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U.S. Government Announces New Border Policy for Asylum Seekers to Wait in Mexico While Claims Processed; Police Indicate Shooter in Alabama Mall Misidentified; Reporting Indicates U.S. Negotiating to Sell Plans to Saudi Arabia to Build Nuclear Plants; "Paradise Post" Continues to Print After City of Paradise Devastated by Wildfire; Texts Sent by Woman Killed by Husband Right before Her Death Released; Residents of Mexico Beach Eat Daily Under Tent Following Devastation from Hurricane Michael. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired November 24, 2018 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- a new border policy. It would force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims move through the U.S. courts. CNN's White House reporter Sarah Westwood joining me right now with more on this. So we've been hearing of the possibility for weeks now. Are these the final stages of this plan?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fred, it looks that way, and the president seems to be making efforts, progress on his efforts to curb asylum seeking in the U.S. This deal comes after his administration has been putting pressure on Mexico for weeks now to do more to help the U.S. with its illegal immigration problem. The deal would turn Mexico into a waiting room of sorts as migrants who want to request asylum in the United States would be required to wait in Mexico while their claims are being adjudicated in U.S. courts.

The president has recently tried to make changes to asylum policies through executive action. Just before the midterms, in fact, he announced an attempted policy change that would require migrants to request asylum at legal points of entry It would forbid them from requesting asylum if they were caught trying to cross the border illegally. That executive action was blocked by the ninth circuit, who said it was illegal for the president to make those kinds of changes to the asylum system unilaterally. Obviously, the president has been fixated on that decision as he's been spending his Thanksgiving holiday down here in West Palm Beach. But this deal with Mexico would mark a significant change to the asylum system in that no longer would migrants be eligible to request asylum the moment that they touch on U.S. soil, which is how the current law works. But Fred, it's unclear that the president is going to be able to make this kind of major change to asylum policy without the help of Congress.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll see what happens. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.

Joining me right now, Jay Newton-Small, a "Time" magazine contributor, and former Washington correspondent for "Time." Good to see you, Jay.

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, "TIME" MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Fred. WHITFIELD: So just really on that last point Sarah made, there still have to be a lot of things that have to be worked out. We're hearing reportedly that the two countries have agreed, but there are a lot of other intricacies that have to be worked out. How do you see this path?

NEWTON-SMALL: Well, I think certainly it's an interesting move and one that I think Donald Trump welcomes enormously considering a federal court earlier last week banned their plan, or suspended their plan to deny asylum to anybody who's crossed the border illegally, or been seen to have crossed the border illegally. And so this is something that obviously that has been a priority for Donald Trump to really grapple with this issue. Asylum applications have more than quadrupled since 2014, and so it's been a pretty big issue for them.

Now, again, this is a very tentative deal. The Mexican government has said that they believe that this is something that is a short-term solution and in the medium and long term they're going to have to find some other solutions. And it is very risky, frankly, because parking these immigrants in these particular areas that are border states with Mexico and the United States, those border states have travel warnings on them from the United States because there's so much drug cartel traffic and so much drug cartel crime going on in these border states. And so leaving these sorts of thousands, potentially tens of thousands of very vulnerable Central American migrants in these areas really could expose them to all kinds of being prey to falling into part of these cartels or into violence with these cartels.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And so, Jay, how could Mexico afford to hold on to hundreds if not thousands of people while their names are being worked through a U.S. court system without financial help, if not coming from the U.S. or the U.N., then somewhere?

NEWTON-SMALL: Well, indeed. And that's one of the things that's been interesting about this sort of short-term, very tentative agreement, is that there's been no financial request from the Mexican government at all so far. And what they have said, though, is there's more than 100,000 jobs in these border states that need filling. And so these migrants can go towards filling these factory jobs. These factory jobs are nowhere near as well paying as American factory jobs, obviously, but they need this labor force to help out and to stabilize the economies of these border states. And so they believe that this will help do that.

But again, this is short term, and if we're looking at 100,000 jobs and more than 100,000 migrants, then those migrants really pile up at the border, then we're looking at another crisis.

WHITFIELD: Do you see that Congress would have to get involved in this process, approving this kind of possible agreement?

