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Floods in Southern U.S. Left Dozens of People Dead; People Are Outrage Over Leader's Inaction; People Trapped by Heavy Floods; Taliban Show Their True Colors; Women Lie to Save Themselves; Refugees Desperate to Flee Afghanistan; Many Women Don't Agree with the New Texas Law. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 02, 2021 - 22:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Hey, everybody. I'm Chris Cuomo. And welcome to another special hour of Prime Time.

Another hard night for so many. Wildfires in the west, historic rainfall, flooding in the south. Now the northeast and Mid-Atlantic, dozens killed. And in truth we don't really know the full toll. At least 46 are dead, and some of the worst flooding we've ever seen Connecticut to Virginia, remnants from Ida.

Also submerged many parts of Louisiana as a hurricane, and they've been reeling since Sunday, and that will last many weeks, the intensity of the rainfall so much so soon it even took meteorologists by surprise.

Half the deaths reported so far from Ida as a storm, New Jersey. The governor there says the majority killed they were people caught in their vehicles, overtaken by water. Again, we didn't expect this not so much so fast.

A state trooper in Connecticut was also tragically swept away as he responded to a missing person's point. At least eight confirmed tornados in the northeast, many of them in new Jersey, destroying homes kind of turbocharging the water, creating even more density which made more flooding and more destruction.

In New York, there was more rain in a few hours than usually in a months' time. Subway riders stranded. They were confronted by what you are seeing, gushes of water that nearly shut the whole system down. Many were trapped overnight.

We have team coverage of the latest of the rescue missions that are still under way tonight. We have Miguel Marquez in New Brunswick, New Jersey. We got Jason Carrol in Queens, New York. We got Pete Muntean in Philadelphia, and Paula Newton in Mullica Hill, New Jersey.

Let's begin with Pete. Pete, we were talking before about you are seeing kayakers saying they could dip a full paddle down there in the water. We were saying how it's not water you really want to be playing with, but how much is the pumping effort in and around the flooded area making a difference?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm going to set the scene for you first, Chris. This is the Vine Street expressway here which would be typically filled with cars, instead filled with water. And maybe the worst part is that it's not really gone down all that much. In the last five hours alone, the water has gone down maybe a foot by my estimate, just watching the street signs here, using that as a bit of yardstick.

You can see some of kayakers out there. This has become a bit of an attraction here, maybe not the best idea of all time. But they're out there and they came here and told me that they were able to stick their entire paddle into the water.

So at least six or seven feet deep out there, the water about halfway up from where the bottom of the road would be and near the top -- sorry, the bottom of the 21st Street expressway there. So really intense flooding here, and this water relatively static here on the Vine Street expressway.

A huge artery through the center of Philadelphia. It connects 76 on the west, the Ben Franklin Bridge in Kendall, New Jersey on the east. And the real bad part is that we've already gone through one rush hour with this like this, and it seems like we'll probably go through another one tomorrow morning with the Vine Street Expressway like this again.

So, a huge impact Philadelphia wide. You know, we're only just scratching the surface here, though, on the flooding that's happening in the city and beyond. The Schuylkill River crested at about 17 feet early today. It's forecasted by the National Weather Service to go below flood stage sometime around midnight, but the flooding emergency, the flooding warning persists here in Philadelphia until seven o'clock tomorrow morning.

Hundreds of calls for water rescues in neighboring Montgomery County alone. We know of the four deaths in Pennsylvania, three of them are Montgomery County, one of them in the town of Bridgeport, according to the mayor, there were dozens of homes were flooded about three quarters of the way up.

You know, beyond the mortal toll here, is the monetary toll, Chris. Millions, maybe tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions, to clean this all up. And then the cost to beef up this infrastructure to make it more resistant to climate emergencies like this, a term called climate resilience, something you're going to hear a lot of in the next few days.


CUOMO: I'll tell you and here we are on Labor Day weekend, you know, where people are supposed to get a break, they are going be working more than ever to get out of the mess down there.

