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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bahamas Survivor Says There Are "Bodies Everywhere" As Official Warns Of "Unimaginable" Death Toll; Residents Call Ocracoke Island Flooding The Worst They've Seen; Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) Interviewed About Trump's Refusal To Accept Mistaken Hurricane Dorian Forecast; Sources: Bolton-Pompeo Relationship Hits New Low; Evidence Indicates Seller of the Assault-Style Rifle Used in Texas Rampage was Manufacturing Firearms; American Airlines Mechanic Accused of Sabotaging Navigation System of Flight with 150 People on Board. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 6, 2019 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:17]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news.

Bodies everywhere. As search crews struggle to reach devastated communities in the Bahamas. Officials warn that thousands may still be missing, and as survivors report bodies everywhere, officials are warning to expect what they say will be unimaginable information about the death toll.

Floodwaters. Hundreds of people are caught by surprise and caught off for a time when a storm surge from Dorian floods the barrier island in North Carolina with seven feet of water. Residents call it the worst flooding they've ever seen.

Sabotaging a plane. An American Airlines mechanic is accused of sabotaging the navigation system of a plane with 150 people on board. The flight aborted on the runway at the very last moment.

And Ink strained. President Trump strains to justify his mistaken claim that Dorian at one point had Alabama in its sights, but instead of apologizing for his hand drawn fake weather map, he's demanding an apology from the media.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: Breaking news. As search and rescue crews struggle to reach areas of the Bahamas devastated by Hurricane Dorian, there are now dire warnings about what they will find. A survivor tells CNN there are bodies everywhere. One official says hundreds up to thousands may still be missing. And while the recorded death toll is 30, another official says to expect -- and I'm quoting now - "unimaginable information about fatalities." This storm made landfall today in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane leaving people isolated on one of the barrier islands. Residents call it the worst flooding they've seen. President Trump meantime is sticking to his claim that Alabama was once in Dorian's path, a claim he bolstered by showing a map altered by a marker which he reportedly wielded himself.

House Speaker Congressman Ro Khanna, and our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

First let's go live to the Bahamas -- actually, go live to the Bahamas in a moment, but first let's get more on the dramatic and very dangerous storm surge flooding as Dorian slammed North Carolina's coast.

Let's go to the outer banks and CNN's Alexandra Field. Alexander, tell us about the flooding. What's the latest?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a tense few hours for people who are on Ocracoke Island in the southern part of the outer banks. They watched the storm surge come in. It was predicted to reach about seven feet high. It looks like it reached that, and then they quickly saw homes, buildings, streets flooding throughout that island. People had been asked to evacuate some 800 people remained on the island with the only road to the mainland shut down because of the weather. They found themselves stranded, seeing higher water levels than any they had seen before.

The governor says that search and rescue helicopters are being sent to the island to evacuate anyone who wants to get out. We understand that the Coast Guard pulled out one 78-year-old man who did have a previous medical condition. He wanted to get off the island. Otherwise it seems with the water now receding, residents are mostly choosing to stay in place, but those helicopters are bringing in much needed supplies for people who will be there, at least until all of that water recedes. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Alexandra thanks very much for that.

Now to the devastation and the fears of a soaring death toll in the Bahamas.

CNN's Victor Blackwell is in Nassau for us. He's just back from a trip to the hard hit town of Marsh Harbour. Victor, how bad was it out there? What did you see?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the scale is unimaginable. There are communities there, there are two communities called The Mud and Pigeon Pea where a lot of the Haitian community lives, blocked, colorful houses brightly painted, they look like piles of Legos there the way they've been scrambled.

But I got to give you an update. We just heard from U.S. Air Force General Terrence O'Shaughnessy of northern command who says the Air Force is now working with the Bahamian government to reestablish air traffic control, to rebuild some damaged airports, to support the search and rescue effort. We heard from the U.S. Charged d'Affaires to the Bahamas who says that the USAID disaster response team will be walking through the keys looking for people who potentially survived and those who have not survived.

But we heard from the Bahamian health minister who believes that the eventual number of those who were killed by Hurricane Dorian will be his word, "staggering." The current number is 30. But on our flight over Abaco today, we saw hundreds of people crowded around these damaged airports.

