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The Situation Room

Now, Idalia Threatening Floods, Storm Surge In Georgia And Carolinas; Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) Gives Update On Tropical Storm Idalia; Sen. Mitch McConnell Appears To Freeze Again While Speaking To Reporters; Senate GOP Leader Has Second Freezing Episode In a Month; Idalia Rips Roof Off Gas Station In Perry, Florida; Giuliani Loses Defamation Lawsuit From Georgia Election Workers. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 30, 2023 - 18:00   ET




ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Idalia is threatening Georgia and the Carolinas, weaker but still a severe threat after unleashing its full and catastrophic impact on Florida's Gulf Coast. We are standing by for an update from Florida officials on the scope of the hurricane devastation and emergency operations now unfolding all across the disaster zone.

The danger is ongoing in Florida tonight, amid flooding and hurricane damage from Tampa to Tallahassee.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Wolf Blitzer off. I'm Alex Marquardt and you're in The Situation Room.

We are standing by for an urgent update from the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, on the hurricane disaster all along the state's Gulf Coast, this as Hurricane Idalia was just weakened into a tropical storm. But it is still packing a punch as it takes aim at Georgia and South Carolina.

CNN correspondents are on the scene covering Idalia's devastation in Florida and the storm's assault on Georgia happening right now.

But, first, let's go to CNN's John Berman in the city of Perry, where some of the worst damage from Idalia has been reported. John, you just got there. What have you seen so far?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Yes, Alex. The storm made landfall in Keaton Beach, was 18 miles due that way and then passed directly overhead here in Perry. And you can see some of the damage it did here. I mean, Roady's Truck Stop. Those were the diesel pumps at the truck stop. And you can see the wind just completely blew the awning over it, ripped up the brick there. It twisted the metal --

MARQUARDT: John, we have to interrupt. We have to go to Governor Ron DeSantis who's giving an update. Let's listen in. GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): And they've probably gone through about 70 percent of the areas that they need to be able to check for people that are in distress. And so far, all signs have been positive. There is, of course, a lot of debris to clean up, but we will get working with that, with the local communities, to make sure that the roads are cleared and people can go back to their lives.

As of 6:00 today, there are approximately 250,000 power outages reported across the state since the storm hit. Their power has been restored to approximately 315,000. And that 250,000 number is actually a decline from what it was a few hours ago. So, we appreciate the rapid attention to restoring power.

Clearly, the area that has the most significant percentage outages are those Big Bend counties that bore the brunt of the storm, counties like Columbia, Madison, Dixie, and people are (INAUDIBLE).

There's no shortage of fuel. We have more than enough fuel in the state of Florida. If you're at a gas station that's not pumping it, largely, it's probably going to be a power issue. Those that have generators can get that back up or when the power is restored. But there is an abundance of fuel, and we made sure to have that gone ready to go.

Florida Department of Transportation has 224 cut and toss crews. They've been working to clear the roadways. The Cedar Key Bridge has officially been cleared by FDOT and residents, first responders and law enforcement can now pass. Residents should follow the guidance of the local emergency and law enforcement personnel in terms of any type of restrictions that may be on that. But the bridge has been cleared by the state. All state bridges at this point have also been cleared.

There is a 15 mile stretch of Interstate-10 that is closed in Madison County. But FDOT is working on that to have that back online by tonight.

We have all resources -- have been deployed from Urban Search and Rescue Teams, the Florida National Guard, the Coast Guard, the Florida State Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife. Those are going to continue until there's no help needed.

In terms of hospitals, in rural areas that received direct impacts, the facilities remain operational and open to the public. And we're happy that they were able to do that. Throughout the state, there were ten evacuated hospitals. They reported minimal damage and nine to the ten will be at full operational status within the next 24 hours. And ACA is working with the one remaining, but we don't think it's going to take too much longer after that.

After the storm, agency for health care assessment teams must inspect all evacuated healthcare facilities which have sustained damage before they can reopen and they are in the process of making assessments for all evacuated healthcare facilities.

[18:05:10] Our Florida Department of Veterans Affairs assisted one of Florida's federally operated V.A. hospitals with safely transferring veterans prior to the hurricane, and we appreciate Florida DVA for stepping up.

