Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Royal Family Holds Private Burial After Queen's Funeral Today; Biden Returns To U.S. After Attending Queen Elizabeth's Funeral; Fiona Wreaks Havoc On Puerto Rico, Leaves 1M+ Without Power. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 19, 2022 - 14:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Victor Blackwell. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM.


The long goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II, the world's longest-reigning queen is almost over. And in these closing moments, her family is grieving in private. Tens of thousands of people packed the streets to witness each step as the queen traveled to her final resting place today. Some of the youngest Royals joined the public mourning for her funeral.

BLACKWELL: For instance, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, who are second and third in line to the throne, walked with their father, Prince William, and their grandfather King Charles III in the procession. The world also saw the crown, the orb, and the scepter removed from the Queen's coffin to mark the end of the second Elizabethan age.

CAMEROTA: CNN's Bianca Nobilo is at Windsor Castle for us. So, Bianca, this was obviously an emotional day for the royal family.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Emotional, poignant, and historic. In about half an hour's time, there'll be the final element of farewells to the late Queen Elizabeth II, and that will take place in a private burial ceremony. We have very few details about that, but we understand it just involves the closest members of the royal family.

This morning, we have the grand funeral in Westminster Abbey and then the committal service here in Windsor, the Queen's beloved Windsor castle where she grew up as a child and where she loved to spend time. And she's now going to be buried in what is the heart of British history, a thousand years of British kings and queens have coalesced around Windsor.

So in the committal ceremony earlier, we saw a process that was rich in tradition and symbolism. You mentioned the fact that the Imperial State Crown, the orb, and the scepter were removed from the coffin. That's essentially parting the queen from her crown for the very last

time. The orb represents the divine right of the queen, the scepter, the temporal governance, so that all the sources of power, if you like, of the monarch are removed from her symbolically.

We also saw another tradition where a so-called Wand of Office of one of the highest ranking members of the royal household is broken into too, symbolizes the end of his service to Her Majesty, the late queen. And that is put on the coffin before it was then lowered slowly into the royal vault.

Then later tonight, we understand the queen will finally be laid to rest in the George VI Memorial Chapel. Now King George VI was the queen's father. He didn't want to be buried permanently in the royal vault. So instead, the queen when she was a young woman, commissioned a very small, simple, and intimate little chapel off the side of the main Chapel at Windsor Castle.

It's only three meters by 4.25 meters, and she wanted to be buried there. And she'll be buried alongside her husband, Prince Philip, who we move next to her, as well as her mother, her father, and her sister. So, a very intimate family-orientated end to these grand proceedings that we saw unfolds this morning, Victor and Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: Yes. We've never seen anything like this in modern times and likely won't see something like this in the foreseeable future. Bianca Nobilo for us there in Windsor, thank you so much.

Well, President Biden is now flying back to the U.S. He was among the 2000 dignitaries and Royals, and public figures who attended the queen's state funeral inside Westminster Abbey. CNN's CHIEF White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is in London. So back home, the president made some news in a new interview, including whether he will run again in 2024.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is an interview that the president taped last week, but it interview -- it aired while he was already here in London for the queen's funeral. And, of course, one big question that has faced President Biden and his top aides at almost every turn that they take these days ahead of the midterm elections is whether or not he is going to run for president in 2024. And until now, the answer from President Biden and from top aides and those around him has always been I intend to run.

That is as far as they will go. They're not officially announcing anything yet. But he hedged a bit in this interview. And, of course, it seems as a little bit of a shift from those previous comments.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, my intention as I said, to begin with, is that I would run again, but it's just an intention. But is it a firm decision that I've run again? That remains to be seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: It's that line right there where he said it remains to be seen whether or not it is a firm intention of President Biden's to run for re-election in 2024. Of course, added context to this is a comment that First Lady Jill Biden made in recent days where when she was asked about whether or not they'd already had that discussion about him running for re-election, she said it was something that they were going to be discussing, but did not say it was something they had talked about yet.


And, of course, that is a big question because often, you hear from aides say you know when you want to know what President Biden is thinking on something, listen closely to what he says. And so that answer, of course, yesterday has raised questions about whether or not he does intend to run in 2024.