Pete Muntean, thank you very much. Alright. Let's talk about what's going on in New York, particularly Queens. Eleven deaths reported in Queens at a 13 citywide. Why? Areas that are vulnerable to flooding. People got caught by surprise and there was just too much water, too soon. I'm going to keep saying it because it is why this happened.

Earlier, we spoke to a couple who suffered severe damage to their home. And two of their neighbors died in the storm.


AMRITA BHAGWANDIN, FLOOD VICTIM: That could've been me. That could've been my daughter, or my other neighbor's daughters. We are like a family here. This flood has brought us so close together. So, this loss is so huge for us. It is extensive. There-- we have been on the streets; nobody has gone into their houses because we cannot comprehend what is going on here. We just lost a kid and his mother, just like that?


CUOMO: Jason Carroll there is now in Hollis, Queens. I grew up not far from there. They are not wrong that that area is prone to flooding.


CUOMO: But some of her frustration and anger is exactly based on that, Jason that they didn't see Ida coming this way this intense. But people should have known they would need more need and where is it?

CARROLL: I mean -- I mean, look. I mean, when you think about what's happened here, the NYP, Chris, made what, 69 water rescues. But they were not able to save the two people who died here in the home, right behind me. Just to give you a little background, they were in the basement, a mother and daughter -- a mother and son.

The water came in so quickly, they were just unable to get out in enough time. And you heard the angry there. There is a lot of sadness in this community, a tight-knit community, there is a lot of anger because, as you said, this is a neighborhood that has flooded many times in the past, they've all seen it flood many times in the past.

But they've complained to the city over and over. They said that this is a situation that needs to be addressed or something tragic is going to happen. That's why there is so much frustration. That's in part why there is so much anger here because they warned the city over and over again, Chris, that something like this could happen and now that it has happened.

That woman who you spoke to, I spoke to, her as well, those two who died live right across the street from here. She described the woman and her husband as being extremely close. She remembers them walking down the street every day. They would walk hand in hand.

And so, when something like this happens in a neighborhood like this, it affects everyone as you can imagine. And it affects them even more when they feel as though it's something that could've been avoided had more people been listening. And so that's why you've got so much anger in the community right now. And look, Chris, this is a problem that they say still has not been fixed. And the storms they are just going to keep coming. Chris?

CUOMO: I see the crews are behind you, but have you seen any other heavy equipment or anything coming to the area yet?

CARROLL: No, not yet. I mean, basically, what you are looking at right -- right now out here is cleanup. Brooms, you know, vacuums, pumping equipment to get, you know, the mud and everything out of these homes. I mean, they are going to need more help in terms of getting equipment out here to help them cleanup.

But that's not just here, that's in a lot of neighborhoods throughout New York City. But in terms of heavy equipment, not that. What they really need out here are folks who are more involved in planning and can figure out why this is an area that keeps flooding and what they can do about it.

CUOMO: Jason, I appreciate you being there. Be well. All right, now we are going to turn to a town less than 30 miles south of Philadelphia. It's called Mullica Hill, New Jersey. A monster tornado touch there, flattened dozens of homes through the night. Paula Newton is on the ground. I mean, you just don't hear tornado in New Jersey?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. And Chris, you know what they said here, this is not Oklahoma, this is not tornado alley, this is New Jersey. And they are absolutely staggered by what happened here a little bit more than 24 hours ago. Chris, you and I can picture this right here at home, you've either finished your meal, you're about to have your meal, people like Thomas's, their home behind me, destroyed.

They said they had about three minutes to get into the basement. Mom is pregnant, two little ones in the basement, when they're in the basement the debris from their home was still raining down on them in the basement.

We -- you had said earlier, the governor of New Jersey saying, look, 23 tragic deaths, most of them people trapped in their vehicles. People here know that if it wasn't for those three minutes of warning that they got from the time they saw it on the cellphones to the time they got into the basement, they would not be this fortunate today.

