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W.H. Defends Decision To Revoke Brennan's Security Clearance; Trump Equates Mueller Probe To McCarthyism; Trump Speechwriter With White Nationalist Ties Ousted From W.H.; Bolton: China, Iran, North Korea Election Meddling A Security Concern; At Least 14 Injured At Backstreet Boys, Degrees Concert; Pittsburgh Bishop Defends Church Response To Sexual Abuse. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired August 19, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thanks again for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Another day, another war of words between the White House and John Brennan. Today a full frontal assault from the Trump administration, blasting the former CIA Director and defending its decision to strip away his security clearance. National Security Adviser John Bolton even upping the ante against the former spy chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It was my view at the time that he and others in the Obama administration were politicizing intelligence. I think that's a very dangerous thing to do. And I think especially for senior intelligence officials, career intelligence officials who come out of the government to keep that wall of separation between intelligence and policy. I think a number of people have commented that he couldn't be in the position he's in of criticizing President Trump and his so-called collusion with Russia unless he did use classified information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: But Brennan isn't backing down, even threatening to take his concerns to court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I have been contacted by a number of lawyers. They have already given me their thoughts about the basis for a complaint, an injunction, to try to prevent him from doing this in the future. If my clearances and my reputation as I'm being pulled through the mud now, if that's the price we're going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this against other people, to me it's a small price to pay. So I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future. And if it means going to court, I will do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. CNN's Ryan Nobles is in New Jersey, where the President is spending the weekend. So Ryan, what's happening?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, it seems pretty clear that this is a fight the President thinks he can win. If you just based on his comments from over the weekend, despite all this criticism that he's received from many different circles, including many former intelligence officials, the President seems emboldened. And he and his White House associates seem to be zeroing in on John Brennan as the key character in all of this and pointing to his political activism as a reason that he shouldn't have access to state secrets.
Listen to what Rudy Giuliani had to say about this, this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Brennan made the extraordinary charge that the President was treasonous and then just said to you, and I commend you for your questioning, that he has no information that the President is guilty of conspiracy. Well, that is just conjecture that this man accuses people of a crime that could carry death as the result. Totally --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a highly charged word.
GIULIANI: -- unhinged character who shouldn't have a security clearance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: And there certainly evidence that this tactic is working with the President's base. It's pretty difficult to find any prominent Republicans that are taking issue with the President's decision to take this dramatic action on security clearances. In fact, there are a number of prominent Republicans on Capitol Hill who actually believe that this is the President's right and that he's actually making the smart choice by revoking John Brennan's security clearance and then considering taking back the security clearances of a number of other officials. But it is difficult and impossible to ignore the growing chorus of former intelligence officials that served under both Republican and Democratic presidents who remain uncomfortable with the President's move here.
And many arguing that the fact that he is talking about the political activism of John Brennan is the problem, saying that if it becomes a situation where intelligence officials are concerned that someone might view their advice or the information that they're giving the President as being colored by politics, then they may not necessarily be as objective as is needed to protect national security. So Fred, this argument is long from being settled.
WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you so much in New Jersey.
All right, let's bring in CNN Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Shan Wu and CNN Intelligence and Security Analyst Bob Baer. All right, good to see you both. So, Shan, you heard, you know, Brennan says he'll take this to court if he has to. What would be the case?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's interesting. The President and his people seem to think he's on solid ground, and the one area he is on solid ground in would be his authority to revoke the clearances. I don't think they're really thinking out of the box, though, because there are a couple claims that could be brought. I mean, there could be a constitutional claim arguing that there's some type of infringement of the First Amendment. And there also could be something quite simple, which is a defamation type of claim, it could also be brought. So I think they're actually not realizing that they're opening up a potential litigation can of worms, not to mention the obvious political fire storm that they're causing themselves.
WHITFIELD: And, you know, Brennan has had this security, you know, clearance for decades. Many advisers in Trump's own White House have actually had their own problems with obtaining, you know, security clearance. Just look at, you know, Adviser Jared Kushner, who had a problem getting full security clearance.
