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Full transcript of "Face the Nation," August 20, 2023

8/20: Face The Nation
8/20: Face The Nation 45:09

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast, moderated by Margaret Brennan: 

  • Hawaii Gov. Josh Green 
  • Grace Garner, mayor of Palm Springs, California
  • Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass
  • FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell 
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner 

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."    

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington.

And this week on FACE THE NATION: yet another extraordinary severe weather event. And Republican presidential candidates prepare for the first debate without the front-runner.

Hurricanes in late August, not unusual, but the one aiming for the West Coast and threatening catastrophic and life-threatening flooding, that's uncharted territory.

(Begin VT)

NANCY WARD (Director, California Governor's Office of Emergency Services): Make no mistake, this is a very, very dangerous and significant storm.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will talk with two key officials preparing for Hurricane Hilary, expected to be a tropical storm when she hits Southern California, Palm Springs Mayor Grace Garner and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

And, as the recovery efforts continue in Maui, the questions about the state and local response continue to grow. We will speak exclusively with Hawaii's Governor Joshua Green.

(Begin VT)

GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN (D-Hawaii): We will get to the bottom of exactly how the fire started, how our emergency procedures and protocols need to be strengthened, and how we can improve our defenses.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden will visit the devastated area Monday. We will get an update on the federal response from FEMA Director Deanne Criswell, and we will ask her how the agency plans to deal with the increasing number of natural disasters.

Plus, with coronavirus cases on the rise, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb will tell us what we need to know about the new arsenal of fall vaccines to fight COVID, the flu and RSV.

Finally, will Wednesday's Republican primary debate give any of the candidates the boost they need to come close to competing with the former president? Our CBS News poll has insights into what the voters are looking for and how that field is shaping up.

It's all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good, morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION.

As we come on the air, Hilary is a weakened Category 1 hurricane and nearing landfall.

We begin this morning with meteorologist Kelly Cass from our partners at The Weather Channel.

KELLY CASS (The Weather Channel Meteorologist): Good morning, Margaret.

Hilary no longer a major hurricane, but it's still a major threat when it comes to its impacts, first for the Baja California into Mexico, but then eventually working its way up into Southern California, packing some winds of at least 50 miles an hour. And the rain, I think, is going to be the worst problem.

So, there are your tropical storm warnings, very rare to see in Southern California. You have got L.A. right on down towards San Diego. And you can see the path of the storm. This is the cone for the center of Hilary. There will be impacts on either side of that cone, especially the flooding rain, but the gusty winds that could also knock out power as it continues to track into Southern California by about midday, San Diego, up towards Los Angeles.

You can see the heavy rain really begin to fill in. And especially for those higher elevations, the burn scars where we have had fires in the past, we could have terrible mudslides and landslides to go along with that heavy rain and flood threat.

Look at the widespread yellow on the map. That's three to five inches for these areas that typically don't even get a trace of rain this time of the year. This is our dry season, and there will be some spots where we see even more than that, five to eight inches. And that's why we have this high risk of flash flooding from Eastern California into Nevada as well.

The high wind warnings are also in effect from the Southwest all the way up into the Great Basin. These winds could exceed 60, even up to 70 miles per hour. And, unfortunately, we can't rule out the possibility of some tropical tornadoes that come in with some of these outer rain bands of Hilary working northward throughout the day today.

So, Margaret, a very busy day ahead. We hope everybody stays safe.


Kelly Cass with The Weather Channel.

For more on the extreme weather across the country, here's Mark Strassmann.

(Begin VT)

MARK STRASSMANN (voice-over): Hilary's now hammering Mexico and soon why Southern Californians could feel like South Floridians.

Tropical storms are rarities here, the last one, 1939.

MAN: It's crazy. Never seen anything like this, and I have lived here my entire life.

MARK STRASSMANN: Forecasters predict the storm could dump up to a year's worth of rain in one day. It's another 2023 weather moment, extraordinary, ominous, and one many experts pin in part on our changing planet.

On Maui, charred and scarred, two words improbably share the same space, Hawaii and hellscape, the latest death toll, 114 and rising. Most of the fire zone has now been searched.

The governor says climate change helped fuel those flames.

GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN (D-Hawaii): The consequence of global warming and storm change is changing things. But we have never had anything like this near a city.

MARK STRASSMANN: Winds from Hurricane Dora, then south of Maui, pushed fires across an island suffering a flash drought.

