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CNN This Morning

"Hard Hits: Can Football Be Safe" Airs Tomorrow At 8pm ET/PT; W.H.O: 300,000 Affected By Massive Morocco Earthquake; 820 Killed As Powerful Earthquake Hits Morocco; Operations To Rescue American In Turkish Cave Could Take Days; American Coco Gauff Advances To First U.S. Open Singles Final At 19; White House Completes $50 Million Upgrade To Famed Situation Room Complex. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired September 09, 2023 - 08:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Watch this country, people are obsessed with football.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The whole story with Anderson Cooper airs tomorrow night at 8:00 on CNN.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to CNN this morning. I'm Amara Walker.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. We, of course, following the breaking news out of Morocco, more than 800 people were killed by a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake, the strongest to hit that country in North Africa in more than a century.

WALKER: The earthquake struck late last night centered high in the mountains surrounding the tourist destination of Marrakech. The World Health Organization says more than 300,000 people in the city were affected. Those powerful tremors brought down parts of historic buildings and homes sending many residents running into the streets.


MOHAMMED TAQAFI, WITNESS: The house rocked aggressively. Everyone was scared. And I was shocked and didn't understand what was happening. I thought it was only my house that was moving because it's fragile and old. I heard people screaming. Everyone went out of their houses, the street is full of people, and women screaming, that's what happened. Even now, people can't go back home because they're still afraid.


WALKER: We want to show you some video now of two men running when they begin to feel the shaking. And then moments later, you see more people and more panic. And then as soon as some get away, you will see the rubble from the top of this building just falling to the ground the area where the men had been just moments before.

BLACKWELL: Roughly 700 People were reportedly injured in the quake. And now there's a race, of course, to reach victims in the most affected areas. But officials say that rescue teams are struggling to get to those places. Joining us now is Chief Dave Downey. He is the Chair of the Urban Search and Rescue Committee at the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Also the former team leader with the Miami Dade Fire Search and Rescue and he was the Search and Rescue Team Leader for the State of Florida during the Surfside building collapse in 2021. And he knows the enormous challenges that search crews are facing so let's start there. And thank you for being with us.

The hours now after the initial quake, they, of course, are dealing with aftershocks, which you did not have to deal with. But what does it look like they're now as they're trying to find survivors?

DAVE DOWNEY, FMR. TEAM LEADER, MIAMI DADE FIRE AND RESCUE: Well, good morning, and thanks for having me on. You know, the just the sheer enormity of this, the scope of this earthquake is what's going to present some of the problems. You know, unlike Surfside where it was in a compressed couple acre site. Now we're talking about a large, widespread area.

You know, back in 1999, I responded with search and rescue to Turkey and we experienced the same thing where you had access issues trying to get into these remote areas to perform the search and rescue. So, you know, we know the buildings are coming down, but also the infrastructure, the roadways are impaired, that's going to create challenges as well.

WALKER: Yeah and let's talk more about that because you have responded to earthquakes in the Middle East, specifically Turkey, where many of the buildings, just like in Marrakech, they're old, many of them made of stone and clay. I guess, that's good for climate control inside the home but not when the earth is shaking. How does that complicate search and rescue efforts?

DOWNEY: Well, it -- it complicates it in the sense that -- that there's not -- it doesn't lend itself to a lot of void spaces. You don't have the heavy reinforced concrete that we see in -- in typical construction here in the U.S. And so the clay type construction crumbles easily and collapses. And, you know, it doesn't lend itself to the open void spaces where you could find survivors. So a lot of the survivors are going to be buried under debris itself.

BLACKWELL: And I mean, as you contrast it with what we saw in Surfside several years ago, there were places for survivors to go, hotels, other places because it was as you said, a defined narrow footprint. Something this broad, the rescuers may not have homes to go to and people do not have places to go. They just have to live outside at that variable to the situation in Morocco.

DOWNEY: Well, that's -- you know, that's what we see when we see these widespread earthquakes where the people will be moving to the streets and living in the streets. They don't want to go into the structures. There's a fear of aftershocks, you know, where you can't be assured any of the structures are stable. So the residents, the locals, as well as the search and rescue personnel are going to have to set up their camps as -- as, you know, primitive as they are in the streets, outside of the structures until you can figure out what is structurally sound and what's not.


