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Deadly, Fast-Moving Wildfires Ravage West Coast; Trump To Hold Rally In Nevada Amid Raging Wildfires, Pandemic; Fauci Says Virus May Disrupt Lives Until The End Of Next Year; Texas History Teacher Takes Remote Learning Road Trip; Notre Dame Will Allow Some Fans At Today's Game Versus Duke; Top Aide To Prosecutor Investigating Trump-Russia Probe Resigns; Witness Comes Face-To-Face With Kenosha Gunman. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 12, 2020 - 11:00   ET

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


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[11:00:11]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

That was a great hour with our friends at "Sesame Street", but now we've got to move on to the grownup news. So parents, it's time to take your little ones to another room.

All right. Here we go.

Breaking news, CNN has just confirmed more political interference from the Trump administration to control the messaging around coronavirus. A federal health official tells CNN, authorities at the Department of Health and Human Services have been altering the language on the CDC's weekly science reports to reflect the president's rhetoric. We'll have more on this breaking story in just a moment.

Now other top story. Historic and devastating wild fires ripping through much of the West Coast. At least 26 people have died in California, Oregon and Washington State. This as thousands of first responders and support personnel are battling nearly 100 active, large fires across the region.

In California alone, more than three million acres have burned. That's more than 3 percent of the entire state and twice the size of Delaware, the population. So, to complicate matters even more, nearly the entire West Coast is under air quality alert, prompting a new warning from health experts who say smoke from the wild fires can actually make people more susceptible to coronavirus and other infections.

And in just a few hours, President Trump will head to Reno, Nevada for a campaign rally. And besides a tweet late last night, the president has largely remained silent about all of these fires ravaging the West.

All right. Now, he'll see the consequences perhaps firsthand when flying into the region as the National Weather Service is forecasting dense smoke, rather, to blanket the region for the entire weekend.

Our team is covering all of the angles of these unprecedented wild fires. But first let's start with CNN's Camila Bernal who is on the ground in Clackamas County, Oregon.

So Camila, I understand that officials there are preparing for what they call a massive fatality incident? What are the conditions like?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are, Fred. Good morning. So we actually moved locations. We're now in Salem. And this is where the command center is for the firefighters that are battling the Beachie Fire.

And we just a few minutes ago saw the day firefighters, that shift starting to go to work because they're around the clock. This is non- stop work. And we're seeing them come here, change shifts. This is the place where they rest.

But the problem at the moment is the smoke. It is so thick that it is making it difficult not just for the residents in the area who see the smoke, can't breathe, your eyes get irritated.

But for the firefighters, the problem is that it blocks them from seeing just five, ten feet from where they're standing. And so one, they can't do any of the flyovers. And two, there are certain instances where they can't even see where that fire line is.

So it is making it very difficult despite the fact that today we are having better weather conditions. The wind is in much better shape when it comes to that fire-fighting need. And so that is good news in that sense, but on the other opposite side of all of this, this fire is not contained.

We're at zero percent containment, and so the work here is just beginning for these firefighters. And the destruction is already noticeable and seen in many parts of this state. I want to take you to the city manager in Talent, Oregon. And she spoke about the destruction there. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDRA SPELLISCY, CITY MANAGER -- TALENT, OREGON: It's going to be a very difficult search process. The areas that were impacted are -- we're not talking about half burned buildings or smoldering ruins. We're talking about utter devastation with simply twisted metal and piles of ash.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERNAL: And Fred, on top of that, officials believe there are dozens missing in this area and so that is a concern. Not only for the governor but for so many of the families here who have already -- have dealt with a lot as they're evacuating and finding a place to go in the middle of all of this, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Massive and dangerously growing. So how about resources? Do they feel like they have enough?

BERNAL: Look, those resources are being shared because they're bringing in everything they can from cities that are not experiencing fires, but they are all hands on deck.

And so they did ask, of course, from help -- for help from the federal government, which they did receive and the president did approve.

