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Live Coverage of President Trump's Flight 93 Speech; Trump Administration's Effort to Downplay Russia Threat Increases 2020 Election Vulnerabilities; Interview with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert Jones. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 11, 2020 - 10:30   ET



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The police officers and firemen were revered as the heroes they truly are, the military was appreciated in a manner not seen in decades and common people found new meeting in values like friendship, kindness and selflessness." Thank you, David, such beautiful words, and thank you to every member of law enforcement who risks their lives to ensure our safety and uphold our peace.

This morning, we also remember the 183 people who were killed in the attack on the Pentagon and the remarkable service members who crawled straight through the raging blaze to rescue their comrades. We express our undying loyalty to the nearly six million young men and women who have enlisted in the United States Armed Forces since September 11th, 2001.

More than 7,000 military heroes have laid down their lives since 9/11 to preserve our freedom. No words can express the summit of their glory or the infinite depth of our gratitude but we will strive every single day to repay our immeasurable debt and prove worthy of their supreme sacrifice.

America will never relent in pursuing terrorists that threaten our people. Less than one year ago, American warriors took out the savage killer and leader of ISIS, al-Baghdadi. Soon after, our warriors ended the brutal reign of the Iranian butcher who murdered thousands of American service members, the world's top terrorist. Qasem Soleimani is dead.

Here in Shanksville, this community locked arms and hearts in the wake of tragedy. With us today is Chuck Wagner, a heavy equipment operator who lives just a few miles away. Very soon after the attack, Chuck helped search for the black box. He was so changed by what he experienced that he joined, with several members of his church, to become what they call ambassadors for the 40 men and women on Flight 93. Chuck and his neighbors learned about each person, cared for their families and each day, rain or shine, they took shift standing vigil over their final resting place.

Long before this place was a national memorial, back when it was marked by a simple wooden cross, Chuck and his fellow ambassadors were always here, waiting to tell visitors about those we lost. 19 years later, Chuck says his life is devoted to three things - his family, his church and preserving the memory of the men and women of Flight 93.

To Chuck, his wife Jane ...


Thank you very much - thank you very much. To Chuck and his wife Jane, thank you so much for being here, and to the over 40 ambassadors with us today. Please stand and receive America's thanks - and this is a very deep thanks. Please.


Thank you very much. Also with us is Marine veteran Jason Thomas from Long Island. On September 11th, Jason had just retired from the Marines but he immediately put back on his uniform and raced into the nightmare of ash and debris. At ground zero, he found a fellow Marine, Dave Karnes. Together, they began to call out "United States Marines, United States Marines, if you can hear us, yell, tap, do whatever you can do. We're the United States Marines."

Soon, they heard a shout for help. Two police officers were trapped beneath 20 feet of rubble. Jason and Dave dug for hours on end, knowing that at any moment the wreckage could come down on them, crushing them alive.

TRUMP: At one point, someone told Jason to stop. Jason replied "I'm a Marine. I don't go back, I go forward." That day, Jason helped save the lives of those two officers. For years, Jason said nothing about what he did on 9/11. He did not even tell his five children. But when he saw a rescue recounted on TV, he decided to meet those officers. One of them gave him a gift, a steel cross made from a beam that Jason helped lift to free them from the Hell on Earth.

As Jason said about the cross, "It means a lot. It's a symbol of what we are as Americans, because that day we all came together and stood as a nation, as Americans. It didn't matter what race you were, what religion you were. It didn't matter. We all came together to help one another. I'd die for this country. I'd die for this country."

Jason, thank you very much for bearing witness to the character of our nation. Jason? Thank you very much.


Thank you very much. Thank you, Jason.

The men and women of Flight 93 were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. Nothing could have prepared them for the dreadful events of that morning. But when the moment came, when history called, they did not hesitate. They did not waver. Forty towering patriots rose up, took charge, made their stand, turned the tide and changed the course of history forever.

Our sacred task, our righteous duty and our solemn pledge is to carry forward the noble legacy of the brave souls who gave their lives for us 19 years ago. In their memory, we resolve to stand united as one American nation, to defend our freedoms, to uphold our values, to love our neighbors, to cherish our country, to care for our communities, to honor our heroes and to never, ever forget.

Thank you, God bless you, God bless the heroes of Flight 93, God bless all of the families, 9/11, we'll never forget. God bless you all and God bless America. Thank you very much, thank you. Very much.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The president, speaking there near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where of course United Flight 93 went down. The cause, we believe, were the heroic action of members of its crew and passengers. Nineteen years later, we mark their loss.

