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Funeral Services to be Held for Green Beret Killed in Niger Ambush; Donald Trump Announces Release of Documents Related to JFK Assassination; Living Former Presidents Promote Charity for Hurricane Victims; ISIS Loses Control of Raqqa, Syria; Cancer Risks in Louisiana Town Due to Pollution Profiled. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 21, 2017 - 10:00   ET



[10:00:15] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

In about an hour from now a Green Beret killed in Niger in the war on ISIS will be laid to rest. Funeral services for 25-years-old Sergeant La David Johnson begins at 11:00 a.m. in his Florida hometown. According to preliminary reports given to CNN, Johnson's body was found nearly a mile from the site of the ambush in Niger.

The president of the United States just not letting up on his verbal attacks on the Florida congresswoman who mentored Johnson. Just hours before the funeral President Trump tweeting this, "I hope the fake news media keeps talking about wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she as a representative is killing the Democrat party."

A short time later, President Trump authorizing the release of government documents that could reveal new details on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Meanwhile, Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon delivering a blistering attack on former president George W. Bush, even questioning his intelligence.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: He has no earthly idea whether he's coming or going, just like it was when he was president of the United States. I want to apologize up front to any Bush folks outside in this audience, OK, because there has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush's.


WHITFIELD: Let's get right to CNN's senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski with details on the Niger ambush first. So Michelle, is the administration any closer to nailing down a timeline?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: They've definitely done more work on it, and now we know that the FBI is assisting. They have people there in Niger looking at the evidence. There have been interviews now conducted with every person who survived from that Green Beret led team. But it's still shocking to many, including members of Congress, how

little solid information is coming out now that we're two weeks away from when this happened, October 4th. So the questions that remain are, how did Sergeant La David Johnson's body get nearly a mile away from where this firefight happened? What exactly happened to him? What were the circumstances surrounding this? Was he alive when he was moved to that location where he was found 48 hours after the fact?

Also, what was the intel situation on the ground? There they are in the desert. They are working with a Nigerian team. How did they not see this ambush by some 50 ISIS-linked fighters coming? Why did they not think this was a possibility?

There are some more details coming out about, for example, the French planes that assisted and why they didn't drop bombs. It was because they couldn't tell the enemy combatants from friendly people on the ground. They didn't want to take that risk. So the investigation is very much ongoing, but members of Congress like Senator John McCain, who's been outspoken in his criticism and his questions about this, met with the defense secretary. Here's what some of what each of them said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About the details of the Niger ambush, do you feel like that?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I thought we're not given a sufficient amount of --


KOSINSKI: So they are concerned about the lack of information. In fact, sources to CNN say that privately the defense secretary himself has been dismayed by the lack of information, and he, too, wants more answers and soon, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Michelle kosinski, thank you so much in Washington.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham issuing a stark warning in the wake of the Niger ambush -- beef up forces there or face a 9/11-style attack.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: We're going to have decisions being made, not in the White House but out in the field. And I support that entire construct. So the rules of engagement are going to change when it comes to counterterrorism operations. We're going to move to status-based targeting. So if you find somebody who's a member of a terrorist organization, then we can use lethal force. They don't have to present an immediate threat.

I think most Americans want to do the following -- the threats to us and our allies, they want us to deal with it. They don't want another 9/11. We don't want the next 9/11 to come from Niger. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: CNN's David McKenzie joins us live now from Johannesburg. So David, what can you tell us about the terror threats in Africa, and more importantly, the overall variety of U.S. operations there?

[10:05:05] DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, this terror threat, and it's specific to this part of west Africa, has been there for a long time. The viewers might be aware of it now because of the shocking ambush, but, in fact, the U.S. operations have been ongoing for some time. It's been bolstered recently, and you have a series of disparate terror groups, some affiliated with Al Qaeda, others to ISIS, and I have to say that's a loose affiliation.

I also want to put this ambush into context. The Nigerian troops have been attacked many times this year, several times and they have taken causalities. The fact there were U.S. forces involved means people are taking notice, but that border region between Mali and Niger is certainly a volatile one. And to put it in perspective, the U.S. intelligence gathering operations out of Niger are covering an area the size of the continental U.S. So this is a large operation mostly focused on intelligence and reconnaissance, and in this case those soldiers were in harm's way.

