Return to Transcripts main page


September 11 Attacks Remembered; COVID Model Predicts 415,000 Deaths by January; New COVID Model: Deaths Could Reach 415,000 By Jan.; Senior Prosecutor Resigns From Justice Dept. Probe Of FBI's Russia Investigation; Deadly, Fast-Moving Wildfires Ravage West Coast; Boos During Moment Of Unity At NFL Opener. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 11, 2020 - 20:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Erin, thanks so much. Good evening. Looking out at Lower Manhattan at the end of the day that by this afternoon became much like it was on this day, 19 years ago, blue skies and soft breezes.

I want to show you the two beams of blue light, a reminder of the Twin Towers, the World Trade Center that fell that morning, and the twin columns of smoke that rose for what seemed like days after.

Even now, on just about any mild September day, it's impossible not to be reminded, even if it's only for a moment of what happened where that light shines, all the lives lost and the attacks, all the first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice, running straight into what was nothing less than hell on earth, save others.

Today, as it has been for every September 11, since then, each and every name of the fallen was spoken. Only this time during the pandemic, they were pre-recorded by family members.

Even all of these years later, it never gets easier but anyone who remembers the trauma possibly also remembers the comforting and reassuring words of then Mayor Rudy Giuliani that day. He was known up to that point for being sharp tempered, abrasive, sometimes even abusive.

In the middle of such chaos and fear, he was none of those things. He showed leadership. Speaking in gentle tones, he did not soften or gloss over or play down the harsh facts of what had just happened or the horror is yet to come. As the death toll rose.

And in those terrible moments with the city and country still too shocked to grieve his honesty, provided comfort, some measure of calm, being told the facts plainly and simply relieved us all the worst possible burden to carry in addition to everything else that day, which is the fear of the unknown and the suspicion of being kept in the dark about it.

Rudy Giuliani back then spoke like he understood that notion. President Bush must have known it to later that month when he spoke to Congress and signaled to Americans that what would follow might not be quick or easy.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, this war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory, and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago where no ground troops were used, and not a single American was lost in combat.

Our response involves for more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.


COOPER: He told the truth there. Mayor Giuliani told the truth. Winston Churchill spoke plainly about setbacks in the Second World War and the prospect of a German invasion as did Franklin Roosevelt about the Great Depression.

This is what leaders do. It's what brings people of all persuasions across the political spectrum together in those times, if perhaps only for a short time.

Truth is a powerful weapon in any great endeavor. It depends -- any great endeavor -- depends on truth and trust.

Yet President Trump who likes to compare himself to great leaders doesn't seem to understand all of that. He lies to us and then gets caught in the lie and then he lies about lying.

He appears to think we are all suckers. That word that he uses with great frequency, losers, suckers.

Nineteen years after 9/11 and six months the day since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, the evidence is clear. The President has lied repeatedly to the country about it. And this week, we learned from listening to what he told journalist, Bob Woodward that he lied while knowing the facts about how deadly the virus is, how easily it spread and that even young people are vulnerable.

We heard him admit that he downplayed the threat and prefers downplaying the threat, which is what he has done and we have all suffered for it.

According to Columbia University, tens of thousands of our fellow Americans may not have died if social distancing guidelines were put into place two weeks earlier, even a week earlier.

Imagine how different life today might be had the President told Americans exactly what he told Bob Woodward back on February 7th.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It goes through air, Bob, that's always tougher than the touch. You know, the touch, you don't have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that's how it's passed and so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one.

It's also more deadly than your -- you know -- your even your strenuous flus.


COOPER: You think how different today might look if he'd simply said all that publicly back then, February 7th. Imagine a battle in which people across the political spectrum were all armed with the same set of facts or a world in which wearing a mask was a patriotic, not a partisan act, because everybody heard the President saying the virus is airborne, and everybody saw the President wearing a mask, and rallied all of us to fight this virus together, masked up, distance.


COOPER: Yes, socially distanced, but together. Imagine a Federal government able to respond coherently and effectively because of a focused message from the top.

In other words, in other countries, people don't have to imagine that. We do, but in other countries, they don't. All of this actually happened. In South Korea where fewer than 400 people have died. Not 400,000, fewer than 400 people have died.

