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Southern California Facing Life-Threatening Flood Threat; Senate Releases Language of Bipartisan Border & Foreign Aid Bill; Iran Condemns U.S. Airstrikes. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired February 05, 2024 - 06:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Glad you're with us on this Monday. I'm Poppy Harlow with Phil Mattingly in New York.

Right now on the West Coast, Southern California is being battered by a very strong and dangerous atmospheric river. Some areas could see several months' worth of rainfall over just the next couple of days. Our crews are setting up in the area. We'll take you there live.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: And Senate leaders unveiled their long- awaited bipartisan border bill that will dramatically change immigration law for the first time in decades. So why is the House speaker saying it is, quote, "dead on arrival" before really reading what's in it?

And Iran calling America's latest strikes in Iraq and Syria a, quote, "strategic mistake." How Iran and the militia groups they back are responding to the U.S. escalation over the weekend.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: But we begin on the West Coast of the United States this morning where intense record-breaking rain is pummeling Southern California. Rescues are under way as we speak. More than 11 million people are at high risk of life-threatening flooding across the state.

Take a look at this. This is the scene in the Hollywood hills, where the National Weather Service says an extremely dangerous situation is unfolding right now with potential landslides.

MATTINGLY: Now, parts of Los Angeles area could get nearly half of a year's worth of rain just in the next couple days. This is video of a helicopter rescuing people who became stranded on an island in the middle of a river in Los Angeles County.

Take a look at this. The botanic garden in Santa Barbara. This is where people normally walk, but it's now a waterfall.

HARLOW: Our meteorologist, Chad Myers, is live in Ventura County.

Chad, so glad you are there. Can you just talk about the situation where you are and also what's to come? CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It rained all day yesterday. It rained

so hard that when I was coming in on the 101, I couldn't see the lines on the road.

And my rental car actually had the lane keep assist. And that was keeping me into the lanes where I was supposed to be. At least the car could see the lines.

So this was a historic storm here, and it isn't over. That line of weather is coming back for later on today. The problem is up in the hills. The water is not here yet, really, because it rained up on top, up a foot of rain up on top of those mountains.

All of that water has to rush down. And the officials here are putting out stern warnings.


MYERS (voice-over): Southern California, bracing for what's to be a historic storm.

MAYOR KAREN BASS (D), LOS ANGELES: Let me be clear: this storm is a serious weather event.

MYERS (voice-over): An historic long-lasting atmospheric river is moving across Southern California, bringing a heavy, sustained rainstorm for the second time in a week.

California's Governor Newsom has declared a state of emergency for several counties that could see heavy rainfall between 4 to 8 inches, with some areas in the mountains and the foothills seeing up to 14 inches of rain.

This morning, major cities from Sacramento to San Diego are under flood watches, compromising roadways with rushing water and downed trees.

MAYOR TODD GLORIA (D), SAN DIEGO: I recognize that fatigue may be settling in. But I can assure you that this decision to issue this warning is not taken lightly. It is becoming clear that these kinds of rain events might become our new normal.

MYERS (voice-over): Residents of some of the affected areas, like Ventura County, are contending with potentially life-threatening flooding and mud slides, with 3 to 7 inches of rain already falling there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's almost washed the bridge out.

MYERS (voice-over): Many rivers can be seen with high, rushing water, creating concerns for additional flooding in those areas. More than 40 million people across California are under high wind alerts, with one reported gust at Pablo Point clocking in at over 100 miles per hour.

Many counties are warning residents in low-lying areas to evacuate. In Sun Valley, California, police are going door to door, warning residents to leave.

Firefighters in San Jose rescued six residents and a dozen dogs from rising flood waters. And in San Luis Obispo, officials are warning drivers to stay off the road. This man had to be rescued after getting stuck in the rushing flood waters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have heavy winds, heavier winds than we've experienced here in a long time with a mix of giant South swells.

MYERS (voice-over): A downed tree in the area broke ten power poles, leaving over 6,500 customers without power.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just heard a loud boom. And I kind of screamed. And she yelled, Nom, the power lines are out.