WALKER: If there are not a lot of void spaces with this kind of construction and clay buildings and I'd imagine that the window of survival is going to be much shorter. In terms of then the rescue operations, I mean, what -- what, what will be the most important? Will it be the equipment, you know, having the right kind of equipment to get the people out as quickly as possible?

WALKER: Honestly, in this type of construction, what you need is -- is hand crews. People to be able to move the debris. You know, in almost 40 years a search and rescue experience, the one thing I've learned is the only way to make big pieces of debris is to make it little pieces of debris. So having those hand crews, bucket brigades moving this rubble so that you can uncover the survivors and get to those victims, that's going to be the most important thing right now is just having sheer numbers of people. You're not going to need the heavy breaching and braking equipment that we had to utilize and Surfside and in other disasters, because this construction really doesn't lend itself to that.

BLACKWELL: Is there a window during which survivors are most likely? And if this hit at 11 p.m., how far are we out from that number where you say, if you're going to find the largest number of survivors from this earthquake, you've got to do it by X day and time?

DOWNEY: Well, there's no real hard number. There's so many factors that come in, what is the area of survivable space? Is their oxygen getting into them? You know, I was part of the rescue team in Haiti and we -- we recovered a two-year-old girl survivor eight days after the earthquake. So it really depends on so many factors, how afloat or how much air is moving into them, how compressed their body is, if there is a void space by furniture or appliances, you know, is there a survivable space?

WALKER: Are you concerned about these forthcoming aftershocks?

DOWNEY: Absolutely. I mean, that's -- so that's what all rescuers are -- are nervous about because we've seen these significant aftershocks and we experienced them. I did in Turkey. I did in Haiti, very significant aftershocks where you know now you're jeopardizing the -- the rescuers because it's difficult on a good day to stabilize the structure. It's very difficult to be able to -- to do it when you're dealing with the aftershocks.

BLACKWELL: If hand crews are the most useful to help people or to find survivors here, what is the best global reaction in the next 48, 72 hours? What -- should it be just people or what would you hope that the region that the world would send in first?

DOWNEY: Well, I know that several countries in -- including Turkey, Israel, France, have already offered assistance. They do have the technical experts that could come in and provide you know that that expertise to tell you what structures are more sound than others. I'm sure the military is going to be involved because I provide you a ready reserve of hundreds of people that can help move the debris.

The challenge I'm seeing here is just the remoteness of some of these towns and being able to get crews in there, you're going to have to bring them in -- in by airlift or, you know, having to go long distances around the affected area. So, you know, early stages, get rescuers in there to start trying to remove this debris, get the technical experts. So I know the United Nations has offered assistance and there's very well-respected search and rescue teams within that immediate area that could get in there and provide the assistance to those people.

BLACKWELL: All right. Chief Dave Downey, thank you so much for the time and expertise. We'll reach back out to you as we watch what's happening in Morocco.

Let's go now to CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar. And you told us about an aftershock that has already happened. What more do we know about what's happening after the first major quake?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. It is important because there isn't always not necessarily a lot of time as soon as those aftershocks begin. So the initial quake itself was as 6.8, it happened at 11 -- just after 11 p.m. local time. Now the depth of that was 11 miles deep. That may sound deep but from geological standards that is incredibly shallow. Just 19 minutes after that initial quake, we had an aftershock of a 4.9. Now 4.9 may not sound that strong but what you have to understand is from the initial quake, you now have buildings and homes that are structurally compromised. So it doesn't take much. It can be a 4.9 that can trigger subsequent damage.

So again, these are the things we look for going forward as you continue to have more frequent aftershocks. This quake itself was felt as far away as neighboring countries of Algeria and Portugal. But again this is rare for this particular region. Just since 1900, they've only had a handful of magnitude 5.0 or larger quakes in this particular region. So it is very rare.


Now because we've had the initial quake and one at least fairly large aftershock, we are expected to see more. Now statistically speaking, you will get on average of one that would be about a 5.8 or larger. You'd get about maybe just less than a dozen that are 4.8 or larger. And again, I know a lot of these numbers may not sound as bad as the initial quake. But when you're dealing with those types of structures, it's not going to take a very strong aftershock to cause further damage. Now one thing to note when we do go through the cleanup process, the forecast over the next few days it is expected to be very hot the next two days but at least it will be dry for the rescue and recovery process.

