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U.S.-Led Coalition Launches New Round Of Strikes In Yemen; Rare "High Risk" Of Flooding Expected Across Parts Of California; Biden Wins South Carolina Democratic Primary, Earns First Delegates Of 2024; Supreme Court To Hear Oral Arguments In Colorado Ballot Case. Aired 8- 9a ET
Aired February 04, 2024 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Those were in response to the three American soldiers killed in a drone attack in Jordan.
CNN national security reporter, Natasha Bertrand, joins us now.
So what can you tell us about the latest round of strikes?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: This was a pretty significant round of attacks by the U.S. and the U.K. supported by a broader coalition here. And it targeted 36 targets and 13 locations inside Yemen against the Houthis. It's part of this larger campaign by the U.S. to try to deter the Houthis capabilities as they continue to target commercial shipping and U.S. naval assets in the Red Sea.
Now, according to U.S. Central Command, this involved strikes on Houthi infrastructure, Houthi targets, Houthi weaponry and equipment, including radar and equipment, underground storage facilities, things that the U.S. and the U.K. believed the Houthis have been utilizing to attack commercial shipping with missiles and drones over the last several months. And the question now is whether it's actually going to work.
But Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement, last night that, quote, this collective action sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will continue to bear further consequences if they do not end there illegal attacks on international shipping and naval vessels. We will not hesitate to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world's most critical waterways.
Now the U.S. and its allies have been framing these strikes inside Yemen as self-defense because the Houthis have been targeting us naval warships including just last week, we should note when a missile -- a Houthi missile came within just one mile of a U.S. warship, roughly eight times closer than those missiles have ever come before. And it forced the warship to use really one of its last lines of defenses in order to defend itself against this incoming missile.
And so, the U.S. clearly very concerned about this, but they don't have a great idea at this point of just how many weapons and how much capability the Houthis actually have. And so it's hard to say just how much the strikes have actually degraded their capability. So well have to see whether this actually deters the Houthis long term. The U.S. saying that they're going to continue taking these strikes as long as the Houthis continue their attacks.
BLACKWELL: All right. Natasha Bertrand for us in Washington, thank you so much.
The United Nations Security Council will meet tomorrow to discuss the recent U.S. strikes. Russia's foreign minister says that they requested the council to meet and criticize the U.S. for inflaming conflict and sowing destruction and chaos in the Middle East.
Of course, this comes as Russia continues its own war in Ukraine.
Let's go now to CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman in Amman, Jordan.
So Middle Eastern countries, how were they responding and reacting to the latest strikes, these in Yemen?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, specifically, Victor, the Yemen -- the Houthis has said that they will continue undaunted as a result of these strikes -- that they will continue to target navigation in the Red Sea. Specifically, they say, navigation heading toward Israel until Israel stops its war in Gaza and they've already had a huge impact on international shipping. Four of the five largest commercial shipping companies have now diverted their shipping they no longer go through the Red Sea or the Suez Canal. They go all the way around Africa and that also includes British Petroleum.
So, the Yemeni say they will carry on like this. And the Yemenis we know from history have been able to overcome enemies far stronger during between 2015 and 2022, a Saudi-led coalition was trying to defeat the Houthis. But in the end, they essentially gave up and the Houthis emerged stronger than ever before.
Now, the Iranians are also condemning these strikes, saying that the United States and the U.K., which are the major partners in this coalition and the Red Sea are fueling what they said, our chaos disorder in security, and instability -- Victor.
BLACKWELL: Ben Wedeman for us in Amman -- Ben, thank you.
Now, as these strikes ramp up, the U.S. has been clearer even from the start that their goal is to avoid a larger conflict.
Joining us now, our CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and CNN global affairs analyst, Kimberly Dozier.
General, let me start with you because no one knows exactly where the line is that would escalate this for Iran beyond tax in Iran and the U.S. has taken that off the table. What else do you think the U.S. must avoid if they do not want to escalate this to a broader scale? LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's a big
one, Victor, and it's a constant weighing of options. The administration has said from the very beginning that they wanted to deter attacks. I did a little homework last night and looked up the term deterrence and its actions are actions used by one to discourage another through events that instill doubt are increasing fear of consequences over time.
We're in day two of this increased strategy, or this increased effort to strategize against the Houthis and against the PMF rebels. And I think were already can you seeing some people declared deterrence is a failure.
