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Erin Burnett Outfront
White House Responds To Russia's Request To Add Murderer To Swap; Interview With White House National Security Council Coordinator For Strategic Communications John Kirby; Texts Missing From Former Trump DHS Officials Around January 6; At Least 16 Killed In Catastrophic Flooding In Kentucky; Biden Racking Up Legislative Wins, On Cusp Of More Victories; Kansas To Become First State To Vote On Abortion After Roe Ruling. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired July 29, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. The White House responding here on OUTFRONT tonight to CNN's exclusive reporting. Putin wants to add a convicted killer to the prisoner swap in exchange for two Americans. That on top of the notorious arms dealer Biden already offering to Russia.
Plus, missing texts from the Secret Service and top homeland security officials. CNN learning the Department of Homeland Security inspector general knew of those missing Secret Service texts months earlier than previous known. In fact, for more than a year.
And the death toll is rising tonight in Kentucky. Homes completely under water. In just a matter of hours, we will speak to a pastor whose church was entirely washed away.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening to you. I'm Jim Sciutto, in again tonight for Erin Burnett.
And OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. The White House responding tonight here on OUTFRONT after Putin ups the ante on a proposed prisoner swap deal. CNN exclusively reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding even more when it comes to the swap. But the Biden administration publicly laid out just earlier this week.
According to sources, not only does Biden want the notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, the Russians also now want a convicted murderer to be released. That murderer, Vadim Krasikov, was convicted of killing a former Chechen fighter in Berlin back in 2019, sentenced to life in prison there.
Natasha Bertrand is OUTFRONT live in Washington.
Natasha, you broke the story. What more can you tell us what about the Russians are demanding here? NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, Jim. So, what we are told is earlier this month after the U.S. proposed this deal to exchange Viktor Bout for Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, the Russians responded by backchannel saying that they wanted this former FSB colonel named Vadim Krasikov. Now, Krasikov was convicted in Germany just last year in December of 2021 of murdering a Chechen civilian in broad daylight, a Chechen that the Russians have deemed a terrorist and that the German authority said this FSB colonel had done and carried out at the direct order of the Kremlin. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Now, what we are told is that the Russians at the receiving the offer by the White House, countered, essentially, by saying that they wanted Vadim Krasikov as well. Now, the U.S. is not necessarily taking this offer seriously. In fact, the National Security Council to give a statement on the record saying that this is not a serious counter proposal because, of course, this man is in German custody. If the U.S. wanted to see him released, they've had to put pressure on the Germans.
So, it's unclear at this point where this stands, but the U.S. says that they believe it was actually just a stall tactic, and attempt by the Russians to bide time until Brittney Griner's trial is over.
SCIUTTO: Do we know? Do U.S. officials have a sense why the Russians, in particular, chose a convicted murderer held not here in the U.S. but in Germany?
BERTRAND: You know, it's a great question, Jim, and our sources can only speculate on this. But they say is that it was probably in an attempt to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Germany because, of course, the U.S. would have to go to the Germans and see if they would be willing to release Krasikov early.
In fact, they did. The U.S. did do that. A couple of weeks ago, after receiving the request to a backchannel, the U.S. authorities want the Germans to test the waters and see whether they might be willing to exchange in this deal. Ultimately, there has been no movement on that. The Germans have not indicated that they would be willing to do so.
But this is someone who is one of Russia's own, right? A former FSB guy, someone that they want back into the custody. And, of course, the added benefit of driving any kind of wedge that they can in the Western alliance is just a plus for the Russians, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Natasha Bertrand, thanks so much.
Let's speak now with John Kirby. He's White House National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications.
John, thanks for taking the time this evening.
JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: You bet. Happy to be with you.
SCIUTTO: So, Russian government officials have now upped the ante in terms of their demands for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan -- adding to their demands, the release of a convicted murderer now held in Germany.
SCIUTTO: Is this an exchange that the U.S., that the Biden administration would consider?
KIRBY: Holding two American citizens hostage in exchange for an assassin in a third party country is not a serious counteroffer, Jim.
It's a bad faith attempt to avoid a very serious offer and proposal that the United States has put forward. We urge Russia to take that offer seriously.
