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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 9/30/22

Guests: Rick LoCastro, Bryan Stern, Michele Rayner, James T. Morris, Craig Fugate, John Copenhaver, William Taylor


Floridians affected by the wrath of Hurricane Ian after leaving Florida. Some people have not been reached by local officials and authorities to check on their condition. The first priority, of course, is search and rescue. Then comes cleanup.


ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be here on Monday and I will see you Tuesday. Now it is time for a special edition of THE LAST WORD. Tonight, Ali Velshi reports live from Fort Myers Beach, Florida. Good evening, Ali. We`re really looking forward to this.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Alex, thank you. You have a good weekend and I`ll see you on Tuesday as well.

And good evening to the rest of you. As Alex said, I am here tonight in Fort Myers Beach on Florida`s southwest coast, right where Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday afternoon. And I want to implore you tonight to listen closely. This is not a weather story, it`s not even a natural disaster story. It is a human disaster story.

You see in the video the weather, the wind, the rain and the flooding. You`ve seen the aftermath, the broken things, the houses, the buildings, the bridges, the boats, destroyed. What these images don`t show you is the lives that are broken. People on the margins whose homes, whose jobs, even their own bodies and their health are now precarious. People who don`t have the insurance or the resources to rebuild.

My team down here and I went for a drive today not far from here. We discovered dozens of people at a shrimping dock for whom that is the situation tonight. No one has reached them and it`s not clear that anyone has tried, but I saw them, and you could see them too. Take a look.


VELSHI: Where were you in this hurricane?

UNKNOWN: I got a boatload of supply. I was contemplating. Wished for it around, it went into the rafters, we were away up in it already. And it started pushing (inaudible). Long story short, it shoved it all the way in to this (inaudible), leaned over (inaudible) and taking on some serious water. I (inaudible) the boat next to me to let`s go. They got me off (inaudible). I didn`t know if the building was going to hold up or not. It went -- I went in hard. This is my seventh. Andrew --

VELSHI: This is your seventh hurricane?

UNKNOWN: Yeah. Andrew, Opal, Charley [inaudible] Harvey.

VELSHI: And now Ian.

UNKNOWN: And this is by far the worst.

VELSHI: Why? What was the worst about it?

UNKNOWN: The wind, the tide. The tide surges! Harvey, we had a tide surge, but we were several miles we would be. We are half a mile from the beach.

UNKNOWN: We were up in that shop and we were trying to take cover, but we couldn`t get out of here because the (inaudible) flooding. There was a loft up in the attic and we had us -- and we had a guy in crutches and another lady that was in her 60s and our dog up there. And we thought we were gone because water came up all the way to the top. And then it finally stopped. This is people`s lives down here.

VELSHI: Well, you were on that.

UNKNOWN: (Inaudible). Like my boat right there.

VELSHI: You were not, I mean, you were not -- what was going on in that boat during the hurricane?

UNKNOWN: There was another boat tied beside me. That boat right there broke loose.

VELSHI: Were you scared of breaking this?

UNKNOWN: No. My pushed up (inaudible) hit that pile and knocked a hole in it. That`s how strong the wind was.

VELSHI: And you stayed on it the whole time? Until it was done?

UNKNOWN: Until it was done, yeah. And I got on up (inaudible) like I stay on that boat there so, that`s what I`m keeping an eye on that.

VELSHI: You`re sleeping on this boat?


VELSHI: What have you got on the boat, like what do you think you guys, need shelter?

UNKNOWN: There`s a bunk there. There`s a bunk. That`s all. Ain`t no food in there. I mean, nothing on the boat.

VELSHI: So, what do you guys eat?


UNKNOWN: We got a box today.

UNKNOWN: People come by and bring us food and stuff like that.

VELSHI: Yeah. What do you need. What --

UNKNOWN: I know I need clothes. I ain`t got no clothes. I ain`t got nothing.

VELSHI: You`re wearing this the whole --

UNKNOWN: The whole time.

UNKNOWN: And you look at this devastation right here, nobody is worried about us little people that don`t make $1 million a year. I didn`t get to make $25,000 a year, you know. And why now, mostly everything I`ve got is wet from having to keep that boat floating and going in and out, 105-mile hour winds, 150 mile an hour wind.

But today, you know, we need basic sanitation before it gets really ripe down here. And we`ve just got nobody to -- we don`t know who to call. Nobody has come down here. No officials, you know, have come down and said, okay, we can get this or whatever.

