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New Day Sunday

At Least 25 Dead As Kentucky Braces For More Flooding; Flooding Leaves Kentucky Residents Without Power, Clean Water; Search And Rescue Efforts Underway Across Kentucky; Cajun Navy Heading To Kentucky To Help Flood-Ravaged Communities; Flood Watch Issued For Already Hard-Hit Areas Of Kentucky; Kentucky Flood Watch In Effect Through Monday Morning; President Biden Isolating After Testing Positive Again For COVID; White House Says Biden Is Not Experiencing Any COVID Symptoms; New York Declares Monkeypox A Public Health Emergency; Biden Urges Democrats To Quickly Pass Energy And Health Care Bill; Pelosi Travels To Asia Amid Uncertainty Over Taiwan Visit. Aired 6-7a

Aired July 31, 2022 - 06:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Buenos dias and welcome to your NEW DAY. I'm Boris Sanchez.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Sara Sidner. Catastrophic flash floods ripped through parts of eastern Kentucky and leave some communities unrecognizable. Now, some of the most devastated areas could get hit again as a new flood watch goes into effect.

SANCHEZ: And President Biden tests positive for COVID again. What we know about his symptoms and how rebound cases work. We're going to talk to an expert.

SIDNER: Plus, New York declares a public health emergency over the monkeypox outbreak. What officials are doing to control the spread as cases rise across the country.

SANCHEZ: And Democrats in a race against the recess, trying to pass President Biden's key agenda items with the midterm elections looming. How much can Congress get done?

We are grateful that you are starting your week with us, bright and early this Sunday, July 31st. Good morning, Sara.

SIDNER: Good morning to you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Great to be with you. We begin today with an update to the ongoing weather emergency in Kentucky. The death toll there continues to rise as search and rescue crews make their way through flooded areas and we are expecting yet another round of heavy rain and flash flooding today.

SIDNER: At least 25 people are confirmed dead. It is still hard to get the exact number of missing with one local mayor calling the death toll only the tip of the iceberg. Complicating the response, rushing waters have washed away roads and destroyed bridges making search and rescue efforts all the more difficult.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): I'm worried that we're going to be -- we're going to be finding bodies for weeks to come. Keep praying. Hope there are no more we ought to expect. There will be more loss.

And pray for the families that we now have already lost individuals. They're going to need your help and your support. And I know who we are as people, we're going to be there for them.


SIDNER: That was Governor Andy Beshear there. Those who are in their homes are facing the task of cleaning up. What a mess. Thousands of customers in these rural areas are still without power. And water treatment facilities have been knocked offline.


MAYOR DONALD MOBELINI, HAZARD, KENTUCKY: The main problem is, you know, the infrastructure, our water infrastructure system has gone down. I mean, it washed away, the plant has broken down. We have no water. We really don't have any water coming out of our plant to go to any house in Perry County, and we're all relying on bottled water and it has been, you know, just -- whoever could bring us bottled water, that's what we're distributing to 25 to 29,000 residents.


SANCHEZ: In the midst of so much destruction, we are hearing stories of amazing rescues and neighbors coming together to help each other. A group of men apparently heard a family had been trapped in their home in Whitesburg, Kentucky. You see how high the water is there. And you can make out a person in the distance.

The water had gotten so high, the family inside couldn't get out safely and the only way in was to break a window. Inside this home were 98-year-old Mae Amburgey, her son and her brother. You see her there, the condition that her home was in. They got trapped when several feet of water rushed in.

SIDNER: CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro reports for us.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris and Sara, the floodwaters here have receded. That doesn't mean this tragedy is over. Crews here in Jackson, staging from this parking lot of a shopping center, went out all day finding people, trying to resupply people who might be trapped and recovering bodies that were killed in these historic floods.

