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Hurricane Dorian Approaches Florida; Iowa May Lose First-in- the-Nation Status; Biden Clarifies Accuracy of Story; Governor Kay Ivey Apologizes for Appearing in Racist Skit. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:25] GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Be prepared. And so, if you're anywhere on that east coast of Florida, you want to have food, water, medicine, for up to seven days.


AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: A state of emergency across Florida. Hurricane Dorian gaining strength overnight. It could be the strongest storm to hit the East Coast since 1992.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, the Iowa caucus could be in for radical change. Why it may no longer be the first state to vote.


ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY!": Through a lot of chemotherapy and, thankfully, that is now over. I'm on the mend, and that's all I can hope for right now.


WALKER: What is remarkable? Alex Trebek, healthy and back at work, months after a grim diagnosis.

Hello, everyone. And welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Amara Walker, in for Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning. Happy Friday, everybody.

WALKER: Good morning.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs, Friday, August 30th, 4:00 a.m. in New York and in south Florida.

That's where we begin with breaking news this morning. Florida on heightened alert. Bracing for what could be the most powerful hurricane to slam into the East Coast in nearly three decades.

Dorian is expected to make landfall as a category four storm on Monday. Overnight, the hurricane strengthened to category two, wind speeds increasing to 105 miles per hour.

WALKER: This will be the fourth year in a row for Florida, getting hit by a hurricane. And that hasn't happened since the 1940s. At this hour, every county in Florida is under a state of emergency.


DESANTIS: We can't tell you exactly where this thing is going to go right now. It's been kind of here and there, and it's not been a very, I guess, consistent path in some respects. But nevertheless, be prepared. And so, if you're anywhere on that east coast of Florida, you know, you want to have food, water, medicine, for up to seven days.


WALKER: State of emergency has also been declared in Georgia. The storm packs a lethal combination of open seas and high tide.

Derek Van Dam Tracking Dorian from the CNN center in Atlanta.

Derek, what's the latest? I mean, are we getting any new information on this track of Dorian?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, cat-two, that's what we know, 105-mile-per-hour sustained winds. What is new to me is that it is becoming more and more difficult to envision a Labor Day weekend that won't be impacted by a major hurricane across the Florida coastline. All of the models starting to converge. I'll show you that in just a moment.

The convection here on satellite, looking more and more impressive, even though it's been fighting off some dry air. We're starting to get some overshooting cloud tops, a sure sign that this storm continues to strengthen and strengthen it will do, continuing, for the next 48, 72 hours. But what I want you to notice is this large cone here, on the path of uncertainty. It is large because it's expected to slow down in forward speed. So, the computer models are having a difficult time picking up on exactly what it will do.

Will it run parallel with the East Coast? Will it move throughout the central parts of the peninsula? Will it move over southern Florida and re-emerge in the warmer ocean waters through the Gulf of Mexico and re-strengthen? All cards are on the table. We're looking at all possibilities.

But if the storm does indeed slow down as it's projected to do so, it will heighten the threat level across Florida, as we head into Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this upcoming week. Of course, we've got Labor Day weekend. It will be a triple threat with not only coastal storm surge, heavy rainfall, leading to flash flooding and damaging winds, for a prolonged period of time.

Look at the model consensus here. We have some concessions coming into a location, into southern Florida, West Palm Beach, particularly. The timing starting to come there miraculously because there was quite a separation here in previous model runs. So, starting to hone in on a Tuesday morning landfall in southern Florida.

Dave, back to you.

BRIGGS: All the components to grow and continue to strengthen. Derek, thank you.

All hands-on-deck in Florida. 2500 National Guard members have been activated, 1500 more are on standby. The state has 819,000 gallons of water and 1.8 million meals ready for distribution. Another 200,000 gallons of water are on the way. The University of Miami and the University of Central Florida among the colleges closing for periods of time today into next week.

WALKER: And many local school districts are also closing early or delaying classes, and the football game between Florida State and Boise State scheduled for Saturday night in Jacksonville will be moved to Tallahassee.

[04:05:06] County health departments are busy preparing resources for the elderly and disabled. And businesses that rely on that Labor Day weekend as a major source of revenue now have a very big financial gap to fill.

