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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
President Joe Biden Delivers Defiant, Forceful Defense Of Afghan Withdrawal, Calls Evacuation An Extraordinary Success; More Than 1M In Louisiana Without Power After Hurricane Ida; House Select Committee Responds To McCarthy Threats To Companies That Comply With 1/6 Committee Doc Requests; Conservative Vaccine Denier Deaths; Legislature Passes Election Bill For Gov. Abbott To Sign After Months- Long, Partisan Fight. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 31, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. After two decades of war in Afghanistan, President Biden today tried to forcefully defend how he ended it, when he ended it, and how the final chapter unfolded. That's one headline from his address to the nation today, the one that's of immediate importance, especially in a domestic political sense.
The other headline could be far longer reaching with much greater impact on how this country maintains its presence in the world and at what cost, in dollars and lives of American service members, namely, the President's commitment to avoid fighting another war like the one he just ended.
We'll talk about both tonight.
Today, new polling from Pew Research show that Americans buy a 12- point margin 54 to 42 percent approved of the decision to withdraw, whereas the President's overall handling the situation, 42 percent said the President did poorly, substantially more than those who rated either fair, good or excellent.
This part of his remarks spoke to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me be clear, leaving August the 31st is not due to an arbitrary deadline, it was designed to save American lives.
My predecessor had made a deal with the Taliban. When I came into office, we faced a deadline, May 1. But Taliban onslaught was coming.
WE faced one of two choices: Follow the agreement of the previous administration and extend it to have or extend and have more time for people to get out, or send in thousands of more troops and escalate the war.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: The President said between 100 and 200 Americans with quote,
"some intention to leave" unquote, remain in country. Most he said are dual citizens who decided to stay because of family roots there. For them, he said, every diplomatic effort would be made to get them out whenever they want to leave, which to be clear falls short of the commitment he made just a couple of weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: So, Americans should understand the troops might have to be there beyond August 31st.
BIDEN: No. Americans should understand that we're going to try to get it done before August 31st.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if we don't? The troops will stay.
BIDEN: If we don't, we will determine at the time who is left.
BIDEN: And if there are American forces -- if there's American citizens left, we're going to stay there and we will get them all out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Let's say, as you heard, he said staying longer was not an option nor he said was any third way possible, such as keeping several thousand troops in Afghanistan for years to prop up the former government and hold the Taliban at bay.
Now, there are experts who disagree on that and some flatly differ with the President on it saying the risk and cost would have been low compared to seeing the country fall. We'll take a look at that tonight.
Here's how the President made his case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We've been a nation too long at war. If you're 20 years old today, you've never known an America at peace. So, when I hear that we could have should have continued the so-called low grade effort in Afghanistan, at low risk to our service members, at low cost. I don't think enough people understand how much we've asked of the one percent of this country who put that uniform on, willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation.
Maybe it's because my deceased son, Beau who served in Iraq for a full year before that. Well, maybe it's because of what I've seen over the years as Senator, Vice President, and President traveling these countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, agree or disagree, it is a long held belief that this President and his commitment today to avoiding future Afghanistan's could have long term implications, if it's even possible.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us now with more from the White House.
So Jeff, the President obviously gave, I guess, what he would say would be a defiant defense of this withdrawal. What was his message to those who say that the administration should have started evacuation sooner?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN U.S. CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, President Biden did not give an inch to any of that criticism. He has been hearing it for the last several weeks. And of course, all of those questions will be answered in the weeks to come.
This didn't dismiss those questions, but he was going straightforward at his message he has long wanted to deliver that it is time to end America's longest war. But a lot of this criticism in recent weeks has been about how the operational ending has gone. So he said simply, he had no other choice, but he also said he takes full responsibility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Now, some say we should have started mass evacuation sooner, and couldn't this have been done and been done in a more orderly manner? I respectfully disagree.
Imagine, if we've begun evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of a Civil War, there still would have been a rush to the airport, a breakdown in confidence and control of the government, and it still would have been very difficult and dangerous mission.
ZELENY: So again, he did not necessarily resolve all the questions that many critics -- Democrats and Republicans alike have about the rushed exit of this, but he was simply trying to redraw, refocus attention on the overall strategy here. It's one he believes to his core.
