Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Says He Scrapped Secret Meeting with Taliban; Amber Rudd Quits Johnson's U.K. Government; Recovery Efforts in the Bahamas. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired September 8, 2019 - 03:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Taliban talks canceled: the U.S. president reveals the plan for secret peace talks at Camp David with the leaders of the Taliban which now have been called off.

Also another British cabinet member resigns. Amber Rudd said she is calling it quits because she cannot support Boris Johnson's handling of Brexit.

Also aid groups struggle to get desperately needed supplies to those who need it most in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian.

Live from CNN Center this is the scene in the NEWSROOM thank you for joining us I'm Natalie Allen.


ALLEN: Almost 18 years after the 9/11 attacks the U.S. president is saying he is canceling the secret Camp David meeting with Taliban leaders. Trump tweeted that a bombing in the Afghan capital derailed the talks.

A U.S. soldier and several other people were killed. The Taliban claims responsibility. Trump says he was also meeting separately with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. A source tells CNN he wanted to set up a meeting with Ghani and a founding Taliban member.


ALLEN: Aaron David Miller joins us now. He's a CNN global affairs analyst and former State Department negotiator.

Thanks so much for joining us.

What do you think of these developments, President Trump saying he canceled peace talks at Camp David with Afghanistan Taliban leaders after this attack.

Are you surprised that there was a meeting planned, according to the president, a secret meeting at Camp David? AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I am and like most adventures in the president's Twitter diplomacy, I'm not sure what to believe. CNN was reporting earlier that sources suggest that the president became more and more involved in the logistics of a possible trilateral meeting at somewhere in Washington in an effort to facilitate or even consummate what he believed last month may have been an agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban to begin the process of withdrawal of American forces.

But I expect pressures began to grow as it became clear that the agreement negotiated by one of my former colleagues was probably not ready for primetime. I have to say though, Natalie, you don't having planned summits at Camp David for U.S. presidents, one in particular, Barack and President Clinton, you do not go to a summit. Certainly not at the president's retreat and bestow legitimacy on a party unless you have a relatively confident view, no negotiation is guaranteed 100 percent.

And I find it amazing that days before 9/11, that the president would even consider bringing a senior Taliban official -- Taliban is not Al Qaeda but they provided sanctuary and had a significant influence on enabling this group in the period before 9/11.

I find it remarkable on that symbolic level alone. Then you have the basic reality that, why would you want to let presidential prestige unless you are absolutely persuaded that this was going to be a done deal?

This is something for secretary of state, for a special envoy and the idea of three-way readings frankly makes sense to me, not at Camp David and not rushed.

ALLEN: It remains to be seen that the Camp David question. But let's get back to the actual negotiations. As these continue, the Taliban has continued their reign of terror. The president said he called off this meeting because they claim to have killed 12 people, including a U.S. soldier. How can peace talks continue to move forward with the Taliban continuing these attacks?

MILLER: The reality is that is a lever that the Taliban continues to pull and the fact is they have enormous leverage in these negotiations.

You have a divided Afghanistan government and a highly centralized, at least Afghan Taliban, that is capable of pulling off these attacks. I think this highlights one basic reality. There are no good deals with the Taliban if we want to withdraw or set up a timetable for withdrawal of American forces.


MILLER: I know the administration keeps talking about a peace agreement rather than the withdrawal agreement. The fact is the way these negotiations are structured, the Taliban has most of the leverage and most of the cards. And it may be that the president -- John Bolton has been excluded from these and even Mike Pompeo began to understand that there were simply too many loose ends and holes if this agreement were pushed through.

Again, the issue is not between a good and bad agreement with the Taliban. The issue is between one that is bad and one that is worse. And I think the administration -- the president really wants to withdraw relatively quickly. Certainly by the end of his first term, assuming he gets a second. To be able to say, look at what I have achieved where the Obama administration has failed.

So I think hopefully this is a sobering message to continue to work for the best possible deal the U.S. can get.

