Trump denies hurricane Maria deaths. TRANSCRIPTS: 09/13/2018, All In w Chris Hayes.

Guests: Carrie Sanders, Jason Johnson, Cristina Beltran, Jennifer Rubin, Joe Froyer, Jeff Merkley, Eduardo Bhatia Gautier, Norm Eisen

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: September 13, 2018 Guest: Carrie Sanders, Jason Johnson, Cristina Beltran, Jennifer Rubin, Joe Froyer, Jeff Merkley, Eduardo Bhatia Gautier, Norm Eisen

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. There`s a lot going on this evening. Right now, we have breaking news that the President`s campaign chairman may be making a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to plead guilty and avoid a second criminal trial. We`re tracking that story, we`re going to bring you more developments ahead. But first as a massive and powerful hurricane closes in on the east coast of the United States, the man serving as president of this country has once again and today perhaps the most profoundly demonstrated his manifest unfitness for the office he holds.

While the federal government was preparing today to confront a major crisis in the Carolinas where millions of people are now in harm`s way, millions under mandatory evacuation orders, the president was denying the crisis that occurred last year in Puerto Rico on his watch. Almost 3,000 people killed in Hurricane Maria and its aftermath. That`s according to an official study commissioned by the government there. And that`s roughly the same number of Americans killed on September 11th.

But to this president, those people simply do not exist. He now claims that the 3,000 people killed on his watch were made up by his political opponents. "3,000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the island after the storm and hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then a long time later they started to report really large numbers like 3,000. This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising billions of dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason like old age just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico."

Now, even by this President`s standards, that is one of his most repugnant and odious public statements. And whether it is a monstrous lie or he actually believes it, this president is attempting to foist a sick alternate reality in the country he was elected to serve and on the loved ones of those that his own malfeasance helped kill. His accomplices in the Republican-controlled Congress have held no hearings, no investigations to get to the bottom of what happened and why thousands of our fellow American citizens were left to die.

Meanwhile, as the director of FEMA is right now as I speak under investigation for misusing public funds and we find out the Trump administration took $10 million out of the recovery agency to pay for immigrant detention centers, tonight Hurricane Florence is already threatening the coastline with powerful storm surge and flash flooding. The storm may have been downgraded to a Category Two, but crucially that does not mean it`s any less dangerous. Florence keeps getting bigger and more intense as it gets closer to land.

Let`s go to NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins with the latest. Bill, where is the storm right now and where are we going to see -- expecting it to hit make landfall?

BILL KARINS, NBC NEWS METEOROLOGIST: Chris, we`re starting to get the breaking news stories from this storm. I was saying all along that it was from sunset today to sunset tomorrow that a majority of the damage is going to be done from this storm. And now we`re hearing reports that the ABC station, the WCTI is the local station, the New Bern area is evacuating because the water is up to their doors.

What`s happening here is that the Pamlico Sound, the winds have been coming out of the East all day long. They`re piling the water up, the storm surge is coming in. There`s a lot of flooding problems in the New Bern area and all the little water inlets and all the Neuse River Basin here, so that`s a developing story and I`m sure there`ll be dozens if not you know maybe even hundreds of water rescues that have to take place between now in 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. because high tide in that area isn`t even until midnight and the water is already extremely high sometimes in some cases higher than they`ve ever seen it.

So we`re at a Category Two. one development we just saw also here, about 20 miles off the coast we just had one of our buoys that floats out here in the water and gives us weather observations, just had a wind gust to 112 miles per hour and that`s with that outer eye. And so in about five to about eight hours from now, those winds will be moving onshore to Wrightsville Beach, Onslow County area here.

Camp Lejeune that`s your strongest wind gusts up to 66, have left to Cherry Point Air Base they`re at 81 mile-per-hour winds gust, the strongest we`ve seen there so far too. So the winds are really starting to pick up. We`re getting it to what we call the core of the hurricane now moving onshore. This is the clouds. It had a big burst of thunderstorms. Look at the bright white right there. And that`s kind of you know, maybe that was what was responsible for that 112 mile-per-hour gusts too from that line of thunderstorms as it rolled on through. But that`s going to push on shore here.

We`re not seeing it getting any stronger but I don`t think it`s going to get any weaker either. Right now peak winds sustained are a hundred but there still could be gusts up to 120 miles per hour. Now, we`re going to take this onshore as we go throughout the overnight hours, it will inch onto shore. We make it the official landfall sometime early tomorrow morning. And then by 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon what a slow crawl, walk, jog, drift it`s going to be over areas of southeastern North Carolina. Then it`s going to rain itself out as we go throughout the upcoming weekend.

So, the things that are the most threatening to life is the water. Surge is number one, then the rainfall, flash flooding, and river flooding is number two. This is what`s happening now. We`re heading towards high tide. The high tide is going to be a between 11:00 p.m. and midnight. In this zone of greatest concern from Cape Lookout the Morehead City both where we have one of our crews right down through Emerald Isle, those Topsail Beach, Surf City, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach area. That`s of greatest concern. 11:13 p.m. is the actual high tide on Wrightsville Beach.

