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Camp Fire Now Deadliest in California History, 42 Dead, More Missing; Israel, Gaza Militants Trade Deadly Rocket, Mortar Fire; Police Officer Kills Security Guard Who Stopped Alleged Gunman; White House Responds to CNN Lawsuit. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 13, 2018 - 10:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This as the camp fire has become the deadliest wildfire in the state's history. At least 42 people have died in that blaze.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Many of those deaths in the Town of Paradise. This home reduced to ashes, a mailbox now all that stands remaining. Dan Simon, he is in Paradise with more. I mean, we have heard people say, you know, why would God take away a town named Paradise? But there really is just shock and sadness there.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is. And let me first explain where I am. This one of the first burned out structures I saw when I first came to Paradise. This is a Safeway grocery store. I wanted to come back here today and show you because it's just so massive, how big this is. And you can see just the destruction inside. And it's representative of the bigger problem that you have in the Town of Paradise. We're talking about a small town, and quite frankly, a lot of people relied on this grocery store. And so, you know, going forward, it's going to be really challenging because you have to rebuild businesses just like this.

In the meantime, we got that horrible news yesterday that the death toll has risen. We're now looking at 42. That's a record for the amount of fatalities for a wildfire in California. And all along, officials fear that the death toll would continue to go up because this fire spread so quickly and combined with the fact that you have a lot of elderly retirees who live in the Town of Paradise.

We know that's going to be the focus today. More search and recovery crews are on their way to Paradise to look for more bodies. And you also have the grim task of trying to identify the victims, so many of them were badly burned, beyond recognition, quite frankly. So officials are asking folks in the community. They're asking loved ones to provide DNA samples so ultimately those remains can be identified.

In terms of the overall fire itself. Right now, it's 30 percent contained. There hasn't been much growth in the past few days. So that's good, but obviously, looking for those bodies today is going to be key, and just one other thing. Perhaps you can see just how smoky the conditions are outside. That's another thing that folks here are battling. We'll send it back to you guys. HARLOW: Wow.

SCIUTTO: Don't sit there for a long time, going to take a long time to recover. Dan Simon thanks very much.

About 500 miles south of Paradise, near Malibu, the Woolsey Fire, as it's called, that intensified overnight. The fire now has scorched more than 96,000 acres. Crews could soon be facing up to 60 miles per hour winds today. Fanning the flames, at least two people killed while they were likely fleeing this fire over the weekend. State-wide, more than 8,000 firefighters are now battling those flames. A lot of you have asked about this, for ways that you can help those affected, hurt by the California wildfires. Please go to

HARLOW: All right. Israel may be pulling back from the brink of war after an incredibly volatile 24 hours. Hundreds of rockets and mortars have been raining down on both sides of the Israeli/Gaza border. You see some of the shots in the middle of the night there.

SCIUTTO: There are sadly casualties on the ground. CNN's Oren Liebermann is in Sderot, Israel, and he joins us now. Still lighting up the sky as you have been seeing?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been now a few minutes of quiet, perhaps over the last hour or so, we have not seen any red alerts indicating rocket fire or mortar fire from Gaza and we have not heard any Israeli airstrikes. We have not gotten any reports of those from our CNN teams inside Gaza.

Just over the course of the last few minutes, we have gotten statements from Hamas as well as a Hamas source telling CNN that a cease-fire has been reached between Israel and Gaza. Egypt and the United Nations have worked frantically over the course of the last 24 hours to get to this point, to get to the point of a cease-fire. Israel generally does not comment or does not confirm any acknowledgment of any cease-fire and they haven't commented in this case. Yet what they have said in the past is simply quiet will be met with quiet.

If this cease-fire holds, it brings to an end the most volatile, worst 24 hours in terms of hostilities between Israel and Gaza since the end of the 2014 war. The Israeli military says more than 400 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza into Israel. Many have been intercepted by Israel's iron dome aerial defense system. A number have hit residential areas including one that hit a residential building inside Ashkelon City near where we're standing right now in Israel. One person was killed in that rocket attack, making that the first person killed in a rocket strike in Israel since the 2014 war.

In that wave of Israeli airstrikes carried out against Gaza, against largely Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic - military targets, the Palestinian Ministry of Health says seven Palestinians have been killed. A number of others have been injured. Poppy and Jim, the critical question now is this cease-fire in fact in place and is it holding as we head into the dark hours here?

HARLOW: Yes, a very important question. Oren, thank you for being there and reporting for us.

Ahead for us, a grieving family says a security guard just doing his job when he was shot dead by police. Now they're demanding to know why.


[10:39:42] SCIUTTO: The family of a Chicago security guard who was shot dead by police wants answers about what happened to their son. They filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officer who shot him while he was trying to protect others.

HARLOW: And here's what we know according to the court document. They say that 26-year-old Jemel Roberson, who is African-American, had stopped a suspected gunman and was holding him down outside of the bar where he worked.