VELSHI: How are you doing? How are you feeling? How long are you going to stay out here?

UNKNOWN: We don`t have anywhere to go. This is pretty much our family other than our families at home. But this is how we support them. I`ve got a granddaughter on the way and a grandson on the way. I just -- my husband, his mom, she`s got health issues. She lost her place. So, it`s just we`re all pulling together in times like this. Thank God, just we are all alive.

VELSHI: We`re glad you`re alive, but this is hard. This is --


UNKNOWN: (Inaudible)

VELSHI: But we`re going to do it and make the people know the story.

UNKNOWN: Thank you.

VELSHI: We`re going to make sure people know the story because this is not -- this is something else.

UNKNOWN: It`s a disaster, it`s bad. It`s mother nature.

UNKNOWN: But now matter what, we`re going to do our best to keep the pieces and pick them up and put them back together where there were found, you know what I mean? So, a little (inaudible) but okay.

VELSHI: You guys are going to get that done. You`re all tough stuff.

UKNOWN: We`re just going to keep going. That`s all you can do.


VELSHI: In all the time I`ve been in this business, people always ask me, who the best interviews you`ve ever had, and it`s always the strength of the human spirit like these people who have been left with nothing, literally, nothing other than the clothes that they are wearing, are talking about rebuilding.

This was a couple of miles away from me, San Carlos Island. I ended the interview so that I could get back into a place where we had cell signal so that I could talk to my producer so I could say, let`s tell their story, let`s make sure we tell their story. They are not the only people in the state who are in that position.

Take a look, right on the map, San Carlos Island, southwest of Fort Myers. We have reached out, by the way, to local officials. I hope they see this and they get these people some help or at the very least, some toilets.

Fort Myers Beach, where I am and where the shrimp factory is, is located in Lee County. I`ve been talking to you about this for a few nights. I want to go to the commissioner of the county to the south, Collier County, Rick LoCastro. He`s joining us by phone from Marco Island. Collier County is where (inaudible) by the way. That`s where I was for the storm.

Commissioner LoCastro, thanks for being with us. You`ve been with us literally every few hours on this network for days. I want to get an update from you about the situation, first of all, south and Naples and I do know that in Collier County, you were helping the folks here in Lee County, which have seen things in a very different way that you had down there.

RICK LOCASTRO, COLLIER COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Yeah. I mean, like, you probably haven`t seen it bad in a while, but yesterday I spent the whole day in my district, a little over 110,000 people, actually boots on the ground. You know, as you probably know, I`m a retired Air Force. And so, you know, I`ve been through this type of things before.

So, a lot of the people just like you interviewed, I have a lot of those people in (inaudible) Isles of Capri, these are small little fishing villages as well. So, you know, myself and others as well, we`re out all day yesterday. I spent today, however, in our emergency operation center because that`s the nucleus, that`s where all the help, you know, (inaudible) from.

So, we have team leaders there. These are non-profit agencies. We have the utilities folks there. We have our emergency response, our paramedics, our hospital people. So, from yesterday from being out in the field like you`ve been, then going into the emergency operation center, I was really able to help a lot of my district and my county, direct a lot of traffic to hotspots that I saw that were not getting attention or priority areas that were kind of low hanging fruit. Actually, just needed a quick little bit of a fix.

So, I just got back home here to shower and then I`m going to actually take a little nap here, listen, head back over to the EFC. A lot of good things did happen at Collier County and when there`s so many people to reach, and as you know, we don`t have a crystal ball, so there`s even people out there that needs help that we haven`t even found yet.

But on Marco Island, which is a big part of my district, 70 percent of the power has been restored. We didn`t get the 70 percent power when Hurricane Irma hit for maybe over a week. So, that was the good news story. You know, we try to latch on it, anything that was positive, and people getting light and air conditioning and having their refrigerators on is a really big deal.

And we still probably have maybe 40 percent of Collier County without power, but that number is going to drop quickly tomorrow if I have anything to say about it. But we have teams of people really working hard on that and lots of other things. But I saw so much destruction yesterday.

Water is a very powerful thing that can move some big objects and causes permanent destruction. You can always replace a roof due to the wind or something, you know, that hurricane-force winds. I`m not making (inaudible) of wind, but I think you saw firsthand water destruction, eight, 10 feet of storm surge. Horrific.

