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Hurricane Dorian Missing Puerto Rico Could Intensify As Category 3; FEMA Relief Funds Moved To Immigration Enforcement; Trump Slamming Fox News; Mattis Says U.S. Is Dividing Into 'Hostile Tribes.' Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired August 28, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I am Don Lemon. We're going to answer four big questions in the hour ahead for you. We're going to begin with the breaking news. How powerful is Hurricane Dorian tonight and who is now in the storm's path? We're going to have the latest forecast in just a moment.
And with Dorian threatening Florida and the Southeast Coast, why is the Trump administration diverting more than $150 million from FEMA's disaster relief funds and where are they putting that money?
Also ahead in this broadcast, why is President Trump attacking Fox News and tweeting that the network, "isn't working for us anymore?" Tonight, we'll see why Fox is -- why Fox's coverage, I should say, is angering him.
Plus, why is the former defense secretary James Mattis, who resigned in December over the president's policy moves, publicly expressing concerns about the state of America's strategic alliances around the world and the state of our democracy?
We're going to get to all of that in a moment, but we're going to begin with the new forecast out for Hurricane Dorian and it is getting stronger. Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam is at the CNN Weather Center for us with the very latest forecast that just came out. What do you know about the storm's path and strength?
DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Don, I'm going to be honest with you, honest with the viewer, it is difficult to envision a Labor Day weekend without some sort of significant impacts along the southeast coast of continental United States from Hurricane Dorian, which is strengthening as is indicative in the latest 11:00 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center.
Sustained winds, 85 miles per hour. It is moving away from Puerto Rico as we speak. Very quickly as well, at a northwesterly pace about 13 miles per hour, leaving the British Virgin Islands, and nothing between here and the southeast coast of the U.S., specifically Florida between it.
So there is no land interaction to help slow the storm or help disorganize this storm. So all it has is warm ocean waters to help fuel the storm. Look at the projected path. This is the latest information from the National Hurricane Center.
Still a Category 1 by tomorrow morning, but look how that ramps up on Thursday evening to a Category 2, to a Category 3, and really all of our computer models indicating that the potential exists for this storm to become even stronger and larger as it approaches the Florida peninsula as we head into Sunday evening and into the day on Monday.
This is not what you want to see on a radar four days out from impacting the southeast U.S., a very symmetrical eye wall just north of Puerto Rico.
LEMON: Wow. And nothing but water between the storm now and before it gets to the coast. I've got to ask you, Derek, this storm, Dorian's path has shifted significantly over the past day. Why is it so erratic? Why the shift?
VAN DAM: Oh, there have been so many factors at play here. If you recall, just 24 hours ago we expected this to be not such a significant storm system and that was all because of a lot of dry air in place. There is an upper level high pressure system that is going to help drive this storm a little further to the west.
And, unfortunately, well, fortunately for Puerto Rico, it was spared a direct hit but that was because of a low pressure system just to the west. It just helped push it a little bit further away from the country. But, unfortunately, that spells bad news for Florida peninsula as we head into the weekend. All computer models picking up on a major hurricane impacting us by Labor Day.
LEMON: Derek, you're going to be very busy. Thank you. We appreciate your time. If we need to get back to you in this broadcast, we will. Derek Van Dam, our meteorologist.
Joining me now on the phone is NOAA hurricane hunter Jack Parrish. He's on board a plane that has been flying through the hurricane. Jack, I know it's very noisy, the connection may go in and out, but we will try to get some information from you. You're in the midst of this storm right now, passing right through it. What are you seeing?
JACK PARRISH, FLIGHT DIRECTOR, NOAA HURRICAN HUNTERS: Yes, we are actually -- we left the storm about 2 1/2 hours ago. We're coming across Florida returning to our home base. We saw a pretty darn healthy Category 1 storm. Made three passes through it. The strongest sides were the eastern side and that beautiful radar picture, as you indicated from the Puerto Rico radar.
