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The Situation Room

Grand Isle Decimated, Could Take Years To Restore Town; White House Say, Biden Has Multiple Responsibilities Besides Afghanistan; FDA Calls Meeting Of Its Advisers To Discuss COVID Vaccine Boosters; Most Extreme Abortion Law In U.S. Takes Effect In Texas; Former GOP Mayor Selling Skill Over Spectacle In Bid to Unseat California Governor. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 01, 2021 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now. Breaking news, desperation is growing in hurricane-ravaged Louisiana right now as the rescue operation continues. Critical supplies vanish and residence struggle without power and extreme heat. We will get a new forecast on the potentially deadly flooding threatening millions of Americans tonight.

Also this hour, the White House is clearly on the defensive about its decision to approve COVID booster shots amid reported frustrations within the FDA. Dr. Anthony Fauci will join us live to discuss that and alarming number of COVID cases among children as schools reopen.

And the U.S. Supreme Court allows a near total abortion ban to take effect in Texas. A law President Biden is slamming as extreme. We'll break down what it could mean for the future of Roe versus Wade.

Welcome to our viewers here in United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we begin with the hurricane catastrophe in Louisiana. Right now, the dire conditions, as the search and rescue operation continues. Our Brian Todd is joining us from Metairie just outside New Orleans. Brian, you have been moving around this disaster zone. What are you seeing on the ground tonight?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, people are still in desperate need of the basics. I'm going to show you a visual of that. Look at the gas line. These people have been waiting for sometimes, eight, nine hours, to get gas. That line extends well beyond that bridge right there. And take a look over here. You've got a line of people on foot waiting to put gas in their gas cans right here. They've been waiting for several hours. And the owner just told me, he's going to cut off this pump in a minute because the motors powering the pump could get fried at any minute.

So these people are the last people trying to get gas tonight as people are struggling all over the place. This comes as we're three days out from Hurricane Ida. We're getting our first comprehensive look at some of the areas where the destruction was greatest where the storm made landfall. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice over): Days after Hurricane Ida made landfall, the widespread destruction in Grand Isle, Louisiana, is in full view. Some houses reduced to piles on stilts. One official says nearly half of all homes have been destroyed, estimating it will take up to five years to restore the town.

BRYAN ADAMS, DIRECTOR, JEFFERSON PARISH FORE SERVICES: A lot of people have lost their homes, talking about whether they'll have to be able to go back or not because they don't have the money to go back, can't afford to go back. I've never seen it look like this. It's decimated.

TODD: Conditions now dire for those left in its aftermath. We went through a neighborhood in Kenner, Louisiana where roofs were completely torn off houses.


TODD: Patricia Carter's house in that neighborhood has been without power since the storm. Her food is rotting and she's worried about running out of water. Carter is 72 years old. She said she has high blood pressure, arthritis and migraines, but she's also worried about elderly neighbors and wants to know when the cavalry is coming.

CARTER: Nothing. You don't see a FEMA truck coming down here. We thought you all were FEMA because some kind of assistance should be out. And, I mean, what we had to do get ten feet of water to get help.

LYNDELL ALFORD, KENNER, LOUISIANA RESIDENT: Katrina was bad but this is worse way more than Katrina.

TODD: Residents running out of food and water.

ALFORD: We already ran out of food. We have a little water.

TODD: Are you worried about where you're going to get it?

ALFORD: Yes, we are. We really don't know where we going to get that.

TODD: Across Louisiana, nearly 1 million people are still without power in Louisiana. The heat index continues to top 100 degrees in parts of Louisiana with no relief for many, parts of the state bracing for weeks without power.

JOSEPH GIARRUSSO, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL: Our first priority as city government is getting power restored.

TODD: Only a few lights spotted in New Orleans with power restored for a small number of residents in parts of the city today.

GIARRUSSO: We lost eight transmission lines that power the entire city. We are keeping a pressure on so that Entergy goes up.

TODD: Basic necessities scarce. Half of the gas stations in New Orleans and Baton Rouge out of fuel desperately needed to keep generators running.

At the Discount Zone Gas Station, in Metairie, Louisiana, long lines for gas in vehicles and on foot. Motorists told us they've been waiting eight to nine hours for gas since well before the station opened. Some on foot told us they've been waiting three to four hours.

