Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Dr. Fauci Warns of Tough Fall and Winter; Interview with Los Angeles, California, Mayor Eric Garcetti; Prosecutor in Durham Investigation of Russia Probe Origins Resigns, Reportedly Due in Part to Pressure to Wrap up Before Election; As U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 192,000, Americans Remember Nearly 3,000 Lost on 9/11; Critical Witness in Deadly Kenosha Shooting Speaks to CNN About Scene and Encounter with Suspect Kyle Rittenhouse. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 11, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM with breaking news on the coronavirus crisis.

Dr. Anthony Fauci telling me just minutes ago that Americans will likely still need to wear masks and engage in social distancing through the end of 2021, more than a year from now. He says life here in the United States may not get back to normal until then, even, even if a vaccine is available by the end of this year, as he certainly hopes.

Dr. Fauci warning the American public to remain vigilant, as more than 192,000 Americans now have died in this pandemic. It's a devastating toll on a day when this nation is remembering one of the deadliest days in our history, the September 11 attacks 19 years ago.

Let's begin our coverage this hour with our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the message I heard from Dr. Fauci tonight remains in stark contrast to what we keep hearing from the president.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is very true, Wolf, and unfortunate as well.

The nation got a brief reprieve from this bitter campaign season today, as both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took time to mark 19 years since the 9/11 attacks.

But the break from politics won't last very long, as the president continues to claim that the pandemic is almost over, when that's just not the case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): On a field in Pennsylvania at one of the nation's memorial sites for the 9/11 attacks, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden hit the pause button on the election to remember the lives lost 19 years ago.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we honor their extraordinary sacrifice and every first responder who keeps America safe.

ACOSTA: In New York, Biden and Vice President Mike Pence bumped elbows in a rare moment of civility.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Guys, I'm not going to be making any news today. I'm not going to talk about anything other than 9/11. We took all our advertising down. It's a solemn day. And that's how we're going to keep it.

ACOSTA: The national unity that came after 9/11 is nowhere to be found in the battle against the coronavirus, as the president is practically declaring victory.

TRUMP: I think the vaccine is going to come very soon, going to come very soon. And with it or without it, we're rounding the turn. Got rid of -- we're getting rid -- we're coming around. We're coming around that turn.

ACOSTA: But top public health experts say that's just not the case. Dr. Anthony Fauci says, once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, it could take months before life starts returning to normal in the U.S.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It's not going to be turning a switch off and turning a switch on. It's going to be gradual. And I think it's going to take several months before we get to the point where we can really feel something that approximates how it was normally before COVID-19. And, for that reason, I made the projection of getting back to that state of normality well into 2021, and very unlikely before then.

ACOSTA: During his rally in Michigan, the president wasn't dealing with reality, comparing himself to two icons of the 20th century, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, to tout his response to the virus and slam author Bob Woodward, who exposed Mr. Trump's admission that he downplayed COVID-19.

TRUMP: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. That's it. Keep calm and carry on. That's what I did. This whack job that wrote the book, no, no, we did it just the right way. We have to be calm. We don't want to be crazed lunatics.

ACOSTA: Thousands of Trump supporters at the rally were scoffing at the dangers posed by the virus, no social distancing, and few masks in sight.

(on camera): Why are you not you wearing a mask?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because there's no COVID. It's a -- it's a fake pandemic created to destroy the United States of America.

ACOSTA: Does it worry you guys at all to be in this crowd?

DANIEL GUILDER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I'm not afraid. The good lord takes care of me. If I die, I die. We got to get this country moving.

We can't -- what are you going to do, wear a mask and stay inside for another year, huh? Where will that get us?

ACOSTA (voice-over): The nation's top doctors say, that's just baffling.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Imagine you were an alien who landed on planet Earth, and you saw that our planet was afflicted by an infectious disease, and that masks were an effective way to prevent the spread.

And yet, when you went around, you saw some people not wearing them and some people wearing them, and you tried to figure out why. And it turned out it was their political party.

ACOSTA: The president wants voters to focus on other parts of his agenda, including a new deal between Israel and Bahrain to establish diplomatic relations, a sign, Mr. Trump says, that Middle East peace can be achieved.

