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Dorian Intensifies To A Hurricane As It Bears Down On Puerto Rico; Could Strengthen To A Category 3, Threatening Florida; Sen. Eduardo Bhatia (D-PR) Is Interviewed About The Condition Of the Island Due To Hurricane Dorian And About President Trump Being The Best That Ever Happen To Puerto Rico; Officials: Trump Promises Aides He'll Pardon Them If They Break Law To Ensure Wall Is Built By 2020 Election; Trump Goes Off On Fox: "We Have To Start Looking For A New News Outlet, Fox Isn't Working For Us Anymore"; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Drops Out of Presidential Race; Hurricane Dorian Intensifies, Could Hit Florida. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 28, 2019 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, Hurricane Dorian right now bearing down on Puerto Rico and the storm now heading towards the Florida coast. Plus, the President pushing aides to break the law in order to fulfill his key campaign promise and if they're caught, President is promising them a pardon. And breaking news, the race for 2020 narrowing tonight another candidate is out. Will others soon follow? Let's go out front.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Jim Sciutto in for Erin Burnett tonight. And OUTFRONT tonight breaking news, Hurricane Dorian gaining strength and moving into Puerto Rico with sound and fury, bringing new damage to an already battered Island. This powerful storm is expected to push waves into towns, possibly flooding roads.

And this is what the storm has already done in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The torrential rain and wind causing widespread damage, power out for many there. Driving around the island, CNN found trees down, roads blocked. This is just the beginning because this hurricane is expected to grow into a dangerous category three storm as it head straight for the East Coast.

You're looking at some of the models which take the storm straight toward Florida and South Carolina. It seems the President's focus is not on the millions of Americans who are right now in the path of the storm. It is on attacking Puerto Rico and his rivals, tweeting today, "Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either incompetent or Corrupt. Congress approved Billions of Dollars last time, more than anyplace else has ever gotten, and it is sent to Crooked Polls. No good."

He goes on to claim, "I'm the best thing that's ever happened to Puerto Rico!" The best thing, even though he claims he's not the one responsible for the bungled response to Hurricane Maria that devastated the island in 2017 and remember, killing 3,000 people.

CNN Meteorologist Tom Sater is tracking the storm from the CNN Weather Center. Tom, how bad could this storm get as it runs over those warm waters between Puerto Rico and Florida?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST AND WEATHER ANCHOR: Well, most likely it'll be a major hurricane. But this has been an intriguing storm, Jim. If you would ask us about this three days ago we'd say, "What hurricane?" And yesterday it was like, "OK, we see you, Dorian. We see you." And then today it's, "All right, here we go."

The President's tweets have slammed Puerto Rico harder than Dorian. We've got lucky. Couple of days ago it looked as if maybe this was going to move over Hispaniola and hit the high mountains and break apart, then it was maybe the Mona Passage. If it can move in between Puerto Rican and Dominican Republic, it would survive.

Then, we found the center yesterday, without a center you don't have a track. And it looked like a direct landfall in Puerto Rico. Then, today, it slides a little bit more to the east. Now, we're going to be watching it in open waters where all of the cylinders of this engine is going to start roaring and it's going to get into some high octane fuel in that warm water.

But let's break this down because this is extremely interesting. At 2:00 pm, the center of Dorian was right over St. Thomas. We had a wind gust of 111 miles per hour on Buck Island. So the British and U.S. Virgin Islands were hit pretty hard.

The center of the storm not making landfall in Puerto Rico as you're getting closer here, the hurricane winds extend outward only 15 miles, so they didn't even come close. In fact, those hurricane winds are really on the northern and eastern flank. The tropical storm force winds extend outward 80 miles, that would have covered a good part of Puerto Rico.

But those winds, Jim, were off to the east so they missed out on it. You can even see where the heavier rain is. The strongest wind gust in San Juan was 34 miles an hour. That's a typical Wednesday thunderstorm, so they really missed out. Great news there. Excellent news. That's what we want to see.

But now going forward, what will happen with the steering currents? To find the steering currents, going forward, we need to find out where they will be in the next couple of days. So again as we watch the track, computer models hinting that it may go over free port in the Bahamas, the European model wants to take it right across West Palm, cross the Florida peninsula and maybe regenerating it even stronger in the gulf.