At one point early on, we were on the same path with South Korea. We faced the same virus. Now the President likes to compare himself to great leaders from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on down, is trying to explain away his dishonesty with us, with the American people about a virus that's now killed more than 192,000 of us, the American people by saying, well, that's simply how leaders lead.


TRUMP: They wanted me to come out and scream, people are dying with that. No, no, we did it just the right way. We have to be calm. We don't want to be crazed lunatics. We have to lead.


COOPER: He is saying that while screaming and sweating. Keeping them honest, no one was asking the President to scream like a crazed lunatic that people are dying. No screams are necessary. But you know what it is, honesty and trust.

Rudy Giuliani, he didn't scream back then when he was mayor. He certainly does now. George Bush didn't scream. Barack Obama did not act like a crazed lunatic when talking about the loss of life at Sandy Hook or Mother Emanuel Church or the threat of Ebola.

But the President did not stop at that straw man argument, oh, they wanted me to scream. Whoever wants somebody to scream? He also ducked responsibility for repeatedly lying about the virus by trying to lay it off on the one person he told the truth to.


TRUMP: If Bob Woodward thought what I said was bad, then he should have immediately right after I said it gone out to the authorities so they can prepare and let them know. But he didn't think it was bad and he said he didn't think it was bad.


COOPER: Look, you can criticize Bob Woodward for not immediately publishing the interview. You can take issue with that. But just stop and think about the argument the President of the United States is making right there, just for a moment, just focus on what the President is saying.

Bob Woodward, he is saying he should have told the authorities. He should have reported the President of the United States to the authorities.

I'm not sure if President Trump is aware of this, but he is the frickin' authorities. He is the President of the United States. He is the one with the power to demand time on national television to tell people exactly what he told Bob Woodward.

He just didn't care to, which he admitted to Woodward in a later conversation saying he always preferred to, quote, "play it down" just like other great leaders, according to him.


TRUMP: When Hitler was bombing, I don't know if you know this, when Hitler was bombing London, Churchill, a great leader would oftentimes go to a roof in London and speak and he always spoke with calmness. He said, we have to show calmness.

As the British government advised the British people in the face of World War II, keep calm and carry on. That's what I did.


COOPER: Okay, to keeping them honest, Churchill did not broadcast from the rooftops as the bombs fell. He didn't.

Edward R. Murrow is known for that, other CBS reporters, others did that. Edward R. Murrow was a reporter. Churchill was a leader. He was actually, you know, leading. He was making difficult decisions, and when he did speak to the country, yes, he was strong, and he was calm, and he rallied the country. But he did not do that by downplaying some hard truths about what lay ahead.

Here's a tweet from Churchill biographer, Jon Meacham from today, citing Churchill himself on this very subject, Churchill said, and I quote, "The British people can face any misfortune with fortitude and buoyancy, as long as they are convinced that those in charge of their affairs are not deceiving them or not dwelling in a fool's paradise." Do you look at President Trump and honestly say, there is no way that

man would deceive me? Do you? Do you look at him and say there's no way he's dwelling in a fool's paradise?


COOPER: He's a realist. He sees things as they actually are and he doesn't lie about them. It should be also noted, by the way, the British government never as the President claims told the public to keep calm and carry on.

The posters saying that were printed, but never used. They were only rediscovered about 20 years ago and they've become popular since then. The President doesn't read, he wouldn't know that.

As for the whole preventing panic thing, the whole speaking calmly just like Churchill thing, this President has done everything he can to create fear and division and panic. This is what he does.

He's done it long before he ever ran for President, but he has certainly done it from the moment he came down that escalator. Take a look.


TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They bring in drugs. They bring in crime. They're rapists.

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

Right now, you walk down the street, you get shot.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

And they've got a lot of rough people in those caravans. They are not angels.

They want to destroy your suburbs, rioters and vandals. Rampaging through all -- in all cases, Democrat-run cities.

You'll have crime like you've never seen.


COOPER: For as long as we've known, Donald Trump is a public figure who has acted as though he believes leadership consists of scaring the crap out of people, not leveling with them. And that includes that last soundbite you just heard. It came just moments before he praised himself as a leader by comparing himself to the real thing.