[17:05:04]

In the north at Treasure Cay Airport and Central Abaco at the Marsh Harbour Airport, there are people waiting to be rescued. We landed there in Marsh Harbour, and the marina there is just - it has shuffled boats that have been pushed onto the coast, trees snapped in half. Some of the buildings you can't tell what they were.

I did speak with one woman who is staying, though, her name is Germaine Smith. She rode out this storm alone in her apartment. Here's her story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERMAINE SMITH, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: Next thing I look, I see a roof just flied off, and came towards my way. And I just sat and Germaine dock and took a side, dock and I moved. A big tree came by the window. I just moved from and just missed it just like that. And the rain started pouring in. My roof started lifting. So I run inside the bathroom for cover in the tub, they say it's always a safe haven, and that's what saved me, and I was just praying to God, just to save my life because I was scared, literally. I didn't think I was going to make it, and you know, I just was holding onto that but I was scared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: And Wolf, she is still sleeping in that bathtub at the end of every night because she knows at least there she has a place that she knows is safe and that room saved her life.

We spoke with another family, Eddie Joseph who says that his family piled into the bathroom, rode out the storm, and when he opened the door after the eye left, there was nothing left. There was sunlight coming down on the other side of that door because his whole apartment had been ripped up. Just the bathroom still stood.

BLITZER: Victor, I understand your transport was actually used also to help evacuate some victims. Tell us about that.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we took a chopper over this morning. My producer, photographer, myself, we went to Abaco and we had an extra seat. When we arrived at the Marsh Harbour Airport, there was a family of four trying to get to Nassau, but there wasn't enough space for everyone on one chopper so we took a 14-year-old boy, his name is Malik Maroe (ph) and a 21-year-old, his name is Kenly Victor (ph), tomorrow his 22nd birthday, on our chopper to bring them here to Nassau. When I started to ask Kenly about what he experienced there, he said I don't want to talk about it. And we were silent for 20 seconds. And then he said every time someone asks me about it, I feel like I'm in a nightmare and I can't wake up. In fact, he said he hasn't slept since the storm ended.

Well, he is now safe in Nassau. I can tell you he got some sleep on that flight. Malik's family, he was there with his mother, younger brother, 4-year-old sister. They were four of 15 people who rode out the storm in a single room. They're going to stay with family. Kenly victor (ph) is going to stay with family, but yes, they rode back with us. There are people improvising to try to get as many people off of Abaco as possible. These were two who came back here today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The apartment, the roof's all gone. All of us had to sleep in one room. There was a pile of us, and we couldn't find food to eat. Post is down. My dog is dead. Some clothes I lost. Mostly everything I lost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Malik (ph) says that he doesn't know if all of his cousins made it, if they are alive or if they're somewhere here in Nassau, and I asked him, once things are rebuilt, do you want to go back to Abaco, and he was not ready to answer that question. Wolf?

BLITZER: Which is understandable. Victor Blackwell, good work. Thank you very much for that report.

Joining us now, the Bahamas Consul General to Washington, Theo Neilly. Mr. Neilly, once again, thank you so much for joining us. You know the official, the official death toll still stands at 30, but witnesses on the ground say they've seen bodies everywhere. What is the government doing right now to recover and count the dead?

THEO NEILLY, BAHAMAS CONSUL GENERAL TO WASHINGTON: Hi, Wolf. Thank you much for having me on again. Obviously we're on the ground in Abaco and Grand Bahamas, still assessing the damages, still conducting rescue missions. I've heard the same, we're hearing the more bodies and we're basically officially counting for now, the official count is at 30. We still have to wait and verify and you know, there's a process to go through. I imagine those numbers might increase. But right now, the number we're stuck at, is 30.

BLITZER: What is so terrifying as you know know, Mr. Neilly, is that after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, a couple of years ago, the official death toll was only 64 for nearly a year before it was eventually revised to nearly 3,000. Do you fear the true death toll from Dorian won't be known for months, maybe even years?

