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Admin Official: Iranian Foreign Minister Arrival At G7 "A Curveball"; White House Adviser Stephen Miller Defends Immigration Policies; CNN Hosts Presidential Town Halls Tonight Starting At 6PM ET; "March For Our Lives" Introduces New Plan Addressing Gun Violence; 43,000+ Troops Deployed To Fight Amazon Rainforest Fires. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired August 25, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, we begin in Southern France where right now the leaders of the G7 Summit have gathered now for an official dinner. This is just moments ago.

They were gathering outside before going in. You see nice friendly kisses there with President Trump and Angela Merkel of Germany. This is a rather unique moment of this three-day event when all seven of the leaders of the world's major economies seen together, looks like an image of unity, right?

This coming as President Trump sends rather mixed messages over his growing trade war with China. Initially, the President saying he has second thoughts about the escalating standoff with Beijing and then later, the White House reversed course saying the President's only regret was not raising tariffs even higher on the Chinese.

Adding intrigue and confusion amid the global tensions, Iran's foreign minister's surprise arrival at the summit to meet on the sidelines with his French counterpart. A Trump Administration official calling the visit a "Curveball earlier today President Trump was asked about the news of Iran's Javad Zarif's arrival.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Mr. President, on a separate issue, there are reports that the Iranian Foreign Minister is coming to Biarritz. Can you confirm that and if you plan to meet with him?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No comments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The Iranian official says he came at the invitation of France to review an anti-nuke commitment which the U.S. has withdrawn from. The French President says G7 leaders are looking for a way to ease the growing tension between the U.S. and Iran. CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is covering all these developments for us at the summit. So, Jim, you know, this surprise visit, the White House calling it a curveball, what is meant by that?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, I think it means that they weren't really expecting this to take place at least not heading into this summit. And then it took place and I think some of the back story here, Fredricka, is that the French President Emmanuel Macron would very much like to get President Trump onboard with this multilateral approach to curbing Iran's nuclear ambition ambitions.

The President doesn't want to do that, he wants to take on Iran by himself. And that's why you heard the Treasury Secretary earlier in the day saying the President would meet with Iranian leaders if that were to come to pass. He has no preconditions for that but it didn't end up happening. Javad Zarif met with the French President Emmanuel Macron but did not meet with President Trump.

We're seeing these leaders going into their dinner tonight here at the G7, just saw what they describe as the family photo just a few moments ago. And you saw the President and President Macron exchanging some words. They've been doing this throughout this G7 summit.

As you saw, earlier in the day, the President was making those comments about having second thoughts about his trade war with China and then the White House reversing on that. There have been so many distractions for this President on this trip and a lot of that overshadowed what was going to be something the White House wanted to rally around and that is the President announcing this new trade agreement with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

So the President as we have seen at many of these summits on the world stage, he makes his own waves and sometimes those waves overcome his message of the day and some of the things they would like to tout coming out of these summits and that happened here today, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All while that is taking place, you had a conversation with White House Adviser Stephen Miller who has been leading up the Trump Administration's immigration approach and policies. What did he have to say?

ACOSTA: That's right. Yes, he typically travels with the President on these trips, Fredricka, because he writes a lot of the President's speeches so it wasn't a big surprise to see Stephen Miller here but he was talking about the issue of immigration.

He has been the architect many of the administration's controversial immigration policies and he was talking to reporters earlier this afternoon here in France about this new policy that the administration has to hold migrant families with children longer than the 20-day requirement that is part of the so-called Flores Settlement.

I pressed Stephen Miller on whether or not if the administration can scrap the requirements that are baked into that agreement.

[15:05:00]

ACOSTA: Whether or not the administration is comfortable with the prospect of detaining children for extensive periods of time. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: What about the people who don't want to see - Americans don't want to see kids detained far long period of time.

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: What Americans don't want to see are children being smuggled in record numbers across our border to take advantage of a loophole created by our court system.

Americans want to see an immigration system that doesn't put children in harm's way. The only way to accomplish that end is to make sure that smuggling a child does not guarantee entry or admission into the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why should--

MILLER: This change will dramatically reduce instances of child smuggling including instances of fraudulent families which we've seen a huge uptick in recent years, again, to try to take advantage of the Flores ruling.

