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As Fires Rage, Trump Questions Climate Science; Dozens of Fires Devastating Parts of Western U.S.; U.S. Gulf Coast Braces for Impact from Hurricane Sally; Trump to Woodward: Nothing More Could Have Been Done; Trump Holds Second Indoor Rally in Two Days; World May Not Have Enough Vaccine Doses Until 2024. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will start getting cooler. You just watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish science agreed with you.


CHURCH: California officials take on President Trump over climate change as Western states battle nearly 100 wildfires.

Plus, the U.S. Gulf coast braces for impact as hurricane Sally churns towards shore. We will have the latest forecast.

And they were shot at point blank range while on the job. New details on how two sheriff's deputies survived a brazen attack.

Good to have you with us. Well, we begin this hour following two dire threats in the United States. First, dozens of large fires are raging across ten Western states spanning millions of acres and at least 36 people are now confirmed dead on the West Coast. Nearly two dozen others were reported missing just in the state of Oregon.

Second, hurricane Sally is now a strong category one storm as it begins to impact the northern Gulf Coast. It's moving slowly towards the Florida panhandle, and we'll have more on that in just a moment.

Meanwhile, in California Monday President Donald Trump baselessly asserted that climate change is not playing a role in the record breaking wildfires despite all evidence to the contrary.


WADE CROWFOOT, CALIFORNIA STATE SECRETARY FOR NATURAL RESOURCES: If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it's all about vegetation management, we're not going to succeed to get a protect in Californians.

TRUMP: OK. It'll start getting cooler.

CROWFOOT: I wish --

TRUMP: You just watch.

CROWFOOT: I wish science agreed with you.

TRUMP: I don't think science knows, actually.


CHURCH: Well, climate experts tell CNN due to human-caused climate change, temperatures extremes are climbing higher and the vegetation is drier both affect fire behavior. CNN's Martin Savidge is in Oregon with more on the wildfires devastating the West Coast.



MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's being called a once in a generation event. More than a dozen large fires burning in the state of Oregon. About an hour and a half south of Portland, the Beachie Creek fire is devastating the area. Signs melted. Structures bend to the will of the flames. This week alone the governor says over a million acres have burned in Oregon. That's double the amount that burns in a typical year.


SAVIDGE: 70-year-old Kathie Tapia and her cats have been in this Portland Red Cross shelter since Thursday when they were forced to evacuate their home.

TAPIE: The police came knocking at the door within two hours and said we need to go now. This is the worst experience. Scary.

SAVIDGE: Half a million Oregonians are living in evacuation zones. Tens of thousands of them have already been forced to flee and there are growing concerns that the death toll can rise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the truck that would have been normal.

SAVIDGE: Parts of Oregon's rural areas remain too dangerous to search for the nearly two dozen missing like George Atiya.

Scott Fogerty, FIRE EVACUEE: His home was completely lost and is shot. SAVIDGE: Scott Fogerty has spent more than 20 years, says Atiya would

have fought until the end.

FOGERTY: If anybody could do it, he could.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Do you think he's still alive out there?


SAVIDGE (voice-over): Across the U.S., more than 80 major fires are burning. Smoldering structures left by this wildfire in Washington state.


At least 35 people have now died in the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington this season. 24 in California alone where resources are stretched.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They really are a beast, their own identity. They move at their own whim. They're terrifying and they move extremely quickly.

SAVIDGE: Three of the largest fires in California's history are still burning. President Trump visiting today to get a fire briefing on the ground. Against a backdrop of thick smoke, he emphasized the need to strengthen forest management.

TRUMP: This is one of the biggest burns we've ever seen, and we have to do a lot about forest management.

SAVIDGE: An astonishing 3.3 million acres have charred in the state since the start of the year. California Governor Gavin Newsom says climate change played a key role.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D) CALIFORNIA: It's self-evident that climate change is real and that is exacerbating this.

SAVIDGE: Martin Savidge, CNN, Lyons, Oregon.