Today, they are concerned, thankfully, about things that are stressful, these are their dream homes, their family homes but they know how fortunate they.


Here's the thing, though, Chris. You know, these are families who tonight would have been sharing a meal or a drink, or outside enjoying a beautiful, you know, summer night. And yet now, what are they thinking? They are thinking, we are on the front line of climate change. They now see this as clear and present danger.

And for that reason, when they're talking to their insurance companies around here today, they told me quite honestly, we don't know yet if we're even going to going to rebuild from what they saw here. To see that funnel cloud through their windows and understand that they only had moments to escape what really could've been, you know, devastating for their families.

It's really been a shock to them and they're kind of just reeling even though throughout this entire state of New Jersey, we saw it to the north, all of that incredible water just turned on like a faucet. And yet here, yes, they had rain, yes they had wind, but then those funnel clouds ripped right through the neighborhood.

And it's not that they're trying to come to terms with here especially when they don't feel that they had much warning. Yes, they've had strong winds here before. You know, it rolls around some patio furniture, throws up some debris. But nothing like this. And they're really trying to figure out what to do next. And if it's worth it, to really rebuild when a lot of these homes right now, really, there's no coming back from it. You just have to start from scratch.

CUOMO: After something like, that you only have dark thoughts for a while, and understandably so. And there is a measure of solace and losing things versus people. But things matter also. And as we both know; nothing destroys like a tornado.

Paula Newton, thank you very much. I appreciate the coverage. Now let's go to Miguel Marquez, he's in the riverside town of New Brunswick, New Jersey, less than an hour outside New York City. What's the situation with the water there now?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're on the Raritan River where the tide is now waning, heading out to the ocean. The water is going out with it. We were with it an hour ago, it was about two inches down. This is the top of a wall here along route 18 or the Memorial Parkway. Now it's six, seven inches down.

So, it's starting to drain quite quickly as that tide goes out. But you can see how much more water there is to go here and to very broad swaths of New Jersey as well. And it's not only the water, there's tons of debris in this water as well. But as it recedes, it's along the road so they are going to have to clean all of that to get to it.

But they are still in the midst of an emergency here. There are 23 confirmed deaths at this point. There may be many more, they believe that there are many, many people still missing. They're not sure is that's just the confusion of everything that they are dealing with right now or whether or not there are people missing.

But there are a lot of crews out there, rescue crews who are getting into neighborhoods, getting into areas, getting into cars like you see here to try to figure out if there's anybody in there, if there are any other people who need help that they can help out. But it's -- it is a long intense, difficult time that they are dealing with here in New Jersey. Chris?

CUOMO: It's just starting and it's a battle against the clock because the longer that water sits, it's not just rain.


CUOMO: Right? It's not just salt water that pushed in or brackish water, it's sewage. And don't fall off that wall, Miguel. We've known each other 20 years, you're not going to fall off that wall on my watch. Thank you for being there. Stay safe, you and the team. I appreciate you.

MARQUEZ: Got you.

CUOMO: All right. There have been thousands of water rescues in this event, especially in Pennsylvania. The crews are having to go house to house and a lot of people are in there, you got to hope they hear you, or you got to find a way in. It's very difficult. It takes a lot of time and it's exhausting.

We are going to take you to one of the hardest hit areas and get the official word on conditions there, next.



CUOMO: I want to turn now to Pennsylvania. Water rescues were estimated to be in the thousands. That's right, thousands, severe flooding. Officials they are still urging near the Delaware River to exercise extreme caution. Waters are still rising. The river has yet to crest. This is not over there.

One of the affected areas is Bucks County near Philadelphia. Their commission chair is Diane Ellis-Marseglia, and she joins us now. Thank you very much for taking the opportunity.


CUOMO: What is the current situation of concern?

