Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

At Least 25 Killed In "Catastrophic" KY Floods, Many Remain Missing; DHS Inspector General Knew About Missing Secret Service Texts More Than A Year Before Alerting Jan. 6 Committee; Senators Manchin, Schumer, Resurrect Climate, Energy, Tax Deal; U.S. Space Command Tracking Chinese Rocket As It Falls To Earth; Trump Hosts Saudi-Backed Golf Tournament Despite Protests. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired July 30, 2022 - 13:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, we begin this hour with that catastrophic flooding in eastern Kentucky. At least 25 people have been killed across five counties including a total of four children as well. There are growing fears that those numbers will rise as many more people remain missing. The governor, Andy Beshear said this, a short time ago.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR, (D-KY): This is still an emergency situation. We are in search and rescue mode. Again, that account is going to continue to go up and we don't lose this many people in flooding. It's just a real tough one.


WHITFIELD: Rescuers are working around the clock. The National Guard from Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia airlifting hundreds from the floodwaters, more than 600 already, washed away roads and bridges adding to the already very complicated recovery efforts. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is in Kentucky for us. So, Evan, you're at a command center right for the search and rescue efforts, how are they coordinating? What's going on?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Fred. You know, when they say command center in a situation like this, what they really mean is a place people are gathering, and this is a parking lot of a shopping center here in Jackson, Kentucky. That's right in the middle of where a lot of these floodwaters happened.

And behind me, agencies are coordinating dozens of different agencies that are coming from all over the country and all over the state to work to try to help find people who might still be trapped or need help in these floodwaters -- in these -- in these receding floodwaters. And they're also working with a lot of volunteers. And I want to show you just what this looks like, well how hard this process can be, and just what these floodwaters can actually do.

Producer Chris Hughes (PH) went out with some volunteers from the Cajun Navy yesterday, which is a group of people who go out and do rescues after floods and hurricanes and things like that, based in Louisiana. And you can see it from his footage here. This is what people on these boats that are out there looking for people are seeing just this kind of devastation. This water just everywhere, just sweeping up sweeps through really fast, it fills up the screen, it fills up people's lives, you can see the kind of damage it can really do.

The challenge for rescuers now is that some of those waters have receded, and they're trying to connect people with concern, basically. They have lists of people who say, I haven't been able to reach my mom, and reach my family, reach my dad, reach people that I'm trying to get a hold of, and they're going out to different places like the staging area where I am now and they're trying to go and find those people. They're also taking calls from folks who are like, I'm trapped where I am, I need help, I need food, I need water, and volunteers from here and rescuers from here going out and doing those deliveries as well.

The challenge of a flood is just how fast it happens and how dangerous it can be. I spoke to two members of that Cajun Navy group yesterday, the two guys that took Chris Hughes out, we spoke about what this can be like to go out and do rescues like this.


GARY HANNER, AMERICAN AIRBOAT RESCUE: I was in Waverly, Tennessee last year for the flash flood. And the things that water moved that day was absolutely unbelievable, so yes, water -- wind is bad but water can be just as bad.

LEONARD HARRISON, UNITED STATES VETERAN CORPS: And the -- when people think about water and the water's coming, we need -- that water's risen up to the bottom of the bridge. That's where you see absolute destruction.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So you heard from the governor today that this is an ongoing situation? You heard from those two rescuers, this is an ongoing situation. Where I'm standing right now, it's dry. But what those waters did are still very much a part of everybody's day right now. This is an actual situation where we're actively trying to rescue people, bring them food, do the things that need to be done. There'll be a long time before we know just how bad this was, Fred.

WHITFIELD: It will, indeed. All right, Evan McMorris-Santoro, thanks so much. We'll check back with you.

And with communities still struggling, help is pouring in. Joining us right now is Kiristen Webb. She is with a nonprofit foundation for Appalachian Kentucky. Kiristen, good to see you. I mean you and I spoke yesterday and you talked about you know, really what an undertaking this is. And since that time, you have received some attention in the form of at least one very large pledge to match up to a million dollars in donations and that came from Joe and Kelly Craft, right? So tell me how far this money -- this generosity is now going to go.