There is still a lot of work to do and the county here, people here in Breathitt County where I am, are wondering what the impact of this historic flood will be and what the future might hold.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thinking about all the devastation that I've seen, all over the county, there are some things that can't be rebuilt. These people that -- the water had got in homes that had never been concerned with water issues. Now their homes are gone.

Where are all these people going to go? Where are they going to live if they don't have a family member that they can go to?


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Now it will be a long time before this place sees anything like recovery.


And before it can do that, it is going to need a lot of help. And that help is coming and working out of places like this, but it is going to keep coming to deal with just the scale of this tragedy. Boris and Sara.

SIDNER: Joining me now, someone who is helping, Gary Hanner with the Cajun Navy. Gary, where are you right now?


SIDNER: OK. So you're in Hazard. I see you have a furry friend there with you. Tell me a little bit about --

HANNER: Yes, we have --

SIDNER: Go ahead. What's his name or her name?

HANNER: The dog's name is Noah.

SIDNER: Noah. What is Noah there for?

HANNER: Yes. Noah is a cadaver dog. And they have him here to help with the search for the missing people.

SIDNER: Tell me what you're doing. The Cajun Navy is famous for showing up and doing the job of trying to help people, rescue people, and even trying to find missing loved ones, even you've got a cadaver dog there with you. Tell me what you're doing and how difficult this has been and what you're seeing out there.

HANNER: Well, we work with the United Cajun Navy and it is just total devastation. I mean, floods are just -- you know, the water is so powerful and just basically destroy anything. So we have been out there, at this point, it turned into just looking for missing people. So you get a phone call from someone saying that they can't get a hold of so and so, so we have to go out there and try to find that person. So, yes, it is, you know, been pretty much nonstop with that. Now they're looking at more rain coming so.

SIDNER: Yes, they're looking at more rain coming. There are, you know, warnings in effect. And we're looking at these pictures out of Jackson, Kentucky. And it is just water everywhere, all the way up to the tops of roofs. We're seeing basketball, you know, hoops that are almost under water.

The devastation is just so widespread. Tell me how you go about finding places, because there are no addresses. You know, what we're looking at is just water and, you know, homes in water. What are you seeing? How are you finding people and have you found anyone who has been missing?

HANNER: Yes. We did locate one person and they were just fine. You know, it is just -- we're just seeing a little bit of everything. Thank goodness we have had some cell service, so we do get GPS coordinates and we're able to put that in our phones and try to go to an address.

But what might happen as you start out in the water on the airboat and you're going down a road, literally where you went down a street sign, you know, it might be water halfway up the sign but -- and then you go down and you just keep trying to find, you know, the addresses. And then that road might then go, you know, out of the water and then back in the water.

So, yes, it is definitely a lot of -- it is chaos at times, just trying to, you know, maneuver through the trees, the downed power lines. The power lines are probably the most dangerous thing that we have to avoid.

SIDNER: Gary, you were also doing one thing that is really important because water is an issue for people. There is no power. Often cell phone towers are out. Can you tell me -- are you bringing people stuff as well when you're going along?

HANNER: We are. We're -- we got water always with us and we always have a few meals with us too, if somebody just needs something, something to eat and -- but, yes, we try to carry, you know, some blankets and different things if we need to -- if somebody is wet and cold we try to get them warmed up and stuff. But, yes, we do carry some supplies with us on the airboat. And today we'll be taking water and different supplies to people throughout the day.

SIDNER: Gary Hanner, thank you so much. And also, you know, you are some of the first responders and I know the first responders appreciate you guys going out there as well but more so do the people who live there and rely on your help. And thank you to your crew out there, and Noah, that cute dog that is just taking a little rest right now, we appreciate you.

HANNER: Yes. Noah is taking a rest, going to have a long day.

SIDNER: All right.

SANCHEZ: Let's go to the CNN Weather Center now and meteorologist Allison Chinchar. Allison, another round of storms in the forecast for these already hard hit areas. ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. The last thing this area needs is more water, but unfortunately that's what the forecast shows. Not only for today but the next several days in a row.