NEWTON-SMALL: I think if you make permanent changes in these kinds of laws, the idea of an asylum seeker setting foot in the United States, that's always been sort of very fundamental to the United States, that if you make it to the United States, if you get here, we'll house you and as we process your application for asylum. And that's sort of a safe haven than the United States has represented for refugees across the world.

[14:05:05] Now, if you're going to change that fundamental tenet, I think Congress will want to get involved, particularly the Democratic House that's coming in in January to say, hey, this is a really big change in current standing law, I think you're going to have to come to us to make this permanent.

WHITFIELD: Jay Newton-Small, we'll leave it there for now. Thanks so much.

NEWTON-SMALL: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Now to the other big story we're following. The manhunt is back on in Alabama after a stunning admission from a local police department. Hoover police admitting the man they killed during a mall shooting Thanksgiving night likely was not responsible for two people being shot. The chaos broke out on one of the busiest shopping nights, and police say an altercation somehow escalated into a shooting that left two people hospitalized. A police officer then shot and killed 21-year-old Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., an armed man police originally believed was responsible for the shooting. Now police admit that Bradford was not the man who fired the shots. And the search is on for the actual gunman. CNN's Natasha Chen joins me now with more of this.

And so it is a very confusing sequence of events.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

WHITFIELD: The information coming from the authorities is so spotty that it's also led to a lot of unrest. People are protesting there who are saying this is strange.

CHEN: And in the last few minutes I got my very first response of the day from the state agency in charge of this investigation, suggesting there's going to be more information sent soon. And in the last 30 minutes we've also heard emotional speeches from the family and friends of Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., or E.J., they call him, the 21-year-old whom police shot and killed in this incident.

The gathering of protesters right now is in response to the police statement overnight, saying new evidence shows Bradford did not likely fire the shots that injured two other people. Let's hear from some of his family members.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not the way to say good-bye to E.J., not with a bullet, not in the back. What we need people to do is realize that why these black young men are walking around in the mall, whether they're carrying an arm or not, give them a chance to say what I'm doing with it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He didn't deserve this. He really did not deserve it. They shot the wrong man. They need to be out there trying to get the person that did the killing, and the shooting or whatever they did. But he was not the one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: Bradford is the only one who died at the scene. Both the 18- year-old and a 12-year-old girl caught in the crossfire survived and were taken to a hospital.

And the initial report was that two men had gotten into a fight of some kind at the mall that resulted in those injuries. Police said Bradford was fleeing the scene and brandishing a weapon, and that's when a Hoover police officer working as mall security shot and killed him. Then overnight Hoover police issued a statement saying Bradford may have been involved in some aspect of the altercation but he likely did not fire the round that injured the 18-year-old victim.

So if Bradford is not the one who shot the 18-year-old, there's someone out there who did. Police say they now believe there were more than two people involved in the initial fight with at least one gunman still at large who could be responsible for the 18-year-old shooting victim as well as the 12-year-old girl caught in the crossfire there. Hoover police would only confirm that the officer involved in the shooting is on administrative leave while they figure this out, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Natasha Chen, appreciate it.

Joining me right now from Birmingham, Alabama, a reporter for "The Hoover Sun" Jon Anderson. So Jon, what are you hearing from authorities there? Obviously with shootings, there is a lot of confusion, but why do there seem to be so many conflicting reports here?

JON ANDERSON, REPORTER, "HOOVER SUN": I think it was just a matter of what happened initially. This happened very quickly, and there was a press conference the night of the -- Thanksgiving night, just a couple hours after the incident happened. And I believe, you know, police gave out the information that they had at the time. From what police told me, they believed then that the man that the police officer shot was, indeed, the shooter of the 18-year-old who was injured in the mall earlier.

However, as has been indicated, after further investigation, they indicated they reviewed further evidence, did more witness interviews, and also reviewed some of the key pieces of evidence, and came to the conclusion that their initial findings were incorrect. They apologized for that and indicated that they are very interested in finding who the actual shooter was in that case.

WHITFIELD: And so now family members a people who knew 21-year-old Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. are saying they are desperately in need of information that would offer some clarity, especially now that Hoover police have said he was not, you know, the alleged gunman.