There are possibilities, however, it could slide to the south. It could move up to the north and along the coast of the Carolinas, so there's a lot of uncertainty. The one thing we know of that now it's got its center and it's making its way into warm waters and I think as we look at this weekend, we've got at least a category three on our hand as it moves across those warm gulf waters.

But it's been an intriguing storm. It is together. But thank goodness, Puerto Rico missed out on this one.

SCIUTTO: A near miss indeed.


SCIUTTO: Tom Sanders, thanks very much. Omar Jimenez, he is out front live in Puerto Rico tonight. Omar, I know it's getting dark there but you're saying folks still taking precautions.

[19:05:09] OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, Jim, at this point the worst of it does seem to be over at least for the island of Puerto Rico. But as far as the mindset goes for the people here, they were preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. Now, there are many people that were concerned about the amount of rainfall that would come through.

We are, obviously, still seeing rain at this hour and concern that that rain would contribute to any sort of flooding impacts, especially in the mountainous portions of this island, so that remains to be seen. But in large part, the storm has moved off to the east, mainly over the Virgin Islands was where we saw a huge impact come at least from the wind earlier today.

We did hear from the Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands and he says that their roads do seem to be OK, but that they are dealing with a scattering of power outages at the moment. And power outages was a major concern at least going into this here on the island of Puerto Rico, especially given how long it took things to get back or how long it took really to get the lights back on, I should say, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

We've been speaking with FEMA over the course of the past few days, trying to assess their preparedness in this. They had around 500 people on standby in Puerto Rico before the storm came in and we just heard from a spokesperson moments ago who says between here and the Virgin Islands, they have over 3,000 people ready to respond, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Omar Jimenez, good to have you on the ground there. Out front now, Puerto Rico Senator Eduardo Bhatia. He is a Democrat Governor - Senator, rather. We appreciate you taking the time tonight. Tell us about the conditions on the ground there, not a direct hit but certainly strong wind, waves, water. How is the island responding?

SEN. EDUARDO BHATIA (D-PR): Yes. I think we were lucky. We are really lucky. This is a system that basically change its course. We were expecting a lot of rain. We didn't get it. We were expecting a lot of wind, we didn't get it except for two of the small islands right next to Puerto Rico Vieques and Culebra that were hit directly.

Other than that, I think Puerto Rico did much better, I guess, than what happened two years ago after the devastation of Maria. So I think we're glad that this is over. We are now concerned with our brothers and sisters in Florida and we know that they will get bigger hurricane that we did down here.

SCIUTTO: So certainly we're early in the season, right, this may be one of the first, but it certainly is not going to be the last. You learned a lot. You suffered a lot from Hurricane Maria and have deployed a lot of resources that weren't around then, bigger generators to fill the gap if the power to go out, et cetera. Do you feel that Puerto Rico is better prepared for storms now?

BHATIA: Oh, I think definitely that people are Puerto Rico are much better prepared on this kind of - it was a reminder of what Irma did prior to Maria. Irma came two weeks prior to Maria and it didn't really hit Puerto Rico that hard and we were lucky back then.

But then Maria hit two weeks later. The season is starting, the high season of hurricane is starting. Puerto Rico is right in the middle of the Caribbean and as such it will receive the pounding of hurricanes left and right. What we need from our friends and our fellow citizens of the United States, it's a lot more compassion and a lot less insults because we're in the middle of Caribbean.

So part of the message I think that we have to put out there is yes, we did much better this time because of the weather pattern that changed. But no, we're not over recovering from what happened in Maria. And we still need the assistance, we still need help and we still need FEMA and other agencies to work closer with the government of Puerto Rico than they have been doing in the past few months.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned insults and the President was deploying insults to Puerto Rico once again today as the island was bracing for this storm. Here's what the President tweeted. I mean really remarkable words from a sitting U.S. President in the midst of this.

"Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth." The President says the political system broken, their politicians are either incompetent or corrupt. Congress approved billions of dollars last time more than any other place has gotten and it is sent to crooked polls. No good. By the way, I'm the best thing that's ever happened to Puerto Rico.

What's the reaction there among your constituents, among Puerto Ricans to look at their president and see him lobbing insults as a storm heads their way?

