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Hurricane Sally Gaining Strength As It Heads Toward Gulf Coast; Thousands Of Firefighters Battling 29 Major Wildfires In CA; Biden Speaks On Climate Crisis As Wildfires Rage In The West; World's Largest Vaccine Manufacturer Warns It Could Take Until 2024 To Develop If Two Doses Are Needed; Trump To Woodward: Nothing More Could Have Been Done On Virus. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 14, 2020 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

GREGORY STANTON, FOUNDING PRESIDENT, GENOCIDE WATCH: That's what QAnon thinks President Trump is going to do, just as the Germans thought that Hitler was going to do. So what we have here is a use of a conspiracy theory to explain the crises that we now are in.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And it is very much taking hold. Gregory Stanton, thank you so much for the article. We appreciate you being with us today. And our special coverage will continue now with Brooke Baldwin.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, there. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Right now, President Trump is in California. He's being briefed on the massive wildfires that are burning out of control in the west. We've been listening to California Governor Gavin Newsom who is there. He just told the president that climate change is a big factor in these fires which have now killed at least 35 people. We're waiting to see if the president takes questions. If he does, I'll bring that to you.

The president's visit comes as tens of thousands of firefighters are working all around the clock to get these flames under control. In addition to the nearly three dozen deaths, dozens more are missing. Millions of acres are burned and the weather could make it all worse.

That's not the only severe weather threat facing the country right now. You have Hurricane Sally which is rapidly gaining strength, is slowly creeping toward the Gulf Coast. Evacuation orders are underway in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi with hurricane warnings extending all the way to that Alabama-Florida border.

Let's start there. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in New Orleans to see just how people there preparing for the storm. But Jennifer Gray, I'm starting with you, our CNN meteorologist tracking this hurricane. Just bring us up to speed as far as where Sally's headed, and then how strong it's going to be when she makes landfall.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Brooke, the storm is strengthening rapidly as you said. Already a Category 1 and could be a Category 2 within a matter of hours. So we're looking at a potential high in Category 2 at landfall just a couple of miles per hour away from becoming a Category 3. So this could be a strong Cat 2 at landfall. Winds right now of 90 miles per hour, gust of 115 moving to the west northwest at seven miles per hour.

Now this storm is already reaching the coast as far as the outer bands go that takes the Florida Panhandle all the way through the Big Bend down to the South Florida coast already feeling the rain but this storm is going to move so slowly. That's going to be the big takeaway from this storm. It's not going to just get in and get out. This is going to basically meander, still be here Wednesday morning just on shore and it could be Thursday afternoon before the storm gets out of here.

So this is going to sit, this is going to produce a lot of rain, and it's also going to produce a lot of storm surge with a storm just sitting in one spot. You're going to get that push of water for a long duration. We're talking about a foot to two feet of water across the Mississippi, Alabama coasts. Of course, New Orleans, you are right on the fringes of this. If this storm tracks a little bit farther to the west, those levees and pumping systems are really going to be tested.

So it really matters where the storm make land -- makes landfall when we're talking about New Orleans. All along this coastline though, we are going to get inundated with rainfall as well as that storm surge. We could see seven to 11 feet of storm surge along the Southeast Louisiana coast, portions of Mississippi, other areas are five to eight feet.

So Brooke, this storm is not going away quickly. It's going to sit here and there's just going to be a lot of rain and a lot of storm surge to deal with.

BALDWIN: OK. So let's go then straight to -- you mentioned New Orleans, that is where Ed Lavandera standing by. And so Ed, here we are, again months into this pandemic and on top of that, you know, folks in that beautiful city, dealing with preparing for hurricane. How are they handling it?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, they're watching everything here very closely as are the outlying areas here in Southeast Louisiana where over the course of the last day, the warnings have gone out, the evacuation orders in many of those low line places have also gone out. But as Jennifer mentioned, the concern isn't just Southeast Louisiana, it's that Mississippi coastline as well. And people and local officials here have been urging residents to get about three days' worth of emergency supplies ready and to not wait too long to make that happen. Because once the rain bands start, it's going to be very difficult to get out and about and get what you need in these situations.

So that is an area of great concern here is to get people prepared for what could be a long weather event here along the Gulf Coast line. And here in New Orleans, there are about 12,000 people who evacuated from Southwest Louisiana on the other side from the storm damage from just several weeks ago from Hurricane Laura.

[15:05:03]

Many homes destroyed in that region, many people evacuated and had been holed up in hotels here in the City of New Orleans. No plan to evacuate from the city of New Orleans. Those evacuation orders exist for the areas outside of the levee protection system here, Brooke. And this was that system that was put in place several years after Hurricane Katrina to help protect this city in a better way. And, of course, it is exactly 15 years ago that this exact part of the Gulf Coast was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Brooke?