MYERS (voice-over): And in Santa Barbara, heavy rains and downed trees left the roads treacherous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want people to know that they really shouldn't be driving out here in the rain like this. And if they do, or if they're walking around, be really aware of the trees and how they can fall down.


MYERS (on camera): You know, what's going on right now is that it's dark, and people are driving. People are moving around getting places. And they can't see the water that's over the road until you get there.

The road to the right of me, that is closed, completely shut down. Because if you go down here a quarter mile, there's at least three feet of water over the road. The water you see here just standing water.

But we still have that threat this morning of more rainfall. And all of that water, that's still in the rivers, well up on top of the mountains, coming down, washing away roadways, washing away bridges. It is still very dangerous even where you are, If it has stopped raining, it's going to come back -- guys.

HARLOW: OK, Chad, thank you very much. We'll check in with you throughout the morning.

MATTINGLY: Let's go now to Allison Chinchar at the CNN weather center. Allison, Chad talking about the acute risk at the moment. For those looking forward in the next couple of hours, what's causing all the flooding and rain? What should they expect?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right, yes. So the reason behind this, the reason why we're getting so much rain and those strong winds, is this atmospheric river that's set up.

And you can see that plume of moisture down there, South of Hawaii. That's basically creating a fire hose into California. And it has been for the last 48 hours and will continue for at least the next 24 hours.

So you're still looking at pretty intense amounts of rain and snow. The snow especially across the Sierras, the rain especially along the coastal regions and the mountains.

But let's take a look at where that rain is right now. Because we have incredibly heavy rain amounts still coming down across Northern California, places like Eureka and Crescent City, and then especially into Southern California. And that's where some of the biggest flooding is ongoing at the moment.

Numerous flash flood warnings and flood warnings in effect for a lot of these areas. Some spots gettings an inch of rain per hour. Again, this is what's leading to those roads being flooded.

You're talking landslides, things like that. Here you can see that flash flood warning, it does include Los Angeles stretching over into Malibu. More of those warnings are expected today. Same thing with a lot of these flooded roadways. You're going to have people that get stuck in their vehicles. More swift water rescues are expected for today as people get into roadways where they don't quite realize that they're stuck, because that water can come up very quickly.

Look at the amounts of rain that have already fallen. We have picked up over half a foot of rain already. A lot of these places are expected to get an additional 1 to 3 inches on top of what they've already had.

That's why you still have a pretty significant risk of flooding for the rest of the day today, particularly across Southern California, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, and stretching over it, that's a high risk. That's a level four, the highest risk you can get.

They only occur in about 4 percent of days annually but account for over 80 percent of the flood damage.

MATTINGLY: All right. Allison Chinchar, thank you.

Well, for those who opposed the border agreement, good news for them. The text is actually out for them to oppose. We're going to break down what's in it and what's not, next.

HARLOW: Also, why President Biden is calling the 2024 race the, quote, "weirdest campaign" he's ever been a part of.



HARLOW: Welcome back. It is written; the text is out. The words are on paper of the long-awaited border deal. And foreign aid package that senators have been negotiating for months.

The price tag, $118 billion. It would severely curb asylum at the U.S./Mexico border, a break with decades-old protocol. And it provides roughly $60 billion in aid for Ukraine and more than 14 billion in aid for Israel.

The deal is also at real risk of failing in a Senate vote this week, and House Speaker Mike Johnson says it's dead on arrival in the House.

Lauren Fox joins us.

What's so interesting about this is the fact that Johnson was saying it was dead on arrival before. But now the text is out. He's saying dead on arrival and Republican Senator Lankford was key in all of this, is confused as to why. Where are we this morning?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The opposition was really swift last night when the bill text was released.

But I want to talk a little bit about what's actually inside this package, because I think that that is going to be a point of contention over the course of the next several days as Republicans in the House and Senate really grapple with how to move forward.

This bill includes expedited processing of those who are seeking asylum in this country. It raises the threshold of what it means to be able to get asylum in this country.

It also creates a new emergency protocol down on the border if crossings reach an average daily threshold of 5,000 crossings a day.

