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Hurricane Fiona Batters Puerto Rico; Great Britain Prepares For Queen's Funeral Tomorrow; Interview With Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D- WA) About GOP Senator Graham's Proposed Abortion Ban; Building A Personalized Heart; NYC Mayor: City Nearing Its Breaking Point Amid Migrant Surge; $5 Million In Welfare Funds Diverted To Brett Favre's Alma Mater; Gallup: GOP Dissatisfaction With Level Of Immigration Hits New High. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 18, 2022 - 19:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. And we are following two major stories for you on this Sunday night. Hurricane Fiona hammers Puerto Rico, plunging the entire island into darkness. And it could be days before the lights are back on there.

Plus President Biden pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth with the final mourners in line right now to pay their respects. Tomorrow's funeral is now just hours away.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And we begin tonight with the latest on Hurricane Fiona. The storm has made landfall along the southwest coast there in Puerto Rico and officials say the entire island is already without power and the storm is causing catastrophic flooding.

I want to turn to CNN's Leyla Santiago. She is live there in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

So what are the conditions like right now where you are, Leyla?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are on the northeastern part of the island, that is the capital San Juan. And it is still coming down, still rain, still wind. And in the southern part of the island, the same if not more.

But remember, Pamela, the last time I talked to you, we talked about those critical patients, the hospitals, the buildings that depend on power for critical patients we're now starting to see the impact there.

I want to show you these photos coming out of an evacuation of a cancer center, patients having to be evacuated because, as you mentioned, this is an island wide power outage. 100 percent power out. So that means if a generator fails, which is what happened at this cancer center, they don't have power to care for critical patients.

Now, that is one impact that has come up just recently. We're also starting to see impacts in terms of flooding. Want to show you some pretty incredible video coming out of Utuado. It is the center of the island and I spoke to Leomar Rodriguez. He shot -- and in a matter of minutes, minutes, the bridge was wiped away.

This is what we're starting to see. We've been starting to see, rather, for the last few hours and in the southern part of the island really, really battered by Hurricane Fiona, and let's put all of this into context. This is on an island that, by the way, on Tuesday, was going to see the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria.

So there is frustration that this is an island that for many people were nearly a year without power then the earthquakes of 2020 hit, then like everywhere else, they dealt with COVID, and so to now be dealing with power outages again, to now see the image of cancer patients being evacuated because a generator went out at a cancer center, speaks to the frustration and the fear that many people had associated with Hurricane Fiona.

BROWN: Understandably they are feeling that fear right now. Leyla Santiago, thank you so much.

It is midnight in London now. And it is the day that Great Britain will bury its longest serving monarch. Tens of thousands of mourners have waited in line for hours to pay their respects to the Queen lying in state. And a short time ago, King Charles thanked the public for being a, quote "comfort" in his family's time of grief.

CNN's Max Foster has more.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. President Joe Biden visited Westminster Hall on Sunday joining other world leaders paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II. More than a monarch, Biden said, on news of her death, she defined an era.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To all the people of England and all the people of the United Kingdom, our hearts go out to you and you were fortunate to have had her for 70 years. We all are. The world is better for it.

FOSTER: Presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, sultans, representing nearly 200 countries and territories expected to attend the funeral. Many of whom joined a reception at Buckingham Palace on Sunday hosted by the new king.

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL HISTORIAN: The reception hosted at the palace tonight is one of the greatest meetings of world leaders we will ever see. This really reflects the Queen's work on the world stage traveling around the world 42 times, 120 countries, hosting state visits when she retired from foreign travel.

FOSTER: Charles met with overseas realms earlier in the day including Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, Antigua and Barbuda. An exchange of pleasantries and in all cases offers of condolence for a son's loss.

On the eve of the funeral, the government advised the public against traveling to join the queue to see the coffin. The world marveled at the patience of those thousands upon thousands waiting in line for a dozen hours or more stitching a thread in the national tapestry.

In an interview for the BBC recorded before the Queen's death, the new Queen Consort Camilla spoke for most when she said she can't remember anyone but Elizabeth II being on the throne.

CAMILLA, QUEEN CONSORT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: She's got those wonderful blue eyes that when she smiles, you know, they light up her whole face. I'll always remember that smile, you know, that smile is unforgettable.

