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United States Launches Strikes In Iraq And Syria Hitting Iran- Backed Militias; Source: Jordan Taking Part In United States Operation On Iran-Backed Targets; Biden: Retaliatory Strikes "Will Continue At Times And Places Of Our Choosing"; Jury In Trial Of Jennifer Crumbley, Mother Of School Shooter, Asked To Return Monday For Deliberations; Today: 40 Million Across California Under Flood Watches; College Basketball Invitational Showcases HBCU Schools. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired February 03, 2024 - 12:00   ET




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

All right. New developments in the Middle East after the U.S. unleashed a series of strategic and punishing airstrikes. The U.S. says it hit 85 targets linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Quds Force, and affiliated militia groups in Iraq and Syria.

Iraq claims the blast killed 16 people, including civilians. Leaders there are now demanding to see the senior U.S. diplomatic official in Baghdad as an official protest.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is vowing that these strikes are just the beginning of the U.S. response, following an Iran-backed drone attack in Jordan, which killed three American soldiers on Sunday.

Iran says the U.S. has made a strategic mistake, while Iraq and Syria and even Russia warn the U.S. strikes could inflame more conflict in the region. We have teams across the globe covering these latest developments, as only CNN can.

Let's start with Ben Wedeman in Jordan. Ben, what's the reaction in the Middle East to these U.S. strikes?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, we've seen angry reactions from Syria, which, as you said warned that this would inflame the situation further. The Syrian say that there was significant damage as a result of these strikes. And there were civilian and military casualties. Although, they didn't go into the details.

Now, Iraq, which hosts 2,500 U.S. forces in bases in Iraq, said that the attack was unacceptable, in their words, and that it's a violation of Iraq's sovereignty. And the foreign ministry in Baghdad has summoned the U.S. charge d'affairs in Baghdad, there is no ambassador there at the time to submit an official protest.

And now, Iran has also come out with essentially the same line. It's a violation of international law and a violation of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

But beyond that, the reaction, at least, from governments, particularly those who are friendly with the United States has been fairly muted. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: And Ben, a source tells CNN that Jordan is taking part in the U.S. operations against Iranian backed targets as well? What do you know?

WEDEMAN: That's an American source. They told CNN that here in Jordan, we've been trying to get some sort of comment from the Jordanians. But there has been in sort of -- shortly after CNN reported that Jordan, "participated" in the strikes, Petra, the official news agency came out and categorically denied that the Jordanian Air Force participated in any strikes on Iraq.

It didn't, however, mention Syria, and the word participate, leaves it open to interpretation, as far as the official in the U.S. who spoke to CNN. Was it the use of Jordanian aircraft? We simply don't know.

Keep in mind that during the war against ISIS, Jordan was part of the anti-ISIS coalition, along with the United States, the U.K. and others. And Jordanian warplanes did participate in strikes on ISIS.

But in this instance, the precise details of this alleged participation, we simply don't know, and Jordanian officials don't seem to want to talk about it. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: OK. And then, Ben, we're also getting details about several new U.S. strikes in Yemen.

U.S. CENTCOM says it targeted multiple Houthi drones preparing to attack ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden on Friday. What is the latest with that?

WEDEMAN: Yes, this is -- these were really targets of opportunity. We shouldn't look at them in the same context of those 85 targets struck by the United States with things like B-1 Bombers in Syria and Iraq overnight.

These are drones that the United States, which has a carrier group in the area spotted, they believed trying to strike navigation in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, and they shot them down.


Some of them were shot down by, according to the Pentagon, U.S. F-18 fighter jets, which are of course, based on the Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier. But as I said, this is not really part of the broader U.S. surge of strikes that the administration is talking about.

And the -- is widely anticipated that after Iraq and Syria were struck overnight that perhaps Yemen's turn is coming.


WEDEMAN: Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much.

All right. The U.S. is vowing that these strikes are only the beginning of its military response. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is in Los Angeles, where President Biden will be traveling this afternoon. What more are officials saying, Priscilla?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fred, they're saying exactly that. This is the first in a series of strikes that we can expect after those three service members were killed in Jordan.

And President Joe Biden was pretty clear about that, in his statement yesterday afternoon, saying the following: "Our response began today, it will continue at times and places of our choosing. The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world."

