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THE SITUATION ROOM
Nine Vaccine Makers Sign Safety Pledge In Race For Vaccine; More Than Half A Million Children Have Been Diagnosed With COVID-19 As 16 Biggest School Districts Start Class Today; Sources: Trump Visibly Distressed Over Fallout From Report That He Privately Mocked War Dead; Rescues, Evacuations Under Way As More Than 20 Fires Burn Across CA; Former Allies Torment Trump With Tell-All Books, Paint Unflattering Picture Of His Characters And Temperament. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired September 8, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Amen. Clarissa Ward, thank you so much. Congratulations again on the book. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking news. The U.S. is on the verge now of passing 190,000 coronavirus deaths. There are now more than 6.3 million confirmed cases here in the United States.
And tonight, as schools move ahead with the reopening we're learning more about the toll the virus is taking on children. A new report, very disturbing new report, finds half a million American kids have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Also this hour, President Trump is on the way to the battleground state of North Carolina for a rally tonight. The crowd they're already gathering with very limited of any social distancing and very few mass.
This as the President is clearly scrambling to deny a report that he disparaged fallen American troops as suckers and losers. Sources tell CNN the President is, "visibly distressed about the fallout from that story." I'll speak with the author of that bombshell report, Jeffrey Goldberg. He steading by live. We'll discuss in just a few moments.
But first, we begin our coverage with our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.
Jim, the President once again insisting he's doing a great job handling the coronavirus crisis.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, President Trump is claiming he's done a "great job" on the coronavirus as the number of death in the U.S. has reached approximately 190,000 people from COVID-19. The President's wishes for a vaccine by Election Day just got a dose of reality as Dr. Anthony Fauci just said that is unlikely.
The President is still doing some damage control after revelations that he used crude language to describe fallen U.S. service members, as it turns out, there is video from 2016 that appears to show Mr. Trump describing military commanders as "losers."
And right now as you were just mentioning, Wolf, Trump supporters are gathering in North Carolina. We can show you some of this video right now for a campaign speech there and as you can see, there is little social distancing and not many masks in sight.
ACOSTA (voice-over): With the number of deaths from the coronavirus, soaring past 190,000 lives lost and the November election just eight weeks away, President Trump is patting himself on the back for his response to the pandemic. We've done a great
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've done a great job with COVID, we've done a great job with the China virus, a great job, whether it's ventilators or whether it's vaccines, which you'll be seeing very soon, or therapeutics. We've done a great job.
ACOSTA: With this campaign burning through cash, the President is toying with the idea of pumping $100 million of his own money into his reelection bid. He says, to combat what he sees as negative COVID-19 coverage.
Mr. Trump tweeted his campaign "was forced to spend in order to counter the reporting about the way we handled it. We did, and are doing a great job."
TRUMP: I put it up personally like I did in the primers last time. In the 2016 primaries I put up a lot of money. If I have to, I'll do it here.
ACOSTA: Another shot in the arm, the President is seeking a coronavirus vaccine before Election Day. But one of his top health experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci, cautions it may not happen before then.
JUDY WOODRUFF, ANCHOR, "PBS NEWSHOUR": But the idea that we're going to have a vaccine by November 3, how realistic?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: But it's unlikely that we'll have a definitive answer at that time more likely by the end of the year.
ACOSTA: President has been bothered by a recent report in the Atlantic confirmed by CNN and other news outlets that he referred to U.S. War death as suckers and losers during a 2018 trip to France. But Mr. Trump botched his own cleanup on that story by trashing his own generals at the Pentagon.
TRUMP: Because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make them bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy. ACOSTA: As it turns out in 2016, then candidate Trump blasted U.S. military commanders as losers, accusing generals of giving away their battle plans against ISIS.
TRUMP: Whatever happened to the element of surprise, the element of surprise? What a group of losers we have. And now it's a very tough battle, they dug in, it's a very much tougher than they thought.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump continues to claim Democrat Joe Biden doesn't have the stamina to serve as president.
TRUMP: We have a radical left group going around these people. There's something wrong with them. There really is. There's something wrong with him. And Joe doesn't have the strength.
