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Hurricane Sally Closes In On Gulf Coast; Gulf States Bracing For "Historic" Rainfall Event; Soon: Israel, UAE, Bahrain Sign Peace Deal; Dr. Anthony Fauci Says "I Prefer To Look Forward" When Asked If Woodward Revelations Could Have Saved Lives; Trump Welcomes Middle East Leaders For Historical Deal Signing. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired September 15, 2020 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): And we need to make it about the virus and the choice that we all are going to have in November. And Pennsylvania's role in picking a president and that's going to be critical that we not politicize a vote by mail deadline that was established by a bipartisan committee when this law was drafted.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman of Pennsylvania. Sir, grateful for your time as always thank you very much.
FETTERMAN: Thanks for having me.
KING: Thank you. Top of the hour now, hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing a very, very busy news day with us. It is a historic hour at the Trump White House. Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates ready to normalize relations. The president in a morning interview says the Abraham Accord is the first domino in his view on the road to a much broader Arab/Israeli peace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The Palestinians will ultimately come in, too. You are going to have peace in the Middle East without being stupid and shooting and killing everybody and having blood all over the sand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We'll go live to the White House for a signing ceremony any moment now but first twin environmental disasters playing out in separate parts of the United States today. On the West Coast, ash and rubble fire stretching across California, Oregon and Washington State have killed at least 36 people and put thousands out of their homes.
In the south mandatory evacuations in three states, as Hurricane Sally slogs towards the Coast. The storm right now is a Category 1 expected to make landfall overnight or early Wednesday. Its slow, slow approach translates to giant danger and deadly storm surge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TATE REEVES (R-MS): I really think that the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast and the entire Alabama Gulf Coast has to be on alert because of the lack of predictability of Hurricane Sally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's get straight to CNN's Weather Center and Meteorologist Jennifer Gray. Jennifer, what's the latest?
JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John, this storm is moving so, so slowly. We could walk faster than the storm is moving. It is only moving at about 2 miles per hour with winds of 85 miles per hour and gusts of 115.
Now with a storm moving this slowly the biggest threat is going to be the flooding. We could see historic flooding across places like Mississippi, Alabama, the Florida Panhandle is going to get a lot of flooding and not to mention the surge. The surge for this length of time, normally we see these storms get in and out.
You see the surge for one high tide cycle, this one is going to sit over this area for several high tide cycles and so you're going to have that surge of salt water for several of those and so that's just going to increase the flash flooding across the Gulf Coast.
Here's the radar satellite picture. You can see the rain already moving on shore and it is not going anywhere any time soon. You are going to see a picture that looks very similar to this when we talk tomorrow and you could most likely see some rain leftover on Thursday as well.
So here's the radar estimated rainfall and you can see this batch of rain that's just offshore. 10 to 20 inches of rain as this storm creeps to the north, all of this rain is going to move inland and so basically you're going to see totals like this that are sitting offshore are eventually going to be covering the map with these coastal towns, places like Pensacola, Dauphin Island, Mobile, Biloxi are all going to see totals like that.
10 to 20, some areas could see up to 25 inches of rain once this is all set and done. So here's the forecast track looks like we're going to maintain this category 1 intensity for the duration but really that's not the important thing. The impacts are going to be the same from yesterday the day before, the biggest impacts are always going to be the rain and the surge.
That's still going to be the biggest threat regardless of how strong the winds are with this particular storm? Finally moving out by the time we get into Thursday and Friday. But we are going to see just lots and lots of rain.
10 to 20 inches right there in that area shaded in hot pick and you can see from Mobile, Pensacola, Panama City even picking up to 6 inches of rain and so that's going to be the big story moving forward. Of course the storm surge like we mentioned 4 to 7 feet possibly up in Mobile Bay.
And it's going to last for 24 to 36 hours of this. And so you can just imagine the saltwater that's going to push in as well as the freshwater coming down in the form of rain. So here's the wind threat 74 miles per hour or more.
For Biloxi, Mobile, just to the West of Pensacola and even far inland you're going to see 58 to 74-mile-per-hour winds including Harrisburg and then up to the north including Jackson, Montgomery, could see up to 50 miles per hour winds.
