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At Least 45 Killed in Historic Flooding in Northeast; Hurricane Ida Death Toll Climbs to 13 in Louisiana and Mississippi; House GOP Leader Rep. McCarthy Among Lawmakers Whose Phone Records Are of Interest to the January 6 Committee. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 02, 2021 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news, unprecedented flooding is taking a devastating toll on parts of the northeast where homes, cars, even stadiums are under water. The death toll just rose to 45 after remnants of Hurricane Ida unleashed a rapid a torrential downpour from New York to Maryland.

Active rescue operations are ongoing in many areas where trapped residents are only reachable by boat. This hour, we will have live reports across this disaster zone, including New York City, where usually busy streets turned into lakes in a flash. I'll get an update from the governor of New York. She's standing by along with the governor of New Jersey as we cover this breaking story.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

So, let's get right to the flooding disaster. CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us right now. Miguel, what, half of the confirmed deaths are in New Jersey where you are tonight. What's the latest?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It is just incredible how much water was dumped in this area and that power of water. I want to show you what we're looking at right now. This is the Raritan River near New Brunswick. This was a park right in front of us beyond the river. It is about 10 to 12 feet over flood stage. It has started to come down ever so slightly. We're just passed high tide here. But these rescue workers here have a long way to go.


MARQUEZ (voice over): Raging flood waters flowing across parts of the northeast tonight where active rescues continue in the wake of Ida. In Pennsylvania officials estimate they have received calls in the thousands from people needing to be rescued from extreme flooding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water was raised so high. I couldn't rush straight to the street. I wanted to go to the fire escape. I went it up on a roof where they had to get a boat to rescue me.

MARQUEZ: In New Jersey, rescue crews using boats to help people to safety. In the northern part of the state, flood waters left trains in Bound Brook submerged and a nearby stadium filled with water. Nearly 30 miles northwest of there in Elizabeth, at least four people drowned in an apartment complex. Officials say they all lived in garden level apartments next to the Elizabeth River, which rose more than eight feet at its peak last night. Meanwhile, more than 90 miles away in Mullica Hill, at least 25 homes were destroyed or badly damaged by a tornado. This was the scene in many New York City subway stations last night caused by gushing flood watering.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY) (voice over): Unprecedented is almost an understatement. This is the first time ever we've had a flash flood emergency declared.

MARQUEZ: Across the northeast, the death toll continues to rise. Among the victims a two-year-old.

DONOVAN RICHARDS, QUEENS BOROUGH PRESIDENT: This has been a biblical storm by every means.

MARQUEZ: In Queens, the New York Police Department commissioner says at least eight people died in the basements of homes inundated with water.

JAMES WEST, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK (voice over): The roads everywhere I saw coming out of the airport and beyond flooded, dozens and dozens and dozens of cars (INAUDIBLE) stranded.

MARQUEZ: Across the Big Apple, first responders rescued hundreds from submerged cars, including commuters stock in stopped subway trains.

JANNO LIEBER, MTA ACTING CHAIR AND CEO: Roughly between 15 and 20 trains did get stranded and folks needed to be rescued.

MARQUEZ: New York Governor Kathy Hochul says it is still not clear whether this catastrophic flooding could have been predicted.

HOCHUL: I know I deployed resources yesterday morning, but we did not know that between 8:50 and 9:50 P.M. last night that the heavens would literally open up and bring Niagara Falls level water to the streets of New York. Could that have been anticipated? I want to find out.

MARQUEZ: In Central Park, 5.2 inches of water fell in just three hours, a one and 500-year rainfall event.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: My message to everyone affected is we're all in this together. The nation is here to help.