So here is a look at the map. This is the flash flood threat area. You'll notice the town of Hazard and much of eastern Kentucky is what we refer to as a moderate risk. That's a level three out of four. The National Weather Service focusing in on the potential for flooding there, saying that this is a -- quote -- "favorable setup for very efficient rainfall."


They cannot emphasize enough how much rain is potentially going to fall in the next 48 to 72 hours. We have rain right now. It's mostly focused along northern Kentucky and then that second wave pushing into western Kentucky but that will continue to slide to the east in the coming hours. So we do anticipate more of that rain to start to filter in.

Here is a look at this afternoon. Again, you can see that's when we really start to see some of those first bands of the heavier downpours begin to reach eastern Kentucky. But also other cities, Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, even all the way over to Charlotte also have the potential for some flooding today because of the amount of rain that's coming in.

This is also concerning. This is the timeline of Tuesday. Look at that next round of really heavy rain that begins to really focus in on portions of eastern Kentucky. Overall through Tuesday, most of these areas you're talking one to two inches of additional accumulation. But where you see some of these yellow spots, that does include eastern Kentucky, now you're talking two to four inches. You also have flood watches in effect for most of Kentucky for at least the next 24 to 48 hours.

SANCHEZ: As you said, Allison, the last thing that those folks need. Allison Chinchar from the weather center, thank you so much.

Listen, there are a lot of folks in Kentucky right now that could use a helping hand. And if you're in a position to lend them some help, you can find out just how to do that at

SIDNER: Now to the White House where President Biden is in isolation again after testing positive for COVID-19 again. Mr. Biden's doctor says the president is likely experiencing what is known as a rebound case.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hey, folks, Joe Biden here. Tested positive this morning. Going to be working from home for the next couple of days. And I'm feeling fine, everything's good. But Commander and I got a little work to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SIDNER: He's got his trusty dog there.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Let's go to CNN White House reporter Jasmine Wright who joins us live now. Jasmine, the president was preparing to spend the weekend in Delaware instead he's back in quarantine, at the White House, again.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's right and certainly not the result that the president or the White House had wanted. Remember, that he was released from isolation on Wednesday after testing negative Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. And he resumed all of his events just to be back in isolation yesterday and again today.

Of course, now, in his letter Dr. Kevin O'Connor when he revealed the positive test, the rebound test, he said that President Biden was not experiencing any symptoms like he had last time and therefore he was not reinstating his medical treatment. But, of course, part of that initial medical treatment was the president prescribed that Paxlovid antiviral treatment, really decreasing the possibility of serious illness. But one thing that people found is that they could, again, test positive between a two to eight day window after taking the treatment. And, of course, that is exactly where the president falls as Dr. O'Connor said it was likely a rebound case from that Paxlovid.

Now, the White House had previously downplayed the potential for the president to test positive again, saying that it only happens to a small amount of the population, but they did increase the cadence just in case to catch a potential positive. And, of course, that is exactly what they have done.

Now, after that positive, just kind of an example of how they were not expecting this, just two hours before the letter was released from Dr. Kevin O'Connor, they announced new travel to Michigan. Of course, as you said, he was supposed to go to Delaware this morning. And, of course, that is not happening. Instead he is staying here at the White House to isolate.

Now, the White House has again done the job of trying to show the American people that the president is doing fine, that he is working, releasing videos that we saw earlier, tweets announcing FaceTime calls that he's had with supporters as he isolates. Now, of course, we'll be waiting here at the White House today for any type of update -- excuse me -- any type of update on the president's condition. Sara, Boris.

SIDNER: All right. Jasmine Wright, thank you so much for that report.

SANCHEZ: The spread of a different virus, monkeypox, has led officials in New York City to declare a public health emergency, making it the second major U.S. city to do so. The mayor and the city's health commissioner say that 150,000 people may be at risk of exposure.