Obviously, that is something that Republicans are grappling with what that actually means. You see some conservatives saying that means people could actually be let into the country, that that really sets a minimum number of people coming into this country every day.

Those who wrote the bill are saying, no, no, no. That just deals with people who are coming across the border who are apprehended. That does not mean those individuals actually get to stay in the country.

So a big point of contention.

This, of course, also includes emergency funding for Israel, for Ukraine and then about $20 billion for the U.S. Southern border. So, this is a big package. This is not just about the border.

But of course, that is going to be one of the key sticking points that really has to do with whether or not this gets over the finish line in the next seven days.

MATTINGLY: Lauren, you mentioned the swift response of opposition from so many House Republicans. I think swift is a critical word there, particularly given how they were operating before the text was actually released. Did they actually read it?

FOX: Well, I think that's a question, right, Phil, because what you had is you had so many Republicans in leadership saying they were boxed out of these negotiations. Then you had a very quick reaction saying that they -- this is even worse than what they thought was in it. You also had Steve Scalise, who is the majority leader in the House,

who decides actually what goes to the floor, saying this Senate bill will not receive a vote in their chamber. That obviously a very critical moment, because it starts to beg the question -- those senators who are on the fence in the United States Senate, are the Republicans there going to be willing to vote for a package they know is going nowhere?


This is known in Washington as really walking the plank, Phil. And this is something that a lot of Republicans are going to be weighing over the course of the next several days.

McConnell, who is the minority leader in the Senate, he is telling his members they need to be prepared to act.

There's a question, of course, what happens if this can't pass out of the Senate. Is there a Plan B?

The House is going to be moving with a stand-alone bill to fund support for Israel. It's unclear exactly what the Plan B will be in the Senate if this can't get over the finish line.

HARLOW: Lauren, thank you very much.

MATTINGLY: Joining us now to discuss, CNN senior political analyst and anchor, John Avlon; CNN political commentators S.E. Cupp and Jamal Simmons.

I pose the same question to you, S.E. Do you think that they actually read the text here.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATORS: Well, probably not. I mean, we know they didn't, because they were saying --

MATTINGLY: It's a high bar to ask lawmakers to actually read the legislation.

CUPP: Before they weigh in on it, for sure.

Listen, there's a lot of blame to go around here. Let me just kind of call balls and strikes.

It's a little late for a hail Mary. We're in year four of Biden's presidency. Democrats and Biden, I think, let the border get a little out of control, and now there's a sense of urgency. I wonder why.

And for Republicans, obviously, not reading the bill and deciding they're going to kill it because unelected speaker of the House Donald Trump has decided he wants to use it for an election is pretty gross, too.

No wonder people don't have confidence that government can solve problems. JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST/ANCHOR: But this is an

example of government actually working. Right? Senator Lankford worked with Senator Murphy, Chuck Schumer to get a balanced bipartisan bill through that would deal with border security in ways Republicans have been asking for years.

As well as provide aid to Ukraine, so they can repel Vladimir Putin's aggression; as well as support Taiwan; as well as support Israel. This is actually an example of the hard work of governing being done.

And it's been gutted by cowards who are followers not leaders, because they're afraid of Donald Trump and would rather have an election issue and let the problem they've been complaining about fester at the border.

It is a profile in cowardice, especially not letting it go for a vote. Because they know if they would let it go for a vote, it would probably pass.

CUPP: But how do you explain Democrats having both chambers, right?


CUPP: Not doing something on immigration? We can look back at Obama's first two years, too.

AVLON: Sure, sure.

CUPP: Nothing on immigration. I mean, come on. We got here --

AVLON: But hold on. But S.E. -- S.E. --

CUPP: Both parties decided it is politically profitable to leave this system broken.

AVLON: I disagree with you, honestly.


AVLON: So -- so first of all, we've had President Obama, President Biden, President Bush --

CUPP: Yes.

AVLON: -- advocate for comprehensive immigration reform and get shut down by the far-right each time. This is just about border security which has been the Republican request.

CUPP: I agree. They should take it.

AVLON: The Democrats didn't front load it when they had unified control.

