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Dorian Strengthens, Could Hit Florida As Category Four Hurricane; Watchdog: Comey Violated FBI Policies In Handling Of Memos; Fried Chicken Frenzy After Popeyes Sells Out. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 07:30   ET



[07:30:10] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: These are live pictures of the pier at Cocoa Beach in Florida. Picture-perfect now, but please do not be deceived because there is a very dangerous storm heading right at Florida. You can see it there on the radar. It's still hundreds of miles away.

Hurricane Dorian is now a category two storm, which means winds of 105 miles per hour. It's expected to be a strong category four with catastrophic winds when it makes landfall on Florida.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers joins us now. Chad, I know you've been looking at the new data that's been coming in all morning. What do you see?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hurricane hunters almost into the center of the eye right now. They are making progress out there. And that C-130 doesn't go very fast out there, so they've been in the air for a while.

A 140-mile-per-hour storm making landfall in the southeastern part of Florida at some point in time over the weekend. Now, that 140 is plus or minus five percent. It could be 133 to 147 and we would still call it 140.

So right there, making landfall somewhere between, I would say, the Space Coast and then even down toward Miami still possible. No question about that -- it's still in the cone. And then, turning to the right and turning very slowly away from where it made landfall.

Here are the stats right now -- 105 miles per hour. We'll know better whether it's actually 105 or not because that plane is just now arriving at the eyewall, itself, and will make a couple of passes. We will get that information before the 8:00 update.

Here are the two models we talked about overnight. We talked about the European in the yellow and the American in the red.

One of the worst possible scenarios would be the European model, making landfall and not losing a lot of power, and then going all the way up the coast as still a hurricane, affecting every single populated area up the coast north of West Palm Beach. The other scenario back out here toward Tampa affecting the center part of the state a little bit more. But we'll see what happens.

We're going to get tremendous storm surge north of eye landfall. We're going to get tremendous wind damage at landfall at the eye and then, spread out for at least 50 miles either way.

And we're going to get an awful lot of rainfall. Ten to 20 inches of rain possible right around where the center moves on. And we're going to have days of rainfall here because as those dots of that model begin to get closer and closer that means the storm is slowing down more and more.

One more thing, the waves. I haven't talked about this a lot. There's going to be storm surge and there's going to be waves on top of that.

That yellow, especially at the reef or at the barrier -- there would be the sandbar -- there would be 20-foot waves on top of what could be an 8-foot surge, on top of what could be a 3-foot tide because we're in King tide season right now for the central coast there of the -- east coast of Florida.

So all these things acting against each other, I guess. We are in for a major blow to parts of Florida. This is going to be billions and billions of dollars.

Let's just hope it's not lives lost. We need to pay attention to that. We know there's going to be damage but we can replace the damage. We can't replace the lives.

BERMAN: Jack Ken Graham, of the National Hurricane Center, just told us that Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. Floridians could expect to start --

MYERS: Right.

BERMAN: -- feeling tropical-storm-force winds. Sunday night at 8:00. That means, potentially, days of tropical-storm-force winds in some part of that state?

MYERS: Sure.

BERMAN: What would the impact of that be?

MYERS: Sure. Well, all of a sudden, you lose one shingle and another, then another, and another.

What he was talking about with the tropical storm force onset is that that's when you can't do anything more outside. You can't put the storm shutters up, you can't handle a piece of plywood. That's too late. All preps need to be done before that time.

And yes, there could be 48 hours of winds over 50, but that's not the problem. The problem is if you get 20 minutes of wind over 130. That's where the damage comes in.

BERMAN: And that all is expected at this point.


BERMAN: Chad Myers, stay on it. We have another update from the Hurricane Center in just a few minutes so we'll check back in with you.


BERMAN: The Justice Department's inspector general has now concluded that fired FBI director James Comey violated the Bureau's policies in his handling of memos that he kept of his meetings with President Trump. But, the watchdog found no evidence that Comey or his attorneys leaked classified information to the media. Broke the rules; did not break the law.

Joining us now, Asha Rangappa, CNN legal and national security analyst and former FBI special agent. And, Elie Honig, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

Asha, to you, broke the rules but not the law. The inspector general said what he did was wrong, sends the wrong message, sets a bad example.

You've looked at the report. Do you think that's a fair analysis?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: Well, he definitely broke the rules. I mean, the FBI has a lot of rules.

And what the OIG's findings turned on was determining that the memos that Comey wrote -- he wrote seven memos after his interactions with the president. He took four of them home.

[07:35:05] The OIG believed that these constituted FBI records. They're official records because he created them in the course of his duties.

And basically, once they become official records, all of the things that he did thereafter violated many aspects of FBI policy -- taking them home, sharing them with lawyers, disclosing them to the media via a third party. And so, there were clearly technical violations.

