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At This Hour

U.S. Search and Rescue Teams In Turkey To Find Quake Survivors; FBI Searches Home Of Former VP Pence For Classified Documents. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 10, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. At This Hour, enduring hope and continued heartache. More earthquake survivors have been pulled from the destruction in Turkey and Syria. At the very same time the death toll is soaring. Plus, Russia firing dozens of missiles across Ukraine, escalating attacks ahead of a new offensive. And former Vice President Mike Pence is facing a decision what to do about the subpoena from the special counsel investigating the insurrection. This is what we're watching At This Hour.

Thank you so much for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan. The numbers in Turkey and Syria are staggering today. Nearly 23,000 people have now been reported killed after that massive earthquake that just rocked the region. And this is five days ago. And clearly five days on. Time is running out to find survivors. Still this morning, we have incredible videos and stories of hope. A teenage girl being carried to safety, miraculously still alive after 107 hours under the rubble.

I want to show you another video, a family of six in Turkey, six parents and their four children were pulled from their home 102 hours after it had collapsed around them. And you can see one of them waving as they were being brought out on stretchers. And two teenage sisters were rescued after more than four days. Firefighters saying that they kept talking to one of the 15-year-olds to try to keep her conscious, and she told them so sweetly that she missed eating ice cream in the midst of all of this. True, true miracles.

But the Turkish government says that they have not been able to reach the families of hundreds of children that have been pulled out alive. The reality is so stark there. Salma Abdelaziz is live for us in Turkey. Salma, what are you seeing with rescue and recovery efforts and what's all around you today?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What incredible stories of survival, Kate. I'm at an aid distribution center here in the heart of Istanbul. Hundreds of volunteers here are prepping goods, prepping supplies to get them to that affected area. And it's those stories of survival that are motivating them, that are pushing them to keep working. There's been some criticism, I would say at minimum, of President Erdogan's government. There's a sense that maybe he didn't respond quickly enough that the country wasn't as prepared as it should be, particularly considering it sits in a fault zone.

It absolutely has had major earthquakes in the past. And anger and grief is setting in as more and more bodies are being pulled out of the rubble. Families want answers and they also want help, Kate. You have hundreds of thousands of people now who are living on the streets, made homeless by this crisis. President Erdogan has vowed to help them.

He says that he's going to pay the rent for any family that has survived this tragedy. Pay their rent for a year. He says he can put them up in hotels. They're sending down tens of thousands of tents to this region. But this is just a tiny fraction of the need on the ground. Remember these freezing cold conditions there, but some people refusing to leave the site of their destroyed homes until they are able to retrieve their loved ones, able to finally put them in the ground.

And then you also brought up the case of those children, hundreds of children, Kate, who now have no parents or their guardians can't be found, a really horrific flight. I mean, just the scope and scale of this tragedy is so unprecedented, unprecedented. President Erdogan calling it the greatest disaster in a century for Turkey, and everyone here very much feels that. Many of them saying they can't just sit at home, they had to help. But there will never be enough help when it comes to a tragedy of this scale. Kate?

BOLDUAN: It's a horrible reality, but it is exactly the right point to make. It's good to see you, Salma. Thank you. So search and rescue teams from around the world are in Turkey with the massive effort underway, that Salma is just talking about.

Joining me now from Turkey is John Morrison. He's with the Fairfax County Virginia Fire Department. He is one of 160 urban search and rescue members deployed in Turkey through USAID. John, thank you very much for taking a moment to speak with us. Can you talk to me about what you and your team have been tasked with doing there?

JOHN MORRISON, FAIRFAX COUNTY FIRE AND RESCUE DEPT.: Thanks Kate for having us. Our team is currently conducting searching of the entire city of Adiyaman, trying to locate potential work sites with trap victims. We still have a lot of hope that there are victims out here that are viable. And we are working diligently to find them.


BOLDUAN: Talk to me about that. I mean, you told my producer that you haven't found anyone alive yet, but are you still hopeful? Where do you get that hope that that could still happen this many days on?

MORRISON: You know, we've seen victim rescues going for seven plus days beyond earthquakes. And so there certainly is hope. Earthquake happened in the middle of the night when most people were sleeping. So they certainly have their beds and sheeting around them that potentially keep them, especially in the cold areas because it does get fairly cold here at night in the 20s. So we certainly have optimism and we're going to work tirelessly to keep searching and rescue any victims that we do find until the Turkish government has no more need for our services.

