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Cuomo Prime Time

Biden Vows To Get Americans Home From Afghanistan; Pentagon Walks Back Biden's Claim al Qaeda Is "Gone"; Source: Full FDA Approval Of Pfizer Vaccine "As Early As Monday". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 20, 2021 - 21:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You know, Anderson? You have a big night, tomorrow night, with the concert.

But I am looking at the storm track. There is a chance that you and I maybe spending some quality time together, on Sunday, maybe even Monday, depending on how hard this hits.


CUOMO: You know? Just to--

COOPER: I'd love to see you. But I hope that's not true.

CUOMO: I know. Well look, we could find a better occasion.

But the last real hurricane that hit was a Category 3, was in 1938.

COOPER: I know. I know all about it. And it killed a lot of people in West Hampton.

CUOMO: Yes. The Long Island - right, right, right. You know the area well. The Long Island Express Hurricane, they called it, went up into New England, it created the inlets that are now all the way down the island, you know?

COOPER: I know. I learned that (ph).

CUOMO: Moriches, Shinnecock, Montauk. So, hopefully, this is nothing like that. It'll be a tropical storm.


CUOMO: But this has people on edge, and we're watching it, obviously.


CUOMO: And we will see. And I'll be watching you tomorrow night, my brother. Be well.

COOPER: All right, you too. CUOMO: All right, I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

There are two things I'd like to make clear.

One, to all the veterans, who question what this withdrawal from Afghanistan means, about your incredible sacrifices, first, please know this. We have been safer because of you. Thank you.

I've covered this war against an idea, since 9/11. I was there that day. I was scared in a way I never thought I could be.

I watched you, in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan, from there, and here. If I were told in 2001, that they would not get us again, in any major way, for close to 20 years, I would have never believed it.

But your work, your commitment, your sacrifice, you, your brothers, your sisters, your families, was a huge pillar and the bulwark of protection for this entire country. It is hard to see how we would have ever been this safe, this long, if you had not done what was done, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

Now, it remains to be seen how the Biden administration can keep America as safe without a presence there. That is worth concern and hand wringing.

But please, have our gratitude and know that you made a difference.

We have all these polls that made what's happening in Afghanistan, the reality, right? Always get six, seven, out of 10 Americans saying they want out.

I wonder if the polls had asked the question this way. "Do you want America, out of Afghanistan, if it means you will be vulnerable to attack at home?" I wonder where we would be today. I wonder if Trump would have jumped at the chance to dump the Afghan government, and do a deal with the Taliban. I don't know.

But we are where we are now. And it is not going well. And it is not on Donald Trump's watch. It is on Joe Biden's watch. This is his problem.

All week, I have been hard on the Administration and President Biden. I told you, neither party is going to get a pass here. I told you, wait and see. Here we are.

This administration has not had the urgency, nor the answers, needed. They have lacked the head and frankly, the heart. That, said, people who see this as a failure are getting ahead of things. We don't know how this is going to end up. But it's just not going well.

This had better be a wake-up call for Joe Biden. The Media and his party have done him no favors this week. Will the Democrats have his back the way the GOP had Trump's back, in low moments? Nope. Not judging by this week. So, he had better rise to this occasion. And today, once again, President Joe Biden did not. Case in point, the Defense Secretary told Members of Congress today that the Taliban is beating Americans, trying to get to the airport. That squares with our reporting on the ground that you'll hear in a second.

But it did not square with what we heard from the President today.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Since I spoke to you, on Monday, we've made significant progress.

We're in constant contact with the Taliban, working to ensure civilians have safe passage to the airport.

Where we have been - seen challenges with Americans - for Americans, we have thus far been able to resolve them.


CUOMO: Resolve? Nothing is resolved. The concern is whether the White House has the resolve that we need right now.

In fact, a concern that I voiced earlier this week has been confirmed. The White House doesn't even know how many Americans are still in Afghanistan let alone how to get them all out.

Listen to the President's answer to an obvious question of if Americans are getting through.


BIDEN: We have no indication that they haven't been able to get, in Kabul, through the airport. We've made an agreement with the - with the Taliban. Thus far, they've allowed them to go through. It's in their interest for them to go through.


