen so many times before, rumors can get started and people can say things that they heard rather than what they have actually seen. So I want to be very careful about any reports of concerns, just to make sure that they're backed up.

Just ahead, I'll talk with a storm chaser who managed to survive for a harrowing two days as the storm slammed into the Bahamas.


COOPER: Welcome back to this special live midnight edition of 360.


Hurricane Dorian, which is now a Category 3 storm, has produced life and death stories from the Bahamas. Now, one of those stories from a man who's a professional storm chaser -- his name is Josh Morgerman -- his friends and colleagues couldn't find him for two days as the storm ravaged the islands. He's safe and made it to Nassau and just sent us some video of the destruction he's seen.


COOPER: Josh, for some 54 hours, no one knew if you were safe or not. Can you just describe what happened?

JOSH MORGERMAN, STORM CHASER: Well, a lot happened, and it felt like, basically, it was just a whole odyssey. First of all, the hurricane struck. I've been in about 47 hurricanes, and this was probably one or two in terms of, like, how intense it was.

I rode out the storm, the front part of the storm, in a concrete school. So it was a designated shelter. It was supposed a place that was completely sturdy and would protect the people inside.

By the time we got to the calm eye of the storm, which is sort of the halfway point. The building was so badly damaged that we -- a bunch of us had to bail. We had to get out of the building, get in the new cars in the parking lot that were brought around and mangled and get some other government building immediately before the back side of the storm hit. That's how bad this was.

This government building was basically the -- it was a government complex. It was the only, basically, undamaged building in the entire area. So residents from every neighborhood were just, like, screaming towards this -- this building during the calm eye.

And we all got inside and then the backside hit, and then there was the aftermath, which has been on just days of many, many people without homes, without basically anything but the clothes on their backs, many with grave injuries, living in and around the sort of government complex to try to figure out what's next.

COOPER: And exactly where -- where were you? Which town were you in?

MORGERMAN: I was in Marsh Harbor, which is basically the main town of Great Abacos, so this is -- this is like the main -- this is where you fly into if you go to the Abaco Islands. And it's sort of right in the middle of the islands. And it took a perfect direct hit from this hurricane. The violent inner core and then the exact center, the calm eye, passed right over Marsh Harbor with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, which is just about the strongest hurricanes get.

COOPER: We're looking at some of the video that you shot. How far was it from the other building that you went to?

MORGERMAN: The school where we are at the front side of the storm was maybe -- probably about a mile from the government complex. I was very nervous, I was apprehensive, because when we got in the few cars that we got in which were still functioning, one of which was mine, we had to make this trek to the government complex.

So we didn't know what kind of debris was in the roads or anything like that. And my biggest fear, my No. 1 fear, was getting stuck on the road as those 185-mile-an-hour winds of the back side came in, because there were -- there were actually a lot of deaths from flying debris. It's lethal at those speeds.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, I think that's a lot of people forget about, is you know, not only the winds picking up things, but as the storm surge comes, as the water comes, there's all sorts of debris and water that can kill people.

I know you tweeted that the winds were like -- described as the force of 1,000 sledgehammers. I -- 185 miles an hour, I mean, that's just -- it's incomprehensible, particularly for such a low-lying area.

MORGERMAN: Yes, now where I rode out the storm on the side which was in a school on the hill. And I did that on purpose, because I didn't want to worry about the storm surge.

Now, there's a neighborhood near that called the mud, OK, and it's a low-lying poor neighborhood. And that neighborhood got swept by a tremendous storm surge. The whole -- the whole neighborhood now, and it's a very large area of the city, is just wiped out. It's just -- it's like football fields and rubble, and apparently, there were a lot of casualties there.

Now, the people there who managed to escape actually ended up in that government complex, as well. It's actually very close. It's going to other way downhill. But yes, the storm surge was brutal. And also, in the sort of -- the central business district, kind of the strip where the restaurants and commercial activity is in Marsh Harbor. That area was also just wiped out by the one-two punch, storm surge and just nuclear-grade wind.

COOPER: Well, Josh, I appreciate this -- the story out and just the images and also the reality of what is happening and has been happening. Josh Morgerman, I really appreciate it. Thank you.

MORGERMAN: My pleasure. Thank you.