And that schools, 30 of the 52 school districts that closed due to the storm, will reopen tomorrow and an additional eight school districts will reopen on Friday. And Manny Diaz is calling through the remaining school districts to try to get them open as soon as possible.

We appreciate everybody's hard work. It's been a lot going on over these last few days. There's a lot to do. But I think the quick response is helping everybody get back on their feet.

Okay, we're going to hear from some of the folks who have been involved in different areas of this response starting with Kevin Guthrie from Florida DEM.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Governor. I appreciate your continued support. I know you've taken some flack about whether or not --

MARQUARDT: All right, that was the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, talking about the recovery efforts of his state in the wake of Hurricane Idalia, which is now a tropical storm. He said that, of course, the biggest impact was on those Big Bend counties. That is that area where the Florida Panhandle meets the peninsula. He talked about those who are still without power, some 250,000 residents, but that number has actually -- that number has actually gone down.

316,000 residents had had their power restored, the governor going on to say that all of the bridges in the state have now been cleared.

I want to get back to CNN's John Berman, who is in the city of Perry, Florida. John, as we were saying, you have just arrived there. We can see some of that damage, that destruction right behind you. Describe the scene there for us.

BERMAN: Yes. You know, and it's interesting. I saw Governor DeSantis' motorcade actually driving to Perry and then out of Perry earlier today. So, he saw this too. This is the awning at Roady's Truck Stop blown over by the hurricane, which passed directly overhead here. It made landfall as a Category 3, about 18 miles from here on the coast, passed directly overhead. With winds, it must have been 105, 110 miles an hour, and you can see the damage that it did to the truck stop.

All around here, all kinds of trees are down. It was a small storm in terms of its size, so the path of destruction fairly narrow. But in that path, you see the exploded trees, trees that just don't exist anymore, they're just shredded. You see power lines down, telephone poles ripped out of their foundations, and we saw road crews out there, getting those telephone poles and getting those wires back up. And Governor DeSantis is right, the gas stations, from Tallahassee to here, most of the gas stations, we saw, were pumping gas again.

It's interesting, I was speaking to Senator Rubio earlier today, and he said he praised the National Weather Service for how accurate these forecasts have become and how much that helped prepare for this. The forecast for the last five days has almost been exactly where this storm made landfall, so they were ready there, and they've been ready here inland to get this recovery going as soon as they were able. That is what they're doing now.

Power is still out in some places, but people absolutely, moving about, getting the trees out of the road, getting the leaves up off their lawn, and they're ready to get back to work, Alex.

MARQUARDT: You're absolutely right, John. It was remarkable to see all of those models in sync in terms of their predictions, and just extraordinary scenes where you are seeing the roof of that rest stop on its side.

John Berman, terrific reporting, thank you so much for joining us.

I want to go now to CNN's Brian Todd, who is in Tallahassee just north of that Big Bend region we were discussing, where Idalia made landfall.

So, Brian, I can see, again, that damage behind you. Give us the big picture assessment of how the destruction impacted the state from this hurricane.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, a very important piece of information from Governor DeSantis just a moment ago was that that Cedar Key Bridge is now reopened. Cedar Key saw its highest ever storm surge, eight or nine feet. People there were cut off. One resident said the town doesn't look anything like it did. And they were worried that people could not get to them. But now, according to the governor, that Cedar Key Bridge has been reopened and first responders can get in.

So, that's going to be a critical factor in the hours ahead just to see how much damage is there, if there is loss of life. Again, one resident of Cedar Key said they were worried about older residents in low-lying areas there not being accounted for. So, we're going to get some critical information in the coming hours about Cedar Key.

All state bridges, according to the governor, have been cleared. Also a story we were following that stretch of I-10 pretty much shut down eastbound, not far from Tallahassee.


They're working to reopen that by tonight, but that's a major artery that remains clogged in the state of Florida.

The broader numbers, some good news from the governor there, 250,000 customers without power in the state of Florida, that's a slight drop from a little less than an hour ago. In Georgia, more than 212,000 customers without power, so you've got close to 460,000 customers in Georgia and Florida without power.

Inundated flooded homes, the aftermath of this that we're just kind of now starting to dig out from, 6,000 homes inundated in Pasco County, north of Tampa. That's just real devastation in that county. You also had two weather related deaths, separate car accidents, two men killed. Those were the first known fatalities that we have from the storm.

