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CNN NEWSROOM

Global Strike as Masses Take to Streets over Climate Crisis; 2 Deaths as Tropical Storm Imelda Floods Texas; Trump Threatens to Dump ISIS Fighters on Europe; Homeland Security Releasing Strategy for Foreign Enemies & Domestic Terrorism, Namely White Supremacism; Military, Nevada Police on Alert for "Storm Area 51" Gathering; Walmart Bans E-Cigarettes Following It's Stopping Open Carry and Reduced Gun & Ammunition Sells. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 20, 2019 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00]

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: We know that they have been planning this protests this summer. But when you look in the ground, yes, there are adults but the majority of people here that we spoke to, students, anywhere from elementary school all the up until high school.

I spoke with one 12-year-old just a while ago who said he definitely needs lawmakers to listen. Because he lives on barriers islands in Florida, and every time there is a storm -- he's lived through hurricanes and he's just genuinely terrified. This coming from a 12- year-old. So he says that he really wants to see action.

Of course, all of this happening the same week that the president said he would revoke California's authority to have those stricter emissions. We all know those emissions are related to greenhouse gases, also related to climate change -- Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Rene Marsh, thank you.

We'll continue to cover these protests, these marches, and let you know what else is happening throughout the day.

Meantime, in Texas, remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda making their way north, leaving the greater Houston area with a flooded mess. During the worst of the storm, there were more than 400 urgent high-water rescues.

Floodwater you can see in the pictures stranding hundreds of cars along streets and highways. Two deaths have now been tied to the storm, and all of this is not over.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Beaumont, Texas.

Ed, as I understand it a loose barge with an unknown substance on it?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a barge that collided into a portion of Interstate 10 causing all sorts of problems for traffic moving between Houston and the Beaumont area where we are. And even though it hasn't rained significantly for most of the day,

all of the rainfall and water moving downstream is still having neighborhoods on heightened alert.

Northwest Beaumont, the neighborhood behind the tree line, is under a mandatory evacuation. There are about 1,500 people who lived there two years ago headed into Hurricane Harvey, and 1,000 never moved back and about 500 are left there. And once again dealing with another significant flooding event.

One woman said her house took on seven to eight feet of water during Hurricane Harvey. She had to evacuate. Says she's in shock having to go through all of this again.

As we were standing here, we saw one man coming from the distance. As he got closer, realized he was bringing four horses with him. We talked how he's been through this before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: How does this storm compare to Hurricane Harvey?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing compared to Hurricane Harvey.

LAVANDERA: Bad as you've seen since then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: So, Erica, though, in many places we've seen floodwaters recede, there are a number of places between Beaumont and Houston still not quite out of the woods yet. And all of this is an eerie and a flashback to what they experienced two years ago after Hurricane Harvey -- Erica?

HILL: Absolutely.

Ed Lavandera, in Beaumont, thank you.

President Trump releasing startling threats saying he will release thousands of ISIS fighters into Europe if they don't take them.

And what began as a joke has officials on high alert at this hour. Why people are descending on Area 51 in search of extraterrestrial life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:37:50]

HILL: They fought for ISIS and were captured. Now President Trump is threatening to free them and dump them in Europe.

Listen to what the president said at the White House while welcoming Australia's prime minister. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When I came, the caliphate it was all over the place. I defeated the caliphate, ISIS, and now we have thousands of prisoners of war, ISIS fighters that are prisoners of war.

And we're asking the countries from which they same, Scott, from Europe, asking them to take back these prisoners of war, and they can try them do what they want. So far, they've refused.

At some point, I have to say, I'm sorry. Take them back or we'll let them go at your border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: "Washington Post" columnist and CNN political analyst, Josh Rogin, joins us.

Josh, put this in perspective. How many ISIS fighters are we talking about that have been or are detained by the U.S. and where are they?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I mean, the problem President Trump identifying here is a real one. Following the destruction of the caliphate, there are about 70,000 ISIS family members in a camp in northern Syria sitting there in squalor. The camp is effectively run by ISIS, and those people are radicalized and could escape at this time.

There's another 11,000 who come from all over the world, not Syria and Iraq, and another 2,500 in Kurdish prisons strewn about northeastern Syria. It's a massive problem.

But President Trump's threat here is clearly a bluff. Obviously, ridiculous. There's no way we could release these people.

Again, the point he's making European countries have a responsibility to deal with this, citizens that came from their country in the first place is basically right.

HILL: So, to that point, then, where do those negotiations stand on what to do with these people and specifically those who did come from some of these European countries to fight with ISIS and are now being held and need to go somewhere?

