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Hurricane Nate Heads Towards U.S. Gulf Coast; Louisiana Governor Warns Residents Prepare for Category 3 Hurricane; Mississippi Warns Residents to Take Hurricane Seriously; Alabama Under Emergency Declaration for Hurricane; London Police: Pedestrians Hit in Accident Not Terrorism; New Details in Las Vegas Shooting Investigation; Petition on Las Vegas Gunman's Estate Filed; Tillerson Chaos Shows Kelly's Struggles to Manage White House; Trump Reaches Out to Senate Democrats on Health Care; CNN's "Justice for Jessica" Airs Tonight. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 7, 2017 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:25] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. And thank you so much for being with me this saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We're following breaking news this hour on Hurricane Nate, which is likely to be a category 2 storm when it makes landfall in just a few hours along the U.S. gulf coast.
Right now, 4.5 million people are under hurricane warnings, stretching from Louisiana to the Alabama-Florida line. Nearly 30 million people are in its path. The hurricane is packing 90-mile-per-hour winds. And residents are bracing for heavy winds, torrential rain and, in some areas, storm surges of up to 11 feet.
The deadly storm is blamed for at least 25 deaths in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Hundreds have been rescued from flood waters and mudslides.
And we've got reporters on the ground in all areas facing a major threat along the gulf coast right now.
Let's go to CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers in the Weather Center first -- Chad?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Fred, it has been a night where this storm now has been over warm water, and then the morning hours as well. And so where we were yesterday with a tropical storm is now turned into a category 2 landfalling hurricane, somewhere and Biloxi, Gulfport, maybe Bay St. Louis and if it gets to Bay St. Louis, it's going to clip Plaquemines Parish. We have to think about the width of the eye and the width of the wind because we're already going to see significantly deteriorating conditions for our Kaylee Hartung right there in New Orleans. That right there is the eye of the storm itself, just barely getting on the radar but it will get more and more distinct as the storm gets closer and closer. And this storm is moving quickly. It's moving north northwest at 26 miles per hour. This isn't going to be a flood maker, like Harvey was, but certainly, we could get four to five inches of rain in New Orleans, maybe a little bit more than that on the east side of the storm, and the east side of the storm is where the true storm surge is going to be as well. That surge is going to be part of the wind field. The wind is on the east side of the storm, not so much on the west side of the storm but we also have the forward motion. So if the storm is 90 or 100, plus it's moving at 26 miles per hour forward, you almost have to add those together. So we could see 120-mile-per-hour gusts.
WHITFIELD: So, Chad, I hate to interrupt you.
Let's go to Louisiana now. John Bel Edwards telling residents in that state to prepare for a potential category 3 storm.
JOHN BEL EDWARDS, (D), LOUISIANA GOVERNOR: -- where they want to be to ride this storm out by 3:00 p.m. And by that time, they should be properly supplied and have what they need to make it through the storm.
I also want to advise everyone who is in a mandatory or voluntary evacuation area that has been called by their local authorities, every area that is in -- under evacuation orders, there is a shelter open in your Parish. So, if you have any needs related to transportation or if you have questions as to where the shelter is open, please call your Parish office of emergency management.
I have been in contact today with block long, the administrator of FEMA. And I've talked to him several times. And also, this morning, a little after 7:00, I spoke with President Trump who called to check on things here in Louisiana and to let me know that FEMA and the entire federal government were ready and prepared to help Louisiana in terms of this storm. With respect to the president, we also very much appreciate the fact that last evening, he signed a declaration for the 17 Parishes in south Louisiana that we had requested a declaration for. So, we very much appreciate that.
We will experience tropical storm force winds at the mouth of the Mississippi River today at 4:00 p.m. We expect the eye of the storm to make landfall in that same area at approximately 7:00 p.m. It's why we're moving up the time line. This will remain a night event. It is critical that everyone who's been told to evacuate or would like to do so, that they do it now. Do not drive after nightfall in those areas where we're expecting the impacts of the storm. It is very dangerous. Storm surge -- and I'm going to go through that in just a minute -- will actually be slightly elevated beyond what we anticipated yesterday because of the strengthening of the storm and the differential in the wind speed that they're expecting, which is about 12 to 15 miles per hour stronger today under the forecast than it was yesterday, and that's going to drive those storm surges up.
