Return to Transcripts main page


California Wildfires; Pakistan Election; Cyber Experts on High Alert for Hacking. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired July 29, 2018 - 02:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): I'm Cyril Vanier, live from the CNN NEWSROOM here in Atlanta. Thank you for joining us.


VANIER: Three more people have died in Northern California as a fast- moving wildfire continues to torch everything in its path. Two children and their great-grandmother were not able to escape when flames engulfed their home Thursday night.

Police say they have never seen a blaze like this before. More evacuations were ordered when the unpredictable Carr fire nearly doubled in size overnight. It has burned nearly 33,000 hectares. With high temperatures and erratic winds fueling flames like these. Dan Simon has more.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We now have the first confirmed civilian deaths associated with this fire, 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe and her two great-grandchildren, 5-year-old Emily Roberts and her brother, 4-year-old James Roberts.

They were in a house and were unable to leave as the flames raced through their neighborhood. We're told by a family member that Bledsoe called her husband at work to say that the fire was getting close and he needed to come back as soon as he could. That was the last anyone had ever heard from them.

The family checked hospitals. They checked evacuation centers and then late this afternoon they got word that the bodies had been recovered.

In the meantime, you can see where we are. This is called the Keswick Estates subdivision. If you look around, you can see that nothing is left. Whole neighborhoods have disappeared as a result of this fire.

Unfortunately, in terms of the outlook over the next few days, things do not appear to be getting better. This fire is just 5 percent contained, the weather remains hot, triple-digit temperatures today and over the next several days. Humidity is low. And then at night the wind really gets going. And so firefighters

fear that there could be more destruction -- Dan Simon, CNN, Keswick, California.


VANIER: Earlier I spoke with Cal Fire deputy chief Scott McLean.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CAL FIRE: Still 5 percent containment. The fire continues to grow and it's now moving to the north and more to the south.

VANIER: Is it growing at the same rate as last night over -- the reporting is that over the last 24 hours, it doubled in size.

MCLEAN: Right. It was at 48,000-plus acres evening before last. And then this morning it came just over 80,000 acres because of the (INAUDIBLE) making in different directions in different areas.

VANIER: So what's the priority at this hour?

And right now, it is 9:00 pm local in California.

What do the firefighting teams have to do now?

MCLEAN: Keep in mind that, over the last several years, fires have been acting as if they were burning during the daylight hours at nighttime. We used to have a little time where we could assume that the fire, because of the lower temperatures at night, higher humidities, the fire would do what we call lay down and become less active.

That way we get onto those firelines a lot closer, get those lines in at night that needed to be done to mitigate the progress of the fire.

Nowadays, those fires are burning just as aggressive as they do during the daytime. So what we do is we pick a point to make a stand. Make sure we get out ahead of the fire so we're going to be (INAUDIBLE) large lines and then in some cases we can actually fight fire with fire and burn off that vegetation between the fire and the lines we put in.

So there's a lot of things that take place right now.

VANIER: So just so I understand how it works, when you say pick a point to make a stand, so you're going to choose one area, you're essentially going to draw a line in the sand or in the forest and say, well, the fire can't go past this line.

Is that what I'm understanding --


VANIER: -- devote your resources? MCLEAN: Right. It has a lot of components come into play. We're not

going to do something, what we call midslope because that fire is just going to roar up that hill and go through and go under and around anything that we put in its way.

So we might take a ridgetop and work on the lee side. You might wait for the fire to come into a meadow or into valley where we get those resources in there that we need. And it's easier to cut line in those area and easier to set fire in those areas (INAUDIBLE).

So it's an all thought-out process, whenever the winds can be predicted, once the weather can be predicted, what resources do we have. So a lot of -- like I said earlier, items, a lot of items, a lot of thoughts come into play.


VANIER: That's Cal Fire deputy chief Scott McLean.



VANIER: Monsoon rains are triggering deadly floods in Northern India. Authorities are telling Reuters that at least 60 people have died and dozens have been injured since heavy rainfall, lightning and flooding began on Thursday.

