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Hurricane Dorian batters Carolinas. TRANSCRIPT: 9/5/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Brenda Bethune, Ashley Parker, Nancy Cook, Joe Benson, Tim O`Brien

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO):  You know, if elected officials comes up and says, "You know, you`re going to agree with me 100 percent of time.  They`re not telling you the truth.

The promise is about, you know, making sure you`re transparent and open with folks.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Congressman Jason Crow gets tonight`s LAST WORD.  Thank you very much for joining us, Congressman, and please come back, really good to have you here.

CROW:  Thank you.  Good to be on.

O`DONNELL:  That is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST:  Tonight, we have a special extended edition of our broadcast for you, covering the dual stories of this hurricane churning up the East Coast and the political damage the storm continues to indirectly cause.

Tonight, we`re live along the Atlantic Coast.  We`ll talk live with some of the local officials there as the President entered day five of his fixation on Alabama.  There are also stories of political intrigue out of this Trump administration just tonight, including the new reporting that Trump`s daughter and son-in-law are trying, perhaps, to push Mike Pence off the 2020 ticket.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on this Thursday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters in New York.  Day 959 of the Trump administration and we are tracking Hurricane Dorian as it crawls up the coast of the Carolinas, where the folks there are just starting a long night.  The National Hurricane Center has just released its 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time update.  Our own meteorologist Bill Karins will have the new forecast specifics at the board for all of us in moments.

But the headline right now Dorian still a Category 2 hurricane, sustained winds at the core of 120 miles an hour, gusts to more than that.  Center of the storm just off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina.  Forecasters still warning of life-threatening storm surge, dangerous winds all along the Carolinas.  We`re approaching a high tide, just after 1:00 a.m. Eastern Time tonight.  That will affect many of the places in the path of this storm.

These were the conditions several hours ago.  This is 34 miles off the coast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, on the old Coast Guard light tower and helipad known as the Frying Pan, as the storm closed in and old glory was struggling to hang on.

And look at this graphic.  This is the go satellite image from NOAA of Dorian as the sun set tonight.  It shows just how massive this system is.  Put it this way.  If you live in Boston, New York, West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, it`s cloudy where you are tonight all because of this one huge storm.  From Florida to Maine, the cloud cover stretches along the entire East Coast now.

While the hurricane`s eye has remained offshore, the storm has already caused so much damage in the Carolinas.  Charleston was battered, heavy wind and rain today.  Parts of the already low-lying city saw heavy flooding from the storm surge.  Multiple tornadoes also reported in both North and South Carolina.  This video taken in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina earlier today.  And in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, a tornado rip through a mobile home park living behind severe damage there.

We`re also still following the increasingly dire situation in the northern Bahamas tonight.  The death toll there now stands at 30, but it`s feared to be in the hundreds, if not worse.  There is catastrophic damage on the Abaco Islands, hard hit by the Category 5 storm over the weekend.  Remember, it was parked over them for days.  And the situation for survivors there grows more desperate by the hour.

Our own Morgan Chesky was able to make it to the battered Great Abaco Island today.  He`ll he join us with a full report in just a few minutes.

As we mentioned, the new National Hurricane Center forecast is just out.  For that, we have our own meteorologist, Bill Karins, who is extending his day into our broadcast tonight.

Hey, Bill.


The new advisory is in.  No big surprises.  We continue to watch the storm that is moving right along the coast.  We`ve been saying that, what, four days now?  And this is now the eighth day in a row that we`ve been calling this Hurricane Dorian.  We have about 12 hours left and then it will move past the outer banks.

And up to this point, I would say most people in the Carolinas, in Georgia and Florida would say this has been a minor hurricane, you know.  Boy, we`ll wait and see tonight as we get a possible landfall.  It has one little punch left for Carteret County in the outer banks.  So 100-mile-per- hour winds, that`s maximum sustained.  Now, possibility we could get gusts about 110 to 115.

And this is what we like to see.  We`re finally moving this thing.  Northeast at 13 miles per hour and it`s going to begin to accelerate toward Morehead City in the outer banks.  Again, in about 12 hours, it will be past Cape Hatteras.

So let`s get into -- so the forecast cone (ph) and the Hurricane Center had it making landfall over areas, right around Morehead City to Cape Lookout, the Beaufort area.  And now they`ve shifted it just a little bit further offshore.  So we`re not even guaranteed that we`re definitely going to get that landfall.  Doesn`t really matter as much.

