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Latest on Hurricane Dorian; Dorian Now Category 4, Possibly Headed for Florida; Police React to Hong Kong Protests; President Trump Goes to Camp David, Monitors Hurricane Status; Sen. Bernie Sanders to Release Medical Debt Relief Plan; China Trade Situation. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 31, 2019 - 08:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hurricane Dorian, the National Hurricane Center says it is now an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane, capable of causing catastrophic damage.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A rapid intensification cycle with this particular storm in the last 24 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We anticipate a lot of rain, losing power is a big probability. It's really, really significant and you need to take precautions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody need water? You have to get in this line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're overdue, we might be thinking it's something worse than the last one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody in the state of Florida needs to be prepared, particularly in the eastern half.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is stressful. I've been through this a couple times in the last 15 years and this is the worst so far.


ANNOUNCER: This is "New Day Weekend" with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR PAUL, CNN HOST: And we have breaking news. The National Hurricane Center has just released its latest update for Hurricane Dorian and it is getting stronger.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: We want to get straight to CNN Meteorologist, Allison Chinchar with the latest. What does this mean Allison?

CHINCHAR: Right, so we talked about it when we noticed the hurricane hunter mission just a few moments ago. The winds have increased. We're now up to 145 miles per hour sustained winds gusting up to 165. The movement has also shifted. It had been west-northwest it's now due west at 12 miles per hour. Again, the key thing to note is that it's still intensifying. It's not that, oh, it already did, maybe we're starting to enter a weakening phase. It's still intensifying as we speak so the question then becomes, what happens from here?

The hurricane hunters are still flying over this particular storm taking additional measurements. This will then go into play for the next National Hurricane Center update which comes out at 11:00. Again, there's that pickup with the wind speed they picked up at 145 miles per hour. The track remains the same. That will get updated at that next advisory. The ultimate question now becomes we're only 12 miles per hour off from a category 5. Do they make an adjustment to perhaps see if this storm could get up to a category 5 before it ends up making landfall? Certainly because of that, the Bahamas, Florida, other portions of the United States will be paying very close attention to this. As of now, the track remains the same, still expected to move west towards the Bahamas and at some point, as it nears Florida, it's expected to shift to the north. The ultimate question is when does it do that?

We do have hurricane watches and warnings out for portions of the Bahamas. It is not out of the question guys that those will get added to Florida at some point today or maybe even early tomorrow morning as the storm approaches. Remember, even if this does not make a technical landfall across Florida, but just skirts along the eastern coastline, it doesn't mean they won't issue hurricane warnings for it. Because the wind is spread out so far, they're still likely to have wind gusts along high land category 1 or even category 2, making impacts on cities stretching from Miami all the way to Jacksonville.

PAUL: All right, Allison Chinchar, thank you so much. So, a lot of people are preparing obviously for this, especially Florida's space coast, because they don't know what this is going to bring for them and they have precious cargo that they need to protect.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Kennedy Space Center spokesperson says NASA's mobile launch platform is being moved inside. This is their only platform available for the space launch systems so of course, they don't want the hurricane to damage it.

PAUL: And CNN's Nick Valencia there in Cocoa Beach in fact. Nick, what are you hearing, what are you seeing right now? I know it's beautiful, but despite the new track they're talking about, I know people there are feeling anxious.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very anxious. And there's still a lot of uncertainty, in terms of just exactly where Hurricane Dorian will make direct landfall. It's is not stopping people here though from preparing. You see behind me, you mentioned it is gorgeous. There's still just a few people on the beach. I just talked to one of the park rangers. They said the last couple days the beach has been by and large empty and you know this is a holiday weekend and you would expect a lot more people out. But I did mention earlier, things are getting a lot more serious here. Overnight, there were mandatory evacuations put in place for Brevard County Sheriff's Office for parts of the barrier islands that includes Cocoa Beach where we are. They want residents to start evacuating no later than 8:00 a.m. on Sunday and that includes areas from the Kennedy Space Center to the south beaches of Merritt Island. And it was earlier that I caught up with a resident and asked them

after that 5:00 a.m. forecast came out from the National Hurricane Center showing that Florida may be spared a direct hit, I asked him, does that change your preparations at all? This is what he had to tell me.


