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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

U.S. Diplomats Warned In July Of Need To Evacuate Afghan Allies; U.S. Military Commanders Are In Constant Communication With Taliban Militants Around Kabul Airport; Sources: Local Staff At U.S. Kabul Embassy Who Could Make It To The Airport Arrived Bloody, Mentally Distraught; Bomb Threat Suspect Surrenders After Standoff Near U.S. Capitol; Texas Democrats' Effort To Freeze Voting Bill Ends; Three Senators Test Positive For COVID-19; Judge Allows Lawsuit Over Gov. DeSantis' Order Banning Mask Mandates In School. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 19, 2021 - 20:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We begin tonight with nine seconds of video that speaks to the chaos and desperation in Afghanistan. Take a look.


COOPER: What you see happened to the airport perimeter in Kabul, that's a baby being handed to American troops on top of the wall. We can't say much more about it than that. We don't know why the child was handed over nor do we know where the child's parents are or if they were in the crowd. We asked The Pentagon for comment, we haven't heard back.

We've got breaking news as well, new details of negotiations between the top American commander in Afghanistan and his Taliban counterpart. To be clear, these are not the ongoing talks between diplomats in Qatar. This is a Rear Admiral, a Navy SEAL speaking directly with the Taliban seeking a way to secure the evacuation of Americans and presumably Afghans from the country.

Also tonight, new reporting on a group of American diplomats who foresaw the chaos unfolding today. We will tell you about the extraordinary action they took to warn their boss, the Secretary of State that the situation in Afghanistan could rapidly deteriorate and that they feared a catastrophe, which is exactly what came to pass, which exactly why the Biden administration is scrambling and why it is now necessary to negotiate with the Taliban, and why despite evacuation efforts speeding up, some of the growing number of transport planes are leaving Kabul less than full. People who want to leave simply cannot safely get through Taliban checkpoints to the airport.

Senior Pentagon officials have made it clear they're not going into Kabul to get Afghans or even Americans nor do officials, and this is remarkable, even know how many Americans, let alone Afghans who are still in the country. When asked today, Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, wouldn't say. He wouldn't give a number.


REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.) PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I do not have a breakdown. I suspect that over time, as our manifesting process gets more refined, we may be able to be that -- be there, but we don't have that specific breakdown.

QUESTION: John, today, how many Americans -- American citizens remain in Afghanistan?

KIRBY: I don't know.


COOPER: When asked the same question, neither would the State Department spokesman.


QUESTION: How many more Americans left in Afghanistan? This was raised in Pentagon and they referred to come to the State?

NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, we have been consistent in explaining that in every country, Americans register with the embassy. So, it's a voluntary -- it's a voluntary thing.


COOPER: As for Afghans as you saw at the top, many are beyond desperation. One man who had worked at the embassy for years and has been notified he was eligible for evacuation got stuck for hours with his family in crowds near the airport. He waited with them for hours fearing for their lives, their two-year-old son growing dehydrated, "I decided," he said, "I would rather the Taliban shoot me in the head to be stuck in that situation."

It's hard to imagine this country or any country couldn't have done better for him, his family, and so many others.

More now on the attempt, now, sadly necessary to salvage the situation, the talks with the Taliban. CNN's Natasha Bertrand joins us now with details.

So Natasha, what more do you know about how the U.S. is dealing with the Taliban?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Anderson, so the top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan on the ground in Kabul has been communicating with the Taliban Commander, his counterpart, essentially in the Taliban, at least once a day trying to ensure that Americans are able to get to the airport safely, trying to ensure that there are no major issues with Westerners in particular, getting through and getting to the airport and getting on flights.

But that, of course, has had mixed results, right? We're seeing reports of Afghans not being allowed to get to the airport, even though U.S. officials say that part of what the U.S. Commander there has been discussing with the Taliban is to allow those Afghans to get to the airport. We are seeing the Taliban has essentially set up a perimeter outside the airport, and that seems to be part of the understanding right now between the U.S. and the Taliban.

The US stays inside the airport, secures the airfield, and the Taliban can pretty much do what it wants outside of the airfield. Right? I mean, this is something that U.S. officials have been emphasizing for days that they are working diplomatically with these Taliban Commanders to try to find a solution here, but that ultimately -- that's really the most that they can do.

So, the U.S. has no intention right now in these talks with the Taliban, to inform them that they are going to be fanning out across the city and trying to pick up people and bring them back to the airport. And on top of all of this, the former Ambassador to Afghanistan is arriving in Kabul to also help in talks with the Taliban and ensure that safe passage of Americans and Afghans to the airport.

But again, really chaotic, right now. The Taliban seems to have pretty much free rein outside of that airport and outside of the airfield. Lawmakers have really stark questions this morning for U.S. officials from State, Defense, and the National Security Council, who emphasized, look, the U.S. mission right now is just to secure the airport, and that seems to be the Taliban expectation as well.


