U.S. Supreme Court could allow Texas to effectively ban abortion at midnight. President Joe Biden defends decision to end 20-year Afghan war. Hurricane Ida leaves over a million in Louisiana without power.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" for tonight.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks my friend. Much appreciated.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour on what has been a historic day, also just an intense day in the news.
Right now, tens of thousands of Americans in Mississippi, more than 1 million Americans in Louisiana are without power for a second day in the midst of stifling heat and fairly widespread destruction from the category 4 hurricane that slammed into the Gulf Coast two days ago.
And, you know, wherever you live, episodic power outages are a fact of life, and you get through them, and you move on with more or less discomfort and inconvenience.
But this is an order of magnitude greater. We are talking well over a million people with not only no power and no prospects of power anytime soon, but in many cases, also no running water, no working sewage system, no working emergency response system, and in some cases, no passable roads because of the storm damage.
Louisiana`s Governor John Bel Edwards today telling residents of his state, if you have already evacuated, do not return until the Office of Emergency Preparedness tells you it is ready to receive you.
The Parish president from one hard-hit county in Louisiana, St. John the Baptist Parish, told residents today, quote: The Parish is without power, and we`re without water. So where you currently are now, if you`re in a safe place with water and power, that`s probably the best place for you to stay.
St. John the Baptist Parish, Orleans Parish, which is the city of New Orleans, Lafourche Parish, St. Tammany Parish, Terrebonne Parish, which is where Houma is, which has been very hard, Jefferson Parish, which is immediately just west and south of New Orleans, that whole swath of southern Louisiana is in trouble and without power tonight. Our fellow Americans there are in increasingly difficult, uncomfortable, and dangerous conditions right now as we speak.
We`re going to have the Jefferson Parish president joining us live in just a moment.
We are used to preparing for landfall, thinking about when the storm is going to hit, planning our expectations in terms of disaster, in terms of when the storm arrives. In this case, the storm has arrived and left, and now the biggest challenge begins.
Last night, we reported that President Biden would be giving an address to the nation today on the end of the war in Afghanistan. And last night when we reported that, we didn`t know the time the speech would start. I will tell you honestly when I learned today that the president`s speech was going to be a mid afternoon thing instead of something he was going to do in prime time, I lowered my expectations. I sort of assumed that timing meant it wouldn`t be a big-deal speech. It would be more of an update, not a big statement about this moment in history.
I was absolutely wrong in that assumption. He may have given it in the middle of the afternoon, but President Biden today gave the speech he will want to be remembered for when it comes to this war and his decision and his determination to end this war.
You know, I remember where I was. You might too. I don`t know. But I remember vividly where I was when I learned the war in Afghanistan had started. I was driving. I was working at a local radio station at the time, and I was -- I wasn`t at work, but I was listening to that station while I drove.
And the station that I worked at was a music station. It wasn`t a talk radio station.
Another deejay who worked at that same station who was live that afternoon and that night, I remember vividly something that I hadn`t really heard before, but she dumped out of a song. She stopped the song in the middle of the song and got on the air live, and she was very emotional, I remember, at the moment. Very emotional to say that the United States had started bombing Afghanistan.
I just remember it vividly. I just pulled over and listened for a long time. It was so soon after the 9/11 attacks. We were all so stunned and so inside out about those attacks and the huge death toll and the puncturing of this tacit sense of invulnerability I think we had here at home. But when the Afghanistan war started, when that announcement came through, the bombing has begun, there was just this clear, very real, very heavy sense that our country had now changed.
We had started on a new course, and what we were going to be embarking on was going to be big and probably dark, and it was going to be very hard to unwind over the course of our lifetimes. And, you know, I remember vividly feeling that way at the time.
That was not an unusually prescient take on it at the time. I think that was pretty widely the perception of where we were and where we were heading.
But even so, even with that widespread perception, this is a new course for our country, this is going to be a big deal, this is going to take a long time to ever change off this course again -- even with that widespread perception, who among us thought it would be two decades? Who among us that night could have thought it would be two decades before we would hear a U.S. president say it was over? 20 years.
