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New Day Saturday

Fiona Makes Landfall In Canada As A Powerful Post-Tropical Cyclone; Puerto Rico Restoring Power And Water After Hurricane Fiona; Former State Official Pleads Guilty In Massive Embezzlement Scheme; WAPO Report: Black NFL Coaches Facing Big Hurdles Inside League. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired September 24, 2022 - 08:00   ET



ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And it is the next in line. Murdoch's elder son, now co-chairman of News Corp, who many will be watching.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: 2024 will be the first full, open Republican election where Lachlan Murdoch is as important if not more important than his father's. He's not a Trump lover, so he could be the real it factor in how this plays out during the primaries.

JONES (voice-over): Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: And be sure to tune in the all new "CNN ORIGINAL SERIES THE MURDOCH'S EMPIRE OF INFLUENCE" when it premieres tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. with back-to-back episodes only on CNN.

The next hour a "New Day," starts now.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, buenos dias. And welcome to your "New Day." I'm Boris Sanchez.

WALKER: Good morning to you Boris. I'm Amara Walker.

Right now, we are tracking two major storms preparations now underway in Florida as a tropical storm strengthens in the Caribbean. Now forecasters say it could hit the state as a major hurricane.

SANCHEZ: Meantime, hundreds of thousands of people now without power in Canada, as Fiona makes landfall there. This powerful storm is not letting up after you may recall it left a wave of destruction in Porto Rico. We're going to have the latest on that storage track.

WALKER: And it sounds like something out of a sci-fi thriller. NASA gets ready to slam a refrigerator sized spacecraft into an asteroid? It will tell you why and give you the latest details on this fascinating mission.

SANCHEZ: It is finally here your weekend. Thank you so much for sharing part of it with us Saturday, September 24th. Great to be with you, Amara.

WALKER: Great to be with you. And yes, everyone. Thank you so much for waking up with us. We've got a lot of news to get to.

SANCHEZ: And a lot of storm coverage. Two major storms to talk about this morning. First, Hurricane Fiona now a post tropical cyclone making landfall in Eastern Canada. And we're seeing our first images of the storm as it makes landfall this morning. Hurricane warnings are in place as damaging winds and heavy rain power in the region. You see the damage it's doing there. You could hear the driving wind as it breaks powerlines and downs trees.

WALKER: Yes, those are sparks flying as you can see. In Nova Scotia, more than 300,000 customers are without power and officials warn Fiona could be Canada's Hurricane Sandy.


MAYOR BRIAN BUTTON, CHANNEL-PORT AUX BASQUES, NEWFOUNDLAND: We kind of right up until about 11:30 p.m. last night. We were still making calls to residents just to try to give some heads up that you need to be up, you need to be watching what's going on. And you need to be ready to move at a moment's notice if you don't already move right then.


WALKER: Meanwhile, a state of emergency has been declared in Florida as Tropical Storm Ian gain strength in the Caribbean. Ian is expected to strengthen to hurricane status as it makes its way to Western Cuba by Monday afternoon.

CNN's Allison Chinchar and Carlos Suarez, both joining us now. Allison, we'll start with you. And the Tropical Storm Ian, the fact that it's getting stronger that's concerning. It's over very warm waters.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is, and it's going to be going into even warmer water as we go through the next several days. Here's a look at what we know right now, winds at 45 miles per hour, gusting up to 60 miles per hour. But you've got Tropical Storm watches in effect for Jamaica, but hurricane watches in effect for the Cayman Islands. And the reason for that is as it's expected to go into even warmer water over the next two to three days. We anticipate that storm will intensify getting up to hurricane strength by the time it crosses over the Cayman Islands. Intensifying even further as it approaches Cuba and then likely getting up to major hurricane strength as it crosses into the Gulf of Mexico before making that right hand turn back into Florida.

