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NBA Legend Bill Russell Passes At Age 88; Star Trek Actress Nichelle Nichols Dies At Age 89; Interview With Sen. Jon Tester (D- MT); Devastating Flood In Kentucky, Death Toll Expected To Rise; McKinney Fire Continues To Ravage Near The California-Oregon Border; Trump Hosts Golf Tournament Backed By Saudi Arabia; Recession Fears In Wall Street. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 31, 2022 - 17:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington. Today, the world has lost two trail blazers, NBA legend Bill Russell and "Star Trek" actress Nichelle Nichols, both changed their respective games. The word legend almost doesn't capture what Bill Russell meant to the Boston Celtics. He won 11 championships with the Celtics including eight straight from 1959 to 1966.

His accolades in basketball are unmatched, but Russell also made an impact off of the court as a civil rights activist standing up for racial equality. And just one example in 1961, Russell and the Celtics boycotted an exhibition game after a restaurant in Kentucky refused to sit black Celtics players. He joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the march on Washington, even returning for the 50th anniversary.


BILL RUSSELL, NBA HALL OF FAMER: Fifty years ago, the day before the march, I met Dr. King and one of the great experiences of my life, and he invited me to be up here and I respectfully declined because the organizers had worked for years to get this together and I hadn't done anything. So, I wanted to continue my life as an interested bystander.

Now, lately, I have heard a lot about how far we have come in 50 years. But from my point of view, you only register progress by how far you have to go. The fight had just begun.


ACOSTA: Also today, confirmation that ground-breaking actress Nichelle Nichols has died at the age of 89. Nichols played the iconic Lieutenant Uhura in the original "Star Trek" T.V. series and film. She was one of the first black woman to be cast in a position of strength and power on national television.


NICHELLE NICHOLS, ACTESS: But see, you're so busy at your command. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And it was this moment in 1968, this kiss that made history as one of the first interracial kisses ever shown on American television. Nichols recalled that kiss' impact years later.


NICHOLS: It changed television forever and it also changed the way people looked at one another. If they -- two of their favorite actors can battle through it and come through it on top, why can't everybody?


ACOSTA: And the great actor George Sulu -- excuse me -- George Takei who played Sulu on "Star Trek" tweeting about Nichols' death. He says, quote, "I shall have more to say about the trailblazing, incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise who passed away today at age 89. For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend."

CNN senior entertainment writer Lisa France joins me now. Lisa, I mean, we have just lost two amazing icons today. It's hard to measure the impact in just a few moments that we have, but take it away. Just an incredible career for both of these incredible individuals.

LISA FRANCE, CNN SENIOR ENTERTAINMENT WRITER: Absolutely. And there is actually a Dr. King connection for both of them because Nichelle Nichols recounted how she really wanted to quit "Star Trek" because she had envisioned the character as being like a linguist and she felt like when she got on the show, she was more like a glorified telephone operator.

So, she thought very seriously of the first season of leaving, and Dr. King said you can't leave. Your role is too important. They probably won't re-cast it with another black woman and yours is one of the first non-stereotypical roles on T.V. for black women. So, she reconsidered, thank goodness.

And I mean, her character was so beloved. And even after the show, NASA reached out to her and asked her to help them diversify their space program. So that just goes to show you how incredibly powerful that role was and what a huge impact it had on all of us.


ACOSTA: And there are so many tributes coming in from the world of professional basketball, but Magic Johnson reacted to Bill Russell's death saying this. He tweeted, "Bill Russell was my idol. I looked up to him on the court and off. His success on the court was undeniable. He was dominant and great winning 11 NBA championships. Off the court, Bill Russell paved the way for guys like me."

You know, we were talking to Bob Costas in the last hour, Lisa, and it's just really hard -- it's hard to describe how much he meant not only in the world of professional sports, but in the area of civil rights and how both of those worlds collided during Bill Russell's career.

FRANCE: Absolutely. Bill Russell is one of those athletes that, you know, understood the power of his position and how he could help elevate what was so important to him which was civil rights. And he was so beloved and well-respected both on the court and off of the court as you pointed out, that people listened to him when he spoke.