Perspective now from CNN's senior political commentator and former senior Obama adviser, David Axelrod; also CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein, like his former partner, Bob Woodward, investigative reporter, and prolific author, joining us as well, CNN chief political analysts, Gloria Borger.

So, Gloria, I mean, you know, you think back in 1988 when Dan Quayle compared himself to John F. Kennedy, his opponent, Lloyd Bentsen, you know, had the famous retort, you know, I knew John F. Kennedy. John F. Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you know, John F. Kennedy.

You know, if Churchill's contemporaries were still alive, they'd certainly be saying something similar to the President tonight. I'm not sure why they're saying why the President continues to compare himself to great leaders and then has no idea what they actually did or how they did it.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. First of all, let's say that Donald Trump is the complete polar opposite of Winston Churchill and his contemporaries would say that and you quoted Winston Churchill and he told the public he had nothing to offer but blood, sweat, toil and tears.

And what is Donald Trump offering? He is offering lies to the American public? I have no doubt that if he were not on tape in Woodward's book, and we have yet to hear all the tapes, Anderson, but if he were not on tape, he'd be calling it a hoax. He'd be saying, Bob Woodward is lying about what I said.

But the facts now are incontrovertible. It is on tape. The President has lied to the American public. He knew in February 7th how difficult this COVID was going to be and what did he do? He wanted to act like it was mission accomplished for one reason only.

He didn't want to shut down the country because he was worried that he would not win reelection. You can't get control of the economy, we've all learned in a very difficult way these past six months without getting control of COVID.

And so he abdicated his responsibility, and now and you played the clip what he is trying to do is blame Democrats and the governors of Democratic states, and remember way back, Donald Trump was trying not to make too many decisions on this, leaving it to the governors and then to criticize the governors, blaming it on blue state governors in case there are any issues with COVID going forward.

So he is claiming mission accomplished. He is trying to divert the public, and he hasn't done his job. It's a complete abdication.

COOPER: You know, David, you know better than -- certainly I do about how government works and how the White House works and leadership works. But it seems to me it wasn't just that the President was deceiving the American people and downplaying it to the American people.

That was a message which clearly went out to everybody in the government to everybody at, you know, C.D.C. at -- you know, or at least to the leadership, and they began to bend to what the President's tone was and what the President's message was. The C.D.C. would downplay, you know, would rewrite guidelines based on

criticism from the President, the F.D.A., you know, has embarrassed itself.

I mean, it's not just that he was lying to the people, it is that he was enforcing that across all the arms of government.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it is to this day, I mean, we're still getting distorted guidance from the C.D.C., which is unthinkable.

I mean, one of the real tragedies and dangers of this administration has been the subjugation of all our institutions to the President's political needs, and this has certainly been the case on this and you wonder about the Vice President who was put in charge of the Coronavirus Task Force, had access to all this information, understood how serious it was, and told us in April that would be -- this would be in the rearview mirror by Memorial Day, without any grounding that say that.

And you know, one of the things that we've witnessed, which is really devastating is a President who is running the government that's supposed to be responding to this virus. And at the very same time is leading the resistance to the guidance that public health officials were giving to try and save people's lives.

And all it comes down to what Dr. Fauci said in Bob Woodward's book, which is the only thing he cares about his reelection. And he thought that reelection meant keeping this on the down low, so that the market wouldn't be spooked and the economy was being attacked because his narrative was that he had delivered great economic gains to the country and he saw that going down the chute.

And so that was what was on his mind, not the lives that might be lost, not the suffering, and one last thing I want to say about this, Anderson, you talk about the leaders who we saw come forward in 9/11, but there also were -- and you mentioned it, but just as today, there were people rushed into danger, sacrificed their own lives, their own safety to help others.

That's something this President doesn't honor or understand. That's why he calls fallen soldiers, suckers and losers. He does not understand being about something larger than yourself, and that is a terrible quality in a leader, especially at a time of crisis.

COOPER: Carl, I mean, you know, just how about being just a normal human being of decent spirit? And as opposed to somebody who is -- I mean, I know he has, -- you know, this is what he's built his career on, his lies and fabulous talk, but, you know, he is President and it's -- and people are dying.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, there's no evidence in his life, especially his public life of decent impulse and that's what we've seen in this presidency through all of the lying. This really is a criminal presidency with a criminal President. And

we've seen the criminality as never before in his negligence, as revealed in Bob Woodward's book and on tape, the smoking gun tape of this President's felony, the greatest felony, perhaps by any President in our history, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths.