ACOSTA: Then they get locked up in the U.S. then they're locked up on the border.

MILLER: This will end the incentive for child smuggling, hopefully all decent people can agree our immigration system should have no incentives, no rewards for the smuggling of children which is heinous and must be stopped.

ACOSTA: And the President totally on board on policy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do people--

ACOSTA: Thanks, Stephen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And so, Fredricka, you hear Stephen Miller there trying to defend the administration's policy saying this is going to end the incentive for child smuggling but as you and I have been talking about, you don't only see children coming to the border with the U.S. and Mexico because of child smuggling, in many cases, you have families coming across the border, many times mothers and children and those children are not being smuggled.

And so what you saw there during that exchange is Stephen Miller, the architect of many of these immigration policies for the administration, not really answering the question about these - the prospect of lengthy child detentions if the administration is successful with this new policy. WHITFIELD: Right. And also trying to change the narrative of the

intention of the crossing of the border involving so many children by this blanket statement of, you know, child smuggling. All right. Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

ACOSTA: That's right.

WHITFIELD: All right. With me now is Vali Nasr, he is a Professor at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, also an expert on Iran and the middle east. Vali, good to see you I want to talk to you mostly about this surprise visit of Iran's Foreign Minister at the invitation of France.

So catching so many of the other leaders, particularly the U.S. by surprise, the U.S. in fact, calling it a curve ball. So in your view, you know, how clever or, perhaps, cunning was this invitation?

VALI NASR, PROFESSOR, SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES AT JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: It might be a curve ball for officials in the administration like John Bolton or Secretary Pompeo, but I'm not sure it was a curve ball for President Trump. I think the perception has been that all the initiatives that have happened before like when Prime Minister of Japan went to Iran was undermined by the White House, by Bolton and Pompeo.

President Macron decided to do something that would sideline those American leaders that he thought were undermining an engagement with Iran. He had met with Iran's Foreign Minister in Paris a week ago. He had lunch with President Trump yesterday. So I would assume that Macron was negotiating already between Iran and President Trump directly.

And President Trump, perhaps, knew that this was going on and by having the Iranian Foreign Minister come to Biarritz, it was a way of nailing down at least certain elements that he was talking to both parties about.

WHITFIELD: In your view, is this Macron trying to - trying hard to try and bring, you know, Trump, you know, in some face-to-face conversation with an Iranian representative, not the Foreign Minister, than perhaps this is a prelude to the kind of talks that the President has been boasting that he'd be an advocate of?

NASR: I think so. First of all, the Iranian Foreign Minister coming to Biarritz is a very big signal because he would have come to Biarritz with approval of Iran's Supreme Leader and Iranian President. He didn't come there on his own.

So that - this already shows that Iran is willing to engage Trump. And I think before they get into kind of a big talk about the nuclear issues and the larger issues, they have to arrive at some preliminary agreements that would de-escalate tensions that have been at heightened between them.

That means tanker attacks in the Persian Gulf. Drone attacks threats that have been going back and forth between Iran and the U.S. But perhaps the two sides can make an agreement that would de-escalate the situation and pave the way for engagement.

And I think the Iranians by coming to Biarritz have suggested that they're willing to engage and perhaps Macron heard things from Trump at lunch but then he conveyed to the Iranian Foreign Minister when he had his meeting with him.

WHITFIELD: Do you see potentially the other G7 leaders are more willing, and maybe at this G7 summit more willing to come into agreement or talks with Iran and this kind of underscores a G6 plus 1, you know, kind of concept, that it would be the U.S. would be the only one left out?

NASR: No, I think that theory has already been disproved.

[15:10:00]

NASR: I mean we've had two years when the Europeans have been able to do absolutely nothing to save the nuclear deal. They've been under pressure from the United States not to do business with Iran and they have basically complied.

The main function of the others is basically now to play the role of the intermediary which Macron is doing. You know, Macron is saying I cannot keep this deal going by myself, France cannot do business with Iran but maybe what I can do is talk to both sides and see whether I can play the role as a mediator and seems France is much more successful as a mediator than it is as a war power that could keep the deal alive.

