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Governor Says,Kentucky Death Toll From Powerful Tornadoes Rises To 74. Soon, 1/6 Committee Votes On Holding Mark Meadows In Contempt; Kentucky Governor: At Least 74 Dead, 109 Unaccounted For In Tornado Disaster; Biden Wraps Call With Sen. Manchin Seeking Support For Sweeping Social And Climate Spending Plan; Supreme Court Declines To Block New York Vaccine Mandate; Israeli Prime Minister Makes Historic Visit To UAE, Meets With Crown Prince After Normalizing Ties. Aired 6- 7p ET
Aired December 13, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: He's right next door to us in THE SITUATION ROOM.
See you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, the death toll is rising from a powerful onslaught of tornadoes across the south and Midwest. Kentucky's governor now says at least 74 people were killed in his state alone. Thousands are without power and entire towns are gone.
The other major story we're following, the January 6th committee is about to take a major step and vote on holding Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress. New details now emerging about the former Trump White House chief of staff's role in the lead up to the insurrection including efforts to protect pro-Trump rioters.
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.
We begin with a multistate tornado disaster as the death toll climbs and the search for the missing intensifies. Our correspondents are covering all angles of this breaking story.
Let's go to Brian Todd first. He is in the hard-hit Mayfield, Kentucky, for us. Brian, what are you seeing on the ground tonight?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENNT: Wolf, nearly three days after the tornadoes ripped through this area, there is still a very dynamic situation of salvage, search and rescue. You've got crews moving heavy debris over here with a heavy shovel. Over here, you have got devastation on almost every street corner of Downtown Mayfield. This is as officials are assessing the damage in Kentucky and in seven other states tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice over): Rescuers race the clock using cranes and search dogs as they pick through the debris of Friday's tornadoes. Mayfield, Kentucky, was hit by the worst one, a path of destruction stretching perhaps 200 miles through Kentucky and beyond.
GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): The worst tornado event in the history of our commonwealth.
TODD: More than 1,000 houses have been obliterated in Kentucky alone. The state's governor expecting the death toll statewide to top 80.
BESHEAR: Of the ones that we know, the age range is 5 months to 86 years.
TODD: Multiple deaths reported in neighboring states as well, shelters and even parks now housing hundreds of victims across several states, crews work to clear debris. 28,000 homes still without power in Kentucky, and with an estimated 8,000 poles down, restoration is a challenge, as is digging out in places like Bowling Green.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be weeks on end. And I say weeks and it could be longer.
TODD: Towns and cities in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee also still reeling. In Trumann, Arkansas, a family picks up what's left of their home.
CATHERINE BARNES, HOMEOWNER IN TRUMANN, ARKANSAS: The next thing I know, the house caved in on us. I did not even go get my grandson.
TODD: At this devastated Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville Illinois, Clayton Cope was among those six who died.
CARLA COPE, MOTHER OF AMAZON WAREHOUSE WORKER: We told him that it looked like the storm was headed that way and that he needed to get to shelter.
TODD: The governor says the collapse is being investigated. Could the company have done anything differently to protect workers?
JOHN FELDMAN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, AMAZON: Everything we've seen, it was, all procedures were followed correctly.
TODD: At a destroyed candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky at least eight are dead and up to eight are missing.
LT. DARIN FRENCH, MAYFIELD, KENTUCKY FIRE DEPARTMENT: We are trying to concentrate those efforts into the areas where we knew we had people.
TODD: They have search more than half the building, a search made harder due to the unstable structure and hazards of the debris.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're performing crane operations to remove the heavy steel structure from the roof to create additional void spaces for our people to search, as well as canines, so that if there are still any employees remaining in that building, we will be able to get them.
TODD: Among the victims at the candle factory, Janine Williams, working overtime hours ahead of the holidays. Her husband of 30 years rushed out to look for her on Friday night.
IVY WILLIAMS, HUSBAND OF TORNADO VICTIM JANINE WILLIAMS: I just love her to death. We got three grandkids. I want to find my wife. I want to find her now.
