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Dorian to Hit Florida As Hurricane; Purdue Pharma Settlement Talks; Barr Books Trump's Hotel For $30K Holiday Party; Popeyes New Chicken Sandwich "Sold Out" Nationwide. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 28, 2019 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:20] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Florida now in Dorian's sights. The storm expected to make landfall ads a hurricane this week. First the tropical storm hit Puerto Rico today.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Billions of dollars in company ownership on the line. The family blamed for helping spark the opioid crisis now in settlement talks.

ROMANS: Outrage at the attorney general. You won't believe where he's hosting a $30,000 holiday party.

BRIGGS: And a twist in the chicken sandwich wars that has Popeyes fans crying foul.

ROMANS: No, we didn't have to make that pun, did we?

BRIGGS: We did.


BRIGGS: We just did.

It's a hungry hump day here. Welcome to viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: We did it. We did it. We own it.

I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, August 28. It is 4:00 a.m. in New York.

Let's begin here, though, with tropical storm Dorian now expected to strengthen into the hurricane by the time it makes landfall in Florida. Now, the National Hurricane Center has updated the storm's track. It is expected to hit Puerto Rico near hurricane strength around midday today.

Late last night, President Trump approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico to speed up delivery of resources. More on that in a moment.

BRIGGS: Dorian now forecast to strengthen into a category-one hurricane by Friday evening before it makes landfall across the East Coast of Florida on Saturday. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri live for us this morning in the CNN

weather center.

Good morning to you, sir. What's ahead?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, Dave. This is a storm system that's been so complex in a lot of ways. Very compact storm system, has interacted with quite a bit of islands in its track toward Puerto Rico. Now, all models on agreement that the storm will cross Puerto Rico sometime within the next eight to 12 hours.

Look at the track of Dorian as it works toward the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, and compare that to Hurricane Maria. A lot of people talk about this and almost an identical track from Maria when you lay the forecast track of Dorian on top of this. Of course, we're comparing a tropical storm to a category-four hurricane at that time.

But this will bring in potentially the highest rainfall totals toward the island for the first time in about two years' time which goes back to September of 2017 where Dorian made landfall, brought about seven inches of rainfall towards San Juan on that day, and this storm certainly has the potential to bring up at least that much rainfall by tomorrow afternoon and that's why we not only have hurricane watches but also tropical storm warnings in place for the region in advance of the storm system.

The models indicate at least four to six inches, some areas potentially eight-plus areas of rainfall. It does include the northern fringe of the island. The most populated corner there into San Juan. And, of course, you look beyond this, once it crosses over Puerto Rico, we'll expect some weakening in the initial phase of this. Beyond this, the wind shear is reduced, the moisture content in the atmosphere increases, and the sea surface temperatures rise, as well. So, all signs point at a strengthening storm system once it clears the rugged mountains of Puerto Rico.

And then you look at the models, really far -- widespread between where the track ends up here sometime late Sunday. Some models take it toward central and central Florida. Some take it into southern portions of Georgia. And a few even skirted off shore.

So, certainly, a lot could happen once you look at a forecast beyond, say, four to five days statistically speaking. There's a 200-mile margin of error for storms five days out. This could end up any given way from the Bahamas toward the state of, say, Georgia.

But at this point, we are looking at a category one some late potentially on Sunday evening across the state of Florida or Georgia -- Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Pedram, thanks. We'll check back with you next half hour.

ROMANS: All right. The president's emergency declaration for Puerto Rico came after a push from Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. Also after President Trump vented about the storm: Wow, yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico, will it ever end? Congress approved $92 billion for Puerto Rico last year, an all-time record of its kind, for anywhere.

As we have said before, those numbers from the president are misleading. More than half the money is based on White House estimates of potential costs over the next 20 years.

BRIGGS: Dorian is still growing but is already wreaking havoc. Look at this flooding on the island of Martinique to the southeast. And Puerto Rico, the government says 90 percent of preparations are done. Officials say they're more ready now than they were for Maria two years ago.


GOV. WANDA VAZQUEZ GARCED, PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rico has been through worse situations. I trust in the people of Puerto Rico. We are ready. We are going forward, we are going to wait and see how this emergency unfolds, and we are going to be better prepared.


[04:05:01] BRIGGS: The government says Puerto Rico has a 41-day stockpile of gasoline, infrastructure supplies across the island, 300 generators with 100 more on standby, and police and national guard troops set to provide security at shelters.

ROMANS: Among other preparations, Miami-Dade County is sending a 45- member search and rescue crew to Puerto Rico. Airlines and cruise lines, they are modifying their schedules. So check with your carrier before traveling through the area.

