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Gas Prices Expected to Hit Low; Katrina Shealy is Interviewed about Her Fight in South Carolina; Beryl Churning Towards Jamaica; Climate Crisis Fuels Storms; Protesters Demand Fake Elector Step Down. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 03, 2024 - 08:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: What's fueling the drop and what's the outlook for the summer.

South Carolina's three female Republican state senators stood up, successfully blocked their state's near total abortion ban from going - from being approved. That was last year. And for taking that stand, they're now losing their jobs. Voters turning against them in their primaries, including South Carolina's longest-serving female senator, who will be our guest.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there's nothing anybody can do to hurt me now. So, you know, take a look. This is what a senate seat costs. And I'm - I'm proud of it. So, somebody better do the job. I'm leaving. Because I'm going to be -




BERMAN: Millions of Americans are hitting the road this week. It is the Fourth of July. People on the roads every day right now greeted by something that might be a little bit welcome. A dip in gas prices.

CNN's Matt Egan is here.

You are delivering, my friend.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: John, you can't say I don't bring you good news, right?

Listen, road trips this Fourth of July not going to break the bank. Gas Buddy projecting $3.49 a gallon nationally. Now, that's not cheap, but it is a three-year low for this time of the year. Not because of low demand. Look at this. A record of nearly 61 million people are projected to be from the road this holiday weekend according to AAA. Hopefully not all of them in New Jersey, where I'll be driving my little ones around. But some contexts, this is 5 percent more than last summer, 10 percent more than the final summer before Covid. This is a look at the projected gas prices, $3.49 from Gas Buddy, down a penny from a year ago. But look at this, so much cheaper than two years ago. Of course, that was the summer when oil prices went to the moon because Russia had invaded Ukraine. Thankfully, they've come down since then. And some drivers, in some states, are actually seeing even bigger drops from a year ago. We're looking at a drop in Washington state of 71 cents from last Fourth of July, 60 cents in Oregon, 41 cents in Wyoming, 44 cents in Utah. So, this is real savings.

And what's interesting, John, is, if you were to adjust for inflation, and I know that people are not filling up adjusting for inflation. But if you were to, gas prices nationally, they're actually right where they were back in July of 2018, which I think is pretty surprising when you think about it.

One thing we do need to keep an eye on when it comes to gas prices is hurricane season. Hurricane Beryl has already lifted oil prices a bit. It's raised some concerns about a busier than usual hurricane season. And that, of course, could lift gas prices.

But for now, the good news is that gas prices are at a three-year low for this time of year.

BERMAN: Three year low. I got to tell you, the traffic in New Jersey is going to be bad no matter what - no matter what you hope for.

EGAN: You're right. You're right.

BERMAN: On a good day in New Jersey the traffic's bad.

EGAN: Yes.

BERMAN: Nice to see you, Matt.

EGAN: Thanks, John.


BOLDUAN: So, it is an historic day in South Carolina, but for many, it's seen as for the wrong reasons. The state senate is about to lose all of its female Republican senators. After gaining national attention for teaming up to stop a near total abortion ban in the state senate, all three Republican women who made up part of South Carolina's sister senators have now lost their reelections. You'll remember remarks that went viral from one of those lawmakers, Katrina Shealy, taking her male colleagues to task over the issue two years ago.


STATE SEN. KATRINA SHEALY (R-SC): Yes, I'm pro-life. I'm also pro-life of the mother, the life she has with her children who are already born. I care about the children who are forced into adulthood that was made up by a legislature full of men so they can make - take a victory lap and feel good about it.


BOLDUAN: And last year these women stood together and successfully blocked a near total abortion ban from going ahead there. Now barring any unforeseen twists, come the next session there will be zero female Republican senators and only one female Democrat there. No other state in the country will have fewer women in its upper chamber.

Joining me right now is Republican South Carolina State Senator Katrina Shealy.

Senator, thank you so much for coming in.

What did you think the night of your runoff when you realized it wasn't going your way in the midst of this?

STATE SEN. KATRINA SHEALY (R-SC): Well, first, thanks for having me.

And I can tell you, I knew it was something in the air that day that things weren't going my way. But it - I was disappointed, but I'm not as heartbroken for me. I kind of felt a relief because things have been changing so much. The atmosphere in politics has changed so much in South Carolina that I feel a relief. But I feel so sad for the women and children and families in South Carolina because that was what I did in South Carolina. I took good care of women and children and families and the elderly and our veterans. And there is nobody else in the South Carolina Senate that does that except the women.