I do think that he was looking at it in a very tight vacuum and that there is context that, in my opinion, mitigates what he did but you can't escape the fact that he definitely broke the rules.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Come in here because the report does say in an excerpt -- from it says, "Comey had several other lawful options available to him to advocate for the appointment."

Critics of this report will say, well, hang on a second. The lines of reporting here were blurred by the attorney general's role. The fact that the deputy attorney general here was actually involved in what we're talking about here, too.

What do you make of that?

ELIE HONIG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think this is one of the most potent criticisms of the way James Comey handled this situation.

Comey's explanation for why he took this information about an ongoing criminal investigation and gave it to his friend to put out to the media was basically, he knew he was breaking the rules but he said I felt really strongly about it.

And the criticism of Comey is yeah, but rules are rules and you have to find a way within the rules to achieve what you think needs to be done here.

And there were various avenues available for Comey to do that. He could have gone and stayed within the chain of command. That's what the FBI and the Justice Department's all about.

He could have gone to the inspector general. He could have gone to Congress. He even could have gone to the media, the report says, without disclosing these sensitive pieces of information.

BERMAN: Basically, the message is you can't have everybody in the FBI thinking they can bring work product --


BERMAN: -- and putting it in the closet at home.

HONIG: Yes, it's a terrible example. It's a problematic example.

Look, there is a bit of hypocrisy here and I've got to say this. James Comey used to go around when I was in the Department of Justice and give his reservoir speech, and I'm sure Asha's heard it.

But the idea that he would say to all of us young prosecutors and agents was the best thing you have here in Justice is a reservoir of trust and public confidence, and all it takes is one little crack to drain that reservoir.

And now, I think Comey's conduct really doesn't quite measure up with his rhetoric.

CHATTERLEY: Asha, do you agree? Do you think there were other avenues that he should have taken here and actually he behaved inappropriately?

RANGAPPA: You know, I think that this was a case where he was kind of on the crazy train. I mean, he was having interactions where he was being asked to commit, you know, crimes -- to engage in potential obstruction of justice -- and he was documenting evidence of that.

There are these other avenues but none of them are actually criminally -- criminal investigative bodies. And what he correctly identified was that the only entity that could effectively investigate this was a special counsel. A special counsel, by the regulations, could only be appointed by the

attorney general or the deputy attorney general. In this case, the attorney general was recused and the deputy attorney general, himself, had a conflict and therefore, an incentive to also cover this up if it was reported directly to him.

So I think that there was a sense that only by making this public and by creating some public pressure would this result in the appointment of a special counsel.

I think there are fair criticisms of whether this was the right way to go, but there is actually no manual for how one deals -- an FBI director deals with being asked to commit federal crimes by the President of the United States.

BERMAN: And, Elie, the fact of the matter is he is not being prosecuted --


BERMAN: -- so they do not suggest he broke the law here.

And it was interesting. If you read the report, there was also an acknowledgment that Comey had a consciousness of what was classified -- what he believed to be classified at the time and not classified and took pains to make sure that classified information wasn't being released.

HONIG: Yes, I think Comey was trying to sort of mitigate what he felt like he had to do.

And it's important that we keep perspective here. I don't think there's any question James Comey broke the FBI's rules, but let's keep it in perspective.

I mean, the memos that he shouldn't have written, perhaps, and mishandled are a hill of beans compared to what the memos were about, which is the President of the United States demanding loyalty from James Comey and trying to shut down a criminal investigation.

So the two things do not cancel one another out. Comey's missteps -- procedural missteps do not cancel out or mitigate the president's -- what I believe is criminal obstructive conduct.

CHATTERLEY: And that's what the open question remains -- obstruction of justice or not, basically. Still unanswered.

HONIG: Well, it's to Congress right now.


BERMAN: I will say, Asha, just in closing, based on the tone the I.G. has taken here and previously with Comey, and everything he has looked at in regard to this, what does this tell us about what we're going to hear from him next, perhaps? He's looking into the beginning of the investigation -- the FISA warrants. Is there every reason to believe he'll be just as harsh there?

RANGAPPA: Well, I think that, you know, you have to accept his findings one way or -- like, in other words, if you're celebrating or critiquing these findings, you have to be willing to do the same for the next one.

[07:40:10] I do think that Horowitz has been objective, he's been fair. And so, we'll see what he says about the FISA order. If it turns out that the FBI did follow the rules then I expect the people who are celebrating this result will do the same for that.


BERMAN: Asking for consistency there. That's a big ask in this political environment.

Asha Rangappa, Elie Honig, great to have you with us.

CHATTERLEY: All right, some of my favorite stories of the day, actually.

A tiny Nevada town bracing for an invasion of amateur alien hunters.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Part of you must be thinking OK, this is going to be great for business --


WATT: -- and part is like --

WEST: It's terrifying.


