tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC September 21, 2022 2:06am-2:41am PDT
with disturbing new evidence of atrocities. it's the largest covid fraud scheme ever, $250 million stolen from hungry children. we investigate the race to save the amazon from an illegal gold rush. 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 residence 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 winds of 115 miles per hour. expected to be a category 4 storm by tomorrow. 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 this season. this morning in the southern coastal town, a family returning to their flooded home for the first time. >> i don't know. still shocked. all this stuff around. >> 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 blamed on the storm or its aftermath. puerto rico's governor is asking the biden administration for expedited federal help.
to date 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 two of days. thankfully today with the sun out for the first time, more of the floodwaters are now receding.rtrico. this storm was different than maria. any part of puerto rico have seen harsher winds before but not this much rain. carlos raced relief supplies to hard hit areas after 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. >> it is clear the need is great there. are there enough supplies getting on the ground? >> well, lester, fema said that the 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? >> gabe, thank you. let's get the latest from 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 of bermuda though. that should at least bear the island. eastern canada, it's still going to be a strong storm as it makes
its way towards 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 keeping an area on the next formation in the next five days. there is an 80% chance this could be next named storm as it moves into warm water. we'll have to keep a close 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 learned there is a new record number of migrants crossing the border. we have the latest. >> reporter: tonight, the battle over the border is building with new criminal investigation examining the flight that's carried 48 migrants to martha's vineyard last week. the controversial move arranged by florida's republican governor ron desantis. a texas sheriff, 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 jurisdiction. >> reporter: he insists they 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 this 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 two million illegal border crossings in the last 11 months. smashing all previous records
tonight president biden responding to unconfirmed rumors he may send the migrants to his home state. >> we'll comment shortly. >> reporter: governor 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 you are seeing today? >> during today's hearing that, special master, the federal judge appointed to sift through the documents seized by the fbi appeared skeptical about mr. trump's claim he had the declassified them. the judge saying unless his lawyers can show that the 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. meanwhile, the separate filing today mr. trump's lawyers called
this "a document storage dispute" that spiralled 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, 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 were already had a rough time. he told us russian soldiers brought them here. he ran a lumberyard and they suspected he was passing information to the ukrainian military. so this was your cell down this signal. >> yes. four people. >> reporter: four people? he took me to the basement. he remembers the steps he took to get there. so this was the torture room. >> this was a target practice area within the police station. can you 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. he says he was rescued when ukrainian forces drove the russians out. ukraine's military adds advances are making pro russian separatists out in the east nervous. they plan to hold a vote to join russia later this week. critics call the vote illegitimate. >> what a chilling account. richard, thank you. in 60 seconds, the policing of america. our report on what authorities call the biggest covid fraud case yet. how $250 million the government thought was going to hungry
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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. we have the 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 conneed to nonprofits and restaurants collected taxpayer money to federal nutrition programs. >> the goal was to make as much money for themselves as they could. >> reporter: at the center of
the indictment, appearing in court today, amy 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 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 here in minnesota. >> reporter: so far the federal government has got back $50 million.
prosecutors say their investigation is continuing and there may be more charges to come. lester? >> ken, 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. d often. but if you're lucky enough to earn it, it's on you to do everything in your power to hold on to it. to show that loyalty goes both ways. these people have helped build this place from the ground up. so we're doing whatever it takes to help secure their future. ♪ ♪ right now, it could seem like the only people who matter are the loudest. those who want to tear things down and then fly away on their own personal spaceships when things get hard. but we've got 182,000 people,
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with the 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: this professor 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. >> it is poisonous to humans, to wildlife, it persists, it doesn't break down. it lasts for centuries. >> reporter: the two wake forest professors created a not for profit dedicated to better understanding and then helping heal this place which is 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 is a whole other forest worth of carbon. >> reporter: you are 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 atmosphere that is the primary green house gas contributed to climate change.
