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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Kentucky Flooding Deaths Rise to 28 As More Rain Still Yet to Be Forecasted; McKinney Fire in California Burns 52k-Plus Acres; Pelosi Begins Asia Trip in Singapore As China Keenly Watches for a Taiwan Stop. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 01, 2022 - 05:00   ET



ERICA HILL, ANCHOR, EARLY START: Good Monday morning, start to a new week and a new month, it's August 1st, 5:00 a.m. here in New York, thanks for getting an early start with us, I'm Erica Hill. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. "We're going to be finding bodies for weeks".

That is the sobering assessment from the governor of Kentucky as the death toll from last week's flooding in the state rises to 28. Rescue teams though still searching for victims in hard-to-reach areas, so that number is expected to rise. This as the region is also bracing for more rain, a flood watch is in effect through the morning for parts of southern and eastern Kentucky.

The devastation here is widespread. Those floodwaters -- you see some of the devastation there, but the floodwaters just lifting homes right off their foundations, washing them away. The governor and the people of eastern Kentucky just reeling from the sheer scope of this tragedy.


ZACH HALL, KNOTT COUNTY, KENTUCKY RESIDENT: A lot of people are still trapped up in there, going on three days now, no food, no water. I take what I can, and the ATVs, there's a lot of other people who are doing the same thing.

JOE CRESS, FLOOD VICTIM: Our house is gone. They just washed away. I mean, people -- I mean, we don't even know how many are missing at this point.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): We know that there are bodies that we are still processing. And when you see the devastation of this flooding that have carried houses hundreds of yards, if not more, we know we'll still be finding people sadly in the days to come.


HILL: As he mentioned, still some concerns about the forecast. Let's get the latest forecast for the region. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has that -- Javaheri has that for us this morning. Any relief in sight? PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST: You know, Erica, it looks like on

Tuesday we get some relief here, and unfortunately, later this afternoon, thunderstorms could develop along this region.

So we're going to watch this here for the rainfall amounts, because we know a significant amount have already come down in the span of a couple of days, of course, 10-plus inches across St. Louis about a week ago, and of course, you work your way towards eastern Kentucky and other 10 inches coming down on Thursday morning.

And any additional rainfall across this region becomes problematic, because we know the water table has already risen, the unsaturated ground now is fully saturated. So any additional rainfall essentially becomes surface flooding, and that's the concern here, because some of these models are showing maybe 1, maybe 2 inches of rainfall later this afternoon around eastern Kentucky.

Now, the levels of concern here as we go over in the next 24 or so hours in the marginal to slight risks. So again, any additional rainfall is going to be problematic. Now, opposite end of the scale, record heat still taking place across the Pacific northwest, Seattle, how about a 95 degree afternoon, we had six consecutive days ending yesterday afternoon where Seattle pushed up above 90 degrees.

That has never happened in recorded history. All of that heat now shifting a little further towards the east, of course, fire weather concerns across this region as well. Northern California, the McKinney Fire has over 50,000 acres consumed, no containment on this fire right now. But look at this, a very rare set up to see rainfall and quite a bit of it here over the next 24 hours right over the fire region.

So if we see this play out here, as the module suggests, certainly beneficial rainfall across that region of the U.S., and Erica, will leave you with this, temperatures in Denver, upper 90s, Portland makes it to about 90 degrees and St. Louis, highs there around 96.

HILL: Still a lot of red on that map. Pedram --


HILL: Thank you. Let's talk a little bit more about that fast- spreading McKinney Fire which Pedram was just talking about. It's burned more than 52,000 acres now in northern California. And as you just heard, officials say it's 0 percent contained at this point. The fire began on Friday in Siskiyou County, that's near the California- Oregon state line. Governor Gavin Newsom declaring a state of emergency for the county.

The fire has destroyed homes, it's also threatened critical infrastructure and has forced thousands to flee.


RODGER DERRY, KLAMATH RIVER, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: I watched it from my bedroom. I watched everything come. It was headed right straight towards our property. That's when all those houses I showed you on the way here all burned. To have a little township of 105 people, and you burn the 10 miles of the river township to the ground, and that's where we're at now.


HILL: The cause of that massive fire still under investigation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation are visiting Singapore today. This is the first stop on the Asia tour, which also includes South Korea, Malaysia and Japan. It is not clear whether Taiwan is on the itinerary. China has of course, warned against a congressional visit to the island. CNN's Selina Wang joining us now live from Beijing this morning. Selina, good morning.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Erica, good to be with you. Now, even though Taiwan is not on the official itinerary, that doesn't mean that Pelosi won't go to Taiwan. What this could mean, it could be a way to show the unofficial nature of the visit, that could help the anger in Beijing from escalating, by not putting Taiwan on the same status as those independent countries listed that she will be traveling to.

