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Hurricane Sally May Strengthen to Category Two; Live Coverage of President Trump Press Statement; Interview with Xavier University President Reynold Verret. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 14, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: That will be Thursday at 8:00 p.m., only on CNN.

It is the top of the hour, I'm Brianna Keilar and thank you so much for joining me. We are following right now three urgent crises engulfing the nation: a pandemic, out-of-control wildfires and a hurricane that is taking aim at the Gulf Coast.

Moments ago, we heard Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden addressing the climate crisis in a campaign speech and blasting President Trump for ignoring the science behind the climate threat. This as the president is in California right now, being briefed on the wildfires that have ravaged that state. The fires have killed at least 30 people and are decimating California, Oregon, Colorado and other Western states.

And in the meantime, the coronavirus is spreading across college campuses in all 50 states. The new case rate, stuck at about 35,000 new infections a day.

First, let's get to this hurricane threat though. Sally is now a Category One hurricane, and is expected to grow even stronger before making landfall tomorrow. Mississippi and Alabama's entire coasts, under a hurricane warning.

We have meteorologist Jennifer Gray tracking Sally for us. So tell us, Jennifer, what we can expect here.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the storm is moving very, very slowly, and I think that's going to be the big story with this storm. Because it's such a slow-moving storm, it will dump a lot of rain, we're talking about one to two feet of rain across the Gulf Coast.

It's also strengthening rapidly, and nothing's going to stop this from strengthening more before it makes landfall. So we could end up with a high-end Category Two by landfall. Winds of 90 miles per hour right now with gusts of 115, moving at only seven miles per hour.

And you can see the outer bands already making it on shore, the Big Bend of Florida all the way down to the southern coast. And you can see the Gulf Coast getting some of these showers as well, the panhandle.

So despite this storm slowly marching to the north and some of these outer bands already making it on-shore, this storm is going to continue to strengthen over the next 12 to 24 hours. This could be a Category Two by 7:00 this evening, stay a Category Two by the time it makes landfall very closely overnight, Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, a potential landfall unless it marches a little bit farther to the west and makes landfall across extreme southeast Louisiana -- time will tell.

Regardless, this could be 100-plus-mile-per-hour storm by the time it makes landfall. So definitely, we're going to be watching the storm not only with the amount of rain that it's going to bring, the wind, but really the flooding is I think what's really going to be impactful with this storm.

We could see more than 20 inches of rain in some isolated spots, so one to two feet of rain is definitely going to be in the realm of possibilities. You can see these areas shaded in hot pink along the Mississippi-Alabama coast, even portions of Louisiana.

We know New Orleans is extremely vulnerable, they rely on the levy and the pumping system that's really going to be tested with this storm as well, especially with the storm moving so slowly and all the water being pushed into New Orleans off of Lake Pontchartrain, that's something that we'll be monitoring as well.

Seven to 11 feet of storm surge right here along the southeast Louisiana coast, Mississippi coastline. Other areas could see five to eight feet of storm surge, and so the storm surge will also be something to watch.

Here are the areas that are leveed, the areas shaded in white. So these areas, of course, will be tested as they are with all of these storms, so we'll be watching the levee system as well as those pumps out of New Orleans.

Seventy-four to 110 mile-per-hour winds in those areas shaded in red, across the Louisiana coast, Mississippi and Alabama. But points far to the north, we could see 60, 70-mile-per-hour winds with this storm. And it's moving so slowly, it's just going to sit there.

Not to mention also with these storms comes a tornado threat for the next several days as well, so hurricane warnings shaded in red and then the blue and yellow are the tropical storm warnings, and watches, Brianna, this storm we'll be watching closely over the next couple of days.

KEILAR: All right, and we'll be checking in with you, Jennifer. Thank you so much for that.

Now to coronavirus, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer is now warning that if the COVID-19 vaccine needs to doses, the world won't have enough until 2024. This is according to the Serum Institute of India, and it estimates that the world would need about 15 billion doses if that is the case. Several of the current vaccines in the U.S. have given their

volunteers two doses of vaccine during at least one phase of their clinical trials, but one of the top contenders for a vaccine is offering some encouraging news. the CEO of Pfizer says it is likely the teams testing his company's vaccine candidate will know whether it works by the end of October.


