Return to Transcripts main page


Hurricane Dorian Poised To Slam Florida As Category 4; "Jeopardy" Host Alex Trebek Back At Work; Trump Considering To Block $250 Million In Military Aid To Ukraine. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 29, 2019 - 14:00   ET


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Good afternoon. I'm Ana Cabrera and for Brooke Baldwin. Puerto Rico escaped Hurricane Dorian's punch virtually unscathed. That's the good news.

The U.S. Virgin Islands however, ended up bearing the brunt of the storm with lots of wind and rain and it's the U.S. mainland, the entire State of Florida that is now on alert and preparing for the worst. That's because Hurricane Dorian is about to become a very major storm. Forecasters say, a Category 4. Right now, it's still a Cat 1, but all that will change this weekend.

Dorian is expected to intensify as it crosses the Bahamas, makes landfall along Florida's East Coast come Monday. Floridians from Key West to Jacksonville are buying up everything in sight. You can see the shelves are empty. The Governor has already declared a state of emergency and told residents to stock up at least one week's worth of supplies.

CNN Meteorologist, Allison Chinchar is in the CNN Weather Center tracking everything for us. Allison, the National Hurricane Center just released a new update, what does it say?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right, so the next update will come out at five o'clock this afternoon. Since it's not really impacting land as of now, they won't do intermediate advisory updates.

But here's what we know. The storm is really starting to intensify as it is out over open water. Remember, these warm ocean temperatures are fuel for these types of storms, and that's where it's going to sit basically for the next 48 to 72 hours, really not having anything in its path to really inhibit that extra development.

And we do have a little bit of some dry air still seeping into portions of it. But overall, this storm is really expected to intensify significantly in the next 48 hours. Winds are sustained at 85 miles per hour moving to the northwest at 13 miles per hour. The track will continue that way as it continues to intensify as it approaches the Bahamas reaching potentially as high as Category 4 strength.

It will then spend at least 24 hours possibly as a Category 4 just before it makes landfall into Florida. Yes, the ultimate question now is where Florida does it make that landfall? Because you have to kind of keep an eye on a lot of the models. Here's that warm water that it's going to be surging through, mid-80s,

even upper-80s for some of those temperatures there. But notice the models vary. While the American models favor more of a northern Florida landfall, basically from the Space Coast up towards Jacksonville, whereas the European models, was favor more of a southern Florida landfall hovering closer near the Miami Fort Lauderdale area.

So again, there's a lot of things to take into account here, Ana, that's why we'll have to keep a very close eye on this, but ahead of time, people need to start getting their supplies ready. Also take inventory of what's in your house, you may end up needing that for insurance purposes later.

CABRERA: OK, Allison Chinchar, we know you'll stay on top of this. Bring us up to the moment updates. Florida officials are so serious about getting people ready for this storm. They've sent out a disaster supply checklist. There have not been any evacuations order just yet, but businesses and even Florida's tourist spots and cruise lines are heeding the warning.

Florida's Kennedy Space Center, for example, began moving equipment to a safer location and will close its Visitor Complex. CNN's Nick Valencia is in Daytona Beach for us. Nick, what are these businesses doing to prepare there?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the people here in Daytona Beach, Ana, are enjoying this beautiful weather because they know it's not going to last. Hurricane Dorian is poised to make direct landfall on Florida's coast, and rather than preparing for a busy holiday weekend on Florida's beaches, residents and tourists alike are now bracing for what could be a major Category 4 hurricane, and as you mentioned, we talked earlier to restaurant owner -- manager, I should say here locally to ask what they're doing to prepare. This is what he had to tell us.


JASON ZELENAK, CRABBY'S OCEANSIDE RESTAURANT: My biggest priority is making sure that we're doing the right thing for our staff and we're not making them in any danger because of what we're -- what's going to happen. Anyone who is out there and going, "Oh, it's not that big of a deal." Just, you know, you'd rather be over prepared then wait until the last minute and not be ready for it.


[14:05:00] VALENCIA: That's always the fear for emergency management officials in any state expected to get hit hard by a hurricane that people won't listen, but that's not the case that we're seeing or hearing.

