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One Person is Dead After a Stabbing Attack in Melbourne, Australia; Gunman Opened Fire at a Bar Packed Full of College Students; The United Nations Security Council Had a Meeting Thursday to Discuss North Korean Sanctions. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired November 9, 2018 - 02:00   ET


[02:00:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

GEORGE HOWELL, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: We begin with breaking news out of Australia. Police there responding to a major incident in a busy shopping district in Melbourne. Welcome to viewers around the world. I am George Howell in CNN headquarters in Atlanta. This according to police, a man attacked several people with a knife. There are also reports of a car fire.

Police have arrested a suspect at this point. A small number of people are being treated for stab wounds. Meegan May is in Melbourne and witnessed the incident, and now joins by phone with us this hour. Meegan, I understand you were heading into the central business district when you started to see this happening. Tell us more about what you saw, what you heard.

MEEGAN MAY, WITNESS, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: Basically, I was going to (Inaudible) going to the center of the city when someone on the Tram said he has a knife. I got up and turned around, and (Inaudible) window. What I could see was a (Inaudible). I hadn't heard explosions or anything. So it just looked like to being set on fire. And then I could see a man waving his arms around into police -- getting in front of him.

I then heard a loud bang which sounded like a gunshot. And shortly after that, the man next to me said he could see someone doing chest compressions. Now I asked him about more police (Inaudible) 10, 15 police come in a few minutes.

HOWELL: Meegan, this is in line with what we're hearing from authorities as well, this car fire, of course. Tell us if you would just about how people were responding around all of this. Were authorities able to get people into, you know, safe areas, obviously as this was happening?

MAY: Yeah, well, I was on the Tram, which stopped at the time. I don't think it was letting people off. But people seem to be a little bit shocked (Inaudible) not taking things as seriously. People got out their phones, started filming. But I think the rest of the city (Inaudible) normal until when, you know, 15, 20 police cars and helicopters started converging.

HOWELL: I understand, Meegan, if you would also just remind our viewers of the timing there in Melbourne, Australia when this was happening.

MAY: Right, so it was about 2:20 until 4:20, so just before peak hour had sort of started. I was just on my way home from work. So it was just before peak hour in the afternoon.

HOWELL: And again, just reading through the reporting that we understand, and you've reiterated a great deal of this and what you saw, your account of what happened. The police saying several people attacked with a knife. Again, was it this sort of thing where people were randomly targeted from what you saw?

MAY: I think I must have been on the scene once the police already arrived. At that time, I only saw one man. And the police were sort of standing in front of him. And it looked like he was trying to attack them with the knife. I didn't see anyone attack anyone else, unfortunately.


HOWELL: No, no, of course, thank you. And just to give us a sense again of the -- so the car fire. Where was the car exactly on fire? And is there any sense of how that might have come about, from what you're hearing there.

MAY: (Inaudible) it seemed like it was on a street a block up from the main center of the city, which is the Pedestrian Mall, it looked like the car was on fire across the road behind me. It didn't look like anyone was inside. It was (Inaudible) sort of had no brakes going across the road. But that part of the road is just Tramway. So it wasn't traveling at any great speed. It was just on fire, and I definitely did not hear explosions.

HOWELL: Meegan, you're really helping us to get a sense of exactly what happened, when it happened. Help our viewers around the world understand where this happened. Again, it is a busy shopping district, a great deal of people on the streets, I presume.

MAY: Yeah. It's the center of Melbourne where a lot of the transportation sort of changes (Inaudible). It is probably the busiest part of Melbourne and late on the Friday is definitely the busiest time that it probably will be. It's - yes, basically a commuter hub and the central shopping district as well.

HOWELL: Meegan May, we appreciate you being with us. Certainly, you saw a terrible event play out. We are thankful that you're OK and that others are OK. And we're certainly learning about those who were affected by this. We'll continue to follow it. Meegan, thank you for being with us, and of course, we will continue to update you, our viewers around the world, as we learn more information. I believe right now we are going to transition to a news conference in progress. Let's listen.

[02:04:56] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I entered the car, I was confronted by a male brandishing a knife (Inaudible). At the same time, passersby were calling out that members of the public (Inaudible). Police shot the male in the chest. And he is now in critical condition at (Inaudible) hospital. Three people had been stabbed. Unfortunately, one is deceased at the scene. Two other victims are currently at the hospital.

The (Inaudible) response units have cordoned off the area (Inaudible) fire. The bomb response unit is now making the scene safe. Police are not looking for any other witnesses or (Inaudible) police are not looking for any other witness at this stage. Police are calling for anybody who witnessed this event. The police (Inaudible) police station and they could provide a witness account for what occurred.

