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Dorian Poised to Slam Florida; On Alert as Dorian Nears Florida; IG Releases Comey Report; Trump Considers Blocking Aid to Ukraine; Trump Ends Automatic Citizenship. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 29, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] CARL HULSE, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Republicans, they have a real problem.


All right, thanks everybody for joining us. Thank you for tuning in to INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna Keilar starts "RIGHT NOW."

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters. Underway right now, Hurricane Dorian poised to hit Florida as a category four storm, and everything from Disney World to Mar-a-Lago is in its path.

The president considers yet another move that would please Vladimir Putin.

Plus, why the Trump administration wants to end automatic citizenship for the children of some members of the military and civilians serving the U.S. overseas.

And the former defense secretary says the president's actions left him no choice but to quit, and James Mattis didn't stop there.

We begin with our breaking news.

Hurricane Dorian intensifying as it heads towards the U.S. mainland. Florida is bracing for a direct hit. The storm now forecasted to make landfall as a category four hurricane. And this could strengthen even more through the holiday weekend.

Chad Myers is in the CNN Weather Center.

What are you seeing there, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Looks like 130 miles per hour is now where the National Hurricane Center has kind of settled on. We were 70, 80, 100, 110 and now we're at 130 miles per hour, somewhere very close to the Grand Bahama Island or Nassau by Sunday morning. And then by Monday morning, likely onshore, or at least very close to being onshore in Florida.

There's a couple of caveats with this, we call it the cone of uncertainty. There is a chance, because of the cone, that this storm, as it begins to turn and slow down, could stop or slow down 30 miles sooner and we could still be in the cone and miss Florida altogether. That's part of the cone's error process.

But also it could go all the way across and be in the Gulf of Mexico and still be in the cone. So that's why we all have to watch this. We still have really about four days before landfall, but not four days to make preps, because this will start to make more wind here in three days or less. We'll get tropical storm force winds on Sunday for sure.

What else has been near Dorian? Jeanne, Frances, Hugo and Irma. And not that far away from where Andrew was as well. It's an 85 mile per hour storm. It had an eye for a while earlier today. That eye has kind of weakened at this point.

Hurricane hunter flying away from it right now. They found it at 89 miles per hour about a half an hour ago.

So where does it go from here? The European model into south Florida and then turning to the north. The American model into central Florida, space coast, and then turning north into -- really into Georgia. But only would have to stop short, 30 or 40 miles, to be offshore and not hit Florida at all. Big storm, big preps, make plans for this major hurricane to make landfall, and we hope that it won't. We hope that it turns 40 miles earlier. If it turns 40 miles later, now we've got the other side of Florida also involved.


KEILAR: Yes, very good point. You have to get ready for the worst case scenario.


KEILAR: So we'll keep watching this with you, Chad. Thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

KEILAR: And as Dorian is rapidly approaching, Florida is now under a state of emergency and residents are preparing for the worst.

Nick Valencia is in Daytona Beach. Tell us what you're seeing there. It's beautiful, but they need to get ready for this.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is beautiful, it's bright outside and the beach umbrellas here, Brianna, they're in full effect. But this is not expected to last for long. This normalcy here is expected to be disrupted by Hurricane Dorian. And what would typically be one of the busiest weekends on Florida's beaches is no doubt going to be disrupted by this major storm heading this way and said residents are now expecting for -- or being prepared or told to prepare for this category four hurricane.

And from what we've seen so far, they are listening. It was last night that some stores here locally in and around the Daytona Beach area, they ran out of water. There were other long lines for gasoline. People already filling up sandbags, getting plywood. And the local and state officials here are bowing very clear, this track could impact anywhere here along the East Coast of Florida. So anyone that's living along that East Coast part of the state could potentially be in the path of direct landfall.

But as I mentioned, people appear to be listening at this point. Governor DeSantis giving a press conference just a couple of hours ago saying that Florida went about ten years without taking a direct hit. But in the last four years, they've been directly impacted by five major hurricanes.


KEILAR: All right, Nick Valencia keeping an eye on things there. Thank you so much.

And joining me now on the phone is retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore. He's the former commander of the Katrina Task Force, widely credited for helping turn around government response efforts there in New Orleans.