KEITH JUDD, COCOA BEACH RESIDENT: You have to prepare for the worst, you know be prepared. I'd rather sit there and say, okay, this missed us. What you want to do is have enough water and stuff to eat -- you know dry stuff, you know crackers, peanut butter, tuna fish, stuff like that. That's the main thing.


VALENCIA: Not quite that feeling of chaos just yet guys but you get the sense there from that local resident that there definitely is people that are very guarded here and preparing for the worst. Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Nick Valencia for us there in Cocoa Beach. Nick, thank you. Let's go now to CNN's Brian Todd in West Palm Beach. Brian, I know there the story has been filling up the gas tank and a lot of those stations running out. Has that tanker to resupply the station where you are, has that arrived yet?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, we've been waiting for this tanker to arrive. We've been told for a couple of hours now that it's very close but it has not arrived yet. They need it to get here. It's got 9,000 gallons of fuel that it's going to leave here for customers and they really do need it. This is that sight that no one wants to see in these situations -- the bag over the handle, diesel gas that only that doesn't help that many people here. They ran out of regular unleaded late last night. They ran out of all other gas at about 12:30 a.m. - 1:00 a.m. overnight but they do anticipate once the tanker gets here, that they will have another run on gas.

Again, we talked about the preparations here and up the coast of Florida. Floridians know not to let down their guard even though the track of the storm is changing. They're preparing for a run on gas here. I just saw the manager brief the staffers over there. These guys were directing traffic all day yesterday. The traffic was snaking out here and on to Forest Hill Boulevard over there, down several blocks all day yesterday.

They do expect another run this morning once the tanker truck gets here because, again the evacuation dynamic could be changing with the storm maybe staying a little bit to the east maybe not giving a direct hit here, but the question is are they still going to order evacuations for Palm Beach County like they were going to tomorrow morning? That dynamic is changing. They may hold off on that; they may not.

We're going to hopefully be in touch with county officials shortly this morning. But that could also affect the run on gas. The Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis has said, it's not that they don't have the gas, it's that they've had such demand that they have had limited capacity to get the gas from the ports to places like this so they've had to waive some truck fees and service fees for the tanker trucks. They've had to get highway patrol cars to escort the tankers to places like this so the logistics of this have really been really challenging and that's led to some shortages of gas.

They ran out here. They've run out in stations all around this corridor here and even in Miami yesterday the governor said only about half the stations had gas. So even further south and places where again, may not get a direct hit, that is the dynamic here and again, the key thing to look forward to in the next coming - in the coming hours is will they order a mandatory evacuation or will they hold off on that and just kind of wait it out?

PAUL: All right. Brian Todd, thank you so much for sticking in there, buddy. I know that it is a chore. It is something just waiting to see where this thing is going to go. Take good care, you and the team there.

BLACKWELL: Senator Bernie Sanders is prepping a plan to take on medical debt. Coming up we'll break down and outline, and that's just all they've offered. So many questions still that Senator Sanders has put forward this morning.

PAUL: Also President Trump's personal assistant is out of a job after reportedly sharing personal details about his family. She did this allegedly at a dinner with reporters. How significant is this sudden departure from the White House yet again.

BLACKWELL: And we're following the breaking news out of Hong Kong. Police are pushing back protesters who have set this fire that is now out in the streets. We're live from the Wan Chai District there in Hong Kong.



PAUL: Twelve minutes past the hour right now and Bernie Sanders this morning is unveiling the outline for his plan to take on medical debt.

BLACKWELL: So, the Senator argues your financial life and your future should not be destroyed because you or a family member gets sick. CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us from Washington with the few details of this plan that they put out. So what do you know?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so what happened last night, Victor, was that Bernie Sanders was participating in a town hall in South Carolina and this topic came up. The question of medical debt and how it can be a huge burden for people who are already dealing with a serious illness. He was asked directly, how would you handle this problem and this is how Sanders answered.

(BEGIN VIDEO) BERNIE SANDERS, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In another piece of legislation that we're going to be offering, we will eliminate medical debt in this country. I mean, just stop and think for a second, why should people be placed in financial duress, for what crime did you commit? You had a serious illness, right? That is not what this country should be about.


NOBELS: So, that raised quite a few eyebrows. This is something that Senator Sanders had not unveiled previously and his campaign said that they weren't prepared necessarily to release the full details of this plan in totality; they're still working through it. But what they did tell us today is, yes, Senator Sanders does plan to cancel at least as much as $81 billion for medical debt across the board for Americans who are dealing with that. He also wants to take on the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill that he firmly believes puts people in a cycle of debt that they can't get out from underneath and he also wants to protect the credit score of people dealing with medical debt.

