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Few Spectators in Stands as Opening Ceremony Kicks off Olympic Games; Bootleg Fire Scorches Hundreds of Thousands of Acres in Oregon; Wildfire Smoke from West Stretches Across U.S.; NFL Warns Teams Outbreaks Among Unvaccinated Players Could Lead to Forfeits, Financial Loses; Trump Ally Tom Barrack Released on Bail After Indicted on Illegal Lobbying Charges. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 23, 2021 - 13:30   ET



RENNAE STUBBS, FOUR-TIME OLYMPIAN: But having said that, when you have trained for almost five years, for most of these athletes, where the Olympics is the most important thing to them -- for Nick, he has the opportunity to go and play the U.S. Open in a month. He has Wimbledon. He has a lot of grand slams.

For the tennis players, it is a little bit different.

But you think about swimming, you know, the gymnastics, track and field, judo you name it, all the Olympic sports where this is the most important, without fans, yes, it definitely is going to certainly not be the memories that they want.

But trust me, when they stand on that podium, and get that medal around their neck, they're not going to care if there was one person in the crowd or hundreds of thousands in the crowd.

For the athletes who put in the four or five years of work to be here, it is so important for them, whether there's crowd or not, for them to have the opportunity to win a gold medal or a bronze medal or a silver medal for their country.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You know, we talk about what the conditions are like for the athletes there. And a sailor for Great Britain actually weighed in on the sense of these daily COVID tests and the tight living quarters.

I want to play a little bit of what she had to say.


CHARLOTTE DOBSON, TEAM GREAT BRITAIN SAILOR: Yes, it is really terrifying. That is the reality of the Olympics at the moment.

And everyone has done such a huge amount to try to make it as safe as possible. And I do genuinely feel very safe in here and in our environment. And they have been incredible.


CABRERA: A little terrifying. She feels genuinely safe.

As part of all of the training -- and this comes into play as you were talking about an empty stadium -- mentally, as an elite athlete, there are certain things you're trained to block out.

When you're dealing with that added stress, do you think that could impact an athlete's performance, the daily testing, the -- what if it is me, what if I'm the next one if I'm asymptomatic?

STUBBS: Well, obviously, I come from the tennis world and we have been living this for well over a year now. And I would go as far to say most athletes had to deal with this for about the time the pandemic has hit.

They're so used to taking COVID tests. The only stress is waiting to the test to come back. Is it negative? Good. We're ready to go on.

I think the only thing they worry about is if there's a possibility of it being a positive.

We had obviously a number already in the Olympic Village. We had, through the tennis world, over the last year or so, we had positive tests.

And that's just sadly the epidemic that we're in. This is going to happen and everyone's very aware it could happen to them.

But the Olympics have gone and mitigated all of these problems, trying to put their athletes into the village, into a bubble, to try and keep them as safe as possible. And unfortunately, this is the way the world is now.

But they're there and they're ready to compete and I'm so happy for them.

I know it is a difficult situation for the Japanese people.

But having said that, they're going to be protected and they're going to get an opportunity to win a medal for their country, if not just perform for their country.

And that's really the most important thing for these Olympians.

CABRERA: I'm so excited to watch and to hear their stories and to learn more about each and every one of the athletes.

Rennae Stubbs, great to see you as always. Thank you.

STUBBS: Thank you.

CABRERA: It is twice the size of New York City, and growing. Oregon's Bootleg Fire scorching Oregon's Bootleg Fire scorching forests set aside to fight climate change and reduce carbon emissions. We're going to take you there.



CABRERA: The nation's largest wildfire still growing. At this hour, the Bootleg Fire in Oregon already burned through 400,000 acres.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is in Lakeview, Oregon.

Where I understand, Lucy, firefighters have been forced to retreat into safe zones. They're trying to get this under control, but they're up against a lot.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are up against a lot, Erica.

We spent the day out with fire crews who have been battling the blaze yesterday and they do say they have benefitted from better weather conditions, for example, higher humidity, and lower winds. That's helped them contain roughly 40 percent of this blaze.

But here's the issue. This region has been under severe drought. The forests, the trees, the brush is bone dry. And that's a lot of fuel for the fire to burn.

What that means is that embers from the Bootleg Fire could jump those safety containment lines and start new fires. And that's exactly what happened overnight.

I want to show you new video that we got from the crews that we were out with, that show trees torched.

There were new evacuation orders issued because of this new blaze.

They have managed to contain the fire, but they don't think they'll be able to get a handle on it until this evening. That shows you how unpredictable this massive fire is.

The other issue is this fire is so large, it is generating its own weather system, massive pyro-cumulus clouds. They create winds, lightening, thunder.

Take a listen to how some firefighters described seeing the weather conditions.


