Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Hurricane Dorian Continues to Gather Strength; Forecasts Indicate Hurricane Dorian May Not Hit Florida; Florida's Space Coast Prepares for Hurricane Dorian; Woman Who Died Trapped in SUV Scolded by 911 Dispatcher; Large Protests Continue in Hong Kong, Calling for Resignation of Chief Executive; Georgia Prepares for Possible Effects of Hurricane Dorian; Joe Biden Refuses to Apologize in Face of Charges He Made False Claims Regarding Story of Afghanistan Veteran; Bernie Sanders Campaign Proposes Plan to Pay Down Private Individual Medical Debt. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired August 31, 2019 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:24] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It is Saturday, August 31st. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. You are in the CNN Newsroom.

PAUL: And right now, hurricane Dorian, which is already a category four storm, continues to intensify. Yes, it is still getting stronger as it heads towards the east coast.

BLACKWELL: And parts of the Bahamas are bracing for a direct hit with predictions of extreme flooding and potentially deadly storm surges.

PAUL: The latest track shows the hurricane climbing up the east coast, not just Florida now but Georgia and South Carolina all set to feel the impact here.

BLACKWELL: Any moment now Miami-Dade's mayor is set to update us on their preparations for the storm. You're seeing a live picture there on the right of your screen. We will bring that to you as soon as it starts.

And we are on the scene covering Dorian from every angle. You see our CNN crew spread out along the eastern coast.

PAUL: We want to get straight to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar with the latest. So I know you have some information from two hurricane hunters now who have flown into the hurricane in the past hour?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. So the last official forecast from the National Hurricane Center shows the sustained winds are 145 miles per hour, gusting to 165. The movement of the storm is still west at about 12 miles per hour, but the fascinating part comes from not one but two different hurricane hunter missions that are ongoing right now within Dorian. This first one, this is the NOAA mission picking up a wind speed of

157 miles per hour. This is important because that is technically a category five strength wind. Sometimes you get these random ones so you always want to double check and get more data.

So now we switch over to the Air Force reconnaissance flight that is out there at the moment. They are also picking up category five strength winds at this point, reaching up around the 160 miles per hour range.

So let's get some more information on this. We want to bring in on the phone with us Major Chris Dyke. He's an aerial reconnaissance weather officer with the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Chris, we've talked about this. When you look at the new numbers coming in, what sort of factors impact this data and information coming in?

MAJOR CHRISTOPHER DYKE, AERIAL RECONNAISSANCE WEATHER OFFICER, U.S. AIR FORCE RESERVE: Hey, Allison, good morning. So we're looking at this data. There's a variety of different things that can be impacting, especially as the storm is strengthening or on the upswing. So a lot of times when we're going through storms like this, we'll experience significant updrafts and downdrafts and the thunderstorms as we're going through the feeder bands and into the eye wall. So this some of these readings in and of themselves could be things like bursts of thunderstorm activity as they're intensifying.

But what we really try to key in on, especially as the meteorologists on board, we're trying to look at the overall flow. I'm trying to eliminate any of the smaller scale factors and trying to look at the larger flow of what's happening with the storm.

So it certainly is strong evidence if you've got two different aircraft that are kind of reading in that range, it certainly would not surprise me. What's more of what I'm picking up on with the current reconnaissance flights that are going on is from center fix to center fix we're seeing a lowering of the pressure with each run through, which to me is more of a strength of the health and development of the storm than anything else. So certainly, it's still intensifying for sure.

CHINCHAR: So let's say you're the National Hurricane Center, you're looking at the same data because they have access to all of these numbers like we to. Are they going to want more than one reading, or are these readings coming in from both of those missions likely going to be enough for them to make some changes in the forecast?

DYKE: So aerial weather reconnaissance is one piece of a larger picture. So the folks at the National Hurricane Center, they're really looking at the larger and the bigger picture of things. Our aircraft reconnaissance could be coming in with one wind speed, and they could be getting different day from other sources and other places saying, well, yes, there's this, and then that, and the other.