The only reason to be concerned about that is that some of the strongest winds are right in the core of the eye.  And so, we could get more winds onshore.  So every mile we can inch that offshore better.

And as I said, 90-mile-per-hour winds by the time we get to about 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning weakening down to a Category 1.  And the outer banks can deal with a Category 1.  They`re used to getting hit by these storms once every four years and the building codes are very strict.  So, I would not see a lot of wind damage from a Category 1 on the outer banks.

And speaking of the winds, the old Myrtle Beach has been in the 50s for hours.  It`s like a tropical storm that will never end.  But it didn`t have extreme winds.  Wilmington, not bad at all.  This is as close as storm is going to get to and you`re only at 43-mile-per-hour winds.

You notice they`re still strong.  We keep saying the core of the storm.  Well, this one buoy out here just gusted to 89 miles per hour.  That would be enough to do some damage if it was on land.  But the core is offshore.

We`ll have to see if this band of heavy rain on the outside of it will rotate inland in the Carteret County a little later.  So right now, Cape Lookout, Morehead City, you`re 48 to 55, maybe some scattered power outages.  As we go throughout the night, this is paused at 6:00 a.m., so then we have that path possible just south of this region, the heaviest stuff heading up toward Cape Hatteras.  So it`s going to fly, but we still could get gusts to 75 to 95 miles per hour.

And then by the time we get to about, say, 10:00 a.m., that`s when it starts to head out to sea, still obviously some very heavy rain.  And that should be one of the issues as you go throughout the night tonight is how much rain falls, how quickly, and do we get that flash flooding with this storm?

So, Brian, I`d say overall, especially when you see what`s happened in the Bahamas, we`re faring pretty well.  And the storm continues to weaken, and I think there`s a lot of people that are thankful it wasn`t a lot worse.  But we`re not done.  We`re not riding it off yet.  We`ll wait and see if we get that landfall overnight.

WILLIAMS:  OK.  Bill Karins who will be with us as part of our live extended coverage here tonight.  Bill, thank you for that, the 11:00 p.m. update.

For the latest on the storm`s impact right now, let`s go to one of the places we just mentioned, Wilmington, North Carolina.  NBC News Correspondent, Cal Perry is there, standing by for us.

Cal, it looks like you`re getting the precept that was promised?

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Yes.  So, three inches of rain in the last three hours that has officials a little bit concerned.  I`m undercover here.  I can put my cover and just show 46-mile-an-hour winds, not bad, like Bill Karins said.  Not a lot of dramatics here from this live shot location.

Look, part of the story here, Brian, is two hurricanes in less than a year for Wilmington.  It was a year ago next week when we saw Hurricane Florence come.  And that`s really been instrumental in how people have prepared for this storm.

A number of people have chosen to stay in Wilmington , because a year ago, the flooding went on the interstate.  The city was cut off for four days.  This city became an island, separated from the rest of the state.  So that is on the minds of people who couldn`t get back to their homes a year ago, which is why we`ve seen not only boarded up stores, but a lot of people staying.  Not out of the woods just yet. Officials still want people to hunker down, but clearly as we get more and more news out of the Bahamas, it seems as though this storm, staying offshore, is certainly good news for Wilmington and for North Carolina, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  All right.  Cal Perry, thank you for that.  As Cal and Bill both pointed out, Wilmington, North Carolina, this is not their first rodeo where hurricane coming up the coast for them is concerned.

With Dorian continuing to track north, we want to hear more about the damage that the storm left behind in South Carolina.  We`ve been talking about that for two days.

On the phone with us tonight, the mayor of Myrtle Beach, Brenda Bethune.

Mayor, tell us about your trees, tell us about your power lines, your streets.  And because we have to ask this, has anyone there done anything stupid or have people heeded the warnings?

MAYOR BRENDA BETHUNE, MYRTLE BEACH, SC (via telephone):  Well, I`m assuming you`re asking about the stupid part because of the red jeep found in the ocean along the beach.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, there was that today.

BETHUE:  Brian, we actually fared very well in Myrtle Beach.  We experienced a lot of wind, more than expected rain, but you know, what we were used to with Hurricane Florence last year, we didn`t have the flooding that was surrounding us and we were very grateful for that.  We actually did very, very well.  We have crews that are already out, assessing the damage.  And clean-up crews are lined up to get out first thing in the morning and get our beaches back up and open for visitors to come.