[14:10:06] What more are you hearing from people who know Mr. Bradford about the sequence of events and the kind of information and how what is being reported, how it sits with them? ANDERSON: I'm not sure how it sits with them necessarily, but

initially the -- that was the indication, was that he was the shooter. What we don't know really is what happened with the interaction between the officer who fired the shot at Mr. Bradford and killed him, and the interaction between him and Mr. Bradford, whether there was any warning, whether he followed proper protocols. And if there was any -- we don't know what Mr. Bradford -- all we understand, all they're saying is he was brandishing a gun as he was leaving the scene. They have not --

WHITFIELD: So police are saying he was showing -- police are saying that Bradford was showing the gun, they saw the gun out? When you say brandishing a gun, how are police describing that?

ANDERSON: That's the exact word that they used was "brandishing." They didn't really elaborate, whether he was holding it in the air or it was just on him.

WHITFIELD: And what about this altercation? Police initially said there was an altercation. Do we know anything, any details about what that constitutes? What does that mean?

ANDERSON: No. They have not really given a lot of the details about that. From what -- all they've indicated is there was this confrontation outside the stores in the common area of the mall and that one of the people involved in that confrontation pulled a gun and shot the 18-year-old.

WHITFIELD: OK.

ANDERSON: We don't know, I guess, what the incident -- what led to the shooting. That has not been disclosed in any way.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Are you able to describe anything more about the protest, the unrest? People have been expressing their feelings about this. Has this been outside of the mall? Is this outside the police station? Where is this happening?

ANDERSON: I have not seen any physical protesting in terms of people out at the mall or at the police department or anything of that nature.

WHITFIELD: OK. We're looking at the videotape and I'm wondering where that's taking place.

ANDERSON: Which videotape?

WHITFIELD: We're watching it right now. You probably don't have the return, but a number of people have gathered. We understand it now as at the mall, what people are saying specifically.

ANDERSON: OK. I have not seen that videotape or been out today to that location, so I'm not aware of that protest.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right, thank you so much.

ANDERSON: Most of the comments I've seen have been comments online and on social media that people have had about it.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right, Jon Anderson, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ANDERSON: You're welcome. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, straight ahead, an American ally accuses President Trump of turning a blind eye to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, this as some Democrats vow to punish Saudi Arabia, even if the president will not.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:17:44] WHITFIELD: Turkey's foreign minister is chastising President Trump's decision to stand by Saudi Arabia. He's accusing the president of turning a blind eye to the CIA's high confidence assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. President Trump has continued to cast doubt on the CIA's findings while arguing that Saudi money flowing into the U.S. is too important to lose.

Also "The New York Times" is reporting the U.S. was negotiating to sell plans to the Saudis to build their own nuclear plants, which some fear could eventually be used to fuel nuclear weapons.

I want to bring in Kimberly Dozier, a contributing writer at "The Daily Beast" and spent decades as a foreign correspondent, including the Middle East. Good to see you, Kimberly. So should it be a concern that the crown prince could be in control of any kind of nuclear arsenal, you know, plans?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, there's a really big leap between building a power plant and then building the kind of fissile material that you'd need for a nuclear weapon. And the close relationship with the United States and the type of intelligence presence and cooperation on the ground in Saudi Arabia, I would say that there are many, many steps before they get to something like that.

However, what this does show is that the Trump administration had many, many plans to try to make Riyadh the linchpin in its Middle East policy, which included major investment, everything from weaponry to just more cooperation throughout the Middle East. They'd hoped that the Saudis would help solve the Palestinian/Israeli crisis, quell the war in Yemen, and offset Iran's influence. So they're heavily invested, and you can see that driving President Trump's decision to back the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, despite the CIA's assessment.

WHITFIELD: So, that the president continues to, you know, back the crown prince in Saudi Arabia. Does that fortify their relationship but potentially at the peril of distancing U.S. relations with other neighboring countries?

[14:20:03] DOZIER: Well, it's a short-term solution. You can see the White House had hoped right before Thanksgiving -- put this announcement out and then be done with it. And for most Trump supporters, I think they're fine with this being the resolution. But for those both in government and international leaders watching this play out, the fact that he made this statement backing MBS, as the crown prince is called in the region, as opposed to waiting to see who gets punished and how as a result of the Saudi investigation, that they gave them a pass too soon, really both invalidates the U.S. position on Saudi Arabia and also sends a message to MBS that he can do this again.