It goes on to say, "But let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: if you harm an American, we will respond."

Now, sources tell CNN that President Biden reached his decision on what to do after those three service members were killed on Monday. Now, part of the reason that there was a gap in timing here, according to officials is because of the weather. They wanted to make sure that the weather had clear skies, so they didn't have any unintended casualties, and they could determine their targets.

Now, of course, there is no belief among U.S. officials that this will completely stop the attacks by Iranian proxies. But their goal has been to diminish their capabilities and to deter them from these types of strikes.

And, of course, this also is part of a delicate balance that President Biden is having to navigate here. He wants to deter these groups, make clear -- make forcefully clear that there will be a response, especially when servicemembers are killed, but he also doesn't want to see this conflict get any wider. Notably, there were no strikes in Iran.

Now, that was unlikely going into these counter strikes, but notable. Because it speaks to the fact that the Biden administration does not want tensions to escalate any further in a region that is on edge. Fred.

WHITFIELD: Priscilla Alvarez in Los Angeles. Thanks so much.

All right, let's get more on this story. With me now is retired U.S. Army Major General Spider Marks. He is a CNN military analyst and head of Geopolitical Strategy for Academy Securities. Good to see you, General.


WHITFIELD: So, the U.S. is saying this is only the beginning of this operation. What could potentially be next?

MARKS: Well, the target set is certainly going to evolve based on the damage assessment that's done on the previous attack that took place just last night. 85 aim points, very specific targets, within seven, I would say named areas of interest along the Euphrates valley that spreads between Syria and Iraq.

But what we saw truly was, I think, essentially, there are three messages. One is we will punish very precisely, and hopefully, very brutally those that conducted the attacks that killed our servicemembers. That's number one.

Number two is hopefully, this is going to achieve some level of deterrence. In other words, Iran, this is unacceptable behavior. Don't try it again. This is how the United States is going to respond.

And then the third thing is very strong message back to Tehran, in terms of its relationship with its proxies. You might want to reconsider how you're conducting your relationship with proxies. And I think they will. I think that deterrence effect might be achieved in the near term, and that Iran is looking at the proxies. This was a very punishing blow. They lost capability, they lost leadership, and they lost a number of their -- the capacity to execute these kinds of terror attacks.

So, there might be a step back. Now also, when you -- when you look at the Houthis down in the Red Sea -- again, this is the campaign plan of CENTCOM. But I don't see it tied tactically into what we're seeing in Iraq and Syria.

WHITFIELD: So, while the U.S. is saying this is retaliation, Iraqi government officials are calling it a blatant aggression. A Syrian Foreign Ministry representative says the strikes, I'm quoting now, you know, "fuel conflict" in the region.

You say it deterrence, or are you worried that this might further stir things up?

MARKS: Well, first of all, without being flippant, let's not worry about what the Syrians say. Right? Let's not worry about what the narrative is coming out of Tehran. That's incredibly predictable.


I am concerned about what the Iraqis say, but not entirely surprised. We've been with them and at their side for well over 15 years. If they don't want us there, they can disinvite us. But clearly, this is the -- and, oh, by the way, Iraq didn't do anything, and has not done anything against the proxies that exist in Iraq. And you have the popular mobilization front in Iraq, which works with the Quds Force, the IRGC from Iran.

So, this is a real cat's breakfast of relationships. And we deal with the government in Baghdad all the time, and we confront them. And we tell them, look, this is unacceptable, and we have a right to have response, and we're going to take advantage of that. It's clearly what just took place.

So bigger picture, if the Iraqis have got a problem with the U.S. there, we can depart. They can say, you're no longer invited and we would depart.

WHITFIELD: So, the U.S. carried out these strikes by way of a B-1 Bombers that flew to the Middle East, coming from a Texas. Help explain, you know, why U.S. air assets wouldn't be used that are already in the region versus coming from the United States?

MARKS: Great question. Fred, I think it really two reasons. One is surprise. So, coming from the region, there will be eyes and ears and immediate detection. Those ratlines net communication takes place routinely. So, it'd be very hard to do that.

Second thing is if we used fighter aircraft, for example, it could -- I mean, you could achieve the same results with the same munitions. But it could also maybe get our enemies to think that we're going to stick around and provide some type of close air support.

