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Don Lemon Tonight
U.S. Troops Leaves Afghanistan; U.S. Will Work To Get Remaining American Citizens; Louisiana Facing More Dark Nights; People Fight Over Mask Mandates; People Expects President Biden To Keep His Promise; Patience Running Out With People Lining Up In Gas Stations; Energy Companies Working Full Time; National Guard On Search And Rescue Operation. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 30, 2021 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): It's a lot of trouble. And you are very lucky to have Don Lemon Tonight on his big show because he understands that part of the country as well as anybody.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Yes.
CUOMO: So, D., I got to tell you this. They're saying that we got to push our leaders to make good with those hotel vouchers as soon as possible because with no power assuming they can find hotels in places with power, you know, with no power, sewage, you know, on the fritz, water is going to get dirty fast and people is going to steep in it and they're not going to have anything to drink.
Another great tip I just got is that if you're stuck but your car has OnStar, OnStar is working. This guy is able to communicate with people as a result. So, if you've got OnStar, although who am I saying this to? I'm sure they can't even see us right now.
LEMON: Yes. Well, you know what I did all weekend is constantly on the phone. For two weeks I've been trying to get them to come here. You know how people are. We've covered so many of these disasters. Many people just don't want to leave.
My entire family was there and they are there now, many spending time at my mother's. My mother has a generator. My brother-in-law doesn't. He's lost power. He and my nieces they still don't have power. They haven't had I think since yesterday.
CUOMO: It's going to be a while.
LEMON: Yes, it's going to be a while that they are going to get it back. My sister finally got power back to her home. But I'm just grateful that they're all OK but so many others are in situations far worse than my family. And I think that we're going to find that it's worse than we know right now once we start to get to the areas where there is no power, once they start finding people.
People have been displaced. But the hurt -- the, you know, the need is great. And Chris, we haven't even mentioned on top of that COVID. All of the hospitals are overrun with COVID patients. And there are some of them on backup generators. So, you know, it's a mess on top of a mess on top of a mess
CUOMO: You know, I got to tell you though not to get like, you know, deep, but it does make me wonder if you know if you think about it like what is going to be the answer in Louisiana? Collective concern and a sense of commonwealth. What's going to get these people that we just left behind in Afghanistan out? Common concern and collective will.
What's going to get us through and get these schools to stay open with our kids with COVID in the parts of the country that aren't in collapse from the storm right now? Common concern and collective will. We need one another more than ever. As we talk all the time with the audience, I don't remember us ever being weaker.
CUOMO: Maybe these catastrophes will remind people they got to give a damn about other people. They just have to. That's how it works here.
LEMON: Maybe in some way it'll help bridge the divide of the divide in this country of the political divide in this country because we've been -- it's time to stop it with the politics. Politics it seems to supersede everything. Let's hope it doesn't supersede goodwill and neighbors helping neighbors and that people realize, as you do in a catastrophe, right, especially in something like this, that you helped other people out. It is not just about you.
And it's the same thing, you know, when it comes to COVID, when it comes to, you know, of taking care of yourself. Making sure that you're OK, that you're vaccinated, to keep other people -- or wearing your mask, or social distancing, whatever it is that you're doing it not only for yourself but to help other people.
Because this is a crisis that you can see. Right? That just, if it's a hurricane and you see the crisis, you see the need, perhaps when it's COVID you don't -- you see it a different way. But we shouldn't do it that way. We should see every crisis as an opportunity to help the people we love or even the people we don't love, just our fellow citizens.
And so, I hope you're right. I hope you're right. And as a matter of fact, I just spoke to someone you're going to hear him very shortly who is an American citizen who is stuck in Afghanistan. And part of the things that we're talking about right now.
She went for 20 hours without using the restroom, without sleeping, without eating, without drinking trying to get to that gate at the airport and get out of there. No such luck still.
CUOMO: And now, look, they can talk the talk.
CUOMO: You know, we'll still work with the Taliban. That falls on deaf ears.
CUOMO: What is the State Department going to do?
