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At Least 26 Dead As Fires Rage Across The West Coast; Smoke From Wildfires Could Make People More Susceptible To COVID-19; Trump To Hold Reno Rally As Wildfires Ravage West Coast; Around 40,000-Plus Infections Reported On College Campuses Nationwide; QAnon Fans Spread Fake Claims About Real Fires In Oregon; Pompeo Attends Historic Afghan Peace Talks In Qatar. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired September 12, 2020 - 12:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin with historic and devastating wildfires ripping through much of the west, western portion of the country. At least 26 people have died in California, Oregon and Washington State. Millions of acres have turned into ash and those numbers are expected to rise.

Firefighters are struggling to contain the nearly 100 fires burning across the western region. Nearly the entire west coast in fact he's under air quality alerts, prompting a new and ominous warning from health experts who say smoke from the wildfires can actually make people even more susceptible to coronavirus and other infections and in just a few hours, the president heads to Reno Nevada where a dark and hazy sky will be the backdrop for his rally there today.

Besides a tweet late last night, the president has largely remained silent about all of these wildfires. Today he will see the consequences first hand perhaps. CNN's Camila Bernal is in Salem, Oregon. Officials in that state say that they are preparing for a mass fatality incident, Camila. What are you seeing?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are Fred and we've been trying to chase those flames all day and we get to these roadblocks like where we are right now and what happens is that not only is it about the flames but it's about that smoke that you were just talking about, the air quality.

Governor Kate Brown here says this is the worst in the world and you can see it, just as we are trying to enter this area, officials are telling us that they don't want anybody to go through here because they can't see five or ten feet in front of them. And so they say it's dangerous not only for the firefighters but of course for anyone who is trying to walk around or trying to find their homes. Unfortunately as we've been here throughout the week, we've seen some of these homes completely devastated.

We've seen the flames and we've heard the heartbreak and the emotion from so many who've had to evacuate and who are seeing those old flames getting closer and closer to their homes. The city manager in Talent, which is a city about five hours from where we are right now was talking about that devastation and it is just difficult to hear. Take a listen.


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


BERNAL: And Fred, unfortunately the governor also saying that there are reports of dozens who are still missing so they do expect that death toll to continue to increase in addition to the destruction that we're already seeing.

They're also expecting the smoke to stick around. Firefighters saying we may have pockets of clean air but for the most part they are expecting it to be like this for the next couple of days and so it is going to be a long road ahead for these firefighters because at the moment we're still at zero percent containment so it is a long ways to go before they get this under control, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And Camilla, with that kind of poor visibility does this not ground any kind of you know aerial assaults from firefighters. I mean they can't navigate in this, can they?

BERNAL: No, they absolutely can't and they've already said that they have resources to be up in the air but they cannot do that at the moment so on top of the fact that they can't fight the fire from the sky, they also can't see what's going on from up above so they're saying you know they told us some of the fires may be merging but we're not even able to see if that's the case because the smoke is so thick.

So it's not only in the fact that they can't fight those fires from the sky but also that they can't evaluate the situation from the air because it is just so thick and then you just cannot see Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes, horrible situation that continues to worsen. Camila Bernal, thank you so much. So of all the stories of loss coming out of these wildfires, one of the most heartbreaking is that of 13-year old Wyatt Tofte who died in a car holding his dog in his lap.

The fire also claimed the life of Wyatt's beloved grandmother. She died in a burning car while Wyatt's mother struggled to save her. I want to bring in now Susan Vaslev. Susan, you're a family member. You know these wildfires have devastated your family. You are the great aunt, right? Is that correct of this little boy Wyatt and you're also serving as the spokesperson for their family.


WHITFIELD: So Susan you know tell me how you all are doing, I mean to be hit this hard in the family and be hit with this kind of grief? VASLEV: Yes. it's devastating just the way it happened and the whole story and who was lost and anytime a young child dies in a fire like that and the details, it's just something that you can't wrap your head around and it just hurts and you can just - you can just imagine how devastating it is for Angie and Chris.