In other words, if there are forces on the ground trying to achieve objectives, working on our -- at our behest, that fighter aircraft would do that. A bomber from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas is not.

And when it comes from Dyess, it can refuel multiple times. It carries an incredible paillard both the cruise missiles as your graphic described, as well as gravity bombs. And it has that great element of surprise.

WHITFIELD: Well, it did -- indeed do that. So, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, he is going back to the Middle East tomorrow. What kind of impact do you think these strikes might have on his diplomatic efforts to help bring an end to the war in Gaza?

MARKS: Well, again, great question. Look, it's all connected. You can't separate what has taken place in the greater Mideast, either in the bottom of the Red Sea by the Bab-el-Mandeb, coming through the Suez, what's happened in Gaza.

Hezbollah and Lebanon, what we're seeing with the proxies in both northern Iraq and Syria, this is all tied, and the discussion goes right back to Tehran. So, what may happen based on some initiatives, trying to change the complexion of the fight in Gaza, there could be a ceasefire. I'm not prognosticating that there will be, but I mean, that's the discussion.

Could there be a multiple month ceasefire? And if that were the case, you know -- you know, the Israelis would continue to go after the leadership of Hamas, that would happen. But it would be a far different fight. You could also increase the amount of humanitarian support.

So, the momentum toward a ceasefire may take place and may start to grow roots. If that's the case, then what you're probably going to see is proxies will then say, OK, we may have a succession of hostilities in Gaza. They may stop their proxy terrorist activities, not sure how the Houthis will respond. But it could be the beginning of a change in terms of the complexion and the volume, the escalation, and the volume of violence in the Mideast.

WHITFIELD: All right, General --


MARKS: Which would be a good thing.

WHITFIELD: Yes, of course. General Spider Marks. Great to see you. Thanks so much.

MARKS: Thank you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still to come, South Carolina is officially kicking off the Democratic presidential primary season. And President Biden is hoping black voters give him a dominant victory in that state again. We are live at a polling location.

And later, the jury in the Jennifer Crumbley's manslaughter trial is set to begin deliberations.


They will decide if the mother of the Michigan school shooter is criminally responsible for the death of her son's victims.


WHITFIELD: Right now, Democratic voters in South Carolina are heading to the polls as the state holds its Democratic primary. Democrats made South Carolina their first official primary state this cycle, and it's the first time the delegates will be awarded.

55 democratic delegates are at stake. Biden is expected to win despite Congressman Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson also being on the South Carolina ballot.

CNN national politics correspondent Eva McKend is at a polling station in South Carolina right now. So, Eva, I see a few people, OK, on a Saturday. So, is it pretty busy there today?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Fred, it's relatively quiet here today. We're told just about 72 people voted so far at this polling site here in Colombia.

No doubt President Biden, Democrats, they are hoping for bigger numbers across the state. That's because South Carolina is really an early test for the president of his support with black voters.

You know, 60 percent of South Carolina Democrats are black voters. They were instrumental in really resurrecting his campaign in 2020.

And that is why he fought so hard for South Carolina to now hold the first in the nation primary.


We spent all week talking to black voters up and down the state and a bit of mixed reviews about the president. Let's listen.


GABRIEL FANT, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: We need a candidate who is going to stand up and stand up strong for us. Or we're voting for the couch.

MCKEND: So, sure you're considering staying home and not voting?

FANT: Yes, and a lot of us are.

MIMI STRIPLIN, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, SOUTH CAROLINA: I think that we have to be able to step back and think a little more long term like, yes, four years, eight years, feels like a long time in my lifetime. But we think about these changes and how they are hopefully going to be impacting the next generations to come.


So, President Biden at his election headquarters earlier today in Delaware, he said that this is not just a campaign, it's a mission. I spoke to the head of the DNC earlier this week. And he told me the Democrats are not only going to be running against Trump, they're also going to be making an affirmative argument for why President Biden should be elected. Talking about student loan debt cancellation, talking about lowering the cost of insulin, the low black unemployment rate, for instance.

But, you know, voters feeling very, very differently across the state. Some excited, some sort of, I think, tired with their -- where they are economically, and feeling frustrated. But really at the end of today, Fredricka, we will have somewhat of a pulse of how a core constituency is feeling about the direction of the country.