[18:05:05]

TRUMP: The sand was loaded up with blood, and now you're going to see that a lot of that sand is going to be loaded up with peace.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: In a potentially huge development in the Justice Department, a top official working for federal prosecutor John Durham, who is conducting the probe of the Russia investigation for Attorney General William Barr, has resigned, according to a spokesman for the attorney, U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut.

"The Hartford Courant" newspaper, which broke the story, cited colleagues of prosecutor Nancy Dannehy -- excuse me -- Nora Dannehy, saying she was stepping aside out of concern there was pressure to release a report before the election for political reasons.

CNN has not independently confirmed that's why Dannehy resigned. But we do know that the president has been eagerly anticipating the results of that Durham probe of the Russia investigation.

Obviously, Wolf, he would like that report before Election Day. We will see if he gets it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will see. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Let's get some more now in the state of the pandemic, as the U.S. death toll once again rises above 192,000.

CNN's Nick Watt is in Los Angeles.

Nick, as we heard from Dr. Fauci once again in the last hour, the country is in this crisis right now for the long haul.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, it's been six months now since the World Health Organization declared this a pandemic. And right now, the U.S. is leading the world by far in confirmed cases and deaths.

And it's not just because this is a big country, European Union, hundred million more people live there than here, and the U.S. right now, the death rate per capita in the U.S. is near double what it is in Europe.

And, Wolf, as Dr. Fauci just told you, it would be so much easier if this country could just come together.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FAUCI: We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter, because it's an not going to be easy.

WATT (voice-over): We will need to carry on wearing masks, avoiding crowds, because, even before the cold weather kicks in:

FAUCI: Right now today, in real time, we're averaging close to 40,000 new infections a day and 1,000 deaths. So, we are still in the middle of this.

WATT: Only eight states right now seeing average case counts rise, but 30 seeing more than 5 percent of tests coming back positive. That's still too high.

Remember, the 1918 flu pandemic surged again when it got cold and killed many, many more people. So could this. Still, many places now trying out an ounce or two of normal, these fans in the stands at last night's NFL season opener in Kansas City, limited indoor dining now allowed in Orange County, California.

AARON KWESKIN, OWNER, THE HANGOUT RESTAURANT AND BEACH BAR: So, getting to go back inside and doing it responsibly, which we appreciate them, and we understand that we're in a serious situation.

WATT: Can be risky. In a new CDC survey, COVID-positive adults were about twice as likely to say they'd eaten inside a restaurant than those who tested negative.

Bars across Florida can open half-capacity starting Monday. Miami, that one-time hot spot, also opening the door for in-person school.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): The fact is kids being index cases and fueling secondary transmission, the data just doesn't support it as it currently stands.

WATT: Well, researchers in Utah just revealed the 12 kids who caught COVID at childcare facilities passed the virus on to at least a dozen others.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WATT: Now, here's some news you can use from Dr. Fauci.

If you live in an area of low infection, going to the gym is probably OK. If you live in an area of very high infection, going to eat inside a restaurant, even if it's open, possibly is not a good idea.

His headline use the data for the area where you live to help you decide what you should and should not do -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Important information, indeed.

Nick Watt reporting for us, thank you.

Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, as you know, I spoke with Dr. Fauci last hour.

Let's listen to what he said about when and how we can expect to begin to return to some sort of real normality here in the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: It's not going to be turning a switch off and turning a switch on.

It's going to be gradual. And I think it's going to take several months before we get to the point where we can really feel something that approximates how it was normally before COVID-19.

It won't be until we get into 2021 that you will have hundreds of millions of doses. And just the logistics constraints in vaccinating large numbers of people, it's going to take months to get enough people vaccinated to have an umbrella of immunity over the community, so that you don't have to worry about easy transmission.

[18:10:05]

And that's what I mean. It's not going to be an overnight event where you have a vaccine, and then all of a sudden everything is OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, help us understand, Sanjay, how this next year will unfold -- we're talking about 2021 -- will unfold as a vaccine is developed, and we all try, as we hope will be possible, to return to normal.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

And so, one of the things I think Dr. Fauci brings up -- and I spoke with Moncef Slaoui today, who's helping run Operation Warp Speed -- is, first of all, we don't have an authorized or approved vaccine.