And then because the storm is walking towards the coast, we have to go through another high tide cycle tomorrow right before noon and that one could be even higher than the one we`re going to see tonight. So, it`s going to be -- this is just such a long-drawn-out thing. That`s what makes this storm so different. And then, Chris, finally, the rainfall amounts and we`ll deal with these problems as we go throughout the weekend. We`re going to see a wide area of 20 inches of rain. Someone`s going to get 30 maybe even up to 40 inches of rainfall. A lot of the rivers are expected to go into record territory and it will take them a couple days to head out to sea.

So, I mean, we`re going to see homes and businesses with water in them. We already actually do have that now happening in areas like New Bern and that`s going to happen overnight tonight. And then during the weekend, we`re going to have these rivers sending water into homes that hadn`t previously been flooded. So, I mean, the first responders on the ground there, there have to be going and rescuing people and going to door to door for those that didn`t evacuate. I mean, they`re going to have an extremely long and difficult three days ahead of them.

HAYES: All right, Bill Karins, that is an ominous update but thank you for it. For more on the president`s denial of the deaths in Puerto Rico as another hurricane approaches, I`m joined by Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon. Senator, first I want to get your reaction to what the President said this morning.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Well, the president seems to live an alternative reality because if you take a look at what happened in Puerto Rico, I`m not only -- you know, horrifically you have nearly 3,000 people die either in the storm or in the -- in the months that followed, plus you have a situation where so much didn`t get addressed in a timely manner. I went down nine months after the storm, nine months, and what I found were thousands of homes covered in blue tarps because they hadn`t been able to get funds from FEMA to repair their roofs.

What I also saw were whole communities that had not yet been hooked up to electricity. This is nine months after the storm went through so they didn`t have power. And then I also saw hospitals that were deeply damaged and the communities were telling me that if you got sick or injured, you had to fly to the mainland. So you can -- you can take that analysis or we can take FEMA`s analysis. I have the 2017 hurricane season after-action report and what this says, in summary, was that you had a challenge of disorganized and plagued with logistical problems. That`s described by the New York Times summary of this.

HAYES: Let me -- let me ask you this. There -- and I want to ask about you about FEMA right now as we`re looking at the images of Florence as it makes its way to the Carolina coast. There were four Americans who lost their lives in Benghazi, there were ten total investigations into Benghazi including one of the longest permanent committees or semi-permanent committees in the -- in the Congress`s history in the last century. There are nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans who died, American citizens who died. Since we started getting those numbers back months ago when the first study came out estimated at 5,000 this one with 3,000, there have been no investigations and no hearing. There were early hearings last year but nothing since we have realized the scope. Is this acceptable?

MERKLEY: It`s just a shameful failure of leadership. Republicans decided they didn`t want to embarrassing the administration and therefore they weren`t going to examine the cause of so many people dying. And by not doing so, it means that they haven`t created the momentum to address those issues so that when the next storm comes we`ll do far better. We`d like to hear FEMA saying we know that there were a ton of problems. We did a report on it. And therefore we`ve worked with Congress, we`ve got more resources, we`ve placed things in position in advance, we`ve trained more people, but instead, we`re just hearing well, the president says we did a great job last time. And that`s that`s no room for improving on what was done.

HAYES: Given the fact that you have -- as you have sort of blown the whistle on $10 million have moved out of FEMA for immigrant detention and that the head of FEMA now faces an inspector general`s report of a possible misuse of government funds. Do you have confidence in that crucial agency as it`s about to be tested?

MERKLEY: I do know that there are thousands of people working for it who are incredibly dedicated and incredibly skilled. They`re going to be up through the night day after day working. But in terms of the top management and certainly the message they`re getting from the president to improve upon the performance last year, I do not have confidence. I mean, the destruction we had from Irma, and Maria, and Harvey should have said well, that destruction is probably going to give us a good sense that these stronger hurricanes, we need to be prepared for them better next year. And instead, we haven`t had that leadership to take that forward.

And the idea that in the first month of the hurricane season you`re going to take $10 million out in order to build prison camps instead of pre- positioning supplies, instead of training more people to evaluate the damage and get resources to the families quickly who are affected, it just -- it makes -- it makes little sense. It`s a lack of leadership.

HAYES: All right, Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you for your time tonight.

MERKLEY: You`re welcome.

HAYES: For reaction to the president`s comments in Puerto Rico I`m joined by the Minority Leader of the Senate of Puerto Rico Eduardo Bhatia Gautier. Senator, first, what message do you have for the president tonight?

SEN. EDUARDO BHATIA GAUTIER, PUERTO RICO: Well, my message would be we are so disappointed. As human beings, as U.S. citizens, as people, were so disappointed that he is looking at numbers that are wrong, obviously wrong, but that he`s totally forgetting about the human side of this tragedy. The fact that so many families lost family members and that they are grieving right now, and what they get instead is a bucket of ice water from the President of the United States. I think it is shameful as a leader of the free world to come up with words like he did this morning.

