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Dorian Strengthens, Could Hit Florida as Category 4 Storm; Mayor of Jacksonville, Lenny Curry, is Interviewed about Hurricane Prep Efforts; Trump Cancels Poland Trip to Monitor Hurricane; Joe Biden Dismisses Report That He Told False War Story. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:59:23] 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 30, 6 a.m. 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 2 hurricane. By the time it makes landfall on Monday, it's on track to be a Category 4. A catastrophic Category 4. The storm is forecast to pack winds of up to 130 miles per hour.

Now, exactly where Dorian will come ashore is still unclear. Look at this map. It could be anywhere from the Florida Keys to southern Georgia. That's a stretch of about 500 miles.

CHATTERLEY: So flooding and storm surge are major concerns with this hurricane. As much as a foot of rain could fall in the hardest-hit areas. And the storm is still forecast to slow down significantly and stall over the state after making landfall. So we're talking life- threatening storm surge along the east coast could cause significant flooding. And to make matters worse, the highest tides of the year expected in part of Florida this weekend.

This will be the fourth straight year a hurricane has hit Florida. The most, in fact, since the 1940s.

President Trump canceling his trip to Poland to monitor what he says could be a, quote, "absolute monster of a storm." Well, we've got you covered, from reporters in West Palm Beach to

Daytona Beach. But I want to begin now with CNN's meteorologist, Chad Myers, because he's got the hurricane advisory.

Give us the latest here, Chad. What are we looking at?

CHAD MYERS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: Julia, 140 at landfall. I think that's the big number. That's the takeaway from the 5 a.m. advisory. And then, as it makes landfall, it will lose a little bit of its steam.

But we've had a very wide cone for a very long time. Now because the storm is closer, the cone gets smaller and smaller. So all uncertainty really does go from the Keys to possibly up to the space coast at this point in time.

Then after that, as you stated, it starts to slow down. The currents in the upper atmosphere that push hurricanes around will basically fall apart. And this place will be just inundated with rainfall. There'll be nothing to push it along for about 48 hours. This is the 72-hour forecast. This is after midnight Sunday night and Monday morning, 2 a.m.

Now we will move you ahead until the Tuesday. This is a midnight landfall. One of the worst things you can have is a dark landfall. You hear things moving. You don't know where they came from. You don't know how big that thing was that just crashed.

And then all of a sudden, it turns on up to the north and centers itself very close to Orlando. That is the center of the line.

Now let's think about this plus or minus 100 miles. How many people are in that cone at 100 miles here and almost 200 miles from here to here?

So let's draw this out. If you are considering that this is a pretty good line here. It could be here and still be in the cone. It could go all the way across the state and into the Gulf of Mexico and still be in the cone. That's what the problem is when we talk about a five- day forecast, what could happen later on in the forecast.

But overnight, the models acted astronomically. Better than I've seen them act on this storm all together. The watches are now posted for the Bahamas, but look at what's happening to the storm here: 105 miles per hour. And there's moving to the northwest at 12.

This is the spaghetti model. Now, we call it the spaghetti, because there are just so many lines. You could call it whatever you want. These are just all of the models, all plotted on top of each other. They are in very good agreement for southern half of Florida for landfall.

Even the GFS, the American model and the European model doing extremely the same this morning. Somewhere around West Palm for the American model. Somewhere around West Palm for the European model. I'm thinking this turns slightly farther to the right, because it's

going to slow down more quickly. But all of a sudden, we have models that are in agreement, all because the NOAA hurricane hunters went out there and did their job for us and put their lives on the line.

CHATTERLEY: OK. So that's reducing some of the uncertainty here. Which is, I think, good news here. But we've been saying all along that there's a chance here that this hurricane stalls, that it's land- fixed now over Florida, potentially, here, too. What's that going to mean in terms of rain -- rainfall here? Because we've seen that problem in the past.

MYERS: Twenty inches.


MYERS: Twenty inches of rain on top of the storm surge that you may have, which is the salt water flooding. There will be inland fresh- water flooding from all of that rain.

This is the European model, putting down this purple 10 to 20, even 20 in Jacksonville. Nowhere near where the storm makes landfall, probably. But then on up, it slows down more into Georgia.

