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At Least 30 Dead In Kentucky Floods As Area Braces For More Rain; Officials: Speaker Pelosi Expected To Visit Taiwan On Asia Trip; Senator Sinema Silent On Dems' Climate & Health Care Bill. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired August 01, 2022 - 11:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. AT THIS HOUR, hundreds are still unaccounted for in Kentucky in those Kentucky floods and more bad weather is on the way.

Also, new threats from China this morning as CNN learns that Nancy Pelosi is expected to push ahead with a controversial stop in Taiwan.

And veterans and their families demanding action from lawmakers on a bill to help millions affected by exposure to toxic burn pits.


This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR. Thank you for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan. The death toll is rising in Kentucky. Top officials they are saying now, 30 people are dead, hundreds are still missing. And the Governor has warned that there will in his words, they will be finding bodies for weeks. Parts of Eastern Kentucky are under flood watch right now. The unrelenting rain as you can see in the video just washing away homes, roads, bridges, everything in its path. Search teams are going door to door still to check on residents but they're still unable to reach some of the hardest hit areas to check on people. Let me play for you, Kentucky's Governor Andy Beshear from moments ago.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): There are hundreds of unaccounted, four people minimum. And we just don't have a firm grasp on that. I wish we did. There are a lot of reasons why it's nearly impossible. But I want to make sure that we're not giving either false hope or faulty information.


BOLDUAN: And it's not just Kentucky dealing with extreme weather either. The supercharged McKinney fire exploded over the weekend in Northern California scorching over 55,000 acres. Authorities say it is zero percent contained. Firefighters were reporting -- have reported finding the bodies of two people inside a vehicle that was burned in the path of the wildfire. Evacuations continue today. We're going to get to all of it. But let's start in Kentucky. CNN's Evan McMorris- Santoro is live in Kentucky for us. Evan, what are you seeing and what are you hearing from people there?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the floodwaters are starting to recede, the ones that came in last week. But we're worried there might be more coming in. This gives us a chance to see it, when these waters go back, give us a chance to talk about just how fast and how dangerous these flash floods are. I'm standing on Route 28 in Perry County, one of the hardest hit counties by these floods. And where I'm standing is a creek that goes along that highway.

And I want to show you just what happened here when those floodwaters came through. Over there, that collection of plywood and slats, there's actually some toys at the top of that. That was a house. And the floodwaters when they came in, they swept up and they went through here, they picked this house up where it was right here and pulled it along that creek down to a bridge at the other end blocking many houses on the other side of me right now.

Now crews are in there now taking that house down so people can get in there. But it's just as a -- it's amazing thing to see how powerful these waters are and what they can do. People here are dealing with the aftermath now even as search and rescue continues. And we spoke to some folks at a nearby Baptist Church that has been turned into a shelter. People who lost everything that are now having to stay at this church while they wait to see what comes next.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got our shoes on as quickly as we could, get out with only the clothes on our bag. I had time to grab the purse, my purse because it was beside the couch. There was no ground left. It was all water surrounding us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very, very scary. And it was very quick. It happened very quickly. One of the scariest things that I ever went through. From today forward, it would probably be getting a place to stay for my kids, get in the vehicle. You know, just the essentials because everything is gone.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Now, Kate, the sun is out right now. There was rain all morning. It's good to see this break for people who are trying to get out there and do these rescues and find people and bring them supplies people who are trapped. But unfortunately there's more rain in the forecast tonight, possibly with more flooding, according to forecasters. It's a very scary situation here and an ongoing situation here in Kentucky. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, even in the wall (ph), it is far from over as you're even getting to. Evan, thank you very much. So let's get to that forecast as Evan was just talking about. Let's get over to CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's been tracking all of this for us. Jennifer, what are you seeing?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Kate, the problem is the ground is so saturated, any heavy, heavy downpour that falls in one of those vulnerable areas, we could see a flooding situation unfold before our eyes. So flood watches in effect, most of that rain as Evan mentioned, has moved out. But this is the issue. We have received so much rain over the last couple of days. As mentioned, any additional rain could create more flash flooding.

So here's all the rain that pushed out early this morning. We are in store for more rain because you can see to the north and west. We have more showers and storms coming through, so we're going to expect more storms this afternoon just with the daytime heating, some pop up storms could occur. Any of those could have heavy downpours within them.

