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California Wildfires; Storm Expected To Make Landfall In Louisiana As Hurricane; Few Masks Among Large Crowd At Latest Trump Rally; Navarro: Trump's Handling Of Outbreak "Straightforward"; Georgia Sheriff's Deputy Fired After Viral Arrest Video; California Wildfires Scorch Beloved Camp For Children With Cancer; Colorado's Secretary Of State Sues USPS Over Election Mailers; First NFL Sunday Since Pandemic Kicks Off. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired September 13, 2020 - 14:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:00:20]

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

Let's begin with the unprecedented wildfires tearing through communities across the West from Colorado to Oregon and California. At least 33 people are dead and dozens are reported missing. And you can see right here clouds of ash covering southern California skies.

The governor calling it a climate crisis that requires aggressive action. This as the mayor of Los Angeles offers a direct and forceful plea to President Donald J. Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES: (AUDIO GAP) to help states and refuses to help local governments that are the first responders to emergencies like this. It is unconscionable.

So instead of hitting the golf course or going on vacation the president and the Congress respectively should sit down this week and finally make sure that there is assistance for these brave men and women who are protecting our lives and protecting our property.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Tomorrow the president will be briefed by local and federal officials during a visit to McClendon Park in Sacramento County, California and at a campaign rally last night in Reno, Nevada, the president refused to call the wildfires a climate crisis instead he falsely claimed it's all a matter of forest management.

Let's go now to southern California and CNN's Paul Vercammen who is in Sierra Madre where residents are under evacuation warnings. So Paul, what are the conditions like there?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are absolutely treacherous for firefighters. You can see behind me. There's fire behind me in the canyons but the visibility is terrible. We're hearing the helicopters get up to drop water on this fire. It's the Bobcat Fire now 31,000 acres and those warnings have turned into mandatory evacuations for much of the neighborhoods up against the foothills here in Sierra Madre and neighboring Arcadia.

And this is all part of the huge fire fight going on in the western United States. We know that 30,000 firefighters are battling these blazes. We know that here in California alone we have had 16,750 firefighters on the line, 3.3 million acres burned as you highlighted. We have had at least 33 fatalities in the swarm of fires.

So right here in the Bobcat Fire they were able to add up to 800 firefighters, that's low. They would normally have as the chief says about 1,500 but resources are being shifted all around the west right now.

And we spoke with a public information officer on the Angeles Forest about the firefight right here in Sierra Madre.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW MITCHELL, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: The goal today is to really protect Sierra Madre and Arcadia. They're going to use air, ground, any kind of resources they have. And so there's an opportunity to back burn or strategically fire places and put some black in where they can put an anchor to really defend this area, they will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: and back here live now, as you look, we have got an ambulance at the ready. There's a search and rescue personnel at the ready. And what Andrew Mitchell was talking to me about blackening this is they may resort to fighting fire with fire if they think they're going to lose homes in this foothill neighborhood.

Reporting from Sierra Madre, I'm Paul Vercammen.

Now, back to you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Paul Vercammen, thank you so much.

All right. Washington state Governor Jay Inslee is blasting President Trump's response to the crisis telling ABC News the president's denial of the role climate change has played with these fires is, quote, "maddening".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE (D-WA): The only moisture in eastern Washington was the tears of people who have lost their homes and mingling with the ashes. And now we have a blow torch over our states in the west which is climate change. And we know that climate change is making the fires start easier, spread faster and intensify.

And it is maddening right now that when we have this cosmic challenge to our communities of the entire west coast of the United States on fire to have a president to deny that these are not just wildfires, these are climate fires.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. Dry conditions out west. And then in the southeast of this country people are dealing with a potential hurricane. They're bracing for it.

Right now Tropical Storm Sally is barreling towards the Gulf Coast and it's expected to make landfall in Louisiana as a hurricane in less than 48 hours. And that has prompted mandatory evacuations for communities along the Louisiana Coast.

[14:05:00]

WHITFIELD: CNN meteorologist Tom Sater is tracking the storm for us. Folks cannot get a break from that region.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No, unfortunately. And what makes this different than some of the others is the angle of approach and as it makes this way towards, let's say Plaquemines Paris, it's going to shove a lot of water well into every little inlet and stream.

Most of the activity is off to the east and the southeast but we're already starting to see lightning that's near the center. So that means it's trying to intensify and will get stronger.

