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California Floods Intensify, Governor Issues State Of Emergency; Silicon Valley Bank Collapses, Second Biggest Failure In U.S. History; Russia's War On Ukraine; Memorial Held For Beloved Soldier Killed In Bakhmut; New Video Shows Kidnapped U.S. Victims In Mexico Before Attack; NY Prosecutors Invite Trump To Testify In Hush Money Probe; Ron DeSantis Stokes Culture Wars Amid Speculation On 2024 Run; Red Cross Working To Ease Humanitarian Crisis In Earthquake Zone. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired March 11, 2023 - 11:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

And we begin this hour in California. Significant flood threat is intensifying. Powerful drenching storms hitting the northern and central parts of the state brought on by an atmospheric river.

Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency. A levee breach forcing evacuations in Monterey County. Flood waters are causing severe road damage.

The California National Guard is now on the scene in Santa Cruz to support emergency services. Around 15 million people are under flood watches across California and Nevada.

For some residents, the rising water is simply too much to bear.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't live like this. How do you live like this? How do I have my kids here? How do I have my elderly mother live here where I carry her out of her house?


WHITFIELD: Snowfall is also causing significant problems blocking roads and trapping some people in their homes. Several feet of snow have fallen in parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

CNN's Mike Valerio is live for us in Monterey County, California reporting on the flooding taking place there. What's at stake and what's expected?

MIKE VALERIO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Fredricka, good morning. You know, the good news here is that we do have a reprieve from the rain. Just scattered showers throughout the central coast of California for today and tomorrow.

But if you look in our backdrop Fred, we have this ocean of flood water here -- acres and acres of farmland here in the community of Pajaro (ph) which is in Monterey County. Just look at all of this.

The Pajaro River overflowed its banks, Fredricka. There was a levee that broke around midnight local time yesterday. And that's why we're seeing all of this flood water come in.

So Pajaro here has about 3,000 people and it's under a mandatory evacuation order. So Fred, we actually had a convoy of about a dozen people on a National Guard truck come through here just before you came to us live.

And if we look about a half mile in the distance just north of us, you can see where those flashing lights are. Nobody allowed in or out.

Now Fredricka, on the other side of the Pajaro River, if we jump to the drone video inhouse in the control room, that's Watsonville. You can see all of that water-inundated homes, front yards, cars, all of these businesses.

We also have good news to report. A lot of that flood water receded, which certainly is welcome news to people that have been dealing with flood fatigue. Take a listen to the chief emergency responder from Santa Cruz County talking about flood fatigue with us just a couple minutes ago.


DAVID REID, SANTA CRUZ COUNTY DIRECTOR OF RESPONSE, RECOVERY AND RESILIENCE: I mean, it is -- yes, it's hard. Folks have been evacuated three, four, five times. Their homes -- some people's homes have been flooded two or thee times this winter. So there's a fatigue for sure.

We have been grateful for the federal government support of the first FEMA disaster declaration and obviously, we'll be hoping to get another disaster declaration with this latest round to support our community.


VALERIO: So back here live, I think Fred, this is certainly the worst of what we have seen. You know, road closed over here. But again, we're about 20 minutes away from the Pacific Ocean. This water really has nowhere to go. Just over my right-hand shoulder, we have a bluff and other neighborhoods, golf courses, a middle school.

So we're expecting a break from the precipitation today and tomorrow. But of course Fredricka, we're also bracing ourselves for Tuesday when we have the 11th atmospheric river system coming through the central coast of California again. With all of this soil saturated and in this pocket of Monterey County really nowhere for this water to go.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness, 11th. It's extraordinary that number. All right. Thank you so much, Mike Valerio. Let's turn now to CNN meteorologist Britley Ritz who's been tracking

these storms. I did not realize there had been that many of these atmospheric rivers that have inundated the area.

BRITLEY RITZ, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. And in between the 10th and the 11th, even though we're catching a break from most of the rains, we still have scattered showers thanks to a westerly wind which is part of the reason why.

Saturday and Sunday we still have a slight risk for flooding. Those areas highlighted in yellow from the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada back on up to the northern coast line for Sunday holding on to that threat with an additional 1 to 3 inches of rain which you'll see in the yellows and oranges.


