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Don Lemon Tonight

President Joe Biden Is To Visit New York And New Jersey; White House Faces One Crisis After Another; Number Of COVID Cases Four Times Higher Than Last Labor Day; Texas Hospital Refuses To Treat Patient With Ivermectin After Family Wins Lawsuit; Attorney General Pledges To Protect Abortion Clinics In Texas That May Come 'Under Attack'; Gov. Newsom Rallies Union Workers One Week Before Recall. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 06, 2021 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST (on camera): This is special edition of DON LEMON TONIGHT. I'm Laura Coates, in for Don Lemon. On this Labor Day, President Joe Biden is just hours away from a visit to New York and New Jersey where at least 52 people lost their lives. This after Ida slammed the region with flooding and tornadoes just last week.

The president is declaring major disasters in multiple counties in both states. That is as hundreds of thousands of people are in their second week without power in a sweltering Louisiana.

And the president is facing one challenge after another. The deadly storm is coming on the heels of the end of America's longest war and the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. President Biden's is job approval rating dropping to just 44 percent.

Then there is the economy, extended pandemic unemployment benefits expiring today in the wake of a massively disappointing August jobs report.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There's no question that the delta variant is why today's job report isn't stronger. I know people are looking, and I was hoping for a higher number.


COATES (on camera): The president is blaming the surging delta variant. But amid holiday weekend travel and packed stadiums and celebrations, America is acting like the threat from COVID is over, even though the fact is we are actually much worse off than we were a year ago. The seven-day average of new cases is up a stunning 300 percent from Labor Day just last year.


ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR, DIRECTOR OF THE U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The first thing we have to do -- we can't be having 150,000 new infections per day. That's pandemic numbers. That's the first thing. We've got to crack that one right away.


COATES (on camera): So, it may be the worst possible time for any confusion about the booster shots. The White House may have to scale up the booster rollout this month to just the Pfizer vaccine at first. Moderna boosters may be delayed a week or two for data review.

And then there is the outrage over the New York total abortion ban in Texas. President Biden is calling it almost un-American, to allow citizens to sue anybody helping someone get an abortion in Texas.

Attorney General Merrick Garland today pledging to protect abortion clinics in Texas, saying, quote, "The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack."

Meanwhile, the president's infrastructure plan is in jeopardy from one of his own. Joe Manchin is calling for a pause on the $3.5 trillion bill. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain is optimistic that the package could still pass.


RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We worked with Senator Manchin in every step of the way. He's been a partner of our administration. He has strong views, others have views. We're going to work together to find a way to put together a package that can pass the House, that can pass the Senate, and that can be put on the president's desk and signed into law.


COATES (on camera): A lot to talk about tonight. Joining me now is CNN White House correspondent John Harwood. John, good to see. You know, John, just hours from now, President Biden is set to travel to New York and New Jersey to now survey the storm damage from Hurricane Ida. So, what is he going to see and who will he meet with while he is there?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's going to land in Queens, Laura, and then immediately go to New Jersey. He'll be in Manville, which suffered terrible flooding. He will meet with local leaders there. Then he will return to Queens, visit localities in East Elmhurst in Queens and make some remarks there. I would be surprised if he doesn't see one or both of the governors, Phil Murphy in New Jersey, Kathy Hochul in New York.

But this is a moment where the president needs to mark the tragedy. Of course, as you indicated, was in Louisiana late last week which had terrible damage. But then the loss of life in New York and New Jersey by the surprise nature of this incredible flooding is something that has the entire region in shock.

This is a moment when the president has to not only direct federal resources on the ground, which he has done and signed a disaster declaration and all that, but also demonstrate commonality with people and feel their pain, as we used to say of Bill Clinton. So, that's what tomorrow is going to be about for him.


HARWOOD: And as you mentioned, Laura, he just got one crisis, one problem after the other. This is the most difficult moment of his presidency.

COATES: I think I heard the other day you called it the agony of August. What a true statement, John, to think about what has occurred. And of course, it is not just what he is enduring. It is the nation as a whole. It is what happened collectively. But this is a time as well for him to probably push his infrastructure agenda, right?

HARWOOD: That's right. You know, you played that clip from Ron Klain expressing optimism that they can get this done. There is reason for them to think after what we've seen in the last few months a lot of hairpin turns and difficult moments but Democrat, when they've had to, have held together. But the president needs to make that case publicly and keep making it.