SAHA RAYMOND, GAS CUSTOMER IN METAIRIE, LOUISIANA: I need the gas, and so does my grandma and my family.

TODD: Even with scarce resources, cleanup is beginning as residents dig out from fallen trees in Covington and clear debris in Houma.


TODD (on camera): And we now have word that President Biden is going to visit Louisiana on Friday, he's going to survey storm damage and meet with local officials. Before the visit was announced, White House officials said that they were working to schedule a visit that would not impede recovery efforts on the ground. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you very much, Brian Todd reporting from the scene.

The remains of Hurricane Ida are threatening many more lives tonight as the storm moves into the northeast.


Let's go to our Meteorologist Tom Sater. He's joining us from CNN's severe weather center. Tom, you're tracking this dangerous storm. Who is now in Ida's path?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, believe it or not, it's taking a path like Camille in 1969 just as strong as Laura and Ida that moved into Louisiana. When Camille moved into the northeast, the major flash flooding took another 150 lives. This is still trying to release massive amounts of energy. As we take a look, the warnings were in place. In fact, this is rare. The weather prediction center put out a level 4 out of 4 for excessive rainfall. In fact, it's so rare, only 4 percent of all of the days in the year get this. So the warning are better than with Camille.

You notice all of the flash flood watches, darker green. We have river flooding in the light green. But these are all flash flood warnings, dotting many states across areas in the northeast and the mid- Atlantic. These are all flash flood warnings.

Now, I want to take you all the way out to southeast of Altoona. When the Wilmore Dam had a dam failure, authorities there are saying, well, this is some sort of uncontrolled release, meaning something went wrong. So downriver, Wilmore is the down because all the way toward Johnstown. So we're watching that as well.

Rainfall estimates showing easily, we were talking three to six inches but now we are getting more than that, four, five six, seven and there's more rain to come. You'll see the problems in parts of Maryland into South Central Pennsylvania moving into New Jersey.

But that's not the only threat. We're seeing more tornado warnings today than we saw for the first 24 hours of landfall. Tornado watch for southeast areas of Virginia and Delmarva, that's until 7:00 P.M. all the way up to the border of Pennsylvania. Another one, another tornado watch until 10:00 P.M.

But it's the warnings that we're worried about. Several of them have been peppering areas of Delmarva and parts of south of Washington we had one earlier and then east of Washington in Annapolis. That one caused damage and we have pictures. Downtown Annapolis, and mainly in a commercial area as well, we had downed power lines, some downed trees, a lot of debris, as you can see it here. But also a high school was hit.

Now, the high school had not started school just yet but, again, damage outside. We're still waiting to confirm and see how much damage is to the building. But those are not the only warnings, Wolf. We've got many more making their way in toward New Jersey. Philadelphia is under a tornado warning. You come to the north, 15 miles North of Philadelphia National Weather Service, this one could cause considerable damage.

So, big concerns not just with the tornado threat for the evening but heavy amounts of rain up I-95, New York City, you're going to get into it before the midnight hour. The threat is not over with. It's just amazing the amount of energy that Ida has taken all the way up the entire east coast.

BLITZER: Yes. I can testify to the concern here in the Washington, D.C. area and Maryland and Virginia about these tornadoes that all of a sudden have surfaced. Tom, thank you very, very much.

Let's discuss what's going on especially right now in a very, very hard hit area of Louisiana. We're talking about Grand Isle. The town's mayor, David Camardelle, is on the phone joining us right now.

Mayor, these are harrowing images we've seen of the devastation in your community on Grand Isle. Some of these pictures, I know you took yourself. First of all, tell us what you and your residents are experiencing.

MAYOR DAVID CAMARDELLE, GRAND ISLE, LOUISIANA (voice over): Well, number one, we have no water. Fresh water line comes from Jefferson Parish 31 miles across the (INAUDIBLE) to Jefferson Parish, which we live off 100 miles south in New Orleans, the Barrier Island, seven miles long. We have no drinking water, fresh water coming in the pipes. We think we have severe damage in there. And also our gas lines are busted all over the island and we have no gas. We have no electricity.