ACOSTA: But Biden is jabbing back pointing to Mr. Trump slow descent down a ramp at a West Point commencement earlier this year.
JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Look at how he steps and look how I step.
I'll show I run up for amps and he stumbles down for amps. OK? Come on.
ACOSTA: The Democratic nominee just found an unlikely ally in former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. He claims in a new book that the President has made numerous racially offensive remarks.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: He asked me if I had known of any country that's run by a black that's not an S hole. And I said, well, how about America? At which he gave me the proverbial few (ph).
ACOSTA: Now as for the President's speech in North Carolina this evening, a top GOP official there in that state is calling on the president to wear a mask for his appearance. That is not likely. The President has been mocking Joe Biden, even reporters for wearing masks in recent days. And that's despite the fact that Mr. Trump once touted mask use as patriotic.
The President just wrapped up an event in Florida. There were very few masks in sight.
And Wolf, as you're looking at this live picture of what's happening in North Carolina, the crowd of Trump supporters gathering there once again, very little social distancing, very few masks in sight. Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that's really disturbing indeed. All right. Jim Acosta reporting from the White House, thanks very much.
Let's get the latest on the coronavirus pandemic here in the United States. CNN's Nick Watt is tracking all the light breaking developments from Los Angeles for us. Nick, the United States is nearing that truly awful milestone, a 190,000 dead Americans.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We will get there probably today, maybe tomorrow.
Now, this is also a very alarming new piece of news. Half a million cases now in this country amongst children. And the rate of infection amongst children has been accelerating. And just like in the older demographics, black and Latin x kids are getting hit the hardest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATT (voice-over): Millions of students back in school today, but most aren't actually in school. They're online only.
FAUCI: If you're in the red zone, you really better be very careful before you bring the children back, because you don't want to create a situation where you have a hyper spreading event as you might have in this school.
WATT: Hartford, Connecticut planned a hybrid model, but a cyber-attack just forced a delay.
MAYOR LUKE BRONIN, (D) HARTFORD, CT: As difficult as that was in this year when so much work has gone into preparing for the first day of school.
WATT: Tens of thousands of confirmed cases now at colleges, West Virginia University just suspended nearly all in person teaching at one campus for two weeks. Friday night, a COVID positive frat member told to isolate went to a party anyway.
Nationally, case counts are still headed in the right direction for now.
DR. TOM INGLESBY, JOHN HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEATH: But we are beginning to do things that we haven't done since the start of the pandemic.
WATT: Like opening some schools and colleges and moving indoors in colder weather. In New York, sheriff's deputies will then stop buses arriving from a staggering 33 states and territories.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: They will be pulling over buses before they arrived. And there'll be giving out those traveler health forms to get people right away to sign up so we can make sure they quarantine.
WATT: Eleven states are right now seeing a rise in average case counts. Arizona and Florida success stories of the late summer taking up again.
FAUCI: We need to hang in there together. This will end and it will end even sooner if we continue to go by the public health measures that have been recommended time and again for so many months. WATT: A new study of cellphone data suggests people staying home in the spring did slow the spread of this virus. They saved lives. But the President thinks shutdowns are ridiculous. Claims Democrats are using them just to hurt him.
FAUCI: We've got to regain the trust of the community.
WATT: So the CEOs of nine pharma companies racing to produce a vaccine just signed a pledge that they won't submit too soon for approval suggesting they won't bow to any political pressure. They hope to "help ensure public confidence in the rigorous scientific and regulatory process."
ALBERT BOURLA, CEO, PFIZER: It is your right (ph), it is an unprecedented moment is and I started plates. We saw it as critical to come out and reiterate our commitment was that we will develop our products, our vaccines using the highest ethical standards.
WATT: And of course the pharma companies develop the vaccines it is up to the FDA to either authorize or approve them.
And Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the FDA today on Twitter reaffirming that they will also be driven only by the science and the data.
Of course, Wolf, it is crucial that enough people take a vaccine. If enough people don't take a vaccine, if enough people don't trust this process, then we might as well not have a vaccine. Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that's absolutely correct. Nick Watt reporting for us, thank you.