RITZ: But in the higher elevations of the Sierra, notice the darker purples. That's 36 plus inches of snow and all of that moisture traveling eastward. So the central part of the lower 48 now dealing with the threat of severe weather as well as blizzard conditions.

Blizzard warnings in effect were highlighted in orange across North Dakota back into the western part of the Northern Plains. We'll bring in the threat of lower visibility and of course, heavy snowfall because of all of that with the wind. You'll see the whites popping. That's the heavy snowfall that we're talking about this.

But this extends further south where it's much warmer, we've got a lot of moisture plus the lift from the boundary itself bringing in that threat of severe weather late Saturday into Sunday noticing that red ramping up with that line of storms across parts of Arkansas. Wind and hail being one of the bigger concerns here. But isolated tornadoes can't be ruled out either.

And of course, the flooding threat here as well as it extends back across the southeast rolling into Sunday night and into Monday the Florida panhandle. So you'll see these areas highlighted in yellow holding on to that threat for severe weather again it's wind and hail being some of the bigger concerns, Fredricka but flooding and isolated tornadoes can't be ruled out either.

WHITFIELD: My goodness, nonstop. Britley Ritz, thanks so much.

All right. Now to that sudden implosion of a major Silicon Valley bank that was a top source of funding for tech startups. Some of those business owners are now scrambling to come up with the money to pay their employees.

SVB Bank collapsed Friday, making it the second largest failure of a financial institution in American history. It happened after the bank sold a bunch of securities at a loss and said it would sell billions in new shares to shore up its balance sheet.

CNN's Matt Egan has more.


MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: This happened so fast it's stunning. Silicon Valley Bank may not be a household name, but it held $200 billion plus in assets. That makes this the second biggest collapse of a bank in U.S. history behind only the 2008 implosion of Washington Mutual.

Now the FDIC has seized control of this bank. The FDIC says that depositors will get access to their cash by Monday morning up to the $250,000 insurance limit. But we know that some startups and individuals and small businesses, they hold more than $250,000 at this bank. And it's not really clear what's going to happen and whether or not they are going to get all of their money back.

So how did we get here and did we get here so fast? Well, shares of this bank's parent company collapsed 60 percent on Thursday after warning of a rapid need to raise cash. And that appears to spark a run on the bank with some companies racing to pull their money.

This is also a symptom of the Federal Reserve's war on inflation. We know that interest rate spikes like the ones going on right now tend to break things somewhere in the financial market. We also know that the Fed rate hikes have hurt the value of tech companies. The same tech companies that Silicon Valley Bank caters to.

This also hurt the value of the bonds that banks like this one rely on for funding. Now U.S. financial regulators, they held an unscheduled meeting on Friday to discuss this bank failure. And I spoke to Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo and asked him what he thinks about the situation. Listen to what he said.


WALLY ADEYEMO, TREASURY DEPUTY SECRETARY: The federal regulators are paying attention to this particular financial institution. And when we think about the broader financial system, we're very confident in the ability and the resilience of the system and also the fact that we have the tools that are necessary to deal with incidents like what's happened at the Silicon Valley Bank.


EGAN: Now thankfully, experts I'm talking, they're hopeful that this is more of an isolated incident than a systemic one. Most banks are not as exposed as this one to one single sector. Major banks, they lend to not just tech company, but retailers and factories and media companies.

Moody's chief economist Mark Zandi, he told me that he doesn't think that this failure is a sign of broader trouble in banking and that this system is as well capitalized as ever.

Let's hope so because the last thing we need is a series of bank failures. Back to you.


WHITFIELD: All right. Matt Egan, thank you for that.

All right. Turning to Ukraine, where most of the power in the Kharkiv region has been restored after a massive barrage of Russian missiles hitting the area this week. Ukraine's military says Russia fired 95 missiles in just one day, including several hypersonic missiles making it one of its biggest aerial assaults in months. And in Bakhmut, the battle rages on for control of that city.


WHITFIELD: One Ukrainian commander saying Bakhmut remains the hottest spot on the front line.

Ukraine's President Zelenskyy joining thousands of mourners in Kyiv on Friday to honor a beloved soldier who died Friday in Bakhmut.

CNN's Ivan Watson was there.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A funeral for a fallen warrior. An honor guard and thousands of mourners gathered to remember Junior Lieutenant Dmytro Kotsiubailo, better known by his code name "Da Vinci". He was the youngest battalion commander in this Ukrainian army killed this week in the battle for Bakhmut, a month's long deadly test of will between the Russian and Ukrainian militaries over a small city of questionable strategic value.