KIRISTEN WEBB, LOCAL MARKETS COORDINATOR, FOUNDATION FOR APPALACHIAN KENTUCKY: We're just overwhelmed and thankful for this generous gift. I know it goes without saying that it will -- it will take millions of dollars over many years to help us rebuild because this is the level of decimation. I just keep coming back to the word gone. Everything is just gone, the houses are gone, the roads are gone, the bridges are gone, so this is the beginning, hopefully, of the generosity that we will see from everyone, and like I said, they were just incredible to do this. And we hope to match that dollar for dollar and encourage others to give.

WHITFIELD: Oh, yes. I mean, that money is hugely generous. And do you see that -- you talked about the recovery. You know, there's the rebuilding, but more immediately, you know, logistically, you got to get to the people in need and find out what exactly they need. How will some of this donated money help translate into some of the immediate needs, whether it's food, clothing, some temporary shelter, before one day, helping people to rebuild?

WEBB: Oh, absolutely. I mean, right now, there's no water. And like where I'm at right now at our office, we have no water. So clean water, clothing, people have lost everything, temporary shelters. Right now, people are staying in the elementary schools but you know we need to make sure that we get them housed so absolutely, the immediate needs, shelter, food, water, and those types of things that will be the focus right now.

WHITFIELD: And back to your word, gone. Yesterday, when we spoke, you talked about the farming community and how a lot of you know that livelihood is now gone. You know, you are also concerned, I understand about one particular farmer because you haven't been able to locate her. Have you located the farmer of concern?

WEBB: Thankfully, yes. She -- again, everything is gone but she and her family are alive and we are so thankful. And it was a sent like earlier, they were talking about just making phone calls to people like hey, do you have a boat? Can you go check on my friends? Can you go check on my family?

And luckily our community has come together with help from people outside of this community, just to locate everyone because we are very much still in a crisis situation, trying to find people. And fortunately, the death toll -- the death number, you know, the rise -- still rising. And it's just -- it's hard to really -- it's hard to really get your head around just how bad this is. It feels like it's somewhere else but then you walk outside and it's right there.

WHITFIELD: And you know we know cell phone communication is down in many parts, so trying to find people, trying to locate, I mean, that is a gigantic obstacle. What are you and your staff or your volunteers able to do right now that you think might be making, you know, some real headway?

WEBB: Right now, we are volunteering at shelters. So West Perry Elementary School is going to be housing for people, as well as food and water will be distributed at East Perry. And I dropped off a bunch of donations at East Perry earlier today and I'll be going to West Perry this afternoon to help with those efforts.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kiristen Webb, glad to connect with you again, all the best. You and your team doing tremendous work and I know it's greatly appreciated there.

All right, and from some very difficult news to now some very hopeful good news because there is a winner out there now, someone from Illinois has won a Mega Millions jackpot. The prize grew to $1.34 billion with last-minute ticket sales. It is the largest lottery prize ever won in Illinois and the third largest now in U.S. history. CNN's Omar Jimenez is back at that store that sold that lucky ticket.

A whole lot of people feeling really lucky even the owners of the store because you know they get a cut as well. So are we learning anything now about whether the winner has, you know, identified him or herself or a group or something claiming the ticket?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this point -- yes, at this point, we're not even sure if this person even knows that they won. And it's funny you said that people are feeling lucky, we're in there a little bit earlier just kind of checking it out. And there is a line at the Mega Millions drawing yet again so people clearly feel like, OK, one ticket won here maybe another one will win for the next time. But, of course, this jackpot grew from 1.2 8 billion, up to about 1.34. It's the second biggest in Mega Millions history, the third biggest jackpot all-time in U.S. history.