WHITFIELD: It is hard to imagine that so how - how are they doing? Wyatt, his mom is dealing with both the loss of him as well as his grandmother. How's she doing?

VASLEV: Absolutely. Not well. They do expect her to survive. She has a long road to go. She has full body burns and - but to come out of that, to come out - well, surviving full body burns is a painful experience in itself, recovering from that and then to come back. Your son having died and your mother - your mother having died.

WHITFIELD: Oh, it's extraordinary. So how much detail do you know about the sequence of events? What happened?

VASLEV: Quite a bit. So Monday night, there were high winds. Chris's power went out of their house and he went to go, get a generator. Now while he was gone, the fire breaks out and I don't think you may understand how quickly a fire travels. They - Angie woke up and there were flames around the house.

Her mother had just broken her leg, a week before and was scheduled for surgery so she was not very mobile at all. She got her into the car. Then went back to get Wyatt and the pets and by that time the car was surrounded in flames. And she knew the only way for her son to survive was to run so she told Wyatt and the dog to run.

And we don't know exactly what happened but Wyatt ended up going back to the car and tried to drive his grandmother out and so he attempted to drive that car and he - the roads were so hot that it burned up the tires and so it he wasn't able to drive it to safety, did not make it out the fire and in--

And during all of this his father is trying to get back and now the roads have been blocked so he's waiting for the blockade. He can't get through. He ends up somehow find a way to go around the blockade or go through it. He gets up there and he's driving up and it's black. He can't see anything.

He runs across one guy on the road and he was trying to help him. I believe his skin came off of his hands is what I heard from my brother and then he went up to their house and well, he didn't get as far as their house. He kept driving and he saw a woman's laying in the road that looked like she was wearing a bikini and he stopped to help her, he thought the woman was fighting him some and he got her into the car and she was burned all over but on her feet, burnt down to the bone and - but he said I have to keep going because my son and my wife, I have to get to them.

And her mouth was all black, she couldn't - she couldn't talk but either she whispered or scribbled I am your wife.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh.

VASLEV: And so then he rushed back to the paramedics and got her with them, then he tried to go back up, he couldn't get as far this time. And he had a desperate search that you know the next day, that night, the next day. My brother went up with him the next day and he said, it was like looking for a needle in the haystack that it was all ash, everything was gray and they searched that day and then the next day.

There were searchers out and I believe it was the police searchers, they found Wyatt with his grandmother, with a dog on his lap in the car. I believe it was at the end of their long drive way. We're talking long roads up there. It's up in the forest, up in the mountains. He was with his mother, with his grandmother. They have both died and the dog was in his lap.


WHITFIELD: That is beyond my tragic and sad. And this little boy is 13 trying to be that hero and in fact being that hero for his grandmother.

VASLEV: Yes, he was trying to save his grandmother.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Our hearts go out to you. This is terribly sad. Susan Vaslev, we're praying for all of you. I can't imagine what you are going through, nobody can. Thanks so much for telling your story.

VASLEV: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We do understand that friends have set up a go fund me page to help this family with the extreme financial devastation and personal loss from these fires, including medical and now funeral expenses as well. Type gofundme/Chris and Angie and we will be right back.



WHITFIELD: And we're following breaking news now. 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 can you tell us about this troubling report? How much information is coming from the White House to corroborate it?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fred, what we're learning is that the administration is following a pattern that President Trump himself said at the outset of this coronavirus crisis as we've learned in his own voice from the interviews he's done with Bob Woodward.

That is to say he's tried to downplay the crisis and persuade the American people that things are better than they are. What we're now learning from this report that was first reported by Politico and now has been confirmed by CNN is that the Michael Caputo, former campaign aide who heads communications at the Department of Health and Human Services has a science adviser, Paul Alexander who is interjected himself in the weekly science reports by the CDC in ways that career officials who produce those reports think are trying to water down the reports and make the coronavirus pandemic seem a lot less threatening in line with the president's message.