SIDNER: They say the emergency declaration will boost efforts to stop the spread of the virus. Leaders in the United States and across the globe say infection numbers continue to rise and the vaccine supply is falling short of demand. San Francisco was the first major U.S. city to declare monkeypox a public health emergency.

Still ahead this hour, a surprise deal on Capitol Hill revives part of President Biden's domestic agenda. Now, Democrats are making a full- court press to get big ticket items done before they break for August recess.

SANCHEZ: Plus, on the front lines of the California wildfires. CNN is talking to the firefighters risking it all as they face unprecedented and worsening conditions.


NEW DAY is back in just a few minutes. Stay with us.


SIDNER: It is crunch time in Congress with August recess fast approaching. President Biden is urging Democratic lawmakers to act quickly and pass the surprise agreement on health care and energy spending bill.

SANCHEZ: Yes, that surprise agreement coming last week after a breakthrough in negotiations between Senator Joe Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. It is a compromise that includes major provisions to address climate change, changes to the tax code as well, and it breathes new life into President Biden's domestic agenda.

Let's take you to Capitol Hill now and CNN's Daniella Diaz. Daniella, the outlying factor here is Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. She could be the deciding vote here and she hasn't really spoken out about how she feels regarding this new agreement.

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's right, Boris. She told us repeatedly that she is trying to look at the text, read it over before she decides where she stands on this legislation.


But, of course, she is facing that pressure from her colleagues, her Democratic colleagues, to be specific to support that legislation, that would, of course, if passed, be the biggest climate deal in history. Now, this is $369 billion for energy and climate change programs. If passed it would slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030. Huge achievement, climate activists really praising this deal. And provision span everything from electric vehicle tax credits to clean energy manufacturing and investments and environmental justice communities.

Also it has got health care provisions. It would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, as well as extend Affordable Care Act subsidies. And to pay for this legislation, they would raise this revenue by imposing a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations.

Of course, remember, this is just a slimmed down version now of what President Joe Biden was really pushing Democrats to pass known as the Build Back Better Act. Of course, if you remember, last year, last December, Joe Manchin torpedoed that saying he wouldn't support it, so now he's reached this deal with Schumer on this legislation that, of course, if Congress passes it -- if Democrats pass it, which they can, along party lines, they do not need any Republican support, just all 50 Democratic senators to sign on with Vice President Kamala Harris being the tie breaking vote.

If they're able to do that, of course, it would be a huge boost to Biden's agenda. However, of course, still waiting to see where Senator Kyrsten Sinema stands on this legislation. And another problem complicating all of this is they need full quorum with Democrats in the Senate and there has been COVID cases.

In fact, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin is currently out sick right now with COVID. In the Senate, there is no remote voting like in the House. So, of course, that math being incredibly important to Senate Democrats as they go into next week. But, of course, they're all hoping that they can have full quorum and pass this legislation before they break for August recess. Boris, Sara.

SIDNER: Daniella Diaz, thank you for that. And you can hear directly from Senator Manchin today. He is going to be on "STATE OF THE UNION" at 9:00 a.m.

SANCHEZ: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is on her way to Asia right now. We still don't know if she is going to visit Taiwan as originally planned. Up next, how the speaker's actions could impact President Biden as China is warning against a visit. We'll be right back.



SANCHEZ: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is on a trip to Asia right now and at the center of a potential controversy if she decides to visit Taiwan. Pelosi's trip includes stops in South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore. But the Chinese have warned of resolute and serious consequences if Pelosi stops in the Taiwanese territory.

Joining us now to discuss is CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" columnist Josh Rogin. Josh, always appreciate you being up bright and early for us. So, resolute and forceful measures if Pelosi lands in Taiwan. What exactly does that mean?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Boris, nobody knows what that means. And it is intentionally vague because the Chinese government is threatening a crisis but they're not exactly threatening what that crisis would be.