This is how Ukraine is honoring one of its fallen heroes and also proof of the terrible cost that the Ukrainian military is paying in the battle for Bakhmut.

In 2021 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy officially declared Da Vinci a hero of Ukraine. On Friday the president paid his respects to Da Vinci's surviving family members accompanied by the prime minister of Finland.

Mourners gathered on their knees around Da Vinci's coffin in the Maidan, the square in central Kyiv where in 2014 Da Vinci then just a teenager joined thousands of demonstrators in a bloody battle against Ukrainian security forces. They ultimately sent the country's pro- Russian president fleeing to Russia.

Soon after Da Vinci joined a nationalist militia and fought for years against pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region before formally joining the Ukrainian armed forces.

Many of the people attending Da Vinci's memorial never met the young commander face to face.

SERGIY IVANNIKOV, KYIV RESIDENT: He lost his life for us, for me, for my children, for my family and who want to live good life. And I'm here to celebrate his life and to say final respects to him.

WATSON: What did Da Vinci fight for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For Ukraine. For freedom. For us.

WATSON: This woman knows the stakes all too well.

Your husband is fighting in Bakhmut right now.


WATSON: "There is a price for freedom," she says. "One life dies so that other lives may be born."

Though only 27 Da Vinci knew the risks he was taking.

"I'm ready to go to victory with you," he told his troops. "And if need be, to give up my life for you."

Nearly everyone in Ukraine has lost something since Russia's invasion one year ago. A war in which far too many have made the ultimate sacrifice.


WATSON: Fredricka, the Ukrainian government, the Ukrainian president have said they will continue to fight to defend this city of Bakhmut.

The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, he has been claiming progress in the Russian offensive there to try to take over that city, more incremental advances into that city.

And in the meantime, both sides continue to face losses in addition to the funeral for that young commander Da Vinci, which was held in the church, you can't see it in the fog right over my shoulder, there was another memorial here in Kyiv yesterday. It was for a father and son. Olek and Nikita Kamyuk (ph), they were fighting together, both killed by incoming artillery around that same bloody, very costly battle, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So much given in the fight to keep their country.

Ivan Watson, thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, new video showing the kidnapped Americans just hours before the attack in Mexico. We'll bring you that and the latest on the investigation, next.

Plus former President Trump is said to be weighing his legal options this weekend after being invited to testify to a grand jury in the Stormy Daniels hush money case. What this means about a possible indictment, straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

CNN has obtained and geolocated new video showing the moments before the four Americans who were attacked and kidnapped by a drug cartel in Mexico.

CNN's Josh Campbell takes a closer look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have never been to Mexico. You don't know what it's like Mexico --

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New video obtained by CNN from inside the vehicle of four Americans just prior to their kidnapping in Mexico.

The Americans shown and heard on Facebook Live just after they crossed into Mexico from the United States. A government source told CNN the purpose of the visit was for a Latavia Washington McGee to obtain medical procedure. But they never made it.

A timeline from Mexican officials indicated that about two hours after entering the country, a gray Volkswagen Jetta starts to tail the Americans' van followed by several more vehicles.

At 11:45 a.m. their vehicle was attacked by suspected members of the Gulf Cartel. Bystander video of the aftermath shows the victims being loaded into a truck.


CAMPBELL: The bodies of the two deceased Americans are now in the United States awaiting an autopsy. As the FBI continues to work with Mexican authorities to investigate, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico is calling for authorities to aggressively combat the cartels.

KEN SALAZAR, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MEXICO (through translator): They have to be dismantled. We have to do this work together with the Mexican government.


WHITFIELD: Josh Campbell, thank you so much for that reporting.

We're also learning about more arrests in that case.

CNN's Carlos Suarez, joining us now from South Carolina where the four Americans were from. Carlos, what do we know about this latest arrests and how the families are reacting?


We spoke to the family of one of the four victims yesterday. The mother of Latavia McGee said that the family was aware of these new arrests and that they were quite relieved about that development. She told me that Latavia would be able to tell who these men were based on some of the tattoos that some of them had.