BHATIA: Look, Jim, I mean he's the best thing that happened to Puerto Rico said no one ever and I honestly think that we ought to stop trading jabs and trading insults with the President of the United States. We hear what he's saying, he's consistent with being a child, with insulting that people Puerto Rico, with being racist, with all of the bigotry that comes out of his words.

[19:10:05] But I think we have a bigger job to do in Puerto Rico. We have to rebuild. We have to rebuild stronger and there's so much that we have to do here in Puerto Rico right now and I think the President is not helping.

Leadership is about persuading people to come together and that is an element that is never present in the words of the President. He's not helping. He has actually unified the people of Puerto Rico against him. Other than that I think I would rather move forward rather than trading suits with the President of the United States right now.

SCIUTTO: Well, good for you. Good for you for staying above it, Senator. We wish you and the people of Puerto Rico the best as the hurricane season gets underway.

BHATIA: Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next this hour, the President promising to pardon aides who break the law. Listen to that again, pardon aides who break the law and the White House response, "Well, we've heard it before."




The President was clearly joking.


SCIUTTO: Plus, President Trump lashing out at Fox News, telling his supporters the network is no longer working for him. Will the network cave to the President? Why does he expect it should be working for him? And a new poll shows that Joe Biden is the clear frontrunner and remains the frontrunner. What will it take for the other candidates to narrow that gap?


[19:15:10] SCIUTTO: New tonight and listen carefully and closely to the story. President Trump promising to pardon his aides if they break the law in order to get his wall built by the 2020 election. This as President Trump claimed in multiple tweets that the wall is already being built, writing in one tweet, quote, the wall is going up very fast despite total obstruction by Democrats in Congress and elsewhere.

The tweet also included an animated video of a wall fully built. Well, that video is false. The fact is no new wall has actually been built on the border with Mexico only repairs to about 60 miles of existing barriers.

Kaitlan Collins is out front. Kaitlan, what is the President and the White House saying about his promise to pardon aides to break law to build the wall? What is their response? What's their defense?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, they say the President is just joking when he told aides he'd pardoned them if they had to break the law in order to get his wall built before the 2020 election. But, of course, we should note they did not deny that the President made these remarks, remarks he's made before to the acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan about pardons.

But, of course, our sources are telling us this comes as the President has been expressing this urgent need to get the wall finished by the next election. He's been telling aides that essentially his re- election depends on it being built, at least part of the wall being built. But as you noted no new wall has been built even though the President and his aides are insisting it has, only existing barrier that was already deteriorating has been replaced.

But really what we're told a lot of this talk about pardons if you need to break the law to get the wall built has to do with is the President is worried about what accomplishment he's going to run on in 2020. Before now he's been able to bank on the economy and it's promising aspects, but now lately the President and his economic team have become increasingly worried about the potential of there being an economic downturn and they're worried about what it is they're going to message for the President to run in 2020.

So he started looking at other promises that have gone unfulfilled and, of course, one of his chief promises from the 2016 campaign was building this wall on the southern border. They've been having these meetings here at the White House lately where the president is demanding to know updates what's going on. That's in those conversations where the President has made these offhanded remarks, we're told, about promising these pardons.

But, Jim, you've got to look, a lot of it has to do with whether or not the President is going to be reelected in 2020, that's what he's keeping an eye on when he's making comments like this.

SCIUTTO: Kaitlan Collins, always good to have you at the White House and a brief fact-check of the President there. It is Democrats and Republicans in the Congress who did not vote money for the President's wall. Out front now, White House Reporter for NPR Ayesha Rascoe and CNN Presidential Historian Doug Brinkley.

Doug, folks at home can be forgiven for shaking their head and saying, "It's just another Trump headline." But put this into context, the President of the United States telling aides, "It's OK to break the law to build the wall before the 2020 election. By the way if you do, I'll pardon you." Has a U.S. President ever egregiously misused the pardon power like this?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Not the pardon power but I edited Ronald Reagan's diaries and at one point he yelled at his National Security team, "I don't care if you end up in Leavenworth." He wrote this in his diary, "I don't care if you go to Leavenworth prison. I want the hostages out of Iran."

And that attitude got Ronald Reagan in a lot of trouble, it almost undermined his second term. Now, you're looking at Donald Trump telling aides to break the law. "I have your back and I will pardon you." It immediately demands congressional investigation. Saying it's a joke is not enough and this is supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. But what you've touched on is that this is about promises unkept.