But three-quarters of all fatalities are related to hurricanes, happen because of water, and we don't want people driving at night. It's especially difficult at night because it's almost impossible to gauge the depth of the water and the current. So, we're asking people to be mindful of that. And that is also why we're really driving people to be where they need to be by 3:00 p.m. today.
The storm surge tonight will be extremely dangerous. It will be nine to 11 feet. In St. Tammany Parish --
[13:06:14] WHITFIELD: You've been listening to Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards there, saying that pre-landfall declaration has already been signed. People in his state need to have a plan and prepare. He says if you want to evacuate, if you're not under a mandatory evacuation, now is the time, urging people not to conduct their evacuations at nightfall.
So, Louisiana under that state of emergency, some mandatory evacuations are in place in some parts.
Our Kaylee Hartung is in the New Orleans area.
And, Kaylee, the governor there really imploring people to take this very seriously as he warns that folks along the gulf coast, at least in Louisiana, need to prepare for a category 3 storm, potentially.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Fred, what I've observed today as we've driven around the areas of Orleans Parish, where they are under mandatory evacuation, people are taking this seriously.
Here at Island Marina and, Lake Kathryn, there's not a lot to see because all of the work has been done. I spoke with David and angle Stewart, who own this marina. They've been working for the last three days to secure boats here, to keep those in the water that are safest that way, to raise the smaller boats up that should be taken. There was one man back behind me who was still tying up his boat. But otherwise, we have seen R.V. after R.V. and pickup truck after pickup truck rolling down these highways and out of town.
It was by noon today that officials said they wanted people out of these areas because they were going to start closing the flood gates that would protect this low-lying land. And people, as far as I have seen, have really been heeding those warnings. They understand the risks associated with this area.
It was interesting, in talking to the Stewarts, they told me they can handle -- this land can handle six to seven feet of that storm surge but anything above that, that's when the concern here is really heightened and we recognize that possibility is very real. They like to hear the storm is moving quickly, not like Harvey, which had the ability to linger over an area for a period of time. They want this one to move quickly ahead and on its way.
Pretty soon, we'll head back into downtown New Orleans. And there, the time people need to be talk about, 7:00 p.m. That's when a curfew will go in effect citywide for people to shelter in place -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: Very serious,
Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much. Meanwhile, Mississippi is urging its coastal residents to take Nate
very seriously and get out of the way.
CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joining us now from Biloxi.
Derek, what more are you seeing on the beach there? People get to enjoy a kicked-up surf but, at the same time, people are being urged to have a plan.
DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the winds have picked up, Fredricka, but there's this eerie calm that some of the stores around the area, no major lines at gas stations, Home Depot, Walmart's. It doesn't seem like people have a sense of urgency so stock up on supplies even though they're being advised to do so.
We know the storm is intensifying and strengthening quickly and moving at a fast pace as well. The benchmark hurricane, Hurricane Katrina, 2005, everyone we talked to about here always comparing storms to that particular hurricane. But remember, that's just not fair to do, because each storm has its own set of characteristics and its own set of threats. Hurricane Nate being unique in that position as well.
Look behind me. We've got the Biloxi lighthouse. This the Interstate 90. Cruising on the Coast, which is a car festival that's been postponed or moved away from this region. The Beach Boys, which was a concert that was supposed to celebrate that cruising on the coast, has been cancelled this evening. People have been streaming steadily out of this area. You're looking west toward Gulfport, trying to heed the evacuations across this area. It's not mandatory, but people want to get out if they can, especially if they live in the vulnerable areas. There are shelters that are being set up that open at 2:00 p.m. this evening.
We talk about the storm surge so much, and if you look out over the gulf coast here, this is the reason why. This is a very shallow bed of water, and that allows for storm surge to build very quickly, regardless of how fast the storm is moving through.
So, we're going to look out for conditions to deteriorate here in Biloxi. At 8:00 p.m. tonight. Worst conditions at midnight. All of the computer models we're looking at, and the official forecast from National Hurricane Center, Fredricka, brings the eye wall of Hurricane Nate over Biloxi, Mississippi, by midnight tonight.