WILLIAMS:  It was eerie. I saw some live reporting from Myrtle Beach on the eve of the storm.  People who don`t know Myrtle Beach, it`s a place where you can have just about the most fun on the East Coast.  And this, however, this week after the Labor Day weekend, it was absolutely empty.  And I`m imagining you`re proud of the fact that you did heed the warning ss and you got people out of harm`s way, especially these tornadoes we`re looking at.

BETHUNE:  Absolutely.  People paid attention to the governor`s request.  Actually, the governor`s order.  And that`s very rare for here.

I think that we get so used to these storms coming that we take it for granted sometimes that it won`t be as bad as what we`re told.  But this time, people did leave, and especially our visitors.  And we are very grateful for that.  But now we`re ready to recover and get back to normal, open our doors back up and help those around us who did not fare so well.

WILLIAMS:  OK.  You mentioned the jeep.  I wasn`t going to say anything.  But it was one of the images we watched on cable news this morning and into this afternoon.  What have you been able to find out about how it is, a perfectly good vehicle ended up on a stretch of your beach?

BETHUNE:  That someone got a whim to drive on the beach, check it out before the storm and they ended up driving in an area that had been washed out and got stuck, and that is exactly why we don`t allow vehicles on the beach.

WILLIAMS:  Well put.  Everyone is safe except for if you`re -- put it this way, if you`re looking at the used car market and you find a really good deal on a slightly used, damp-seaming red jeep, ask questions about the VIN number.

Mayor, thank you.  We are so glad that Myrtle Beach appears to have weathered this and we will repeat your plea to our viewers that in short order Myrtle Beach will be open for business.  Mayor Brenda Bethune on the back end here of this Hurricane Dorian for them.

And as Dorian lashes the Carolina coast to the political intersection of this story, we go.

President Trump is now on day five of insisting Hurricane Dorian was on a path to hit Alabama.  Late this afternoon, Rear Admiral Peter Brown, who is Trump`s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser -- think about that for a moment -- who said he briefed the President multiple times on Sunday about Dorian`s arrival, issued a statement appearing to take the blame for Trump`s warnings, certainly giving the President much-needed air cover.  And we quote, "I showed the President the official National Hurricane Center forecast, which included the cone that projects the potential path of the eye of the storm.  The President`s comments were based on that morning`s Hurricane Dorian briefing, which included the possibility of tropical storm force winds in Southeastern Alabama.  In fact, from the evening of Tuesday, August 27th until the morning of Monday, September 2nd, the forecast from the National Hurricane Center showed the possibility of tropical storm winds hitting parts of Alabama."

Trump defended himself five times on Twitter just today, insisting he was right all along about Alabama, which thankfully has been spared tonight, thanks to the President`s quick action.

Here for our lead-off discussion on a Thursday evening, three top reporters covering this White House, Ashley Parker of "The Washington Post," Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press and Nancy Cook of POLITICO.  Good evening and welcome to you both.

Ashley, what`s left to say about this except what your newspaper has added to the reporting tonight?  This is in "The Washington Post" and they say flatly.  This is, by the way, the work of Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey, two of your colleagues, "It was Trump who used a black Sharpie to mark up an official NOAA map, which he displayed during an Oval Office briefing on Wednesday according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.  "No one else writes like that on a map with a black Sharpie," the official said of the map, which added Alabama into the hurricane`s potential pathway inside the loop of the marker."

Ashley, we said this last night.  This is minor in the scope of the U.S. presidency.  This isn`t family separation.  It is far short of a declaration of war, but this is another one of those firsts and, as they say, as they said in the `60s holds true today, the whole world is watching.

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  That`s true.  When we first saw that doctored map, there was a lot of suspicion that it was the President who had doctored it.  The Sharpie in that sort of big scrawl is his trademark.  That`s what we reported this evening.

And to sort of give you a sense of the mood inside the West Wing and how officials are handling this, on the one hand when that map was shown, they had taken it and they had put it sort of behind where the President was.  This wasn`t something they wanted him to broadcast to the world.  And he, it was top of mind, he asked for it to be brought back up and showed it.

But again I was over at the White House today and, look, White House aides would tell you privately, they wish the President would stop tweeting about Alabama.  It`s not particularly helpful.  But this is also, at this point, somewhat routine.  There was not panic or mayhem or scrambling.  It was basically business as usual against the backdrop of the President making what initially seemed to be a sort of well-intentioned but honest mistake, and then doubling, tripling, quadrupling, octupling down on it.