And the Republican women, unfortunately, South Carolina is ruled by the majority party, and there will be no women in the majority party. And there will be - I'm - I was the only female committee chair. I was the only female Republican on finance. There was just so many things that went away that night that I don't think people understand how the South Carolinas Senate works. So, it's just - it's a sad situation for South Carolina all the way around.

BOLDUAN: Because I was going to ask you, I mean, for perspective, you were - I think you were known as like the children's senator. I mean this -- caring or children and families is something that you have run - your career, you're 12 year career in the senate has really been based on. And now the fact that abortion rights and the movement towards this total abortion ban kind of took center stage in your race, knowing that the three female senators, you are all going to be out, knowing - knowing that, what does that mean for the future of abortion rights and access in South Carolina do you think? And also, what does it mean for your state just now having no female Republican senators in that chamber?

SHEALY: Well, what it means for abortion rights is, number one, they say that, oh well we're not - probably not going to bring that up next year. Let me tell you, I've - you already hear them talking about it in the House of Representatives because that's where the biggest portion of that freedom caucus, is what they call themselves, that's where that's stirring. And they're going to bring it back up, because now they know, and they're - they're the ones that started the little saying, we're going to get rid of all the Republican women in the Senate because they started this. They wouldn't let us get what we wanted last year. We're taking them out.

So - and they did a really good job. I mean, you know, they took us out and, you know, I hope they're happy because now so many other things won't get done. You know, everybody wants to say that this abortion bill was, you know, we - we took them out. They - we'll get what we want, but they're not going to get so many other things now. And they will bring abortion up.

And what they want is not just, you know, abortion with no exceptions, they want zero abortions at conception with no exceptions. There's a bill in the South Carolina House that says with no exceptions. And if you have an abortion, you know, for the life of the mother, you know, if the mother has the abortion, she could face the death penalty. I mean - because she had an abortion to save her life.

The doctor can lose his license if he performs an abortion. He could face criminal penalties. It's gone mad. I mean people can't have their own health care.

And one of the things that I said while I stood there, you know, last year, before - you know, before we got recognized, which caused another hoopla, but I said that women should make these decisions with their family. You know, if they're religious, they should talk to their god. They should talk to their family. But surely they should talk to their doctor. Their doctor should be the one helping to make these decisions, not 46 members of the South Carolina legislature in which there is no doctor. The closest thing we had to a doctor was a pharmacist. And I certainly don't want him being my ob-gyn.

BOLDUAN: Senator, I know that I can - I can tell, you do not regret the fight and the stance that you've taken or the position you've held.


BOLDUAN: Abortion, as you know, is a huge issue, not just in the state, it's in state and federal races all across the country. You're a tried and true Republican. You backed Donald Trump in 2016. You supported Tim Scott and then - and also Nikki Haley in the primary this time. Do you like Donald Trump's position on abortion? Essentially not really taking one, but saying, the states should decide. And you have seen what that has meant in your state.

SHEALY: I think the federal government had a - we were perfectly fine before people started messing with it. I think if Donald Trump would stand by his position, you know, his position right now is more liberal than mine. He says 15 weeks. I had legislation out there that said 12 weeks. And we almost passed that. We were two votes short. And it was 25 to 27, I think, of the people that were there that day. And we almost passed the legislation that headed 12 weeks with the exceptions. And they didn't pass.

So then, you know, it ends up in another conundrum. It goes back to the house. They come back with something else crazy.


But if Donald Trump would stand with the 15-weeks, yes, I agree with that, but I don't it's - this state-by-state issue is not working because some states have zero abortions with zero exceptions. Some states have, you know, wide open abortion till, you know, the baby's born. That's not right.

I think that the same law for every little girl should be the same. If I have a little - a 10-year-old in California, she should have the same rights as the 10-year-old in South Carolina. And no 10-year-old should be forced to have a child. When somebody says that's a 10-year- old is raped and they tell me that's God's will she should have to have that child, that's - I don't believe that. I don't believe that's God's will. I don't believe it's God's will for a - some man to rape a 10-year-old. I can't believe that.

BOLDUAN: Senator, it's - it's been -

SHEALY: And that's what they say that, oh, yes.

BOLDUAN: I'm so sorry. I was just going to say, it is - I've been following your work in the state senate since this all kind of got in the national spotlight for some time and it's really good to have you on to speak with you. Thank you so much. I'll be looking forward to seeing what happens next with your career. Thank you.