WALKER: All right. Well, at least a little bit of good news. It'll be dry. Alison Chinchar, appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn to New Delhi now where the G20 Summit is happening. President Biden has already met with -- one-on-one with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the agenda today, climate change, debt relief for developing nations, and of course the continued support for Ukraine.

WALKER: And noticeably absent from the summit our Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. While the White House has called their absence a disappointment, they intend to use the summit to strengthen relationships with the rest of the nations attending. As Biden arrived for the international summit, his polling numbers back at home continued to show his shaky political standing going into the 2024 election.

CNN Jerry -- Jeremy Diamond is following the President for us in New Delhi. Jeremy, what is the latest in I guess the Biden administration does see this -- the absence of Xi Jinping and Putin as an opportunity to go on the offensive?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. They certainly have seen it as an opportunity. But, you know, heading into this summit, there were some real divisions. And those divisions very much do still remain between these G20 members. But there was a question of whether despite those divisions, they would still be able to come up with a joint leader statement in the same way that they did at the G20 Summit last year. And we have just learned in the last hour or so that that joint statement has indeed been reached and it has been released. And -- and it makes -- it also addresses one of the most contentious issues between those G20 members, which is Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And on that issue, we do now have a statement which the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is calling consequential in terms of the language on the war in Ukraine. And he's also calling it a significant milestone for India's leadership at this G20. And a vote of confidence that the G20, despite its divisions can still address those hard issues.

I want to read you a section of that statement addressing the war in Ukraine where the leaders say quote, "In line with the U.N. Charter, all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. We highlighted the human suffering and negative added impacts of the war in Ukraine with regard to global food and energy security supply chains, macro-financial stability, inflation, and growth. But then there's this key section. There were different views and assessments of the situation," which highlights the fact that Russia is nonetheless a member of the G20, as is China, which has refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

And so those divisions still evident despite the fact that they were able to reach that statement. But as you mentioned, the President has been taking the opportunity to really try and present himself as a counterweight to Russia but in particular to China as it relates to the developing world, in particular, as well. And the President was asked just moments ago whether the absence of the Chinese President impacted the summit. He said, quote, "It would have been nice to have him here. But no, the summit is going well." And the President certainly taking advantage of Xi's absence to highlight the U.S. presence and the fact that the U.S. is putting out a hand to the developing world.

WALKER: Jeremy Diamond, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Coming up, a major blow for the former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a Federal Judge turns down his bid to move his Georgia criminal case to Federal Court. Plus, it's a big day for American tennis star Coco Gauff. Can she secure her first Grand Slam title at Arthur Ashe stadium this afternoon?



WALKER: A federal Judge has turned down former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows bid to move his Georgia criminal case to Federal Court, a ruling that Meadows has now appealed. The District Judge found the allegations against Meadows on election subversion charges were largely related to political activities and not to his role as White House Chief of Staff. The order came on Friday the same day the full special grand jury report was released.

BLACKWELL: And that report provides new insight into the 2020 elections aversion investigation in Georgia. And it shows the panel wanted to indict 39 people in the sprawling racketeering case. CNN's Sara Murray has more on that special grand jury report.




SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.


GRAHAM: That was my focus is how do you verify signatures --


MURRAY: Former Georgia Senator David Perdue.


DAVID PERDUE, (R) GEORGIA: There are huge irregularities in Georgia they need to be investigated and they need to be corrected, in my opinion.


MURRAY: And former Georgia senator Kelly Leffler.


KELLY LEFFLER, (R) GEORGIA: That's right. And every legal vote will be counted.


MURRAY: All on a stunning list of 39 people that a special purpose Grand Jury recommended for indictment after the panel spent months investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 Presidential Election in Georgia.


EMILY KOHRS, SERVED AS GEORGIA GRAND JURY FOREPERSON: It's not a short list. We heard a lot of very compelling things like a lot of very compelling evidence.

MURRAY: The Special Grand Juries final report now public. They recommended indictments for 21 individuals who did not end up facing charges in Fulton County, including the current and former U.S. Senators, Georgia Lieutenant Governor Bert Jones, Trump advisor and Attorney Boris Epstein, and Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. But Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis did ultimately charged the others on the list.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: A Fulton County grand jury returned a true bill of indictment charging 19 individuals with violations of Georgia law.


MURRAY: Including Trump and 18 co-defendants


DONALD TRUMP, FMR. UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: You can ever accept when they steal and rig and rob.