WILLIAMS:  Jonathan Lemire, what do White House aides make of the President`s choice to keep this issue alive and bubbling on and perhaps what it means we`re not talking about and covering?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  That`s right.  To follow up on Ashley`s point, I mean, this story it was born of an innocent mistake, the President tweeted over the weekend and it was corrected by the National Weather Service, which remains a pretty extraordinary thing.  But it could have died just then and there.  It was Labor Day weekend, didn`t have much media attention.  The story would have been over.

WILLIAMS:  Speaking of first, you just mentioned this, I have to interject.  We had never seen the National Weather Service feel the need to correct a sitting president in the history of our republic.

LEMIRE:  Another norm shattered by --


LEMIRE:  -- this administration.  But instead, we`re now in day five.  And yes, he isn`t just doubled or tripled or octuple that.  I think nine times now, nunupted (ph), I don`t know, whatever it might be.  He is still keeping this alive.

And then there is some frustration, as Ashley said, of people around him.  There`s plenty of people just rolling their eyes, too.  But I think we -- don`t want to lose sight of something here.  This -- yes, on one hand this is sort of a silly story and it`s a president who can never admit a mistake, who has said and written in his books and has preached this and practice what he preaches.  Never saying he was sorry, never saying I was wrong.

But these are the President`s words matter.  Any president`s words matter, whether it`s in a tweet or declaration in the Oval Office.  They move markets.  They can rattle global capitals.  And in this case, potentially, frighten people who live in a state that actually wasn`t in any danger from this hurricane.

And we have seen time and time again that after he says something, he then sort of relies on government resources.  He calls upon the power of the White House to try to then almost reverse engineer what he said into reality, to try to cover for him.  We saw it with when he claimed there were millions of illegal voters in 2016.  He rigged an election commission to look into it.  It didn`t find any evidence of that.

You know, when he declared that he had the largest attendance of any inauguration.  He made Sean Spicer go out there and lie from the White House podium to say that.  He made Sean Spicer do that again when he tried to explain that mysterious late-night tweet, covfefe, when Spicer said, "Oh, the President and people around him knew what he`s talking about."  And we see it today from his counterterrorism are to have to put pen to paper and release a memo, sort of taking the blame and giving the President cover for what was simply a mistake.

WILLIAMS:  Nancy Cook, somewhere there`s an elderly couple tonight scared out of their wits, without power on a windy, rainy night on the coast of North Carolina, perhaps in a single wide that is rocking back and forth.  No words from the President about the victims of this storm, the grievous rising death toll to our -- in our neighbors 50 miles to our east in the Bahamas.

Also somewhere tonight there`s a Trump campaign official trying to chart a course, realizing that it`s the daily grievance that we are covering.  It`s the daily grievance that sooner or later becomes what passes for the direction of a presidency.

NANCY COOK, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, I think that that came up several times in conversations I was having today with people about this story, just that the President, as you said, did not acknowledge the people who had died in the Bahamas, did not acknowledge the devastation there.

Some of the senior administration officials that I spoke to today did talk about that.  But that wasn`t top of mind to the President.  He was really tweeting and retweeting and doubling down on this whole Alabama controversy.

And I talked to the President of the union of the National Weather Service organization, who represents hurricane forecasters, and this person was making the point to me, you know, it`s very dangerous when the President is sending out mixed messages on the path of a hurricane.  It`s just very confusing.  You know, the President needs to support the National Weather Service and their fact-based evidence that showed very clearly throughout the day that the hurricane was moving towards the Carolinas, South Carolina and North Carolina, and was nowhere near Alabama.

And by continuing to draw attention to Alabama, the President was, in a way, both undermining the National Weather Service but also just confusing people who may not be glued to Twitter or the T.V. all day and maybe a supporter of the President and may now be confused about what is actually happening and whether they need to evacuate.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  Just to underscore that, as a weather matter, as we look at this storm, if you are in the path of this tonight, those tornadoes, it is kind of spinning off, are traveling across land and between 40 and 50 miles an hour, roughly the speed a car drives.  If you`re in the path of one of those, you`ve got to hope that the National Weather Service is there and on your side and warning you as far in advance as humanly possible to save human lives tonight into tomorrow.

We`re going to pause our conversation at this point.  Ashley Parker, Jonathan Lemire, Nancy Cook, are going to stay with us over this break.

Coming up, paradise lost, as we`ve been saying, the Bahamas in a state of shock and recovery where it feels as if the death toll is going to jump in a significant way.  We`ll have a report from one of our correspondents on the ground there next.

