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tv   MSNBC Live With Velshi and Ruhle  MSNBC  September 5, 2019 10:00am-11:00am PDT

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when you and i spoke a few hours ago you were dealing with the triple threat, the rain, the winds, and you were worried about a storm surge. what's changed in the last few hours? >> reporter: let me show you what we've got. we have all those three things happening right now. this is actually our high tide. we're probably about a little less than an hour to the highest of the tide so you see that this surf has come up quite a bit on to, you know, this pier we're on is stone so it is very secure. that pier over there is wood. take a look at the waves right underneath that pier. we are just about getting to the highest of this right now. this is a storm surge that's coming in from the northeast into charleston bay. this is all charleston bay. those people familiar with charleston know there is a great bridge over there. if you look straight over there it's for t it's fort sumter. that is the storm. it is right off the coast right now. we're right next to the storm so this is about the height of our winds and our storm. charleston has mostly flooded
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downtown. about 500,000 people in this low lying area most of whom have evacuated. as you know, stephanie, this area down here has been saturated for a long time so there is a real concern as you said, a triple threat. we got storm surge. we got rain. we've got inland flooding, fresh water flooding. all that is affecting this area right now, steph. >> all right. ali, please stay safe where you are. back here in new york the one and only al roker is standing by. al, over the last two days you have been saying to us, this storm is unpredictable. that is exactly what we're getting. this time yesterday we were down to a category 2. we're back up to a 3. >> now we're back down to a 2. actually what was interesting, at 12:00 noon the national hurricane center put out an erroneous update saying it was a category 3 and then they sent out a correction, immediately corrected it, that it is a 2. so that's what happens. when you make a mistake, you
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correct it. it's a concept. >> al, throwing some shade there. i feel some shade you are throwing. >> no, no. just saying. what? i'm just saying. >> okay. all right. when you make a mistake you correct it. they corrected it. we're back to a 2. >> we're humans. we make mistakes. we correct them. >> all right. tell us a bit more. >> now, let's take a look. one of the things ali was talk k about, the rain, the storm surge, the wind. we also have to worry when we see these systems especially when they're this close to shore we have to worry about tornadoes. we have a tornado watch right now stretching along the coast of south carolina, north carolina, all the way from cape hatteras, kingston, fayetteville, wilmington, myrtle beach. and we do have a tornado warning right now between fayetteville and probably will see more. this line here coming in is probably going to be generating some more tornadoes. you can see the wind speeds, talking tropical force winds from charleston all the way to cape hatteras and so they're
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just going to be increasing as the system pushes through. now, category 2 storm. 55 miles east of charleston. 110-mile-per-hour winds. the motion is moving to the north-northeast at 8 miles per hour. we have hurricane warnings up but we also have an enhanced risk for severe weather. on top of everything else, a tornado threat, quick, they spin up quickly. they're short lived. they are also rain wrapped so they're hard to see. and they're generally weak but still can do damage. here are the warnings now from this georgia/south carolina border. we have hurricane warnings all the way to the north carolina/virginia border. to the north of that we have tropical storm warnings, to ocean city, maryland. and we actually have tornado watches, i should say severe thunderstorm watches and tropical storm watches up as you get into new england. here's myrtle beach today. 55 to 85-mile-per-hour winds, 5 to 8-foot storm surge. 10 to 15 inches of rain.