TODD (on camera): Now, at that candle factory tonight, there are complications that we're not seeing anywhere else in this area. At that candle factory, the smell of candles is still drifting all over that site. And officials there have told me that that's really complicating the efforts because it is throwing the search dogs off their mark, the search dogs that they're trying to send in to help people and to find people in that rubble.
Also, Wolf, we got word tonight that President Biden is going to be coming here on Wednesday to survey some of the damage. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you very much, Brian Todd on the scene for us.
Let's go to Illinois right now where an Amazon warehouse was hit by a tornado, collapsing with workers trapped inside. Six people are now confirmed dead.
CNN's Polo Sandoval is on the scene for us in Edwardsville, Illinois.
Polo, the warehouse took a direct hit. What are you seeing? What are you hearing? What's the latest?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It did. And what we heard from Illinois' governor earlier today is that local officials with certainly be looking into this to see if anything else could have been done to try to prevent what took place. The way we heard it from the governor is that natural disasters certainly can't be prevented but tragedies of this magnitude certainly can.
Just for background for our viewers, it was actually on Friday evening when that tornado almost seemed to have zeroed in on this Amazon shipping center, basically cutting right through it and causing these large concrete walls to collapse, eventually leading to the death of the six employees who were inside Friday night. Again, that's taking place here now.
Speaking alongside with the governor, we did hear from a couple of Amazon executives who maintained they did everything that they could to ensure the safety of those employees, that they followed those protocols, including using bullhorns to urge employees, some 46 people who are inside, to get to an interior space. It was described as a shelter in place space. However there will also, quick to point out, that that was not meant to serve as a kind of a storm shelter, in fact, because of flooding concerns. The building that you see behind me did not have any form of basement and technically didn't have to, according to building codes.
And so what we saw today is basically authorities here recognizing that they need to take a closer look at those building codes to see if this perhaps could potentially be changed. Meanwhile, of course, you have a federal investigation that's headed by OSHA. They are also looking into this, and then you have the families of those six people who were killed still, Wolf, trying to make sense of what happened here.
BLITZER: All right, Polo, thank you very much, Polo Sandoval reporting.
Let's get more on what's going on as far as the tornado destruction in Kentucky is concerned. We're joined now by the Fire Chief and EMS Director in the town of Mayfield, Kentucky, Jeremy Creason. Chief Creason, thank you so much for joining us.
Our heart goes out to everyone who has been so devastatingly impacted by this. But give us a sense of what your teams on the ground are ups against right now.
JEREMY CREASON, MAYFIELD, KENTUCKY, FIRE CHIEF AND EMS DIRECTOR: Well, Wolf, we -- the candle factory scene is -- it's a very complex, complicated scene. We have teams from Lexington and Louisville that have come in and they're helping spearhead that operation.
They have resources and equipment and knowledge that far exceeds what we have on the local level. So, we're very appreciative of what they're doing. Throughout the rest of the impacted area, we are -- we're doing primary searches, secondary searches. We have those complete. We're now going door-to-door doing welfare checks across the city and county. We're looking for the needs of people within the community.
We have utility crews who are working around the clock to try to restore power to our citizens. The gas company is working again around the clock to fix gas leaks. Our electric and water department, they're trying to get water restored to the city. So, we're clearing debris and we have a lot going on. We're in a much better position than we were Friday night and Saturday morning, but we still have a long way to go.
BLITZER: Yes, you do. What's posing, Chief, the biggest challenge to you and your teams right now?
CREASON: The biggest challenge to my department, you know, we put in a lot of hours, a lot of consecutive hours, when we -- for the initial response. So, we've been very fortunate to have EMS crews and engine companies come in from all over the commonwealth of Kentucky, really, all over the nation.
Just a few minutes ago, I was greeted by members of FDNY who have come down to offer their assistance with the IFF. I can't thank the people, the first responders who are coming, I can't thank them enough for coming to us in our time of need. So, that's given my crew some time to get a little sleep, get a little rest and rehab and so we can get back to normal operations and get back to helping our community.
BLITZER: Well, good luck, Chief Creason. As I said, our hearts go out to you. I know this is a huge, huge assignment, all of you have, and I know the community is counting on you. Thanks so much for joining us.
CREASON: Thank you, Wolf. Have a good evening.
