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Idaho Fire; Hosni Mubarak's Fate; Georgia High School Football Player Dies From Broken Neck; Oscar Pistorius Formally Charged With Girlfriend's Murder

Aired August 19, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Imagine a fire the size of Denver. That's how big the Beaver Creek wildfire is right now.

I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.

The national lead. It began with a bolt of lightning; 12 days later, 100,000 acres in Idaho are toast. And that's only one are nine fires in the state threatening thousands of homes.

The world lead. His ouster was a pinnacle of the Arab spring movement. Many Egyptians waited so long to see Hosni Mubarak in prison. But will Egypt now just let him go, even the country teetering on and dipping into chaos?

And the sports lead, tragedy. A 16-year-old football star with a scholarship on the horizon, but he went into make a tackle and he never got up again. We will talk with his coach and ask, what went so terribly wrong?

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We will begin of course with the national lead. Going by the pictures alone, you might think volcanoes are erupting over the horizon. But this is not the Pacific Rim. This is smack dab in the middle of Idaho, Sun Valley, to be exact. Right now, nine wildfires are burning across the state. This is the biggest one, the Beaver Creek fire, 100,000 acres and growing; 2,200 homes are under a mandatory evacuation.

Sun Valley is a popular ski area, with tons of affluent homes, including some reportedly owned by actors Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis.

And I want to bring in Beth Lund. She is the incident commander for the Great Basin Incident Management Team.

Beth, thank so much for being here.

You have described this fire as having an angry personality. Is it different from fires that you have dealt with in the past?

BETH LUND, INCIDENT COMMANDER: Well, Jake, it's similar to fires.

It's just that on this situation we just have some really extreme weather conditions, extremely dry fuels and wind, unstable air mass. And all of those things combined have just made this fire just go all directions some days and it's really been hard to get the troops in the right place at the right time.

TAPPER: The forecast is calling for rain, as you know. I guess the big question is will that give you some relief or will it just bring more lightning, which is what caused this fire in the first place?

LUND: Well, frequently in Idaho with these thunderstorms that are predicted, it's very scattered and unpredictable where the rain will actually fall.

So if we're lucky enough to get a little on this fire, it will certainly help a lot. Even a cloud cover would help. The one thing about thunderstorms, though, is that if they get over your fire or on top, it can produce very strong downdrafts and it will just blow the fire in all directions. So it may be a help and it may be a hindrance.

TAPPER: How many firefighters out are there right now battling the Beaver Creek fire?

LUND: Well, we have about 1,300 firefighters here right now. Many of those are support personnel, but I would guess at least 800 or 900, maybe 1,000 are actually firefighters.

TAPPER: And how much of this fire is contained?

LUND: Well, very little right now. We had 15 percent to start with, but as the fire grew, of course, and we didn't gain any ground, the percentage went down. I'm not exactly sure, but I believe we're right -- we're down to 6 percent at this time.

TAPPER: Your location of course in a valley, does that help or hinder the firefighting efforts?

LUND: Well, it helps.

The thing that is challenging here is not only the weather, but the fact that we have had to displace so many people from their homes and it's just right down in the town, right adjacent to Hailey and Ketchum. And it's just -- it's very nerve-racking I know for the public.

And we have got a lot of troops out there working really hard trying to gain some ground on this fire. We do have the highway basically on the east flank of this fire, have contained that, but the north and south are still challenging us.

TAPPER: All right, Beth Lund, thank you so much. Our thoughts and prayers are with you in Idaho.

To the world lead right now. It was just two-and-a-half years ago that Egyptians led a revolution to remove strongman Hosni Mubarak from power and lock him away. Now with the country once again at a tipping point, will they just let him go? Mubarak's attorney tells Reuters a court has ruled that the 85-year- old former dictator should be released. A criminal court today acquitted Mubarak in a corruption case, according to state TV. Last year, Mubarak received a life sentence for not stopping the slaughter of protesters during the 2011 revolution, but that sentence was overturned on appeal and now he is being tried again. Under Egyptian law, a defendant can only be held two years before a final verdict.

Mubarak's successor was, of course, Mohammed Morsy, who was democratically elected, but the military overthrew him on July 3. Morsy is also in custody and he's not going anywhere for now. Prosecutors extended his detention for another 15 days to keep investigating him. Egyptian soldiers were out in force once again around Cairo earlier.

In the Sinai peninsula, suspected militants ambushed soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades and they killed 25, according to Nile TV. Over the past week, at least 900 people have been killed, both security forces and civilians.

