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Dorian Strengthens To Major Category 3 Hurricane; Another Abrupt Exit From The White House Today, Joe Biden Under Fire For Getting A Story Wrong On The Campaign Trail. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 14:00   ET


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Good afternoon, I'm Ana Cabrera in for Brooke Baldwin on this Friday and the sense of urgency is growing across Florida as Hurricane Dorian, now a major Category 3 storm as it barrels towards the southeast.

Right now, forecasters say Dorian will still strengthen to hit the U.S. mainland sometime Monday as a Category 4 hurricane. Florida Governor Ron deSantis has been making the rounds at emergency ops centers. He issued an alert about a critical gas shortage across the state and at every turn, there are multiple long lines of cars crowding fuel stations.

Home Depot we know has sent extra truckloads of much needed supplies to its stores and President Trump who cancelled his trip to Poland to monitor the storm has now approved an emergency declaration. He is affected as well because he owns nearly a dozen properties there in South Florida.

CNN Meteorologist, Allison Chinchar is tracking Dorian for us. Allison, the pace of this storm is also becoming a major concern, the slower moves the worst this hit could be. Where is Dorian right now?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right. So it's still out over the open Atlantic. We've been seeing go through what we call an eyewall replacement cycle. That eyewall is still very visible right now, but we've started to see that intensification process. Thus, we are now up to a Category 3 storm, also known as a Major Hurricane.

Winds increased up to 115 miles per hour. The forward movement pretty much the same, northwest at 10 miles per hour. That is going to be one of the key things to monitor over the next 48 hours because that is really going to give us an idea of when and where this storm is going to make landfall.

As of right now, we still expect even more intensification up to a Category 4 storm likely in the next 36 to 48 hours from now. And it will be a Category 4 as it crosses over the Bahamas. The question is where does it go from there? Does it end up impacting more of South Florida? Places like Miami, Fort Lauderdale -- those regions -- or does it veer just a little bit to the north and hit more of the central locations near the Space Coast areas maybe perhaps around Melbourne?

The other question is when does it make that turn north? The slower it does that, the more time it has to dump a tremendous amount of rain across Florida. We do have hurricane watches in effect for portions of the Bahamas right now, likely to add some of those to Florida as we head into the weekend and we get closer to that landfall point.

The storm has been mostly steered by a high pressure system here forcing it over towards Florida. The problem is once we get towards Tuesday, you have multiple atmospheric factors here in play that could effectively stall this storm out.

In doing so, rainfall becomes a major factor. What you're looking at here is the European model. This favors more of the southern half of Florida, ending up getting the majority of the rain. We're talking ten, if not even potentially as much as 20 inches of rain, because this effectively keeps it very, very slow as it slides north along the Florida Peninsula.

The American model, however, is a little bit different. It is favoring more than northern half of Florida to pick up some of the heaviest bands of rain, because it wants to make that turn to the north a little bit faster than the European model does, effectively taking that heaviest rain from Orlando all the way up towards North Carolina.

So Ana, the key thing here is there's still a lot of questions about where the landfall point will be, and who ends up getting the majority of the rainfall when it finally does push inland.

CABRERA: Wow, upwards of a dozen plus inches of rain. What about storm surge? What should we be watching for there?

CHINCHAR: Right, yes, storm surge is still going to be a huge factor pretty much along the entire East Coast of Florida. In some of these cases, you're talking several feet above where it should be.

Keep in mind, the faster that landfall time comes, the closer we may be to king tides around the Miami Fort Lauderdale area, which are astronomically high tides.

So to a certain extent, you almost want that landfall time to be much later and much farther away from Saturday so that those tides naturally do start to come back down.

CABRERA: Okay, Allison Chinchar, thank you for bringing us the very latest. There is at least one mandatory evacuation to tell you about. Students and faculty at the Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach have an order to leave the campus beginning at five this evening, so just a few hours from now.

Also, the University of Miami has canceled classes through next Tuesday, and those gas shortages we've been talking about, one Miami area driver posted a photo of a parked car left at a gas pump because the station ran out of fuel.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in North Miami where county officials have also declared a local state of emergency. She is at a very busy Costco. Leyla, what have you been seeing at gas stations and stores in that area?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, just lines and lines and then add some more lines on top of that. We are in the Costco in North Miami and I want to show you kind of how this works.