WHITFIELD: All right. Eva McKend will keep checking with you to see how the crowd flow goes throughout the day there.

All right. Here to talk more about the South Carolina primary is Elena Schneider, a national political reporter for POLITICO. Also with me is Lissandra Villa de Petrzelka, national political reporter for The Boston Globe. Great to see both of you.

All right. Lissandra, I understand I can call you Lisa. So, to you first, Biden is expected to win big today. But there are questions about voter enthusiasm, as you just heard, and those sound bites, enthusiasm and lack of for the president.

You wrote a piece for The Boston Globe recently about how party leaders have been working hard to get South Carolina Democratic voters to turn out today.

So, how important do they believe voter turnout is? LISSANDRA VILLA DE PETRZELKA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. I mean, it's a huge deal. As you talk with Biden -- Biden's campaign and his surrogates. What you hear is that South Carolina is a nod to black voters that they are being very careful to do outreach to as a matter of making sure there is continued outreach throughout this campaign rather than just swooping in at the last minute and asking for black voter's votes come November.

But in some ways, you know, the president is competing against himself, though there are other people on the ballot, because if it turns out that his support among black voters is eroding, that's going to be something that he needs to fix ahead of November, in particular, in other states that are that will actually be battlegrounds for November.

WHITFIELD: And Elena, on black voters make up half of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina and those voters helped propel Biden to victory in the state and across the country in 2020?

So, in Eva's report there, we heard from some black South Carolina voters, saying they may sit out the election if Biden doesn't show a stronger commitment to them. Is Biden, you know, in danger of losing some of the African American voting bloc and South Carolina that voted for him in 2020, and now are on the fence or even sitting it out altogether in 2024?

ELENA SCHNEIDER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: So, look, that's part of what we're going to test here in South Carolina today, is where is this core constituency as it relates to Biden. So, part of what the concern that we're seeing not only on the ground that Eva touched on with the voters she spoke to, but we're also seeing translating in polling, particularly in battleground states, where we're seeing Biden underperform his support with black voters by double digits.

And this is not to say that we expect that Donald Trump who is most likely going to be the Republican nominee will suddenly win a majority of black voters. But by simply losing a couple of points in these key states thinking of places like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, where there are some smaller but nonetheless really important Representation of Black voters there.

To lose those by just a couple points could make all the difference for how Biden is able to put together a win in this general election. And so, the hope here is to not only test some -- is to not only win in South Carolina, but to also test some messaging here. Just see what cracks through and breaks through to some of these voters to get them excited.

You know, I spoke with half a dozen South Carolina lawmakers about these concerns with black voters. And they said, when they talk to voters, they hear that, you know, basically, that people aren't aware of what Biden has done in terms of student loan debt, lowering health care costs.

[12:25:09] And so, that's what they are concerned about is that the messages just not reaching those voters. And that if only it did, that it would excite them to show up and vote.

WHITFIELD: And Lisa, South Carolina's primaries are open, which means voters can choose to vote in today's Democratic primary or in the Republican primary at the end of the month. So, do you think it's likely that some, you know, Democrats, you know, will choose to instead vote in the GOP primary, to influence the race? Or they even willing to say that out loud?

VILLA DE PETRZELKA: That's a really good question. I was at a Nikki Haley event in Conway last weekend. And I remember coming across this voter, and we were having this conversation, and it took a minute for me to realize that actually, she identified normally lean Democrat, but she was planning on hanging on to her vote until February 24th, when the Republicans will go to the polls, because she actually felt that her primary vote would count more than, in influencing the Republican primary.

Now, it's a good question, how many people will actually do that, and this voter that I was speaking to, to use her as an example, she said, you know, come November, if her options are Biden or Trump, that she was going to vote for Biden again.

But we'll see how much of the turnout for Democrats ends up not being present today, just because they decided to wait for a few more weeks to try to affect the Republican primary and maybe give Nikki Haley a boost. If they are -- if they are strongly anti Trump voters.

