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At This Hour

Flights Resume in U.S. after Major FAA Outage; Death Toll Climbs to 17 from California Storms; U.S. President Joe Biden Facing Questions about Classified Documents; GOP House Oversight Committee Seeks Info on Biden Family Finances. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 11, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, there. AT THIS HOUR, an early morning meltdown leads to many cancellations and delays. What the FAA is saying.

Plus, California is flooded out and also bracing for more, the massive damage already all along the California coast. We're going to get to that.

Moderna considers a very big price hike for the COVID vaccine. Senator Bernie Sanders calls it outrageous. He joins us live. This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan. Two big stories we're tracking. First, a major outage of this FAA system is causing huge flight disruptions. Thousands of flights are delayed or canceled. Right now the FAA did lift the ground stop that paralyzed domestic air travel.

The cause still unclear right now, even as airlines are starting to get flights back up in the air.

We're also keeping a very close eye on the deadly storms in California. At least 17 people have been killed from what is now weeks of rain, floods, mudslides and some pretty big winds. As bad as it is already, more rain is still on the way.

Let's start with Pete Muntean. He's at Reagan National Airport.

Pete, a computer outage that absolutely no one needed right now.

What is happening?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No doubt, Kate. The cascading effect is only beginning; 6,100 cancellations at last check at FlightAware across the U.S. Cancellations just hit 1,000.

Because of this system outage, the Notice to Air Mission System or NOTAMs, those are the bulletins that pilots need before they can fly, added-on information about key safety information, whether a runway is open, whether or not taxiways are open, whether or not the navigational aids in bad weather are still functioning.

The FAA issued a ground stop but the ground delay programs are still in effect. American is delaying flights out of Charlotte, Delta out of LaGuardia. Some are waiving fees. Southwest Airlines getting hit by the lion's share of these delays. About one in every five of those delays are on Southwest.

We are just seeing the beginning of the end here. This is like planes and crews being out of position. If an airport is the door, the hallway is the airspace, it is crowded, hard to get people moving and out.

Now we will see, as crews are out of position and planes are out of position, this domino effect. This is so nearly unprecedented. The last time we have seen a nationwide ground stop was after the 9/11 terrorist attack.

BOLDUAN: Pete, keep tracking it. Thank you very much.

This FAA system outage, as Pete's laying out, is impacting passengers and operations at airports across the country. It was just a few weeks ago that passengers dealt with another operational meltdown, this one with Southwest Airlines.

It devolved into chaos of thousands of canceled flights. Amara Walker is at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport with this side of the story.

What are you hearing from passengers?

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: First I got an update from a spokesperson here. There is good news. She tells me they are expected to resume normal operations in the next hour or so.

That basically means that passengers don't have to expect any out-of- the-ordinary delays or cancellations. I spoke with one woman. On her way here she got notice that her flight was delayed.

She thought, my goodness, is the holiday meltdown now happening again?

Is she going to have to be a part of that?

She obviously is relieved that's not the case. I also spoke to a young man who was trying to get to New York. His flight is delayed two hours, which means he's going to miss a funeral.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was supposed to be like 11:00 and we're missing the first week of her funeral.

WALKER: You're missing a funeral?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am. Right now. [11:05:00]

WALKER: What are you doing to get on the ground?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, that's hopefully -- today there's two luckily. So I'm going to go for the second one.


WALKER: You can see here it's been calm pretty much all morning, not so busy. Flights did resume at around 8:30 this morning. Atlanta was among one of the first airports to get planes back in the air. According to FlightAware, Atlanta International dealing with more than 600 delays and more than 50 cancellations.

BOLDUAN: Amara, thank you for that.

Joining us is CNN transportation analyst Mary Schiavo.

How long do you think this takes the system to get back to, honestly, whatever normal is these days?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think people can expect it will be all day before it's back to normal. So much with a hub-and-spoke system, the airline will have to reposition a lot of people. Pilots will be out of time for their flying.

So people can expect the system to be messed up all day. By morning, I think they'll have it calmed down.

BOLDUAN: All right.

What could have caused this?

Why did this fail, Mary?

SCHIAVO: Oh, my goodness, Kate. This is probably about the $3 billion question. So several decades ago the FAA was tasked, good tasking, they were required to change over the entire United States' aviation system and the system of the world to an entire electronic, smoothless (ph) hand-off, wonderful flying system of the future.

That was the largest computer modernization program in history. What happened is, piece by piece, part by part, they tried to make everything computerized. This notice to airmen, which it was called until recently, and then it was notice to air missions, so as part of that, they put all these NOTAMs online.

So you could access them easily but most importantly, the airlines of the world, the contractors and service providers of the world could link in by a computer. Now it starts getting more complicated.