And then later, we mentioned this as well.  Mike Pence, a man of loyalty bordering on seeming adoration for his boss, but will Trump keep him on the ticket going forward?  New reporting, asking new, uncomfortable questions about that, just ahead, as THE 11TH HOUR on a special edition of our broadcast just getting started on this Thursday night.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What did you live through?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A nightmare, that`s all I could tell people.  I lived on Abaco all my life.  I`ve been through hurricane which was a 5 also, but I tell people this was like a 10.  I mean, everything is gone.  There`s nothing left.

Where do our standing, there`s not much left to it.  I mean, the structures are -- some are standing, some are completely gone.

In the mainland, Marsh Harbor, I understand there`s hundreds and hundreds of people that are dead.  I still don`t have family members that I have accounted for yet.


WILLIAMS:  Simply put, as we said here last night, the Bahamas will never be the same.  The stories coming out of the Abaco Islands in the Northern Bahamas, as you saw right there, heartbreaking, chilling.

As we mentioned, the death toll in the Bahamas officially at 30.  That is widely expected to rise.  Several reporters said today they are personally aware of much higher numbers.  They`re just yet unconfirmed by the Bahamian government.

Dorian was parked over the Bahamas for the better part of two days.  Abaco Islands have suffered catastrophic damage.  There are people there who are desperate, people who are dying, waiting for help.

For the very latest on conditions in the Bahamas, we go live to Nassau.  That`s where we find NBC News Correspondent Morgan Chesky, who has been on Great Abaco Island today.

Morgan, I`ve got to tell you, I`ve been there.  We were there as recently as this spring.  We have friends there.  The Abaco Islands are one of the most beautiful spots on earth.  The Bahamian people are extraordinary and none of us can believe what we`re seeing and we`re just girding in advance of the news of this rising death toll.

MORGAN CHESKY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Brian, I imagine if you were to go back there today, it would be tough to pick out the places that were very recognizable before.  We had a chance to land at Marsh Harbor airport just hours after it reopened because it had been covered by water for the past several days.  And upon touching down at that airport, one of the first things we saw were dozens upon dozens of people lining all of those airport buildings, most of them uninjured, but everyone simply having nowhere else to go, and trying to get any way they could off the island.

I had a chance to speak to several people there, who say that they have been waiting there for hours, others days because all they have is what they were wearing on their bodies at that time.  Time and time again, when we ask people what the storm had done to their community, they said it took away everything.

We then made our way into the town of Marsh Harbor, and we were greeted by the site of a clinic which had become a shelter.  And there were hundreds of people gathered around that area.  We know that so many people were able to ride the storm out inside.  But at this point in time, it`s essentially become a place for people to wait and hope they can receive help of any kind.

When I asked people if supplies that had been arriving from the government, they said maybe so but certainly not where they were at this point in time.  And one of the most frustrating conversations I had, heartfelt rather, was with a family of four.  And a mother was holding her two-year-old son, describing what the conditions have been like there in Marsh Harbor over the past several days.  Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Now, there`s no more Marsh Harbor.

CHESKY:  Nothing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Nothing.  Our house is gone.  Everything gone.  No clothes to wear and no food to eat.  No water to bathe.


CHESKY:  And it is tough to hear that from one person after another.

The official report is about 50 percent of the buildings on the greater Abaco Island and neighboring Grand Bahama have been damaged or destroyed.  And I would say that`s a low number, witnessing the -- a sheer devastation we saw today in Marsh Harbor.  A lot of the areas still inaccessible.  People doing what they can to move on, but realizing the sheer task that they`re now faced with that will no doubt take years to recover from.

Power is still out on the majority of the island.  We know that clean water, hard to come by.  If it`s not coming in bottled water that`s being dropped off by relief groups, people don`t really know where to get it.  And so at this point in time tonight there are people there sleeping under trees, under whatever shelter they can, because Dorian has simply taken away everything from them on that island.  Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Morgan, thank you for your reporting.  And you are so right.  All of us who love the place have been scanning the aerial pictures, looking for landmarks that appear familiar to us.  And in many cases they are just gone.  Morgan Chesky reporting from the Bahamas tonight.

Lot of people have asked how to help, where to give.  We`ll put up a number for Red Cross.  Also Team Rubicon, the U.S. military veterans, they landed a team there starting yesterday.  They`ll be going back to help.

Morgan Chesky from the Bahamas.