And we're trying to get some food in here and trying to get some equipment in here. We're working close with our parish officials, our state officials and governor. They're really pushing things and also working with federal agencies. Like, you know Wolf, one of the things, we have 100 percent of damage, we got 80 to 95 -- 90 percent severely damaged. The more you look, it's not only the one coming to the island, we have 12-foot of protection sand dune that walks across (INAUDIBLE), which we have three to four feet of sand across the whole road. And we are working with DOT to get the sand out.

We also have 125 streets on this little island and it's devastating down the streets. I still get to see it all. It's pitiful. We had about 60 to 70 people that stayed on the island and from our fire department was excellent and got about 12 to 14 guys that worked all through the night of this hurricane. We had to stop at 165 to 185 mile-an-hour to get some of these residents back to the fire station.


So, it would have been a hell of a time. It was a miserable night. Looking at severe damages, everywhere you look. There's no way. There's no way. It looked like bombs went off on this island.

BLITZER: Yes. It looks so awful. And I think it's fair to say, Mayor, Grand Isle has been devastated. The devastation is enormous. So, I know you have no electricity. You have no water. The grocery stores are unable to open, so food is scarce for those folks who may still be there. So what's your biggest need? What are you urgently in need right now as the first thing?

CAMARDELLE: Well, we have a levee system 34 miles from here in (INAUDIBLE) surrounded and protected the people. And they had a gate there so the water couldn't come over their levee. So our people who were trying to get inside the gate, which we got the road clean from the gate or 24 miles from the gate, we got it all cleaned up coming toward Grand Isle. The problem is now, I got four foot of sand on the main highway. So we're working closely with the Jefferson Parish and goes up with the government and getting National Guard to come in.

In the meantime, we're asking Entergy to send some type of representative to come in and evaluate this. We have never seen any Entergy trucks yet. We just -- I know it's mess all over Louisiana but we're going to clean, you know, we're going to cut the cables to make sure that we continue to get this 60 foot right of way for them to come and find the road.

And that morning after the hurricane, about 10:00, we went and opened the gate and the port commission guy said, you all know where it would go. So, me and one young man started traveling in a vehicle and we started cutting cables and moving debris from the flood gate all of the way back to Grand Isle and we managed to get there about three hours later. And we met the firemen cutting the cables and hugged each other and I just wanted to know if we lost any lives and he said, no, not so far of it. We found quite a few people.

And it was unbelievable. The helicopters that came and it came to rescued a few people and we just sent one out about three hours ago that we found that she was badly dehydrated and no food, no water. So we're constantly watching that stuff. And we need some serious help down here. We really do.

It's a Barrier Island, seven miles and I know there's helicopters and planes flying around. We need some serious help because our water line comes through the marsh and our electricity comes through the marsh and it's all destroyed. We need to get our water back so we can at least start living a little better. And we got generators coming in and it's just like a bomb went off. And we're going to make it happen.

BLITZER: Well, Mayor, our hearts go out to you and everybody in your community of Grand Isle. Good luck. The pictures are awful. It's going to take a long, long time to regroup. Mayor David Camardelle, thank you so much and good luck.

CAMARDELLE: Thank you all so much. Thank you so much.

BLITZER: Thank you. We'll stay on top of that story.

There's other breaking news we're following. Moderna has just submitted data supporting a third dose of its COVID vaccine. I'll talk about that and more with Dr. Anthony Fauci. There you see him. He's standing by live. We have lots to discuss when we come back.



BLITZER: Today's breaking pandemic news we're following tonight. The FDA calling a meeting of its advisers to discuss COVID vaccine boosters.

Joining us now to talk about that and more, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute and Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden. Dr. Fauci, as usual, thank you so much for joining us.

As you know, the FDA has now set this meeting to consider Pfizer's application for booster doses just three days before the White House says September 20th suggestion of a booster rollout deadline. What do you say to those, Dr. Fauci within the FDA who are reportedly concerned the White House is actually getting ahead of the science?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, Wolf, that's not the case. I can understand how it might appear that way. But what we're doing, what the White House has done is essentially saying we want to be prepared for a rollout but the system of making sure that we get the FDA approval and the recommendation from the advisory committee and immunization practices to the CDC, they're not superseding that at all. They are preparing for the likelihood that we will be giving boosters to individuals and, logistically, we'll be starting it on the week of September the 20th. But it all will depend on the proper approval by the FDA and the recommendation by the ACIP. So that has not changed.