I mean, people are optimistic about that. And putting the data together, probably looking near the end of the year where they may have that. After that, you have to make sure you're getting the doses to people who need it first, and then rolling this out over time over the year, hundreds of millions of doses.

Keep in mind, Wolf, possibly two shots for this separated by about a month. So, you would need 600 million, roughly, syringes and needles. That may sound like a minor thing. But keep in mind we got in trouble with nasal swabs when trying to do the testing.

So you got to make sure you have all those various supplies. You got to make sure that the vaccine can be given in locations where people can access that.

And one thing we don't know, Wolf, as we have talked about is, how long does it last, then? Some vaccines once you get it, that's all you need for your whole life. With this, it's not clear. It could maybe give you seasonal protection.

So is this something we need to be doing every year? These are still some unanswered questions, Wolf.

BLITZER: And you had an really excellent and rare interview with a Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief adviser to what's called Operation Warp Speed.

What did you learn about the progress toward a vaccine, the likely timeline? And also your thoughts on what Dr. Fauci said, that even an effective and safe vaccine might only be 70 or 75 percent effective.

GUPTA: Yes, so that was really interesting, Wolf, what Dr. Fauci said to you.

I mean, Dr. Slaoui sort of sort of reinforce some of that. But there's two things. One is that the FDA says that they would authorize a vaccine that is 50 percent effective, 50 percent. So, I mean, that's obviously certainly better than nothing, and it would make a significant impact.

But I think it's part of the reason you hear from Dr. Fauci and others that we're still going to need, at least for a period of time, to maintain some of these public health measures. A vaccine is not going to flip the switch, especially if it has such a low effectiveness.

Dr. Slaoui has been optimistic, saying he hopes it's closer to 90 percent. Everyone hopes that. Big question, Wolf, even if they see that this is an effective vaccine, they also want to show that it is safe. So how do you know? At what point do you say, we will pull the trigger, we're ready to go, this is safe enough?

I asked him about that. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MONCEF SLAOUI, CHIEF ADVISER TO VACCINE EFFORT: If you look into the databases of the FDA, on the overwhelming majority of adverse events associated with vaccines happen within the first -- actually, I was told 42 days after completing the immunization regimen, and maybe two months after completing.

It doesn't mean -- it doesn't mean things may not happen way after. They could. Extremely rare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: So, that's an important marker, Wolf.

If you think about it, they say the majority of side effects or adverse events occur within 42 days to two months. Right now, the trial is still ongoing, right?

You get one shot, separate by a month, get another shot, and then another 42 days after that to make sure it's safe. That's well into November, even December -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sanjay, thanks very much, as usual. This is going to continue and continue, sadly.

Just ahead, the Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, is standing by live, as California battles two areas of crisis at the same time. We're talking about coronavirus and wildfires. There he is, the mayor.

We will discuss when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:18:31]

BLITZER: Breaking the news this hour: Dr. Anthony Fauci is doubling down on his warning that life in this country may not return to normal until the end of 2021.

Let's bring in an official on the front line of the pandemic, the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti.

Mayor Garcetti, thank you so much for joining us.

And as we commemorate the 19th anniversary of 9/11 today, we also remain in a fight against the deadly virus that has claimed, what, the lives of more than 192,000 Americans already.

I wonder, Mayor, what goes through your mind as you reflect on the magnitude of this day?

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA), LOS ANGELES: Well, so much, Wolf.

And I wish we were getting together to talk about good times sometime in the near future. We always seem to talk in the midst of this year of crisis.

But I also see a lot of heroism and service. I was at a food bank earlier today, and with a group that were feeding firefighters. These are firefighters who are out in the hottest weather ever recorded here in the Western United States and on the face of the Earth, giving out tests to folks.

These are firefighters who are right now on the front lines of six of the largest blazes we have ever seen in California and up and down the West Coast that have already claimed the lives of firefighters, and of everyday citizens.

It shows us that service is every single day. And I just want to pause to remember those who have given their life in that service, while also doing everything we can to support those who right now are on the front lines, both in the battle against COVID-19 and these wildfires out here.

[18:20:00]

It's an extraordinary quality of these men and women, who seek to run towards the danger to help preserve the lives when so many people are suffering. They are truly our angels.