Now Michael Caputo has said well, Paul Alexander is an Oxford educated epidemiologist but he has a scientific opinion like other scientists do. They have back and forth and they disagree and we're not going to be controlled by deep state thinking within the bowels of the CDC.

But the question is when you look at the performance of the United States which has four percent of the world's population and one out of five deaths in the world, 1000 deaths a week, 40,000 cases a day. Has the administration systematically and continually and this is another example of it been downplaying this pandemic.

The president himself does it at his rallies where people gather without social distance, without masks and this is part of that pattern throughout the administration and in fact Fred, even began before the coronavirus pandemic, the administration's attempt to marginalize science in terms of environmental regulations and more recently, across the government.

Justice department and Census Bureau, Department of Homeland Security. The administration's been trying to conform the operations of government to the personal and political interests of the President of the United States.

WHITFIELD: And I suppose there's a feeling from many of those who are at the CDC who are feeling like their hands are tied, they can't really combat the science professional that's representing the White House in these efforts at all?

HARWODD: Well, Dr. Redfield has pushed back to some degree and it's not as if these reports have been killed but the question is what is the corrosive effect of this kind of interference and interjection of political considerations into the scientific reports?

We have seen that people like Tony Fauci from time to time have been marginalized. The president disagrees with him publicly so this is a continual push and pull between the scientific experts within the government and the political people on top of that.

WHITFIELD: Yes, no doubt, that corrosive effect leads to the eroding of trust on so many levels. John Harwood, thank you so much at the White House.

All right, today President Trump is once again urging voters to test their state's voting system on Election Day. In a tweet that have since been flagged by Twitter as a violation of election integrity, the president told voters in North Carolina who mail in their ballots to go to their polling stations and make sure those votes are counted on Election Day.

And if not vote again, he's urging them. State election officials are warning residents that showing up at polling stations will only cause delays and voting twice is against the law. CNN's Jeff Zeleny talked to some voters about the upcoming election in this crucial battleground state.


JAMIE OSWALD, UNDECIDED VOTER: I want to vote for somebody other than Donald Trump but I don't want to vote for Biden. It's hard.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Meet Jamie Oswald, a hairdresser and undecided voter. She grew up in a Republican family and likes President Trump's economic record but not much else.

OSWALD: If he could just not talk. You know, the stuff that he says is just like embarrassing.

ZELENY: If he could just not talk. That's saying something about the president of United States.

OSWALD: It is. It's saying a lot.

ZELENY: Yet so far, she's not sold on Joe Biden.

OSWALD: I think he's been in office for so long and he's really hasn't done a whole lot.

ZELENY: Oswald says she's never voted but will this year inspired by the pandemic that left her unemployed for more than two months. She's one of 1.3 million new voters in North Carolina since 2016 when Trump narrowly won the state by 173,000 votes.

Now it's a battleground. He's visited three times in the last three weeks. Voting here is already under way. A sign that coronavirus is influencing the election including how people cast their ballots.


BAKARR KANU. DEMOCRATIC VOTER: It's very important for everybody to go out this time because there's a lot at stake.

ZELENY: Bakarr Kanu, a professor received his absentee ballot in the mail this week. He dismisses any talk of fraud, saying Trump is trying to intimidate voters yet the president's supporters here are already echoing his questions about the election's legitimacy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And mail-in ballots, I wouldn't trust it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will - I will definitely go in person.

ZELENY: At the end of a challenging week for the president where his own words to Bob Woodward became a new flashpoint, Trump supporters are unwavering. Sarah Reidy Jones who leads a women's Republican group believes in Trump now more than four years ago in part because of judicial appointments.

SARAH REIDY JONES, PRESIDENT, UPTOWN CHARLOTTE REPUBLICAN WOMEN: Four years ago, President Trump wasn't my first second, third fourth choice. We're saying get beyond that rhetoric and go with what that record of accomplishment.

ZELENY: That record does not sit well with bar owner, Blake Stewart who believes the president's leadership on coronavirus has been appalling.

BLAKE STEWART, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: He had the opportunity to grab this bull by the horns. Instead he let it run us all over.