CHURCH: Well, as Mr. Trump doubted the science behind climate change, former Vice President Joe Biden delivered a speech warning of the devastating effects of global warming. The Democratic nominee singled out President Trump.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hurricanes don't swerve to avoid red states or blue states. Wildfires don't skip towns that voted a certain way. The impacts of climate change don't pick and choose. That's because it's not a partisan phenomenon. It's science.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: And it's science that's helping predict where hurricane Sally will make landfall. That's expected late tonight on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Right now, Mississippi and Alabama are under a hurricane warning as is southeastern Louisiana. CNN's Gary Tuchman is following the storm from Biloxi in Mississippi.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is grave concern here on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi as hurricane Sally gets ready to arrive. We're standing right now about 1/4 mile in the Gulf of Mexico on this pier. Now I want to give you an idea of the concern. Take a look right here. This is damage to this pier. And this damage came just three months ago not from a hurricane but from a more minor tropical storm, tropical storm Cristobal. This pier was also damaged 15 years ago. Severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina. So, there's a lot of concern here.

This is a very big resort area. Over there that's the Beau Rivage casino. It's one of 12 casinos here on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi is a big part of the economic engine here. Katrina 15 years ago decimated almost every building along the beach here in Biloxi and Gulf Port in this direction. The Alabama coastline in this direction was also heavily damaged. And there have been a lot of incidents here. 1969, hurricane Camille, which was a category 5 hurricane, decimated this area.

So, people know when they live here that there could be immense damage from tropical storms and hurricanes. But this one, Sally, it's going to be strong, it's going to be slow. They're expecting a lot of rain and that's why there's so much concern.

Behind me, you see that lighthouse. That lighthouse has been here for over 170 years. During hurricane Katrina 15 years ago, it was heavily damaged. It cost about $400,000 to fix it. It's still a working lighthouse. It's been here all those years.

One big problem -- we talked about this during hurricane Laura 2 1/2 weeks ago -- a lot of people are afraid to evacuate because of COVID. There are some evacuation centers and there are mandatory evacuation orders in effect for people who live near the beach and low-lying areas. But they are also telling people they realize people don't want to be with lots of other people in evacuation centers. They're telling people who are staying in their homes to be very careful as this hurricane gets ready to arrive here.

This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, in Biloxi, Mississippi.


CHURCH: And joining us now to discuss hurricane Sally and the wildfires is our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. Pedram, what are you seeing?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Rosemary, as active as a pattern we've ever seen across the Atlantic. You've got to go back five decades to see the number of storms that we're currently tracking across the Atlantic. From Sally, there's Paulette, of course, Teddy and Vicky and the final -- potentially a final letter of the 2020 hurricane season which would be the letter W, it would be designated as Wilfred. It has a high probability of forming within the next several days and then starting in the next few days we go into the Greek alphabet. So, the next week storm could be very much alpha, beta, gamma and so on.

But here's the perspective. Hurricane Sally, strong category one. Weakened in the past couple of hours just by a couple miles per hour. So, really not going to see a significant difference between a storm of this magnitude or a category two as it was a few hours ago. But the biggest concern is not wind speed with this particular storm, it's the lack of movement, the lack of steering environment. And the models still really do not have a good handle on where this system goes. Some of them think it will go to the West, like to Mobile, others well to the east here.


So, the concern remains with the little steering motion here that even within 24 hours from right now, this storm system still meanders somewhere near the coastline. Best estimates bring this ashore in about a 24 hour period finally making landfall on the Eastern Coast there of Mississippi or say western Alabama. And again, at this point having spent almost 48 to 55 hours near the coast soaking this particular region.

And of course, if you're familiar with this landscape, very shallow continental shelf just offshore here. So, the concave shape of this particular landscape really allows water to readily funnel into the inlet. And of course, the coastal communities received the brunt of what's storms like this have to offer. So, storm surges as high as 11 feet or essentially the top of the first story of properties. Right along the coastal region there of Mississippi and Alabama. And again, we expect this to strengthen possibly back up to a category 2 as it approaches land. Winds around, say, 105 miles per hour.

But it's the amount of rainfall and the very slow progression out of this region over the next two to three days that's going to be problematic. In fact, models suggest as much as 20 inches of rainfall possible in the next two days, which I look into it and statistically to get 20 inches in a two day period across this region has a 1 and a 50 to 1 and a 100 year recurrence interval. Which means again, it's not something you see every single day. And of course, this particular storm system, not one you see every single day as well when it comes to the lack of movement here over the last several hours and potentially the next several days.