[17:10:00]

NEILLY: Wolf, I don't think it will be that long. We have the Bahamas defense force on the ground now. U.S. officials are helping us. There's the navy from the U.K., United Kingdom helping us as well. I do believe perhaps and sadly those numbers will be higher and we're hopeful that it won't be much higher. BLITZER: Because one survivor as you heard told CNN there are in the survivor's words bodies everywhere among the wreckage. Do you worry that could become a public health emergency right now?

NEILLY: Wolf, just a few minutes ago our minister of health in the Bahamas Dr. Duane Sands actually gave a press conference and he explained how the Bahamas government and how authorities are dealing with it and making sure that we do not have any issues and crisis on our hands and to make sure that all health standards are met.

BLITZER: I know you don't have an official count on the death toll because that number is going to go up. Do you have an official count on the missing?

NEILLY: There are still so many and so many families. There's a desk that we've set up at Social Services and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where persons are calling in, and they're matching that to confirm if persons are missing and trying to be find out where they were last seen.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the relief operation, which has to be enormous right now. What are the biggest changes facing the rescue crews right now?

NEILLY: Well, Wolf, they've actually been able to clear access roads so the Treasure Cay Airport as you noted earlier, before there was an issue getting to that airport, and accessing that airport is now cleared and that's going to help the rescue mission. And Grand Bahamas is now open and we're able to get in there and conduct the rescues that we need with the defense force as well as U.S. officials and officials from the U.K. teams there as well. Also, the Sandy Point Airport is open and even the Marsh Harbour Airport is now open for rescue missions as well and aid.

So, once these airports are now open and the ports in the Coopers Town port, then we're able to get in there and access the damages and conduct really the assessments and rescues that we must do.

BLITZER: Good luck to everyone in the Bahamas. Our hearts go out to you. Theo Neilly, thank you so much for joining us.

NEILLY: Thank you again, Wolf. Thank you much. Thank you for your thoughts and concerns.

BLITZER: Thank you. With Hurricane Dorian today lashing the Carolinas and expected to make its way up into the North Atlantic, President Trump is still insisting that the storm once had Alabama in its sights.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, the president just won't let go of this.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. He has not penned an apology letter yet, and President Trump is still obsessed with proving he was right about Hurricane Dorian, but while the president is fixated on the hurricane, White House officials may be ignoring other possible problems creeping up on them including the economy and Mr. Trump's quest for a wall that has his fellow Republicans nervous, potentially pitting the president against the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With the Carolinas and the Bahamas picking up the pieces after Hurricane Dorian, President Trump is still defending his magic marker meteorology, tweeting, "The fake news media was fixated on the fact that I properly said at the beginnings of Hurricane Dorian that, in addition to Florida and other states, Alabama may also be grazed or hit. They went crazy, hoping against hope that I made a mistake, which I didn't."

Despite a week's worth of fact-checks showing that's not true, the Trump campaign is cashing in, selling these Trump campaign markers for $15, a big markup from what they cost in stores.

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci once again claimed there is something wrong with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR (via telephone): I think the president is in severe mental decline, and I'm not saying that now because I'm a political adversary or I have disavowed him. I'm saying that objectively, just looking at what's going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: But the White House may have bigger problems on its hands after the latest unemployment numbers found 130,000 jobs were added in August, below expectations, given that 25,000 of those positions were for the census.

The president is again tweeting his frustrations about Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, asking: "Where did I find this guy Jerome? Oh, well, you can't win them all."

Powell said the Fed is watching the economy closely but doesn't see a recession coming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I did mention, though, that there are these risks. And we're monitoring them very carefully and we're conducting policy in a way that will address them. But, no, I wouldn't see a recession as the most likely outcome for the United States or for the world economy, for that matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And neither does the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: The best answer I can give you is, we have no immediate urgency, if that's what you're asking. There's no anti-recession policy making because we don't see a recession.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: There is growing concern among GOP lawmakers over the White House plan to divert billions of dollars from military projects to pay for Mr. Trump's border wall, including a middle school at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the longtime Kentucky lawmaker recently talked to Defense Secretary Esper regarding the issue and is committed to protecting funding for the Fort Campbell middle school project.

Democrats say the plan doesn't make sense.

[17:15:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BOBBY SCOTT (D-VA): The whole idea of taking projects that are desperately needed for national security and using it on a wall that they can't even get a straight excuse why it's needed, that's particularly egregious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Despite the president's unilateral action to divert money to his wall, Mr. Trump is slamming former President Barack Obama's DACA program, which shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, tweeting, "Obama never had the legal right to sign DACA. Totally illegal document."

Democrats say the president has bigger immigration problems to solve, like his own rhetoric, in light of the El Paso mass shooting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): There is also a direct line from the rhetoric that we have heard from the president, calling immigrants thugs and rapists, invaders, infestation of this country. The murderer in his own manifesto used some of the same terms, practically quoted it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: As for what the White House is planning to do to boost the economy, Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow said Mr. Trump may unveil a proposal for new tax cuts during the upcoming 2020 campaign, but the president tried that one before heading into last year's midterms. Mr. Trump said there would be new middle class tax cuts that never happened. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you. Jim Acosta at the White House.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna. He's at the Oversight and Armed Services committees. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. What do you make of the president's refusal to accept the facts about his mistaken Hurricane Dorian forecast?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, Wolf, we're a long way away from when Jimmy Carter promised the country that he would never tell a lie, and the reason this is so disturbing is that there no longer seems to be a common set of facts which we can agree on as a country. And when you don't have a common set of facts, it's very hard to make government work, and this president refuses to even acknowledge basic errors, and that's what people are finding so frustrating.

BLITZER: Let's move on, Congressman. As you know, CNN's Manu Raju, our congressional correspondent has learned that House Democrats are looking right now to widen their impeachment probe when Congress returns to Washington next week. What can you tell us about that?

KHANNA: Well, Jerry Nadler is going to be beginning an impeachment inquiry, a formal inquiry. There are now 130 of us, who are supporting that, and that inquiry is going to look into issues of obstruction of justice, but it's also going to look into issues about the illegal use of the office to have private gain. You know, the vice president's trip in Ireland is a huge concern. Why is he staying in Trump resorts? Why is the president continuing to benefit financially from the use of his office?

BLITZER: Well, on that point, you said it on Oversight Committee. What are Democrats hoping to learn about the president's plan to hold the next G7 summit at his Doral golf resort near Miami?

KHANNA: Wolf, it's really simple. We need to learn whether there was any bidding done. I mean, have they looked at the cost? Have they looked at what this would cost in the president's resort? What other options were considered? I mean, anytime a company plans a conference, you look in multiple bids and you choose the cheapest option. Has that kind of due diligence been done, or is the president just dictating that these events on U.S. Taxpayer money are going to be happening at his private properties.

BLITZER: As you know, Democrats, they're already suing the president over his business interests, that case still tied up in court. Do you think the evidence you gather from this investigation might help your case?

KHANNA: Absolutely. We -- the president actually sued us or the Oversight Committee in his personal capacity saying that the American people didn't have a right to his financial information. He has forgotten that he's president of the United States. I mean, members of Congress, senators and the president have financial disclosure obligations, and that financial information will corroborate a lot of what Michael Cohen testified to now almost a year ago where he said that there was an alleged criminal conspiracy of financial fraud and cover-up, and I think that's what a lot of that financial information could show.

BLITZER: And as you point out, Democrats are looking at the vice president's recent stay at a Trump property in Ireland. In your view, Congressman, did that visit violate the law?

KHANNA: I think it certainly violated the spirit of the law, and it may have violated the letter of the law, but here's what I don't understand. I mean, we have had presidents in this country on a bipartisan basis put their assets in a blind trust and not even want the appearance of impropriety. Why does the president not just say people shouldn't be using or staying in my private property so that he put this to rest? Instead he's doubling down. He wants to increase his brand.

[17:20:04]

Remember, this is the reason he ran for president in the first place. He says he didn't think he was going to win. He wanted to build his brand, and now that he's in the White House, he's building his brand, and that should really offend the very essence of American democracy. I mean, being in public office is a public trust. It's not for private profit.

BLITZER: Representative Ro Khanna of California, thanks so much for joining us.