WHITFIELD: Elena, Biden is not even in South Carolina today. We saw him in Delaware a bit earlier. He's going to be travelling out to California, you know, to meet with donors there. And you wrote a piece for POLITICO, talking about how this will likely be the longest general election season in modern political history. I think a lot of people were feeling that already. So, how important will fundraising be, you know, in the interim?

SCHNEIDER: It will be hugely important, because to reach those black voters that we're talking about here, to have them hear this message, not one time, but many times, and not just on T.V. ads, but on their phones, and at their doors, and in their mailboxes, that takes money, that takes cash.

And so, it's going to be incumbent on the president to spend probably a good significant amount of time going out there and fundraising or sending out surrogates to do that kind of fundraising work.

It's not something that we know he particularly enjoys. But it's something that is nonetheless going to be a key part of what is going to keep this campaign running. And what they want to do in terms of going up against Donald Trump, who has a pretty strong small-dollar fundraising machine that they are going to be up against.

WHITFIELD: Lisa, the president, you know, got another very good job's report this week, with the U.S. adding 353,000 jobs in January, nearly double what was forecast. The Dow is now at an all-time high. Poll show the economy has been one of the president's biggest liabilities, however.

So, is the Biden campaign confident that they can turn the economy into a strength going into the November election. Because the numbers say one thing, then, people will express their feeling another as it pertains to the economy.

VILLA DE PETRZELKA: Yes. And on the ground, while you're talking with voters, the economy does come up a lot of you know, the numbers that you just mentioned, do look good for Biden, and they are definitely going to keep touting that.

I mean, what you're seeing from the Biden campaign at this point is making sure that voters know what they have accomplished. As I spoke with the chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

She said that any lack of enthusiasm has to do with the information gap, that, that voters are feeling, that, that once they hear, what all the -- what all the administration has accomplished, that they'll be happy. So, you know, the economy is something that we're going to be talking a lot about. You're also hearing about the caps on insulin prices, investment in HBCUs.

And you're hearing Democrats go all in on all of these accomplishments, including the very good numbers on the economy ahead of today's vote.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it there for now. Elena Schneider and Lissandra Villa de Petrzelka. Thanks to both of you. Appreciate it. Your name made me really nervous. But it's a beautiful name.

All right. Coming up, it's the case that will test the limits of who is responsible for a mass shooting. The jury and Jennifer Crumbley's manslaughter trial will begin deliberations on Monday. We'll discuss next.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, back to our top story today. The U.S. says its forces hit 85 targets linked to pro-Iranian militia groups inside Iraq and Syria. Iraq says the blast killed 16 people including civilians in an attack that according to the White House lasted about 30 minutes. Iraq denounced the attacks and Iraq is now demanding to see the senior U.S. diplomatic official in Baghdad as an official protest. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the strikes are just the beginning of the U.S. response after an Iran-backed drone attack in Jordan, which killed three American soldiers on Sunday.

And jury deliberations begin next week in the historic case of a mother charged for the first time for mass shooting committed by her child. Jennifer Crumbley faces involuntary manslaughter charges for the 2021 Oxford high school shooting by her son Ethan. Closing arguments wrapped up yesterday with both sides laying out their cases for the jury.


KAREN MCDONALD, OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: She could have stopped at home on the way back from the meeting. She goes right by her home to see where the gun was. She could have stopped on the way back to work. She could have searched the backpack. She could have asked her son where the gun was. She could have locked the ammunition. She could have locked the gun. She could have taken him home. She could have taken him to work. He could have gone with dad. He was DoorDashing. She could have told the school that they just gifted him a bomb.


SHANNON SMITH, JENNIFER CRUMBLEY'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This clearly was not foreseeable to Mrs. Crumbley, because there's no one in the world, including Mrs. Crumbley who would have let a school shooting happen and let what happens on November 30th take place, not only ruining the lives of so many families and victims in taking the lives of four young people, but also ruining her own son's life and ripping his life right from her as well.


WHITFIELD: I'd like to bring in defense attorney Misty Marris. Misty, great to see you. So what's your take on the closing arguments?

MISTY MARRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So two diametrically different points of view, of course. Now the prosecution did a really good job of narrowing in on that fateful day, the day of the shooting and talking about all of the different actions that could have been taken by Jennifer Crumbley. Just to remind you, that she goes to a meeting with the school, there's a very disturbing drawing that depicts a gun and some disturbing statements and a decision is made to not take Ethan out of the school.