What is that bigger promise than Donald Trump and the wall and he's come up with a zero, an egg. There is no wall and he's going to get hammered by the Democrats for lying to the American people because there never could be a wall due to environmental laws, due to eminent domain.

So it's again Trump trying to get ahead of the new cycle in 2020 by trying to put images of an artificial wall up, because there really isn't one built during his administration.

SCIUTTO: Ayesha, the White House says the President was just joking about these pardons. We should note it is not the first time that the White House has claimed that. Here's the response to Donald Trump asking Russia to find Hillary Clinton's missing emails about telling police officers to be rough with suspects about calling Democrats treasonous for not standing and applauding during the State of the Union speech and about saying that he loves WikiLeaks. What's common about all of these answers, have a listen.


SPICER: He was joking at the time. We all know it.

SANDERS: I believe he was making a joke at the time.

The president was clearly joking with his comments.

Clearly, the president was making a joke during the 2016 campaign.


[19:20:05] SCIUTTO: You cover this White House, Ayesha, is that a credible defense?

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: I think at this point it's not really credible. He's the President of the United States, so what he says matters and they want it to matter when it's convenient for them, so the White House will say that the President's statements on Twitter or what have you.

Just last week he imposed tariffs through Twitter in China and so they say that those words matter, but when it's something that they can't really defend or they don't really have an answer for, then it's just a joke. At this point, it would seem like it's not wise for a President of the United States to be joking about pardoning people if they break the law that he would just pardon them, because that raises real questions and that's something that Congress would look into and that could lead to questions about impeachment, because people could look at it as an abuse of power.

SCIUTTO: Doug, it's not the first time. CNN previously reported Trump told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan that he would grant him a pardon if he were sent to jail for having border agents block asylum seekers from entering the U.S. in defiance, we should mention, of U.S. law. This is something the President has done before and offered before, it seems that that would corroborate that this is an actual offer to these aides as opposed to a joking offer to them.

BRINKLEY: I agree. And he also did Dinesh D'Souza, a right-wing talk figure. He gave him a pardon. Scooter Libby who George W. Bush refused to pardon. Trump went in there and did that.

He's telling people, "Be my crony. Be Trumpian. Don't worry about the law, I'm bigger than the Constitution. I'm bigger than the law. Do my bidding for me and I've got your back." That is something that it's almost mind-boggling that a President of the United States would be off-the-cuff saying such a thing and you just wonder when the rooster is going to come home to roost because I mean you can't just keep telling people to break the law and not coming it back to haunt you.

There is no border wall, we've had a mass killing in El Paso due to right-wing hate rhetoric and so it's important I think the American people realize this whole border wall immigration thing has just been a figment of the President's imagination that the whole wall was never going to be built and Mexico was never going to pay for it and now he's just trying to score some political points with his base.

SCIUTTO: Ayesha, the president believes he's scoring political points with his base. The fact is the Republican Party's own post mortem of the 2018 midterm elections found that the President's harsh messaging on the wall at the time it was about an invasion, migrant caravan, et cetera hurt GOP candidates in the midterm elections. Is the White House convinced that this is a positive, and workable and helpful message for the President?

RASCOE: I think they're convinced that it's a helpful message for the president and I think they look at the 2018 election as different when you're looking at the house and things of that nature versus what the president is trying to do to rile up his base. And I think that they look at this idea of immigration as something that they could get people to go and this is what people at the rallies and what his base wants to hear.

They want to hear about immigration. They want to hear that he's building the wall and so that's why there's concern. It would seem to me that even with the wall not being built, his base is so for him that they would be able to look past that. But for whatever reason, the President seems to look at this as a weakness or something that he could be hammered on.

And I guess if you couple that with weakness in the economy, I think that's where he's looking at trouble and why this might matter more to him.

SCIUTTO: Ayesha, Doug, good to have you both on tonight. OUTFRONT next this hour, President Trump telling his supporters he is done with Fox News. Why the sudden outrage in what has been his favorite network? Plus, breaking news, a new Democrat calling it quits, announcing she is no longer running for president. Is this just the beginning of an exodus? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:28:12] SCIUTTO: Tonight, President Trump telling his millions of Twitter followers to switch the channel from Fox News. President Trump going on a tirade against the network tweeting, "The Fox News is letting millions of great people down. We have to start looking for a new news Outlet. Fox isn't working for us anymore."