SCIUTTO: Now, given that instead of taking that offer, and they have waited some time since the U.S. has offered to exchange Viktor Bout, the convicted are struggling who served more than a decade here in the U.S., given that they did not take that offer and they've now added another demand here -- are negotiations between the U.S. and Russia on Griner's and Whelan's release effectively stalled?
KIRBY: I don't know that I'd call them stalled, Jim. I mean, we made this offer ourselves several weeks ago. And we've tried to stay in contact with the Russian side since then. It's just that they haven't been willing to faithfully consider or even seriously consider the offer that we put forward.
I would not say stalled. I mean, we very much want to see Brittney and Paul come home to their families, where they belong. They are wrongfully detained there. And we're just going to keep at that work.
SCIUTTO: Does Russia have the cards here, in effect? It doesn't seem like they are in any rush to release Whelan or Griner. They are adding demands. They are certainly slow-rolling any response to the initial offer from the U.S.
Do they have a leverage here?
KIRBY: What they have are two Americans that need to be home, two Americans that are being wrongfully detained. And again, we put a serious offer on the table that we think they should definitely consider.
And again, it's -- it was done in good faith on our part to try to see if we can get these two Americans back home, and we urge the Russians to take that deal and to have a serious conversation with us.
Now, I know Secretary Blinken talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov today. This came up. He again urged that the Russians to move on this proposal. And we certainly hope they -- they do.
SCIUTTO: Of course, the danger here, right -- and listen, the Griner family, the Whelan family, they want their relatives home. We know the president wants that to. Americans want that.
Of course, the danger of this game, right, it is if this exchange goes through, the concern is that you incentivize the next hostage taking, right? You incentivize whether it'd be Russia, or Iran or China to take someone else because those people then become bargaining chips.
What's your answer to that?
KIRBY: Well, again, I don't want to confirm what the proposal is. And I don't want my answer to be construed as confirming some sort of swap. I just -- I'm not -- not going to negotiate in public.
I would just tell you, Jim, that the president has to balance these decisions in every case. And each case of a wrongfully detained American or hostage is unique, and the circumstances are completely different.
And you have to look at each one in its own set of unique circumstances and make the best offer that you can. And you have to balance our own national security interests versus the strong responsibility that the president has to get wrongfully detained Americans home.
He weighs that in every single case. Not any one of them are the same. He takes very seriously his responsibility to American citizens when they're abroad. That's going to be driving a lot of his focus and a lot of his decision-making.
He knows, because we stayed in touch with families. We know that they are anxious, that they're uncertain, they're afraid, and I want them to know, we want them to know, that we're doing everything we can.
SCIUTTO: Finally, on the question of China and Taiwan, as you know, China's very public reaction to the possibility of Speaker Pelosi visiting Taiwan.
Today, a Chinese state media reporter for 'The Global Times" newspaper, which as you know is often used as a mouthpiece for the Chinese communist party --
SCIUTTO: -- tweeted out today a threat saying that Speaker Pelosi's plane should be shut down if the U.S. fighter jets would escort her to Taiwan.
I wonder, do you have a reaction to that kind of rhetoric?
KIRBY: We've talked about this the last couple of days. I mean, the rhetoric coming out of the Chinese side has not been helpful. It's certainly not necessary, since the president made very clear that there's been no change to our One China policy.
I'll just say two things. One, the speaker gets to decide where and when she travels, and how that travel is affected, and I'm not going to speak for her or her team. She gets to decide this. I will also say that if she decides to go to Taiwan, we know and we
have a responsibility, and we take that responsibility seriously, that she can do so safely.
So, we've heard these comments, not helpful, not constructive. We have an obligation to make sure that if she goes to Taiwan or any other government official for that matter, Jim, that they can do so safely. We're going to take that responsibility seriously.
SCIUTTO: And you're saying, in effect, it's up to her. The White House is not pressuring her to cancel that trip.
KIRBY: We are in no position to pressure her in one way or another. The speaker makes her own decisions. Members of -- that's a third -- an independent branch of the government. We don't -- we don't approve or disapprove congressional travel, certainly not for the speaker. It's up to her.
