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White House on Defense Ahead of Tell-All Book Barrage Against Trump; Senator Kamala Harris Defense Past Position of Putting More Cops on the Streets; Joe Biden's Long Political Journey Fighting for the White House; Is a Vaccine the Latest Partisan Casualty?; California Breaks All-Time Record for Acres Burned Statewide; Mom Posts Video That Perfectly Sums Up Virtual Learning Woes. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 06, 2020 - 20:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to a special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Dana Bash in Washington.

The White House tonight is in full defense mode, trying to debunk or defuse a new swarm of allegations, none having to do with the president's policies. This weekend, it's the president's personality or character which is the target of people who were once on the inside now speaking out.

In one blow to the president's character, confirmation this weekend from a former White House official that President Trump did speak in what's called crude and derogatory terms about U.S. military men and women who died fighting in America's war. This is CNN's confirmation of a report from the "Atlantic" magazine which cited sources who said Trump referred to U.S. war dead as losers and suckers.

It's also a few days before three new tell-all books are published by people who were either close to the president or had extraordinary access to the Trump White House. Peter Strzok, a former FBI agent who worked on the Russia meddling investigation, who was a big foil of the president's, Michael Cohen who was a longtime personal attorney and self-proclaimed fixer of the president, and also distinguished journalist Bob Woodward.

All three books you see there are going to be released in the coming days. And all claim to reveal never-before-told details about this president and this White House.

Let's go straight to CNN's Jeremy Diamond on this.

Jeremy, it doesn't take a political savant to note that the timing of these tell-all books are coming with just 50-plus days to go before the election.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fifty-eight days but who's counting, right, Dana? There's no question with less than two months until the election, this is the time when you have so many voters who are beginning to tune into this election, and so these books may help shape and inform the views of many voters across the country. So there's no question that they're influential.

And it's part of the reason why we are seeing the level of pushback from the White House as we are, and I include the "Atlantic" magazine reporting in that as well. Because there's no doubt that that is also helping to shape voters' views of the president heading into this election.

Look, there's the Bob Woodward book which the president has already offered a prebuttal of sorts saying that it's going to be a fake book. We should note, of course, the president participated in that book. We're told that he sat down with Bob Woodward for several interviews and that book is being billed as revealing explosive accounts of the president's actions and thinking on national security events and on the coronavirus pandemic.

And then, of course, and most crucially, there is this book by Michael Cohen, the president's longtime former attorney and fixer, who makes several damning allegations about the president. Not only does he describe the president as a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, and many other terms like that, but he also makes this allegation about the president after the 2008 election when President Barack Obama became the first African-American elected president.

This is what Michael Cohen writes. He says that the president said, quote, "Tell me one country run by a black person that isn't an S- hole. They are all complete f-ing toilets." And that's just one of those claims by Michael Cohen in this book. The second one is where he says, I will never -- that the president said, quote, "I will never get the Hispanic vote, like the blacks, they're too stupid to vote for Trump. They're not my people."

Now the White House is coming out forcefully against this book by Michael Cohen. A statement from Kayleigh McEnany reads as follows. She says, "Michael Cohen is a disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer who lied to Congress. He has lost all credibility and it's unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off of lies."

Now the president for his part has not yet weighed in on this book but I suspect, Dana, that in the days to come that is likely to change -- Dana.

BASH: Coming to a Twitter feed near you, definitely. Jeremy, thank you so much for that reporting.

And let me bring in my all-star panel here, CNN's senior political commentator David Axelrod. CNN politics reporter Chris Cillizza, and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

So, Gloria, I want you to do this in a big picture like you always do so well. Everything that we are hearing, everything that we are seeing, particularly when we talk about these books from, you know, Michael Cohen, who I know you know well, but also from these reports that so many outlets have confirmed that come from sources who are apparently in the president's inner circle, or at least close enough to him to hear such disparaging remarks that he made about the military. What does this say to you about how the president is perceived and how

the public is internalizing it?


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Dana, it's remarkable to me that so many are coming out before the election, and let's face it, these books are not love stories about Donald Trump. I mean, just look at the titles of them. I wrote myself some notes here. "Fear" is one, "Rage" is another. Bob Woodward. And that's reported. Right? "Fire and Fury" was another book that came out. "The room Where It Happened" was John Bolton's book. And "Too Much and Never Enough" was the family member. And of course, "Disloyal" -- Mary Trump. And "Disloyal" is the book that's coming out by Michael Cohen.

