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At This Hour

Joe Biden Answers Questions About Removing Troops From Afghanistan; Joe Biden Hails The Job Report Recovery; Top U.S. Commander Warning That The Continued Violence In Afghanistan Could Devolve Into A Civil War; The Justice Department Halting All Federal Executions After 13 People Were Executed Over Seven Months Under The Trump Administration; Health Officials Cautious Of The Delta Variant As Millions Of Americans Travel For The Holiday Weekend. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired July 02, 2021 - 11:00   ET




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is transient (ph) in the long run. These investments are critical, and as the plans I put forward tackle our climate crisis, which are broad and deep, I'm going to fight to see them enacted and signed into law.

We have a chance to seize this economic momentum of this first months of my administration not just to build back, but as I've been saying build back better. This is much already - this much is already clear. We're on track and we're on the right track. Our plan is working, and we're not going to let up now.

So I want to thank everyone. I wish you all a happy Fourth of July. We're going to be able to go to ball games. You're going to be able to sit in stadiums. You're going to be able to be with your families in backyard barbeques as we hoped, and we're going to make more progress.

So God bless America, and may God protect our troops.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, would you mind talking (ph) about Afghanistan? Is the draw down going to be done in the next few days?



BIDEN: No. We're on - we're on track exactly as to where we expect it to be, but we just - I wanted to make sure there was enough, quote, "running room," that we could get - wouldn't be able to do it all until September. There'll still be some full forces left, but it's a rational draw down with our allies, and it's making - so there's nothing unusual about it.

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried that the Afghan government might fall? And we are hearing that the Taliban is taking more and more districts.

BIDEN: Look, we were in that war for 20 years, 20 years, and I think I met with the Afghan government here in the White House, in the Oval. I think they have the capacity to be able to sustain the government. They're going to have to be down the road more negotiations is suspect, but I am - I am concerned that the deal with the internal issues that they have to be able to generate the kind of support they need nationwide to maintain the government.


MATT (PH): (inaudible) on Afghanistan. If --


BIDEN: I want to talk about happy things, Matt (ph).

MATT (PH): If there is evidence that Kabul is threatened and some of your intelligence reports have suggested it could be in six months or there about, do you think you've got the capability to help provide any kind of air support, military support to keep the capital safe even if the U.S. troops are obviously fully out by then?

BIDEN: We have worked out an over the horizon capacity, and we can be value added, but the Afghans are going to have to be able to do it themselves with the air force they have, in which we're helping to maintain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, on Afghanistan --


BIDEN: I'm not going to answer any more quick questions on Afghanistan. Look, it's the Fourth of July.



BIDEN: I'm concerned that you guys are asking me questions that I'll answer net week, but this is a holiday weekend. I'm going to celebrate it. There's great things happening. The economy's growing faster than any time in 40 years. We've got a record number of new jobs. COVID deaths are down 90 percent. Wages are up faster than any time in 15 years. We're bringing our - bringing our troops home.

We have all across America people are going to ball games and doing good things. This is a good. I'll be - I'll answer all of your negative questions. Not negative, your legitimate questions.

UNDIENTIFIED FEMALE: On the gatherings (ph) are you concerned that there is a potential this weekend in places where vaccination levels are not particular high that there will be new COVID outbreaks in various regions?

BIDEN: I am concerned that people who have not gotten vaccinated have the capacity to catch the variant and spread the variant to other people who have not been vaccinated. I am not concerned there's going to be a major outbreak, in other words that we're going to have another epidemic nationwide, but I am concerned lives will be lost.

And I was even reading today there's some speculation, some judgments coming out that you may be able to even communicate the vaccine - the new variant to your pets. So I saw not totally facetious.

And for those of you who haven't been vaccinated because you don't - you don't - you don't think it's - you want to go through it, it doesn't hurt. It's accessible. It's free. It's available, and not only don't think about yourself. Think about your family. Think about those around you. That's what we should be thinking about today.

The Fourth of July to this year is different to the Fourth of July last year, and it's going to be better next year. Thank you all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you think that Congress will enact your plans? Are you positive -



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- that you're going to get it done? Come on.

BIDEN: Oh, come on, guys. My - have you ever been confident about anything we guarantee (ph)?


Who'd want to put money on anything Congress is going to do. Look, folks. This is a process. This is a process. I love you guys, but it's a process. And I don't - you want me to say yes, I'm absolutely certain. Well are you absolutely certain this new commission is going to work, you know, investigating what happened on the sixth? Are you guys confident that Republicans are going to participate?

Look, all I know only I (ph) know what to do, and I really mean this, is to do my best to lay out what I think the country has to do, try to be as persuasive as I can, and hope and thus far, you know, it's - you know, it seems to be working a little bit. Thank you.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: Mr. President. Mr. President, do you think it's fair that the Olympic (inaudible).