WHITFIELD: So this meeting, you know, also coming after the Israeli military says it foiled an imminent large-scale attack by Iranian forces in Northern Israel with a series of air strikes near the Syrian capital of Damascus. So could that incident have played a role in Iran's decision to say, yes, I'll show up?

NASR: No, I don't think so. I think Israel has been hitting Iranian targets in Syria for the better part of the last four, five months and they have been all fairly severe. They have even hit Iranian targets inside of Iraq. It has killed mere myriads of Iranian revolutionary guard commanders and soldiers in the past number of months.

This is nothing new. Maybe it's a little bit more intense than the past ones but it's nothing new. And the process between Iran and the United States unraveling, turning into tanker attacks, talk of talks, failed attempts to engage, has also been going on for a while.

And Macron started his process of starting to use the G7 as a way of breaking through to President Trump and to Iran about two, three weeks ago, and he met with the Iranian Foreign Minister last week. He met with Trump at lunch yesterday and talked about Iran at length with Trump.

So this is a project that Macron embraced knowing the G7 would be happening that he would have an opportunity corner Trump. Let me just say quickly, that Macron already surprised Trump idea by asking for an impromptu lunch with Trump which was not on the agenda. WHITFIELD: That's true, two surprises.

NASR: It really started yesterday.

WHITFIELD: Okay. All right, Vali Nasr, always good to see you. It's been too long. Thanks for coming back.

NASR: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, two town halls one big night 2020 Presidential Candidate Steve Bullock and Bill De Blasio take to the stage and it comes as the two try to secure their spots for the next democratic debate.

Plus, celebrities descend on Dayton, Ohio, the scene of a mass shooting just three weeks ago. How they're inviting others to take a stand against gun violence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:15:00]

WHITFIELD: All right. They have struggled to crack 1 percent in the polls. Tonight 2 of the 21 democratic hopefuls will get another chance to make their pitch to voters as CNN's Presidential town hall series continues.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock takes the stage at 6:00 pm followed by New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio at 7:00. It comes just days before the deadline to qualify for the third democratic debate. Neither De Blasio nor Bullock has made the cut so far.

Joining me right now is, Jess McIntosh Former Director of Communications Outreach for The Hillary Clinton Campaign. And Basil Smikle, Former Executive Director of the New York State Democratic Party. Good to see you both.

BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good to be here.

JESS MCINTOSH, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS OUTREACH, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: Okay. So in our latest CNN poll voters were asked to name up to three candidates besides their current choice for the nomination that they wanted to hear more about and it was Bill De Blasio who got 2 percent, Steve Bullock who got 1 percent, so, Jess, what do these candidates need to say tonight to grab attention?

MCINTOSH: Well, you know, honestly, I'm not sure that there is a ton that Bill De Blasio can do tonight. He got a lot of airtime on the debates that he was able to be on stage in. I think he showed people who he was and what he was about and people maybe didn't react as positively to that as he would like.

Steve Bullock on the other hand, I think is one of the candidates who is right now polling at that under 1 percent who really does have the opportunity to make a different compelling message. He's the Governor of a red state that is very - he's very popular in Montana.

Right now, he's the only Governor of a red state who is running for President. So I think that experience might give him a way to differentiate himself from other candidates. The town hall format is fantastic because you can actually tell anecdote, you can tangent a little bit, you can be a little reverent, you can show your sense of humor.

WHITFIELD: You're in the spotlight. You're not competing with anything.

MCINTOSH: This is a big moment for him.

WHITFIELD: Or anyone. So yes, so Basil, we've seen several candidates, however, you know, quit the race in just the past week including Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, so, you know, 21 left. Is the writing on the wall for those at the bottom of the pack to really make an impression in some way or get out?

SMIKLE: It's going to be really tough, I mean just speaking as a New Yorker to have Bill De Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York and our Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, who is on the threshold of not making it to this next set of debates is a little disheartening.

You talked about Washington Governor Inslee, you know, given all that's happening in the Amazon right now, I'd love for somebody to be on that stage to talk about climate change, so to Jess' point, you know, there's a lot that Bill De Blasio has said and other candidates have said and added to this debate and what happens is when they lead, when they exit the stage, we lose some of that messaging and some of the policy discussion which is unfortunate. But would say that as we get closer and closer and you winnow the number of candidates down I do expect a little more fireworks on that stage. So that's actually something to look forward to.