So they have a range of options. They could do something provocative dealing with Pelosi's plane, which is carrying a bunch of congressmen. They could punish Taiwan by, you know, making some sort of military aggression in the direction of that island. Or they could have a range of economic and military responses that are pointed either at the United States or Taiwan or both. Or they could do nothing. Or it could be just fine. Then we're going to find out pretty soon Nancy Pelosi and her delegation were in Hawaii on Saturday. They met with military leaders there. They may left -- their plane left and they're on their way to Asia. And within a few hours we'll know whether or not they're headed to Singapore for a first stop or Taiwan. And if they are headed to Singapore then they could be in Taiwan in a couple of days.

SANCHEZ: So, something interesting about this was that President Biden let slip that the U.S. military does not think a visit by Pelosi to Taiwan is a good idea. That exposure of a rift between the U.S. military and the sitting speaker of the House of Representatives, how does that play into all of this?

ROGIN: Right, well, you know, President Biden was right in the sense that there are some concerns in the military. But the truth of the matter, Boris, is that the opposition to Speaker Pelosi's potential trip to Taiwan is White House driven. And for several weeks there has been an effort led by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, including some military leaders and some other leaders, to convince her not to go because they don't want a crisis right now. Because they have got their hands full and because they don't know what the Chinese government is going to do.

The Biden administration is in the process of trying to tamp down tensions in U.S./China relations, not ramp them up. And the funny -- ironic thing is that the Chinese government doesn't believe that the president of the United States can't control the speaker of the House. They don't understand.

In their system, when the president says to do something, you do it or you die or go to jail. So they can't -- they don't believe us when we say, no, no, we have got a system where the speaker of the House can go to Taiwan whenever she wants, nothing the White House can do to stop it. But that's actually the case.

So for the Biden people, it is the worst case scenario. Because when the president blurted it out, he confirmed the trip, which is supposed to be secret. And it actually puts Pelosi in a corner where she feels like she has to go because now if she backs down everyone will know that she backed down.


So the soup that the White House is in is of their own risk.

SANCHEZ: It is one of the beautiful things about being in a free society. People can come and go as they please --

ROGIN: I think so.

SANCHEZ: -- their own volition. Right. The military also believes, as has been reported recently that the timeline for some kind of military action by China and Taiwan has shortened. There was a belief that it was still years away. I've seen some estimates now that has it within the next 18 months. Does that coincide with what you're hearing? ROGIN: You know, it seems that the Chinese government is putting various pieces in place to give themselves the capability to invade Taiwan and take over the island by force. It also seems that they're not there yet. I would put it more than three to four years by the time they have enough landing ships, missiles, and nuclear deterrent to invade Taiwan in such a way that we wouldn't be able to do anything about it.

They're definitely building that capability now. But looking at Ukraine, they're not going to make the same mistakes that Putin made. That means overwhelming force, and they don't have it quite yet. But President Xi Jinping has been very clear. He plans to reunify Taiwan by any means possible. And he's setting himself up to do that. And if we care about the safety and security of Taiwan and free and democratic societies, we ought to be helping them to prepare for that. We ought to be doing that right now.

SANCHEZ: Josh, I'm glad you mentioned Vladimir Putin and the situation in Ukraine, because you have a new op-ed out in the post where you describe a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the United States alongside Ukrainian leaders that are seeking to install more U.S. military officials in a non-combat capacity in Ukraine to help the Ukrainians. I guess my thought is, doesn't that lead to a degree of mission creep where the United States has to invest more and more to help Ukraine win and maintain territory?

ROGIN: Yes, there's no doubt about it. It is a bunch of U.S. lawmakers and President Zelenskyy calling for a little bit of mission creep. But their rationale is pretty clear that we're sending $40 billion worth of AIDS and -- aid and weapons into Ukraine. We don't know where it's going. And it would be really helpful both for the oversight mission, but also for the Ukrainians, if we had some people in the embassy, for example, working with Ukrainians to figure it all out and watch it and do logistics and operations, and all of that stuff that makes it that whole huge program work better.