You know, this was well before there was all the controversy about kneeling and things like that. It was still considered controversial to take a stand on anything having to do with race, but he was just determined that he was going to be heard and that he was going to do the work to make the life better for African-Americans and other people of color.

ACOSTA: And in the 1960s, Lisa, Bill Russell helped to create an integrated basketball camp in the deep south. Nichelle Nichols for her part eventually worked with NASA to recruit minorities for the space program. I mean, they both were, I guess, you know, they really were towering figures in the same era I suppose, same civil rights era but in different fields. What does that say about them and about this ere that they both had an impact on?

FRANCE: It says that they understood the power of celebrity well before the rest of the world did on a lot of levels. And it said that when things were really, really hard for African-Americans that, you know, not those things are that much easier as Bill Russell pointed out, that we still have a long way to go as he said in his speech.

They were very cognizant of the role that they had as African- Americans in the limelight. And they both took up the mantle and took up the opportunity to actually try to effect change and make a difference in the world. And that's why they are both being mourned so incredibly heavily today because we really have lost legends. And as you pointed out, legends doesn't even seem like a big enough word to describe the two of them.

ACOSTA: No question about it. They were both just towering figures in their fields and we'll never forget them. Lisa Respers France, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Now to Washington, and later we should point out later on in the program, we have to speak with Isiah Thomas, the NBA great about the loss of Bill Russell.

And now to Washington, D.C., where protests continue this weekend over Republicans blocking what's known as the Burn Pit Bill that legislation would expand medical coverage for the millions of vets exposed to toxins during their time in service, but more than two dozen Republican senators reversed course this week and pulled their support, blocking the legislation from advancing. They insist the bill includes a spending gimmick that would lead Democrats spend too much money without oversight. Their about face though has infuriated many vets who served this country. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASHLEY CAROTHERS, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: And it's a stab in the back. It really is because you're constantly saying we support you, support our troops, you know. They'll be tweeting out, you know, remember everybody deployed on Fridays and wear red. But when it actually comes to something that matters for our health care, they turn their backs on us. That hurts more than anything.


ACOSTA: This morning, one of the Republican senators who blocked the bill, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania defended the action.


SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): This is the oldest trick in Washington. People take a sympathetic group of Americans and it could be children with an illness, it could be victims of crime, it could be veterans who've been exposed to toxic chemicals, craft a bill to address their problems and then sneak in something completely unrelated that they know could never pass on its own, and dare Republicans to do anything about it because they know they'll unleash their allies in the media and maybe a pseudo celebrity to make up false accusations to try to get us to just swallow what shouldn't be there. That's what's happening here, Jake.


ACOSTA: And joining me now is Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana. He is the bill's sponsor and the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Senator, what is your response to Senator Toomey there, the senator from Pennsylvania seems to be saying that you and your Democratic colleagues were trying to pull a fast one. What is your response to that?

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): Patrick Toomey is a friend. He's a smart guy and he knows -- I mean, the bottom line, there is no a fast one. This is the same bill we passed on the 16th of June and it should be passed again. And I think the veteran that you had on is 100 percent correct. There is a lot of fast ones that are pulled in Washington, D.C.


And quite honestly, nobody ever steps up the plate and stops that kind of stuff from happening. That happens like in an overseas contingency account which is exactly the kind of fund that Senator Toomey thinks is in this bill, but is not, and was passed to keep the war going in Afghanistan. That is the reason we're here talking about the burn pits today.

So, I don't agree with his assessment and I think the veterans who serve this country are pretty important because they fight for our freedoms and they make sure that we're safe and secure. And when it comes time to taking care of them, we've got to step up and do that. That is the cost of the war. ACOSTA: And I know you've been working the phones all weekend. Do you

think you'll be able to get this done because, you know, when you talk to and there's a tweet of you working the phones there as we speak, and you know, senator, this is exactly the kind of situation that just irritates the heck out of people across the country, and especially the veterans who say, you know, they're just always playing games in Washington? Do you think you can get past that and get this done?