the ecological effect is devastating. more than 370,000 acres of protected forest have been turned into this by mining. pools contaminated by mercury. in the region, millions of acres have been lost. and here is a catch. gold mining was mercury is legal in peru. but not on protected land. and it is this illicit mining that pumps more than $3 billion worth of unaccounted for gold out of peru every year. much of it headed to the u.s. what is fueling the gold rush? money. the price of gold in 2007 was about $700 an ounce. today, it's worth more than twice that much. little wonder various trans national cartels and military
groups have got involved. some now making more money trafficking illegal gold than drugs. the situation is seen as so dangerous that the u.s. has stepped in providing intelligence to the peruvian government. this is just the beginning of a massive destruction. nbc news is the first u.s. television network peruvian special forces permitted to embed with them. they're in charge of this area. it is called la pampa. this is not just environmental disaster. it's also a real question of national and international security. the peruvian government declared a state of emergency here which is still in effect. and launched operation mercury three years ago. they successfully pushed 25,000 miners out of la pampa. despite it all, they are hopeful. they made strides in their reforestation work, figuring out
what can be replanted. the largest such enterprise in the americas. that's a beauty. >> this is caliandra. it's a survivor. this was all desert a few years ago. but with their help, and a little push from mother nature, it's coming back. >> nature always heals itself. it depends on how long it takes. >> if we don't mess it up too much. >> talking to a biologist, nature scales on the scale of asteroids killing dinosaurs. >> reporter: realizing the amazon doesn't have that kind of time, the battle to save it continues as the destruction rages on. cynthia mcfadden, nbc news, la pampa, peru. up next, savannah guthrie's exclusive with tennis great roger federer. is he really done with the game? a once-daily pill. when uc got unpredictable,... i got rapid symptom relief with rinvoq. check. when uc held me back... i got lasting, steroid-free remission with rinvoq.
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even if they are mild, don't wait, get tested quickly. if you test positive and are at high risk of severe disease, act fast. ask if an oral treatment is right for you. covid-19 moves fast, and now you can too. roger federer's decision to hang up his racket ricocheted around the world. but before his final serve, he talked exclusively to our savannah guthrie about if he's really calling it quits. here's anne thompson. >> reporter: as roger federer prepares to retire, unlike some, the tennis champ tells savannah guthrie exclusively he's not looking for a do over. >> you know, unretiring is a thing now.
>> i know. >> tom brady. now serena seems to be wavering a little. >> i'm definitely done. i know that. yeah. >> reporter: 41 years old, he'll play his final professional games in the labor cup, a team tennis event he helped create. the capstone on a career that includes victories in every grand slam tournament. and an astounding 237 consecutive weeks at number one. >> is it one of those things where they say sometimes the stages of grief, did you feel all those feelings? >> yes. all of it. and also the ones where i don't want to deal with it. i just don't want to think about it. don't talk to me about it. i went through a lot of sadness and emotional moments where just, you know, how you start thinking about everything you're going to miss. and then you just think oh, my god, my life is miserable. no. we're going to have more time and do all these amazing things. its going to be great. >> reporter: the we, his wife and their four children. for us, a last chance to savor a
game of grace and power. anne thompson, nbc news. and you can see much more of savannah's interview tomorrow morning on "today." that's "nightly news" for this tuesday. thank you for watching, everyone. i'm lester holt. please take care of yourself and each other. ♪ ♪ >> ♪♪ wake up in the morning ♪ ♪ with a head like ♪ ♪ what ya done ♪ ♪ this used to be the life ♪ ♪ but i don't need ♪ ♪ another one ♪