These are not flattering depictions. You also had the "Anonymous" book. So there's a lot going on there. And if you look at them one after another, you have to ask yourself a question, is this a portrait that is being painted of the president that just by disgruntled people or is this a portrait that's being painted by people, let's just say, Bob Woodward, who is famous for his solid reporting?

BASH: And, David Axelrod, somebody who has gotten a Democratic president elected, a very, very different time, when you look at the campaign where we are right now, and look what happened four years ago, does this matter? Is this all baked in with the voters? All of these allegations and his character flaws? And should the Biden campaign really take hold of this or ignore it and talk about issues?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, Dana, I think that is such a good question because as Gloria recites the titles of these books, you're reminded just how much negative information people have gotten about this president over the last five years, and I think this is baked in the cake. I don't think anybody thinks he's up for a Nobel Prize for character. That has long since been asked and answered. And so I don't know that any -- and I read through the accounts of Michael Cohen's book.

It adds embellishment and elaboration to things we already know. But I'm not sure that's going to change anybody's mind. I think this story in the "Atlantic" comes the closest because it goes to a core value of his base, but I honestly think that all the president needs to do is say it's not true, and no matter what reporting is done, there are a lot of his supporters who are going to accept that it's not true.

The one thing that has really damaged him, that is controlling this race, is the coronavirus. I think people are willing to forgive him, his personality flaws, you heard it all the time in focus groups and elsewhere, well, he's kind of a jerk, I don't like him. I don't like the way he behaves.

BASH: Exactly. Yes.

AXELROD: But things are going well, the economy is good, he's kind of kicking people in the butt who probably deserve to get kicked in the butt. So I'll accept it. The cost of that personality has now become an issue because of the coronavirus and he still hasn't found a good answer to that. And that's, I think, what's controlling this race and making it hard for him to move up. You know, there's been this consistent seven-point, eight-point, nine-point margin that hasn't been helped by the conventions so, you know, time is a wasting here. And I'd be concerned about that if I were the president more than these books.

BASH: Chris Cillizza, what's your take?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, I agree with Axe in that Donald -- people when they elected Donald Trump in 2016, lots and lots of people who voted for him, dana, didn't think he was a good guy. I always point people to the exit polling. 60 plus percent of people did not think Donald Trump was honest and trustworthy. He won one in five of those voters. 60 plus percent of people didn't think Donald Trump had the qualifications to be president. He won one in five of those voters.

One more, 60 percent did not think he had the credibility, the integrity, to be president. He won one in five of those voters. So Donald Trump won in 2016 because he was seen as a change agent with an electorate that wanted change more than they wanted to elect the sort of moral leader that we have had, Republican or Democrat, in the past.

BASH: Yes.

CILLIZZA: The issue, though, is his character, just to echo David, his character and his inability to ever acknowledge he is wrong or has made a misstep, people forgive that when everything else is OK. Yes, he's kind of a jerk and a know-it-all and a bully, but the economy's good, but that character has directly impacted his capacity to deal effectively with the coronavirus.

BASH: So --

CILLIZZA: And that to me is when you get into trouble.

BASH: Right. OK. So, Gloria, I want to switch gears a little bit. You and I spent a lot of time with our incredible team here reporting out the questions about Russia and interference, potential collusion, in 2016. We've seen this movie before and it's happening again before our eyes. Apparently, according to the intelligence community, the attorney general, William Barr, told Wolf Blitzer this past week that the threat is much bigger from China than it is from Russia.


Earlier this evening, I spoke with the House Intelligence chairman, a Democrat, Adam Schiff, who basically told me he was lying. Take a listen.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): No, that's just a plain false statement by the attorney general. A flat-out false statement. You know, interestingly, some of the other administration officials have been trying to mislead the public by saying that China is the bigger threat to the country. And speaking in global terms because of the rising power of China, and they are using that answer in response to questions about the election, but they're at least careful in their misleading the public by not saying that they're a greater threat to the election. They're just saying generically, they're a bigger threat.

But what Bill Barr just did in that statement was just flat-out mislead the American people with a blatantly false statement.


BASH: So, Gloria, this obviously matters because we're in it right now. People are beginning to get their ballots in North Carolina and it's going to continue in states across the country even before we get to election day. So what is the public to do when you hear this and you hear one thing from the administration --

BORGER: Well -- right.

