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Life-Threatening Flood & Landslide Risk As Storm Slams Southern CA; Jury Deliberations Begin In Case Of School Shooter's Mother; Senate Unveils Border And Foreign Aid Deal Ahead Of Key Vote. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired February 05, 2024 - 09:00   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: It's happening now. A weather emergency on the west coast, millions of people under flash flood warnings this morning, with parts of California predicted to get a half a year's worth of rain in just the next few days.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So a jury decides if a mother will be held accountable for the mass shooting that her son committed. The manslaughter verdict for the mother of the Oxford school shooter, it could come at any minute.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Taylor Swift makes history again. Miley Cyrus got a very first big win. And Billy Joel debuts his first new song in decades live on the show, not ours, even though ours is better, music's biggest night. I'm Kate Bolduan with John Berman and Sara Sidner. This is CNN News Central.

SIDNER: We begin in southern California where millions of people are under threat of floods, landslides and a deluge of record breaking rainfall. More than 14 million people are now at high risk for excessive rain. Downpours have already flooded streets and caused landslides, making some roads in southern California impassable at this hour. Hurricane force wind gusts have been reported in long estate.

Right now, more than 500,000 customers don't have power because of this powerful storm. Eight counties are under a state of emergency. And there have been numerous water rescues that we have seen. This is video of a helicopter saving people stranded on an island in the middle of a river in Los Angeles County. The county is forecast to receive a half a year's worth of rain by tomorrow. CNN's Chad Myers and Veronica Miracle are both live for us.

Chad, we are going to start with you. You are in the place where I have lived a whole lot of my life. Tell me what you're seeing there in Ventura County.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, it's still raining. It stopped briefly overnight, but now we have rain coming down again. It's light, but it's certainly not as heavy as what they have to the east of me. By about 40 to 50 miles, it is raining heavily here in the mountains of southern California. There's some rain, yes, in the valley. There's some rain in L.A. proper, but it's the Hollywood Hills, it's the Palisades. It's the areas up there that I have a lot of topography and houses, big houses built on dirt cliffs, and it's all saturated.

The remote sensor is now saying more than nine inches of rain have already fallen and it's still raining. And we could see another 3 to 5 inches, especially out toward big bear. Now, the problem is not that it's flooding up on top or that we do have landslides, mudslides. All of that water has to reach the Pacific Ocean at some point. This tried to get to the Pacific Ocean. It hasn't made it yet. This is a park. We shouldn't be standing in a lake in the middle of the park. It should all be just draining.

But the ground is so saturated, it can't soak in. Remember we had that storm just a couple of days ago. And I know we've used the term atmospheric river, and I'm old enough to remember, we used to call it a pineapple express. And that's truly still the same thing, just with a new know, you know. But we came up with the name polar vortex a few years ago. But the pineapple express, the moisture starts in Hawaii, where they have pineapples and the dole plantations, and then all the way up, moving right up into southern California.

We knew this was coming for days, and it certainly did not disappoint people. Right now it is still dark. People are driving through this area, and we still have water on roadways, and it's like whack-a-mole, as we see the cars and everybody with trucks and barricades moving from one spot to another. As the water rises, all of that water up there has to get over there, and it's going to be a few days. Water is going to rise in places where you thought you were done, but you're not done yet.

SIDNER: Yes, Chad, you have all the new words for things, but you also remember the old things. You've got more information in your pinky finger than the most of us do in our whole bodies when it comes to the weather. I do want to mention you talked about the hills, and you're in the hills. A lot of people don't realize, California does -- it runs off so quickly, the mudslides, the landslides, all of these things, places like the Hollywood Hills, that's where it's going to get treacherous. Not just at the bottom as well. It is a really dangerous situation. Thank you for being there. Thank you to your crew for standing in that rain all night long. We appreciate it.

We're going to go now to Veronica Miracle. Veronica, you're in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara has experienced this time and time again, mudslides, flooding. What is happening at this hour?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sara, it happens every single year. If you remember, back in 2018, 23 people died in Montecito, just about 15 minutes from here. So this area, they take this very seriously. All of the warnings, all of the evacuation orders, it was a ghost town yesterday when we got in. And the rain was pounding the area. Right now, you can see that we are in a bit of a break, if you will. Of course, anything can still happen. There is rain expected later today.


