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Statewide Death Toll From Fires Stands At 80; School Bus Driver Helps Students Escape Fire; Trump On Whether Crown Prince Lied: We May

November 19, 2018

xfdiw CNN-NEWSROOM-18

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<Date: November 19, 2018>

<Time: 09:00>

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<Head: Statewide Death Toll From Fires Stands At 80; School Bus Driver

Helps Students Escape Fire; Trump On Whether Crown Prince Lied: We May

Never Know; Houthi Leader Says Militants Ready For Ceasefire; British

PM Defends Brexit Plan Ahead Of Brussels Talks; Israeli PM Calls on

Coalition to Hold Government Together; Trump Interview with Fox News;

Tijuana Residents Protest Arrival of Migrant Caravan; Florida Race for

U.S. Senate Finally Settled; Economic Forum Ends without a Joint

Communique Amid U.S.-China Tensions; “El Chapo” Drug Trial Resumes in

New York Monday. Aired 1-2a ET - Part 1>

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<End: 01:59>

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:00:00] CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Ahead this hour, searching through the ashes in California, hundreds of people are still listed as missing.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Also this hour, questions are mounting. The CIA says the Saudi Crown Prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s murder but U.S. President Trump says, we may never know if he’s lied about it.

VANIER: And Houthi militant leader in Yemen says his forces are ready for a ceasefire if the Saudi-led coalition truly wants peace.

ALLEN: We hope that happens. Welcome to our viewers watching all around the world, I’m Natalie Allen.

VANIER: I’m Cyril Vanier. Thanks for joining us. So the death toll from California’s wildfires has now reached 80. Every few days the toll increases as bodies are found in the rubble and it’s probably not over since hundreds of people are still listed as missing.

ALLEN: In Chico California, a vigil was held Sunday to honor the victims of the fires. So far the flames have burned through an area larger than Singapore and Taipei combined. The so-called Camp Fire in the north is still burning. It’s 60 percent contained while the Woolsey Fire in the south is almost 90 percent contained. U.S. President Trump surveyed the damage Saturday and promised support.

Joining us now on the phone from Chico, California is the mayor of Paradise, California Jody Jones. Mayor Jones, I want to begin by sending our condolences for the lives lost and the loss of your town. I can’t imagine how you’re coping but you’ve just attended a vigil. Can you tell us a little about it?

MAYOR JODY JONES, PARADISE CALIFORNIA: Well, the vigil was for people. It was to remember the people that we have lost here in Paradise and for people to grieve their own losses and just to be together as a community.

ALLEN: Was it healing?

JONES: Yes I would say cathartic.

ALLEN: Yes, I can’t imagine because vigils usually are. You walked with President Trump also recently through the devastation. You’ve been concerned he’s been critical the Forest Service, concerned that state and federal government may not work together on this. There is acrimony there. What did the President say? Was he reassuring?

JONES: He was very reassuring. He was gracious, and kind, and warm. And he said to me, we have to help these people. These are my people, meaning, that we’re all Americans, we’re all in this together. And I watched as he chatted with the governor and the governor-elect. They came in on Marine One with him. They all are committed to helping us and working together and I was just very encouraged.

ALLEN: What are the immediate needs for people who survived but who have go home?

JONES: Well, housing is a big problem. There’s just not enough housing for everyone in Butte County. And so people are having to go far away to find places to stay in the short term. So that is a big need right now.

ALLEN: And how would you assess the support though that you’re getting, Mayor. How would you assess? There’s always heroes in this. People that just show up to do good deeds, to lend a helping hand.

JONES: I would say I’m just amazed by it. The outpouring of support from communities surrounding us and far away and also the work that FEMA is doing. And they showed up on Saturday, the fire happened on Thursday, and they’ve been working 24/7 ever since, doing everything that they can to help us so I am grateful.

ALLEN: And how are you coping as a mayor of this town? How are you getting support? Is it from acts like that that you’re seeing around you?

JONES: It’s from that, it’s from the people of Paradise who are determined to be strong and rebuild, and it’s also from my faith in Jesus Christ. I went to church after the vigil and that gave me strength to go on for another week.

ALLEN: I also want to ask you about the criticism that your city government has received, the evacuation order that first came in was reportedly only for the eastern part of the town, it took an hour for the next alert, and there’s also been reports that there weren’t any warnings but by local radio, or T.V., or sirens. Is that accurate?