It's not just a billboard you can access as a pilot but a billboard that other systems can link into around the world. So it's turned into a huge contractor-run system, where all sorts of other contractors can link in, provide information, get information out. But the catch is you have to get this information before you can fly.

That's what makes the system so vital but also so fraught with danger. The FAA was cited by the Office of the Inspector General, because they were way behind schedule, way over budget.

And there was a big push to get it finished. So maybe in their hurry to get it finished there were some codes or glitches.

BOLDUAN: I'm actually sure you summed it up pretty well. This system sounds wildly complicated. But sometimes so is air travel, trying to pull off what we do every day with so many commercial planes in the air.

There's one issue with this glitch, if that's what we see. It can essentially paralyze the entire U.S. domestic flight system.

Does that -- what does it say about how vulnerable it is?

SCHIAVO: That's the great question. There have been many studies, some asked by Congress, by Office of Inspector General, including cyber security, though there's no indication this was a hack or an attack.

But the problem with these massive government computer systems, they're run by contractors. Almost always, when you have a contractor- run system, there are criticisms for the people in charge in government not understanding it, not being on top of it. So you're at the mercy of these glitches.

The good news in the vulnerability is our air traffic controllers, ground controllers, many of them remember the old system, where you had to do hand-offs manually, et cetera, so planes in the air are safe. That's why there's a ground stop.

They won't throw any more in the air until everyone is brought down safely, because they can still talk to the pilots. But we still have a way to go before it will work as seamlessly as intended.

BOLDUAN: It seems that definitely is exposed and apparent today. Good to see you, Mary. Thank you very much.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So let's turn to this.


BOLDUAN: The death toll in California is climbing, unfortunately; 17 people are dead. Millions are under flood alerts across the state again today. Some areas have seen nearly 20 inches of rain over the past three days and more rain is on the way. Camilla Bernal is in Santa Cruz County with more.

What are you hearing there? CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right now light rain, still a lot of water, a lot of mud, a lot of cleanup and the county assessing the damage. This is what you have seen, this yellow piece of paper, that says the flooring and baseboards, all of that has to be replaced.

The county telling me they have done about 500 assessments, so far more than 100 homes have those yellow pieces of paper, which means they'll need a lot of work in the next couple days.

You're seeing a lot of standing water. Yes, some of it is receding, some is draining but a lot of people coming back to their homes are going to have to deal with all this water. This neighborhood, it's the water. In another neighborhood where I was yesterday, it is the mud, very thick mud and debris that they're having to push out of their homes.

They're power washing. They're having to put everything they have outside their homes just to dry it for a little bit. But it's raining as we speak. So it's a difficult process for a lot of these residents and it's going to take a while. Kate.

BOLDUAN: For sure. Thank you so much, Camilla.


BOLDUAN: Joining me is Renee Golder, the vice mayor of Santa Cruz.

Thank you for jumping on. Really appreciate it. As we know, Santa Cruz is soaked. As Derek laid out, more rain is coming to the state.

What is your biggest concern right now?

VICE MAYOR RENEE GOLDER, SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA: I think one of the biggest concerns is additional flooding or perhaps landslides. We had a severe fire a couple years ago. So because of that, there's been erosion.

So water coming through the mountains could potentially bring more trees down. Then on top of that, years of drought has caused some of the roots to die in the trees, so trees falling and landslides.

BOLDUAN: I was looking this morning, Santa Cruz, where it's positioned, it's getting a double whammy, water from the ocean and then also running down the mountains.

How do you describe what has happened so far?

GOLDER: I think absolutely you're hitting the nail on the head. We do have big huge waves happening right now and high tides, where waves are crashing over our Westbrook (ph) Drive, taking out parts of the road and infrastructure, bridges and things like that.

In addition with the tidal surges, the water coming in and from other tributaries, it's pretty intense.

BOLDUAN: Do you have a sense of what it's going to take to get your city, really the whole area, back up and running?

GOLDER: Well, I think at this point, everyone is a little bit in triage mode, just trying to get people back online with power. Not everybody has power at this point in the county. And keeping the roadways clear, so vehicles can access people in rural areas.

Beyond that, it's going to take months, if not years, to recover some of the infrastructure, like the Capitola Wharf.


BOLDUAN: There's no quick fix for those roads that are completely wiped out. Thank you very much.

GOLDER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

President Biden said he was surprised at the discovery of classified documents in his former private office. Republicans say they're ready to investigate. What that is going to look like. That's next.





BOLDUAN: President Biden says he is surprised to learn that his lawyers found classified government documents in a former private office he used after he was vice president.

While he says he doesn't know what the documents contain, the real question now is, what is the attorney general going to do about this?

Arlette Saenz has more.