Another thing to pick up on is where those wind speeds are occurring, right. So if we're picking up on those winds at flight level, they may have surface readings that are saying something completely different. So they're looking at the much broader and bigger picture of things. Certainly, it is a contributing factor in the decision- making process.

CHINCHAR: OK. Perfect, thank you so much. Thank you again for joining us, that's Major Chris Dyke. Victor and Christi, back to you.

PAUL: Allison, thank you so much. That is an ominous piece of video behind her.

BLACKWELL: Especially with the numbers that they've reported.

PAUL: The numbers and everything, yes. Let's bring in CNN's Rosa Flores in Miami. Rosa, I'm sure you just heard what they were saying there.

[10:05:03] I know that Miami technically out of the cone that they talk about, but it's really on the edge of it. So what are people doing?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People are still preparing. Officials here are still asking people to be vigilant because of that factor. So let me give you a quick run through. The facts first here from the CNN Weather Center. Miami is indeed outside of the cone of uncertainty. That is the good news. However, we are still expecting high category one, low category two strength winds. That could cause power outages. We're also expecting heavy rain. That will cause flooding.

Here's the other good news. No storm surge is expected here. But take a look around me. I'm in a sandbagging station. You can see the crews here are working because officials are still asking people to be vigilant. People here in Miami Beach have been in line getting these sandbags. There is seasonal king tide going on right now.

So Christi and Victor, you don't even have to have rain in Miami for water to start bubbling up, and flooding, some of these neighborhoods. So people here take this very seriously. They have been getting sandbags all morning, taking them to their homes, preparing, even though, like I said, according to our CNN weather center, Miami is outside of that cone of uncertainty. But I think the word for this hurricane is uncertainty, at least it has been so far. Christi and Victor?

BLACKWELL: Rosa Flores for us there in Miami. And again, we are waiting for a news conference to start. Carlos Jimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade scheduled to start here in just a few moments. When that happens, of course, the latest on Dorian and how they're preparing. We will bring that to you. You see that podium there on the right of your screen.

Now, as we have said that Dorian may have veered away from Florida, still not clear of trouble.

PAUL: Yes, and Governor Ron DeSantis very well aware of that. Listen to what he's saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R-FL): There is still significant chance of a strike on the state of Florida. If you look at that cone, anyone inside that cone needs to be prepared.

I think people are going to probably still understand that preparations need to be made, and understand, even if it doesn't directly strike Florida, this is a big powerful storm, you're still looking at really significant storm surge on the east coast of Florida. You're looking at major flooding events.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Now, listen, there are millions of senior citizens in Florida, and gathering necessary food and water and medicine to try to ride out a storm, that alone can be difficult.

BLACKWELL: Wendi Lane from CNN affiliate WFTS caught up with one woman. She's in Rural Highlands County racing to prepare for hurricane Dorian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WENDI LANE, REPORTER, WFTS: In an hours long line of people desperately waiting for generators, they're remembering hurricane Irma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very scary. The house would creak. The windows from bow.

LANE: During Irma, hurricane force winds caused areas of Highlands County to lose power for days, even weeks. Now Dorian is posing the same threat.

PAULA CHANEY, HIGHLANDS COUNTY RESIDENT: And we pray to the lord that he keeps us safe and everybody else.

LANE: And 78-year-old Paula Cheney suffers from numerous health problems, but not as many as her 82-year-old husband who she cares for.

CHANEY: I'm giving him I.V. antibiotics at night. He's on an oxygen concentrator.

LANE: Among other medical equipment. That's why they need a generator. Paula got her generator, and we followed her out. She explained how hard it's been to prepare.

CHANEY: I'm not even thinking about it. My mind is somewhere else right now. It has to be because I can't -- I can't wrap my mind around the whole thing. So all I can do is just keep praying to the lord.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He'll help you. God is good.

LANE: And he was listening, sending some hope, in the form of 79- year-old June who was also listening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll call you.

LANE: And offered to help Paula and her husband with anything they need.

CHANEY: Give me a hug.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've needed help a lot of times.

CHANEY: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're welcome.