WHITFIELD: And so, what's next potentially in this investigation? If the CIA has presented findings to the White House, Turkey has handed over some findings, is this investigation at a dead end as long as the U.S. supports Saudi Arabia if Saudi Arabia is being held culpable for the murder of Khashoggi?

DOZIER: Well, on the Saudi side, we still haven't seen the final results of the investigation. We have suspects. We haven't been sent word of what they will be sentenced with. I'm hearing that as many as five people may be executed and five others or more spend a long time in jail, but that's just from sources who are hearing rumors from inside the kingdom.

What I think you're going to see on the U.S. side is this is where Congress steps in with its oversight function. You're going to see a lot of investigations on the House side, and they're going to try to subpoena the records of communications, I predict, between this White House and the Saudi government to see if President Trump is going to -- has been trying to protect MBS.

WHITFIELD: Kimberly Dozier, thanks so much. We'll leave it there.

Still ahead, hundreds of people still missing after wildfires rip through California. The devastation is not stopping one small-town newspaper determined to tell the stories of loss and the determination to rebuild.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:27:06] WHITFIELD: The fire that has raged around Paradise, California, for more than two weeks is now 95 percent contained according to state officials. Today searchers are looking for 475 people still unaccounted for in the area. Eighty-four people have died in what has become the deadliest wildfire in California history. Thousands of evacuees still can't go home as officials say areas of Paradise are still unsafe.

But that isn't stopping the "Paradise Post" newspaper from doing everything it can to document the town's historic destruction. For more on that let's bring in CNN's Ryan Young, who is in Paradise, California, covering the aftermath and the recovery of this historic fire. Ryan?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, as you can imagine, covering stories like this is very difficult. When we meet people and talk to them about the tremendous loss they have, it obviously touches us as well. But can you imagine covering a story where you've lived in this community for so many years, the worst fire in this state's history?

If you look back this way, don't think about this as just a building. This is people's livelihoods that we're talking about. And this paper is putting that to print because they basically understand they are what's holding this community together at this point.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID LITTLE, EDITOR, CHICO ENTERPRISE RECORD: So this is the pressroom.

YOUNG: At the Enterprise Record in Chico, California, this is not the typical rush to meet the newspaper's deadline.

And you guys are still sort of trying to press forward to make sure the paper is out there. Why?

LITTLE: It's like the one small contribution we could make to make things normal for the community. The paper still lives. It's kind of a symbolic, important message to send to the community that not everything's lost.

YOUNG: David Little and Rick Silva are not only covering this area's biggest story, but they are trying to record the historic destruction for a community that's no longer there. For safety reasons, most of the residents of Paradise haven't had a chance to see what's left of their homes.

RICK SILVA, MANAGING EDITOR, "PARADISE POST": There's nothing else. And I don't think they know how little is left until they get up there. It seems like a complete removal of the town from what it once was.

YOUNG: Rain has helped firefighters get more control of the devastating Camp Fire, now some 95 percent contained. The historic fire has destroyed nearly 14,000 homes, and now the "Paradise Post" may be one of the few things that binds this community.

LITTLE: The printed newspaper has such a staying power. And so we all know that years from now people will look back at these print editions as sort of a history book for what happened during the fire.

SILVA: It's the voice of the community, has been since 1947. We have to continue that.

LITTLE: We don't even know where to start -- 15,000 homes almost have burned, 90 percent of the city has burned. How do you start? Where do you start? Just, I guess the answer is one -- you help one person at a time.

[14:30:04] YOUNG: Some residents are already planning on rebuilding, promising not to leave their homes behind.

SILVA: It's mainly a retirement community. I'm not sure it's going to be that same kind of community. We'll see. But Paradise has always been a community that is can-do, it's always found a way to get itself back on its feet, and it will again. It just may be a different group of people getting it back on its feet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YOUNG: Fred, just look from above here, you can see the difference in terms of what's left here in terms of some of the buildings that have been demolished. One of the things to think about is the idea that the historical place where they kept all this the history of this town is now missing. That's gone. It burned up. So this paper will live for quite some time because people will look. In fact, we looked back at some papers from 1950 to see what was happening during that time in this area so you understand how they're connected.