All the presidents since the one who started it have said that it is time to end the war in Afghanistan. Every president since the one who started it has, in fact, campaigned on his intention and his promises to end the war in Afghanistan. But it was not until now, it was not until 20 years down the road, it was not until this president took office, President Biden, that he didn`t just say he was going to end it. He didn`t just say it ought to end. He finally determined that he would get it done, that he would bring it to a close today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over. I`m the fourth president who has faced the issue of whether and when to end this war.
When I was running for president, I made a commitment to the American people that I would end this war. Today, I honored that commitment.
It was time to be honest with the American people again. We no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission in Afghanistan. After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, I refused to send another generation of America`s sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago.
This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It`s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries. We saw a mission of counter-terrorism in Afghanistan, getting the terrorists and stopping attacks, morph into a counter-insurgency, nation-building, trying to create a democratic, cohesive, and united Afghanistan, something that has never been done over many centuries of Afghans` history.
Moving on from that mind-set, in those kind of large-scale troop deployments will make us stronger and more effective and safer at home. And for anyone who gets the wrong idea, let me say clearly to those who wish America harm, to those that engage in terrorism against us or our allies, know this.
The United States will never rest. We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down to the ends of the earth, and you will pay the ultimate price.
To those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan, I ask, what is the vital national interest? In my view, we only have one.
To make sure Afghanistan can never be used again to launch an attack on our homeland. Remember why we went to Afghanistan in the first place? Because we were attacked by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda on September 11th, 2001, and they were based in Afghanistan.
We delivered justice to bin laden on May 2nd, 2011, over a decade ago. Al Qaeda was decimated. We succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago. Then we stayed for another decade. It was time to end this war.
There`s nothing low-grade or low-risk or low-cost about any war. It`s time to end the war in Afghanistan. I give you my word with all of my heart. I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for America.
Thank you. Thank you and may God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Biden today. The war in Afghanistan is now over.
We`re going to be talking tonight with the leader of a major veterans organization whose members and whose leadership are becoming increasingly outspoken in their support for ending the Afghanistan war and frankly getting increasingly outspoken about their anger with all the so-called experts who are quite wrong about the Afghanistan war effort all these years, but they`re now nevertheless being called on in the peanut gallery to criticize President Biden`s decision to end the war.
We`ve got that ahead tonight as well as that look that I promised you in terms of the very difficult circumstances right now in Louisiana.
But I also want to put something on your radar tonight that is -- that is urgent and potentially very, very consequential, and it likely to unfold one way or the other over the next three to four hours. Now, I don`t know if you`ve heard about this over the course of recent days. My guess is you may not have because what this is, is a sort of sneak attack, an out of the blue legal quick strike to try to get the conservative majority on the United States Supreme Court to, tonight, effectively overturn Roe versus Wade and clear the way for abortion bans in Republican-controlled states.
And when I said tonight, I mean tonight, tonight by midnight central time, 1:00 a.m. Eastern.
Here`s what`s going on. Three months ago, Republicans in Texas passed an abortion ban. Republicans in state legislatures do this all the time now. They all get struck down by the courts. The Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, restricts states from banning abortion in most circumstances. That`s been controlling precedent in the Supreme Court since 1973.
And at first glance, this new Texas abortion ban looks like one of the many bans that Republican state legislators have passed, which have then all been disallowed by the federal courts because of the protections that we have thanks to Roe v. Wade.
For what it`s worth, the Texas ban says it`s illegal for a woman to get an abortion in Texas if her pregnancy is more than roughly six weeks along. Six weeks is well before many women have any idea that they`re pregnant at all. It`s estimated that 85 percent to 90 percent of all abortions in Texas -- 85 percent to 90 percent of all abortions everywhere in America happen after six weeks. Texas` ban would render all of those illegal.
