Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

China Launches Military Drills Around Taiwan; Tensions Rise After Pelosi's High-Stakes Visit to Taiwan; Primaries Held in Several States Ahead of Midterms; Officials Asses Flood Damage as Kentucky Battles Heat Wave; U.S. Facing Blazing Hot Temperatures. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 04, 2022 - 04:30   ET



STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: That's right, Max. The Chinese People's Liberation Army has also just confirmed how they successfully ramped up their first round of missile firing, saying all of them hitting their intended targets. Obviously, earlier we have seen the PLA fly drones over one of Taiwan's outlying islands and also sending a larger than usual number of aircraft for incursions into Taiwan's air defense zone.

Obviously, the PLA has promised a lot more including practicing a blockade around the island and also potentially conducting live fire drills inside Taiwan's territorial water and also firing missile that could fly directly above the island. All of that of course considered a major provocation by Taipei and Washington. But from the Chinese perspective, all of this is very much justified and part of their long promised forceful response to Pelosi's visit.

But remember it is also worth noting that some analysts say this is also part of Beijing's political psychological and information warfare, at least partly aimed at implicating their own domestic audience after they have been fired up by days of threats from Beijing officials against Taiwan and the U.S.

But one thing many people seem to agree, this is unlikely just to be a few day of drills and then everything goes back to normal because the PLA could really seize the moment by really trying to change the status quo by for example, enforcing China's claim over the entire Taiwan Strait. Obviously, that could have major implications for the U.S. and its allies that routinely send warships and warplanes across the strait as part of their freedom of navigation operations -- Max.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Steven thank you. And Blake, the talk continues, doesn't it, of Asia, very high profile, but Taiwan obviously in the background of these other visits that the Speaker is conducting.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, Max, although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her delegation continue their tour of Asia, the impact of their surprise visit to Taiwan continues to play out around the self-governing island of Taiwan which is now left to deal with the fallout of her visit militarily. And while tensions between Taiwan and China continue to escalate over the ongoing live fire drills that Steven talked about, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has moved on to South Korea.

She arrived late last night. The first U.S. House Speaker to visit Seoul in the past 20 years. And this morning she met with South Korea's National Assembly Speaker, her counterpart of course, concerns over North Korea were a big part of the conversation. Specifically, the increased threats posed by North Korea with both Speakers agreeing to maintain strong and extended deterrents against the hermit nation.

Now Pelosi also spoke on the phone with South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol who is currently on summer vacation according to the presidential office. Both the president and speaker highlighted the importance of the U.S./Republic of Korea alliance.

And while Pelosi is still in South Korea, she is expected to arrive here in Japan much later tonight for the final listed stop on her tour of Asia. Japanese government officials tell us that they're still working on Pelosi's schedule for tomorrow in Tokyo and that includes who she'll meet with during her visit.

And that all being said, Japan's chief cabinet secretary said that he welcomes the Speaker to Japan and that her visit will further strengthen personal and parliamentary exchanges between the United States and Japan. And although the Japanese government wouldn't comment on Pelosi's surprise visit to Taiwan, the chief cabinet secretary did express concern over China's live fire military drills currently underway and urged a peaceful resolution of the cross-strait issues. Now he said that China's exercises could undermine peace and stability in the region and directly impact the security of Japan and its people as Japan's Yonaguni Island sits just 110 kilometers east of Taiwan -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Steven and Blake thank you both very much indeed.

Voters in Kansas have overwhelmingly rejected an attempt to weaken abortion rights in the state's constitution. It was the first major electoral test since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June and it happened in a heavily Republican state. Here's how U.S. President Biden reacted to that development.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In a decisive blow and a decisive victory, voters made it clear that politicians should not interfere with the fundamental rights of women. And the voters of Kansas sent a powerful signal that this fall the American people will vote to preserve and protect the right and refuse to let them be ripped away by politicians.


CNN's Jeff Zeleny now explains what the vote in Kansas could mean for the upcoming midterm elections.


surge of Kansas voters sending an overwhelming message to protect abortion rights.


