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President Trump Visits Civil Rights Museum in Mississippi; President Trump Endorses Roy Moore for Senate in Alabama; Wildfires Continue to Burn in Southern California; Army and Navy Square Off in Annual Football Game. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 9, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:18] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again everyone and thank you so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. President Trump is expected back in south Florida in just about 30 minutes or so after visiting Jackson, Mississippi. That's where he attended the opening of a new civil rights museum, and many top civil rights leaders and prominent African-Americans boycotted his appearance. In a brief speech, Trump paid tribute to those who fought and died for civil rights and past injustices.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The civil rights museum records the oppression, cruelty, and injustice inflicted on the African-American community, the fight to end slavery, to break down Jim Crow, to end segregation, to gain the right to vote, and to achieve the sacred birth right of equality here.


TRUMP: That's big stuff. That's big stuff. Those are very big phrases, very big words. Here we memorial ease the brave men and women who struggled to sacrifice, and sacrificed so much so that others might live in freedom.


WHITFIELD: All right, that was inside. There was also another ceremony taking place outside. Let's go to Athena Jones who is bringing us a view of that. So you had two different programs, that private event involving the president, of course his remarks to everyone. But then there was an unfolding of another program outside.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. That's right. Outside the larger program you had several elected officials or former elected officials speaking. You also saw Medgar Evers widow Myrlie Evers- Williams, who delivered remarks here. But it was indoors, the president spent his time inside the museum. He spent about 40 minutes touring the museum. He saw an exhibit on the freedom riders who helped desegregate the interstate bus system. He also saw an exhibit on Medgar Evers, who was a civil rights activist assassinated right here in Jackson in 1963. And then he delivered brief remarks. You played part of them. He

spoke for about 10 minutes to civil rights veterans and museum patrons and elected officials indoors. And then he left and headed back to Florida where he is due to arrive soon.

But Fred, you know that the invitation, Governor Phil Bryant's decision to invite President Trump got a lot of pushback, a lot of criticism. You had Mississippi Democrats asking the governor to rescind the invitation. Clearly that's not happened. The governor defended the move, saying that it is right and fitting for the president to take part in this celebration.

You also had U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson who is from Mississippi and John Lewis, the representative from Georgia who is a civil rights icon, they were on the program. In fact their names are still on the program, but they pulled out to protest the inclusion of Trump in the festivities, saying that his invitation is an insult to the very people that are being honored by the museum.

Among the president's critics are those who say this is someone who questioned the legitimacy of America's first black president, someone who has endorsed Alabama's senate candidate Roy Moore who, when asked when America was last great, pointed to the era of slavery, saying families were united even though we had slavery. John Lewis and Bennie Thompson in their statement also mentioned the criticism the president has lobbed at mostly black NFL players who have been kneeling to protest what they view as racial inequality.

And also this voter integrity commission the president has set up that many critics worry is really an effort to suppress votes, to remove people from voter rolls and that sort of thing. And so this was a very, very controversial visit. The president was greeted by about 100 protestors who turned their backs on the motorcade. Their message was that he was not welcome as part of this event. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Athena Jones, thank you so much, outside the new civil rights museum and history museum there in Jackson, Mississippi. Appreciate it.

All right, meantime, just three days until a crucial election in Alabama. Voters there will decide whether to elect Roy Moore, a Republican accused of being a child molester, or Democrat Doug Jones as their next U.S. senator.

Some of the biggest names in the Democratic party this weekend, including Cory Booker, Deval Patrick, and John Lewis campaigning throughout the state this weekend. And just last night, President Trump put his star power on the line at a rally for Moore near Alabama. I want to bring in CNN's Alex Marquardt who is in Montgomery, Alabama. So Alex, this is getting down to the wire of both the candidates presumably out trying to stump for those last minute votes. At the same time both sides really getting that star power push.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, sort of. What we're really seeing here is a flurry of activity on one side. Doug Jones out here holding a number of event, four events today and at least one that we know of tomorrow, while we don't know of any events for Roy Moore, and this is really a continuation in what we've seen in terms of campaigning styles over the past few weeks, particularly in the wake of those sexual misconduct allegations against Roy Moore, we've seen Doug Jones trying to squeeze every last vote out of the Alabama electorate, whether it's undecideds, moderate Republicans, women, and particularly African-Americans, while Roy Moore to a large extent is very confident that he has this passionate base of support who will, no matter what, go out and vote for him on Tuesday.

