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Fires Scorch the West Coast; Trump Assaults Science; Hurricane Sally to Batter Gulf Coast; State Department Asked to Send Christmas Cards; New Video of Ambushed Deputies. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 15, 2020 - 06:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Developing this morning, at least 36 people have now been killed as nearly 100 wildfires scorched millions of acres on the West Coast. Twenty-two people are missing in Oregon this morning.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Monrovia, California, with the latest on the battle this morning.

Stephanie, what are you seeing?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what I can tell you, John, is when I talked to you yesterday here at the Bobcat Fire, which is in the suburb of Los Angeles, we were at 6 percent containment. Well, overnight, we now know that that containment has dropped to 3 percent, still over some 33,000 acres. It's burning up on this ridge behind me. And what they are working on overnight is keeping that line from coming down into this neighborhood where I am standing right now.

But you are right, when you take a look at the number of fires that are burning, we have 87 large fires burning in ten states, 4.6 million acres have been burned so far, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Most of those fires are right here in California. At least 25 fires burning 2.5 million acres.

We did see, yesterday, that the president came to California to see some of this damage that has happened here in the state, meeting with Governor Newsom. And while the president was downplaying climate change being a reason for part of this scorching that is happening here and getting worse year after year, Governor Newsom made it clear what he thinks is behind it.

Take a listen.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): The hottest August ever in the history of this state, the ferocity of these fires, the drought five-plus years, losing 163 million trees to that drought. Something's happened to the plumbing of the world. And we come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real.


ELAM: And across much of the western part of the United States, the air quality is really bad, which is because of all of these wildfires. So making the masks doubly important for people here and they're asking people to stay inside, which is obviously scary, Alisyn, as many people are trying to stay distant from people while still trying to battle the coronavirus.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The whole thing is scary, Stephanie. Thank you very much for reporting for us.

Joining us now is CNN political analyst Margaret Talev. She's a politics and White House editor for "Axios."

Margaret, President Trump has never believed in climate change. I mean, even Donald Trump, when he was running for it, didn't believe it. You know, he has these very strongly held beliefs, based on nothing, other than "Fox & Friends" segments. I mean not based on, you know, reading or science. And so here it was on full display as the secretary of the Natural Resources Agency in California tried to make his case.


WADE CROWFOOT, SECRETARY OF THE CALIFORNIA NATURAL RESOURCES AGENCY: 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.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: OK, it will start getting cooler.

CROWFOOT: I wish --

TRUMP: You just -- you just watch.

CROWFOOT: I wish science agreed with you.

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


CAMEROTA: Margaret, your reaction?

TALEV: Well, science knows a lot. Science knows a lot and science knows that climate change is real. And I just was struck by the parallels between the president's approach to talking about the fires in some of his approach over the recent weeks and months in talking about the virus. The idea of kind of understating what science knows and then overstating some of the ambiguities like what role does, you know, forest management have in all this, and it kind of creates this space for an alternate story, but the alternate story isn't really on point.


And climate scientists and activists for months have been watching what's been going on with the pandemic and seeing some of these parallels, the idea of the kind of contrast between what's the impact on the economy, if you take drastic measures to try to arrest the change, versus what's the impact on human health. And now we're seeing both of these crisis sort of play out in real time together.

BERMAN: I think there's absolutely a through line. I think you're absolutely right that these are connected here. The president suggested we inject disinfectant to get over coronavirus into our bodies. And he's really, essentially, telling us to inject disinfectant into our eyes when it comes to climate change and not to believe what we see and what we know with our brains out there.

And it's interesting to watch the Biden campaign react to this. I'm not sure I remember a Democratic campaign acting as aggressively in a general election on the issue of climate change. I want you to listen to Joe Biden yesterday.


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


BERMAN: He also tied this to the suburbs, Margaret, saying that the suburbs are going to burn up.

But I think you're right, it does feel like this is more than just about climate with the Biden campaign at this point.

TALEV: Well, John, you know, there is a political through line to this as well. There's the science, but there's also the politics. And what is true politically, not just in the suburbs, but in the suburbs for sure, is that there is just an absolute growing acceptance among the American people that climate change is real and that it's a real problem.

Yale University and George Mason are a part of this consortium that's been doing polling on this consistently and we now see that like three quarters of the country says, there's no question about it, climate change is real.