BOLDUAN: Talk to me about the cold. I mean, we know that the bitter cold temperatures have been a real challenge for everyone for rescuers and of course, for those who are stuck in trying to survive. How does that make your job harder?

MORRISON: It's a little bit more difficult to move stuff around. Obviously the cold tends to make some of our equipment work a little bit, it's a little bit harder to use them. But with our logisticians and our doctors, you know, being able to care for patient, we certainly are expecting. We came here expecting this weather. We brought additional gear because of that. And hypothermia really is a concern for our victims and our rescuers. But our doctors are prepared for that and ready to treat any patients we come across.

BOLDUAN: And John, you were saying that your mission, your task is to do search and rescue throughout the entire city. I mean, the devastation is so vast. How do you decide how you're going to start looking and where you start?

MORRISON: So you're right, it is a very large task. And one of the things that we do is we try and triage the city and figure out where the biggest needs are. And with a disaster this widespread, it certainly is a large task. So working in conjunction with the local authorities, they sort of set their direction for where they think we should start and then talking to people on the streets, getting their sense of where they may have heard people in buildings or along those lines. So it certainly is a large task but this is specifically what we're trained to do and we're ready to accomplish it.

BOLDUAN: It's really amazing how you all jump to it and everyone must, I mean, so thankful that you have this expertise to do this. Look, John, the pictures are really overwhelming of this damage and tragedy. Can you describe for me the size and scope of what you have been able to see?

MORRISON: Yes, this city is pretty devastated, the whole region really. It's a very widespread disaster. Our team is specifically trained for this. We've been around the world in disasters in Haiti, in Nepal, in Japan. So it is certainly a widespread disaster. The local Turkish search and rescue teams have a lot of capacity. They're very well trained.

However, when a disaster of this scale strikes, they really need that international cooperation. So when they reached out and requested for international assistance, USAID stepped up and sent our team here. And so we're proud to represent the United States and be here to do our work.

BOLDUAN: And John, I mean it's a small thing to say, but I'm sure I'm speaking for a lot, so many people, and thank you for your efforts, and please thank your entire team for everything you're doing there and the tireless work you're doing. John Morrison of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, working through USAID in Turkey right now. Thank you.

I want to talk more about this as John gets back to the heavy task at hand. Joining me right now to talk about U.S. assistance to Turkey and Syria is Amanda Sloat. She's Biden's, senior Director for Europe on the National Security Council. Amanda, thank you. The White House has announced $85 million in humanitarian assistance is what I've seen. Is that the entirety of what the Biden administration is prepared and planning to send over there?

AMANDA SLOAT, SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: So I'll say that the Biden administration has been actively focused on this earthquake since we got the reports of the tremor starting on Sunday night. Immediately, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was on the phone with his Turkish counterpart on Sunday night to offer U.S. assistance. On Monday, the President spoke with Turkish President Erdogan, Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin reached out to their counterparts, and the President made clear that he authorized the full power of the U.S. government to provide whatever assistance we could.

As you noted, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced 85 million yesterday to help with the provision of supplies on the ground. As your previous guest was laying out, the U.S. immediately deployed two search and rescue teams of around 80 personnel each, along with a large number of rescue dogs and heavy personnel. And they began operating as soon as they hit the ground.

They are in one of the hardest hit areas that has been very difficult for other rescuers to get to. And that was a top priority for the Turkish government. The U.S. Agency for International Development also deployed what we call a DART Team, a Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team that is able to operate on the ground to coordinate U.S. assistance and to liaise with the Turkish government and other partners.


We also have the Defense Department very actively involved in the search and rescue efforts. We have two Blackhawk helicopters that are currently operating out of Incirlik Air Base. They are helping to transport rescue personnel, as well as to help with the removal of remains. And we have additional helicopters that are on the ground.