I'm back with James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence. I don't want to take away from the moment of the day, certainly, Director Clapper.

Perhaps just since I have you and you've served in intelligence for so many years -- decades -- to share some of your remembrances from that day on 9/11?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Jim, it's -- for anyone who is alive and old enough, it is, you know, burned in our memories. And you know, we all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing. I happened to be in the outskirts of St. Louis, prepping to be the director of what was then the National Imagery Mapping Agency, which I took over two days after 9/11.

And you know, you can't help but reflect on the unity of the country, on the -- and aftermath of that attack, and where we are now, 19 years (ph) later (ph).

I thought the president made -- you know, his remarks were appropriate for the moment.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, I should note for folks who don't know, that agency now known as the NGA, helped spot the compound where Osama bin Laden was, and figure out that that's where he was before the mission was launched there.

I do wonder, do you believe that if an attack such as this were to happen today, that this country would be capable of showing the unity that it showed in that moment after 9/11?

CLAPPER: Actually I do, Jim. I -- as hard as that might be to accept, I think an attack of that gravity, that magnitude with the loss of life that we suddenly incurred would -- would promote unity. And it's a shame that it takes something like that to generate that unity. But I think it would.

SCIUTTO: One, I do want to talk now about what we're facing today as a country. Because you and others described Russia's interference in the 2016 election as something of a political 9/11. We're 50-some-odd days from another election in this country, it's the judgment once again of U.S. intelligence that Russia is interfering on a grand scale, again to denigrate the Democratic opponent of the president.


I wonder, I just spoke with the DHS chief of staff -- former -- Miles Taylor, who confirms that in his service in the Trump administration, there was deliberate effort to downplay intelligence about the Russian threat more broadly, but specific to the election. Does that make this election more vulnerable to foreign interference?

CLAPPER: Oh, I think it does. And for all kinds of reasons. There -- you know, there's a level of confusion now, which may be deliberate, to cloud, you know, the real threat to our system. And by the way, we suffered an attack. Didn't result maybe in immediate loss of life, but we suffered an attack in 2016, and we're experiencing another one now.

And one of the things that worries me about this time is the Russians have, I am sure, done whatever they can to ensure that their tracks are covered. In other words, they're harder to detect. And make no mistake about it, the Russians are the primary threat to our system -- not the Chinese, not the Iranians -- the Russians.

SCIUTTO: As you were speaking there, Director Clapper -- so our audience knows -- this is the president, he laid a wreath at the memorial there at Shanksville, Pennsylvania for those 40 passengers and crew members who died in that crash. If you haven't been to that memorial, it's worth going, folks. In the middle of nowhere, fields, but you can still feel the presence of that history.

Before I let you go, Director Clapper, in 2016, you told me when you were serving, as this interference was taking place in the election, that you had genuine concern that Russia would not just interfere with disinformation as they did, but by interfering in actual voting systems. And it's a judgment that that did not happen then.

There is concern about malware embedded in some systems, possibly in Florida and elsewhere. What's your level of concern that Russia or other countries will attempt to interfere with actual vote counting or registration this time around?

CLAPPER: Well, I'm concerned about it, Jim, for this reason. We do know that the Russians reconnoitered -- I'll use that word -- things like voter registration rolls and things like that, and didn't appear to do anything about it. Well, what that could have been is gaining knowledge of the battlespace, if you will, for some future action: messing with voter registration rolls, messing with the process for computing and compiling votes. So yes, it does worry me.

And of course, the Russians have gone to school on what we've revealed about what they did in 2016. So as I said earlier, I think they're going to -- their activity's going to be harder to detect, so yes, I'm concerned. SCIUTTO: Well, Director Clapper, thanks so much for your views,

thanks as well for your service to this country including int the days and years after 9/11.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Jim, thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: Poppy, back to you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Yes, really good to have his voice, especially today. And, Jim, especially in this moment.


Ahead for us, we're going to talk about colleges and universities. As you know, many are working feverishly to try to figure out the best way to keep their students and their teachers safe if they're going to class in person. But even schools with the strict protocols and multiple testing per week, they're facing big challenges. The chancellor of the University of Illinois is with us.


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HARLOW: Well, more than 40,000 COVID-19 infections have been reported among students, faculty and staff at colleges and universities across the country. But the University of Illinois has been leading on this.