As of right now anywhere from Apalachicola all the way down to Key West is still a possibility for a landfall, they all exist within that cone of uncertainty. And part of that uncertainty lies with the models being completely split. This blue dot here that's the European model is much faster and wants to make a landfall in southern Florida. Whereas the American model that a little bit slower making landfall a little bit more delayed say late Thursday, early Friday, but up around the Big Bend region of Florida. So, you've got a little bit of uncertainty there with the models. And a lot of that lies with this upper -- low-pressure system here to deviate where that system goes. That's just one of two systems we're watching however, the other is post Tropical Fiona sustain winds at 85 miles per hour.

Look at all of these wind gusts Boris and Amara, they have already hit and more communities likely to see similar numbers throughout the day today.

SANCHEZ: Allison thank you for the update. Let's turn to Carlos Suarez now. Carlos, we're getting our first glimpse of what Canada is feeling this morning what Allison just outlined. Walk us through the effects that Fiona is having.


CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris, good morning. So, we're getting a look at the damage on Prince Edward Island where nearly 85,000 people are without power. That's the entire island. Charlottetown Police has reported downed power lines and trees. Photos from across the island show the damage to homes as well as a gas station there. Now in Nova Scotia just to the south, tens of thousands of customers are in the dark, forecasters in Canada. Well, they were expecting two months' worth of rain with this storm and a six to eight feet storm surge. Fiona has also left millions of people across the Caribbean without power. The storm hit Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos. In Puerto Rico, just under half of the island is still without electricity. This many days out since that storm made landfall there. The governor is seeing a great deal of criticism on the island over his comments that the power would be back on sooner. Now the hope is that all of the power grid will be restored fully in the next couple of days.

As for the number of dead associated with the storm right now, it's at least five. And as you guys mentioned, Florida is also making some preparations ahead of Ian possibly making its way toward that part of the U.S. Officials down in the Florida Keys are expected to decide later this afternoon, whether they're going to start asking visitors to leave as well as folks who live in a mobile home. Guys.

WALKER: Yes, very busy storm season is shaping up to be so far. Thank you so much, Carlos Suarez and big thanks to Allison Chinchar, as well.

Well, the damage caused by Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico could take some time to repair. The storm killed at least two people there, almost exactly five years after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory. On Thursday, President Biden authorized 100% federal funding for debris removal, search and rescue efforts and to restore power to the island. But officials in Puerto Rico say they can't estimate when power will be restored to the hardest hit areas of the island.

Joining me now is Charlotte Gossett Navarro. She is the Chief Director for the Hispanic Federation, Puerto Rico. First off, Charlotte, thank you so much for joining me. Can you just give us a sense of what every year they're now in San Juan? How are you doing? What are the people going through especially knowing that the island was ravaged by Maria five years ago?

CHARLOTTE GOSSETT NAVARRO, CHIEF DIRECTOR, HISPANIC FEDERATION PUERTO RICO: Yes. Hi, thank you for having me. I think it's important to point out that, you know, not only did Puerto Rico go through Hurricane Maria, the worst storm and in 100 years that really devastated the island. But since then, we've also been hit again by earthquakes in 2020 by the pandemic, and unfortunately, a really slow recovery. And so, when Hurricane Fionna hits, it's hitting within those circumstances where we are an island that has not yet recovered from those disasters. And so, we were already in a very precarious situation.

And so, we're seeing a mix of disasters, disasters that, you know, perhaps we couldn't have prevented, such as major flooding from over 30 inches of rain that pushed our rivers and other waterways to the limits. But we're also seeing things that are a direct result of that slow recovery, such as the lack of electricity to over 1 million households today, which is a week since the rain first began. And since many of them are had begun losing power. And that is particularly I think, the scary part for people right now. And that's what's impacting the entire island, it's impacting our ability to ensure that we have gasoline stations open, our supermarkets are beginning to close. Because in addition to the lack of electricity, once we've become reliant on generators, diesel becomes very important. And we're not able to move the diesel around the island to ensure that those critical services are able to continue operating.

And so, there's anxiety, anger, and there's emotional exhaustion of having to go through this disaster again.

