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6.4 Earthquake Hits Southern California, Biggest in Decades, Felt In LAX And Las Vegas; Presidential Speech And Flyover Delayed Due To Weather; Interview With Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-CA), Homeland Security Committee, On California State Of Emergency; Trump Speech And Military Flyover Delayed Due To Weather; Source: "Concern Ran Deep" About The Size Of Crowd For Trump Speech. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 4, 2019 - 17:00   ET



PEGGY BREEDEN, RIDGECREST, CALIFORNIA, MAYOR: So we're doing OK. We just need everybody to remember us and take care.


DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Mayor Peggy Breeden, thank you so much for your time. Our coverage continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: This is the SITUATION ROOM on report. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar and we're following breaking news, as a magnitude 6.4 earthquake, the biggest in decades, has rocked southern California followed by dozens of aftershocks.

This was felt in Los Angeles, where buildings swayed for several seconds. But it was centered more than 100 miles away near the desert town of Ridgecrest, where damage includes broken water and gas lines as well as fires.

Scientists say there's a chance of another damaging earthquake as soon as today. I'll be speaking with Congresswoman Nanette Barragan of California and our correspondents and analysts have full coverage of the day's breaking news.

I want to begin in Southern California. We have CNN National Correspondent, Sara Sidner in our Los Angeles bureau.

What are you hearing?

What are you seeing?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have heard in Ridgecrest, where this epicenter 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit, there are two house fires, there are gas lines ruptured. There are several vegetation fires that they're trying to deal with now. The hospital has evacuated about 15 people there, the regional hospital that serves the entire area, a very important part of the community. They're dealing with evacuations and that emergency crews are getting more calls than they can handle.

They are, though, working on dealing with this issue now. This was not just felt in Ridgecrest but as far away as Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which is actually closer to Ridgecrest, they also felt it quite strongly.

Since then there have been more than 70 aftershocks that people are dealing with and this is as people are also dealing with damages, we are also hearing that there have been injuries and they are trying to get to people who have been injured due to this earthquake.

So a lot going on, as people try and understand and deal with the fact they are going to be dealing with these rolling aftershocks for at least a couple days, maybe three. They have become less and less over time but certainly scary for the folks there now.

Here in Los Angeles we are hearing of no damage, no injuries; that is the good news but in places like San Bernardino, they are talking about some cracks in some buildings there and some things falling there. So definitely there's damage.

Ridgecrest is the epicenter, has the most damage; there are injuries, fires and gas leaks being reported. The emergency crews are dealing with it. They are opening up some emergency centers and there are shelters open for people, too, because power lines are down and it's upwards of 100 degrees in that area.

People need to stay safe but they're also handling the fact there are these aftershocks that keep rolling through.

KEILAR: There may be no damage in L.A. but there's certainly frayed nerves. As a southern Californian, you live there, going through something like this where it just happens all of a sudden can be scary. There was a question about the alert system and whether it was set correctly to the threshold that would alert people even in L.A., where they maybe didn't feel the brunt of it but just so that they had some warning.

SIDNER: That's right. The shake alert L.A., I have the app as soon as the city announced it was there. It's supposed to tell you seconds before, sometimes up to a minute before you actually feel the earthquake, that it is coming and to take cover.

In this particular instance, you had a 6.4. Here in Los Angeles, it was somewhere around a 4.5, according to seismologists. That was not enough to trigger the app. The settings are they have to be a 5 or higher. Now they have decided, after hearing from a lot of people on social media if people are feeling it here, they want to know.

They want to know if it's coming and now the technology is there. And so Los Angeles has immediately responded, the city putting a tweet out saying, look, we hear you and we are changing the settings on this app so that it will alert you if it's a 5 magnitude or less.

KEILAR: Thank you, Sara.

Let's get to the epicenter at Ridgecrest. CNN's Nick Watt has just arrived on scene.

Tell us what you're seeing, Nick?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're outside the Ridgecrest Hospital, which has been evacuated while they assess some structural damage.


WATT: We are out in the desert. It's up in 90 degrees. That's an issue for patients. They are trying to get them into structures nearby so no one is standing around in this heat. We have just driven through the town, we went to a liquor store, they lost power a lot of liquor bottles have fallen off the shelves.

We are told by officials here they're dealing with some minor injuries; one patient is being brought in with what looks like a twisted ankle. We're told there are power lines down. We're told they're across the road.

The assessment of the damage is still going on but so far just minor injuries they're treating people for, no major injuries, no fatalities, just minor injuries and the authorities say they are confident that they will get a handle on the situation.