ELLIS-MARSEGLIA: Well, after a harrowing night last night, it's calmer, it's quieter, but we are cresting right now so we are, you know, holding our collective breath.

CUOMO: What does that mean that it's cresting in terms of the impact in the communities, and what you're trying to do to help?

ELLIS-MARSEGLIA: Well, this is when the water will be at its highest, and so any water could be inundated. So anybody that's already got water could end up with more water. People who haven't left their homes but were caution to do so, you know, we're hoping that they're leaving now or they're left.

CUOMO: Is the story same where you are that we're hearing from other officials, which is that look, you knew it was coming? You know there is going to be water, but not this much water, this fast.

ELLIS-MARSEGLIA: That's absolutely right. I really thought we'll be able to handle this, but, no. No one expects, you know, 10 inches in some areas. But the tornado, I mean, there were several tornadoes, I believe, and that just put it over the top.

CUOMO: Are the people who were in the areas where it is cresting now, able to be communicated with, and accessed, or able to get out?

ELLIS-MARSEGLIA: You know, we have been maintaining contact, most people have left or are in a safe place. I'm hoping that there is nobody still in those areas. We've sent repeated warnings to get them to go to a different ground, to go to stay with family or friends or to provide, you know, will provide them shelter.

CUOMO: Bucks County 911 center logged more than 5,200 calls between 3 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday morning which is more than quadruple the typical 1,600 calls a day. Is it true that the rescues are on the volume of the thousands, and they are still ongoing?

ELLIS-MARSEGLIA: I think that's for the entire Delaware Valley, they are still going on, we are still out there. We had 44 water rescues and another 242 calls that were emergency calls that could have involved water in a car, on deep water in a basement, things like that, but that is a lot of calls for us to take overall. Trying to get enough operators to answer the phone and the calls keep coming like that. That's exhausting work.


CUOMO: Absolutely. That's why we love our first responders. Thank you so much for doing the job, Diane Ellis-Magseglia, you know how to get us if there is word that has to get out and we can help.


CUOMO: Thank you, and be safe.

ELLIS-MARSEGLIA: We appreciate it. Take care.

CUOMO: All right. Another important story. You can't forget about the Americans that aren't just trapped in homes here from flooding. That's bad enough. Imagine being trapped overseas along with our Afghan allies. What is our State Department doing to get them out? We are hearing dramatic new stories of what some Afghan women and girls are doing to escape the Taliban. We are going to bring in two better minds who better understand the obstacles, but also the realities. Next.



CUOMO: This is Afghanistan, a stampede, thousands trying to cross the border into Pakistan. At least one person, died in this crash. The reality is also that without a working airport, people trying to flee the Taliban are left with few options. That includes Americans and thousands of Afghans who served alongside our military and were promised to be kept safe.

Let's bring in the better minds who know the region and the challenges. Lisa Curtis and Phil Mudd. Lisa, let me start with you. Thank you both, by the way.

These reports that I'm hearing from the NGO digital Dunkirk veteran types that the State Department is thwarting their efforts. Does that make sense to you?

LISA CURTIS, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL, SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA: Well, I doubt they are thwarting the efforts, but they probably could be doing more to facilitate these private organizations. The burden is, really on the private organizations to get the charter flights to identify third countries for the refugees to go to.

So, while the State Department has done a good job with the processing of the paperwork, they are literally processing thousands of special immigrant visas, other categories of refugees. They need to do a better job on helping with the operational part of this.

Because these are private organizations need landing rights, they need to have assurances provided to the transit countries. The transit countries look to the U.S. government to make sure that the refugees are moving on to third countries. And once the refugees get to the third countries, it could take a year before their paperwork is processed.

So, we really do need the State Department to be part of this process to work with the private organizations. And my understanding is they are trying to get a system in place, but they are literally building the aircraft while they are flying. And so, hopefully they will get that process down and be able to help these private organizations who are doing so much to help our Afghan allies.