Now, as I mentioned, Republican-controlled state legislatures and Republican governors pass abortion bans all the time now even though they know they`ll get struck down. Some of it a hobby, they just want to get in the habit of banning abortion whenever they can, even if it won`t work. They just want to be good at it, right?
But some of it is planning, and what Republicans have been banking on for the last few months -- for the last couple of years honestly, is that the three Trump justices who joined the court are now going to be enough to collapse Roe, to collapse the protections that women get now understand Roe versus Wade.
And most their hopes and the fears of people who want abortion to stay legal in this country have been focused on a case in Mississippi. This fall, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments about an abortion ban in Mississippi that is designed overtly to be a test case for the Republican-appointed judges on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe versus Wade. There`s been a lot of focus on that. The arguments on that are this fall.
The ruling on that from the Supreme Court will likely be next summer. That is already looming. The very real prospective that thanks to Republican- appointed judges, next summer, abortion could be banned in every state where Republicans hold power. That has been looming on the horizon.
But in the meantime, here`s this sneak attack. Here`s what`s happening tonight. Texas is trying to push the ban abortion timeline even faster. It was May of this year when Texas Republicans passed their six-week ban, meaning you can`t get an abortion after you`ve been pregnant for six weeks or more.
But even though other states have passed six-week bans as well and they`ve all been struck down, Texas did theirs differently. They devised a weird, convoluted system for enforcing it.
Instead of saying that the state would just directly punish people who perform an abortion or women who get one, the new law instead kind of takes the state out of it in a way. It creates instead a weird vigilante system whereby anyone in the country, any random anti-abortion activist, any random individual, thanks to this new law in Texas, will have standing to sue anyone in Texas who aids or abets a woman getting an abortion. They can sue not only a doctor who actually does an abortion. They can sue anybody who works in any capacity at the clinic where the abortion happened.
They can sue anybody who drove you to the clinic for your appointment. They could sue a rape counselor who advised you on your options if you became pregnant as a consequence of rape. They could sue a priest or any other religious adviser who talked with you about your decision.
If you talked with your spouse about your decision to get an abortion, your spouse could be sued for $10,000 plus attorneys` fees by any random person anywhere in the United States.
Inviting anti-abortion activists all over the country to figure out what woman in Texas might be thinking about getting an abortion, to then hunt her down, find people in her life and start suing them. And if you get sued by a rando in this kind of circumstance, if you don`t defend yourself in court against this lawsuit, by default the person suing you will win the case against you and get $10,000 from you plus legal fees for their attorneys.
If a doctor or a clinic employee is the entity that gets sued, the state will then get to use that as a pretext to immediately shut that clinic down. What Texas has devised is a bizarre, dystopian, vigilante system for hunting women in Texas who seek abortions. A vigilante system to effectively ban abortion and shut down all abortion providers in the state, not to mention terrorizing women who are seeking the procedure.
But they`re using not the direct power of the state, but instead anti- abortion activists as their vigilantes and the state court system as their means of doing it. It is weird. It is deliberately weird.
And as our friend Dolly Lithwick explains at slate.com today, it is a quote, convoluted system that Texas Republicans devised on purpose specifically to prevent federal courts from blocking this law. And so far, Dahlia writes, these succeeded. This Friday a court canceled a hearing on the constitutionality of this new law in Texas. A cancellation of that hearing would effectively allow the law to take effect tonight at midnight, September 1st.
This aggressive intervention by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, quote, forced abortion providers to do what almost seems unthinkable. They were forced to ask the U.S. Supreme Court for an injunction in an emergency filing. Yes, the same Supreme Court that agreed to hear a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade only a few months ago.
Dahlia`s piece explaining this at slate.com today is headlined "The Supreme Court has until midnight to decide the fate of Roe v. Wade," and she`s right.
And it`s not like the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling at midnight that says, we hereby overturn roe v. Wade. I`m sure they`d be shy about that. They`re going to wait until the Mississippi case to do that. Instead, they`re going to take, in all likelihood, the easier path, if they want to. They may yet grant that injunction. But if they don`t, it`s sort of game over.