Let's get some analysis right now from the former Acting Director of the CDC, Dr. Richard Besser.
Dr. Besser, thank you so much for joining us. Let me begin with your reaction to this pledge signed by these nine major pharmaceutical companies. It seems like common sense that they wouldn't seek approval of their coronavirus vaccines until they have proven that they are safe and effective. So why are these companies making this public promise now?
DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING CDC DIRECTOR: You know, this is a reflection of where we are right now in terms of the relationship between science and government approval and public trust. We've seen several episodes over the past few months, where CDC guidance was overturned, where FDA approval was suspect.
And so, seeing these companies come forward, I think it's a positive step. But it doesn't replace the need for the FDA and for CDC to be able to do what they are designed to do. The CDC, they oversee the committee that recommends who should get vaccines and whether vaccines should be distributed to children for free and what is the priority order. And the FDA, they're responsible for ensuring that any vaccine we get is safe and effective.
If they're anything that's taking place that impacts on our confidence in those processes, just having the company say that, hey, we're going to do the right thing isn't going to be enough to overcome that.
BLITZER: Because as you're heard, Dr. Fauci is stressing just how important it is that health officials regained the public's trust when it comes to these vaccines. Of course, a vaccine, as we heard, does little good if people won't receive it, right?
BESSER: Yes. And you have to look at each community. There are many communities, communities of color in particular, that have extensive distrust of the public health system and the medical community.
We need to be working with those communities and all communities to ensure that any vaccine that comes through, that is found to be safe and effective, that people are going to want to get it. Because as Nick Watt was saying, if you have a vaccine and no one uses it, it's as good as not having a vaccine.
And anything that politicizes the process will increase the chances that people are going to say, hey, I don't want this vaccine, I want to hold off and we don't want that to happen.
BLITZER: We certainly don't. President Trump continues to push for a vaccine to be ready by November 3, that's Election Day. Dr. Fauci says that is unlikely.
All politics aside, what does the science tell you about what a vaccine will like -- when a vaccine will likely be approved and ready that it will be safe and effective and can go out to millions and millions of people?
BESSER: Well, there have been a number of studies, small studies that show promise that vaccines used and dozens of people have ever induced antibodies, those protective factors. But now these vaccines are being tested in hundreds of thousands of people and not just to see, do you make antibodies, but do people who get the vaccine, is it safe? And are they less likely to get the COVID infection? And that really takes time.
And the estimates I see don't suggest that those data will be ready by it by October, November. It's the end of the year at the earliest. And you don't want to rush that process. You really want to make sure that a vaccine you get will work in some side effects that aren't very common. That's why you need to test them in so many people to be sure that they're truly safe.
BLITZER: You know, there were some very disturbing new numbers released today by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Children's Hospital Association. And let me just tell you, 513,000 American children have been diagnosed with coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
But listen to this 70,630 of those children were diagnosed positive between August 20 and September 3. Kids are going back to school right now. How concerned are you about these new numbers?
BESSER: Well, you know, what it says, Wolf, is that children can get this infection and we've been saying that all along. I'm a pediatrician. And it's important people recognize that.
Thankfully, children in general do better with this infection than adults do. The increase in numbers in the summer may reflect children getting tested more frequently, which is a good thing.
And as children are going back to school, we need to make sure that testing is widely available so that a child who gets this doesn't bring it home to a relative who's at increased risk. And we have to make sure, Wolf, that all communities, all schools have what they need so that children, staff and teachers can go back to school safely.
And in many communities, especially lower income communities, communities of color, they don't have the resources in place. The government hasn't given the resources to hire staff to outfit classrooms so they're safe places for everybody for learning.
BLITZER: You know, flu season, the regular flu season is fast approaching as we all know, it's expected to only further complicate the response to this coronavirus pandemic. I want to give you the opportunity to make the case to the American people right now and people indeed all over the world who may be watching. Why is the flu shot, the regular flu shot, more important now than ever before?
BESSER: Yes, it is so incredibly important getting your flu shot. And getting it in time before the start of flu season is critically important. It's the best measure we have to reduce the likelihood you'll get flu.