BASH: -- and another thing from the intelligence chairman who's a Democrat and they both have access --

BORGER: Right.

BASH: -- to the same intelligence.

BORGER: Well, and this is why, of course, the administration doesn't want to continue to brief Congress in person about this intelligence on election security because then they'd be able to come out and be a little bit more secure in what they were saying or able to say.

I think it was stunning what Adam Schiff said to you, Dana. I think what we see here is an attorney general saying, uh-uh, it's China. And, you know, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee saying, you know, wait a minute, no, no, no, it's not. And what is the public supposed to believe, particularly when it hears this from the attorney general, from the president of the United States, who seems to be mimicking a lot of what Russia is doing?

And so talking about confusing people about how to vote, et cetera, and I think that it's very damaging to the electoral process and, quite frankly, to the democracy when the attorney general of the United States and the chairman of the committee cannot agree on what the intelligence says. It's kind of remarkable and it does bring me back to Russia. It does.

AXELROD: We should --

BASH: Go ahead -- go ahead, David.

AXELROD: No, I was just going to say we shouldn't really equate the two because there's a preponderance of evidence and reporting that makes clear who the most active party is here.

BORGER: Right. AXELROD: In fact, the Department of Homeland Security tried to quash

intelligence that suggested --

BORGER: Exactly.

AXELROD: -- that the Russians were trying to undermine people's sensibilities about Joe Biden's mental acuity and they tried to keep that information from being disseminated. Facebook and Twitter just shut down some -- an entity that was a phony front entity that was set up by the same Russian unit that invaded our election last time that was sowing discord and disinformation about the election.

We know the Russians are active and you lay that alongside the fact that the president of the United States will not comment on Putin poisoning his chief rival. He won't comment on Russians' bounties on American troops.

BASH: Right.

AXELROD: The whole picture is very, very dark. And the attorney general should be ashamed of himself for what he said the other night.

BASH: And it's almost too -- it's almost impossible to wrap your mind around that they're saying that the attorney general is being misleading about Russia's misleading information or China's misleading information. If people out there don't understand it, we get it, we're trying to explain it.

David, and I want Chris to respond to this real quick afterwards, but I want to get to you on this and it's about the Biden campaign strategy on coronavirus specifically on masks because they believe it is one of their -- the vice president's, the former vice president's calling cards, that he wears a mask, he says it's about leadership. And he has said that there should be a national mandate, but listen to what the vice presidential candidate said to me about that.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's about a national standard. Everyone should wear a mask. And here's the thing about this. None of us likes wearing a mask. Nobody likes --

BASH: Right.

HARRIS: -- to wear a mask.

BASH: But there's a difference between a standard --

HARRIS: But it's about sacrifice.

BASH: Right. There's a difference between a standard and a mandate. Would it be a federal mandate under the Biden-Harris administration?

HARRIS: It would be a standard.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: And, yet, look at this tweet from Joe Biden last night. "As president, I will call for a nationwide mask mandate." Now, people might think, well, this is just semantics, but it's not.


This is about whether or not people out there won't feel that they want to be told by a potential president to wear a mask or not or whether they want to be forced to do that. Is this mixed messaging part of just a struggle to figure out how to handle this internally?

AXELROD: Well, it sounds like crossed wires a little bit. But, you know, one thing I will say on the mask thing, the overwhelming majority of Americans say they wear masks when they go out. It has been a real emblem of Trump's failure that he has mocked and discouraged people from wearing masks or did for a very long time. And everyone understands that that is associated with the awful numbers that we have in terms of infections.

So I think leaning hard into the mask question is really good strategy for them. They need to keep this really focused on this massive, historic, failure of this president on the coronavirus and all the ancillary issues that flow from that. But with almost -- we're closing in on 200,000 people dead.

BASH: Right.

AXELROD: And so I think that's the right place. Now why they didn't have it -- why they weren't in sync, but if Joe Biden sent a tweet out, I suspect that's the policy of the campaign because tweets are -- you know, unlike President Trump, I suspect his tweets are pretty well considered.

BASH: Chris Cillizza, real quick.

CILLIZZA: Yes. I think in the next 24 hours, Dana, you will see them get on the same page. I think that was a mistake by Kamala Harris and I think they will get on the same page because there is enough wiggle room there. The other thing is, Donald Trump has made mask-wearing political. Joe Biden has to make mask-wearing a public health issue. It's very difficult, but the people who think it's -- aren't going to vote for Donald Trump, anyway.

