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Beryl Slams Into Texas as Category 1 Hurricane; Sources Say, Anxiety Grips White House Aides Amid Biden's Uncertain Political Fate; Boeing Takes Plea Deal to Avoid Criminal Trail Over 737 MAX Crashes. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Breaking this morning, Hurricane Beryl makes landfall on the Texas coast. Millions are on high alert for flooding and life-threatening storm surges.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And new reporting on what's happening inside the White House now as President Biden faces what a key Democratic senator calls a critical week, crunch time to prove his doubters wrong, as lawmakers head back to Washington for the first time since Biden's disastrous debate performance.

BERMAN: And Boeing agrees to plead guilty to defrauding the U.S. government. But families of victims of two fatal crashes say the company got off too easy.

Sara is out today. I'm John Berman with Kate Bolduan and this is CNN News Central.

And the breaking news, Hurricane Beryl is tearing through Texas. We are getting fresh reports from the ground as already nearly 400,000 people are without power. That's a brand new number. Beryl made landfall as a category one storm just south of Galveston. Those are live pictures right now. You can see the wind whipping through that parking lot.

This is the earliest hurricane to hit Texas in nearly 40 years. This morning, there are fears that storm surge could reach seven feet. That is easily life threatening. There are also concerns for flashfloods and tornadoes.

Let's get right to Meteorologist Derek Van Dam, who's in Port Lavaca, Texas, with the latest. Derek, what are you seeing?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We're still Yes, John, we are on the ground and the central Texas coastline feeling the effects of the first U.S. landfall hurricane of the 2024 season, which promises to be a very active season, and we're getting our first taste of it already. Over 90-mile-per-hour winds reported along the coastline near Matagorda. We have also seen two to five feet of storm surge above normal high tide levels. And the power has flickered on and off at our location, but now getting some of the new numbers from power outages, showing that over 400,000 customers now without power, the majority of them along the coastline.

The storm has been on our radar for nearly two weeks. It's made three landfalls now here in the continental United States. And it has been a significant storm of note. Hurricane Beryl, 80 miles per hour, that's a Category 1 hurricane. But there have been so many threats associated with this system. Currently right now, Harris County, including Metropolitan Houston under a flash flood warning until 8:00 A.M. This encompasses over 150,000 people, but also several other people all the way to the coastline as well. This is because rain has been incessant. We've reported over a half a foot in some locations, Houston over three inches, 1.5 at the moment. But there are other locations around the metro that have reported three inches with more to come.

This storm could dump over a foot of rain. So, that is why there is this flashflood warning, some of the heaviest precipitation moving through the area. The right quadrant of a hurricane, that's the most dangerous part, John. You've been in these storms enough to know that they spin up tornadoes quickly. About a half hour ago, there was a tornado warning in Houston Metropolitan and that watch for a tornado lasts until 10:00 A.M. this morning.

Continuing, we've got the storm surge component to this as well. And Galveston Bay has already reported four feet and rising above normal high tide values, the wind threat, of course, ongoing with gusts in excess of 50 to 60 miles per hour, knocking down the power and blowing some of the transformers around us and behind us as well.

This storm is not another Harvey. It is going to move quickly out of the region and that means it will limit the extreme rainfall potential for this storm, but nonetheless, flash flooding is still a concern. This is a different storm, but it only takes one to cause the problems, right? John?

BERMAN: Yes, it is still a hurricane still moving through the state. Derek Van Dam on the coast. Thank you very much. Keep us posted throughout the morning. Kate?

BOLDUAN: We also have new reporting today that all is not well inside the White House at the moment. Sources telling CNN aides are unsure of what's to come amid increasing pressure on President Biden to step aside.

More and more House Democrats now joining in to call on Biden to end his presidential run.


CNN has learned half a dozen high ranking lawmakers voiced concerns during a private phone call yesterday with the Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, one senior Democratic aide, saying the call was, quote, brutal. Even before the call, though, at least five House Democrats have publicly stated and come forward to say they believe it is time for Biden to step aside that they need a new nominee.