And then look at this, this is tomorrow morning 4:00 a.m., another very heavy line of showers and storms and then again tomorrow afternoon. So Kate, we are looking at rounds of showers and storms throughout the rest of the week not to mention temperatures in the mid-90s for some of these people without power.


BOLDUAN: Yes, Jennifer, thank you very much for that.

Let's get back to Kentucky. Joining me right now is Kentucky's Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman. Lieutenant Governor, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. You've been on the ground meeting with residents, seeing this damage that is hit such a big part of your state. The Governor called it just utter devastation. How do you describe it?

LT. GOV. JACQUELINE COLEMAN (D-KY): Well, thank you for having me, Kate. And I would have to say that I agree with the Governor. It is devastating. It is heartbreaking to see the homes that were, the homes that are still standing that are so damaged, the school systems, every part of what would be your normal day in your life has been impacted if you are someone who lives in Eastern Kentucky. And I can't do it justice with words. But it was to be on the ground yesterday was equal parts heartbreaking, but also heartwarming because I got to see the best of Kentuckians and some of the toughest times.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, you're seeing that over and over again. Hundreds on accounted for still. The Governor said, he does expect the number of deaths from this storm to increase. But by how much is of course a question on people's minds. Can you give us a sense of what you're hearing?

COLEMAN: So what we do know is we have 30 confirmed deaths so far. We are still in search and rescue mode in all of these areas, because there is so much water. And some of it has subsided. But as just mentioned in the weather report, there was flash flood flooding in the area this morning. It's going to continue to rain overnight. And so that makes everything more difficult.

We now have all of our state roads are passable. But for some time, they weren't. We -- but we still have back roads and county roads that are broken off and that our bridges are out. And so it's really difficult to get to some of the most remote places. Cellphone service is being restored, although it's not everywhere yet. But those are the things that are preventing us from being able to give a definite number.

And as the Governor mentioned this morning, he doesn't want to give anybody false hope. But he also doesn't want to give anyone any infactual -- unfactual information as well.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. And when you're in the midst of it, it's impossible to really get your arms around the scope and scale of what you're going to be looking at for weeks to come. You mentioned the heartwarming stories of heroism and kindness that are coming out in the midst of this. We have seen and we have heard of this as well. We have video from a man who actually witnessed another unidentified man rescue an elderly woman in her family from their flooded home in Whitesburg.

The family says said to CNN that the grandmother and uncle who were saved in this rescue, they're in the hospital now recovering and thankful that they are. They don't know the man's name who saved them. It's just an example of what you're just speaking to Lieutenant Governor, what are the stories that you're hearing from people?

COLEMAN: You're exactly right. And as people showed me pictures of their homes yesterday and the, you know, the roads that they live on and that were just completely annihilated. They're also talking about how the first responders that have showed up from other states and from across Kentucky, people who have lost everything are bringing them food to say thank you. That -- I mean, that's the kind of kindness that we're seeing. And the folks in eastern Kentucky, they say they're 606 proud for a reason. And they are resilient and we're seeing the best of them.

What I want to say is our school systems, our teachers, our principals and superintendents, they're showing up and washing clothes in their schools for people. They are turning their gyms into shelters for people who've lost everything. I was in Wolfe County yesterday. They don't have a single displaced person. And every one of their gyms are full of folks who've lost everything from a neighboring county, in Breathitt County. And their middle school gym was operating as a makeshift nursing home because they had to proactively evacuate so that those residents didn't get stuck.

This is what we're seeing in Kentucky all across resources, manpower, coming from across the state to support folks when they are in their knee -- in their moment of need. And the Governor and I are both committed to standing by them for as long as it takes to rebuild.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And I'm going to have to say Lieutenant Governor, I was just thinking back, it was not long ago that the Governor was on with me just talking about the utter devastation from tornadoes and the kindness of neighbors that was coming out then as well. It's just a lot for one state to be taken on. Thank you so much Lieutenant Governor, you're in the middle of it right now. Thank you for coming on.

[11:10:04] COLEMAN: Thank you.

All right for more information about how you yourself can help the people of Kentucky, the Kentucky flood victims go to There's much more information right there.

