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At This Hour

At Least 14 Dead in California Storms, Floods; Interview with Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis of California on Weather Threat; Classified Documents Found in Biden's Private Office; Special Counsel Subpoenas Rudy Giuliani in Trump Fundraising Probe. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, AT THIS HOUR, from drought warnings to extreme flood warnings, a powerful wreaking havoc in California. The state's lieutenant governor joins us with an update.

Plus the Justice Department is reviewing a batch of classified documents found in Joe Biden's private office from when he was vice president.

What will the president say about it today?

And a 6-year old accused of shooting a teacher with his mother's gun. The choice prosecutors now face in Virginia. This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan.

The flooding in California is really terrifying and the threat is not over. The state's governor said severe weather has killed at least 14 people now; 34 million people are under flood alerts today. More than a foot of rain has fallen in southern California in the last two days.

A real threat isn't just the water, it is all -- it is rockslides and the threat of severe mudslides as well that could also very quickly create dangerous conditions. And it is all forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

Crews have rescued a countless number of people, including this driver, as you can see in Los Angeles County. Just look at the water flow over his SUV. A 5-year-old boy is still missing today after being swept away by floodwaters yesterday.

The search was actually suspended because, as you would anticipate, the weather has gotten too severe for the first responders. Let's get started. Mike Valerio is in Montecito, California, AT THIS HOUR.

What are you seeing there?

MIKE VALERIO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning. AT THIS HOUR, the creeks and rivers are raging, just take a look to me left. This is the Romero Creek here in the middle of Montecito which normally you can't even see in the summer.

But this drains out to the Pacific Coast Highway. So if we look this way, where our photographer, Rudy, is pointing, this all drains from the bucolic foothills of the mountains and then goes southward to the beach.

Look at the picture as motorists are stopping here. We have a couple of emergency vehicles. We had an armored Hummer that was making sure neighbors were OK before we came on the air.

But this matters because we have homes, these beautiful estates, that are just yards away from these floodwaters. These waters were much higher when we came into the area around midnight.

So the concern is that boulders, mud, all of this debris could flow from the mountains into here in the middle of the Montecito like it did five years ago. We have neighbors on this side over here, a huge eucalyptus tree the size of a mobile home came down about 10 minutes ago.

So they're saying this is very emotional for them. They're debating whether or not to evacuate, even though all of this area is under a mandatory evacuation order, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And it is also showing that really conditions are changing minute-by-minute as you're seeing kind of all around you. Mike, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Another area getting hammered is Ventura County, just outside of Los Angeles. It is seeing some of the heaviest rain over the last few days and is still under a flood watch. Our Kyung Lah is live.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT: We're just south of where Mike was doing the live shot for you. Down here, it is just the roadway taking on the rivers that are swelling and flowing over.

I'm standing on the 101 Freeway. And we've been here all morning. And what you could see is that this is the Ventura River that has crested and now covered the freeway. It is completely shut down. This side of the freeway is shut down. That side of the freeway. We have Caltrans out here now. There is a vehicle down there.

They're just starting to try to clear some of this mud. But this river rose 17 feet in 12 hours. So that just gives you a sense of how much water we're talking about here in Ventura County.

It has led to evacuations. There have been mandatory evacuations, there has been flooding of local businesses. And when we talk to the fire department in Santa Barbara, just north of where we are, the Santa Barbara Fire Department said that they've had some 200 calls, seven swift water rescues.

And that has led to just emergency crews unable to try to clear some of this.


LAH: We are just now starting to see some of this clearing happening here. But as far as whether people begin to start driving on some of these roads really unclear at this point. A lot of the roadways here, Kate, looking like this.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Absolutely. Kyung, thank you so much for the reporting and being there.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now for an important update. Let's get to the lieutenant governor of California, Eleni Kounalakis.

Thanks for coming in. I appreciate it.

What and where is your biggest concern right now?

LT. GOV. ELENI KOUNALAKIS (D-CA): Well, we're concerned with areas across the state of California. You heard it: most of the state is under flood watch, we have evacuations; 200,000 people without power. Risk of mudslides and more rain coming.

And I think that is probably the biggest concern that we have. We have had five atmospheric rivers come in to California over two weeks. Everything is wet. Everything is saturated. Everything is at a breaking point. And there is more rain coming.

BOLDUAN: Yes. The latest reporting that we've seen is that at least 14 people have been killed in all of this.

Has that number changed?

KOUNALAKIS: That is the latest that -- of the reports that I have heard. But again, there are people who are missing. There is a 5-year- old child that we still have not been able to continue the search for. It is a very fraught situation.

And we're encouraging everyone to watch the local news. Our state is very big, we're the most populous state. Every corner of our state is touched by these extreme events, one rainstorm after another. So we're watching everyone to watch their local news and evacuate where necessary, get batteries and flashlights, be prepared.

And we hope that the storms that are coming through, this compounding impact, that we'll be able to continue to mount the response necessary to protect our people.