CUOMO: How is it vetting these people? How is it making improvements? How is it expanding its capability especially now? We got to push on it because these are going to be hard times and not just inconvenient.
CUOMO: These are killers these people who are in control on the ground there.
LEMON: We have to remember. This is America. We're Americans. There's nothing -- there's pretty much nothing that we can't do if we all want to do it together.
LEMON: I'll see you soon. American.
CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon, especially tonight.
LEMON: I love you more, brother. Thank you, if only tonight. Thank you, brother. I'll see you soon.
This is Don Lemon Tonight. And here is our breaking news.
It is the end, the end of America's longest war. Look, this is -- we say this. You know, this is a history that people write about. But you are living in that history. This is a huge, huge milestone. If you're not paying attention to it you should and you should remember this day, regardless of how you feel about it politically. Where we go from here, after this, what we do from here is very, very important.
A lot of things happen whether you think it was mishandled, the exiting of Afghanistan, whatever you think, but what's going to really matter the most now, we can't go back in time, is how we move forward with this and what we do with it. One minute before the stroke of midnight in Afghanistan the last U.S. military plane took off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNETH MCKENZIE, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I'm here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens, third country nationals, and vulnerable Afghans. The last C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30th this afternoon at 3.29 p.m.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON (on camera): Historic. Historic. The plane carrying the last two U.S. officials to step off Afghan soil, the top U.S. diplomat in Kabul, in charge of the affairs, Ross Wilson, and General Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, the last soldier to leave Afghanistan, officially ending the 20-year war.
President Biden set to address the American people tomorrow afternoon putting out a statement saying, and I quote, "it was a unanimous recommendation of the joint chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our air lift mission as planned. Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead."
The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken vowing the United States will continue its commitment to Americans who still want to leave.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe there are still a small number of Americans, under 200, and likely closer to 100, who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave. We're trying to determine exactly how many. Our commitment to them and to all Americans in Afghanistan and everywhere in the world continues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): And the Pentagon acknowledging none of those Americans made it to the airport and on to the final five flights out of Kabul although they say that they were prepared to bring them onboard until the very last minute. I'm going to talk to one of those Americans left behind tonight.
Well, that as celebratory gun fire rang out in Kabul after the last U.S. C-17 lifted off from the airport, Taliban fighters entering a hangar and examining a CH-46 Chinook helicopter. CENTCOM says some U.S. military equipment was removed from Afghanistan and other items were disabled.
The U.S. military calling this the largest noncombatant evacuation in history. The U.S. and coalition aircraft combined to evacuate more than 123,000 civilians. Now tonight is the first time in 20 years that the United States has not had boots on the ground in Afghanistan -- 20 years.
Four American presidents, more than 2,000 U.S. troops killed action including 13 service members who died in the suicide bombing at the airport last week. Two trillion dollars spent. And President Joe Biden has put an end to it.
But there are up to 200 American citizens left behind, an untold number of Afghan allies who were desperately trying to escape the Taliban. And tonight, President Biden, who in his more than seven months in office hasn't had a single day without a crisis, tonight he is facing three. On the day of the war in Afghanistan ends the pandemic is raging here
at home. With 28 percent of the eligible population still unvaccinated, an average of 1,290 new COVID deaths every single day. And mask wars breaking out across the country. Adults resorting to a fist fight - you have to watch this - a fist fight over masks. The best way to protect kids who are too young to be vaccinated.
I want you to look at what happened when the school district in Lee County, Florida announced a mask mandate today. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: So, as you can see, fists are now flying. All of this on live television. Fists are flying. Unbelievable what we are seeing here today unfold live.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): That's the example you want to set for the children of this country? I hope Florida's children aren't the ones who pay a price for adults' misguided battles over masks.
All of that as millions of Americans are reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. One of the most powerful storms ever to hit the United States striking 16 years to the day since Katrina. You can hear the raw power of the storm in this video from inside the eyewall yesterday.
A second storm related death reported in my home state of Louisiana tonight and there are fears the death toll will rise. More than a million people are without power in the state. The entire city of New Orleans has no power. Some parts of Jefferson Parish expected to be out for at least three or four weeks.