Anderson, I got the sense listening to President Biden today, this is a speech she has wanted to deliver for at least a decade. But finally, as Commander-in-Chief, he is in control, he can push back against The Pentagon. So, this is a core belief here.
Now, one aide I talked to today said look, the politics will fall where they will, but he firmly believes this. And they also firmly believe, you know, deciding this any earlier in the spring or earlier summer would have simply caused the chaos earlier.
So again, those questions will be answered in hearings on Capitol Hill, but this was pure Joe Biden today. That was conviction coming out also as anger.
COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, CNN is also reporting that there was a deal that the Taliban actually escorted some Americans to the gates of Kabul Airport in kind of a secret arrangement with the U.S. What more is known about that?
ZELENY: And so this is really interesting. Of course, we've known for the last several weeks, the U.S. has been working alongside with the Taliban in terms of getting out evacuees, but we've not known how specifically.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr is reporting that there were actually secret channels of communications, secret gates even that Taliban members were escorting of some Afghan partners and even Americans right up to the gates of the airport, and then the American forces there were dragging them in. There were conversations, call centers happening between the two.
So, this is really a first look at how deep this, you know, this partnership was going on between the U.S. government and the Taliban. This isn't necessarily anything new, though. Of course, we should remember President Trump during that administration, he negotiated directly with the Taliban allowed some 5,000 Taliban members to be released from prison here. So this is a continuation of that.
But very much on the ground, they were working together here to get some of those Afghan allies and the Americans out.
COOPER: Yes. Jeff, appreciate it.
President Biden has a personal connection, it turns out to one Afghan still trying to get out, an interpreter named Mohammad who helped rescue three senators including then Senator Biden back in 2008 when their helicopter was forced down in a remote part of the country in Afghanistan during a snowstorm.
The interpreter, Mohammed, is now in hiding, pleading for the President's help. "The Wall Street Journal" broke the details of the story just before the President spoke today. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about it a short time later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: He told "The Wall Street Journal," "Hello, Mr. President, save me and my family. Don't forget me." What's your response to him? And why is he and other Afghan allies like him still in the country if the President believes as he said today, that the mission was an extraordinary success?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I would say first, our message to him is thank you for fighting by our side for the last 20 years. Thank you for the role you played in helping a number of my favorite people out of a snowstorm and for all of the work you did, and our commitment is enduring, not just to American citizens, but to our Afghan partners, who have fought by our side and our efforts and our focus right now is as you heard General McKenzie say, and others say over the last 24 hours is to the diplomatic phase.
We will get you out. We will honor your service and we are committed to doing exactly that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Just before air time, I spoke with Mohammed and "The Wall Street Journal's" Dion Nissenbaum who broke the story and at Mohammed's request for his safety, we have altered his voice.
COOPER: Mohammed, can you explain your situation? I understand you tried to evacuate, you made it to the airport at Kabul, then what happened?
MOHAMMED (via phone): I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Kabul City right now. I am hiding in my house. I think the Taliban can take over my country.
COOPER: You're hiding in your house. But you had tried to make it to the airport. What happened when you got to the airport?
MOHAMMED: I took my documents to the Marines' guys, but the whole document because I have no passport, only I had my (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ID with myself, but they leave me (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but they leave me. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Monday night, but we stood there for about four hours in front of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but we couldn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but we're back at home with a lot of fear.
COOPER: You worked for American forces from 2001 to 2008.
MOHAMMED: Yes, I work for a long time him.
COOPER: In 2008, you helped to rescue Senator Biden, Senator Kerry and Senator Hagel after a helicopter came down during a snowstorm
MOHAMMED: Yes, yes, I did. Yes, I did (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was my supervisor on the team but because he come on and jump in, we have exclusive mission, but on the UNINTELLIGIBLE, it's not extremely clear what they're doing (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
COOPER: Today, the White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki addressed you directly. She said, "We will get you out. We will honor your service and we are committed to doing exactly that." Do you believe her?
MOHAMMED: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That's wonderful. Because (UNINTELLIGIBLE) United States (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but that's not easy to explain as like this, but I trust him, I trust him, I trust him.
COOPER: Dion, what's your sense of how serious the White House is taking Mohammed's situation? I mean, I don't know how many Special Immigrant Visa applicants can say they had direct contact with the person who is now President of the United States.