It was the biggest sign yet of the backlash to the Supreme Court's decision to send the question of abortion back to the states. And here in conservative Kansas, voters delivered their answer loud and clear.

REP. SHARICE DAVIDS (D-KS): We don't want the government making our reproductive health care decisions for us.

ZELENY (voice-over): Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids said Kansans have watched closely, as neighboring states have enacted abortion bans.

DAVIDS: I think that there's a lot of energy to make sure that we're that were maintaining our rights and that our children and our grandchildren have as many rights as we've had.

ZELENY (voice-over): The abortion measure drew historic turnout for an August election with more than 900,000 voters casting ballots, dramatically outpacing primaries in 2018 and 2020. It was a question of whether voters wanted to amend the Kansas Constitution to allow lawmakers to further restrict or ban abortion. A resounding 59 percent said no. 41 percent said yes. With a coalition of some independents and Republicans joining forces to preserve access to abortion.

Three months before the fall elections, the outcome in Kansas reverberated across the political landscape with Democrats expressing fresh hope that support for abortion rights could be a motivating force in November.

Across the country on Tuesday, more pieces of the midterm election puzzle fell into place with supporters of former President Donald Trump, who have embraced his false claims about the 2020 election, scoring wins at the ballot box. In Arizona, Trump-backed Kari Lake leading in a divisive Republican governor's race over Karrin Taylor- Robson who had the support of former Vice President Mike Pence.

GOV. CANDIDATE KARI LAKE (R-AZ): We won this race.

ZELENY (voice-over): Arizona has been a hotbed of denialism about Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election with Mark Fincham winning the Republican nomination for secretary of state, the top election official in Arizona.

SENATE CANDIDATE BLAKE MASTERS (R-AZ): Arizona has sent a message loud and clear.

ZELENY (voice-over): Blake Masters riding his Trump endorsement to becoming the party's Senate nominee, setting up one of the nation's most closely watched Senate contests against Democratic Senator Mark Kelly.

In Michigan, Conservative Commentator Tudor Dixon becoming the Republican-nominated challenge Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

GOV. CANDIDATE TUDOR DIXON (R-MI): Frankly, Michigan, we deserve better.

ZELENY (voice-over): Congressman Peter Meijer, one of ten Republicans voting to impeach President Trump, losing his primary to John Gibbs, a fervent election denier whose candidacy was boosted by Democrats with hundreds of thousands of dollars in TV ads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you guys ready to take this country back?

ZELENY (voice-over) can: And in Missouri, Attorney General Eric Schmitt easily winning the Republican Senate contest, blocking a political comeback from former Governor Eric Greitens who resigned four years ago amid a sex scandal.

ERIC GREITENS, FORM MISSOURI GOVERNOR (R): God has a plan. It doesn't always work on our timeline.

ZELENY: There is no doubt that abortion rights are a motivating factor for some voters as was shown here in Kansas. That coalition of Democrats, independents, libertarians and even some Republicans joining forces to protect abortion rights by a wide margin. The question is whether it will overtake over issues driving this midterm election conversation like the economy and inflation. Republicans clearly want to keep their focus on that. But Democrats believe that they've learned a new playbook here in Kansas.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Overland Park, Kansas.


FOSTER: Mother nature isn't letting up on Kentucky. Just ahead, how the flood ravaged state now faces stifling hot temperatures and Kentucky isn't alone. 80 percent of the U.S. population is facing 90 degree heat over the next week. We'll get the very latest from CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri, coming up.



FOSTER: Officials in Kentucky are still looking for survivors and still assessing the damage to areas hard hit by recent devastating floods. And if that weren't enough, they are now battling with a heatwave. Heat indexes are expected to be at the upper 90s today and heat advisories are in effect throughout the evening. CNN's Dianne Gallagher reports from Kentucky.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now the governor has touted improvements on getting people back with power, getting water turned back on in some areas and better connectivity. The death toll did not change, but he has cautioned that it likely will. And the biggest concern right now, the heat. It is hot. It is in the

90s. It feels like 100 at this point. And a lot of people don't have power right now. There are cooling stations that have opened up, but we're seeing situations like this right here.