LANE: A community in rural Florida embracing each other as they brace for the storm.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: We'll continue to follow that, but there is some breaking news we want to get to in Hong Kong. All morning protesters have been out there, take a look at this. They've been setting fires, they've been setting up barricades, throwing petrol bombs, using lasers to try to disorient or confuse the police. And on the opposite end of that, police are trying to control those crowds. You can hear them. Do you hear this, hear all the noise that's going on there?

[10:10:03] Tear gas and water cannons with blue dye have been used by police. The blue dye, the reasoning for that is so they can later identify those protesters who they may want to arrest.

BLACKWELL: Now, you saw -- you can see the blue dye there. There's the video of them spraying the blue dye there. The time now, 10:10 p.m. there in Hong Kong, and it's usually when the sun goes down late into the evening that any permitted protests turn into those more dangerous protests. That's what we're seeing here. The 13th weekend of this started with wanting an extradition bill, people who are charged in Hong Kong being extradited potentially to Beijing for prosecution. Protesters wanting that bill pulled. It was tabled.

They also want the resignation of the chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam. That has not happened. They want an end to what they describe as police brutality. They want accountability for those officers.

Let's go now to our Paula Hancocks who's been on the scene for several hours now. What are the protests looking like now? I see you've had the opportunity to take off the gas mask. That suggests that no tear gas in the air?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, yes. The air has cleared, I'm happy to say. And you can see that the police are now starting to retreat. They've just all gone into their vans. They're moving on potentially to another area. We're hearing there are some pockets of violence elsewhere in the city. But here in Causeway Bay, which is one of the high-end areas in the

shopping districts in Hong Kong, they have moved out. Now, there were a number of passers-by, people in nearby shops that came out to see their retreat, and they were being jeered and cheered as they were leaving, so it just shows that passions are still very high here.

I just want to show you over here, to give you an idea of what some of these protesters have been doing, these are the bricks that they have pulled up from the streets here. This is the paving stones -- this was the pavement, the sidewalk at one point. But that has all been pulled up, and these were what was being thrown at the police, which they then responded to with tear gas and also with the water cannon.

And just over here, this is the area where a couple of hours ago we saw fires being burned. You can see that the protesters are trying to blockade some of these roads to make sure that police couldn't get through. Now, they did manage to get through. The last hour we have seen a number of people being arrested. Police systematically working their way down each street one by one and making sure that whoever they believed was one of the ring leaders of this, or one of the real hardcore troublemakers that they then have them in custody. But it just shows 13 weekends this is now, the 13th consecutive weekend. This is showing no signs of letting up.

PAUL: Not only that, I'm wondering it almost seems like it's getting worse week by week. Paula Hancocks, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So listen to this, an Arkansas woman, she was drowning in her car. She called 911 desperate for help. The newly released audio reveals that she spent the final minutes of her life being scolded by the 911 dispatcher.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:17:11] BLACKWELL: Twenty-two minutes, that's how long a newspaper delivery woman in Arkansas pleaded for help. This was happening as flood waters started swallowing her SUV.

PAUL: And now we have new audio of her 911 call that reveals a really disturbing reaction from the 911 dispatcher. CNN's Polo Sandoval following this from New York, and this is hard to listen to.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, Christi, you listened to that call yourselves. It is clearly upsetting to hear the desperation, to hear the panic in the voice of Debra Stevens. She's a 47-year-old whose final words were recorded about a week ago during a 911 call that she made into the Fort Smith, Arkansas, police.

The quick backstory here. Rising flood waters had started to overtake her SUV as she was out on her normal newspaper delivery route. And then you listen to the audio that was released by police. It reveals the tone of a dispatcher that the police themselves are calling both callous and uncaring at times. I want to play you a portion of that 911 call, and again, a warning, the audio itself is extremely upsetting to hear. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not going to die. Hold on for a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I need an officer, I'm sorry --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand that you're scared, but there's nothing I can do sitting in a chair. So you're going to have to hold on, and I'm going to send you somebody, OK?