And to a large extent, particularly this weekend, he is letting the president do the speaking for him. We know that the president has endorsed Roy Moore. He did so last Monday. And then last night at a rally just across the state line in Pensacola, Florida, we heard the president reiterate that endorsement of Roy Moore. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't afford to have a liberal Democrat who is completely controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. We can't do it.


TRUMP: His name is Jones, and he's their total puppet. And everybody knows it. He will never, ever vote for us. So get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it.



MARQUARDT: Now, this has always been a steep uphill battle for Doug Jones, and there's perhaps no more group of voters more important to him than African-Americans in this election. If he is to stand a chance of winning on Tuesday he needs African-Americans to turn out in large numbers. That is the big reason why you are seeing these Democratic all starts who are also African-American coming down here this weekend to campaign for Doug Jones, Cory Booker, Deval Patrick, as you mentioned, John Lewis, all holding events with him.

We know that Doug Jones has an event starting in just a short time in Selma, Alabama. He is coming here, then to Alabama State University, which is a historically black college. And so he is hoping that these Democratic all-stars will help him get out the vote in the African- American community.

But it also begs the question of why aren't some of the biggest names in Democratic Party also coming down to campaign for him if it such a right race, whether it's Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, or Barack Obama? And the answer to that is the strongest argument that Doug Jones has in this race is not that he's a Democrat, not that he has these progressive views, but that he's not Roy Moore. So he is trying to walk this fine line of getting people down here who can help him get out the vote but not necessarily remind the broader Alabama electorate that he is this Democrat in what at the end of the day is a very staunchly Republican state. Fred?

WHITFIELD: And Doug Jones perhaps trying to remind particularly Democrats, black voters there, he helped prosecute two of the last people who were connected to the Birmingham church bombing that killed four little girls. So that he's hoping is a feather in his cap and appeals to black voters particularly there. Alex Marquardt, thank you so much.

Straight ahead, a fire on the west coast, ice on the east coast. We'll show you how both are causing problems today.


[14:12:06] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Firefighters in southern California making some headway on six raging wildfires, but a slight increase in the Santa Ana winds could rekindle hot spots or fuel areas that are still burning out of control. CNN's senior national correspondent Kyung Lah is in the city of Ventura where the largest city, the Thomas fire is burning. What's happening?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it still remains a very significant threat. You mentioned those winds, Fredricka. The winds we have noticed throughout the day beginning to pick up. And I want you to look at what's around me, which explains why these winds are so deadly, because one little ember will pick up from a fire that devastated this home and then will head to the next home, and to the next home, to the next home.

All of these houses, everywhere that we walk in this neighborhood up and down this hill has been completely destroyed. This is a fire that has 148,000 acres. It is only 15 percent contained, and it is still actively burning. We can't get there with our vehicle but it is actively burning in the hills. We see it from some of the aerial views of it, just churning away.

And that is the concern, that what happens when the winds pick up? This fire, so far, is 10 times the size of Manhattan and growing. And Fredricka, to put all of this into perspective, this is just one of six wildfires. As those winds pick up, and they're expected to pick up more tomorrow, the concern is will that fire threat then grow because we're talking about such dry conditions and such bad wind conditions, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Those winds just picking up those embers and making it all travel. That makes it even that much more frightening. Kyung Lah, thank you so much.

All right, so we have those treacherous wildfires in the west and a surprise early snowstorm for many people in other parts of the country. Forecasters closely watching how much today's winds and dry air will affect firefighters' efforts in southern California. And then on the other side the country, more than 60 million people from north Georgia to Maine are under a winter weather alert. Places like Boston could see up to eight inches of snow today. CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar tells us what we can expect. ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Fred, the biggest concern right

now is not just that we have all of these large fires but it's also all the small fires that could turn into big fires once these winds do begin to increase. We expect that transition to take place tonight and carry into the day on Sunday.

So here's a look at our major fires that we're dealing with around the Los Angeles. But these winds also expected to be around the same area. Once we get to say around 10:00, 11:00 tonight we're looking at winds already about 40 to 60 miles per hour. Then through the overnight timeframe we're talking about even as high as 70 miles per hour.

[14:15:00] That takes some of the smaller fires and even some of the large fires that we already have and can cause them to expand even larger, not to mention it can take even the smallest of embers and carry them into other places where we don't even have existing fires at this time. Those are going to be the big concerns for firefighters and for a lot of folks that live there at least in the short term.

We're also talking about smoke. Take a look at this. Extending 1,000 miles out from where the fires originate. That's equivalent of the fires going from New York all the way down to Miami. So that's also a big concern.