Expected to be a hurricane at landfall, could possibly be as strong as a Category 2. Now, the models bring it right up into Louisiana. Remember Laura came in off to the west, still thousands are without power. They're still, you know, getting over that mess and of course, with a lot of the debris still around, these winds could be blowing that region as well at 50 miles an hour.

But here are our warnings. There it is Plaquemines Parish all the way up the north of (INAUDIBLE) in southern Mississippi as well. We've got tropical storm warnings that come back around the panhandle of Florida.

But when you watch this system and again, not just coming in perpendicular angle but sliding in Fredricka where it's going to bring a lot of water that's still upwelling underneath it and it's going to slide into this region.

So flooding is a big concern. In fact, look at this -- 7 to 11-foot storm surge and that's from Plaquemines Parish, northward even for Lake Pontchartrain, four to six feet. So besides the water coming in on shore, it's going to drop possibly 10 to 20 inches of rainfall.

So even though it's just a tropical storm right now and it's small in size, we're going to watch this region get buffeted with possibly not just hurricane force winds but gusts possibly over 100, 110 miles per hour.

This is the area where Laura moved in, so that's what I was talking about, with the debris still around and the thousands without power. They're going to have their hands full, as well. Not to mention many still evacuated.

You've got today and you've got tomorrow. I would leave anywhere along that coastline in southeastern parishes in Louisiana. Because this one, even though it's just a tropical storm right now, because of that angle, Fredericka, it's going to mean some business and most likely create a lot of damage in the days ahead.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right. Thanks for the warning and certainly don't leave, you know, too late. Really just don't press the clock on that.

SATER: Yes.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks a lot, Tom Sater. Appreciate that.

All right. More breaking news now. Two police officers are fighting for their lives after being ambushed while sitting in their patrol car in Compton, California. Surveillance cameras captured the moment the alleged gunman unprovoked walked up to a police cruiser with pair of L.A. County sheriff's deputies inside and then suddenly shot them both multiple times.

Officials say the suspect approached the patrol car from behind and acted as if he was going to walk by before randomly attacking the officers. The deputies are in surgery right now and the gunman still on the loose.

All right. Still ahead, no social distancing, few masks -- this is the scene at a Trump campaign rally as voters ignore the risks of coronavirus to support the president. Could rallies like this delay the country's recovery?

Plus, the White House says the president was straightforward about how the deadly virus was threatening the United States but Trump's own recorded interviews determine that that's a complete lie. The fallout next.

[14:08:11]

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WHITFIELD: The Mayor of Los Angeles is blasting the president for his handling of several major calamities impacting this country. Earlier today on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION", L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti told Jake Tapper that not only is President Trump wrong to blame Forest Management for the fires out West but Garcetti says the president lacks leadership on a number of issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARCETTI: This is a rough week for the president because he's failing on the basics. The basics of supporting our troops, the basics of responding to a fire, the basics of managing the worst health pandemic that we have had. We were the first city to close things down, the first city to opt for widespread testing but we had to go it alone. And we heard that consistently. That's up to the states. That's up to the local government. I had firefighters providing tests to people, volunteers to give their time because we had no leadership at the national level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Let me bring in now Dr. Ashish Jha who is the dean of Brown University School of Public Health. Doctor, good to see you this Sunday.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Thank you for having me on.

WHITFIELD: So this past week, we heard audio recordings of the president admitting that he knew about the dangers of COVID-19 very early on in early February. He chose to downplay the threat to the American public saying that he didn't want people to panic.

So how did that approach, in your view, jeopardize the overall welfare of the populace, the medical personnel, hospitals?

DR. JHA: Yes, so, you know, we have not had a serious response out of the White House, certainly not in the first many months of this pandemic. And that really did slow things down. It meant that we didn't build up a testing infrastructure. It meant we didn't get the protective equipment that doctors and nurses needed.

And the fact that the president knew how serious it was on one hand is heartening, I'm glad he knew but obviously then for him to not act on that information really handicapped us and unfortunately contributed to a lot of people getting sick and dying unnecessarily.

WHITFIELD: Yes and despite knowing the dangers, you know, of this easily transmitted virus, the president all along, you know, whether it be from March on continues to hold campaign rallies, thousands of people gathered, tightly packed in small, confined places. In some cases they had to, you know, write -- they had to sign, you know, that they're there at their own risk.