COOPER: Has the U.S. given any actual number of Afghans who either have already been approved for a visa? Or -- and have one or are in the pipeline to do it? Do we know an actual number and also including their family members? And is there actually -- I mean, is that part of the active discussion about Afghans or is it simply about Americans?

BERTRAND: Well, lawmakers just this past weekend were given an estimate by officials that as many as 60,000, Afghans could be eligible for that evacuation, not just the SIV - Special Immigrant Visa applicants who have worked with us in the past, for example, but that includes human rights defenders, activists, journalists, people that might be targets from the Taliban that haven't necessarily worked with the U.S., but would benefit obviously, from getting out of the country. That's as many as 60,000.

As of mid-July or end of July, there were about 20,000 of these Special Immigrant Visa applicants in the pipeline trying to get out of the country. Now, as far as how many have actually gotten out, the State Department has not given us a breakdown really at this point. They say about 7,000 people have been evacuated at this point, but it won't say how many of those are Afghans versus Americans versus others who have been able to get out with their families.

COOPER: Yes, Natasha Bertrand, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Now, the diplomats who feared exactly what we're seeing now and sent their warning weeks ago to the very top of the State Department, CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us now with that. So Kylie, the warning from U.S. diplomats apparently came in mid-July, what have you learned about?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this was a dissent memo written in mid-July by these diplomats in Kabul, urging the Secretary of State that the State Department needed to take more urgent action to process and evacuate these Afghans who had worked alongside U.S. troops and U.S. diplomats, because they were watching what was unfolding on the ground.

They watched the Taliban gains. They predicted that the Afghan government was going to collapse by the time of the U.S. troops' withdrawal. They needed their voices heard, and it is significant that they even wrote this dissent memo in the first place, because it's not the first thing that diplomats do. This is a last ditch effort. It's when they don't feel their voices are being heard, and then they write to the Secretary of State in hopes that their input will implement some changes.

Now, the significance here is that President Biden has been asked about what went wrong, and he is essentially, you know, saying as recently as in that ABC interview, that this was inevitable, that this chaos that we are seeing unfold was going to happen.

But what this dissent memo shows is that these diplomats felt like there was action that could have been taken more rapidly to mitigate at least some of this chaos from unfolding, so that you could get these Afghans out of the country more quickly.

COOPER: Has there been any response from the State Department or Secretary Blinken about this?

ATWOOD: Well, Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer spoke with Wolf Blitzer about it earlier this evening, he acknowledged that this dissent memo did predict that the Afghan government was going to fall by the time of the complete U.S. troop withdrawal, but he also said that, listen, there was also a lot of other folks who were predicting that, no one predicted it was going to happen as quickly as it did. He also said that there were certain aspects of this memo that were implemented.

Now, State Department spokesperson said Secretary of State reads every single dissent memo therefore, of course, he read this one. He reviews the response to it. But as I said, the fact that it was even written is significant, and you can be rest assured that those on the Hill who are looking for answers as to what went wrong here are going to want to review this in detail and see what was done and what wasn't done that these diplomats were suggesting -- Anderson.

COOPER: Kylie Atwood, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Joining us now Ryan Crocker, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq. Ambassador Crocker, I appreciate you being on with us tonight. First of all, the reporting that we got today that the top American Commander is in negotiations with the Taliban to try and secure evacuations.

I'm wondering, does that make sense to you? It seems like a practical thing. Do you think -- would Afghans be included in those negotiations in terms of -- is the -- I mean, obviously, the priority is American citizens, but would it also be about the Afghans?

RYAN CROCKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN, SYRIA, AND IRAQ: I think the Admiral is doing exactly what he should be doing to talk to those on the ground who have the guns. On a narrow agenda, obviously, I would very much hope that the issue of our Special Immigrant Visa folks who are desperate to get out would be covered in any understandings that are reached.


CROCKER: We clearly give priority to our own citizens, but these are -- there are thousands of Afghans with their families, as many as 60,000 that we promised we would get them to safety, but we're not delivering on it, because we aren't ready for the Taliban takeover that we're now forced to deal with.

So, he is doing the right thing. I'm sure he's got his diplomatic power parts with him, and we'll see what happens.

COOPER: Here's what I don't understand, and I'm not sure if it's known at all, but we've heard as many as 60,000, which is the people who directly work for the U.S., but also their family members. Is it people who have already been -- you know, obviously, there's a certain number of people who have gone through this process. This process has often taken years for people. It's been very frustrating for people.

You have, you know, Special Forces veterans who have served with interpreters, vouching for people, and it still takes a long time. Would this just be people who have already been approved for a special visa, or just anybody in the pipeline because it's an emergency situation would be allowed to get on a flight, put somewhere while the paperwork goes through?