LEMON: So, listen, you know, you heard I'm sure the broadcast here. You heard Derek. You heard me. Could this storm -- could Dorian intensify? You said it's a Category 1 now. Could it intensify to a major Category 3 as it approaches the U.S. east coast and how is this storm going to change as it moves over the open waters?
PARRISH: Well, it has -- it's over the open water. It did not go over Puerto Rico proper. That would have disrupted its structure. So, again, it's got kind of an open running feel now over that warm water. So, it's just really a matter of whether the inner core wants to intensify. All signs look like that's happening at the moment
[23:04:58] And we're going to keep -- NOAA's going to keep sending airplanes out every 12 hours to go through the center and mark the progress of how this storm is -- what it's doing as far as intensification and whether it makes that turn toward the Florida coast.
LEMON: Yes. So, listen, you've been -- you've done this before. You've flown over hurricanes. If you look at Dorian and you at the eye and how it's intensifying, the open water, how -- what kind of damage if it continues along the path that it's -- it's on now, what kind of damage could folks expect down in Florida?
PARRISH: You know, the path four days down the road, you know, the average air in there is something like 150 miles. So, it's very hard to pinpoint where the worst damage could occur in roughly four days. It certainly -- the populated east coast of Florida is hard for it to hit a place that doesn't have a lot of buildings and doesn't have a lot of people.
So, everybody just has to keep paying attention to that, those hurricane center updates and reports from the aircraft. We just saw an entirely different storm today than yesterday. Yesterday it was a mess. It was very difficult to make any structure at all out on the radar. Today it definitely looked like a hurricane.
LEMON: Jack Parrish, our hurricane hunter. Thank you very much, sir. Be safe. We'll check back in with you. I want to get to San Juan and Captain Eric King of the U.S. Coast Guard. He oversees both San Juan and the U.S. Virgin Islands. So glad to have you, captain. Dorian barreled right into the U.S. Virgin Islands. What are you hearing about the conditions there?
ERIC KING, COMMANDER, U.S. COAST GUARD SECTOR SAN JUAN (via telephone): Yes, thanks for having me on. The -- fortunately, I think, you know, comparatively for the most recently we compare ourselves to Irma and Maria, and certainly we're spared a blow from that.
But our preparations for -- with -- for the storm didn't really change. We were still ready to take the impact on and we're set to go tomorrow to try to re-open the ports and waterways over there.
LEMON: You're in San Juan now, correct?
KING: Yes, sir.
LEMON: What are you seeing?
KING: We were fortunately spared, as you saw the track of the storm. It really -- minimal impacts here in the San Juan metro area. Certainly, there are impacts to the east of Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra and then over into St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix as well.
LEMON: How did the U.S. Coast Guard go about preparing for Dorian? KING: So, here in San Juan we have seven fast response cutters and
another coastal patrol boat. We sent (ph) them down ahead of time to Curacao to stage up to respond back to Dorian to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
In addition, the Coast Guard brought aircraft down from Florida to set up for stage -- for urgent search and rescue for after the storm. And then as we roll into this afternoon and tomorrow morning, we'll send our teams out to do waterways and ports assessments to ensure we can get maritime commerce back in operational here in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
LEMON: Captain Eric King of the U.S. Coast Guard. Thank you no your time sir. We really appreciate it.
KING: Yes, sir. Have a good night.
LEMON: Hurricane Dorian really bringing dangerous winds, heavy rain to the Virgin Islands today and joining me now on the phone is Anne Bequette in St. John.
Anne, we're so glad to have you on. The storm hit St. John hard. How are you doing? What has it been like riding the storm out?
ANNE BEQUETTE, RESIDENT OF ST. JOHN: Hey, thanks for having me on. First off, I'm just glad that it's over, but it was a lot stronger than anyone really had anticipated for here. It was forecasted to be just a tropical storm, you know, hitting far south of us with maybe 35 mile an hour winds.
But it quickly intensified and grew to -- we had 82 mile an hour winds sustained for a little bit there with gusts of 111 mile an hour, you know, winds. And it was just intense, you know. Nobody really expected that and still a little rattled and frazzled and dealing with my flooded apartment at the moment.