The Biden administration officials will travel to Louisiana and Mississippi this week, the president saying this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The people of Louisiana and Mississippi are resilient but in moments like these, that we can surely see the power of government to respond to the needs of the people if government is prepared and if they respond. That's our job if we work together. Folks get knocked down. We're there to help you get back on your feet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): People in the plus, trapped in their homes by rising flood waters, went up to their attics to escape. One woman telling CNN that she slept on her kitchen island hoping that she would be above the flood waters.
And I want you to look at this coast guard video over Grand Isle, Louisiana. You can see how random the devastation is. Some houses totaled while some right next door are still standing. Water rescues across the region like this man in a wheelchair being lifted out of a boat. There was even a dolphin spotted swimming in flood waters in Slidell, Louisiana.
A deadly hurricane, a raging pandemic, and the end of the United States' longest war, the truth matters now more than ever. I have said this before that misinformation is killing us. And it's killing our democracy. Also, the division, right, and the misinformation?
So, this is something we cannot ignore. This is the whole point of what Chris and I were just talking about, sickening. The 100 percent false claim about President Joe Biden spread by conservatives on Twitter Saturday night, the completely disgraceful lie that the president of the United States did not show up at Dover Airforce Base to honor those 13 U.S. servicemembers who died in the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport last week.
A Republican congressional candidate in California tweeting, our heroes returned to American soil and Dover AFB today. Nobody from the Biden White House attended. The co-founder of students for Trump tweeting not even the president of the United States showed up and saying remember every moment of this. Well. Yes. Remember it. Right?
Laura Ingraham over at the Fox propaganda network tweeting the Biden administration didn't care about our troops. Richard Grenell who is acting Director of National Intelligence under the former guy tweeting this is so offensive.
Yes. It is offensive. It is offensive that they would falsely claim that President Joe Biden didn't show up to honor our fallen troops. Of course, he did. You see him right there with the first lady Jill Biden, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state. And other administration officials were right there with him.
As a matter of fact, I watched it live on television. I'm sure many of you did, too. I stood there in front of my television and just watched live as I saw the president and members of his administration. Wolf Blitzer was covering it for us here on CNN. You saw it live.
The first of those tweets, which were noted by Twitter, on Twitter by Travis Akers a progressive navy vet popped up on Saturday. The military plane carrying the servicemembers' remains didn't even land at Dover until Sunday morning.
The false tweets were eventually deleted but only after they spread like wildfire. Like I said, the truth matters. America's longest war is over. But what about the Americans left behind? What is going to happen to them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLINKEN: We've gotten many out. But many are still there. We will keep working to help them. Our commitment to them has no deadline.
(END VIDEO CLIP) [22:15:00]
LEMON (on camera): The Pentagon announcing the last U.S. military planes have left Afghanistan marking the end of the United States' longest war. It is the first time in nearly two decades that the U.S. and its allies have not had troops on the ground. The Secretary of State Tony Blinken says there are still one or 200 Americans in Afghanistan who want to leave.
Joining me now is the former Defense Secretary William Cohen. Secretary, thank you for joining us. I appreciate it. Good evening to you.
For the first time in 20 years there are no U.S. troops in Afghanistan, four presidents presiding over America's longest war, $2 trillion, thousands of lives lost. It is historic. Taliban is celebrating what it is calling its independence. What do you think this means for the United States?
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, first, Don, let me say I have mixed emotions about today or last night their time. It's one of relief, grief, and gratitude, three words that come to mind. I'm relieved we got our troops out without suffering more casualties. I'm grieving because of the loss of 13 servicemen and women. And to see those flag draped coffins come in to Dover. I've been there before. I know what that means.
And I'm grateful. I'm grateful for the men and women who serve us. They have shown what heroism, patriotism really is. They are willing to put their lives on the line to free people who have not known freedom. And I'm angry when I see people in our country who are engaging in fist fights over mask requirements for their kids.
There are people in the world who would climb over mountains and crawl through deserts to get here, and if they were asked just to wear a mask to protect them and their families and us, they would do it without hesitation.
