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Ocasio-Cortez Slams Abbott; Pretrial Hearings for 9/11 Plotters; Trial for Paris Terror Attacks Begins; Dixie Fire Set to Become the Largest in California's History; Mike Yeun is Interviewed about the Dixie Fire. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired September 08, 2021 - 09:30   ET




There's also going to be disagreements about what to include, how much are you going to expand the child tax credit. There's also questions about what you're going to do about that state and local tax deduction. That's really important to a couple of key members in the House of Representatives who want to make sure that that cap is raised so people in their districts, where taxes are a lot more costly, get some more tax breaks.

So there's a lot of issues to work out and we just cannot underestimate, Jim, how long and messy this process is really going to be. This is really just the beginning.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I mean, when Congress spends money, man, there's -- there is debate.

OK, Texas is extremely restrictive abortion law, which we should remind people, has no exception for rape and incest. That led the Texas governor to make some interesting comments about his plan for rape, and now Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responding to that.

Tell us -- tell us the background here.

FOX: Well, look, last night she appeared on our air and she said she was apologizing for really having to get into Biology 101. But here's what she said about Governor Abbott's comments, Jim.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I don't know if he is familiar with the menstruating person's body. In fact, I do know that he's not familiar with a woman -- with a female or menstruating person's body because if he did, he would know that you don't have six weeks. It's awful. And he speaks from such a place of deep ignorance that -- and it's not just ignorance, it's ignorance that is -- that is hurting people across this country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FOX: She also talked about the fact that there wasn't that exception for people who are victims of rape and incest. She said, you know, this is a problem because the governor is talking about trying to crackdown on rapists, but in other circumstances she said, you know, for a lot of people this is family members, teachers and they don't want to come forward and that that is creating another set of issues here.

And I think, you know, she's really trying to drill down and just really echoing the lawmakers on Capitol Hill that we've heard from, Democrats on Capitol Hill, arguing this is a -- such a restrictive law, Jim, and that this is going to be something that you could expect Democrats are going to be talking about when they get back into session.

SCIUTTO: No question. For now the law remains very much in effect in the state of Texas.

Lauren Fox on The Hill, thanks so much.

Well, right now, five Guantanamo detainees, accused of planning and executing the 9/11 attacks, are before a military court at the Guantanamo prison in Cuba. This includes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He is believed to be the mastermind behind the attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives 20 years ago, suggesting the idea of targeting the towers with aircraft to Osama bin Laden. The five men are facing charges of terrorism, conspiracy, attacking civilians and more. If convicted, all five could face the death penalty.

CNN's Alex Marquardt joins me now.

Alex, tell us how long this trial goes forward? When do we expect to hear decisions?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are -- this pretrial is continuing today after it started yesterday, Jim. I think, more than anything, it just drives home the fact that you just touched on, that 20 years after these attacks that claimed almost 3,000 American lives, that the fate of these men has not yet been decided.

These five alleged terrorists, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are all accused of some level of planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks. You mentioned some of the charges. They include, among other things, terrorism, hijacking of aircraft, attacking civilians, murder and more.

What we saw on Tuesday, Jim, and what will continue today, is a pre- trial hearing. Yesterday's lasted around two and a half hours and consisted primarily of questioning of whether the judge could preside over these hearings.

Some family members of the victims were in court, as well as journalists. Our colleague, Ellie Kaufman (ph), was there. They had to sit behind soundproof glass and the audio of the proceedings was pumped in with a 40-second delay so that classified information would not be revealed to them, would not be revealed publicly.

This case has been plagued by problems from the get-go. As you mentioned, it is taking place in a military court on a military base in Cuba. There is a debate over whether evidence that was obtained during the course of torture can be used in these proceedings.

The -- in 2008, President Obama tried to move this case to the United States as part of his effort to close down Guantanamo Bay. There was a backlash. That did not happen.

These five men were finally arraigned and charged in 2012. And since then we have seen four different judges presiding over this.

Now, President Biden also is hoping to close down Guantanamo Bay, but this pretrial will continue today, primarily with this questioning over whether the judge should be the judge for this trial going forward.


SCIUTTO: All right, we'll follow it closely.

Alex Marquardt, thanks very much.

In Paris, a group of alleged terrorists tied to the 2015 attacks there that left 130 people dead, they are finally in court.


It's the deadliest attack ever carried out on French soil. It was just alarming, if you remember it. Now some 300 victims are set to testify over the next nine months in what is expected to be an unprecedented judicial marathon.