But of course, the issue is the fear of those aftershocks. As you've been reporting more than 80 since this hit this morning. We are told by seismologists at Cal Tech there's a 80 percent chance of an aftershock greater than 5.0. That's the fear here right now.

This has been a very, very big swarm of earthquakes but as Sara mentioned before, we're about 150 miles away from Los Angeles here, this town of about 30,000 people, obviously lower buildings, no high- rises, a couple of hotel buildings that are 2-3 stories high.

We've been told there are reports of damage in one hotel at least. But there's also another smaller town, which is down on a dry lakebed, actually closer to the actual epicenter. We haven't managed to get down there yet. Seismologists were telling us the way this earthquake happened --


KEILAR: We're going to try to reestablish Nick's signal there. We're having some transmission problems.

I want to go to Meteorologist, Tom Sater. He's at the CNN Weather Center.

What are you tracking, Tom? TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, this has been a pretty interesting day. Obviously a 6.4 magnitude is pretty strong. It was only 5 miles deep, so the more shallow, the more shaking. At 10:05 we had a 4.0, that's considered an aftershock; 22 million people felt something but no one felt the top of the list, which is an extreme.

No one felt violent shaking or even very strong. We have an area of concern here. All these lines here, these are newer faults. There are many more smaller ones. But Dr. Lucy Jones told us a couple of interesting things, here is Ridgecrest where 30,000 people live. The way this is fracturing here, when the initial energy was released, it was five seconds of energy.

You add that on to the reverberations and waves moving outward, the problem is it tore what we call the -- it was about a 10-mile rip along the fault. So the energy rides that fault line.

If not all the energy is released typically you'll have a number of aftershocks but the number now is over 85. This says there's still a lot of energy to be released and to be quite honest, I'm never seen quite this many in a short amount of time.

Here's our concern and this graphic we use on every different type of magnitude and they're pretty accurate; 5.4 or greater, we have not had that aftershock yet. Any structure that if it's compromised already, could create more damage or gas leaks.

This is what Dr. Lucy Jones said could happen today. Now 4.4 or higher, we can have 10 of them. I can tell you most of the activity has been --


SATER: -- in the 2.0 to 4.0 range. We're counting them every couple minutes but here is Ridgecrest, 30,000, there are some other communities that surround this, so say a good 42,000 felt very strong shaking.

We've had reports of mobile homes off their foundations, big rigs tipped over with gas leaks.

Look at the duration, this area of orange is what's happened today, red is the last hour. So we're seeing two flanks, if this activity continues, it's moving closer and closer to Ridgecrest.

The other issue is moving up in areas to the northwest. This is a closer region around Death Valley National Park.

One more thing. Ridgecrest is here. It goes all the way out to where there's some weak shaking in Fresno, L.A., Long Beach, all the way out to Las Vegas but 42,000 feeling very strong shaking. That is a concern.

But 21 million felt light shaking. That's the low frequency energy, the rolling frequency, those are the ones that move out farther and give you that rolling motion. We're not out of this just yet. Is it possible we could have a quake that's stronger than the 6.4?

Yes, we see this sometimes around the globe; even though you had a foreshock, if there's enough energy still in there, we have seen at times maybe two out of 10 times we could get something stronger if that happens, that becomes the quake and the 6.4 is a foreshock.

The good news is we're not seeing any fatalities even though the USGS gave us a green pager, this is what you want to see. But the economic losses, Dana (sic), could be significant. We have a 35 percent chance according to the models and the population. That may be $10 million to $100 hundred worth of damage.

Right now the inspection process I think could take weeks if you're looking at every road, bridge, school, hospital, you name it. Let's hope that we start to see a decline but again that 5.4 is still possible in the next 24 hours.

KEILAR: Sure. They're going to have to be very vigilant.

We've been talking to a geophysicist with USGS and Paul Caruso in Golden, Colorado, said we expect the aftershocks to continue for a couple of weeks. And like to your point, Tom, he said they've been occurring so fast he's having trouble keeping count.

In the last 15 minutes, where we had spoken to him, there were five earthquakes alone.

Is there anything to deduce from that?

SATER: A couple years ago, there was an earthquake in Italy, they were more a mountainous area. But when you have this many -- and again I haven't seen this earthquake where the swarm is afterwards this fast and this many -- it happens.

But they do taper off over time. We could see these for months. We see it in Indonesia, sometimes for days or weeks. Even back in the '80s, when we had smaller activity, you can see this.

