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Biden Speaks On Hurricane Recovery Efforts In Florida; Emotional Day As Sanibel Residents Return For 1st Time Since Ian; Federal Appeals Court To Expedite Case Weighing Legality Of Mar-A-Lago Special Master. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired October 05, 2022 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean, I'm sure it's much worse on the ground. But you can see a whole hell of a lot of the damage from the air. And you can imagine, because unfortunately, I've been to a lot of disaster areas in the last couple months, last six months.
More fires have burned in the West and the Southwest, burned everything right to the ground than the entire state of New Jersey, as much room as that takes up. And the reservoirs out West are down to almost zero. We're in a situation where the Colorado River looks more like a stream. There's a lot going on.
And I think the one thing this has finally ended is the discussion about whether or not there's climate change and we should do something about it. But folks, I also want to - Jill and I have had you all in our prayers. And I mean that sincerely. And we're here today because we wanted to tell you in person that we're thinking of you. And we're not leaving. We're not leaving until this gets done. I promise you that.
When walk around here, what's left of Fisherman's Wharf, and you don't have to have much of an imagination to understand that everything, everything, is historic. A titanic and unimaginable storm just ripped it to pieces. You got to start from scratch. You got to move again. And it's going to take a lot, a lot of time, not weeks or months. It's going to take years for everything to get squared away in the State of Florida to fully recover and rebuild.
We're here today with Gov. DeSantis, and Sen. Rubio, and Sen. Scott and Congressman Donalds. Today, we have one job and only one job, and that's to make sure the people of Florida get everything that they need to fully thoroughly recover. We're one of the few nations in the world that on a basis of crisis we face, we're the only nation that comes out of it better than we went into it. And that's what we're going to do this time around, come out of it better because this is the United States of America. And I emphasize united.
We've seen extraordinary cooperation at every level of the government, as the governor has said, and the cooperation began before the storm hit. Our number one priority was saving lives.
At the request of the Governor, I signed an emergency declaration. Let's see if this thing works. Is this one working?
I signed emergency declaration that preposition federal assets including food and water and generators not only in Florida but in other states, so be ready if the worst happened and it happened. We also prepositioned the largest number of search and rescue teams ever assembled in the United States - ever assembled in the United States, and FEMA, the Pentagon, the Coast Guard, other agencies so we can be ready to respond immediately - immediately working with state and local officials.
And the search and rescue teams have knocked on nearly 70,000 doors and rescued over 3,800 people. Yesterday, Lee County alone, the search and rescue teams examined 24,000 structures just in this county, making sure we're counting for everyone who still may be trapped.
We have over 4,000 Federal personnel on the ground as I speak. The Army Corps of Engineers providing emergency power to hospitals across the state nursing homes, water treatment plants, to make sure these facilities are able to continue to operate. Tens of thousands utility workers all across America, not just in Florida, all across America responded to the call from Florida that needed help, thousands, thousands from all across America, working around the clock to get power restored.
This is about America coming together and I really mean it, it's America coming together. FEMA has also delivered, as has been mentioned, 4,000 - 4 million meals, more millions of bottles of water and making sure that you have the immediate necessities.
But we know from experience, I know from experience, how much anxiety and fear and concern there are in the people. We didn't lose our whole home, but lightning struck and we lost an awful lot of it about 15 years ago and we had a lot to go to.
We had relatives nearby. It wasn't like everything was wiped out, but we know the feeling, that feeling about: Where am I going to put my head down on a pillow tonight? How's that going to work and my kid going to be okay? Is he going to be able to go back to school? Am I going to be able to build my home? Will I - will the insurance covered it? If I don't have insurance, God knows what am I going to do.
And we're working to speak to all those issues, because they all want immediate responses. I've instructed my administration to bring every element, I mean, every element of the federal government together to help with immediate needs and long-term rebuilding.