Monsoon rains are a lifeline for farmers across India but they can also be deadly.

There are new developments in the case of Ahed Tamimi, the 17-year-old Palestinian has been released from an Israeli prison and is headed back to the West Bank. She was jailed late last year after she was filmed kicking and slapping an Israeli soldier.

The incident occurred after a soldier wounded her 15-year-old cousin, shooting him in the head with a rubber bullet. Tamimi's actions made her a hero to many Palestinians. Israeli authorities charged her with a list of offenses, including assault.

In Eastern Afghanistan, a midwife training center came under militant attack on Saturday but a far greater tragedy was prevented. Three people were killed and at least eight others were wounded in the city of Jalalabad.

Two attackers held several people hostage and security forces stormed the compound, rescuing 61 women and two children. Both attackers are dead. A motive is unclear but midwife centers have been targeted before for the reproductive health services they offer.

The dramatic falling out between President Trump and his long-time attorney, Michael Cohen, now appears irreversible. One of Mr. Trump's lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, says the president's legal team and Cohen's legal team have stopped sharing information, including documents and witness interviews. The mechanism for such cooperation is known as a joint defense

agreement or JDA. But Giuliani says the JDA between the Trump and Cohen legal teams has not been in effect since Cohen hired a new attorney last month.

The U.S. midterm elections are just three months away. The outcome could dramatically alter the balance of power in Congress and, therefore, in Washington. But there is growing concern Russian hackers are targeting some campaigns in a systematic effort to disrupt and undermine American democracy -- again.

CNN's Alex Marquardt has the details.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Facing growing criticism, he hasn't focused enough on the election's cyber security threat from Russia, the president today met with his national security team in the White House situation room to discuss --


SIMON (voice-over): -- election interference. So far, the administration, vague on the details.

JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Just rest assured there are actions under way to protect our elections or to expose any external, any -- by anybody, external efforts to influence the American public, to show false news, that sort of thing.

MARQUARDT: It comes as Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill accuses Russian operatives of trying to hack into her office last year, saying in a statement, "While this attack was not successful, it is outrageous that they think they can get away with this. I will not be intimidated.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again, Putin is a thug and a bully."

McCaskill is one of the most vulnerable Democrats running for re- election this year. A senior Microsoft executive confirmed that three 2018 candidates have been targeted by the same group of Russian intelligence operatives who targeted Democrats in 2016.

TOM BURT, VICE PRESIDENT OF CUSTOMER SECURITY, MICROSOFT: They were all people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint as well as an election disruption standpoint.

MARQUARDT: The hackers used fake Microsoft pages in so-called phishing attacks. The company is on high alert for similar pages, which they say they'd take down when discovered. It's the campaigns rather than the voting systems that are among the most vulnerable systems.

ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: I think the fact of the matter is that campaign staffers are just never going to be able to get to the level of these adversaries and stare them down. We're talking about the most sophisticated cyber operators in the world: Russian intelligence, the Iranians and the North Koreans.

MARQUARDT: The Trump administration has come under fire for not announcing a comprehensive coordinated plan to thwart cyber threats.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I think it's an embarrassment that this White House has not made election security a top priority and has not put the kind of attention and focus on it that we need.

MARQUARDT: In May, the cyber coordinator role on the National Security Council was eliminated as top intelligence officials are sounding the alarm, comparing the current state of danger to the months before the 9/11 attacks.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I'm here to say the warning lights are blinking red, again. Today the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.

MARQUARDT: The Department of Homeland Security oversees the defense of the country's voting infrastructure. But on offense, it's less clear, with the NSA, FBI and military all taking leading roles.

MOOK: We really need more connective tissue between people gathering intelligence, people doing law enforcement and people charged with protecting our different assets in the digital realm.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Alex Marquardt, CNN, New York.


VANIER: We're done for now. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I've got the headlines for you in about 18 minutes and we've got more world news at the top of the hour. For now, though, it's "MARKETPLACE AFRICA."