tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC September 20, 2022 6:30pm-7:00pm PDT
nearly 80% of puerto rico without power on this, the fifth anniversary, of deadly hurricane maria. where fiona is headed next also tonight, the new lawsuit filed by migrants against florida's governor after he flew them to martha's vineyard and now a criminal investigation. the special master's first hearing into the mar-a-lago documents case why he told donald trump's team, quote, you can't have your cake and eat it, too the new move by ukraine separatists to be annexed by russia our richard engel in ukraine with disturbing new evidence of atrocities it's being called the largest covid fraud scheme ever, $250 million stolen from hungry children our "fleecing of america report." nbc news investigates the race to save the amazon from an illegal goldrush and our nbc news exclusive. savannah guthrie one-on-one with tennis legend roger federer ahead of his last
tournament would he consider pulling a tom brady and unretiring >> announcer: this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt good evening, everyone hurricane fiona now a major category 3 storm and likely to get stronger as it sweeps across islands of the caribbean. days after puerto rico took a direct hit, that island's residents are facing difficult and harrowing days from long gas lines to limited access to drinking water more than 1.1 million power customers without electricity. 55% of the island territory has no running water. for many it's a flash back of the days of crippling misery that followed hurricane maria which struck puerto rico five years ago today, causing the deaths of 3,000 people that recovery still incomplete tonight, we're tracking hurricane fiona's destructive march as it bears down on the turks and
caicos islands with sustained winds of 115 miles an hour. expected to become a category 4 storm by tomorrow as the atlantic storm season picks up speed gabe gutierrez is on the ground tonight in puerto rico. >> reporter: tonight, hurricane fiona is lashing turks and caicos after intensifying to a category 3 storm leaving a trail of destruction across the dominican republic and puerto rico. cars flipped down stream, roads washed away now the first major atlantic hurricane of the season this morning in the southern coastal town of salinas, we met this famil returning to their flooded home for the first time >> i don't know. still shocked. all this stuff around. >> reporter: 80% of puerto rico is still without power. 55% is without water and nearly 100 emergency shelters are open across the island
around the caribbean, at least four deaths are being blamed on the storm or its aftermath. puerto rico's governor is asking the biden administration for expedited federal help today the line for fuel in puerto rico grew longer and longer, especially in the southern part of the island they need it not just for their cars but for their portable generators some of the drivers told us they waited here for more than two hours. >> what i'm going to do if i don't get there. >> reporter: on this day, marking exactly five years since hurricane maria tore through the island, we toured the latest devastation from fiona by air the water here just kept rising choking off these communities for the better part of two days. thankfully today with the sun out for the first time, more of the floodwaters are now receding but they devastated countless lives across puerto rico. this storm was different than maria many parts of puerto rico had seen harsher winds before but not
this much rain carlos benitez raced relief supplies to hard-hit areas after ma maria, and fiona's aftermath now hitting hard >> devastating, you know ptsd come back right away as soon as i flew the helicopter in the morning on monday, it just -- my heart breaks again you know it's like coming back in a movie and seeing maria and all the destruction and floating and people waving on top of the roof requesting help it's heartbreaking >> gabe, it is clear the need is great there. are there enough supplies getting on the ground >> reporter: well, lester, fema says its warehouses are well stocked. aside from the widespread flood damage, the most urgent issue here is more than half of this island still does not have drinkable water the governor told me to expect the power to come back first and then the water service. lester >> all right, gabe thanks for that update let's get the
latest from meteorologist dylan dreyer now this thing is still spinning up. >> it is it's going to continue to gain strength it's moving into very warm waters north of turks and caicos now slow moving. 8 miles per hour it continues to get closer to bermuda, it is likely to strengthen to a category 4 storm it should stay about 100 miles west of bermuda, though. that should at least spare the island eastern canada, it's still going to be a strong storm as it makes its way towards the halifax area devastating winds are still possible and also torrential rain as it weakens from a category 3 storm down to an extra tropical low we're already keeping an eye on our next area of formation in the next five days there is an 80% chance this could develop into our next named storm as it moves into warm water we'll have to keep a close eye on this. it could enter the gulf of mexico >> starting to crank up all right. thank you very much. also tonight, some migrants flown to martha's vineyard are suing florida's governor while a sheriff is now launching a criminal investigation.
