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Hurricane Dorian Approaches U.S. Gulf Coast; CNN: Trump Rattled, Scrambles for Victories Ahead of Election. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 29, 2019 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: They were spared the worst of the storm. There were some strong winds and rain. You can see pictures right here. But as far as we can tell as we're waking up this morning, no significant damage the likes of which we saw after hurricane Maria and Irma a couple years ago.

Let's get right to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers with a new look at the forecast. Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: John, the 2:00 a.m. weather models have now finished running and they've printed out. I'm going to show you the difference what six hours will make to a place like Jacksonville. Here is the model out to track out to 72 hours, pretty good cone. And you mention how big that cone gets at the end. It's because the storm is almost stopping at the end.

This is the 96-hour model all the way from about Daytona down to Miami. But because the storm doesn't move very much, all of a sudden that circle gets a lot bigger because we don't know if it's going to go left or right or even keep going straight for that matter. So there has been a little bit of a change in the track since yesterday.

The big thing to note this morning are the numbers at landfall are 125 miles per hour. It's an 85 mile per hour storm right now. Hurricane hunter about to get into the storm. The radar about to lose it. It's just going to be too far away from Puerto Rico to see it for a very long time. There's nothing to see in the Turks and Caicos, there's not radar really in the Bahamas, so we're not going to see this thing until it gets closer to land. We're going to have to watch it on the satellite.

So we talked about the clumping of models all morning, and then this one outlier way up there in Jacksonville. Here is the big difference. Here's what happened in the overnight model. We go from Jacksonville landfall here where this is 8:00 p.m. last night. We use Zulu or one Greenwich mean time so that ne weatherman doesn't talk to another man and he says that's going to be about 12:00, and they go 12:00 my time or 12:00 your time? The Zulu time, the time at Greenwich mean time, Greenwich, England, is the model run over the entire world.

So here's what happened in the 2:00 a.m. run, no longer here but somewhere closer to here. And why we like to watch this because we think as closer and closer it gets, the narrow and narrower the error will be. That's not always the case, but at least we know a little bit. Maybe a sigh of relief for the people up near Jacksonville or maybe Charleston because you were looking at that curve yesterday. We'll see if the comes back. It certainly could, but for now a little bit more focus. We like to see all those models all focused together. Guys?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chad, thank you very much. Please keep us posted.

This hurricane has all of Florida's east coast on high alert. People stocking up and gassing up, preparing for the storm. CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Daytona Beach with more. What is the scene at this hour, Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Alisyn. It's actually just started to sprinkle on us here in the last couple of minutes in Daytona Beach. This has nothing to do with the hurricane. Just another typical day here in Daytona Beach. This weekend, though, will be anything but typical. Normally it would be one of the busiest weekends for Florida beaches. Instead residents up and down the east coast of Florida are preparing for a major category three hurricane.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VALENCIA: A rush to prepare for the worst in Florida, under a state of emergency as hurricane Dorian takes aim at the mainland U.S. after sparing Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands of significant damage. All across the state, gridlock at the pump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just getting prepared before the storm comes.

VALENCIA: Residents stocking up, stripping grocery shelves nearly bear with bottled water harder and harder to find. They're purchasing plywood to board up windows and filling up thousands of sandbags, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Better safe than sorry.

VALENCIA: Officials in coastal states urging people to be prepared.

MAYOR LENNY CURRY, (R) JACKSONVILLE: The impacts are unpredictable. And what will it be? Will it be the wind? Will it be the flooding? Will it be downed power lines? And just be prepared to be ready.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP, (R) GEORGIA: In their preparedness to be ready, we're not exactly sure where this storm is going to go. But you need to start preparing now if you're in the coastal communities for sure.

VALENCIA: The Caribbean islands feeling Dorian's strength, with wind gusts as high as 85 miles per hour, tree branches and debris scattered across the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Heavy rains filling the streets with water, ripping off some of the blue tarps still covering buildings in the time since hurricane Maria hit two years ago.