General, people need to get ready for this. How should they be preparing in Florida and even those in the Gulf Coast who might be looking if this tracks a little farther south? What do they need to be doing?

[13:05:00] LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), LED MILITARY RESPONSE TO HURRICANE KATRINA (via telephone): Well, listen to your governors and your local officials. Now is the time to prepare. As Chad referred to it as this cone of uncertainty, if you're inside the cone, you need to be getting prepared. If you're on the side of it, you need to get prepared. If you're in the direction of the cone, because he laid it out, it could cut through Florida, it could turn. If it goes through Florida, like Andrew did, it could end up in Louisiana. So if you're in the direction of that cone, it's the weekend. The National Guard in Florida did a great job doing Hurricane Irma. If this governor does what the previous governor does, he will get that National Guard out and they will escort people to shelters.

But now is the time to prepare. And if you're in the low-lying area along the coast, you need to make plans to move now. The sooner you move, the better off you're going to be. Get your place boarded up and get out of there. Move away from the storm because if we look at what happened in Andrew, this is kind of a worst-case scenario, Brianna. And now is the time for people to prepare.

You've got Saturday and some part of Sunday to get ready. Do it now. Don't wait. Today is the 14th commemoration of Hurricane Katrina and we know what happened in Katrina. We do not need to have people stuck waiting to get rescued.

KEILAR: I think there's -- I think some people think it's not going to happen to me or they think that they can prepare to weather this and to stay.

What do you have to say to people who think, I might just try to get through this, it's a holiday weekend, I'm going to ride this out? HONORE: Well, let's talk terrain specific why people need -- along

that Florida coastline, Ft. Lauderdale and that area, over time they put a lot of canals there so people can ride their boats out to the bay. If you think storm surge, because most of the people that will die from this or get injured will be as a result of the water. Either surge water or the water that's from the rain, from flooding. The wind will take out the power. So if you're inside that cone, expect the power to go out. If you live along the Ft. Lauderdale area and there's those canals come in so you can take your boat in and out, all that's going to be full of surge water up to seven to eight miles inland.


HONORE: So you can be away from the coast and still flood because you're near one of those canals that people use to take their boat in and out of. It was a good idea when it was done, but this is the payoff for living in paradise. You've got to move away from that storm, Brianna.

KEILAR: And you have been critical of this administration in the past for how it has dealt with some hurricane response. What does the government need to be doing to make sure, whether it's the local government or the federal government, what does it need to be doing to make sure that this -- that they're prepared?

HONORE: Well, you know, FEMA is still hiring people, but FEMA made a great move on Puerto Rico. They got there early. They went in big. They had stuff prepositioned. It's a different situation in Florida where you've got all the capacity from the industrial base in Florida waiting (ph) to support that governor. But you also have the U.S. military. The U.S. Northern Command is going through the planning. They've given people prepared -- be prepared orders to back up that governor with air, land and sea capacity as required under USR North out of San Antonio. They're leaning forward.

So the federal government is there, as they were during Irma, to back up the state of Florida. Florida has had a great execution during Irma. They put the National Guard out days before the storm came. They escorted people away. And if they use that same game plan, the National Guard will be there, the federal troops will be there to back up if they follow that same plan.

But I think FEMA did learn a lesson from Irma. As we saw this week, they pre-deployed, they were there early and they gave the people peace of mind.

KEILAR: All right, General Honore, thank you so much for joining us.

HONORE: Have a good day.

KEILAR: All right, you too, sir.

Back here in Washington, a just-released report from the inspector general says that former FBI Director James Comey violated an FBI policy on how to handle classified material, specifically in regards to those memos that he wrote on his meetings with President Trump. But the Department of Justice says it will not prosecute Comey.

I want to talk about this now with CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz.

Shimon, you've gone through this report. Tell us about it.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, so the headlines here really, it's critical of the former FBI director. The inspector general taking issue, obviously, with what Comey did here in leaking some of this information to the media, to "The New York Times," how he handled some of the memos.

The key thing here, what they say, is that, yes, this did violate FBI policy and it violated his employee agreement. He wasn't supposed to release this information.