BLITZER: Moderna now says that it also submitted its data to the FDA application to offer booster doses. Do you think it's likely we will soon see two vaccine makers approved to give these third doses because it's a sensitive subject because it looks, and correct me if I'm wrong, Dr. Fauci, it looks like the White House is putting pressure on the FDA to approve all of this?

FAUCI: You know, that is not the case. That always comes up, Wolf, but it's not. The FDA is an independent organization. They are the gold standard in the world for regulatory agencies.


And they do their thing. Remember, when the BLA, which just recently came out for Pfizer, people were saying FDA was taking too long to do that. They weren't. They were doing their job, which they do very, very well. And they take the amount of time it takes. They look over things in a very meticulous way. That's why they are such great organization. So there's no pressure on them to do anything other than the job that they do so well.

BLITZER: As you know, the White House is strongly defending its decision to suggest to approved these booster shots, pointing to you and other leading public health officials who actually reviewed data. Was it though unusual that the White House COVID task force released this information even before the FDA -- I think we may have lost Dr. Fauci. Unfortunately, we did. We're going to try to reconnect. Hold on one second. We'll see if we can reconnect. These are important issues that we're following right now. And we have lots to discuss with Dr. Fauci.

Let's take a quick break. Let's see if we can reconnect with Dr. Fauci. We'll resume this important conversation right after this.



BLITZER: Tonight, the White House is emphasizing that President Biden has more on his plate than Afghanistan, as the administration is looking beyond the U.S. withdrawal and criticism about how it was handled.

Our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us right now. Phil, a day after President Biden's defense of the mission, he and his team seem ready to move on.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think there's an acknowledgment inside the White House, Wolf, that whether it's the coronavirus pandemic or hurricane relief or the president's legislative agenda, which is in store for a huge couple of weeks ahead. There are other major issues on his plate besides Afghanistan. But the reality, in the wake of that drawdown, is Afghanistan is still very much a real issue.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: It's an honor and pleasure to welcome President Zelensky to the White House.

MATTINGLY (voice over): Tonight, as President Biden moves to shift his focus beyond Afghanistan, the fallout from the chaotic and bloody end to the war still a stark reality.

PRES VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINE: And Mr. President, accept my sincere condolences of the tragic death of your heroes where trying to save human lives in Afghanistan and sacrifice their own.

MATTINGLY: From the Oval Office --

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The war is over and we enter a new chapter, one in where our diplomats and interagency partners take the lead.

MATTINGLY: -- to the Pentagon --

AUSTIN: Our forces risk their own lives to save the lives of others and 13 of our very best paid the ultimate price. And many of them were too young to personally remember the 9/11 attacks.

MATTINGLY: The footage of the final U.S. flight out of Kabul, an operation that evacuated an astonishing 124,334 individuals over 17 days, nearly 6,000 of whom were American citizens flown from Hamid Karzai Airport in 778 flights, 387 piloted by the U.S. military, yet more than 100 Americans remain on the ground mostly dual citizens representing the most complex and difficult circumstances, U.S. officials told CNN, the U.S. now relying on diplomatic means and, once again, the Taliban to bring them home.

BIDEN: For those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.

MATTINGLY: But Biden also facing another clear reality. Many of the Afghan allies he pledged to evacuate did not get out of the country. A senior state department official saying, quote, the majority who worked for the U.S. in the two decade war remain in Afghanistan.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE PRESS SECRETARY: Are there more people who want to leave Afghanistan? Absolutely. Are there more people who will be eligible for our programs? Absolutely. And that's why we are so focused on the diplomatic efforts that are being led by the State Department.

MATTINGLY: For Biden, the first day in weeks without a morning situation room meeting with his national security team. His schedule punctuated with a focused on hurricane relief and a bilateral meeting with the Ukrainian president coming just one day after this forceful defense of his decision to end the war.

BIDEN: I was not going to extend this forever war and I was not extending a forever exit.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, as White House officials focus on what's next, they are keenly aware there will be congressional hearings, congressional investigations over what transpired in that 17-day period in Kabul. One thing it seems they won't have to worry about, obviously, they control the House and the Senate, the Democratic Party does, there's something Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell alluded to today when he was asked about impeaching the president, he said that was not going to happen given the current make up. The focus for Republicans, at least, should be on the ballot box. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Phil. Thank you, Phil Mattingly reporting.

