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Dorian Set to Hit Florida As Cat 1 Hurricane; Purdue Pharma Settlement Talks; Barr Books Trump's Hotel For $30K Holiday Party; Popeyes New Chicken Sandwich "Sold Out" Nationwide; Peloton Plans to Go Public. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 28, 2019 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:22] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Florida now in Dorian's sights. The storm expected to make landfall as a hurricane. First, a tropical storm hitting Puerto Rico today.

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

BRIGGS: Outrage at the attorney general. You won't believe where he's hosting a $30,000 holiday party, or will you?

ROMANS: And a twist in the chicken sandwich wars that has Popeyes fans crying foul. Yes, we did it.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 4:30 Eastern Time, 4:30 in Puerto Rico. And that's where we start.

Tropical Storm Dorian now expected to strengthen into a hurricane by the time it makes landfall in Florida. The National Hurricane Center's updated the storm's track. It is expected to hit Puerto Rico near hurricane strength at 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.

ROMANS: Dorian is now forecast to strengthen into a category-one hurricane by Friday evening before it makes landfall across the East Coast of Florida. That will be on Sunday.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri, he is live for us this morning in the CNN weather center watching this one closely. What does the track look like?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, the track looks pretty certain here. It' going to impact areas of eastern Puerto Rico within the next, say, six to ten hours. And, of course, it's a very compact tropical storm.

And in the last couple of hours we've seen gradual strengthening with it even though it is fighting quite a bit of environmental conditions, whether continue wind shear or dryer air around it. It has managed to strengthen. The last aircraft that flew through the system had a sustained wind speed of 70 miles per hour. Once you get above, say, 73 miles per hour, you become a category-one hurricane.

And the forecast does potentially bring there to very close to a category-one storm right before it makes landfall across eastern Puerto Rico this afternoon. So this is still a very serious storm system in an area that, of course, has dealt with so much in recent years. And then some of the heaviest rainfall since Hurricane Maria expected to impact the island just this afternoon and this evening. Potentially on the northern fringe, around San Juan there. Potentially as much as seven to eight inches of rainfall could come down with the storm system. The last time we had more than seven inches in one day, September 20th, 2017, with Hurricane Maria.

And then you take a look, this storm system, of course, works its way just north of the Bahamas, it's been going from Thursday toward Friday. By Saturday, potentially getting up toward a category one as early as Friday night to Saturday, category-one hurricane. Some models suggest this could get to a category two. Others have brought it down just to a tropical storm, depending on how it interacts with Puerto Rico.

But despite the average here, the National Hurricane Center believes a category one is a possibility at this point for landfall sometime late Sunday. Then you take a look at this when it comes to the heavy rainfall, quite a bit for the holiday weekend across portions of Florida. Potentially as far north as southern Georgia depending on where the track ends up as you fine tune it over the next couple of days.

BRIGGS: Thank you, my friend. We'll see you at 5:00.

OK. President Trump's emergency declaration for Puerto Rico came after a push from Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. And also after President Trump vented about the storm.

Quote: 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've said before, those numbers are, indeed, misleading. More than half the money is based on White House estimates of potential costs over the next 20 years.

ROMANS: Of course, 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico. And it has not even recovered fully from Hurricane Maria.

Meanwhile, Dorian is still growing and already wreaking havoc. Look at this flooding on Martinique to the southeast. In 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. WANDA VAZQUEZ GARCED, PUERTO RICO (through translator): 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.


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

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

[04:35:05] CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Ponce on Puerto Rico's southern coast and has the latest.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are in the town of Ponce, which is about 70 miles driving southwest of San Juan. And there are still many places here and across the island still feeling the effects of Hurricane Maria nearly two years after that devastating hurricane made landfall. This is one of those places.

I am walking on what used to be a home. This was a home that was destroyed during the course of Maria's landfall, again, almost two years ago. The owner here, the resident who still lives here, by the way, in a small what she describes apartment back behind me because that was what she had retreat to once this was destroyed, says that they hoped to rebuild, but the money they received from the federal government was not enough to get them to that point. Instead, they are making due with what they can.