Let's take a breath, a deep breath all of us and look at fact and truth here about what's happened. There's never been anything like this kind of abdication of responsibility and decency, as you put it.

This is a President of the United States who put his own narrow reelection effort interests in front of the health and welfare of every American, endangered the lives of every American, encouraged a pandemic to take through the air instead of trying to fight that pandemic because he cannot confront the truth and tell the American people the truth, because he has abdicated his responsibility and is criminally negligent.

COOPER: It's also certainly -- because I mean, he talks about, you know, he doesn't want people to panic. What it tells me is he was panicking and assumed everybody else would panic when in fact Americans do not panic.

Americans rise to the occasion when told the truth and are willing to do what is necessary as long as they have confidence, trust and truth in front of them.

David Axelrod, Carl Bernstein, and Gloria Borger, thank you very much.

Coming up next, breaking news, new and higher estimate how many more Americans could lose their lives in this President's watch and man, how many times have we said that before? The estimates are higher. They are again now.

Later, a report from the western fire lines three states now, facing some of the worst conditions they have ever seen.


COOPER: Some breaking news tonight. It's grim. A new COVID forecast from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 415,000 deaths by the first of the year. That is the projection. A likely scenario and it's up from the previous estimate.

Joining me now is I.H.M.E. Director, Chris Murray and CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Dr. Murray, this new estimate more than double the amount of deaths in this country right now. It's up 5,000 deaths from your estimate just a week ago for the same time. How did you get to this number?

DR. CHRIS MURRAY, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON'S INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: Well, you know, people think that because the case numbers are sort of going down in the last three to four weeks, deaths are sort of being pretty flat that the epidemic is over. It is certainly not. And when we look ahead into the winter with seasonality kicking in,

people becoming clearly less vigilant, so you know, mask use is down, mobility is up in the nation. You put all of those together and we look like we're going to have a very deadly December ahead of us in terms of the toll of coronavirus.

COOPER: A deadly December.

MURRAY: Absolutely.

COOPER: Sanjay, I mean, yes -- I know you have questions for the doctor?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, I'm curious when you look at these models, Dr. Murray, you do have -- it's a range. There's a best-case scenario and I guess, a worst case scenario, and this is sort of the midrange, the numbers that you're talking about now.

But what factors into that? I know you've talked about masks. How much of a difference does it make? New therapeutics, possibly a vaccine. What is the best and worst-case scenario with these things?


MURRAY: Well, the worst-case scenario is if we -- our governments, state and Federal and ourselves do nothing as things get worse as the winter comes upon us. And so, people just ignore the virus, go about work and school, and that's where we get the really scary numbers in December.

You know, essentially, we go back to that notion of what was happening to New York in the early part of the epidemic, but everywhere. Our forecast is where we assume that people will respond, but only when things get really bad, and that's when we build in the idea that state governments, when in each state, the hospitals start to become overwhelmed, the death rate gets high. They'll put back in place mandates, and that's where we come up with our 415,000 deaths figure.

And the best scenario, at least given what we know about vaccines and therapeutics today, our best scenario is if we can get mask use up to 95 percent and then we can avoid a lot of this death.

COOPER: Ninety five percent wears masks right now. I mean, I think the last time we talked to you, I think what you said it was -- well, what is it now?

MURRAY: Well, unfortunately, mask use is slipping below 45 percent in the U.S., and you know, the trend has just been down. So, it's really disturbing that as we head into the fall, because people think things are over, they are being less careful.

We're seeing it in the mobility data. We're seeing it in the mask use. And so we're making the wrong choices right now for what's ahead of us. COOPER: So, I mean, you're saying 95 percent, you know, if we get mask

use up to 95 percent that would be great. That's like saying, I mean, if we're below 45 percent, now and falling, saying we oh, well, if we got to 95 percent, I mean, that's like saying, you know, I'm going to get as big as you know, Chris Cuomo is.