BOLDUAN: And we're showing on the screen right now just a rockslide, I think it is in Ventura, California, that was caught on camera. And we also remember the scenes of mudslides of Montecito back in 2018. How real is threat of the mudslides this time?

KOUNALAKIS: Very real. And thank you for mentioning that we lost 23 people in the mudslides that happened so quickly and just tore down houses. So that is a big part of the reason why the precaution is being taken.

These mass evacuations in Ventura County and down in Montecito and Santa Barbara, it is a very real threat. But again the threats are across the state right now.

We see a lot of internal flooding in neighborhoods. Parts of the Central Valley are very flat so once you have all this water and the drainage systems are full, when you get more water, it brings that level up and getting into people's houses.

You know, it only takes six inches of water to lose control of a car, to be knocked over. In 12 inches, cars start floating away. And you've heard that several of these creeks have risen 14 feet just in the last day. And in certain areas we've had over a foot of rain in the last 48 hours.


BOLDUAN: It is really unbelievable.


KOUNALAKIS: It is unbelievable, Kate. And you know, for people who look at California, we've been in four years of extreme drought. So to have extreme drought followed by these extreme rainstorms, you know, it is just a testament to more and more extreme weather conditions in our state, in our country and the world.

And we know that a warming planet is -- is particularly causing all of these extreme weather events.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. I mean, we know that the climate crisis is driving, is driving these more frequent extreme weather events that we're seeing and California has definitely seen your fair share of it.

You talked about the huge area that this covers, that is saturated. The entire state is soaking. It is saturated and the ground is wet, all of this is happening all over the state.

Do you have what you need to get through this and help people clean up after this passes?

KOUNALAKIS: We're doing our best. You see a lot of downed trees. And the ground is so wet, the trees are falling down on houses, on cars across the state. The governor declared a state of emergency over the weekend. The White House is giving us enormous support.

We have everyone working overtime, all of our first responders out there removing trees, shoring up areas and trying to prevent mudslides and evacuating people, manning our shelters. But it is -- it is a big task. It is hard to be prepared for something

this extreme. And, again, one weather event on top of another for last two weeks and looking at another week of more rain.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it is how sustained this kind of crisis in this extreme event, is how this is sustained a number of days that it's setting in that is really, really a challenge for everybody involved.

Lieutenant governor, thank you for taking the time. I appreciate it. Good luck.

KOUNALAKIS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We also want to turn to this.

Will President Biden take questions about the classified documents found at one of his old offices?

What was found and what the Justice Department is doing with it, that is next.





BOLDUAN: The White House is facing questions today about Biden's handling of classified documents. The president is in Mexico as we're learning more about the classified documents that were discovered in a private office he used during his time as vice president.

The material was found in November by his personal lawyers. Now Paula Reid, she's in Washington and joining us.

What do we know so far?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Kate. A lot of questions for us to continue to report. But at this point, the easiest way to understand this is to go chronologically. Let's go back 2017 to 2019, before Joe Biden is president.

And he has a job at the university and he has an office that he used. And flash forward to November 2nd, a team of lawyers uncovered fewer than 12 classified documents. They notified the National Archives and we're told that the National Archives took possession of the documents, as they should, the next morning.

The Justice Department was notified and now the attorney general has tapped the U.S. attorney in Chicago to review this matter and do a damage assessment.

And that is significant, Kate, because the U.S. attorney in Chicago is one of two Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys still serving in government. Notably the other one is in Delaware, overseeing the investigation into President Biden's son, Hunter.

The Biden team said they are fully cooperating with the archives an the Justice Department. But at this point, there are a lot of questions we still have.

Why did they go to this office?

On this date, just a few days before a key midterm?

Why were there lawyers searching this office and doing this particular errand?

And also is this the only place that there could potentially be classified information?

So there is a lot of reporting right now that we're still trying to do.

BOLDUAN: A lot of work to do and still with what is known, a lot of questions raised for the White House to answer. Paula, stick with me. We're going to talk more about this.

But there is also news we want to get to, in the investigation into Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. As first reported on CNN, Trump's former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has now been subpoenaed by the special counsel looking into Trump's action in and around the election. Let's get to Katelyn Polantz.

What more could you tell us?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this subpoena of Rudy Giuliani came more than a month ago from prosecutors who are now working with the special counsel's office.

And it brings into focus a financial investigation, part of their January 6 criminal probe. So the special counsel continues to press for records about political fundraising, spending around Donald Trump.

And just one of the people prosecutors have gone to in recent weeks is Rudy Giuliani. Kate, it is a pretty serious move to subpoena Giuliani. You remember he was a central player for Donald Trump after the 2020 election.

He was in touch with state legislatures, he was interested in using fake electors in battleground states and he was arguing those false claims of election fraud that Donald Trump wanted him to make in court.

Now Giuliani is being asked and demanded to turn over information, documents that he might have from that time period.


POLANTZ: And he's going to be handing those over to a federal grand jury in Washington. We know, from our sources, that investigators want him to prioritize turning over records he may have of payments he received around that time.