So, relief, grief, gratitude, I think we all owe a debt that we can never repay for those who have lost their lives, the parents who have sent their sons and daughters, husbands and wives and wives their husbands into battle. And I want us to recognize this day, how much we owe them and to feel proud.
The military has not lost that battle, have not lost the battles individually. The war was lost almost from the day it began and we'll go through that as congressmen and women examine all the choices that were made, when they were made, and what decision was relied upon, what information we had. That will come and it comes soon enough.
But for this moment I wish we just pause and understand the grief that these Americans are going through, these parents are going through right now, the families, what they've lost and what they have given. And so, that's what I'm feeling today.
What is going to happen in the future? We may not have combat boots on the ground. We may have hushpuppies. We may have people still working throughout Afghanistan who are with us who may be Americans and may be allies of ours who may be those from other countries in the region who will do whatever they can to make sure that the secretary of state and the president of the United States keep that commitment that we will do whatever is necessary to get our people out, our Americans out, and those who have helped us. I think we have to hold them to account for that.
And as the media moves on, you mentioned there were three crises facing President Biden. There are actually four. You have COVID which is ravaging this country. You have fires on the West Coast. You have droughts on the farmlands. And you have hurricanes and water submerging the state of Louisiana and Mississippi.
So, we got four major crises. And now we have one in terms of the break in our unified spirit. The United States of America that we hold up to the world. And this is the image you want the world to see? They're not only firing bullets in Afghanistan, they're breaking out the champagne in Russia and China and other countries to say this is what America, has happened to America.
We have got to get back to being who we proclaim to be to start acting like we're patriots. Start acting like we care about one another. And you can see it take place in Louisiana right now. You can see people coming together fighting to get to people to get them out of harm's way.
That's the country we're supposed to be not one who goes and engage in fist fights or threaten each other over either getting a vaccination or wearing a mask.
COHEN: We have got to return to the America we are supposed to be not the one we are representing right now --
COHEN: -- through (Inaudible) place in this country.
LEMON: It is the most unbelievable thing as I saw that video, all of these over masks and which most people don't even know the science. It's nonsensical. It's just nonsensical. But let's -- listen, I want to keep it here. Because I think this is heartbreaking for people left behind this must be devastating. I say it with a caveat.
We were speaking a week ago or maybe a little bit more than a week ago. No one thought that America would be able to get this many people out. But there are still some left behind. It must be devastating to them. Now what is going to happen to them?
COHEN: They don't know and frankly we don't know. If we look at past performance on the part of the Taliban, they're going to search for them and try to kill them. And will execute them in a public fashion I would expect.
But the Taliban have to be concerned about something right now. They have a cancer at work within their country. They're in charge for the moment. ISIS is coming after them. Al Qaeda is coming after them. They are going to have to be on their knee -- on their feet watching everyone around them.
They had to be concerned about the northern alliance. People in the northern alliance group fought a war against them before and who may be inclined to fight another one against them. They may ironically be calling upon the United States in the future to help save them from Al Qaeda and ISIS.
I don't anticipate that will be the case but it would not shock me. It would not surprise me that saying hey, Mr. USA, can you help us out with that great intelligence you have because we can't pick these people out. You may be able to with your sophistication. Would you please communicate it to us so we can protect ourselves? I don't know that will be the case but I'm not willing to throw the farm away on the basis of it.
COHEN: So, I'd say don't give up hope in Afghanistan. We will do the best we can whatever we can to get back into your country through various means that we may have available that are not known to the public right now and should not be disclosed.
But I'm convinced that President Biden means what he says. I think our secretary of state means what he says. We just have to make sure we hold them accountable and make sure they carry out and match the words with deeds.
LEMON: Secretary Cohen, always a pleasure. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. Thank you.
So, we're going to turn to what happened in my home state and now is going across other parts of the United States and will eventually end up on the East Coast. Right? Millions without power. Homes demolished, devastating floods.
We're going to go to my home state of Louisiana where Ida hit hard and I'm going to speak with the White House adviser that President Biden said would be a direct line to him when it comes to getting help down there.