TESTER: Oh, I sure hope so. I think -- I think our image as a nation, and what we stand for depends a lot on this bill. I have never seen veterans as engaged as they are right now. We've got veterans sleeping on the steps of the capitol. You know, for 15 years they've talked to me about how this is a big issue and for the last year and a half, it is all the veteran's number one issue, to be taken care off.

So, I hope we can get it done. I think we're seeing some fair negotiations on the other side and I hope we can come up with an agreement that will get us on this bill and get it passed in short order because the truth is this, Jim, every day we don't pass this bill, another veteran dies of toxic exposure, and that's not right. It's not right for the veteran. It's not right for the veteran's families.

They fought; they've served this country. And the deal is, is we take care when they get back home of if they've been 0changed by war. It's just living up the United States' part of the deal. And by the way, I think the American people see through all this garbage that happened last Wednesday in Washington, D.C., and they are, along with the veterans, saying enough is enough. Let's get this done. Our veterans deserve this benefit.

ACOSTA: And let me ask you about something that Texas Senator John Cornyn tweeted. He is blaming the Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, "not have been delayed if Schumer had kept his promises." What do you think he's talking about here? He seems to be saying that this is some kind of retaliation for that surprise climate and health care deal between Chuck Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin. I mean, was this retaliation? What's your sense of it?

TESTER: I really don't know what Senator Cornyn is talking about there. I really don't, but what I will say is that if you want to find an excuse to vote against a bill, you can always find an excuse to vote against the bill in Washington, D.C. If you look at this bill, it's been around for a long time.

I think the House passed a pretty close version of this bill on March 3rd of this year and we had it in front of the Senate and through the VA Committee for a year and a half in different versions. There are no surprises here. And in the end, I think that regardless of what Senator Cornyn is talking about, what he should really be thinking about is who suffers.

Who suffers because they served this country, and is it our obligation as a Congress, as a Senate, to make sure that we do right by these folk? We've got an all-volunteer military. If we want to continue to have an all-volunteer military and have folks sign up, young people are watching. And if we don't live up to our end of the deal when it comes to health care and benefits, they're going to say, why should I agree to something when the other side isn't going to pick up the tab.

And so, I think it's really, really important that people understand that this is about -- there's a toxic exposure bill and if you want to vote against it because of a riff on the CHIPS bill or reconciliation bill that has no connection to this bill whatsoever, you can. But that is, as I said the other day, it's something you should not be doing. It is political malpractice.

ACOSTA: And just very quickly. Did you happen to see when Senator Ted Cruz was, I guess, fist pumping one of his Republican colleagues after the bill was blocked. We're showing an image of it. Do you know what happened there, Senator Tester, what that was all about?

TESTER: I can only assume because they were tickled pink that this bill went down. I think that is just really sad and speaks to -- it does not speak well to the United States Senate for sure.

ACOSTA: Alright. Senator Tester, we'll be watching to see if it gets done this week. Thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it.

TESTER: Jim, thank you. I appreciate it being able to do this with you.

ACOSTA: Alright, thank you. Coming up, we're going to be -- the quote here, "we're going to be finding bodies for weeks." Those are the words from Kentucky's governor as the death toll from historic flooding continues to rise.


We'll check in on that next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


ACOSTA: In eastern Kentucky today, a race to find survivors in the aftermath of deadly flooding. At least 26 people are now confirmed dead with the governor warning that number will go higher. Hard-hit areas could not handle anymore water and yet more rain is on the way. It's falling right now in parts of that region today and Monday.

Power and water is out in thousands of homes as infrastructure crumbled beneath the powerful floodwaters. About 50 bridges were completely washed out in Perry County. It's according to one official. And CNN's chief climate correspondent Bill Weir joins us now.

Bill, this is just a historic disaster and the images are painful to watch considering what's happened to people's lives just being shattered. But help us fill this out here. The United States actually saw two very rare flooding events in the same week. What's going on?