So we are going to see quite a bit of power outages with this storm well as it pushes inland with that wind threat reaching so far north. So here are your tropical watches and warnings a hurricane warning is in place along coast.
You can see from Mississippi all the way through the Florida Panhandle, and then the tropical storm warnings shaded in blue that include portions of Southeast Louisiana all the way through the Florida Panhandle, John.
KING: Jennifer Gray, grateful for the latest. We'll stay in touch over the next 24 or 48 hours as we watch Sally move forward. We appreciate it very much Jennifer. To the West Coast now and the fury of fire more than 80 large wildfires raging in 10 states in Oregon ten people have died from the wildfires, 22 people recorded as missing. CNN's Martin Savidge on the ground for us in Estacada, Oregon Martin, what is the latest there and I can see the smoky scene behind you.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's part of the whole big story here. Good morning to you, John. We are dealing with two calamities here number one of course the flames that you just described but then on top of that the massive amount of smoke that is covering much of the West Coast.
In fact, here in Oregon they're now saying that the air is hazardous to breathe, 10 percent of the emergency room visitations now going on in the state are due to people having respiratory problems. So fire having an immediate impact on tens of thousands, the air having an impact on potentially millions of people.
It is another start of a day on the extraordinary fire lines that are spread all across the State of Oregon, 34 fires are still burning here. We are up here in Estacada at the riverside fire. Just a short while ago we watched as the - teams roll out for another day of battling this fire.
They're trying to prevent it from merging with another nearby fire that would turn into kind of a mega fire. They're getting help from the weather. In fact, weather conditions have improved somewhat primarily because the winds have died down so teams have been making progress on working on containment.
But even said, most of the fires that are around the state are still at may be 10 percent, 15 percent could be up to 20 percent containment. Rain is in the forecast but there's bad news that comes with it because an addition to the rain there could be high winds and there could be lightning.
As you know it is the lightning that starts the fire and it's the winds that drive the fire. There's also some good news on the death front. You said ten, they've actually reduced to eight this morning the reason they did they said was that two people they thought they had found it turned out were animal remains.
But there is an ominous indication for the first time in its history Oregon is now mobilizing a mobile morgue they anticipate that there will be many more found and tragically they believe the death toll is going to rise. 22 confirmed missing but 28 also accounted for or unaccounted for. So you add those two numbers together as many as 50 people still need to be found.
Some way somehow and across the region 87 fires, 25 in California where they have 25 dead and I could go on and on and on. Flight cancellations in Washington and in Portland, Oregon this fire have a huge, huge impact in the region.
JOHN: In a ways to go. Martin Savidge, grateful you're on the ground for us. The pictures are just sad thing, the numbers even more so when you go through them. Martin Savidge, appreciate the live report very much.
Turning back now to a historic hour here in Washington at the Trump White House. Two Arab nations normalizing relations with the Jewish state Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Israel say promoting peace now a top priority. It is a remarkable achievement even as we await more of the specific details.
It is also another example of how the president chooses to ignore the rules of our new normal? The White House is crowding hundreds of dignitaries and guests onto the South Lawn to celebrate this achievement. Let's get straight to the White House and CNN's Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, I see you outside. It is a dramatic day but a lot of people are going to question the scene behind you.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly. Those delegations are about to come out here with the president and of course right now though he is in the Oval Office meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he was the last of the three delegations to arrive here today for this signing John.
And of course there are so many implications in what is going to happen today. The final text of these agreements that you're going to see these leaders' sign in a few moments though we'll not see until after they have already signed them. The White House has said they'll release the text so we get a detail of what it is that these countries are signing?
Of course there will be separate signings between Israel and the UAE, Israel and Bahrain. They are going to be separate ones. Some of those will be lengthier because of course the Bahrain agreement happened before the one with the UAE, excuse me, the UAE one happened before the one with Bahrain recently in recent days.
So officials have told us there will be a lot more detail in that agreement compared to the one that they just made in recent days. But we're basically waiting to see what exactly is going to be the level of detail included in these agreements because these are countries that have been defector allies but now today they're formalizing these relations.
