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Slow-Moving Hurricane Set to Wallop Gulf from Louisiana to Florida; Trump Defies Pandemic, Hosts Big Crowd Indoors (Again); California Wildfires Have Burned 32. Million Acres in 2020; Eric Reid Calls NFL's Use of Kaepernick in Video "Diabolical". Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2020 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Crises converge. Another hurricane, historic wildfires and pandemic all putting the president's strained relationship with science on full display.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. I'm Christine Romans. It's Tuesday, September 15th. It is 5:00 a.m. exactly here in New York. Seven weeks now until the election. Just two weeks until the very first debate.

But the Gulf Coast right now about to be walloped by the second hurricane in three weeks. Hurricane Sally rapidly intensifying Monday. Mississippi, Alabama now facing a direct hit.

Hurricane warnings stretch from Morgan City, Louisiana, eastward, all the way into Florida. Now, Sally could bring catastrophic storm surges, flooding, and days of torrential rain.

JARRETT: As it gains power, the storm is also slowing down. That creeping approach means Sally will stay powerful longer. Residents in the hurricane's path are bracing themselves right now. Water's already rising in parts of Mississippi.

A new update just in from the National Hurricane Center.

Meteorologist Chad Myers joining us live this morning from the CNN Weather Center.

All right, Chad. What is the latest at this hour?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Latest is the hurricane center brought this down to an 85 mile per hour storm. That doesn't mean let your guard down. But what it's doing now, this storm is using up some of the warm water that it had to work it, because it did stall.

It's not getting new warm water. It's sitting over the same warm water using it up. There was a flare-up overnight, but right now, 85 miles per hour still off the coast. And like you said, the problem is, part of the problem is that it isn't moving and that's going to pile up the rainfall totals, 10 to 20 inches of rainfall likely, not just possible, likely in many areas here.

The rain is already on, it has been on the Florida peninsula, the West Coast of Florida, all the way through there, all the way to the last couple of hours, very heavy rainfall all the way through the panhandle as well.

This storm eventually moves through the North. It's going to take a long time. It may take 24 hours just to get on shore later tonight and into tomorrow morning. Hurricane warnings are still posted all the way from Florida, Alabama, even into parts of almost Pensacola there. And we see those hurricane warnings moving to the east on every successive run because the storm isn't moving any further west.

Now, it's just going to move to the north. But it's going to be such a slow trek. By 1:00 a.m. still in the water. So, 20 hours from now, this thing still hasn't made landfall by the time we talk about 5:00, 6:00, or 8:00 tomorrow morning, that's when it does come on shore. Then it will pick up speed and move away.

But the rainfall totals will be tremendous. We're already seeing three feet now of saltwater surge in some of these areas, Waveland Bay, St. Louis, almost to Pensacola, certainly, Shell Beach. And then the rainfall into Mobile, into Pensacola, into Biloxi and Gulfport, exceptionally heavy, heavy rainfall here. We are going to see that continue for the rest of the day.

We're kind of run things down here. The new hurricane discussion hasn't yet printed. As soon as that discussion prints, I'll probably get back to you maybe about 5:30.

JARRETT: All right, Chad. All right, Chad, we'll check in with you soon. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. Certainly, a dangerous situation there in the Gulf and a dangerous situation here. For the second time in two days, President Trump holds a packed event indoors. This time it was a Latino roundtable in Phoenix. Chairs were zip tied for fire safety. It kept folks close together, at odds with pandemic safety.

The only person socially distanced, there was one, the president, himself. He kept away.

Another crowd is expected at the White House for a signing ceremony between Israel and the UAE. All of these crowds and yet the president is well-aware of how dangerous this virus really is. In more newly released audio recordings, the president told journalist Bob Woodward this back in April.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This thing is a killer if it gets you. If you're the wrong person, you don't have a chance.

BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: Yes. Yes. Exactly. It's a monster. TRUMP: So it rips you apart.

WOODWARD: This is a scourge and --

TRUMP: It is the plague.


ROMANS: In private, he's calling it the plague there.

Here's more of what he said in April.


TRUMP: We're very close to completing a plan to open our country, hopefully even ahead of schedule.

We have to get our sports back. I'm tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old.

I think you're going to see quite a few states starting to open.

They've got cabin fever. They want to get back. They want their life back. Their life was taken away from them.


JARRETT: Five months later, and the life isn't back to normal because the U.S. did not do what it needed to do.