DION NISSENBAUM, REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Let's see the plan. I think that those of us that have been covering this for the past few weeks have seen a lot of chaos and disarray and people don't have plans, and we don't see a plan yet for this. And there isn't a lot of time. The Taliban are out looking for him.
So, where is the plan? What is the plan?
You've committed to getting people like him out, so how are you going to do that?
COOPER: How difficult do you think that will be in Mohammed's case?
NISSENBAUM: It is, you know, increasingly difficult by the day. He is in hiding somewhere. That's the first difficulty. You know, the Taliban are out everywhere. They now control all points of entry and exit.
Any deal will have to be worked out with them. You're not going to be able to smuggle people like him out. So, you know, you have to find countries to take people. There's talk about trying to get people out to other countries to you know, every corner -- Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan.
But, you know, there are still Americans here. There are lots of people that are trying to get out, and as far as we've seen so far, there isn't a plan coming together for making that happen anytime soon.
COOPER: Do you believe that President Biden is going to send people to help you?
MOHAMMED (via phone): Yes, I believe. Yes, I trust that he can do everything. He is the President of the United States. He is a man of education.
COOPER: Mohammed, thank you very much. I wish you the best.
Dion Nissenbaum for "The Wall Street Journal," thank you as well. Thank you so much.
NISSENBAUM: Thank you.
COOPER: One late note on this, just a short time ago on the streaming network Peacock, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain was asked about the case. He promised to cut through the red tape, his words -- those were his words -- to get Mohammed and other special visa holders out.
With that, we're joined now by CNN contributor and "New Yorker" staff writer, Evan Osnos, author of "Joe Biden: The Life, the Run and What Matters Now."
Evan, you've probably listened to just about every speech Joe Biden has ever given in his life. What stuck out to you in this one?
EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, there are victory speeches, Anderson. There are concession speeches, and then there is this very painful realm in between. This is what we were hearing today. You know, the dominant message from him, frankly was frustration with
what he called endless military deployments in the philosophical project of nation building. It was not a speech, Anderson, that's going to appeal to everybody. Obviously, he did not accept the criticism that people have lumped on the operation of the last seven days. He touted the scale of what they've undertaken.
You know, this was a case in which he wanted to leave the American public with one message above all, as he said, the choice was leave or escalate. He said there is no such thing as low risk, low cost, low cost war. I think he wanted Americans to think about not just 17 days, but 20 years.
COOPER: How much of the tone do you think might have been the President trying to kind of frame or reframe the beginning of his legacy?
OSNOS: Oh, very much so. I think he wants -- he wants people to say that this was a hard choice that had to be taken, and on some level, what he believes whether you agree with it or not is that it was incumbent on a President to finally say that this was a war that was not being waged by all Americans.
You know, he talked about the fact that it was one percent of Americans after all who had been deployed in the war since 9/11. I was thinking about it, Anderson, as go over the list of those 13 U.S. service members who died last week, you look at the small towns, hometowns that they came from in many cases that a lot of these -- a lot of the casualties, in fact statistically, more than twice the number of casualties of the post 9/11 wars have come in small towns and cities, rather than in large places.
OSNOS: And you heard him talking about that today, 18 suicides among veterans every day, up to $300 million in investment that has gone overseas every day. What he was trying to say was, look, this is going to be something that people are going to be fighting about my legacy for a long time. But I think it's about what the United States owes to the people that have been doing this fighting.
COOPER: Is there -- you know, often one talks about a doctrine associated with a President. Is there a Biden doctrine to discern in this?
OSNOS: We're beginning to see the outlines of one. One of them is a term that he raises a lot, the vital national interest. One of the things he said was, we have to really think about what is in our vital national interest? And frankly, that sounds like it can be quite harsh in some cases, because for the Afghans who didn't make it out on those planes who are left behind, indeed, in some cases, for Americans who are still there, he drew the perimeter around American vital national interest more narrowly than some of his predecessors.
He said, this is about deciding what can the United States expand in terms of blood and treasure? Didn't we want to embark on, as he put it, another decade of war in Afghanistan? So, you are likely to see him return to this idea over and over, whether it comes to questions of the, you know, inevitably the coming threats over the horizon. The kinds of challenge from Russia and China.'
How does the United States define its vital national interest? And where are we -- where do we need to be wise and prudent about where we expend it?