Because there's also a lot of the Afghans who are just showing up at the airport with, you know, a letter of appreciation for a job they held on a base somewhere, and obviously have not gone through whatever the process is.

CROCKER: Well, listen, on this particular issue, I'm on the advisory board, the nonprofit called No One Left Behind, our whole mission in life is to get those who have worked with us and risked their lives doing so to get them to safety.

Now, the Special Immigrant Visa process is the process from hell -- 14 complex steps, takes years to adjudicate, but what we have certainly urged is that, anyone that is involved in the process at any stage needs to be evacuated, we can sort the paperwork out later, but it would be unbelievably callous to say, you only got 13 out of 14, not good enough. So we've got to kind of toss the rulebook here and pick it up at the

other end, but the imperative now has got to be get people to safety.

COOPER: Without some sort of negotiation, which seems to be ongoing between the U.S. and the Taliban on the ground, just about the -- even the just the logistics of getting people to the airport safely. I mean, it seems highly unlikely that the U.S. military would -- I talked to Congressman Jason Crow the other day who talked about expanding the perimeter from the airport, perhaps creating kind of better lanes that were guarded by the U.S. into the city. That seems highly unlikely.

I mean, that actually, you know, there's a whole host of risks that would come with that.

CROCKER: Well, sadly, because of our own unprepared this, we are now in a situation in which it is the Taliban calling the shots, literally calling the shots, not us. They have agency, they will decide what they want to do and both want to do.

Clearly, it would be a very dangerous thing to try to expand our perimeter and expand our mission. If the Taliban doesn't agree to it, we could find ourselves in a very bad place and that, of course, is the overall place that the President's precipitous, ill-considered actions have created for us.

So, we've got to find ways to get these folks out and here is the conundrum. So, your Special Immigrant Visa applicant, word reaches you, you get to the airport, will fly out. Well, you get stopped at the Taliban checkpoint and what do you say to the Taliban at the checkpoint? Who say airport is closed, why are you trying to go there?

What do you do? You say, well, it's all arranged. The Americans will fly me out. Here's all my paperwork demonstrating that I work for them and against you, and that if I don't play out, you're going to kill me. Well, that is not a formula for success.

So again, the bad judgment, frankly of President Biden has put a whole lot of folks at unnecessary risk.

COOPER: Does it -- I mean, you've been an ambassador in a number of places. I've traveled a lot to a lot of countries. I've never registered with the Embassy to my knowledge in any of the countries I've visited. So, I'm not surprised that the Embassy wouldn't know how many Americans are necessarily in the country at any one time.

Does it surprise you? I mean, in obviously in a place like Afghanistan is maybe more likely that people would register, but in your experience, do people usually register?


CROCKER: Well, again, it depends on the country, it depends on the individual registrations. Never total up to the actual number in country. But there is a required report several times a year to make about numbers of American citizens, so we kind of know how to do that, count up all our registrations, obviously, but we could normally make a pretty educated guess on numbers of Americans that may not be registered.

So, for the department to say they really don't know that maybe technically true, but actually, I would think they have got a pretty good idea.

COOPER: Interesting. Ambassador Crocker, I really appreciate your expertise, as always. Thank you so much.

CROCKER: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, what the White House is doing to turn the situation around or trying to do and the pressure the administration is now under even from Democrats.

And later, the bomb scare outside the Capitol and what we're learning about the suspect's views, ahead.


COOPER: The State Department -- the Breaking Story tonight on the State Department's dissent memo that was written by diplomats in Kabul in advance of the collapse of the city were expressing concerns about what might happen and needing to speed up the process for getting visas to Afghans. It highlights how deep the hole the Biden administration is in with Afghanistan and cast serious doubt on the notion that this was simply unforeseeable.

The President, as you know, struck a defiant tone yesterday. For the thinking tonight and the behind the scenes action today, we're joined by CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

So we did not hear from the President today. I know you're learning more about what's happening behind closed doors at the White House. What's going on?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He is going to speak on Afghanistan tomorrow, Anderson. This is going to be probably mid-morning. We haven't gotten those schedule from the White House yet.

It's not expected to be as formal of an address as it was on Monday where you heard the President come out and he spoke at length for probably 20 or 25 minutes, not only talking about how this drawdown is going down, but talking about why he felt it was so necessary for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan.

But we will hear from him tomorrow, which is notable because he has not taken questions on it since he did an ABC interview overnight. That was of course talking about what was on the ground, what he was seeing, what their effort was going forward when it came to these evacuations that we're seeing.

So, it will be notable to see the President speak on this tomorrow, and if he does take questions to talk about what has transpired in the last few days.

COOPER: Is there any sense from the President's advisers that for him to get through this crisis, he is going to need to be more straightforward about everything or is that not really a point of discussion?