WALKER: Of course, so the trauma of having to go through it again. And clearly as you're laying it out there. The infrastructure was weakened from Maria and the recovery has been painfully slow. So, you're with the Hispanic Federation, tell me more about what your organization is doing on the ground and what the biggest needs are that you are meeting right now.

NAVARRO: Sure. So Hispanic Federation, we opened an office immediately after Hurricane Maria. It's a permanent operation here in Puerto Rico, to work with the network of local community-based organizations. And in the last five years, we have been able to support with over $50 million in investments through a network of over 140 local organizations. And so, we were able to, again immediately work with that network of organizations to start moving supplies into impacted communities.


Right now, much of that is looking like moving solar lamps which we actually began distributing before Fiona had hit because we knew we would lose electricity, we are able to move 11,000 solar lamps into communities. We've continued distributing those this week around the island, but also importantly, generators to people who rely on electricity to survive because of medical equipment that they need. Many of the deaths after Hurricane Maria were associated with the extended period of time without electricity. And so, we're trying to prevent that as best as we can this time around.

And then we're also working with networks of community kitchens, where we've been distributing food, water and cleaning supplies, which right now, we're continuing to hear from groups and see as we e visit communities, that we're very much still in emergency phase. And those basic needs are what people are asking to have met right now. And so that's really where we're focusing a lot of our effort in these first few days of this disaster.

WALKER: It's just a very, very difficult time. Charlotte, would you say that Puerto Rico was more prepared this time around, at least when it comes to the central government's response?

NAVARRO: I think one of the things that we've seen improve as is at least our telecommunications hasn't gone down. So, there's been better ability for people to see what's happening and distinct communities. But I do think that there is a frustration still with the slowness, with hearing promises that are not being met, and still a need to decentralized part of this response and make sure that communities are able to really work more closely with the government. And, and again, I think there's a frustration because right now we're living, the concerns that people have been raising over the years for the slow recovery.

And so, I do think, both from the federal government and the local government, there's better communication, there's better coordination, but I don't think we are where people wanted the government to be. I don't think we're where we need the government to be. And again, I think the direct issues that we're having, with lack of diesel communities struggling without water, and our electricity grid, our problems with planning and preparation for the storm that we're seeing again, these were, some of this was preventable.

WALKER: It was, I'm sure it was preventable. Charlotte, I appreciate you being a voice for your community and shining a light. Charlotte Gossett Navarro, thank you very much and all the best to you.

NAVARRO: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: We want to pivot to politics now because the midterm elections are just 45 days away and President Biden is sharpening his rhetoric.

WALKER: He sure is. At a Democratic National Committee event, Biden blasted the Republicans midterm agenda, calling it a thin series of policy goals. He highlighted his accomplishments so far, and he promised to make abortion rights legal, protect Social Security and pass an assault weapons ban if Democrats keep control of Congress.

SANCHEZ: Let's take you to the White House now. And CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz joining us live. Arlette, President Biden here is trying to turn the tide of history the party that's in power during midterm elections, historically almost always loses. ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and President Biden is trying to ensure that Democrats can keep control of the House and Senate though he has acknowledged himself that it's going to be a very, very tight election come November. But President Biden really has been ramping up his political rhetoric over the course of the past few weeks trying to draw a contrast between the Democratic platform and what he has billed as an extreme MAGA Republican agenda. He pushed back yesterday on House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy's agenda platform which he unveiled up in Pittsburgh, the President saying that it really provided little detail and he also specifically called out two issues that GOP proposal does not include and that is Social Security and Medicare and also abortion rights.

Both of those issues Democrats believe can be strengths for them heading into these November elections. And you've really heard President Biden lean into the arguments about abortion rights over the course of the past few weeks, specifically calling out that legislation proposed by Senator Lindsey Graham that would ban abortions in most cases at 15 weeks of pregnancy. The President arguing that that is an example of the quote extreme positions he believes Republicans are taking, and he also vowed to ensure that he does everything in his power from preventing such a ban from taking place.


JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Republicans win control the Congress, abortion will be banned. By the way it will be initially banned but if they win Congress, I will veto it.


