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Hurricane Fiona Makes Landfall In Puerto Rico; Biden Pays Final Respects At Coffin Of Queen Elizabeth; New York Mayor Says All-Hands- On-Deck Response Needed On Migrant Crisis; Trump Rallies For J.D. Vance; Graham Proposes National Abortion Ban; Earthquake In Taiwan. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 18, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington. And we do begin with breaking news this hour. Hurricane Fiona has just made landfall in Puerto Rico and the entire island of roughly three million Americans is without power right now. The category 1 storm lashing the island with heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 100 miles an hour. The island's main utility company says it could take several days before power is restored.

And we're already getting incredibly images of damage including -- look at this, this landslide that we got pictures of and the storm is still going strong.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is standing by with the latest on Fiona's track but we begin with CNN's Leyla Santiago who as you can see right now she's in the thick of it on the ground in Puerto Rico.

Leyla, set the scene for us.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are in the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan, on the northeast part of the island. As you mentioned, Jim, on the southwest part of the island, Hurricane Fiona has now made landfall. So we are dealing with heavier rains, we are dealing with a bit of wind gusts and flash flooding right now on the ground. But the big story in terms of impacts to the U.S. citizens on this island is there is an island wide power outage that now has been going on for more than an hour and the power company telling us that they don't expect the full power as this natural disaster comes in.

And I should say that the timing here is part of the story because remember five years ago, nearly five years ago to the day I stood right here as Hurricane Maria came in and demolished the island and left this island without power for months.

So I went into the interior this morning to talk to people who lost power at 8:00 this morning. I will warn you the video is pretty dark because while there's no power, I want you to listen to the exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language)

SANTIAGO (on-camera): She says when the power goes out she gets real anxious and she gets really tense, worried. She's staying here because she left her house. It's safer here and she's worried what she's going to find at her house.


SANTIAGO: The governor is saying that mud slides are absolutely going to be part of the concern now and urging everyone to stay home but it would be days before we expect power to be restored -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Boy, and that island has just been battered by storms. I know you were there for Hurricane Maria and I know you're going to be on top of it as this storm develops. Long night in the dark I'm sure for people there in Puerto Rico.

And Chad Myers, let's go to you next. What can we expect from this hurricane in the coming hours? It looks like the dirty side of the storm is really pummeling Puerto Rico right now?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. You know, and every storm has a personality. Some are storm surge makers like Katrina. Some are wind damage makers like Maria. This is a flash flood machine. We are going to get between 15 and 20 inches of rain right on top of the island. All of these red boxes are already flash flood warnings. I've been looking at some of the river gauges in the area. They're higher than they've ever been in some sports. So we're already seeing record- flooding although it's not really getting out.

If you like in the area, you know it. 100 percent of the island without power. The transmission lines just aren't moving any power, any direction. 103 mile per hour wind gusts in Ponce. This is what we were seeing on the north side of the eye. Now the eye wall just did come out short. And so at the center of eye so it's been called landfall by the National Hurricane Center, but for many, many hours the northern part of the eye wall, the dirty part as you said, was right on shore, not offshore at all, and just pounding the area here around Ponce.

This is an area that's going to see 15 or 20 inches of rainfall and the weather service, National Hurricane Center, putting out a statement two hours ago, catastrophic flooding is expected so this is the rainmaker that we're talking about. It's a flash flood maker. Not a salt water generating flood maker like a, you know, the storm surge. But it does get bigger as it moves into the Atlantic. For now not heading anywhere near the U.S. but pretty close call for Bermuda as a category 3 hurricane -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Chad Myers, thinking about all these folks in Puerto Rico tonight. Chad, thank you very much.


I'm joined now by Thomas Von Essen, the former New York City fire commissioner. He served as the FEMA administrator for Puerto Rico during the Trump administration and was responsible for helping it recover from hurricanes during that time.

Tom, the entire island of Puerto Rico lost power before Hurricane Fiona ever made landfall. These are Americans there who are dealing with some very serious conditions right now. What does all of this tell you about the days ahead?