MARQUEZ: And help is something that will be needed with officials warning things will only get worse because of climate change.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): We are in a whole new world now, and this is a reality we have to face.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MARQUEZ: So what you are looking at now are submerged cars on South 18, Route 18 and Memorial Parkway here in New Brunswick. You can see how much water there is. It has started to come down ever so slightly, but there is still a massive amount of water here. It is incredible how much water Ida dropped not only here but from Louisiana all the way here packing a nationwide punch. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. It's amazing those picture are awful situation indeed. Miguel, thank you very much for that report.


Let's go to Philadelphia right now where at least 100 people have been rescued from these floodwaters. CNN's Pete Muntean is on the scene there for us. Pete, so what are you seeing on the ground tonight?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is the Vine Street Expressway, Interstate 676 cuts right through the heart of Philadelphia. I was up on that overpass at the top of last hour. Now, we have moved to an off ramp just to give you an idea of how high this water is and how high it was. You can see the mud line here. The water is receding a little bit, a massive pumping operation taking place just to the west of here.

This is so, so critical to Philadelphia, connects the Schuylkill Expressway to the Ben Franklin Bridge. You can see how high the water is. That's the 21st Street overpass there. The water about halfway up what the normal clearance would be. The Schuylkill River is overflowing its banks in crested earlier this morning at about 17 feet, right now down to about 11 feet. But the National Weather Service says it will not be below flood stage until sometime after midnight tonight. That's why the flood emergency remains in place here in Philadelphia until 7:00 tomorrow morning. We are not out of the danger zone yet and you can see why. Vine Street expressway will be choked with cars during rush hour, now just filled with water, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Pete, thank you very much, Pete Muntean on the scene for us in Philadelphia.

Let's go to the state of emergency in New Jersey right now where the governor, Phil Murphy, is joining us on the phone. Governor, thank you so much for joining us.

I know you've just announced that at least 23 New Jerseyans have been lost to the storm. Has your state ever, based on everything you know and have experienced yourself, has your state ever experienced anything like this?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ) (voice over): Wolf, it's pretty historic by any measure. I mean, I think Super Storm Sandy probably with the toll it took, probably a little bit north of what this storm did. But, frankly, as it relates to flooding, no. It's never flooded like this. It's never rained like this and multiple tornados hitting us in a small geographic space is not a normal thing in our state. So this is, by any measure, historic.

BLITZER (voice over): I know you just spoke with President Biden. I wonder if you can share how that conversation went.

MURPHY (voice over): I had a great conversation with the president. And, remember, he was a senator from Delaware for decades. And so in New Jersey, he's always been called the third senator when he was there. He knows the state called. He was extremely supportive. I complimented him on his team and FEMA in particular. I said we needed high water vehicles. The military has already come to me. And I said I needed the -- we are filing today a major federal disaster declaration and he was extremely constructive, so could not ask for any more support than from the president.

BLITZER (voice over): I'm sure he's going to give you guys whatever you need and in New York and Pennsylvania and elsewhere as well. I know, Governor, you are still dealing with significant flooding. We're showing our viewers these pictures coming in, live pictures from New Brunswick. We're also showing our viewers this baseball stadium in Bound Brook, New Jersey. What steps are you taking now to keep your residents safe as you wait for these waters to subside?

MURPHY (voice over): Yes. We're using the bully pulpit in a big way. Our first responders have been extraordinary. And they worked all through the night up and down the state. They rescued countless people. I just came from Hillsborough. The Hillsborough first responders alone rescued 200 people through the night. The problem is -- I ask them -- I assume that's over. And so it is for the first batch but sure enough, an hour and half before I saw him, they had to rescue a few more people because there were folks with cars thinking they could make their way through the receding water.

So my big plea is don't try that. Don't go near these waters. Stay home. Stay away. Let them recede. Let the first responders finish their first wave of work and then we could clean this up together and we'll get back. It will be a long road, but we'll get back on our feet together.

BLITZER (voice over): As you know, Governor, so much of the north east was caught off guard completely by this historic flooding. What went wrong? A lot of folks were asking, why weren't they better prepared for this event?

