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California Gripped by Raging Wildfires; New Details of Baghdadi Raid; FaceBook Employees Slam Policy; Steelers Rally to Beat Dolphins; Jeff Sessions Considering Run for Senate; Dad in College Admissions Scandal Breaks his Silence. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 29, 2019 - 06:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, more than 25 million people across California now under a red flag warning as crews battle these huge wildfires that have destroyed dozens of homes and are now threatening thousands more. More than 20,000 people have been forced to evacuate in southern California.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is live in Los Angeles with a live look at the situation.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, well, it's another morning of fighting the Getty Fire, but there's still plenty of work to be done, especially in places like where we are right now. This is in a Brentwood neighborhood in the Los Angeles area.

And one of the things that they are focusing on right now is structure protection in evacuation zones, again, like the one we are in right now. So throughout the course of this morning, you may be able to hear at some points we've seen helicopters come through and dropping water on some of the hillsides. Even though it is dark out, they've been trying to, again, make sure that this fire doesn't get ahead of them in any way on that front.

Now, overall, they have been making pretty good progress. We heard from the fire department who says they've really done a good job slowing the speed of how this fire has spread. All that said, it's only about 5 percent contained. And there are still many people in mandatory evacuation zones waking up this morning.

And one thing that we are going to be looking for moving forward is that crews are going to try and take advantage of today. And by that I mean there's a threat ahead for them. They say the wind this evening stretching through midday Thursday is expected to pose a threat for them. That's the phrasing that the fire department used. So they're going to try and take advantage of today, make as much progress as they can before, again, the weather may become an added element. And there's been a lot of questions swirling about -- around how this

exactly fire started. Well, the fire department says that is still under investigation, but they haven't ruled anything out, including arson because, as you remember, this started -- this really came seemingly out of nowhere in the overnight hours Monday morning and then, of course, ballooned into the images that we saw as commuters headed to work with hillsides completely on fire.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Omar, we do remember that yesterday, and, obviously, the winds are exacerbating everything. Thank you very much for reporting from the ground for us.

There are new details this morning about that operation that targeted ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. A spokesman for the Kurdish led SDF tells CNN that an ISIS informant helped locate al-Baghdadi and even obtained a blood sample to confirm his identity. Meanwhile, President Trump tweeting this photo of the hero dog who was injured after chasing Baghdadi into the tunnel where he detonated his suicide vest.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more.

What have you learned, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: A lot of new details this morning, Alisyn.

The SDF, the Syrian forces that the U.S. was allied with, say they did have someone deep inside al-Baghdadi's inner circle. That person actually, they say, obtaining a piece of Baghdadi's underwear and that's how they got the DNA sample that the U.S. could then use to establish a DNA baseline, match it up when Baghdadi died and be able to positively identify him.

On to the dog. The dog's name remains classified this morning. The dog is a member of the Army's Elite Delta Force. But President Trump did tweet a photo of the dog. We're told the dog is recovering from some electrocution injuries. A lot of public interest in that.

But let's move on for a minute. U.S. troops very much still going back into Syria. And we asked Defense Secretary Mark Esper yesterday here at a press conference about their role, their mission. I asked the secretary, does their mission now include preventing, denying access to the oil fields to both Syrian and Russian forces who may be moving through that area? Have a listen to how he laid it all out.


STARR: Does that include denying access, preventing Russian or Syrian forces, which now have changed the battle space?


MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: So the short answer is, yes, it presently does, because, in that case, we want to make sure that SDF does have access to the resources in order to guard the prisons, in order to arm their own troops, in order to assist us with the defeat ISIS mission. So that's our mission is to secure the oil fields.


STARR: Yes, it does secure the oil fields. This is really significant. The secretary, for the first time, publicly saying that U.S. troops, not just would perform in a self-defense role guarding the oil fields, but they could wind up challenging the Russians or the Syrians on that ground.


BERMAN: It is a significant development and a lot of new information there.

Barbara Starr, thank you very much.