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): All right, just ahead of this Fourth of July holiday weekend the president there wanting to remain steadfast in his leadership role, answering questions on Afghanistan, saying, of course, as in terms of the U.S. and the pull out of troops leaving Bagram Air Base, he says they are on track of where he wants to be and on the economy striking a tone of optimism on the heels of 850,000 jobs created in this latest jobs report reveal. Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in New York. We begin with this breaking news. President Biden hailing a historic jobs recovery this morning as the U.S. economy added 850,000 jobs in June, which is the strongest gain in nearly a year, but the recovery from the pandemic is far from over.

The president also addressing the U.S. leaving Bagram Air Base back in Afghanistan nearly 20 years after the start of America's longest war. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Chief Business Correspondent, Christine Romans. Christine, the president wanting to remain optimistic and also giving good credit to his Recovery Act saying it is a contributing factor to jobs created.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And noting - Fredricka, good morning - and noting that there's more work to be done. You know, we're still in a jobs hole of about 6.8 million, so these are jobs being added back. Let's look at those numbers. 850,000 added back to the economy and unemployment rate that ticked up a little bit, but 5.9 percent is a heck of a lot better than it was a year ago at this time.

And we saw jobs added as a direct result of the reopening in the economy because of vaccinations and the like. 343,000 added jobs added back in leisure and hospitality. That had been a big area of layoffs over the past year or so. You're seeing jobs created there. Also in retail, business services, manufacturing, almost across the board you see an economy that we know is booming and a labor market that's been struggling to try to work out the kinks and follow along.

When you look at the trajectory, again, as you pointed out the best since August of last year, so these are the kinds of numbers we want to see over and over again, but that jobs hole is still there. 6.8 million jobs deficit is where we are right now, and you're not going to, Fredricka, just put the people who were thrown out of jobs a year ago right back into the same job, and that's what we've seen here, this dislocation in the labor markets taking a little bit of time.

Everyone's trying to hire at once. Workers, some are still cautious about public safety, their own health safety. They might have kids who still need child care, so we're still trying to work out the kinks of an economy that shut down quite rapidly, and now it's revving up quite rapidly again, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, very good. Christine Romans, thank you so much. Have a great holiday weekend.

ROMANS: You're welcome. You, too.

WHITFIELD: All right, also joining me right now CNN Global Economic Analyst, Rana Foroohar. She's a Global Business Columnist and Associate Editor at the "Financial Times". So good to see you. All right, so what stands out to you in this jobs report? All rosy in your view?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well you know, it's the job of journalists to poke holes in politicians' armor, but you know, I got to say this is a pretty good report. You know, it's strong. It's historic.

What I like about it is that we're seeing hiring across the board. A lot of the unemployment at this point is people leaving jobs that they're not so crazy about and trying to find better ones, which is actually a very good sign.

The other thing I like is that you're seeing hiring at the lower end of the pay scale. It's expensive to hire people, and that sort of belies this conservative argument that's been put forward that, hey, people aren't going to go to work because they've been given too much in stimulus payments.

People want to work at all ends of the job spectrum. Work is important to them. It's part of their self esteem. And so, I think that's a really good thing for the Biden administration to put forward. It kind of makes their case that, yes, the stimulus payments were important but people are getting back to work now.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Even with some of those obstacles long view, do you see that this is - that the U.S. is in the midst of sustained economic recovery? That's how Christine put it earlier.

FOROOHAR: I do. I do. Now, of course, inflation is always the word. We've talked about this before. You know, you are seeing some rising cost pressures. One of the things I like about this jobs report, though, is even though you've seen a little bit of wage inflation, and frankly we all want a little bit of wage inflation. We all need a little more money in our - in our wallets, it's not runaway wage inflation.

So this doesn't worry me. This doesn't make me think we're going to get into that tight spot where the Fed has to raise interest rates too quickly and that derails the recession.


I still think this is - this is a pretty Goldilocks report, and I think it's a really strong win for the administration.

WHITFIELD: All right, well this is the president just moments ago striking his tone of optimism.


BIDEN: This is historic progress pulling our economy out of the worst crisis in 100 years driven in part by our dramatic progress in vaccinating our nation and beating back the pandemic as well as other elements of the American Rescue Plan.

None of this happened by accident. Again, it's a direct result of the America Rescue Plan. And at the time people questioned whether or not we should do that even though we didn't have bipartisan support, well it worked.


WHITFIELD: So how does the U.S. and really the global economy kind of take advantage of this momentum?

FOROOHAR: Well it's a great point. I think the rest of the world is looking so carefully right now. They're looking with optimism at America's economy, but Europeans in particular are looking for signs that the American jobs program, that the infrastructure program is going to have a place for them, that there's going to be a place for allies in all this.