VELSHI: Commissioner, one of the issues here more so in Lee County than we had in Collier County, but we had some of it there, is the failure of cell signal and phones. I mean, the tone of people I was talking to on this island near us, we`re talking about the fact that they can`t get the help they need because they -- because their phones don`t work.

Obviously, I`ve seen those bucket trucks out there fixing the powerlines in Naples. And actually, we`ve seen power come on at quite a rate. We`re not seeing that here yet and power and telephone are different things. It`s 2022. People rely on the cell phones. How do we deal with that?


LOCASTRO: Well, I mean, I can only speak for Collier County. Now, Lee County, it`s a little bit of apples and oranges because you have so much more devastation there, wind and water.


LOCASTRO: I don`t want to make a commercial for certain companies, but Verizon and T-Mobile descended on us very quickly. And, you know, some of that is, as elected officials, and I`m only just talking for me, you have to pull the help as much as it`s being pushed. And so that`s why, you know, you have to be out in the field. You have to know what you need.

We had several cell phones companies that came here with portable units that, yesterday, I, mean literally, I could see the signal double on my phone at a very particular time of the evening, and then all of a sudden, my cell phone exploded with old e-mails and then new text messages. I`m sure Lee County, they`re trying to do some of that.

You know, I actually talked to the power folks that are helping us and I got to see some aerial helicopter shots of the county and one of the things that they said is there are big challenges. There are pockets of people, as you`ve met, but to restore the entire power grid, in the end there`s just not that many people there.

It doesn`t mean it`s not important and I really don`t know what their priorities are. But here, we actually had an exponential progress from the last 24 hours. So, I mean, I`m talking to you right now crystal clear on the cell phone. If somebody would have called me last night, I don`t know if I (inaudible) or text message.

And the times when I was talking with you, it was because I was in another area of Collier County that had a little bit stronger of a signal. You probably know being out on the field, you can travel little bit and you know where the hotspots are.

But we had a lot of progress today and it was reaching out for the cell phone companies and really trying to squeeze them as much as we could for support and, you know, we`ve got quite a bit of it here. We haven`t solved everything, but today was a good day in Collier County. In fact (inaudible) as far as progress I personally witnessed and people that I`ve met yesterday that I know where helped today. And, you know, it`s a little bit each day because there`s so much devastation here.

VELSHI: Yeah. We`ll take every piece of improvement we get. I remember the moment last night when the place I was at, the power came back and I remember when the storm was coming in at that hotel where we`re showing images from, we knew literally which three square feet had good signal, and when you went away from it you lost it. So, that is an improvement.

Commissioner, thanks for being with us. We appreciate the time that you`ve taken over the last few days. Get a little bit of a nap and get back out there because your county needs you. Commissioner Rick LoCastro of Collier County, Florida.

LOCASTRO: Thank you, sir.

VELSHI: That`s the Naples area. Well, search and rescue here is underway. I want to go now to someone who`s been out today on the boat, bringing stranded people in from the islands. Bryan Stern is the co-founder of Project Dynamo which does these boats rescues. Brian, welcome. Thank you for being with us. Let me have the sense of where you are in the boat rescue situation. How many people -- what does it look like? How many people? Do you have a list of people you have to go out to? Is it constant? And where are you in it?

BRYAN STERN, CO-FOUNDER, PROJECT DYNAMO: Yeah. We -- my team and I, we`ve been working really hard last two days. We got out here, right around lunch yesterday. Worked until the sun went down last night. And then all day today until about 20 or 30 minutes ago as the sun went down. We`ve been doing rescues and getting after it in Sanibel, Matlacha, and Captiva, in north Captiva, all over the place, trying to help out where we can and get people off these islands that are now cut off.

VELSHI: Tell me where -- what does that look like? Just describe to me. We`re seeing some images of you on a boat. You literally go up to people`s houses. Where do you get the information as to where you go and then what happens?

STERN: Yeah. We`re getting on our website is where people can go to register their families. That`s also where you can go to donate. We are donor funded entirely. We do need help. Everything is -- we need gas more than anything else. We need boats more than anything else.

People register their family members on the website and give us their addresses and then we have to take our boats out and then go in by foot. And today, we probably walked about 20, 30 miles inland from on and off Sanibel and some other places. So, very difficult, very hard. It`s very dangerous. It`s very muddy and nasty. The destruction is catastrophic.