[11:04:50]

BERNAL: But of course, this is just the beginning, as I mentioned. And this is going to be something that they're going to continue to need those resources as they move forward because firefighters are saying that these flames are likely going to stay until they begin to get rain in the fall, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Camila Bernal, thank you so much. We'll check back with you throughout the day.

Let's go to Nevada right now. A dark, hazy sky will be the backdrop for President Trump's campaign rally today in Reno as dense smoke from the fires covers much of the state.

For more, let's go to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. So Allison, what is the air quality like?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Good morning, Fred.

It's not that great. And not just in Nevada, for much of the West. But let's take a look at Reno specifically for right now. And you can see are under that dense smoke advisory. And again, most of that smoke is actually coming from California. It's blowing in from the West, pushing into these areas and kind of sinking into a lot of those valley locations.

But as we mentioned, this isn't the only place that's dealing with incredible smoke. It's very widespread over much of the western U.S. So you have other states, such as California, Oregon, Nevada, even Idaho that are also dealing with very poor air quality.

And again, it all comes back to that smoke in the area. And not just a little bit of smoke, but very dense smoke that's out there. When you look at some of the air quality index levels, again, San Francisco is unhealthy. Reno also in the unhealthy category. The city of Portland is very unhealthy. But you have other areas such as Eugene; it's in the highest level possible under what we could call hazardous levels.

Now, the big question for a lot of people is when will this smoke go away because you have a lot of fires. This isn't just one fire that if they put it out it all goes away. You have over a hundred large active wild fires right now.

The good news, Fred, and I want to emphasize the good news is we are going to finally start to see some moisture build back into the area but not until Monday. And even then it's really going to start for areas of Washington and Oregon, not necessarily for California and Nevada.

Still a tough weekend to get through. Thank you so much, Allison Chinchar. Appreciate it.

All right. President Trump for the first time in nearly three weeks is acknowledging the historic and devastating blaze. In a late night tweet, the president thanking the firefighters.

For more let's bring in Rebecca Buck at the White House.

So Rebecca, you know, this visit to the battleground state of Nevada, you know, comes after a very difficult week for the president in which he is heard on audio recordings admitting that he deliberately played down the dangers of coronavirus to the American public.

And now, you know, he continues to encourage gatherings of people, mask or no mask, in the name of reelection campaigning. How problematic might this be for him?

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Fred, the president is sending two very strong messages with this trip. And neither is really a message of concern when it comes to either the COVID pandemic in the United States or those fires that you mentioned that are currently raging in the western United States and particularly California and Oregon.

The president this week, his tone on coronavirus and the COVID pandemic was largely rosy. He told his supporters this week that he believes the United States is turning a corner in the COVID pandemic even as his top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci told our Wolf Blitzer and others that he believes we've got a year or more of this until things can normalize and return to the way they were before even if a vaccine is developed and distributed. So that's actually an optimistic sort of outlook.

But the president obviously sensing that this is not going to be beneficial for him in a campaign setting to take the less optimistic, maybe more cynical view of COVID. Obviously also making the calculation here with this trip to Nevada that it's better for him to just ignore the wild fires in California and Oregon.

You mentioned that he tweeted for the first time about these but unlike with Hurricane Laura in Louisiana or the Derecho in Iowa, we're not seeing any move by the president to offer the state his support, his empathy or to travel there as well, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, let's see what happens when he does make it to the Nevada area.

All right. Rebecca Buck, appreciate that.

All right. Trump's rally in Nevada comes as an influential health model is now projecting that 415,000 Americans will die of coronavirus by January. But the researchers from the University of Washington say over 100,000 lives could be saved if more Americans were to wear masks. CNN's Polo Sandoval joining me now from New York. So Polo, what are you learning from there?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, when you hear from the experts they are warning that we are in for a very challenging next few months and that's putting it lightly.

Just consider the numbers alone. We're still seeing about 35,000 new COVID cases a day here in the country. It's a number that is a slight improvement over last month, but still as Dr. Anthony Fauci says it is still too high especially as we go into the fall and Americans face a double whammy threat. There is of course, COVID and also the flu season.