In fact McGee's mother's exact words to me were, quote, "They -- meaning the Mexican government -- need to keep getting them until they get them all."

As for the latest developments involving the investigation and the arrest it is still unclear this morning whether the five men that were arrested by the Mexican government are the same five men that the Mexican cartel said they were going to turn over.

The arrest came a day after the cartel released a letter apologizing for the kidnapping and the murders. And in that same letter, they said they were going to turn over the group responsible for this.

Now on Friday -- Friday night, we got a little bit more information on the initial encounter that the Mexican government had with these five men. In a tweet, they provided some information on that. This is a translation of a part of that tweet. It says in part, quote, "Due to the conditions in which five men were found in Matamoros along with a car and a letter, they were initially treated as victims of crime. But this changed to suspect when is they began to report their participation in the events of March 3rd."

Back here in South Carolina, the Shaeed Woodard's family says they are still trying to figure out how they're going to get their son's body back here to South Carolina and Zindell Brown's body has also been turned over to U.S. authorities.

The last person that was in that car Eric Williams, we're told he's still recovering in a hospital in Texas after undergoing surgery, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Carlos Suarez, thanks so much.

Coming up, a dramatic escalation in a case that has loomed over former President Trump for years. New York prosecutors now inviting him to testify in the Stormy Daniels hush money probe.

We'll discuss, next.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back. A source tells CNN that former President Trump is meeting with his legal team this weekend to consider his options after being invited to testify before a Manhattan grand jury. The panel is investigating Trump's alleged role in hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

The invitation for Trump to testify is a potential sign that prosecutors are zeroing in on indictment. CNN's Jessica Schneider has details.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE, CORRESPONDENT: In what would be an historic case, Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, one step closer to bringing criminal charges against former President Trump in a long-running investigation. ALVIN BRAGG, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We're going to look at the

facts and the law and let the investigation and justice and what justice requires, you know, would dictate how much time we take.

SCHNEIDER: Prosecutors are now giving Trump the chance to testify before a grand jury investigating his alleged roll in that $130,000 hush money payout to adult film star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election to cover up their alleged affair a decade earlier.

Since potential defendants in New York are required by law to be invited to appear in front of a grand jury, it all indicates a decision on whether to charge Trump could come soon.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: It's one thing to turn around and to lie on your Untruth Social. It's another thing to turn around and lie before a grand jury. I don't suspect that he's going to be coming.

SCHNEIDER: Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen meeting with prosecutors again Friday. He was sentenced to three years in prison in part for his role paying off Stormy Daniels and then getting reimbursed by the Trump Organization. That reimbursement would be at the heart of any case brought against Trump.

Prosecutors could charge Trump with falsifying business records for improperly reporting his repayment to Cohen. That would be a misdemeanor. Prosecutors could also charge Trump with a felony for falsifying business records in connection with violating campaign finance laws. It could be a risky case to proceed with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the prosecutor's plan is to address their case on Michael Cohen, that's a pretty big gamble.

SCHNEIDER: Though some argue it's straight forward.

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: It's pretty. He paid money to keep her quiet. They took the money. They laundered it and hid it in the papers of the Trump Organization. And ultimately, it meant that the Trump Organization paid tax on something and filed an income tax return that was false. In New York State law, no, that's a felony.

SCHNEIDER: several key people have already testified before the grand jury, including former top White House aides Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks.

Trump has repeatedly denied any affair with Stormy Daniels or any involvement in the payoff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?


SCHNEIDER: And a spokesman blasted the D.A.'s investigation saying the Manhattan district attorney's threat to indict President Trump is simply insane. For the past five years, the DA's office has been on a witch hunt investigating every aspect of President Trump's life and they've come up empty at every turn and now this.


SCHNEIDER: Trump has already said he will not leave the race if he's indicted and legally he wouldn't have to since there's nothing barring presidential candidates from running if they're charged or even convicted.

But Trump, of course, would be the first former president ever indicted and this isn't the only case Trump is facing. He's also under investigation in Georgia for allegedly working to overturn the 2020 election.

And then there's special counsel Jack Smith who is investigating Trump for Trump's role in January 6th and also Trump's handling of classified documents after he left office.

Jessica Schneider, CNN -- Washington.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk more about all of this.

Joining me right now is Michael Moore. He is a former U.S. attorney. So good to see you Michael.

