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New Book Offers Insight Into Trump's Final Year in Office; Miami Hospital Sees Surge of Covid Patients in 30's and 40's; 911 Calls Reveal Chaos, Confusion After Building Collapsed; U.S. Fire Agency Declares Highest Level of Preparedness for Western Wildfires; Britney Spears Wins Right to Hire Her Own Lawyer; Africa Battling Its Worst Covid Wave Yet; U.K. Health Secretary Urges Caution Ahead of England Reopening. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 15, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, a stunning revelation about Donald Trump's final days in office. A top general fearing the president would try to stage a coup and the steps he took to keep that from happening.

A big win for Britney Spears in court, a judge grants her the right to choose her own lawyer.

And as U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, the president who put them there speaks out. Hear what George W. Bush has to say about America's withdrawal.

We are now getting a better sense of just how unhinged the final days of the Trump administration were and how much worse they might have gotten. Among the examples coming to light, the nation's top military officer rallying subordinates to protect the peaceful transfer of power and perhaps even head off a coup. Just one chilling scene contained in an upcoming book, "I Alone Can Fix It, Donald J. Trumps Catastrophic Final Year."

And CNN has obtained a series of experts. In one, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reassures his deputies about preventing a coup attempt following Trump's election loss.

He's quoted as saying: They may try but they are not going to f***ing succeed. You can't do this without the military. You can't do this without the CIA and the FBI. We are the guys with the guns.

CNN's Jamie Gangel spoke about the revelations with Anderson Cooper.


JAMIE GANGEL CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Milley was so shaken by Trump's behavior that what he did was he got together with the other chiefs, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines and they planned -- they believed there really could be a coup attempt by Trump.

And Leonnig and Rucker write, Milley view Trump as quote, the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose. And then Milley is quoted as saying, This is a race dog moment, Milley told aides, The gospel of the furor.

Look, we've known that people were concerned that Trump wouldn't leave office. We reported that. To hear General Milley say this, it is clear when you read the book, he cooperated. There are extensive quotes. To hear him --

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And he comes off looking pretty good from what I understand.

GANGEL: He does, and let's remember, he had his Lafayette Square, very bad moment.

COOPER: Which he apologizes for -- he was, I believe in combat fatigues walking with the president and that kind of motley assortment of people from the White House to Lafayette Square.

GANGEL: A very bizarre moment, but to hear General Milley say this is stunning.


CHURCH: And there has already been strong reaction to the revelations in the book due out next week. CNN's counterterrorism analyst had this take.


PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORIST ANALYST: People like me and the CIA and FBI particularly in this case, the military, you are trained from day one, we are not elected, they are. As General Hertling said, we support them. That's what we do in this country. So for someone like General Milley with that level of experience to say, I have questions about whether there will be a peaceful transition and clearly questions about the president's mindset that can't simply be paranoia.

What we're missing here is the fact all backdrop about conversations he heard, interactions with the president that led him to believe this was so. Let me close with the upside here. The fact that you have a military who says, look it's not our job to intervene here if this happens, we'll resign before the military takes a frontal role in managing government, to me that is heartening. They weren't going to stick around if they saw something unconstitutional, they were going to leave. That's the right move.


CHURCH: General Milley remains joint chiefs chairman in the Biden administration.

(04:05:00) Well the White House is busy coming up with a plan to combat misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. Last week at least 15 states saw more than a 50 percent increase in hospitalizations largely driven by the delta variant. A senior U.S. official says that it's the direct result of vaccine falsehoods. One of those states is Mississippi where the governor says unvaccinated people account for more than 90 percent of new COVID infections.


GOV. TATE REEVES (R) MISSISSIPPI: If you are unvaccinated, and best way for you to protect yourself against the delta variant or at least any other variant that has come before -- that has made it to the United States, the best way to protect yourself is to become vaccinated.


CHURCH: Another one of those hot spots is Florida, cases are on the rise and doctors warn deaths could soon follow as the delta variant spreads. CNN's Leyla Santiago has more on the startling new trend Miami hospitals are starting to see.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, where we are right now at Jackson Health System, they actually saw double the amount of COVID-19 patients over the weekend than they did earlier in the month. And they are pointing out a surge in younger patients. We're talking about those in the 30s and 40s age bracket.