[11:09:54]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: A cautiously optimistic tone coming from the nation's top infectious disease expert. On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN we may see approval of a safe coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year, though he says it may take several months to get the country vaccinated and protected against the virus.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: 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. 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 okay.

SANDOVAL: Fauci also expressed confidence that the vaccine approval process is being done correctly and without political pressure. Though recent polling indicates 62 percent of Americans worry the Food and Drug Administration will rush it ahead of the upcoming elections.

Chief adviser to the government's COVID vaccine program says he would take it once it's proven safe and effective.

DR. MONCEF SLAOUI, SCIENTIFIC HEAD, OPERATION WARP SPEED: I would frankly turn the question the other way around and say what would be my ethical reason to withhold a vaccine that I could have developed faster from being developed faster?

SANDOVAL: And a vaccine can't come soon enough as reopening schools for in-person learning has become a point of contention. Despite opposite by some students, school district officials in Des Moines, Iowa are defying the governor's order to resume in-person classes for at least 50 percent of their instruction. Meanwhile, at least 40,000 COVID infections have been reported on college campuses in every state. Health officials believe young adults holding social gatherings could be among several factors.

Going into the upcoming flu season, CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen recommending people limit risk. DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Just because things are open,

doesn't mean we now need to do it all. If we can go to restaurants, maybe we should not go to bars and restaurants, and movie theaters and go back to work and go back to school. We really should look at what are the most essential activities and do that and still follow every precaution when it comes to washing our hands, wearing our masks and following social distancing guidelines too.

SANDOVAL: As for looking back, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force says now is the time to get tested if you think you let your guard down over the Labor Day weekend.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: Back here in New York City, indoor dining set to resume at the end of this month. It will come with restrictions, obviously about 25 percent capacity at restaurants, Fred. Temperature checks will also be required upon entrance. Of course, the list goes on.

So consider that as a step towards normalcy for New Yorkers, but also consider a CDC report that was just released this week that found that COVID-infected adults were twice as likely to report having dined out in the weeks leading up to their illness, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Pretty sobering detail. Polo Sandoval, appreciate that.

Still ahead, playing politics with a pandemic.

CNN has now learned officials in the Department of Health and Human Services are altering the CDCs weekly reports on COVID-19 to reflect President Trump's rhetoric.

Plus, as millions of children across the country adjust to virtual learning, one teacher is thinking outside the box of the classroom, so to speak. See her cross-country lesson plan straight ahead.

[11:13:14]

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WHITFIELD: All right. We're following breaking news.

CNN has learned Trump administration officials have been altering weekly COVID science reports coming out of the CDC, so as not to undermine the president's political message on the pandemic.

For more on that, let's bring in John Harwood at the White House. So John, what more are you learning about this?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fred, what we're learning is this. We know the administration in the president's own words has been seeking to play down the significance of the pandemic since the outset.

And as the pandemic has blazed on in the United States over the last six months, the president has put in a former campaign aide Michael Caputo as the head of communications at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Michael Caputo has a deputy, Paul Alexander, an epidemiologist who he has had review the weekly science reports out of the CDC, provide his input, alter those reports in ways that career officials think are trying to tailor them to the president's message.

Now, Michael Caputo in a statement about this story which was first reported by Politico has said that Dr. Alexander is an Oxford-trained epidemiologist and that the administration is applying science itself and is not going to be governed by deep-state thinking within the bowls of the CDC.

But this is consistent with the broad pattern that we've seen of the heavy hand of the Trump administration at DHS, at the Justice Department, at the Census Bureau and elsewhere trying to conform the operations of the government to the personal and political interests of the president of the United States.

And we could see the report card and how the administration has done in the case counts and deaths. 40,000 cases a day we're averaging right now -- a thousand deaths a day. And what that means a day after we commemorated the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 is that every week more than twice as many people are being lost to coronavirus, Fred, as were lost on 9/11.

WHITFIELD: So bottom line, you know, John, the White House is not denying, in fact, it may be even boasting the fact that it is trying to influence the message that the public, you know, takes in on coronavirus.

HARWOOD: That's right. And they're touting Paul Alexander's own credentials and saying he's the scientist like the scientists at the CDC. Scientists sometimes disagree and we're going to have our input and not let the deep state control everything.

