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AT THIS HOUR

Dorian Expected to Hit Florida as Category 4 Hurricane; DeSantis Warns of Power Outrages, Fuel Shortages; Dorian Expected to Impact Airports; Fort Pierce Mayor Linda Hudson Discusses Dorian Taking Aim at Her City, Their Preparedness; Trump's Personal Assistant Resigns after Sharing Details about Trump Family in Conversations with Reporters; Trump Administration to Tap Military Construction Funds for Wall; DNC Planning to Reject Iowa's Virtual Caucus Plan; WSJ: Purdue Opioid Deal Gets Pushback from Several States. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much to you for joining me today. I'm Jim Sciutto.

We're going to stay on top of all the hurricane news in the coming hours at the end days.

"AT THIS HOUR" starts right now.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

It's now a race against time as the potentially catastrophic Hurricane Dorian barrels toward Florida this Labor Day weekend. The National Hurricane Center has just issued a brand-new advisory, narrowing the likely path of the storm and raising the risk for millions of people across the state.

Gas stations are starting to run out of fuel and stores are running low on other emergency supplies.

All this comes as officials warn residents to prepare for an extremely dangerous prolonged event.

Here is Governor Ron DeSantis just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON DESANTIS, (R), FLORIDA GOVERNOR: This is potentially a multi-day event where it will churn slowly across the state. That obviously creates a whole host of issues. But if you're in an area that has an impact from this storm, you should assume you're going to lose power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The government says evacuation plans should be announced later on today.

Let get to the new forecast right now. Chad Myers is in the Weather Center. What is in store for this hurricane?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The 11:00 advisory is out and very, very little change in the forecast. It's 140 miles per hour, making approach on Sunday. There's Monday morning, 8:00 a.m. Still not on shore. And likely after dark somewhere very close to land coming there in plus or minus. Let's just say plus or minus 100 miles West Palm Beach.

That doesn't put them in the middle. That just says where the area will would be at that line across there.

This thing still could do many other things. I just looked at a new model that's not technically a hurricane model but it wouldn't be out of the cone for the storm to do something like this and then come out here and be in the ocean the entire time. That would still be in the cone of error. So there's still the possibility. That's not the forecast but it's still the possibility.

The closer you are to the middle of the cone, the closer you are to the highest chance of what we're going to see.

The storm eye popped just about 30 minutes ago. That means it's starting to intensify again. They kept it at 110 miles an hour. I think 110 is probably on the upper echelon of where it is now. But by nightfall, this likely becomes that category three that we talked about.

Here's the eye. I'm going to zoom in here. The machine is not going to like it much. It is such a beautiful picture of an eye. And it would be more beautiful if it was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and not headed towards the United States. You take one thing with another. Sometimes nature is beautiful and sometimes she takes it back.

But the models have done an excellent job with this storm for the last couple of hours, because a back and forth pattern from a hurricane hunter aircraft that dropped little things, the inverse of a weather balloon.

But for 72 hours, the forecast of the hurricane is right in line. I can't get relatives to agree for 72 hours and this thing right here, very, very close. Very good approximation of where the models think it's going right now -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: The pictures making it look very organized. But let's say this storm does say over Florida for a few days. And we know what comes with that is a whole lot of flooding. What kind of rainfall are we expecting?

MYERS: Honestly, 20 inches of rainfall from freshwater flooding there. This is going to be a big rainmaker. From Jacksonville to Savannah, all the way down to West Palm. Everybody on the east side of the state will see tremendous amounts of rain.

There will also be something here. And I don't know where the bottom is, let's call it West Palm, all the way up almost the space coast, there will be a 12-foot salt water surge right there as all the water gets pushed onto the land and into the intercoastal and into the canals where people have their boats that will be floating above their houses.

WHITFIELD: Very dangerous conditions.

Chad Myers, thank you so much.

MYERS:

WHITFIELD: So as Hurricane Dorian approaches, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis the warning about power outages and fuel shortages.

CNN's Rosa Flores is at a gas station in West Palm Beach Florida.

What are you seeing there?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, take a look around. You can see that there's a line forming here to get gas. This is one of the only gas stations in this immediate area that we were able to find gas.