SAENZ: So, expect it to continue this messaging push when he has to Florida on Tuesday for an official event on health care, Social Security and Medicare and then he will also participate in another DNC event in Orlando on Tuesday.


WALKER: All right, Arlette, thank you very much.

And last night a break from politics as a South Lawn of the White House hosted a rock concert featuring music icon Elton John, also known as a Rocket Man. He performed a number of hit songs, two standing ovations, you can hear the cheering there from the star- studded audience. President Biden even got emotional during John's performance of Crocodile Rock, a song Biden used to sing with his son Beau when he was just a child. And then decades later, when Beau became ill and was unable to communicate, the song was a way for Biden and his son to connect and share special moments. So obviously a very emotional moment for the President.

After the show, John was caught off guard when President Biden came on stage to present him with a National Humanities Medal look at his reaction.


ELTON JOHN, SINGER: I'm never flabbergasted. But I'm flabbergasted. I'm humbled and honored by this incredible award from the United States of America. I will treasure this so much.


WALKER: The White House says the medal was a tribute to John's musical legacy as well as his global advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

All right, still ahead this hour tread carefully. President Biden has a new warning for Russia amid a sham referendum and parts of Ukraine.

Plus, a dramatic new turn in the welfare scandal linked to former NFL star Brett Favre, a former Mississippi official involved in the case pleads guilty. The latest on the story.

SANCHEZ: And later it's being called the mission to save humanity. Will take you inside NASA's plan to smash a refrigerator sized object into an asteroid. Stay tuned.



SANCHEZ: The White House had this warning for Vladimir Putin as sham referendums are being held and Ukrainian Russian held territory. Tread carefully for Russian occupied areas of Ukraine are voting today to join Russia. A move that President Biden says is just a pretext for Moscow to try and annex those territories. Meantime, Putin initiated a mobilization of reservist sparking protests across Russia. And again, he threatened Ukraine with nuclear weapons.

Let's discuss now with retired Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. Good morning, General, we're always grateful to have your expertise and insight. I first wanted to get your reaction to the news this week that a panel appointed by the United Nations of independent legal experts revealed that Russian soldiers raped and tortured kids as young as four years old. What did you think when you heard that?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY RET.: Well, sadly, I said this is part of the Russian playbook. They've been doing this ever since the First World War. They understand war not simply to be battle between soldiers, battle for taking grounds but also to inflict terror in the heart of the populations that they're attacking. It was set in World War II that in Berlin at the end of the war, every woman between the ages of seven and 70 were expected to be raped and they fulfill that promise.

SANCHEZ: Wow, that is awful to contemplate. General, I wanted to ask you about the threat of the use of nuclear weapons by the Kremlin. I recently spoke to a national security expert on Capitol Hill that explained Putin's desperation and the escalating threats and this way, every step forward for Ukraine, is one step closer to a nuclear disaster. What options does the West have to prevent that? KIMMITT: Well, probably the most important option is to stand firm, stand resolved and send a clear message to Vladimir Putin, as John F. Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis is that we will not stand down that we will stand firm, and that any use of tactical nuclear weapons will be met with a (INAUDIBLE) response that he and his people cannot undertaken and will suffer underneath it.

SANCHEZ: Between those threats and Putin calling up those 300,000 reservists to join the fight in Ukraine, what does it tell you about the current expectation from the Kremlin? It seems like these are desperate moves.

KIMMITT: Well, I think some would say that, but I see this as a sign of the of resolve on the part of Vladimir Putin to keep this fight going for as long as he sees as necessary. Now, that may be a bluff, that may be a diplomatic move, but it certainly does not seem to me that this would show that Russia wants to end this war anytime soon, because they're losing ground, losing troops or in any sign of desperation. In my mind he is doubling down.

SANCHEZ: And those 300,000 reservists, do you expect that that level of manpower might reverse the recent gains from the Ukrainian counter- offensive?

KIMMITT: Well, I think we're going to see too much happen between now and the time that the reservists can actually be put to use on the battlefield. You have to recruit them, you have to bring them in, you have to retrain them, you have to get them to the battlefield. So, I don't expect that they will have any kind of consequence on the battlefield till early spring.