ALLEN: We always appreciate your expertise on these matters, Aaron David Miller, thank you so much for joining. Us

MILLER: Thank you. Natalie

ALLEN: One of the more high-profile secretaries in the British government, Amber Rudd, abruptly resigned from the cabinet and the Conservative Party on Saturday. She says she no longer believes prime minister Boris Johnson was committed to a Brexit agreement with the E.U. and she was angry he purged 21 members of parliament from the Conservative Party when they voted a no-deal Brexit.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins us from London.

Last week was a remarkable week in the U.K. with all these developments and now this. It's pretty extraordinary.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: Extraordinary indeed and the working secretary did resign late last night. She said in her strongly worded letter, she said that the expulsion of those 21 Tory MPs was an assault on decency and democracy.

But we are really seeing here is yet another blow after what was a terrible first week in Parliament for prime minister Boris Johnson. He lost a series of vote including a bid to try and trigger a general election, something he was desperate to have happen. His own brother quit government, saying he was torn between family loyalty and national interest.

Really the nail in the coffin was this bill set to go into effect on Monday. It is a bill that would legally require the prime minister to either find a new deal pass it through Parliament by October 19th, something that is nearly impossible for him to do.

Or he will have to go back to the E.U. and ask for a three-month extension. That would take the new Brexit deadline, if the E.U. agrees, to January of next year. The prime minister has said he is not willing to do this, going so far as saying he would rather die in a ditch than ask for an extension.

But really there are very few options for prime minister Boris Johnson at this point. And what we are seeing is a strategy that seems to have unified his enemies.

When prime minister Boris Johnson decided to prorogue or suspend Parliament for five weeks all of these fractious and divided groups that could not find common ground finally did find common ground. And that was the one enemy prime minister Boris Johnson and to take down his strategy for negotiating on the year, which is the no deal strategy. So everybody here holding their breath waiting to see what is going to happen on Monday. Will he indeed do what he has indicated he will do, which is break the law? But if the prime minister does that, he could very well do he could wind up in court.

ALLEN: Strategy, strategy, strategy. We never know where this is going to end up. Salma Abdelaziz, thank you.

Let's talk about this fresh blow with Steven Erlanger. Let's get perspective. He is the chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for "The New York Times."

We always appreciate your giving us your time.

What does Ms. Rudd's quitting and calling Johnson's moves political vandalism signify in the larger process of this Brexit dilemma?

STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it is one more indication that Boris Johnson is dividing one of Britain's traditional parties over this issue of Brexit. That's a cleavage that is not just dividing one Britain from another but it is dividing the Tory Party and it's dividing the Labour Party.

And he is now residing over a government of what you would call a minority almost a religious faction inside the Conservative Party that want Brexit, come hell or high water. Now Amber Rudd had been much criticized for staying in the cabinet. And some people felt she had sold her soul.

But once she realized and has now said in the letter she's written.


ERLANGER: Essentially that Boris Johnson is a liar, that he promised that he wanted to get out by October 31st with a deal. She no longer believes he actually wants a deal so no evidence that he was trying to negotiate a deal.

ALLEN: So where in the world does this go from here, Steven?



ALLEN: I know that's the impossible question.

ERLANGER: But it is the right question. I think Johnson has to make a decision. If he wants to get out by October 31st, given the restraints now put upon him by the Parliament, he is going to try to get a deal from the European Union.

There's this withdrawal agreement that Theresa May negotiated with great pain. We are back to the old lipstick-on-a-pig theory. If he can find some way of making it look more attractive so he can declare a Trumpian style victory then maybe he can get Parliament to pass it.

Otherwise he is going to be heading to a general election sometime in November, where he will run a campaign that says, let's get Brexit done. I want to get Brexit done. Parliament will not let me get Brexit done, so vote for me. Give me a new Parliament and let's go on with our lives.

ALLEN: Is this political drama brought on by him then -- it seems like he has been putting a lot of people through the wringer to make his brazen, bodacious way of governing around this issue?

