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Four Missing On Capsized Cargo Ship Off Georgia Coast; Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) Is Interviewed On Canceled Secret Meeting With The Taliban; At Least 43 Dead As Humanitarian Crisis Unfolds In The Bahamas; Former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) Launches Primary Challenge Against Trump; New Poll: Biden Maintains Solid Lead Over Closest Competitors; A Rare Glimpse Inside The Taliban; As 9/11 Anniversary Nears, Trump Calls Off Meeting With Taliban; Pompeo: Taliban Should Not Be Rewarded For "Bad Behavior"; Pressure Builds On Trump To Plot Course On Guns; Vicki Sokolik Creates Solutions For Runaway Teens. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 8, 2019 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:09]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Our breaking news this hour, four people are missing after a cargo ship capsized off the coast of Georgia. The U.S. Coast Guard forced to suspend rescue efforts because of fire on board that vessel. The Coast Guard says the 71,000-ton Golden Ray vessel capsized after leaving the port of Brunswick earlier this morning. The ship is believed to be carrying cars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. LLOYD HOFLIN, U.S. COAST GUARD: So, we're still conducting rescue operations. We have assets on scene. They continue to do what they can. It is a complex situation. So, you know, we're looking not just for the safety of -- to be able to rescue the people on board, but also to be able to provide safety for our crew. So, it's ongoing. And we're looking to throw as much as we can and we have everybody looking to try to solve this complex problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Crews are working to stabilize the vessel with salvagers and the Coast Guard says they will resume operations once it's safe to do so.

Captain Jon Reed, the commander of Coast Guard Sector at Charleston, spoke with me last hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. JOHN REED, U.S. COAST GUARD CHARLESTON: The cause of the nature of why it happened is still under investigation and the investigators are here in Brunswick commencing that investigation. With the help of the vessel's master, first mate and their engineer. The Coast Guard continues to work with our partners to form a unified command here composed of federal, state, as well as the responsible party. That would be Georgia Department of Natural Resources, then U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port here in Brunswick, as well as Gallagher Marine.

WHITFIELD: So, Captain, we're looking a few images. In some images it looks like it's more than listing, that it's on its side, and then on another image we just saw, it is nearly upside down. So talk to me about the priorities here. If there are four people missing, but then at the same time, you have to suspend rescue operations because of the fire on board. What are the priorities in tackling this accident?

REED: Yes. You bring up a great point, Fredricka. Obviously we are -- as mentioned earlier in your broadcast, we had to suspend our search for the four persons on board as a fire started on board and the vessel continued to be unstable. Our first priority is the safety of the responders as well as the public. In so doing that, once we are able to ensure their safety through securing the vessel and ensuring that it is stable via our salvers' assessment, we will then work through the possibilities of trying to get back on board and locate the individuals.

The other outcome could be that it may deemed more appropriate to go ahead and right the vessel and de-smoke and de-water before we are able to actually get in there and locate the four individuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And let's talk more now, want to bring in Captain James Staples, a retired cargo ship captain and maritime safety consultant.

Captain Staples, thanks so much for being with us. So, in your view, when you look at these images and the information that we know in assessing things, how can a cargo ship of this size capsize? What are the potential factors here?

CAPT. JAMES STAPLES, MARITIME SAFETY CONSULTANT: Well, give that we don't know when the fire started, if the fire started after she capsized or before the fire -- capsized, that will tell us a little bit about why she may have capsized. If the fire started previously and they were applying water into the cargo holds, the water to one side of the vessel could have caused the vessel to lay over to her star board side. Depending on what type of firefighting system they have on board, if they have a CO2 system, or if they have a foam system.

They might have used up all the foam and CO2, if they would have been applying water into the cargo holds. The other problem they could have had would been an initial stability problem when they left the vessel -- when they left the port, sailing out, and as the vessel was making turn, she could have laid over and kept going because they had not a lot of margin in the GM, which is center of gravity in the vessel and they could have rolled over that way, so it could be a stability problem that they initially incurred from discharging vehicles. You know, and adding on or maybe moving fuel around or maybe moving ballast around on board the ship.

So, whether we know if the fire caused the vessel to become unstable or if there might have been --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

STAPLES: -- close with the stability to begin with when they sailed off Port of Brunswick.

WHITFIELD: Gotcha.

STAPLES: Going up to Baltimore.

