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At This Hour

Earthquake Death Toll Soars To Nearly 20,000 In Turkey And Syria; Family Of Three Rescued More Than 3 Days After Earthquake Hit Turkey; U.S.: China Spy Balloon Flown Over 40 Plus Countries In 5 Continents; Senate Holds Hearings After China Spy Balloon Show Down By U.S.; Biden Heads To Rival-Rich FL To Make Push On Social Security, Medicare; Sen. Rick Scott Claims He Will Fight For Social Security, Medicare. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 09, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. AT THIS HOUR, trying to cling to hope as rescue and recovery efforts continue in Turkey and Syria, and the death toll continues to climb.

Plus, new details out today about what that Chinese spy balloon may have been capable of. A member of Congress who was just briefed on the incident is our guest.

And North Korea showing off its military arsenal in a very big way as Kim Jong-un's daughter steps into the spotlight. This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.

Thank you so much for being here, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. The images coming out of Turkey and Syria continue to just boggle the mind. How widespread and just complete the devastation is just building after building pancaked.

And freezing temperatures of course challenging every effort to find survivors. Yet, still moments of hope. A mother and two sons were just rescued alive today after being under the rubble for more than 70 hours. The death toll though, is still rising as well, now passing 17,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands of people are without a place to live.

For the first time since the quake, United Nations aid convoy was able to cross into northwest Syria today to bring help and aid there. Let's get to it. Salma Abdelaziz is live in Turkey for us. Salma, what more are you learning about the rescue efforts, the recovery efforts today?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinarily, Kate. They are still pulling people seemingly unharmed, out of the rubble of their homes. I have one heartening story for you of this one family. I just want to play you this video. It is absolutely joyous.

You're going to see this little boy in a red sweatshirt. He's being carried in a blanket like he's a miracle baby. And he absolutely is for everyone here in Turkey. Rescued after 78 hours under the rubble. You're going to see after him another little boy in a blue sweatshirt, that's his brother. Their names are Mammoth (ph) and Mellette (ph). Their mother was also found safe.

You can see the joy on the faces of those rescue workers who've seen so much grief and anguish. And that joy really replicated across the country. They've been playing the images of these two boys repeatedly here on local television. We know one other family, a mother and her six-year-old child pulled out after a 20-hour rescue ordeal. And that's the thing to point out here, Kate.

And the case of these rescues, these were people identified alive yesterday. It was just a matter of time, of the length of time it requires to pull them carefully out of the rubble and the rebar. It is very unlikely, unfortunately, that more survivors are going to be found now four days into this crisis.

Hope is absolutely fading. These rescue efforts, unfortunately, may soon become recovery efforts. And whatever hope people did have, that's turning into anger and frustration towards the government. Many feeling that the authorities didn't do enough, didn't act fast enough.

You mentioned those pancaked buildings. There are also serious questions being asked as to whether or not buildings were up to code if they followed the rules. And if there was any failure by the government of President Erdogan to make sure that people were safe, could lives have been spared.

We have one last thought here because you mentioned Syria, a tiny trickle of aid flowing in there just six trucks. They had shelter equipment just to keep people from being on the streetscape. But that is a tiny drop in the bucket of the need, the enormous need on the ground in Syria.

BOLDUAN: Yes. They need so much more. So much more. Salma, thank you for bringing us those stories.

All across the quake zone, families are waiting for any signs that their loved ones are still alive. CNN met one of the lucky few whose family members were just rescued. Becky Anderson is in Turkey with their story.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A miraculous moment of survival. A father and his two sons rescued 76 hours after that massive earthquake struck Turkey and Syria on Monday morning. Omar is one of their cousins. He helped to dig them out.

OMAR KOCOK, RELATIVE OF EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS: We are trying to reach them and we have contact with them. We had we had a call by mobile phone.

[11:05:00] ANDERSON (voice-over): More than 100 people lived inside, according to the residents, and it's Omar's love for family that drove him to assist the rescuers sifting through the rubble.