CUOMO: These guys and women are angels, Phil. They are doing frankly what the State Department should have been doing, and in many cases logistically they have been ahead of the U.S. government in terms of how to get them out.

And their concern is they hear, to Lisa's point, they and say, yes, yes, no, no, of course, you've got to figure it out. This is all ad hoc. We don't have the time. And the idea, Phil of hey, be patient, be patient. There are people who are going to be getting chased by barbarians with machetes is their concern.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. But I guess I have a slightly different perspective. I can't tell you how many people I've crossed passed with diplomats, military people who have friends or former contacts in Afghanistan who said they have independently contacted the State Department.

So, you put yourselves -- yourself in the shoes of the State Department, hundreds or thousands of Americans are saying I've got a friend and I want to get my friend out, I've got a logistical way to get that friend out. You got to certify who is calling in, certify who they're representing an Afghanistan, how do you contact that person in Afghanistan, how do you certify that the person who is calling you has a safe route out that they've cleared with the Taliban?

I don't think this has worked well, for example, the first three, or four, or five days we lost a lot, thousands of people we should have gotten out. But as a former bureaucrat, I'm sure they are getting flooded with calls they can't validate. It's not that easy, Chris. CUOMO: I get that it's not that easy, but you also don't want to make

it any harder than you have to, Lisa. And the most part, they're talking about Americans that there trying to get out. And people who have SIV applications and things that can be reviewed, and their offer -- you know, they're offering is a lot of them are former intel people who are offering help with any of the review. I mean, this is something that is workable, isn't it?

CURTIS: Yes. And I think that if the State Department gets a process in place and doesn't put the full burden on the private organizations, then you are going to have a more organized process. These are, you know, diplomatic issues a lot of times, when you are negotiating landing rights, when you are talking about people moving on to third countries.

So, I think we want the State Department to be largely in control of the process, rather than each individual organization kind of figuring out -- figuring it out as they go. So, I think it is possible to get a better process in place, and there is also going to be the funding issue. As I was saying, these people are going to have to go to countries, and maybe wait for a year. You know, with your own agreement about this.



CUOMO: Right. I hear you. Jen Psaki spoke about this, Lisa. Let me have you and Phil listen to what she said, obviously, the press secretary.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is also a question, they are active, they continue to be active, ISIS-K threats, and there is also a question of where those lights go, where they land. We know ISIS-K has a keen interest in attacks against aviation targets, and our personal on the ground in our air force, in our military bases, and these are among the risks that we take into account.


CUOMO: How much does that slow it down, Phil?

MUDD: That doesn't work for me. Look, there's this -- ISIS-K would not be the thing I'd be worried about, Chris. We left a couple of days ago, a lot of Afghans left including people who were in places like the airport, air traffic control, flights aren't going in there, the Afghan airlines are not going.

I think the most likely scenario was gunnery airways. That's the place where we've set up our diplomats and a place that has close relationship with the Taliban, is we'll move in, they already have moved in to try to open the airport.

So, I don't necessarily see this just as a security issue. ISIS-K is not what I'm thinking about. I'm thinking about how to get a darn aircraft in there that's functional that has pilots that are functional with support from the Taliban and some air traffic control. I think there's a lot of logistical problem here's for an airport that was abandoned 48 hours ago, Chris.

CUOMO: How much time do you think people, Phil have on the ground before the Taliban starts seeing them as scalps?

MUDD: Two categories of people, we tend to say the United States has its responsibility for us to process the special immigrant visas and Americans. If I'm looking at this as I did as an analyst with the Taliban's eyes, that's vastly different categories of people.

The Americans are very few, you have a responsibility, I think especially if you want to get money, food, fuel, et cetera, from the Americans and the international committee to support Americans getting out. But if you are the Taliban looking at Afghans, your first questions are, why are they leaving, why are they supporting the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and they are criminals.

They supported the Americans. We want to talk to them about who helped the Americans. Those Afghans are source of intelligence, and I think a lot of those people, I don't want to get too deep into it. I think they are in deep trouble, deep trouble. Not the Americans, but the Afghans.

