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Pelosi Arrives In Taiwan Amid Threats Of Chinese Retaliation; Flood Watch Cancelled In Kentucky As Dangerous Heat Moves In; Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman (D-KY) Discusses Flooding And The Search-And-Rescue Efforts; DOJ Sues Idaho For Restricting Abortion Access To Patients In Need Of Lifesaving Treatment; Kansas Puts Abortion Rights On Ballot But Language Confuses Voters. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 02, 2022 - 14:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: China says it will launch a series of targeted military operations around Taiwan in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit there today.

This marks the first visit by a high-ranking U.S. official in 25 years. Taiwan's landmark building in Taipei flashed a sign that read, "Speaker Pelosi, welcome to Taiwan."

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: In a "Washington Post" opinion piece released today, Pelosi writes:

"America's solidarity with Taiwan is more important today than ever. Not only to the 23 million people of the island but also to the millions of others oppressed and menaced by the people's republic of China."

CNN's Selina Wang joins us from Beijing now.

What are Chinese officials saying now that Speaker Pelosi is in Taiwan?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor, well, they are seething. Officials are saying that Pelosi is maliciously provoking China and that this constitutes a direct challenge to China's sovereignty.

They aren't buying what the U.S. is saying that, look, this is just another regular congressional visit.

What they see is the U.S. sending in someone who's second in line to the presidency to Taiwan. So they see this as creating a crisis and provoking China.

So, in response, we are seeing this show of military force. As you mentioned, they announced a series of targeted military options and military exercises around Taiwan. According to state media, as Pelosi was landing in Taiwan, there were

fighter jets that were flying across the Taiwan strait. Taiwan's defense ministry has also reported that China flew 21 war planes into Taiwan's self-declared air defense zone.

This is an incursion that China has frequently been making, near daily, over the last few weeks.

This is also a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping cannot look weak. We were expecting some sort of show of military strength and force. We are just months away from a key political meeting when Xi Jinping is expected to be reanointed for an unprecedented third term.

And while it is true that 25 years ago, a House speaker from the U.S. had also visited Taiwan, so this isn't unprecedented, the China of today is vastly different.

It is more powerful economically, militarily. It is more aggressive and confident. And the leader at the top does not take humiliation or insults lightly.

And a big question, as we see how this trip plays out and China's reaction, is, what is the end result of this all going to be? Is it going to make Taiwan more secure? What does it mean for the future of U.S.-China relations?


CAMEROTA: OK, Selina Wang, thank you for all that reporting.

And new this afternoon, the first major action taken by a new DOJ task force on reproductive rights. Why it's suing Idaho, specifically, for its abortion restrictions. That's ahead.


BLACKWELL: The flood waters in Kentucky have claimed lives, destroyed communities. And now comes the heat. Officials are worried that the temperatures hitting 90 degrees and higher could be dangerous for the thousands of flood survivors still without power or running water.



RANDY POLLY, KENTUCKY FLOODING SURVIVOR: We need so much help here. It is unbelievable. There's no Internet. There's no power. And a lot of places, they say, we won't have water for months.

NICOLE NEACE, KENTUCKY FLOODING SURVIVOR: I got my flashlight and looked out the window and it was already halfway up our living room window. There's nothing left. Everything's destroyed.


CAMEROTA: Search crews are trying to find hundreds of people still unaccounted for after last week's flooding. The National Guard pulled some survivors off of rooftops.

The confirmed death toll is 37 people, but the governor warns that number will likely go up.

Joining us now is Kentucky's lieutenant governor, Jacqueline Coleman.

Lieutenant governor, thank you so much for being here.

I know it's very hard to get these numbers in real time, but has anything changed in terms of the death toll being 37 and hundreds of people still unaccounted for?

LT. GOV. JACQUELINE COLEMAN (D-KY): Well, thank you so much for having me and for bringing attention to the tragedy in eastern Kentucky.

At this point, the 37 confirmed deaths remain the same, and we do suspect that there are hundreds that are still missing. The waters are starting to subside in some areas, which makes the search and rescue at least a little bit easier, but I will have to say that we're almost a week into this.

And there are still search and rescue missions all day, happening all day, because of the terrain, because it's difficult to reach people who are -- who live in, certainly in the mountains but also because the roads and bridges in many cases have been washed away.