BASH: Right. And she --

CILLIZZA: It's a public health issue. Republicans get the coronavirus just like Democrats. You could love Donald Trump or you could hate him, it doesn't mean you don't get it, and that's what's been lost in this mask conversation. Largely because Donald Trump has politicized it.

BASH: OK. We'll see. I'm not so sure if she -- if she didn't feel that she was supposed to say that, but we'll see. All right.

David Axelrod, Chris Cillizza, Gloria Borger, you're going to stand by because we have much more to talk about, your incredible documentary coming up about Joe Biden. Also coming up, more of my exclusive interview with Kamala Harris. What she's saying about how President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr view race in America.



BASH: George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery. The list goes on and on. Policing and racial injustice in America is undoubtedly one of the biggest drivers this election cycle. I spoke with vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris about that and her past positions on placing more cops on the streets.


BASH: I want to ask about something that you wrote in a 2009 book.


BASH: Which is, if we take a show of hands of those who would like to see more police officers on the streets, mine would shoot up. And then in June of this year, you said to "The New York Times," "It is status quo thinking to believe that putting more police on the streets creates more safety. That's wrong."

So my question for you now, in retrospect, looking at your time as DA and as attorney general of California, through the lens of 2020, did you help contribute to what you describe as a status quo thinking, that more police equals more safety?

HARRIS: I am very clear that we have got to, in America, reimagine how we are accomplishing public safety, and what I believe now and what I believed then remains true and consistent, which is if you look at the communities that have no or very little police presence, as compared to those who have a high degree of police presence, you will see stark differences. And one of them is this. If you go into any upper class suburb in America, you will not see police presence but what you will see are well-funded public schools, high rates of home ownership, small businesses that have access to capital.

You'll see families who have jobs where they don't have to worry about getting to the end of the month and feeding their children. And so if we want to create safe communities, one of the smartest ways we can do the that is invest in the health of those communities because healthy communities are safe communities.

BASH: Would your hand still shoot up if somebody asked if you would want more police officers on your streets?

HARRIS: What I would say now is what I would say then, which is I want to make sure that if a woman is raped, a child is molested, one human being murders another human being, that there will be a police officer that responds to that case and that there will be accountability and consequence for the offender, yes.

BASH: Attorney General William Barr said on CNN that he does not believe there are two justice systems in the United States for black and white Americans. He added, "I think we have to be a little careful about throwing the idea of racism around and I don't think it's as common as people suggest." What do you think?

HARRIS: I think that Donald Trump and Bill Barr are spending full time in a different reality. The reality of America today is what we have seen over generations and, frankly, since our inception, which is we do have two systems of justice in America, but here's the thing that gives me a sense of optimism and a sense of belief in who we are as a nation. We also have an ideal that is inscribed in marble on the Supreme Court that we all hold dear, which is that ideal of equal justice under law.

And so while we have two systems of justice, we also fight for equal justice under law. And that means doing what Joe Biden and I are proposing, which is having a criminal justice system that, yes, bans chokeholds and carotid holds, makes sure that we're going to require accountability for police officers who break the rules and break the law, that we're going to invest in communities and the economic strength of those communities.


But doing it all recognizing that there are huge disparities in our country based on race and it does us no good if we want to solve those disparities, to pretend they don't exist.


BASH: And coming up, Joe Biden's long journey, his emotional new interview with CNN, CNN's Gloria Borger, about the personal tragedies that have shaped his life. We have a preview of a CNN special documentary coming up next.



BASH: As Joe Biden runs again for the White House, the question is, maybe it goes back to that old saying, could the third time be a charm?

CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger takes a look in her two- hour special, "THE FIGHT FOR THE WHITE HOUSE: JOE BIDEN'S LONG JOURNEY." Here's a preview.


BORGER (voice-over): While the vice president tried to help his son, the son tried to help his father.

TED KAUFMAN, FRIEND AND LONGTIME POLITICAL ADVISER: I absolutely believe, and I'll believe it until the day I die, that the thing that Beau was most afraid of was not dying. What he's most afraid of is the impact it would have on his dad. That it would really take his dad out. BORGER (on camera): Did he tell you that?

KAUFMAN: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. All the time.