Coming up, Dorian just one of the pressing issues on the President`s radar.  How he`s handling the rest of his agenda when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I`ve more than fulfilled my promises even they said he promised things that he actually produced more than he promised.  That`s true.  But we`re going to produce more and more.


WILLIAMS:  Well, about that, tonight there are signs Trump`s road to re- election may be rougher than he is anticipating.  "New York Times" reporting, "President Trump heads into the closing months of the year without a clear policy agenda and an uphill path to achieving any major new accomplishments before he faces voters.  Over a summer dominated by his personal attacks on Democratic lawmakers, the news media and his trade showdown with China, Mr. Trump spent little time clarifying his positions on several important agenda items that could bolster his record."

POLITICO looked at Trump`s campaign operation, noted what it described as, "a tangled web of unresolved issues he promises to sort out during a second term".  Yahoo News reports on the relationship between Trump and his Vice President, "behind the scenes, tensions have been mounting among Trump, Pence and their top advisers ever since the GOP`s resounding losses in the 2018 midterms".  Remember those.  "In the week afterward, Trump asked aides about replacing Pence on the ticket.  He asked again for their thoughts on Pence during his August vacation at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.  In particular, rumors that Kushner and Ivanka Trump wanted to consider replacements for Pence, specifically trying to find a woman running mate to help win back the suburbs in 2020 have worried the Vice President`s camp."

Last month, as Trump was leaving the aforementioned resort in Bedminster, Trump branded of course to return to Washington, he offered these words of praise for his Vice President.


TRUMP:  I think Mike Pence has been an outstanding V.P.  I think that he has been incredible in terms of the love that a lot of people, especially if you look at the evangelicals and so many others, they really have a great respect for our Vice President.  And so do I.  And so -- I think, most people.


WILLIAMS:  Back with us to talk about all of it, Ashley Parker, Jonathan Lemire and Nancy Cook.  Ashley, how much faith should anyone put in that endorsement right there, even this loyal, some would say pliant Vice President.  Is that loyalty there until it`s not?

ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  That`s exactly right.  As anyone who works for this President knows, things can change in a second or with a tweet.  That said, my understanding is that while there are these flare-ups between the President and the Vice President`s camps, frankly, more so between the two men, and the President will sometimes wonder, you know, when Pence is going out and he`s doing a good job, wooing donors for the reelect effort, is he doing too good of a job?  Is he sort of getting donors, information and facetime with them for his own benefit?

Those flare ups and tensions simmer under the surface and do exist but on the whole -- and again, anything can change.  The President and the Vice President have a very warm relationship.  The men talk multiple times a day.  The President will sometimes sort of dismiss the Vice President but it`s always said to be in a jokey kind of friendly manner, not actually condescending.

And so far, Mike Pence has managed that fine line incredibly well, which is to be a classic Vice President and consonant number two, and understudy, to not steal the spotlight himself.  And like understudy to do a good job but not too good of a job that he becomes threatening to the number one.

WILLIAMS:  Jonathan Lemire, the name we haven`t mentioned is Nikki Haley, who is, I guess, would qualify as media darling status.  That would be a big story, if there was a switch-up in the ticket.  She put out a statement about the eventuality, the possibility of that.  I think people have put the theory to rest.  Going forward with Mike Pence and Donald Trump, what`s the bumper sticker for 2020 as it is right now?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, POLITICAL ANALYST, MSNBC NEWS:  Well first on Ambassador Haley, you`re right.  I mean, that was sort of an oddly timed statement a few weeks ago.  There had been rumors some months ago when Haley left the position as U.N. Ambassador that she could be someone who the President might eye if he were to look to replacing Vice President Pence.  And instead those stories were randomly to knockdown and then there weren`t any stories this time around when Nikki Haley sort of raised this idea to then dismiss it again.  So I think that caught a lot of people`s attention.

But my reporting lines up with what Ashley has said is that, you know, certainly the President is known to just use out loud about things all the time, including some pretty outlandish suggestions.  That doesn`t mean he`s pretty serious.  So, yes, he has, wonder, he`s polled his advisers about Pence in the past.  There doesn`t really seem to be any serious movement, at least right now, to replace him.  But that could -- it could indeed change in a tweet.

I mean Pence has been a loyal foot soldier.  He is the President`s bridge to the evangelical community.  He is popular among some sort of rank-and- file Republicans who might sort of hold their nose at some of the President`s personal behavior, some of his divisive rhetoric.  You know, Pence in many ways is a more traditional Republican.