What I think is interesting more than just how much we'll see later is the activity that was being reported on the last 2.5 to 3 weeks. There have been stories written, we're seeing, feeling some swarms here, something a typically a higher number.

Could this lead to something else?

You just never know. But again, that 5.4 or greater aftershock, I've seen it on every earthquake that we have covered around the world, almost always does happen, depending on how strong that initial quake is. That would be enough to create more damage.

KEILAR: All right. Tom --


KEILAR: -- thank you so much. President Trump has briefed on this big quake. I want to go live to the White House. we have our Chief Correspondent, Jim Acosta on the North Lawn.

Tell us more.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president has briefed on all of this, as would normally take place when there's been a natural disaster. We can show the president's tweet up on the screen.

He says he's been fully briefed on earthquake in Southern California. All seems to be very much under control, the president declaring things under control, even though emergency crews are still arriving on the scene. Media crews arriving at various locations to assess what's going on there.

We should also point out the president and governor, Gavin Newsom, have not had the best of relations at times, sparred over the federal response to the wildfires in California but we're waiting to find out if they'll get on the phone at some point.

Brianna, we're talking about all this when the president was supposed to be gearing up to go to the National Mall and deliver remarks at this patriotic display that he and his officials have thrown together. At this point from what we understand, the program has been delayed down there per an announcement to people on the scene down there.

But I talked to a White House official over here, who said the president still plans to deliver his remarks down on the mall and they have released some of those excerpts to reporters.

As you know, Brianna, there's big thunderstorms moving through the Washington, D.C., area right now. It looks as though the weather may have delayed the president's participation in that program.

KEILAR: Jim Acosta, thank you so much. We'll be checking in with you.

We have more breaking news up next as Southern California is rocked by its biggest earthquake in two decades. I'll speak to a congresswoman who partially represents the area that was hit.





KEILAR: We're following breaking news, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake, the biggest in decades, has rocked southern California followed by dozens and dozens of aftershocks. The quake was centered near the desert town of Ridgecrest, which is about 150 miles from Los Angeles.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Nanette Barragan of California. She's a member of the Homeland Security Committee.

You represent an area south of Los Angeles, so I know you did not feel this earthquake personally. But you said your mother, who lives slightly north of you, did feel it.

What are you hearing?

REP. NANETTE BARRAGAN (D-CA): We're hearing it was more of a shaking instead of a rolling feeling and they said they felt it but didn't feel it very strongly where I am in south Los Angeles.

So not hearing too many reports, certainly haven't heard any damage reports out where I'm at.

KEILAR: What does the response look like?

Do you have anything to compare this to?

BARRAGAN: I've certainly felt a number of earthquakes. It is a good reminder to tell people to have a plan, be ready for an earthquake, because in California we can have one at any time. So we have our thoughts out with the first responders and make sure people are prepared for the aftershocks that will follow.

KEILAR: The president tweeted he's been briefed on this. We should note the president and Governor Newson have not always been on the best of terms.

Are you confident that any sort of federal response your state needs will be satisfied?

BARRAGAN: I am. We've had hearings at Homeland Security on this very issue. Beyond the president at the top who makes these threats and puts these tweets out, folks we have worked with have been very cooperative and say the state of California will get the funding necessary in emergency situations and I'm comfortable with that.

KEILAR: A lot of people who have not been through an earthquake, which is something unique to California and to the West Coast, they don't know that even once there is an earthquake -- it isn't all over. There's still some frayed nerves, still a question of whether something else is going to happen.

Is that concerning Californians?

BARRAGAN: Absolutely. It's very scary when there's shaking and moving; you don't know what to do, some people run outside. That's not the thing to do. You're supposed to take cover, get under a sturdy table or in a doorway.

But it can rattle your nerves and certainly when you feel the aftershocks, sometimes you wonder if this will be bigger, so it is a concern to people in the area.

KEILAR: How big is a concern is there that this might be bigger?

I remember growing up in California, the talk was, when is the big one going to be?


KEILAR: Is there a concern that there could -- it seems like the chance of this happening is small but it's not zero.

How concerned are people that there's going to be a big one?

BARRAGAN: We don't really hear about it as much anymore as I used to when I was a kid about the big one. I think the more earthquakes that you have in smaller numbers, they say the less likely you'll have a really big one.

To some degree, when I see these happen at 5 and 6, I feel less concern that we are going to see a very big one. So we haven't heard too much from constituents on this issue recently.