COLLINS: I think his advisers realized behind the scenes the kind of incoming that they are getting on this and what they are hearing from not just their critics, not just Republicans, but from Democrats as well, Anderson, who say they have a lot of questions and these questions aren't going away just because the news cycle is continuing, the days are moving forward.

They are watching this evacuation very closely. There are going to be congressional hearings next week, and so they are going to have the President's top aides testifying about what happened behind the scenes, and I think that's going to be a big question that right now the White House is focused on this evacuation, on getting the American citizens and these endangered Afghans out of there.


COLLINS: But lawmakers are going to have a lot of questions about how the drawdown went so poorly and how they got to this position.

COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thanks.

I want to bring in CNN -- actually, stay with us, Kaitlan, if you can, because I do want to bring in CNN political analyst and "New York Times" Washington correspondent, Maggie Haberman. So Maggie, you hear Kaitlan's reporting. Are you surprised the White House hasn't gotten a better handle on this situation yet?

I mean, competence was the kind of the catchphrase that one, you know, heard about this White House early on, certainly for, you know, this is their first major policy crisis and it's not going well.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, there's two factors. I think there's the fact that the White House seems overwhelmed by events on the ground, which is to some extent, I think that what the President says about how there was always going to be chaos, that was true, it just wasn't necessarily on the withdrawal, which is -- that's not what he was supposed to be talking about number one.

And number two, the fact that there are so many pieces of information, both coming out, such as the State Department memo that you referenced, reports that are leaking out, and then officials who were speaking publicly and saying essentially, it wasn't us, we did X, Y, Z right. It's this other agency that didn't do it tight. That has been really surprising, because there really hasn't been a lot of that at all with this administration.

And you're clearly seeing tonight that some White House officials, some administration officials realize they're taking on water on this. You're seeing officials trying to fan out at some news outlets and give a response. But at the end of the day, it is the President who the public wants to hear from and he has not been heard from very much other than a pretty defensive interview that he gave ABC.

COOPER: Kaitlan, one of the big remaining questions is whether, you know, the White House actually knows how many Americans and allied citizens, particularly Afghans are still in Kabul trying to get to the airport. I just spoke to the former Ambassador Crocker, who said he thinks -- he would imagine that the State Department has a pretty good idea of how many Americans at least, would be there.

COLLINS: If they do, they have not revealed that publicly and this -- you have been raising -- we have been raising questions about why we're hearing all these different numbers this week. And we have been hearing, you know, potentially 5,000 from the State Department early on, then we heard five to ten. Then we heard they were saying 10 to 15 to lawmakers on the hill.

We're wondering how it was such a big gap, and what Jake Sullivan, the National Security adviser was saying earlier is that what you were talking about with former Ambassador Crocker, which is that when you go to -- somewhere, especially like Afghanistan, you have to register as an American citizen, you don't necessarily have to deregister when you are leaving.

And so I think, there's a lot of conflicting reports on what the rolls are actually looking like. I know other countries, what we've heard from other diplomats, they are struggling with this as well, figuring out how many of their citizens are still there. And so they are trying to get the word out, Anderson.

But the other thing is, is not just knowing how many are there, it's how they are going to get Americans who cannot get to the airport, because it is a treacherous journey. They are relying on the Taliban to help people get through and a lot of people are leaving, because they feel like they are targets of the Taliban.

And so I think that's another big issue that they're dealing with, which is once they do know how many Americans are there, how do they go out into Kabul into other areas of Afghanistan, and get them and that is something that we know is front of mind for a lot of White House officials right now.

COOPER: Maggie, do you think that part of this was just either hubris on the part of the administration thinking, you know, they have -- they want to withdraw and they feel they should just go ahead and do it? Was part of it thinking the American people weren't really paying attention to Afghanistan and hadn't for a long time? And certainly, the idea of a forever war is not something that that's popular.

I mean, I'm trying to understand how they misjudged things, even just in terms of the optics of this.

HABERMAN: One of the things in terms of the pure optics, Anderson that, you know, has been discussed a little bit, but my understanding is that a number of senior White House officials were on vacation, while this all started unfolding, and basically did not return from vacation until it was clear, well after Sunday, that things were quite messy. So, I think that part has been very surprising, but that is the reason why.

The administration has given a number of different reasons as to why it was that the evacuations out of Afghanistan did not take place sooner, and those are often in conflict. And sometimes, they are blaming Afghans, sometimes they're blaming processing in the U.S. system. Sometimes, they are blaming the Trump administration. There is no clear through line.

I don't think it is hubris. I don't think that that is what this is. I do think it is a policy choice that President Biden has stuck with for some time and had been consistent about, but he said something publicly that did not turn out to be true, and at the end of the day, public officials get judged based on that and they have yet to give a coherent answer as to why things went wrong the way they did and how they want to try to fix them.