And then at yesterday's rally in Nevada, you know, few people were wearing masks or even socially distancing. And take a listen to what some of the president's supporters have been saying about this virus and the seriousness or lack thereof of the whole pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you not wearing a masks?

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

[14:14:56]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? Because it doesn't do anything really.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These little things? This is the worst pandemic in the world? A little mask? A little mask?

This protects you from the world's deadliest and scariest virus that ruined our economy? And we have to wear this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone who's here signed up and will have to understand they're taking a risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not worried about all these people in here not wearing masks?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not worried about it. I'm more worried about like the state of our country more than anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So it is baffling, is it not? I mean on one hand, you've got the president who is willingly, knowingly, you know, helping to advocate people's lives being put at risk by not wearing masks, being, you know, in tight spaces. And at the flip side of that, you've got followers who are saying I don't really see any real danger at all.

DR. JHA: Yes. So one of the major problems of fighting this pandemic has been the campaign of misinformation. That has been played out through social media platforms like Facebook that have really become the reason why so many Americans are not taking it seriously. And on some level I have real sympathy for people.

All day you hear this is nothing but the flu and it's now serious and it's a hoax. You can imagine why people start believing it.

But it is the job of the president who clearly knows better, we know he knows better because he told Bob Woodward he knows better. It is his job to tell his supporters and tell all Americans how serious this is. That would make it much, much easier to fight the pandemic.

WHITFIELD: And then you've got the president who is also touting there's going to be a vaccine, it will be ready for everybody very soon. Despite, you know, his health experts have been doubting the kind of timeline that something is going to come in October or November and be ready for the populace.

So today the CEO of Pfizer says that his company refused taxpayer money to remain independent. Are you confident the vaccine will not be rushed to public use for the sake of politics?

DR. JHA: So I think we are all hoping that we're going to let science drive the decision making and the time line for when the vaccine is available and when it is approved and when it becomes available. As soon as the science says it is ready and we have the evidence, that's when we should do it.

I think the concern that I and a lot of other people have is we have seen the FDA and other federal agencies unfortunately make very politically-motivated decisions. As long as we let the scientists at the FDA make the decision, I will feel much more comfortable. If we end up letting the politicians makes the decision then obviously all bets are off and we have to be very, very careful. But I'm hoping that won't happen.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Ashish Jha, always good to see you. Thank you so much.

DR. JHA: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let me also bring in now CNN's Rebecca Buck at the White House for us.

So Rebecca, the president's trade adviser Peter Navarro tried to argue vociferously that the president has been straightforward with the public.

Rebecca, can you hear me ok?

REBECCA BUCK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Oh, sorry, Fred. I thought we were cutting to some audio from Jake's interview this morning. But I will tell you a little bit about that first.

Peter Navarro, of course, the president's trade adviser here at the White House vociferously, as you said, defending the president's position on coronavirus and the tone he has taken.

As the president comes under fire for his comments to Bob Woodward in this forthcoming book but comments caught on tape. You can hear the audio for yourself, the president admitting to Woodward that he understood how serious the coronavirus pandemic was, how deadly the COVID pandemic was, even as he was telling the public a very different story.

So I want you to listen to this pushback that Peter Navarro gave to our Jake Tapper earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Why wasn't the president straightforward with the American people?

(CROSSTALK)

DR. PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISOR: You had Dr. Fauci saying that there was -- he was straightforward.

TAPPER: No, he wasn't.

NAVARRO: There was -- look, look. Jake, Jake, I'm telling you --

TAPPER: It is a very basic question. Right, you want to talk about what you want to talk about.

NAVARRO: You're just cherry picking.

TAPPER: No, I'm not cherry picking. On February 7 he knew that it was in the air, that it was five times deadlier than the flu.

NAVARRO: You are beating this -- no.

TAPPER: That's on the tape.

NAVARRO: He expressed that to Woodward but at the same time he's getting --

TAPPER: Two weeks later he is saying that the flu is deadlier than the coronavirus. Why wasn't he honest?

NAVARRO: Jake, you just don't want to listen, Jake. You just don't want to listen.

TAPPER: I want you to answer the question.

NAVARRO: I am answering your question. You just don't like the answer.