KEILAR: What's your message to your fellow Californians to keep themselves safe right now?

BARRAGAN: First, be ready, have a plan with your family. If there's an earthquake, where do you meet?

Who do you call?

Make sure you're prepared with food and water. It's very critical. But just tell people to go about your daily lives today. Enjoy the Fourth, have a good time but be prepared in case of an emergency, certainly an earthquake.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about the warning system. The USGS said it worked correctly but the threshold was set at a certain level so that even people in Los Angeles were wondering what was going on. They weren't going to feel the quake.

Do you see think the threshold needs to be lowered?

Is that something you'd be interested in so that people aren't as surprised?

BARRAGAN: Absolutely. The question is, where do you set it?

We do have a lot of smaller shakes here.

Do you want it constantly going off and, you know, causing some concern?

But sometimes we forget what a 4 or 5 feels like. If we're hearing an overwhelming number saying they want it decreased, I think it's a good idea. I would rather be safe than sorry and have heads up and be prepared to get under a table.

KEILAR: Yes indeed. Congresswoman, thank you so much.

BARRAGAN: Thank you.

KEILAR: So stay with us. We have more ahead on this earthquake. This has been followed by dozens and dozens of aftershocks.

When is the shaking going to end?

It's going to be a while.


[17:31:53] KEILAR: Onto our breaking news now, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in southern California. This has been followed by at least 159 aftershocks. A state of emergency has been declared in Ridgecrest, which is the desert -- Ridgecrest, I should say, the desert town which is near the quake's epicenter.

And I want to go back now to CNN National Correspondent, Sara Sidner. She has been following this in Los Angeles from the moment that it happened. Sara, bring us up to speed. I mean, these many aftershocks, this is pretty -- this is elevated.

SIDNER: Yes, it's significant. There are always aftershocks after this kind of a moderately large earthquake. Six point four is nothing to sneeze at. There was definitely damage. A couple of house fires that we know of.

We know the hospital evacuated about 15 patients or so and that there are people calling in with injuries. And they're having, you know, a lot of calls coming in at the epicenter.

Away from the epicenter, less so. Here in Los Angeles where you've got a population of more than 10 million people, no injuries, no damage that has been reported at this point.

We all, though, certainly felt it. You could feel -- our building, 15 floors high, you could feel it sway. It went on for several seconds. One of the longest ones I've ever felt here in this region. Being -- I've only been here for five years, but there are folks who have been here their whole lives saying that they haven't felt one go on that long in their lifetime here in Los Angeles.

But we were hit far less, 4.5 or so magnitude is what seismologists are saying, here in Los Angeles. But in Ridgecrest, you know, there is a great deal of concern because of the aftershocks. Not only have people had to deal with the 6.4, which really first gave them a jolt and then they could feel that sort of rolling feeling, where one person told us that the floor, they could actually see it buckling. That they're rolling.

Now they're dealing with those aftershocks as they're trying to assess the damage there. We know that there have been stores that have had plenty of things come flying off the shelves. We know that there are people who have called in injuries to emergency services, and they are all trying to get there.

We also know that the phone lines have been problematic because everybody is on the phone trying to talk about or get help and try to check on their neighbors, for example. And so one thing that authorities have been saying is please do not call 911 unless there is an actual emergency.

Now, there is a technology available here in the U.S. that can alert you to an earthquake. We have that, but it did not go off. It wasn't a glitch. It didn't go off, though, to let us know. They are changing the settings on that app, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, they are. A lot of people calling for that. Sara Sidner, thank you from Los Angeles.

And joining me now by phone is Kimberly Washburn. She was directing a children's July Fourth program when the quake struck.

Kimberly, thanks for talking to us.


KEILAR: So you were pretty close to the epicenter of this earthquake, and we can see from the video it was a scary moment. I want to pause and listen to this.




[17:35:07] KEILAR: All right. So, Kimberly, I mean, this is the moment. And you can see the kids were just on stage -- they're adorable, by the way -- performing, and then this sort of collective scare that they had. Tell us what this felt like.

WASHBURN (via telephone): Yes, it was terrifying. I was down there by the stage right next to the piano directing them, and we had 65 kids on stage who were scared. They didn't know what was happening. And all their parents were in the audience wanting to get to their kids to make sure they were safe. So it was a very scary moment, yes.

KEILAR: And are they all safe? Were there any mishaps? I mean, part of -- I've noticed that some of the injuries happen just in the chaos and trying to find a safe place.