FOSTER: However she comes to be remembered, Her Majesty's funeral will realize countless hours, weeks, months, years of planning and preparation. The passing of a beloved mother, grandmother and monarch.

Max Foster, CNN, Buckingham Palace, London.


BROWN: And our thanks to Max Foster.

And lots of VIPs will attend the Queen's state funeral tomorrow. You got a glimpse of it there in Max's piece.

I want to bring in CNN contributor Sally Bedell Smith. She is here with us. She's also the author of the book "Elizabeth the Queen."

All right, so, Sally, King Charles held this reception this evening for all the visiting heads of state and we just heard there in Max's piece, I mean, leaders of more than 200 countries and territories all gathered there in London ahead of her funeral tomorrow. What does that say about the Queen's legacy?

SALLY BEDELL SMITH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it says that she has endured for -- more than endured, she has thrived for 70 years and she has seen world leaders come and go, and she has been the thickest point and has conducted herself impeccably. And so it's a great mark of respect at so many people, not only ordinary people but world leaders who admire all of the values that she embodied have come to pay their respects.

BROWN: I'm curious what you think about what we heard from the queen consort, that interview she had done with BBC. I know a lot of people are saying, I had never even really heard her speak before, and now, now we're hearing what she has to say about the Queen Elizabeth II.

SMITH: Yes, well, I think people in Britain have heard her speak a lot but she has given many speeches.


BROWN: But here across the pond. SMITH: But she developed over the years after a rocky beginning a

really close relationship with the Queen, her mother-in-law. She told a very funny story about how on her wedding day and she was riding with the Queen and she realized that her shoes had different size heels, which cracked up the Queen. She got -- she had such a good sense of humor and that was sort of a measure of their closeness of their relationship.

They loved horses and dogs together, and it showed to me from what I saw the warmth that Camilla, that queen consort, has and her -- she has a very appealing way about her. And anybody who sort of been in close proximity or been around her, I remember watching her once with Joan Rivers laughing away. She -- you know, she was -- Joan Rivers was a good friend of Charles and Camilla, believe it or not.

And she -- you know, she just has a lot of spirit and a lot of spunk and I know she said I'm 75 years old and the Queen has been part of my life for my whole life.

BROWN: All right. Yes, well, we are all waiting, of course, for the funeral tomorrow and Sally Bedell Smith, thank you so much for coming on throughout and providing your perspective. We appreciate it.

SMITH: You're welcome. Thank you.


BROWN: So how do Republicans feel about immigration in this country? Harry Enten runs the numbers later in the show. Plus, the story of someone trying to do the impossible by building hearts to save lives. Our "Champions for Change" series kicks off tonight. And next, will Senator Lindsey Graham's proposed 15-week abortion ban help push Democrats to the polls this November? My next guest wants to lead the fight against it.

Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland joins us next.


BROWN: Senator Lindsey Graham stunned the Republican establishment this week by introducing a bill to severely restrict abortion nationwide. His proposed ban at 15 weeks of pregnancy is the most significant restriction put forth by congressional Republicans since Roe vs. Wade was overturned. One GOP strategist called the move a, quote, "absolute disaster." But this morning Senator Graham doubled down on his proposal.



SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I said at 15 weeks when the baby can feel pain, it sucks its thumb, that we're going to ban abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, life of the mother. We're talking almost four months into the pregnancy. It puts us in line with France at 12 weeks, Germany, England is at 14 weeks. Only in Washington is it extreme to protect a baby at 15 weeks from an excruciating death.


BROWN: Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Marilyn Strickland of Washington.

Hi, thanks so much for your time tonight. So you just heard there Senator Graham arguing his proposal is in line with public sentiment and that it's actually Democrats who are extreme on abortion. What's your response?

REP. MARYLAND STRICKLAND (D-WA): My response is that the Republicans need to be consistent about what they stand for. They were applauding the Dobbs decision which basically overturned Roe v. Wade and they said this was a state's rights issue and now Senator Graham is trying to have another national abortion ban. And this has impact on a lot of people because it's putting confusion out there.

Women have been traveling across state lines to get legal abortions because we know that 26 states have already outlawed it. So this just creates confusion for people but it also is really an attempt to have the national ban on abortion.

