Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Hurricane Dorian Intensifies, Could Hit Florida at Cat 4; Florida Governor Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Dorian; West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James Discusses Preparedness Measures & Concerns Ahead of Dorian; Trump Considers Blocking Military Aid to Ukraine; Trump Considers Bringing Russia Back to G-8 as He Mulls Blocking Ukraine Aid; Mattis: "A Period in Which I Owe My Silence, It's Not Eternal"; DOJ Inspector General: Comey Violated Policies with Trump Memos But Did Not Reveal Any Classified Info. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired August 29, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:46] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.
Right now, we are getting a brand-new update on the path and strength of Hurricane Dorian. The powerful storm that looks like it's heading straight toward Florida. The National Hurricane Center has just issued its latest advisory and, at the moment, all signs point to a major hurricane.
The entire state of Florida is on alert as Dorian approaches. The governor has already declared a state of emergency and stores are reporting empty shelves as residents stock up on food, water and medical supplies.
Let's get straight to the new forecast. CNN's Chad Myers joins us right now.
Chad, what are you seeing?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm afraid, Fred, that it isn't good. Now we're up to a category four hurricane, a low-end four, but irrelevant, 130 miles per hour. That's Sunday morning, 8:00 in the morning. Here's Labor Day morning, 8:00, still a category four, 130 miles per hour.
The cone anywhere from about Key Biscayne on up into the Jacksonville area is possible. Because of the possible turn that this could make as it gets closer to the shore. It is going to slow down for sure.
This is 24 hours, literally, from the coast to Orlando, in 24 hours. You could probably walk there in 24 hours.
And that's the heavy rain potential all the way through the entire peninsula of Florida, because this will not be a compact storm when it gets there. It has 96 hours to gain strength in very warm water. We're now seeing the hurricane hunter aircraft fly through it at 89
miles per hour at the surface, slightly higher at flight level.
So what else has been here in the past? There's Dorian and Francis, Irma, Jean, Hugo. All of those passing within about 60 nautical miles of where we are right now.
The American model taking it farther to the north, closer to the space coast. The European model taking it further to the south, not quite to Miami-Dade, certainly. But then turning up toward the right and up the peninsula of Florida.
I think the hurricane center is kind of taking it somewhere down the middle of what the true consensus of the models. Because there are many others out there. The true consensus of the model is where they're putting their new cone out there.
It's an impressive-looking storm. It's too far away to show you on radar because the only closest radar would be Puerto Rico and now that would be above its radar beam -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: Oh, boy.
All right, thanks so much, Chad. We'll check back with you as needed.
People across Florida are preparing for the worst as Hurricane Dorian approaches.
CNN's Nick Valencia is in Daytona Beach.
Nick, what are you seeing there? How are people preparing?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is beautiful today, Fredricka. Daytona Beach, another typical day here. But this is not expected to last. This weekend will be disrupted by what is expected to be a major category four storm. And people here seem to be taking the warnings seriously.
The governor just gave a press conference a little while ago reminding people there was 10 years that Florida did not take a direct hit from a hurricane, but out of the last four years, they've been impacted by five major storms.
I mentioned people are taking it seriously. We're already starting to see long lines at the gas stations. We're seeing people filling up sandbags, as well as plywood to board up either their businesses or their residences.
This is going to be a very serious thing. That's what officials are stressing to anyone that lives up and down the east coast, especially in Florida.
Right now, that it's not quite clear will this will make direct landfall, but they're being clear and direct, if you live anywhere along the east coast of Florida, you need to be ready for anything to happen -- Fredricka? WHITFIELD: Of course.
All right, Nick Valencia, thank you so much.
I'm joined now by the mayor of West Palm Beach, Mayor Keith James.
Mayor James, good to see you.
So you could be facing a direct hit from a category four, possibly, hurricane. What are you most concerned about right now?
