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Florida Braces for Direct Hit by Catastrophic Hurricane; Polk County Emergency Management Director Paul Womble Discusses How They're Preparing for Dorian, Possible Evacuations; Trump Calls Comey a "Dishonest Fool" after Investigation Finds He Violated FBI Policy in Handling of Memos; Trump Considering Blocking Millions in Military Aid to Ukraine; Protests Erupt after P.M. Boris Johnson Moves to Suspend Parliament as Critics Vow to Take Matter to Court. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:31:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Our top story this hour, a potentially catastrophic hurricane is heading directly toward Florida. Hurricane Dorian is a category 2 storm right now. By the time it reaches the Florida coast in a couple of days, it could be a category 4 storm.

Coastal communities are boarding up, stores are selling out of supplies like water. Evacuation orders can also be expected in these areas. Even away from the coast in Florida's interior, residents may see significant effects from this storm.

Dianne Gallagher is live in Orlando at the international airport there.

Dianne, are people trying to get out ahead of the storm? Do they realize they could have concerns there?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are to a very small degree to this point. Right now, the airport officials, the airlines are doing the same thing that we're doing, Brianna, they're watching that track of the hurricane, trying to predict when this is going to impact this particular area here in Orlando.

It's Labor Day weekend, the last weekend of summer, a holiday weekend. They normally have 130,000 people who come through each day of this weekend, so it's busy already. You add this hurricane to it and there's a lot of preparation going on behind the scenes.

I literally just walked out of a meeting with airline officials, airport officials, members of NASA, NOAA, who are going over this track, walking through the plan.

Right now, it's small stuff because it still could be days away, so they're picking up items that need to be tied down, making sure that there are no extra carts around, and coming up with a contingency plan for the airlines when they would need to potentially stop service.

Now, right now, Orlando has not gotten rid of any service, but there are people who are worried about it, and so they went ahead and cut their vacations short. Take a listen to why this mom did it.


KATIE EVANCIC (ph), TOURIST: We were in Orlando for a family vacation for the week, and we were supposed to leave tomorrow. We cut it short by a day because we didn't want to get stuck here. We've got four little ones and they start school on tuesday so we didn't want to risk being stuck. I would have loved to have stayed longer.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Yes. I want to stay longer, too. Yes.

GALLAGHER: You got kids here, you were nervous about getting out?

EVANCIC (ph): Yes, yes, because our flight was tomorrow. We knew that -- we didn't know when it was going to hit so we figured if we got out sooner, we'd be less likely to get stuck if it came in faster because one knew what it was going to do.


GALLAGHER: There's a lot of that, Brianna. People who said my cruise line decided not to drop us off at the private island because they needed to get employees off the island so we spent an extra night in the Bahamas instead. Not a lot of serious inconvenience here and not a lot of people panicking yet.

For the most part, it's families who have cut their vacations short by one day or two days just trying to make sure they don't get stuck here when the storm actually hits.

KEILAR: You've got to make that first day of school.

Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much from Orlando.


KEILAR: Emergency management teams across Florida are preparing for the storm and possible evacuation orders.

Paul Womble is the emergency management director for Polk County, Florida.

Sir, thank you for joining us to tell us what you're doing on your end there. How are you preparing?


We've had our team meeting with EOC here, and we're partially activated, and we have been for a couple of days. Bringing in all of our stakeholders, plan out our sheltering strategy, our emergency services strategy for responding to either a wind event or rain event or what looks like it could be both for us.

We've convened our board of county commissioners this morning and they declared a local state of emergency here in Polk County. We've talked about some government closures. Some school closure information is just coming out to support our shelter operations.

So we're getting ready to go. The team is ready. We've got our plans in place. We're watching the track of the storm, waiting on confidence in that forecast from the hurricane center to increase and get to a point when we know we're ready to go. The team is ready.

KEILAR: So you're discussing all of the possible scenarios. What's the worst-case scenario here for you?

[13:35:02] WOMBLE: Worst-case scenario for us is a slow-moving storm with high winds. Potentially our citizens and our responders, everyone would have to be in a secure place, maybe even up to two days until that storm has cleared our area.