BROWN: So this bill as we discussed would limit abortion at 15 weeks. Polling shows that is right around the time frame where Americans start to get a little squishy on this issue. You see the numbers there on your screen with a large majority opposed to the procedure at 24 weeks. Obviously, you think Senator Graham's proposal is too strict but are there any limits on abortion you think the Democratic Party would support?

STRICKLAND: Well, you know, we have always said for not forcing women to give birth and when you think about the topic of safe and legal abortion, and this is really important, safe and legal access, we must have it allowed nationally. And when we talk about why women choose to make this very heart-wrenching painful decision, you know, this is about choice. If a woman wants to have a baby, she should be able to do that. But federal government cannot restrict her ability to have access to safe and legal abortion.

BROWN: So, what I hear you saying is that from a national standpoint, Democrats would not be in favor of any restrictions on abortion?


BROWN: All right. So all of this --

STRICKLAND: And here is the reason --

BROWN: Go ahead.


BROWN: No, go ahead.

STRICKLAND: No, I was going to say, you know, and this is really interesting because, you know, again, the desire to have a national ban on safe and legal abortion is about controlling women's bodies and controlling women, and when you think about the different scenarios that come up for why someone would need access to safe and legal abortion, there is no one specific reason.

But again, you know, as Democrats, we believe in freedom and we believe in freedom for women to make decisions about their own reproductive health care. We believe that's a decision between a woman and her doctor, and we want to make sure that women continue to have that access.

BROWN: Of course, all of this comes as Democrats seem to be riding this wave of support in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. How much do you think the abortion issue will help Democrats in the midterms against other issues that they care about like the economy and the inflation?

STRICKLAND: Well, you know, it's interesting because I think that this conversation about having access to safe and legal reproductive health care and abortion has really made a lot of women pay attention to what is happening in politics. Not that we weren't before but if you look at who gets abortion, we're not checking someone's I.D. saying which political party do you belong to? And I guarantee you women of all political stripes who needed access to reproductive health care or safe and legal abortion have done so.

As far as, you know, what's happening across America, this is a conversation about freedom. One party values freedom, the other does not. Their freedom to make her decisions about reproductive health care, the ability to marry who you want, the ability to organize and form a union, the ability to make sure that you have access to the services that you need and that's what this election is really about.

When we talk about inflation, we know it's something that is on people's minds and at the same time, we passed the Inflation Reduction Act and every Republican voted against it. So you have one party proposing solutions, making votes to do things, and another one that just complains about them but offers no solutions at all.

BROWN: Right. Well, the Inflation Reduction Act, it's going to be awhile until it kicks in in terms of lowering inflation but when it comes to the abortion issue and how it could impact the midterms, just to drill down on this, do you think that it's enough to help Democrats actually keep the majority in the House in the midterms?

STRICKLAND: Well, I've been bullish on the Democratic Party for quite a while now even as early as April and I do think that this particular issue is getting voter registration numbers very high for Democrats, people are paying more attention to this issue, and I know that people often think of reproductive health care and access to safe and legal abortion as just a women's issue but this is a family planning issue.


This has to do with your health, your well-being and also in many cases, your financial stability. So there are people very interested in this topic. I do believe that voter registration for Democrats is a lot higher now because this topic is top of mind and I will tell you, too, Pamela, everywhere I go, whether it's a small meeting or a larger group, this topic comes up consistently.

BROWN: Right. But my question was, do you think it's enough, the abortion issue is enough to help Democrats keep control of the House?

STRICKLAND: I think it's one of many factors. So I'm not going to tell you that this alone is going to do it.

BROWN: But do you think Democrats will keep control in general?

STRICKLAND: I do believe we will. I believe that we are going to hold onto the House and I think we can pick up some seats in the Senate.

BROWN: And if you do hold onto the House, would you want -- do you think Nancy Pelosi should continue to be the leader of the party, whether I guess you keep control of the majority or not? Do you think she should be the leader of the party in the House?

STRICKLAND: Well, I think right now we're going to focus on winning in November, getting voter turnout to be high and then when we start to have conversations about leadership, we will cross that bridge when we get there. But Nancy Pelosi has been the most effective speaker of the House.

BROWN: All right. Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland, thanks for coming on the show.

STRICKLAND: Thanks for having me tonight.