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wilmington tonight and friday, the next big problem. 60 to 95-mile-per-hour winds. storm surge 4 to 7 feet. rainfall 8 to 12 inches. what i was trying to say inarticulately as we move this forward, when we get into friday night into saturday, we've got some effects late friday, saturday, long island, cape cod, 35 to 55-mile-per-hour winds. periods of heavy rain and minor coastal flooding and also have to worry about power outages. 5 million people at risk for power outages from savannah all the way up into norfolk, virginia. >> a whole lot of people. al roker, thank you so much. ali velshi, let's head back to you in charleston, south carolina. >> reporter: yeah, we're -- power outages are a good point here. we just heard reports of some wires down in charleston. some fires and sparks as a result of that. no major fire going on. i am over on charleston harbor right now. kathy park is on the other side
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of the town from where i am. kathy, what is the situation where you are? >> reporter: ali, i am here in downtown charleston. as you mentioned, this area is already very prone to flooding even when there is rain in the forecast but when you have the storm surge, constant rainfall, as well as high tide, this is what you're looking at. this is flash flooding here on president's street and we're still seeing these intense wind gusts as well as the heavy downpours. fortunately we're not seeing too many folks driving through here. however, we have seen a car or two getting stuck as they tried to drive through about a foot of water where we are standing right now. i want to point out something to you. this is a restaurant behind me. this is the scene that's kind of playing out through downtown charleston. folks started boarding up, putting sand bags in front of the restaurant several days ago, preparing, waiting for the
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impact of dorian. it's finally here. we were driving around with an emergency response team and, fortunately, they are saying conditions actually are a little bit better than they saw in hurricane irma. ali? >> i think we lost ali, so i will take it back here in new york. there you have ali velshi and kathy park both in charleston, south carolina. while ali is out there in the harbor, right there in downtown when you think about that flooding, we have right now the charleston mayor on the phone with me. mayor, south carolina simply cannot with stand the mass amounts of flooding that could come from this storm. i know we are already seeing parts of your city under water. how are you going to handle all this? >> well, as was mentioned, we've been preparing for this for some days and the governor had an evacuation order about a quarter
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or a third of our population evacuated, maybe a little more than that, and the rest have learned how to hunker down and get prepared for a storm. so we are the low country. i wouldn't say we're not dealing with this. it is a number one issue for our city. that's clear. but we've certainly learned over the last four years how to prepare and respond to hurricane and water. it was mentioned, comparing this to irma, we've got more wind than we had with irma, but, frankly, we don't have quite as much flooding so it's -- i was real pleased when i got the latest high tide report that it's only going to be 6.8 -- 6.2-foot tide, which was a couple feet less than what they were predicting earlier today. once these winds die down we'll be able to get out there and clean up and recover in short
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order. >> then given what charleston has experienced over the last four years, are these kind of storms your new normal? >> well, we've had a storm every year for four years in a row. so it is extreme weather that i think our planet is experiencing. we're on the front line here in a coastal city between extreme weather and sea level rise, which is gradually occurring. >> how concerned are you about the safety of those who in your words chose to hunker down and stay? do you think that emergency vehicles can get to them if they need help? >> well, we've been able to make responses, luckily, other than that maybe individual car or two trying to get by, folks have really heeded our warnings and stayed inside.
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charleston was like a ghost town last night, and remains -- the streets are almost completely clear of pedestrians and automobiles, so we're asking everyone to remain inside, be patient for another few hours until the storm passes, and then we're all going to get out and help one another and get cleaned up and our resiliency level is really grown in the last four years. i must tell you. >> well, certainly has. may mayor, please be safe and we send our best wishes to the people of the city of charleston, south carolina. >> god bless you. thank you so much. >> and to you. back to ali. >> yeah, that was a big deal what the mayor said, that the high tide is going to be about 2 feet lower than expected. we thought it could be a maximum of 8 feet. we're looking about 6.2 feet. that will make all the difference in the world, steph. we're on a pier. we take safety pretty seriously. looks like a stupid thing to do to stand out in a storm.
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you see the gusts all of a sudden come in. i could be standing straight and all of a sudden we have this big gust. we're on a stone pier. this pier is not going anywhere. the only danger we've got right in this spot that we are are two things. the water over topping this pier, which is not going to happen now as you heard the mayor say. earlier it looked quite possible that we would within the couple hours see this water over topping the pier. we're not seeing that. look over by the wooden piers not stone obviously. they're a little more vulnerable. you can see how close the water is to the bottom of that. as i say, out that way, this is all charleston harbor, out that way is fort sumter and the ocean. we are getting gusts but not getting the -- that 2 feet is all the difference in the world as far as keeping the place safe. we think this storm might make landfall up north of us in wilmington or morehead city near cape hatteras. the other side going down that way is where i spent hurricane florence last year on myrtle beach and that's where we'll find simone boyce. what are the conditions like
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where you are? >> reporter: ali, the rain is still coming down, the pretty fierce wind gusts. as you can see, this water rising up behind me because we are currently in high tide right now. i know that is something we've been talking about a lot but it is of concern because it just means that this wall of water can be pushed even further into the city and we're already seeing some instances of flooding in residential areas and shopping centers here in myrtle beach. ali, i started out covering hurricane dorian in south florida, in west palm beach. then we moved up north near orlando, daytona beach, and i can tell you that the damage we're seeing here in myrtle beach, south carolina, and all along the carolinas is far worse than anything i laid my eyes on in florida. just as an example, tornado warnings. we woke up to some of those this morning around 4:00 this morning and then later on we found out that there were possible tornadoes that actually touched down in this area. we heard reports of people in an apartment complex where the roof
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was ripped off and they were evacuated by first responders. we're seeing reports of massive trees being overturned as a result of these tornadoes. so that is something that we're going to be keeping an eye on for the rest of the day today because those tornado watches are still in effect here in myrtle beach, south carolina. and as you can see this water is right above my ankles right now and on parts of the beach here, ali, it is reaching the dunes so storm surge, you know, water and storm surge causes about half of all fatalities in these tropical storm events. >> simone, you pointed out one of the dangers a lot of people don't think about. two things people forget about in hurricanes. downed wires into the water and tornadoes. tornadoes in a hurricane. and your tornado watch or warning came at night in the dark when you can't see something is coming at you. >> reporter: exactly. which is so terrifying. i wake up.
