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CNN NEWSROOM

Hurricane Dorian Heads for the U.S.; Hong Kong Demonstrators Rally after Police Arrest Activists; Trump Monitoring Dorian from Camp David; Trump's Personal Assistant Out. Aired 2:30-3a ET

Aired August 31, 2019 - 02:30   ET

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


[02:30:00]

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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Dorian is now a category 4 hurricane as it powers toward the Bahamas and Florida. We have the latest on the storm's path.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And protesters coming together right now in Hong Kong, this despite a police ban following the arrest of seven activists.

ALLEN (voice-over): We're also learning more details about why President Trump's long-time assistant is suddenly out of her job.

Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world, coming to you live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters. NEWSROOM starts right now.

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ALLEN: People in Florida are preparing for the worst as a monster storm heads their way. In a 24-hour period, Hurricane Dorian went from a category 1 to an extremely dangerous category 4, with maximum sustained winds of 140 miles an hour or 220 kilometers.

HOWELL: It's still not known exactly where that storm will make landfall. But right now it's projected to hit near Melbourne, Florida. That's on Tuesday. And then go up the coastline.

Here is a look at the storm from a hurricane hunter aircraft. A hurricane warning is already in effect for the northwestern Bahamas. The prime minister there has issued evacuation orders for some locations ahead of the storm.

ALLEN: Meantime, evacuations in two Florida counties take effect Sunday. The governor is warning people to prepare now.

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REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLA.: We anticipate a lot of rain. Losing power is a big probability. You're also, if you're in an area prone to flooding, you're likely to see that with this storm. It's really, really significant and you need to take precautions.

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HOWELL: The U.S. president is monitoring everything from Camp David. Here's what he had to say earlier as he left the White House.

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TRUMP: The hurricane is roaring and it could be a big one. We're hoping it maybe makes a right and goes up north but that's about a 5 percent chance. It's not looking good. And it's one of the biggest hurricanes we've seen in a long time, a long time. So it could be very devastating.

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[02:35:00]

ALLEN: With the uncertainty over where the storm might land, the entire state of Florida is preparing for the worst and, of course, hoping for the best.

HOWELL: That's right. Our Martin Savidge has more on the urgent preparations there.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, guys, all the way down.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All of Florida is under a state of emergency and the clock is ticking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biggest concern about this storm is the uncertainty of where it is going and the intensity of which it is coming in.

SAVIDGE: Hurricane Dorian now expected to barrel head first into the sunshine state early Tuesday morning is gaining intensity and could now unload heavy rains, powerful winds and a strong storm surge on more than 20 million people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a little concerned that it's getting more and more concerned about what category and what is going to happen because I've never seen a hurricane.

SAVIDGE: Florida's governor said he's contemplating ordering evacuations. But hasn't yet.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): At the state level, you know we've been monitoring some of the decisions or contemplations about evacuations. It is something that we obviously believe, you know, for certain people it's going to be necessary and in certain communities they're going to need to do that. SAVIDGE: But getting out could prove difficult. While there are long lines at gas stations, there is little gas. The state says at times as many as half of the fuel pumps in Miami have run dry.

DESANTIS: Starting today implementing Florida highway patrol escorts for fuel trucks so we can facilitate refueling in critical parts of the state.

SAVIDGE: Those who aren't gassing up are preparing to hunker down.

DEBORAH THOMAS, WEST PALM BEACH RESIDENT: I live in a mobile home so I stand to be homeless but that is not really what is worried me. I have animals. I could replace my home but I can't my animals.

SAVIDGE: In Miami, they're stockpiling food and water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you?

SAVIDGE: Though at some stores that is also in short supply. Florida Power and Light says electricity could be out for days. The company is bringing in 16,000 workers, positioning them at 24 sites across the state.

DESANTIS: The damage that could be required will require extended repair work and at extreme cases it may require FPL to rebuild parts of the system here in Florida.

SAVIDGE: And tonight, Florida's governor is warning those caring for the elderly to have a plan and a generator in place. 12 people died in 2017 after a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, lost power in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

DESANTIS: These folks have got to - have got to step up and protect these folks.