As Kaitlan said, we are hearing a number of different reports that are coming out about numbers of people who are still there, how they are being removed and the things that the government is saying about how this is going are sometimes at odds with what we're seeing on this network from Clarissa Ward and what she is reporting, and that's concerning as well.


COOPER: Kaitlan, is there a sense of whom the President is listening to most closely on how to deal with this going forward? Well, you know, David Axelrod, in his program has talked about how during the Obama years, you know, everyone knew Vice President Biden's position on Afghanistan, which was often counter to President Obama's position on it. Is he listening to anyone on this, do we know?

COLLINS: And I think that plays a factor actually in this, is that he sat through meetings where he was Vice President and he advocated for a withdrawal and those warnings from President or then Vice President Biden went ignored. I think that was a big factor in to a lot of what drove this decision.

When it comes to who he is listening to, Secretary of State Blinken and his National Security adviser, Jake Sullivan are probably two of the closest aides to President Biden on this. Certainly, when it comes to foreign policy, obviously, they are at the top of the chain of command when it comes to that. And so they definitely play a role in this and how they're handling this going forward.

I would note, we have not actually heard from Secretary Blinken in person since Sunday, when he did a few interviews. That is not the case when it comes to the Defense Secretary or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs or Jake Sullivan, who we've heard from as well, though Secretary Blinken has been invited to testify next week.

And this is another really interesting thing that President Biden said in that ABC interview, which is that he said from what he could recall, he was not going against the advice of military leaders who were advising him to keep those 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. We reported back in April that he actually had been advised by several

of them to do that, and he essentially overruled them. Not surprising because we knew this was his position, but it is notable that he is saying in this interview he doesn't recall that being something that came up, advice that he was given by them, given not only CNN, several other outlets as well have reported that.

COOPER: Yes, Kaitlan Collins and Maggie Haberman, thank you. Appreciate it.

Just ahead, a look at the pain and frustration and sheer terror of those Afghans desperate to flee their country. A Special Operations veteran who was wounded fighting in Afghanistan joins us with his reaction to events on the ground.


COOPER: To give you some idea of the challenges facing Afghan allies trying to make it to these flights out of Kabul, CNN has obtained a message from the State Department. It was sent to thousands of locally employed staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul telling them they could come to the airport for evacuation.

Multiple sources tell CNN that some didn't because of the danger, though they desperately wanted out, others had to turn back. Some who made it were bloody, mentally distraught, and had lost most of their belongings along the way, scenes that are now painfully familiar to U.S. veterans and others who have forged bonds with interpreters and others trying to get out of Afghanistan.


One of them joins me now, Jimmy Hatch is a special operations veteran who served in Afghanistan. He's also the founder of Spike's K9 Fund that aids police and military dogs during and after their service.

So Jimmy, just all the images that have coming, I mean, I can't I've been thinking about your life, wondering what was going through your mind when you see, you know, just all the images play out that we've seen over the last couple days.

JIMMY HATCH, SPECIAL OPERATIONS VETERAN: It's sad, and it's kind of disturbing, I think, you know, I'm sure that nobody in the administration or in the military got up one day and said, hey, we're just going to wing this, you know. I think, you know, things happen quickly. And unfortunately, this is the situation we find ourselves in.

But, you know, not long before this program started, I had an e-mail from the mother of a young guy who was attached to my unit who was killed in August of 2011. So 10-year anniversary, and I asked her how she was doing, and she said, she was angry, and heartbroken.

And I, I mean, I think a lot of us gave a lot of effort there. And I think to see it come unraveled, like this is, is disheartening, and so we have to look for positive things to try to pull ourselves out of it.

COOPER: There's -- there CNN reporting about an Afghan man who worked at the U.S. Embassy tried to make it with his family to the airport forced to give up because of the chaos along the way. I mean, I feel for the troops who are at the airport, who are trying to clearly do the best they can to help people, it has got to be an incredibly difficult and just even horrific thing to witness to be the one, you know, picking up a baby from this crowd and not, you know, what do you do in that situation. What would you like to see happen now?

HATCH: Gosh, it's a big situation. And I'm certainly not aware of all the dynamics. But I think, you know, it was mentioned earlier, I think, Ambassador Crocker, and you were talking and you mentioned something about how you know, there are people like me from the military who worked with interpreters, and covet (ph) for them, I think we could maybe use that right, like, so.

There are people with names that, you know, that we know, that we worked with, and that might streamline things, but man, it just seems like it's so chaotic. And I feel for those American soldiers that are at that airport.

COOPER: Yes. Can you just talk a little bit about the role of interpreters and others who, you know, you work with and others work with? I mean, how important were they? And are they in ongoing missions?

HATCH: Well, I think particularly for the special operations forces that and that's all I really know about, I didn't do anything with the conventional forces, really. But with us, it was super important, because we were actually, you know, generally we did our missions at night, and it was super important that we identify, you know, who we're looking for.