So Bob, do these attacks on Brennan, you know, from the President, from the White House, you know, lack some real credibility, you know, within the intelligence community when there seems to be some real hypocrisy about, you know, honoring security clearance?
[15:05:08] ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think the problem in the intelligence community with my colleagues is, Fred, that these clearances were pulled without cause. There's all sorts of reasons you can pull them, you know, unauthorized disclosure, contact with a foreign government. Jared Kushner couldn't get a top-secret clearance because of his foreign contacts. There was cause for that.
So this is a principle that the intelligence community is going to fight for. Because look, what if the President decided to pull Robert Mueller's clearances? That whole case, a lot of it is based on classified information, top secret. I mean, in principle, they could, but there would go the investigation. And once you go down this road, bureaucrats, national security people are going to be afraid to talk to the President or fear in these security clearances pulled. Or as we've been talking about Bruce Ohr. He's done nothing wrong, and the President is threatening the Department of Justice to pull his security clearances for no reason at all, other than guilt by association.
WHITFIELD: That's when it becomes problematic or that's when, you know, the idea of overreach, you know, comes to the surface because if it's someone who's involved in the current investigation, or as the President put it, you know, even Brennan he accuses in part being responsible for, you know, this Russia investigation. That's where it becomes problematic for the President to then take away someone's clearance for that reason.
WU: I think we do have to distinguish between the idea of taking the clearance away from someone who is currently a government employee versus someone who is -- and as Robert points out, there's this principle of cause which has always been honored. I mean, you don't just go willy-nilly yanking it for obviously political reasons. I think one concern that the President should be having is he's somewhat adding to the atmospherics of his attempts to do obstruction in public. And that's something that when the Special Counsel is looking at his Twitter activity, it involves that notion of whether he can actually obstruct justice by doing things publicly to kind of give himself cover that way. It will be a very novel theory. I don't think many prosecutors would want to pursue it, but this type of thing adds fuel to that fire.
WHITFIELD: John Brennan, you know, he's not at all backing down. In fact, if anything, he's kind of digging in his heels, of course threatening, you know, potential, you know, filing a case. But he also said, you know, that Trump's press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, he called that treasonous. This is how he put it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: I called his behavior treasonous, which is to betray one's trust and to aid and abet the enemy. And I stand very much by that claim. But I have spoken out against Mr. Trump's lack of decency, civility, honesty, and character. And I will continue to do that because I have always revered the office of the presidency, and I think Mr. Trump is letting millions upon millions of Americans down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So Bob, are we seeing the beginning of John Brennan feeling even more inspired to speak his mind? He knows what crossing the line would be in terms of using any kind of classified material or not.
BAER: Oh, I think he is going to go on the attack at this point. And as we've talked about, Fred, he's yet to reveal any classified information. That's sort of key. I'm the same way when I'm on television. I know what's classified and what's not. And I would never betray a secret in this case, and he won't either.
And I don't think Clapper or any of the other people that are criticizing the President will. So the President, you know, really doesn't have a good reason to pull these clearances other than, you know, obstruction of justice and, you know, striking back at his critics.
WHITFIELD: And Shan, it almost seems like the President is, you know, really challenging the commitment of these career public servants, career civil, you know, servants who know what it is, you know, to pledge allegiance, you know, to the country by way of the duties that they have been performing. But the President, by saying I'm constructing this list, you know, and we've got names and documents that are, you know, ready to be rolled out to potentially revoke somebody else's security clearances, what is the overall message, Shan, in your view that's being sent from the White House from the President on how he really is challenging people's freedoms or authorities or, you know, their own credibility here?
WU: Yes, I think the message that he is sending is quite the opposite of what they're trying to say. He's sending the message that politically you better side with me or I'm going to punish you by hurting you job-wise. And that is legally completely unfounded. I mean, he's got no base for that whatsoever. I mean, the government employees have the protections that are in place legally for themselves.