KEITH JAMES, WEST PALM BEACH MAYOR: Well, our primary concerns certainly are the lives of our residents. And we are hoping for the best, but we're preparing for the worst.
And we have been encouraging people, even since yesterday, to get prepared, get water, get gas, get cash out of the ATMs. And the more we hear about this storm it sounds like this is a serious one.
[11:05:03] WHITFIELD: The governor, DeSantis, put out a statement, in fact, saying, "Everyone in Florida should have seven days of food, water and medicine."
Are you confident that people will be doing that? Because we know there's always a problem with complacency when there's a threat of an incoming storm.
JAMES: We are cautiously optimistic that people are heeding the advice. This is not our first rodeo, if you will, with storms. Francis and Jean hit us a few years ago around the same time of year.
We prepare, we, as a city, prepare for hurricanes all year around. We have an emergency operation center that is at level-two activation.
And I believe that our citizens will heed the warning. We're encouraging people to understand what your evacuation zones are and if you are advised to evacuate, evacuate.
WHITFIELD: OK. And thus far, where are we on evacuations?
JAMES: We haven't finished that determination yet. We're continuing to monitor the track of the storm so we can get a better idea. But probably, by tomorrow morning, we will have a specific idea as to which of those zones we should be evacuating.
WHITFIELD: You were a city commissioner when Hurricane Irma hit in 2017. Is there something you learned from that experience that you want to apply here?
JAMES: Well, I think what I learned is that, unfortunately, the worst is after the storm. We are concerned about flooding. We're concerned about winds. We're concerned about rain.
But a lot of times the worst is after the storm where people are without power. And we hope that people have enough food, folks who are living in shelters, and sometimes it takes a while to get back up and going.
And so we hope that people will be patient with the process, but that is what I learned, is that a lot of times the real difficulties of these storms is not during the storm, it's the aftermath.
WHITFIELD: And usually, among the most vulnerable, homeless people, the elderly, what do you do or what special preparations are being made for them?
JAMES: We have shelters. We're opening shelters for people with special needs. They have to register for the shelters.
Another lesson that we learned back from Irma in 2017 is how vulnerable some of these assisted-living homes are and nursing homes and mercy homes.
We already are sending out teams of police and fire to check on those facilities now to make sure we have generators in place in case of an outage. We don't want a repeat of some of the horror stories, I'm sure you heard from other communities in 2017, where folks literally died from heat exposure.
So we're trying to anticipate and prepare for that now and sending people out to talk with the owners of the facilities to make sure that they are prepared for what will be a tremendous catastrophe probably.
WHITFIELD: Mayor Keith James, of West Palm Beach, Florida, we wish you the best. Thank you so much.
JAMES: Thank you very much for your interest in our communities.
WHITFIELD: Coming up, President Trump considering blocking $250 million in military aid to Ukraine. It's a move the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee called destructive to our national security. Details on that straight ahead.
Plus, the Trump administration now targeting families of some U.S. servicemembers overseas, making it harder for their kids to become U.S. citizens. But why?
Stay with us.
[11:13:24] WHITFIELD: Welcome back.
President Trump is mulling a plan that would likely get the approval of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sources tell CNN that Trump is considering blocking today's $250 million in U.S. military aid to the Ukraine, a move that could be met with bipartisan backlash from those who see U.S. aid as essential to pushing back against Russia's military involvement.
This comes on the heels of Trump's controversial remarks about Russia at the G-7 summit. He downplayed Moscow's intervention in Ukraine and suggested that Putin be reinstated as a G-7 leader.
CNN White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond, is joining me right now. Jeremy, what more are you hearing?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Fredricka, multiple sources are now telling CNN that the president is seriously considering blocking that $250 million in military aid to Ukraine.
This was aid that was previously approved by Congress for this fiscal year and the Trump administration has now placed that aid under review. And if it doesn't go forward with approving that aid in the coming weeks, effectively, that aid will be blocked and will not go to Ukraine.