You're not going to die. I don't know why you're freaking out. It's OK. I know the water level is high.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm scared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand that. But you're freaking out, doing nothing but losing your oxygen up in there. So just calm down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When are they going to be here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As soon as they get there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: I listened to the rest of the call. It does get even more disturbing as it goes on. Debra Stevens says, quote, "I'm scared. I've never had anything like this happen to me before." The dispatcher responds, "this will teach you next time don't drive in the water." Debra Stevens says "I'm going to die." The dispatcher then responds, "Ms. Debbie, you're breathing just fine because you're screaming at me, so calm down. I know you're scared. Hold on for me." Stevens is not heard again, and not long after that, rescuers did finally reach the SUV about 58 minutes after the end of the call. Sadly, they could not revive her. The interim police chief had this reaction to what you just heard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANNY BAKER, FORT SMITH INTERIM POLICE CHIEF: I completely understand the disgust and the concern that we all have. I understand that listening to a person going through the panic that Ms. Stevens was in those final moments of her life, and we would all hope that we would get a little bit better response than perhaps what she was given.

I don't want us interacting with anybody in that way, whether it's a life and death situation or not. It's absolutely no criminal, we've looked at that, and there's -- she did nothing criminally wrong. I'm not even going to go so far as to say she violated policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[10:20:00] SANDOVAL: Police say the dispatcher had turned in her two weeks notice before the call had come in, so she was, Victor and Christi, working her last shift when she received a call from Ms. Stevens. Obviously just heard from the police chief, no criminal charges expected here, possibly no policy violations. However, it certainly does beg a closer look at some of the tones that are used by dispatchers at that department.

PAUL: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you for walking us through it.

BLACKWELL: All right, coming up, hurricane Dorian, the projection as of 10:20 eastern is that it won't have a Florida landfall, but a lot of people are getting out of town anyway, and there are long lines at the gas stations. We'll have a live report next.

PAUL: And Senator Bernie Sanders says he's coming up with a plan to wipe out billions of dollars of medical debt. When you read the plan, you think, wait a minute, is he telling voters what they want to hear or is there some way to back this up? Our experts are weighing in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: It's 10:24, and here's what we know right now. Hurricane Dorian is already a major category four storm, and it is intensifying by the hour still as it turns towards the east coast.

BLACKWELL: Now, parts of the Bahamas are bracing for a direct hit with predictions of extreme flooding and potentially deadly storm surges.

PAUL: The latest track shows the hurricane ending up or heading up the east coast. There is still question about exactly where it will make landfall, but anywhere from Florida to Georgia and into the Carolinas is vulnerable here.

BLACKWELL: So Florida, you see the storm behind us, it's headed due west here. It may not get a direct hit from the eye wall of Dorian, but it's still going to get a lot of that rain and wind. Florida's Space Coast is preparing for whatever the hurricane may bring.

[10:25:07] PAUL: NASA is not taking chance. There's a Community Space Center spokesperson who said NASA's mobile launch platform is being moved inside, because, think about it, this is their only platform available for the space launch system, so they have to make sure that it doesn't get any damage.

CNN's Nick Valencia is on Florida's Space Coast in Cocoa Beach specifically. I know it looks beautiful there right now, Nick, but with the way this storm is intensifying, I have to assume that the people down there are anxious really because they just don't know what's coming.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It appears as though from the latest weather model that Florida will be spared a direct hit from hurricane Dorian. But that doesn't mean it's stopped preparations here. It was late last night, as a matter of fact, that the Brevard County Sheriff's Office issued mandatory evacuations. Starting on Sunday they want residents to start evacuating about 8:00 a.m.

Preparations are under way. We just saw some new video. This is a holiday weekend, guys. We want to show you some drone video of what the beach looks like right now. This is drone video shot by CNN photographer Jerry Simonson, and it gives you a look, a live look -- not a live look, just a short time ago -- but a look at just what the beach looks like right now. It's virtually empty. Not a lot of people out here. You saw behind me the red flag warning just going up a little while ago, hazardous conditions in the water. We've heard of countless cancellations, hotel cancellations all up and down the eastern coast of Florida because up until just yesterday it was predicted that Florida was going to take a direct hit. It looks like that is going to go a little bit north.