Back to you.
[13:10:43] WHITFIELD: Derek Van Dam, bracing there in Biloxi. Appreciate it.
Right now, to Alabama, which is also an under an emergency declaration. The airport in Mobile is already beginning to shut down.
CNN's Ryan Young is in Mobile.
So what are you hearing about how people are mobilizing there? RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there is a push and
pull here. You have some people who are definitely getting ready for the storm and you have some people who are saying, well, we don't really think it's going to have that big of an impact.
One thing I want to tell you about, Fred, is we've seen a lot of boaters bringing their boat down the channel here, getting their boats tied away, somewhere else, away from the storm. We know that a cruise ship was supposed to arrive here today, but they shut the port down here. And we know several cruise ships are affected that are out in the water. But of course, they're not going to come in as that heavy rain and water is expected in this area.
And when you talk about the idea where we're like in the midtown, downtown area of Mobile, they know that the storm surge could do damage down here. But a lot of people believe they live high now have avoid some of this.
But I have to tell you this. There's always a human side to the story. We're next to a museum that's here near the river front, and one of the things that we've been told is there's a wedding that's planned here today, and they plan to go through with this wedding. So you can understand you have this push and pull when it comes to the idea that, look, there is a hurricane coming, but this wedding apparently was planned for several months. They're going to try to pull it off from 3:00 to 6:00 this afternoon, before those heavy rain bands come through.
Now you have to talk about what the mayor and other crews are planning to do. We know that heavy machinery has been moved to certain different locations to make sure, if there's an emergency, they're ready to respond. We do know also that tornadoes, heavy winds and that water is something they're concerned about in this area. So you have all these concerns. But at the same time, you think about people and how they're reacting. When we went to the Walmart, we didn't see the water and the supplies going out. We talked to people who work at this facility and they're saying they weren't preparing. They were even thinking about having a hurricane party. They weren't concerned about the storm. But then there's other people who say, look, it's getting ready to get to a category 2, we might need to take this more seriously.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. All right, well, sunny conditions right now but, of course, we'll be checking with you throughout the day to see how it might deteriorate.
Appreciate it, Ryan Young, in Mobile.
Still ahead, a car crashes into pedestrians in London today. Police now saying it was just a traffic accident, not terrorism. So, why the change? We'll take you there next.
[13:17:23] WHITFIELD: All right, we're following breaking news out of London. Police there are now saying an incident where pedestrians were hit by a car was a traffic accident and not an act of terror. Eleven people were treated and nine of them were taken to a hospital.
CNN's Nic Robertson is there.
Nic, police have gone back and forth about this, but now they have this latest declaration. Why?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the police are saying this was just a road traffic accident. Earlier, they said that -- about an hour or so after the incident, they said it didn't look like terrorism. Then, they stepped back a little bit from that and said, no, we're keeping an open mind.
We've seen a massive and very fast and rapid police response here and the emergency services. The ambulance services treating 11 people, taking nine to hospital, the majority having leg and head wounds, they said.
And the reason that we have this response or there's been this response in London by the emergency services so quickly, locking down the area, bringing in armed police into the situation, is because this is a tourist area, and because of the number of terror attacks in London.
So, what the police like to do here, the metropolitan police -- and this has been a sea change we've seen in the past year. It used to be they would take a long time before they would make it clear if they thought something was terrorism or not. Now they like people to be informed and they like to get the information out quickly. So, we've seen them try to push that information out relatively quickly today after this incident. So, coming out, it seems as quick as they can to say this was just an accident, that this man drove his vehicle, crashed the vehicle, injuring the pedestrians. But the massive and fast response here really indicative of the hair trigger that Britain and London, in particular, is on at the moment. The prime minister was informed. The leader of the opposition party tweeted his concerns for those victims in this accident. And we also heard from a London mayor as well saying he was being kept updated on the situation.
So this goes from zero to a very big response in London very quickly, even if it turns out to be a road traffic accident. That's the level of concern here these days -- Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: Nic Robertson, thanks so much, from London.
A bit later on this afternoon, in this country, Vice President Mike Pence will be in Las Vegas, Nevada, to pay his respects to victims of Sunday's massacre. The vice president plans to attend a unity prayer walk.