BLACKWELL: The hundreds still accounted for, are they missing from concentrated areas where you expect the death toll to rise significantly, and where are those places?

COLEMAN: So, the county that has the highest loss of life at this point is Knott County, Kentucky. And so between Knott County, Letcher County and Perry County is where we're seeing the most widespread damage and the most loss of life.

Right now, I can tell you that we have search-and-rescue missions going with our first responders. It is absolutely amazing what they are doing. They have rescued over a thousand people by -- through the search and rescue missions over the course of the last few days.

And that is our National Guard. That is Kentucky state police, and that's our division of fish and wildlife as well.

So, obviously, the people that we suspect are missing are in the areas that are also experiencing the highest death tolls because of the damage that those counties took on.

CAMEROTA: Yes. The stories of heroism have been incredible.

And so, our CNN weather team has described these floods that you all experienced as ultra-rare. Some people have described them as one in a thousand-year floods. But you had two of them in one week.

And so what's the solution for Kentucky?

COLEMAN: Well, so, first of all, you know, if you think back to December, we had once-in-a-lifetime tornados in the west, and then, of course, we're living through a once in a lifetime pandemic and once- in-a-thousand-year floods.

So it's safe to say we're living through our fair share of natural disaster history here in Kentucky.

This is not an area that -- part of the area that flooded is not parts of Kentucky that normally flood, and certainly not like this.

The challenge with this flood, in particular, was the rate at which the rain fell.

I've been on the ground in multiple counties, the governor's in eastern Kentucky now, and I constantly hear people say, I opened my door, and the water was flooding in from the outside, or, once the water started coming in the house, I tried to find my kids and by the time we got outside, it was up to my knees.

I mean, like, multiple stories in multiple counties just like that. And so, the rate at which this rain fell was unprecedented.

No one had ever seen anything like it. People have lived in that same place for generations, telling me that they haven't seen anything like this. So, this is very unique to this area.

But back to your stories of heroism. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see the damage that's been done. But I tell you what, to watch our fellow Kentuckians come together is heartwarming.

People who lost everything are bringing food up to the first responders at the command center to say, thank you. Folks whose houses are a complete loss are down the street helping their neighbor try to salvage what they can out of theirs.


We had a state representative who was out on a kayak when the flood first hit, helping folks climb onto roofs and use chainsaws to cut holes in the roof and help to pull people out.

Like, this is the kind of team Kentucky spirit that makes -- that makes me proud. And it's an honor to be able to carry these stories from the folks who have risked everything to save the lives of their neighbors.

BLACKWELL: Yes, so many people are doing whatever they can, just taking food, just helping a neighbor, even just stopping to pray with somebody and offering whatever support they can.

Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman, thank you so much for spending a few minutes with us.

And for information about how you can help victims of the Kentucky flooding, go to

CAMEROTA: So, the future of abortion rights is on the ballot for voters in Kansas today. And we're going to discuss the nationwide implications next.



CAMEROTA: New Today, the Justice Department is suing Idaho over its near total abortion ban.

BLACKWELL: This is the first lawsuit of its kind by the Biden administration since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, joins us to talk about this.

Why is the DOJ suing, Jessica?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, the A.G. here, Merrick Garland, he left open the possibility this could the first of many lawsuits against states with near abortion bans.

In Idaho, in particular, their near-total ban with limited exceptions is set to take effect in just weeks, August 25th. So the DOJ is suing to block the law from taking effect.

They're saying this law banning abortions, it directly conflicts with another federal law that requires doctors in emergency situations to provide patients with stabilizing treatments.

They're saying a stabilizing treatment in some cases could, in fact, include abortions.

What we're really seeing is the problem that doctors are running into, not only in Idaho but other states, is that when patients are presenting with emergencies, sometimes they are getting on the phones, these doctors, with their lawyers.

Looking at the legal ramifications, rather than jumping in to help a patient who might need an abortion because of a medical emergency with the mother or to save the mother's life.

So the attorney general addressed that in his press conference earlier. Take a listen.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: There have been widespread reports of delays and denials of treatment to pregnant women experiencing medical emergencies.

If a patient comes into the emergency room with a medical emergency, jeopardizing the patient's life or health, the hospital must provide the treatment necessary to stabilize that patient. This includes abortion when that is the necessary treatment.