So, we know of no circumstance where American citizens are - carrying an American passport - are trying to get through to the airport.

I thought the question was how can they get through to the airport outside the airport?

Now, that's a different question, when they get into the rush and crowd of all the folks, just outside the wall, near the airport. That's why we had to, I guess, ye- - was it yesterday, or the day before, we went over the wall, and brought in - how many?


BIDEN: A 169 Americans. So, it is a process.


CUOMO: Look, let's be honest, it's not a great answer. It's not really a straight answer.

The straight answer is from CNN' reporter on the ground, listen.




WARD: Working out how to get into this airport is like a Rubik's Cube.

I can't get into the details of how we did get in. But it's very difficult, thousands of people crashing into each other, Taliban fighters, with truncheons and whips, pushing people back, shots being fired, into the air.

Anyone who says that any American can get in here is, you know? Yes, I mean, technically, it's possible. But it's extremely difficult. And it is dangerous.


CUOMO: Our embassy is closed. But the officials, who are working at the airport, in Kabul, keep warning Americans quote, "Please use your best judgment and attempt to enter the airport at any gate that is open." Keyword, "Attempt."

But again, President Biden offered assurances that all will be fine.


BIDEN: Let me be clear. Any American, who wants to come home, we will get you home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you commit to the same commitment - would you make the same commitment to bring out Afghans, who assisted in the war effort?

BIDEN: Yes. Yes. We're making the same commitment. There's no one more important than bringing American citizens out. I acknowledge that. But they're equally important, almost, is all those who - those "SIVs," we call them, who, in fact, helped us.


CUOMO: By the way, it has taken until today, for the President, to say it as plainly as that, "Yes, all Americans get out. Yes, the people we made our promise too, get out." Should have been that way from jump!

Now, the reality, we're not walking the walk, right? At least he's talking the talk now. These panicked Afghans, outside, they're waiting for evacuation. Closed gate, at the U.S.-controlled side of the Kabul airport.

They made it through two Taliban checkpoints, in order to get to where they are here. Then they arrived, the gate was closed, why? They can't handle the flow. There was a big backlog today, as many as 10,000 were processed.

Now, let's stop for a second amazing work by the men and women on the ground. Once again, once again, this is not about our men and women in uniform. They deserve only respect.

They don't have the numbers. There was no plan given to them. And they're figuring it out. Processing 10,000 people today, they're doing the job. Are they getting support? Are they getting plans? I don't know.

What I do know is no flights went out, for many hours today, because there was nowhere to take them, until the Pentagon could find countries that would accept them.

However, one message we heard today, from the President of the United States, was exactly right. And here it is.


BIDEN: The only country in the world capable of projecting this much power, on the far side of the world, with this degree of precision, is the United States of America.


CUOMO: He's right. But is America proving that right now? No.

A voice in this storm, calling for calm, all week, has been a former CIA Counterterrorism official, who played a big role, in forming the now-fallen Afghan government, Mr. Phil Mudd.

Good to see you, brother. You used an analogy early in the week.


CUOMO: "Don't say the race is over. It's not fair. The first couple of laps have gone lousy."

MUDD: Yes.

CUOMO: Now, we're a bunch of laps into the race. How are we looking?

MUDD: Chapter two.

Look, chapter one, the government was caught off-guard. The throughput at the airport was slow. The numbers of people not only getting into the airport, but getting on airplanes, if you're talking about 2,000 people a day, that's pathetic.

We've gone into chapter two, over the last 24 hours, 48 hours, in two regards. Number one, as you mentioned, in your intro, the President of the United States is in front on this, acknowledging in some cases that it hasn't gone well.

And more important, the throughput on the ground, the number of people in the airport, the number of people outside, you're talking 5,000, 6,000, 7,000 people, pretty good. That said, Chris, that's an optimistic look.


Let me give you a different perspective. We've been focused on one piece of this puzzle. How many people get into the airport, and how many people get out? Not the piece to focus on. We've lost time.

The piece you need to focus on is does the sort of tenuous agreement with the Taliban hold, if they decide tomorrow, that they want to shut down the airport?