BEQUETTE: But hanging in there.
BEQUETTE: Glad it's gone.
LEMON: Have you been able to venture out?
BEQUETTE: No, we're still under an island-wide curfew. It's been extended until 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. So, I haven't left the house. We are currently without power right now and it's an island-wide blackout. I'm standing on my balcony. I can still hear -- I guess it's a hurricane siren. It's been on all day. And I don't really see much light except for St. Thomas.
LEMON: You've lived in St. John for, what, 15 years now. You were there for Irma, Hurricane Irma. How would you compare the two storms so far? BEQUETTE: Oh, gosh, Irma is -- you can't compare anything to her. She
was absolutely terrifying and devastating, to say the least, but this storm while not as powerful was still, you know, it just goes to show you that you can't predict Mother Nature.
[23:10:04] And you need to be prepared. I had great advice from a local director of Love City Strong, which is a local organization on St. John, formed the day after Irma. They said, you know, always prepare for the worse than the worst case scenario.
So if you're expecting a tropical storm, prepare for a Category 2 hurricane. And everyone prepared for the most part that I know of, as did I and, you know, we were safe and fine, but we didn't board up because the forecast said it was just going to be a tropical storm.
So maybe got a little cocky and thought that that was going to be OK, but definitely should have boarded up. All of the storm shutters were just slamming against the house all day. So, it just brought back a lot of memories of Irma.
A lot of tree breaking, you know, trees down. So I'm hearing from friends across the island as I stood and watched it from my balcony. I could see trees flying down in the valley and snapping in half. And watching a neighbor's roof kind of peeling away, probably not fixed yet from Irma.
You know, that's one of the sad things, is that there is still a lot of people here that don't have their homes fixed or have re-tarped still on their roofs so, I'm hoping they all fared well during this today.
LEMON: Anne Bequette, we're glad you're OK. Thank you so much for joining us. You take care, OK?
BEQUETTE: Thank you. You as well.
LEMON: So, while the Trump administration is shifting $155 million from FEMA's disaster relief fund to its immigration crackdown at the border, right at the start of the hurricane season. We'll dig into that, next.
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: As Florida and the southeastern part of the country are bracing for Hurricane Dorian, the Trump administration is diverting $155 million in FEMA's disaster relief funds and using that money for its immigration crackdown at the southern border.
I want to discuss now with Ryan Lizza and Juliette Kayyem.
Good evening to both of you.
Juliette, we're just at the start of the hurricane season. Do you think this is going to affect FEMA's ability to do its job?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the idea that it won't just assume that money doesn't matter. It matters, and particularly for FEMA because the main role of FEMA is to support local and state entities and to surge resources at the time that it's needed the most, in particular a hurricane.
And without that funding they're not going to be able to have the personnel to guide those resources, nor they can have the money just from where we know its being taken from to assist those states and localities after the hurricane hits in terms of rehabilitation and resiliency building.
It's a nightmare from the perspective of entering hurricane season and it's just idiotic because, of course, we know that the real threat is not, you know, the wall and the border but is actually climate change and what we're likely to see this weekend.
LEMON: Yes. Ryan, the president thought this morning would be an appropriate time to insult and disparage Puerto Rico. Here's what he tweeted. He said, "FEMA and all others are ready and will do a great job.
When they do, let them know it and give them a big thank you, not like last time, that includes from the incompetent mayor of San Juan. Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. And by the way, I'm the best thing that's ever happened to Puerto Rico. This is an island that was in danger of being hit by a major storm."
I feel like I'm reading something from, like, a 12-year-old, you know, girl's tweeting, I know you are but what I am? Nah, you're so ugly. Eww.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's just like --
LEMON: It's unbelievable.
LIZZA: Yes, just childish taunts of an island of American citizens as they are facing a hurricane. That the president of the United States is responsible for protecting the territory of Puerto Rico from that kind of damage.