They can also upload on their Facebook link, any vision, videos, or photographs of what they saw occur. So just repeat that. If you got any vision, video, or photographs, please upload on the (Inaudible). So at this stage, the investigation is ongoing. We're keeping an open mind. There is no known link to terrorism at this stage. We will keep in mind as to whether there's any link. It is very early in the stage of the investigation.

But we ask the public unless you have got a purpose to be here, please abort the area. We will provide regular updates through the media in (Inaudible) when the area is safe and clear. At this stage, I am not going to answer any questions. It is very early in the stages of the investigation. Thank you. Police officers are OK. That's it.

HOWELL: This live news conference in Melbourne, Australia right now, 6:06 p.m. there. Again, we hear this happened earlier, in the early hours there. And hearing from that official that no police officers, police officers are OK, we just heard. Heard that this male was shot -- was shot by police, the investigation ongoing. And we understand at this point, according to the official that we just heard there, that there are no links to terrorism at this point.

We understand also three people were stabbed. One of the three we must report was killed in this attack. Let's bring Meegan May back. And Meegan, I don't know if you just got to hear. You might not have heard the news conference that we just heard here on the air. But we understand that one person at this point was killed in this incident. Again, just give us a sense of the situation as you see it there now.

MAY: I basically left the city now. But as I was leaving, it was extremely chaotic. There were police cars and helicopters everywhere in the center of the city. Although, trans and public (Inaudible) did seemed to be running normally.

HOWELL: The latest that we understand three people injured. I'll ask our producer, correct me if I am incorrect here. Three people injured. And one person was stabbed in this incident. Meegan, if you would just remind -- three people stabbed. I apologize, and one person killed as a result of that. If you could just remind our viewers of what you saw as you left the Tram getting in into the central business district.

MAY: Well, I was on the Tram, not really paying much attention until someone said they had a knife. At that point, I got out and looked toward the rear of the Tram about 20, 30 meters away. I could see two police had already responded to what -- first thing I saw a car on fire. It was kind of a shocking image. It was rolling across the street behind me. Huge flames, and then I saw a man standing in front of two police officers.

HOWELL: Meegan, may I interrupt you. You say the car was rolling while it was on fire.

MAY: Yeah. It looked like it had just gone across the street as though it was -- the brakes were left off. It didn't look like (Inaudible) danger (Inaudible) rolling. The breaks have been left off. And yes, set on fire. But I didn't hear any loud noises or explosions before I saw the flames. And yes, once I saw the man in front of two police officers, shortly after that, there was a shot bang, which (Inaudible) gun shot, and then the man next to me said to me he could see someone doing chest compressions on someone lying down. And shortly after, ambulances and police cars just turned up out of nowhere.

[02:09:51] HOWELL: Meegan, again, you say that you've already left that area. But remind our viewers, if you would, just what it was like for officials there to make sure that people stayed out of the way of this as authorities were handling it.

MAY: Right, Well, everything sort of happened extremely quickly. Like I said, I didn't really notice until two police officers had responded already. At that time, people were sort of standing around a little shocked and a little bit curious about what was going on. And then (Inaudible) police cars and ambulances just swarmed the area. They quickly cordoned off the street. Public transport I think was diverted around the street.

And it was extremely quick response (Inaudible). Not quite sure where they all came from but it was amazing.

HOWELL: Meegan May, we really appreciate you being with us. Thank you for helping us to understand what you saw and what you heard during this time. And again, reminding our viewers of what we know at this point. Three people stabbed. One person has died as a result of this attack. The suspect is in custody, in critical condition at this point.

Authorities telling us at a news conference just moments ago, no link to terrorism as it stands now. The official was also quick to say that they're keeping an open mind. They are looking at all angles of this attack. And we will bring us up to speed as they learn anything new. But again, no link to terrorism as of this point, of course, CNN will continue to follow developments out of Australia, out of Melbourne and bring you any new developments as we learn them.

Now here in the United States, a deadly mass shooting, this happened far too often. And this time, a gunman opened fire at a bar, a bar packed full of college students near the city of Los Angeles, California. The gunman, identified as Ian David Long, a former U.S. marine. He apparently shot and killed himself. This is after killing 12 people and wounding more than a dozen others.

Police are now looking for a motive. They're looking to try to make sense of this senseless attack. And joining now from Thousand Oaks, California, CNN Correspondent Omar Jimenez is there. Omar, tell us more about the vigil that is taking place in memory of the victims.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yeah. There are many vigils today. One of the biggest ones happening at a civic center not too far from the Borderline Bar and Grill here. Hundreds showed up to pay their respects really in just the hours after this unfortunately tragic shooting took place. There are also vigils at California Lutheran University and Pepperdine, because they unfortunately had students that were inside the bar at the time of the shooting as well.