I mean, all the Supreme Court has to do to effectively end the protections of Roe v. Wade, to allow abortion bans to go into effect, all they need to do is do nothing tonight by midnight Eastern, 1:00 a.m. central time. Otherwise, Texas bans abortion effectively starting tonight. Never mind Roe.
Joining us now is Nancy Northup. She`s president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. Her organization led the emergency request asking the Supreme Court to block the Texas law. Just in the last few minutes, they`ve filed a new reply in that petition tonight.
Ms. Northup, thank you very much for being here. I appreciate your time. I know that this is -- this is a very intense time for you.
NANCY NORTHUP, PRESIDENT & CEO, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: It is an incredibly intense time. We have been back and forth with the fifth circuit and then going up to the Supreme Court yesterday and again just filed our reply at 8:00 Eastern Time tonight. Again working to get an injunction from the Supreme Court to block this, as you said, dystopian law that will go into effect at midnight tonight if the Supreme Court doesn`t step in.
So thank you for covering this because it is a very intense news time on important issues from Afghanistan to the hurricane in Louisiana. But this is also so critical because the constitutional rights of people in Texas are on the line tonight.
MADDOW: Nancy, what do you expect the court to do, and let me also just ask you if I effectively explained that right? I know it`s more complex than the way that I laid that out. But did I effectively get that right in terms of the hole that this will punch in the protections of Roe versus Wade even without the court having to overtly say that tonight? They either act, or Roe basically -- the protections of Roe sort of get shredded.
NORTHUP: I think you explained it incredibly well. Texas banned abortion at six weeks, which is before most people know that they`re pregnant. And they decided, we`re not going to enforce it with the state`s power because that`s clearly unconstitutional. These kind of tactics have been tried before in other states.
They were struck down in every state easily by the federal courts. They said, instead, we`re going to empower people to be able to be, as you said, vigilantes who can go into court and sue doctors and sue clinic staffs, and sue a sister who drives someone to a clinic, sue an aunt who perhaps helps to fund the abortion, all of that. But, again, getting an abortion is constitutionally protected activity, yet Texas has said, we`re going to empower citizens to go after others, take them to court, you know, with a $10,000 bounty plus attorneys` fees as a way to try to prevent us from being able to sue the state on this unconstitutional ban.
But the effects are going to be just devastating if we don`t get the court to step in with an injunction because the clinics are going to stay open, you know, for those first six weeks that will still be legal in Texas. So I do want to make sure your listeners in Texas -- do not just give up. They need to call clinics in the morning. So I want to make sure people know that and do that.
But it is absolutely designed to burden clinics out of business, to violate the constitutional rights of the people of Texas, and to try to evade court review. But we have gone to the Supreme Court. We`ve asked for an injunction against this law. And if the court does what it should, it will certainly grant us that injunction because this is as if, you know, the state of Texas denied people the right to vote flat out and said, well, we`re not going to enforce it. We`re going to let other people in the state enforce people`s, you know -- stop people from voting.
MADDOW: Nancy, you mentioned what`s happening with clinics in Texas right now. There was dramatic reporting today in the "Texas Tribune" citing the whole woman`s health clinic, their facility in Fort Worth. Among other facilities that are having a similar experience, according to "The Tribune", that clinic described themselves as engulfed with desperate patients today. Dozens of patients, over 100 patients flocking to that clinic today because they believed it might be -- that today might be the last day of legal abortion access in Texas.
You`re saying that even if the Supreme Court doesn`t act between now and midnight Central Time, that there would be a few weeks` grace period before this went into effect, before the law actively went into effect.
NORTHUP: No, no, no. Sorry. I wasn`t saying that. I was saying it will still be legal to have an abortion in Texas for the first six weeks of pregnancy.
MADDOW: I see.
NORTHUP: Again, that`s not when most abortions happen in the state of Texas. But I do want people to make sure they do call the clinics, that they don`t just despair. There may be help for them.