MURRAY: Another man, Trump 2020 campaign official Mike Roman was charged but was not mentioned in this Special Grand Juries recommendations. Those who were charged have pleaded not guilty while some recommended for charges are criticizing the prosecutors.


GRAHAM: I mean, it's very bad for the country.


Graham called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in 2020. Back then, Raffensperger told Wolf Blitzer that he thought Graham pressured him to toss legal ballots.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, (R) GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, he asked if the ballots could be matched back to the voters. And they then I got the sense that it implied that then you could throw those out.


MURRAY: The South Carolina Republican has denied that, insisting he was carrying out his legislative duty.


GRAHAM: We can't criminalize senators doing their job when they have a constitutional requirement to fulfill.


MURRAY: Purdue had urged Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to call a special legislative session to aid Trump's quest to overturn the election results in a meeting also attended by Loeffler. All is Loeffler and Purdue were facing a Senate runoff election in January 2021.


KELLY LOEFFLER, (R) GEORGIA: My number one objective right now has to be winning on January 5, so that we can get to the bottom of what happened in these elections.


MURRAY: Both Loeffler and Purdue lost their runoff races.

WALKER: Sara Murray, thank you. And joining me now to discuss, Laura Barron Lopez, CNN Political Analyst and White House correspondent for PBS News Hour. Good to see you, Laura. So Trump made, you know, amidst all the legal developments that have been happening, Trump made his first public appearance at a rally in South Dakota since he was indicted in Fulton County, Georgia. I want to show you a clip of him saying this last night.


TRUMP: So this battle that we're in, is a battle for all of us and it's for history. This is historic. This is a big moment in our country because we're either going to go one way or the other. And if we go the other, we're not going to have a country left. We will fight together. We will win together and then we will seek justice together. We're going to seek justice.


WALKER: Seek justice together. Laura, for those of us or those who are at home who still have a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that Trump remains the front-runner in the Republican primary. Talk to us about how Trump's message is resonating and continues to resonate with his supporters.

LAURA LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Amara, his message from the very beginning of this campaign, the second bid for the White House has been exactly that clip you just played, which is one of grievance one about him being persecuted. And saying that all of the levers of government be at the Justice Department or even the Education Department, the current sitting President, and any lawmaker, whether it's Republican or Democrat, that opposes him is corrupt and that there's a conspiracy theory and that the election system is rigged and his voters believe him. It shows that a majority of the Republican base continue to believe the lies about the 2020 election, which were continued around the 2022 election. And he as well as Trump as well as a number of other Republicans have sown that distrust among the base and have really fed it and have helped create it among their base of Republican voters. And that's why they continue to subscribe to his message and to support him over the rest of the candidates.

WALKER: Well I guess a Trump's choice to choose a rally in South Dakota a bit curious, but he also got an endorsement from Governor Kristi Noem, I guess which is notable because most governors have refrained from endorsing a presidential candidate. Is Noem vying to be Trump's running mate?

LOPEZ: It sure seems that way, Amara. And her name is certainly one that has been floated around as a potential vice presidential pick for the former President so has Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Governor of Arkansas. And when other actual rivals of his like Nikki Haley and Tim Scott have been asked about this, they try to put some distance between themselves. But I've talked to a few Republican strategists who think that Tim Scott very well could be trying to position himself to eventually become the vice president. And it's why you haven't seen him go after Trump as directly as someone like Nikki Haley.


WALKER: And turning to President Biden, I mean, when you look at CNN's latest polling, it would be worrying for him even though we're quite early in the race. So 73 percent of Americans say that they're seriously concerned that his age might negatively affect his current level of physical and mental competence. His job approval ratings just stands at 39 percent. And also this, a broad a 67 percent majority of democratic and Democratic-leaning voters say the party should nominate someone other than Biden, which is up from 54 percent in March.

I mean, put this in perspective for us, how bad are these numbers, considering we are still 14 months out from the election?

So when you look at President Biden's favorables as well as former President Donald Trump's favorables, they're about even. They both are -- have high, you know, they have very low support in terms of people being happy with the jobs that they've done. But it still is surprising given all of the indictments, Amara, that President Biden's poll ratings are so low, and it's certainly something that the campaign isn't happy about or something that Democrats aren't happy about. They're pretty frustrated because of the fact that they feel as though the economy has been doing well in recent months and that it appears as though President Biden isn't receiving any of the benefits of that.