WHITFIELD: And so, David, has there been any expressed concern about how many of these operations will have to change or be modified?

MCKENZIE: Well, there isn't been any real sense from the Pentagon or U.S. Africa Command of modifying that. Certainly they'll be looking at their processes, and like any situation like this when you've got deaths within a combat operation, they'll look at how to avoid it. Certainly one of the questions is, well, did they not have intelligence that they might be this group in that area that could be, in fact, a threat that would require substantial firepower?

But in general, that area is a volatile one with Islamic militant groups in Niger, but particularly in neighboring countries really pushing in and trying to destabilize the government in those areas. And a big reason the U.S. is involved is to try and stop them from expanding, taking territory, and also taking on soft targets like they have in the past few years at hotels and cafes and other places.

WHITFIELD: David McKenzie, thank you so much in Johannesburg.

All right, the Niger ambush doesn't appear to be the investigation President Trump has on his mind this morning. Instead, he just tweeted about the Kennedy assassination, saying that thousands of classified files in that case will be released. He tweeted this, "Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing as president the long blocked and classified JFK files to be opened." This is coming less than a week before the deadline set 25 years ago by Congress requiring the release. Let's talk more about this with Douglas Brinkley, CNN presidential historian. Douglas, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So, let's talk about the timing of this tweet coming from the president. This is a preset deadline in which this president would act, but here he is tweeting about it today on this day, the same day that Sergeant Johnson, La David Johnson, will be laid to rest. What do you think about the timing of the president changing the subject, talking about the release of the JFK files as the investigation about Niger only heightens?

BRINKLEY: Well, I don't think the timing's good at all. I mean, we have a funeral service going on, and he's tweeting about a death from 1963. However, I applaud the fact that President Trump's releasing these documents. You know, historians have wanted this release done for a while. It's CIA, FBI files, what happened with the assassination of John f. Kennedy is still, parts of it, are a mystery, and any new bit of documentation that adds to that historical story is a good thing. So while I think President Trump is right to make the announcement he's releasing them, I think the timing this particular Saturday morning is awkward.

WHITFIELD: And what do you hope will be discovered from this document release?

BRINKLEY: I hope we put to rest some conspiracy theories. Every time there are more documents that come out, more of these conspiracy theories fall by the wayside. You know, Roger Stone, for example, who's Donald Trump's friend, part-time adviser, he had written a book that LBJ was somehow involved with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The conspiracy theories are thick, and hopefully these new documents will show intelligence that was gathered from the Warren Commission and beyond that will put to rest some of these odious theories that people spin out there to market books or simply because they are born with a conspiratorial bent.

WHITFIELD: Is it your feeling while it may end some conspiracies, it might be the beginning of new ones?

[10:10:03] BRINKLEY: That's true, too. Good point. It will never end. Nothing will satisfy people that are, you know -- I once went to see Gerald Ford who was on the Warren Commission, and he after lunch, I was talking to him only about the Ford presidency, and he said, you know, Doug, come here. And he showed me this giant stack of papers. He said see those? And I said yes. And then he said see these, and it was hardly any. He said that big stack, that's people that write me about the Warren Commission and the Kennedy assassination. The other stack is my presidency. The point being, people keep talking about how John F. Kennedy died. While we'll get these new documents, there will be people taking these documents and twisting them in different ways, so the story will probably never be resolved.

WHITFIELD: Douglas Brinkley, thanks so much. To you again a little bit later on in this hour.

All right, still ahead, five former U.S. presidents coming together to help hurricane victims the same week two of them take apparent jabs at the current, the sitting president. Is the world's most exclusive club trying to send a message to its newest member?

And later, the EPA says more than 20,000 people in Louisiana have the highest risk in the country of developing cancer from toxic chemicals in the air. State regulators say the threat is not imminent, but local people are very afraid.


ROBERT TAYLOR III, RESIDENT: Husband and wife died from cancer across the street. Husband over here died from cancer. Both of his sons got cancer. Where all this cancer coming from?


