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At This Hour

U.S. Adds 235,000 Jobs in August, Far Fewer Than Expected; At Least 48 Killed in Catastrophic Flooding Across Northeast; Biden Heads to Louisiana to Survey Damage from Hurricane Ida. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 03, 2021 - 11:00   ET


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To have the Justice Department look and see whether there are things that can be done, that can limit the independent action of individuals and enforcing a federal -- a state law.


I don't know enough to give you an answer yet. I've asked that to be checked.

Thank you all very much.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

You've been listening to President Biden speaking for the first time about the August jobs report, the disappointing jobs report that just came out this morning.

I want to bring in CNN White House correspondent John Harwood on this.

John, this jobs report out today, it was a miss. 235,000 jobs added. What did you think of what the president -- what the president said and how he -- his take on it? Because it sounded as if he was trying to give something of a pep talk.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he did. The first part of his remarks were a pep talk about progress that had been made since he took office. I was a little bit surprised at how heavily leaned into that.

He did then go on to say the disappointing report was an indication of the surge of the delta variant and the need to take stranger action against it. He said he'd outline those steps next week, did not do so today. So, one of the questions, Kate, is whether he does things like enhanced vaccination mandates, perhaps on air travel or train travel, other things within the power of the president.

The second thing he did was make a very hard pivot to his domestic agenda and just as Joe Manchin yesterday spoke to him and other Democrats through the pages of "The Wall Street Journal" where he said let's take a pause on this $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, said it might be inflationary and things of that nature, the president responded in this forum today say pg, no, we have do this in September. We can't delay. These are long-term investments that won't enhance inflation.

So he's trying to put pressure and make the case for the tax provisions that moderate Democrats have resisted, saying it is a matter of fairness. So, a very hard lobbying effort for his economic agenda, which faces more difficulty today than it did a week ago.

And then finally he made a little news, Kate, at the end by saying that he's ask the Justice Department to investigate whether or not they could curb the system contemplated by the Texas abortion law in which third parties, not the state, could somehow bring actions against people who facilitated abortions and he said his Justice Department is looking into whether or not federal law could somehow protect people from that kind of what he called vigilante justice.

BOLDUAN: I'm curious as to what that would be coming from the justice department. And he himself said he's not entirely clear on it yet as well.

What are you hearing about the approach from the White House, how hard they're going to lean into this and try to fight it, when we're talking about this Texas abortion ban?

HARWOOD: Well, I think he made clear he's going to lean into it as far as he thinks get away with legally. Very strong statement the president put out yesterday. Today, he called the Texas law un- American in the system of enforcement that it contemplated.

So I think at this moment, especially given the resonance of abortion rights with his base of supporters, at a time when his base is diminished as in the wake of the surge of delta variant and the Afghanistan withdrawal, I think he is going to lean into that as something that would be responsive to what his strongest supporters very much want to see.

BOLDUAN: John, thank you so much for that. John Harwood live at the White House.

Another major story that we are following this hour: the United States coming face-to-face with the climate crisis. Not future. But very much present. And unprecedented series of once in a century weather events and all at the same time, historic flooding and tornados in the northeast. Incredible damage from hurricane Ida in Louisiana, and raging wildfires burning out of control in the west.

The death toll continues to climb from Wednesday's catastrophic flooding in the northeast. At least 48 people are dead in six states with half of all deaths reported in New Jersey. That number is still actually likely to climb as rescue teams continue searching for people in the floodwaters.

We've already seen really incredible images as we've tracked them yesterday and into today. And threat is not over. More than 4.5 million people in the northeast remain under flood warnings this morning.

Overnight, President Biden approved emergency disaster declarations for New York and New Jersey which will allow FEMA to provide disaster relief to the hardest hit areas.

The president is headed to New Orleans to survey the damage from Hurricane Ida and we'll be taking you there.

But let's start with CNN's Polo Sandoval.


He's live in Manville, New Jersey.

Polo, what does it look like there today?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, with so many of the floodwaters beginning to recede, we've getting a clear view of the devastation. And here in this particular community, you could see where the floods and fire came together to destroy this home.

Right now, firefighters are taking out any hot spots here. What a neighbor tells me is that yesterday all of this area was basically flooded out for water that spilled out of a nearby river and at one point they heard a loud explosion and they looked outside and saw this house was destroyed.

We are told that the people who actually called this home had already evacuated safely before this happened. But it just gives you a better idea of what happened after the devastation because if you look to your left, you see a row of cars that were parked here when this area was flooded and now the owners of those vehicles going back in to see what if anything inside of the cars could be salvaged and then you take it on other level and you see houses from door after door.

You see people taking out what were their belongings to dry out or get picked up and disposed of. It is just a heartbreaking scene. That repeats it here in New Jersey and throughout much of the country.