It took 50 years for us to deter the Soviet Union in Europe. This is going to take time and its going to take more than military actions. But to get back to your question, what actions could cause an increase in and actions by the Iranian. I'm not sure and that's where the very difficult thing is of how do you measure the effects of both your military, your diplomatic, your informational on your economic deterrence against another nation state.
We're attacking right now Houthis and PMF forces as a military option. There are also other things going on that we're not talking as much about against Iran. So far, we're seeing potentially an increase in deterrence. But again, it's going to -- it's going to take time to determine whether or not it's successful or not.
BLACKWELL: And, Kim, what are the most likely as the general says, other things is there going on beyond the strikes to put pressure on Iran and put pressure on these proxies?
KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Secretary of State Blinken is headed to the region again to try to use the diplomatic track to come to some sort of resolution to get some hostages out and some of the fighting Gaza stopped. That is aimed at stopping the root, the inspiration for a lot of this violence.
But to pull back to the 30,000 foot view of this, Iran is fighting for influence and supremacy in the region and it is very effectively using its proxies like the Houthis to portray themselves as David versus the Goliath of the U.S. and the Western powers by using this choke point of the Red Sea to get the point across.
And even though the U.S. has tried to do things like it's sanctioned for settlers, Israeli settlers this past week to try to show that it's being fair. That is also cracking down on Israeli militant violence, the way the message is being perceived across the Middle East is that the U.S. and the West are largely bullies enabling Israel to strike Gaza. And one of the ways that, that has impacted recently, as in the past few days a U.S. plant, a Procter and Gamble plant in Turkey was taken hostage by a single man over the Gaza strikes.
And that kind of incident, the U.S. intelligence community fears is going to expand. That the plant according to the BBC and the AP, everyone's been freed. But it was a tense time and those incidents could multiply.
BLACKWELL: General, I had this I guess an angle of this conversation last hour with Major General Spider Marks in which I asked if the Houthi conversation and the -- I guess the Islamic resistance conversation are one because they're both backed by Iran.
Let me ask a different angle here. Is there any residual impact on the other Iranian proxies by the attacks that we see from the U.S. led coalition on the Houthis and the response to the Islamic resistance. Are they more likely, less likely to attack the U.S. based on response we're seeing?
HERTLING: Yeah, I'm going to say it depends, Victor, and chime in what Kim just said and I saw your interview with Spider Marks and it was the good one. What he was proclaiming basically, again, it goes back to deterrence. If you strike some elements of the popular mobilization forces in Iraq and in Syria and, and other places, others may say, hey, were going to fight on until they get struck, too. That's why its part of a campaign plan, as Spider was talking about.
If you continue to see the Houthis in Yemen as terrorists, they are doing terrorist action against civilian shipping by use of power for a political end state, and that is the true definition of terrorism and if you continue to strike them as part of a longer campaign plan, it depends on how much you strike them with militarily, economically, diplomatically, and informationally.
Right now, it appears they have the upper hand because those PMF forces, as I've said many time are spread out all over the Middle East. There are hundreds of those small gangs. If they continue to be struck to the point where they can no longer conduct their operations, or they are deterred from conducting the operations for fear of reprisal, that may have an effect. But again, that's going to take a very long time because there are hundreds of those groups throughout the Middle East. And the Houthis, as Ben Wedeman just said, are a very powerful military force in that region.
BLACKWELL: Kimberly, there is this meeting of the U.N. Security Council tomorrow, Russia asked for this meeting and something that we've discussed, all of us have discussed over the last a couple of years in the context of Russia's war, Putin's war in Ukraine is just how I guess ineffective the U.N. has been that nothing is really come of these meetings.
Should we expect anything different of Russia standing by Iran and calling this meeting? What are you looking for out of the meeting tomorrow?
DOZIER: Just more posturing of the different sides. When you have contrarian positions on U.N. Security Council, you're not going to go anywhere except perhaps to come up with a statement that slams somebody for irresponsible violence, if you can win enough, actors do your side. But I think were going to see Moscow posturing and using this as
another example to say to their followers, to the Global South we got beat up for trying to take our territory back, as Moscow sees it, in Ukraine, and now see the U.S. is just doing the same. It's all the same thing but the U.S. is the bigger bully.
And, of course, the U.S. will fight back against that. So, more posturing, more symbolic statements, but not any resolution to it.
BLACKWELL: Kimberly Dozier, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. Thank you both. Enjoy this Sunday.