JONES: I don’t know how accurate it is. I got a text on my phone at 8:31 to immediately evacuate. I do live sort of on the east side not on the far eastern side but I don’t know how accurate it is. But I can tell you that fire came in so fast. There was it -- wasn’t that that notifications were delayed, it was that there was no time to give them.

[01:05:24] ALLEN: Is there anything that could have been done though? Is there anything that should have been done in retrospect?

JONES: You know, the notification system where you get that text on your phone, it’s an opt-in system. It’s automatic for landlines but cell phones have to opt in. And so I think we probably could have done more to sign people up to get them to opt into that system so more people would have gotten that notice.

ALLEN: How are you dealing with that aspect of this story?

JONES: I don’t quite know how to answer that. I think, once we get our town back up and running we will look at how we could do things differently. But today, we’re just focused on surviving, trying to get through the process that needs to happen so our residents can go back in and look at their homes.

ALLEN: I totally understand that. And you talk about building back, and people always want to build back you know their city after disaster. They’ve missed it and we’ve all learned how wonderful Paradise was. But how do you build back and assure people safety in this era of climate change and almost constant fire season in the state?

JONES: We’re going to need to work through that. But one of the things that’s really interesting is that a lot of the places, the homes that survive, they’re the new homes that were built to new building standards and they’re still standing. Lots of the buildings in Paradise were built in the 50s and 60s and my home was almost 30 years old, but the new homes that I would say have been built in the last eight years or so, they’re all still there or most of them.

ALLEN: That’s good to hear. It was very good to hear. Hopefully, you’ll be able to build back with resilience. And we’ve heard so much about the town, we’re all thinking of you. I really appreciate your time we know how difficult this might be. So Mayor Jones, thanks again for joining us we appreciate it.

VANIER: It’s been great to hear from the mayor. And those pictures that we saw, I mean, it’s almost nothing left standing.

ALLEN: Right, yes.

VANIER: (INAUDIBLE) percent of the houses.

ALLEN: I know. She’s lost her home, all her friends, police. It’s all gone. I’ve (INAUDIBLE) with this because if you can believe this, the fire is still burning.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: It’s still burning, it is not supposed to be burning, right, at all. I mean, we’re getting into this fire season. As you heard officials and firefighters will tell you, it’s kind of a year-long process now. And so the deeper you go into the season, the more danger yet of combining what I’m about to talk about which is not just the fire, the burn scars but heavy rain on top of that. And we saw the calamity unfolding last year as a result of mudflows. There -- so that’s another threat that we have to add and talk about here.

So let’s check in on the firefighting efforts, heroic that had been going on for quite some time at this point here. Look at that. They’ve gotten 65 percent of the fire contained. So this is good news. We went over 50 percent in the last a couple of days and I think we’re going to continue to get some ground today because weather conditions will begin to improve. Of course, 60,000 plus hectares, the most destructive fire in California history. Here it is the Camp Fire. By the way, the stagnation continues as far as the smoke, as far as the very poor visibility and the poor air quality.

I met some friends that were out to in San Francisco saying never seen anything like that. They go out there all the time. Folks that live there will tell you the same. It’s just been incredible. And this imagery wouldn’t have been able to show you this even ten years ago, this technology we have now we can show you an infrared satellite from up above in space. Look at this, and those are the fires, there you see the smoke, and so maybe you’re not near at the fire, maybe you’re hundred miles or a hundred kilometers to the south, right. Well, this is the problem. The wind picks up that very dangerous smog and continues to push it.

And then when you get into the valleys, it sinks down into the valleys and it can’t really mix out and so we get into a lot of troubles. So there are the red spots you see there. That is unhealthy, obviously, the air quality that will continue so long as the fire is burning. And that’s basically what the National Weather Service said that was reading the statement they put out. They basically said we’re going to leave this advisory up until the fires are extinguished. That’s kind of what we’re looking at here.

So here we go with the fire improvement as far as the winds. I think today will be better but look what happens here. This is now Wednesday. Look at all the blue coming in. That’s a lot of rain coming in at a very short amount of time. And we have another system coming in Thursday and Friday, and perhaps even one as we head into the early part of next week. So this is what I was talking about.

We’re now combining this big fire event, the worst in California history, with the kinds of rains you’re seeing there, that’s not going to be a good mix because those burn scars, that is going to be cement. That water is not going to be able to be absorbed. It’s going to go right down the hillsides and that’s going to create an additional problem here as I see it right now as we head through the day on Wednesday and then again onto Friday as I showed you.