JAIME KANANI GREEN (First Lady of Hawaii): It took less than a single day for us to lose Lahaina in the deadliest fire our country has seen in more than a century.

MARK STRASSMANN: Heat records keep falling like sweat. By some measures, all of us just lived through the hottest July ever.

NOAA is tracking temperatures, and it pays to grab some shade. Through July, the agency says there's nearly a 50/50 chance that 2023 goes down as the warmest year on record.

In Washington state, near Spokane, a new wildfire forced thousands to evacuate and prompted a state of emergency. The mayor of Medical Lake warned people, get out now. And the middle of the country, from the Northern Plains to Texas, already swelters under the summer's most expansive heat dome, temperatures up to 20 degrees above normal.

With this year's weather-related events, the abnormal seems constant. Ask people living along the San Diego-Tijuana border this morning, with a tropical storm bearing down.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's our Mark Strassmann reporting.

We will speak with the mayors of two cities in the storm's path momentarily.

But we turn now first to Maui 12 days after the wildfires devastated the historic town of Lahaina.

Our Jonathan Vigliotti reports.

(Begin VT)

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI (voice-over): Forty hundred and seventy search-and- rescue agents, with the assistance of 40 cadaver dogs, are combing through this American Pompeii.

More than three-quarters of this five-square-mile disaster zone have been cleared, X marking the spots already checked. But more than 1,000 people are still missing, and there are more businesses, condos and entire neighborhoods to go. What rescuers are finding speaks to both the scale of destruction and the county's failure to issue evacuation orders.

This is Front Street. Without a proper evacuation order, people, in a desperate attempt to outrun the flames, got into their cars and took to the road. But the fire quickly caught up. And you could see the desperation in how these cars are lined up. We're talking dozens as far as you can see.

There was so much panic as the fire hit. Many tried to flee into the ocean. While Governor Joshua Green described the firestorm that swallowed Lahaina as a bomb going off, there was a very long fuse, as the fire burned in brush for nearly two hours before exploding, spreading a mile a minute.

WOMAN #1: I realized when it was time to go, when the smoke was so dark, we could not see anything outside.

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: The state attorney general announced an investigation into Maui County's response before, during and after the disaster.

And, on Wednesday, CBS News learned the man in charge of activating the sirens intentionally did not.

Do you regret not sounding the sirens?

HERMAN ANDAYA (Former Administrator, Maui Emergency Management Agency): I do not. And the reason why...

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: So many people said they could have been saved if they had time to escape. Had a siren gone off, they would have known that there was a crisis emerging.

FORMER ADMINISTRATOR HERMAN ANDAYA: The siren, as I mentioned earlier, is used primarily for tsunamis.

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: The explanation given by Herman Andaya, head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, was defended by the mayor and governor, until survivors and the world weighed in.

Do you think, had those sirens gone off, it could have saved lives?

WOMAN #2: Absolutely. I don't think. I know. We all are prepared for that. We know that sound. People are not dumb. People know what to do.

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: Andaya resigned the following day, citing health reasons.

Now there is mounting anger, as more questions go unanswered. Did downed power lines cause the blaze, and why weren't they deactivated? Also, why did it take up to three days for help to arrive after the fire?

KAWENA KAHULA (Survivor): There's an airport right up the road. Why isn't that being used? There's an oceanfront 20 feet from our lobby. Why are we not using that?

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: Today, there's not just an active search for the missing in what is now the deadliest wildfire in modern American history, but demands for more accountability.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's Jonathan Vigliotti in Lahaina.

We go now to Hawaii's Governor Joshua Green in Honolulu.

Good morning. Thank you for getting up so early, and I'm so sorry for what is going on in your state.

GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN (D-Hawaii): Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, can you tell us, how many are still unaccounted for, and how long will it take to identify remains?

GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: More than 1,000 are unaccounted for, about 1,050. It will take several weeks still.

Some of the challenges are going to be extraordinary. As you reported, 85 percent of the -- of the land of the impact zone has been covered now by what amounts to an army of search and rescue teams and 41 dogs. So, 85 percent of the land has been covered.

Now we go into the larger buildings, which require peeling back some of the floors and structures. That last 15 percent could take weeks. We do have extreme concerns that, because of the temperature of the fire, the remains of those who have died, in some cases, may be impossible to recover meaningfully.