Now let's take a look at the America model. What does it do for rainfall? Again, purple and white. Now, the purple center's somewhere maybe north of Lake Okeechobee. But still, right through Kissimmee and Orlando. That's 10 to 15 inches. Even not near the center of the eye, if you will, there still will be tremendous amounts of rainfall with this -- guys.

BERMAN: All right, Chad. We're going to come back to you a lot over the next three hours. I think everyone's got a lot of questions about the forecast, what that data all means, and what they should be doing right now. Please stand by and keep us posted.

MYERS: I will.

[06:05:05] BERMAN: Obviously, Florida has seen so many dangerous hurricanes. Residents, many of them, know what to do. They're stocking up on food, water, plywood, gas and emergency supplies. We've seen the lines stretching out the door.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live in West Palm Beach outside a Home Depot with the latest there -- Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we just moved inside. The store just opened. But the line started forming an hour earlier because most people are looking for generators. You can see that, actually, right now everybody has picked up their generators.

Let's turn around, because there -- people are paying for the generators at this hour. Most of them looking for gas cans, plywood, extension cords, all of those essential items.

The state of Florida, of course, preparing. The governor, Ron DeSantis, issued a state of emergency across all 67 counties. Twenty- five hundred National Guardsmen are -- have been activated. Another 1,500 are on standby.

The state preparing for this hurricane as the state of Florida always does. Eight hundred thousand gallons of water have been pre-staged. Another 1.8 million meals are also pre-staged, ready for distribution, again, waiting for -- for the hurricane to make landfall.

You can see behind me that people are still paying for these generators here, John and Julia. But Florida bracing for the worst here in West Palm.

BERMAN: And we're talking about millions of people up the coast, a stretch of 500 miles. They all have to get ready, because there's so much uncertainty about where it will make landfall.

Rosa, thank you. Please stand by for us.

Florida beaches. This is a holiday weekend. They're normally packed this time of year. And this hurricane is already disrupting plans for millions of people. Travelers now scrambling. What do you do? Do I leave early?

CNN's Nick Valencia live on the boardwalk in Daytona Beach with the latest there -- Nick.


For those who are still planning on coming to Florida this weekend, you're in for a nerve-wracking holiday weekend.

Of course, tourism here is Florida's No. 1 industry, as you mentioned. This would typically be one of the busiest holiday weekends, one of the busiest at the beach.

We have checked in with the airlines and the airports to see if there's any closures or reports of cancellations. So far, we haven't heard that. But airlines, we know at least some of them, are offering to drop those change -- ticket waiver fees.

We also have heard, though, about reports of cancellations at air -- hotels up and down Florida's east coast, at least one hotel group offering distress rates for those who are in Florida, maybe further south in Florida, planning to evacuate north.

This storm is still at least three days away but still making a lot of people nervous. We've heard of cruise lines rerouting the track of their cruise ships around the track of the storm, I should say.

Also, college football is back. Florida State and Boise State are expected, or were expected to play a game in Jacksonville this weekend. That venue has changed further north towards Tallahassee.

Another thing we're keeping an eye on is Orlando theme parks. They've only closed a handful of times for hurricanes in the last years. The last time they closed was for Hurricane Matthew in 2016. And one last point. We have checked in with a couple of restaurant

owners and local businesses here. I spoke to one yesterday who said his message for those who are watching here in Florida: listen to those emergency management officials -- Julia.

CHATTERLEY: Thanks so much for that.

All right. Joining us now, someone who's been making related decisions here. The mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, Lenny Curry. His city had record flooding just two years ago from Hurricane Irma.

Mr. Mayor, great to have you with us. I know you were just listening to that. And you've been part of those decision making, and shifting that college football game, in particular. Tell to me about your biggest concern right now and what preparations you're making.

MAYOR LENNY CURRY (R- JACKSONVILLE, FL.): Yes, well, good morning. Thanks for the opportunity to share and communicate with the public.

This -- this model has changed dramatically over the last couple of days. Two days ago, if you followed the model, it looked like we were going to take a direct hit coming off of the ocean. Obviously, now it looks like it would make landfall south of us and could curve and come our direction in the days ahead, moving really slow.