And, of course, this is the gas station behind me, a speedway, just outside of Chicago and DesPlaines, Illinois, next to O'Hare Airport. And take a listen to Illinois lottery officials who talked about how much of a cut this gas station actually gets.


HAROLD MAYS, DIRECTOR, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF THE LOTTERY: That lucky retailer will receive a half a million dollars in the selling bonus for selling the winning ticket. As far as the winner is concerned, we have not heard from the winner yet. We don't know whether they even know that they won a prize. So I encourage everybody to check your ticket.


JIMENEZ: So, that person has 12 months to come forward, but only 60 days to choose that they want that $780 million cash option. The clock is ticking. WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. All right, and then maybe you didn't win the big one but there are a lot of people out there who are still winners.


WHITFIELD: They won some other versions of number combinations. And have they been, you know, claiming their tickets?

JIMENEZ: Yes. $1 billion -- one jackpot winner, but about $26 million winners Countrywide, from California to Louisiana up to New York, and six of those had two times multipliers, meaning they paid one extra dollar for the ticket on the front end.


JIMENEZ: And then they got a million dollars on the back end. So probably one of the best investments you could have ever made.

WHITFIELD: I didn't know anything about that. I better play -- I better start playing. Let me get hit and get with it. All right, Omar Jimenez, thanks so much.

All right, still ahead. CNN is learning new details about the Secret Service's missing text messages from the days around January 6, as the committee investigating the insurrection zeroes in on Donald Trump's inner circle, details on that straight ahead. Plus, parts of a 23-ton Chinese rocket on its way to crashing into Earth, but no one knows where it will land. We'll discuss.



WHITFIELD: All right, an exclusive on new details about those missing U.S. Secret Service text messages. Multiple sources telling CNN the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security was aware of the missing text in May 2021, more than a year before he informed the January 6 Select Committee. The Secret Service says the texts were lost as a result of a scheduled data migration of its agents' cell phones that began on January 27, three weeks after the Capitol attack. CNN has also learned that texts leading up to January 6 are also missing from Trump's acting Homeland Security Chief, Chad Wolf, and his top deputy Ken Cuccinelli.

Meantime, new signs that a Justice Department investigation of the January 6 insurrection is gaining traction and focusing on former President Trump's actions. Here is CNN's Ryan Nobles.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The Department of Justice is inching closer and closer to former President Donald Trump. New CNN reporting reveals the prosecutors are girding for a big fight over executive privilege to force witnesses to testify about the role Trump may have played in the events leading up to January 6. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When courts have considered these separation of powers issues in the context of criminal cases, they haven't really looked favorably toward the White House and the presidency. Now, the biggest and the most obvious one is the United States v. Nixon.

NOBLES: Trump himself is not considered to be a target yet, but the list of Trump officials who have already cooperated with the select committee and are now cooperating with the DOJ is growing. It comes as the select committee has begun the process of handing over transcripts from their interviews to federal investigators.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, (D-MS): They have indicated they want to have access to a certain number of transcripts and we've negotiated back and forth, and the Committee sees a way to make that available to them.

NOBLES: The committee has also stepped up their outreach and engagement with cabinet officials. Former Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney met with the committee Thursday and said investigators are very interested in the players pushing false claims of election fraud and their access to the White House.

MICK MULVANEY, TRUMP'S FORMER ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: That sort of inner circle of people that have been described by others as the crazies, how did they get the access that they did, when they did?

NOBLES: Among the other Cabinet officials they've spoken to, former DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. The Washington Post reporting that text messages from both Wolf and his deputy Ken Cuccinelli were lost from their government-issued electronic devices. In a tweet thread in response to the story, Wolf said he handed over his phone intact when he resigned after January 6.

Meanwhile, the House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, who Cassidy Hutchinson said was among the Republican leaders who pleaded for Trump to call his supporters off, claims today he doesn't remember calling her.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA): If I talked to her, I don't remember it. If it was coming up here. I don't think I wanted a lot of people coming up to the Capitol. But I don't remember the conversation.

