Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Southern California Facing Life-Threatening Flood Threat; Key Highlights of Senate's Proposed Border Deal Package; U.S. and U.K. Strike 36-Plus Houthi Targets in Yemen. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 05, 2024 - 07:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Official statement the, message to be, quote, fearless that she will make it in time.


That's pretty amazing.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: When you're like (INAUDIBLE) famous.


MATTINGLY: That she's famous.

HARLOW: Oh Taylor.

CNN This Morning continues now.

MATTINGLY: Good morning, everyone. It's the top of the hour. I'm Phil Mattingly with Poppy Harlow in New York. Right now over on the West Coast, Southern California is being battered by a strong atmospheric river. Some areas could see several months' worth of rainfall over the next few days. CNN crews are setting up in the area. We're going to take you there live.

HARLOW: Senate leaders have unveiled their long-awaited bipartisan border bill that could dramatically change immigration law for the first time in decades. So, why is the House speaker saying the bill is, quote, dead on arrival? He said it, by the way, before he read it.

MATTINGLY: And Iran calling the U.S. latest strikes on Iraq and Syria a, quote, equal strategic mistake. How Iran and militia groups they back responding to America's escalation this weekend.

CNN This Morning starts right now.

Well, happening right now, an extremely dangerous situation unfolding in Southern California with record-breaking rain, major flash flooding and mudslides this is new video dramatic rescue in San Bernardino. Several people were trapped in this car after raging floodwaters swept it away and pinned against the tree. A rescue team on the boat was able to save them.

Now, as we speak, more than 11 million people across California under high risk serious life-threatening flooding.

HARLOW: This is the scene in the Hollywood Hills where the National Weather Service is warning of potential landslides this morning. You can see piles of mud, rocks and debris in the streets. Forecasters have been warning this will be one of the most dramatic weather days in recent memory for Los Angeles. Torrential downpours have already dumped more than a month's worth of rain on that city.

Meteorologist Chad Myers joins us live again this morning in Ventura County. What are you seeing on the ground and, really, Chad, tell us what's to come today?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We are still getting rain today. And the problem here now is that -- you talked about Hollywood Hills, Pacific Palisades. This is a very steep area. And these canyons that run up to these areas are essentially blocked in many areas, all the way from Malibu then on up toward trying to get up to the 101. You just can't get it. You can't go up those mountains anymore because the roads were blocked, whether it's rushing water or trees down or the authorities saying, please don't get in trouble and don't make us rescue you.

There's even a high water rescue truck not that far behind me here waiting to go. If they need to go, they're sleeping in their trucks just waiting to get out there if they hear of something that's happening.

This is still going to rain today. We're still going to have, especially up around 29 Palms to the east, really, and Northeast of LA, another four to seven inches of rain on top of those hills.

All that water has to come down here at some point in time. The rivers are rising and that is the problem. And the officials are concerned and they're issuing warnings.


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

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

MYERS: A 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 up between four to eight 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, CA): 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: Residents in some of the affected areas, like Ventura County, are contending with potentially life-threatening flooding and mudslides with three to seven inches of rain already falling there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's almost flushed the bridge out level.

MYERS: Many rivers can be seen with high rushing water, creating concern 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 rescue six residents and a dozen dogs from rising floodwaters. And in San Luis Obispo, officials are warning drivers to stay off the roads. This ban had to be rescued after getting stuck in the rushing floodwaters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have heavier wins than we've experienced here in a long time with a mix of giant south swells.

MYERS: 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, mom, the power lines are out.

MYERS: And in Santa Barbara, heavy rains and downed trees left the roads treacherous.


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


MYERS (on camera): Poppy, the real risk right now is that it is still dark and people are beginning to move around. We're starting to see some traffic here on the 101, just in front of me here And we're going to be driving into these waters, these flood waters. They're trying to put up these barriers as fast as they can but they can't, just it's like whack-a-mole, trying to say, no, that road is closed, no, that road I closed. Now, the water is rising again. All the water from on top of the mountains right up there has to end up in the ocean And that's going to take a couple of days. Water is going to rise in places even where the rain has stopped. Poppy?

HARLOW: Yes. Chad Meyers, thank you for the reporting.

Let's go now to Allison Chinchar at the CNN Weather Center. Alison, we just saw what Chad is experiencing on the ground and what's to come. Can you talk about the cause of all of this?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. So, the cause is an atmospheric river that's basically funneling all of the moisture into California. It has been for the last 48 hours and it's going to continue for the next 24. And it's not just Southern California, even areas of Northern and Central California are still getting some pretty heavy bands of rain right now. But the heaviest rain is still focused over portions of Southern California, specifically across areas of Los Angeles. That's where we have a lot of these active flashflood warnings.