WHITFIELD: They are desperate for cleaner air. Hear how they are fighting back in this CNN investigation.


[10:15:59] WHITFIELD: All five living former U.S. presidents will come together in Texas tonight for a relief concert to help raise money for hurricane victims in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Hurricane Harvey brought terrible destruction, but it also brought out the best in humanity.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: As former presidents, we want to help our fellow Americans begin to recover.

JIMMY CARTER, (D) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Our friends in Texas, including President Bush 41 and 43, are doing just that.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: People are hurting down here, but as one Texan put it, we've got more love in Texas than water.




WHITFIELD: It's part of their One America Appeal campaign. The concert will also feature country, rock, and gospel artists, including Alabama, Lyle Lovett, and Yolanda Adams. The show comes days after both Obama and Bush took thinly veiled swipes at President Trump in separate speeches without ever directly mentioning Trump's name. President Bush decrying what he called nationalism distorted into nativism. President Obama, meanwhile, criticizing what he calls the same old politics of division.

I want to discuss all of this with my guests. Now joining me our CNN senior political analyst and senior editor of "The Atlantic" Ron Brownstein and CNN political analyst and national political reporter for Real Clear Politics Rebecca Berg. Good to see both of you. So, Rebecca, you first. Five former presidents coming together today to raise money for hurricane victims. It comes with the backdrop of President Trump giving himself a perfect ten for relief efforts in Puerto Rico even though 80 percent of residents there are still without power a month after the storm. So your thoughts on this real juxtaposition of presidential moments?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, the contrast, obviously, is quite striking. But President Trump has flipped the script on what we think of when we think of the institution of the presidency. And part of that, of course, was by design. That's what he campaigned on.

But I also think back to the campaign when I would speak to Trump supporters, Fred, and what I heard over and over again was they expected Trump would become more presidential when he took office. They hoped that he would even though they enjoyed his campaign persona. And I think when you look at his approval numbers right now, his very low approval rating at less than 40 percent in most polling, that reflects, I think, some disappointment among people that he hasn't risen to the institution. He hasn't let the institution transform him or make him a little more what we would consider presidential.

And seeing these five presidents together for this cause, these five former presidents, really does highlight the difference between their approach to the presidency and what we've seen from President Trump.

WHITFIELD: And this concert coming on the heels, Ron, of separate speeches on the same day this past week. President Obama and Bush seeming to attack Trump without ever saying his name, but the inferences were there, right. White House press secretary, however, Sarah Huckabee Sanders says they actually weren't talking about Trump. Listen.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Those comments were not directed towards the president. And, in fact, when these two individuals, both past presidents, have criticized the president, they've done so by name and very rarely do it without being pretty direct, as both of them tend to be.


WHITFIELD: So, Ron, is this another way of kind of flipping the script, this White House saying that it's going to believe what it wants to believe contrary to what other messaging there may be?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, sure, it can believe what it wants to believe, but that's just silly. Both presidents were clearly criticizing President Trump and on very similar grounds.

It is extraordinary in the president's club for former presidents to criticize, publicly criticize their successor. It is even more extraordinary if you consider George W. Bush now has joined John McCain and Mitt Romney in his post Charlottesville statement. All three of the previous Republican presidential nominees have now essentially accused the current Republican president of promoting racial division in the country, and in the case of McCain and Bush, they have accused him, as well, of abandoning America's role in the world.

[10:20:06] I think people have to understand just how rare this is. I mean, Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 ran from the left against his successor, William Howard Taft. Al Smith in the 1930s criticized from the right Franklin Roosevelt, who was his successor as Democratic presidential nominee. But it is very, very rare in American history to have one, let alone three, former nominees of a party say a president of their own party is leading the country in the wrong direction at home and abroad.

And I think it underscores the potential for a schism in the Republican Party, particularly among white collar Republicans who were skeptical about Trump from the beginning and where his approval rating is most conspicuously below what you would usually see from a Republican president.

WHITFIELD: And then, Rebecca, that lovely tradition that appears to be passed on from one president to the next, an understanding, sort of open door, I've always got your back. And then in many cases even a hand-written letter left to a new president. President George H. W. Bush did it for President Clinton after the '92 reelection defeat. The relationship between the two has actually been described as a father-son like relationship today.