So, there are going to be people that are lost forever. And, right now, we're working obviously with the FBI and everyone on the ground to make sure that we do what we can to assess who's missing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That is hard to hear, Governor.

I know a local Maui official said a large number of the dead may have actually been children who were left home that day because schools were closed, many of them alone or with their grandparents. Is that the case?

GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: That is possible. And that's -- that's what we're sharing here internally, that it's possible that there will be many children.

This is the largest catastrophe and disaster that's ever hit Maui, probably that's ever hit Hawaii outside of wartime events. So we just thank everyone in the world for reaching out and supporting us through all of the -- you know, the ways that they can.

Right now, we are trying to make sure everyone is sheltered, and we begin to get all the federal resources we can to make life in some way livable for the survivors. That's where we are at the moment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When will the surviving children of West Maui be able to return to school? What do they need?

GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: In some cases, they're returning later this week.

Children can go to any school that's in the region or where they are. We have six hotels that are basically full with families and their children that have survived. We also are doing distance learning. A lot of that was implemented during the COVID pandemic. There are just so many things to share.

King Kamehameha Elementary School in Lahaina is burned to the ground. I mean, it's totally gone. It used to host 650 children. Some of those children have passed. Others will, of course, go to neighboring schools. You have to remember, this is a very rural part of Hawaii. And that's one of the challenges. So, schools are far apart.

We've authorized other means of transportation, you know, vans and things, to help families get farther distances to school.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As we've been discussing, there are now a lot of questions about all of the policies and procedures.

You know, the National Weather Service had issued a fire watch for your state August 6, a few days before the fire hit. With the siren system, you said to CNN on Monday and again on Tuesday that you believe some of the sirens were broken.

When did you learn they weren't fully functional?

GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: We assess every siren across the state on the 1st of the month. And then we ask people to update them and fix them to their abilities.

You know, I -- of course, I -- as a person, as a father, as a doctor, or as -- I wish all the sirens went off. The challenge that you've heard -- and it's not to excuse or explain anything. The challenge has been that, historically, those sirens are used for tsunamis. That's -- when I came to Hawaii 23 years ago was told when I was living down near the shore.

So it's usually tsunamis and hurricanes. For perspective, we've had six fire emergencies this August. We had six fire emergencies between 1953 and 2003. That's how -- how fast things are changing. I know that there is debate out there whether we should be talking about climate change or not.


GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: Well, let's be real world. Climate change is here. We are in the midst of it with a hotter planet and fiercer storms.


GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: And you asked the question. I'm coming back to it right now. Do I wish those sirens went off? Of course I do. And I think that the answer that the -- the emergency administrator for Maui who has resigned said was, of course, utterly unsatisfactory to the world.

But it is the case that -- that we've historically not used those kinds of warnings for fires.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand. And I know that you are conducting a review.

But given that your state is experiencing a drought, and you're in hurricane season, can you say whether other Hawaiian towns are as vulnerable as Lahaina was?GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: We worry about a lot of our state.

Waikoloa on the Big Island, which was experiencing a fire at the same time and required evacuations, we're worried about them. We worry about all of our state. Some of the state, which is denser and more urban, like Waikiki, has a lot more water and a lot more firefighters, a lot more support.


GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: Oahu has three-quarters of the population of the state.

But we've had -- although it's not been reported in the press, we've had multiple small fires, some on Oahu, some on Big Island, of course, more on Maui, even in the days since the fire. And the firefighters, I want to thank them. They've been heroic in this period of time.


GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: They've just been constantly working, and everyone has stepped up.

But, yes, we're worried. And we have done all that we can at the moment to continue to warn people that this is a season of fire. And everyone, of course, doesn't need more reminding, because of what happened in Lahaina.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There has been scrutiny of the largest utility, Hawaiian Electric, because there were images -- I know you know this -- of power lines possibly starting fires.

Last year, that company had proposed an upgrade of the grid, with Lahaina as a priority area, and suggested a rate hike to do that. Do you know why that didn't happen and if that contributed?

GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: I don't know personally whether or not the -- the power lines were the -- the primary reason the fire occurred.

That's why I asked for...


GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: ... a comprehensive review, I think, two days into this, which is very atypical. Normally, these kinds of investigations come months or -- or more later.


GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: But we have to ask that question. We have to ask the question on every level of how any one city, county, state could have done better and the private sector.