DARYL JASCHEN, DIRECTOR, U.S. TERRITORIAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: The damage assessment right now is primarily to our islands of Saint Thomas and Saint John. The good news is we have crews still remaining here from Irma and Maria that were doing restoration. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VALENCIA: It's still not clear where hurricane Dorian will make landfall. But this much is known. When it does hit Florida, it'll be the fifth hurricane in the last four years to impact the state. John?

BERMAN: Nick Valencia, thank you for being there. The people in Florida right now need to be getting ready.

Joining us, the Director of the National Hurricane Center Ken Graham. Ken, thank you very much for being with us. Explain to us how this storm is strengthening and where you see it headed.

[08:05:02] KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, John, that's what we've been watching the last couple of days is really the path has a lot to do with how strong the storm is going to get. So this path a little further east like this, it's warm water. That's just one of the ingredients. Not a lot of sheer in the atmosphere, that's another one of the ingredients, and time. And all those seem to be coming together here with this path. So there's plenty of time, warm water, and the atmosphere looks pretty good for more strengthening and a very strong storm to hit Florida.

BERMAN: Looks like it's going to hit over the holiday weekend. Why is that a concern to you?

GRAHAM: Well, we have a lot of people in town in from other parts the country. So the holiday weekend, we're really trying to stress to everybody, listen to the latest information, because this forecast can change. We're talking about this cone. Two-thirds of the time we could have a center somewhere in this cone, and it encompasses the entire state, not just the coastline. So for people in Florida, they understand how everybody could be impacted by the winds and the rain, but if you're from out-of-state you need to realize any one of those areas around the state could be impacted by this hurricane.

BERMAN: And one of the things about this storm, we see it strengthening to a category three as it approaches the coast of Florida, but then we can see in that model there right behind you, we see that one as it sits over the peninsula. What happens then? Is there a potential for it to move back over the Gulf of Mexico?

GRAHAM: We've seen some models do that, and then the next run doesn't do that. And that's why we have to have a cone because there's so much uncertainty in the long run.

It's interesting too, John, that the closer these dots are together, that means the slower the movements. So you can see some slowdown towards the end. And really if you think about it, the slower the storm, the longer that you have those high winds. It's longer that you have the time to produce those rains. So slowdowns aren't a good thing. And that's why we're really watching that close. We're going to spend a lot of time looking at that part of the forecast today.

BERMAN: When do people need to be preparing, and what should they be doing? GRAHAM: It's interesting to look at the timeline here, because if you

really look at the movement, you can see some tropical force winds approaching the coast on Sunday and then stretching across the state during the day on Sunday and into Monday. So we really need to spend tomorrow, spending Saturday wrapping things up, wrapping your plans up, because you start seeing some of those impacts even move in Sunday.

BERMAN: Get yourself ready and do it now. Ken Graham, as always, thank you so much for being with us this morning. I am sure we're going to have a chance to speak with you over the next few days.

GRAHAM: You bet.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, joining us now is Pete Gomez. He is Miami's emergency manager and assistant fire chief. Chief Gomez, thanks so much. What are you doing this morning to get ready?

PETE GOMEZ, MIAMI EMERGENCY MANAGER: I think we're doing the same thing that the rest of everybody in the state of Florida is doing. So this morning at 10:00 we have a meeting with our administrative -- with the manager, city manager and all his administrative assistants to discuss exactly what we're going to do moving forward.

But we've been prepared. We've been sending out messages to all department directors to start preparing their plans and getting their plans activated. We have hurricane plans in place, to make sure they notify all their employees of what's coming and what's expected of them. So this isn't new to us. So all we're doing is activating our plans right now and making sure we're going to be able to provide the services needed by the citizens.

CAMEROTA: As you say, of course this isn't new to you, you guys have lived through this before. And in fact, you aid you learned some lessons from Irma that you'll apply now. So what were those?

GOMEZ: Well, for one we bought vehicles that are able to go into all these flooded areas, and we've also modified some of our vehicles to be able to provide that response. During Irma we actually had to go out in 70 mile an hour winds because we had some medical emergencies. So we augmented our capabilities. We bought a med kite unit which is a very solidified, hardened vehicle, like a bearcat that the SWAT team uses but for medical purposes, low profile, very heavy that allows us to be able to get out there.