In fact, people seem to be making a rush towards getting prepared. Long lines already at the gas station in some parts of Florida. Here last night, in the Daytona Beach area, they ran out of water in some stores. We're also seeing people filling up sandbags and doing everything they

can to get prepared for what officials are bracing for to be a very significant storm. Ana, you know that there was about 10 years that Florida did not get hit directly by any major hurricane. The last major hurricane in this area was two years ago for Hurricane Irma, but in the last four years, Florida has been impacted by five major hurricanes -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK. Nick Valencia. Thank you for that update. Despite the impending landfall, one major Florida theme park is not shutting down just yet. Disney World's new Star Wars theme park, Galaxy's Edge opened today has previously scheduled and Disney is yet to announce any disruption in its opening weekend.

Joining us now on the phone is William Capote. He is the Mayor of Palm Beach, or I should say Palm Bay, Florida. Mayor, thank you so much for taking the time again there in Palm Bay. What is your biggest fear right now?

MAYOR WILLIAM CAPOTE, PALM BAY, FLORIDA (via phone): I mean, we're just letting our citizens know not to take this lightly. We've been through it before. That's models Jeanne and we were in 2004, I had the good fortune or unfortunate of having Jeanne and Frances be on our doorsteps.

So it's not like we're foreign to this. We are already battled tested. So I believe our residents as I'm looking out the window, and you were mentioning in regards to people at the gas station already filling up.

As I was driving through the community, I saw people boarding up their windows. So people understand the gravity of this. So we are taking all measures here in the city. Our staff is ready to go. Our city manager -- I had a conversation with her this morning. We're good to go.

So now it's just a matter of prayer that this hurricane decides to do what Matthew did the last time, sailed out at sea.

CABRERA: Right. The old saying, "Prepare for the worst, hope for the best." Do you anticipate evacuations eventually?

CAPOTE: We'll see as it gets closer. Right now, it's too premature to say. But I mean, I'm looking at the trajectory of this hurricane, hopefully it veers into the sea and stays out there and calms down similar to what happened with Jeanne and Frances as they were both Category 4 and they went around. As a matter of fact, they hit the Bahamas as a Category 5, and then slowed down as it was heading towards us, to a 2. So hopefully that could happen.

I was here during 2004 hurricane, so I understand the whole process. So I think for the most part, you prepare for the worst. That's all you could do.

CABRERA: Right. Yes, currently a Category 1, it could become a Category 4 before making land fall somewhere in Florida. Mayor Capote in Palm Bay, Florida. I really appreciate you taking the time. We'll keep our fingers crossed and sending all the best your way. Thanks.

CAPOTE: Thank you.

CABRERA: Just in. "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek making a stunning come back to the job he loves after a major cancer scare. He was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in March of this year. He has been undergoing treatment. Let's bring in CNN's Chief Media Correspondent and Anchor of CNN's "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter and Brian you have more details on Alex Trebek's return?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, some great news to share. He is going to be announcing this later today in a video that he has recorded sharing the news with his fans that he is done with chemotherapy, and back at work.

He actually started taping the new season of "Jeopardy" about five weeks ago, but he has been keeping it a secret. He is going to share the news later today. He is not getting into a lot of detail about his health condition. We all know when he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, the survival rates for that kind of disease are usually quite low. It is miraculous that he has been able to respond well to chemo and he is doing so well.

But he says he is done with the chemotherapy. He is on the mend. That's the quote from Alex Trebek, and now back at work. And I think so many viewers were rooting for him. You know, "Jeopardy" is such a special show on television. Trebek is a beloved figure in America, and many people were rooting for him when he announced this back in March that he was going to be going through this treatment.

He did remain on the job in April, he kept taping episodes. Remember James Holzhauer had that incredible streak. So he was back at work all along. He had the summer, as is always the case, he had the summer off. He finished up chemo, and now he is back.

So we know the new episodes are going to air in a few weeks. But he is announcing this today that he is on the mend and he says it's going to be a great year ahead.

CABRERA: Wow. That is great news to hear. So done with chemotherapy, but we don't know just yet what that means in terms of ongoing prognosis.

STELTER: That's right. You know, this is a situation where he has been relatively quiet about the exact details of the disease as is his right. He has been relatively private about it. But he says he responded very well to chemo and now -- at least for now -- the chemo treatments are over.