This is, you know, map changing destruction. It`s kind of like the skyline of New York after 9/11, it`s different after 9/11. Kind of the same thing. You know, every map of this region is going to have to be redrawn.


VELSHI: It is -- it`s an apt analogy. There are things that were here three nights ago that are simply not here anymore. Bryan, thanks very much. Bryan Stern is the co-founder of Project Dynamo which does local boat rescues. These are the heroes of these days after the hurricane.

Hurricane Ian not done though. Right now, it is pummeling the Carolinas as it moves north. It made its second landfall as a Category-1 storm just after 2:00 p.m. today near Georgetown, South Carolina. It was an 85 mile per hour storm as it came ashore. Winds brought higher than expected storm surges which washed away piers, as you could see here. And heavy rain caused flooding in places like Charleston.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the Carolinas are without power. FEMA warns today that Ian still poses an extreme threat to everyone in its path. I want to go to NBC`s Shaquille Brewster in Charleston, South Carolina.

Shaq, it was an outside chance several days ago that this is going to happen, but it happened. The storm came back as a Category-1 hurricane. What`s the situation now?

SHAQUILLE BREWSTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: No, you`re exactly right. It came back as a Category-1 hurricane, hitting about 60 miles from where Charleston is right now. And because of that, Charleston`s mayor is telling NBC News this evening that they feel that they dodged a bullet. That`s not to say that they did not have significant impacts by this.

The National Weather Service said that in the past day it rained about five and a half inches in Charleston. That is a historic amount. It has not rained that much in this area in one day since 1938. The area got wind gusts of above -- to about 70 miles an hour. And tonight, there are still about 40,000 people without power.

But despite that, you have local officials saying they feel good about where they are. They`re cleaning the debris. The number of people without power, that`s about half, the peak that we saw earlier today. And when you look up the coast of South Carolina, you get a sense of why officials here in Charleston feel a little bit better.

When you look at Myrtle Beach, for example, they have the -- the storm surge caused rescues that needed to take place along the boardwalk there in the motel. You look at Pawleys Island, an entire pier was washed away. That was what the police department called historic and catastrophic flooding.

So, many people say that they`ve gotten better in this area. The water is receding, but still a significant impact here in this region.

VELSHI: Shaq, I want you to stay safe. Please, my friend, you`ve done this a lot, you know how to do that. Keep your team safe. Even these storms as they pass through, they can still cause damage.

BREWSTER: Absolutely.

VELSHI: Shaq Brewster for us in Charleston. Alright. Take a look at some drone video that we shot today of what used to be an R.V. park in San Carlos Island. This is actually near that shrimp factory. It`s across the road from it. Look at the broken wood, the roofs strewn about. Think about the structures that were and the people who call that home. Where are these people tonight? More ahead. Stay with us.


UNKNOWN: You know what they need? They need some porta (inaudible) out there.


UNKNOWN: -- has nowhere to stay.





UNKNOWN: In terms of property damage, it`s -- I`ve never seen anything like it. I mean, we`ve got -- you`ve got boats that had been washed into the streets. And big, big boats, not little boats, but massive boats that have been washed into the streets and stuff like that. I have never seen anything like it.

UNKNOWN: It was very traumatic. I actually, well, I went into the water and saved three people and I lost one friend. I couldn`t save her. She got washed away.

UNKNOWN: The devastation is unbelievable. You know, I was a paramedic fireman for 25 years and it`s just unbelievable.


VELSHI: Tonight, the cracks are starting to show. The former president`s - - I`m sorry -- I want to talk to you about this. We`re talking about something else. I want to bring in State Representative Michele Rayner, the Florida state representative for District 70. That is part of Hillsboro, Pinellas, Sarasota, and Manatee. Representative Rayner, thank you for joining us. We appreciate you being with us.

I want to ask you about something that we witnessed a little while ago. This whole idea of people on the margins, people who have great difficulty, the people who just can`t jump in their car and decide to move to another city and stay there or stay in a motel. You`ve been out there helping people in the Tampa area. What are you seeing about these people on the margins? Are they getting the support that they need?

MICHELE RAYNER, FLORIDA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, Ali, first off, it`s good to see you again. And, you know, that`s really kind of where we are, filling in those gaps, you know. Everyone has an idea that folks are just able to evacuate, and I think that we have to level sit that there is a privilege in being able to evacuate.