One of the arguments for the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which follows the physical infrastructure bill that was passed on the bipartisan basis, is there a lot of steps to address climate? Climate resilience, ways in which the infrastructure of the United States can be better prepared for these extreme weather events which we are seeing more and more frequently, and making vivid that throughout climate change that we've been talking about for a number of years.

It is still going to be a challenge to get the money from Congress but events like this can help make the president's case.

COATES: John, you know, my daughter asked me, mommy, history seems to happen a lot these years, right, these sorts of events. I looked at her and said it is not coincidental. Thank you for your time. Nice talking to you, John.

I want to get right to the latest on Hurricane Ida recovery efforts as well in Louisiana. CNN's Martin Savidge is in New Orleans. Martin, good to see you down there. I mean, half a million customers are still without power down there. I mean, how long until the lights go back on? I see something behind you but, overall, the lights are really off down there.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Right. If you're talking outside the city of New Orleans, let us just show you New Orleans right now, looking a lot brighter than it did a few days ago. They've got about 70 percent of the power restored in the city. They estimate most of the city will have their lights back by Wednesday. Take a look at the center median here. These are not tourist vehicles. This is Canal Street. Normally, the street cars would be running here. Instead, it is packed for blocks, hundreds and hundreds of first responder vehicles, the power company trucks, the engineering trucks, the woodcutting trucks. They're all here. Twenty-six towers and power line personnel are coming from 40 different states just trying to get the light back on. A lot of success in the city of New Orleans, yes.

The hard work is still that half a million number of customers in the more rural parishes and the more remote communities where power lines have come down in some very difficult areas to reach, which is why power companies are now saying that it could be for those parishes, not until the end of the month before they see electricity. They say that's the farthest out, they believe, but they're still warning it could be weeks in many cases.

It's been sweltering temperatures. It is September, and down here, that is still a very hot humid time. So, there is still a lot of suffering despite the fact that there is some improvement and yeah, it has gotten brighter in the city.

COATES: Martin, what is the latest right now on the investigation of senior citizens who are left without care after the hurricane in the conditions you are speaking about?

SAVIDGE: Right. This is -- you know, you see this time and time again in a number of disasters, especially post hurricane. It seems that the elderly are the ones that suffer the most. It happened after Katrina and it seems to have happened again here in the city of New Orleans and in elsewhere in the state of Louisiana.

On Friday, the city health department decided to investigate a number of buildings where they knew they had a high population of elderly people. When they got in those buildings, they said they found horrible conditions. Temperatures have soared. Most of the units, of course, had no electricity, no air-conditioning. In fact, the elevators didn't even work so people couldn't get down to the ground floor. They literally were trapped within their own building.

Over the weekend, they found more and more buildings with similar deplorable conditions. And in some cases, it looked like the staff had evacuated, but they have left the elderly behind to somehow get by on their own resources. And at least five people were found to be dead.

The investigation is just beginning now. The mayor is calling this neglect in some cases and it could be possibly not only investigated but prosecuted. We'll have to see.

COATES: Truly shocking and unbelievable. Martin, thank you.

I want to turn to latest on the recovery in the northeast now. Joining me now is New York City Council Member Francisco Moya. Nice to see you. Thank you for joining me today. You know, as you know, President Biden has issued a major disaster declaration that does include Queens. So what do you want President Biden to see when he visits tomorrow? [23:10:00]

FRANCISCO MOYA, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Thank you, Laura, for having me. I just think that this is a very critical moment for this administration, to look at how the infrastructure and the bureaucracy are really not working for the public.

New York City and the federal government have been going back and forth for a number of years now on these flood resiliency maps where they argue over which areas should be covered by the flood maps here and it has created this big problem because what we saw in the devastation, especially in the district in East Elmhurst and in LeFrak, LeFrak which has 22,000 residents, over 20 building, only two out of the 60 elevators were working, the basement apartments were flooded, no hot water.

In East Elmhurst, floodplains (ph) which we already knew about, which is very close to the LaGuardia Airport where the president is going to land tomorrow, all of those areas have always been prone to flooding. And the city has never done a thing to change the maps, which now has created a major problem in which people can really go and receive the proper flood insurance to get paid for the damages that have been done.