And if we didn't have those, those guys, you know, my gosh, we wouldn't have had a lot of success. When we're trying to capture people, I think it's also important that people understand that they saved our lives, but they also saved the lives of a lot of other Afghans.

And I feel like, you know, this is a moral issue, which a lot of people have thrown that word around kind of loosely, but it's also a very practical issue that there are other military units from the United States working in other countries around the world. And I can guarantee you, the people they're working with, are paying close attention to how we're handling this.

So, it's a practical thing as well, we really need to get, you know, our arms around this and try to figure out how to do it quickly. It seems to me that there's probably people on the ground that understand exactly what needs to happen, or at least have a pretty good clue about it. And I think, you know, we're the United States of America.

What do you guys need? Let's get it done. You know, that kind of spirit, I think needs to happen. But, you know, as has been mentioned previously, by the other guests, there's so much chaos on the ground right now, I can only sympathize with the people trying to sort this out.

COOPER: One of the things I worry about, I'm worried about in the coverage of this is that for those who have served in Afghanistan, who sacrificed so much, who lost friends, who lost, you know, limbs who were wounded, you yourself, were wounded in Afghanistan.

To see all that's going on and, you know, it's hard enough to deal with memories of having served in a place like Afghanistan, where there was a lot of loss, and a lot of difficulty. How, what do you suggest -- I mean, what, what do you suggest to others, veterans who are out there who are watching this and having a lot of difficulty watching and, you know, seeing what's going on and thinking about their own experiences there.

HATCH: I think it's important that we keep in touch with one another. And that's really happened with me, you know, there's two kinds of communication that go on between myself and people that I serve with. One is, hey, we have an interpreter or some people from a unit that we worked with that they're trying to get their family out, do you have any contacts that can help us. And then the other is, are you OK, man? Is this taken a toll on you? Let's talk, you know.


So there's a lot of that. And that, I think, you know, with all of the mental health challenges I faced in the past, because, you know, I didn't deal well with getting injured and ending my career that way. But I think the important thing is to really reach out and talk to one another and to look out for the folks that are isolating, that you're not hearing from and check in on, you know, be obtrusive, actually, and dig your way into your into their lives and find out how they're doing because this is, it is a very big deal. And you know, you have to try to find the light somewhere in all this darkness, you know.

COOPER: Yes. Well, one of the places that you have found the light is with Spike's K9 Fund, and I appreciate you being with us tonight. And I just want to tell people Spike's K9, Jimmy was a K9 handler with the SEALS and when he retired from the SEALS he was shot in Afghanistan, he founded an organization called Spike's K9 Fund, would be the web address.

I'm a supporter of the organization. They raise money to get custom made Kevlar vest body armor for dogs in military units and police departments, often whom are in harm's way don't have protection, like other law enforcement personnel. And this helps protect a lot of animals who are in harm's way. To learn more about it go to That

You can probably see videos to and Jimmy and like a dog handler costume being fending off a dog because he trains also a lot of canines. So, Jimmy, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

HATCH: Thanks for having me, Anderson.

COOPER: Still ahead, a suspect near the U.S. Capitol claiming to have a bomb led to evacuations and a long standoff with police. Question is why? Breaking news details next.


COOPER: There's more breaking news after a very tense day near the U.S. Capitol especially with fears of a new January 6 type attack running high. Capitol Police a man claimed to have a bomb for seven hours long standoff before giving up. Thankfully, there was no bomb.

Tonight, we're learning more about who this person is what was on his mind at least as much as can be gleaned from his social media postings.

More now from CNN's Ryan Nobles.



RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started around or about 9 o'clock Thursday morning. Forty-nine-year-old Floyd Ray Roseberry entered Washington D.C. in a black pickup truck, looking to cause trouble.

FLOYD RAY ROSEBERRY, BOMB THREAT SUSPECT: I'm parked up here on the sidewalk right beside all this (INAUDIBLE).

NOBLES (voice-over): He settled on a spot in front of the Library of Congress directly across from the U.S. Capitol and claim to anyone that would listen that his truck had a bomb.

ROSEBERRY: Hey, (INAUDIBLE) and tell him to come out here and clear the Capitol. Found the clear Capitol.

NOBLES (voice-over): He quickly got the attention of Capitol Police. They began to clear the area. At 9:43, they tweeted this urgent warning, USCP responding to a suspicious vehicle near the Library of Congress. Please stay away from this area.

Then at 9:54, less than an hour after Roseberry arrived, they sent this message to staffers on the Hill telling them among other things, if you are in a public space, find a place to hide or seek cover. That began a long intensive standoff between Roseberry and police. One that would include an evacuation and lockdown of buildings across a three block radius, as police attempted to wait Roseberry out.