NOBLES: And we're learning more about the timeline of when the inspector general from the Department of Homeland Security first learned that those text messages from the Secret Service may have been deleted in around January 5, and sixth. And it was a long time before he alerted anyone in Congress of that fact. In fact, we're told that Joseph Cuffari, who is the current DHS IG knew as early as May of 2021, that the text messages may have been deleted. It took him more than a year to inform Congress of that problem. That's part of the reason January 6 members are so skeptical about this timeline and want answers to many of these questions.

Ryan Nobles, CNN on Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, a breakthrough deal on Capitol Hill could revive President Biden's agenda and maybe the biggest legislative climate investment in U.S. history. We'll discuss next.



WHITFIELD: President Biden and Democrats are gearing up for a fight with Republicans to pass a major energy and health care bill. This week, Democrats announced that Senator Joe Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed on a breakthrough climate change and tax package. The surprise deal is expected to face furious GOP opposition, but Biden is hopeful it could breathe new life into his agenda. CNN's Daniella Diaz joining us now from Capitol Hill, so, Daniella, what more can you tell us about this bill and what happens next?


DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Fred, this bill is significant because if it's passed, it could be the biggest climate deal in history. It would slash you how -- U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030, which would be a major achievement for Democrats. It's $369 billion for Energy and Climate Change programs, provisions that span everything from electric vehicles, tax credits, to clean energy manufacturing, and investments, and environmental justice, communities.

But not only does it do that it's also a healthcare deal. It would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, it would extend Affordable Care Act subsidies, and to pay for this deal. The bill would impose a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations. Really monumental that Senator Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were able to reach this deal, it really came out of nowhere. Eventually -- previously, we thought that -- we were told that these negotiations on climate fell apart then there was this surprise announcement that they were able to reach an agreement.

Now, Democrats are trying to pass this along party lines, which they're able to do because it's a tax and spending bill before they break for August recess at the end of next week. And that is their goal. They do not need Republican support to do this, just 51 votes. And with that 50-50 split, Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to be the tie-breaking vote for that deal. So we will see whether they are able to accomplish that, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Daniella Diaz, thanks so much. All right, with me now to talk more about this Van Jones. He is a CNN political commentator, and he was the green jobs czar under President Obama. Good to see you, Van.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Fred, it's good to see you as well.

WHITFIELD: All right, so your reaction when you saw that the Senate was able to get this done, meaning Senate leadership, including Senator Joe Manchin on board to get this package going?

JONES: I did a little happy dance. It's amazing. I mean, it's a very good thing. Look, I think people were so beat down, and so yes, we're so used to hearing only bad news that when good news happens, people don't know what to do. Listen, when I -- when I was running the interagency process for Obama, we had $80 billion for clean energy solutions. That was a staggering amount out of the stimulus package. This is for almost five times that amount.


JONES: Biden is about to do four or five times what Obama was able to do. You're talking about a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. 7 years from now, six years from now, we're going to have 40 percent less pollution come to the United States. You got -- you got -- people can be able to negotiate, the government can negotiate drug prices, you won't pay more than 2000 bucks for your drugs in America.

I mean, this is really crazy amazing good stuff. It took a year of nonsense to get here with Democrats just, you know, fall all over themselves but you got here, and this is really good stuff. You know, I'm happy to say when it's bad, I'm also happy to say when it's good, this is good stuff. It's good stuff.

WHITFIELD: I mean, they're big, ambitious numbers. And if, of course, you know, it passes, do you believe that those numbers -- I mean, can they be met? I mean, are these real deliverables?

JONES: It will. Listen, the -- on the monetary side, the answer is yes. I mean, the government can do this. And again, this is not something Republicans can stop as long as Kyrsten Sinema comes along and says, hey, I would like for us to have a 40 percent reduction in pollution, I would like for Americans to be able to pay less for their medical -- on their medical stuff. Then it gets done. Now look, obviously execution, implementation, governance, those are separate issues, but Congress has to act first before the administration could do anything.

