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Hurricane Dorian Heads for the U.S.; Hong Kong Demonstrators Rally after Police Arrest Activists; Boris Johnson's Suspension of Parliament Sparks Brexit Protests; Trump's Tweeted Iran Photo May Be Classified; Trump's Personal Assistant Out; Great Barrier Reef Downgraded to "Very Poor" Health. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 31, 2019 - 03:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Bracing for Hurricane Dorian. That monster storm barreling toward the Bahamas. Florida is next and it's gaining strength as we speak.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Also this hour, following days of arrests, protesters in Hong Kong are capping off the week with another march.

HOWELL (voice-over): And you know that saying, a picture's worth a thousand words. Well, this time it's worth 280 characters. A tweet from the U.S. president could be a matter of national security.

ALLEN (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. We're coming to you live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

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


ALLEN: And we begin with Hurricane Dorian. A massive storm gaining strength in the Atlantic with the path set for Florida.

HOWELL: Here's the thing. In just 24 hours, Dorian went from a category 1 to an extremely dangerous category 4, with maximum sustained winds of 140 miles or 220 kilometers per hour.

ALLEN: It is still unclear, as you can see from this graphic here, exactly where Dorian will make landfall. Right now it is projected to hit near Melbourne, Florida, that's in the middle of the state on Tuesday, and continue up the coast.

HOWELL: And again, let's take a look at this storm from the International Space Station. Wow. And keep in mind it's still just a day away from the Bahamas. Hurricane warnings there and evacuation orders are already in effect. And they're preparing as best they can for a lot of rain and flash flooding. (WEATHER REPORT)

ALLEN: Well, with almost the entire state of Florida in the cone of uncertainty officials are warning everyone to be prepared --


ALLEN: -- of course, before time runs out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We anticipate a lot of rain. Losing power is a big probability. You're also 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.


HOWELL: So take precautions. Well, officials say they want everyone to have seven days' worth of food, of water and emergency supplies for after the storm comes through. They also want everyone to have a full tank of gas in case they're ordered to evacuate.

ALLEN: Some counties are likely to do that as the storm gets closer, like Palm Beach County. That's where we find CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, officials in Palm Beach County tell CNN they expect to order mandatory evacuations beginning Sunday morning. But they can't force people out of their homes.

Mayor Mack Bernard says they won't ask all the county's 1.5 million residents to get out, but those in some coastal areas and inland neighborhoods with mobile homes will be asked to leave.

(on camera): What is the biggest mistake that people make in the run- up to a hurricane?

MACK BERNARD, MAYOR OF PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, the biggest mistake is not preparing. And they don't have food and they don't have the right water. And so it's really to be prepared. And then also, after the hurricane, sometimes, we lose lives because people are running their generators and so they don't know how to operate it.

TODD (voice-over): The rest of the state is also preparing for evacuations.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): For certain people, it's going to be necessary and certain communities are going to need to do that.

TODD: Miami-Dade and Broward counties preparing local states of emergency to prepare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gives our county administrator the authority to direct evacuation of appropriate areas.

TODD: Meantime, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says there is now a fuel shortage across the state.

DESANTIS: We're constantly having trucks being refueled at the ports and then going to fill up these tanks at the gas stations. We have also gotten Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi to waive their weight restrictions on trucks, so that we can bring in more fuel from out of state.

TODD: At this Wawa gas station, lines have been winding around the corner and down a couple of blocks.

LARRY PECK, PALM BEACH WAWA GENERAL MANAGER: Pump number three is ready. Pump number three.

TODD: General manager Larry Peck has been manning the station 18 hours a day. (on camera): But do people -- as we get closer to the storm, do they

start to panic a little bit? Do tempers flare? What goes on?

PECK: They do. I mean, they do. They get a little bit antsy, but I think, because of the seriousness of this storm, I see this happening a lot sooner.

TODD (voice-over): Peck says he ran out of regular unleaded gas, but a tanker brought more in. His customers are concerned about running low, filling containers for generators, filling their cars' tanks if they need to evacuate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just need gas in my car just in case if I have to leave, go elsewhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If something drastic happens and we might have to evacuate, got to have a car.