It's true in swing states, too, and it's true particularly in two swing states. And they're important ones, Florida and Iowa. Florida, obviously, huger, completely pivotal to the race. But in places with major stretches of coastline where you have hurricanes, real estate on the coast, and in a farming center like Iowa, voters are extremely attuned to these issues. They drive fundraising. They drive voter turnout. They drive young people's turnout. And they drive people who are in the business community and people with educations turn out. So these are -- this is -- there is a political implication to this. But if you are living through it right now on the coast of any place or in the middle of the country that's impacted by this, you know there's also a real impact.

CAMEROTA: Margaret, it's very interesting to understand what President Trump has been focused on. It's not the wildfires. It's not the 195,000 people who have been killed by coronavirus. He reveals it in some of these new audio clips with Bob Woodward, what he's most focused on. And this one is from exactly a month ago. This isn't six months ago. This is basically in real time now. Here it is.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So you think the virus totally supersedes the economy?

BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: Oh, sure, but they're related, as you know.

TRUMP: A little bit, yes.

WOODWARD: Oh, little bit? I mean --

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


CAMEROTA: He keeps trying to -- and even in ore clips, turn Bob Woodward's attention back to the economy. And Bob Woodward keeps trying to say, but the coronavirus is seizing the country.

TALEV: Yes. I mean it's jarring -- it's jarring to hear the comments. I think the president is using his outer voice to express what any politician's inner voice would be weighing, which is like, yes, if you're leading the nation, you have to worry about the economy as a component of public safety and civil rest and all of that. But, you know, there's a pecking order to these considerations and clearly protecting human life has to come first on all -- at each and every pecking order.

This is something that the president, obviously, has been grappling with in the tapes to help us understand sort of -- it's like a time release capsule of how he's been weigh those concerns internally and then what the public messaging has been.

BERMAN: You know, Jamie Gangel pointed out that on the day he said that a month ago, 1,300 people died. So the president is talking about the stock market there on a day when 1,300 people died.

Thanks, Margaret.

CAMEROTA: And be sure to watch a special "AC 360" tonight. Bob Woodward joins Anderson Cooper live with new, unreleased audio from his taped interviews with President Trump. That's tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

BERMAN: It's like a box set from Bob Woodward. It's not just an album.

CAMEROTA: And it just keeps going.


CAMEROTA: All right, meantime, Hurricane Sally is dumping a lot of rain and it's going to on the Gulf Coast.


The slow-moving hurricane is going to create a lot of problems there. So Chad Myers has the latest forecast for us, next.


CAMEROTA: The outer bands of Hurricane Sally already hammering the Gulf Coast with heavy rain at this hour. Because of how slowly Sally is churning, it's expected to dump rain for days. You're looking at Gulf Shores, Alabama, here. It's dark, so I don't know if you can see that it's already experiencing wind and lots and lots of rain.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the latest forecast.

How's it looking at this hour, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Moving at 2 miles per hour, Alisyn. That's the key takeaway from this update. It's an 85-mile-per-hour storm. Yesterday, for a while, it was 100. So we lost a little intensity overnight. But it is lumbering to the north.

This may not make landfall until about this time tomorrow morning. Somewhere plus or minus 40 miles from Biloxi. But it's the right side of the center that's going to see all of this rainfall.


That's where it is now. It really hasn't even rained in New Orleans at all because on the right side is the wet side of this storm. And it makes it all the way, about 1:00 a.m., not that far from, let's say, the tip of the Mississippi River, almost to Dauphin Island. And then on up towards the northeast, but very slowly.

And it's that rain after rain after rain event that we're going to see down here across the Gulf Coast. There are spots, very dark purple, that approach 20 inches of rain.

Now, you're also talking about this surge. There's already surge in Pascagoula. There's already some surge in Shell Beach in Louisiana. There's already a little bit of surge even into Apalachicola. Maybe one to two to three feet is the most I can find right now.

But because this storm isn't going to move for 24 hours, that surge is going to get higher and higher and higher and the winds are still going to blow. We're going to have a lot of power lines down, trees down, because the ground's going to be saturated and then it's going to get windy. This is an event that we're going to not put in the record books, but there will certainly be significant problems, unlike Laura, which, you know, had a 15-foot surge. We don't see that here. Somewhere between seven and 11. But that's a big surge if your house is only seven feet above sea level.

So, we'll keep watching it.

BERMAN: And it's dumping a lot of rain, Chad.

MYERS: Yes, it is.

BERMAN: All right, thanks very much. I know you're watching it very closely for us.