Just -- that people remain vigilant and stay tuned. Just because things have slowed down, we don't want people to tune out and not be engaged.

Most important thing I want my people to know is to know their evacuation zone. In the event we have to evacuate, we don't want them scrambling, trying to figure out where that is. They can go to a website called to find that.

And to make sure they're stocked up on water and batteries and all of the supplies they need. We're seeing examples of it. Seems -- People seem to be heeding that advice.

So we just need to stay the course. This can be a roller coaster as you follow these models, but we're just going to continue to be prepared, work with our governor, and take care of the people of Jacksonville.

[06:10:03] CHATTERLEY: We saw and we just mentioned there you had record flooding two years ago. So you've seen what it takes to prepare for this and what the aftermath looks like. What preparations are you making for flooding here? Because we were just talking about up to 20 inches, potentially, coming here.

CURRY: We have our public works department. They've been out cleaning drainage systems, checking pumps, making sure that all of the infrastructure that's supposed to work is functioning and trying to mitigate any potential shutdowns of that due to -- due to the storm effects.

But the key is to make sure that our people are safe. And that is that they hear us. They listen to us. Look, if we have to evacuate the top two zones, which are zones "A" and "B," that's about 250,000 people.

So imagine evacuating a couple -- a quarter million people at the same time when you could have evacuations happening south of us, people moving in our direction. That's probably the top thing that led us to move the Florida State/Boise State game to Tallahassee. It's to make sure that we had clear roads for evacuations.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, and up to 30,000 visitors, I believe, as well.

CURRY: That's right.

CHATTERLEY: Talk to me about the conversations you've had with the governor, as well. You just mentioned that. And of course, the White House team working on this. What assistance are they providing at this stage?

CURRY: Well, this is my third storm in four years. We work very closely with the governor. It's a great relationship. I was with him yesterday and the day before. He was here yesterday.

We're talking about, you know, making sure we're up to date on bridge closures, if there's an evacuation coordinating to make sure that traffic's aren't -- traffic's not clogged because of all the people moving around the state. Access to resourcing and funds.

So direct work with the state, the governor. The White House liaison reached out to me last night as they always do when we face a crisis situation, to know that we have access, direct access to them if and when we need them.

CHATTERLEY: Mr. Mayor, Lenny Curry there of Jacksonville, Florida. So great to have you with us. And we wish you safe and well.

CURRY: Thank you.

BERMAN: And again, we keep looking at that map as that storm, Hurricane Dorian, gets stronger and stronger, heads right toward Florida. All 500 miles of coastline all the way up to Georgia now at serious risk. Much more on that shortly.

Also this morning, Vice President Biden on defense, trying to explain why a story he's been telling for years is filled with things that are not quite true. What his campaign says about this now, next.


[06:17:06] BERMAN: All right. President Trump has canceled his trip to Poland this weekend, he says to monitor Hurricane Dorian. This comes as the president is under scrutiny for the difference in his response to Florida, compared to how he was talking when the storm was headed to Puerto Rico. It ended up being mostly a miss on Puerto Rico. Still, there's criticism.

Joining us now, CNN political commentators Errol Louis and Joe Lockhart; and CNN political analyst Rachael Bade.

Errol, this trip to Poland. Unclear how much the president was dying to go to Poland. That said, with a storm the size of Dorian coming right at Florida now, almost had to cancel.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Exactly right. I mean, you're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of assets. You're talking about millions of lives. You're talking about a very high-profile and, frankly, politically necessary territory that he's going to try and cover.

I mean, he won Florida by, like, less than 1.5 percent. And it's a state that's going to be critical to his re-election. So you'll line up all of those realities, being in Poland for a commemoration of the start of World War II is not nearly as important as making sure that his -- his citizens are safe and his political reelection prospects are also safe.

BERMAN: It is interesting, though, Joe, that keeping the citizens safe didn't seem to be a priority when it was headed to make a direct hit on Puerto Rico.


BERMAN: And they've noticed.

LOCKHART: Yes. There's no doubt that the president doesn't view Puerto Rico as part of the United States. He doesn't view people who didn't vote for him as important. And he doesn't view people who aren't white as important as everyone else. It's just -- it's that simple. We don't need any more examples of how he views the word. And that's unfortunate.