So, they've got quite the system down here. Customers are coming in, six stations at a time and they are coming in to pick up two cases of water.

[14:05:09] SANTIAGO: You can see and then they're off. That's it. It's a very quick process here. The manager tells me that this right here is about 1,200 cases, it just came in on a truck, and he expects that this will last somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes before they will be all out of water here.

Now that seems to be the number one thing that people are coming to grab. I also want to show you the line that is coming this way. Here you can see that folks are coming in with empty carts. They get their two cases of water and then they go on to pick up some other things that they are hoping to be seven days' worth of supplies to get them through whatever it is that Dorian may bring.

So let's go ahead and talk to a few folks here and see exactly what's on their checklist. Sir, what's on your checklist today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Checklist now, first of all is the water.

SANTIAGO: The water is most important. What else are you picking up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And also foods for my kids.

SANTIAGO: Food for his kids. That seems very rational. Thank you so much. Stay safe.

So food and water makes very sense -- a lot of sense for the basics. A lot of folks also picking up stuff for babies as well as I've seen people picking up some medicine.

Outside of here is also a gas station. I'm told that they still have gas, but they are seeing about 60 percent of an increase when it comes to foot traffic. They've been seeing that for three days now as people prepare for Dorian.

A lot of folks talking about Irma, saying we remember Irma and we're going to make sure that we are prepared. In fact even here, they've made changes to control the flow. They've actually widened out the aisles and they learned that from Irma to make sure that they can adjust to the flow of customers coming in -- Ana.

CABRERA: It's good to see people stocking up and taking this seriously. Leyla Santiago, thank you for report.

All 67 counties in Florida are under a state of emergency. And in Broward County, the Mayor there has declared an additional local state of emergency. Joining us now is the Mayor of Broward County, Mark Bogen. Mayor Bogen, thanks so much for taking out the time to talk with us. Tell us what does this local emergency declaration do exactly?

MAYOR MARK BOGEN, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA (via Skype): Well, I mean, just today, we declared a local state of emergency and it does a number of things. It gives Broward County government the authority to direct evacuation to appropriate areas when it's appropriate to urgent evacuation. It gives our government the right to impose a curfew. It gives us the right to require commercial establishments to close those establishments who are in areas that we consider a danger.

It gives us the right to close public buildings, public places, beaches, streets, alleys, schools. We can also issue orders prohibiting price gouging, which there's already a state law prohibiting gouging, but it gives us that authority as well.

And it also gives us the authority really to declare orders that are necessary for the protection of life and property here in Broward County.

CABRERA: And speaking of that protection of life, we know Florida is home to a large senior population, a lot of assisted living and nursing homes. I want to play some sound from Florida's Governor about how local nursing homes are preparing. Let's listen.


GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R-FL): So the state is taking -- taking visits to some of them. Some of them are being contacted via phone. Now not all of them are in the path of the storm.

And so like in Palm Beach, you know, the vast, vast majority of them have complied. And so what we're doing is we're informing local officials, we're informing them that they're not meeting their obligations.

And obviously, now is the time to make alternative arrangements. I mean, you know, I'm glad that this case came down in Broward. I am not glad it happened, but I'm glad those people are being held accountable. Because I think that sends the message now going through this storm, if you have vulnerable people in your care, it's your responsibility to make sure that you have a plan in place to protect those folks.


CABRERA: People died in past storms because the plan wasn't in place. So what is the plan for Broward County this time around when it comes to nursing homes?

BOGEN: Well, as people may remember, two years ago, a nursing home in Hollywood lost power, lost air conditioning and patients died. The people at that nursing home did not call 911 in time they did not evacuate those people in time. And now, I believe the State Attorney is prosecuting those individuals.

And since then, Broward County has gone out purging all the nursing homes of people who are really unable to be mobile to get the necessary arrangements with Florida Power and Light. We have arranged that also with generators. And so we've increased that. Hopefully, we won't have that experience again, but the nursing homes, we have given more direct access when they lose power, or power and light and with our county officials.