And I actually just tweeted while I was waiting to get on with you that there are some folks within Fort Myers and I actually have family in Fort Myers that are concerned that they will receive the type of help that is equitable and that is just.

And so, what I`ve been working on with other colleagues throughout the state is making sure that there is a recovery that it`s for everyone, that is just for everyone. And so, my office has pushed out forms, has been in direct contact with people all throughout this state.


Not just in Tampa Bay, but in Charlotte County and in Lee County and in Sarasota County, making sure that we can divert resources to anyone that needs them. This is really going to be an all-hands-on deck type situation and type recovery.

VELSHI: You know, I`ve spoken to so many people when I was at this shrimpers yard. I asked these people who lost their boats, were they insured? And they said, no, they`re insured. I spoke to somebody in Naples yesterday who said they lived in a trailer park. They lost two of their cars. One is insured, the other one just isn`t. They couldn`t afford the insurance. Now they don`t have a car.

And you can`t live in southwestern Florida and in western Florida without a car, for most people. These are the stories that people who don`t live through this stuff don`t necessarily know. That some people don`t evacuate because of their health. Some people don`t evacuate because they can`t afford the extra tank of gas.

How do -- what does equity look like in these situations because the commissioner from Collier County was saying sometimes you get the low hanging fruit, right, the main roads that have power lines down, we can fix those really fast, but for people on the margins it might take a while.

RAYNER: You know, I think equity looks like an intentional recovery, right? It looks like we know where, just from history and data, where folks are suffering, where folks may live on the margins, where folks maybe economically challenged. And I think that it takes for us to be intentional about making sure that those people are taken care of as well. And sometimes maybe even taken care of first.

I know that my phone has been blowing up with folks who need food. And to your point about insurance, I mean, this is a crisis that we`re in right now. We have folks who are just surviving, folks who fish for a living and they are just surviving. We have folks that are trying to get from point A to point B.

And so necessary to car insurance isn`t the first thing that`s on, you know, that`s on the docket for them when they are thinking about their bills. But most importantly, we also have a housing insurance issue. Someone texted me today saying that their roof (inaudible) their house. He doesn`t have house insurance because he can`t afford it.

And so, this is where we`re at currently in the state of Florida. And so, I think that we have to have an intentional eye and intentional focus to recovery and making sure that the ones of us who needed the most actually get the help first.

VELSHI: You made another point from people who I spoke too today. Home insurance, renters don`t -- sometimes have renters` insurance, homeowners don`t have homeowners` insurance in some cases because in tough times it becomes hard to afford. I actually had the shrimpers telling me the price of gas is up and the price of shrimp is down and they`re getting squeezed in the middle.

Here`s a thing, government can`t do this intentional recovery on its own. You`ve been out there, community organizations are essential. What`s the biggest need right now?

RAYNER: I think the biggest need is a couple -- it`s twofold, maybe even three-fold. One, there is a food need. Also, there is a shelter need for folks who are being displaced. Our utility companies, they`re doing the best that they can. I know in (inaudible) County 60 percent of folks have - - had their lights on.

But really, I think as I referenced earlier, this is an all-hands-on deck. To your point, Ali, this is going to be the government, but it`s also going to be community organizations. Organizations that I work with, they are giving other community organizations small dollar grants to buy generators and to buy food and to be able to take care of their community.

So, as we`re looking at the government and government officials to be able to do the things that we need to do and be able to meet needs, we also need to empower those who are in our community who have the ability to take care of the folks in their community and making sure that they have what they need. So, this is really going to be an all-hands-on deck type of approach. And that`s how I think we get to that in intentionality piece.

VELSHI: Well, let me bring another hand into this conversation then when you say it`s all hands-on deck. The Reverend Doctor James T. Morris. He`s the chair of the Florida Poor Peoples campaign. He`s been helping coordinate disaster relief efforts in Orlando where hurricane induced flooding is causing a lot of misery.

Reverend, you are the Poor Peoples Campaign who thinks about people on the margins almost all the time. And when we talk about hurricanes, we often center on things people know, the resort areas and things like that, but resort areas are actually often better built than the low-lying areas and the isolated areas that people are suffering from and not getting FEMA phone calls and drive-throughs by police and authorities. You`ve been focusing on poor and marginalized communities in this recovery. What are you seeing, and what does my audience need to know tonight?