Still ahead, President Biden, another landslide victory in South Carolina, in the first official Democratic primary, the 2024 season. The signs Democrats are pointing to as good news for Biden's campaign heading into the general election.
Plus, southern California, they're going to get some torrential rain, life-threatening flooding, mudslides all starting today. Allison Chinchar has a look at the forecast coming up.
BLACKWELL: The government has declared states of emergency and curfews in some areas. Nearly 100 wildfires are actively burning. They're impacting thousands of acres, damaging more than 1,000 homes.
Our affiliate network, CNN Chile reports at least one person has been detained in connection with the wildfires.
This morning, parts of southern California are under emergency evacuations. A rare powerful storm system is posing a severe flooding threat. Local authorities are ready with more than 7 million sandbags to protect from potential flooding. Several school districts have cancel classes for tomorrow.
CNN's Camila Bernal has more from Los Angeles.
CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amara, Victor, officials here in Los Angeles saying there are few easy ways to prepare, avoid unnecessary travel, have an emergency kit ready to go, stay informed and go to your local fire station before the storm to maybe pick up some of those sandbags if you live in an area where it normally floods.
Take a look here behind me. A lot of people have been coming throughout the day to pick up those sandbags and to fill them up.
Now that is the before the storm during the storm, officials are saying that your personal safety should be your first priority, avoiding those areas that normally flood and avoid going into whether it's in your car or walking through areas that are flooded, because they say those currents can be extremely deceiving.
Officials here also saying they are preparing and ready to go. Take a listen to what the fire chief had to say.
CHIEF KRISTIN CROWLEY, LOS ANGELES FIRE DEPARTMENT: We've got our swift water rescue apparatus, boats. We also have our teams that will be fully staffed ready to respond to any water-related emergency. Now, these teams are highly trained and swift-water technical rescues. They stand ready to respond on a moments notice.
We've also bolstered our air apparatus, our helicopters, our air resources, adding skilled pilots and rescue teams to our helicopter fleet.
BERNAL: And officials also say they have crews ready in case there are power outages, there have also been outreach teams that are going to the homeless population to tell them to seek shelter, especially those that are currently in areas that normally flood or that are near the river.
Overall, officials telling people to take this seriously because it could be dangerous -- Amara, Victor.
BLACKWELL: Camila Bernal, thanks so much.
CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is tracking the storm from our weather center.
Allison, the rain totals you're talking about will be a lot for most communities, but especially for these parts of California.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. I mean, some of these areas could get a month's worth of rain in just a single day out of this system. And the fact that it's going to be around for multiple days is not a good sign.
Right now, the heaviest rain is coming down across portions of northern and central California, but we're starting to see that rain surge into southern California as well. And that will be the case as we go through the day to day. These are all of the areas that have the potential for excessive rainfall today. And you can see the worst of it is really right there along the coastline stretching from San Francisco down through L.A.
But L.A. specifically and even places over towards Santa Barbara are under a level four out of four, what's called high risk. These are exceptionally rare to be issued.
In fact, they're issued on fewer than 4 percent of the days annually on average, but they account for more than 80 percent of the flood damage in nearly 40 percent of flooding depths. L.A. specifically is under a high-risk today, but also tomorrow as well. So it's that prolonged period of dealing with that extremely heavy amount of rainfall that's going to be one of the biggest concerns not only for flooding, but other impacts as well.
So you have the dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding. You also have mudslides, landslides, debris flows, especially across some of those burn scar areas, but also down trees and power lines. And that's coming from the high wind threat that we have for today, numerous wind advisories, high wind warnings, where you're talking those wind gusts up around 60 to 80 miles per hour.
But even this, for the very first time ever, the San Francisco National Weather Service office issuing a hurricane force wind warning, gas, those could be upwards of 90 miles per hour.
So again, going to have some big problems there in addition to the damage imaging winds also the potential for some waterspouts and tornadoes here along the coast that stretches from San Jose down through San Luis Obispo. That's going to be for the day today.
Widespread rainfall across California, two to four inches. But when you start getting along the coast and farther south, especially around L.A. and through San Diego. Now you're talking three to seven inches some of these locations, especially higher in elevation, could be looking at ten inches of rain. The snowfall, this is going to be measured in feet. You're talking the Sierra is looking at feet or three to five feet of snow over the next few days. That's going to lead to very dangerous travel conditions.
BLACKWELL: Allison Chinchar, watching it all for us, thank you so much.