I want to bring in Mona Eltahawy. She's an activist who has spoken out against both the Mubarak regime and the Muslim Brotherhood. She's joining us by phone in Cairo because of the curfew in place.

Mona, thanks so much. We're glad you're safe.

Can you first just give us a sense of what is it like right now to be in Cairo under this curfew? Is it quiet? Is it tense? Are people afraid? What are you seeing that the rest of the world is not right now?


Well, Cairo, if your viewers don't know, Jake, is one of the craziest, most intense cities in the world. It's known for just how huge and intense it is. It's kind of like New York, that kind of big city. So right now it's unnervingly quiet because of the curfew, which is actually very sad.

It depends on the neighborhood that you live in. I felt comfortable going downstairs in my neighborhood, within the confines of the neighborhood. We have been safe. But there have been other neighborhoods that haven't been so safe.

So it is a question of people being scared, which again sad (INAUDIBLE) and I would love to see more people break the curfew out of principle and civil disobedience, because I think that the regime and military are using that fear to make people willingly give up civil liberties for the sake of this illusion of security. In the United States, we know very well what that means.

TAPPER: Mona, as a keen observer of Egyptian politics, what's your take on whether or not Hosni Mubarak, the leader who finally pushed Egypt into this revolution just two years ago, what is your take on whether or not he will actually be freed any time soon?


Well, we have to take anything that his attorney says with a grain of salt, because his attorney, Farid el-Deeb, pronounced Mubarak on the verge of death many times over the past 2.5 years, and somehow Mubarak who is in his 80s miraculously came back to live. So, I don't believe anything he says.

Now, having said that, I must also stress that our judiciary is corrupt because it was mostly appointed during Mubarak's time. And Mohammed Morsy, who is another ex-president now, even though he seized amazing amounts of power for himself at the end of last year, claiming he was doing so, so that he could fight the corrupt judiciary and make sure Mubarak was in prison for life and others who killed revolutionaries, Morsy did nothing for that.

As an Egyptian and as someone from the revolution, I would like to see Mubarak stand trial for the crimes that his regime committed against the Egyptian people, definitely.

TAPPER: What do you think will finally stop at least this round of violence in Egypt? Do you think the protesters will ultimately just dissipate and go back to their lives? Will the military clamp down even further? Where do you see this headed?

ELTAHAWY: Well, I think it's really important.

And this was something I said when I was your show, Jake. When General Sisi overthrew Mohammed Morsy, I think it's very important to separate the two things. I'm glad Morsy's gone because he turned into an authoritarian. Our revolution was never about an Islamist state led by the Muslim Brotherhood.

But our revolution was also not about military rule. I said on July 3, on your show, that if General Sisi, the head of the armed forces, thinks that we will allow a military junta to return, then he has got another thing coming.

We want a civilian government. We want to get on with our lives. The thing that must happen now is that we recognize too many Egyptians have died and that this binary of military rule vs. Muslim Brotherhood makes all of Egypt lose and that all Egyptians must be included around the table in which all Egyptians reject violence, be it security forces or the Muslim Brotherhood.

TAPPER: Mona, lastly, obviously, in this country, the big debate is what should the U.S. government do. There's new polling out today from the Pew Research Center. And 51 percent believe that President Obama should cut off aid to Egypt or the Congress should, the U.S. government should and then in terms of President Obama's stance toward the Egyptian military, 50 percent say he's not being tough enough, 6 percent too tough, 12 percent about right, 32 percent don't know.

A plurality at least or a majority, I suppose, saying that President Obama is not being tough enough with the Egyptian military. What's your position? ELTAHAWY: I think the United States is confused about Egypt and it's been is confused about Egypt for a very long time, after decades of supporting dictators like Mubarak for the sake of stability at the expense of the American people.

I would like to see the military aid cut, to be honest with you, because all these billions of dollars are going towards an army that is not at war with anyone but is using weapons against Egyptians.

But I also want to remind your viewers of something really important that rarely comes up in these debates about military aid. The $1.3 billion that goes to the Egyptian army goes toward buying U.S.-made weapons. It goes right back into the arms manufacturing in the U.S.

If you're seeing a reluctance, and if people are saying don't cut military aid on the U.S. side, you have to remember why, because the money goes back towards buying U.S. weapons. So I think the U.S. administration must, as an ally who claims to care about Egypt, call for an end to violence, must not arm anyone who uses those weapons against civilians, especially unarmed civilians and must say that, if you want our continued support, then we call for everyone to sit down and talk.