Does seem to be a shift from where he's gone in the past, adding that clarifying statement there where he says, it remains to be seen whether or not he is actually going to follow through with that intention that he has right now.

CAMEROTA: OK. Kaitlan, stay with us if you would. We want to also bring in CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, and CNN Business Correspondent, Alison Kosik. Elizabeth, let me start with you because there were other comments that President Biden made that surprised some people, including health experts, when he said this about the pandemic.


SCOTT PELLEY, ANCHOR, CBS NEWS: Is the pandemic over?

BIDEN: The pandemic -- and is over. We still have a problem with COVID, we're still doing a lot of work on it. It's what -- the pandemic is over.


CAMEROTA: Elizabeth, do doctors say the pandemic is over?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, some doctors we've talked to, say yes, they think that it really has made a turn, things are really different. They would agree in essence with what the president is saying. But there are many who say wait a second, how could this be over? Hundreds of people are still dying of COVID a day. So let's take a look at what the data shows us.

What you see here is deaths, it starts in January. And as you can see, we're at a much, much lower point than we were in January down dramatically. Now, let's look at the number of people hospitalized, same thing, very high in January and it's come down dramatically since then.

But still, it's not like COVID has disappeared, if we look at today, September 19, where we are with COVID, 329 people dying a day on average, and about 4100 new hospital admissions.

Now, it's important to note here that the vast majority of people who are getting very sick or dying from COVID are elderly, and they also are not vaccinated. Still, deaths are never good.

But it is important to point out that this isn't like before the kinds of people, the types of people who are dying largely unvaccinated really underlying, you know, that what we've been saying for many, many months now, people need to be fully vaccinated and up to date on their shots. Alisyn, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn now to inflation, still one of the top issues for voters. The president is optimistic. And, Alison Kosik, let me turn to you now. He says that you know, we're likely past the peak, we got a Federal Reserve meeting coming up soon. Here's what the president said.


BIDEN: We've hope we can have what they say, a soft landing and transition to a place where we don't lose the gains that I ran to make in the first place for middle-class folks being able to generate good paying jobs and expansion. And at the same time, make sure that we are able to continue to grow.


BLACKWELL: So what are the expectations?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: All right. So, listen, I think we can all agree that we'd like to be optimistic with the economy but then there's the reality about what's happening with the economy. We've got inflation sitting at 40-year highs.

You know, we're paying more for just about everything. I mean, you'd look at one piece of evidence from the New York Fed that says that credit card balances have actually grown by $100 billion since last year. So consumers are scraping by. And that's a reality.

And then you've got the Fed raising interest rates with the Federal Reserve Chair himself saying it's going to cause some pain to households and businesses. Those are his words.

So analysts, Victor, are finding it really difficult to see how the Fed is actually going to navigate this so-called soft landing, meaning avoiding a recession, knowing that when the Fed raises rates, it's actually engineering a possible recession. Because we know you look at the economy, it's already showing signs of slowing.

I do want to mention one other point with this interview that the President did. Scott Pelley asked him with the Federal Reserve raising interest rates at this aggressive pace. What can you do to prevent a recession? And the president replied, saying that continue to grow the economy and we're growing the economy.

What stuck out to me here was that it seems like the Federal Reserve and the -- and the president are on different pages here. The Fed is deliberately trying to slow the economy to get a handle on inflation and President Biden is talking about growing the economy, two different sides of -- the sides of the coin.

CAMEROTA: OK, but wait, there's more news, even from this interview, because President Biden was also asked about the investigation into all of those classified documents that Donald Trump took to Mar-a- Lago. Here's what President Biden said.


PELLEY: When you saw the photograph of the top secret documents laid out on the floor at Mar-a-Lago, what did you think to yourself, looking at that image?

BIDEN: How that could possibly happen? How one -- anyone could be that irresponsible? And I thought what data was in there that may compromise sources methods? By that, I mean names of people who help there's -- etcetera, and it's just totally irresponsible.


PELLEY: And you don't know what was in those documents.

BIDEN: I have not asked for the specifics of those documents because I don't want to get myself in the middle of whether or not the Justice Department should move or not move on certain actions they can take. I agreed I would not tell them what to do, and not, in fact, engage in telling them how to prosecute or not.