And I spoke to one infectious disease expert and she was telling me that part of the problem here is that you have a lot of unvaccinated people following CDC guidelines for vaccinated people. She was quick to say that she feels the U.S. and Florida have jumped the gun because she believes that they wanted the pandemic to be over but of course that's not the case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we don't heed the fact that people need to be more cautious than what they are being, we're going to see more deaths. We're going to see more cases. And we're going to see a lot more long COVID which is what is really, really troubling for the younger population.

SANTIAGO: So for experts that we're talking to, the big concern here, the younger population and the unvaccinated. Here in the state of Florida, roughly 47 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. So I did check in with the governor's office to see if there are any plans to change strategy or implement any new measures, the governor's office tells me they are encouraging vaccinations. They believe that it is safe and effective, but that at this point, no future closures are being considered. In fact the governor has ruled out any potential lockdown.

In Miami, Leyla Santiago, CNN.


CHURCH: Meanwhile Florida's governor is taking a dig at the nation's top infectious disease expert. The team around Republican Ron DeSantis has rolled out a new line of merchandise with the slogan don't Fauci my Florida. You will of course recall Dr. Fauci had urged states to take a very cautious approach early in the pandemic, measures the Florida governor was reluctant to impose.

Well Tennessee's health department confirms it has stopped all adolescent vaccine outreach telling CNN the issue has become polarized. A spokeswoman for the department says the pause is to evaluate their messaging and make sure that it's not hurting vaccine efforts. Dr. Michelle Fiscus was Tennessee's top vaccination official but she says she was fired in a dispute over parental permission for vaccinating children. And she also told CNN that even before she was fired, people found her opinion unpopular.


DR. MICHELLE FISCUS, FIRED VACCINATION OFFICIAL FROM TENNESSEE: The week before I was terminated from the Department of Health, I received a package that contained a dog muzzle. And at first I thought that was a joke and contacted a few friends and then when no one claimed it, realized that that was something that was sent to me as some kind of a message I suppose. They obviously didn't know me because they sent me a size 3 which is for beagles and I'm obviously a Pitbull which requires a size 6.


CHURCH: The department says they don't think a pause in communication will have an impact on child vaccination numbers.

We're now hearing for the first time the terrifying calls to 911 immediately after Champlain Tower South collapsed in surfside, Florida. Some of those calls from disbelieving witnesses, others trying to escape the doomed building.


OPERATOR: What's going on? Tell me exactly what happened.

CALLER: I don't know, there's a lot of smoke going on. I can't see the street right now.

OPERATOR: You see smoke? Sir?

CALLER: We got to get out of here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are we going?

CALLER: We got to go, got to keep going.

OPERATOR: Hello? Hello? CALLER: Yes, I'm here.

OPERATOR: What are you seeing?

CALLER: I can't see nothing but smoke.

CALLER 2: It seems like something underground, everything exploded down at 8777 Collins, OK, Avenue.

CALLER 3: Oh, my God.


OPERATOR: Ma'am, the operator is asking you, is anyone injured?

CALLER 3: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

OPERATOR: That's OK. We're on our way out there.


CHURCH: Just horrifying to hear those calls. And three weeks after the disaster, emergency workers continue removing tons of broken concrete and debris from the site. Officials say 97 bodies have been recovered so far. Eight people are still unaccounted for.

Well this year's wildfire season in the western U.S. is already so intense the national fire preparedness level has been raised to its highest point. It's the first time in a decade that level 5 has been declared so early in the year. Officials say firefighters are battling almost 70 major fires fueled by drought conditions, high temperatures and gusting winds.

So let's bring in CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam. And it is just horrifying, isn't it, when you look at some of these temperatures and then of course the resulting fires. And there is so much fuel out there.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, basically what this preparedness level alert means, Rosemary, for our viewers at home is that there are a number of large fires taking place in many different geographical locations. They're very complex fires and it has the potential to completely exhaust our wildfire fighting operations across the western U.S.