And then it was President Obama who left a letter to Trump. And then there was that jovial picture of the two. Who can forget that? So is there a likelihood that even after all the criticisms and downright insulting, you know, remarks about President Obama, might we ever see a potential repeat of that laughing moment between, you know, a Trump and an Obama?

BERG: I think you're right, Fred, that that door is open because there really is no job like the presidency. And so it really is this exclusive club where only these men can really know what holding that office is like and what that shared experience is like.

But President Trump has not shown a great deal of eagerness to connect with these former presidents. According to the reports we've seen out of the White House, he hasn't really reached out to these former presidents asking for advice, asking for help, in the way that former presidents have done to their predecessors, trying to get their take on what might be the best course of action or maybe some helpful context in moments that are unfamiliar to them as new presidents. But Donald Trump hasn't really done that.

WHITFIELD: He said he was going to.

BERG: He did say he was going to, but for Donald Trump I think it's more of a personality quirk that he believes in many cases that he has all the information he needs, that he knows best, and so he hasn't really been reaching out in that way to these former presidents as a result.

WHITFIELD: Then, Ron, we're having this discussion wherein less than an hour ago a funeral gets under way for a Green Beret, Sergeant La David Johnson, and the White House has had many opportunities to set the tenor and tone. In your view, you know, how will the history books document how this White House is handling this national tragedy?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think the first point is that this is an example of what Rebecca was talking about, which is there was a share of the electorate that voted for Trump despite roughly 20 percent of the electorate overall, of his voters said he was not qualified, did not believe he was qualified. They gave him a try because they wanted change, they didn't like Hillary Clinton.

I think this is the sort of episode that is reinforcing those concerns, and the reason why you see some of those voters more uncertain about him than they were on Election Day. But I think the larger point is that there is so much we don't know yet about this -- these deaths and this mission.

And, you know, this is not Benghazi, but certainly if you look at the president of how much time, effort, and money the Republican Congress spent trying to unearth every possible dimension of the Benghazi episode, there is a kind of the ball is in their court here, as well. And only John McCain so far, Senator McCain, has really stepped up and said we need to know more about what happened here. Whatever else you think the president owes, a phone call to gold star families, I think what gold star families are owed above all is a clear understanding of what happened to their loved one and why. And I think that is why the debate is going to shift before very long.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ron Brownstein, Rebecca Berg, thanks. Good to see you both.

BERG: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Now to a new detail in the U.S. Senate investigation of any Trump campaign ties to Russia. The Intelligence Committee has interviewed several of the suggestions that attended a meeting at Trump Tower back in June of last year. You'll recall the president's son, Don Jr., the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and the president's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort were there. Senators would not detail what the Russians have revealed in their interviews. A second Senate panel, the Judiciary Committee, is working to have Donald Trump Jr. testify in a public hearing.

[10:25:00] All right, coming up, a new challenge from a landmark moment in the war on terror. ISIS' de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, has been liberated, but now the terrorists and their family members showing up at refugee camps. A report from Syria straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

So the world is witnessing a landmark moment in the war on terror. ISIS has lost control of its de facto capital Raqqa, Syria.

[10:30:03] And while they are dancing in the streets of Raqqa, there is also a new challenge hitting refugee camps. ISIS fighters and their families now living next to those who fled the violence, forcing coordinators to walk a fine line between offering mercy and maintaining security. CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon has this report.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The majority of civilians who fled Raqqa did end up at this sprawling refugee camp, and you'll notice that those tents just below us are isolated from the rest of the population, and they are being kept under armed guard. No one is allowed to freely come in and go, and that is because these are among the last families to flee, many of them, we are told, suspected of being the families of ISIS fighters, those hardcore fighters that stayed until the very end. But also amongst them a fair number of civilian families who are being held hostage by ISIS, but until they can all be thoroughly vetted, the Kurdish authorities here do want to make sure they are not going to be posing any further threat. In fact, the tents get searched every single night, and they've removed all sharp objects such as knives from the possession of those who are here.