Leyla Santiago with more now from Port Canaveral.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amara, Dave, every single person that I have asked, what is your biggest concern, they say a direct hit. Now, they're quick to say it's still a little bit early, but they are monitoring, keeping a close eye on where Hurricane Dorian is headed. And that's for a lot of people, you know, it's because they still remember Hurricane Irma and the damage that came with it. So, they are taking this seriously and they are already taking precautions, getting prepared.

The stores have started to limit the amount of water that people can buy. We've seen waste management making the rounds, making sure that they are picking up any debris that could be dangerous should winds pick up around here. Today, we expect two truckloads of sand to come into Cocoa Beach, so that residents can make their own bags to help protect their property.

Now, the other aspect of this is we're coming up on a long weekend here. So, businesses were really depending on more tourists being here. I talked to one hotel manager who told us that she's had a whole bunch of cancellations already. Here's what else she had to say.


SANTIAGO: How much have -- will you lose here?


SANTIAGO: For this hurricane?

GREEN: Yes, for this hurricane. Two days in August, and then September, 1st of September, Sunday, Monday, another 15,000 to 16,000.


GREEN: It's costly to the whole area.


SANTIAGO: And we are at Port Canaveral. Yesterday, they had two cruise ships here. Today, they expect three cruise ships here. But already the port is saying, after that, you're likely to see a bit of an adjustment in the itinerary.

Of course, we are here, as well, tracking the storm, along with the people, waiting to see what decisions will be made as Dorian makes its way to Florida -- Amara, Dave.

BRIGGS: All right, thank you.

President Trump cancelling a visit to Poland to monitor Hurricane Dorian. Vice President Pence will go in his place. Mr. Trump sending this message to Floridians from the White House Rose Garden.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're ready. We have the best people in the world ready. And they're going to help you. We're shipping food. We're shipping water. But it may be that you are going to evacuate. We are going to see what happens. We are waiting. It does seem almost certain that it is hitting dead center. And that's not good.


BRIGGS: The president striking a very different tone from the one he used when Dorian was targeting Puerto Rico. One Democratic congressman thinks he knows why.


REP. DON BEYER (D-VA): Well, part of it is that Florida could be a swing state in 2020, and part of it is Florida is not an island full of people of color.


BRIGGS: No comment from the White House on those remarks from Virginia's Democratic Congressman Don Beyer.

WALKER: Breaking overnight, a move that could radically change the Iowa caucus. The "Des Moines Register" first to report that the Democratic National Committee will reject Iowa's plan to hold virtual caucuses because of the potential for hacking. In February, party officials in the state proposed the idea of virtual voting after years of complaints that the process makes it impossible for people who can't show up on caucus night. A February "Des Moines Register" poll suggested the virtual caucuses could expand participation by nearly a third.

BRIGGS: But now the future of Iowa's first-in-the-nation status could be in question if Iowa can't come up with a plan for people to vote that's different from a primary. The Iowa caucuses are just five months away. The campaigns and the party are facing a rapidly shrinking window to adjust their strategies.

WALKER: Questions are being raised about a moving but apparently false war story that Joe Biden has been sharing on the campaign trail. Here is the former vice president describing his interaction with the war hero in Afghanistan during a campaign stop last Friday in New Hampshire.


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. He stood his attention, I went to pin him, 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.


WALKER: But as the "Washington Post" put it, quote, "In the space of three minutes, Biden got the time period, location, the heroic act, type of medal, military branch and rank of the recipient wrong."

[04:10:04] Biden spoke to the "Post" last night about the story pushing back hard but again with inconsistencies.


BIDEN: What is the gaffe when I said there was a young man I tried to pin a medal on, and he said, I don't want it, sir. He died. He died. He died. It was a young man. My recollection was that, in fact, pulled a colleague of his out of a burning Humvee, and he risked his life doing it, and the young man died, that he tried to save.


BRIGGS: Biden's running series of gaffes appears to be catching up to him as he acknowledged in South Carolina last night.


BIDEN: One school psychologist for every 1500 to 1700 children. I don't want to set an exact number because the press will say Biden is losing his mind. He didn't remember.