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, two 1,000-year flooding events within a couple of days or even hours of each other, and within a driving distance from each other as a result of this weather system that jammed all this moist air right in the belly of the country right there. And nine inches of rain in 12 hours, it just overwhelmed all of the storm drains and the creeks and the outlets, you know, the man-made stuff is where the drainage just doesn't happen, and it all goes in the wrong place.

Too much water in some places, Jim, not enough in others. That's the theme of our days right now. And then it's the infrastructure you got to worry about. As you said, 50 bridges. And then having covered these, when the sun comes out, the headache has just begun for these little communities because if you've ever lived with standing water in your house and what that means in terms of the cleanup and mold and insurance, heartbreaks for these folks. And they're still mourning. They're still looking for bodies.

ACOSTA: Yes, Bill, I've covered floods like this. I know you have as well. I mean, it is just -- it's gut-wrenching when the waters recede and the people have to clean up what's left. It's just -- it just shatters everything. And as unfortunate as this historic flooding is, I mean, what is your sense of this? Are we not just covering the weather, we are also covering climate change?

WEIR: I think so. And I think people are coming to grips with that, and it's becoming easier to connect those dots more and more. I think if you're a weather meteorologist in a small market, maybe in the country somewhere, and politically, just the idea of climate change, connecting that to your nightly forecast has been a third rail.

It's becoming easier to talk about, I think, because there have been studies recently that Republicans or Democrats, the more people who actually taste this unnatural disaster, it changes, it swings their willingness to call this all-climate change, but 15 points or so. And sadly, more and more people are experiencing it.

And whether it's this or it's the heat domes that have, you know, you've seen these heat alerts, whether it's 80 million, 50 million, or 30 million people at a time, under this crippling heat. And to think about this is just the beginning that, you know, in the next 10 years or so, it will feel like your town has moved 100 of miles south.

And so, how we rally around the possibilities of that, how to prepare for that, but also how to tap into there is so many incredible alternative ways of building our lives and our cities and fueling them, and also capturing the carbon that's already out there. That's going to be a trillion-dollar industry that most people haven't even heard of yet. All of that should be part of the conversation as well.

ACOSTA: And Bill, let's jump to wildfires near the California and Oregon state line, the McKinney Fire has grown to more than 50,000 acres in just three days. Officials said the fire was exacerbated by the weather. How serious is the situation there? I know you've reported on these issues as well. This is a big one. It's a huge problem right now.

WEIR: Yes. This is an odd one because the Oak Fire where I was, near Yosemite was -- spread really fast like 10,000 acres in a day, even though the wind wasn't blowing that hard. This one up near the Oregon border is -- it gives us the fun term pyrocumulonimbus clouds. These are like fire breathing dragons' clouds that are like 40,000 feet, full of lightning and they strike the ground and start fires, which then create its own weather and then can strike and start again.

So, really kind of odd occurrence, but it really just starts to stretch out resources. There were like 4,000 fire firefighters around the Oak Fire because other parts of the states could afford to send their people because fire season honestly hasn't really begun in earnest yet, but now it looks like maybe it has up north.

ACOSTA: Wow. Just devastating. And Bill, we're just hearing in the last couple of minutes, the governor of Kentucky has just updated the death toll from the floods to 28. So, they are just dealing with an enormous task there on the ground in Kentucky. Bill Weir, thanks so much for your continuing coverage of climate change. We really appreciate it.

WEIR: You got it.

ACOSTA: Coming up next, the 9/11 families are angry that former President Trump is hosting the Saudi-backed LIV golf tournament less than 50 miles from ground zero. Trump's defense, saying, quote, "nobody has gotten to the bottom of 9/11," that's of course a lie. We'll discuss that next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: As we have been reporting this afternoon, NBA legend Bill Russell has died at the age of 88. His statistics on the court solidified him as a basketball icon and as an NBA Hall of Famer. But it was his fight for equality that transcends the sports world. He often faced threats and taunts as former President Barack Obama described when he gave Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bill Russell, the man, is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men. He marched with King. He stood by Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve the black Celtics, he refused to play in the scheduled game. He endured insults and vandalism, but he kept on focusing on making the teammates who he loved better players, and made possible the success of so many who would follow.