THOMAS VON ESSEN, FORMER NEW YORK CITY FIRE COMMISSIONER: It tells me that the poor people as usual are the ones that always suffer from this stuff. The wealthy people always figure out a way to make it work but the poor people have no way to work the refrigerator, medicines, the food goes bad. It's just -- it's a nightmare for them. The shelters are always, you know, what a shelter is. It's great in an emergency.

We certainly don't want to stay there very long and they showed that the power company was -- I mean, I remember Governor Rossello saying to me think of the worst corporation you've ever seen, and PREPA was worse. So it's -- they haven't changed much I guess. They've spent a lot of money down there. People, different people, different names. But it's the same basic, you know, premise of political corruption and favoritism.

And, you know, members of families working in these places, instead of having the proper expertise and coming in there, and really making some structural changes than necessary. I hope those get done over the next couple of years. But it just seems outrageous that it's five years later. And before the storm even hits they are out of electricity.

ACOSTA: Right. That is not good at all. And you led Puerto Rico's recovery for FEMA after Hurricane Maria five years ago. That was a much more powerful storm than what we're seeing right now from Fiona. But I'm guessing there are some big parts of Puerto Rico who are still -- that are still dealing with what happened after Maria. What are the biggest concerns for the island right now?

VON ESSEN: Well, it takes so long to get things back up because so many of the systems are connected. And some of the main lines go through the hills there, and if those main lines get damaged they don't have the ability to get the other sections up and running. One of the biggest problems down there is that there's so much areas relying on other areas. So if they had more, you know, local smaller local systems they've be able to function. At least you wouldn't lose the whole island.

You mentioned before, and a storm comes across on one coast it doesn't necessarily mean that the whole other coast should be out. So the system is old. It's dilapidated. It needs major changes and they keep tinkering with it but not doing what you really need. The money has been allocated. I'm sure plans are in the works. It just takes so long. It's really criminal for I guess these poor people.

ACOSTA: All right. Tom Von Essen, thank you very much. Now to the United Kingdom where in one day Queen Elizabeth II will be

laid to rest after a long lifetime of service and ahead of the spectacular good-bye a national moment of reflection.

Sixty seconds of silence for a monarch who spent 70 years on the throne, and just over nine hours, the public viewing of the Queen's lying in state will end. Thousands have already stood in these mile's long line waiting to file past her coffin, and more than two million people are expected to witness tomorrow's state funeral in London. World leaders are also beginning to arrive. President Biden earlier today paying his respects as the Queen lies in state in Westminster Hall. From there Biden and other major world leaders headed to Buckingham Palace for a reception hosted by King Charles III.

And joining me now to discuss this is CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour and CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod. He served as President Obama's senior adviser, and he's currently the host of the "Axe Files" podcast.

Christiane, I'll go to you first. When we look at these images of people just waiting hours and hours just to have those few seconds in front of the Queen's coffin, how important is this moment in terms of a shared experience, people coming together to mourn?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I think you just put your finger on it. It is a shared experience. And it's an experience that obviously people haven't had in their lifetime. But beyond that it rises so far above the daily hustle and bustle and thrust and parry and even deep partisanship that really people have really embraced this.


And as you can see over the last four days, it has been nonstop 24/7. And hopefully all the people who were in line will be able to actually get through by 6:30 a.m. tomorrow morning local time when they will close it in order to start preparing the Queen's coffin to get on to that gun carriage and then be taken to Westminster Abbey for the funeral service.

ACOSTA: And David, President Biden made remarks about the Queen as he was signing her condolence book. Let's listen to that.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I have told the king she is going with him every step of the way, every minute, every moment. And that's a reassuring notion.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, why did she remind you of your mother?

BIDEN: Just because the way she touched when she leaned over. The way -- she had that look like, are you OK? Anything I can do for you? What do you need? And then also, make sure you do what you're supposed to do. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: David, President Biden, you knew him as vice president, when you worked with Barack Obama. He is good in these situations at playing the consoler-in-chief and now he's doing it on the world stage.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. There's no doubt. Well, he draws on his own experience. He's of course experienced great loss in his life. And look, I remember him from when we worked together. I remember him from his campaigns for president, particularly the last one. People would line up after his events to share their burdens with him because he was so good at empathizing with their sense of loss, so yes, he is very good in these situations.