WHITFIELD: So, Captain, I have a question, too, then, if the Coast Guard has suspended its search of these four missing crew members and the fire on board is partly why, are we talking about the search efforts that involve Coast Guard, say, divers or is it strictly by way of conducting the rescue message -- mission or search mission by another vessel?

[16:05:17]

What do you envision is likely happening?

STAPLES: Yes. Depending again what type of -- how this fire started. These four people that are missing could have been down in the engine room at the time. Obviously, the vessel was maneuvering out so the engine room would have been manned with people down in the engine room so if the vessel is on her side, then you cannot get easy access, you can't gain very access down at the engine room because you've got to imagine that, you know, ladders are no longer up and down and now fore and out and could be impossible to climb a ladder.

So, it's going to be very, very difficult to get into an engine room to even find somebody, you know, and the power could be off so it's going to be very dark. It's very, very dangerous and risky situation.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Terrible situation. Captain Staples, we appreciate your expertise. Thank you so much for being with us.

STAPLES: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, meeting canceled. President Trump calls off a secret meeting with the Taliban after the militant group claimed responsibility for an attack that killed an American soldier. The reason the president gives.

Plus, new information on the devastation in the Bahamas. The death toll is rising and tens of thousands are homeless. The U.S. Coast Guard scrambling to find any survivors. We're live from Nassau.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:10:11] WHITFIELD: All right. We continue to follow a stunning new development in the efforts to end America's longest war. President Donald J. Trump in a series of tweets revealing he had planned on holing secret peace today with leaders of the Taliban at Camp David but decided to scrap them. After the Taliban carried out a car bombing in Kabul that killed U.S. soldier Ellis Angel Barreto Ortiz last week.

Well today, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the president's decision to invite the Taliban onto U.S. soil just days before the 9/11 anniversary and the president's call to cancel the talks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You know it was just a few weeks ago, and I'm sure you're well aware of this, it was just a few weeks ago that the Taliban put out a video in which they supported the 9/11 attacks, reiterating their support for the 9/11 attacks. Blaming the 9/11 attacks on the United States and foreign policy.

I guess the question would be, here's an organization that still supports 9/11. Still believes that the United States was to blame. We brought that on ourselves. Why bring people like that to Camp David? I understand why you want to negotiate for peace, but why bring people like that to Camp David?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Jake, we're trying to get this accomplished. The American people are demanding it. Now almost two decades and the loss of life -- when I was with that family last night, amazing patriots. Almost the whole family. Sergeant Barreto's father himself served honorably in the United States Armed Forces. We have an obligation to do everything we can to protect those men and women and take down that risk.

That's what President Trump was aiming to do. We understand who the Taliban are. There's no more clear-eyed administration. When I was the director of the CIA, I had young men and women serving in Afghanistan taking enormous risk to their lives. We're aiming to get this right. We're working to talk with those leaders that can actually deliver on these outcomes. That's what President Trump and I are both focused on and we're going to keep driving towards that outcome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. With me right now, Congressman Michael Waltz. He is a Republican representative from Florida, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and an Army veteran who served in the war in Afghanistan.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

REP. MICHAEL WALTZ (R-FL): Sure.

WHITFIELD: So you've been very outspoken about these peace talks. You in fact tweeted on Thursday, "We should not be negotiating with the Taliban as have they shown no desire for peace. None."

So, you heard the secretary of State who's defending that notion of talking. Is it the talks that rubs you the wrong way or is it the circumstances or the location of these talks with the Taliban?

WALTZ: Well, first, let me just say, you know, I can understand the president's frustration. Heck, the American people's frustration. This war has been long, hard and costly. I just left this morning a memorial for two Green Barrettes that I lost in Afghanistan years ago but that doesn't mean that we can just walk away or we can just wish away these wars.

My concern are the details that are coming out of this deal. Number one, the Taliban are declaring this a victory. This, quote-unquote, "peace deal." They're declaring on their jihadi sites a victory for outlasting and outwaiting the Americans. Number two, the Afghan government feels delegitimized on the eve of their elections because they haven't been included in these talks. And then thirdly, you know, as I tweeted, the Taliban have shown zero desire for peace.

There is no cease fire that they've agreed to. In fact, they've ramped up their attacks. We've talked about the American soldier that just came home this morning in a coffin. And then finally, one of the major aspects of the deal was that the Taliban assured us that they would stop Afghanistan from being used by al Qaeda, ISIS and others to launch attacks on the West.

