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Trump Versus Medical Advisers (Again); AG Barr Slams Prosecutors, Compares Lockdowns to Slavery; At Least One Killed, Hundreds Rescued After Hurricane Sally; Big Ten Football To Return Next Month. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 17, 2020 - 05:00   ET




DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: Late second quarter, third quarter 2021.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he got the message maybe confused.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president publicly contradicting his own CDC chief, once again creating uncertainty rather than stability.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: And the attorney general with some inflammatory remarks about the pandemic, slavery, and his own prosecutors across the country.

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

ROMANS: Good morning. I'm Christine Romans. It's Thursday, September 17th, 5:00 a.m. in New York, and 47 days to the election if you're counting.

A nation in dire need of consistent, factual information about coronavirus, still hearing everything but. President Trump contradicting his own top health officials yet again on the importance of wearing masks and the timing of a vaccine. It started when CDC Director Robert Redfield testifying before Congress Wednesday, delivered this sobering reality check about the vaccine for the general public.


REDFIELD: I think there will be vaccine that will initially be available sometime between November and December, but very limited supply and will have to be prioritized. If you're asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at third -- late second quarter, third quarter 2021.


ROMANS: That timing inconvenient as it may be for an incumbent president is in line with what other experts have said. The president even told Bob Woodward back in the spring that it would probably take a year to develop a vaccine, but just a few hours after Dr. Redfield spoke to Congress on Wednesday, the president said he was wrong.


TRUMP: I think he made a mistake when he said that. It's just incorrect information. I called him. He didn't tell me that. And I think he got the message, maybe confused. Maybe it was incorrectly stated. No, we're ready to go immediately as a vaccine is announced.


JARRETT: Now, on the subject of masks, here again is what Dr. Redfield told Congress.


REDFIELD: These facemasks are the most important powerful public tool we have. If we did it for 6, 8, 10, 12 weeks, we'd bring this pandemic under control. I might even go so far as to say that this facemask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take the COVID vaccine.


JARRETT: The most important tool.

Redfield is saying this on the same day another White House staffer tested positive for the virus.

The president still refusing to follow the science opted to throw Redfield under the bus.


TRUMP: When I called up Robert today, I said to him, what's with the mask? He said, I think I answered that question incorrectly. I think maybe he misunderstood it. I mean, he had two questions, maybe he misunderstood both of them.


JARRETT: Turns out Dr. Redfield didn't misunderstand the question. After Trump spoke, he tweeted this, quote: The best defense we currently have against this virus are the important mitigation efforts including wearing masks.

This isn't just semantics. The president is continuing to mislead the public about a virus that has already killed 197,000 Americans and with 47 days to go until this election apparently hopes the voters will simply take his word over the advice of his own health experts.

ROMANS: All of this continued misdirection and confusion at a time when the virus is showing signs of resurgence. Cases are now up in 23 states. On Monday, it had been nine.

Now, the director of National Institution of Health put the situation we're in this way.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Those who are vaccine hesitant have had their hesitancy enhanced by a variety of things that are happening right now, particularly the unfortunate mix of science and politics.


ROMANS: Dr. Collins says data suggests anywhere from 1/3 to half of Americans would choose not to get a COVID-19 vaccination if it were available today.

JARRETT: Attorney General Bill Barr with a blunt assessment of the hundreds of prosecutors who work under him, equating them to, quote, preschoolers. Barr has faced backlash from the rank-and-file attorneys in the department over a series of decisions that seem to line up with the political goals of the president like overruling prosecutors to advocate for a lighter prison sentence for President Trump's longtime friend, Roger Stone, clearly annoyed by any criticism that political officials interfere in criminal cases.

Barr was having none of it on Wednesday.



WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Name one successful organization or institution where the lowest level employee's decisions are deemed sacrosanct, they aren't. There aren't any. Letting the most junior members set the agenda might be good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it is no way to run a federal agency.


JARRETT: Barr's comments at a conservative college in Michigan likely to inflame the already strained relationship between the political appointees running the Justice Department in Washington, and the career attorneys across the country.

Barr also made some very inflammatory comments about the pandemic and slavery. That's coming up in a few minutes.

ROMANS: All right. We know they used tear gas. Now CNN is learning the Trump administration considered using a heat ray against the protesters in Lafayette Park in June. The device makes people feel like their skin is on fire. The revelation comes from written testimony from a senior National Guard official who is at the scene there.

This is not a first for this administration. President Trump suggested using a heat ray on migrants as a deterrent in 2016, but the idea went nowhere.

JARRETT: Breaking news overnight. At least one person has died from Hurricane Sally. That's according to the mayor of Orange Beach, Alabama, who tells a CNN affiliate WSFA that another person is also missing.