And there are many families who lost those who could not be replaced, including a Connecticut state police officer that is now among the dead. His body recovered by first responders just yesterday. Brian Moore with the state police in Connecticut for 26 years.

BOLDUAN: Polo Sandoval in New Jersey for us. Thank you so much, Polo.

In Pennsylvania, flooding continues to paralyze parts of the commonwealth. At least four people were killed there and crews have rescued thousands of people from raging floodwaters. Philadelphia remains crippled at least in some places at this hour by historic floods. One major expressway is still shut down because of the high water.

CNN's Pete Muntean line is live outside of the Philadelphia in Fort Washington.

It looks like a mess behind you, Pete. What's going on?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Kate, no doubt that flooding has had a major impact on Philadelphia. But now we've moved to the northwest where Governor Tom Wolf will tour the damage today. We are in upper Dublin Township, Fort Washington in Montgomery County and of the four state wide deaths happened in Montgomery County and one here in fort Washington when a tree came down on a woman's home, her second floor and killed her there.

You know, it is so important to note that an EF-2 tornado came barreling through here. The chief said it started to the south, came through here to the township building and also the police department. This is mostly the roof that is on the ground here. Then the tornado continued to the north and hit the high school peeling the roof off there.

The chief said he got a tornado warning on his phone, but only about four minutes prior to the tornado actually pulling through here. And it changed this town forever.


CHIEF ANDREW RATHFON: As for the damage, I think the hardest part is seeing the neighborhood that I grew up in just completely changed. I mean the landscape of our community is completely different and that is -- it's hard to deal with.


MUNTEAN: Flooding is still having a huge impact in the Philadelphia region, 30 major highways closed and the five-county area.

Penn Dot said work continues on the Vine Street expressway. That is the major thoroughfare that goes right through Center City, Philadelphia. It has been closed since last night. They brought in a fifth water pump to try to clear it out. But it will take some time.

But they also need to expect debris and the road bed there to make sure it could reopen relatively quickly. But, Kate, we're only just now getting a picture of how intense this clean-up will be here.

BOLDUAN: It sure seems like it. Pete Muntean, thank you, Pete.

In New York, the flooding killed at least 16 people with hundreds more having to be rescued after that record amount of rain fell in a matter of a few hours.

Joining me now on the phone is Tom Murphy. He's the mayor of Mamaroneck, New York, just north of New York City, in Westchester County.

Mayor, thank you for jumping on the phone here.

When we spoke yesterday, you were in the middle of it. Active watt rescues happening and you thought many more were needed. What is the status of things today?

MAYOR TOM MURPHY, MAMARONECK, NEW YORK (via telephone): Well, thank you, Kate.

The water rescues have all been completed and all successful as far as we know at this point, we've had no fatalities and that is in large part to the bravery to the men and women of our emergency services. So, very grateful for that.

So right now we are beginning to pump people out. And we are in the recovery phase. So I know this community very well. I've been an elected representative here for about 20 years. And I know the quality of people and that they're going to reach out and look out for each other and we will slowly begin to recover.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, it seems -- especially we just talked to our correspondent in Philadelphia, how slow it might take to recover is a big question right now.


I mean, how many people do you think can't go back to their homes right now because of damage from the storm and where are they going to go?

MURPHY: We have a thousand people displaced. There is a couple of score at Red Cross shelter right now. But a lot of people found with friends and family lodging. There are 400 structures that are right now not allowed to be habitable, that have been damaged. And we have crews and building department people and electrical inspectors and gas inspectors going out and one by one pumping out the basements, inspecting utilities and where people are able to return, if they can return, it is a laborious process and you have to be careful because if you make a mistake somebody could get hurt.

So I know it is frustrating for people, they want to get back in their homes. But we want to make sure everything is safe and everybody is in -- well taken care of.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. How hard did the storm hit local businesses? I assume just like homes, places that never see water did. What are you hearing from them?

MURPHY: There are businesses on the Mamaroneck Avenue in the section of Washingtonville that is a low lying area that just got devastated. We had 12 feet of water on the avenue, which is our main thoroughfare. I've been doing this a long time and the intensity and the extent of this flood dwarves everything that we've had. And we really need as a community the Army Corp of Engineers, they had come up with a plan and the plan was never implemented under the Trump administration.

And we're very hopeful that President Biden and our federal elected representatives, Schumer, Gillibrand and Congressman Bowman who are all working hard to see that our community gets relief and that the people of this community have a chance to have a viable place to raise their families. Without the constant fear of their live being disrupted.

And it is not just that. Even when it is heavy raining forecasts, a lot of people have been affected so many time, they have a sense of PTSD. They get a very -- a lot of foreboding when there is a big storm coming. And I don't blame them. It upends their lives and endangers their families.