COOPER: Well, up next, a story that should not be a story, but it is. President Trump's defense of his hurricane false alarm to the people of Alabama and then the altered map he used to do it, and then the excuses that he continues to make.



COOPER: The president is supposed to put aside politics when it comes to hurricanes. They generally try not to play golf when the eastern coast of the United States is threatened and when nearby island nations are being destroyed.

They're also supposed to note that they are such things as Category 5 hurricanes. They're supposed to know, especially when they have been president, Cat 5 storms out of court on their watch. And presidents are supposed to try to continually try to defend phony statements that they have made about the storm path.

Yet, this was President Trump today, continuing to talk about the path of destruction that he says almost was.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But that was the original chart and you see it was going to hit not only Florida but Georgia could have -- was going towards the golf and that was what we -- what we originally expected. And it took a right turn.


COOPER: OK. Now, we stopped the video there to point your attention to the map he's holding, a projection of Dorian's path from last Thursday. He talked about Alabama being in the eye of the storm on Sunday. As you know, a lot changes between Thursday and Sunday with a massive hurricane.

At the end of this, he circled with a Sharpie -- circled with a Sharpie is part of Alabama. Now, the president has said multiple times on Sunday that Alabama was in the storm's projected path, at one point that it would, quote, "most likely be hit much harder than anticipated," unquote. That was never the case. Not ever.

[00:40:09] The National Weather Service in Birmingham even had to correct the record after he made the claim the first time. And yet, there was the president today again, denying reality. First the map of and then a Sharpie drawn over Alabama. And then -- this is what he said when asked about it later.


TRUMP: I know that Alabama was in the original forecast. They thought it would get it as a piece of it. It was supposed to go. Actually, we have a better map of it than that, which is going to be presented, where we had many lines going directly, many models, each line being a model. And they are going directly through. And in all cases, Alabama was hit, if not lightly in some cases pretty hard.


COOPER: Again. That map he showed was Thursday. Again, Sunday and since then is when he was talking about Alabama, which it just wasn't happening. And he now says he's going to present another map. He's going to continue this, not even be a story.

It's ludicrous that it continues to be a story. It's ludicrous we're talking about it, but it's even more ludicrous, because the president continues to talk about it and focus on it. And maybe that's to distract from his ignorance about the existence of Category 5 storms. Or maybe it's just who he is.

Just imagine the time that he and his staff have spent running around, trying to think of ways to prove what he said, which was wrong, really wasn't wrong. CNN senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown now has the latest.


COOPER: Tell us, so how was the White House explaining all this?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, a White House official I spoke with offers this explanation, saying that there was a discussion before today's briefing at the White House about the early models, and an official in the room grabbed a black Sharpie pen to make the point that Dorian could have been much worse by drawing on that map.

Now, the source says initially the model was behind the president, wasn't part of the presentation today, but then Trump pulled it over to show how bad Dorian could have been.

My colleague, Jim Acosta, asked whether the official who used the Sharpie pen was President Trump, and a source in the room would only say, "I'm not going to get into that."

But here's what the president said today at the White House when asked about all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that map that you used today looked like it almost had, like, a Sharpie.

TRUMP: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.


BROWN: So the president there claiming he doesn't know, but there is a clue, Anderson, to this mystery, that was on the Resolute Desk, showing a black Sharpie pen.

As you know, Trump has spoken fondly about Sharpies in the past.

COOPER: He's the only human being I know who uses Sharpies routinely to mark up articles and things and send them out to people. I know people who have received, you know, odd notes from the president or then-citizen Trump, even, but also from President Trump, marked up in Sharpies. Who uses Sharpies?

BROWN: And he has personalized Sharpies, as well.

COOPER: Really? I didn't know that.

BROWN: He has spoken about his fondness to Axios awhile back. Here's what he said.


TRUMP: I started using just a Sharpie, and I might have one like -- sort of like this, let's say. So this is a Sharpie. But I said to myself, well, wait a minute. This writes much better. And this costs almost nothing, and the pen is extremely expensive. So I called up the folks at Sharpie, and I said, "Do me a favor. Can you make the pen in black and make it look rich?" And they said, "Not only can we do that, we can put your signature on it." See, that's the signature right there.

COOPER: I mean, that is -- to have video like that, I mean, that's just -- yes, it's just amazing. And what's even more amazing is that this continues and the president is trickling down now on this. What has he said or tweeted?