BLITZER: Thank you very much. And to our viewers out there, if you would like to help tornado victims, you can go to cnn.com/impact to learn ways you can impact your world.
This is so, so important.
There's more breaking news just ahead. We're going to go back live to the tornado disaster zone in Kentucky and speak to the head of the state's emergency management agency.
But up next, the House January 6th select committee is about to vote on holding the former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress. We're live on Capitol Hill when we come back.
BLITZER: Right now we're standing by for a key vote by the house select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. That will move former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows one step closer to a criminal contempt charge.
CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid reports, the vote comes as new details are emerging about Meadows' actions before and during the insurrection as well as his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, a Congressional committee expected to seek criminal contempt charges against former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Chairman Bennie Thompson says they are left with no choice after the Congressman turned top Trump adviser stopped cooperating with their investigation into January 6th.
Just hours ago, Meadows' attorney sent a letter to the committee asking them to reconsider, writing the contemplated referral would be contrary to law because his client is a senior official who made a good faith invocation of executive privilege and testimonial immunity.
MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Nothing I've done would rise to criminal contempt, but I obviously are going to have to throw my -- on the mercies and graces of the court.
REID: But the committee members have repeatedly pointed out that Meadows cannot claim executive privilege over materials he already turned over.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If he believed he had a privilege to assert, he could have shown up. He could have said, With respect to this question, here is why I believe it's privileged. Of course, he didn't do any of that.
REID: On Sunday lawmakers released a 51-page report lying out the case for contempt against Meadows and the questions they have about the thousands of documents he's turned over. According to the report, Meadows sent an email saying the National Guard would be present to protect pro-Trump people on January 6th.
The committee wants to know more about whether Trump engaged in discussions regarding the National Guard's response which was delayed for hours as violence escalated at the Capitol. Meadows also exchanged text messages with and provided guidance to an organizer of the January 6th rally on the ellipse after the organizer told him, things have gotten crazy and I desperately need direction please.
The committee also wants to ask Meadows about text messages on January 6th with members of Congress, one of Trump's family members and others, encouraging Meadows to facilitate a statement by president Trump discouraging violence at the Capitol on January 6th. The committee is also interested in the weeks leading up to the insurrection and Meadows' involvement in efforts to undermine the election outcome.
According to the report, when presented with the idea of certain states sending alternate slates of electors to Congress, Meadows responded, I love it and, yes, have a team on it.
SCHIFF: We may not know what's going through Mark Meadows' head unless he comes in and tells us. But we will do the best we can and I am confident at the end of the day we'll be telling a very full story to the American people about what happened.
REID (on camera): Today the committee met with William Walker, he was a top commander for D.C.'s National Guard on January 6th. He's previously testified that on January 5th he received a memo indicating he would need to seek approval from the secretary of army and defense before responding to any protests, something that he described as unusual, but something that also takes on new significance with this new details we're learning about the former chief of staff and his comments about the National Guard. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Paula Reid up on Capitol Hill, watching all of these unfold. Paula, thank you.
Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel and CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, he's the Author of the book, True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation Of Donald Trump.
Jamie, you're getting some significant new insight right now. And what we can expect from the committee that's about to tonight. What are you learning?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: A source familiar tells me this won't just be a vote on contempt, that there are significant new details, that the committee is going to lay out in black and white the substance of these texts.
We are going to hear members read exactly what was being said to Mark Meadows and what he was saying back in real time on January 6th during the riot.
Let me give you an example of two that we're aware of from the 51-page document. This is a text from a former White House employee to Mark Meadows, quote, you guys have to say something even if the president is not willing to put out a statement. You should go to the cameras and say we condemn this, please stand down. If you don't, people are going to die.
Although the committee does not identify who that former White House employee is, we actually know who it is from a Washington Post Reporters, Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker, their book I Alone Can Fix It. It was Alyssa Farah, who was a former White House Communications Director.
So, in real-time telling Meadows people can die. In fact, five people died that day.
One other text, this is from a rally organizer to Mark Meadows. So, from outside right into the White House, the rally organizer says, quote, things have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction, please.