HAYES: I want to read you what the House Speaker Paul Ryan had to say and I get your reaction to that. He said casualties don`t make a person look bad so I have no reason to dispute these numbers. I was in Puerto Rico after the hurricane, it was devastated. This was a horrible storm. Those are just the facts of what happens when a horrible hurricane hits an isolated place like an island. Do you agree?

GAUTIER: Well, I mean, I agree. I agree with the fact that -- I mean, if his message is the fact that there are over 3,000 people that did not have to die in the aftermath of the hurricane, and that the result was not -- and I guess I would disagree with the premise that he had in terms of so many people dying as a result of the fact that he was a big hurricane because a lot of what happened had to do with human error. Human error, FEMA error, federal system`s error, local assistance error, the fact that so many people died because there was no electricity and folks who could have provided electricity from the government in the federal government and state government were not able to do that.

So, I do think that the very first 48 hours, I could have agreed with Speaker Ryan, but then after that. When so many hundreds of people, thousands of people died, I think it`s totally the responsibility of a government that was not prepared to help.

HAYES: Would you like to see an official inquiry from the United States government in Congress into why so many people did die?

GAUTIER: I think obviously there has to be an inquiry. I am -- I am trying to start inquiry locally, at the state level, the Senate of Puerto Rico, but I think the federal government should look into it, and I think the Congress must look into it. We have experienced other hurricanes in Puerto Rico. This is not the first hurricane. Of course, it`s the largest hurricane we have experienced in over 100 years. But in terms of other hurricanes, we have also received better health -- better assistance from FEMA than we did this time. Why did FEMA collapse?

And they and the conclusion that FEMA collapsed is not my conclusion, it`s a conclusion that FEMA itself has. If you hear the testimonials of so many families, so many communities, so many mayors up in the mountains, we just did not get the assistance that we are used to getting in other hurricanes. I mean, something happened this time around that simply the federal aid, and the local aid, and the state aid totally collapsed and there`s the results. Harvard, George Washington University both did independent studies and the data, their robust data is there. Over 3,000 people died who did not have to die and that`s a tragedy. That`s a national tragedy for the United States.

HAYES: Did the federal government and the present United States fail the people of Puerto Rico?

GAUTIER: Yes, they did. Yes, they did. Yes. I have -- I have to conclude yes, yes. We are U.S. citizens. We`re part of the United States. We are -- share certain values and there`s a specific value in the United States when someone is in need you go out and help them, you go on and give them a hand. And I believe time around something happened.

The President came down here. He underplayed what happened. He started throwing paper towels. He said less than 20 people had died. He proclaimed the assistance of the United States as successful. I mean, how could it be successful when over 3,000 people died? What is in his mind? What is he thinking about? So, I do think that again -- and I have to use strong words. It is same certainly shameful and most people in Puerto Rico and perhaps people all over the United States and all over the world are outraged at the statements of the President of the United States.

HAYES: All right, Senator Eduardo Bhatia Gautier, thank you for so much for your time. Turning now to some pretty big news also happening this evening, and that concerns Paul Manafort. Ever since he was convicted last month for financial crimes, we have seen multiple reports of Trump`s campaign chairman supposedly negotiating with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller about a plea deal in advance of the second set of trial. Tonight, ABC News is reporting that Manafort has tentatively reached a plea deal with Mueller that will head off his upcoming trial according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

ABC News spotted the team arriving in a dark SUV Thursday morning pulling into a secret entrance out of public view at the building where Special Counsel Robert Mueller is based. The deal which I should say has not yet been confirmed by us here at NBC News is expected at least according their reporting to be announced in court tomorrow. I guess we will find out one way or the other.

Joining me now Maya Wiley Senior Vice President for Social Justice at the New School and an MSNBC Legal Analyst, Matt Miller MSNBC Justice and Security Analyst and former Justice Department Spokesperson, and Norm Eisen former U.S. Ambassador and White House Ethics czar are under Obama who has a new book out which is quite excellent called The Last Palace. Let me start with you, Maya, the significance of this development if indeed this is true.

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it`s certainly significant for Paul Manafort in the sense that he had everything to lose by going to trial in Washington and it makes a lot of sense that he would want to have a plea deal. It`s not clear though how much this means in terms of Mueller investigation itself because of course, the Mueller investigation is still ongoing. Paul Manafort is going to have to get up there and allocate, actually literally go through and say publicly all the -- whatever crimes he`s admitting to in exchange. But if there`s not a cooperation agreement, that`s really the brass ring right for Robert Mueller is a cooperation agreement.

HAYES: And that`s the big question, Norm. An ethical question given that you were in the White House Counsel`s Office and you were sort of the ethics person there. We learned on the weekend that there has been cooperation between the president`s legal team and Paul Manafort legal team throughout, that they had sort of a joint defense agreement. And there`s a real set of ethical questions about whether they were discussing at any point pardons.