TAPPER: He knew it was deadlier than the flu and he was lying to the American people two weeks later.

NAVARRO: No. Jake, Jake, you're cherry picking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCK: So Peter Navarro saying that the president was straightforward with the American public and that those who say otherwise are cherry picking. But you need only to look at the president's comments this week to see that he continues to employ this magical sort of thinking when it comes to the coronavirus.

[14:19:52]

BUCK: He said this week he believes that the country is rounding a corner even as we approach 200,000 deaths from the COVID pandemic. And Dr. Anthony Fauci saying this week he doesn't think the end is anywhere in sight even with a virus (SIC). He thinks it will take as much as a year for things to go back to normal, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And Rebecca, it's fascinating to hear the argument taking place this morning when the president himself, you know, is acknowledging, admitting that yes he said that in that interview and he justified this week by saying, you know, this is my approach to being calm. He wanted to have that calming effect on America and compared himself to Churchill in World War II. So it's perplexing now why, you know, Peter Navarro or anybody else would now try to tell everybody that's not what he said even though you just heard it on audio tape.

BUCK: That's right. Obviously trying to have it both ways here but the White House -- obviously everything should be looked at right now in the context of this reelection campaign for the president. We have seen the polling where he is trailing Joe Biden in many of these key battleground states.

And one of the key questions is going to be the president's handling of this pandemic and was he straightforward with the American people? And if voters believe at the end of the day that he was not, that could be incredibly damaging to the president. And I think that's why you're hearing what you're hearing from his advisers today, Fred. WHITFIELD: All right. Rebecca Buck, thanks so much at the White House,

appreciate it.

BUCK: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Coming up, a sheriff's deputy fired after video surfaces of him hitting a man repeatedly. The latest on the investigation straight ahead.

[14:21:23]

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WHITFIELD: A sheriff's deputy in Georgia has now been fired after being caught on camera using excessive force. The Clayton County officer relieved of his duties today after this arrest video was caught on video and shared online. The deputy shown holding down this man on the ground and striking him repeatedly in the head and face.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher joining me now from Clayton County just south of Atlanta. So Dianne, what more are you learning?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Fred, look, that deputy being fired is not good enough for the protesters who are gathering here outside of the Clayton County sheriff's office.

I want you to take a look. They're all just starting to show up for this protest here. They want not just that deputy be fired, they want him to be charged and they want the other deputies seen on camera on that video that went viral to be charged and fired, as well.

Now, this happened on Friday night. Roderick Walker was with his family, his girlfriend and one of his children. According to his attorney they had returned a rental car and they had hired a driver to take them back. The attorney says that the driver was pulled over for some sort of taillight violation by an unmarked car and then when the deputy asked Mr. Walker for his I.D. Mr. Walker did not have it with him and told him that why do you need to know? I'm not the driver of the car.

At that point, they say that the deputy became upset with him and told him to exit the car. And we have seen the video of what happens there, as well. We have a photo of Mr. Walker, he's been beat up pretty badly.

His family says they're concerned about his health right now. His attorney says that he has a concussion.

Now, the sheriff says that they have -- that they've taken a look at him and seen it. I did speak to some protesters who were out here a little bit earlier. They said that this is bigger than Roderick Walker. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes me wonder when will -- will my son be next? When is my son going to be on TV? And I'll be the one standing there going please don't burn the city down because he wouldn't want this. No. I'm not going to wait my turn. We got to stop this and we've got to stop this now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hurt. I have a little boy, he's running around here. He's happy and unaware that he is existing in a world where there are police forces out here that are going to approach him simply because of our skin color. This has got to stop today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: And that's the scene out here so far in front of the Clayton County sheriff's office.

Fred, the Clayton County sheriff said that they have turned the case over to the district attorney though meanwhile Roderick Walker is still in jail. He is being held on unrelated warrants according to the sheriff. His attorney, the protesters out here and his family say they want him released now.

WHITFIELD: So Dianne, in the video that we see there appear to be two officers. But it's one that has been released from his duties. What's the story on two?

GALLAGHER: So the protesters out here would like to see that other deputy also be fired and, of course, be charged for them. The sheriff hasn't commented on what is to come of that second deputy at this point.