So prosecution very much focusing on that. Defense taking the other side and saying, you could be her. This was not foreseeable. There's parents on the jury. All of this has context. She had no idea that her son would be capable of such a terrible act. And to do so the defense attorney really focused actually a lot on herself, but try to really connect with parents who would feel that basically that this was not something that Jennifer Crumbley could have ever seen coming.

WHITFIELD: OK. Let's zero in on that. Because, you know, this is a case if you're the defendant, you really need to connect with the jurors, right? You need to somehow convince them, you know, to take a walk, you know, in your shoes. Do you think that the defense attorneys were able to successfully do that?

MARRIS: Yes, you know, I actually think that the prosecution's cross examination brought up some went a little too far, Fred. And I say that because the prosecution in their cross was really focused on her hobbies, and Jennifer Crumbley spending time and money on a hobby, her time at work. And I do think that might have alienated some people, because that's not a legal standard, reasonable minds are going to differ about how much time you should allocate to family and other activities in your life. There's no legal standard that would speak to that.

Now, the defense attorney took that a step further in the closing and described your own life and said, hey, look, sometimes I don't answer my kids text messages. To me, some of that might have been a little bit too much focus on the defense attorney herself. However, the point was made, that this was a situation where the prosecution is cherry picking these text messages. And you're not looking at it from the full context of a situation in your life that it wasn't so obvious that Jennifer Crumbley would believe that Ethan was a danger in this way to others.

And, Fred, another point that the defense did a really good job on was talking about that meeting at the school because the school also did not see a risk. The school also did not escalate this and search Ethan's backpack, so all of those factors are going to be incredibly important as the jury deliberates.

WHITFIELD: To -- and the prosecution is trying to exhibit or try to show that there was real willful negligence here by Jennifer Crumbley so we're going to find out what the jury -- which side, you know, the jury chooses on this when they begin deliberations on Monday. Misty Marris, thank you so much.

MARRIS: Thank you, Fred.


WHITFIELD: All right. Up next, California bracing for severe weather, a new and more powerful storm will bring flooding and heavy mountain snows in the next couple of days. How state officials are preparing straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: The second of two powerful atmospheric rivers is set to soak Southern California this weekend bringing torrential rainfall to roads left underwater from the first one. Nearly 40 million people are under flood watches across the state. And as the storms threatened to bring flash flooding, mudslides and damaging wind gusts it's hard to prepare for any of this severe conditions leading to terrifying situations like this. A man trapped in a storm channel had to be rescued by firefighters. He was taken to the hospital in stable condition. CNN national correspondent Camila Bernal joining us live now from Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles. Camila, how are Californians preparing?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred, so officials are saying that there are few easy ways to prepare, avoid travel, maintain at home if you can, keep informed, have an emergency kit just in case and go out to your local fire station like where I am right now and start grabbing those sandbags if you're one of those people that lives in an area that's prone to flooding. A lot of these people that we've talked to throughout the day have told us that their garages have already flooded in previous storms, so this is what they're doing now to prepare ahead of the storm that officials are saying could be one of the worst of the season. Now, during the storm, officials also telling people to be very vigilant and especially in those areas that normally flood. They're telling people those currents can be very deceiving and so they say priority should be to keep yourself safe during that storm. And officials saying they are also getting ready for that during the storm time. Take a listen to what the L.A. Fire Chief had to say.



CHIEF KRISTIN M. CROWLEY, LOS ANGELES FIRE DEPARTMENT: We've got our swift water rescue apparatus, boats. We also have our teams that will be fully staffed, ready to respond to any water related emergency. Now these teams are highly trained in swift water technical rescues. They stand ready to respond on a moment's notice. We've also bolstered our air apparatus, our helicopters, our air resources, adding skilled pilots and rescue teams to our helicopter fleet.


BERNAL: And officials just saying, take this seriously because it could be dangerous. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Oh, yes. Very potentially dangerous. All right, thank you so much Camila Bernal. Appreciate it. We'll be right back.




MICHAEL B. JORDAN, AMERICAN ACTOR AND FILM PRODUCER: Something is coming to TNT. Are you all ready?

CROWD: We're ready.