One source is telling us that the White House has already begun to notify relevant agencies and congressional committees about its intentions to block that aid, but the source is stressing that the president hasn't yet made a final decision.
As you mentioned, Fredricka, all of this comes on the heels of the president suggesting that he would like to re-include Russia into the G-8, which is currently the G-7, following Russia's annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.
And obviously, the support for Ukraine and the military aid is viewed as a key barometer for U.S. support for Ukraine and also its effort to counter Russian influence in the region. So a lot of questions about that.
[11:15:12] Now, next week, the president is set to meet with the Ukrainian president for the first time, the new-elected Ukrainian president, so we'll see if that meeting perhaps changes the president's mind at all.
But right now, we've already seen a lot of criticism from Democratic lawmakers and we are sure to expect that some Republican lawmakers will also object to this move. Support for Ukraine has been fairly bipartisan in Congress and this could be a very controversial move -- Fredricka?
All right, Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much, from the White House. Appreciate it.
Joining me right now, former Pentagon and State Department spokesman, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.
Good to see you.
He's also now a CNN military and diplomatic analyst.
On Ukraine, is there any military reason why this would make sense?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It's really hard to make that case, Fred. Even though ceasefire violations and some of the fighting has decreased over the summer, particularly since last month, there's still fighting between Ukrainian forces and these Russian-backed separatists.
Not the mention the fact that since 2014 the Russians have almost tripled up to 30,000 the number of troops they have in Crimea. And they've become more aggressive in the Black Sea and around the Black Sea with their Navy moves.
So, no, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense from a military perspective at all.
WHITFIELD: So the president seems to be going out of his way, if you will, to make this kind of friendly gesture to Vladimir Putin.
WHITFIELD: I mean, at the core, what is going on here?
KIRBY: Well, that's hard to know. It's hard to know exactly what President Trump is thinking. But I don't think, just sitting back as you and I have, you have to view this in context of other things going on right now.
As Jeremy just reported, his interest in bringing Russia back into the G-8 or what would be the G-8 when he was in France making that case in France, which apparently got pretty testy with the other G-7 partners.
But also you have to keep it in context of the decision that this administration has taken to review all foreign aid and assistance and try to cut back in foreign aid and assistance in general.
So it kind of fits his mode of, A, I don't like foreign aid and assistance, and, B, I like Vladimir Putin and I don't want to be so tough on Russia. But it's really hard to know exactly what's in his mind in terms of the timing right now.
Back to your first question, which is the most relevant question, does this make sense from a military perspective and from our obligations to support Ukraine, because their territorial integrity is still being violated every day by Russia and there's still fighting by Russian- backed forces against the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian armed forces.
So mathematically, it just doesn't make any sense.
WHITFIELD: So separate from this, former defense secretary, James Mattis, spoke to Jeffrey Goldberg, of "The Atlantic," for a piece that posted this morning.
WHITFIELD: And what was most notable in your view about what he wouldn't say? He wouldn't elaborate on the president, per se. He did talk about a so-called duty of silence.
But Mattis also said this. And let me quote now, he says, "There was a period in which I owe my silence. It's not eternal. It's not going to be forever," end quote. KIRBY: Right.
WHITFIELD: So at point do you believe he will kind of break that silence?
KIRBY: I don't know. Only Jim Mattis knows whether and when he'll ever break his silence and talk more candidly.
WHITFIELD: You know, is in deference to, like, the sitting president?
KIRBY: It is. So it's a very personal decision when you're a cabinet official, when you leave office, about whether you're going to write a memoire or not, whether you're going to do a lot of media and speeches a lot. How candid are you going to be about the administration you left?
Some are very candid. And Bob Gates, when he was secretary of defense, wrote a candid memoire, called "Duty." Leon Panetta wrote a very candid, forthright memoir when he left.
I've worked for cabinet officials who choose to do it and I've worked for some who chose not to.