I mean people will have to travel out of state, and that is really tough because, of course, this law is going to fall hardest on people who are struggling to make ends meet, people of color, people in rural areas who may not have the means and ability to get out of state, to get the child care, to get the time off from work.
But, no, this unfortunately will go into effect at midnight and, you know, you mentioned whole woman`s health. You know, these clinics try so hard and against so many barriers to provide care to their patients, and it has just been a horrific day in Texas today. We have another one of our clinic clients say in 50 years, they had never had such a terrible day for patients so desperate to get in.
MADDOW: Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, so again, has just within the last hour or two filed another emergency request, or response to an emergency filing in the Supreme Court. We are awaiting word from the Supreme Court tonight as to whether or not this new law will be allowed to go into effect in Texas. It would be effectively the first abortion ban in the country in the era of Roe.
Nancy, thanks for helping us keep apprised. I know it`s going to be a long, late, intense night for you.
NORTHUP: Thank you. Thank you for covering it.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more news ahead here tonight. Again, I will say, you know, and Nancy mentioned this as well. There is a lot going on in the news right now in the Afghanistan story, the Louisiana story, and so much else that we`re covering. Texas passed its anti-voting rights bill tonight, for example. There`s so much that`s going on. But this issue with the Supreme Court and this abortion ban, this is something that we really have never seen before. It was -- this strategy was devised to overturn Roe, to make it possible for a state to effectively ban abortion. We`ll know in a matter of hours whether it succeeded.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We`ve been a nation too long at war. If you`re 20 years old today, you`ve never known an America at peace. So when I hear that we could have, should have continued the so-called low-grade effort in Afghanistan at low risk to our service members, at low cost, I don`t think enough people understand how much we have asked of the 1 percent of this country who put that uniform on, willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation.
A lot of our veterans and their families have gone through hell. Deployment after deployment, months and years away from their families, missed birthdays, anniversaries, empty chairs at holidays, financial struggles, divorces, loss of limbs, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress.
I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Biden today announcing the end to the war in Afghanistan, striking a tone, I saw described today, as both defiant and vehement. I think that`s fair. Vehement in response to criticism of the evacuation and the drawdown of all U.S. forces from the country.
President Biden is not the first president to promise to end America`s longtime military engagement in Afghanistan. He`s just the only one who actually did it, who actually succeeded in getting it done.
And while ending the war was clearly a difficult decision to follow through on, it was not an unpopular decision. Poll after poll over the past few weeks have shown consistent support among the American people for ending the 20-year-long war. Also notable, support among U.S. veterans for ending the war is just as strong. A recent poll from the Democratic-leaning firm PPP found that veterans supported the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan by a more than 2-1 margin.
Today, Iraq war veteran and chairman of the progressive veterans group VoteVets. Jon Soltz, tweeted this. Joe Biden sees this war like those of us who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. He sees it as a man whose son served there. He understands our 20 years of pain. No academics or theorists can argue hypothetical what-ifs with his pain and our pain.
Today, I am proud of what the military was able to do in Afghanistan, and people in D.C. don`t want to hear it. But President Biden, who accepted responsibility for what went wrong, deserves credit for what went right.
Joining us now is Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran. He`s the chairman of VoteVets.
Jon, Mr. Soltz, it`s really nice to see you. Thanks for making time to be here tonight.
JON SOLTZ, CHAIRMAN, VOTEVETS: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: I feel like -- we`ve known each other for a long time, Jon, and I feel like I have a little bit of -- a slightly keen perception into your way of thinking about these things, and I was really struck by your decision today to say, you know what? I am a veteran, and I am happy with this decision and President Biden deserves for it.
What I felt like I perceived in that decision by you was exasperation with the criticism that the president has received for this decision? Is that -- is that a fair perception?
SOLTZ: I`ve been waiting 20 years for a president to do that speech today, with such strong leadership, to end a war that essentially four administrations passed the ball to each other, and it has been very difficult to watch for 18 days for the first time maybe the nation is paying attention, to pile on this president for frankly a lot of politics. Either it was maybe some progressives that were too quiet. It was Republicans who supported this when Donald Trump thought it was okay. There was a lot of Democrats that supported a surge into Afghanistan under President Obama.
