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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Hollywood, Florida, Mayor Josh Levy; Florida Braces For Hurricane DorianTrump Speaks To Reporters Before Going To Camp David; Trump Heads to Camp David to Monitor Hurricane Response, Will Return for FEMA Briefing on Sunday. Aired on 6-7p ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:01]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're told she lost her job and her boss' trust by revealing so-called intimate information to reporters.

And Biles' brother charged. The most decorated U.S. Olympic gymnast has been dealt a painful blow. Tonight, Simone Biles' brother is in custody, indicted on multiple counts of murder.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the extremely dangerous hurricane plowing toward Florida.

A hurricane warning was just issued for much of the Bahamas, as Dorian barrels -- bears down as a powerful Category 3 storm. It's expected to be even stronger when it reaches Florida overnight Monday.

Dorian is growing and slowly making its path more uncertain, and the potential devastation worse, as the storm could linger for days. Authorities are warning of life-threatening storm surges and flash floods.

Cities all across Florida and into Georgia could be pummeled by hurricane-force winds and heavy rain. Tonight, millions of Floridians are awaiting potential evacuation orders. Fuel and water supplies already are dwindling, as people flock to gas stations and grocery stores ahead of the storm.

Our correspondents, experts and guests, they are all standing by, as we cover the breaking news, including teams across Florida's southeastern coast.

First, let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's in Palm Springs, Florida, for us.

Brian, the danger from Dorian is growing. What's happening where you are on the ground?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Because of the uncertain and slow-moving path of this storm, state officials are in a very difficult spot tonight, trying to figure out when and where to order mandatory evacuations.

Palm Beach County, where we're standing, no exception to that, this as people here and throughout the state are rushing to fill up their tanks in case they have to get out quickly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, to give you an idea of just how difficult the situation is with ordering evacuations, I had the Palm Beach County mayor tell me a short time ago they are reluctant to order millions of people at a time to evacuate and get on the roads heading north, because they know there's a very good chance that this storm is going to move north once it makes landfall.

[18:05:05]

They're concerned that, if too many people get out on the road and head north all at once, maybe getting on the road a little bit too late, they might get caught in the storm actually as they're trying to move, Wolf.

Very difficult dynamic here tonight about ordering evacuations.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, and we will stay in very close touch with you, Brian Todd on the scene for us.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

[18:10:23]

BLITZER: Let's head up to Florida's east coast right now, to the city of Sebastian.

That's where CNN's Martin Savidge is.

Martin, residents, I take it, they are stocking up, they're boarding up, as officials sound the alarm about the danger -- and it's a real danger -- from Dorian?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are, Wolf.

And, in fact, they're in the final stages at this home here. This is the last piece to be put in place, the front door. You have got to get every single opening of a home closed up in a storm with this kind of wind field, because any weakness means that it will be exposed and the home itself is at great risk.

All of the neighborhoods here have pretty much finished the boarding- up process. And most of these neighbors say they are going to stay. They're a little bit more inland. So, they feel that they won't get the full brunt of the storm.

The only problem is, if it is Cat 4, they will get the full brunt of the storm. It comes all the way inland. The biggest problem in this neighborhood is going to be two things. The trees, there are a lot of them. And then, on top of that, the Sebastian River, which is just an eighth-of-a-mile down the street here.

And as you have already heard Tom explain, many of the waterways here are already at the point of being almost overtopped. You add a hurricane kind of rainfall, and you're in serious jeopardy in all of the neighborhoods.

And, lastly, I will point out that evacuation issue. The hardest decision for people to make in this kind of a storm is, when do you leave and do you leave at all? They will struggle with it now for days.

The fear by authorities is, with the shortages of fuel, with talk about food being on short supply, they may wait. The storm could get here before they resupply, or they may wait so long, they end on the roadway at the very time the weather turns. And that is the worst nightmare for law enforcement.

You never have enough time, Wolf.

BLITZER: A very important point.

Martin Savidge, thank you.

Joining us now, the mayor of Hollywood Florida, Josh Levy.

Mayor, thanks so much for joining us.

And just to point out, Hollywood right between Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

What are you doing, Mayor, right now to prepare for this hurricane? JOSH LEVY, MAYOR OF HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA: So thank you.