Meanwhile, investigators are revealing new details about the investigation. We're learning it was an alarm from a room down the hall from the shooter that brought a security guard up to the 32nd floor. The guard was shot in the leg when he approached Stephen Paddock's door. Police confirmed there was no one in the room with Paddock and they haven't seen anyone on security video who appears to be an accomplice. Investigators are also saying the shooter brought his guns and ammunition up to the room over the course of several days.
I wanted to bring in CNN's Scott McLean, who is following the investigation.
So, Scott, what more are we learning about the possible motivation, if anything, and about his vehicle?
[13:20:31] SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so, Fredricka, in terms of a motive, they are still stuck on that one. That is the one big unanswered question here.
And as you mentioned, they are quite confident, police here in Las Vegas, that there was no one else in the room with Stephen Paddock when this shooting was taking place. What they cannot yet say for sure, though, is whether or not he had help or, at the very least, whether someone else may have known about this plot in advance. They say they have gone through, quote, "voluminous numbers" or hours of videotape from inside and outside the Mandalay Bay Hotel, but so far, they cannot identify anyone who fits the description or fits the actions of someone who might have been helping Paddock at the time, though they continue to look.
In fact, yesterday, the Clark County undersheriff, Kevin McMahill, said that they are leaving no stone unturned. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN MCMAHILL, UNDERSHERIFF, CLARK COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We're combing over this man's entire life, from birth to death, to try find out. It's hard to believe that one individual planned this attack and executed it without anybody else knowing anything about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLEAN: And investigators continue to question Paddock's former girlfriend, Marilou Danley. We are told she is cooperative, though. Her lawyer has made quite clear that she is unlikely to give a statement to the media any time soon.
WHITFIELD: And then his vehicle that so many rounds of explosives -- of ammunition and explosives were located in it. Do authorities have any more information about that?
MCLEAN: Yes, we're talking 1,600 rounds of ammunition, Fredricka, as well as 50 pounds of an explosive compound called tannerite. It is completely legal to buy in this country. In fact, it's commonly used by target shooters to make exploding targets. Police, though, they are still scratching their heads as to why he may have had that in their car. There are theories that perhaps he actually intended to survive the shooting inside the hotel room and try to leave the hotel. Though, as you know, he checked into that hotel under his own name, and so he would undoubtedly be the most-wanted man in America after that.
We're also learning that he tried to purchase something called tracer ammunition at a gun show in Phoenix prior to this shooting, though he wasn't able to buy it because they didn't have any in stock. So he ended up buying other, more conventional ammunition. Tracer ammunition has a pyrotechnic charge on it that allows the shooter to actually see where those bullets are landing. So in this case, it's possible that he could have been lot more deadly, a lot more accurate with his shots. The drawback, though, is that police would have also likely to have been tracing those shots and potentially identify where they were coming from a lot sooner than they were able to.
As I said, the motive here, still very unclear, but one other thing, Fredricka. But one other thing, Fredricka. Police have found a note inside of Stephen Paddock's room. It is not a manifesto, though. It is not a suicide note. It has a series of numbers on it. So as you can imagine, police are scrambling to try to decode what exactly those numbers might mean and what significance, if any, they might have to this investigation.
[13:23:45] WHITFIELD: All right, Scott McLean, in Las Vegas. Thank you.
Still ahead, as the investigation unfolds, the families of the victims now taking action, asking the courts to oversee the gunman's estate. What that means, and if we could soon see more legal action, next.
[13:28:31] WHITFIELD: All right, the first court petition has been filed over the Las Vegas massacre. The family of one of the victims, John Phippen, is asking for a court-appointed special administrator to oversee the gunman's estate.
Let's discuss this with our legal guys. Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor in Cleveland. Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor joining us from Las Vegas.
And, Richard, I know this is really close to home for you. This happening right in your backyard a week ago. A venue and an activity that your family has enjoyed. But thank goodness none of them were harmed. But you do have -- know people who were impacted. So our hearts are with you and all of your fellow Las Vegas friends and family members.
RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Thanks, Fred.
So, Avery, first on the significance, then, of this petition.
AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Well, it's significant only because Paddock has to be accountable. The problem is there are over 600 people who were killed or wounded, and when you divide up the value of what Paddock's estate is going to be, and it will be responsible, there's not going to be very much money to go around. However, it is a moral and righteous undertaking. It's the right thing to do. There's not going to be insurance coverage because it wasn't accidental. It wasn't negligence. It was intentional misbehavior. [13:30:00] So every one of those victims, I think, are standing up --
the families of those victims are standing up and saying, we want accountability, we want to make sure our feelings are known and that Paddock is accountable for what he did.
WHITFIELD: So, Richard, could this just be the tip of the iceberg? You know, will we see dozens of other petitions like this?
HERMAN: Well, Fred, I think that some smart and creative attorneys here in Las Vegas could make a claim that the hotels had an obligation and a duty to protect the patrons utilizing the hotels and around the hotels. And the question is, you know, there's cameras every two feet in Las Vegas, and for someone to move that much ammunition and fire power into a room on camera, you know, that's a minimum of suspicious activity. And I don't know what they're looking at, to be honest with you, but that's just incredible that something like this could happen, Fred. So simple to wand the luggage, to put it through like the airport, and then you prevent this from ever happening again. It's a simple fix and --
AVERY: It's not a simple fix. It's not a simple fix.
WHITFIELD: Richard, is it really suspicious in a place like Las Vegas where you have a lot of performances. Sometimes people are traveling with a lot of luggage or with groups where there's a lot of equipment involved, whether it be costumes or any other kind of performance- related baggage. And perhaps, that's why this gunman knew that it wouldn't look unusual in order to do this.
HERMAN: Well, that's to be banked on, that he would be able to do this. And he could do it. But it's so simple, Fred. It's like you go to the airport, they scan the luggage. In the hotels here, I think the Wynn has started that already. Just scan the luggage. There's no questions asked.
HERMAN: There's no way you're going to get assault rifles and ammunition up to these rooms.
WHITFIELD: And, Avery -
HERMAN: What are you talking about, Avery? It's is a simple fix.
FRIEDMAN: It is not a simple fix because, if there is no law that deals with the issue of the kind of gun stops that were involved here, it's going to happen, if the situation is permitted again. You need to enact legislation, have Congress deal with the prohibition of this kind of armament. And, frankly, there really is no excuse. Both Republicans and Democrats need to zero in on this. And believe me, they have the constitutional authority to do this under both the Supreme Court decisions, both Heller and McDonald. Congress can address this issue and that's how you stop this kind of use of armaments and the ancillary products that go with guns and semiautomatic weapons.
WHITFIELD: This bump stock that you were talking about, people are learning about for the first time as a result of this incident.
WHITFIELD: But, apparently Richard, it is showing a rare bipartisan show of force in a way, in terms of discussions about whether it would be outlawed, et cetera. And do you see this horrible massacre, the worst in U.S. history, as really, potentially, being influential in changing or modifying laws as it pertains to firearms?
HERMAN: It's doing nothing, Fred. These bump stocks have been around for a long time. In 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein brought a bill to try to ban them. Nobody wants to hear it. They don't care. And bump stocks are the tip of the iceberg, Fred.
FRIEDMAN: Come on, now.
HERMAN: These are assault weapons. They're used for war. They're not meant to be in civilians' hands. You don't go rabbit shooting with assault rifles --
HERMAN: -- and A.K.-47s. You don't do it.
But Congress can't even ban bump stocks. So please, it's not going to happen that way. Right now, to prevent what happened in Vegas, luggage has to be scanned. That's a minimal thing to do to prevent what happened in Vegas. We're talking apples and oranges here.
HERMAN: Congressional legislation, good luck.
HERMAN: Congress will not do it. It's pathetic.
WHITFIELD: That luggage scanning at a hotel, that's not something that would --
WHITFIELD: That would need legislation. But instead, that would be something collective that casinos, hotels would elect to do.
So, Avery, do you want to respond to that.
Yes, yes. I mean, look, we got to get real on this stuff, whether it's Las Vegas, Kansas City, Boston. The fact is, that if you restrict the use of the kind of ancillary products that was used here, then you minimize the likelihood. If you're going to start scanning luggage in every airport in the country, that is billions of dollars, for what purpose? Let's ban the ancillary armament to stop this sort of thing so it's not going to recur. It is serious. And I think there is bipartisan support for this kind of legislation.