KHANNA: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, more on the president, the hurricane forecast map, and the pen. Why can't he just admit he was wrong and then move on?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:25:35]

BLITZER: As Hurricane Dorian causes flooding and strands some residents along the North Carolina coast, President Trump once again is defending the erroneous prediction he made days ago that the storm could hit Alabama.

Let's bring in our experts to discuss. Gloria, do you think the president is relishing this fight over his mistaken hurricane forecast even if it comes at the expense of other very pressing issues?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think at this point he's relishing it because he's trying to turn it around and turn it into an issue of the fake news media and what he called today corrupt reporting, still without an apology. And then went on for -- in this tweet saying there are other things the fake news media hasn't apologized for, and he went back into the witch hunt and spy gate, et cetera, et cetera. And what I think you're seeing here is the campaign. And I think this is a tack he's going to take during the campaign, which is effectively one of his enemies, which he's told us time and time again, will be the media, and this is just another way that he's -- that he's using that. BLITZER: You know, Nia, the Trump campaign is actually selling markers to commemorate the president's feud with the news media over Hurricane Dorian. What do you make of that?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, it's -- you know, in some ways typical and not surprising. It's silly. It's also, I think, pathetic, right? Here's a hurricane, a real hurricane. The president obviously has this whole idea of a fake trajectory of this hurricane. It's really serious for the folks in the Bahamas, folks in the Carolinas as well, and for the president to make it about himself, and this feud with the media I think says a lot about his campaign.

It says a lot also about his supporters, right? I mean this is something that is ginning up his supporters. He had the leader of his campaign tweet this out, this announcement about these pens that are available for the low, low price of -- I think $15 for five pens.

You know, this is what it's about. It's about this fight with the media. It's about angering the press, that's what the campaign manager said. That this you know ticks off the press, which it really doesn't.

I think it really shines a light on the president. He looks really small. He looks really petty. He looks like he's got a lot of time on his hands to do things that really don't matter. I think put him in a bad light, make him look untrustworthy. Here he is somebody who said something inaccurate and wanted to double down on it. And really, I think, so many people around him to really back up his fake story.

BLITZER: You know, Susan, the president's plan to divert money from the military to his border wall is raising alarm among even Republicans including the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell home state of Kentucky would lose funding for a middle school at Fort Campbell. Give us your analysis of the impact of these canceled military projects, billions of dollars that were supposed to go for military purposes, now going to build this wall.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ATTORNEY: We see in again and again, Mexico is not paying for this wall. The American taxpayer is paying for this wall because the president wasn't able to convince Congress not even whenever Republicans controlled both Houses, to actually fund this wall. What he's doing is raiding the Pentagon's budget.

So, today, there's a reporting that there's 127 projects that there's going to be deferred or canceled funding in order to fund this wall. One of those projects, we don't know all of them, but at least one of them is a middle school on a military base in Kentucky, overcrowded middle school, 30 students to a classroom. They were promised a new school for those military kids. Instead this is going -- this money is going to be taken from those children in order to fund this vanity project, this obsession of Trump on the wall.

I think it's worth noting, this is an administration that went all in on trying to given up the culture war on NFL players kneeling saying that they were so offended on behalf of the troops, that these people would dishonor the U.S. troops.

Now we have an opportunity to actually honor the troops and service members of the United States military by educating their children and supporting their families, keeping promises to fund projects related to their safety and well-being in the functioning of the U.S. military, this administration is all too happy to grab that money in order to fund a wall that experts, bipartisan experts again and again say is not effective at controlling border issues.

BLITZER: You know, Mark Mazzetti, these military projects that are about to be eliminated are spread across the United States, but also they include projects in Japan and Germany and other countries. Is this decision by the president going to have an effect on American alliances?

[17:30:00]

MARK MAZZETTI, WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It certainly could, both in the short-term and in the long- term. As you said, it's Germany, Japan, countries in eastern Europe, the United Kingdom. Large and small projects where, in the immediate term, there might be a feeling that, you know, the United States is not as reliable of an ally as it once was.

And some of the projects are actually, you know, potentially quite significant in those countries. For instance, there's a special operations project in Estonia that apparently is going to lose funding, and this is directly impacting the readiness of Estonian special forces as they train for their fear of Russian aggression. So this is -- these are frontline countries that are affected by this. And again, this has -- this has a potential impact over the long-term in the question of the reliability of the United States.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There's a lot more news coming up right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:35:52]

BLITZER: We're back with our political and national security experts.