As a city government, we, of course, are mobilizing all aspects of our emergency response teams. That includes utilities crews, includes public works, police, fire rescue, the whole gamut, even our financial services.

As a government, we're, of course, preparing the city both in advance of a storm to protect it and also preparing, of course, for the response, so that we will quickly address any issues should the storm come this way.

BLITZER: Are you considering an evacuation order or a curfew at this point?

LEVY: Not the that point.

We have declared a state of emergency, as has the county. I think that once the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane watch for the county, that's when evacuation orders will be issued for the beaches, typically known as Evacuation Zone A, and then area B, which is, of course, westward toward US-1.

Millions of people here. Our county has two million residents. Hundreds of billions of dollars in property value and property here. So any hit to a populated area as densely as South Florida is might cause damage greater than we have ever seen in a hurricane in the United States, so we're hoping, of course, to avoid that.

BLITZER: What about gas shortages? What's the problem there?

LEVY: So, look, as you have been reporting, there have been gas shortages, in that there are so many people lined up at gas stations that they're, of course, depleting what the tanks at the gas stations can hold at one time.

But rest assured, Port Everglades is here in the city of Hollywood and in Broward County. We receive every day about 12.5 million gallons of fuel into our port. And that leaves by truck from those 12 terminals at the port every day to the gas stations.

The county has assured me that there's plenty of tankers that will be refilling these fuel stations. So while people are buying quicker than the tanker can get there, the tanker is -- has a source to, of course, receive more fuel and deliver it.

We supply fuel to, I think, 12 counties in the entire state, and, of course, all of the six million-plus people that live in South Florida.

BLITZER: One final question, Mayor, before I let you go.

A lot of us remember, what, two years ago about 12 elderly people died in a nursing home when Hurricane Irma knocked out air conditioning and power. What have you done to make sure especially the elderly are taken care of this time around?

LEVY: Sure. Very important.

[18:15:00]

So, the state is taking action. They, as the regulating body of these assisted living facilities and nursing homes, enacted new rules requiring of installation of emergency backup generators to avoid the loss of power in the first place, but on top of that, layering on top of that, cities across Florida and, of course, my city and our county have enacted a special safety protocol to make sure our fire rescue divisions are visiting these ALFs and nursing homes in advance of the storm, and have a schedule to visit with them after the storm to make sure that, A, they have power, and, if they don't, that they're properly taken care of, the elderly there.

BLITZER: Mayor Levy, good luck to you. Good luck everyone in Hollywood, all over Florida. We will stay in very close touch. Thank you very much for joining us.

LEVY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's go to CNN's Leyla Santiago right now. She's in North Miami at a Costco there.

Leyla, how are people getting ready for the storm where you are?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a section actually inside, where they have made it for hurricanes relief supplies.

They have coolers and cords for generators. But here is where I can really show you how people are getting ready. Two hours ago, we stood right here, and they had dozens of lanterns. Those are all gone.

So, I think that really speaks to people coming in, picking up what they need, and getting ready for Hurricane Dorian. The manager here tells me they have sold in the last three days more than 25,000 packs of water.

We were here. We saw the lines as folks were coming in to pick up their water. And now they're actually all out of water. He tells me they have more trucks coming in overnight. Those trucks, by the way, being escorted by police, water trucks and fuel trucks being escorted by police here.

And he's hoping that they will be able to turn that overnight, so that they will have more water for folks that are coming in to get prepared over the weekend for Dorian -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Leyla, we will stay in very close touch with you as well.

Right now, I want to bring in the head of fire and rescue operations for the City of Miami, the chief, Joseph Zahralban.

Chief, thank you very much for joining us.

What's the greatest risk to life when this hurricane hits?

JOSEPH ZAHRALBAN, CITY OF MIAMI FIRE CHIEF: Wolf, thank you.

Well, the first thing everybody speaks about is the wind. And the wind fields are potentially damaging -- this is true -- and could cause some serious injury potentially.

But, really, what we have found in all of the storms that we have responded to through our federal task force is that water is the greatest hazard that we see. Now, that could be water due to storm surge. It could be water due to rain. But it could also be impacted by what we're experiencing now in Miami, which is a king tide, which is higher-than-normal water levels.