WHITFIELD: And then, Richard, I'd be remiss in asking, I mean, you are a resident of Las Vegas. Friends and family there. How has this tainted, changed, impacted your day-to-day life there in Vegas?
[13:35:07] HERMAN: Well, people are devastated, Fredricka. And a lot of people knew people that were injured in this. You know, 500 people were injured, 48 people were killed. Young people, I mean, older people coming to enjoy the concert. This is a concert that's held every single year. A lot of people love it. Country western is big in Las Vegas. And people are just devastated. They can't believe something like this would happen. And there are a lot of concerts like that in Vegas, EDC (ph), and these other events that people are going to think twice about going to in the future because you don't want to be involved in some sort of massacre like this, if there's not adequate protection. It's a pervasive effect here, Fred. And it's just -- Vegas is not the same since this happened. I'm telling you.
WHITFIELD: Our heart's with you and everybody.
FRIEDMAN: The best -- the best reason, Fredricka, for legislation right now.
WHITFIELD: All right, Avery Freidman and Richard Herman, we'll leave it right there from Las Vegas and Cleveland.
HERMAN: OK, Fred.
WHITFIELD: OK. Appreciate it.
And we'll be right back.
[13:40:24] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. White House chief of staff, John Kelly, was brought in to calm the chaos within the Trump administration, but the tumultuous relationship between President Trump and his state of state, Rex Tillerson, is just the latest challenge for Kelly. Kelly is running into perhaps the same reality that his predecessor, Reince Priebus, faced. There is no controlling Donald Trump.
One source tells CNN, quote, "Kelly's like the janitor. He's just the latest guy brought in to clean up."
Correspondent, Elise Labott, has been working her sources.
Elise, what about Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state? How long he's able to survive this tumult?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Fred, he's in his job for now. And he apparently spoke to the president earlier in the week after the whole bruhaha about the NBC story about him calling the president a moron broke. And it seems the immediate fire has settled a little bit.
But I think it remains to be seen whether the president and Secretary Tillerson can repair that trust, and whether Secretary Tillerson can remain to be seen as someone who is an envoy of the president. As the secretary of state, the most important credibility you have is your relationship with the president. So I think people are going to be looking to see if Secretary Tillerson can go overseas and be seen as being credible. He's going to be taking this trip with President Trump late next month to Asia, a big swing through Asia, and I think he might be able to restore some of that.
But, look, it's no secret that Secretary Tillerson has been frustrated in the job, dealing with this White House, dealing with the chaotic administration. And so I don't think he's necessarily going to want to stay all that long. But I think he has certain things that he wants to get done. He does want to see the president through this trip. And he wants to finish up his kind of restructuring of the State Department. So I don't know if he's going to last four years but he's in the job for now.
WHITFIELD: Right. And this on the heels of last weekend. We were talking about the tweet from the president saying, don't waste your time in reference to Rex Tillerson and back channels diplomacy --
LABOTT: That's right.
WHITFIELD: -- to try to settle North Korea or at least impact on what's going on with North Korea.
So, meantime, as it pertains to the chief of staff, John Kelly, I understand you've learned something about the Wednesday morning discussions or interactions between President Trump and John Kelly. What was going on?
LABOTT: I think what's happened is this kind of chaos with Secretary Tillerson laid bare the struggles that Kelly faces. Wednesday, the president was furious about the situation with Secretary Tillerson. Kelly was forced to navigate between the two men who, at this point, Secretary Tillerson and the president are pretty fed up with each other. And sources familiar with their discussions between Kelly and the president tell myself, CNN's Dana Bash and Gloria Borger that Kelly suggested to the president in a kind of nuanced way that if Tillerson were to leave, Kelly's own ability to do his job properly could be at risk. And this is generating more than a few whispers in Washington about how long Kelly is going to last.
Now, the White House is declining to comment, but then called our story, after we ran it, false. Didn't say specifically what they took issue with. But I mean, I think there are a lot of questions about how long Kelly's going to hold out.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And maybe people are discovering nuance may not work. Perhaps, it's being really direct --
LABOTT: That's right.