And finally, the Secretary of Defense has authorized the head of U.S. Naval Command that is based in the region to provide a task force coordinating U.S. military assistance in the region as well.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you, were talking a lot about Turkey. Of course, this is devastated northern Syria as well. And I want to read part of what the State Department's release about aid efforts were this about Syria, because I want to ask you about it. In the State Department's press release, it says, we call on the Assad regime to immediately allow aid in through all border crossings, allow the distribution of aid to all affected areas, and to let humanitarians access, all people in Syria who are in need, without exception, is the Assad regime holding up aid from getting in?

SLOAT: So as part of the U.S. response, in addition to what I outlined on Turkey, we've obviously been extremely focused on the Syrian side of the border as well. The 85 million that the U.S. Agency for International Development announced is to help all of those affected by the earthquake, both on the Syrian side as well as on the Turkish side.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power has spoken with the head of the White Helmets, which is leading the rescue and recovery effort on the ground. NAID has also been working closely with all of our implementing partners on the ground in Syria to serve as much assistance as we can.

To your broader point, obviously there continues to be concern about access and checkpoints on the ground. The Bab al-Hawa crossing from Turkey into Syria is open and is being used heavily by our implementing partners. There are continued efforts at the U.N. to try and get the Syrian government to authorize the opening of additional crossings.

Martin Griffiths is currently on the ground in Damascus working on that with the Syrian government, and we're also supporting that effort at the United Nations in New York.

BOLDUAN: I mean, let me also ask you this, because this morning, Bashar al-Assad made his first public comment since the earthquake, and in doing so, criticized the West. Syria's state run media and government officials, as we know, have been pinning the lack of humanitarian aid in Syria on the United States and E.U. sanctions. What's your response to that?

SLOAT: So a number of things. First, the administration from the beginning has been committed to helping all of those affected by the earthquake, irrespective of where they live. Second, we have always made clear that our sanctions and E.U. and other sanctions do not affect the provision of humanitarian and other types of assistance.

And in the event that was unclear, treasury issued a general license yesterday that further made clear that any provision of humanitarian assistance during this period was not going to be subject by two sanctions and was fully supported by the administration. So from our perspective, the commitment has 100 percent been there to help all of the Syrian people affected by this. Our sanctions are not an impediment to the assistance, and we have issued additional clarification to make clear that all humanitarian assistance is welcome.

BOLDUAN: Syrian needs this help so desperately. More specifically, the Syrian people under the Assad regime need this assistance critically. Thank you so much, Amanda. We appreciate your time.

So for more information on how you can help the victims of the earthquake, go to You can see more resources there.


We're also covering this at this hour. The Capitol rioters, well, they wanted him dead. Now the special counsel wants his testimony. Former Vice President Mike Pence subpoenaed for information on Trump's role in the insurrection. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: And we do have this breaking news just into CNN. CNN confirming the FBI is currently searching the home of former Vice President Mike Pence. This comes days after a lawyer for Pence found about a dozen classified documents at his Indiana home. Paula Reid, let's bring Paula in. Paula, this is your reporting. Tell us more about what you're learning.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this reporting from the Justice team, Kate, confirms that the FBI is at Pence's residence in Indiana, and this was very much expected. We've been reporting that the Pence team and the Justice Department have been in negotiations for how this search would happen. This is being done with the full consent of Pence's legal team.

As you noted, the search comes after one of Pence's attorneys found classified documents in the home, and they are currently under review by the Justice Department. Investigators are looking at exactly how these classified materials ended up at his residence. Now the former Vice President has said that he had no knowledge of these classified materials being at his home.

His team says they don't expect any more materials to be uncovered here, but it appears that this search is just now underway. And Kate, CNN learning that the former Vice President is not at his home today. We've learned that he is on the West Coast now. His daughter recently had a baby.


But one of his attorneys is on site during the search. That's similar to what we saw with the searches of current President Biden's homes in Delaware. This is all being done in a very cooperative manner in an effort to identify whether there are any other classified documents here or potentially any other records that could fall under other retention requirements like the Presidential Records Act.

The big question here, Kate, is after they complete this review, whether the Justice Department will feel obligated to appoint a special counsel as they have, with, of course, the ongoing investigation into President Biden retaining classified documents, and, of course, former President Trump having classified documents down at Mar-a-Lago.