BLITZER: So, what sort of preparations are you taking right now?

ZAHRALBAN: Well, we -- preparation for us in Miami, relative to hurricane season, is actually a yearlong event.

We prepare throughout all seasons. And the reason we do that is because we know the importance or recognize the importance of being extremely capable when that storm does come.

So, some examples would be high-water vehicles. Recognizing the potential for flooding, we have a number of vehicles that are capable of traversing high water to insure that we could get to residents and citizens anywhere in the city of Miami and ensure that we can get to them in a reasonable period of time bring a certain level of capability to them.

In addition to that, we have purchased vehicles that give us the ability to move through higher-than-normal winds. These are armored vehicles, and they're used as a last resort, but it does give us the capability, in the event that we need to go out beyond what we consider to be a safe wind level.

And in that extreme circumstance, we can reach our citizens if we absolutely need to. And, again, these are preparations that we plan for and undertake all year long.

BLITZER: When will authorities, Chief, make a call about evacuation orders or a possible curfew?

ZAHRALBAN: Well, the evacuation zones and when those zones would be implemented actually comes from Miami-Dade County. It comes through the emergency operations center.

Now, they're looking at the storm, just as everybody else is, and determining when would be the most appropriate time to enact those evacuations. But, obviously, it depends on how severely we plan on being impacted through the storm.

And, as everybody has seen, this storm is very unpredictable. And inside of 48 hours is the most accurate predictability. So, it's probably going to take just a little more time.

BLITZER: What are you doing to address the gas shortages that we have been seeing? And they're pretty dramatic throughout the state.

ZAHRALBAN: Yes, the gas shortages are somewhat dramatic.

But the ports, as I heard the -- I believe it was the mayor of Hollywood speak earlier on, the ports have committed to continue to provide supply. We have our transporters that have -- at least through the city of Miami, that have continued to provide that supply to the gas stations.

[18:20:03]

And then, as a fire department, general public safety and the city administration as a whole, we actually have been topping off our tanks every single day, so that we know going into the storm both our tankers and our fixed storage facilities will be completely full.

BLITZER: You also serve as the task force leader of the South Florida FEMA urban search-and-rescue team. What sort of work will you be doing during the hurricane and the immediate aftermath?

ZAHRALBAN: Yes,. that is correct.

The City of Miami owns and operates one of 28 federal task forces. We are fortunate, in the sense that that gives us 210 extremely capable individuals and a -- probably about $50 million in equipment that can be immediately deployed to any disaster.

We have responded to every disaster since Hurricane Andrew back in 1992 both nationally and internationally. And the equipment, combined with the level of training and expertise of all of these responders, give us -- give the community a significant capability and also gives us a tie-in to both the state and the federal network.

So, here in South Florida, we are very fortunate that we do have that capability readily available and easily deployable.

BLITZER: All right. Chief Zahralban, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to everybody down in Miami and, as I like to say, throughout the state. This is a serious, serious potential disaster.

We're going to have a lot more on the breaking news coming up, as millions of people in Florida race to get ready for Hurricane Dorian. We're going to have live updates from the National Hurricane Center when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Trump has been answering reporters' questions out on the South Lawn of the White House. He's getting ready to head over to Camp David out in Maryland for the weekend. That's where he's going to be monitoring the storm.

Here he is, the president, just moments ago speaking about the hurricane and other issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, thank you very much.

The hurricane is roaring, and it could be a big one. We're hoping that 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. I just spoke to Rick Scott, and I just spoke to -- we have a lot of people that we're speaking to.

I spoke with Marco Rubio. I spoke to your governors of both Georgia, as you know, Georgia and Florida, and they're doing really well. They're working hard.

Florida seems to be the target at this moment, but I think a lot of good things are happening. FEMA's there. Tremendous work is going on. Many, many gas trucks are coming in. They're bringing gas from Louisiana and all over.

And we don't know about evacuation. We're leaving it up locally right now. We're going to see where it's coming in. We just don't know exactly where it's going to be coming and how far in it's coming.

So I'm going to Camp David. We have a lot of experts with us. And we have a lot of the FEMA people that are coming up. But we're really, very importantly, coming back.