Here in Isom, this is the only grocery store in the entire town. It is destroyed, absolutely. We can't go inside right now without the health officials with us and respirators on. We went in there earlier, the smell that is permeating out of there right now just gives you an idea of all of the food that is rotting, that is spoiling, that people really could use at this point and they can't.

And this is just emblematic in what we're seeing in every town throughout southeastern Kentucky. It's the grocery store at Isom. It is the post office and the bank in swimming neon. It's the school in Perry County. It's the fire department in almost every city that we visited.

Just down the road in Jeremiah, we saw the Letcher Fire and Rescue center, it is completely destroyed. The tanker that you see there, that yellow one out front, we spoke with the chief -- the fire chief there, and he says that he has spent 15 hours through the flood on that tanker. He got a call in the middle of the night, told, hey, the station is flooding, you need to get here. He said that his pickup truck got swept up. He was able to steer it into that yellow tanker, ram it in there, but he couldn't get the door and the window open. Here's what he said.

WALLACE BOLLING JR., CHIEF, LETCHER FIRE DEPARTMENT: I reached and found my pistol in the back seat and I shot the window out of my Chevy. And as the window was going out, I dived hands up. I followed it out and jumped up on the tanker. Had a lot of time to think about a lot of things, you know. And how quickly life can go by you, you know. The next day I seen my kids. That made it worth it.

GALLAGHER: Now that fire chief says that in those moments, he texted his mom and his dad, he didn't know if he was going to survive. But he said that now he wants his community to survive and everybody here says they need the same things. They need water, they need power, they need supplies, they need money. But really, they say they need attention. They don't want people to forget about them. You see the sign behind me. It says hometown pride. That is what people here have. They all say they're going to rebuild but it is going to be a very long and difficult journey especially with the heat and potential rain again on the horizon.


Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Isom, Kentucky.


FOSTER: More heavy rain overnight around St. Louis and southeastern Missouri. A flash flood watch for downtown St. Louis has been lifted but flash flood warnings are still in place for the southern suburbs. Police report stranded motorists, flooded roads and flooded basements, creeks are rising too and exceeded levels they reached in last week's historic flooding. Let's turn to CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. It feels like so many new records are being set by this recent bout of weather.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is remarkable. Yes, you know, Max, we're talking about nine days, a span of nine days, three historic floods having taking place. This particular one essentially adding more insult to injury in an area that has been so walloped with heavy rainfall. And you look, at a span of six hours, some areas picking up 3 to 4 inches of rainfall, some of them coming down in just a matter of a few minutes here with incredible frequency of lightning strikes around this region as well.

Speaking to the intensity of these storms. As you noted flood alerts in place and flood warnings. Meaning flooding is eminent or occurring. South of St. Louis, as the system gradually migrates south and away from St. Louis. Of course, the historic flooding itself on Tuesday morning last week occurred on the western side of St. Louis. And notice this, in the span of 12 hours, Max, upwards of 75,000 lightning strikes scattered about the region here in the United States. So again, showing you just how intense this line of storms has been.

Rainfall amounts just since midnight local time pushing up over 3.5 inches in a few spots. Again, anytime you see these sorts of numbers in a matter of hours, you know you're going to see devastating flooding. The water levels will rise to significant values especially when the soil is as saturated as it is.

The system will migrate farther toward the east here. We do have a risk for Thursday and Friday, generally a slight risk which say two on a scale of 1 to 4 for a potential for excessive rainfall again on areas that have already seen so much rainfall. In the town of Hazard, Kentucky one of those communities very hard hit, look at the next seven days. Thunderstorm possibilities in place, heat may not look as hot as it is because you've got to factor in the humidity across this region. We'll feel considerably warmer than those middle and upper 80s.

Speaking of heat, look at the northeastern United States. Pick your choice. Washington, Philly, New York, Boston, heat indices in this region up to 106 degrees in the afternoon hours. Of course, this is an area with an incredible population as well. So certainly, going to have its impacts. And notice the trend stays pretty warm through Sunday. We do expect a cooling trend possibly into early next week as we get multiple systems that push in across this region. But very active pattern with historic heat, historic flooding of course, and fires widespread as well that we've covered in recent weeks -- Max.