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there is a notification on my phone. 4:00 in the morning. i open the windows in my hotel, look out over the ocean because i read a report that it was out on the water, a water spout. i can't see anything out there. and that is what is so hard about these tornado warnings when they come in the middle of the night. it is terrifying and super stressful for the residents here. >> yeah, for a hundred percent of the time i know right now until we're on the other side of this, i know the wind is coming in this way so my body is braced against wind coming in this way. i'll either stand upright if no wind or brace into it this way. the wind is not coming from that side. the danger with tornadoes in hurricanes is a tornado can show up on any side of you and it can shred everything in sight. much more powerful than a category 2 hurricane, which is what we're experiencing right now. we're getting tropical force winds off of that. let's go to david gura in nags head where your situation is a little more precarious. what is the weather like and what do you expect to happen? >> reporter: we're not getting the rain you're getting and simone is getting but as you
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see, the winds have really picked up. i want to say what stands out the most being here is the emptiness of this place. there is one beach chair sitting there as the wind picks up but by and large the beach is empty and so is the neighborhood. this is the northern part of the outer banks as you know and normally this would be entirely packed with vacationers. yes we're on the back side of the labor day holiday but still the outer banks an incredibly popular place in the off-season. we are here on the northern part of the outer banks. if you think of it kind of like the barrier islands crouching down going to the south highway 12 is the spinal cord that connects all of the islands. i spent the morning driving down the length of that two lane highway. it was eerily empty as well. i was heading south. most people were heading north, ali. you look, most of the shops are boarded up. most of the houses are boarded up as well. people taking this really seriously until you get to the very southern most part of the outer banks, places like avon or
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buxton, get to hatteras at the bottom of the outer banks, there is a piratic history of people who like to live there, literally, and there are people who are never leavers as they describe themselves today. they have weathered storm after storm and plan to do the same thing. as you said, as al roker said, that is where the storm could quite possibly hit, people there hunkering down despite the mandatory evacuation orders in place there in dare county. ali? >> how do you get out of there and when? >> reporter: i'm actually going to try to head back south. i ran into some folks in buxton, who have a place fairly elevated which is rare here. they said they've weathered 20 of these storms. i'll try to hunker down with them. it was eerie when i visited with them this morning. you look down at the sound and the water had begun to recede. they said that is a sure sign we'll get the surge in a few hours' time. the forecast we heard is this could happen midnight or 1:00
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a.m. we'll see what happens and i'll be in touch through the day, ali. >> right. the next cycle of high tide. we are just about to hit this cycle of the high tide here in charleston. it is as al was saying and as the mayor was saying not going to be as bad as predicted. probably because that high tide is going to be a couple feet less than anticipated. still a lot of flooding and danger around here but that is one big blessing for a place that always floods as charleston and the low country of the carolinas do. let's go back to stephanie. >> all right. thank you so much. to my partner, ali velshi and our reporters up and down the coast. now we'll head a bit further south. an intense recovery effort is under way in the bahamas where at least 20 people are confirmed dead from the storm. that number is expected to rise as rescuers get into neighborhoods that have been destroyed. we are live in nassau, next with the desperate search for survivors. you are watching a very special edition of "velshi and ruhle" on msnbc.
