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At This Hour

At Least 100 Feared Dead In Tornado Outbreak Across 8 States; Source: Biden, Manchin Could Meet Today To Talk "Build Back Better". Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 13, 2021 - 11:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: These powerful twisters destroyed thousands of homes, schools, businesses in an instant, maybe thousands of structures completely destroyed. At least 100 people are feared dead, victims as young as five months old. Most of those deaths occur here in Kentucky where entire towns were nearly wiped off the map. Rescue efforts continue at this hour with many people, many still unaccounted for.

In Illinois, a tornado destroyed an Amazon warehouse, it killed six employees there. Official say all other workers have now been accounted for. So in just moments, we are going to hear from President Biden who is being briefed on the federal response to this deadly tornado outbreak.

In the meantime, we have seen reporters covering every angle of this tragedy. We want to begin with CNN's Brian Todd who's in Mayfield, Kentucky. About a mile and a half from where I am, the sight of the candle factory destroyed by this tornado. And Brian, we just heard from the Kentucky Governor, what's the latest from him?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, John, as you heard, this is still a very dynamic rescue situation going on in this part of Mayfield, also where you are, as we know. But in this area near the candle factory, still, it's ongoing and they're still trying to sift through some debris there. Now this scene behind me is not the candle factory. This is a complex, not far from it. We're not allowed to get as close to the candle factories. We want to get those visuals but this is a warehouse. This is a company that manufactures cell phone towers. Look at how it just got leveled. They've got a large shovel. They're trying to pick through some rubble, they've got two shuffles actually now.

And this is kind of what these teams are up against. They've got to move huge amounts of heavy debris and rubble, just to try to get to possibly some people who could be trapped inside these buildings. This is the checkpoint where resources have been coming in all morning to try to get to that candle factory which is just over that ridge behind me here. We've had heavy movers come through. We've had communications teams. We've had response teams coming through this checkpoint all morning going in and out, again, a very dynamic rescue situation.

Governor Beshear not long ago when he was talking about the complete devastation really kind of struggled with his emotions, as he talked about the age range of some of the victims. Take a listen.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): Just a few more facts about those we've lost, 18 are still on identified of the ones that we know, the age range is five months to 86 years, and six are younger than 18.


TODD: So just some devastating dynamics there and some information about the age range of the victims five months to 86 years old, just horrible, horrible news there. What we can tell you about the candle factory and the victims there, the governor confirmed a short time ago, eight confirmed dead from the candle factory collapsed. Eight people remain unaccounted for from that incident. There are a total of 110 people, roughly 110 people inside the factory when it collapsed. The good news is, John, that 94 People made it out alive. That's much better news than they expected early on. But again, this rescue operation is ongoing and we may get some additional information later.

BERMAN: Yes, again, if 94 people made it out alive, that is remarkable given what we feared. And Brian Todd to hear from Governor Beshear there, he's got family roots in this part of the state. I don't think the governor's slept very much since Friday night. You can see the toll, the strain, this is putting on everyone as they try and continue to work through this. Brian Todd, thank you so much for that.

So six people were killed in Illinois as well after a powerful tornado leveled an Amazon warehouse, employees there busy trying to get holiday packages out when the tornado hit on Friday night. Our Polo Sandoval is there. Polo, what's the latest on the search?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, that search recovery at this point all of that has seems to be completed here according to authorities. In fact, right now, the big focus is on cleanup and authorities telling us that they're planning to wrap that up possibly by the end of today behind me that actual warehouse that as you point out here, that's tornado basically zeroed in on just this facility here, an EF3 tornado basically cutting right through a garage portion of that facility causing that partial collapse leading to the death of six of the employees that were working inside.

We caught up with the family of one of those, a 29-year-old Navy veteran by the name of Clayton Cope, his family telling us a little bit about who he was actually working as a maintenance mechanic at this facility when this tornado basically struck. And his mother telling me last night, John, that the last conversation that she had with her son over the phone, she could hear him urging some of those employees that were inside the building to seek shelter.


CARLA COPE, SON CLAYTON COPE DIED IN WAREHOUSE COLLAPSE: In my heart, I know that he went to try to warn other people to get where they needed to be in between his military training and just who he was, he would have done that, no matter whether he, you know, he was told to or not. So that's the only thing I can hold on to is that I feel like he must have been trying to help someone else.



SANDOVAL: And Clayton was one of 46 people who was actually inside of that warehouse. And Amazon spokesperson telling me just a few minutes ago that a total of 46 people were inside, seven full time Amazon employees and the rest of 39 people who are considered partners, contractors just like Clayton.