MURPHY (voice over): Well, we were pretty clear yesterday and leading up to yesterday this is going to be a big rain event and that there was real potential for tornados. But it is quite striking, Wolf. Of the 23 lives -- at least 23 that were lost, they were all lost in or around related to -- no fatalities related to the tornado warnings. The tornado warnings came out just as the flood warnings came out.

I don't know if it's human nature. We're going to do a postmortem as we do on all these storms. But everybody when they got the tornado warning, went into their basement and I think there were too many people who thought they could deal with flooding and, sadly, some of them either in their homes or in their cars lost their lives.


BLITZER (voice over): Yes. You're clearly going to have to do a postmortem on this and learn and see if there were some things you could have done differently to prevent the loss of life. I know you're going to be doing that.

When you see an unprecedented weather event overrun your state like this, Governor, does it remind you of the urgent need to address climate change? What are you doing about that at the state level?

MURPHY (voice over): Yes. Absolutely is the answer. And these storms are coming more frequently and with more intensity. So there is no denying it. And God knows a federal infrastructure bill with a lot of climate resilient infrastructure would be a game changer. At the state level, we're doing everything we can within our state resources, whether as much as you know we're the most densely populated state in America in a location that's second to none, but with huge exposure (INAUDIBLE) their water resources.

So we're investing in the enormous amount toward getting toward a 100 percent clean energy economy, doing a lot of mitigation in the meantime. But, boy, could we use a jolt of that several infrastructure money to accelerate that.

BLITZER (voice over): We're showing our viewers, Governor, these live pictures, these cars underwater in New Brunswick, New Jersey, an area obviously you know very well. Good luck to you, Governor. Good luck to all the folks in New Jersey. We'll stay in touch with you.

MURPHY (voice over): Thanks for having me, Wolf. Take care.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

I want to go to the CNN Severe Weather Center right now. Our Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is standing by. Jennifer, the northeast has not seen a deluge like this I don't know if ever. But drive home for us how fast and powerful all of a sudden it developed.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, this was unreal. It was not only the amount of water that fell, but it was in such a short time, and that's what created this. It is one thing to have this much rain over a long period of time, but when it all happens in three to four hours, you are going to get catastrophic flooding, and that's exactly what happened.

This is our radar from last night. You can see all of the rain pushing through. Ida's path has been relentless. 15,000 miles, 22 states impacted, more than 500 flood reports, and we saw a lot of those right here in the northeast last night, more than 20 daily rain fall records fell. Look at these rain fall totals, about 8.5 inches of rain in portions of New Jersey, Brooklyn about 7.5 inches. This is in about 24-time span. But we know that most of the rain fell in a shorter amount of time than that.

Newark, New Jersey, about 8.5 inches of rain, wettest day on record. New York City, top five wettest days. Look at this. One hour time, more than three inches of rain fell in Central Park. I don't know any city that can handle that much water, those high of rain rates coming down. That is going to create flooding, no doubt about it. We had flash flood emergencies stretch 190 miles. The problem now, the skies have cleared. The water is still there. We have rivers that are overflowing their banks. And, Wolf, it will take a couple of days to get all of this water to recede.

BLITZER: Well, let's see what happens, but it is a horrible, horrible situation right now. Jennifer, thank you very much for that update, Jennifer Gray reporting for us.

We'll have more breaking news coming up here in The Situation Room. I will speak live with the New York Governor Kathy Hochul. She's standing by. You can see her right there. She's going to deal with this historic flooding disaster just days after taking office. Stay with us. We've got lots to discuss with the Governor when we come back.



BLITZER: We're back with our breaking news coverage of this truly historic flash flooding going on in the northeast. The death toll rising rapidly, it is now up to 45.

Joining us now, the new governor of New York, Kathy Hochul. Governor, thank you for joining us. I know this is only your second week as Governor of New York. You've already faced -- facing this truly unprecedented crisis right now. What impact is the storm having on New York residents, infrastructure across your state?