BORGER (voice-over): It's something the vice president wrote about in 2017 in his book, "Promise Me, Dad."

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Beau just made me promise, this was just before he died, he said, Dad, you got to promise me, you're going to be OK. I said, Beau -- he said, Dad, look at me, look me in the eye. Give me your word as a Biden, Dad. I'll be OK.

BORGER (on camera): Are you OK?

BIDEN: I am. Because it is still emotional but I knew what he meant. He was worried I'd walk away from everything I worked in my whole life. The things I cared about. He knew I'd take care of the family. He never wondered about that. But he didn't want me walking away.


BORGER (voice-over): Beau Biden died on May 30th, 2015. He was 46 years old.

(On camera): Is it true you keep Beau's rosary with you?

BIDEN: They're in my pocket.

BORGER: All the time?

BIDEN: I keep it all the time. He had it when he passed away. It was more gold. You can see it's worn.


BASH: CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger joins me now.

I just -- it just guts you to watch and to listen to that. Pain, obviously, that the former vice president still has, as any parent would in losing a child like that. He's had a very long, very eventful political career, which you explore in a really remarkable way in this upcoming documentary. But, again, he's also got that personal story, really compelling personal story that shaped him.

What are some of your favorite moments that we should look forward to in your special?

BORGER: Well, I think that my favorite funny -- not funny but moment was when the sort of brusque former mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, started crying about --

BASH: Yes.

BORGER: -- about Joe Biden and how he was the first guy to call him after his father died. But there's so many moments in this piece, not only Anita Hill talking about Joe Biden now. We discussed that last night, Dana, about how she would vote for him and work with him if he wanted, too. But also people who served with him, talking about, you know, the ups and the downs of his life. Remember, as you well know, he ran for president two times before this.

And those were disastrous. He ran in 1988 and that was a disaster and then he had the Bork hearings for the confirmation of Robert Bork of which he defeated, and then the Clarence Thomas hearings. And he got confirmed. And then his years as vice president and how he served for Barack Obama and during that time how he juggled, and we all know about juggling in life, of course. But how he juggled this serious illness of his son with the job of being vice president.

That's not easy. And talking to people who work for him about how he managed to kind of handle that kind of stress with the kind of stressful job he had.

BASH: Well, Gloria, I know you've got some really special interviews and voices, not just the vice president but people who are close to him we don't hear from a lot and I personally know how hard you worked on this and I cannot wait to watch it. Now everybody out there --

BORGER: You do.

BASH: -- should --


BASH: Should set your DVR or put yourself in front of the television to watch this and also one following it on Donald Trump, but I know, again, how hard you've worked on this.

BORGER: Right.

BASH: Make sure that you watch this. We're losing Gloria's signal there. So I'll get right to the promo. Watch this tomorrow night, "JOE BIDEN'S LONG JOURNEY." That's at 8:00 p.m. followed by "DONALD TRUMP'S PRESIDENCY." That documentary is at 10:00 p.m.


And still ahead, President Trump claims a vaccine for the coronavirus could be available by the election, raising eyebrows of health experts, but a new poll shows many Americans are worried a vaccine could be rushed. Are those concerns valid? We'll discuss, next.


BASH: When there's a vaccine, we will all have to make some tough decisions. School administrators, in particular, will have one of the hardest, do they require vaccinations for students who want to return to school?

I asked Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris where she and Joe Biden stand on this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BASH: We you get when you get to the point of vaccinations, would that plan include requirement for public schools to take the coronavirus vaccine?

HARRIS: I'll listen to the public health experts and hear what they have to say.


BASH: So let's talk about this with Dr. Esther Choo, an emergency physician and professor.


I know that there's maybe some wishful thinking here in two forms, number one, a vaccine and vaccinations, and number two, kids being able to go back to school, but obviously, those are connected. So what is your medical opinion? Should schools require vaccinations for coronavirus for returning students when we get there?

DR. ESTHER CHOO, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, OREGON HEALTH AND SCIENCE UNIVERSITY: I mean, ultimately, we may do so. It's just like you said, it's just so hard to figure out when we would do that and for which vaccine. I mean, right now, you know, this school year it probably won't be an issue, first of all, because we don't have a vaccine yet.

BASH: Right.

CHOO: And wishful thinking doesn't translate into having the efficacy and safety data. The second thing is we can't require something that is not widely available. And right now, we don't know enough about the coordinated plan to manufacture and distribute vaccine to all communities that need it so that we can actually require something that you can reasonably go to your doctor's office and get with very little barrier.