One of them, in fact, a couple of years ago, told me, not only am I not going to write a memoir, but I don't think that I'm making my successor's job any easier by being out in the media space very much. So he also issues a lot of media interviews and speaking opportunities.
It's a personal decision. I know we all would like to hear more from Secretary Mattis about his time working for President Trump, but we need to respect his own prerogatives. It's not an obligation that he has to tell all. He has an opportunity to do that to the degree that he's comfortable with.
And I think, knowing Secretary Mattis the way I do, that you're not going to see him open up very much over time, even after the administration is out of power. I just don't see this being the kind of thing that he's going to be very forthright about.
WHITFIELD: Except he's dangled some pretty enticing carrots by the bit he has revealed.
KIRBY: He has, Fred. And that's been disappointing to me. Just seeing he's sort of teasing to some of his views but he won't come out and say it.
And I don't know how much this book -- which was started before he became secretary of defense, it was supposed to be about leadership -- I don't know how much it's going to reveal about his time as secretary of defense, not only just about Trump but just in terms of his being secretary of defense.
[11:20:03] So I do find that disappointing that he's sort of teasing us but he won't go the extra mile and explain exactly what he's thinking. WHITFIELD: Yes.
Admiral John Kirby, always good to see you. Thanks so much.
KIRBY: You, too, Fredricka. Thanks.
WHITFIELD: Coming up, the U.S. Justice Department inspector general releasing a long-awaited report on former FBI James Comey, a report on how he handled memos about his meetings with President Trump. Now Comey says an apology would be nice next.
[11:25:14] WHITFIELD: A new report just released by the U.S. Department of Justice's inspector general says former FBI Director James Comey broke FBI policy by sharing memos he wrote on meetings with President Trump back in 2017.
CNN's Sara Murray joining me right now.
Sara, you've been digging through this 83-page report from the DOJ's inspector general and what have you found?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it basically says that James Comey, the former FBI director, violated FBI policies in the way that he retained and handled these memos.
And remember these were the memos that were documenting his interactions with President Trump, which James Comey found alarming, and then he shared them with one of his friends, who then shared them with members of the media.
And so the report goes on to essentially say that Comey set a dangerous example in the way that he shared this information, not only for all of the current FBI employees, but for all of the former FBI employees who are taught to carefully guard information about what is going on at the FBI, about potentially ongoing investigations, about communications there.
It also cites quotes from a number of Comey's advisers saying they were stunned, they were shocked, they were disappointed in the way that Comey reacted to this.
So certainly not a positive portrayal of how the former FBI director conducted himself.
WHITFIELD: So the report says it wasn't classified information, but it was confidential. Meantime, James Comey is already talking. What is he saying?
MURRAY: Well, he's latching onto a part of this report that says that what Comey shared with the media was not the classified portion in any of these memos.
And so Comey is coming out essentially and defending himself on Twitter and saying, "See, I'm not a leaker." He also said, "I don't need a public apology from those who defamed me
but a quick message with a 'sorry we lied about you' would be nice. And all of those who spent two years about me going to jail or being a liar or a leaker, ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president."
WHITFIELD: OK. And breaking policy or sharing confidential information is not something worth prosecuting?
MURRAY: Well, they referred this -- the inspector general referred this to the Department of Justice and said essentially it is up to you if you guys decide you want to prosecute this.
And what the Justice Department did was they decided not to. They said it was not clear from the evidence that James Comey had actually intended to violate this policy about handling classified information, and so ultimately DOJ decided the evidence just was not there to actually bring charges against James Comey.
So while this may be a pretty tough report to read about the way he conducted himself, DOJ decided ultimately it wasn't criminal.
WHITFIELD: Sara Murray, thanks so much.
A new Trump administration policy will make it harder for children born to some military members serving overseas to become U.S. citizens. There's a lot of confusion around this policy. Exactly who will be impacted and why is the change being made?