WHITFIELD: Yes, while the climate crisis is of top concern, at least with the Amazon those fires, it is being alleged that it seen - those fires are intentionally set. You know, to clear land for farmers. So, you know, Jess, the President has said the economy is the signature reason for why he should be re-elected.

A new CBS News poll found that 38 percent of people say they are optimistic about the economy. 35 percent say they are pessimistic. So, Jess, do these numbers, you know, spell trouble potentially for the President?

MCINTOSH: Yes, they do. We saw in other polls this week there was the CNN poll that said people were - those numbers about people feeling good about the economy are slipping. A lot of it is because of what's happening in our own bank accounts and in our own pocketbooks. A lot of it is what's happening on Trump's Twitter stream.

[15:20:00]

MCINTOSH: It is very, very clear that he is simply too distracted by Twitter to do anything about the economy. He seems unwilling to admit that there are signs that the economy might be slowing down. He seems willing to engage in bombastic words over a social media platform with our global adversaries.

We watched the Dow tank almost every week because of something that he has said that he may or may not even understand the implications of so I think the idea that anybody in America is truly comfortable with the state of the economy and where it's going to be in 6 to 12 months is just getting slimmer and swimmer.

WHITFIELD: And then you have got Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld announcing in April that he would challenge Trump, telling our Jake Tapper that he would, "Fear for the republic if the country had President Trump as President for a second term".

Former Representative Mark Sanford said in July he's considering running against Trump. In the latest CNN poll, Basil, Trump has an 84 percent approval rating among Republicans so does anyone really stand a chance to challenge him?

SMIKLE: The short answer is no. The longer answer is that this would be--

WHITFIELD: And I really mean Republicans, you know, the primary.

SMIKLE: --this would be true for just about any sitting President. It would be hard for someone to challenge you in a primary. Challenge that President in a primary. But in this particular case, look, you know, as much as Democrats and other voters, independents as well, have concerns over this President.

We've seen time after time how moderate Republicans and conservatives have sidled up next to the President to try to get in his favor. So it doesn't seem like it's a good opportunity or even a good climate for that moderate Republican, particularly those northeast moderates, as well is, or has been, to have a real place at the table to challenge Donald Trump. Maybe someone like a John Kasich from Ohio, but I don't see him--

WHITFIELD: We know Bill Walsh today did throw his hat into the ring, so you've got--

SMIKLE: We'll see.

WHITFIELD: --Joe Walsh, you got that. All right, Jess McIntosh, Basil Smikle, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

SMIKLE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, tune in tonight for two back to back live Presidential town halls. Montana Governor Steve Bullock takes the stage first at 6:00 then New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio at 7:00. That is tonight only on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:25:00]

WHITFIELD: All right. Right now, the Dayton, Ohio, community still reeling from this month's deadly mass shooting. They are rallying together today with a little help from some really big-name friends. Massive lines right now are already forming as thousands are expected to gather in the city's Oregon district for a benefit concert honoring the nine people killed and the dozens who were injured.

The free event is hosted by comedian and, you know, hometown guy, Dave Chappelle, with a number of stars expected to appear including Kanye West and Stevie Wonder. This morning, the Rapper hosted his weekly Sunday service series in Dayton ahead of this afternoon's event.

Think we're talking about Kanye West there. So music legend Stevie Wonder was also spotted during a sound check you see right there and while the city of Dayton looks to reclaim that part of the city, people from another American community touched by gun violence are also taking action.

The Student-led Movement formed in the wake of the Parkland shooting is rolling out an actionable plan for U.S. Congress. March for our lives is introducing a six-point platform with solutions to stop gun violence.

I'm joined now by Parkland Alum and "March For Our Lives" Board Member and Graduate of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Tyah-Amoy Roberts. So, Tyah, good to see you.

TYAH-AMOY ROBERTS, BOARD MEMBER, MARCH FOR OUR LIVES: Good to see you as well. Thank you for having me.

WHITFIELD: Absolutely. So tell me about "March For Our Lives" and how it is broadening out its mission and what this new platform is all about to really get Congress' attention as well?