But this area shows just how quickly things can change. Yesterday when we got in, this area was being pounded with debris that was coming down from the mountain. The river was flowing so high that it was spilling over here on this bridge. But just take a look over right here and you can see how much the water has receded. It's receded significantly even since we've gotten here. So things change very rapidly. Yesterday, the sheriff's deputies were knocking door to door and houses in this area, telling people that they were -- it was an evacuation warning.

And a lot of people we spoke to, they simply said, you know, they're comfortable right now, the storm not hitting this area as significantly as feared. The sheriff yesterday did say this was going to be one of the most significant storms to hit this area. They were concerned about loss of life. Again, anything can still happen. There is rain expected later today. And, you know, as Chad was talking about, mudslides can happen. The ground is incredibly saturated. There's also a lot of concern that debris will continue to flow down the mountain. So we're keeping an eye on all of this.

The Santa Barbara County Airport remains closed due to flooding, and all of the schools in the area are closed today out of an abundance of caution. We have not seen a lot of people walking around. All of the businesses yesterday in the area were closed when we got in. So, again, everyone taking this very seriously here in Santa Barbara. Sara?

SIDNER: Thank you so much. I was there in 2018. I remember those horrible mudslides. We know you'll keep an eye on it for us. That is a heck of a lot of water. We're looking at one of the bridges there in Santa Barbara as well. Thank you so much, Veronica Miracle and to Chad Myers. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, and things can shift so quickly and unexpectedly, as you know so well, Sara. Let's go a little bit further north now. Joining us is the chief public information officer for Monterey County, California, Nicholas Pasculli. Thank you so much for jumping on with me. What's the latest from where you are from the county? Where and what are the areas of concern right now?

NICHOLAS PASCULLI, SPOKESPERSON FOR MONTEREY COUNTY, CA: Well, good morning, Kate, and thank you for having me. At the present time, we still have evacuation orders in place for parts of Carmel Valley in the low lying areas along the Carmel River. We do have a shelter in place order in effect for all of Del Monte, which is also known as the Pella beach area, as well as Arroyo Seco which is in the southern part of the county due to potential landslide challenges there in that area.

So we still are experiencing rain and there still is a high wind warning and a flood watch in effect for the entire region. As you know, our soils are very saturated and the runoff from the watersheds are projected to increase the river volume over the next several hours.

BOLDUAN: And the National Weather Service, speaking of wind, first, the National Weather Service issued, I mean, and it's really rare for the area, hurricane force wind warning for parts of the coast which stretch for the Monterey Peninsula past Big Sur. Talk to me about these winds. What are you hearing from residents? What are you hearing from officials who, you know, from your emergency crews out in it?

PASCULLI: We've had tremendous amount of winds, as you said, hurricane force winds, in some cases as much as almost 90 miles an hour in the Big Sur, along the Big Sur coast, inland more in the 60, 70 miles an hour range, gusts. So that means we had lots of downed trees and some downed power lines. At the present time, we have approximately 17 structures throughout the county that have either been destroyed or heavily damaged due to downed trees or power lines. And we have crews, both public works fire crews and of course, PG&E all over the county assessing the situation this morning.

BOLDUAN: From the forecasts that we're seeing, I believe your area is under threat through, I think it's tomorrow afternoon, is the latest that I've seen in terms of the rain still coming down. What are you hearing from folks? Are people staying safe? Have you had to have or have emergency crews had to go out to do rescues? What is the level of threat that people still need to understand is yet to come?

PASCULLI: Well, driving conditions are dangerous, for sure, especially in the areas where the high wind is, or especially with some of our tall trees in our areas, large pines, redwoods, et cetera. So those typical areas along the coastal roads, people should be very cautious, of course, inland as well, because we have experienced high gust winds inland as well. And so we want people to be cautious where the shelter in place orders are issued. They're issued for a reason, because there are hazardous conditions.

And this also allows time for our emergency crews to get out and make remedies and begin the recovery process. And so we are expecting rain throughout the day and into tomorrow. And, of course, scattered showers throughout the week and already saturated ground.


BOLDUAN: What do you think is going to be the biggest problem here? Is it the winds? Is it the threat of landslides, you know, the water -- the ground is so saturated and you also are coming off of a season of horrible wildfires.

