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Drought Forecast Shows Temporary Relief For Western States; Suspect In Salman Rushdie Stabbing Indicted, To Appear In Court; Texas School District Removes 41 Books, Including The Bible. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired August 18, 2022 - 11:30   ET



REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): That it could produce a nuclear weapon. So there's a lot of negotiations that's taking place, and I think that there's a push back and forth that will continue to take place. But my hope is that we do end up to an agreement because an agreement prevents Iran from having a nuclear weapon and gives us eyes into their nuclear program that we would not have and we have not had since we moved out of the program. So the program provides -- being part of the agreement provides us an opportunity to take the timeline further out and understand what they are and are not doing. Now, it's not perfect, so I don't expect to have a perfect agreement. The original JCPOA was not perfect but the purpose is Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon under any circumstance.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I have also seen that Iran is also floating the idea of a prisoner swap as part of a deal. There are a handful of Americans being held -- wrongfully detained in Iran right now. One of them is Emad Shargi. We have followed his situation -- his story very closely on this show. Prisoner swaps have worked with other countries, every circumstance is different, of course. Do you think a prisoner swap should be part of a nuclear deal with Iran this time?

MEEKS: I don't think it needs to be part of a deal. I think we need to have our American citizens returned home. It can be paralleled. It shouldn't be, you know, something necessarily part of the deal. But I do think that we need to have our American citizens returned. He's been held by Iran, I believe illegally, as is -- so, therefore, the administration, and I know they are working to do everything they can to get our political prisoners in Iran and elsewhere in the world. Let's get them back to their families in the United States of America.

BOLDUAN: Yes. This also -- around the anniversary of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, we've been covering a very closely this week, the top Republican on your committee, Michael McCaul, he was on the show, talking about the report that Republicans just put out about the withdrawal. They call Biden's handling of the withdrawal a strategic failure. And I asked McCaul, why this is not a bipartisan report. Let me play for you what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): We wanted this to be bipartisan, but there was no appetite on the Democratic side. There was initially, Kate, in fairness to my Chairman, Chairman Meeks, who I have a lot of respect for. But they got word from the administration. This is not a good news story, and stand down. And so they stopped having any hearings on this.


BOLDUAN: What's your response?

MEEKS: No response. And Mr. McCaul is -- we do work together, but his statement is inaccurate. We continue to have hearings. In fact, we've had over 14 hearings and briefings specifically on this matter. But the deal is that they refused to look at the Afghanistan withdrawal in the context of the 20 years that we were there. They don't want to talk about the Doha agreement that was under Donald Trump. So it's a cherry-picking of ideas of which they wanted to look at, as opposed to looking at the Doha agreement and those things that led up to where we were at the point of withdrawal.

And so I would cherish if we got to really be serious about it to work in a bipartisan way but looking at every aspect of what took place because surely those 20 days of what they were looking at, seems to be politically motivated so that you don't have to look at what took place with the Doha agreement and Trump. And in fairness, if you wanted to be fair, it's the Obama administration and the Bush Administration, also. All of which is how you really determined what took place and how we can make sure that we don't ever get into that space again. Because clearly --

BOLDUAN: Both of these things be true, right? You got -- their big mistakes over 20 years in Afghanistan in multiple administrations, but also big failures in preparing for the final 20 days.

MEEKS: They're all things that you can look at, but you can't look at the last 20 days without looking at the Doha agreement. That's just not possible to do because there's a lot of things that were put in place with the rules and the regulations for the withdrawal room that was agreed upon in that Doha agreement that did not include the Afghan government, which puts everybody in a funny position. So you cannot say and take away the Doha agreement that Trump made because those were the conditions that led -- that the Biden administration, some of it was confined to do for those -- in those 20 days.

Now, are there things -- you know, it's messy, and I can't -- I see -- I can't see any situation given what took place that's not going to be messy? But what I do ask myself is, are we safer today? Are Americans safer today than we were a year ago? And I think that'd be to answer when we see what just took place with the strike against al-Qaeda and others and over the horizon aptitude -- viewpoint, we all Americans are safer today. And guess what? Our troops are not in the line of fire.

[11:35:15] BOLDUAN: Many lessons to be learned over those 20 years and those 20 days and beyond. Thank you for coming on, Mr. Chairman. I really appreciate it.

MEEKS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, water crisis for Western states getting worse and there -- but there is some temporary relief we've just learned off. The top climate advisor of California's Governor joins us next.