[11:19:48]

HARWOOD: So, clearly there's always going to be room for scientific disagreement, but what we've seen in a consistent pattern from the administration is the administration, beginning with the president, playing down the warnings -- consensus warnings throughout the public health community on things like mask-wearing and social distancing.

And we see that from the president's rallies. He gathers his supporters together in tight spaces without masks. He's trying to send the message to the American people that we've turned the corner on this thing when this pandemic is very much still raging on in the United States.

WHITFIELD: Of course, then this is all consistent with even the recordings that people heard this week of the president who said deliberately he was trying to downplay what has been learned about coronavirus.

John Harwood at the White House, thanks so much. We'll check back with you later on.

All right. Joining me right now, David Swerdlick. He is an assistant editor for "The Washington Post" and a CNN political commentator. Also with me Dr. Carlos del Rio. He is an executive associate dean at Emory University School of Medicine.

Good to see both of you.

Doctor, you first. How concerning is this to you that the Trump administration would be interfering with having a hand or two in CDC reports and what goes out publicly?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: It's incredibly concerning, Fred. And it's very upsetting also for those of us in public health and medicine.

The MMWR is a landmark CDC publication that comes out every week. It is the bread and butter of us keeping up with what's happening. This is how CDC communicates to help professionals not only nationally but across -- around the world.

Everybody who is interested in knowing what's going on during a pandemic or at any time quite frankly is looking at the MMWR for the right information. The MMWR should be about science and about recommendations. To have political interference in what appears in an MMWR is deeply disturbing and incredibly upsetting for many of us.

WHITFIELD: So, were you among those who would read that publication with respect, and now based on this reporting you question the motivation or even the influence of what is being written?

DR. DEL RIO: I still continue to read MMWR and I pay a lot of attention to what it says. I would tell you MMWR continues to tell us many things that are very important to us.

You know, yesterday there was a critical MMWR that made it very clear that dining indoors is a major risk factor for acquiring COVID. So, I think that MMWR writers are still trying to get the information out there but certainly now I will start reading with a degree of skepticism.

WHITFIELD: David, when the president claims America is rounding the corner, his top health experts and key COVID models contradict him. So we're now 52 days away from Election Day. Why does the president feel that this is enough to just satisfy his base?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Good morning, Fred.

I think the president is just trying to squeeze in under the finish line of election day, but how can Americans trust that statement that we're rounding the corner when now we have that statement that he gave on March 19th to Bob Woodward that he's always been trying to downplay the impact of the coronavirus?

As Dr. del Rio said, the White House should be messaging based on the CDC Morbidity and Mortality report, not the other way around. The public health experts shouldn't be taking their cues from the politicians because people actually out there fighting the virus like Dr. del Rio and others are relying on information from the government.

And you see it reflected in polls that as we go on and this affects the way people go to work, their kids go to school, they know people that get sick, it seems clear to me that people aren't completely buying it.

There was a poll out yesterday that gave Vice President Biden a seven- point edge on trust to handle this. Last week there was a poll that gave Vice President Biden a bigger edge. You know, President Trump still has a lot of political support, but he just isn't convincing people that he has really dealt with the virus in an effective way.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Trust and eroding trust is a really big deal right now. In fact, here is some of that sound that supports your words, David.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now it's turning out it's not just old people, Bob. But just today and yesterday some startling facts came out. It's not just older --

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR: Yes, exactly.

TRUMP: It's plenty of young people. Well, I think Bob, really to be honest with you.

WOODWARD: Sure, I want you to be.

TRUMP: I wanted to -- I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.

WOODWARD: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: Because I don't want to create a panic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So Doctor, you know, the president continues to play it down. He's supporting that sound bite that he gave, you know, earlier in the year. But what does this do to already eroding trust, not just between, you know, the public and the White House but the public and the scientific community?

DR. DEL RIO: Well, for me, you know, I'm a scientist and I follow the science and I look at the numbers and I look at what happens in the hospitalizations and I look at the people that die. You know, and I quite frankly don't need to listen to, you know, to information that doesn't make sense.