And what that indicates is that it's active ongoing flooding. So, you're having landslides, you're having flooded roadways in a lot of these areas from Los Angeles, stretching back west towards Malibu, scenes like this. This is from yesterday, but this may still end up happening today as more rain is expected to come in across many of these areas.

You look at some of the rainfall totals so far, you're looking at several locations that have already picked up half a foot of rain. Now, you're going to be adding an additional one to three inches on top of what they've already had, and that's just going to exacerbate any of the flooding concerns that are going on across many of these areas. It's also why you have such a widespread risk for flooding, not just for L.A. but pretty much for a vast majority of the state.

However, Los Angeles becomes the target point for that high risk, what we refer to as a level four out of four. So, it's the highest threat that you can get. And, again, they don't happen very often. You will often only get them on, say, about 4 percent of days.

Power outage is still over half a million right now. That's because of this. Look at this. You've had several wind reports over 100 miles per hour. But even some of the other areas that have had wind gusts of 80, 90 miles per hour, that's still going to lead to trees coming down and the subsequent power outages that go with it. So, several more high wind warning still for today with those wind gusts up around 60 to 80 miles per hour.

HARLOW: Wow. Allison, thank you. Phil?

MATTINGLY: Well, over to Washington, a bipartisan group of senators have officially unveiled their long-awaited bipartisan border security bill, which Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling a, quote, monumental step. And that, at least based on several decades of failed negotiations on immigration, is not hyperbole when it comes to what's actually inside the bill.

Now, on its face, the measure would dramatically change immigration law for the first time in decades. But here's the reality. Even if the Senate can pass the bill, it's already facing stiff, if not unyielding opposition from House Republicans. Many have already labeled it dead on arrival, some before they even knew what was in it.

But policy actually matters. I know that might be stunning to some people. Let's unpack what's actually in the deal. So, there are several key changes to the asylum process. This was a critical component of the talks, making the process more selective and quicker. It includes provisions to shut down the border when crossings reach a certain threshold. It also preserves but clamps down on the humanitarian parole of migrants into the country.

Let's go a little deeper into what these changes would actually mean. Now, a critical element of the agreement, the bill grants the federal government a sweeping new authority to effectively shut down the border when the daily average of migrant crossings hits 4,000 a day. If that average reaches 5,000 a day, the Department of Homeland Security would be required to shut down the border immediately. DHS would also be required to shut it down if more than 8,500 migrants crossed on a single day.

So, to put that into perspective, daily averages reached nearly 10,000 migrants last month, meaning the current surge of migrants is enough to shut down the border under this new bill. And it's something President Biden hasn't been shy about when it comes to his willingness to use that new authority to get the situation under control.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: It will also give me, as president, the emergency authorities shut down the border until it could get back under control. If that bill were the law today, I'd shut down the border right now and fix it quickly.


MATTINGLY: That is what's on the table.

Now, migrants entering the country will also face tougher scrutiny in proving that they are eligible for asylum. And those that don't qualify, they're going to be deported promptly. The proposal would give the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services new power to assess asylum claims quickly through streamlined screenings, meaning that cases could take up to ten years and the current court backlog would be assessed within six months. It would also allow migrants who pass their asylum interviews to work in the U.S. legally.

Now, there are several key provisions in the bill that have been subject to months of intensive debate in those negotiations, one of those, the presidential use of parole.


Republicans have sought to ban the tool the White House has used to create legal pathways for more than a million migrants. But the deal includes only limited changes to the president's authority. It was a very, very tough negotiation on that front.

It would provide funding for hiring thousands of new Border Patrol agents and asylum officers to process cases, a key Democratic priority, to ease that system that is, by all accounts, completely overwhelmed, but also billions of dollars toward an improved border security, expanded detention beds, increased screenings to cut down on drug trafficking. The deal also paves a way to expand legal immigration levels to 50,000 new visas a year over the next five years and grant work permissions and deportation protections for some of the families of migrants.

Now, for the concessions that they gave on border security, Democrats also secured several key national security objectives in this agreement. This was at the crux of it throughout tens of billions of dollars in security aid that addresses threats all around the world.

It includes those desperately needed emergency funds for Ukraine, also funds for Israel, humanitarian assistance for Gaza, and aid for Taiwan. But it is abundantly clear right now the hard work is far from over, if there's an outcome at all.

Speaker Johnson weighing in yesterday and reiterating that the bill is quote, dead on arrival. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise saying the bill is not even going to get a vote in the House. Hardliners claim the bill does not go far enough in restricting immigration levels or in funding the border wall. And then, of course, you know, there's the guy who's running for President Donald Trump, the former president has made it very clear he does not want Congress to take up immigration bills before the election.