If there's a food fight, in downtown Kabul, if there's a helicopter from the U.S. Military, that's picking up people, as we saw today, that gets fired on, by an RPG, we're in trouble.

The days we lost are precious. We're getting more throughput. But I just hope that the agreement on the other side with the Taliban holds. I'm not sure, Chris.

CUOMO: Question. Why all this respect for the Taliban? Why isn't the state of play this?

"Listen, we need the Bagram Base back. We got to get these people out. If you say no, we're coming back. And we're coming hard and heavy. And we got a president, who's going to need this, to redeem his reputation, which means it's going to get ugly, and it's going to get ugly, early."

What is all this, "Will they keep the agreement? Will they be nice? Will they let us?"

MUDD: No way.

CUOMO: Come on!

MUDD: No, no way. No how, no way. Let me give you a couple of reasons why.

Number one, I've flown into Bagram. It is not close to Kabul.

CUOMO: True.

MUDD: You're going to force people to make a major transit, up north, to territory that's owned by the Taliban.

Number two, there are thousands of people, I don't know, how many, Americans that I can explain to you. I understand why the Americans don't know how many people are there.

There could have been people, who showed up without registering with the U.S. Embassy. I don't know how many Americans are there. I don't know how many SIVs, Special Immigrant Visas, people who worked with the embassy or military, you need to get out?

As soon as you tell the Taliban, "No," they're going to kill people.

So what's your choice, Chris? Is your choice to deal with an organization you don't trust, but hope that within the next 10 days to 15 days, we get people out? Or is your choice to challenge them, and have them go house-to-house, and murder the people who helped us?

I'll tell you the choice I'd make. You got to take a risk. And that risk is let's keep trying to see, if this works. And if it doesn't, we got to go to force. Right now, force is not the right option.

CUOMO: Do you believe that this is a defining moment, in the Presidency of Joe Biden?

MUDD: Not yet. The question on September 1st, on September 15th, will be "Did we get tens of thousands of people out, American citizens, friends of America, the people who supported the Pentagon and others? Did we get those people out? Did we get them out relatively safely?"

If we got out 50,000, 75,000, 100,000 people, with the French, with the Germans, with the U.K., in a year or two's time, people are going to say "That's an incredible success. I don't remember if it took four days, eight days, 10 days."

Let me give you one simple parallel. I'm not talking about in seriousness. I'm talking about an American mindset.

The Affordable Care Act, the only conversation when that started was the website sucked, and nobody could get insurance. Today, the only conversation is, is universal insurance, or is the Affordable Care Act good for America? People have forgotten the disaster of the introduction of the Affordable Care Act.

People will forget this, if we get immigrants and Americans out. Right now, I'm not sure.

CUOMO: I hear you, except people not getting insurance is hardship. People getting dragged through the streets strong-armed--

MUDD: No, I agree--

CUOMO: --decapitated? We know who these people are.

MUDD: I agree.

CUOMO: We're treating them like "Oh, they want legitimacy."

MUDD: But the American mindset is short.

CUOMO: "They got to run things now."

These are not people that you can trust in any level. Nobody knows it better than you. Phil Mudd, you've been on it. You've been right.

MUDD: Yes. CUOMO: And you have the right take. I'm testing you. That's my job. But I trust you. And thank you.

MUDD: Don't test me, Chris!

I'll see you later.

CUOMO: Later.

All right, now we're talking about the Taliban. Why do I push Phil on the idea of negotiating with them, trusting them, hoping they keep their word? Because they don't.

In fact, there are too many of us who believe "Hey, look, you know? Look, we got to let this country do what it's going to do on its own." A lot of these people, the Taliban, are not from Afghanistan, OK? The organization has a long history. You have to know.

And really, I've been remiss, but we've been in the moment. I did this when we started this war, telling you who the Taliban was, showing you them in Pakistan. You need to know, who you're dealing with, and who's taken over Afghanistan, and it's not a bunch of concerned Afghan citizens.

Richard Clarke is back tonight, to take us inside, these groups that, calls themselves the "Students," next.









CUOMO: We're going to be dealing with what happens in Afghanistan for a long time. That's the way it is. That includes the reason that we went there, al Qaeda.

The President, saying this.