Also some reports of looting in Taylor County, which was very hard hit. The governor had alluded to that earlier. So, law enforcement has its work cut out for them in places like Taylor County.

And still Alex, this storm is threatening large -- excuse me, large swaths of Georgia and South Carolina with really vicious, devastating winds and a possible flooding. And it's only a tropical storm there, but still it just -- the storm has packed so much punch and is moving so fast that those areas in Georgia and South Carolina, especially near the coast, still pretty vulnerable right now.

You know, you've got -- he said, what was also interesting that the governor said, ten evacuated hospitals had to be shut down during the storm. They hope to get nine of those back in tonight. So, that's an update for you there regarding the hospitals.

So, that's kind of what we're looking at in Leon County. Still 30,000 some people without -- customers without power. And they're telling us in these areas where I am, still you've got to be careful navigating these streets. There are a lot of down power lines near where we are. That's a real issue tonight. People are kind of a little free and loose going around the streets. They should not be. There's still a lot of danger on the streets that people may not see. Alex?

MARQUARDT: And, Brian, you did highlight the fears about Cedar Key. We will actually be speaking with the sheriff of Levy County, where Cedar Key is, in just a moment. He told us that they were bracing for something like they had never seen before.

Brian Todd in Tallahassee, thank you very much.

Now, I want to go over to the CNN Severe Weather Center where Meteorologist Chad Myers has been tracking Idalia for the past few days. So Chad, what is the latest forecast?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is still a 70-mile-per-hour tropical storm. No longer hurricane, hasn't been over water for a long time, it's been over land. So, the power of the storm has really gone down.

Something, though that, Governor DeSantis talked about that hasn't been addressed yet, there is a 15-mile stretch of Interstate-10 that is closed between Tallahassee and Lake City, both directions. There's so much debris on the roadway, so many trees down that the roadway is still closed.

Traveling across east and west across Northern Panhandle or the Big Bend area of Florida is virtually at a standstill right now. People are trying to take back roads. I'm looking at Google Earth, those back roads are all colored red, which means that the traffic is horrible there too. So maybe put that off for a day until the road crews can get that weather related tree damage down and out of the way so that we can actually get this back opened up. What's going on right now, the storm is no longer hurricane, but it will still cause some beach erosion here. There's also the potential for some tornadoes. I believe Litchfield Beach area, especially west of Litchfield Beach, may have had a tornado on the ground. I saw some debris in the air near the rotation, but I cannot find any pictures on the internet at all of any significant damage, maybe just tree limbs, maybe just leaves that were picked up by a small little spin up. And that's what we can expect today, small little spin ups. But if they're near your house, they don't seem small.

So, here are the storms as they come on shore. There's a North Myrtle Beach right there seeing a pretty healthy little storm system come on shore. I would have red boxes on here if there were tornado warnings, and there are not. It doesn't mean though that you shouldn't get out of the way of these. There will certainly be lightning and still a little bit of wind from these outer bands.

And, yes, almost 500,000 customers without power here in parts of Florida, Georgia, and even South Carolina combined right now. Power lines are going back up, winds are coming down. That means the trucks can get with their buckets back up and put those lines back up. But it will take some time for those one or two or three customers that are way out on the end of the line that could still take weeks.

There's your rainfall across parts of the Carolinas. That could cause some flooding. I'm really worried about that after dark. You can't see that the road is flooded and you drive into it. So, be careful tonight with that as well. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Danger and destruction in at least four states. Chad Myers in the CNN Severe Weather Center, thank you very much.

Florida emergency responders are now racing to assist residents endangered by Idalia's rampage, especially in the hard hit Big Bend region of Florida.

We're joined now by the sheriff of Levy County, Sheriff Bobby McCallum. Sheriff, thank you so much for joining us again.

We spoke to you as the storm was bearing down on that Big Bend area of Florida. You told us that this storm would be like nothing your county has ever seen before.


So, what are conditions there right now?