SCIIUTTO: John Kirby, thanks so much. We appreciate you joining us tonight.
KIRBY: My pleasure. Thank you.
SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, a CNN exclusive, the DHS watchdog knew about those missing Secret Service text sent before and during the instruction more than a year ago. So why are we just learning about them now?
Plus, homes, possessions, at least 16 lives swept away. That includes six children, with little warning. I'm going to speak to a pastor whose church was destroyed.
And an assault weapons ban passes the house on the heels of other major legislative wins for President Biden.
SCIUTTO: Tonight, a CNN exclusive, new questions about the missing Secret Service text from around the January 6. According to multiple sources, the embattled homeland security inspector general first learned of those missing messages back in May of 2021. That is more than a year before he then alerted the January 6 committee.
Now, those texts sent before and during the Capitol right may have contained potentially viable evidence since the Secret Service was with Trump on January 6. The former president fought with agents and refused to let him go to the Capitol, according to witnesses testifying under oath.
Tonight, it is not the Secret Service that has a problem with missing messages. CNN also learning that text from Trump's acting homeland security chief, Chad Wolf, and his top deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, are also missing.
Those messages sent in the days leading up to January 6.
Cuccinelli is key because he had been ordered by Trump to seize voting machines in the wake of the election. This is according to the acting Deputy General Richard Donoghue, who also testified under oath. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Mr. Cuccinelli was on the phone. He was the number two at the DHS at the time. He was on speakerphone, and the president essentially said, can, I'm sitting with the acting attorney general. He told me that it is your job to seize machines, and you're not doing your job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Brittney Wild OUTFRONT live in Washington tonight.
You've been covering these missing messages for sometime now here. What are you learning about how this happened and how unusual this is for messages such as this, not only to go missing but do not be reported for such a length of time?
WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a big question that these congressional people are trying to get to. But they don't know is that it appears at least or what they have said prior, rather, is that the inspector general was aware of missing text messages as of December 2021. That was the information that we learned some days ago when two key Democrats were calling for the inspector general's refusal.
Now, sources tell CNN that the Secret Service notified the office of the inspector general, the text messages were erased by May of 2021, seven months earlier than previously known. The Secret Service explained that these text messages were lost previously in a previously scheduled date of migration of agents' cellphones. The committee and Cuffari are interested in these text messages because, as you pointed out, these are people who are right at the center of what is going on on Jjanuary 6. Depending on the content, could shed light on the Secret Service response that day and further what they witnessed among others.
Sources told us that one of the key problems here is that key personnel inside the Secret Service did not realize these text messages were actually going to disappear when they did the data migration. They believed they were backed up somewhere, and they did not realize that this was totally absolute, that they were totally gone.
When they realize that, albeit too late, they did try to go back to this awful provider to get them back, but they couldn't bring back the content of that.
Jim, the other big thing we are learning here about the timeline, again, we this lab list that the general office was notified and made that the next messages were erased. However, in July, a representative from the general inspector's office told invest -- told the Department of Homeland Security there are no longer seeking these text messages. That was in July of 2021, more than a year before the inspector general brought these hurdles to congressional oversight committees, Jim.
SCIUTTO: DHS oversees the Secret Service. Of course, DHS also an agency in charge of policing cybercrime. I mean, it's remarkable lack of oversight.
Whitney Wild, great reporting, thanks so much.
OUTFRONT now, Olivia Troye, former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to Vice President Pence. She worked at DHS. Phil Mudd, former CIA counterterrorism official. Norm Eisen, he served as council to House Democrats during Trump's first impeachment trial. He also served as the Obama White House ethics czar.
Olivia, first to you. You work at the DHS. One, how would these messages go missing? I would somebody not take steps to preserve them but also, wait a year for the inspector general to report that to the committee?
OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY & COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER TO VP PENCE: It's a little surprising, especially -- look, I have worked technical migrations in the government, and I find it a little bit confusing the people were not aware that these messages were going to disappear, especially demanded planning going into migration. I can tell you that firsthand, having done it.
But also, look, I came from DHS. When you work at the senior levels in the Trump administration, you have -- you know exactly where people's loyalties lie. I know Cuccinelli and Chad Wolf and Cuffari very well.