BROWN: And up next, it's called a ghost heart and it could mean people will no longer have to wait for a life-saving heart transplant. Meet the woman behind the stunning medical breakthrough and who is now quite literally changing the world.



BROWN: All this week, in a series we call "Champions for Change," we're bringing you everyday people who are changing society and getting things done. Tonight Dr. Sanjay Gupta's champion is doing what many said was impossible. This year alone, more than 2700 people here in the U.S. have had a heart transplant and about 3500 more are waiting for one. But what if we could cut the wait list to zero?

Doris Taylor believes she can by building hearts.


DR. DORIS TAYLOR, STEM CELL BIOLOGIST: So much of what we believe about life is about heart. It's about love. It's about fundamental form. It's about connection. It's alive.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This idea that you could start to construct that.

TAYLOR: Right.

GUPTA: You know, in some ways, the biological sort of challenge of that, it's extraordinary.

Doris Taylor is an innovator. She's trying to do something that everyone said wasn't possible. Grow new human hearts. Individualized, personalized, creating for people, thousands of people who need heart transplants and simply can't get them.

TAYLOR: So we use a pig heart. We basically use the equivalent of baby shampoo, put it through all the blood vessels in the heart and what was left was this scaffold that looked like a heart but we call it ghost heart.

GUPTA: This is the ghost heart. This is where it begins.

TAYLOR: Ghost heart. This is where it begins.

GUPTA: If I were somebody who you were doing this for, building this heart, would it be my heart ultimately?

TAYLOR: I will build you a personalized heart if you need a heart. I would take cells from your blood or your skin and we'd make them into stem cells. I would then grow the billions of cells we need. I'd put your cells on that pig scaffold and you cover every surface of that scaffold with your cells and then we teach it how to grow up and become a heart that matches your body.

GUPTA: I think this whole idea of teaching cells, it's hard to get your head around.

TAYLOR: When you go out and jog, aren't you teaching the cells in your leg to get stronger? That's basically what I'm doing, too. I'm just using an artificial stimulator and an artificial blood pressure.

GUPTA: Do you remember the first time you saw it actually work?

TAYLOR: Yes. Yes. You know, it's one of those yes moments in life. You can't invent this stuff.

GUPTA: Right.

TAYLOR: Although we kind of did.

MICAELA POWELL, HEART TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT: I'm going to tell you about a 20-year journey that many people told me couldn't be done. I always just check the news on my phone and I was like, my goodness, ghost heart like what could that be?

GUPTA: 26-year-old Michaela Powell had a heart transplant herself. Now it saved her life but it's not the personalized heart Doris is describing. Michaela is on a daily regimen of anti-rejection drugs worried that her body might one day reject her donated organ.

POWELL: I was just insanely inspired by that video. It touched me so much that I had to message her. Thank you for giving me hope.

TAYLOR: She said to think that I could one day have a normal life, oh my gosh.

GUPTA: Often times we don't hear the story behind the story. To really understand the people who make these developments happen.

TAYLOR: Can I say one other thing?

GUPTA: That story that's not often told.

TAYLOR: As an LGBTQ girl who grew up in Mississippi.


Who got kicked out of college actually, for being gay. I would have never thought I'd be standing on this stage doing something like this.

GUPTA (voice over): Can you imagine that? She was told not only can you not pursue your scientific dreams, I'm not even going to give you a degree -- a solution to one of the biggest problems in the world almost didn't happen because of who she is.

TAYLOR: For all the people who still say, no, they -- you know, we'll do it first in kids, then we'll go to people. Every day, we don't get there, somebody else dies. It's going to work.

GUPTA (voice over): I got to touch a heart today that was created by Doris.

If there is such a place where science and spirituality really intersect, I think it's probably at a place like this.

TAYLOR: Someone else said to me, "You're not building organs, you're building hope."


GUPTA (on camera): Pamela, it is hard to overstate how important this could be, not only fulfilling this unmet need, so many people waiting for these transplants -- heart transplants, but also it is your own heart. It's your own personalized, individualized heart, which means people wouldn't need to take anti-rejection drugs, for example, worried constantly, that their body may not actually accept the new heart. This would be different.

This is what Doris is trying to do. I mean, I've never seen anything quite like it.

BROWN: That's fascinating. So, how far off is a ghost heart from actually being transplanted into a person?

