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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Flood Warning for Eastern Kentucky, At Least 8 Dead; DOJ Prepares for Court Fight to Force Ex-Trump Officials to Testify; Biden on Inflation Reduction Act: "Pass it for America". Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 29, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It is Friday, July 29th, 5:00 a.m. in New York. Thanks for getting an early start with us. I'm Christine Romans.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Right now, urgent flood warning for parts of hard hit Kentucky where least eight people have already been killed by floodwaters. Evacuations are underway in Jackson. That is in southeastern Kentucky. This area is already saturated and more storms are moving in.

Towns near the Kentucky/West Virginia border are also facing a threat of flash flooding right now. Flooding is also a big problem in St. Louis, Missouri. Emergency responders making multiple rescues of people trapped in their homes.

And new video out of Las Vegas overnight, take a look. Water pouring into some of the casinos. Over an inch of rain fell there, saturating the Vegas Strip.

I want to get right to meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

What is happening in Kentucky, there are water rescues under way right now. There is a dam that is under a concern. What are you hearing?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, this is coming off from the backs of 1 in 1,000-year event of flooding event that took place in St. Louis. Now, it's looking likely that we have another 1 in 1,000- year event that has taken place across eastern Kentucky.

Thanks to the ongoing rain that is falling as we speak, right now, National Weather Service continuing with flood watches, flood warnings and even flash flood warnings near the border of Kentucky and West Virginia as some of the heaviest rains move through the area swelling the rivers and also overflowing some of the local roadways there, submerging homes as well as vehicles.

And you can see some of the 24 hour rainfall totals, hazard. In Perry County, Kentucky, experiencing rainfall in excess of eight inches in less than 12 hours, some areas over the past three days, 10.5 inches nearly for the southeastern portions of Kentucky. And remember, this is a very saturated environment, so when we see additional rainfall within this area, that is only going to add more misery, only more potential for additional flooding.

This stalled out frontal boundary, that is the problem. We're getting a wave of showers and thunderstorms that continues to impact the region. This is just one example of a river gauge in southeast Kentucky. Last observation before the gauge failed was just shy of 21 feet. Old record, it was previously 14.7 feet.

And what do we have ahead of us today through the early weekend? Weather prediction center has a moderate risk for the probability of flash flooding that is a 40 percent probability anywhere across eastern sections of Kentucky and portions of West Virginia. And then the areas across southern Nevada, a slight risk of flash flooding for the day today thanks to the monsoonal rain.

But here are the rainfall totals across Eastern Kentucky, an additional half an inch of rain possible through this morning and into the early afternoon as pop-up showers and thunderstorms start to redevelopment through the course of the day -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that.

The death toll stands at eight. It is expected to rise in Kentucky where many people are still missing. The state is coping with some of the worst flooding ever recorded. Cars, homes, entire communities simply overwhelmed by these rising waters.

We have Joe Johns there on the ground for us in Kentucky.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A race to rescue those still stranded in eastern Kentucky and what the governor says will end up being one of the most significant deadly floods in years.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR, KENTUCKY: Unfortunately, I expect double digit deaths in this flooding that is something that we rarely see.

JOHNS: The water so high you can only see the roof of this home. Many others submerged up to the windows. A relentless stalled storm front dumped more than 8 inches in the area, raging waters swept away homes and cars.

JUDY BUTLER, BREATHITT COUNTY/FRANKFORT RESIDENT: I didn't think that it would get that high.

JOHNS: This couple barely got out of their home in time.

BUTLER: I said get your clothes and backpack because we got to get out of here. By the time we got up to the neighbor's double wide, it was -- it had went from the back of the trailer to the carport.

JOHNS: The creek side town appears to be submerged in water. Governor Andy Beshear declared a statewide state of emergency and announced the first confirmed deaths, a woman in her 80s in Perry County, and at least two others.


Later in the day, the governor said that the death toll had reached at least eight.

BESHEAR: We expect the loss of life. Hundreds will lose their homes. And this is going to be yet another event that it is going to take not months but likely years for many families to rebuild and recover.