ZELENY: His business is still closed. For that he blames Trump, not the state's Democratic governor. He planted this voter registration sign outside, hoping to find new voters to help block the president's path to reelection. There's little question Trump supporters here are fired up but there are also signs he's awakening the other side.

His presidency motivated Angela Levine to become politically active for the first time and work against him.

ANGELA LEVINE, DEMOCRATIC ACTIVIST: I became a much more informed voter that's why I got this blue wave tattoo. This is to remind me never to assume someone else is going to do all the hard work.

ZELENY: So absentee balloting is under way and then early voting starts next month. There are 17 days of in-person early voting across North Carolina so not only is coronavirus affecting how you vote, it's also affecting in some cases who you're voting for. There is no question North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes are squarely in the sights of the Trump campaign.

Not only did President Trump visit three times, Donald Trump Junior, Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump also all made separate visits to the state this week. Joe Biden is coming soon. Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Charlotte, North Carolina.

WHITFIELD: And straight ahead, college students fined for throwing a house party and it's all caught on camera.


OFFICER: There are other people here and you're positive for COVID. You see the problem.




WHITFIELD: Six college students are now facing fines in Ohio after police say they threw a house party in violation of local coronavirus guidelines. Some 20 people gathering at an off campus residence, despite at least one of the host testing positive for coronavirus. CNN's Dianne Gallagher joining me right now.

Dianne, so what more are you learning?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the officer who sort of broke up that party pointed out that the whole point of quarantining is to separate from other people, not have a party with them at your house but that's exactly what happened here so the six students who go to Miami University in Ohio were apparently having a gathering.

Roughly 20 people inside their house, except for that violates the city ordinance that prevents all indoor and outdoor gathering from exceeding 10 people. When the officer went inside, they weren't just surprised by how many people were inside but what happened when they scanned one of those students IDs. Take a look at this body cam video.


OFFICER: I've never seen this before. There's an input on the computer that you tested positive for COVID.


OFFICER: When was this?

STUDENT: This was a week ago.

OFFICER: Are you supposed to be quarantining?

STUDENT: Yes, that's why I'm at my house.

OFFICER: You have other people here and you're positive for COVID?

STUDENT: I mean.

OFFICER: You see the problem?

STUDENT: I mean they were honestly all just walking by when we were out here.

OFFICER: How many other people have COVID?

STUDENT: They all do.


GALLAGHER: Yes, so fines for violating that ordinance start at around $500. CNN did reach out to Miami University. They wouldn't go into detail about any sort of things specifically with the students Fred, but they did note that anybody who violates quarantine or a city ordinance on mass gatherings would face disciplinary action.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. All right and then there is the University of Wisconsin, Madison which has now paused in-person classes because of a spike in positive cases. What steps are university administrators taking there? GALLAGHER: So on Wednesday, the University of Wisconsin sent this message out to students saying that they were pausing in-person learning, they were going to go to online learning starting on Monday because for the previous two days, they had had a 20 percent or greater positivity rate on campus and they've been able to isolate extreme spike to two specific residents' hall.

So they're going to quarantine the students in that residents' halls, those two residents' halls for the next two weeks. Now key here is they're not sending the students home. The CDC has been adamant about the fact that the safest way to prevent the spread when we are looking at these outbreaks on college campuses is to keep them at school, anybody who is affected by it instead of spreading it out across the country and sending them home to quarantine, Fred.


WHITFIELD: All right, Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much.

All right, joining me right now to discuss is Dr. Richina Bicette, she's an emergency medical physician and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, Doctor, good to see.


WHITFIELD: So should college administrators have been doing more to get students to abide by social distancing rules? I mean, obviously for the one kid to test positive, that wasn't insensitive enough.

BICETTE: Absolutely, they should be doing more. We haven't seen a unified approach across college and universities, campuses in the United States. Some places do have mask mandates. Some places are doing virtual learning. Some places are doing in person learning. Some colleges are testing students before they get to campus. Some colleges are not testing at all.