And that's important for a couple reasons. One is that each year flu can kill up to 30,000 people, that's a lot of people. The other reason is that if you get a flu shot, you're less likely to get sick and have to have contact with a healthcare system. And when you have contact with the healthcare system, it's also an opportunity where you could pick up other things like coronavirus.
You know, one good piece of information coming out of southern hemisphere countries is that wearing masks, social distancing seems to be leading to a milder flu season. So if we can get people on board to do those things we know that work for COVID they may actually help reduce the burden of flu this winter. And that would be an amazing benefit from a horrendous pandemic.
BLITZER: Bottom line, go get a flu shot. It's critically, critically important. Dr. Richard Besser, thanks so much for joining us.
BESSER: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: Up next, sources tell CNN President Trump is visibly distressed about a new report alleging he disparaged fallen American soldiers as both suckers and losers. The reporter behind that bombshell story, there he is, Jeffrey Goldberg. He's standing by. We will discuss.
And later, we'll take you inside the fight against the record setting wildfires scorching California right now.
BLITZER: President Trump is said to be visibly distressed by the fall off from the article published by the Atlantic quoting multiple sources as saying he disparaged Americans who died in wars as both losers and suckers. Although the President has forcefully and repeatedly denied making such statements, CNN and several other major news organizations have matched parts of the reporting.
We're joined up by the Atlantic's Editor In Chief, Jeffrey Goldberg.
Jeffrey, thanks so much for joining us. So let's discuss the fallout from your bombshell article.
You say the reporting is only just beginning. Are you working on additional reporting that will have a similarly extraordinary impact right now?
JEFFREY GOLDBERG, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I'm not going to answer that question, Wolf. I would say that I'm looking into other aspects of this, of course, as any reporter would, following up. There are a lot of reporters who are also asking questions. "The Washington Post" had a very interesting follow up just yesterday, the day before, on the long record of Trump making disparaging remarks. Fox News, notably, as you know, had some good reporting on this.
I just think that there's more to explore on this subject because his relationship with the military is so unusual. As we saw yesterday when he launched an open attack on his military service chiefs, calling them war profiteers, which is I mean, you and I both been around Washington for a little while, I can't remember another president, attacking essentially the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making baseless charges against them in public. That was unusual.
BLITZER: Because since your article came out, it's only been a few days, a lot more insiders have reached out to share their own similar accounts or equally disturbing ones. But there have been a whole bunch of others who were in Paris with the President who've denied in saying they never heard him under these kinds of words. So what do you say to that?
GOLDBERG: I say that that's not surprising, that people who work for Donald Trump are saying that he didn't say it or that in his -- in their presence he didn't say it. I'm confident of my sources. I have sources, very senior level, as did by the way, Fox and others outlets including CNN, I believe, they have good sources too. And I believe that this these are true accountings of what was said.
BLITZER: And your reaction to what the President's former National Security Adviser John Bolton has said publicly, he was in Paris with the President as well.
GOLDBERG: Yes. Yes. That he said that. This is about a sub issue about whether or not he -- whether or not Trump wanted to go to the cemetery that day or didn't want to go to the cemetery that day.
I think this is not the main issue. But I understand that Bolton said that the trip to the cemetery was cancelled by the Secret Service. I have other information that suggests otherwise.
I think there's not a lot that's incompatible here. I think that it was raining. I think the Secret Service and the Marine Corps said it might be difficult to get there.
I would just note for the record, that the Chancellor of Germany and the president of France both managed to get to that cemetery outside of Paris that day. So, the denials ring a little bit hollow to me.
BLITZER: Listen to what -- you mentioned it, but I want to play the clip what the President said yesterday about the top military brass. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm not saying the military is in love with me, the soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren't because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As I said yesterday was a pretty outrageous statement. When you think about it. I've been -- I've covered the military for a long, long time going back 30 years, the first Gulf War, when I was CNN's Pentagon correspondent. And I've worked and reported on a lot of generals and admirals. And they must be so angry at the President right now, especially the active duty, top brass when they hear the President make an accusation like that. What was your reaction when you heard it?
