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President Trump Cancels Talks With Taliban At Camp David; Rescue Operations Canceled On Capsized Cargo Ship In St. Simons Island; Hurricane Dorian's Aftermath In The Bahamas; Mark Sanford Joins Republican Race To The White House; Vaping Linked To Five Deaths In The U.S.; Three Hours Of About 1,250 Lightning Strikes Witnessed In Washington State; Search Warrants Issued Regarding The Labor Day Boat Fire In California. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired September 8, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Hello on this Sunday. We now know leaders of the Taliban will not be setting foot on American soil at the invitation of President Trump, at least not for now.
Few people outside the White House even knew about this meeting for face-to-face peace talks set up and now canceled until this weekend. It was a secret. Part of the president's explanation is that the Taliban admitted to a bombing last week that killed an American soldier.
The secret plan was for Taliban leaders and the president of Afghanistan to meet with President Trump at Camp David in Maryland. This was going to happen today. When the American public was going to find out about it? We don't know that.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the administration still wants to strike a three-way deal and a source close to the planning tells CNN that they're looking for new dates to meet and negotiate. Pompeo was on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning and says the Taliban is making all the right promises.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: They have committed to us that they would sign an agreement that so said, that said that they would break from Al Qaeda, that said that they would take on any --
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you trust them?
POMPEO: -- to take on -- Jake, trust, but verify.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Trust, but verify. He is talking about the Taliban, the super violent radicals who gave shelter to Osama bin Laden. The same group whose fighters have been killing U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan since 2001 -- invited for a cozy sit down at Camp David just days before the 18th anniversary of 9/11, to talk peace. Pompeo says he knows full well who he's dealing with.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POMPEO: We understand who the Taliban are. There's no more clear administration. When I was director of the CIA, I had young men and women serving in Afghanistan taking enormous risks to their lives. We're aiming to get this right. We're working to talk with those leaders that can actually deliver on these outcomes. That's what President Trump and I are both focused on and we're going to keep driving towards that outcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's get to our national security reporter Kylie Atwood. Kylie, this is the latest curious turn taken by President Trump dealing with entities that are openly hostile to the United States. He praises Kim Jong-un as his good friend who hasn't stopped launching missiles.
He's blown up the nuclear deal with Iran. He makes jokes about Russia meddling in the presidential election, and now, setting the table at Camp David for the Taliban. What has this group done to deserve a Camp David meeting?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Secretary Pompeo did lay out a few things that the Taliban has done over the almost year that the U.S. has been sitting with them and negotiating. First of all, he said that the Taliban had agreed to certain reductions in violence in Afghanistan.
Of course now after last week when a U.S. service member was killed, President Trump in the words of Secretary Pompeo, decided enough was enough. If they couldn't hold their commitments, then the U.S. was not going to allow them to meet with President Trump to come here on U.S. soil to Camp David.
We should note, however, that there have been 16 members of the U.S. troops that have been killed in combat in Afghanistan this year. This one this week was not an isolated incident.
But the other thing that Secretary Pompeo laid out in his rounds of interviews this morning on the Sunday shows was that the Taliban had agreed to break from Al-Qaeda.
Now, that would be a significant development. But as you played earlier, Ana, when Jake Tapper asked Pompeo if he trusted the Taliban, Pompeo said trust, but verify.
So, what we're going to have to see is how the Trump administration is able to verify some of the commitments that the Taliban makes if they do come back to the table, if they can restart these conversations.
Now, another thing to consider is they were talking about pulling out about 5,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan within the first 135 days of any commitment that was signed. Now, clearly, the rails are off the tracks right now. There is no
forward movement on these discussions and we're asking the White House well what does that mean? Are these troops still going to come out? Does there need to be some sort of an agreement for the troop withdrawal?
Secretary Pompeo said that there's no decision been made about that yet. It's something that they will be discussing in the coming days but we don't know the next time President Trump is going to reconvene with his national security team and we will be watching that extremely closely.
CABRERA: And we will be checking back with you if you have any new information. Kylie Atwood, thank you.
So, let's take a look inside this group whose leaders at least temporarily were invited to sit at the historic presidential retreat at Camp David, invited by President Trump -- the Taliban.