SHERIFF BOBBY MCCALLUM, LEVY COUNTY, FLORIDA: Actually, the weather is beautiful, sun shining again. Rain is out of here. You know, we have been blessed. We, fortunately, that -- and, unfortunately, for my neighbors and our little (INAUDIBLE), but we were very blessed that the storm in the last three or four hours of the cone and they moved a little bit further north, ended up putting us just outside of the column on the right side, the side of the storm, which is not really favorable to us either with the storm surges. And what we ended up with is we didn't have the hurricane force winds, thankfully, but we still had the surge and it was the historical level of 6.8 feet and plus we had a high tide today at 2:00 that brought in another foot of water. So, those were pretty much new records for us here.

But thankfully, we didn't we didn't have the wind. It was a fairly quick moving and we had to deal with the storm surge. What it has allowed us to do is now that the bridge is open, Cedar Key, we immediately in the Yankeetown, an (INAUDIBLE), which also was heavily hit.

We began search and rescue fairly quickly after the storm passed today in those areas with my deputies and their skiffs and their airboats. And we were able to rescue a few people that had stayed there.

You know, we're fortunate today that both Cedar Key and the Yankeetown area have only been made aware of two very, very minor injuries. And I think those were from falls of those that had stayed in and in their homes with water coming into their homes.

But Cedar Key is a resilient community. We've been through many of these storms and, actually, in reality, even though we had the historic storm surge today, that they're resilient. It hit a lot of our businesses, a lot of our homes in Cedar Key but they will come back and they already are. They're working hard.

We have some extra help in our Florida Sheriffs Association Task Force is amazing in Florida as a sheriff. We share together and help each other out. We have a group of about 40 special office deputies from Polk County, from Sheriff Judd's county, with us to help both in security and in further search and rescue and even some of the cleanup that we'll be doing fairly immediately.

So, we couldn't ask for any better result for us with what we were facing. We were prepared, but we were prepared for the worst. And, again, we were very blessed to come out and look in the shape that we're in.

MARQUARDT: Yes, well, we certainly saw how afraid and nervous you were for your community. That is such a relief that you seem to have dodged the worst of this. And we're thankful for that as well as for your time. Sheriff Bobby McCallum, thank you very much.

MCCALLUM: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: And just ahead, we are tracking breaking news on Tropical Storm Idalia, as it makes its way to Georgia. We'll have a live report from Savannah, Georgia.

And we'll hear from the mayor of an island off of the Georgia Coast, which is right now in Idalia's sights.

You're in The Situation Room.


MARQUARDT: As Florida reels from Hurricane Idalia, the Georgia Coast is now on the crosshairs of the weakened storm.

CNN's Ryan Young is on the scene in Savannah, Georgia. So, Ryan, what are the conditions there?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey Alex, we've been thinking that the storm would be coming in and about next hour or so. So far, no heavy winds or rains that have been blowing through. I think the biggest gust that we've had has been about 45 miles per hour.

But this is the famous River Street. And as you can see, it's almost deserted at this point. The folks here really heeded the warnings and got out of the way because they were concerned that this storm was going to bring a lot of water to this area.

And to take you back this direction, as we walk toward the river itself, you can see businesses have really prepared their sandbags all along this area to make sure that the water that they were expecting from the river didn't go in these businesses.

And we've talked to people who worked around here their entire lives. They were concerned about the water and the storm surge. They've been seeing what's been going on in Florida. The one thing they did do was they closed the port, which is out here, and they shut down the bridges, which is just over there. So, that's been shut down since 2:00.

We've also been told the airport, all flights have been canceled. But everybody's sort of wondering whether or not at 7:00 the rain and the winds are going to come in.

Honestly, Alex, look at what we're dealing with right now. There's barely any wind and the water looks so calm out here. This is the calmest we've seen the water.

So, I can tell you people have been cheering at the fact that they've seen this hurricane sort of break up. They're hoping the worst is past this area. There are power outages and it looks like the curfew is going to be pulled back at this point. So, that's not going to happen. So far, it looks like Savannah may dodge the bullet on this one. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Let's hope. It is certainly a waiting game and this storm is still packing a punch. Ryan Young in Savannah, Georgia.

For more of this story, we're joined now by Mayor Shirley Sessions of Tybee Island in Georgia. She joins us now on the phone. Mayor Sessions, thank you so much for being with us.

We know that you are bracing for Idalia. What are the conditions there right now?