[14:10:07] CABRERA: Good news. We always like to be able to bring good news every now and then.

STELTER: Once in a while, that's right. Yes.

CABRERA: Thank you, Brian Stelter. Okay. President Trump, now may make another move that would please President Putin, what it would mean to block $250 million in military aid to Ukraine?

Plus another controversial move from the White House, citizenship will no longer be automatic for children of some U.S. military members born overseas. Why?

And a manhunt for this married couple -- both are accused of murder and on the run after a violent escape.


[14:15:31] CABRERA: Near days after President Trump called for Russia to rejoin the G7, making it the G8, Trump is now weighing another pro- Putin move and critics say it would compromise national security.

Multiple sources tell CNN that Trump is heavily considering blocking 250$ million in military aid to Ukraine. Ukraine lost Crimea to Russia when Vladimir Putin's government illegally took over the peninsula in 2014 and the fighting continues today between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff says if Trump blocks these funds, it would be quote, "destructive to national security." CNN White House Reporter, Jeremy Diamond is covering this story. Jeremy, are you hearing why the President is considering this move to block military aid to Ukraine?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: You know, Ana, it's not entirely clear. We're still waiting for details from this administration as to why the President is considering this. But what we do know is that the President is seriously considering blocking $250 million of military aid to Ukraine.

This is aid money that has previously been approved by Congress. And now if the President doesn't move forward with dispersing that aid in the next month or so, that aid essentially will go away. And the result will be that the White House will have blocked that aid from going forward.

Now, one source did say that the administration has begun notifying that relevant agencies and committees in Congress, but at the same time that the President has not made a final decision, and we do know that the President is expected to meet with the Ukrainian President next week. So it's possible that that is discussed. And perhaps the President will change his mind as far as where he is headed.

The President making news today on another national security front as well, Ana, indicating today that he is prepared to leave 8,600 troops in Afghanistan, should there be a deal with the Taliban for withdrawal of several thousand U.S. troops. Currently, those troop levels are at 14,000. But the President making clear that he will leave a true presence there, even if there is a deal. Listen in.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, we're going to keep a presence there. We're reducing that presence very substantially, and we're going to always have a presence. We're going to have high intelligence, and I will put this word out and I've already said it, but if they ever did anything from Afghanistan, we will come back with a force like they've never seen before.

So we are down to 8,600, and then we will make a determination from there as to what happens. We will make a determination, but we're going down to 8,600. We're bringing it down.


DIAMOND: Now, Ana, the President has repeatedly suggested that he would possibly consider a full withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. So those words there from the President will certainly be reassuring to military officials and Republican allies of the President who have been urging him to keep at least some true presence in Afghanistan, even if there is an agreement with the Taliban - Ana.

CABRERA: Okay, Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Thank you for that report. And let's go back to the reporting about Trump potentially blocking money for Ukraine. I want to put context to the Trump-Putin bond.

Besides trying to convince world leaders to bring Putin back to the G7, his administration has lifted sanctions on three Russian firms with ties to Putin's ally, oligarch, Oleg Deripaska and remember this as well. There was a report that President Trump had confiscated notes from an interpreter at some of his meetings with Putin.

And finally, the outrage from what happened in July of last year in 2018 in Helsinki. The President standing next to Putin sided with him on Russia's attack on the 2016 election instead of U.S. intelligence.


TRUMP: I have great confidence in my Intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


CABRERA: Of course, the President than later walked that back, but my next guest wrote the book, "Trump/Russia: A Definitive History." Seth Hettena is here with us now. Seth, why does the President seem to favor Putin so much?

SETH HETTENA, AUTHOR: You know, as you just outlined there, I think you see why so many people think Trump is such a valuable asset to Putin. That's not to say he is a spy, or he is some kind of double agent, but he is an asset that he takes up Putin's cause inside his own government against our allies, against Ukraine, against his own Intelligence community.

And you know, he is constantly taking up Putin. Why does that, is the big mystery. Does Putin have some hold on him? You know, it sure seems that way. But we haven't seen the proof yet. [14:20:08] CABRERA: Right. And we all waited for the Mueller report

to see what that would show, and there were no definitive links that Mueller was able to expose or, you know, bared in his investigation.