And thankfully, with the president coming in here and bringing FEMA to this area, people would be able to get that money to help them repair the damages that have been done to their homes. But it is a bigger problem (ph).

COATES: It is a bigger problem, as you're talking about it, to prevent this from even happening (INAUDIBLE) even have that notice. Look at this video, council member. It's of an attempted rescue of a couple and a two-year-old from a flooded basement in Queens. Now, we have learned, unfortunately, that they were later found dead. But look at this water level. I mean, it's beyond alarming.

How do you make sure that no one faces a danger like that again? Insurance data aside, how do you prevent something like this?

MOYA: We can do this. This is again a failure on the city's part. Just weeks ago, we were rigorously preparing for Hurricane Henri to came and went. We didn't do the same for Ida. When people got notice on their phones that it was a state of emergency, it was already too late. It was at 9:00.

I have put in a study with the Brett (ph) Institute about how we can retrofit buildings, especially homes that have converted their basements to legal conversions because we have a housing crisis here in New York City. And the fact is that most people are looking for places to live and they're renting out their basements illegally. Those are the real dangers that are being close right now to our residents.

The city has a responsibility to not only ensure that we are putting the safety first, but that we're making the right investment so that homeowners can actually retrofit their basements to make them safer so tragedies like this don't ever happen again.

And that falls on the responsibility of this mayor. He really has to do a better job than just saying, okay, after we saw the disaster that came in last week from the hurricane, say, now we have a plan. We knew that this was going to be a problem. This could have been prevented. We need to make sure now more than ever that we are going to ensure that this tragedy never happens again.

And we have to do this by ensuring that we can cut through the bureaucracy because a lot of people will always hear the same thing. The city is going to be here to help the federal government. It is great that President Biden is coming tomorrow to Queens. But that's just not enough. You know, this was the epicenter of COVID, corona in Elmhurst. This whole area was the epicenter of COVID.

We saw the disparities that took place during that moment, where we couldn't be the first ones that were prioritized for the vaccines. It has to be now that we have the moment to correct the wrongs that have been done here in this community and ensure that the people who have suffered from the flood damage are the first ones to really get the money for the recovery.

COATES: Council Member Moya, not a time to be told to wait your turn. Thank you for your time. I appreciate it so much.

MOYA: Thank you so much. Take care.

COATES: Hundreds of thousands of people are grappling with the recovery from last week's deadly storm. The Delta variant is surging across the country, disappointing job growth, and it's all on President Biden's plate. So, what it is going to take to move forward with his domestic agenda?




COATES: President Biden has had to survey storm damage in the northeast tomorrow. That's just one of the many crises on his plate. There is the Afghanistan fallout, the surging pandemic, a slowdown in job creation, all with his agenda on the line.

Let us discuss with CNN political commentators former Congressman Charlie Dent and Joe Lockhart. Gentlemen, nice to see you both.

Joe, I want to begin with you, because with all these different ongoing crises, some by the way are out of his control, you know, the president wants to be focused on getting his domestic agenda passed because he knows that's what the American people want, but this is a very important moment in his presidency, isn't it?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is. I don't think President Biden thought that this would be easy. It's a very challenging job in a very challenging time. But I think it important to separate challenges from a crisis. The reconciliation bill is a challenge, but he's gotten the two big bills through earlier when people said he wouldn't.

The real crisis in this country is a three-fold. One, COVID, and getting a handle on that has been very difficult given the vaccine hesitancy. The second is he'll be dealing with tomorrow, which is climate change, which we see in the storms.


LOCKHART: And then the third is whether women are going to have the choice on whether -- what they can do with their own bodies. And in each of these cases, the Republican Party and leaders, not all Republicans, but leaders have stood in the way of -- or created the problem.

So I think, you know, the president has a number of challenges which he can and will deal with, but we do have these crises that he does have to deal with.

COATES: Charlie, what's your reaction to the idea of a challenge versus the crisis, and who is to hurdle?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE: I think the biggest opportunity for Joe Biden right now is pick up the phone and tell the speaker to bring up the bipartisan infrastructure bill. That should happen now. There is a commitment supposedly to have this thing done before September 7th -- 27th. That's the most important thing he can do.