CUPP: No, they didn't.

AVLON: But -- but the problem has gotten worse. And they're being responsive to the problem.

CUPP: Why has it gotten worse?

AVLON: Because migrants keep coming here.

CUPP: Because of bad policy.

AVLON: I think it's bigger than that.

HARLOW: Let's bring Jamal in here. Weigh in, as well.

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I like watching this with the rest of you guys. It's a great morning.

HARLOW: This is reflective --

SIMMONS: Good morning.

HARLOW: This is reflective of kitchen tables across America.

SIMMONS: Yes, no, it's absolutely true. Listen, I think I associate myself with Mr. Avlon.

But listen, I think we have been trying to do this. George W. Bush tried to do this. John McCain at one point tried to do this in the Senate. We saw this again with President Obama tried to do it a couple times.

And God forbid politics do weigh in on this. Right? So Democrats learned that, wow, maybe people in the country do want us to do something about the border.

We've seen what happened in New York, and people now are paying attention to this, which brings me to another point. Which is you've got a bunch of frontline House members, Republicans, who are in New York state, who are not now -- this is successful, this right-wing effort is successful, these members won't have anything to take back and say they got anything done during this Congress.

And they're supposed to run and get re-elected by their constituents when the majority that they're a part of won't pass a bill that is bipartisan out of the Senate that everybody agrees we should do something. Most people agree this is probably part of what we should do. But ye, we're not going to do it because Donald Trump, said no.

MATTINGLY: Can I ask you, Lauren Fox made an excellent point, as she always does at the point of walking the plank. Right? If you're a Republican senator and you know this is going to come on the floor and you know it's not going anywhere, you're looking around saying why am I doing this?

I'd flip that on -- I'd invert that for Democrats, and I try and keep making this point for those who oppose it. Like, these are things that were nonstarters three months ago.

SIMMONS: Absolutely. MATTINGLY: And are now in text, and they're being asked to vote on it.

Are Democrats going to vote for it?

SIMMONS: Not every Democrat is going to vote for this. We've already seen Senator Padilla from California come out and say that he -- he doesn't think it's a great idea.

I think there are bunch of people in the House, Progressive Caucus in particular, who won't like it. There's no comprehensive reform. There's no path to citizenship. There's nothing in there for DREAMers, the people who have been here since they were kids, to allow them to have a path to citizenship. That stuff is not there. Right?

So there are things that are not there that I think a lot of Democrats want.

CUPP: Listen --

SIMMONS: But there are things that are there that appears a lot of Americans -- the rest of America really does want to have in there. And so the question is, at some point you've got to do something. And then you can come back and try to do the next thing after you get the first thing.


CUPP: The incrementalism is important. And we get tied up this way around guns, as well. Right? We offer things that were never offered before. And because they're not everything, we don't take those incremental wins.

This is a great incremental bill. And it has a lot of things Republicans asked for.

AVLON: And that's the point. You know, I was struck by the walking the plank as well, right? So, you know, to refresh our memory around pirate films, walking the plank is what you do when you are getting sent to die. Right?

In this case, it's about having the courage to do your job. To deal with the problem that you've said is a real problem that we've had bipartisan consensus, working together, the hard work of governing to actually solve a problem.

It's the -- should be the opposite of some kind of suicidal walk of the plank, or public execution. It actually should be a flex that shows that we can actually do our job and solve a problem for the American people on a bipartisan basis.

SIMMONS: And there is also something else in here about making sure America is secure, right? We talked about helping in Ukraine to stop Putin. We talked about countering China about Taiwan. There's stuff in here for submarine base, you know, maintenance that has to be done.

MATTINGLY: You read the text.

CUPP: Went deep.

SIMMONS: A lot of things in here -- a deep pull. There are a lot of things in here that people actually really want to get done that are going to keep America safe. But that's not part of what seems to be the calculus coming out of the House, the House Speaker, which is just Donald Trump doesn't want us to do it.

AVLON: And the whole calculus, let's be real about this, right? Because now he's trying to separate Israel out and say no, we're leading.

No, you're following.