The other challenge with a slow-moving storm means more rainfall. We've had a lot of rain already this summer in many places around central Florida. We've already had our normal year-to-date rainfall and we're only three-quarters of the way through the year.

So 10, 12, 14 inches of rain, there's been some forecasts or predictions higher than that. The exact center of that storm where all of that rain goes, whatever community that is, is going to cause us problems.

KEILAR: And we talk about storm surge on the coast. You're inland. But in Polk County, there are a number of lakes for which you are known. If you did get a lot of rain, especially considering what you just detailed about the rain that you've already gotten this year, what are your concerns for flooding? What might that look like?

WOMBLE: We've got some historical paths based on our previous hurricane experience. Roads could be underwater. We have a handful of communities that could be isolated depending on if their only road in and out is compromised.

So part of our emergency services strategy is make sure we can still respond to 911 calls in those communities.

Really the big part right now is for folks to be ready, for them to have their plan in place, to be able to activate that plan, and watch and wait to see what happens and then take actions when they need to.

KEILAR: Do you think that residents are understanding that or are they looking to the coast and thinking the worst is going to be there? Are your residents realizing, hey, we could be stuck in place for two days if this thing churns over us?

WOMBLE: We feel that, certainly, in the middle of the state, from what we've seen locally and in the media reports around the state, people are taking it serious. There have been long lines for gas, store shelves are empty, being restocked.

But folks are watching. They're taking it serious, which is good. That's what everyone needs to do at this point. It could be very serious.

KEILAR: It could be very serious, indeed.

Paul Womble, thank you for joining us.

WOMBLE: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: China moving to make pro-democracy leaders pay for weeks of protests in Hong Kong. Agnes Chow and Joshua Wong, prominent figures in the protest for democracy there, appeared in court just hours ago and both insist their fight will continue.

Plus, the White House wants to cut millions in military aid to a U.S. ally in Europe, a move sure to please Russia but it's facing a bipartisan push in America.


[13:42:09] KEILAR: A defiant message from pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong who said today, quote, "We will keep on our fight. We shall not surrender." Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow among a group of high-profile demonstration leaders who were arrested in the last day in what seems to be a crackdown by the government.

Police have also banned a rally planned for Saturday as the city heads into what will be the 13th consecutive weekend of anti-government demonstrations. This comes as China said it is rotating fresh troops to the Hong Kong garrison. The Pentagon says it is monitoring these moves closely.

President Trump is seizing on a new report out from the DOJ's inspector general that found former FBI Director James Comey broke FBI policy on handling classified material.

The president taking a victory lap on Twitter saying that he and his supports -- he and his supporters were treated unfairly, and seemingly suggesting that maybe his term should be extended.

The I.G. report centering around these seven memos that Comey wrote about his private and often uncomfortable meetings with President Trump.

The report found that Comey kept the memos locked in a safe in his home and did not tell the FBI that he had these memos. Instead, he shared them with a friend in the hopes that a special counsel investigation would be opened, which it was.

The DOJ has declined to prosecute on the grounds that there's no evidence that Comey intended to break the law.

Former director of National Intelligence, Lieutenant General James Clapper, is joining us now to talk about this.

Thank you so much. There's a lot to dissect here.

Without these memos, the Mueller investigation may not have happened, right? And yet, Comey broke policy to make sure that this investigation did happen. How do you reconcile that? LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: First, Jim --

this is not the first controversial issue that he took what many consider extraordinary action. The first one being the handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation.

And so in this case, Jim -- in both cases, I will say, having worked with him and I'm a friend of his and admirer of him, I think he did what he thought was the right thing.

I don't take issue with what the Department of Justice inspector general said. Yes, it violated the standard protocols and procedures of the FBI. I don't think there's a rule book, though, for this extraordinary situation involving potential -- and I emphasize potential -- criminality of a president. So Jim did what he thought was the right thing to do for the country.

Now, one man's leaker is another man's whistleblower.

KEILAR: Another man's whistleblower.

CLAPPER: Exactly. And in this case, I think he was whistleblowing to the public. We would not have known what we've since learned, I think, were it not for the action that Jim took.

[13:45:08] KEILAR: His book, "Higher Loyalty," this is the whole point he's trying to make that his loyalty was to the country.