Yesterday, we opened the disaster recovery center right here in Lee County. Three more will be opening in this part of the state by tomorrow and with more to come. And the state is co-locating insurance villages at the same center. So if you're not sure what your insurance circumstance is, if you're not sure what you're going to get, you can show up and determine in one place. One place. Meet with your insurance company and also apply for federal assistance at the same time.
From FEMA to small business administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are there are many ways we can help and we've already started. Already 200,000 Floridians - 200,000 families, I should say, have registered for urgent assistance, like buying food, getting their prescriptions and clothing basics.
And how many of you lost your businesses? Well, insurances may not cover - insurance may not cover everything, not - may not cover the full cost, so we're in a position - some of the folks who are going to - have lost their homes as well. And the question is that if you have insurance then we'll cover the cost.
Well, I directed the Small Business Administration to speed up the processing of low interest disaster loans that can provide up to $2 million for small businesses and nonprofits, and additional money for lost income and $200,000 for homeowners who - to close the gap between what insurance won't cover and what their needs are and that's around 1.5 interest rate.
And folks, look, yesterday, the state asked me and we immediately agreed to activate our hotel program. So individuals who need hotel rooms won't have to pay for anything. I know, there's not many around here, but they can go to the nearest hotel and not have to worry about paying anything and just have the coverage.
If you don't have insurance or if you're underinsured and you found a place to rent or your car has been destroyed, you're entitled up - maybe entitled up to $37,900 in federal funds. If you need to make repairs to your home, you may be eligible for another 39 - excuse me - $37,900, not $39,700 - $37,900.
So you're possibly can be able to get close to $80,000 for your needs, it's available. And folks look, the most important thing you can do is register, so we can help figure out who is eligible for these things. Hundreds of FEMA personnel are going door to door. And to help with that, when you call 800-621-3362 and I've told you're waiting for hours and hours to get through and you're not getting anybody answering the phone.
We've talked about that in the way down in Air Force One and we're going to try to speed that up by having additional personnel, we're trying to expand it, so you have that little patience for us to get it all done. So many people are contacting or you can go online to disaster assistance.gov and find out what you're eligible to receive. Or you can sign up in one of the multiple disaster recovery centers, the one that's opened here and many more that are going to be opening.
Meanwhile, in the counties hardest hit, the federal government at the request of the of the governor from the very beginning he said we'll cover 100 percent of the cleanup cost, the debris costs, which is billions of dollars before it's all over if you think about it, that we're going to pay 100 percent for 30 days, I just extended it for another 30 days and the Governor and I talked, I think he's going to have to come back and ask for some more beyond those 60 days, because it is consequential. Unless you clear the area, there's not much else you can do. And so folks, look, we have a long ...
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Okay. You're listening there to President Biden talking about what a long road it will be for Florida and he said interesting things, Victor, that I hadn't heard before, 200 Floridians have registered for emergency assistance. That's a lot right now.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes.
CAMEROTA: He also said that the reason that they went was because they wanted to show Floridians that we're here, we're thinking of you and we're not leaving until this is all over, though, he admitted it could take years to rebuild. And also he said that there - he had issued an emergency declaration as we knew for Florida, but they had prepositioned recovery personnel and assets. It was the biggest ever assembled in the United States.
BLACKWELL: Yes. Having worked and lived in Florida for - oh, let's go back to - do we have the President? We got the signal back? Let's go back.
BIDEN: ... restaurant and shops. They're now wiped out.
The Sanibel Causeway is ripped in two, standing hundreds of people on the other side - many who don't want to leave, but some who wanted to leave.
We're in a situation where in Lee County alone, initial reports say 11 schools were significantly damaged and three are going to have to be rebuilt.
And today is Yom Kippur. Many members of Florida's Jewish community can't gather ...
BLACKWELL: All right. So we have a problem with the shot there. We heard some of the President's remarks continuing, but I was going to say that having lived and worked in Florida for so long, the President hit on a very important element here is that all that insurance does not cover. The Small Business Administration loans, it will be expedited for people up to $2 million, $200,000 for homeowners. That gap between what you need and what you'll get from your home owner insurance is so important for those families that have lost everything.