GOLDBERG: Well, something like that. Although I do think that, you know, these generals and admirals are very professional people. And they're also used to this style of leadership.
I mean, my reaction to this is that it doesn't make any sense even within the framework of what he's talking about, because on other days, he's bragged about how much money he's spending on armaments. And, of course, as a very transactional president, one who's looking to make a lot of arm sales overseas. He's very happy when the American military industrial complex, however you want to frame it, makes big sales to countries, including nondemocratic countries.
So, I didn't really under -- I didn't -- it doesn't track with his own record. And it certainly, you know, as I noted, it's certainly not a line of discourse that you hear president say. I mean, if you can only imagine the internet would have melted, had President Obama said the same thing or any president for that matter?
It was just -- I don't know how to explain it because it doesn't -- it's not consistent with anything else. But that's the issue here in his sort of seat of the pants commentaries. We're not really sure what he's talking about much of the time.
BLITZER: Yes. I mean, I can't imagine any president saying that these generals, these admirals, the only thing they want are these endless wars to send young men and women off to war so that the defense contractors could make a lot of money.
There have been, as you know, Jeffrey, calls from a lot of people on both sides of the aisle for the sources who spoke to you, in private to go public, do you expect any of your sources to make that decision, go out there on the record and issue a statement?
GOLDBERG: I have no real comment on that and no expectation one way or the other. I mean, these are people who feels strongly about the things they've told me and told others. And I would imagine that they're all contemplating saying various things.
We've seen, you know, we've obviously seen leaks before in statements from other people who've been associated in some manner or form with this administration. It wouldn't surprise me if people did, but I don't really have any insight that I can share on that with you.
BLITZER: Because there has been what I call a deafening silence coming from some of the generals who worked with the President, generals McMaster or Mattis or Kelly, since the release of your story. I don't think any of them have issued any public statement, is that right?
GOLDBERG: I have not seen anything, no.
BLITZER: And you would think that they would be reacting. But is there some sort of code, military code that is giving them in a pause and making a public statement against the sitting president of the United States that you've heard about?
GOLDBERG: Yes. Well, I mean, I think and you have broad experience in this, as you noted, going back to the Persian Gulf War. You know, I think that when you reach that level, in the military, it's been ingrained in you for so long that you are not political, that you are not -- that you were meant to be neutral and that the armed services exist above politics is there to serve the Constitution and the president in that order, by the way. And so there is some hesitation to go out and become partisan in any way. There's also a countervailing feeling on the part of some people that this is not a normal situation, and that this president says and does things that other presidents wouldn't do. And so, I think that there's a lot of internal, let's say, and external pressure on various people to make statements of some sort before the election. But again, you know, that's not -- I don't have insight into the -- into their thinking in terms of whether to go public or not.
BLITZER: Bottom line you stand by your reporting, right?
GOLDBERG: Oh, of course. Yes. Absolutely.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, well, you've done amazing reporting and we're grateful to you. Jeffrey Goldberg, thanks so much for joining us.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, back to school amid a pandemic, I'll ask Connecticut's governor about his state schools, including a major problem caused, get this, by a cyber-attack, we'll be right.
BLITZER: Tonight Connecticut is joining its neighbors New York and New Jersey with new quarantine restrictions for people traveling from out of state. For more than that, I want to bring in the Governor of Connecticut then Ned Lamont. Governor Lamont, thank you so much for joining us. So you've extended your travel advisory also to include now Delaware, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia. Why have these states landed on your list?
GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): Because they have a higher infection rate, which is the criterion we have for whether you can fly in without quarantining or not. They're right on the bubble. I'd like to think they'll be off that list pretty soon
But look, we're a small state, we're a region that's got a very low infection rate. And, so far, we've been, at less than 1 percent for over three months, we want to keep it that way.
BLITZER: Which you should. Throughout this pandemic, your response in Connecticut has been part of a regional approach. Why have you decided to band together with New York and New Jersey, right now?