From talking to the owner of this gas station, he says that his family owns four gas stations in the area and this is the only one that does have gas. And he says that this gas will probably last him until 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. this evening and then he's expecting another load. So he hopes not to run out.

But as you mentioned, Governor Ron DeSantis announcing that there are shortages in the state.

[11:05:04] One of the things that does help is the fact that because he issued a state of emergency in all 67 counties of Florida -- I'll move out of the way because there's a lot of traffic as people move around. What helps, Fred, is that that eases the rules and allows more gas to flow into the state.

From talking to a few people here, we just arrived so I haven't talked to a lot of people. They have mentioned that they are filling up either because they are leaving to another area now, they're preparing to evacuate, other people are filling up gas tanks as well, Fred.

So just overall preparedness ahead of the hurricane.

WHITFIELD: Can't be too prepared.

Rosa Flores, thank you so much. We'll check back with you as needed.

Hurricane Dorian is expected to have a major impact on airports ahead of this holiday weekend.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is live for us at the Orlando International Airport.

Dianne, what are you experiencing there? DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So to be very honest, it's

actually a pretty nice travel day, especially for the fact that we have a holiday weekend, the final holiday weekend of the summer here in Orlando.

But they are working behind the scenes because they know that's going to change. They have about 130,000 people who come through each day of this weekend so it's busy anyway.

With the incoming storm, the airport and the airlines are working together to set up these contingency plans. They are working to determine when those flights will eventually be canceled or delayed. We haven't seen very many delays today.

In fact, most of the people we've talked to who are leaving who had any sort of issues said that they just cut their vacation short by a day because of the storm. They wanted to make sure they got their families out.

Another person we talked to said the cruise skipped the private island because they wanted to get the workers off the island. So instead they had an extra day in the Bahamas.

So right now, it's minor inconveniences for people. But we're still seeing a steady flow of people showing up in Orlando right now. Those are going to be the people if they're trying to ride out the weekend, eek those last days out who will see some of the issues come Sunday and Monday.

WHITFIELD: Dianne Gallagher, in Orlando, thank you.

So Dorian's track right now shows it is heading straight toward Fort Pierce, Florida.

The city's mayor, Linda Hudson, is joining me now.

Mayor Hudson, how are you all bracing for this storm?

LINDA HUDSON, MAYOR OF FORT PIERCE: Luckily, we've had a lot of advance notice, so our county emergency operations center is in process and our city of Fort Pierce works closely with them.

We have our public works employees out collecting garbage and making sure there's no debris on the streets. We have our Fort Pierce utilities authority doing the same thing. Our police department will go on Alpha Bravo, which is full-tilt boogie, all the staffs on call are in the police station starting tomorrow.

So we're very prepared for this, but we understand people are concerned and, you know, have fear, and we want the people who want to evacuate to evacuate now.

WHITFIELD: Mayor Hudson, Governor DeSantis said this morning that evacuation plans might be announced later on today. What are your biggest concerns when it comes to evacuating Fort Pierce and the barrier island right off the coast? HUDSON: Yes. Well, as long as it's orderly, it will probably go

well. And if people can start early -- a lot of businesses and schools are closing today at noon. So a lot of people will be able to get on the road quicker.

And there's two arteries, I-95 and I-75. And so they need to keep moving slowly and steadily and people need to get on the road, if they're leaving, as soon as possible.

WHITFIELD: So, Mayor, perhaps you heard our reporter, Rosa Flores, earlier, she was out at Orlando talking about a gas station where she is located is expecting -- they've got gas until this evening. And then there are other gas stations reportedly who have run out of gas altogether. What are you seeing in your area?

HUDSON: I've been out twice this morning and I've seen some lines, but I haven't seen that intensity that I heard from the other reporter. I think it will happen as the day goes forward.

Because this is a Friday, right, and as I said, schools are closing at noon and businesses are closing, so I think the rush will be tonight in our town.

WHITFIELD: And what about for those residents who want to ride it out? In every coastal city, there are folks who say they want to stay put, they want to stick with their properties, et cetera.

HUDSON: Right.

WHITFIELD: There are some cities that put kind of precautions if place. They get names, they get next of kin. What have you all done for those people who might not heed evacuation orders?

HUDSON: Yes, that probably will start tomorrow because we're not at the evacuation stage yet. Tomorrow there's something called a soft evacuation, which is basically urging you to leave, but not mandatory evacuation.

