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Wildfires Continue to Burn in Northern and Southern California; President Trump Visits California to Assess Damage by Wildfires; CIA Concludes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Ordered Killing of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi; Julian Assange is Reportedly Inadvertently Named in Court Filings by U.S. Prosecutors. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 17, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And riding a bike isn't just riding a bike. Later today we'll take you around the world to see some of the most extraordinary races imaginable and meet some of the people brave enough to face them.

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and this is Fit Nation.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, everyone. Thank so much you for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

President Trump is now in northern California in the city of Chico arriving just there now to tour the devastation from the deadly wildfires. Roughly 17 miles west of that is the hard hit city of Paradise. At least 74 people have been killed in that area, more than 1,000 others remain missing. Moments ago the president arrived, he's meeting with local officials, and that is the extent of what we know thus far about what will be happening, unclear if he will be touring the area via motorcade, or if he will be meeting people at another offsite location. It is not the deadliest fire in California history, all that has taken place there in northern California. Thousands of residents are now living in so called pop-up tent cities. Those who have lost homes include half of the paradise police force.


OFFICER DAVID AKIN, PARADISE POLICE: My three-year-old son keeps asking why can't we just go home. And I don't know what to tell him.


WHITFIELD: Paradise is a city of 26,000. In all the Camp Fire has now burned 148,000 acres, that is about the size of Chicago. More than 9,000 homes have burned to the ground. CalFire says that fire is now 55 percent contained.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is nearby in Chico where hundreds of displaced families are trying to figure out what to do next. We're look at the pop-up cities behind you. Are people aware that the president has even arrived there in Chico and that he will be seeing for himself what folks are going through?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, as a couple volunteers here just explained to me, Butte County is looking for all the help that it can get. And while people did not take kindly to the president's threats to withhold federal funds from the state of California, him going after California's forestry management services, they say if he is here, if he can put a spotlight on the problem and see ground zero for himself, maybe that will help chart a better path forward for people in unbelievably dire circumstances.


HARTUNG: The smoke from the Camp Fire lingers, and survivors on the ground face a bleak picture. This makeshift campground in a Walmart parking lot is near the remnants of the town of Paradise. Many have lost everything. These survivors are just trying to catch their breath in the smoky air, looking for answers to the question, what's next.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did it burn down or didn't it burn down? And we just don't know. And it is hard to figure out your game plan when you don't know your game plan.

HARTUNG: Anna (ph) Goodnight (ph) and her husband William rushed out of their home. They were only able to grab medication and some important documents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw everything burning down as we were leaving off the hill. That was scary enough.

HARTUNG: They have no idea if their home is still standing. They're just glad they made it out alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope there is some closure for families that lost family, because we have been hearing so many horror stories. But I'm sure it is going to get worse before it gets better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're living, as a lot of people didn't make it.

HARTUNG: Crystal (ph) Stewart (ph) survived hurricanes Andrew and Irma in Florida. She and her four young children were planning to make Paradise their new hom.

This was the start of the next chapter of your life, putting a down payment on an apartment in Paradise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were all happy, and excited they had actually called us and told us to come next week. That is supposed to be the time we were to come in, but everything is gone, and I don't know what is the next step. I am just winging it.

HARTUNG: Despite facing her own long road to recovery, Crystal (ph) has been visiting the people at the camp, offering to help however she can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't do anything but one day at a time. It's out of my hands. Stay praying, stay asking the Lord to cover us or just cover them. Make sure they have a safe place to land in all of the situations. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HARTUNG: This Walmart is at the bottom of a hill that Paradise sits atop of, about 10 miles away from it. So people here have explained to me this is somewhere they're familiar with.

[14:05:02] This is where the community of Paradise shops and this is a place people feel safe. But many people are here and essentially stranded. People were dropped off here in the chaos of evacuations last Thursday. Volunteers began organizing donations on Friday of clothing and food for people who escaped their homes with essentially nothing. But Fred, this is just a short-term solution to a much longer road to recovery. This ground we're standing on, this is a flood zone. Folks here are anticipating rain and the forecast on Wednesday which could mean improved air quality, that could take some of this thick smoke out of the air. But it also puts the people here sheltering in these tents in danger. They are trying to begin that process of helping people find their next solution.