This also comes as investigators are still trying to piece through the actual scene, as we learn more about what exactly happened inside. And I want to warn some of the footage you're about to see may be considered graphic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a horrific scene in there. There is blood everywhere.

JIMENEZ: College night, it was supposed to be a night of fun at the Borderline Bar and Grill. But it took a darn turn into horrifying scene of a massacre.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The white male (Inaudible) approximately eight shots (Inaudible) semi automatic.

JIMENEZ: The FBI says it was Ian David Long, a former marine, who opened fire inside the bar, killing at least 12 people before 1 authority believes taking his own life. The mystery puzzling investigators is why did he do it? Right now, they're going through his home, his car, and his belongings in search of clues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the residence, we're hoping to find information that will help us identify what the motive was for this sick, sick, depraved individual.

JIMENEZ: Officials say Long had encounters with police as recently as April, which led to him meeting with mental health specialists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're specially trained individuals that evaluated him and made the determination that he in fact not was. At this point, it is way too early to tell if there were any pre-incident indicators that may have affected this outcome.


JIMENEZ: And Sergeant Ron Healis was killed in this. He was a law enforcement officer that responded within three minutes of the first calls of these shots going off. And he's being hailed as a hero, not just because he killed in the line of duty, but also because he engaged this shooter and potentially allowed more people to escape in those initial moments of this shooting as well.

When you put this in context, this is the second shooting that has killed more than 10 people here in the United States in a matter of less than two weeks, George.

HOWELL: As so many families grieve, Omar, clearly. We're learning more about the gunman, the person behind all of this. What are officers able to piece together at this point with regards to a motive?

JIMENEZ: Yeah. At this point, that is what they are trying to center in on at this point. There are a lot of clues that they're trying to work with at this point. This someone, who is 28 years old, he served in the U.S. military, who is a marine from 2008 to 2013. So whenever anything like that is involved, you have to think about post-traumatic stress disorder.

[02:14:57] Well, back in April of this year, we were gaining insight just to something like that. Officers responded actually to his home, saying that he was acting very erratically. That's what those calls first came out about. There was a mental health specialist that actually responded with that crisis response team. At the time, they did not make a call that he needed to be put in any sort of temporary confinement or anything like that.

But then months later, here we are. They are responding to his home for a much more serious reason, to piece through what may have contributed to a mass shooting like this. And also just in the last few hours or so, authorities uncovered a Facebook post. They believe was linked to the shooter just as the shooting was taking place. I am going to read just a little bit of it here. He said I hope people call me insane.

He inserted some laughing emojis after that. Wouldn't that just be a big ball of irony? Yeah, I am insane. But the only thing you people do after these shootings is hopes and prayers, or keep you in my thoughts every time and wonder why these keep happening. So if indeed that post is linked to him, friends that we have spoken to way that post sounds nothing like him, indicating that he may have had something that could have triggered him before this.

But again, that is all going to be part of the investigation that is still just in its initial stages here, George.

HOWELL: All right, CNN Correspondent, Omar Jimenez following the story for us in California, Omar, thank you. One woman who survived this shooting spoke with CNN just a short time ago, she explained what she heard and what she saw inside that bar. It is disturbing. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was dancing. I tend to dance at the very back of the dance floor, which is covered by like a wall. So I get to see, you know, him walking in. It's something like fireworks almost. I can't tell you gunshot because initially I wasn't like -- I thought it was fireworks. And I thought it was a part of the song and it sounded really weird. It wasn't until a girl started screaming that I realized something - this is actually more serious than I thought. So I just remember I dropped to the ground and crawled over to the

water area, which is right next to the bar and just held my back against the bar area in the hopes that, you know, I wouldn't get shot from my back. I wanted to be -- I wanted to see what was going on. I remember when I was on the ground seeing the girl getting trampled, but because I was against the wall, I was OK.

But she was getting trampled. And I could tell in her eyes that she wanted me to help her. And I couldn't move. And I am still in shock. I still feel sad at the fact that I couldn't help her, because I was completely frozen.


HOWELL: The gunman killed 12 people inside that bar. And we're learning about some of those killed. CNN's Miguel Marquez has their stories.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did just get the news that he was one of the 11 killed last night.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Jason Coffman, father of 22-year- old Cody receives the worst news imaginable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His name was Cody Coffman, my first born son. Only he and I know how much I love -- how much I miss him. God, this is so hard. I love you so much.

MARQUEZ: For much of the day, Coffman hoped, prayed his son was simply missing. He used the tracking function on his son's phone to find him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not moving. It is not moving. That's the problem.

MARQUEZ: The last thing Coffman said to his son, don't drink and drive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Son, I love you. That was the last thing I said.