ROSEBERRY: All right guys, looks to me like I'm getting ready to make phone call.

NOBLES (voice-over): He live streamed his grievances on Facebook promising a revolution and calling out President Joe Biden.

ROSEBERRY: Controlling me by no polling trigger on his truck. Because I'm not responsible for.

NOBLES: He demanded Biden resign and complained about the administration's immigration policy and its response in Afghanistan. ROSEBERRY: It's my land, it's your land. (INAUDIBLE), taking stand there. (INAUDIBLE) people down in Afghanistan, all the kids, women right. Sled Taliban run right through.

NOBLES (voice-over): He also showed the inside of his truck filled with loose change he claimed would turn into shrapnel and held in front of him a canister he claimed was filled with a chemical explosive. He warned if police attempted to shoot him to end the standoff, his truck would explode. A later assessment of the trucks contents revealed there was no bomb but what police described as bomb making materials.

Throughout the ordeal, Capitol Police used inventive ways to attempt to quell the situation.

THOMAS MANGER, CHIEF, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: We tried to negotiate with Mr. Roseberry, we first started doing that with a whiteboard, just writing messages back and forth. We used a robot to get a telephone down to him. But he would not use the telephone.

NOBLES (voice-over): Eventually, five hours after it began, Roseberry gave up.

MANGER: He gave up and didn't did not resist and our folks were able to take him into custody without incident.

NOBLES (voice-over): His precise motives remain unclear. But based on his social media monologues, politics were a big driver of his angst. His son Christopher told CNN that his father took a much greater interest in politics after Donald Trump was elected.

Biden's victory made him very upset. Since Biden got elected, he's just been like, man, he doesn't like change. I reckon, Christopher Roseberry said, adding his father told him quote, I'm sticking up from my country. We need to get the country back to the way it was.


COOPER: And Ryan Nobles joins us now from Capitol Hill. So, I'm wondering what are your senses -- I mean, obviously, nerds are afraid because what happened on January 6, and this guy was sort of speaking the language of insurrection and stuff. Clearly he was making it all up about the bomb. What's your sense of how that fear kind of impacted the reaction today?

NOBLES: Anderson, I don't think there's any doubt that what happened here on January 6, and the continuing rhetoric that is all over social media right now just makes these incidents even more serious than they would have been prior to January 6. There's no doubt that law enforcement would have taken this situation seriously.

But when you go to the broader Capitol Hill community, the staffers, the journalists, the lawmakers that are up here every single day, they often will hear of reports of a specific a suspicious package or a vehicle in a place where it's not supposed to be and just assume that it's something that will be quickly brushed away. That doesn't happen anymore. Everyone treats every incident like this very seriously. And then when you couple it with a live stream of this individual ranting about the government and specifically the president, that just raises the anxiety level even higher. And there's just no doubt that the world changed significantly for the people on Capitol Hill on January 6, and what happened here today just brought that home in a very real way. Anderson.

COOPER: Ryan Nobles, appreciate it. Thank you.

There's more breaking news tonight, this time on the end of a tense political standoff in Texas over voting legislation that one point led to threats of arrest.

Dianne Gallagher joins us now with the latest on that. So what do you learn Dianne?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, 38 days after those Texas Democrats Got on planes and flew to Washington D.C., receiving praise from the White House on down. Their quorum break ended with a whimper instead of a bang. The attempt was to block restrictive voting legislation in the Lone Star State. And they had the slimmest of margins in this second special session that had been called by Republican governor, Greg Abbott.


Tonight, three new Democrats showed up on the House floor giving the Texas House the quorum that it needs to conduct legislative business. Those members issued a statement saying that they were proud of what they had accomplished, but they thought it was time to get back to work on the floor, citing the surging COVID-19 as the reason why they decided to come back.

Now I'll tell you, Anderson, that their fellow Democrats seem pretty surprised by this decision, even accusing them of kind of faking them out, saying that they'd had a two-hour caucus meeting earlier in the day and this had not been discussed.

But Anderson they've been chipping away for a while they had gone up to Washington, D.C. spent weeks up there trying to lobby lawmakers on Capitol Hill to push federal voting rights protections, noting that this was going to be the inevitable end, they -- they're in the minority party. They do not have that much power in the state of Texas. But that historic quorum break in Texas now is over and that voting legislation is already moving through the House, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. There's no reason to believe that the outcome will be different other than, you know, that then what it would have been before, after all this.

GALLAGHER: No, there isn't. Intend to give you an example of that, Senate bill one, which is this election overhaul bill that contains new restrictions and empowers partisan poll workers and adds criminal penalties. The Senate passed it week ago. They've been waiting for the House to come back. The House came back today. There was already a public committee hearing scheduled in the House for Saturday. So they seem to plan to move quickly.