ROBERTS: Definitely. So the "March For Our Lives" was founded after the shooting that occurred at my High School in February of 2018 and of course we had our actual march in Washington, D.C., in March of 2018, but now that we have come so far from that and we've been really trying to expand.

We did the road to change the summer before this one that was huge and reached so many people and we most importantly learned so many different perspectives. And so with this peace plan that we're trying to push out now to everyone that's willing to listen and even people who are not willing to listen. We are taking everything that we've learned from traveling the country and taking input from all the people that we've met to create--

WHITFIELD: So give me an example--

ROBERTS: --a comprehensive plan to really talk about.

WHITFIELD: Give me an example of that, Tyah, what have you learned from people as you traveled across the country and how is it, their feedback is, you know, among the elements that you want included in this proposal?

ROBERTS: Definitely. So gun violence is about much more than just mass shootings. We learned that almost immediately after the shooting at our school happened, but I think that we didn't really absorb it until we met these people who from cities all around the country are creating violence intervention programs.

And really getting to the root of the violence that's in our communities and it's not just about the gun. It is about the gun, but it's not just about that. It's why people want the gun. And that's why we in our plan, we talk about creating community-based solutions like funding those violence intervention programs.

WHITFIELD: How will this plan, this six-point proposal, you know, be introduced or, you know, brought to the attention of congressional members that you are hoping could help legislate your ideas?

[15:30:00]

ROBERTS: Definitely. So there are many ways that we are planning to bring it forward and keep it in the spotlight so that Presidential Candidates and government officials on - from local to the federal level look at it and are willing to adopt it.

As you've already seen, most likely we have it all over social media. There will definitely be lobbying for it. And we're really just trying to get the young people to bring this to their politicians and as we've been so great at doing for the past year, almost two years, the young people who really push the important issues and they're who politicians have to listen to if they want to keep their seats.

WHITFIELD: And there is great power in this, you know, coming together. I mean, you all have harnessed incredible power as a group through march, you know, for our lives and then with so many gathering in Dayton, Dave Chappelle, you know, home boy of Dayton, has put together this effort to bring people together really, you know, in the spirit of love.

But at the same time at these shootings take place, as they have taken place in the last three weeks, I mean, what does that make you feel about your mission? Is it a setback or do you feel that much more, you know, committed to your cause?

ROBERTS: Definitely. Well, every day, I feel more committed to my cause and "March For Our Lives" feels more committed to the cause with every shooting that takes place and it's hard to watch. It's hard to watch on the news as a group of people who have gone through it.

And who know the pain of losing someone that they know and that they love. But what we try to do is allow it to keep us moving forward. It's not something that we want to see, but we just know that more than ever, we need to work even harder to get these - to get these shootings and these killings to stop.

WHITFIELD: Tyah-Amoy Roberts, we certainly applaud your efforts and that of all of your colleagues trying to make a big difference, and you are, in fact, already making a big difference. Thank you so much.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:35:00]

WHITFIELD: All right, moment ago a somber toll. Bells ringing out to mark beginning of this country's slave history. Those bells tolled for four months in cities and parks across the country a noting four centuries of African-American history.

Also this weekend, Virginia marks the pivotal moment 400 years ago this month when enslaved Africans first landed in the British colonies. CNN's Natasha Chen is in Hampton, Virginia, where the first ship arrived. Natasha, you've been there all weekend and have seen some incredibly powerful moments. Tell us about it.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, some really emotional moments. That bell you just saw there, that's owned by a family, has had that bell since the Civil War and so some of those family members were invited up to ring it. Again, very emotional as many people attending the event here gathered around and rang their own bells as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say something thanking them for their sacrifice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the same spot where about 20 captured Africans arrived four centuries ago, people whispered prayers to them and to the ancestors who did not survive the voyage, sending those thoughts floating with flower petals into the Chesapeake Bay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ghost of the past is still alive with us today and you can feel it as you walk around and look at the backdrop here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Under the backdrop of Fort Monroe people felt what shackles would have been like and took pictures at this historic marker where the ship White Lion arrived. Asia Leeds Co-Director of African Diaspora studies at Spellman College says this wasn't the first group of Africans in America, there were others already taken to what were then Spanish, Portuguese and French territories but this does mark the first arrival to English North America.