ROGIN: Right. Ideally, you would want a U.S. president who would talk to these countries and figure out grievances and find a way to address them rather than threatening with thousands of terrorists which is not going to work. Right? Basically, this is managed at the State Department level and negotiations are going nowhere.

[14:40:12]

There's no plan to deal with these people. Their conditions are getting worse. Getting even more radicalized. And we wonder why it is we have to keep going in and fighting terrorists every five, 10 years or so. This is the reason. We've gotten very good at killing people in the

battlefield but stink at dealing with what comes next.

It's the same group of people recruiting from the same disadvantaged, poor, suffering civilians. And if we don't deal with this, these people will surely come back and re-establish a caliphate and we'll have to go back in there and fight all over again.

HILL: A reminder of all the work that still needs to be done.

Josh Rogin, I appreciate it. Thank you.

ROGIN: Thank you.

HILL: Just coming in, the Department of Homeland Security releasing a counterterrorism strategy. Not just outlining ongoing threats from foreign enemies but makes specific reference to combating domestic terrorism, namely, white supremacism.

CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, has more details on this strategy.

What more are we learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Erica, as you know, a lot of criticism that this administration just isn't focused enough on the threat of white supremacism.

Today, minutes ago actually, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan focused and announced DHS's new counterterrorism strategy focused on domestic terror threats and white supremacism in particular.

He called white supremacism one the most potent ideologies driving violence here in the U.S. and an affront to our nation, which strives for unity of its diverse population.

Secretary McAleenan, specifically notably, called out the reason attacks in El Paso, also the attack in Pittsburgh, as well as California recently and Charleston as motivated by extremist ideology.

Really, this is a strong statement by the administration official against hate ideologists. And it's something that the president has really been criticized for, for not being more vocal about.

So McAleenan talked about domestic terrorism, white supremacy. But, Erica, he also stressed that foreign terrorism threats are still a major focus, of course, for DHS.

Especially with the recent arrest of that American Airlines mechanic accused of trying to sabotage one of its airliners before it took off. Prosecutors in that case saying that that mechanic may have been sympathetic to terrorists.

So obviously, still a focus on foreign terrorism, but now it's clear with this announcement that DHS is publicly making domestic terrorism and combating white supremacism more of a priority here. Something we really haven't heard a lot from the administration.

But now the DHS acting secretary stepping up to indicate and really vocalize that this is, in fact, a priority -- Erica?

HILL: Important shift in clarification there.

Jessica, thank you.

A quick programming note. The true stories of the agencies protecting us from terrorist, drug cartels, Russian spies and more, when the CNN original series "DECLASSIFIED" returns to CNN. That's Sunday night, 9:00 Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.

It all started as bit of a joke. Now people are descending on Area 51 in search of extraterrestrial life today. And we take you there.

Plus, just in, Walmart making a dramatic move involving vaping as the number of illnesses rises across the country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:48:33]

HILL: The aliens may not be coming. Extraterrestrials enthusiasts and true believers are descending on Area 51. It started as a joke on Facebook for an event called "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us." After nearly two million clicked the go button, Nevada and military leaders on high alert, concerned hundreds maybe thousands will show up at the super-secret military base.

CNN's Nick Watt is monitoring the gathering in Rachel, Nevada, near Area 51.

Nick, what kind of turnout are you seeing at this point?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica, so far, about 2,000 people. Not the 20,000 they expected. Certainly not the two million people who claimed they were coming. But the festival is still picking up steam and haven't got it all together.

Where I'm standing will eventually be the horseshoe pit.

As you mentioned, the original plan was to storm Area 51, see if the government really is keeping alien life forms in there. The organizers have pushed back from that and urging people not to do it.

Last night, about 75 people did go up to the gate of the base just over there and we are told there was one arrest for public urination, but that the guards came out and they were very friendly.

I'm told by people they are planning to go back again tonight to see that gate into the base.

Also the other thing that's good, only 60 degrees not 90.

The SWAT team from Vegas is standing by, ready in case this does turn ugly -- Erica?

HILL: Good to know. Also good to know there will be a horseshoe pit there. Hope to find another spot for you to stand.

(CROSSTALK)

[14:50:11]

HILL: Nick, thank you.

Just in, Walmart says it will discontinue sale of E-cigarettes as the eighth person died from a vaping-related illness.

Cristina Alesci joining us now we have the latest.

Now they're out entirely?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS & BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They are. What I'm hearing is that this might prompt other retailers to follow suit, because they are such a large part of the market, and not in terms of vaping, just in general.

HILL: Right.