Sanders basically believes if you're dealing with a serious illness like cancer that could end up costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars that you shouldn't be also placed with this undue burden of medical debt on top of it. Now what Sanders and his team have not revealed yet is how they plan to pay for this $81 billion and the other costs that could go along with it. This added on to their plans for Medicare for All which would be free healthcare across the board for all Americans. They want to allow for free college tuition, also to cancel all student loan debt. The price tag keeps building up for the Sanders campaign but they do promise in the coming weeks there will be a more fulsome plan related to this particular issue of medical debt and this is something that has now become a big prority for Bernie Sanders and his campaign. Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: We will look forward to those details. Ryan Nobles, thanks so much.

PAUL: And there are details that need to be vetted out here. CNN's political analyst Michael Bender with us now, also a White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal." Michael, thank you so much for being with us. So questions about $81 billion which at the end of the day does not sound like a whole lot of money for medical debt on a national level and then you've got the question of who - what is the criteria to determine whose medical debt get erased?


Is it effective to release a plan without those details?

MICHAEL BENDER, REPORTER FOR "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": I don't think it's very effective to release the plan without those details and as Ryan sort of suggested there, it's - I don't know how effective it is to release a plan on the Friday before a big holiday weekend, as your viewers know with a major storm approaching as well.

Sanders has quite a bit of ground to make up here in this democratic primary race and his path forward is not clear, frankly. "The Wall Street Journal" put out a poll this summer that painted a pretty stark picture for Sanders. It's Warren -- Elizabeth Warren in the democratic primary who is Sanders' big rival when it comes to the most liberal voters. She's the first choice among that group. Sanders is not the second choice of any of the candidates running in the field right now. It's Warren who is the second choice for Harris voters, for Buttigieg voters. And even Warren, who is seen as a liberal, you know, the main liberal competitor with Sanders, her voters say their second choice is Harris.

So Sanders has quite a bit of ground to make up and this is his political calling card here, these big bold ideas, headline-grabbing ideas -- eliminating student debt, Medicare for All, now eliminating medical debt. But when there's no details behind it, when the plan comes out, his opponents are just going to use that as a way to cast doubt on whether this is a credible plan and whether it has any chance of becoming law in Washington.

PAUL: All right. Michael, I want to shift gears real quickly here to Madeleine Westerhout. She was a president's assistant, quick departure. It surprised a lot of people - surprised and stunned was the verbiage I heard yesterday, stunning people within the White House walls. This was a woman who was seen as a loyal aid. She held a lot of significant power in President Trump's circle. Let's listen to what he had to say about her departure.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. That still doesn't really cover for it; mentioned a couple things about my children. But she's a very, you know, good person. And I thought -- I always felt she did a good job.


PAUL: So, what do you make of the consequences for her now? It seems like off-the-record conversations are not rare by any means, but because it involved his family members, that seemed to be his breaking point.

BENDER: Yes, that's right. Just to be clear, the off-the-record nature of this, I can't go into details what was said or whether...

PAUL: Yes, we don't need to.

BENDER: ... there was an off-the-record (inaudible), but the president certainly said here that the reason was, that he spoke that Madeleine spoke about - gossiped really about his family and that is certainly a red this president, just ask Steve Bannon about the consequences for that sort of thing. Madeleine has been a long-time assistant to President Trump from the campaign, through the transition for the first three years of the Administration which we know is a pretty significant feat given the historic turnover in this West Wing and her desk was right outside the Oval Office. She was a gatekeeper of sorts for people coming in and out which made her really one of the most powerful and frankly least known members of this West Wing.

I just wanted to add one other thing here, we're talking about off- the-record and your viewers may wonder what is the point of going to - talking to people off the record if it can't be shared with readers, if it can't be shared with viewers and I think there's a good question there and a fair debate. This happens a lot on the campaign trail or on foreign trips with the president or in small town, New Jersey when he's in Bedminister.

PAUL: Yes.

BENDER: And off the record back and forth with staff. It gives you an opportunity to kind of understand these people deeper and understand where they're coming from and that is - and in that sense with that context you're able to give viewers and readers really a richer report of the motivations and context of the White House or the candidate or whoever you're reporting on.