So, I mean, besides being like a dereliction of his duty as commander- in-chief and president, it's obviously fairly immature. And I suppose, you know, if you want to, you know, be even more cynical, it's part of the pattern we've seen for a very long time of just finding some group of people to attack, to vilify that perhaps he thinks his own political supporters, you know, get a sort of charge out of. And if, you know --
LEMON: But wouldn't most people read that and say, like what? Like, this is the president?
LIZZA: Well, you know, I think most people would read when he talks about the squad in the House and think why is he doing that?
LEMON: Yes. LIZZA: But he seems to always find people and they're very often
people who, you know, maybe are a little darker skinned or speak a different language to vilify.
LIZZA: And, you know, maybe that has nothing to do with this this time. He's just pissed off because, you know, some of the political leaders in Puerto Rico had mean things to say about him, but he's the president of the United States. His job is to protect those people as a hurricane bears down on them and he's undermining that.
LEMON: Go ahead, Juliette. I know you wanted to jump in.
KAYYEM: No, I just think what he's also doing is he's greasing the runway for his failures as commander-in-chief, as Ryan was saying, by moving all of that funding, by denigrating FEMA over the last couple of years, by not supporting what we call an all-hazards approach to homeland security, meaning be ready for anything not just, you know, border issues.
He is basically signaling that the federal response is going to be bad, so he's trying to protect himself. Look, I've said often this is the -- in some ways this is the easy stuff for a president because what people want in a crisis is two things from their leader. They want numbers, right? What resources are being deployed? How many ships? How many people? How many shelters?
[23:20:02] And number two, hope. That's what people need in a crisis. If you're a Puerto Rican right now, all you get is the wall and blame. And that's got to be, you know, it's only from the president's perspective, sort of crazy talk.
For a Puerto Rican, that's got to be absolutely terrifying. You know, now the trajectory is moving, but nonetheless it's not without its consequences.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, I would imagine, Juliette, you have teenage kids, don't you? If you saw them tweeting something like that, wouldn't you be like, stop it. Don't do that again.
KAYYEM: Where's your phone? Where's your phone? Give me your phone. Give me your phone.
LIZZA: But Don, now it's such a good -- that's such a good point because who -- look, the teenager here is Trump, but who are the parents?
LIZZA: Who are the people that should be speaking up and standing up? It's Republicans in Congress.
LEMON: Yes. LIZZZA: Their lack of backbone in challenging him at every turn when
he does something that they know and will tell you privately is beneath the office of the presidency. The fact that they don't speak up is what allows it to continue. When you don't face any consequences from within your own political party, you keep doing it.
LEMON: Juliette, you know, I can't believe again that we have to discuss any of this, but CNN is reporting --
LEMON: -- that President Trump is becoming increasingly rattled over a potential of an economic downturn. Sources say that he's looking for an accomplishment --
LEMON: -- to run on in 2020. Is that why he's pressing this wall thing and spinning when there is -- there is no new wall that has been built.
LEMON: This is dilapidated, you know, barrier that has -- that needed to be repaired. Why is he trying to spin this?
KAYYEM: That's -- well, because he needs a win. And as I was saying earlier, you know, he sees failure in a lot of places, not just the economy, but in our, you know, in our response and all sorts of things going on.
Just as an aside, you know, we may now be designate as a country that has not eradicated measles. That's kind of hard to do, but just all this bad news. And so he's shifting it to this one visual, right, which is the wall. It hasn't changed. It hasn't grown. Let's not forget, he's moved the military there. He's moved military resources there because he needs a narrative that is going to work for him.
I don't think it's going to work because what's happening now is I think a greater understanding that not only is the wall unnecessary for border enforcement, but that it has consequences. And finally, that Mexico never paid. And if -- if in this campaign that is not said every single day then, you know, shame on the other party, but Mexico did not pay.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you both. Appreciate your time.
LIZZA: Thanks Don. Have a good night.
KAYYEM: Thank you.
LEMON: You too.