With that being said, one thing that they're looking at, despite those bad polling numbers now is they're saying that the Democratic base has not engaged at this point in the race at the -- at the same level that the Republican base is. And also they're holding out hope that because of prior election cycles, because of what happened in 2022, and because of what we've even seen in some special elections in Ohio and in Wisconsin, with the Supreme Court, where abortion has been a really big galvanizing issue for Democrats. That that's something that as 2024 draws closer that they can really capitalize on as well as an argument around threats to democracy that they're making against Republicans.

WALKER: All right, we're going to have to leave it there. Laura Barron Lopez, appreciate your time this morning. Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Coming up, crews in Turkey are getting ready to try to rescue an American trapped in a cave more than 3,000 feet underground. We have the latest on their operation.



WALKER: Here's a look at your other headlines this morning. Hurricane Lee has weakened to a category three storm but it is still packing a major punch and could get stronger over the Atlantic Ocean again. Lee currently has sustained maximum winds of 115 miles an hour. It's expected to pass north of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in the next couple of days.

The region is also expected to face massive swells that could cause life threatening surf and rip current conditions. Most of the eastern seaboard may see those dangerous swells as well on Sunday and Monday.

BLACKWELL: Crews (ph) in Hawaii are continuing the grueling process of searching for people lost in the Maui wildfires. 66 people are unaccounted for according to Hawaii Governor Josh Green. That's down from 385 last week. Now the death toll is right now 115. The island is getting ready to reopen. State officials plan to reopen West Maui starting October 8.

WALKER: The search for an escaped killer in Pennsylvania just entered its 10th day and we just learned from authorities he's been cited twice in their search area. Danelo Cavalcante managed to crab walk between two walls and scale a fence to get out of the Chester County Prison.

The 34-year-old was serving a life sentence for killing his ex- girlfriend in 2021 and U.S. Marshals say he was also wanted in a 2017 murder in his native country of Brazil. Close to 400 people are helping search for him as witnesses continue to report sightings in the county.

BLACKWELL: Rescue operations are happening for the American tramp are more than 3,000 feet down a Turkish cave. Officials say the rescue of 40-year-old Mark Dickey could take days.

WALKER: Dickey was on a research expedition when he began suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding around 3,600 feet down. His condition has since been stabilized after receiving blood from rescuers, but he still remains trapped underground.

182 rescuers are on site working to get Dickey out including 32 people who were working inside the cave. Rescue were say extracting Dickey will be difficult and have been waiting for his condition to improve more before attempting to pull him out.

Joining us now is CNN's Nada Bashir. Hi, Nada. Tell us more about where the rescue efforts stand, Nada?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, look, I'm referring to as you mentioned that there has been careful monitoring of Dickey's condition. He is currently at base camp some three and a half thousand feet below the surface and we know that he has received that urgent medical attention.

There are doctors, paramedics and medical personnel at base camp who have been monitoring his condition. As you mentioned, he suffered from gastrointestinal bleeding around a week ago, so there has been significant concern.

But according to the latest update from the Turkish caving Federation, Dickey is set to be in a stable enough condition for that evacuation for that rescue to commence. Now, it was unclear at this stage exactly when that ascent will begin. A lot of careful planning and preparation is going into this rescue operation.

And there is of course, concern around the logistics of carrying someone who is of course in a delicate state of health through these narrow and winding passages.

Take a listen to this assessment yesterday from the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service which is assisting in his operation.



DR. DENES NAGY, HUNGARIAN CAVE RESCUE SERVICE: Even though he's speaking on the video, he might relapse and the bleeding might continue but we really hope that he keeps the stable state. And if he does, then the next thing is for the technical rescue to begin, and that would mean carrying him up either in a stretcher or in a full body harness to countless drops.


BASHIR: Now, of course, Mark Dickey's health is the key priority here. But as you can imagine, there was lots of work going into the preparations of how exactly he will be pulled to the surface from this cave.

BLACKWELL: Nada, tell us more about those logistics and more about how long it will take.

BASHIR: Well, look, we've heard from the authorities they say would typically take an experienced cave a full 16 hours to make it to the surface and that would be under ideal conditions and the certainly far from ideal conditions.

Now it is anticipated that this will take days at this stage. Rescuers on the ground are preparing the passageways they are installing rigs and other structures to aid with transporting Dickey from base camp upwards to a nearby camp around 700 meters deep. So that is the next focus for them.