JOE RONE, INCIDENT MANAGER, BOOTLEG FIRE: It falls apart, but it falls apart much more violently than a typical rainstorm. Winds come back down to the ground. The winds go every direction. And they could be 30, 40, 50 miles an hour. And that's happened several times on this fire.

WESLEY JONES, WILDLAND FIREFIGHTER: You can hear it. It sounds like a train almost. It sounds like something crashing through the forest.


KAFANOV: And, Erica, that shows you how volatile and unpredictable this fire is.

Again, crews are optimistic, but the weather conditions have to hold and we have to make sure the fire doesn't change direction or create more pyro-cumulus clouds -- Erica?


CABRERA: Lucy Kafanov for us there. Lucy, thank you.

You don't have to be close, in turns out, to these fires to see or even feel their effects.

Allison Chinchar is in the CNN Weather Center.

The smoke from the blaze is traveling thousands of miles. We could smell it, we could see the smoke, here in New York City on Tuesday.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. I think that's the point, Erica. When you think of states that are close to Oregon, New York is certainly not one of them. It is very far away. But yet, you have some of the impacts from those fires.

Here is an image of what New York City typically looks like. You can see water in the distance, all the buildings, blue skies.

This was what it looked like Wednesday. You really can't see much past the Empire State Building because of the haze, because what the smoke is causing in that area, ending up triggering the worst air quality New York had in 15 years.

But it is not just New York. All of this pink and orange color this is the flow of where that smoke ends up going.

So you can see earlier in the week, really heavily focused across the northeast and the Midwest. Now, still over the Midwest, but starting to spread farther south.

Some of the southeastern states now starting to see a little bit of a change in the atmosphere there.

Not just that, but the air quality. Look at this. St. Louis, even Nashville dealing with sensitive Code Orange air quality alerts, which is for sensitive groups.

People who suffer from asthma or allergies and elderly because they tend to be more sensitive to the drastic changes in the atmosphere and the air quality that comes with it.

Now, here is a look, again, just to show you this full scope, this outline area, this is all the smoke from all of those western fires.

It is not just one fire. And that's the problem. You have over 80 large active wildfires spread out over 13 different states. So all of the smoke from those fires ends up being moved somewhere. It

has to go somewhere. It doesn't just stay contained.

The biggest cause of this, Erica, has really been the drought. And 95 percent of the western states are in some level of drought.

And unfortunately, the forecast for many of these states does not look good, at least in the next week or so.

CABRERA: All right, Allison Chinchar, thank you.

As climate change continues to change the landscape of this country and of the world, join our own Bill Weir on a journey to see how innovation could bring a little balance to the planet and to your diets.

The CNN special report, "EATING PLANET EARTH: THE FUTURE OF YOUR FOOD," airs tonight at 9:00 p.m.



CABRERA: Some players now speaking out against the NFL's new vaccination rules.

So here's what's new this season. If the game is canceled because of a COVID outbreak among unvaccinated players, if that game can't be rescheduled during the regular season, the team has to forfeit.

This means players on both teams could miss out on a week of wages for the missed game.

In a now-deleted tweet, Cardinals wide receiver, D'Andre Hopkins, writing, "I never thought I would say this, but being put in a position to hurt my team because I don't want to partake of the vaccine is making me question my future in the NFL."

Former NFL player and neurosurgery resident, Dr. Myron Rolle, joins me now.

Dr. Rolle, good to have you here.

So you have this great expertise not only as a former player but also as a doctor now. What is your take on these new rules from the NFL?


I think these rules are good. I think they serve a really good purpose.

The NFL was sort of fumbling around with the pandemic last year, and the season, trying to make sure that games were still happening.

Having locker rooms closed, having players removed from the team, putting players, who weren't typically in a particular position now play a different position to get a game on the field, and it really depreciated the quality of the play.

I think the rule changes now, and the guidelines, are one that lean more into the science.

Now the NFL is listening to public health experts, immunologists, all of us who have been saying for the longest that vaccinated players and getting the vaccine is important to moving the sport more towards a sense of normalcy where we can enjoy it as fans and spectators.

And the players can know they will be safe, they will protect their family, they'll protect their community, and they'll be doing something good for their team as we move forward in this game.

CABRERA: You talk about that, how they're leaning into the science. It is really leaning into the team, right? This emphasizes the team aspect here.

One player's decision to not get vaccinated could impact not only his team's record, but his teammates' earnings.

ROLLE: No question. I think the NFL is doing that strategically.

As football players, we have all been taught from the beginning, it is not just one person the team that makes up the whole squad. You have to rely on the other 10 players the field with you.

It is a collective sort of group moving towards one common goal.

And this right here is one of those things where you have to buy into what's happening if you want to make sure your team is in the best position to win football games, to advance to the playoffs and make it to the Super Bowl as well.

Given the fact there has been so much data and so much evidence out there that this vaccine is safe, it's efficacious, that it protects you and protects your family now and into the future.