HOCHUL: Well, thank you for having me. And yes, this was a cataclysmic event and people talk about every 500 years. I have no idea whether some was around 500 years ago to keep track of this. But this is bad and we broke records in Central Park and at the airports. And what's so fascinating, we broke records that were set two weeks ago.

So we are in the era where historic rainfalls are becoming the norm. So we have infrastructure challenges, and that's why I declared it a federal disaster declaration. I sent it off to President Biden just this afternoon for 14 counties, had a great conversation with the president who offered any help we need.

So as you mention, infrastructure is critically important. I'm really proud that we were able to get the subways, which people are stunned by the images of, literally, Niagara Falls going down the staircases of many of our subway stations. I know it's a frightening experience. And our rivers are flowing, our roads became rivers. But we have also been able to restore service, which I have been out to many of our subway stations and some of the Long Island Railroad stops just to see the workers out there with shovels in hands clearing the railroads, making them safe again and getting our trains back, going again. But long-term, it is all about building resiliency through our infrastructure.

And what we did before, Wolf, after Super Storm Sandy, we built up our coastline, so they are in better shape than they had been. But what we're seeing is not flooding coming in from high wave action.


The flooding is coming from the skies. I mean, this is literally the skies opening up and wreaking havoc and that's why we have to make sure that our drainage systems, our sewers and that kind of infrastructure can handle the volume so it doesn't overflow into the subways.

BLITZER: Yes. It is really a horrendous situation. And you are only in your second week on the job as the Governor of New York.

New York and some of the other states across the northeast, they clearly were caught off guard by the severity of this extraordinary storm. I know you are going to be doing a postmortem. I spoke with Governor Murphy of New Jersey, and he's going to be doing that as well. Was there a failure, Governor, to anticipate what was coming?

HOCHUL: Well, we anticipated up until that one hour. We had been sending out notices. We knew that there were tornado warnings. People had known about this. But what happened between 8:51 P.M. and 9:51, that one hour, literally unexpected torrential rain came down and that is what caused the crisis that we're in.

But I'm going to find out where our warnings came from and where we can ensure that we get more clear intelligence from our weather networks and find out what they know and was there a way to do this better. I have been through so many natural disasters. I'm from Buffalo. I have worked with dealing with seven feet of snow disaster, as people stranded in cars for 36 hours literally a week after I was elected office for lieutenant governor.

So I'm not unfamiliar with this setting, but this volume of rain and this area of population, the population of New York City, Long Island and the downstate area, that's why it has such a profound effect on people. And it is so disruptive to their lives. We lost people, people that are simply living in their homes or taking their car out, unaware of the profound dangers that were surrounding them, and they succumbed to this storm. It is absolutely heartbreaking. And other people's businesses disrupted, houses destroyed.

So we have to do more in the short-term. I'm going to get answers on where there were failures in communication and failures in preparedness but also to find out how we build for the long-term. This is no longer going to be a rare event. This is the norm here in the northeast and certainly all across America.

BLITZER: Yes. We're going to learn what happened and make sure we learn those lessons so we don't go through this. Again, a lot of people, as you well know better than I do, complaining, why wasn't I told to evacuate, why wasn't I told to shelter in place. A lot of folks are complaining right now.

You got a lot going on, Governor. Thank you so much for joining us. As a fellow Buffalonian, congratulations on your new assignment, and I can relate to all the disasters. I grew up in Buffalo, so I experienced those as well. Good luck. Good luck to everyone in New York, my home state.

HOCHUL: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Governor Kathy Hochul of New York.

Coming up, we'll have more on the epic flooding in New York City where the mayor says people are going through hell and they need help.

And the U.S. Supreme Court formally refuses to block the new total ban on abortions in Texas, exposing a very sharp divide among the justices and escalating concerns about the future of Roe versus Wade.