BOLDUAN: And it is already been, let's be honest, what is on top of what has already been a hard 18-months-plus for a lot people just because of the state of the world today. So this is all added together, it's a lot more than just one storm one time no matter how historic it is.

Mayor, thank you very much for jumping on the phone. I really appreciate your time.

MURPHY: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it. Have a good day.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. You too. Take care.

And now to the misery in Louisiana, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. President Biden will depart for the state in just a few minutes to get a firsthand look of the extent of the damage that slammed into the Gulf Coast Sunday. I have a hard time believing the images. It is hard to believe this came from storm. What you're seeing on your screen from Grand Isle -- I mean, hundreds of thousands people there are still without power and struggling to find food and water and fuel at this point.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live at the White House for us this hour. Jeremy, what is the White House saying about the president's visit today and what they're going to do to help Louisiana recover?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Kate, any moment now President Biden is set to lift off from the south lawn of the White House. He's heading to several locations in Louisiana to survey the damage, including doing an aerial tour at one point. He's going to meet with the governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards and visiting with survivors of the storm down in Laplace, Louisiana.

There is no question that this is top of the president's to-do list this week in terms of overseeing the federal response to this hurricane in Louisiana and in other parts of the south as well as the damage that has since been wrought in the northeast. After this chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, during which the president's administrations competence really came under question, White House officials are aware of not letting that narrative take hold and demonstrating competence in responding to this storm and then shoeing damage that has happened.

We also know that the president talked today about the need for his infrastructure plan to help with climate resiliency efforts. So we're really seeing the kind of meshing of the president's agenda as well as what is happening right now on the ground. There are major questions about whether that infrastructure plan is going to get passed. In particular after senator Joe Manchin said he wanted to hit the

pause button on budget reconciliation plan which is linked to these two things. So this is a fraught moment for President Biden right now as he tried to get that agenda passed to respond in the long-term to the kind of things that we're seeing right now in Louisiana and which he'll see on the ground today.

BODLUAN: Jeremy, thanks so much. We'll have much more on the president's visit coming up.

Now to the fires burning up west. A massive wildfire forcing thousands to flee the lake Tahoe area. But there is glimmers of home this morning.

Stephanie Elam is live out there.

Stephanie, What is the very latest from where you are?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: well, we have some good news. And that is we just got an update on the fire overnight and we know now that the containment has gone up to 29 percent on the Caldor Fire burning here near Lake Tahoe, South lake Tahoe. And at this point there have been 212,000 acres, more than that. That have burned. I could tell you is what you see behind me here, is to the east.

This is Christmas valley they've been spending a good amount of energy overnight, hand crews battling blazes. And if you look down into this valley, you could see that there are homes there. It is really smoky right now because that ridge behind me, I know it may look like I'm in a white canvas here. But it is burning down there and on the ridge behind me and because of that, they've had to get out there and try to draw a line and protect the homes that are along the floor of this valley.

I can see the spot fires where I am. I can tell you the fire recently came up, right close to where we are standing. But they are saying that he weather has turned to being for favorable and more humidity that is helping them but they continue to work to build this fire line to protect these homes that are down here in the valley and I could see even from here fire retardant behind us to people could come back to their homes.

But all in all, when you look where we were yesterday, by the ski resorts that people may know in St. Lake Tahoe, it looks like those are in the clear but they don't want to say that just yet because fire could change its mind and change direction. But so far looking better there, Kate.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Stephanie. Thank you so much. Be safe and be well.

Come up for us, a Democrat senator throws a range agenda. Joe Manchin's call to pump the brakes on $3.5 trillion budget bill. What that means for Congress now?


BOLDUAN: Five days after Hurricane Ida hit, much of Louisiana is still in the dark. We're talking hundreds of thousands of people still. And no clear understanding really of when they all could expect to have the power come back. But they do know that they need it fast. And also that patience is running out.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is live in New Orleans with the latest from there, What are you hearing about this?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, it is improving but it is slow and it is steady and that is what one energy company said would happen. And for the folks who live here in New Orleans and across the state, it is a battle. A challenge to find food, part of the battle is finding enough patience to wait in these long gas lines like you're seeing at this station behind us.

Not only are folks waiting in line for gas, they're waiting in line at the door over there to purchase bags of ice. You see that gentleman just opened his ice bag and that is what they need to cool off because it is hot. I've been standing out here just for a few minutes and not exerting a lot of energy and sweating.

So you could already imagine what the folks are dealing with who live here. So some folks have stepped up to the pumps with their physical gas cans to fill up. Across the state, there are still nearly 800,000 people without power and as President Biden is expected to arrive in Louisiana later today, to tour some of the damage and hardest hit areas and meet with the governor, people want the president to know they're hurting.