He is clearly dealing with the Afghanistan fallout. That's obviously hurting him. The other thing too is the reconciliation package. I think personally, it's too large. I think he's got to scale that thing down considerably.

Bottom line is, right now, they have an opportunity to do something on infrastructure and it's being held up in the House. So I think there's plenty of opportunity right now for Democrats to move the ball forward.

COATES: Except, Joe, one thing is that, of course, the status of the both the infrastructure and budget bills, they're in limbo not just because of a Republican -- I think we lost Charlie for a second -- not because of a Republican or just in the House. I mean, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin called for a pause now on the $3.5 trillion budget and the midterms are coming sooner than you think. So, I mean, how does he carry over the finish line before it's too late?

LOCKHART: Well, I think, as you heard from Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, earlier in the program, there is a lot of work to be done. This is a framework. And, you know, Joe Manchin is a serious player for Democrats. He doesn't see issues like a lot of other Democrats in the Senate.

But I think if you look at what the president did on the stimulus bill and what he did on the infrastructure bill, you see a blueprint there, a road map to finding common ground not just with democrats and that's a bigger issue, but also with Republicans.

The infrastructure bill in the Senate, I think, is something like seven or eight or nine Republicans going forward. So this is all possible but there's a lot of hard work to do.

COATES: Congressman, on this point, I think we have you back as well, I mean, President Biden's latest approval rating is only about 44 percent. It is just -- I know it's a snapshot of how Americans are feeling. But that is not a kind of thing the White House wants to see, 44 percent approval, 51 percent disapproval.

DENT: Yeah, of course. I think that is largely due to the Afghanistan withdrawal that was terribly biased. Don't get me wrong. The evacuation by our troops and diplomats was extraordinary but policy that led up to it was a fiasco. And I think that's really hurting the president very much, more than just about anything else that's going on right now, too.

Also, I think the spending package, I think a lot of swing and persuadable voters across this country are concerned about this $3.5 trillion package. They think it's too big. It's not with Joe Biden -- it doesn't seem like what Joe Biden promised. It seems more like what Bernie Sanders promised in terms of making this country look like Scandinavia in terms of programs.

So I think that's his biggest challenge right now. The abortion law in Texas, of course, I think it's the Democrats opportunity to portray Republicans as very extreme. That loss certainly is out of balance. And so that was actually a gift from the Texas GOP to the Democrats, to focus on an issue that's more in their comfort zone.

COATES: Joe, what do you think? Excuse me, congressman. There is your point. I don't mean to cut you off there.

DENT: No, I think it just puts that abortion law in Texas really -- gives Democrats an opportunity to try and really push back harder on Republicans for being out of touch. And I think that's part of the only thing that's really helping Democrats right now more than anything else because this agenda for the Democrats is enormous.

They have to deal with the debt ceiling. They have to deal with the infrastructure bill, reconciliation bill. They have a lot that they have to deal with in addition Hurricane Ida relief.

COATES: Joe, I wonder if you think it's a gift, as congressman was speaking about, but also, Attorney General Merrick Garland, you know, is pledging to protect abortion clinics in Texas by enforcing a federal law that basically prohibits making threats against a patient who is trying to get reproductive health services or even anyone who tries to obstruct the access to a clinic entrance.

Is it an issue that the administration is ready to take on? Does it present some challenges of its own? Is it the gift that the congressman spoke about?

LOCKHART: Well, I think it does bring it to focus an issue that the vast majority of Americans agree with President Biden on. Unfortunately, you put -- you're using women in Texas as guinea pigs for this. And I think the Justice Department is certainly enforcing the FACE Act is good but it doesn't get to the problem, so there is more to do.

I just want to pick up one thing that Charlie said. I'm not sure Biden's approval ratings are down because of Afghanistan or the budget reconciliation being too big.


LOCKHART: I think the president is responsible for how people feel and that's why his numbers moved. And people are worried right now because of COVID. Put aside who is at fault here. People are not feeling good about where their lives are going and that's why it's a challenge for the president to work to get people vaccinated and to try to get over this crazy aversion to wearing masks and protecting yourself.

COATES: Congressman, I want you to respond because here is a number for you. More than 150,000 new infections a day are happening and more than 1,000 deaths. I mean, is that the true priority and what the reflection is?