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welcome back to "velshi and ruhle." i'm stephanie ruhle. at least 23 people are confirmed dead in the bahamas as the island chain sorts through hurricane dorian's wake. that number could and likely will rise as "the washington post" reports thousands are missing throughout the islands. one facebook group of people looking for loved ones has more than 5,000 names on it as of
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wednesday. as the bahamas searches for survivors and begins to recover, our own mariana atencio spoke with the bahamian minister of health earlier this morning about the aftermath. >> this apocalyptic jeent is our katrina moment. i can only say thank you to every bahamian, all of our health professionals, all of the national security professionals, everybody who has come together to make this recovery happen. >> mariana joins us now from nassau in the bahamas. talk to us about the search. so many people still unaccounted for. any progress in the last few hours? >> reporter: steph, i want to step out of the shot briefly to show you some of these medical evacuees coming in from the most ravaged areas to nassau. it is a 45-minute flight from those areas. over here where they have set up
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ground zero for the relief effort. i did speak to the minister earlier today. i was on the air with you. he did say he didn't want to speculate as to how many people are missing. i've already been here for 48 hours and almost every family that you talk to, families who are waiting for those people to see if perhaps it's going to be one of their loved ones or their family members. almost every one of them tells you my whole neighborhood is without power. i haven't spoken to my mom in about a week. i haven't heard from my friends or my family. and it's not just abaco and grand bahama, steph. the bahamas is comprised of 700 islands and inlets surrounded by waters. there are other areas, treasure cay that we haven't even begun to truly assess. >> what do you hear is needed for rescue and recovery efforts? when you talk about the devastation thousands and thousands of homes wiped out, no
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drinkable water for thousands of people. are they getting the support they need? >> steph, i'm losing you a little bit but i think you asked me about, is there -- has there been any progress? in talking about the supplies that are much needed there. every hour or so one of these big aircrafts departs from here, filled with these much needed supplies especially water, medical supplies, and they come back with these medical evacuees. by the way, they need immediate assistance. the director for the national emergency medical services, they've set up a pre-triage area behind the ambulance there. hopefully our team in new york has the images that we took from what is happening inside. she told me the prior hour they've had to resuscitate people upon reaching nassau, right here, because of the frail conditions they are coming in with. and when i asked about progress, they said, listen. this storm has been just so
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devastating. the scale of which we have never really truly known, that it is hard for us to even talk about progress. steph? >> mariana, thank you so much. joining us from just outside the hospital in nassau. now i want to go to a hero, deshaun smith, on the phone with us, a resident of freeport. he was able to rescue others on a jet ski after the hurricane. thank you for joining us. i know you have a family. how are your wife and children doing? >> my wife and kids are fine. my daughter is a little bit devastated because we've got flooding at home but other than that they're in good health. >> you rescued people with a jet ski. that was not going through the water. it was in water. but where streets used to be. help us understand how that rescue went and how are the continued rescue efforts going? >> well, i went out monday during the storm as well as tuesday. it was challenging because like you say, i was probably doing 50
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miles an hour through streets, not sure whether there was a car or anything under me that could seriously injure me all while battling about 150-mile-per-hour winds. you know, and so i had actually set off to rescue a family member but when i got there i realized there were other people pleading for help so i spent about two and a half hours rescuing people on the monday. >> where did you bring them to? >> i parked my truck about four blocks from where my cousin was located. there was a slight hill there so i actually had two of my guys, because i am a general contractor with spartan builders, i had two of my guys with me and they basically put people in the back of the truck, in the truck, and one of my guys would take them to a shelter and then come back. that was the only place we could kind of off load people we were saving. >> you are a general contractor and you've lived in the bahamas almost all of your life. have you ever seen damage like this? do you think you can rebuild? >> well, i mean, we've seen a
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lot of storms here. i was in houston in college at the time tropical storm allison passed by and i can only compare the flooding to that because i've never seen anything in terms of the water here like i've seen in previous storms. i don't know how to rebuild from here because it is so extensive. as a builder, i know there are so many people without insurance, unfortunately, and i know the costs to rebuild from this type of damage. >> knowing the cost and how long it takes to get supplies needed to a place like the bahamas, how long do you think it will take before those islands are back up and running? do you think people will need to leave permanently? >> i mean, we've faced this before so i think that we're really experienced at recovering from this level of event. i think i would say in terms of years to really recover because right now so many structures were damaged there is not enough