BIDEN: Look, let's put this thing in perspective here. What interest do we have in Afghanistan, at this point, with al Qaeda gone?


CUOMO: There's always another group. The Taliban gave way to al Qaeda, gave way to ISIS.

You're fighting an idea, right? Terror is a function of religious extremism that is borne of poverty, hardship, giving somebody a reason to believe in something about their lives, which too often is animus. That's what we're fighting. The group is almost irrelevant.

So, an hour later, after he said that, the Pentagon had to clean it up.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We know that al Qaeda is a presence as well as ISIS in Afghanistan.

What - what we don't think is that - what we believe is that there isn't a presence that is significant enough to merit a threat to our homeland, as there was back on 9/11, 20 years ago.


CUOMO: Yes, he's right. John Kirby, he's solid guy. He knows what he's talking about, straight-shooter.


But the reason it's tamped down, is because we were there. Now, that, we're not there, there will be festering, especially if it's up to the Taliban. They have no interest in doing anything right by us. They're not a bunch of concerned citizens.

So, let's get into what is going to happen in the "Graveyard of Empires," Afghanistan, with a man, who has advised multiple presidents on the region, Richard Clarke.

Dick, thank you for coming back.

You schooled me on this when I was at ABC News, when we started this, 20 years ago. You gave me a number of books to read, when I first met you about - you won't even remember, because you were doing it for so many of us.

But the idea of what the Taliban is, because I was like, "Well, on Afghanistan," you were like "Read the book!"

The Taliban is not a bunch of people from Afghanistan. You're hearing all the talks from the interpreters about them speaking Kashmiri, and Urdu, and Pashtu.

Who is the Taliban? And what are they about?

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER NATIONAL COORDINATOR FOR SECURITY & COUNTERTERRORISM, FORMER SPECIAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENTS GW BUSH & CLINTON, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNTERTERRORISM SECURITY GROUP, AUTHOR, "AGAINST ALL ENEMIES": Oh, Chris, they began in 1994, when the Pakistani intelligence service wanted to get a group that could defeat all the warlords. Because in 1994, there were like six warlords, in Afghanistan, all fighting each other. And Pakistan wanted one government, and they didn't want any of the warlords to be in charge.

So, they found these religious fanatics. They were going to, some of them were Afghans, but they were going to religious school in Pakistan. And they trained them. They equipped them. They ran them.

And they gave them this technique of going into a city, negotiating with the warlords, negotiating with the troops there, paying them off, and then moving into the city without the fight. And they did that really quickly. And they took over the whole country.

Sound familiar?

CUOMO: Very!

Now, the idea is "Well," I heard last night, from one of the main negotiators, during the Trump administration, with the Taliban, "Well, they really want to be taken seriously now, you know? They want to run this country. They're going to be amenable to making deals. They're going to want aid."

Since when?

CLARKE: Yes, they don't care about international standards.

And what they want is to have control over their country, so they can bring it back to the 14th Century. And they will. They will. As soon as we get out of there, and as soon as the press turns its attention elsewhere, they will bring it back to the 14th Century.

They will also allow al Qaeda. And I know - I know Admiral Kirby, and I respect him a lot. But I have to disagree with him, when he says "There aren't enough al Qaeda in Afghanistan to do what happened on 9/11."

It doesn't take a lot. Yes, there were 10,000 or so al Qaeda in Afghanistan on 9/11. But they're only 19 hijackers. The infrastructure needed to do that kind of operation is in the hundreds, not the thousands.

And I think Kirby made it pretty clear. We don't know how many al Qaeda guys are in Afghanistan today. And we won't.

CUOMO: We know a bunch of them was just released.

CLARKE: But one thing we can be sure of--

CUOMO: We know a bunch were just released out of the prison there.

CLARKE: Exactly.

CUOMO: By the Taliban.

CLARKE: You stole my line! Absolutely. We know one thing for sure. There are a bunch that were just released, and are mad as hell, at us, for having locked them up for years. And we also know that the Taliban will help them because the Taliban hasn't changed its stripes, since the mid-1990s.

Al Qaeda formed a military brigade, the 55th Brigade that fought side- by-side, with the Taliban, to take over the country. These two organizations are glued at the hip. And just as the Taliban has come back, like the phoenix from the ashes, I bet you they have in mind that al Qaeda will too.

