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Dorian Aims For Puerto Rico, Florida On Target For Labor Day Hit; Poll Shows Biden Holds Comfortable Lead As Democratic Frontrunner; Queen Approves Suspension Of U.K. Parliament; Reports Say Sackler Family Could Give Up Ownership Of Purdue Pharma. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired August 28, 2019 - 10:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy Harlow is off today.

Tropical storm Dorian is getting stronger and closer, now just hours away from hitting Puerto Rico. And after that, if the latest forecast holds, it would go on to hit Florida or Georgia as a Category 2 hurricane, right in time for Labor Day weekend.

This is what Puerto Rico could be facing in a few hours. This video is from Martinique, where streets disappeared underwater as flash flooding from the storm hit along with hurricane-level wind gust. And Puerto Rico is island, of course, that is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, the storm that killed nearly 3,000 people just two years ago,

CNN Correspondent Omar Jimenez is live in Humacao, Puerto Rico. Omar, tell u us what it looks like there as the storm approaches.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Right now, Jim, we've been feeling the in and out the outer bands of tropical storm Dorian at this point. As you can see, the lack of rain at the moment, we haven't seen that just yet. But then most likely in a few moments, we will feel the rain come in, as it has over the course of this morning.

Across the island though, Hurricane Maria, the effects of it just close to two years ago, now still very much on the minds of many people who aren't taking any chances, no matter how Dorian ends up hitting this island. Schools are closed today. There are emergency shelters open across the island as well. And, of course, non- essential emergency personnel for government servants are off from work today as well, trying to make sure that people are as prepared as possible again for whatever effects Dorian brings, specifically the concerns are rain and flooding that government officials here have as well.

Now, in regards to help coming in from the outside, well, we did hear from the Governor's Office saying that FEMA does have about 500 personnel here ready to go and help with supplies and any recovery aspect. The president has been tweeting about the incoming storm as well, saying that they are monitoring it closely, but also, in the same breath, criticizing the San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz and also said, described the storm track as an as usual type situation.

Now, to put that in context, it was yesterday that the San Juan Mayor, Cruz, criticized Trump for his response to Hurricane Maria, again, that came almost two years ago. So we will continue to monitor that relationship that could be critical, again, as we move forward into potential recovery.

But an emergency disaster declaration was granted by President Trump here to which the governor here on the island thanks the president for and, again, will allow some of those FEMA workers to get their supplies out to some of these locations as quickly as possible.

Yesterday, we were in the southern portion of the island in a town known as Ponce. And one of the major concerns they have is there's a mountainous region just north of the city. And depending on how much rainfall they get, there were concerns that some of that rain could pour down into the ground below.

So we are in a wait-and-see mode, but it seems that people are trying to be as prepared as possible, again, with what happened just almost two years ago still very much top of mind. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Still recovering, in fact. Omar Jimenez on the ground there, thanks very much.

Florida or Georgia could be next in the path of what would then be a Category 2 hurricane. For more on that, let's bring in Meteorologist Chad Myers in the CNN weather center. Tell us what the models are showing, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, not much changed from overnight models, really. So the 11:00 advisory is going to come out here in an hour. Not expecting too many updates. And so I'll show you what the 5:00 A.M. showed and let me tell you what the 11:00 A.M. is going to show as well, Jim.

The storm is getting a little bit stronger. The colors on the satellite are getting a little brighter, a little more white at times. We're able to see the center of circulation on radar right now. Likely a 70 to 75-mile-per-hour storm as it runs right over St. Croix and then over Vieques, and then over Humacao, and then eventually back into the waters of the basin of the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas.

Now, I don't want to put too much on alert on the Turks and Caicos yet because it is looking like it's going to turn around the islands there, but the Providencia Ilas (ph), I wouldn't take my eyes off of this one.

There is the storm right there. There is the radar itself. When you see a radar and you can see a hurricane, you know it's close to the radar. Because, you know, the radar can only go out about 250 miles. When you see it on satellite, that hurricane can be anywhere.

So here we go, St. Croix right through there, our reporter right there at Humacao, that is the area that will eventually see very heavy rainfall. We could see eight inches of rain before that's done.

Hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm right now, flying around that pattern, found a flight-level wind of 82 miles per hour. Now, that doesn't mean that's the surface. That means at 10,000 feet. But certainly, we haven't seen an 82-mile-per-hour wind anywhere with any of these planes over the past few days.

So it is getting stronger. It is going to make an awful lot of rainfall. And then it will head to the Mainland USA. After hitting Puerto Rico, it will head toward the mainland.


It will head toward Florida, up toward Georgia, possibly even turning to the right, as the U.S. model is showing now.