I want you to hear in her words how she describes dealing with the devastation.


LUCY BEASCOCHEA, PONCE, PUERTO RICO HOMEOWNER: I'm a little bit nervous because I'm afraid I'll lose my second apartment. And I took us some cables which belonged to the old house. I took it for the tree this morning when my brother -- called my brother to help me out, so I could tie the roof on the other house.


JIMENEZ: We spoke to the mayor here. And one of the things she is concerned about is about the rainfall. And that is because there is a mountainous region, one that's a little bit more mountainous than where we are now, just north in the northern part of the city of Ponce. She says while there are mechanisms in place to control water flow, if those are overwhelmed or not maintained properly over the course of this event, there's a lot of flooding that could come crashing into the town below -- Dave, Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that, Oscar.

As 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 redirected to immigration. Last week the administration announced it intends to hold migrant families indefinitely despite a legal settlement limiting family detentions to 20 days.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, a prom present at family would give up ownership of Purdue Pharma under a proposed settlement stemming from the opioid epidemic. The Sackler family would pay at least $3 billion of their own money according to multiple reports. Purdue is widely blamed for sparking the opioid crisis, introducing OxyContin in 1996 with aggressive marketing, persuading doctors to prescribe it widely.

ROMANS: NBC first reported talks saying Purdue is offering $10 billion to $12 billion total. Purdue Pharma confirms to CNN it is trying to settle. Two thousand cities, counties, and tribal lands are suing the company as a trial is set to begin in October. This follows a landmark decision in Oklahoma. A judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for its role in Oklahoma's opioid crisis.

BRIGGS: Today's the deadline for Democrats to qualify for the next debate two weeks from tomorrow. Ten candidates have qualified. And those campaigns are hoping to keep it to ten. At least one poll is coming out this morning.

If businessman Tom Steyer tops 2 percent in one more DNC-approved poll, he'll be the 11th candidate to meet the criteria, and the debate will be split into two nights. That's causing grumbling among the top-tier candidates. One aide saying it's a disservice to primary voters saying they want to see Biden, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, they've been the consistent top tiers for months now.

ROMANS: Former Vice President Joe Biden sat down Tuesday with several black journalists repeating his argument that he is the most electable candidate, even as others draw bigger crowds like Elizabeth Warren whose crowd size got the Twitter attention of president Trump. Biden will be on the trail in South Carolina.

But it's Warren getting buzz in that state. She will hold a town hall next week in Orangeburg with Congressman Jim Clyburn on student debt relief. It's not an endorsement but still, an important appearance. Clyburn is considered the biggest Democrat in the state with a lot of black voters, a demographic where Warren trails.

BRIGGS: Attorney General Bill Barr planning a holiday party for 200 people in December and he booked it at President Trump'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.

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 and that the purpose of the party is not to curry favor with the boss.

[04:40:01] Deutsche Bank won't confirm publicly whether it has President Trump's tax returns, but it does acknowledge to the courts that a subpoena would cover people's returns, possibly those of Trump family members. That means House Democrats could see tax returns in short order if Congress wins its lawsuit to have them released.

Deutsche Bank says it also has returns of, quote, immediate family of those named in the subpoena. In a separate letter to the court, Capital One bank said that it does not have copies of the tax returns.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump renewing his attacks on the Fed, blaming the Fed for a slump in U.S. manufacturing. Here's the tweet: The Federal Reserve loves watching our manufacturers struggle with their exports to the benefit of other parts of the world.

Yes, manufacturing is struggling, but the problem is the trade war with China and a slowing global economy, not the Fed. Rising tariffs have made materials more expensive, causing the sector to shrink for the first time in nearly a decade.

Trump's latest attack on the central bank came after a scathing op-ed from former New York Fed president Bill Dudley. This got a lot of attention, folks. In it, Dudley says the Fed should not enable Trump's trade war and should ignore his calls for rate cuts writing: This manufactured disaster in the making presents the Federal Reserve with a dilemma. Should it mitigate the damage by providing offsetting stimulus or refuse to act along?