DENT: Well, yes. I want to say something kind about the Biden administration here for a second. I do think that they have generally responded well to the COVID crisis. As Joe pointed out, the vaccine resistance or vaccine hesitance or anti-vax are causing this problem. I'm not sure what this administration can do about that.

I think they need to provide greater clarity to the American people in terms of who should get a booster shot and when, but the bigger problem is the tens of millions of eligible people who are eligible for vaccinations but have not received them so far, haven't gotten their first shot.

I mean, that's why we're in this mess, we're in this pandemic of the unvaccinated for a reason. So, I guess the administration has got to figure out a way to get those people their first shots. That's our biggest challenge that I think we're all facing and it is certainly not helping the administration. I don't blame them for that.

COATES: Gentlemen, thank you both.

DENT: Thank you.

COATES: Of course, all those concerns they both raised, a big weekend of holiday travel has just happened. And you got packed football stadiums. You got schools opening up tomorrow. We're still adding 160,000 new COVID cases a day. And are we at risk of an even bigger surge?




COATES: It's hard to believe, but this Labor Day, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported every day is four times higher than Labor Day last week. Hospitalizations and deaths are also much higher. This is all happening as millions of kids are returning to school.

A lot to talk about with Dr. Megan Ranney, a professor of Emergency Medicine at Brown University. Dr. Ranney, good to see you, but these numbers are shocking and concerning. What do you expect to see when it comes to COVID as a result of what has been happening around the country just this weekend alone?

MEGAN RANNEY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BROWN UNIVERSITY: You know, I don't know what we could possibly expect to happen other than continued surges. We still have only about half of America vaccinated. Most states have dropped all of those non- pharmaceutical interventions, things like mask mandates or distancing or rapid testing.

And we have kids going back to school. We have travel at levels that we barely see since the beginning of the pandemic. And we have folks going back inside in the north and northeast. We know that this virus spreads more easily in indoor locations than outdoors. We are heading towards a very difficult month to two months ahead of us.

COATES: Look at the pictures. Stadium is packed, maskless people and coming in droves. You got new coronavirus cases that are more than four times higher than compared to Labor Day last year. I mean, COVID- related deaths and hospitalizations are also increasing. And we are supposed to really be in a very different place as a country right now. So many people have thought this. Is that -- can we ever get there now?

RANNEY: You know, it is a great question. I think we need to come to grips with the fact that COVID-19 is never going to go away. The best that we can hope for is to get most of us vaccinated and to turn this into something that is more like the flu than like the pandemic that we have been experiencing for the last year and a half.

But we are not there yet. People are pretending that we are back to normalcy again when we don't have most of us vaccinated yet. It's just foolhardy. It puts us in these situations over and over again where ERs and hospitals are overflowing, and we are seeing economic harm, because the basis of a good economy is good health, and we are not there right now.

COATES: Talk to me about the confusion right now there is about boosters. A few months ago, it was just an idea. Now, it is likely that most Americans will actually need a booster. And then Dr. Fauci said that the rollout from Moderna's booster could come out later than Pfizer's. This isn't very good messaging from the White House given how many Americans are still reluctant to even get the first shot, let alone now the booster stage, right?

RANNEY: Yeah, it is not great messaging for those who are reluctant to get a first shot and it's confusing for those people who are trying to take their health seriously. Listen, boosters are to be expected. There is pretty much no sequence of vaccines that any of us have ever gotten that don't need booster. But we don't yet know when a booster will be needed and for whom with the exception of that group of immunocompromised folks for whom a boosters has already been approved.


RANNEY: The White House should not have put a date or timeline on it until the FDA had a chance to review good, high quality data from Moderna, Pfizer, and hopefully from J&J, too, for all those who went out and got their J&J shot. It was just a little bit too ahead of their skis to make that announcement when they did.I expect the boosters will be coming but not necessarily for every one of us and probably not on September 20th for most of us.

COATES: And of course, it is at a time when, as you know, we don't even have the vaccine available for those under 12, which the population we're all very concerned about. I know. I have two kids under the age of 12. Doctor, thank you for your time. Nice speaking with you. I hope you're wrong.

RANNEY: Thank you.

COATES: But I trust you.

RANNEY: Thank you.