But for now, even the possibility of the visit is sending Beijing into a fury. We're going to hear these threats from officials, saying that they will take resolute and powerful action. China's military has also said that it will not, quote, "sit idly by if Pelosi takes this trip to Taiwan." Also, we have seen a recent show of force from china's military. This is coinciding with this potential visit from Pelosi as well as China's military anniversary.

There have been recent military drills around the East China and the Yellow Seas. Also just over the weekend, there was a military drill on Pingtan Island, which is China's closest point to Taiwan, just over 77 miles away. Now, from Beijing's perspective, a trip to Taiwan by one of America's most powerful politicians is essentially tacit support for Taiwan's independence, which is a clear red line for Beijing, and all of this also comes at a time when Chinese leader Xi Jinping cannot afford to look weak.

We are just months away from a key political meeting when he's expected to seek an unprecedented third term. That raises concerns about China overreacting and showing some sort of military force that could spark an escalation. But on the other hand, I've spoken to a lot of experts who say, look, all of this coming from Beijing is just tough language.

They do not actually want any sort of military escalation any more than the U.S. does. But even though, most experts do not believe China would take direct hostile action, the concern is that, with all the military assets in the region, there could be a miscalculation or an accident that could spiral into actual conflict. Erica?

HILL: And we will be watching all of it, Selina, appreciate it, thank you. Just ahead here, the one Democratic senator who could transform Joe Biden's presidency this week with a single vote. Plus, the Senate is ready to try it one more time to help veterans sickened by burn pits. And two people got on the plane, only one of them was still on board when it landed.



HILL: Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer says he plans another vote on the so-called Burn Pit bill today. That would offer more medical coverage for millions of veterans exposed to toxic smoke during their military service. Twenty five Republican senators however did an-about face last week, withdrawing their support for the bill. Why? Well, they say Democrats tried to sneak in some unrelated spending.

The head of the VA pushed back on that claim, and said the GOP's alternative is unacceptable.


DENIS MCDONOUGH, SECRETARY, U.S. VETERANS AFFAIRS: The fund is in the bill so that we can ensure, as you suggested, that all the spending for this program is for the veterans exposed to these toxins. And so he says it won't impact our programming. In good conscience, I don't see that to be the case.

In fact, he puts a year-on-year cap on what we spend, and then, at the end of 10 years, the fund goes away under his amendment. So the impact of that would be if we -- if his estimations are wrong about what we'll spend in any given year, that means that we may have to ration care for veterans.


HILL: Let's bring in CNN political analyst, Jackie Kucinich. Jackie, good to see you. Dark and early as we say this morning --


HILL: So, give us a sense, what really changed between June and now for these 25 Republicans?

KUCINICH: Well, for these 25 Republicans, it really isn't clear. I mean, what they're saying is that it's this -- what Pat Toomey was saying yesterday that it's the mandatory spending versus going through the appropriations process. Now Pat Toomey has been saying this since June, like he's one of the 18 Republicans who voted against this.

These other 25 Republicans, they're having a harder time explaining this. This is a tough political fix they've put themselves in. Whether or not it has to do with what some Democrats are saying, that they were upset about the Manchin deal because of the timing of all of this, no one is actually saying that on the Republican side, clearly.

But no matter what, this is not a great look for these 25 Republicans. We know there's going to be another vote on this week, perhaps later today. And I think that politically, the question we don't know is how long this is going to take to pass, and whether veterans really do, you know, decide to dig in and punish these politicians for this.

Because they're the ones that are on the clock. They're the ones that are being sickened. So that remains to be seen of how -- whether they're going to forget this or not.

HILL: They're the ones who need care now, not in-fighting --

KUCINICH: Exactly --

HILL: In Washington. You mentioned the Schumer-Manchin deal that was put together here. Really now, all of the focus is on Kyrsten Sinema. The will she won't, she vote for this --


HILL: Is there anything that stands out to you in this bill that is perhaps a red flag for her? Something that she may push back on?

KUCINICH: Some of the -- some of the tax provisions that she has expressed concern about in the past. But listen, she is someone that is still reviewing the bill as her press secretary has said many times at this point. And that the interesting thing with the Manchin tour de force yesterday on all the Sunday shows, is how there was this audience of one sort of, but not talking about Trump this time.

Talking about Senator Sinema aspect to his pitch, talking about, you know, really laying out -- think about how even though she wasn't in the room with him and Schumer, who really, the only two negotiating this, she had enormous influence over it on things like prescription drugs and some of the things that she and Manchin worked on before this deal came together.


So I imagine that pitch is probably going on behind the scenes as well, through intermediaries or who knows, maybe between senator and senator. But no matter what, all eyes on Senator Sinema this week because she really does hold the keys to whether or not this gets done.

HILL: Yes, that's for sure. You know, the other thing that I found fascinating about Joe Manchin's media blitz yesterday on the Sunday shows was when he was pressed, he didn't actually say he wants Democrats to win.

KUCINICH: Yes, you know, Joe Manchin is this -- he's someone that has endorsed Republicans. He currently -- he endorsed Lisa Murkowski for her re-election bid. He really does try to stake out and you know, live this centrist life. I'm sure Democrats don't really appreciate that in a year where it is so extremely tough to keep their majority.

And he's -- but he's in a unique position that unless Republicans have enormous majorities, he's going to remain pretty important no matter what.

HILL: Yes, that's for sure. Jackie Kucinich, always good to see you. Thank you.

KUCINICH: All right, Erica, thanks.

HILL: Two major U.S. cities declaring a public health emergency over monkeypox. What that could change. Plus a handcuffed woman falls out of a deputy's car as it's moving, and her family wants answers.



HILL: The family of a Georgia woman is demanding answers after newly released body-cam video show the woman falling out of a moving sheriff's vehicle while handcuffed last month. That woman Brianna Grier died from injuries sustained in that fall. Here's CNN's Nadia Romero.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Twenty eight- year-old Brianna Grier was experiencing a mental health episode on July 15th her family says, when her mother called 9-1-1 for assistance.

(voice-over): The family had made similar calls before, and they say, normally, an ambulance would come. But this time, it was Hancock County sheriff's deputies.

MARVIN GRIER, FATHER OF BRIANNA GRIER: Brianna was having an episode, and we called 9-1-1 for assistance, to get our daughter some help. But if we knew what we know now, we wouldn't have called them. She wouldn't be -- and we would be with -- what was going on with her alone as she would have been here.

ROMERO: The family's attorney, civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump said that Hancock County sheriff's deputies came into the home, handcuffed Grier, placed her in the back of a patrol car to take her into custody for allegedly resisting arrest.

(on camera): And newly released body-cam video by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, you can hear Grier tell police repeatedly that she is not drunk, and that she would hang herself if they put her in the police car. Sheriff's deputies then lift up Grier and put her into the back of the patrol car.

The body-cam video fails to show if officers opened, closed, or had any interaction with the rear passenger side door. You're about to see video of Grier and sheriff's deputies, and we want to warn you, this video is disturbing.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get her side closed.


ROMERO (voice-over): Off camera, you hear one of the officers ask if the door on the other side is closed, to which the other officer replies, yes. Sheriff's deputies left the scene and drove a short distance before Grier fell out of the moving car, according to the statement from the GBI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, she jumped out of the car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: F-B-U-S(ph), a subject jumped out of the vehicle.

ROMERO: The video ends with Grier on the ground while police wait for paramedics. GBI investigators included Wednesday, that the rear passenger side of the patrol car near where Grier was sitting was never closed according to a news release.

Grier's family and attorney Ben Crump allege the deputies didn't secure Grier in a seat belt when she was handcuffed in the back of a police car, and as a result, when the car started moving, she somehow fell out of car, landed on her head, cracked her skull and then went into a coma for six days before dying because of her injuries.

GRIER: We want answers. We need answers. We want to know the truth. We want to know, how did she get out of the car for her to be not here no more.

ROMERO (on camera): CNN has reached out to the Hancock County Sheriff's Department for comment, but they have not yet responded. Nadia Romero, CNN, Atlanta.


HILL: Well, federal officials are investigating an incident involving a man who exited a plane in mid-air in North Carolina and died. The twin engine plane made an emergency landing on a grass at Raleigh- Durham Airport, Friday. Only the pilot was on board at that point.

The plane was carrying two people when it took off. The body of 23- year-old Charles Crooks believed to be the co-pilot was recovered. Officials say it is not clear at this point if he jumped or fell from the plane. Video appears to show the remnants of a 23-ton Chinese rocket burning up in the atmosphere as it hurdles uncontrollably back to earth.





HILL: According to U.S. Space Command, the rocket booster re-entered the earth's atmosphere over the Indian Ocean on Sunday. Now, it was in orbit for less than a week after delivering a new module to China's space station. NASA officials are blasting China's space agency for failing to share critical data about its trajectory.


President Biden testing positive again. What doctors now say about rebound COVID cases. And a lottery jackpot worth over a billion dollars still unclaimed. .


HILL: President Biden once again isolating at the White House after testing positive for a rebound case of COVID. The White House physician says the president, quote, "continues to feel well, but is still testing positive." CNN's Jasmine Wright is live in our Washington Bureau. So what else are we hearing from the president's doctor?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, well, Dr. Kevin O'Connor is saying that the president is being very careful.