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Federal Judge Won't Put on Hold Ruling that Lindsey Graham Must Appear Before Grand Jury; White House Officials Privately Express Concern About Classified Information Taken to Mar-a-Lago; Vulnerable GOP Candidates Distance Themselves from Trump; Judge Blocks Michigan's 1931 Abortion Ban. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 19, 2022 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Bad news, Lindsey Graham, in his attempts to dodge a subpoena to appear before the Fulton County grand jury, the one investigating Republican efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia, a federal judge refusing to put a hold on her ruling that the senator has got to appear.

We're also getting new information about concerns from inside the Biden White House and the intelligence community about classified information taken to Mar-a-Lago.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams, and Kim Wehle, visiting professor of law at American University. She is the author of "How to Think Like a Lawyer." And also joining us, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg.

Nice to see you all here. We've got a whole law firm's friend (ph) happening right now. I love it. I love it. Who are we billing this hour? We don't really know.

But I will begin with you, Elliot, here because look, it is just a week ago today, right, that we learned that from the court, that Trump was keeping top secret, highly-classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Then we found out the DOJ interviewed two top White House lawyers about it. And early next week, we may learn what is in the affidavit that made it so urgent for them to actually seize this material.

I mean, when you think about this investigation, that one, this, that, a lot has happened in a very short amount of time. What do you make of it?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, a lot has to happen in a very short amount of time, Laura. You know, I think the most significant development right now is what happens with this affidavit.

Now, look, I will be the first to tell you, I was surprised that the judge yesterday showed as much willingness as he did and being willing to possibly make portions of the affidavit supporting the search warrant of Mar-a-Lago available.

Now, look, it's going to be redacted, and I think we're not going to see a lot of the truly juicy material in it. Now, the question of how many redactions will go into a document and still make it in some way valuable to the public interest remains to be seen, but that's the interesting aspect of this.

But, look, Laura, when you frame it the way you did, it is just easy to lose sight of the fact that all of this is remarkable. Any search at the home of a former president of the United States where perhaps multiple people are being -- might be accused of crimes is itself quite significant alone, and we shouldn't lose sight of that.

COATES: You're absolutely right. Taking a step back, Kim, this is a lot happening involving a former president. The former president's home has been searched. There are documents that are there. And as much as there are a number of investigations and moments of extraordinary points (ph), as Elliot points out, I mean, you also have a lot of excuses that are coming up from the former president and his allies. In fact, here's the latest, Kim.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: They want to make him responsible for having taken classified documents and preserved them. Really, if you look at the Espionage Act, it is not really about taking the documents, it is about destroying them or hiding them or giving them to the enemy.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Right.

GIULIANI: It's not about taking them and putting them in a place that's roughly as safe as they were in in the first place.


COATES: So, Kim, here is my rhetorical question for you. Is Rudy Giuliani right?



WEHLE: I mean, I hope he's right. I completely agree with Elliot that this is really serious stuff. I mean, the big question in my mind isn't even what's in the affidavit.


WEHLE: It is what happened to that information that was taken out of the White House that was of various levels of national security interest. I'm not going to use the word "classified" because people seem to think that's what has to be attached to a violation of these statutes. That's not the case. Did this information get in the hands of our enemies or was it just seen by people who shouldn't see it? I mean, that's really the issue.

I think I agree also that it is odd that the judge did what he did. On the other hand, he might be taking a page from Merrick Garland's book and calling Donald Trump's bluff because the Trump team, that camp has not asked to have this affidavit released.

And there might be stuff in there, even redactions, if it is a very lengthy affidavit, which I expect it is because I expect the FBI and the DOJ really did their homework on this one because it is a former president. But, you know, the silence could speak volumes to rebut this onslaught of misinformation and attack on the investigators and the people that are adhering to the rule of law.

COATES: Here is my thought, Dave, on this. My guess -- maybe the real troubling question is, is Rudy Giuliani wrong in this issue here? My question really is, just thinking about the way, if past is prologue, I mean, we all can see in the future here and a not too distant one, that when you got redactions, even if they are redacted for all of the right reasons, according to the rule of law and by the book, they will be used as talking points, right, to say, oh, what is the government hiding?

They don't want you to see this, that they will be able to show X, Y and Z. And if it is redacted, there won't be a retort that's meaningful. Do you have those concerns as well about the extent of the redactions or what they might cover even though there is a legitimate reason to redact?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY: Yeah, I think you're right, Laura. I think it shows you why Donald Trump does not want this affidavit produced, because it is worse for him if the world knows the evidence that he has, that he has possibly violated the law. It is better for him if he can claim from the sidelines that he wants it released, transparency.

But when it does get released in redacted form, he could point to all those black marks around the page and say, that's what they're hiding right there. Underneath that redaction is where it says, Trump is innocent or we are targeting this guy.

So, yeah, it feeds his narrative. It feeds hi martyrdom. That's what he wants. He can raise money off it. But all in all, I would rather have the stuff redacted then put out there because you are talking about the identity of confidential sources. You are putting them at risk, especially in this environment, and you would damage the whole investigation.

As my fellow colleagues know in our law firm here tonight, if you put this out there, suspects will be alerted to the fact that they're suspects and they're going to coordinate their stories, witnesses will be tampered with, and all in all, it is a bad situation. So that's why I'm glad that this thing is going to be redacted. That's what I predict.

COATES: Elliot, I mean, think about it. Everyone thinks that baseball is America's favorite past time. We lawyers know that it is actually litigation. And part of litigation involves kicking of the can down the road. You know, trying to fight another day. You know, trying to move your piece just to stay in the game.

Is part of this, do you think, a bit of a delay tactic all around? The idea -- we are talking about transparency. But then stopping others in your orbit, if you're the former president, to actually testify about the investigation in Georgia or about the January 6th Committee, is it all part of a, do you think, a delayed tactic to tie things up in litigation and save some time?

WILLIAMS: You know, Laura, I'd say a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B. We have to be sensitive of the fact that when people are parties to the legal system, whether that is a former president or an ordinary individual, they do have some rights to challenge cases that are brought against them, investigations that are brought against them, lawsuits that are brought against them, right?

You are seeing a little of this with Senator Lindsey Graham in South Carolina where attempting to delay being brought to Georgia to testify. Now, he has an argument that as a current senator, perhaps some of his communications are privileged, right? But he's also trying to delay and he's trying to stall and trying to get out of being served process and trying to get out of being brought -- you know, answering questions.

So, both things can be true. But, no, I think probably it's more likely that what they're trying to do is just stall and get out of this because a lot of these things could be embarrassing.

COATES: Excuse me. I didn't mean to cut you off there. Kim, let me ask you, in terms of Senator Lindsey Graham in particular, he pointed to the speech and debates clause, saying, look, I don't have to testify. Anything I say, essentially, what I was saying that day, although I am a South Carolina senator, I'm on the judiciary committee, still am, and was calling Georgia in the interest and pursuant to my legislative function, so therefore, I should not have to be called to testify or be subpoenaed.


COATES: Is he right? Does he have a legal leg to stand on there?

WEHLE: Well, this is another Rudy Giuliani situation. I mean, it begs the question, was he calling for legitimate legislative reason or was he calling for an illegitimate one, that is to get Georgia to cancel the electors for Joe Biden and fraudulently swing the state to Donald Trump?

The speech and debate clause, which I have written about for "Politico," does protect legislative speech. It doesn't protect anything that comes out of the mouth of a senator or member of the House of representatives.

So, no, this is not a blanket immunity for Lindsey Graham, and he has lost this argument over and over so far in the courts. I think he's going to continue to lose. On the delay thing, I think we have to -- I can't help but remind us of the other thing that's happening, which is the January 6th Committee. That does have a deadline, right? We're just a few weeks away from the midterms. And if the House of Representatives goes to the GOP, that -- that effort will stop. And, so, delays have worked for those witnesses.

But that's not the way the judicial system works. And it does go a bit slowly because there are rules of process, evidentiary rules, appeals, legal principles that are adhered to. And I think that's a good thing. I think, you know, it can hold out for Lindsey Graham.

COATES: Well, again, the January 6 Committee legislative function and then is the court of law, right, the prosecutorial function has a longer limitation on this very notion.

Let me bring you back in here, Dave, because as we're talking about what's going on in Georgia and, obviously, Senator Graham has asked a judge to take away that subpoena, that has not worked to date so far.

But one of the reasons they have said the D.A at Fulton County has expressed wanting to have his testimony, you got John Eastman, by the way, Jenna Ellis, who also lost a legal battle this week, they're saying, look, this is about trying to uncover information they have, not just about what they know, but others who might have more information.

Is that going to be a winning argument in the sense of, look, this investigation seems to be moving much quicker than obviously January 6th and otherwise? But the idea of the court saying, look, you are so crucial, not just for what you have done or have alleged to have done, but what you might be able to tell and demonstrate, is that where we're going here?

ARONBERG: Yes, and I think it's a winning argument for my colleague in Fulton County, Fani Willis. She is going to be able to tell the appellate court, yes, we need this testimony, because Lindsey Graham a phone call to the Raffensperger, the secretary of state, just like Donald Trump did. Were they in cahoots? Was there coordination? Is this part of a larger scheme? Fani Willis is known for her racketeering cases. So, this could be part of that.

But Lindsey Graham really has no excuse. He should testify. He is not a target of the grand jury. In fact, I don't think that he'll be prosecuted there in Georgia because, first off, the call that he made to the secretary of state was not recorded, unlike Trump's call.

And also, because it is he said, he said-he situation, prosecutors are less likely to pursue it because he said, he said without a recording gives you reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt gets you an acquittal. So, there is no excuse. He should do the patriotic thing and just testify.

COATES: Well, you know, you make a great point about the idea of somebody who makes the law trying to avoid the execution of the law in a courtroom of the law. It is always an odd thing to me when you think about what the functions ought to be.

But this is a great law firm. I'd hire you all. I hope I never have legal issues to actually hire any of you. But thank you so much. We'll see you soon.

WEHLE: We'll hire you, too, Laura.

COATES: Thank you. I wanted -- Kim, thank you. I wanted to be a fourth person. But I will be --



COATES: We know managing partner just orders the food. Whatever. Thank you so much. Nice seeing you all.


COATES: Look, every managing partner is now, like, really, Laura Coates, I order the food? I'm just playing with you. It's Friday night. I know you do more as managing partners. Whatever. Forget about it, as they say.

Moving along, some GOP candidates won't even say, won't even say the former president's name. So, why are vulnerable Republicans up for re- election now examining that 10-foot pole (ph) and keeping their distance?


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): If Trump is so tough, if he's so good at everything he does, how has he been such a victim of the deep state so many times? Because he's not. Because he uses victimization as his way out. It is really frustrating. It is sad to see my party having gone down such a dark path.




COATES: I don't say his name. That's what one anonymous Republican lawmaker running for reelection in a competitive district is telling CNN about former President Trump. It comes as the man leading House GOP campaign strategy, Minnesota Republican Tom Emmer, is advising candidates to steer clear of Trump and to focus on their party's policies.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser and CNN political commentator and former Republican Congressman Charier Dent. Good to see both of you here this evening. Thank you so much for joining.

[23:19:54] COATES: You know, let me start with you here, Charlie, because I do wonder, if you're at all surprised that vulnerable Republicans who are up for reelection are distancing themselves from the former president, does that surprise you?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not one bit. These members are in swing districts, marginal districts where the president -- the former president of the United States is not very popular, and those same members will need to win crossover votes of independents and some moderate Democrats in order to win.

And so, embracing Donald Trump, they just limit their ability to get those swing voters. It is as simple as that. That's why they're not going to say his name or do anything that would seem to embrace him. But the truth is there aren't a whole lot of members who represent those swing districts anymore. They are clearly in the minority within the House Republican Caucus.

COATES: We have been covering the impeachment 10 on all levels, the idea of what it takes and what the cause of this is. And Susan, you got this really great piece in "The New Yorker" I just read talking about the upcoming midterm elections. So far, we're seeing a very triumphant Trump, but you say his opponents are feeling optimistic and something they're calling trumptimism. Break that down for me.


COATES: I like it.

GLASSER: A fancy German word, Laura.


GLASSER: Look, there has been in the last couple months a sort counter-conventional wisdom that some Democratic strategists have put out there, this idea that maybe, well, even though history and precedence suggest that the party of the incumbent president is looking to get clobbered basically in the midterm elections, we're all familiar with it, that dynamic.

We understand, you look at President Biden's abysmal approval ratings, spiking inflation and the like. But the counterargument is, well, not only is inflation coming down, but actually that Trump himself would be one of the biggest drags on Republican candidates potentially this fall. You know, Republicans, after all, have lost seven of the last eight presidential elections.

So, the question really is, you know, I am deeply skeptical, I have to say, whenever somebody says to me, this time is different, you know, that is basically the sentence that is the preview to every Wall Street crash that ever was and usually the laws of political physics are the laws of political physics.

But, you know, everything around Donald Trump is so exceptional. It is a very interesting argument. Certainly, what's happened in the Senate races, which are more competitive often than gerrymandered House races, you see a crop of Republican candidates who are sort of dragging down their Republican prospects to take the Senate. In the House, though, they only need a pickup of just a few seats.

So, I'm still not convinced that history is going to be defied this fall, but it is an interesting moment to see where Democrats are leaning into this idea that maybe it won't be such a big red wave after all.

COATES: Charlie, sticking to that same point, if past is prologue, looking at the political history here, I mean, midterms are normally a referendum on the current president. Candidates, you know, they could be talking about gas prices or inflation that might get them wins.

But we're seeing a lot of people focusing on the election-related lies, sort of paying homage to Donald Trump. I mean, if that's the case, as opposed to pressing into the issues, as Susan was speaking about, is normal truly out the window and this could be quite an unexpected year?

DENT: Well, first, Laura, I think all of us have to exercise a certain degree of humility when we make predictions about the midterm. Look, I tend to agree with Susan. I would not bet against political gravity or physics or history because there have only been two midterm elections at least since the 1930s where the party of the president actually gains seats. That was in 1988, Bill Clinton, and then again in 2002 after 9/11. So, I wouldn't bet against history.

Now, having said that, look, the Republicans want this election to be a referendum on Joe Biden and the Democrats.

But to the extent that talking about the January 6 hearings, the FBI search of the property at Mar-a-Lago, and Trump involving himself in these midterm primaries in very disruptive plays, all these things, the more they talk about Donald Trump especially in the aftermath of the search of his property, you know, they're not talking about Joe Biden, they're not talking about inflation and the economy, things that people actually, I think, are more focused on candidly than some of these other issues.

I would also say the Democrats may get some losses more because of the Dobbs decision. The Dobbs decision has given certain intensity and energy to Democratic voters. We saw what happened in Kansas in that referendum.



DENT: And I suspect that will give us -- this could mitigate some democratic losses in the House and may help them more in the Senate, but I agree that the House -- I just don't see a scenario where the Democrats win the House right now or maintain the House. The Senate, on the other hand, Republicans have challenges. There have been some candidate problems that are quite obvious and the election denial is also an issue for those races.

COATES: Yeah. Susan, last point here, I mean, the idea for all the investigations that are out there, I mean, you've got all these sorts of controversies swirling around the president. I do wonder if this is something that is going to lead to exhaustion being the catalyst for voters as well.

GLASSER: You know, Laura, I always felt that Trump fatigue was a big factor in his election defeat in 2020, that that was something that you heard across the spectrum when you talked with pollsters who were, you know, looking at the results of what voters felt in 2020. I think that could be true here, as well.

But, you know, as my friend, Amy Walter, put it to me the other day, Republicans have a pretty solid bet here that voters care more about gas prices than they do about Donald Trump, and that they don't live in the media echo chamber that we live in. They're not in the news cycle as intensively as we are.

I think that's one of the factors, right? Because things like prices, they affect people day-to-day and in and out, whereas they don't have to live inside that January 6th news cycle if they choose not to. So, that's something to keep in mind when you are trying to look ahead into what the political outcome is going to be this fall.

COATES: Gosh, I didn't realize that living outside that bubble was an option. This is news to me on the Friday night. Thank you so much to both of you. Nice seeing you both. Have a good weekend.

Well, in other news, speaking about what's going on in different places other than Washington, D.C., a judge blocking Michigan's 1931 abortion ban today, putting up what could be the fiercest battle yet over abortion access post-Roe. Stay with us.




COATES: Abortion is still legal in Michigan. Today, a judge granting a request by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to block enforcement of a 1931 law banning abortion. That was invalid while roe was the law of the land. This decision is only temporary, though. Hearing is scheduled for this coming November. Back in the spring, Whitmer sued to block the law for taking effect in the event Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court.

I'm joined right now with CNN political commentator Alice Stewart and legal analyst Areva Martin. Nice to see you both.

Areva, I want to begin with you, because, I mean, this law in Michigan makes almost all abortions a felony. There is no exception for rape or insist. There is vague exception for where a mother's life or a woman's life might be unnecessary to be preserved. But we're talking about a 1931 law. I mean, Herbert Hoover is the president, eight years before World War II. I mean, is this where we are right now? I mean, women are under the threat of a 1931 law?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sadly, we are, Laura, we are at this point in this country, and we are seeing prosecutors in the state of Michigan, 13 or so, who said they would use this law to actually prosecute women.

And thank goodness that Governor Whitmer had the foresight to go into court before Roe v. Wade was overturned to get a temporary injunction to prevent prosecutors from using this law to criminalize abortions.

I love some of the passages in the order by the judge who heard this case talking about a law in the books in Michigan that makes it illegal to commit adultery and saying he could not remember a time when that law was used to actually criminalize individuals who did engage in adultery.

So, I think what we're seeing is this selective prosecution by some who would choose to criminalize abortions, criminalize women who exercise their reproductive rights in a state like Michigan, but yet, terribly a blind's eye when it comes to things like adultery.

But this isn't just happening in Michigan, Laura. As you know, the criminalization of women who get an abortion, make decision to terminate the presidency, is happening in other states, as well.

COATES: Yeah, I mean, the idea of the timing of it. We know there are other trigger laws that go back into effect that have happened after the Dobbs decision. But I want you, Alice, to listen to some of what the judge did have to say today. Listen to this.


JACOB JAMES CUNNINGHAM, OAKLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: Though the court appreciates both sides of this debate, are passionate in their convictions, by not issuing an injunction today, the court would send the health care system into crisis, the extreme cost of which would then be put on the women of our great state and not lost on the court without any repercussion for the men, who without a doubt, are a necessary component to create a pregnancy.


COATES: Alice, I mean, what is your take? He's not exactly wrong. There is certainly passion on both sides of the issue, and obviously to institute it does throw some uncertainty in these areas.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, and this is going to continue to be a battle in the courts until this is a finally resolved.

What we are seeing there in Michigan, this has become a very political issue because we have, in some counties, the Republican prosecutors are pushing to try and keep this 1931 law in place to ban abortion and the more liberal Democrat prosecutors are in support with governor -- with the governor in terms of working to try and stop this from being the law of the state. [23:34:56]

STEWART: But what really is going to happen and what should happen is it should go into the hands of the people, and that will happen. There has been a ballot initiative passed around the state that has received enough signatures for this to be on the ballot in November. So, the people of Michigan will vote on this.

Look, you know, Laura, I am pro-life. I support protecting the sanctity of life. I do not support abortion except in the cases of rape, incest and life of the mother. But ultimately, they should be in the hands of the people.

I was fully in support of Roe v. Wade being overturned. This is not a decision that should be in the hands of nine unelected justices but rather elected officials at the state or the people. So, this is going to have the best result by letting it go on the ballot in November for people to decide.

COATES: Of course, one of the issues, Areva, people often have when they think about some of the shortcomings or pitfalls of a democracy, is that you are led by the passions which can be waning or intensified by this so-called people.

One of the things that the judge did speak of -- that is, of course, part of what happens in our democracy in part -- the judge argued that, and you heard him say, if not for this injection, the health care system would be thrown into crisis.

I wonder, given what he said, this is happening all across the country, the idea that it is happening in multiple states, there is not a lot of legal conformity let alone clarity.

That is a real problem for health care providers, who you and I have talked about in the past, and Alice, you and I as well, on this very issue. When you've got health care providers, before they decide to render or offer services or advice, they are thinking, I better call my lawyer because I got to figure out what I can and cannot do, that is not exactly up to the people you are supposed to trust in these scenarios, right?

MARTIN: Absolutely, Laura. Not only our health care professionals at risk in terms of not knowing how to interpret these laws, particularly a law that dates back to the 1930s, but also women. Many women in the states don't know what rights they have. And some of these laws that criminalize abortion, they criminalize abortion at 10 weeks, at 12 weeks, 14 weeks, 15 weeks, oftentimes even before women know they are pregnant.

Some of the exceptions, exceptions that allow for abortions, if it is incest or rape or if the woman's life is in danger, a lot of ambiguity about what does it mean for a woman's life to actually be in danger.

And so, again, until there is clarity and clarity on what choices women should have over their own bodies, I think we are going to continue to see these kinds of legal battles taking place in Michigan and other states.

COATES: You are right about the ambiguity and what will come of it. That are what laws are supposed to be for. We won't have clarity tonight, but we will be right back in just a moment.




COATES: A disturbing trend to report tonight. Federal officials say the number of Americans killed in traffic accidents in the first three months of this year hit a 20-year high. About a third of the crashes are caused by impaired drivers. More tonight from CNN's Pete Muntean.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The headlines are relentless and indiscriminate. In Indiana, four dead, including a member of Congress. In Los Angeles, five dead. In Illinois, eight dead, including all six members of the Dobosz family. The losses tell the story of what safety advocates call a crisis on our roads.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): New data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows 9,560 people were killed on U.S. roads in the first three months of this year. That's a 7 percent jump over the same period last year and the highest for a first quarter in 20 years.

CLIFF: We had hoped these trends were limited to 2020. But sadly, they aren't. Risky behaviors skyrocketed and traffic fatalities spiked.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Virginia saw one of the biggest increases nationwide with traffic deaths spiking more than 70 percent in the first quarter. Last week, near Richmond, Jonah Holland was cycling along a county road when police say she was hit and killed by a suspected drunk driver. Thursday, fellow cyclists held a benefit ride in her honor.

BARB JEWELL, RICHMOND TRI CLUB UNKNOWN: I'm just really sad that -- that we have all of this because of a death.

AMY COHEN, CO-FOUNDER, FAMILIES FOR SAFE STREETS: These are not accidents. We have a preventable public health crisis.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Amy Cohen lost her 12-year-old son to a car crash. Now, as the co-founder of Families for Safe Streets, she says the goal is not just fewer deaths, but zero deaths on our roads.

Safety advocates put the onus on automakers and governments, local, state and federal, to attack the issue from all angles. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says redesigning roads to be safer is a top priority for the Biden administration using funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: It is as if we are living through a war. We cannot and must not accept that these fatalities are somehow an inevitable part of life in America.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): The latest federal data says a third of motor vehicle deaths are caused by impaired drivers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says alcohol detection systems that stop people from drinking and driving could save 9,000 lives each year, just one way to help solve an epidemic on the roads that got worse with the pandemic.

COHEN: This is preventable. We just need our leaders to have the political will to put in place solutions to save lives.

MUNTEAN (on camera): What's interesting about this, Laura, is that this is very much an American problem. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says in Canada, the traffic fatality rate is about half of ours here in the U.S. In Europe, it is about a quarter. Here is who is being hurt the worst, according to Secretary Buttigieg, those in low- income and rural communities, especially people of color. Laura?


COATES: Pete Muntean, thank you.

The southwest expecting significant rainfall this weekend, but it is unlikely to provide much relief for a region that's preparing for major water cuts. Now, many communities are facing tough questions about just what to sacrifice.




COATES: The National Weather Service forecasting a -- quote -- "multiday significant rainfall event." When? This weekend in the southwest region. But heavy rain and even flash flooding won't be enough to roll back the water cuts. Now, people in Arizona are figuring out how to deal with a long-term megadrought. Here is CNN's Bill Weir.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Summer monsoons are adding a few precious inches to the Lake Mead waterline, but not nearly enough. America's largest reservoir is still 25 feet lower than last summer. So, this fall, parts of Phoenix will see unprecedented tier 2 cuts of their share of the Colorado River, joining Arizona farmers at the end of the water rights line.

(On camera): Do you foresee a day when it is tier 3, tier 4, mandatory cuts that will get really severe?

KATHRYN SORENSEN, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, KYL CENTER FOR WATER POLICY, ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY: So, absolutely. I am genuinely worried about the possibility of the system hitting dead pool.

WEIR (on camera): You are?

SORENSEN: Absolutely, I am.

WEIR (voice-over): Dead pool is when Mead gets low enough to crash the whole Colorado system. And when Kathryn Sorensen was running water departments in Phoenix and Mesa, it was the biggest worry. But now, it's worse. And the feds are begging western states to cut up to one out of every four gallons consumed.

(On camera): I know from our reporting there was some western water managers that were frustrated that the Bureau of Reclamation wasn't tougher. They said, you guys work it out or we'll work it out for you, but they didn't do that.


WEIR (on camera): What are your thoughts on that?

SORENSEN: Well, you know, it is disappointing because the longer that we have to endure the uncertainty, the more at risk the entire system is. And I don't envy the federal government, you know, the Biden administration. They have some really tough choices to make. No elected official wants to be the person saying who gets water and who doesn't. I'm sure they're desperately searching for the least-worst option. But in the meantime, water levels continue to fall.

GOV. DOUG DUCEY (R-AZ): And we will invest heavily in conservation, efficiency, reuse and advanced water technologies like desalination.

WEIR (voice-over): Arizona's outgoing governor wants to build a desalination plant in Mexico and canals in Kansas to bring more water eventually

But in the meantime, the call to use less puts fresh scrutiny on thirsty industries like golf, especially after an Arizona republican investigation found that 30 percent to 50 percent of courses here use more than their share of water with little oversight.

(On camera): State records show that the water cops of Arizona have issued a punishment against the golf course exactly twice in the last 20 years. So, it's pretty obvious that from the feds down to the locals, people aren't exactly lining up to be the tough sheriff desperately needed to tame water use in the wild west.

SORENSEN: I don't golf. So, I don't feel I need to defend golf. But I will say this. People focused on it because it's visible. But there are lots of things about what we do, what we consume, what we eat, what we wear that are also very water intensive.

So, I don't like to think of it in terms of we don't have enough water. I like to think of it in terms of, what do we have enough water for? Do we want to build semiconductor factories or do we want to grow cotton? Do we want to grow subdivisions or do we want to have high- density development that is more water efficient? Those are the conversations we need to have.

WEIR (voice-over): Bill Weir, CNN, Phoenix.


COATES: Bill, thank you so much. We'll be right back.




COATES: CNN hero DeAnna Pursai was moved to action when she saw that her sister, who has Down syndrome, had no way to keep learning and growing after being mandated out of high school. So, DeAnna co-founded a college for students just like her younger sister, allowing more people to experience the magic of college.


UNKNOWN: Hi, everybody.

DEANNA PURSAI, CNN HERO: College of Adaptive Arts is a lifelong equitable collegiate experience for adults with special needs of all different abilities who historically haven't had access to college education.

UNKNOWN: You hit that right there.

PURSAI: We have 10 schools in instruction and they get the same access to array of classes that any college student can select.

UNKNOWN: Out reaching for the sun.

PURSAI: I want for every student that walks through our doors to be treated like the thinking intellectual that they are.

I love you.

UNKNOWN: I love you, too.

PURSAI: My experience with my sister has helped me to be a better, more authentic, transparent person. I am so humbled each and every day by their depth and ideas and ways to make the world a better place.



COATES: To see the full story, go to

And thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.