SANCHEZ: There was also some CNN reporting in recent days that apparently Vladimir Putin himself is giving directions directly to Russian generals in the battlefield. It made you laugh.

KIMMITT: Well, first of all, politicians and presidents are pretty lousy at giving orders and understanding military. We saw that with Hitler during World War II, but we also saw that with President Johnson during the bombing campaign of North Vietnam, in the late '60s. I can't think in modern history where we had a situation where a leader of a country directing the individual soldiers on the ground has ended up better than worse.


SANCHEZ: Yes, and notably, there were some intelligence intercepts that revealed that some of the soldiers on the ground were lamenting the directions from Moscow, they were complaining. What did you make of that?

KIMMITT: Well, two things I also don't know a soldier in war who hasn't pitched about his leaders. But the fact remains, if it gets to the point now where the leader is, as we say, using the 1,000-mile screwdriver to try to adjust the war inside Ukraine chose two things. Number one, Vladimir Putin has an overestimation of his own abilities. But more importantly, number two, that he has no confidence in his leaders that are getting beat on the ground right now.

SANCHEZ: Retired Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, always appreciate the time. Thank you so much.

KIMMITT: Sure. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Stay with "New Day," we're back in just moments.



WALKER: A former top state official in Mississippi pleaded guilty Thursday to state and federal charges in connection to a massive embezzlement scheme. That auditor say, misused millions of welfare dollars,

SANCHEZ: That including funneling funds into projects linked to prominent Mississippians like former NFL star Brett Favre and a volleyball court for his daughter.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher has more.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Davis didn't have much to say as he left Federal Court on Thursday.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Davis, would have anything to say to the people taxpayers of Mississippi?

GALLAGHER (voice-over): The former head of Mississippi's welfare agency pleading guilty to state and federal charges connected to one of the largest public corruption cases in state history.

JODY OWENS, HINDS COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It's been justice delayed, but not just denied.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): A conspiracy that according to the auditor and court documents, saw at least $77 million meant for needy families in the nation's poorest state, instead be funneled through nonprofits to pet projects of the politically connected and celebrities like Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre in a release announcing Davis's guilty pleas for one count of conspiracy and one count of theft from programs receiving federal funds. The Department of Justice said Davis worked with four unnamed co-conspirators, writing that he directed the welfare funds to nonprofits, and then directed those nonprofits to award contracts for social services that were never provided.

UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Davis, as it relates to count one conspiracy to kind of plead guilty or not guilty?


UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: As relates to count two fraud against the government. How do you plead guilty or not guilty? DAVIS: Guilty.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Davis enter that guilty plea 18 times on state charges in a Hinds County courtroom also on Thursday, five counts of conspiracy and 13 counts of fraud against the government. Admitting for example, he conspired with former pro wrestler Brett DiBiase, who was also already pleaded guilty in the scheme. DiBiase receives welfare funds and was supposed to teach classes about drug abuse, but instead use the money to pay for, among other things. A stay at a drug rehabilitation center in Malibu.

DAVIS: It was not OK. And I can't tell you other than it shouldn't have been OK. I should not have allowed that to happen. When I knew that kind of money was being used. I should have stopped it.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Davis has agreed to cooperate with state and federal investigators and testify against others.

OWENS: We're still looking through records and text messages. We continue to move up. And we also continue to work the federal authorities Washington and in Mississippi to continue to move forward. John Davis is critical because the letter continues to move up.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Text messages were released last week as part of the state's ongoing civil litigation by attorneys for a nonprofit founded by Nancy Knew who has already pleaded guilty in connection with the welfare scheme. (INAUDIBLE) Nancy Knew, former Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and Brett Favre working to obtain funds for a multimillion dollar volleyball Center at Brett Favres alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi where his daughter played the sport at the time. Favre and Knew repeatedly referenced John Davis and update each other meetings with him. In 2017, Favre texting, John mentioned 4 million and not sure if I heard him right, very big deal and can't thank you enough.

