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More Rain in Kentucky's Forecast; Mike Taylor is Interviewed about Flooding in Kentucky; Pelosi to Visit Taiwan; Democrats Try to Pass Energy and Health Care Bill; Biden Piles up Legislative Victories. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 01, 2022 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy has the week off.

Our top story this morning, just devastation in Kentucky. Extreme flooding leaving towns in ruin. Dozens, sadly, dead. And right now, the eastern part of the state is finally getting a desperately needed reprieve from the rain, but it's not gone yet. As the floodwaters begin to recede, the death toll is rising. At least 28 people have been killed, four of them are children. The state now estimates that tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

Kentucky's governor is expected to speak at any moment about the latest in his state. Some of the hardest hit areas aren't out of the woods yet. Another strong line of storms is forecast to move in later this evening. That is expected to compound the challenges for first responders and those who still have no homes. Hotels and motels, they're full. So are shelters, which are forcing some people to sleep in their cars now.

In Perry County, one official said more than 50 bridges have been washed away.

Let's begin in eastern Kentucky.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is in the town of Hazard this morning.

You know, Evan, we spoke to you last week. Things looked pretty bad. As the waters recede, you really see the extent of this devastation.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. And not only do you see what came before, you can get a look at how hard it's going to be to get everything back together here.

You talk about those bridges in Perry County. I'm in Perry County and I'm standing along Highway 28, which is an important road here. And I can explain to you exactly what went on when it comes to these bridges and access and getting close to people here that need to be rescued.

Behind me there you can see that the pieces of plywood, those slats, that was the floor of a house. You can see a bit of the house behind it. Up this creek, which filled up when the flood rivers came in on Thursday, broke this tree down, came through here. And you can see over here is where this house started out. It was right here and it was taken by these floodwaters and stripped away down, down this creek and crashed into a bridge. The bridge being the only way to access the houses that are behind Dave Foley (ph), my cameraman, right now.

Crews came in and took that house off that bridge, but that was the first anyone who were behind that bridge could get out. And that's a story we're hearing dozens of places all over this area.

Now, you also mentioned the idea that we're starting to get a chance to see just how bad this flood really was. And I, unfortunately, have some news I can bring into the CNN newsroom right now, which is a photo of four siblings that died in these floods. You're looking at a photo of four - of four siblings. They're from Knott County nearby. The top left is Madison, eight, Neveah, four, Riley Noble, six, and at the bottom right there, Chance Noble, two. Amy Smith, the aunt of these children, told us that Amber Smith was the best mother and never spent a night away from her kids.

There are going to be a lot of more horrible stories like this as these waters recede and crews can get in and finally start to see how much damage has been done. Every time officials talk, they mention a higher death toll. When you see those photos and you see what this is really like here, you understand just what a situation they are in. It is horrible. It is unbelievable to see. And it is absolutely tragic.


SCIUTTO: Lord, that poor family, those poor children. Evan McMorris- Santoro, just so sad to see.

Well, I'm joined now by Mike Taylor, who's the mayor of Elkhorn City, Kentucky.

Mayor, we appreciate you taking time with us this morning.

I know you've got a lot to get through there. The first question I have, I suppose, is, are you expecting more rain to come your way?

MAYOR MIKE TAYLOR, ELKHORN CITY, KENTUCKY (via telephone): Yes, we are already getting it right now. And like above us, where he was talking about where the children got missing like from (INAUDIBLE), they've already got water back in the streets there right now.

SCIUTTO: Oh, Lord.

Do you have a sense, I mean, sadly, the death toll as it stands is 28.


SCIUTTO: But we do know there have been a lot of warnings that number is expected to rise. Are there still people unaccounted for in Elkhorn City?

TAYLOR: No, we're fine here with that.


As you get to another potential rain situation there, as you look back, I mean, do you feel you got enough warning about the rains, the flooding coming, as badly as it did?


TAYLOR: No, because it come so fast. I mean, it came really fast, the water did. And it like - like the bridge, it took them out, stranded people behind them, you know. And a lot of them are still out right now.

SCIUTTO: Oh, Lord. I know people are helping people. As these bridges have gone down, I mean, that means access, right? Are rescue workers able to get to the people who need them?

TAYLOR: Yes, they've been taking - they left from here and that made like a line and held on to each other across the creek, across the river part creek, I mean, and got food handed it over to the - got it over to the people because as the bridge there, the (INAUDIBLE), heard there's like 26 people over there just stranded. And it's all the way up the road like every bridge is out just like that. So - and we've been taking hot meals like twice a day, all -- every - all - every day to keep (INAUDIBLE) water and stuff like that because it's going to be a while before they have water, too.

SCIUTTO: Yes. We've seen so many stories of average people, neighbors helping neighbors, local officials like yourself getting out there. Are national -- are state and national authorities getting in there to help you as well?