PASCULLI: Yes. Well, fortunately, the forecast is the wind should be dying off sometime later this morning, which is great. And we're hoping for a little bit of a period of dry out over the next couple of days. The biggest thing we're concerned about is watching the river levels, of course, because oftentimes the rivers don't reflect the amount of water that's come down until the water comes off the mountains and the watershed. So we're going to be keeping an eye on all the rivers throughout the county. Fortunately, we have capacity in our reservoirs, which is great and which will be very helpful.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Nicholas, thank you so much for taking the time this morning. Good luck today. John?

BERMAN: All right, happening now, a jury in Michigan deciding if the mother of a school shooter should be found guilty of manslaughter for her son's murders. This is a first of its kind case with a verdict that could come any minute. The stage is set for a brawl over the border on Capitol Hill. The Republican who negotiated the deal is calling out the Republican House speaker for declaring it dead on arrival. And the U.S. leads strikes on 40 new targets in Yemen. And the White House says the President has approved even more military action.



BERMAN: All right, so jurors are about to enter the courtroom to receive instructions from the judge in the manslaughter trial of Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the teenager who shot and killed four students at Oxford High School in 2021. This is a first of its kind trial. Prosecutors accused Jennifer of being grossly negligent by giving her son a gun as a gift while ignoring warning signs about his deteriorating mental health. CNN's Jean Casarez is in Pontiac, Michigan, for the jury instructions, for the verdict watch which will begin right now. Jean, what are you seeing?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pivotal moment, pivotal day, John. What's happening right now? Jury is coming in. The judge will instruct them on the law so that when they go in to deliberate, this is the law they must follow. Was there gross negligence on the part of Jennifer Crumbley of a known risk that her son could commit a mass murder? Was it foreseeable? Should she have realized her son could commit a mass murder? Now, the judge before the jury came in told the attorneys that the gag order that has been in place from almost the beginning will stay in place until after James Crumbley's trial. I want you to listen to some of those very strong on both sides, closing arguments from Friday.


KAREN MCDONALD, OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTOR: And what I have to prove is not that she knew that her son would go shoot up the school and kill four kids. I have to prove that she had a legal duty. She negligently performed that legal duty. She negligently did not take steps to take care and protect the other children in that school when there was a reasonable foreseeability, that ordinary care was required, the smallest of things.

SHANNON SMITH, JENNIFER CRUMBLEY'S ATTORNEY: I am asking that you find Jennifer Crumbley not guilty, not just for Jennifer Crumbley, but for every mother who's out there doing the best they can, who could easily be in her shoes.


CASAREZ: So the jury has now entered. The jury instructions will begin. Now, there are 17 jurors at this point, 12 will be deliberating. They don't know who the alternates are. We don't know who the alternates are. The judge is going to select the five alternates randomly. They will stay in a room in the courthouse, sequestered. They will not leave. The deliberating jury will then be together to start this verdict process, so important for both sides and for obviously the next at least 15 years for Jennifer Crumbley.

BERMAN: Jury instructions just beginning right now. You were seeing the judge beginning to deliver those instructions. This all gets underway. And as you know, Jean, this verdict could come shortly, or it could be some time before we learn what the jury is thinking. Keep us posted. Jean Casarez is in Pontiac, Michigan. Sara?

SIDNER: All right, we're going to keep the conversation going now with Robert Bianchi, a former prosecutor and criminal trial attorney and host of The Law and Crime Network. All right, this is the first case as this jury is getting those very important instructions from the judge. The first time a jury is considering whether a parent can be charged for their child mass shooting. We've never seen this happen before in the United States. So it is a precedent potentially setting case. This jury has a lot of work to do. How do you think they're going to go through this?

ROBERT BIANCHI, HOST, THE LAW AND CRIME NETWORK: Well, like you said, it's precedent setting. And as a former homicide prosecutor and a person who ran a prosecutor's office, I'm very queasy about this prosecution based upon the facts here. So what they're essentially doing, just to make sure we have it down in a nutshell, is they're saying that the parents should be held responsible because that they were grossly negligent, that it was egregious that they knew or should have known that this was the potential outcome.

Now, typically speaking, we only penalize people criminally for their actions, OK? Not the actions of another person. And so on the quality of this evidence, it didn't seem to me, if I were evaluating it, that it would be clear that it would be foreseeable that he would commit a mass murder. In fact, I think the evidence would suggest by the fact that they kept him in the school, they didn't call law enforcement, that even the school officials didn't believe that he represented a danger to himself or the community. So in my mind, this is not the case, factually, to bring on this theory.