And so listen, I just want to say, I -- you see me many times, I've been tough on this administration, I've shared a lot of the heartbreaking complaints of a lot of people, but this is a big deal. You can be happy today because something, not trivial, not tokenized, this is big stuff, this is four or five times what Obama did on climate and when he did his 80 billion, that had never been heard of before. So this is big deal -- big deal.

WHITFIELD: And here's a new incentive for you know, those who are in the business of buying a car, why you want to move toward electric because there will be a tax credit. How much of -- you know how much greater incentive do you believe this will be for people to participate in helping, you know, to cut down on carbon emissions?

JONES: Well, I think it's a big deal, and also it just points in a certain direction. If you have a house now or home, and you're thinking should I -- you know out this -- outfit this thing for it to be EV compatible, yes, you probably should because your neighbors got to get one of these things and you're going to want to have one of this.

You just start pointing in the right direction in terms of where the economy is going to go. And we have to invest and invent and innovate our way out of the mess that we're in.


You can't just sit here and fuss and fight and do food fight politics inside of the Democratic Party between Republicans and Democrats while you got a George Floyd moment for climate right now.

Europe is an inferno right now. We have floods and fires and droughts in America right now. And we just have been doing nothing but just fighting.

So the idea that America is going to get in this game and going to do something, actually doing something.

And license all of these innovators and all of these entrepreneurs and all of these workers to get out here and repower America in a clean way and green way. Bring these emissions down.

This is a big deal. Look, have been miserable for the past 18 months. Watching Democrats fall down the stairs and make fools of ourselves.

This is a breakthrough and it is a big deal. And I does a happy dance this morning. I went into the happy dance when we get off of this thing. This is a good day in America.


WHITFIELD: We're happy that you're happy.

So Joe Manchin will be --


WHITFIELD: -- a part of the big sell.

But how does a state like West Virginia, you know, get on board with moving past coal, other fossil fuels? Is this an uphill battle for Senator Manchin to convince his constituents that this is the way to go?

JONES: Well, you have to remember, first of all, I know Joe Manchin. I saw him recently. And I think highly of him. And I understand his state.

He has some deals on the side that will help get some pipelines, permits going. There's other stuff going on that will help the better part of his industry when it comes to fossil fuels.

But don't forget, people in West Virginia don't want to go broke paying medical costs either. People in West Virginia don't want asthma, either. They also don't want to deal with floods, fires, droughts, et cetera. So the idea that West Virginia is only the people who are most in love

with coal forever, as opposed to people -- even my friends in the United Mine Workers understand that climate change his real. They just want to be treated fairly in the deal.

So I think Joe Manchin did something important for the country. And I think his state, especially on the other stuff. We're talking about all of the drug price negotiations stuff. West Virginia needs that more than anybody else.

So he's getting a lot out of this deal for his state. And his state is not exactly what most people think it is in the first place.

WHITFIELD: Van Jones, good to see you. Next time, have someone videotape the happy dance because I want to see it.


WHITFIELD: I want to see it.

JONES: TikTok. I'll put it on TikTok.

WHITFIELD: Put it on TikTok.


WHITFIELD: All right. We'll be tuning in.


WHITFIELD: Thank you so much. Good to see you.

JONES: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: Coming up, tons of rocket debris on a crash course to earth. And it could happen at any moment now. We understand. But no one knows exactly where it might land. More on that next.



WHITFIELD: Well, this seems out of this world. But at any moment now, debris from a massive Chinese booster rocket is due to land somewhere on earth. The 23-ton rocket is 10 stories tall.

And launched last Sunday to deliver a module to China's space station. And with its job completed, out of this world, the rocket is now in an uncontrolled descent toward earth's atmosphere. And it is not yet clear where it might land.

CNN's space correspondent, Kristin Fisher, joining us right now.

So, Kristin, what more do we know about this rocket debris, how it is being tracked, and if anyone is any closer to knowing where it is going to fall? KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE & DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka,

the latest official confirmation comes from U.S. Space Command. This is what tracks types of rocket bodies like this.