ASIA LEEDS, AFRICAN DIASPORA STUDIES, SPELLMAN COLLEGE: It marks a beginning of the foundations of this nation. And of which slavery is deeply embedded. So we have the beginnings of not just U.S. governing systems, right, the colonial history, but also the foundations of American wealth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now African-Americans can be part of that wealth in spite of continued struggles of inequality. TANYA, ATTENDING ANNIVERSARY EVENT: Now we're engineers, lawyers,

doctors, Presidents, maybe a future female President. But we've come a long way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And while they look at the traditions that made them who they are, the next generation is also looking at what their world could be.

BRYCEN DILDY, MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT: Imagine the problems that would be solved if all people were kind and felt cared for. It doesn't matter what your race or religion may be. We all deserve kindness.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Can we talk about where we're going? And can we talk about what is necessary to get there? As we look at the next 400 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: And we heard from the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Virginia yesterday. And they definitely had their fair share of racial controversies. We heard people bring up reparations. While this is day of healing, we understand the healing is a process and that dialogue continues, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Natasha Chen, thank you so much from Hampton, Virginia. And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:40:00]

WHITFIELD: Right now, to Brazil, where 43,000 troops are sent to battle wildfires consuming the Amazon forest. G7 leaders responding today say they will try to help Brazil and its neighbors fight the fires as quickly as possible, all these coming amid growing global pressure to do something.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has been on the ground covering these fires, so, Nick; you got a bird bird's-eye view. And we really are talking about the - I mean, Brazil's troops that have headed in by the thousands to help battle this blaze.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fredricka. Really to see in our three hours above the Amazonian fires how little actually ended up being visible so much of the time because of how thick and intense the smoke was.

At times, we had to switch the ventilation off inside the aircraft we were in to be sure we that didn't actually end up suffocating ourselves, it was that dense. Below, startling to see lines of fire moving forward through the forest there and often the straight lines of deforestation, human activity marking where the fires began and where they ended.

Troubling, too, to see how much damage had, in fact, been done by the human hand. Often they say fire is the beginning of the deforestation process but it was extraordinary, too the state in which the forest had been left by the flames pushing their way through it.

Now, 43,000 troops are on their way. We did not see any active on the ground below in the freshly started firing, in fact, we were seeing and in fact we saw very little signs of life, a part from occasionally bewildered cattle as they moved along unsure what to do in the smoke. Very little signs of life at saw little signs of life at all.

[15:45:00]

WALSH: One bird in fact the entire time I was there. This is a forest that seems to be turning into a cemetery in the words of one activist we spoke to, startling to fly above. It's a kind of an apocalyptic warning you end up getting from people about what might happen to the earth if we didn't act to fix the climate crisis, instead, it's happening right now below us as we flew over it.

A startling challenge ahead, frankly, for all of humankind to fix these, the lungs of the earth. The pope in his noon address called them the vital - of course, as you know pretty much the world is united in Brazil has to do something to fix this urgent problem. The military are here. We keep hearing them in the skies. Whether or not it fixes the problem we see today is unclear, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So when you say you're hearing them in the skies, to get a bird's-eye view, that's what they're doing or are they actually doing any kind of water drops, is that even possible when you look at how vast and wide and the scope of these fires?

WALSH: Look, Fred, the thing that really makes you staggered here is how vast the Amazon is but how much damage people have managed to do to it. The amount of work simply you have to do to make that much devastation by human hand that is startling.

Yes, we see C130 Cargo planes taking off from here reasonably regularly. We've seen military images of how they drop water on some of the fires but we didn't see any of them in the air as we flew around this area, ourselves. Not really surprising, the job is enormous.

It's pretty difficult, frankly, for any military to fight fires on this particular scale. We're in the most heavily affected place and, frankly, the smoke was so thick it blew into the city this morning making it hard to breathe even here.

So down on the ground below there, the challenge is immense. They have to hope for rain, frankly. We hear a storm rumbling in the distance occasionally but that's now gone away. The question is, really, whether this fire blows itself out. It is, it seems, so much of it manmade or from human intervention.