[13:10:09] And then the other key thing for Comey in all of this is that the inspector general found that no classified information was leaked. So that is helpful, obviously, to the former FBI director.

And here's -- one of the key lines that I found in this report certainly is how they address why the former FBI director did this. And here's what the inspector general says, that by not safeguarding sensitive information obtained during the course of his FBI employment and by using it to create public pressure for official action, Comey set a dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees and many thousands more former FBI employees who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information is what the inspector general here wrote.

And, of course, if you recall, when Comey testified and has spoken publicly about this, the reason why he did this, why he released some of this information was because he wanted a special counsel to be appointed. He didn't trust anyone at the Department of Justice after he got fired. And he was very concerned with the Russia investigation. So it's ultimately he decided that he wanted to get some of this information out there.

KEILAR: All right, Shimon, thank you so much.


KEILAR: So what does James Comey think about this report? Well, he has been on Twitter letting us know. Quote, DOJ IG found no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the memos to members of the media. He 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 to all those who spent two years talking about me going jail or being a liar and a leaker, ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president, end quote.

Associated editor and columnist for "RealClearPolitics" A.B. Stoddard is with us here, as former as former federal prosecutor Laura Coates.

All right, he's saying that this report exonerates him, Laura. Is that correct?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I wouldn't be quite as smug as he is. There still was a very damning report by the IG that said, look, you had an obligation to relinquish any files you had. They actually had somebody come over (INAUDIBLE) of the FBI to come to his home and say, anything you got here you want to hand over to us? He didn't hand it over. He handed it to a Columbia law professor because he wanted to have a particular outcome. He wanted a special counsel to be there.

The issue (ph) it wasn't classified is really an exoneration for James Comey. He didn't hand over knowingly anything that was classified. But he still did violate the policy in a way that FBI officials should not do, which is, you don't take information that you have gained through the course of your employment. Even when you have an employment agreement and then hand over to have a political outcome maybe be achieved. That's the big criticism, that still stands, which is why his Twitter account is a little bit too dismissive of what he actually was accused of doing.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean how do you think the White House, the president, the administration will look at this, A.B.?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": Right. Well, they're used to people on Twitter needing a lot of attention. I think everyone's tired of hearing from James Comey, who likes to draw attention to himself. And Laura's right, he doesn't -- it's not a good look -- I mean it's not -- what was revealed in this report is not good. What he did was unprecedented. What he did in July of 2016 broke protocol and was unprecedented.

And so, you know, he has tarnished his reputation, which was once that he was this --

KEILAR: You're talking about how he gave the press conference for Hillary Clinton and said he was reckless, even though --

STODDARD: Right. And indicted her politically but then said we can't indict her.

KEILAR: That's right.

STODDARD: But you're not -- but when the department does not decide to prosecute, you're not supposed to come out and discuss that. So Democrats can't forgive him. I'm sure the White House, you know, the president will probably say he leaked classified information again, even though the report says he doesn't.


STODDARD: And they're on to the next report, which is an IG report over FISA use by the FBI.

But I think it's one of those days where sort of there's something for everyone on two sides of the political battle, but I don't think that James Comey should feel great. COATES: And, of course, it's kind of ironic, especially with the

Clinton press conference. What did he do? He essentially tarred and feathered her in the public square about being extremely reckless and then they say, we're not going to actually prosecute this person. And it's almost like poetic justice at play here for James Comey.

KEILAR: I want to talk about Ukraine because -- there's the right turn on this, but the president is heavily considering blocking $250 million in military aid to Ukraine. Now, that helps Ukraine defend itself against Russia. I mean you're like closing your eyes and shaking your head. I have to finish -- I have to -- sort of a long explanation, but this is pretty -- this is sort of like a full loop here because they use this money to defend against Russia, which, I mean, invaded and annexed Crimea five years ago. So this loops back to the Mueller report actually because this aid actually first popped up in that changed platform, that changed Republican platform at the Republican National Convention and it was sort of sudden and mysterious. And now we're seeing that was a decision that was investigated during -- by the Mueller team.

[13:15:05] But now we're seeing the president considering this. It's almost coming full circle from 2016.

What do you think?