♪ you like cuttin' up ♪ ♪ and carryin' on ♪ ♪ you wear them gowns ♪ ♪ so how come i feel ♪ ♪ so lonely ♪ ♪ when you're up gettin' down ♪ ♪ so i'll play along ♪ ♪ when i hear ♪ ♪ that special song ♪ ♪ i'm gonna be the one ♪ ♪ who gets it right ♪ ♪ you'd better move ♪ ♪ when you're swingin' ♪ ♪ 'round the room ♪ ♪ looks like magic's ♪ ♪ only ours tonight ♪ ♪ but i don't ♪ ♪ feel like dancin' ♪ ♪ when the old joanna plays ♪ ♪ my heart could take a chance ♪ ♪ but my two feet ♪ ♪ can't find a way ♪ ♪ you'd think that i ♪ ♪ could muster up ♪ ♪ a little soft-shoe ♪ ♪ gentle sway ♪ ♪ but i don't ♪ ♪ feel like dancin' ♪ ♪ no sir ♪ ♪ no dancin' today ♪ ♪ you can't make me ♪ ♪ dance around ♪ ♪ but your two-step ♪ ♪ makes my chest pound ♪ ♪ just lay me down ♪ ♪ as you float away ♪ ♪ into the shimmer lights ♪
♪ i don't feel like ♪ ♪ dancin', dancin' ♪ ♪ even if i find ♪ ♪ nothin' better to do ♪ ♪ don't feel like ♪ ♪ dancin', dancin' ♪ ♪ why'd you pick a tune ♪ ♪ when i'm not in the mood ♪ ♪ don't feel like dancin' ♪ ♪ dancin' ♪ ♪ i'd rather be home ♪ ♪ with the one ♪ ♪ in the bed ♪ ♪ 'til dawn with you ♪♪ [cheers and applause] all right, everybody. welcome to "the kelly clarkson show." give it up for my band y'all. that was "i don't feel like dancing." elton john cowrote and played keys on the track was released in 2006. i did not know that. elton and scissor sisters front man jake's years have gone together again this time to write a musical about tammy for a baker that debuts in london
later this year. should be fantastic, it should be awesome. before you head to england, i'm excited to be here with you today back in l.a. after a week in new york ten hour summer road trip. all right, y'all, our two-week bicoastal season 4 premiere is still still going strong. our first guests have been going strong for almost a decade. she is an amazing actress you've seen in "bring it on" and "bad boys 2." he is a three-time nba finals champ. no big deal. together they have a line of baby products called proudly uses and stores and online right now. please welcome gabrielle union and dwyane wade.
[cheers and applause] oh, my god. i don't -- look at the whole -- i've never seen the band clapping this hard. this is the first time in four seasons. i look up and they are like "yeah!" i hear you came with a request of some especially your rendition of "the quiet town." >> kelly: that's your favorite? that's a sad song. >> dwyane: puts me in a relaxing stage and helps me enjoy life. >> kelly: that's a dark song.
>> dwyane: i try to take the positives out of the darkness. >> kelly: you do. if that's what you take out of that song, you're an optimist. i was pregnant with my son when i had to sing that. i hadn't seen hamilton yet. it was the saddest thing ever but what a great musical. you side, obviously? how many times. >> gabrielle: we are super fans. >> dwyane: we corner lin. >> kelly: you celebrate your eighth anniversary. that's amazing. i heard there's something called the wade world tour. what is this and how do you get invited? you've got to be fun. >> gabrielle: we celebrate our anniversary with several couples, other couples. >> kelly: there is still time. >> gabrielle: we celebrate our anniversary's and figure out
ways of loving each other better. spewing meth awesome that's really fun. >> kelly: that's really awesome. >> dwyane: we like to travel. >> gabrielle: you go to paradise. >> dwyane: it is just us. you enjoy each other in a dating capacity. >> kelly: that's romantic. it looks like you meet each other again away from kids and work. out of the middle of nowhere. >> kelly: what was your favorite stop on the tour? >> gabrielle: one of my favorites was we were in the south of france. >> kelly: that's nice. >> gabrielle: going to this place for lunch. elton john is always there and he's always singing. we are like, that's not going to
happen when we go. who is there? elton john. you hear the first records of all of your favorite elton john songs. he stands up and does a full concert. the whole place goes nuts. >> kelly: that's so crazy. >> dwyane: my favorite memory? place to go. >> kelly: you go different places. >> dwyane: this was spain. >> kelly: i really want to be part of your lives. i'm doing something wrong. >> dwyane: calvin harris, the way he controls the crowd is amazing. i've heard a lot of great things about him. first time being at the show. it was raining,