CAMEROTA: Yes. And then he also just now was talking about schools. He said something like 11 schools have been destroyed or damaged to the point where kids cannot go to school right now. So that's going to be a long haul for families there as well.
BLACKWELL: All right. Joining us now from Florida, CNN Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, she's there in Fort Myers; CNN Anchor and Correspondent Boris Sanchez is in Fort Myers Beach; Leyla Santiago is on Sanibel Island; and CNN's Carlos Suarez is in Matlacha there on Pine Island.
Kaitlan, let me start with you. Obviously, the President still speaking, some issues with the signal, but this is something that President has obviously done before has done just in the last several days having gone to Puerto Rico after Fiona, what did you hear there that stood out?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the President was making clear that he's here in Florida still really as the scale of the loss of what has happened here is still coming into clear view. And he talked about Fort Myers where we're standing right now, the president is just down the road.
This is all in Lee County, which has seen the worst of the death toll since this storm, since Hurricane Ian hit. And the president there talking about not just the death toll as that is coming in, but also the magnitude of the loss here. Because he said he got this aerial tour that he and the first lady went on in a helicopter to really see all of the damage from above. That's how you can really get the best estimate, besides just driving down the road and seeing what we're seeing, seeing the boats that are in a place where boats are not supposed to be behind me.
And the President was talking about just how much damage he saw and they are talking about how now what it looks like is they are dealing with a good recovery, because it's not just going and cleaning up debris and he talked about the federal government's efforts there. It's also where do you live, where do you send your kids to school.
He was saying there that 11 schools in Lee County have seen serious damage. And so those are big questions that are facing so many of the families. And one of the biggest ones there also is the insurance issue, which is do they have enough insurance, is the insurance that they have going to cover what they lost.
And as we were driving into Fort Myers earlier today, we saw an entire parking lot with tents of State Farm, GEICO and other insurance companies for people to go to, because obviously there's not a lot of places for people to go and to easily get around here. And so the President there are making clear that the federal government, he said, is going to be committed to helping Florida, because he said the sense that he gets from the damage he saw is not going to take weeks or months but potentially years to rebuild here.
And also just the notable moment there where you see President Biden standing there speaking, Gov. DeSantis over his shoulder, as the President was talking about all of these Republicans and he's often clashed with on other issues coming together today, and he said they only had one job to talk about, and that is how to help the people of Florida and seeing Gov. DeSantis welcome President Biden, thank him for the federal government's response. And President Biden in turn thank Gov. DeSantis for the hospitality he said that you showed him today.
CAMEROTA: Yes. And President Biden said that he thinks that Governor DeSantis may have to ask for more federal assistance. Leyla, you're on Sanibel Island and we've been focused on Sanibel
Island today, in particular, because this is the first time in a week that residents are allowed to come back from 7 am to 7 pm to see the damage of their homes themselves. They can't stay past that it's too dangerous, what have you seen today?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Listen, as soon as we came in, which by the way, we came in by boat, because as you heard the President as well as the governor mentioned, the bridges. The causeways are not able to be used right now. So we came in by boat.
Soon as I went in, I saw power lines down debris-filled roads. I mean, we saw houses, Victor and Alisyn that once were on one side of the street and now they're on another side of the street. That really speaks to the force of hurricane Ian. And so for these residents who are coming back for the first time, seeing what they haven't been able to see, to check on their home, to check on their personal belongings, many checking on their neighbors as well. I mean, it was mixed emotions for those who lost it all and then those who sort of had a sigh of relief because they expected the worst.
I want to share with you a part of the conversation I had with a couple of named Tony and Danny.
Tony Tabor, Sanibel Resident: We just thought everything would be lost. We thought we'd come home and we thought those windows were broken, and we thought we'd find water and that - we've lived here for seven years and it's paradise and we thought we would come back and find everything bombed. And I mean, we just have to fix up our yard. But then our neighbors, I mean, the houses here, we know all these people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: And she's one of the lucky ones, considers herself one of the lucky ones dealing now with what she called survivor's guilt. Because of that, where I am standing right now I spoke to the homeowners name is Steve and I was with - I was here, when he got the call, where they told him that everything inside that home, none of it can be salvaged, because there is just so much damage, it is destroyed.