CHATTERLEY: Absolutely. More from the earthlings in Area 51 after this.


[07:45:07] BERMAN: So it all started as a joke -- a Facebook post calling on people to storm Area 51. This is the military installation made famous by alien enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists that has now led to real questions, like how many people are actually going to show up in the Nevada desert next month?

CHATTERLEY: I'm going to check the flights (ph).

CNN's Nick Watt is live in Rachel, Nevada where the mystery stands to unfold. Nick, great to have you with us.

How many people are they expecting and how are they preparing for this?

WATT: Well, they are expecting too many people, frankly. This county and the next county have already declared states of emergency. The sheriff told me last night they're going to bring in officers from all over the state to try and help out.

Just to give you an idea how remote we are, the nearest gas station, nearly 50 miles that way; nearest hospital, nearly 100 miles kind of that way. But depending on who you talk to, this is either the middle of absolute nowhere or the most important place on our planet.


WATT (voice-over): "Storm Area 51," read Matty Robert's Facebook post. "They can't stop all of us."

MATTY ROBERTS, CREATOR, STORM AREA 51: It was completely intended to be a joke. I didn't expect it to go anywhere.

WATT (on camera): But it has.

ROBERTS: It has. It's gone everywhere.

WATT (voice-over): Two million people now claim they're coming here September 20th.

One recent online survey found 54 percent of Americans believe the government knows more than they're telling us.

ROBERTS: Yes, it's very apparent by my post. Everybody thinks there's something in there.

WATT (voice-over): Here's issue number one. Nearest civilization is Rachel, Nevada, population 52. Little more than the Little A'Le'Inn, restaurant seating for 40, 10 veterans.

WATT (on camera): Part of you must be thinking, OK, this is going to be great for business --

WEST: Absolutely.

WATT (on camera): -- and part is like --

WEST: It's terrifying.

WATT (voice-over): She's scrambling to arrange enough food, security, and free water for the desert heat.

Issue number two, an Air Force spokesperson tells CNN, "Any attempt to illegally access military installations or military training areas is dangerous."

WEST: And you don't want your parents to have to bury you. Ooh, I shouldn't have said that.

WATT (on camera): (Laughing).

That is a gate into Area 51. Plenty of warnings signs, plenty of cameras that are following every single move we make. And we were here less than five minutes and a white pickup truck did

just appear as if out of nowhere. As close as I ever need to get to Area 51, I think.

WATT (voice-over): Roberts says the FBI has already come a calling.

ROBERTS: They knocked on the door, man. They just kind of sat down and chatted with me for a little bit just to see what kind of guy I was. Making sure I'm not building pipe bombs in the living room or something.

WATT (voice-over): They're now trying to turn this into more of a music festival.

ROBERTS: I am trying to advocate against the storming as much as I can. I'm turning -- I just want a gathering of all these weirdos in the desert.

WATT (voice-over): The CIA tested the U-2 spy plane here back in the 1950s and many believers believe they also keep captured alien lifeforms and reverse engineered downed alien craft, starting with the Roswell wreckage in the 40s.

Conspiracy theories fueled by this base worker interviewed back in '89 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The power source is an anti-matter reactor.

WATT (voice-over): -- and suspicious sightings ever since.

WEST: I've seen a lot of strange things in the skies that you can't really identify.

WATT (voice-over): The Air Force claims these 60 secretive square miles are used for earthling aircraft testing -- that's it.

This esteemed astronomer agrees.

SETH SHOSTAK, SENIOR ASTRONOMER, SETI INSTITUTE: Clearly, there are aliens out there. I think that that's a pretty strong argument. But we don't have the proof of that and I don't think that it's stacked up in southern Nevada. Honestly, I don't.

WATT (voice-over): Roberts' best estimate, 20,000 people will actually show up here in the desert next month, some hoping to find out if there's really anything in there, all dreaming there really is something out there.


WATT: Now, the people of Rachel, Nevada live here for a reason. They like their peace and quiet and they're not really into this whole alien stock idea.

I'll read you something from the town's Web site. They say, "Most residents do not like where this event is going and will respond accordingly. Law enforcement will be overwhelmed and local residents will step up to protect their property."

It could get ugly -- Julia.

CHATTERLEY: (Laughing) I might be there -- we'll see. How exciting.

Nick, thank you so much for that.

All right, we're going to take a quick break here.

But the big question now. How does a food -- a fast-food chicken chain sell out of fried chicken sandwiches? Well, we'll be asking the big boss of Popeyes' parent company after this. Stay with us.


[07:53:59] CHATTERLEY: Welcome back to the show.

How in the world does a fast-food chicken restaurant run out of fried chicken sandwiches? Well, Popeyes broke the news to its customers with this slickly-produced video. Take a listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you get like five million people, six million people on social media talking about this sandwich is good.