I mean, it's not going to happen, like no matter how much -- and I'm going to try to work out a lot to make that happen, but it's not going to happen. There's no way if Americans aren't doing this now, Sanjay, I mean, how do we get to 95 percent?

GUPTA: People seem to talk about this like it's in the rearview mirror. I don't know, Dr. Murray, how much you sort of look into people's motivations or what's inspiring them to behave or not behave a certain way. But I keep hearing this. You know, it's almost like talking about the COVID in the past tense as if it's over. And I'm not sure why.

COOPER: But Sanjay, I mean, I'll tell you --

GUPTA: At one point we're being serious about it.

COOPER: I mean, one reason why, I mean, the President just told people that we're rounding a corner with COVID-19 cases. I mean, what we're just hearing tonight, we may be rounding a corner, but there's like a pit with spikes at the bottom of it that we're about to fall into.

I just want to play what Dr. Fauci said when he was asked about the President's comments.


FAUCI: I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with that, because if you look at the thing that you just mentioned, the statistics, Andrea, they're disturbing. You know, we're plateauing at around 40,000 cases a day, and the deaths are around a thousand.


COOPER: So, Sanjay, I mean, it's rare for him to directly contradict the President, but it tells you how serious it is.

GUPTA: Yes, it is rare and I will say I've noticed a change in tone, I think from several members of the Taskforce including Dr. Fauci becoming a little bit more emboldened, even Admiral Giroir yesterday or two days ago now saying, we absolutely need more tests before he was saying we can't test our way out of this.

Francis Collins, you and I interviewed him last night. He was pretty forthright about this as well, but the numbers and the data don't lie. I mean, I think that's the point that Dr. Fauci is making.

I mean, we may see some improvements in some areas. Dr. Murray has always made this point that, you know, you start to redline an area and then suddenly people start paying attention. But one of the big concerns and we can look back a hundred years. We

can show this graph and I'm always a little hesitant to show this graph, because it's alarming. But if you look at these various peaks, back -- going back to 1918, you had that first peak. And then it was really that second peak going into the season that we're going into now that was so problematic.

And again, for all sorts of different reasons, you could see they were able to bring the numbers really down before they went into that second peak. We haven't been able to do that even so far in this pandemic. So, I think that's really what's driving these concerns.

COOPER: While -- let's keep that graphic up. I just -- I'm not good at reading graphics, just tell us what we're looking at. That first bump, that was the first reaction to the Spanish flu and then it went down and then it's the second bump is --


COOPER: It is the wall up and then it went down and then there was another big wall.

GUPTA: That's right and this is over time. You know, the X axis is months and you can see, I can't read it exactly ...

COOPER: 1918-1919.

GUPTA: ... but I think it's the fall there of that year. Yes, and then that second peak is sort of the fall of 1918 and you could see how significant that was and everyone keeps talking about the potential twin-demic now going into the fall of this year because of coronavirus and flu potentially superimposed on one another.

And I do wonder, Dr. Murray, is that part of what's driving these numbers as well because hospitals will certainly become fuller with flu patients even aside from COVID?


CHRIS MURRAY, DIRECTOR, UNIV. OF WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS & EVALUATION: You know, the challenge of the twindemic as you said, is certainly something that all the hospital administrators that we talk to are very concerned about. There was some good news from Australia and New Zealand that they because of all the actions to protect against COVID they had a pretty mild flu season. But it's another reason why, you know, the people being vigilant, avoiding contact wearing a mask can actually address both of those as well as of course getting the flu shot.

COOPER: Dr. Murray. Sanjay, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

One quick programming note, tomorrow morning. CNN and Sesame Street are teaming up together for town hall for families, The ABCs of Back to School. It's an hour special instinct safe in classrooms making the most of virtual learning. That's tomorrow, 10:00 a.m. Eastern right here. More breaking news, ahead a sudden departure of the on the Justice Department's legal team investigating the Russia investigation and growing concern the reason was political pressure from the top.



COOPER: It's breaking news tonight. The investigation ordered by President Trump's Attorney General William Barr into the origins of the FBI's Trump Russia probe. A sudden key departure from the Justice Department's legal team and the report reason behind that departure has renewed criticism from Democrats that the probe is a phishing expedition, time to benefit the President's reelection campaign.