On the other hand, it is right for him to stay here. And it's not just symbolic. There are times you remember in -- with Katrina, where there were problems between state and local and federal; and the president can sort those things out. He can get on the phone and get people to work together. So it is symbolically the right thing to do, but it's also the right thing for the president to do.

CHATTERLEY: So all Americans matter, but some Americans matter more than most when they have Electoral College votes is perhaps what we're arguing here.

Rachael, come in here. What do you think?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, I -- just as Joe was saying, I think that Democrats welcome the president staying here when a hurricane is coming and potentially going to really upset Florida and life there. But they just don't want to see this disparaged treatment when it comes to, you know, hurricanes or wildfires.

You remember the president, when California was dealing with those wildfires in California, he had suggested momentarily that perhaps he was going to withhold aid from California. Ultimately, he ultimately gave that aid. But again it just sort of comes down to why is he sort of picking on some areas and not others?

And Democrats sort of point to Puerto Rico and say, "Look, this is a place that is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, where 3,000 people died."

And the president, you know, as this hurricane was barreling toward Puerto Rico tried to suggest that, "Oh, we've already given them $93 billion in aid." Well, that's a falsehood, first of all. They've only received about $13 billion. And they're still really struggling.

But why is it that with Puerto Rico, he just can't seem to want to help? But when it comes to Florida, a swing state, for instance, that he needs to win in 2020, he's jumping at the first opportunity to do what he thinks is right.

BERMAN: All right. Let's walk through the adventure that is the Joe Biden story he has been telling for some time about a medal that he pinned on an Afghan War vet.

First, let's play one of the versions of the story that he told just last week.


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 spin the Silver Star on him. He stood at attention. I went to pin him. He said, "I don't want the damn thing. Do not pin it on me, sir. Please, sir, do not do that. He died. He died."


BERMAN: All right. So "The Washington Post" was the first to fact check this in an article that they published. This is what "The Post" says.

"In the space of three minutes, Biden got the time wrong, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, the military branch and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony. One element of Biden's story is rooted in an actual event: In 2011, the vice president did pin a medal on a heartbroken soldier, Army Staff Sergeant Chad Workman, who didn't believe he deserved the award."

So there is a story of Biden pinning a medal, just not exactly the one he was telling and the way he was telling it, which is Biden's defense of it now when he was asked about all this overnight. Let's play that.


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?


BERMAN: The details were wrong, Errol. That -- that's the problem there. Now, the thrust of the story, the theme of the story may be right, but he didn't get the details right. So what?

LOUIS: Right. So true but not accurate. Right? And those kind of distinctions, however, can get you into a lot of trouble on the campaign trail.

If you're saying, well, I didn't -- you know, "What I said wasn't true, but it was the truth" in some capital "T," which is kind of what he's saying. The point is, I think it's not going to necessarily resonate, and it's not going to necessarily going to damage Joe Biden, right?

Because it's not like he made up something in some malicious way that aggrandizes him. Right? I mean, it doesn't say anything. I mean, it's really about the situation. It's about what goes on with the Afghanistan War, what goes on with the valor that the troops show. What goes on with the foreign policy, which is the real point here. What does he want to do? How is he going to end the forever war? That sort of a thing.

I think that's what voters are going to focus on. Not so much whether or not he got the branch of the military service right or the name of the -- the veteran right.

CHATTERLEY: Or the time or the medal or the location or the person or the event. It all needs to be in one. Come on.

LOUIS: The most important thing that he loses is his ability to say if he was going to try and do this in a campaign and if he is, indeed, the nominee that Donald Trump is losing it, Donald Trump doesn't have a command of the facts. He doesn't have a grasp of the details. That ability to say that sort of goes out the window if Joe Biden is the nominee.

CHATTERLEY: But he basically said he wasn't nuts yesterday in South Carolina. So he's feeling some of the pressure of the number of gaffes that we keep calling them that he's making here. Is this just in the price, as far as Joe Biden's concerned here, the poll numbers? What's happened?