CUOMO: And Lisa, what do you do if you start to see the scenes of that kind of barbarism, what do you do?

CURTIS: Well, I think the Afghans that are in most of course are those who worked for the military, the security forces. And these are people who have, a lot of them have burnt their documents. They don't want any evidence. That they had worked with the Afghan military. So, they are a special case.

But others, you know, women, activists, human rights leaders, prominent journalists, these people also are in a certain amount of danger. But, you know, I think Phil was right, that they've got to get the airport up and running again, the Qataris, the Turks.

CUOMO: Right.

CURTIS: But also, people are going out of the airport at Mazar-i- Sharif in northern Afghanistan. So, there are people moving. They're moving overland. So, people are trying to get out any way they can.

CUOMO: Right.

CURTIS: And it is a mile right now. But for now, the Taliban has committed that they would allow people to leave if they have proper documentation onward destination. They had stated that they would allow this. And you have 100 countries who have signed a statement saying that they will continue to provide travel documents for their Afghan allies to get out of the country.

So, we just need to keep the pressure on the State Department, keep working with these private organizations and, you know, making this happen because there are a lot of people that still need to get out.

CUOMO: Well, right now, we know about at least about one sortie that is being kept from getting out by the State Department, so hopefully they figure it put.

And Phil, just last word on this. Remind me why do you have any measure of confidence that the Taliban would do anything in terms of conventional thinking of an operative government when this is the same group that we went in there to wipe out because of how they are?

MUDD: I don't. I just don't see it. I'm a realist. I don't see any other option. If you go into the airport, you need security. You don't want marines doing it. You do with the Taliban. If you got to get Americans to the airport how also are, they going to get there besides than Taliban. Chris, I'm not an ideologue, I'm a realist. I don't know how to do without working through them. I don't trust them but no other option.

CUOMO: Phil Mudd, Lisa Curtis, thank you both. I appreciate you.


All right. Let's turn to the real-rime situation in Kabul. One of the few western journalists is still there, joins us again tonight. He is going to update us on what it is like. We want to know what the urgency is to have to get out. What is the Taliban doing on the streets in real-time? Next.


CUOMO: There was never any question that the Taliban would do bad things, especially to women and girls. And sure enough, there were reports that women and girls are being forced into marriage or traveling with men pretending to be their husbands. Why? Because they got to get away from the Taliban. This is the desperation that is fostered by what could be a worst fate if they stay.

That's what U.S. officials who are processing Afghan refugees say they are seeing, that's the fear of what life under the Taliban will mean for women and girls. Since the U.S. pulled out, we have not had much reporting from the ground inside Afghanistan.


One reporter who is still there is Najibullah Quraishi. Najibullah is working for PBS' Frontline, he's working on a documentary for Frontline that airs October 12th and it's going to be covering everything happening on the ground now.

Najibullah, it's good to see you, and it's good to see you safe.

NAJIBULLAH QURAISHI, CORRESPONDENT, PBS: Thank you so much. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

CUOMO: So, we hear people saying, hey, you got to trust the Taliban. You know, they want the money they want to be taken seriously. They will work with the other governments to let people go. What are you seeing?

QURAISHI: Well, it's different basically. For instance, first of all, the Taliban became stricter than before than the last 10 days. For instance, now we cannot film openly, you have to take permission. Secondly, in yesterday I met a couple of females. They were flee -- they were running away from another province from Sheberghan. One was 17 years old, and another one was 21 years old.

And I said, why did you leave -- left your province? They said we heard the Taliban are going to get married and we just run away because we are scared. So, so far, we didn't see anyone, like they didn't come to me saying, yes, the Taliban wanted to get marry me and I runway. But I hear from here and here, and yes, they became a little bit rude or I can say harsh towards the females.