ACOSTA: And joining me now is the NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. Isiah, so great to have you on the program talking about the amazing life of Bill Russell. We're showing a photograph right now of you and Bill back in the day.

[17:30:00] I guess walk us through your thoughts on the passing of this legend.

ISIAH THOMAS, NBA HALL OF FAMER: Tonight, it's a very sad day for the basketball world and, you know, sports and society. You know, he was a giant in sport. He was a giant in society. And the thing that, you know, stands out most to me about him, you know, of course the winning championships.

But what he did outside of the basketball floor during the period of time that he did it, you know, you have to imagine, you know, what life had to be like for him as a teenager being born in Louisiana in the '30s and rising above all of that, playing for the Celtics, winning championships during a time in '60s where there was so much racial strife and everything else tearing up our country.

He stood up in Boston and Red Auerbach stood up in Boston and, you know, stood tall. And not only did they represent the Celtics, but Bill Russell also represented the voiceless in society who couldn't speak. And when he was a champion and he had the mic, he spoke loudly and he spoke boldly for the injustices that was happening in this country.

ACOSTA: Yes, Isiah, as he was achieving all these amazing things in basketball, he was standing up against injustice during these moments along the way. I guess, I was wondering, can you talk about that? How did he inspire you everything that he did as he was accomplishing so much on the court?

THOMAS: You know, you're probably, Jim, too young to remember. You probably weren't even born, but during that period of time, you know, in the '70s, I can vividly remember in the late '60s, early '70s when the NBA wasn't even on television, but yet in all of our households at the dinner table, on the basketball court, him walking down the street, you heard the stories of Bill Russell.

You couldn't see him on television a lot, but you heard what was happening. And I can remember vividly, and I think it was the '73 or '74 when bussing was starting to be in -- they were integrating the schools in Boston. And I was walking out of the door and my mom grabbed me by the collar and she said, you got to stay here and you got watch this.

I said, mom, I'm going to be late for school. She said, no, you got to stay here and watch this because this is why we root for Bill Russell. You know, as a woman who came on, a white woman who came on television and she was saying she would never allow her kids to go to school, and she used the N-word, with these N's here in Boston. And my mom said and my dad said, this is why we root for Bill Russell. This is why we root for the Celtics, because what Bill Russell stood for and what the Celtics were doing during that period of time inspired all of us.

So, while Mr. Russell didn't touch me physically, he was able to touch all of America mentally with the way he stood up and the way he boldly spoke out.

ACOSTA: Yes. And his daughter told "The New York Times" about, you know, some of the things that their family went through. About one incident where the N-word was spray painted on their home. She also said they received threatening letters. It was so much that he decided to have his jersey retired in a private ceremony away from fans, and yet he never stopped fighting for racial equality. He never backed down. Just remarkable.

THOMAS: Not only remarkable, but again, what he was able to overcome. And we look at the life and the accolades that he was able to achieve. Imagine if the playing field would have been level and he would have been able to live as a normal teenager without being called the N- word, without being oppressed, without seeing people around him going through, you know, the difficult times that they were going through. Imagine what he could have been had he had a level playing field where there were no racial categories in this country and we were all Americans.

ACOSTA: Isiah, thank you so much for spending time with us, and remembering the life of Bill Russell, an icon.


And you're a legend yourself, so we really appreciate your time. Thanks for spending a few moments with us. Thanks, Isiah.

THOMAS: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Alright, the great Isiah Thomas. And we'll be right back.


ACOSTA: Families of those killed on 9/11 expressing their outrage of former President Donald Trump would host the Saudi-backed LIV golf tournament in Bedminster, New Jersey barely 50 miles from ground zero.


Justice is all we want. Just, you did it, own up to it (BLEEP) and, you know, I was enlisted, I'd be honest. I was a Trumpster, and excuse me for my language but you're a real (BLEEP), How could you do that, you know? If you have the FBI documents that we finally know somebody, did it, and we're not, you know, holding them accountable, at least say it.