[10:40:05] This happened on Sunday. And that is when the officer opened fire on Robertson. Even though people yelled at police that he was the security guard for the bar. And he was holding down that person. Let's get more now from our Ryan Young who joins us in Chicago. What else can you tell us?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a tough story, the mother moving very quickly to file that lawsuit. In fact, in the lawsuit, it says the shooting death was unprovoked and it says the shooting of Jemel Roberson was unjustified. So you can understand the feelings of pain that this family is feeling. So many people in the community were also upset because the Midlothian Police Department hadn't made any statements up until this morning, and in fact, the police chief there has now asked for an independent investigation into this case. And wants the state agency to come in and to make sure the integrity is solid in terms of what they're going to find.

But you've got to think about the people who were there. So many people were upset about exactly what happened, all this talk about shootings at bars. Apparently, some men had been thrown out of a bar. One came back with a gun and started shooting into a crowd. Jemel Roberson, who is 26, who wanted to be a police officer, actually responded, was able to get one of the people down and stopped the shooting. In fact, there was a visual last night. And you should listen to his brother and how passionate he was about what he thought his brother was doing right in the situation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A male told you a million times, he's security. The suspect is being apprehended right here. Everything is under control. After everybody told you that, including the 70 people that were out here, you intentionally fired one time. After you fired that one time, you shot my little brother four more times.


YOUNG: Yes, this is tough, obviously, for the people there. We heard a lot of witnesses talking just about the fact that they thought he did the right thing. This young man wanted to be a police officer. He was very active in his choir. So many people from the community have also responded to the fact that they thought he was one of the good guys. And he was wearing a security shirt, and he did the right thing.

The question now, obviously, is what did that officer perceive when he arrived on scene. We're told he's been an officer for about four years. Not sure if there's a body camera involved in the case. We'll have to look to see what the state finds as they get involved in this investigation but a lot of questions about this one. We'll have to see how this plays out.

HARLOW: And - I mean, is Chicago PD saying anything?

YOUNG: Well, it's not the Chicago Police Department. It's the Midlothian Police Department -


YOUNG: -- a smaller agency to the south.


YOUNG: So they, of course, are now calling for the state agency. Not as large as the Chicago Police Department.

HARLOW: Got it.

SCIUTTO: Well, should have been talking about a hero this morning, and instead, just a horrible loss. Ryan Young thanks very much.

White supremacists, some of them apparently feeling emboldened by GOP wins during the midterms. Why they see it as a boost for their agenda. We're going to look at that next.


[10:47:23] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. A really important story for you now, one week to the day after the midterm elections, some white supremacists are celebrating and they're celebrating Republican victories.

SCIUTTO: They see the GOP hold on the Senate as a win for President Trump, a way to push forward their agenda of hate. Sara Sidner, she has been covering this. She joins us now. Of course, people could see whatever they want to, I imagine, in the elections, but what specifically do they see as moving their agenda forward?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They see their language being repeated. They hear the messages that they have been trying to send repeated by the president at times, his retweeting of white nationalists, his retweeting of a far right group in Britain. They see it as a yes, I'm with you. Even though the president has clearly said I am not a racist, I do not support this. But they see it as a tacit approval of their agenda.

And what is their agenda? Their agenda is to create a white ethno state. And there, listening to the president, and they're hearing his words and saying he's with us.


SIDNER (voice-over): It was a meme for the midterms on a Web site visited more than 2.5 million times a month. "Us if we lose," it read, depicting white men ready for war. Followed by "them if we win," showing Jews being led to their death.

KEEGAN HANKES, SR. RESEARCH ANALYST, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: They're begging their followers to go out and find ways to get Republicans in office, because they believe it will be easier for these policies to sail through.


SIDNER: When President Trump celebrated the Senate victory, so did white supremacists. This changed history, neo-Nazi Andrew England said on his site, the Daily Stormer, which is the most widely read neo-Nazi website in America. "This is a race war, period." They also reveled in the re-election of Congressman Steve King who has a history of making racist remarks like in this 2017 anti-immigration tweet saying, "We can't restore our UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you make of that? civilization with somebody else's babies," or his unsubstantiated claim about immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: They weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.

SIDNER: If last night was a referendum on Steve King's white nationalism as the Democrats are trying to frame it then white nationalism won. England wrote on his site. Both King and President Trump vehemently deny they are racist or enable white supremacists. Trump pushed back at a recent press conference when asked if the Republican Party was seen as supporting white nationalists because of his rhetoric.

TRUMP: I don't believe it.

SIDNER: But purposely or not the President speaks a language that racists and neo-Nazis embrace. Like his habit of linking immigrants to crime.

[10:50:06] TRUMP: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.