I just think we need to underscore, Wolf, that most of these texts are from Republican members of Congress, Trump loyalists, even a Trump family member. These are inner circle Trump people just pleading with the White House to do something. Mark Meadows is in there with Donald Trump watching it all on T.V., and for hours nothing happens.
BLITZER: Yes. It's really revealing, this 51-page document that the select committee publicly revealed. I recommend folks read it if they have a few moments to do so. It will take a few moments, 51 pages. Stand by.
Even with all these documents, Jeffrey, this Meadows contempt case, at least according to several legal analysts isn't necessarily a slam dunk for the U.S. Justice Department, right?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's right, because Mark Meadows was the White House Chief of Staff. And there are certainly some communications between the president and his Chief of Staff that are probably covered by executive privilege. I mean that is the heart of certain kinds of communication.
However, one part of this that I don't think has gotten enough attention is that Mark Meadows has written a book and is publicizing a book about, among other things, what went on, on January 6th. I don't know how his lawyer is going to go before a judge and say, oh, well, we're publishing a book on this subject and trying to make money off these disclosures in the book, but we're not going to tell the United States Congress what went on.
I mean, you know, it is one thing if you are completely silent and honoring all privileges and not disclosing any documents and not writing a book, but once you start disclosing documents and writing a book and then say I can't talk about it, that to me seems like a very difficult legal position to defend.
BLITZER: Well, Jeffrey, how disturbing is it to see the then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows actually write that the National Guard would, quote, and quoting him now, protect pro-Trump people on January 6th?
TOOBIN: See this is exactly the subject that, the Congress needs to investigate. What was the role of the National Guard? Why weren't they at the Capitol earlier? Who were they supposed to be protecting once they got there? I mean, these are very important questions. That text is something that is obviously -- it needs to be explored, but you can only do that with live testimony, and that's what Congress is trying to get.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens, guys. Thank you very much.
This note, a key member of the January 6th select committee is standing by live, will join me in a few moments. We've got good questions to ask.
There's more breaking news on the horrifying scale of the tornado destruction in Kentucky and the emergency operations under way tonight. I'll speak live with the state's emergency management directly. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on the escalating loss of life and property after at least 50 tornadoes pummeled parts of the south and Midwest. The Kentucky governor announcing that the state's death toll is now up to 74 with 109 people still unaccounted for.
Let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera, he's joining us from Dawson Springs, Kentucky, one of the devastated areas that President Biden plans to tour on Wednesday.
Ed, the mayor estimates, what, 75 percent of the town is now gone. What more are you seeing on the ground? ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDED: Think about that statistic here, as this city begins the process of figuring out what the future is going to look like. We are told that the death toll here in Hopkins County, which is where Dawson Springs is, and we are in the neighborhood that was hardest hit in this County, is 13.
The last victim that we know about that was pulled from the rubble was in this apartment complex that you see behind us. And in this neighborhood, a number of people who passed away and perished in this storm, but city and county officials here beginning the grim task of trying to clean up the debris and the destruction that was caused by this tornado.
And it is going to take some time. County officials say it will take several weeks to get the power fully restored, as you mentioned, Wolf, 75 percent of this town destroyed by this tornado. The mayor also says that about a third of the people here live below the poverty line.
So rebuilding for a lot of these people will be very difficult. And that's why there are so many questions tonight about what exactly this neighborhood in Dawson springs will look like a year from now. And that is the question that so many people here are facing, do they rebuild or do they move on and try to figure out something else.
But there's a great deal of concern as residents are still grappling with the cleanup process. The mayor here in Dawson Springs says that one of the biggest challenges they have is managing the outpouring of support that they're getting from so many corners of the country.
In fact, the mayor, Wolf, told me today, that it would actually be best if people could hold off a little bit and may be call back next week, when they're going to continue to need the help. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes. You will mean the help for quite a while. Look at that devastation. Ed Lavandera, thank you very much.
Let's get an update right now from the Director of the Kentucky Emergency Management Agency, Michael Dossett who is joining us now. Director Dossett, thank you so much for joining us. First of all, what's the latest you can tell us, sir, about the situation on the ground there in Kentucky?