JAMES T. MORRIS, CO-CHAIR, FLORIDA POOR PEOPLE`S CAMPAIGN: Thank you, Ali. Good to be with you. You are exactly right. Poor people are bearing the brunt of this ecological disaster. It is a catastrophe that was waiting to happen and persons who are poorer and low income or adversely affected.


The Poor Peoples Campaign is mobilizing across the state to help those persons who really can`t help themselves. Ali, when I heard the call for evacuation, I was petrified because of the poor and low income are those persons who cannot afford to evacuate.

And so they are the person`s most adversely affected by these ecological disasters that are lining up, one behind the other. And so what we are trying to do is we`re mobilizing faith-based organizations, unions, other community organizations, and persons of conscience to develop herbs in strategic locations throughout not only central Florida and Orlando but on the southwest coast of Florida, where people can go and get the assistance that they need, assistance that is not yet available via the federal government or the state government.

And so this is what we are most blazing to do as the Poor People`s Campaign.

VELSHI: Representative Rayner, let me ask you about this because what the Reverend is talking about is all these organizations, whether it`s unions or faith-based organizations, or volunteer groups who can get to some of these individuals who can`t help themselves.

You know, we have this great idea in this country that everybody should be able to help themselves, but you are out of a car, you`re out of your house. You`re in a shelter, your ID is washed away with other stuff. You couldn`t cash your check on Monday because the banks were closed.

There`s just a list of reasons why people on the margins cannot depend on just themselves to get out of the situation.

RAYNER: I mean 100 percent right. And I just first off want to commend the Reverend and the Poor People`s Campaign for the work that they have done and continue to do in our state and in our communities.

And I think that that`s right, you know. One of the organizations that I support, Florida for All, Florida Rising, we`re actually giving monies and grants to organizations like the Poor People`s Campaigns and other folks who are actually in the community who are able to reach out and touch people in ways that electeds (ph) can and ways that state government can, and ways that the federal government cannot because these are people that live in the community.

These are people that know that Miss Pat down the street needs to have some bread, and needs to have some milk. And knows that if they don`t hear from her, that they need to go check in on her and maybe that they are able to assist her in ways that other folks cannot.

So I think that we have to have this bridge of making sure that the people on the ground have what they need and there has to be an intentional focus on that. There has to be, even intentionality through the state government and the federal government to make sure that folks like the Reverend, make sure folks like other organizations are able to get what they need to actually serve the people in their community in which they live. Because they know the needs of the people of their neighbors, and their friends, that they live among.

VELSHI: Thank you to both of you for the work that you`re doing. We appreciate it. Florida state representative Michele Rayner and the Reverend James Morris of the Poor People`s Campaign. Thank you for being with us.

Coming up, we will give a long term look to the recovery.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I literally watched my house disappear with everything in it, right before my eyes.





JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re just beginning to see the scale of that destruction. It`s likely to rank among the worst of the nation`s -- the worst in the nation`s history. You`ve all seen it on television, homes and property wiped out. It`s going to take months, years to rebuild.

And our hearts go out to all these folks whose lives have been absolutely devastated by the storm. America`s heart is literally breaking. Just watching people watching on television.

I just want the people of Florida to know, we see what you are going through, and we are with you.


VELSHI: That`s President Biden earlier this afternoon on the very real challenges that the people of southwest Florida are facing right now.

The first priority, of course, is search and rescue. Then comes cleanup. Then comes rebuilding and that is going to be long, and hard, and really expensive.

So what`s that process going to look like? And what do the people who were hit the hardest need most in the days, the weeks, and the years to come?

Joining us now is Craig Fugate, former FEMA director in the Obama administration, and John Copenhaver, a former FEMA southeastern regional director. Guys, thanks for being. We appreciate that.

Craig, I`m standing in front of a picture you have seen many, many times. There is no hurricane or tornado in America that does not have a scene like this, a building that is just completely devastated.

What happens? I`m always fascinated, I see people coming on to their properties and picking things up and trying to clean up and get a head start before authorities are around, before there are dozers and things like that.

What is happening right now that we are not seeing?


CRAIG FUGATE, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: Well, Florida`s looking at where people are going to stay. I mean, FEMA -- in the state have been talking about this and they started before the storm -- where are we going to house people? You know, people can`t stay in their cars, they can`t stay there.