When we talk about this invitation, how likely is it that he would accept that invitation. And is it an indicator that indictments are on the way?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I'm glad to be with you today.

I really would be surprised if he did take the chance to go talk to the grand jury. He is not known for being able to limit his comments and having any kind of filter on the things that come out of his mouth. And so surely any lawyer worth their salt would encourage him and pretty much insist that he not do it.

Because I don't think there's any upside for him at this point. I mean the facts are where they are. He may try to put a spin on it, he may try to deny it. That would make probably make him look worse to the grand jurors.

And again, this is just a grand jury. That may not what might happen at trial because I do expect that he would likely wouldn't testify at trial. But in the grand jury, I don't see much upside for him.

WHITFIELD: So if Trump is reportedly meeting with his attorneys, his legal adviser at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, what are some of the other things they might be considering. What are the options they are entertaining?

MOORE: Well, I really think it's probably likely that they are looking at a media push against these charges. And I think there's some grounds for that. You know, we don't -- and I'm worried about the three investigations

going on at the same time. And each of these prosecutors, whether it be in Georgia or New York or the special counsel, you know, everybody trying to get the first shot at him. And you know, what we need to make sure is that prosecutors are not shooting at elephant with a BB gun.

And that maybe what's happening in the New York case given sort of -- it's kind of a twisted case to get it through a felony. It can be a misdemeanor but if it actually charged it this way it might be a felony.

You know, that's not the most compelling case to take to a jury. So I imagine they are talking about that and what they can do to push back. But also talking about, you know, is there any other arrangements that can be made? And what other evidence might be out there. Who might otherwise be testifying.

And I think as well, the idea that he's meeting is a planned statement on their part to make it look like that the investigation has no legs and that they are going to battle it, that this is just more nonsense going on from New York. At least that's going to be the Trump spin on it. So you know, some of this -- the meeting might not really be as substantive, it might be more just for decoration.

WHITFIELD: It might just be tea time.

MOORE: Right.

WHITFIELD: Going on with the team there.

Ok, so and I wonder that so many years have elapsed in this investigation. Is that all an indicator of how complicated, you know, the road ahead is for prosecutors?

MOORE: Well, I think they are taking too long on all these cases, frankly. And sometimes they are trying to weave a bigger web and what happens is that is ends up causing prosecutors problems at the end of the day trying to prove their case.

When you have to diagram and make a road map and a chart to explain the charges that you're bringing forth to a jury, you need to reevaluate those charges because it's just too complicated.


WHITFIELD: Is that (INAUDIBLE) in part because you're talking about a former president? And so any prosecutor's office wants to be perhaps even more thorough than comparing to any other case, I mean they should always be thorough, right. But you are talking about a former president.

And so does this lapse of time mean, you know, going over minutia that perhaps may not take place in other cases.

MOORE: It can, but these are discussions about whether or not you're going to charge a former president that they should have had before they ever made a public statement about having a grand jury. These are things they should have decided early on and we're going to move forward. If they decided that they have the evidence to charge a former president could survive the resulting appeals that are going to come from this and the court battles that no question will take us -- will go all the way to the supreme court.

You know, once they decide that, they just need to put their head down and get to work. And to take five years on an investigation like this, seems mighty strange to me. I mean think about it. They have already prosecuted Michael Cohen for his involvement and his at least, you know, not complicity but you know, his involvement in this thing. So that didn't take any time.

So I think that's -- they sort of let some of the immediacy and the urgency (INAUDIBLE) from the case.

WHITFIELD: All strong points. Michael Moore, that's why we love having you. Thanks so much.


MOORE: Always great to be with you. Thank you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, leading Republican presidential hopefuls are stoking the culture war as we head into the 2024 race, but noticeably President Biden is steering clear. We'll discuss his strategy, next.


WHITFIELD: All right. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis visited Iowa this week, a strong signal ahead of announcing a potential presidential run though he has said an official decision is still months away. Caucus voters in the Hawkeye State were pretty eager to hear DeSantis' messages in person.

The Florida governor's bold agenda is stoking culture wars in the classroom and beyond.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We're not teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other with your tax dollars. No way. But you know what we are doing?


DESANTIS: We're putting out a positive vision. We're emphasizing and reintroducing American civics into the schools in a very big way. People need to be taught what it means to be an American.