[18:25:03]

And on Sunday at 12:30, we have a meeting at FEMA headquarters, and that will be about the time that we'll know where everything is going. A lot of decisions will be made. That'll be a little bit less than a day before it hits. So we'll see what happens.

On other things, the stock market's doing well, the economy is doing great. The economy is amazing, actually. Worldwide, we're the number one by far. Stock market's up again, and we're getting close. We'll be very close to a new record soon.

And whatever you want to ask, go ahead.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I can't tell you, but we are speaking to China.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Well, I understand (AUDIO GAP) learn too much more than what I put out, right? Shouldn't be too bad.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Well, I guess she said (AUDIO GAP). I think (AUDIO GAP) 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 of things about my children. But she's a very -- a good person, and I thought -- I always felt she did a good job.

(AUDIO GAP)

In fact, I was going to meet with your new president, and because of the fact that we have this really massive hurricane coming in (AUDIO GAP) celebration of the past. And Mike Pence will do a great job.

I felt it was important that I stay here, and we'll be up at Camp David working hard.

We have a lot of things happening with respect to that hurricane, we have to be very careful. It could be one of the biggest that we've seen. I mean, so far it's looking not good. I have to be honest with you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: What I will do is be going to Poland at a later date. We have a good relationship with Poland. And we'll be doing that. And also Angela Merkel invited me to go to Germany. So, at some point, we'll be setting that up.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Oh, I don't want to get in to that. He's a bad guy. I can tell you that. He's a bad guy. I think he's a sick guy, personally.

But I can't get in to that with Andrew McCabe, but Andrew McCabe, he's a bad guy.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: No, there aren't. There aren't.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: We've taken in billions and billions of dollars from those tariffs.

And as they're starting to come out, the -- if you look at Chinese government, China, what they've done with tariffs is very interesting. They've devalued their currency so much, which hurts them, ultimately, costs them much more to buy things outside of China.

But they've devalued so much, it's a bad situation they've put themselves in. And I just saw, it came over the wires that 13 percent of certain companies are going to be leaving China in the not-too- distant future. That's a big thing -- 13 percent of companies will be leaving China in the fairly near future. And I'm not surprised to hear that. I think it's going to be much higher, because they cannot compete with the tariffs. They can't compete.

[18:30:00]

So, they have devalued their currency. They're pumping money in. And we're not paying much for it. Now, let me tell you, we've taken in tens of billions of dollars. I gave the farmers $16 billion, which makes them totally on China. That's what China spends in a good year given their profit (ph), because they were targeted. The farmers were targeted by China.

So out of the tariffs, which are much more than $16 billion by a factor of a lot, I've given the farmers $16 billion and the farmers are very happy and they want me to continue this fight. They want me to win the fight, and 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 canceled. And we'll see what happens.

But a lot of companies have left China and a lot more are leaving. And they are not doing well. They're having the worst year they've had, I understand, in 61 years. That's a lot of years.

Yes, go ahead.

REPORTER: Mr. President did you release (INAUDIBLE) information by Tweeting that photo of Iran?

TRUMP: Well, I just wish Iran well. They had a big problem. 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. But we'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. It had nothing to do with us.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Well, we had a good relationship with South Korea. We'll see what happens.

REPORTER: Are you disappointed that Bill Barr is not prosecuting James Comey?

TRUMP: I have a lot of faith in Bill Barr. I thought the charges were unbelievably powerful. I thought the I.G. report was incredible. But I have total confidence in Bill Barr to do the right thing. I think, if anything, this showed how fair he is. I really think he's a tremendous man and I think that this really showed how fair he is. But certainly those were very serious charges. But let's see what happens. REPORTER: Mr. President, Governor Kay Ivey, her call for her to resign because of his black face in college.

TRUMP: Say again?

REPORTER: Governor Kay Ivey, her calls for her to resign because of the black face in college --

TRUMP: Well, I don't know much about it. I have just seen something come over the wires, but she's a very high quality woman, Kay Ivey, very, very high quality woman. I can tell you. And I know she apologized.

REPORTER: What's your message to protesters in Hong Kong?