So, the question right now is this, will this make it to the House at all? Heck, will it even make it out of the U.S. Senate? Poppy?

HARLOW: We'd tick through those. Let's start with the Senate. Does it make it out of the Senate?

MATTINGLY: It's tough. I think it's -- I wouldn't put odds on it, but they don't have 60.

HARLOW: You'd put odds on it though?

MATTINGLY: Well, I mean --

HARLOW: You wouldn't put odds on it?

MATTINGLY: In my head, I'm putting odds on it, not on television. But they've got a -- how do you find the sweet spot in the middle ground? How do you get 30 Republicans, 30 Democrats? How do you get 40 Democrats? There's a lot of issues in here, as we were talking about earlier, the Democrats have issues with, and can you get 25 to 30 Republicans? And I don't have a great answer for it. And I don't think they do at this point either.

HARLOW: What Speaker Johnson has wanted and kept saying, we passed H.R.-2 in the House. How similar, Phil, is this to what they passed in the House, what he and a House Republicans wanted?

MATTINGLY: I mean, I think House Republicans proudly note that H.R.-2 is what -- the title of the bill is draconian, right? It goes much further. But it is interesting. There's complaints about the border wall, this agreement on some elements of the border wall.

I think the most important point, and this doesn't go nearly as far as H.R.-2 does. However, the length to which it does go on issues that Democrats have never been willing to negotiate for without any of the things that they typically have on the table as must-haves, whether it's related to DREAMERs or pathway to citizenship.

I just -- we've said it multiple times. I am astounded that they are at this point on the policy and equally astounded that it apparently has no effect on House Republicans at all.

HARLOW: I'm astounded things surprise you on Capitol Hill.

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's a fair point.

HARLOW: That was great. Thank you, so helpful this morning.

Also coming up right here on CNN This Morning, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp joins us about all of this and more.

Overnight, U.S. Central Command confirming more strikes on Houthi anti-ship land attack cruise missiles yesterday, one day after joint U.S. and U.K. strikes against targets in Yemen.

MATTINGLY: And Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes face new issues exactly a month to the day since a part of a MAX 9 blew out during that Alaska Airlines flight. We're going to have the details, next.



MATTINGLY: New video in overnight of the U.S. military striking Houthi cruise missiles one day after a U.S.-U.K. joint operation struck 36 different Houthi targets across Yemen. The Biden administration now vowing more action after carrying out a series of major strikes against Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria.


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You said it's just the beginning and I just want to clarify. That means that there will be more strikes coming in the next few days?

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: 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.


MATTINGLY: Now, according to U.S. defense officials, the strikes destroyed or damaged 84 out of 85 targets with no indications of Iranian casualties. These recent strikes are, of course, in retaliation for the deadly drone attack that killed three American service members in Jordan over the last weekend.

Joining us now, retired U.S. Navy commander, National Security Analyst Kirk Lippold. Kirk, we appreciate your time. To start with, it was interesting when President Biden was asked, is this working? Are these strikes working? This is what he said.


REPORTER: Are the air strikes working?



MATTINGLY: He could be saying yes to lots of different formulations of that. But based on what you saw in terms of the initial response that White House officials have said is going to continue, do you think it's working?

CMDR. KIRK LIPPOLD (RET.), FORMER COMMANDING OFFICER, USS COLE: Well, Phil, at this point, I don't think the strikes can really be assessed as whether they're working or not. We're still in the process of doing battle damage assessment on the areas that we have struck on the facilities that we are in fact targeting and going after.

I think this is going to take several days, if not weeks, to really determine, number one, is it effective against the facilities that we're trying to eliminate with the proxy groups so they no longer can strike either Americans or other national security interests in the area?

And, second, we need to be taking a look in, is this deterring Iran from in fact arming and allowing these groups to continue to operate with impunity throughout the region? That's going to be the real bottom line.

HARLOW: What's going to tell you that it is deterring Iran?

LIPPOLD: I think, Poppy, at the end, what you're going to see is deterring Iran is going to be will they continue to fund these groups? Will these groups continue to target U.S. and allied national security interests in the region?


If that stops, then you know that you have achieved deterrence again. If it has not stopped, then we need to take a look at more robust actions against Iran itself. But that doesn't necessarily mean military strikes, but there are a number of options on the table that the Biden administration still has available to them to exercise.

HARLOW: So, one of the criticisms from particularly Republicans of the Biden administration is that you should have done this sooner. That's what we heard Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley say yesterday on CNN. Would doing what the Biden administration did on Friday and over the weekend sooner have made more of a difference than it will make now?

LIPPOLD: I think the Biden administration could have acted sooner. I don't know what all the details are in play that caused this hesitancy, where over a hundred attacks on Americans resulted in very few responses by us.