There is a reason that I went very public with my concerns about the Trump administration, rather than going through the traditional whistleblower process, which would have led me through the inspector general's office at DHS. And I'll just say that. So, there's a level of trust there that you understand.
The other part of it is, I've got to tell you, being a Trump admin person, most of the administration communicated on encrypted signal apps, apps like Signal. So, a lot of the times, these messages were likely disappearing.
So, I mean, I don't know. It's a little bit suspect. You can either turn in your government phone, was there an encrypted app on it? Was it on their personal phone? In any case, it seems these passages are gone either way.
SCIUTTO: Phil Mudd, you worked in government, CIA, also FBI, these are the agencies charged with, as I mentioned earlier, fighting cybercrime. I mean, this is also for the Secret Service, arguably the most stressful day for the services the racial gain assassination. There is arguably a genuine threat to the president, to the capital, is this incompetence that you see here, or is there something more?
Do you suspect there is something more, something deliberate?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, Jim, as usual, you are more polite than I would be. I guess that's why you have your job and I have mine. This is -- this is beyond incompetence. One of the problems you have is that any inspector general, whether it's at the CIA, the FBI, or the Department of Homeland Security, doesn't work for the head of, say, homeland security, they work in essence for Congress.
How can the inspector general go to Congress now and say that you can trust me to conduct ongoing investigations, when there are these gaps of reporting to you? I think the inspector general has to go.
The second thing I would say, and let me be equally blunt, what the heck was the chief information officer at DHS doing? If you're migrating data, the first question you have for someone who grew up with a manual typewriter is, is that data backed up? Not only because you are supposed to do that, because the law says you have to do that.
Those two people, the inspector general and the chief information officer at DHS, it's not just incompetence. This means their careers have to end at the organization. There's no explanation I can come up with, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Norm Eisen, you know the law. As Phil notes, there are laws about preserving records. That was your job as ethics czar. In fact, part of your job under the Obama administration.
So, beyond losing a job, I mean, there are legal implications here.
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Jim, there are, depending on the level of intention already. And to Phil's point, how many coincidences are we going to have involving DHS and the Secret Service and these missing messages on the most crucial periods of times that our nation has confronted in decades? I mean, it just strains belief.
That points you towards taking a hard look, we don't want to prejudge. But DOJ is undoubtedly taking a hard look at some of the federal penalties that can include criminal penalties, if we find that this was not an accident, that it was not negligence, that it was not coincidence after coincidence, but something intentional was going on here.
SCIUTTO: Olivia, this comes as we also are learning about missing text from Trump's homeland security officials, Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, also part of the pattern that we are discussing. I do want to play some testimony from the January 6 Committee from Richard Donoghue about what Trump was asking of Cuccinelli after the election, which then speaks to why his communications would be of importance to the committee. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONOGHUE: My cellphone rang, it was the president, and he had information about a truck supposedly full of shredded ballots in Georgia that was in the custody of an ICE agent, whose name he had. I told him that ICE was part of the Department of Homeland Security. It was really up to the DHS to make the call if their agent was involved.
And he said, fine, I understand, can you just make sure that Ken Cuccinelli knows about this? I said, fine, I will pass that along to him. I eventually contacted Ken Cuccinelli later that evening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTTO: You were in the White House. How crucial, Olivia, was Cuccinelli himself to Trump's efforts -- to his attempted efforts to overturn the election?
TROYE: Look, Cuccinelli was definitely in the inner circle when it came to Trump circles. He was -- I saw him in the West Wing very often. And, you know, the fact that he had this conversation speaks to the extent that he was communicating about these potential legal actions and some of these crazy sort of conspiracies ideas that were being pushed out of this inner circle.
And I'll say this, we -- I would hope that we'd be able to see some miscommunications and see what was going on. I think all of this, I want to point out, speaks to the importance of the January 6 Select Committee's work in this investigation because all of these things, we would not know about or realize the extent of this entire effort that went on to stop the peaceful transfer of power without -- without this investigation, right, and without these hearings, without testimonies, without these firsthand witness accounts.