And one thing that stood out to me and something that I really wanted to say is they talked about the fact that the high school kids got a chance to come together to go to a San Francisco 49ers game, and they loved it. The idea that they got a chance to be together again, a lot of these kids who are in high school haven't had a chance to come together, because where would the community meet? When you look at this and realize that so many people haven't had a chance to even realize what this is like and what is gone, you understand this pain is going to repeat itself over and over again.

WHITFIELD: It's really tough. All right, Ryan Young, thanks so much for bringing that to us and bringing the story of people who are trying to keep that town together in any way they can.

All right, next, he has changed. A woman confides in a friend about her crumbling marriage just days before her own husband killed her. Were there warning signs for all to see? I talk to a psychotherapist about that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:36:10] WHITFIELD: All right, just days before her death, a Colorado wife and mother texted a friend that her husband was acting distant and cold. Chris Watts was sentenced to life in prison last week for killing his pregnant wife, Shanann, and their two young daughters. He initially reported his family missing, even pleading for their return. And the next day he told police how he brutally killed his family, stuffing them into oil barrels. New documents released by police show Shanann told a friend her husband didn't want their new baby. Rob Lowe of our affiliate KDVR has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB LOW, REPORTER, KDVR: Heartbreaking texts from Shanann Watts to a close friend reveal a crumbling marriage and a wife who can't figure out why her husband seems to suddenly want a divorce. Six days before she was murdered, Shanann tells a friend, "Chris told me last night he's scared to death about this third baby and he's happy with just Bella and Celeste and doesn't want another baby." Remember, Shanann was pregnant with a boy but doesn't know it yet when she tells her friend, "I'm supposed to go tomorrow for 4D ultrasounds and gender. Gender reveal next Saturday. I just want to cry. We've never had a problem in our relationship like this. No joke, never. This is total left field." Shannan's friend tries to comfort her texting, "Aww, honey, it will be

OK. Give him time. He's adjusting to the idea of the baby. He's scared. He shouldn't be doing this to you, but he's a good guy. He will fix it." "What if he really doesn't love me anymore?" Not possible, honey. He loves you." Shanann responds "Tomorrow is eight years we started dating." The next day, Shanann tells her friend, "He said we are not compatible anymore. He refused to hug me." Shanann's friend texts back, "Go through his phone. Make sure there isn't some other -- blank -- I have to kill."

When the friend suggests counseling, Shanann texts back, he said he's not sitting on no damn couch, saying what he just said to me to no stranger. Shanann would soon add, "This baby in my belly deserves his full love." Finally, Shanann messages, "The only thing I can think of, even though I don't think he has it in him, is another girl."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: That was Rob Low of our affiliate KDVR reporting.

And a chilling report indeed, I want to bring in psychotherapist Robi Ludwig. She's the co-author of the book, "Till Death Do Us Part, Love, Marriage, and the Mind of the Killer Spouse." So Robi, you've been following this case as everybody really has been from the beginning. What has stood out to you? Even learning now those texts, does it fill in some of the blanks, some of the suspicions you may have had before?

ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Yes, and it just really clarified what I always thought, that Shanann really never had Chris in the way that she thought she did, in part because Chris was never capable of that kind of love. And I think at one point when he looked around and he realized he felt trapped, he was no longer feeling successful, when he went into the marriage hoping that he would achieve, which is a sense of success and maybe this idea that Shanann would fix him, would help him to feel normal, it just never played out that way. And at one point his solution was to make his mistake disappear, and we know how it all ended.

WHITFIELD: Wow. So these new details about this case just being released. There's a 2,000-page report. And according to the documents, not only did family members think foul play was involved, they had that instinct right away, but they actually did feel like Chris Watts did it. Neighbors even said they noticed changes in Watts' personality. She texted about it. So as a psychotherapist, what are the warning signs? How do you put all of this now together for people?

[14:40:00] LUDWIG: Well, I think it's very hard, and it's one thing to look in retrospect and say, oh, my gosh, there were signs. But Chris was probably very good at creating a facade, a facade of the loving husband and the loving father. So it may not have been really clear in that at one point Chris felt unsuccessful and dead inside, and had an affair and thought the affair would be a solution for him, a solution to help him live the life that he really felt entitled to. But it's very difficult. You almost have to look at a person's past

and find out how they connect in order to find the disturbances, but sometimes it's not clear because the crisis happens in the moment, and that's when the disturbed person acts in a murderous way.