Kate, from what is out there in public, we know a little bit about the money and Giuliani as he was working for Trump already. He wanted the campaign to pay him $20,000 a day as a lawyer. Ultimately, he wasn't going to get that.

But he did get, at two companies that he had at the time, about $140,000 reimbursed for travel expenses from Trump-connected entities. So right now we know that the special counsel Jack Smith is following that. And he's going to be following the money. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Following the money. Great reporting as always.

I want to bring back in Paula Reid and also joining us is Elliot Williams, a former federal prosecutor.

So Paula, let's get back and talk more about the reporting. You're reporting about the classified documents found in Biden's old office. Donald Trump and a lot of other people are quickly making comparisons between that -- this situation and the investigation into the classified documents found in Trump's home. Lay out how these are different.

REID: Well, based on what we know now, from the Biden team and our other sources, the Biden matter appears to be a much more simple straightforward matter, compared to the ongoing criminal investigation into Mar-a-Lago.

Let's start with the volume of material we're talking about, fewer than a dozen documents versus hundreds of documents. Then there is the issue of cooperation. The Biden team is fully cooperating.

And we know the former president and his team have not been very cooperative. They stonewalled and ignored and produced some documents -- and many weren't produced until a subpoena was obtained. And things have been uncovered.

It has been very complicated and messy, which led to questions of possible obstruction. He's also under investigation for other crimes. So based on what we know now, these are two very different investigations.

But we've only known about the Biden matter for about 24 hours. And we continue to report out the more specific details.

BOLDUAN: And Elliot, to be very fair, you don't even like these -- this side-by-side comparison.


ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think there is a rush in a political environment to try to compare one to the other and to make the argument, that, well, Trump's house was searched; therefore, Biden's should too.

And you ought to take every case individually and just look at -- and this is picking up on Paula's point -- look at what was the basis for the search warrant at the former president's house.

Former president Trump was number one and what provided the basis, number one, obstruction of justice; number two was mishandling potentially of classified information and, number two (sic), gathering or transmitting or mutilating possibly Defense information. None of that as of right now is present here.

Now look, if there is evidence that emerges that President Biden is concealing classified documents at his home and thwarting efforts of law enforcement to get to them, of course they should search his house. But that is not the case today based on what we know.

And as more information comes forward, then I think folks should reassess what they think about the two cases.

BOLDUAN: It is a great point.

And Paula, Biden was asked about mishandling of classified documents at Trump's residence. And in an old interview for CBS with "60 Minutes," I want to play what he said then.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you saw the photograph of the top secret documents laid out on the floor at Mar-a-Lago, what did you think to yourself, looking at that image?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How that could possibly happen. How anyone could be that irresponsible.

And I thought, what data was in there that may compromise sources and methods?

By that I mean names of people who helped and et cetera. And it just totally is irresponsible.


BOLDUAN: And regardless of what more we learn about these documents found in Biden's office, I mean, a little bit of what Elliot was getting to, which is --


BOLDUAN: -- already a real thing.

REID: Oh, yes. Just ask former secretary of state Hillary Clinton how these kind of things can spiral and become a massive political liability. Now last night, the former president, he started posting on Truth Social, asking when Biden's homes were going to, quote, "be raided."

That is actually a term that judge has admonished his legal team from using because it was a duly executed search warrant, executed after there were concerns that materials might have been moved at Mar-a- Lago. He's also arguing he may have declassified some of these documents.

He's making these false comparisons to the Biden matter. It is absolutely likely that this is going to be politicized and make it very difficult for the Justice Department to charge the former president politically in terms of optics in that case.

Now it is interesting; I spoke with one of the former president's attorneys. I thought they would be positively giddy over this or at least enjoy this story.


REID: And they didn't. They said, look, this is exactly what we've been talking about. This helps our defense because we've been arguing there is too much classification in these documents in government.

And it is difficult when you're leaving the White House or the vice president's residence to collect everything properly. They argue this is good for them. I don't know if Jack Smith will see it that way. But this is absolutely a political liability and we'll see how it plays out legally.

BOLDUAN: Elliot, really quickly, I want to ask you about Katelyn Polantz's report that Giuliani has been issued this subpoena by the special counsel, their investigation into Donald Trump's fundraising after the 2020 election.

What could they be looking for and get from Giuliani?

WILLIAMS: You know, big picture, Kate, financial records don't lie. And that is why they are so valuable to prosecutors. You could see who was sending money, number two who was in receipt of it and number three, what that means to put a picture behind everything.

Obviously you need testimony to round out some of that information but this -- but it is critical to always, quote, -- and this is Kaitlan's reporting -- "go after the money."

So certainly you can help put together the puzzle in an investigation with records and I think that is what prosecutors are trying to do here.

BOLDUAN: It is good to see you both. Thank you very much.

So a first grade teacher is shot in her classroom.

What do you do when the alleged shooter is 6 years old?

A former prosecutor who faced that very question is our guest.