But at the end of the day, it's honestly not important what the outside world does. It's what we Egyptians do, and we must stop killing each other.

TAPPER: Right. All right. Mona Eltahawy, stay safe, as always, and thank you so much for sharing your views.

One of the most wanted men in the world wants to make every U.N. ambassador a target. Adam Gadahn, the American-born spokesman for al Qaeda, is doing his bad penny routine again, turning up in a new 39- minute video.

In it, he praises the death of Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador who was killed in Benghazi, along with the three other Americans killed in Libya last September. Gadahn also urges rich Muslims to put up rewards for killing more U.S. ambassadors, according to a jihadist monitoring group. Gadahn was born in California and converted to Islam in 1995.

The FBI has a $1 million price on his head.

It was one of the deadliest days in the war in Afghanistan. Amid the madness of the attack on Combat Outpost Keating, Army Staff Sergeant Ty Carter risked his own life time and again to save his fellow soldiers. Carter will soon receive the Medal of Honor for his actions.

And this Wednesday night, we're bringing you the in-depth story of his valor. Wednesday "Unlikely Hero" Wednesday night 10 Eastern only on CNN.

Coming up on THE LEAD, a high school football player dies after what others say was a routine tackle. Was it a freak accident or does more need to be done to protect players? I will ask his coach.

Plus, they left to escape famine, a cruel dictator, oppression, but the new leader of North Korea is hoping defectors will come back and he's offering up some incentives if they do. What's in the deal? That's ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for our sports lead and it's a story we hate having to report.

A Georgia high school football player was killed while playing the game he loved. 16-year-old De'Antre Turman made what his coach described as a clean tackle in a pre-season scrimmage game Friday night. But then he didn't get up. He was taken to a hospital but had died from a broken neck. His teammates remembered the guy they called Trey-Trey for his love of the game.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what he died doing, playing football, only thing he loved to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was my big brother. He was my role model. He kept my head up at bad times.


TAPPER: Turman is at least the fourth high school football player to die in the past month in this country, but the other three died during a warmup or after practice, likely because of heat or, in one case, a heart condition. It raises more questions about the safety of the game, however.

Joining me now is De'Antre's football coach, Glenn Ford.

Coach Ford, first of all, our deepest condolences. It must be a very, very tough time in your community.

Explain to the parents out there who are watching, who are worried about their own boys who play football.

You said this was a clean tackle.

So what happened?

GLENN FORD, DE'ANTRE TURMAN'S COACH: It was right around the mid- third quarter, tight end came out and from then, ran a down-out route and as he turned, De'Antre, broke on the play, his helmet was up, hit the ball. The ball was dislodged and went up into the air and his body immediately went limp. He just -- so it was a clean, fundamental tackle that he made. His body just immediately went limp.

TAPPER: What's your biggest worry when your players take the field?

As a coach, are you worried about them every time they go out there for practice or for a game?

FORD: Well, you always worry as a coach, but the game is so physical, you just try to teach the kids fundamentals of the game, to be as safe as possible. You try to do everything you can as a coach to try to prevent injuries, but in this sport it's going to happen.

So it is a worry but you try to -- the kids cannot go on the field with fear. They have to go in and they have to be ready to play because if you play with fear, you will get hurt. So, but it's just unfortunate.

TAPPER: But you, knowing what you know -- I understand you don't want the players to go out there with fear in their hearts and that that actually will make things more dangerous potentially. But knowing what you know, how dangerous is it?

FORD: It's -- football is, again, it's a physical sport. As long as you're playing the game right fundamentally, you're going to have contact. It is a dangerous sport because you are -- it's like a car wreck every time you go -- when you hit someone, it's a full-speed collision.

So it is danger to it but we go into the game knowing there's danger in this game and it's just something that we just deal with because we love it so much. These kids are out here because they love this game, it's their passion and this is what they truly love to do. So it's just a danger that we deal with.

TAPPER: There's a group called Practice Like Pros. They advocate limiting contact in practices, no full body tackles during practices. De'Antre died in a preseason scrimmage game.

Do you think that you should change the way so that it's more like the pros, so that it's not as physical during scrimmages?

FORD: I totally agree with Mr. O'Quinns (ph). I just spoke with him earlier and I totally agree with the principles that he goes by, and I think we should practice like pros.

I think one of the quotes that he says is just last year alone 350,000 of the concussions were recorded in practice in high school, and I think only three was in the NFL. So I think that's a big thing that we should do, educate the high school coaches.