COOPER: The President also touted just how massive an airlift this was in Kabul in recent days, which is certainly true. It was a massive airlift in terms of the sheer numbers of people ultimately who got out, but there were Americans left behind, and obviously many more allied Afghans as well.
How does he square that reality with the commitment that he had made to get them out?
OSNOS: I mean, the tape speaks for itself. He made a commitment. At this point, in the end, I think, partly based on the fact that there was this Intel showing that the risk to Americans was substantial, the risk to Afghans at the airport gates. The decision was made to get out as fast as possible.
Now, they're embarked on the diplomatic version of this, how do you get people like Mohammed, who we just heard from, try to get them to safety? But this is not easy and the fact is, he made a commitment, and in the end, U.S. forces were gone before that commitment was fulfilled.
Look, I think what we're about to enter into is a process in which part of this is going to be political, we know that. His critics, of course, will be saying over and over again that he failed in this initiative and there will be others who are saying, look, if we're going to have a substantive debate about this process, let's talk about the SIV visa program.
What could we do differently next time to ensure if we are in this situation, again, that we're making promises to allies abroad that we can keep and once we make those promises, that we fulfill them? Let's have those kinds of hard conversations.
COOPER: What I don't understand with the SIV program is that a lot of these people have been in the process for years, and this stuff has been slow walked by the prior administration, I assume, even during this administration.
So for all these people who suddenly care about Afghanistan and care about these interpreters, this has been going on for years and years and years. We've been doing stories about this, and they happened in Iraq as well.
OSNOS: Yes, it's true. I mean, I know of cases in Iraq, specifically of people who have been waiting, essentially to get what they think the United States owes them. And I think this is one of the glaring questions that we now face in this kind of after action part of the process, to say, why is it -- what are the bureaucratic, the functional impediments?
We are the United States of America. If we are going to make the moral commitment to people, if we expect to occupy a position of any moral prestige in the world, we have to be able to answer that question, and the answer is, we don't have a good answer.
I mean, so far, it has been a series of stories about frustrating obstacles that go back years, and I think part of this administration, it ran for office, President Biden said put me in because I'm going to talk honestly about what's working and not working. Part of this has to be a conversation about why this SIV process has not been working and what they can do with this.
COOPER: Yes, Evan Osnos, appreciate it. Thanks.
Coming up next, after a victory that surprised even them with how quickly it came, how the Taliban seen here with U.S. -- seen here right after U.S. troops had departed is now coming to grips with actually having a country to run.
Later, our Gary Tuchman and his team were the first crew to get access to one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Ida. His exclusive report on what folks there are now facing, ahead.
COOPER: As much as President Biden's address tried to put a final point on two decades of war in Afghanistan, the video we first brought you last night of Taliban fighters on the grounds of Kabul Airport in a hangar housing and American helicopter really drives it all home. The country now belongs to the Taliban.
From Kabul tonight, we're joined by Nagieb Khaja. He is a correspondent for Denmark's TV2 and has got an extensive access to the Taliban.
Nagieb, what have members of the Taliban been telling you now that U.S. forces are out of the country? Are they emboldened? What are you hearing?
NAGIEB KHAJA, CORRESPONDENT, DENMARK TV2: They were really victorious and emboldened. They said that they had defeated the biggest superpower in the world and it was a warning to other countries. Now, they know what's going to happen to them if they're going to interfere in Afghan affairs.
But at the same time, they were also reassuring the international community that they had no ill intentions. They were saying that they wanted to cooperate with other countries. They invited people, civilians to come to their country, invest in the country, travel the country as tourists.
So, it was, you know, it was a kind of a two-way communication. You know, it was a communication that was threatening, but at the same time also trying to reassure the international community.
COOPER: There's the CNN reporting the Taliban members escorted some Americans to the gates at Kabul Airport in a secret arrangement with the U.S. Is there a sense the Taliban are actually going to try to help on the diplomatic front to get any remaining Americans out of the country who want to leave?
KHAJA: I think that, you know, two different layers of Taliban, you have the leadership. That part of the leadership who have communicated with the rest of the world, who have negotiated with the rest of world, who have traveled extensively in western countries in China, in Russia, in Central Asia, and these guys -- these people, they really want to show positive signals, they want to cooperate.