A lot of its burning faster because of human intervention can human intervention stop it? We'll find out in the weeks ahead. It is so desperately urgent and so phenomenally wide spread and I have to say so devastating to behold when you fly above it, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So sad. Without vegetation, how much of a rain forest is the rain forest able to be? Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much. Still so much more straight ahead but first, I'll be sure to check out the Premiere of the new CNN film, "Halston"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, sure. It is fun and it's not fun. And As my mother says, it's the price you have to pay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most successful individual in the history of American fashion. Halston.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:50:00]

WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories. The City of St. Louis is now offering $100,000 in rewards for information about the recent shooting deaths of four young children. On Friday night, an 8-year-old girl was shot and killed at a high school event.

She was the fifth child under 10 years old involved in a deadly shooting in St. Louis since April. When announcing the reward money, the City's Mayor said her city needs help because conventional policing tactics are not enough. The offer stands through September 1st.

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputy who claimed he was shot by a sniper admitted he made it all up.

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CAPTAIN KENT WEGENER, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S HOMICIDE BUREAU: Angel Reynosa admitted that he was not shot at. He also told investigators that he had caused the holes in his uniform shirt by cutting it with a knife. There was no sniper, no shots fired and no gunshot injury sustained to his shoulder completely fabricated.

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WHITFIELD: Reynosa sparked a massive manhunt Wednesday after reporting that he was shot in the shoulder. He claimed someone fired at him as he was walking to his personal car outside the Sheriff's Station. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department says Reynosa will be relieved of his duties. They say a criminal investigation into the incident is ongoing.

And a terrifying moment at the PGA Championship in Atlanta. Six people were injured at the PGA Tour Championship when lightning struck a tree as they took shelter underneath it. You can see the images there extraordinary the video capturing one of at least two lightning strikes. Play had been suspended before the strike happened as the storm moved in and they encouraged everyone to leave or seek shelter. BILLY KRAMER, SPECTATOR INJURED IN LIGHTNING STRIKE: Just about to pass the tree when the lightning struck the tree. And it's - I still don't recall whether I was thrown from the car or if I jumped from the car because I - at some point I thought the tree was going to fall. And so I was trying to get away from the tree as quickly as possible.

WHITFIELD: Wow, serious close call. No serious injuries miraculously and everyone is expected to be okay. All right, one of the NFL's biggest stars is choosing his health over the game that he loves. Last night Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck shocked the sports world announcing his retirement at the age of 29. His retirement comes just two weeks ahead of the new season but Luck says the mental and physical toll has simply become too much. Here's CNN's Coy Wire.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Luck was one of the brightest stars in the game. Probably could have played another decade. He was last season's comeback player of the year. Here he is walking away from tens of millions of dollars. His plan was to tell teammates and make a public statement Sunday but a reporter broke the news unbeknownst to him while on the sideline during a preseason game on Saturday.

Fans in the stands clearly devastated. One man even taking off the Luck jersey he was wearing. As the game ended, walking off the field, this is what Luck heard.

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WIRE: Boos from fans of the team he worked so hard for suffering injuries like a lacerated kidney, a torn abdomen, torn cartilage and concussion. Here he was after the game.

ANDREW LUCK, ANNOUNCED RETIREMENT FROM NFL: I would be lying if I didn't say I heard the reaction. Yes, it hurt. I'll be honest. It hurt. I'm in pain. I'm still in pain. I've been in this cycle, which feels like, I mean, it's been four years of this injury, pain rehab cycle. For me to move forward in my life, the way I want to, it doesn't involve football. Mom, dad, Mar, Emily - Uncle Will - all my friends, thank you.

WIRE: Praise and shock pouring in from around the league. Luck was one of the most talented, nicest and well respected men in the sport. He has an engineering degree from Stanford so hopefully a bright future ahead of him. The Dallas Cowboys Team Owner Jerry Jones said he hopes Luck will run for U.S. President one day.

WHITFIELD: That Coy - that was clearly a really difficult decision and you could feel his emotion, if anybody was watching his full statement. It was extraordinary. And it really showed amazing sportsmanship, too.

All right, coming up, a surprise visit from one of America's adversaries. Why was the Foreign Minister from Iran invited to attend the G7 in France? More right after this.

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