[15:10:07] But more than, I mean, I'm sure this was Bob's experience too. You know, I've worked at a high level serving the attorney general of the United States. The people who work at that level, they are very apolitical. They are very, very busy with day-to-day operations. There a lot of crisis going on. They are not political people. And the idea of trying to insert this political view point into it and tell them you better do what I say and support me, that's really quite preposterous, very disturbing.
WHITFIELD: And so Bob, are we at a point of no return, or do you see the President in some way being able to mend fences with, you know, the intelligence community, that he has a track record now of insulting?
BAER: I don't think. I think we're beyond the point of return. I think that as more evidence comes out in the Russia saga, the more it's going to look like a conspiracy and the more he's got to attack the intelligence community, its credibility. Doesn't matter whether it's the FBI, the CIA, or the Department of Justice. He's going to have to come after them in order to hold on to his presidency.
WHITFIELD: Bob Baer, thank you so much. Shan will standby. Thank you.
Still ahead in the Newsroom, Trump Attorney Rudy Giuliani saying truth isn't truth because he fears Robert Mueller's team could trap the President into a lie. Plus, National Security Adviser John Bolton warns the U.S. should fear at least four countries ahead of the November midterm elections. What's being done to prevent election meddling.
And Catholics celebrating Sunday mass for the first time since a grand jury report detailed shocking accusations of clergy sexual abuse spanning decades in Pennsylvania. Now the Pittsburgh bishop is pushing back on claims of a cover-up.
[15:16:07] WHITFIELD: You might call it team damage control, an effort today by the President and his Personal Attorney Rudy Giuliani to manage any potential fallout following a New York Times report about White House Attorney Don McGahn being interviewed in the Mueller investigation. The report detailing the White House Counsel has cooperated extensively in the Special Counsel investigation, providing as much as 30 hours of testimony in the last nine months. The President's Lawyer Rudy Giuliani saying this morning McGahn was encouraged to interview, and the White House knows exactly what he may have said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GIULIANI: We have a good sense, obviously, of what Mr. McGahn testified to. I can figure it out from --
CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST: How do you say that good sense? Have you debriefed him?
GIULIANI: No, no, but Mr. Dowd has a good sense of it. He talked to them at the time.
TODD: So you don't know what Mr. McGahn -- you don't know 100 percent of what he testified to, to Mr. Mueller?
GIULIANI: I think that through John Dowd, we have a pretty good sense of it. And John Dowd yesterday said, I'll use his words rather than mine, that McGahn was a strong witness for the President. So I don't need to know much more about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. The President tweeting out in part, "The failing New York Times wrote a story that made it seem like the White House Counsel had turned on the President, when in fact it is just the opposite." Then going on after the Mueller saying, "Study the late Joseph McCarthy because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby. Rigged witch hunt."
I want to bring back Shan Wu, he is a CNN Legal Analyst, former federal prosecutor, and also the former lawyer for Rick Gates. And Jack Quinn also joining us, a CNN Legal Analyst and former White House Counsel in the Clinton administration. All right, good to see you both.
So Jack, you first. The White House is not refuting that Don McGahn, you know, gave testimony. In fact, even saying the White House actually encouraged it. But with the President now coming out and being very critical of the report, as though the report says, you know, Don McGahn did this, you know, in some clandestine way, does this show that the White House or the President is very worried?
JACK QUINN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I can't tell if it, you know, if it shows he's worried or not. I think they should be worried, so I wouldn't be surprised if they are. First of all, you know, this is really an unusual thing, obviously. I can say that as a former White House Counsel, to be providing testimony of this kind.
It's clear from that report and from the fact that you stated that he's spoken to the Special Counsel for at least 30 hours that number one, he's being completely forthcoming. And number two, that he's giving detailed testimony as to what he observed, what conversations he was involved in, and that would include, of course, conversations with the President of the United States. This is a real rarity.
It's terribly important because, number one, he's giving this evidence in the absence of testimony, as we all know, from the President himself. So Don McGahn is filling in the blanks that Donald Trump has left out there on the advice of Mr. Giuliani. Secondly, it's really important because, and perhaps most important because of the effect that it has on others. I mean, people no doubt who have been involved in all these matters are observing the White House Counsel himself giving testimony.