The Russians are escalating, and there's a war in the south and a winter is coming. And when it freezes over, those battle lines will be hard to undo. So, we have a period of time -- and by we, I mean the countries that care about helping Ukraine save its country to surge weapons there and to help them use those weapons to take back as much territory as possible.

But that window is closing fast. And, you know, it's not just Russia that's looking at our actions here, it's also China and they are related. And if we let Ukraine be carved up and they step into a country, that's not really a functioning country, well, that bodes disaster both for Ukraine and for Taiwan and for the free world as it stands.

SANCHEZ: Now, there is a lot going on in the world. Josh Rogin, we appreciate you walking us through all of it.

ROGIN: Anytime.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Stay with CNN. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The devastating impacts of climate change are being felt around the world.

SANCHEZ: Then, in California, the Oak Fire has already destroyed nearly 20,000 acres since it ignited near Yosemite National Park more than a week ago. CNN's Bill Weir had a chance to speak with firefighters on the front lines.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: It actually started right around here?

JOE AMADOR, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, OAK FIRE INCIDENT: It started right over here, this ridge over here.


AMADOR: And in the first 24 hours, this fire grew 10,000 acres.

WEIR: Now, put that in perspective, that's crazy fast.

AMADOR: Crazy fast.

WEIR: The Oak fire is the biggest fire in California. And because fire season winds haven't really started blowing yet, there are almost 4000 firefighters here from all corners of the state. They managed to keep flames out of Yosemite National Park, but not the smoke. And they say they won't fully contain this blaze for weeks.

So, what makes this Oak Fire especially scary, though, is it devastated a lot of land really fast and the winds aren't howling like they would be --

AMADOR: Correct.

WEIR: Like Santa Ana or Diablos, right?

AMADOR: Correct. That's correct. And we're in extreme conditions, but things can always get worse.

WEIR: Any ecologist will tell you that a healthy forest needs occasional fire to rejuvenate itself. But ever since World War II, Smokey the Bear has been preaching fire suppression. And across much of California, all this fuel has been loading up over the decades of fire drought really just in time for the old-fashioned drought, a 22- year megadrought. This combination now making Californians rethink everything they know about property values, and insurance markets and defensible spaces.

BRIAN VITORELO, CALFIRE MENDOCINO UNIT: In the course of my career, I've seen the biggest fire happen year after year after year. It's impressive.

WEIR: Now, no offense, you don't look like a grizzled veteran. But it's not the years, it's the fires these days, I guess, right?

VITORELO: The fires, yes.

AMADOR: Well, that back, you know, they're -- these fires have been happening within the last 10, 15 years. I mean, you can go back to, you know, 2003 and then and then all of a sudden, something happen.


WEIR: I wonder about folks who live in amazing spots like this, a great find in the 70s when the fire like this was once in a lifetime.


WEIR: Now it's once every couple of years.

AMADOR: Yes, sir.

WEIR: Do you see a change in the psychology of folks in these wild places?

AMADOR: It takes a special person to come live out here and we just hope that if you do decide to live out here that you learn how to prepare yourself, prepare your property, get prepared emergency escape plan and create some defensible space. Like as you see here, this person did a great job at clearing out some combustible vegetation and brush away from this fire.

WEIR: And these guys will take all the help they can get in doing this job, especially when it's 97 degrees outside here as well. They've got a couple of dozen helicopters, over 300 fire engines, a bunch of water tankers and all of that. But ultimately it comes down to sometimes how much yard work they have to do around a house that hasn't been properly hardened against fire.