You know, what he -- you know, and that`s what I think that people around the President still feels like he adds the ticket going forward.  But this is also a campaign that`s running on really no new ideas here.  There`s no real legislative agenda coming up this fall short of trying to get the new NAFTA through the USMCA, there`ll be some sort of guns package, probably not a robust one.  And, of course, the President is looking to come forward with some sort of agreement with China to resolve this trade war.  In meetings, they`re now schedule for October because that`s the real concern, is if that can`t get resolved and the economy keeps slowing down, he knows he`s a big trouble no matter who his Vice President is.

WILLIAMS:  Nancy Cook, let`s take that last point and talk about it.  What do they do, if God forbid, the economy goes south, what do they run on?

NANCY COOK, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO:  Well I think that that`s a huge concern inside the White House and it`s a question that I`ve been asking a lot of officials this last week.  I think that the White House is desperately searching for some sort of silver bullet, some sort of policy lever that they can pull out if the economy does go south either through the trade war or just as an effect of the global economic slowdown, just an aftermath of that.  And I don`t think that there`s agreement among top economic officials in the White House on what that would actually look like.

And I think that it`s a little terrifying for some of them, because, you know, they want to be able to pull out something and show that they have a plan if the economy sours.  And so much of Trump`s re-election campaign is pitched and hinged on the economy.  You know, it`s something that Trump and his advisers feel like he can talk about.  And it`s something that even the campaign officials are sort of saying, well, you know, if you don`t like his tweets, you don`t like his rhetoric, you don`t like the fact that he focused on Alabama all week, you know, at least can you like the economy.  And if the economy sours, that talking point for them really goes away.

WILLIAMS:  With our thanks tonight for participating in our discussion with all the many stories we`ve been covering, Ashley Parker, Jonathan Lemire, Nancy Cook, thank you, all three of you, for coming on the broadcast tonight.

Coming up for us, a long night just beginning for our friends in the Carolinas.  We`re going to talk to one of the towns in the thick of it tonight when we come back.



GOV. ROY COOPER (D), NORTH CAROLINA:  Hurricane Dorian is ready to unleash its fury on our state.  Get to safety and stay there.  Don`t let your guard down.  This won`t be a brush by.  Whether it comes ashore or not, the eye of the storm will be close enough to cause extensive damage in North Carolina.


WILLIAMS:  As we said we`re going a couple of hours here tonight.  And as part of that, we`re still tracking Hurricane Dorian as the storm makes its way up the North Carolina coast, along with heavy rain, winds, storm surge.  Carolinas also had to deal with a number of tornadoes, as we mentioned, from this system today.  Trouble with those is how fast they were moving across the countryside.

We are thankful to be joined by phone tonight by Mayor Joe Benson of Carolina Beach, North Carolina.  Mayor, knowing I was going to be talking to you, I`ve been watching your community as it relates to the location of the eye.  The storm has now gone from alongside of you to slightly to your northeast, it looks like, meaning your wind direction has changed.  You`re now getting it from the north and the west, but you`re in the thick of those rain bands, are you not?

MAYOR JOE BENSON, CAROLINA BEACH, NORTH CAROLINA (through phone):  That`s exactly right, Brian.  And thanks for having me.  It`s good to get the word out to those who don`t live on the island but have homes and property here.  The eye has moved, as you said, north and east of us.

And I`m in my house, it`s boarded up and I can hear sheets of rain but they`re now coming from the north as opposed to pounding the house from the east.  So that`s a good indication, as you said, it`s moving along and I`m good with that.

WILLIAMS:  When was the last beach replenishment your community has?  Have you had sand added in recent years?

BENSON:  Great question.  Yes.  The last beach nourishment that was done for both my town Carolina Beach and Kure Beach was completed in March of this year.  So our dunes are very healthy, the frontal dunes and primary dunes, very healthy.  High tide is about in about an hour and a half, the next high tide.  So we were real hopeful that those strong dunes will prevent any tidal overwashing.  And that`s really the purpose of the replenishment, is to protect the town`s infrastructure, public-private property and sustain economic activity.  Without those dunes, this isn`t the beach town that we all love so much down here.

WILLIAMS:  The mathemathics is really interesting.  You mentioned the high tide.  And we`ve all been talking about that, coming up after 1:00 a.m. Eastern time.  Just think of it, if this storm had been delayed by two hours and if it was pumping from east to west into your community as opposed to coming out the other way, all that water would have nowhere to go except to well up in your town.