MARQUEZ: Shockingly, others in the bar had survived the mass shooting in Las Vegas just last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, it's the second time in a year (Inaudible) Las Vegas. From anyone, mass shooting, it's a big thing for us. We are a big family. And unfortunately, this family got hit twice.

MARQUEZ: And all 13 are dead, including the gunman. At least 21 injured. When the call came, Sergeant Ron Healis was on the phone with his wife.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant Healis was having a conversation with his wife on the phone, as he does several times during the shift, and said to her, hey, I got to handle a call. I love you. I'll talk to you later.

MARQUEZ: As others rushed out, Healis, a 29 year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, rushed in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Sergeant Healis and the patrol officer went in, they immediately exchanged gunfire with the suspect. And that is when Sergeant Healis was shot several times.

[02:19:53] MARQUEZ: Healis, who was planning for retirement, was remembered today in a spur-of-the-moment memorial. People lined the route as his body was moved from the hospital to the funeral home. It is so difficult to watch that father mourn for his son, just unbearable, the idea of a father having to bury his first born child.

We are starting to learn more of the names and more about the victims, all of them young people whose lives had just barely begun. Miguel Marquez, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: Miguel, thank you. Still ahead here on CNN Newsroom, it is the first of its kind meeting about to get under way in Moscow, why the Taliban is sitting down with Afghan government officials. We'll explain as we are live in Moscow, ahead.


HOWELL: For all the breaking news out of Melbourne, Australia. We understand that one person is dead there, this after being stabbed to death. A stabbing attack in a busy shopping district, two other people wounded as well. Police shot and detained a man at the scene. Local media say that the suspect set his car on fire and then was caught on camera attacking police officers.

Officers at this point say there is no link to terrorism. They say they're keeping an open mind. However, we will continue to keep in touch with authorities there and bring you the latest as we learn more here on CNN. The United Nations Security Council met behind closed doors Thursday to discuss North Korean sanctions, a meeting called by Russia which favors lifting sanctions on Pyongyang in exchange for disarmament cooperation.

But U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Haley Nikki, she argued that Pyongyang hasn't done anything to merit sanction relief. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have given have a lot of carrots up until now. We're not going to get rid of the stick, because they haven't done anything to warrant getting rid of the sanction (Inaudible). And I know that everybody says well, there hasn't been a test. But if you look at the resolutions and the way they were set up, where they specifically dealt with the threats of peace and security by weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, that threat is still there.


HOWELL: This all comes amid stalled nuclear talks between North Korea and the United States and a planned inter-Korean summit set for next month. Also, Russia, historic talks set to take place in that nation's capital between representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government. Other central Asian and Middle Eastern countries are also attending the summit.

[02:25:04] And our Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen following the story live in the Russian capital this hour, and Fred, given the amount of violence that we've reported. Surely, in Afghanistan, is there a sense that these talks could somehow affect help ease tensions.

FRED PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, maybe in the long run, they can, George. I'm not sure that these talks specifically that are happening today are going to necessarily achieve that or anything substantial. That's certainly what we're hearing from the Russian side. But you're absolutely right. They are in every sense really very historic talks, because it is the first time that a delegation from the Taliban is taking part.

International talks on the whole Afghan conflict. Now one of the things we need to mention is that the Afghan government for instance is actually not taking part in these talks. However, they have sent a delegation from their high peace council, so they certainly are going to be there. One of the reasons why we are not expecting too much of substance out of these talks is because there's not going to be sort of face-to-face negotiations between these two sides.

That's something that the Taliban have said, something the Russians have said as well. The Russians are saying they want to get a process rolling. It is interesting because they've actually already given all of this a title. It' called the Moscow Process, where they want to work towards decreasing violence in Afghanistan.

However, it is unclear, or it's unlikely that any such thing is going to be achieved today. But getting the ball rolling and trying to do something long-term seems to be the goal of these talks going forward. We have also heard that apparently, the U.S. is also sending one person from the State Department simply to observe these talks.

So certainly, as far as Afghanistan is concerned, it does seem to be a step forward. Of course, we also have to mention, as you did, George that the level of violence has been sharply on the rise in Afghanistan, major attack taking place there just a couple of days ago. And of course, the U.S. itself is also in peace talks with the Taliban, intermittently at least, meeting with Taliban delegations, trying to move from that end as well.

So while they're not -- be anything substantial coming out of these meetings today, the fact that this meeting is taking place, and I think we can see some pictures there of the delegates sort of getting together, that in itself is something that many people do consider a not insignificant step forward, George. HOWELL: Fred, you talk about these pictures. Let's take the pictures

in full, if we're able to, just to look at what is happening there live in Moscow. Again, 10:27 in the morning. And again, Fred, you say these meetings not so big on the substance, but certainly big in symbolism. And if you could help us understand, Fred, the symbolism of this happening in Moscow, Russia front and center with this historic meeting.