MICHAEL DOSSETT, DIRECTOR, KENTUCKY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Sure, good evening. And thanks for featuring us tonight. Our hearts go out to all the families of those lost and so for those missing. We still have power outages as you can imagine. This event happened during the evening hours and early morning, and that certainly didn't work in our favor.
We still have about 26,500 out of power. However, that's down from about 100,000. Our power sector and our contractors have done just a remarkable job in getting who they can back on.
We also lost some large transmission towers. So they'll be out for weeks to months in replacing those. We've had a lot of help on the ground. Initially the governor asked for and received declaration only hours after the event. And that was an emergency declaration for eight counties.
Shortly thereafter we asked for an expedited major declaration, and we received that within only a six-hour period. The Department of Homeland Security has been remarkable. Yesterday Secretary Mayorkas toured the area along with the FEMA Administrator Criswell and our Regional Administrator Gracia Szczech. And they saw the devastation and the heartbreak and pushed our request through -- they expedited our request and it was approved in record time. So we're recovering. It's still a dire situation. We're still doing search and rescue.
BLITZER: The last we heard from your governor, at least 74 Kentuckians dead. Is there an update? Do you know Director?
DOSSETT: We held a press conference, and those figures are current as of 4:00 P.M.
BLITZER: But there still, what, more than 100 people missing, right?
DOSSETT: That's true, across the county. We actually have probably eight of the hardest-hit counties and then we move out another 20 counties. We actually have one of arguably the longest tornado tracks on the ground in recorded history.
At this point it's scripted at 227 miles long. So there's extreme cleanup and rescue to do as we speak now hours afterwards. But Kentuckians are resilient in so many ways, and on the ground yesterday with them, it's just a pleasure to speak with these folks. Remarkable scenes of neighbors helping neighbors.
BLITZER: Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett, thanks so much for joining us. Our hearts go out to everyone over in Kentucky and the other states, I should add, that are suffering right now. I appreciate it very much. Good luck.
DOSSETT: Thank you. And if we could feature a website for donations, it's called team WKY for Western Kentucky Relief Fund at ky.gov.
BLITZER: All right. And I also want to point out that our viewers can go to cnn.com/impact to find a way to help tornado victims. They can do that right now. And I recommend that they do it. Thanks again for joining us.
Just ahead, we'll going to speak live to a key member of the house January 6th select committee as they panel prepares to vote on holding the former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress.
Plus, details emerging right now of a huge settlement for the victims of former U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics team, Dr. Larry Nassar. Stand by for that.
BLITZER: Right now you're looking at live pictures of the room up on Capitol Hill where the house select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection is about to vote on holding the former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate.
Let's discuss with the key member of the committee, Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar of California. Congressman, thanks for joining us. As you know, Meadows' lawyer is asking your committee to reconsider these contempt charges, arguing this referral would be, in the lawyer's words, contrary to law since Meadows invoked executive privilege in good faith. Will Meadows have one final opportunity to comply, or is this already a done deal?
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): We're going to move forward with the meeting this evening. By virtue of not showing up to the committee discussion and deposition last week, Mr. Meadows can be held in contempt. And so we know that his lawyer has continued to send some letters.
Chairman Thompson has sent letters back each and every time. We're always willing to have conversations, but we're going to proceed today. What we have heard so far is not enough. Mr. Meadows has submitted documents and materials but will not answer any questions related to the documents and materials that he sent us. And by virtue of not showing up, he can be held in contempt.
BLITZER: As you know, this isn't necessarily -- at least according to legal analysts as clear-cut as the criminal contempt case against Steve Bannon who wasn't serving in the government at the time. Is the committee prepared for the possibility that the U.S. Justice Department decides not to prosecute Meadows?
AGUILAR: We're prepared to do our job today at the committee level and to recommend to our house colleagues potentially tomorrow that we hold him in criminal contempt just by virtue of not showing up to our hearing. There are ways for Mr. Meadows, and he has been trying to hide behind broad privilege claims. He could come before the committee and specify to each question what privilege he feels exists.
He has not done that. He is provided documents but he won't answer any questions related to those. So we're going to move forward with the next steps this evening.