[11:24:53]

DR. DEL RIO: The information is out there. It's clear. And we know what's happening. I think we need to rely on sources of information that are not the traditional sources of information. In this day and age there's plenty of information going through social media and other mechanisms in which we're knowing the truth and we're understanding what's going on.

WHITFIELD: David, the president is going to be heading out west today, you know, a dozen states in the midst of these wild fires. There's battling -- while the president did tweet last night a little bit on it, he hasn't said anything significant to the suffering out West. It seemingly is consistent with what he hasn't conveyed to people who are suffering with this pandemic.

SWERDLICK: Yes, Fred. I mean look, Americans understand that presidents, whether it's President Trump or one of his predecessors don't cause all these problems. But they do expect presidents to speak forthrightly about them and to address them.

And to the extent he hasn't been forthcoming on the virus or hasn't spoken words that, you know, reassure people that the federal government and the states are working together on these forest fires out West, it sends a message that the president is largely concerned about his own reelection and his eye is off the ball of these, you know, multiple crises.

You said he's going to Nevada in a couple of days for this rally. I believe Nevada has a limit of 50 people at a gathering right now. I assume there will be more than 50 people at President Trump's gathering.

So again, it just sends this message of -- that there is a disdain for being prepared, for tailoring your campaign and your running of the country to the facts on the ground and instead doing what he wants to do to sort of aggrandize himself and hope that he can squeak it out by November 3rd, even though that he has never been above 50 percent in public approval.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it there for now. David Swerdlick, Dr. Carlos del Rio, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

SWERDLICK: Thanks, Fred.

DR. DEL RIO: Happy to be with you.

WHITFIELD: All right next. A Texas virtual classroom goes cross country. How one history teacher is taking her lesson plan on the road.

[11:27:03]

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WHITFIELD: The coronavirus pandemic has made remote learning a necessity. And of course, very difficult for a lot of households. But for some teachers, it has now created a new opportunity.

Cathy Cluck teaches history in Austin, Texas. But for the first few weeks of school she traveled along the Eastern Seaboard videotaping the whole thing and her approach was to teach history from where it happened.

Cathy joins us now from Austin. It looks like you were in D.C. in that portion of the video. So, this has been a real learning adventure for you as well. How did this idea come about?

CATHY CLUCK, HISTORY TEACHER, WESTLAKE HIGH SCHOOL: It's kind of crazy. It was really maybe a month ago. I was trying to figure out how I could make the school year work for kids starting out online and I was kind of trying to figure out how can I just make it fun?

And so, I had the idea that if I could do something this year that I would never be able to do maybe I could travel to places where history happened. So that's kind of how it happened.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness.

CLUCK: Yes.

WHITFIELD: And you did it. So how did you pick the places? I mean you saw Jamestown, Virginia. There it looks like -- that's Memphis.

Yes. How did you make a plan? Because you couldn't just start driving. You actually had to have a destination in mind each time.

CLUCK: Exactly. I tried to make it consecutive with what we would be studying. So I teach A.P. U.S. history and that covers the whole scope from pre-Columbian all the way to present day. And so I wanted to hit a couple of places that I could be teaching from in the actual unit we were studying.

So Jamestown, Virginia is the earliest English colony in America that worked. And I wanted to get there to teach Colonial America from Colonial America. So that was kind of my first destination.

After that, it was what can I fit in that it won't (INAUDIBLE) because I'm only going a couple of weeks. But where can I make videos that I can pull out later on throughout the year and kind of use throughout the year.

WHITFIELD: So much fun. So it had to be very fun and enriching to do. Have you unveiled it to the kids? What are the students saying? Are they saying this helps them in, you know, grasping history?

CLUCK: I think it's as much helping them sort of grasp history. When I was in Jamestown, I was standing on the banks of the James River and we talked about the 1619 project. And that was where slaves first arrived in America and how important it is to understand racial history today, we have to go back 401 years.

And you know, I tried to tell them this is -- the issues we're seeing with race in America are not something that happened a week ago or 50 years ago. It goes back to the very, very beginnings.