You're going to see that change travel matters, diplomatic matters when it comes to Embassies in these countries. So those are the details that we're going to be looking for. But of course there are still big questions when we walk away from this ceremony, John?
And one of the big ones is going to be why did these countries agree to do this now? Why did they agree to formalize these relations, to normalize these relations now? And there are questions that are being even raised by the president's comments this morning about weapon sales to the UAE after he said that he would like to give them an F-35 fighter jet, something that the UAE has wanted for a long time.
COLLINS: And the president said today he would personally not mind giving them one and of course we know that has raised questions with Israel as well. So that's a big thing, what is going to happen with the Palestinians and their reaction to watching what we are seeing out here today is going to be another one?
But of course, John, it is not just going to be a focus on these agreements today it is also going to be on the pandemic that is happening here in the nation because as we're here on the South Lawn there are hundreds of people out here and for once actually we're seeing more people wear masks than you have seen many White House.
That's a lot of the guests, those have not been tested but if you look at some of the highest level officials in this administration they're out here and they're not wearing masks and of course they're also not socially distancing.
That includes the Defense Secretary, the Attorney General. You've seen several other Trump officials the Education Secretary, Dr. Scott Atlas who was on the Coronavirus Task Force is out here and he is not wearing a mask either.
Now we are told by sources that the three delegations were tested before they got here to the White House today as were their reporters and American reporters were not tested and the American guests were not tested before coming out to this event either.
So of course on a week we've seen the president really throw caution to the wind when it comes to these COVID-19 precautions John, we're seeing it amplified here once again on the South Lawn of the White House.
KING: We'll check back in as this historic day but somewhat controversial day proceeds. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate the live report from the South Lawn of the White House as they prepare for this historic ceremony.
Up next for us, President Trump says we are rounding the turn on the pandemic. We'll see if the numbers support that?
KING: Rounding the turn is how the president sees things when it comes to the Coronavirus. Indoor rallies, today's big White House event his way of suggesting the big worry is behind us. Well, time to be extra careful and hunker down that's what his top Coronavirus expert tells us. Dr. Anthony Fauci says yes, the numbers are a little better but he also says that isn't the whole picture.
Let's take a look at those numbers and when you look at the 50-state trend map state by state, 9 states trending up in terms of new infections meaning reporting more new infections this week than last week. Nine states heading in the wrong direction.
20 states holding steady that's the beige on the map and includes big Texas. 21 states heading down fewer infections this week compared to a week ago that's the direction you want to go and that includes California, Arizona and Florida the three states with Texas that were a big part of the summer surge.
When you look at the death trends still always a troubling map full of pain. You see the deep red, that means 50 percent deaths higher, 50 percent or more higher deaths this week compared to last week 9 states are doing that 16 states in all reporting more deaths this week than the last week.
16 states holding steady and 18 states reporting fewer deaths this week compared to the data a week ago. The trend line is what we're watching to see if we're truly coming down from the summer surge all the way down or if we're going to have a plateau here?
Before the summer surge we were around 20,000 new infections a day. That up close to 70,000 new infections a day at the moment yesterday it was 34,000 and change. We're plateaued right now around 35,000 new infections a day. Will that hold? Will it continue to come down? That's the challenge for the weeks ahead.
If you look at the positivity rate nationally, this is a better number. You want to be below 5 percent, yesterday's test results came back 4 percent nationally you want to keep pushing that down. But that is a better number certainly if you look back at April early on you see this come down here now that's where you want to be.
There are still a lot of questions some experts say are we testing enough? Is this the result of fewer tests? Or is it an honest snapshot? That's a conversation for the days and weeks ahead. If you look at this map wherever you live you want to be in light blue. Light blue means, California 3 percent. Washington state 3 percent.
Look up here in New England, even lighter than that, 1 percent in Maine. 1 percent in Vermont, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island the states hit early on are low now. But look at the darker blue 14 percent Kansas positivity, 17 percent South Dakota. You don't want to be here.