WHITFIELD: -- because the president usually is pretty direct.
Elise Labott, thank you so much.
President Trump said that he would try to work with Democrats on health care reform. This morning, he tweeted this: "I called Chuck Schumer questioned to see if the Dems want to do a great health care bill. Obamacare is badly broken, big premiums. Who knows?"
In a statement, Senator Chuck Schumer said, quote, "The president wanted to make another run at repeal and replace, and I told the president that's off the table. If he wants to work together to improve the existing health care system, we, Democrats, are open to his suggestions."
Let's bring in Brian Karem, editor of "Sentinel Newspaper." He's a CNN political analyst. And Salena Zito, the national political reporter for the "Washington Examiner." She's a CNN contributor.
Good to see both of you.
Brian, what do you make about this overture from the president saying, let's work together on repeal and replace, and then Chuck Schumer coming out with this statement saying, no, we'll deal with the existing plan but repeal and replace is off the table.
[13:45:00] BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's the president, and it's a tweet, and they're famous for saying the tweet speaks for itself. The problem is, you know, what is he saying? He's not saying anything more than he's always said. And while he's tweeting out one thing, he's also doing another. And part of what he's been doing is undermining the current health care system, so Schumer called him on it. We'll see what happens. It would be really nice if there actually was some bipartisan support.
He tweeted out the day before, "This could just be the calm before the storm." And I'm just waiting for the calm. All I've seen is a storm. And here we go, more storm. This is just blue smoke and mirrors from this administration because, not anything that I've seen in the time that he's been in office, has been legitimate. It's all been -- there's always a hidden agenda to what he's saying, and this is another attempt at a hidden agenda.
WHITFIELD: Yes, because, Salena, there are a couple different messages here. Bipartisan, there's that message, but then there's also still doing it my way with repeal and replace. If Democrats have already said, we can work on fixing but repealing and replacing is not going to happen, so what really does all of this dialogue mean, or is it more of the same?
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Actually, probably, tactically smart for the president to do this. And here's why.
ZITO: You have to look at this through the -- at least, I am looking at this through the eyes of the people that voted for him, or are looking at him like maybe this can work, maybe it can't. He channels on Twitter. He always is talking to the voters through Twitter. And he's saying, hey, I reached out to Chuck Schumer, I wanted to talk about doing this health care bill, maybe we can work with Democrats. That's important because that's one of the things that voters consistently said all the time. And you also see, not just -- but also in polling, they would like to see both sides work together. And then Chuck Schumer comes out and says, I'm not doing repeal and replace. So, Trump is able to channel to voters, hey, look, I went at it, I called him, I said let's do a bill together, Chuck Schumer --
KAREM: And it's disingenuous.
WHITFIELD: Democrats have always said no to repeal and replace but working on fixing. The president has always said, on the campaign trail, and now as president, repeal and replace. So there really is nothing different here.
KAREM: No, and it's very disingenuous, too.
ZITO: I'm not saying it's right or wrong. I'm just saying, that's what he's doing.
WHITFIELD: More of the same, it sounds like.
Brian, why would he put himself out there with this message of more of the same?
KAREM: Well, he is playing to his base. But that's a shrinking base. And he's not moved forward any agenda that is voteable or that anyone's going to reach consensus on. The Republicans are fractured when it comes to health care. The Democrats are resolved in what they want to do. They want to enhance what is already there or make it better, and at the same time, the Republicans really don't know what they want to do after eight years. So the president's tweet is nothing more than another attempt by him to play to the base while, at the same time, having no legitimate move to go forward with. And it's just part and parcel of what we've seen from this administration from day one. A lot of blunder, a lot of bluster, and not a whole lot of substance. Flash over substance. And this is more flash.
WHITFIELD: So, quickly, Salena, I saw you shaking your head. What part did you not agree with?
ZITO: I think both sides, both parties are fractured over what they want to do with health care. And I think it's a mess on both sides. Now, we talked about the Republicans right now because they're the party in power. They're the ones that can make things happen. But the Democrats are also as equally fractured in different ways. But, you know --
KAREM: Where? Where? They've always stayed the same on this particular issue. And when I spoke to people on the Hill this week, there's an overwhelming sense from the Democrats of what they will do, and there is not an overwhelming sense of what the Republicans will do. There seems to be three different paths that Republicans will take.