And when we don't have a unified approach, that's where we start to see some of the gaps arise. We all remember that viral photo from the University of Alabama that showed students partying with the townspeople with no social distancing and no masks anywhere in sight. What we have to remember is that although college students are technically adults, they're just a few years removed from high school. They don't necessarily have the maturity levels to make the life and death decisions that we're putting into their hand.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And there's still that invincibility thing, you know, that a lot of college age students as well as kids younger than that feel. So this influential health model that's out there is now projecting that more than 415,000 Americans will die of coronavirus by January. And researchers are saying that over 100,000 lives could be saved if more Americans were to wear masks. So what more can be done to convey the message of mask wearing helps save lives, if people aren't getting that then what?

BICETTE: Well, when you hear that number 415,000 deaths that sounds very frightening. But what's even more frightening is the fact that we're almost halfway there, 193 plus thousand Americans have already died due to COVID-19. And I think that part of this is due to the fact that we're receiving lots of different messages. You know, we have people who are a part of the Coronavirus Task Force. For example, Dr. Scott Atlas, who joined the task force in August, who has publicly stated that he doubts the efficacy of wearing masks.

This puts a lot of doubts into the minds of the American people and a lot of mistrust. We don't know what information to follow. It has absolutely been proven that wearing masks work, social distancing works, and those are the methods we need to continue to employ if we accurately want to fight this virus.

WHITFIELD: A lot of folks, you know, just want to, you know, get back to normal, you know, they're just willing it to happen. And a recent CDC study has actually found that adults who test positive for COVID- 19 were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining out at a restaurant than those who tested negative so what is message to people who just say, you know what, I hear the messaging, but I really want to get on with my life.

BICETTE: Well, I think what this study shows, it shows that there is some correlation, but it doesn't necessarily show causality. And what I mean by that is that people who are visiting bar than who are visiting restaurants and are venturing out and, you know, engaging in social activities are more likely to be doing other things that are also putting them at risk for contracting COVID-19.

It doesn't necessarily mean that you are at high risk for just going to a restaurant. Low Risk activities still include dining outdoors or picking up food to go so you can still engage in some of those things. It's the behaviors around those activities that are the most important.

WHITFIELD: All right, Dr. Richina Bicette. Thanks so much. Good to see you again.

BICETTE: Of course.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up next, fighting wildfires and fighting misinformation and online rumor bogs down 911 call centers wildfires rage out of control. Plus, all next week, CNN will be highlighting people who are making a difference in the world through innovation and determination. These champions for change came up with fresh solutions to very big problems.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All next week on CNN, every step moves us forward, bringing us together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have neighbors helping neighbors

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sparking action and innovation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mission is to build homes that are earthquake proof and hurricane proof. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not just giving back, it's also educating in the process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Follow along with those walking the walk. Change makers leading the charge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to make a difference if you don't disrupt the status quo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And inspiring others.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a door opening for a new life.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody here is a champion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's amazing to see people's lives change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you are out hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Champions for change, all next week on CNN.



WHITFIELD: All right back now to our top story historic and devastating wildfires ripping through much of the Western U.S., Nevada is now issuing an unhealthy air alert for the same community where President Trump's rally is expected to be held later on today. For more let's go to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. So Allison, how bad is it?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. So a lot of the west is actually dealing with all the wildfires that we've talked about, but in turn, you get that smoke and if there's a lot of it, it really does reduce the air quality. And what we're seeing is it's not just hitting one or two cities, it's in multiple states.

So here you can see, you have four states dealing with air quality alerts Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California. But you also have dense smoke advisories for areas including Reno in Nevada and also portions of California. That's the smoke from the California fires. That is spreading into areas of Nevada.


When you look at the air quality index currently and a lot of city San Francisco is currently at unhealthy. We are talking about Reno also at unhealthy, Eugene, however, is in the highest level, what we consider the hazardous level because of all of that smoke that's in the air.