President Trump is not so happy about what he is hearing from his favorite T.V. network. Why is he angry that Fox, I quote, "isn't working for us anymore?" [23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump lashing out at Fox News in a Twitter tirade this morning, accusing the network of promoting Democrats and saying, and I quote, "We have to start looking for a new news outlet. Fox isn't working for us anymore."
All this coming after Fox interviewed a DNC official. I want to discuss now with Mr. Brian Stelter, Mr. Matt Lewis, and Mr. Peter Wehner. Peter is the author of "The Death of Politics: How to Heal our Frayed Republic after Trump."
Good evening one and all.
Brian, let's start with you. What does the president mean when he says Fox -- I want to get it -- Fox is not working for us anymore? What does that mean?
BRAIN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That he believes Fox belongs to him. He believes Fox belongs to his fans. He basically is buying into the criticism of Fox, that Fox is state-run T.V. That's been the line for the past couple of years, liberals -- rival T.V. executives saying Fox is state-run T.V.
Well, certainly the network's become Trumpier and Trumpier. The president has benefited from that. But he gets very angry whenever the network talks about the Democrats. He hates seeing Bernie Sanders and other Democratic candidates on Fox. Today, he hated seeing a Democratic spokesperson on Fox. It's as if he believes Fox only exists to promote him. And he can't believe when they do anything else.
LEMON: OK, but why wouldn't he?
STELTER: Well, the highest rated shows do promote him --
LEMON: Yes, but why wouldn't he --
STELTER: The highest rated shows are all about him. There are news programs that get a lot less attention that are on the network. I think they have a right word bent (ph), but they are there trying to cover the Democrats, and this is going to go on for many more months.
STELTER: And the president, you know, he's lashing out because he wants this network to be incredibly loyal. It's kind of a version of working the refs, Don.
LEMON: So Matt, listen, he loves appearing on the network and promoting those interviews, but lately he has been suggesting that something strange has been going on at Fox. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's going on with Fox, by the way? What's going on there? They're putting more Democrats on than you have Republicans. There is something strange is going on at Fox, folks.
Fox is a lot different than it used to be, I can tell you that. There's something's going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: There's something he isn't happy about is that, you know, any kind of criticism of him, right? What's going on here?
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's not just criticism. Look, I think the big turning point here was that Fox News poll that came out about a week ago that showed all the Democrats beating him and Trump, like at 40 percent against them. I think that's the big thing. And I think what he's doing is working the refs, you know.
[23:29:55] Fox has this tension between the Sean Hannitys and the Lou Dobbs who basically are advisers to Trump, and then the hard news and the polling bureau. And I think if he can get the Hannitys and the Dobbs sort of leaning on the news operation, maybe he gets a little bit better call to use the working the ref --
LEWIS: -- analogy. This has worked for him before. Remember, Donald Trump had that big fight with Megyn Kelly that could have been the end of his candidacy potentially. He boycotted the network for a little while, and he won that fight.
And after that, you know, really, the network really started rooting essentially for Donald Trump. And I think if you ask Ted Cruz, he would tell you that they -- that they were in the tank for Donald Trump.
STELTER: Back then, Fox defended Megyn Kelly and said to Trump, "Knock it off." Roger Ailes said, "Knock it off." Now, there is no Ailes. There is no one to say "knock it off." Fox doesn't say a word when Trump attacks them. It's really weird to see a news outlet under attack from the president just laying back and not saying a word about it.
LEMON: Peter, let's talk more about this because he -- Trump already went after Fox liberal commentators Donna Brazile, Juan Williams. He did that earlier this month.
When Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell was interviewed back in July, Trump complained about the softball questions. He said that Fox "sure ain't what it used to be." Is the president unable to handle opposing views, especially in this Fox News space? He hates it.