BALDWIN: I can't believe it's been so long since and yet, you know, just hearing about this hurricane and how it would turn excruciatingly slow. People there know what that means all too well.

Ed, thank you. We'll keep an eye on New Orleans and that whole entire part of the southeastern U.S.

I want to go west though, let's go back to the devastating wildfires just ripping through California and Oregon and Washington. California has been absolutely hammered with more than 3.3 million acres already scorch so far this year. In the last month alone, at least two dozen people have been killed and more than 4,000 buildings destroyed.

CNN's Kyung Lah is live in Arcadia, California. This is just outside of Los Angeles. And so -- I mean, obviously the stories are just devastating but you there are covering the battle in the foothills. Explain how they're bringing the water in just to fight these fires.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's -- our timings just a tad bit off but basically this is a reservoir right behind me and what we've been seeing is Cal Fire bringing their helicopters and dropping down here into this reservoir. And then going into the foothills where we are if you could make -- perhaps my photographer, Kevin Myers (ph) could pan over this way.

You're looking at these houses and then the battle is happening in the foothills. You see how hazy that is? That's smoke, 36,000 acres have burned, six percent containment. This is a very large fire, 300 hundred homes are under mandatory evacuation and a thousand more are under an evacuation watch.

If the winds do not help today, the prognosis according to Cal Fire, they are very worried about what's going to happen to the slow burning fire. But expand this out to the entire western region and you are looking at a calamity when it comes to the number of acres burned, some 4.7 million acres across the western United States.

There have been at least 35 people who have died in these fires from Oregon to Washington to here in California. And Brooke, you were talking about these heartbreaking stories. We're hearing stories about a 13-year-old who died as he's trying to drive his grandmother out of the fire. Young parents who lost their one-year-old as they were trying to find some way to save their lives.

So these stories are certainly heartbreaking, and also this entire area, the air quality is simply atrocious. It is dangerous to be outside in most parts of the western United States. In fact, in Oregon, the air there is among the worst in the world,

Brooke?

BALDWIN: Yes. We're talking to a volunteer fire chief in Oregon, she has totally lost her home as have several of her volunteers. Fire station gone, so we're going to talk Oregon in just a second.

Kyung, thank you so much for that.

Now, President Trump, he refuses to acknowledge the role climate change plays in the extreme weather we are seeing across the country. The former Vice President Joe Biden is making climate change a real central point of his campaign. Biden slammed the president during a speech just this afternoon about the wildfires and the need to tackle the current climate crisis.

And CNN's M.J. Lee was at that event. She is live for us from Wilmington, Delaware. And so M.J., Biden really went after President Trump during that speech. Tell us what he said.

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He did, Brooke. And, you know, keep in mind we are seven weeks out now from Election Day and this is Joe Biden clearly wanting to make sure that he is staying in the news and offer some counter programming to Donald Trump. And, you know, in large part recently, he has been doing that a lot by talking about COVID-19. But today, he used the issue of these devastating wildfires in California that we just heard Kyung talking about there and tying that more broadly to the issue of climate change.

And what he said today is that there is an undeniable acceleration of climate change that we are seeing across the country and that there are extraordinary weather conditions and phenomenon, whether it is droughts or hurricanes or rising temperatures that should be rare but are becoming more and more frequent. And when it comes to Donald Trump, he straight up called him a climate change denier, and he said if we have four more years of Donald Trump's presidency, these hellish events will become more common and more deadly. Here's more of what he has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: These are interlocking crises of our time requires action not denial. Requires leadership not scapegoating.

[15:10:02]

And requires the president to meet the threshold duty of the office, to care, to care for everyone, to defend us from every attack seen and unseen, always and without exception.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEE: And Brooke, it's also worth pointing out that overall, Joe Biden painted a pretty dark picture of everything that is going on in the United States right now. He said all at once we are seeing four national crises, the pandemic, the economic crisis, the climate change issue that he talked about, and also the prevalence of white supremacy. This is clearly Joe Biden trying to reach out to voters who feel like they might be affected right now by any of this -- those four things.

Brooke?

BALDWIN: M.J., thank you so much for that.

Coming up next here on CNN, a new warning today from the world's largest vaccine manufacturer saying, if two doses are needed, it could take four or five years for everyone to get this thing.

Plus, Bob Woodward releases a new recording of President Trump today where he claims, quote, nothing could have been done to fight the pandemic. We'll discuss.

And she was protecting others from the wildfires and the flames destroyed her own home. A fire chief in the middle of this fight there in Oregon joins me live.

You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:15:34]

BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Just into CNN, it's the race to identify a safe and effective COVID vaccine goes on. A warning today from the largest vaccine maker in the world, if people need two doses to be fully immunized, there will not be enough to go around to all of us until 2024.