Our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is here with the latest. So what do we know about the prosecutor who resigned?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, her name is Nora Dannehy, Anderson. And the U.S. Attorney's Office in Hartford, Connecticut, said that she did resign. What they're not saying is exactly why now the Hartford Current newspaper, which first reported her departure said that she told colleagues that it was because of political pressure. She felt that there was political pressure for the Durham investigation. She was working under John Durham, the prosecutor there to deliver something before the November election.

Now, Durham is looking into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. And it is something that obviously the President has been eagerly anticipating his campaign has been sort of anticipating and hoping for some kind of October surprise from Durham. We don't know exactly whether that's going to be the case or not. But Dannehy, we know is highly regarded Anderson and her departure was certainly a surprise.

COOPER: And are there any details from officials at the Department of Justice on how the probe into the FBI is Russia investigation is going?

PEREZ: Yes, look, there's a lot of skepticism that there's going to be any other big shooter drop and a big indictment from this investigation. We already saw a low-level FBI lawyer who got indicted for falsifying an e-mail that was used in the investigation. We don't -- nobody's expecting any big revelations here. It's going to be very harsh criticism. We expect of some of the officials that ran the investigation in 2016 and 2017. But, you know, look, we also expect Anderson, that it's going to go well past November. So the question is, is there pressure to produce something an interim report a halftime report for Bill Barr before November. That is the big question that would be highly unusual even in the -- these abnormal times that we live in.

COOPER: Yes, Evan Perez, tanks for much appreciate it.

Here with perspective, two men who tangled President Trump called the Justice Department. Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now CNN senior legal analyst. And Andrew McCabe, former FBI Deputy Director, currently a CNN contributor.

Preet, what do you make of this prosecutor's departure? And, you know, the reported concerns behind it.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Prosecutors leave coming to office, leave office, Nora Dannehy very well respected as Evan said, are all of her colleagues within the Justice Department and outside. She and I overlapped. She was the acting U.S. Attorney in Connecticut in 2009-2010 when I was in the Southern District of New York. But if it is true, that the reason for her departure, as has been suggested by the reporting is because of political pressure from Bill Barr and perhaps others. That's a real problem. That's a difficult thing to take as someone who loves the Justice Department. Anytime a Justice Department official resigns for a reason like that in protest, if that's true, is a significant problem. And it's not the first time we've seen it. We saw all four line prosecutors in the Roger Stone case, withdraw and Bill Barr interfered with the sentencing decision there.

So continue with the problem it's not just one case. There's a track record of this. And I think it's something people should be very, very concerned about.

COOPER: Andrew, I mean, if this does all just happen to come out right before the election, whatever it is, even if the investigation especially the investigation itself is not over. I mean, that would certainly you could say, lend credence to or just be evidence of the political nature or the, you know, the alleged political nature of this.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. That's right. And, you know, look, I think we've all had a number of reasons to question the legitimacy or the possible intrusion of politics into this investigation, certainly the comments of the Attorney General himself. The repeated references by the President to, you know, almost calling for a particular outcome in the case. And I should say also, Mr. Durham's own comments after the conclusion of the inspector general's investigation into the Russia, into the Russia case, all those things are reasons for people to think that politics might be playing a role here.

Now, if it is true that this prosecutor who has a sterling reputation, who is a long time and very close associate of John Durham, who left her other position and came on with him for the purpose of working this case, if it's true that she has now left to part of the investigation in her DOJ assignment, because of her concern about politics, that is a very, very damaging confirmation of what we've all worried about, and it's the type of thing that will greatly undermine whatever results Mr. Durham finally produces whenever that might take.


COOPER: Preet, I mean, is there historical precedent for how much Attorney General Barr seems to run interference for President Trump? The Mueller report, the Lafayette Park protests, the Michael Flynn case, the E. Jean Carroll lawsuit, the Durham report?

BHARARA: I'm not aware of one. There have been from time to time, you know, suggestions that particular attorneys general, have done things to protect the president. That allegation is made, you know, not that infrequently. This is something different altogether. All the examples you mentioned, I think are items of great concern. And then this one, when people have talked about this general norm and policy and tradition and practice of not trying to do something on the eve of an election, so it's not to unduly influence the election. With that general norm and tradition is about is if you have a good faith investigation going on, that involves politics or a particular politician or an election, and you happen to be done with that in investigation, if it's really close to an election, you should consider withholding until after the election. That's one thing. That's the norm that people have been talking about.

