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Florida On Heightened Alert For Hurricane Dorian; Biden On Defense After Washington Post Questions Accuracy Of Story; Pro- Democracy Activists Arrested In Hong Kong. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 05:30   ET



[05:31:23] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Dorian gaining strength overnight. New hurricane watches just issued. This could be the strongest storm to hit eastern Florida since 1992. We'll speak with the mayor of Vero Beach, Florida, straight ahead.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, the Iowa caucus could be in for radical change. Virtual voting is off the table.


ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY!": 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.


BRIGGS: What is remarkable? Alex Trebek healthy and back at work months after a grim diagnosis. Great to see him back and the power of positive thinking.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Happy Friday. I'm Dave Briggs.

WALKER: Happy Friday. I'm Amara Walker in for Christine Romans, 30 minutes past the hour.

We begin with breaking news. Florida on heightened alert, bracing for what could be the most powerful hurricane to slam into its east coast in nearly three decades.

Dorian is expected to make landfall as a category four storm Monday. Hurricane watches just issued for the Bahamas.

Overnight, the hurricane strengthened to a category two, wind speeds increasing to 105 miles per hour.

BRIGGS: This will be the fourth year in a row for Florida getting hit by a hurricane. That hasn't happened since the 1940s.


DESANTIS: We can't tell you exactly where this thing is going to 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 want to have food, water, medicine for up to seven days.


BRIGGS: A state of emergency has also been declared in Georgia.

Rainfall projections now up to 15 inches in some areas. The storm, seen here from inside, packs a lethal combination of open seas and high tide.

WALKER: It's all hands on deck in Florida. Twenty-five hundred National Guard members have been activated; 1,500 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 are among the colleges closing for varying periods of time today into next week.

BRIGGS: All right, let's bring in our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, who is live in the CNN Weather Center for us this morning. Derek, good morning to you. It looks like all the ingredients are there for this thing to continue to strengthen.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, just warm ocean waters that we're seeing -- nothing to really hinder the storm from further strengthening and further developing.

New this morning from the 5:00 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, we now have hurricane watches issued for the northern Bahamas. This includes the Greater Nassau region. And keep in mind, a hurricane watch means that conditions -- hurricane conditions are likely within the next 48 hours.

Notice that nothing has been issued for the southeastern portions of Florida just yet. Of course, that will occur once the storm gets a little bit closer in proximity.

One hundred five mile-per-hour sustained winds near the center of circulation. Not much change with the 5:00 a.m. update in terms of speed of the storm or at least the wind speed. But what we have seen is some consistencies in the models that have shown a southerly shift in the track, which is putting the southern peninsula of Florida in play here -- a large population density.

[05:35:03] And we've also noticed a slowing of the forward progression of the storm as it approaches the coastline late Monday and into the early Tuesday time frame.

And we've had an amazing agreement on the models that we look at -- this is also new on the overnight period -- from the American to the European model, showing the landfall into southern portions of Florida, again, early Tuesday morning, with the most pronounced winds. We haven't seen this agreement in the models to date and this is good to see some consensus so we can kind of narrow in on what we're expecting here.

But again, hurricane watches hoisted for the northern Bahamas. They will come across southern Florida in due time.

BRIGGS: All right, Derek. Thanks so much.

Joining us right now via Skype, the Vero Beach, Florida mayor, Val Zudans. Good to see you bright and early this morning.

You tweeted late last night, "Just got a call from the White House. The special assistant to the president."

What did they tell you?

MAYOR VAL ZUDANS, VERO BEACH, FLORIDA (via Skype): Well, they -- I was really impressed that they would reach out to us. They just wanted to make sure that we're getting prepared and we're taking it seriously. We live in Vero Beach, Florida, which might be one of the -- might be the most prepared place in the United States for a hurricane.

We have experienced this many times before. Back in 2004, we had two major hurricanes. We had Frances and Jeanne, within three weeks of each other, go pretty much right through Vero Beach.

Our community takes this very seriously and because of that we're going to be ready, we're going to be safe.

People in our community have been boarding up. We've been stocking up on supplies, going to Publix and other groceries. People have already filled up their gas tanks. They're prepared for this.

They're checking their generators. They're making sure they have extension cords so they're not too close to the house.

They're getting their medications.

Our governor of the state of Florida, yesterday, declared the state of emergency. Our local city of Vero Beach at 12:01 a.m. this morning declared our local state of emergency. Our emergency operation centers are going. We're doing everything to be as prepared as possible for this hurricane.

I just want to thank all the people that are involved, and our local responders are great.

Our beaches are going to be closing at 5:00 p.m. today because the surf is going to go up.

The schools, locally, are tomorrow -- they're hoping today, but they're going to be, tomorrow, setting up as emergency shelters. And then on early Sunday morning, I believe they're going to start moving people in.


ZUDANS: The local nursing homes are making plans because of the issues they had in the past with the deaths in South Florida and all. I'm aware of our local nursing homes are actually going and making all their arrangements to have air conditioning and emergency supplies after the hurricane.