And again, this is just the beginning of the fire season now. The deadliest month typically are in the fall out west after a couple more dry hot months. And this is a mutual aid state. You put out my fire, I'll put out yours. At a certain point they worry that there'll be too many fires to go around. Bill Weir, Mariposa, California.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Bill Weir for that report. A quick programming note for you. Don't miss an all-new episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" with W. Kamau Bell tonight at 10:00 p.m. It's relevant to this. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They never put out a fire. If there's a fire that happened on a ridge, they let it burn down and do what they're going to do naturally. It's the only way to manage that much land. W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: Is there a part of this that maybe you feel like if we had been in charge of this land, this would not have happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This fire absolutely would not have happened if we were cared for by tribal people. And we want to be able to share our knowledge and people are continually asking us, you know, can we do cultural buring? And it's like, well, are you tribal? And why would you want to do cultural burning without us?

BELL: Oh, yes. But look what happened when the white man got yoga. Look how that went.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we're starting to try to sway the agencies to think about native burning.

BELL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: that's passing on that traditional knowledge that it does have value even if you're not Indian.


SANCHEZ: A special episode of "UNITED SHADES" airs tonight at 10pm right here on CNN.



SIDNER: Russia is evading sanctions using its power in one African nation to help fuel its coffers as it continues its war in Ukraine. In an exclusive report CNN reveals how Moscow stopped democratic change in Sudan just as its people had successfully toppled one of the longest-standing African dictators through peaceful street protests.

SANCHEZ: But the question is why. Sudan is one of the world's biggest exporters of gold and Russia has been illegally exploiting and smuggling this resource from Sudan for years. Nima Elbagir and her team traveled to the north of Sudan to show how Russia manipulates the Sudanese military government and how it's using front companies to get around U.S. sanctions to hold on to that gold.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Deep in Sudan's Gold Country, miners toil in the searing heat, barely surviving in what should be one of Africa's richest countries, providing gold for a war a continent away. We investigate a force more powerful than Sudan's government controlling its gold.

For millennia Sudan has produced some of the most sought-after gold in the world. And Putin's private army, the notorious paramilitary group Wagner knows it.

Sudan's government is denying Wagner's existence in country but we're not buying it and we've come to investigate.

Further his tentacles stretch right across Africa. We've discovered some of its most notorious operatives are working on Sudan. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner. Mikhail Potepkin can precautions head of Sudan ops. And Alexander Sergeevich Kuznetsov, Wagner's key enforcer, previously convicted of kidnap and robbery, working with this man Sudanese General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo a.k.a. Hemeti in a quid pro quo for training and weaponry.

We travel 200 miles north from the capital Khartoum to gold country to take a closer look at Wagner's main moneymaker artisanal gold. Miners bring rocks they extract hid to be processed. 85 percent of Sudan's gold is produced artisanally.

This right here, it may not look like much. This is what's left after the rocks that the miners have brought in is milled. Now, they've taken what they can out of it, but this gets sold. And when it's properly processed with someone who has superior technology, you can make 10 times what those miners over there and making.

10 times more money without any of the back-breaking work. And the only foreign processing plant operational in Sudan is Wagner's Meroe gold despite a Sudanese law limiting ownership to locals. Also troubling, Meroe gold was sanctioned two years ago by the United States for exploiting Sudan's natural resources and spreading their malign influence around the globe.


According to the Sudanese government, they officially ceased operations but they are still here, still evading sanctions. We verified their location with coordinates provided by Sudanese anti- corruption investigators and head that to see for ourselves. As we approach, the red flag of the former Soviet Union blows in the wind, increasingly used by Russian nationalists. It brazenly marks the Meroe gold compound. A Russian tanker sits next to it.

We get to the entrance and decide to ask a few questions, but not before we turn on our covert cameras.

ELBAGIR (text): Is this Russian company?


ELBAGIR: Well, that's convenient. They've just confirmed the Russians are at this location.

ELBAGIR (text): We are journalist from CNN. I'd like to see the Russian manager. We'd like to ask him some questions.

There's a black pick-up approaching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (text): He's coming in that car.

ELBAGIR: The guard just confirmed that the Russian managers is in that black pickup and is on his way to us. A Russian van races to the office, but no one seems to be coming over.