GUPTA: Well, you know, as with a lot of things, I mean, this is somewhat dependent on funding. You know, if you ask Doris, she'll say, if they had the necessary resources and funding, within five years, essentially, they could start actually transplanting these types of hearts into human beings.

So you know, all the basic technology is there, but to give you an idea, you know, those cells that you just saw, that are actually creating the heart, you need about 400 billion of those cells to make one of these hearts. It's about $1,000.00 per million cells. So you know, it's not cheap. The price will come down as you do more and more, but it is really just a resource and funding issue at this point. The science has already been done.

BROWN: What a remarkable story, and it is hard to believe, Sanjay, that she was first of all kicked out of school for being who she was.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean that part just completely blew me away. She is so talented. She is probably going to change the world, and all of that may not have happened because of who she is, because she's a lesbian woman, and they just didn't tolerate that, she essentially got kicked out of school.

She was able to go back, ultimately. She got a Distinguished Alumni Recognition Award. She started a STEM Program over there.

I mean, that's why she's a champion, Pamela. I mean, the scientific achievement is extraordinary. But I think not just what she has done, but what she represents to so many people makes her a true Champion for Change.

BROWN: Absolutely. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: You've got it. Thank you.

BROWN: And we will continue to share these inspirational stories all this week. Be sure to tune in Saturday at 8:00 PM Eastern for the Champions for Change one-hour special.

And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Sunday.

Still ahead for you tonight, the text messages linking NFL Hall of Famer, Brett Favre to a massive welfare fraud scheme in Mississippi.



BROWN: Republican Governors in southern border states are continuing to ramp up their immigration dispute with the Biden administration using bus loads and plane loads of families and children to make their point, and those Governors are sending migrants to Democratic run cities on the East and West Coast.

The influx of unexpected migrants is pushing available resources in New York to their limits.

New York City's Mayor says this crisis needs cooperation and right now, there is none.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: We should be clear that this is,

as I stated, a humanitarian crisis created by human hands, and it is an all hands on deck moment where we're all supposed to come together and coordinate.

Coordination during the 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.


BROWN: CNN's Gloria Pazmino is following this for us -- Gloria.


Republican Governors continue their efforts to send migrants out of their States. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been busing migrants here to New York City and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis chartered two airplanes just this past week to send migrants to Martha's Vineyard. Now, Democratic lawmakers have been scrambling to respond.

Here in New York City, Mayor Eric Adams says 11,000 asylum seekers have arrived so far. He says the city is trying to provide resources, but he also acknowledged the city is reaching a breaking point. He is asking the Federal government to step in and help.

He was also critical of those two Republican governors saying they are not coordinating with the cities before sending more migrants.


ADAMS: In some cases, we had those who are COVID-positive on the buses where individuals were dehydrated, didn't have proper food. Some were even tagged, like you would tag an animal. It's really unfortunate that a country that is known for the humanitarian actions, this is a blight on our entire country.


ADAMS: We should not be really treating others cities and municipalities in a manner that we're witnessing now.


PAZMINO: Now, in the meantime, migrant arrivals have become nearly a daily occurrence here in New York City. Just this past weekend, at least 12 buses arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. City officials tell us approximately 300 people arrived on Saturday -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right, Gloria Pazmino, thank you.

Well, the Court documents in a lawsuit over diverted welfare funds included text from NFL Hall of Famer, Brett Favre who denies any wrongdoing and the scandal.

The State of Mississippi allegedly directed millions meant for families in need to help Favre with his personal project.

CNN's Diane Gallagher explains.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: New Court documents filed this week include text messages that appear to show Mississippi's former Governor helping NFL Hall of Famer, Brett Favre secure millions to build a volleyball facility, money that came from funds meant for needy families in one of the nation's poorest States. A fact that Favre's attorney claims the former quarterback did not know at the time.

PAUL H. HOLMES, ATTORNEY FOR BRETT FAVRE: Brett couldn't have been more honorable in any of it. He had no idea where it came from.

GALLAGHER: The text messages first revealed by Mississippi today as part of its years' long investigative reporting into the scandal were entered into the State Civil lawsuit on Monday by an attorney for the nonprofit founded by Nancy New who has already pleaded guilty to charges related to the overall welfare fund scheme, which the State Auditor has called the largest public fraud scheme in Mississippi history.