But I also wonder, as someone who has at least tried to do the right thing as he sees it being the right thing, he also, you know, didn't take his own advice in some ways.

Like when you mentioned the Hillary Clinton situation, he came out, even though he wasn't going to prosecute her, and said that she was reckless for the way she handled her e-mail at the State Department and for housing the server in her house. And then he's keeping memos in his house, which he was not supposed to be doing.

CLAPPER: Well, that's true. I think there's a bit of a difference here, nuance, in that some of the material was classified involved in the Hillary Clinton e-mail.

KEILAR: And his was not, which is an important distinction.

CLAPPER: And his was not, which is an important distinction.

And I think the Justice Department decision not to prosecute was the right one. Jim had no intent -- in fact, I'm sure he thought about it with those memos, particularly the ones that were exposed to ultimately to the public.

KEILAR: I'm glad you made that distinction about the classified information, because that is what Comey has championed from this finding of the I.G. report, which is that no mishandling of classified information.

I want to ask you about this reporting that the president is seriously considering blocking this military aid, $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, which Ukraine uses to defend itself against Russia. Crimea was annexed by Russia back in 2014.

What would the effect of this be for them to lose this aid?

CLAPPER: I think it would be quite profound. The Iranians -- the Ukrainians, excuse me -- have become, I think, quite dependent on this funding from the United States, which they have been provided since the incursion and the seizure of Crimea.

So $250 million worth of assistance to them is a big deal. So this would be a profound hit for them. And of course, it thwarts the will of Congress, who appropriated this funding for that purpose.

And I think the United States has a moral and ethical obligation, local politics aside, to sustain this aid.

Of course, this is a good deal for our good friend, Vladimir Putin, who would like nothing better than to see U.S. aid stop.

KEILAR: General Clapper, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thank you.

Brexit backlash.




KEILAR: Protests erupting after Boris Johnson moves to suspend parliament. The critics are now vowing to take the matter to court. We'll have a live report from London coming up.


[13:53:02] KEILAR: It's an extraordinary move in U.K. politics. Former U.K. Prime Minister John Major has joined a legal battle to stop the current Prime Minister Boris Johnson from suspending parliament. Both are members of the same Conservative Party, highlighting deep divisions among lawmakers over Brexit, Britain's exit from the European Union on October 31st.

Johnson hit back at his critics, warning members of parliament that ramping up their efforts to stop a no-deal Brexit increases the likelihood that it will happen.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think our European friends have understood one -- two big points. They get that the U.K. is going for a deal. They understand that.

But they also understand that the U.K. is absolutely willing to come out without a deal if we have to. They understand that, too.

And we're serious. We're totally serious about both propositions. And I think what that's encouraging is progress.


KEILAR: CNN correspondent, Bianca Nobilo, is joining us now from London to talk about this.

Bianca, former British prime minister, John Major, joined one of three legal challenges to Johnson's suspension of parliament. Where do the other cases stand?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, the fact that a former prime minister of the same party of this current prime minister, Boris Johnson, has joined legal action against him is entirely unprecedented. That is a suit that's getting the most attention at the moment.

In fact, John Major even likened what Boris Johnson is doing to the actions of King Charles I in the 1600s in the U.K.. That's one of our monarchs that was executed for ignoring and suppressing the will of parliament. So things are getting pretty hyperbolic here in the U.K.

As for the other cases, we have lawsuits that have been put forward in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as well as in Edinburgh, Scotland, and London. Almost all of the corners of the United Kingdom there. And what they all seek to do is to block the suspension of parliament.

[13:55:03] Boris Johnson has asked the queen to prorogue, the everlasting word to the British parliament, to suspend the sitting of parliament. Now, he says that's an entirely lawful thing to do. He wants to do it, because he wants to revive his domestic agenda.

But his opponents say it's muzzling parliament, not allowing them a say over such a critical period in the future of the United Kingdom.

KEILAR: Bianca Nobilo, thank you so much for that report.

Florida is on high alert as Hurricane Dorian turns toward its east coast. Now predicted to become a potentially catastrophic storm. When we come back, we have a closer look at how Floridians are preparing for Dorian.


[14:00:01] 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 three storm as it barrels toward the southeast.