If these suggestions here are true, this is a lot worse than that. What's much worse than the thing that I've described is if you have someone in the Justice Department, and certainly even worse, if it's the Attorney General at the behest of the President, pressuring someone to bring something before an election for the purpose of affecting the election. And what not that's true. The President of United States has made it clear that that is his desire, that is his wish. And on many other occasions, the attorney general has made clear that he likes to do the President's bidding. So, the combination of those things makes for -- I think, a very, very bad look for the Justice Department for the President and for the rule of law.

COOPER: Andrew with -- I mean, all these kinds of norms broken does this do -- it regardless of what happens in this particular election? I mean, do we is -- are we able to go back to a system where, you know where there is faith in institutions?

MCCABE: Well, I think for the reasons that Preet mentioned, it's incredibly corrosive. It makes the jobs of the FBI agents and the U.S. attorneys around this country harder every single day when the public continues to lose faith in the very institutions that we rely on to protect our democracy. Can it be restored? It absolutely can. It needs the right leadership from the President to the Attorney General and on down and I don't think we have that right leadership today.

COOPER: Andrew McCabe, Preet Bharara, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up next, the dire new development in the West Coast wildfires, it's just extraordinary what's going on. Preparations in Oregon for what one official call a possible mass fatality incident.



COOPER: An update now the wildfires have consumed the West Coast and where tonight Oregon officials say they're preparing for a quote mass fatality incident. Tens of thousands of firefighters and support personnel trying to contain fires that are destroying entire communities. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, hundred large fires and burn more than 4.5 million acres in 12 states. In California alone, when 3 million acres have burned so far, it's 26 times higher than the number of acres burned by this time last year.

Sara Sidner has the story from Monrovia which is just outside of Los Angeles.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Massive wildfires from Southern California to Washington State. Nearly the entire West Coast of the United States is now covered in smoke. In California infamous for its infernos, five of the largest fires ever recorded in the state are burning now. Firefighters are battling California's biggest blaze in history in the northern part of the state. None of these big fires are close to containment. Just a week after record temperatures reached 121 degrees in Los Angeles.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): This is a climate damn emergency. This is real.

SIDNER (voice-over): Governor Gavin Newsom is declaring he is done debating deniers of climate science.

NEWSOM: When you have temperatures, record breaking temperatures, record droughts and you've got something else at play. What we're experiencing right here is coming to community all across the United States unless we disabuse ourselves of all the BS that's being spewed by a very small group of people.

SIDNER (voice-over): Newsome says firefighters from as far away as Canada and Israel are on the way to help.

JEFF BRITTON, FIRE CAPTAIN, SAN BERNARDINO CO.: This canyon has not burned in recorded history. So it is a powder cave.

SIDNER (voice-over): One Northern California fire has already claimed at least 10 lives this week. More than a dozen are unaccounted for.

DENISE HENDRICKSON, EVACUATED FROM FIRE: We watch these trees right there beside us go up and then embers flying across the lake.

SIDNER (voice-over): At this Butte County shelter. Denise Hendrickson says she jumped into a lake to survive.

HENDERICKSON: Eight of us had to go down to the end of our road, go into the sand and get down in the water to avoid the fire.

SIDNER (voice-over): Statewide, the fires are burning 1,000 acres every 30 seconds. Turning day into night this week in San Francisco.

In Oregon, destroyed neighborhoods are stained pink with fire retardant. While some 10% of the population is evacuating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We came here a year ago after leaving the paradise fire. Lost everything then so there's not much to lose now I guess for us, but god, this is terrible.


SIDNER (voice-over): Contrasting satellite images show entire communities in the city of Phoenix, Oregon, now reduced to a little more than ash. In Washington State, more acres have been burned in the last three days then in all of last year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never seen any prints like this in my life in your lifetime.

SIDNER (voice-over): The entire town of Malden is now gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is very devastating to our town. We have no chance.


SIDNER: And back here in Monrovia you can see the smoke and you can see the smoke across this entire state. It has been raining down ambers it has been raining down ash for more than a week now. And just to give you an idea Anderson of just the size and scope of all this in California alone, the fires that are burning, the acreage that is burning is about double the size of the state of Delaware. Anderson?