CUOMO: How long until you and I are taken back in time to 2005/2006/2007/2008, where it was all about trying to figure out what's happening in Afghanistan, that there are threats being targeted, there are new leaders, there are new mullahs, saying "We're coming for the United States."

CLARKE: Yes, I think that's going to happen, regrettably. And I think it's going to happen probably next year. And we will not have people on the ground. We will not have the kind of Intelligence infrastructure that we've had for the last 20 years.

I know the President says he's going to have some magical over-the- horizon capability. But I know what our magical capabilities are, and they're not that good. We're not really going to have the kind of Intelligence, where you need, to stop training terrorists there, or to stop plotting attacks, around the world, from there.


CUOMO: Richard Clarke, as always. Literally, 20 years, we have been doing this. And we'll see how this next chapter is written. Thank you for the help, as always.

CLARKE: Thank you.

CUOMO: I should tell you something. 20 years, we're back dealing with the same group in charge. And again, they are not concerned citizens of Afghanistan, who want to make the place a better place, not who they are, not who they'll ever be.

The President says he stands by his commitment to evacuate those, who helped us, and their families. Can he? We have another former Afghan interpreter tonight, who wants to tell you what it is like, for the people there, who are trying to get out.

If you want these people to get out, you must keep the energy of caring about their stories. Next.








CUOMO: Amid the chaos, President Biden continues to highlight his promise to not only get all the Americans out, not that they know how many there are, but our Allies as well. Listen.


BIDEN: There's no one more important than bringing American citizens out. I acknowledge that. But they're equally important, almost, is all those who - those "SIVs," we call them, who, in fact, helped us. They were translators. They went into battle with us. They were part of the operation.


CUOMO: He's right!

My next guest is a man, who interpreted for the U.S. forces, in Afghanistan. And he is clinging to that promise.

Right now, his parents, his five sisters, his brother, his 2-month-old nephew, are all trapped in Kabul. He's been talking to them daily, and knows the reality on the ground.

And he joins us now to give us more insight into what they're actually seeing what the reality is, OK? We're going to call him "Ahmad," to protect his identity.

It's good to have you with us.


CUOMO: Why use a fake name when I can use no name?

Tell me this. What is your family telling you about the reality of their safety, and what they are learning about the Taliban's plans?

"AHMAD": Well Chris, they are afraid there for their lives. Every day, they're living in fear.

They're getting different rumors, different reports, that Taliban are searching houses, finding out the people, who they worked, and helping anyhow, United States government, especially the Armed Forces, in last 20 years, they're getting them out.

And there are reports, there are news around, they're getting all kind of these reports in, and also, news from different people that they are searching for people. They are really, really concerned. And I'm concerned here. They are not so last--

CUOMO: You are in the United States. Explain to people why you have the type of fear that you have for yourself, that you're wearing a mask, not because of COVID. You're wearing a mask to conceal your identity. Why?

"AHMAD": That's correct, Chris, because we know who Talibans are, and who - what they have done in the past, you know?

We're not going to just fall into their games, or their game that they say, "You know, what? We are not going to touch or punish or harm anybody because we took over the power, and everybody's safe. They can live their life." I will say this, Chris, this is a lie.

We know who Talibans are. They have been beheaded soldiers, who hand over themselves to them, 20 days ago. They put their weapons down. Despite their promise, they shot all of them dead. So, we cannot trust this regime. We cannot trust this terrorist group at all. Period!

CUOMO: That's what you heard about what happened to Afghan soldiers there?

"AHMAD": Correct. That's what I heard.

CUOMO: What do you think about what the United States is trying to do right now?

"AHMAD": What I'm hearing, what I'm seeing is evacuation is great. But I think we need to find a better way of evacuating these people.

All those crowd that we see out there, there are two different type of people, or three different types, citizens, immigrants, and the people who they have, approved cases. But then we have got the fourth type of people that they have no documentations, no nothing, they just want to get out of the country.

So, we have to have a better way to take care of those people, who they really helped the United States of America. Their families are in danger. We have to act soon, fast, find out ways we can help them out.