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buildings to really house people. i think people will have to learn to live with restructured living accommodations in terms of more people living together. >> does it surprise you that, still, so many people are unaccounted for? do you think it's just because communication has been cut off? >> no, unfortunately, based on the levels of water that i saw and the people i rescued and the conditions of the house, i think that, unfortunately, we're going to have a very high loss of life because people went into spaces where water levels exceeded, and in some cases buildings were completely destroyed. i have some clients from tampa, florida with a guest house. it was obliterated. walls were taken out. it was completely destroyed. >> so many people didn't evacuate, even though they knew the storm was coming. is that because bahamaians have lived through so many storms before? >> i think that what happened in some areas, we've had flooding but the levels pretty much
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doubled and almost tripled in some areas from previous storms so people felt a sense of comfort because they would have elevated their homes to the water mark but it exceeded that. and when it exceeded that you're talking about the ocean basically consuming buildings so this wasn't wind damage. it was really the ocean that came onshore and pounded waves against structures. >> it is amazing what you are going through. what a hero you've been already. if you have one message for people here, what is it? >> i would say, just, you know, keep the spotlight on this place. i know there's a lot of people that need help. i'm fortunate that i have a lot of resources around me but there are a lot of people here that really don't have the resources to help themselves and you're talking about just the basic necessities. everything was gone, just wiped away. >> desean, thank you so much for joining us and helping us under just how grave the situation is there. d'sean smith, thanks. if you at home would like to help the people of the bahamas
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you can contact the red cross, salvation army, or team rubicon, just a few of the many organizations already providing disaster relief in the bahamas. the websites are on our screen right now. any little bit you can do certainly helps. now let's turn to a live look at wilmington, north carolina. we are tracking dorian. this thing isn't over. it is now battering the carolina coast. this hour, some hours could see up to 15 inches of rain. up next, president trump defending his use of a doctored hurricane map showing alabama in dorian's path. why he did that and why it's actually a real problem. you're watching "velshi and ruhle." ♪ i planned ♪ each charted course ♪ each careful step ♪ along the byway ♪ much more ♪ much more than this ♪ i did it my way
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all right. welcome back to "velshi and ruhle." i'm ali velshi in charleston, south carolina on charleston harbor. this is charleston harbor. it's part of the problem here with the flooding is there is nowhere for this water to go. if you look straight ahead, not sure if you can see it, i'll ask my cameraman to take a look. that should be fort sumter over there beyond which lies the hurricane. if you know this area you know there is a bridge and that goes over to mount pleasant. i want to talk to amanda knight right now the emergency manager
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for mount pleasant. thanks for joining me. what is the situation where you are? >> hi, ali. it's good to see you. welcome to charleston. i wish it was under better circumstances you were visiting. as of right now, we are continuing to see high winds and paying attention to areas of flooding. we're seeing some of the high winds turn trees down and with regard to that also have downed power lines. so a loss of electricity and at this point in time we still have our crews out and getting calls for service including our public services, police, and fire. >> reporter: we saw a little while ago an urban search and rescue team out here sort of positioning, staging, ready to go. we know that you have got water rescue teams around and available. you've got high water vehicles
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around and available. at what point -- i would assume at this point i still see vehicles around. are there responses under way right now or waiting for this to pass? >> so, really we're waiting for this to pass. we haven't received any calls for requests for rescue in mount pleasant and we're very thankful for that. of course we do have our high water rescue vehicles staged throughout our municipality ready to respond to any of the needs of our citizens. so far we haven't had any requests for it. and we hope that continues to be the case. >> we were just speaking to the mayor of charleston, who was happy that this high tide is not going to be -- might be two feet lower than what the highest estimate was going to be, just looking out here into the harbor. it's choppy. the high tide is in and we've got that wind pushing in onshore. but it looks like it's not going
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to be as bad as it was going to be. however, this is low lying country that is saturated, hard to drain. what is the situation where you are and what do you expect to happen given what you now know about the tide and the storm surge? >> that's right. so what we've been anticipating is we've been paying attention to the storm surge models quite a bit and we've been anticipating higher storm surge. thankfully, it starts to go out in addition to the storm passing by and giving us that flow, really hoping our conditions will improve. that being said we certainly are -- saturated ground, attributing quite a bit to the falling trees and the power outages are associated with that. >> reporter: amanda, stay safe. thanks for checking in with us. we'll keep checking with you. amanda knight the emergency manager for mount pleasant just