ALBERT BOURLA, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, PFIZER: In our base case, we have quite a good chance, more than 60 percent. But we will (ph) know if the product works or not by the end of October. But of course, doesn't mean that it works, it means that we will know if it works.



KEILAR: Now, we have some stunning new tape of President Trump trying to persuade veteran journalist Bob Woodward that he has handled the coronavirus absolutely perfectly. The president, calling Woodward just one month ago -- this was on August 14th -- for their 19th conversation, and this happened after Woodward's book on the trump presidency, "Rage," had already been written and was in at the publishers'.

I want to get more now on this from our CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel. What does this tape reveal, Jamie?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So just for context, let's remind everybody that on August 14th, more than 168,000 Americans have died from the virus, more than 1,300 Americans died that very day.

But we now know from this audio recording of the phone call that when President Trump calls Woodward, he's focused on something else. He's learned that Woodward's new book is coming out in September, and so he calls Woodward clearly to try to find out how he's going to be portrayed.

His focus is not on the virus, it's on the stock market. And Woodward begins by telling him the book is, quote, "tough."


BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST (via telephone): It's a tough book, sir. And you have your say and they're going to be -- there's going to be a lot of controversy about it, I expect.

The whole business with the COVID and dealing with that is laid out, and so it's -- it's close to the bone and you helped me get there, and I appreciate that.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): All right. Well, we've done better than most countries with COVID. You're starting to see that.

WOODWARD (via telephone): I mean, there are parts of the book you're not going to like, and --

TRUMP (via telephone): What won't I like, Bob?

WOODWARD (via telephone): Well, just you know, there is -- it's tough times. The virus, as you repeatedly told me and as you've said publicly, it's derailed things. And it's a big reality in people's lives, as you know. So I will get it to you and --

TRUMP (via telephone): You know the market's coming back very strong, you do know that?

WOODWARD (via telephone): Yes, of course. And you know --

TRUMP (via telephone): Did you cover that in the book?

WOODWARD (via telephone): Yes, oh, sure.


GANGEL: And, Brianna, listen to this next exchange. Trump keeps talking about the stock market, that's what he clearly thinks is important, that's what he thinks is critical to get him re-elected. The two men go back and forth, and Woodward keeps reminding him about the virus.


WOODWARD (via telephone): It's going to be a contest between you and Biden, it's going to be a contest between both of you and the virus. The virus is said -- because it's in real people's lives, you know, all those tens of millions of people who don't have jobs, who don't have --

TRUMP (via telephone): I know.

WOODWARD (via telephone): -- that income -- listen, I mean, you and I --

TRUMP (via telephone): But nothing more could have been done, nothing more could have been done.

WOODWARD (via telephone): Well --

TRUMP (via telephone): I acted early.

WOODWARD (via telephone): We'll --

TRUMP (via telephone): I acted early. So we'll see.

WOODWARD (via telephone): -- this will be the history that we start the first draft of. And it will continue and --

TRUMP (via telephone): So you think the virus totally supersedes the economy?

WOODWARD (via telephone): Oh, sure. But they're related, as you know. TRUMP (via telephone): A little bit, yes.

WOODWARD (via telephone): A little bit? I mean --

TRUMP (via telephone): I mean, more than a little bit. But the economy is doing -- look, we're close to a new stock market record.


GANGEL: And you know, Brianna, just to hear him say nothing more could have been done, I acted early? We know that's not true. There is plenty more that could have been done: masks, social distancing. He's still mocking masks, and look at that indoor rally yesterday.

KEILAR: Yes. And Jamie, I understand that you've gone back over the book again and that you're seeing a pattern of what Trump was saying about COVID privately to Woodward.

GANGEL: So when we first got the book, we saw that he tells Woodward in February and March how serious and deadly and dangerous it is, and that he's playing it down. But as you go through the book and as you heard from that phone call on August 14th, there's clearly a pattern of misleading the public, playing down COVID but privately telling Woodward something else.