ZUDANS: So I think it's just a matter of taking it seriously.

WALKER: Yes. Well, clearly, Vero Beach, your city, is taking it very seriously as you go through that list of all the preparations that are being made. But, you know, we've heard from some Vero Beach residents and they've told CNN that their anxiety levels are quite high and they're worried about a direct hit.

Regarding flooding, though, because the latest advisory just came out about 38 minutes ago and the rainfall projects have increased to six to 12 inches in some areas -- 15-plus inches in the worst areas. I mean, that's a lot of rain being dumped possibly in parts of Florida.

I mean, how concerned are you about that and flooding?

ZUDANS: I'm very concerned. I'm actually most concerned about storm surge. What happens during -- yesterday, at our 5:30 update from the National Weather Service, they were talking about up to 10 feet of storm surge in the maximum areas. We're also at a time of the month where we're having our highest tides.

And it really matters a lot on the timing. If you get a 4-foot high tide, plus you get a 10-foot storm surge, it's a disaster. So it really also matters when the tides come through.

Most people who die in the hurricanes are dying related to storm surge. So that's my number one concern.

We had someone -- we've had people die in Florida in the past related to their generator use. People don't understand this. You've got to keep that generator -- you cannot put it in your garage.

You can't even put it close to your house. One of the errors that people make is they don't get a long enough extension cord, and so it ends up being close to their house. Or they're worried that someone's going to come and steal their generator at night. The generator is not worth your life. You need to keep it outside.

If you need to get a chain and a lock, get a chain and a lock and lock it up.

But those things worry me.


ZUDANS: Because there's a state of emergency, patients can get their -- can get refills early. The insurance companies are required to refill early even though they normally would not do so. That's because of the state of emergency the governor passed. So you're supposed to get about two weeks of supply just to be on the safe side.

[05:40:00] And just be careful and take it seriously. And when those mandatory evacuations come out, people need to listen to that. They need to do what is recommended for their own safety.

BRIGGS: And that's what I wanted to ask you about, quickly. You talked about all the experience you've had with these storms.

I'm reading local news reports where people essentially are saying, hey, we've been through this before. We're just fine. We're all set.

Can that experience work against you when you are telling people all right, this is for real -- you need to get out?

ZUDANS: Yes, I'm worried about that because we had a near-miss with Matthew. It came within -- very, very close and that would have been a devastating hurricane. And when it passed and we lucked out and it didn't hit us, people assumed that well, this is not something to worry about.

I would say that is totally wrong. You've got to -- you've got to listen and just assume the worst and be prepared. It's the old Boy Scout thing.

I also want to say our city recently sold our government electric to FP&L. We're experiencing 30 percent lower rates.

Well, now we have a huge company -- FP&L, if people don't know, is -- basically covers the entire east coast of Florida. It's -- they're part of a bigger $17 billion-revenue-a-year company that has incredible resources.

And now that we're partnered up with them we're going to be in even a better situation to have -- similar to like a military-grade operation center where they can really help get things reestablished. A lot of problems happen as well when the electric's out for an extended time, and I'm really happy that we're part of FP&L now in our community and I think we're going to do great.

WALKER: All right.

ZUDANS: But take it seriously. Don't mess around.

WALKER: That is a message -- take it seriously. FP&L, for those who don't know, is Florida Power and Light.

Appreciate you joining us, Mayor Val Zudans. Thank you very much.

ZUDANS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Breaking overnight, a move that could radically change the Iowa caucuses.

The "Des Moines Register" first to report 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 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.

WALKER: It's not entirely clear what happens next, but the future of Iowa's "first in the nation" status could be in question down the road if Iowa can't come up with a plan for people to vote that is different from a primary.

Now, the Iowa caucuses are just five months away and the campaigns and the party are facing a rapidly shrinking window to adjust their strategies.

BRIGGS: Questions are being raised about a moving but, apparently, false war story Joe Biden has been sharing on the campaign trail.

Here's the former vice president describing his interaction with a war hero in Afghanistan during a campaign stop last Friday in New Hampshire.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This guy climbed down a ravine and carried this guy up on his back under fire, and the general wanted to me pin the Silver Star on him.

He stood at attention. And I went to pin him and 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.


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

Biden spoke to the "Post" last night about the story, pushing back -- 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?"

Now, 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.


WALKER: 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 1,500 to 1,700 children. I don't want to say an exact number because the press will say Biden's losing his mind -- he didn't remember.


WALKER: Well, for the record, Army Staff Sgt. Chad Workman tells the "Post" he did tell the vice president he didn't feel like he deserved the medal at the time.

BRIGGS: Ahead, another elected official caught up in a blackface scandal. Hear what she's saying now.


[05:48:45] BRIGGS: Just in to CNN, a court in the U.K. rules on Boris Johnson's move to suspend Parliament ahead of a no-deal Brexit deadline.

Hadas Gold live for us at 10 Downing Street in London with the latest. Good morning, Hadas. What are we learning?