SAVIDGE: More than a dozen universities preparing to shut down along with theme parks and other attractions. In a place that thrives on tourism, what should have been a busy Labor Day weekend is now a bust as the Sunshine State braces for days of rain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're hoping that everything comes out OK. But I'm kind of freaking out.

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ALLEN: Joining me now by phone is William Capote, mayor of Palm Bay, Florida.

Mayor, thanks very much for joining us because we know this is a very busy time.

When you saw that this hurricane is now a category 4, what was your reaction? MAYOR WILLIAM CAPOTE, PALM BAY, FLORIDA: Wow. Here we go again. Matthew, that's the first thing that came to mind. Not so much Irma, because Irma came from the Keys. But Matthew had the similar trajectory. And luckily, it veered into the ocean 25 and missed us. But we felt the winds then.

ALLEN: What's the trajectory as you see it now?

Models have it going all over the place. It looks like much of Florida could be blanketed. But what is the trajectory for Palm Bay right now?

CAPOTE: We're in that line, because that room for error, I think maps would show Brevard County in that red. That could be --

[02:40:00]

CAPOTE: -- from south Florida to here. One time they were talking about Vero Beach all the way to Daytona. Now they've gone as far down as Jupiter and West Palm Beach. So it's all over the place at this time.

But I believe that, to include my city, we declared a state of the city emergency today around 9:30. And we're buckling down to make sure that our residents are safe and that we're ready for whatever comes.

ALLEN: How have people been preparing?

And do you think there will be a mandatory evacuation at some point?

CAPOTE: The barrier islands, I believe they're going make that call rather quickly, because the storm now is at 4. And they don't want to risk anything. So I believe, by Sunday, the order will come through for mandatory evacuation of the barrier islands.

We're more inland in a sense. We're right on the Indian River Lagoon. But then you have the barrier islands on A1A, the Melbourne Beach, Indialantic, Satellite Beach.

ALLEN: Right. And what kind of weather are you seeing there right now?

CAPOTE: Oh, right now, I mean, we've been getting a lot of rain lately but it's been sunny today but then you get little showers here and there. It's Florida. And it's rainy season. So you kind of take it as it comes. You have to take the sun with the rain. It's just when the hurricanes show up, it's a different perspective.

ALLEN: Right. And you're talking about you're a little bit inland. But we've been hearing over and over again that what could be really devastating about this storm is that it is a slow mover.

CAPOTE: Yes. It reminds me of when Fay came here back in 2008-'09 timeframe. We've had our share of tropical storms, hurricanes. And it dumped a lot of water. I believe, if it stays around for that much, it's not so much the winds as so much the water.

Where is the water going to go?

And that's the question.

ALLEN: William Capote, thank you so much.

CAPOTE: Thank you for having me.

HOWELL: At least 10 teenagers were hurt when someone started shooting at a high school football game in Mobile, Alabama. Five victims are said to be in critical but nonlife-threatening condition.

ALLEN: Police say one person suffered a seizure. Another was injured while trying to get away. Two people have been detained. They're being questioned by police. That's all we know right now.

HOWELL: Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, it is very much alive, despite some high-profile arrests that happened this week and now protesters have a message for Beijing, that they're refusing to be intimidated.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. Hong Kong's pro-democracy activists say they won't be stopped by police bans or arrests of prominent activists.

ALLEN: It is the 13th straight weekend of protests, even though organizers canceled a major march that was planned for Saturday after police refused to give permission. Thousands of protesters are marching now through central Hong Kong.

HOWELL: And we're live in Hong Kong with our Andrew Stevens following it all.

Andrew, tell us more about what you're seeing, because clearly protesters are making sure that the government knows they're resilient.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: Absolutely. What we're seeing here, George, is thousands of people once again clogging the streets of Hong Kong on a weekend to make their demonstration, their protest felt.

This is one of the busiest roads leading into the central business area, the heart of Hong Kong, if you like. And it's now, as you can see, a sea of people. There is traffic still moving here but there are thousands and thousands of people now, who met about -- gathered about an hour ago, who are now walking into the central part of Hong Kong.

