Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Death Toll Soars, Nearly 2,000 Rescued as Search Intensifies; The Four Ways Russia Could Use Nukes and Likely U.S. Responses; New Polls Show Crime is Overtaking Abortion as a Midterm Driver. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired October 04, 2022 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New Day continues right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Nearly a week after Hurricane Ian decimated communities in Florida, the search for survivors grows more desperate by the minute.

It is Tuesday, October 4th, and I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman.

There are at least 101 storm-related deaths so far in Florida. The majority of the victims are in Lee County, where officials are now facing questions about whether evacuation orders should have been issued earlier. This morning, Fort Myers Beach is closed entirely, even for residents there. Officials say power could be out in that area for a month. Other areas that got worst of Ian are unlivable, the scenes, apocalyptic.

BERMAN: Responders have been working by boat and aircraft. There have been nearly 2,000 rescues in Southwest and Central Florida since last week when Hurricane Ian hit the state. This morning, the number of customers without power is now below half a million in Florida. President Biden travels to Florida tomorrow for a firsthand look at the devastation.

CNN's Randi Kaye is live this morning in Fort Myers Beach. Randi?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, John, I know you've seen Fort Myers Beach from the air, but seeing it on the ground firsthand is certainly like nothing I have ever seen before. There were stairways to anywhere because homes were literally blown out off their foundations. There were homes on top of homes. And as you said, Fort Myers Beach is still closed to residents, but we got a firsthand look up close with a search and rescue team out of Miami, Florida, and here wrap we saw.


KAYE (voice over): This is our first look from the ground at Fort Myers Beach. Hurricane Ian's winds combined with storm surge chewed through homes and businesses, sparing nothing in its path. JENNIFER BROWN, FLORIDA TASK FORCE 2: Massive devastation, something somewhat used to -- my first deployment actually Hurricane Katrina. So, I've a lot of hurricanes over the years and certainly this is a big, big disaster.

KAYE: Jennifer Brown is a canine search specialist with Florida Task Force 2. Her dogs, Fierce and Fame, are searching for human remains here on Fort Myers Beach. They've worked dozens of missions since Florida's Task Force 2 first arrived at Fort Myers Beach as the storm was still pounding this community.

BROWN: It was a good day, you know? I mean, again, it's like -- you know, you don't want to leave anybody behind. That's what we're here for, but then on the other hand, we didn't find anybody else. It's a good thing.

KAYE: A team of 80 from this task force has been busy crisscrossing a seven-mile stretch on the beach, working 24/7 going house-to-house in search of survivors.

RYAN HUNTINGTON, FLORIDA TASK FORCE 2: We found a lot of residents who are still sheltering in place, need info, need some help just getting outside or just where to get water, ice, food. And even just giving that information to them was a huge help for them.

KAYE: It's no easy task given the scene here. Homes crumbled, smashed and stacked on top of others, businesses blown to pieces.

This building used to be over there across the street. It was moved by the sheer power of the wind and water.

CAPTAIN IGGY CARROLL JR., MIAMI FIRE RESCUE: We had about 60 medical calls, medical emergencies that we responded to with two people who actually went into cardiac arrest, stopped breathing, and search and rescue personnel ended up performing CPR, able to get a pulse back and get them transported to a local hospital.

KAYE: The team rescued this elderly couple who were trapped in their home. The storm had washed away the entire ground floor of their two- storey house.

This is just one area of Fort Myers Beach where you can really see the destruction. Nothing is where it belonged. This laundry machine came from that Laundromat or what's left of that Laundromat over there. And in this whole area here, these were homes. But now, those homes are over there. And just look at that level of destruction. They're up against the other homes but they are shredded, crumpled, there is nothing left with them.

This woman was rescued today. She has cancer and rode out the storm so she could continue her treatments nearby.

CATHERINE BATZ, SURVIVED HURRICANE IAN: It was rushing. It was like 30 miles per hour. It was pulling houses, roofs apart, literally. You could see them float by. We were sitting up in my bedroom watching all of this debris go by. KAYE: There's no power or water in this area, so anyone still at the beach a completely cut off from services. The search and rescue team has been using high-water vehicles and front loaders to navigate through the debris as they continue to search for anyone trapped in rubble. Task Force 2 has found human remains but did not say how many bodies they've recovered.


Bob and Rose Mary Kopsack are some of the lucky ones. They lost everything inside their home but were rescued today.

BOB KOPSACK, SURVIVED HURRICANE IAN: Our best friend, we have not been able to contact him. He's 92. And he said he's not leaving the island, and I hope he did. He phone is out and so on. I sent the police over to his home.

KAYE: You haven't been able to reach him?


KAYE: So many people, it seems, still unaccounted for, leaving friends and loved ones to wonder if they made it out.


KAYE (on camera): And this is this task force's team third pass through this area, John, and they are still finding survivors, which is good news. But they do tell me that the first 48 hours are really critical. And in that time period, they found 150 people trapped inside their homes. They had gone up to the attics in some cases to avoid that rising floodwater. So, they did find that many people in just the first 48 hours.

Of course, the mayor is now saying that it's unclear how many people may still be unaccounted for, but these task force teams, these search teams will continue search and rescue for as long as it takes, they say. John?

BERMAN: Randi, the pictures and the stories that you're sending back and the force, the force of the water, what it would take to move those houses, the distance that you're showing it, it really is remarkable and terrifying. Thank you so much for your work down there.

KEILAR: This morning, there are new reports saying migrants in New York are being recruited to Florida to help with cleanup in the wake of Hurricane Ian with little information about who they will work for.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has the story. Polo, do we have any idea who is behind this?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, good morning. By many accounts, it seems they're demolition subcontractors. They're the ones that are actively recruiting these recently arrived asylum- seekers, not just here in New York City but throughout other parts of the country as well, offering paid jobs to travel to Florida and take part in cleanup and recovery efforts. So, it seems to be that there's no official component to all of this.

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to speak to a Venezuelan migrant who traveled here to New York City and then just recently to Florida. He says, obviously, a chance and an opportunity to support his family was the key draw but also a chance to get active again, to get to work again. You see like many other migrants whose job, work authorization applications are basically stuck in a backlog, they have been sitting by idly by waiting for a chance to get to work. And so now, what's interesting here, Brianna, is that you now have Hurricane Ian providing some work opportunities for these migrants in Florida albeit off the books and that, as we know, comes with some risks.

KEILAR: Is this a common thing in the case of disasters like this?

SANDOVAL: We've seen it before. And so common that the new immigrant committee empowerment group here in New York City, which basically works to prevent worker exploitation is dusting off the recommendations from last year when they handed out these recommendations to migrant workers in New York who were participating in cleanup after Ida, basically saying that if they do take up these job opportunities on their own, that they do so very cautiously with the PPE that they need given that disaster zone that our colleague just showed us, but also with the knowledge they need to prevent them from being exploited.

So, yes, it's certainly not new that migrant workers are taking up cleanup job opportunities in a disaster zone, but what certainly is unique and some would say even ironic is that many of them are traveling to Florida to take part in cleanup efforts in a state where a Republican governor made very clear where he stands on the issue of immigration and used migrants to try to score political points with these flights to Martha's Vineyards a couple of weeks ago.

By the way, we did reach out to Governor Ron DeSantis' office for comment. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. We'll see if we can get anything there. Polo, thank you for the report.

SANDOVAL: You bet.

BERMAN: New accusations that former President Trump pushed one of his lawyers to say there were not anymore presidential records at Mar-a- Lago even though that wasn't true. Multiple sources tell CNN that Trump asked Attorney Alex Cannon to speak with the National Archives. Trump had just sent the agency 15 boxes of presidential records and he wanted Cannon to say that was everything. But Cannon declined because CNN has told he was based in New York and he wasn't sure it was true.

With me now, CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rogers, she's former federal prosecutor and lecturer in law at Columbian Law School.

So, Trump asked this lawyer, Alex Cannon, to tell the archives, we've sent you everything. The lawyer says, I can't do that. The legal significance here? JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, smart move on the part of that lawyer, for sure. The legal significance is that Trump is also reported to have packed the boxes himself, right? So, he knows and he intends that the documents that are going to the National Archives are not everything, and he knows what else is there.

The other significance, of course, is that this lawyer, because he declined, there has to be a reason for that. So, if I'm the investigators at DOJ, now I have another potential witness in Alex Cannon, who was likely to be able to fill in some gaps about exactly what the president knew and what time.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, The Washington Post is reporting that Donald Trump packed his own boxes.


CNN can't confirm that. What we have been told is not totally clear who packed them, be that as it may, Alex Cannon as a possible witness, Alex Cannon is an attorney. So, how hard would it be for justice to go to this attorney and say, hey, why wouldn't you say to the archives X, Y and Z?

RODGERS: Yes. Well, they're looking at talking to a lot of attorneys, I think. I mean, you have Pat Cipollone, Pat Philbin, you have Christina Bobb, you have all of these folks who are now going to be in the sights of DOJ, some with potentially criminal conduct but mostly as witnesses. So, it complicates matter, right? There's attorney- client privilege there and this is exactly the sort of thing attorney- client privilege normally protects communications between the lawyer and the client.

But here, you also have the crime fraud exception, and it's really a textbook case of this, because, at least as reported, the client is saying to the lawyer, hey, you know, I want you to help me do something that really is a crime, right, hiding these documents from the National Archives. The lawyer says, no way. That's going to be a case where, admittedly after some litigation, the court is going to say, crime fraud exception, those communications can come out.

BERMAN: A lot of this ultimately will get back to mens rea, what Trump knew. If Trump knew it wasn't everything when he asked this lawyer to tell the archives it was everything, that could be a real problem.

RODGERS: Well, we already know there are three statutes that are being investigated. There are additional statutes DOJ did not name in the search warrant that deal specifically with classified documents. All of them require mens rea, as you said. So, all of these pieces of evidence that demonstrate that the former president knew exactly what he had specifically held it back and then lied about it are going to be really crucial.

BERMAN: Yes, obstruction. You can see obstruction coming in at a greater focus here potentially as well. Jennifer Rodgers, Counselor, thanks so much for being with us. RODGERS: Thanks.

KEILAR: This morning, tensions are high between the U.S. and Iran. President Biden saying that he's gravely concerned over Tehran's violent crackdown on protesters who are reportedly being shot, beaten, detained and arrested. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets nationwide. They've been spurred by the death of a young woman who was in police custody for not wearing a headscarf.

CNN's Arlette Saenz joins us live from the White House. Arlette, what is the president saying?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, President Biden once again expresses concern over these violent crackdowns that are being seen against those peaceful protesters in Iran. And he expressed some solidarity with the Iranian people. The president, in a statement, said, quote, for decades, Iran's regime has denied fundamental freedoms to its people and suppressed the aspirations of successive to generations through intimidation, coercion and violence. The United States stands with Iranian women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their bravery.

The White House has been watching these developing protests over the course of the past few weeks since the death of Mahsa Amini very closely and the president, once again, speaking out about it in that statement yesterday.

BERMAN: Arlette, speaking and watching, would you expect anything else?

SAENZ: Well, President Biden in that statement also said that he -- that the U.S. is planning to impose further costs on the perpetrators of violence against those peaceful protesters. The question is what those costs might look like. So far, the U.S. in the last week-and-a- half sanctioned the morality police. Mahsa Amini had died in the custody of morality police. The U.S. has also taken some steps to allow tech firms to try to help Iranians access information online in the midst of those internet crackdowns.

But one big question going forward is what these further costs will look like. Will there be more sanctions? Will there more aid directly to the Iranian people? The president is saying that those further actions will be taken this week.

BERMAN: Arlette Saenz at the White House, Arlette, thank you very much.

KEILAR: There is growing concern over the rhetoric coming out of Moscow here in recent days, specifically references to the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons in its war on Ukraine. That has some experts considering exactly how Russia might use its nuclear arsenal and what the response from the U.S. and NATO might be.

My next guest wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post titled Putin says his nuclear threat is no bluff, we should take him at his word. Joseph Cirincione joins me now. He is the former president of Plowshares Fund. He is also the author of the book, Nuclear Nightmares, which, Joe, it's appropriate, because that's what -- we're going to walk through this. You talk about four different ways that Russia could use nuclear weapons and how the U.S. and NATO would respond. I want to walk through those.

The first one you mentioned is what's called the demonstration shock, one option for Russia to fire a nuclear weapon over an uninhabited area. Tell us about this.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, AUTHOR, NUCLEAR NIGHTMARES: Right. There's these military doctrine in Russian writings about this. The point would be to demonstrate the seriousness of the conflict for Russia and to try to intimidate the adversary, in this case Ukraine or NATO, to back off, to stand down. The idea is this would be such a shock that it would cause the opposing troops to stop their battle and maybe even consider surrendering before other nuclear weapons were used.


KEILAR: You say it would be a shock. There hasn't been a nuclear weapon used in combat in 77 years, you point out. At the same time, you say it wouldn't be shocking enough and that's why it's less likely that Russia would choose this option.

CIRINCIONE: Right, even though we haven't even seen an above ground nuclear explosion since the last test was done in 1980 and the whole world would stop if this weapon went off. That's all we'd be talking about at that point. There wouldn't be any damage. There wouldn't be any casualties. So, it might not be shocking enough, which is why I think Putin would reject that option and move to a direct military strike.

KEILAR: Sort of says, hey, we have this and we can use it, but we already know that about Vladimir Putin.

Next, you talk about the low-yield weapon. Russia could fire a low- yield nuclear weapon on a Ukrainian military target. This is something that would kill hundreds or thousands. They could use something like a 10 kiloton warhead, which, just for reference, Hiroshima was 15 kilotons.

CIRINCIONE: Right. So, they've got about 2,000 of these so-called battlefield or tactical nuclear weapons to choose from. They range in size from below the Hiroshima size, like this one to four or five times larger. You could use a small one, and they have Iskander missiles, which have seen action in Ukraine already and conventional warheads, there was already to be fitted with a nuclear warhead. We would probably see it happen. They'd have to move it out of storage. And that would cause a major blast, that would cause major damage, for example, to try to stop Ukrainian troops from advancing on Kherson, the city in southeast of Ukraine, and that might be the kind of shock they hope would terminate the hostility, at least freeze the Ukrainian advances.

KEILAR: You say this is the most likely scenario. The likely response from NATO and the U.S. is what?

CIRINCIONE: Well, at that point, you have a lot of options. There's no reason for the U.S. to try to respond in kind with a nuclear weapon of its own. I expect, and you've heard exercises that we've done on this, the U.S. has tried out economic isolation, a huge economic embargo, cutting Russia off from the SWIFT banking system, for example, stopping all energy purchases. You'd see diplomatic isolation, even China and India would flee from a state that had crossed this nuclear line, and then, of course, you'd see a surge of military support for Ukraine, exactly the opposite of what Putin would be intending.

KEILAR: Then you mention a large yield weapon, which is something that would obviously be huge, 50 or 100 kilotons. And this, though, you think would trigger some sort of response from the U.S. directly, likely not nuclear, you think this is less likely. The biggest one I want to focus on, and this may be the very unlikely, but it's still worth mentioning, a nuclear attack on NATO, because this is one that would trigger a nuclear response.

CIRINCIONE: Right. So, all of these options are things that the Russians have talked about in their military writings on the subject in order to defeat, to stop a conventional war, to turn the tide of battle. And one of the things that would do that, that would be a strike on a transportation node in Poland, for example, that would cause extensive damage, thousands killed, massive radioactive fallout from this, and that might be the signal that Putin wants to send. I am crazy enough to do this. I will go further. Stop.

Unfortunately, I don't think that's what would happen. He doesn't get to have the final move. The U.S. has, again, massive conventional military responses with our precise, powerful conventional warheads, we could wipe out the army in Ukraine within a matter of days, or selectively strike targets even in Russia itself. So, this would almost certainly bring about a NATO-U.S. involvement in the war and might bring about a nuclear response, which is why I think it's the least likely move that Putin will make.

KEILAR: These are scary scenarios but these are ones that the U.S. government is looking at, even as they say, look, we don't see that nuclear weapons are being moved but this is what they're looking at. Joe, thank you so much for taking us through this.

CIRINCIONE: Thank you.

KEILAR: North Korea launching a ballistic missile over Japan in what's call been called a major escalation. Now the U.S. is responding.

Plus, the Russian journalist who held up an anti-war poster live on state-controlled T.V. now declared fugitive after escaping house arrest.

BERMAN: So, new data suggesting the issues that voters care most about could be changing with just a few weeks to go until the midterms. Harry Enten will tell us all. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BERMAN: Running on to NFL field is dumb and it is dangerous. In the Monday night game between the Rams and the 49ers, this guy ran on to the field carrying some kind of device that emitted pink smoke. Look, this puts everyone at risk. It puts the players at risk. It puts the fans at risk.

Rams Linebacker Bobby Wagner obviously took care of the situation. He tackled the guy. So, Peyton and Eli Manning on their Manningcast, they actually broke down that tackle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he goes -- yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he is. There he is, yes, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what we're talking about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wagner, a veteran, right, get him down, now get out and let these guys take over.


BERMAN: After the game, Wagner he wasn't making a play, he was just trying to keep the players safe. And in all seriousness, really, it does put people at enormous, enormous risk. It's not something, generally speaking, you like to give publicity to.

So, just five weeks to go until midterms with control of Congress in the balance, a new poll is raising questions about what voters care about the most and who they trust to handle those issues the most.

With me now, a man I trust, the absolute most.


BERMAN: CNN Senior Reporter Harry Enten.

All right, Harry, we've been asking, polls ask, what's the most important issue to you? What did they say?

ENTEN: All right. So, this is a Monmouth University poll that came out yesterday. I shared this, their dear friend, Eric Hall (ph), who is executive producer, because I thought this was really interesting here.


Look, top at the list extremely are very important. 82 percent said inflation. That's not so surprising. But the crime, look at that, crime at 72 percent way up there, the second most important issue for the federal government to address, and then abortion all the way down here at just 56 percent, basically tied with infrastructure at 57 percent, well within the margin of error of infrastructure. This split with crime being so high and abortion being so low was quite a shocker to me.

BERMAN: And abortion is an issue that Democrats have been focused on since the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade. And you looked specifically, Harry, at what people are searching for on Google in terms of a couple of these issues.

ENTEN: Yes, so, the crime and abortion, because both of those, their placement on that chart was surprising to me. So, it was interesting. What are people searching for on Google? What is it that comes to their minds? So, this is Google searches crime versus abortion, the percentage among those who searched for either.

Look, around the time that Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, crime was just at 30 percent of all the searches people that were searching between crime and abortion. Abortion was at 70 percent. In May, again, abortion higher than crime. In July, it was basically tied, abortion slightly higher than crime. But look now in September, crime, 71 percent to just 29 percent for abortion. That is basically back to the pre-Roe v. Wade overturning sort of baseline where we were back in April where crime was making up 74 percent of the searches versus abortion at just 26 percent.

BERMAN: And this matters because when you look at these issues, which parties are doing better with them?

ENTEN: Yes. So, crime is an issue that Republicans love to talk about. You see it in a ton of their ads. Why? Because which party do you trust more? On crime, look at that, Republicans at plus 23 points, plus 23 points over Democrats versus abortion, where Democrats have a 17-point edge. Crime is basically the economy for Republicans. They love to be talking about the economy. They love to talking about high inflation. They also love to be talking about crime. Democrats do not want to be in this ballpark. They want to talking about abortion, which is the main focus of most of their ads. So, the more voters care about crime, the worst it is for Democrats.

BERMAN: Gallup asks a really interesting question, Harry. It asks people they poll, if the issue that is most important to you, whatever it is, which party do you trust the most?

ENTEN: That's exactly right. You can say anything that you want to. If, you're scared of clowns, you could say that's the most important issue. And on the issue that Americans say is most important to them, who do they trust more? They trust the Republican Party more to handle by a 48 percent to 37 percent margin. This is a huge gap, John.

BERMAN: It's a huge gap, because when you look back historically, what does that tell you?

ENTEN: Yes. So, an 11-point gap, which is what we have right now, and I look at all midterm elections, all the midterm elections going back since '46, midterm elections for the Democratic president, this 11- point edge is near the top, near the top. And look all of these years in which Republicans held this margin, this lead on the issue that's most important, and then look at the GOP House seats won.

Obviously, we're not sure what's going to happen this year, but in all other years or anywhere close to this, look at that, 246 Republican House seats won, 247, 230, 242, and, of course, you just need 218 for a majority. So, if this election looks anything like this and voters react in the way that they normally do, then Republicans are going to have a very good night come election night.

BERMAN: A receptive environment for Republicans, you might say.

ENTEN: That's exactly right, John.

BERMAN: All right. Harry Enten, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you, sir.

BERMAN: Republican Senate Candidate Herschel Walker, who is running a campaign on restricting abortion rights now denying a report that he paid for an abortion.

KEILAR: And the United Kingdom's new prime minister is off to a rocky start, why she was forced to walk back her controversial tax plan, next.