PLEITGEN: Yeah. You make a very important point. Obviously, the fact that this is taking place in Moscow is of great significance. One of the things that it certainly shows is the resurgence of Russia on the international stage as a broker on the international stage. It is something that of course, we've seen also in the Syria conflict, where the (Inaudible) talks that the Russians have launched really have been the main point of any sort of agreements getting together between really the main outside factions that are active inside Syria.

That of course, being Russia, Iran, and Turkey as well. So the Russians have already started to really reemerge on the international stage. And if you look at the conference right now, the fact that the Taliban are attending, the fact that the Afghan government has at least allowed a delegation of the peace council to go there, and the fact that several other countries are there as well shows that these parties believe that the talks are of importance and could in fact yield something and at least are worth exploring.

It certainly does bolster Russia's new role as playing a larger role in the greater Middle East. This of course, more central Africa than -- central Asia, sorry, than the Middle East. But it certainly does show Russia's resurgence on the international stage and Russia really becoming a bigger player and also trying to solve some of these conflicts or at least help solve some of these conflicts as well, George.

HOWELL: Fred, it is a big table there, front and center in the Russian capital, Fred Pleitgen live for us. Fred, thank you so much. Again, here on CNN, following the breaking news out of Australia, we understand three people stabbed. One person dead after this attack that happened in the central business district of Melbourne, Australia, CNN will bring you the latest details as we're learning from authorities on the ground. Stay with us.



[02:31:40] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Back to viewers all over the world. We're following the breaking news out of Melbourne, Australia. I'm George Howell. Here's what we know at this point, one person was killed this after a stabbing attack that happened in a busy shopping district. Two others were hospitalized after attacks. Police shot and then detained a man at the scene. That man in critical condition. Local media say the suspect set his car on fire and then started threatening people with a knife. Officials say there is no link to terrorism at this point. But in

keeping mind the official said they are keeping an open mind as they continue to track down information. Let's bring in our Alexandra Field following a story live in Hong Kong. Alexandra, what more are you learning?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No known link to terrorism, George. But they are still trying to determine what could have motivated this deadly attack. They shut down a busy shopping neighborhood in Melbourne. A bomb squad was called into help to clear the scene. Police responded to reports of the chaos that had broken out on the street in the middle of the afternoon. They arrived to find a car on fire. They heard reports that a man wielding a knife stabbing people.

They went on to say that three people had been stabbed, one killed, two injured. By the time police arrived, they confronted the suspect who was still wielding that knife. That's when the confrontation escalates. There is video of that confrontation between the police and that suspect. Police are seen shooting the suspect in the chest. He is again now in critical condition. He has been taken to a hospital, but police are still on scene trying to determine what exactly happened, how this attack started, and again, what could have motivated it.

So they are asking witnesses who were there to come forward to get in touch to provide any information that they could have about this suspect, and about the sequence of events still very much in the preliminary stages of this investigation though, George.

HOWELL: Alexandra, you know, we are waiting to -- we're hearing from witnesses, we heard from one witness at the top of our show. I believe we may have other witness accounts that we will play for our viewers as we're able to ready them for air. But if you could help our viewers understand the timing of exactly when this happened. Again, we're talking about a very busy shopping district.

FIELD: Right. Busy shopping district, 4:30 in the afternoon, we have seen some of the video that was captured by witnesses people who were out on the street have their cellphones out. You can see a car that is on fire, not exactly clear how that happened whether the car was immediately set on fire. But you do see it out on the street and you do see a man in these videos wielding that knife. What you see is the police in that confrontation with him.

But certainly, this is a moment of terror for people who were on the street. It was certainly a scene of chaos and even before the police did arrive, there were those reports of the car being on fire and the man wielding a knife of him stabbing people. So you see police rush in and to try to contain the suspect as quickly as possible. Another man jumps in even holding a chair just trying to get the suspect back and away from people who were out on the street.

Again, a busy shopping area, the middle of a Friday afternoon, so everyone working to contain it as quickly as possible. Police going so far as to shoot the suspect right there on the streets seemingly as it was explained in that police press there feeling that this was what had to be done in the middle of this confrontation.

HOWELL: And you touched on this in your reporting as well. But just reiterate to our viewers around the world as far as the next terrorism officials at this point out, Alexandra, saying they're not seeing a link, right?

FIELD: No known link at this time.

[02:35:00] And George, we do need to give them of course some time to learn more about who this suspect is, what his history is whether he has any criminal ties, whether he could have any ties to terrorist organizations, whether he could be influence in any ways by terrorist groups, or writings, you know, these are investigations that can take hours, days, even months, and then they will include of course interviews of people who know this suspect.