COATES: And the question, of course, is who should you trust to provide the best medical treatment? Your doctor? A stranger? A family member? A legislator or maybe a judge? I mean, that's a very interesting question in a state already at the center of controversy over who should decide your medical treatment.

It is only last week that a Texas state law went into effect that precludes a woman and her doctor from making the private medical decision to have an abortion after six weeks into her pregnancy. As a result, her course of treatment is now influenced by a stranger's ability to sue her doctor for acting on her choice.

Well, now, a patient's ability to decide his course of treatment is being constrained in a different way. This time, by doctors. A Texas family has sued in order to have Ivermectin administered to their family member, 74 -year-old Pete Lopez. Now, he has been hospitalized with COVID for nearly a month and he's on a ventilator. Last week, a judge issued a ruling in favor of the family's wishes. But the hospital is so far refusing to treat him with Ivermectin.

Now, remember, remember, the FDA has warned against using the anti- parasitic drug for treatment or prevention of COVID-19. The family attorney says the hospital has filed an appeal and the family plans to file a motion for contempt on Tuesday.

And in a statement to our affiliate, KTRK, the hospital says this. It is the role of medical providers to determine safe and effective courses of treatment for patients, and then assist patients and their loved ones, if applicable, to make informed decisions about treatment options available to them.

But what should happen after that informed decision has been made? In Texas, if the court says that a patient must get the final say as to his medical treatment no matter the efficacy, no matter the controversy whether he has made the right choice, what will be the impact on a woman's right to choose her own treatment? And who else should get to choose? Your doctor? A stranger? A family member? A legislator or a judge?

Attorney General Merrick Garland is vowing to protect Texas abortion clinics and women who may want an abortion. But what can the Justice Department actually do to counter this now near total abortion ban now in effect in the state of Texas?




COATES: Attorney General Merrick Garland vowing to use the power of the federal government to protect abortion providers in Texas. He's promising to protect Texas abortion clinics that may come under attack because of the new law that bans abortions after six weeks.

I want to bring in Kim Wehle. She is a federal former prosecutor and the author of "How to Read the Constitution and Why." Kim, good to see you here today. I want to have your expertise part of this show. As you know, people are deeply, deeply alarmed by the way that this bill really deputizes anyone to go after their fellow person. And what authority now does Garland have to go after those who might target people who are providing or trying to get reproductive health care?

KIM WEHLE, AUTHOR, FEDERAL FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, you know, the weird thing the moment that we're in is that the bill has gone into effect, an unconstitutional bill. Normally, as you know, somebody might pass something that's illegal or has problems and it's not put into effect until the legality is tested.

So in this moment, Garland has announced that he is going to implement a law that was passed in 1994 to protect people seeking abortions, but the problem is people are already complying with this unconstitutional law.

So the question is: Are there abortion providers in Texas that would be in a position to potentially violate this law? So it was a really twisted cynical run-around, the legal system that is huge problem for other constitutional rights.

Is it tomorrow that you're going to go buy a house or try to go to a restaurant and you'll be turned away because of the color of your skin or your gender or your race, to figure that out later, even though that would clearly be blatantly constitutional?

[23:45:05] WEHLE: I mean this is very handmade (INAUDIBLE) stuff. It is very, very problematic. But if abortion providers do start giving abortions not withstanding this law, vigilantes try to enforce it, Merrick Garland does have some civil rights criminal laws at his disposal to basically argue that people are acting as state officers in violation of the Constitution. But that assumes that people will get abortions not withstanding the law already going into effect.

COATES: And by the way, Kim, what you said and the analogy of the "what ifs" is so important, especially because the idea of a state sanctioned vigilantism is actually not new in the civil rights context, right? The idea of people using or being able to think that they are operating on behalf of the law to mistreat others, to treat them in ways based on race, based on gender, based on sexual orientation, all these things, is not new to the civil rights division of Department of Justice.

What more can the department do and even individuals do now to protect the rights of women and girls because the idea that their autonomy and agencies on the chopping block is a very scary thing.

WEHLE: Yeah, it's pretty much -- Roe versus Wade is gone in the moment in the state of Texas and this is stunning because it is the law of the land. There is a constitutional right for women at six weeks to decide whether to carry a child to term. We are also talking about government intervention, right? We can very moral and ethical debate about that decision.