SCIUTTO: Norm, I mean, they talk about team normal and team crazy, you know, the crazy folks trying to do this, but the fact is crazy or not, I mean, these are extremely powerful people, including the president of the United States, people running powerful agencies and with senior positions in powerful agencies, who are attempting to do this.
You know, how central are communications to establishing what happened. If those communications are indeed missing, what's the recourse here?
EISEN: The extraordinary success of the January 6 committee that Olivia points up is due to the fact that these kinds of communications have been obtained, so when they are missing, that does hinder and hamper an investigation, Jim.
I know from my litigating days, though, it is very hard to permanently banished things. Part of the recourse now is a very deep look at the systems to see what can be recovered. And, of course, texts never go to one person, maybe there are things out there.
When the X-ray begins with this intense focus of an investigation begins, you know, the skeletons do come out of the closet. So, we'll see, but it's damaging. SCIUTTO: We already learned, for instance, that there is metadata
establishes that there were text messages going to Secret Service agents around those dates. So, we know there's something, right?
Phil, I just want to ask before we go because you served in the CIA and FBI. You served in government. In a properly functioning administration, if you don't follow the law, preserve records, communications, emails, text messages, what would normally happen to folks if you or I did not?
MUDD: Well, for example, if I was in the FBI, and I want to Director Mueller and said, hey, I chose to eliminate these communications because I thought they were embarrassing to us, I could tell you what Director Mueller, who was head of the Russian investigation, would have said.
He was very close to me. He was very kind to me. He would've said, you're done. You're done.
MUDD: This is not only an issue of professionalism. It's an issue of ethics. It can't happen in government, Jim. The people who do this, they got to go.
It bears repeating, right, that this does not follow the way it's supposed to work. We'll keep digging. Olivia, Phil, Norm Eisen, thanks so much to all of you.
OUTFRONT next, a pastor lost his church in those Kentucky floods, swept away in an instant. His faith remains, he is my guest, thankfully, his family is safe too.
And Biden chalks up another legislative win today, but should he be the guy to run for the party in 2024? A Democrat sounds off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN): I have respect for Joe Biden, but to answer your question directly, which I know is quite rare, Chad -- no, I don't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Tonight, at least 16 people have been killed by a devastating flooding in Kentucky. That number unfortunately is expected to rise, perhaps even double. Flash floods wiped out into neighborhoods. Some houses were completely carried away by the raging floodwaters.
Kentucky Governor Andrew Beshear said the state is never in its history seen anything like this.
Evan McMorris-Santoro is OUTFRONT in Hazard, Kentucky, one of the worst hit areas.
You've been touring the damage there, tell us what it looks like.
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, one of the most amazing things about flash floods is how quickly they can change everything in your life. Here, where I am and in the free market site in Hazard is perfect for that.
Just a couple of hours ago, when we got here, there was nothing here. But then locals put out some calls on social media saying, we need to gather donations, gather things, people who lost everything in these floods. And first came the water, now you can see there is clothing, furniture, toys, and we just learned that tomorrow, there will be prepaid cell phones.
The building blocks of people try to put back together after they lost everything in these floods. And the problem is that officials say that this tragedy might still be ongoing.
GOV. ANDY BESHEAR, KENTUCKY: This is going to be a real challenge would such a large area hit to get good, unaccounted for numbers.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Homes destroyed, roads washed out. Rescuers working around the clock as the governor of Kentucky warns the death toll from another round of catastrophic flooding could more than double in the coming days.
The latest heartbreaking discovery that bodies of at least six children recovered from the floodwaters. Rushing waters tripped homes off their foundation and push cars into piles.
Judy Butler and her husband made out of their house just in time.
JUDY BUTLER, VICTIM OF FLOODING: We got out, we pulled over the road, and about time in his later, we look down and one from the back of the fence to the carport.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: The fast rising floodwaters forcing many people to evacuate and causing hundreds of water rescues across the state.
BEVERLY DAUGHERTY, VICTIM OF FLOODING: I'm going to lose everything I have, for sure, but, it's better than losing my life.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Beverly Daugherty spent hours in chest high water, trying to keep her daughter afloat.