BROWN: He is tripling down. He's keeping the story alive. He tweeted about it tonight showing a map from a week ago showing what are known as spaghetti plots reaching Alabama.

Now, for context, Anderson, this is a map from the South Florida Water Management District. It has a disclaimer on it to disregard it if it causes confusion and that the National Hurricane Center statement superseded.

But this is what the president tweeted. And in that tweet, it said, "This was the originally-projected path of the hurricane and its early stages. As you can see, almost all models predicted it to go through Florida, also hitting Georgia and Alabama. I accept the fake news apologies." So as you see here, Anderson, the president, like you said, is

tripling down relentlessly, continuing this line that Alabama was going to hit -- be hit hard, tweeting about this.

All the while Hurricane Dorian was bearing down on the U.S. and, of course, has left the Bahamas in tatters -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, he's now just tripling down, he's Trumpling down. Pamela Brown, we'll see if this continues. Thank you.

BROWN: Thanks.


COOPER: Well, as Hurricane Dorian plowed its way off the southeastern U.S., most of the Democratic candidates for president gathered here at CNN for a series of town halls this evening on the climate. Coming up, some of what they had to say and a look at what it meant. Ahead.



COOPER: With Hurricane Dorian now strengthened to a Category 3 storm, still bearing down on portions of the U.S. mainland, ten of the Democratic presidential candidates spent seven hours here at CNN tonight, tackling the problems and potential solutions for our world's climate crisis, seven hours in total.

The powerful storm obviously highlights the fragile nature of the environment. Want to talk about all this, what happened here tonight. CNN political director David Chalian joins us; former green jobs advisor to President Obama, Van Jones; and former director of communications outreach campaign, Jess McIntosh. Both Van and Jess are CNN political commentators.

Van, let's start with you. Who stood out to you?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, Elizabeth Warren is just an incredibly impressive person. She was -- she understands the stuff. She explains it better than anybody else, so as usual, she kind of, like, wins the night.

I was really impressed with Pete Buttigieg. I was really impressed also with Cory Booker.

I want to give Cory Booker credit for something which nobody else did. He's owned up to the fact that most of the math shows you're going to have to have some nuclear. [00:50:04]

Right now, you have every other Democrat saying you've got to get all this done with no fracking, no carbon and no nuclear. The math isn't there. It's not popular in the party. He took that position on, and I thought he sold it very, very well.

COOPER: Bernie Sanders was asked point black about that and said --

JONES: Elizabeth Warren, same thing. So I thought that was interesting.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And he said also -- he was honest to say it can get safer, and then hopefully, safe. He even sort of understood the process.

JONES: Yes. And new nuclear is safer than the old nuclear, just not safe yet. Anyway, I thought that was very interesting.

Let me -- I think overall, what she saw was the full range of possible solutions embraced by different ones. You had Sanders talking about public ownership of the utilities. You had others talking about taxes. You had Beto talking about cap and trade. You had Pete talking about cap and dividend. This was the full panoply of possible solutions talked about seriously and at depth and at length. I thought it was an extraordinary night for CNN. I thought it was an extraordinary night for the country.

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was really -- Looking at the difference between the two parties today on this issue, it could not be more stark. Looking at the White House, where you've got the president either drawing or facilitating the drawing of -- of a Sharpie on a map to extend the hurricane so he didn't have to say that he gave out bad information to the American public. Like, that's the debate that's happening around climate change on the other side.

And tonight, we had 10 really smart people who understand that we're in trouble and have different plans to fix it. I watched all seven hours, and I felt like maybe there's some help here.

COOPER: It is interesting, David, that you know, there is this difference, just in terms of the budgets they're proposing. I mean, Joe Biden, Vice President Biden is talking about, you know, $1 point, I think, six or seven trillion dollars. You have Bernie Sanders talking about, you know, $16 trillion.

CHALIAN: Yes, and you asked the former vice president flat-out if that was aggressive enough. And, you know, he has -- I remember when his plan came out. You were pretty praiseworthy of this plan. But the -- the notion that this plan, you wouldn't call it modest in a vacuum. But compared to some others, it is more on the lower price tag side and a longer timeline side, right?

And so -- but Biden was sticking to his guns and saying this is completely aggressive enough.