LEMON (on camera): Search and rescue workers scouring flooded homes in Louisiana trying to find survivors of Hurricane Ida. The storm causing catastrophic damage across the southeastern part of the state killing at least two people. The governor there, John Bel Edwards, saying that he fully expects the death count to go up.
I want to bring in now CNN correspondent Brian Todd who is in New Orleans, he has been on the scene covering this hurricane for us. He is still there now.
Brian, good evening to you. I imagine you are in the French Quarter. I am hearing music. The entirety of New Orleans had its power knocked out. Teams are scrambling to find survivors across southeast Louisiana. I understand that we're going to -- we're going to get some new video of a flyover with the Coast Guard over one of the hardest hit areas. What do you have for us?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don. One of our photojournalists, Dominic Swann was able to ride with a Coast Guard unit out of Corpus Christi over the island of Grand Isle, Louisiana. That was just a couple of hours ago that Dominic got that ride with the Coast Guard chopper that flew over Grand Isle.
This is one of these places that rescue and recovery teams are going to take a while to get to. It's very remote, very isolated, not accessible by road. We are told that we believe that it's only accessible by boat at the moment.
And what Dominic told me, I spoke to him a short time ago after he landed, he told me that when he flew over, he saw a lot of wind damage to buildings, he saw a lot of debris thrown all over the place on Grand Isle. He was a little surprised that he, you know, with his eye when he was shooting some of this video, he did not see buildings flattened which was surprising to him and to me because we all know that Grand Isle was really squarely in the path of Hurricane Ida as it made landfall.
One of those places that was just, you know, those outer barrier islands that got walloped by Hurricane Ida. So, the fact that no building at least to the eye from above looked to be flattened that could be a good sign.
But again, these rescue and recovery teams, Don, have to get to Grand Isle, have to get to other barrier islands out there just to see if, number one, if anyone is out there who needs help or anyone is alive out there who can be rescued, and number two, about the building damage. That's going to take a little while.
LEMON: Earlier today I understand that you were in Slidell, as well as Chalmette. What's the situation there?
TODD: Right, Don. We got up to Slidell and we saw some heavy flooding on the roads that was still there. The mayor of Slidell had told us that he was afraid by midday even that they were going to see more flooding, even worse flooding because even though some of the flood waters, the initial flood waters have recessed, he was worried that shifts in the winds from the remnants of Hurricane Ida that were still kind of hanging around were going to shift some of the tides of Lake Pontchartrain up into his town and cause even more flooding.
Now we don't know at this moment whether that actually happened but Slidell was very hard hit by some flooding. And what we saw it today was nearly waist deep in flooding. We could not transmit from there because there were no signals available. So, we had to shoot our video and then leave.
Then we caught up to some people at a very, very long line for gasoline in Chalmette. That's in St. Bernard Parish not too far from downtown New Orleans. These people were waiting in line for two hours, three hours per person. We talked to a lot of them. They were desperate for gas. Some of them needed it for their vehicles, some of them needed it for their generators at home.
The owner of the gas station told us that he had started the day with 5,000 gallons, by the time we left him at 7 p.m. He was down to 2,800. He thinks he -- he thought he was going to run out of gas tonight but he had spoken to a refinery and he was hoping to get another delivery of gas tomorrow.
But you can see from these lines and the video that we're showing you here these people are desperate. They wait two to three hours in a long line that goes a mile down the street. And the owner said that he had to call the police a couple of times to break up fights between patrons who were fighting over a place in line.
So, it's getting more tense, Don, with the power out here and, you know, the power company saying that in some areas maybe not New Orleans but we don't know, in some areas there are going to be without power for maybe a few weeks. But they did say that like 90 percent, Entergy said 90 percent of their customers will not have to wait that long.
But again, they are not giving time tables, Don, for when the power is going to be restored in some of these areas. They can't really give those timetables right now. And every day here in New Orleans and the environs that goes by without power is another day of kind of high tension here.
We got some police vehicles now patrolling the streets in the French Quarter just making their presence known. The police, Don, incidentally are deploying antilooting teams in this area as we speak, they want to prevent the destruction of property that we saw during Hurricane Katrina.