And the fear is, is if they can't get in here quickly, the mold, the mildew, the issues that they're going to have and the chance of sort of just saving the structure itself goes down. So they're trying their best to do what they can to save what they can, understanding that not much can be saved.
Many people here waiting to find out when the causeway will have that temporary fixed that the Governor has spoken about, saying that access once that can be established will make things much easier. I also want to note that I did, while I was here, we did see the National Guard come in with a helicopter and drop off supplies.
But everybody here saying what you heard the President and the Governor saying that this is going to take a long time and may not ever be exactly the same.
BLACKWELL: Yes, Leyla, we see all of the debris and sludge in the pool there. And we spoke with the city manager who said that whatever work has to be done at Steve's house has to be done by hand, because you can't take generators, that's a fire hazard. So he's going to have to get in there without the heavy power tools for now.
Boris, let me come to you at Fort Myers Beach. Although Tony, and Danny and Steve there on Sanibel, they're seeing their homes, you're in a place where many people have not been able to access their homes yet.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Victor and Alisyn. Fort Myers Beach was actually cut off even to residents by county officials, in part because in the difficult work of scanning and clearing debris, they discovered a number of cadavers. And the Sheriff of Lee County did not want any foot traffic, he did not want any interference in that process.
So it is a slow recovery and a lot of folks still aren't aware of exactly what state their properties are in. President Biden talked about the imagination required to absorb the full scope of how widespread the devastation is across southwest Florida. And we want to give you an idea of where the recovery stands right now, because where we are it is starting to come back to normal slightly.
There are a number of utility trucks that have shown up here in the last few hours trying to get poles, utility poles back up, right, to reinstall power lines. There are crews here from the Florida Department of Transportation, from Florida Power and Light as well doing their work to try to get things back online.
But keep in mind, there's still debris in the way. You see that boat, that was on the highway. We're standing across from a marina that the storm surge lifted up and dipped into a thoroughfare, as we watched, officials start driving through.
Keep in mind, there is a lot of debris as we watch the motorcade pass by. There are marine animals that were stranded. The storm surge here higher than 12 feet. And as we look over at the other side of the highway (inaudible) ended up, you see there's a ton of debris still to pick up.
There are cars underneath this. There are boats that are stacked on top of each other. There is a structure that was across the way that was a business, a thriving business in this part of Florida. Obviously, a lot of it relies on tourism, on fishing charters, on shipping vessels as well. And you see part of the dock wound up in this swamp, in this mangrove hundreds of feet from where it started.
Obviously, the cleanup is (inaudible) this is actually the street where President Biden passed earlier. These are some of the scenes that he saw that he was referring to talking about the amount of work that still needs to be done in Florida, Victor and Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: Okay. Boris, thank you. Let's go to Carlos.
So Carlos, you're reporting on Pine Island, which is obviously another remote community, what's the situation?
CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn and Victor, the folks that live here in Matlacha as well as Pine Island to the west here, they are breathing a sigh of relief. That's because the lone bridge that connects Pine Island to the mainland it could reopen as early as later today.
A few hours ago, we were able to access that bridge on our way to a briefing by the Governor. Photos there show exactly the work that's been done by a number of construction workers the last couple of days. So what happened out here is that a part of that bridge, the foot of that bridge was washed away by Hurricane Ian.
And so in the last couple of days, construction crews have brought in just about everything they could, we're talking about rocks, sand, gravel, anything, they brought it into this part of Matlacha and Pine Island, and they've flattened that road. They've been able to cover the part that was washed out.
And so emergency officials told residents today that what's going to happen now is that once that bridge reopens, it's going to reopen first for emergency responders. They want to get help onto Pine Island. They want to make sure that anyone that needs any medical attention there might be able to get it.