As you mentioned, it is the highest level this early in the season in over a decade. So quite an incredible thing. Nearly 70 large active wildfires burning out of control over the western U.S., this is amongst the backdrop of an extreme drought. In fact, exceptional drought for many locations across the great basin. 94 percent of the western U.S. under some sort of drought conditions. And you tally up these numbers, even though we aren't burned the same amount of acreage last year to date, but we still are on par for a record number of fires to occur this year. Of course time will tell.

But here's another day where we have another round of potential fire hazards for much of the western U.S. from Oregon to Washington, Nevada, Idaho. Even into portions of Montana as well. The other thing about this is that it is spreading the poor quality of air across much of the northern half of the United States. Check out the smoke forecast. We'll have very hazy conditions stretching from the West Coast to the East Coast right through the weekend. So be prepared for that.

Some good news, we'll take what we can get. We do have the potential of some monsoonal rain that will bring much needed precipitation to the four corners region, flash flood watches in place of course, such a dry ground within this area. You get a significant amount of rainfall that can lead to mudslides and landslides. So a series of threats going on over the western U.S. on top of the drought that is ongoing -- Rosie.

CHURCH: Thank you so much for keeping such a close eye on it, Derek Van Dam joins there, appreciate it.

A potential game changer in Britney Spears' fight for freedom. A judge has approved Spears' request to hire her own attorney in a battle to end the 13-year court agreement that made her father the legal guardian of her finances and personal affairs. Once again she appeared in court by phone and was heard at times sobbing as she described her conservatorship as f***ing cruelty.

Adding if this isn't abuse, I don't know what is. I thought they were trying to kill me. And went as far as saying I would like to charge my father with conservatorship abuse. I want to press charges against my father today. I want an investigation into my dad. Adam Streisand is Britney Spears' former attorney. He spoke earlier with Chris Cuomo about what comes next for Spears.


ADAM STREISAND, BRITNEY SPEARS' FORMER ATTORNEY: I would expect a petition immediately to be filed that this conservatorship should be terminated.

And keep in mind, conservatorship can only exist, and should be terminated, unless it's the last possible resort. It's the -- it's the only means to be able to help somebody.

And there is no way, given everything that we know now that there aren't other ways of helping her, if she needs help, to function in any way, whether it's financially, or with her medical care what have you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: is it going to be a psychiatrist battle? I mean, what happens next?

STREISAND: Yes so --

CUOMO: A hearing?

STREISAND: Yes. So, first of all, you know, that is typically the way it goes that we have a battle of the experts, to say, whether or not she has the ability to be able to function. But it involves all kinds of other evidence. It doesn't even necessarily need to be a psychiatric evidence.

Hey, show that she's able to function, and that she's able to make decisions. And if - and if there are other ways to help her that she's got the means and the resources to get those -- that help.


CHURCH: The man known as Joe exotic just had his prison sentence vacated. But that doesn't mean the "Tiger King" will be roaming free anytime soon. An appeals court on Wednesday upheld his convictions in a murder for hire plot against animal rights activist Carole Baskin. But the panel also found the district court miscalculated his sentence and should have lumped his two convictions together, meaning that his prison term could potentially be reduced. He will now be resentenced at a later date.

Africa is dealing with its third coronavirus wave. And it's the worst one yet. We will hear from the WHO's Africa director on the situation there.

Then what is behind the soaring cases in the U.K.? And will they affect plans to reopen England? We'll have a live report after this short break. Stay with us.


CHURCH: Australia's second most populist state is going into a five day COVID lockdown again. Melbourne in the surrounding state of Victoria will join Sydney in this latest restriction as part of an effort to stop a fast spreading outbreak of the delta variant.


It is the fifth time of state of Victoria has been put on pandemic restriction. The move means some 12 million Australians are now under stay-at-home orders.

The African continent is dealing with a third wave of COVID infections that's far worse than the previous two. Cases have gone up for seven weeks in a row, fueled in part by the delta variant. The World Health Organization's regional director for Africa says, last week was the continent's worst since the pandemic began and things look even worse now.