Mark Mazzetti, you have a really important fascinating new article in the "New York Times," called "The Secret Push" -- "The Secret History of the Push to Strike Iran." Tell us more about what you learned.

MAZZETTI: We decided to sort of try to better understand the current crisis of Iran by investigating what's happened really over the last decade and this push by both American and Israeli officials to launch a military strike on Iran, and this is the -- really, the whole backstory on how to understand what is going on in the brinksmanship right now between the U.S., Iran, and Israel.

And we found that the Israelis became -- came far closer to striking Iran in 2012 than we knew before. We kind of revealed the scope of the pressure campaign that Netanyahu put on Trump to get out of the Iran nuclear deal. And it leads up to this point now where it's a volatile moment, where there's a poker game going on with all sides. And it could escalate when all of the sides don't have real knowledge of what the others' intentions are, and that's why it's so dangerous.

BLITZER: It's really, really an eye-opening article. Very lengthy. I recommend our viewers read it in depth.

Meanwhile, Susan, CNN has learned that the relationship between the President's national security adviser, John Bolton, and the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has hit a new low. What kind of effect is that going to have on the President's national security team?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so it really is astonishing. This reporting says that, essentially, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are barely even speaking outside of sort of formal meetings. You know, we've seen this from this administration, sort of there's this constant sense of palace intrigue of people who are in and people who are on the outs. Now, that leaves the question of, who is setting this policy? Who has the President's ear on the sort of really, really important issues?

For example, the administration is engaged in serious talks about withdrawal from Afghanistan, peace talks with the Taliban. Mike Pompeo and John Bolton have very, very different views. It's hard to understand who is actually getting the President's ear, who is setting U.S. policy. And also, it sort of creates this void and this opportunity for the President to come in and sort of -- and make these decisions and govern by whim and impulse.

And so, we're back in a position which we maybe have really important foreign policy and national security decisions being based on who the President spoke to last or, frankly, what television segment the President might have watched last. That is not a stable situation for allies or for adversaries, and so it really is a concerning development to see these relationships deteriorate to this extent.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, and you know this, the President has indicated he actually likes it when members of his team are at odds with one another. Do you think he's stoking this rift in some way?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think he has to stoke it very much, to tell you the truth. Look, this is a president who does thrive on chaos. And by the way, Wolf, you and I have covered administrations -- we all have -- where there has been friction between the national security team and the team at the State Department. That is not -- that is not new.

What is new here is the extent to which these people go out of their way now to avoid each other and the extent to which the President, for example, disagrees with his own national security adviser who -- who is an interventionist and here, you have a president who's an isolationist. You want to talk about Afghanistan, et cetera, talk about Syria, and so you have -- and Iran, you have a president who disagrees with Bolton. If Bolton leaves or is fired or resigns, whatever, it will be because

Donald Trump says, you know what, I don't like the fact that you disagree with me and I'm making the decisions here. And also, Pompeo has really mastered the art of dealing with Donald Trump, and I think that Bolton is more in your face than Pompeo is. And of course, you know, we still don't know whether Pompeo is actually going to leave the administration at some point to run for the Senate, remember, in --

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: -- in the state of Kansas.

BLITZER: There's a lot of questions there.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: You know, Nia, how do you see it?

[17:39:50]

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. And we'll have to see how long Bolton remains in this administration. There have been so many officials throughout this presidency where they seem to be sort of on their last days, but that could last for months and months and months. So we'll see what happens with Bolton, who is clearly on the outs with Pompeo and, as Gloria said, at odds with how the President sees the world and how he sees America's place in the world.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's more news, including alarming new evidence emerging right now about the gun seller who was the source of the assault-style weapon used in that mass shooting in Texas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:44:59]

BLITZER: Tonight, there's an important new development in the investigation of last weekend's mass shooting in Texas. The assault- style rifle the gunman used to kill seven people and wound 25 may have been assembled from parts bought separately.