WHITFIELD: It's a sharp contrast to President Biden's approach, which seems to be focusing on economic matters. Joining me right now to discuss is Ron Brownstein. He is a CNN senior

political analyst and the senior editor for "The Atlantic". Ron, always good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So the Florida governor making steps in Iowa and Nevada as part of his national book tour. Are his messages resonating?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, as you say I mean we are seeing a very sharp contrast develop in the early stages of 2024 race. I think people have not fully appreciated the extent to which President Biden is moving aggressively to try to shape the terms of debate in a kind of asymmetric warfare.

As you note, Ron DeSantis and certainly Donald Trump as we saw at CPAC last weekend are leaning very heavily into culture war messages. We're talking about, you know, restricting what teachers can say about race and gender, sexual orientation and eliminating permitting requirements for firearms and rolling back LGBTQ rights and you know, this whole kind of agenda that's advancing across the red states.

By contrast, Biden is very -- I think pointedly not discussing those cultural issues and he's stressing kitchen table economics. He's talking about his blue collar blueprint to rebuild America, that jobs that will be created form the investment bills, defending Social Security and Medicare, lower drug prices.

And the question I think among Democrats is, is he skillfully shaping the battlefield or is he ducking and arguing (ph) that ultimately they have to have confronting some of what's going on in the red states more directly.

WHITFIELD: In fact, you wrote that while some GOP candidates are trying to ignite a culture war, firefights President Biden is how you wrote it and thought it's almost exclusively focusing on delivering tangible economic benefits to working class families such as lower costs for insulin, the protection of Social Security and Medicare and the creation of more manufacturing jobs I mean especially after so many voters expressed a certain level of fatigue over kind of the angry messaging.

Does the president, you know, have his finger on the pulse?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think he has his finger on pulse of 270 electoral college votes, not necessarily the whole country. We saw a real divergence in this midterm election as you and I have talked about before.

In states where abortion is still legal, there was a strong and unequivocal pushback against candidates who ran on restricting it in places like Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, not to mention Colorado or Washington.

But in the states -- the red states that have actually rolled back abortion rights and been part of this broader rollback of rights that we have seen over the last couple of years, there was very little pushback against the Republicans.

I mean, you know, the Republican governors got reelected in states like Florida and Ohio and Georgia and Texas that have actually restricted abortion. And so the question really for DeSantis is, is he getting kind of a false signal from that.

This agenda did do fine at the ballot box in the red states. But those aren't enough to actually win the presidency. And in the decisive swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, even Arizona, it was pretty emphatically rejected.

The White House believes that ultimately this agenda will not prove popular and even more fundamentally, the best way to fight the culture wars is to disengage as much as possible from them because voters are kind of exhausted with them and would prefer politicians to focus on their daily economic concerns.

That's a big bet. Not all Democrats agree with it, but that's clearly the direction the White House is heading.

WHITFIELD: And is there a feeling within the White House that that agenda will be consistent, even if there are other Democratic contenders who join the race and become a real threat for this sitting president?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I don't think they are anticipating that, you know. Look, I mean Biden in many ways, is a pre-1970s Democrat, you know. I have written that he never looks happier than when he is around freshly poured concrete, you know, like at the ground breaking of a new plant or a bridge or a tunnel.

He's a Democrat who believes that the coordination of the party is to provide economic security for working families. Obviously over the last 50 years, Democrats have lost a lot of those voters, particularly white ones, around cultural issues.

And so there's you know, a view in the party -- there's debate in the party about whether Biden is skillfully determining the field of battle or is in fact trying to resurrect a coalition that no longer exists. And that by failing to more forcefully confront what Republicans are doing on things like education and LGBTQ right, he risks dispiriting the actually coalition Democrats have now, which is based on young people, college-educated whites and people of color.


BROWNSTEIN: But this is fundamentally who he is. This is the politics that he's comfortable with. You know, he talks about -- constantly talks about how many jobs he's creating that don't require a college degree. That is something you would not have heard from Barack Obama or Bill Clinton.

It's who Joe Biden is and at this point, it is the way he wants to fight out this 2024 race.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ron Brownstein, always great to have you. Thanks so much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: All right.

It's been more than a month since the massive earthquake devastated Turkey and Syria and widespread damage took place to homes, communities and more than 50,000 people were impacted.