TRUMP: We all want liberty. We all want freedom with everybody. We want freedom. Throughout the world, we want freedom. So we'll see what happens. It's a very interesting time over there.

But my message really to them is they have a very strong point of view. I don't think anybody has ever seen marches of 2 million people, but we're going to see a lot. I think we're going to be learning a lot over the next few weeks. Actually, I think we're going to Hong Kong. I think we're going to be learning a lot over the next two or three days. I hope that it's handled in a very humane way.

REPORTER: Mr. President, will you spend the entire weekend at Camp David monitoring the hurricane?

TRUMP: No. I'll be coming back. We'll be spending -- we have an incredible conference area up there. We have a lot of experts coming up. We'll be running things. It's sort of a control center. We'll be running things. And we're going up with people -- we have a lot of people coming up to Camp David.

I'll be coming back on Sunday morning where I'm going directly to FEMA. And I think Senator Rubio and Senator Scott and I don't think the governor should be there. I think he wants to be in Florida, Governor DeSantis. He's doing a fantastic job, by the way, doing a fantastic job.

REPORTER: How concerned are you about Mar-a-Lago being in the hurricane's path?

TRUMP: Well, I haven't even thought about it until the question was just broached a little while ago. Yes, it would look like Mar-a-Lago is dead center. But Mar-a-Lago can handle itself. It's a very powerful place. 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.

Now, 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 the shore.

[18:35:01] That would be great. But that's a pretty small percentage at this point.

REPORTER: Mr. President, on Afghanistan, the --

TRUMP: Say it, what?

REPORTER: Afghanistan.

TRUMP: Yes.

REPORTER: Around 8,600.

TRUMP: Right.

REPORTER: That's a big drawdown. But when you say the war is over when the (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: So we're bringing them down to about 8,600 in Afghanistan. And we're really a police force more than anything else. That's something we can win quickly if we wanted to kill a lot of people, which I don't. And we're getting along very well with a lot of people in Afghanistan right now.

We have very good negotiations going on with the Taliban. The Taliban is saying they're going to do things. We'll see if that's so. We haven't made a deal yet. But we will be bringing it down to about 8,600.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: We haven't seen that.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: That's not good news, not happy about that. But we haven't seen it. I have not seen it.

Yes?

REPORTER: You were saying this morning that there were some U.S. companies. They were contributing to the economic slowdown. Can you explain what you meant there?

TRUMP: I don't know what you're talking about.

Go ahead.

REPORTER: You said that a lot of badly-run companies are partly blaming these (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: A lot of badly-run companies are trying to blame tariffs. In other words, they're running badly and they're having a bad quarter or they're just not lucky in some way, they're likely to blame the tariffs. It's not the tariffs. It's called bad management. So a lot of companies are coming out and they're not affected by the tariffs. Not a lot, but there are some. The tariffs have put us in an incredible negotiating position, and I say that to China directly. And it's only going to get worse for China.

But I say it to China directly. because of the tariffs, we're in an incredible negotiating position and we happen to be taking in billions and billions and billions of dollars. And we haven't taken in 10 cents from China. And the people that support me most are the farmers.

Now, as I said, we've given the farmers $16 billion out of a much larger purse than that, but we're doing very well with respect to what we're doing. I do notice that it was on one of the important shows that I read it this morning in someplace that some companies, because of their poor performance, are blaming tariffs even though they don't mean that. They're just getting away with it.

REPORTER: Do you see a connection between what's going on in Hong Kong and the trade talks?

TRUMP: Yes, I do. I do. The question was do I see a connection between Hong Kong and what's going on in the trade talks. I think if it weren't for the trade talks, Hong Kong would be in much bigger trouble. I think it would have been much more violent. I really believe China wants to make a deal and they know it puts us in a very bad position if there's not a humane way of handling the problems. And I've let them know that, look, handle it in a humane fashion, and we'll see.

But I do believe that because of what I'm doing with trade, that's very much keeping down the temperature in Hong Kong. I think it's by really a lot, because China wants to make a deal. I actually think China has to make a deal. But that's holding it down in Hong Kong. You understand that?

