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Puerto Rico Braces for Direct Hit from Tropical Storm Dorian; U.K. Government to Ask Queen to Suspend Parliament. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired August 28, 2019 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:59:15] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, August 28. It's 6 a.m. here in New York, and the breaking news, bracing for a direct hit. In fact, not one but two direct hits. Puerto Rico, then Florida.

You need to pay attention here, because there has been an important and dangerous shift in the forecast for what will be Hurricane Dorian. This is the current situation. Overnight, the storm got stronger. It is now headed straight for Puerto Rico, impact is expected in just a few hours right through the eastern side of the island, which has been among the slowest to recover from Hurricane Maria two years ago.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously, this is the last thing they need. Then all eyes will be on Florida. Everyone from Miami to Savannah, Georgia, needs to be on alert this morning as Dorian is forecast to gain strength to a Category 2 storm before it makes landfall in the U.S.

The governor of Florida is urging people to prepare now for the coming impact.

So we are on the ground in Puerto Rico as the storm approached, but first, let's begin our coverage with CNN's Chad Myers with the storm's new forecast track.

What is it, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is to the east side of Puerto Rico, almost a direct line of where Maria made landfall now.

Now, yesterday at this time, we were way down here, heading toward the D.R., missing Ponce altogether, which is right here, where our reporter Polo will be just in a second. But now we are on the eastern side over Vieques, St. Croix, over the eastern island, the eastern part that was hit so very hard.

So either this is a storm that does not follow models or models that just cannot do a good job with this storm. Because this was out of the cone yesterday. So we always say follow the cone. Remember, the cone is wide. Vieques, St. Croix, you weren't even in it yesterday. But now here's the big deal. What happens after that? What happens

after that 70 mile-per-hour wind goes through Puerto Rico? It will make a run at Florida, maybe even up the East Coast, as a Category 2 or higher hurricane. So this is the storm now, getting a lot brighter in colors overnight. That means the center is getting more intense. Still a 60 mile-per-hour storm. But you can see it on radar from Puerto Rico right now. Not quite there yet, but it will certainly be a center of circulation as it moves over that Vieques area and then on the eastern side of the island.

But where does it go from there? This is the big question. There are models that take it up the East Coast and now make landfall in North Carolina. There are storms here. A lot of models here all the way down to almost West Palm. So we're going to have to watch where this goes and when it gets there. For right now, it's on its way to Puerto Rico. We'll keep watching it for you throughout the hours.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chad. We know that you will getting at least hourly updates and bringing them to us. Thank you very much.

So hours before Dorian makes landfall, Puerto Rico's government says preparations are 90 percent done and that shelters are open. So CNN's Polo Sandoval is live in Ponce on the southern coast of the island.

What's the situation there?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alisyn, that's hundreds of shelters that are open across the island. We spoke about 24 hours ago. Of course, people here were expecting a smaller impact, particularly because those projections were showing this storm that would possibly just skirt the island.

But now, as you just heard from Chad, with the more direct impact, there certainly is a concern. And that is some bad news for many people who are still recovering from the events of 2017, when Hurricane Maria swept through the region here.

So perhaps the power grid is what is the most vulnerable thing. In fact, here in Ponce, there were people who were in the dark for many months. So the concern is that even this tropical -- tropical storm could negatively impact their lives here.

And it's not just the power grid, but also the potential for heavy rains, possibly mudslides around the island. That's also concerning.

We're told that nonessential employees with the government have been told to stay home. Kids, too. There will be no school today on the island.

As for FEMA learning from the past, they have staged a large amount of resources. That's 500 personnel prestaged here on the island. Alisyn, we're told that officials have certainly not only learned from the past, but they certainly are increasing the numbers when you compare them to what we saw in 2017.

Back to you. BERMAN: I'll take it, Polo. We'll only note that where you're standing will look very different in just a few hours. Polo Sandoval in Puerto Rico, which is now bracing for this direct hit.

Joining us now by phone is Jack Parrish, the flight director for NOAA's hurricane hunters.

Jack, thank you so much for being with us. You've been in and out of Dorian, I understand, seven times including most recently, 11 p.m. last night. What are you seeing from this storm?

JACK PARRISH, FLIGHT DIRECTOR, NOAA'S HURRICANE HUNTERS (via phone): Yes, sir. We started out on Monday from Lakeland, ended up in St. Croix. The yesterday, we flew St. Croix and ended up in Barbados, because St. Croix is kind of under the gun right now.

We saw a very disorganized center, a very compact storm. It did not even have the kind of banding structure that you can see from the Puerto Rico radar right now. Very disorganized, even from our altitude at 10,000 feet, to other airplanes in there slightly lower.

The organization began to become apparent during the flight last night. And I suspect when we go through it this afternoon, we'll see even more of that organization.