LEMON: Are you near -- are you near a bar on Bourbon Street?
TODD: We're near several bars on Bourbon Street.
TODD: But I don't think any of them are open, Don. We kind of went up and down the street. We don't see anything open. And you know, again, it's so unusual, it's so eerie here. Not only the pitch black, you know, environment here but just that nothing, nothing is open.
LEMON: Yes. TODD: And then we start to wonder, like, where are people going to go to get food, the grocery stores have not been open. That's going to be a real story, I think in the coming days.
LEMON: Yes. The only reason I ask is I remember during Katrina and after the only bar that was open was Johnny Whites and open during. It's now closed, it's now been closed but don't let that fool you. That is, people that are hurting but that's a resilient spirit of New Orleans and Louisiana because they will sing --
LEMON: -- and try to get through things with music and with laughter and with love, and so that's what you're hearing there in the French Quarter and Brian Todd. Brian, thank you. We appreciate your reporting. We'll check back with you.
We want to get now to the senior adviser to President Joe Biden and former Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond. He's taking the lead at the White House on helping states get any assistance that they need.
Cedric, I know you recognize what you're hearing there on Bourbon Street because you are from New Orleans and I appreciate you joining us. I think you are the perfect person to lead this effort here.
So, the president says that -- good evening to you, by the way. The president says you're the direct line to the White House for helping states get what they need. You know Louisiana well, congressman there for a decade. What's the hard -- what are the hardest hit areas like? What do people need most?
CEDRIC RICHMOND, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Well, the hardest hit areas you have to look at Grand Isle, Port Fourchon, so you take Jefferson Parish, you look at Lafitte. You come down in New Orleans in terms of the power.
One thing I will say, Don, is that the levees, the $14 billion investment that we made into levees and surge protection for the New Orleans metropolitan area, it held.
RICHMOND: And it shows that we still need further investment in the west shore project to protect St. Johns, St. James, St. Charles, and those river parishes. But it worked. And so, this was a massive storm. And it lived up to its fears.
And so, now our priorities are, one, to continue with search and rescue. We have over 17 urban search and rescue teams down in different areas looking to help people escape from their predicament and then if you look at the next phase of this will be to restore power, to make sure we can get that done.
Today we had great success in restoring communications when we woke up this morning a lot of cell phone carriers didn't have necessarily coverage for people. And now that has improved remarkably. Nine-one- one was down when we talked to the mayor earlier of New Orleans and we had our DHS on the ground helping. It's now been restored.
And then we'll go into, also at the same time is making sure that we can provide emergency food, shelter, and water. So, we have to do a lot of things at once but the one thing we do know is we have to work with our state and local partners and nongovernmental agencies to make sure that we're delivering all of the things that people need.
Because it is a very hard situation and it's draining mentally, physically, and sometimes you just feel helpless because you don't have food. You don't have electricity. You don't have all of the basic necessities and you feel that you're out there on your own.
But we're going to show that government is here to deliver for its people.
RICHMOND: And so that's why the president has called the whole of government focus on recovery.
LEMON: Yes. So, anyway, you don't even have shelter. And look, you know, you can, I know you got them, too, probably more than me, but texts from everybody. Number one, how's your family? Number two, you know, I've been communicating with the governor and with Mitch Landrieu and I knew you were busy so I didn't text you, Cedric, except to come on the show tonight.
But everyone, you know what they want to know. They're asking me. I know you spoke to the governor. I know you spoke with Mitch Landrieu. Ask them when our power is going to come back on. That's what everyone wants to know. They need that power. Can you update us on the power situation?
RICHMOND: Well, I can. I can't just give you very specific answers. So, today was the first day of assessments done by the utility companies, Entergy in particular for the New Orleans area. They'll do more assessments tomorrow and Wednesday and it'll give a better sense of when electricity will start to come back on line.
And so, we hope it's sooner rather than the speculation of weeks and weeks that we heard earlier. I think what's important here, Don, and I want to emphasize this is information is power but it has to be accurate information so that people can make the best decisions for them and their families.