Hundreds of people near the Florida/Alabama border are being rescued from catastrophic flood waters there. Authorities fear many more could be in danger in the coming days.

Pensacola, Florida, was hit so hard an entire section of the newly built Pensacola Bay Bridge known to locals as the Three Mile Bridge is now missing.


CHIEF GINNY CRANOR, PENSACOLA FIRE DEPARTMENT: The flooding is bad. We have 30 inches of rain in Pensacola, 30 plus inches of rain which at four months of rain at four hours at some point. So it is very bad, severe.


ROMANS: Parts of Florida and Alabama were submerged by flooding. Rivers rose nearly dangerous levels and several counties were put under curfew to keep residents safe. One woman who rode out the storm says it looks like a war zone, and the threat is clearly not over yet.

CNN's Polo Sandoval live in hard hit Gulf Shores, Alabama.

You've been riding through the storm. Tell us what's happening.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, some of these people telling us that the worse isn't over because they have the potential financial hardships to overcome. You do have obviously Gulf Shores. You mentioned a little while ago Orange Beach right next door. These are those Alabama seaside communities that have had to make the very difficult decision to close off to tourists, which is really their life blood here and what maintains them afloat.

The local tourism board making that decision yesterday and making that tough decision because not only is the infrastructure still not able to sustain visitors, but you see behind me multiple businesses, it's really a snapshot of what we found in this small community since yesterday here.

Many communities still dealing with coastal flooding. There's widespread power outages and also significant structural damage to the buildings here. So, when you hear from some of these business owners, including 26-year-old Janelle Hawkins (ph) feels that it is necessary to try to get the community back on the ground. In fact, Hawkins even rode out the storm yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I definitely wasn't expecting it to be that bad. I -- I wish I would have -- you know, you always wish you would have known and stuff, you know, looking back, hindsight is 20 20-20. At the same time, you cross your fingers and hope.


SANDOVAL: You know, this actually -- this storm making landfall almost 60 years to the day when Hurricane Ivan also took a very similar path, curved a very similar path of destruction here. In fact, there were many people who had rebuilt and lost much of what they had back in 2004. And now, obviously, facing that reality of having to clean up again.

But we should mention, though, by the way, that closure to tourists that is expected to last at least 10 days. It should be open again come September 26th. That's a day many businesses say can't come soon enough -- guys.

ROMANS: Polo, I know people want to get out there and inspect the damage. These are dangerous moments, right, after hurricane. You know, still downed power lines and still stuff in the water. So, be careful.

Polo Sandoval in the Gulf Shores for us, thanks.

JARRETT: Well, after historic rainfall along the Gulf Coast, Sally has been downgraded. It will bring heavy rain to the Southeast.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest.



Yes, the latest with tropical depression now Sally, about a 35 mile per hour storm almost located entirely over the state of Georgia, going to eventually rain itself out along the Carolinas and portions of Virginia.

And this could see 5 to 7 inches. Some areas maybe eight or nine inches, and the higher areas. But along the coast, that's where we picked up two feet in Pensacola, Florida. Four to five months of rainfall in some of the areas in a matter of 24 to 36 hours.


And with those strong winds, nearly 600,000 customers, exceeding 600,000 customers without power along the Gulf Coast as well. Peak hurricane season continues. Notice a couple areas of interest, especially the 60 percent chance there off towards the West Coast of Africa.

You notice the names. Only one name left. We've exhausted 20 of 21 names. Wilfred is the only remaining name before we kick it into the Greek alphabet.

This is the area I'm also concerned about, to the Southern Gulf of Mexico. Models at this point, all over the place, but the general consensus is it will strengthen and move over warm waters before it moves northbound.

We'll follow this into next week -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. Pedram, thank you so much for that.

The Central Bank signals it will be very patient to help the economy with a long recovery.



ROMANS: The message from the Federal Reserve is clear. Interest rates will stay low to help the economy healed.

The Central Bank kept interest rates near zero. They will stay there until the job market is recovered, but more is needed. Fed chief Jerome Powell said Congress needs to do more to guarantee a recovery from this crisis.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: There are still roughly 11 million people still out of work due to the pandemic and a good part of people are working in industries likely to struggle. Those people may need additional support as they try to find their way through what will be a difficult time for them.


ROMANS: Powell said the jobless rate may be three percentage points higher than the stated rate because of the uncounted people shown out of the labor force. First-time jobless benefits are still historically high.


POWELL: The level of initial claims has declined very sharply from the very high levels of March and April. That just tells you the labor market has improved but it's a long, long way from maximum employment.