And for all the focus on the dog, so much has been said about the hero dog. The only thing I will add is, no cat has ever taken down a terrorist.

CAMEROTA: I think you're right.

BERMAN: All right.

CAMEROTA: I think you're -- I think that could be accurate.


So the Nationals fan became an Internet sensation when he took a home run to the chest so he did not drop his beers. Now his devotion to Bud Light is being rewarded.

CAMEROTA: Oh, somebody bought him another beer?

BERMAN: I think he may have more than just another beer.

CAMEROTA: Bigger than that? Bigger than that, yes.

BERMAN: Details, next.



BERMAN: New this morning, growing dissent within FaceBook over the company's policy not to fact check political ads. In an open letter obtained by "The New York Times," hundreds of FaceBook's employees are slamming the company's policy as a, quote, threat to what FaceBook stands for.

This is what they write, quote, we strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn't protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy. Joining us now is CNN politics and technology reporter Donie


Donie, it's pretty unusual for people within FaceBook to mutiny like this.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN POLITICS AND TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: Absolutely. FaceBook is not like the White House. It's not like Washington. It doesn't normally leak. But when there's internal upheaval, we never normally hear about it. So hearing this is quite unusual.

And this letter is actually incredible. It goes far beyond the fact checking policy, which has been so controversial lately, and it actually says to FaceBook executives, our tools, our -- the way we can target ads is too good. It's actually dangerous for democracy.

If you and I, John, lived on the same street and we're both on FaceBook, a campaign, a political campaign, could send us two totally different messages, to totally different set of lies. And what FaceBook employees are saying here is that when you can do that, when you can target at that granular level, there's no common or shared understanding of what a campaign is saying, and, therefore, there can't be public scrutiny. So if you run an ad on TV or put a -- take a page out in "The New York Times," people can see that. They can debate it, discuss it, and test it. That's not the same on FaceBook.

BERMAN: And the call, again, is coming from inside the building, FaceBook employees. And the timing is interesting because it's the 2020 election. We're running out of time before 2020. Do you think that's a motivating factor for these people?

O'SULLIVAN: Well, these employees are now joining a growing chorus of people who are saying this policy is wrong. We've heard from Biden. We've heard from Warren. Today, actually, Senator Warren, just last night, sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg saying this.

We've seen all this criticism come from outside the company, and FaceBook really hasn't listened. So it's going to be interesting to see if now the calls are coming, as you say, from inside the building, if that will change things.

BERMAN: So this dovetails with a story that you've been reporting on, which I think is fascinating, which is that there is this person in California who was running for governor there just to highlight the dangers of this policy from FaceBook.

Explain what's going on.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. So, FaceBook's policy is, if you're a politician, you can lie. You can buy ads on their platform that are lies and that are false. So a liberal left -- left-leaning activist in San Francisco yesterday went to his local post office and registered to be a candidate for governor in the 2022 election, which the thinking that if I am a candidate, a politician in FaceBook's eyes, I will be able to place lies on the platform. And the reason he's doing that, of course, is to highlight what he says is this dangerous FaceBook policy. And he says particularly that, you know, this policy could be at more -- most advantageous to Donald Trump because Trump is known to lie.

BERMAN: One of the ads he posted as an example of what he -- what is allowed on FaceBook is this ad about Lindsey Graham, which we want to tell people, this is a lie. This is not true. But it's allowed on FaceBook.

So let's watch.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'm Senator Graham from South Carolina. I'm here to announce with my colleagues that we care about conservation. We care about the environment. From a Republican point of view, I think we need to look at the science, admit that climate change is real. Simply put, we believe in the green new deal.


BERMAN: So he does not believe in the green new deal, but this ad is allowed. Is this message going to be effective?

O'SULLIVAN: So, yes, he never said that. Also that photo of him with AOC is a fake photo shopped picture, obviously.

So Adrial Hampton (ph), the man who's running for governor, he placed this ad over the weekend and it was taken down because he wasn't a politician. Now he's a politician, so he's going to start creating these sort of ads to really test FaceBook's policy. So this is a story, this is a problem for FaceBook that is not going away. We're going to be hearing a lot more about it.