BLITZER: CNN has learned that tonight your committee will lay out yet more of the substance of the Meadows communications outlined in this 51-page report that I've gone through, very, very detailed report. How much context, Congressman, will you provide to the American public about these communications?
We'll provide more details. Within that contempt report that was made public last evening, we continue to lay out the case, talk about the text messages, talk about Mr. Meadows' use of his private device in order to carry out government work. And we aren't certain whether he turns those over to the national archives. So we continue to ask these questions that they are important to our legislative work that we're undertaking today. It's important to tell the full and complete truth about what happened on January 5th and 6th. And it's unfair that Mr. Meadows tries to shirk any responsibility while writing a book about all of this material himself.
BLITZER: The committee report included a very disturbing email that Meadows sent on January 5th saying that the National Guard would be at the Capitol to, quote, protect pro-Trump people. What exactly did he mean by that? Do they expect the National Guard to actually side with the insurrectionist?
AGUILAR: Well, that's a good question, and one of the many questions that we have for Mr. Meadows if he came before us. But clearly we also detailed extensively lead that he had text messages with members of Congress, with a planners for the event on January 5th and January 6th as well as discussion about the law enforcement activity in and around those events.
And so there're plenty of questions that we have, and the material as you cite, are things that he turned over himself. We would just love the opportunity to ask him questions about the material that he provided over to the committee.
BLITZER: We'll watch and see what happens. Congressman Pete Aguilar, thank you very much for joining us.
AGUILAR: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, the U.S. Supreme Court declines to block New York's States health care worker vaccine mandate as COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are climbing across the United States.
BLITZER: To the breaking news tonight, at least 74 people are now confirmed dead and 109 missing in Kentucky's tornado disaster. President Biden has spoken with the governor of Kentucky multiple times and plans to visit the state on Wednesday.
The president is also working the phones seeking key support for a sweeping social and climate spending bill right now.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly.
Phil, I understand President Biden just spoke again with Senator Joe Manchin.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's a critical vote. It's a conversation that underscores just how important the West Virginia senator is to this entire dynamic. Look, Wolf, there's still a significant amount of legislative work for
Senate Democrats to complete if they want to reach Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's Christmas deadline. But almost none of that matters if they don't have the votes, and they can't have the votes without Senator Joe Manchin, who spoke with President Biden for a little more than an hour earlier today.
Now, President Biden's team says the conversation was constructive. Senator Manchin's team says it was productive. Both said the conversations will continue. Whether that Christmas deadline is a possibility, well, this is what the senator said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Anything is possible.
REPORTER: You're still engaged, sir, you're still willing to continue to talk? You're not going to kill these negotiations, stopping these negotiations?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: The senator saying anything is possible in terms of the team line. But more importantly saying they're still engaged.
And the reason, Wolf, why that's important, the president and the senator continuing their conversations is the series of issues the senator laid out just a few hours ago, that he has still with the cornerstone of President Biden's domestic legislative agenda, saying he's concerned about the overall cost, he's concerned about how it relates to inflation, currently at a 39-year high based on the latest CPI report.
All of those issues are issues White House officials have been working with Senator Biden on trying to explain their positions for the better part of the last several months. But it's always been clear that the relationship, the president and Senator Manchin have worked together on over the course of the last 11 months, would likely be critical, key even to whether or not he's going to support this plan in the end. He's obviously not there yet.
But as he and the president's team said, conversations, Wolf, are still ongoing.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens.
Phil Mattingly at the White House, thanks very much.
There's more news we're following. For a third time, the U.S. Supreme Court has now declined to block a state's vaccine mandate. The justices turning away two emergency requests from health care workers, doctors and nurses in New York state. The court previously declined to block mandates in both Indiana and Maine.
Let's discuss what's going on with CNN medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen, the author of entitled, "Lifelines: A Doctor's journey in the fight for public health."
Dr. Wen, thanks as usual for joining us.
In addition to this vaccine mandate, New York also enacted a temporary mask mandate in effect starting today.
California has now announced -- has now announced it's also going to put a temporary mask mandate in place. Should other states, do you believe, follow suit?