Still ahead for us AT THIS HOUR, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she's expected to visit Taiwan as part of her Asian tour, a lot of speculation leading up to it and a lot of threats being thrown around because of it. How China is now responding, that's next.


BOLDUAN: This just into CNN an update now on President Biden's health. Biden's physician Dr. Kevin O'Connor just issued an update saying that the President continues to test positive for COVID today. Dr. O'Connor also says the President though continues to feel well and will continue to isolate. But the doctor says he sees no reason to reinitiate the Paxlovid treatment. And today marks day two of Biden's second isolation and as he's now dealing with a rebound infection, stay close to that and bring you updates as we get them.


This is also developing this morning, U.S. and Taiwanese officials say that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to go to Taiwan during her tour of Asia, a visit that is provoking new threats this morning from China. Beijing saying its military quote, won't sit by idly if China feels its sovereignty and territorial integrity is being threatened. No more detail on what exactly that means though.

Joining me now CNN's Will Ripley is live in Taipei and CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger. He's a correspondent with "The New York Times." It's good to see you guys. So Will, what is actually going to happen during this visit? What are the Taiwanese preparing for? What are you hearing?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, China is always deliberately ambiguous, not only with propaganda, but even when they conduct these, you know, these flybys near Taiwan, they never actually explicitly say usually why maybe they leaked something to one state media outlet or another, to give hints as to why they're doing it, but they try to keep things. They try to keep people guessing.

And so in Taiwan, on the streets, everyday people look at this as just the latest rhetorical roller coaster tensions are off, they're down, life goes on. I think the Taiwanese leadership is in a more difficult position, because they know that the timing right now months ahead of President Xi's party congress and the unprecedented third term, which could pave the way for president for life, this is a time that he incredibly values stability.

And he considers Taiwan an inalienable part of China. I mean, they actually have Taiwan in Chinese passports as just another province. Even though this place, this island has its own military and government for the last 70 plus years since the end of China's civil war. But they don't view it that way in Beijing. And so for Nancy Pelosi, such a high ranking U.S. official to come at this time, it really does all boil down to how offended would President Xi be? And what steps how far would he be willing to take it?

My guess, and discussions I've had, Kate, is that he certainly doesn't want anything that's going to lead to a conflict. But he does want to do something that's going to make him look strong, make China look strong. And that's why I think we have this strong worded propaganda. And maybe we'll see some aircraft in the air and ships at sea, but hardware that isn't intended to, you know, actually start at cross strait conflict or restart a cross strait conflict.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And David, you have some interesting reporting yourself on what could happen during her visit, but more likely after she leaves. What are you hearing?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's right, Kate. I think during the visit very possible that you'll see a lot of Chinese aircraft around. As Will has noted, there are some American officials I've spoken to who have wondered whether the Chinese Air Force will sort of escort to use the phrase lightly her U.S. Air Force plane into Taiwan's airspace. Now, presumably they would break away before they got right over the island itself, but maybe not.

I think the more interesting question is what happens after she leaves. If they want to blame the Taiwan government for this, it's after she's gone, that they could use a variety of tactics short of any kind of amphibious invasion. And I think the U.S. government is looking for everything from cutting off access to the Taiwan Strait for a period of time, cutting undersea cables, cutting some kind of communications, blocking shipping, something that indicates that they feel more emboldened to show that they've got heightened control.

And of course, this comes just a week after we reported in "The Times," that the Chinese government may be looking to speed up its challenges to Taiwan. Initially, we didn't think they would come before 2027 sort of outright efforts to push toward reunification. But now there's a fear in China, U.S. intelligence believes that the U.S. would be arming up the Taiwanese the way we have armed the Ukrainians, and that they may have greater advantage in the short term than they do in the long term.

BOLDUAN: Well, you mentioned Xi Jinping, I mean, congressional delegations, members of Congress, they visit Taiwan all the time. I mean, it's not an unusual thing, yes, Nancy Pelosi stature, the high level -- her high rank, if you will, is unique. But why doesn't China just ignore this? Why is Xi Jinping, I don't know, making this something of a showdown?