They have instituted arguably the most comprehensive testing plan in the country, some 40,000 students receiving at least two saliva-based tests each week. Students and faculty cannot enter any building on campus unless the app confirms that they have tested negative. There's also a mask mandate on campus.

But last week, the school ordered students to restrict in-person activities through September 16th following a spike in cases stemming from student parties. With me now, the chancellor of the University of Illinois, Robert Jones. Good to have you, sir.


HARLOW: My husband is an alum, so he is a big fan. He was also not surprised that students, you know, were partying and that caused this issue. And it's a really serious issue that I want to get to with you in a moment, but let's just start with what's working, OK?

The $10 saliva-based tests that you've been giving every student twice a week -- for free to them. Can you tell us where the idea came from and how successful it is?

JONES: Well, it's a test that we not only give to all of our 40-plus- thousand students, but to our faculty, staff as well. This test grew out of our basic commitment to transition as quickly as possible to some form of face-to-face instruction in the fall.

As we finished up the spring semester remotely, my provost, Professor Andreas Cangellaris, was absolutely committed that we had to have a form of testing that was scalable and affordable relative to what was available --


JONES: -- and he's been a part of the university for a number of years now. He reached out to one of his friends and colleagues, Dr. Marty Burke, who pulled together a team of two other scientists and their multidisciplinary laboratories. And in the course of about three weeks, they invented this innovative saliva-based test.

HARLOW: And we've had Dr. Burke on the program a number of times, and it's so encouraging and a model, I think, for not only other universities, but other states and cities.

But here's the problem that you've run into, here's how "The New York Times" describes it. Quote, "The predictive model included an oversight: It assumed that all of the students would do all of the things they were told to do.

"Enough students continued to go to parties even after testing positive, showing how even the best-thought-out plans to keep college education moving forward can fail when humans go not heed common sense or the commands from public health officials."

Did it even surprise you that students were going to parties, knowing that they were positive?

JONES: Well, it didn't surprise me as your husband apparently commented -- and it's always good to meet someone that's an alum (ph) --


HARLOW: No, I think it's surprising -- I think it's surprising to me. To him, to be -- that people would go when they're positive, that's what I'm so surprised about.

JONES: Well, that's -- that's the part that was the surprise. We -- Nigel Goldenfeld and Sergei Maslov are biophysicists who modeled what a return to campus would look like -- had anticipated and included in their model the fact that students were going to be partying, they include the possible number of parties that would occur.

But what no one anticipated, that students would violate isolation rules and regulations after they've tested positive, not responding to calls from the public health department and actually hosting and going to parties after they have tested positive, we didn't anticipate that. But the other factors were anticipated.

So that's what led to the actions that we had to take last Wednesday.

HARLOW: Should they be expelled? Are you thinking of expelling anyone who breaks protocol?

JONES: Oh, we have expelled already eight students --


JONES: -- in the last couple -- 10 days or so, eight students and one organization, one fraternity.

HARLOW: OK. All right, let me get your response to some criticism. You read the student newspaper there I know, and I'm sure you read this --

JONES: Sure.

HARLOW: -- op-ed about you this week, and here is what one student -- who's an English major there -- writes. Quote, "He" -- being you -- "asks the university community to, quote, 'document the evidence (of non-compliance)' and submit it to an online form. The chancellor of our university asked us to spy on our peers... this Orwellian request only sows paranoia and distrust."

What's your response to that?

JONES: Well, my response is, all (ph) I've (ph) asked out students to do -- and let me be clear -- the vast majority of our students are outstanding citizens. They are complying, they're doing everything to keep themselves and others safe. We're just asking to create a culture of compliance.


Because the students had an option of returning to campus face-to-face or to study remotely. And by being here, we have very high expectations that we articulated on the front end, and now we're asking students if they see something that's out of compliance, to let us know. Because this testing at the scale that we're doing has the best possibility of keeping our university safe and allowing us to keep the semester moving forward in the way that we envision.

HARLOW: It does, and I should note case numbers are going down now this week, that's good news. And you guys have been --


HARLOW: -- total leaders on this front, so bravo to your team and thank you, Chancellor.

JONES: Well, thank you so much for the opportunity and my regards to your husband --



JONES: -- look forward to meeting him one day.

HARLOW: -- I will, thanks very much, appreciate it.

And thanks to all of you for joining us. We hope you have a great weekend --


HARLOW: -- we'll see you back here Monday. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. NEWSROOM with John King starts after a short break.