But at this point, let's be forward-looking, not backward-complaining. And I think that, in reality, the United States at this point needs to have a very robust set of options on the table to include, let's go back to sanctions for the pre-Iran nuclear agreement and put those in place. Let's do more robust maritime interdiction operations, especially for the vessels that are providing targeting information for the Houthis to go after those vessels in the Red Sea, the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden.

Those ships are legitimate military targets, and even though Iran is threatening, they very easily could recall them, and to date they have not.

MATTINGLY: Much more to come, obviously, as officials have been very clear. Commander Kirk Lippold, thank you.

HARLOW: We are continuing to cover the record-breaking rain in Southern California. For more on what's happening in Los Angeles, let's bring in Erik Scott. He's a public information officer for the L.A. City Fire Department. Good morning.

Obviously, it's very early there, 4:20 in the morning, your time. So many California residents are going to wake up to this. And the fact that we've seen a month's worth of rain already dumped on Los Angeles County in a day, what are the risks for people as they get up and get out of the house this morning coupled with what is to come?

ERIK SCOTT, SPOKESMAN, LAFD: Good points. First off, try to stay home if you can. You know, we're really encouraging people to limit non- essential travel. That was part of our success for battling Hurricane Hilary in the recent past, because we are getting some potentially historic amount of rain.

We're going to talk to National Weather Service and see how close we're getting, but it's causing problems, you know? And we anticipated it coming at 6:00 P.M. last night, and it sure did. We ended up having people start driving their vehicles in an area called Tarzana. Two to three feet of water, the vehicles are going to stall out. They become stranded.

Thankfully, they stayed with their vehicles. That's a good reminder for any of your viewers. If that ever happens to you, don't try to get into the water. You don't know what's underneath. We launched our swift water rescue teams. We were successful. Nobody was injured. And then we had multiple debris flows or mud that is starting to slough off of those hillsides.

We just had a storm, you know, in the recent past, last couple of days. So, we're dealing with saturated soils, and now that we're getting an intense amount of rain over a short duration, it's creating some of the problems.

MATTINGLY: In terms of your resources and your capabilities given what we're seeing right now, have you faced any restrictions, any problems? How is this going to work on your end over the course of the coming hours?

SCOTT: No restrictions, no problem. We definitely have been leaning forward. We augmented our resources, put additional boots on the ground in key areas. So, we ramped up three swift water rescue teams. These are highly skilled folks with inflatable boats, jet skis that can handle the water rescues.

We launched up a multiple urban search and rescue teams who are the confined space specialists that can get into places and get people out. We have additional helicopter pilots, additional 911 dispatchers due to the influx of 911 calls we have.

So, fortunately, we took this very seriously. We'd rather be overprepared than under, and we want people to join our team. The way you can join our team is we're going to be working hard here for you. You just stay at home if you can, limit any unessential travel.

HARLOW: Right, because the predicaments that people get into and the danger therein puts your team in danger as well.

We really appreciate your time. Thank you and good luck today.

MATTINGLY: More than a dozen Republican governors standing by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in Eagle Pass showing support for his border battle with the Biden administration. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp was there with Abbott in Texas. He's going to join us, next.



MATTINGLY: On the same day senators unveiled a long-awaited border security deal, more than a dozen Republican governors from across the country joined Texas Governor Greg Abbott in Eagle Pass, Texas. That small border town has become a flashpoint in the battle between Texas and federal authorities over the migrant crisis. Abbott is vowing to keep placing razor wire near the border, despite a recent Supreme Court ruling that allows the Biden administration to take it down.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): We will continue to expand our efforts. Our declaration is a declaration of our rights under the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3, that guarantees the right of every state that's either invaded or in imminent danger, which we are in imminent danger, to be able to exercise self-defense.


MATTINGLY: Now, Governor Abbott was speaking from Shelby Park in Eagle Pass. Texas State officials last month blocked Border Patrol access to that park in more than two miles of river. Republican governors yesterday cheered Abbott's showdown with the administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Every state in our country now is a border state because of what would happen. And when you think about the amount of fentanyl, the human trafficking that's coming, they're coming to every state in the country.


MATTINGLY: Joining us now is Republican Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia. You just heard him there. Governor, we appreciate your time this morning.

I want to start with based on what you saw in the conversations you had, what's the endgame here?

KEMP: Well, the endgame is hopefully to get President Biden to act. You know, Republican governors have been trying to get him to do that for well over a year, Phil. You know, I've been to the border five different times. I've been down there when you had the federal government and state governments to secure the border.


And I've been down there, unfortunately, in times like yesterday, where you have a state having to act on its own.