All right, breaking news, we're getting our first look at Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny since he was poisoned with a Russian nerve agent. Navalny posted this picture on Instagram from his hospital in Berlin. He writes that he can hardly do anything, but he can now breathe on his own without medical support. That's good news. And listen to this, Navalny says he plans to return to Russia after he recovers.

CAMEROTA: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife under scrutiny this morning. A source tells CNN the State Department internal watchdog has e-mails that show Susan Pompeo asking State Department staffers to send out the family's Christmas cards.

CNN's Kylie Atwood live at the State Department with more.

So that would be wrong, Kylie?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Alisyn. So what a source tells us that Susan Pompeo actually requested a State Department staff to help send out personal family Christmas cards. And now that is according to a source familiar with the e- mails, who also tells me that those e-mails have been turned over to the State Department inspector general as part of their grander investigation into the potential misuse of government resource by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife, Susan Pompeo.

Now, a State Department aide told Tony Porter -- named Tony Porter told congressional committees last month that she helped with that task and she felt uncomfortable with it. Now, that investigation, that interview that she provided, is part of The Hill looking into the firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.

Now, he was the State Department watchdog when the investigation was opened into the potential misuse of government resources by the Pompeos. And the issue here is that he was then fired. He was fired by President Trump, but he was fired at the request of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

And so let's listen to how Pompeo defended his wife when asked about this last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: The fact that they're picking on my wife, who has done yeoman's work as a volunteer to try and make life better for every officer at the State Department, I find pathetic and sad. But we'll keep doing the right thing. We'll keep obeying the law. We'll keep doing everything that's proper. And we'll leave the State Department a better place than we found it when our time -- our time here is done.


ATWOOD: The other thing I want to point out is that just last night the Madison dinners here at the State Department that are hosted by Pompeo and his wife, Susan Pompeo, that hosts CEOs and Republican donors, they started up just last night. They have received criticism for being part of the Pompeo's effort to build their political network while at the State Department.


CAMEROTA: Kylie, thank you very much for all of the reporting on this.

All right, we have an update now on those two L.A. County deputies ambushed in their vehicle. We are seeing new very disturbing video from the scene and authorities are still searching for the shooter.



CAMEROTA: There is graphic, new video that shows those two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies moment after they were ambushed in their patrol car. The manhunt is underway still for the gunman. It is intensifying. The reward has nearly doubled.

Basically, what you see there is them helping each other.

CNN's Josh Campbell is live in Los Angeles with the latest.

Josh, what's happening?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning to you, Alisyn.

The manhunt for that gunman is still underway at this hour. Numerous police officers are out searching for him. They are appealing to the public for information, as well.

And we want to show you that first video of the actual incident that occurred -- I'll warn you that this is graphic -- to remind our viewers of this ambush that we saw on tape where you have a patrol car that's sitting outside of a metro station. A man walks towards the vehicle, he appears as though he's going to pass by. He stops and opens fire into the passenger side of that police car and then runs towards the rear of the vehicle. Again, he is still at large at this hour. This new video that you talked about really gives us a sense of what

it was like for those deputies at the moment. And what we're learning is that the female deputy, a 31-year-old, who had been shot in the face, was able to render aid to her 24-year-old male partner and call for assistance. Again, both of them were seriously injured after the shooting. But, again, she coming to the aid of her partner, trying to save his life, as she, herself, was severely wounded.

Both of those deputies were taken to the hospital behind me here, near the Compton area. They remain in critical condition at this hour.

Now, as far as that manhunt, as you mentioned, the reward has nearly been doubled. It is now at $175,000. Police appealing to the public that if they have any information that could lead to the identification and arrest of this shooter, they want to hear from you.



CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Josh, the heroism. I mean she was so grievously injured and still trying to save the life of her partner. We just hope that that manhunt can resolve very soon.

We'll check back with you, Josh. Thank you very much.

We're also watching Hurricane Sally in the Gulf of Mexico. We have the new forecast and timing for landfall, next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

We do begin with breaking news.

Fires, floods, and pestilence, literally. America under assault this morning from within and without one common thread, one of the things that might save us, science, is also under assault. Residents along the Gulf Coast bracing for Hurricane Sally, which is inching along very slowly toward land. And that slow speed, in and of itself is a problem, because the big concern with this storm is the rain, torrential rain for days.


It will just park over parts of the Gulf Coast and dump 10, 15, 20 inches of rain there.