Earlier this year the state filed civil suit against 38 people in entities including Brett Favre, however, Favre does not face any criminal charges. His attorney told CNN that the former quarterback did not know the money came from welfare funds.

PAUL HOLMES, ATTORNEY FOR BRETT FAVRE: Brett, it could have been more honorable in any of it, he had no idea where it came from.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): The former governor has not been charged nor is he a defendant in any civil suit. In the past he has denied any knowledge of the scheme. All of the multiple investigations into the fraud scheme remain ongoing.

SHAD WHITE, MISSISSIPPI STATE ATTORNEY: I can tell you this on my end, we're going to continue to make sure that this case is thoroughly investigated. As everyone knows we have turned over every piece of evidence that we have over to federal investigators.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): John Davis is set to be sentenced in federal court early next year.

Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Charlotte, North Carolina.


SANCHEZ: Our thanks to Dianne for filing that report for us. There's a new Washington Post piece that explains how black NFL coaches face significant hurdles inside the league when it comes to getting and keeping their jobs.

WALKER: And CNN's Brian Todd takes a closer look now at this report.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The words are emblazoned on the borders of several NFL N-zones and racism. But an explosive new investigation by the Washington Post finds black coaches in the NFL are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to getting hired as head coaches and keeping those jobs.


MICHAEL LEE, SPORTS ENTERPRISE WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: What we found is that you know, it's very difficult for black coaches to get opportunities to be head man in the NFL.

TODD (voice-over): In its report is titled How The NFL Blocks Black Coaches, The Washington Post found that black coaches language as assistants longer than their white counterparts, that black men who became head coaches over the past decade, quote, on average had spent more than nine years longer than their white counterparts in mid-level assistant jobs. And then the Post found blacks are held to a different standard when they do get head coaching jobs.

LEE: When Black coaches do get the job and they do get the chance to lead 53 men, they're much shorter leashes. And even if their production is on par with their peers or even better. In some instances, they're still more likely to be fired.

TODD (voice-over): In a league where the majority of players are black, there are now only three black head coaches. That's the same number as in 2003 when the NFL introduced the Rooney Rule, which now requires teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for open head coaching positions. But many argue that NFL teams have become adept at gaming that rule interviewing black candidates only as window dressing than hiring the coach they really want.

Brian Flores fired as the Miami Dolphins head coach after posting winning records in two of his three seasons, filed a lawsuit this year against the league and its teams. Flores accused the New York Giants and Denver Broncos of bringing him in for Sham interviews. In the case of the Giants for a head coaching job they'd already decided to give to someone else.

BRIAN FLORES, FMR NFL HEAD COACH: It was humiliating. To be quite honest, there was disbelief, there was anger to.

TODD (voice-over): The NFL and the franchises named in Florida suit have denied wrongdoing. The NFL saying it's committed to equitable employment practices. Many argue this isn't so much an issue with the league itself.

DONTE STALLWORTH, FMR NFL WIDE RECEIVER: At the end of the day, you know, it's really up to the owners.

TODD (voice-over): But there, the Post cites what it calls a cultural disconnect. The NFL has 31 majority team owners, 29 of them are white.

LEE: I think that a lot of times it just comes down to just what you think a leader is, what a leader looks like, and how that's going to work for your franchise. And for a lot of these owners when they do that equation, it doesn't add up to a black man being the guy.

TODD (on-camera): The NFL didn't respond to CNNs requests for comment and didn't officially comment on the post findings. But Troy Vincent, the NFL is Executive Vice President of football operations, told the Post that the league has exhausted itself with programs to make sure that the owners know who the candidates are. But then at the end of the day, Vincent says the league itself doesn't make the hire.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


WALKER: Fascinating report. Brian Todd, thank you. And the conversation continues later this morning on "CNN NEWSROOM." We're going to speak with the former Black NFL coach on what the league can do to increase diverse hires. That's a 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, the far-right conspiracy group QAnon, QAnon I should say is embracing what it says is a clear nod of support from President Trump. We're going to take a look at some blatant signs of approval.