So we don't want to do something that's punitive. Particularly for those who are vulnerable and simply don't have access to that kind of health care. I mean, what -- you know, what is the cost structure going to be like? Is it really going to be free and easily available to everybody no what your insurance status or what your financial status is?

So I think we are probably for this vaccine a long way away from being able to say that you cannot enter schools until you have it but I think --


BASH: But do you have any idea how long you're talking about? Years, right?

CHOO: I think -- yes, I think that's right. I think we're talking about years. Just being very realistic about our ability to ramp up supply for -- and also gain public trust. I mean, all this conversation about pushing out a vaccine before we finished phase three trials, you know, already before we started having those conversations about trying to make safety shortcuts, there were about a third of Americans who said they would not accept an FDA-approved vaccine.

So we have so much public health work to do at every level that I think reasonably before we can step out and say you must have this, we have, you know, we have work to do in supply chain, we have work do in equitable distribution, and figuring out how to make this available, and then we have a ton of public health messaging work to do here as well.

BASH: Right. And you mentioned there will be priorities once we get to that point. Hopefully we get to that point of a vaccine. One of the -- of the populations will be people like you. Health care workers, particularly, you're an emergency room doctor. So given that, if there is a vaccine that gets the emergency use authorization but hasn't cleared what you were just talking about, phase three trials, would you be willing to get that shot?

CHOO: I would not, frankly. I mean, and I want to be clear that there's lots of good news here. You know? I mean, if you told me last year that a disease I'd never heard about would already be in phase three clinical trials right now, I would have been in disbelief. I mean, we have performed miracles and compressed everything that is within our power to compress as far as timeline including I feel like there must be immunologists who were out there, virologists, who were not allowed to sleep in labs in order to be competitive on the vaccine market.

We've done everything in our power. And now we've gotten to the point where it's not in our power anymore. These things, you can't rush how much -- I mean, once you give people the vaccine and the booster, then you just have to give it time for them to go out, get exposed to virus, see if they get infected or not, see if they get very sick or not and see if they die or not. We can't ask that the vaccine do that faster so that we can see whether it's safe and whether it's effective.

And for the people it harms, who it harms and how egregious those harms are to their health and their wellbeing and if those costs are worth any benefit that we see from the vaccine, that's between God and nature and not something that we as scientists or as public health people or politicians, you know, with all the wishful thinking we bring to this, we simply cannot compress that timeline and, again, if we push out something that is not safe and that harms people, it will ruin not only our ability to disseminate this vaccine.

BASH: Yes.

CHOO: But to disseminate all vaccines because there's already so much vaccine hesitancy. I mean, mumps, whooping cough.

BASH: Yes.

CHOO: Polio, you know, we do not need -- in fact, the last thing we need is a resurgence of those things.

BASH: That is true.

CHOO: Because people lose their Trump in public health people who are telling them to go and get all their vaccines.

BASH: Such important perspective in all of that.

Dr. Esther Choo, thank you so much for that. Appreciate it.

CHOO: My pleasure.

BASH: And coming up, we'll take you live to California where people are desperately trying to evacuate as more than 20 wildfires burn around them. Some even needing to be airlifted to safety after their only way out was blocked by flames. That's next.



BASH: California has reached a grim milestone in its battle against the wildfires that just won't go away. Today they have broken the all- time state record for acres burned in a single year, more than two million in total. And the human toll is astounding. 224 people had to be rescued by air as the Creek Fire blocked the only road out of one area in Modera County. The county sheriff described conditions as hellish.

CNN's Paul Vercammen joins me now from Venice, California. And Paul, what are we learning about the people in the path of those fires?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, we heard that all of them except two, who refused to be evacuated, got out as that fire, the Creek Fire, rimmed the Mammoth Reservoir, searing trees and trapping those people around that body of water.


As you pointed out, 224 people airlifted out of there. Twenty of them suffering burns and broken bones. Other people drove away from that fire when the bridge burned out, among them Juliana Park. And she recalled her extremely close call in that fire.