CAMEROTA: Kaitlan, interesting to hear him talk about it like that.

COLLINS: It is. Because ever since this search of Mar-a-Lago happened, the White House has tried to keep a mild distance from this investigation. They have not commented on it except to say, you know, they learned about it from reports in the media. They've really tried to not go at length at all on it.

And the one thing that you've seen President Biden do in recent weeks is he mocked this idea that Trump and his allies have perpetuated, which is that he did declassify all the information that he had taken with him, all of those materials he took with him.

And President Biden there, you know, not only talking about how we irresponsible, he believes it was the president Biden -- that President Trump took this information with him, but also expressing for the first time in a real way that concern that we've heard from him about whether or not sources and methods were potentially compromised by the fact that Trump took this information, just material with him to his beach club in Palm Beach. And so that was a concern that he has.

We know that before the White House has said they believed it was appropriate for the Director of National Intelligence to conduct an investigation into whether or not those sources and methods were compromised. And that's been a big concern for them.

And that's also a concern still at play as you've seen the Justice Department talk about, you know, while they're waiting for this special master that has been appointed by the judge, concerns over whether or not that investigation can actually still proceed in a comprehensive way if the Justice Department is unable to share information about who, for example, looked at this information.

But yes, it's a delicate line that the White House is trying to straddle here where President Biden is commenting on this but also trying to keep their distance from it and not interfere with the Justice Department's investigation.

BLACKWELL: All right. Kaitlan Collins, Alison Kosik, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, more than 1 million Puerto Rican residents are without power after Hurricane Fiona slammed the island. We're live in San Juan with how they're surviving.

BLACKWELL: And after years in captivity, the Taliban releases an American. We have details on the prisoner exchange, ahead.



CAMEROTA: Hurricane Fiona battering Puerto Rico with heavy rains and life-threatening flash flooding. The storm made landfall Sunday afternoon. It's been almost five years since the vast devastation of Hurricane Maria knocked the power out there for months.

BLACKWELL: More than a million people have no power there now and emergency teams are still rescuing people trapped by these record- breaking high waters. At least 1000 people have been saved so far. President Biden declared an emergency and hundreds of female workers are now on the island.

CAMEROTA: CNN's Leyla Santiago is on the ground in San Juan where rising water is a major concern. So, Leyla, what are you seeing?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, we're in the northeast part of the island, which really has not been hit as much as the southern part. We're still seeing rain here and flooding, still an issue but I want to take you to where I was this morning, just hours ago in Salinas, Puerto Rico, that is on the southern part of the island. It's also where the National Guard was called in to rescue hundreds of people overnight.

We went to the shelter there. We spoke to some of those people. And I heard something that caught me off guard, quite frankly, an elderly woman who looked at me and said this is worse than Maria. Worse than the hurricane that as you mentioned, Alisyn, just demolished this island five years ago tomorrow.

So I spoke to some other folks out there dealing with the flooding, the mudslides, the power outages, the majority of this island doesn't have power, 66 percent of customers don't have water. Listen to what one of the residents told me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people more than Maria lost their houses now who lost everything on their houses because of the flooding. That Maria was tough winds, but this one with all the rain. He just destroyed everything on the houses. It's unbelievable. This is our town. It's a small town that basically -- who's going to take care of this town? Nobody. You know what I'm saying? We -- if we don't take care of it, nobody going to take care of it.


SANTIAGO: I spoke to the mayor who had the shelter where again, their housing hundreds. She told me in that town, Salinas, more than 2000 families impacted. And when I asked her what do you want people to know? She said we need help. It's that simple. We need help. But it's really not that simple because the problem is this is not over yet.

And if history teaches you anything about disasters here, now we'll come to the runoff from the mountains that will add to the flooding rivers and the coast coming in. So this isn't over yet. And rescue crews can't safely get into some areas to help the people who need it most as rain continues to fall from the remnants of Hurricane Fiona.

So many people that we have seen on this island today, as we've driven around from the north to the south, are literally on their balconies looking out in fear, waiting for this to be over, waiting for help to arrive, Alisyn, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Leyla, let me ask you about the recovery because we know that the recovery from Maria stretched on for years, in fact, there are still blue tarps on roofs across parts of the island. Is there any confidence that this time will be any different?


