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Restrictive Abortion Law Takes Effect in Texas after Supreme Court Does Not Rule on Emergency Request to Block Law Pending Appeals; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Threatens Telecommunications Companies If They Comply with Requests from Commission on January 6th Insurrection for Communications of Rioters; Hurricane Ida Devastates Parts of Louisiana; Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) is Interviewed About the Afghanistan Withdrawal. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 01, 2021 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman. Brianna is off. CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins with me for hour three this morning.


BERMAN: This morning, the nation's most restrictive abortion law is in effect in Texas for now, at least. It is a near total ban on abortions and appears to put Roe versus Wade in serious jeopardy, perhaps around the country if other states follow suit. This could be the beginning of a seismic shift on abortion rights. So beyond outlawing abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before most women even know that they are pregnant, this law allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone else who helps facilitate a procedure after six weeks. They can sue for as much as $10,000. And by anyone, I mean you can sue the Lyft driver that takes a woman to get a procedure.

COLLINS: Which, of course, makes it much harder to challenge in court, obviously, which is by design. And so this is all happening because the U.S. Supreme Court failed to rule on an emergency request to block the law before it actually went into effect last night at midnight. The justices could still put this law on hold, but for right now as of 8:00 a.m. this morning they have not. And if your doctor finds a fetal heartbeat, you cannot get an abortion in Texas right now. And in this law there is no exception for rape or for incest, only medical emergencies.

CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue joins us know. Ariane, what can you tell us on whether or not you think the Supreme Court is going to weigh in, and why have they not weighed in on this emergency request to block this?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right. It's interesting, because, as you said, Roe v Wade is really in jeopardy with this new conservative court. And I want to say what the Supreme Court did or didn't do, but then stress also that important caveat. So as you said, this Texas law, among the most strict in the country, banning it at six weeks, and that's important because most people don't even know they're pregnant that early on. So the clinics rushed to the Supreme Court. They asked it to block it, freeze it pending appeal. It was set to go into effect last night at midnight, and the court didn't say anything. So it effectively allowed it to go into effect.

But what's key here is that those applications asking the court to put it on hold are still pending. So the Supreme Court could issue an order this morning or later on today, but the very fact that it allowed it to go into effect, that's a bad sign for supporters of abortion rights here. And I also wanted to stress what you were saying about why this law is different, because we've seen plenty of laws that have come before the courts since Roe. But those laws, you could hold a government official accountable. You could sue, say, Texas officials. This law was written differently with the express intent of making it hard to block because it allows private people to bring these civil suits against anyone who they think might be assisting the procedure. So that could be the provider, but it also could be someone who paid for the abortion. It could be someone who gave someone a ride to the clinic.

That's why this law is so important. And that's why it was so hard for the clinics to try to block it, to find somebody to sue before it went into effect.

And finally, the court hasn't overruled Roe v Wade here, but, boy, it has sent this strong message by not doing anything. And as things are this morning in Texas, it's very difficult to have any kind of abortion procedure performed. That's why the Supreme Court's inaction last night was so important.

BERMAN: Ariane, I think that's really worth noting and reiterating. By doing nothing they did something. They let stand a law. It doesn't overturn Roe versus Wade, because the court can do that, but it upends Roe versus Wade in Texas. It more or less makes it null. In Texas, at least as we sit here at 8:03 eastern time, 7:03 central time where Texas is, it doesn't exist, Roe versus Wade is not operable in Texas this morning based on this law because Roe versus Wade, of course, would say that a state can't get in the way of an abortion somewhere around 22 to 24 weeks based on that ruling and other legal precedent. That's out the door in Texas as of this minute.

DE VOGUE: And keep in mind that this conservative court with three of President Trump's nominees, this term is actually hearing a case, oral arguments, briefs, the whole nine yards on a Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks. So we're seeing the court not act here, allowing this one to go into effect, but then later in the term they are going to have this big dispute with oral arguments and an opinion by the end of the term.