SIDNER: The government accountability office says right-wing extremists are responsible for the vast majority of deadly terror attacks in the U.S. since 9/11.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was involved in the movement at the very dawn of the Internet.

SIDNER: Tony McAleer is a former skinhead. He says white supremacists look for any sign of approval from politicians in power. TONY MCALEER, CO-FOUNDER, LIFEAFTERHATE.ORG: The whole goal of people like me back in the day was to mainstream. Mainstream the idea.

HANKES: It doesn't take an overt slur for these individuals to basically become emboldened.

SIDNER: Take the President's threat to tell the military to consider rocks being thrown by migrants as guns being fired.

TRUMP: When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military and police, I say consider it a rifle.

SIDNER (voice over): Those comments cheered online by racist trolls. "Hopefully they throw stones," they write. The Daily Stormer's Web master, Andrew Aurheimer, is clear about their purpose.

ANDREW AURHEIMER, DAILY STORMER: We are trying to make a racist army.

SIDNER (voice over): White nationalists swooned at how the president described himself.

TRUMP: I am a nationalist.

SIDNER (voice over): Translation, he is one of us.

STEVE MOORE, RETIRED FBI HATE CRIMES INVESTIGATOR: It doesn't mean necessarily that he's saying that. It's just that he hasn't said anything to convince them that he disagrees with them.

SIDNER (voice over): Critics of Trump's rhetoric believe his reluctance to rein in the radical side of his base has only empowered them.

Their hateful agenda gaining speed.


SIDNER: Now, when the president says things that are confusing, when he says both sides, that sort of language, well, some people might say well he's clearly making a differentiation between those he thinks are good and though he thinks are not, but white nationalists see it as he can't say what he really thinks so he's giving us a dog whistle, he's giving us a sign that he's with us, but he can't really say it. And that's one of the things you see over and over and over again. And when people say, you know, white nationalists don't support him. They actually dislike Trump. What they dislike is that he's not extreme enough.

SCIUTTO: Haven't built the wall yet, for instance.

SIDNER: That's right. That's right.

HARLOW: Such important reporting you do in the field on this, all your previous pieces. Thank you for bringing it to us. We appreciate it Sara. We do have a response from the White House to the lawsuit that CNN has filed against the president and members of his administration. The White House responding, we'll bring you that response right after this.


[10:56:56] HARLOW: All right, this just in to CNN. The White House has just responded to the lawsuit that CNN filed this morning on First Amendment and Fifth Amendment grounds after the White House banned our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

SCIUTTO: We're going to read the statement in full. It begins, "We have been advised that CNN has filed a complaint challenging the suspension of Jim Acosta's hard pass. This is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit." It goes on to say, "CNN who has nearly 50 additional hard pass holders and Mr. Acosta is no more or less special than any other media outlet or reporter with respect to the First Amendment.

After Mr. Acosta asked the president two questions, each of which the president answered," says the White House in the statement. "He physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern so that other reporters might ask their questions. This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters."

HARLOW: The White House goes on to say, quote, "The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when reporters act this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional. The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter or more than 150 present attempt to monopolize the floor. If there's no check on this type of behavior, it impedes the ability of the president, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct their business."

Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter is here with reaction. So help us fact check this.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: None of what the White House is saying is actually addressing the substance of the lawsuit. What the White House is complaining about is Acosta's style. And I get it. A lot of people don't like Acosta's style. They think he's too aggressive, he's too blunt, he's too opinionated. But this is not about Acosta's style. This is about the rules and the policies and the standards that have been established for decades with regards to gaining access to the White House.

So, what CNN is actually saying in the lawsuit is that the White House violated those processes, those guidelines that have been in place since the 1970s for people to carry a hard pass. And that's what's going to be litigated in the U.S. District Court. Not whether Acosta is too aggressive.

And by the way, I think it's great that White House reporters have different styles. I think it is great CNN has multiple reporters in the White House. They can all do it in their own way. That's how a free press should work.

SCIUTTO: Well, if there's any question as to whether they were going to challenge it, it's right there in the first - in the second line of the statement -

STELTER: That's right.

SCIUTTO: "We will vigorously defend against this lawsuit." So it appears that this will be going to court.

STELTER: Yes, and we could have updates as soon as later today or tomorrow. CNN is seeking an immediate hearing to receive temporary response from a judge to get Acosta's press pass back right away, and then seeking a permanent solution to this, permanent relief in legal terms, so this doesn't happen again. But don't take it from me. Take it from the White House Correspondents Association.

The association came out with a statement a little while ago that said, "The president of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him." And in an essence, that's what the White House is trying to do, trying to say, hey, you can't show up anymore, Acosta. Everybody else from CNN, come on in. The president is trying to pick who covers him. And that's not appropriate.

SCIUTTO: Brian Stelter thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thank you. We appreciate it.

And thank you all for being with us today, a busy one again. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR" with our colleague Kate Bolduan starts right now.