As of now, the facts as we see them, if today's search doesn't yield anything, it's less likely that there will be another special counsel. But of course, he has a lot of legal problems, former Vice President Pence as he contemplates whether to make his own run for the White House. And it's interesting to see when it comes to the search that he's being very cooperative with the Justice Department, trying to draw a contrast between how he's handling these classified documents as opposed to former President Trump, who was not cooperative at all with the Justice Department as they tried to get back documents and records that he had. Now, as we've also learned yesterday, he was subpoenaed by Special Counsel Jack Smith in the January 6th investigation. He's expected to cooperate somewhat there, but not offer the full cooperation that we're seeing here.

BOLDUAN: All right, Paula, thank you so much for keeping it online for us and bringing us up breaking news. I really appreciate it. Joining me now for more on this is CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers. Jennifer, we're looking at are live pictures, actually, outside of Pence's home in Carmel, Indiana. Let's start with these separate investigations, and then actually I'm curious to kind of combine them, your reaction to knowing that the FBI is searching his home right now.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's not a surprise in that this is what they did with Biden, right? There was -- they were finding in the documents. They were voluntarily turned over. But FBI and Justice Department wants to make sure that they have everything. And what tends to happen when someone has a private lawyer that finds documents, they're often not clear to see classified information. So the moment that they see something, they will kind of turn it over and not look further. So the FBI needs to go in themselves just to make sure that they have everything. So it's just like what happened with Biden.

BOLDUAN: And I was just looking at Mark Short, an advisor very close with Mike Pence. He had told Jake Tapper this week that there have been conversations about a consensual search to be conducted. I presume that's not too far off in the future. What does it mean when we're talking about cooperative and consensual search?

RODGERS: Well, it just means that they know it's coming. You don't have to go to a judge to get a search warrant and show the probable cause, so the lawyers will know. They'll often be on site to oversee how the FBI is searching.

BOLDUAN: I'm also kind of drawing a distinction between how Donald Trump would handle this as well.

RODGERS: Oh, for sure. I mean, the fact that you have to go to a court, establish probable cause, get an order to go in there, and they could go in by force by the way, I'm not saying that's what happened at Mar-a-Lago. But if you have a search warrant, you can really, you know, break the door down if you need to get in there, which is not happening.

BOLDUAN: So the Justice Department is going to soon be running out of people available to be special counsels. I mean, what do you think does -- do you think a third special counsel is now needed in terms of this?

RODGERS: Well, there's a preliminary question which does there need to be an investigation. So you wouldn't appoint a special counsel in this. You decided that a criminal investigation was warranted. They obviously decided that in the case of former President Trump. Did they decide it in the case of President Biden? I'm not sure. But they went ahead and appointed the Special Counsel, I think, in an excess of caution.

So the question for Pence is, it's exactly like the Biden case. So if there was a warranted criminal investigation for Biden, really, there ought to be one for Pence. The question becomes, do you go ahead and just do it at DOJ? Because, frankly, I don't think they're going to charge here. It could be pretty quickly done and then closed. Or do you appoint a third special counsel? I don't expect them to do that. I think if they look at this at all as criminal, they'll probably just do it in house.

BOLDUAN: So then the other issue that Mike Pence is dealing with right now is he's now facing a subpoena from the Special Counsel investigating the Capitol insurrection, investigating Trump's role in the Capitol insurrection and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, separate but similar. Play it out for me in your reaction to Pence receiving the subpoena. If Pence tries to claim executive privilege on any of this or tries to limit his testimony, how does that work? How does that go for him?

RODGERS: So he can assert executive privilege? He will lose. Unlike what happened when Congress was investigating January 6th, there's direct case law on point from the Supreme Court in a criminal investigation, if you can demonstrate a need for testimony that will overcome executive privilege.

So even if he fights it yes, it will go to a judge. He might try to appeal, and it will go up the chain. But he will lose. He will have to testify. So then the question becomes, you know, how does that happen? How, you know, cooperative it would be able to try to take the fifth for part of it? I wouldn't expect that. So I think we'll see his testimony within a few weeks at the longest.


BOLDUAN: All right, luck around. Great to see you, Jennifer. Thanks for jumping on.

RODGERS: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: A barrage of missile strikes from Russia today in Ukraine and a cruise missile flying through a key ally in the region as it's targeting Ukraine. We're going to take you there next.