And then you see condition is beginning to improve as far as the winds today. I don’t think we’re had -- we’re going to have those gusty winds anywhere from 80 to 100 kilometers began, so that’s good. I think they’re going to get the containment up even more so. And now I’m already bored about what’s going to happen. I know it’s a lot to take in but because --

[01:10:34] VAINER: You’re thinking next step. CABRERA: The next step because of what happened last year. And now you have folks that are sleeping in tents that are going to have to deal with all that heavy weather coming in, so that’s the next thing we’re watching here for a Wednesday and into next week.

VANIER: Yes. And they might not have a plan B. They might not have an alternate. Their own -- their houses have been destroyed.

CABRERA: Yes.

VANIER: Ivan Cabrera joining us from the CNN Weather Center. The whole team at the CNN Weather Center has been tracking this really since the very beginning. Thank you so much. Now he’s being called a bus driver from heaven.

ALLEN: This is having to do with the Camp Fire in California. A man is being praised for saving 22 students aboard his school bus as the fire raged around them. CNN’s Paul Vercammen has his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A bus driver from heaven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the Camp Fire raged, Kevin McKay, a few months into his job for the Paradise School District brace for the bus drive of his life and the lives of two dozen others.

KEVIN MCKAY, BUS DRIVER: Well, it was just -- it was time to go.

VERCAMMEN: Stranded children and two teachers jumped on.

MARY LUDWIG, TEACHER: There were 22 kids and my first thought was just getting them on the bus and getting them out of there because this guy was really menacing.

CHARLOTTE MERZ, STUDENT: It was so crazy and there were like fires left and right, everywhere you look. There was like smoke everywhere and people trying to get out and it was like really hard.

VERCAMMEN: Were you scared?

MERZ: Very scared but I tried to just like calm down because that would just make it worse for everybody else.

MCKAY: We started getting fire on both sides of the bus. Kids starting to get pretty antsy. There’s a couple points, I think that you know we had some honest discussions about is this the time to get out of the bus.

VERCAMMEN: Smoke seeped into the bus. Children started inhaling and falling asleep.

ABBIE DAVIS, TEACHER: I ran to the front of the bus and I said Kevin, these kids are telling me they’re tired right now. And Kevin without even thinking about it took his shirt off and tore it into little pieces and we just started -- we just started tearing it up as quickly as we could to make filters for these kids to breathe.

VERCAMMEN: They dipped the rags in water. The harrowing truck continued. McKay drove in the middle of the road to avoid burning trees and buildings. Coming down the hill, the sky becomes lighter, the tension eases, the adults intentionally make some light comments about having pancakes and a black bear surviving at the black bear diner.

MERZ: It was great. I mean, after all that tenseness, we really needed a joke to just loosen everything up.

VERCAMMEN: Then back between walls of fire.

MERZ: When we turned the corner, there we were back again and it was awful. I just felt like this was never going to end.

DAVIS: Just being gridlocked trapped in the road, there was nowhere for us to go, the traffic wasn’t moving, and then our last stretch too, I think that was the -- that was the moment I thought that we might not make it out.

VERCAMMEN: Abbie’s home burned, so did Charlotte’s, and Kevin’s, Mary’s still stands. Homes were lost but in the end, everyone on the bus survived.

MCKAY: Safety is such an important part of a bus drivers role. And you know, I must have paid close attention.

VERCAMMEN: A reference to the class he took on how to keep his precious passengers safe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Now, as always, as often with these natural disasters, if you want to help out, if you want to find out how you can help the victims of the California wildfires, you can do so in our Web site. that’s on cnn.com/impact. And there’s a list there of vetted charities that is -- that are helping those in need.

ALLEN: All right, more news ahead here including President Trump saying the U.S. has the audio tape of the murder of journalists Jamal Khashoggi. Why he hasn’t listened to it yet, we’ll tell you that just ahead.

VANIER: Plus, a ceasefire offer is on the table in Yemen. How Khashoggi’s death may force the Saudis into a deal. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:17:06] PATRICK SNELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. I’m Patrick Snell with your CNN “WORLD SPORT” headlines. England joining Portugal now in the semi-finals of the newly launched UEFA Nations League after a thrilling come-from- behind win against Croatia Sunday at Wembley in a rematch of the World Cup semis won by Croatia after extra time.

It was the visitors who strike first here, but England skipper Harry Kane, then setting up Jesse Lingard for the leveler. And then, grabbing a match winner himself, six minutes from time. The 2-1 win, meaning Croatia now relegate to League B for next season.