They did acknowledge, of course, it is on video, there were two there who were involved in this situation but at this point, the only deputy that's been addressed is the one who's been fired and the one that you see there actually beating Mr. Walker there on the ground.

At this point, the sheriff hasn't even released their identities yet, Fred.

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

All right. Next -- unconstitutional and dishonest? That's what President Trump is calling mail-in voting as he spreads false conspiracies about fraud. Could his lies undermine American confidence in the election?

I'll talk to the Colorado Secretary of State next.

[14:29:47]

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[14:30:00]

WHITFIELD: Active wildfires have wiped out 4.6 million acres across a dozen states, taking homes, businesses and lives, among the casualties, a camp for pediatric cancer patients and their families. In Northern California, Camp Okizu hosts about 700 kids each year along with their siblings and parents, giving them a respite from hospitals and doctor appointments. Well now, this is all that is left of it.

Joining me right now is Dr. Mike Amylon, he is the co-Founder and Medical Director for the Camp Okizu. Doctor, so good to see you.

DR. MIKE AMYLON, CO-FOUNDER, CAMP OKIZU: Well, thank you very much for the opportunity.

WHITFIELD: I know this is so heartbreaking. Give me an idea of what this camp represents, what it has done, how it has really complemented so many lives of children and parents who are going through so much.

AMYLON: Well, as you mentioned, one of the major themes is respite. I'm sure that most people can understand that having a child diagnosed with cancer has to rank high up on the list of nightmares for any parent.

[14:35:01]

And the reality of that experience is often worse than even what people imagine.

Cancer in children has the -- the outcome has improved a lot in recent years but the price the families pay is very high, the treatment is very massive, there's been a lot of time in the hospitals, a lot of difficult procedures, a lot of side effects, they're separated from their schoolmates and social networks and the activities they have been participating in and everyone in the family is impacted because it's such an all-consuming ask to deal with the cancer.

And so to have a place where they can put that away, focus on being kids or just relaxing in terms of the parents let some other people take responsibility for the day-to-day kinds of logistics for a while and get that break is wonderful.

WHITFIELD: Yes. I imagine how hard it is though now, Doctor, to reflect on those beautiful memories and now we are looking at the images of what's left of the camp, I mean, this hallowed out one structure and that pickup truck. What does it do to see these images? Because at this point, you have not actually seen it in person yourself, have you?

AMYLON: No, I have seen it only in the pictures. I'm anxious to be able get up there. But it will be a while before it would be safe to let people in, absolutely heartbreaking, devastating.

And it's really the people that give Okizu its strength and the kids and the parents sharing their experiences with each other because they are the only ones who understand but they come to feel about the space where that happens as it's a safe refuge for them. It's a place where they can be themselves, where they feel like they are valued and validated. A lot of the kids say it's the only place where they feel that they can be relaxed and be themselves. And to have that taken away is certainly very difficult for all of us.

WHITFIELD: And, you know, I know the fires are still doing. It's too dangerous to traverse the land to see what's left and how you rebuild from there. But what are you imagining in terms of how you go from here, what is next, will there be another Camp Okizu?

AMYLON: Well, the first answer is that we are determined that there will be another Camp Okizu. It is too important not to do that. I mean, it is a lot of fun for the people that's there but it also is an important part of their treatment. At the hospital, we can deal with the physical issues pretty well but we're not as well-equipped to deal with the psychosocial and emotional overlay and camp is really the perfect place for that.

I'd like to say that camps should be a prescribed part of the treatment for every child diagnosed with cancer. And there are camps like ours all across the country and in Canada that try to provide that same service. We don't know what that will look like yet. And, obviously, until we get up there to see what's happened and what's left and what's not left, it will be hard to develop any kind of concrete plan but we are determined that we will find a way to bring that back. It is too important to let it disappear.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it is clear, the determination to make it happen in the first place, I mean, it is evident you still have that same determination to make sure something else will rise from those ashes. Dr. Mike Amylon, thank you so much and all the best to you, wishing all of you the best in very difficult times.

AMYLON: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: And if you're interested in finding out more about the camp, you can help, you can visit their website and for more information about how you can help everyone impacted by these devastating wildfires on the west coast, go to cnn.com/impact.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:40:00]

WHITFIELD: All right. With just over seven weeks until Election Day, the controversy now over mail-in voting continues to heat up. Colorado secretary of state filed a lawsuit this weekend against the Postal Service, the U.S. Postal Service, as well as the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, and other officials at the embattled agency. Jena Griswold claims that a pre-election mailer sent by the Postal Service includes information that will mislead voters in her state of Colorado.