LAMONT: Because they fly in the Kennedy Airport, they fly in LaGuardia, they drive up here to Connecticut, and it makes sense for us to do this together. Obviously, Newark International Airport gets people from all over the world. So, it made good sense for us to do this. And now Charlie Baker in Massachusetts has joined the team as well,
BLITZER: Which is significant. There was a very disturbing development as kids are getting ready to go back to school, a cyber attack actually forced the delay in the return to school in Connecticut, your state. Tell us what you're learning about this reach (ph) because people are watching it very closely.
LAMONT: Yes. We've opened up our schools, many of them full time, some of them on a hybrid basis. These kids hadn't been to school for many months. The kids here in Hartford, Connecticut, where I am right now, we're looking forward to their first day of school. And then we get this cyber attack. And we've got it fixed. We'll be able to get the schools open tomorrow, but it just gives you an idea of a different type of virus that's hitting us as well.
BLITZER: Well tell us about that cyber attack. What was it like? What did they try to do?
LAMONT: My understanding, Wolf, is it was, you know, here in our education system, they were fishing around trying to get some information. There was no ransomware demand for money at this point. But it was something we had to stop, that we had to fix and decided to pause the school for another day.
LAMONT: We get hit every day around the state. Companies get hit, municipalities get hit. Some of them have had to pay a little bit of ransomware right now. So, it is something that we work in on a regional basis with the feds are going to got to take very seriously
BLITZER: As you're heard the news at the top of the hour, now more than half a million children in the United States have actually been diagnosed with coronavirus since the start of the pandemic and 70,000 since August -- between August 20th and September 3rd. Here are those numbers, especially as we're heading into the fall flu season. What goes through your mind as the governor of Connecticut, you got to deal with these issues?
LAMONT: That we're going to do this but we're going to do it very, very carefully. Look, we're requiring the mass. We've got all the toughest disinfecting standards for keeping our teachers back. And some of those school districts a little more crowded. They only have half days or half classes just to spread people out.
Look, we're going to walk before we run. But I got to tell you, you see the kids going around the state of Connecticut, they are so happy and eager to get back and see their friends, see a teacher and get back to the classroom. I didn't always feel that that way but they do.
BLITZER: I know they do and I know their parents are happy too. Everybody just wants to make sure they're safe, they don't come down with coronavirus and bring it home. Because even though they may be asymptomatic, they could transmit it to their family, their friends, and others. It's a really serious issue.
Governor Lamont, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck.
LAMONT: Good see you again, Wolf. BLITZER: Thank you.
Stay with us. We're going to have a closer look at the Russia, a former Trump allies now publishing what are called tell-all books about his administration. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're also following breaking news in California's wildfire disaster. More than 2 million acres have burned and that's a record. Today, campers endangered by one of the fires have been escorted to safety by National Guard troops.
Joining us now, Colonel David Hall, who's with the 14th Combat Aviation Brigade of the California Army National Guard. Colonel Hall, thanks so much for joining us. The first responders out there are up against incredible odds right now, what are the biggest challenges you're facing as you battle these truly historic fires? I believe the worst fires in California's history.
COL. DAVID HALL, CALIFORNIA ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: I'll tell you, there are definitely a lot of challenges floating out there. You know, the biggest thing is this fire ended up escalating very rapidly. And, obviously, there were a lot of people up in the mountains, enjoying their Labor Day weekend and so many of those campers and backpackers and hikers and the sort are stranded up in the mountains with the fire potentially over running paths to safety. And that's essentially what necessitated the call for our helicopters.
BLITZER: You've already rescued, I understand, more than 100 people just today alone. What's the latest on the rescue operations? How are those going?
HALL: They're going extremely well. So the first night, we ended up rescuing approximately 220 personnel. And since then, we've added to the list of over 153 personnel. We ran into some weather challenges yesterday which prevented us from getting to any of the rescue sites.
But late into this morning, I'll tell you, those same crews that performed the missions last night or on Saturday night, ended up performing the very same missions the next night, they were able to get in there. And just doing a phenomenal job at the pure extent of their duty days to do whatever they can to save those that needed rescue.