But as we understand it from the European Cave Rescue Association, this rescue operation is being divided into seven segments that will be the focus for these teams and each segment will be overseen by a different rescue team and this really is a multinational effort.

As you mentioned at least 180 rescuers on the ground including 32 in the cave. We're talking about rescuers from countries including Turkey, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Poland, and Italy. So there really has been an outpouring of support. It's unclear when that ascent will begin, but it is anticipated that it will take days. Victor. Amara.

BLACKWELL: Nada Bashir, thank you. Well, she has already captured the attention of tennis fans, but now can Coco Gauff win a Grand Slam title? We look ahead to the U.S. Open final this afternoon. We'll do it next.



BLACKWELL: Coco Gauff, the tennis star of course will play now try to win finally a Grand Slam championship a title going to play in a first U.S. Open final later today. She defeated 10 seed Karolina Muchova 6- 4, 7-5 this week in the semifinals.

Gauff, she's 19 years old. The youngest American woman reached the U.S. Open finals since Serena Williams won her first bank in 1999. Joining us now is CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan, also a sports columnist for USA Today.

Christine, good to have you. So all right, let's put the age aside. The comparisons to Serena, are they appropriate for what we're seeing for Coco Gauff?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, SPORTS COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Not yet, Victor, not yet. But Coco Gauff would be the first to say that. When she's asked about you're like, whoa, everybody well, you know, Serena is the greatest of all time, and went on to an amazing career as we know and retired last year.

So at this stage, Coco Gauff is not Serena, because no one would be Serena at this point. This is the beginning really for her journey. She made one other final in a grand tour. This is her second. She's 19 years old. She needs to win a few of these. And I say that is someone who thinks she will.

But she needs to start winning some Grand Slam tournaments. And again, she'd be the first to say that before this comparison, but it is absolutely correct, journalistically sound to say that she is the first teenager now at this position in over two decades since Serena Williams.

And so I think that's where the comparison comes in. And also, the biggest part for me is being the role model. Serena and Venus Williams, Coco Gauff grew up watching them. And she said to herself, my goodness, if they can do this, I look like them. I can do this too. And that's the beauty of what's happening in tennis now. The diversity and inclusion that the sport has had for 60, 70 years.

Now, again, bearing fruits with all of these wonderful players who are in other sports might not be in the country club sports might not necessarily be allowed or wanted. In tennis they've been welcomed for decades.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And I think you know that I'm a tennis fan. And when I hear the comparisons to Rick -- to Serena, I'm saying she's got to win a Grand Slam first before we continue with all the Coco Gauff, Serena comparisons.

Let me ask you about and I don't even know if you're the right person to ask this, but I will do it anyway. Why don't they close the roof? I mean, Medvedev said somebody is going to die out there. The temperatures get above 90 degrees, they are ours roasting. It's got to be unsafe, if they're not going to close the roof of Arthur Ashe and use that AC.

BRENNAN: Absolutely. Listen to the players. Listen to the athletes. They're the ones out there doing it. I do not understand. I'm sure there are reasons, Victor. But if I were there writing columns, I would be saying close the roof.

You've got the roof. You built the roof for this exact reason. It's not just because of rain. It's because of other weather conditions. And this certainly is one of those conditions that would make it so much easier for the players to play their best. Spectators would love that, fans would love that. And of course, the players are the most important voice here. I don't get it. I don't understand it. But obviously there are smarter people than us making this decision.

BLACKWELL: All right, so let's talk about Naomi Osaka, who said this week that she is coming back likely the first major she's going to play it will be in Australia. And she's going to not only come back but she's going to be more active, playing more tournaments.


What's it take? She took a break and she had a baby. She's coming back to come back not only at that level but to be more active at that level.

BRENNAN: What she's decided is that she wants, you know, she's going to have, right, she did have a baby. She's another one of these tennis moms an amazing story in and of itself, Victor. And so she wants to give herself time to work herself back into it.

And so therefore, it makes sense that she's going to just play a lot knowing that she probably won't win a lot so that she can be really fresh and really look great in the middle of the season, Wimbledon et cetera and then on to the U.S. Open at the end of that year playing for the entire year, not just for January.

BLACKWELL: All right, Christine Brennan, I will be looking forward to today and tomorrow of course with this surprise matchup. For me it was a surprise in the men's final without Alcaraz out and I'll be slipping into your DMS on Twitter to see what you think about that. Christine Brennan thanks so much.