REPORTER: Are you (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: I think it was automatic. I don't say fired or not fired. I really think she had a bad night. I think it was unfortunate. She said she was drinking. And the whole thing was very unfortunate. I think the press is very dishonest because it was supposed to be off the record. But still, you don't say things like she said, which were just a little bit hurtful to some people.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) Tiffany. Is that true?

TRUMP: Oh, no. Tiffany is great. I love Tiffany. I love Tiffany.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Well, I've said it. We have FEMA. We have first responders. We have tremendous law enforcement. We're working together with Governor DeSantis and the state. We're also -- by the way, I have to tell you, Georgia is very much in this path also. Georgia could be very much affected. We're working with our great governor of Georgia. We have our top people there. And it's really, really been amazing.

And I have to say we've done a great job in Puerto Rico.

[18:40:01]

We were totally ready in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico, we got lucky. It missed Puerto Rico. But we were really ready in Puerto Rico. And we worked very well with government. I have my issues with the government, but we worked very well. The new governor was on top of things. And we had a really great relationship with Puerto Rico.

Fortunately, we didn't have to use what we had, but we were set to go in Puerto Rico. We were in great shape.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Well, we're thinking about Florida evacuation, but it's a little bit too soon. People are getting ready. It may have to be evacuated. Sections may have to be evacuated. We'll probably make that determination on Sunday.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) do you support (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Well, I think that's going to be between Poland Germany, and I get along with them both. That's between Poland and Germany.

REPORTER: Are you concerned that you don't have a permanent FEMA administrator for (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: No. I like the word, acting. I think acting is great. As far as I'm concerned, acting to me is good. And if I like the people, I make them permanent. I have acting and acting gives you great flexibility that you don't have with permanent. So I'm okay with the word, acting. But when I like people, I make them permanent. But I can leave acting for a long period of time.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: We're going to see what's going on. It's a very big subject. And right now, we're allowing states to make that decision and a lot of states are making that decision. But we're allowing the states to make that decision.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: I think it's terrible. I think those allegations are absolutely terrible.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Well, USMCA has become very popular. That's our deal with Mexico and with Canada. Unions are liking it. Farmers are loving it. Manufacturers are really liking it. It really means that we're not going to be losing companies down to Mexico and Canada and probably elsewhere if you figure it, you know, when you look at it in a certain way. But they're not going to be moving very quickly to Mexico and Canada anymore.

The USMCA is a very important deal. I think it's going to be a very bipartisan deal. I hope Nancy Pelosi puts it up for a vote. I can tell you many Democrats will be voting for it if it's put up for a vote. If it's not put up for a vote, I think it's a very bad thing for our country. It's a very diligently, very hard negotiated deal.

We got the approval from Mexico. They voted. Canada is ready to vote. They've essentially approved it. And we are waiting for a vote. And Nancy Pelosi, I think, will do the right thing. I really do.

And as I told Nancy Pelosi, view it as a bipartisan deal, people want it. It's replacing the worst deal in trade that we've ever made, which is NAFTA, a total disaster. It took our car industry out. It took our industry out. It's one of the worst deals that I've ever seen.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: No. I just think that the Fed is making a big mistake. Because if you look at what the other Fed equivalents are doing all around the world, they're at a much lower rate and it makes us harder to compete. It makes it much harder to compete.

Now, with that being said, we're doing better than everybody else. But the Fed is hurting me. The Fed is making it very, very hard to compete. But we're so far ahead of everyone. Since my two and a half years, you look at it.

Look, you go back to election day and go the day after, so you take November 9th and you look, we're up over 50 percent. And that's pretty much amazing. You look at our jobs. Our jobs numbers are fantastic, probably 3.6 percent. African-American, Hispanic-American, Asians, we're talking about the history of our country, the best job numbers we've ever had.

And on this very day, I just saw a number, almost 160 million people are working, the most ever in the history of our country. We have incredible numbers.

Now, with our Fed lowers the rate, I think our stock market would be like a rocket ship. It's already very close to a new record.

[18:45:01]

We're not very far away from a new record. We've had some very good days in the last week.

But if the Fed lowered the rate like they should -- the fact is they went up way too fast and also did quantitative tightening. They did a double. Big mistake.