And last night, a federal judge temporarily barred the Postal Service from sending those fliers. That temporary restraining order lasts until September 22nd.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold joining me right now. Good to see you.

JENA GRISWOLD, COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE: Nice to see you. Thanks for having me on.

WHITFIELD: So, isn't it the case that Colorado elections are all mail- in anyway? And if so, you know, explain how the flyers came about and how it now adds to confusion.

GRISWOLD: It is the case. So, in Colorado, we believe in easy and accessible elections. So all Coloradoans have to do is register to vote and then they're sent to mail ballots and they can conveniently return it to one of hundreds of drop boxes by the mail or even by voting in person.

But issue is, Fredricka, is that the Postal Service is sending out a notice telling Colorado voters that they have to sign up for a mail ballot, which is incorrect, and also recommending a different timeline than what we recommend for returning the ballot by mail.

[14:45:13]

WHITFIELD: So, doesn't it appear as though the Postal Service is sending some sort of universal, you know, guidepost or instruction and without knowing anything about how every state might be handling mail- in, absentee ballot type of voting?

GRISWOLD: That's exactly right. They're sending one postcard to every U.S. P.O. box and household in the nation with the same information. The problem is that elections and how they work shifts state to state.

But I do think the U.S. Postal Service is striking on something, and that's the idea that all Americans should have the same voting rights as Coloradoans. In Colorado, we have the highest percentage of eligible people registered. We always lead the nation in turnout, and that's because we have vote by mail for all.

So I would love to see the nation adopt Colorado's election model and guarantee that every American receive a mail ballot right to their home.

WHITFIELD: And even though there is a court ordered suspension now of those fliers that are going out from the Postal Service, is it your concern or even worry that there may have been damage already done to Coloradoans even if they're accustomed to mail-in all the time, now getting this notice might confuse a few?

GRISWOLD: That's right. And we do know that at least some of the notices already went out. I was alerted that the postcard to go out on Friday. We sued Friday night and are trying to stop as many of the notices as possible from going out.

I just returned this week from a visit to one of the tribes in Colorado, the Ute Mountain Ute. And we've been working with the tribes to make sure we are increasing tribal participation, including guaranteeing for the first time a vote center and a drop box at all tribal lands.

But to share with you in that part of Colorado, the mail takes longer. So we recommend that people in that part of Colorado and Southwest Colorado mail their ballot back eight days before the election. USPS is sending a notice that they should do it seven days before an election. I don't want the United States Postal Service to accidentally confuse someone and disenfranchise them from having their voice heard in this just such an important election.

WHITFIELD: So, what do you think is a next step before you're able to, you know, see that your suit ends in time for Election Day?

GRISWOLD: Well, so, a temporary restraining order was granted yesterday. Unfortunately, the United States Postal Service is now fighting the temporary restraining order.

WHITFIELD: And that's only until September 22nd, right?

GRISWOLD: That's right. That's right. But we have an underlying lawsuit where we're just saying, don't send the postcards ever. So, either way, we'll make sure that Colorado voters understand the correct information but I just wish the post office wouldn't have sent the notices in Colorado when we asked them on Friday.

WHITFIELD: Do you feel like it was intentional to confuse people?

GRISWOLD: Well, you know, it very well could have started in a good place of making sure that voters have confidence and using the mail for voting. But I do think when we see the pattern of voter suppression out of the president in his use of the post office to try to suppress voters, I do think it's suspect.

So we just have to make sure that the media and election officials are getting good information out to voters and everybody watching should check their registration right now, make a plan to vote and make sure to vote early. That's key in this election.

WHITFIELD: Secretary Jena Griswold, thank you so much, all the best.

GRISWOLD: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Straight ahead, Sunday night football returns with limited fans in the seats but growing calls for social justice. Details, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:50:00]

WHITFIELD: All this week in a special series called, Champions for Change, CNN will be bringing you inspiring stories of average people doing extraordinary things.