There are many models out there. They're all making it stronger, many even stronger than a Category 2. But we don't want to go that far out because that's still 120 hours away, Jim. Basically, the U.S. model turning it to the right, on up toward Jacksonville and then farther to the north. The European model, turning it into Florida and stopping it in the Gulf of Mexico.

Again, getting ahead of our self, but with very warm water, five days in that warm water, this storm is likely to do some things that we don't want to see.

SCIUTTO: Chad Myers, thanks very much. We know you're going to stay on top of it.

MYERS: I will.

SCIUTTO: Also this morning, a just-released poll by Quinnipiac University shows frontrunner Joe Biden hanging on to a substantial lead over his 2020 rivals. The new polls also show this, that the top five 2020 Democratic candidates when going head to head with President Trump all come out on top by large margins. Joe Biden, the biggest, 54 to 38 percent lead, a 16 percentage point lead over the president in this poll.

Joining me now, Harry Enten, CNN Senior Political Writer and Analyst. So, Harry, Biden is the clear frontrunner based on these numbers, one, against Trump, but also against his Democratic rivals.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Yes. One quick thing I'll just point out about this. Look, Trump's number is very consistent, 38, 40, 39, 40, 40. That's about where his approval rating has been. He's not getting above that. And that's a very dangerous sign for him heading into 2020.

But let's talk about that Democratic primary race, shall we? So this is something important, right? There was that Monmouth University poll that came out a few days ago that a press made a huge, big thing about. Oh, my God, Joe Biden is falling to just 19 percent. I was skeptical of that. Why? Part of it was because we had a CNN SRS poll that was conducted right around the same time, which had Biden right around 39 percent and 29. A Fox News poll had him at 31 percent. And this Quinnipiac University poll shows him holding around 30 percent, at 32 percent. Again, another indication that that Monmouth poll was an outlier and Biden right now is holding around 30.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Tom Steyer spent a lot of money trying to get on to the debate stage and become a serious contender. What do the polls show?

ENTEN: Yes. He does not, at this particular point, folks, look like he is going to make it, and here's why. This Quinnipiac University poll had him at 0 percent. There was another poll that came out earlier today all standing (ph) at 0 percent. He needed to get at least 2 percent in one more poll. It doesn't look like he's going to get it. And the reason is simply -- but I don't believe there are any more polls that are out there, so he's basically done.

And that basically means, if you look at the debate lineup, Jim, this is what we're looking at for the September debate. We're going to have all the candidates, the ten candidates on one stage, all these folks. So we'll finally get that big matchup between Warren and Biden that I think a lot of people have been looking forward to.

SCIUTTO: Cutting that field in half, really, from the last debate. It's a significant culling of the herd.

ENTEN: Exactly. There may be 20-plus candidates in the race right now, but in reality, there're just ten who are going to be on that debate stage.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Another sobering number for the president is his approval on the economy, the one approval number that's been above water for him for some time.

ENTEN: This has been the key number. This has been the reason why I was saying, you know what, maybe we should dismiss some of those approval polls that had him in the low 40s, because elections are often about the economy, and Trump's approval on the economy has generally been above water.

But in this Quinnipiac University poll, a big change, only 46 percent approve of his handling of the economy. More disapprove. And that basically means, Jim, that there's nothing that could bring his approval rating up at this point. There's no silver bullet for him. There's no shining light that he can go to. If the economy isn't working for him, nothing is.

SCIUTTO: All right. Next time, just tell me how to solve the New York Mets' batting problems.

ENTEN: I'm working on it on my spreadsheets.

SCIUTTO: If you can give answer. I'm sure everybody is waiting for that answer.

ENTEN: I'm trying.

SCIUTTO: Harry Enten, thanks very much.

Let's discuss now with Brittany Shepherd, she's National Politics Reporter for Yahoo News, and Jackie Kucinich, Washington Bureau Chief for The Daily Beast. Good to have you both on.

So, Brittany, on Biden's numbers here, a consistent lead through the polls over months. Does this make him the unassailable frontrunner, in your view?

BRITTANY SHEPHERD, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, YAHOO NEWS: Well, Jim, I'm not sure he's unassailable, but he definitely -- if you're on team Biden, you do feel a bit untouchable, especially going to South Carolina this weekend, where he has, I believe, a 38 percent approval rating, far above any of the frontrunner candidates, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg or Harris.

So when you're looking at campaign strategy for the next debates, you're going to think, okay, well, I'm their frontrunner. A lot of targets are going to be on my back. But I know that the American public at least thinks for now that I'm the best choice for the country.

