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At This Hour

Sanibel Island Residents Survey Damage To Homes; Biden To Visit Hurricane-Ravaged Florida; Putin Signs Law Illegally Annexing Four Regions Of Ukraine; Interview With Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) on Putin's Moves; Trump Seeking Supreme Court Intervention In Mar-a-Lago Review. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 05, 2022 - 11:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND U.S. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello, everyone. AT THIS HOUR, survivors of hurricane Ian returning to see what's left of their homes as President Biden heads to Florida to see the devastation firsthand.

Police in California pursue a new lead for a kidnapped family of four.

And why an overwhelming number of Americans believe the country is facing a mental crisis. This is that we're watching AT THIS HOUR.


HILL: Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Erica Hill, in for Kate Bolduan.

President Biden and the first lady now on their way to Florida to tour the catastrophic damages. Hurricane Ian is now the deadliest storm to hit the state in a century. At least 105 deaths have now been linked to the storm. Search-and-rescue efforts continue today. More that 2,000 survivors have been rescued.

Residents of Sanibel Island today will be able to return to see what is left of their homes. Residents have to access that barrier island now by boat. It remains cut off from the mainland. Ian ripped apart a causeway. CNN's Leyla Santiago just arrived a few moments ago and is able to file this report.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is West Gulf drive, one of the main streets here on Sanibel Island. It's also a place where the residents tell me was the worst hit.

This is now a street that's lined with debris. You see straight into homes and see personal belongings everywhere. Here you also have part of a roof that is sitting on the side of the street.

To make the point of exactly how powerful this storm was, residents tell me that this was actually across the street. Now you can see straight in what was once a kitchen, a family room, no longer here. The equipment and refrigerator now partially out the door. Not much left to be salvaged.


HILL: I believe we have Leyla up live.

What more are you seeing, now that you've got to access the island?

SANTIAGO: We got in one of the first boats, because the mayor announced they are giving passes to residents who want to come in and assess the damage for the first time. We got in with one of those boats.

First I noticed power lines down, almost taking over some of the main roads. In this neighborhood, there is still standing water on one side. And then behind me, that is someone's roof, part of someone's roof.

Fences down; I saw some arts and crafts over there, some toys. But I've got to tell you about the people I've talked to. I talked to one couple, who almost, as soon as I asked a simple question of how are you doing?

They were almost in tears, tears because they were relieved to find it wasn't as bad in their home as they thought it was going to be.

She talked about having a bit of survivor's guilt as a result and going to her neighbors to go help. I talked to another couple just down the street in another home, with a very different story. They're actually wearing hardhats to get in, because they're not sure it's safe enough to go in.

The owner said I have a list, a list of things I'm going to try to find inside my home, in their case their primary home, it's all they have.

She also pointed out to me that she had a new shirt that she had purchased at the grocery store and that's really all she had. So you get a sense of resilience. You get a sense of -- I spoke to a gentleman named Mike down the street.

He had to be rescued by firefighters, because he didn't want to leave his home. He also got in on one of the first boats to get over here. He had some roof damage.

But when you talk to them, they're grateful. This has a way to put things into perspective. I know you've heard me say this before, everyone acknowledging this is not just days or weeks of recovery; everyone acknowledging this may never be the same.

It's going to take a long time to rebuild and recover in Sanibel Island and other parts of Florida.

HILL: Absolutely. You know, I'm interested, when you speak with the people that you're meeting there, you mentioned the woman with the list. The only thing she has to wear is the shirt she bought in the grocery store. This is their primary home.

Where are they going to stay?

Have they talked about where they're going to go for the next likely weeks, months?


SANTIAGO: Yes, that's -- that's an excellent question, because the residents that are here now, Erica, they have a pass to get in. That allows them to come in today. That means they have to go back out tomorrow. Every single person here will also tell you they have been touched by how many people have reached out to say, are you OK?

What do you need?

How can I help you?

They're really hoping that -- the government officials announced a few days ago they are working on some temporary fix to the causeway, because the bridge there is just completely collapsed. We showed you that yesterday.

So they're really hoping that some sort of temporary fix will allow them to get in here to do more of the cleanup than just a day here at a time. Many of these are planning to go back and forth as many days as they can.

Mike, who had to be rescued, that's his plan. He said to me that he feels it's his responsibility to do two things -- protect his family and protect his home. He's going to come here as many times as he possibly can to start rebuilding.

HILL: Day one of the next phase. Leyla, thank you.

President Biden and the first lady also making their way to hurricane- ravaged Florida. They're going to tour that catastrophic damage. CNN's Boris Sanchez is live in Ft. Myers Beach with a preview of the president's visit.

Who will he be meeting with, Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: The president will get to see firsthand just how widespread the devastation here is in southwest Florida. He's set to arrive roughly 1.5 hours from now.