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across the harbor. back to you. >> thanks so much, ali. heavy rain and strong winds from hurricane dorian are lashing the carolinas. president trump is busy tweeting, doubling, tripling down on unsub ststantiated clai he made alabama was in the path of hurricane dorian. it comes one day after the president showed an apparently doctored map of the storm's path to reporters that had been modified to include the state of alabama. it is not clear who the person was that actually doctored the map but it appears to have been altered in a black sharpy marker. the president was asked about his statements in the forecast and here's what he said. >> the original path that most people thought it was going to be taking as you know was right through florida where, on the right would have been georgia, alabama, etcetera. >> and the map that you showed today looked like it almost had a sharpy -- >> i don't know. i don't know. i don't know. >> joining me now is "the washington post" opinion writer and msnbc contributor jennifer
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ruben. this storm has devastated the bahamas. it's making its way up the coast. we just showed my partner ali velshi where the people of charleston, south carolina are bracing for a massive storm. why is it that the president continues to tweet and double and triple down on this whole alabama thing? >> it's because he is so frail of ego these days and so over his head that he cannot tolerate even minimal criticism. even when it's so blatant, so irreversible. he can't stand to be in the wrong. and so he goes to these elaborate hoops to make it seem he was right all along. of course had he done nothing this would have passed days ago. but he keeps going back to it in this rather psychotic fashion frankly trying to convince us that white is black, black is white, up is down, down is up. this is where he is. i think emotionally and mentally. it's disturbing on a bunch of
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levels. first of all, gosh. the reporting that's being done out of these areas is much more responsible and informative than the president of the united states who presumably has the best information around. he is not helping. he is harming rescue efforts. people are learning to disregard what he says and, god forbid they should start disregarding people who really know what they're talking about. but it does speak to something larger, which is he does seem to be losing his grip on reality whether it's this, whether it's china paying for the tariffs, which they don't pay for, whether it's a zillion other things, he is just disconnected from reality. and i think it has gotten worse. people say oh, he's always been this way. perhaps he was just a better liar before. but i think this is really an increase in the speed, the ferocity by which he tries to correct errors that are not correctible. >> where are the president's advisers on this? this isn't just about the president's ego or reputation. this is a deadly storm.
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a massively expensive one. where local government officials in all of these states and cities have to answer to their constituents who may be listening to the president of the united states, which is a normal thing to do. >> yeah, you know, you raise two good points. one is that it does get in the way of actual rescue efforts, preparations, people saying, well, he was wrong about alabama and maybe no one knows what they're talking about and they don't follow evacuation orders. but the other is, where are the advisers? where are the people to intervene? and the answer is there are no such people anymore. every adult in the room has been jettisoned, every person who is willing to stand up to him or to throw himself in between trump and some abomb ination has been fired or forced out so he is left with the worst lackeys, most incompetent people, and there is nothing to shield him from himself essentially. so we see undiluted donald
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trump. this is him. >> this is him. jennifer rubin, thank you so much. i appreciate you joining me today. right now on your screen a live look at charleston, south carolina as we continue to track dorian as it is moving up the carolina coast. the storm has not even made landfall on the southeast coast of the united states but the effects could leave up to 5 million americans without power. plus, you must see this. an eye opening, important, unprecedented look at the injustices of the criminal justice system. lester holt got the story from inside and he joins us next. you're watching "velshi and ruhle" on msnbc. $9.95 at my age?
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welcome back to "velshi and ruhle." please turn up the volume for this. a new nbc news series justice for all takes a look at our nation's criminal justice system. lester holt recently spent two nights inside the louisiana state penitentiary known as angola, the largest maximum security prison in the united states. he wanted to get an up close and personal look at conditions facing prisoners on the inside. >> it's called mass incarceration and it's a uniquely american crisis. to better understand it, i was transported to the largest maximum security prison in the country as a prisoner would be. at least the first timers, do you think they have any idea what life they're about to go
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into? >> no. they find out it is totally different once they get behind -- angola is totally different. >> angola or the louisiana state penitentiary is a former slave plantation. i spent three days here. on the inside my access was virtually unrestricted and at times i was not in the immediate sight of officers. very few of the roughly 6,000 inmates here live behind bars as we traditionally think of prisons. in fact, most of them, about 80%, live in open dorms like this. bunk beds like you would see in a barracks. >> we're going to go down the tier here. >> for security reasons i won't be staying in a dorm. instead, i'm brought to this cell block reserved for high risk offenders. in my case, a high profile guest. >> so 11. go on in, please. go ahead and close. >> as journalists we know that to get to the heart of something you have to get inside it.