Every day I walk around Kabul for a couple of hours, I do work here or there. On another day, for instance, I went to one of the embassies, I want to get a visa and my female colleague was with me. And the Taliban literally looked at her saying, put your phone down. She was basically on the phone. Put your phone down, otherwise I will shoot you.

This I was really witnessing. And I told her please don't do anything, don't call. Just put your phone on your bag. These things are really getting bad. When I asked the Taliban spokesman on another day what's happening, he said, you should remember it is still an uncertain situation. The people who are in the middle and the lower rank, they don't know how to behave in the city, how to deal with the people. So, allow us some time. So, we don't know for how long, but this is actually what is going on.

CUOMO: In terms of the people who are left behind, do you hear or see any indications that the Taliban will start to look for people who -- or Afghans who worked with the Americans?

QURAISHI: One of the -- one of the activist women who have been in touch with all the time, I met her on the other day. And suddenly she received a call from one of the provinces in the north, and suddenly she put the phone on loud speaker and she was crying, saying the Taliban is searching house to house because her husband was working in the government and she said they would come to me soon because they started from the beginning of the road and I don't know what will happen.

So, because she was an activist, she was begging for help. And she said I'm trapped in Kabul; I cannot do anything. And she was giving everything. She was saying they come and they are a bunch of the Taliban, they just rounded the entire road and they are looking house to house, searching for the girl -- for the people who were working for the government.

These things I can hear or as I said before, I never seen anyone. But yes, I came across with some female journalists or some activists that are saying they are looking house to house.

CUOMO: Najibullah, the work is going to be so meaningful, it always has been, but what happens there now very few eyes are going to see what yours will. So, Najibullah Quraishi, we look forward to your documentary work and please stay safe.

QURAISHI: Thank you. So, thanks a lot.

CUOMO: All right back here at home, the Supreme Court has chosen not to block, you know, some of the reporting says that the Supreme Court upheld the Texas law. That's not accurate. But they did was they refused to review it yet. OK? Now they could have. You could argue that it's not ripe yet. That nobody has been hurt by the law yet.

Now the question will be, what happens next? The White House is vowing a full-on fight to protect Roe v. Wade. What can they do? We are going to meet someone whose group is offering women away around the restrictions? What is the way around? Is it legal? Is it worth it anyway? Next.



CUOMO: President Biden is stepping up efforts to protect abortion rights, really reproductive rights. There is a difference. In the wake of the Supreme Court's refusal to block Texas new law, Biden is launching what he calls a whole of government effort to respond to this near total ban on abortions.

Remember, at six weeks when cardiac activity is usually detected, many women don't even know they are pregnant. The law also allows anybody, any Joe Schmo. In fact, you want to hear an ugly example? Somebody could rape a female. The female gets pregnant, and the male who raped them can find out that they get an abortion after six weeks sue under the law, and then get a bounty of $10,000.


You could sue the Uber driver who takes them there, someone who pays for the gas. Someone who helps with travel, the person who or the clinic that does the procedure.

My next guest works with an organization that does just that. Anna Rupani is her name. And she is the co-executive director of Fund Texas Choice. They keep using the word, Anna, and thank you for joining us, pernicious. This law was drafted in a pernicious fashion, meaning sneaky harmful. Do you agree?

ANNA RUPANI, CO-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FUND TEXAS CHOICE: Yes. I mean, I will say, it was sneaky, but if you are following the Texas legislature earlier this year, we all knew it was coming. We were all fighting it. We were hoping it wouldn't happen. We knew this would be the impact, we knew this was going to happen.

CUOMO: Heartbeat is a play.


RUPANI: So, it might be sneaky.

CUOMO: Heartbeat is a play. Right? They want to say heartbeat because it makes it sound like it's a person at six weeks. Right? That's why it has a heartbeat, as opposed to cardiac activity, which is a big difference because there is no fully formed organ there, because the thing is the size of a kidney bean.

But allowing people to sue, and therefore, enforce the law as kind of like a civil unrest kind of situation. What do you make of that?