And so, I think seeing that place, it starts to make history matter in a sense. It makes it more real. But also, it was a way for me to try to help get to know me. This is weird. It's weird teaching online. It's weird starting a school year with kids that I don't see in person. And so I was trying to figure out a way that if I can let them get to know me, then maybe they'll let me get to know them. and so that's kind of where I want to go for the rest of this school year that I felt like I had to be vulnerable enough to say, ok, we're going to do this adventure and it's going to be fun. And you don't know where I'm going to end up tomorrow because I don't know where I'm going to end up tomorrow.

[11:34:57]

CLUCK: But it was a way to just sort of open that door, I think, to creating something that is unique. So there's the history but there's also the relational aspect.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And this is hard-hitting history. I mean you're saying this with a smile because you as a teacher are feeling that instant gratification, right? That, you know, some kids are connecting, you know, with very hard portions, you know, of history, but at the same time you're on this ride with the kids, this remote learning has been a challenge for everybody.

CLUCK: It's rough. And my co-teachers and my colleagues and my principals -- they're working so hard. And it's just not something any of us ever trained for. So trying to make it work and trying to figure out how can we reach kids but also how can they learn? How can we kind of create some sense of normalcy in a world that has none right now.

WHITFIELD: Yes. I'm sure your students and the households are in great gratification of you doing something different and engaging them so that they can find out that, you know, learning history can be fun even if it is a very tough part of history. Cathy Cluck --

CLUCK: And it matters.

WHITFIELD: -- thank you so much in Austin, Texas. Appreciate it.

CLUCK: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. This afternoon, Notre Dame will open the college football season but as cases rise on college campuses, is it a good idea to allow fans at the game? We'll talk about that next.

[11:36:23]

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WHITFIELD: Football fans take heart. The coronavirus pandemic hasn't completely cancelled the college football season. While many college teams are sitting out this fall, in just over two hours Notre Dame is set to take on Duke in South Bend, Indiana.

Just getting to today, though, has been nothing short of a miracle with both the Big Ten and PAC-12 conferences cancelling their fall seasons.

CNN's Andy Scholes is at Notre Dame. So Andy, not only is there a game in South Bend today, but fans will be there as well?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Fredricka.

Notre Dame allowed to have 20 percent capacity at their stadium. So that means they're going to between 15,000 -- 16,000 fans for their season opener against Duke. Now, that crowd is going to be made up of students, faculty and player's families.

And you know, while they're playing football here in South Bend, across the state in Indiana, Indiana University, and Purdue University, you know, they're not playing football because the Big Ten postponed their seasons due to coronavirus concerns.

But I'll show you a map. These are the Power Five schools that are playing today that are allowing fans at their games. Now, Virginia Tech is not playing today and they announced just this morning that their opener against Virginia scheduled for next Saturday has been postponed due to coronavirus issues with the team.

And you know, because of so many cancellations, Notre Dame is playing as a member of the ACC this year. And despite having outbreaks on campus and even suspending in-person learning for a two-week period earlier, head coach Brian Kelly says he thinks they can play safely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN KELLY, COACH, NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL TEAM: I really had a hard time envisioning not playing because I didn't know anything else for 30 years. But now it's hard to imagine that we've gotten here. We knew we had good procedures and protocols, that we had good science, that we had doctors that were really following, you know, what they believe to be the best protocols and procedures. And so we were following them diligently, hoping that we would get to this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Yes. Kickoff here in South Bend, Indiana, set for 2:30 p.m. Eastern. And you know, there's rain in the forecast. So that's making it kind of a gloomy day. But Fredricka, it certainly feels different here because, you know, kickoff Saturday usually one of the most exciting days on a campus. But there's not tens of thousands of fans walking around, you know. It's very limited.

WHITFIELD: Or tailgating.

SCHOLES: And if you come on campus, you have to wear a mask and if you enter the game, yes, there so no tailgating. The band, while they will be here, they're not going to be performing at halftime of the game. They're going to have to sit in the stands and be social distanced.

So, you know, it's definitely a different kind of feel. We have college football, but it's just going to look and feel so much different.