NORM EISEN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: Chris, thanks for having me back on the program. And indeed, in these joint defense agreements, and I did them for 20 years in private practice before I went into the White House, you`re always afraid that people will go too far and cross the line from cooperation to conspiracy, including conspiracy to obstruct justice. And there are very serious ethical and legal questions that are raised by the idea that Giuliani may have been dangling a pardon to Manafort. Did that change Manafort`s behavior? It might have changed his testimony. Was there an express offer of a quid pro quo?

These agreements are no insurance policy against liability and prosecutors look at them with suspicion. As Maya says, we`ll see what man afford allocate to tomorrow whether that line might have been crossed.

HAYES: Matt, Maya mentioned this and this is the big outstanding question and again, we have we have sort of an occluded picture here at this hour about what is or is not happening, the central question of cooperation. Explain why that`s so important.

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, obviously if -- excuse me -- if Paul Manafort were to cooperate, if he were to cooperate against the president, he could prove a very valuable witness in terms of incriminating the president, putting him you know, talking about what kind of knowledge he might have about the June 9th Trump Tower meeting. If he does go in and just plead guilty and he has a deal that doesn`t include cooperation, I think what you`ll see is a very -- is a very slightly reduced prison sentence.

Bob Mueller holds all the cards here. There`s no reason he has to give Manafort a generous deal if he doesn`t come in and fully cooperate. And I think that leads you to the question. You know, most people in this situation are very rational actors. They will choose the path that gets them the shortest jail sentence or the shortest combination of you know, of short jail sentence and a low fine. If Manafort doesn`t take the path that gives him the lowest possible jail sentence, and that would be cooperation, it leads you to conclude that he has another path available to him. I think the only rational thing you could see that to be is a pardon.

HAYES: You`re nodding your head, Maya.

WILEY: I absolutely agree with Matt. Look we know Giuliani initiated the conversations with Trump after hearing Trump`s public statements around a pardon for Manafort. One of the things that Giuliani then said is, of course, we`ll wait till after the investigation --

HAYES: Yes, he did not rule it out. He said nothing`s happening until after the investigation.

WILEY: He said that after Sarah Saunders had publicly said there`s been no discussion of a pardon for Paul Manafort. So, you have to wonder -- so what is going on with all these conversations that whether actually out there publicly saying, yes, we are considering it. It won`t be till after which is sort of a nod at. We`re not trying to add an obstruction of justice charge here. But it is a public statement that Paul Manafort heard is in addition to all the things that Donald Trump was saying about him being a stand-up guy not flipping on him.

So there have been so many public statements that is essentially signaled, you know, pardon that I just think there`s no other way to read what -- if he just comes out with like a slightly better prison sentence and remember he`s 69 years old, I don`t know that there`s any other way to read that but that he feels pretty confident he`s going to get a pass. Of course, states are a different matter.

HAYES: Does that scan to you, Norm.

EISEN: Well, you know, remember when -- if in fact there is a plea deal and there is a hearing and an allocution tomorrow, remember the Cohen situation, Chris, where Cohen didn`t do a cooperation deal but he made the shocking statement in federal court that he`d -- that he was acting at the direction of the president. So, I`m going to be listening very carefully. Does Manafort tip his hand? You know, he can do a lot of damage even if there`s a pardon ahead. For example, do -- will he say that he did anything at the best of his Ukrainian or even Russian contacts to change the official position of the Republican platform.

Remember there`s a controversy about that whether the platform was changed to benefit Russia`s position on Ukraine. So, we`ll be listening closely. You know, for me it`s so striking that it seems that Robert Mueller is relentlessly knocking down one domino after another as he gets closer and closer to the President. If there`s any lesson that I learned in writing my book over the past 100 years, you can run but you can`t hide from the rule of law. It catches up to every corrupt regime eventually.

HAYES: Well, that is -- that is the question Matt, and it`s a question right now particularly as you`ve got to imagine that the specter of a second trial can -- is not really encouraging for anyone. I mean, even if you`re the White House, right, do they want three more weeks of the dirty business of Paul Manafort in the news every night? Who wants this trial? It`s hard to find a person that wants a Paul Manafort trial.

MILLER: Yes, at least three more weeks. And let`s remember the prosecution hasn`t said yet what they`re going to do about the ten charges in Virginia that the jury hung on. They`ve left -- you know, they asked for more time to make a decision. They could still come back and push for you know, a third -- what would be a third trial after D.C. on those charges. And in fact, I won`t be surprised if Manafort pleads tomorrow if you actually see some resolution to those outstanding Virginia charges as well which are still pending against him.

So it would be in the White House`s interest I think. And if -- you know, Rudy Giuliani was actually quoted in Politico this morning seeming to almost encourage Paul Manafort to take a plea for that very reason. Again, a no cooperation plea. And to go back to one thing about this pardon, you know, this -- the President has been talking about publicly. We don`t know what Giuliani has been talking about with Manafort`s attorneys, but this has been going back almost a year now. It`s been reported that that back in last fall that John Dowd who was in the president`s attorney dangled a pardon, discussed potential pardon with both Manafort and Michael Flynn`s attorney.

So I have to think this has been on Paul Manafort`s mind from the very beginning. Otherwise his actions to go to trial in a first case when the evidence was so overwhelming and to push this last part of the brink, that just don`t make any sense.