Fighters in a nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan that has cost the lives of about 2,000 American troops as recently as just a few days ago and who insist they will rule Afghanistan once again.
CNN Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward has spent considerable time talking to Taliban commanders -- at great risk to herself. Watch this interview she did with a Taliban leader who admits to the group's violence and brutality.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We start out by asking about the Taliban's brutal tactics and the U.S. concern that they could once again offer safe haven to terrorists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Whether it's the Americans or ISIS, no foreign forces will be allowed in the country once we start ruling Afghanistan.
WARD: Are there real efforts being made to stop killing civilians?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Those responsible for civilian casualties are the ones who came with their aircrafts, artillery, B-52 and heavy weaponry.
WARD (voice-over): In reality, the Taliban is responsible for thousands of civilian deaths in the last three years alone.
And what about the suicide bombings at polling stations for example. These kill many civilians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We deny this. This accusation is not acceptable to us.
WARD (voice-over): There are small signs that the Taliban is moving with the times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I listen to the radio. Also Facebook and other media.
WARD: You're on Facebook?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.
WARD (voice-over): But it's clear that the fundamental ideology has not changed.
(on camera): So if somebody is found guilty of stealing, you cut off their hand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, we implement the Sharia. We follow Sharia instruction.
WARD: And if somebody is found guilty of adultery, you will stone them to death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, the Sharia allows stoning to death.
WARD (voice-over): As we're leaving the interview, the military commander for the district arrives. And a dispute breaks out about us. They should have brought a man, one of them says.
(on-camera): So, the issue right now is they don't want us to walk outside with the governor (ph) because I'm a woman. They think it's inappropriate.
WARD (voice-over): We agree to follow the men at a distance. Something I've never had to do in my career.
(on camera): Do you want to see peace between the Taliban and America?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It would be better if this question was put to the spokesperson of the Islamic emirate.
WARD: Do you feel like the Taliban is winning the war?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): God willing, we are hopeful. We are supported by God.
WARD (on camera): As people start to process the extraordinary news that senior Taliban leaders were invited to Camp David on the week of the 9/11 anniversary, the question many will now be asking is what happens next?
What does all of this mean for the negotiations that have been going on for almost a year, nine rounds of talks, between the U.S. and the Taliban, wherein his tweets, the president says that he's called the talks off. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to indicate that they will continue as long as the Taliban honors its agreement to reduce violence. The Taliban has also released a statement accusing the U.S. of being against peace saying that Trump's tweets have lowered the U.S.'s credibility, but they stop short of saying that they will actually step away from the negotiating table.
Now, there have been many criticisms of this potential deal between the U.S. and the Taliban on the grounds that it concedes too much t0o the Taliban without extracting enough concessions from the group, that the Afghan government has not been sufficiently involved in negotiations.
That there are no pre-conditions of a ceasefire or guarantees to protect women's rights. But still, many see this as being the U.S.'s best chance of getting out of its longest war after nearly 2,400 U.S. servicemen have been killed and with no victory in sight. Clarissa Ward, CNN, London.
CABRERA: Critical reaction to the president's Taliban tweeting was swift, forceful and in some cases bipartisan. Republican Congressman, Adam Kinzinger, an Air Force Veteran who flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan responded, "Never should leaders of a terrorist organization that hasn't renounced 9/11 and continues in evil be allowed in our country. Never. Full stop."
Let's bring in CNN Global Affairs Analyst and "Washington Post" Columnist, Max Boot and CNN Political Analyst and "New York Times" Politics Editor, Patrick Healy.
Max, you first tweeted just after this new news broke last night, "One thing I've learned over the past two and a half plus years is not to take Donald Trump tweets at face value."
Now that we've heard from Pompeo today, we have more information, more of a complete picture about what happened before the president put out those tweets. Do you feel like we're getting the full story now?
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think we're getting some of the story. I suspect more will come out in the days ahead. But clearly, the content of President Trump's tweets saying that, you know, this is so shocking that they carried out this attack in Kabul on Thursday, killed a U.S. service member so I'm calling it off, that doesn't make sense.
Because as we've been emphasizing here on CNN, there have been 16 U.S. service members who have been killed in Afghanistan in this year alone while these negotiations have been going on. So, if the first 15 deaths were not a deal breaker, why is number 16?