Let's bring in our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez. Evan, what are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a common trade in the gun business, for people to buy what's known as lower receivers and other accessories and essentially assemble a fully -- a fully assembled AR-15-style rifle, and that's what investigators believe happened here. They believe this -- the alleged seller of this firearm that was used in the Odessa-Midland shootings, that that's what he was doing. He was manufacturing these things in his home. And so earlier this week, there was a search that was done, and the --

and the authorities in -- found evidence that they believe indicates that he was doing this as part of a business. Now, what this does is it means that they can possibly bring charges against him for acting as an unlicensed manufacturer, an unlicensed gun dealer, and so that's what investigators are focusing on right now.

BLITZER: Very, very serious development indeed. All right, Evan, thank you.

Coming up, there's more news we're following including an airline mechanic goes to court, accused of sabotaging a jet that nearly took off with 150 people aboard.

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BLITZER: An American Airlines mechanic, tonight, is accused of sabotaging the navigation system of a plane loaded with passengers. Our Brian Todd is over at Reagan National Airport outside of Washington for us. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have new information tonight on what the mechanic is being charged with and a possible motive and new questions being raised over whether this mechanic could have had the single-handed ability to bring down that plane.

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TODD (voice-over): The American Airlines jet was rolling down the runway in Miami with 150 people on board. Takeoff was in seconds when the pilots suddenly aborted it. Investigators say the pilots had noticed an error in part of the navigation system which gives them a read on the plane's speed, pitch, and other critical data. What they didn't know at that moment was that their plane had allegedly been sabotaged by a mechanic.

JUSTIN GREEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: This is a rare occurrence. And it is a breach of trust on behalf of this mechanic, and I think he disgraced himself.

TODD (voice-over): Today, American Airlines mechanic Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani appeared in court in a prison jumpsuit. Alani's charged with trying to sabotage the flight. Prosecutors say Alani admitted that, before takeoff, he accessed the plane's navigation system through part of a tube which connects to it in an attempt to disable it.

PETER GOETZ, FORMER MANAGING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: The mechanic is accused of stuffing foam and gluing it into the tube that connects to a computer, and it obstructed it so you couldn't get an accurate airspeed.

TODD (voice-over): Prosecutors say Alani was caught on surveillance footage. Investigators say he claimed he had no intent to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers, but experts say that's exactly what could have happened.

GOETZ: Under worse circumstances, the pilots could have become confused, could have become distracted, and it could have caused a crash.

TODD (voice-over): And prosecutors say it was all about money. According to court documents, Alani told investigators he was upset over a contract dispute between the mechanics' union and the airlines. He allegedly claimed the dispute had cost him money.

According to the criminal complaint, quote, Alani claimed that he tampered with the target aircraft in order to cause a delay or have the flight canceled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work. A key question tonight -- are mechanics like Alani monitored well enough to make sure they are emotionally stable?

GREEN: There is no real ongoing examination of what's going on in their life. And there's a tension there between, you know, is it anyone's business that a -- if a mechanic got divorced or that he suffered financial harm in his life and whether that mechanic should be, you know, at work.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Tonight, American Airlines has issued a statement saying the allegations against the mechanic are, quote, disturbing and disappointing to all of us, that the airline has trust in its safety procedures, and is cooperating with authorities. The mechanics' union, in a statement, says it condemns any conduct that jeopardizes the safety of an aircraft.

This mechanic is, tonight, under suspension. He has not entered a plea in connection to the late July incident -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Very disturbing development indeed. Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Coming up, breaking news. As survivors in the Bahamas report bodies everywhere, officials warn to expect what they describe as unimaginable information about the death toll.

[17:54:39]

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[17:59:30]

BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Unimaginable loss. Officials in the Bahamas say hundreds, possibly thousands, of people are still missing in the wake of Hurricane Dorian and warn that the death toll could be staggering.

Sabotage. An American Airlines mechanic accused of trying to impair a plane with 150 on board. Tonight, new details of what he allegedly did and why. Penned in. President Trump obsessed with his incorrect warning about

Hurricane Dorian's threat to Alabama, defending it for a sixth straight day. As the storm moves on, why won't he?

And new investigation. House Democrats focus on Vice President Pence's stay --

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