CUOMO: What is your biggest nightmare for your family that are still there?

"AHMAD": Not being able to see them again, that's my biggest fear.

CUOMO: And how real is that fear in your mind?

"AHMAD": Oh, real 100 percent real. In the last couple of days, I've had just a little bit of sleep. Every night, I sleep only two hours or three hours. I'm keep calling them non-stop, to find out how they're doing.

CUOMO: Listen, I've been saying this, and I mean it every time. Thank you for your service to this country. I hope the country keeps its promise.

"AHMAD": Thanks.

CUOMO: And I know they told you when you said that you'd help that "Don't worry. We know they'll come from your family. They are part of the package. They'll help you as well."

I hope they keep their promise, and I hope it happens, and I'll cover it all the way through.

And I'll give you my number, so you can check in with me and let me know what's happening, OK?

"AHMAD": Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right brother, we'll do it in the break. I'll be right back.

"AHMAD": Yes.

CUOMO: On the COVID front, the FDA is about to announce news that could get many more people vaccinated, all right? So, stick for that.


Plus, we have a fresh dose of COVIDiocy. A very smart politician, who could have a huge future, is making a bet that I just don't understand. Next.








CUOMO: Good news! White House insiders tell us full approval of Pfizer's COVID vaccine could happen "As early as Monday."

Why does that matter, when you'll hear all these experts on this show, and others, say, "Well, we know everything we need to know. It's safe. It's safe." Because it matters to people.

In every bit of polling, I've seen, it's almost 50 percent of people, who are vaccine-hesitant, who say, if it were FDA-approved, it would make a difference. And that's especially true, when it comes to giving it to their kids.

Of course, it's been a long time coming. More than 91 million people have already been fully vaccinated with the two-dose Pfizer shot.


So, let's discuss what this could mean, how big the impact could be.

Dr. Leana Wen, thank you for joining me, especially on a Friday.

What would it mean to you, in terms of how it could drive, acceptance of the vaccine, among adults, kids and for any booster?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST, FORMER BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER, ER PHYSICIAN, AUTHOR, "LIFELINES": I think this is really huge news, Chris. And it's a long time coming.

I think a lot of us have been wondering, why is it, taking the FDA so long. And I really hope that it's true that on Monday, they're going to announce that the vaccine is finally, officially, formally, fully approved.

There are two main reasons why this would really help.

One is that there are businesses, colleges, schools, that are still a bit hesitant about requiring vaccinations. They are uncertain about the legal aspects. They keep on saying, "Well, when we have full approval, we'll go that step." So, it'll help them to increase vaccinations that way.

And the other thing too, is to your point, we do have a lot of polls showing that people are somehow, this label of "Emergency Use," they are uncertain about. And perhaps, if now we have a label of that "Full approval," we can say "This vaccine should be treated no differently than any other vaccine that we routinely get anyway."

CUOMO: What does the Pfizer approval mean for people like you, who got the J&J single-shot?

WEN: Well, it doesn't mean anything, officially. But I think it could actually mean a lot practically.

And what I mean is that right now, under Emergency Use Authorization, a physician technically cannot be prescribing the vaccine to our patients, off-label.

For other medications, even if our patients don't meet the exact qualifications, of that particular medication, we're able to prescribe it. We're able to use our clinical judgment. And as long as there's a medication that's fully approved, by the FDA, we can prescribe it to our patients.

When these - when these vaccines are officially approved, fully approved, by the FDA, we can actually treat those the same way. And so, a patient who got a one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, could in theory, then be, prescribed a Pfizer second dose, by their doctor.

Right now, we know that tens of thousands of J&J recipients have already gone out, and have gotten a second dose. But they've had to sneak around. Sometimes, they had to go find different pharmacy chains, or even cross state lines. Now, they could go to their doctor. Their doctor can use their clinical judgment, and prescribe this medication, this vaccine.

CUOMO: I want you to listen to what Florida's governor said today.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think it absolutely was something that was underutilized.

People don't know, or not as many know, of the people that have been admitted to hospitals, for COVID, over 90 percent of them didn't get the monoclonal antibody treatment. And so, I think that if all of them had done it, or most of them had done it, I think those admissions would have been much less.


