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Hurricane Lane Barreling Toward Hawaii; Trump Ally David Pecker Makes Immunity Deal; Jeff Sessions Pushes Back Against Trump Attack; Pope Francis to Visit Ireland Amid Sex Abuse Scandal. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 24, 2018 - 04:30   ET


[04:30:54] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Hurricane Lane battering parts of Hawaii with strong winds and a deluge rain. Forecast straight ahead.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Another ally appears to have broken with the president. The executive who helped kill a story about the president's affair before the election cooperating with investigators.

BRIGGS: And a predominately black Georgia county could close most of its polling places before the midterms. Critics say it's being done to muzzle the minority vote where the black woman making a historic run for governor.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour this Friday morning. Let's begin in Hawaii.

Hurricane Lane on final approach here toward Hawaii this morning. This thing is now a category three. Officials are warning residents this storm is a significant rainmaker. More than 19 inches fell on the northeastern section of the big island over a 24-hour period, Governor David Ige says some parts of the island could take more than 30 inches, along with waves up to 20 feet high.

The outer bands of the hurricane already causing flooding. There is now a voluntary evacuation order on Reed's Island near Hilo. Now the normally scenic Wailuku River, look at that, turning into a raging torrent.

BRIGGS: Wow. Emergency sirens blaring in Honolulu yesterday. FEMA says it has pre-staged food, water, generators and other necessities around the island.

Overnight the weather service downgraded the big island to a tropical storm warning. Leaving the hurricane warning in place for the other Hawaiian islands.

For the latest, we're joined by meteorologist Ivan Cabrera in the CNN Weather Center this morning.

Ivan, what should they expect? IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A horrible night. In fact, good

morning, Dave. It is now half past 4:00 a.m. here in the East Coast but night has just fallen in Hawaii. It's going to be a very long night and a very long day. This is going to be quite an event here. It is already under way. Despite the fact that the center of the storm is 200 miles still to the south of Honolulu and south of the big island. But as you mentioned the incredible amounts of rain that has turned rivers into torrents that we saw there.

As far as the hurricane itself, 120-mile-hour winds, that makes it a category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. At one point it was a cat-5. Not too concerned that those are ever going to make it on shore. We are going to have strong some strong winds eventually but it's the rain that has broken off well out ahead of the system that has been causing all the problems. We picked up already almost two feet of rainfall in parts of the big island over the last 24 to 48 hours. And we're going to continue to see that I think as a problem here as the rain falls on the mountainsides and will continue to come down the mountains and speed up and go through the valleys.

So here's the radar. There's the center of the storm. But look at all the rain well out ahead of it to the north and east. Hurricane warnings are still flying for the middle islands here. We have a tropical storm warning for the big islands. Really don't let that -- let your guard down, right? So this went from a hurricane warning to a tropical storm warning. That just means that the hurricane winds aren't going to make it there.

But the rains are going to make it there. They have been and that is I think going to be the big threat. Look at the current winds right now. The highest we can find, because it gets so far away the center of the storm, 28-mile-an-hour winds in Honolulu, and it is gusting at 37. That will obviously become higher as we head to the day today and into tomorrow. But the rain I think is really going to be the big story here and the legacy of the storm.

Look at this. This is about an inch an hour. Basically it's what we're looking at here with this easterly wind. Notice the radar is now broken on the western side of the island. It's just the mountains here are stopping the rain but they're adding lift and so you squeeze every drop of moisture out of the atmosphere, and this tropical moisture so this is what you get. 17 plus inches in Hilo in just 24 hours and over 22 inches just a little bit to the south.

Those are the kinds of rains that we're going to be talking about as that warm moist air goes up the mountain and cools, condenses and it comes down, and it comes down in hurry here. So my concern will be for the valleys as well with fresh water flooding. And then because of the storms near a pass here we're also going to be dealing with some storm surge as well, so salt water flooding as well.

[04:35:03] We're going to get hit on both sides here. And it is going to be a long event because by Saturday 8:00 p.m., the storm is still south of the islands, guys.

ROMANS: By Saturday 8:00 p.m. still south of the island. Ivan, thank you so much for that.

From Honolulu, here is Luke Meyers, the executive officer for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.