BLITZER: Yes, you make an excellent point. They certainly are.

Six months since the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus pandemic, California has now lost more than 14,000 people. How concerned are you, Mayor, about what the next six months, let's say, may bring for your city of Los Angeles?

GARCETTI: Oh, I wake up every single day concerned, trying to lead with love for my people, and recognition of how many people we have lost, 6,000 about here in L.A. County. We went over the 6,000 mark this week.

That said, right now, I'm very proud of what people have done here. In Los Angeles, we have the lowest hospitalizations since late March, basically since we have recorded, so lower hospitalizations in the last six months, positivity rate that's just hovering a tiny bit over 4 percent.

And it was almost triple that at our peak just a couple of months ago or a month-and-a-half ago. So I see a lot of hope. But I also see a lot of danger and fragility. The flu season is coming on us. People are still exhausted.

And I think, when they hear things like what Dr. Fauci said, it really is devastating. But we have to follow that science. We have to listen to those doctors. We have done that out here. It is the only way we will stay alive.

And I'd like to say this. Even though our numbers are way down in terms of the impact on COVID-19, the devastation economically is every single day as bad as it was a month ago, if not worse.

And I really do hope that Washington will get its act together, not go on vacation, that Congress and this president will pass aid that isn't skinny or emaciated, as it's been called, but that takes into account states and local governments, who are not red or blue.

They are dressed right now in the work clothes of our fire departments and our public health officials, who are out there saving lives, at the risk to their own. They deserve the help from their tax dollars out of Washington. That needs to get done before an election.

BLITZER: Yes, let's see if they can do that. That would be encouraging, if the Democrats and the Republicans and the White House can pass that kind of legislation, which is so badly needed.

As you know, Mayor, researchers at UCLA in Los Angeles say they actually saw a significant increase in patients with respiratory failure in their hospitals beginning in late December. And that suggests that the virus may have been spreading there much earlier than previously thought.

Based on all the briefings you're getting, all the expertise you're learning about the outbreak in L.A., does that seem possible?

GARCETTI: It's possible. We had no big outbreaks. We might have had some limited cases. And we don't believe that most of our spread came from people that were here, community spread.

We're such an international city. This is the fourth busiest airport in the world, the busiest container port in all of the Western Hemisphere. So we have a lot of people who come through this very important crossroads, and it's more likely that most infections came from there.

But, absolutely, it probably was in the United States, certainly in Northern California and possibly down here, a little bit earlier. It's one of the reasons I'm proud that we were the first big city to start shutting things down and the first big city to say widespread mask use had to be mandated.

Those things are important and those save lives. If we had had that at the national level -- and what we saw was devastating this week in Bob Woodward's book about not only knowing the threat, but trying to downplay it, and now everybody's trying to say, oh, he was trying to keep people calm.

You keep people calm by telling them the truth and arming them with the ways to protect themselves and their families, not by saying this will go away without a vaccine, or that you don't need to wear a mask.

And those decisions, unfortunately, cost lives. But, at the local level, I'm proud that mayors throughout this country and many governors, Republican and Democratic, took those right steps, because now the evidence is showing it was probably here earlier than we imagined.

BLITZER: I understand, Mayor, you have actually partnered with a company called Citizen to develop an app that will help people monitor their symptoms, track the virus at the same time.

Tell us how this will work. And why is contact tracing, as it's called, so important?

GARCETTI: We're really excited about this, Wolf.

We're the first big city to launch this SafePass app, together with the folks who make Citizen. Citizen is an app that many people use to follow public safety in their cities. It's about a million users already had this downloaded just in the L.A. area alone. So that meant a million people who could opt into something which

government doesn't hold your data. It's anonymized. But your phone talks to other phones. And if a person who tests positive get those results back, it notifies everybody's phone who has been close by, without naming the person, that you should probably get tested, you have come into close contact with somebody who's positive.

When you do that manually or analog, that can take weeks and months, and the spread goes rapidly to other people, so you're chasing kind of an ever-accelerating vehicle that you can't catch up to.

But when it's done digitally, you have a real shot. And this app, by the way, if you test positive, will help you get a free test delivered to your home.