But the Brevard County Sheriff's Office stressing to residents here that you need to prepare for the worst. In fact, just a short time ago we were driving around this community. We saw businesses taking those warnings, plywood going up, residences yesterday, we saw some of them, anyway, around the area had already been boarded up. Not quite the sense of panic here, though, that there was just a few days ago, but people still very much still guarded, guys. Victor and Christi?

BLACKWELL: Nick Valencia for us there on Cocoa Beach, an empty Cocoa Beach. Thanks so much.

Florida's billion-dollar tourism industry is bracing for any damage that hurricane Dorian might bring to the sunshine state.

PAUL: Might have already brought it if people are changing their plans. Sarah Hollenbeck from CNN affiliate WFTS has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARAH HOLLENBECK, REPORTER, WFTS: The McCall (ph) family has a little extra room to enjoy the sun and surf this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's definitely a little more elbowroom this time around.

HOLLENBECK: The McCalls (ph) visit the Trade Winds Island Grand Resort every year on the last weekend before the kids go back to school in New Jersey. Even hurricane Dorian not reason enough to break tradition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So instead of going away from the bad weather, we're going towards the bad weather.

HOLLENBECK: Not many families are following their lead. Two weeks ago, the Trade Winds was booked solid for the holiday weekend. Now they're down to 30 percent occupancy, and that's including several new bookings from Duke Energy linemen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The timing is pretty bad on this one. This is our last big holiday weekend of the year.

HOLLENBECK: Beach businesses count on a busy Labor Day weekend to carry them through September, the slowest month of the year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mother Nature doesn't plan things accordingly, does she? It is a little economically stressful for all of our businesses.

HOLLENBECK: Tourism leaders also worry about the bigger picture. If hurricane Dorian causes severe damage, it could throw a wrench in the entire tourism industry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our insurance premiums go up. The cost of construction goes up. Supplies go up. So nobody really wants to see a storm hit Florida in any capacity.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: And thanks to our affiliate WFTS there for the report.

We do want to check in with Brian Todd. He's live along the Florida turnpike there in West Palm Beach.

BLACKWELL: Brian, we know that the fuel has been a concern, but also people getting out of town. Now that the track is changing, are we seeing that rush out of the area?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, we're not really seeing that at the moment because the evacuation dynamic is in flux. As you mentioned, we're here by the northbound lanes of the Florida turnpike. This is the main evacuation route out of south Florida and to points north for people trying to get away from these storms.

What we're told by Palm Beach County officials is that because the storm track has changed, they are going to reassess. They're holding a meeting shortly. They were going to issue mandatory evacuations for some areas of Palm Beach County tomorrow, but now they're kind of reassessing it. Do they really need to do that? Do they want to get people out in the northbound lanes all at once? Do they want to get hundreds of thousands of people northbound all at once, even when it seemed like this storm was going to maybe take a direct hit right here?

They didn't necessarily want to get everybody out northbound at once because they know, and they know even more now, that this storm is going to probably track north. They didn't want to get all these people on the highway, maybe millions of them at a time, moving north to possibly get stuck in the storm if they maybe got on the road a little bit too late.

I think I heard you mention another issue was fuel. This is the west palm beach service plaza. This is not one of the areas that's run out of fuel, pretty well-organized operation over here.

[10:30:06] They want to get the word out to people, they've got thousands of gallons of fuel left. They're not the case for places over by Palm Beach proper in town that we were at earlier. So there have been fuel shortages, but there is still fuel available in some of these evacuation routes, guys.

BLACKWELL: Brian Todd for us there. Brian, thank you very much.

PAUL: So let's talk about Georgia, because the governor has declared a state of emergency for 12 counties, actually did that on Thursday, but it's not residents of the coastal counties who just need to prepare. On the phone with us now, Lisa Rodriguez-Presley. She's the external affairs supervisor for Georgia's Emergency Management. Thank you so much, Lisa, for being with us. First and foremost, I want to get your reaction to the news this morning that the track seems to be shifting, and Georgia's coast is more vulnerable now to this hurricane. What's your reaction to that?

LISA RODRIGUEZ-PRESLEY, EXTERNAL AFFAIRS SUPERVISOR, GEORGIA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: So we saw that the projected -- excuse me, the projected trajectory and overall strength had changed overnight, and although we don't know what the track is going to be, we're preparing for all contingencies.