On to tennis, where Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the youngest champion at the season-ending ATP Tour Finals for a decade. In fact, he was the man who beat Novak Djokovic who hold that distinction from 10 years ago.

The 21-year-old Zverev -- look at this and look at the emotion there. Just no trouble at all with dealing with the world number one reversing the decision from a few days ago when Djokovic beat it with just the loss of five games in round robin play.

And in golf, Francesco Molinari becoming the first Italian ever to finish the year as Euro number one. Winning the season-long Race to Dubai crown, but it was a double delight in Dubai as Danny Willett won the season-ending tournament, the World Tour Championship.

It was the 31-year-old Englishman’s first victory since that major breakthrough at Augusta National in 2016. His son, Zachariah, who was born just a few days before that masters triumph now 2-1/2 years old on a hand to celebrate. They say memories are made of this.

That is a look at your CNN “WORLD SPORT” headlines, I’m Patrick Snell.

VANIER: U.S. President Donald Trump, says he doesn’t know if the Saudi Crown Prince lied to him when he claims he wasn’t involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite evidence to the contrary. Here is what Mr. Trump said to Fox News on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: A month ago, you said you had spoken with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and that he had told you directly that he had no knowledge of this.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That’s right. That’s right and still says that.

WALLACE: But we now know that some of the people closest to him, some of his closest advisers were part of this. Question, did MBS lie to you, sir?

TRUMP: I don’t -- I don’t know. You know, who can really know. But I can say this, he’s got many people now that say, he had no knowledge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: The Saudis have always denied the crown prince was involved, but sources say, the CIA believes he personally ordered Khashoggi be killed. The U.S. government has yet to reach a final conclusion. Mr. Trump, says we’ll get a full report Tuesday. He has already been briefed on some of the evidence, including that terrific audio recording of part of the murder, Mr. Trump explained why he doesn’t plan on listening to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don’t want to hear the tape. No reason for me to hear the tape. But I’ve been fully --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Why don’t you? Why don’t you want to hear it, sir?

TRUMP: Because it’s a suffering tape, it’s a terrible tape. I’ve been fully briefed on it. There’s no reason for me to hear it. In fact, I said to the people, “Should I?” They said, “You really shouldn’t.” There’s no reason. I know exactly. I know everything that went on the tape without having --

(CROSSTALK)

[01:20:05] WALLACE: And what happened?

TRUMP: It was very violent, very vicious, and terrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Now, the Saudis have changed their story multiple times since Khashoggi disappeared from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, last month. Their latest narrative, he was tied up, injected with a deadly dose of a sedative and then dismembered.

Of a Khashoggi, case has put the Trump administration in a difficult position. Saudi Arabia is a key ally and partner for his Middle East policy.

ALLEN: Earlier, CNN spoke with Brian Hook, senior policy advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State. He says the U.S. will continue to work with Saudi Arabia as it gathers the facts. But he emphasized that no conclusion has been reached.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN HOOK, SENIOR POLICY ADVISER TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE: The reports that the United States has reached a conclusion about the death of Jamal Khashoggi are inaccurate, we are still gathering the facts. And so, we have taken some actions against suspects. We’ve imposed sanctions and visa sanctions on them. But we are still gathering facts.

We are determined to hold those accountable, who were responsible for the death of Jamal. And while we are doing that, we will maintain our strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Now, in another aspect of this story, Jamal Khashoggi’s death could be having an impact on the war in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition is fighting Iran-backed Houthis there. Now, a Houthi leader, says his fighters are ready for a ceasefire. After the Khashoggi murder, Riyadh’s allies might force it to accept.

VANIER: The Saudi-backed forces still control much of Yemen, but the Houthis are still in the strategic ports of Hodeidah, as well as the Capital Sanaa. Top U.S. officials said last month, there needed to be a truce within 30 days. CNN’s Sam Kiley is in Abu Dhabi with more on this peace offer.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just under three weeks ago, the United States and the United Kingdom, joined voices with the United Nations to call, or renew their calls and demands for a ceasefire within 30 days in the Yemen.

There has been a dialing down in the violence, and just in the last few hours, there has been a statement published by the leader of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who are clinging on to the port city of Hodeidah, who are in control some 25 to 30 percent of the country more generally.

That statement said in part that they are prepared, this is the Houthi rebels to end their drone attacks and their use of long-range missiles as a sign of goodwill. And there was an offer of goodwill that came from the Saudi-led coalition side, which about a week ago, agreed to allow the medical evacuation of about 50 wounded Houthi rebels as a precondition to meeting.