Now of course the big debate especially in the wake of the Bob Woodward book, the president says he acted early. He also told Bob Woodward he knew early on how big the threat was and he was telling the American people something different. So in a lot of conversations of what should the president have done back at the beginning? Dr. Fauci doesn't like to pick fights with the president. He says I don't want to look back, let's look forward.
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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You could always say what would have happened, should have happened or could have happened? And I think that is not productive because all it does I think is intensify divisiveness.
Rather than looking back ward and counting the number of hospitalizations or deaths that could have been saved, I actually prefer to look forward and say, we're entering into the fall in the winter. I really want to see as many states as possible do that with as low test positivity as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Seema Yasmin and Former Disease Detective from CDC joins us now live. Doctor, you could understand why Dr. Fauci who still works in the federal government doesn't want to look backwards. But hearing the president's words to Bob Woodward back in February about how bad this is and then you compare them to what he told the American people which was China is on top of it, it is all going to go away, all is good.
There will be studies that try to document had the president acted a week or two or three earlier, had he ramped up testing in February instead of ignoring the challenge, had he ramped up production of personal protection equipment in February instead of waiting until March and beyond things would have been, not could have been, would have been very different.
DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes. And its heart breaking and I disagree with Dr. Fauci a little bit on this because I think for me as an epidemiologist it is helpful actually to look back, look to see what we could have done differently and also what made a difference?
Because for example just this morning a new study came out showing that New York City's lockdown quite a stringent lockdown reduced the number of new infections by 70 percent. So I think it's good to look back sometimes to see what lessons we can learn?
DR. YASMIN: To see what we can do differently moving forward? Not to say that I think any lockdowns are coming to the states any time soon because there has been so much politicization of a public health measures needed to stop the spread of COV Id-19.
But certainly, for me I can't put aside the fact, John, that had we done a lockdown earlier, had it been more stringent and had it been more widespread we could have saved more than 100,000 lives and those numbers I'm pulling out of the air, these are analysis that people have already done and it is worth remembering so that we make better decisions moving forward.
KING: Even absent a lockdown if you had put in social distancing and had mask use you could have done stuff there. There is looking, there is looking forward. Let's take a look at the here and now and we can show live pictures to our audience of a crowd on the South Lawn of the White House.
This is a historic day, the president deserves credit here. He has convinced Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize relations putting aside decades and decades of distrust and at least declared war between Israel and its Arab neighbors. But, Dr. Yasmin, you have people, some of them wearing masks, some not in very close proximity for a long period of time which is what the experts tell you not to do.
This is at least outdoors but the president had indoor rallies in Arizona and in Nevada. What is the right word for that? Is it denial? Is it just disrespecting the science? What is it?
DR. YASMIN: Irresponsible, dangerous and sending a confusing message to the public because we know that there are folks out there COVID-19 deniers. People, who don't want to wear a mask, are looking for more fuel and kinder of back-up protocol to say look, we don't have to do this.
And even just yesterday when the president was here in California talking to our Governor, California officials were wearing masks and the president was not and that just confuses people. It just makes people feel well, maybe there's not enough evidence about wearing a mask. No you need to wear a mask
We saw what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma in late June John, because after that Trump rally that Tulsa County had a record number of COVID- 19 cases because more than 6,000 people were crammed into this space. Yes, they were given hand sanitizer and masks but they weren't made to wear them and not everybody used the hand sanitizer and not everyone wore the mask.
And we know enough about COVID-19 now. We know enough about this new Coronavirus to tell people wear a mask, do physical distancing, but then time and time again we see these political events where people aren't kept safe, where there's really irresponsible and dangerous behavior, the kinds of which can lead to many infections.
And think about that R number john, if every person who becomes infected with COVID-19 can spread it to about one to two more people than those two people spread it to one to two more people, that's how you end up with hundreds of cases sparked from one event. KING: Remarkable. And as you say, you can just do the math, do the science. You come to a different place than the President of the United States. Dr. Seema Yasmin, as always, grateful for the expertise and insights.
DR. YASMIN: Thank you.