Fortunately, the economy is so strong, I was able to handle that. But if they lowered the rate, you would see our stock market be like a rocket ship. It would be good for us. I think it would go up a lot. REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Colombia you say?

REPORTER: Yes. Colombia (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: You're talking about the country of Colombia?

REPORTER: Yes, the country of Colombia.

TRUMP: Yes. No, we have a great relationship. They're not doing badly. They have a problem because of Venezuela. A lot of people are pouring in, but Colombia, we've had a great relationship with Colombia.

(CROSSTALK)

REPORTER: Mr. President, have you spoken with Tiffany since yesterday?

TRUMP: We have to call in -- she's going to be calling me back (INAUDIBLE)

REPORTER: What are you going to tell her?

TRUMP: I'm going to say it's just absolutely false.

She's a wonderful person. She studied so hard. She's a great student. She's just a great -- she's a great person.

So I look forward to talking to her. I'll be talking to her as soon as I get -- and I love Tiffany. Tiffany is a great person. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. The president just moments ago leaving the south lawn of the White House, heading to Camp David at least for tomorrow, coming back Sunday morning to continue to monitor the hurricane that's about to attack Florida right now.

We have some audio problems. I want to apologize for the audio problems from the network pool camera earlier, but we did hear the gist of what the president saying, this could be a record setting hurricane, it could be devastating. It's not looking good. He is very, very concerned.

He says there is a 5 percent chance maybe, maybe the hurricane will move in a northerly direction away from the coast, but he says that's unlikely. Only 5 percent chance.

Pamela Brown is over at the White House for us.

So, Pamela, the president went through a whole bunch of issues, but clearly the focus has to be right now on this potential disaster that awaits so much of Florida. PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

The president talking as he is going to Camp David where he'll be surrounded by officials there monitoring Hurricane Dorian.

The president was asked about his own properties. He has several properties, Wolf, there in Florida and he said he's not concerned about that even though he said that Mar-a-Lago, one of his properties, is dead center in the eye's track. He said he's not concerned about that. He's concerned about the state of Florida.

Now, he will be surrounded by several acting officials, including the FEMA administrator and the acting DHS secretary. The president said he likes his officials in acting capacity, that it gives him flexibility and if he likes them enough then he'll make them permanent.

He also said, Wolf, that Camp David will be a bit of a command center there as he tracks the hurricane, but also he'll be coming back to Washington on Sunday where he'll go directly to FEMA headquarters and monitor developments from there and get a briefing. He said at that point they'll make some key decisions whether parts of Florida will be evacuated. He did talk about the seriousness of this strengthening storm, calling it a monster storm.

The president was also asked about the sudden resignation of Madeleine Westerhout, his personal assistant, who has been with the president since day one her at the White House. He was very close to her. He said he had just spoken to her over the phone before coming out. She felt really bad about what happened.

She said some disparaging things about his family members we're told during an off the record dinner at the embassy suites in New Jersey recently and it got back to the president what she had said about his family members, including his daughter Tiffany. And he discussed that saying that he loves Tiffany very much, that she's great. He didn't specify exactly what Westerhout had said, but that she had a couple drinks and even though it was off the record that what she said -- that didn't absolve what she said.

And lastly, Wolf, something else that the president talked about was this photo he had tweeted out earlier today. Apparently, it appeared to be a classified photo potentially of an Iranian launch site. There was a -- here is the photo right here he had tweeted out. He talked about this failed launch in Iran saying -- appearing to mock Iran, saying the U.S. had nothing to do with it.

He talked about that saying he had every right to tweet out that photo. Of course, the president can declassify any information he wants, but it is notable that he tweeted out this photo from officials say from U.S. satellite imagery -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. The president also tweeted I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened.

A lot of people were surprised to hear the president of the United States wishing best luck to Iran in that particular case.

[18:50:05] All right. There's a lot we need to discuss. We're following all the breaking news. We'll take a quick break.

Much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. More breaking news, Hurricane Dorian now churning toward Florida where it's expected to hit as a category 4 storm. Winds more than 130 miles per hour.

[18:55:02] We just heard from President Trump. He is spending the weekend now at Camp David monitoring the hurricane which he describes as a master -- one of the biggest, the president says, one of the biggest that we have seen, says there is only a very tiny chance, maybe the hurricane could move to the north, 5 percent chance but he says it could be devastating indeed.