JULIANA PARK, FLED WILDFIRE IN SIERRA NATIONAL FOREST: At the time I was on a hike with just some hazy air. That became, you know, soon ash rain. We were wearing masks but it was getting, you know, harder to breathe, harder to see. I would say between the time of 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., we could see that, you know, we needed to leave immediately. I think if we had stayed just 10 minutes more, we might not have been so lucky.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VERCAMMEN: And these fires are causing huge fire clouds or pyro cumulus clouds. It's all caused by searing heat in California. We broke a record today in Los Angeles County, the highest ever recorded official temperature, 121 degrees in Woodland Hills.

Reporting from Venice, I'm Paul Vercammen. Back to you now, Dana.

BASH: Thank you, Paul, and I'm hearing from my people in L.A. it is very, very hot. Absolutely horrifying fires there. Again, thank you.

And also shocking news today from a completely different world, the world of professional tennis. The world's number one men's player, the top seed Novak -- sorry, Novak -- Djokovic, I apologize, is out of the U.S. Open after accidentally hitting a line official with a tennis ball. You just saw that picture there. Djokovic was acting out of frustration. He smacked the ball behind him after dropping a game and it struck the lineswoman.

She was able to walk off the court, visibly shaken. Just in the past few minutes Djokovic posted an apology on Instagram and here's what he wrote, "This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the linesperson and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling OK. I'm extremely sorry to have caused her such stress." Wow.

And any parent facing a virtual or hybrid school year can tell you, these are not easy times. But one mother in particular, Dena Blizzard, the comedienne and personality behind "One Funny Mother," summed it up perfectly.


DENA BLIZZARD, FOUNDER, "ONE FUNNY MOTHER": Afternoon classes are not 28 minutes long. They're only 23 minutes long. And that is for no reason whatsoever. So make sure that they are available and there is an intermission during sixth period for everyone to go outside and scream their head off, I thought that would be important to add.

Students will attend odd numbered periods on Mondays and Thursdays. Even number periods will be on Tuesdays and Fridays. All sports practices will continue. We are dedicated to our sports program. The only thing is you'll be doing them from your living room with your own equipment, and not on Zoom. But we are dedicated to keeping these sports programs going so we're happy to be able to offer that.


BASH: And it just gets funnier and funnier.

Dena Blizzard, thank you so much for joining me. So many parents can relate to this. I got this from a friend of mine, it was going around our parents text chain because it is based on such real life experience, excruciating experience, that parents and in fairness teachers are feeling right now. I'm sure that you were inspired by your own life. BLIZZARD: It was. So it's very funny, I mean, I feel like every parent

is getting, you know, the first the surveys, then the schedule or map, and nobody understands it. And so this very kind woman in our town decided to put this thing up and said, let me explain it. And the explanation actually made it 10 times more -- I was actually more confused based on what she's saying.

So, you know, my sister is a teacher, and I've always loved teachers. My youngest learns a little different and teachers have always gone out of their way to help her. So, you know, whether it's parents, teachers, or school administrators, and I was nervous, I really didn't want people to think I was attacking anybody. I was like literally this is the best anybody could come up with and it's ridiculous.

No matter -- no matter what you come up with, it's going to all look like -- so yes, I mean, the feedback has been great, which has been lovely. And, you know, I'm thinking maybe the school administrator may make another appearance. I mean, it depends, Dana, what happens.


BASH: Right, and it's because, I mean, we all as parents -- I mean, these poor administrators and teachers, they were planning for -- in the hopes, the best possible outcome would be to completely go back. That didn't happen, in most cases, not all.


Then they did the hybrid, but it was really the hybrid, that they were trying so hard to find a way to get some kids in but make sure it was done safely, and it does lead to something that is incredibly complicated.

BLIZZARD: It is. And I mean, there was such language in it. You know, you played the clip, you know, the earlier the time is 28 minutes, and the afternoon is only 23 minutes, and that's for no reason whatsoever. Like some of this stuff we're coming up with just makes no sense.

BASH: Yes.

BLIZZARD: And then the amount of surveys. It was just like survey after survey after survey. And then none of the things that we all agreed on happened. We're like, well, we threw that away and we're going to --


BASH: We threw it away because everything changed. Yes, exactly.

BLIZZARD: Yes. I mean, it is. It's day by day. And so I feel like -- yes.

BASH: Dana -- sorry. I'm so sorry, we're out of time. Dena Blizzard, I want everybody to go online, look at her videos, they will make you laugh, I promise you.

Thank you, Dena.

That does it for me. Thank you so much for watching. The final two episodes of "THE WINDSORS" starts after a quick break.