The first thing he's going to do is take a helicopter tour of some of these decimated areas. The president, soon after that, will be briefed by local, state and federal leaders on the state of the recovery.

Florida's governor Ron DeSantis, as you well know, has exchanged some political attacks with the president in the past. We're not anticipating any fireworks between those two today. Both have exchanged messages, essentially saying it's a time to set politics aside, to unite, to heal the heartache here in southwest Florida.

After that, the president will hear from business owners and residents who will share how they've been impacted by hurricane Ian. Then the president is expected to deliver some remarks, reaffirming his commitment to help the people here before he departs for D.C. this evening.

Where we are, we've been coming to you live just outside this marina for the last five days. Just this morning, the last few hours, we've seen more cleanup activity than we have since Sunday.

There's a half dozen, if not more, utilities trucks working on power poles. There are earth movers, cranes to get boats out of mangroves, certainly an impressive feat being done in just the past few hours.

HILL: Always good to hear, Boris, appreciate it.

With us now, Bill Veach, a city council person for Ft. Myers Beach that will greet the president when he arrives.

Bill, good to see you this morning. It's my understanding, as recently as yesterday, there were still searches underway in the area for survivors.

Do you believe there are some residents there, who may still need to be rescued?

BILL VEACH, FORT MYERS BEACH CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: I leave that up to the experts. We're still in the search, rescue and recovery mode. There's been ATVs going by, up and down the beach. We're a very densely populated island. There's a lot of nooks and crannies to look in.

So I know they're actively looking but I don't know what they expect to find.

HILL: You'll be meeting with the president.

What specifically do you think the president should see today?

And what is your message to him?

VEACH: Well, I think (INAUDIBLE) the county is helping us and FEMA and the Feds. The one daunting challenge we have is I heard estimates of 89 percent of the homes on the island are uninhabitable. The amount of debris that has to be removed (INAUDIBLE) before we can start with any kind of construction, rebuilding, is (INAUDIBLE) and so I will --


HILL: I think we may have lost Bill Veach there.

He's one of the city council men. His home is one of the ones destroyed along with other folks on the council.

[11:10:00] HILL: He was talking specifically about addressing the president, it sounded like, the need for the debris removal.

The other issue, where does everybody live while they wait to rebuild?

We'll continue to stay on that.

For more information on how you can help victims, log on to

Just ahead here, Putin signs laws claiming to annex four regions of Ukraine, despite the reality that, in fact, the Russians are struggling to control the illegally annexed areas. The latest on the war is next.




HILL: Vladimir Putin now signing laws to claim four regions of Ukraine as Russian territory.


HILL: Of course, that annexation, claims are illegal under international law. World leaders condemning the move, happening as Russia continues to lose ground in Ukraine. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Kyiv for us.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Russians formally annexing those areas and Putin signing that into law at the same time Russia controlling less and less of the area they now claim is actually Russian territory.

What we've been seeing that's so remarkable is the pace at which the Ukrainians say they're making gains, not just in the east but also in the south of the country as well.

We see the map on the screen. Look at the town of Kherson, that's what Ukrainians really want and that's where they say they have made massive gains overnight. Some of the Russian defense lines there, literally collapsing as troops have managed to gain lots of little villages but also some pretty important towns as well.

Now, it was quite interesting, because the Kremlin earlier today said they could win back some areas, saying they are sticking by the annexations they consider to be Ukrainian territory now.

But certainly the Ukrainians say they are going to keep pressing those offensives in the south and in the east. They want to win back all of the territory, including Crimea.

One of the things we have to mention is the Russians are fighting back and shooting back. About 50 miles from where am, they had some kamikaze drones that did some pretty significant damage.

HILL: Fred Pleitgen, thank you.

Joining me now, Democrat Mike Quigley, the cochair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus.

Good to see you. Looking at what's happening on the ground there in Ukraine, despite these efforts, signing this into law, as Putin did, the majority of the world does not recognize this illegal annexation.

But Putin says any attack on these areas will be considered an attack on Russia.

How do you expect Putin to respond?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), CO-CHAIR, CONGRESSIONAL UKRAINE CAUCUS: Well, I think you have to ask yourself what happened when there were attacks on Crimea. There was hope that obviously he thinks Crimea is Russian territory, when the Ukrainians attacked that, that wasn't the tripwire.

If you had told me during the first stage of the war that we would be here now, the Ukrainian army would be advancing like this and the Russians withdrawing, I would have been thrilled.

This was a war we were certain would last days, not weeks. But I am very concerned with the other issues at the same time. This isn't the end or the beginning of the end but perhaps, as Churchill would have said, the end of the beginning.

HILL: How long do you expect it to last then?

QUIGLEY: Look, let's list the concerns of why this would last long. There are vast tracts of Ukrainian land under Russian occupation, even though the retreating Russian army is still dangerous and plan to do damage to infrastructure.