TAYLOR: Yes, they're getting in touch with us. They're -- they've been really great. You know, from our congressman down to our senator, they've been really good about helping right now. And, I mean -- and it's going - it's going to take a lot. It's going to be a long road down. You know, it's going to be long.

But, we're in it for the long haul, to help. And our community is being so wonderful and people have just come out about cooking. I mean it's been a really great response from our community.

SCIUTTO: With warnings of more rain coming, what are you saying to folks that are still there? Are you telling them to get out?

TAYLOR: Yes, we're just telling -- like right now, it -- the rain has stopped right now, you know? I'm keeping an eye on it right now if you look -- all the way up and down the creek just to make sure, you know, because when they called this morning, it was in the road, you know, like in Cooper Drive (ph) or (INAUDIBLE). But the rain stuff is all right. Now it's exceeded some here today, right now, since we're talking.

SCIUTTO: We're talking about years to come back from this. I mean I think that oftentimes people, you know, a few days later they might forget about a town named Elkhorn City, but I'm sure you're bracing for a long, long recovery. TAYLOR: Yes. It's just like - like up the creek where we're at, the

people at Buckhorn (ph) Creek, they're going to need help for a long time up through here. And, you know what I'm saying. And I hope people don't forget them. You know, we need out-of-town help coming in like - especially like (INAUDIBLE) and these places where the bridge are out. We need people to bring equipment in that can help. That's one of the big issues right now.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, listen, we've been sharing charities where folks can -- from around the country can help pitch in, and I'll continue to do that.

Meanwhile, Mayor Mike Taylor, we wish you, we wish the people of Elkhorn City the best of luck.

TAYLOR: And I thank you so kindly too.

SCIUTTO: So many stories like that across Kentucky right now.

Another story we are following.

Sources tell CNN this morning that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to visit Taiwan despite China trying to warn her away. Pelosi is leading a congressional delegation to the Indo-Pacific region. This includes visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. Despite those threats coming from Beijing, this morning, the Biden administration said, it's up to Pelosi. They support her decision.


JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS AT THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Clearly, we want to make sure that when she travels overseas she can do so safely and securely and we're doing to make sure of that. There's no reason for the Chinese rhetoric. There's no reason for any actions to be taken. It is not uncommon for congressional leaders to travel to Taiwan. It is very much in keeping with our policy.


SCIUTTO: Let's speak now to CNN's Kylie Atwood, she's in New York, and Will Ripley in Taipei, Taiwan.

Kylie, first to you. How long do we expect the speaker to be there? Who's she going to meet with? What do we know?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, we really don't know many details about what this trip is going to look like. But we do know, Jim, is that she is expected to visit Taiwan as part of this trip to the Indo-Pacific. It's significant because we have reported that the expectation is that she would go. There were efforts underway to organize this trip for the last few weeks. And, of course, during that time period, the Biden administration has warned her of the risks associated with this potential trip.

Of course, particularly because of the timing of it with China's party congress coming up, President Xi seeking a third term. President Biden himself even cited U.S. military concerns about this trip.

But what we also know, according to my colleague Kevin Liptak at the White House, is that President Biden has not explicitly told Speaker Pelosi not to make this visit. He doesn't think it is his place to do so. And we heard earlier this morning from John Kirby saying the Biden administration really wants to make sure that her trip is safe and secure.


Not saying specifically that Taiwan is part of this trip, but saying it's important for her to make this trip safely. And also saying that the Biden administration and the U.S. as a whole shouldn't be intimidated by China's rhetoric or their potential actions. So really a boost of confidence, a boost of support from the White House as Pelosi has already embarked on this trip.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we saw John Kirby saying that if she does go, that the U.S. will take all steps it can to keep her safe.

Will, to you now.

China making more and more rhetorical threats. The word they used this morning, the words egregious political impact. This after the lines about, you know, if you play with fire you'll get burned.

I wonder, what more are we hearing from Beijing and what are you hearing from Taiwan? Does Taiwan want this visit from the speaker?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, from Beijing, Jim, and I think you could probably recognize a lot of the expressions that they're using. This is boilerplate stuff that we hear when they're talking about a U.S. lawmaker visiting the United States.


RIPLEY: A rhetorical escalation is what this is right now. They're putting out some propaganda videos saying, you know, we have our fighters standing by. They're showcasing their jets. But they are not doing something so provocative like, you know, trying to shadow a plane.

Now, of course, you know, we don't know what's going to happen in the coming hours, but what it seems to be from China is a very strongly worded attempt to appear strong, to save face, if you will, now that China knows that Speaker Pelosi is going ahead with this trip, but not something that's going to be so damaging that it could create regional instability, which is the last thing That Xi Jinping wants months before his party congress.