The timing of Dudley's column is interesting with a new round of tariffs scheduled to kick in on Sunday. The Fed rejected Dudley's statement and suggestions. A spokesperson for the Fed told "The New York Times" that political considerations play absolutely no role in the Fed's policy decisions.

The White House decline today to comment on the column, but remarkably, you got someone who is so important in the world of the Fed, former New York Fed president, saying don't take the president's bait, let him suffer into the election. Don't let him get reelected by --

BRIGGS: Is it the Fed's job to minimize the president's trade war?

ROMANS: We've never been here before.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: The Fed's job is to keep inflation at its target rate, around 2 percent, and to keep unemployment low. To keep people working and keep, you know, prices under control. That its mandate.

It's the shock absorber of the American economy, you think of the economy as a car. You've got the president driving the car into the ditch. The Fed essentially has to help steer the car into the ditch.

BRIGGS: One of the great dilemmas of the Trump presidency.

Yet another bizarre twist in the Amazon fire story. A spokesman for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says the company is open to taking aid to fight the rainforest fires. About 24 hours ago, Bolsonaro's chief of staff said Brazil would reject $20 million in aid from the G7. Hours later, Bolsonaro denied the claim but laid out some conditions for accepting the aid.

Satellite data shows the fires are decreasing to a level at or below normal intensity for this time of year. Brazil's defense ministry says about 2,500 troops have been assigned to fight the fires. President Bolsonaro tweeted Saturday he was sending 43,000 troops.

Ahead, they won't face him in court, but Jeffrey Epstein's accusers got the chance to vent. For some it will never be enough.


CHAUNTAE DAVIES, EPSTEIN ALLEGED VICTIM: It was both empowering and infuriating to know that the person who I needed to hear those words is not here to hear them.



[04:47:26] 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: One of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation is on hold. A federal judge blocking Missouri from banning most abortions after eight weeks. His ruling coming less than 24 hours before the new law was set to take effect.

The decision marks a significant win for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, which operates the state's only abortion clinic in St. Louis.

Missouri's attorney general says he is, quote, deciding on the next steps.

ROMANS: It was not the day in court they deserved, but 16 Jeffrey Epstein accusers finally had a chance to pour out their anger publicly. A Manhattan judge giving them the opportunity they were denied when the convicted predator took his own life behind bars.

One by one, the victims called Epstein a coward as they relived their horrifying encounters.


DAVIES: It was both empowering and infuriating to know that the person who I needed to hear those words is not here to hear them. It makes me sick to my stomach that there's perpetrators out there that obviously helped him in many ways for a very long time and they're still out there with no punishment.


ROMANS: Epstein's alleged victims are asking prosecutors to continue their investigation.

Attorney General Bill Barr has said potential co-conspirators should not rest easy.

BRIGGS: A stolen police cruiser was going 97 miles an hour when it hit a minivan in Dayton, Ohio, killing two 6-year-old girls.

Police say the father of the suspect, Raymond Andrew Walters, was trying to take him to a hospital for mental health issues Monday, but when the suspect realized where they were going, he began attacking his father and took off in his truck.

Minutes later, after crashing into a tree, he took control of a responding officer's cruiser. The officer tased Walters twice but that didn't stop the suspect from taking off.

Walters had been on active parole.


CHIEF FRANK ROBINSON, RIVERSIDE POLICE DEPARTMENT, DAYTON, OHIO: His behavior at the scene, prior drug history, and other information leads us to believe that methamphetamine may be a factor -- may be.

[04:50:07] We need to confirm that but there certainly is strong suspicion.


BRIGGS: A third child is in critical condition.

Police say they expect to pursue murder charges.

ROMANS: Terrible story.

All right. Federal prosecutors charging a former lead engineer for a Google's self-driving unit, car unit, with a stealing trade secrets from his former employer. Google says Anthony Levandowski downloaded 14,000 confidential files to a personal hard drive before leaving the company in 2016. He then launched Otto, an autonomous trucking startup, which was acquired by Uber later that year.