WASHBURN (via telephone): Yes. Yes, they were all safe. We had one boy that got his foot hurt from something that fell, but it was just more bruising. So all the kids were safe and accounted for.

And we were able to get out of the building quickly before -- there were some structural damage that happened after we left. Thank goodness. We were blessed. The wall behind the kids collapsed, so we're just so grateful that everyone were -- was able to get out of the building.

KEILAR: Oh, my God! So -- wait. So at what point did it collapse, after the quake or toward the end of the shaking?

WASHBURN (via telephone): It was after -- so we were all in the building until it stopped shaking, and then we were able to evacuate. And then after that fact, then it kind of collapsed. So, yes, we were blessed.

KEILAR: That is very scary. Are you hearing anything from people in your community about damage? You're mentioning this wall. But anywhere else that you've heard about, any power issues? What are you hearing?

WASHBURN (via telephone): There are power outages throughout the city that I've heard right now they're going to be coming on tomorrow morning. So there's been fires. The hospital had to be evacuated because there were some structural damage there. I know buildings on the base here, the China Lake naval base, were damaged. So, yes, there was -- there's some stuff.

KEILAR: And do you have any concerns? Any concerns about aftershocks? There have been so many.

WASHBURN (via telephone): There has been. And there are rumors flying about there's another big one coming, so I think we're all a little bit on edge. And every aftershock, I think -- you're sitting in the couch and someone sits down next to you and the couch shakes and you just -- your heart starts beating and --


WASHBURN (via telephone): So it is -- this is the first disaster that I've ever been through, and it is a little bit scary, yes.

KEILAR: Yes, it is definitely scary. Kimberly Washburn, thank you so much for talking with us.

WASHBURN (via telephone): Thank you.

KEILAR: All right, best of luck to you. As -- it is a lot of frayed nerves coming from California for folks there who have been through this earthquake.

Stay with us for much more breaking news ahead.


[17:42:23] KEILAR: We are continuing to follow the breaking news in the aftermath of the southern California earthquake. President Trump has been briefed on the quake. And here in Washington, the President's speech on the National Mall has been delayed due to thunderstorms.

Let's get the latest now from CNN Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta. Bring us up to date here, Jim.

ACOSTA: That's right, Brianna. The program down on the Mall has been delayed somewhat because of the weather, but according to a senior White House official, the President still plans on delivering his remarks at this Salute to America as they're calling it over here at the White House. So far, the excerpts released by the White House of the President's

remarks later on this evening do not appear to be overly partisan or political, but his critics say he's already turned this into a militarized Trump rally.


ACOSTA (voice-over): After the Trump administration rolled in tanks and other military vehicles for the Fourth of July, the President is anticipating a big crowd down on the National Mall, tweeting, looks like a lot of people already heading to Salute to America at Lincoln Memorial. It will be well worth and wait. See you there at 6:00 p.m. Amazing music and bands. Thank you, Army.

But the President's critics, including some inflating this baby Trump balloon over by the Washington Monument, say Mr. Trump's Salute to America event is little more than a celebration of himself. Most Americans gathered on the Mall won't be able to see the military hardware that's located behind sprawling fences available to VIPs and other ticketed guests. Democrats say the President just doesn't get it.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is handing out tickets to his big donors. That's a campaign event. And if he's going to do a campaign event, then it should be paid for by his campaign contributions. It should not be paid for by the American taxpayer.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I found it fascinating to read the number of military people who weren't going to show up and didn't want to be there. I mean, he misses the whole point about why we're the country we are.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House insists the critics have it all wrong. Mr. Trump is building up expectations for the event, tweeting, people are coming from far and wide to join us today and tonight for what is turning out to be one of the biggest celebrations in the history of our country. A reminder of when the White House insisted the Trump inauguration was the biggest ever.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The President is also taking shots at a GOP defector, Congressman Justin Amash, who announced he's bolting from the Republican Party, writing in "The Washington Post," today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party. No matter your circumstance, I am asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us.

[17:45:06] Back in May, Amash said Mr. Trump should be impeached based on the findings in the Russia investigation.

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R), MICHIGAN: By the way, a lot of people think I'm right about the Mueller report, but they just won't say it. There are a lot of Republicans.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The President fired back, tweeting, great news for the Republican Party. Labeling Amash a total loser.

The President is also venting his frustrations that he appears to be running out of options to insert a citizenship question in the 2020 census, something the Supreme Court ruled against. One source told CNN administration officials see limited paths forward and that a presidential executive order in defiance of the court isn't realistic at this point.