Now, here in Taiwan, they really have been put in a bit of an awkward position by this because - and that's why they've stayed so quiet. That's why, you know, President Tsai Ing-wen, who, you know, will be meeting with Speaker Pelosi no doubt, but didn't - she didn't tweet a statement of support or anything, which they've just - no even stayed neutral, they've stayed quiet or they've said things here in Taiwan like, they welcome, you know, visits from American friends, and all - you know, all friends from around the world. And it is beneficial for Taiwan to have lawmakers come here, particularly someone like Speaker Pelosi, because to see the situation on the ground, to have these meetings - and, keep in mind, this is an overnight stay. This is not a three-hour, you know, refueling stopover like some other lawmakers have done in the past. She's going to be, you know, checking into a fancy hotel, probably near Taipei 101. She's going to have dinner. She's going to have meetings. She's going to have face-to-face interactions. And that is exactly what Taiwanese government leaders want from somebody like Nancy Pelosi. They want that kind of connection that they hope will help Taiwan if China ever does actually fulfill its threat to retake this island by force if necessary.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And it's a good point to make that this kind of rhetoric, it's not a one-off. It's not entirely out of the ordinary. We have heard it before. So, we'll continue to watch closely.

Will Ripley, Kylie Atwood, thanks so much to both of you.

The first shipment of Ukrainian grain has now left the Black Sea port of Odessa. It's the first such shipment since Russia started the war, blocked the ports, sparking a global food crisis.

Millions of tons of grain have been trapped inside Ukraine for months. The U.N. and Turkey brokered a deal between Ukraine and Russia to resume some exports. It's hoped the shipments will help ease the food crisis, reduce also grain prices. Those developments come as Russia, though, continues hammering parts of Ukraine's southern coast where this grain is being shipped out. Authorities say a trauma center was hit in overnight attacks. That wounded three people. The mayor of Mykolaiv says a Ukrainian business mogul and his wife also died in those attacks.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, Democrats are hoping to force a fragile deal on climate and health care and taxes through the Senate. We're going to take you live to Capitol Hill with the latest as President Biden looks for a big legislative win.

Plus, ESPN is reporting this morning that NFL quarterback DeShaun Watson will be suspended for six games. This after settling several sexual assault and misconduct lawsuits.

Also ahead, emergency officials say two people have died in a rapidly expanding wildfire in California. This is an entirely new one. It's now the largest in the state so far this year. Heard that before, too. Thousands are evacuating.



SCIUTTO: Lots of action on The Hill. This week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to call for a vote on the PACT Act, as it's known. This, a multibillion bill that would help veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits during their service overseas. But Senator Schumer also has another critical piece of legislation on his plate. You may have heard of it. A deal he hammered out with Senator Joe Manchin that includes key provisions sought for some time by Democrats and the president on climate, health care and corporate taxes.

CNN's Melanie Zanona, live on Capitol Hill.

So, Melanie, big development last week. We know that Manchin is on board. So the question is, is Kyrsten Sinema on board, but also the Senate parliamentarian, because he has to decide whether this falls under the reconciliation rules.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. Exactly. There's a lot of optimism right now among Democrats but there are also a number of hurdle to jump over. First up, the Senate parliamentarian has to rule whether this package complies with budget rules. That's because Democrats are trying to use this special budgetary process to pass this bill along strictly party lines. So that is a key step in this process. And we are expecting that to happen this week.

Then all eyes turn to Kyrsten Sinema. She has so far been mum on this deal, but sources tell our Manu Raju that she is expected to announce a position once that Senate parliamentarian ruling comes out. And, remember, she has her own policy and political calculations to make here. She has been opposed to some of the tax provisions in the bill in the past, but she's also been a huge champion of a number of other provisions in the bill, from health care and prescription drug prices, to climate change.


And so Democrats are hopeful that in the end she will be there.

Take a listen to Joe Manchin talking about his fellow Senate centrist in the Senate.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I think that basically when she looks at the bill and sees the whole spectrum of what we're doing and all of the energy we're bringing and all those reduction of prices and fighting inflation, by bringing prices down, by having more energy, hopefully she will be positive about it. But, you know, she'll make her decision, and I respect that.


ZANONA: Now, Democratic leaders are hoping to put this bill on the floor by the end of this week with potentially votes over the weekend, but that is an ambition timeline. As you can see, there are a number of challenges still to work through here. And so the bottom line is that this is a potentially make or break moment for President Joe Biden's economic agenda and the Democratic Party. And really Kyrsten Sinema is holding the keys right now.


SCIUTTO: We've heard that before. Melanie Zanona, on The Hill, thanks so much.