And so Space Command has been tracking this. The latest official confirmation is that it recenters the earth's atmosphere about 45 minutes ago somewhere near the Indian Ocean and Malaysia.

And so hopefully, most of this 20-, 23-ton spent rocket body will have disintegrated as it re-entered the earth's atmosphere.

But as we've been so worried about, some of the debris may not burn up and it would land somewhere near that spot that Space Command just predicted. So somewhere near the Indian Ocean or Malaysia.

If any of that debris was going to land back on earth, it has likely already done so. We just don't know exactly where or when.

If there's any damage, that would come from local officials. And we don't have any reports of that just yet.

And in terms of precisely where and when, that official confirmation could come from Space Command. We still don't have that either. So there's still a lot of big questions here, Fredricka.

But if you zoom out, I think the thing to really think about right now is the fact that there's so much uncertainty surrounding this until just a few minutes before this rocket body is supposed to re-enter the earth's atmosphere.

And this is the second time -- excuse me -- the third time in just two years that China has allowed something like this to happen.

And Fredricka, I say allowed because the technology exists to keep something like this from happening ever, right. Like China just has to spend the right amount of money. They have to plan for this.

They have to spend more time building this into their rocket so that the rocket body makes a controlled decent and they could predict exactly where it will re-enter the earth's atmosphere and fall back.

Most of the time that happens somewhere over the ocean.

So the fact that China allows this to happen and makes the entire world wonder, where is this going to land, could it fall on my head, it is just indicative of what NASA described as very irresponsible behavior by the Chinese Space Agency -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: And one would think China does have the money to invest in the more advanced technology --


WHITFIELD: -- to go the safer route. Maybe for the more controlled descent.

Kristin Fisher, thank you so much.


Let's talk further about all of this. With me is Emily Calandrelli, the host and executive producer of "Emily's Wonder Lab" on Netflix.

Emily, so good to see you again.


WHITFIELD: OK, so this is the reality. It is there, even though there was some other technology available so China wasn't putting -- wouldn't put the entire earth into this kind of predicament, but here we are.

So you have been tracking this rocket debris around the clock. And what have you been noticing about it?

CALANDRELLI: Right. So I've been working with the Aerospace Corporation to understand where this is going to go. Over the last three days, we've been watching the predicted re-entry window of where it could crash. It gets smaller and smaller and smaller.

We have a lot of sensors on the ground that track this sort of thing. And everybody has been a little bit nervous watching the rocket pass over their part of the world and wondering if that is going to come down on them.

So it has been a lot of anxiety over the last few days.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Indeed. So people have been following you on Twitter because you've been posting updates. And what are some of the questions that they've been asking you?

CALANDRELLI: Right, well, one of the biggest questions is, how likely is this to hurt somebody? Because I think the main issue here is that China's level of acceptable risk is different than the United States and many other nations level of acceptable risk.

While the risk of this rocket hitting anybody and hurting anybody was very low, it was still a little bit too high for the United States or other nations that launch large rockets into orbit.

So the way that we could think about this, is that 70 percent of the world is cover in water.

So it is very likely to land in the ocean. Even if were to land on land, the parts of the land where there are people, it is still very, very small. So the risk of this actually hurting somebody was very small.

But I am nervous that it has been seen over Malaysia. And the people that I follow on social media have been saying that it is likely to have landed maybe either parts in the Indian Ocean and part on land.

So now we're just waiting to see if this actually landed on land and whether or not it did any damage.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. And let's hope it doesn't. Of course.

And so your Netflix show, overall, it is aimed at making science fun for kids. What kind of teaching moment do you think this might be for your audience of kids and adults, too?

CALANDRELLI: Right. Well, this is all about responsibility, right? Because when you launch something into space, and you let it fall back to earth, and you're taking a risk that is hurts somebody, you're allowing everybody to take that risk.