At the time, 42,000 Americans were dead and any day now the U.S. death toll will hit 200,000. Nearly 550,000 children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the beginning of this pandemic, with a 15 percent increase in cases in just the last two weeks.

Yet some young adults are not getting the message. Multiple Michigan State University sororities and fraternities have been ordered to quarantine for two weeks amid a coronavirus spike tied to the students. University of Arizona is also asking students to quarantine for two weeks to slow the spread. The University of Wisconsin Lacrosse and Northern Illinois University are both switching from in person learning to all remote classes and some high schools in New York and Massachusetts now delaying reopening because some students decided to party before school starts.

Regional officials are pleading for young people and old to get flu shots.


JUDY PERSICHILLI, NJ DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH COMMISSIONER: This year, we are preparing for the possibility of a twin-demic, a severe flu season and a resurgence of COVID-19 which could strain health care resources.


ROMANS: So cases are rising in nine states, five of them in the northeast. Some states are still getting push back. A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruling that several restrictions on large gatherings ordered by a governor, those restrictions were unconstitutional, although some of the rules have already been eased.

Some good news, hospitalizations are under 30,000 for the first time since June.

JARRETT: Well, a battle over basic science as the president visits California in the midst of devastating unprecedented wildfires. At least three dozen are dead in three states and more are missing.

In California alone, over 16,000 firefighters battling 28 major wildfires, 4,200 buildings reduced to ashes there. A thick blanket of red and orange smoke is choking the West Coast.

President Trump confronted head on with basic climate science and shrugging it off.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 together protecting Californians.

TRUMP: OK, it will start getting cooler. You just -- you just watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish science agreed with you.


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


ROMANS: Science does know.

A warming climate has caused droughts, drying the land, allowing fires to accelerate in intense heat. The California fires injecting climate change directly into the presidential campaign.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more America ablaze? Give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if more of America is underwater?


JARRETT: Because of the smoke from the fire, three major U.S. cities, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco have the worst air quality of any big cities in the world, and that smoke has blown thousands of miles to the east, reaching parts of the Midwest, Canada, and even Upstate New York.

Dan Simon is on the ground for us in California.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Christine, we are just in front of this police checkpoint. Just beyond those cones no one is allowed to go farther. There's just so much destruction. There's downed power lines. It's unsafe for people to go through that area.

You can also see that fuel tanker behind me, they're helping out the fire engines in the area, the firefighters who need more fuel to keep doing their jobs. In the meantime, no question people around the country have seen these horrific and disturbing images of fire destruction.

But I have to tell you, no place has been hit any harder than the small town of Berry Creek, California, about 200 miles of San Francisco. Even the town's fire station was destroyed. Think about that for a moment.

This fire came in so fast that the firefighters, it's an all-volunteer fire department, they couldn't get to the fire station to get the equipment out. Most of the firefighters themselves lost their homes. The school is destroyed. Most of the homes in that area is destroyed.

I happened to run into a couple of county board of supervisors who explained the situation. Take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not in control. We are not in control of the fire. I think we're going to see more and more climate events like this. This isn't going to get better. This is going to be worse. There will be effects from this fire such as runoff and topsoil that goes into our waterways and we're going to be dealing with the effects of this for a very long time.

SIMON: And this is the same county that two years ago went through the campfire that with 14,000 homes lost, 85 people died in that fire. The town of paradise was leveled.


And they're just in the early stages of rebuilding there. And so, that gives you a sense in terms of the long road ahead for the town of Berry Creek.

Laura and Christine, back to you.


JARRETT: All right. Dan Simon, thank you so much.

Well, it's a miracle they survived. Two deputies making steady progress after an ambush in California. We have new video showing how one officer helped save the other.


ROMANS: Big questions this morning in a six-week political and business saga that led to the hookup between TikTok and Oracle. Now, the Treasury Department says it will review the partnership, a partnership made necessary because the administration has called TikTok a national security issue and demand it be bought by a U.S. company. TikTok said its proposal with Oracle would resolve those concerns.


President Trump has said he would ban TikTok in the U.S. unless it was sold to a U.S. company by September 20th. It's unclear whether the argument can successful avoid that ban.

And it doesn't look like an outright sale. There are questions about Trump's political relationship with Oracle's top executives. Oracle's co-founder Larry Ellison has vocally expressed his support for the president, and its CEO has donated more than $130,000 to Trump's reelection campaign this year.