BERMAN: Yes, I would be shocked if there aren't some changes made soon because it is so glaring.

Donie O'Sullivan, thank you so much for your reporting on this. It's been terrific.


CAMEROTA: Well, John, Miami just could not manage a win against Pittsburgh on Monday night.

Carolyn Manno has more in the "Bleacher Report."

I mean I could go on, but let's go to Carolyn.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know what, I'll just -- I'll take it from here.

CAMEROTA: Yes, this was crazy.

MANNO: It was an impressive first quarter, can we give them that?

CAMEROTA: Yes. MANNO: And then, right after that, the dreadful Dolphins just splashing ice cold water in the face of anybody that was thinking that an upset could be report possible.


The first 15 minutes were glorious. Miami's defense came out swinging. Xavien Howard's early interception would lead to a touchdown. The Dolphins were up 14-0 early, but things started to unravel right before halftime. Under a minute to go here, Steelers within field goal range. So Miami decides to go for the all-out blitz. Alisyn, translation, no defense in sight for rookie Diontae Johnson. Heads for the end zone, cuts Dolphin's lead to four. Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph settled in as the game progressed.

Juju Smith-Schuster, play of the game right here, wide out. Just muscled his way for the 26-yard score. Pittsburgh scoring 27 unanswered points. The Dolphins are still winless.

And with the Houston Astros seeking their second World Series championship in three years tonight, this is your morning reminder that sports heroes come in many forms. You might call Nationals fans Jeff Adams a hero after he valiantly took a home run hit to the chest on Sunday night before giving up his two beers. And after tracking him down, Bud Light is sending Jeff to tonight's game six in Houston. We are not sure exactly where he's going to be sitting, but he should be easy to spot because he will be wearing a shirt of himself with the caption, always save the beers.

And if I could just make one plea, just keep the guy in the outfit, OK? He's a man of the people. He's signing lucrative deals with Bud Light. But we've got to -- we've got to keep him with the people.

BERMAN: Good for him. That's a living. That's a good living.

CAMEROTA: He's so --

MANNO: That's a good living if you can get it.


BERMAN: Taking baseballs to the chest and drinking Bud Light.

CAMEROTA: That's a hero.

MANNO: You'll take it.

BERMAN: That's a hero.

CAMEROTA: That's a hero.

MANNO: It's a real hero, yes.

BERMAN: And as far as the Dolphins go, can you imagine being a Miami Dolphins fan? Who could be a Miami Dolphins fan at this point? Can you imagine? CAMEROTA: Oh, is that -- is Havi (ph) a Miami Dolphins fan?

BERMAN: I can't -- I can't imagine who could be a Miami Dolphins fan.

CAMEROTA: Is that what -- OK, that's what I'm picking up right now.

BERMAN: All right, one of the parents who pled guilty in the college admissions scandal, wait until you hear what he says. His shocking sort of defense of his actions in criticism of the sentence he received, next.



BERMAN: Breaking overnight.

A source tells CNN, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering making a run for his old Senate seat. Some Republicans, however, are discouraging the idea, saying it would be difficult for Sessions to overcome his, quote, strained relationship with President Trump.

CNN's Rebecca Buck is live in Washington.

I have to say, this would be interesting.

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: It would be interesting, John. It's already a crowded primary. And, of course, Jeff Sessions entering the race would bring a whole new element of drama to this very interesting election.

So he was in the Senate, obviously, for decades, held this seat for many, many years. And Republicans do believe if he were to jump into the race at this point, that he would have an advantage and would be a frontrunner.

However, some Republicans are throwing cold water on the idea. Why? Well, for one reason, they do not know why Jeff Sessions should get into the race. Roy Moore is in this primary. He was, of course, a disruptive force last time around. But Republicans don't believe he has a real chance of winning in this crowded primary. They see Tommy Tuberville, a former football coach, as the leading candidate in this race, and so they don't know what the advantage would be necessarily of Jeff Sessions jumping into the race at this point.