PAUL: Right, without compromising any - without compromising anything, yes. Michael Bender, appreciate your insights on this. Thank you, sir.

BENDER: OK, thank you.

BLACKWELL: So President Trump says a new round of tariffs on Chinese goods will go into effect tomorrow. How the president is responding to growing concerns that his trade war could lead to a recession.


PAUL: And following the protests in Hong Kong, police are pushing back this morning. Protesters who have set fires in the streets, who are pointing lasers to trying to disorient officers, we're going to take you live to Hong Kong. Stay close.


BLACKWELL: The next round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made goods goes in effect tomorrow despite growing concern that an economic standoff with China will lead to recession, the president continues to sound optimistic.


TRUMP: We're going to win the fight. We're having conversations with China. Meetings are scheduled. Calls are being made. I guess the meeting in September continues to be on; it hasn't been cancelled.


BLACKWELL: Joining me now is Peter Goodman the European economics correspondent for "The New York Times." Peter, thanks for being with us.


BLACKWELL: Let's first start with this 15 percent on $112 billion scheduled to start tomorrow. One hundred sixty business groups have written to the president asking him to postpone these tariffs. They wrote in this letter, "These tariff rate increases come at the worst possible time, right in the middle of the busy holiday shipping period."


Now the president has postponed announced tariffs before. Any hint that these will be held off?

GOODMAN: Well, at the moment, no. But it's sort of a fool's game to try to forcast what's going to happen next in terms of this trade war from this administration because the president seems caught between a couple of competing impulses. On the one hand, he really does seem to feel that this big trade deficit with China is a sign that China is fleecing the United States. He seems to like the plaudits he gets from the nationalist part of his base, that he's taking on this tough fight even if it involves paying a cost.

On the other hand, he really doesn't like, one has to imagine, the stock market plummeting every time it seems like it's less likely there's going to be a deal with China, more likely that more tariffs are ahead and the markets don't like that for the simple reason that business doesn't like that because American business has come to depend upon China for finished products, for parts that go into American exports and so this is a wrenching and abrupt kind of disruption that business is suffering. Trump seems to be trying to have it both ways: both satisfy business and make the stock market go up and keep fighting China and he simply can't do both of those things.

BLACKWELL: Yes. You wrote that you can either grow the economy or battle China; you can't do both.


BLACKWELL: Let's focus here, the president sent out just a spade of tweets during the latter part of this week. He wrote that badly run and weak companies are smartly blaming these small tariffs instead of themselves for bad management. Fifteen percent tomorrow, 30 percent on further goods further down the road. Some will argue that is not small. Some of what we've hear from the president is spin, some is just outright lies. How much more can these companies, at least from their standpoint, absorb from of the increasing tariffs?

GOODMAN: Well, it depends on the industry. It depends upon how many alternative suppliers there are. I mean, take an industry like shoes for example. Something like 70 percent of the shoes that are sold in the United States are made in China. If you're a shoe designer, if you're marketing shoes in the United States and distributing shoes in the United States and you're suddenly told, well if you want to continue with your existing suppliers in China, you're going to have to come up with 15 percent more and you're either going to pass on those costs to the customer. The customer is probably not real happy about that and probably likely to buy fewer shoes or you have to accept the hit to your margin and that comes out of somewhere. Maybe it comes out of executive pay and stock options if it's a big publically traded company.

If you're a smaller company, chances are it comes out of the wages of workers who are in the United States. It could even prompt layoffs. So even companies that are looking and there are many that are taking the cue from President Trump to go look for other places besides China to make their goods, a lot of them are looking at Vietnam. A lot of companies have made that move already. Trump has already tweeted that Vietnam could be next. So where does the appetite come from to invest in the next plan if you don't know where the trade war goes next. That adds up to let's just wait, let's not invest, let's not hire more people. It's disruptive and threatening to the economy.

BLACKWELL: All right. Peter Goodman, "The New York Times." Good to have you.

GOODMAN: Thank you.

PAUL: Well, a major hurricane is getting ready to hit the U.S. The question is where. We're talking to people planning for the worst, hoping for the best. President Trump has only an acting FEMA administrator to advise him as to how to handle the storm and that has some people anxious as well. We'll talk about it.