Even if you buy into those assurances, which I don't, I don't think they have the military capability to keep al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base. What can they do that the United States Air Force, United States Army and the 200,000-man Afghan Army have been fighting to do for the last 18 years? So I just have a lot of concerns. I'm urging the president to walk away from this deal as it stands.

WHITFIELD: So you believe the notion even this administration talking, trying to negotiate something, is a big mistake or is it that the president tweeted this out making public what he says was a secret meeting?

WALTZ: Well, so first of all, I want to be clear that, you know, all of these types of insurgencies and counterinsurgencies eventually need to end in some type of negotiated peace. My issue is with the terms of the deal as we understand them now.

[16:15:02]

I do not think we are getting hardly anything in exchange for withdrawing our forces. Again, the Taliban are treating it as a victory and I don't buy that either rhetorically or from a military capability standpoint that the Taliban have walked away from, have walked away from al Qaeda, which is what drove us to Afghanistan in the first place. Look, we need to stay on offense.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: So among those terms, though, reportedly --

WALTZ: We can either fight these wars over there or they will -- I mean, the key point is they will follow us home.

WHITFIELD: So, Congressman --

WALTZ: So my issue is the timing, my issue is the terms of the deal.

WHITFIELD: OK. And among the terms, reportedly, that the Taliban would divorce itself or somehow --

WALTZ: Right.

WHITFIELD: Express that it would no longer be in support of, say, terrorist organization like al Qaeda and that is one of the terms. And that the U.S. would pull out 14,000 troops. What -- what of the terms that you know reportedly do you disagree with the most?

WALTZ: Well, to be -- to be clear, it was to pull out a little over 5,000 troops. I am reassured to hear the president say he would leave over 8,000 to continue the counterterrorism mission, but, you know, my understanding is even those troops would then be on a timeline. I was in Afghanistan when President Obama announced the timeline and everybody began hedging for the beginning of the end.

I just don't think that's in our interest and I do think the situation there can go from bad to worse. The ethnic minorities that are in the Afghan government and make up a huge part of the Afghan Army and have been oppressed brutally by the Taliban over the years are deathly afraid of America abandoning the situation there and the situation could devolve back into civil war. We could be lacking a local partner and if we have to fight our way back in, without a local partner, it'll be far more expensive in the long run.

WHITFIELD: Do you worry that this administration is trusting the Taliban too much? That one of the other conditions reportedly would be that the Taliban would also act in counterterrorism role.

WALTZ: Yes, again, so I don't see -- one, I don't buy into that assurance. We've seen nothing, zero, from the Taliban indicating that they're walking away from al Qaeda either publicly or privately. But I don't think they have the military capability to make those assurances.

Look, at the end of the day, if the United States doesn't lead and leaves a vacuum, bad things will fill the void. You also have China, Russia and others looking to backfill United States leadership and again, you know, we can fight these wars in Kandahar and fight them forward or they will follow us home as we saw when President Obama pulled out of Iraq too quickly, and then we saw the development of ISIS and then we saw attacks across Europe and inspired attacks in the United States.

WHITFIELD: And quickly, what were your thoughts on the idea of a meeting such as this taking place at Camp David? WALTZ: Well, I don't ever want to see -- you know, again as we head

into the anniversary of 9/11, I do not ever want to see these terrorists step foot on the United States soil. Period.

WHITFIELD: Congressman Michael Waltz, thank you so much.

Straight ahead, pain and anguish in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian ripped through the island killing dozens of people and the death toll is expected to rise. We're live on the recovery efforts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:22:17]

WHITFIELD: All right. Crews are still searching for hundreds of people missing one week after Hurricane Dorian tore through the Bahamas. The death toll currently stands at 43, but Bahamian officials say that number is expected to increase significantly. The Coast Guard says it has rescued at least 308 people conducting those operations with five helicopters and five Coast Guard cutters.

CNN's Paula Newton is in the Bahamas this afternoon.

So, Paula, one week later, the nation still very much in desperate need of help.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely on its knees still. We are at one week, Fred, and from the disaster area, you can see why it's taken so long to even get the basics to people.