Let's start there with Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. She is with me and so, you know, these were comments, Elizabeth, they were made by the CEO of the Serum Institute in India in this interview with the Financial Times. What is this CEO seeing that obviously has him so concerned? And then how many doses does he think could be needed worldwide?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So I'm going to take the second one first if that's OK. Brooke. Brooke, we know that the most, if not nearly all of the vaccines that are being tested for COVID-19 are two doses. The three for example that are in phase three clinical trials in the U.S., those are all two-dose vaccines. You get one dose and then about three or four weeks later, you get a second dose.

So we -- this -- it's a pretty good guess that will we end -- that the vaccines that end up working will be two doses. And what this manufacturer is saying is look, we can't just snap our fingers and make those, it is going to take time. This is an unprecedented ask to produce vaccine for basically the entire world on very short notice.

And Brooke, we -- you and I've talked about this before that two doses is a big deal. It's double everything, not just the vaccines, set that aside, it's two sets of syringes, two sets of vials, two sets of everything, which sounds so small, right. So syringes, needles, they're everywhere.

Well, look what happened with testing, that got delayed. Look what happened with PPE, that got delayed. And we have more of a lead-time now that we did four on those two items. But still, we have seen that producing these things, manufacturing them, getting them into gear is not instantaneous, it does take a while to get that supply chain going.

Brooke?

BALDWIN: Which would make sense then that everyone couldn't get this if it's a two basically, until, you know, four years from now or three years from now.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

Let's get some medical perspective on all of this. Dr. Leana Wen is a CNN medical analyst and the former Baltimore health commissioner. And so Dr. Wen, when you hear this that it could take, you know, four or five years to vaccinate everyone on the planet, that is if those two doses are required for this COVID vaccine, what do you make of that?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I'm not surprised because we're talking about 15 billion doses that have to be distributed. And in the U.S. alone, hundreds of millions of doses distributed twice. And that's not taking into account that maybe this is a vaccine that we have to be giving every year, like the flu vaccine. And so we should be looking at the vaccine and the approval of the vaccine as a beginning.

It is certainly not a silver bullet, we should be looking at how can we live with this virus, including with all these hygiene measures that we keep on talking about. The hand washing, mask wearing, social distancing, that's going to continue for the foreseeable future even if we do have a safe and effective vaccine that's approved.

BALDWIN: Question, if it is two doses and I'm no doctor, you are, so you get to answer this. Would it be like a one two, bang, you're done with your, with your two doses? Or is it come once, get one, and then come six weeks later and get the second?

WEN: It's the latter. There is going to be a separation probably for a few weeks or a month. And so this is another reason why we have to get all of our coordination up to par. All the issues that Elizabeth mentioned with the syringes, the vials, all these supplies, but also we need to make sure that people can literally go to places whether it's the pharmacy or their doctor's office to get all these shots. BALDWIN: I got it. Let me ask you about this new audio, this latest Bob Woodward audio. Well, this is the 19th and final phone call that CNN has obtained between President Trump and Bob Woodward. This is just from a month ago, everyone listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD: 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 set 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 --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know.

WOODWARD: -- that in -- listen, I mean, you and I --

TRUMP: But nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done.

WOODWARD: Well --

TRUMP: I acted early. I acted early.

[15:20:01]

WOODWARD: This will be the history that we start the first draft of and it will continue and --

TRUMP: So you think the virus totally supersedes the economy?

WOODWARD: Oh sure. But they're related as you know.

TRUMP: Little bit, yes.

WOODWARD: Oh, little bit? I mean --

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

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Dr. Wen, you just heard the president say, twice, nothing more could have been done on COVID and that he acted early. And we know that neither of those things is true. And then by the date of this call, more than 168,000 Americans have died. And there were fears -- we talked about this fears about a Labor Day surge, how officials would save to reopen schools, something the president had pushed very hard for. But you heard him at the end there, his focus was on the stock market.

What goes through your mind when you hear that?

WEN: So many things. One of them is that public health is not the enemy of the economy, public health is the roadmap to safe reopening of our economy. The other thing, too, is it's just not true that nothing more could have been done. I mean, imagine what a difference it would have made if from the very beginning we had mobilized a national response.

If we had testing, enough testing to start with, we may have even been able to avoid these draconian shutdowns that really had a significant impact on the economy. And we certainly could have saved tens of thousands, if not many more lives had -- if we had mobilized a stronger response without this kind of mixed messaging early on.

And I think Brooke, what's the most tragic of it all is that we are facing 200,000 more deaths by the end of the year. And by now, we certainly know what it takes in order to rein in this virus. The most tragic thing is that we are still not doing what it takes to save lives.