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes, and other local jurisdictions, even if the state is not doing that, local jurisdictions, counties, cities should be doing this as well especially in places where their hospital systems are already stretched. What I'm so worried about, Wolf, is if we face a twindemic of sorts. We're already seeing a surge of cases related to the delta variant. And now, we have the threat of Omicron as well.
And even if Omicron doesn't cause more severe disease, if it's a lot more contagious and we have hospital systems that are already on the brink, we could really see overwhelmed health care systems once again. And this is the reason why mask mandates could be helpful, with one caveat, I do think we could say if the institution, for example, workplace requires everybody is vaccinated, then I don't think they need to have an indoor mask mandates. But if vaccination status is not -- is not verified, then indoor mask mandates can really be of help.
BLITZER: That's really important. I want you to look at the trends in our viewers as well. Look at this, COVID cases in the United States are up 45 percent, 45 percent since just a month ago. Hospitalizations and deaths are also rising. How worried are you, Dr. Wen, that Americans are letting down their guard as this pad drags on, and these are mostly delta cases.
WEN: That's exactly right. We're still seeing in those graphs that you're showing a reflection of the Delta variant. We haven't seen the potential impact of Omicron in this country yet. I'm worried about this twindemic phenomenon, the pandemic of both of these things, in large parts because we're finding out from South Africa that people previously infected with delta may be very susceptible to Omicron if they don't get vaccinated.
And we know there are people remain unvaccinated. There's lots of people who are not yet boosted. And so, this should be a call to action for everybody to get vaccinated and to get boosted people.
BLITZER: How hard is it seeing our country now in the brink of 800,000 deaths due to COVID, knowing it's been nearly a full year since the first vaccinations, knowing there are so many tools to fight this crisis, yet people, more than a thousand, 1,200 Americans are still dying every day?
WEN: I wouldn't have believed it, Wolf, if last year, we were saying, hey, we're going to have safer vaccines, we're going to have testing, you're going to have treatment, but still will have more than a thousand Americans dying every single day -- I mean, that's horrific. It's also horrific that one in 100 seniors, people over the age of 65 in the U.S. have now died because of COVID. COVID is now the third leading cause of death among older individuals and we cannot accept this as our new reality.
BLITZER: I totally agree. Dr. Leana Wen, thank you very much for joining us.
More news we're following. A lawyer for victims of former U.S. women's national gymnastics team, Dr. Larry Nassar, says a settlement has now been reached to compensate those he sexually. USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic and their insurers have agreed to pay $380 million to the victims. Nassar pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting these women, was sentenced in 2018 to up to 175 years in prison.
There's more news just ahead, on an historic trip by the Israeli prime minister and what it says about relations in the Middle East right now.
BLITZER: Tonight, truly historic first for the nation of Israel and its relations in the Middle East. The prime minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, met today with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi.
Our senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is in the UAE capital for us.
Sam, walk us through what happened on this truly ground breaking visit.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Groundbreaking indeed, Wolf. Naftali Bennett, the Israeli prime minister, somewhat trumping his predecessors' hope that these honors would go to him as one of the authors of the Abraham Accords, but nonetheless it was Naftali Bennett that got the honor guard who was met by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Muhammad bin Syed, and then spent a very intense four hours plus with the crown prince.
And this included lunch, went about a couple hours at least over the scheduled time as the two leaders got to know each other. Of course, the crown prince being the main power in the land, he's crown prince of Abu Dhabi, but also, very important figure right across the hall of the United Arab Emirates.
Now they emerged from the meeting with a joint statement saying that they wanted to continue to deepen the relationship. It was only 15 months old in terms of a normalization with Israel and the Emirates. And in terms of tech, food security, possibly even discussing a free trade agreement and at the end of the day, the Israelis offered an invitation to the crown prince to visit Israel at some later stage, an invitation that's been accepted. But what was interesting is what wasn't mentioned. There was no
mention at least in the wrap-ups of either Palestinian or the Palestinian question or more pressing issue perhaps of Iran, Wolf.
BLITZER: I suspect they talked about it privately. Didn't make mention of it in their public statement.
Sam Kiley on the scene for us, thank you very much.
And to the viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.