BRIGGS: For the record, Army Staff Sergeant Chad Workman tells the "Post" he did tell the vice president he didn't feel like he deserved the medal at the time.

WALKER: Breaking overnight, two high-profile pro-democracy activists arrested by Hong Kong police, including 2014 Umbrella Revolution leader Joshua Wong. According to the pro-democracy Demosisto Party, Wong was pushed into a private minivan on a street. Former Demosisto legislative candidate Agnes Chow was also arrested. These two detentions coming at a very tense time in Hong Kong.

Months of pro-democracy protests deteriorating into street battles with police. China's government is now issuing new threats in an attempt to stop the demonstrations. And plans for a massive protest tomorrow have been canceled after demonstrators failed to get permission from police.

BRIGGS: What point does the president of the United States get involved there? We shall see.

Ahead, a major American city warning residents about the dangers of vaping.


[04:16:39] BRIGGS: Some major medical news. No single gene determines a person's sexual orientation. But genetics, along with environment, do play a role in shaping sexuality.

Researchers conducting a massive new study examined data from more than 470,000 people in the United States and the United Kingdom. They were able to isolate five genetic variants associated with same-sex behaviors but none of them are predictive on their own. Findings of the study were published Thursday in the journal "Science."

WALKER: President Trump is set to be seriously considering a plan to block $250 million in military aid to Ukraine. The move would go against Pentagon recommendations and further ingratiate himself with Russian president Vladimir Putin. The decision to review the aid package comes after the White House publicly lost a battle to slash $4 billion in foreign aid across the board. Officials say the president has not yet made a final decision. But the review process has effectively paused disbursement of aid to Ukraine. The Pentagon has asked for the hold to be lifted. A Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment to CNN.

BRIGGS: Former FBI director James Comey violated agency policies when he retained and leaked a series of memos documenting interactions with President Trump. The inspector general at the Justice Department accuses Comey of setting, quote, "a dangerous example for agency employees." The watchdog found no evidence Comey nor his attorneys released any classified information. CNN has reported DOJ prosecutors do not believe there was evidence to show Comey intended to violate laws and have no plans to charge him.

The seven memos became a catalyst for the special counsel investigation. Comey responding to the report saying, quote, "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."

WALKER: Stop vaping. Immediately. That warning from the city of Milwaukee after 16 people were hospitalized this month with chemical pneumonia. All of them reported vaping or inhaling potent marijuana products. Health officials are advising people to stop using vapes, e-cigarettes and liquid THC products. Officials say they are aware of 32 cases of lung disease, 89 percent reported using e-cigarettes or other vaping devices.

Another lawmaker caught up in a blackface scandal. Hear what she is saying now.


[04:24:09] WALKER: Welcome back. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey apologizing for appearing in a racist sketch when she attended Auburn University in the 1960s. Audio has surfaced from a 1967 interview with Ivey and her fiance at the time, Ben LaRavia. LaRavia discusses a party at the Baptist Student Union, that was attended by Ivey. And he talks about her wearing blackface.


GOV. KAY IVEY (R), ALABAMA: I will do all I can, going forward, to help show the nation that the Alabama of today is a far cry from the Alabama of the 1960s.


WALKER: Governor Ivey claimed she does not remember being in that sketch but says she will not deny what is obvious.

BRIGGS: The defending National College Football champion Clemson Tigers looking poised to repeat in their season opener. Travis Etienne started his Heisman Trophy campaign with a game for the ages.

[04:25:04] The junior tail back had a career high 205 yard, three- touchdown effort including that 90-yard scamper. He averaged 17 yards per carry. Clemson rolled Georgia Tech 52-14.

WALKER: And "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek is back at work five months after being diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. In a video message promoting the show's 36th season, Trebek says he's completed his cancer treatment and it's going to be a good year.


TREBEK: I've gone through a lot of chemotherapy and, thankfully, that is now over. I'm on the mend, and that's all I can hope for right now.


WALKER: Trebek is now taping episodes for the new season of "Jeopardy!" which premieres on September 9th.

BRIGGS: Hurricane Dorian intensifying again overnight with open seas and high tide ahead. Danger is growing for the state of Florida, the latest projections straight ahead.