BENSON:  Yes.  You shudder at the thought of what the difference in what 50 miles makes, it`s a slightly different track.  And you may remember it`s almost a year ago that we suffered through five days or inundating rains with Florence, 28 inches.  The governor knows it real well.  You know, his outstanding leadership then and now, getting out ahead of this.

We knew we`d have winds.  We really hoped that this thing would move along as the meteorologist said it would, and it has moved quicker.  You know, another 100 inches of rain this year, another two-foot storm.  You can`t sustain any of those.

WILLIAMS:  Carolina Beach for those who don`t know, one of the prettiest spots on the east coast, as is so much of the real estate we`re talking about this storm covering.  Mayor Joe Benson, we realize it`s a sporty night for you guys down there.  Thanks so very much for joining us by telephone.  And here`s to hoping that with the break of day, things are better than you had expected come through in the end.  Again, Mayor Joe Benson, Carolina Beach, North Carolina.

Coming up, this hurricane is not the first destructive hurricane of the Donald Trump era or presidency.  He deals with these storms, however, unlike any president before him and likely after him.  We will talk about that with an author who knows this President right after this.


WILLIAMS:  There he is.  And we said this earlier, even as this deadly hurricane makes its way up the east coast, putting millions of lives in danger in his country, the President is on day five of defending his erroneous claims about Dorian`s path toward Alabama.  He posted about it on social media half a dozen times in the last 24 hours.

Back with us again because the President loves when this guy talks about him, Tim O`Brien, Executive Editor of Bloomberg Opinion who happens to be the author of "TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald." And Tim, I watched you with Nicolle Wallace this afternoon at 4:00 Eastern time.  What is it about this mind-set that does not know the custodial role of being president, does not know the kind of exhortation role of being president, let`s go put our coast guard to work in the Bahamas to save the lives down there as they did after Katrina, but knows the fixation of drawing on a sharpy drawing on a map and insisting he was right all the while?

TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION:  Because I don`t think he really cares about the presidency, Brian.  I don`t think he`s thinking about this as the presidency.  I don`t think he`s aware or respectful of the majesty of the office.  What he is always thinking about is himself, whether he`s in the Oval Office, on the golf course, in his jet.  He doesn`t really care about the responsibilities that come along with this.

And I think he was as surprised as anyone when he won the election.  And I think on election night you saw him in 2016.  He looked burdened by all of these.  I think what he chose to do with the victory was to turn it into this sort of piece of performance art.  And what goes along with that and what goes along with his constant narcissism and performance art is a lack of connection to the gravitas of everything around him and everything the presidency touches from natural disasters, to trade, to immigration, to gun control and on and on and on.

And you can look through each of these events in his presidency thus far and he`s never bothered to get into the nuts and bolts of the policies.  He`s never bothered to consider the powers his office has to address those problems.  And instead, he just turns it into a referendum on whether he`s smart, whether he`s wealthy, whether he`s well liked by voters and so forth.  And it never fails to repeat, he goes to El Paso after the shootings, he goes in there to a hospital and he turns the visit into a campaign stop.  You know, thumbs up with the people in the hospital.

When he first went to Puerto Rico after the hurricane there, he basically did a drive by and stood there and threw towels at people who were suffering.  And now you have today when we have, you know, Grand Bahama Island devastated, and he`s focused on this bonkers (ph) incident with a sharpy and a map of the hurricane because he wants to prove that he`s right.

WILLIAMS:  You don`t buy into the more grandiose theories that this is so we don`t talk about the military base building that`s not happening so he can divert money to the wall, which I heard on previous broadcasts tonight.

O`BRIEN:  I could be wrong, but I`ve said I think from the beginning of his presidency, it`s always a mistake to assume that there`s a strategy at work when Trump is acting out or acting at all.  I think most of what he does can be understand through two prisms, either self-aggrandizement or self- preservation.  It`s very rarely about anything else and I certainly think it`s never about strategy.

WILLIAMS:  We have asked to dominate your personal time tonight.  I know you`re coming back in our next hour.  Tim O`Brien, thank you very much.

To our viewers, please stay with us as our coverage continues tonight.  Don`t forget that at the top of the next hour we begin yet another hour of the "The 11th Hour."


JOANN DAVY, HOME DAMAGED BY TORNADO:  Oh, God.  My cat, I was standing at the counter holding on and my camper was tipping over.  And I said lower (INAUDIBLE) over in my house.  I don`t know if it got a roof or not.  It`s completely destroyed out here.


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