And of course, I think all the American presidents, I can't speak for all of them, I know the ones I know, had great affection for the Queen for the same reason that people of Britain did it partly the same reason, which is she was an extraordinarily gracious person who kind of radiated character and concern in a way that touched everyone.

ACOSTA: And Christiane, give us a sense of the size and scope of what we'll see tomorrow for her funeral. Is there anything that you can compare it to? I mean, most people around the world haven't seen anything like this.

AMANPOUR: I think you're absolutely right. I mean I've seen quite a lot of top level funerals but nothing quite like this. You know, I went to -- I was at King Hussein of Jordan's funeral. He'd been on the throne there for 47 years. At the time the longest reigning monarch in the world. And that was in 1999. And I remember very clearly, you know, President Clinton coming with a large American delegation.

The prime minister of Israel, Egypt. All those countries that, you know, Jordan had made peace with, with Israel. And all the other countries that came and all those heads of states actually walked behind the cortege during that funeral, walked to pay the respects. And here you've seen this enormous arrival of dignitaries from all over the world, and as we've seen this live streaming of the lying in state, you also see over the last 24 hours for sure, a number of dignitaries, perhaps many, many of them including kings and queens, presidents.

You saw President Biden there. You saw the head of the E.U. and the like, including Middle Eastern rulers. They've all come through a special sort of platform above to watch. Half the time people in there don't know that they dignitaries are there. But beyond that, as you said, there's going to be potentially a couple of million people descending on the city. There are going to be big screens all over the parks and in all the different parts of the U.K. including Northern Ireland, and of course Scotland, Wales.

There are going to be like 125 cinemas apparently that are going to be open to show all of the events on the big screens. Clearly, it's going to be live streamed. Many, many countries, not just commonwealth countries but others are going to be broadcasting it live as well. And as you know of course CNN will around the world. So this is going to have a massive, massive viewership, absolutely.

And it's the biggest security operation that the British have had to deal, goes way beyond even the Olympics of 2012, and anything previously.

ACOSTA: Right. It really is going to be a global moment. And David, when you were still with the White House, there's a great story about the first time President Obama met the Queen and he wanted to give her a special gift, a new invention at the time called an iPod. This is making me feel old, but can you tell us about that?

AXELROD: Yes. Well, he wanted to give her a gift that he thought would be meaningful. There are all these gifts. They're so pro forma. He knew that she was a fan of musical theater.


And they loaded this iPod up with tunes from musical theater and apparently she greatly appreciated the gift. And they actually had a very good relationship. The president was at Buckingham Palace, the president and Mrs. Obama, I think three times. Their children and Mrs. Obama's mother visited Buckingham Palace, and got, you know, wonderful treatment and there was just a special relationship between.

But, Jim, I just want to say one thing that is striking to me as an American watching this. You know, the British politics are as divided as American politics. And there are all kinds of forces driving us apart. It's so interesting to me to see this shared experience that you and Christiane described. People finding themselves in each other, they're sharing this sense of loss, and it comes at a time when we have so few things that are drawing us together. It's really moving to see.

ACOSTA: It's so true. And we desperate use that over here in the United States.

Christiane, we heard the new queen consort Camilla pay tribute to the Queen in a televised address. Let's listen to that.


CAMILLA, QUEEN CONSORT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: She has been part of our lives forever. I'm 75 now. And I can't remember anybody except the Queen being there. It must have been so difficult for her being a solitary woman. There weren't women prime ministers or women presidents. She was the only one. So I think she carved her own role.


ACOSTA: I'm trying to think of the last time, Christiane, that I actually heard the queen consort speak where I heard her voice but as she said the Queen took the throne when there weren't female presidents or prime ministers. What do you think she will be remembered for the most?

AMANPOUR: Well, probably that. It is a remarkable thing for a woman to have been at such a high level for so long, and it did have a ripple effect and it did have an inspiring effect for a lot of women, even though, you know, nobody could aspire to be queen obviously. They knew that actually a woman could do this job and actually the prime minister, the former prime minister of Britain, the second female, Theresa May, told me that that was her inspiration as well.