WHITFIELD: And then contrast that, you look at the selfies of her where she looked very blissful and happy even though at the same time she's texting to a friend, I'm quoting now, Chris came back a different man after spending five weeks apart. So that, too, promotes a lot of confusion.

LUDWIG: I think probably one of the appeals for Chris was probably that Shanann knew how to create this very happy, blissful image, and he wanted to step into that image, and he wanted to feel like a successful, healthy man. If we look at the person who has anti-social personality disorder, they're not really able to connect and feel empathy and to feel love. They can't have that feeling in the way the rest of us can.

And I think that there was something about Shanann's presentation that got him to believe perhaps he could be normal and like everybody else. And when it didn't turn out that way, he then blamed Shanann for not fixing him or helping him to feel like the successful man he wanted to be. There were financial issues. There was an additional child. He just could not give Shanann what she wanted from him, and he felt burdened by that. And the way he dealt with it was probably in a way he didn't feel was ideal, but the only way he knew how, which was to kill them.

WHITFIELD: And do you have I guess a little more clarity as to why prosecutors would keep a lot of these details, you know, quiet, these text messages, et cetera, until sentencing?

LUDWIG: Maybe it was out of respect to the family and to try to keep this case as private as possible. It was a very public case, and maybe just to decrease a circus-like atmosphere that can happen when a case is very public. And then after the sentencing it's a bit safer to reveal this information and to explore it in a way that doesn't impact the case.

WHITFIELD: All right, Robi Ludwig, thank you you so much. It's such a troubling case.

LUDWIG: Thank you. Yes, very.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, a massive storm system sweeping through parts of the country could make a travel mess for so many heading home after the Thanksgiving holiday. Where we could see the biggest issues as millions hit the roads and the airways, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:47:33] WHITFIELD: All right, checking our top stories, an 80- year-old man is in the hospital with critical injuries this morning after a powerful explosion ripped his home to pieces. It happened Friday morning in St. Paul, Minnesota. The explosion also damaged multiple homes and buildings in the area, and neighbors say they were shaken by the blast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just watching TV, playing video games, and it was a loud explosion that shook the house, like somebody came and kicked the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next thing you know the whole house started shaking. Her brother was still sleeping. It actually woke him up out of bed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Authorities believe a natural gas leak may be to blame for the explosion.

And former CIA director Michael Hayden is in the hospital after suffering a stroke this week. A family statement said he was at home when it happened and he is receiving expert medical care for which they are grateful. Hayden served in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, and he has spent part of his post service career as a national security analyst right here at CNN. A vocal critic of the president, Hayden made headlines in July when he defended former CIA director John Brennan whose security clearance was revoked by Trump. Hayden retired as CIA director in 2009.

And George Papadopoulos is scheduled to turn himself in on Monday to begin serving his prison time unless a judge intervenes. The former Trump campaign adviser was sentenced to 14 days in prison for lying to investigators about his contact with Russian affiliates during the 2016 presidential race. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October. He is seeking to delay the start of his prison time, but a special counsel's office official is asking a judge to deny that request.

A major winter storm is moving out of the west and headed toward the heartland where it is expected to bring heavy snow and strong winds. The dangerous blizzard conditions could bring big problems for travelers heading home from the holidays. For the latest now let's go to meteorologist Allison Chinchar is in the CNN Weather Center. How bad is it?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We have not one but two different systems, and so that is going to create problems because sometimes the easy solution is maybe I'll leave a day earlier, maybe I'll just wait another day. But with back-to-back systems they really don't have much time in between. So let's take a look. The first one is that major system that's out into the west.

[14:50:02] But we still have this first system in the Midwest and northeast to kind of wrap up right now. You've got heavy rainfall for cities like D.C., Philadelphia, and New York, but you still also have some icing for portions of upstate New York as well as areas of central Pennsylvania.

But it's this system out west, this is the one that's going to cause the biggest problems over the next 48 hours. Right now, the focus is over the mountain west. As we go into the overnight hours tonight, it pushes into the plains, and then it will start to make its way to the Midwest and eventually into the northeast.