Not only that, we saw the damage that even non-hurricane force winds caused, brought down two cranes in the city. So we're getting that message out to those people around those construction sites that have cranes, that they need to be very vigilant because those cranes are not rated for these winds and they can come down like we saw in Irma.

Plus, we saw flooding in Irma that the city had never seen before. So we've got pumps in certain areas of the city to be able to meet those challenges. And I think our public works department, code enforcement, police, fire, are all going to be doing an excellent job of preparing and being able to respond to whatever Dorian brings our way.

CAMEROTA: But, chief, that's really scary about the cranes, because I know that cranes are up all over Miami. So can't they come down now?

[08:10:00] GOMEZ: No. Actually, it's quite a process. We found out how difficult a process it is. It takes a long time to get those cranes down. It's actually too late to start bringing them down. So they have a process that they use, and unfortunately during Irma we saw that they don't always meet their standards. But we do notify the surrounding communities and tell them to be alert. Our inspectors go out and inspect those sites and make sure that the debris is cleaned up, that those sites are as clean as possible, and that the crane operators are aware of what's coming our way.

CAMEROTA: That's nerve-racking. The last place you want to be when 125 mile per hour winds hit is in a crane or under a crane. So I hope that they're heeding your warnings. Chief Pete Gomez, thank you very much for taking time for us this morning. Obviously, we'll check back with you as this gets closer.

GOMEZ: Thank you for having us.

CAMEROTA: John?

BERMAN: All right, CNN has new reporting this morning that the president is rattled. It helps explain why he's making claims about the border wall, claims that aren't true. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:15:18] CAMEROTA: As the presidential campaign ramps up, CNN has learned President Trump is scrambling to find victories to sell to voters. One of his key promises, of course, was the border wall which has not yet been built.

So, joining us now to talk about all this, we have CNN White House correspondents Kaitlan Collins and Abby Phillip, and Astead Herndon, CNN political analyst and national political reporter for "The New York Times."

Kaitlan, tell us about how and why President Trump is feeling, quote, rattled.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: OK. You've seen the president be lashing out recently, talking about Puerto Rico, the economy, the border wall. So many things that the president is fuming about essentially behind the scenes, including the coverage of his summit at G7 in France.

A lot of what this boils down to we're told is right now the president is realizing that what we thought he was going to be able to safely bank onto run on in 2020, the economy, is not essentially what he expected it to be. He's become worried in recent days about the potential of an economic downturn. He's seen his aides disagreeing with one another how exactly they're going to stave it off. Even privately, they're admitting that a lot of it has to do with his

ongoing trade war with China which is also dragging on longer than the president expected.

And that is why you're seeing the president turn back to things like the border wall in recent meetings with aides where he joked, according to the White House, that he would pardon aides if they needed to break the law to get his wall built -- at least part of it by the election. A lot of is because the president knows he needs an accomplishment to run on in 2020.

And if the economy is not there for him, he's turning back to old promises like building that border wall, which is, of course, the chief promise he made before the 2016 campaign, and that is why you're seeing him urge aides to get this done because he says in part his re- election will depend on whether or not he can say -- look, I did fulfill this promise for you or look how great the economy is. And right now, he doesn't know exactly his fall back plan is going to be to run on.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's make one thing clear, first of all, no matter what the White House or the Trump campaign says, there have been no new miles of wall built as of now. As of now, all that's been built is some refurbishing of some dilapidated fencing. No new miles of wall.

Abby, you look at this and you think there is some peril for the president to be leaning into the wall issue like this.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the wall is not an issue that is going to help him appeal to voters who didn't vote for him the last time. I mean, quite frankly the wall is an issue for the president's supporters, the people who are already in this camp who are probably going to support him no matter what. It might improve the intensity of that support going into 2020. But it's hard to make the argument that you're going to trade the wall for the economy.

