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At This Hour

Twenty-One Killed, 10 Still Missing In Tennessee Flash Flooding; Sources: Democrats Close To Deal On Budget Resolution; Kathy Hochul Sworn In As First Female Governor Of New York. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 24, 2021 - 12:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Vanessa Yates was one person who was trapped inside her home with her four-month-old daughter at the time when the floodwaters came rushing in. I spoke with her last night about her terrifying ordeal. Listen to this.


VANESSA YATES, LOST HOME IN TENNESSEE FLOODING: I mean, everything was floating, the -- some of them was like, put her on top of the fridge and climb here. And everything was floating. Everything was under water at that point. And getting on top of the kitchen counter was my only option. And everything was underwater. My feet -- my ankles were actually covered with water at that point. And so I just put her at the highest level I could and just prayed to God that, you know, we would be OK.


BOLDUAN: She ended up breaking out a window and she was eventually rescued and then reunited with her husband later in the hospital. He was at work the whole time. But 10 people, though, are still missing. CNN's Nadia Romero is joining me now from Waverly, Tennessee with the very latest on this. Nadia, there are so many stories like Vanessa's. What are you seeing there today?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely Kate, and that's why those search efforts are still ongoing today. And we see so many people who have survived. They've got cuts and bruises all over their bodies. And they have these harrowing stories of how they survived those flood -- flash floods. I want you to take a look at cell phone video captured on Saturday. And you can see how this community came together during the storm. They created a human chain to -- out of their home, including a baby, really miraculous to see that there.

Also we heard from another man named Thomas Almond. Now, he was talking to our photo journalist, Josh Replogle and he was telling him about how he was able to survive. So he was at his house, the waters were quickly approaching. He was there with his mother. They were hanging on to the side of their house for 30 minutes. Then

they saw another home coming towards them and the floodwaters. It was on fire. They decided to let go. Then the floodwaters carried them here to this house that stopped right against this gas station. On the corner is where they hit the house. And this is what Thomas said happened next.


THOMAS ALMOND, TENNESSEE FLOOD SURVIVOR: We hit the corner of the house. And as I hit it, they tracked both of us under and I was probably under, I don't know, 30, 45 seconds. And I came out over here. And I looked around I screamed for my mom a couple of times, but I didn't see her. And at that instinct I knew I just -- I had to fight for myself.


ROMERO: He said when he came back above water, he called for his mother several times. And then his survival instincts kicked in. The current took him around the bend here down the road. And he was up on a roof for about four hours before being rescued. He says his mother Linda Brian, 55-year-old, did not survive.

But he says what gives him peace right now is knowing that that morning, she was watching scriptures on her computer and that she had just rededicated her life to Jesus Christ. And he says that he knows that she's in a better place because of what happened right before she died.

Kate, he is a veteran. He says his house he was able to get about three months ago, didn't have flood insurance. So hearing that the President just signed that major disaster declaration, FEMA dollars coming to this community means so much to him. But he says he has to just move forward because he knows that's what he knows that his mother would want him to do.

BOLDUAN: Oh my gosh. I mean, the stories are worse one after another. Nadia, thank you for bringing us that, I really appreciate it. Oh, my God.

I want to turn now to Capitol Hill where sources tell CNN House Democratic leaders and moderates are inching closer to a deal on the party's $3.5 trillion budget resolution. This comes after a late night scramble and even phone calls from President Biden to try to get past what has become something of a standoff among members of his own party. CNN's Melanie Zanona is joining me now from Capitol Hill with more on this one.

I mean, Melanie, this isn't just a procedural fight. This is over the core of Biden's economic agenda. And it's a fight among Democrats. Where does it stand?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, the short answer is almost resolved. After a tense standoff in the house last night between moderates and members of leadership, CNN has learned that Democrats are closing in on a deal that would enable them to move forward on both the bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as the budget blueprint that will unlock that reconciliation package that contains so much of Biden's economic agenda.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer one of the leaders of the moderate resistance told us moments ago that they are incredibly close to a deal. They're inching closer to that agreement. And CNN has new details about what that would look like. Number one, it would include a guaranteed passage date of September 27th for that bipartisan infrastructure bill, that's a huge priority for moderates and centrist who wanted this to have a vote as soon as possible. And number two, it would deem and pass the budget resolution today which essentially means combining the procedural and passage vote into one.


So that is something we are expecting to see happen this afternoon. So, yes, things are going in the right direction on Capitol Hill. The House Rules Committee is meeting as we speak to finalize some of this language and make some last minute tweaks to make the language as strong as possible in order to appease moderates.