Here's a look. About 20 million people under some type of winter weather alert. That's a winter storm warning, winter weather advisory, or the newly issued at the top of the hour blizzard warnings for some of the central U.S. Again, that takes into account not just snow but we're also talking about very gusty winds, poor visibility as well. And that's what we're going to be dealing with for several of these states.

Here's the system in question. It's going to start and then push into the Midwest as we go into the day Sunday, impacting cities like Des Moines as well as Chicago and Indianapolis. Then it begins to make its way up towards the Great Lakes and into the northeast by the time we get to Monday.

So again, if you have some travel plans around any of these cities, this is a very fast-moving system. With that said, it's still going to have the potential to dump pretty significant amounts of snow in that fast period of time, widespread amounts here, Fred, about four to six inches, but it's not out of the question for some of these areas to pick up a foot. Keep that in mind. That foot may come all down in just about 12 to 18 hours.

WHITFIELD: That's a lot.

CHINCHAR: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Thanks for the warning, Allison Chinchar, appreciate it.

All right, next, in a town obliterated by a hurricane, people still have found reasons to be thankful. We visit Mexico Beach, Florida, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:56:17] WHITFIELD: It's been more than a month since hurricane Michael nearly wiped Mexico Beach, Florida, off the map. Many people could not have Thanksgiving at home, of course. But despite the hardships, so many there have reasons to be thankful. Here is Martin Savidge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL SCOGGINS, CO-OWNER, KILLER SEAFOOD: There was a building here, I promise. It was called Killer Seafood.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been more than a month since the hurricane obliterated Mexico Beach.

SCOGGINS: Here you would be inside the building.

SAVIDGE: But as Michael Scoggins shows me what used to be his restaurant, it's obviously the pain is still fresh.

SCOGGINS: An open kitchen where everybody could see what was going on.

SAVIDGE: Killer Seafood, a town favorite for years, is gone. Hal Summers was general manager. He's lost his job and his home. Both men could have wallowed in self-pity and left town. Instead, they've decided to help the only way they could -- they cooked. In a church parking lot amidst the roar of generators and the smoke of the grill, they began feeding first responders and residents three times a day --

HAL SUMMERS, GENERAL MANAGER, KILLER SEAFOOD: Chicken, tomatoes.

SAVIDGE: -- seven days a week, for free. They call it Camp Happy Tummies. Fueled by donations, it provides one of the greatest comforts in dark times, a hot meal.

HAL SUMMERS, GENERAL MANAGER, KILLER SEAFOOD: This is my planning menu. And this is the way I --

SAVIDGE: This is your menu right here. This is nothing but parchment paper?

SUMMERS: That is parchment paper.

SAVIDGE: But over the weeks, this tent has come to mean much more than a meal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a safe place to cry, a safe place to let your feelings out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody has a feeling that they're all together and we're all in this together.

SAVIDGE: At these tables, they have prayed, mourned the dead, even held a wedding reception. Hal and Michael baked the wedding cake. This is a place where folks temporarily escape what lies just outside.

Crews are making progress cleaning up, and power, sewage, and water are all making a comeback. But there is still one staggering figure. At least 75 percent of the homes in Mexico Beach have been destroyed.

Camp Happy Tummies is closing. Most of the first responders are gone, and food in Mexico Beach is easier to find. But before then, Michael and Hal will help prepare one last meal to be distributed around town for Thanksgiving.

Is there reason to be thankful in Mexico Beach?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

SAVIDGE: Even with all of the destruction and all that's been lost?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even, even, even.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're still here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a lot to be thankful for. We have our lives. And we can rebuild, and it's just going to take time.

SAVIDGE: A month after the hurricane, people here have stopped looking for reasons to be sad. Instead, they're finding reasons to rejoice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that. There you go.

SAVIDGE: To be grateful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a beautiful place. And it will come back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's still paradise.

SAVIDGE: And instead of looking back, they're looking forward. In Mexico Beach, they've come to learn that every day is Thanksgiving Day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you all so much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're very welcome.

SAVIDGE: Martin Savidge, CNN, Mexico Beach, Florida.

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WHITFIELD: And we're thankful you could be with us this weekend. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The news continues right now with Ana Cabrera.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Fred. You are live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. So glad you could join me.