PAUL: It's interesting because an engineering professor at Georgia Tech, Herman Fritz, said forecasting models are most reliable three days out. That's where we are right now. I don't know if it makes anybody feel better. What about you?

RODRIGUEZ-PRESLEY: Well, the thing is people just need to make sure that they're prepared the best way that they can be. We don't have any idea of where exactly this storm is going to be in three days. We have models predicting, but we've seen so much variance in those projections over the past couple of days, things could still change. But we encourage people to make sure they are prepared now. Go ahead and start taking those steps to make sure that you're ready regardless of what's happening. If we have some sort of intense coastal impacts, if it bypasses us, just make sure you're ready to go now.

PAUL: So Lisa, I know that people on Georgia's coast are still recovering from hurricane Michael last year. There were crops, specifically pecan and cotton crops that suffered $2.5 billion in damages. Farmers are anxious. There was one man in the area telling the "Atlanta Journal Constitution," he said, quote, I don't know if we can stand another one, referring to this hurricane. Do you have that same fear?

RODRIGUEZ-PRESLEY: At this point, again, it's too early to tell exactly what those impacts are going to be, and I'm not going to speculate in regards to that. But the main thing that we want to stress to people is that we are here. We are getting Georgia ready. We are prepared for whatever contingencies there are. We're working with our state and with our federal partners. We're in constant communication with all of them. So we just want to make sure that people -- that the priority is always going to be the lives of Georgians, and that's our biggest concern right now.

PAUL: Sure. OK, Lisa Rodriguez-Presley, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

Even Atlanta Motor Speedway is opening their camping facilities to people who are evacuating the coast as well. So Georgia is definitely getting ready.

BLACKWELL: All right. Turning to 2020 now, former Vice President Joe Biden is not apologizing despite telling a moving but untrue war story on the campaign trail. Is criticism that the former vice president has a problem with getting the facts right fair?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:37:01] BLACKWELL: Former Vice President Joe Biden is standing by a moving war story he told on the campaign trail this week despite "Washington Post" report that it really didn't happen the way he explained it. "The Post" describes Biden's story like this, "In the space of three minutes, Biden got the time period, 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."

Let's discuss with CNN Reporter Daniel Dale. Daniel, thanks for being with us. First, we've described what he got wrong here. The question is, there is this primary issue of getting it wrong. We'll talk about it in comparison or by comparison to President Trump in a moment, but just getting it wrong, and then saying I don't see the problem here, that may be a problem for him, or no?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Yes, it may or may not be. One of the things we've learned from Trump is that there can be a political advantage to never apologizing, to just plowing ahead, saying I was right, and showing voters that you're defiant in the face of criticism from, frankly, a mainstream media that a lot of voters on both sides don't really like.

On the other hand, I know just from my Twitter mentions and elsewhere, there are people who are bothered by this digging in, who say look, we understand that you're going to make mistakes, but at least own up to them. And that's something for a lot of Democratic voters they don't like in Trump and they want to see from their Democratic candidates.

BLACKWELL: So there is this recent history that's continuing now of the former vice president either refusing to apologize or acknowledge or delaying acknowledging his role when Democrats, we're talking about Democrats specifically, want that acknowledgment or an apology.

I just wrote down a list here. It took him decades to reach out to Anita Hill, and she was not satisfied with that call. He denies that his 1994 crime bill had any impact on mass incarceration, although President Clinton, who signed it, admitted that they were wrong. It took him weeks to apologize for comments about segregationist senators. His interactions with women that made some uncomfortable, he said that he's not apologizing for anything he's ever done. Does this trend appear to hinder him politically?

DALE: Again, I think it's hard to say. I know there are people who love him for it. They say he is who he is. He's authentic. He says what he means. He's heartfelt. And then there are other people who say, look, other people have evolved. Barack Obama evolved. Why can't you admit quicker? Why does it take so much prodding for you to acknowledge errors? I think you have people on both sides of this.