They are trying to reassure the international community, but also the segment of the Afghan population that nothing is going to happen to them. But at the same time, you have the other layer of the Taliban, and you have some of the leaders who have been off the radar in Pakistan, in hiding, or in rural Afghanistan who haven't had contact with the international community who haven't done any diplomacy. And you have all the battle fighters who have no clue about how to run a state.
And these guys, you know, the question is whether, you know, these two layers in the Taliban, they can cooperate, and whether they sync, because we are hearing stories about Taliban members chasing people from the former administration. We are hearing about threats, and it is happening.
The question is, you know, whether it's going to be in a big scale,
COOPER: What is it like on the streets of Kabul? I mean, what have Afghans been experiencing just in the last 24 hours? Because in the pictures we see, it's really -- it looks like mostly men are on the streets. It looks like there's hardly any women on the streets.
KHAJA: The thing is that the women, they are really scared, the women because, you know, some of them, they are old enough to have memories of the former Taliban government who harassed and you know, really put pressure on the women to live up to their picture of, you know, of being a modest Muslim woman. And, you know, who threaten them.
And, you know, we've seen pictures of them getting beaten if they didn't wear the clothes that the Taliban said was obligatory in Islam. And you have the other segment of women who hadn't experienced the Taliban, but they've heard all the stories, you know, all the horrific stories about how the Taliban were treating women.
And a lot of them, they are staying home. They don't dare to go out on the streets because they're scared, you know, because of their memories, or because of the things that they heard.
And it's true. You don't see as many women on the streets in Kabul as you saw before. You see them, but it's not the same amount. The question is, is the Taliban going to keep it this way? Or are we going to go back a little bit you know, through those times?
Everybody is waiting and they are nervous.
COOPER: Yes, Nagieb Khaja, I appreciate your time. Thank you. Be careful.
KHAJA: You're welcome.
COOPER: Coming up next, we're going to turn to other breaking news tonight. The damage left behind in Louisiana after Hurricane Ida swept through the state. We will take you to Grand Isle on the southern tip of the state were CNN's Gary Tuchman and his team were the first TV crew to get to the area after the storm. What they saw when we come back.
COOPER: Not at the breaking news from Louisiana. More than a million people reportedly are still without power there tonight two days after Hurricane Ida tore through the state. Officials say residents in some parts of Louisiana may have to go without electricity for weeks. In New Orleans tonight, the mayor has ordered a curfew beginning at 8:00 p.m. local time.
Now few places have been harder hit than the small town of Grand Isle, nestled among the barrier islands in the southern part of the state.
CNN's Gary Tuchman and his team are I believed to be the first television crew to reach their after the storm. Gary joins us now. How is it Gary?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Grand Isle is about 100 miles south of New Orleans, if the average 60 miles an hour, it takes about an hour and a half to get there. But because of all the destruction along the way, it took us longer than four hours. We expected it to be bad there. And bad it was.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): When you get your first look at the town of Grand Isle which sits in a barrier island in the southern tip of Louisiana, you gasp. Utter devastation, colorful gulf side homes destroyed, vehicle still under floodwaters. Most importantly though, there are no known deaths or injuries here, which is clear evidence how seriously evacuation orders were taken.
(on-camera): Grand Isle is a peaceful, beautiful place and that's why it's so emotionally wrenching right now to see it decimated like this. It's small between 700 and 800 people live here year round. Most of the residents here are in the fishing industry or the oil industry. Yes, there was lots of damage during Katrina 16 years ago. But remember the eye of Katrina passed over Mississippi, this eye passed over Louisiana. (voice-over): Only a few miles to the west of this very town, Ricky Pokey built this home with his family when he was 19 years old. He is now 58. He and his family evacuated and he feared what he would find when he came back, his worst fears now realized.
RICKY POKEY, GRAND ISLE RESIDENT: What Katrina we had lost our front porches and steps. But the house was intact. Roof was intact. Everything was intact.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): His house now like so many other homes, unlivable.
POKEY: I try to get a few things. My wife is wanting me to get some wedding video and stuff from my wedding and trying to find out right now.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): I'm so sorry for you guys.
POKEY: Thank you.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): How are you coping with it right now?
POKEY: Oh --
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Is it disbelief?
POKEY: No, no, we just trust the Lord and as, you know, as He gives that He takes away so.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Ricky says he doesn't plan to rebuild. After almost four decades living here he says he and his wife will move to Kentucky where they have family. Most residents have not yet come back here. They will face similar decisions to rebuild or not rebuild on this wonderful but very vulnerable barrier island.