WALKER: But first a quick programming note. Join Dr. Gupta for a new investigation into a global mystery that confounds scientists the "CNN SPECIAL REPORT IMMACULATE CONCUSSION THE TRUTH BEHIND HAVANA SYNDROME," begins tomorrow night at 8. Here's a sneak peek.


UNDENTIFIED MALE: If something happened to those individuals in Havana.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: A global mystery.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: This suggests there is damage.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: Confound scientists.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): What's the level of concern now?


UNDENTIFIED MALE: What would the motivation be to be doing that to American diplomats?

GUPTA (on-camera): Were you worried about the President potentially being attacked?

UNDENTIFIED MALE: Join Dr. Sanjay Gupta on a search for answers.

GUPTA (on-camera): When you think the brain is the battlefield of the future?





WALKER: QAnon supporters on a former President Donald Trump's social media platform have celebrated what they see as his renewed embrace of the conspiracy theory.

SANCHEZ: Now this week, he shared a meme that was viewed as one of his most brazen nods to QAnon yet. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan reports.


DONALD TRUMP (R) FMR PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Trump has long version (ph) with QAnon but this illustrated meme he reshared last week with QAnon slogans and a Q on his lapel is one of his most brazen endorsements of the conspiracy theory.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: Even President Donald J. Trump put that on there a guy wearing a Q pin storm is upon us. Patriots are in control.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Post on this QAnon radio show celebrating.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: That is the reason that you are all here because you know the truth. You all know who Donald Trump really is. You all know who the fight is really about and who the players are that actually want to destroy our country.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): On Trump's social media platform, QAnon followers saw the President's posts as a clear sign he is with them and with QAnon.

One post read, at this point, anyone denying that Q is a legit operation affiliated with the Trump administration is in major denial. Another read, @realDonaldTrump has over 4 million followers, yet he seeks out Q people to retruth.

[08:44:59] JOAN DONOVAN, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: What we've seen recently from Trump is different from what we've seen in the past. Prior to this, he would say he's heard of these QAnon people he believes them to be great patriots. Now the message is directly one to one it's no longer ambiguous.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Well, certainly we are concerned about the QAnon phenomenon.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): The FBI has warned of the dangers of QAnon and its potential to inspire violence.

GREG EHRIE, ADL VICE PRESIDENT: What we have is a former president, potential candidate for the presidency of United States legitimizing what's in essence, a cult.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): QAnon has been associated with bizarre claims about cabals and child sacrifice, but the slogans and symbols of QAnon have now become intertwined with Trump's lies about a stolen election.

(on-camera): Yes, I go to a lot of Trump rallies, I see a lot of people wearing QAnon T-shirts, doesn't mean they're all necessarily violent or dangerous, does it?

EHRIE: Does not. And that's the most difficult law enforcement scenario to deal with. Because you wanted to identify threats amongst these hundreds, sometimes thousands of people.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Trump delivered some of his speech Saturday in Youngstown, Ohio to a backing track.

TRUMP: We are a nation that is no longer respected or listened to around the world. We are a nation that in many ways has become a joke.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): That music you hear sounds identical to a song associated with QAnon. While it played, the crowd all pointed their fingers in unison toward the sky.

DONOVAN: The imagery of everybody their heads bowed, with their finger pointed in the air showing the number one, this is where meme wars are most potent because for some people they were seeing that reflected in the QAnon meme Where We Go One, We Go All. Others we're seeing America First be reflected.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): The Trump team denied the music was a QAnon song.

EHRIE: It was played, and to the people who are listening, that's a siren song, even if it was an accident, it becomes the perception. And it's easy to counter that, whereas the no, that's not what I meant. No, I do not support this group statement, that you would expect from a Bible (ph) candidate.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): But Trump has never outright disavowed QAnon quite the opposite. He's instead endorsing candidates who have echoed the conspiracy theory, like Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate for Secretary of State and Arizona.