[18:25:00]

It can help our digital contact tracers, which are the people who then call you to let you know that you have been infected and wants to know everybody you have come into contact with to call them and have them quarantine.

That can be done instantaneously. So, it's a real force multiplier. The brave men and women who are making those phone calls today can continue that work. But, many times, they will call now and, with this app, people will say, I know. Contacts have been notified too. And it will help us be able to really continue to bend the curve down further and save lives more quickly.

BLITZER: Mayor Garcetti, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck. I know you got a lot going on. Appreciate it very much.

GARCETTI: Thank you, Wolf. God bless.

BLITZER: God bless.

There's more breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including the probe into the origins of the Russia investigation. The top prosecutor has just resigned, reportedly, because of political pressure to wrap it all up before the election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: There's a lot of breaking story we're following here in The Situation Room.

A top prosecutor has resigned from John Durham's investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. Let's get some more from our Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez. Evan, what are you learning? What can you tell us?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the prosecutor's name is Nora Dannehy. She was one of the top prosecutors working under John Durham in this investigation looking into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. And according to the Hartford Courant, one reason why she is leaving and why wonders why she is resigning, according to her colleagues, is because she feels that there is political pressure to deliver something from the Durham investigation before the presidential election.

We haven't confirmed that account but I can tell you that the political overhang on this investigation is pretty obvious. You hear the president bringing up almost constantly. He brought it up yesterday at the White House. You hear Bill Barr, the attorney general, bringing it up constantly. And it's pretty obvious that there is a great deal of pressure for those prosecutors to do something before the election.

Now, last week, Bill Barr was speaking to you here on the show. And he sort of downplayed the importance of any politics in all of this. But I can tell you that inside the Justice Department, there're a lot of people who are bothered by the fact that this is being brought up in such a way. And it all -- it does affect the reputation of the department as well as the reputation of these prosecutors who are handling this investigation.

Now, we do not know when the investigation is going to wrap up, Wolf. But we do know that all indications are, it's not going be done before the election.

BLITZER: Evan Perez, reporting for us. Evan, thank you very much.

Let's bring in CNN Legal Analyst, Carrie Cordero. Carrie what's your response to learning this top prosecutor reportedly resigned due to concern that she had over political pressure to produce a report before the election, what, in 53 days?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, if she -- if that reporting is correct and she resigned for that specific purpose, then, obviously, it's a real concern that this is another thing that is happening at the justice department that is appearing to use prosecutorial power and the power of the Justice Department in a way that would influence the election in some way.

And so, prosecutions and decisions that are being made by prosecutors shouldn't affect an election and shouldn't be done in a way that they could be even perceived as trying to influence the election. And so it's concerning that someone would need to feel compelled to resign from the team before the case is completed in order -- because she didn't want to be a part of that.

BLITZER: I spoke with the attorney general, Bill Barr, last week here in The Situation Room about the Durham probe and whether or not there would be charges brought before the election on November 3rd. Listen to the exchange we had.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I do not think anything that we do in the Durham investigation, I assume that's what you're talking about -- BLITZER: Right.

BARR: -- is going to be affecting the election.

BLITZER: So you don't think there will be charges in the Durham investigation 60 days before the election?

BARR: Well, the 60 days is not part of the rule. But I said that I don't think anything we're going to do would violate our policy, be consistent with our policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what do you think, Carrie? Is Bill Barr an honest broker in this investigation, from your perspective?

CORDERO: Well, I think he has a real credibility problem. And we can go all the way back to the Mueller report and the way that they characterized that. And that's why people like me are so skeptical when he makes characterizations about what a coming outcome of an investigation is.

The fact of the matter is that even though this wouldn't have been the response that you would have wanted as a journalist, Wolf, the answer he should have given was, I'm not talking about an ongoing criminal investigation, if, in fact, it's -- there are pending criminal investigations that are part of that.

The other thing is prosecutors don't really do their work for the purpose of writing a report. So the question is are they bringing charges or not, then the attorney general really shouldn't be making any comment about how he thinks those result -- the result of that investigation would or would not be interpreted.

The key of the Justice Department policy is that they shouldn't be making any prosecutorial decisions close to the election that might have the influence of affecting it in some way.