This is -- this is the world that we live in now. In this case -- and I have seen footage of it from some of the survivors. I have seen footage of how it looked during the fire and how things were exploding and what the fierce winds looked like. They were 80 miles per hour gusting.


GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: And the fire, I'm now told, was as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It just destroyed everything.

It's not to excuse anything else from any company.


GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: It's just to explain what the world should prepare for.

And I humbly asked all of the cities and states to spend that money now to prevent disasters like we are seeing here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, just to be clear, when you're talking about global warming, are you saying that climate change amplified the cost of human error?


There's always going to be incredible things that people do to save lives, from the firefighters, from citizens. And there's always going to be decisions that are made that I'm sure aren't perfect in the moment.


GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: And -- but when you have fire that moved more than a mile a minute -- and what happened, I'm told by some of the survivors, they were at the initial fire. It was put out sometime late in the afternoon in Lahaina.

And then the firefighters had to go to three other fires that had started because of the conditions.


GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: When they left, the fire started up again.

And, then, when the storm winds from Dora...


GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: ... which were that strong, swept it out, it just destroyed everything.

So, there's no excuses to ever be made, but there are finite -- there are finite resources sometimes in the moment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, we're watching. The country's watching. Good luck.

And thank you for your time.

GOVERNOR JOSH GREEN: Thank you. Thank you for your love and support. We appreciate it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're going to turn now to Hurricane Hilary.

We go now to the mayor of Palm Springs, Grace Garner. Good morning to you.

GRACE GARNER (Mayor of Palm Springs California): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In California -- I know you know this -- but you are in this line of this tropical storm, which, for people at home, this is very, very unusual for a desert city like yours.

How are you preparing?

MAYOR GRACE GARNER: Well, in 2019, we had another storm, and it caused great amount of flooding. We had just a little less than four inches at that time.

So we're a bit lucky in this sense, because we now know where our weak points are. We were able to prepare sandbags. Over 60,000 sandbags were distributed, 300 tons of dirt. I was out with residents yesterday helping fill sandbags to just make sure that people are prepared to prevent any flooding into their homes.

We have public safety personnel that were clearing storm drains and making sure that any areas in our city that needed support had it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, there have been warnings about staying off highways. Are you asking residents to consider evacuation or just stay put?

MAYOR GRACE GARNER: At this point, we're asking residents to stay inside, stay where they are. We don't have any reason to evacuate at this time.

We have closed down preemptively three of our roads that are regularly flooded. That's our -- our three main arteries into our city, which is part of the reason that we've been working very hard to build bridges in these areas and requesting federal and state funds for that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor Newsom has a state of emergency. Do you have what you need from the state?

MAYOR GRACE GARNER: At this point, we have what we need. We've been working with the county, with the state.

And we've had -- we have robust resources. We're very grateful for everyone's quick response. We feel good about -- about what we're -- we're looking at. Right now, it's drizzling outside. As -- if it stays just this very light drizzle, we will definitely be OK. But we do know that there's going to be flooding, because, like I said, even an inch or two of rain in the desert can cause damage.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is one of the concerns power outages? I know it's still summer. It's still the desert. That would cause some extreme heat to become that much more uncomfortable, potentially.

MAYOR GRACE GARNER: There's always the potential for power outages when we're dealing with a storm and heat.

Of course, the temperature is way down right now. I think it's -- it's under 80 degrees at the moment because of the storm. And our utility provider is working really hard to prevent any outages. And if there are any downed lines or any outages that residents experience, they should contact our Southern California Edison as quickly as possible.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Madam Mayor, thank you for your time. And good luck.

FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Los Angeles and that city's mayor, Karen Bass.

Madam Mayor, you have a state of emergency. What is your biggest concern as Hilary moves closer?

KAREN BASS (D-Mayor of Los Angeles, California): Definitely, our biggest concern is tremendous rainfall in a very short period of time.

You know, Los Angeles is not used to weather events like this, especially in the summertime. But we are prepared. We are ready.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you asking people to stay where they are? Or how should they prepare for what's coming?

MAYOR KAREN BASS: Yes. Yes, we're asking people to stay home, to be safe, that, if they are outside for any reason, and they happen to see fallen trees or power lines, that they stay very far away, if they need assistance, 911 and our 311 for city services.

So we are all hands on deck here at the city's Emergency Operations Center.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There is a lot to get to with you in regard to your city and the impact on the unhoused as well. I want to talk about that after we take this quick commercial break, if you'd stay with us.

We'll be back with more questions for the mayor.


MARGARET BRENNAN: If you miss an episode of FACE THE NATION or want to see an extended version of an interview, you can find it all on YouTube and on our Web site. Or, if you prefer to listen, you can subscribe to our podcast. Just search FACE THE NATION.

We will be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including an update on the state of the Republican primary contest.

Stay with us.



We want to continue with Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

Madam Mayor, your city has an unhoused population of more than 40,000 people. Some of them reside in these L.A. riverbed areas. Are you going to have to go in and clear them out because of the rains that are coming?

KAREN BASS: Well, actually, outreach started a couple of days ago. And you are right, we have hundreds of people on our riverbeds. And every time we have a rain event, helicopters drive by, as well as hundreds of outreach workers go by in advance to tell them to seek shelter. And we do have shelters open.

And if you talk about our county -- that's just the city. If you add in the county, you are talking about more than 70,000 people who are unhoused. And the vast majority of them are living outside in tents.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When we spoke to you last year your said your first plan of action was to declare a state of emergency to tackle that homelessness. Why hasn't it made more of a difference?

KAREN BASS: Oh, well, you -- again, you're talking about a tremendous number of people. We did declare a state of emergency on my first day in office. And in my first six months we housed 14,000 people. But it just shows you the magnitude of the problem.

In addition, I am worried because of the COVID protections ending like an eviction moratorium, et cetera, that we are going to have more people who become housing insecure and hopefully do not fall on our streets.

So, we are working as fast as we possibly can. And especially in a situation like this, where lives could be lost because of the weather event.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In terms of economic strain, which is a factor, you have multiple labor strikes in your city. On the writers and actors strike, the two sides are still negotiating, but this has now dragged on, what, longer than the last strike back in 2008. That strike drained more than $2 billion from the economy. How hard is this hitting you? What are you doing to mitigate it?

KAREN BASS: Well - well, right, and it was - well, it is hitting us very hard. And you are just talking about the writers. The writers have been on strike for more than 100 days. But we also have the Screen Actors Guild on strike as well. The actors.

I will say, though, that negotiations are at least underway. So that is a step in the right direction. But you are absolutely correct, the entertainment industry is our foundational industry to our economy, and so our economy has been hit very hard.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it time to --

KAREN BASS: In addition to that, hotel workers are on strike.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. Is it time for you to intervene in those?

KAREN BASS: Oh, I have been deeply involved in conversations with all of the affected parties. And - and so we -- I am hopeful that there will be a breakthrough given that negotiations are underway. And that's an advance because that was not happening for many, many weeks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about your role as a surrogate for President Biden's re-election campaign. Our latest polling shows 70 percent of Americans feel things in the country are going somewhat badly or very badly. Why isn't his message of accomplishment breaking through?

KAREN BASS: Well, I mean, I think that's in part my job and other individuals to talk about what has been accomplished during the Biden administration. I mean for the first time we've had a lot of agreements around climate change, around transportation, infrastructure.


KAREN BASS: If you remember, the last administration had infrastructure week numerous times but there was never a bill passed.


KAREN BASS: And an historic bill was passed under Biden's administration. And the economy is getting better.

Remember a few weeks ago we were all anticipating -- a few months ago -- a terrible recession. That has not happened. I think that's indication of the strength of the Biden administration's policies.


Well, maybe some optimism will break through sometime soon there.

Madam Mayor, we've got to leave it.

We'll be back.

Thank you.

KAREN BASS: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: For a closer look at how the federal government is assisting Hawaii and preparing for the next disaster, we're joined by FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.

Good morning to you.

DEANNE CRISWELL (FEMA Administrator): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president told Americans that he has put FEMA on standby to deal with any impact from Hurricane Hilary. What are you preparing for at this point?

DEANNE CRISWELL: Margaret, it's a really good question, because Hurricane Hilary is going to produce some really significant impacts to southern California. We have a team that is embedded in California in the state (INAUDIBLE). We also have several staff. Our -- one of our offices is there in California. So, we had a lot of staff already on the ground.

We are moving in some additional resources to make sure that we can support anything that California might need. But they're a very capable state as well and they have a lot of resources. And so if it does exceed what their capability is, we're going to have search - additional search and rescue teams, commodities, on hand to be able to go in and support anything that they might ask for.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I know you will be traveling with President Biden to Hawaii. What is it that you think he needs to see firsthand?

DEANNE CRISWELL: You know, I think the biggest thing that the president needs to see is just the actual impact, right? It really feels different when you're on the ground and can see the total devastation of Lahaina town. And then he'll talk to some of the families that have been impacted by this and hear their stories.

And what he's going to be able to do is, he's really going to be able to, one, bring hope to this community but also reassure him - reassure them that the federal government is there. That he has directed them to bring the resources they need to help them as they begin to start their recovery and their rebuilding process. And do it in a way that they want us to do -- help them with, right? This is their town. And we want to be able to support their vision for what Lahaina town rebuilds to look like.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I know federal investigators are now on the ground from ATF to assist with the probe into how this wildfire started. The governor of Hawaii has said many times that he believes that global warming is really the cause of what happened here. Now there's scrutiny of human decision making too. Does his conclusion about global warming match the facts you've seen?

DEANNE CRISWELL: You know, I think what I would say is that we are seeing, right, a significant increase in the severity of the types of events that we're experiencing, the severe weather events that are fueled by these extreme winds, which is what we saw here, right? Records, decades of droughts, dry conditions, and then these winds. And so when all of these different climate-related events come together, you know, it produces these catastrophic type events.

You know, the governor has ordered an assessment of this entire situation. And I would defer to you and the other officials that will be doing the investigation to really better understand what overall cause was.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But if it makes natural disasters that much more intense, that - that ends up on your desk, right? So, do you think that FEMA needs to be doing more to anticipate some of these worst case scenarios and decision by local officials that make these things sometimes even more impactful?

DEANNE CRISWELL: You know, Margaret, I think, you know, threats we're seeing today are very different than what we saw five to 10 years ago, right? They are more intense. They are more complex. And so we do need to make sure that we're working with all of our communities to understand what the risks are going to continue to look like as we go into the next five or 10 years. And so we are working very hard with all of our local and state officials to better anticipate and understand what the risk landscape is going to look like, what types of mitigation measures they can put in place to help reduce the impacts of these risks, and help communities with their preparedness plans and help individuals make sure they understand what the risks are going to be.

You know, and thanks to the investments through the bipartisan infrastructure law we have been given additional funding to really go into these communities and help them anticipate and put mitigation projects in place to reduce the impacts that we're seeing from these severe weather events.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So should there be a national standard, for example, on when to activate a siren?

DEANNE CRISWELL: I think that's going to be something that's up to each individual community because sirens are used for a variety of things.

I think the most important thing is that communities use the tools that they have to understand how they're going to prepare and warn individuals, and they put those plans in place.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The cost of this is going to be a conversation here in Washington, as you know. You testified before Congress back in July that FEMA's disaster funds would be depleted by late August. That comes right in that Atlantic hurricane season time period.

FEMA officials said on Friday to reporters that the agency has sufficient resources to meet the immediate life-saving operations. Those things seem contradictory.


MARGARET BRENNAN: How close are you to depleting this disaster fund?

DEANNE CRISWELL: Yes, we're watching our disaster relief fund very closely, and the projections that we've put out there, the analysis that we do, takes into account the response to a major event, like we are responding to in Maui, or that we will respond to potentially in California.

Our estimates do still say that we may have a depletion of our fund now. It's pushed into the middle of September. And ss we get closer to that -- I mean this is a day-by-day monitoring of the situation, we will start to move some of our recovery projects and delay them until the next fiscal year so we can assure that we have enough funding to support any responses to do life-saving, life-sustaining needs for any of these systems that are developing, whether it's California or what we're seeing in the Atlantic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congress doesn't come back until after Labor Day to authorize new funding. So, can you say at this point that what you have in your hands won't impact operations?

DEANNE CRISWELL: It will not impact response because we will push recovery into the next fiscal year to ensure that we have enough funding to support any responses through the end of this fiscal year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. So, is $12 billion, which is what President Biden is asking Congress for, is that going to be enough given what you're seeing happen?

DEANNE CRISWELL: Yes, the $12 billion was going to be able to cover some of the immediate needs that we were going to need to get through this fiscal year as we're continuing to see the increase in these severe weather events. That dollar amount may need to go up as we go into the next fiscal year and what we're going to need to do to be able to continue to respond to the increased number of events that are happening across the nation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Administrator Criswell, thank you for your time and good luck.