PETER WEHNER, FORMER ADVISER TO GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, I mean, that's not news. He's never been able to handle anything critical. I think what is going on, that was his maladies, his pathologies are getting worse, and there are fewer and fewer people in the White House to act as guardrails. I agree there is something tactical about this. The term working the refs, I think, is probably appropriate. He's trying to put pressure on Fox. But I think there is something deeper going on, which is a manifestation of Trump's narcissistic personality disorder. That is, this is a person who demands total fealty, total loyalty, and total allegiance.
And when he doesn't get it, he freaks out and he lashes out. Now, what you've seen through the arc of the Trump presidency, it seems to me, is not that this is completely anomalous, but that it's accelerating, and that all of his tendencies are getting worse. What will be interesting is to see how Fox handles it. There are some people like Brit Hume and Guy Benson saying, we don't work for you.
LEMON: Let me put that up. Let me put that up, Peter, because these are some of the folks at Fox that are taking issue with the president's tweet. This is senior political analyst, as you mentioned, Brit Hume, contributor Guy Benson, both tweeting that Fox doesn't work for the president. Fox host Howard Kurtz tweeting that their job is to cover both sides.
So, I'm wondering, what is Fox's response going to be?
STELTER: Silence. And they've been silent all year every time the president has complained about the network. It's in stark contrast to Axios and The Washington Post, which both today defended themselves when the president complained.
I think Peter is raising something uncomfortable but important, which is when you have a president saying fake news all the time, talking about real reporting, when you have a president who can't stand even seeing a Democrat on fox news, it does bring up his mental instability in a way that is uncomfortable but really important to talk about. It's something that everyone sees happening right in front --
LEMON: Mental instability? What do you mean by that?
STELTER: Mental instability. We all see it. We all see the tweets. We all see the statements.
LEMON: That's right.
STELTER: It is something that is going on right in front of our eyes. The Fox hosts who love him will never talk about this. But everybody else sees it happening. I think that is, you know, Peter says narcissistic personality disorder. I don't know what it is. We all see it happening.
LEMON: You know talking to this man and people will say, well, none of us are psychologists --
LEMON: -- or psychiatrists. We shouldn't be, you know, evaluating someone's mental stability.
STELTER: That's right.
LEMON: But we can certainly evaluate their behavior.
STELTER: Just describe the behavior. When you have someone saying, "I'm the best thing that ever happened in Puerto Rico," a few minutes after attacking Fox News, there is something that is unusual.
LEMON: Peter, why are you shaking your head?
WEHNER: Well, number one, you don't have to be just a psychologist. You can be a citizen. You can be a sentient human being and say what is obvious before your eyes. This man is not psychologically well. I mean, I'm sorry if we're not supposed to say that, but you can't deny the obvious. He has all these tendencies and all these traits that point in the same direction.
I've worked for -- in three administrations. I worked closely with a president in the White House for seven years. I'm telling you, when you combine the power of the presidency with a person who has a disordered personality, that's dangerous stuff.
Now so far it's been kept in check in terms of no catastrophe happening, but this is not what you want. And, you know, it's -- Trump defenders are asking people essentially to, you know, are you going to believe me --
STELTER: To look away. They are. They are asking you to look away --
[23:34:58] WEHNER: And these things are happening and it's perfectly reasonable for responsible citizens to draw conclusions from empirical facts, from empirical statements, and from these behaviors that we see.
STELTER: By the way, you know what the president is doing tomorrow morning? He's calling into Fox News radio. He's calling into a Fox News radio show for an interview. So, he's seeking out that praise even while bashing the news site.
LEMON: Go ahead, Matt. I know you want to jump in.
LEWIS: The last thing I would say is part of what makes this -- what enables Donald Trump to do this from a strategic standpoint is the emergence of OANN, the One America News Network. That is competition. They're carrying Trump's water even more than Fox News and Trump is now tweeting about --
LEWIS: -- them and talking about them more and more, putting pressure on Fox News, saying, hey, maybe I'll go to this other competitor, you know? Watch your right flank.
LEMON: Do you think that --
STELTER: That smaller channel --
LEMON: Do you think he can get people to go to a much smaller channel and how on earth can anyone carry the president's water more than Fox News?