Painstaking work. First, the rescuers and volunteers must dig and then plead for silence to hear any sign of life. Repeating the process until they get closer. Neighbors, friends, relatives and bystanders, all joining together in the freezing cold to pray, hope and wish for a miracle.

Until finally, almost 56 hours on, contact was made with one of them in the rubble. But it still took many more hours to finally free them. Omar says while his uncle and two cousins survived with no injuries, his aunt didn't make it.

KOCOK: It is our responsibility to because they do the same if we were in the same situation.

ANDERSON (voice-over): One family story giving hope to a grieving country. Becky Anderson, CNN, Gaziantep.


BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Becky, thank you so much for that.

More details coming up for us. There are more details coming out this morning. Our -- more details are coming out today about that Chinese spy balloon. The Biden administration now reports that surveillance balloons have flown across dozens of countries in five continents.

Oren Liebermann has a very latest for us on this. He's joining us from the Pentagon for us. Oren, what are you learning about this?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, not only are we learning more about this balloon itself and its capabilities, but also more about the pattern the U.S. has observed over the past several years. First on this balloon, a senior State Department official says this balloon had what's known as significant signals intelligence gathering capability. Meaning, it can pick up on communications and transmissions either below it or near it.

Again, that's according to a senior State Department official speaking to reporters just earlier today. That makes it more concerning that what it flew over, including a large part of the continental United States and several sensitive sites, according to the Pentagon, even as the Pentagon has continued to insist that this didn't give the Chinese any capabilities above and beyond what they already have. That is spy satellites and other means.

But this balloon didn't just exist in a vacuum. This, the U.S. officials now say, is part of a larger surveillance program run by the People's Republic of China that has sent balloons like this one, not exactly the same, but similar in their purpose, similar in their intent over some 40 countries over the course of the past several years. A number of missions undertaken, several dozen, according to the officials that have spoken with CNN. And this latest balloon is just a part of that. There is more information coming out about the balloon including Biden administration officials briefing the Hill right now. So we do expect to learn more. One of the key questions is zeroing in on that timeline. How soon did President Joe Biden know? And why was there a delay in shooting it down until it was off the east coast and not the West Coast? Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, those questions still remain. Thank you so much, Oren.

Now to Capitol Hill, where the Senate is holding two hearings today on this whole incident, top national security and defense officials facing questions from lawmakers as lawmakers are also receiving their first classified briefings on the incursion.

Jessica Dean, she's watching all of it for us. A lot of hearings to watch for us, Jessica. Thank you for doing it. What's happening?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's a lot of moving parts on this on the Hill today, Kate. And that's because the members of both parties have been asking for as much information on this as they can possibly get in today. They are beginning to get some of that.

So we have a couple of hearings happening on the Senate side, both on the Foreign Relations Committee and also a subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. We heard from the Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. I'll let you listen to what -- a little bit of what she was telling lawmakers just a bit ago.

WENDY SHERMAN, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: We made clear to PRC officials, that the presence of this surveillance balloon was unacceptable. And along the way, we learned a thing or two which you'll hear in the classified briefing about the PRC's use of the balloon. This irresponsible act put on full display what we've long recognized, that the PRC has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad.


DEAN: So again, hearing from the officials kind of broadening out and painting that bigger picture of the U.S. and China relations and where they currently stand at this moment, Kate. Let's talk about those classified briefings for a second that Full House having there as earlier this morning.

We did talk to some of the House members as they were leaving. We're told that it became a little bit tense that there were some especially House GOP members, some of the hardliner members like Marjorie Taylor Greene and others, that got pretty agitated and were pushing back as to why the President acted the way he did, the decisions that he made.

And in response to that, that the briefers really took time to lay out the timeline of events. We're also told that the briefers informed the House members that they're pretty confident that no additional surveillance or intelligence was gathered by the Chinese for a variety of reasons including some mitigation efforts made by America to protect all of the sensitive information.


So there were new details, some new neat nuances, Kate, but mostly people I was talking to you saying a lot of this that they had already known that not much had changed, not much have been presented to them to change their opinion of everything. The Senate will now get their full briefing. It's scheduled to start here in the next half hour.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Jessica. Appreciate it.