CNN international anchor Cyril Vanier joins me now from Paris. These attacks were horrific. I was there to cover them, as many of our colleagues were. The names of the 130 people who died just read out in court as part of this process. But then you're going to hear from other victims as well.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And sobbing could be heard just a few moments ago in court as the names of those 130 people who were killed. You mentioned how horrific it was.


VANIER: And, for Parisians, nobody is ever going to forget those attacks.

There's a reason this is the biggest criminal trial held in France this century. We're talking about people, injured Parisians who were being shot, executed at point-blank range on the streets in central Paris. So, of course, nobody's going to forget that. Nowhere are emotions going to run as high as in this courtroom.

The sobbing that was heard a few moments ago, we're probably going to hear and understandably really the depths of the emotions in the coming weeks as victims, that's to say survivors, relatives of those who were killed will be explaining, detailing what they remember and what they saw, people being butchered and slaughtered. We remember the Bataclan Concert Venue. In that attack alone, 90 people were killed. Most of them at point-blank range, Jim.

And one of the highlights -- many highlights of this trial is likely to come a little later, before the end of the year, when we hear from the defendants themselves, the alleged terrorists, including the lone survivor of these attacks, Salah Abdeslam. It's unlikely he's going to cooperate. He has said one thing today as he appeared in court. He said, I gave up my profession to become a fighter for the Islamic State, end quote.


SCIUTTO: I remember those accounts, too. People executed as they were begging for their lives.

Cyril Vanier, thanks so much.

Coming up next here, the Dixie Fire is set to become the largest wildfire in California's history as millions out west are now under an extreme heat advisory. Officials warning the danger is far from over this wildfire season. We're going to have the latest from there next.



SCIUTTO: Right now, as we speak, 12, a dozen large wildfires are actively burning across just the state of California. More than 2 million acres have been torched so far. The Dixie Fire, as it's known, in the northern part of the state, is about to break the record as the state's largest ever wildfire.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has more now from the CNN Weather Center.

Chad, I mean the wildfire season, it starts earlier every year, it seems, ends later. You've got multiple blazes burning at one time. Give some perspective for folks because I think from far away they might look at one fire and say that's one. But, you know, from 30,000 feet, right, you see the extent of this.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Sure do. I mean you hear it, you see it, you smell it. The smoke is just all over the country. We even had it in the northeast for a couple of days as the wind was blowing in the right or wrong direction. But ten states now have 78 fires across the west.

It's all because of the drought. It just didn't rain and it didn't snow this year. And we're watching for wind and we're watching for lightning. At least this year we haven't had these big lightning complexes that have started so many fires last year. It was just a mess last year.

And, right, temperatures out west are way above where we should be, 10 or 15 degrees in some spots. It will be 110 degrees in Las Vegas this week. And I know you thin, well, that's the desert. It's supposed to be hot. It's not supposed to be this hot. Temperatures here way above normal for this time of year. People are being asked to conserve electricity in the heat of the day because everybody's air conditioners are going to be running. And then if you have factories that are running as well, that's another problem.

So, yes, you alluded to the fact that we're almost going to break a record here. The August Complex, which means -- the complex means that a number of fires burned together to cause one fire. But Dixie Fire, almost as big as that fire that just happened last year.

Here are some of the big numbers here that really are concerning. We are at last year's pace, which was certainly a record breaking year, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Chad Myers, thanks so much.

Well, joining me now to talk about what you do about it, how you fight it, Mike Yeun, he's the public information officer for Dixie Fire.

Mike, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

MIKE YEUN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, DIXIE FIRE (via telephone): You're welcome. Thank you for having me, Jim.

Yes, we have --

SCIUTTO: You know, I --

YEUN: Sorry, go ahead.

SCIUTTO: Go ahead. I -- well, first, I just want to ask you where the Dixie Fire stands. I mean our understanding it's about 60 percent contained, mostly contained. Does that mean you have it close to under control?

YEUN: Sixty percent, we still have a long way to go, but that -- that 59, 60 percent is actually just a testament on the hard work that our firefighters have been doing for it seems like the last almost two months. We are up to about 919,300 acres. And we, you know, I mean the conditions are still helping us out, but we still have winds that are still pushing the fire and those acres continue to increase.

SCIUTTO: I don't have to tell you this, but perhaps our viewers don't realize.