BALDWIN: And you look at -- well, you look at the president as an example setter, right, the leader of this nation, and he is flouting his own taskforce guidelines with the rally. So I'll show you pictures, you know, these are the scenes inside of that Henderson, Nevada rally yesterday. The governor called the event which violated state public health rules. Here you go. Shameful and irresponsible. Trump said he doesn't feel Nevada rules apply to him.

But what if the president decided today, Dr. Wen, to start enforcing the guidelines at rallies, to make people wear the masks, do you think it would have an impact or is this just too far gone?

WEN: It would absolutely make an impact because the future is not preordained. The trajectory of where we go depends on our behaviors now. And for better or worse, for many millions of Americans, President Trump is their role model, they will listen to the president.

Right now, we've got these events in Nevada and other places that are custom made for a super spreader event. If I were designing a super spreader event, it would be something that's indoors with tens of thousands of people gathered for long periods of time shoulder to shoulder flaunting mask mandates.

I wish the president would talk about how wearing masks is our patriotic duty. It's a way for us to protect one another and to show each other that we care and that we don't get to talk about individual liberty when we are committing others to a sacrifice that they did not make.

BALDWIN: Dr. Wen, thank you so much as always.

Coming up, she was battling the wildfires raging on the West Coast when the flames destroyed her own home. A fire chief in the middle of this massive fight will join me live next.

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TRUMP: Joseph Rosamond (ph), Kip Gotting (ph), Irvin Hernandez (ph), Brady Lebine (ph), Ji Jong (ph), and Sergeants George Escobar (ph) and Cameron Powell (ph), thank you very much.

[15:25:16] And I will say that it's such an honor to be in your presence. You'll hear his story shortly. That was very inspiring to me and to everybody else. And that's why these are very important medals. And it's great to be with you.

Joining us are also warriors but warriors of a different type. They're called great congressmen and they're from your area. Doug LaMalfa. Thank you, Doug, very much. Appreciate it. Tom McClintock, thanks. You're doing a great job. And Greg Walden, and we'll miss you, Greg. I can't believe you're not going to be there.

He's retiring, undefeated. Nobody would defeat him and -- but it's a great honor. You know, it's really been fantastic working with Greg. We worked in something in particular, Right to Try, right, Greg. And we got it done after 44 years. We got it done. So thank you very much.

Just over one week ago, these brave pilots and crew members of the California Army National Guard embarked on a harrowing mission. As the sun set on September 5th, they boarded two helicopters that are behind me. Then they flew into blazing flames, raging wind, and it was raging and blinding smoke to rescue families who were trapped by the massive creek fire at the Mammoth Pool campground.

While they were on their way to the campground, the crew received word from state and local officials and headquarters that it was far too dangerous to continue that mission and turn back. But they decided to continue anyway knowing they might not return.

They knew that people were in danger, great danger. As night set in, they could see almost nothing through the miles of dense smoke. Using their night goggles and their expert navigation skill, they reached the camp.

They found the stranded families, many of whom were badly burned and injured, and they loaded them as many as they could onto the two helicopters. Then they made the perilous flight back to the base.

As soon as they unloaded the passengers they again risked their lives and flew back into the blazing fire to rescue more victims. Their superiors said you cannot do this, you cannot do it again. They did it. The smoke had become even more overpowering, yet they returned a third time. After 10 grueling hours, they completed their mission, having saved the lives of an astounding 242 people. We are proud of them. That's an incredible story.

And I spoke to some people that really didn't want you to do. They didn't want you to go back on those flights. To each of you, you're unyielding and undying determination lifts our nation. You're what make our nation great. And we thank you very much. Thank you very much. Incredible job.

Over the last week, these devoted soldiers have continued to rescue more stranded individuals from danger. In fact, less than 48 hours after their rescue at Mammoth Pool, they flew to another treacherous mission. On the first two attempts, they were forced to turn around and they were advised to abort the mission, you must abort the mission. But they chose to try a third time at great risk to their own lives.

Through tremendous scale and incredible valor, they save 50 people from absolute imminent danger. Our nation is strong because of remarkable individuals like these service members. In the midst of our greatest trials and in biggest challenges, America prevails because of the brave and selfless patriots who risk everything so that they may save lives of people in many cases that they don't know.

They have no idea who they are. It's like law enforcement. They save the lives of people that for the most part, they have no idea who they are but they're so determined to do it.

Today, our country honors their courage and we're inspired by their example. And we thank God for the blessing and all of our blessings that you're safe. Our nation has really benefited by your bravery. And on behalf of our great nation, I thank you very much. As your president, I thank you very much. Great job.

And now I'd like to ask the military aide to come forward and read the citation, please.

OK, thank you.