HAYES: And ultimately, Maya, I think we will find out if that was -- if that did happen. But you got to think that that itself, were there a pardon dangled is subject of Mueller`s inquiry as well.

WILEY: I would I would think he would want to know. I have to say that in terms of this trial, though, there is one loser which is the American public.

HAYES: Right.

WILEY: Because this is what we would have seen if this were to go to trial is actually a much more public outlay of evidence that much more closely ties the campaign to Russian conspiracy.

HAYES: Norm, final question to you on this question of the sort of the pardon or the specter of it. There are some who argue that that power is absolute and ergo cannot be abused in an unconstitutional manner that the president could pardon anyone or offer pardon for any reason at any time under the Constitution. As someone who worked in the White House and advised the president legal matters, what do you think of that?

EISEN: I think it`s absolutely wrong, Chris. We`re seeing now a great battle playing out in the United States. Are we a government of laws in which no person even the president, especially the president is above the law, or are -- do we have special rules for the president? I think it`s the former and so if the president, for example, takes a bribe or another quid pro quo for a pardon, if he tries to pardon himself, there are legal limits on what you can do including inherent ones in the Constitution

If he pushes those limits, if he doesn`t with corrupt intent, maybe the pardon stands but he can be prosecuted for obstruction for doing it. So, no, I`m not of the view that he can bandy that. He`d like to. He`s been testing the limits of it. But ultimately, he is subject to the same rules as the rest of us. And Chris, they`re catching up with him.

HAYES: Yes, Maya Wiley, Matt Miller, and Norm Eisen who has a great new book The Last Palace is out in bookstores now. It`s really a fantastic read. I recommend it. Thank you all very much. Please come back. All right, ahead, MSNBC`s coverage of Hurricane Florence continues next. Our reporters are on the ground, will give us the latest right after this.


HAYES: Hurricane Florence isn`t expected to make official landfall for at least another eight hours but the coastline of the Carolinas is already feeling the effects of the Category Two storm with rain and sustained 100- mile per hour winds. For a look at what`s happening on the ground, we have NBC News reporters all along the coast. We begin with NBC News Correspondent Gadi Schwartz in Beaufort, North Carolina. Gadi?

Yes, Chris, it is treacherous out here and as bad as it looks right here we`ve actually moved locations. I`m using a building as kind of a wind block. So right over there, where you see the light in it, it is extremely windy there. We`re talking about wind gusts well above what we`ve seen earlier which is about 60, 70 miles an hour. This is an area that is starting to see the tide rise again.

We`re going to get high tide at 11:00. When that tide rises, we`re also expecting to see a very -- a tremendous storm surge that could be catastrophic to some of these areas.

Beaufort is just across the bay there and they`ve already started to see flooding in some of their streets. We know the storm surge has come up and surrounded houses and actually worked its way through the stilts and is encroaching on some of those houses.

So tonight, unfortunately, the power has been cut, or has been lost. Here on Radio Island where we are, it looks like across the bay we don`t see any lights either.

So we`re not sure what the power situation is over there. But you can see the situation is getting even more critical out here. These winds are not going to allow first responders to go out and save anybody. So at this point it is all about hunkering down wherever you can find safety. And this is what we`re going to see sweep through the North and South Carolina in the next few hours.


HAYES: Alright, Gadi Schwartz, be safe out there. Thank you.

I`m joined by NBC News Carrie Sanders in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, near where the hurricane is expected to make landfall tomorrow morning. Carrie, whats it look like there?

CARRIE SANDERS, NBC NEWS: Well, right now it`s not as bad as Gadi has it. It`s beginning to pick up. It will be around 4:00 in the morning when we start to feel the really heavy winds, but because the hurricane is moving so slowly, it will be from 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. as this area is likely, according to the National Hurricane Center to get the eye wall somewhere between here and Wrightsville Beach, which is only 13 miles away. So right in this area we`re going to see the most powerful winds and the of course the storm surge that will come along with the storm.

The expectation, according to the National Hurricane Center, is about 11 feet of water being pushed to shore by the storm which, of course, is well above the first floor of any buildings or homes here. There are some people who have decided to stay in their homes.

One of the things that is at least positive for us for the moment is that we still have electricity here. You can see the lights that are on.

Duke Energy that provides much of the power to this region says that there are 4 million customers in this area and they anticipate that this is going to be worse than it was during Hurricane Matthew. There was about a million and a half people who got hit by storm damage there.

You can see just by the nature of the officers who are walking behind me that this wind is not that dramatic. They`re out making sure that there are no residents who have some crazy reason decided to go down and look at the surf or get too close because at this point just one rogue wave could take somebody and rush them out, and the authorities here, just like Gadi said there, if you dial 911, they`re not going to come and get you. This is too late for that sort of response to happen as the hurricane is coming in.


HAYES: All right, Carrie Sanders in Carolina Beach, thank you.

Joining me now is MBC News correspondent Joe Fryer from Jacksonville, North Carolina, and Joe, what`s going on there?