Out front now Mike Shields, former Chief of Staff at the RNC and CNN Political Commentator Jennifer Granholm, of course, the former Governor of Michigan, also CNN Senior Political Commentator.

Mike, why does the President think that Fox News should be using his words here work working for him?

MIKE SHIELDS, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, RNC: He didn't say working for him. He says, "Working for us." And I think it's one of the big mistakes that people who cover the President's critics make all of the time, which is that the President sees himself as leading a movement. He had 63 million Americans that voted for him and just like an influencer on Instagram, Kim Kardashian might say, "You know what? I was mistreated by this company," or, "I don't like this airline and we're going to do something about it."

She's telling to her followers to enact change to go forth and to do what they're asking them to do as an influencer. They carry an audience with them. And so the President, I think, looks at Fox News and says, "You have an audience, but I have an audience and my audience is going to do what I want to do and so I'm going to try and influence you by representing my supporters and saying we are going to go in a certain direction or maybe start our own network or start our own -" he's talked about starting his own social media channel before with this.

SCIUTTO: Well, I mean, the President's exact words where Fox isn't working for us anymore whether that's for him and the White House or him and his followers. Governor Granholm, do you think - do you accept that explanation? Do you think a president should have an expectation that Fox should cover him in a more friendly manner?

FORMER GOVERNOR JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D-MI): Of course not. I mean they're supposed to be independent news network and everybody jokes whether it's the state-owned news network or whether the President owns the news network or Fox owns the President, it's not clear which.

[19:30:05] It's symbiotic.

But what's interesting to me is that they're in a hard spot, Fox is, because their advertisers are super uncomfortable with the direction that Fox has been heading in. So, for example, Tucker Carlson has lost 60 percent of his paid advertisers, because the advertisers are uncomfortable with his appearing to tip his hat -- appearing to tip his hat to white nationalism. You can understand that.

So, because Fox News revenues are down, they feel like, well, they've got to be responsive to Donald Trump. But the journalists, the true journalists are nervous about appearing to be slavishly devoted to the president rather than reporting news.

And just as an example, the reason why Donald Trump melted down this morning was because they had a DNC deputy communications director on who's talking about a poll, the Quinnipiac poll that you guys have been covering. And Quinnipiac poll showed that every single Democrat beats Donald Trump significantly and that people are starting to believe that the economy is not working for them either. That caused him to flip out.

So, for Fox News viewers, I think they should be concerned that Fox News is bending the truth in order to serve a president rather than serving the people who are watching them.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Mike, what's wrong with the network reporting a poll that doesn't look good for the president?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think what's interesting about in is that you can't say one hand that Fox News is just the propaganda arm of the White House and at the other hand say they are reporting things that the White House doesn't like. I mean, those two things don't fit.

And I think with all cable news, you have a newsroom, and during the daytime, it reports news and then you have opinion shows in the evening, and people seem to conflate those things all the time.

And so, look, the president is going to push back on every single narrative that's out there that he disagrees with, and he has the ability to do it directly to the American people. He bypasses media quite often. He uses his Twitter to do that in a way that's never done before by an elected official, and he's going to talk to his supporters, rally and communicate with them the way that he wants to.

And so, that's -- that is sort of been his very successful way of communicating past the media.

I think, you know, it's interesting when you talk about the economy, I think one of the reasons that he does that is for instance we just endured three or four straight weeks of people downplaying the economy and almost talking us into recession when there's actually really, really strong underpinnings of how the economy is doing. Why is that? Because people in the media constantly do it. The president wants to talk past them, straight to the people, to his supporters, and get the facts out about what he's doing on the economy, for instances.

GRANHOLM: Except, Mike, I think his supporters don't believe that it's really working for them. That's why they're seeing the numbers. I mean, even the Fox News poll from a week ago that showed that only 22 percent of Americans believe that they are getting ahead in this economy. The tariffs are having an impact. And you're seeing it throughout the economy. Not just in the ag sector, but in the auto sector as well.

We're seeing a manufacturing recession that has started. Manufacturing GDP dropping 1.5 points since December. So, it's not all lovely and rosy as you suggest. (CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: I saw a report today that consumer confidence is at all-time high. You know, trade is 3.4 percent compared to 7 percent of the economy that is services and jobs. And so, I think, look, here is --


SCIUTTO: The manufacturing index is down, too.