President Biden heads to Las Vegas today for a campaign event ahead of Nevada's primary on Tuesday. And now just last night, the president cruised to an expected but still significant win in South Carolina.
This was his first official primary victory of the 2024 campaign season. It was also the first time South Carolina kicked off the Democrats' nominating contest.
CNN's national political -- politics correspondent Eva McKend has more from South Carolina.
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Though the results of this primary contest, not surprising. This states still hugely consequential for President Biden. It was South Carolina and the Black Voters in this state that brought his campaign back to life in 2020. That is why he pushed so hard for this state to hold the first in the nation primary.
And when you speak to Black voters across the state, the review are mixed. Some are really excited about Biden. They still give him a lot of credibility for being Barack Obama's vice president. Others have economic anxieties and feel as though routinely voting for Democrats, they have very little to show for that.
And then you have pragmatic voters, people who are so concerned about former President Donald Trump returning to the White House, they think voting for Biden is a safe bet.
Listen, Democrats here, they say that they are excited about the Black turnout, that they were able to get to rural parts of the state, like never before via bus tours and other mechanisms. And they say the enthusiasm here from Black voters will be mirrored across the country.
Eva McKend, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.
BLACKWELL: Nikki Haley was the surprise guest on "SNL" last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. Our next question comes from someone who describes herself as a concern South Carolina voter.
NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, hello.
HALEY: My question is, why don't you debate Nikki Haley?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God, it, sir. The woman who was in charge of security on January 6. It's Nancy Pelosi.
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: For the 100th time, that is not Nancy Pelosi. It is Nikki Haley.
HALEY: Are you doing okay, Donald? You might need a mental competency tests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: She appeared in the show's opening sketch, that town hall sketch. Maybe you could tell from the keyed in accent there. The actors were playing Charles Barkley and Gayle King, "KING CHARLES", CNN, Wednesday night.
The actor playing Donald Trump was asked about why he won't debate, his massive legal fees and his age. Nikki Haley got it all in last night.
Still ahead, how Trump's legal team is getting ready now for a Supreme Court showdown after Colorado decided that he cannot appear on the ballot for his role in the Capitol insurrection.
BLACKWELL: More now on our top story this morning. U.S. forces destroyed an anti-ship cruise missile in Yemen, according to U.S. Central Command. U.S. officials said the strike was in self-defense, to eliminate an imminent threat posed by the Houthi missile. Separately, in a coordinated operation, the U.S. and U.K. targeted more than 30 Houthi sites in Yemen, including key weapons facilities and arsenals that pose risks who international maritime routes they say.
The strikes follow recent U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria that were carried out in retaliation for attacks that killed three American and service members in Jordan. The Houthi rebels have warned of reciprocal measures in the face of these escalations.
Well, this week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether or not former President Trump can be on the ballot in Colorado. Right now, both legal teams are preparing their strategies. The case was kicked to the high court after Colorado courts determine that Trump should not be allowed to run for office again for his role in the January 6 insurrection. A similar ruling was reached in Maine.
CNN's Joan Biskupic takes us to a much closer angle here, closer look at how the attorneys are preparing -- Joan.
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Lawyers who will be arguing at the Supreme Court next Thursday in the dispute over whether Donald Trump can remain on the ballot.
One of the lawyers, Jason Murray, representing Colorado voters who want to keep Trump off, has never argued before the justices before.
Jonathan Mitchell, representing Trump, has some experience, but nothing that compares to the record of big time appellate advocates who appear often before the justices in major cases.
That's not to say Murray and Mitchell don't have their strengths. They do. They simply have not stood at the lectern and face these nine justices.
So they've now moved their respective operations to Washington, D.C. and are tapping into a network of sophisticated lawyers who can help them prepare for the nine justices and their intense, rapid-fire questions.
They are undergoing dry runs known as "moot courts". Typically rather than nine judges, there will be four or five lawyers pretending to be the justices trying to simulate the real thing.
These moot courts work to expose the weaknesses in a case. So a lawyer can amend what isn't working. They also try to bolster their strength. There are so many legal issues, pass these constitutional questions of whether Donald Trump's role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol should keep him on the ballot.
That means these lawyers need to be ready for all manner of question, but they also need to keep the core legal points right at the forefront that will help their respective side.