And to see a president have so much strength to take on the entire establishment to do what you knew was right, which was essentially call the bluff on a Ponzi scheme that we`ve seen for the past ten years in Afghanistan, and do it with such conviction that he was really speaking as a father who believes his son died due to his service in Iraq, was astronomical. And it was defiant and incredible, and it really changed American foreign policy going forward from one that was going to send American kids to fight and die in foreign countries, where we`re more committed to the security of that country than the population, to one that`s going to fight terrorism where it exists and refocus our national security strategy towards emerging conventional threats like Russia and China.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about that last point there. I was struck, and I played some of this sound at the top of the show, of the one very bellicose moment from President Biden today in which he said, to anybody who might misunderstand -- I`m paraphrasing him here.
But he basically said, we`re going to learn the lesson that we should not use major military deployment to remake countries in our own image. Anybody who misunderstands that, you should know, if you seek to commit a terrorist attack targeting us or our allies, we will hunt you down and we will make you pay. We will not forget, we will not forgive, we will not rest.
And that bellicose tone from the president, that sort of seriousness of purpose on a counter-terrorism front, while also saying counter-insurgency and occupying that country in a long-term way, trying to change a country and make it into a democracy, that was wrong, but the counter-terrorism mission has a stronger focus than ever.
How did that balance strike you, particularly as someone who leads a large veterans group that represents so many people who fought in the war since 9/11?
SOLTZ: That`s the Biden doctrine. I think when people talk about his presidency and they talk about today, today was a clear day of how he defined what the Biden doctrine is. It`s a doctrine that we`ve supported for a very long time, which is we can be lethal against terrorists. We have drones, and people operate them in Nevada.
I mean most people don`t realize, but the 82nd Airborne who came to the airport in Kabul came from Fort Bragg within 27 hours. So there`s a huge amount of global lethality that our military can utilize to destroy the enemy. But a lot of that goes back to 2009 and 2010 inside the Obama administration.
Stanley McChrystal at the time was in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq and waged a very political war on background with reporters to push President Obama into the surge in Afghanistan. Joe Biden was against that surge, and a lot of what we`ve seen play out in the last week has its roots in those conversations.
And what Joe Biden delivered today was essentially the vision that I believe he wanted to deliver in 2010, which was, we don`t want to put 100,000 extra troops into Afghanistan, that we want to focus on bin Laden. And to be fair, if we had killed bin Laden and left, it would have saved our country ten years of muddling through Afghanistan where, you know, hundreds and thousands of people have been killed and billions of dollars have been wasted.
MADDOW: Jon Soltz, himself an Iraq war veteran, the chairman of VoteVets, Jon, it`s nice to see you, my friend. Thanks for joining us tonight. Thanks for your willingness to talk on this. I know this can sort of be the bleeding edge of some of these discussions right now. I really appreciate you being here tonight.
SOLTZ: My pleasure. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The headlines out of Louisiana today are blunt and unsparing. This from the "Associated Press", Ida`s sweltering aftermath. No power, no water, no gasoline.
Here`s the "Lafayette Daily Advertiser". Quote, do not return here. Louisiana governor warns Ida has destroyed critical infrastructure. Here`s one from "The New Orleans Times Picayune" and "Advocate": quote: Leave absolutely if you can. Jefferson, meaning Jefferson Parish officials, warn of grueling weeks ahead after Ida.
Jefferson Parish borders New Orleans to the west and to the south. It stretches all the way down to the barrier island of Grand Isle, which is right next to where hurricane Ida made landfall on Sunday. In Jefferson Parish, search and rescue operations are still under way as we speak.