But there's also, of course, this question of Sessions and his strained relationship, as you said, with President Trump, dating back to his handling of the Mueller report. The president has publicly attacked Sessions for that. And there's this open question of whether the president would go after him in the context of this primary, perhaps endorsing someone else, as we've seen from the president in the past with other races.

Now, we spoke with John Merrill. He's the Alabama secretary of state. And he's one of the Republicans whose already in this race. He says he's a big supporter of Jeff Sessions, has been a big fan of him over the years, but he warned, and I quote, Session has made himself vulnerable with some of the things that have happened vis-a-vis the president. Merrill added, quote, I think it would be very difficult for Senator Sessions to overcome that if the president were to come out publicly against him.

Even so, Merrill does acknowledge that he believes Sessions would be a frontrunner if he gets into the race. Of course he has incredible name ID in the state, still well liked among many Alabama Republicans. But it's very much an open question if he will run. One source telling us he has not had a conversation with Mitch McConnell, of course, the top Senate Republican, and McConnell, for his part, has not urged Sessions to run.


CAMEROTA: Telling.

Rebecca, thank you very much for all of that.

Now to this story.

One of the parents involved in the college admissions scandal is breaking his silence for the first time in a new interview with "The New York Post." Manhattan businessman Gregory Abbott, who pleaded guilty, complains about having to serve 30 days in prison, noting, why are these people out for blood? There are no victims.

Let's bring in Frank Bruni, "New York Times" op-ed columnist and author of "Where you Go is Not Who You'll Be," and Joey Jackson, criminal defense attorney and CNN legal analyst.

Guys, great to have you in studio.

Frank, is this a victimless crime, as he poses (ph)?

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, and that's an extraordinarily self- pitying interview. It's not a victimless crime. College admissions is a zero sum game, right? If somebody's getting a spot in a freshman class, somebody else isn't. And if that somebody is a kid whose parents are paying money to help him or her cheat, that is not a victimless crime.

On top of which, when this sort of thing happens, when these sorts of parents take legitimate and illegitimate gamesmanship and, you know, use their money to try to buy their way, whether it's illegal or legal, into a freshman class into college, they create a system whereby kids who do not have privilege, do not have those inside tracks, feel defeated. They feel that they're not going to get the same sort of shot at success in life and they're victims of this, absolutely.

BERMAN: And I've got to say, but, wait, there's more. It's not the only tone deaf comment this guy made. He said, throwing us in jail for a month is going to change things for minorities? Question mark? Who benefits, he asks, Joey. JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, first of all, it's

outrageous, his statement certainly. And, you know, I draw the distinction between what he told "The Post" and what he was saying on October 8th to the judge when he was being sentenced. This is a guy who clearly knows how to work the system. He's in front of the judge, emotional, oh, my goodness, couldn't believe it. My daughter had Lyme disease. That's the basis upon which I said this. And then he goes and he talks about Lori Loughlin being tone deaf and he makes statements like this and then he talks about how -- how are minorities not being benefited and he talks like this. It's not only minorities, let me hasten to add, certainly that's a very important part of this, but everybody is a victim of what he did. Every person who studies hard, every parent who, you know, really motivated their children to do the right thing is a victim of this.

And let me say this, the prosecutor wanted eight months.


This person should be kissing the judge's robe for only giving him four weeks in jail. And so I think it's just outrageous. He should stay quiet. And maybe the judge should call him back in front of the courtroom and have him justify his comments.

CAMEROTA: Just to remind people what he said, what you're referring to about the Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman piece. Here's what he said. Abbott called Huffman the picture of grace through her case, while Loughlin was, quote, tone deaf for signing autographs outside one of her Boston court hearings.

You could argue that is true.

But -- but here's the other part that I wanted to get to, Frank, and that's another thing that he said about basically a victimless crime. He said, is the United States of America benefitting from the shock and awe of arresting 33 parents who did something wrong? And I would submit that since we've been covering it for months, it is sending a message. But do you think that this is a moment that changes something?