ERIC MERTZ, ST. ROSE RESIDENT: I'm just wondering where the help is. You know, I'm wondering where the help is. I don't have air- conditioning, no lights. I had COVID last year, I was in CPU for 14 days and I'm on oxygen and I don't have no electricity.

CLARENCE BYRD, LOUISIANA: The basic necessities that are so hard to get. But our electricity is just -- just amazing how a storm could change your whole daily activities.


BROADDUS: And that is the one thing people want most is the power restored. And I can't emphasize enough how hot it is. We talked to you about people filling up for gasoline. That is so they could power their generators or so they could step outside of their hot homes into the car to cool off. That is where they found A.C -- Kate.

BOLDLUAN: That is where things stand right now. Thank you, Adrienne, for that update.

You know, Entergy is Louisiana's largest utility company.

Joining me right now is Rod West. He's Entergy's group president for utility operations.

Thank you being here.

I heard that you say this morning that New Orleans and Baton Rouge could get power back by early next week. Is that for all of customers in both of those cities?

ROD WEST, GROUP PRESIDENT OF UTILITY OPERATIONS, ENTERGY: First of all, thanks for having me. And the short answer is we believe that by the dates we've listed that 90 percent of the people who are able to safely take power will have power available.


That is not the date at which we expect to flip the switch so that people are in a position of having to wait. We'll be bringing power back every day along the way in increments. But we want to give those dates to our customers for planning purposes.

And, Kate, if you will allow me, for our customers, whether you're in the Louisiana or Mississippi or other parts of our service territory, and you've been impacted by the storm, we see you. We hear the voices of those customers because we're there, too, who are hot, who are frustrated.

We want you to know that we're not going to stop working until the last person is brought back into service. And in the interim, we're helping our hospitals, our first responders, our assisted living facilities, the gas stations, we're working with our state and local and federal partners to bring generators to those gas stations in hopes of making more gasoline available.

We know that it is hot and you're uncomfortable. We want our customers to know that we're -- we live here too, and we're going to be there for them until we get everybody back up.

BOLDUAN: Rod, you could help me understand, I'm not really what you're saying about when people could expect power back. You said 90 percent of people who could accept power. You could say that -- you could say that simply. Like when could people expect to have air- conditioning?

WEST: Yeah. Power will be restored by the dates that we have in the areas. What I'm sharing with you is that it is not a situation where nothing is going to happen until that date. And so they'll be people in those affected areas who will have lights, today. There are people in some of the area where's we're able to bring power back.

All we're saying is, by that date, for planning purposes, we expect to have just about everybody on who could safely take power. There are going to be circumstances, because we're assessing damage, repairing damage along the way, where folks may not be able to. But for planning purposes, we want folks to know how we see our damage assessment and the time that we think it will take to restore, safely restore that power. BOLDUAN: And what I'm seeing from the estimates put out, some areas

on September 3rd and then 4th and September 7th and 8th. That is not the entire region.

WEST: That is correct.

BOLDUAN: You still have a lot of people in the most effected areas. What is your best estimate you could give them if they are listening when they would possibly be seeing it? Should they still be for planning purposes thinking about weeks as in 30 days?

WEST: I think it is fair to say that those folks in the lower lying parishes, where the damage was far more devastating than perhaps some of the northern what we call Parishes in Louisiana, it is go to take longer.

We're not a point yet where we could give a specific date because there is so much damage. Not just to Entergy facilities but we have to work with both our federal and state and local partners to really not just assess the damage, but figure out how we're going to prioritize bringing those communities back up. And so it is not just an Entergy conversation, but we'll give our times of restoration in the coming days as we complete more of the work with our partners.

So that is to be determined because they're damage was far more severe than some of the areas where we have clear line of sight.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. So every official I've talked to said thank God for the upgrades to the levee system, because it worked and the levee held firm. I see that Entergy completed an upgrade to your system in recent years and your company promoted it as the model for future reliability and talking about storm resiliency. But we see what has happened.

WEST: Right.

BOLDUAN: Were mistakes made, Mr. West?

WEST: Well, I would say it is a constant learning environment. One of the things that we do know is where we have up to our -- upped our standards to create armor resilient transmission system, those with stood the storm better than in times past. So, from a planning perspective, we as an industry certainly given the fact that we're on the Gulf Coast, we understand what resiliency means, but it's not just an Entergy.

The fact that we're able to bring service back as quickly as we have, given the fact this is a category four almost five storm, it is a testament to the planning processes by which we upped our standards to create 150-mile-per-hour force standard for transmission facilities.


WEST: Those are lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. But, so, when you are rebuilding so much of what you're going to need to rebuild, are you rebuilding those to withstand higher winds, because this could very likely happen again. Like, I talked to --

WEST: Yes, for sure.