WHITFIELD: My gosh, a potential double punch there. Kaylee Hartung there in Chico. Again, not far away from there the president of the United States has just arrived. We know he is there to tour the area, but we don't know the extent to which and how he will be interacting with people.

Meantime earlier today I spoke with the major of Paradise. Again, that city just about 17 miles from which Chico. Major Jody Jones, she defended the way her city has handled the evacuations.


WHITFIELD: There's also been some criticism earlier this week at a town meeting in your area, people were complaining of not being adequately evacuated, not being informed adequately about the potential danger while they smelled smoke in the air. There was criticism of officials including you. How do you respond to those who are just besides themselves saying that the city could have done more, you as the mayor could have done more as they reflect now a week after this fire began sweeping through?

MAYOR JUDY JONES, PARADISE CALIFORNIA: If you look at the map where the fire started, it started in Pulga. And the fire chief told me in order to have had time to orderly evacuate everyone in Paradise, he would have had to have ordered a mandatory evacuation 10 minutes after the fire started in Pulga. Pulga is a long way from Paradise. I think it's like seven or eight miles away. No official would do that. The fires in the fast have never jumped the Feather River. So there was no logical reason to do that 10 minutes after the fire started in Pulga that you would evacuate all of Paradise.


WHITFIELD: Mayor Jody Jones of Paradise California, a town of 26,000, so much of it destroyed, so many people displaced as a result of these fires. As we mentioned, President Trump is in that vicinity right now. CNN

White House correspondent Boris Sanchez joining us. So any better handling, or knowledge of what the president will be doing?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Yes, President Trump just landed at Chico municipal airport. He was doing a brief helicopter tour. It was about 30 minutes, not clear that he could see much because of the thick smoke in the area. We understand that now he's going to jump in a motorcade to continuing touring some of these areas devastated by these wildfires. He is joined by a number of officials including the director of FEMA, Brock Long, as well as some California representatives, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and a local Representative Doug LaMalfa who represents that district where some of these wildfires have caused so much damage.

Also joining President Trump is Governor Jerry Brown who the president has exchanged some barbs with in the past, specifically about forest management and the impact of forest management on wildfires in California. Touring alongside with him will be Governor elect Gavin Newsom. We should point out on that issue of forest management the president drew a sharp rebuke from some California fire officials over the last few days over his suggestion that more could have been done to prevent these wildfires. Before he left here at the White House he told reporters that he would be delivering his message about forest management to these officials face to face.

We should point out, the governor Jerry Brown there has talked about forest management potentially helping to mitigate some of these fires in the future, but his emphasis on prevention has been on climate change. He has suggested the frequency and intensity of these fires could be lessened if the United States would do more to combat climate change.

As you know, Fred, President Trump in the past has been, let's say, doubtful on that issue. He was asked whether he believed climate change had contributed to the intensity of some of these wildfires. He said that he believe that climate change had some part. We should point out, as you know, Fred, in the past the president has suggested that climate change is a hoax that has been propagated by the Chinese, Fred.

[14:10:03] WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

Next, the CIA issues a stunning report in the murder of "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi that implicates the Saudi crown prince. Details coming up.


WHITFIELD: President Trump was briefed on the phone today by CIA Director Gina Haspel the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the CIA's report that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump spoke with them while on Air Force One on his way to California. When asked about the briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters the president has confidence in the CIA but wouldn't elaborate further. Khashoggi was a resident of the United States and a columnist for "The Washington Post." He was killed and his body dismembered while vising the Saudi consulate in Turkey last month, trying to get government papers for an upcoming marriage.

I want to bring in senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman. So Ben, the CIA report that Trump was briefed on was based on available intelligence. Where did all that investigation come from, talking about multicultural, many countries involved, even.

[14:15:00] BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it comes from a various of sources, but what's most interesting about this report that appeared in "The Washington Post" is that one of the sources of information was a telephone intercept between the Saudi ambassador to Washington who just so happening to be the brother of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and Jamal Khashoggi in which the Saudi ambassador told him to go to Istanbul to get this paper he needed, this document to get remarried. And he assured Mr. Khashoggi that he would be safe in visiting the consulate there. And according to "The Washington Post" that phone conversation was under the direction of Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

In addition to that, this conclusion by the CIA that the crown prince ordered the murder is also based upon the audio from the Saudi consulate that apparently documents the torture, murder, and dismemberment of Mr. Khashoggi. That audio was shared with Gina Haspel who on the 23rd of October went to Turkey and was given access to the audio.