So who do attorneys get to help them ensure that they can keep some control during these arguments? Lawyers who have argued dozens of cases and know how to channel these justices. The ideal candidates for moot are former law clerks for the justices and people who've served in the U.S. Solicitor-General's office which represents the federal government at the court.
These men and women have dozens of arguments on their records and understand this bench, which is what lawyers call, quote, "a hot bench".
Jason Murray and Jonathan Mitchell will have to watch out for hypos by Elena Kagan on the left and Samuel Alito on the right. Those two justices have an ability to really finger the weaknesses in any case.
Lawyers also have to keep their eye on key justices at the ideological center of the bench -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh. Those three can make or break a case and are likely to be crucial to the dispute next Thursday.
BLACKWELL: All right. With me now CNN legal analyst, former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore. Good to have you in the studio.
MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to be with you.
BLACKWELL: All right. So let's start here because there is a way that the court can say that the Colorado court, their ruling stands, but they do not have to answer themselves the question about whether Trump engaged in insurrection or gave aid or comfort to those who did.
Do you think that at the end of this that the court will say, even in the dissenting opinion whether the former whether the former president engaged in insurrection?
MOORE: It's going to be hard for me to imagine if they do. I mean the Supreme Court, if they are anything, it's known for process and procedure. And there's no process here under the 14th Amendment to decide if someone was an insurrectionist. It just doesn't spell it out.
In fact, there's a later clause that we don't talk about a lot that says, you know, Congress can enact laws to effectuate much of the amendment. There's no process that Congress has enacted.
So the question becomes then, who decides. Who is the decider to say well, you're an insurrectionist, you're not an insurrectionist, you're giving aid and comfort to the enemy, you're not giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
Those are things that are not spelled out clearly. And the problem I think going forward for the people who are trying to have Trump thrown off the ballot is that in this case, there really was no process, no adversarial process to make that determination. In fact, if you look at just an adjudicative process or even the
congressional process, that's really all we have is the impeachment trial. And he was acquitted at that trial by the Senate.
BLACKWELL: So that answer takes me two different directions.
The first one is, what's unfortunate but completely plausible is that we could face in this country a January 6 moment again, right? Do you think that this will at least give us as a country some direction so that we don't face this quandary again about who decides?
MOORE: I think so. And I think probably while the court -- the justices are not really to concern themselves with the outside political implications and that type of thing, you know, they can't -- they don't live in a vacuum, right.
They were there. They know what happened on January 6. They know what it meant. They know sort of what it meant to the nation. And I think they will make a decision that is clear.
I think they will say, this is how we have to move forward or this is how we interpret this. You know, they've placed a lot of reliance -- some of the briefing and those wishing to have him thrown off the ballot, place a lot of reliance on Scalia, you know.
Like somehow he was a framer of the constitution. He was not. He was just one of nine about 220 years after the Constitution came out. And so, you know, they're really trying to tag into thoughts that people had.
The court is not going to be shackled about it by precedent. I mean if you think they are bound by precedent, just read what they did to Roe v Wade.
So they could come up with something that fits the scenario. The easy and I think the off ramp for the court will be to say, there's no process in place that Congress has put in place to make this determination.
MOORE: We're not going to get into finding he is an insurrectionist or not. That's not our job. Our job is to say there is now process.
BLACKWELL: So you don't think that he's going to be removed from the ballot?
MOORE: I just can't imagine that he would be. And I sort of fear the ramifications if they do. I mean I remember January 6, too. I can't imagine that would be settling (ph) if you pulled him off the ballot.
And I think that's probably a good lesson as well for Democrats. You know, you've got to beat him, if you're going to beat Trump, you don't beat him in the court room, you're going to have to beat hm at the ballot box.
And that's probably where the energy ought to go.
BLACKWELL: Let's talk about what's happening here in Fulton County. Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis has acknowledged now in a filing that she and the top prosecutor in the state election subversion case, Nathan Wade, had a personal relationship but she says that it does not qualify or disqualify her from the case.
First, your reaction to that admission. And then, what happens now? Do you believe that at a hearing that's coming up, we will hear from D.A. Willis?
MOORE: I was less concerned really about her relationship. I think that's sort of personal business. What the admission in the filing that caught my attention was that she admitted that she has paid him money. If we look at what he and his law firm have been paid, it's somewhere just around $1 million total. He is 600-something himself.
But if we look at that, she's admitted that she paid him money and then she took the money to travel. Her argument is well, but I also paid for trips for us, too. He pays.