But my takeaway here is that this whole standoff really underscores how fragile the Democratic majority is, and how complicated this two track process is for Democratic leaders. And keep in mind, this is only the beginning of the reconciliation process. So we still have a long and potentially messy road ahead. Kate?

BOLDUAN: A long road ahead is almost an understatement when you know exactly how wild this is going to be when you're talking about $3.5 trillion.

ZANONA: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Melanie, thank you very much for your reporting as always.

Still ahead for us, it is a new day in New York, the former Governor Andrew Cuomo leaving in disgrace and the new Governor Kathy Hochul, making history, the latest from Albany next.



BOLDUAN: An historic moment in New York. The state now has a woman governor for the first time ever. Kathy Hochul sworn in officially at midnight, followed by this ceremonial swearing in a short time ago, she takes over for longtime Governor Andrew Cuomo who resigned as you of course remember following multiple sexual harassment and misconduct allegations leveled against him and an attorneys general investigation into it. CNN's Athena Jones is live in Albany with more on this. Athena, Governor Hochul inherit some very big challenges in this moment.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She absolutely does, Kate. One of them or chief among them is combating COVID. But, as you mentioned, she was sworn in just after midnight, 57th Governor of the State of New York, first woman to hold that position.

She's also tapped two women to be her top aides. And one thing she stressed both this morning in her brief remarks at the ceremonial swearing in where her family was able to attend. And that she's stressed in the last couple of weeks as since we knew she was going to be assuming this office is that she is going to hold her administration, her mission she will uphold the highest ethical standards.

She said this morning, she wants people to believe in their government again. Here's a little bit more of what she had to say.


GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): I'm changing the culture of Albany. And that's why I'm looking forward to a fresh collaborative approach. It's how I've always conducted myself that way, nothing new for me. But it's something I'm planning on introducing to the state capitol. So I'll be heading to a meeting very shortly with our leaders here. We have much to discuss.


JONES: And so that meeting took place in meeting with legislative leaders, the Speaker of the State Assembly and the Senate Majority Leader. We heard from the Senate Majority Leader after that meeting about some of the issues that they spoke about, again, chief among them fighting COVID, but also helping the state recover economically from all the impact of the pandemic.

So among the top issues is getting direct aid to people whether it's renters or landlords to prevent people from being evicted. Also making sure that some aid goes to folks who weren't able to access it before, for instance, people who are undocumented in the state of New York, there have been several questions about whether or not governor, the new Governor Hochul would be announcing additional mandates whether it's about masks in schools statewide or about vaccines for state employees statewide.

Those are the kinds of decisions that she faces very, very soon. One thing I want to note, though, getting back to what we heard from Hochul this morning. She did speak last night to President Biden saying that he pledged his full support to her administration, of course.

And then getting back to this idea about the culture of Albany, she said numerous times that she's wants to take a collaborative approach. She talks about having spent the last almost since 2015, as Governor Cuomo's lieutenant governor travelling to every corner of the state meeting thousands of people. She's very familiar with the state.

She says she's going to continue to listen and be collaborative. She was asked a question about how well she worked with Mayor Bill de Blasio. We know that Governor Cuomo and Bill de Blasio butted heads quite a bit. And she said, look, there's not going to be any blindsiding going on when it comes to announcing policy and blindsiding Governor Cuomo.

So she's clearly promising a new day here at the governor's mansion and here in Albany. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes. And what is the word, Athena, in Albany about what's next for Andrew Cuomo?

JONES: Well, that is the big question. We know that there are -- the impeachment investigation has been suspended, but the Judiciary Committee is still conducting an investigation. They're going to be releasing a report. We also know that there are some criminal investigations going on in various places of the state. So it's really up in the air what's going to happen with Governor Cuomo but politically and everything else. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Athena, thanks so much.


Ahead for us, looking for phone records, new moves by the congressional committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol. What lawmakers are looking for, and who they are now targeting?


BOLDUAN: New moves by the congressional committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. Sources telling CNN, the Justice Department briefed members of the House Select Committee investing the Capitol riots this morning. CNN also learning that the committee plans to seek phone records of several people including members of Congress. CNN's Whitney Wild is live in Washington with the very latest on this. Whitney, do you what are you learning about who the Committee is going after right now and why?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know the specifics, but we do know that the net that they're casting is enormous. Chairman of that House Select Committee, Bennie Thompson, has said that there is a list of several hundred people that they'd like to speak to.