SCIUTTO: I mean, you can pick statistics that fit -- that are positive, and, of course, others go in a negative direction.

SHIELDS: Right, but here's how the media covers this. They will write eight columns, or, excuse me, eight paragraphs of all these people are worried about the economy. And then last one, but if you want to look at the other side, let's cover our bases and mention the 12 things that are actually strong at the bottom of the article.

GRANHOLM: But this is why important to look at the polls.

SHIELDS: But Bill Maher, a liberal who's a critic of the president, Bill Maher who's a critic of the president is the only intellectually honest liberal out there, because he said, you know what, I can't stand the president so much, I would actually welcome a recession if it meant getting rid of Donald Trump.


SHIEILDS: That's where a lot of his critics are, they just won't admit it. And so, they are talking down the economy, almost talking us into a recession.

Jim Cramer said this today as well, that the underpinnings of the economy are amazingly strong yet the coverage is talking into economy making people scared.

SCIUTTO: Before we go, let's give Governor Granholm a chance to respond.

GRANHOLM: Just -- you can't deny the fact, half of America does not own stocks. They are benefitting from the stock market even when it does well. Half of America is not able to invest in having a retirement system. Only 13 percent of Americans have a pension.

People are feeling insecure. Yes, the employment numbers look good because the unemployment number is down. But if people are having two or three jobs or working minimum wage, look at the cover of "Time" magazine this week.

So, bottom line is, it is not working for everyone and that's why you're seeing it in the polls, and that's why he is freaking out.

SCIUTTO: Listen, Mike Shields -- SHIELDS: Just to say yes, the employment numbers look good and act

like that's not a big thing, that matters a lot especially in the manufacturing sector in this country when people have all-time employment.

GRANHOLM: If you work two or three jobs, and you don't have benefits, Mike, if you're working two or three jobs, and you don't have benefits, and 43 percent of Americans cannot afford the basics, that is a problem.

[19:35:03] And that's what -- that's what's showing up in these polls.

SCIUTTO: Thanks to both of you.

Listen, that's going to be part of the conversation, of course, in the 2020 election.

Mike Shields, Governor Granholm, thanks to both of you tonight.

OUTFRONT next, breaking news, Hurricane Dorian growing in strength as it veers towards the East Coast. How much damage could it cause there? A hurricane hunter who's flying through the storm right now is going to join us.

Plus, why Kamala Harris is more than just a presidential candidate to some of her youngest supporters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's important that we give him a sense that it's OK to be who he is in this community.



SCIUTTO: Breaking news tonight, the Democratic field is getting smaller. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announcing she is ending her campaign for president. It comes after he failed to make the stage for the next presidential debate.


So, Van, the field has already been pared down by a half for these debates from the 21 candidates, 20 to 10 who are going to appear. Gillibrand leaving.

Do you expect more to follow?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think more will follow. I think it's a very, very tough -- if you were in front of the American people with audiences of 10 million, 15 million, you got a chance to make your case twice, and you still can't get 2 percent of the polls, it's hard to imagine how if you're then not on the debate stage, how you suddenly have a breakout moment. [19:40:07] So, I think the curtain is going to close on a lot of


I have to say, Gillibrand brought a very special and important focus to this race when it came to women's issues, and mother's issues, kind of a different trickle-down economics, empower women, empower mothers, and that's going to be a boost for the economy. That voice will I think be missed going forward. But I think she's got a future ahead of her in New York state. But she is not the last to drop out.

SCIUTTO: OK, there is a new poll out today, as you know, from Quinnipiac, and it shows what's been a consistent factor for virtually all the polls -- a strong lead for Joe Biden there, 32 percent, 13 points above Warren, more above Sanders.

Is he the unassailable front runner at this point? Particularly when that Monmouth poll that came out earlier in the week looks to be a clear outlier?

JONES: Yes. Listen, I mean, he is always right up there. Always near the top. Near the top, and there's never a poll that shows them any place except in the top three. And he -- there is a relevant Velcro factor to him for older voters, for other -- for moderate voters. That's just going to be hard to scrape off and shake off.

I thought it's very interesting to see Andrew Yang climbing up there into that top five. That's an interesting new dimension, new development. But, you know, Biden has a Velcro lock on a certain set of voters who are not going anywhere.