We can't talk enough about how much she did inspire women in terms of public -- their public roles. And we will not have another queen for generations. There are three males in succession. And I think that is something that a lot of women are talking about, to be honest with you. And I think that, you know, hearing what you and David had said about the divisiveness of politics and I've heard a lot of people say here that we could have spun off into as divided as America.

We're not quite there yet, but some people feel that actually the monarchy, particularly the person of this queen has sort of kept a lid on the most outrageous kind of unseemly and unbecoming and un- democratic behavior. And I think that that has been appreciated and she is as I say, as I go around, and I cycled around and saw the queue today and everything, and people were saying what we're doing now in this moment is actually fulfilling what the Queen herself talked about in 2019 that she believed in what she called the tried and true methods of civility.

Talking to each other, listening to each other, and trying to come to some kind of common understanding. And she hoped that that would continue. We've certainly seen it these last 10 days in the United Kingdom.

ACOSTA: And David, President Biden now has to forge a new relationship with both King Charles and a new prime minister in Liz Truss. What advice would you give?

AXELROD: Well, look. Those are separate issues. I'm sure that he'll have a convivial relationship with the king. The relationship with the U.K. is an important one for the United States and there are a lot of issues on which there is deep cooperation and agreement. There are some on which there is not relative to Brexit and Northern Ireland. They're going to meet at UNGA, the United Nations General Assembly conference in September or later this month, I guess. And we'll see where it goes. But there's a real impetus to try and make it work.

ACOSTA: All right. Christiane Amanpour, David Axelrod, thank you very much. Great to see both of you. Excellent discussion. I appreciate it.

And join Christiane and the rest of the CNN team from London as the world remembers Queen Elizabeth II. Our live coverage of the state funeral begins tomorrow morning bright and early at 5:00 a.m.



ACOSTA: Over 100 members of the National Guard activated. A state attorney general weighing legal options. Lawyers calling for a federal criminal investigation. That's the scene in Massachusetts. An unlikely front in an ugly immigration standoff. It began when three Republican governors took it upon themselves to transport migrants to Democratic- leaning hubs up north, including Martha's Vineyard.

Texas sent thousands of migrants to New York City. And here's what New York Mayor Eric Adams told CNN about the situation.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: We should be clear that this is as stated a humanitarian crisis created by human hands, and it all hands on deck moment that we're all supposed to come together and coordinate. Coordination during a crisis is something that we must do together. And that's the federal government that is also the governor of the state of Texas, as well as the governor of the state of Florida.


ACOSTA: Let's bring in CNN political commentator and former Obama administration official, Van Jones, and former Republican congresswoman Barbara Comstock.

Van, we just heard the mayor of New York City there talking about how, you know, at the very least they're just not getting any kind of coordination with these governors before these folks -- these migrants are dropped off in this fashion. What do you make of what these Republican governors are up to?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's really shameful. You know, there is a way to handle something like this. Look, I think we need more immigration not less. And we probably -- if we could get more people here working and probably help with inflation and everything else. But there is an orderly way to do it. Unfortunately there is a complete breakdown and what you need in situations like this is for someone like DeSantis to convene the governors.

You could use the National Governors Association, a bipartisan group, and say look, we can't do anymore, we need your help, and you coordinate it. That's not what they're doing at all. They're just doing these stunts and these ambushes. They're basically trying to score political points. They're making a point, they're not solving the problem. And so it's actually, they're kind of -- I would say, you know, using or even pimping the pain of the border towns that do need help, they're not solving that problem, but they're now making these political grand gestures which I think is really disgusting.

ACOSTA: Barbara, what do you think? I mean, this is obviously not a solution to put people on a plane or on a bus, and send them to who knows where. Why not offer solutions like Van is saying?

BARBARA COMSTOCK (R), FORMER VIRGINIA REPRESENTATIVE: Well, ironically Charlie Baker, a Republican governor of Massachusetts, made the very point that Van was just making. He said we need workers in Massachusetts and thanked the fellow Republican Governor DeSantis for sending the free help, the asylum seekers, sending them to Massachusetts because they need service workers as so many states across the country do, and we need to have solutions to immigration. We need to have immigration reform.