BLACKWELL: Hurricane Dorian is intensifying; the track is shifting. Now, landfall in northern Georgia or the Carolinas is possible. There's not expected to be a landfall in Florida, but that does not mean that the state is out of danger. Officials say it's still in the cone of uncertainty. Meaning landfall, although along the coast, could happen, could bring the rain. could bring the wind, right there to some of those coastal communities.

PAUL: And some of that is just as damaging. Florida is playing it safe. The state has declared a state of emergency. Several counties have issued mandatory evacuation orders and officials are telling residents to get your water, get your gas, get cash handy because ATMs, cash registers may not be working. If there's a power failure, you can't swipe your credit card.

BLACKWELL: So Dorian is expected to hit the northern Bahamas tomorrow into early Monday and the Bahamas's prime minister says, "Listen, everybody stay safe."


HUBERT MINNIS, PRIME MINISTER OF THE BAHAMAS: Do not put your life and those of your loved ones at unnecessary risk. I urge you, do not be foolish and try to brave out this hurricane.


BLACKWELL: Now, people in Florida are also -- they're taking no chances. Many stores, rather, their shelves have been empied.

PAUL: I mean they know what to do, the water, the flashlights, the gas, all at the top of the list there. CNN affiliate WFTS spoke to one woman who is getting ready for the worst but she's hoping for the best.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In an hour's long line of people desperately waiting for generators, they're remembering Hurricane Irma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE FLORIDA RESIDENT: It was scary. The house would creek, the winds would bow.

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

UNIDENTIFIED HIGHLANDS COUNTY, FLORIDA, RESIDENT: And we pray to the Lord that he keeps us safe and everybody else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seventy-eight year old Paula Chaney[ph] suffers from numerous health problems but not as many as her 82-year-old husband who she cares for.

UNIDENTIFIED HIGHLANDS COUNTY, FLORIDA, RESIDENT: I'm giving him IV antibiotics at night. He's on an oxygen concentrator.

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

UNIDENTIFIED HIGHLANDS COUNTY, FLORIDA, RESIDENT: I'm not even thinking about it. My mind is somewhere else right now, it has to be because I can't wrap my mind around the whole thing. You know. All I can do is keep praying to the Lord.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he was listening. Sending some hope in the form of 79-year-old June [ph] who was also listening.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And offered to help Paula [ph] and her husband with anything they need.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I give you a hug?




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

PAUL: And thank you to our affiliate WFTS there for that. We want to get to CNN's Rosa Flores in Miami right now. Rosa, what are you seeing, not just in terms of weather, but in terms of the people there and what they're doing right now?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Christi, they're definitely preparing, but let me start with the facts first. This according to the CNN Weather Center, Miami is outside of the cone of uncertainty. That is great news. However, this area is expected to see high category 1 and low category 2 strength winds. That means that there could be power outages. We're also expecting rainfall that could lead to flooding. Here's the other good news, no storm surge expected in this area. With all that said, officials here are still asking people to be vigilant, to prepare.

We're live at Miami Beach sandbagging station. You can see all of the sandbags here. There's a line of people that are actually getting their sandbags this morning because in Miami and Miami Beach, it doesn't have to rain for water to start bubbling up from streets. Now, this is one of the cities that has been very aggressive when it comes to climate change. That's a great thing. That's why people here are very proactive, you can see that they're putting sandbags in their cars, taking them home. Again, Christi and Victor, the good news here is that Miami is outside of the cone of uncertainty, you can see people here still preparing this morning.

BLACKWELL: As they should. Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

PAUL: So, we want to go to Allison Chinchar right now, because we know that as people are preparing as we just saw from Rosa, there are certain things that you need more than others. And you don't always know exactly what that is perhaps unless you're been through something like this.

BLACKWELL: Yes, Allison how about it? What should people stocking up on?

CHINCHAR: All right so you always think of the obvious. You need flashlights. You need a weather radio. You need water. The question is, what else do you need and how much of that? Water is the obvious, but do you know how much you need? Here's the general rule of thumb, one gallon per person per day. So let's say you have a family of five, you're going to need five gallons per day that you end up having to ride out the storm. Keep in mind, you usually don't lose power for just an hour or two. In these instances, it's likely going to be several days.

Also, we talk about flash lights and things like that, but don't forget the extra batteries to go with it. Also great things to have, portable chargers. Those are great for your cell phones, tablets, computers, things like that, to keep them charged throughout day. Also any important paperwork, insurance information, passports, even your cash, keep it in a plastic bag so if you do get flooding, it's not going to get wet or get ruined.