STODDARD: Right on the heels of the G-7, where he was doing Putin's bidding, no question. Of any of these other factors, he was trying to insert Russia back into -- and make it the G-8 and saying he would invite him possibly as his guest when he hosts -- when the U.S. hosts the next one next year.

To the, you know, strong pushback and criticism of everyone else in the G-7, including his buddy, you know, Boris Johnson -- and it -- and it was -- it's the kind of thing where, yes, Republicans are on -- they're still on recess and, you know, Congress is not in session. But I've only seen -- I've seen bipartisan pushback, but I've only seen Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois push back on this. But there will be. I'm sure it's going on privately right now. They don't want to take, you know, to the pres.

But one push on this, there will be pushback. Congress appropriated these funds. It is -- it is there to mitigate the threat of further incursions by Putin, who has already annexed Crimea within Ukraine. This is a crazy idea. And I think they're giving -- they're dangling this caveat like maybe the president won't do it. He hasn't officially decided. But this comes out of nowhere. It's stunning.


I want to ask you about some breaking news we have because this is just into CNN. A judge, Laura, has officially dismissed the case against convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein citing his death behind bars. The investigation, though, into his sex trafficking ring and potential co-conspirators will continue.

This isn't over. COATES: Right.

KEILAR: This will have tentacles. What's your reaction to that?

COATES: Well, it shouldn't be over simply for the people who were complicit or facilitated the exploitation of young children. I'm not going to call them young women, young children in the escapades of one Jeffrey Epstein. It is appropriate to have a criminal action against a deceased person now end because what would be the recourse? There cannot be a penalty. There cannot be incarceration. There can't even be an acquittal with the death.

However, you do have the civil side of the law that still lives on. And, remember, New York is unique in that it just passed some laws to allow opportunities for those who are victims of sexual assault to be able to bring civil suits against both the estates and anyone who may have also been complicit. It does not do anything to remove the criminal, you know, sort of Damocles over a so-called madam and others but it does give an avenue.

But, most importantly, one of the things people have not talked enough about is that Epstein, before he died, signed a brand new will --

KEILAR: That's right.

COATES: That removed a number of his finances, in fact most of it, and put them into trusts to -- in order to cut off at the knees those people who were trying to get money from his estate. And so it's almost as if he had the last laugh on that issue, but you're seeing a trend this week. A judge allowing victims to go into court and speak and the idea of a civil suit still pending perhaps against people and criminality against those who were complicit. This case will survive even the death of Jeffrey Epstein.

KEILAR: Laura, A.B., thank you so much.

And in another provocative move, the Trump administration ending automatic citizenship for children of some service members who are serving overseas. They're deployed. The question is why?

Plus, the former defense secretary revealing why the president's behavior left him no choice but to quit.

And the moment an Army major had with the former vice president on the campaign trail and why it is so controversial.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I took 130 soldiers over and I brought them back and I'm so honored to have served under your administration and your leadership.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:23:25] KEILAR: In a stunning and pretty head-scratching move, the Trump administration is making it harder for children of some U.S. service members and government employees stationed overseas to become U.S. citizens. Typically these children would be given U.S. citizenship automatically when they are born, but that will not be the case after October when this policy update is scheduled to go into effect.

Alex Marquardt is here for us.

And so, Alex, it's important to note, because there's been a lot of confusion, that most service members, or federal workers who are serving overseas, who have a child or are going to have a child, they're not going to be impacted, but there are some who will. So walk us through this. Give us some examples of who will be affected.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This really is quite confusing, so let's break it all down.

But, Brianna, to start, the bottom line here is that the people who are going to be affected are either new, naturalized U.S. citizens or people who aren't yet citizens but are still serving the U.S. government in some capacity overseas and sometimes in harm's way.

So, for starters, let's say that, for example, you have come to the U.S. and gotten U.S. citizenship. Then you've been sent overseas to serve, either in the U.S. military or somewhere in the U.S. government. If you then have a child while stationed overseas, that child will not automatically be American, even though you're still serving the United States. You'll have to apply for that kid to be naturalized, to become a citizen. And that, of course, is often a long and arduous process.