BERMAN: Yes, just one family trying to pull through this Polo, so many now in this day. Polo Sandoval in Illinois, obviously, Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, people suffering across the region.

So very soon, President Biden will be briefed by FEMA and Homeland Security officials on the federal response to this deadly tornado outbreak. CNN's Jeremy Diamond live at the White House with the latest on the federal response, Jeremy?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, we're expecting President Biden Any moment now to walk into the Oval Office where he's going to get his latest briefing on these deadly tornadoes from his Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Response Team. The President will sit down with the Secretary of Homeland Security, the FEMA Administrator, as well as his Homeland Security Adviser. This is the latest update that the President is going to be getting on the situation. This coming after he signed overnight, an emergency disaster declaration approving that disaster declaration for the state of Kentucky.

Earlier this morning, John, you spoke with the Homeland Security Secretary who insisted that he's not only focused on the medium, the long term, but also the short term and promising that FEMA will stay to help until the end. Listen.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I can assure the people of Mayfield, the people of Benton, the people in the eight counties that were devastated by the tornado that we're not there just temporarily. We're there with them the whole way. The President has made that commitment. He has directed us accordingly. And I can assure that people that will indeed be the case.


DIAMOND: President Biden over the weekend also saying himself that the federal government will do everything in its power to help the people of Mayfield in the other areas affected. He also talked about the potential impacts of climate change, making clear that these storms in general are getting more intense. And that is something that the federal government will look into as it relates to these tornadoes specifically, as well. John?

BERMAN: All right, Jeremy Diamond live at the White House. We're going to come back to you and the White House as soon as we get word that this briefing has begun. Our thanks to Jeremy.

Joining me now, Suzanne and Wayne Flint, they own a restaurant here in Mayfield, Kentucky, their business was just destroyed by this tornado. Suzie, I want to start with you this restaurants been in your family for how long?


BERMAN: Seventy-five years.

S. FLINT: My grandparents started it.

BERMAN: You sent us a photo of what it looks like now.

S. FLINT: Yes.

BERMAN: Can you describe it for us?

S. FLINT: Now, it's just rubble now, there's nothing left.

BERMAN: There's nothing left. People, so they know it's only about two blocks behind us right here.

S. FLINT: No, it's just right behind this bus.

BERMAN: Right behind this bus.

S. FLINT: The pile of rubble, that's it.

BERMAN: It looks like this now. What was it like when you saw it for the first time?

S. FLINT: I guess, it was shocking, I mean, you know, we knew something probably happened. We saw it Friday night, we walked up here and they saw it lying on the ground and I didn't even look, I just went back.

BERMAN: What's it like to have something that's in your family for 75 years. It's like in your DNA. What's it like to look at it now?

S. FLINT: Well, I mean it's devastating now. Like I said my whole family's work there at some time or another, me and my mother, my brother, my grandparents went hand. Everybody's work there at one time or another and most of them are gone. So those were really long memories we had left of them.

BERMAN: So Wayne you were at a basketball game --


BERMAN: -- in a county nearby.

W. FLINT: Yes, 20 minutes.

BERMAN: Twenty minutes, the storm was coming. W. FLINT: Yes. And they had told us there, everybody needed to take over while we were at the ball game. Well, I had a bright idea we're going back home because we had family here and was that a mistake? I watched 18 wheeler flip over in front of me and our truck, my truck picked up off the ground couple of times and we got back here. And once I got to her, we started our way up here and --

BERMAN: So your truck got picked up off the ground a few times.

W. FLINT: Yes, sir.

BERMAN: What's it look like now?

W. FLINT: It should got flat tires. I mean we got home but our brother truck had set over and all that rubble that he had left there and went with me. And it was out in the middle of the road when we get back up here.

BERMAN: You're lucky you made it. I'm glad you did.

W. FLINT: Oh, yes, I mean --

BERMAN: Flat tires you can replace.

S. FLINT: Sure.

W. FLINT: Yes. This is just terrible. I mean this is devastating this whole place, you know. And they're all good people. Everybody here is good people. And I'm going to try and hurry up and get this restaurant back up because I feel like this will give people hope, you know, if I can send some tube (ph) before up and start building some walls, and people say, oh, we're not done. You know, we're going to go back, you know, and I'm hoping that's what happens. But I don't know.


BERMAN: These last few years, even before the tornado, it hadn't been easy for you Suzie.

S. FLINT: No. We had COVID. And then before that we had storm, it's just been one thing after another, it seems like.

BERMAN: How are you going to rebuild? Do you have insurance?