Winter is coming and that can slow progress and allow Russia to regroup. We have to maintain Western unity, Western stockpiles of weapons and continue to give them the weaponry and ammunition. That won't be easy.

At the same time, to the other part of your report, we're beginning to see the acts of a desperate Putin, who's far more concerned with his ultraright wing nationalists of Slovakia (ph). And that's why I think you see these acts that you're seeing, the sham elections, the nuclear threats and the bungled mobilization.

HILL: Ukraine, as CNN has learned, is actually offering the U.S. oversight, essentially veto power, in its bid to convince the Biden administration it needs some long-range missile systems.

Do you think the U.S. should agree to that?

Do you have any concerns about it? QUIGLEY: I was with President Zelenskyy about a month ago, its defense ministry, with the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. You learn firsthand how the HIMARS were turning the course of this war. When we met with the members of the rata, they told us such weaponry is humanitarian aid.


QUIGLEY: The only way to keep their people from being killed and the atrocities Putin has committed through his army is through aid. So I would give them what they need to finish the job. This is far from over, unfortunately. I believe there will be a redoubled Russian effort to take these plans back. We need to give Ukraine the weapons they need.

HILL: You want to give them the weapons. I know you are also in favor of the fast-track bid to NATO. Speaker Pelosi stopping short of that. She talked about support for a security guarantee. Stoltenberg also somewhat lukewarm on that accelerated bid.

Is this, in your view, coming down to Article V?

Are there genuine concerns, that this is maybe the end of the beginning, concerns about how long this could last, what it could mean in terms of direct involvement for NATO countries on the ground?

QUIGLEY: When I talked about the beginning, what I was referencing there is Putin's attempt to restore the Soviet Union, which would have meant going after NATO countries.

I think the Baltics, Poland, Moldova are all fair game. I think that's why they should care so much. I think Ukraine has earned this. Their role has widely formed NATO in the first place.

But it's part of a larger question -- what do we consider victory?

It's clearly making Ukraine whole through land and rebuilding it, holding those accountable for the atrocities in this war in the first place and making them secure. I would imagine the best-case scenario, is they win this war.

And Russia is forced off its land. Then we make them part of NATO, so that we know they're secure. That's the foothold Russia wanted to go after the rest of NATO.

HILL: Congressman Mike Quigley, thank you for joining us today.

Just ahead here, Donald Trump asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the review of documents seized from his Florida estate. The very latest is next.



[11:25:00] (MUSIC PLAYING)

HILL: Former president Trump is now asking the Supreme Court to intervene in his legal battle with the Justice Department over records marked classified. These are records seized from his Florida home.

He's seeking to make sure more than 100 documents with those markings would be included in a special master's review. Katelyn Polantz is live in Washington.

What could this potentially mean?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This really is about the 100 documents marked as classified taken out of Mar-a-Lago this summer, among many, many boxes of what could be potential evidence in this criminal investigation that the Department of Justice is doing.

In this situation, Donald Trump wants those 100 documents back under the purview of the special master, back under the control of judge Aileen Cannon, so they can review them and Trump's team could get a look at them and try to make claims to keep them out of evidence in this case.

Those documents are at the heart of what the Justice Department is investigating here the mishandling of national security material. We do expect the Justice Department to respond to this petition at the Supreme Court.

We expect them to say, there's no way that Donald Trump could have an interest in these documents and there really could be harm done to the United States government if the intelligence community and the Justice Department can't keep working on these.

So we're just going to have to wait and see what the response is. For now, nothing changes with the status quo. Erica.

HILL: So they continue doing what they're doing. Appreciate it, thank you.

Meantime, lawyers for the Justice Department releasing an audio recording of an Oath Keepers meeting, where members were heard planning to incite violence in D.C. The tape was played yesterday in the sedition trial of five leaders of the far-right group. Whitney Wild is live in Washington for us.

Tell us more about what was on this tape, Whitney.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was a two-hour meeting captured by an attendee from November of 2020. It's about 28 minutes captured in this call. It's mostly Stewart Rhodes, directing members of the Oath Keepers about planning for violence.

And he said you have to be careful about what you're going to do in the city but what he did stress is he wanted Oath Keepers stationed outside Washington and he wanted them to be armed. It's on cross- examination that we learned there were about 103 people on this call, Erica. Here's what they would have heard.


STEWART RHODES, OATH KEEPERS LEADER: We're in an era now where everything you say is being monitored but now this phone call is being recorded by the NSA and the FBI and CIA, I'm sure.

And everything you say can and will be used against you. So that's why you guys got to have discipline. Don't make it easy for them to pop you with a conspiracy charge and do what they did to those guys in Michigan because they got them hot on the collar, probably after a few beers, and they got them talking smack.