HADAS GOLD, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Dave.

That court in Scotland ruled against an interim injunction to try to stop that suspension of Parliament, but that doesn't mean that the challenge is completely over. There will be a full hearing that will be heard next week.

But opponents of the suspension of Parliament wanted the court to issue the injunction to stop the suspension right away. That has not happened -- but again, the court case will proceed.

There are two other challenges working their ways through the court, both in the United Kingdom -- or both in England and in Northern Ireland.

And most notably, Dave, is actually a former prime minister from the Conservative Party, John Majors, prime minister from 1990 to 1997. He has joined, just recently, one of those legal challenges -- the one in England being brought by businesswoman Gina Miller.

He is going on board -- going against this conservative prime minister -- against the suspension of Parliament. This is incredibly notable. It's the equivalent of a former Republican president joining a lawsuit against Donald Trump, if that was to happen to the United States.

This just shows you how unprecedented the situation is here right now and how much uproar there is over the suspension of Parliament and what could happen next, Dave.

[05:50:00] BRIGGS: And the mad scramble is on.

Hadas Gold live for us at 10 Downing. Thank you.

WALKER: Breaking overnight, two high-profile, pro-democracy activists arrested by Hong Kong police, including 2014 Umbrella Movement leader Joshua Wong. According to the pro-democracy Demosisto Party, Wong was pushed into a private minivan on a street.

Former Demosisto's legislative candidate Agnes Chow was also arrested.

These two detentions coming at a tense time in Hong Kong. Months of pro-democracy protests and deteriorating into street battles with police.

Reuters also now reporting China rejected Hong Kong's plan to appease protesters by pulling the extradition bill that sparked the demonstrations.

CNN has reached out to Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam for comment.

We'll be right back.


[05:55:17] BRIGGS: President Trump is said 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.

Officials say the president has not made a final decision but the review process has effectively paused disbursement of aid to Ukraine. The Pentagon has asked that the hold be lifted. A Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment to CNN.

WALKER: Fierce pushback from several states over that proposed multi- billion-dollar settlement with the makers of a drug that helped fuel the opioid epidemic.

"The Wall Street Journal" says attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts don't believe the $12 billion price tag being discussed with Purdue Pharma goes far enough.

Negotiations are still ongoing with the company and its owners, the Sackler family. Two thousand cities, counties, and tribal lands are suing the company. A trial is set to begin in October.

BRIGGS: The opioid crisis has killed nearly 400,000 people since 1999. Purdue is widely blamed for sparking the opioid crisis, introducing OxyContin in 1996 with aggressive marketing.

This week, a judge in Oklahoma ordered pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for its role in that state's opioid crisis.

WALKER: Alabama Gov. 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, who discusses a party where Ivey wore 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 far cry from the Alabama of the 1960s.


WALKER: Governor Ivey claims she does not remember being in the sketch but she will not deny what is obvious.

BRIGGS: A woman who claims she was forced to give birth alone in a jail cell is now suing the City of Denver. Diana Sanchez says her pleas for help during five hours of labor were ignored by deputies and nurses.

Surveillance video released by her lawyer shows Sanchez crying out in pain before she pulls off her pants and delivers a baby boy.

The federal lawsuit alleges jail officials, quote, "Cruelly chose convenience over compassion."

An internal investigation by the Denver Sheriff's Department cleared deputies of any wrongdoing. The department says it can't comment further because of the lawsuit.

WALKER: Two and a half minutes until the top of the hour.

A top seed falls in a major upset at the U.S. Open. The fourth seed and defending Wimbledon champion, Simona Halep, stunned by American Taylor Townsend. The 23-year-old Townsend, a 116th-ranked qualifier from Atlanta, had never won a set against Halep in three previous meetings.

And another American, Coco Gauff, is into the third round after a thrilling win on Thursday. Up next for Gauff, a showdown with defending champ and world number one, Naomi Osaka.

BRIGGS: "JEOPARDY!" host Alex Trebek 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 has completed his cancer treatment.


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.


BRIGGS: Just awesome. A new season of "JEOPARDY!" premieres September ninth.

He has terrific doctors, but the power of positive thinking --

WALKER: Yes, very resilient.

BRIGGS: -- always on display with this man.

WALKER: Amazing.

All right, that's our time. Thanks for joining us. I'm Amara Walker in for Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Here's "NEW DAY." Have a wonderful weekend.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, August 30th, 6:00 in New York.

Alisyn is on assignment. Julia Chatterley here with us this morning.


BERMAN: Great to have you.

A busy morning, an urgent morning. We do have breaking news.

The entire state of Florida, all 67 counties, under a state of emergency this morning as Hurricane Dorian heads toward that state. Now, this could be the largest, strongest storm to hit the east coast of Florida in nearly three decades, and a shift overnight has it potentially headed to the major population centers.

The storm got stronger. It is now a category two hurricane. By the time it makes landfall on Monday, it's on track to be a category four -- a catastrophic category four.