ALESCI: And we've seen this play out with the gun safety debate. Right? Walmart moved to ban open carry. They've reduced gun and ammunition sales.

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: They do still sell them?

ALESCI: They totally do. Just reduced the selection of ammunition and, more importantly, they banned open carry in their stores that prompted other retailers to follow suit and that's what we've been seeing.

Bottom line, when Walmart does something, it provokes other retailers to think about doing the same thing, and that's what's so powerful about them.

Also notable to point out that companies in general are trying to impact and change things that their customers and their employees are calling for, and we're seeing more companies respond to that.

Now, with Walmart in particular, we're seeing them become more active. They've been conservative in the past.

The CEO of Walmart just joined, actually didn't just join, but is taking the lead in the business roundtable, which just redefined what the corporation, the definition of a corporation is, so that it's not just responsible to shareholders but to the public, writ large.

And we're seeing a different shift in corporate America. Basically, taking responsibility for things that they normally wouldn't or would shy away from because they were controversial issues. HILL: Right. But now stepping into more political waters, because,

as you point out, a lot of their customers or employees -- interesting to see who will follow suit.

Cristina, thank you.

ALESCI: Of course.

HILL: Rudy Giuliani has a history of preempting big news by revealing it live on television. We'll take a look.

Plus, breaking news. At this hour, word of a crash involving a tour bus in Utah. At least four people have died, many other injured. We'll bring you the very latest on that.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:57:17]

HILL: A heartwarming birth party surprise for a special boy. A Georgia police department going all-out. Lights, sirens and more.

CNN's Robyn Curnow shows how they went "BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR & CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST, "INTERNATIONAL DESK WITH ROBYN CURNOW" (voice-over): A surprise birthday party for Tye Clinner.

(SINGING)

CURNOW: One that he and his mother, Crystal, will never forget.

CRYSTAL CLINNER, MOTHER OF TYE CLINNER: Wow -- that's the first word that comes to mind. When all of this started we were just planning on having him a little tiny birthday party and when we got in touch with Lt. Forman, she just took it.

CURNOW: Brandy Forman, a 15-year veteran of the Smyrna Police Department, helped to plan the party and bake the cake, which has three tiers covered in fondant with a Disney pirate theme.

LT. BRANDY FORMAN, SMYRNA POLICE DEPARTMENT, SMYRNA, GEORGIA: I'm a baker as a hobby. I volunteer my time as a baker for cakes for medical kids or kids with special needs.

(SINGING)

CURNOW: Lieutenant Forman was asked to bake a cake for Tye, but she wanted to give him much more.

FORMAN: It was an opportunity to do something good -- to make something small into something grand and big for him that he wouldn't always have the opportunity for.

(CROSSTALK)

CURNOW: Tye suffers from cerebral palsy and celebrating each birthday is a real gift to his family. Tye uses a wheelchair and requires round-the-clock care.

C. CLINNER: It's so hard to put into words like how much this means.

CURNOW (on camera): Has today been wonderful?

TYE CLINNER, SUFFERS FROM CEREBRAL PALSY: Yes.

CURNOW: That's great.

All these policemen came out for you. Isn't that fabulous?

(SIREN)

CURNOW (voice-over): Lieutenant Forman called in the SWAT team, literally. They gave Tye a chance to play with their normally off- limits gadgets and they promoted him to sergeant.

UNIDENTIFIED SMYRNA POLICE OFFICER: We've even had a Smyrna Police Department shirt made up for him with sergeant stripes. So he doesn't start out at the bottom, he starts out as a sergeant.

CURNOW (on camera): Why do you think it's important to do what you did today?

SGT. LOUIS DEFENSE, PIO, SMYRNA POLICE DEPARTMENT, SMYRNA, GEORGIA: It's about community relations. This was more than a birthday party for Tye. It was a community event.

We have to find alternative ways with connecting with the people that you serve. If not, we're failing our community.

UNIDENTIFIED SMYRNA POLICE OFFICER: There you go. You ready?

(SIREN)

CURNOW (voice-over): Sirens blaring.

This party was also a loud and happy send-off for Tye and his family who have also been gifted a trip to Disneyworld by the charity, Give Kids the World. Tye is there right now after a week that started with a giant cake and a heartfelt happy birthday from this group of caring cops.

UNIDENTIFIED SMYRNA POLICE OFFICER: And we've got some other cool stuff they're going to let you check out here in a minute.

CURNOW: Robyn Curnow, CNN, Smyrna, Georgia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[15:00:02]

HILL: We are following breaking news out of Utah. A crash involving a tour bus.

CNN's Sara Sidner joining us now with these breaking details.