And just to give you two examples, in April -- this is on April 5th -- while Trump is publicly saying it's going to go away, he tells Woodward, "It's a horrible thing --



KEILAR: Jamie, if you can pause for just a moment --


KEILAR: -- the president is speaking in California, let's listen.

TRUMP: -- I think you're going to be able to go and take a few pictures, a shot. We may or may not keep you there as far as I'm concerned, I'd be OK with it. But maybe -- maybe the state would rather not have that and that's OK with me too.

So we're going to go in right now. Then we're going, as you know, to Arizona. We're meeting with a very great group of people -- Hispanic people who have done really well and they understand exactly what's happening, and we've had tremendous support, as you know and you can see from probably everything including polls.

I don't give a lot of significance to polls, even though we've been getting very good polls. We just got a very good one from Rasmussen, as you probably saw. And we certainly got a very good one from within the Republican Party, 95 to 96 percent.

So we're going to do our meeting now with the state officials including the governor, and then I'll see you in a little while and then ultimately -- and we're also giving seven medals to seven great, really heroes. Really, truly heroes. And I look forward to doing that. We'll be doing that, we're going to have a little bit of a press conference inside, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you like to see specifically done on the issue of forest management? And is it possible that it's also forest management and climate change, it's both things at the same time?

TRUMP: Well, I think something's possible. I think a lot of things are possible. But with regard to the forests, when trees fall down, after a short period of time -- about 18 months -- they become very dry, they become really like a matchstick, and they get up -- you know, there's no more water pouring through and they become very, very -- they just explode. They can explode.

Also leaves, when you have years of leaves, dried leaves on the ground, it just sets it up. It's really a fuel for a fire. So they have to do something about it.

They also have to do cuts. I mean, people don't like to do cuts, but they have to do cuts in between. So if you do have a fire and it gets away, you'll have a 50-yard cut in between so it won't be able to catch to the other side, they don't do that.

If you go to other countries, you go to Austria, you go to Finland, you go to many different countries, and they don't have fires (ph) -- I was talking to a head of a major country and he said, we're a forest nation, we consider ourselves a forest nation. This was in Europe. I said, that's a beautiful term.

He said, we have trees that are far more explosive -- he meant explosive in terms of fire, but -- we have trees that are far more explosive than they have in California, and we don't have any problem because we manage our forests. So we have to do that in California, too.

So I'll go do this and we'll see you in a little while. Thank you, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you mentioned about forest management --

KEILAR: All right, I want to bring in Jamie Gangel to this, to talk about this. He's there in California, Jamie. You have a ton of people there who are victims of forest fires. They're on the leading edge of being victims of climate change --

GANGEL: Correct.

KEILAR: -- and the president is victim-blaming?

GANGEL: There just seems to be -- and we've seen this pattern over and over, this disconnect between people who are suffering and what the president says, whether it's in this case or with the pandemic, or with the Black Lives Matter protest, you know, when Woodward asked him how he felt about that, he said to Woodward, well, you drank the Kool- Aid.

There is just a pattern of a lack of empathy and understanding about these situations.

KEILAR: And let's go back to the comments that we learn from you obtaining this tape of the 19th conversation between Bob Woodward and President Trump, where he asks Woodward -- and this -- I mean, this to me is just the part that is -- it -- I mean, it's just -- what is it?

He says, "You think the virus supersedes the economy?" And one, it speaks to that lack of empathy that you're talking about --

GANGEL: Right.

KEILAR: -- but it also seems to speak to a complete lack of understanding about how a good coronavirus response is a foundation for economic recovery. He seems to think that you don't address the virus, and instead you throw bodies at the problem, not just money --

GANGEL: Right, it's --

KEILAR: -- bodies at the problem.

GANGEL: And just to underscore, this is on August 14th, this is a month ago, when we are six, seven months into this. And it's not as if people have not said to him that first you have to flatten the curve, address the virus and then the economy comes back, he has heard this over and over again. We know he watches television a lot, so we know he's heard it on television a lot.


But there is a disconnect. He is thinking about the stock market, he is thinking about what he thinks will help him get re-elected. And you get this sense, when he says, you know, you think -- he's asking Woodward, you think the virus supersedes the economy? That here we are with almost 200,000 Americans who have died, and his focus is on the stock market. Last night he had those indoor rallies, he's still mocking people who wear masks. It's unimaginable.