If there's anything untoward going on, and I'm not suggesting that McGahn's testimony proves that, but if there is, others have to be standing by watching this and thinking, I don't want to be the last one standing. I don't want to be the last one to cooperate with the Special Counsel.
[15:20:10] I think what you're going to see here is frankly a rush to the door of the Special Counsel so that people who may have concerns about what they know, what they've observed are themselves being forthcoming with the investigation.
WHITFIELD: So when Rudy Giuliani says, you know, he thinks he knows how Don McGahn would have testified and he believes that he is a strong witness for the President, is that wishful thinking? Because Don McGahn is under oath, right, when testifying or being questioned. He just simply has to speak to the truth based on his eyewitness account. But it's not necessarily as an advocate or protector of the President, right?
QUINN: Right. And I'm not trying to be -- I don't want this to be taken as mean spirited, but I sincerely have to discount almost everything I hear Mr. Giuliani say because the internal inconsistencies in his defense have just been remarkable. And, you know, when he says things like the truth is not the truth, what can you make of this, and how much reliance can you put on what he's saying?
WHITFIELD: Well, in fact, let's listen to Rudy Giuliani say just that. Here it is.
GIULIANI: I'm not going to be rushed into having him testify so he gets trapped into perjury. And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he's going to tell the truth and shouldn't worry, well that's so silly because it's somebody's version of the truth, not the truth. He didn't have a conversation --
TODD: Truth is truth. I don't mean to go like --
GIULIANI: No, it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth. The President of the United States says, I didn't --
TODD: Truth isn't truth? Mr. Mayor, do you realize, what -- I --
GIULIANI: No, no, no --
TODD: This is going to become a bad me.
GIULIANI: Don't do this to me.
TODD: Don't do truth isn't truth to me.
GIULIANI: Donald Trump says I didn't talk about Flynn with Comey. Comey says you did talk about it. So tell me what the truth is.
TODD: Don McGahn might know.
GIULIANI: If you're such a genius, Don McGahn doesn't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. Shan, so what do you say to all that?
WU: A remarkable spectacle there. You know, I agree with Jack. It's very, very unusual, really bizarre circumstances. I mean, from the Times article, if McGahn was concerned that he is being set up, I mean, he's quite conflicted as duties at that point. He no longer trusts his employer, he no longer trust, you know, who he is being loyal to.
And to your point, Fred, He's absolutely not going in there as the counsel to the White House. He's going in there as a witness, so he's got to speak the truth. And really what's happening here is that as Giuliani waits longer, I mean, maybe this is part of his delay plan, but he's really giving more and more potential perjury traps to Mueller because now all these people are coming in to give insight into exactly what the President's intent was.
WHITFIELD: Yes. So that truth isn't, you know, truth, you know, made Chuck Todd put his, you know, head in his hands and even the former FBI Director, who was like, oh by the President tweeted in response to that. And this is what James Comey said. "Truth exists and truth matters. Truth has always been the touch stone of our country's justice system and political life. People who lie are held accountable. If we are untethered to truth, our justice system cannot function and a society biased on the rule of law dissolves."
So, Jack, I mean, it just seems like folks out of the woodwork particularly in the intelligence community are coming out strongly in so many different forms to say, wait a minute, people, something is really wrong here. Pay attention to everything here.
QUINN: Yes. I mean, yes, the intelligence community is obviously back on its heels, incredibly concerned about the attack on it. But look, if there's any logic or plausibility to what they're doing, they're trying to make this a political case. This is not something they're doing on the legal merits. They want to frame this as an attack on the President that is politically motivated when, in fact, it's not. They're doing everything they can to undermine law enforcement and the intelligence community because they know that therein lies a lot of the evidence against them.