And now the effort to rebuild and recover. A member of the International Red Cross who is in Turkey with survivors joins me next.



WHITFIELD: The damage from last month's devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria could top $100 billion. That's according to the United Nations.

And then there's the human loss. More than 52,000 people were killed last month when a series of massive earthquakes hit the area.

The earthquake also destroyed more than 200,000 homes leaving a humanitarian crisis in its wake. And it's still ongoing.

Susan Malandrino is a spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and she's joining us right now from Turkey. So good to see you, Susan.

I know you've been out in the field, you know, with survivors. What are you experiencing? What's happening on a day-to-day basis right now?

SUSAN MALANDRINO, SPOKESPERSON, IFRCRC: Yes. So it's been more than a month. And people really are just still reeling from this absolute massive devastation. Communities are in crumbles, buildings are down. Really, things are really challenging at this point. And people really still need the basics.

We're seeing a lot of need for -- still people need food and shelter and water. And really it's taken a toll. The past month has been really challenging.

WHITFIELD: So when there are supplies -- and we'll get to you know, what the ongoing needs are -- but when there are supplies, how is it getting -- how are they getting to people? Because obviously getting around is a gigantic challenge, meaning getting to people who are in need or people in need trying to get to organizations that have set up.

Kind of paint a picture for me how that's happening. What are the big challenges there.

MALANDRINO: Yes. So we're really meeting the challenges. Here in Turkey the roads are back open and we really are able to distribute a variety of goods.

Today I was at a Turkish Red Crescent Center, a social market, where people who lost everything can pick up diapers for their babies. They can pick up boots and shoes and fresh clothes and socks -- all of the necessities that you don't even think that you need until you absolutely lose everything.

WHITFIELD: What are some of the things that you know, NGOs, organizations like yours, need in order to help distribute?

MALANDRINO: Yes. You know, we still at this point, I would say that the cash donations are best for us. You know, we are looking at the Red Cross and Red Crescent -- we are looking at giving people cash vouchers so people can go and take some agency of their lives. You know, people have lost everything. The earthquakes were beyond their control, and now they can go into markets where they're open in communities where markets are open and they can buy the things that really help them and make them feel empowered, really in a situation where you feel like lost everything and you don't have any control.

WHITFIELD: Ok. And then your organization, you know, called you know, the earthquake zone a real mental health ticking time bomb. What are you seeing? To what degree? What are you seeing? What are the indicators of how, you know, how stress -- the mental stresses that people are enduring, you know, or taking a real toll?

MALANDRINO: Absolutely, Fredricka and thank you for asking. It is unbelievable. You know, what we really are seeing is compounding trauma. So it's not just the trauma of losing grandparents and parents and siblings and loved ones. It's the trauma of losing your home and losing your community and losing everything you love and hold dear.

So we're really starting to see kids who are exhibiting behaviors of not wanting to come outside. We're seeing parents who are reporting anxiety, really a lot of just difficult situations. And our mental health responders are working with children in the field. We're dispatching -- we're dispatching medical teams. And those teams are going out in addition to providing medical care, they're also providing the psychological aid and really attending to the needs of people on the ground.

WHITFIELD: And I'm sure just looking around and seeing constant reminders of, you know, the rubble, you know, the devastated communities, wiped-out communities, I mean those are triggers for people who feel like they're re-living it over and over again.

What, if anything, can be done to kind of address that?

MALANDRINO: You know, it's such a good point. And another trigger is the fact that we've had 14,000 aftershocks since these two massive quakes struck. So you know, an aftershock just continues to rattle and it continues to play with your psychological and emotional health.


MALANDRINO: So our teams are really working with people on the ground and we're giving them the tools. So for example, with children, I went to a child center today. And we did Zumba together, silly.

The kids were adorable, I was not. But really shaking off these worries and providing the space for children to talk about how they feel and talk about their feelings and process their feelings.

And the psychologists are working to give kids, go give adults, to give impacted people the tools to really move forward, small coping mechanisms that help build forward.

WHITFIELD: Tiny steps for a very long time.


WHITFIELD: Susan Malandrino, thank you so much for the work that you're doing. I'm so glad you were available to us.

MALANDRINO: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, a third Norfolk Southern train derailment in just over a month, and now a slew of safety problems emerging as the probe into the wrecks intensifies. The latest, next.