When I speak to these NFL teams, the college teams as well, I try to really emphasize those important points and dispel the conspiracies, dispel the rumors, dispel the disreputable sources they're getting information from.

Just to lay out the facts and allow these players to make the best decision possible.

CABRERA: We've heard from health experts and officials that those are the conversations that really matter.

It's having a conversation with someone in your community, whether it's a friend or family or someone maybe who gets you, right? Athletes that are playing this sport that you did before.

As you're dispelling those myths, is there one thing in particular that tends to pop up in terms of why players may be hesitant?

ROLLE: Absolutely. The thing that keeps coming up, especially with black and brown players, is the experimentation of black individuals in that particular demographic in the past.

They bring up Tuskegee and other experimentation of slaves in the past. They have all this historical information, which is factually true.

But one thing I try to tell them is that, look, this vaccine was developed with black people in mind.

They were sitting at the table. Not only were they sitting at the table, they were influencing and informing the discussion.

We were included in the trials. We were included in all the different lab results. We're included in every part of this make-up and this design. And so it was made for us to be successful.

And if we, as a black or brown or poor demographic, in some instances, want to really get out ahead of our health -- because I've seen the national hospital, these particular population has really been suffering from this pandemic, disproportionately than other populations.

So it's a way to sort of make sure we dispel these rumors.

And as NFL players -- I know I experienced it when I was playing -- you are -- you become sort of the pseudo-leader for your family. You guide and lead your family in a lot of ways, and you are the repository for information.

So if we can equip and arm these players with as much information as possible, I think it would be a benefit to everyone.

CABRERA: Dr. Myron Rolle, always appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

ROLLE: Thank you very much.

CABRERA: The Cleveland Indians have officially chosen an new name. Next season, the team will be known as the Cleveland Guardians. The change comes after decades of criticism from Native Americans.

Guardians draws from the city's architectural history and the large art-deco statues on the bridge known as The Guardians of Traffic.

Breaking just now, we are just learning a judge has released a former advisor to President Trump on bail. This, after he was indicted on illegal lobbying charges. We'll have the very latest, next.



CABRERA: Breaking news, a judge has just released a former advisor to President Trump on bail. Tom Barrack chaired the president's Inaugural Committee.

Earlier this week, officials charged him in a seven-count indictment as acting as an agent of a foreign government.

Senior legal affairs correspondent, Paula Reid, joining us now.

Paula, the hearing was actually scheduled to take place on Monday, moved to today. What happened?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. A source close to the case tells me, Erica, that attorneys for long-time Trump ally, Thomas Barrack, and prosecutors have reached a deal to release Barrack from prison ahead of his expected trial.

Now, Barrack has been in jail since he was arrested earlier this week on charges of illegal foreign lobbying, lying to the FBI, and obstruction.

Now, his team has insisted he is not guilty, and he will plead not guilty, but his lawyers have really been focused on trying to get him out of jail.

Now, this agreement -- the hearing is still going on. This agreement still needs to be approved by a judge, but I'm told the judge is expected to approve this deal.

And this is significant, Erica, because, until now, the Justice Department has argued that Barrack was a significant flight risk.

They pointed to, of course, his vast wealth. He is a billionaire. His extensive international network.

And the fact that one of his codefendants fled the U.S. shortly after being interviewed by the FBI in this case.

Now, it's significant that he is physically currently in California, and this case is being prosecuted out of New York.

So, his legal team was really focused on keeping their 74-year-old client off the notorious Con Air. That is the plane that the U.S. Marshals use to move people around the country. And it appears that they have been successful.

And as long as the judge approves this deal, Mr. Barrack will be freed ahead of his expected trial.

CABRERA: Anything else we need to read into that?

REID: It's notable, Erica, because some people on Twitter are asking, does this mean he's cooperating as part of a deal? Absolutely not. This is just the terms of a bail agreement.

Because of his vast wealth, this is likely going to have to be a very significant bail package.

He's going to have to put up a lot to convince the court that he -- and to convince the Justice Department that he is not a serious flight risk.

Now, I've spoken to a source close to this case, who tells me, at this point, Mr. Barrack, even though he's a long-time ally and associate of former President Trump, that he has no intention of cooperating at any state or federal investigation into the former president, his businesses, or his family.

Now, Erica, sometimes people say that. They say, I'm not going to cooperate.

It's very expensive to defend yourself in this kind of case. Sometimes people realize they can't afford to defend themselves and they end up having to cooperate.

But Mr. Barrack has enormous resources. He's a man with the money to fight these charges and defend himself.

CABRERA: We'll be watching for all of it.

Paula Reid with the latest, as this is developing. Paula, thank you.


Thanks to all of you for joining us on this Friday.

We will have much more ahead at the top of the hour. Victor and Alisyn picking up here.

The news continues next in the CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.