[14:10:12] CABRERA: Okay, Irma in 2017, of course was a Cat 4 when it hits the Florida Keys, but it weakened to a three at the time it hit the southwest part of the peninsula. Dorian is already at a 3 only expected to intensify by landfall. What are your biggest concerns and challenges now as you prepare for this storm?

BOGEN: The biggest concern that we've been on air locally here for the past two days is urging people to prepare because we've been through this so many times. It is important for people to realize that they're going to lose power. Assume the worst, you know, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. So assume you're going to lose power.

And that means if you're going to lose power, you're going to need food that does not require refrigeration -- canned food, peanut butter -- you know, those types of bread. You're going to need types of food without any refrigeration.

You're going to need flashlights and batteries. As you see from what you just reported on, gas stations are urging people to have their cars filled up with gas just in case they need to get out of town.

Water obviously, has been a big seller in many of the stores, but Walmart and a lot of the stores or local grocery stores, they are restocking.

And so this morning, again, they do have supplies, and they're continuing to deliver those supplies as long as long as the weather allows. So I think the answer to the question is plan and if there has to be an evacuation, we're urging people to have plans and know and be ready to go.

CABRERA: And quickly, if you will, how do you make that decision whether to evacuate?

BOGEN: Well, I believe we're going to wait. It's going to be a big waiting game to determine where that storm is going to end up. And, and that's the bottom line, that's what I've been informed by our local state officials.

We've been dealing with the Governor's Office that's been very helpful dealing -- and our local officials and our Federal officials. It's all a big waiting game to find out where is that storm? Is it going to come toward South Florida as you mentioned earlier? Or is it, as it slows down going to go further north up our post? So I think by tomorrow, we'll know a lot more and we'll be able to at least guesstimate where the storm is going better than today.

CABRERA: Okay, Mayor Mark Bogen, you'll be on top of it. We will still be here. We will be on top of it as well. We will continue to keep viewers informed. Thank you again for being here. Sending our best wishes as you get ready for the storm and then weather it out.

Another abrupt exit from the White House to report today, President Trump's personal assistant is out. New details about the off the record dinner had made the President question her loyalty.

Plus Joe Biden's emotional, but not completely true war story. How the former Vice President is defending his version of events.

And a woman gives birth alone in a jail cell as nearby medical professionals did nothing to help. How could this happen in America today?


[14:18:01] CABRERA: The swinging door at the White House is swinging wide open again and the latest to walk through the exit door was considered one of President Trump's most loyal staffers. Madeleine Westerhout has served as President Trump's personal assistant since the start of his administration.

But the President's gatekeeper now forced to resign after President Trump discovered Westerhout shared intimate details about the President's family with reporters at an off the record dinner.

CNN Senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown is following these developments for us. Pamela, what more can you tell us about the reasons behind this surprising resignation.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A surprise it is. Here at the White House, Ana, staffers are really taken aback by this abrupt departure from the President's now, personal assistant Madeleine Westerhout.

She had her desk right outside the Oval Office. One official told me, a former official said that the President loved her like a daughter, but she was forced out -- forced to resign -- after the President learned that she had shared these intimate details about his family to reporters during an off the record dinner.

Now, this was an off the record dinner at the Embassy Suites near where the President was vacationing recently in New Jersey. These kinds of dinners are common and we should note that the Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidly was there with Madeleine and these other reporters.

I'm told by sources that Hogan had to leave to do a media hit, and at that point, that was when Westerhout had shared some of these details during this off the record dinner, and the White House says that following that, a reporter at the dinner then told other reporters what was said and then the reporter started calling the White House asking about it. And then of course it got back to President Trump when it happened.

And sources say the idea of her divulging these personal details crossed the red line for him. But of course this could have a further chilling effect in relations between reporters and the administration. And this comes as there's more turmoil here for this White House beset by all of these high level access.

I mean, most recently it was the Labor Secretary, Alex Acosta, who left under controversy and now the President's personal assistant who he was very close to has now left the White House as well, forced to resign.

[14:20:12] BROWN: And we're going to go take a quick break. We'll be right back after this. Stay with us.