And right now, we can't give a certain estimate or definite estimate on when people will have power restored until Entergy and other utility companies finish their assessments.
But I will say this. There are 25,000 line workers that are in New Orleans ready to start fixing electrical poles and everything else to give people their utilities back as soon as the assessment is done. So, it's all hands-on deck. But we're not going to make irresponsible promises. We want to get facts to people. But the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, Homeland
Security, everybody working with utility companies from 32 states that have people down in the metropolitan area. That is to restore electricity to the one million people in Louisiana that don't have it and the 200,000 in Mississippi that don't have power. So, that is our focus right now along with search and rescue.
LEMON: Cedric, thank you. Listen, before you go, I want to ask you one more thing. Forty-one percent of Louisiana population are fully vaccinated. It really is adding an extra layer of difficulty on top of this because people are in confined quarters if they, you know, if they go into shelters at their, you know, their aunt's house or cousin's house, wherever, they're all in confined places and COVID is running rampant. What's your message?
RICHMOND: Well, that's why the president a few weeks ago came out and talked about the importance of vaccinations especially as we're in hurricane season. And I would just tell people to be responsible.
First of all, we're making it so easy for people to get vaccination but if you don't have a vaccination and you are go into a shelter, wear a mask. Socially distance. Do the things that the CDC has recommended over and over to stop the spread of COVID-19. And especially for those children who are not old enough to get the vaccination, it's up to responsible adults to protect them by socially distancing, wearing a mask, but more importantly getting vaccinated.
And so, you will hear us continue to stay on that. Louisiana is actually doing better than we were doing. However, we can't take satisfaction in that because we have a long way to go. And so, we're just going to continue to work.
And the other thing I will stress, Don, is that hurricane season is not over. And so, we have a lot of work to do. We have to come together as a community, come together as a country to make sure we are lifting each other up and when we start talking about vaccinations that's part of beating COVID-19 getting us back to normalcy and moving the country forward.
LEMON: Yes. Cedric Richmond, thank you, sir. I really appreciate you joining us tonight. Be well. Is it your family, everybody good down there?
RICHMOND: Everybody is good. I think we escaped real serious property damage but we want to pay it forward and help those communities that really took a beating.
RICHMOND: That's what we'll focus on.
RICHMOND: And I get to do that by working in the White House.
LEMON: Thank you very much. My family is well as well. They're all good. Someone lost power but I'm just glad that they're all here and they're safe. Thank you, Cedric. I appreciate it. Be well. Talk to you soon. We'll be right back.
LEMON (on camera): Tonight at least two people are dead and more than a million without power after Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana as a category four storm. Ida now a tropical depression but leaving massive damage in its wake, hundreds of people trapped by flooding.
Joining me now from Baton Rouge is Major General Keith Waddell, he is the adjunct general of the Louisiana National Guard. We're so happy to have you here. Do I have it right, is it Waddell or Waddell?
KEITH WADDELL, ADJUTANT GENERAL, LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD: Waddell, Don.
LEMON: I got it. I thought Louisiana it has got to be Waddell. Thank you so much. Thank you for joining us, general. I appreciate what you do. Thank you for your service.
The Louisiana Guard has been out all day doing search and rescue. How large is the rescue mission that's underway right now?
WADDELL: Well, first off, Don, thank you for having me on the show this evening. I really appreciate the opportunity to tell Louisiana National Guard's story.
As far as the situation that we're in with search and rescue, we spent the bulk of the day working search and rescue. It kicked off this morning on the ground side at about 4, 4.15 this morning, on the air side about 6.15. We worked it really hard across southeast Louisiana. And we ended up with search and rescue, we rescued 348 people, 48 pets, and were able to get those folks to safety.
We have currently, you know, a little over 5,100 guardsmen that are deployed across Louisiana in 29 parishes and we're getting more help from 13 states here from other National Guards and I would like to thank the governors, adjutant governors from these other states as well as the National Guard Bureau for helping us out, as well as the active duty service for doing it as well with the army, navy, air force, and marines.