And kicking us off, a woman that we caught up with in Wyoming just before the pandemic. She grows succulent tomatoes, crisp lettuce and bright micro-greens in the dead of winter. This champion has figured out how to do it successfully with a remarkable group of vertical farmers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NONA YEHIA, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, VERTICAL HARVEST: Jackson Hole exists at 6,200 feet. We are surrounded by Yellowstone National Park and Teton National Park. There are not many farmers in this reason. So there's a real need for good, quality produce in our town.

We came together to look for an out of the box solution. We wanted to grow as much food as possible in our town, employ as many people as possible and do both year around and that's where the idea to go up came from.

Vertical Harvest is really an evolution.

[14:55:01]

None of us set out to be vertical farmers. I'm an architect by trade and I've always believed in the power of architecture to be a vehicle for social change.

On a tenth of an acre, we grow now the equivalent of ten acres worth of food. We grow tomatoes, lettuces, micro-greens. We serve four different grocery stores in our town and over 40 restaurants.

BEN WESTENBURG, EXECUTIVE CHEF, PERSEPHONE WEST BANK: It's a very cold snowy place which poses a lot of problems for getting fresh produce. The way Nona has approached it is bringing something unique to those chefs that they can use and feature all year around.

YEHIA: Creating a local source of produce was the inception of the project. But and then as we came together, we realized that there was also a big problem, people with physical and intellectual disabilities in our town who want to work, who want to find consistent and meaningful work, were not able to do so.

I have a brother with disabilities and I think I've been an advocate for this population before I even understood what the word meant. We're pairing innovation with an underserved population and really creating a sea change of perception of what this population is

able to do. And we have created an amazing, committed, loyal crew of unexpected farmers.

JOHNNY FIFLES, EMPLOYEE, VERTICAL HARVEST: I'm a micro-green grower. I take some seeds and I lay them on the medium, one layer, no more, no less.

YEHIA: Johnny is a graduate of the University of Wyoming and, really, we count on him to accurately seed every type of micro-green. He is the person that we trust most.

SEAN STONE, EMPLOYEE, VERTICAL HARVEST: I'm grateful for Nona for hiring me so I can work at this job and help grow produce.

YEHIA: Sean washed dishes for most of his career. And the thing is that Sean never had an opportunity to really show to his employer what he can do. Sean is incredibly unique in that he knows how to make this ecosystem run. And while before he had a job, now he has a purpose. We can empower the most underserved in our communities just by giving them a chance. Everybody here is a champion and everybody here is dedicated to change. And everyone here has shown their ability to change things profoundly in our community.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And we'll continue to share these inspirational stories all week and be sure to watch the Champions for Change one-hour special this Saturday at 10:00 P.M.

Today marks the first Sunday of the NFL season since the coronavirus pandemic began. And many players are taking a stand for social justice. So far, seven teams have decided not to take the field for the national anthem.

CNN's Andy Scholes joins me now from Jacksonville, Florida. So, Andy, we have seen other professional sports leagues take stands against social injustice. So what are NFL teams doing?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, the continued fight for social justice is a big part of NFL's opening week. And as a part of the continued fight for social justice, the NFL is playing both the black national anthem, which is the song, Lift Every Voice and Sing, and the normal national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner, before every game this week. And teams really split on how they handle that thus far.

For the early games today, seven teams decided to remain in the locker room for both anthems while the other 11 teams were on the field for them. And here in Jacksonville, where we are, the Jaguars remained in the back, in the locker rooms, while the Colts locked arms together on the field with just one person, Head Coach Frank Reich taking a knee for the national anthem.

Now in Atlanta, meanwhile, Quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson getting together and speaking before the game and they decided after kickoff both teams would take a knee right there on the field to protest social injustice.

In Minnesota, the Vikings, they were honoring George Floyd today before their game. They had a video tribute for him and then his family was on hand and they did not play or blow the normal Vikings horn like they always do before games in honor of Floyd. And players all around the league today wearing decals on their helmets with George Floyd's name on them and other messages, such as end racism and it takes all of us. Those messages also painted in both end zones around the league today.

And, Fredricka, this game here in Jacksonville, the only game with fans in the stands, you might see behind me, so they allowed tailgating and they parked cars, every other car, you had to wear a mask in order to go into the game and wear it at all times unless you're eating or drinking.

I was in the game just moments ago. [15:00:01]

Fans were separated all around the stadium. They are only allowing up to around 16,000 fans for this game.