If you look at the statistics, of the top 20 largest fires since 1932, 17 have occurred just since the year 2000. Eleven in the last five years. Five were last year. Three happened this year. I mean it just seems that every season we seem to be breaking new records. The season starts earlier, ends later.

I just wonder, for you and the firefighters, I mean, do you look at this as a new normal?

YEUN: You know, we do see the trends as well. And we feel it. Our families feel it from being away from home so much.


YEUN: And, yes, numbers don't lie. The fire seasons have been getting longer, as you mentioned earlier. Conditions are getting harder. And it doesn't help that we've been in such a severe drought.


YEUN: The vegetation and the trees, the grass, they're all dry, and it spreads a lot faster. And, like what you said, we had a lot -- a lot of fires throughout the west, and that limited our resources for each fire.

SCIUTTO: I was in Idaho in August and I saw the hot shots, as they're known there, coming back from hard work. It's tiring work. It's dangerous work as well.

I wonder how you keep them all safe as they're doing this.

YEUN: You know, that's a great question. Our number one priority is the safety of the firefighters as well as the community. We do, in fact, just in about ten minutes, we have a briefing, we have a new shift coming on that's going to work throughout the day and the night, a 24-hour shift. And we try to give them a little bit of break, whether that's just taking care of their tools, rehabbing their equipment and their bodies for another shift.

It is a long fire season. We are aware that it does take a toll mentally and physically throughout the fire season. And it's only September 8th.


YEUN: So we still have many more months of fire season to go. We are aware of that. We try to pace ourselves. But, you know, sometimes it seems like it's a sprint, but we know it's a marathon.

SCIUTTO: Before you go, I wonder, can you let us know what help you need? I think folks watch this and they say, I know they're working hard, I know their lives are at risk. You know, God bless them.

What change, what help do you need to -- if there is a way, right, to help reduce the risk, reduce this kind of thing going forward?

YEUN: Yes. You know, the community, the public, across the nation has been very supportive. We -- we see that. We appreciate that. We get Facebook messages all the time in support, and we do recognize that and thank everybody for that. But, moving forward, especially in the high-risk areas, we want to

remind the community to be prepared. And it's a -- it's a year-long thing during the winter and the spring. You know, we encourage defenseable space. If you have any questions, you can hop on the website,, or just go to your local fire station and ask questions on how do I clear my brush, as well as if there is a fire in the area, to be prepared.


YEUN: Whether it's -- you have one minute or ten minutes to gather the belongings that you truly cherish and have a plan to do that as fast and efficiently. And then heed the warnings of evacuations. Sometimes your normal route is not the route that's safest depending on where the fire is.

So just to heed the warning and to -- and to follow the traffic flow because there are a lot of heavy equipment coming in to fight the fire and you don't want to cause an accident or hurt anybody on the way.


Well, we heard it there. We all have a role to play.

Mike Yeun, the Dixie Fire, thanks so much. Be safe.

And we'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: Well, crews have just removed the largest remaining confederate statue still standing in the United States. There are those pictures there. The 12-ton statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee stood on historic Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Once down, it will be stored in a state facility until a decision is made on what to do with it going forward.

CNN's Joe Johns, he's been following this. He's live from Richmond this morning on the phone.

Joe, so this was supposed to happen earlier, but legal challenges delayed it. How did we get here?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Quite an amazing story in fact. What happened was, after all the protests that we had last year, Black Lives Matter, and others, especially about confederate figures on statues around the country, here in the state of Virginia, the governor took the step to say, I want this statue down here in Richmond.

And what followed was a year-long court battle in which finally the supreme court of Virginia got involved and said essentially that the rules that were in place when this statue was given to the state of Virginia ,along with the land, don't apply because the government of Virginia no longer believes that it's in the best interest of the people. And so they decided to take it down.

And just within the last week, finally, it was decided to do this. And a little before 9:00 Eastern Time today, that huge statue of Robert E. Lee, which weighs about 12 tons, was lifted off of this pedestal on Monument Avenue and brought down to the ground with the help of this heavy-duty crane that's in placed here.


And now the job is to cut this statue into three pieces. And it's going to be stored at a secure facility, Jim, until they can figure out the rest. The big point, of course, is, it's gone from the pedestal, and that's a symbolic victory for people who were protests about it, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Oh, it's quite a moment to witness. Joe Johns there in Richmond, thanks very much.

Ahead, next hour, child coronavirus infections in the U.S. have now surpassed 250,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic. We should note, severe disease does remain rare among children, but hospitalizations are up, too. What this all means as children head back to school.