Still, Mr. Trump tweeted, Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice are working very hard on this, even on the Fourth of July. Democratic contenders aren't buying it.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The citizenship question is motivated by racial and partisan reasons. It has no business in something that's supposed to be neutral.


ACOSTA: And getting back to the event later on this evening down on the National Mall, I was talking with a source close to the White House earlier today, Brianna, who said that there was a concern inside the West Wing that there would not be enough people down on the National Mall for the President's remarks.

As you can see from this picture that we're showing right now, there does seem to be a fairly large crowd in attendance for the President's remarks here in just a few moments. But there was some concern, some fear inside the West Wing, just yesterday that there would not be enough people down on the Mall, and they were trying to get people down for the President's event inside the Republican Party.

A source close to the White House, Brianna, told me that this concern, quote, ran deep amongst some of the President's supporters and inside the West Wing, that they would not have enough people down on the Mall this evening. Though it looks like, Brianna, the President will have a decent crowd as the weather is clearing. And the rain has stopped here in Washington, at least for now, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Jim Acosta at the White House. Thank you.

And we have more breaking news ahead. We'll be right back.


[17:51:49] KEILAR: The breaking news, President Trump still is expected to give a speech on the National Mall this evening despite some delays today due to thunderstorms. I want to bring in our analysts to talk about this.

So he is still going to speak. This has been delayed, but the weather is not so great. It's been looking very gloomy. The cloud cover is low. One of the key parts of this event is going to be flyovers. Do you think this is the event that he envisioned, Dana? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It just depends what he

makes of it. You know, the word from some sources in the White House is that he sees this as a chance to get praised like he actually did for the D-Day speech that he gave last month where he did, surprisingly, skip to -- stick to script, and then again was praised for that, for giving probably one of the best speeches, if not the best speech, of his presidency so far.

This is a very different event. It is a very different circumstance, very different atmosphere. And he wants to do this to show America's might, to show off. He calls it the best show on earth.

But he's well aware of the criticism that this is political, so the question is whether he wants to stick it to those critics or whether he wants to prove them wrong. He could go either way.

KEILAR: There are excerpts out. They indicate from the excerpts that it's just going to be about unity, and it's going to be about patriotism. He says that we come together as one nation and that we all share a truly extraordinary heritage, which he says is part of the story of America. Do you -- do we think he's going to stick to this?

RYAN LIZZA, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, ESQUIRE: And the excerpts are -- I just looked at it before we came on. It's like as -- it was -- be a -- it's -- they look like a robot designed in Silicon Valley. You know, it was like do a Fourth of July speech for the President. It's just a bunch of, like, cliches about, you know, unity and celebrating our history.

I can only think of two speeches where he's truly stuck to the script and, you know, was somewhat applauded for it. One was that D-Day speech and then the other was the last state of the union. Generally, he -- if he finds his own text boring that his speechwriters have given him, he likes, you know, to break out.


LIZZA: And there's a lot to break out about right now. Will he talk about Nike and the Betsy Ross flag? Will he talk about Justin Amash? Will he talk about people criticizing him for having tanks at the event? I mean, there are so many things running through his mind, we know from Twitter, that I think, you know, that's likely what we'll get.

HENNESSEY: Look, he's also someone who cares a lot about optics. And moving this to the Lincoln Memorial, obviously, he was thinking a lot, potentially sort of thinking about this as an inauguration day do- over.

We all know how obsessed he was with those images of very, very sparsely attended crowds at his inauguration. Certainly, he's not going to get the images of the packed National Mall from this event, in part, because, you know -- of the sort of politicization of the event and in part because it's pouring rain in Washington, D.C. And so if he's not getting the images that he wants, I think those are the conditions in which he's more likely to go off script.

As Ryan mentioned, there are also a lot of bad headlines right now. Robert Mueller is going to be testifying soon. Serious questions about the census. Sort of the disastrous performance of his daughter at the G-20 last week. Those are the precise conditions under which he might go off script.

KEILAR: Yes, Phil?

[17:55:04] PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. Yes, I think -- I'd break this down simply. Look, he can be boring, which is the script, or he can be divisive. As soon as he gets away from the script and starts talking about us versus them, I think people, including myself, would look and say, "this is our holiday, it's not yours. Please stick to boring." Which is not really his thing.

LIZZA: Right.

KEILAR: We will see. We will see. According to the excerpts, he's going to, but this is ahead of us still. And we have much more breaking news ahead as well.