SCIUTTO: One of those groups that he has a strong lock on are black voters. He has 46 percent --


SCIUTTO: -- support. The next closest -- they are way behind, Warren and Sanders with 10 percent. Harris just 7 percent here.

And we should note, an interview with black journalists, Biden said that black voters might prefer him because they know him. They know his character.

He did caution, though, that in 2008, he had more black support in South Carolina. But once he hit Iowa, and he got -- and he lost big in Iowa, it didn't matter. I mean, do you think that that support is like Velcro as you say as well?

JONES: Listen, I think for older black voters -- it's very interesting, the African-American voter, the older black voter is a very sophisticated voter politically. It's not just that they are comfortable with him, Obama picked him, et cetera. They also feel that their white peers are more comfortable with Biden. And they want to beat Trump.

And they believe that their white older peers are more comfortable with Biden. And that also adds to that stickiness factor. We'll see -- listen, what's amazing is you got an African-American female and African-American male in the race. And they are -- you know, he is beating them five times with black voters right now. That's pretty remarkable. That's a pretty big achievement for any politician and Joe Biden is doing great.

SCIUTTO: And by wide margins, too. Van Jones, always good to have you on.

JONES: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, Hurricane Dorian expected to slam into the East Coast now as a major hurricane. How bad could it get? The hurricane hunter who's flying through the storm as we speak is my guest.

Plus, Jeanne Moos on Bernie Sanders pulling no punches, literally, on the campaign trail.


[19:46:52] SCIUTTO: Breaking tonight, hurricane force winds ripping through the Virgin Islands as Hurricane Dorian is now headed north. The storm is expected to strengthen into a category three hurricane before making landfall in Florida over the Labor Day weekend.

OUTFRONT now, NOAA hurricane hunters flight director, Richard Henning. He just flew through Hurricane Dorian moments ago.

Tell us what it looked like on the inside.


Yes, we -- we dropped a pattern of 27 instruments above the storm and around the storm, capturing this environment. It is a -- as everything has been telling you, it's an intensifying hurricane. We're up to 80-mile-per-hour sustained winds.

The eye wall is getting better and better defined all the time. And it's -- it's sort of exceeded expectations up to this point, which is not -- not good news for the folks in Florida. We are still showing a lot of dry air trying to wrap into the storm in the mid and lower levels of the atmosphere. That is what has prevented the storm from intensifying more over the last couple of days.

It's still battling the dry air. That's an enemy to hurricane development. But unfortunately, all the forecast models indicate that it's moving into a more moist environment. So, it's going to be easier for the storm to intensify over the next couple of days.

SCIUTTO: For people in Florida watching tonight along the southeastern U.S. coast, how dangerous could this get?

HENNING: Right now, it's forecast to be a major hurricane, 115-mile- per-hour sustained winds. You're talking about anyone that is along the coastline, needs to heed all of the evacuation warnings for their area. Pretty much anyone from Jacksonville to Miami needs to pay very close attention to this storm.

People that live further north can't forget about it either. But right now, all indications are that it's aiming towards the space coast near the Kennedy Space Center, cities like Melbourne and Titusville, that area, look like they're going to get the brunt of it.

And that should unfortunately be a major storm in terms of the entire peninsula, the central Florida peninsula, and it's forecast to be a hurricane going inland across the state.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, you have flown through other hurricanes before. Folks at home and myself included have no idea what it feels like on the inside. What is it like and how does it compare to other hurricanes you have flown through?

HENNING: Well, this storm is still in the gathering stages. The bad news is, is that we have been seeing nothing near the worst that this storm is forecast to be.

[19:50:01] So, it was a surprisingly intense storm for the Virgin Islands and eastern Puerto Rico.

But so far, you know, in the world of hurricanes, it's kind of garden variety category one. It wasn't particularly turbulent, but it is forecast to become much, much more intense over the next couple of days. Everybody needs to really, really be on guard for this system.

SCIUTTO: Well, Richard, thanks very much. Keep your seat belt on up there. We wish you a safe landing.

OUTFORNT next, Jeanne Moos on Bernie Sanders taking on a punching bag, but who wins?


SCIUTTO: Senator Kamala Harris is drawing some people to her rallies who can't exactly vote just yet. Many parents taking her children to see her on the campaign trail, hoping to show them that a biracial woman can become president of the United States.