Quick glance, Rosemary, of what's happening into the western United States. Some elements of good news here. You are seeing a change here for an onshore flow. Meaning the moisture in the system here offshore really changing the pattern potentially, not only really mixing up the atmosphere a little bit when it comes to the air quality, but also maybe bringing some rainfall into the region over the next several days. CHURCH: All right, Pedram Javaheri, many thanks for that. Appreciate


Well, Bob Woodward's book "Rage" about the U.S. President and his administration releases today. The legendary journalist talked to Mr. Trump 18 times for this book. In newly released recording, the President admits to Woodward how deadly the coronavirus is.


TRUMP: This thing is a killer if it gets you. If you're the wrong person, you don't have a chance.


TRUMP: Rips you apart.

WOODWARD: This is a scourge and --

TRUMP: It is the plague.


CHURCH: But when Woodward told Mr. Trump the election would be a contest between him, former Vice President Biden, and the virus, Trump insisted nothing more could have been done to contain the pandemic. Instead he appeared more worried about the economy.

TRUMP: So, you think the virus totally supersedes the economy.

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

TRUMP: A little bit, yeah, so.

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.


CHURCH: And senior political analyst, Ryan Lizzo joins me now. He's also "Politico's" chief Washington correspondent. Glad to have you with us.

RYAN LIZZO, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks for having me, Rosemary.

CHURCH: So, President Trump hosted a rally Sunday night and then another packed event Monday with supporters not wearing masks or social distancing. Yet we know Donald Trump admitted to journalist Bob Woodward in February that he knew the deadly risks involved with COVID-19 but was downplaying them to avoid panic. And now we learn that he also told Woodward in April, that this virus is a killer if it gets you. So, what is the political fallout of a president showing such disregard for the lives of his own supporters when he knows exactly how deadly this is.

LIZZO: I don't know what the political fallout is. This such an unprecedented and strange situation. And remember, April is about the time when the White House decided that they were going to move to a strategy where the states would handle the COVID response and that they would focus on reopening. And they've never turned back from that decision.

These events started out relatively small, these Trump events, and they've been getting bigger and bigger. And just as a contrast, Rosemary, the Biden event today, if you were a reporter going to that event where he gave a speech today in Delaware, you were told that you had to wear a mask the entire time, you had to wear gloves. All of the reporters were distanced six feet or more from each other and only a very small group of reporters could go there. And of course, no crowd.

CHURCH: And, Ryan, new audio now reveals Mr. Trump also telling Woodward that nothing more could have been done to stop the pandemic. But we know that's not true. Data shows that other countries have lower deaths than the U.S. per 100,000 residents, like Germany, France, Canada, Australia, South Korea, the list goes on. Because they tested extensively, and isolated infected individuals and people wore masks.


So, how does the President get away with lying to the American public, particularly when most polls show the pandemic is the biggest concern that Americans have right now?

LIZZO: You know, I don't know how he gets away with it, Rosemary. I mean, we live in a time where political communication is so narrow cast that a lot of the people who support the President are not hearing this information, frankly. Because they're listening to Facebook and Fox News and communications channels that are not, frankly, telling them how serious this is. And it's a unique problem to the United States.

I mean, the fact that Trump could tell Bob Woodward that there's nothing more he could do is just astonishing when for months he refused to talk about how important it was to wear a mask when we never in this country got the contact tracing or the testing right, to the point where Americans are not allowed to go to Europe right now. And you know, you can't get on a plane and go Europe as an American. I mean it's something I never thought I would see in my lifetime. Which is a way of the rest of the world saying like, you guys got this wrong. You can't come here. What more do we need to know than that?

CHURCH: Ryan Lizzo there. And this programming note, Bob Woodward will speak with Anderson Cooper about the 18 conversations he had with President Trump. That interview airs at 1 a.m. Wednesday London time which is 8 a.m. in Hong Kong right here on CNN.