That's the job for the Biden administration right now. How do you put America first? How do you create jobs for Americans, which we need, but also reassure allies that you need in the fight against China, that you need to restructure the global trading system, that America's still a leader in the world and is going to have their interests at heart, too?

I think that action is going to be around climate change. You heard Biden start to signal that. I think that you're going to see some announcements probably in the coming weeks and months around that with Europeans.

WHITFIELD: All right. Rana Foroohar, always good to see you. Happy Fourth weekend.

FOROOHAR: You, too.

WHITFIELD: All right, we're also following this breaking news on America's longest war after nearly 20 years. The last U.S. troops have left Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. President Biden just said that a complete withdrawal won't happen within days but that it is on track, but the top U.S. commander, there is warning that the continued violence could devolve into a civil war after American troops have left.

CNN's Anna Coren is live for us in Kabul. So give us more about these breaking details.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Fredricka, that's right. U.S. and NATO forces flew out overnight and early this morning, leaving Bagram Air Base after 20 years in the country. They leave behind about 1,000 U.S. forces. 600 of them will protect the U.S. embassy. The others to secure the airport until Turkish forces come into play, but obviously the end of a chapter for America's forever war.

President Biden you heard just then saying we're bringing our troops home. Those troops will be home by the Fourth of July. The deadline was set for September 11. Obviously that is now two months early. For local Afghans, many in disbelief. They knew this day would come but they didn't' think it would be now. When the security situation across the country is deteriorating rapidly, when the Taliban is making gains, extensive gains particularly in the north where Afghan Security Forces are sustaining casualties and we've seen the propaganda video from the Taliban where they've claimed territories, claimed districts, taking U.S.-funded equipment that has been surrendered by the National Security Forces. We got a statement from the Taliban shortly after the announcement of the U.S.-NATO withdrawal, and they said that this was a positive step and that it was now up to the Afghan people to decide their future.

We spoke to Dr. Abdullah, who heads the peace talks between the government and the Taliban, and he is not so optimistic. He says there are dark days ahead, but this is the reality that if it was up to Afghanistan they wouldn't have America leave, but Afghanistan must now rise to the occasion.

WHITFIELD: Anna Coren, thank you so much in Kabul, Afghanistan. All right, joining me right now to talk further on all this, CNN Military Analyst, Mark Hertling. He is a retired Lieutenant General and former Commanding General with the U.S. Army. So good to see you.

So there have been more than 2,400 total deaths of U.S. service members since the start of America's longest war in 2001 and over 20,000 troops wounded. So in light of that what is your reaction to what happened overnight?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANLAYST: Well Fredricka, I don't really know what I can provide other than that I agree with General Scott Miller, the commander on the scene in Afghanistan. Is likely going to end up in a civil war and expansive violence like so many have predicted. Those from the military, from the intelligence community, those who have fought there, the think tanks, and that will probably happen sooner rather than later.


We've known for a long time that the Taliban is not showing that they are abiding by the diplomatic agreement signed in Doha in 2020, and they have already overwhelmed, as the reporter just said, many of the provinces. The security forces they have intimidated. They've killed. They threaten families. They've done things to counter all the work that the U.S. forces have done over the years.

So it's an unfortunate situation. It's horrible. As I watch as a soldier I'm discouraged and saddened by all of this and the work that so many soldiers paid in blood and sweat and tears over the years, but it is unfortunately inevitable based on the political decisions being made.

WHITFIELD: And just - and just for those who may be unfamiliar with what the top U.S. General in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, said when he told reporters. He said, "A civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized if this continues on the trajectory it's on right now. That should be of concern to the world."

And we just heard your concerns that you have now, but then President Biden, you know, has said overall he sees the U.S. pullout in Afghanistan as fulfilling a peace deal made in the previous administration. The Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban, and Biden says defying that would be of great risk. Do you agree that that risk -


HERTLING: I definitely do.

WHITFIELD: -- far outweighs what currently is taking place?

HERTLING: I definitely do agree with that, Fredricka. President Biden is unfortunately the last of several administrations that has had to deal with a constantly-failed and changing strategy, changing military missions over a 20-year period. And truthfully something that most in our Congress and most in the U.S. population don't see Afghanistan as being in our national interest to remain there.

It is unfortunate, but it is - the president has made the work - the best of many bad situations that he is facing in this decision making, and he has decided to pull out, and General Miller is on the receiving end of that order and is executing to the best of his ability.

WHITFIELD: The White House has said that President Biden is committed to humanitarian and security assistance to Afghanistan, and the president has also said that Afghans who worked alongside U.S. military and diplomats will not be left behind. The Secretary of State says half of the some 18,000 Afghans have begun a visa process, but do you see that Biden can actually live up to this promise to not leave any Afghan behind?