TEXT: So thankful! But...we're sold out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're sold out of chicken sandwiches. We sold out in four hours.

TEXT: You ate 'em ALL. Legit proud of you. They'll be back soon. For. Good. Pinky swear.


CHATTERLEY: So what happened here and when will the new sandwich be back?

Well, let's ask Jose Cil. He's the CEO of Restaurant Brands International, which bought Popeyes for $1.8 billion two years ago. So, great to have you with us.

The burning question is, have you really run out? When will they be back? When can we get our hands on a new batch of them?


Yes, we really have run out.

[07:55:00] Look, we do a lot of work behind the scenes when we develop new products and we've been working on a -- on a great-tasting chicken sandwich at Popeyes for quite some time. We have an amazing group of chefs -- a culinary team that's been working on this for over a year.

And we started to test it back in -- about 10 months ago in Houston, and then we've tested it in other markets as well.

The idea when we test products in markets is to make sure we understand preference of the productive relative to our competitors, but also to understand operational challenges, supply chain. And we do a lot of forecasting in preparation in advance of a national launch to make sure we're ready to deliver that product at big volumes all across the country.

We did this -- and we've done this many, many times over the years. We work with our franchisees, we work with the supply chain team.

We had -- I think we missed one thing. We didn't expect to break the Internet and as a result, we had the entire nation really excited about the Popeyes chicken sandwich. And as a result, we ran out much sooner than we anticipated.

CHATTERLEY: I mean -- so, for all the preparation, the forecast here was just plain wrong. How rare is this to be so off sight on your forecast? And can you tell us how many sandwiches you've actually sold in order to completely run out here?

CIL: We had very ambitious forecasts. We planned to be on television nationally and to really be out there for quite some time building awareness of this chicken sandwich. So we had very ambitious forecasts.

I've been in the business 20 years. I've talked to many of our franchise partners across the country that have been in the business 40-50 years in some cases. None of them have ever seen anything like this.

I think it's akin to what happened when the iPhone was launched back about 10-12 years ago. No one expected that type of reaction.

And we've had -- we've had people lining up in restaurants before the restaurant opens to be able -- to be able to get the chicken sandwich.

We've had municipalities in Nevada -- for example, Henderson, Nevada. We had a municipality shut us down because we were creating too much traffic in the neighborhood.

So it's not something that we had anticipated. We prepare for everything. We now have added a new checklist -- a new item to our checklist -- what happens if we break the Internet?

CHATTERLEY: OK, so talk me through the situation right now because there are some skeptics. There's conspiracy theories here that you can still produce some of the other chicken products there, you can still produce biscuits, and yet, you can't produce a burger. So just fight back against the skeptics here that are saying this

another P.R. campaign. And to your point, social media won for you here but this isn't another P.R. approach here that you're taking.

CIL: Well, it -- we are producing chicken in order to be able to deliver the chicken sandwich. The question is how much can we produce and can we meet the demand that's out there? And so, the -- it's a -- it's a math equation.

We're working through that with our supply chain teams and our suppliers, as well, and we're ramping up production all across the country to be able to meet what we expect to be continued high demand for this amazing chicken sandwich for quite some time.

So the issue for us is not disappointing our guests, and so if we don't have enough to meet the demand, we're going to continue to disappoint guests that are -- that are really dying to try the product. So we're making sure that we have enough product at the supplier, at the distribution centers, and in the restaurants to be able to meet what we've seen to be a very strong demand for this amazing-tasting product.

CHATTERLEY: Jose, very quickly, this all blew up on social media because Chick-fil-A basically challenged your sandwich and says there's was better. Did they win the chicken wars for you here?

CIL: I think the consumers -- the consuming public in the U.S., they won the chicken wars. They had a chance to try an amazing new chicken sandwich. We brought a new, great-tasting product to the U.S.

We think we brought awareness to Popeyes and the great-tasting chicken that we have at Popeyes -- not just the sandwich, but our bone-in chicken.

We've been doing this for -- since 1972 and we have great-tasting spices in our product. It's been -- our heritage has been food quality and culinary focus for many, many decades.

And so, I think the winning folks here in this chicken war is the consumer. They got to try an amazing new product that's coming back very soon.

CHATTERLEY: Jose -- thank you so much for that, Jose Cil. Now we just have to try one.

CIL: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right.

Thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM WITH MAX FOSTER" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, we just got a brand-new advisory on Hurricane Dorian. NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. BERMAN: Good morning, and welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Friday, August 30th. It's 8:00 in the east.

Alisyn is on assignment. Julia Chatterley joins me this morning.

And we just got the all-important 8:00 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center on Hurricane Dorian. You can see the map right there. All of Florida is on high alert. The storm is headed.