Once that's done, then they're going to reopen that bridge for any residents trying to get from Matlacha into Pine Island, just about everyone that we've talked to out here for the last two to three days has been making the journey onto that barrier island by using a boat. Sometimes a stranger's boat, sometimes their own boat, but every single time the only way they've been able to get onto that island and back was using a boat.
We caught up with a few residents on the Pine Island side just where the bridge crosses over into Matlacha Isles, one woman that we talked to said she got back home on Friday, but she hasn't left since yet. She's excited that she can possibly drive back over and the hope is that water will come back soon and then power as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CINDY WALTON, PINE ISLAND RESIDENT: I would rather - as I think the Governor said, if you had a choice between water and electric, give me water. I don't need electricity. I have a candle. I don't need to be out at night when it's dark. I've been working all day long. I don't need a light, I don't need a TV, I don't need anything. I need to be able to charge my phone which I'm able to do thankfully, but I need water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUAREZ: Again, that temporary bridge is expected to open first for first responders and then residents we're told will be allowed to drive over back onto Pine Island, Alisyn and Victor?
CAMEROTA: Okay, Carlos, Kaitlan, Leyla, Boris, thank you all very much for reporting on the ground for us.
All right. Meanwhile, Justice Clarence Thomas puts the DOJ on deadline. They have one week to respond to Donald Trump's request for Supreme Court intervention over these Mar-A-Lago top secret document dispute.
BLACKWELL: And Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker is doubling down on his denial that he paid for an abortion. Next, how the scandal could rock the GOP's quest to take control of the Senate next month.
BLACKWELL: New today, a federal appeals court has ruled to expedite the case that weighs the legality of having a special master oversee the records seized at Mar-A-Lago.
CAMEROTA: This comes one day after Trump asked the Supreme Court to intervene regarding the special master's review. CNN Supreme Court Reporter Ariane de Vogue joins us now. Ariane, catch us up on all these developments.
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN U.S. SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right. Well, that federal appeals court indicated that it might rule as soon as maybe the end of next month. But Trump has drawn the Supreme Court into this issue right now. That means this court with three of his own nominees are going to have to get into this white hot political fight right now. This - what this is about before the Supreme Court is just a part of the investigation into the president's handling of those presidential records that were seized from his house in Florida.
Remember, after that happened, Trump went to a district court judge and said I want a special master to look at these documents. The district court said, okay. But then a federal appeals court said look, that special master can't look at about 100 documents that are marked as classified. So that is the issue that President Trump is taking to the Supreme Court, not the larger issue about the DOJ's criminal investigation, but just what the special master can do with those classified documents.
So how's the Supreme Court going to look at this, we know that last term, Trump brought a different document dispute to the Supreme Court and he lost, we think only Justice Clarence Thomas ruled in his favor. But this new dispute really Trump's lawyers are asking something very technical, almost procedural. They want the Supreme Court to say the appeals court didn't handle this the right way. And the Supreme Court might look at that and say, we're not going to get involved with that in error correction.
So they may just deny it outright. But this couldn't come at a worse time for the Supreme Court, right? They're - already their approval ratings have plummeted because of last term when they issued so many of those bitter six-three decisions and then they reversed Roe v. Wade. There's some members of the court who I'm sure the last thing they want to get into in the beginning of this term is this dispute.
So we'll see what happens. The court has asked the Department of Justice to respond in about a week and then they'll deal with this petition from Trump.
BLACKWELL: All right. We'll see if they take it up. Ariane de Vogue, thank you.
CAMEROTA: Now to this, Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker continues to deny that damning Daily Beast report that he paid for an ex-girlfriend's abortion. In an interview this morning, Walker claims he does not even know the woman and suggested that his - the signature that his son says is his in the get well card to her is not his.
BLACKWELL: He was also pressed on his son, Christian, a conservative influencer who says his father's denials are lies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERSCHEL WALKER, (R) GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I love him. I always support him. And I always have supported him and I always will and I love them unconditionally.