As far as this money for Ukraine arms, we know the $250 million was supposed to go to weapons and training and equipment and Intel support, again, to help Ukrainians battle these pro-Russian separatists who had incurred in their region in Crimea. Why is Ukraine so important to Putin?

HETTENA: Well, Putin's whole goal is to restore Russia to greatness, you know, the days of the Soviet glory when there was a big Empire that that could, you know, shake the world and people respected the Soviet Union. That's what he's trying to bring back.

Ukraine was obviously part of the Soviet Union, it's separated in Russia. There's Russian speaking people in Ukraine and many people in Russia still view it as part of Mother Russia. So you know, he has devoted a huge amount of his efforts to bending the will of the Ukrainian people, fighting them, attacking.

You know, this war in Ukraine, it's not some skirmish. Ten thousand people have died here, and this $250 million was supposed to be for lethal defensive weapons, so the Ukrainians could defend themselves from this aggression and Ukraine is our ally. And now we are not standing behind our allies yet again.

CABRERA: And switching gears, there's this also the Inspector General, releasing its report into former FBI Director James Comey. The D.O.J. watchdog says Comey broke FBI protocol in his retention, his handling, his dissemination of memos on his meeting with President Trump, but ultimately, the D.O.J. decided not to prosecute, explain why they declined to prosecute.

HETTENA: Because in the end, what he did was he violated FBI internal policies. You know, the contention was were these memos that were released, these are memos that he took of his conversations with Trump, when he thought Trump was acting strangely, and was asking for loyalty oaths and was kind of pressuring him to, you know, lift the cloud on the Russian investigation, all this strange kind of mob-like behavior that Comey saw, some of the material in those memos was classified.

Now we learn today, the classified information involves things like Trump saying that some country was not really worth returning a phone call to ahead of others, and that the leader of another country is crazy. So the FBI classified these things to avoid a diplomatic embarrassment.

And by leaking these memos or releasing these memos, you know, that that he had disregarded the classified, you know, markings on the documents. He says he did that in the bigger interests of the country. And the Inspector General said, "Well, if every FBI did that, you know, we'd have a -- the FBI wouldn't function."

But Comey wasn't just an FBI agent. He is the Director. He made this decision, rightly or wrongly, because he felt that it was in the interest of country and he had just been fired by the President who went on TV and then said, "When I when I did it, I was thinking about the Russia investigation." So it always comes back to Russia with Trump and with Comey as well.

CABRERA: Okay, Seth Hettena, thank you so much.

HETTENA: Thank you.

CABRERA: Military families give up so much to serve our country. So why is President Trump taking something away from them? Stripping automatic citizenship for some of their children? We'll talk about a controversial new policy.

Plus, a former TV host daredevil known as the fastest woman on four wheels killed while trying to break her own record.


[14:28:12] CABRERA: Confusion and outrage is erupting among military families and diplomatic groups today as the Trump administration slashes another U.S. immigration policy. The Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services just announced that children of some U.S. service members living abroad will no longer automatically become U.S. citizens.

Now this policy will affect children of naturalized Americans who are serving for example on an overseas military base, but who have not lived in the U.S. for a required period of time.

And while President Trump's campaign promise was to curb illegal immigration, this latest move is just another way his administration has instead limited legal immigration.

A few other examples also starting in October, DHS will be able to deny applications for visas and green cards for legal immigrants who use public benefits like food stamps. DHS has reduced the maximum number of refugees admitted to the U.S. from 110,000 in 2017 to only 30,000 today.

And one of the President's first acts you'll recall, the controversial Muslim travel ban. Those are just more examples of how the President is now targeting legal immigration.

This is Peter Perkowski, a Legal and Policy Director of the Modern Military Association of America.

And Peter, great to have your expertise with us.

A lot of naturalized citizens are feeling confused by this new alert sent out by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services. Our understanding is this would impact a relatively small number of people, maybe 100. Can you give us an example scenario where this new policy would affect a child's citizenship?

PETER PERKOWSKI, LEGAL AND POLICY DIRECTOR, MODERN MILITARY ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA: Yes, thank you, Ana. And I think we need to be clear that it's not just naturalized citizens that this affects, but also green card holders, and also DACA recipients and others who are serving in our own forces who frankly deserve to be awarded and not punished.