LEWIS: Go to OANN and find out.
LEWIS: Actually, don't. Don't turn the channel, Don. But theoretically.
STELTER: What happens is once in a while, if Fox does not run the Trump rally, OANN makes a big deal about airing the Trump rally. So, they are trying to be Trumpier than Fox. They are very small, very low rated, but it is interesting to think about whether the president thinks he can play these channels off each other and try to build up a version of Trump TV.
LEMON: Yeah. Well, there's no chance. Maybe I'll watch -- maybe I'll go check it out, but, you know, I need to keep my sanity. Thank you all. Appreciate it.
LEMON: President Trump's former defense secretary fears that the U.S. is dividing into hostile tribes. I'm going to ask another former defense secretary what he thinks about that. Leon Panetta is next.
[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: James Mattis, who until his resignation last year, was President Trump's defense secretary. He shares some stark words about the state of our democracy in his new book.
In an excerpt published in The Wall Street Journal, he says this. He says, "What concerns me most as a military man is not our external adversaries. It is our internal divisiveness. We are dividing into hostile tribes cheering against each other, fueled by emotion and a mutual disdain that jeopardizes our future instead, instead of rediscovering our common ground and finding solutions.
All Americans need to recognize that our democracy is an experiment and one that can be reversed. We all know that we're better than our current politics. Tribalism must not be allowed to destroy our experiment."
Those are very strong words. And joining me now to discuss is Leon Panetta, who was defense secretary under President Barack Obama.
Secretary, thank you so much. As former secretaries of defense, you and General Mattis spent a lot of time thinking about threats to the nation. Do you agree that tribalism here is a bigger threat than outside adversaries right now?
LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I don't think there's any question. You know, we spent a lot of time focussing obviously on danger points and dangerous threats that face us abroad. And we have the strongest military on the face of the earth. We've got men and women in uniform that are the best warriors any place in the world. So, you know, we really are very strong that way.
But the one thing that we have to worry about is the problem of being a divided country. And I think General Mattis hit it right on the head, which is that tribalism, this growing tribalism in our country where we're being divided one from another rather than being unified together, is the one thing that could truly destroy the American experiment.
LEMON: He says, "A leader must display strategic acumen that incorporates suspect for those nations that have stood with us when trouble loomed. Returning to a strategic stance that includes the interests of as many nations as we can make common cause with, we can better deal with the imperfect world we occupy together. Absent this, we will occupy an increasingly lonely position, one that puts us at increasing risk in the world."
I mean, the president's go-it-alone attitude was on display again at the G-7 summit. You saw that. Is he isolating the U.S. and does that hurt our national security interests?
PANETTA: Jim Mattis was very direct in his comments about a country that fails to build allies and alliances, and that the great strength of America in the past is that we've always fought alongside our allies. We've always worked with alliances to try to protect our security and their security as well.
And he makes the point that if we don't do that, then we're going to be alone in the world. And what the president is obviously doing with this kind of America first attitude is to go out and criticize our allies, criticize our alliances. And in doing so, he not only isolates our country, I think he makes us weaker as a nation.
LEMON: The Trump administration, secretary, is making it more difficult for children of U.S. service members and U.S. government employees living abroad to automatically become U.S. citizens. This is according to a memo released today by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It appears to be targeting the children of naturalized U.S. citizens. What do you think about this?
PANETTA: I think it's -- it's -- it's not only a terrible idea.
[23:44:59] It goes against everything that this country stands for. I'm a son of Italian immigrants, and I know what it means to be the child of immigrants and what this country offers to immigrants and the opportunity it offers.
And I have to tell you as secretary of defense, those people who served this country, even though they weren't citizens but were out there on the battle field putting their lives on the line in order to protect the country that their family and they came to, that's what America is all about. That's why our country has always been strong is because we have believed that regardless of our backgrounds, regardless of our color or our race our or our beliefs that we are one family fighting and trying to make sure that our democracy survives. When the president tries to undermine that, he is weakening the power of that great force that protects our country.