DEANNE CRISWELL: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And if you want to help the victims of the Maui fire, you can find a lot of ways to do that at

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the 2024 campaign and our new CBS News poll shows former President Trump with his biggest lead yet this cycle with support of 62 percent of Republican primary voters surveyed. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has dropped since our last survey. He's now at 16 percent. And the rest of the field remains in single digits as most of them prepare for the primary debate coming up later this week.

Our elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto is here with us.

Anthony, it's great to see you in person.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Good to see you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, does it matter to these primary voters if Donald Trump is on that stage or not?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, he's not in a competitive race right now. Right now they would nominate him and it would be not close. It would be an easy win for him.

Look, you know, there's a couple of dynamics here going on for those who do debate that I think even underpin him more, and that is, when we ask voters, what do you want to hear in this debate, you get this lopsided number that wants the other candidates, make the case for yourselves, but don't criticize Donald Trump. It was poultry, 9 percent, that wants to hear critiques. And that puts the other candidates in a box.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It dynamic with Donald Trump is always different, isn't it?

So, have the indictments that he has had to date impacted him in any way?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: He's held steady. His lead, as you said at the top, is even bigger as the rest of the field has fallen back.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So it sounds like no.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: It -- the answer is no, but it's - it's also underpinning him in some way in this regard.

He is, when we ask, why are you supporting Donald Trump? Well, among other reasons, his voters say, it's to support him during his legal fights, to show that - that support.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's helping him.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: So, in that regard, it does help him, or at least it - it girds that support from his - his substantial base.

Well, the other part of this, though, if we unpack it is, why. And you see a couple things. One is that they reject the premise of these indictments because, a, they say they're politically motivated, and that swamps any other concerns, number one. We've seen that throughout all the indictments. Number two, they say that, well, if Donald Trump tried to stay in office, they feel it was through legal and constitutional means. That's different from other Americans who think it was illegal. But for Republicans, the reason they feel that way, is that so many of them still buy what Trump was talking about in terms of a fraudulent election, those unfounded, unproven claims. But Republicans believe that. So, that's how that narrative then forms that - that buttress against what's coming at him in the indictments.

Finally, though, I've got to add this for a larger context, and that is, Republicans, to a larger degree, see the U.S. political system, they tell us, as corrupt. Now, a lot of people think it's dysfunctional, but Republicans in particular think it's - think it's corrupt.


ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, what that does is, it sets up Trump for them as the honest broker for them against that system. In fact, he's winning among people who want an honest candidate. They see him as the truth teller.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's a fascinating dynamic. So, for everyone else who has to show up at that debate stage, how do they differentiate themselves?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, I think there's one possible opening between the - the -- what people say they're hearing and what they want to hear. And it's this. Republican voters tell us they're hearing a lot about Donald Trump. Now, he's the frontrunner, but they don't all want to hear that in part because of all the indictment news.

But what they want to hear about is the economy. Specifically about plans to help lower inflation, to help the economy. And in that way, they're just like all American voters it at this point, right? They care about, how does the price of eggs come down? How do they get to - to buy a house if they're trying to?

MARGARET BRENNAN: They want more policy. That's interesting.

Anthony, this is fascinating.

And you can find the full poll results on our website at

We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: For a look at some health concerns on the horizon as we approach the end of summer, including a rise in COVID cases and questions about updates to vaccines, we're joined now by former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. He also sits on the board of Pfizer. And it's great to have you here in person, Doctor.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB (Former FDA Commissioner): Thanks a lot.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to start on some news we got Thursday. The CDC announced a highly mutated strain of COVID has just shown up in Michigan, BA.2.86. How concerned does the public need to be?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB (Former FDA Commissioner): Well, right now I -- I've talked to a number of virologists who are usually pretty stayed (ph) and they're pretty concerned about this. right now it doesn't appear to be spreading wildly. There is seven strains that have been identified and sequenced in five different countries. So, the U.K., Denmark, Israel and now in the U.S. We don't know whether or not this has been spreading quietly and we just didn't detect it, or it's something that's spreading very quickly.

The concern is that when you look at these different strains that have been identified, they're genetically very similar. So that suggests that it's probably spreading simultaneously in multiple countries. Whether or not this is going to be more transmissible than what we've seen before, that's the key question.

Certainly at this point it doesn't appear more pathogenic. So, it doesn't appear to be more dangerous, but it may be more transmissible than the strains that are circulating now. And in that case it could overtake them. It's too early to know. The testing's underway. I think we're going to know a lot more in a week or two. But to again put this in perspective, this new variant is as genetically different from omicron as omicron was from the original strain that emerged in Wuhan. So this is a highly mutated variant.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that set off some alarm bells at that time. So, we will watch this. But for people at home who say, oh my gosh, I've heard someone has COVID, the strain that's causing most infections is not this one?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Right. So right now the two strains that are circulating, causing most of the infections is what's called EG.5. People have probably heard about that. It's called the era strain. And this other strain, BA.1.51 (ph). They both have a very similar mutation in them called the 456 mutation that allows them to pierce the immunity that we've acquired from prior infections and also from prior vaccinations. So, people are getting infected with that.

The good news is, is that where we are right now, relative to where we were last summer when BA.5 was spreading, is a lot better. So, there's far fewer infections. We have probably roughly about 600,000 infections a day happening based on the modeling work that's been done looking at wastewater data. And there's about 10,000 people that have been hospitalized in the last week. And to compare that to last year, last year at this point we had 40,000 people hospitalized and we were running probably about 1.2 million infections a day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, for those strains, there is a booster shot that I know Pfizer has talked about coming to market soon.


MARGARET BRENNAN: It's still not available. When do we expect it, and does it protect against these variants?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Right. So the data looks like the new booster, which is based on BA.1.15 (ph), which was the strain that emerged last spring, looks like it will protect against these new variants. Now, my guess is these new variants, this infection rate from this wave of infections, from EG.5, is going to be coming down by the time the new vaccine's available, which is going to be mid-September.

So, September 12th has been the date that they've talked about. But it's going to be some point in mid-September that these will be widely accessible in pharmacies and other health departments and so people can go out and get it. There are studies underway right now, what's called neutralization studies, basically laboratory studies, to look at whether the new vaccine also covers this BA.2.86 variant that you talked about at the top of the show. And we'll have that data by the time the new vaccines become available. So, by the time these are out in September, consumers will know how well it covers that new variant. We'll also probably know whether or not it's spreading.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And Moderna has one, and perhaps others.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: And Pfizer. And Novavax as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And - and Novavax.

So, what's different as we go into the fall and back to school is that the federal government emergency programs have largely stopped. So, people have to actually plan getting their vaccine. You can't get them for free everywhere. How is that going to impact what the season looks like ahead?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yes, so insurers are going to cover these vaccines in the same way they cover flu vaccines for people who have insurance. For people who are under insured or uninsured, the administration has a program where people are going to be able to get these for free at pharmacies. That program should be up and running by the time these vaccines become available. And they'll also be free of charge at federally qualified community health centers and also public health departments day one. So, they should be widely accessible. It doesn't mean there's not going to be gaps in coverage and people who face certain hardships, but broadly most people should be able to get these free of charge without a co-pay based on what I'm seeing right now from the insurance companies.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Of course they have to choose to get them.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we know, what, 17 percent of the population took the booster shot according to the CDC last it time around. Why does someone need to continue to update?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yes, look, I think -- we have to have a lot of humility around this virus. There's a lot we don't understand and it's continuing to surprise us, as it is with this BA.2.86 mutation. But this does look like it's going to be a flu like paradigm where there's going to be new variants that emerge each year. Hopefully we'll guess right in terms of how we formulate the vaccines. But you're going to need updated protection, like you do from flu, to try to match the vaccine against the variant that's circulating.

People are still going to have residual immunity from prior infection, and prior vaccination, that protects them against severe disease, probably even if they don't get vaccinated. But if you want to update that protection and also get more protection against the possibility of infection, you will need to keep up to date with your vaccine. The flu vaccine, by the way, is available right now.



MARGARET BRENNAN: Should we get it right now?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I think people should wait. I think the - you know, mid- September a probably a good time to get it. There's very little flu right now. Only 1 percent of the respiratory samples that were sequenced by CDC are actually flu. SO, there's very little spreading.

It does look like the flu vaccine is going to be a good match for the prevalent strain based on what we see in South America. South America is usually a good harbinger for our flu season. So that -- it does look like that's going to be a good vaccine this year based on, you know, some preliminary judgments right now.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: RSV is another respiratory disease that we now have vaccines available for. We can protect ourselves from the three prevalent respiratory diseases each winter, RSV, flu and now COVID.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, thank you, Doctor, for laying out what the public needs to know.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Thanks a lot.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you all for watching. Until next week. For FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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