But just like people don't want government to tell them to wear masks or government to tell them to get a vaccine, we're talking about government imposing government's view on whether even a victim of incest or rape should go through the physical, emotional family trauma potentially of carrying a child to term, which for those of us who have done that, you know it takes a lot out of your life.

So this is problematic not just for the women in Texas but for anyone who cares about the rule of law and sort of flipping, flipping the dynamic that are we going to see unconstitutional illegal laws passed, people complying with them, and then hoping down the road that somehow they'll be lifted?

We do have one judge in Texas who has issued an injunction, a local judge basically banning any lawsuits being filed against anyone who helps somebody get an abortion, according to this law. Again, this assumes that there are people who are willing to give abortions. In this moment, my understanding is they're not happening. So the law is having the effect of violating women's constitutional rights.

As we see in other parts of the world, Afghanistan, it is just sad that these political battles are being fought on the bodies of women and their families. It's really, really troubling in this moment for human rights not just women's rights.

COATES: You're absolutely right. The notion, by the way, Kim, of having to try to achieve equality on a case by case basis, that's not the way a democracy can actually work. And as they say, it's only republic if you can keep it. Not a way to keep it, either.

Kim Wehle, thank you for your time. Nice talking to you as always.

WEHLE: Always, thank you, Laura.

COATES: Speaking of democracy, California Governor Gavin Newsom on the campaign trail with just eight days left before a recall election. He's getting help from some pretty powerful voices, from labor unions to the vice president.




COATES (on camera): We have a sad update on a story we ran just a few moments ago. Our affiliate, KTRK, reporting that 74-year-old Pete Lopez has died amid his family's push for a Texas hospital to give him the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin. Lopez had been in the hospital for almost a month after contracting coronavirus. Our thoughts are with his family tonight. May he rest in peace.

I want to turn to California's recall election. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom spending the long Labor Day weekend rallying members of a key voting block -- union workers. More tonight from CNN's Kyung Lah.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Let's vote no, no, hell no. No, no, hell no. No, no, hell no.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a sweltering Labor Day weekend, California Governor Gavin Newsom rallied the foot soldiers who fought for him before, leaning on organized labor to keep him on the job.

NEWSOM: We embrace unions. We embrace social justice, racial justice, and economic justice. All of those things are at risk if we don't turn out the vote on September 14th.

LAH (voice-over): That's the last day to vote in the republican- backed recall of the Democratic governor. The Los Angeles Federation of Unions says it spent $2 million to protect Newsom, calling half a million voters.

Union member Hugo Soto-Martinez, son of immigrants, has helped knock on 60,000 doors in Los Angeles, aiming to hit 100,000 before voting ends.

HUGO SOTO-MARTINEZ, UNITE HERE LOCAL 11: Organized labor has been a key in making sure that this becomes a deep-blue state. So the values of the state reflect the union values and those are workers, those are immigrants, those are people who work for a paycheck in this country.

[23:55:07] (APPLAUSE)

LAH (voice-over): National Democrats boosting Governor Newsom this holiday weekend have called the recall an attack on unions.


LAH (voice-over): From Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren --

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): SEIU, all the unions, we're in the House.


LAH (voice-over): -- to Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. The Newsom campaign says unions have contributed $14 million to fight his recall. A worthy investment, believes union member Shavon Moore-Cage.

SHAVON MOORE-CAGE, AFCSME LOCAL 36: I am for Gavin Newsom. And so whatever I have to do to -- to keep him in office, to keep the people in power, I'm gonna do that. Larry Elder doesn't represent everybody. He doesn't represent all colors and all national. He may say he does but his actions speak louder than words.

CROWD: Larry! Larry!

LAH (voice-over): Republican challenger and conservative radio host Larry Elder has slammed the union money backing the governor, especially the California Teachers Association.

LARRY ELDER, CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The number one obstacle to school choice is the teachers union. What's the number one funder of my opponent? Teachers union.

LAH (voice-over): It's a criticism the governor brushes off, especially with just over a week to go before the election.

NEWSOM: It's about energy. It's about boots on the ground, door knocking. It's about text messaging. It's just really about turnout. Labor knows how to turn out.

LAH (voice-over): Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


COATES (on camera): Kyung, thanks. And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.