Now, that same thing goes for non-citizens serving overseas. Brianna, as you know well, there are thousands of people who are trying to become U.S. citizens by serving in the U.S. military, foreigners serving America, putting their lives on the line. Their new children won't automatically become U.S. citizens either. They will also have to apply.

[13:25:09] Now, according to, there were some 80,000 members of the U.S. military who were not U.S. citizens. They served between 1999 to 2010. That's the decade after 9/11.

And then finally there's also the case of Americans who are serving overseas who may want to adopt a child who was born in a foreign country to foreign parents. That child will also not automatically become American, even though its parents are already.

Now, in terms of the impact, the Department of Defense is downplaying it saying that it affects around 100 people per year. USCIS, which rolled out this policy yesterday, say it's about a third of that. This policy is set to go into effect, as you mentioned, at the end of October.

And, Brianna, it's really just clearly targeting new Americans and people trying to become American, all of whom again are serving the United States.


KEILAR: All right, Alex, thank you so much for explaining that to us.

I want to bring in Will Goodwin. He is an Army veteran and he's currently the director of government relations for Vote Vets, which is a liberal veterans group.

You went to West Point. You were, after a year and a half, medically discharged. And now what you do is you do veterans issues in politics, currently working for a progressive organization which is important to note.

You're very much opposed to this. There are a lot of people who are. So I want to talk big picture with you because this was a -- this policy was announced yesterday. Alex and I were talking about that confusion. What's the reaction been like inside the military community?

WILL GOODWIN, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Sure. I think once again this is chaos for military families. This has happened a lot throughout the Trump administration. He has used the military and their families as a punching bag to fulfill his own domestic political aims. Think about the transgender ban and other, you know, policies like this.

KEILAR: But you've talked -- you've talked to some family members.

GOODWIN: Well, absolutely.

KEILAR: You know you have a lot -- obviously a ton of friends in the military.

GOODWIN: Yes. Sure.

KEILAR: What are some of the concerns that they have?

GOODWIN: Right. Yes, I mean, we have 230,000 people stationed overseas right now. Last night they didn't know what this policy meant. So we have service members at work today who didn't sleep well last night because they're worried about their families, they're worried about the citizenship of their own kids as they're supposed to be doing their jobs to protect the rest of us.

KEILAR: So if they weren't in the military or if they weren't deployed, and let's say they were home in the U.S., this wouldn't be an issue. So let's talk about where this comes into play, when you would have families overseas. It's easy -- you know, not for me, I'm a military spouse --


KEILAR: But it's -- it's easy to kind of forget where all of these American families are. They're in Germany, they're in Japan, they're in Korea, right? GOODWIN: Absolutely. And some, you know, working at embassies or

places where we don't have a large base. So, you know, the implications of this, as far as a child born in a military hospital, maybe not if they're in one of those smaller locations.

But it's not the choice of these families, right? These families sign up to serve. They probably joined and enlisted while they were stateside and then the military told them to go overseas. So it's not a choice and it's pretty cruel to make that disparity.

KEILAR: What is the message that this sends, especially to immigrants who decide -- and I've met a number who, you know, either this is a path to citizenship, but I've also met people who have come to the United States and they want to repay the United States and they join the military.


KEILAR: What is this -- what kind of message does this send to them?

GOODWIN: Yes. I mean having served alongside immigrants who felt that patriotic call to serve, it's a total insult to their service. I mean these people are as patriotic as a kid who enlists in the Army in Kansas out of high school. You know, they love this country so much that they would risk everything. A lot of them not even citizens themselves yet. And so to say that we're just going to put their family in political crosshairs and treat them in such a disrespectful way is unacceptable and it tears at the fabric of our military, right? It doesn't just affect those families, it affects all military families because if Donald Trump will do it to immigrant families, if he'll do it to transgender service members, who's next?

KEILAR: Will, thank you so much for joining us.

GOODWIN: Absolutely.

KEILAR: Really appreciate it.

GOODWIN: Yes, thank you.

KEILAR: From real estate to footwear, the new red flags on the economy as U.S. growth slows.

Plus, what former Defense Secretary James Mattis says the president did that's beneath the dignity of the office.

And Joe Biden and a major in the Army have a powerful moment on the trail, but was it appropriate?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope and pray that you will be our next president of the United States.