New's son has also pleaded guilty to charges related to the scheme. Court documents show that he knowingly transferred public funds intended for needy families for the construction of the volleyball facility.

The batch of Nancy New's text start in 2017 and appear to show former Governor Phil Bryant, Favre, New and others working to secure the money to build a Volleyball Center at Favre's alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi where his daughter then played the sport.

On August 3, 2017, Court documents show that Favre texted Nancy New: "If you were to pay me, is there any way the media can find out where it came from and how much?" She responded: "No, we have never had that information publicized. I understand you being uneasy about that though."

The next day, adding, "Wow. I just got off the phone with Phil Bryant. He is on board with us. We will get this done."

Bryant texted New: "Just left Brett Favre. Can we help them with this project? We should meet soon to see how I can make sure we keep your projects on course."

Favre and New text regular updates on their continued conversations with the Governor, forward each other messages from Bryant on the funding status.

In August 2019, Favre tells Nancy New: "He sent to me just a second ago that he has seen it but, hint-hint that you need to reword it to get it accepted." He then forwarded a message allegedly from the Governor instructing how to rework the funding proposal. At one point, New asked: "Confidential. Do you get the impression the

Governor will help us?" Favre responded: "I really feel like he is trying to figure out a way to get it done without actually saying it."

Months later, Governor Bryant asked New whether she had gotten any of the new programs from the State's Department of Human Services. New responded in part: "Someone was definitely pulling for us behind the scenes. Thank you." Bryant responded with a smile emoji.

Neither Favre nor Bryant had been charged with anything related to the welfare fund scheme. In a statement, the former Governor's attorney told CNN in part: "Cases should be tried in Courts of law where rules of evidence govern and privileges are respected. They should not be tried in the press where innuendo and speculation sometimes get confused with actual facts."

"Mississippi Today" reporter, Anna Wolfe told CNN she began digging on the Volleyball Center funding in 2020 asking both Favre and Bryant about the project then.

ANNA WOLFE, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "MISSISSIPPI TODAY": And Brett Favre told us that he did not discuss the volleyball project with the Governor, which is obviously flat out, you know proven to be incorrect by the text messages that we uncovered this week.

And the Governor also, you know, tried to distance himself from the project so that he didn't know anything about it.

GALLAGHER (voice over): This is not the first time the former quarterback's name has been associated with the scheme. Last year, he was forced to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars that the State Auditor said was illegally paid to Favre from welfare funds for speeches the auditor claimed Favre never gave.

The Mississippi native said in May of 2020 that he had no knowledge the money he'd received was misappropriated.


BROWN: All right, and our thanks to Dianne Gallagher for that.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

The battle over immigration, Democrats versus Republicans and President Biden's approval rating. You know what that sounds. It means Harry Enten joins us next to run the numbers and get a pulse of what's most important to viewers.


BROWN: And a reminder, CNN will have live coverage of the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II beginning tomorrow morning at 5:00 AM.


BROWN: Tonight, the Republican Governor of Massachusetts is calling on lawmakers here in Washington to fix the country's immigration system calling it "very screwed up."

It's an issue in the headlines after the Governors of Florida, Texas, and Arizona started transporting migrants to Northern States, but is it an issue on the radar of most Americans?

For the answer to that, let us bring in CNN senior data reporter Harry Enten joining us now to run the numbers.

All right, so Harry, help us better understand how are Republicans feeling about immigration levels right now?


HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: They are extremely dissatisfied. You know, you rarely see this type of uniformity amongst any party, but if you essentially look at what Gallup found this year, they said: How do you feel about the level of immigration coming into this country? And this is among Republicans, 87 percent say they were dissatisfied. That is the highest level of dissatisfaction Gallup has ever recorded on this question. Just 11 percent were satisfied.

And so I think this gets an idea into what Governors Abbott and DeSantis have been doing, basically, taking the migrants from the South and moving them into these Northern and Western States is that this is a base play.

This is a complete base play. Republicans, generally speaking are just extremely dissatisfied with the level of immigration coming into this country even more dissatisfied than they were before Donald Trump was able to use immigration to win the Republican nomination in 2015 and 2016.

BROWN: All right, so clearly, immigration, we know is important to Republicans. They are highly dissatisfied, but just how important of an issue is it in the scale of things?