SCIUTTO: Jackie, the other numbers here, of course, not just in the race but the Democratic candidates versus President Trump. And it's a consistent and large lead for all of the Democratic frontrunners there. Tell us what this news means for the president. How seriously are they taking these numbers?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, what Harry was pointing to with the economy, I think that number is problematic for sure for the president, because this is the first time he's been under water.

And all you need to know is what you saw today.


I think it was a Washington Post story about the president putting the pedal to the metal on the border wall. That's a promise he hasn't been able to keep. He's trying to divert all sorts of funds from FEMA and all over the place to make sure this thing gets built because that's the other thing that the president and his base, that fuels them, that are going to get people to the polls for him. He can't afford to lose the support of his core people or to lose their enthusiasm.

SCIUTTO: One strength for Joe Biden in his polling is support among African-American voters. And he sat down Tuesday with several black journalists, including one from The New York Times, and he said the following. I'm quoting here. I have never, ever, ever in my entire life had a circumstance where I felt uncomfortable in the black community. He said the same was not true of some liberals. There are assumptions made about the black community that I don't think are accurate, he said. And that's partly because they haven't spent much time in the black community. Is his support indicative of this? Because even Cory Booker and Kamala Harris don't touch, don't come close to Biden's support among the African-American community.

SHEPHERD: You know, I think it's interesting, Jim, the way that Joe Biden spoke to Astead Herndon of The New York Times, that there's definitely a bloc of older black voters. I want to have a big disclaimer here that the black vote is not monolithic. It definitely breaks down between age demographics. But when you're talking about voters over 65, especially in the south, and especially with black people, that they find comfortability with Joe Biden, his association with President Obama. They don't with some of these other candidates who they don't know or don't feel confident have a good matchup against President Trump.

Of course, if you look at the Q poll numbers today, that tells a very different story. But I do think -- I really want to point out that with younger black voters, they're far less confident in Joe Biden. And they're far less eager to just jump on the Biden train because of his association with President Obama. They believe that he has something to prove, prove on the economy, prove on the environment, prove on student debt. So they are far less eager to give their vote away maybe in different ways than the older black voting bloc is.

KUCINICH: Can I just add to that? When you actually look at the numbers of this Q poll, it's not just young black voters, it's young voters. That's the one place that you have both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders has slightly more support than Elizabeth Warren with young voters. But the 18 to 34, they're not sold on Vice President Biden. And that could mean an enthusiasm problem as we go toward the general election, should he be the nominee.

SCIUTTO: But, Brittany, who votes, right? It's older voters --

SHEPHERD: That's also very true.

SCIUTTO: They turn out, right?

SHEPHERD: Sure. But if you look at polling in the midterm, you'll see that the youngest bloc of voters voted more than the eldest bloc of voters. That never happened before.

So Gen Z is activated in different ways than Millennials were. And I really think there's going to be an uptick that we haven't seen before.

SCIUTTO: An uptick in their participation, you mean?

SHEPHERD: Yes, absolutely.

SCIUTTO: They should be more politically involved.

Okay. Well, that's something -- Jackie, are candidates aware of that as they head into 2020? KUCINICH: I mean, all you have to do is see how much they're on certain social media apps, right, some of the ways that they're fundraising, and some of the messaging. I mean, Elizabeth Warren talking about the debt on college debt. It obviously doesn't just affect Gen Z and Millennials. It goes on and on and on into several generations now.

So, yes, they are aware of it, and you're right. Older voters are the one who is voting. I mean, Brittany is also right. We saw in 2018 really some mobilization that you haven't seen in the past.

SCIUTTO: Brittany Shepherd, Jackie Kucinich, thanks very much to both of you.

SHEPHERD: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Breaking news, we're learning this just now. Queen Elizabeth has approved the British prime minister's unusual request to suspend parliament, and that could make it harder to avoid a no-deal Brexit, Britain's exit from the European Union. We're going to be live in London next.

Plus, new reports that the family who owns drugmaker Purdue Pharma could give up ownership of that company. This is the company who's in talks to settle thousands of lawsuits tied to the opioid crisis for billions of dollars.

And Attorney General Bill Barr planning a big holiday bash. The venue, the president's own hotel. Is that problematic? Is it ethical? We're going to discuss.



SCIUTTO: Breaking news this hour. Queen Elizabeth has approved British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's request to suspend parliament. Meanwhile, many throughout the United Kingdom are shocked and outraged. They say the suspension will shorten time officials have to attempt to block a no-deal Brexit.

I want to get to CNN Correspondent Anna Stewart. She's outside 10 Downing Street, as well as CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson. He's outside parliament.