S. FLINT: Very minimal. He's in construction. So he'll take care of me.

BERMAN: What's the plan?

W. FLINT: I'll have the rest over and clean up today and start building walls and (INAUDIBLE) I mean, that's all I got a good friend that owns the lumberyard. And he's already said, whatever you need, you just can get it, you know? And that's what I'm going to do. I mean, unless there's some unseen reason, the city says no, don't do anything yet, you know, but I guess we'll find out. But I'm ready to do it, you know. BERMAN: What's it like for you to see the town now? I mean, look, both sides of it. Because on the one hand, I can't imagine what it's like to drive through the streets with these buildings that don't exist. On the other hand, every block you go, there's something. I'm looking, you know, I can see like six trucks of people here cleaning up so just what's that like?

S. FLINT: It's just surreal to me right now, I guess you know. It just -- I don't get to tip me yet and we're just -- I guess just going like machines.

BERMAN: I guess the important question I should ask, though, hey, you're both doing OK. You both -- despite the fact that your truck got lifted up and down a few times, you're physically fine.

W. FLINT: Yes.

BERMAN: Family?

S. FLINT: They're fine.

BERMAN: Do you have friends, anyone, have you lost anyone dear to you?

S. FLINT: We haven't not, not that I know of yet, we've pretty much been, you know, sitting at the restaurant side so we haven't really seen much going on yet. But nothing I've heard of.

BERMAN: Nothing you've heard of. And what are the plans for Christmas now, in the next couple of weeks?

S. FLINT: We'll have Christmas one way or another. We got grandkids.

BERMAN: You're going to have Christmas one way or another. Look, Wayne, Suzie, is there anything we can do, let us know. I like your plan. Get those walls up as fast as you can, bring hope and food to this community.

S. FLINT: Yes. That's our plan.

W. FLINT: That's what I guess, what we needed. People need to see, oh, you know.

S. FLINT: And there are there are friends, you know, there are family.

W. FLINT: Everybody here. I mean, you know, it just, a pretty tight community here. And you can walk out here every day and you'd like to say you can look at all this. And you can keep looking at it. And you decide you're going to move because there's nothing here. Somebody is got to get something on here to give people hope. And that's what we want to do.

BERMAN: You're somebody, you're that somebody. Suzie and Wayne, thank you so much.

W. FLINT: Thank you.

S. FLINT: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Let us know what we can do.

S. FLINT: Thank you.

W. FLINT: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: For more information on how you can help tornado victims go to Kate, you know, it's -- it is remarkable. Behind me, there are some telephone poles that are standing. I don't know if you can see them in this shot. But they weren't here 24 hours ago. Everything is coming up so quickly as people try to get this town back up and running again.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is just, I mean, it's all so overwhelming that's so clear. But the determination of Wayne there to hold on to hope, it may -- it's catching my emotions even from afar because it seems just, it's so devastating. But his emotion to hold on to it is really beautiful, John.

BERMAN: Look, I know you're from this part of the country, Kate. And I know that you've been through this. But not, you know, the people here, they have been through anything quite like this before, but as you said, they're going to make it through.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. All right, we're going to get back to, John, who's going to be on the ground for us. We're going to get back there much more head on this deadly tornado outbreak. We're going to bring you updates from the ground.


But also coming up for us, new CNN reporting on President Biden's domestic agenda up against another deadline, Democrats push to get his massive social spending bill across the finish line by Christmas. So where is Joe Manchin today? That's next.


BOLDUAN: New this morning, a source tells CNN that President Biden could speak with Senator Joe Manchin as soon as today to renew the President's push to pass his Build Back Better bill, the much debated massive spending plan focused on the nation's social safety net, reducing child care and health care costs for Americans and also starting to tackle climate change. But there's still big disagreement it seems among Democrats and now a self-imposed Christmas deadline to get it done.

Joining me now to talk about the state of where this is CNN's congressional correspondent Manu Raju and Lauren Fox. Manu, what is the understanding right now about if the Senate can finish this bill by Christmas as Democrats would like and what happens if this pushes into next year?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the expectation is that getting this done before Christmas is highly unlikely that almost certainly it will have to be punted until the New Year. Now the Democratic leaders are certainly not willing to concede that point. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, has told his colleagues he wants to get this bill done by Christmas. But there are a number of problems. There's the fact that the final bill tax has not been released of this massive proposal roughly $2 trillion dollars are parliamentary issues they are running into to try to make sure that it complies with the very strict rules of the Senate in order to ensure that they can pass this long straight party lines and not have any Republicans filibuster this under the procedures they're pursuing.