And Jefferson Parish is facing the same problem as all of its neighboring parishes. No electricity, which means no air-conditioning as heat indices rise above 100 degrees this week. It means no refrigeration for food, which quickly, quickly becomes a crisis in most homes. It also means spotty communications. There`s also no running water in most of Jefferson Parish because of both water main breaks caused by storm damage and because the sewage systems rely on electricity, which doesn`t exist right now.
More than a million homes and businesses remain without power in Louisiana. It could be weeks before all of it is restored. And people are turning to generators for temporary sources of power, but those come with their own dangers. Carbon monoxide poisoning from poorly ventilated generators is a frequent killer in the aftermath of hurricanes.
In Kenner in Jefferson Parish last night, two residential buildings burned to the ground. That`s a fire the local fire chief said he suspects was caused by a generator. Thankfully no one was hurt or killed. "The New York Times" is now reporting that New Orleans officials have not ruled out a post-storm evacuation of the city because the aftermath is growing so dire for residents who are still there.
Officials in Lafourche Parish announced today that residents are allowed to return there, but they spelled out in brutal detail why they probably shouldn`t even if they can. Quote, Please know there is no clean water access. There is no power in the Parish. It will not be restored for some time. Nearly all communication is down, including cell phone service parish-wide.
Your home may be severely damaged and uninhabitable. We do not have access to food at this time due to the amount of damage to stores. So please bring all supplies you need to self-sustain while you are here.
Again, that warning today from Lafourche Parish. It is just a very difficult situation in Louisiana right now. Not clear how long things might stay this way.
Joining us now is the director of emergency operations for Jefferson Parish, Joe Valiente.
Mr. Valiente, thank you so much for making time. I know it`s a really busy and difficult time for your Parish right now.
JOE VALIENTE, DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY OPERATIONS, JEFFERSON PARISH: Not a problem. I`m glad to be on.
MADDOW: Can you tell us an overall briefing on the situation in Jefferson Parish, how things are in grand isle, how things are in other communities in the Parish and whether you, in fact, have definitive information about every corner of the Parish or whether that damage assessment continues?
VALIENTE: So let`s start with Grand Isle first. So Grand Isle took the brunt of this storm, and it had a tremendous storm surge, and it had some of the highest winds that it`s experienced in quite a while. Last year, we experienced seven storms and six activations b you they were pretty much all glancing blows. This one hit us head-on and did a tremendous amount of damage.
We just made it to the island today with a rescue crew on a search and rescue mission, and they reported that the island is devastated, that it`s totally uninhabitable. There`s three to six feet of sand that was washed up on the gulf on the entire island. They have no power. They have no cell phone communication.
So we are staging supplies now so that we can set up for a recovery process, but that`s certainly going to take a while. And then also you have Lafitte, which took a tremendous amount of water, upwards of 10 to 15 feet. And though that community is typically a little more resilient and higher off the ground, they suffered a tremendous amount of damage. We are staging supplies for both areas, and we are moving forward slowly.
But we`re being hampered by the fact that we suffer with low water pressure, number one. Number two, we`ve lost 100 percent of our power grid, so we are completely without power. So that`s causing issues like gas shortages. There`s nowhere to buy any food. We have a large segment of the population did not evacuate, and so now we`re struggling with exactly how we`re going to deal with this portion of the population.
We`re advising all residents in Upper Jefferson Parish to seek shelter in another state or outside of this area because it is going to be a while before we can restore the services that are necessary for everyday living.
MADDOW: In terms of those conditions that you`re describing, that`s just unimaginably dire. In terms of people who did not evacuate, is it your estimation that there may have to be -- I don`t know if it`s going to be mandatory or not, but some sort of post-storm major evacuation effort? Those conditions you were describing not only sound uninhabitable now, but they seem uninhabitable in -- for many days, potentially weeks or months ahead.
If there are people in those communities who are piecing it together in these first couple of days, will there be an effort to clear them out?
VALIENTE: So, to be totally honest with you, we have -- we are beginning to think post-Katrina now where it doesn`t look like we`re going to get a quick recovery in terms of infrastructure, in terms of water drainage. Sewage is a big problem for us because without power, you can`t keep your sewage lines cleaned out.