The conditions, pretty tough. It is scorching hot during the day. There's not enough humanitarian assistance, and at night it gets bitterly cold. And the reality for all of these families who are here is it is going to be quite some time before they can go back home, at least three to four months before Raqqa is cleared of explosive devices. And then, of course, there is the other reality of what kind of a home do they have left to go back to at this stage. And there is a high level of awareness amongst those who are now responsible for the reconstruction of Raqqa that is not just going to be about physically trying to rebuild that city. They have to somehow also rebuild Raqqa's social fabric. But in the meantime these families are going to continue to have to struggle under these conditions.

Arwa Damon, CNN, in northern Syria.


WHITFIELD: Thanks so much for that report, Arwa.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says a chemical coming from a Louisiana factory is putting its neighbors at the highest risk in the country of developing cancer from air toxins. State regulators say the threat is not imminent.


GERALDINE WATKINS, RESIDENT: You've got to live here to try and breathe the air, drink the water, see the children so sick, watch the people die. If you don't live in the area, you can say anything and everybody's supposed to believe that.


WHITFIELD: Hear how local people are fighting for relief. It's a CNN investigation.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. People in a small Louisiana community say that on some days it is sickening to be outside. A local factory is releasing a chemical that's putting them at the highest risk in the country of developing cancer from air toxins. That's according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. State regulators say the threat isn't imminent, but local people say cases of cancer are common, and they are afraid and they are begging for help. Victor Blackwell has this CNN investigation.


GERALDINE WATKINS, RESIDENT: The air is so foul, the water's so messed up, and so many people are ill and dying of cancer.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Geraldine Watkins is afraid. Her family has lived in St. John the Baptist Parish in Louisiana for almost 40 years. She loves the people, but recently she learned that she and more than 20,000 others who live nearby have the highest risk in the country of developing cancer from air toxins. The toxin in this case is chloroprene. According to data from the EPA's National Air toxics Assessment, or NATA, the risk for people who live in this area highlighted in red ranges from roughly five to more than 20 times the national average.

WATKINS: I was outraged because I'm trying to figure out why people hadn't been informed of this earlier.

BLACKWELL: The source is this plant owned by Denka. The Japanese company bought it from DuPont in late 2015. The company makes a synthetic rubber found in wetsuits, electric insulations, and other common products. The plant has emitted chloroprene as part of the process for more than 40 years.

We asked the EPA for an international. They declined but agreed to answer question via email. The EPA tells us 99 percent of the chloroprene that's emitted by facilities across the country comes from this plant. In 2010 the EPA determined chloroprene is likely carcinogenic to humans, meaning studies show is likely causing cancer in humans. And the EPA says there are many other health problems associated with exposure to chloroprene.

Robert Taylor III says he grew up near the plant and that he was in and out of hospitals for most of his childhood. He moved away after high school and no problems for more than 20 years. Then just six months after moving back, Taylor says his kidneys failed. And Taylor says cancer diagnoses are common in his neighborhood.

ROBERT TAYLOR III, RESIDENT: Husband and wife died from cancer across the street. Husband over died from cancer, both of his sons got cancer. Where all this cancer coming from? These people are filling us up with this poison.

BLACKWELL: In the spring of 2016, the EPA installed six canisters in the neighborhood surrounding this plant. They are collecting air samples. They are tested every three days to find out just how much of this toxic chemical is in the air. And for more than a year now the EPA has repeatedly found concentrations of chloroprene that are 10, 50, 100 times, and in one case more than 700 times the amount it says is at the upper limit of acceptability for cancer risk.

[10:40:11] And for more than a year the EPA's testing found average chloroprene concentration that significantly exceeded that amount, at one site more than 49 times the recommended amount.

CHUCK CARR BROWN, SECRETARY LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY: They say it's 10 times or 20 times or some order of magnitude times higher than what the standard is. Well, there is no standard.

BLACKWELL: Chuck Carr Brown is Louisiana's secretary of environmental quality. He's right about those spikes. The EPA has not set a legal limit for chloroprene emissions. It says it's a years-long process. But according to this May, 2016, internal memo obtained by CNN, federal regulators have set a recommendation based on cancer risk, an annual average of 0.2 micrograms of chloroprene per cubic meter as what it calls the upper level of acceptability.