BRIGGS: As Tropical Storm Dorian bears down on Puerto Rico, the Trump administration is taking $155 million out of the FEMA disaster relief fund to use it for immigration enforcement. The Department of Homeland Security confirms a total of $271 million, including the FEMA money, will be repurposed for immigration.

Last week the administration announced that it intends to hold migrant families indefinitely despite a legal settlement limiting family detention to 20 days.

ROMANS: All right. Five minutes past the hour. Breaking overnight, a prominent, wealthy family would give up ownership of Purdue Pharma under a proposed settlement stemming from this opioid epidemic. The Sackler family would also pay at least $3 billion of their own money, this is according to multiple reports.

Now, Purdue Pharma, this company, widely blamed for sparking the opioid crisis. The family getting rich off of it. Purdue Pharma introducing OxyContin in 1996 with aggressive marketing, persuading doctors to prescribe it widely.

BRIGGS: NBC first reported settlement talks, saying Purdue is offering $10 billion to $12 billion total. Purdue Pharma confirms to CNN is trying to settle 2,000 cities, counties, and tribal lands that are suing the company. A trial set for October.

This follows a landmark decision in Oklahoma where a judge ordered pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for its role in the state's opioid crisis.

ROMANS: The Attorney General Bill Barr is planning a holiday party for 200 people in December. Guess where he booked it -- the president, the president's Washington, D.C., hotel, fueling more questions about his independence. "The Washington Post" obtained the party contract Barr signed. He will pay for the gathering himself, eventually writing a check to the hotel for more than $30,000 for his party.

According to the Justice Department, the attorney general chose the president's hotel because other hotels were booked. A DOJ official says ethics officials were consulted. They looked over this.

The purpose of the party is not to curry favor with the boss. That's the finding of the DOJ.

BRIGGS: Sources tell CNN a bitter disagreement broke out between President Trump and several G7 leaders over whether to allow Russia back into the group. Two diplomatic officials tell us the leaders were discussing issues like Iran and the Amazon rainforest fires when President Trump interjected asking why Russia was not included in the talks. That was met with sharp resistance, especially from Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The president keeps insisting Vladimir Putin's presence would be a positive.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Would I invite him? I would certainly invite him. Having him in I think is more of an advantage. I think it's a positive for the world.

I really think it's good for security of the world. It's good for the economics.

It would be good for Russia. I think it would be good for everybody.


BRIGGS: Top Senate Democrats are urging President Trump not to allow Russia back into the G7. This after the Kremlin denied visas to two senators, Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Chris Murphy, for an upcoming congressional visit to Moscow.

ROMANS: President Trump is so determined to complete hundreds of miles of border fencing before the 2020 election, he is directing aides to fast track billions of dollars worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private property, and disregard environmental regulations. This is according to "The Washington Post." He's also assuring subordinates he will pardon them for any wrongdoing

in his rush to build the wall. A White House official claims the president is joking about the pardons.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed about 60 miles of replacement barrier during the first 30 months of the Trump presidency. All of it in areas that previously had border infrastructure.

BRIGGS: President Trump also set to allow logging trucks into Alaska's pristine Tongass National Forest. "The Washington Post" reports the president has ordered the 17-million acre forest exempted from logging restrictions. The move would open up more than half of the world's largest intact temperate rain forest to potential logging, energy, and mining projects. The Tongass has been off limits since Bill Clinton exempted it days before leaving office in 2001. That move has survived repeated legal challenges.

ROMANS: All right. Some good news of sorts for farmers here who are reeling from the president's multi-front trade war.

[04:10:02] President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made an agreement in principle on trade during the G7. While American pork producers say they're happy about the deal, get this -- this deal is no better than if Trump had stayed in the Trans Pacific Partnership in the first place.

That's two years to get to a place where pork producers already were. Pork producers have relied on Japan as their biggest market. They had seen exports slip this year. The new deal should put them back where they were on a level playing field.

Still, the agreement only solves one problem created by Trump's trade policies. Tensions with China could worsen if Washington and Beijing follow through with the latest tariff threats on Sunday. Trump and Abe plan to sign their agreement on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next month.

BRIGGS: Firefighter arson some say. You get out of the TPP, you set a fire, you put it right back out.

All right. Ahead, he was supposed to be starting freshman year at Harvard, but instead he was deported before he even left the airport. We'll tell you why.


[04:15:41] BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, the family of a Minor League pitching prospect killed in a triple homicide. The wife, child, and mother-in-law of Blake Bivens, a pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, were killed in Virginia.