BLITZER: At this hour, the northeast is just beginning to get a fuller picture of the death and the damage from an unprecedented flash flood emergency caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. At least 45 people now confirmed dead in a rescue and the recovery operation is ongoing.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is joining us from New York right now. He's in the Bronx. Shimon I see that Major Deegan Highway behind you, traffic is beginning to move. It was pretty much underwater a little while ago.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three hours ago, Wolf, I was out here completely underwater, water up to my knees. You couldn't walk- through it. Certainly, you couldn't drive through it. And then within about the last 45 minutes after the NYPD cleared a lot of the cars that were stranded here, they have now reopened. They pumped all of that water out of here. And as you can see traffic is now moving.

But this gives you a idea of just how crowded and how much traffic is on this road and how much people rely on the Major Deegan to get home, to get to work. But I also want to show you, there are still many abandoned cars here, cars that got caught in the flood. A lot of them are on the other side of the road. Some of them have broken windows. I was able to walk through the road here earlier. And I can see inside the cars. There was all kinds of debris. In one of the cars, I saw what looked like a tree trunk. So --

BLITZER: I think we just lost our connection with Shimon Prokupecz. We'll see if we can reconnect. Shimon Prokupecz in the Bronx for us.

Let's get some more on the flooding in New York right now. Let's go to Brooklyn. The Brooklyn borough president, Eric Adams, is joining us. He's also the Democratic nominee in the New York City mayoral race. Eric Adams, thank you so much for joining us.

I know you've been travelling across the city today. What have you seen and what are New Yorkers telling you about their experiences during this historic storm?

ERIC ADAMS (D) NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: That's so true. I was out last night until about 4:00 A.M. in the morning. And what really personifies this experience for me was crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. And in my entire life in the city there was never a time that we saw flooding enter Manhattan that at the foot of bridge, and I saw that.

And as I moved through out Crown Heights which is a high point in our city, we had serious flooding there, as well as Williamsburg and parts of Staten Island today.


And then what's really horrific is that we lost close to 13 New Yorkers due to the flooding. And there is just a lot of trauma as well as the actual physical damage to property.

BLITZER: The 35 billion, with a B, billion gallons of rain, we're told, fell overnight, triggering the first flooding emergency ever issued for New York City, and you want to be Mayor of New York City. What steps need to be taken now to ensure that the city is prepared for the next big storm, because, sadly, we all know there will be more?

ADAMS: In honesty, exactly what you just stated, we have to be honest with ourselves. It is more than just building a wall. If the Army Corps of Engineers' job is just to build a wall around our city, that wall would not have stopped what we saw last night. It was raining. It wasn't a full moon. It wasn't a high tide that came in. It was rain. And we need to start finding one solution to deal with a multitude of problems.

And, Wolf, I'm clear that we have to think differently and figure out how to live with the changes that we're seeing in our environment and not think that we can just keep the water from coming in. And that is the goal that I must do if I'm successful at being the mayor of the city of New York, is to sit down and look at other countries because other countries have realized that we must start living with these climate changes as we prevent further erosions of our environment in the future.

BLITZER: I know you are calling for these infrastructure improvements that are so desperately needed in New York and so many other places around the country. You point out that we're witnessing, and correct me if I'm wrong, and I'm quoting you now, I think what climate change is doing to our country. If you are New York City's next mayor, how will you ensure those necessary improvements are made?

ADAMS: Wolf, number one, let's look -- as I always state, let's find one solution to deal with a multitude of problems. We have to deal with our economy. We have to save our environment. We have a crumbling infrastructure. We still have sewers that are made of bricks. So why not put in place a real capital green job where we can have low skills that are needed but middle class jobs to retrofit our buildings.

Bill Clinton talks about this often in my conversation with him. He talks about an amazing retrofitting program about builders. We could talk about using solar on our rooftop. We could talk about using wind on our shores. And then we should have a real conversation that really not only thinks outside the box but we have to destroy the box now. Let's talk about floating cities and let's look at what's being done in other parts of globe of how they're living with water and assure that we build out our economy, build out our city to start absorbing the water by using greenery in natural ways that nature actually holds water out.