BERMAN: If it goes another day or two or three without any action from the Supreme Court, it already speaks volumes this morning, but those volumes go even louder as the minutes and days tick on. Ariane, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Joining us now, CNN political commentator Ana Navarro and CNN Capitol

Hill reporter Melanie Zanona.


Ana, I want to go to you first. Again, we're waiting to see if the Supreme Court or other courts weigh in on this over the course of the day or the next few days. But as things stand now, this is a seismic shift in abortion starting in Texas. What do you think the larger implications are?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, from a political perspective, it kind of feels like the dog caught the bus, right. For so many decades, practically my entire adult life, there's been this political wedge issue that abortion has become. And there's always been this threat, but it's never actually been executed. It's never actually gone beyond being a threat.

I think the larger implications are that there's going to be a bunch of southern and conservative Republican led, Republican legislatures that do copycat laws now. We've seen, for example, on the COVID issue, where Greg Abbott in Texas, the governor there, and Ron DeSantis are almost in a contest as who can be more of an obstacle towards vaccinations and masking.

And I bring up COVID, John, because I think it's so ironic in some ways that for the last months I've been hearing a bunch of conservatives screaming and yelling, get your hands off my body. Don't tell me what medical decisions to make. My body, my freedom when it comes to things like wearing a mask, when it comes so things like getting a vaccine. But funny enough, when it comes to women deciding what they're going to do with their lives and their bodies, I guess that does not -- that freedom does not apply to women.

I'm also very concerned that, look, people in my generation, in Kaitlan's generation, we heard stories about women driving to Mexico, getting back alley abortions, the wire hangers. All those things for us are things we read in history books. I'm concerned that there will be women driving to Mexico to get back alley abortions or doing it in other ways. And so we're going to see how this plays out.

COLLINS: Yes, and obviously who this predominantly affects are low- income women, of course, who would have to travel, even though it's difficult to not travel out of the state but also to take the time off work.

Melanie, you cover Capitol Hill. What can you tell us about the effects we've clearly seen where the tilt of this court has gone after former President Trump got three people confirmed to the court, three justices now, and what does this look like, do you think, now that that has had -- whether or not that's had an impact on this?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Of course, the potential for Roe versus Wade to be overturned was one of the biggest concerns of abortion rights advocates with this new six-three conservative majority on the Supreme Court. And it's also important to note that the Supreme Court is going to rule at some point this year on a Mississippi law that would ban abortions at 15 weeks. So that could be definitely something to look for. That is a ruling that could actually come out at some point next year, which, of course, is a midterm election year. And this issue does tend to galvanize both sides of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. This is an issue that really galvanizes the base.

But look, politics aside, these are rulings that have enormous consequences. And even looking at what was done today, allowing this law in Texas to go in effect, clinics are going to have to start turning women away who are trying to seek abortions. This is one of the largest states in the nation. And it's one of the strictest abortion laws in the country. So just enormous consequence both politically and for people on the ground as well.

COLLINS: Both of you stay with us. We also want to talk about another story that's happening on Capitol Hill, that's House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who with a not so veiled threat to telecommunication companies that were asked to retain phone records by the committee investigating the January 6th attack. McCarthy is now saying in a statement that "If these companies comply with the Democrat order to turnover private information, they are in violation of a federal law," that we should note, he's not saying which law, "and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States." He says "If companies still choose to violate a federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law." Again, we should note, McCarthy's office has not told CNN which law it is that he's talking about. But Ana, let's get to you. What is your reaction to what McCarthy has said on this?

NAVARRO: I think it's crazy. Honestly, I can't believe he said it out loud. I can't believe he put it in writing, right. Look, Kevin McCarthy is probably on a first-name basis with every lobbyist for every telco company in the country. They are big donors, they're big donors in the political field because there's a lot of congressional regulation and oversight that happens with telco companies. And so for him to be threatening, to be blackmailing for a request from a duly empaneled committee in Congress he has been boycotting and sabotaging from day one, where he could have had appointments, would he have taken it seriously.


Look, I think it's Kevin McCarthy saying, I don't care. I think I'm above ethics, congressional ethics, and I think I'm above the law. So if there is a law that he thinks these telco companies are violating, show us which one it is, because no legal expert can come up with one.

BERMAN: Melanie, you covered Capitol Hill and you covered the January 6th committee. You're deeply sourced all over the place here. You know that there are several Republicans who are known to have communicated directly with the former president on January 6th and beforehand here. What do you see going on with this?

ZANONA: Including Kevin McCarthy, we should point out. His conversation with Trump that day has been of keen interest to the committee, even though he's not one of the lawmakers that CNN reported was in this initial batch of requests to preserve those documents.

Here's what I think the big picture is -- two things. Kevin McCarthy is clearly trying to show that this is going to be a bat many for access. The investigative committee is trying to hunt these things down, and it is not going to be easy necessarily for them to obtain documents. Donald Trump has also made clear that he's going to try to exert executive privilege and fight the investigative committee's work at every single turn. And this is a familiar battle for congressional Democrats who ran into similar walls when they were investigating and impeaching Donald Trump in the previous Congress.

And I think more broadly what is going on here with Kevin McCarthy is he's trying to preempt and get ahead of whatever might come out of the investigation. Republicans are trying to muddy the waters. As Ana mentioned, they are not on the committee anymore, so they are trying to use messaging at every turn that they can to try to essentially just get out ahead of what might be coming out of this, knowing full well that them, Donald Trump, and some of their colleagues may be ensnared in this probe and whatever comes out of it.

COLLINS: And we also have --

NAVARRO: -- because we do have Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney on that committee. So there is Republican representation. But I think the overreaching question for any, any commonsense American has got to be, what does this guy have to hide? What is he so afraid of that he's got to go to such measures and has been doing absolutely everything to be an obstacle to this January 6th commission that, frankly, every democracy believing, democracy supporting American should be interested in we knowing the absolute truth and who was behind the January 6th attacks that cost so much -- that had such a huge cost to our democracy, to our police, to our law enforcement. If you are the law enforcement party, if blue lives matter, what are you doing in showing these mafioso type threats of blackmail to private companies to impede an investigation? It just makes no sense.

BERMAN: Ana Navarro, Melanie Zanona, thanks so much for being with us today.

ZANONA: Thank you.

COLLINS: Louisiana communities battered by hurricane Ida are now facing the possibility of going weeks without power in the sweltering summer heat. Ida ravaged the power grid, leaving more than a million customers without power. The entire city of New Orleans is dark, but officials are hoping to get at least some of that power restored to the city today.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is live in New Orleans where there currently is no power for most of the city. Gary, what are you seeing and what are you hearing from officials as of this morning?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, we don't know when the power is going to come back to New Orleans, but there are bigger problems about 100 miles south of us in the town of Grand Isle. It sits on a barrier island in the southernmost tip of the state. It was cut off from Louisiana when hurricane Ida came through. We were able to get there on the ground, and what we saw is not good.


TUCHMAN: When you get your first look at the town of Grand Isle which sits in a barrier island on the southern tip of Louisiana, you gasp. Utter devastation. Colorful gulf side homes destroyed, vehicles still under flood waters. Most importantly, though, there are no known deaths or injuries here, which is clear evidence how seriously evacuation orders were taken.

Grand Isle is a peaceful, beautiful place, and that's why it's so emotionally wrenching right now to see it decimated like this. It's small, between 700 and 800 people live here year-round. Most of the residents here are in the fishing industry or the oil industry. Yes, there was lots of damage during Katrina 16 years ago, but remember the eye of Katrina passed over Mississippi. This eye passed over Louisiana.

Only a few miles to the west of this ferry town, Ricky (ph) Polke (ph) built this home with his family when he was 19 years old. He is now 58. He and his family evacuated, and he feared what he would find when he came back. His worst fears now realized.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With Katrina, we lost our front porches and steps, but the house was intact, roof was intact, everything was intact.

TUCHMAN: His house, now like so many other homes, unlivable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm trying to get a few things. My wife wanted me to get some wedding video and stuff from our wedding and trying to find that right now.

TUCHMAN: I'm so sorry for you guys.


TUCMAN: How are you coping with this right now? Is it disbelief?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We trust the lord and, you know, he gives and he takes away, so --

TUCHMAN: Ricky says he doesn't plan to rebuild. After almost four decades living here, he and his wife will move to Kentucky where they have family. Most residents have not come back here. They will face similar decisions to rebuild or not to rebuild on this wonderful but very vulnerable barrier island.


TUCHMAN (on camera): Before we said good-bye to Rick, he came up to me and he was holding a bible and he said, this bible had been in his family since 1873 and he found it. The nearly 150-year-old bible was soaking wet but he was so grateful that it wasn't missing or wasn't destroyed -- Kaitlan and John. COLLINS: It's so sad, Gary, to see people hanging on to literally anything they can find in these moments. As officials say Grand Isles say, Grind Island, is unhabitable after the damage that Ida did. Thank you, Gary, for joining us this morning.

BERMAN: We have some new video in which gives a sense, I think, of the power of this hurricane. What you are seeing there, your eyes are not deceiving you, is a cow stuck into a tree, right. This is Saint Bernard Parish where employees were trying to do what they could to get this cow out of the tree. Obviously it was swept in by the flood waters.

It just, A, shows the strength of the storm and how high the water was. I think also in some places, cows and trees is a sign of the apocalypse.

COLLINS: It's heartbreaking. Cows and horses, to see this, these are animals that normally are really good at weathering storms. It's just a sad image of what they're dealing with. They're literally using a saw to try to get this cow out of a tree is just a sign of what people in Louisiana and now Mississippi and Alabama down south are dealing with as they are trying to overcome the aftermath of this storm.

As Gary was just showing there, it could be people's homes where they are clinging to a soaking wet bible as the only thing they have left to these community members trying to do everything that they can.

BERMAN: I mean, the answer to the question is how do you get a cow out of a tree, is very carefully, which is what they were doing.

COLLINS: Yeah, you don't want that thing to kick you.

BERMAN: One of the rescuers did say they were able to get the cow out. Have you ever seen anything like that? I've never seen a cow stuck in a tree.

COLLINS: I've never seen a cow stuck in a tree.

BERMAN: There you go.

COLLINS: Up next we are going to talk about the fallout over President Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal putting Democrats in a tough spot. A House Democrat and combat veteran is going to join us next.

BERMAN: Plus, school members who would rather quit than deal with parent outrage over masks.

The controversy that has now cost Mike Richards his job, all the jobs he ever had at "Jeopardy". The national story with global impacts, we're going to talk about what this all means and there's only one man who could put it in perspective, and that's Don Lemon. He'll be here.


[08:22:25] COLLINS: President Biden is defending the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and calling the evacuation a, quote, extraordinary success. Some House and Senate Democrats are distancing themselves from the president's handling of it, though, as the GOP plans to make it a major issue in the 2022 midterms.

Joining us now to discuss is Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado. He is a former army ranger who served two tours in Afghanistan and is a key member on both the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committee.

So, we know, Congressman, that House Republicans are expected to use that markup of the federal defense spending bill today to debate Biden's Afghanistan policy. What are you expecting from them?

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Well, good morning, Kaitlan. First of all, I think we should take a moment to say we woke up this morning and the war in Afghanistan is over. After 20 years and countless lives, hundreds of thousands of Americans served, we wake up this morning and the war in Afghanistan is over. That is an astonishing accomplishment by the president.

He said he was going to do this and he did it. He kept his word, and many other presidents weren't willing to do that.

Now, sitting here today, we're going to go into this National Defense Authorization Act, defense budget markup, and there is going to be an awful lot of people proposing amendments for political reasons, who are going to be playing politics about this war, Monday morning quarterbacking it. I can tell you I really wish a lot of people paid attention to this war over the last 20 years, had a lot of these politicians done that, maybe we wouldn't be sitting here 20 years later having spent $2 trillion, 2,400 American lives.

So, I think we have to be very careful about folks who suddenly show an interest in this who haven't for many years.

COLLINS: Yeah, I remember a lot of those Republicans being very quiet when former President Trump was inviting the Taliban to Camp David to negotiate. We should note a summit he later called off.

But, Congressman, you heard the president's speech yesterday talking about this very defiant and defending his withdrawal overall. But he also called the exit a, quote, extraordinary success. Would you agree with that?

CROW: Well, you know, several things can be true here. The American people, I know, are sophisticated enough to understand we can look at the fact that we airlifted 124,000 people out in a little over two weeks, really the most extraordinary airlift in American history. That is true. We saved 120 plus thousand lives and these are Americans, these are Afghans, and these are allied individuals and citizens as well.

That is extraordinary. I think we should all praise our department of defense, our soldiers who had had great personal risk. [08:25:02]

And we saw this last week we lost 13 of our best and brightest perform this mission. At the time, we can also have concerns of how we got to this point, and some of the images we saw of Afghans climbing aboard C-17s I'm concerned deeply about, and I'm going to be asking questions as a member of Congress, because I'm a member of Congress. I have an independent obligation to ask questions and to push people on behalf of my constituents and the American people not to be a rubber stamp of any administration whether Republican or Democrat. That's what I'm intending to do.

COLLINS: And I imagine some questions you can have about those 100 or 200 Americans still in Afghanistan that the Pentagon says do want to come home. Have you heard a plan about getting them home and getting them home soon potentially?

CROW: Well, I've heard the out lines of plan, but I'm not sure we have a full plan in place. I'm going to be pushing the administration to present that action, joining with several of my colleagues to send a letter recommending that certain steps be taken.

And it's no secret that I've been pushing the administration for weeks to extend the august 31st deadline. I thought it was important we extended that deadline because I knew we weren't going to be able to get everybody out. You know, the president is the commander in chief. He had to balance multiple things and risks. He made the decision to pull out on a deadline, now we have to focus on what we do to go forward and get the remaining American citizens out and our Afghan partners, and that's the task before us.

I'm going to be working with all my colleagues in Congress in a full effort to make that happen.

COLLINS: And just quickly, is that a letter that you plan to send to the administration today?

CROW: We're going to probably send it today or tomorrow. It's going to be in the next couple of days. We're trying to gather additional supporters for it. We're relying on our group, our working group, working on this issue many months, evacuation issue. And going all the way back to April, we've been pounding the drum, started evacuation. So, that's going to continue as long as it needs to continue so long as we have American citizens and Afghan partners in that country, we're going to be working this issue.

COLLINS: And, Congressman, one quick question before we go. Last night, the Chief of Staff Ron Klain said they don't plan to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government any time soon. He doesn't know if they ever will. Do you think they should recognize the Taliban as a legitimate form of government in Afghanistan?

CROW: What I think is we need to be careful about what we do and don't do with the Taliban right now. As long as we have American citizens in Afghan and partners in that country, these folks are at tremendous risk right now. The focus needs to be getting them out. We get them out, we get them to safety, and the reality is it's just true that we're going to have to rely on the Taliban to some extent to allow safe passage for those American citizens to get to the airport, to get to the border to get out of the country.

That is just the reality. We can't do that successfully without some level of coordination. So I think we get our folks out, then we can have the larger conversation about how we're going to engage in the future if at all with the Taliban.

COLLINS: It's a big question. Congressman Jason Crow, thank you for joining us this morning.

CROW: Thank you.

COLLINS: Up next, how ugly mask battles -- ugly battles over mask mandates, I should say, are making some school board members quit.

BERMAN: And the NFL head coach said the why part out loud about COVID vaccines and cutting players.