DAUGHERTY: Finally, I was hanging on to a firmer up and thought I had to do in swim. But it was super swift. I never swam in water like that.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: The Kentucky National Guard is also assisting in rescue efforts, lifting people from their homes, as some buildings were left almost entirely submerged. Officials say the storm caught many people by surprise. SHERIFF JOE ENGLE, PERRY COUNTY, KENTUCKY: There is no warning,
people flee in mobile homes near this water. That water had never been that I had before in 50 years. I lived there never worried about it. So, you never thought about it and caught in their slipped and just wash away. It's tragedy.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: With power in cellphone service out in many of the hardest hit areas, help is hard to come by.
ENGLE: There is a big swath of the county that is totally isolated. The state highways are just totally -- they're gone.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: One mayor says it's hard to even know where to begin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are so overwhelmed. We don't really know what to ask for.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: And the worst is far from over. Governor Beshear urging residents to have a safety plan in place.
BESHEAR: It looks like it's going to rain ruin a lot Monday, maybe Tuesday.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): So, Jim, as you hear, this is not over. And here in hazard, people are trying to put pieces back together of their lives, when their lives might get hit again by these floodwaters. I mean, it affects everyone. Volunteers here, people who are here helping other people get their stuff are people who also lost everything -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: You said it happens in an instant.
Evan McMorris-Santoro, thanks so much.
OUTFRONT now, Peter Youmans. He is the pastor of Davidson Baptist Church in Hazard, Kentucky, which was destroyed unfortunately by the floodwaters.
And, Pastor, we appreciate you coming on. We know you got a lot on your plate in your community.
We understand the flooding came so quickly. There wasn't much chance to prepare.
Tell us how it happened and how you survived?
PETER YOUMANS, PASTOR OF CHURCH DESTROYED BY KY FLOODING: Well, that night we knew there was rain, but that's nothing unusual of course. We had no idea it was going to be so serious. My grandchildren actually were staying overnight, and we have a newer church and then my parsonage, and then the older church which has been there since '56. And about midnight, it started -- it started raining so hard that it
was clearly coming up into the parking lot. And then it got up into our house, that's when I knew it was really bad because it's never been in our house before. It was about a foot.
And so, then, after that, I couldn't see our church. I knew it was bad but our churches had minor flooding before but the bigger church and our house had never gotten it in those buildings.
So, around 4:00, my son was concerned about his children. Had been calling and said, how is it outside? I looked outside and a car went by, because there's a light, it's very dark where we live. I realize that the whole church building, two story building was completely gone.
YOUMANS: And when that happened, it also wiped out a house next door. All the water just wiped it all out. There's multiple --
SCIUTTO: Have all of those people been accounted for? The people in those homes? The people in your parish?
YOUMANS: In our areas, yes, but not in the entire area. There have been -- I don't know, and so it's pretty tragic. Several of our church members who would normally be helping us to try to fix things, are taking care of their own problems right now and some of them are in this bad or worse shape than we were in.
So, we are just thankful that the house was not destroyed with my grandchildren in it.
SCIUTTO: Goodness, yeah.
Did you get enough warning to get out of there?
YOUMANS: No, no. We did not know that it was going to be that fast. I was told there was like 11 inches of rain in 24 hours, and most that came within just a few hours, and our creek is -- the creek in front of our house is small. It's eight or ten feet wide.
And normally, less than six inches deep, and it was -- it was moving trailers down the creek. And also just wiping out again, our church was the first floor with cement. It completely wiped everything out and all you see are crops of cement.
SCIUTTO: I'm so sorry that he had to go through this, and I'm glad you're safe and your family is safe. We wish you the best as you're trying to recover from all this. Take care of yourselves.
YOUMANS: Thank you very much.
SCIUTTO: Tough people there.
OUTFRONT next, another win for Joe Biden today, but will this week's legislative victories convince reluctant Democrats to support him in 2024?
And it is a first. Voters in Kansas will decide whether the state can get rid of abortion rights since the inaugural ballots since Roe v. Wade was overturned.
SCIUTTO: New tonight, the House just moments ago passed a ban on assault style weapons. This was a razor-thin vote, 217 to 213. The bill now goes to the Senate where it's not expected to pass. It'll be ten Republican votes there.
But it comes amid a big legislative week for Democrats and for President Biden following a surprise deal on an economic spending package, and passage of a bipartisan bill to boost America's technological manufacturing, particularly semiconductors.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic congressman Tom Malinowski of New Jersey. He actually cosponsored the bill banning assault-style weapons.
Good to have you on, Congressman. We appreciate you taking the time on a Friday night.
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): Good to be on.
SCIUTTO: You're aware of the questions inside Biden's own party about his viability as a strong candidate to represent the party in 2024? This has been a week of legislative progress for him, particularly on his budget bill that has a lot of things he and Democrats have been pushing for for sometime on climate, on prescription drugs, even on a minimum corporate tax.
Does this fundamentally change his position within his own party as we approach 2024?
MALINOWSKI: I think -- I'm focused on the next election, not 2024, believe it or not. We've got a midterm election that's going to determine which way the wind is blowing in America for the next couple of years.
And I think -- absolutely, we are making the progress the American people sent us to make. There's nothing that will be more satisfying to my constituents on a very closely divided district in New Jersey than being able to say we're going to lower prescription drug prices, while making Amazon pay taxes. Who can be against that? And we're getting it done.
SCIUTTO: You make a good point, because you are in one of the few remaining, frankly, potential swing districts in the way these districts are currently drawn around the country here. When you speak to voters, what's pushing them right now? Because you also know that inflation is high, it's staying high, interest rates are going up. People are concerned about a recession after two quarters of negative growth. Is it the economy, stupid, or are they paying attention to these
MALINOWSKI: Well, the legislative wins have everything to do with the economy. My constituents want us to focus on fighting inflation, not banning abortion. They want us to focus on delivering for them jobs through infrastructure, lower cost for health care and prescription drugs, dealing with gas prices which are fortunately beginning to come down.
Not starting crazy culture wars over issues that we thought were settled, many years ago. Not having ridiculous debates about whether storming the Capitol might have been a legitimate discourse.
And so, I think, you know, I think this election is basically MAGA versus the middle class. Democrats are focused on delivering kitchen table issues for our constituents and the Republicans seem to be consumed with debates that a lot of moderate Republicans in my district just don't recognize their party anymore.
SCIUTTO: I'm going to put you on the spot here, because one of your Democratic colleagues, Congressman Dean Phillips, he was asked if he wants Biden to run in 2024. And he said he respects him as a leader in this term, but does not want him to run then.
Do you agree he shouldn't run in 2024?
MALINOWSKI: Well, as I said at the beginning, I'm focused on the next election. I think it's a strange feature of American democracy that we're having debates about elections three years, about who should run three years before that election comes. And I don't think it's healthy, actually, for us to be having that debate right now.
The president should be focused on delivering on the economy, on ensuring that Ukraine wins the war against Russia, on protecting America and the world. I don't want him to be focused on 2024 right now. I want all of us to be focused on the issues that matter to our voters.
SCIUTTO: Before we go, the Saudi-funded a new golf tournament in the LIV Tour as it's known, kicked off at Trump's Bedminster golf course. This happens to be inside your congressional district. We had the president, former president say yesterday it's still an open question with who's behind 9/11. But you have a lot of American golfers in effect taking a lot of Saudi money to come play for it.
What's your reaction?
MALINOWSKI: I think this is -- this is disgusting. Nobody -- and certainly not a former president of the United States should be taking money from the Saudi monarchy to help them whitewash their human rights record, and to undermine an American professional sports league, you know? I mean, can you imagine if the Saudis decided to set up a competitor to Major League Baseball and offered Aaron Judge $200 million? Like a lot of people would be upset?
And for the former president to be basically taking money to help them do this is something that we should all be against.
SCIUTTO: Tom Malinowski, thanks so much for joining us tonight.
MALINOWSKI: Thank you so much.
SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, voters in Kansas, they are going to the polls. Will they be the first state in the nation towards stripping abortion rights after that reversal of Roe v. Wade?
And actor Will Smith says the words "I apologize" for three months after hitting the comedian Chris Rock.