LUKE MEYERS, EXECUTIVE OFFICER, HAWAII EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: What we tell the public is we want them to be ready and on guard, and not let their guard down. We preach to them to be ready for up to two weeks at a minimum. We know that can be hard. As we're watching a storm like this come in, everyone is watching the forecast models. We tell them not to get too concerned about that. Some of the biggest threats we see from this storm obviously we're looking at tropical storm, maybe like hurricane-force winds.

We're also looking at potentially for a lot of flooding. Potentially urban flooding. And then as the storm makes -- approach towards Maui and Oahu, we may have some storm surge, some coastal flooding, some coastal (INAUDIBLE). So we're telling the public to stay tuned to the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service and the local officials at the county level, and to take action.

We prefer them to shelter in place, if they feel safe -- if they feel unsafe and they feel like their home is being threatened, then they can try to find a shelter.


ROMANS: Thirty-five shelters are open across the islands for those who need them.

BRIGGS: Another key figure in the effort to squelch Trump-related scandals ahead of the election is now cooperating with investigators.

The "Wall Street Journal" reporting that David Pecker, the head of the American Media, publisher of the "National Enquirer," has been granted immunity. A source tells CNN Pecker told federal prosecutors that Mr. Trump knew about payments to buy the silence of women who claimed they had had sexual encounters with him.

ROMANS: In his guilty plea this week, Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen said he and Pecker worked together to suppress the potentially damaging claims. That includes American Media's $150,000 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. American Media was supposedly buying the rights to her story but buried it instead in a tabloid tactic called "catch and kill."

BRIGGS: In an interview with FOX News, the president lashed out at former allies who've turned on him like Michael Cohen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everything's wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It almost ought to be outlawed. It's not fair.


BRIGGS: The "Associated Press" reports the "National Enquirer" kept a safe said to contain documents on hush money payments and other damaging stories the tabloid killed ahead of the 2016 election.

ROMANS: Now according to the "New York Times" the Manhattan District attorney is looking into criminal charges against the Trump Organization. Prosecutors reportedly want to know how the president's company accounted for its reimbursement to Michael Cohen after he paid off adult firm star Stormy of Daniels. The "Times" report the Trump Organization recorded the reimbursement as a legal expense but federal prosecutors say Cohen did know legal work in connection with the matter. The DA's review is said to be in its early stages. No comment from the Trump Organization.

BRIGGS: Attorney Jeff Sessions has apparently had enough of attacks by President Trump. The AG pushing back after the president lashed out again saying Sessions failed to, quote. "take control of the Justice Department." Now the president has slammed the AG regularly for more than a year ever since Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.


TRUMP: He took the job and then he said, I'm going to recuse myself. I said, what kind of a man is this. The only reason I gave him a job because I felt loyalty. He was an original supporter.


BRIGGS: CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House with reaction from Sessions and other top GOP lawmakers.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House with reaction from Sessions and other top GOP lawmakers.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, we are seeing the feud between President Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions intensify after President Trump said that he never thought Sessions actually took control of the Justice Department despite being attorney general for a year and a half now.

[04:10:12] It's not unusual for the president to criticize Sessions ever since he recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. But what's rare is that Sessions fired back this time saying the Department of Justice won't be swayed by politics. In a statement he said, "I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in." Later on that statement, he says, "While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."

Though Jeff Sessions and the president have been at odds for some time now, what changed is that now two leading Senate Republicans, Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Chuck Grassley, are now talking about a future where Jeff Sessions isn't the attorney general.

Listen to what Senator Lindsey Graham had to say on Capitol Hill.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The president is entitled to an attorney general he has faith in. Somebody that's qualified for the job.

[04:40:03] And I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice. Clearly Attorney General Sessions doesn't have the confidence of the president.


COLLINS: So right now it seems that Jeff Sessions' future is going to continue to hang in the balance -- Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: All right. Kaitlan, at the White House, thank you.

The attorney general was at the White House yesterday for a meeting on criminal justice reform. We learned after the meeting that a planned criminal justice overhaul has been tabled until after the midterm election. The package of reforms has been pushed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. The president appears to have a problem with the prison and sentencing revisions and wants to revisit the politically charged issue after November. Sources tell CNN the Trump-Sessions feud, by the way, was not addressed at that meeting.

BRIGGS: Didn't come up.

ROMANS: Didn't come up.

BRIGGS: It's just such an interesting dynamic. Obviously a bad relationship to Lindsey Graham's point. But the president bullies this man repeatedly on Twitter and then face-to-face, nothing. Interesting dynamic.

Going to be an interesting few days as well for Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife. They are indicted for alleged fraud. And he seemed to throw her straight under the bus.


REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: She handled my finances throughout my entire military career. And that continued on when I got into Congress.


[04:45:35] ROMANS: All right. President Trump has this warning for Washington and Wall Street.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I'll tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor because without this thinking, you would see -- you would see numbers that you wouldn't believe in reverse.


ROMANS: The president of the United States essentially declaring he is the stock market.

Let's take a less hyperbolic look. Impeachment proceedings would likely rattle stocks in the near term but a crash is a bit extreme. Why? U.S. stocks are resilient, riding the longest bull market ever. The economy is strong here. Corporate profits are booming thanks largely to Trump's tax cuts.

Even if Trump were impeached, even if Trump then had to leave office, impeachment does not necessarily guarantee that, his administration would keep his pro-business policies and might even drop his trade war which Wall Street would love.

Even if the market did crash, would Americans be poor? Well, no. Only about half of Americans are invested in the stock market. And many of those folks, they are wealthy and super wealthy. For the top 10 percent of earners, the average value of stock holdings is 1.4 million. For the bottom 50 percent it's about $52,000.

So a stock market crash, how would that affect all those people who don't even have money in the stock market?

BRIGGS: Well, OK, political reality. The Senate will not impeach the president.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: It is in Republican hands and will remain so.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: Presumably after the midterms. And Mike Pence, if he is the president, arguably more conservative across the board.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: You take out the trade war. Can't imagine. The stock market climbed 27 percent after Clinton was impeached.

ROMANS: That's right. And Clinton --

BRIGGS: The S&P 500.

ROMANS: An interesting parallel because that was also a time of very strong economy. Right?

BRIGGS: Very similar. Yes. ROMANS: A very strong economy. And all of this political chaos. You

know, when I talk to people who are traders, people at the New York Stock Exchange, people who are investors, they say the political chaos is already factored in here right now.


ROMANS: The political chaos is factored in. So now it's about interest rates.

BRIGGS: Got their earmuffs on. The markets.

ROMANS: It's about interest rates, it's about earnings and it's about trade.

BRIGGS: All right. Let us know what you think about this @earlystart on Twitter.

California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife pleading not guilty in federal court Thursday to the charges they illegally used $250,000 in campaign funds to furnish their lavish lifestyle. Hunter on FOX News last night seemed to point the finger at his wife.


HUNTER: When I went to Iraq in 2003, the first time I gave her power of attorney. And she handled my finances throughout my entire military career. And that continued on when I got into Congress. She was also the campaign manager. So whatever she did, that will be looked at, too, I'm sure. But -- but I didn't do it.


BRIGGS: Makes for some interesting dinner conversation. No response yet from Hunter's wife, Margaret. The couple is accused of spending campaign money for personal expenses large and small including a $14,000 family vacation to Italy and because you're hungry $3300 in fast food like In-n-Out.

ROMANS: I was surprised to see how many times their bank account was overdrawn. You know.

BRIGGS: 1100 plus times.

ROMANS: 1100 plus times, which is obviously a sign of financial stress for --

BRIGGS: Yes. 47 grand in overdraft fees.

ROMANS: For anyone. But that's remarkable.

All right. 48 minutes past the hour. The Pope heads to Ireland this weekend and there is plenty to atone for. What can he say to Catholic victims of abuse in the church? We are live in Dublin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:53:39] BRIGGS: 4:53 Eastern Time. Pope Francis confronts the past sins of the Catholic Church when he travel to Ireland this weekend. His visit will be closely watched after a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed over 1,000 children have been abused over decades by hundreds of predator priests. The Pope plans to meet with survivors of abuse in Ireland.

Let's go live to Dublin and bring in CNN's Phil Black.

Phil, good morning.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. This was always going to be a difficult visit for the Pope. Too many people have suffered and now suffering because of abuse in the church here. And that Pennsylvania report has only added to the expectation the Pope must move finally fix this. The view held by many victims here is the time that eloquent sorrowful apologies has passed.


BLACK (voice-over): There is no polite, easy way to explain what happened to Darren McGavin on the grounds of this church when he was a child.

DARREN MCGAVIN, VICTIM OF ABUSE: And he put me over the table, and he had the vestments, the ropes from the vestments, and he tied my hands to my legs over the table, and he began to rape me.

BLACK: From the age of 7, Darren was abused several times a week for more than four years by Tony Walsh, one of Ireland's most notorious pedophile priests.