And in fairness to the Taliban, which is something I don't say very often because I think they're an evil, heinous group, but they have never committed to stop fighting. We did not make a pre-condition for talks that they commit to a ceasefire so they actually have not broken any agreement.
Now, you can make the case that they should have agreed to that and I think a ceasefire should certainly be part of any draw down agreement, but it hasn't been. This has been an incredibly lenient deal which has been strongly criticized by many in the president's own party, even on his own government.
So I think I suspect what's really happened here is that the president got cold feet about a deal that looked like a sellout of our allies in Afghanistan that it was not because of the latest Taliban attack.
But in any case, I'm very glad to see that these evil terrorists will not be showing up at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 -- of the 9/11 anniversary.
CABRERA: Let's listen to Senator Amy Klobuchar, also 2020 candidate. She was on this morning. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's just another example of the president treating foreign policy like its some kind of game show. This isn't a game show. These are terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: That game show analogy, Patrick, is that fair?
PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's how the president has led in a lot of cases. He is looking for pageantry. He is looking for a big deal, a big win. Bringing parties to Camp David, a setting that he believes really reflects the majesty of the presidency is powerful in his mind.
But at the same time, to Max's point, I mean, these are, you know, lethal, killing terrorists who have been attacking, killing American troops for years.
And the notion of bringing them into Camp David and what feels like or what sounds like from the reporting what was a very rushed process trying to get finalization on different parts of the deal in place so that President Trump could assemble a group then he himself could make this very large ceremonial victory statement.
You know, it's just how this president operates on foreign policy and he's conscious of the fact that he hasn't on China, on Iran, on Israel and the Palestinians. He hasn't had the kind of big symbolic win that he's been seeking.
CABRERA: The president according to our reporting had grown discouraged by the peace talks. He told his team he would be better positioned to do the negotiating himself.
To that point, Max, you write today in your "Washington Post" column, "It's true that Trump likes making deals. He's just not very good at it. In fact, he may be the worst deal maker ever to occupy the Oval Office. The abrupt disintegration of his accord with the Taliban provides the latest evidence that he's too impetuous and ignorant to be a successful negotiator."
BOOT: Well, if you look at the record, Ana, I think that's amply supported. I mean, where is the deal with China? Where is the deal with Iran? Where is the deal with North Korea? Where is the deal with Mexico? Remember, Mexico was supposedly going to pay for his border wall.
He's been very good at blowing up deals like the Iran Nuclear Accord or the Paris Climate Accord. He's been able -- the Trans Pacific Partnership -- he's been able to leave deals, but he has not been able to conclude new deals.
And, you know, this is yet more example that this kind of reality T.V. show approach and this twitter diplomacy is not very successful in the real world against determined adversaries like the Taliban.
CABRERA: Here's what Republican congresswoman and daughter of Dick Cheney, Liz Cheney, said today in a tweet. "Camp David is where America's leaders met to plan our response after Al-Qaeda supported by the Taliban, killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11. No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever. The Taliban still harbors al Qaeda."
But then adds this, "The president is right to end the talks." Patrick, is this a Republican trying to walk that fine line?
HEALY: Yes, it's really interesting. Dick Cheney has been, at least in private, pretty tough on President Trump and some of his foreign policy decisions.
And certainly Cheney, you know, spent many years trying to get an Afghanistan project off of the ground, you know, to great cost.
CABRERA: But I just wonder, if this had been Barack Obama --
CABRERA: -- who had planned this meeting if that's the same response we'd get from Republicans.
HEALY: No, I don't think so. I mean, Ana, the reality is just that even when some Republicans are willing to go out and criticize President Trump partially, oftentimes, they will curl back like Liz Cheney did at the end of this tweet.
You have to leave the president feeling at the very end like you're not throwing him under the bus so to speak within their own party. It's, you know, sort of principled stand goes -- stance go, you know, it goes up to a point, but at least Dick Cheney oftentimes wouldn't have any problem, you know, just delivering the blow and leaving it.