ACOSTA: More than 20 years later, the emotions are still raw, and during an interview with ESPN, Trump defended the tournament this way.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've known these people for a long time in Saudi Arabia and they've been friends of mine for a long time. Nobody has gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately, and they should have as to the maniacs that did that horrible thing to our city, to our country, to the world.


ACOSTA: We should know what he said is not true. That us a lie. We have gotten to the bottom of what happened on 9/11, but joining us now to talk about this further is former Defense Secretary and former CIA Director Leon Panetta. Secretary Panetta, as someone who has vivid memories of being up on Capitol Hill when you heard that America was under attack, what is your response to Trump just speaking nonsense, trying to defend this golf tournament with the Saudis?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, it's obvious that, you know, when Trump is in a corner, he lies about everything. And for those of us who remember what happened on 9/11 and particularly for those of us who fought against Al Qaeda and Bin Laden who were the people who basically designed, planned and conducted that act of atrocity on the United States.

And thank God we were able to bring Bin Laden to justice. I think Donald Trump ought to recognize the truth for what it is and apologize particularly to the victims of 9/11 for proceeding with something that just didn't have to happen.

ACOSTA: Yes. I mean, that is just a shameful moment. There's just no other way around it. And Leon, in addition to being a former Secretary of Defense, you served in Congress, I have to get your reaction to the fact that these 25 Republican senators reversed course from just a month ago and voted down a bill meant to help veterans who became sick after exposure to burn pits and other toxic chemicals.

It's a pressing ongoing issue up on Capitol Hill despite the fact that these same Republican senators had supported an earlier version of this legislation. All of this elicited a response, a pretty fiery response from Jon Stewart as you know. Let's listen.


JON STEWART, VETERANS ACTIVIST: Americas heroes who fought in our wars, outside sweating their asses off with oxygen, battling all kinds of ailments while these (BLEEP) sit in the air conditioning walled off from any of it.


ACOSTA: I mean, this is what makes people sick about Washington, Mr. Secretary. What do you think?

PANETTA: Well, it's part of the dysfunction we see in Washington all the time. I mean, look, I don't think there's any question that men and women in uniform put their lives on the line in order to defend this country. And many of them were killed in action, and many of them suffered the consequences as a result of things like fire pits and other things that took place during the course of a war.

We've recognized the impact of that. We've recognized that there is a connection between what happened there and the illnesses that veterans have incurred. And that's why this legislation was put forward to try to help those veterans. I think the Republicans know that this is the right thing to that's why they voted for it in the first place.

I think what they did by pulling back on this is more about politics than it is about the substance of this legislation. They saw that the Democrats were getting some wins in the Congress, couldn't allow another win to go through for political reasons.

I think they got to put politics aside and recognize that they have a responsibility to be able to provide the benefits to those who are willing to put their life on the line for us.

ACOSTA: And I hate to jump around on topics here, but there is one other very pressing topic I want to get your take on, Leon, and that is CNN has exclusive reporting about missing Secret Service text messages from January 6th. Sources tell us that the Homeland Security Inspector General first learned of those missing messages back in May of 2021. That's more than a year before he alerted the January 6th Committee investigation the insurrection.

In addition, "The Washington Post" is reporting that there are text messages from others that are missing as well. You served in the government in various capacities for many years.


I mean, what do you make of all this? This is just oddly way too coincidental to have all of these missing texts as sort of, you know, everybody is playing new phone, who this over here in Washington it seems like.

PANETTA: Well, Jim, it's pretty obvious that within some these areas of government there was virtually a conspiracy to try to prevent the truth from coming out. And I think one thing we've learned, thank God, is that the truth will come out. And that's what needs to happen here. We need to find out just exactly what the Secret Service was saying to one another. We need to find out what kind of statements were being made particularly with regards to January 6th and what happened there.

The American people are entitled to the truth here, and I hope that the committee and I hope that those involved in investigating the situation will ultimately find out exactly what happened here and hold those people accountable.

ACOSTA: Alright. Always great to speak with you, Mr. Secretary. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Thanks so much for your time. We appreciate it.