And I can tell you, in 2018 when many Republicans, Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida, Will Hurd, a Republican from Texas, when they came together and I supported them to have immigration reform ironically it was a bill that Donald Trump even said he would sign. Of course Ron DeSantis was part of the Freedom Caucus who opposed it because the Freedom Caucus always wanted to have issues rather than solutions.

So I think a great thing for President Biden would be to convene people like Charlie Baker, like a Will Hurd, like a Carlos Curbelo, and call the bluff of governors like Governor DeSantis and say, let's sit down with people like Charlie Baker, one of the most popular Republican governors in the country. People like Will Hurd and Carlos Curbelo.

Let's bring them together on the border and let's work on those solutions that these people actually really wanted to work on, get the Chamber of Commerce that wants to have a solution on immigration reform because we have so many service jobs. We need more nurses, we need more legal immigration in this country. And I think you'd find a lot of Republicans who want to help in that regard.

ACOSTA: Right. There are people in both parties who want to treat these migrants humanely, in addition to getting them jobs. Just treat them humanely. Treat them like human beings.

COMSTOCK: Yes. These were asylum seekers.

ACOSTA: Right.

COMSTOCK: Yes, these are asylum seekers from Venezuela where Republicans -- I thought Republicans were supposed to support asylum seekers who are fleeing countries like Venezuela where we have opposed what's going on in Venezuela. And we welcome asylum seekers. And we should be and I think you would find a lot of Republican governors and members of Congress who would support that.

ACOSTA: And we are making that point yesterday on this program. Exactly.

Van, let's switch gears. Former President Trump held a rally last night for Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance and here's what the Trump endorsement looks like these days. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: "The New York Times" did a fake story today. Big front page. JD wasn't sure if he wanted my support. JD is kissing my ass. He wants my support. This is a great person who I've really gotten to know. Yes, he said some bad things about me but that was before he knew me and then he fell in love.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: Yes, Van, I mean, the conventional wisdom says that, you know, these election deniers and Trump aligned Republicans are helping Democrats in November. Are you worried that the party -- that your party needs to get as enthusiastic as some of these Trump rallies have gotten? I mean, you know, you look at what took place last night. Some of them was a little strange but they do see a path through motivating the base.

JONES: Listen, the more Trump wants to make himself the issue, and puts himself in the middle of it, the better that is for Democrats. I mean, it's an amazing kind of thing for -- usually in situations like this, when you have the crime and the economic problems that you have, you just want to leave it as a referendum on Biden. Trump just can't help himself. He just has to be the center of attention.

And so, the reason that he is showing up there is because J.D. Vance is not doing as well as he should be in a mostly red state. And -- but, basically, Donald Trump becomes -- you know, he thinks he's throwing a life raft. He's throwing an anvil.

Because the more you make it about Trump, and the more you have, you know, Donald Trump saying, this person is in my pocket (ph), unless she's kissing my you know what. Look, he -- that might be great for a rally. It's not really great for an election. And so, it's -- the more that Trump wants to make himself the center of it, I think the better it is for Democrats.

ACOSTA: Yes, Barbara, I mean, what do you think? Was that helpful to J.D. Vance at all?

COMSTOCK: I thought that was an in-kind contribution to Tim Ryan, the Democrat. I mean, it made J.D. Vance look like a mouse not a man. It was humiliating.

That rally last night, it was a QAnon fest. It was playing this strange QAnon music. They were all, sort of, you know, bowing to, you know, this -- I think Marjorie Greene was there, talking about the one, true leader they have to be loyal to. And it, actually, not very well attended. It wasn't the usual.

You know, so, I think this is a dying -- the last gasp of a dying cult. Not the you -- you know, I do think this is an embarrassment. And if I were -- you know, J.D. Vance is really a shell of a person to be there bowing and scraping to somebody who he rightfully attacked, you know, just a few years ago. And those, you know, statements are out there publicly. And I think the best thing for Tim Ryan would be to put his prior statements, where he attacked Donald Trump.