SCIUTTO: Tonight, voters in Kansas are heading to the polls next week to decide whether the state constitution protects -- should protect the right to abortion, potentially jeopardizing access not only for women in Kansas but this is key also for women in neighboring states, who rely on services in Kansas.
Nick Valencia is OUTFRONT.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Helena. I'm the field director for Kansans for constitutional freedom.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a small room in Wichita, the fight for abortion rights is on. Kansas will be the first state in the country to vote on whether the right to an abortion is protected by the state's Constitution, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Ashley is part of the coalition working to preserve abortion access in Kansas.
ASHLEY ALL, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, KANSANS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOM: The amendment that is on the ballot will mandate government control over private medical decisions, and, ultimately, pave the way for a total ban on abortion.
VALENCIA: In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution protected personal autonomy, including the right of a woman to decide whether to continue a pregnancy. The ruling effectively blocked legislatures for passing laws to restrict abortion access within the state. If passed on August 2nd, the so-called value and both amendment moved back power to the Republican support majority legislator, to regulate axis of abortions in the state.
ALL: We believe that if this amendment passes, they will act quickly to ban abortion outright. That has been their goal for a long time. VALENCIA: Adding to their worries, the issues being voted on in the
primary rather than the general election. The state of registered Republicans vastly outnumbers Democrats. Abortion rights advocates believe the move was intentional by state conservatives to limit non- Republican turnout.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe it is best to have as little abortion if not any up as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Abortion is a right to anyone should have access to. It's health care.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is really important -- I mean all the young babies other lives that are being saved, if it passes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want rights taken away.
VALENCIA: Some voters who spoke to were also concerned about the involvement of churches and religious groups, since the vote is on an issue, not a candidate, such organizations have been allowed to campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The passing of the Value Them Both amendment.
VALENCIA: Brittany Jones welcomes the support. Jones, an antiabortion lawyer, helped write the amendment.
BRITTANY JONES, DIRECTOR, POLICY & ENGAGEMENT, KANSAS FAMILY VOICE: Kansans want to ensure that moms and babies are protected. And so, Kansans are very concerned about this push to make us an unlimited destination for abortion.
VALENCIA: Though it seems like a reaction to what the Supreme Court did with Roe, Jones and her Kansas Republican colleagues say that they have been working on drafting the amendment for years.
One of their main concerns, people coming from nearby places like Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas, where abortion is already outlawed to get procedures done in Kansas.
ASHLEY BRINK, DIRECTOR, TRUST WOMEN ABORTION CLINIC: The day that the decision came down, we had patients calling us from the waiting rooms of other health centers and other states saying that our appointments were canceled, how soon can we get in.
VALENCIA: Ashley Brink is that director of Trust Women, one of four abortion clinics in the state. Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, Brink estimates more than 60 percent of the patients are from out of state.
BRINK: What we are seeing right now is, in my pinion, a national emergency.
VALENCIA: The choice on August 2nd maybe local, but it will come with national implications.
(END VIDEOTAPE) VALENCIA (on camera): A vote that will have national implications and it's likely to be decided by a relatively small number of registered voters, Jim. It was earlier today that we got numbers from the Kansas secretary of state indicating a projected 36 percent of registered Kansans are expected to vote in the primary.
And, look, that seems like a big number for a primary vote, but is really not, considering how significant of an issue this is and the impact it will have on Kansans and beyond -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: So often, you see such low turnout in the primaries.
Nick Valencia, thanks so much.
VALENCIA: You bet.
SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, a new chapter in the slap seen around the world. We will hear from Will Smith finally.
SCIUTTO: It's now been four months since actor Will Smith hit comedian Chris Rock in front of the world on the live broadcast of the Academy Awards. The attack was all anyone was talking about at the time except for Will Smith.
Now today, he had something to say posting a five minute video on Instagram in which he publicly said, I'm sorry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILL SMITH, ACTOR: Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable, and I am here whenever you're ready to talk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Smith also apologized to his fellow actors and Oscar nominees for going after Rock after the comic you will remember joked about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Rock, for his part, addressed the incident this week in his act, saying, quote, anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face. Is this the end of it? Well, stay tuned.
Thanks so much for joining us tonight. I'm Jim Sciutto.
"AC360" starts right now.