That is your responsibility to dispose of that rocket in a responsible way, to either use the remaining fuel in that rocket to orbit it in a controlled manner into the ocean or orbit it into -- propel it into an orbit that nobody uses. That is what we typically do in these situations.

And the fact that China put everybody at risk in this situation feels a little bit irresponsible. It is a message of maybe cleaning up your own mess.

WHITFIELD: Good messages there. And good explanation about what we can or may not know to expect.

Emily, great to see you again.


WHITFIELD: Thank you so much.

CALANDRELLI: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, 9/11 families are furious over the controversial Saudi-backed golf tournament that is being held at one of Donald Trump's golf clubs right now. More on that straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: LIV golf, the Saudi-backed league, and the archrival of the PGA, is holding a tournament in Bedminster, New Jersey, this weekend at Donald Trump's golf course. And this is just 50 miles from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.

The event and league have sparked protests from 9/11 families who blame the Saudis for helping to carry out the 9/11 attacks.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has more from Bedminster.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump teeing off in a ProAm at his namesake golf course in New Jersey amid controversy that's testing both the sporting world and international relations.

The third event of Saudi-backed LIV Golf starts Friday at Trump's Bedminster golf club, attracting big name athletes with millions in guaranteed pay days. Two-time Masters champion, Bubba Watson, reportedly the latest to join in.

The breakaway league has drawn criticism over concerns that it provides international legitimacy to Saudi Arabia's regime, which has been accused of human rights violations for years. It includes a 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

U.S. intelligence maintain Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved of the operation that targeted the "Washington Post" journalist. Bin Salman denies that allegation.

TERRY STRADA, NATIONAL CHAIR, 9/11 FAMILIES UNITED: It is a multibillion-dollar public relations stunt bought and paid for by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

SANDOVAL: Critics claim it's a moment of, quote, "sports washing," using this league to help improve the kingdom's image, something on full display yesterday with players claiming Saudi Arabia is correcting its human rights record.

PAUL CASEY, PLAYER, LIV GOLF INVITATIONAL BEDMINSTER: I can confidently say that change is happening and that what we do is having a positive effect.


SANDOVAL: Families of 9/11 victims point to Saudi Arabia is home to 15 of the 19 hijackers responsible for the terror attacks, though the Kingdom denies that involvement.


STRADA: I lost my husband in the North Tower, Tom Strada.

SANDOVAL: Donald Trump's golf club, just 50 miles from ground zero. The former president defending the tournament to ESPN today.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, nobody's gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately. And they should have.

SANDOVAL: It's the first of two LIV competitions on Trump's properties.

JAY MONAHAN, COMMISSIONER, PGA TOUR: We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf league is not that.

SANDOVAL: The PGA has gone as far as suspending golfers who joined LIV.

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If it were backed by any other entity, then it would just be a rival tour. In this case, there's a direct business relationship between each of these golfers and the Saudi regime.

Polo Sandoval, CNN, Bedminster, New Jersey.


WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk more about all of this. I want to bring in sportswriter, Rick Reilly. He's also the author of "So Help Me Golf: Why We Love the Game."

Rick, how do you see this. There's been a lot of criticism surrounding this game, rightfully so. Family members of 9/11 have been hugely insulted by this. The wounds are very deep. Yet, the game goes on this weekend.

What are your thoughts today?

RICK REILLY, SPORTSWRITER & AUTHOR: It's such a proud moment for me as a golf writer.

We've got a guy leading the tournament, who got thrown out of the tournament, and has gotten caught cheating twice on tour.

It's being held at a course owned by a guy who started an insurrection, and cheats so much. Kicks the ball so much his caddies call him Pele. I wrote an entire book about how much this guy cheats at golf.

It's all being paid for by the Saudis, who behead protesters, make dissenters disappear, kill journalists, and sent 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists, by the way, just an hour from where it happened.

It's a mess and I'm just so down about it.