Levandowski's lawyers said the issue took place when he was still employed at Google and authorized to use the information, and that none of the files went to Uber or any other company.

All right. Peloton is gearing up to go public. CNN Business has the latest details, next.


[04:55:23] ROMANS: All right. Leslie Jones, one of "Saturday Night Live's" most popular cast members, is leaving the show after five seasons. She was known for her frequent appearances on "Weekend Update", taken on a slew of hot button topics, most recently Alabama's abortion legislation. She's leaving to focus on opportunities like an upcoming Netflix special, standup special.

A welcome surprise, fellow cast member Kate McKinnon, whose contract is up in May, is returning for her eighth season. "SNL's" 45th season kicks off September 28th.

BRIGGS: If you love your fried chicken crispy and quick, you might not love hearing this. Popeyes is sold out of its popular new chicken sandwich nationwide. The fast food chain says due to extraordinary demand, they sold out in just 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 Popeyes and Chick- fil-A over who has the best chicken sandwich.

ROMANS: Let's check on CNN Business this morning.

Uncertainty about the future of U.S.-China trade relations still clouding the markets. You can see European markets are mixed here. So, Asian markets closed mixed, as well. On Wall Street futures up a little bit.

This is basically directionless, folks. Stocks fell back from Monday's gains yesterday as investors worried about recession warning signs again in the bond market. The Dow closed down about half a percent. The S&P 500, the Nasdaq, also fell. There are just three trading days left in the month, and stocks are being moved higher and lower with every recession and trade headline.

Meanwhile, U.S. consumers are -- are still fueling this economy. Consumer confidence data for august showed shoppers are far more confident in the economy than many economists thought. The strong labor market is helping shoppers set aside worries about the trade war between the U.S. and China.

A top Lowe's executive is apologizing after saying this about a power drill in a corporate video to employees Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE MCFARLAND, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF STORES, LOWE'S: And the thing is compact. It fits anywhere -- small hands, right? So those customers that really had the affinity towards Makita, some of our Hispanic pros with smaller hands, this is perfect for them.


ROMANS: Joe McFarland, Lowe's executive vice president of stores, apologized after employees called the comment offensive. In a company issued statement, McFarland said: I'm sorry for a careless statement a made during an associate broadcast yesterday. He said he took full responsibility for the comments. Lowe's did not say whether he was face consequences for those comments.

All right. You're too lazy to get on the bike? Too cheap to pay 2,500 bucks for this at-home exercise bike, the Peloton? Well, you can soon buy the stock instead.

Peloton gearing up to go public. The indoor fitness startup filed paperwork for the IPO looking to raise $500 million. It made $915 million this year, doubling last year's revenue. The company was valued at $4 billion last year.

BRIGGS: We love our Peloton here.

ROMANS: I know. Kind of addicted.

BRIGGS: A true bond of brothers displayed by two marine veterans in the mountains of Utah. John Nelson and Jonathan Blank served together in Afghanistan ten years ago where Blank lost both of his legs in an explosion. Nelson remembers stepping away from where Blank was standing just seconds before the explosive device went off.

An emotional journey to the Utah mountaintop, Nelson carried Blank, who weighs 135 pounds on, his back for more than 14 miles of steep terrain.


JONATHAN BLANK, MARINE CORPS VETERAN WHO LOST HIS LEGS: We shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get to where we were and it was all worth it.

JOHN NELSON, MARINE CORPS VETERAN: I got legs, I got legs. I couldn't imagine if I --


BRIGGS: On Veterans Day, Blank and Nelson are planning to hike Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in California, more than 14,000 feet.

ROMANS: Amazing.

BRIGGS: Extraordinary courage and service.

Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.


BRIGGS: Florida now squarely in Dorian's sights. The storm expected to hit Labor Day weekend as a hurricane. First, the tropical storm hitting Puerto Rico today, a new update just in from the National Hurricane Center.

ROMANS: Billions of dollars in company ownership at stake here. The family blamed for helping spark the opioid crisis now in settlement talks.

BRIGGS: Outrage at the attorney general. You won't believe where he's hosting a $30,000 holiday party, or will you?