[19:55:03] Our Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another rally in the race for 2020.


LAH: Her sisters, Anna Maddox --

ANNA MADDOX, HARRIS SUPPORTER: I'm half Mexican, half Vietnamese.

LAH: -- and Lea Chao (ph), this is a destination.

(on camera): Why did you drive two hours to be here? MADDOX: Really, I wanted for her, you know, to see a woman, if

anything, especially a woman of color run for president.

HARRIS: It's time to take action.

MADDOX: You know, it took 24 years to get to this point for me and she's only 9. So imagine when she's 24, she's not going to think this is abnormal.

LAH (voice-over): From Davenport, Iowa, to Denver, Colorado there is a reoccurring theme among the parents who bring their children to see a biracial woman run for president.

(on camera): Your daughter asked you to come?

SHELDON SHADRACH, HARRIS SUPPORTER: Yes, she's actually a big fan, a big supporter, and she's been following Kamala Harris.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it would be special to be the first female president.

LAH (voice-over): Hillary Clinton helped pave the way. Elizabeth Warren shares that message.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm running for president because that's what girls do.

LAH: But 11-year-old Skylar Toney sees her reflection in Harris.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she's pretty brave to try and do that, and she's not like holding back or anything.

HEIDI FOREMAN-TONEY, HARRIS SUPPORTER: It connects them. When they look and see someone who looks like them, a lot of times that kind of lets them visualize their future and see what's possible for them as children even.

LAH: It's something Harris knows, why she takes the time, especially with children of color.

(on camera): Win or lose, what does that mean for you?

HARRIS: It means the world to me. I mean, when I see those little girls in particular, I mean, I see myself, right? And I see the children of family, and I see the children of country, and I see the promise of our country.

My mother had many signs and one of them is -- you may be the first to do many things, make sure you're not the last. She said don't you ever --

It is my true hope that my career and whatever I do is -- empowers other people, of whatever age.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": Authorities investigating a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto that they believe was posted by the shooter just before the massacre.

LAH (voice-over): In these divided times, when children have questions about the news, some parents consider a political rally the antidote.

ERIC LITTLE, HARRIS SUPPORTER: With us being an interracial couple, it's important that we give him a sense that it's OK to be who he is in this community.

JESSICA LITTLE, HARRIS SUPPORTER: He's aware that his dad is black and that his mom is white. But we push really hard to make sure he knows that's not bad. That's beautiful. That's wonderful. That's what the United States is.

LAH: Kyung Lah, CNN, Davenport, Iowa.


SCIUTTO: That's what the United States is, she says.

Also tonight, Bernie Sanders is prepared to knock out his competition or himself. Here is Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this corner, 77-year-old Bernie "The Cerebral" Sanders couldn't resist jabbing the speed bag he passed by the other day.


MOOS: He took on the bag but the bag clobbered him, or as one armed chair analyst put it: Speed bag TKOs Bernie Sanders seconds after fight began, quickest technical knockout in boxing history.

(on camera): Note to candidates, if you're clueless about hitting a bag, don't do it unless you want to become a punching bag.

(voice-over): What a doofus. LOL, if he keeps that up, maybe he'll knock some sense into himself.

Someone else took a swing at socialism, tweeting: When capitalism claps back.

Even the president's son Don Jr. weighed in. This wouldn't exactly strike fear in the minds of our adversaries.

But Bernie supporters thought it was cute -- float like a butterfly, sting like a Bernie.

We've seen the candidate shadow box before, reacting to his doctor saying what great health the senator is in.

WARREN: Do I get involved in senior boxing?

MOOS: In addition to shadow boxing, we seen Donald Trump perform a fake takedown at a WWE event billed as the battle of the billionaires.

(on camera): Hey, but at least Bernie is punching a bag and not threatening to punch his opponent.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wish you were in high school and I could take him behind the gym.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said I'd like to take him behind the gym. Oh, I dream of that.

MOOS: But our favorite political boxing moment was when retiring Senator Orrin Hatch tried to spar with a piece of bacon, a slice of bacon is great but don't get any ideas from this guy, don't think of pummeling meat, Bernie, even if it would tenderize it.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


SCIUTTO: Thanks so much for joining us tonight. I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AC360" starts right now.