CABRERA: Patrick Healy, Max Boot, good to have both of you with us. Thank you very much. We're following some breaking news off the coast of Georgia where
officials have suspended rescue efforts right now for four missing crew members after a cargo ship capsized. Details just ahead.
CABRERA: Breaking news off the coast of Georgia this hour where four crew members are missing after a massive ship wreck. This is a 656- foot cargo ship that capsized early this morning.
Twenty of the 24 people on board have been rescued, but efforts to reach those four still missing were suspended after a fire broke out on board this crippled vessel.
Coast Guard Commander, Captain John Reed spoke with CNN a short time ago.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN REEED, U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDER (via telephone): We had to suspend our search for the four persons on board as a fire started on board and the vessel continued to be unstable. Our first priority is the safety of the responders as well as the public.
And so doing that, once we are able to ensure their safety through securing the vessel and ensuring that it is stable by a salvors assessment, we will then work through the possibilities of trying to get back on board and locate the individuals.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CABRERA: The 71,000 ton ship began listing heavily after leaving the Port of Brunswick, Georgia overnight but it's not clear why. Reporter Brittany Jones of our affiliate, WJXT, is with us now. Brittany, what is the latest?
BRITTANY JONES, WJXT REPORTER: Well right now, I am standing here at the pier, but let me give you closer shot of that cargo ship over my shoulder here. You can see it sitting out there in the water and some boats that are surrounding it.
Over to my right though, there are a lot of people out here just -- it's become quite a bit of a spectacle with people taking pictures and wanting to see that boat out here. The Coast Guard says this is definitely still a rescue mission.
They say 20 people were safely rescued from the boat when this happened and right now salvage teams are putting in all their efforts to find those other four. Now, again, here's what we know. We want to show you what the ship looks like.
You should see it, like I said, right there in the water. The urgent call for help came in around 2:00 Sunday morning. The Coast Guard says this more than 600-foot cargo ship caught on fire and rolled on to its side.
The Coast Guard launched several assets to respond to the Golden Ray ship on board where the pilot and 23 crew members when this happened. Right now, the ship is stranded near the mouth of Fancy Bluff Creek.
According to a maritime traffic website, the ship was sailing under the flag of Marshall's Island leaving Brunswick and was expected in Baltimore on Monday.
Now, Captain John Reed says it was too risky to further go inside the boat to attempt to find the four who are missing. The Coat Guard says it's a complex situation they're facing as they look out for search crew's safety as well as trying to rescue those on board.
We've done some digging on the boat and found that it was built in 2017 and the ship is called RORO which delivers cars and other vehicles that roll on and off docks.
Now, at last check, the Coast Guard had at least six branches of their agency working to find those who are missing plus Glynn County first responders. The NTSB is also assisting them with this investigation as well. For now, we're live in St. Simons Sound, Brittany Jones, back to you.
CABRERA: Brittany, thank you very much. This hour, the death toll in the Bahamas as a result of Hurricane Dorian has gone up to 44. Coming up, the incredible story of a blind man who carried his disabled son through the storm. Stay right there.
CABRERA: Right now, Dorian is moving back out to sea, but not before showing its strength one last time in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Intense winds sent the construction crane right into the side of a building. Luckily, there were no injuries, but there are still major concerns of just how long it will take the Bahamas to recover from Dorian's destruction.
At least 44 people are dead. Again, that's the confirmed number, but officials still expect that number to rise dramatically. U.S. Coast Guard crews say they have rescued more than 300 people so far. Volunteers with search dogs continue to scour neighborhoods on Grand Bahama and the Abacos that were leveled by this storm.
Global relief agencies are still rushing in to get food and shelter to some 70,000 people who are now homeless. All week, we have been hearing incredible stories of survival, but this next one is almost impossible to imagine.
I want you to picture this. The roof being ripped off your home, water up to your chin and rescuing not only yourself, but your 24-year-old son who has cerebral palsy and cannot walk. Now, imagine doing all of that and being blind. That was the reality for my next guest, Brent Lowe. Mr. Lowe, thank
you so much for being here with us. Your story is truly a testament to your strength, your determination and your courage. I can't even imagine. How is everybody doing?
BRENT LOWE, HURRICANE DORIAN SURVIVOR: Well, everybody's doing well now. We're doing pretty fine. I found my son yesterday. He's in a shelter with his aunt. So, I'm going to see him as soon as I leave here.