There are meetings hoped for to be held sometime over the next couple of weeks somewhere in Sweden. But this is a major breakthrough in a conflict that really has run into the sand for the Saudi-led coalition, which is trying to battle the Houthi rebels, and above all, to try to make sure that Iran does not get a foothold in that strategically important part of the Arabian Gulf that controls access to the Red Sea.

At the same time, of course, the Iranians as insisting that they are backing their Shia brethren, the Houthis in their efforts to prevent an annihilation, if you like, of the Houthi rebellion.

But, this after many, many years of bloodshed, some tens of thousands of people injured, thousands wounded, and 400,000 children according to the United Nations, Children’s fond on the verge of starvation. Offers a slim, glimmer of help just of hope, just as the United Kingdom who was expected to sponsor a demand at the U.N. Security Council.

A demand for a resolution calling for a ceasefire, and putting pressure particularly on the Saudis for that. And that would come on the eve of the publication expected from the United States on what the United States government believes happened to Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post correspondent who was murdered inside the consulate of the Saudi Kingdom in Istanbul. Those two issues have been tightly connected now for many weeks because it is seen really that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi which is now accepted as a premeditated killing by the Saudis was effectively the straw that has broken the camel’s back in terms of particularly congressional support for the very, very bloody and humanitarianly disastrous campaign that has unfolded over the last few years in the Yemen. Sam Kiley, CNN, Abu Dhabi.

[01:25:08] ALLEN: Well, Britain’s Prime Minister is standing by her Brexit plan as she faces critical talks in Brussels this week after days of political turmoil, including cabinet resignations and, at least, 21 letters of no confidence in her leadership, submitted by Conservative MPs, a defiant Theresa May says she’s not going to quit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOPHY RIDGE, PRESENTER, SOPHY RIDGE ON SUNDAY, SKY NEWS: Have you ever thought at any stage about just giving up what’s the point of this.

THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: No, I haven’t. And, of course, it’s been a tough week. Actually, these negotiations have been tough right from the start, but they were always going to get even more difficult right towards the end when we’re coming to that conclusion. But, what I think is this isn’t about me, it’s actually about what’s right for the people of this country. It’s about what’s in the national interest. That’s what drives me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: And later, Monday, Mrs. May will be trying to convince British business leaders that her Brexit plan is in the national interest. She will also then, meet later on in the week with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker for talks about Brexit.

As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, Germany and France are urging European nations to come closer together. French President Emmanuel Macron address a German parliament on Sunday. He called on France and Germany to lead Europe in fighting off anti-immigrant nationalist movements that are growing around the world.

ALLEN: Mr. Macron also joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a War Memorial in Berlin as part of a National Day of Remembrance. Both leaders are currently losing popularity and political strength, but they are expected to lay out plans for a joint Eurozone budget hoping to finance investment in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a challenge to his leadership. Why the Defense Minister may not be the last Cabinet Minister to resign? That’s coming up here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:30:26] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: You’re watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. We appreciate it. I’m Natalie Allen. CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: I’m Cyril Vanier.

Let’s look at your headlines.

The Houthi militant leader in Yemen says his forces are ready for a ceasefire if the Saudi-led coalition wants peace. Mohammed Ali al- Houthi says the Iran-backed militants should end the missile and drone attacks. Top U.S. officials said last month they wanted a ceasefire within 30 days.

ALLEN: U.S. President Donald Trump indicated in an interview that we may never know, this is his view, if prince -- Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia was lying about his involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mr. Trump also says he won’t listen to a recording of part of the murder that he was briefed on calling it violent and vicious.

VANIER: A vigil was held Sunday in California for the victims of the state’s wildfires. At least 80 people have been killed; hundreds more still unaccounted for. The so-called Camp fire in the north is now about 60 percent contained. The Woolsey Fire in the south almost 90 percent contained.

The Israeli government is still holding together for now. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting off calls for an early election after a controversial ceasefire with Hamas.

ALLEN: His defense minister has resigned and other cabinet members are threatening to leave. For more about it, here is CNN’s Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amid the most serious coalition crisis since the last election nearly four years ago Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on his coalition partners to hold the government together. In a primetime statement to the media Sunday night, Netanyahu said, “We’re in one of the most complicated security situations and at a time like this you don’t take down a government. You don’t go to elections. It’s irresponsible.”

Netanyahu has a bare minimum 61-seat coalition following the resignation of right-wing Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu Party last week. Lieberman resigned because he was angry about a ceasefire with Hamas, which he called a “capitulation to terror”.

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