RIPLEY: I mean, why does President Xi still insist on an unsustainable scientist say zero COVID policy that impacts hundreds and millions of people for a handful of cases, that is President Xi's directive and that's what China 1.5 billion people do. Taiwan is a small island next to China with about 25 million people, a smaller than the population of Shanghai. But Taiwan of course is very different and that it is the world's only Chinese speaking democracy. And it has friendships with strong and larger democracies with big armies like the United States.


But the open question and the unknown question on the streets here in Taipei is, what would the U.S. response be if China were to actually make a move? And I think that publicly, you know, President Tsai Ing- wen told me that she does believe she has faith that the United States would defend Taiwan, but a lot of people on the street say, they're not so sure.

BOLDUAN: David, what are you hearing, though, from the Biden administration? What is -- what does this do? What does this visit do? And almost to what the question that kind of Will just posed, what does this do for the tension that clearly already exists between President Biden and Xi Jinping?

SANGER: Well, the Biden administration clearly wishes that this would just go away. They briefed Speaker Pelosi and her staff quite extensively about this. You heard President Biden say last week that the Pentagon doesn't want her to go. But he has stopped short of telling her not to go. I think there are two reasons for that. The first is his 36 years in the Senate. It gave him a real sense of the institutional independence that Congress has got to have. And so he's basically said, look, you're an independent part of the government, you can make the decision, all he could do is offer advice.

I think the second thing is, no one wants to look weak right now versus the Chinese threats. And certainly no one wants to let Xi Jinping guide who can and what level of American official can visit Taiwan. The last speaker of the house to visit was Newt Gingrich in 1997. But of course, the strategic environment 25 years ago was radically different than it is today. And China was not trying to make the point about the need for relatively rapid reunification that it is making today.

BOLDUAN: That's a great point. It's good to see both. Let's see what happens in the next little bit.

Coming up for us, it could be a huge week on Capitol Hill. Democrats pressing ahead on a massive climate and economic deal struck by Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin but it's a -- it's far from a done deal at this moment. Do they have the votes? More straight ahead.



BOLDUAN: So Senate Democrats are aiming to pass by the end of this week a bill that could affect everything from the fight against climate change to prescription drug pricing. Senators Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer they announced the surprise deal last week after months of secret negotiations. And now the focus turns to two other key people today, the Senate parliamentarian to see if it passed muster and also Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema. CNN's Manu Raju is on the Hill with much more on this. Manu, what are you hearing today?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Sinema is actually so significant here because she is the one Democratic senator who is non-committal about this piece of legislation and it remains to be seen where she ultimately comes down. This bill is moving along a process that they can approve it along straight party lines because they do not expect any Republicans to get on board behind this.

In order for it to move along straight party lines, it has to pass muster by the Senate parliamentarian who has to ensure that the all the provisions in this bill, meet some of the strict Senate Budget rules to allow it to circumvent the filibuster really is a procedural issue. But it's so significant because if she agrees that the parliamentarian does that it does meet this test about the Senate Budget rules that it can be approved along straight party lines, but it requires Kyrsten Sinema and all our 49 of our other Democratic colleagues to vote yes, in order to send this on to the House.

Now, Joe Manchin who was central in this negotiation indicated that he and Chuck Schumer really were the only two people involved in these intense negotiations over the last several days. But he argued and talking to reporters about how she, Kyrsten Sinema, was still instrumental in getting some of the provisions into the final bill.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I think that basically when she looks at the bill and sees the whole spectrum of what we're doing, and all of the energy we're bringing, and all the reduction of prices, and fighting inflation by bringing prices down by having more energy, hopefully she will be positive about it. But, you know, she'll make her decision and I respect that.


RAJU: But she has raised concerns in the past over some of the provisions that are in this proposal, one of them is dealing with that attack -- Wall Street related tax called carried interest. We'll see if that has to go. We'll see if other provisions also have to be changed, but she is indicating she will not make her position known until that parliamentarian review finishes. But Kate, the goal still on the Senate Democratic leadership is to pass it this week passed in the House next week, but big questions where Sinema stands and where the parliamentarian does as well.


BOLDUAN: Absolutely. All right, let's see what happens. It's good to see you Manu. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now for more on this is the chief economist for Moody's Analytics Mark Zandi. Mark, it's good to have you on again.