ENTEN: It's extremely important. I mean, look, you know, we know that Republicans have been wanting to run on inflation this midterm cycle, and if you look at Quinnipiac University's last poll, they asked essentially, what's the most urgent issue facing the country?

Among Republicans, inflation is number one at 45 percent, but look at what's number two, it is immigration at 16 percent. And that was before basically any of the events that occurred over the last few weeks, this poll is from late August. So you clearly see that immigration is an issue that not only are Republicans extremely dissatisfied with, but it's also an issue on which they feel a lot of urgency on.

Now, what I will point out, Pam, is that immigration, at least as of the end of last month, was not really an issue among the electorate at large. It ranked just fifth among all voters and they're not nearly as dissatisfied as Republicans are.

So again, I just go back to the point that what the Governors are doing in the South, what Governor Abbott is doing, what Governor DeSantis is doing, it's not so much a play for the general electorate, it is really a play for the base.

BROWN: Yes, and this isn't just about immigration. Right? It's about showing up Democrats.

ENTEN: That's exactly right. I mean, there is nothing more that you like to do as a Republican lawmaker than if you can find an issue that works for you, and also finds an issue that can make Democrats look bad.

And you can kind of get at the idea of how much making Democrats looks bad matters to Republican voters by simply asking them, what type of view do you have of the Democratic Party? And the Pew Research Center has been doing this for decades, and I want you to look at this graphic here because it basically charts the very unfavorable view of the Democratic Party among Republicans.

If you look 20 years ago, just 20 percent of Republicans had a very unfavorable view of the Democratic Party. You jump forward five years, it jumps up to 30 percent. You jump forward five more years, it jumps up 13 points to 43 percent; 2017, fifty-five percent, now 62 percent of Republicans hold an extremely or very unfavorable view of the Democratic Party.

So, this is just a wonderful issue for DeSantis and Abbott, specifically DeSantis among the base, although among the general electorate, I'm far less sure of that.

BROWN: All right, so let's talk about DeSantis specifically. How much of this is about generating press ahead of 2024?

ENTEN: I think a lot of it is and if there is something that Ron DeSantis knows how to do, it is to generate press. So, this is essentially mentioned on FOX News over the last six months among non- Trump potential 2024 GOP presidential candidates.

Look at Ron DeSantis, well over a thousand. That is well ahead of Mike Pence, Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley, and this has only started, you know, we'll see with the migrant stuff over the last few weeks if this number jumps even higher, and he spreads himself out even more, but Ron DeSantis has managed to file the Trump playbook.

Remember, Trump was able to generate all that press ahead of his 2016 run, basically was able to cannibalize all of that press and it seems that Ron DeSantis is able to do something rather similar as we head into 2024.

BROWN: All right, so let's look at the Democratic side now. There is a NBC News poll out showing President Joe Biden's approval rating up and it wasn't the only poll out this week that did, right?

ENTEN: It wasn't the only poll. You know, the thing I love to look at, Pam, is not just one poll, but multiple polls, and you can see here multiple polls on your screen right now from the Associated Press-NORC, from Fox News, New York Times/Siena College, and if you look at the July numbers and compare them to now, the smallest jump for Biden was three points. If you look at The New York Times/Siena College Poll and the AP-NORC

poll, nine-point jump in approval, on that that 42 to 45 range. Look Pam, that's not great, but you'd much rather be in the mid-40s than be in the low to mid-30s as Joe Biden really was prior two months ago.

So, we clearly see an increase in Biden's approval rating, which is something that Democrats certainly like as we head into the midterm cycle.


BROWN: All right, Harry Enten, thanks so much as always.

Be sure to check out Harry's podcast "Margins of Error." You can find it on your favorite podcast app or at

And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Sunday.

At the top of the hour, we're going to get the latest update on Hurricane Fiona as the storm batters Puerto Rico, the entire island is already without power and there is widespread catastrophic flooding.


BROWN: Well, there is a new WNBA champion in the house. The Las Vegas Aces defeated the Connecticut Sun in game four of the finals to capture its first WNBA title in franchise history.

Too late three-pointers by the Aces guard sealed the win, Chelsea grey score 20 points in the game earning her tournament MVP honors.

It's the first title in any major professional sport for the City of Las Vegas.

And the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.