ROMANS: Economists predict 850,000 people filed for the first time unemployment benefits last week. We'll know for sure in about three hours.

JARRETT: Well, smoke from the wildfires in the West Coast in the U.S. reaching all the way to Europe now. That's a distance of 5,000 miles. Currently, 79 large fires are burning in the West. That's down from 87 on Monday.

The active fires have now burned 4.4 million acres, more than 3 million football fields. Exhausted firefighters are working furiously to protect the Mt. Wilson Observatory from the out of control Bob Cat Fire.

Meanwhile in Oregon, the sheriff of Clackamas County says law enforcement is still battling baseless rumors that Antifa terrorists are starting these fires. Air quality on the West Coast remains among the worst in the world. And this dangerously severe air is creeping into people's homes, businesses and cars. In other words, a long road to recovery lies ahead.

ROMANS: Acting Homeland Security Chief Chad Wolf appears ready to defy a congressional subpoena. Department official says Wolf is not planning to testify at a House hearing on threats to national security. The subpoena was issued after a whistle-blower claimed Wolf urged officials to alter intelligence. A federal judge this week ruled Wolf is likely serving unlawfully because he was appointed by someone who wasn't properly appointed himself.

JARRETT: President Trump's director of national intelligence reversing course, now saying the agency will brief national leadership and oversight committees on efforts to prevent foreign interference in the 2020 election. Democrats were furious after Director John Radcliffe initially told Congress back in August that he was ending all in-person briefings on election security matters opting, instead, for written updates. At the time, President Trump had blamed that change on leaks.

ROMANS: All right. In a huge reversal, Big Ten football is coming back, but something will be missing.



ROMANS: The Big Ten reverses course, announcing plans to play football starting next month.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, good morning, Christine.

So, just a little over a month ago that the Big Ten announced it was postponing all fall sports because of coronavirus concerns. But after lots of pressure from players, coaches, parents, even President Trump, along with some new medical information, the Big Ten reversing course, now saying it will play football this fall.

So the teams are expected to hit the field for an eight-game shortened schedule starting the weekend of October 23rd and 24th. No fans will be allowed at these games. The Big Ten championship game is set for December 19th now, which is the day before the college football playoff committee is set to announce the four playoff teams.

To prevent a COVID outbreak, the schools will begin a daily testing program that delivers rapid results. Players who test positive must wait at least 21 days to return to competition. They will also undergo COVID-related cardiac testing.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez says a decision came down to the doctors now having more answers.


BARRY ALVAREZ, WISCONSIN ATHLETIC DIRECTOR: I agreed with their decision initially that you can't put players back on the field with these medical questions up in the air and no answers for them. So as we progressed, we came up with more and more. The doctors came up with more and more answers, and in the end, they answered all the questions that the chancellors and presidents have.


SCHOLES: All right. So with the Big Ten back, that leads just the Pac-12 is the only major conference that's not going to be playing football this fall, but that may also change soon. Commissioner Larry Scott issued a statement saying the conference isn't yet authorized to begin its football season because health officials in California and Oregon have not approved contact practice.

But California Governor Gavin Newsom says there is no such restriction from the state.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): I want to make this crystal clear, nothing in the state guidelines deny the ability for the Pac-12 to resume. Quite the contrary. That has been a misrepresentation of the facts.


SCHOLES: Yeah. So after those comments, Scott in another statement said California and Oregon schools in the Pac-12 are going to begin working with local officials on a plan to return to play.

All right. In the meantime, the NCAA Division I council has come up with a plan to start the men's and women's college basketball season on November 25th.


That's the day before Thanksgiving. The games will be first for college basketballs since COVID-19 pandemic cancelled conferences, tournaments and March Madness back in March. There will be no exhibition games or closed scrimmages before the approved start date.

All right. By the way, the L.A. Dodgers, the first team to punch their ticket to baseball's postseason. They secured their eighth straight playoff appearance with a win against the Padres of San Diego last night. But due to Major League Baseball's health and social distance protocols, the team didn't get to have the champagne celebration in the locker room.

In fact, manager Dave Roberts said, he wasn't aware his team clinched until he was asked about it after the game.

Tell you what, Laura, I've been part of those champagne parties in those clubhouses. They're a lot of fun. So, it's a much different for baseball this year not being able to have them.


SCHOLES: And this season has just flown by. There's only ten games left of the 60 game season. The postseason is upon us for baseball.

JARRETT: It's just crazy. It feels like we've just started.


JARRETT: Yeah. All right. Nice to see you this morning, Andy. Thanks so much.

All right. Quick programming note for you. Join Joe Biden in a special CNN presidential town hall live from Pennsylvania with Anderson Cooper moderating tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.