PANETTA: Good to be with you, Jim.

ACOSTA: Alright, good to see you, sir. And fears of a recession are rattling Wall Street. Here is Matt Egan with your "Before the Bell Report."

MATT EGAN, CNN REPROTER: Hi, Jim. The recession guessing game continues for Wall Street following a critical week for the U.S. economy. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates last week by another three-quarters of a percentage point. That's the biggest consecutive rate hike in modern history.

The Fed is fighting to get red hot inflation under control. Their favorite measure, the PCE price index, hit a fresh 40-year high in June, the BEA said Friday. It's a delicate balance for the Fed. Raising rates just enough to tame prices without causing an economic downturn. But the latest GDP report is fanning fears of a recession. The U.S. economy shrank for the second straight quarter contracting 0.9 percent in the spring. That's one indicator of a potential recession.

But the National Bureau of Economic Research, which officially determines a recession also considers a wide range of other factors including the jobs market, which is still very strong. This week, we get the July jobs report. Economists predict the U.S. added 250,000 jobs while the unemployment rate held steady at 3.6 percent. Neither of those numbers would scream recession.

Corporate earnings also continue this week with reports from big consumer brands like Starbucks, CVS and Kellogg. Caterpillar also reports on Tuesday. The manufacturing giant which does business around the world is seen as a bellwether for the global economy. In New York, I'm Matt Egan.



ACOSTA: One of the last remaining Navajo code talkers died Friday. Samuel Sandoval was born in New Mexico and joined the Marines in 1943. He became one of the code talkers during World War II who used the unwritten Navajo language to form an unbreakable code to transmit messages. Sandoval served five combat tours. He later became a substance abuse counselor opening an alcohol counseling clinic in the 1970's. The Navajo Nation's vice president called Sandoval a great warrior and a compassionate family man.

Nearly 60 hikers have been rescued from a trail near the California Oregon border as the raging McKinney wildfire continues to grow. That fire has now consumed more than 50,000 acres in northern California prompting the state's governor to declare a state of emergency. A mandatory evacuation order is in place for parts of the area and residents within the evacuation zone are being asked to leave immediately.

Nearly 2,000 people have already been forced to flee their homes. Officials say the blaze started on Friday and has been exacerbated by winds from lightning storms this weekend. Crews are working to battle the fire, which is only 1 percent contained.

Tonight, on a brand-new "United Shades of America," W. Kamau Bell heads to California to see firsthand the wide-ranging impact from the wildfires there. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNKNOWN: I think the camp fire is really a story of stories. And so, there's two words that are interchangeable a lot. And that's bravery and heroism, but they're different. In bravery, in our job is an expectation, right. But you're looking at two people who stayed in the fight that day even though they lost everything they owned. And these two are in that where of being a hero because of that.

W. KAMAU BELL, HOST, UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: I would imagine that no one would have blamed you both to say I got to go be with my family. What made you stay and do the work?

UNKNOWN: When I saw the house is gone, I kind of took a moment and said alright, well, go back to work.

BELL: Oh my god.

UNKNOWN: I was thinking, I think I just kind of shut that part of it off, like, there is nothing I can do about that, but here's what I can do. Yes. This is, you know, you go back to your training.


ACOSTA: Be sure to tune in. "United Shades of America" airs tonight at 10:00, right here on CNN.

Get your tickets out. The lucky winner of Friday's mega millions jackpot struck gold, but has not yet claimed their prize. The Illinois director for the lottery said they have not yet heard from the ticket holder and encouraged everyone to check their numbers.


The ticket was purchased at a Speedway gas station outside of Chicago. It's possible they don't realize they won $1.3 billion. The winner has 12 months to claim the prize, however, they only have 60 days to choose between the cash option or not. And if nobody comes forward, I'm more than happy to accept the prize. I will do that on behalf of all of you.

That's the news. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. Check those tickets, please. I'll see you back here next Saturday at 3:00 p.m. eastern. Pamela Brown takes over the CNN NEWSROOM live after a quick break. Have a great weekend everybody.