JORDAN: We got Hampton, Howard, all right, Grambling, Jackson State. Show yourself. Yes. I see you. This is a poetry and motion. OK. You all ready, ready, huh? It's bigger than the game. I'm talking about legacy. Every step, every note, every move, every cross, every dunk.


WHITFIELD: All right, that's Hollywood megastar Michael B. Jordan. You're probably more accustomed to seeing him on the big screen, right, in "Creed" and "Black Panther" to name a few. Well, he has made big moves on the hard court as well. He's the brainchild the creator of the third annual Invesco QQQ legacy Classic, bringing together four top men's basketball teams of historically black colleges and universities to compete.

And today in Jordan's hometown of Newark, New Jersey and the one day doubleheader Grambling versus Jackson State starting at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. And at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, one of the most audacious HBCU rivalries Hampton University versus my alma mater, Howard University, well guess who I'm rooting for? The Gainesville air on our sister network TNT and what you don't see on the air but you will experience if you attend today's classic, you've got tickets, lots of entertainment, battle of the bands and a college fair. Jordan designed this to be an event one of uplift on so many levels.

All right, joining me right now is TNT sports reporter Taylor Rooks. Taylor, great to see you.

TAYLOR ROOKS, TNT SPORTS REPORTER: Great to see you. And I love hearing that you are incredibly invested in one of the games that we have here today.

WHITFIELD: I am indeed. I won't be able to watch it all. But I'm going to watch it when I get off the air. I'll catch the back end of it. So Taylor, you know, how has this become so big and so special that HBCU teams really want to be there?

ROOKS: Absolutely, you know, big and special are two perfect ways to describe this event. I'm lucky enough to have this be my third year that I have been a part of it. It feels like it gets bigger and better every year. And the teams are always so excited just to be able to come to New Jersey, have these experiences, see Michael B. Jordan play on a platform like TNT and just you can see how much this means to them when they're on the court when they're interacting. And it's a truly special event to be a part of.

WHITFIELD: Oh, it sounds fantastic. I got to get courtside one of these days. I got to make sure I'm there not just watching it on T.V. OK, so how has this, you know, perhaps helped elevate HBCU basketball or even, you know, elevate the student body?

ROOKS: Yes, you know, so many of these teams aren't getting the eyes that they deserve nor the support that they deserve. And that was one of the reasons Michael B. Jordan wanted to create this event. He always says he wants the HBCU students and athletes to feel like they are seeing to get the exposure because these are great athletes. You're going to see amazing basketball today. You'll see a lot of passion both on the court and in the stands.

As you know, there's nothing like an HBCU fan base at a game like this. And I just think every single year you see how much the students feel seen and that truly was the mission that Michael wanted when he created this classic.

WHITFIELD: Oh, wonderful. So what will you be watching for today? Anything in particular or a particular team you like?

ROOKS: OK. So I like all the teams, you know, I know my audience. But my favorite part of this honestly is the bands. And being at an HBCU game is such a fun and specific experience. I'm up here dance and wonder if I can go down there and join them. But I love the bands. I love the entertainment. And really I just love mingling and meeting with everybody here because these games feel like such a community. You look in the stands there's so many people that look just like you rooting for their teams having fun. And that's always the treat of this event.

WHITFIELD: Oh, well you know, there's nothing like the battle of the bands. And you know I have a favor in all this. I kind of alluded to that already. And I am wearing I'm not, you know, going I'm not sure, I am wearing right now a commemorative medallion for Howard University's 2023 Men's Basketball MIAC championship, but I like to think it also represents for the other HU MIAC championships in men's basketball -- in men's football, I'm sorry, in men's golf, women's volleyball, track and field, cross country and oh the Howard swim and diving northeast conference championship. So for the teams that win today, what's the prize, bragging rights or something else?


ROOKS: I mean, so many things. Of course, it is bragging rights, but we always want to make sure we also giving resources and so many benefits to these students as well. So there's always some sort of philanthropic element of this too. So it is a completely holistic approach to this game today.

WHITFIELD: All right, Taylor Rooks, thank you so much. Of course, you know, Howard football it's on the way, it's on the way so, you know, no dis here. All right, the legacy classic kicks off minutes from now on TNT. I cannot wait.