Abby, you just listened for almost a half hour to the president. What do you think?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think certainly on the storm what strikes me is that this is a White House who now has had a couple of years of experience under their belt with dealing with these. Early on, they had some major, major problems and failures, especially with a spate of storms that hit Texas and Puerto Rico in their first year and now, things are a little bit different. He is mindful of the optics of things.

Going to Camp David once again -- which I think serves multiple purposes, allowing some of the White House staff to not be around him. He can be more lightly staffed there but still chair a lot of the meetings with people involved in the storm response. And then he comes back to Washington on Sunday.

So I think that that's a sign they've learned some of their lessons and they are very careful, especially with the stormy potentially hitting Florida, to make it very apparent that they are on top of it.

BLITZER: What do you think, Abby, what the president said about his longtime assistant, personal assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, that who was fired effectively because of some words she said about the president's family in the off the record dinner conversation with a few reporters.

PHILLIP: Well, this is classic Trump where he says on the one hand that he feels badly for her, that she is a great person. But on the other hand that she is essentially fired. He said it was automatic that she had to be fired because she was in a setting where she was drinking with reporters. And she said something the president seemed to confirm that she did say disparaging things about what we believe according to our sources to be his own family. And he defended his daughter Tiffany Trump there.

But it's typical of President Trump to sort of not take ownership of a decision to dismiss her, even as he tries to defend her to the media. But clearly this crossed a major, major line for him that someone who has been around this presidency from the very beginning is suddenly on their way out the door while she is on vacation this week. She is not even at work. She was dismissed, her phone was disconnected while she wasn't even here in Washington in the building.

BLITZER: Let me get Joey to weigh in. What did you think, Joey?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I can't blame Trump for this. The fact is you are drinking, you're not drinking. You shouldn't be drinking. You have to understand that you can't express yourself in that way, particularly when you are it disparaging the president, disparaging particularly his family, talking about, you know, the weight of Tiffany, just totally inappropriate.

You have to understand also that nothing is off the record. You have to keep composure. And the fact is, is that yes, we have a president that the demands loyalty, requires loyalty and certainly staffers need to give it no matter who they're serving. But when you have loose lips like this, no matter the setting, I think it's inappropriate and you have to go.

BLITZER: Susan, you used to work at the National Security Agency. What do you think of what the president said why he released this satellite image of a ill-fated Iranian missile launch and president going on to wish Iran best wishes, good luck in determining what happened, but insisting the U.S. had nothing to do with it?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: I think his comment was a little bit of a tell that this was, in fact, a classified document. He said I have an absolute right to release it. Of course, the president of the United States has an absolute right to release classified information.

The image itself, it is a much higher quality than even the best commercial images available. So, it does appear to be an intelligence community source. It looks like the president tweeted it out. Somebody appears to have taken a cell phone picture of it, blacked out the classification marking and put it on the internet.

Ordinarily, before we release these images, they're degraded. The labels are removed it so foreign adversaries can't find out information like where the satellites are, what the capabilities might be.

So, for the president to once again to sort of impulsively tweet something like this out paired with a message that is really unclear. Was he taunting the Iranians? Was he actually extending well wishes?

Whenever you talk about strategic messaging to an adversary like Iran, clarity is what you want. You don't want to introduce --

BLITZER: The president said he is opening to meeting with President Rouhani of Iran. Are we seeing a shift in tone from the president towards Iran right now? PHILLIP: In all honesty, Wolf, we don't know. I mean, that's what's

strike bag this. In addition to the image, is that the message was not clear in any way. It could have been taunting Iran. But it could have been him softening his tone, to try to open the door to negotiations.

We know he wants to create some brand-new deal with Iran that has been elusive to him after dismissing the Iran nuclear deal signed by his predecessor. Is this a move in that direction? It's unclear because it's not being backed up by anything that the rest of the administration is doing. It's just the president tweeting things out on a Friday afternoon.

BLITZER: We know the Israelis, Netanyahu and others are concerned about a potential meeting between the president and Rouhani.

We're going to watch all of this very, very closely.

Guys, thanks very much. And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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