So, holistically, Don, we got a tremendous team assembled. Lots of resources that we can pour in Louisiana to meet the needs to save lives, prevent human suffering, and protect the infrastructure.
LEMON: You said 348 people, 48 pets. And you had 5,100 guardsmen there --
WADDELL: Yes, sir.
LEMON: -- in 29 parishes. So, do you know how many more people still need help tonight? Are you still trying to figure that out, are you still trying to get to folks?
WADDELL: Well, right now, you know, and that's the Louisiana National Guard's numbers, Don. You know, if we had all of the agencies that were involve with, obviously that number will be a lot higher. I think the last thing I saw it was in excess of 600 plus with people.
But I know tomorrow we'll focus back in St. John and Tangipahoa. Those are the two areas that I was briefed up on this morning that we need to go back in and do some more sweep. But we're continuing to work around the clock with our local, state, and federal partners to get that done.
I think today was a very good day. You know, in Louisiana National Guard, we talk about winning the day. And when you think holistically of all the things that go along with a major storm, and I know you're from Louisiana so you can appreciate this statement, it almost gets overwhelming if you think of it holistically.
So, you got to break it down into day by day. And if you can win each day, then a lot of good is going to be done for the citizens of Louisiana and the visitors to our state. So, as we break it down that way, Don, I look and see, if you're going to win today, you got to have a winning team.
And you know, we're very blessed here in Louisiana with some superb partners at the local, state, and federal levels, a lot of great citizens. I know some of them are stranded right now. We're working to get them taken care of. And we have some that evacuated that are anxious to get back home. But you know in Louisiana we're very resilient people.
WADDELL: And we've been through these sorts of things in the past. We've got lots of experience with it. And we've learned a lot of lessons over time.
WADDELL: And I know all our citizens here remember the three major storms that hit our state last week -- or last year, excuse me. And like I said, that overwhelming feeling, certainly that fear is there, but we're here to assure all the citizens of Louisiana and the visitors to our state, you know, we're going to work it hard each and every day, 24/7, until the mission is over, to make sure we can resume some semblance of normalcy, hopefully sooner rather than later.
LEMON: Well, Major General, you got some great people helping there, you are one of them. And we thank you for what you're doing. Thank you for your service and thank you for keeping the people of my home state safe and making life better for them under these circumstances. I appreciate you. Thanks.
WADDELL: You bet, Don. Hey, can I give a shout out to our soldiers and airmen that are deployed overseas?
LEMON: What do you think I'm going to say no to that? Are you kidding me? Absolutely.
WADDELL: Yes. We have 2,400 guardsmen currently deployed overseas in the Middle East, and we have some on the southwest border mission. And we're super proud of their service overseas and the south best border. And please know your teammates back home along with all the states and active component service members that are supporting us, you're making a difference and God bless each and every one of you protect what matters.
LEMON: Thank you, sir. I appreciate you as I said.
WADDELL: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Be safe, be safe, be safe.
We'll be right back.
WADDELL: Yes, sir.
LEMON (on camera): Take this. Three conservative radio show hosts well, who promoted anti-mask or antivaccine views have died after contracting coronavirus in just the past few weeks.
Florida conservative talk radio host Marc Bernier died on Saturday. He was 65 years old. A local paper, the Daytona Beach News Journal says that he referred to himself as, quote, "Mr. anti-vax," when asked if he was going to get the shot.
Nashville-based host Phil Valentine also died from the virus last week. He was 61. Before he died Valentine published the song mocking the push to get vaccinated, parroting the Beatles' "Taxman" to "Vaxman."
In a statement after his hospitalization, Valentine's radio station urged people to get vaccinated.
And Dick Farrell, a Florida-based talk radio host passed away from coronavirus earlier this month. In July, a Facebook post promoted distrust in the vaccine, calling it 'bullshid' with a D.
So, do not wait until it is too late, everyone because the virus does not care about your political beliefs. Get vaccinated. It could save your life.
Next, a 20-year war ending today. The final military plane in Afghanistan taking off a minute before midnight Afghanistan time.