On the eastern half of the country, the big concern right now is rain and snow. Rain is really mainly along the coastal regions and then snow off to the north and west. The big cities we're talking about today, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York as well as Boston. Now, widespread totals, we're talking about two to four inches. But there will be some spots that could pick up six, even eight inches of snow before this system finally makes its way back out.

However, the winners in terms, if you can really call it that, may actually come from southern cities. Jackson, Mississippi, picked up five inches, that's more than Minneapolis and Buffalo combined for the winter season, as well as take a look at this, Wood Valley, Georgia, picking up 10 inches. That's more than Anchorage, Alaska, and even Denver, Colorado, Fred, have picked up so far this winter.

WHITFIELD: Wow, those are remarkable totals. All right, Allison Chinchar, thank you.

One of the greatest rivalries in college sports kicking off at the top of the hour. It's Army versus Navy, and of course our Coy Wire is there.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Fred, I can tell you as a former NFL player, I would be loving these conditions right now. The snow coming down. They're expecting two to four inches. Game time is just around the corner. We're going to tell you how one team may have a slight advantage because of this weather, that's coming up.


[14:21:06] WHITFIELD: The excitement is building. Less than an hour to go until one of the greatest rivalries in college football kicks off, the Army/Navy facing off in America's game. And we just learned that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to administer the coin toss, and the fans are out in force with the flurries and all, the anticipation rising.

Coy Wire exemplifies the excitement because as a former NFL player, he reminds us you like the snow, and these players are going to go at it on that snowy field. And so who would have the advantage with these kinds of snowy conditions, I wonder.

WIRE: Well, Fred, as you know, I played six of my years in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, so this is like a winter wonderland for me, but also for the players are who going to be part of this, the snow making this magical traditional game even more magical and exciting today.

Our 34th president Dwight Eisenhower said that the Army and the Navy are the best of friends 364-and-a-half days out of the year, but on this one Saturday afternoon we are the worst of enemies. These men and women who come together to celebrate each other, it's truly special. Get the goose bumps every time you think about that these are young men who are going to playing on this field who have committed themselves to us, to our nation. But today they go out there, the only college football game happening to be celebrated by us.

Let's talk about some of the extra special nuggets for today's game. One thing is the uniform. Both teams, Fred, bringing out special gear. Navy, going to be paying tribute to the Blue Angels, hand painted helmets that feature the delta formation. The color blue an exact match to the pilots' flight suits, what an incredible display that will be.

But my favorite, I have to say, Army, these all-white uniforms, they pay tribute to the Pando Commandos. They trained back in the 40s in Pando, Colorado, right near there, and they would train in the Rockies to get ready for the harsh winter conditions that they would eventually face in the Alps in World War II. They would go into northern Italy and eventually be essential in pushing back Nazi resistance in that area.

I think today, Fred, that those white uniforms with all of this snow, three or four inches here, will have an advantage. As a former defender I can say if I'm playing for Navy and I'm looking at this sea of white with the white backdrop, who do you tackle? This is going to be an incredible game. And I'm so excited to see this. It's a humbling privilege to be part of this. It truly is one of America's greatest sporting spectacles.

WHITFIELD: I love it. That is so cool. Both teams really with those promos. They both look so menacing, but I know what you mean with the white uniforms. I don't know, it sounds like they have the advantage with all that snow.

OK, so I know you said you really love. If you were playing right now because in your NFL days you loved it when it was snowing, why? It just seems like it makes it much more complicated, me, the non- football player. But come on, justify it for me. Help me understand.

WIRE: There's a fine line between crazy and willing to conquer anything. And I think the snow, it takes you back to being a kid again where you go out and you play with your friends. And it didn't matter if you got dirty, it was cold, it was raining. It didn't matter. That's what they're going to be up against today in these conditions. They're going to be having so much fun. I will say their fingers are going to be numb. Mine are. Having trouble talking right now. But things will certainly heat up on the field. These two teams going at each other. Navy of course had their 14 year win streak broken last year by Army. Now Army, they have that one-year win streak. Look out.

WHITFIELD: They have to want it really bad. Army does not want to make it one and done. They've got to go for a repeat.

WIRE: That's exactly right. Honor, they're playing for the love of each other, for the love of their nation that they've committed themselves to. So it's out time to cheer them on.

[14:25:06] WHITFIELD: Love of the nation, that's inspiring both teams. Go Army, go Navy. I'm not choosing sides. Coy Wire, have fun out there. Thank you so much, appreciate it. Have fun in Philly.

All right, that's going to do it for me today with the newsroom on this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks so much for being with me today. Next stay with us for a CNN special, "Divided We Code."