The Biden administration is working to capture more legislative victories, as we were saying, ahead of the midterm elections. While Americans really remain focused on sky high inflation, other economic issues, President Biden has secured several major bipartisan wins focused on pumping up the U.S. economy, reducing inflation, says the administration, also gun safety.

Joining me now to speak about the big picture, Toluse Olorunnipa, he's political investigations and enterprise reporter for "The Washington Post."

Toluse, good morning. Good to have you on.

I mean the president's approval rating is low. It's 38 percent. You know, historically bad. Inflation certainly weighing on that. News of a possible recession as well. But, legislatively, if you look back just even a few months to the president, infrastructure bill, you know, pulling victory from the jaws of defeat on a budget bill here, including a lot of his priorities, Chips Act, bipartisan support for that.

Explain the disconnect as far as you're hearing between what voters think of the president and what is a not bad legislative slate of wins here?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS AND ENTERPRISE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, the White House says that you have to wait for some of the impacts of some of these recently passed bills to make it through to the economy, that people will start to feel gas prices coming down, they'll start to feel inflation no longer as a major impact on their budgets as it has been in the last year or so. So, from the White House's perspective, they need a little bit more time.

Now, we have just less than 100 days before the midterms. The big question is whether there is enough time for any of these measures to actually have the impact that the administration wants them to have on voters before they go and vote. So, some of that disconnect is just that people are still feeling the hard impact of an economy that has increasing prices where gas prices are higher than they were last year, food prices and other prices are much -- things are much more expensive than they have been and people are feeling that on their day - in their daily lives.

Some of these pieces of legislation will not be felt in that major way for weeks or months or maybe even years for things like the Chips Act. So, there's a disconnect with the impact of the short term and the long term impact of some of these pieces of legislation.

SCIUTTO: Who do Democrats give credit for getting these pieces of legislation over the finish line? I mean, clearly, you know, getting Manchin to change his vote was key, but do they credit the president with brokering this? Is it the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer? Is it White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain? I mean who do they give credit for or team effort?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, they're trying to preach the idea of a team effort. We always have this comment about Democrats in disarray. So this is one area where they're trying to say that everyone got on board, we were able to get the moderates in our party, people like Joe Manchin, get them on board and get something passed and actually do some governing from the middle and not necessarily passing the big agenda that Biden campaigned on but passing something and saying that we can make Washington work.

So, they are, you know, sort of not at the point where they're arguing over who gets the credit yet. They still seem to be in a kumbaya moment where everyone seems to be talking positively. Now, we do have to wait and see what Kyrsten Sinema does with her vote and whether or not, you know, that breakdown that we've seen in the past rears its head again as we get closer to the final passage of this bill. So it does appear that everyone seems to be on board. They realize that if they are going to have any kind of success in the midterms, they have to join together. They can't be fighting publicly. And that seems to be where they are at this moment.

SCIUTTO: The issue they really haven't been able to move, and that is high inflation. And that is the one that hits people immediately, right in their pocketbooks. They see it every day and on the grocery shelves, at the gas pump. Does the administration have an answer for that beyond saying, you know, this is Putin's gas price, right, in effect, which they've tried but hasn't quite worked for them.

OLORUNNIPA: Oh, they're trying a number of different things. They're trying to target the energy issue. And we have seen gas prices come down over the past month and a half. But there are a number of other places where their efforts have not had the kind of major impact that they wanted to see. We are still seeing inflation at pretty high rates. But we have this new bill that's coming through. They've labeled it the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.


They're not being subtle at all. But it does remain to be seen whether the kind of impact that they want to have will be felt by voters and Americans before November, which is not a lot of time between now and November. So, they are working pretty hard on trying to make sure people feel the difference at the gas pump and the grocery store. But sort of quibbling over whether we're on a -- in a recession or not is not necessarily going to make -- feel like they are not being hurt by the high prices we have in our economy.

SCIUTTO: Exactly. Yes. Well, people -- regardless of the technical definition, ask folks what they feel and that's the driving force.

Toluse Olorunnipa, thanks so much for joining us.

Just moments ago, the Kentucky governor, Andy Beshear, updated the situation in eastern Kentucky and the death toll, sadly, it's gone up. It is now standing at least 30 people, up from 28 last night. Also, as that state faces even more rain today, we're monitoring the latest. Next hour we will speak to the mayor of a town who says everything is, quote, totally gone.

Still ahead, NFL quarterback DeShaun Watson has been suspended. How many games he will miss after more than two dozen women have accused him of sexual misconduct, including assault and harassment.

And we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street where stock futures are down this morning after stocks finished the month of July on a positive note. One of the best months in nearly a year. Since November 2020, in fact. Gains were helped by earnings reports that are so far better than some feared. Investors also weighing further moves by the Federal Reserve as it raised interest rates again last week.