And then, Donald Trump last night, talking about he's, you know, kissing the orange one now. And bowing and scraping to him. Because that's not some -- a man that you want to have in the U.S. Senate, because it's not someone that will stand up for Ohio. It's somebody who's going to be kissing the guy in Mar-a-Lago and bowing and scraping to whatever he wants.

ACOSTA: And, Van, Democrats are leaning into the abortion issue ahead of the mid-terms. California Governor Gavin Newsom has been leading the charge on some of this. He put up billboards in seven red states, advertising abortion services in California. They say things like, Texan doesn't -- Texas doesn't own your body. You do. Smart politics? What do you think? Is this -- smart for Gavin Newsom to be doing?

JONES: I think it is and I think it's sincere. I've known Gavin Newsom for 20 years. He's a fervent believer in women's rights and women's right to choose. And I do think that this is an issue that is cutting very, very strongly for Democrats.

Even, you know, independent and some Republican women. The Republican Party has just become so extreme on the issue. I think most people are still, honestly, where Bill Clinton was in the 1990s. They want abortion to be safe and legal and rare. That's my position. I think that's most people's position.

But when you start going out there saying that, you know, rapists have to have the child of the rapist and all this crazy stuff. And no exceptions and you hear all these horrific stories coming forward. It just -- it -- what it does is it shows the Republican Party doesn't have the character and the judgment to deal with something this nuance. And they're running to these extremes.

And so, I think that Democrats are now becoming a safe harbor for people to say, listen, let's at least let these very difficult decisions between a woman, her doctor, be handled with some grace, some nuance here. And so, I do -- I do think --


JONES: -- that -- I appreciate what Gavin is doing.

ACOSTA: And a quick, final thought from you, Barbara. What do you think? Have Republicans overreached on this issue?

COMSTOCK: Well, I think the problem has been that the Republicans' message has been very mixed. And that was highlighted this week by Lindsey Graham, coming out and talking about a national bill when Republicans have been saying, you know, that once the Dobbs case came, it was going to be returned back to the states. And there could be, you know, different positions in each state.

And Republicans had, historically, been for, obviously, exceptions for life of the mother and rape and incest. Certainly, that had been my experience when I was in Congress. And when I was also in the State House. And there had been compromise on these issues. And then, you have seen these extremes, as Van discussed.

So, because of the mixed messaging, because of a lot of extreme candidates and many -- and, actually, many men who didn't know what they were talking about in these issues, it's been a problem.

ACOSTA: Right.

COMSTOCK: And so, I think the mixed messages has driven away independents and Democrats at a time when Republicans, in order to win back Congress, and certainly in these swing districts and states, needed to have -- you know, be able to reach independents and Democrats that they are losing on this issue.


ACOSTA: All right. Barbara and Van, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

JONES: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Coming up, what a former White House aide told the January 6th Committee about. Congressman Matt Gaetz, in a request that was made, as he faces a sex-trafficking probe.


ACOSTA: New details on a member of Congress, who sought a pardon unsuccessfully from then President Donald Trump. CNN has previously reported that Florida Congressman, Matt Gaetz, is being investigated by federal authorities, as part of a probe into sex-trafficking allegations.


ACOSTA: But now, we are learning the Republican Congressman had conversations with White House officials, attempting to secure a preemptive pardon.

CNN's Annie Grayer is following this for us. Annie, it's important to note that Congressman Gaetz has not been charged with any crime, so far, in this still ongoing investigation. I want to make note of that. But what can you tell us? This is very interesting because we had heard, earlier on in the January 6th investigation, that there were allegations that were made that members of Congress were seeking pardons. What more can you tell us?

ANNIE GRAYER, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: So, that's right. We have known that Gaetz was among a group of Republicans who was seeking a presidential pardon, before Donald Trump left office. But we didn't know the details of that pardon.

And now, after new reporting, first by "The Washington Post" that I confirmed, we know that Gaetz was seeking a pardon, specifically relating to the Department of Justice investigation into allegations of sex trafficking with him. And we know that this is something that he was actually concerned about. And this all comes from testimony that was given to the House Select Committee investigating January 6th from a former Trump White House aide, John McIntyre (ph). He told this -- he testified to this to the committee. And that's how we know about this conversation.