all as we've learned there is a new record number of migrants crossing the border. emilie ikeda has the latest >> reporter: tonight, the battle over the border is building with new criminal investigation examining the flights that carried 48 migrants to martha's vineyard last week the controversial move arranged by florida's republican governor ron desantis a texas sheriff, javier salazar, a democrat, says the migrants were lured in with false promises of work and assistance. >> our understanding is that a venezuelan migrant was paid what we call a bird dog fee to recruit approximately 50 migrants >> reporter: some of the migrants suing florida officials. >> none of them knew they were going to be dropped off unceremoniously in martha's vineyard. >> they were provided an ability to be in the most posh sanctuary jurisdiction >> reporter: desantis insists the migrants
knew where the flights were going and signed consent forms. and that it puts the spotlight on president biden's border policies which republicans blame for the record migrant surge. >> if 50 was a burden on one of the richest places in our country, what about all these other communities that have been overrun with hundreds or thousands. >> reporter: the department of homeland security confirming there are more than 2 million illegal border crossings in the last 11 months. smashing all previous records. tonight president biden responding to unconfirmed rumors desantis may send the migrants to his home state. >> we'll comment shortly. >> reporter: governor desantis would not confirm another planned flight lester lawyers for the justice department and former president trump held the first meeting today with the special master appointed to review those documents seized at mr. trump's florida home peter alexander is following this peter, what did he say today? >> reporter: during today's hearing, that special master, the federal judge appointed to sift through the documents seized by the fbi from mar-a-lago, appeared
skeptical about mr. trump's claim he had declassified them. the judge saying unless mr. trump's lawyers can show those 100 sensitive documents are not classified that he will treat them like they are he told the trump team today you can't have your cake and eat it the special master today indicated his review may take just four weeks that will be even quicker than federal prosecutors had been hoping for m meanwhile, in separate filing today mr. trump's lawyers called this "a document storage dispute" that spiraled out of control. lester >> peter alexander, thank you. a potentially dramatic escalation in ukraine. russian-held areas now planning to hold referendums to join russia this comes as our richard engel gets a look inside the town where hundreds of mass graves were found. and what one man says russian troops did to him. we have to warn you, the images are disturbing >> reporter: outside kharkiv in eastern ukraine, investigators are still exhuming
bodies this is the awful wake russian troops left behind after one of their main front lines collapsed. ukrainians loaded nearly 100 bodies today into refrigerated trucks for identification and possible evidence of war crimes a civil defense worker says many of the victims had their hands tied, others had broken bones and signs of torture from what we saw, the torture was systematic the russians and their ukrainian collaborators took over a local police station and used it as a prison the wanted posters of people they were looking for. and they had them up on the walls like this some of them look like they already had a rough time maxim told us russian soldiers brought him here he ran a lumberyard and they suspected he was passing information to the ukrainian military so this was your cell down this hallway? >> yes four people. >> reporter: four
people inside? maxim took me to the basement he remembers the steps he took to get there so this was the torture room this was originally a target practice area within the police station. you can see they put up sound proofing and there are these rubber reinforced walls with holes in them. so it was an area that was already silent already built to absorb noise gun shots or in this case screams he says he was seated and handcuffed and given electric shocks. he showed me a picture of the device they used to control the current. what were they asking you? what did they want to know "they said nothing i tried to talk to them they said, you talk. you know what we want. tell us. maxim says he was rescued when ukrainian forces drove the russians out
ukraine's military advances are making pro-russia separatists out in the east nervous they plan to hold a vote to join russia later this week. critics call the vote illegitimate lester >> what a chilling account. richard, thank you in 60 seconds, the fleecing of america. our report on what authorities call the biggest covid fraud case yet how $250 million the government thought was going to hungry children was allegedly stolen next
they're calling it the biggest theft of covid relief money ever the justice department charging dozens with scamming $250 million from a program meant to feed children ken dilanian has tonight's "fleecing of america report." >> reporter: prosecutors called it a staggering fraud the theft of nearly a quarter of a billion tax dollars intended to feed hungry children instead being used to buy cars, houses, and jewelry.
>> the scheme that began with a simple idea in march of 2020 grew to become the largest pandemic fraud in the united states >> reporter: 47 people now face charges including conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bribery. the government alleging defendants connected to nonprofits and restaurants collected taxpayer money to federal nutrition programs >> their goal was to make as much money for themselves as they could. >> reporter: at the center of the indictment, appearing in court today, aimee bock, founder of a nonprofit feeding our future prosecutors say she was overseeing a massive fraud scheme they say her organization recruited others to set up federally funded meal sites during covid while oversight rules were relaxed soon, hundreds of sites in minnesota were reported giving out thousands of meals a day but prosecutors say it was a fraud >> more than 125 million fake meals are at issue in this case. >> reporter: bock, whose organization the doj says received more than $18 million in
administrative fees, pleaded not guilty today. kevin chambers leads the justice department's covid fraud enforcement act. does it make you mad >> it infuriates me. >> reporter: this case stands out because the money was meant for children >> the money went instead to purchases of hyper luxury vehicles, sports cars, real estate in turkey and kenya which has nothing to do with getting food to kids fed here in minnesota. >> reporter: so far the federal government has clawed back $50 million. prosecutors say their investigation is continuing and there may be more charges to come lester >> ken dilanian, thank you. up next, the race to save the amazon where illegal gold mining is even more profitable than the drug trade our climate challenge investigation.
we're back now with our nbc news investigation into the environmental crisis in the amazon from illegal gold mining, the impact being felt around the world cynthia mcfadden in partnership with the pulitzer center's rain forest project takes us to peru in our series "climate challenge. >> reporter: tonight, the amazon critical to a healthy planet, is in peril we travel to the emergency zone in peru >> what happens in the amazon doesn't just stay in the amazon >> reporter: professor myles sillman has studied the amazon for all of his professional life. he says the biodiversity here in peru affects weather
patterns, crop growth and even carbon levels which is why gold mining here is having enormous worldwide consequences how bad is it? >> it's pretty bad it's much worse than we had feared. >> reporter: luis fernandez is one of the world's leading experts on mercury he explains that here in the amazon pure 24 karat gold is extracted by using barrels of mercury which separates the gold from the sludge mercury is poisonous isn't it >> it is poisonous to humans, to wildlife, it persists, it doesn't break down it lasts for centuries. >> reporter: six years ago the two wake forest professors created a not-for-profit dedicated to better understanding and then helping heal this place which has gone from a vital resource and absorbing the world's carbon to one that pumps ever more carbon into the
atmosphere >> the first meter of soil in the forest holds as much carbon as all the trees above it and then when we think about the next meter, two meters, three meters, there can be a whole other forest worth of carbon down that deep. >> reporter: are you suggesting if we dig down there, we may be releasing all of this old carbon into the atmosphere >> not suggesting, we really are >> reporter: it's carbon leaving the earth and entering the atmosphere that is the primary green house gas contributing to climate change the ecological effect has been devastating more than 370,000 acres of protected forest have been turned into this by mining deserts dotted by pools contaminated by mercury. in the region, millions of acres have been lost. and here is the catch. gold mining with mercury is legal in peru, but not on protected land and it is this illicit mining that pumps more than $3 billion worth