SHEALY: OK. Thank you.


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, out of control flooding, raging wildfires, deadly heatwaves, and record-breaking hurricanes and tornadoes. Is this the new normal?

And, we promised you raging grannies going off on an admitted fake elector who is still in power. How they are trying to make him leave.

All right, join us as we celebrate Independence Day with live firework shows from across the country and musical performances by Bebe Rexha, T-Pain, The Killers, Ashanti, and more, including John Berman. He's going to be celebrating too.


SIDNER: "The Fourth in America" celebrations starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night. Kate and I will also, of course, be celebrating with you.

BOLDUAN: Obviously we'll be performing.

SIDNER: Obviously, here on CNN.

BOLDUAN: We finally might be able to get you.

SIDNER: We might sing. Or tell jokes.

BOLDUAN: Our debut, yes, together.

SIDNER: We'll be back.



SIDNER: New details this hour about where Hurricane Beryl is forecast to land. The dangerous storm is closing in on Jamaica after leaving a path of destruction across south eastern Caribbean islands.

Meteorologists Elisa Raffa tracking all of this from the Weather Center.

This is quite a storm. The biggest, strongest storm we have seen ever this early in the season.

ELISA RAFFA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Incredible the records that this thing has already broken. And this could be the strongest storm that Jamaica has ever seen. The last time that they had a major hurricane make landfall was Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. It has been more than 40 years since they've had something get this close to the island.

Still a category four hurricane with 145 mile per hour winds, sitting 125 miles southeast of Jamaica. Some of these tropical storm force winds are starting to creep onto the island. We're really worried as we get into the afternoon. That's as the hurricane-force winds get really close, and that's where we can get very, very close to that landfall. Hurricane force winds getting close to the Cayman Islands by tonight and into tomorrow.

Hurricane warnings in effect, obviously, for Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, but we now have watches in effect for the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. We could have some weakening in Beryl as it gets into maybe some dust, maybe a little bit of wind energy. But it could maintain at least major category strength because these oceans are just so warm.


SIDNER: It is shocking to see just sort of how big it is and how small Jamaica is. The impact could be devastating to that island.


SIDNER: Thank you so much, Elisa.

John. Or Kate. Or Kate. Kate.

BOLDUAN: And - I will take it.

When warning residents to prepare for the coming direct hit, Jamaica's prime minister also called out climate change last night as the reason the island is facing such a serious threat from Hurricane Beryl. And many experts are warning that this kind of record-breaking weather is only going to continue as temperatures continue to rise.

Bill Weir is here with much more on this.

How are all of these disasters related?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, science said there would be days like this. This is just the result of an overheating planet. We've got 1.5 trillion extra tons of heat-trapping pollution, carbon dioxide, methane around this planet. And it's getting hotter.

There was forecasts for Death Valley for Monday, 130 degrees, which is the temperature of a medium-rare steak, to give you a perspective. And if that's where the planet is headed, it affects different ecosystems differently.

Everywhere, if you live out west, it's going to affect outdoor workers, outdoor activities, the vulnerable. Triple-digit, these heat domes, that really pray on older folks and older structures. That's why he is more deadly than all the other disastrous combined.

If you're in the Atlantic, where there are underwater heatwaves in addition, that's hurricane food fueling Beryl and creating that rapid intensification for places like Jamaica that haven't seen this. This is not their grandfather's storm anymore, right? And the infrastructure in places in the Caribbean especially not up for the task in places like this.

And then there's wildfires in dry, arid conditions out west and even in Butte County, which is the site of the Camp Fire, the deadliest in the lower 48. It's just dry. It's tinder dry. And one lightning strike or one errant cigarette butt can start a wildfire there. So, it depends on where you are.

And this is adding up to billion-dollar disasters on a scale we haven't seen in history. Now, if you look at the chart, this actually doesn't account for the reasons spate of tornadoes that plagued the United States, the recent flooding we saw in the southwest there. And so there are just massive billion-dollar events that are just adding up right now. And here we are. And it's just the beginning of summer, Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right.


And Biden was just out and having some of - I mean kind - like his harshest words yet for those who continued to deny the climate crisis.

WEIR: Yes.

BOLDUAN: What is he saying?

WEIR: Yesterday he was announcing a new - he's calling for new OSHA standard, heat standards, which would give mandatory shade and water breaks when the temperature gets at a certain - there's no such existing law. Workers are at the mercy of their employers. But he said this, which I think are the strongest words from an American president on those who deny climate science.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, quite frankly, think it's not only outrageous, it's really stupid. Everyone who willfully denies the impacts of climate change is condemning the American people to a dangerous future and either is really, really dumb or has some other motive (INAUDIBLE). How can you deny there's climate change for God's sake.