CABRERA: Okay, that's good to hear. That's good to hear. Can you take us through what you experienced when Dorian hit and how you managed to get yourself and your son to safety?
LOWE: All right. About 2:00 Sunday, when the wind really came that high, there was a banging on my door so I opened the door. It was my neighbors, my landlord and my son's aunt. She said they need to come in because their roof had just blown off.
So, we all got in. And after the eye passed and the wind came out of the south east, that's when my roof came off. And water started to come into the house so we decide we had to go to the neighbor's. So I had to put my son on my shoulder because he's big, he's heavy.
And when I step off the porch, my front porch, the water was probably to my chin. And we, me and my sister Lorena (ph) and all our relatives, we had to walk through the water to the neighbor's house. I mean it felt like, it's about a three minute walk, but it felt like forever --
LOWE: -- walking through that water because the wind was blowing and it was just hard.
CABRERA: Wow. Describe for me just how challenging that was, physically and emotionally.
LOWE: Well, physically because he's heavy.
LOWE: And he was squirming because, you know, it was raining and the breeze was blowing as well. I think he was scared and it made it even hard because he wouldn't keep still, you know. I mean, he just keep squirming and moving backwards and forth until we got there. Yes. So it was really tough, but I was terrified. Terrified.
CABRERA: Sure. Sure. I know you're no stranger to hurricanes. How did this one, Dorian, compare to others?
LOWE: Well, I thought Floyd was bad, but Floyd was minuscule compared to this. It's just totally different. Never experienced anything like this in my entire life. CABRERA: What do you know about the damage now in your neighborhood
and your community?
LOWE: Well you know, I cannot see but what I've been told, everything just totally destroyed. We have no grocery stores. We have no gas stations. Everything, all the churches, all the businesses, everything gets destroyed. Everything.
CABRERA: I'm so sorry.
LOWES: Just destroyed. Totally destroyed.
CABRERA: What's your plan now? What's next for you and your family?
LOWE: We don't know. We still -- we need to try to find somewhere to stay. We need the try to find somewhere to live and we don't know out here what we're going to do yet. We're still trying to figure out all that stuff up.
CABRERA: Well, we wish you --
LOWE: Somewhere to get -- somewhere stay so we can get Brandon (ph). Go ahead.
CABRERA: Absolutely. I just want to wish you the very, very best, you and your son, your whole family. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.
LOWE: All right. Thank you for having me.
CABRERA: Of course, for more information about how you can help the victims of Hurricane Dorian, please go to CNN.com/impact.
Another Republican announces a long shot campaign to unseat President Trump in 2020. His reason for running and what it means for the party, next.
CABRERA: New today, another twist in the 2020 race. President Trump has a new Republican primary challenger, Mark Sanford. The former South Carolina governor and congressman, announcing today his plan to take on the incumbent president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK SANFORD (R-SC), PRESIDENTTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm here to tell you now that I am going to get in.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: You're going to run for president against Donald Trump in the Republican race.
SANFORD: I am. I am. I think as a party, we've lost our way. The president has called himself the king of debt. Has a familiarity and comfort level with debt that I think is ultimately leading us in the wrong direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Sanford comes with well-documented personal baggage. As governor, Sanford disappeared for a week in 2009 telling his staff he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. In reality, Sanford, who was married was in Argentina with his mistress.
Also, Sanford won't be on the ballot in his home state's Republican primary next year because just yesterday, South Carolina's GOP canceled its nominating contest, offering full support to President Trump.
Sanford now joins former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Wells in the Republican White House race. I want to bring in CNN's national political reporter Maeve Reston. Maeve, what is the political impact then of Sanford jumping in and how is the Trump campaign responding?
MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, I think the Trump campaign has basically summed it up to CNN in a word by saying that it's irrelevant, Mark Sanford's entrance into the race. And in one sense, that's certainly true.
They have the machine. They have the foot soldiers. President Trump's approval rating has stayed relatively steady. The people who are with him love what he's doing, but I think it makes the conversation much more interesting.