So, they're really boxing themselves in, in a way. But look, the whole effort here is to make this a political matter, to make this an election matter, to hope that they can prevail in November on the basis of Robert Mueller and the so-called deep state, trying to destroy President Trump and all that he stands for. A lot of us don't believe that will be successful, entirely apart from how we may feel about whether it should be, but I think attacking the intelligence community and the most respected law enforcement agency on the face of the earth the way he has done, I think when all is said and done, this strategy is going to be a colossal failure.
[15:25:21] WHITFIELD: All right. Jack Quinn, Shan Wu, we'll leave it right there for now. Thanks so much, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
All right, straight ahead, a White House speechwriter with ties to white nationalists is now out of a job. A live report next.
[15:30:00] WHITFIELD: A speechwriter for President Trump who attended a 2016 white nationalist conference has left the White House. Darren Beattie confirmed to CNN that he spoke at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club Conference. That event is regularly attended by well-known white nationalists such as Richard Spencer, as you see there. Beattie says his speech there was not objectionable. The White House has confirmed his departure now.
Joining me right now, CNN KFile Senior Editor Andrew Kaczynski. So I understand the White House also asked you not to report this, for CNN to hold off on this reporting. Tell me more.
ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: So I reached out to the White House probably early last week asking about it. They told me they needed several days to look into it and talk to. And Thursday they told me they'd have something by Friday morning. All Friday I'm, you know, I'm pinging the White House Deputy Coms Director. He keeps telling me he'll get back to me and then, you know, very late Friday, he told me that he no longer worked at the White House.
Now, he wouldn't tell me when he left the White House because he said they don't comment on personnel matters, which is odd because they comment on personnel matters all the time. But he just said that he couldn't say when he left but his e-mail for the White House, which worked all last week, was deactivated on Friday.
WHITFIELD: And so do we know anything about the content of what Beattie may have said at that conference or how -- or what kinds of points of view might be injected into the material as a speech writer for the President?
KACYNSKI: So we don't know what he said at the conference other than the title of his speech, which was on the right and the intelligence. He, in other appearances of what -- that which are online, and there's, you know, a couple gatherings in them, he said he backed Trump from the beginning because of his position on immigration, which he said he really supported.
WHITFIELD: Andrew Kaczynski, thank you so much.
KACYNSKI: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: President Trump saying people need to be looking at other countries besides Russia that could target this year's midterm elections. And now his national security adviser has named four countries the U.S. is concerned could meddle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: U.S. officials are raising a red flag about several countries potentially trying to interfere in the upcoming midterm U.S. elections. Today National Security Adviser John Bolton said it's not just the Russians who could target U.S. elections. He added three more countries to the list of possible meddlers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOLTON: Well, I can say definitively that it's a sufficient national security concern about Chinese meddling, Iranian meddling, and North Korean meddling that we're taking steps to try and prevented. So all four of those countries really.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But have you seen anything in the past specifically to China?
BOLTON: Well I'm not going to get into what I've seen or haven't seen, but I'm telling you, looking at the 2018 election, those are the four countries that we're most concerned about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. With me now to discuss this is Juliette Kayyem, a CNN National Security Analyst and former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. So Juliette, do you believe that he is speaking to some knowledge, some evidence, that there's already some tampering coming from those other countries, or is this, you know, is he saying that there's a feeling that other countries are meddling? JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I hope if there is specific evidence that the people in charge of our election security certainly know about it, states and locals who are in charge of election have been briefed extensively about Russia in particular and how to protect the system. So if all of a sudden there is now some potential new threat, one would hope that people are being briefed about it. I have no reason to doubt concerns about other countries trying to, you know, wreak havoc let's say on our elections.
But one has to remember, the reason why they're likely doing it is because they've seen so little response by us about what Russia did in 2016. In other words, it's already happened. Russia's barely gotten punished. The President doesn't admit it. And we're hardly prepared for 2018. If you're a foreign entity, you've got to think this is, you know, a sweet spot for them in terms of (INAUDIBLE) or Democratic systems.
[15:40:08] WHITFIELD: How concerning is this for you then?
KAYYEM: So there's a couple things. I think it's really odd for the White House to be so forgiving about what Russia has done -- did in 2016. So imagine if we had spent the last two years actually hammering Russia about what it did, not just the sanctions, which are sort of forced upon the White House, but actually naming and shaming, preparing ourselves. I think we'd be looking at a very different 2018.
I think because there has been that vacuum, right, Russia did what it did. They've barely been harmed, the President in front of Putin in Helsinki doesn't, you know, says he -- basically sort of takes Putin's word for it. He then has to backtrack it. I think that that is a vulnerability that we should be worried about, that other countries will take advantage of it. It didn't need to be this way, so it's odd for the White House to now be surprised that other enemies or other countries are taking advantage of essentially a threat that we failed to close.
WHITFIELD: And the President just returned from a very high-profile summit on denuclearization with the leader of North Korea. And he's in the midst of an escalating trade war with China. So why would these countries risk upsetting the President and possible retaliation by interfering in U.S. elections?
KAYYEM: Yes. So I think that's exactly right. So, I mean, if Bolton has specific evidence, as I said, you know, I hope it's being shared with those in charge of election systems. But I would never put those other countries, in particular China, and, you know, the sophistication of North Korea in the same pool or so to speak as Russia. Russia is different.
Putin has said -- or knows that his strength is not from Russia's economy, is not from Russia's military. It is from making Democratic systems unstable. He was -- he did it perfectly in 2016, if you believe the intelligence community, and he did it in -- he tried to do it in Germany, in France, and elsewhere. And he is clearly already doing it in 2018. We know that because the government has admitted it.
So I would never put Russia in the same -- I would never dilute Russia's -- the concerns I have about Russia by putting it in the same camp as other countries. And I question why Bolton is doing that, right? In other words, if we don't take the real threat seriously, we're going to lose our eyes on the real enemy and dilute it by mentioning all these other countries.
WHITFIELD: Iran is also on the list. Surprise you?
KAYYEM: Yes. And, you know, as I said, you know, until I hear otherwise, I'm going to, you know, look at this with some skepticism. Iran's always on this administration's list as the boogie man and always of concern to them in ways that we haven't seen that kind of evidence. I think it would be in somewhat outside of their capacity, let alone outside of their capability and focus right now for Iran to be focusing on hacking our 2018 elections. There's only one country that wins and has a vested interest in showing that they could do it again, and that's clearly Russia.
So once again, do not put these other countries in the same pool as Russia because Russia has already done it in 2016. And diluting Russia's threat is just another piece of evidence that this administration does not take the Russia threat seriously as either Congress or as the intelligence community.
WHITFIELD: All right. Juliette Kayyem, we'll leave it there for now. Thanks so much.
All right. Still ahead, a sold-out show of the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees turns tragic in Oklahoma. More than a dozen fans are injured when a nasty storm moved in packing winds of up to 80 miles an hour. We'll talk to a woman who was at that concert next.
[15:48:21] WHITFIELD: At least 14 people were injured this weekend when a powerful storm toppled a metal entrance structure at a sold-out concert of the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees. The groups were set to perform at an outside venue in Thackerville, Oklahoma, when staff observed lightning, they began evacuating the crowd. But roughly 150 people stayed, not wanting to lose their places in line, as heavy rain and winds of up to 80 miles per hour hit the area. The show was eventually canceled.
With me now, Sydney Stavinoha, she was at the concert, and joining me right now on the phone. So how are you doing, Sydney?
SYDNEY STAVINOHA, THACKERVILLE, OKLAHOMA: I'm good. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: So what was it like? Describe, you know, just moments before this bad weather rolled in what you all were expecting.
STAVINOHA: It was definitely a scary moment. I was in the parking lot with my parents in our car, and we were on the front row right in front of where everyone lines up to go into the venue. And so we had a clear shot of where the accident took place. And then the storm blew through and there were heavy winds, rain, lightning and it was hard to even see out of the windows of our car, because the rain was coming down so hard. And then out of nowhere, emergency vehicles started to pulling into the parking lot, and we knew something was really bad.