[11:10:13] And we're pretty experienced at this and we know if we stay in place when the winds get to be a certain level, no rescue will come if you need rescue. So people make their own decisions about where they feel safe.

WHITFIELD: You told CNN earlier that places like Walmart are sold out of water. Governor DeSantis said yesterday that every Floridian should have seven days of supplies on hand, especially if you are going to hunker down and ride out the storm. Do you feel like most people in your city are prepared like that?

HUDSON: Oh, yes. So we're experienced, unfortunately. We've had several big hurricanes, Irma and Matthew.. And of course this area all the way back to 2004 with Fran is and Jean. So we are prepared.

I know places are out of water and other places are advertising that they have water. Other places, some are out of ice and some are advertising. Social media is helping so much because people are telling people, this establishment has water, this establishment has ice.

So we're all in this together and we're all helping each other.

WHITFIELD: Mayor Linda Hudson, we wish you and everyone there along the Florida coast the best, of course. Thank you so much.

HUDSON: Thank you. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Straight ahead, a personal confidant of the president with a desk directly outside the Oval Office is now out of a job. The red line sources say she crossed.

Plus, a new report says the DNC will reject Iowa's new virtual caucus plan. So what does that mean for the all-important state in the Democratic presidential race?

All of that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:16:52] WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

The ever-revolving White House door is spinning again. This time, it's President Trump's personal assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, who has been with him since the start of his administration, was forced to resign after the president discovered she shared intimate details about the president's family with reporters.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live for us at the White House.

Jeremy, Westerhout has been seen as a very loyal person to the president and a true believer in his policies. How far did she take it when she apparently talked about family members to reporters?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Fredricka. Multiple sources are now telling us that Madeleine Westerhout, the president's personal assistant, was forced to resign after she shared some intimate details about the president's family with reporters during an off-the-record dinner.

Despite the fact that that dinner was off the record, those details made their way to the president's ear and that was very much viewed by him as a red line, as anything having to do with his family often is.

Her abrupt departure was viewed with a lot of shock, frankly, by a lot of officials inside the White House who viewed Westerhout as someone who had been a gatekeeper to the president for two and a half years.

That's despite the fact that, back during the 2016 election, when President Trump was elected, she was reportedly in tears at the time when she was an RNC staffer. Despite that, though, she did go on to become a trusted aide to the president and his gatekeeper for about two and a half years.

That will be the most substantive change here. No longer having this official outside the Oval Office day in and day out -- Fred? WHITFIELD: And then, Jeremy, the Trump administration is poised to

tap military funds to build a wall ahead of 2020. So give us an idea of how much money we're talking about, what would be at risk potentially.

DIAMOND: Well, if you remember back in February, the president did declare a national emergency regarding the situation at the southern border in order to unlock military construction funds, $3.6 billion in military construction funds specifically.

But so far, the White House hasn't moved to actually tap into those funds. They've been working with other funds, some from the Department of Defense's counter drug program, others from Treasury asset forfeitures, and some funds that were appropriated by Congress.

But multiple sources are telling me and my colleagues that the president and the White House are moving forward with going to tap the funds. We're not sure how eminent that action is.

But certainly, it could put at risk some military construction funds and particular funds having to do with drones, cyber or training facilities. We're not quite sure which funds exactly, but certainly it will have an impact -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Jeremy Diamond, at the White House, thanks so much.

And a major change could be in the works for Iowa's first-in-the- nation caucus. Sources tell CNN the Democratic National Committee is getting ready to reject Iowa's plans to hold virtual caucuses because of the potential for hacking or other interference. Iowa planned to allowing voters to make their choice by phone during six virtual caucuses.

Joining me right now to discuss the CNN politics reporter, Dan Merica.

Good to see you, Dan.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: So the DNC wanted states to give more access to voters and Iowa planned for these by-phone caucuses to do that. But why are DNC officials so concerned?

[11:20:09] MERICA: The primary concern is hacking. The idea being that if this is all done by phone, some sort of technology product would be used and thereby could be hacked and really undercut the validity and have people question the validity of the caucus.

What's really happening is there are two principals kind of butting up against each other inside the Democratic Party.