BLITZER: Eric Adams is the Brooklyn borough president, the Democratic nominee for mayor, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in New York right now.

ADAMS: Thank you. Take care.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead, we're learning more about the deaths of Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Ida as conditions in the hardest hit areas remain dire.

And we'll also break down the U.S. Supreme Court's decision allowing a near total abortion ban to take effect in Texas, now that we have new details on the vote and the powerful dissent.



BLITZER: Stay with us, of course, for updates on the breaking news, the rising death toll of the disasters caused by Hurricane Ida and its remnants in the northeast as well as along the gulf coast. But we're also following a major legal and political story that has nationwide implications, the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to block a restrictive new abortion law in Texas.

Let's bring in our Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, how is President Biden responding to this Supreme Court action?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Biden sharply criticized the Texas law, as well as the Supreme Court decision. He said it will unleash constitutional chaos, and he said it simply does not hold up to what is widely believed by people on both sides of the aisle, certainly Democrats, as settled law for Roe versus Wade. But he did call for what he called a whole of government approach to see what the government can indeed do, if anything, about this, calling for the Department of Human Services as well as the Justice Department to look into the legality of this.

Now, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, also said that his department was looking into what they can do to uphold the woman's right to choose. But, Wolf, this is something the White House really is limited in what they can do. The Senate and the House, certainly there is not overwhelming support, particularly in the Senate to codify Roe versus Wade into law. So this is something that the White House is, quite frankly, limited to do. And the president is being pushed by progressives is and Democrats to expand the Supreme Court, to support a plan to add more justices, of course, liberal justices, in their view, to the Supreme Court. He's never been a fan of that. But there is a commission studying if that will work.

But, Wolf, the bottom line is that is not going to happen. So This is something that really is a consequence of the election. The Supreme Court, you know, is based on the Trump justices that make up the Supreme Court right now. So, this is something that President Biden, yes, is concerned about but, frankly, can do little about it, at least in the short-term.

BLITZER: Yes. That's important. All right, Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thank you.

Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, Maggie Haberman of the New York Times and CNN Supreme Court Reporter Ariane De Vogue.

Ariane, are we witnessing the end of Roe versus Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion rights for women in the United States?


ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Wolf, even before all of this, the conservatives on this court emboldened by three of Trump's nominees, they were gunning for Roe v. Wade. Don't forget, Justice Clarence Thomas has called for it to be overturned. And so what we're seeing last night, this ruling in Texas shows that in Texas, at least, it is a dead letter. And it's going to embolden not only other states, and we are hearing that there are some legislatures in Florida now that want to do a copy cat law, but other judges across the country who are going to look, in some ways, they have gotten a green light from the Supreme Court. And, remember, President Trump, way back when, said he was going to put pro-life judges on the Supreme Court. And, so far, Republicans are getting what they want. And in Texas, at least, they were able to bring abortion to a halt even without overruling Roe v. Wade law.

BLITZER: Yes, that's really important indeed. Maggie, President Biden ordered what's called a whole of government effort to respond to this decision. What's the immediate political impact of all of this going to be?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, Wolf, it is definitely going to fire up Democrats at least ahead of the midterms. It is very hard to say this far out, as you know, exactly what Democrats will be talking about. But assuming the court does not reverse itself, the Supreme Court and strike down this law and decide it is unconstitutional.

If this continues, you are going to see Democrats use it to energize their voters heading into 2020 -- 2022, excuse me and make the point that elections have consequences, as you recall, in 2014 it was when the Senate flipped and Merrick Garland was not advanced to the court after the Senate became Republican majority held, that that is part of why you know things are where they are. I think you will see Democrats say that.

But beyond that, Wolf, I think they're not quite sure what to do yet because they're still looking at what their actual options are and trying to push ahead with making new law or breaking new ground comes with consequences.