KEILAR: And we're in the middle of this still, right? This isn't just Monday morning quarterbacking. We are still in the first half of the game, and this is about how he proceeds, moving forward. What is he focused on? Is he focused on the stock market, which, you know --

GANGEL: Right.

KEILAR: -- for a lot of people, that doesn't affect them. Or is he focused on the coronavirus, which is making it clear that it is affecting everyone. So it's not just these actions that he didn't take in the past, this is about what he's going to do moving forward. And this being just a month ago, Jamie, really makes you wonder if he has even a better grip on what's happening with the benefit of hindsight here. GANGEL: I don't think we've seen any difference from August 14th to

September 14th. He's still mocking masks, there is still insufficient testing and tracing, we still don't have a plan, we are still losing a thousand Americans a day.

KEILAR: Yes, it's stunning, and we're going into flu season. Jamie, thank you so much for your --

GANGEL: Thank you.

KEILAR: -- very good report. Jamie Gangel.

There are two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies who were ambushed and shot in the head while they sat in their patrol car. They are now in stable condition. Both President Trump and Joe Biden have been weighing in on this horrific attack.

Biden tweeting, quote, "This cold-blooded shooting is unconscionable and the perpetrator must be brought to justice. Violence of any kind is wrong, those who commit it should be caught and punished."

And then President Trump, retweeting the video of the shooting with the caption, "Animals that must be hit hard!" Here's how he addressed last night at his rally in Nevada.


TRUMP: Tonight, we send our love and our support to their families, and we pray to God for their recovery. And we also believe that if you murder a police officer, you should receive the death penalty --


TRUMP: -- and that's something that's (INAUDIBLE).


KEILAR: Now, the gunman, despite being on tape, is still at large.

Sara Sidner is following this for us from Compton where the shooting took place. And, Sara, we should warn our viewers, the video of the incident is very disturbing. You tell us how the officers are doing, and if we've learned anything about the shooter here?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is indeed disturbing, and I'll let you see that video now, but just be warned it really is horrific. What you're going to be seeing there is surveillance video. The video shows these two deputies. You can't see the deputies themselves, but you can see the shooter walk up towards the car and fire off multiple rounds in that ambush.

The sheriff, saying basically this was a cowardly act. The person actually ran away afterwards, and you see them sort of running and scampering off. The shooting actually happened at a metro station in Compton, the sheriff saying that his two deputies were there trying to make sure people were safe on the train, and they end up being shot. We know that a 31-year-old mother was shot, one of the deputies was a

31-year-old mother, the other her 24-year-old partner. They'd only been on the force for about 14 months, so new to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. And here they are, facing a life-or-death situation. Miraculously, they were shot at point-blank range, both of them are expected to survive.

But I do want to mention something that happened overnight. They were rushed to the hospital of course -- in (ph) this hospital, St. Francis Hospital. And there were about five or six people who decided to go out and protest against the deputies who had been shot, saying horrifying things as if they wanted these deputies to die, literally saying that out loud. And so you saw a bit of a chaotic scene for a few moments outside of the hospital there.

The mayor responding to that, saying that there is just no place for that kind of language and for that kind of wish at a time when these two deputies are struggling with their lives, one of them with a small child, trying to survive a shooting that was just absolutely -- according to the sheriff -- an ambush there.

And you can see the video, an absolutely terrifying moment that these deputies never saw coming, the person sneaking up on them and just firing into the car over and over.

I do want to mention something else. We keep using the word "him," but we do not know who this is and it's very hard to tell whether it's a him or a her because of the video that you're seeing there, in very baggy clothes. And they, at this point in time, Brianna, do not know who this suspect is, but there is a manhunt under way as you might imagine -- Brianna.


KEILAR: All right. Sara, thank you so much. And certainly good news to hear about the condition of those deputies, we appreciate it.

Moments ago, the president touching down in California as wildfires ravage the West Coast. And again, he is blaming victims.

Plus, as 45,000 cases are reported at college campuses across the nation, one university is now testing asymptomatic students.