[18:35:04]

BLITZER: Carrie Cordero, thank you very much for that analysis. We appreciate it, as we always do.

Just ahead, a new CNN interview with a critical witness in the deadly shooting during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight, we remember the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11 as the nation faces the deadly coronavirus pandemic. It may be hard to recall but in the wake of those attacks 19 years ago, Americans actually pulled together and united.

[18:40:04]

Let's discuss with the former defense secretary, Chuck Hagel. Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. I know this anniversary of September 11th hold special significance for you, 19 years since that fateful day. What's going through your mind on this day given what's going on right now?

CHUCK HAGEL, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Thanks, Wolf. Yes, like all Americans, this is a very special day for me to recall our country, what happened 19 years ago and what's happened since.

Wolf, I think what happened 19 years ago on 9/11 was one of the most defining events in our post-World War II history, America's post-World War II history. The others probably were Vietnam and the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, the implosion of the Soviet Union. And right now, I think we're going through another defining time.

But I think of the courage, Wolf, that Americans showed, those who step forward, the first responders in New York, at the Pentagon, our troops around the world, this whole country. I mean everybody pulled together. And we're united in an effort to, yes, preserve this country, preserve who we are, what we stand for. And in our own way, everybody contributed to that.

It was a special time. It was a very special time. And we need to find not an event like this again even though we're going through a similar kind of event, I think, as we have in last six months. But we need to find something that binds us back together.

BLITZER: Yes.

HAGEL: It's not just our leaders, because politics just reflects society.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right, Mr. Secretary. We did see an unparalleled display of unity in our country, the wake of those 9/11 attacks. But it's a far cry from the division we're experiencing right now, isn't it?

HAGEL: Yes, Wolf, it is. And it's in our peril, that division. I mean, when America is off balance, yes, we're all off balance. But when America is off balance, the world is off balance. The world becomes more dangerous, more volatile. These things in this country are very volatile, the political polarization that we're seeing.

We're dealing with a global pandemic and economic issues, injustice, racial issues, social issues, that we've got to come together here and fix it. There's only one way to do it. And that's what we did by example after 9/11, bringing people together to fix a problem for this country, not for Republicans, not for Democrats but for the country.

BLITZER: In several reported conversations, as you know, President Trump has disparaged members of the U.S. military, criticizing the leadership of, quote, his generals. How much do comments like that actually undermine our national security?

HAGEL: Well, Wolf, they do undermine our national security for many reasons. One is belief in the commander-in-chief and confidence and trust in the commander-in-chief, the leader, the president of our nation.

You know Wolf, I've always believed that there are three indispensable requisites for a leader, character, courage and judgment. And if you don't have those three, or if you don't have any one of those three, it's not going to end well. So it does undermine our country, our confidence in our system, our confidence in our defense department, all of our homeland protectors, our first responders.

And a president, a leader must unify. He must reach out and bring people together especially in times of crisis like we're going through now.

BLITZER: We're going through major crisis right now, a very deadly crisis. Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, thanks so much for joining us. Stay safe over there. I appreciate it very much.

HAGEL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, a critical witness to the deadly shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, reveals details of his encounter at the scene with the suspect, Kyle Rittenhouse. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:49:01]

BLITZER: Tonight, a critical witness in deadly shooting during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is speaking out to CNN. He's describing the moment he first met 17-year-old suspect Kyle Rittenhouse and the chaotic events that follow.

CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin spoke with the witness.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the third night of the Kenosha protest, and amidst it all, "Daily Caller" video director Richie McGinnis spotted the newest additions to the complex situation.

RICHIE MCGINNIS, CHIEF VIDEO DIRECTOR, DAILY CALLER/WITNESS TO KENOSHA SHOOTING: I saw a bunch of unarmed individuals. I asked are any of you willing to do an interview to what Kyle volunteered immediately.

GRIFFIN: Kyle Rittenhouse, 17 years old, armed with a loaded AR-15 style rifle, casually explained why he came.

KYLE RITTENHOUSE, SUSPECT: Our job is to protect this business, and part of my job is to also help people

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of your car.

GRIFFIN: McGinnis says Rittenhouse was drawing the attention of some of the protesters, though the 17-year-old didn't seem to notice.