JOE FRYER, MBC NEWS: Hey, there, Chris. Well, as the sun has gone down the wind and the rain have really picked up here. That`s, of course, one concern, but the biggest concern in a place like Jacksonville is flooding.

I`m standing right now above the new river here which is expected to go up dramatically over the next day or two.

Here in Jacksonville we`re not right on the ocean. You have to drive about 20 miles to get to the ocean. Despite that, storm surge is still an issue and a concern here. They`re bracing for the possibility that the river here and the bays could still surge as high as seven feet. That tells you just how powerful this hurricane is.

And it`s not just the storm surge. It`s the fact that we`re going to see a lot of rain coming up tonight into tomorrow, likely into the weekend, relentless rain as this storm slowly moves through. That`s also going to fill up the river and cause a lot of flooding.

And it`s not just here in Jacksonville. You go even farther inland, they`re expecting anywhere from six to 12 inches of rain, maybe even 15 inches of rain in isolated inland spots. The rivers just aren`t going to be able to handle that.

You can expect to see a lot of flooding throughout communities, not just on the coast, but much farther inland.


HAYES: Alright. Joe Fryer, thank you very much.

And joining me from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is MBC News Matt Bradley.

Matt, What`s it look like there?

MATT BRADLEY, MBC NEWS: Well, Chris, it`s not really what you`re seeing where Gadi is up North. We haven`t seen the worst of it at all here. We have high winds and barely a sprinkle of rain. But what we have here in the Myrtle Beach Convention Center is a huge setup for rescue workers who are preparing to face the brunt of the storm.

When I talk about rescue workers I think we need to expand that definition. It`s not just the firefighters and the police officers and the medical workers who get a lot of richly deserved recognition for that. We have to remember it`s also public works people. It`s also water works, it`s also electrical people. They`re putting their lives on the line when the storm hits to go out and try to bring the services back and make sure that everything is flowing smoothly so that people can evacuate, so that people can be rescued.

And we just had dinner with a bunch of them. They`re all really waiting for the worst here, like I said, we`ve been waiting for hours, for days, and we haven`t seen it quite yet.

The one thing that all of them say, Chris, is that they hope that the remaining people who are still sitting inside their homes, who are hoping to wait out this storm, who like us have looked around and said this isn`t that bad yet that they should really get out now, get out now when they have the chance.


HAYES: Matt Bradley, thank you very much.

After the break, the potentially catastrophic devastation caused by Hurricane Florence, why the storm surge poses even more of a unique threat to some areas in the path of that storm next.


HAYES: As New Yorkers learned with Super Storm Sandy nearly six years ago, the most destructive part of the storm is often the storm surge. The Weather Channel visualized what that could look like now with Hurricane Florence.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Once the water comes up to three feet you can see it would be coming up my shins to my waist. This could be enough to knock you off your feet. It could even float some cars that could be parked on the side of the roadway. This is extremely dangerous.

But once we get into that six foot range, look how high this water goes. Winds pick everything up. Cars would be floating at this point. This water`s over my head. I wouldn`t be able to stand here, even withstand the force of the water coming in.


HAYES: There`s an added wrinkle in North Carolina, lagoons of waste from the state`s thousands of hog farms, as well as unlined pits of coal ash, the waste left over after burning coal. The overlap between the locations of those hog farms represented here by red dots and the projected hurricane path is considerable, to put it mildly.

To help you understand the risks here, Eric Holthouse is a meteorologist and a staff writer for GRIST and my must follow on all things hurricane.

Eric, just explain what a storm surge is and why it can be so destructive.

ERIC HOLTHOUSE, GRIST: Sure, thanks, Chris. What we`re seeing here, I mean, Florence is a huge hurricane. I mean, this is one of the largest hurricanes that we`ve ever seen in the Atlantic. And you can`t really talk about this without talking about climate change.

We have some evidence that was published this week that the storm is actually a little bit bigger and the rain is going to be more intense because of warmer water. And we`ve also had about a foot of sea level rise over the last hundred years or so in North Carolina.

So all of these are working to make the impacts of this hurricane worse. So we`re going to have all that wind pushing the water along the shore, and the rise of the level of the ocean because of all that wind is going to create the -- you know, a tremendous amount of flooding, unlike we`ve ever seen on the east coast.

HAYES: So there`s two aspects here right? There`s the storm surge and also the rain. One of the things that happened with Harvey, which we saw, is that the slower moving the storm is, the worse it can be because it just stops and drops a lot of rain. Is that right?

HOLTHOUSE: Yeah, exactly. And we`re seeing that a little bit too in the last few decades that hurricanes are moving a little bit more slowly as they`re making landfall. As weather patterns change in response to climate change.

So there`s a lot going on here, really. And it`s really -- it`s gotten to the point where, you know, we have a president that is denying the impacts of, you know, this hurricane season last year and this year and actively making the problem worse by, you know, not addressing this root cause of worsening storms.

HAYES: There`s also the way in which storm surges, and this is something that we saw with Katrina, that the storm surges don`t just go to the coast, they shoot up into inlets, part of the reason the levies failed in New Orleans is you have the canals and channels the storm surges shooted up.

This is something the National Weather Service said today, "Important notice Florence continues to close in on the Carolina coast line. Storm surge is not just an ocean problem tonight. Significant surge is storm surge is expected to occur in the North Carolina inlets and rivers, some areas in excess of nine feet."

It`s another way in which the rising sea levels that we`re seeing from climate change with storms threatens people even far from the coast.

HOLTHOUSE: This is not a coastal problem anymore. This is really a societal problem. You`re talking about this with the pig farms and the coal ash. You know, we have to learn that we live in an ecosystem here. We`re all connected. We are all feeling the effects of this hurricane. You know, hundreds of miles inland this storm is going to cause record flooding.

So it`s just -- it`s just sort of -- it`s really hard. I have two little kids, and to see 30 years now we`ve been talking about the science, we could have done all of this so long ago and we`re still talking about the same stuff.

HAYES: Yeah.

HOLTHOUSE: It`s just so difficult to face this. You know, I work and write about this every single day. And, for a lot of people, you know, they only think about it or talk about it when there`s a hurricane like this that hits. So it`s just, you know, we have to sort of rethink how we think about everything to understand this is just the start of the heart of the problem of climate change that we`re seeing in the last couple of years.

We are -- we still have another,you know, maybe even six to eight to ten feet of sea level rise this century in North Carolina.

HAYES: That`s coming for us.


We`re seeing the storm surge that we`re seeing in the worst hit areas tonight that`s going to be an everyday thing in 50 or 60 years. It`s just sort of -- it`s difficult to put into words.

HAYES: Yeah.

HOLTHOUSE: How -- what`s happening, and we`re watching it on our screens. We`re watching those beaches being eroded away, and that is an impact of the storm surge and that`s an impact of, you know, the collective decisions that we`re making.

HAYES: Alright, Eric Holthouse, thank you for that.

Coming up, the president facing a potential crisis in Hurricane Florence after outright denying the nearly 3,000 deaths that is happened in Puerto Rico under his watch.

How are the Republicans are reacting? That`s next.


HAYES: Even the most pro-Trump Republicans in the state of Florida are distancing themselves to the president`s astonishing denial of the death of nearly 3,000 Americans in Puerto Rico in an effort not to completely alienate Florida`s sizable Puerto Rican population.

Both Governor Rick Scott, who is now running for Senate, and Congressman Ron DeSantis, who wants to succeed Scott as Governor, put out statements repudiating Trump`s vile claim that Democrats invented or inflated the death toll from Hurricane Maria to make him look bad.

These are two staunch Trump allies. Scott raised $20 million for Trump`s presidential campaign, and DeSantis ran a campaign ad literally featuring his young children building a wall and wearing a MAGA onesie.

Scott and DeSantis had political reasons to push back against Trump`s comments, but many Republicans are following the president straight down the rabbit hole. The GOP`s rejection of reality and the latest on Hurricane Florence right after this.


HAYES: Before Donald Trump came along, American politicians did not simply deny the deaths of thousands of Americans, because they thought those deaths made them look bad. How things have changed.

Here is Robert Costa today, "spoke to more than a dozen House Republicans here at the Capitol. Very few had any criticism of the president`s handling of the coming storm or his tweets on Puerto Rico, most offered hearty praise, a revealing snapshot of the GOP."

With me now, MSNBC political analyst Jason Johnson, politics editor of The Root, MSNBC Contributor Jennifer Rubin, conservative columnist of The Washington Post, and New York University Associate Professor Christina Beltran.

Jennifer, I will play -- will show that the president just in the last few minutes, I guess, like tweeted Lou Dobbs segment defending his utterly odious comments on Puerto Rico. And I got to say, like, everyone -- OK, the president says horrible things and people sort of -- they hate it. But this felt to me like the kind of thing that you should resign over, or announce yourself as the anonymous op-ed writer.

I mean, there are 3,000 people that died and you`re saying they didn`t die. That`s about as disgusting as it gets.

JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: It is. It`s an insult to them, to their families, to the rescue workers. Imagine if George Bush said what 3,000 people that died on 9/11? The country would be in open revolt, and we should be over this as well.

And I think the realization is about to hit home for Republicans that this is a loser for them. Donald Trump dominates the news with these crazy- pants theory and statements, and they are tied at the hip with him. And no wonder their polls are dropping like a stone. No wonder there they`re double-digits behind in the congressional generic polling. They`re identified with this crazy stuff and their spinelessness, their encouragement, their enabling is going to come back to haunt them in November.

HAYES: There`s also something, Christina, just so -- we were wrestling today with what to call it. It`s not a lie, because that`s too weak, it`s denialism. It`s basically saying that the people don`t exist.

CHRISTINA BELTRAN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Right. They`re not really people. They might not really be human beings. They don`t really exist for him as part of the political community we share.

I mean, I think one of the things that always strikes me so much about Donald Trump is that he only understands spectacular violence in a particular way. Like, I think there is a scholar, Rob Nixon, talks about slow violence. And he talks about that in the United States, but particularly with someone like Trump who only understands the spectacular. He doesn`t -- the day of the storm, 9/11, the kind of spectacular moment of death, that`s the moment he recognizes, but the kind of long-term damage that the storm did, the sort of slow often not fully visible violence to him, and the death of a huge number of our Puerto Rican compatriots, you know, fellow citizens. But also nonwhite colonial subjects for him.

This is a classic example of kind of the colonial gaze. He doesn`t really see them as existing as part of the polity (ph). So, why would he acknowledge them in death when he couldn`t acknowledge them politically in life.

And he only sees death when he sees like massive catastrophe in a spectacular way.

HAYES: The point about it is what is so absurd sort of unnerving about it is that, Jason, to Christina`s point, I think he is telling the truth about what he really believes. That is more horrifying than it as calumny.


HAYES: That he thinks that. The death, they didn`t exist. They didn`t count. They were invented by my enemies.

JOHNSON: Right. They don`t matter.

You know, Chris, I`ve said all along, that the president`s response, this administration`s response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico, is white nationalism manifested as policy. These people do not matter. They do not deserve to be protected. They do not deserve our assistance one way or another. And it wouldn`t surprise me if the president didn`t even know the Puerto Ricans were American citizens.

But the fact that he simply denies their existence -- look, this shouldn`t surprise anyone. He denied that Obama was born in this country. He lied about how many people were at his inauguration like he is a perpetual liar. But the fact that the Republican Party as a whole, the only people who can find the stomach to say something about this are Republicans who are on the line electorally this fall in Florida is indicative of the fact that the party as a whole has become a cult.

HAYES: I thought it was so perfect. DeSantis, who ran as a cultist, that was -- almost tongue-in-cheek, I will give it to him in his defense, it`s a a story shticky tongue-in-cheek ad, you know, I`m so into Trump my kid builds the wall. But for him to have to say, no, this is out of bounds because I need these people`s votes.

But the most -- Jennifer, in some ways the worst thing said today to me was not the president, it was Paul Ryan.

RUBIN: It always is.

HAYES: I want to play this, because I read it before, because I actually had to have the tape. I want to play what Paul Ryan said today.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: Casualties don`t make a person look bad, that`s not -- so I have no reason to dispute these numbers. I was in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. It was devastated. This was a horrible storm. Those are just the facts of what happens when a horrible hurricane hits an isolated place like an island.


HAYES: It`s not an isolated place.


HAYES: We have airplanes. It`s 2000 -- it`s the 21st Century. It`s not the 1600s. Like, what the hell kinds of thing was that to say?

RUBIN: He is in complete enabling mode. He knows Trump is upset, so he is trying to communicate with him across the airways. It`s OK, Mr. President. It`s not your fault.

You know what? It is his fault. He is in charge of the federal government. It is his fault.

But this is the disgusting portrait that we see over and over again by Paul Ryan.

Do you know he went to the Ronald Reagan Institute and talked about American values and American leadership in the world today? I mean, how he does this with a straight face is really beyond me.

He has done this from day one. He has been one of the I think worst enablers that have been out there. He refused to censure him over Charlottesville, and it`s been downhill ever since.

So it doesn`t surprise me. It still horrifies me, but it doesn`t surprise me.

HAYES: And then what`s so unnerving is the way this works is yesterday there was no position in American politics that those deaths were made up. That didn`t exist as a position, Christina. Today, that is now a position. And there are a bunch of people,American citizens and political leadership, who will now have that position.

BELTRAN: Right, that can now be a somewhat legitimate talking point, right. And I think this connects to the climate change issue that you were talking about before. I mean, what`s really interesting is there is mass death occurring in multiple locations. We are in the middle of a global catastrophe with climate. And there is deaths happening on the island. There`s -- you know, tonight is a story of like there is a catastrophe happening in our country that is happening slowly and consistently and constantly.


BELTRAN: And there`s sort of this really weird way in which someone like Ryan is standing there, and there is blood everywhere. There is bodies on the ground both literally and figuratively, there is bodies in the future. And the sort of complete and utter capitulation, their moral capitulation over the crisis that they failed to address in the past and the crises they`re failing to address in the future because they don`t seem to understand the very fundamentals of what they`re doing and who they`re doing them too.

HAYES: Jason?

JOHNSON: I got say this, and I don`t want to rain on everyone`s parade, but the problem also that I see in all this is it`s not going to impact Donald Trump.


JOHNSON: If you look at the political science, if you look at Hurricane Andrew with Bush, if you look at Katrina, basically what ends up happening, when a president fails to adequately address this kind of national thing, people just harden their opinions. They don`t usually hold them accountable. I hope they hold him accountable in the midterms. We don`t know.

HAYES: I don`t think it helps -- to Jennifer`s point, I don`t think it helps politically the people in his party who are the ones who are on the ballot. But ultimately, the only accountability for what happened in Puerto Rico and god willing not what happens tonight or in any other future disaster will be in congress.

Jason Johnson, Jennifer Rubin and Christina Beltran, thank you for being with me tonight.

That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.


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