Now, if you were to argue that he said, that son said --

SIDNER: That I'm going to do this.

BIANCHI: That I'm going to do this. And they went and they got him a gun, you're at a much closer level of the parent's connection to the actual crime itself. Last point here is this, what we're going to be asking? Parents are going to be held responsible for all the actions that their children create that may not have anywhere been in the orbit because in my mind, my argument as the defense lawyer and the defense's summation was a little kind of rambling a little bit here was that there was no way this was foreseeable. In fact, most people who have mental illness do not commit mass murder. So we'll see what the jury does. They've got a lot of work to. Do, a lot of pressure, because there are four dead people.

SIDNER: Right. And you imagine these are people, as is every jury from the community. There are certainly parents on this jury. So when you start thinking about what they're going through in their head, they have to look at the evidence. But what you know as a person that lives your everyday life, would be very hard for a parent to say, gosh, could I know that my kid is going to do this?

But there is some evidence that prosecutors have brought forward that was pretty strong in some of these cases, like the text messages back and forth where she says, Ethan, don't do it. I do want to ask you about Jennifer Crumbley, because she took the stand, and we almost never see this in a case where someone's charged with involuntary manslaughter or when someone's certainly charged with something stronger. Do you think that she helped her case or hurt her case?

BIANCHI: Well, you know, this is the million dollar thing. My teachers used to teach me, and now I teach people that jurors love to convict from the mouth of the defendant themselves. It could be the most persuasive evidence but by the same token, if that jury is going to say that she convinced them that there would be no way I possibly would have known that this would have been the outcome by us giving him a gun as a gift and that he would have taken that gun and killed those people if they resonate with her and say and put themselves in her position to say, gosh, is this something that I would want to be accused of? If something, God forbid, happened in my world, then I think she helped herself out. But you can't overlook something that you said earlier on.

There's a lot of community pressure. There's four dead children. And you wonder whether the emotion of that is going to overwhelm the legal principles here. Because if there's a conviction, prosecutors throughout this country, trust me when I tell you, are going to start now extending all sorts of liability to parents for crimes their kids commit.

SIDNER: It is truly a fascinating case. And I liked how you broke it down that you -- they were not directly involved. And it's the thought process. And usually you don't get convicted on something that's a thought process, what you did or didn't know, it's what you actually did, the actions you took. We will be watching this very closely. I think they're still getting jury instructions, which, as you know, are really important for the jury to listen to. We will be back when we find out what else is happening in court. Thank you so much, Robert Bianchi, for coming on. Appreciate it.

BIANCHI: My pleasure, thank you. Kate?

BOLDUAN: So the border battle takes on a new front right now. The leading Republican who negotiated this deal is pushing back on criticism from his own party, criticism from Republicans, he points out, haven't yet read the bill.


And hours after winning big at the Grammys, rapper, Killer Mike is arrested.


BERMAN: All right, tonight, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will work to sell the huge bipartisan border security and foreign aid package to a very skeptical conference. House Speaker Mike Johnson says the bill is, quote, worse than expected and deemed it, quote, dead on arrival when it reaches the House, if it reaches the House. And new this morning, the lead Republican Senate negotiator, Senator James Langford, is responding to all this criticism.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Are we as Republicans going to have press conferences and complain the border is bad and then intentionally leave it open after the worst month in American history in December, now we've got to actually determine, are we going to just complain about things? Are we going to actually address and change as many things as we can?


BERMAN: All right, CNN's Lauren Fox covering all the action on Capitol Hill. First, Lauren, what's actually in this bill, which would be one of the biggest series of changes in a generation or more?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, given the fierce Republican opposition to this bill, I do think it's important to take a moment to explain what's actually inside. After months of negotiations, what the bipartisan Senate group came to terms with is a change in the way that the U.S. would ultimately handle asylum claims at the southern border. Specifically, they would raise the threshold of who would qualify to even begin the asylum process.

They are also trying to move more expeditiously to ensure that what used to take years would now only take about six months. They are also introducing this new emergency border authority which essentially says if border crossings reach a weekly average daily threshold of 5,000, that the administration must shut down the southern border. But it's not enough for many Republicans, including those in the Senate.


Just a couple of minutes ago, you saw a tweet from the National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines. He's a member of Republican leadership. He said that this bill does not go far enough, that he will --