BERMAN: So Dorian is basically getting itself together at this point. And I understand you're seeing the first signs of a consistent eye wall, yes?

PARRISH: Yes. We -- that's what we did not see at all on our radar systems on Monday. We began to see it during the second half of our flight last night. We are making multiple passes and using our tail doppler radar. NOAA has tail doppler radars on P-3 aircraft. It's a unique instrument that can give you the three-dimensional wind field in all quadrants.

And we began to see that overall banding on the east, north wrapping around to west side. That's become more apparent on the Puerto Rico radar this morning.

[06:05:09] BERMAN: And thus, getting stronger before your eyes. When you head back out today, it might be even stronger still. And after Puerto Rico, the forecast puts it out over the warm water before hitting Florida.

What will you look for in the coming days?

PARRISH: Oh, yes, sir. It's very important, among other things we're going to go through the center of the storm four times today, going from Barbados back to our home base in Lakeland, NOAA's aircraft center there.

The biggest reason we're going back to Lakeland is we can bring in our -- our other crews that are on standby there. We've been doing one a day flights out here in the islands, giving great coverage to the islands. But now we're going to put aircraft in twice per day, both on P-3 aircraft and the G-4 aircraft that does the environmental flow around the storm. So you can -- you can definitely say that we're putting all of our teams into this. I think anyone who can fly for NOAA will be flying in the next few days.

BERMAN: And one of the things that's interesting about this storm is it's not big in terms of its square mileage. It's a smaller storm, but that can make it harder, I understand, sometimes to understand what's going on with it. Why is that?

PARRISH: One of the big confusions here has been positive and negative effects in terms of Dorian's growth. A bigger storm, with all that dry air surrounding it would have had greater impacts with the dry air. This one has managed to keep itself kind of a tight, compact area of positive growth in the midst of an area that would normally be hostile.

So it has kept itself together. And it leaves, from a meteorologist's viewpoint, the less that the core of the storm interacts with the island of Puerto Rico, the greater chance it has of keeping its act together as it gets north of Puerto Rico.

BERMAN: And just what has it been like to be in this storm? What has made this unique from other storms you've been inside?

PARRISH: It's been kind of a tale of two storms. We were flying around at 10,000 feet, which is certainly in the heart of the storm. All of our flying on the south and sort of west side has been benign. We haven't seen that much on the radar.

All our flying on the north side and on the east side, we've been through numerous thunderstorms. We saw a lot of lightning last night, some pretty decent turbulence. Nothing that's out of the order for what we do. But we definitely were seeing certain areas where we spend a lot of time belted in nice and tight, and then other areas that were just different. That's an asymmetric system. Asymmetric systems aren't terribly healthy, but this one is becoming more symmetrical.

BERMAN: All right. Jack Parrish, flight director for NOAA's hurricane hunters. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

And this is a reminder of why the work you do is so important, because this has been a tough storm to track. And it's only by going inside the way you have repeatedly over the last several days that we're getting any line on where this is headed, and it's getting increasingly dangerous. Thanks, Jack.

CAMEROTA: Thank goodness Jack does it so the rest of us don't have to be in those storms.

BERMAN: You didn't hear? You're headed. You're headed up in the air.

CAMEROTA: Who did I tick off?

Meanwhile, also breaking this morning, the queen pushing to the center of the Brexit debate. Why the government is now asking her to suspend Parliament. All that coming up.


[06:13:00] CAMEROTA: OK. Breaking news now from the U.K. Boris Johnson, the new prime -- British prime minister, is asking the queen to suspend Parliament before the October 31 Brexit deadline. Why?

Well, Nic Robertson is live in London with all that this means. What's happening, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Alisyn, this is completely without recent historic precedence, that the queen should have her vacation in Scotland interrupted by a prime minister asking her to suspend Parliament.

The reason that it is broadly being viewed that Boris Johnson is doing this, because he wants to head off opposition in Parliament from his own party and from -- from opposition parties who want to block him having a no-deal Brexit, leaving the European Union without having a deal agreed.

What -- what took place yesterday in London was a meeting of all the opposition parties. And they decided there that they would not have a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson's government and try to bring down his government. Instead, they would find a legal mechanism in Parliament to block a no-deal Brexit.

What Boris Johnson has woken up and done today is head that off by suspending Parliament and, essentially, not giving Parliament enough time to debate and come up with a legal formula and framework to stop a no-deal Brexit. We've heard from the speaker of the houses of Parliament.

We've heard from the last chancellor of the exchequer, both saying this is outrageous what Boris Johnson is doing. Opposition M.P.'s are calling it outrageous; they're calling it dangerous.