MAYOR SHIRLEY SESSIONS, TYBEE ISLAND, GEORGIA (voice over): Right now, we're more calmer than we had anticipated. We were predicted to get the highest and most severe winds and flooding between 5:00 and 10:00 tonight. So, we still have a stretch to go.

The winds are very high, but, fortunately, we haven't had any reported.


We did have a report of someone who was injured with a sign that fell on them. But I think that we'll have maybe some minor damages. But right now, we're concerned about the flooding of the Highway 80, which is the road to the mainland. And at high tide, it often does have water that prohibits passage at a certain point.

And with the high tide and the full blue moon that we're expecting tonight, we're very, very -- and the predicted ten-plus foot way, high, you know, tide, we really are holding, keeping our fingers crossed that that won't be too bad. If it is, we have the Chatham County Police and our Tybee Police will be closing the road to make sure that there's no damages or danger. And we'll open it whenever it's safe.

But right now, we're doing okay. We're doing better than our neighboring island. But I think the winds are still moving east and we're in a kind of a precarious situation with Franklin still out in the Atlantic. So, we are always prepared for the worst and pray and hope for the best. Our residents and our visitors and our businesses are working together with our critical workforce to do everything that we can to encourage people to stay off the streets and take precaution and stay safe. That's our goal.

MARQUARDT: And we are certainly hoping that they heed your warning and wishing you all the best as that storm blows through.

Mayor Shirley Sessions. Thank you very much.

SESSIONS (voice over): Thank you.

MARQUARDT: And coming up, we will go live to the National Hurricane Center for a new read on the danger from Idalia this hour.

And then Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell appears to freeze up while speaking with reporters after a similar incident just last month.



MARQUARDT: We are back with our breaking news coverage of the hurricane disaster in Florida, as a weakened Idalia is now targeting Georgia and the Carolinas. President Joe Biden now reaching out to the governors in the impacted states and offering help.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Federal teams on the ground are going to continue to work with the first responders in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, to get people to safety. You've all been reporting this and seen it on television. There are a number of rescues already taking place as I walked out of my office a moment ago to begin to recover from the impacts of the storm.

I let each governor, I spoke with know, if there's anything, anything the states need right now, I'm ready to mobilize that support of what they need.


MARQUARDT: Let's go live to one of the Florida cities struggling after Idalia hit very hard. CNN's Gloria Pazmino is in Crystal River.

So, Gloria, what have you been seeing on the ground there?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, as you can tell, the flooding here is still a significant factor. We are along one of the main streets here in Crystal River and you can see it's still significantly flooded. The only vehicles that have been able to get across this intersection here and through this water are those that are high vehicles that have big wheels.

Now, if you look in this direction, this is where the river and the Gulf of Mexico meet at the end there. And you can see how much water has come in. All of this water has been pushing inland. And the concern is that if the tide continues to increase, even though the storm is over -- still very much a factor to watch out for here. If any more of this water keeps pushing inland, it's going to be getting into some of these homes that are in this area.

Now, I've spoken to people who live here, including a woman who told me she's lived her whole life. She's 64 years old. Alex, she told me she's never seen the water come up this high and certainly not on this street. So, here in Crystal River, they've done several water rescues, people who have had to be evacuated from their homes, the local fire department deploying airboats to the area.

Once you get over to that way, the water begins to recede, but it's been just really rapidly shifting with every passing hour as the tide moves in and out. And some more of this water comes in. So, even though the worst of Idalia has made it out of Florida, people here are still very much dealing with its aftermath and the recovery, the cleanup, the assessment of damage is likely still a long while away. Alex?

MARQUARDT: There's a lot of water. And as you say, only the vehicles with the biggest tires can get through. Gloria Pazmino in Crystal River, Florida, thanks very much.

Let's go live now to the National Hurricane Center and speak with its deputy director, Jamie Rhome. Jamie, thanks so much for being back with us.

We just saw all of that water around Gloria in Crystal River. Where are you seeing the worst storm surge impact from the storm right now? JAMIE RHOME, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: The worst of it looks like it was near where it made landfall at Keaton Beach, eastward, affecting these really small communities, like Horseshoe Beach and Cedar Key. It's too early to have an accurate assessment of just how much surge occurred there because we don't have the best communication and it's starting to get dark. But all indications are it was a once in a lifetime event for those communities.