And this is just coming into CNN. There's a new effort right now to punish two Republicans for their roles in the January 6th committee.

Let's go to CNN Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles. Ryan, this is important. What are you learning?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right Wolf. This is an effort that's being put together by the freedom caucus and in particular their chairman, Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona. Biggs is circulating a letter among his GOP colleagues calling on the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, to expel Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger from the Republican conference.


They, of course, the two Republicans who broke party ranks and accepted an appointment from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to serve on that 1/6 committee.

This is what part of the letter says. It says, quote, Congresswoman Cheney and Congressman Kinzinger are spies for the Democrats that we are currently inviting to their meetings despite our inability to trust them.

Now, it's worth pointing out, Wolf, that there is really little appetite among Republican leadership to take this step to formally attempting to remove Kinzinger and Cheney from the conference. And, furthermore, Kinzinger and Cheney have really not been attending these private conference meetings of the Republicans since they joined the January 6th committee.

So this is really mostly just a P.R. stunt by the freedom caucus that likely won't go anywhere but it represents the complications that Kevin McCarthy has putting and keeping together all these different factions within his conference. The freedom caucus would like to see him do something. But at this point, he doesn't appear willing to take that step. Wolf?

BLITZER: And, Ryan, the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, is also hitting back over the select committee's plans to go after phone records. This feels like a threat, phone records of Republican members of Congress.

NOBLES: Yes Wolf, it's hard to interpret this message that the minority leader put out last night as anything other than a threat. And it comes, of course, after CNN's exclusive reporting where we reviewed the select committee asked telecom companies and social media companies to preserve records of a number of members of Republican members of Congress. And McCarthy last night in a statement said that if these companies -- this is what he said in the statement, if these companies comply with the Democrats' order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States.

Now, McCarthy does not mention what law they would be in violation of when we followed up with his office, his staff could not provide that specific law. And it is also worth pointing out that at this point the select committee has not actually requested a single record of anyone that they are interested in investigating. This is simply a preservation request that would be part of the investigation and if they learn something that the phone records would help them understand, that's when they would request this information. It's just making sure that they have access to available information so that they can determine exactly what went wrong on January 6th.

The Democrats have responded to this very negatively, as you might imagine. In fact, Eric Swalwell, who's a Democratic member of the House, suggested that the Department of Justice should look into this threat by McCarthy as an obstruction of justice.

It doesn't appear that the DOJ will take that step, but, obviously, Wolf, it shows how much rancor there is between Republicans and Democrats specifically when it comes to issue of the January 6th select committee and investigating what went wrong on that day. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. The tension is really, really escalating. Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

We've reestablished our connection now with Dr. Anthony Fauci. I know the weather is pretty brutal out there. You're at NIH in Bethesda right outside of Washington D.C. We lost power but we've reestablished Dr. Fauci. Happy you're back with us.

Let's talk a little bit more about what's going on because the numbers right now are awful. This delta variant has been wreaking havoc here in the United States leading to climbing cases, hospitalizations and deaths. When do you expect this delta variant will, hopefully, God willing, one day, burn out so to speak and we'll see noticeable downward trends because the numbers right now are exploding?

FAUCI: Yes. You're quite correct, Wolf. And it is very disturbing. But, you know, we do have the answer to it and that's what we keep drilling down and talking about all the time, and that's vaccination. This is fundamentally particularly people who get seriously ill. Those who wind up in the hospital are fundamentally not completely but almost exclusively among the unvaccinated.

We need to get people vaccinated who are unvaccinated. We have about 75 to 80 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet gotten vaccinated. We really need to turn up that force to get them vaccinated.

You know, people are starting now to come forward because they're seeing how difficult this delta variant is. And ever since the full stamp of approval, for example, has been given to the Pfizer vaccine, more people are turning up now feeling that since it has the full stamp of approval, they are getting vaccinated.

Also there's some mandating that's going on, a lot more mandating requiring vaccines, for example, for colleges, universities and some places of business. So we are hopeful, Wolf, that as we get more and more people vaccinated, we're going to start seeing a significant turnaround in the dynamics of this delta outbreak.