CUOMO: Your take?

WEN: Well, the governor is not wrong, in some respects, although I think that his point is it actually shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how medicine works.

So, monoclonal antibodies are a type of treatment. They are really helpful for a small subset of patients, people who have mild to moderate disease. Early on, in the course of their illness, if they get this infusion treatment, it prevents them potentially from being severely ill, ending up at the hospital.

So, having this treatment available is really good. The thing is, though, that's not what's going to stop the surge of COVID-19. This is a highly contagious disease. Treatment alone is not enough. You have to prevent people from getting this disease, and spreading it to others.

CUOMO: Equating--

WEN: What works in this case are masks and vaccines.

CUOMO: Equating the antibody treatment with the vaccine is wrong?

WEN: Absolutely. One is prevention. That's the vaccine. The antibody treatment is treatment. Somebody already got infected with COVID-19. Maybe they infected a whole bunch of other people during the time that they were contagious.

I mean, you got to do both. If somebody is ill, of course, you have to treat them. But, at the end of the day, what's going to stop the surge are exactly what Governor DeSantis is not doing, which is mandating indoor masks, and requiring vaccinations.

CUOMO: Yes, I really don't understand his play.

And again, people underestimate DeSantis the same way they did Trump. But really, DeSantis has a hell of a better pedigree. I mean, this guy is a veteran. He's served at a high level, as a lawyer. He's Ivy- League-educated. Not a dumb guy, he's a smart guy. And I'm really wondering, what is, his play, here, by saying things like this?

Dr. Leana Wen, thank you for your take. Appreciate you.

WEN: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, so look, you want to talk a little politics? It's Friday. Why not?

Pandemic, Afghanistan, bad for Biden's approval numbers, why? And what does it mean? How does it compare with where former presidents were, when it comes to let's say, a war-exit?

Let's bring in the "Wizard of Odds," because this is a big moment, in this administration, next.










BIDEN: There'll be plenty of time to criticize and second-guess when this operation is over. But now, now, I'm focused on getting this job done.

When this is finished, we will complete our military withdrawal, and finally bring to an end, 20 years of American military action, in Afghanistan.


CUOMO: He's not even dealing with the hard part yet. This was supposed to be the easy part. The hard part is keeping America safe without a presence there. 20 years, since 9/11, this September, we haven't had another major attack. Can we keep that going?

The President may be remembered for accomplishing something his past - his predecessors could not, getting out of Afghanistan. But how will that be judged?

Let's bring in "The Wiz," Harry Enten. I know the President would like everybody to withhold judgment. But that's not how politics works, especially in this environment. What do we see in the trend line?


HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I mean, look, you look at his overall job approval rating, and it's going down. His approval rating was so steady, was historically steady, in the mid-50s, through the first six months in his presidency.

Over the last few months, we have seen a decline, even before the withdrawal, from Afghanistan. But even within the last 20 days, we see that approval rating, in the average, drop 2 points. And if you look at individual polls, you'll see an even larger drop.

So, there's no question in my mind as we look at the data that the American reaction to this has been negative, and it has been hurting Biden's approval rating.

CUOMO: Look, first, he was benefiting from low expectations, because he was coming off Trump.

5 points is not that big a deal. But, as you say, it had been steady. And the question is where does it go from here? How might the crisis in Afghanistan affect him, in terms of eight months, 10 months, down the road?

ENTEN: Yes, I mean, one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that the American mind can move on to different issues very, very, very quickly.

So, if you look at Biden's foreign policy approval rating, right now, it stands at 41 percent. And that's after the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

But you look back at other withdrawal, say, from Iraq, with Barack Obama, it was 48 percent. Not that high. He still won reelection.

Remember, when George H. W. Bush, "We won the Gulf War," his approval rating on foreign policy was 83 percent. He didn't win reelection.

And you might recall, when Ronald Reagan withdrew some peacekeeping troops, from Lebanon, after the bombing there, his approval rating on foreign policy was just 39 percent, in February of 1984. And then he easily went on to win reelection.