We were, in fact, joined by one aircraft out of the Lemoore Naval Air Station as well, which was very nearby in order to cover what I call the gap period, which was the period when my night crews had to shut down and my day crews had to start up. But, today, I think we're up to 385 total rescued and 27 animals. And we hope that number continues to climb. BLITZER: Well, you're doing amazing work. You're saving people's lives. And we're grateful to you. Colonel David Hall, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks out in California. The worst fires in California's history ongoing right now. Thanks very much for joining us.
HALL: Thank you very much and keep faith everybody.
BLITZER: All right, we will.
BLITZER: Coming up, President Trump's former friends and allies are tormenting him right now with tell-all books painting a very ugly picture of his character, his temperament and there are more inside accounts that are on the way before the election. Stay with us. We have new information, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: An onslaught of tell-all books from former members of President Trump's inner circle has the White House clearly on the defensive right now. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. So Brian, these personal accounts of the President almost never paint him in a very flattering light.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is the common theme, Wolf. These new books are no exception. It's been an extraordinary summer of bombshell behind the scenes accounts of President Trump's behavior. But the question still remains as to whether any of these new books are going to change voters' minds.
TODD (voice-over): Michael Cohen now says working for Donald Trump was like being in a cult. The President's former lawyer, fixer and henchmen is out today with a new book titled, "Disloyal", in which he describes Trump as a bully, a liar, and as he told NBC News, a blatant racist.
MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: Right after Nelson Mandela had passed away and I talked about this in the book, he asked me if I had known of any country that's run by a black that's not an s-hole. And I said, well about America, which he gave me the proverbial a few (ph).
TODD (voice-over): The White House calls Cohen a disgraced felon who's lost all credibility and is trying to profit off his lies. It's one of many denials and counter attacks that the President and his team have made this summer as an onslaught of tell-all books about Trump and his family have hit bookstores.
ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I don't think I've ever seen this kind of avalanche of insider accounts on a presidency this close to an election or even at any point while the President is still serving. TODD (voice-over): Another insider account "Melania and Me" by Melania Trump's former friend and advisor Stephanie Winston Wolkoff depicts a cold relationship between Melania and Ivanka Trump. Both denied it. Many of these tell-alls reinforce what some voters believe about the President's public personality. But his niece, Mary Trump, has another take on the family in her book titled, "Too Much and Never Enough".
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": She really goes after his father and his mother in an analytical way, and reveals the cruelty that was practiced against Donald himself as a child, the way that his father treated him, his mother's absence.
TODD (voice-over): Trump tweeted that Mary Trump's book was an untruthful account from a quote, seldom seen nice who knows little about me. Investigative journalist Bob Woodward's book rage about to be released has shocking details of the President's behavior and decision making during the coronavirus pandemic and the racial justice protests. The season of bombshells began with a book by Trump's former National Security Adviser John Bolton, which claimed Trump asked for China's help in this year's election and got played by Kim Jong-un.
Trump called Bolton a warmongering fool. A common theme in many of these tell-alls, analysts say, they all paint unflattering portraits of the President's character and temperament.
D'ANTONIO: The people who work around the President and his family work with so much lying and deception. They experience so much fantasy and they're enlisted in promoting these lies and deceptions that eventually they reach a point where they can't stand it anymore.
TODD (voice-over): But will any of these books hurt the President on Election Day? Or will they have the same lack of impact as the access Hollywood tape released just a few weeks before the 2016 vote?
BURNS: I don't know that these books are going to take people who are core Trump supporters and turn them into Trump skeptics. I don't know that it's going to crack the President's political base. But I do think that it reinforces and emboldens the folks who were pretty much inclined to vote against the President to begin.
TODD: One other trait that these tell-all books share, their ability to fly off the shelves. They've all been hot sellers, especially the books that Trump says he hates, as one literary agent told The New York Times, quote, you pray for Trump to hate your book and you pray for him to tweet about it. Wolf?
BLITZER: It going to becomes the best seller almost automatically. All right, Brian Todd, reporting for us, thank you.
Coming up, very few masks and no social distancing. That's the scene right now. Winston Salem, North Carolina where crowds are gathering for a campaign rally with President Trump. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news. This hour, the United States is on the brink of 190,000 coronavirus deaths. Amid growing fears of a post Labor Day spike in cases that already totaled more than 6.3 million right here in the United States.