BOLDUAN: Now to the climate crisis. Monsoon rains are easing the actual short-term drought fears in the southwest but the region's long-term water crisis is far from over. A new drought forecast shows that 90 percent of the Colorado River Basin is still in drought, meaning critical water shortages still remain in several states. CNN's Stephanie Elam joins me now from Los Angeles with a look at this. So, Stephanie, the rain this past week seems to have helped but I mean, what does that actually mean for the water crisis?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't mean a lot, Kate, unfortunately. I mean, it's good if you think about farmers and ranchers that they got their dirt ponds out there, and maybe they got some water in there. Now they can actually, you know, provide that hydration to their animals and their crops for a bit. But ultimately, we would need several years of a good snowpack and rain for us to see some real big improvement here. And so you could take a look at the Colorado River and just see how dramatic it is there.

Of the numbers that we've got, obviously, these monsoon rains have helped out Arizona, the most we've seen their numbers improve a bit now that only 3 percent of the state is in extreme drought. That is the lowest in two years, so good news for Arizona. But again, that dramatic improvement was short-lived. And then you look at Texas, which has the most expansive area of extreme drought right now, more than 70,000 square miles larger than the entire state of Missouri really concentrated in the middle of the state. However, they're expected to get about five inches of rain over the weekend. That's bringing new fears because this land is so dry, that there could be flooding. So that's another scare there.

But if you look across the country right now, Kate, it's not just the southwest, you look at New England and you can see that they also have a flash drought there, all of Massachusetts is now in some level of a drought where none of it was just two weeks ago. So it shows you like here in California where the entire state is in a state of drought, that this is a problem that is really something that the states have to focus on to fix because we need to figure out how we're going to share our water going forward.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and almost immediately. It's good to see you. Thanks so much, Stephanie. Joining me right now for more on this is Lauren Sanchez. She is the Senior Climate Advisor to California's Governor Gavin Newsom. Thank you so much for being here. Stephanie lays it -- lays it out perfectly just the crisis at hand. I mean, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the U.S. in terms of water capacity and a key water source for your state, and others in the West. If this doesn't get better, what is that going to mean for California?

LAUREN SANCHEZ, SENIOR CLIMATE ADVISER TO CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: Yes, thank you so much, Kate, for the question and for having me on this morning. You know the startling images we're seeing out of Lake Mead right now we're just the latest reminder for Californians and Americans across the country of the fever that our planet is running and the crisis that our climate is really in. You know, as Stephanie laid out, we're experiencing unprecedented challenges across the entire region as it relates to drought. In California, the worst drought in 1200 years which is impacting the Colorado River Basin and our water supplies across the state.

But this moment really calls for solidarity, right? We need to work together closely with our water agencies in California, with our neighboring states, and with federal partners to find solutions to stabilize water supplies in the Colorado River Basin, and across the West. It's why we're so appreciative of the recent climate action and climate investments coming out of our federal government partners, which included specific funding to address the drought.

And, Kate, as you know, here in California, we're not just on the frontlines of the water crisis and drought, but we're also dealing with unprecedented wildfires and extreme heat. So we're really thrilled to have federal investments that can help us create the resilience to the climate impacts that are hitting Californians right now. That -- and those funds are on top of an $8 billion that the governor has proposed, worked with the legislature on to make sure that we are able to store recycle and conserve water at levels. You know, that we've never been able to achieve before.

Last week, the governor actually unveiled a new strategy that really moves Californians towards adapting to a hotter, drier climate. We know that this is now the new normal in California and across the West. We have to fundamentally think -- rethink how we are investing in water storage, water supplies, and technology to help us monitor and you know, manage water better going forward.

BOLDUAN: The governor has laid out some ambitious goals on how to try to protect your state in the long term, as you were mentioning. I mean, most recently, he was really preaching the benefits of water recycling and what desalination can mean for California, but that also for being quite candid and honest. That requires time, a lot of time, and a lot of money. How do you do that without requiring people to cut back in a big way in the meantime?


SANCHEZ: Yes, a great question, Kate. Well, I would say that there is a lot of money on the table that we have invested in the last two years and will continue to invest in this priority issue for the governor. He also asked our water users to achieve a 15 percent reduction in water use compared to 2020 levels. And we've seen a lot of progress. In June, we know that the conservation numbers are a 7.5 percent reduction in water use.