So, the thing that I would keep in mind right now is yes, Biden's approval rating is dropping. But that doesn't really mean too much, a year from now, or eight months, 10 months down the line. A lot of things can change. The American mind can move very, very quickly from one issue to another.

CUOMO: And if you want as - all the different chefs in the kitchen, when it comes to Afghanistan, Ronald Reagan is at the beginning of that list, in terms of who started putting money into that situation that created bad guys.

Biden's handling of COVID, now, how is that a balancing fact for him, right now, in the midst of Afghanistan?

ENTEN: This to me is interesting, right, because Biden's biggest strength was his reaction to the Coronavirus. Remember, it was his number one issue, over Donald Trump, last year, in the election.

And his approval on this has been so high. It was 60 percent, 61 percent, 62 percent, most of this year.

But look at it now. It's been declining the last few months. It's now just at 52 percent, in the average.

So, what you essentially have is sort of this, dare I say, use a term, this hurricane force, of multiple different issues that are coming together, where you have the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which people don't approve of, where all of a sudden you see that his approval rating on the Coronavirus is dropping.

And I think those two combined is creating a storm, whereby his overall approval rating is dropping. So, the recent drop, I wouldn't just prescribe to that withdrawal from Afghanistan. I would also say it partially has to do with people not approving as highly of Biden, on the Coronavirus.

CUOMO: In terms of quick fixes, COVID is going to be really his opportunity. If he were to be stronger on mandates, stronger on going after the governors, would it matter?

ENTEN: It could. It could. And I tell you, right now, the number one factor, in my mind, when I keep looking at things that are driving people's opinion, on the Coronavirus, is fear. It's fear, Chris.

And you can see right here, what you see is the percentage of Americans, who are extremely or very worried about getting a COVID-19 infection, is up significantly, since June. It's nearly doubled. We're basically back where we were at the beginning of the Biden administration, at 43 percent.

So, anything that Biden can do, to help drive down the fears, keep those fears at a lower level, I think could raise his overall approval ratings. And this, to me, is the number one thing, going forward, because the Coronavirus consistently, over the last year, has been a top issue.

Even once the situation in Afghanistan, hopefully, we get to a better place there, the Coronavirus is not going away. That to me is the thing that I would keep my eyeballs on. And more than that, we know the case levels are continuing to rise. So, even once Afghanistan goes away, as perhaps as an issue, Coronavirus will still be there.

CUOMO: That's why the fear is going back up, because Delta variant is all over the place. It's 99 percent of transmissions. And the cases are popping all over the place. But remember what I said, Harry. If you speak to the people, who are afraid, most of them are the vaccinated, that's the new constituency. That's the "Us" and the "Them" in this country. The vaccinated and the unvaccinated, that's who he needs to speak to.

Harry Enten, have a good weekend. Stay out of the storm.

ENTEN: I'm going to stay out. You stay out of the storm. I'll keep you up to date with the texts with the forecast. You know I'm an amateur meteorologist. I went to weather camp, back in the day!

CUOMO: My job is to either be the storm or be in the storm. So, I'll see you this weekend.

We'll be right back.









CUOMO: We are tracking Tropical Storm Henri, which is strengthening, could become the first hurricane, to strike New England, in 30 years. We don't know that that's going to happen. We'll know a lot better tomorrow.

Of course, if you live in the area, as I do, pay attention to the local officials. They'll know best. Do what you have to do. Better safe than sorry.

Right now, we see sustained winds of 70 miles an hour. Could bring flooding, how many? Four inches, six inches, 10 inches, some people say. We don't know. We'll know better tomorrow. But we do know this. We're not very spongy, out east, right, on Long Island? We get wet. We get wet fast.

I will be on the air, as Henri bears down, on New York's Long Island. So, stay with CNN, for the very latest.

Again, we will know better tomorrow, what's happening, but you must prepare as soon as possible. Better safe than sorry.

Thank you for watching. It's been a hell of a week!

The catch-up right now with "DON LEMON TONIGHT," you are lucky, you get the upgrade! Laura Coates, in for D. Lemon right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Hey, how are you?

I can't believe the idea that just doesn't let up. I mean, now a hurricane. We're all watching this. I mean, I hope people heed your warning, Chris, "Better safe than sorry." It's scary. It's a scary time.