I mean, Fred, first for the good news. When I was in the Abaco Islands yesterday, at least there, people were starting to get out. They were in those ferries and those boats getting back here, most of them to Nassau. Good news, a lot of them did in fact have adequate food and water as well.

The problem, though, is what they're leaving behind and so many of them, Fred, it was so sad. The they will say to you, I saw my neighbor washed away. I saw my sister washed away. I have not seen anyone. And now when we talk about the death toll and the difficulty with trying to recover those bodies, some people believe that they may never see their loved ones again and that even identifying the missing and those deceased will be very difficult because many of them may never be found.

Through all of this, Fred, there have been a lot of private donations, a lot of private agencies on the ground, and a lot of them are talking about how especially in the first 24 or 48 hours, how crucial a lot of that private aid was. A lot of those private donations.

I want you to take a listen now to the operations director for World Central Kitchen. Talking about the kinds of things he heard from people about getting that first hot meal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SAM BLOCH, DIRECTOR OF FIELD OPERATIONS, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: We all look at food as just nourishment for the body. We look at it as nourishment for the soul as well. So the chefs in Nassau have been doing an amazing job, you know, getting feedback and adjusting the recipes. They have local volunteers in there that are giving input on the recipes because it's -- food can be a very comforting thing after a situation like this. Having a dish of something that's comforting and nutritious is really important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: Now as crucial as those private donations were there has been some duplication and a lot of controversy about whether or not a lot of this should have been left to the Bahamian government. We were just speaking to USAID, Fred, and they say that they're here to make sure that there isn't duplication, to make sure that any private efforts are channeled to the right places.

There are a lot of American assets on the ground here, Fred. Not just the Coast Guard but USAID and certainly military officials as well, trying to make sure that they can do all they can to help what is a monumental task ahead.

[16:25:06]

WHITFIELD: Huge. All right. Paula Newton, thank you so much.

All right. President Trump has yet another Republican rival in the 2020 race for president. Mark Sanford says he has what it takes to take on the president and change the Republican Party. His main objective next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. He's in. The former governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, formally declaring his GOP challenge to President Donald J. Trump. Sanford, a vocal critic of the president, is making the economy the focus of his campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SANFORD (R), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican. I think that as the Republican Party, we have lost our way and I'd say some on a couple of different fronts.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: You've got to know you basically have no chance of winning the Republican nomination so why run for president?

[16:30:00]

SANFORD: I think you probably would have said that same thing to Donald Trump just a matter of months ago if he faced the likes of Jeb Bush and others.

WALLACE: You honestly think you have a serious chance of beating...

SANFORD: I'm saying you never know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. Sanford's own party in South Carolina dismissing his bid saying this is about Mark Sanford looking to raise his political career from the grave not him wanting to advance ideas.

He is now the third Republican primary challenger to join the race. Let's bring in CNN National Political Reporters, Maeve Reston and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, a Congressional correspondent with the New York Times.

Good to see you both ladies.

All right. So, Maeve, you first. You know, this is a long shot for Sanford perhaps and President Trump's campaign is calling this announcement irrelevant but is it when you've got now three Republicans challenging the incumbent president?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I don't think it's irrelevant at all. And of course, obviously, President Trump's campaign is going to say that. They've got the muscle, the resources, the army of foot soldiers across the country.

But what this does tell you once again, and both Julie and I have talked to many voters out there who would say this, is that there is an appetite among some Republicans for someone else. And there's also a chance here that, you know, if you end up with an incredibly close race in the general election, that you know, people who are leaning toward someone like Sanford or Billy Weld could sit it out and stay home if there's enough dissatisfaction with President Trump by the end of next year.

We don't know what's going to happen with the economy. We don't know if people are going to continue to feel as though things are going well for them. And so, I do think that there's a, you know, a big chance here for this to make things harder for President Trump.

WHITFIELD: So, Julie, I see you're shaking your head. You know, Sanford is, you know, making the debt, the deficit, and government spending a focal point in his campaign saying, you know, he wants to try to move the Republican Party in the other direction.

But the president will continue to boast that the economy is his, you know, strongest asset. Is there an opening here?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think what we hear Mark Sanford trying to do is sort of push the Republican Party back to some of the ideals that were its bedrocks before the rise of President Trump.

You know, the Republican Party was the party of fiscal conservatism. Deficits and debt were a huge concern for a lot of the members of the tea party who - among whom Sanford certainly counts himself and that was a very powerful movement when Obama was president.

But this is a different day. President Trump has really changed the Republican Party. And it's not clear to me having talked to a lot of voters -- as Maeve has in the last several months -- that those are really the priorities of Republican voters this time around.

I do think though -- and Maeve is right about this -- that if Republicans have another alternative, even if it's not an alternative that they really identify with necessarily, personally, I think there are a lot of Republicans out there who would like to have another -- someone else to vote for other than a Democrat and that could with a real problem for President Trump if the economy does take a turn and if there is an appetite for a third candidate there.

WHITFIELD: All right. So, Maeve, there's a new ABC News "Washington Post" poll. And it's focusing on the Democratic race. Biden has a sizable lead over the rest. However, you see that, you know, Sanders and Warren are gaining a few points here and there.

RESTON: Yes.

WHITFIELD: What do you think is happening here?

RESTON: Well, it's just obviously there -- voters do have increasing confidence in Elizabeth Warren. We have seen that month after month after month. And she's made this kind of steady increase in the polls. And people are getting more comfortable with her thinking about her up against Donald Trump, which has always been one of, you know, the big hurdles for all of the candidates.

Because what's really driving Biden support is the fact that he is the person that most voters think would be strongest up against President Trump. As he's gone out on the campaign trail and had a number of different stumbles or he seems older to some voters than they remember from the Obama Administration days, you're seeing his support start to, you know, kind of crumble a little bit.

And so, she will really -- Elizabeth Warren will really have a chance on the debate stage this week to potentially show that she has what it takes to go up against President Trump, which is what many voters are looking for.

WHITFIELD: So, we asked, you know, undecided Democratic voters what they think about the candidates and just take a listen. This is what some said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEATH HOWARD, FIRST TIME VOTING IN PRESIDENT ELECTION: Warren is, in my opinion, a better candidate. Biden is just too old school. He's, you know, old guard. I think that you need new lead leaders.

EMMA VANNESS, UNDECIDED VOTER FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE: I like Kamala because she has that good prosecutorial energy. She's super -- she's got that executive experience. She is a strong woman. DUSU SIDIBAY, UNDECIDED VOTER FROM BOSTON: I'm considering Cory Booker right now. He's like my first choice but I still like other candidates. I like Kamala. I like Julian Castro.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:35:17]

WHITFIELD: So, Julie, quite the cross section. What should we learn from that?

DAVIS: Well, I think what we know is that Democrats don't really know what they want yet. And sometimes when you talk to voters, they'll say, you know, I really like Joe Biden but I also really like Elizabeth Warren. And there's not a lot of sort of cross section. There's not a lot of overlap in the Venn diagram there of what they're -- how they're packaging themselves. So, I think there is still a lot of uncertainty out there.

But what you also hear is a lot of pining for something different from what they've seen. I think voters understand that there is something useful to the energy that comes with running a candidate that people haven't really seen on the political scene before.

We saw that with Donald Trump on the Republican side. And I think there is kind of a hunger for that on the Democratic side as well. So, that's kind of vying with people's -- the security they feel when they see Joe Biden in their minds as, you know, the priority for going into 2020.

WHITFIELD: All super fascinating. All right, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Maeve Reston, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

RESTON: Thanks so much.

DAVIS: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, an exclusive look inside the Taliban as President Trump faces huge criticism over a planned meeting with the terror group's leaders on U.S. soil.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:43]

WHITFIELD: President Trump's bombshell announcement that he canceled plans to meet with Taliban leaders this weekend on U.S. soil has Washington and the international community spinning. We're just days away from the 18th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the Taliban has not pulled back on its campaign of violence despite peace talks with the U.S.

Earlier this year, our Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward, got exclusive inside access inside the Taliban's operations in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The commander, Mubaraz Mujahed (ph), takes us to a nearby safe house to be interviewed privately. We are warned that political questions are off the table.

Do you want to see peace between the Taliban and America?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It would be better if this question was put to the spokesperson of the Islamic Emirate.

WARD: Do you feel like the Taliban is winning the war?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): God willing, we are hopeful. We are supported by God.

WARD: He wants to show off his forces for our cameras. His men are gathering just outside the village. It is exceptionally rare and dangerous for dozens of fighters to congregate in one place.