And still to come, even if a coronavirus vaccine is approved for use within months, it could take years before everyone gets it. We'll have the details next. [04:20:00]


CHURCH: Coronavirus cases are still rising across the globe, and the total case count is expected to surpass 30 million very soon. That is according to Johns Hopkins University. And the world's largest vaccine manufacturer is warning it could take years for everyone to get vaccinated. CNN's Athena Jones has the details.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A major warning on the vaccine front. The world's largest vaccine maker telling the "Financial Times" there won't be enough vaccines available to inoculate everyone in the world until the end of 2024 at the earliest, if two doses are needed to provide immunity.

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNAL MEDICINE AND VIRAL SPECIALIST: Plenty of the studies are showing that to get an adequate immune response it is going to require two doses probably spaced a month, you know, apart.

JONES: But --

RODRIGUEZ: What we need to keep in mind is that it may not require first and foremost, everyone in the world to get vaccinated, to slow down or even stop this spread.

JONES: Meanwhile, a bold prediction from vaccine maker Pfizer which is already manufacturing hundreds of thousands of doses in the hopes its COVID vaccine is deemed safe and effective.

ALBERT BOURLA, CEO PFIZER: We will know if the product works by the end of October.

JONES: Six months after the President declared a state of emergency to combat COVID-19, still a mixed picture across the United States. With 24 states showing a downward trend with new infections, 16 states holding steady, and 10 states and Puerto Rico on the rise. New infections up 55 percent in Wyoming, 36 percent in Wisconsin, and 10 percent in Connecticut.

Texas now behind just New York and New Jersey in the total number of COVID-19 deaths. In California where cases are falling, San Francisco to date reopening hair and nail salons and gyms. With limited capacity and face coverings required.

COVID spread and higher education remains a concern with more than 45,000 cases reported at colleges and universities in all 50 states. One reason seems like this one near NYU over the weekend are raising eyebrow. And there are new concerns about politics impacting U.S. agency scientific guidance. A federal official telling CNN assistant health and human services secretary Michael Caputo and his team, have been altering the CDC's weekly science reports so they don't undermine President Trump's optimistic political messaging on the virus. Dr. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: They are trying to crack the message from our scientific organization. This is not about the message. This is about science.

JONES: In fact, The New York Times reports Caputo accused CDC scientist of sedition on Facebook, stating, without evidence, the agency was harboring a resistance unit determine to undermine the President.


CHURCH: Athena Jones with that report. And in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Gates Foundation cofounder, Melinda Gates, had strong words about President Trump downplaying coronavirus fears. She also spoke about her concern over a huge drop in vaccination rates. Take a listen.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I wonder how worried you are about these staggering statistics that we're seeing of such small percentages relatively of people in the most developed parts of the world, United States, even Europe, saying that they would be willing to take a vaccine when and if one is actually delivered anytime soon.

MELINDA GATES, COFOUNDER, GATES FOUNDATION: It's incredibly disappointing because what we're seeing is 25 years of gains in vaccinations has been erased in 25 weeks. The drop in vaccination rates is profound. Now, as you say, we're hearing the disinformation and the skepticism in the United States and in Europe, but if you also talk to the African leaders, what are they talking about?


They're talking about how quickly they can get their measles campaign back up and running, their measles vaccinations campaign, because what they know and what mom and dad's will tell you in Africa, is when measles breaks out in the community, one person gets it. They're going to infect likely 12 to 18 other people. It's highly, highly contagious. So, vaccines work.

Moms and dads all over the world tell me when I see them standing in line at a health clinic and I say, why are you here? They say for vaccines for my children. And you've asked them how far -- what they did to get there? They rode a bus. They walked 15 kilometers. Vaccines save lives.

And so, we have to get through this time of disinformation. We will have at some point a safe and efficacious vaccine and I think once it starts to be delivered and people start to see other people taking it and being able to go back on with their normal daily life, then you'll see the vaccination rates start to rise again. But it's terrible what's gone on.


Still ahead, the UAE and Bahrain will officially normalize relations with Israel in the coming hours. So, what exactly have been achieved and who's being left out. We'll take a look at that. Back in a moment.


CHURCH: We are waiting on a big signing ceremony at the White House today with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are set to sign normalization deals with Israel. For the latest senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is in Abu Dhabi and correspondent Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem. Welcome to you both.

So, Sam, how significant are these deals and the timing of all of this? And of course, how have they been viewed in the region?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, it's highly significant from the U.S. administration.