TODD: Residents also scrambling to stock up on supplies, water and other essentials...

DEBORAH THOMAS, WEST PALM BEACH RESIDENT: It's just stressful. I have been through this a couple times in the last 15 years and this is the worst so far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything who needs water, you have to get in this line.

TODD: -- as businesses rush to restock empty shelves.

To illustrate how difficult the evacuation dynamics are, the Palm Beach County mayor told us they are reluctant to get hundreds of thousands or even millions of people out on the road all at once heading north because they know there's a good chance Dorian will move north once it makes landfall.

They're concerned if too many people go out on the road all at once and head north, they could get caught in the storm as they try to move -- Brian Todd, CNN, Palm Springs, Florida.


HOWELL: That's the thing, Natalie. I talked to a friend the other night, who's debating, do we stay, do we leave? They're watching so closely with what happens with this storm track.

ALLEN: And how do they make that decision right now?

Because it's so uncertain.

But as we've been saying for now the hurricane is approaching the Bahamas. The hurricane warning for that region has been issued and the prime minister is telling people in the affected areas to leave immediately. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Freeport.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For here in the northwest Bahamas, we've been feeling the wind pick up throughout the day. We've seen some of the first rain bands coming through.

But really Hurricane Dorian is still quite a ways away and the full power of the storm will not be felt until Saturday and into Sunday when this storm could come through here where I am as a powerful category 3 or 4 storm.

And that will have a destructive impact on so many of the low-lying islands. Here where I am, people are being evacuated from lower islands. The highest point of land is only about 30 feet high.

So when you think about the storm surge that could be caused from this very powerful hurricane, that could come up along this coast 10 feet or more, that is quite scary for so many of the residents that live --


OPPMANN: -- along the water. We walked up and down the beaches today and there were few people. People were out buying food and water, gassing up their cars, trying to put storm shutters on their homes, getting everything ready because they know, in the hours ahead, it will become increasingly dangerous to leave their homes.

As we were flying in on Friday on one of the last flights into Freeport here in the Bahamas, we were told that the airport would be shut down soon and that people were not going to be able to leave because it's even more dangerous to go out in a boat now.

We've seen people actually taking their boats from the ocean into the land, trying to get them into areas where they're less likely to be affected.

So officials are saying now is the time to get ready, to get all the items you need to ride out for possibly several days of very dangerous hurricane if you are in the Bahamas. And it is going to be a rough ride ahead. But this point many people here don't have any choice but to get prepared for the worst -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Freeport, the Bahamas.


ALLEN: You have to feel for the people there. Earlier I spoke with Basil Dean at the Bahamas Department of Meteorology and asked him what conditions are like so far as this storm approaches.


BASIL DEAN, BAHAMAS DEPARTMENT OF METEOROLOGY: We have a few clouds. The winds have picked up just a bit looking at around 13 miles per hour. But we do expect that to change over time as Dorian continues to make that trek toward the west-northwest. As you would perhaps know, at 11:00 the maximum sustained winds have been now increased to 140 miles per hour, making it a very dangerous category 4 hurricane.

The good news for us here in New Providence is looking at our satellite imagery the eye is just slightly to the north of New Providence and that should lessen the trek to new providence.

But certainly it will continue to take aim for the extreme northwest Bahamas, in particularly Abaco and Grand Bahama.

And looking at the forecast wind fields, seems as though they will start to experience those tropical storm force winds as early as 4:00 or 5:00 am Sunday morning and, from there onward, things will go downhill as the hurricane force winds are expected to follow.

ALLEN: Right.

How would you characterize a category 4 storm?

And what kind of damage it could do for the Bahamas?

DEAN: All we had to do is go back just a couple of short years; Matthew in 2017 was a category 4, moved through the northwest Bahamas. As a matter of fact clipping the northwest Grand Bahama and they had total devastation in western Grand Bahama.

So those residents in Grand Bahama, they know quite well what a category 4 hurricane can do. And I'm quite pleased as to the level of preparedness that I saw earlier today in the island of Grand Bahama.

It seems as though those two islands are ready for the arrival of rain and we're just continuing to urge those who may still be near those coastal areas to move inland. It's going to be a major factor, heavy rainfalls. And with this there is some slowing down, as of this forecast. That will certainly add to the rainfall accumulation on those islands.


ALLEN: All right. Airports will be closing in the Bahamas and, of course, it will be the first area to feel the brunt of this hurricane.

HOWELL: That's right. Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement is very much alive, despite some

high-profile arrests this week. And now the protesters there have a message for Beijing. They're refusing to be intimidated.

ALLEN: That's coming next. Also Hurricane Dorian gains strength as it makes a beeline for Florida. We'll have more about the preparations.






ALLEN: Hong Kong pro-democracy activists say they will not be stopped by police bans or arrests of prominent activists.

HOWELL: Live pictures right now in Hong Kong. There it is. The 13th straight weekend of these protests. Even though organizers canceled a major march that was planned for Saturday, after police refused to give permission, thousands of protesters are marching right now through central Hong Kong.

And following the story, our Andrew Stevens is on the streets as well.

Andrew, tell us about the mood and the tenor of the protests at this point.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: Truth be told, there's a lot of determination by the protesters here. They are defying a direct police line, which is, you come out here on this day and you are part of an illegal gathering. You are therefore basically vulnerable to arrest and to being charged with illegal assembly.

So they have taken that risk. They have come out in the thousands. Where we are at the moment, we've been following the marches from where they started. They've come on their way to the government house, where the chief executive now lives.

But they met this roadblock. It's a fairly lightly manned roadblock. These are the Hong Kong riot police, which have basically diverted the protesters away from continuing up the hill to stand outside the chief executive's residence.

So what has happened is the protesters pretty much splintered off over the past 10-15 minutes or so and what's likely to happen now is that social media will start sending out messages on where to reconvene, most likely back in the center of town.

It's unlikely this is over yet. But as far as the mood here, George, there have already been flags shown by the police, saying you are part of an illegal gathering and you are now liable for charging. But that has not stopped anyone.

If you come up here a little bit, you'll get an idea just how miserable the conditions have been here. It's been absolutely pouring with rain over the last hour or so. The protesters have thinned out. But like I said, they're more than likely to regroup.

HOWELL: Despite the weather, despite intimidation and even high- profile arrests recently, it seems these protesters are determined to continue.


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

ALLEN: We're going to talk with one of those protesters who was arrested. Joshua Wong is the chair of the Demosisto Party and was one of the pro-democracy activists arrested and released on bail. He joins us now from Hong Kong.

First of all, Joshua, I want you to talk about your arrest and what happened but I also want you to comment on what you're seeing right now on the streets of Hong Kong, people defying this pullback by Hong Kong and still taking to the streets to support your efforts.

JOSHUA WONG, HONG KONG PRO-DEMOCRACY LEADER: Even Hong Kong conduct mass arrests to target activist and lawmaker, especially three lawmakers now are still detained inside police station.

It still encourage more and more Hong Kong people come out to the street just like how people saw, thousands of Hong Kong's people, just scatter in central of Hong Kong island and show that we will not be threatened by Beijing and we will continue with our course on free election. Yesterday, I was arrested but I still joined the protests.

ALLEN: Right. That had to be frightening for you. You were arrested with a handful of other activist leaders.

Is there any part of you that is intimidated now?

WONG: Some of those iconic activists were still detained inside police station and it's hard for us to guarantee when will they be released on bail, which just showed how the crackdown on human rights and how they expected targeted activists or lawmaker could stop the protest.

But just like what happened in the past few hours, Hong Kong people still took to the street.

ALLEN: Do you feel, Joshua, at this point, that this movement is going forward or more backwards?

WONG: People in Hong Kong are preparing to have protests on Hong Kong island today and might be having assembly at Hong Kong International Airport tomorrow or next Monday. It's time for student to have the class boycott. Not only university student but even high school student are ready to

join the strike to show that not only those stand in the front line, not only those progressionists (ph), even youngster born after 2000, those Millennials, are the ones determined and passionate for Hong Kong's future.

ALLEN: But the question is, is Hong Kong, is China, are they listening?

WONG: We have never expected Hong Kong government will listen to our voice because Hong Kong government is just a proxy government. The leader of Hong Kong, which is chief executive, is just a puppet of Communist regime.

But we still keep on our fight because we all know that President Xi and Beijing are facing certain international pressure and the discontent of Hong Kong people and we are just the one demanding our fundamental right to elect our own government, the right enjoyed by the free world since last century.

ALLEN: And are you concerned, though, about China's troop movements?

WONG: We strongly aware how troops in China were moving to the border. Hong Kong government was announced that they consider to execute the emergency ordinance, which mean martial law in Hong Kong.

In the worst scenario, they can cut the transportation, cut the Internet and even cut the air traffic. And all we aware is how they generate the chilling effect, not only result in the crackdown on Hong Kong but also global economy.

And that's the reason for the world to pay attention and send a message to President Xi, sending troops or using martial law must not be the way out.

ALLEN: Joshua Wong, we appreciate you talking with us. Thank you very much.

WONG: Thank you.

HOWELL: Now to the U.K.'s Brexit turmoil. Backlash continues against the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and his move to suspend Parliament. That means lawmakers now have less time to debate Brexit, as the U.K. speeds toward a no-deal exit from the E.U. in October -- October 31st, Halloween, scary.

ALLEN: A former prime minister from Mr. Johnson's own party, John Major, is joining the court battle against him to try to stop the suspension of Parliament in the run-up to Brexit.

HOWELL: In the meantime, Downing Street says U.K. Brexit negotiators will meet with their E.U. counterparts at least twice a week in September. The prime minister saying for both sides to "step up the tempo" on negotiations. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: I think our European friends have understood one or two big points in the last couple of weeks. I think they get that the U.K. is --


JOHNSON: -- really going for a deal, they understand that.

But they also understand that the U.K. is absolutely willing to come out without a deal if we have to, they understand that, too. And we're serious, we're totally serious about both propositions. And I think what that's encouraging is progress.


ALLEN: A judge in Scotland says a case brought by more than 70 anti- Brexit lawmakers will be heard next week but he declined to issue an immediate court order blocking the suspension of Parliament.

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has reached another troubling milestone.

HOWELL: The World Health Organization reports more than 3,000 cases and 2,000 deaths since that outbreak was declared in August of last year.

ALLEN: Medical personnel, we're told, are working to control cross- border transmission of the virus. A 9-year-old girl from Congo died after testing positive for Ebola on the Ugandan border.

HOWELL: Here stateside, we continue covering the hurricane that is moving toward Florida. That state running low on water and gas as this storm approaches. We'll show you how the state is trying to keep everyone safe.

ALLEN: Also, it's not just residents. The hurricane is also affecting tourists, of course, in Florida. Why many of them may have to change flight plans, coming up.




HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. Here are headlines this hour.



HOWELL: Right now everyone in Florida, they are watching these models to find out exactly where this storm is going. But right now people are concerned, trying to ensure their safety before the storm hits.

ALLEN: Nearly 28,000 linemen, tree crews and support personnel are across the state to help restore power quickly. More than 200 generators are being delivered for prestaging throughout the state of Florida.

Several schools have already announced closures, some all the way through the week. And Uber will be providing rides to shelters as these shelters open.

HOWELL: As Florida residents prepare there for the storm, many stores are starting to run out of supplies at least for now.

ALLEN: CNN's Leyla Santiago talks with some shoppers outside of Costco in north Miami.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The manager here tells me they've seen a 60 percent increase in foot traffic. You can see folks are coming out. And this one is a good example. She has her cart filled with water.

That's what we have been seeing for the last few hours that we've been here. People loading up on water, food, anything that they believe they may need, should power go out, should the resources be low if Hurricane Dorian talks a toll here.

We've been talking to people as they've been coming out. One of the things that everyone seems to mention over and over, they say, hey, we remember Irma, we remember what it was like when that happened.

So it looks like you're getting ready for Dorian.

What all did you pick up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A few things for my kids.

SANTIAGO: Buying some things for your kids. What's your biggest concern?

What are you worried about here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, for now believe God to protect us. That's it.

SANTIAGO: Praying right now. Thank you. Please stay safe out there.

But you can already see every single cart that comes out has water, water and basics here as folks are preparing for Hurricane Dorian. I'm going to ask this woman as well.

Ma'am, I see you're coming out with water.

You're ready for the storm?


SANTIAGO: And what else have you picked up here?

You've got some food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whatever I need for the baby.

Whatever you need for the baby. How many days do you think you're prepared for?


SANTIAGO: You don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it's going to be that bad.

SANTIAGO: OK. She's hoping it's not going to be that bad. But I will tell you local officials here have asked people to be prepared for at least seven days.

Sir, you're prepared as well. You've got some water, some eggs, some quinoa, organic quinoa, I'll add that as well. Tell me what you're feeling right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, a little nervous. We moved out from Washington State. So this is our first experience with a hurricane. You know, we have earthquakes up in Washington. So...

SANTIAGO: This is your first hurricane here. OK. Well, stay safe. Thank you so much for sharing what you picked up with us here.

There we go. I think we talked to what, four or five people and you're seeing that people are preparing a little bit of a different tone from people as to whether they think this is serious or not. But clearly they're taking note that this is the time to prepare.

I will make one more note. One woman just came out of there and right before we went live, said, they're out of water. So what you just saw was likely the last bit of water for now. The manager tells me they have trucks picking up more water. But when they will arrive and how long that will last is anyone's guess.


ALLEN: All right. Leyla Santiago for us.

Another aspect, air travel, Orlando's International Airport is taking a cautious approach. It is to stop commercial flight operations starting Monday morning.

HOWELL: CNN's Dianne Gallagher is there and has the story.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the surface things actually look just fine here at -- [03:35:00]

GALLAGHER: -- Orlando International Airport.

But behind the scenes they've been working with federal officials, the airlines, to try and determine exactly what their plan is going to be over the coming days as the hurricane gets closer to making landfall.

They determined that they were going to go ahead and make the call to cease public operations at Orlando International Airport starting at 2:00 am Monday and that basically means that there will be no private citizens, no passengers coming in and out of the airport.

They will then, after the storm passes, reassess the situation, look at the damage, attempt to repair anything that has been fixed and then alert the airlines they're ready to reopen.

But they don't know what the timeframe on that is going to be and for the people coming in and traveling and going in and out of TSA, that may not matter because their airlines could cancel flights ahead of that even happening. That's up to those airlines.

This is a place that was already expecting a significant number of tourists this weekend because it's the last holiday weekend of the summer for so many families. They're talking about 130,000 people coming through this airport each day this weekend. That's without the hurricane at all.

Now so far we haven't seen very many delayed or canceled flights, although some people say that, look, we went ahead and cut our vacation short; we get home a day early because we didn't want to get caught in all of this here.

As far as the theme parks go, Disney has said that it doesn't have anything on the books right now as far as shutting down for the hurricane. But they are going to close their water park, some of their outdoor facilities on Sunday, to prepare for that hurricane making landfall.

Again, you have thousands of people who visit Orlando to go to these tourist attractions. So many of them here this weekend and a lot of them are going to be trying to get out as that hurricane comes in.


ALLEN: OK, Dianne Gallagher, we'll continue to follow it.

Of course we have reporters up and down coast of Florida and in the Bahamas as well.

HOWELL: Still ahead on NEWSROOM, the U.S. president's tweets usually set off alarms with the words that he uses. But this time it's not the words. It's the picture.





ALLEN: Welcome back. The U.S. president says he will follow the developments of the hurricane from Camp David this weekend.

HOWELL: The president spoke to reporters before leaving for the retreat in Maryland. Mr. Trump says that the government is ready to help when the hurricane hits.


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.


ALLEN: CNN's Kaitlan Collins takes a look at the other developments from Friday.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With the new storm barreling toward Puerto Rico, President Trump is reigniting old feuds, blaming the U.S. territory as one of the most corrupt places on earth, tweeting: Their political system is broken and their politicians are either incompetent or corrupt. Congress approved billions of dollars last time and more than any place else has ever gotten and it is sent to crooked politicians. No good.

And by the way, I'm the best thing that's ever happened to Puerto Rico.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump than by any living human being.

COLLINS: Local officials say otherwise, including the San Juan mayor, who feuded with Trump after Hurricane Maria, in 2017, when she blamed his administration for being too slow to respond.

As Puerto Rico and its 3.2 million American citizens brace for another major storm, Trump is shrugging off his role as comforter in chief and focusing on the fuse.

But critics say he should focus on his response, after he tossed paper towels to a crowd the last time he visited the island.

TRUMP: I give ourselves a 10.

COLLINS: While the president is on hurricane watch, he is also criticizing his favorite TV channel, tweeting, today, that: We have to start looking for a new news outlet. Because Fox isn't working for us anymore.

Trump, launching that attack, after the network interviewed a Democratic Party official.

All this, as "The Washington Post" reports he recently told aides, quote: Don't worry, I'll pardon you -- if they have to break the law to get his border wall built by the next election.

TRUMP: The wall is being built. We are building tremendous numbers of miles of wall right now, in different locations.

COLLINS: Trump making that claim last week but officials tell CNN that, as of August, no new miles of his border wall have been built.

Instead, Customs and Border Patrol has replaced roughly 60 miles of barrier that already existed but was deteriorating. Though officials insist there are plans for 110 miles of new wall in place.


ALLEN: Kaitlan Collins there.

Well, since Dorian had minimal impact on Puerto Rico, the government has shifted its staff from Puerto Rico to Florida now.

HOWELL: The U.S. president says that he has the right to post what he wants to post on Twitter.

ALLEN: Those comments coming after this tweet about the explosion of an Iranian rocket. The high resolution of the image prompted questions whether the photo was classified. The tweet says the U.S. was not involved in the accident during the launch, adding a seemingly sarcastic "good luck in determining what happened."

HOWELL: And when questioned by reporters about the tweet, well, here you go.


TRUMP: I just wish Iran well. They had a big problem. And we had a photo and I released it, which I have the absolute right to do. And we'll see what happens. You'll have to figure that one out yourself. You'll see what happens. They had a big mishap. It's unfortunate. And so Iran, as you probably know, they were going to set off a big missile and it didn't work out too well. Had nothing to do with us.


ALLEN: Joining me now is Nathan Gonzalez, a CNN political analyst and editor and publisher of "Inside Elections."

Nathan, good to see you. Thanks for being with us.


Let's begin with the Iran story. What do we know? Do we know anything more about what was behind the photo that the president tweeted?

GONZALES: Well, I think so far there's speculation. I think what we do know is that the president doesn't always need the whole story to run with it, to run with a particular story.

And I think this is just another latest example. I think time will tell whether he violated something or not. But being the president of the United States when it comes to --


GONZALES: -- declassifying information, I believe he can decide whether to declassify something or not.

And so I think this is sort of par for the course. But it's also important because we're talking about a major potential international situation, something that's been ongoing for a while.

ALLEN: Right. He certainly indicated it was his priority. But it still remains a mystery. So that's something we'll continue to follow.

Also on Friday, Mr. Trump talked China tariffs. He would not say whether he would be talking with the Chinese leader over this holiday weekend. But he did point the finger elsewhere when it comes to this ongoing situation, targeting what he called "badly managed companies" using tariffs as an excuse for their businesses' struggles.

How do you read that statement?

GONZALES: Well, the president never admits a mistake and never admits to doing something wrong. So if there's a particular policy that he imposes or puts in place and something goes awry, then there's always someone else or something else to blame.

So I think it's important to remember, when it comes to these tariffs, that he doesn't hold policy positions closely. And what I mean is that, if something isn't going right, he can just turn around, change his mind and he'll declare victory and say, you know what, I did the right thing, it was the best ever and go in a different direction.

And I think he cares about the stock market. He cares about the direction of the economy or how the news coverage around the direction of the economy. So if it continues to snowball into poor coverage or bad coverage, then he's going to shift, adjust, blame and go in another direction.

ALLEN: Right. You've just got to wonder what these companies, how they will react to seeing that the president is looking at them, putting it on an American company over what we have as an international trade war.

GONZALES: I think companies are in a bind with the president because, even though they might be taking unfair blame, they also don't want to get on the president's bad side, where he invokes his Twitter account and is the subject of his ire because that could hurt their business further by people not using or buying their products.

ALLEN: Right. Finally, we have heard about another departure from Mr. Trump's inner circle at the White House. Here's what he had to say about the ousting of his personal assistant, Madeleine Westerhout.


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.


ALLEN: Yes. She apparently violated the first rule of the president's trust.

What do you make of the president's response and how he handled this?

GONZALES: I think it's interesting because you can hear in his voice that the tone was different. It wasn't an immediate punchback. He didn't feel like he got punched in his kind of -- and counterpunching. You can feel a sense of sort of remorse but also he felt like he was wronged.

When it comes to the White House in general, I think it's just a matter of when people leave or when they get on his bad side and not if that happens. It just seems like a scale.

But this is someone who had been in the White House since the beginning. And you know, it appears that she said the wrong thing at the wrong time. And then things can turn quickly.

ALLEN: Yes, so how significant is this departure for the White House?

She was, it seems, his closest personal assistant. And, as you said, she's been with rim from the start. So this seems to add yet another person to the revolving door we've seen time and time again inside the White House.

GONZALES: Only time will tell what it ultimately means. But you're absolutely right that she was considered a gatekeeper. A lot of people went to -- had her trust. The president, there was trust all around. And so she was able to be in a very critical role.

So we'll see who ends up being the replacement and how quickly that trust can be built. But I think the president keeps a pretty tight circle on that inner circle. So for someone to be gone from that, it's not as easy as just appointing someone and coming right in. It will take time. ALLEN: We always appreciate your insights. Nathan Gonzales, thank you for being with us.

GONZALES: Thank you.

ALLEN: And we will be right back.






ALLEN: From all corners of our planet, we now know that the health of this planet is in danger.

HOWELL: People want to deny it.

But you know what?

This is real. The climate crisis is impacting everything, from the glaciers, endangered species, even how much rain falls now. And it could claim another victim. Rick Folbaum has this for you.


RICK FOLBAUM, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The Great Barrier Reef just got a checkup and the prognosis for now is critical. The Australian government says it has downgraded the reef's condition from poor to very poor in a new report that tracks its health every five years. It cites the main reason for the decline as climate change.

SUSSAN LEY, AUSTRALIAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER: This reef has suffered in the last few years. Six cyclones, two major coral bleaching events and various attacks by the predator crown of thorns starfish. So, unsurprisingly, the outlook is that the condition has deteriorated.

FOLBAUM (voice-over): The report says that climate change is escalating, which is increasing sea temperatures and killing off the coral reef, which is home to multitudes of sea creatures.

Just a few years ago marine heat waves caused such extreme bleaching that about half of the corals on the reef were killed. And the report warns it will continue to deteriorate if action is not taken now.

DAVID WACHENFELD, GREAT BARRIER REEF CHIEF SCIENTIST: With the right mix of local actions to improve the resilience of the system and global actions to tackle climate --


WACHENFELD: -- change in the strongest and fastest way possible, we can turn that around.

FOLBAUM (voice-over): Spanning more than 2,300 kilometers, the Great Barrier Reef is teeming with life, including 400 types of coral and 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusks. Some scientists say a small measure of help may be on the way for this largely manmade problem from nature itself.

A chunk of floating lava rock the size of Manhattan is drifting down the Australian coast over the next few months. Experts say it could be like a special delivery of sealife for the reef, as the porous rocks are full of barnacles and corals, which could find a new home in an underwater world that has already lost so much -- Rick Folbaum, CNN.


HOWELL: Rick, thank you.

And, of course, our big story that we're following this day, Hurricane Dorian.

ALLEN: The storm has been gaining strength in the Atlantic and has now become a category 4 hurricane. Right now it is approaching the Bahamas and will likely head northwest toward Florida. We'll continue to track the developments for you in the next hour.

Well, one of the agencies responsible for collecting data on the storm has been NOAA.

HOWELL: And this week one of their flight crews made history. For the first time ever, a NOAA hurricane reconnaissance mission was piloted by an all-female crew. These three pilots took off on Thursday and gathered all kinds of data about the hurricane, from speed to temperature.

ALLEN: The agency says the operation gave scientists and forecasters a detailed look at the structure and intensity of the storm. Again, a category 4 now.

That's it for this hour. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. The news continues right here. Stay with us.