And again, it all comes back to all of these large wildfires that are out there. And nearly 100 large, active wildfires across the U.S. right now. And what they really need most is rain. Now the good news is some rain is on the way, just not today. You know, most of this rain for that next system making its way in will begin on Monday. So again, it's coming. It's just not here yet. And even when it does, for most areas, it's likely going to be about an inch or less.

Another area of the country that's dealing with a lot more rain is going to be the southeast and it's all thanks to this storm. Tropical depression 19, flood watches are already in effect across portions of Florida. More of those are likely to continue because this system is actually expected to transition into the Gulf of Mexico later today. When it does, it's expected to strengthen into Tropical Storm Sally and then continue towards the Gulf Coast, likely potentially making landfall somewhere between Louisiana and the panhandle of Florida Monday through Wednesday of the upcoming week,.

Regardless of when it makes landfall, notice that cone on the backside begins to get rather large, Fred. It's not because they don't know where it's going to go. It's because once it gets close to the coastline, it's anticipated to slow incredibly. And when it does so, it likely has the potential to dump over a foot of rain along the Gulf Coast.

WHITFIELD: All right, thank you so much for that, Allison Chinchar, appreciate it.

All right, as if the fatal massive wildfires weren't enough to contend with, well, now officials in Oregon are having to plead with residents to ignore a QAnon conspiracy theory that is quickly spreading online. The false claim says Antifa is to blame for starting the fires.

The FBI quickly dismissed that theory in a tweet saying reports that extremists are setting wildfires in Oregon are untrue. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joining me now. Alright, so Donie, you know, obviously spreading, you know, rumors this has become real sport, but it's having gigantic consequences in so many circumstances. What more can you tell us about this?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Fred. I mean, as if emergency responders didn't have enough to deal with right now, what we're hearing is multiple law enforcement agencies now including the FBI, have asked people, pleaded with people not to believe these false online claims. I want to show you these messages from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Oregon.

They say that their 911 dispatchers are being overrun with requests about the conspiracy. This is what they said rumors spread just like wildfire and now our 911 dispatchers and professional staff are being overrun with requests for information or inquiries on an untrue rumor that six Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires in Douglas County, Oregon. They said that that is totally false.

You know, false claims that Antifa that these are left wing activists, of course, had been -- were responsible for the fires, had been circulating online for days, including being shared by a Republican politician in Oregon who had lost his primary there earlier this year. But then things got supercharged late on Wednesday night from the QAnon conspiracy theory picked up and amplified the claims and no doubt this would have fed into the amount of calls that law enforcement had to deal with on Thursday and Friday.

QAnon's followers of course believe there is a deep stage within the U.S. government that is controlled by a cabal of pedophiles and Satan worshipping pedophiles that the FBI has labeled as a potential domestic threat. But we've seen this QAnon paraphernalia at Trump events. And President Trump has described QAnon followers as people who love this country. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Wow, this is beyond complex and very confusing. But then what about, you know, Facebook, Twitter are those online, you know, places doing anything about this kind of QAnon and others conspiracy theories.

O'SULLIVAN: So, both Facebook and Twitter only recently in the past few weeks have basically said they're banning big groups about QAnon. But I mean, it only takes a few seconds to find these claims all over both their platforms. And of course, this has been something that's been going around for three years now.

So the fact that these companies are only starting to do something about it, of course is very concerning, but that that one Republican politician who has these specifically false claims about six Antifa members, his tweet is still up online on Twitter that has over 10,000 retweets. And even though the Douglas County Sheriff's Office which is named in his tweets, specifically that it is false.

WHITFIELD: All right, Donie O'Sullivan, thank you so much for straightening it out for so many people. Appreciate it.


All right we're following major developments overseas, the Taliban and the Afghan government meeting for historic peace talks. And then just moments ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a passionate plea about ending the war.

But first, this year, marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. And today we introduce you to a woman who just learned about her mother's war time truth.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most Americans don't know about the island of that too.

RACHEL MASON, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: If It was the only battle of World War II fought on American soil.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to make sure that all Americans know that this wasn't just Pearl Harbor, something happened on the Aleutian Islands.