KING: Coming up for us, brand new CNN Polls out of two key 2020 battleground states.
TRUMP: Be signing and doing the agreement today. So in 72 years they have done two agreements and we have done two as you know in a period of a month. And I will say because of your leadership and because of the fact that you are leading the way we have many countries in your region and your part of the world that will be very quickly signing up, also.
They, frankly, would have been here today if we wanted it to happen but we'll be signing others and this could really lead to real peace in the Middle East for the first time. We have taken a very different path. You could say it's a back door but I call it a smart door. Not a back door. I call it a smart door.
And this was a vision that I had a long time ago and we had some incredible representatives and I want to thank everybody here because your representation was brilliant.
TRUMP: We watched over the years as we were criticized for going this path and it just all came together and now the same people that could say, well, they'll find something else to criticize us. But we have other things happening equally as good, a very important, worldwide, very, very important.
But it's an honor to have you here and say hello to your family and your brother and all of those people that we so respect. Thank you very much.
SHEIKH ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED AL-NAHYAN, FOREIGN MINISTER, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: As we say in Arabic - Mr. President, we are humbled to represent a nation which is only 48 years old but full of hope and wants to attract more hope in our region.
Our region has suffered far too long and we would like to show our people and our region and the world that there is some good news from our part of the world. I mean, this is one, all the good work we have been doing for decades, Mr. President, with your great nation. We've been the strongest trading partner of the United States in the Middle East.
TRUMP: That's right.
AL-NAHYAN: We want to continue doing so in all fields and this is just a clear message that more should be done between the United States and the UAE. But now we can do it even with more nations with Israel and so many more.
TRUMP: That's true.
AL-NAHYAN: Thank you sir for your leadership and if it wasn't for that it would have been far more difficult for us to achieve.
TRUMP: No, I understand that well. It was something we felt very strongly about and being friends with you, your brother, your family, you made it happen and we appreciate it. I think your country appreciates it and the world appreciates it so thank you very much, really great. Any questions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --with Palestinians take from todays --?
TRUMP: Well, I think they see what's happening and a lot of countries are joining up and as you know we don't make payments to them. We were paying a lot of money to the Palestinians every year and we were not being treated properly. They were not saying nice things for many years.
And nobody's ever done this before but I stopped payment. It's a term that's used for a lot of things. It's called we stop payment because if they're not going to respect us or if they're not going to speak well of us we're not going to be involved.
They - I think are seeing what's happening and we have been given strong signals that they would like to be a part of what's happening? So I think we'll see the Palestinians at some point but before we see the Palestinians we'll see other very important countries come into this transaction.
They would be here today frankly if we wanted them. So I think that you'll see some very great things happening in the Middle East. You're going to have peace without blood in the sand. For years you had blood in the sand. That's all you had blood in the sand. You got nothing for it and they got nothing for it.
Now you're going to have peace and it will be a real peace. And you have the most powerful countries, as an example, it's a great warring nation if it wants to be with a tremendous military, a powerful military and they're really great warriors.
And it was very important that we had you and we've had great talks as you know with Saudi Arabia, with the King. And I think he's going to be terrific. I think he's got a very open mind. But I have had very personal talks with the King and the Crown Prince and I think their mind is very open, very much I think they're going to come along really well.
So it's an honor on the here. We're going to have a ceremony outside. I just want to say that being the first - because you're the first, it was very important that you to be the first for us because you're leading a path, you're leading a way and it is something that people were very surprised at. I will say that even the biggest optimists were shocked when they heard about this transaction and shocked in a very positive way. So I want to thank you for making it all happen. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President you're - has been very critical as you know obviously - we've seen some security incidents in the Middle East over the last 24 hours. Will you be extending any security guarantee that goes to --?
TRUMP: Well, we're working together. And we'll see what happens whether on I would say right after the election within a period of a week maybe a month, but within a period of a very short period, within maybe - I mean, literally a very short time, you will have Iran coming back and saying let's get this whole thing worked out.
Iran is suffering. Iran, unfortunately -- I don't want them to suffer but their economy has tanked. They have a minus-27 GDP.