There`s only so many hotel/motel rooms in the immediate area. So they`re going to have to look at temporary housing. I think once you get the rescues done, you get the roads opened up to free all -- again Sanibel, some of those places, you`re going to have to do more work and get temporary bridges bringing in like ferries and stuff.

But I think the next big hurdle is what is going to be the short term housing while all of these people who have lost their homes, the residents there? You know, we got some folks that haven`t come down yet, they are seasonal, but the folks that live there went through the storms, where are they going to be living? And that short term housing is a huge challenge given how much area has been devastated.

VELSHI: John, one of the things -- I mean a lot of people who don`t live in Florida know Florida because they visit it and they go to places that are well built and they see the best of it.

Florida is a complicated place. There are lots of places that are not Sanibel, that are not Naples, you know, or the fancy parts of it. There are lots of places that have come down and that are on the margins, and that are low-lying, and that are populated by marginalized communities.

How do you try to make sure that the government`s hand is applies with some equity?

JOHN COPENHAVER, FORMER FEMA OFFICIAL: Ali, it`s going to be difficult. I will just be upfront about that. It`s going to have to involve having multiple people at multiple levels that are really carefully looking at the needs of the different segments that have been impacted.

And in a situation like this where you are talking about a massive hurricane, literally every segment of society has been impacted. The folks that really typically are involved in lower cost housing -- that have come from lower cost housing, come from lower income areas, are going to be almost unable to help themselves. It will be very difficult. They may have relatives someplace that they can go stay with. they may have other people that they know that are out of harm`s way that they can go stay with.

But a lot of them don`t. So it`s going to be a priority to try to work with the people that can`t find housing on their own.

VELSHI: Craig, you and I have talked about this in the past, there are various studies that indicate that the cost of building things that are resilient to some of these issues is much lower than the cost of rebuilding or repairing them. There`s just something wrong with the way we have that system worked out.

When you are FEMA, you must be sitting there thinking, if we had only done this or this was constructed a certain way, or coat had been applied in a certain way, obviously, that`s not FEMA`s job. You cannot correct that.

But what`s the lesson that we should be starting to take away with these increasingly difficult disasters?

FUGATE: Do not build based upon past history and past experience. We have to build for the future. And here` is another problem. And John kind of alluded to this.

You know, finding temporary housing is one thing. But I`ve watched this play out in too many communities. When we go to rebuild and gentrify and we end up displacing people even further away from the community because we don`t focus on building affordable housing.

None of these areas you know, had surplus affordable housing in the first place. The real markers are crazy. So what we have to really watch is, yes, we`re going to build back, we`re going to build back better, but are we going to build back for the people who are living there, or are we going to build back to increase the tax base?

VELSHI: And that`s the kind of thing we always have to think about because you are right, getting affordable housing in places like this where there are resorts and there are here for tourists, and they`re here for the kind of stuff, it becomes very hard. You really end up squeezing people into the least desirable areas.

Craig, thanks you very much. John, good to have you here. Thanks to both of you.

Coming up, I am here in Fort Myers Beach tonight. But the biggest news in the world tonight is the escalation by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine and the challenge that he has now posed to the west. We`re going to talk about that, next.



VELSHI: All right. Tonight, I`m coming to you live from Fort Myers Beach, Florida, an area particularly hard hit by Hurricane Ian. But there is news with massive global implications today in Vladimir Putin`s announcement that he has annexed parts of occupied Ukraine -- a claim which Ukraine and the United States and all of their allies reject.

Earlier this year at the start of Putin`s war in Ukraine, I spent more than five weeks reporting on the devastation from that region. And today Vladimir Putin announced the illegal annexation of four Russian occupied regions in Ukraine, days after the Kremlin installed officials who voted in support of the move in what the U.S. called a sham referendum.

You have to see the results of this referendum of 90 plus percent -- one of these places had 99 percent -- these are the four places in yellow. The annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia is the largest forcible takeover of territory in Europe since World War II.

President Joe Biden warned that Vladimir Putin cannot seize Ukrainian territory and quote, "get away with it".



BIDEN: I want to also speak to Mr. Putin`s remarks this morning. You know, America and its allies are not going to be intimidated, are not going to be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats.

The sham routine that he put on this morning is showing the unity and, you know, as people holding hands together. Well, the United States is never going to recognize this. And quite frankly, the world is not going to recognize, it either.