BLITZER: Because I did some checking. And I'll just throw out a few numbers right now, Dr. Fauci. Right now, the U.S. is averaging about 160,000 new cases a day. Two months ago, it was maybe a tenth of that. 10,000 or 12,000s cases a day. The U.S. is now averaging 1,300 deaths a day. It was 200 a couple of months ago. And now more than 101,000 people are in hospitals because of COVID. It was maybe 35,000 a month ago. These numbers are getting awful. Do you expect them to continue, at least in the short-term, to continue to get bigger and bigger and bigger?

FAUCI: Well, unfortunately, Wolf, I'll have to say that I don't see them turning around immediately. You know, there's the immediate thing that one can do and that is in mitigation. For example, mask wearing, particularly among -- I mean, obviously those people who are not vaccinated should be wearing a mask. But in indoor settings when you're in an area which is almost the entire country in which there's a high degree of viral dynamics, you should wear a mask. We need to do that. That's the immediate thing that one needs to do. Avoid congregate settings particularly indoor. But intermediate to longer term it's going to be vaccines that are going to solve this problem, Wolf. That's the reason why we feel so strongly we've got to get those people who have been unvaccinated to get them vaccinated. That will turn this around for sure.

BLITZER: Yes. There are about 80 million Americans at least right now who have so far refused to even get one shot. 80 million potentially who could spread this disease because they are very, very vulnerable. They should get and they should get a shot immediately.

The CDC director says the agency would move quickly to recommend the use of COVID-19 vaccines in younger children under 12 if they were authorized. When do you expect, Dr. Fauci, kids, let's say, between 5 and 11 will be able to get vaccinated?

FAUCI: Well, we hope as soon as possible, Wolf. Right now, the data is being collected, the clinical trials, to show safety and immunogenicity which means it induces a response that you would predict would be protective. Those data are being collected now. We should have enough of the data to examine and make a decision as we get into late September and the beginning of October. Then the data will be presented to the FDA and the FDA will make a determination whether they will grant that under an emergency use authorization or some other mechanism. But they should be getting the data at least in one of the companies by the end of September.

BLITZER: Do you think it will be authorized before Thanksgiving?

FAUCI: I hope so, Wolf. You know, you don't want to get ahead of the FDA. They're an independent organization. They'll do their thing. They do it very well. They preserved our safety of people in this country with interventions like vaccines and they also make a determination if it's effective. I hope that gets done quickly so we can get those younger children vaccinated.

BLITZER: I hope so too. Dr. Fauci, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all you're doing.

FAUCI: Thank you very much, Wolf. Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: All right, thank you.

Just ahead, Texas enacts the most extreme abortion law in the United States. What it means for the future of Roe versus Wade, that's next.



BLITZER: Tonight, Texas has enacted the most extreme abortion law in the United States barring the procedure under almost all circumstances and opening anyone involved in violating the law to civil lawsuits.

CNN National Correspondent Dianne Gallagher is in Austin with details.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The right to an abortion nearly eliminated in the state of Texas today. The most restrictive abortion ban in the nation went into effect this morning after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene overnight.

ALEXIS MCGILL JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA: It's an incredibly dark day not just for 7 million women of Texas but also to the 80 percent of Americans who believe that there should be safe and legal abortion.

GALLAGHER: Now, this new Texas law effectively bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy before many people are even aware that they're pregnant, with no exception for rape or incest.

What's unique about this law that it's written so government officials aren't the ones enforcing it, making it harder to challenge in court. Instead, it allows private citizens to bring civil lawsuit where they could be awarded more than $10,000 against anybody who, quote, knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, vague language that could mean an abortion clinic, a family member, and even a taxi driver who takes a patient to the clinic.

President Joe Biden sayings in part, this extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as a precedent for nearly half a century. Antiabortion organization, Texas Right to Life, has already set up an anonymous whistleblower website to report violators of the new law and is cautiously optimistic.

JOHN SEAGO, LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR, TEXAS RIGHT TO LIFE: The fact that the Supreme Court didn't step in before midnight is a significant victory.

This is an attempt to create a new path for pro-life legislation and for those constitutional questions.

GALLAGHER: But back in Texas, backlash today at the state capitol.