I have been coming to Afghanistan for more than ten years. I never imagined that I would be reporting from here in the heart of Taliban territory. But we're not going to stay long here because gatherings like this can be a major target for air strikes.

But the commander says America's military might can't keep them from victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are ready for any sacrifice. We are not scared of being hit. This is our holy path. We continue our jihad.

WARD: Most of these men have been fighting U.S. forces since they were old enough to carry a gun. The question now is, are they ready to put those guns down?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Our thanks to Clarissa Ward for that exclusive look inside the Taliban. So, for more on what the president's latest move means from a security -- a national security perspective, I want to bring in CNN Military and Diplomatic Analyst, Admiral John Kirby; retired and a CNN National Security Analyst, Peter Bergen.

All right. Good to see you both and thanks for coming back, admiral, too. So Peter, you know, the president says this is a secret meeting. Yet he Tweets about it, you know. What does that mean for any potential of, you know, future meetings involving the Taliban, Afghanistan's leadership?

PETER BERGEN; CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think Secretary of State Pompeo has been pretty clear on some of the Sunday shows that the negotiations are finished. In fact, in that Tweet the president himself says the negotiations are finished and that meeting was canceled. So, I think those statements kind of speak for themselves. You know, I think President Trump understands that if he wins a second term, which is not out of the question obviously, that Afghanistan is going down the tubes because of the unilateral withdrawal of U.S. forces is going to be a real problem for him.

And I think essentially you have buyer's remorse about this whole project particular in light of the 16th American fatality in 2019 which the Taliban took credit for just, you know, a couple of days ago.

So, in my view -- and I'd be interested to see what Admiral Kirby thinks -- you know, I think the president made the right choice here. These negotiations were done without the Afghan government's involvement at all, which is strange because they are the duly elected government of the country.

And we have an Afghan election coming up on September 28th, which I think is a much more important to the Afghan people than some kind of notional peace agreement with the Taliban. After all, they get -- they will then get to choose their actual government.

WHITFIELD: So Peter, you do believe that the 16th U.S. troop death was the breaking point for this administration to move forward.

BERGEN: Well, I think, you know, they had a meeting on August 17th in Bedminster, New Jersey. And there were people who were very unhappy about this. John Bolton, the national security adviser was not happy about this agreement. And both the military and the CIA pushed back pretty heavily on the notion of a total withdrawal because they want to be able to continue with their counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan which requires a certain number of troops for it to be b successful.

WHITFIELD: So Admiral, you know, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, you know, defending the president this morning about this meeting on U.S. soil, Camp David, et cetera. And, you know, Pompeo says you've got to meet with bad actors. But given the timing and proximity to 9/11, what does this move signal to you to the international community as well?

[16:45:53]

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I think the main signal to the international community and this is the one that this administration consistently has delivered to the international community is one of unpreparedness.

They simply went into this, I believe, not fully prepared or not understanding what was going to -- what could possibly be the result of bringing the Taliban and Ghani Government here to Washington, D.C. We just -- the conditions weren't ready for that.

I've been speaking to Afghan officials over the weekend and they tell uniformly me that the Ghani Government deliberately stayed out of the intercession between, between Khalilzad and the Taliban because they didn't want to gum up the works. But they didn't have very high hopes that that was going to lead to anything practical. And they've been -- and they've been frustrated because they've been left out of it.

So, with the message that we're sending is that once again, the president charges in wanting to do a big splashy event and try to hammer home a deal before the conditions are right for that, before the details have actually been laid out, and before the players, quite frankly, all the players. And Peter's right. The Ghani Government has to be the major player here, have stated that they're ready the move forward.

WHITFIELD: And reportedly, one of conditions or one of the, you know, increments of this plan was that the Taliban would actually be given kind of counterterrorism responsibilities. They'd have to make assurances for that. Is that realistic Admiral in your view?

ADM. KIRBY: No. They -- no. I mean, they've not renounced al-Qaeda. They certainly not renounced violence. I mean, just a week before one of our soldiers was killed in the attack there in Kabul just a few days ago, but a week before that, there was a major offensive - Taliban offensive in conduce.

They've not given up any of their desire to commit acts of terrorism. Not to mention, Fred, people forget - and Peter knows this better than anybody. The Taliban is not a monolithic organization. They don't all speak for one another. They have splintered groups. It's very difficult for any Taliban negotiator to look you in the eye and say for sure they can prevent x, y, and z from happening. It's just not the way that organization operates.