And we have more on our breaking news, the world's largest vaccine maker is raising a big red flag, saying that if people need two doses of this vaccine -- which very much may be the case -- the world will not have enough until 2024.



KEILAR: Vaccine maker Moderna says it has found more people of color willing to participate in its coronavirus vaccine trial. The manufacturer said enrollment in its phase three trial has increased to more than 23,000 participants. The current breakdown along racial lines is 59 percent white, 22 percent Hispanic, 11 percent black and five percent Asian.

Moderna has been frank about the need for more diversity in their vaccine program to improve the quality of their study, so two historically black universities in New Orleans have stepped in to help. the presidents of both Dillard and Xavier Universities, sending letters to their campuses encouraging students, staff, faculty and also sister institutions to take part in vaccine trials.

The blowback was swift, the criticism heated, with some accusing the school administrators of pushing students to be used as, quote, "lab rats" and test subjects.

Reynold Verret is the president of Xavier University. President, thank you so much for being with us. And I want to mention that you and the president of Dillard University have both enrolled in trials yourself, so you are asking students and staff and folks at sister institutions essentially to do what you personally have done. Tell us why this was an important plea for you to make and an important step for you to take personally in enrolling in a trial.

REYNOLD VERRET, PRESIDENT, XAVIER UNIVERSITY: Well, as a scientist -- I'm an immunologist and a biochemist. I know fully well the problems that would accrue if we do not have sufficient representation of African-Americans and other peoples of color in this major vaccine trial. We've seen the consequences of when drugs were tried and peoples -- groups in our population were excluded from those trials.

It's also very important that we overcome a lot of misinformation so that people could be encouraged to do that. At the time when I stepped into the trial, we had basically a single-percentage representation of African-Americans in the trials.

So where we are, we are teaching institutions. Xavier, we have a legacy in biomedical research, also in (INAUDIBLE) more African- American physicians. It was our mission to speak loudly, and sometimes you (ph) speak loudly and teach by example, the example is to roll up our sleeves and get stuck with a needle.

KEILAR: And so what -- you got stuck with a needle? Tell us personally what the process has been for you. What -- take us through it.

VERRET: We are well vetted. They are -- my physician who had spoken to me about that, alerted me that the trial was here, reviewed my medical records. When I arrived at the trial, they went through a very long informed consent process.

Informed consent process, very detailed. And also there's a review of the information led by independent physicians as well to make sure that there are no worries and that I can be included in the trial.

They tell me of possible consequences, and reminding us that this was an efficacy trial, that the safety trial -- the safety steps had been vetted in a smaller group, so it was important that 20, 30,000 of us -- 0.1 percent of the population -- step up and do this out of service, not for ourselves but for the communities of people who will depend on this vaccine.

KEILAR: And, you know, it's so important that you mention that process you went through with the informed consent, the possibilities of problems you could have. You certainly know what they're looking for when you go in for this trial.

And you mentioned, even in your plea to students and to staff, that historically there is skepticism, especially among the black community. And you can't -- you know, it's easy to understand when you look for instance at the Tuskegee trials, which were unethical, which did not have that informed consent process that you talk about.

I mean, you had black participants -- unknowingly, right? -- who had syphilis, and then even after the trial was over they were never even treated for symptoms that could have so easily been treated. So historically there's this issue. How do you overcome what is a skepticism that I think, once you dig into it, makes a lot of sense?

VERRET: I think it is important for us to actually -- we have to acknowledge Tuskegee, and also not just Tuskegee but many other similar events that occurred. Tuskegee's only one example.

But also we have to remind ourselves that we have learned a lot from Tuskegee. The fact that in the oversight committees, there are many -- they are very diverse, they're very transparent. There are people like myself around the table: physicians, public health experts all around the table vetting and asking questions about the trials. It is very different from today.

It is also that -- remember that Tuskegee was -- we are not going to close (ph) our (ph) eyes (ph) and say that there was no -- that systemic racism doesn't exist in this country, it has existed. But at the same time that should not preclude us from making sure that we have access to something that is necessary to save the lives of our people, especially given that African-Americans and other people of color are dying and suffering from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates.