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New Day Saturday

Hurricane Ida Whips Cuba, Spins Towards U.S. Gulf Coast; U.S. Conducts Airstrike Against ISIS-K Planner; Alabama Hospitals Overwhelmed By COVID Patients; Voting Rights Legacy; Coronavirus Pandemic. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 28, 2021 - 08:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Feels good to wake up on a weekend here on this Saturday, August 28. We're glad you're here. I'm Christi Paul.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Phil Mattingly in Boris Sanchez. Thanks for starting your day with us and what a day it is when it comes to the news Christi.

PAUL: Yes.

MATTINGLY: And we'll begin with that state of emergency along the Gulf Coast. The U.S. is in the direct path of a massive storm swirling toward Louisiana. Hurricane Ida has already entered the Gulf warm waters as a category one storm, but it could spin into a dangerous Category 4 just before it makes landfall tomorrow. Tomorrow being 16 years to the day that Hurricane Katrina terrorized the state.

PAUL: You take a look at what Hurricane Ida looked like when it hit Cuba yesterday. This storm smashed into the island twice before heading toward the US. And the thing that's interesting is it didn't deteriorate overland, it actually strengthened which is unusual.

And in New Orleans, people have been told you've got to seek shelter particularly for some areas. The mayor says it's just too late to issue mandatory evacuation orders at this point.


MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL (D), NEW ORLEANS: Time is not on our side. The city cannot issue a mandatory evacuation because we don't have the time.


MATTINGLY: That is a rather ominous warning. CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is tracking the storm. And Allison, one of the major concerns that makes this storm particularly dangerous is that there's nothing in its path right now to keep it from getting stronger. Where does this all end up?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. So right now we're starting to see it kind of head into the Gulf of Mexico. We just got the latest update at the top of the hour, and it's continuing to strengthen. So now the sustained winds are out now up to 85 miles per hour. And we expect that number to just continue to tick up as we go through the rest of the day.

Gusts are up around 100 miles per hour moving to the northwest just about 16 miles per hour. But the thing is, it's category one now, but as it goes into much warmer water, it's expected to intensify because warm water is fuel for these types of storms. Likely to make it up to Category 2 strength in just a few hours, Category 3 likely by tonight and then a Category 4 storm just before landfall tomorrow. But if this track slows down at all, it could even have the potential to get even stronger than that.

Now one thing to note a lot of people have been making comparisons to Katrina with this particular storm. Here's the thing, this was where Katrina was at landfall just to the east of New Orleans. That's important and I'll explain why in a minute. It made landfall at 125 miles per hour, so it was a Category 3 at landfall. Ida's forecast is expected to be a Category 4 so not only stronger, but slightly to the west.

Here's the thing. Traditionally speaking, the worst area you can be when a hurricane comes in is the Northeast quadrant. So by actually shifting a little bit further to the west, it puts New Orleans in an even less favorable position than they work compared to Katrina.

Storm surge is still going to be the biggest factor here along the coast. 10 to 15 feet in this pink area. Seven to 11 here in the purple that does include the city of Biloxi. The outer bands will begin today. So if you are planning to leave if you are planning to board up your home, do it today. Do not wait until tomorrow.

Heavy Rain is going to be really concentrated over the Gulf Coast. 10, 12 even 15 inches of rain not added the question, which is why you have that high risk of flash flooding right there along the coast, Phil and Christi, including Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

MATTINGLY: Yes, Allison, we've entered that window where every minute matters. Thank you very much. Please keep us posted. New Orleans was devastated 16 years ago by Hurricane Katrina and by last year's back to back storms Laura and Delta.

PAUL: Yes, Nadia Romero, CNN national correspondent is in New Orleans right now. So Nadia, I know that it was just about three hours ago is when they opened everything up and said listen, now is your time to leave 5:00 a.m. Saturday morning. Are you seeing that kind of activity or have you seen it?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Christi and Phil, where you stand out here we're on Canal Street, the iconic part of New Orleans in the French Quarter. And listen, pretty quiet, right? Not a lot of people out and about take a look at the businesses next to me, many of them telling us yesterday they were going to shut down close up shop for the weekend, because they know how powerful this storm could be a Category 4. You heard Allison say it was Category 3 with Hurricane Katrina. Katrina is almost like a bad word in these parts of the country in the Gulf Coast. And it's a timestamp before Katrina and after Katrina. That's how people tell time here and they know how powerful these storms can be. So those mandatory evacuation orders are in place.


They have voluntary evacuation orders. Businesses telling us they're not going to take any risks. They are going to shut down keep themselves their employees safe, encouraging everyone to get out of the city to get to higher ground.

Now, when you look at Hurricane Katrina, we know that it was the storm plus when the levees broken you when you talk to the governor and the mayor, they're hoping that they'll fare better this time than they did last time. So we went to the grocery store. We tried to get some supplies for our crews, and we couldn't find hardly anything. The store shelves were empty. We couldn't find pallets of water.

We had to ask our photo journalist, a Dominic Swan on his way up to stop in Alabama to bring some water because people are stocking up. We know that there's the loss of life. There's a threat of that, there's a threat to property, but also the fact that you could have severe flooding and power going out. People are stocking up on supplies right now. Allison and Phil.

MATTINGLY: Nadia Romero live for us in New Orleans. Thanks so much for your reporting. The National Weather Service said and this is a quote, this is going to be a life altering storm for many people. Collin Arnold is the Director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Collin, I kind of want to get right to it here with the most important element here. There's not a ton of time left before the storm hits. The mayor said it's too late to coordinate mandatory evacuations. What can people do right now to stay safe?

COLLIN ARNOLD, DIRECTOR, NEW ORLEANS OFFICE OF HOMELAND SECURITY AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: Well, they need to shelter in place. And yesterday and today, a little bit of time today to prepare. As he said, you know, people have been preparing. Obviously, August 29 is a an important day in our history here.

And a lot of people remember what happened 16 years ago. And so, it's time to hunker down, you know, tonight and be where you need to be for the next 24 hours.

MATTINGLY: It's on the kind of the individual and family and business level. But as you noted, tomorrow is the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The city's levees are disastrously breached. There's been a lot of change since then. Are you confident that they are strong enough to handle whatever's coming? Are you confident that the city is prepared to handle from an infrastructure perspective? What may be coming your way?

ARNOLD: We're a very prepared city. And I'll say that, you know, in concert with the governor's office, the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service, there is confidence in the system. There's been a $15 billion investment in that system over the last 16 years and we're in a far better place than we were in 2005.

That being said, this is still a very dangerous storm. There is a mandatory evacuation for our residents to live outside of that levee protection system. And there's a voluntary evacuation for those that in their circumstance, if they feel they need to leave. Certainly we would encourage that.

MATTINGLY: I think one of the questions that I have a lot in situations like this, you know, last year, the state suffered through hurricane Laura and Delta, both striking within a month of one another. You know, how is this taking a toll on the city? The city even recovered from last year stores.

ARNOLD: I mean, we have Hurricane Zeta, which was a Category 3 on landfall. It came through very quickly, but it did cause significant power issues, something similar that I expect from this storm. But we -- within three or four days, we're able to restore power and have enough secondary power generation to actually have the national election at all of our voting precincts which was pretty, you know, pretty impressive. So we are resilient city. We get through these things.

COVID has taken a toll on everyone. It's been a long year and a half we had a record breaking hurricane season last year. But we're just continuing to push through and continuing to do our best to provide for our residents and make sure our residents are trying to do the same as well.

MATTINGLY: I don't think anybody could argue with the resilience of our city, Collin Arnold. I know you have a lot on your plate. Thanks so much for taking the time.

ARNOLD: Thanks.

PAUL: Well, obviously keep our eye on what's happening there with Hurricane but we want to talk about Afghanistan too. The U.S. carried out an airstrike overnight against a suspected terrorist. The military says the strike targeted an ISIS-K planner in Nangahar province of Afghanistan. A spokesman for the US Central Command says quote, initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.

MATTINGLY: Now the strike came a day after President Biden vowed to hunt down those responsible for the terrorist attack outside the airport in Kabul that killed 13 U.S. servicemembers and at least 170 others. ISIS-K says it carried out that attack. Now this comes as President Biden's national security team is warning explicitly that another attack in Kabul is likely a terrorist threat comes as the U.S. scrambles to evacuate Americans and Afghans ahead of that Tuesday, August 31 deadline.

PAUL: Our correspondents are covering this story from every angle we have Nick Paton Walsh in Doha. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. Barbara, if we could start with you, please.


President Biden and his team we know bracing for this possibility of another attack. What have you learned overnight regarding this ongoing threat and the strike against ISIS-K?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning. We got this statement overnight from the U.S. military. Let me go over that very quickly because there's a few hints in there about what exactly is happening. It says, quote, U.S. military forces conducted an over the horizon counterterrorism operation today against an ISIS-K planner. The unmanned air strike occurred in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.

So who was the target? We've talked to a number of sources, defense officials this morning. And what they tell us is this target, this ISIS-K planner, they had intelligence, they say that he was associated with planning future attacks at the airport. And we know that is the top concern right now.

They had been watching him we are told, originally low confidence in what he was up to, what his position was, where, what he might be planning, if you will. But as the days went by, they further develop the intelligence and they say they became very confident that he was involved in potentially planning future attacks at the airport.

So why the strike overnight in particular? We are told it is because when he was observed, he was in a compound in the Jalalabad area in this area of southeastern Afghanistan in a compound they believe with his wife and children. So they are very cautious about civilian casualties.

Obviously, they had to wait until they could get a clear indication that they could send the drone and it would hit him and not caused civilian casualties. You saw that reflected in the statement. Over the horizon, let's be very clear what we're talking about. This is a drone with weapons onboard, unmanned launched from an area outside of Afghanistan. Nobody's saying that this is it. There could always be more strikes to come.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it seems likely to some degree if they have the intelligence. Barbara Starr great reporting, as always, thank you very much. Sources tell CNN that the U.S. plans to drastically reduce its diplomatic staff at the airport in Kabul over the next 24 hours.

I want to bring in CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. And Nick, we're just getting word from the White House that 6,800 individuals were evacuated between us flights, coalition flights over the course of the last 24 hours. But the numbers have clearly been dropping over the course of the last 24 hours. You're reporting those numbers. What does this mean right now for the Americans but also the Afghan citizens still desperately trying to get out of country? NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, I mean, doing some really bad math here. It sounds like since about 3:00 p.m., depending on when they're doing that 24 hour window, we may have seen about 20, sorry, 2,000 or so individuals taken out of the airport so that 6,800 figure marries (ph) a little bit with the figure. We got a 4,200 between 3:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Friday.

So clearly slowing down very fast indeed in line with what we've been saying in the days previously. I understand from a source familiar with a situation that as you said there will now be a skeletal crew of U.S. staff able to process evacuations at the airport. The DOD, Pentagon, being very clear, very clear that they will continue to do evacuations up until the last minute but that last minute is fast approaching and the scale of people you can process if you are down to a skeleton crew is enormously reduced.

On top of that as well, the security situation is certainly slipping. I understand from the source that there are potentially hundreds of local Afghan embassy employees who they may still be trying to get onto the airport. I should tell you, you know, obviously I -- this information I received this morning, local time here. So it may be in progress since that occurred.

But it is obviously fraught for the staff on that airport and they are receiving quotes, tones of messages from Afghans who still want to get in, still want to get out. The time is running out. Their opportunity is increasingly slim. The threat of ISIS-K still remains outside the airport. Crowd numbers seem to have reduced.

But remarkably, and I think this is a testament to what us servicemen are still doing there. Remarkably people are seen apparently in individual numbers, small families still being pulled through the gates. And that means that there are U.S. or Afghan security personnel, risking their lives knowing of this ISIS threat to pull people out of those crowds diminishes, they may be and get them to safety.

But numbers are dropping fast and it's clear at some point. Today or tomorrow the focus will have to shift to getting the U.S. troops off the airport, not to say they weren't put evacuees on if they show up. There's still an outstanding question. It's a quite how many American citizens they're looking for.

Yesterday, I was told by a source of another situation that frankly, if you're not American, and you haven't come forward by now, it's questionable whether you want to leave, but of course they're still working on that hard. This is though the window for this is getting increasingly dangerous and small. Phil.


MATTINGLY: Just extraordinarily fluid and complex situation, Nick. Great reporting, as always, thanks very much.

PAUL: Mike Rogers is with us now, a CNN national security commentator and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Thank you so much for being with us. It's good to have you here. I want to ask you about the reporting here that the U.S. intelligence officials say they got the target that they were going for, if that does turn out to be the case, what -- how disruptive might that be to ISIS-K at this point?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Yes, so any day that you can take an ISIS planner off the battlefield is a good day for America. The problem is if he was not as operational as we would have liked, meaning that there are operations by ISIS underway today. And that's what the intelligence folks are telling all of us. That will target the airport, target people at the airport.

So what you hope to do in an event like this is try to get at those operational cells and take them off the battlefield. Don't get me wrong, it's great. I'm glad we got the planner. He is probably in the same area, has been in the same area a little bit easier to collect intelligence on and watch and monitor over the period of days.

All of this is just going to get harder and harder when we remove intelligence assets and other things from the country. But good day, probably not going to disrupt the operational side, and they're still going to have to be on edge and around the airport and other soft targets even around Kabul.

PAUL: So let me ask you this, the Taliban had promised the U.S. that they would not allow Afghanistan to become a breeding ground essentially for terrorists again, that was that predicated part of this the evacuation -- the evacuations that we're watching. But the U.S. allies solely and wholly miscalculated the expediency and the force of the Taliban. With that said, what evidence do you see that the Taliban can hold off ISIS-K?

ROGERS: I haven't. And you have to remember something that they have a lot more in common with ISIS-K than they do the Americans or Westerners or this pledge to keep them out. We know that al Qaeda is operating in 15 province today, operating in 15 provinces in Afghanistan.

We know that ISIS-K and one of the struggles in the beginning Christi was they went after the tribal leaders and tried to usurp their authority. That's what got them crosswise with so many Taliban and Taliban loyal tribal leaders. But Afghanistan is a pretty diverse place. And people are going to pick their loyalties based on the kind of things they find in common in these areas. And who are the strong men, who has the guns and who has the control and who's using it.

And so some notion that the Taliban which is not a functioning government, remember this was a terrorist organization who supported terrorists is now in charge. And somehow they're saying, well, they're going to keep ISIS-K. I just don't buy it. And most Intel -- national security folks that I know and talk to and have confidence in, don't buy it either.

And so that's what you're going to see. This last few fits here is the right thing to do. But remember, this is just fits. Once we leave, Afghanistan becomes a petri dish for extremism. And al Qaeda will recruit from ISIS. ISIS will find some familiarity with al Qaeda.

There'll be Taliban who don't like this new messaging coming out of Kabul out into across the provinces, and they'll find other friends in the area could be ISIS, could be al Qaeda. All of this is going to be happening and unfolding right in front of our eyes, unfortunately.

PAUL: Mike Rogers, we still value your insight and your perspective here. Thanks for taking time for us.

ROGERS: Thank you. Thanks, Christi.

PAUL: Absolutely. Shifting here again in Alabama. There are some hospitals so overwhelmed by COVID patients. They're turning away people who desperately need treatment for other issues. A doctor from this COVID hotspot is with us next.



PAUL: Even with these climbing vaccination rates that we're seeing, the CDC says all 50 states have high rates of COVID-19 transmission as well. We know hospitals across the country are stretched thin. They're running out of ICU beds due to the surge and even Coronavirus deaths are on the rise.

MATTINGLY: That's right Christi, 14 states have seen COVID deaths increased by more than 50 percent. The situation has reached a very real crisis in Alabama. The heart hit state has started using mobile trailers to store bodies for the first time since the pandemic began because so many people are dying so quickly.

Joining me now is Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, Chief Hospital Medicine at the University of Alabama Medicine. Dr. Kennedy, I just want to start. What is it like on the ground right now? What are you seeing in a state with low vaccination rates? Clearly a serves the state's public health -- top public health official yesterday made clear this is a crisis. What are you seeing on the ground?

DR. KIERSTIN KENNEDY, CHIEF, HOSPITAL MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA MEDICINE: Good morning. I am -- I have been a faculty member here for a little over 10 years and I've never seen anything like this. I had a faculty candidate come in and I tried to take them to see some of our units and I realized all of our units, all of our medical units have become COVID units and it's the same for the ICU. We're spilling over into our cardiac ICU or neuro ICU or surgical ICUs. The patients are just coming in faster than we can accommodate them at times, and they are so much sicker than we were expecting.

MATTINGLY: And when you're dealing with a surgeon patients like that, where does that put you from an operational standpoint? Are you guys in a position right now where you're running out of beds entirely? How does this work on the ground?

[08:25:04] KENNEDY: Absolutely. Yes, I think what people don't seem to realize is when I say our ICUs are spilling over into the cardiac ICUs and the neuro ICUs, and the surgical ICUs, those who are not empty ICUs. Those patients - There were patients in those beds.

And so we're having to figure out how to move those patients so that we can put COVID patients there instead, because obviously, we don't want a patient who, for example, just had a bypass surgery to also catch COVID from a neighbor. So we try to keep the COVID patients all cohorted. And that is -- that makes it next to impossible.

I think now what we're having to do is we're having to control the volume that we can which is the patients that come in. And so we can't control who hits the ER. People will still have heart attacks and get sick at home. But we can control who needs to stay in the hospital after surgery, for example. And so, we're having to scale back on surgeries that people really need, but that we just cannot accommodate.

MATTINGLY: I mean, look, I think everybody knows that there's a scientific answer here. Maybe not to not getting COVID, but certainly not to being hospitalized. Alabama's vaccination rate is one of the lower rates.


MATTINGLY: What are you seeing with -- when patients come in what's the vaccination level of those that you're seeing?

KENNEDY: By far and wide, the patients are unvaccinated that are significantly sick. And the patients that are vaccinated that are coming to the hospital are the people that are vulnerable. Those are people that have abnormal immune systems. Those are the people that we should be trying to protect.

And I think, you know, our vaccination rate has climbed slightly, it's up to 37.6 percent. But that is not enough. And on top of that, not only do we not have enough people getting vaccinated. We don't have enough people following the common sense public health guidelines that we know work.

We don't have people wearing masks. We don't have people social distancing. We're still having indoor gatherings with large amounts of people. I don't know how we get out of this if we don't start to do something differently.

And I -- for the sake of my sanity, I have to believe that people just don't recognize how bad it is in the hospital. Because if they really understood it, I can't believe that they will continue to do what they're doing. And I also think that part of the problem is that we live in a society where people have never experienced what it's like to need care, and to not be able to get it but I think people are about to find out.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's remarkable that we're back in this place. I don't think anybody expected it, particularly at this scale. I really appreciate your insight. I really appreciate you laying out what you're seeing on the ground. Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, thanks so much.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

PAUL: So a lot of people have asked what, if any, will be the political fallout for President Biden over the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the situation that's unfolding. We'll talk about that. Stay close.



MATTINGLY: There is significant frustration on Capitol Hill right now, obviously from Afghanistan. And it's not just Republicans, although they've been democrats as well say they have questions why the U.S. wasn't better prepared to evacuate thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies.

Now Republican Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis of New York joins me now. She sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It's one of the panels that will certainly be hearing from members of the administration next month. She's been briefed behind closed doors.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for taking the time. I want to start with kind of the most recent news, which was the strike that was carried out last night by the U.S. military. What's your response to that strike? Well, what does it tell you about where this administration is going?

REP. NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS (R-NY): Well, I'm glad that the President kept his word and did go after ISIS-K after the horrific attack that lost 13 of our military men and women. It's been such a tragic and sad week for the United States of America. But we can't say that this was unpreventable.

I believe there were a lot of horrific decisions that were made one after another that have led to where we are today. And it's extraordinarily unfortunate.

I think that the majority of Americans, the majority of the members of Congress, do want our troops to come home. There's no doubt about that. It was the strategy or the lack thereof. And the lack of contingency planning that winning to do to close out airbase in the middle of the night without even letting know -- letting the commander, I think commander know allowing our weapons to then be used by the Taliban for full takeover, evacuating our military before our citizens.

There's been a lot of questions here that we want answers to as members of Congress, I think the American people want to, and certainly we intend to get them. But right now, our main focus is to ensure that every American is evacuated safely. And we have, you know, three days although, you know, we need to stay, we could be saying make sure that every American is evacuated and repatriated here in the United States of America. MATTINGLY: So that's actually something I wanted to dig into. You helped a family, from your district, actually get out of Afghanistan. Look, this has been an extraordinarily complicated process, and one of which no one thinks has been easy. Multiple members of Congress, outside groups have been playing a role. You obviously played a very specific role here.

What is your level of confidence that the administration's pledge of just a couple of days ago that every American wants to leave, will be able to leave, will end up true when this all in the next couple of days?


MALLIOTAKIS: Well, I think it's up to Congress to ensure that he keeps his word. I just don't believe that it can happen with the timeline that has been put forward by the President. You know, in our case, it was during the beginning, where we worked closely with the State Department to evacuate this family, a mother and three young children, seven, three and the smallest one, just one year old.

They've just been repatriated with their family in Brooklyn, New York. And I'm very happy about that. And we've been able to, you know, support the evacuation of two other citizens and also those who graduated the two from who graduated from West Point. The issue is based on three other families who are relatives, who are Afghan citizens, but they work closely with USAID.

They worked with USAID as well as those who work with the military. And those people we keep a promise to that we would not abandon them. And I think that that is a concerning. You see so many military men and women talk about, and you see veteran volunteering to go to Afghanistan, to take the dangerous mission on their own to try to evacuate interpreters and the partners that they work alongside, because they've developed a strong bond with them over the many years of working with them.

And so, you know, there's -- it's not just the American citizens that many of our military one evacuated, they also want to ensure that Afghan partners have worked so closely with them are also brought to -- anywhere but Afghanistan and they're not by the Taliban.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Yes, no, there's no question about that. It's very real concern. I want to ask you, you know, you talked about all the questions that you have, and some of the very real concerns you have about what's transpired. You know, you tweeted on Wednesday night, you know, at a time of such chaos, more Americans, I'd say it's already pulling troops off the ground when they're saying they need more supper Thursday. Pentagon has reiterated they'll complete that mission by August 31.

Which, look, this is what's happening. Do you believe troops should be there for a longer period of time and just extend the deadline for a short period of time until everybody's out? Do you believe there needs to be a permanent presence? What's the -- what's kind of your position here? MALLIOTAKIS: Well, at a minimum, they must stay there till every American is evacuated. And we should -- Afghan partners are extraordinarily important, particularly to the veterans who have served. We should do what we can to protect them as well.

Look, perhaps it should be a very skeleton military presence for counterterrorism. And that's something that we need to have discussions with, you know, our intelligence (INAUDIBLE). I don't think that the President has listened to his advisors. I think that's part of the problem here and as members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and just as members of Congress. We need to stay there until (INAUDIBLE). I think if you speak with the men and women who are on the ground, that's what they want to do. And they need the commander in chief to allow them to do that.

MATTINGLY: Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, thanks so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up, 58 years after Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech marches across the country this weekend to fight for voting rights. We'll talk about it. Stay close.



MATTINGLY: House Democrats passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act this week and after they say is designed to combat the wave of restrictive voting legislation enacted in states across the country.

PAUL: Yes, the bill faces an uphill climb in the Senate though, it's all prompted nationwide marches for voting rights. On the anniversary of the March on Washington. Here CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Protect the vote.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fight for voting rights taking on a sense of urgency across the country. This weekend culminating in marches in dozens of cities and Washington D.C., where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

58 years later, King's son is mobilizing Americans to follow in his father's footsteps to fight to make voting accessible and equitable.

MARTIN LUTHER KING III, AMERICAN ADVOCATE: My father would probably be greatly disappointed in where we are on this particular issue. Some gave their lives I should say.


CROWD: I am -- JACKSON: -- somebody.

CROWD: -- somebody.

JACKSON: I am --

CROWD: I am --

JACKSON: -- somebody.

CROWD: -- somebody.

MALVEAUX: The civil rights leaders are continuing the work to push for voting rights and old fight with a renewed focus.

JACKSON: I keep the movement on voting rights act. When we vote things happened.

MALVEAUX: Reverend Jesse Jackson currently battling COVID but just a few weeks ago, front and center in the fight in Washington.

JACKSON: You fight in fact with democracy. It means going to jail.

MALVEAUX: Just the day before, Jackson was arrested outside the U.S. Capitol with faith leaders and activists. He's been criss-crossing the country during the COVID-19 pandemic using a familiar peaceful protesting tactic from the civil rights era of putting his body on the line.

JACKSON: Right to vote sees everything. Everything is (INAUDIBLE) right to vote.

MALVEAUX: Another outspoken critic, Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of the former President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law.

LUCI BAINES JOHNSON, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON: Limiting access to that vote will strangle liberty and justice for all.

MALVEAUX: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was quietly brokered between President Johnson, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders. One of those leaders and one of King's closest advisors, former UN Ambassador Andrew Young recalls the critical turning point, a secret White House meeting between President Johnson and King.

ANDREW YOUNG, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: When we went to see him and we were talking about voting rights. And he was tied up with the war in Vietnam.

MALVEAUX: Young says he and King urge Johnson to put forward a strong voting rights bill before Congress. But the President was reticent about the potential political pushback having just signed the sweeping Civil Rights Act of 1964.

YOUNG: He agreed with us and said, but I just don't have the power. And when we left the White House walking out, I said, look, the President is right. He can't go back to Congress. He really doesn't have the power.

MALVEAUX: King's response stunned him.

YOUNG: He said, we go get the president some power. That's the most arrogant thing I've ever heard you say that you go get the president some power. And then I realized he was serious.

MALVEAUX: The power of King's surmise would come from some irrefutable evidence that black people were indeed being denied their constitutional right to vote. King targeted Selma, Alabama, where less than 2 percent of black residents were registered to vote. The first attempted march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery drew several 100 to the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

YOUNG: No money, no real plan. But I was thinking politically and practically, he was thinking spiritually.

MALVEAUX: As the marchers crossed the bridge, they were brutally beaten and tear gas by Alabama State Troopers and local police. Bloody Sunday broadcast around the world, providing Johnson the political momentum he needed to urgently get the voting rights legislation back in play.

LYNDON JOHNSON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: There is no Negro problem. There is no southern problem. There is no northern problem. There is only an American problem.

MALVEAUX: The Voting Rights Act passed about five months later, and was signed into law on August 6, 1965, forbidding racial discrimination in voting.

KING: We have to stay engaged. You have to stay on the battlefield, because things don't permanently change unless you're there in the fight. Dad did a sermon called sleeping through a revolution. And we have to make sure that we do not sleep through the revolution.


MALVEAUX: And notably absent of the march today, Reverend Jesse Jackson, who is battling COVID with his wife, Jacqueline. I've been in touch with their family and they say that Mrs. Jackson is in the ICU, but that she is responding well to the treatment breathing on her own. Reverend Jackson is at a separate facility. He is also responding well to the treatment, dealing with the therapies around his Parkinson's disease.

I had a chance to talk to Jackson just two weeks ago in front of the Supreme Court and he says this is an ongoing battle, a life battle that he will fight for civil rights. And that is something that all of those who marched and participated with King say that this is something that they continue to do that they will not end until justice is done. Phil.

MATTINGLY: Suzanne Malveaux, great piece. Thanks so much for your reporting.

PAUL: Thank you, Suzanne. Hurricane Ida is expected to gain even more strength as it nears the Louisiana coast. Officials are urging people get out if you can, and hunker down if you can. The latest in a moment.



MATTINGLY: New York State Department of Health will now require students, faculty and staff at all public and private schools in the state to wear masks while inside school buildings and the emergency regulation filed late Friday night cites an increase of COVID-19 in the state. Anyone who violates the regulation is subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation.

Earlier this week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced the vaccine mandate for all Department of Education staff for public schools across the city requiring vaccinations by September 27.

PAUL: All right, Hurricane Ida closing in on the Gulf Coast. Meteorologist Allison Chinchar, what are you seeing right now.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right, so let's take a look at the latest because we have seen an increase from the last hour. At 7:00 the winds were only 70 or 80 miles per hour. Now we're up to 85 miles per hour, gusting up to 100 miles per hour. That forward movement to the northwest at 16 miles per hour.

Here's the thing, it's a Category 1 storm now but we anticipate strengthening as it moves into the much warmer water because remember very warm water is fuel for these types of storms. So we anticipated to be a common Category 2 just in the next few hours, a Category 3 by later this evening and a Category 4 tomorrow, unfortunately bright before landfall which means it will likely make landfall as a Category 4 storm.

Storm surge is going to be the biggest concern along the coast. This pink area you see here, 10 to 15 feet of storm surge. The purple area just to the east including Biloxi, 7 to 11 feet of storm surge and the outer bands will begin today. Christi, I cannot emphasize enough if you want to get out, if you can get out, do it and do it today.


PAUL: Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

MATTINGLY: A quick programming note mass shootings, gun violence in the NRA's roll in U.S. law. What's the cost of the war on gun control? Be sure to watch The Price of Freedom tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. And thank you so much for joining us. Very, very busy morning.

PAUL: Yes, yes, it was. Smerconish is up next for you. We'll see you again tomorrow morning. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)