WEIR: Meanwhile, in energy news around the world, China's top seven solar companies now produce more energy than the biggest seven oil and gas companies in the west.


WEIR: We've reached a tipping point in energy transition right now. Now it comes down to human behavior and the debate over this and how fast we transition.

BOLDUAN: But, as you always do, trying to end on some hopeful note of the work that is being done to counteract all of what we've been talking about.

WEIR: A massive amount. Not enough, but it's out there. It's happening.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Bill.

WEIR: You bet.


BERMAN: All right, now, the moment you have been waiting for. If you've been watching all hour, first of all, bless you. But you have heard us promise a report on a group calling themselves the raging grannies. What are they all raging against you might ask. Well, a man who was a fake elector in Wisconsin and is still overseeing elections there. Now, without further ado, the weight is over. Here's CNN's Sara Murray.


THE RAGING GRANNIES (singing): Spindell signed those election papers. A part of the conspiracy. He's one of the 10 false electors. Now no more their dishonesty.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Robert Spindell, this is turning into a regular welcome. Although it's the first time they've had a theme song.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't have a song, believe it or not, specific to having a fake elector.

MURRAY: I'm shocked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I wrote a song.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the towers (ph) to collect the ballots.

MURRAY (voice over): Roughly four years ago, Spindell was signing papers to serve as a Republican fake elector for Donald Trump, who lost the state by more than 20,000 votes. Those papers Spindell and other Wisconsin fake electors now admit were part of an attempt to improperly overturn the 2020 presidential election results, something they acknowledged in a civil lawsuit settlement.

But nothing in that deal blocked him from staying on the board that oversees elections in the badger state.

SAM LEIBERT: You know, it is a concern that someone who is an acknowledged fake elector oversees our elections.

MURRAY (voice over): Sam Leibert is one of dozens of activists trying to keep the pressure on Spindell.

LEIBERT: Bob Spindell must resign from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, period.

MURRAY (voice over): We caught up with Spindell heading into a commissioner's meeting.

MURRAY: Sara Murray with CNN. Can we just ask you a couple -

MURRAY (voice over): To ask if there was any chance he'd step aside.

MURRAY: Rigorous protests downstairs calling for you to resign. Do you have any plans to do so?

ROBERT SPINDELL, WISCONSIN ELECTIONS COMMISSION: Well, I think they do that about every month.

MURRAY: So, you're used to it by now?

SPINDELL: (INAUDIBLE) been around.

MURRAY: Do you think that they have a point after that civil settlement you signed when it came to the whole fake elector plot?

SPINDELL: No, I don't think so. That was all settled.

MURRAY (voice over): He told us his goal this year is to ensure everyone can vote and election laws are followed.

MURRAY: What about 20:20? Looking back now, I mean you said there was fraud all over the place, all over the country.

SPINDELL: I didn't - I don't say that.

MURRAY (voice over): He did. Back in December 2020, without evidence to back it up.

SPINDELL: We have fraud all over the country in the 2020 election, especially in swing states.

MURRAY (voice over): Now he says.

SPINDELL: I think really nobody knows in terms of fraud. Only God knows. But I think we had a good election.

MURRAY (voice over): Soon after, activist filed into the meeting room. From the jump, it turned contentious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is imperative that you, Mr. Bob Spindell, resign .

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Commissioner Spindell has a question.

SPINDELL: (INAUDIBLE) white Democrat administration placed 185 polling places to just five. So, don't talk to me, talk to your friends of white - Milwaukee white (ph) Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your question?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold on. You should not be on the Wisconsin Election Commission representing any person in the state of Wisconsin. And it is imperative that you do what is right for our elections in this state and resigned today.

MURRAY (voice over): Outside, activists said they're also motivated by Spindell's previous comments, seeming to celebrate lower turnout among black and Hispanic voters in Milwaukee in the 2022 midterms, a characterization Spindell has disputed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sense of entitlement was just real. He feels very protected.

MURRAY (voice over): He has reason to feel secure.

Wisconsin's Republican senate majority leader, Devin LeMahieu, is the only person who has the authority to remove Spindell from the Wisconsin Elections Commission.


MURRAY: His office is right here, but he didn't want to talk to us.

MURRAY (voice over): Speaker after speaker called on Spindell to step down.