ACOSTA: It's interesting that the members of the committee, as they were, I guess, exploring all of this, were asking, oh, well, who wanted these pardons? And what exactly were they trying to get? Why were they asking for pardons? That's very interesting. And let me ask you this. The -- what else has the committee revealed about members seeking pardons? Do we know much more beyond this Gaetz detail?

GRAYER: So, we know this is a thread that the committee has been pursuing for a while. Back in one of its hearings in June, it revealed that a number of members of -- Republican members of Congress had been seeking pardons. But didn't go into those new details, like this new reporting provides that new context.

But Gaetz was not only the Republican member of Congress seeking a presidential pardon before Donald Trump left office. The committee revealed, through witness testimony, that Mo Brooks of Alabama, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Louie Gohmert of Texas, were also among Republicans seeking a pardon at that time. Of course, Trump never did issue any of those pardons.

ACOSTA: All right. Thanks very much, Andie. We appreciate it. And we'll be right back.



ACOSTA: Modern-day torture chambers have been found in Ukraine. Ukraine's president says more than 10 torture rooms were discovered in the Kharkiv region after Ukrainian forces liberated the area. As President Zelenskyy puts it, the Russians dropped the torture devices and fled. This is just one of the gruesome discoveries Ukraine is making as it takes back areas from Russian troops.

And CNN's Ben Wedeman has the latest now from Kharkiv.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ukrainian forces continue to gain more ground in the Kharkiv region, although at a slower pace than over the last two weeks, while Russian forces are trying to dig new defensive lines in the areas they still control. The governor of the Kharkiv region says that his priority, at the moment, is to restore basic services, electricity, water and heating, in the newly liberated areas. While efforts continue to exhume more bodies at the mass burial site outside Izium.

And Ukrainian officials are showing journalists what they say were Russian prisons complete with torture rooms. This area continues to come under bombardment from Russian forces. Early Saturday morning, Russian missiles slammed into an industrial site here in the city of Kharkiv in a nearby town. A Russian barrage, according to Ukrainian officials, killed an 11-year-old girl.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, from Kharkiv.

ACOSTA: coming up, stunning video as an earthquake topples a building in Taiwan. Stay right there. That's next.



ACOSTA: And a desperate search for survivors is underway in southeastern Taiwan, after a powerful 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit there this morning. Right now, nearly 700 people are stranded on two separate mountains, after the quake blocked roads. At least one person was killed.

This 5-year-old girl and her mother were rescued earlier, after a building collapsed on top of them. Take a look at that video there. And then, take a look at this dramatic video that was captured. A gymnasium roof collapsing in real time, as people were running for their lives. Just look at that video there, just extraordinary. This earthquake has leveled buildings. And Taiwan's president is asking residents to stay alert for potential aftershocks. And there it is, that image one more time. Unbelievable.

This week's CNN Hero is a high school English teacher in New Jersey who sprung into action when he realized kids did not have easy access to books and teachers were struggling to provide.


LARRY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, BOOKSMILES (voice-over): So many of us have heard about food deserts. But there are also these things called book deserts, areas where people just don't have access to books. There are pockets of poverty where they don't have them in their homes. There are no libraries.

(on camera): In the great forest, a little elephant is born. His name is Babar.


ABRAM: The most important tool that they get are words. And there are some kids who grow up hearing lots and lots of words, because they're read to every single night. Kids living in book deserts don't have that.

(on camera: And so, reading and books helps level that playing field.

Very good stuff. This was a great haul.

(voice-over): Giving kids books almost ensures academic success. What we do is irrigate book deserts, by pouring hundreds of thousands of books in.

(on camera): First grade, so you'll probably want the picture books.

(voice-over): Teachers are the best distributors of books that we have. We are improving lives, one book at a time.


ACOSTA: For the full story, go to

And coming up, we continue to follow the breaking news out of Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Fiona has just made landfall. The entire island, the entire island, is without power at this hour. We'll get a live report, next.