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the closer you are to something, the more is revealed to you. the men on my tier are locked in their cells 23 hours a day. like my neighbor, william curtis, a convicted murderer sentenced to life. he told me he tried to escape. how far did you get? >> not very. >> in 2017, louisiana lawmakers passed bipartisan reforms, which reduced its nonviolent prisoner population. >> louisiana is a poster child for why this country needs to make changes. >> the majority here, however, committed violent crimes. i was a lot different at 17 than i am at 60 but i still knew right from wrong. >> i was 17 years old when i took the life of cornell. >> terrence simon was convicted of second-degree murder at 17 and is now serving a life sentence without parole. >> i don't deserve sympathy. >> you don't deserve sympathy. >> no. i don't deserve a second chance. >> one thing i witnessed over
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and over, the search for hope and validation. >> i just knew i had to do something different than just do time and die in prison. >> reporter: dalton prashon serving 60 years for manslaughter found his hope in a bible college program. everybody stays busy. everybody has a job or occupation. >> oh, yeah. if you want a job you have a job. >> reporter: the prison offers over a dozen vocational programs like auto repair. officials say rehabilitation programs like these and not simply punishment is the answer to making things safer for everyone. >> to give a person a life sentence and just say, look, you're not worthy of rehabilitation, i believe that's where we get it wrong. >> reporter: you're saying if we take hope out of the equation, that's where we get in trouble. >> if you take hope out of the equation there's going to be a lot of trouble. >> without hope we have nothing. lester holt joins us now with more on this fascinating report.
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lester, thank you for doing this. what made you decide to? >> i've done a lot of stories on criminal justice reform and wrongful convictions over the years and one of the producers i work with on this, you know, had talked to some of the "dateline" leadership and how do we up this to something bigger and came up with the idea. it's not the first thing you'd say yes to the idea of being locked up in a maximum security prison but it made sense because it is a story we've told from the outside. it was time to go inside. mass incarceration is very complicated. a lot of people frankly belong there. but there are real questions, you know, can we lower this incarceration rate? why do we lock up more people than any country on earth? is prison supposed to be a place of punishment or is it a place of rehabilitation? and then you add the emotion of people in it. of course there are real victims here, you know, these guys took lives in many cases. we hear in the "dateline" hour from family members who lost
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people and the convicted people are up for parole while we're on our assignment there, so it is a very complicated mix. >> is it hopeful? is there forgiveness in that building? >> there is. that's what i didn't expect. i knew they would all come to me and say, hey, i've changed. you know, but a lot of them i think have. you do -- there are moments there you sit back and go, okay. they just are conning me. but some of these guys, they clearly have no hope in terms of ever getting out, life without parole. but they have found something to hang on to. they've become part of a community whether it's college classes or auto repair or something. they do find a way to find hope. >> was that hopefulness the most revealing thing for you? >> there were so many things revealing. the thing that always kind of in these situations always shakes you up a little bit is when you find commonality. you're in there with these people that you have, largely they're invisible to us. suddenly you're living among them and talking with them and you realize you're discussing an author you both read. >> when i saw you talking to the
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man in the cell next to you, what were you talking about? >> we talked about a lot of things. he would take a towel and kind of do this in front of my cell to get my attention and he had seen a book i had and noted the noted the author. he reads -- he's a veracious reader. we talked about that. he told me the tragedy in his life, how he lost his son. more and more stuff revealed, but what was interesting about him, he has not seen the light of day in four years. he's allowed out into the sunshine one hour a week. he doesn't avail himself to it. you sit there and i left -- as i'm leaving at the end of the assignment, he's laying at the bunk looking up at the ceiling. and i'm just thinking, how do you cope? how is that your life? it really shook me when i walked out of there. i'm going back to my life and this guy is laying on his back staring at the ceiling in a place that he rarely ever lees. >> in perpetuity. did it feel like a community or
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family in any way? >> there are societies within the prison. >> what does that mean? >> for example, one of the guys i made, dalton went to a bible college. he's become a minister. he does this rap ministry there and he's got a lot of guys that are, you know, have joined him and formed another community. i was with some other guys, one of whom has been in about as long as i have been alived, older guys. and they've got their own little dorm area. it doesn't have the bunk beds. it's for older guys. it's very neat. and it's very ka leej yal. maybe people i don't want to hang and and other people i might want to. >> did you feel safe? >> i did. there was one point i went and worked in the fields. >> what does that mean? >> i mentioned it's a former slave plantation and also hard labor. so the prisoners picked the produce. so i went out one day we were picking carrots. that particular group is considered the lowest job in the prison. >> why? >> i don't know.