(GUNFIRE)

[18:50:02]

GRIFFIN: Soon after, chaos would erupt. Richie McGinnis would turn to the sound of yelling. See the 17-year-old he had just interviewed being chased by chased by a man, Rosenbaum.

MCGINNIS: You can see me closely behind Rosenbaum and Rittenhouse as they ran into that parking lot, there's a pop that goes off as we're running into that parking lot.

What was clear to me is that Rittenhouse did not fire that first shot. Rittenhouse is actually still running at the time that that happened.

GRIFFIN: Prosecutors say what happened next is the reckless homicide of Joseph Rosenbaum. Rittenhouse's attorney says it was self-defense.

Richie McGinnis saw the whole thing happen.

MCGINNIS: I was there at the exact moment that Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Police in their description say at some point, Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag at Rittenhouse, missed him. But did you see that?

MCGINNIS: I was just off to the side when that happened, and I do recall seeing it go through the air and hearing a crash as it landed.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): McGinnis said Rosenbaum would get close enough to reach for Rittenhouse's gun.

MCGINNIS: I think there's been a lot of confusion as to whether or not Rosenbaum was pursuing Rittenhouse. I did see him running after Rittenhouse, Rittenhouse running away from Rosenbaum, and I did see Rosenbaum reach for the front portion of Rittenhouse's rifle. And I was extremely close to them at the time, and I know exactly what I saw with my eyes.

He lunged for the gun, and Rittenhouse with the gun in this position, dodged the round and reloaded the weapon and fired. In that exact moment, as Rittenhouse fired those four shots, I saw Rosenbaum basically go lifeless and fall on to his face. And immediately after those shots were fired, Rittenhouse runs away from the body.

GRIFFIN: McGinnis runs toward the dying Rosenbaum. He takes off his shirt, uses it on the wound, yells to the man standing beside him, call 911. Not realizing that man was Kyle Rittenhouse.

Instead of dialing 911, prosecutors say Rittenhouse calls a friend.

MCGINNIS: Probably would have been a terrifying experience if I did notice it was him given he had just perpetrated that shooting. But at the time I was so focused on addressing Rosenbaum's wounds that I didn't notice that it was Rittenhouse. GRIFFIN: At that moment, Richie McGinnis loses track of Kyle

Rittenhouse as McGinnis rushes to get the fatally wounded Rosenbaum to the hospital. But the violence is not over.

Rittenhouse is being chased again. Video captures him running, and tripping and falling in the street. A pursuer, 26-year-old Anthony Huber, with a skateboard in one hand, appears to try to grab his gun, according to the complaint. Rittenhouse fires, killing him.

A second pursuer armed with a handgun tries to grab Rittenhouse's weapon. He too is hit, wounded in the arm.

The 17-year-old who has now shot three protesters retreats slowly, then with arms raised walks past approaching police.

Rittenhouse's attorneys in a statement said: Kyle did nothing wrong. He exercised his God-given, constitutional, common law and statutory law right to self-defense.

Richie McGinnis says he's making no judgments, but there's to mistaking he says what he saw.

MCGINNIS: My role in this situation is to relay to the public exactly what I saw and heard on that night. And my only concern is that those objective observations will be lost because one side or the other doesn't want to hear what I saw and heard.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Though McGinnis says he was told by police he's an important witness in this case, he has yet to hear from prosecutors or even the defense, Wolf. We also have to hear from Rittenhouse himself, who remains in custody in Illinois awaiting extradition back to Wisconsin, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Drew, thank you very much.

Drew Griffin reporting for us.

And we're going to have more news just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:58:46]

BLITZER: Finally, tonight, we want to pause and honor the 2,977 victims of 9/11. May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BELL TOLLS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stephen George Adams.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ignatius Udo Adanga. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christy A. Addamo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There isn't a day that goes by I don't think of you. I have been asked how one gets over something like this. What can I say? All I can say is that we don't get over it. We just learn to live with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The stories and memories of you that we will always share keeps you alive in our hearts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And my husband, Bernard Petranica (ph), we miss you every day. Time does not heal all the wounds. It still hurts.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: All here yet again today to never forget those who were murdered by the terrorists, never forget those who rushed to save lives and in the process gave their own.

(END VIDEO CLIP)