STATE REP. MARK FINCHEM (R-AZ): There's a lot of people involved in in a pedophile network and the distribution of children. And unfortunately, there's a whole lot of elected officials that are involved in that.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): At a fundraiser for Finchem this weekend, a performance of another QAnon song, named after the QAnon slogan Where We Go, One We Go All.


WALKER: Quiet an eye-opening report there from our Donie O'Sullivan, thanks to him for that.

It's NASA's plan to keep asteroids away from Earth. But it almost sounds like NASA took a page from Hollywood for this crash course mission literally, crash course. We're going to explain that next.



WALKER: A NASA spacecraft is on a crash course with an asteroid to try to knock it off its path. I know it sounds like NASA. Like this is a sequel to some kind of Armageddon movie. But that's not quite the case. NASA now gearing up to launch its first planetary defense test mission called DART.

SANCHEZ; Yes, it feels like Hollywood is becoming real life, right?


SANCHEZ: CNN space and defense correspondent Kristin Fisher has more.


UNDENTIFIED MALE: This comment is what we call a planet killer.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: It's what we call a global killer.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE & DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hollywood's been scheming up ways to save the world from killer comets or asteroids for decades.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: United State's government just asked us to save the world. Anybody want to say no?

FISHER (voice-over): But instead of bringing in Bruce Willis, NASA has a different idea. And it's about to test it for the very first time.

ELENA ADAMS, DART MISSION SYSTEMS ENGINEER: It's kind of what we all fear, right? What if there was an asteroid that was coming toward Earth? Can you really stop it? Can you really do something about it? And for the first time, our technology allows us to actually do something about it. FISHER (voice-over): NASA is planning to ram a refrigerator sized spacecraft called DART into an asteroid named Dimorphos, which is roughly the size of the Pyramid of Giza and poses no threat to planet Earth. The goal is to see if the impact will push Dimorphos slightly off course. If it works, it means that this technique could be used to deflect a future killer asteroid that is headed for Earth.

BOBBY BRAUN, JOHN HOPKINS APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY: This inaugural planetary defense test mission marks a major moment in human history. For the first time ever, we will measurably change the orbit of a celestial body in the universe.

FISHER (voice-over): Mission control is inside the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.

(on-camera): What is this place going to be like, on impact day or impact night, I should say.

ADAMS: Oh, my goodness, it's going to be filled to the brink with people. There's going to be people in every single seat in the whole Mission Operation Center, but 44 people in here alone.

FISHER (voice-over): And there'll be able to watch the impact live as will everyone on Earth, thanks to a camera that's mounted on the spacecraft.

(on-camera): These are live images.

ADAMS: Live images from DART right now.

FISHER (voice-over): One of the most tense moments for the team will happen at 50 minutes to impact. When the spacecraft will switch its sights from a bigger asteroid it's pointed at now to a smaller second asteroid, which is the real target.

EVAN SMITH, DART DEPUTY MISSION SYSTEMS ENGINEER: That's a very, very sweaty time for us. So, we have a lot of contingencies built right around that 50-minute transition. We're going to be watching the telemetry like hawks, very scared, but excited.

ADAMS: Then we're going to have it get closer and closer and fill the field of view of our imager then we're going to hit.


FISHER (voice-over): It's a moment this team has been training for four months. But even the rehearsals have been tense.

ADAMS: We're just oh, one by one stood up with all of our heads up. And all of us were intently watching the screens, just watching the asteroid get bigger and bigger, and my heart was actually palpitating because I was like, this is not normal. Right? It's just the rehearsal. But yet you really felt that you were about to hit that asteroid for the first time.

FISHER (on-camera): You're really testing -- ADAMS: We're testing.

FISHER: -- this technology that could potentially save all of humankind down the road.

ADAMS: Down the road right.


FISHER: Now, we should know almost immediately on Monday if the spacecraft successfully hit its target, but it's going to take a few weeks before NASA is able to determine if it successfully bumped that asteroid just a little bit off its current orbit. Boris and Amara.

SANCHEZ: Hope it works. Thanks so much for joining us this morning. We'll be back in about an hour.

WALKER: But first "SMERCONISH," up next.