After 2016, the DNC decided they wanted caucuses to be more open. They wanted to allow more access for certain types of voters that have trouble going to these in-person caucuses that are on a set time of a set day. Maybe they're shift workers. Maybe they're disabled and having trouble getting to the events. They wanted to open it up for them. And one way to do that and the

Iowa Democratic Party proposed was doing a virtual caucus, which allowed someone to use their phone to caucus six different times before the caucus actual date.

Now, the other principle that it's up against, the Iowa has to stay a caucus because New Hampshire is the first-in-the-nation primary. And there's no desire inside the DNC to have Iowa stepped on in in way the primary status of New Hampshire.

So Iowa officials are going to have to come up with some sort of solution to fix this, because if they don't, frankly, there's a question about how they move forward and how things progress inside the DNC. And the Iowa Democratic Party is going to have to resolve this issue.

WHITFIELD: Right. It's really about accommodations and accessibility. But if the DNC and the Democrats in Iowa don't come to term, then what?

MERICA: My colleague, Adam Levy, and I have been reporting this out and what we're being told is there's no desire inside the DNC to either have a fight between Iowa and New Hampshire over the calendar and there's absolutely no plans to strip Iowa of their first-in-the- nation caucus status.

What is more likely to happen is they're going to have to come up with some way to satisfy some aspect of opening up the caucus.

And if they're unable to come up with a virtual caucus that is manageable for the DNC and is not seen as being able to be hacked, the rules and bylaws committee of the DNC will then likely grant Iowa a waiver that will say they've tried and done their best to open up the caucus.

And even if they don't do a virtual caucus, they are allowed to stay on their date with the standard caucus that we've known for so many years -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Dan Merica, thanks so much.

MERICA: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Straight ahead, no deal. A proposed $12 billion settlement over the opioid abuse scandal is reportedly facing serious pushback. Why multiple states say the deal does not do enough.

And CNN is tracking Hurricane Dorian as it gets stronger. It's expected to hit Florida's coast as a monster category four storm. A live report, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:27:29] WHITFIELD: The pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma, is hoping to cut a deal to settle 2,000 lawsuits accusing it of fueling the nation's opioid epidemic. But the "Wall Street Journal" is reporting that a group of state attorney generals say it's not going to bring in enough cash.

Joining me right now, "Wall Street Journal" reporter, Jared Hopkins, who broke this story.

What do these states want?

JARED HOPKINS, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: So the main thing is that the states want more money than this current plan provides for, which is about $3 billion guaranteed from the family that owns Purdue Pharma, which is the Sackler family.

WHITFIELD: So is it the issue of the figure $3 billion, that it's not enough for these 2,000 cases, that the state attorney generals want more money? Is it an issue of more money? Is the money there to be had?

HOPKINS: That's interesting. So the value of the settlement, it's valued at $10 to $12 billion. There's $3 billion cash on the table. There's also a value baked into current and future drug sales, which is technically a speculative forecast number. And then there's potential money of $1.5 billion from the Sacklers selling off another pharmaceutical company.

But the attorney generals have concerns about all three of these things, about whether it will lead to enough funds.

WHITFIELD: Are there concerns that the Sackler family might try to protect itself, file for bankruptcy so that you can't go beyond $3 billion and perhaps even nobody would ever see the $3 billion if they filed for bankruptcy?

HOPKINS: So they have been considering bankruptcy for several months now.

Under this settlement plan, they would file for bankruptcy and enter bankruptcy and then they would emerge bankruptcy and there would be something like what's called a public trust corporation, which would take current drugs like oxycontin sales, as well as potentially future drugs, and then bring those to market, too. And that would all be part of this.

And so what the Sacklers and what Purdue is looking for is what, in legal jargon, is a global resolution that would resolve all the lawsuits. But theoretically that doesn't mean not just these 2,000 cities and counties, but also the states that are suing. So it's complicated.

WHITFIELD: It is.

HOPKINS: This is lots of different parties.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, so the judge in this case asked the plaintiffs for some sort of update on where things stand and what kind of explanation will come?

[11:30:05] HOPKINS: Well, we're waiting to see what that is. Today is supposed to be the deadline on an update on this. We'll see. There's a lot of moving parts here as to what might come next.

WHITFIELD: It's a very complicated case. A lot at stake.

[11:30:00]