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that's what the guys told me. but for a lot of them are harder guys, i'll put it that way. i was a little more on my guard there. in fact, that was the only place that i realized they had placed a guard within feet of me. generally i had free reign. there were times i didn't see guards out there. there were guards on horse back with guns. and then again there was one that was hovering over the top of me. >> lester, what a life experience. thank you for giving us this inside look. >> as we were talking off camera, there's so much. i really encourage people to watch the dateline hour tomorrow. you'll see more of what we discovered in there and why this is so complicated. >> and so important. lester, thank you. you can see more from inside on that one special hour "dateline" tomorrow evening at 10:00 p.m. eastern. you don't want to miss it. lester, also will be moderating a town hall from inside a maximum security prison on msnbc sunday night at 10:00 p.m. eastern featuring john legend, loretta lynch, brian stevenson
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and more. now, a live look at cape fear, north carolina, as we continue to track dorian as it batters the carolina coasts. residents not only dealing with drenches rains but also the threat now or tornadoes. we'll go back to my partner ali velshi in charleston, south carolina next. you're watching a special edition of "live with velshi and ruhle" right here on msnbc. unpredictable crohn's symptoms following you?
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welcome back to "live with velshi and ruhle." i want to bring back my partner ali velshi live in charleston, south carolina. over the last 57 minutes it looks like it's getting windier. tell me what the next few hours will look like for you. >> strangely we can see a little more sun but the winds have picked up. we're minutes away from high tide. take a look at that. you can see the surf here. it's not going to overtop this pier that we're on. we're on a very secure pier. it's stone. but take a look, that's what it looks like. here is the good news, stephanie, this tide at high tide with this push-in was going to be at 8 feet. looks like it's 6.2 feet. you spoke to the mayor of
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charleston a half hour ago. charleston is still flooding but will flood a little less. we do have reports from charleston in the city. i'm around the edge of it obviously by the harbor, but in the city, we do have a good deal of flooding. we have a number of wires down. we have live wires in the water. that always becomes a concern for those in the hurricane, walk around, drive around, you get stuck in very little water. there's more than a little water in charleston and we do have live wires down. we're starting to see power outages, things like that. winds are not calm enough for most rescues to be under way right now. this is charleston, an urban area. this is a central part of a much broader suburb and rural area half a million people live. we just got a break, stephanie. there's no wind at all right now and very little rain. then it will come through in a gust probably within the minute. but this is an area that is saturated and with all this water, it's not as bad as we expected it would be, but
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there's still not a lot of place for it to go and this storm continues and gets closer to land as it pushes further north from where we are. i want to just check with our control room, steph, am i going back to you? >> yeah. i got another question for you, though. you said there's no wind right now but the gusts blow every few minutes. it's too dangerous for rescues. is the wind so strong that it could actually do structural damage? >> well, i do have reports actually from charleston that there is some structural damage here. most of it is trees and fences, but we do have some reports of a building where there's been some structural damage. at moments it kind of depends on the sustained winds. what we saw in the bahamas is that their houses are built for category 4 storms that can get a category 5 for a short time but they had it for 48 hours or 51 hours or something and buildings give in. so depends on the amount of stress on a given building here. we do have some initial reports
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of some structural damage in charleston. >> stay safe. please take a break. it will be a long night of reporting. thank you for watching this hour of "live with velshi and ruhle." i'm stephanie ruhle. i'll see you back here at 9:00 a.m. right now chris jansing picks up our coverage. >> do you feel guilty we're being pampered by hair and makeup. >> thank you so much, steph. hello i'm chris jansing in for katy tur. 2:00 p.m. in the carolinas. where this hour, hurricane dorian continues its onslaught of the atlantic coastline. right now battering its way north ward along the south carolina coast. dorian has moved within 70 miles of charleston, carrying with it 110 mile-per-hour winds and the real threat of a deadly eight foot storm surge. massive amounts of rainfall combined with overflowing seas are already flooding the historic streets of charleston. dorian expected to continue toward north carolina where

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