A, because Mark Sanford is just a fascinating character in politics for all of the reasons that you mentioned, but also because there is a large group of people out there, whether they are independents or people in the middle who used to call themselves Republicans who are not happy with President Trump.
And so now you have a situation where you really will see the president buffeted by both sides, the Democrats coming at him from one angle and you know, former Governor Sanford coming at him from another. And it could just make the conversation very interesting I think, Ana.
CABRERA: It will be interesting. I think that's for sure. Sharp reaction from South Carolina's GOP party leader who says this in a statement, "Let's be clear, this is about Mark Sanford looking to raise his political career from the grave, not him wanting to advance ideas. The simple fact is that South Carolina Republicans overwhelmingly support President Trump. And know this vanity project is going absolutely nowhere."
Maeve, how concerned should Sanford be about his 2020 bid being viewed as a political vanity project?
RESTON: Well, I think he's very used to that kind of criticism. Remember, this is -- to save his relationship with South Carolina Republicans is fraught, is one of the biggest understatements that you could possibly have. I mean, he -- when he was governor, this was the same guy that brought
squealing piglets into the state house to protest against what he considered to be pork barrel spending. Then he had all these antics on the Appalachian Trail.
I mean, he is not loved in his state. So, the fact that there will be no primary there for him to compete in is probably the best thing that happened to his campaign.
But you think about states like Iowa or New Hampshire. They are potentially willing to give other candidates a hearing. Certainly issues like debt and deficit are not high on people's list right now in terms of the thing they're most concerned about.
But if the economy starts to go south over the next year, there could be some Republicans who are looking for an alternative and that does that crate a different dynamic in the race potentially.
CABRERA: All right. Thank you so much.
RESTON: Thank you.
CABRERA: Maeve Reston, good to have you with us.
New today on the Democratic side of the 2020 race, billionaire Tom Steyer qualifying for the Democratic debate stage in October. Steyer's, now the 11th candidate to make the cut. He crossed the threshold after receiving 2 percent in a new CBS News/YouGov poll that was conducted in Nevada and was just released today.
Qualifying candidates must get at least 2 percent in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee and donations from 130,000 unique donors.
The October debate will be held in Ohio at a yet to be disclosed sight. Again, that's the October debate, but he did not qualify for the September debate, which is this week.
U.S. health officials are warning about vaping in the wake of five deaths and at least 450 possible cases of lung disease. What's being done to address it? Details ahead live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: It's being called an epidemic among American teens, vaping. Now, federal health officials are raising new concerns about whether e-cigarettes are safe.
The CDC reports at least five deaths and 450 illnesses in more than three dozen states potentially linked to vaping. Health officials in New York are now zeroing in on a possible culprit. CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at the growing medical concerns.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: These numbers just hard to believe. They keep going up. The number of people hospitalized now in the number of states. It's interesting when you talk about the typical patient. Oftentimes, they are young. They are healthy. And then they are suddenly sick.
Take a look at the symptoms that they often develop; respiratory symptoms, G.I. symptoms, fever, headache, weight loss and again, so many people getting sick, so many people getting hospitalized as a result of this.
It's an ongoing medical investigation. At first, you had all these people getting ill. What do they have in common? Well, they all seemed to have vaped. Now, within the vape, what is it about the vaping? Is it something in particular that could be causing a problem?
Well, in the state of New York, they've been zeroing in on the substance known as Vitamin E acetate. Vitamin E, you know, something that you can take by mouth as a supplement. It's usually fine. People often rub it on their skin. Usually fine.
But if you vaporize it, turn it into all these other compounds, absorb it into your lungs and then those compounds re-congeal perhaps back into some sort of oil, could that be causing the problem? They don't know for sure, but what the investigators are starting to really focus on.
So far, the substance, this Vitamin E substance has only been found in THC or cannabis containing vapes, not nicotine. And therein lies another clue. I should point out, the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control had this to say as well. "Until a definitive cause is known, people should consider not using e-cigarettes."
It's a pretty extraordinary statement to just say hey, look, we don't know for sure what's going on. People are getting sick. It's likely associated to vaping. For the time being, maybe it's best to simply not use these devices. As we get more information, we'll certainly bring it to you.