And then there's also the question of Joe Manchin. He of course is the main holdout here. He has significant concerns over the price tag over some of the key policy provisions, whether it's on taxes, on climate change. He want some of the changes, dealing with paid leave struck out of this bill. They had to get him on board. And he has called for months for a pause because of his concerns about inflation and rejecting the White House's argument that this bill could actually control inflation. So the question will be they will -- can they get Manchin on board? Can they get the final legislative language all together before Christmas, which seems doubtful at this point?

And waiting until next year raises other questions. Not only is it a midterm election year, but also some key provisions such as the Child Tax Credit expired, the expanded version of that expires at the end of this year. So there are some policy problems and also potential political problems if it's delayed. But they needed the votes, Kate. And at the moment, the votes are just not there.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. And let me play, let me play, Lauren, what Senator Amy Klobuchar, a fellow Democrat, said yesterday on State of the Union about where's -- what she sees is the urgency of getting it done now.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): We have to get this done, Jake. And Senator Manchin is still at the negotiating table. There is no doubt about that. I am all in on getting it done by Christmas, and we'll do everything to get it done.


BOLDUAN: But to exactly what Manu us talking about, Lauren, Joe Manchin seems to be in the same place he has been at for a very long time, he might use different words to describe it, pause or inflation or whatever, he's not there. I mean, do you get a sense that even the senators, fellow Democratic senators know exactly what he's weighing at this point?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the delicate balance of the Democratic caucus has had to have with Senator Joe Manchin for the past year as Democrats took back the majority in the Senate. And that is the fact that they all have to have these conversations very carefully with Senator Manchin. They can't try to coerce him or pressure him. They can't have an ultimatum against him, because at the end of the day, Manchin feels very comfortable where he is in the state of West Virginia, coming from a state that handedly voted for President Trump in the last election.

So this is a careful balance and why that meeting with the President is going to be so critical, that meeting my source told me could come as soon as today, but they were trying to firm up some timing. It could slip into later this week. But that's going to be a consequential meeting, because the President has been very careful in how he talks with and tries to convince Senator Manchin to get on board with his agenda.

He is not somebody who is going to take it well, if all of a sudden Democratic senators start coming up against him in a private Democratic lunch, or start making calls to try to lobby him. It all has to be carefully done. And right now, I just don't know what kind of feedback that Manchin would hear from his Democratic colleagues that would really convince him, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Exactly. And I think that's what this really gets at is it's at a place of just stuck no matter, though, that they are still talking. It just seems stuck until Joe Manchin, makes clear that he can be moved. And Manu if I can bend your ear and change directions just for a second, because tonight, the House Select Committee investigating January 6th, they're meeting and they're going to be deciding on whether to recommend Mark Meadows be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate. And you have this new report just released by the Committee that puts a new spotlight on Meadows. What is in this e-mail about the National Guard?

RAJU: Yes, he was suggesting that press the National Guard could be dispatched on January 6th to protect pro Trump people. Now the question is, what exactly did he mean by that? Now this came in the aftermath of Meadows cooperating with the Committee. Remember, he had turned over thousands of pages of documents to this Committee. But then he stopped cooperating amid pushback from Donald Trump, amid the release of his own book, and said he would not come before the January 6th Committee and testify about everything that happened, his conversations with Donald Trump, and instead this is why they are now moving forward with this contempt citation.

Now the question for the Democrats even though they're almost certainly going to have the votes tonight advances contempt referral to the full House and likely in a Democratic led house, they'll have enough votes to get it sent over to the Justice Department. The question is will Mark Meadows -- they ever get any clarity from Mark Meadows who's refused to testify for future, provide any information here. And will the Justice Department charge him, another question going forward. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Manu, Lauren, thank you guys so much.


Still ahead for us, we're going to take you back to Kentucky where the scale of the destruction there from the tornadoes is frankly overwhelming. Relief organizations are on the ground now trying to bring the basics to thousands of families in need. We're going to go back to John Berman, next.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Berman live in Mayfield, Kentucky where the destruction from the devastating tornado outbreak over the weekend. It really is almost indescribable. At least 100 people at this point are fear dead, the youngest victim just five months old. Homes, businesses, churches, schools, entire towns just destroyed by dozens of tornadoes that were rip through eight states.


FEMA and Homeland Security officials have briefed President Biden on the federal response. CNN's Nick Valencia is live in the heart hit community of Bowling Green.