BLITZER: It certainly does. You know, Ariane, speaking of Merrick Garland, he's now the Attorney General of the United States, he says the Justice Department is evaluating all options to protect the constitutional rights of women, including access to abortion. Ironically, we wouldn't be in this situation if Mitch McConnell hadn't blocked Merrick Garland's confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, would we?

DE VOGUE: Right. Merrick Garland was President Obama's moderate nominee. Of course, he never did get a hearing. And Neil Gorsuch, who was in the majority last night, took the seat and then we had Brett Kavanaugh, who managed to convince Senator Susan Collins that he was going to protect precedent. And then, of course, after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died, we got the Justice Amy Coney Barrett. And, of course, that's a big switch here. Last night, this vote was 5-4. Barrett's vote, of course, was critical. So it is -- if you look back at the last few years, it is really interesting to see what -- what happened.

And I'm old enough to remember that after garland got nominated, and he was still trying to get on the bench, during the presidential campaign, the Democrats did not bring him up a lot, whereas, President Trump, when he was running for president, he practically ran on the Supreme Court, Wolf.

BLITZER: He certainly did. He got three Supreme Court justices confirmed, that they clearly made a huge difference last night.

Maggie, the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, wants Congress to pass a law codifying Roe versus Wade. Is that likely? I mean, there is 50/50 Senate. You need 60 votes in the Senate.

HABERMAN: Not only do you need as many votes in the Senate as you just said, but, frankly, I'm not sure that every member of the House Democratic Caucus would go along with the type of push that Pelosi is talking about. Again, it will be animating for base Democrats. I do think there are a lot of Democrats who would like to see that right now and are pushing for something. She's doing what she can.

But to your point, it is very hard to see how that will become law and there is a risk in that because, as you know, if Democrats push it and it fails, yes, they can say Republicans blocked us, but there will probably be some Democrats in there too in the Senate, and that gets complicated on the politics.

BLITZER: All right. Maggie, thanks very much, Maggie Haberman, Ariane De Vogue, I appreciate it.

The breaking news continues next here in The Situation Room. The death toll from Hurricane Ida climbs as Louisiana faces devastating fallout with 900,000 customers still without power.


[18:48:55] BLITZER: There is more breaking news we're following. Louisiana just announced more deaths from Hurricane Ida.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us from Kenner, Louisiana right now.

Brian, what are you picking up?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. New information tonight just in. Louisiana officials reporting three additional deaths related to the hurricane. These are three people who suffered carbon monoxide related deaths in Jefferson Parish. CNN reporting at least 13 fatalities related to the hurricane in Louisiana and Mississippi.

This comes as pedestrians and motorists alike are navigating dangerous situations like this one with downed power lines all over the place here. Some areas of Louisiana remain uninhabitable.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, Grand Isle, Louisiana, almost unrecognizable.

CYNTHIA LEE SHENG, PRESIDENT, JEFFERSON PARISH: You can't go to Grand Isle right now, by land or by vote.

TODD: Its roads, impassable.

SHENG: The island is uninhabitable. There's three feet of sand across the entire island, 10 to 12 breaks, 100 percent of the structures have been damaged. We estimate 40 percent of the structures were destroyed.


TODD: Plaquemines Parish under water as far as the eye can see from officials there surveying damage, struggling to clear roadways and keep water systems going, the message is clear.

KIRK LEPINE, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH: We encourage any resident that evacuated to remain there and stay there at this present evacuated to remain that and stay there at this present time because we do not have the resources to help you.

TODD: Power crews from all over the country grinding through neighborhoods, street by street. Power companies supervisors told us off camera that it's an enormous task.

One foreman in the New Orleans east area where some power has been restored told us to move back as his team replaced a poll because it was too dangerous. When I asked him how long it will take to replace the poll --

JIMBO WEEMS, FOREMAN, DANELLA COMPANIES, INC.: I could not even give you a solid answer on that, man. I ain't got that magic wand.