He can`t seize his neighbors territory and get away with it. It`s as simple as that. And I have been in close touch with our NATO allies who are united in our resolved to take on his aggression.


VELSHI: Sometimes in this war with Ukraine, President Biden says what he really believes, and some people in his administration think that he might have gotten ahead of himself. Generally speaking, they catch up to him because he`s been ahead of things on Ukraine.

But the sentiment of the president stated today was echoed, just to be clear, by his secretary of state, officially, Antony Blinken.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States does not and will never recognize any of the Kremlin`s claims to sovereignty over parts of Ukraine that it seized by force and now purports to incorporate into Russia. This territory is and will remain Ukrainian.


VELSHI: In response to Vladimir Putin`s announcement, Ukraine`s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine is applying for, quote, accelerated ascension into NATO. President Zelenskyy also announced there that Ukraine will not negotiate with Russia as long as Putin is president saying, quote, "Putin doesn`t know what dignity and honesty is. We are ready for dialogue with Russia, but only with a different Russian president," end quote.

Joining us now is somebody who knows this very well, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine -- former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor is the vice president for Russia and Europe at the United States Institute of Peace. Ambassador Taylor, it is good to see you.

This position that Volodymyr Zelenskyy has taken on not negotiating with Vladimir Putin is actually a very strong position, because until now there was an understanding that if Ukrainian territory remain sovereign, Ukrainians would have liked -- at some point like this war to end. But the tide of the war has changed.

You and I have talked about this the last several weeks. It has changed. Volodymyr Zelenskyy is emboldened.

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: He is emboldened, and he has got reason to be emboldened. His military, the Ukrainian military, is now pushing the Russians back.

President Putin knows he`s in trouble. He knows that he is losing on the battlefield. So he`s taking this kind of desperate measures, these steps that say that he is going to annex part of Ukraine.

The important thing, Ali, is exactly what you said. It`s what is going on, on the ground. And on the ground Ukrainian military is pushing the Russians out of their territory and will continue to do that.

The Ukrainians know that that is their territory. We know that it is their territory. We`re going to support them -- we`re going to support the Ukrainians as they push the Russians out. And that is what it will take to end this war.

VELSHI: Bill, there is a lot of U.S. and allied and NATO weaponry and expertise and training going into this war. And that is something. It`s almost like we are thinking about it as a NATO country without actually having NATO boots on the ground in Ukraine.

That alone cannot win a war, though. It cannot win a ground war and an artillery war like we are seeing. The whole world did not think that Ukraine`s military was up to this task. And the whole world thought that Russia`s military was more than up to this task. What did we all get wrong on this?

TAYLOR: Exactly those two things, Ali. You`re exactly right. Many people thought that the Russian military was great, was the second best in the world. It turns out it wasn`t. It turns out it was corrupt, it turns out they don`t have the training, they don`t have the equipment. It`s not doing well. They didn`t have the logistics. They didn`t have the generals. They didn`t have the leadership.

The morale is terrible. So all of those things combined to show that the Russians couldn`t do what they set out to do and the Ukrainians surprised everyone at how strong they were and how well read they are, how well equipped they now are. They`re using the equipment exactly as you say, Ali.

We are providing them with some of the best stuff that we`ve got in terms of this long range artillery rockets. They are using them -- the Ukrainians are using them very, very well, very precise targets. And that is what is helping them. That`s what`s helping the Ukrainians push the Russians back.

So they are doing this -- they`re doing this by defending their own nation.

VELSHI: Ambassador, I used to think that with each passing day that Ukraine did not win this war, it was advantage Russia. It is fascinating eight months in that at the moment, it does not look like that is the case.


VELSHI: Thank you for being with us and helping us understand this for all of these months. One day we will not be talking about this, or at least we`ll be talking about it in the rearview mirror.

The former United States ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor. Thanks for being with us.

We`ll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what they need? They need some porta-johns out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. You don`t have toilets here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don`t have them. There`s only one tent, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They need something. They have nowhere to stay.



VELSHI: Don`t forget about the forgotten people. I`m back reporting again from Fort Myers Beach tomorrow on "VELSHI". You can see more of my interviews with the people of San Carlos Island.. They had a lot to say and their needs are great.

I hope you`ll join us tomorrow, starting at 8:00 a.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.

"THE 11TH HOUR" with my friend Stephanie Ruhle begins now.