That's a little bit like a bank robber saying I didn't rob the bank because I once upon a time made a deposit there. That just doesn't float. If you take the money, you take the money.
That I think is probably her biggest issue. And I think going forward, what it will be -- you know, I feel like that a prosecutor has a duty to avoid the appearance of impropriety and avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest of any kind.
And that's to give the public confidence in the outcome of a case. I think that's what her issue is. I think that we saw her have to wrestle with that and argue about that in front of Judge McBurney when it came to the fund-raiser thing.
So now I think this judge could very well fall in and say, look, you just need to step out of this case. This case belongs to the people of Fulton County, not just you. And I think probably we will hear that at the hearing. Whether or not he makes her testify, whether or not she gets to just stand up as an officer of the court and give her her own version, we will see.
BLACKWELL: Michael Moore, thank you.
MOORE: Glad to be with you.
BLACKWELL: All right.
Still ahead, a group of Republican governors will join Texas Governor Greg Abbott at the border today as the Biden administration faces this escalation immigration battle with the governor. We will discuss.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: More than a dozen Republican governors will join Texas Governor Greg Abbott today in the small border town of Eagle Pass, a city that has become a flashpoint in the immigration crisis.
Governor Abbott is engaged in this escalating feud with the Biden administration over the unprecedented migrant surge.
Maverick County attorney, Jaime Iracheta is joining us now. He joins us -- his county borders Mexico and includes the town of Eagle Pass. Iracheta -- I got that wrong on the first time. I hope I pronounced it correctly there.
JAIME IRACHETA, MAVERICK COUNTY ATTORNEY: Thank u you.
BLACKWELL: Let me start here with what you told one of my producers. The stress of the migrant surge on your office. A lot of what I read about what you are experiencing is just the increase of workload and cost.
Let's start there, what this means for your job, your office.
IRACHETA: Yes. First and foremost, thank you for having me. This immigration crisis has affected our small border town community immensely.
So what used to be in my office where we handle nothing but misdemeanors, we would have an average 1,200 to 1,500 cases in a given year.
Now, given the immigration crisis and Operation Lone Star, we are looking at a caseload of almost more than 4,000 cases estimated in a year now. so given the fact that we are quadrupling the amount of work that we need to do, we have to have the resources in order to do that job. That goes from support staff to court staff to law enforcement and everybody in the chain.
BLACKWELL: Operation Lone Star is this border security mission that Governor Abbott started three years ago now, almost three years ago.
You say the increase, is that specifically related to now prosecuting these as criminal trespass as migrants come across the border?
IRACHETA: That's correct. So the Operation Lone Star has increased our workload. And so the primary amount of cases that are coming through are going to be the criminal trespass cases.
However, it doesn't just stop on the criminal trespass side. It continues into our felony side. It goes into our human trafficking. It goes into the increased drug trafficking and everything in between.
So everything has exponentially grown given the fact that we're going to have more individuals coming through our community and many of them do not want to be apprehended.
BLACKWELL: But despite the increased workload, I read that you support Operation Lone Star. Is that right? IRACHETA: That is correct. I actually am the project director for
Operation Lone Star here in Maverick County.
BLACKWELL: Tell me why.
IRACHETA: Well, our community needs assistance. Nobody was paying attention to us for years while this immigration crisis was going on. We consistently asked for help and Operation Lone Star has been one of the only saving graces that we have had in our community.
Given the fact of whatever side of the aisle that you believe you are on, our community was impacted. Our law enforcement community is impacted. Our first responders community are impacted. We live on a small border town. You know, our hospital beds get filled up with just a few people.
So when you have thousands of people coming through your community, many of which need medical services, that puts our local citizens out of the way.
IRACHETA: We are about 2.5 hours from a major city and the stress it puts on our community is immense.
Something that people don't understand is that we have, unfortunately, a lot of fatalities that come because of this immigration crisis. Either it be from drowning or either it be from heat exhaustion. And that puts a toll on our resources.
We are running out of places to hold bodies.
BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about Shelby Park. This is this park in Eagle Pass which is in Maverick county. A little shy of 50 acres there along the border where Texas state officials have now taken over and have essentially banned border patrol from operating largely inside the park.
What's your view of that? Because from what I read, the people who live there are not happy with it. From a legal perspective, it's the authority of the federal government to enforce immigration laws, but the state has taken over this area in the middle of your county, or the edge of your county.