What is so interesting to me, whatever those differences are, what I thought was really interesting is how each one of them tonight sort of brought the urgency of now. That's like --


CHALIAN: There was a consistent message across the board that this can't be kicked down the road in any way whatsoever, and that they made it all really urgent, present issue.

And I will say one more thing, which is that, you know, if Democrats are going to beat Donald Trump and win the White House, one of the key constituencies that are going to help deliver them the White House are young voters. And this issue animates young voters like nothing else in many ways. And so this was, just as a pure political building block of what Democrats they need to do, this was an opportunity to engage and enthuse a demographic they're going to need to win the White House.

MCINTOSH: Well, they are hearing from voters, and they are getting a better cross-section of America than just about anybody else in the country right now.

And what they're hearing from young voters is almost exclusively climate change or gun safety. So obviously, bringing that sort of energy and that kind of enthusiasm tonight makes sense, if on a day- to-day basis, they're being confronted by those questions. I was --

COOPER: Sorry, go ahead.

MCINTOSH: I was excited to see that a bunch of candidates seemed to be able to link climate change to issues that were other than the environment. Of course, the environment is a huge, huge part of the issue.

But you saw Bernie Sanders, who I, you know, struggle to give credit to sometimes, because I don't love the way that he engages on gender issues, make this a repro rights issues. He actually ed about a woman's right to choose globally as an important aspect of the climate change.

COOPER: But Vice President Biden talked about it as a national security issue.

MCINTOSH: Right. Pete Buttigieg brought up redlining in the Syrian civil war and religion. I mean, these were -- these were a bunch of people who really understand the full obligations of it.

JONES: Just to add, Andrew Yang was impressive.


JONES: He was funny. Because he has a way of communicating about this stuff.

COOPER: He's an interesting candidate.

JONES: I mean, listen, he communicates about this stuff very, very well. He lands it. He -- also, he was funny. I think people don't realize the sense of humor that he brings to this stuff. That came through tonight.

I think this format works really well for candidates like Yang, who actually have some depth to them. It's hard for them to get those points out sometimes on a debate stage. I thought Yang had a great night tonight.

And I also think -- look, I love Amy Klobuchar. I know that she's not the, you know, most charismatic, but I thought she did her homework. She was prepared. And I think she knows how to talk to Midwestern voters about this stuff in a way that seems credible and seems honest.

COOPER: I just want to play -- Obviously, the Paris climate accord was front and center for many of the candidates and pretty kind of almost universally. Let's just play some of what was said.


JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My first executive order, that afternoon, will be to rejoin the Paris climate accord.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the first think I would do is rejoin the Paris accord.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's critically important that we immediately, on day one, get back in the Paris agreement.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On day one, I will bring us back into that international climate change agreement.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Day one, re-enter the Paris climate agreement.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I listen to people getting applause for saying, "I'm going to rejoin the Paris climate accords." I'm sorry. That is like a cost of entry even to run for president or talk about the presidency, if you're not doing that.


COOPER: Obviously, almost word for word in some cases.

JONES: Well, I think it's important, though, because that really was hard-fought for the Obama administration. You know, we got the cap and trade bill done in the House. We couldn't get it done in the Senate. Obama had to use his global leadership, and we got the whole world to the table. And Trump just turned the table over.

And I do think that, for Democrats, that was -- that was the beginning of a very, very bad process. But I agree with Cory Booker that that's -- it's kind of like the obvious move.

MCINTOSH: I think one place where Biden -- I think it was an off night for him. He didn't seem excited to be there. He seemed pretty defensive about being questioned at all.

But one -- the one place where I thought he really shone was when he was able to talk about how he would handle being a diplomat in chief. Bringing the world together, talking about --

JONES: And he was incredible on that.

MCINTOSH: Absolutely.

CHALIAN: He played to his wheel house, right?

JONES: He was incredible on that.

MCINTOSH: And that was a place where I was like, absolutely, this is the Joe Biden that I'm seeing.

Where I was -- I was confused by him tonight was -- was in the way he seemed not to relate to the audience's asking questions. Like he got, you know, a question from a woman who had lost her daughter in Sandy, and she -- you know, he didn't mention that. It seemed odd for him.

COOPER: I've got to leave it there. I'm sorry. We have more to talk about it tomorrow. Thanks to everyone.

Hurricane Dorian now back up to a Category 3. We'll be right back.