It seems the Russian manager has changed his mind.

But others turn up instead.

ELBAGIR (text): I'm sure you've already been shown our permission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (text): But we are a Sudanese company. It's a company Al Solag.

ELBAGIR: They claim this plant is Sudanese-owned and is called Al Solag. Remember that name, it's important, Al Solag. We head off the property to do some more filming. But we're followed. Security approaches. They want us to stop.

This is public ground. This is public ground. Why is your van stopping here? They're trying to get us to move on. They're taking pictures of us of our license plates.

The reason they're so nervous, Al Solag is a front for the Russian company Meroe Gold. Wagner is still operating illegally. A foreign company pretending to be Sudanese to evade U.S. sanctions. We obtained their registration documents to prove it. The document on the left is from Meroe Gold, the one on the right Al Solag. These dates represent complaints made in employment courts against Meroe Gold. These ones from Al Solag are the same.

Under Sudanese law, when a company's holdings are transferred, so are any judgments against it. Here you can see the judgments against both companies are identical. All they've done is changed the name, Wagner hiding in plain sight to avoid U.S. sanctions and keep the financial pipeline flowing back to Moscow and its war on Ukraine, a dangerous business to delve into.

Since we've arrived in country, I've been informed by sources of threats that they believe to be credible against me. They say that's what happens here when you look too closely at Russia's business dealings. We're off to meat one of those sources and he's asked that I come alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meroe gold is a front for the Russians, specifically for the forces of Wagner that are working to exploit gold in Sudan and its export. It's the front. It's not a company that extracts gold from tailings and it buys gold from the Sudanese artisanal miners. That's not legal, because the law says that any gold producer is supposed to report the quantity it produces to the central bank and to the Ministry of Mining, and that does not happen.

ELBAGIR (voiceover): Inside Sudan central bank, a whistleblower snapped this photo of a computer screen, showing official production in 2021 at 49.7 tons. 32.7 tons are unaccounted for by the central bank. But the real figure were told by whistleblowers could be over 220 tons. That's around $13.4 billion worth of gold a year that's being stolen from Sudan. How has this happened? Three years ago, the Sudanese people successfully overthrew Africa's

second longest-ruling dictator, Omar Al Bashir. Less than two years later, the military staged its own coup, sweeping aside civilians. And they did this, were told, with Wagner support in exchange for gold. This man had a front-row seat to Russia's machinations and has evidence to prove it stood to gain by supporting the Sudanese military's coup. Under threat of assassination, he's been in hiding for the last nine months, moving from safe house to safe house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Russians and Sudanese officers saw the civilians in the government as an obstacle to the plan. The official anti-corruption task force wasn't caving to pressure or threats or even bribery. The armed forces were found to be complicit in the smuggling of gold by the Russians, and it was raised with them.

ELBAGIR (on camera): Do you blame Russia for the death of democracy here in Sudan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely. Russia carries the majority of the blame for the still-birthing of Sudan's democracy.

ELBAGIR (voiceover): Just days later, his nephew was killed by state actors trying to stop a pro-democracy demonstration. In the two weeks we've been in Sudan investigating Russia's illegal gold mining, 10 people were killed protesting for change. It's not just on the battlefields of Ukraine that Russia is spilling blood, here too there is a human cost. The cost of Russia's support of Sudan's generals in return for its gold. Nima Elbagir, CNN, Khartoum, Sudan.



SANCHEZ: Thanks to Nima Elbagir for that report and her team as well. We should note that CNN reached out to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Russian Defense Ministry, and the parent organization for the group of companies run by that organization for comment. We've yet to receive any response.

SIDNER: We also reached out to the offices of Sudanese military rulers, General Burhan and General Dagalo and received no response to our request for comment following CNN's investigation. Pro-democracy groups in Sudan are calling for a Million Man March on Friday to protest exploitation of gold resources there. An incredible report from Nima and her team as Boris said. We'll be right back.