IRACHETA: Correct. A lot of people need to understand that as a prosecutor, I need to make sure that the laws are upheld in my community and my citizens are protected.
For a long time, we were left with just deal with it. And the fact of the matter is, Governor Abbott and this operation is taking action. Some people may not agree with it. Some people may have issues with what it appears to be.
However, the federal government continues to work down here on the border. Remember, Shelby Park is a park. It's a small piece of land. And we have an entire border that we need to protect and work on, which they continue to do.
However, this is the only time that something is getting done. It may not look pretty. It may not look nice. But I agree that at a minimum, it's bringing the attention of the rest of the United States to come and say that we need some assistance down here.
BLACKWELL: The fear is that there will be some standoff between officials on the ground, state and federal. We know that the Department of Homeland Security says that they are demanding access to this. And the law does not give them authority over 99.9 percent of the border and immigration laws. It gives them authority over all of it.
Jaime Iracheta. Thank you so much for being with me ahead of this event that's happening at the park later today.
We are just hours away from the biggest night in music as well. And an executive producer for the Grammys is promising a night of surprises.
BLACKWELL: The producers of the Grammys say that it's going to be full of surprises. The show will be live from L.A. The show producer promising some memorable performances if the artists can get there in time.
CNN's Elizabeth Wagmeister has more.
ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Music's biggest night is one big concert. Fun for us --
BEN WINSTON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, GRAMMYS: You never know what's going to happen on a live show.
WAGMEISTER: -- nail biting for executive producer.
WINSTON: I will say that doing these shows is like running off a cliff and just like hoping that the parachute opens.
WAGMEISTER: Last year, Beyonce missed her first award, stuck in L.A. traffic. As was opening act Bad Bunny -- nearly throwing off the whole show.
WINSTON: Then it happened that you can see as the show starts, he is pulling his jacket as he begins, because he literally -- we went -- somebody drove down the traffic in golf cart, grabbed Bad Bunny out and drove him and he got there with seconds to go.
WAGMEISTER: This year, expect Billy Joel, Sza and Joni Mitchell.
WINSTON: First time she's ever been on the Grammys which is crazy to me in a 60-year career.
WAGMEISTER: In a Grammy first, U2 will perform and present from The Sphere in Las Vegas.
And Taylor Swift could set a Grammy record. But will we see her on stage?
WINSTON: For Taylor it was tricky because she's actually got a show in Japan a few days later.
Only three artists in the world have won Album of the Year three times. Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra and Taylor. And so if she was to win this year's album, that's the first time anyone won four.
And she will be a big part of it as she always is dancing in the audience, enjoying herself and having a great time, I think.
WAGMEISTER: A moving 16-minute in memoriam is planned with four performers honoring legends like Tina Turner, Tony Bennett and Sinead O'Connor.
Expect unplanned surprises, too. Like that awkward Ben and Jen shot that went viral last year.
WINSTON: I actually think it was really unfair on them because I watched them. Obviously I have got all 20 cameras where I sit. They were out dancing, having the time of their lives. It was just unlucky for them that one moment.
WAGMEISTER: And Winston says prepare to be shocked by the final presenter of the night.
WINSTON: They are an absolute global icon. I think jaws will drop to the floor. People will be on their feet. The only condition they gave is that it was a surprise.
WAGMEISTER: Elizabeth Wagmeister, CNN -- Los Angeles.
BLACKWELL: How did Martha Stewart go from multimedia bars? Find out tonight on "THE MANY LIVES OF MARTHA STEWART.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: This criminal case is about lying. Lying to the FBI, lying to the SEC, and lying to investors. That is conduct that will not be tolerated by anyone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So ultimately a decision is made not to prosecute her criminally for insider trading and only charge her with the obstruction of justice and false statements. COMEY: Martha Stewart is being prosecuted not because of who she is
but because of what she did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you surprised by the charges, none of which says insider trading?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. attorney said today, this is not about Martha and who she is. Oh yes, it is. It's entirely about that.
JON STEWART, HOST: Stewart was charged not with insider trading but rather with lying to protect herself from the insider trading charges she wasn't charged with.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were definitely questions raised by some. Is this case being filed to send a message?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an environment where scandal, white collar crime was regularly in the news.
BLACKWELL: "THE MANY LIVES OF MARTHA STEWART" airs tonight at 9:00 right here on CNN.
Thanks so much for joining us this morning.
"STATE OF THE UNION" is next.