JARRETT: Breaking overnight, a federal judge ruling that Chad Wolf is likely serving unlawfully as acting homeland security secretary. The judge found that the last acting secretary was appointed without following the agency's order of succession, meaning, he could not appoint Wolf in his place. The judge is temporarily barring the White House from enforcing new asylum restrictions implemented under Wolf since he's there unlawfully.

We may hear what Chad Wolf has to say about this on Thursday. He has a subpoena to appear over a House committee over allegations he urged DHS officials to alter intelligence.

ROMANS: This morning, a manhunt is intensifying for the gunman who ambushed two Los Angeles sheriff deputies in Compton over the weekend. Officials say it is a miracle these two survive after being shot multiple times in the head and face. The officers are in critical but stable condition at the hospital, and they have a long road to recovery.

This may be difficult to watch. New video shows the bloodied officers in the moments after the attack. The female officer helping save the life of her partner, applying a tourniquet around his bloody arm as they crouch and take cover.

JARRETT: Now the reward for information leading to the shooter's arrest is now up to $175,000. And the L.A. County sheriff has issued a challenge for Lakers superstar LeBron James.


ALEX VILLANUEVA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF: I want you to match that and double that reward because I know you care about law enforcement. You expressed a very -- very interesting statement about your perspective on race relations and on officer-involved shootings and the impact it has on the African-American community and I appreciate that. But, likewise, we need to appreciate the respect for life goes across professions, across races, creed.


JARRETT: James has been one of the most vocal athletes to speak out on social issues and condemn police misconduct.

ROMANS: All right. He missed his first four kicks on Monday night football. Could the Titans kicker redeem himself with a game on the line? Find out next.



ROMANS: All right. Twenty-two minutes past the hour.

The first player to kneel alongside Colin Kaepernick says the NFL's social justice campaign is diabolical and half-hearted at best.

Carolyn Manno has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Carolyn.


Free agent safety Eric Reid calling out the NFL, calling out NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for using images of Colin Kaepernick in a video campaign that's designed to promote unity. He feels it's extremely hypocritical.

It's a video of Alicia Keys singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing". It includes a clip of Kaepernick and Reid kneeling when they were teammates at the San Francisco 49ers.

This video was shown before all of the games during week one and in a pair of tweets Reid says Goodell has not called Colin Kaepernick to apologize for how he was treated by the league. Goodell has said he was wrong for not listening back in 2016 and that he supports player's protests during the national anthem now.

This was Reid's response on Monday night. Goodell uses video of Colin courageously kneeling to legitimize their disingenuous PR while simultaneously perpetuating systemic oppression that the video he's using fights against, by continuing to rob Colin of his career. It is diabolical.

The Pittsburgh Steelers meanwhile stood together before Monday night's game against New York Giants. Players held a banner reading "Steelers against racism" on the sideline during the national anthem.

As for the game itself, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made a triumphant return after missing most of last season with an elbow injury. Big Ben threw three touchdown passes for the 50th time in his career. That is a new franchise record, by the way. Pittsburgh winning by 10. In the late game, kicker Stephen Gostkowski went from 0 to hero in his

debut with the Titans team. He missed not one, not two, but three field goals against the Broncos and missed an extra point. Gostkowski never missed three field goals in a game during his 14 seasons in New England when he won three Super Bowl rings.

But he made one kick that mattered the most, 25 yard field goal 17 seconds left to give Tennessee a 2-point victory. That is all that matters.

The A's and Mariners played a doubleheader in Seattle yesterday despite the extremely poor air quality in the Pacific Northwest. The air index at an unhealthy level and hazardous level due to the raging wildfires across the West Coast.

Oakland pitcher Jesus Luzardo did not mince words when asked about the conditions that degraded over the course of the night.


JESUS LUZARDO, OAKLAND A'S PITCHER: I'm a healthy 22-year-old. I shouldn't be, you know, gasping for air, I guess you should say, or missing oxygen when I'm, you know, kind of getting to the line. So, that's -- I'll leave it at that.


MANNO: And, Laura, Major League Baseball hasn't established an index of its own where the air quality would be unhealthy to play. They deferred to local health officials for that so far.


However, it is worth nothing that the level that it was at on Monday night well surpasses what the NFL considers to be unsafe playing conditions for its players.

JARRETT: Yeah, you can just see how thick it was. I mean, it looks like fog almost.

All right. Carolyn, nice to see you this morning. Thank you so much for all the reporting.

Still ahead, another hurricane on final approach to the Gulf. Up to 20 inches of rain expected across several states now. The storm moving so slowly you could walk faster. It's one of three crises facing the country and the president is denying basic science.