Most of the high school coaches, some of them never play past high school and they don't know how the pros practice. So I think it's something that we should educate these high school coaches that, you know, they should limit some of the practices and not go every day full speed, full contact because most of the injuries, most of the concussions are in practice.

TAPPER: Coach Ford, last question for you. You now have a challenge, a psychological challenge with your team, not just a physical one. You guys have to go forward without the man -- the boy you called Trey-Trey. How are you guys going to be able to that?

FORD: Well, I'm not actually his football coach. Olson Downs (ph) is the head football coach for Creekside High School.

I'm his coach from January through July. I'm the founder of a program called I Dare You and we train De'Antre three days a week from January to July. So I've been with him for the last two years.

Olson Downs (ph), which I talked to him, who is a very good friend of mine, it's just something that's a decision that the kids are just going to have to persevere through this. Because everyone that knows Trey-Trey know he would want us to move forward and to keep going, because again, he died for the game that he truly loved.

TAPPER: All right, Coach Glenn Ford, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

FORD: Thank you.

TAPPER: His story was an inspiration, one that brought people to tears. But today the ex-Olympic hero, double amputee Oscar Pistorius, well, he wept in court as he was officially charged with the murder of his girlfriend, a South African court formally indicted Pistorius in the Valentine's Day shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Today would have been Steenkamp's 30th birthday. Prosecutors say the Olympic sprinter took a moment to put on his prosthetic legs before he fired the fatal shots through a bathroom door, though Pistorius denied he was wearing the famous blades and claims he shot Steenkamp by accident, mistaking her for a burglar.

Pistorius could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Coming up on THE LEAD, it's been nearly 16 years since Princess Diana was killed in a car crash. But a new murder claim has police once again looking into her death. New details on what exactly is being investigated and how credible it is.

And later, forget traveling to that remote location for your next trip. Soon you'll be able to see it all from the comfort of your living room, courtesy of Google. But how do they actually get all these images?



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for the buried lead; those are stories we think are not getting enough play elsewhere.

The White House knew full well that Great Britain planned to detain David Miranda. Miranda is the partner of Glenn Greenwald. He, of course, is the reporter who's blown the lid off of NSA spying programs in a series of articles for "The Guardian" in documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

Here is chief deputy press secretary at the White House Josh Earnest, pinch-hitting for Jay Carney at today's White House briefing.


JOSH EARNEST, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There was a heads- up that was provided by the British government. Again, this is something that we had an indication was likely to occur, but it's not something that we requested and it's something that was done specifically by the British law enforcement officials there.


TAPPER: Miranda was held at Heathrow Airport for nearly nine hours on Sunday under Britain's Terrorism Act. He was eventually released and flew to Brazil to reunite with Greenwald. His partner, Greenwald, called it a, quote, "message of intimidation for anyone reporting on the NSA or its British counterpart, the GCHQ."

Also in the buried lead, it's the kinder, gentler side of a ruthless dictator. Kim Jong-un is reportedly promising, quote, "not to hurt" defectors of the North Korean state if they'll just quit fooling around and come on back home to the violently representative motherland.

Now if that deal isn't sweet enough for you, Kim is even offering up TV appearances and cash prizes equivalent to about 45,000 bucks, according to Reuters. That money goes a long way in a place where a house can reportedly be sold for about 65 pounds of rice and three and a half million people starved to death in the 1990s.

If you yelled out "fire" in a movie theater or "bomb" in airport, you'd probably be sitting in a dimly lit room somewhere with one-way glass on the wall.

Well, today officials are trying to explain why they punked an entire town with a false terror alert yesterday.

According to reports, police in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, say a dispatcher made a number of mistakes -- think of Homer at the controls of Springfield's nuclear power plant perhaps -- mistakes that led to a message being blared over loudspeakers, telling residents to take shelter because the area was under attack.

The Office of Emergency Management sent out reverse text messages explaining the screw-up before panic set in.

Let's check in with our political panel there in the Green Room.

First of all, congratulations to the newly engaged Joe Lockhart, former press secretary of the Clinton White House.

Joe, was this proposal done on bended knee?

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER BILL CLINTON PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, it was. But since she made me hike up a mountain that day, it was getting back up that was difficult.

TAPPER: I'll be it was. Joe, word of advice, don't follow your old boss, Bill Clinton's, example and share an office with the missus. As Maggie there will tell you, it's already causing some political headaches for the Clintons. And we'll talk about all of that on the political lead that's coming up.