Just remember the number, 0.2. It's represented by the red line on this graph. Now look at the average chloroprene concentration found in the air at those six testing sites between May, 2016, and August, 2017. One of those testing sites is here, near Fifth Ward Elementary School, just a few hundred yards from the plant. We found that the average concentration in the air near the school over 17 months was more than 34 times the EPA's cancer risk recommendation of what's acceptable. The state's top environmental regulator who says part of his mission is to protect human health also says this.

BROWN: Point-two doesn't mean anything to me. I want to get to as close to zero as I possibly can. To artificially target a number that you can't legally enforce, it absolutely makes no sense.

BLACKWELL: Jorge Lavastida is an executive officer of the company and the manager of the plant.

So this company doesn't believe that chloroprene causes cancer?


BLACKWELL: This summer Denka asked the EPA for a correction. The company commissioned a study which argues that chloroprene's classification should be changed from likely carcinogenic to humans to possibly carcinogenic, and that 0.2 should be 31.2, more than 150 times the EPA's cancer risk recommendation.

LAVASTIDA: We have looked at the study they did and how they came up with the 0.2, and we have found gaps in the science of it. BLACKWELL: The EPA stands by its findings. And despite its

skepticism, the company promised the state to install control technologies at the plant to reduce chloroprene emissions.

LAVASTIDA: That includes four projects that reduce our emissions by 85 percent. We're investing $20 million on those projects. There's going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars of operating expenses when those are in. Very aggressive schedule, and it's our number one priority.

BLACKWELL: However, equipment that was supposed to have been installed by September is now slated for the end of the year. Secretary Brown says there's nothing to worry about.

BROWN: This available control technology is an acceptable protocol.

BLACKWELL: But why not start with the risk to the people? Why not start with that number and then build out from there?

BROWN: That exactly what I'm doing.

BLACKWELL: Every time I've brought up the 0.2 number, you say it's not enforceable, it hasn't been promulgated, it's not a standard. You go back to the technology of the enforceable standard there from whatever the company installs, why not start with the risk to the people?

BROWN: We've got a protocol in place that our data shows us that there's no imminent threat.

WATKINS: You've got to live here to try and breathe the air, drink the water, see the children so sick, watch the people die. If you don't live in the area, you can say anything, and everybody's supposed to believe that. If they can't cut the emissions down, shut them down until they can repair them. Then bring the plant back up. I don't want anybody to lose their job, but we can no longer live in these emissions.

TAYLOR: We're not just going to sit around and let them push us around.

BLACKWELL: Taylor is part of a class action lawsuit to force the company to reduce the emissions to meet the EPA cancer risk recommendation. He's joined on behalf of his 10-year-old daughter, Navy Love. He says she developed asthma and needs to use an oxygen machine several times per week. He blames the emissions.

TAYLOR: They don't have any compassion for human life. My little girl, 10-years-old, she's innocent.

BLACKWELL: And at 76 years old, Watkins hopes that federal regulators, state regulators, someone will enforce Denka to adhere to the cancer risk recommendation for her sake and the sake of her family.

WATKINS: Let me live. Whatever time I have left, let it be decent. We need clean air. We need help to get this done.


[10:45:07] BLACKWELL: Now, of course, an important question here is, are there more actual cases of cancer in those communities with the highest risk of developing cancer? Well, the state does not know, and here's why -- because cancer rates are measured at the parish level, not at the smallest census track level like the EPA toxins study. So right now there is no way to know if just that part of the parish around the plant has a disproportionate amount of cancer cases.

But that's going to change soon. A new law in Louisiana requires the LSU tumor registry, which keeps track of cancer numbers, to publish cancer stats at the smaller census track level, and then we'll be able to compare the EPA's estimated cancer risk to the actual number of cancer diagnoses. Fred, back to you.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Victor Blackwell.

All right, still to come, Tampa police searching for whoever is responsible for three murders in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. An update on their investigation straight ahead.