MASON: If you look at a map of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands are the long tail that goes off to the left. The islands that are to is here, they're actually closer to Asia than they are to any part of the U.S. The Japanese attacked Dutch Harbor June 3rd and 4th 1942. After that the U.S. decided that it needed to evacuate the native residents from the villages, the are to in had already been occupied by the Japanese so they didn't get rescued.

THERESA DEAL, DAUGHTER OF MARINA HODIKOFF: My name is Teresa Deal. I am the daughter of Marina Hodikoff. Aleutian, including my mom were not respected, they were forced to work. They were fed very little, so most of them perished. My mom was able to survive not just for her resiliencies, but her older sister also looked out for her. When the surviving Aleutian came back to United States, nobody was able to go back to Aleutian.

I think it's important for me to learn more and for the other generations to learn more about the history of the Aleutian.

We're descendants if the chief of Aleutian.

In 2017 Aleutian descendants were able to get to the island of Aleutian, the feeling of being able to go back to where my mom was born, it just makes you think, deep. For me it was a trip of a lifetime. I want all Aleutian descendants to be able to have that opportunity.




WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Doha earlier for the start of historic peace talks. And after several delays, the Taliban and the Afghan government are finally set to negotiate a power sharing deal. Let's go to Sam Kiley, who is following the talks from Abu Dhabi. So Sam, you know, by all accounts, these negotiations are fragile. But what did the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, have to say today? And what kind of role might he be playing?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're in contempt played a key role in these negotiations. There's no doubt about it. They opened negotiations bilaterally with the Taliban at the beginning of this year, encouraging the two sides, the Afghan government, of course, which are allies of the United States and its allies to get into talks with the Taliban.

There was a very fraught process of prisoner exchanges and so on involving 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by the Afghan government, a lot of them very what would be called high value targets in the battle days if you like.

But nonetheless, they are now at a position where they're going to be talking. There is a lot of pressure coming from the American administration to get this sorted ahead of the election for obvious beneficial reasons to Donald Trump and his campaign. But for the Afghans on either side or any side of this, it matters that peace comes through. And I think that's really what Mike Pompeo was trying to express when he said this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We will undoubtedly encounter many challenges during the talks over the coming days and weeks and months. When you do, remember, that you're acting not only for this generation of Afghans, but for future generations as well, your children and your grandchildren. So I cannot strongly enough urge you seize this opportunity, protect this process, respect each other, be patient remain focused on the mission.


KILEY: Now, clearly the Americans have made it clear that they want to be able to downsize the number of American troops there from 8,600 to 4,500 later in the fall clearly closer to the Election Day in the United States. But there's also a genuine understanding on all sides that these are going to be long, drawn out, and potentially quite painful negotiations. But negotiations that arguably could have happened long ago when the al-Qaeda movement which perpetrated 911 was effectively destroyed in 2001, 2002 and then the enemy became for the International Coalition, the Taliban.

Now, the two sides inside Afghanistan have got to find a way to live together politically of course that gives opportunities to other players in the region, particularly Russia, Iran, Pakistan, India to perhaps step into not a vacuum but a space left by American withdrawal, Fred.


WHITFIELD: All right, potentially important steps straight ahead. Sam Kiley in Abu Dhabi, thank you.

All right, we've got more news in a moment. But first coronavirus has made back to school quite challenging for just about everyone, especially children in foster care. Our 2013 CNN Hero created the organization One Simple Wish to make sure that they are not forgotten.


DANIELLE GLETOW, FOUNDER, ONE SIMPLE WISH: We immediately created a COVID-19 response fund, and started focusing on the things that we knew our young people were going to need, those being laptops and other technology to keep them current with remote learning, as well as basic essentials like food and assistance with rent or utility payments. We've seen an over 300 percent increase in needs coming in from our kids and young adults.

If you have ever been in foster care and you are struggling right now, please don't be ashamed to ask for help. We just want to make sure that everybody has a sense of support at a time when the whole world just feels completely out of control.