RUPANI: It's supposed to be the chilling effect, right? It's supposed to be the harassment. The cruelty is the point. The point is to stop us from doing the work, and harass us to no end so that we can't do the work, that we can't fight because we don't have the dollars to do it anymore. That we are tired, that we get exhausted. That's the point of this law. The point is to continue to bully and harass until we won't do anything anymore, but we will.

CUOMO: So how can you help people get around it, Anna?

RUPANI: The law is so vague and so there can be bad things said about that. One of the good things to be said about it, is it doesn't say anything about us working with clients and helping them get out of state. And we truly believe after talking to lawyers and talking to other individuals who have read this law over and over again, policy analysts, and so forth, that we aren't violating the law by going out and helping our clients get out of state and get an abortion.

And yes, everyone is asking, are you, you know, are you going to be sued, or do you think you will be sued? We probably will. And we're still going to be here. Because organizations like Fund Texas Choice and the other eight grassroots organizations in Texas are doing the hard work because there is no other choice. Right? It's either we exist and follow our mission, or we don't, and we create even more barriers for pregnant folks.

CUOMO: What percentage of the pregnant folks that do you deal with do you think this law will affect?

RUPANI: So, with Fund Texas Choice, nearly all of them. When you look at the clients we serve, almost every client is beyond eight weeks.

CUOMO: And how many of them don't even know they are pregnant until they're beyond six weeks?

RUPANI: Almost every one of them. We have a handful of clients that know they are pregnant before six weeks, but that doesn't -- it doesn't really matter. Right? Because if you find out that you are pregnant, or you assume you are pregnant, by the time you might be able to get into a clinic, it could be right at that mark.

And we saw the impact of that just yesterday. We had a client who went to her clinic appointment on August 31st, had a sonogram because Texas requires you to get a sonogram and wait 24 hours before getting an abortion. She went back to the clinic on September 1st, and they did a sonogram

again. They measured embryonic cardiac activity and told her she was no longer eligible to get an abortion because SPA had gone into effect. So, you see two restrictive laws working hand and hand to stop folks from accessing abortion.

CUOMO: I want your take on this. You know, the game plan has always been here, talk the talk, but don't walk the walk when it comes to restricting reproductive rights, because it fires up the far-right. But they never did it because they are so unpopular as laws overall. Do you think there is a chance that women, when they realize the rights have been taken from them, whether or not they want to have exercise or not of that right, do you think that there will be a political backlash from this?

RUPANI: Yes, I do think so. And I think we can see it from not just pregnant folks, we see it from everyone across the nation already. Folks that are donating, folks that are volunteering, folks that have said to us and to others we understand those are possibility of us getting sued but we are willing to fight, we'll do whatever we can, we'll help folks out of Texas, we'll help fight in Texas.

And I think there is going to be a huge political backlash, because the numbers -- there is a study done, and numbers say it. Less than a third of Texans want more restrictions on abortion. And they can't. It still happens. So, I think the politicians aren't listening to their constituents. They are just doing what they want to do.


CUOMO: Anna Rupani, thank you very much for your perspective. I appreciate you.

RUPANI: Thank you.

CUOMO: We'll be right back.


CUOMO: I know a lot of people are struggling, if you are able to, I hope you enjoy the Labor Day weekend. I'll be off until the other side of it. So, I thank you very much for watching.

This is a time with all of this hardship that hopefully we tap into our idea of common cause and collective will. So many of you have reached out to help the organizations that are helping overseas in Afghanistan, that want to help with the flooding. That means something.

We are not just our division. We're not just Democrat, Republican, left and right, all these binary things that allow for an us and them. There's a huge dose of we here if we tap into it. I hope we learn how to do that, and if you can, I hope this weekend is a part of making good memories. But remember those who are going to be in a hard way.

[23:00:04] Don Lemon Tonight with the upgrade, Laura Coates right now.