Boris Johnson, on the other hand, is sticking to his guns and saying that Parliament still will have enough time to debate Brexit.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: There will be ample time on both sides of that crucial October the 17th summit. Ample time in Parliament for M.P.'s to debate. The E.U., to debate Brexit, and all the other issues. Ample time.


ROBERTSON: This is without recent historic precedence. This is deepening the battle lines over Brexit. We really are in unchartered territory here. And this is going to cause and create huge anger and huge animosity. Parliament will sit down again next week, be suspended the week after.

BERMAN: Yes. If democracy is not working for you, suspend it for a while, which is what the critics are saying is happening in Britain right now.

Nic, stand by. We're going to come back to you, because this is causing huge outrage and is worth following over the next few hours.

The other breaking story this morning, Puerto Rico bracing for a direct hit from what will be Hurricane Dorian. And Puerto Rico is still recovering from Maria nearly two years ago.

Now, overnight, President Trump did approve an emergency declaration. But before that, this is what he wrote: "For some reason, Congress approved $92 billion for Puerto Rico last year, an all-time record of its kind for anywhere."

Now, you should know it's not a record, and it's not true. It's a lie. It was not $92 million. It was $42 million. He's off by more than a factor of two. And only about $12 million has been spent, and he knows that.

Now, in response to that tweet, which again we don't know why the president sent it, this is what the San Juan mayor -- you want to go?

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, I know where he's getting that number.

BERMAN: It's not a real number.

CAMEROTA: It's an internal OMB report that says over the lifetime of the storm, of Maria. So in other words, 10 years out, 20 years out --

BERMAN: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- that it could, on the outside, get to $92 million. So that is not what Congress has spent.


CAMEROTA: But in other words --

BERMAN: It's not even what Congress has appropriated.

CAMEROTA: Agreed. But I'm saying that -- that sometimes he pulls things out of thin air.


CAMEROTA: And sometimes he hears them on FOX.

BERMAN: He knows. He knows this isn't true.

CAMEROTA: And so that's the origin of that.

BERMAN: He knows this isn't true. It's been out there for a long time. And he's -- he has to know at this point. And if he doesn't, someone needs to tell him.

The mayor of San Juan in Puerto Rico, no fan of the president, said this overnight. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (via phone): His behavior, his lack of understanding, and it is ludicrous. Three thousand Puerto Ricans did not open their eyes this morning, because this racist man did not have it within him to do his his job. So get out of the way, President Trump, and let the people that can do the job get the job done.


BERMAN: Want to bring in Joe Lockhart, former press secretary under President Clinton; Elaina Plott, White House correspondent for "The Atlantic" and a CNN political analyst; and John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst.

And let me just read the full tweet from the president again. He lied about the amount $92 billion. And he says it's an all-time record high for anywhere. And the point is, John, what message is he trying to send? How does this help the people of Puerto Rico? A, by lying, and B, by sort of suggesting, well, it's Puerto Rico's fault for being in the way of the hurricane?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. He's not trying to help. Let's just be very clear about this. He's not trying to help. He's insulting the victims of a past hurricane that's cost more lives than 9/11, for which there has not been nearly enough government reflection, let alone a congressional inquiry, which there should be.

And in the face of an oncoming hurricane, he's basically -- he's blaming them preemptively. And it is an utter abandonment of that basic role of a president, which is to be the comforter in chief. He's actually causing harm by blaming the victims in advance of another hurricane, in the wake of a devastating one.

CAMEROTA: Because the first sentence of that tweet, Joe, says, quote, "Wow."


CAMEROTA: "Yet another big storm. Will it ever end?" If he's tired of them, imagine how the people in Puerto Rico feel.

LOCKHART: Yes, I agree with John. And I was really struck by the beginning of that. As in, "Wow, like, I'm powerless here. I've got nothing to do with this."

You know, I remember from my time in the White House, what we'd be doing is we wouldn't be saying, "Wow." We'd be talking about all of the material we prepositioned, all of the things that FEMA's doing, all of the efforts to help people. And instead, you read in the paper this morning that the president is diverting money from FEMA, from disaster relief, to build the wall that's not going to get built that the Mexicans were supposed to pay for. That's a "wow" to me.

BERMAN: I have to say, there's some new reporting overnight in "The Washington Post" that's stunning on the issue of the wall and shows just how important a priority it is for the president.

How important? According to "The Washington Post," he's telling his staff to break the law if that's what it takes to get parts of the wall built.

Josh Dawsey and others report this. "When aides have suggested that some of his orders are illegal or unworkable, Trump has suggested he would pardon the officials if they would just go ahead, aides said. He's waved off worries about contracting procedures and the use of eminent domain, saying 'Take the land,' according to officials present at the meetings. 'Don't worry, I'll pardon you,' he has told officials in meetings about the wall."

[06:20:03] Let me put this first to you, because you used to work somewhere else. What would have happened had another president at a previous time just said, "Take the land, eminent domain"?