COOPER: So sad. What was it like in some of the other small communities you passed on the way to Grand Isle?
TUCHMAN: Yes on this drive Anderson, there are hundreds of utility poles and wires on the street leaning precariously. There are still many flooded roads many properties are flooded like this behind me. We saw one gas station on the 100 mile drive. And that one gas station, one pump that was operating and there were about 100 cars in line to get to that pump.
And finally, Anderson, I want to mention one thing that will stick with me about this trip. And we were saying goodbye to Ricky and his house. He was smiling. He came to me and he was holding an old Bible. It was totally soaked. And he told me it was a family Bible that his family has had since 1873. And I thought about it, this family have this Bible for nearly a century and a half and seeing this man just so grateful. It was totally wet and soak, but it wasn't gone, it didn't disappear. He was just grateful that he still had it.
COOPER: And that's great that it lasted through. Gary Tuchman, appreciate it. Thank you so much.
In other parts of Louisiana, there are growing concerns not only about power, but about the ability of first responders to get to people who need help, flooding down trees, officials say or restricting access in some places. As Gary mentioned, there's a gas issue as well. A survey showing nearly 13% of the stations throughout the state are without gas. And that number jumps to more than 35% in Baton Rouge, which is the state capitol.
Our Brian Todd joins me now from a station where the lines are very long.
Brian, Gary was just saying he saw long lines. What's the latest and getting critical services restored?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the lines are very long here, Anderson, I'm going to give you a visual of that of me. You know, the urgent and sometimes desperate measures that people are taking to get the things they need. It's not just gas, but its food, water, other supplies. This is a line for gas here in New Orleans, in the Chalmette area just south of east of New Orleans. Look at this line, this line goes down this street and I'll have our photojournalistic (INAUDIBLE) shot as far as you can is dark.
So, you can see some of the cars on the adjacent plus we've gone that way. When we walked down that line, that line goes as far as the eye can see. You talk to motorists here who have waited three, four hours to get gas. This is their destination racetrack station in Chalmette, Louisiana, again, just outside of downtown New Orleans. We tried to talk to the owners of the station to get an assessment of how much gas they have left, when they think they might run out because there was a Shell station that we were we were at just next door yesterday. He ran out of gas as of last night, and there were long lines of very desperate people to get gas in his station. And there was altercations along the way.
So again, it's a very tense situation tonight, as the gas shortages continue here in New Orleans. Now we did get some good news tonight from the mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, and from the Energy Corporation. Energy saying they believe they're going to restore at least some power to the city of New Orleans by late Wednesday evening, tomorrow night. They said in statement, they're going to do it one of two ways Anderson, they're going to either try to tie the New Orleans grid somehow to the larger grid in the larger region and turn on the power that way, or they say they're going to create an island somehow create some kind of an island of a small power grid to serve as just the New Orleans area. But they did say they think they're going to be able to bring some lights on by this time. Maybe we're late tomorrow evening, Wednesday. So that's a welcome sign for people in New Orleans. And of course, for the authorities for the police, for everyone there, Anderson.
COOPER: What's been the impact of the power outages on oil and gas production?
TODD: It's been horrific. I mean, we got word today from Louisiana State officials that so many of their production platforms, I think 278 is the number they gave, 278 production platforms remain offline. Nine oil rigs remain offline, nine refineries remain offline. I think the figure was more than 90% of the oil production and 90% of the natural gas production facilities are just remain offline. Some of these refineries and other facilities I just talk to you about the oil rigs, they're still evacuated.
So they've got to get the people back to these facilities in the first place. And then try to get these facilities back online. So that gives you an idea. I mean, when you look at numbers like that, you may see lines like this for several more days.
COOPER: Yes. Brian Todd, appreciate it. Thanks.
Up next, breaking news from Capitol Hill. In the January 6 investigation and the top House Republicans threat to companies that cooperate with it.
COOPER: More breaking news now. A new turn in the house January 6 committees effort to find out who was talking to whom about it and when, including perhaps lawmakers. Earlier today, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a threat to any telecommunications or social media company that cooperates with the committee on this. An existential threat to their ability to do business in this country. The committee has just responded.
CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us now from Washington. So, explain what Kevin McCarthy has been saying.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he didn't really offer too many specifics, frankly, Anderson, he put out a veiled threat on Twitter where he suggested that if these social media companies and telecom companies comply with the January 6 committee's request to turn over records that they could be in violation of some law. Now he doesn't say what that law is. And when we tried to follow up with McCarthy's office, they didn't give us any other specifics.
He also warned of serious political retribution for the Democrats that run the January 6 committee, he said that Republicans wouldn't forget that they are taking this step and, and this comes after Jim Banks, who is the chair of the Republican Study Committee, he was of course, a member of the select committee until he was blocked by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, put out a similar letter earlier in the week, suggesting that Republicans would offer payback essentially, if the Democrats continue down this road.
Now, we should point out to Anderson that this, of course, is part of CNN's exclusive reporting on the January 6 committee, the committee itself has not revealed the names of the individuals that they're interested in. But we've obtained a list that did include a number of lawmakers. So, it's clear all these lawmakers are Republicans, and McCarthy is nervous about what this committee may uncover.
COOPER: So Ryan, just be clear. McCarthy is nervous about what this committee will uncover about telecommunications with Republican congressmen around January 6. McCarthy is saying that companies that cooperate with a duly impaneled congressional committee investigating insurrection would somehow be going against U.S. law?
NOBLES: Yes, that's what he said in the statement Anderson but he did not say what law that might be. This is essentially an empty threat any way that you look at it, especially when we followed up and tried to get that information. And, you know, there is precedent for this, these committees have subpoena power, they have the right to ask for this information.
And it should also be pointed out that they haven't turned over a single document yet. This is just a request by the committee to preserve these records if over the course of the investigation, they determined that they want this information. So we aren't even at the stage yet, where they have to turn a single thing over. So it begs the question, is McCarthy attempting to get in the way of that process before it even begins?
COOPER: And what are members of the select committee saying in response to McCarthy?
NOBLES: Well, the select committee has made it clear that they are not going to be stopped at all, by McCarthy's attempts to get in the way of this process. They issued a statement just a few minutes ago, where they said, quote, the committee's efforts will not be deterred by those who want to whitewash or cover up the events of January 6, or obstruct our investigation.
And, you know, when you look at the timeline of events with this, Anderson, you have to look at Kevin McCarthy's role in this from the very beginning. You know, there were long negotiations about forming an independent bipartisan commission that would operate outside of the Congress. You know, the speaker, Nancy Pelosi offered up a number of concessions to make this commission a reality. But it was Kevin McCarthy who blew the entire process up. You know, it did pass the House, but then it was ultimately blocked in the United States Senate.
Then he appointed a number of members to the select committee that would serve as Republicans that were, you know, a part of the obstruction of the election results. These were people that objected to the election results, and also continued to peddle the big lie about the election results in 2020. That really formed as the basis of what motivated so many people to come to the Capitol on January 6. So this is another step in McCarthy getting in the way of this again, if there's a law that they're violating, he could simply tell us what that law is. At this point, he's just been unwilling to do that.
COOPER: Yes or unable. Ryan Nobles, appreciate it. Thanks.
Just ahead, some positive news about the number of vaccine skeptics in this country. Just as we're learning about yet another prominent anti- vaccine voice on the right who's died. We'll be right back with more.
COOPER: A newly passed mask mandate in one South Florida County, Florida resulted in a physical fight outside that had to be broken up by deputies. Take a look, the voice you hear a local news reporters on the scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you can see fists are now flying. All of this on live television. Fist are flying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unbelievable what we are seeing here today unfold live.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: This kind of fights and outrage sadly not uncommon these days. However, new poll finds that people who say they won't get the vaccine is that a new low and the latest Axios/Ipsos poll, 20% of respondents said they won't get a shot. Back in March it was 34%.
It may be because of the spread of the Delta variant and the subsequent spike in COVID deaths and hospitalizations. In recent weeks, several prominent voices on the right who are opposed to vaccines have died. Mark Bernier was a conservative radio host from Florida who told listeners he would not get the vaccine. He is now dead. His employer did not list a cause when announcing his death Saturday, however station that broadcasts his show previously announced he would not be on air due to quote, complications from COVID induced pneumonia. The employer did not respond to CNN's request for comment we've been unable to reach a family member.