Let's talk more about this. Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Ritchie Torres from New York. He's a member of the New House Select Committee on Competing with China. He's also just was in this classified briefing that Jessica was just talking about this morning.

It's good to see you, Congressman. Thanks for coming in. With all the necessary caveats, that you can't talk about classified information, let's talk about it, please. Broadly, you come out of this briefing feeling what, about this spy balloon incident?

REP. RITCHIE TORRES (D), SELECT COMMITTEE ON COMPETING WITH CHINA: Look, the actions of the Chinese Communist Party are cause for concern, and the American people and their elected representatives in Congress have a right to know when foreign surveillance objects like spy balloons intrude into American airspace.

I'm introducing legislation known as the Aerial Intelligence Collection, a revelation act, the Air Act, which would require the Defense Department to immediately disclose to Congress when a foreign surveillance object has invaded our airspace. You know, we know of at least five instances of Chinese spy balloons infringing on the sovereignty of the United States invading our airspace.

We know that the Chinese Communist Party has a global surveillance program that has infringed on the sovereignty of more than 40 countries and five continents. And so most people, including myself, were unaware of the existence and full extent of the problem. You know, I think of American airspace as the property of the American people. And we the American people have a right to know, when a foreign government trespasses on our property.

BOLDUAN: And, Congressman, this is the first time that you're talking about this legislation that you are rolling out and learning about it. I wonder why is it needed? And that's not a criticism of the legislation. It's why do you think that the Defense Department isn't -- the military, the Pentagon, the -- any administration isn't more forthcoming about these incursions?

TORRES: Look, we need the federal government to be as transparent as National Security will allow. And the Biden administration should be applauded for detecting the Chinese spy balloon. You know, during the Trump administration, there were three Chinese spy balloons that went undetected. And so I give enormous credit to President Biden for improving the ability of the United States to detect foreign espionage. And as far as I'm concerned, the President made the right decision and shooting down the balloon as swiftly and as safely as he possibly could. You know, people should keep in mind that the balloon was the size of three school buses. And so you cannot impulsively shoot down a balloon above it land, and then allow the debris to endanger the lives of people in the structural stability of buildings.

The President was right to wait for the balloon to move above water, and then shoot it down safely, which is precisely what he did.

BOLDUAN: A couple of things on that, as you mentioned the previous incursions that weren't known until now, the Northern Command, the general in charge of Northern Command has acknowledged what they have called -- the way that he described it as a domain awareness gap. That led to the United States not detecting three other previous incidents and balloons.

I asked the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about this and he said that that awareness gap is military jargon for we all missed it. Did you get any additional information about how that happened in this briefing?

TORRES: Well, the -- you know, as I noted earlier, the Chinese spy balloons were originally undetected, and were originally classified as UFOs. But the Biden administration made a priority of enhancing our detection capabilities. And as a result, we were -- we managed to discover the Chinese spy balloon that intruded into our airspace for a long period of time. And so that is a testament to the prescient, to the effectiveness of the administration.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the impact of this going forward because President Biden was asked about the impact of this whole incident on the U.S. relationship with China. I want to play for you what he told Judy Woodruff.





BOLDUAN: President says no. But I do wonder, how can it not be changed after this, Congressman?

TORRES: Look, the United States wants cooperation rather than confrontation with China. But if the Chinese Communist Party insist on violating international law and the sovereignty of nation states, if it insists on showing belligerence towards Taiwan, if it insists on eating Russia and its invasion of Ukraine and committing genocide against Uighur Muslims and violating human rights, then we in the United States are left with no choice but to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable and we will. [11:15:15]

BOLDUAN: So I hear from you, you do think it has changed after this balloon incursion and other incidents recently?

TORRES: I do believe that the intrusion of a spy balloon into our airspace is an assault on our sovereignty and should be taken seriously. And that's why Secretary Blinken canceled his trip to China.

BOLDUAN: What do you -- what is your reaction and learning, we heard from the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, he told CBS today that immediately after the balloon was shot down, he reached out, he tried to call his Chinese counterpart to explain. But the way that he -- what he said about it, Congressman, is they did not accept that request. They didn't take the call.