Also, Steve Bannon blasted former president George W. Bush at the California GOP convention last night. His rant comes as part of his war against the GOP establishment. But is it hurting or helping the party? We'll discuss.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: There is not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush's.


WHITFIELD: First, this week's CNN hero was shocked when she saw brand new children's books going to waste. So Rebecca Constantino started an organization that has donated books to poor children for nearly 20 years. She's even transformed the places where they go to read them.


REBECCA CONSTANTINO, CNN HERO: For a child, the library can be a magical place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm officially the most awesome girl in the world.

CONSTANTINO: It can transform you academically, but it can also nurture you emotionally. What people don't realize is that school libraries are sometimes not funded at all. We provide libraries for underserved communities and schools. Our whole goal is to spread literacy and the benefits of literacy.


WHITFIELD: All right, to see Rebecca and her team in action, go to


[10:51:50] WHITFIELD: Welcome back, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

A manhunt under way this morning in Tampa as police say someone is terrorizing the Seminole Heights neighborhood. Three people have been murdered in less than two weeks, and the FBI and local police think the killings are related. All three victims were bus riders and were shot at or near bus stops close to one another. But police are asking people to be active participants in the search by looking out for this person in this surveillance video. They are also warning residents to stay vigilant and walk in groups.


BRIAN DUGAN, INTERIM CHIEF, TAMPA POLICE: We're not going to be held hostage by whoever's doing this. We need everyone to come out of their homes at night, turn on their porch lights, and just not tolerate this type of terrorism in the neighborhood.


WHITFIELD: As of right now, no suspect, no motive.

All right, President Trump's former chief strategist not mincing words, delivering a blistering takedown of former president George W. Bush. Steve Bannon spoke at the California GOP convention last night and bluntly questioned President Bush's intelligence and whether he even understood his own speech.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: President Bush to me embarrassed himself. Speech writer wrote a speech. It's clear he didn't understand anything he was talking about. He equates the industrial revolution, the agricultural revolution, globalization, he has no earthly idea whether he's coming or going, just like it was when he was president of the United States. I want to apologize up front to any of the Bush folks outside, in this audience, OK, because there has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush's.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Boris Sanchez live for us from the White House. So any response from the White House whatsoever?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, Fred, though we certainly have reached out. This is something that we've sort of heard from Steve Bannon before, right. He's called this a season of war with the establishment GOP, just last week going after Mitch McConnell in a very aggressive way.

But this is certainly different. He's viciously going after the former president of the United States, as you said, questioning his intelligence, questioning whether or not he was even aware of what he was saying during a speech on Thursday in which he didn't name Steve Bannon or President Trump, but he certainly went after some of their ideology, right, talking about the dangers of nativism, the dangers of protectionism, and saying that the political discourse in this country had been reduced to what he called conspiracy theories.

So here Steve Bannon is doing what he vowed to do when he left the White House, which was to not only defend the president but to go after those who he believe have failed the president's agenda. As you know, Fred, he is currently fundraising and recruiting candidates to challenge not Democrats during the 2018 midterms, but fellow Republicans. So this is really a war for the spirit of the GOP.

An update here from the White House, Fred. We've learned that President Trump has arrived at Trump national golf course in Sterling, Virginia. It is now the 83rd day the president is spending at a property that bears his name, Fred.

[10:55:03] WHITFIELD: And, Boris, on this day that the One America Appeal charity effort involving, you know, five living past presidents, they will all be participating. Is the White House saying anything about the kind of participation or the interest of this president to that cause?

SANCHEZ: We have certainly reached out, though we have not gotten a clear indication yet from the White House, but it is certainly surprising when you see ads running, when you see this kind of outpouring, soliciting of support of the way the former presidents have, and to not see the current president there.

It wasn't just George W. Bush who had some words about the current state of politics in the United States. Also earlier this week President Obama spoke out, as well. So there's certainly not just a shift in the tone of politics coming from former presidents to the current one, but also what appears to be a political battle that is usually only par for the course during the campaign, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, Boris Sanchez. Of course that concert this evening helping to raise money and awareness for all of the victims of hurricanes.

So much more straight ahead in the next hour of the CNN Newsroom right after this.