CABRERA: All right, thank you to Sanjay. You must have questions. We certainly do, so we invited pulmonologist Dr. Kevin Davidson to join us. Dr. Davidson, thanks for being here. Our doctor, Sanjay Gupta says investigators are focusing in on Vitamin E acetate. Could that be the culprit?
KEVIN DAVIDSON, WAKEMED PULMONARY & CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE: Yes, thank you so much for having me on. Well, it's certainly something that needs to be looked at more closely. My colleagues and I, we work at WakeMed Health and Hosipital in Raleigh, North Carolina and we just published a report in morbidity and mortality weekly report that came out on Friday and is available on the CDC's web page.
Now, we encountered five of these patients and as you've just heard, there's an estimated 450 at least that have been found nationally, and that's probably an underestimate. And those have included at least three in one additional death under investigation. And so that's terribly concerning.
If I could, I was going to tell you about what in particular we're seeing with these patients --
DAVIDSON: -- who we found. So interestingly, these are young, healthy patients without any prior ailments presenting with severe shortness of breath. Oftentimes, they also have additional fevers, many have had nausea, abdominal pain, have stopped eating.
When they come to the hospital, what's most notable is they have an abnormal x-ray, abnormal CAT scan of the lungs and other fancier type of imaging technique. And we've taken care of five of these cases. Three have required admission into the intensive care unit and one has even required life support or intubated.
Now, our group, in the process of taking care of these patients, discovered that our five patients have all suffered from a very rare cause of pneumonia that's called Lipoid pneumonia. And while we're very accustomed to taking care of a variety of types of pneumonia, this is seldom encountered in patients specifically in young, healthy patients.
And Lipid pneumonia is the deposition of fats as the accumulation of fatty acids and lipids into the lung. So, in the process of vaping --
CABRERA: So what could cause that?
DAVIDSON: Well, all of these had one shared commonality. And that was that they had all acknowledged vaping, using e-cigarettes and inhaling these aerosols.
What we know about these aerosols is some contain nicotine and the instances that we described, which is only five cases, all of them contained marijuana oils or extracts and they're oftentimes contained in a medium and oil that allows them to be vaporized and inhaled.
So, we suspect that it's this oil that's being added that's causing them to be ill. And investigations are underway with the CDC and with the FDA to try to take this to the next step to identify what culprit oil might be the cause.
But I would echo the sentiments that were just released by a host of state health departments and also the Centers for Disease Control, that this is a national outbreak. Young, healthy patients are getting sick --
DAVIDSON: -- and the only way to really avoid this for sure is to not vape these products.
CABRERA: So you're saying just don't vape the product. Should people be vaping at all because, I don't know -- is it clear if you're safe enough to vape tobacco versus some THC product? DAVIDSON: It's an excellent question. You know, I took care of a
minority of these patients, only five, and there have been over 450. Many of these patients happen to smoke a variety of substances. In our brief experience, the shared commonality was the marijuana oils.
And so, I suspect that those may be a higher risk, but there have been a few patients described who didn't have that contact and really, the safest thing is not to inhale other artificial substances and chemical in the lung because it can cause this abnormality.
CABRERA: OK, Dr. Kevin Davidson, important information. Thank you for being here and sharing that with us.
DAVIDSON: Thank you so much. Appreciate being on.
CABRERA: We have amazing new video from the state of Washington, more than 1,200 lightning strikes lighting up the skies within the span of just three hours.
CABRERA: A spectacular sight in Washington State as more than 1,200 lightning strikes lit up the skies within three hours. Strong thunderstorms developed over the western part of the state last night, sparking all this lightning along with heavy rains, flooding, and hail.
Thousands of people lost power. The storms also delayed the University of Washington football game against UC Berkeley at Husky Stadium and caused the Washington State Fair to close early.
CNN has learned that warrants have been served against the business that owns that scuba diving boat that caught fire last week, killing 34 people. The boat went up in flames on Labor Day just off the southern California coast.
Officials say the Coast Guard investigative service issued search warrants on Truth Aquatics earlier this morning calling it part of the ongoing probe. The Coast Guard has been assisting the ATF and the FBI with this investigation.
We have new details on the directive sent to workers at the country's top weather agency. Experts told not to contradict the president's claim that Hurricane Dorian threatened Alabama, next in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.