The economy is something that a majority of voters whether they're in the middle or on the center right believe that the President Trump is a good steward of. He might have a chance of swaying their votes.

So it's a problem for the president that the fall back plan is once again something that really only appeal to a narrow swath of voters. And some of this is a problem of his own making. You know, last year, around the time that the president started to escalate his trade war with China, what you would hear from his aides was that he believed the economy was strong enough to withstand a trade war. If he were to go farther than past presidents had gone before, it's because the economy was strong.

And yes, the economy was strong but it was never as strong as he made it out to be. It was basically on par with the performance of the economy in his predecessor's time. And so, he -- the story he told himself about the economy was never going to sustain this kind of trade war. And he's living with the consequences of that now. And, frankly, the White House doesn't know what to do about it. So as

the president often does, he just falls back to his base. He's not expanding his appeal in any way, shape or form by dealing with the wall once again.

CAMEROTA: Speaking of his base, there's Fox News and there's this interesting feud, I guess, that the president or at least displeasure that the president is expressing with Fox News. And as we all know they've had a very symbiotic relationship with Donald Trump for many years even before he became president --

BERMAN: You said symbiotic now. Last hour, you described it as a long, wet kiss.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Which you prefer?

BERMAN: I think the former is more descriptive.

CAMEROTA: More descriptive, yes.

I feel that there -- we have all been witnessing a long wet kiss between the two of them for a long time, even before he became president. And so, now, of course, he's confused when they dare to put on someone from the DNC. He thinks this is his network. What are they doing with Democrats on that network, and that is expressed in his tweet from yesterday.

I don't want to win for myself. I only want to win for the people. The new Fox News is letting millions of great people down. We have to start looking for new news outlet. Fox isn't working for us anymore.

And I think that my old friend Carl Cameron, who was the chief political correspondent at Fox for long, long time said it best in terms of what this is going to mean internally at Fox, because they really need the president on their side. They get access to him in a way that no other network does. Here's what Carl Cameron said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL CAMERON, FORMER CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: That's the kind of thing that makes the news department at Fox News where I worked for a number of years sick to their stomachs. These people don't like to hear that sort of stuff.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Why?

CAMEROTA: The entertainment side on the other hand is vastly different and it's a threat to them. He's basically -- Trump is basically challenging the Sean Hannitys of Fox News to beat up on the journalists. That's not going to work either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: That's just interesting. Who knows how this plays out? Maybe today, they'll all go back to making out. ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, this has been as you

said a symbiotic relationship that's worked for both parties for a while. It's unsurprising that we've seen the president kind of leaned into this. As we ramp up towards the election, we know he likes to use that kind of grievance-based campaign and he likes to paint an enemy for his supporters so they can rally around a certain cause. Sometimes it's immigrants, sometimes other groups, sometimes it's Fox News.

I mean, we saw in the primary he'd take aim for not being necessarily as supportive of him as he would like. But, you know, you can't fault the president for thinking Fox News was on his side because as we've seen in the last couple of years, it's certainly sound like it.

BERMAN: So, Astead, I'm glad you're here because you were a part of a group of black journalist that sat down with Vice President Joe Biden this week. And the fact that happened at all is interesting to me.

Let me just read one excerpt from the article. You wrote about it. The vice president was making the case he has a long relationship with the black community.

He said: The bad news is that I have a long record, but the good news is that I have a long record. People know me or at least they think they know me after all this time. They have a sense of who my character is and who I am, warts and all.

How do you think he's trying to position himself here? What was the purpose of this?

HERNDON: It was an interesting meeting. I mean, they convened black journalists in Washington as a series of round tables. But this timed at a particularly interesting moment in this primary. You have the top part of the field looking more and more like a separation of 23 candidates and the rest. You have Joe Biden at the top and his closest rivals being Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders, the kind of progressive wing behind him.

And what the Biden campaign is increasingly trying to do is participate those two rivals as kind of candidacies that are out of touch with the Democratic electorate overall. Not just on the ideological front, not just saying they're too far to the left, but saying that Biden's campaign is the one with the diverse coalition. He's touting that support from black voters. He's touting support from Latino voters and saying that kind of working class, his communications director said it interestingly on television the other day that no Democrat should be able to win the nomination without black support, she said.