MARQUARDT: This hurricane now a tropical storm making its way through Georgia north into South Carolina, will also brush up against North Carolina.


So, how dangerous is it now?

RHOME: Yes, it's a really good question This red area that you see behind me is where we think the heaviest rainfall and flood from rainfall is going to occur over the next several hours. Probably in South Carolina, it's already starting to occur. And we end up losing a lot of people in these situations because they think that the downgrade from a hurricane to a tropical storm means that the risk has lessened.

But in this case, in these areas the risk is really high. This is a good night not to be driving about. When the sun goes down, you won't be able to see flooded roads. It is a really good night just to stay inside.

MARQUARDT: Jamie, we heard such dire warnings from you at the National Hurricane Center, from local officials all over Florida. Was the impact in the end, particularly to the Big Bend region, as bad as you feared as when we spoke yesterday?

RHOME: Yes. For the communities just to the east of where it made landfall, those small communities, we haven't seen we -- probably won't know just how bad it was until tomorrow. And when I think when we finally get in there and see the devastation, it's going to be as exactly as we advertised.

MARQUARDT: Yes, officials still very much trying to reach some of those cutoff communities. Jamie Rhome at the National Hurricane Center, thank you very much.

RHOME: Thank you.

Just ahead, we'll have more on Idalia as the storm makes its way across Georgia and into the Carolinas.

And we're also following news about the Senate's top Republican, Senator Mitch McConnell, who appeared to freeze while speaking with reporters again, raising serious questions about his health. We'll be right back.



MARQUARDT: We'll continue to monitor Tropical Storm Idalia for the latest developments as the storm tears across the southeast, but, for now, we're also following another story, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appearing to have another freezing episode for the second time in two months while speaking with reporters today after giving a speech in Kentucky.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I'm sorry, I had a hard time hearing it.

REPORTER: That's okay. What are your thoughts on running for re- election in 2020?

MCCONNELL: What are my thoughts about what?

REPORTER: Running for reelection in 2020?

MCCONNELL: Oh, that's --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you hear the question, Senator, running for re-election in 2026?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, I'm sorry. You all are going to need a minute. Senator, Benny?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to head outside, sir. Come with us.



MARQUARDT: A scary and upsetting moment.

I'm joined now by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as well as our CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju.

Manu, I want to go to you first. What is the senator's office saying about this incident today?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they haven't given many details about the cause and the reason for the freeze moment that we saw that looked a lot like the moment that we saw back in July when Mitch McConnell froze for roughly 30 seconds on Capitol Hill, today, freezing for roughly 30 seconds in speaking to reporters in Kentucky.

They said that he felt lightheaded, and that's what led to the pause. They said that he did consult with a physician in the aftermath of that episode, but they didn't give any indication about what that physician said before he went to another event later in the day.

Now, Mitch McConnell has had a number of health episodes this year. He's 81 years old. Back in March, he fell. He hit his head. He had a concussion. He was out for several weeks, broke some ribs as well. He has fallen a couple of other times this year, too. He is a childhood survivor of polio, so walks slowly.

And I asked Senator McConnell after that July incident, whether this incident here, his freezing moment back in Capitol Hill, had anything to do with that fall back in March. He would not say at that time other than the fact that he is feeling fine.

And, Alex, that's what his office is also saying. They're saying he is feeling fine and trying to indicate that he's still moving ahead with the schedule, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Sanjay, what do you make of that explanation that he was simply lightheaded?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's a possibility. I mean, there's a long list of possibilities here. I think what we saw was pretty concerning. I think most people could see that.

It was similar to what we saw in July, where there's this freezing. It's the freezing of the speech. It's the freezing of the body. It's the tight sort of grasping of the side of the lectern. I think one of his aides tried to come over and even lift his arm, and he was grasping pretty tightly. Obviously, his face even sort of has this mask-like sort of feature to it. So, there's a lot of things that are going on there.

You know, people will talk about, could this be some sort of vascular thing, like a transient ischemic attack. Perhaps, although he walks out of there just a few -- it's about 30 seconds, I think, that he's frozen, a seizure, possibly something like that. It could be something like when somebody comes off of their medications for things like Parkinson's, when the medications start to wear off, they may start to have freezing episodes as well. It was, again, just about 30 seconds. So, it comes and it goes pretty rapidly.