CNN's Kayla Tausche at the White House for us. Kayla, what is going on in the White House right now? What are you hearing? KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the mood inside the White House is despondent. It is anxious. Aides are reeling from the disastrous debate that the president had just a little over a week ago. And there's widespread uncertainty about what the course forward looks like with the president keeping up an ambitious official schedule, digging his heels in and saying that he is not going anywhere, even as calls are growing for the president to step aside and to allow himself to be replaced on the top of the Democratic ticket.

Later this week, the president will be hosting world leaders from more than 30 NATO countries here in Washington before heading the campaign trail and going to battleground Michigan on Friday, all an attempt to shore up confidence in his presidency and his re-election bid, and to prove that he is up coming to the task of re-election, that coming as many on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue are starting to raise serious concerns about the future for the Democratic Party and down ballot races as well.

You mentioned that call that Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries convened yesterday with senior members of the House Democratic Party, where about half a dozen called for the president to be replaced on the ticket. And there's going to be a meeting convened on Tuesday for the entire House Democratic Caucus that could result in a meeting called at the White House, or an official letter being sent to President Biden. Those next steps are not yet clear.

On the Senate side, Virginia Senator Mark Warner convened a group yesterday to also explore their concerns, but a meeting that that group had planned for Monday has been scrapped after widespread leaks of their efforts, a source tells CNN.

Now, of course, President Biden is going to want to talk about NATO this week with all of those world leaders here. He's expected to hold a press conference later this week, and they want to talk about Ukraine, China and plans for all NATO allies to reach a critical defense spending target that's come under fire from Donald Trump. But, of course, the backdrop to all of this is how uncertain the future for President Biden's re-election bid will be, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And lawmakers heading back to Washington now for the first time since that debate, a critical week ahead. Thank you so much, Kayla.

Coming up for us still, Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to defrauding U.S. regulators. And there's new details on how much the company will have to pay as victims families say that they are rejecting and that they oppose this deal.

Plus, Donald Trump is set to announce his V.P. pick at some point, but is President Biden's campaign crisis that he's dealing with now throwing a wrench in Donald Trump's plans.

And a new warning, why the Secret Service, FBI, and DHS are putting out an assessment saying the Republican convention next week could be a, quote/unquote, attractive target for violent extremists. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BERMAN: All right. Breaking overnight, Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to defraud the government over 2737 Max plane crashes that killed 346 people. Boeing will pay up to $487 million in fines. Families of the crash victims, though, are furious. They say this is a sweetheart deal that would allow Boeing to escape responsibility.

CNN Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean is here with the latest on this. Pete, what are you learning this morning?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: This is another huge blow to Boeing's reputation, John. The company not saying all that much this morning, only that it has reached an agreement in principle with the Department of Justice.

But here are the terms of that deal, according to the government. Boeing is being fined $487 million. The government will also be appointing an independent monitor to oversee Boeing for the next three years. But the biggest part of this is that Boeing is agreeing to plead guilty to criminal charges.

Remember, this is for the 737 MAX 8 crash, as the Lion Air crash in 2018, the Ethiopian air crash in 2019, 346 people killed in those two crashes abroad. Boeing is now agreeing to plead guilty to defrauding the Federal Aviation Administration about the MAX 8 that Boeing hid major design changes that led to those two crashes.

Originally, Boeing was able to reach a settlement with the government to avoid criminal charges, but that deal came with three years of probation, and the January 5th door plug blot in the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 happened just days before that deal was set to expire. So, that made the Department of Justice look at that original deal again, ultimately triggering this new deal.

Now, victims' families are calling this a sweetheart deal because they wanted Boeing to face a $25 billion fine. Now, Paul Castle is the attorney leading the civil case here. And in a statement, he says this sweetheart deal fails to recognize that because of Boeing's conspiracy, 346 people died. This deceptive and generous deal is clearly not in the public interest.


Of note here is that Boeing executives themselves avoided criminal charges. It is very rare for a major corporation like Boeing to ever be charged with a crime by a federal government, much less agree to a guilty plea. John?

BERMAN: All right. Pete Muntean, obviously, this is developing. Keep us posted. Thank you very much for your reporting this morning.

Senate Democrats set to meet tomorrow to discuss President Biden's political future. Will they echo calls for him to end his re-election bid?