FOSTER: Pedram, thank you very much indeed.

Wildfires continue to wreak havoc across parts of the Western United States. Red flag warnings cover large portions of Washington, Oregon and Montana. In Northern California the devastation is monumental. The McKinney fire scorching the earth leaving charred buildings and cars in its wake. But officials say lower temperatures as well as rain have slowed down the fire's spread helping firefighters to make some progress at least.

Now temperatures are scorching parts of Europe too with some places topping 104 degrees Fahrenheit. And the heat is expected to continue over the next few days and will spread into central Europe on Thursday. Temperatures will continue to be in the mid-90s to low 100 degrees. And while parts of northern Europe such as Germany will see some relief on Friday, parts of the Iberian Peninsula to the southeast of Europe are remaining well above average throughout the weekend.

Now check out this tweet from some of the enormous hail that has fallen this week in the Canadian province of Alberta. The chunks of ice were grapefruit size we're told, one of them alone measured 5 inches across and weighed more than half a pound. The storm shattered car windows and dented doors, it caused three accidents and some minor injuries in the area known as "Hail Storm Alley."

An unexpected result of climate change, high temperatures in Florida are causing 99 percent of sea turtles born on its beaches to be born female. Scientists say the temperatures of the sand eggs are bury in determines the turtle's sex with eggs incubated at high temperatures producing females. They warn if the trend continues, there won't be enough males to keep the population growing.

And file this under the bad idea column. Police in Utah say a man accidentally started a wildfire after trying to kill a spider with a cigarette lighter. The man was arrested for reckless burning and for possession of marijuana.

Utah's governor tweeted, quote, don't do drugs, kids, don't start spiders on fire during a drought.

Over in California, photojournalist Jonathan Rivas was documenting the destruction of the McKinney wildfire when all of a sudden, he saw a glimmer of hope.



JONATHAN RIVAS, PHOTO JOURNALIST: Come here, buddy. Are you OK? Are you OK? What's up with you buddy? How are you doing? Are you good? Here. Are you happy to see somebody? What's up.


FOSTER: That face. A lost puppy emerging from the ashes. After giving him some much needed water, Rivas posted that video on Twitter and was soon able to reunite the puppy with his family. We'll be right back.


FOSTER: Tributes are pouring in for the long time voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fans are leaving flowers on the Vin Scully star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The legendary broadcaster died this week at the age of 94. The Dodgers will be wearing a black patch on their uniforms for the rest of the season to honor Scully. It features a microphone and the word "Vin."

The National Football League Is appealing a six game suspension handed down to Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson saying that it's not harsh enough. Dozens of women have alleged sexual misconduct during massage sessions with Watson when he was with the Houston Texans.


But with one of those civil suits -- but all but one of those civil suits were settled privately. On Monday, a judge denounced Watsons predatory behavior that only suspended him for six games. The league wants him benched all season. Watson has not been charged with any crime and denies any wrongdoing.

Six time major champion Phil Mickelson along with ten other professional golfers have filed an antitrust suit against the PGA Tour calling it a monopoly. This comes after the tour suspended Mickelson and other golfers who joined the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series. That meant that they could no longer play in PGA events. The lawsuit alleges the PGA Tour is denying the LIV players the opportunity to earn an income. The PGA Tour commissioner responded. They would defend themselves and portrayed LIV golfers as free riders.

Former Ukrainian basketball star Slava Medvedenko who has been part of the Ukraine Defense Forces since the Russian invasion is auctioning two valuable rings, he earned during his career playing in the U.S. He was with the Los Angeles Lakers during their second and third straight championships in 2001 and 2002 alongside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. Jewel encrusted rings the winning players get are always valuable, but the rings that the players get are always value, but Medvedenko earned his when the Lakers won three championships in a row. Medvedenko hopes to raise at least $100,000 for youth sports programs in Ukraine. The auction ends on Friday. On the website bids have already surpassed the goal of $100,000. Currently the 2001 ring is bid at about 80,000 and the 2002 ring at around $60,000.

Many thanks for joining me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster in London. "EARLY START" with Erica Hill is next here on CNN.