[04:55:03] MCGAVIN: On one occasion I was raped with a crucifix.

BLACK: Walsh destroyed Darren's life. The years since have been consumed by trauma and mental illness.

(On camera): How old are you now?

MCGAVIN: I'm 46 years of age and I've been medicated since I was 12. Twelve years of age. So, like, when it's going to stop? Like, when is it going to stop? I don't know.

BLACK (voice-over): This is just one victim's story in a country deeply wounded by the horrific legacy of priests abusing vast numbers of children and often getting away with it. It will be the defining issue for Pope Francis when he visits once proudly Catholic Ireland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do this in memory of me.

BLACK: Where many churches are now largely empty, where the institution is struggling for purpose and credibility.

MARIE COLLINS, VICTIM AND ACTIVIST: I went to the hospital when I was 12, just turned 13, and I was sexually assaulted by the Catholic chaplain. BLACK: After decades of recovering, Marie Collins has become a

powerful voice for reforming the church's culture. Last year she walked away from a Vatican panel advising Pope Francis because nothing changed, and she wasn't satisfied with his recent written apology.

COLLINS: We have the Pope the other day, and a strong letter, a lot of it is good. But unfortunately he still says we're working on finding a way to hold people accountable. But we're decades on. You can't still be working on it.

BLACK: Darren McGavin wanted to show us another painful location in Phoenix Park, where Pope Francis will say mass. He takes us a dark gully.

MCGAVIN: And then he laid me down on the mattress.

BLACK: Another place where he was raped by the priest he'd once trusted.

MCGAVIN: I didn't even get a sorry. He didn't even say sorry like --

BLACK: Darren and other victims say apologies are important. But from the Pope they also want firm policies to ensure no one suffers like this again.


BLACK: The victims' demands are pretty reasonable. Compulsory reporting of suspected abuse, zero tolerance essentially across the global Catholic Church, accountability for abuses and those who protect them. Anything less they say will be viewed as a failure by the Pope to fix this -- Dave.

BRIGGS: You're absolutely right. It's time for some accountability there.

Great reporting, Phil Black. Much appreciate it, live for us in Dublin. Thanks.

ROMANS: All right, 57 minutes past the hour. Let's get a check on money this Friday morning. Trade fears shaking Wall Street. Despite trade talks the U.S. slapped tariffs on another $16 billion in Chinese goods yesterday. Moments later Beijing retaliated dollar-for-dollar, and so U.S. stocks fell. Companies with big business in China alike Caterpillar and Boeing dragging on the Dow.

U.S. central bankers are meeting in Jackson, Wyoming, today for their big annual confab. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell will speak. He may give clues about future interest rate hikes. The next one will likely be next month. Right now global stocks are higher.

The CEOs of America's biggest companies have a warning for the Trump administration. Your immigration policies could harm the economy. That's from a letter signed by the heads of dozens of companies including Pepsi, Apple, JPMorgan and IBM. They write the confusion around U.S. immigration policy undermines economic growth and American competitiveness. Particular the changes to visas for high-skilled workers.

Those highly sought employees hold degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. With the employment rate at an 18-year low it is a bad time for companies to lose those workers.

Sony's robot dog is headed to the U.S. The super smart pooch could be yours for a cool $2900. The original Aibo dog debuted in the 1990s but this latest version is more than just a robot companion. The pup can develop a personality through artificial intelligence, loaded with facial recognition tech, cameras and image sensors. Sony has already sold 20,000 robot dogs in Japan.

And this dog signals Sony is no longer just a traditional electronics company. It's now shifting its focus to AI and robotics.

I think that AI stuff is so fascinating. That that thing --


ROMANS: -- can actually watch what you do and change its behavior and adapt.

BRIGGS: Can you snuggle with that thing? No.

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: I mean, you can snuggle with --

ROMANS: I like a nice dog, real puppy.

BRIGGS: Yes. Just us.

OK. EARLY START continues right now with the Hurricane Lane projections for Hawaii.

A safe full of secrets. What more do the "National Enquirer" know about the president? The head of the "Enquirer," a longtime Trump ally now cooperating with investigators.

ROMANS: Happening now. Hurricane Lane battering parts of Hawaii with strong winds and a deluge of rain. And now a new advisory is just in. We go live to the big island.

BRIGGS: And a predominately black Georgia county could close most of its polling places before the midterms. Critics say --