And Alec Baldwin's manslaughter trial begins tomorrow with jury selection. We have new reporting on how he plans to defend himself.



BOLDUAN: All right. Happening right now, Hurricane Beryl is lashing Texas. The storm just made landfall a couple hours ago as a Category 1 hurricane heading onshore in Matagorda Beach, Texas.

Joining us right now as the public information officer for Matagorda County, Mitch Thames. Mitch, thank you so much for jumping on. It's now made landfall near Matagorda. What's happening right now? What's the biggest concern that you all are focused on?

MITCH THAMES, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER FOR MATAGORDA COUNTY, TEXAS: Kate, I will tell you, we've had hours and hours and hours of extremely high winds, high water. It is a significant storm. I know that they're talking about a Category 1, but we haven't a significant storm event right now. We've had probably eight hours of significant winds. We just went through the eye of the hurricane and had a little bit of a lull one. Now, I'm listening outside and that backside is coming.

Our biggest fear is that our citizens want to get out and curious about what it looks like and try to drive around and see the damage. That is not what we need. I'm urging everybody if they don't mind, stay home. We've got several more hours of the extremely high winds, maybe even higher winds than we've seen and certainly a lot more rain.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. I mean, you said eight hours of high winds. I was just looking at kind of the latest tracker, some wind gusts of 80 miles an hour in Matagorda. I mean, that can do a ton of damage in and of itself. How is the power situation right now?

THAMES: The last time I checked and talked to our power companies, we had about a third of our county was without power. We do have reports of some power out power lines down, not energized, but down. Like I said, we've got tree limbs tremendous amount of debris that's on the road. Water is covering the roadways now.

The good news is our power crews are on standby. They pre-staged, ready to come in and take care of the power outages. But once it's safe, we don't want anybody to get out in the middle of this storm. Our first responders are ready to go. Our county crews are ready to clear the roads, but we don't want to do anything right now.

We've still got a couple of hours of this storm. It is a fairly slow- moving storm, about ten miles an hour. We still have a lot of wind and a lot of rain event to come up. I'm urging everybody to please stay in, stay off the roads, give our teams an opportunity to do their assessments once it becomes safe.

So, we're still hours into this. We probably need another three and a half to four hours just to get through the storm and then do our assessments.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Good news is this -- when you're talking about a slow storm, this isn't Harvey. It's not going to -- the forecast don't have it sitting in parking on top and just bringing the disaster that Harvey brought. But still, you still have a slow-moving storm rolling through.

I'd seen that there is a voluntary evacuation order kind of put out there on Friday. Do you think people stayed? Do you think people left? What do you think?

THAMES: No. I think. Thank goodness, I think a lot of our folks down along the coastal areas took very good heed of that. I was down there. I'm losing track of days, I'm sorry. I was down there a couple of days ago and just about all of the recreational vehicles. The R.V.s had been pulled out.

People were already boarding up their houses down along our coast in the Sargent, Matagorda, and the waterfront of Palacios, these houses are designed. They're built with understanding that high tides can, it can move water over the roads. So that wasn't unexpected. We did expect to have significant flooding. We were hearing a feet-foot storm surge on top of the wave action. So, our folks down there responded, as they always do.

We just got off a holiday weekend. We have beautiful beaches along Matagorda. And we just got off a holiday week in a weekend. And so we were really worried about our visitors, but they were able to get out early enough now. So, that's happening just as we expected, significant flooding, road closures all along the Gulf Coast. Bay City is about 17 to 20 miles inland and we're experiencing significant rain, street flooding, a lot of debris on the ground and, again, power outages.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And as you said, it is always important to reinforce where people can hear you, if they have power and can hear our conversation.


As you said, you've still got three, four hours left of this before it's safe enough for your crews to get out there to start cleaning things up. So, people need to be real careful because you're still in the middle of this thing.

Mitch, thank you very much for jumping on with us. We're going to keep a close eye on this and track this with you. Mitch Thames. Thank you again.

Coming up for us, a surprise twist in France, the country now facing kind of a new political limbo right now after a left wing coalition unexpectedly surges and the far right party fell short of expectations. What's this mean for France and far beyond now?

And Angel Reese makes WNBA history.