SARAH ECHHARDT (D) TEXAS STATE SENATE: Here we are in the state of Texas, a first world country with a third-world medical system with regard to reproductive health care.

GALLAGHER: And now other red states may try to follow.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: They're going to pass copycat laws and this is not -- this is not the end of the fight.


This is just the beginning of the end of Roe v. Wade.


GALLAGHER (voice-over): Now, it's important to point out that we have not heard from the Supreme Court. So it's still possible that they could get a response to the pending request for emergency relief.

And, look, challenges remain in the lower courts but, Wolf, here on the ground, abortion providers and advocates say that they fear that some damage has already been done. That the chilling effect of essentially deputizing and offering a reward to random citizens to target anyone that helps a pregnant person get an abortion will be long-term even if the law is eventually blocked.

In the meantime, those organizations say they are continuing to do what work they can here in Texas while raising money to potentially send patients out of state.

BLITZER: All right, Dianne. Thank you very much.

Dianne Gallagher reporting from Austin, Texas.

Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, our senior legal analyst Laura Coates, and CNN's Ariane de Vogue.

Ariane, so what comes next? So far, the Supreme Court has been thunderously silent. They haven't weighed in. What do you anticipate?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: They could still weigh in. The only reason this law went into effect is that late last night, they declined to say anything. They missed the deadline. And I did talk to a couple lawyers today. They were holding out hope, supporters of abortion rights, that the Supreme Court could still step in and maybe even block the law. But the very fact that they allowed it to go into effect, that is a bad sign for supporters of abortion rights.

And on top of that, there are a lot of people who say the Supreme Court needs to do something to at least explain itself because they've been under some criticism in recent months because these significant issues come in these late-night orders and the Supreme Court without long briefs or oral argument or opinion issues or acts in a way that has big consequences. I do think we'll hear from the Supreme Court. Whether or not they step in and block the law, that I don't know. But I think we should hear from them.

BLITZER: Let's see if we do. Laura, what is all this going to mean for women in Texas?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANASLYST: Well, first of all, think about what Ariane just said. The idea that a woman's agency over her private medical decisions is really vulnerable to holding out hope at this point that the Supreme Court will reverse this notion of cricket sounds and do something. They were thunderously silent here.

What this really means is that this is going to become a blueprint for other jurisdictions who want to run an end run around judicial process. Normally, if you are somebody in a state who has a problem with the law, what do you do? You can't sue the state because they have sovereign immunity, you saw the person who is the official who can enforce the law.

Here, this law says, look, a private citizen, anyone can bring a case against somebody. There's no direct defendant in this case. The Supreme Court can say there's no case before us to do anything about it. A blueprint has now been established, it could be established.

But remember, this is going to have a huge impact on so many women who are seeking abortion related services. The chilling effect is actually there because Texas already in large respect a lot of providers already decided not to perform or to stop performing the service in anticipation of this going into effect.

So you have people who according to data, 85 percent of the people in Texas who have gotten abortions in the past have been people who learned of their pregnancy after the six weeks mark. What does that mean for people? Are you going to go out of state? Perhaps have a non- health related facility actually performing the procedure?

Abortions are not going to stop. They have become more dangerous and impactful to who? According to data, women of color, people who are poorer than others who have the opportunity to go out of state and don't have the same privileges. So, this is a huge impact.

And as Ariane talked about, this is without an oral argument before the Supreme Court of the United States. This is upending the trimester frame work of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood, that says a woman has a right to choose before the period of fetal viability without the undue interference of the government. For all intents and purposes that no longer exists in a state within this country. That's extraordinary and the Supreme Court has said nothing.

BLITZER: So, big picture, Ariane, what does this say about Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land, what, since 1973. Is it now in jeopardy?

DE VOGUE: You know, it was in jeopardy even before Texas. We've had this 6-3 conservative court, three of Trump's nominees. President Trump said he would put justices and judges in the court that he said were pro-life.

But here's what's interesting. Later in the term the Supreme Court is actually going to hear a different case and it has to do with a Mississippi law that banned abortion at 15 weeks.


And what's interesting about that is a lot of people think that the conservative court there is going to cut back or gut Roe v. Wade.

But now, given what's happened in Texas is people in Texas who want -- who oppose abortion, they may not care so much about cutting back Roe v. Wade because this novel law allowed them to get rid of most abortions in the state.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see if the Supreme Court does decide to weigh in and we'll, of course, stand by for that.