TORRES: I consider it shockingly disrespectful. And I thought it was disingenuous for the Chinese Communist Party to claim that the spy balloon was for civilian and meteorological purposes. I mean, that was an insult to the intelligence of every person. So it's unacceptable. And we have to hold the CCP accountable.

And we've done so in the past. We put in place export controls that have denied the CCP access to critical technologies. And we have to send a message that we're not going to turn a blind eye to the aggressive actions of the CCP.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, thank you so much for your time, especially talking about this new legislation you're rolling out today. I really appreciate it.

TORRES: Of course. Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

So President Biden, he is taking his State of the Union message on the road again today, headed to Florida, which is quite a statement in and of itself. Details next.



BOLDUAN: President Biden is on his way to Florida right now as part of his post State of the Union tour. He's taking his message that Democrats will protect Social Security. His argument that Democrats will protect Medicare right to the doorstep of two potential 2024 Republican challengers, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump.

MJ Lee is joining me now from the White House with more on this. M.J., what are you hearing about this trip today?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, he is on his way to Florida right now. And as you said, this is a part of the post State of the Union travel blitz that he and others are engaging in sort of laying the groundwork for what we, again, expect to be a reelection announcement that could come in the coming weeks.

We heard the President telling CBS News last night that his intention still is to run, though he did also say I haven't made that decision firmly yet. Well, that is very much the expectation, at least among the people close to the President, they are currently operating as though that 2024 announcement is coming soon.

And the fact that he is traveling down to Florida right now, that is very intentional and that is very telling. For one, we have seen how the Medicare and Social Security issues, which we very much expect him to focus on today in Florida, how that has really become a lightning rod political issue, as he has attacked Republicans too, as wanting to make cuts to those programs.

We saw how they responded during the State of the Union address on Tuesday. And then of course, this is the state that is home to Senator Rick Scott, the Republican who is the architect behind this proposal that says that all federal legislation will sunset in five years if they are not reapproved by Congress.

The President has really latched on to this to try to make that argument that Republicans are basically coming after those programs. This is Senator Rick Scott responding to that criticism on CNN this morning.


REP. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I was very clear. It's my plan. I wrote it. I've told people all along what I believed. I fought for Medicare and Social Security the entire time I've been up here. And I'm going to continue to fight for it.

Kaitlan, I wrote the plan. I mean --


SCOTT: -- you didn't write the plan. I wrote the plan. And I've been clear about it. Anybody asked me what I meant? I've been very clear. Nobody believes that I have a goal of reducing. I don't know any Republicans that want to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits. But I know Democrats that have done it, and you've got a President that proposed it time and time again.

COLLINS: OK, so let's say --

SCOTT: We got to live in reality.


LEE: So White House officials say that all of this goes to show that this issue was really striking a nerve with Republicans. So really no signs that they are going to let this issue go anytime soon. And again, the White House does believe that this is going to be sort of a winning contrast that they can make as they prepare for 2024. BOLDUAN: OK. MJ, thank you.

Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman, he is in the hospital this morning. His office says that he felt lightheaded while attending a Democratic retreat yesterday and the office is also reporting that he will remain hospitalized for observation and some more tests.

You'll remember, of course, that Fetterman had a stroke during his campaign last year. And his office says initial tests show no evidence of a new stroke. We'll bring you updates on the senator's condition as we get them for sure.

So it may not be unusual to see North Korea's Kim Jong-un put his military hardware on display. You see it there. What is unusual is who he is sharing the spotlight with this time. That's next.



BOLDUAN: North Korea showcasing nearly a dozen advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles at an evening military parade. You're seeing some images they put out of it. The reclusive regime says that it shows their nuclear attack capability. But also grabbing attention very same time is dictator Kim Jong-un appeared with his young daughter at his side.

Paula Hancocks has more from Seoul.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Missile after missile rolls through Pyongyang's main square Wednesday night, its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-17 presumed capable of reaching mainland United States.