But let's be real. Because of pressure from Donald Trump, they are trying to basically send a message that Vladimir Putin can have Eastern Ukraine at the very least.

It is a surrender caucus move. It is a surrender caucus move at a time of real peril with a real invasion. And the U.S. support and Western support trying to stop further expansion of Russian aggression, that is so cowardly. It is such a reversal of anything resembling a Reagan foreign policy, they should be ashamed.

CUPP: I think that's true. But I just -- ecumenically, if we're -- of the idea now is to blame Republicans for a broken border, I just don't think that's the way a majority of voters are going to see it.

SIMMONS: I don't blame them for a broken border. I blame them for not trying to fix the broken border.

CUPP: Sure. I mean, they are -- they are actively trying not to fix it after begging to fix it.

MATTINGLY: Which means you own it. And it will be interesting to watch whether things move. I mean, I -- to your point, I'm skeptical that it will move a lot. But we will actually have to see.

We have like ten things we wanted to get to here. We only got to one. So I'm going to have you guys stay with us.

AVLON: We'll stick around.

MATTINGLY: Because I think it's a good conversation.

Well, Iran and Iran-backed militia groups are responding to the latest round of U.S. air strikes. We're going to take you live to the Middle East, next.

HARLOW: Also, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says the time is coming for an interest rate cut. But is that time the next couple months or years? Hear exactly what he's saying this morning, next.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the air strikes working?



HARLOW: Well, President Biden says the strikes against Tehranian- backed militia groups are working now, but this morning Iran is calling it a, quote, "strategic mistake."

On Friday, the United States launched retaliatory strikes on Iraq and Syria in response to last week's drone attack on the U.S. military base in Jordan that killed those three American soldiers. Eighty-five targets across seven locations in Iraq and Syria were hit.

MATTINGLY: And in another hot spot in -- in an array of them in Yemen, Saturday the U.S. and U.K. launched joint strikes on Houthi targets. Sunday, the U.S. struck Houthi anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles.

Now, Iran is warning that these strikes would only escalate tensions in the Middle East.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is live for us in Amman, Jordan. But first, let's go to Natasha Bertrand at the Pentagon. Natasha, the Pentagon and the White House have made clear this is going to be an ongoing process.

What more do we know both about the strikes but also what happens next?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Phil. So what we know is that the U.S. carried out a significant escalation on Friday in terms of striking both Iraq and Syria at the same time, including striking facilities used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard's Corps Quds Force, which is one of the more extremist elements of Iran's military.

And what we know is that, of the 85 targets that the U.S. targeted, 84 of those were, quote, "destroyed or functionally damaged," according to a preliminary battlefield damage assessment that the U.S. has conducted.

Now, notably, according to officials we spoke to, no Iranians appear to have been killed in those attacks. But again, a full kind of post- strike analysis is under way at this point to determine just whether there were any casualties for sure and how much of those facilities were degraded to the extent that these Iran-backed militia cannot continue to launch these attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in the region.

Now in terms of what's next, the administration has very clear here that these strikes are not the last of what the administration is going to do to respond to these attacks that killed three U.S. service members last month at a U.S. outpost in Jordan. Here is what national security adviser Jake Sullivan said about this yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: What it means is that we will take further action. I'm not going to obviously describe the character of that action, because I don't want to telegraph our punches. But there will be further action.


BERTRAND: Now, the National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, he said that we should expect to see additional action in the coming days.

And on top of this, Phil, you know, it is important to remember that the U.S. is not only conducting strikes against Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria. They are also conducting strikes on Houthi targets inside Yemen, another Iran-backed group that has continued to attack commercial shipping, including U.S. naval vessels in the Red Sea.

HARLOW: Natasha, thank you.

Ben, to you. After Jake Sullivan said that to Dana yesterday on "STATE OF THE UNION," saying we will take further action, she really pressed him whether there would be a strike within Iran. And he didn't rule that out.

So how is Iran responding this morning? Particularly, how are Iran- backed militia groups responding this morning?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For instance, we know that the Houthis, after these strikes over the weekend, made it clear that they will continue to target navigation in the Red Sea.