HERTLING: I do, Fredricka. It's going to be extremely difficult. There are literally tens of thousands of those applying for the what's called the SIV, the Special Immigrant Visa Program. Those are the translators and the workers who worked alongside American forces that are now threatened, not only them but their families.

And I believe that the military can conduct what's called a noncombatant evacuation operation and pull those individuals out of there, but it is going to be difficult, extremely difficult to determine who should be able to apply for those and who will be left behind.

And while we're concerned with those that contributed to U.S. forces, there are also going to be many women and children that are going to be hurt by the Taliban. We're already seeing early indicators of that, and unfortunately we're in a position where we cannot save all of those, and it runs contrary to what we've been attempting to do as a force over the last 20 years.

WHITFIELD: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thanks so much and have a great, happy Fourth weekend.

HERTLING: Yes. Thank you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up the Biden Justice Department halting all federal executions after 13 people were executed over a seven- month period under the Trump administration. We'll tell you why the U.S. Attorney General is making this move.

Also ahead, prosecutors warned the investigation into the Trump Organization is not over and more charges could come. We'll talk to a former FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe, about the next steps in this criminal probe.



WHITFIELD: All right, developing this morning, U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland, ordering a suspension of all federal executions to allow for a Justice Department review of the death penalty policy.

In a memo issued to senior officials Garland said there are serious concerns about its impact on people of color and a, quote, "troubling number of exonerations in death penalty cases." The halt is a reversal from the Trump administration which revived the Federal Death Penalty after a 17-year hiatus. 13 people were executed in the last seven months of Trump's presidency.

Joining me right now, CNN's Senior Law Enforcement Analyst and former FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe. Good to see you. All right, so do you see this potentially leading to reinvestigating current death penalty cases?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well I'm not sure if it would lead to a reinvestigation of any individual cases, but it's definitely leading to a reevaluation of the efficacy of this policy.

The DOJ is in a tough spot here because on the one hand executions are lawful at the federal level, right? You have about 46 to 50 people who are currently sitting on death row, so DOJ has some obligation to carry out those sentences that were lawfully, you know, handed down by juries across the country.


On the other hand I think the Attorney General is acknowledging that many, many legal scholars and academics have acknowledged that there is significant data that indicates that as a policy - strictly as a policy the death penalty unfairly is applied against people, against minorities and people from black and brown communities. And also it's not perfect. We've exonerated many people on death row in the last several years, so the idea that we might be executing innocent people is something that's got to give the A.G. some pause.

WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk about the indictments of the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg. Weisselberg is accused of hiding $1.7 million under the table, but you say it's the information that supports and alleged system of evading taxes that is also significant. What do you mean?

MCCABE: Well Fredricka, it's really a fascinating document. You know, I wasn't too impressed when I heard that they were coming out with this charge that could be some sort of kind of minimal employee benefit foul, but that's not what we're talking about here.

The indictment details in great specificity a 15-year scheme on multiple levels to evade reporting requirements and things like that, basically to evade - avoid taxes. And if you add up all the taxes that Weisselberg allegedly failed to pay and the returns that he claimed from the government that he wasn't entitled to, he has essentially cheated the federal, state, and local authorities out of over a million dollars of tax revenue. That's a pretty significant theft.

The indictment relies both on individual witnesses, so it's clear they have people cooperating with them and talking to them like likely Weisselberg's personal accountant and people inside the Trump Organization, and they also have this incredible spreadsheet that details exactly the amount and the times, and instances of which money was paid to Weisselberg kind of off the books. It's an incredibly damning piece of evidence.

WHITFIELD: So you see this potentially as the tip of the iceberg in what the New York Attorney General is calling a 15-year scheme to defraud. I mean, a criminal case solely on failure to pay taxes, that is unusual, isn't it?

MCCABE: It is unusual, but it's also unusual that we see one on this scope, and committed I might add allegedly by the kind of financial mastermind, right, the CFO company.

So a good question here is how many other senior executives in the Trump Organization were benefiting from these fraudulent tactics or this scheme? Like all of those folks ought to be very concerned today that they might be next in the next round of indictments ands charges. So this - I think this is very much the first shot in what will be a much broader battle we'll see take place over the next few months.

WHITFIELD: Yes. It would be hard to believe that that form of payment was only prescribed for one individual, the CFO, so I'm sure the other people who have titles in that organization might be a little nervous if not scared.

MCCABE: They should be.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Andrew McCabe, thank you so much. Happy Fourth weekend.

MCCABE: Thanks. Thanks. You, too.

WHITFIELD: Health officials across the country are sounding the alarm on the highly-contagious Delta variant as millions of Americans travel this holiday weekend. What you need to know next.