In addition to that there is a telephone intercept of a conversation between a Saudi security official who is closely affiliated with the crown prince who was part of the 15 man hit team that went to Istanbul. Apparently he told his -- rather, a senior advisor to the crown prince, this according to the "New York Times," that to tell your boss that the deed is done. So a variety of sources, all of them apparently leading the CIA to conclude that Mohammed bin Salman despite repeated insistent statements by Saudi officials that the crown prince was indeed the one who ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi on the 2nd of October. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Ben Wedeman, thank you so much, from Beirut, Lebanon.

Up next, administrative error or shot across the bow? Big implications for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Could the U.S. soon file charges? More on that coming up.


WHITFIELD: A clerical error has revealed U.S. prosecutors' efforts to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange has been a focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. WikiLeaks posted thousands of e-mails stolen from Democrats by Russian agents during the 2016 election. Assange has spent the past six years in asylum inside Ecuador's embassy in London. CNN's Hadas Gold has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Julian Assange has been holed up in this Ecuadorian embassy behind me since 2012, claiming political asylum. And we may have just learned that U.S. officials have brought charges against him because of a mistake. What happened was prosecutors in the eastern district of Virginia seemed to have inadvertently mentioned Assange's name twice in a completely unrelated case.

Officials have been investigating Julian Assange since 2010 because of his work with WikiLeaks which has been known for publishing confidential government information and was recently ensnared in the Mueller probe because its work publishing those hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta.

In that unrelated case filing prosecutors wrote that they needed to keep the charges against Assange confidential due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, that no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.

A spokesperson for the eastern district of Virginia said that the filings were made by mistake but would not comment further on any possible charges. Assange's attorneys in the United States and the United Kingdom called the news troubling and called it a dangerous path for democracy to take, and questioned what it would mean for press freedom moving forward.

We didn't see Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy today, but it appears as though his welcome may be wearing thin. The Ecuadorian president recently quoted as calling Assange a stone in our shoe, and Assange has recently said that he fears he may be forced out soon. In fact, Assange lost a court case last month in Ecuador when he was trying to argue that the embassy officials were infringing on his fundamental rights by restricting his access to things like the Internet. But the Ecuadorian judge ruled that Assange needed to start following some of the house rules, which included paying for his food, and cleaning up more after himself and his cat.

Even it if Assange does leave the embassy, there will be whole other fight over how and if he will be extradited to the United States and face those possible charges.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Hadas Gold, thank you so much for that.

One year after mysteriously disappearing in the south Atlantic, an Argentine submarine has been found. The wreckage of the ARA San Juan was discovered nearly 3,000 feet down on the ocean floor several hundred miles off of the coast of Argentina. The sub vanished with 44 crew members on board last November. The Argentine navy believes the sub suffered an implosion, causing it to sink. The government says they don't have the capability of recovering the sunken submarine.

Thanks so much for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The news continues with Ana Cabrera at the top of the hour, but first, here is this week's Turning Points.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Seamus Mullen heated up the kitchen on shows like "The Next Iron Chef." But the whiz with the knife once felt like he was getting sliced.

[14:25:00] SEAMUS MULLEN: Initially I just felt like my whole body was aching. And it went from that to acute attacks, and that was like having a knife staffed in my shoulder. Then I would get a pain that felt like there was a nail going through the joint. I kind of just ignored the pain as best as I could, and one morning I woke up with an excruciating pain in my left hip. I could barely get out of bed.

GUPTA: The diagnosis, rheumatoid arthritis.

MULLEN: To learn that it was a debilitating disease was really scary. I had to make a choice about my life, whether I was going to crawl my way out of this somehow.

GUPTA: He began cooking up ways to improve his health, starting with his diet.

MULLEN: For me it started by taking out all of the foods that are known to be inflammatory and create a life with food that really worked for me.

GUPTA: Or what he calls his hero foods.

MULLEN: For me it might be avocadoes, for someone else it might be almonds. It's really important for everyone to understand the foods that really make them feel really, really good. My life today is completely different. I'm glad I got sick because I came out with a greater sense of purpose.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.