WHITFIELD: And Peter, quickly, Taliban counterterrorism?

BERGEN: I mean, we'll see.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it there for now. Peter Bergen, Admiral John Kirby, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

All right, straight ahead, pressure mounting on the president to make a decision on guns in this country. Top Republicans say they can't act if Trump doesn't have a plan. Will anything get done? I speak to an activist leading the effort for gun control, next.

But first, while most students have been heading back to school, there's a sudden population of kids who find themselves on the brink of homelessness. This week's "CNN Hero" is bringing these teenagers out of the shadows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICKI SOKOLIK, CNN HEROES: There's a lot of shame that goes with being a homeless, unaccompanied youth. They hide what's actually going on with them. And so, they really become this very invisible population.

Most people don't even know these kids exist. The transformation of these kids is monumental. They come in so broken. And I'm just one person telling them I'm going to help them. They become softer. It's just great that they can be happy and they're able to be kids again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: To learn more, go to cnnheroes.com.

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[16:48:04]

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. As Congress returns to Washington this week, the pressure is mounting for action on gun legislation despite no clear sign of where the president stands on gun control.

CNN has learned Trump instructed the U.S. Justice Department and members of the White House Domestic Policy team to prepare a menu of options that he could present to lawmakers when they return to Capitol Hill.

They're already a pair of bills on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's desk. But just last week, McConnell said he won't bring any gun legislation to the floor without the president's backing.

Joining us now is the co-president of Brady, an organization focused on preventing gun violence, Kris Brown. Kris, good to see you. So, when Congress comes back this week, what do you want to see happen?

KRIS BROWN, CO-PRESIDENT, BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: I want to see the Senate take up S.42. That's the companion measure to H.R.8 that you just noted, Fred, that would actually close the loophole that we have right now that allows private sales of guns to happen with no background check at all.

We've learned in the Odessa shooting, for example, that that's how the shooter apparently got his gun even though he was a prohibited purchaser. One in five guns sold today is sold with no background check at all. The Senate can fix that by passing S.42 and having the president sign it. Ninety-seven percent of Americans support this measure. So, we want that to move forward.

We also want extreme risk laws to be promoted in the states. And for Congress to enact legislation to provide more dollars to states to incent them to enact those laws and to provide money for funding, again, pointing to Odessa.

The neighbors of that individual, who undertook that shooting, had concerns about his behavior. He was going up apparently on the roof of his house and shooting into the darkness animals. So, this could have been a situation where an extreme risk law made a difference. And we want Congress to take up an assault weapons ban.

WHITFIELD: So, Kris, you've heard the presidential just in the last month, three shootings express a very different view on background checks alone. So, who is your audience? Who are you talking to right now?

Are you talking to Mitch McConnell who has a couple of bills on his desk; however, he says he's not acting until he hears something from the president? Or are you directing, you know, your thoughts to the president to try to change his mind, influence him about what kind of act, you know, he should engage in?

BROWN: We're talking to Members of Congress, yes. I wish that I could tell you I've had a personal sit-down with President Trump. I haven't. The only organization that he's met with so far has been the NRA although you rightly note that he's changed his position at least several times since Parkland on this issue.

Look, Brady represents both gun owners and non gun owners alike. We have one mission. And that's to solve the epidemic of gun violence. And we're talking to all lawmakers. I think too few of them who are on the Republican side of the aisle are really listening on this issue although we have convinced many to join us in this fight.

[16:53:30]

WHITFIELD: Although sometimes you don't have to have a face-to-face with the president because he is a big consumer of news, organizations, you know, programs just like this and perhaps this is your opportunity in which to make a plea to him. What would you say to him if he was listening right now?

BROWN: I would say there's no issue Mr. President that you can find in the American public today in which there is greater unanimity than to fix this issue of gun violence. And that he has the opportunity to say he wants expanded background checks, he wants extreme risk laws, he wants a ban on assault weapons.

The majority of Americans support all of these measures. And if he doesn't take action, make no mistake we will have more mass shootings. We can solve this problem. And he can prevent the next tragedy by leading on this issue. If he doesn't, then we will make sure that this is an election issue. And the American people want this change.

WHITFIELD: Kris Brown, thanks so much for your time.

BROWN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right and thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The NEWSROOM continues with Ana Cabrera right after this.

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