And right now, we know that Thompson has signed off on the investigative strategy. That's the first step in outlining the plan here for this House Select Committee. What he's confirmed is that they would like to reach out to telecommunications provider saying preserve the records of, you know, surrounding January 6th of this extremely long list of people.


In addition, they also are trying to seek records from social media companies. So Kate, what they're trying to drill down here at least at the outset is, who was talking to whom, who were the key players here leading up to this insurrection on January 6th? Again, the net that they're casting is enormous. We don't know who they're going to speak with. But we do know that there are members of Congress who spoke with Trump during the day, multiple times possibly.

We also reached out to Representative Jim Jordan, who is acknowledged, he spoke to the President in the past. He says he has nothing to hide if he's asked to preserve his records. He is willing to work with this Committee and with whatever requests they asked, but who is actually the target of this and what information will surface, Kate, is the big outstanding question.

So we know that they're going to go for the records. They're going to ask for them first, possibly subpoenas down the line. If they can't get what they need voluntarily, then likely we will start to hear from witnesses. The other big question hoping we'll hear a little bit more about this week is what is going to happen next in hearing world who we will actually hear from as we have only just had that one very emotional hearing last month.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Whitney Wild, thank you very much.

Coming up for us, the recall election of California's governor is now three weeks away. The impact of that vote though could be felt nationwide. That's next.



BOLDUAN: The California recall is three weeks away and it will decide the political fate of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. It's a state with a long and messy track record with recalls. John Avlon has reality check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's a recall election looming in California. And here's why it matters if you live outside the Golden State. First, because it's another Republican end runner on majority democracy. Second, because control of the U.S. Senate could hang in the balance. Now, you might have thought this was just some doom GOP stunt because California is reliably Democrat, right? Well, yes, if you judge by most statewide elections, after all, Joe Biden won the state by almost 30 points. Hillary Clinton did even better.

California has an elected Republican senator since Pete Wilson in 1988. And no GOP gubernatorial candidate has passed 41 percent of the vote since the decidedly centrist Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. Incumbent Gavin Newsom, one with nearly 62 percent of the vote less than three years ago. That's in large part because more than 46 percent of the voters there are registered Democrat compared to 24 percent Republican and 23 percent independent what state calls no party preference.

Look, I'm no fan of one party states. But recall races like this aren't the right way to correct it. Because the rules are designed to empower extremes, requiring just 1.5 million signatures, a fraction of the votes cast in the last election to kick this gear into process. And between COVID, wildfires, and rising murders and California's are feeling ordinary. Now a return out in recalls is typically low and those motivated to recall are more likely to participate even in a mail-in election.

But here's how it works. The first question is simple yes or no? Should the governor get recalled? Now if more than 50 percent of the voters say, yes, Gavin Newsom is toast and within the Democrats. Then the next question becomes, who should replace him? Now there are 46 candidates running and this isn't rank choice. Its first past the post, which means that after the recall vote on September 14th, residents of America's largest state could wake up with a new governor who only got the votes of a tiny percentage of the electorate.

Now a leading Republican candidate is right wing radio host, Larry Elder, he's a black Trump backer which helps him stand out from the crowd but with front runner status comes increased scrutiny from accusations that he waved a gun at an ex-fiance which he denies, filed improper financial disclosures which is campaign calls a simple mistake. And then there are the shock jock lines that have come back to haunt him like this 1996 ad.


LARRY ELDER, RADIO HOST: Glass ceiling? Ha. What glass ceiling? Women, women exaggerate the problem of sexism.


AVLON: Other candidates considered top tier which means polling in the low single digits include reality T.V. star Caitlyn Jenner, former mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, and businessman John Cox, who got thrashed by Newsom in 2018 by around 3 million votes.

Now, this all sounds a little kooky screwy, even by California standards, you're not wrong. In fact, a few scholars argue this process is unconstitutional at all if it leads to a new Republican governor receiving fewer votes than the Democrat and with the U.S. Senate divided 50-50. If something should happen to the oldest member of the Senate, 88-year-old Dianne Feinstein, the new governor of California would choose her replacement flipping control of the Senate.

It could also give Republicans the power to block replacement for the oldest Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer if he chooses to retire. It's good to give Republicans a seven-two majority on the court, despite having won the popular vote in the presidential election only once since 1988. So yes, California recall on September 14th matters a lot. Not just in the Golden State, but nationwide. And that's your Reality Check.


BOLDUAN: John, thanks so much for that. And thank you all so much for joining us. Erica Hill picks up our covers right now.