So, we're getting close to 15, but we know that there's more that we all need to do together. Individuals, California businesses, and large water users are all at the table with a governor in the whole team in terms of how we can achieve even deeper cuts and conserve enough water to help the state going forward.

BOLDUAN: Why hasn't the governor put in a statewide reduction mandate? I know that he's put it kind of on the local jurisdictions to do it. But why not -- if the threat is so real as it is, why not place a statewide reduction mandate in place? Is it because it is not politically popular?

SANCHEZ: Well, Kate, I would say the governor, as it relates to the politics of climate change has been -- has not been shy in terms of taking on a number of fights that we know we need to wage to protect Californians from this imminent threat. As it relates to water -- mandatory water cuts, I would say you know, all tools are on the table and we continue to evaluate what the state needs to do going forward. And it really, you know, illustrates the governor's approach to tackling the climate crisis more broadly, which is an all of government, all of the society mobilization.

I mentioned the $8 billion he's spending specifically on water and drought, but across the board, he's spending $54 billion to make sure that our vehicles are moving to zero-emission, our energy grid is getting to 100 percent clean as quickly as possible. We are protecting Californians from oil drilling and a variety of other priorities and kind of climate opportunities for the state.

BOLDUAN: Yes. There's so much that goes into this. Lauren, thanks for coming on. Lauren Sanchez, I really appreciate your time, much more to discuss with you going forward.

SANCHEZ: Thanks for having me, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Coming up for us, a Texas School District pulls dozens of books from the shelves, including the Bible, details on the battle over banning books next. But first, the time you spend stuck in traffic can impact your well-being. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has tips now on how to take care of yourself while you're on the road in today's "CHASING LIFE."


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta, host of CNN's "CHASING LIFE" podcast. You know this past summer I was reminded there is nothing better than hitting the open road, and also nothing worse than traffic. In fact, I was told in 2021, American drivers lost an average of 36 hours to traffic. All of that time in the car can take a toll resulting in lower physical activity, higher blood pressure, and of course, lots of stress.

Now traffic psychologist Dwight Hennessy says that's why it's important to feel comfortable, competent, and yes, calm on the road. Maybe start by listening to your favorite music or your favorite podcast. Bring a co-pilot that can help keep your mind off the stress of the road. And take a moment, especially if you're in dead-stop traffic, who appreciate the natural beauty you might see along your journey. Find the joy in this everyday activity however you can do it.

You can hear more about how to optimize your health and chase life wherever you get your podcast.



BOLDUAN: The suspect in the stabbing of author Salman Rushdie has been indicted, according to his attorney. He's -- he'll soon appear in the New York court for arraignment. Charges though have not yet been made public. CNN has reached out to the Chautauqua County DA's office for more information. He has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, his motive, though still unclear. Rushdie remains hospitalized in Pennsylvania.

Also, new this morning, a Texas School District temporarily is removing dozens of books from library shelves after being challenged by parents and community members. The titles include the Bible and an illustrated adaptation of Anne Frank's diary. CNN's Ed Lavandera has the latest.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The book banning controversy is once again swirling in the state of Texas, this time, in the city of Keller which is a suburb just north of Fort Worth. Last year, the Keller school district created a community committee that essentially was allowed to review complaints and challenges from community members and parents in the school district that were complaining about various books.

The committee looked at 41 different books. Those were -- they were pulled off the shelves. They included a lot of books dealing with LGBTQ issues but also included in those -- that review was the Bible, a graphic adaptation of Anne Frank's diary, The Bluest Eye by acclaimed novelist Toni Morrison. Of those 41 books, about two-thirds were allowed to be put back on the shelves or they were adjusted for more appropriate grade levels like high school or middle school depending on the book.


But what has since changed is that just the day before school started, principals across the district are told that those 41 books had to once again be pulled off the shelves. And that included those same books that were reviewed last year. What is sparking this change? Well, in May, a right-wing Christian organization, Political Action Group, helped elect three new school board members.

Now, the school board has adopted new policies by which books that have been challenged by parents or members of the community are reviewed. And once again, these 41 books are back under the microscope and so all the -- all of the principals across the district are told that those 41 books needed to be taken off the shelf. So even though this was done last year, this review process is happening once again in this Texas School District.

Ed Lavandera CNN, Dallas.


BOLDUAN: Ed, thank you so much for that. And thank you all so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after the break.