He again is in critical condition, so it wouldn't be clear at all that the police would be able to speak to him or interview him at this point. But they did make it very clear that they are looking again for more help from the public. That could mean more videos, more photos that were taken and simply more accounts of what exactly happened that sequence of events. It will be important to nail that down. But, well, they did say that there was no known link to terrorism at this point.

They didn't offer any leads as to what could have motivated this seemingly random attack.

HOWELL: Yes. Alexandra, thank you. And again, as I mentioned, we are waiting to bring forward more accounts of people who were there, who saw this, and witnessed it. We'll share that here shortly. But, Alexandra, thank you so much. Now, at the U.S. State of California, two wildfires destroying everything in their paths. This is the so- called Hill Fire north of Los Angeles, California. It's close down parts of the freeway and both directions so far its burned nearly 3000 hectares and winds are expected to fuel the flames overnight there.

Also in Northern California, thousands of residents raised from their homes on Thursday as the so-called camp fire exploded there, out of control flames growing at a rate of about 80 football fields a minute, 80 football fields a minute. Authorities say 15,000 structures there are now threatened. We're also hearing stories of how people had to evacuate these terrifying stories. People tried to get out of town. One man explained what it was like for his wife to try to escape. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She didn't even know they're supposed to evacuate at one point. The only reason why she knew it because she walked outside and there was just ash coming down like rain just everywhere and it was so dark outside. So gathered up the kids and got some of our valuables last and she mentioned that the road that she tried to get out of it was just a wall of flame. There was no way that she was going through there. So she turned back around and tried to get out of the main road which

is called skyway and she said that the, you know, the trees were just in like up in flames. There are flames (INAUDIBLE) it was horrible experienced for my son and to my kids and everything. It's crazy.


HOWELL: Well, it's just terrifying. And here's the thing, the winds there in Southern California, they are not helping these wildfires. Let's talk about that now with our meteorologist Derek Van Dam in the international weather center. Derek?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: George, some of those scenes are just almost apocalyptic. Wow. It's just incredible. I think scenes like this at the Camp Fire in Butte County they really speak a thousand words themselves. I was reading some of the testaments of people who evacuate and they were talking about how they could hear propane tanks exploding around town as they were trying to get them and their families out in -- of harm's way.

I mean incredible and but also very terrifying moments for those people. Look at just this wall of smoke associated with the Camp Fire. This is a time lapse video. People said that they could see this smoke from the fire over 250 kilometers away from where the fire actually occurred. And so, we dug up some really interesting satellite imagery from GOES-16 satellite way above in space and we confirmed just that. So pay attention to the time stamp in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

We know the fire in Northern California, the Camp Fire started at about 6:00 a.m. You could see some of the smoke associated with a fire travelling towards the coastline. We know that's about 200 kilometers away and that occurred by midday right around noon. So if you do the math that took about six hours for that smoke to reach that area 200 kilometers, so winds there gusted an excess of 35 kilometers per hour and I'm sure through some of those valleys the winds got even higher than that.

And that is really the main threat that we are dealing with across the Sacramento Valley all the way down the Central Valley and then to Southern California. Strong winds, low humidity, and we also know that the vegetation is extremely dry because, well, frankly, we haven't had much rain lately, right? So we do have our high wind warnings and advisories in effect and unfortunately you can also see the direction of the wind.

This is Santa Ana winds coming over the mountain range here that could gust an excess of 100 kilometers per hour, so the fire threat on going for Southern California as well as the Sacramento Valley and, well, they're really trying their best efforts to put out these fires because even Boeing 747s with fire retardants trying to put out the flames have been flying around this area. Some successful more than others but again we're focusing their two attentions or attention on both the Camp Fire and the Hill Fire, the two largest fires across at the state at the moment creating scenes just like this. And unfortunately, George, the weather will not play along over the

next couple of days. We could see more scenes like this play out again.

[02:40:15] HOWELL: Good. All right. Derek, thank you so much. And I want to show our viewers some live images right now in Ventura Country, California this from our affiliate there (INAUDIBLE) fire. You get a sense of exactly what's happening there and as you mentioned, Derek, saying the winds are not going to help the situation there. People escaping from these neighborhoods trying to get away from these fires that are destroying property at really incredible rates. We'll continue to follow this of course. You're watching CNN. Stay with us.


HOWELL: In U.S. politics, the sudden firing of the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has created a great deal of uncertainly specifically about the future of the investigation into Russian election meddling and that uncertainty is fueled protest in the streets of several U.S. cities Thursday. You see New York, Chicago, Washington, and here in Atlanta, Georgia. People demanding the investigation be protected. Their fear is that Jeff Sessions' replacement for attorney general Matt Whitaker viewed try to short circuit the probe.