And then we saw that the sign had fallen over on top of people. And they actually had to get a forklift to lift the sign off of them to get them out from underneath it.
[15:50:01] WHITFIELD: Wow. So this is very frightening. How worried were you, you know, about where you were and what could happen next?
STAVINOHA: We were very worried, because we started seeing people getting wheeled out on stretchers just one after another. And you could see that some of them had head wounds, neck wounds, and some of them walked out to the ambulances to get treated, and many of them were taken to hospitals, and it was just -- it was a really scary sight. It was gut-wrenching.
WHITFIELD: So you mentioned that you were in your vehicle and a spokesperson for the venue said that, you know, just before, you know, things started falling, they actually tried to the evacuate the area, and you'll get a lot of people out of, you know, harm's way. Did you see that happening? Is that why you were in your car? Was this, you know, your idea of getting out of harm's way? Describe all of that for me.
STAVINOHA: We decided not to get out of the car, because it started raining, but I also didn't see anyone trying to evacuate the people. So I'm not sure if there was an announcement made or not, but we weren't told anything.
WHITFIELD: Well, Sydney Stavinoha, thank you so much. I'm so glad you are safe. I know that was so frightening moments there.
STAVINOHA: Yes. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, reaction this Sunday to the horrifying accusations of sexual abuse at six Catholic diocese in Pennsylvania. What parishioners and the Pittsburgh Bishop are saying about in alleged cover-up by the church leaders, next.
[15:55:40] WHITFIELD: Catholics in Pennsylvania are attending Sunday mass for first time since the release of that explosive report detailing decades of sexual abuse of children, by priests and cover- ups by bishops. Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik apologize again today to the victim saying he has no plans to stepdown, and insisting the church today is not the church in the grand jury report. Zubik also denied he was involved in covering up abuse by offering to pay for one victim's college tuition and counseling if the victim agreed to not talk about the abuse publicly.
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BISHOP DAVID ZUBIK, ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH: That was an allegation that was brought forward after the person who was alleged to have committed abuse was in fact deceased. I think that we have taken a position that the diocese of Pittsburgh since 2002, not to do any confidentiality agreements, but we needed to be able to assert whether or not the alleged behavior did in fact occur. And that was part of the discussions have placed in that particularly case.
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WHITFIELD: CNN's Polo Sandoval has been talking with Catholics in Pittsburgh as they come and go from mass today. So, what are you hearing?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, a reporter point out that about a third of the clergy members who were listed in that report were from this diocese. So as you may imagine what Catholics in Pittsburgh say matters. It's an important part of the conversation here. They've obviously had some time to read over that report that was released by the attorney general last week. They have read over those very disturbing details, and it's been their -- it was their first Sunday mass since the release of that document.
Today, we found some mixed reaction here, Fred. There were some of those who felt that they were quite satisfied with the way the bishop, here the head of the diocese has handled this. Then there more others who say it is going to take some time for the church to try to win back their trust.
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ELLEN AHMAD, CATHOLIC PARISHIONER: It's gut-wrenching and so sad. As a Catholic, I'm ashamed, I'm so sorry. And to the victims, my heartfelt sorrow and my prayers and, you know, just I hope they can get over this.
FRANK GLIOZZI, CATHOLIC PARISHIONER: Initially, a lot of hurt personally being a lifelong Catholic, but at the same time, just a lot of prayer and hope that whoever was offended by this, that they have a full measure of healing and also for the bishops involved, everyone involved that things will be resolved in a good manner.
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SANDOVAL: There was something that most of the faithful did have in common and that is that they all felt that their faith is one thing, and of course the institution is another, they are, of course, are willing to criticize the institution, call out the flaw, we've seen here. But at the same time, almost everybody that we spoke to say that their faith is not wavered and remain steadfast, that would brought them back to church today,
And finally, Fred, the main topic of the conversation during today's homily was of course these allegations, everything that is spelled out in that very lengthy report from the attorney general here in Pennsylvania. Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much. We have so much more straight ahead in the Newsroom and it will starts right now.
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