And we've been talking to them, George, and they're all saying that they are ignoring what the police said. The police said any gathering like this is now illegal. But they are saying we have come to talk and protest about our democratic rights still.

And what we're seeing so far, George, is a very, very low police profile. We've been told, we've seen pictures, that there are police vehicles with water cannons. They are not where we are. We see no police whatsoever where we are.

And this at the moment is the main protest area. But we have been told there are two or three other areas, which will be focused on in the next three or four hours here, including the liaison office, which is really the symbol of Beijing here in Hong Kong.

Already water barriers have been erected around that and, as I say, there are police water cannon vehicles there as well. But at the moment, no protests. This is where we are at the moment. You can hear them chanting behind me.

They're basically saying "Liberate Hong Kong," "Freedom for Hong Kong," and (INAUDIBLE) and the other is "An eye for an eye" in reference to the protester whose eye was severely damaged by a projectile in previous demonstrations. As you can now see, it's now teeming with rain but it hasn't stopped the move here and the protesters, George.

HOWELL: The rain, the weather certainly working against these protesters. There are the intimidation tactics that they say are being used by police and also the rumors that we mentioned earlier, of possibly the Chinese mainland stepping into this.

Is any of that dissuading people from taking part in these protests?

STEVENS: Well, I think if anything, if I understood the question correctly, George, it's actually firing protesters up. As I say, this is an illegal rally. Yesterday seven pro-democracy, high-profile pro- democracy activists were arrested. They were rounded up and arrested, including one of the leaders of the 24 team occupy moment, Joshua Wong.

He is 22 years old and he has already served time in prison. He says very clearly that he is not one of the leaders here.

One of the defining characteristics of this protest is that there is no clear leadership. We also saw this rotation, as the Chinese call it, of PLA, the People's Liberation Army, vehicles going into Hong Kong, rotating with the garrison that is already being staffed here.

So against all that, you're still getting thousands and thousands of people coming out, George. It really is this spirit that the protesters have and remain with, that they are going to see this out.

HOWELL: Andrew Stevens live for us in Hong Kong. Andrew, thank you.

You're watching --

[02:50:00]

HOWELL: -- CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back after the break.

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ALLEN: President Trump said he will be monitoring Hurricane Dorian from Camp David this weekend.

HOWELL: Our Kaitlan Collins has details.

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KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, President Trump at Camp David now, where he's going to spend the weekend monitoring the developments of this storm before returning to Washington on Sunday, where he says he'll get a briefing at the FEMA headquarters.

And that's when he and state and local officials will start making decisions about whether or not there are parts of Florida or other states that could be in the storm's path that they need to evacuate.

He said he's not concerned about the fact that this weekend he's going to be surrounded by some officials who are not in a permanent position in this administration but instead are in an acting role, including the FEMA administrator and the Department of Homeland Security Secretary.

Those two officials have played major roles in help shepherding and navigating the president's response through a natural disaster like this one. The president did comment on that abrupt departure of an aide that is very close to him, someone who has incredibly close access to the Oval Office, Madeleine Westerhout, the president's assistant and scheduler --

[02:55:00]

COLLINS (voice-over): -- who left the administration abruptly this week after it was revealed she was talking about the president's family during what was supposed to be an off-the-record conversation with reporters. The president said he had just spoken with Westerhout and this is what she had to say.

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TRUMP: Well, I guess she said, I think she said some things and she called me, she was very upset. She was very down, and she said she was drinking a little bit, and she was with reporters, and everything she said was off the record and that still doesn't really cover for it, mentioned a couple things about my children.

But she is a very, you know, good person and I thought -- I always felt she did a good job.

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COLLINS: Now the president declined to say whether or not Westerhout had been fired. He instead said he didn't want to say either way. But he made clear that when he learned she had made remarks about his own children, the decision for him was, quote, "an automatic one" -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

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HOWELL: Kaitlan, thank you.

And thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. We'll have our top stories right after this.

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