BLACKWELL: So "The Washington Post," Glenn Kessler specifically, has counted more than 12,000 times that President Trump has made false or misleading claims, and he's not apologized for any of those. As a fact checker, how do you approach the question of comparison, scale and scope, when you're looking at this specific or even trend with former vice president Biden and what we're seeing from President Trump?

DALE: It's a great question. I think you have to do two things. One, I think you have to fact check Biden and the other Democrats. You can't ignore when they get things wrong. This is important, and I know it's important to many Democratic voters.

[10:40:06] At the same time, I think we have to be very clear about the comparative scale here. Specifically, there is no comparison between Biden or any other candidate in that Democratic field and President Trump. Trump is on a whole other plane. And so when we do point out Biden's false claims, and I think we have to, I think we should also note, look, Trump is very different.

BLACKWELL: Daniel Dale, thanks so much.

DALE: Thank you.

PAUL: Senator Bernie Sanders says he's coming with a plan that would erase billions of dollars in medical debt. He's making a direct play maybe for Elizabeth Warren's supporters some might say. We're going to discuss with our political reporters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: So where Dorian will make landfall, if it does, is really unclear right now. It's headed for the southeastern coast of the U.S., and people are being told to expect hurricane force winds, major flooding, severe storm surges, and that as FEMA does not have a permanent director confirmed by the Senate to coordinate relief efforts. President Trump says he's OK with that. So should everyone else be OK with it too?

[10:45:08] I'm joined by CNN political commentator Karen Finney and Republican strategist Brian Robinson. Welcome to both of you. Karen, let me start with you with that question. We've got the Acting Administrator, Peter Gaynor, at FEMA, which is in Homeland Security under the Acting Secretary McAleenan. Is there an impact of these temporary hits?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. There are a couple of different things. Number on, on the basic level, just the experience and institutional knowledge you tend to have when you have acting people, then you tend to have someone who maybe hasn't been through these kinds of disasters or experiences, maybe hasn't had to coordinate or work with the local resources and is sort of learning on the job.

But that being said, it does seem like from what I heard yesterday that they are coordinating fairly well. What I will say, though, is problematic is these actin is that these tend to be people that are easily hired and fired with no real accountability. So hopefully this person, it sounds like they do, understands that there will be a lot of accountability if -- we all certainly hope that the storm does not hit and that there is not great damage, but we don't want to see another Brownie situation, heck of a job, Brownie, like we saw in New Orleans.

BLACKWELL: Brian, what do you think?

BRIAN ROBINSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't know that there's any FEMA director that is going to able to not have a Katrina if we have something of that size. They don't get to determine what infrastructure has been put in for decades before.

What matters here is having that institutional knowledge, and is the preparation being done, and by all accounts it is, that this is under control as much as it can be. Look, no FEMA director is going to stop a hurricane from hitting, and none is going to stop the destruction that's going to come if it hits at the force that it looks like right now. So the preparations are being done. We have the institutional knowledge in place. Whether or not they have an acting title or not is really irrelevant. We have a large bureaucracy of people who have been there for many years. And you also have the state officials being deployed in Georgia and in Florida, and they're going to be working hand in hand. So whether or not they have a title doesn't matter.

BLACKWELL: OK, let's talk now -- go ahead, Karen, you want to wrap this up?

FINNEY: I was going to say, it's not just the preplanning. Part of the problem in Katrina, and part of the problem when you have someone who doesn't have experience is also the response, right? How quickly you get resources in place. How quickly the person understands and knows what kind of resources need to get where. So sure, we can't control the storm, but we can certainly control what we do before and how we respond after.

BLACKWELL: So the president has canceled this trip to Poland, he said to stay and monitor and prepare for the storm. We've got reports from our pool that he is at Trump National playing golf right now. Your thoughts, Karen?

FINNEY: Not a good look, although, thankfully it appears that the storm is still offshore. And look, I think the week after we heard about the president complaining about going to the G7 it was pretty clear the real reason why this president decided he didn't want to go to Poland. I had heard from reporters who were supposed to go with him on that trip that it was over the course of the week getting shorter and shorter and shorter. So I think this gave him a bit of an excuse to not have to go, and not surprised that he's out golfing today.