WHITFIELD: The former president is unapologetic. He's saying -- he justifies it by it being a money-making deal that the golfers will be, you know, handsomely rewarded, and no one's really gotten to the bottom of who is responsible for 9/11.

So --

REILLY: Is this --

WHITFIELD: Go ahead.

REILLY: Is this the same guy who said, during the 2016 campaign, look to the Saudis, they're the ones who started this 9/11 thing.

By the way, he doesn't say he's doing it for the money. He says I'm doing it for the good of golf.

Really? So you think this is somehow going to help the Saudis learn about golf? There's 14 courses in the whole country. Seven of those are sand.

I love all these players. Like, it's not about the money for me. I'm trying to spread the good that golf can do. Like, when the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Il, shot 34 one day and all his people stopped starving?

Yes, it doesn't change things, golf.

WHITFIELD: What about for the players? I mean, you know, the players who are there are making a pretty significant statement. Perhaps their statement is even bigger than that of the players, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, who said, no, we don't want to play a part in it.

What is the statement these players are making? We saw Greg Norman is out there with the former president. But why are they willing to do this?

REILLY: What's the statement?

WHITFIELD: Yes, what's the statement?

REILLY: They want new jets. That's all they want. One guy even came out, Dustin Johnson, and said, "I want a new jet."

I hope when they fly home in their brand-new jets, those bloody checks the Saudis are giving them don't stain their white leather. They're working for the Saudis.

If this had been a tour started by, I don't know, Amazon, Google, McDonald's, I would be all for it. It was time in golf for some new competition. The players were underpaid. But this is insane.

This is -- next year, they go from eight to 14 tournaments. Now you try to back out of one of those tournaments, if you're a LIV golfer. Now there's going to be two more in the Middle East. There's going to be tournaments in south America, Asia.

On the PGA tour, you can say, I'm going to stay home and watch my daughter's piano recital. These guys, you better be in Riyadh or else you might hear the bone saws starting to warm up.

I hate every part of this. It's the worst thing that could happen to golf. We're going to have a split world of golf now.

And we're not going to see the great players playing each other as much as we used to, in fact, probably half as much. And depending on what the Masters does. We're not even sure if the Masters will allow these guys in.

This is sports washing at its worst. It's working. The PGA tour is now going to have to make a deal with these guys because they've signed too many great players. They're paying too much money. And all these guys are getting too many new jets.


WHITFIELD: All right, Rick Reilly, never holding back. Thanks so much.

REILLY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Always willing to take that swing. All right. In this week's "START SMALL, THINK BIG," a kind gesture

sparks a business idea for two Bay area women.


JOCELYN CHIN, CO-FOUNDER, PICNIC 'N CHILL: Once we receive a client, we email them back, go back and forth on what they're looking for. We'll start the planning process.

COCO CHAN, CO-FOUNDER, PICNIC 'N CHILL: We'll load it in the car the night before, prepare everything, and the next day is "go" time.

CHIN: I'm Jocelyn.

CHAN: I'm Coco.

CHIN AND CHAN: And we're Picnic 'N Chill.

CHIN: Picnic 'N Chill is a luxury picnic setup and cleanup service.

CHAN: One of our close friends had to postpone her wedding due to the pandemic but she still wanted to celebrate her wedding date.

And we love decorating so I said, should we just put together something outdoors where everyone can join in? That's how we started with Picnic 'N Chill.

CHIN: After we launched on Instagram and all of our friends, I started making TikTok videos, loading the car, setting up the picnic table. That video went viral.

On average, we host 30 to 40 events per month.

CHAN: We have three different packages that we offer, "The First Day," "Picnic 'N Chill" and "The Grandeur."

CHIN: And in addition to our three packages, we also throw parties on boats. We also do weddings, proposals, baby showers. It's a lot of fun.

CHAN: I used to work as an event coordinator and then I got laid off due to the pandemic. That's why we have extra time to start Picnic 'N Chill.

CHIN: And I'm happy I get to do what I've always wanted to do.

CHAN: It's so rewarding to be part of someone's special moment.