That's a challenge towards Warren and Sanders to say unless you can kind of break up the coalition we have now, that looks a little blacker and browner than necessarily campaigns have tried to participate them as, they're saying that that is what qualifies them most uniquely to be the Democratic nominee. I think that's an interesting argument.

CAMEROTA: It sounds like he didn't mince words. Did he actively criticize Warren and Sanders?

HERNDON: Now, he didn't mention them by name but the subtext is pretty clear. The ones he did mention is Senator Kamala Harris. He seems still very stung by that first debate moment between them. He said, specifically talking about black supporters, I don't think anyone agrees with her when she says I don't think he's a racist but.

Like that phrase I've heard from Biden, I've heard from his allies, have stunned them so deeply I think that has also pushed them to moment to say, not only is that phrase something we disagree with, but look at our supporters. We are the ones polling at 40 percent, 50 percent with black communities and they're pushing back against that.

But even though he did not mention Warren and Sanders by name, aides have, the team has and they're bidding towards this moment where they want it to press their opponents to say when you get to the south, when you get to the west, maybe doesn't look like Iowa and New Hampshire, we have the coalition that looks more like Democratic Party.

BERMAN: And, Abby, in fact, if you look at most of the polls they have reflected that message from the Biden campaign even as Elizabeth Warren has risen consistently over the months, she hasn't really taken any meat out of the black support that Joe Biden has.

PHILLIP: She hasn't, and none of the other candidates have. Even the other black candidates in the race haven't been able to overtake Biden or even come that close to him.

So what you're also hearing from Biden in the meeting that I said I was a part of, was don't take this for granted. I think that's a fair point, there are a lot of people out there saying, well, black voters don't know enough about these other candidates or black voters are just familiar with Joe Biden.

I think what Biden is trying to say is that he believes and there's some validity to this, that black voters are not just being duped into supporting him because they happen to know his name, black voters believe they know him and they understand the good parts about him and the bad parts about him and that's why they support him.

Now, other candidates can change that. That's the challenge that they face, but so far, it hasn't happened, but there's also plenty of time. The other campaigns will tell you that if you look back at the 2018 election, Barack Obama was where they are right now. He was struggling to gain the support of black voters in South Carolina, and it took a victory in Iowa for him to really change the trajectory of that race with black supporters.

So there's plenty of time for Democrats to really get into that space. But I think it would be a mistake to really dismiss the support as something that's kind of osmosis, entirely a remnant of Joe Biden being associated with Barack Obama.

CAMEROTA: And then, Kaitlan, of course, Joe Biden got that gift from Monmouth University yesterday, which is to say the poll which had caused kind of some concern and fear among the campaign, that that was not reliable.

COLLINS: Yes, that was something surprising to see them admit, yes, this was an out liar among other polls we've seen. And that's why you've seen Joe Biden enjoys such a comfortable lead. So, sometimes in the media there's focus on remarks he's made, gaffes they called them, but, of course, that is why we're seeing the Trump campaign and President Trump so squarely focused on Joe Biden. Because they do see him still regardless of Elizabeth Warren's rise as the biggest threat.

You saw the president tweeting yesterday talking about Elizabeth Warren and the coverage she's getting and the crowd at some of her events that they are getting, but the president would be fine to run against Elizabeth Warren. That's what he's actually telling people. He thinks that would be more beneficial to him because he could setup that race he thinks with a dichotomy stronger to benefit him. He doesn't feel the same way with Joe Biden. He says Joe Biden as an actual threat to his appeal, to some of those middle class working voters.

And that is why you see him concerned with polls like this even with that one that was deemed an out liar.

CAMEROTA: Kaitlan, Abby, Astead, we're out of time. Thank you both all very much.

OK. So, police have arrested a college student who admitted to planning a school shooting. We'll bring you the disturbing details about what he was hoping to do and why he says he moved to North Carolina specifically to carry out this attack.

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