I think one of the things that was really notable to me is that when his aides approached him, they did not seem so surprised by this. While we've seen it a couple of times, you got the impression that this happens much more often. They didn't seem particularly alarmed by it if it was the first time or an unknown thing. I think there would have probably been more of a rush or an interest, at least, in getting into a doctor more quickly.

I think Manu the last time, he -- we're not even sure that he went to go see a doctor after. It sounds like he did this time, but I think that that's an important point as well.


Whatever this is, it's not unusual I think for him and his staff.

MARQUARDT: Yeah. That staffer didn't pull him away. In fact, he stood there and she asked if there were any more questions. But, Sanjay, this is the second incident like this in two months. But

there have been other health scares for Senator McConnell. What else has he been through?

GUPTA: Yeah, there's been a timeline of things that we sort of looked at. If you go back over time, he's had these falls that Manu has mentioned. He's had difficulty clearly hearing reporters' questions, going back to earlier in the summer.

He fell again in July. He's had significant falls in the past where he's dislocated his shoulder. And then -- then most recently, these, quote/unquote, freezing episodes.

But again, I want to emphasize this is what we see, you know, just as we were talking about, that the aides are not that surprised by this. His doctors may not be surprised by this either. These types of things may be happening more often. This may be something they're aware of. Again, for example, a Parkinsonian-like syndrome, once the medication start to wear off, you could have a period of freezing. It gets better when you take your medications, and, you know, someone will soon very lucid again and have no problems, but again, it is a long list that can cause these types of symptoms.

MARQUARDT: Lots of possibilities.

Manu, it is summer recess up on Capitol Hill, but are you hearing anything else from the senator's fellow lawmakers?

RAJU: Yeah, Senator McConnell was on the phone with a number of his key allies over the day in the aftermath of this episode. He did talk to Senate Republican whip John Thune, as well as Senator Shelley Moore Capito. Both of them are part of his leadership team.

Thune could potentially be a successor for Senator McConnell if he decides not to be leader in the next Congress, that it's still an open question, one that will undoubtedly be asked again in the aftermath of this episode. But both Capito's office and Thune's office told me tonight that Senator McConnell sounded fine. He was in good spirits and they say they look forward to seeing him next week.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, we certainly hope that he's okay and wish Senator McConnell all the best.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Manu Raju, thank you both very much.

RAJU: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: And just ahead, an update from one of the most badly damaged communities in the hurricane disaster zone in Florida.



MARQUARDT: Right now, we want to check back on one of the Florida communities hardest hit by Hurricane Idalia. CNN's John Berman has been assessing the damage in Perry, Florida.

So, John, you just got there. You just drove in. What did you see as you drove through town?

BERMAN: Yeah. You know, we were in Tallahassee overnight. It's supposed to be an hour, an hour and 20 minute drive from Tallahassee. It took us much longer than that. We left right after the rains cleared.

And on the roads, as you get closer here to Perry, and Perry the storm passed right overhead here, we saw trees down all along the roadway. We saw awnings at restaurants ripped apart, a McDonald's awning that was smashed. And then ultimately, we got here to Perry.

And like I said, the storm made landfall in Keaton Beach, 18 miles south of here on the coast, and passed directly overhead. In Perry, you can see the McDonald's sign there, passed directly overhead. When it came over Perry, it was about 85 miles per hour and caused all kinds of damage, telephone poles twisted there, pulled off their mounts and like I said, lots of tree damage, lots and lots of tree damage.

Ultimately, we found this gas station where I'm standing right now, a truck stop actually. It's Rodie's (ph) truck stop. And the diesel station where the trucks drive through just was ripped up, completely ripped up and pushed over with the -- I can't get over the bricks, just the brick work and the twisted metal pulled off its foundations and now leaning completely on its side.

You can see the force of even the 85-mile-an-hour winds how damaging that can be. And I think it's important to remember, as we've been saying now for a full day, the wind damage wasn't the real problem from Hurricane Idalia. It wasn't the winds or the rains, per se. It was the storm surge a little bit south of here that was potentially devastating and record-breaking. And those fishing communities, which are much more sparsely populated than Perry, where I am right now, which is about 7,000 people, down by the water, you're talking about several hundred people.