So we are thinking in that direction, and I think the longer that this goes, the high temperatures that are predicted for the next week, it`s going to make living conditions virtually unbearable. We have started taking special needs cases and bringing them to a shelter where they`re triaged and then they`re being taken to a special needs shelter in Baton Rouge.
So we`re moving in that direction, but it really is baby steps because we are on total generator power, which is very limited at this point as to how hard we can lean forward and address these issues.
MADDOW: The aftermath that you`re describing and the kind of scale of effort that you`re talking about putting into effect now is going to have to be a very resource-intensive effort. Do you have resources coming in? Do you have the right kind of communication with not just state resources but federal resources in terms of scaling up to do the kinds of remediation that you`re talking about? We`re talking about a lot of people needing to be moved and taken care of in a place that has very little resources to offer of its own.
Are the right communication lines open, and do you feel like you have a way to tap the resources you need?
VALIENTE: So let me say from a political standpoint the response has been excellent. We`ve had a tremendous amount of support from Congressman Carter and from Cedric Richmond, who you know is a major adviser for President Biden. Also, Senator Cassidy and Steve Scalise was here today.
So they have been extremely supportive of our entire effort, and Steve Scalise actually brought a large megawatt generator that`s going to help us with our sewage plant and make that particular aspect of our infrastructure more resilient. I am truly impressed at the level of response that we`ve gotten from the federal government overall, and that -- that goes and from the governor, Governor John Bel Edwards. I think they`ve been in constant communication with us on a daily basis.
MADDOW: I can`t tell you how comforting it is to not have to even pay attention to the party affiliation of any of those officials as you`re running down, hearing that you`ve been getting such support from everybody. We`re so divided on so many things, but on this, everybody pulling together.
VALIENTE: No --
MADDOW: Joe Valiente, Jefferson Parish director of emergency management, sir, sorry. Go ahead.
VALIENT: No, thank you, thank you for giving us this opportunity to get our message out there. And we have to have a -- emergency management has to have an excellent relationship with the news media. And so, you provide the platform for us to help us get our message out there.
MADDOW: Well, we`re happy to tell the story. The challenges that you are up against right now, sir, we don`t envy you. God bless you and all those working with you. We`ll stay on the story. Thank you, sir.
VALIENTE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Again, Joe Valiente is the Jefferson Parish director for emergency management. What he`s describing there Grand Isle and Lafitte, Louisiana, being uninhabitable, having lost 100 percent of the power grid -- they`re not just -- not just damaged, but uninhabitable. They`re thinking in terms of post-Katrina and evacuations needed then.
Again, this storm hit like a sledge hammer on the gulf. But what is happening in terms of the aftermath, with the destruction of electric power capacity over a broad swath of southeastern Louisiana and even in the Mississippi, while that water remains that high, while there`s no access to food, water, sewage or any of the other things that make modern life possible -- this is going to be a big lift and it is just starting.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: On top of everything else right now, do you know what`s going to happen tomorrow? It`s the fix, the make up, the make it right aftermath of the thing for which former President Trump got impeached, the first time he got impeached.
Tomorrow, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, is finally going to get his White House meeting with a U.S. president.
The former guy was impeached for withholding a much sought after White House meeting from the Ukrainian president. Trump said he wouldn`t hold that meeting and he`d hold up military aid to Ukraine until Zelensky announced a fake investigation into Joe Biden and his son.
Well, now, the former guy is gone. Zelensky will get his White House meeting. In addition to the meeting in the Oval Office, the U.S. just added about $60 million additional dollars in military aid to protect Ukraine against Russian aggression that`s on top of another big multimillion package that was announced in March.
Today, the Ukrainian president met with a bunch of different high-ranking officials, including the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. But, tomorrow, it will be him and President Biden, 2:00 Eastern, in the Oval Office. Elections have consequences, even if impeachments don`t. Two o`clock tomorrow.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: All right. That is going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORLD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.