BLACKWELL: Brian?

ROBINSON: That may be true as far as him not wanting to go to Poland. But there is a big difference between being on the other side of the Potomac and the other side of the Atlantic. And so I don't think there's any preparation that's not being done because he's out golfing today. And look, it's in the 70s and sunny outside, we're two to three days away from this even possibly making landfall. So forgive me if I'm not outraged, and forgive me if I think it's fine that before he may have a really busy workweek he goes and gets a little bit of exercise out in the sunshine. Good for him. I think it's good for all of us.

BLACKWELL: Let's see where the governors of Florida and Georgia are right now. I'm sure they're not out playing golf right now. We saw DeSantis at a news conference this morning.

Let's move on to Senator Bernie Sanders, released an outline of a plan to cancel $81 billion of medical debt. According to the proposal, let me read this here, the federal government will negotiate and pay off past due medical bills in collection that have been reported to credit agencies. No explanation yet of how they're going to pay for this. The campaign says that could come within the next month. Karen, is this something the federal government should do, pay the individual bills to health care companies and to hospitals and collection agencies of Americans?

FINNEY: This is going to be one where the devil's in the details, where the details are really going to matter. Obviously, we know medical debt in this country is a huge problem, and it stifles families across this country. So it's certainly a problem that if the federal government, if there's a way to help deal with it, that's probably something worth looking at.

[10:50:06] BLACKWELL: But just pay them off? Pay the hospitals?

FINNEY: Paying it off I think is probably a little bit too far. But just politically speaking, can I just say, let's remember the race is tightening. Senator Sanders and Senator Warren have a lot of similarities. So this has a feel to me of something that you kind of throw it out there for people to talk about and hope that it helps hold onto your supporters.

BLACKWELL: Brian, I see you nodding there.

FINNEY: She's absolutely right. It is not a serious policy solution, and I appreciate her even saying paying off all debt goes too far. It would create a tremendous moral hazard. People would pay off other debts and keep the medical debt knowing they'd get a bailout.

And that's not to diminish the pain and the suffering of those who get sick and go bankrupt. That's a serious problem in this country, and I hope that Republicans have a serious solution for it moving forward, too. More people -- it is a serious problem, but paying off debt that's already been accrued is very dangerous and creates bigger problems.

BLACKWELL: The answer, the suggestion that a policy was coming was kind of dropped into an answer of a town hall on Friday, and then today this kind of outline comes with no explanation of who's debt fits into that $81 billion and how they're going to pay for it. So hopefully we get some clarity on that coming up.

ROBINSON: And it won't be $81 billion.

BLACKWELL: Well, it depends on who fits into that category. All right, Brian, Karen, thank you both.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

FINNEY: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Quick break, we'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:55:08] PAUL: All righty, so I don't know how many people really realize how much donkeys played a critical role in American history the way that they were used to help build railroads and other infrastructure.

BLACKWELL: Today, they are misunderstood, often abandoned, abused, but they have a champion in this week's CNN Hero. Mark Meyers saved more than 13,000 donkeys, giving them a second chance at life finding forever homes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK MEYERS, CNN HERO: Donkeys speak to my soul.

That lip will come right loose, won't it?

Donkeys are like dogs. They're amazing animals that nobody gets. I understand what they're thinking, and there's so many donkeys in so many places that need so much help.

There's nothing cuter than a baby donkey.

We're saving them. We're improving their lives. I want to see every donkey find its happiness, its happy place, its peaceful place.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: To see more of these incredible animals and more of Mark's work, go to CNNHeroes.com.

PAUL: Listen, we always appreciate you spending time with us in the morning. Don't forget to tweet us. We'd love to hear from you, @Christi_Paul and @VictorBlackwell. We hope you make good memories today.

BLACKWELL: There's much more ahead in the next hour in CNN's Newsroom. Fredricka Whitfield is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We're following breaking news this hour. Brand new details now about the path of hurricane Dorian, the major Category four storm shifting east, putting millions more Americans in its dangerous path as the strike zone now widens to include Georgia and the Carolinas. The storm is rapidly intensifying with winds of 150 miles per hour.

[11:00:00]