But those fishing communities are dealing with the cleanup from that enormous storm surge, and that will take some time, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Which is why there are so many questions about those coastal communities, that water so, so dangerous.

John Berman, in Perry, Florida, thank you so much.

And if you are looking for information about how you can help hurricane Idalia relief efforts, go to

Just ahead, we'll keep an eye on Tropical Storm Idalia as it passes through Georgia and heads north to the Carolinas, out into the Atlantic Ocean.

We're also following the news of Rudy Giuliani losing a defamation case connected to the 2020 election, which could potentially cost him millions of dollars in damages.

Stay with CNN.



MARQUARDT: We are tracking Idalia for new developments in the storm, now taking aim at the Atlantic coast of Georgia and the Carolinas. But other news we're following tonight, former Trump Attorney Rudy Giuliani losing a defamation lawsuit filed against him by two Georgia election workers.

CNN political correspondent Sara Murray has been covering this story.

So, Sara, take us through this decision and what happens next for Giuliani.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Uh-huh. Well, the judge essentially said that Rudy Giuliani forfeits the case, and then loses by default because he wasn't complying with what he needed to, to provide discovery in this case to Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. These are the two election workers from Georgia that Giuliani spoke about publicly and made claims that they were involved in ballot tampering, which were essentially based on nothing.

And the judge said, look, because Giuliani is not complying with this discovery either willfully or because he believes that he can't, then, essentially, they win by default. And so, what that means is that this is now going to go to a trial to determine what damages Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss could be awarded. So that could happen later this year or earlier next year. And it could be an expensive loss for Giuliani.

MARQUARDT: Why would Giuliani, Sara, get tripped up over a compliance issue?

MURRAY: Yeah. I mean, one of the things that his team cited were cost concerns about being able to go through whatever he needed to go through in order to comply with this discovery. You know, they also pointed out that some of Giuliani's electronics had been seized previously in another case.

This was not an excuse the judge was buying. She pointed out that Giuliani was an attorney and also raised the possibility that maybe he was not complying on purpose to try to minimize some other risks he could have in litigation.

MARQUARDT: Sara, in the Fulton County case, two defendants just asked the judge for separate trials. Who are they, and what is the argument that they're making?

MURRAY: Well, they're Ken Chesebro and Sidney Powell, and these are the two folks who've asked for speedy trials. They've asked to be severed from the other 17 defendants including former President Trump in this case. And essentially, they want to go it alone. And this gives you an idea of how difficult it's going to be for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to go through with her goal of trying all 19 of these folks together.

It's a little bit like herding cats, right? You have some folks who are trying to move their case to federal court. You have other people like Ken Chesebro and Sidney Powell who are saying, we want to move ahead on this speedy trial timeline, we're ready to go to trial essentially in October.

And then you have the Trump team that's been very adamant in their filings so far that they have no interest in trying to go to trial in this case in October, and would fight any effort by the judge to make them do so. So it'll be interesting to see how this case plays out, where people are going to get tried, and who could end up being tried together or separately.

MARQUARDT: Yeah, we have 19 codefendants, some, like Mark Meadows, pushing to be tried in federal court rather than in Georgia state court. So how is that calendar in Fulton County looking right now?

MURRAY: Well, right now for Ken Chesebro, he's on this speedy trial time line so he's looking at a potential October trial date. Fani Willis has said I want to try all of the defendants in this case in October of this year.

The Trump team has said essentially absolutely not. And Mark Meadows has said I don't even want to be in this state court, I want to be in federal court, I want to make the argument I should be tried in federal court. And, frankly, he's going to try to get those charges dismissed if he's able to move his case to federal court.

So there are a lot of legal questions that need to be ironed out. And one of them is if meadows is successful, do all the other defendants go with him to federal court? Does some of this state court fighting we're seeing become moot? And we just don't know the answer of that at this point, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Yeah, Mark Meadows leading that charge, making the argument that everything he did was under the purview of his role as a federal official, as chief of staff to President Trump.

Sara Murray, thank you very much.

MURRAY: Thanks.

MARQUARDT: And if you're looking for more information about how you can help hurricane Idalia relief efforts, go to

I'm Alex Marquardt in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you so much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.