COOPER: Sara Sidner, thanks. Unbelievable.

Still to come, boos at the NFL his first game during a moment of unity as players lock arms for social justice. NBA champion and TNT basketball analyst Kenny Smith, who famously walked off the set of his own show in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting joins me to talk about athletes protest.


COOPER: Last month, former NBA champion Kenny Smith walked off the set of his TNT show in solidarity with players who boycotted the NBA Playoffs in the wake at the Jacob Blake shooting, here's that moment.



KENNY SMITH, ANALYST FOR NBA ON TNT: And for me, I think the biggest thing now is to kind of as a black man, as a former player, I think it's best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight. And figure out what happens after that. I just don't feel (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I respect it.


COOPER: The spotlight is now turned to professional football last night, some of the limited number of fans allowed at the NFLs first game of the season appeared to boo a pre-game moment of unity between players the visiting Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs. Need to point out the boos lasts about five to 10 seconds while the players were locking arms. Once the chain was formed, the crowd applauded.

Perspective now from Kenny Smith.

Kenny, thanks so much for joining us. I just want to start with what we just watched, which was when you walked off the set at the end of August, it was such a visible and powerful moment of solidarity. I'm wondering, given the time that's passed how you look at that moment now, and if things have changed for you in any way, professionally or personally?

SMITH: Well, I think overall, Anderson, you know, thanks for having me. But um, I think the one thing that I did understand as the moment was happening, it was nothing that was pre conceived. It was like, as a moment was happening, I thought it was the right thing to do. Because sometimes I feel like, you need to talk about the march. And sometimes you need to join the march, so to speak. And I just felt that it was a join the march moment, if the players was going to sit out, I thought in terms of solidarity and what they were believing in and why they were doing it. And we're talking about the social justice and all the things that go on in our country that we love so dearly. I thought it was important for me to participate.

And now looking back at it, I feel real confident, more than anything else. I have kids Anderson and my 12-year-old son Malloy (ph), you know, he didn't, I didn't get to talk to him. So, I FaceTime them. And as soon as I FaceTime them Malloy was doing was this. So I was like, oh, man, he gets it. He understood and this is what I want to raise him to understand. My older kids, you know, they understood but him that was big for me.

COOPER: It's extremely how -- in there, people who are fighting for change in their lifetime, often or in the time that they are fighting the hardest. Generally, society is not on their side. You -- we it's only in retrospect, that people look back and say, oh, that what that person did was extraordinary. Muhammad Ali is a perfect example. I mean, when Muhammad Ali was started speaking out and, you know, refusing to go to Vietnam and all the things he did. I mean, he was he was reviled by much of white society.

SMITH: This is the first time I think collectively worldwide, not this is this, this has not just been in America, this is worldwide, where people who aren't being affected on a daily basis by systemic racism, or any kind of racism or social injustice, they're all feeling a way about it, collectively. So, I think in terms of history, we will see a great mark on the young, this young generation who just says, no, we just want equality, and we want equality for all people. And I think that that's what we're seeing all around the world. And that's what's so great to see right now.

COOPER: The NFL season opener last night, the Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, the players linking arms, one of their players kneeling. I'm wondering what you made at the moment.

SMITH: Well, I think it's just show this a thing of solidarity. I saw the people booing as well people have the right to vote they want to. But I just would like to know you understand why you're doing what you're doing, ask you. When you -- when someone on your team, someone on the opposing team catches the ball and makes it first down, I can understand why you're boring but do you understand why you're booing now? I think that's important to note. And you would you do have a voice you can use it but make sure you know what your why you're doing it.

I think is important, because right now for as a, you know, you hear this sayings and, you know, that could all could fit on a hat, black live matters and this is important, and that's important. Make this great again. We -- those slogans fit on a hat but what we're all saying is, like, we're all in the same thought process of equality. And if you can't understand that, then that's the issue that I think everyone will have a problem.

COOPER: Kenny Smith, it's -- I really appreciate you spending some time with us tonight. Thank you.

SMITH: Thank you. Appreciate it.


COOPER: Well that's it for us. The news continues. Want to hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME."