Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Lawmakers Urge Biden to Declare National Climate Emergency; Families Struggle to Make Ends Meet Amid Rising Costs; Turpin Siblings File Lawsuit Alleging Severe Abuse in Foster Care. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 27, 2022 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The oak fire has now scorched more than 18,000 acres of land in California. Fire officials say it is still growing, fueled by the effects of the climate crisis. That fire spreading as the U.S. deals with a record-breaking heat wave, yet one more. Temperatures expected to be 10 to 20 degrees above normal across parts of the U.S through Friday. People in St. Louis bracing for more rain after the city recorded its wettest day ever yesterday. These extreme weather events are putting more pressure on the Biden administration to declare a climate emergency.

Joining me to discuss, Senator Alex Padilla, Democrat from California, he sits on the Environment and Public Works Committee. Senator, thank you for taking the time this morning.

SEN. ALEX PADILLA (D-CA): Good to be back, Jim, good to see you.

SCIUTTO: You are among 200 congressional -- well, you signed a letter, as well as other congressional staffers, urging President Biden to declare a climate emergency. Can you explain to our viewers what that would allow the president to do exactly?

PADILLA: Sure, and I appreciate the opportunity. And, first, let's set the context. You already did half of it, which is calling out not just wildfires in California, other parts of the west, the flooding in St. Louis, extreme weather events throughout the country and, frankly, around the world.

But we also have to remind folks of why we're turning to the president because our Republican colleagues in the Senate who continue to disregard the science or fail to act legislatively to address the climate challenge have left us no choice but to turn to legislative. And we do believe that President Biden has the ability to declare an emergency and use the powers that an emergency declaration provides to help take bold action on climate because time is of the essence.


We talked about the Defense Production Act, for example, in the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic, leveraging our manufacturing capability in the country to produce ventilators, other things to counter the pandemic. The same can be -- same is the case when it comes to tackling climate. Let's boost the supply chain to produce things, like the solar power infrastructure, the wind power infrastructure, the renewable energy that we need to keep electricity, keep the economy going but wean ourselves off of fossil fuels and the emissions that they cause.

SCIUTTO: You are working on legislation that you've introduced to establish federal protections for workers against heat stress. Do you have 60 votes in the Senate to get this passed?

PADILLA: We're working our way. First step is to introduce the bill. The second step is to start lining up support. But, again, you know, as we speak, there's 85 million Americans who are living in areas with heat warnings. Last week, the number was 100 million.

And the United States, again, clearly not alone. As you look at what's happening in Europe, if you look at what's happening in India, and it's not just that people who can escape maybe to air conditioned offices, think about folks who work in agricultural fields, who work construction sites, who work in warehouses where there may not be ventilation or air condition. Extreme heat is the leading cause of death in -- for many.

And so states like California have a state standard to protect workers from heat, from the excessive temperatures, access to shade, access to cold drinking water, those sorts of things that can save lives literally, but we need a national standard, a federal standard is long overdue.

We do have the support of the administration on this, but we also know that regulation-setting process can take years and years and years. The climate crisis is only getting worse by the year. We can't afford to wait.

SCIUTTO: Senator, to politics now, midterms coming up. It's CNN reporting that some Democrats are planning as part of a push to limit their losses in the midterms to paint Republicans as extremists. I wonder because at the same time you have Democratic groups backing some of those same extremist Republican candidates, election deniers, for instance, in a state like Maryland. Does that work for you? Is that not fundamentally contradictory?

PADILLA: Look, the bottom line is making a clear contrast for voters to decide this November who to vote for. We know what the nation needs. We need investments in job creation domestically. We need to tackle costs for working families. How do we bring down the costs for prescription drugs? How do we bring down the cost of childcare? How do we bring down the cost of the various areas where we're facing inflation?

Democrats have plans that have been stifled because of Republican opposition in Congress. So, let's make that abundantly clear for voters. You want to restore a woman's right to choose, vote for Democrats. You want to tackle climate aggressively, vote for Democrats. It's creating the contrast that I think is going to continue to bolster our chances in November.

SCIUTTO: I get that point. But part of the Democratic case here, you hear it from senior Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi among them, is that some of these Republican candidates and Trump himself are a threat to democracy. How can Democrats say that but then back some of those election deniers in their own races?

PADILLA: Yes. Look, it's going to be up to candidates across the board to pose those questions for Republican candidates to answer. Do you believe climate change is real or not? Do you believe a woman should be able to make the decisions on her own body or not? Be public, be on the record and let the voters decide.

SCIUTTO: Senator Alex Padilla of California, nice to have you back on the program.

PADILLA: Thank you, Jim.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, up next, California families looking to save money are moving away from the coast, but that new influx is creating some problems for their new communities. We'll tell you more after the break.



SCIUTTO: During the pandemic, many people moved from California to the California coast inland, in part because of more affordable living.

GOLODRYGA: But, instead, they've seen skyrocketing inflation. And now some families are resorting to desperate measures to get by.

CNN's Natasha Chen reports.


ANA DURON, STRUGGLING TO PAY BILLS: I was not expecting this, you know.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): An unexpected car accident, an unexpected loss of her full-time job, just before an unexpected rise in food and gas prices have all created an entirely different life than what Ana Duron was used to. She now turns in recycling for cash and works part-time as a caretaker for a resident of a senior center to add to her unemployment check, but that barely covers the bills.

DURON: This is my mortgage, $825.24 and this is my car payment of $482.99.

CHEN: And those are some of the fixed costs.

She lives in Riverside County, where the metro area's annual inflation rate in June was likely around 10 percent, higher than the national average. That's because people moved to the relatively more affordable Inland Empire during the pandemic, driving up population and demand for goods and services.

LEO FELER, SENIOR ECONOMIST, UCLA ANDERSON FORECAST: Not only have prices gone up but folks in the Inland Empire can't really shift to saying, well, I guess I will be able to work from home a little bit more in response to higher gas prices, right?


They are the types of workers that generally have to actually commute into their workplaces.

CHEN: And Duron needs to drive for her work as a caretaker. Filling up her car a month ago cost her $95. And groceries --

DURON: I don't by meat. I just eat tuna.

CHEN: She had to take out money from his 401(k) to cover credit card debt and sold jewelry that she bought for herself when times were better.

DURON: I don't want to go bankrupt. I don't want to lose my house. I don't want to lose my independence or the little spirit that I have to make my own payments.

CHEN: But it's hard to keep up good spirits when she has to rely on weekly charity.

DURON: Normally, I tend to get here like 20 minutes until 7:00 so that I can be in line.

CHEN: Duron is not the only one trying new things to make ends meet. The CEO of Feeding America's Riverside San Bernardino branch knows, which supplies most of this food, knows that high prices may affect donors' ability to give over the next year. So, the organization has moved up the start of its gleaning project --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, we are picking beans, onions, carrots --

CHEN: -- to pick produce from a local urban farm and from neighbors' backyards.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then there's some babies.

ANNISSA FITCH, COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR, FEEDING AMERICA: Gleaning does provide a relief for our organization and for recipients that do depend on just receiving access to produce.

CHEN: Shoppers are also finding new ways to get deals in the grocery store. Riverside resident Lily Yu is a brand ambassador for Flashfood, an app that lists discounted grocery items nearing their sell-by date.


CHEN: With a sign language interpreter, Yu showed how much she saves. YU: We've got some mangos, an apple, and all of this fruit was $5.

It also helps reduce food waste. So, I'm able to help like with the climate, which is wonderful, as well as save money.

CHEN: For now, Yu has to drive an hour to certain supermarkets where Flashfood is available. But the CEO says they're aggressively trying to reach more parts of California.

While Yu is happy to drive her hybrid car, Duron has to stay close to Riverside because of fuel costs. She's applying for jobs that don't require a long commute and that would allow her to still look after her 82-year-old mother at home.

DURON: I still have to be strong enough for my mom, my girls, and the person that I take care of.


CHEN (on camera): We've covered a lot of food distribution lines in the past few years, and at first, the lines were going shorter when people were able to go back to work, but now they're growing again. The folks who run the food distribution site we showed you said they're seeing 25 percent more families in the past few months compared to a year ago.

And at the same time, food banks are seeing uncertainty because I'm being told by Feeding America Inland Empire that some of their grocery partners have now opted out of their donation commitments because of supply chain issues. Jim and Bianna?

SCIUTTO: It's so important to see those stories up close. They're real people suffering through this. Natasha Chen, thanks so much.

CHEN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, abused by their biological parents for years. Now, an attorney for some of the Turpin children says their nightmare continued after they left their house of horrors with a new foster family.



GOLODRYGA: New this morning, just a horrific story. We're learning that 6 of the 13 Turpin children who were tortured for years by their biological parents now say that they endured even more abuse after being placed in foster care. You may remember David and Louise Turpin were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison after they pleaded guilty to charges, including child endangerment.

SCIUTTO: Well, a lawyer for two of the siblings says that employees of the foster care agency who handled the Turpin children's case should be criminally charged now.

Jean Casarez joins us. And, Jean, it's a second trial, right, for these poor people, these poor kids. How did it happen? JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here is what we know. There is a

civil suit that has been filed against the entities around the foster family. We know serious felony criminal charges have been now filed against the foster family.

Our sister network, HLN, is focusing in on this case. I was able to do the interview late yesterday with the attorney that is representing the siblings in the civil suit. And what he told me is absolutely shocking.


ELAN ZEKTSER, ATTORNEY FOR TWO OF THE TURPIN CHILDREN: In talking to my clients, they indicate that the abuse that happened in this foster home was, in some ways, worse than the abuse that they had endured their whole life.

One of the gentlemen that has been charged and that was named as Mr. O. would consistently and constantly touch these young girls, make comments to these young girls and act in a sexual way with all of these girls that were minors at the time.

The emotional abuse in that house ranged from comments, like nobody will ever love you, you should kill yourself. They would force them to eat their own throw-up. It was just a constant of emotional abuse in this home that these children had to endure.



CASAREZ: And Elan Zektser is also he's telling me that the children were in there for three years. And the social workers would come to the home and they told them, and it's alleged in the complaint, that it was met with deaf ears.

Now, we do have a statement from Childnet, we want to read to you now. It says, at this time, our organization is not at liberty to disclose facts or discuss the allegations made in the complaint. We have a strong track record of providing excellent care and continue to demonstrate our commitment to these children.

And the foster family that has been charged with serious felonies, they are pleading not guilty. I am also told that this foster family had many children that they fostered through the years, and it is believed that some of them, many of them are too humiliated or embarrassed to come forward with what they endured. The door is now open.

GOLODRYGA: It's just unbelievable that these children experienced suffering not once but twice. Let's hope they get the justice that they deserve. Thank you so much, Jean.

And thank you so much for joining us today. I'm Bianna Golodryga.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts right after a short break.