Police say they arrested Bivens' 18-year-old brother-in-law and charged him with first-degree murder.

Bivens' team, the AA Montgomery Biscuits, postponed their scheduled double-header last night because of the tragedy.

The Tampa Bay Rays released a statement saying on Twitter: Our hearts are broken for Blake. We are grieving with him and will support him any way we can.

ROMANS: An incoming Harvard freshman deported before stepping foot on campus. According to "The Crimson", 17-year-old Ismail Ajjawi of Lebanon was questioned for hours by immigration officers at Logan Airport Friday. He was stopped because of social media posts by his friends and his laptop and phone were searched. Ajjawi ultimately had his visa canceled and was denied entry to the United States.

Harvard says the university is working closely with the student's family and appropriate authorities to resolve this matter.

BRIGGS: Eleven suspicious deaths now being investigated at a V.A. hospital in West Virginia. They confirm potential wrongdoing at the Lewis Johnson V.A. Medical Center in Clarkson where a person of interest in the case is no longer in contact with patients. According to Senator Joe Mnuchin, at least one of the deaths is a confirmed homicide.

In a claim filed last week, the family of 82-year-old Felix Kirk McDermott alleges he died at the hospital after being injected with a fatal dose of insulin either negligently or willfully. McDermott's daughter tells "USA Today" she thought her dad was safe there.

ROMANS: Terrible story.

All right. They weren't bribes, they were legitimate donations. That's the defense you can expect from "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin in the college admissions scandal. In federal court, the attorney for the actress and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, said they gave money to a nonprofit that made legitimate donations to universities.

They're accused of paying $500,000 as part a scheme to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California. Both have pleaded not guilty to mail fraud and money laundering charges. Loughlin's understated arrival Tuesday was different from her court appearance in April when she signed autographs and took pictures with fans.

BRIGGS: A major reversal by the college board bands its plan to sign adversity score to every student who takes the SAT college admissions test. The plan to develop an overall disadvantage number for each test-taker faced strong criticism from both educators and parents. In its place, the college board unveiled a new admissions tool called Landscape. Now, it will provide two socio-economic ratings, one for the high school and one for the neighborhood where the student lives.

ROMANS: All right. An important recall for parents with kids heading back to school.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:23:37] ROMANS: North Carolina is suing eight e-cigarette companies for unlawfully targeting children in their ads. The companies named in the suit are Beard Vape, Direct E-Liquid, Electric Lotus, Electric Tobacconist, Ion Smoke, Juice Man, Tinted Brew, and Vape Co. This is the latest effort by the state to combat youth vaping.

Back in May, North Carolina's attorney general filed a similar lawsuit against Juul. That's the leading e-cigarette maker, claiming Juul marketed its products to teens.

BRIGGS: Millions of Contigo water bottles are being recalled because of a choking risk for kids. The silicone spout can detach and pose a potential choking hazard. The company says there have been nearly two dozen incidents in which a spout is discovered in a child's mouth. There have been no reports of injuries. The bottles were sold at retailers including Costco, Walmart, and Target, between April, 2018, and June, 2019.

ROMANS: Just in time for back to school. Check your backpack.

All right. A clown mask, a gun, 50 bullets, that's what police in New York say an ex-convict was carrying when he was arrested for sneaking into a government building. Rahmeek Younger was released from April after serving time on a weapons charge. Police say he was carrying a loaded .22-caliber semiautomatic weapon when another visitor in the building spotted the gun in his bag and alerted an officer to call 911. Police tased and arrested younger as he tried to flee.

[04:25:00] No explanation yet for his unusual cargo.

BRIGGS: That's terrifying.

If you love your fried chicken crispy and quick, you won't love this. Popeyes is sold out, sold out of chicken -- in terms of its new chicken sandwich. That's across the country. The fast food chain says due to an extraordinary demand, they sold out in two weeks. They projected inventory would last until the end of September.

Popeyes says it's working to bring the crowd pleaser back as soon as possible. Customers have been flocking to Popeyes after a Twitter feud between Popeye's and Chick-fil-A over who has the best chicken sandwich.

I tried to do the test where you go to all them and try them, but I couldn't get through the drive-thru at Popeyes. It would have been about 45 minutes. Chick-fil-a won mine.

ROMANS: Who's the best? All of them. Fried chicken sandwich --

BRIGGS: Just incredible demand for the sandwich.

All right. Ahead, we are tracking tropical storm Dorian, now set to hit Florida as a hurricane this week. First, Puerto Rico about to get pummeled.