ERLANGER: Yes, but in a way he is the kind of inevitable last chapter of this Brexit psychodrama which has been going now for three and a half years. And he does represent -- I don't know what he really believes. Frankly, nobody does.

But he really does represent a new momentum towards getting this done one way or the other and Britain now faces a serious question about its role in the world for the first time probably since the '50s. And this terrible Suez crisis they've had.

Where is Britain going?

Who will its allies be?

How close can it be to the United States?

And Is Boris Johnson the person to lead Britain into this bright new shining future?

ALLEN: We will end on those provocative questions, won't we. This will be another week to watch and we will probably talk with you again, hopefully, Steven Erlanger, always appreciate it, thank you.

ERLANGER: Thank you, Natalie.

ALLEN: Hong Kong protesters are taking their demands for diplomacy straight to the U.S. consulate. Huge crowds are marching there now in an unauthorized rally on the 14th straight weekend of demonstrations. And as you can see, many are waving American flags and asking President Trump to quote, "liberate Hong Kong."

On Saturday the U.S. Defense Secretary urged China's government to show restraint in dealing with this protest movement.


ALLEN (voice-over): Rescue efforts are underway in the Bahamas and many fear the road to recovery from all of this will be long and difficult. That is coming up. Also aid groups struggling to make the needs of those affected in the Bahamas. The challenge they face in areas of total devastation.




ALLEN: Dorian is no longer a hurricane but is still causing damage in Canada. Right now it has slammed Nova Scotia with winds of 100 miles per hour and has knocked out power to a half-million homes and businesses.

Back in the Bahamas officials are continuing to ramp up recovery efforts after the storm ravaged the islands. Some people who lost everything are now scrambling to escape the worst hit areas. They just have to leave. One resident from Marsh Harbour describe the moment the water hit the building and destroyed everything.


WILLIAM DAVIS, DORIAN SURVIVOR: My son and a couple of my employees were in that building and the water just flooded out the whole building. We had to jump out the back window. Some survived, some didn't.


ALLEN: CNN's Gary Tuchman has been covering search and rescue efforts; here is his report from the Abaco Islands.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the U.S. Coast Guard and a City of Miami paramedic from the fire rescue unit, looking at the rubble here in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, one of the most beautiful cities on Earth.

And now it is hell on Earth. This is immense rubble. It is impossible to tell how many houses were standing. The houses have been flattened. You get an idea right here of what so many of the houses in this area look like.

We came here into this part of Marsh Harbour because we were told by the local fire department here that they expected that there would be many bodies in this area. Indeed five minutes ago, these Coast Guard and paramedic personnel found the body of a female just past that house that you're looking at.

You can see in the distance there more U.S. Coast Guard personnel, looking around, helping the Bahamian government, helping the Bahamian police look for bodies and also treat people who may be hurt.

We have been traveling with them on a Coast Guard cutter, 25 Coast Guards men and women and the two paramedics from Miami fire rescue, going all over the islands, not just this portion here, Marsh Harbour and the Abacos, but other little cays and inlets, looking for people who may be suffering. The small cays and inlets to the north of here are just that. But

this is the worst we've seen, right in the biggest town in the Abacos, Marsh Harbour. And what we are being told by the fire rescue personnel here in the Bahamas is there still a lot of bodies to find here. And we have just been here 10 minutes and the Coast Guard personnel found one.

This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas.


ALLEN: Jake Wood joins me now on the line. He is the cofounder and CEO of Team Rubicon, a non-profit organization launching large-scale rescue and recovery efforts.

Jake, we appreciate you talking with us.

Can you begin to describe the devastation?

You just arrived in the Bahamas just a few hours ago.

JAKE WOOD, TEAM RUBICON: Yes, I arrived in Abaco Island this morning and I will tell you, the several hours I spent out on the island today, it is absolutely incredible to see the sheer destructive power this storm brought to this island; 50 percent of the trees are snapped in half. The power poles are completely dislodged.