COOPER: All right, Dianne Gallagher, appreciate it. Thanks.

Ahead on Capitol Hill. The Senate is not is not in session, but three senators today announced they'd COVID-19 all are vaccinated details, next.

Plus the legal fight over mask mandates in Florida Schools Superintendent of the state's largest school district joins to discuss why he calls doing what he thinks is the right thing will matter the consequences a badge of honor.



COOPER: There's breaking news report, three U.S. senators announced they've tested positive for COVID, Angus King of Maine, Roger Wicker of Mississippi and John Hickenlooper of Colorado. All three have been vaccinated. The Senate is not in session right now. Senator King said he began feeling mildly feverish. On Wednesday, the offices of senators Wicker and Hickenlooper said they were tested after experiencing mild symptoms. We should point out these sorts of breakthrough cases are rare and that vaccines show amazing protection against severe illness.

For those who can't vaccinate in particular children. There are of course mask but also fights over mask mandates in schools. We're now one step closer to a legal decision over the mandates in Florida after a judge today refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought in part by parents against Governor Ron DeSantis' order banning mandates that do not allow the option of an opt out.

Several school districts including the states largest in Miami-Dade have defied the Governor's order. The superintendent for Miami Dade County Public Schools said he's doing the right thing and so will where and so what were the consequences of his decision is quote, a badge of honor.

Alberto Carvalho joins me now. Superintendent, thanks for being with us. Have you heard from the state or the governor's office?

ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Good evening, Anderson. Not yet. But then again, our school year does not begin until Monday, August the 23rd. So quite frankly, there is no impact to students as a result of the protocols that we recently adopted. So we have not received any communication from Tallahassee yet.

COOPER: So I know the school district is implementing a number of safety protocols in addition to a mask mandate. What else are you doing to protect students and staff?

CARVALHO: Look, we're following all of the recommendations of our public health and medical task force. These are experts in field and that includes social distancing, certainly in the classrooms, in town sanitization cycles, utilizing ionization technology, also the wearing of masks, strong encouragement with financial incentives for the vaccination of eligible employees, and of course, education for students and our workforce regarding required hygiene.

And I tell you, I'm really surprised over the fact that the expert opinion of doctors of public health officials is so easily this regarded in the face of an explosion of COVID cases right here in the South Florida community. Just few years ago, there were about 70 cases per 100,000 residents. Now we're dealing with in excess of 700 cases per 100,000 residents with a reduced capacity of ICU beds in our hospitals inclusive of pediatric units.

COOPER: The governor reiterated today that he feels, I'm quoting, that the parents understand what is best for their kids. He also talked about, even if a child is, you know, test positive that that it's up to the parents whether that child there should be up to the parents whether that child goes back to school or not.

CARVALHO: I certainly am not going to debate the opinion of the governor. But I'm going to certainly accept without any question, the expert opinion of our medical entities and public health officials. And that statement is totally inconsistent with scientific practice, which will tell us if someone is symptomatic, if someone has tested positive for COVID, they should quarantine and that is indeed one of our protocols.

Secondly, second only to the vaccination of individuals who are eligible for it, masks are an effective protective tool against the infection. They are not political statements. And I think that as a nation, turning them into that is quite frankly, engaged in a campaign of misinformation that can hurt individuals.

COOPER: What mask guidelines did you have in place last year? And did you face a backlash from -- would did students mind?

CARVALHO: That's the most incredible reality quite frankly, we should be discussing. The guideline for mask wearing last year is remarkably similar to the protocols that we adopted this year. In fact, the board just yesterday, on the seven to one vote, affirmed the opinion of our health experts.

The guidelines last year, provided for mandatory masking, with accommodations to be made for those individuals, students and employees waft obviously reflected some degree of a medical concern, affirmed by a doctor. In addition to a recognition that accommodations would have to be made for students with disabilities would have differently wearing masks or individuals who have an Individual Educational Plan an IEP or a 504 accommodations, so we've always had in place accommodations for individuals who would need them on the basis of a medical endorsement.


COOPER: Superintendent Carvalho, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much. We'll continue to follow.

CARVALHO: Thank you.

COOPER: We'll be right back.


COOPER: Want to take a moment to correct myself. Before the break I said that Florida's governor Ron DeSantis said that it's a parent's decision whether send a child to -- who test positive to school or not. In fact, the governor says that should be the case for children who are exposed, not positive. The children who are exposed, he says it should be up to the parents whether or not that child goes to school.

Quick reminder, this Saturday on CNN, don't miss "We Love NYC The Homecoming Concert." A musical event to celebrate New York City's comeback from COVID-19. A lot of big names Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Jennifer Hudson, to name a few. You'll see it right here only on CNN, Saturday night starting 5:00 p.m. Eastern time.


The News continues. Let's handover to Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME." Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, thank you, Anderson.