LEMON: Secretary, let's talk about North Korea. The president said this at the G-7 summit about North Korea's continuous missile tests.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not happy about it. But again, he's not in violation of an agreement. We speak. I received a very nice letter from him last week. We speak. He was upset that South Korea was doing the war games, as you call them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And today, this is what the Defense Secretary Mark Esper said about the missile test by North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ESPER, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Obviously, we are concerned about their short-range ballistic missile tests. We want to understand what they're doing and why they're doing it, et cetera. But on the other hand, we're not going to overreact. We're going to take a measured response and make sure that we don't close the door to diplomacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Is there disconnect there? Is the president taking the threat seriously enough, do you think?
PANETTA: I've been very concerned by how the president has handled North Korea. He's been doing it based on his kind of personal relationship with Kim Jong-un. He's had high-level summits with Kim Jong-un, not just one but three meetings with Kim Jong-un.
And the end result is that we're getting nowhere, and that North Korea continues for be a nuclear power, has not engaged in any denuclearization, has improved its missile system, is now working on a submarine that is going to be able to fire missiles from that submarine.
So, from what I see, North Korea has really taken advantage of this relationship with the president. And the president is doing nothing to try to make sure that that threat to our security is being dealt with. That concerns me because I think it is -- it's a naive approach to a very real threat from North Korea.
LEMON: Secretary Panetta, appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
PANETTA: Good to be with you, Don. LEMON: We'll be right back.
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Hurricane Dorian on track to slam into the East Coast as a major category hurricane this weekend. Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam is tracking the storm from the CNN weather center. So Derek, give us the latest. Where is the storm now, and what does it look like in the coming hours?
VAN DAM: It's unbelievable, Don. This storm has overcome so many obstacles to get to where it's at right now. It is About 90 miles north of Puerto Rico. Conditions in Puerto Rico are improving by the minute. Good news for them.
Unfortunately, it means bad news for the Southeastern United States. It is getting harder and harder to envision a Labor Day weekend without some sort of impacts from a major hurricane, specifically along the Florida coastline -- we'll talk about that in just one moment -- but not what we want to see heading into the Labor Day weekend with a well-defined eye on the radar just north of Puerto Rico.
Here's the latest 11:00 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, 85 miles per hour sustained winds. So that has increased from 80 miles per hour compared to that at 5:00 p.m.
And by the way, 24 hours ago, this thing was sitting at 50 miles per hour sustained winds. So, officially, it has undergone what is called rapid intensification. That is classified when we see 35 miles per hour or stronger winds occur within a 24-hour period. So the big question here everybody wants to know, where is it going?
There are a lot of factors and a lot of variables at play, mainly this high pressure system that is going to help steer this, what is now a west to northwesterly direction to a due westerly direction, so Florida to the Carolinas and the Georgia coastline. That's what we're targeting.
LEMON: How should people be preparing on the East Coast? What should they be doing?
VAN DAM: I think it's about time to start looking into evacuation plan. Have a hurricane preparedness kit available. You need to be prepared for a major hurricane making landfall. Again, this would be Sunday night into Monday across the southeast coast. All of our computer models, all the best knowledge we have available us shows that is what we expect to see as conditions deteriorate as we head into Labor Day weekend.
So, being prepared for that evacuation and inevitability, it looks like, at this stage, Don, as our computers models are pointing in the direction of a landfalling hurricane somewhere between Jacksonville and Miami. So, look out Daytona Beach, West Palm Beach, and even up towards the Georgia coastline as well. We can't rule out a Savannah impact as well. LEMON: Derek Van Dam is our meteorologist. He is tracking this.
[23:55:00] Again, Dorian, as he said, could grow to a Category 3 storm. As he has been saying, there is nothing but water between where it is now by the time if it does get to the Florida coast unless the path changes.
We're going to continue to follow it here on CNN. Derek and our other meteorologists will be tracking it for you. Thank you so much. Thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.