He's on the record of being against it calling it, "Ridiculous" fishy. CNN has learned that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now drafting his final report on that investigation. Whitaker's surprised promotion to acting U.S. Attorney General comes with an expiration date. Under law, he can only serve 210 days without requiring Senate confirmation. But in many ways, he perfectly fits the Trump agenda during a very critical crucial time as our Jessica Schneider explains.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Matthew Whitaker has been on the president's succession list since at least late September. The president spoke directly with Whitaker when it was Rod Rosenstein whose future was in question. At the time, multiple sources told CNN that the president talked with Whitaker about becoming acting deputy attorney general after revelations that Rosenstein suggested officials were wired to record the president as a way to ounce him from office.

But with Sessions' resignation at the request of the president, Trump named Whitaker acting attorney general via tweet.

[02:44:57] MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I think what ultimately the president is going to start doing is putting pressure on Rod Rosenstein.

SCHNEIDER: Whitaker has long backed President Trump's tough take on the Mueller probe. In an opinion piece for on August 2017, Whitaker wrote that it was time for Rosenstein who oversees the special Council to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel.

And he warned that by investigating the president's personal and business finances, Mueller has come up to a red line that he is dangerously close to crossing. And he said, if Mueller didn't limit his probe, it would raise serious concerns that the special counsel's investigation was a mere witch-hunt.

Whitaker also appeared on CNN in July 2017, suggesting any replacement Attorney General would likely slow down the special counsel by pinching the purse strings.

WHITAKER: And that Attorney General doesn't fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces the budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost in a halt.

SCHNEIDER: And before Whitaker began working at the Justice Department as Sessions chief of staff in October 2017, he was quite vocal about two main focal points of the Mueller investigation. Any possible obstruction of justice by the president --

WHITAKER: There is no criminal obstruction of justice charge to be had here. There's just, that the evidence is weak.

SCHNEIDER: And that Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, where Donald Trump Jr. and others met with the Russian lawyer.

WHITAKER: To suggest that there's a conspiracy here, I mean, you would always take that meeting.

SCHNEIDER: Whitaker was by Sessions side today as he left the Justice Department, as he has been for the past year.


SCHNEIDER: And he has a long political history of his own. The former college football player at the University of Iowa ran is the Republican candidate for state treasurer there, but lost. And was later appointed by President George W. Bush as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa.

WHITAKER: I'm not sure what we are passing onto the next generation.

SCHNEIDER: In 2013, Whitaker ran in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate but came in fourth. And one year later, he was named chairman of Sam Clovis's unsuccessful bid for Iowa State Treasurer.

Clovis was a top Trump campaign aide and has reportedly testified before Mueller's grand jury.


SCHNEIDER: And Whitaker's worked with this now, shut down company could add more fuel to Democrats anger about his appointment. Democrats are calling for emergency hearings and telling the Justice Department to preserve all documents related to Whitaker's appointment. Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.

HOWELL: Thank you, Jessica. House Democrats say they plan to investigate Sessions firing when they take control of the House, come January. When that happens, Nancy Pelosi will likely be the House speaker again. Here's what she told my colleague, Chris Cuomo.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), UNITED STATES HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER: I do think everybody cares about our Constitution. And when they see this, this is a perilously constitutional moment. I don't say its constitutional crisis quite yet, but it's a perilous time. And we will see tonight people in the streets because of this firing. But should the president go to Rosenstein or Mueller or something like that, it would be even worse. This is a very important moment I hope the president is not frivolous about it.


HOWELL: Now, for a closer look at the acting Attorney General, and where he may take the U.S. Justice Department. Cyril Vanier has this report.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Until now, Matthew Whitaker wasn't a political heavyweight, former U.S. Attorney, legal analysts, including here on CNN. And lately, chief of staff to Jeff Sessions whom he just replaced. But he's been very vocal about one thing in particular, and that is the Mueller investigation. His opinion on that, it needs to be seriously reined in.

Exhibit A, last year, he retweeted this article entitled, Do not cooperate with Mueller lynch mob. He said that was worth a read. Exhibit B, an opinion piece that he wrote for CNN last summer after we learned that Mueller was investigating Trump's finances. This is what Whitaker wrote. "Mueller has come up to a red line that he is dangerously close to crossing. It is time for Rosenstein to order Mueller to limit the scope of this investigation."

So, Whitaker argues in his piece that Mueller does not have the authority to carry out a wide investigation into Trump world the way he's doing. And that his investigation as it currently stands should be limited. Now, Whitaker has the power to do just that.

Exhibit C, CNN is learning that unlike Jeff Sessions, Whitaker apparently has no intention of recusing himself from the investigation. In other words, now that he's got power over this probe, he is keeping that power.