Anna, if I could begin with you. Does the Prime Minister's Office have any other explanation for this unusual call to shorten debate on Brexit? What are they offering as justification here?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, they say they didn't (ph) because they actually say that Brexit is not the driving force behind this decision. It's a new prime minister. And as is fairly usual, he wants to set out a new session of parliament to introduce his domestic policy and legislation. It's sort of, don't look here, it's nothing to do with Brexit. Of course, that is not how it's being seen by rebel MPs within his party, within the opposition parties. They see this absolutely as a way to remove valuable time for lawmakers to try and prevent a no-deal Brexit.


And they are returning to parliament next week.

Now, since her Majesty the Queen has agreed and she will be suspending parliament, that means they have much less time, not only potentially to debate any new Brexit deal before that end of October deadline, but to try and frustrate the whole process and prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Today, opposition members, we got party members from within the conservative party all saying things like, it's a coup, it's an outrage, it's undemocratic. This is a prime minister who has not been elected, suspending parliament and removing their power to fully debate Brexit.

Now, these lawmakers are now consulting on law or parliamentary technicalities to see if they can still frustrate this process. And they will return next Tuesday. And you can expect plenty of fireworks on their return. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Nic, has a practical matter, does this make Britain's exit from the E.U. without a deal by this October deadline, does it make it more likely?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It does. It strengthened Boris' hands convincing the European Union, who he's negotiating with, that he will do this because there is less likelihood to be stopped.

With Theresa May, the previous prime minister, they knew there was a likelihood that it could be stopped and blocked. Now, that seems to be removed or greatly reduced.

That said, perhaps given this tougher position, although they haven't shown the willingness to do it right now, Boris Johnson, maybe his gamble is right, get tough with the E.U. and they might just cut you a better deal. But there's no indication of that at the moment.

In fact, what we've heard from the man in charge of Brexit at the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, who said, the take back control -- and remember, take back control was the language that the leavers, that Boris Johnson and his group, used to convince people to leave the European Union, take back control, take back control from the European Union, that's being turned against them today. And at E.U., they are saying this take back control that Boris Johnson is doing looks very, very sinister.

So at the moment, it seems we really are on a much harder and tougher wall footing, both Johnson here at home against the opposition here and some in his party here and with the E.U. The lines are drawn and the differences are getting much sharper. SCIUTTO: There have already been economic costs in the U.K., the economy contracting in advance of this expectation, Nic. How are the British people, how is the economy, how is it responding to this march towards a no-deal Brexit?

ROBERTSON: Well, the pound is weakening. It has done again today on news of this no deal becoming more likely, weakening against the dollar. The calculations and assessments have been made not just by civil servants working for the government but by other independent bodies, by the governor of the Bank of England as well, have all predicted that the British economy will be weaker. Its rate of growth has been slackening compared to other leading E.U. nations. It's been slackening against them.

The expectation is that there will be -- you know, that there will be an economic price to pay. But Boris Johnson's position is, that in the long run, Britain will be better off. And there are a number of people who believe that.

And that the -- I have to say that the sort of stock and trust placed in politicians here at the moment is so low. People will believe what they want to believe, even if politicians tell them one thing, they won't necessarily believe it.

SCIUTTO: That sounds familiar, Nic. I think I'm aware of that phenomenon somewhere else. Anna Stewart, Nic Robertson, thanks very much. We know you're going to stay on top of that story.

The owners of a company accused of fueling a national opioid epidemic could be walking away from the family business. What that means, that's coming up.



SCIUTTO: New this morning, a company accused of helping to fuel the national opioid epidemic may end up paying billions of dollars in settlements. And that's not all. The Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, may be walking away from the company. It said they are in talks to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits in the process.

CNN's Alexandra Field, she's been following this. The family may be paying out of pocket, at least for the funds that they still have in the company, right?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a sweeping settlement that we're talking about. Part of it directly affecting the Sacklers reportedly, according to The New York Times, The Washington Post and NBC News, which first reported this. They have been in touch with people who are aware of the mediation here.

The plan, as it's being laid out, would be potentially up to $12 billion settlements, the $3 billion coming from the Sacklers directly, the rest from Purdue Pharmaceuticals. Of course, that has been at the eye of the storm when it comes to looking for accountability over the opioid crisis.

They first put Oxycontin on to the market in 1996 and they have been blasted for their sales and marketing practices in recent years. The company has had to defend itself against allegations.

ProPublica has found this video of part of the deposition from Dr. Richard Sackler related to a 2015 lawsuit against the company. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know how much the Sackler family has made off the sale of Oxycontin?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But fair to say, it's over a billion dollars?

SACKLER: It would be fair to say that, yes.