What do they say?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The White House has been pretty limited in the information they've provided. President Biden yesterday commenting on it for the very first time.

He said that they found these documents and ultimately immediately referred them to the National Archives, so that they could go through them and see exactly what was in there.

But the president himself is saying he doesn't know what's in the documents. His team here at the White House counsel's office has also said they're unsure of what the documents entailed. The president yesterday expressed his shock they were even in that office.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People know I take classified documents, classified information seriously. I was briefed about this discovery and surprised to learn that there were any government records that were taken there to that office.


SAENZ: One thing that's been implicitly said by both the president's statements and those statements from the White House counsel's office is that they're trying to draw this contrast with the way they have handled this document discovery and those classified documents that were found at former president Donald Trump's home down in Mar-a-Lago.

The White House saying they've been transparent. But this is a huge political headache for the White House, especially as Republicans immediately pounced on this issue.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, promising to follow through on the issue.

Republicans are also already starting to follow through. In a series of letters, the newly minted House Oversight Committee chairman is asking the Treasury Department to hand over information on the Biden family's finances.

They're also asking some Twitter executives to testify about how the platform handled the 2020 story on Hunter Biden and his laptop. Our Sara Murray has the details.


SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: House Oversight chairman James Comer flexing his new investigative might, firing off letters to the U.S. Department of Treasury and a trio of former Twitter officials, all going back to the Hunter Biden investigation.

Treasury said they're looking for the bank activity reports related to Hunter Biden, James Biden, Joe Biden's brother, and others connected to the family. They're also looking for public testimony from the trio of former Twitter officials coming up in February.

This is about the effort by Twitter to suppress temporarily a story related to Hunter Biden and his laptop back in 2020. James Comer is trying to make the argument that there is influence peddling related to the Biden family, that somehow the sitting president could be involved or implicated in that.

He's not proved that, an allegation. But one of the things Comer said is he wants these bank activity reports.

BOLDUAN: Sara, thanks so much for the detail.

Joining me for more on this, is CNN chief political correspondent, co- host of "STATE OF THE UNION, Dana Bash and also former federal prosecutor Shan Wu.

Dana, what should people make of this first move by Comer?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's very predictable. He's keeping campaign promises that Republicans made over and over, that they were not only going to be more aggressive about general oversight of the executive branch but more specifically about -- well, in addition to it, I should say -- get into questions about Hunter Biden, about the president.

And it's something the Biden White House, specifically the Biden counsel's office has been very prepared for; not excited about it but very prepared for.

BOLDUAN: As Sara laid out, Comer's asking Treasury for bank activity reports, for several Biden family associates as well as some related companies.

What could they get from that?

What does this investigation look like, do you think?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They're going to have a hard time getting anything, as Dana said. They're well prepared for this on the legal side.


WU: There's enormous lessons to be learned from the last years of just how hard it can be for Congress to get information. Ideally, if they were looking to find evidence of wrongdoing, they may find some suspicious activity.

They could say there was money that moved from point A to point B. Maybe there were foreign bank accounts. They could try to get witnesses to talk about that. And maybe they could ultimately make a referral to the Justice Department.

Honestly, that could take months to years. There's so much defense that can be put up in the way of that, everything from his legitimate legislative purpose to privacy.

And as I pointed out in the opinion piece this morning, at the end of the day, Democrat lawyers, who learned there was no real downside to simple defiance. Let them try and stumble forward with the contempt proceeding.

BOLDUAN: I was thinking about the fallout -- I don't know if that's even the right word, Dana.

But if this doesn't turn into anything, just is a thorn in Biden's side, is that a productive win for the new Republican majority?

BASH: When you say that, you're talking about all of the oversight or specifically the question about the documents? BOLDUAN: On this investigation, if you will. There is so much more to it with the classified documents as well, you could almost wrap it all into the same thing.

BASH: That's a good point. Again, this is a thorn that the Biden administration knew was coming. When I say this, I mean all of the questions that Comer put out there about Hunter Biden and finances, so forth.

What they didn't see coming -- and certainly the people working for him did not see coming and the Democrats on the Hill didn't see coming, Kate -- was this folder of 10 documents marked classified, found in a locked closet.

That is something -- I've been talking to Democrats on the Hill -- that is something there is concern about, not about the way that they handled it after it was found but because they don't know what they don't know.

How and why it got there, the presumption, given what President Biden said yesterday, he knows how to handle classified documents, is that it was innocent. And they're definitely critical, because it should not happen. So that is definitely an unforced error.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, guys, Thank you. Really appreciate it.

BASH: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Moderna is considering raising the price of its COVID-19 vaccine possibly over $100 a dose. Senator Bernie Sanders is calling out the company and joins us next.