His story though is just one of several among prominent vaccine skeptics on the right. CNN's Sara Sidner has more.
RICK WILES, PASTOR: Do not be vaccinated you must survive the genocide.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is a growing number of conservatives who have used their platforms to bad mouth COVID-19 vaccines but did not live long enough or are too sick to tell their public just how much they regret it.
AMY LEIGH HAIR, FRIEND OF DICK FARREL: I didn't want to be a guinea pig, he didn't want to be a guinea pig.
SIDNER (voice-over): Amy Leigh Hair is talking about her friend Florida conservative radio show host Dick Farrel. He repeatedly told people not to trust the vaccine. Why get a vax promoted by people who lied to you, he posted. And, vaccine bogus bull shid, he proclaimed that was early July. A few weeks later he was in the hospital dying from COVID-19.
HAIR: He told me this pandemic a no joke and he said, you need to get the shot and he told me he wish he had.
SIDNER (voice-over): The statistics that more than 600,000 Americans have died from COVID hadn't swayed him or her.
(on-camera): Why did it take Dick Farrel dying from COVID for you to say, I'm taking it.
HAIR: There's a pandemic of misinformation out there and I think there's no truer thing ever was said.
SIDNER (on-camera): And didn't Dick Farrel add to that misinformation.
HAIR: Oh yes, he did.
SIDNER (voice-over): But she's sharing his last words to her hoping they resonate.
HAIR: There's just a whole bunch of people that said because of Dick I went, went and got it. So hopefully he did some good in the end.
SIDNER (voice-over): Farrel story is not an anomaly. Two weeks after his death, conservative radio talk show host and vaccine skeptic Phil Valentine also died of COVID-19. Before he got sick, he wrote a song mocking the push to get vaccinated. Changing the Beatles Tax Man to Vax Man. Valentine told everyone he was not getting the vaccine, he got COVID instead. His family had to relay his regret.
MARK VALENTINE, PHIL'S BROTHER: He recognizes now that his not getting the vaccination has probably caused a bunch of other people not to get vaccinated and that he regrets.
SIDNER (voice-over): Valentine died but his brother said his story influenced dozens to get the shot. No surprise to behavioral scientists.
HENGCHEN DAI, UCLA BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE EXPERT: When there was a vivid a story about someone you trust you know, got sick, got hospitalized or even died. That vividness story will carry more weight.
[20:55:04] SIDNER: But there are a litany of other vaccine skeptics who got COVID and have yet to acknowledge the benefits of the vaccine. From conservative Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, who used his pulpit to spread baseless conspiracy theories about the vaccine and ended up on a ventilator.
RAYMOND LEO BURKE, CARDINAL: And even the kind of microchip needs to be placed under the skin of every person.
SIDNER (voice-over): To Florida pastor Rick Wiles.
WILES: I am not going to be vaccinated. I'm going to be one of the survivors.
SIDNER (voice-over): He too was hospitalized with COVID, but remains defiant about the vaccine.
(on-camera): How big of an influence is our own ego?
DAI: So they don't want to recognize that you have made a mistake, especially publicly.
SIDNER (voice-over): But Hair has no problem saying she changed her mind to honor her friend's wishes.
HAIR: I just thought it was important that I put it out there because I did change my mind.
SIDNER (voice-over): Sara Sidner, CNN, Los Angeles.
COOPER: Yes, let's hope more people do.
Coming up next, the bill that could make Texas the toughest state in the country to vote in is now just a signature away from becoming law.
COOPER: Tonight in Texas Republican authored bill that will overhaul election law has been the source of an intense summer long fight between both parties is now headed to Governor Greg Abbott's desk. Both chambers at the Texas Legislature passed it along partisan lines. House Democrats have scored an initial victory back in May, a walkout at the end of the legislative session blocked the bill that was just temporary though. Governor called a special session. That's when Democrats went even further flying to Washington D.C. to again deny Republicans a quorum, which resulted in threats of arrest if they didn't return. You may remember them the standoff ended almost two weeks ago when several Democrats broke ranks and returned.
The law will eliminate a lot of the new voting procedures born during the pandemic and eliminate the 24-hour voting and drive thru voting, that also creates new ID requirements for mail in ballots.
That's it for us. The news continues. Let's hand over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME." Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Appreciate it Coop. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "PRIMETIME."