OK. So, Whitaker is no friend of the Mueller investigation, we'd established that. But, so what? Mueller has been investigating for what? A year and a half now. Does it matter if he suddenly gets a new boss? Yes, or at least, it could. Whitaker oversees the investigation. That means he can tell Mueller to stop investigating certain things or he can refuse to let Mueller investigate new things. For instance, according to the Washington Post, Whitaker would block any attempt by Mueller to subpoena the president. Now, remember, we've been reporting for a while that Mueller may at some point tried to force the President to talk to him. Well, reportedly, Whitaker would block that.

The acting Attorney General could also reduce Mueller's budget so much that Mueller would have no money to investigate him with. Now, Whitaker has even been thinking about this for a while. In fact, he floated the idea himself on CNN more than a year ago. Listen to this.

[02:50:32] WHITAKER: I can see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced. It would a recess appointment. And that Attorney General doesn't fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduced his budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost in a halt.

VANIER: And ultimately, when Mueller wraps up his final report on the investigation, who do you think he has to send it to? That's right, Whittaker. And the acting Attorney General could -- he could decide to keep that report secret. So, if our viewers need to remember one thing about all of this, it is this. That if the president wanted an attorney general who would protect him from this Russia investigation, Whittaker seems like a perfect pick to do just that.


HOWELL: Cyril Vanier, wow! Now, the U.S. midterm elections, remember those? The two key races in Florida are still undecided, both the U.S. Senate and governor's contests there could be headed for a recounts. On Thursday, Governor Rick Scott who is running for Senate alleged voter fraud without proving any evidence there and accused Democrats of trying to steal the election.

In a tweet, the U.S. President Donald Trump, also supporting the governor, repeating the allegations of election fraud again with no proof. CNN's Ryan Nobles has the latest.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It certainly seems that every time we check the updated numbers in these big races in Florida for U.S. Senate and for governor, the margins between the two candidates are getting just a little bit closer. And Democrats are particularly encouraged by the results in the race for U.S. Senate. Bill Nelson, the incumbent Senator has cut the lead by Rick Scott, who is the current governor by more than 40,000 votes since what we saw on election night.

And that means the margin between the two candidates is less than a quarter of a percent. If that holds by Saturday, that means an automatic hand recount will take place. That's an exhaustive recount of some of these important ballots. And then -- and Democrats really believe that there's a possibility that Nelson could overtake Scott for the lead.

Now, in the race for governor, the gap is a little bit broader, but it is still very close. Andrew Gillum, who's the mayor of Tallahassee actually conceded on election night to Ron DeSantis. But now, as the votes continue to come in, he has cut the lead to now less than half of a percentage point. And if that holds, that would mean an automatic machine recount.

Now, Democrats feel that their chances are much better in the Senate race than they are in the governor's race, they remain -- they remain realistic in their chance for a victory in the governor's race. But still, they want every vote counted. The next big benchmark we're waiting for is Saturday. That's when the votes have to be handed into the Secretary of State and that's when we'll know if we are on the precipice of another historic recount here in the Sunshine State. Ryan Nobles, CNN, Tallahassee, Florida.

HOWELL: Still to come here on CNN, the injury of a U.S. Supreme Court justice. It has inspired some interesting hashtags. We'll explain. Stay with us.


[02:55:07] HOWELL: The U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is proving once again she is tough at 85 years old. RBG now in the hospital after falling in her office on Wednesday night. But she didn't go to the hospital right away after the fall in her office, she went home. Then, sometime before sunrise, Thursday, she went to the hospital, and that's where it was discovered she had three fractured ribs. CNN's Jeanne Moos looks at the reaction from social media.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just grab it, and just pull.



MOOS: That didn't prevent Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg from falling in her office fracturing three ribs. And that inspired her fans to exercise their funny bones with the #ribsforruth. "Do they need rib donors? Because she can have mine. Right now."

"Willing to donate some delicious ribs to RBG." Mouth-watering videos accompanied some of the good wishes. Until she heals enough to get back to her workout routine.

GINSBURG: This is light.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. I know. I got a heavier one.

MOOS: She can save her the hashtag she inspired. "I bet RBG is getting a kick out of #ribsforruth.

Fractured ribs tend to heal on their own. No need for donations which means, #RibsForRuth is basically just a little ribbing. Though some on the Right thought those on the Left were serious about making rib donations. "Has the left lost their collective ever loving minds?" No, they're joking. #RibsForRuth sounds like a delicious restaurant. Unlike Chris Rock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are -- what are the ribs?



MOOS: Justice Ginsburg is been showered with ribs. "Adam gave one to Eve, I'll give one to RBG." She may have fractured ribs, but she's definitely not short ribs. Jeanne Moos, CNN --


MOOS: New York.


HOWELL: And thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. We will update the breaking news out of Melbourne, Australia next hour. An attack that left one person dead, two others injured. Stand by, you're watching CNN.