CAMEROTA: Thank God FOX News Channel is not still around to hear this. Because they would have freaked out any time there was any suggestion about President Obama using eminent domain for anything.

Roger Ailes and, therefore, FOX News blew a gasket --


CAMEROTA: -- about the idea of seizing private land. This is a democracy. How dare he be an emperor?

Now, I don't remember there ever being a story about the president then saying, "Even if it's illegal, I will pardon you" back then. I truly -- I can't wait to hear what FOX says about this this morning.

BERMAN: And Elaina, I think more than anything, this just goes to show how important the wall is as an issue for the president heading into the election.

ELAINA PLOTT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there are a few things going on here.

The first is that, you know, the other day I was speaking to a White House official, actually, you know, well before this report came out, about why it is that this president seems so willing to instruct aides, because he has done it before on other projects, to do what needs to be done, regardless of whether it's legal.

And what this person told me was that, you know, Donald Trump is a businessman. He -- he ran his companies by just knowing that you get sued over things.

And it's another example -- take Jared Kushner's Office of American Innovation, or whatever they're calling it these days, that being a businessman, being an outsider doesn't necessarily translate perfectly to the role of a bureaucrat. And especially when you're dealing with the Army Corps of Engineers, this is a particularly apt point, I think. The other thing I'd say is that he's also hearing from his campaign

manager. He's hearing from Brad Parscale and others on his re- election campaign that say, "We can't tout much about a wall. This was your most concrete -- no pun intended -- promise heading into the 2016 election, and all we can say is that we've built less than 60 miles of replacement wall," much of which was appropriated, John, as you know, under the Obama administration.

So yes, it's important to Trump. But also, he has surrogates, aides on the campaign who say, "We don't know what to tell supporters about why this structure doesn't actually exist yet."

AVLON: Right. But let's be careful not to normalize this either, because the political pressures the president might be facing or this idea that a businessman doesn't fully appreciate the niceties of law and is just a guy rolling up his sleeves to do whatever it takes to get it done.

The reality is this. The president of the United States is instructing aides to break the law to achieve his goals and floating a pardon, a presidential pardon for them if they do so when they express concerns about the unworkability or legality of his orders. That's insane, folks.

CAMEROTA: And by the way, I mean, to Elaina's point, about how the campaign is frustrated, Joe, about the fact that the wall hasn't been built, and they know that many of his supporters, that that was their sort of -- one of their single issues. Probably their single issue.

So what do you do if you can't legally do something and a campaign is approaching? You claim it's already being done. I have the press release. They've sent out millions of these press releases where they claim that the wall is already being built. But as Elaina said, they're refurbishing an existing wall. But they're claiming that this is new walls. Because they know, I guess they're worried that this was such a big campaign promise.

LOCKHART: Well, there's no doubt that he's going to continue to use immigration as his No. 1 issue. He wouldn't be diverting money from FEMA ahead of a hurricane if they didn't believe that that was their rock-solid issue.

He'll do what he's done on everything. He'll either make up facts. He'll say, "Don't believe what you read and see. You know, trust me."

Or, you know, he'll do what John was talking about. He'll tell people, "Break the law. You know, I'll give you -- I'll give you a -- a blanket presidential pardon."

And you know, my -- my guess is that story will have more legs in Washington than some of the others and might move, you know, more Democrats toward the impeachment, you know, more -- you know, more of a majority of Democrats. Because that's not a hard thing to prove. You don't need to read 484 pages. That's the president telling people, "Break the law." People get that.

AVLON: Right.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, all, very much for this conversation. So much news this morning.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Dorian's track has changed overnight in a very big way. So what it means for Puerto Rico and what it means for the East Coast of the U.S., next.


[06:28:58] CAMEROTA: All right. All morning, we'll be following this breaking weather news, affecting millions of Americans in the path of Tropical Storm Dorian.

The National Hurricane Center says Dorian is getting stronger. They expect the eastern side of Puerto Rico to take a direct hit. Forecasters now say the storm could strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane by the time it hits Florida this weekend.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the latest forecast. OK, now what's the model doing?

MYERS: And many models, Alisyn, well above Category 2 approaching the East Coast of Florida. No question about that. National Hurricane Center being conservative, not really wanting to alarm anyone, because that's still five days away.

It's never a good thing when you can see a hurricane or a tropical storm on radar. That means it's getting close to land. We always like to watch them on satellite, because it's just in the middle of nowhere. Well, now we can actually see the center of circulation, trying to become an eye here, about 85 miles to the south and southeast of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Now, this storm is going to run right across the Virgin Islands and into the Vieques area and into the eastern half of Puerto Rico. That's what was hit so very hard the last time by Maria.

And here's what you're talking about, this Category.