LOCKHART: Yes, I think -- I think there's a couple of things here. I've worked in politics for a long time, and I don't know any politician who doesn't amalgamate stories to try to tell a story. This is very different than, for example, President Trump at the G-7 saying that he had -- his team had conversations with the Chinese on the trade war when, in fact, there were no conversations and his aides admitted that this was done to try to boost the stock market. That's just a direct lie.

But there are a couple of things I think are worrisome. One outside of Joe Biden's control, which is this sort of sticks. Because once the media picks up on a narrative, they can find an example of it in every story. And so I think that's a problem. The second is in his control. I think he needs to do better when he makes a mistake of saying, "I made a mistake. I'm sorry I made a mistake. But this guy's a hero. I told the story wrong."

There's a -- there's a nagging problem, I think, with Biden to push back aggressively when he's made a mistake, rather than just saying, "I got the story wrong."

BERMAN: Rachael, you wanted in here.

BADE: Yes. No, I just think this is one of the most fascinating political case studies of 2020. It's this question of whether Trump has changed the standard when it comes to what politicians say and whether or not it's 100 percent accurate.

[06:25:08] I mean, remember, we at "The Washington Post," we have a running tally of 12,000 false or misleading statements the president has made since he was sworn into office. And that has not touched him with his own base.

But Democrats are different. And, you know, Democrats sort of pride themselves on, you know, fact checking and making sure that things are right, typically. And so the question is do Democratic voters in the primary hold this against Biden?

I think that it's pretty clear Biden was confused. There were three different instances where, you know, he was either giving an award or seeing an award or hearing some story; and he's clearly got jumbled and mixed up there. But that also opens him up to an attack by President Trump, who is going to try to paint these gaffes and these confusions as him not being all there and trying to say that you shouldn't vote for Joe Biden.

So it will be really interesting to see if Democrats can get away with it in the same way that Trump largely has with his own base.

BERMAN: It's interesting, because Julia brought up how Joe Biden dealt with it on the stage in a way last night. Let's play that sound, because Biden doesn't seem worried about this, at least publicly. Listen.


BIDEN: I think the number is somewhere between one -- one school psychologist for every 1,500 to 1,700 children. I don't want to set an exact number, because the press will say, "Biden is losing his mind. He didn't remember."


BERMAN: Again, that gets to what you were saying with your economics training there. Is the Joe Biden adventure or experience all priced in already?

CHATTERLEY: Well, that's the key question. And also, to Rachael's point here, is the bar lowered now? Or is actually, the Democrats -- and are the Democrats going to be held to a higher standard here of -- of at least pulling the correct facts together even if the story's a good one.

LOCKHART: Listen, I think Rachael makes the right point, which Democrats are holding themselves to a higher standard. But there is problem with this sort of equivalency that we all have in the media.

In 2016, no matter what Trump said or did, the answer was, "Well, what about Hillary's emails?" And there were as many stories about Hillary's emails as Donald Trump's bigotry. And we know now with hindsight that that was a mistake. That was a mistake on all of our parts.

But Democrats do need to hold themselves to a standard. And again, I'll just come back to it. Joe Biden is going to say things that are inaccurate in this campaign.

BERMAN: They were wrong.

LOCKHART: They are. They --

BERMAN: He got the story wrong.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, the story is wrong.

BERMAN: It's not nuanced. He got the story wrong.

LOCKHART: He got -- he got -- Yes. He got the story wrong, and what he needs to do is to say, "My heart's in the right place. I got the details wrong."

And I think the single problem -- and again, I'm repeating myself -- is not that he got the story wrong. Because he was making a point, and the story fit his point. Is when he realizes that he mixed three different stories up together, he's got to be able to say, "Hey, I mixed it up. Sorry about that. My bad."

BERMAN: You're allowed to repeat yourself, Joe. Because you admitted you did. It wasn't --

LOCKHART: Yes, yes.

CHATTERLEY: Full-on denial works for the president, as well. So we'll see.

BERMAN: All right, friends. Thank you very much for that.

CHATTERLEY: All right. A powerful and catastrophic hurricane barreling towards Florida. The latest forecast showing a Category 4 storm slamming into the state this weekend. We'll take you through all the models, all the details and the timing after this. Stay with us.