As you can see, vaccinations rates in Africa are very low. Only about 1.5 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The WHO's Africa chief spoke to CNN earlier.


MATSHIDISO MOETI, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, W.H.O. OFFICE FOR AFRICA: I think well you know, in already very frightening phase of a rapid increase and it's rather difficult to predict when the peak on a continent will happen. But we are continuing to see an increase because we have -- if I think about the reasons why we have these variants, now increasingly predominant in African countries, the delta variant in countries like Democratic Republic on the Congo, Uganda. In South Africa is replace the Beta variant and it is present in over 20 countries. So we're seeing that.

And we're seeing a certain level of fatigue by the population in terms of the public health measures, wearing masks and keeping their distance and being able to practice the hygiene that's required. And then thirdly of course, as you said, vaccination rates are so low in Africa still.


CHURCH: Well vaccination rates are not so low in Europe and yet it is seeing a major spike in cases. The red and dark orange countries are dealing with the biggest increases. Authorities in Belgium say infections there have tripled in the past three weeks. Almost two- thirds of those cases are from the highly contagious delta variant. And the Netherlands is dealing with a 500 percent spike in cases in a single week. The government reimposed COVID restrictions Friday. And the Prime Minister has apologized for easing them prematurely.

England is still on track to reopen despite a disturbing but not altogether surprising surge in cases. CNN's Phil Black is standing by live in Essex, England. Good to see you Phil. So not everyone's on board with this plan to reopen Monday amid surging cases. What is the latest?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Rosemary, it is happening but it is not going to be the big bang freedom day that much of the British press has been talking about for some weeks and months now. The messaging from the government has really become a lot more sober over the last week.

What they are now saying is that, yes, restrictions will lift officially, but what they are asking is for people not to change their behavior quickly or dramatically. To maintain the same caution and many of the same methods of behavior that they had been doing even through the darkest days of pandemic. Take a listen now to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid, explaining how the government wants people to behave going forward.


SAJID JAVID, BRITISH HEALTH SECRETARY: It's so important that people act with caution and with personal responsibility. For example, everyone should return to work gradually if they're currently working from home. They should try to meet people outside where that's possible. And it's expected and recommended that people should wear face coverings unless they are exempt in crowded indoor settings like public transport.


BLACK (on camera): So much of those same guidelines that were rules, will continue to exist. And that is because there are now real concerns about how this is going to go and indeed no one knows for certain just how this is going to turn out. Because no country has tried this before. It is unprecedented. No country has tried to lift restrictions while in the middle of a serious wave of cases as the U.K. is right now.

But the government hopes that this is possible that it will work because of the advance nature of the vaccination program here. More than 66 percent of the adult population has now had two doses. But cases are soaring, as you said, more than 42,000 cases reported yesterday. The government expects that number to go beyond 100,000 in the coming weeks.


And so now it does come down to how people behave say the government scientific advisers. If they don't change their behavior dramatically, then hopefully you will not see surges in hospitals that will be equal to what has been seen here during the previous serious waves as recently as the week to peak last January -- Rosemary.

All right, Phil Black joining us there. Many thanks.

Well former U.S. President George W. Bush is warning the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan is a mistake. Just ahead, what he predicts life will be look for women and girls under Taliban rule.

Plus South Africa is planning a troop surge as it tries to get days of violence and chaos under control. We'll have the details in a live report.


CHURCH: The U.S. is welcoming home the Army General who commanded American troops in Afghanistan for the past three years. General Scott Miller arrived at joint base Andrews in Maryland on Wednesday. Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were on hand to greet him. In a statement Austin said Scott Miller was the right leader at the right time, not only did he plan and lead the complex withdrawal of millions of tons of equipment, and thousands of personnel, his team did so with the understanding that speed was of the essence.

Back in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters are now in control of the key border crossing with Pakistan. Witnesses and Pakistani officials confirm the militant group captured the site without resistance. A government negotiator at peace talks in Qatar says she's concerned Afghanistan could spiral into civil war.


FATIMA GAILANI, AFGHAN PEACE NEGOTIATOR: What we are worried about is this negotiation which started here in Doha, it hasn't come to a state that would help the country not go into.