Another thing, Victor and Christi too, taking inventory of what's in your house. This will make it so much easier if you have to file an insurance claim to know what is in your house and what is missing. Another thing, take pictures. Take pictures of every single room because you may not always remember everything that you have in there if it does get damaged or get ruined.

One other thing, top three items - you're obviously going to need things to drink and things to eat. Here's the thing. Wal-Mart runs analytics on this for years. The top three items that end up selling out in the days leading up to hurricanes - beer, water and Pop Tarts specifically the strawberry flavor is seven times more likely to sell out than the other flavors. So get your supply of your Pop Tarts on the front end.

PAUL: What do you want to say?

BLACKWELL: I don't want to say anything at all. But I mean if I pick up Pop Tarts, I'm going to go with the frosted instead of the unfrosted. I feel that's a natural choice.

CHINCHAR: Yes, don't embarrass yourself by getting unfrosted ones.

BLACKWELL: All right, Allison Chinchar, thanks so much.

PAUL: Thanks, Allison. Listen, this is a serious topic. President Trump is at Camp David this weekend and he's monitoring Hurricane Dorian, rather than traveling to Poland as has been planned before he cancelled that so he could stay here and tend to this. He's attending a briefing at FEMA headquarters in Washington. That happens tomorrow afternoon.

BLACKWELL: But as he's prepares to deal with this huge storm, he's surrounded largely by several acting officials including an acting FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor. CNN White House reporter Jeremy Diamond joins us live now. Jeremy, what's the impact of having all of these acting administrators?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well you know Victor, this has been a trend in the Trump Administration but particularly when it comes to disaster relief and preparedness. These moments are presidential tests; tests of presidential leadership. And as the president faces this test, he will not be surrounded by the top officials tasked with these kinds of efforts who have been Senate- confirmed.


FEMA, for example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has not been headed by a Senate-confirmed official since Brock Long resigned back in February. The Department of Homeland Security as well is also led by an acting secretary at the moment and that dates back to April. So while the president has nominated somebody to take the FEMA administrator position, the Senate has not yet acted on that. But the president making clear he doesn't think this is an issue at all, insisting that all of the efforts are going to go forward, regardless. He says that he likes the word "acting," he likes the great flexibility that that brings. The president is now at Camp David where he is monitoring this hurricane. And before he left the White House to head for Camp David, the president did talk about the storm and the concerns that he has.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The thing I'm worried about is the State of Florida, because this hurricane is looking like it's -- this could be a record-setting hurricane. Maybe things change. We're hoping for one element that might happen, and that's that it makes a right turn. It goes up north, just prior to or equal to hitting shore [ph]. That would be great. But that's a pretty strong percentage at this point.


DIAMOND: Now, that right turn that the president was talking about there, does appear to be happening with landfall, now more likely in the Carolinas. But the president is continuing to monitor the situation. And tomorrow, he will be getting a briefing at FEMA headquarters in Washington, where perhaps he will get some more certain information. Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right, Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much, sir.

Listen, not only are we watching all of this, but it has been an absolutely chaotic scene in Hong Kong today; police using tear gas on protesters who have set fires in the streets, who have been using lasers, who have been setting up barricades in front of the police station. We're live from Hong Kong, next.



PAUL: I want to bring you some of the breaking news we're watching. Take a look at what's happening in Hong Kong this morning. Protesters setting up fires, putting up barricades in front of the police station there, throwing petrol bombs. Police, meanwhile are using tear gas and water cannons. Those water cannons with blue dye in it to break up crowds. The blue dye used so they can identify people that they may later want to arrest.

BLACKWELL: So we know the fire is on the screen is out. This is video from a few moments ago. Our Paula Hancocks is there live for us now. We see you have the mask on. That must mean that tear gas is in the air. What's happening now?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Victor and Christi, yes there has been tear gas fired by the police in response to some of those petrol bombs. They're trying to disperse the crowd. You can see the riot police behind me that are now moving down the street. They have just warned that the water cannon may be deployed once again if the protestors further down this street do not disperse.

Now at this point as far as we can see that has not had an impact. Most protesters are still there. So they have had the official warning that the water cannon may be deployed once again. Now what they have been doing in recent hours is they have had some blue dye in those water cannons so that when they hit some of the protesters they can then go back after the moment and try and identify them and we have seen just walking down the street a number of protesters that are being picked up, that are being arrested so there is definitely a number of arrests that are going on tonight and the riot police here are certainly preparing for something.

We can see there have been a couple of petrol bombs thrown further down the street. I can see some little pockets of burning, in fact, it appears as though it may be some kind of barricade that the protesters have set up in order to try and stop these police from getting anywhere near. You can see the fire there in the distance. That wasn't there a couple minutes ago. They have just started that and you can see there, the police firing what could well be tear gas, that's certainly what it sounded like and what it looked like and that would be consistent with what we have been seeing, over recent hours here on the streets of Hong Kong and of course, over recent weeks.

This is the 13th consecutive weekend that we are seeing these protests on the streets of Hong Kong and there is no doubt about it, they are becoming more violent. Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Paula, what we know -- Will Ripley, who was with us earlier and we expect to get him back to join us. Oh, we've got Will. Let's go to Will now. Will, what are you seeing where you are?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Victor OK, so we're right here on the front line that has developed here in Wan Chai between the protestors and I don't know their numbers. It could be hundreds, it could be maybe a thousand; it's hard to tell. But they've set another fire here in the street and that's the police line just down that way. You can see they're firing tear gas here and they're saying on speaker right now, they're warning everybody to disperse.

You can see the water cannons truck. You see riot police with their shields and this is the scene that we've seen, it's kind of this moving front line through what is supposed to be a very busy business district here in Hong Kong. You have malls lining the street. You have restaurants that are empty and what has replaced that - oh we just got another tear gas right by us. What has replaced that is scenes like this. Protesters setting fires, a large fire just about an hour ago, this one much smaller but still you get the message. They're carrying accelerants. They have their umbrellas there. That is to shield them against the tear gas that police officers are firing in their direction.

These are young people who are armed, who are ready to make a point. The point that they are not going to give up, they're not going to stop this until their demands are met. They want the chief executive to step down. They want the right to vote. They want a police investigation into brutality. They say if they don't get those things, this is going to continue. Hong Kong saying it's not willing to budge either so what is going to be the tipping point here? It's really hard to see based on what we're seeing unfold here tonight how this is going to end without one side giving way pretty dramatically.

BLACKWELL: All right so we've got Will Ripley there close to where that fire is with the protesters. On the other end of this standoff, Paula Hancocks near where the riot police are. Paula, and idea - are they going to advance toward these protesters or what activity do you see where you are?

HANCOCKS: Well, we're right next to the water cannon here which Will can just see up the street, he's basically down there alongside the protesters. The protesters at this point don't show any sign of leaving. Certainly, they're starting more fires to try and block the streets to make sure that the police can't get to them. Police has shown that simply doesn't work over recentl hours. They have deployed the water cannons once before.

The riot police there, you can see they're all wearing their gas masks as they have just fired another volley of tear gas over to that area but it hasn't dispersed the protesters. As we're going on with the protests, week in and week out, the protesters who once, maybe a couple of months ago would have retreated once there was tear gas. They are now far more hardened so they stay where they are. They can deal with the tear gas. They have the helmets. They have the tear gas masks and certainly we are seeing because of that that the violence is increasing. Now we did see some petrol bombs over this evening being thrown by the protesters in response to that. We saw the police firing the tear gas. We understand there have been rubber bullets fired as well. They seem to be reorganizing to something here; it's not clear what. Of course, the sight of that water cannon is not going to be welcome to the protesters. It was used first, the first time ever in Hong Kong, just last weekend and it cleared the protesters. Even the sight of it now is not doing the same. Back to you.

PAUL: Wow, all right Paula Hancocks, Will Ripley, thank you both so much. We're going to take a quick break. We're back in a moment.



BLACKWELL: All right. Be sure to watch that unprecedented CNN Democratic Presidental Town Hall event on the climate crisis Wednesday starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. Of course, we're watching Hurricane Dorian, extremely dangerous, category 4 storm that's getting stronger. And the track is changing from every update we get. We'll get another one from the National Hurricane Center at 11:00 Eastern.

PAUL: Thank you so much though for starting your morning with us. We'll going to be back here with you to give you all the updates, 10:00 a.m. Eastern for CNN "Newsroom." "Smerconish" is up after a quick break. Stay close.