TODD: Can you give me a sense of how tough this is to replace a line?

WEEMS: I'm wet, 16 hours a day, 5 days straight. It's what we do.

TODD: When they find a downed pole or line on a given corner, it's not just a matter of propping up backup or replacing it.

Here is an example of how painstaking, dangerous and complicated it is just to restore power in the New Orleans area. That supervisor told us that what these guys are doing is a procedure called a locate. They got to try to locate a power line but also locate water, gas and fiber lines that maybe down there so they do not interfere with them. They are using manual what they called slapstick's. These are post hole digger with long handles just to try to find those line so they do not interfere with them so they can get this pullback up and running.

Residents of New Orleans east tell us it has been tough without power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The food went bad. I threw away maybe about $500 worth of food. I had to go to Mississippi to get ice. Yeah, I had to go to Mississippi to get ice and groceries and gas.

TODD: Resident Larry Jackson took it upon himself to flag down a power company scout coming down history in the pick up truck and offered him some inventive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told them, hey, look, guys, I'll probably make some jambalaya and get my poles straight.

TODD: In St. Charles Parish, car it's lined up for miles in search of food and water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just don't want to get low.

TODD: The search for gas is still a struggle.

MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL (D), NEW ORLEANS: We just have not received adequate fueling services to the general public.


TODD: And the slow grind of power restoration continues but with some progress. Entergy Louisiana says it has restored power to at least 10 hospitals in southeastern Louisiana. Also several sewerage treatment plants have had their powers restored through the repair of the generators that they were using. Roughly, a little over 130,000 customers have had their power restored now since the hurricane, Wolf, but it's just not going fast enough for so many people.

BLITZER: Yeah, it's going to be weeks we're told. Brian Todd reporting. Thank you very much.

In California tonight, the mega fire threatening the resort town of South Lake Tahoe has now ballooned to more than 210,000 acres. The Caldor Fire has forced thousands of people to evacuate. The forecast for lighter winds put out firefighters have the upper hand on a 3- week-old blaze. The fire is one of the few ever to burn all the way across the vast Sierra Nevada range and experts warn that climate change are making mega fires like this one more common. Just ahead, we are learning about another big name, a very big name on

the list of Republicans whose phone records are of interest to the January 6th select committee.



BLITZER: We have more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

CNN has learned the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is among the Republican lawmakers whose phone records are of interest to the January 6th select committee.

Let's go straight to our congressional correspondent Jessica Dean joining us from Capitol Hill.

What are you learning, Jessica?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, CNN has learned about the January 6th select committee has asked several telecommunications companies to preserve the phone records of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in addition to other members of the house Republican Party.

We had learned about this a list of the lawmakers that they were targeting for these phone preservation records earlier this week at the time of our earlier reporting, Leader McCarthy's name was on that list. But by the time it was submitted to those telecommunication companies, his name had been added to the list.

Now you will remember on January 6th during the insurrection here at the Capitol, McCarthy speaking with then-President Trump at the time and you can imagine that is a great interest to the House select committee. They want to dig into that and learn more about it.

Now when they announced that they had reached out to the telecommunications company to add for the preservation of these records earlier this week, we had heard from Kevin McCarthy. He had said that any company that complied with this request would be breaking a law. But, Wolf, we reached out to see just what law he thinks they would be breaking. We also reached out for comment on his name appearing on this list. His office has not gotten back to us as of yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we know when there might be another hearing? A public hearing that emerges?

DEAN: Right. We are still waiting to hear exactly what happens next in terms of the exact date for that hearing. Wolf, we know that they are working their way toward that. Also worth noting today, Liz Cheney announced as vice chairman of the committee -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Vice chair. Very important indeed.

All right. Thanks very much, Jessica Dean, reporting on that.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. You can always follow me on Twitter, on Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.