The team that has been to Marsh Harbour reports that the destruction is catastrophic.

ALLEN: Right. It is hard to even grasp, looking at pictures, that people did live through that. But you run a nationwide nonprofit which provides military veterans opportunities to help in these natural disasters and global crises.

How did you come about developing this?

WOOD: The organization started about 10 years ago after the Haiti earthquake. I served four years in the Marine Corps and upon getting out, several months later, the Haiti earthquake happened and I just wanted to help. That was 10 years ago.


WOOD: So since that time we have grown to almost 100,000 volunteers responding to nearly 400 disasters around the world.

ALLEN: That is truly amazing.

What kind of services do you think you need to do as soon as you get going there in the Bahamas?

WOOD: Sure we, have a mobile medical teams on the ground for the last three days, we have been flying around all over Abaco Island in helicopters, dropping into remote communities, some of the barrier islands surrounding. So treating patients there. Truthfully the trauma medical need is not as acute as we expected. It's already transitioned mostly into primary care, that being said it's a very tenuous situation.

Our team has encountered some of the search and rescue teams today, who indicated that their dogs were discovering cadavers that are far buried under the rubble. It will take days or weeks before we have the equipment to get in there to even begin recovering some of these victims.

ALLEN: Right, that's so very sad because they've been saying that the numbers will go up. We know that so many people are missing.

You served, as you said, as a United States Marine. You, served in Iraq and Afghanistan, can you compare what you see in war-torn countries to countries like this, that have been ravaged by a natural disaster?

WOOD: I think it's a little bit difficult in some ways to draw a comparison. But in other ways they are strikingly similar. I was just having a conversation with our teams today. Just the lack of quality information, the poor levels of communication, the lack of resources. All of these things are compounding on a already disastrous scenario.

So in some ways you have that fog of war scenario that follows after a disaster that does make it strikingly similar. You have to be able to cut through that chaos in order to operate effectively in an environment like. That. I think that's one of the things that our organization does. Particularly well.

ALLEN: I'm sure they're really thankful that you and your teams are there. We appreciate talking to you and what you are the best with your work, Jake Wood, thank you, Jake.

WOOD: Of course, thank you.

ALLEN: Another one of the amazing groups that are there helping.

The United States said they've now evacuated 1,400 people from the Bahamas. A cruise ship took them to a port in Florida on Saturday. CNN's Rosa Flores was there.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The port of Palm Beach turned into a reunification Saturday as evacuees reunited with family and with friends. They embraced and they hugged. They shed tears here where I'm standing as the evacuees disembarked from this humanitarian ship.

We asked many of them if they would like to share their stories. Most of them said no. But they really did not have to tell us their story. We can tell and we can feel their pain just by looking into their bloodshot eyes.

Some people did share their stories, like Pat Aller (ph). She is 83 years old and she describes the horrors of the hurricane. She says that she lived there alone and, at the height of the storm, she had to use the walls to get around because it was so dark.

And then there is Ceva Seymour. She says she and her husband add to use ropes and nails and hammers that they had around the house to cinch down their roof to make sure it did not fly away.

CEVA SEYMOUR, DORIAN SURVIVOR: It was very intense, you could not sleep, I prayed a lot and I asked God to calm the storm, because you can imagine, you can see that outside of your roof being lifted. It was really dramatic and I don't want to go through that ever again.

FLORES: Ceva Seymour and so many others say that their hearts and their minds are with the people who were left behind in the Bahamas. And, of course, there are still so many people missing.

I met one woman here who is looking for her sister and has not heard from her since Monday. So as the search and rescue efforts continue in the Bahamas, so does the pain of the people who not only are still there but have made it to dry ground -- Rosa Flores, CNN, Palm Beach County, Florida.


ALLEN: People no doubt are so relieved to be out of the Bahamas now.



ALLEN: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I will be right back with our top stories.




ALLEN: Back with our top stories for you.