WHITFIELD: Yes. It's the new normal for them, at least during this season as long as it goes. Andy Scholes, thanks so much, from Notre Dame.

WHITFIELD: All right, straight ahead the top prosecutor working on U.S. Attorney General Barr's Russia investigation has now resigned. How political pressure may be behind this latest shakeup next.

[11:43:26]

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WHITFIELD: A top aide to the prosecutor investigating the Trump/Russia probe has resigned. That comes amid more concerns of political pressure on the U.S. Justice Department.

CNN's Evan Perez reports from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Nora Dannehy, a top prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Connecticut is stepping down. Now, she was working under John Durham, who's the prosecutor that Attorney General Bill Barr has appointed to do an investigation of the origins of the Trump/Russia investigation.

According to "The Hartford Current", one reason why she's leaving is that she feels that there's political pressure on the prosecutors doing this investigation to produce something before the November election. Now, we have not confirmed that account.

But the idea of political pressure on this investigation is obvious. We hear President Trump bringing it up almost constantly. We also hear Attorney General Bill Barr bringing it up constantly.

And prosecutors inside the Justice Department have been concerned for months that the fact that this is being talked about and the fact that the president is looking for some kind of election assist from John Durham is harming the reputation of the investigators as well as the Justice Department overall.

Evan Perez, CNN -- Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Evan.

All right. Next, protests took to the streets in Kenosha and then there was this situation. That subject, a man walking turned out to be a young man walking with a gun -- a gut-wrenching account of the deadly shooting next.

[11:49:44]

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

CNN's Senior Investigative Correspondent, Drew Griffin spoke with the witness who was in Kenosha as a journalist to cover the protests and ended up being part of the story.

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

RICHIE MCGINNISS, CHIEF VIDEO DIRECTOR, "DAILY CALLER": I saw a bunch of armed individuals. I asked are any of you willing to do an interview to which Kyle volunteered immediately.

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

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

GRIFFIN: McGinniss says Rittenhouse was drawing the attention of some of the protesters but the 17-year-old didn't seem to notice. Soon after, chaos would erupt.

Richie McGinniss would turn to the sound of yelling, see the 17-year- old he had just interviewed being chased by a man later identified as Joseph Rosenbaum.

MCGINNISS: You can see me closely behind Rosenbaum and Rittenhouse as they run into that parking lot. And there's some pop that goes off as we were running into that parking lot.

But what was clear to me is that Rittenhouse did not fire that first shot. Rittenhouse was 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 McGinniss saw the whole thing happen.

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

GRIFFIN: 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: McGinniss said Rosenbaum would get close enough to reach for Rittenhouse's gun. MCGINNISS: And 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 around the lunge and that's when he releveled the weapon and fired.

In that exact moment as Rittenhouse fired those four shots, I saw Rosenbaum basically go lifeless and fall onto his face. And immediately after those shots were fired, Rittenhouse runs away from the body.

GRIFFIN: McGinniss runs toward the dying Rosenbaum. He takes off his shirt, uses it on the ground. Yells to the man standing beside him, call 911. Not realizing that man was Kyle Rittenhouse. Instead of dialing 911, prosecutors say Rittenhouse called a friend.

MCGINNISS: Probably would have been a terrifying experience if I did notice that it was him given that he had just perpetrated that shooting. But At the time, I was so focused on addressing Rosenbaum's wounds that I didn't even notice that it was Rittenhouse.

GRIFFIN: at that moment, Richie McGinniss loses track of Kyle Rittenhouse as McGinniss 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, 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 McGinniss says he's making no judgments, but there's no mistaking, he says, what he saw.

MCGINNISS: 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.

GRIFFIN: Though McGinniss says he was told by police he's an important witness in this case, he has yet to hear from either prosecutors or the defense.

We also have yet to hear from Kyle Rittenhouse himself who remains in custody in Illinois awaiting extradition back to Wisconsin.

Drew Griffin, CNN -- Atlanta.

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[11:59:58]

WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with historic and devastating wildfires ripping through much of the western portion of the country.