CABRERA: We are back with a story we first told you about on this show yesterday. Joe Biden under fire for getting a story wrong on the campaign trail and today, he is standing his ground.

The criticism centers on Biden's retelling of an emotional encounter with a U.S. service member during a recent campaign stop.


[14:25:10] JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This guy climbed down a ravine, carried this guy up on his back under fire. And the General wanted me to pin the Silver Star on him. I got up there and stand, honest to God's truth, my word as a Biden. He stood his attention. I went to pin him. He said, "Sir, I don't want the damn thing. Do not pin it on me, sir. Please, sir, do not do that. He died. He died."


CABRERA: But a "Washington Post" investigation found several errors in Biden's story writing, "In the space of three minutes, Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal and the military branch and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in that ceremony."

Now, we've learned Biden did in fact pin a Bronze Star on Staff Sergeant Chad Workman, who felt undeserving of the metal for his heroic act of pulling a fallen comrade from a burning Humvee.

But the ravine rescue Biden described was actually a different soldier and President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to that soldier. Biden is still defending his mix up.


BIDEN: I was making the point how courageous these people are, how incredible they are. This generation of warriors, these fallen angels we've lost. And so that I don't know what the problem is. I mean, what is it that I said wrong?


CABRERA: Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter for "The Post" and "Courier" in Charleston, South Carolina. And Jamie, you spoke with Biden after this story broke and asked him if he had jumbled these stories. What did he tell you?

JAMIE LOVEGROVE, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE POST AND COURIER: Yes, so I spoke with him right after the story broke and it actually broke while he was speaking at Clinton College in Rock Hill yesterday.

I spoke with him for about 20 minutes and just talked to him for a few minutes about this. He basically made the same case that he was making in that audio there that the point was accurate, the essence of the story was right.

You know, I did press him on whether he thought he had messed up any of the details. You know, he clearly -- he acknowledged that he has multiple war-related stories that he tells on the campaign trail. And so I asked him if he had maybe conflated the details of those stories. And he said, "No, I don't think so."

You know, based on "The Washington Post" report, that would appear to be incorrect, but he had not read the story at that time. But you know, he does certainly feel that the central point of the story, you know, that this soldier did not want this medal pinned on him because his comrade had died is accurate.

CABRERA: You know, this story just sparks broader questions about truth in the Trump era, right? "The Washington Post" fact checker has President Trump at more than 12,000 falsehoods during his time in office. So as it relates to this situation with Biden, our Stephen Collinson writes, "Truth and politics appears more devalued than ever since the President stands as an example that line need not be fatal to a political career." Jamie, how do you see it?

LOVEGROVE: You know, well, I talked to a lot of South Carolina voters yesterday, and all the time, I've been covering this race for a good eight or nine months now and Joe Biden is very popular in South Carolina. He consistently polls higher in South Carolina than he does in any of the other early primary states or in national polls.

And for the most part, you know, when I was talking to folks, they don't really care that much about these types of, you know, detail errors. It's not a huge issue as far as they're concerned. And, and frankly, you know, Biden, you know, has been in public life for a very long time. They feel like they know him very well. They feel like they know him on a personal level.

He has been coming to South Carolina for many, many years. And so it doesn't seem to have a significant impact on his campaign. You know, the question is sort of the accumulation of these various episodes that have happened on the campaign trail.

You know, I asked him about that, and he did not seem to be very concerned about that. And it really has not so far seemed to impact his support in South Carolina. You know, he is certainly beatable in South Carolina, but it's going to take someone else rising up above the rest of the pack, you know, because he does have a very strong base of support in the state.

CABRERA: Jamie Lovegrove, I appreciate your insight. Thanks for being here.

Hurricane Dorian now upgraded to a Category 3, and days away from crashing a shore in Florida. It's still on track to hit the Bahamas first on Sunday, but it could make landfall in Florida as a powerful Category 4 hurricane by Monday night, and adding to the concern, Dorian is expected to sit over Florida in what the governor calls a multi-day event.

And with it comes a triple threat: life-threatening flooding, destructive storm surge and fierce winds.

The City of Miami so concerned about dockless scooters becoming projectiles during the storm that the city has now ordered companies to take them off the streets. Right now, as people are preparing --