Guys, thank you very, very much.

We're going to continue our news, including the latest on the California recall and how one former mayor is trying to take on the Republican front runner. Stand by.



BLITZER: Now the latest on the California recall and a former Republican mayor trying to over take the current front runner in a field of dozens of GOP candidates.

CNN senior national correspondent Kyung Lah is joining us from Los Angeles right now. She's got the late-breaking details.

What are you learning, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf, if you're paying attention to the California reelection, you may think this is a two-man race. Governor Gavin Newsom trying to hold on to his job fighting off this recall, and a challenge, conservative TV host Larry Elder.

But this is a wild ballot, Wolf, with a total of 46 candidates on the ballot, all trying to breakthrough.


KEVIN FAULCONER, CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Are you ready for a California come back? Are you ready to let in our next governor?

LAH (voice-over): In a California recall election that at times has been more circus than contest, Kevin Faulconer is a Republican candidate selling skill over spectacle.

FAULCONER: I can't wait to be the next governor of the great state of California. Thank, you guys, I really appreciate it. Thank you, guys.

You win by getting Republicans, you won by getting independents, and you win by getting Democrats who believe in the fundamental change that we're advocating for.

LAH: Do you have the time to get that message out?

FAULCONER: We are working 24/7, and we aren't stopping, obviously, until September 14th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much for joining us.

FAULCONER: Larry, it's great to be with you, thank you for having me on this afternoon.

LAH: The clock ticking down to recall election day, the former San Diego mayor is hitting city after city by bus, highlighting problems like homelessness, and emphasizing his plans. This is what voters usually want, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do like that he was a mayor of a huge city in California.

LAH: Who are you considering?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Larry elder. I followed him for years.

LAH: Larry Elder, conservative radio host for decades in California with no political experience, but leading the challengers.

JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Everybody else might as well drop out as far as the polling seems to be showing.

LAH: Forty-six candidates are all fighting to breakthrough as a replacement candidate of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is recalled. There are the celebrity candidates from Caitlin Jenner to YouTube star Kevin Paffrath.

KEVIN PAFFRATH, YOUTUBE STAR: In this video, I will walk through how to go from zero to millionaire.

LAH: Then there is not celebrity John Cox.

JOHN COX, CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a business guy running to make change, create big ones.

LAH: Taking an unconventional path on the campaign trail and in an effort to be heard.

THOMAS: This is California. We love a circus. We love a good entertaining show.

COX: What do you think a Faulconer?

THOMAS: He's a good candidate. Wrong cycle for him. This election is going to be about turning your base out. Elder is doing that.

LAH: Elder's front runner status as why Faulconer is increasingly on the attack.

You called on Larry Elder to leave the race?

FAULCONER: I did, because his attacks against working women are unconscionable. They are offensive, they are wrong, they're backwards. It shows he doesn't have the character, the judgment, the skill set, or the experience to be governor.

LAH: He's sell should Newsom fall, experience over the circus.

FAULCONER: I think we are rising up, the vast majority still haven't made up their mind yet.


LAH (on camera): And we are getting some new data about returning those ballots, because people are starting to make up their mind. Voting is underway, early voting is underway, mail-in ballots are hitting the mail from Democrat-leaning Political Data, Inc., we are learning that 21 percent of the ballots have come back in that they have been returned. And so far, Democrats are out performing the registration numbers, 54 percent, of the ballots, return Republicans making up about 24 percent, Wolf.

It's important to note we don't know how they have voted, but this gives you an indication of how those ballots are coming in from which party registration, how it falls.

BLITZER: And, Kyung, as you know, some high-profile enforcements are coming out to California to support these various candidates. Tell us about that?

LAH: This is a very notable name. Senator Elizabeth Warren, CNN is learning, plans to come for a Saturday rally with Governor Gavin Newsom. They will be side by side, they are hoping to rally the Democratic base, the progressive base, especially women, because that, the governor's office believes, will really help push them over the edge Wolf.

BLITZER: We will watch it with you. Thank you very much, Kyung Lah, reporting for us. To our viewers, thank you very much for watching. Follow me on Instagram, and Twitter @WolfBlitzer, tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.