ZITO: So if you could let me finish, please.
KAREM: I'm sorry.
ZITO: That's OK.
But Democrats are fractured over the single-payer issue and they're also sort of fractured about how this has impacted middle-class people. And I've seen it not just from people that are on Capitol Hill and that make the vote, but I've also seen it on the ground with voters. In a lot of ways, it's -- it kept a lot of voters either home or to vote against their own interests and vote for Trump. So I think that both parties are a mess about this. I think we talk more about it because Republicans are in power. But I think the Democratic Party is as equally fractured. And if they were in power, we would be talking about their fights right now over single-payer, whether you keep Obamacare as it is. I mean, it's just a mess, and this is sort of what happens when government and then politics becomes -- sort of overrides the discussion over health care, which is important to everybody. We all need health care, and we're not doing it right. And politics is making it messier and more complicated and more divisional.
[13:50:13] KAREM: And that goes straight to the top. That's -- that lands squarely on the president's shoulders. His divisive nature.
WHITFIELD: All right. Salena Zito, Brian Karem, thanks so much.
ZITO: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, a young woman is burned alive in her vehicle but she's able to tell investigators a portion of a very important thing, a name, before she passes away. A preview of our CNN "Special Report," next.
[13:55:10] WHITFIELD: Cole Haley will never forget the night he found 19-year-old Jessica Chambers burning alive along a Mississippi road in December of 2014. It was a murder mystery that baffled investigators for months.
A story our Randi Kaye has investigated herself in a new "Special Report, Justice for Jessica." That airs tonight at 8:00 p.m.
Randi joins us now.
Randi, what have you learned about how Jessica Chambers spent her final day?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, we know she sat on her mother's couch and hung out there until 5:00 p.m. that day. Then she got a call and she left Sunday. We don't know who that call came from. We know she stopped at a gas station in the small town of Courtland, Mississippi. She filled up with more gasoline than usual, which is a bit odd. She was caught on video at the gas station, but nothing unusual. She didn't seem concerned about anything.
After she left the gas station, we hit what investigators called this mystery hour. That's when Jessica Chambers pretty much goes off the grid. There's no telling where she is or, more importantly, who she's with. She's usually pretty active on her telephone, and during that hour, there's just one text message and one phone call to her mother, and no indication anything's wrong.
That night, she's found badly burned, having just escaped her burning car.
This is a clip from the documentary from when she was found by emergency crews.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLE HALEY, CHIEF, COURTLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT: We were sitting around just talking, and the tone went out for a car fire.
KAYE (voice-over): But after Chief Cole Haley arrived at the scene along the road, he quickly realized this was no ordinary car fire.
HALEY: I know all the guys in my department on the scene, I know every one of them, if they close their eyes right now, can still see it just like it was yesterday. I know I can.
KAYE: A few yards away from the burning car, they spotted a young woman emerging from the woods, wearing only her underwear.
HALEY: She was saying, "Help me, help me." I could see her mouth and tongue and stuff were charred real bad. I looked at her and said, no, this is Jessica Chambers, is who this is.
I asked her, "What happened?" She said, "Somebody set me on fire."
KAYE: Someone had doused Jessica's car in gasoline and set it on fire with Jessica trapped inside. Yet, somehow, she had fought her way out. (END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh, that is horrible.
Randi, what else was she able to tell first responders?
KAYE: Not much, because she could barely speak, her airway was so badly burned, as you can imagine. But firefighters thought she was saying the name Eric or Derrick. In other words, that someone named Eric or Derrick had done this to her. So, of course, after she passed away, authorities went on to interview everyone with the name Eric or Derrick in that county and if surrounding counties, and even those with names that were similar. But now they had a real mystery on their hands because they came up with nothing.
This was just a brutal crime. So cruel, so senseless. And the only person who could tell them what happened was 19-year-old Jessica Chambers, Fred, and she was now dead.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. Powerful story.
Randi Kaye -- and tragic, too -- thank you so much.
"Justice for Jessica" airs tonight, 8:00, right here on CNN.