BRUNI: Well, first of all, I want to say, I do think the United States is better for these arrests and it's more than 33. So he's got his number wrong. This guy's bad in a million ways.

This -- we're at a moment in this country, it's one of the reasons Donald Trump was elected, it's one of the reasons Elizabeth Warren has such traction. We're at a moment in this country where people are saying, enough with a rigged systems in which inside tracks beget inside tracks and good fortune begets more good fortune. And this is a symbol of all of that. This is the justice system coming and saying, you know what, we're going to put a kibosh on people using untoward gamesmanship to get more advantages. The United States is better for this.

JACKSON: Yes. BERMAN: And I have to say, this speaks to why people are upset with disparities within the criminal justice system, Joey, because this guy's out and out saying it, come on, am I really the kind of guy who should go to jail, wink, wink, wink.

JACKSON: Yes, it's really problematic. The judges do a few things, right? You look at punishment. You look at deterrents. You look at the issue of rehabilitation. And I think this judge has been very fair, very appropriate, perhaps too, you know, appropriate and fair as it relates to meting out sentences. But for him to be waxing poetic about how this one is tone deaf and how this one's the model of grace, and now he's justifying and making excuses as to what he did, I don't believe I was doing anything wrong. You knew exactly what you were doing, sir. You got exactly what you deserve. Perhaps not as much as you deserve, because he could have done more, should have done more in terms of time. And I just think it's inappropriate for him to be saying the things that he's saying and it completely overlooked the essence of this scandal.


BRUNI: Talk about tone deaf. He said at the end of his sentence he's going to go to Disneyworld or Disneyland for a vacation.

JACKSON: That's exactly --

BRUNI: And the guy's acting like a jerk, you know.



BERMAN: That's one way to say it.

BRUNI: Yes, yes, it's a kind -- it's the kind euphemism for what he's acting like.

CAMEROTA: It's the morning -- it's the morning show way to say it, actually.


CAMEROTA: All right, gentlemen, great to talk to you. Thank you very much.

JACKSON: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: All right, and if that wasn't enough for you, here are your "Late Night Laughs."


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": It was a better weekend than most of them for the president. We knew something was up on Saturday night when he posted this cryptic message, something very big has just happened. And, of course, we were all wondering, what could this be? Was, I don't know, Kid Rock named secretary of state?

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Trump did give ISIS credit for their Internet prowess, sort of.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They used the Internet better than almost anybody in the world, perhaps other than Donald Trump.

COLBERT: Yes. Yes, it's true. Donald Trump's a master of the Internet. And he -- he proved it on Saturday when he tweeted simply, and I'm not making this up, dot, dot, dot, dot.

TRUMP: Osama bin Laden was very big, but Osama bin Laden became big with the World Trade Center.

COLBERT: I remember. Yes, I think pretty sure that's why they shot him. You know how I know that killing bin Laden was a big deal? Because Barack Obama never had to say that killing bin Laden was a big deal.


CAMEROTA: Oh, boy. All right.

BERMAN: Reading his own words back. Playing his own words back.

CAMEROTA: The gift that keeps giving.

BERMAN: Late night comedy.

CAMEROTA: All right, a very big day on Capitol Hill in the impeachment investigation,

NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not secondhand information. He was on the call.

BERMAN: In just hours, an active duty military officer, a White House insider, will testify that he raised concerns about the president's Ukraine policy to a superior.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This witness list is a prosecutor's dream.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats are conducting this so-called impeachment inquiry behind closed doors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be the first full House vote on anything related to impeachment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wanted a vote. Here's a vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should be having these open and fair hearings. Everybody should hear these cases. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since the Republicans have been demanding this for

weeks, and they're being presented with it, are they now, in fact, going to all turn and vote no?


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

And, wow, new, damning testimony expected today in the impeachment inquiry following the damning testimony that has already taken place. This morning, an active duty military officer, currently working inside the White House, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, he will defy his commander in chief. He will testify that he was so concerned about the Ukraine controversy that he twice reported President Trump's pressure tactics.