WALKER: If they close the roof we're going to have to thank the both of you for that.

BLACKWELL: It is hot.

WALKER: It is. It is. It is crazy hot. All right. Still ahead. Extreme makeover high security edition. We will take a look at the $50 million renovation of the White House is Situation Room complex.



BLACKWELL: The White House just finished a $50 million renovation of the Situation Room.

WALKER: This is the first time in 15 years that the high security complex has undergone a makeover. CNN senior White House correspondent Kayla Tausche has more details about the revamp.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, Mr. President.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): It's the stuff of political legend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we got?

TAUSCHE: The White House Situation Room where history happens in real time got its own modern day Hollywood makeover.

JOE BIDEN, U.S PRESIDENT: Pretty fancy, guys.

TAUSCHE: Situation Room's director said Biden was blown away when he saw it this week with stone slabs from Virginia, mahogany paneling from Maryland, LED lighting, high res monitors and handmade seals to swap in if the meeting is helmed by Biden, Vice President Harris or National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, the gut renovation took a year and more than $50 million to complete.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It's on time and on schedule to be to be back on station here in the not too distant future.

TAUSCHE: The secret of high security complex beneath the Oval Office is actually five rooms most called WHSR for the W-H-S-R are acronym used by those in the know (ph). The main conference room known as WHSR JFK was built for John F. Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs invasion. That's where President Biden huddled with world leaders in the days leading up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and President Trump watched drone footage as U.S. forces killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It was something really amazing to see. I got to watch it, along with General Milley, Vice President Pence, others in the Situation Room, and we watched it so clearly.

TAUSCHE: Around the corner, there's the Watch Floor where intelligence and media feeds including CNN are piped in 24/7. And a smaller room famously depicted in 2011, as President Obama and his national security team watched Navy SEALs raid the compound of Osama bin Laden.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This is where we actually had a live view of what was happening. And so as you can see, it's pretty small conference room. We were all jammed up in here.

TAUSCHE: That's now two cubby offices with the old room removed and rebuilt at Obama's library in Chicago. In Washington, the top secret complex is now open for business and its director says the upgrades now make it feel just like the movies.

TAUSCHE (on camera): Among the new technology upgrades the ability to detect when mobile devices have been brought into this space. You may remember that former Trump administration staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman recorded her own firing on her phone while in the Situation Room, which the White House at the time called a blatant disregard for our national security. Devices remain prohibited in the Situation Room. Victor and Amara.


WALKER: All right, interesting stuff. Kayla Tausche, Thank you. So one more reason why dogs are considered man's best friend joining in on a musical performance.

BLACKWELL: So these dogs are part of the Hunting Symphony in Denmark. It's a piece written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's father Leopold, listen.

WALKER: That's remarkable that like right on beat, not only was a trio trained to bark on command, they need to remain quiet. That's the key. They remain quiet during the rest of the orchestra's performance. I like that. Not impressed, are you?

BLACKWELL: That's cute for about seven or eight seconds and somebody tell these dogs to bark so I can hear the music.

WALKER: At least it's not your neighbor do.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Join us again in an hour. WALKER: Smerconish is up next.

BLACKWELL: There we go. All right. But first --

WALKER: I thought we're done. But first, whether you've moved to a new city or just feel like making friends, social connections are important for your health. You OK over there?


WALKER: In today's staying well, how finding a group of people to eat dinner with can change your life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you're trying to survive something that is unimaginable, isolation is really it'll tell you.


My mom passed away, and I moved out to California. I ended up getting sick. And then I got hit by a drunk driver at 50 miles an hour. Luckily with just going out was able to find make sure family for the family that I was missing.

This group gets together once a week, and we have services and then afterwards we have three course meal. And it's just a great experience to get together.

DR. SAJU MATHEW, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: I would highly encourage these meetup groups because it's not only about meeting people from the same ethnicity or background, it's also meeting people like myself who play tennis. You know, I'm a left handed tennis player, there's a group just for lefties on the court.

When you meet people, you're socializing with them, studies that show that it decreases your blood pressure. It improves your sleep at night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just knowing that there's an event every Friday is a very comforting feeling. And it's good to get out of the house and be able to eat dinner and sometimes we're under the stars and sometimes we're inside but either way it's a beautiful celebration of life.