JOHNS: Flooded downed phone lines kept residents from getting helped immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't get to 'em, nobody can get to 'em. This has never been this bad.

JOHNS: Floodwaters rising over the bridge in downtown Whitesburg. Many roads in the area are impasse only. While the National Guard has been mobilized to rescue people and provide aid, hundreds are expected to lose their home.

BUTLER: It happens. It is bad enough the first time we had insurance. This time we don't. But we'll make it. We always do with God's help. So just have to pick yourself back up and that is all we can do, you know.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Hazard, Kentucky.


ROMANS: All right. Joe, thanks for that. We'll continue to stay on that story this morning.

Meantime, federal prosecutors gearing up for a court battle to force former White House officials to testify about Donald Trump's involvement in the January 6 insurrection. The DOJ is particularly interested in the former president's conversations and actions on or near January 6. At issue are claims of executive privilege that prosecutors expect Trump to make to keep information shielded from a federal grand jury.

Meanwhile, the January 6 House Committee is zeroing in on former Trump cabinet members, they are particularly interested in conversations among officials about possibly invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. The panel has already interviewed former treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Let's bring in Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Palm Beach County.

Thanks for getting up early with us to walk us through this. So the DOJ will have to argue that they are justified in bringing this to court. Is there -- in this instance is there strong enough evidence -- is there strong enough need to overcome executive privilege?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY: Good morning, Christine. No, I think that the department of justice will win when they litigate this in the courts and that is because the Supreme Court has held that executive privilege is into the for the benefit of the president but for the benefit of our republic. And executive privilege is strongest when the disclosure of the executive branch communications will impact national security. Executive privilege would not apply to conceal a criminal conspiracy, especially the attempted overthrow of the United States government.

Now, there is some ambiguity as to whether executive privilege applies to a former president. And you can expect Trump world to exploit that ambiguity and to go to the courts to delay, delay, delay and that is why the DOJ is trying to get ahead of all this because lengthy delays over issues of executive privilege could throw sand in the gears of the DOJ investigation and create additional political peril when it comes to possibly indicting the leading candidate for president on the Republican side in 2024.

So I expect DOJ to prevail, but the bigger question is how long will it all take.

ROMANS: Yeah, how long will it take. Is there precedence on how courts see executive privilege claims in criminal investigations for example versus congressional probes?

ARONBERG: Yeah, the good news is that in criminal cases, executive privilege does not work as well. And you remember months ago the federal courts including the U.S. Supreme Court except for Clarence Thomas said that Donald Trump didn't have the right to invoke executive bridge to shield his documents from going to the January 6 committee. That is more of a civil matter than a criminal one, but when it comes to a criminal one, you get even less protection.

So I do expect the Department of Justice to prevail in this, but it is a very Trumpian tactic to try to delay things. And that is why I think that DOJ is trying to be aggressive and proactive here to try to get ahead of it because they want to get moving. There is a lot of pressure on them to do so.

ROMANS: What do you make of the Trump officials lining up to testify? We know that Mick Mulvaney, former chief of staff, Steven Mnuchin, the former treasury secretary, we're told that they are lining up to testify. Do you think this shows that the January 6 hearings have been a success?

ARONBERG: Absolutely. The dam is breaking as Liz Cheney said. This shows how successful the hearings have been. The committee has broken through to the public and has enough street cred to get top Trump officials to testify including, as you mentioned, Mick Mulvaney, who refused to cooperate in the first impeachment.

And things have clearly changed. The big reason is that the Department of Justice has been enforcing some of the subpoenas. It was a big deal to charge and convict Steve Bannon for ghosting the committee. And I think that people are taking notice. At least everyone not named Peter Navarro are taking notice.

[05:10:01] Ironically, Christine, Bannon's attempts to kill the committee only made it stronger and more feared. It is amazing how a pair of handcuffs can suddenly give potential witnesses a much needed attitude adjustment.

ROMANS: Interesting.

All right. David Aronberg, thank you so much for joining us bright and early this morning.

ARONBERG: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: All right. Right now, all of Washington is wondering where Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema stands on this surprise climate and economic bill.

Plus, President Biden urging Congress to pass the new reconciliation deal fast.

And the two-hour phone call between Biden and Xi that included a threat against America.


ROMANS: President Biden is urging Democrats to quickly pass a new bill that tackles climate and health care.

West Virginian Senator Joe Manchin and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer crafted the measure, a package that includes parts of Biden's Build Back Better initiative.


CNN's Jasmine Wright joins us from Washington.

So, Jasmine, let's talk about the politics of all this. What's next for this bill?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN REPORTER: Well, Christine, next step is trying to get all 50 Senate Democrats on board here. We know that there will be intense Republican opposition which means that any one Democrat could really derail the process. And who doubt the White House and President Biden will be directly involved in this effort trying to corral his party to vote for this surprise package before the August recess, giving them months to tout a major win for this administration before the midterm elections.

And, of course, touting provisions that were previously thought to be dead that were very important to President Biden like the climate issue. And so, Biden on Thursday, he urged the Democrats to pass it quickly saying that it is not perfect but it is a compromise.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact is that my message to Congress is this: this is the strongest bill you can pass to lower inflation, cut the deficit, reduce health care costs, tackle the climate crisis and promote energy security, all the time while reducing the burdens facing working class and middle class families.


WRIGHT: Now, of course, that was a decision for Biden there, but it is much smaller than what he originally proposed when he really tried to redo the country's social safety net and add major climate provisions and do other things like child and held care costs. This bill would add $369 billion for climate and energy provisions, it would combat climate change and allows Medicaid to negotiate prices and subsidies for Affordable Care Act for some period of time.

But, of course, it does not go as far as President Biden and some Democrats wanted. Still, though, the White House is supporting it because it will do something if passed after the months of negotiations in the Senate.

ROMANS: All right. Jasmine, thank you so much.

So let's tease out what the American family would feel if this becomes a bill. They say that it is the Inflation Reduction Act, price tag, $739 billion.

Here is some of how it is supposed to get into the pockets of people who need it the most. Historic price caps. For the first time ever allowing Medicare to limit prescription drug prices. Seniors and people on disability would pay no more than $2,000 a year out of pocket for prescriptions. Obamacare subsidies, people buying into Obamacare would continue getting help paying their premiums. They would pay no more than 8.5 percent of their income, that's down from almost 10 percent before.

And some could get subsidies that completely eliminate their premiums all together. And the bill would help people save money on energy costs, 10 years of tax cuts for home owners to get things like rooftop solar panels and electric air conditioning.

And, finally, tax breaks to buying electric car, up to 7,500 bucks for a new one, 4,000 for a new EV. Now, that's an extension of the current incentive and income level to take advantage of it would be lowered though. Bottom line the bill aiming to target people who need it instead of spreading around money to everyone which was a big criticism before.

Let's bring in Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast."

While it is not done yet, it seems like Democrats finally have a win under their belt. How big a deal is this for the Biden administration to get at least part of his agenda back on track here?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, you can't really underestimate how big this was and how surprising it was in Washington at a place where usually someone knows something going on under the radar and they kept it under wraps and for a good reason. Investments in climate, the prescription drug measures you were talking about, I mean, there is just so much in this bill that lot of Democrats thought had gone by the wayside entirely after the blowup with Manchin just a few weeks ago.

And now, suddenly, it is back. One of the obstacles that though I think we all know about is Kyrsten Sinema was not in the room, slightly unusual. She is usually someone that if there is anything going to get done in the U.S. Senate, she's very much a part of it from the ground floor.

She said that she is still reviewing the bill. She's expressed some hesitation with taxing carried interest which is one of the ways that this is paid for in this bill. But again, she is someone that I think everyone will be following in a hallway in the next couple days to see where she lands on this.

ROMANS: Yeah, so she is reviewing it. She's waiting. I mean, is there a sense? What is the reporting about whether she's leaning for or against, any clue?


KUCINICH: So her office has pointed reporters to some of the things that she said about the 15 percent minimum tax on corporate profits. And she has expressed some support for that. But, you know, with her you percent minimum tax on corporate percent minimum tax on corporate profits. And she has expressed some support for that. But, you know, with her you never really know. She hasn't been afraid to say things in the past frankly.

But you have to imagine that there is a lot of pressure on her to support this, but just across the entire caucus, you haven't seen the level of dare I say it joy in quite some time.

ROMANS: Between the Chips Bill and then the investments in domestic production of computer chips and then this, it is like all of a sudden there is action happening in the doldrums of summer in Washington. And there is a new CNN report, this recent bipartisan in the Senate is putting Republicans at odds, particularly GOP leader Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy.

Is there trouble for Republicans if they take back the majority come November?

KUCINICH: I mean, potentially yes. We're looking at a Congress that will have a whole newscast of characters that wouldn't necessarily be in line with the leadership that depending on who wins wouldn't necessarily be in line of where their leadership wants to go. But that is the -- that happens in every majority. This one in particular though is going to be -- incredibly shouldn't happen, of course.

It's going to be interesting to watch just because of the different polls. The very conservative ranks would in theory increase in new Congress. So, really that is -- they will have to be crafting their agenda with an eye towards that and you have to imagine, you think the Democratic caucus is fractured, it's going to be a whole new ball game should the Republicans take over.

ROMANS: You know, I just want to stress again how important this Manchin/Schumer deal is. And I think it is -- capping prescription drug costs is something that the American public has demanded, right, for years and Congress has never been able to deliver it. And who knows whether they will be able to deliver this time. But what do you make of the fact that it sounds like the White House was iced out of these negotiations.

KUCINICH: We know almost a year ago to the day that Manchin and Schumer kind of inked an agreement without anybody else present, as to what Manchin would accept in something like this. So the fact that Biden let the Senate do its thing is not terribly surprising. They were brought in of course. But we always say this, he is a creature of the Senate and the fact that he kind of let them work out what was possible is very much in line.

But you also can't stress enough the urgency. You mentioned the potential of a Republican majority, that is the other thing that is driving this because Democrats are very realistic that headwinds don't look great for them going into 2022. And this might be their last shot to do something really big before the midterms completely take over and perhaps move their majorities away.

ROMANS: This is their moment, right? This is their moment with 50 senators, their very narrow mandate. Interesting about creature of the Senate, you're right. He let the Senate do its job. Not everything that he wanted from the get-go, but certainly some of these provisions, the American people can point to and say this lowered my costs.

Jackie Kucinich, thank you and nice to see you this morning.

Prisoner swap offer still on the table, but so far, crickets from the Kremlin.

And Democrats racing against the clock to get a deal done on gun safety.



ROMANS: All right. Sources say house Democrats are getting close to a deal on police funding and gun safety bills. They hope to pass them before they leave town for the August recess.

CNN's Daniella Diaz live on Capitol Hill for us this morning with more.

Daniella, what's the likelihood these bills get passed today?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: If Democrats can reach a deal on this, Christine, it is likely that they will pass it when they have votes today. But the Democrats could not agree on the language. Look, the problem being moderate Democrats wanted to pass these police funding bills to really counterattacks from Republicans especially ahead of this six week recess when they all go home and start campaigning for the 2022 midterms, but caucus members wanted language included in the police and gun safety bills that had police accountability so that they could go home to their districts and campaign on that.

These -- this package including, of course, an assaults weapons ban, which remember is likely to never be taken up by the senate, the importance of this, their messaging bills for the 2022 midterms but it appears, Christine, that they are nearing a deal, they were hoping to pass this before the August recess, and what we know is that congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Joyce Beatty actually met with Nancy Pelosi last night during the congressional baseball game and after to discuss this, moderate Democrats were also nearing a deal with the Congressional Black Caucus on this issue. The plan Democrats are hoping for is that when they meet today for a set of votes that they are able to pass the legislation so that they can go home and campaign on this.

But again, really want to emphasize that these are just messaging bills including that assault weapons bill legislation that is likely to pass the House. It will never be taken up by the Senate because there are just not enough Republicans to get that legislation over the finish line.