SCHNEIDER: So now the Justice Department, the attorney general, asking a federal court to block this law from taking effect.

And, Victor and Alisyn, you know, they're saying if this law does take effect on August 25th it's going to present doctors with what they're calling an impossible choice.

The choice between being criminally prosecuted for performing an abortion if that's what's necessary or violating this federal law that mandates that they provide the stabilizing treatment in the event of an emergency, even if it means an abortion -- Guys?

CAMEROTA: Jessica Schneider, thank you for explaining all of that.

Today, voters in Kansas will decide the future of abortion rights in their state. Kansas is the first state in the country to put the question of abortion rights directly to voters since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

But there's a complication. The wording of the amendment for Kansas voters is, at best, confusing.

Let's bring in Ashley All. She is the spokesperson for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the group that supports keeping abortion rights in the Kansas constitution.

Ashley, thank you very much for being here.

I want to start with the language because I find this uncipherable.


CAMEROTA: I find this uncipherable.

So voting, yes, on this ballot measure means no to abortion rights. Voting no means yes to abortion rights.

But it's more complicated than that. I'll read a portion of the language for everyone.

"A vote for the Value Them Both amendments would affirm there's no Kansas constitutional right to abortion or to require the government funding of abortion and would reserve to the people of Kansas, through their elected state legislators, the right to pass laws to regulate abortion.

Then, the other option is:

"A vote against would make no changes to the constitution of the state of Kansas and could restrict the people, through their elected state regulators, from regulating abortion by leaving in place the recently recognized right to abortion."

Is this intentionally convoluted?

ALL: That was obviously a mouthful. Yes, it was -- from the very beginning, this has been a very confusing amendment. Not only because of the wording, obviously, a very confusing amendment.

You know, funding of abortion, government funding of abortion, as well as exceptions that aren't actually protected. The supporters of this amendment really did make this as confusing as possible.

Not only that, they put it on a primary ballot in August, when turnout is roughly half what it is in the general election. Typically, something of this magnitude when you're taking the constitutional rights and freedoms away from half the state should be put on the November election ballot.


CAMEROTA: Who wrote this? How did it get on the ballot? Give us a quick history how this came to pass today.

ALL: It was written by a couple of legislators local to Kansas, along with anti-abortion activists and lawyers from their side of the argument. And really, I think they were trying very hard to make it confusing for voters.

Even though, you know, we have a limited right to abortion in our Kansas constitution, and abortion is already heavily regulated here, they wanted to remove that right from the constitution.

But make it as difficult as possible for voters to understand what they're voting on.

CAMEROTA: As if that isn't enough, there are also shady groups trying to further confound the issue.

According to the "Kansas City Star," an anonymous group is sending a misleading text to Kansas voters, telling them to vote yes to protect choice. But that's not true.

ALL: Right.

CAMEROTA: And so, I mean, what do you think is going to happen today?

ALL: You know, we have been working really hard for the past, you know, several months the make sure that voters in Kansas understand what a no vote means and what this amendment really does.

Ultimately, this amendment on the ballot today would mandate government control over private medical decisions and pave the way for a total abortion ban.

Supporters have been coy about what they're going to do after if this happens. But they are on record and have introduced a bill that would ban abortion completely, even in cases of rape and incest.

And has a very narrow exception to save the life of the mother in ectopic pregnancies alone.

It takes a lot of effort on our part to communicate with voters and we've been doing that heavily, through just knocking on doors, texting, calling, all of that.

And we really think we have done about everything possible to help our voters understand. But it's not surprising to us that they are trying to deceive and mislead Kansas voters.

CAMEROTA: So, Ashley, I only have 10 seconds left. Is this a bellwether of what's happening in the country or is it Kansas specific?

ALL: I think it's Kansas specific in a lot of ways. It is a very unique situation.

Kansas is going to be the first state in the nation to vote on reproductive rights following the Roe decision but we aren't the last. We should all have conversations with friends and neighbors about this issue.

CAMEROTA: Ashley All, thank you very much for your time. We'll be watching closely.

ALL: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: We're following developments on two major stories, the U.S. operation to kill the world's most wanted terrorist and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's arrival in Taiwan despite China's threats of retaliation. We've got new details next.