SANTIAGO: You know, that depends on who you ask. If you ask the government officials, if you ask, Luma, the now private energy company that is in charge of this power grid, which, you know, had an island- wide power outage, they will tell you what, we have people who are ready, we have resources, we have inventory and supply, that wasn't there before Hurricane Maria, and that is true but that will be the test in terms of how quickly can they get this response going.

The hundreds of FEMA workers who were here, those who are working with the government and the National Guard out and about how quickly can they move with the resources they have here?

Now, I will also tell you that when I speak to people and I asked them that do you think the help will arrive? How confident are you because the power company already is telling us that it will take days to restore all the power here? And you will hear a level of frustration from people on this island, not too confident in the government officials because of that trauma and anxiety that we were just talking about.

Because tomorrow, five years to the day since Hurricane Maria. And after that, there were people who went 11 months without power. So that is the fear that is consuming Puerto Ricans watching hurricane Fiona -- the remnants of Hurricane Fiona continue to impact this island.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, how can we blame them for having anxiety after everything that they've lived through? Leyla Santiago, thank you very much for an update from the ground.

BLACKWELL: CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has more on the storm's movement. Where's it now? Where's it headed?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Victor, Fiona has moved away. The center of the storm has moved away from Puerto Rico. But the problem is there's a lot of moisture still associated with this storm. And so that moisture plumes these bands of rain continue to just create downpours across Puerto Rico.

And you can see here's the radar there. And these rainfall rates are about two to three inches an hour. So even though the storm is well away from the island, we're still seeing very heavy rainfall.

We've had areas that received more than two feet of rain and more is to come so there are flash flood watches and warnings in effect. Near Ponce received 27 inches of rain. There are 30 inches of rain in just 24 hours. And we could see an additional four to six inches of rain across the Dominican Republic, closer to the center of the storm. We could see 10 inches of rain there. We still have watches and warnings in effects.

Now Turks & Caicos is under a hurricane warning. The Bahamas really is the next area to watch. This will be tomorrow morning just on the east side with Turks & Caicos with 105-mile-per-hour winds. So the storm is set to strengthen, could become a major storm by the time we get into Wednesday morning, and then making a very close passerby -- with Bermuda as possibly a major storm.

And so as this picks up forward speed, it's also going to pick up a lot of strength, Victor and Alisyn. So this, on the eastern side of the Bahamas is going to cause a lot of wind and rain, high seas as well. So flooding will continue to be a concern with a storm.

CAMEROTA: OK. Jennifer Gray, thanks for keeping an eye on it for all of us. And for more information about how you can help victims of Hurricane Fiona, you can go to

BLACKWELL: The family of an American just freed by the Taliban explains how they held on to hope for two years. Details on the prisoner swap that brought him home.

CAMEROTA: And Team Trump is on deadline relating to those classified documents that were being kept at Mar-a-Lago, the latest in the legal battle ahead.



BLACKWELL: An American held captive in Afghanistan for more than two years was just released in a prisoner swap. Mark Frerichs is a U.S. Navy veteran. He was kidnapped by a faction of the Taliban in January of 2020. And at the time, he was working as a construction contractor in Afghanistan.

CAMEROTA: A prominent member of the Taliban who was in prison in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges for the last 17 years was granted clemency as part of this deal. CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us now. So, Kylie, tell us about this prisoner swap.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, according to a senior administration official, this was months in the making, months of negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban that led to this. And over the course of that period of time, it became clear that the key to getting Mark's released was Bashir Noorzai. He is, as you guys said, a drug trafficker. He was here in U.S. prison. And President Biden decided back in June that he was going to grant him clemency.

Of course, it took quite a bit of time to get the wheels turning to actually release Mark Frerichs. And his family is very, very excited today, of course, coming out. His sister saying this.

"I'm so happy to hear that my brother is safe and on his way home to us. Our family has prayed for this each day of the 31 months he has been hostage. We never gave up hope that he would survive and come home safely to us."

Now, we are told according to the senior Administration official that he is in stable and solid condition. That is according to an initial reading of his health situation.